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Quotes / The Chains of Commanding

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"It's so easy for you, isn't it? You're just going to stand there angry and hold a grudge against me, but I have to look out for the safety of everyone under my command! Do you know how strong the enemy is? Melissa might die out there next time, or Mr Weber! You have absolutely no idea what it's like for me while I'm sitting in that Captain's chair!"
Captain Testarossa, Full Metal Panic: The Second Raid

Chang Wufei: How many people do you think have died for you?!
Treize Kushrenada: Do you really want to know? As of yesterday, 99,822 people.

"The crown possesses a will of its own. With its power, you control a thousand ships, ten thousand warriors. It can bring you treasures of the far-off lands. The crown's power is akin to that of the gods. But, it is not the king that wields the power, but the crown's own will. The crown commands the king to do but two things: To use power and to gain power."
King Sweyn Forkbeard, Vinland Saga

    Fan Fiction 
"As I said, to command well in battle is exhilarating. But that feeling turns to ash in your mouth at the news of every injury, every death, suffered by those under your command. It is sometimes referred to as the burden of command or the burden of the mighty, especially to those who know, like and care for those under their command. It is a glorious, yet painful thing."

Rawne considered his troops chess pieces, but that was because he understood that if he saw them as faces, then it would become personal, and he couldn't do his job if it became personal. Jose had been forced to look into the faces of men and women who trusted him, and who had looked up to him and followed him, before he ended their lives.
No one who was still human came out the other side of that without being messed up.

"Being a leader isn't easy," Parker continued. "You get all these speeches asking 'Are you worthy' or 'know yourself to lead others' and that nonsense, but ultimately, it boils down to a simple question: can you live with condemning sons and daughters and fathers and mothers to their deaths?"
He took another long drink.
"We forge futures out of pain and grief, Commander. The computers and the communications officers and the EVAs and the displays only serve to isolate us so we can be inhuman. We're monsters, son. Cold, mechanical, rational monsters, and the only way we win is by being colder, more mechanical, and more rational than the next monster moving his little pieces on the screen. That's how war has been fought since Stalin rolled into the Allies a century ago. You point, you click, and they die. It's how it works."
Tiberium Wars, Chapter XVIII

Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra: Something’s wrong?
Captain Kanril Eleya: Just pre-mission jitters, the usual.
Gaarra: You’re worried?
Eleya: I’m captain of the ship. It’s my job to be worried.
The Wrong Reflection, Chapter 3: "Best Laid Plans"
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    Films — Live-Action 
"If it was just me, simple old David from Tennessee, I might drop over that wall some night, take my chances. But that Davy Crockett feller... they’re all watchin' him."

"Being a leader isn't about ability. It's about responsibility. I mean, you're not just responsible for making good decisions. You have to be responsible for the bad ones. You gotta be ready to make the shitty call. [...] It's just that you're used to winning — and you're not really a leader until you've lost."
Col. Robert Iverson, The Core

Worker bees can leave
Even drones can fly away
The Queen is their slave
The Narrator, Fight Club

"Power wears out those who don't have it."
The Godfather Part III

Mrs Johnson: My husband is, um. Well, he's required to speak publicly.
Doctor: Perhaps he should change jobs.
Mrs Johnson: He can't.
Doctor: Indentured servitude?
Mrs Johnson: ...Something of that nature, yes.

"You know what it is to say to a whole country: 'Let me make everything that's wrong, right for you. Let me carry you all on my shoulders.'? Eventually you begin to resent the weight."

"You are a good man, with a good heart. And it's hard for a good man to be a king."

"I will protect Asgard and all the realms with my last and every breath, but I cannot do so from that chair. [...] The brutality, the sacrifice... It changes you. I'd rather be a good man than a great king."

    Literature 
Uneasy lies the head that wears a Throne.
(a) Suggest remedies, or
(b) Imitate the action of a Tiger.

It's not fair. I never asked them to make me Emperor.

A king should never sit easy.

I look out my window each day. I look out my window at people who live and breathe. At people who have not been devoured by civil war. At people who have not been ravaged by disease. At people who have not starved to death, who have not been hacked apart by enemies of humanity, at people who are free to lie and steal and plot and complain and accuse and behave in all manner of repugnant ways because the Realm stands. Because law and order stands. Because something other than simple violence shapes the course of their lives. And I look... at a very few decent people who have had the luxury of living their lives without being called upon to make hideous decisions I would not wish upon my worst enemies, and who consequently find such matters morally appalling when they consider them — because they have not had to be the ones who dealt with them. Aquitaine thinks me his enemy. The fool. If I truly hated him, I'd give him the Crown.
Gaius Sextus, Codex Alera

Steal my daughter back! Take all [the rubies] you can carry! There's more! Much more! Enough to become kings yourselves! ... There comes a time, thief, when the jewels cease to sparkle, and the gold loses it's lustre, the throne room becomes a prison, and all that is left is a father's love for his child...
King Osric the Usurper, Conan the Barbarian

He cursed himself for his refusal of their offer, even while his stubborn manhood revolted at the thought, and he knew that were he taken forth and given another chance, his reply would be the same. He would not sell his subjects to the butcher. And yet it had been with no thought of anyone's gain but his own that he had seized the kingdom originally. Thus subtly does the instinct of sovereign responsibility enter even a red-handed plunderer sometimes.

Dammit. She was sure there were thousands of people simply dying to be King or Queen! Why couldn't she just pick one of them and pass the job to someone who actually wanted it.

Xarius knew he had the galaxy's ultimate weapon - tens of thousands of soldiers, none of whom the Imperium would greatly miss. What did they matter when there were trillions without number under the aegis of the Imperium? Xarius looked at them, fresh-faced near-recruits and scarred veterans alike. None of them deserved to die in Gravenhold, but a lot of them would. They were the fuel that kept the Imperium going, of course - without their sacrifice, the Empire of Man would fall to ravening aliens, heresy, and worse. But that he should be the one to condemn them all! Him, one man out of all those trillions to have the deaths of so many laid at his door!

Iella: Poor boy. He's a perator now. He can't lavish praise upon you and beg you to teach him all you know.
Wedge: As if he would.
Iella: He would. Our profile on him says he's one of your biggest admirers. But now he's locked behind the ruler's mask and can never admit it.

It was his duty, and he'd never shrunk from responsibility, but this was... different, and so very, very hard. He wasn't just a junior destroyer captain anymore, who just had to follow orders. His job had changed profoundly. For a moment he envied men like Silva, men who did their jobs but were free to leave the care and responsibility to others at the end of the watch. Matt's watch never ended. He was the job. He only hoped no one else would have to die before he figured out what, exactly, it had become.

Jake: See, if I give in to fear, then that gives everyone permission to give in to fear. And we all have good reasons to be afraid. Pretty soon we'd be totally paralyzed. We wouldn't be able to do anything because one of us might have some good reason to be scared.
Cassie: We don't morph ants anymore because they scared all of us, but mostly Marco. We don't ever talk about morphing termites because of my problems with them. What's the difference?
Jake: The difference is you all decided I was the leader. That's the difference. A leader may be just as weak or scared or doubtful as anyone else. But he isn't allowed to show it. People say they want leaders to be just like them, but I don't think so. People want leaders to act the way people wish they could act themselves. Marco and Rachel and Tobias and Ax don't want me to give them permission to be scared. They want me to help them to be brave.
Cassie: ...We didn't do you any favor when we made you leader, did we?
Jake: [forcing a smile] There's something else a leader doesn't do. Complain about being a leader.
Animorphs #16: The Warning

As far as creature comforts were concerned, Jack Aubrey was far, far better off than anyone else in the Worcester. He had privacy, he had space: as well as the great cabin in which he took his ease or entertained or played his fiddle and the stern-gallery in which he took the air when he chose to take it alone rather than on the thickly-populated quarterdeck, he had a dining-cabin and a sleeping-cabin, the fore-cabin where he taught his youngsters and attended to his paper-work, and quarter-galleries as lavatory and place of ease. He had his own steward and his own cook, a great deal of room for his private livestock, provisions and wine, and enough in the way of pay and allowances for a provident single man to lay in an adequate supply.
It was ungrateful of him to be discontented, as he admitted in the long rambling letter that he wrote day by day to Sophie - a letter, or rather and installment of the letter, in which he described Stephen's departure. Ungrateful and illogical: he had always known that the Navy was given to extremes and most of the extremes he had experienced himself, beginning with that truly startling lack of space that had faced him early in his career when an angry captain disrated him, so that from one day to the next he was no longer a midshipman but a foremast hand, a common sailor required to sling his hammock on the Resolution's lower deck at the regulation fourteen inches from his neighbours'. Since the Resolution was a two-watch ship, with half her people on deck when the other half were below, in practice these fourteen inches increased to twenty-eight; but even so Jack's bulky neighbours touched him on either side as they all rolled together on the swell, part of a carpet of humanity, some hundreds strong, unventilated, unwashed apart from hands and faces, given to snoring, grinding their teeth, calling out in their troubled sleep, never more than four hours at a time and rarely so much. Disrating was a rough experience and it had seemed to last forever, but it was of great value, teaching him more about the men and about their attitude towards officers, work, and one another than he could ever have learnt on the quarterdeck: teaching him a very great many things, among them the value of space.
Yet here he was with space to be measured by the rod, pole or perch rather than by the square inches of the midshipmen's berth or the square foot of his days as a lieutenant - space and even headroom too, a point of real importance to a man of his height and a rare privilege in ships designed for people of five foot six. He had space and to spare; and he did not appreciate it as he should have done. One of the troubles was that it was uninhabited space, since by another of the Navy's rules of extremes he now ate and lived quite alone, whereas on the lower deck he had dined in the company of five hundred hearty eaters and even in his various gunroom and wardroom messes with a dozen or so - never a meal alone until he reached command; but from that time on never a meal accompanied, except by express invitation.
He did of course invite his officers quite often, and although in the present anxious unsettled state of his affairs he dared not keep the lavish table of earlier, richer days, it was rare that Pullings and a midshipman did not breakfast with him, while the officer of the forenoon watch and a youngster or a Marine would often share his dinner: and the wardroom entertained him once a week. Breakfast and inner, then, were reasonably companionable; but Jack dined at three, and since he was not a man who turned in early that left a great deal of time, far more than the concerns of a ship on blockade could fill, a ship with a thoroughly efficient first lieutenant, plying to a fro off Toulon, all decisions taken by the flag.
The familiar tedium of blockade made these spacious, lonely evenings lonelier and more spacious by far, but in one form or another they were the lot common to all captains who respected tradition and who wished to maintain their authority. Some dealt with the situation by having their wives aboard, in spite of the regulations, particularly on the longer, quieter passages, and some took mistresses; but neither would do in a squadron commanded by Admiral Thornton. Others sailed with friends, and although Jack had known this answer fairly well, generally speaking it seemed that few friendships could stand such close, enforced proximity for many weeks, let alone months or even years. There were also men who took to drinking too much, while some grew strange, crotchety and absolute; and although the great majority became neither confirmed drunkards nor eccentrics, nearly all captains with more than a few years' service were deeply marked by it.

I don’t know why this is making me angry, but I am. This girl, Masae, she’s normal, she doesn’t belong here. Her place is back on Earth with everyone else. Spectra is my curse, my prison. I had my normalcy snatched from me, I wasn’t given a choice. Masae thinks she can just board a ship to another planet and just forget how good she’s had it? What I wouldn’t give to be in her shoes, to live her normal life with normal people around her on a normal planet.
Kohana, Division by Zero

    Live-Action TV 
Isn't it strange, G'Kar? When we first met, I had no power and all the choices I could wish to make. Now I have all the power I could ever want, and no choices at all. No choices at all.
Londo, Babylon 5 ("The Fall of Centauri Prime")

You know, there are days when I really hate this job.
Admiral William Adama, Battlestar Galactica

Joan: It's not easy, is it? Making decisions that affect your friends' safety?
Auggie: No. It's not.
Joan: Got news for you - it doesn't get any easier.

Must be a nice place to sit, at the top of the pyramid. And also pretty uncomfortable.
Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS

All due respect, you got no fuckin' idea what it's like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other fuckin' thing. It's too much to deal with almost. And in the end you're completely alone with it all.
Tony Soprano, The Sopranos

My personal opinion says "yes" but the government policies under which I must weight my decision say "no."
General Hammond, Stargate SG-1

"You bet I'm 'tired!' You bet! I'm tired of being responsible for two hundred and three lives and I'm tired of deciding which mission is too risky and which isn't and who's going on the landing party and who doesn't. And who lives... and who dies."
Captain Pike to his doctor, Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Cage"

"The man on top walks a lonely street. The chain of command is often a noose."
Dr. McCoy, regarding his captain, Star Trek: The Original Series, "The Conscience of the King"

Sisko: We don't put civilians at risk or even potentially at risk to save ourselves! Sometimes that means we lose the battle and sometimes our lives. But if you can't make that choice, then you can't wear that uniform! ... Now, all that being true, the reality is no harm has been done. There are no dead children on your conscience. You got lucky.
Worf: I do not feel lucky.
Sisko: And that's why, despite everything that's happened, you're going to make a hell of a captain some day.

Worf: Life is a lot more complicated in this red uniform...
Sisko: Wait 'till you get four pips on your collar! You'll wish you had gone into botany.

"None of you can appreciate what it means to be in command of a ship until that responsibility rests squarely on your shoulders, as it does on mine. It has been suggested that I take an action which would require me to disobey an order, and knowingly put this crew into a life threatening situation. In general, I believe it demonstrates faulty leadership to be guided by the emotions of a distraught crew. However, as Captain, I must not ignore the sensibilities of those I command. We will contact the Vidiians. This is my decision and mine alone. You are all absolved of responsibility in the matter. I will accept any consequences which may ensue."
Acting Captain Tuvok, Star Trek: Voyager, "Resolutions"

"You will find little joy in your command. But, with luck, you will find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy...and let the man be born."
Maester Aemon Targaryen, Game of Thrones, "Kill The Boy"

Mandy Hampton: Let's start at the bottom.
Sam Seaborne: What do you mean?
Mandy: There's always resignation.
President Bartlet: Hot damn! Now you're talkin'!
Toby Zeigler: I think she meant me, Mr. President.
Bartlet: (disappointed) Ah.
The West Wing, "Five Votes Down"

    Music 
I am your leader
I am in command
The fate of all my followers
Lies in my hands
The burden of what is right or wrong
Decisions have to be made
I have to take you all
Into this burning gate...
Iron Savior, "Never Say Die"

This is the Price of Commanding-
That you always stand alone,
Letting no one near
To see the fear
Behind the mask you've grown.
This is the Price of Commanding.

This is the Price of Commanding-
That you watch your dearest die,
Sending women and men To fight again
And never tell them why.
This is the Price of Commanding.

This is the Price of Commanding.
That mistakes are signed in red-
And that you won't pay
But others may
And your best may wind up dead
This is the Price of Commanding.

This is the Price of Commanding-
The deaths that haunt your sleep
And you hope they forgive
And so you live
With your memories buried deep.
This is the Price of Commanding.

This is the Price of Commanding-
That if you won't, others will.
So you take your post,
Salute each ghost-
You've a debt to them to fill.
This is the Price of Commanding.
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh, who would ever wanna be king?
Coldplay, "Viva La Vida"

    Radio 
Soldier: Are we going to have to camp out?
Ludovico: That is why we are carrying tents.
Soldier: You're not carrying anything, we are!
Ludovico: I carry what cannot be seen: the burden of command!
Soldier: Does it weigh as much as this tent?
Ludovico: Watch it, you!
The Leopard In Autumn
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    Video Games 
It is my duty to keep these men and women alive. It is my burden to know that I cannot.

(Paragon version)
Commander Shepard: The Turians lost 20 cruisers. Figure each crew had around 300. The Ascension — the Asari Dreadnaught we saved — had a crew of nearly 10,000.
Al-Jilani: But surely the human cost--
Commander Shepard: The Alliance lost eight cruisers. Shenyang. Emden. Jakarta. Cairo. Seoul. Cape Town. Warsaw. Madrid. And yes, I remember them all.

(Renegade version)
Commander Shepard: Saving everyone only happens in vids. There will be sacrifices. Being in charge means making sure they lead to the greater objective. That's a reality shared by all soldiers, in command and on the ground. Don't you dare suggest I made that call lightly.
Al-Jilani: I didn't mean to accuse—
Commander Shepard: You're damn right you didn't! I won't let you disrespect anyone who gave their life that day. They're heroes—all of them. They deserve better than you.

Suppose that's what it's going to take, Shepard. The ruthless calculus of war. Ten billion over here die so that twenty billion over here can live. Are we up for that? Are you?
Garrus, Mass Effect 3

I wake up every morning to fight a war. I send people to kill and die. If I'm lucky, there are more dead kett than Resistance when I go to sleep.
Evfra de Tershaav, Mass Effect: Andromeda

The folly of leadership is knowing that no matter what you do, behind your back, there's hundreds certain that their own solution is the sounder one and that your decision was the by-product of a whimsical dart toss. I pronounce the blast sentence, and I soak the critical fallout. I make the decisions no-one else will. Leadership... I wear the albatross and the bullseye.

A throne is the most devious trap of them all.
Izaro, Path of Exile

Kaldalis: The lives lost tomorrow will be the price of our future.
Artanis: An easy sentiment from one who is not sending them to die!
Reclamation short, Starcraft II Legacy Of The Void

Ann: I guess it's not easily ruling over 12 million hungry people.

    Web Comics 
Baron Wulfenbach: I swear, it's like running a kindergarten.
Othar Tryggvassen: What, tyrant? Does your empire give you no pleasure?
Baron Wulfenbach: No. It gives me no pleasure. Politics always annoyed me. Now I do it every day. I haven't seen my wife in years. My old friends are gone. I haven't travelled or explored. At least with the Heterodynes we had the adventures. The occasional fight. Now it's send in the armies, then the bureaucrats with mops. It's become an old formula. Well, we do what we must.

"Lota chose the lesser of two evils. It is in Lota's job description as Monarch."
King Lota, Schlock Mercenary

Nadia: I do not rule. I feed. For every world I tear apart, a hundred of my guilds and petty kings pick apart the bones and demand further nourishment. That is the second condition: to satisfy that eternal hunger. If I ever stopped... they would rip me apart.
Allison: Now that. Is bullshit.

"A beggar I passed in the market once remarked to me that if the gods' brows were wreathed in starfire, their heads must get awfully hot," said Lord Intra to his sparring partner.
"What a strange remark," said his partner. "How does one respond to that?"
"I told him he was right," said Intra.
The Song of Maybe, Kill Six Billion Demons

    Web Original 
Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job
The Onion headline on the day of President Barack Obama's first inauguration

    Western Animation 
Meelo: Being alpha lemur is lonely.
Tenzin: I know.

Cadet Christopher Blair: May I ask, sir, why I was ordered to remain onboard?
Commodore Geoffrey Tolwyn: So you could learn what it means to command, cadet.
Blair: Shouldn't a leader share the dangers with the people under his command, sir?
Tolwyn: Any fool can be brave, the hard thing is to be right... War doesn't like to forgive mistakes, Mr. Blair.

I'm telling you - all of you - that I am sick of being responsible for the preservation of the universe and its outlying suburbs!
Hot Rod, The Transformers

"I think you all should just lay off the poor guy. I mean, it can't be fun always being the responsible one. And we're the ones who really benefit: Raph's free not to think cause Leo does all the thinking for him, Don's free to dream, and I'm free to take it easy all because Leo's busy being responsible enough for all of us."

Homer: Hey, what's the matter, son?
Bart: Aw, Dad, if just me, Milhouse and Lewis had voted...
Homer: Hey, son, would you have gotten any money for being class president?
Bart: No.
Homer: Would you have to do extra work?
Bart: Yeah.
Homer: And is Martin guy going to get to do anything neat, like throw out the first ball at the World Series? Huh?
Bart: Well, no.
Homer: So, let the baby have his bottle, huh? That's my motto.
The Simpsons, "Lisa's Substitute"

"You've made so many decisions I didn't expect — giving yourself up to Homeworld, coming back through Lion's mane. The future that you created was so improbable that I didn't see it coming at all, and now I can't understand where this timeline is going. We're on the outskirts of the possible, following trickles to who knows where. Everyone's looking to me for answers. I can't stand it! It's so hard for me to just exist in the first place, Steven. I want to love being alive. I want to love that there are so many possibilities, but I'm the one with this ability, so I've got to be our guide."

    Real Life 
Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

If you are as happy to be accepting this office as I am to be leaving it, then you are a very happy man.
James Buchanan to Lincoln
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