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Nos scribere sub et signum capra.

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Shall the sword devour for ever? Knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end?
2 Samuel 2:26




PRECIPICE OF WAR


This is a character-driven Nation RP. We expect decent posts (500-1500 words is ideal; more is acceptable, less is not) and a reasonable attitude toward RPing. Do not join this RP if you want to win; join it if you want to tell a story. We have a reasonably open policy toward pulpy, over the top story lines, so don't be afraid to experiment, just don't do anything that isn't at least plausible.

The year is 1960, in an alternative universe where the United States didn't enter the Great War, causing that conflict to drag on until 1921. Europe has been weakened and an isolationist USA did nothing to prop up the old powers as Communism and anti-Colonial sentiments swept the crumbling Empires. Though Russia avoided the Bolshevik revolution, leftist revolutions in China and France added to the global instability. The United States fought a brief three-way Civil War in the 1930's, split between the leftist west, populist south, and the US government, ending in reunion. In 1952, the Tsar was murdered by Finnish assassins Viktor Laine and Juhani Mikheal, and the Empire fell into Civil War as a result. The absence of globalism and lack of a second Great War has caused technological advancement to diverge, being largely behind where the real world was in 1960. For instance, in Precipice, there are no jets or nuclear weapons.

For more details, check out the first page of the OOC, the Character Sheets section, or read the posts in IC.

Interested? Click here for the application process.


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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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What made it so that the Revolutions in the past have failed humanity? How was it, that when man was poised to grasp socialism and forge ahead past the tyrannies of Reaction men have failed in their quests? Of the latest to note were the Bolsheviks. How is it that the Bolshevik party of Russian communism crashed itself against the rocks when it had the power to truly seize it? Was it a flaw within their organization? An error in their judgment? It must have been one, or it must have been another. For as we go ahead now we do not seek the future sunrise without the specter of the past reaching out from the moon fall and threatening to cloud our sunlit day with overcast clouds before yet another era of night.

And like so much, the currents of the present flow out of the river of the past. And if we are to seize our future we must know our past, otherwise where do we dam the river of the present era to reroute it down another branch without knowing its depths, or the speed of its waters? If we are to go about our work thinking the water is too shallow, then the ills of history will still control our present as the waters flow under or over our dam. If we build on too steep a slope, the currents of history will wash over us all and plunge our work into oblivion. We have hope: and that hope is knowing. We should know the past of revolution, as we know our enemies; so that we may overcome it.

In the dire state of Revolution as it exists in China today we come to the clear perception that any hope for a government of the common working man and of the humble peasant may not soon arise within the next century if such inaction continues. The elite powers of the ignoble Kuomintang and Japanese invaders will thus abuse the sanctity of the Chinese people and economic powers for generations to come. And those areas which call themselves in open revolution against the nation, not furthering the borders and scope, they will be in time overcome by the designs of all our enemies and our liberty taken from us. They set the stage of China in a millennium of war, for it is all both sides understand. The blink of the Great War of Europe will be naught by a speck compared to the blood both shall pour into our rivers.

But we need not give up our hope, the Revolution is not lost and our liberty is not at an end. Give me the moment brothers, and reviewing the past we will find the qualities of the present we wish to have to reach our final victory. Let us speak now as brothers and sisters in the same room, and talk of equal minds on the importance of the deconstruction to come. I know well this is not an easy thing to accomplish, but with my best efforts put forward it shall be done.

War swept Europe in the year 1914 and all powers with something to gain or to lose threw in their metal on the field of war and for years turned their own civilization on their head. Into it, the Empire of Russia went forth with all its men, all its horses, and all its guns. The cities turned to the production of war as the Czar scoured the countryside for young peasants to do the dying of the nobility. This was, as in any time of duress a moment of sudden unity for the nation as all the czar's men did the work of the nation.

But war is brutal and not in all the tastes of the men who have nothing to gain from it, and everything to lose. Secret cabals and societies met across the Russian state to conspire to exit from the conflict, and feeling even the Czar was to blame how might he be removed from office, or his powers usurped to the greater authority of wider men. These societies and movements gathered into a public campaign, and the czar obtained the wisdom of his folly and did as a wise man would; left a senseless war with the greatest grace and humility attributed to a monarch; which is not much to say the least.

Appealing the peace men, he shed the dangers to his right, and to the left conceded to letting go of some of his power. And so with his political power reconsolidated his enemies withdrew in peace from his side and did little to threaten the czar. But before him stood the entire clique that opposed him to the czar's very roots and they demanded not just an exit, not just a surrendering of his power again to the Duma formed in 1905, but for the entire liquidation of his office – which had at that point been known as a cannibal entity which would devour the bodies of its enemies during the slightest political feud - and all that he had made; and rightly so for the benefit of all proletariat of Russia. And by virtue of his position he refused, and of the others they refused to recognize his refusal. And these men were the Bolsheviks, the martyrs of Revolution in Russia. The rightly people who should have inherited the state and brought it forth into the illumination of the modern era.

The two embroiled themselves in bitter conflict and it was in the end the the Bolsheviks were defeated and driven under. Their leaders exiled to the far east or hanged for their treason. And we so see the clear path of history laid before us. But the question is: how is it this came to pass?

In 1920 the Communist Party in China was founded, as born out of the events of the winter of 1919. But they did not act as outsiders to the political sphere and they nurtured themselves within the government of the Republic for five years until their unjust exile from said government. And while the factions were many, there was a quiet solidarity between them.

But it was in Russia that the Bolsheviks loyalties faltered and flirted between personalities and alliances and the power of popular revolution was not in the hands of two generally amiable factions, but in several forces at play. They could all agree to social democracy but not to what it would look like when they had it. This disunity between the soviets and disregards for its own principles was the cancer that ate at the heart of their movement.

For when the Czar did acquiesce to the demands of the people and abandoned a war by which nobody had anything to win, the Communist movement in Russia had its footing torn out from under it. Those who would have stood firmly with the Party of Lenin and Trotsky lost their balance and fell to the simple action. And with so many of the youths of the party seeing their friends and brothers coming home lost spirit in action as they believed simple petition could rescue the day.

So the battle I so described before was far from being one of equals. The Bolsheviks and the czarists clashed, but it was a clash where the czarists went between the lines and ate the weakest stock in the army and improved itself as disunity and disruption exploded through the ranks of its enemies. The Party of Lenin had not been prepared for this and did not have the foresight to see that when his ranks are broken they are easily pulled apart.

Compare now to China, where the Party was simply cut from the main trunk of government and cast aside and left to dig its own roots. Our enemies thought that the branch they have cut off was dead. But it was simply grafted onto a new body. We have acknowledged and repaired our disunity for the most part.

The Bolsheviks had done little in this way. They went ahead and did not expect to be so enveloped. We stand back in fear of this envelopment. But when the spirit of the movement is so superior to that of the enemy, its spirit dying ever so much by the day it would be folly to not advance and to bite. It would be a historical embarrassment upon us all for history to look back at both these revolutions and see the failure of the exact opposites taken. “And where,” history will ask, “Did China go?”

So, we must turn to the past as we do inward to seek the strengths from the weakness of our person hoods and find our own swords. And doing so know: the Bolsheviks were a failure! A failure of judgment! A failure of strategy! A failure of action! Their hearts were set in a golden chest but this chest was looted by the indignant forces of Reaction when their backs were turned. With all men at the Vanguard none were there to watch the Train. And as the Revolution is now, too many men stand watch at the Train and the Vanguard is weakened now. The tip of the spear is blunted and bent. We fight of the offense with mud and only toy at seizing our futures.

On The Current State of Revolution and the Bolsheviks

Hou Tsai Tang, 1931


Beijing

May 13th, 1943


The early morning air was unusually crisp for this time of year in China. A lost frosty fog hung low over the city as Yu Wei sat still in the shadow of a bomb-torn structure at the heart of the city. The wide corridor of Shili Changjie – Chang'an Avenue – stretched out into the pale milky mirk that had dropped down over Beijing. Distantly, the faint cracks of rifle and machine gun fire echoed in the still air as the distant thunder cracks of mortar and artillery fire rippled across the countryside and the hills that nearly enveloped Beijing itself. There was a sense of disquiet that lay heavily on Yu Wei's heart as he leaned against the cold moist stone of the remaining wall, his rifle cradled in his arms as he scanned the distant foggy horizon for the silhouettes of movement.

Nothing moved out there. Not even with the safety knowing the fog would conceal them from snipers or hidden machine gun nests, nothing dared to prowl the long avenue lest they be noticed by some concealed enemy.

There were many places one might hide in the city itself, least of all being so near to the doorstep of the Imperial Palace, the Forbidden City. Each hutong that defined the urban maze was taken and held and lost with the blood of many men and the cobble stones were still red with the gore of fallen soldiers. It had become unsettling at first to see the blood between the stones, it reminded Wei of the blood that covered the courtyard of his family home when a goat was slaughtered; but it was one goat he could stand to stomach seen killed, not the multitudes of men that had dropped then and there from one well positioned machine gun in a doorway on the far side.

Yet, despite the carnage of the siege the army of revolution had moved ahead steadily into the city. The imperialists and the Japanese that had entrenched themselves had no choice but to withdraw slowly through the weeks and fighting as the line gave, ammo was lost, and desperation mounted among the Palace military.

When the revolutionaries had breached far in enough to see the wide courtyard of Tian'anmen there was a cheer and hope that they would soon preach the palace itself and capture the Emperor, who was said to have been trapped in Beijing. Wei knew a man who scoured the wreck of each aircraft that had been shot down trying to flee the city and he reported not once to have found the body of a royal, though he told him once he had located the body of a woman he claimed to have been a concubine to Puyi and took the corpse's finger as a trophy; he did not believe him though, the finger looked far too clean to have survived a crash from an airplane.

It did show just how much everyone was hopeful. How the long struggle was coming to a close and soon what remained of hope to continue the fight would melt away and they'd soon by the victors.

Wei continued to lean up against the wall. He jumped a suddenly as a hand landed on his shoulder, he spun excitedly around to meet whoever had touched him ready to smash him with the butt of his rifle. But he hesitated at the sight of the man's face who had touched him. “Comrade.” he said, lowering his rifle, “Say something next time, Chun Jiao.”

Jiao shrugged indifferently. He was a dirty man who smiled wide, showing the wide gap in his teeth from where he had his front teeth knocked out by debris. He had many more injuries, his thumb was bent and broken at an odd angle, his nose was broken inwards and while already short was forced into a downward bend that gave him the look of a dirty, lightly browned pig. “You see anything?” he asked, raising a hand and scratching under the wool hat that capped his head.

“It's very hard to see a thing.” Wei answered him, resuming his position. He cross his arms across his chest as he hugged his rifle.

“I wish we could see Zongshan.” said Jiao, referring to the park that made up the southern doorstep to the palace. The Forbidden Palace was perhaps no more than a couple blocks from them, the park itself no more than one block. But in the hazy mist it was completely obscured. At times when it let up there might be a faint outline of a structure, or a pavilion, or some other nearby structure, but it would slip away into the veil like a ghost ship disappears into a thick ocean fog.

“It's spooky.” said Wei, “It's so still.”

“Incredibly still.” Jiao acknowledged fishing in his pockets and pulling out a wad of paper. Wei looked over at him with an impassive expression and watched as he unwrapped a fistful of dry pieces of salted pork. Numbly Jiao picked away at the dry strips of seasoned meat and chewed loudly at the tough strips. He offered his companion from, and he pulled free a couple spare pieces and began eating.

The meat was as rough and dry as leather. Wei's mouth went sore as he chewed and chewed at the meat. Jiao would uncork his canteen of water and take a swig and then pass it to Wei who would share in the same to wash out the salt and help soften the brutally tough meat. The two men stood indifferently lunching on the ration meat as they waited and watched for movement for the next ten minutes, hardly exchanging a word as they looked out down the street.

They stirred from their meal when a sound rumbled from behind them. The two men turned and peeked around the corner. In the distant fog headlight beams cut through the morning mist, following them was the sound of running engines. Wei picked up his rifle and walked out into the street, raising his hand. Jiao followed after, fist full of pork held out in front like a gift he never really intended to hand over.

A large truck pulled to a stop as Wei stepped aside to avoid being run over. Walking over to the driver's window he climbed up on the running board to speak with the driver who lowered the window.

“You can't go any further!” Wei warned him, “The reactionaries are hold up beyond here. The palace is just a few blocks down.”

“We know!” the driver said, shouting over the low diesel hum of the running motor, “That's where we're going. We just got word: the reactionaries surrendered!”

The news struck Wei and he hung limp from the window for a second as his face went limp. His chest quivered as he asked, “Are you sure?”

“I'm sure.” the driver said loudly as Jiao strolled over. The driver rummaged somewhere in his wool coat and pulled up a wrinkled yellow note, “From Hou's post himself.” he handed it through the window to Wei.

Gently holding the crinkled yellow paper in his hands he looked in disbelief at the paper with its few short words written in quick certain strokes.

“ENEMY SURRENDERED. ADVANCE ON PALACE FOR SURRENDER. TO NOT FIRE ON ANYONE.”

Wei licked his dry salty lips. The orders demands sinking in on him as he handed over the orders to the driver. He caught Jiao in the corner of his vision, staring perplexed as his cheeks bulged from an over indulgence of salt pork.

“I- I see.” Wei muttered softly, almost too quietly to hear.

“I'd invite you to ride along, but the bed's full!” the driver declared, “You'll need to walk alongside or find a rear-most carriage.”

Wei dropped down, “I understand.” he nodded. He was in a dreamlike state as he threw his rifle against his back and stepped aside to let the truck past. He stood in a stunned state as he worked over the sudden and unexpected change in reality. How could the enemy surrender? They never surrendered! They-

“What's going on? Why are they headed towards the palace?” Jiao shouted to him over the sound of motors. The first truck had just gone and the second was just coming by.

Wei turned to his companion and said, “The Palace surrendered.” somehow the words helped to confirm the reality and with a kick the dreamlike state was disbanded. “The Palace surrendered!” he cheered, a spring coming to his step and he bound off alongside the caravan.

Songs of victory now were being sung by every men in the caravan. Many different songs. Songs of battles won, loves to meet again, fields to till. Songs of pain, songs of glory. Each verse, each chorus, and each lyric mixed together into a cacophony of noise amid the engines as the caravan moved on closer to the Palace with Wei and Jiao racing alongside.

“What do you mean?” shouted Jiao as they raced down Chang'an. To their left the moat that kept the street and Zhongshan Park seperate from each other sat cool and dark at the bottom of its grassy banks. In the pale distance the red face of Tian'anmen Gate stood looming over the scenery. The trucks ahead were gathering and pulling aside, piling up unsystematically in front of the gate and pouring out their riders who raced ahead to the gate cheering. Seeing this, Jiao realized before Wei could find his breath to answer that this was true: the enemy had surrendered.

Masses of men and women raced through the gate with their rifles and submachine guns held above their heads and they whooped and hollered. Their cheers breaking the calm of the foggy morning. On the parapets men climbed up and took to the flagpoles, tearing down the Manchurian flags that flew there, and the Japanese suns and replaced them with the blood-red banners of revolution.

Jiao and Wei were forced to lock hands as they entered the building crown, least they were swept away. They two were jostled feverishly between masses of bodies as men from a million villages, a thousand counties, hundreds of towns and cities, and at least several countries ran themselves through Zongshan park in an ecstatic cheer . Armored cars were part of the throng as they tried to pull to the side to stand among the trees of the central park to guard the way with their red banners.

The men made their way towards the Meridian Gate, which they found to be locked. But this did not bother them as they gathered at it and sang and cheered at the walls. Above them the as of yet untouchable flags of Japan and Muchuria hung in limp morning as the gate stood silent. No men stood atop the walls, it was as if the Earth had suddenly become vacant, and the army of revolutionaries itself had been left behind to inherit a new world. Songs in several different languages rose into the air, and Wei could not help but be carried away in the cheer, his last reservations lifted as he stood in the midst of the crowd, being naturally pushed closer to the walls of the old Imperial Palace as men jostled against on another and their cheers mixing.

Thought despite the ecstasy and all the cheer, Jiao on the other hand could not help but watch the walls, afraid men might appear and open fire on the celebrating men below. The bulk of the army in central Beijing seemed to be here, and it would be easy to do away with much of it with several well placed grenades and a rain of gunfire. But nothing of that seemed to happen. If anything, the celebrations intensified as more joined in, the park was soon over taken, and then the crowd parted.

The cheering and celebrations subsided as the intervening party made its approach. Guided by soldiers with rifles the celebratory army was parted as a handful of men made their way somberly to the Forbidden City. Wei looked over at them as the rifles gently pushing them back made their way passed. Walking in a loose wedge, the division commanders of the present army made their way, lead by a tall narrowly built figure in military khakis several sizes too small for him. Wei recognized him for his slender, narrow face and pointed beard. Hou Tsai Tang, walking with his head up as he gazed upwards at the peak of the Meridian gate. The great wooden doors actually opened for him, and Hou and his commanders passed inside with their guards. The gates were shut before any others could stream in.

For the next hour, the army waited in silence. As the morning wore on and the sun heated the morning air the mist slowly dissipated. The city began to glow with a fresh warm orange light, free of the oppression of cold air and clouds.

As the air warmed around them as the sun crescendoed closer to afternoon and the mist was replaced with a pale dew a murmur raced through the crowd as heads turned up to a figure taking his place at the top of the Meridian Gate. He was too distant to see for Wei, but the lone figure was soon joined by several others who went about removing the flags from the gate. Applause roared among the soldiers, and Wei could feel the pride lift into the air as the applause grew louder as the flags dropped lower. There was an explosion of raw joy as the red flag of China was unfurled and raised, and from the parapets the dry voice of Hou shouted out into the morning, “The enemy has surrendered! Beijing is ours!”

Cheers exploded, and somewhere in the back someone began singing La Internationale in wavering Chinese. The voice was quickly met with others, and in a wave of enthusiasm the voices of many thousands joined in unison to the song. Even Wei was swept on the upward currents and sprang into loud joyous song, he let it carry his voice away into the throngs of the many and his ears rang with the thousands.




Beijing

May 13th, 1960 (present day)


The hall was filled with excited chatter as men with their wives migrated between the dinner tables. Every was dressed in their finery, gray, white, gray-blue suits, red and yellow dresses, or the black finery of both men and women. The dinner hall was dressed over in red banners and orange stars and giant placards loudly and largely celebrated progress and the future. On easels at ground level around the edge of the room in regularly spaced groups stood enlarged black and white photographs of the liberation of Beijing from Imperialist forces. Around these mingled the groups of veteran soldiers who hadn't made it into political life but were none the less held in high esteem all the same.

The room was normally use for congressional conferences, and was in fact in the middle of the large National Congressional complex close to the center of Beijing, built over top land destroyed during the battle of liberation. On entering the front entrance and standing in the entrance gallery a visitor may walk to the right and enter into the congressional theater itself, or the other direction and enter the offices. Straight ahead was the conference halls and the other small halls for committee or other purposes, all laid out in a vague T of perfect symmetry.

Architecturally, the chamber was built in some marriage between western state-house style and Chinese character. Brightly colored pillars were set close to the walls and rose up to a vaulted and latticed ceiling some two-stories above the party goers as chandeliers illuminated the gala dinner below. Tall gallery windows opened up into the night sky outside as a light rain came down on the hall. The ambiance of gossip and of the band playing a mixture of Chinese and western instruments at the far end of the hall otherwise drowned that out though.

Hou Tsai Tang stood at the center of the room, a man now in his mid sixties. His narrow faced reamed with fine lines and wrinkles, the pointed spear-tip beard on his chin having softened with time and beginning to gray with the rest of his hair on his head. But his soft brown eyes held a sharpened wisdom and they smiled along as he greeted the guests that came to him. He came to remember the names of many of them, though he also knew the greater number of guests who spoke to him because he knew them from politics. For the few that he could not remember he all the same spoke to them and acted as if they were long-time comrades.

Alongside him was his wife, a short woman who stood a whole head shorter than Hou. She was close to a full seven years younger than him, and despite the lines in her face still managed to hold a figure of a lady half her age despite having had two children. Her figure was held tight in a white and rose printed silk Cheongsam, in contrast to her husband's black Zhongshan with red embroidered trim. Her face was round, with a forehead made to look stretched from the hair pulled back and wrapped into a bun behind her head. The two together seemed to move with poise about the room, migrating between the guests and trading stories above glasses of wine.

From among the crowd a veteran found and approached Hou, who left himself open to be approached in this situation. “Comrade Hou!” the man exclaimed over the din of the crowd, turning the statesman's attention from his prior conversation. He turned to great the new comer with a polite smile, and as the former soldier bowed he too bowed in respect back to him.

“Comrade, how are you this evening? You enjoying yourself?” he asked softly.

“That I am.” the soldier said, nodding appreciatively. He folded his arms behind his back and smiled at both Hou and his wife, “The weather though could be better.” he added, laughing bashfully.

“Well there is not much that can be done about that.” Hou said with a dismissive laugh, “It is at least a clear rainy night.”

“That it is, comrade.” the soldier agreed, “I was here in the city the day it was finally liberated.” he announced, “And I remember that it was foggy.”

“Yes, the worse condition to be in. But, I am glad it was that day it was surrendered to us. Were you at the palace?” he asked, leaning in hoping to confirm.

“I was, I saw you enter the walls.” the veteran said with a nervous laugh, “And after all these seventeen years I often wonder: what happened in those walls?”

“Terms of surrender.” and that's all Hou knew he needed to know, “The fate of the emperor, his cohorts, and the international citizens under his protection at the time. In the end, all went well; as you know.”

“And I couldn't ask for better.” the veteran acknowledged.

Hou nodded passively, and his wife interjected.

“Mr...” she began, uncertainly.

“Yu Wei, lady Hou Ju.” Wei replied.

“Are you from Jiangxi?” she asked politely.

“Fujian, ma'am.” Wei corrected.

“You don't say? I have cousins in Fujian. Where in?”

“Upriver of Fuzhou, outside of Sharendang.”

“Oh, well mine live Ningde.” she answered with a sorrowful sigh, and sipped her wine, “It is beautiful country down there though. You are a fortunate man.”

“I know, I wouldn't live anywhere better to raise children.”

“How many do you have?” Hou asked conversationally.

“I have five.” Wei nodded excitedly, “The first was born just ten months after the Revolution was over.”

“How wonderful!” Hou Ju exclaimed, “Both of ours are in the Academy now. Does your eldest have any plans?”

“I'm sure he wants to go into the service.” Wei nodded excitedly. There was a nervous light in his eyes that Hou picked up on.

“Are you anxious?” he asked.

“I know no father who wouldn't be any more worried. He'll have his exams in a year.”

“If he is the son of such a honorable comrade, I am sure he would have been well raised.”

The conversation may have continued, by a soft hand interrupted it and turned Hou's attention away. A stout man stood behind the Secretariat and he pointed down to a watch on his wrist. “It is nearly nine, comrade.” he said in a soft tone.

Hou acknowledged by raising his hand and turned back to Wei. “It's been a pleasure.” he said with a bow, but I have to leave. It's almost time for the toast, and dinner.”

“Oh, understood.” said Wei, backing away. Hou turned and walked with brisk grace towards the band stage.

Turning to follow her husband Hou Ju said he farewells to Wei, “Hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.”

The band stage was a half-egg shaped platform at the forefront of the room. The band that played stood and sat on a raised platform erected earlier that day and covered in carpet and sheets. As Hou came to step alongside with a security guard a microphone was position at center stage. Its presence was a signal to the musicians the music was almost at an end. Passing glances were exchanged between them and Hou and he returned each with the slightest of nods.

As the music drew to a close the chatter in the hall came to a steady end. All eyes turned up to the stage as Hou Tsai Tang took his position at the microphone. Still holding the glass of wine close to his belly he stood and looked out over the packed hall.

“Comrades.” he said, raising his glass. His voice echoed airily and with a dry sigh, “We gather here, seventeen years after the liberation of Beijing and the conclusion of the northern front to pay our respects and memory to our fallen brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives in the north. Their deaths were not a sprinkling of dead branches across a barren ground, but a spreading of flowering seed to bring a bright future. While they gave themselves up for the better future we all wish to someday own, they have left us physically. But as spirits, as the spirit within all man they have not left this world, for they only have joined the greater brotherhood.

“We come here tonight, as we come to this city and pay our honors to this fallen men and women to share in that same communal spirit that forms a nation, and rebirths China from the void and into the light of the modern era. We may live in it, but it was given to us in sacrifice. I need not say that many of us here have known... those who died.” his voice choked in all earnest honesty at those passing words, but he regained his composure to continue, “For... we all have. There is not a man in this room as there is not a village in China who have not lost a son and daughter to recreate China. And for that, eternal gratitude, eternal love, and eternal brotherliness.

“To them, I offer to commemorate this toast.” he rose his glass and throughout the room glasses went up into the crystalline light of the chamber.

“To our lost brothers, to our lost sisters.” Hou said as the room repeated.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Letter Bee
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Letter Bee Filipino RPer

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Iron Lady, Part One

Priscilla Aglipay-Rizal was many things.

She was a revolutionary, having founded the 'Second Katipunan' alongside her father, Gregorio, and her husband, Manuel Rizal*. She was a fighter, as shown in countless actions against the exploitative semi-feudal landowners who were reeling from the Americans' sudden weakening and withdrawal. She was a diplomat, having persuaded Japan to focus on the disorder in China and China to focus on Japan's ambitions instead of the 'temporary' weakness of the Philippines. She was also an unlikely leader; when her father - the great Gregorio Aglipay - was killed in action, Priscilla had led the Second Katipunan alongside her husband before he was killed as well.

Now, however, all of that was foreshadowed by the fact that once the Americans had withdrawn to focus on their Second Civil War, and the remaining landowners had been forced to toe the line or be driven out, she ruled.

The strongest woman in the Philippines, she nevertheless insisted on holding free and fair elections to legitimize her rule and her taking on the titile of 'Lady President', after which she chose to abandon Malacanang Palace, the traditional seat of power in Manila, and instead chose to live in a relatively modest house in the walled city of Intramuros. And it is in that house where the New Philippines arose, a Philippines of smallholder farmers, networks of worker-owned businesses, and a few state-owned corporations. After that came the manufacturing of consumer goods through cottage industry and the generation of electricity from human waste and excess farm products. True, her Philippines was not as rich and prosperous as the other nations, nor as 'competitive' in economic terms, but they got by and even thrived in their own way.

But it wasn't enough. As Priscilla Aglipay-Rizal showed her hospitality by serving tea and pastries to the delegates at the meeting she was holding in her modest home, before taking her seat, she smiled and said:

"Greetings; if you all will forgive me for such humble but unbecoming behavior of a Head of State, we can now begin discussing the destruction of our Monopolist oppressors. I hope you would also enjoy the cakes? They are a local recepie," Wham.

Lady Trung of Vietnam was well-acquainted with Priscilla's...quirks, and smiled, saying warmly, "You do not have to remind us that you are a wife and mother to all, not just your nation. That said, perhaps your child can have a few bootleg Mosin-Nagants* for the fight against 'Emperor Bao Dai'? Those would be quite heavenly."

Priscilla returned the warmth with a nod, "A few thousand have already been manufactured by the Association of Small Arms Manufacturers in the country. You have to arrange for their transport, of course, as well as the food, the medicines, and the Molotov-level liquor that both tastes good and burns well." Translation: We have them and will give them, but you have to learn how to arrange for their smuggling yourself.



A sound of a throat clearing; Anthony Walter Dyrell Brooke, former ruler of Sarawak until the British had made the region a direct colony for a brief period, wanted all eyes focused on him. The ex-royal, whose genuine empathy to the Malay people his dynasty had went native for had pushed him into collaboration with his 'social inferiors', then spoke, "We have willing men. We have our own arms and money aplenty. We have supplies and sympathizers. But Sarawak cannot embrace your system as of yet, although it is willing to aid you in the coming battle against the frauds who control the region right now. Speaking of the coming battles, I must ask you, Lady President of the Philippines; how goes China? How goes Japan? How goes the need to forge an alliance to cleanse the region of swindlers and oppressors and false empires?"

Priscilla smiled at this near-defiance, and said, "Why, my ambassadors are already on their way. Raul and Orlando are heading to the Chinese and Japanese; the ball is in the latter's court now."

*en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosin%E2%80%93N…
Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Los Angeles


South Central
11:24 PM


Jefferson Thomas looked at the small lines of brown powder on the dash of his car. He leaned down and quickly snorted up the three neat lines of heroin. The drugs stung his nose going up, he snorted and swallowed as he felt mucus running down the back of his throat. The drugs began to hit his system almost at once. He sighed contently. He needed the little bit of hit for what was coming next. Straightening up in the driver's seat, he started his car back up and pulled out of the side alley back on to South Avalon.

The corner of Avalon and East 97th Street was blocked off by two LAPD cruisers with their lights flashing blue. Negro onlookers from the neighborhood stood behind a police cordon. Jefferson parked behind one of the patrol cars and got out. He was tall and lank, standing at 6'5 and maybe two hundred pounds at most. His hair he kept cut short in what the folks around the way called the fade. Old acne scars dotted his cheeks, just something else to be self-conscious about.

Jeff took with him a notebook and pen, along with his badge clipped to the left breast of his suit. He took a deep breath and began to walk through the crowd towards the cordon, the people giving him ample room as the came through.

He could feel their eyes on him. The same hostile stares he was used to in his six years with LAPD. He heard a few mutters about him being a sell out, how he was an Uncle Tom. This was what the heroin was for. Jefferson Thomas was just one of six negro officers in LAPD, the only detective and the only one who worked South Central. To the people down here, Jeff was nothing less than a traitor. By working for the LAPD, the same police force that brutalized them and marginalized him, he was worse than the white men who wore the uniform.

"How's it going?" Jeff asked the uniformed officer guarding the cordon.

He grunted and let Jeff pass by him. A small semi-circle of LAPD two patrolmen -- Pettigrew and Stanton -- and a plainclothes officer were gathered in the middle of a narrow alley, their backs to Jeff. They grudgingly gave him space once he joined them. He was the only black face among them.

Him and the dead body on the ground.

The corpse of the man lay face down in the alley with a pool of blood underneath him. The neat little wound on the back of his head made it clear that a bullet had been the cause of death. Jeff noted that the entrance would was fairly large, which meant the exit wound would have turned the guy's face into hamburger meat. Jeff also spotted stippling around the wound. So the shooter got up close. From the way the body was laid out, the man might have been on his knees when he caught the bullet. Execution style, thought Jeff. Cold blooded as hell.

"Mr. President," Hoyt said with a smirk.

Hoyt was the closest thing Jeff had to a partner. He was tall and blonde and had a thick Okie accent, a child of one of the many who fled the Dust Bowl and came west years ago in search of something better. Hoyt said he used to be an extra in cowboy pictures back before he joined the LAPD. Like a lot of detectives who worked out of the 77th Street Station, Hoyt carried a throwdown piece in his boot and a lead weighted sap in his sports coat.

"Hoyt."

Jeff pulled out his notebook and pen and began to take notes. Jeff saw the three white men looking among themselves out the corner of his eye.

"No need for notes, Jeff," Hoyt said as he spat a wad of tobacco from his mouth. "This one is open and shut."

"BNBG," Pettigrew said with a chuckle.

In LAPD speak, BNBG stood for Big Nigger Big Gun. More often than not, the people in South Central were killed by this Mr. BNBG. Jeff ignored them and instead started to bend down over the body, writing notes for himself.

"Did you hear us, Jeff?" Hoyt asked. "This boy here probably got shot because he cheated somebody in some crap game, or was fucking somebodies old lady, or some other bullshit. It's the jungle, son. You can't make heads or tails of what these fucking people are doing."

Jeff looked up and locked eyes with Hoyt. Sometimes other cops acted like Jeff wasn't black at all. There were jokes about him being an honorary white man, and how he was "one of the good ones", but there was also that look that they gave Jeff when they thought he wasn't looking. It was a look that would never make Jeff forget that he wasn't an honorary white man, and that he may be "one of the good ones", but he was still black and they weren't.

"You're right," said Jeff.

He stood and put his notepad and pen back in his pocket and looked at Hoyt and the patrolmen with a sheepish green.

"Five bucks says old boy on the ground had more pickaninnies than he had fingers and toes. One of them baby mommas probably did it."

The three white men laughed. Stanton slapped a knee.

Jeff chuckled to himself and looked at the two patrolmen. "If y'all want, I can wait for the medical examiner to get here. Hoyt and I are on the late show tonight and I know your shift ends at midnight."

Pettigrew and Stanton traded looks before nodding in agreement. The two patrolmen headed back to their squad car with Hoyt in tow. The detective said he would start paperwork, but Jeff knew he was going to Bito Lindo's. For all his talk about the jungle, Hoyt sure loved to hang out in South Central nightclubs.

When they were gone, Jeff bent back over the body. He quickly went through the man's pockets. He found a book of matches and a pack of Pall Malls, twenty dollars, a comb, and a California driver's license issued to a Wendall NMI Brock, DOB 2/28/19 and an address just a few blocks away from the crime scene. Jeff pocketed the license and everything else in the dead man's pockets before he stood up.

He could already start to feel the inevitable come down from his heroin high. Jeff would spend the next few hours in that low feeling that always followed the high. The majority of the depression was his body craving more dope. The other big part was that when he was sober, Jefferson Thomas couldn't stand himself. The insults and eyefucks thrown at him earlier were all true. He was an Uncle Tom, he was the LAPD's token nigger. And the heroin was the only thing that stopped him from swallowing his gun.

But now there was Wendall Brock, dead on the ground. Hoyt didn't give a fuck about Brock, neither did Pettigrew and Stanton, and neither would Lieutenant Johnson back at 77th Street. To the LAPD another dead black man was one less they would have to arrest. Tag it BNBG and close the case.

Ten minutes later the medical examiner's office showed up with a gurney. The attendant had a camera around his neck and a cigarette in his mouth.

"We're just tagging and bagging?" He asked, blowing smoke as he spoke.

"No," said Jeff. "We need photos of the body, and the crime scene guys are on two murders already, so we need to use your camera to take photos of the scene as well."

The morgue guy looked like someone had just kicked him in the nuts. He was being asked to work harder than usual, on something that was not his job. Jeff pulled out a twenty before the guy could use the usual bureaucratic excuses.

"You'll have my appreciation," he said with a nod.

The attendant palmed the cash.The bad look suddenly evaporated.

"Okay. Tell me what shots you need, and I'll be happy to get them for you."

---

Washington, D.C.



Washington Wheeler International Airport
4:11 AM


The bump of the airplane's landing gear touching the ground woke Eric Fernandez up from his light sleep. The plane was taxiing to the terminal while Fernandez stood and rubbed his aching back. By his own account he'd been on planes and in airports for the last sixteen hours. He was alone, no staff and no bodyguards. He didn't need either. At least not at this point.

"Welcome home, guys," Eric said. "At least for a couple of days."

Fernandez was one of the first ones off the plane and into the terminal. He carried a briefcase and a small travel suitcase that had his suits in them. Alexander Roy stood in the nearly deserted airport waiting for Eric. He started to walk with him as he approached.

"Senator," said Roy. "How was the west coast?"

"Lovely," replied Eric. "Lot of maybes, but no firm yeses."

"What do you expect? The west is where Norman is his strongest. Was I right about Arizona?"

"Yes and no."

They passed through the exit and out to a waiting car. Eric climbed in the back with Roy and waited until the car was in motion to speak.

"Arizona's democrats aren't the biggest Norman fan. But Rod Marston is a goddamn snake oil salesman. I had to take a shower after meeting with him. He all but said we'd have to pay for it if we want him and the state delegation on his side."

"It might be worth it."

The look Eric gave Roy all but ended the discussion there.

"If we to pay for it, it's not worth it."

They rode in silence after that. Eric leaned back in the seat and closed his eyes. He knew he was a long shot. The days when the party didn't nominate the incumbent president were long past. It was an uphill task to get party loyalists to break rank and gather around him before the convention. But the fact that Eric was getting maybes and non-committals instead of flat out no's was encouraging. The party overall were unhappy with the Norman Administration.

While Eric dozed, Roy pulled a thick leather bound ledger from his briefcase and cracked it open. Inside the book were the names of every state's convention delegates. Those in Fernandez's camp had an F beside their names, those for Norman were labeled with an N. Fernandez had all of the Wisconsin delegation on his side. Naturally they would support a favorite son until the better end. Fernandez also had support through the Midwest. Norman had the west coast in his pocket, and of course the vice president had the solid south under his yoke.

The Northeast would be a battleground. It was up in the air and with a bunch of delegates at stake. If Fernandez could get support in New England, he could at least force the convention into going into multiple ballots before election the candidate. In the event of a deadlock then the Norman camp would end up winning. The decision would be thrown into the backrooms where the party bosses and the vice president's staff would cut deals that would get the bosses' support behind the president. Eric's rhetoric was great and he could give assurances, but he was still a senator. Norman was draped in the office and all the power behind it. Eric could promise, but Norman could deliver.

"You're quiet," Eric said softly with his eyes still closed. "What are you thinking?"

Roy closed the ledger and rubbed his eyes. "I'm thinking we need to make friends in New England."

---

Sun City, Arizona


The Desert Rose Hotel & Casino
1:00 AM


Somewhere across the casino, a slot machine rang out in shrill tones and people were cheering the jackpot. Johnny Leggario sat at the bar drinking a highball. He was pretty sure he was going deaf after six months of working in the casino. Johnny was the nominal head of security. That meant all the pit bosses reported to him when they suspected a cheat. Two guys who worked for Johnny would politely escort the cheat to a back room and do many not so polite things to his body and face.

It wasn't a bad job if you could stand the noise and the smoke. Besides, Johnny only spent a few hours here a night. He'd usually roll through from about eleven to two, when the gambling was at its peak, to keep an eye on things. He had a much more important job away from the casino.

To the Boys, Sun City was considered an open city. No one family ran it outright. The Desert Rose was Chicago's piece of the action. LA owned and operated King Arthur's Court, and the Fortunato's form New York had the Lucky Gent. Frenchie Gallo was the Fortunato's man in Arizona and the one everyone in Sun City called boss. And Johnny was his underboss. A New York boss, a Chicago underboss, and capos from all across the country. It was what the politicians would call a coalition government.

Johnny polished off his highball and left the bar. The action on the casino floor tonight was boring. Shriners played dice and slapped the asses of the cocktail waitresses. Old ladies were chainsmoking around the slots while businessmen and other squares played at the card tables. No celebrities or high rollers. Nobody for Johnny to set up with dope or a hooker. Nothing really for him to do.

He was about to split when Gingy waved at him from across the floor. There was a phone in his hands and he passed it to Johnny as he approached. Johnny cradled it and was thankful for its long cord as he went inside a hallway just off the casino floor.

"Hello?"

"Johnny." It was Frenchie. Forty years since he moved to the States but he still had that Québécois accent from Montreal. "I need you to make an airport run."

"This late?"

"A private party coming in by private plane. Bring them to my house. I want someone I trust, so get a goddamn limo and don't bust my fucking balls, eh?"

---

Johnny leaned against the limo and smoked a cigarette. He saw the plane land and slowly taxi across the tarmac towards his car. He perked up when he saw the men in suits coming out the plane first. Johnny's instincts screamed cop to him and he sat upright to watch the two men. Square haircuts and cheap suits. Cops for sure.

"We need to pat you down," one of them said before he flashed a badge.

Secret Service.

Johnny put his hands up and let them pat him down. They took the .45 in the shoulder holster and .38 in the ankle rig, and then the switchblade in his pocket.

"You'll get them back," one of the agents said.

"I fucking better," said Johnny.

The two men walked back to the plane. Two more men came out and walked down the stairs towards the limo. The one on the right Johnny knew well. Senator Rod Marston, tall and thin with his rusty red hair, was no stranger to Johnny or Frenchie's other guys. The old pol spent as much time in the casinos and whorehouses of Sun City as the dealers and whores. There was no telling what kind of dirt Frenchie had on him, how much money he'd gotten from the Boys after twenty years of slush fund and kickback money. Johnny thought of Marston as a crook, but one on a much higher level than Frenchie or any other made guy. His brand of criminality was called patriotism.

The other man following Marston towards the limo Johnny recognized. He'd seen his face on newspapers and magazines and on TV. More often than not, he was smiling to the side as Michael Norman delivered some speech of posed for some photo.

"Johnny," Marston said with a firm handshake. "Long time no see. Let me introduce you. Johnny, this is the Vice President."

"Pleasure," Russell Reed said in his syrupy southern accent. "Hopefully, Johnny, you're a registered democrat."

"Vote early and often," said Johnny. "That's the Chicago way."

The three men shared a laugh before Marston patted Johnny on the back.

"I think Frenchie is expecting us, Johnny," said Marston. "We need to discuss business."
Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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Vilageidiotx Jacobin of All Trades

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-----------------------------------------------------
May 1st, in the Highlands of Ethiopia
-----------------------------------------------------

"I am crushed. How can I go on?" Nebiyou the farmer spoke through his tears, and Sisay Makari, servant of God, listened thoughtfully.

They stood in front of a pen full of dead donkeys. Rot was beginning to set in, but deep wounds on their necks and the dust blackened by blood beneath their heads, made it possible to determine cause of death. The stench was powerful, torturing the sinuses and making Sisay's old eyes water. The farmer was dressed in a threadbare tunic and gabi - the latter a kind of shawl common in Ethiopia - and he bore the marks of lifelong toil. Sisay wore a longer shawl and a tight turban around his head. In his hand he carried a prayer stick, a five foot cane-like object, which he leaned against when he stood for long periods of time.

"I am a poor man, I cannot bare this." Nebiyou wavered, "I've lost two children. They were just babies and they died in the crib, so only my wife and my eldest son is alive to help me. There are no luxuries for us, everything I have I need. Losing these asses has ruined me. I am not made of asses!"

"Calm down" Sisay put a bony hand on the farmer's quavering shoulders. Whether it was the comfort of a human touch or respect for his station, it seemed to work. Sisay was a Debtera, a wandering priest, half wise-man and half magician in the eyes of the country people. He was unique among his kind because he'd taught the children of the Imperial family after being suggested to them by a kindly nobleman. Life cooped up in a palace did not suit him though, and when the heirs of Solomon were away from their nest, he took to wandering among the local villages, back to the fresh mountain air and his true calling.

They said a prayer on that windswept spot, their voices isolated from the world.

"It was just one the first night, but the next night, all of them..." Nebiyou held his arms to his chest as if he were cold, motioning at the asses with one hand when he paused. "It is a demon. I know it must be. There is no other thing so cruel."

Sisay nodded and drew in a long breath, but he said nothing. He went inside the pen and inspected the scene. The putrid smell of rot was awful, but it was not joined by any unnatural scent, no sulphur or smoke. He crouched above one of the corpses, swatting away a wall of flies. The fluid had been drained from the beast, leaving ratty skin clinging to a skeleton and rot were the mouth and eyes had once been. The wound on its neck was a clean cut, an opening like that made by a knife. A strange crime. There was evil at work here, but was it supernatural? He could not tell. This could just as likely be the common evil of wretched people.

"Be vigilant." Sisay said. His voice went high and sing-songy. He looked out at the wilderness beyond, where distant mountains appeared like blue ghosts against the sky. "Tell your wife and son to be vigilant too. This is a strange doing, and I cannot tell you what it will lead to."

"Can you tell me my future?" the man asked.

"I cannot." Sisay said, "It is not my calling to read fortunes and interpret omens. I will stay here for a while, and maybe I will learn. In the mean time, be careful."

Nebiyou nodded. The two men parted ways.

The path to the village clung to the side of a cliff where the Muger river and its tributaries cut gorges through the plateau, looking like the mighty hand of God had slapped the land and left behind a deep print to be tortured by erosion until it reached its current jagged shape. The wind roared along up here, there being too few trees to break it, the gardens of boulders fringed with thorny bushes and soft green aloes not being enough. Sisay pinned his robe to his body with pressure from his prayer stick. That kept the wind from whipping him with his own clothes. He walked slowly and watched his surroundings.

Was there evil here? In his long life he had never seen a horned demon or any unnatural form. The evil he'd seen resided in men. Devils were subtle things; why dance on cloven hoof when feet would do? He had seen people perform acts so vile that he refused to believe the supernatural wasn't involved. So it was no surprise to him that he didn't see evil eyes peering at him from the rocks. Only chattering baboons perched among the boulders watched him on this lonely road. He was coming to the village though, where people lived, and where evil was most likely to dwell.

The village was made mostly of simple huts clinging to a road too rough and narrow for automobiles. The huts were stone mortared with mud and clay, their roofs thatched. A square building made from mud brick served as the church. Nobody locked the doors in the highland villages of Ethiopia because nobody owned locks, and Sisay entered the church unimpeded. With a blanket and a pillow, he slept on the floor near the back wall.

It was still dark when he woke up. He washed his hands in a bowl of water, and with his hands still wet, he leaned against his stick and prayed.

"We believe and offer our supplication unto the Holy Trinity
We denounce Satan in sight of the Holy Mother Orthodox Church
And in the presence of Holy Virgin Mary who is Zion forever and ever
Amen.
"

When he was done, he lingered in this holy place, his eyes fixed on the dusty iconography above the alter, its vivid colors contrasting with the brown stone of the church. Here was a wellspring for his work, and he drank in the energy until sunrise shot red streaks across the floor through the gaps in the door.

The village had come alive. Men and women passed each other dressed in clothing made of the same white cloth, though age had added tinges of brown to the more worn pieces. Everybody who passed by greeted him respectively. Some pulled him aside and asked for blessings, and he did not stinge in that regard, even blessing a skinny cow that was nibbling on the roof of a hut. The smell of sour flat bread being fried in the open air pervaded, and it would have made the place smell like a restaurant if it wasn't for the added tang of animal shit.

A little hand tugged at his shamma. He turned around and saw a little girl looking up at him, barefoot and in a dusty dress.

"Grandmother can't get out of bed." she said, "Come." He followed her into a stone hut, where a younger woman was doting over a bedridden older woman. The grandmother was thin, her eyes watering, and her body as straight as a board. She said nothing, but the younger woman began to plead when she saw Sisay.

"It is rheumatism" she said, "Mother always has it bad. Today it is worse. Can you help? I am the only one to care for the family now my husband is in the city for work."

"It's the Jew" the old woman informed, looking at Sisay, recognizing his station in life. "He has the evil eye. I have seen it. He's cursed me."

Sisay smiled and slipped a charm from his neck, carefully pulling it over her fragile head. He looked up at the younger woman. "There are crocuses growing down the road near the market. Can you identify them?"

She nodded her head.

"Good. Bring the roots. Clean them and feed them to her with her meal. They will put energy back in her limbs."

The woman left. Sisay was alone with the old woman and the little girl.

"Has this Jew cursed you?" Sisay asked thoughtfully. In his youth, the fact of the man's Jewishness would have been damning enough, but he had spent years in the city, he had met Jews on good terms, and his superstition had since softened.

"With the evil eye." the old lady croaked. "He is a menace. He has set up a workshop in his hut and he does not join in our holidays."

"I will talk to him, and do what is necessary." Sisay kissed the woman on her wrinkled brow.

"The buda is here" she said feebly as her daughter walked into the hut. "I know it."

Sisay said a prayer and left them alone. He went looking for the house of the Jew.

He found him in a hut with black smoke coming out of a hole in its thatching. Inside was a man wearing a turban, squatted over a brick of iron on the dirt floor, where he was working a piece of metal heated in a nearby fire.

"I do not need your services, priest." the man said.

"I know. They tell me you are a Jew."

"They are wrong" the man said, looking up. "I am Muslim. All the same, I do not need a Christian priest."

Sisay squatted across from the man, inspecting a finished ax-head lying on the dusty ground. "Have the people been friendly to you?" he asked sincerely.

"They buy my wears and sell me food, but they do not talk to me." the blacksmith said, eyes on his work. "I am lonely in this place, but I can make a living. In Harar the factories have made goods cheap, they have no need for my skills. I can make a living here."

"Have you made any enemies?"

The man looked up at Sisay. "No. I have been yelled at many times. The old people do not trust me. Last Saturday the farmer who rents asses got in a quarrel with another farmer, and they nearly came to blows. I tried to calm them, and they accused me of starting it all! I cannot make friends, but that does not mean I make enemies. Perhaps the Kentiba is my enemy, since he overtaxes me" the Blacksmith thought for a moment, "Though he overtaxes everyone. I once heard a man shout that he would burn his whole farm away before paying his taxes. I know that feeling."

"Who is this other farmer?" Sisay asked.

"Why the questions?"

"Mmm, I want to know the people here."

"I do not know either farmer's name. They are strangers to me."

Sisay nodded. "Thank you for your time, friend. If you ever wish to find God, tell me and I will help you."

The blacksmith looked like he was trying to say something, but nothing came out, and Sisay took his leave.

"Holy one!" a female voice called out to him. He saw a middle aged woman with a basket of eggs in her arms. She looked uncertain at greeting the priest, as if she feared bad news.

"My child?" he responded. He noticed she was being followed by a teenage boy, but he wasn't taking interest in the conversation.

"I am Nebiyou's wife. He told me you were helping with our problem."

"You are the ass-renters wife?" he asked.

She nodded affirmation. "I was hoping you had good news. Nebiyou is so afraid now." she strained to talk, speaking in a hushed tone and trying to keep her emotions reigned in. "He ordered Gedeyon, our son, to follow me at all times." Gedeyon, the teenager, was stomping around a chicken as if he were herding it, the flustered bird going one way until he threw his foot in its path, turning it around and repeating the same motion all over again so that it looked like the bird and the boy were dancing.

"I have been asking around." Sisay said. "Heard your husband fought with another farmer?"

"When was this?" she asked.

"Saturday."

"He did not tell me this." she looked worried, her pupils dilated in a way that suggested she was searching her inner thoughts for answers to some question she would not tell. "What was it about."

"Prices."

"Oh." she looked mollified, "That is normal. My husband haggles like a ferenji. Some men get heated when they barter with him. That is not new."

"Do you think he could've made an enemy that way." The idea had been orbiting them while they talked, always out of reach though both were aware of it. It was out in the open now.

"I hate to think so. Do you think this is the case? He has haggled with every farmer who doesn't own transportation. I never thought... anybody in the market could be a threat!" her eyes widened. When it was the untouchable fear of true evil, her religious upbringing made that palatable. But now she had a clue, something to narrow the scope of her fears, and that brought the danger into focus. It made it real.

"Stay with your son. I would not expect trouble in the market, and if you two are together, you make a difficult target. Two wolves will cause caution in the lion."

"Thank you" she said, "It is good that you are helping us. Here..." she grabbed an egg from her basket and gave it to him, "These are trying times, but I can offer you an egg."

"I understand" the priest put his empty hand on her shoulder. "I am working to ease your burden. One more thing then. Do you think anybody might know more about your husband's bartering? Somebody in town with a cool head?"

"No. Anybody could have witnessed it. The Kentiba might know something. But I think he has it out for us. I've seen how much tribute we pay him. His thumb must go to the scale as soon as we walk in."

"Thank you." the priest smiled, "I needed to see him soon. Go with God, child." They parted ways, the woman's son slowly abandoning his dance with the chicken to follow his mother. Sisay started toward the edge of town and the Kentiba's house.

It was not strange that so many people saw the Kentiba as an enemy. When Sisay had been a boy, most of the country was still ruled by petty lords who extracted feudal rents from the farmers in their territory. The Iyasuan Civil War of 1916 changed this arrangement when most of the petty lords rebelled to replace the uncrowned prince Iyasu with his Aunt Zewditu. Iyasu won, and he threw out the rebellious nobles under the guise of reform. The rebelling nobles were replaced with the Shum: governors, and the Kentiba: mayors, who had many of the rights of the vanished aristocracy, though restricted so that the Emperor and his government had them on a tighter leash. But this was reform for the sake of the Emperor, not the people. The peasants no longer had to pay tributes. Now it was called taxes. To the rural peasant, it didn't seem to make a difference that the money went to the government in Addis Ababa instead of the pocket of a noble lord.

The Kentiba lived in a house rather than a hut. It was a square building with a flat roof and plaster walls painted sky-blue. Sisay knocked, and a richly dressed young man answered the door.

"I am here to see the Kentiba." Sisay said. The boy recognized his profession and wordlessly let him in. The room was well furnished with items that likely came from one of the big cities. The Kentiba munched on scraps of fried bread in the front room, sharing the company of two women, both making polite gestures before retreating to another room. The Kentiba pulled his fat body up from his chair.

"You are the Debtera of the Emperor!" he said, smiling from ear to ear and wiping his greasy hands on his tunic. The young man hovered over his father, part body guard part uncertain child. "You can call me Sentota" the Kentiba said, "This is my son Gyasi. I was expecting you to come call on us. Here, our bread is your bread."

"You are kind." Sisay responded respectfully. They all sat down.

"How is the capital?" Kentiba Sentota rambled, "I have not been there for years. Too many years. I hear it is looking like a European capital now. I would love to go, but I'm just so busy here. Gyasi will be going there soon to get his training..."

"Your daughter could go too now that the civil service accepts women." Sisay broke in, trying to get a word in about something.

"Yes." Sentota replied coldly. It was the silence of a self-identified noble, contempt for cultural liberalism born out of a dark fear that he couldn't succeed in a world without the game rigged in his favor. "I would rather my daughter not live like that, in the city by herself."

The phrase 'like a prostitute', though unspoken, simultaneously entered everybody's mind. Radio debates had heavily implied that lifestyle was the inevitable result of letting women into common employment, and the Emperor's hedonistic tastes served as the kindling for countless fiery rants after he came out in favor. It was a simple change - the civil service would ensure at least 10% of their employees were women - but it was enough to stir up a storm and give Emperor Sahle a headache. Sisay was aware of the irony in this, being close to the Imperial family and knowing how Sahle truly felt. He had been pressure by his siblings - the undeniably liberal Yaqob and the undeniably female Taytu - into rubber stamping this arrangement.

"This is fine." Sisay said amicably, "Women in our country have put their labors to motherhood since the beginning of time. No harm can come of continuing this way."

"Well said" Sentota replied. "I've said before that the women of our country..."

"I apologize" Sisay interrupted, "But I came here with a specific matter on my mind."

"Of course. I waited for you with a matter in mind too, but I will wait..."

"Nebiyou, the ass-tender, you know of the crime he has suffered?"

"Of course." Sentota said, "It is a horrible thing. Everybody knows about it."

"I was told he got in a heated argument with another farmer about the price of an ass, and that the Muslim blacksmith had to break them up. Do you know anything about it?"

Sentota laughed. "Come now, I keep track of this village, and I think I do it well, but if I remembered every argument ever made about the price of labor, there would be no more room in my head to think! I imagine half of the farmers in the area have had the same argument. Did the Muslim tell you this?"

Sisay nodded.

"Well he doesn't understand the ways of Christians. Maybe the lazy-bones in Harar never bother with business, but we are an enterprising people here."

"That is too bad." Sisay let out a breath, losing height in his seat. "I need to know if this ass slaying was a crime or an act of the devil. If it the later..."

"If it is crime, we will get to it." the Kentiba said dismissively, "I have something to give you though."

"Oh?"

"Come to the back."

Sisay followed the man through his house, admiring the traditional artwork painted on leather decorating the walls. The Kentiba grabbed the doorknob and turned to Sisay. "Are you ready?" He said, and then he opened the door. There waited an ass, and a decently groomed one at that.

"You travel over long and difficult terrain. Is there a beast in this world that could be of more use?"

"Thank you." Sisay replied, "I couldn't have expected it."

"A surprise! That's good! It's fun, yes?"

Sisay smiled politely "Where did this come from?"

"I bought it from a farmer out a ways. Not the man who lost his asses, though I wish I had now, so he would have the money instead of a dead animal."

"That is too bad." Sisay replied. He stroked the animal's mane, feeling the wiry hairs between his fingers. "Thank you". He grabbed the mule's reigns. "You are a busy man, and I'm afraid my tasks are heaped up as well. Actually... do you think Gyasi could run an errand for me?"

"Of course." the Kentiba clapped his hands. His son walked to his side.

"Can you run to Nebiyou's home and bring him to the market?" Sisay said to the young man. The Kentiba looked suspiciously at the priest, but he patted his son on the back and sent him on his way. "This is where we part."

"Do well." the Kentiba spoke less buoyantly. They parted ways.

Before going to the market, Sisay stopped at the hut of the Muslim blacksmith.

"I am not ready to convert yet." the man said, going back to his work.

"I came here for a favor." Sisay replied, "I need you to be somewhere tonight."

---

The Kentiba must have known, because he showed up in the market just in time to witness Sisay regifting the unhappy farmer his mule. The adoration people feel for the traveling Debtera turned what would be an excellent gift into a biblical act of christ-like generosity, and voices rose up to heaven in celebration. The Kentiba did not look happy. He stood halfway down the hill from his house, stonily eying the commotion.

"Thank you! I will say a prayer for you! Many prayers!" Nebiyou said, stroking the fresh ass as blissfully as if it were his newborn child.

"Your God has witnessed your suffering. This ass is his reply."

"Were you not happy with the gift?" The Kentiba was walking through the crowd now, and people gave him a wide birth as if touching the overstuffed bureaucrat would bring them extra taxes.

"I am happy, and so is Nebiyou. You can rest knowing you have made two people happy today."

"It is good seeing Nebiyou happy again." the Kentiba smiled awkwardly, "But I cannot help but feel slighted. Would it not honor the teacher of our Imperial prince to ride the ass of Kentiba Sentota?"

Sisay watched the quick and uncomfortable glances that passed between Nebiyou and the Kentiba. Was this born out of the awkwardness of the situation, or was it something else? In every small village where everybody knew everybody else, social baggage was common. If there was baggage here, did it have anything to do with the asses? That was hard to read.

"The gift has helped me with my work." Sisay said genially, "It would not be a useful gift if I was not allowed to use it as I needed. You have been honored, friend, because you have done the work of God."

There was no more to say. Nebiyou left with the ass, and Sisay returned to the church to pray until the sun went down.

It was twilight when he went outside. He didn't follow the road, but walked straight over the terrain, using his prayer stick like a blind man's cane in order to navigate the rocks and bushes. The braying of an ass gave him his direction, and he headed toward it until he could see the outline of the farmers hut and the fenced in pen where the dead asses had been. Just in sight of that place, in the growing dark, he crouched with his stick to hold him up, and he waited.

Time passed, and soon only the moon and stars served to light the landscape. Somewhere deep in the canyons below, the high-pitched whine of a highland wolf echoed in the lonely dark. He said prayers to himself, under his breath to maintain his stealth, using their familiar cadence to keep the time. It was near midnight when something stirred. To the priest's surprise, the stirring came from the farmhouse.

It was a dark shadow at first, a human figure with no features discernible in the poor light. Sisay waited, watching where the thing moved. It seemed cautious, as if it were stalking its prey, or maybe was uncertain about its surroundings. It climbed into the pen. Sisay stood up. He watched the shadow thing move for a moment, strategizing in his head. Then the ass brayed as a knife cut across its throat, and the shape ducked under the wound and showered itself in the free flowing blood. Sisay started to pray. He prayed loudly, as if he were joining his voice into the thousands in front of the stone temples at Lalibela. To keep rhythm, he pounded his prayer stick against a rock, chanting to the beat. The shadow froze, then looked at him with two very human eyes. Sisay charged as fast as his old legs could carry him. He was elderly, but wirey from years of climbing through mountain villages, and he made good speed.

As he reached the fence, another body vaulted from a nearby bush and grabbed hold of the blood-soaked shape. Sisay was not surprised to see that the third member of this sinister night's dealing was the Muslim blacksmith, who grappled the shape and held it in place. But Sisay was surprised to find that the shape belonged to the Farmer's boy, completely naked and drenched in blood, his eyes wild with an animal-like mix of fear and anger. "To the house" Sisay said. The blacksmith wrestled the boy back to where he had come while Sisay pulled a bottle of holy water from the Blue Nile and started to splash it in the face of their bewildered captive.

"What is..." Nebiyou the Farmer woke up by now, and he rushed outdoors to see his own son being dragged indoors naked and bloody.

"It was him." Sisay said. Nebiyou believed. He helped the Blacksmith pin the boy to the table. The Farmer's wife came out screaming, but Sisay sent her to fetch water, and his calm and kindly voice convinced her to do it without the hysterics.

The room filled with prayers, and bible verses, and calls for repentance, as the bloody youth tried to fight and bite his way out of the predicament he was in.

The farmers wife came back with the water. Sisay wrapped his shawl around the youth's head and began to pour water on it. "Servant of evil, spirit unwelcome, leave this child of God!" The cloth was removed, giving just enough time for the kid to catch his breath before the cloth was replaced and the process started over again. There was still demonic fight in the limbs, "Servant of evil, repent!" Sisay shouted, mixing his prayers as the moment heated up. A few times the youth got out an "I repe..." or something to that nature. It wasn't until hours later, cleaned of blood and exhausted, that the boy stopped fighting and began to weep. Sisay left him alone to sleep.

"He needs to join the priesthood." He whispered to the farmer and the blacksmith, "There is no guarantee the evil will not continue to affect him here."

"I need his work." the farmer whined.

"He will be more work for you if he continues to practice his strange crimes. He will be more work, and his soul will be damned to hell."

"Will you take him?"

Sisay shook his head. "It should be you. You are his father. Take him to Debre Markos, tell the priests there of his condition. They will look after him."

"This is so hard." the Farmer wept. "I have lost my livelihood, and I have lost my son!"

"Be strong for your son." Sisay grabbed the man by his shoulders, "He will make a good priest, and you will know him. God will see you through, and your neighbors will be there to help."

"What about you?"

"I must go" Sisay said, "I have spent more time here than I meant to."

Before he left the hut, he turned back and witnessed Nebiyou embracing the blacksmith, and he felt confident that he was leaving this place better than he had found it.

The sun was rising when Sisay walked to the other end of the village and out into the bush. There, in a hidden crag in the boulders, he found his motorcycle. It was a roughed up vehicle, the sort preferred by military messengers, but it ran good. He tied his prayer stick to his back and retrieved a pair of goggles. It started with no effort. He was soon on a goat path, the cold morning air rushing past him and causing his bloodied shawl to flap.

The path was a rough one, leading through crags and switchbacks, until it emptied out on the paved road that ran south to the Capital. It passed by villages and cows grazing freely in their pastures. This went for miles until the road climbed into the Entoto Mountains, a chain of tall hills shaded in imported eucalyptus trees. He puttered up the climb until he reached the spine of the range. Below this point spread the great city of Africa; Addis Ababa.

(uh, opening credits roll)
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Mongolia

Ulanbaatar


A thin covering of snow still clung to the ground in early May. The city rested quietly this afternoon, nestled between its two mountain ranges. A clear blue sky stretched open and expansive as the residents below went about their day. Along the streets a single car wove through the pedestrian foot traffic and camel and horse trains.

On arriving to the city from the rail station in the north, the passengers in the car wove their way south through the old streets of the Mongolian capital at a slow tick, stopping and going and weaving as the conditions of the streets dictated it. They watched the life outside the lightly tinted windows with a certain detachment, and the police officers trying to keep order. The vehicle had no escort, and feeling it was unimportant few gave way as they went about their way from home to the refineries and factories at the city's edge.

A herd of bicycles whispered down the road from the other direction. The sharp rings of their bells dulled by the windows. The hum of the multitude of tires reverberated through the cab walls as they passed by. When they did, the car could finally move.

The car came to the end of the paved roads intertwining themselves through the heart of the city and rolled south through long, narrow gravel and sandy roads. It bumped and weaved as it went over pot holes and molehills and weaved around large half-frozen puddles. On either side squat cement housing sat brooding in the afternoon sun, their windows and doorways dark and lifeless as a mausoleum as the route neared the river.

Rounding a corner the car came to a stop and I man in a black overcoat stepped out into the street. Turning to someone else in the vehicle he traded a few words with a man inside, before turning and heading into a corner house.

“Dymtro!” the man in black shouted as he stepped through the door. Pausing to kick loose snow and mud off his boots he politely pulled them off and set them aside.

“I'm here.” a low rolling voice said from somewhere in the back. The man in black nodded as he tucked his hands into his pocket and walked in the direction of the voice. He stepped and turned into a small sparsely furnished dining room where a small handful of men stood sitting around a dining table playing a game of cards, standing a distance away was a tall, broad shouldered Russian.

“How are we doing today?” the man in black asked genially as he walked about the edge of the room.

Dymtro Radek nodded and held up his hand to his men at the table, “We do.” he responded in harsh and heavy Chinese.

Dymtro Radek was an imposing figure, masonic as much as a bear in his air and composure. With a great white beard and thinning silver head he looked the form of a great old father. And like one there was wisdom behind his tired wrinkled eyes, but something more; a rage. “Is this a house call? You didn't give me much when I was told you were coming.”

“This is more than a house call this time.” the man in black said, “I'm doing a little more than simple Bureau work today.”

A little light shone in Radek's eyes and he smiled. “Let me prepare you some tea.” he said invitingly. “Yuri! Go back out back and fetch us some water!” he demanded sharply to a slender built man at the table.

“But father, I-” Yuri protested, holding up his hand of cards to him.

“I don't care. Go and fetch the water. Besides, you already lost.” Radek growled gruffly.

Yuri conceded and slammed his hand on the table and stood to rise. The rest at the table laughed as he grabbed a metal bucket by the door and stepped out into the cold air.

“Do you everything you need?” the agent asked.

“I could use working plumbing, but that's an issue with the city.” Radek grumbled, “Besides, I don't imagine I'll be here long.”

The agent shrugged indifferently, “It depends, but I think things might start moving along now. How long have you and your men been in China? Two years?”

“Three.” Radek answered. He stepped to a wash basin and pulled a few dirty glasses from a rack at the side. He began scrubbing them with a towel, “It's been frustrating dealing with your government to get us home. But it's far better than hiding in the woods and hoping that some group of Cossacks won't come hunting you down because you still offend the local muscle.”

“Has that always been the case?” the agent asked.

Radek paused from cleaning the dishes to think, “If my entire life has been the past fifteen years: yes.” he answered, “I pray that you have never had to live under the likes of the czar!” Radek added, raising his voice. As he said this Yuri returned from out back with a full pal of water and he passed it along to Radek who took it in his heavy, scarred hands.

“I've always wondered, what cut up your hands like that?” the agent asked.

“The old police.” said Radek, “It was just after the Patriarch defrocked me for speaking against his majesty. But I had persisted and a local magistrate had me arrested. As punishment he had my hands beaten with a truncheon. It went on all night.”

The agent nodded unsympathetically, but followed along. Radek poured out the bucket into an old tea kettle and set it on a wood-fired stove crackling warmly in the corner of the room. “They called it inciting revolution.” he said.

“But tell me,” Radek started again, “are you ready to bring Revolution to Russia?”

“Maybe.” the agent said, “If I can ask you to disperse your men I can bring in a guest.”

Radek looked stunned and perplexed. Finally he came to realization and turned to the men playing cards, “Head home.”

The men looked over at him, and stood to leave. As they shuffled out the door Radek turned to the agent and asked, “Who is it?”

“Zhang Shu.” the agent said, “He sits on the Congress's foreign affairs board.”

“Never heard of him.” Radek said

“It's hard to keep track of congress, there's a lot of them there. But word's been out for a while, and he decided to look into your situation. He's requested a private meeting.”

Radek nodded, “Bring him in.”

The agent bowed and stepped out to the car. On his return he came back with a stout man with thinning hair and wide bottle-rimmed glasses. He wasn't an impressive man, and compared to Radek he was by far the least intimidating figure there. But there was a confident swagger as he entered the back room as Radek laid out the tea for his guests, putting out small jars of honey and jam for them too.

“You must by Dymtro Radek.” Zhang Shu said with a wide polite smile. He held his hands in front of him as he bowed. His thinning hair fell loose from the top of his head and hang down in front of his face as he rose. “Is this for us?” he asked, looking at the tea.

“It is. Feel free to help yourself.” Radek invited stiffly as he took a seat.

“Thank you.” Zhang Shu politely remarked. Radek poured him a glass of tea and slid it across to the politician. “Now, what is the tea and honey? You're not serving bread too, are you?”

“It's for the tea.” Radek told him, “You ever add anything to yours?”

“No, I mostly drink it straight.”

There was a moment of pause as the agent helped himself, having felt forgotten on the periphery. He claimed a distant chair and sat to watch the exchange. “Comrade Radek,” Zhang Shu began, “I'll cut to the chase. I no doubt believe you've been told I've taken an interest in your situation. Your petitions have been floating around for a while. For the past couple years foreign affairs have been largely interested in drafting or moving policy from Politburo in regards to Tibet and elsewhere. And with the Japanese question a pervasive matter there's been little interest until now.”

“And now?” Radek asked.

“Well I think we have the opportunity. Perhaps if you had come to the country earlier when we annexed Mongolia back into the Chinese state the momentum would have remained to press it harder, but that's a regrettable misfortune we have to deal with. But we can get the momentum back again. So what is it you need, backing to enter back into Russia?”

“That at least.” Radek confirmed, “There's active revolution in the west of the country but until I can reconnect with the old party in Europe I feel nothing but useless. Russia needs to be fixed, understand?”

“All too well. What's going on isn't perfect by any means. The military views it as a neutralization of a counter-revolutionary risk. But on the whole other side of things there's the natural crisis brought on by chaos across the border. I've been active in advocating a solution before the fate of the Russian nation shifts in a direction more a threat to us than the old Czar ever was. You are willing to be that solution?”

Radek nodded solemnly.

Shu smiled warmly, “Is there anything that would be on offer for our assistance? If we're talking war on all of Russia's factions, or even half of them then China is spending a lot in resources to do it.”

“I can offer you Yekaterinburg.”

“Is that so? Is there anyone you'll need to seek council with on this?”

“I can bring it before my associates, but I'll forgo Outer Manchuria if it means anything.”

“That's a start.” Shu acknowledged, “Granted also, I'm not authorized either to make any lasting deals, but I can get the offer moved along. Consider yourself having won your first major ally in the Congress.” said Shu with a wide beaming smile. He turned from Radek for a minute as he rummaged in the pockets of his coat and produced a small note pad and a pen. He scribbled on the paper and passed it along to Radek.

“I'll have to keep in touch.” Shu said, “But here is some contact information if you ever need me. I'll see what I can do to call you and your association into Beijing for a hearing and direct contact with the departments there-in.

“Comrade, I can honestly see a bright future moving ahead for you and for me.”

Radek looked down at the paper and Shu. A flash of frustrated disbelief flickered on his brow before relaxing as it dawned on him that he was indeed finally making contact. “Wonderful, thank you.” he said.

“Don't worry about it. So was there anything else? Tell me a little about yourself Radek, I'm curious. How does a man like you come to be?”




Xinjiang

Urumqi


A wagon left the house on its way into the city. Outside the bedroom window goats bleated in the sun and butted their heads against the wooden and wire fence as a woman and her daughters stepped out into the yard with baskets of that morning's refuse under their arms to throw to the goats. Their calls became more expectant and demanding as they watched their keepers approach the edge of the paddock with lunch under their arms. Inside, laying across cots set aside for guests two young men lay still dozing in the warm spring sunshine, their snoring loud and boorish in the rising morning.

The two lay face down in the straw pillows of their cots, ignorant of the time of day but all together not caring for it either. They had all last night sat up, singing with the patriarch of the household and dipping into wines made from the Uyghur's grapes. As the hours drew late, the nomads retired into the guest room and fell into a deep paralyzing sleep.

It wasn't until well into the afternoon the young nomads stirred awake. First the one, then the other. As the first turned from his cot and sat crookedly upright he sat staring down at a dusty floor with half lidded eyes. His head throbbed. It felt as though it had been filled with dynamite and lit off; his skull had held but what was left inside had been stirred into a sloppy mass that smoldered away inside him. Every movement he made sent pangs of pain through his head and stirred his stomach. He leaned to the side and thought about going back to sleep, but as he moved he realized his bladder was full and leaning back only stabbed his gut with a sudden wet pain. He felt his groin strain and he dropped his head and moaned as he staggered to his feet.

He wore nothing but a wrinkled undershirt and a stained well worn underpants. He scratched lethargically at his groin as he hobbled over to a pair of pants thrown onto the floor, he knew not if they were his or his friend's, for now he cared little. He slipped them on and staggered out into the rest of the house, holding them up as he went, dreary eyed and numb.

As he threw open the door he winced at the sudden explosion of daylight sun streaming through the windows. The room was filled with many windows, set high along the walls. Each shutter was open wide letting in such sun to melt his fragile eyes. He recoiled back and almost let loose his bladder but he recoiled again at the threatening warmth in his crotch and spun back and thundered across the living room with a hand held up over his eyes as he staggered towards where he thought the side door was. Leaning himself up against the wall, he released the unbuttoned wool pants as he deftly slapped the wall until he found the door. He turned the latch and stepped outside and caught the pants before they nearly fell down to his knees.

But here the sun was worse. It shone up from the light stone and packed clay of the yard and he swore he was going blind as his vision went white even with the protection of his hands. He squinted and tilted his head upwards and peered under his hand for the outhouse and staggered half-blind to it. He made it, and threw himself inside. His head hit the far wall with a dull thump but a splitting thwack to his skull and he groaned in agony and discomfort as he let the pants fall to his ankles and he fumbled to get his cock in his hands and urinated into the lye-filled pit in front of him.

He sighed in relief as he emptied his bladder, and nearly fell back asleep as he finished. But he shook himself asleep as he began slipping to the side. Groggily, he hitched the pair of pants back up, and deftly buttoned them back together as he staggered back out into the light. He held his hands to his face, they smelled like piss but they did not let the brutal sun get to his sensitive eyes. He stood there in the open for five minutes, not moving and simply trying to recover some compsure.

“We should get you something to eat.” a soft voice said behind him.

The nomad startled and turned to look around him, just between the smallest crack he dared to open his fingers as he scanned for the voice. There he saw a young woman, her hair done up under a niqab. Under one arm she held an empty wicker basket and with the other she held out her hand for him. He groaned as he allowed her to take him inside and she sat him down at the main table.

The Uyghur's home was sparse and plain. Scattered about were wooden chairs covered in sheep or goat skins. A small portrait to Hou Tsai Tang hung along one of the walls next to a half-full book case and a small table with a worn down radio. He allowed himself to be guided into one of the wooden chairs and he dropped his weight onto the rough unfinished table before him. He dozed in and out of consciousness as the young girl went about some work in the kitchen, he could hear the thudding of wood in a stove and the striking of matches as plates and utensils were arranged. Minutes later she reappeared with a glass of water in one hand, and a bowl of diced plums in the other. She put them down in front of him. “Eat and drink this.” she demanded in a soft voice before turning around and disappearing again into the kitchen.

The nomad looked up at the food and drink and his stomach turned at the thought. How could he expect to hold down anything the way he felt? There was so much he did feel he realized as he looked at the food that he wondered why he was still alive. The thought of being sick made him sicker and simply reaching out for the breakfast make him gag.

But slowly, he overcame it and was slowly reaching out for and eating the breakfast laid out before him. As he ate, the girl returned with a platter of toasted Nan. He picked through this and drank the water, the girl rotating between the kitchen and the table refilling his glass as she went. Over time he began to feel better and was sitting up. His head still ached, but it was only a tenth of what he had been feeling. His stomach still felt volatile, but it was no more at risk in rejecting its existence as he was in dying of a sudden stroke in that moment. A little bit of humanity came back to him, and while he avoided looking at the windows themselves he could sit up straight.

It was then his partner woke up. He watched him from the corner of his eyes as he went about the same ritual as he did before being guided to the table. The girl brought them out some more food, boils of raisins and bread and let the two eat in peace. After about an hour the two were in the mood to speak.

“Chao.” said the partner.

“Guo.” said the the nomad.

They looked at each other through hung over eyes and mumbled incoherently to themselves. Both each asked what the other said, both said nothing and fell into a silence.

Chao and Guo were both young men, fresh out of school. Under cover of darkness as they would tell each other they executed a plan to set off from their home in rural Hebei to see China. Guo had acquired an old motorcycle his uncle kept from his army days and they thundered off into the night with a half-working head lamp to light the road ahead. Neither cared for the world around them, not feeling strongly either way for the China their fathers and uncles had fought for, no matter the side they were on. To them, it was restlessness of being kept up in the open prison cell of their village, hearing the war tales that expanded the world for them. Of high mountains and rocky deserts, hot summers and cold winters. They had become restless, had come to know all the girls, and now wanted more.

For over a month the two had struck out across China, bartering for fuel, working a day or two or three here and there for the gas, clearing snow or chopping fire wood. And now they had made it to Xinjiang and came into the bosom of the Chinese frontier they had begun wondering where they were to go from here. Was there a road left to follow beyond China? Could they go home after this?

The two exchanged glances over plates of half eaten flat bread and raisins.

“Are we moving on?” Guo asked.

“Might as well.” Chao agreed.

The deal was made, and with such a quick brush of the hand the powers of youth had decided to forego caution and beyond all commonsense go beyond China. They registered not the potential in danger, or the crude foreign world beyond the Chinese border they calculated to be no more than a day's ride away on the old motorbike.

But where to?

“My sister's in Africa.” Chao said almost without thought to it or the distance. To call it out was the same as it would be to throw darts on the map. He could have well said they should turn the bike around and try to drive it straight into America.

“Africa? What is she doing there?” Guo asked.

Chao shrugged, “Joined up with some group. Last I checked they disappeared and all of a sudden they turned up in Africa. They broke out, we might as well to.”

“But... why is she there?” Guo asked.

“Some aid shit.” Chao said indifferently.

Without caution Guo took the decision at face value and conceded to the suggestion at this affirmation. “So, where at?” he asked.

It took Chao longer to think of where she might be. He leaned his head into his hands as he starred down at the lines in the table. “Was it...” he began, “Mombassa?” he said, trying to recall where the last letter had come from. Or maybe it was Nairobi. He scratched his scraggly black hair and ran it through his fingers. “One of the two.”

“So I don't suppose we can just drive out of the country?” Guo asked.

This gave Chao pause for a moment. Could they just leave? By all accounts he heard people needing permits to leave. But the border was long, there had to be plenty of places to get out of. He wondered about it, then shouted, “Where did Yusup go?” he grimaced at the pain caused by his own loud voice.

“To town.” the young girl said from the kitchen. That was all she had to say on the matter. Guo and Chao slipped into a listless silence.

Between the two, Chao was certainly the tallest. He stood a head clear over Guo and was what some might say: handsome. His soft features had a childishness to it still despite the growing late adolescent maturity slowly filling him out. He was lighlty dimpled and his chin was narrow and sharp. His messy hair was wavy, and crowned his head in all matters of breezy wind-swept curls, he sported a soft tan, and his arms sported a clear muscle structure from a life on a farm.

By comparison, Guo was my modest, more normal. He had no significant muscle definition, his face was still clearly baby like and pocked with acne scars. He wasn't so much lightly tanned as he was clearly burned and his eyes seemed darker and moodier. Next to Chao he seemed fumbling, awkward with a staggering gate and legs held further apart than need be, his hands and arms were thick with stubborn baby fat and while barely twenty-two his hair seemed to be receding from his head.

Both were youths, fresh from out of university. On the lamb from a future of whatever, restless. And their eyes looked horizon bound. Even groggy and hungover, they looked ahead to the future, and what challenge lay ahead.




The Dragon Diaries

Li Chao

May 15th, 1960. Sunday. Year of the Metal Rat

We set off from Jiuquan sometime around five in the morning on the 13th. Having finished a few days work with a local apothecary we received our gas and some extra cans for the road to Urumqi. Hui Han wished us well as we pulled from his shop and store, and we set off down the long desert road. The sun was out then, bright. But it was cold, all despite the late-morning sun; it felt like a frost. We left the town as a band of Mongolians was coming with their camel train. From the look of their train, I would think they came in to sell their sheep. I do not know when the season to trade lambs is, I did not get a good look so I could not say.

Travel was rough, which is smooth in this parts. It is amazing to watch as we leave the valleys how the landscape changes so fast. After leaving Jiuquan all the spring green slowly disappeared into the hillside as if being swallowed by the earth itself. I pointed this out to Guo, but he did not seem to notice. Before long we were driving gravel roads through rocky and sandy hills and mountains. Already as we drive west I miss home, I never thought I would miss green.

The trip went without any incident and it took almost an hour to realize we had crossed the border into Xinjiang. But when we did the sun was already setting so Guo pulled over to fill the tanks from our reserves. This gave me the opportunity to stretch my legs and take a piss, the side car is cramped. I did not get much time to sit down to write, when all was said and done Guo came wondering if we should stop there for the night and rest or if we should continue on. I said we might as well, and volunteered to drive.

The stars at night are an amazing sight to behold. I hope on the voyage ahead or home there will be more opportunities to look up and see the sky before we come back into the east. On a clear night you can see the band of stars clearly defining the milky-way. And against the desert hill scape it feels as if I was driving through space itself!

Surprisingly, the old bike held up and handing over the bike to Guo come morning I was asleep by the time we arrived in Urumqi.

This part of the country is poor, it is almost depressing to see the clear differences in conditions between here and Beijing. In this city there is hardly electrical power, what exists goes into the street lights around the administrative buildings and the few off public radio venues scattered about. We stopped at a small tavern or inn near one of these and listened to the news as we tried for the first time Kamuk. I found the taste thick and off in a sweat way, but I do not suppose it was rancid because I felt fine after. I asked Guo what he thought and it was alright to him. This was the 14th.

Later that evening we met an old man who said he lived in the outskirts of town. We talked to him and it sounds as if he actually has electricity and a radio, though neither of us can think of anything particular to listen to. He says that he raises goats and sheep, and he was enamored with our quest. He agreed he would give us what we need for the journey for a day's work handling his livestock and doing some odd chores. His name is Yusup Bahtar

Turns out that the old man had children, but nearly all of them daughters. He said he had one son but he went east and hasn't written for all of six months. But because he hasn't gotten word from the government itself he doubts he's dead, but he's worrying. All the same, his daughters are fine women, I would not mind seeing what is under their dresses in the barn; but they're are all either young or betrothed in some ancient Uyghur marriage rite. I did not think to ask. To my honest surprise they worked alongside us in the field.

We worked the rest of the day, and went to sleep. They have some cots in a spare room. I can not say I slept in worse, but they were certainly uncomfortable. We woke early, and went again to the pasture to work. Between then and sundown I can not help I did something to make the master of the house happy because he brought us wine! I didn't know whether the Hui can really drink or not, but we will soon find out.
Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Letter Bee
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The Agriculturalist, Part One

Archibald Santos was born to a middle-class family of import-export traders in Manila who had prospered in peace under the American occupation, and even gave their son an English name as a sign that they wanted to emulate the people who had, for all their flaws, brought peace and order to the Philippines. Archibald was even given a scholarship to study in the United States itself, due to his' doing well in his studies at home. With naive anticipation, he had allowed himself to be shipped via boat and train to Minneapolis, where he had met a brilliant fellow student, Norman Borlaug. Borlaug and him were friends, despite the attitude of the campus towards Nonwhites, and both of them cooperated in advancing agricultural research.

But as the Great Depression drew on, and the Second American Civil War began to rumble, Archibald Santos had to leave the University of Minneapolis, leaving behind his friend to die in a riot against the MacArthur Junta. By then, however, there were irreconcilable differences between their approaches that would have led to enmity had he stayed and Norman lived.

Archibald walked through the dirt trails criss-crossing the new 'experimental farms' the Government had leased from the local smallholders, wearing only a simple white shirt and tough jeans - only his glasses, clipboard, and escort of aides marked him as an official. As he did so, the middle-aged man mused about those irreconcilable differences. Borlaug wanted to develop new breeds of rice and wheat, to spread the use of fertilizers and pesticides all across the world. Archibald wanted to use more potatoes and sweet potatoes in agriculture, agruing for their nutritional superiority to rice and grain. As he and his escort stopped to record the amount of crops being harvested, Archibald mused that he hadn't changed his mind; he had just included new and better ways of farming rice in his own agricultural revolution.

Looking around him, Archibald can now see that the farmers had adopted his recommendations well, constructing a system of deep sinks and raised beds*, the former which took in water in the rainy seasons and allowed for the farming of rice and ginger (there were deeper ponds for fish), and the latter which allowed for the growth of dryland crops, including the Sigarilyas/Winged Bean**, a plant that, just like peas and other legumes, added to the fertility of the soil by naturally extracting nitrogen from the air. Another plant Borlaug had neglected in favor of rice and wheat.

One of the farmers waved at him; it was Danilo, the headman of the nearby village. He had been the person Archibald had to pay to change the way he and his people dug up their fields and rice paddies and adopt this new 'Filipino Cropping System'. Now, carrying a large sack of rice over his shoulder, Danilo approached him, saying:

"Kaibigan (Friend)! You were right! Not just that, but the next village - the one you paid to plant potatoes, they're having the best harvest of their lives as well!" The brown-faced, wrinkled farmer, clad in a mud-stained white shirt and red trousers - how like a Katipunero - was smiling at Archibald, but did not show him any deference. That was what the Agriculturalist was going for. Archibald smiled widely, gave his clipboard to one of his aides, and embraced Danilo, getting his booted feet wet in the mud too.

The embrace lasted for a few brief moment, before Archibald said, "So, will you spread the word? The Federal Government cannot pay every vilage to change the way they do things, after all." Or keep the stuff that does work; Borlaug would have advised farmers to buy fertilizer from abroad instead of just using crop rotation.

Danilo continued to smile; a signal of agreement, before he said, "So, want to eat dinner with my family?"

Archibald's grin was wide as he thought of how increased agricultural profits had allowed Danilo and his village to afford brick houses instead of just straw huts. "Sure; can my aides come?"

Danilo would have balked in olden days, but with the rich harvest he had received just now, and the profits that had come from adopting this new way of planting crops, he can now afford such expense. He extended his hand to Archibald for him to shake, and said: "My wife and children would be happy to receive your group."

Archibald would then muse; once dinner was done, he planned to announce a new gift; a set of new plows made up of steel mixed with chromium, made as a proof-of-concept by the Federal Steel Enterprise. That ought to be a surprise...

*IRL Sorjan Cropping System.

**nutrition1.knoji.com/winged-bean-nutr…
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May 5th, Rhodesia
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The Ethiopian delegation landed on a dusty airstrip near Fort Victoria, a colonial town in southern Rhodesia inhabited mostly by the white interlopers whose arrival was still within living memory. The Ethiopians made quite a show in the eyes of the men manning the caravan of dirt-splattered land-rovers waiting to welcome them. Though the Ethiopian ambassador wore his customary western suit, the others were decked out in cream colored shirts and robes with intricate embroidery. Their guards wore uniforms of the same color, complimented by pith helmets and sashes in their national colors; red, yellow, and green. A man held a frilly parasol over the youngest member of the group, making redundant the young man's wide brimmed hat perched on his almost perfectly round afro like a hat on top of another hat. The greetings between the two parties were terse and to the point. There would be time for talk later down the road, when they reached their destination.

The Landrovers took them on a rough ride down red dirt farm roads. Here the acacias and aloes of African stereotype grew thick, broken up by rocky knolls and massive rounded boulders, and the occasional stone farmhouse clinging close to the road amidst fields of corn and tobacco. The further they went, the rougher the road got, until they were in an uninhabited valley who's only man-made landmark was the ruins of an ancient stone castle. It was here, in front of Great Zimbabwe, that the formal meeting between nations was to take place.

A larger party awaited them in front of the cyclopean walls. The men, both guards and politicians, wore the natural dress of the white man in Africa; wide brimmed bush hats, pith helmets, baggy safari shirts and pants, and the occasional pair of shorts. The guards could be told from the rest by the presence of holstered guns and back-strapped assault rifles. As the Ethiopians crawled out from their vehicles, a flustered looked man approached them with his hand outstretched.

"Mr Abraham" the white man took off his sunglasses and shook hands with the Ethiopian ambassador. He looked at the younger Ethiopian and waited politely.

Ambassador Abraham gestured to the young man, "President Chapell, this is Crown Prince Yaqob, youngest brother to his majesty the Emperor."

"Ah!" Chapell offered his hand to the young man, "You can call me Paul." The President looked up at the fringed parasol hovering over Yaqob's head like a particularly garish lamp shade. "I think you have the right idea, Prince Yaqob. It is a scorcher."

"Thank you, Paul" Yaqob replied slowly, in the voice of a student recalling how to speak a new language.

"Ah, you know English!" Chapell said, "I admit, I was worried that, ah, age might be a problem, but I think we will get along."

"It is true that Yaqob is only seventeen." Ambassador Solomon Abaraham said, "But he is heir to the throne, and his brother the Emperor wants him to learn about the world and how it is run."

"Well welcome to Rhodesia then." Chapell said with a smile, "Come, let's sit down to tea. We have a table set up in the shade."

They approached the old castle in single file. Yaqob looked at the rough stone in its circular walls, and he let his imagination go wild. He knew from his reading that these people hadn't left any writing. Archeology could tell very little, especially under the racially nervous eye of the white regime. But other cultures throughout the world had filled the historical record with stories of their ancient glories, and Yaqob used their themes to fill in the blanks. He imagined a Trojan War played out with black skinned men draped in rough animal hides. The fire, the ladders, the drama of a hundred long perished tribes, all of it danced in his mind where others might only see some old stones in the bush.

"Brilliant, isn't it? I heard you like the antiquities" the blotchy-faced President said, looking directly at Yaqob. "It seems so out of place here. Was it Phoenicians who built it? Arabs? Of course, there is a lot of theories, I've heard... I've heard several. It's all a mystery."

"We might know some day." Yaqob replied.

"True." Chapell said, slapping a mosquito against his neck. "Ah, here we go, we have tea. And lemonade, if you prefer."

They all sat down together, under the shade of a wide-canopied camel thorn tree. Yaqob held an ostrich feather fan in his hand, and gently waved it in his face to keep the bugs away as he sipped his drink. The lemonade was sour, but the ice made it cold and refreshing.

"Well then, there is no need to beat around the bush. Rhodesia wishes to enter the Congress of African States." Chapell said.

The ambassador moved to respond, but Yaqob spoke first. "We worry about your black citizens." he said, "Will they have a say in your government if you enter the Congress?"

"Our internal political issue are our concern" Chapell replied slowly, picking his words. "The white people are Africans too. I was born on this soil, and so was my father. Whites also worry about this continent, from an insiders point of view, and we want to participate side by side with the black nations. All we ask is that our sovereignty be recognized."

"This is an issue for the congress to decide." The Ambassador spoke quickly this time, making sure Yaqob couldn't get a word in. "I can say that the Emperor is less worried about how you govern your people, and would be willing to sponsor Rhodesia's entrance, with a few conditions, none of which has to do with the laws of your country..."

Yaqob zoned out as the older men talked. He stared at the walls and imagined the drums that echoes between these rocky hills so many centuries ago.

--

They parted ways, and the landrovers took them back to the airport. Yaqob sat dreamily at a window seat and watched as the plane rattled down the red-dirt strip and took to the air. The vast savanna decreased beneath them until they were in the cloud-pocked African sky.

"I do not think he was too offended." Mr Abraham said as he slid into the chair next to Yaqob.

"I don't care if I offended him. His way of seeing things offended me."

"That's neither here nor there." Abraham replied, "Diplomacy means meeting the others in the middle."

"The middle ground between good and evil is still halfway evil."

"Then what can a diplomat do?"

"That is not my problem."

"It will be your problem, if your brother needs you. You are not a priest, Yaqob. You cannot be entertaining yourself with these childish ideas. The world is not an easy place, and you have to know that, or else you will be useless."

"I want to see the world get better." Yaqob replied, "It can't if people don't live up to their morals."

"What about the consequences?"

"I can't predict the future. I won't try."

The frustrated Ambassador sat back and tried to catch a nap.

They landed in Salisbury. Whereas Fort Victoria had been a frontier backwater, Salisbury was a real town, its paved streets tread by automobiles and a small cluster of tall buildings in its center. The airport was paved as well, making for a smooth landing. Yaqob saw all this from the sky, but he did not depart the plane. They dropped off Mr Abraham, refueled, and took off, back in the air almost as quick as they had arrived.

The vastness of Africa visible below the clouds awed Yaqob. He wanted to see this entire continent, to know everything there was to know. In a strange way, he wanted to be like the European explorers who trekked Africa in the last century. They had not only seen Africa, they had seen it primal, an endless wilderness inhabited by a patchwork of edenic peoples. This dream was not impossible; he was only the Emperors brother, backed by royal wealth and not burdened with an official post. He wished to be created as an ambassador of the African Congress, supported in crisscrossing the continent with a mission to improve and conserve it.

"We're going of course." one of the pilots came back to inform them, "It will be radio silence from now on."

The land beneath them gave way to a massive expanse of water, and Yaqob knew without asking that they were above Lake Victoria, the sun setting over the shadowy lands on the western horizon of its waters. A web of lights appeared, growing closer, marking the northern coast of the lake. They began to circle a peninsula jutting out south of the large town. An airstrip was lit up among a smaller but brighter set of lights. Yaqob knew where he was. This was Mjiwamapinduzi - Revolution Town.

They were greeted on the ground my an imposing number of armed men. They waited around the stumps of recently cleared trees, spotlights lighting up the sky behind their backs. The red flag of International Communism flew from a nearby pole. Yaqob exited along with a few guards. He brought a heavy bag with him.

"Yaqob." one of the men greeted him brusquely. Their faces eclipsed the bright lights behind them, making it hard to see their features.

"I assumed I was going to meet Lutalo." Yaqob replied.

"Chairman Lutalo is in Addis Ababa for a meeting of the Congress. I am Paulo Madada, Treasurer of the Party." The two men shook hands.

"Fitting." Yaqob smiled.

"They told me you had a message." Madada's expression remained stoic.

"I do." this was Yaqob's moment, and he had been practicing it in the plane as they approached. "I'm here to tell you that you still have friends in Ethiopia."

He opened his bag to reveal three solid gold bricks. Madada smiled.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Pagemaster
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May 5th, The Grand Zimbabwe, Rhodesia
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Paul Chapell sighed, leaned back in his chair, took a long drink of his lemonade and then turned to the man who had joined him at the round table beneath the wide-canopied camel thorn tree. The new arrival was a white man, built like an American Football linebacker, dressed casually in green fatigues with a pistol strapped to his hip.

"You know," Said Chapell, gesturing towards the departing dust cloud. "I don't know what was more infuriating. Now understanding exactly how the first tribesman felt when they met the Europeans with all their pomp and fancy dress, or being questioned about our citizens right to vote from a boy whose father answers to no one but himself. The irony is sickening."

The soldier laughed, a deep rumble of a sound that sounded disturbingly like a lion growling over its kill at times. The security detail who sweated patiently in the sun grinned at the comment. Even the black soldiers amongst them found some humour in the comment. It was true the Rhodesian whites were African, they had been born on the continent, married, raised cattle, fought for it, and now they wanted their own piece of it.

"I suppose we expected to much from an entitled brat then." Commented Colonel Byron Starr drily as he poured himself a glass of the lemonade. "There are one to many Emperors on this continent."

Chapell nodded and dabbed at the sweat that was beading his brow. "Yes, well, not much we can do about it in the end. We need the African Congress if we wish to receive any legitimacy in the eyes of our neighbours. Britain may support us but that smacks of colonial overtones to the rest of Africa."

Outside observers had always mistaken the Rhodesian state as a desire to keep the Empire alive when in fact Rhodesians no more wanted to be a part of the British Empire than the people of India did. The declaration of independence had been so cooly received around the world that Rhodesia had had little choice but to remain amongst the Commonwealth of nations in order to have some form of international trade.

As it was, observers had been forced to concede that Chapell was doing his job well. The white minority had retained their iron grip on the country even as he had granted virtually equal rights to the black population. There was no unfair taxation anywhere within the state and while blacks could not vote or hold any public office, they were not prevented from voicing their opinions and having their concerns heard. In many ways it was quite similar to how Islamic Caliphs had ruled Spain for nearly a thousand years as a minority amongst what could have otherwise been a very hostile population.

Sure, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. Some folks got uppity, remote Police stations and farms faced attack from time to time but the Security Forces had become quite adapt at rooting out and eliminating those threats. All in all it was a pretty decent time to be a Rhodesian, white or black.

"Do you think they will support us?" Asked Starr as he drained his glass.

"I do. Not because they like us but because, and lets be honest, they need us. That boy might not see it but the Ambassador understands. Africa is a mess and we are one of a handful of states that has stability and some semblance of prosperity. I flatter myself that I can take some credit for that."

Starr nodded supportively. Paul Chapell was many things to many people but no one, not even his most bitter rivals, could accuse him of corruption or opulence. He lived on a frugal salary, as did all of his ministers and government officials. They were not wealthy, nor were they struggling, they were quite simply comfortable.

"Time will tell. I will meet with their ambassador when I return to Salisbury. I am sure he will feel the need to do some damage control. Only a fool will think that meeting went well."

Starr nodded and stood as the President did. He waved a pair of servants forward and they quickly took the table and chairs down as the President and his entourage climbed into another column of waiting landrovers. Engines roared, dust flew, and in a moment the Great Zimbabwe was alone once again.

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"Shit, where is Ernst? He was supposed to be here already."

"I don't know, maybe they got lost, or spotted, or…"

"Shit! How are we supposed to manage this with only half of us here?"

"I don't know, but… We'll manage. The fate of the Fatherland requires it. Now, get into position. More so than before, everything has to go perfect."

"Yeah, I understand. If things go South, just make sure you make it out alive, meine Prinz."

The silence that followed those words seemed to last a lifetime. The tension so extreme, it felt like gravity had been amplified on the spot. Everything seemed like it was standing still, except for the sound of vehicles approaching.

Vehicles!

"Meine Prinz! Did you hear me? I said we have confirmation! This is it! This is his convoy! It's time!"

Everything that occurred in the next moments was but a blur of chaos. Blood, fire, and metal. The vehicle at the front was obliterated by a mine, while the one at the rear was destroyed by a well placed shot from a prototype Feuerkraft, bringing a whole new level of destruction that made the mine look like a child's firecracker in comparison. Even the soldier who made the shot had a look of horror on his face seeing the destruction.

When the soldiers from the center two vehicles stumbled out, they were immediately met with gunfire from two men stationed o a hill above the road, and the ones who survived the first attack took cover behind the burning wrecks.

That was when he stepped out, being shielded by one of his generals, who was leading him away from the firefight, directly towards…

A shot rang out, and the general fell to the ground, clutching his abdomen. Looking like a deer in the headlights, von Mackensen drew his own pistol, and fired into the nearby bush, where his bullet met with the boy who had slain his general. Without hesitation, von Mackensen continued to flee the scene.

What happened next, another blur. As the firefight faded into the distance, the sound of panting and twigs snapping flooded the scene. von Mackensen twisted himself around in a panic, and fired a shot blindly.

Pain. Pain and blood.

As von Mackensen readied to fire a second shot, his gun was wrestled from his hand, and he was pushed to the ground. Looking like a scared dog, the great von Mackensen cowered before his assailant, muttering a cowards last words. "Your father could not even end this like a man. He had to send a boy to end it like a coward."

"The only coward I see is the worm trembling in front of me." Replied a voice, followed by successive gunshots.

Another blur, then the taste of mud, and then darkness.

May 5th, 1960
A Graveyard in Köln


"Wilhelm. My Kaiser, we are here, wake up."

As the sun flooded into his eyes with a bright intensity, the Kaiser lifted his head from the window, and took a look around, eyes blurred from sleep. After managing to rub vision back into them, he saw the tall, lanky shape of his secretary standing outside of the car, reaching a hand inside to help him out. Taking the boys hand, Wilhelm lifted himself from the vehicle, legs tired from being crammed in the back seat for far too long.

“If you don't mind, I'll be going in alone, Dietrich. You may come join me once I stand back up.”

“Of course, my Kaiser.” Dietrich said in that annoying, nasally voice of his. Wilhelm couldn't fault the boy, of course. It's not like he could choose his voice. It's just that he had to speak in that tone full of fake enthusiasm. If it weren't for him being a friend of Prince Kurt, the Kaiser would have never agreed to giving him the job.

Brushing the thoughts of Dietrich aside, as well as Dietrich himself, Wilhelm entered the graveyard, eyeing the arch that served as a doorway as he passed under it. The words “Köln Heldenruhe” were etched into the stone. Hero's Rest of Cologne. The Heldenruhe were created in the middle of the war to house the brave men who had given their lives to protect their homeland. The body count had been so high that the normal graveyards were filling up too fast, so the Heldenruhe were an attempted solution to that problem.

As Wilhelm zigzagged his way around an army of headstones, all in the shape of the Iron Cross, until he came to one that looked fairly worn, especially compared to it's neighbors. It wasn't exactly abnormal- Many who had died lost fathers and brothers in the war, as well. Many of the dead were the end of their familial lines for that reason, so their graves only got the routine cleanup every once in a while.

Brushing away some moss and foliage, Wilhelm knelt before the grave, and reached inside his coat pocket, drawing a small flask. Popping it open, he took a drink, and proceeded to pour the rest on the ground in front of him.

“Drink up, my friend. I doubt you get much up there.” Wilhelm said, putting the flask back in his pocket. “I'm sorry I haven't visited you in a while. Turns out running the nation is more work than my father and grandfather made it out to be. That, or I'm just bad at the job.”

Letting out a small chuckle, he continued to dust away at the grave, until it was legible.

“Kurt Kruger. 1914-1935. Son of war hero Johan Kruger, and a hero in his own right. Died during the ambush of August von Mackensen in July, 1935, that marked the end of the German Civil War.”

“Twenty four years. It feels like we were driving around Berlin just yesterday. Remember the look on Heinrich's face every time he caught us sneaking out? I swear, if his heart didn't kill him, the way that vein burst from his temple would've done the job.”

Letting himself just reminisce, Wilhelm sat in silence for the better part of ten minutes, only snapping out of it because a bird landed on Kurt's grave, and started to chirp at him. Looking at the bird, the Kaiser cracked a smile, and stood up.

“Well, I'm sure where you are now is a thousand times better than than this world. Russia still hasn't put itself together, so I had to step in to help the royal family. Then every day, it seems more and more countries are falling into the trap of socialism. Neutering their nations to please the common masses. You would have never fallen for that, I know. But I worry every day that the Fatherland may become infected with this madness, and that our victory in the civil war will mean nothing.”

“Is everything all right, my Kaiser?” came a nasally voice from beind Wilhelm. Holding back a sigh, he turned, and put on a smile.

“Of course, Dietrich. I was just talking to the ghost of my dead friend is all.” Dusting the dirt off his knees, the Kaiser started to walk back towards the car. “Tell me, Dietrich. What are your thoughts on the socialists?”

“Oh, well, um.” muttered the boy, looking flabberghasted. “I mean, they are a radical element that is sure to be eliminated as soon as-”

“No. I don't want to hear what the nobles and generals I'm surrounded with daily think. I want to know what you, a boy from the bottom of the barrel, thinks. I want to hear what you all think.”

Looking severely uncomfortable, Dietrich began to fumble with the buttons at the end of the sleeves of his shirt, while looking down at a broken headstone.

“Well, boy?” barked Wilhelm, growing impatient with Dietrich's sheepish attitude.

“I, uh... I don't really see anything wrong with it.” Eyes growing wide, he looked up at Wilhelm, and raised his hands, as if preparing to block a punch. “Of course, I don't see any reason for us here in Germany to adopt it! W-with you leading us, there's no reason for it here!”

The Kaiser glowered at the boy, and opened his mouth to speak, but stopped at the last minute, and just kept walking. Once they were back at the car, he turned around, giving Kurt's headstone one last glance before getting back into the car, Dietrich shuffling in beside him. One of the guards closed the door, before taking his seat in the front, and they were off.

Rather than sleeping this car ride, however, Wilhelm turned to Dietrich, staring at the boy, as he stared at his hands on his lap.

“When we get back to Berlin, I want you to turn in a letter of resignation. You will quit your position as my assistant, so I can find somebody better suited to the job.”

The boys eyes widened, and he looked at the Kaiser, preparing to speak, but was cut off before he could.

“This is not because you said there was nothing wrong with socialism. In fact, that is the one thing you've said in these last three months that actually made me have the slightest amount of respect for you over. No, I want you to resign because you are no different than the rest of them. I need somebody who is not afraid to tell me the truth. The hard facts. Somebody who doesn't prepare to piss themselves like a toy dog the second they state what they believe is right. Do you understand me?”

Slumping into himself, Dietrich gave a resigned nod, and turned to look out the window.

'Too cowardly to even answer me properly.' thought Wilhelm, glancing out his own window, and watching as the terrain sped by him. Before he knew it, he was dozing off once more, memories filling his mind in place of the countryside.

May 12th, 1960
Lublin, Poland


The sound of glass shattering and a cheering crowd filled the night air, as a man went flying through the front doors of a small bar on the outskirts of the town, followed by a larger man who had more hair on his upper lip than the top of his head.

“This is final warning, Feliks.” the man said in a thick Russian accent. “Bring Kacper money by Sunday or he will be providings no more of the goodies.” Tossing Feliks a crumpled had, the Russian added. “He will also be sending me to be breaking a bone, surely.”

Scampering to his feet, Feliks tried to fix his hat, while blinking wildly at the door.

“Damn Russians. They have no business interfering in my damn country.” he muttered, placing the mess of a hat on his head, and walking off towards the city center.

As he neared the center of Lublin, it became much busier, and much more lively. What had once been a humble town was now a hub for Russian refugees, as well as the capital of everything illegal, shady, and unpleasant in Poland- no, the German Empire.

Looking up at the mockery of a flag their nation had agreed to, Feliks spit on the ground next to him, only to feel a hand on his shoulder two seconds later.

“What's with the attitude, kid?” asked a middle-aged man in a ratty coat, fist full of Feliks' shirt.

“I, I'm sorry.” mumbled Feliks. “I wasn't paying attention. I'll be more careful next time. Sir.”

“Yeah, well you better be. I really ought to-” he trailed off, distracted by a woman in a needlessly tight dress. By the time he looked back, Feliks was gone, having slipped into an alleyway, and making his escape. He was used to it. After all, if he could slip away from the German military police regularly, what was some old man?

After wandering around town a bit more, avoiding trouble as best he could, he eventually came to a small casino. der Großherzog.

'The Germans even took our culture' thought Feliks as he looked back at the sign as he moved to a door at the side of the casino, giving it a couple knocks. A couple seconds later, it cracked open, and a mousey man was eying him up and down, before opening the door fully.

“Well? What did he say?” asked the man, still standing in the doorway.

“Nothing. He sent his Russian dog after me again. I keep telling you, if you want to actually speak to Kacper, you're going to have to go yourself. The dog just repeats the same shit, as usual. 'Bring Kacpar moneys or he no give you stuff!'”he shouted in the worst Russian accent he could manage.

The mousey man just nodded, and grabbed something from behind the door. “Well, Feliks.” he said with a sniff, rubbing his red nose with the back of his free hand. “I'll tell you what. If he wants his money so bad, then we'll get it for him. Of course, by we I mean you.” Sniffing again, he reached out a hand, holding a pistol. “You are going to take this, and pull together a couple friends from that little gang of yours, yea? Then you all will head to that big, gaudy bank on the West side of town, and ask the tellers there kindly for the money we need, okay? I don't need any questions, and I sure don't need to go meet with Kacper in person. Do this for me, and I promise, you'll have a nice cut from the next job we pull off, alright?”

“Got it.” Feliks said, turning around. He knew that even if he tried to argue, Szymon would just pull out the threats, and that he would end up even more screwed over, while still stuck doing the job.

Sighing, he walked back out to the main road, passing a group of Germans who smelled more like alcohol than a brewery.

'Stupid ass szkop's. They probably act all moderate and righteous at home, but you always see them here drinking their gut's away, and sleeping with the cheapest Russians they can find.' he thought, half tempted to say something to their faces, but deciding against it, and heading to the casino's parking lot, getting into a rusty old car that looked like it could barely even run. After spending nearly three minutes getting it to start, he drove off into the night, resisting the temptation to drive up onto the sidewalk as he saw another group of Germans, this time members of the military police.

“Damn szkop's will get what's coming to them in good time. Stupid kacap's, too.” he muttered, playing with the pistol on his lap as he drove. “Then there's Szymon. Who does he think he is, making me his errand boy. If it weren't for my gang, Kacper would have him hanging in front on that shitty old bar. Hell, I should just let him!”

Just then, Feliks' car made a loud popping sound, and slowed to a crawl before stopping in the middle of the road.

“God damn piece of junk!” Feliks shouted, unbuckling his seat belt and kicking open his door, as the car behind him honked. Turning around in a fury, he pointed the gun that he was still holding at the car, only to see two angry Germans staring back at him, their military uniforms blatantly obvious. Eyes widening, Feliks dropped the gun, and took off sprinting in the other direction as the sirens began to blare behind him. First chance he got, he ducked into an alley that was too small for the car to continue down, and took a turn towards another one of Szymon's safehouses, only to crash into another burly Russian, who grabbed him by the shoulders, scowling down at him.

“Hey, I'm sorry okay. But you really, really need to let me go. I need to get out of here, I'm sure you get it, right?” he said, head flicking back and forth between the Russian and the alleyway, where he could hear footsteps approaching from.

“No.” said the Russian, in German.

“I don't need this right now! You have to let go!” shouted Feliks, a bit of desperation in his voice.

“No.” replied the Russian again, tightening his grip.

At this point, Feliks tried to struggle, kick, even bite, but the Russian wasn't budging. Just as he thought it was over for him, a door opened next to them, and the Russian turned, dragging Feliks inside with him.

“You are safe here.” the Russian said in perfect Polish, as the door closed behind them, leaving them in total darkness.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Los Angeles


Hollywood
10:31 AM


Elliot Shaw stood behind the soundproof glass with the recording engineers and watched the small group of people gathered around microphones. Three groups of two shared mics. Each one wore headphones and had scripts in their hands. As the show progressed, they would flip pages as far away from the mics as possible.

A pale, skinny white man leaned into the mic and spoke in his best impression of a stereotypical negro. "Mista Shecky, they is a lady at the door fo' you."

"Who is it, Rockland," Shecky Lemon asked.

"She say she yo' great aunt."

"Great aunt? Both my parents were only children. Send her away, Rockland--"

"Shecky!" The voice was that of a frumpy old maid. But the actress was young. "I'm your great aunt Cora. Don't you remember me?"

Shecky flipped the page of his script. "Great aunt? There's no way, lady. I don't have an aunt. This is impossible, this is outrageous, this--

"I'm here to inform you that you've inherited two million dollars."

"-- this is amazing," Shecky shouted. "Why, Cora, you old soul. How have you been? Is there anything I can get you, come on in and make yourself at home."

The engineers in the booth cued music and the skinny man who was the voice of Rockland now spoke in a deep baritone of the announcer.

"The Shecky Lemon Program will be back after these messages from our sponsor, Dixon Oil. Whether it's heating your home, fueling your car, or helping design the products you use in your every day life, Dixon Oil is there. Dixon Oil: Fueling America since 1894."

Elliot watched the rest of the show recording in silence. It was the usual formula of an episode of Shecky's show. He got so wrapped up in the big bucks that he couldn't see the truth. Eventually, Rockland's homespun and folksy advice would help him realize that the aunt was just a scam artist. Miriam, Shecky's next door neighbor and perpetual girl in waiting, would also help while not so subtlety dropping hints that she was in love with Shecky. But Shecky remained oblivious to the fact, something that no amount of talking from Rockland would cure.

They were between recording breaks when Elliot went into the studio.

"What do you say, Elliot?" Shecky asked with a cigarette in his mouth.

"Let's talk."

Shecky went silent and looked at the small group mingling around the studio.

"We're gonna take a longer break, folks. Give me at least ten."

"It's your show," said the girl who played Miriam.

Shecky blew out a cloud of smoke as he and Elliot left the studio. "Goddamn right it is. Don't any of you ever forget that shit."

Elliot led Shecky through the halls. There were a dozen identical recording studios set up in the building, about half of them in use and pumping out content for Pinnacle Entertainment. In film and radio, Pinnacle was... well, the pinnacle of the industry. If you watched it or listened to it, then there was a seventy percent chance Pinnacle made it. The big push was now coming in television. Elliot figured in a year, Shecky's show would be on television and radio both.

"This is good enough," Elliot said after they reached a little corner away from the rest of the recording suites. Elliot passed Shecky his pack of cigarettes and let him strike up a new one.

"So what's going on?"

"I visited the girl and her family, Shecky. They're not going to press charges."

Shecky let out a column of smoke that passed through is lips as he sighed.

"Thank god. Shaw, you really saved my ass this time I--"

"Jeanie also has a message," Elliot cut him off. "You get your dick close to anybody even close to underage again, and she will personally chop it off and feed it to you. Understand?"

He gave Elliot a cold look. "The fucking dragon lady has spoken. Or, I should say, her personal goon has spoken."

"Don't take the high ground with me, pederast."

Elliot plucked the cigarette from Shecky's hand and let it fall to the floor. He stomped it out with the heel of his shoe.

"Smoke break's over, Shecky. How about you get back to making your wholesome family show?"

He said some words in Yiddish that Elliot knew was some kind of cursing at him. After that, he left and Elliot watched him waddle away. Being hated was part of the job. It had been part of his job before this one as well. Ex-cop turned private eye turned studio executive. Well, he was an executive on paper. Vice President of Production Affairs. It was corporate slang for fixer. That's what he did. He paid for the silence of Shecky's prepubescent paramour this morning, yesterday he broke the arm of Dexter Parkerberry's heroin dealer, the day before that it was arraigning an abortion for Fatty Fanny Mae.The actors and artists of Hollywood were some of the worst degenerates in the world. And Elliot Shaw was their cleaning man.

Elliot lit up another cigarette and smoked it as he crossed the lot towards the studio offices. He had an eleven o'clock appointment that he could not afford to miss. People waved to him and said hello as he passed extras dressed as pirates, a prop cart loaded with fake gold bars, and a dozen other things that would look odd in any place other than Hollywood. He made a beeline for the executive offices and found himself inside the plush, all-white office of the dragon lady herself.

"Have a seat."

Jeannie Rothstein-Shaprio, the lone woman studio executive in Hollywood, looked exactly like the soul woman in a man-heavy profession would look like. She was fat with beady eyes and dark red hair that had so much wax in it Elliot could see it shine against the lights in the office. The gossip around town was that she had no physical use for any man with so many starlets at her disposal. Even with a woman in charge, the casting couch was still in effect.

"How's Shecky?" she asked Elliot with raised eyebrows.

"Pouty. But he's back to work. Hopefully your warning will take."

"It better, that fucking short-eyed creep. All the gash he gets thrown at him and he wants to truck with barely barely legal snatch."

"We want what we can't have," Elliot said with a shrug. "It's human nature."

"Like how I want a dick. The good lord made me a man in every way but the most important."

"That's why man, in all its wisdom, invented strap-ons, Jeannie."

That got a rise out of her. She laughed, braying almost like a donkey.

"Good shit, Shaw. You got a smoke?"

Elliot passed his boss a cigarette and his lighter across the desk and waited until she was done with the lighter before he himself lit up.

"You know Claire Beauchamp?"

"Sounds familiar," said Elliot, exhaling a column of smoke as he spoke. "She talent?"

"And then some, Shaw. She's a contract player, did some background work on a few pictures last year. This year we've had her in supporting roles in four pictures. We're gearing up for her first leading lady film." Jeannie smiled as she spoke, gesturing with the cigarette wildly. "We've got her pegged as the next american sweetheart. I want to see her dashing across the jungle with Samson Rockwell, fighting off native headhunters. I want to see her in fancy dress, dancing with Dexter Parkerberry at some ball. She's a beauty, and she is the next big thing."

"So," said Elliot. "Where do I come in?"

"The kid likes coloreds," Jeannie said with something that sounded like contempt mixed with sadness. "What a shame. If it were anyone else, I'd have fired her for violating her morals contract. But... she's worth too much to the studio. But she can't be America's Sweetheart if she's shtupping shvartzes. Once that hits the scandal sheets, all the rednecks in the midwest and south won't turn out for her movies."

"Again... where do I come in?"

"Discourage her," Jeannie said with a grin. "As only Elliot Shaw can."

---

Echo Park
11:14 AM


Jessica Hyatt was in deep trouble. She sat in an empty interrogation room, sitting in a metal chair bolted to the floor and shackled to a metal table. The table, her chair, and the other chair across from her were the only things in the room besides a naked light bulb that dangled from the ceiling.

She had no idea what time it was or where exactly she was. But she knew exactly who had brought her here. Jessica had been on her way home from work when the two men in suits braced her at the bus stop. She knew right away who they were when she saw their cheap haircuts and even cheaper clothes. The little badge with the eye confirmed it. They had taken her to a car and blindfolded her. Hands pulled her from the car and down a cold hallway to here.

That had been hours ago. She didn't know exactly how many hours, but more than enough to make her worried. Occasionally the sounds of footsteps echoing against concrete could be heard on the other side of the wall, but they always faded. Even now she was hearing it. Jessica perked up when the footsteps stopped. The metal door groaned on its hinges and a tall, lanky man with receding hair and thick, black framed glasses came into the room. He carried a glass ashtray in his hands. She could tell he was a supervisor based on his suit. From a better department store, but still off the rack.

"Miss Hyatt," he said as he took the seat across from her. "I'm Special Agent Nate Parker." Like the other two men, he showed her the golden badge that had the US crest on it and the words FEDERAL CRIME BUREAU written below the crest. Above the crest was the all-seeing eye Jessica and so many of her friends had come to recognize and fear. "I'm with the Pinkerton Division. Do you know what that means?"

Jessica smiled. "You're the goons that lie at the rotten heart of American Dream."

Parker chuckled. He pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket along with a matchbook.

"I'm gonna chalk that up to the arrogance of youth. You're twenty-five--"

"Twenty-two, actually."

"Twenty-five." Parker adjusted his glasses. "You tell people that you're twenty-two. You were a child when the war happened. You don't remember it. Where were you during the war?"

Jessica licked her lips. Here it came. The reason she was here. Did he already know? Was he just leading her on, trying to trap her in a lie? Regardless, she had to give him the lie she had been living since she was a baby.

"South Dakota. Sioux Falls."

Parker smiled and pulled out a cigarette from the pack. He took his time lighting it up and taking that first, long puff.

"I was in Utah during the war, Miss Hyatt. Battle of Salt Lake, house to house fighting against the Mormon Army. Brutal stuff. Cigarette?"

"I don't smoke," Jessica said softly.

Parker blew a cloud of smoke in her direction.

"The Mormon Army, the Tabernacle Republic, all those shitty little communes and west coast city-states that seceded preached radical ideas and methods. The same things you and your protester friends stand for."

Jessica almost let out a sigh of relief. He was after something else entirely. Her secret was still safe. The ease of that emboldened her to talk back.

"You mean things like equal rights, freedom of speech, privacy rights, things that are in the constitution? Things like that."

That smile crept back on to Parker's face. "Read the Helms-Gasksins Act sometime, Miss Hyatt. Traitors don't get free speech and privacy. You're mingling with known anarchist and communist groups. We have photos of you, recordings of phone conversations. Based on the law, Miss Hyatt. I have every right to throw you into a deep, dark hole and let you rot there. No habeus corpus, no due process. You might be able to climb out by the year 2000."

"Well, do it." Now it was her turn to smile. "Throw me into that hole and walk away. Or... maybe you want something?"

Parker ground his cigarette butt into the ashtray.

"Very astute. I picked the right one. Our research has been thorough, Miss Hyatt. You are highly intelligent, intuitive, and manipulative. In sort, you have all the makings of a Pinkerton."

Jessica laughed deeply. It was less a laugh of joy and more one of disbelief.

"How about you go fuck yourself, Special Agent Parker?"

Parker lit up another cigarette, taking his sweet time again before responding.

"I can do that, Miss Hyatt... or should I say, Miss Hecht?"

Jessica started to scream, but the bile rushing up her throat choked it off. She leaned against the table and vomited on the concrete floor while Parker watched her impassively as the vomiting turned into dry heaving.

"Welcome to the Pinkertons, Jessica," he said. "You're going to love it."
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Pagemaster
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Pagemaster

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-----------------------------------------------------
May 7th, Cornell Ranch, Rhodesia
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Ethiopian Ambassador Abraham sat stiffly in the back of the glossy black Armstrong Siddeley Star Sapphire Mark II, a ridiculously long name for what was a standard luxury car in Rhodesia. The vehicle was speeding along a well paved roadway flanked on either side by massive fields of tobacco, one of the high value exports Rhodesia sent around the world. White and black guards rode horses amongst the long rows being worked by black workers, none of whom look as destitute and starving as the black revolutionaries would have you believe. Abraham had been forced to come to terms with this realization when he arrived in Rhodesia as he found black families to be living in comfortable conditions, the envy of many in his own country.

There was a large water truck parked roadside up ahead and a group of workers clustered around it as they filled their gourds and splashed the liquid on their faces. The driver, another black man, was carefully doling out the precious liquid under the watchful eye of a Land Rover with mounted machine gun manned by a white man in green fatigues.

"We are entering Mr Cornells land now sir." Said the black chauffeur from the front seat. He had not spoken to Abraham at all during the journey and was one of the few blacks Abraham had seen with a firearm, an Enfield Revolver, strapped to his hip.

"Thank you." Abraham replied, turning to glance out at the fields again. Nothing seemed to have changed in the landscape but he did note the small white stake next to the road that was used by the Rhodesians to mark off quarter sections. The terrain itself did appear to be getting more hilly and in the distance, he had to duck his head to see out the windshield, he could see a low set of tree covered hills. On the top of one of the hills he could just make out a large white house that gleamed as the sun shone on the south facing wall, a stark contrast to the towering mountains of the Eastern Highlands behind it.

Abraham was not a stranger to being invited to land owners houses. Ethiopia was the power in Africa at the moment, or the Imperial power anyway. South Africa was a disaster at the moment and Rhodesia was doing an excellent job of playing down the economic success it was enjoying. Abraham's friendship, or patronage would be more accurate, could secure contracts with the Ethiopian business community. He flattered himself that he was a practical man, he wore his Western business suits well, advised his government to serve their best interest, but he had to admit the Rhodesians, at least the white ones anyway, lived well. Not luxuriously, one could never accuse them of that, the President had worked hard to prevent a massive disparity between white and black Rhodesians.

The car was turning off the main highway now. Even with the number of vehicles on the rise the highways were not what you would call "busy". They bumped over the railroad tracks, still the most popular method of travel, and onto a well groomed gravel road. As the road began to climb into the Highlands he looked out the rear window and over the massive fields that spread before him. It was a pleasant sight as the sun bathed it all in a soft spring sun, a rain squall moving swiftly across a range of distant mountains.

Then they were into a thick forest of Boabab, Mopane and Musasa trees that cast their heavy shadows over the roadway. The forest floor was thick and lush, a testament to the regions steady rainfalls. He could see a small heard of Bushbuck Antelope that raised their heads long enough to study the car before deciding it posed no threat and returning to their dinner. It was heartening to see such innocence from animal life in the area. Mr Cornell was well known for his strict anti-hunting policy, unless he authorized it. It had allowed for a fantastic study of Rhodesian wildlife over the years.

An easing in the rumble of the car engine and a surge of power was enough to tell him that they had reach the top of their long climb. The road levelled now and wound across the wooded ridge line until it suddenly opened onto a clearing. In the middle sat a large two story white farm house topped with red tiles. A pair of huge elephant tusks framed the door which was opening even as the car spun up the drive. Two black footmen waited like statues for him, dressed in simple white robes, their heads bare, and red sashes across their chests. One of then stepped forward as the car came to a halt and the door snapped open.

"Welcome Mr Ambassador. Mr Cornell is on the North veranda and requests that you join him." Said the footman as Abraham stepped from the car. He was aware of the cool breeze that played across the hills, blowing down from the Mountains to the North. It was refreshing after being on the lower plain where the air tended to hang hot and humid. He allowed himself a moment to glance around. Two whitemen stood nearby, rifles slung over their shoulders, hands holding the leashes of two massive Rhodesian Ridgebacks that were lying quietly at their masters feet. They both offered the black man cursory nods which he returned quickly.

The house was square, he knew that from previous visits, with a large interior courtyard that doubled as a hallway, all rooms opening in to it. A veranda ran around the other three sides of the house, only the front, which faced east, sported two story columns that held up the red tiled roof. He adjusted his suit and made his way up the steps, admiring two lovely hanging baskets of the flowers that flanked the doorway.

Inside the door two flights of stairs rose on either side of a second door that led into the courtyard, one to either side, curving upwards to meet on the second floor. He needed no guidance from here, thanked the footman, and then made his way up the right hand flight of stairs which would take him to the Northern veranda, his dress shoes clacking loudly on the tile floor.

He stepped onto the veranda and, as he always did, drew in his breath in wonder. The view to the North was that of the Highlands, huge peaks stabbing into the clouds as rain squalls raced across them and lighting flashed in distant passes.

"Ah! Abraham, welcome!" The voice, deep and cheerful, came from a young white man who stood to greet his guest. Henry Cornell was in his mid-forties, well built, and by all accounts an excellent soldier and generous land owner. His dark hair was cut short and blue eyes that always seemed to be looking into your soul were sparkling with genuine welcome.

"Henry, nice of you to have me up, thank you." Abraham replied as he sat in the offered chair. A small table between them held two bottles of local Rhodesian beer, the cool moisture still running down their glass sides. Abraham took a long sip of the beer and relaxed for the first time in a week. Henry was the closest he had ever come to calling a white man a friend.

"Aneni, the Ambassadors coat please." Henry called over his shoulder. Before the sentence finished a woman slid forward. Officially she was what state officials called "coloured", unofficially she was a half breed. She was beautiful, her skin flawless, her breasts and buttocks straining against her white robe. She smiled devastatingly at Abraham as she took his coat before retreating without a word into the house. Henry maintained a considerable staff despite his bachelor ways. The house staff was exclusively female, all of them attractive, and the grounds staff exclusively male, all of them dangerously fit. Henry paid a bonus to those of his staff who could keep up with him on his rigorous personal fitness regime, white and black alike.

"Business goes well I hope?" Abraham asked as he downed more of his beer. He knew it went well, he had, after all, been instrumental in helping open Ethiopian and American markets to Henry's tobacco. Henry never paid him directly, that would be cheap, but he had bought the ambassador his house in Salisbury and the car he had arrived in. It was a mutually beneficially relationship.

"Always." Replied the white man with a grin. It was impossible not to like Henry. He was generous, ruthless, handsome, cunning, fair, and so much more. Very few could complain of his treatment of all his employees. Pay was done by the government scale but bonuses for hard work and extra production were quick to come when his expectations were exceeded. "I hear your Crown Prince was down for a visit. Managed to piss the President off something fierce."

The comment was shrewd and Abraham winced. "Yes, well he is young." There was no way this conversation could continue without Abraham saying something be might regret. Thankfully Henry noticed his discomfort and changed the topic.

"Weren't we all once." Henry said tactfully, finishing his beer. Aneni had replaced it within seconds, returning only to provide Abraham a second drink as well. As he did every time he visited, Abraham had to force himself to not ogle the staff, it seemed somehow inappropriate.

"I have been making inquiries into purchasing a shipping company." Henry said as he put his bare feet up on a stool. "Not passengers mind you. But our taxes here are less strict than they are in Europe and the United States. How is Ethiopia's shipping industry?"

The two men fell into a familiar pattern of discussing business and their respective countries. They had met many years before when Henry was part of the Rhodesian trade mission that had arrived in Ethiopia. He had been then, as he was now, a dedicated bachelor. Abraham was married to his work so the two made fast friends as they discussed trade, diplomacy the situation in Europe, the civil war in South Africa, etc. Abraham had faithfully served his country. Henry had done his mandatory four years in the military, made Captain, and promptly retired, investing his minuscule savings into a hand bag company that sold exclusively in Britain. From that he had expanded into automobile imports, then as a weapons supplier to the Rhodesian army, and eventually into farming. His easy manner had won him many friends and investors. Now he was one of the wealthiest man in Africa at the tender age of thirty five.

Abraham for his part had attended a high level university, earned two degrees in International Business and, Trade and Commerce. He had served his Emperor faithfully for many years now as a Diplomat and jumped at the chance to become the Rhodesian Ambassador when the time came. The existence of a White African Rhodesia did not bother him in the slightest. He had seen what happened in South Africa, German West Africa, and so many other places, Rhodesia was doing well on its own.

Darkness was slowly descending on the Villa, dinner had been consumed, much beer drank and cigars smoked when Henry at last gave a yawn and pushed back his chair. "I think that's it for me Abraham. I am down in the West forty tomorrow to put some new irrigation in. Stay as long as you like, good to see you." He stuck out his hand and the black man shook it. He had always been surprised how Henry treated him like family. Or maybe he treated all his friends like this, he had no family to compare to.

"Thank you for having me Henry. I may stay another night, if you don't mind. I have some papers I need to work on and it's blessedly quiet around here." Abraham stood and felt his head spin slightly. His shirt sleeves were rolled up and the several buttons on the front undone, his tie long discarded.

"Not at all. Use my office if you like. Or the study, whichever you prefer." Henry jerked his thumb towards the next row of french doors over. Inside a soft glow came from a desk lamp. Abraham knew that a large safe was hidden somewhere in the room but he had never looked for it. That would be an insult to his host. "Goodnight Abraham."

"Goodnight Henry."

The white man vanished into the house. Abraham paused a moment longer to enjoy the evening air, taking a deep breath, filling his lungs. A soft tread on the tile behind and a pair of arms encircled his waist, teeth biting him gently on the shoulder blade.

"Good evening honeybee." He said, turning to look at Aneni, her teeth brightly white against her dark skin. "It has been to long."

"It has, oh great lion." She said with a soft laugh.

"Henry still does not mind?" Abraham asked. He had always felt guilty about his romance with her until a year ago when Henry had calmly, and curtly, told him that any children Abraham and Aneni sired would not be allowed to stay at the Villa. Henry despised children.

"Of course not. Why would he? He just likes to look at me." Another laugh, one that almost seemed sad for the briefest moment Abraham noted with some surprise. "But now that you are here it does not matter." She said quickly to cover the lapse.

He smiled back and then drew himself up pompously. "Very well, show me to my room."

She took his hand in hers and led him into the house, through a set of tall wooden doors which closed gently behind them before turning and sliding her dress over her head, her skin gleaming in the lantern light.

"Do as you will master." She whispered as he pulled her close to him.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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Vilageidiotx Jacobin of All Trades

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May 10th: Somewhere on the Red Sea...

The reflection of the moon shattered on the surface of the Red Sea. The ENS Happiness plowed the water, its flight-deck misty with salt-water. Emperor Sahle, wearing only pants, enjoyed this view as he pissed off the side. His head was liquor-numb, and he felt a warm sense of vague pleasure humming in his limbs. When he finished, he gave his sceptre a quick shake, and took a moment to drink in the night before stuffing it back into his pants and heading back.

The ENS Happiness was a second hand purchase, an aircraft carrier whose short deck caused an early end to its military career. Though it was assigned to the Emperor's Naval Service, it served no military function, and was used entirely for diplomatic purposes, or for joy rides. The flight deck was scattered with folding chairs, a stage, and a fully serviced bar, all out in the open air. At night, hours after the party had climaxed, the place looked like a tavern after a tornado ripped through, taking the walls and roof with it and leaving a disaster of broken bottles and tossed furniture. A few people remained behind, sleeping in chairs and passed out on the steel deck, but otherwise the place was deserted. Sahle shimmied through the mess and went below deck. He had ordered the corridors of the ship carpeted, but in the constant presence of booze, sick, and ocean water, the carpet produced a musty odor that sometimes made the Emperor second guess his decorative choices. Stringed lights were woven along the fixtures on the ceiling to back up the aging military issue bulbs, and the unique jags in the lighted strings gave each length of corridor its own unique look, making signs unnecessary for navigation for anybody who spent as much time as Sahle did in the old tub.

Shoeless, he walked quietly, and when he reached his door he opened it to avoid amplifying the annoying squeal its rusted hinges produced.

Inside his quarters, on a large water bed with red velour sheets, Beautrice, his woman for tonight, lay naked and waiting. She was at least a decade older than him, probably pushing forty, and gravity was starting to attack her body, but despite this she was still appealing. She wore a pearl necklace that rested against her pale European skin in a way that gave her a predatory sexiness, falling between her only barely deflated breasts and making them more of a focal point. A thick patch of brown bush sat between two hips that widened considerably with her ass pressed against the bed. Sahle liked what he saw, and needed no further prompting to get excited.

"It's a full moon. I think it's doing something to me..." he grinned, making a show of tearing off his pants, becoming as naked as her.

"Oooh, a wild man." she wiggled off the bed and got on her knees on the floor below. Her mouth did the work.

When she was done he carried her to the bed and dropped her, but just before she could pull him in after her, there was a clanging knock at the door.

"It's Reginald" a familiar nasally voice said from the other side.

"Mary mother of god." Sahle exclaimed under his breath. He hastily put on a velvet robe and went into the hall, knowing exactly who was there.

Reginald Heap was a middle aged Englishman from Rhodesia, with salt and pepper greased-back hair and a grey pencil mustache. He wore a velvet robe, clashing with his black socks and shined shoes, an ensemble which made him look older than he was, and possibly in the early stages of senility. He smiled toothily at Sahle. "Is she still in there?"

"Yes" Sahle said impatiently.

"Did she satisfy your desires, your majesty?" the Rhodesian was still smiling.

"What are you doing?! This isn't how you're... when I'm fucking your wife... You're not supposed to be happy about this." Sahle said.

"I don't mind." the Rhodesian answered slyly, "We have our duties. Diplomacy isn't all tea and biscuits."

Beautrice came out dressed. She kissed her husband on the cheek with a mouth Sahle was very familiar with. She looked up at him. "Are we done, your majesty?"

"We're done." Sahle waved them off. Reginald had effectively killed his vibe.

"The Rhodesian government will look forward to your support, your majesty." Reginald Heap replied, taking his wife in his arms. They pecked at each other like newlyweds. Sahle said nothing, watching the couple walk off into the darkness of the ships corridors, wondering how their minds worked. When they disappeared around a corner, he went above deck to get some fresh air.

Sahle liked the ocean. It was a taste he had acquired while touring Europe in his youth, spending a spring on the Riviera. He had discovered wine there at the fresh age of seventeen, and practiced what he already knew about women, perfecting his skills as he saw it. The ocean was fresh and impossibly open, a healthier place then the dusty mountains of Ethiopia. In his homeland, he never took a special liking to the outdoors, but when he was at sea, he relished any chance to be on deck.

He crossed the carcass of the night's party, moving toward the front of the flight deck. All that could be heard was snoring, the booming sea, and the whip-crack sounds of a nearby flag. He got a good look at the front when he rounded the stage, and he was startled to see the moon-backed silhouette of a European gentleman sitting in a folding chair not far from the edge where planes had once fell from the ship, their white-knuckle pilots hoping to rise up in flight.

"Hello." Sahle called out.

The man looked over. It was difficult to make out his face against the bright moonlight behind him, but Sahle recognized him when he spoke.

"Your Majesty." Rudolph von Lettow-Vorbeck greeted in German. Sahle pulled a folding chair from near the stage and joined Rudolph. The two men sat looking out at the sea.

Rudolph von Lettow-Vorbeck was the grandson of Paul von-Lettow-Vorbeck, the hero of German Africa. In the years after the first world war, his family had thrived as members of the very small white aristocracy of Tanganyika. Rudolph was a blonde haired youth, dressed always in the fashions of the European aristocrats, and he was a playboy of the kind that made him a natural friend to the Ethiopian Emperor. Though they were divided by race and culture of their birth, they were sewed together by a voracious love of pleasure.

"Have you ever met the Heaps?" Sahle asked, "Reginald and Beautrice?"

Rudolph chuckled. "Did you do the naughty thing with Mrs Heap?" he asked.

"Are you asking because you know me, or because you know them?"

"Both." The German looked out at the water. "I've heard the Heaps make that offer on all of Reginald's diplomatic missions."

"They want me to accept Rhodesian entrance into the congress." Sahle said, "I was going to accept them anyway, I don't care about what they do to Africans in their country. But they make poor racists if Beautrice's performance means anything."

"Eh, they aren't the poor, they don't actually care about Africans one way or another." though Sahle was an Emperor and Rudolph just a rich man, the later had a tendency to talk down to the former. Sahle didn't particularly care. "They are wealthy. That just means they don't like peasants." the German pulled a bloated cigarette out of a pocket inside his evening jacket. "I got this from one of the American musicians. I have to say, Americans are better at their narcotics then the French, its something I never realized until these American musicians started showing up. Want to share?"

Sahle nodded. Rudolph pulled a match from the same pocket and lit up. He took a long drag and passed it to Sahle.

"One thing I know." Sahle croaked, "Reginald wasn't making any sacrifices."

Rudolph laughed. "Oh no, he probably came three times in the nearest broom closet before you finished. Don't let them tell you otherwise, the Heaps are more hobbyists then diplomats. They might not be on an official mission."

Sahle took another drag. "I don't care, friend. I really don't. I had a girl, I made my country a friend, that is enough for me. I call that a day."

"May you have more days like this." Rudolph lifted his blunt into the air like a wineglass at a toast.

"I plan to." Sahle said.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Pagemaster
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May 8th, Maputo, Rhodesia
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"Breach! Breach! Breach!" As the words were screamed into a megaphone a number of things happened at once. A muffled thump and a flash of flame was immediately obscured by a thick cloud of dust that billowed over two white and blue Police cars whose single blue lights flashed into existence at the exact same second as they sealed off either end of the street. Men in black fatigues materialized from back of a large farm truck that was rolling past the house and stormed the front of the building.

The Braaaap! Braaaaap! of machine gun fire came from the house as the armed men stormed inside. Someone began screaming even as the wind picked up to push the dust cloud down the street and over three black Land Rovers that were racing toward the scene, blue cherry lights flashing in their windshields, the letters R.S.B. clearly visible in white as they shot past a Policeman who had hurriedly reversed his vehicle.

The gunfight inside was over by the time the Land Rovers came to a stop. Several men in white fatigues stepped from the vehicles and surveyed the scene. Two immediately donned dust masks and hurried into the building. A third, who bore a striking resemblance to the beloved children's comic character Tintin, pulled out a watch and made a neat and precise note in his notebook, which he then returned to his breast pocket.

"Damn fine work Tom." Stated Donald Prescott, Chief of the Rhodesian Security Bureau ("RSB"), as one of the black clad figures appeared from the house. "Right on time."

"I would hope so Donnie, it ain't my first rodeo." Replied Thomas Bennet, head of the RSB's Covert Operations. Both men spoke with a curiously gentle accent in a land where every other white man spoke like he had picked a syllable that sounded nothing like the one that had came before it. Both men were ex-pat Canadians, Policemen lured away from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and brought to Rhodesia by promises of big bonuses and free land.

"Excuse me sah." One of the white clad, dust mask wearing, RSB Agents had approached the two. He held in his hands a large white package that had been cut open to reveal large green leaves. Tobacco smuggling was not uncommon in the area, undoubtedly stolen from a white farmer further inland with the idea of selling it overseas. There were a couple of ways one could quickly earn the ire of the RSB and competing with white plantation owners was one of them.

"Excellent. How much of the stuff?" Prescott asked as he fingered the green leaves. He didn't smoke personally, hated the stuff, but he was being paid to put an end to smuggling and so he must pretend to care.

"Five tons or so. Shouldn't take us but an hour or so to move it out."

"Move it?" Prescott looked up and down the street. It was a rural residential block, none of the houses were closer than a hundred feet away. "Burn the whole thing down. Leave the bodies inside."

In normal circumstances he might have cleared the house. The Government tended to seize such things but in this case the majority of the front wall had been blown off the building. They would resell the land to a prospective buyer once the rubble had cooled and been removed.

"Prisoners, sah." The Policeman indicated two badly burned black men and one white man who was cradling a bloodied arm. All of them were staring at him with abject terror on their faces. You could not live in Rhodesia without knowing who Donald Prescott was. Donald pulled out his notebook, made another note, and then approached the three men.

The RSB had taken a rather simple approach to how it dealt with criminals. If there was any doubt about someones involvement a trial was ordered, black or white, all Rhodesians were, in theory, granted the right to a fair trial. In some cases, like this one, where a person was found to be in a known "Moving House", they would be dealt with on the spot by a Judicial Justice of the Peace ("JJP").

Judicial Justice of the Peace Lucas Pierce was a coloured man, one of the few who worked for the Government. His mother had been a white woman who found her family chauffeur quite delicious at the age of sixteen. She had died during child birth and her father had been found dead a day or two later. The boy had been "mostly white" and even now he only had what might be called a tanned complexion. Other whites might have held it against him but Prescott had no such illusions, a mans skin colour made no difference to his work.

"JJP Pierce, your word please." Prescott was always polite, no matter how much someone yelled or swore at him. You had to respect that in a man.

Pierce stepped up to the three who cowered back from him. He was a big man, almost as large as Bennet, and he loomed over them as he looked from them to the Policeman.

"They are known to you?" He asked and the Policeman nodded, taking a binder from the front seat of a Land Rover and flipping it open to several pages that showed photos of the men kneeling before them entering the house on more than one occasion. Pierce viewed each picture carefully, comparing them to the men on the ground, then he nodded, satisfied.

"Guilty as charged." Said Pierce as he returned to his vehicle and pulled out two stout lengths of rope. Prescott always found this part interesting. In Canada a JJP had to only to decide if a man was to go to prison or not. In Rhodesia, if a death sentence was pronounced, the JJP was to "Carry out the Execution, and that immediately".

Pierce slung the ropes, nooses ready made, over a low hanging branch outside the now steadily burning house. Curious neighbours had come out onto their porches at the sound of the gun battle. Some stayed, and others fled inside, as Pierce hung the now sobbing blackmen one by one, hauling their bodies up onto the air with the assistance of Bennet. They kicked for a time, choking and spinning as they did so, their faces turning an even darker colour as they strangled to death.

That left the white man who moaned in terror as a black bag was dragged over his head and two RSB Agents slung his writhing form into the back of a Land Rover. In Rhodesia, if you broke the law as a black man, you could expect an immediate and public death. A white man would simply disappear forever.

"I am displeased Mr Walls was not here." Remarked Prescott quietly. Mr Walls, the elusive Mr Walls, was an American/Rhodesian who had arrived a year or two before and was now running a distressingly successful smuggling operation. It was small potatoes compared to the Zimbabwe Peoples Army which was trying to spread all sorts of anti-white propaganda but the Canadian inside Prescott refused to be outwitted by a Yank.

"We'll get him. Not a worry." Bennet stated as if the matter were already settled. Pierce, who was watching the bodies turn on their ropes, nodded in agreement.

"Cards are at nine tonight." Pierce said as he turned from his grisly view at last. He nodded to the two white men and then climbed into his Land Rover, the same one which was now giving off muffled sobs. His white driver gave a casual salute and the vehicle drove off, followed by a white and blue Police car.

"Another day, another dollar." Said Prescott with a sigh as he climbed into his own Land Rover. Bennet tipped him a wink and then stood back as Prescotts driver pulled away. There would be paperwork to do before cards and Bennet would still be some hours as he and his men combed the properties out buildings for further clues. There were always more bad guys to catch.
Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by asuraaa
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May 1st, Paris
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A door slammed shut with the intensity of a thousand hammers striking iron as a clearly annoyed man rushed into the office of the Comité de salut public, which was a building with a striking exterior and a dull interior, drab carpets and drab curtains lined the floors and windows. Lost in a moment’s thought about how he hated the décor of the reception area oh so very much, he was quickly brought back to reality by the soft, almost comforting voice of a middle-aged man.

“You really shouldn’t be so loud, Adrien. Where have your manners gone?” Asked the bespectacled man, without so much as a look up from his newspaper, which he was gazing upon intently.

“Sorry Ferdinand, I wasn’t expecting anyone to be in here right now. I could barely hear my own thoughts with how loud things were getting outside,” sighed Adrien with a slight frown.

Ferdinand continued to be lost in the details of the paper as he flipped through it for a couple of moments, before setting it down on the well finished table in front of his seat. Clearing his throat, Ferdinand looked up at Adrien and smiled before he finally spoke:
“Don’t worry about it. You get used to it eventually,” said Ferdinand as he turned his gaze to a cheering crowd some distance from the building.

The May Day celebrations were concluding with a speech from the President, Jacques Villeneuve. The crowd was ecstatic and charged from his electric words, promises of strength, reclamation of previously French lands and his vision for a France that could act as a beacon of light to the rest of the world. No one could topple the will and power of the French people according to him and they believed it. He went on to say that all oppressed people's of the world can look forward to a future of liberation and freedom, that he would personally see to it. The crowd loved it, these people had a lot of faith in their government, that the people's wishes would be carried out. However, this wasn't the case for everyone, some people still clung to the old ways and the idea of kings or liberal republics. A crowd-pleaser is just that, a crowd-pleaser. You can't please everyone, but damned if he doesn't try to.

“You know, Jacques is like a star to those people, and it’s incredible to see,” continued Ferdinand with a wistful expression.

“It’s really something,” replied Adrien.

“That it is!” Exclaimed Ferdinand with a satisfied smile.

“Anyways, I have to get going in a moment. I’ll need to see you and Jacques in a few hours.”

“We’ll be there. He ought to be back at any moment.”

“Glad to hear it. You take care in the meantime,” said Ferdinand’s junior as he briskly entered an elevator and in a moment, he was gone. Ferdinand picked up the paper and continued to read it leisurely until he noticed a story that took him quite a back: “Belgian king decrees that membership in the Belgian Workers Party, Democratic Coalition and the People’s United Front has been outlawed, that there shall be severe consequences for all involved with these organizations.”

He quickly arose from his comfortable seat in the lobby, grabbed the paper and headed to an elevator. He knew that the other members of the ministry and the Committee would definitely have some strong opinions about this turn of events, especially Jacques. He was always interested in whatever impassioned thing Jacques had to say, and he knew that this time would be no different. The real question was whether or not he could get the ministers to go along with whatever crazy plan he devised. Ferdinand knew Jacques would find a way though, he usually did. If he had any admirable trait, it was determination.

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May 9th, near Lyon
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The weather was usually fair and nice in this area, comfortable fields dotted with trees and a soft breeze. A great scene for a picnic or a celebration. Today was not a picturesque day like that, yet, the aeronautical engineers working on Renault Aviation’s newest project in conjunction with the Armée de l'air, did not care in the slightest. Thunder cracked the sky as furious rain crashed upon the earth. Sane researchers and sane pilots would never conduct a test in these conditions, however these were not your average pilots. The researchers watched with great respect as the two aircraft danced with one another in the turbulent sky that threatened to punish their hubris with every strike of lightning and howl of the wind.

“It seems the air force’s staff were correct to recommend us these two.” Said one engineer to another, trying to contain the excitement in his voice.

“Damn right, I’ve never seen airmanship like this before!” Exclaimed a younger engineer, unable to contain his excitement.

“I guess they weren’t lying, you really can’t find guys this good around here,” said a pilot who was sitting nearby, observing the test flights. Earlier he couldn’t have helped but to feel annoyed that he was passed over in favor of those two for the test, yet his tune had suddenly changed after some observation. Aviation had always been his passion, and seeing those beautiful machines in the air filled him with extreme lust. To him, those machines were like beautiful women. The kind that no mere mortal could seduce. Yet, he had every intention of making them fall in love with him.

Alexandre was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he hardly noticed that two men were standing in front of him, speaking to the engineers enthusiastically. He finally returned to reality when he heard one of them, in a heavy accent ask “So, who’s the kid?”

Before anyone could answer, Alexandre had already jumped up and was standing in front of the two men. “My name is Lieutenant Alexandre Delvaux, 15th escadre de chasse!” He exclaimed incredibly proudly as if he had something to prove. The first man spoke up once again, in a thick accent that Alexandre still wasn’t sure of.
“Pardon my manners, it’s incredibly rude of me to speak of someone in my presence without addressing them, my apologies.”

“No worries, it's alright.”

“My name is Capitaine Anton Dashkov, I come from the region of Smolensk. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” said Dashkov warmly.

“It’s my pleasure, it’s not every day you meet a duo of such skilled pilots.”

“Allow me to introduce myself,” the second man chimed in. “My name is Capitaine Viktor Kupchenko, and I hail from the same homeland as my comrade Anton. I look forward to sharing the skies with you.”

“Thank you, it’s great to meet both of you. Hopefully we’ll get to fly together,” said Alexandre excitedly. To him, these two were the exemplars of peak human performance. You couldn’t get much better than this in his eyes.

“Come by the bar sometime and get a drink with us. Now then, if you’ll excuse us we need to go write our reports and get drilled by our good friends at Renault. Hopefully they won't put a return to sender stamp on us,” chuckled Dashkov as he and Kupchenko began to walk away towards the quarters.

Alexandre couldn’t help but wonder why they came to France. After all, there was no reason for Russians to come here, right? They had their own wars to fight, but maybe they left to escape that. No, they were way too good. Alexandre knew that they’d seen combat and that he had to ask them about their past himself. He’d go on to spend the next week scratching his head, wondering where these amazing Russian wonder pilots came from, and if he’d get his opportunity to fly those fancy new planes that secretly made him rock-hard, even if he didn't want to admit it.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Letter Bee
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Iron Lady, Part Two

Priscilla Aglipay-Rizal was doing her chores, helped by a few housekeepers from the old revolutionary days. All wore pistols at the belts of their skirts (with the safeties on, of course), as well as a dagger. As she dusted the shelves, Priscilla had the uncomfortable thought that perhaps, she was merely playing at doing the work of the working class and that for all her trouble, she had become one of the aristocrats and elites she abhorred. A shudder at that.

"Anything the matter, Commander?" It was Irene, a brawny woman with a deep scar at her left temple. It had left her without prospects for marriage back in her home village, so she had chosen to stay with her former commanding officer in Manila, helping the latter get not too distracted from her household chores.

The Lady President smiled, "People call the 'new rich' peasants who play at being royalty. Do you think we are merely royalty playing at being peasants; people who pretend to be part of the poor when we've severed ourselves from them?" We call ourselves 'Anti-Monopolist', but monopolies still exist. We hold a premium on force and the industries that underline our use of force. This system will not survive my retirement from politics.

Irene smiled and chided softly, "Keep thinking like that and it'll become true; keep dusting the furniture and it won't. But seriously, what does it matter if everyone is happy?' She then softly dusted a nearby vase whose flowers have wilted. "We'll cheer you up with a trip to the public market!"

As the amazon chuckled, Priscilla smiled. She shouldn't be so concerned with high and mighty things today; the meeting with foriegn revolutionaries was done, and she should relax.

------

The Public Market, or Palengke in Filipino, was a group of several dozen open-air stalls similar to a bazaar, but more humid. Said stalls were filled with vegetables, seafood, meat and fruit, all fresh from the provinces. Briefly, she mused that the Bangko Sentral, now nationalized in the Dutch Model, was exceptionally generous to have shelled out the money needed for the better roads that allowed for this fresh produce to be transported to the city. That bore investigation even if she was just being paranoid.

"You're at it again," Irene gently reminded her President, "Don't think too hard, relax." Priscilla gratefully nodded, before going to a stall and eyeing a pair of beef chops, her basket slung under her right arm. The owner of the stall, a fresh-faced young man with brown skin, was surprised at the appearance of the Lady President, even more when she said:

"I'm going to pay full price for this one." The young man looked set to object; his reply was:

"Lady President, you've done so much for us; surely a small gift -"

A smile from Priscilla. "If you want to give me a gift, pick some flowers for me. That aside, what have I done for you?"

The young man blinked, then said: "The Youth League taught me how to read and write and do sums, as well as put me through Technical School. I now know how to distill Ethanol, isn't that great?!" The hope in the young man's own smile caused the Lady President to smile, then muse as she put forward the Philippine Pesos that made up the full price.

"To be honest," Prisicilla said, "People told me that without the rich people and the Americans paying for Schools, there would be less reading and writing and maths than they were. I am glad to be proven wrong. Do you know any poems?"

"Yes, Ma'am!" the young man said, "I know Jose Rizal's 'To the Flowers of Heidelberg' in both English and Tagalog. There is also Mi Ultimo Adios. As I said, the Youth League taught me a lot."

Prisicilla asked, "Are you still in the Youth League? If so, who is your chapter leader?"

Footsteps approached the two and Prisiclla's housekeeper-bodyguards as a middle-aged woman approached the stall, carrying a heavy load upon her back. Priscilla instinctively moved to help her with her burden, but not before asking, "Can I help?" and receiving an affirmative nod.

Once the heavy load (more meat) was unloaded and the contents were laid out on the stall's rack, the middle-aged woman's face gaped in shock as she realized that the person who had helped her was the Lady President herself. She would then say:"Salamat sa Diyos (Thanks be to God!)" before the young man greeted her with a wave, then spoke to Priscilla:

"This is the leader of the my branch of the Youth League. She is also my mother." This revelation caused Prisicilla's smile to widen, before she bowed to the middle-aged woman.

The Lady President then got up, and said, "So you are the mother of this accomplished young lad." She then reviewed the files on the Youth League held by her party. "Isabella, right?"

Isabella extended her hand, and when Priscilla took it, said, "Call me Isa. And yes, we are from down south, in Rizal Province. Travel here is much easier now; we have to thank you for that. That said, though, I want to talk to you about something; it's not a private favor as we are not in private."

A petition? Priscilla's curiosity was piqued. "Very well; I am at your service."

"My son could use more experience with the world," she looked at the young man, "Education here is good, but he wants adventure, excitement, and the strange. So...can the Government pay for free passage to foriegn lands?"

Priscilla nodded; it was an easy request to grant. "As it so happens, I wish to forge deeper cultural ties with the Chinese, who have an international school for those who want to learn from the teachings of their 'Hou'. I will ask my ambassador to see if there are open slots for students..."
Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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Arizona


North Sun City
11:35 AM


"This is the finest pool in all the city," Frenchie Gallo said as he floated across the top of the water naked.

Russell Reed, dressed in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, sat on a beach chair just a few feet away, averting his eyes from the fat man's nakedness. So far, Gallo's pox-marked ass had been the highlight of his trip out west. After arriving, Russell and Rod Marston made small talk with Gallo over drinks until the Frenchman called in a couple of prostitutes to show Russell and Marston a good time. Russell had declined the offer, so Marston took both women into his bedroom.

"There are cameras in the bedrooms, right, Mr. Gallo?" Russell asked.

Gallo turned himself over so that everything below the waist was now underwater.

"Call me Frenchie. What makes you say that, Mr. Vice President?"

"It's Russell, please. And I say that because I noticed the clock in my bedroom last night was running slow, so I tried to take it off the wall and saw that it was bolted, with a little hole in the middle just the right size for a camera."

It was a partial lie. Russell tried to take the clock off the wall as part of his usual routine to check for any recording or listening devices anytime he stayed in an unfamiliar location. The two secret service agents detailed to him taught him the trick, so he always did it himself to keep from raising suspicion by having the men sweep the room for him.

Frenchie did a breaststroke across the pool towards Russell. "I like to know what my guests are up to."

Russell raised an eyebrow. "Especially the ones that you can extort."

Gallo chuckled to himself and leaned against the side of the pool.

"Why is it when a man like me does it, it's extortion, but when you do it, it's leverage?"

"Because men like me are the ones who make the rules and come up with the language. We're the ones who call guys like you crooks, and guys like Marston patriots."

Frenchie said something in Quebec French. Russell assumed it was a curse word of some kind.

"I'm in the wrong fucking racket, Russell."

"Speaking of rackets, here comes our favorite racketeer."

Marston emerged from the house in a bathrobe, looking chipper and walking lightly towards the pool.

"Today is going to be a great day, I can already tell."

"You probably had a great start," Russell said with a wry smile.

Marston shrugged and plopped down on the chair next to Russell's. The bathrobe fell open as he sat.

"Goddamn," Russell said, turning his head away. "Am I the only one who wears any goddamn clothes?"

"It's a vacation Russ," said Marston. "How about you relax?"

"How about you put your cock up," Frenchie said from the pool.

"How about you both put your dicks away so we can finally talk?" asked Russell.

Five minutes later, the trio sat at a patio table on the opposite end of the pool. One of Gallo's maids had served them breakfast. Marston and Gallo had both thrown on swimming trunks in the interval and the fact that they were all clothed had restored Russell's appetite. They were halfway through the meal before anyone spoke, and it was Marston who broke the silence.

"So the vice president is here for assurances, Frenchie."

Gallo raised an eyebrow. "What kind of assurances?"

The prick is actually going to make me say it, thought Russell. Of course he would. Russell knew that if the tables were turned, he'd do the exact same thing. He had done the exact same thing whenever anyone needed something out of him. It was always nice to have reminders of your power.

Russell put his fork down. "Mr. Gallo, you have... let's call them friends, all over the country. New York, LA, Kansas City, New Orleans, Chicago. They have friends in all walks of life. Especially politicians and community figures. People who will be delegates at this summer's convention. The administration would be grateful if you could help keep them in line."

A small smile crept on to Gallo's face.

"Jesus, you fucking DC guys are that scared?"

"The president is scared," replied Russell. "There are at least four favorite son candidates at the convention. I don't think any of them stand a chance compared to a sitting president, even one as unpopular as Norman is. But his team is scared to death he'll look weak if he doesn't win the nomination on the first ballot. They want overkill."

Gallo shrugged.

"Me and my friends do overkill well. But the question they will all ask is why? We dabble in local politics, sure. But why should my friends care who the president is? Good times, bad times, we still make money."

"Cuba."

Russell's one word reply made Gallo sit up straight.

"Bullshit."

Now it was Russell's turn to smile. He leaned back in his chair and looked at Gallo.

"Cuba's experiment with complete autonomy is failing. Or has failed, I should say. Their embassy in Washington has been meeting with the state department and begging for aid. They're in rough shape. The years since the civil war have not been kind to them, more so without America's guiding hand and deep pockets. One of the president's goals in the next administration is heavy investment into Cuban infrastructure. We'll get allowances from them that will make them a protectorate again. Not officially, but all but in name."

"Think about it, Frenchie," Marston said softly. "You and your friends can get in on the ground floor. The government is gonna need construction crews, material, so much stuff that your Teamster buddies can supply. Millions of dollars, maybe billions. It's all on the table for the taking."

"And let's not forget the casinos," said Russell. "They ran y'all out in the 30's. You made Sun City into a desert oasis, Frenchie. But it's not Havana."

Marston leaned forward. "Sun City in the west, Havana in the east. Not just a kingdom--"

"An empire, Frenchie," Reed said with a smile.

"Goddamn... you fucking guys are good."

Gallo slapped the table.

"I'll get in touch with the Board and other families and see about putting a meeting together. But, fuck, you guys could sell snow to the goddamn Eskimos. I use the shit you're spinning, I think it'll be a yes from them."

Russell leaned across the table and shook Gallo's hands.

"I thank you, President Norman thanks you."

----

Washington D.C.


The Traveler Club
5:23 PM


Wilbur Helms' bright blue eyes sized Eric Fernandez up quickly. Eric knew exactly what the old man was thinking before it even came out of his wrinkled lips.

"Excuse me, son, but this here club is only for US Senators."

Helms, in his fifth term as a senator, was a symbol of all the things Eric hated about Washington and American politics. A Democrat from South Carolina, all he had to do was keep breathing to keep getting elected. He ran on platforms that included race-baiting, the bible, and a genuine lack of social progress. The senate was filled with men like him. And their longevity was always rewarded thanks to the rules of the senate.

Seniority meant power in that chamber, so men like Helms were the gatekeepers if any significant legislation needed to be passed. They were the chairmen of the committees that allowed bills on to the floor, the floor leaders who knew all the archaic rules of the nearly two hundred year old body. Like the emperors of Rome, Helms and his cohorts could kill bills with a simple thumbs down.

Eric needed Helms and his kind on his side.

"I am a senator," said Eric. "Fernandez, out of Wisconsin. I serve on the agricultural committee."

Helms frowned and looked at the waiting attendant behind him. Like all the attendants at the Traveler Club, he was black and dressed in an immaculate livery uniform that included white gloves and bright brass buttons. The servants were part of the aesthetic at the club, an aesthetic that included portraits of former Southern senators, many of whom had served in the confederacy during the first civil war. Eric saw the club as a sanctuary. For Helms and his kind, it was a shelter and a time capsule that reminded them of times that had passed. Times they hadn't lived through, but times they had romanticized as a place when things were simpler, things were better. Eric knew if he asked the young black man if he thought those times were simpler and better, he would have a very different answer than the senator.

"He's a senator, sir," said the attendant. "The senator is here on Senator Sanderson's invite."

Helms appraised him again.

"What kind of name is Fernandez?"

"Spanish," said Eric. "My family came here from Spain in 1803."

"Well, guests at the club usually come here on business. What's your business, son?"

"I want to talk to you about the upcoming convention."

There was a long pause. Helms' stoic face slackened and he started to smile. It was a smile without warmth, a smile that featured rows of yellow teeth. The old man pulled himself up from his plush chair and leaned on his cane. He offered Eric a hand that was twisted by age and arthritis.

"Well, son, escort me to the tea room and you can speak your piece."
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Xinjian

Somewhere on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert


A brisk wind blew across the court yard. On a harsh day,captured by the walls it'd turn back and fold over onto itself. On these days it would maul a man from the front and back. It could wrap up an entire well-fitted man and plunge him into a numbing abyss. His skin would turn ghastly white. All feeling would evaporate and stepping back inside he'd feel in discomfort as his pores lit up with a precise hot pain.

It was cold again, but not insufferable in the exercise yard. On some far side a large body of prisoners dressed in gray practiced Tai Chi. On another side some cloistered together in a dense quiet gathering. A weary bespectacled man stood in the middle, starring up into the clear pale-blue sky. His arms held crossing his chest and finger-less gloves tucked under his arm pits. He had lost track of the days, but he was sure it was sometime in early or mid spring.

He was an aging man, middle aged. He had turned 54 this passed February. Related to the Jurchin tribes of north-eastern China his face defined by a flat nose and bulbous lips. His once fine black hair was thinning and graying He had the composure of a man who had surrendered to his circumstances. Though he slouched under the oppressive weight of his world he kept his shoulders straight in the confidence he was not forgotten in the world. While the outside had forgot him, he was remembered as he was in finer times inside the prison walls.

A reverential distance held between he and the other prisoners. While they had scattered backgrounds from before the civil war the respect and admiration for one of a rare family of livings relics held their quiet tacit respect. It was not out of fear for him that when they came out to the yard they kept their distance, they simply respected his space. They knew what this meant to him. It was a last fragment of an ancient ritual kept for him as a last gift.

His confinement to this prison some five years ago, but he had been incarcerated for the better part of seventeen years. From behind bars he watched the closing of the Revolution. In the old mountain cell he watched foreign prisoners of war be released to their country of origin or their foreign-bound families as part of a peace process. Each passing moment in those days was spent in the tense seas of hope that he would follow. But he had not been part of such a process. Those who had been his benefactors had ignored him. He had hoped in those early days he would be released in the next few years. That perhaps his prison wardens would feel secure as his legacy was slowly erased, or that the influence of his family subsumed by the new power structure. This hope was all he had left in time. But it never came to fruition

He was not kept in his cage all the time. From time to time like a tame song bird he was let out and brought between all the courts of power and sung before them. They asked for the Japanese, and he told them all about the Japanese. He spilled and confessed all he could then they put him back. Some time later they would bring him out again and ask him to sing again, and he'd sing of the Japanese again. For hours he'd stand before the masses of heads of national state and give testimony on all the Japanese had done to the country. First what he knew, then simply confirming what they told him had happened. He learned quick, knew exactly what the many men wanted to hear.

It became regular to go before them and speak. It was like clockwork. Every month or every other month he would stand to open questioning by a collective so immense that after he would muse to himself, “My, so powerless these individuals.”

Congress baffled him.

And they'd return him his cell. The wardens would give him a few books, and feed him two or three small meals of rice a day. As the testimonies fell by the way-side and his days began to blur the books he was given became more important. This is when he began practicing and studying religion more severely than he had in the past. It started first as a ritual to pass the days away. A regular schedule with regular duties made the long, immortal sentence more tolerable.

Over time he wanted more books, new material to read and study. He surprised himself when he asked a guard for some books on the subject of faith and surprised when weeks later he had his book. He had not specified which and looked down to find they had passed him a copy of the Tao Te Ching. Apparently, he had not specified. He imagined some great mass of men somewhere arguing which book to let the man read to keep him happy. This short piece of scripture was what they could come to agree to in the end. The conclusion seemed illogical, but so was the situation: to ask a communist for religion.

He read the Tao Te Ching though, and when he finished and went to exchange it with the guards he had asked more specifically, “May I read some of the Buddhist Sutras?”

The guard had answered that he would look into it, and a month passed before he had results. An old of collection of sutras had been found with a cracked spine and he set to read them. Though he did not complete the miscellaneous collection before turning it back it; thinking he would explore his hypothesis further. “May I read the Quran?” he asked on returning of the book.

The guard had no response to this request, and took the book and grumbled at him. He took it that he would. But as weeks turned to a month and he went a month in a half without a book he believed that perhaps he found the end of the road. By the second month he had been given a Hui version of the Quran, but he had lost interest in the thought and simply wanted the experiment to continue. He went through some of the suras until he could exchange his book in for a new one and never got more than a quarter of the way through.

This time he asked for the Bible and was flatly denied. He was stunned. He changed course and asked for Confucian commentaries but this too was denied. He mumbled, and the guard impatient changed out the Quran with an on-hand copy of a selection of Hou Tsai Tang's essays.

He slowly read through these over the course of the next several months, mostly keeping it tucked under the pillow of his cot in his cell. But the book did little but remind him of the world that was lost to him when the Civil War. This caused him to meditate on recent history.

Before, he could tell the sway of leadership in China based on the general who walked into his palace proclaiming themselves the head of state of China. The situation was more frequent than should be expected even with elections being the legal path to power. But as it so happened the nascent Republic was conducted more through coup and warlordism, and elections were ignored and trivial. Through his young life he could mark the peaks and valleys of modernism through whoever came before him and told him. That was up until he was thrown out, and then he was in the command of the Japanese. They returned him some power, only for it to be taken permanently from him by Hou. And since then he had no palace, he had no one to come before him announcing the ebs and flows of politics. He was shut off from the wider world and forced into a hermitage.

Aisin-Gioro Puyi had been cut off from history, and the world was moving on without him. The bitterness of that revelation had only lasted for so long before it turned into final resignation. He had a powerful life, a privileged child hood. Perhaps more than any man in Asia deserved, and it was all he could ask for now. Some prisoners had asked him why he did not call for a revolt, he had the respect. They might even take the prison. “What would be the use?” he'd answer them. There was nothing more to say on the topic after.

“Your honor.” a voice said alongside the former Emperor, and Puyi turned to a man alongside him. He was shorter and darker skinned, his shoulders slouched as he starred up into the sky alongside Puyi with the sort of resigned expression many prisoners here held. They were not beaten - at least not that Puyi knew - but simple left to wait out the currents of time and watch the world move on so far ahead of them they no longer recognized the river that it was from the distant rock that were placed.

“Naoko.” Puyi responded. Naoko was a pilot that had been shot down and captured at the end of the war. He may have been presumed dead, Japan never sought to reclaim him. And new China was unwilling to set him free. So he was retained, an even more forgotten relic than Puyi was.

“Who is winning the race?” the Japanese pilot asked, referring to the tussling hawks flying somewhere beyond the prison walls. They were clearly pursuing a smaller bird through the desert skies.

“I would say it is perhaps Golden Lily.” Puyi smiled and nodded. No normal man would have figured out which bird was which, but somehow the two of them had figured it out. As they might both say: one was imperceptibly smaller than the other, except to the trained eye. Naoko was a natural at this, having piloted in the war and had trained Puyi in this obscure skill.

“It is the wing injury she sustained which is holding back the Tiger.” Naoko announced.

Puyi nodded. He had much the same analysis as his friend. The two stood in the silence, interrupted by only the heavy breaths of distant prisoners practicing Tai Chi in a far corner of the prison yard.

The larger hawk caught the smaller bird and an aerial skirmish ensued before the other peeled away. The two men let out a relieved sigh and turned from the games.

“Have you ever thought about the outside?” Puyi asked, turning to walk across the yard.

“I have tried, and I only see home as it was when I left it.” Naoko said, “I can not imagine what Japan is like now. When I left my youngest was barely on his own two feet. He would be nearly a man by now.”

Puyi nodded, “I never managed children.” he said, “Or rather...” he stopped, letting the words hang.

“Or rather, what?” Naoko asked.

“It's nothing.” he answered him, “All times well passed.”

Naoko nodded, and changed the subject, “You've been out plenty though in the years following your people's revolution.”

“I have.”

“What's changed? What do you think has changed?”

Puyi shrugged, “I saw it all through the small windows of armored cars and dark basements. They never did let me see much. But between what little I saw I'd say they rebuilt quick and capable after the war. I must admire them for this, they worked faster than any past emperor ever has. The Communists now have the Mandate of Heaven.” as hesitant as Puyi was in admitting that, deep down he knew it was true. Below the outer conflict for his heart and mind about the Communists he believed he had to humble himself before their capabilities and admit they had done much.

“I wonder if they will ever let me out if my homeland slips into their revolution.” Naoko admitted, “But with each passing day I doubt it more. Even if Japan were to overthrow the holy Emperor would I be an enemy still? Would I still have a reason to live.”

“You are already dead.” Puyi pointedly informed him.

“But even dead how can I feel so alive still? I awake every morning into a dreary cell, but my heart still beats and I still draw breath. I am not in the next world, I know I am still a man among men. So how can I be alive?”

“Yet, your self from the past is dead. You are no longer a warrior.” Puyi took on the tone to guide the Japanese pilot along. He had stricken two things from his life and he was leaving it up to him to see what he meant, to see if he could clue into what he had come to realize in time. What the anger and surrender had burned from Puyi.

But Naoko did not answer. The two sauntered across the prison yard to the solid doors of the cell block itself. A pair of armed guards stood alongside the entrance shooting them with heavy cold expressions. When finally Puyi realized Naoko would probably never answer he gave up waiting and the two stepped inside to where it was at least slightly warmer.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Mao Mao
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Guatemala City, Guatemala
1st May 1960

"Thousands of people gathered at the Guatemala City General Cemetery to say goodbye to the sixth President of Central America, Jonatán Maroto. Maroto was well-known for remodeling the entire Air Force and National Guard while improving the education and health of all Central Americans. A private funeral was held for his family and closest friends yesterday. Nathanael Blackwell, the former Vice President, was sworn in as the seventh President of Central America several hours after Maroto's death. He also met all of the cabin members throughout the day. The inauguration is going to happen in the matter of hours at the National Palace in Guatemala, where President Blackwell will speak to the people from the first time." ~ WIAM-FM

A couple of men listened to the radio while making several protest signs for the inauguration. Thousands of people were clearly against Blackwell, an American, becoming president of the country. Officials from the conservative party expressed heavily disappointed that the courts allowed Blackwell to become the president. While the liberal party cautiously released a statement saying how Blackwell lived in Central America for more than nine years, making him able to run for a government position. Like conservatives, liberals were questioning the decision.

One of the signs had the words: "Blackwell, ¡no eres uno de nosotros!"

"The sign looks good enough." Eustacio Santángel said to the teenager working on the sign, "Don't add anything that will divert our message to the American." Santángel was the president of the Students' Front, a socialist student organization at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. He became leader of the upcoming protest against Blackwell since he was born in the United States and ran on a pro-capitalist stance during his time as vice president. Santángel looked at the time and whistled to men, who were finishing up with the signs.

"It's time to head to the meeting spot. Don't forget your signs and anything important because we will be outside for hours. Now, if you are ready, let's go."

After a ten minute walk to the meeting area, hundreds of people were already waiting to start the march while dozens were arriving. From parents to the elderly, everyone came to the plaza to send a message to President Blackwell. Santángel's group began to get ready to march when he saw one of his closest friends near the fountain and approached him. José Sanz was the journalist that recently published an opinion piece that called Blackwell 'the bastard president.' The nickname became popular in the matter of days after the article was published.

"Sanz, I thought you went back to Belize City?" Santángel greeted his friend with a question.

"I couldn't miss this massive protest before I return home. It's better to see something in personal than hear it over the radio. Plus, it gives something for my next article." Sanz responded to his friend's question while he finished up writing notes about the protesters.

"Well, almost everything is better than listening to the radio." Santángel reached into his pocket for a box of cigarette and offered one to Sanz. He laughed.

"No thank you. I have been smoke free for three months." Sanz proudly stated while his friends rolled his eyes and muttered something to himself. Santángel lit the cigarette, inhaled it, and then exhaled. "Your lost." he said.

As soon as he said that, some of the marchers heard that the inauguration had begun from the radios and began to march. Soon enough, everyone else began their march towards the palace while shouting their message to the president. Santángel noticed that the march was getting started and quickly asked Sanz if he wanted to join his group. He nodded and followed Santángel back to his group while he was finishing up his cigarette. Once they arrived at the group's location, Santángel looked around and dropped the cigarette to the ground. Then, he stepped on several times as he grabbed his sign.

"Alright, people. Let's march."




National Palace
1st May 1960

President Nathanael Blackwell read the speech one last time before his name was called as the music was playing. He knew that it the people aren't unhappy with him becoming president since he was an America. And despite telling people that he was raised in Central America, many still believed that Blackwell is an American puppet. The spokesperson clarified several times that he hasn't have any contacts with any blood relatives and government officials in the United States. Sadly, it hasn't stopped people from trying.

Once La Granadera (the country's national anthem) began to play, Blackwell knew that it was time. Time to face the people of Central America and convince the people that he will defend them from international threats. He gave his paper to one of the waiters and waited for his name to be announced. When he heard his name, the double doors were opened by the honor guard and Blackwell began walking towards the podium. He heard the crowd cheering and applauding while he shook some hands of government and military officials. Finally, he approached the podium and tapped on the microphone to see if it worked before he started his speech.

"My fellow citizens of this great nation, before I begin my speech, we need to have a moment of silence for President Jonatán Maroto." Blackwell waited a minute before continuing with his speech, "I am grateful and honor to be the President of this great nation. Even known I wasn't born here, I am a Central American. My parents and I left behind the United States during their civil war from Central America. Guatemala City was our new home and my father used his knowledge as a farmer to work at a banana farm. The American Dream failed my father and many other Americans; however, Central America allowed him a chance to rebuild. It was the reason why I decided to pursue for a position in the government. So I have a chance to help those who are still suffering from the economic depression of the thirties."

"Sadly, there are those who are accusing me of being an American puppet or a spy. I want to make it clear: I am not working from the United States. I understand that you are worried about a foreigner being your leader. But, I have been a citizen since the forties and I have proven that I would protect this country again and again. I don't know what more I can than to promise you all this. I will bring prosperity, wealth, and protection to Central America for the next generation. And when my time in office ends, I hope that you at least respect me from achieving those three goals. Thank you and God bless the Federation!"

The crowd erupted in applause when he finished his speech. As Blackwell waved at the crowd, he saw the protester in the background with their signs while shouting something inaudible. The police were doing their job and tried to calm the protesters. After waving for a few seconds, Blackwell left to head back inside the palace to begin working on the future of Central America.
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May 12th, Maputo, Rhodesia
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"Ah, Mr Walls! Come in! Come in!" The prostitute who greeted the most wanted man in Rhodesia had certainly seen better days. There were stretch marks on her black belly, her breasts hung like two deflated ballons and she had no teeth, which also happened to he her main selling feature.

"Thank you Liza." Replied the coloured man as he stepped through the open door and into a thick cloud of cigar smoke that mixed somewhat sickeningly with essence sticks imported from China. He glanced around the space as four of his "associates", he loved the American terminology, spread out around him.

Andrew Walls was not normally a nervous man, he had crawled into a cargo ship in New York Harbour as one of the most wanted men in the United States, and back off again in Maputo as a nobody. He knew no one, had no money, no friends, no contacts, only the colour of his skin, which had not provided any assistance what so ever. He had worked hard to build the thriving business he now ran in Maputo, smuggling everything from diamonds to human beings. He immodestly reminded himself that he was damn good at it.

But something had gone wrong four days ago. The Police raid on his distribution house on the eastern edge of the city had been well executed. Normally he had advanced warning of some sort. The Rhodesians paid their white officers well, their black officers less so, and someone was always willing to trade a little harmless gossip for a couple hundred quid.

"Mr James is in the back." Liza said, giving him a toothless smile that always made him want to shudder. This was hardly what you could call a high level establishment. The "rooms", if they could be called that, were really just squares of space blocked off by hanging blankets. The sounds of sex, quiet moans, slaps, shrieks muffled by pillows, all of it for pretty much for whatever money a man had. He hated meeting here.

Associates in tow, Andrew made his way down the "hall", pushing through only actual doorway in the building and into a space that held two chairs, one rickety desk, and a safe. One chair was occupied by a young black woman who was tied over it, her most tender areas exposed to the man who was pulling his pants back on. The girl was sobbing quietly as the man grinned up at Andrew.

"Ah, Andrew. A new girl. I have been showing her it is easier to just let things happen then to fight. Would you like gentlemen like to have a go? On the house of course." He glanced at the four big men who had followed Andrew into the room. None of them replied though they all gave the girl a good look over.

"James... James..." Andrew began as he took the only other chair, leaving James standing awkwardly next to his trussed up property. "Tell me what happened four days ago."

The smile on James's face vanished at once. Andrew was famous for his sexual appetite, polite introductions and even having a drink before business was discussed. This departure from his normal routine was disturbing. James gestured towards the desk in front of Andrew.

"I think you know Andrew." The paper was the local rag, it showed the burning house, the two bodies dangling in the air, and fire fighters who were trying to extinguish the blaze. A group of uniformed Policemen, white and black, were standing some distance away leaning on their squad cars. The headline ran: POLICE RAID SMUGGLERS DEN - TWO DEAD.

"I have seen this." Andrew said, tipping the paper off the edge of the desk. "There were nine men in that building. Nine, James. It says here two were killed, where are the others?"

"My contact in the fire department said that they found at least six more bodies." James hurried on as he saw the look on Andrews face. "But he said there could have been more, it was quite a mess. None of our spotters survived to tell us how many Police there were."

"The neighbours?" Andrew asked, idly twirling a pen he had located on the desk top.

"This is why I think there may have been RSB Agents," Said James. "The neighbours were more scared of the Police than of you, even money would not loosen their tongues."

Andrew nodded slowly. This was what was bothering him. For the longest time he had been left virtually alone until some fool had let slip his name and nationality and now, suddenly, the RSB was hell bent on crushing him like a bug.

The girl, still tied to her chair, moaned quietly, trying to loosen her bonds. James slapped her hard across the buttocks and she bit back a scream. "Shut up whore. Listening in on your betters. I'll have to slit your vocal cords so you can't tell anyone." He said with a snarl.

"I won't tell anyone, I swear." She started but was cut off by another vicious slap.

Andrew gave a shudder and then stood, nodding to two of his men who vanished into the space beyond. They returned a moment later with Liza between them. She looked terrified. She was the gate keeper, she knew everyone who came into the brothel. She knew that Andrew had been selling girls to James, and she knew that some of his contacts met him here to take small shipments of diamonds they would carry onto their boats and then onward to other countries.

"James, my friend." Andrew was suddenly friendly again. "I don't blame you. You couldn't have known about the raid, after all, I can hardly expect you infiltrate the RSB."

James was relieved and he nodded gratefully. "Thank you Andrew. I will get my girls to keep their eyes, and mouths," He winked. "Open around the next Policeman who comes snooping around in here."

Andrew nodded for a moment and then, with a speed that startled even his bodyguards, he stepped forward and chopped James hard in the throat. The man staggered backwards and then collapsed to the floor, hands grasping frantically at a crushed windpipe.

Liza tried to run but one of the men holding her simply twisted her neck with an explosive motion. There was a strange grating sound to it and then she slid to the floor. The girl in the chair opened her mouth to scream but Andrew placed a finger on his lips before stepping in front of her and kneeling down.

"Shhh. Not a sound now."

She opened her mouth to reply and he jammed a piece of clothing into her mouth, her eyes bulging in terror. He stood, the cigar smoke clinging to his head as he did so. He looked about the little office and then at his associates, gesturing to three of them.

"Do what you want with her," He said as he tapped the girl on the top of her head. "And then burn this place down." The three nodded and closed slowly on the girl as she tried to scream.

Andrew left by the back window, his fourth companion in tow. He needed to make some new drop points and new contacts. It was time to lay low for a while. Maybe a trip Stateside while he waited for the heat here to die down.
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Beijing

December 2nd, 1956


An electric energy filled the congressional Hall of the People as men and women filed in, filling the enormous legislative chamber with more bodies than it had ever seen. The chamber still smelled of fresh wood and stain, or freshly coated paint and glue when it was rocked with the movements of shoes and the echoes of a high number of multitudes. As the routine legislative members filed in from the public corridors into the immense vaulted chamber of new Chinese law-making power many more filled in around the galleries. A great number of souls in their best of dress and highest of curiosity. From out of nowhere they had been summoned to witness something, to partake in something they had once before had no privileged or part. Until now, perhaps.

All the machines of state seemed to stop for this one surreal moment when everyone was summoned. The actions of the Grand Secretary had been silent for what felt like eons, the presence of Hou Tsai Tang a shadow. Politburo seemed to be everywhere, then all of a sudden from Tsai Tang himself orders came for an immense congress. Including not those normally party to the law-making process, but a broader host. He called them witnesses, referred to them as representatives of other interior bodies. There was a tension and a wonder from within the Party and without, and it concentrated itself into this one room. So great was it that the gathering assembly had the impression all the world now orbited this single event.

Xong Deng looked very much like an old mandarin, save for his closely cut hair. With his long sleeves and baggy pants he leaned back, slouching in the upper gallery chairs as people continued to file in around and next to him. He was elbow to elbow with his old contemporaries, all three of them aging members of the old Republican government. These were the old practitioners of state who were far-enough to the right to remain in the Nationalist government after the expulsion of the Chinese Communist Party at the end of the old United Front, but still far enough to the left in their commitments that in the final peace process had avoided detainment, considered non-militant opposition and a spiritually defeated force.

Their party had been smashed, broken, and thrown all throughout China. At least officially. In the time since the evolved Communists in the New China Party had subsumed all their political duties and positions, forcing them out of power. Though the old networks of communication remained, and th old members of the old left party stayed in touch. And perhaps this is how he had come to receive an invitation, the old man who dressed like a mandarin with large round rimmed glasses.

Yet like everyone else he was dreadfully curious, and almost terrified. In the beginning there was fear this would be a ploy to arrest them all. A conspiracy to destroy the thread-bare remnants of the opposition to the NPC's stranglehold on politics. Yet, Xong Deng had gone to entertain it and he was surprised that there were so many in attendance. He had not come alone, some friends had volunteered to come with him. And now in the galleries they scanned the thousands already there and the hundreds yet to come. He was surprised to not see any cameras, somehow he had expected that. But on the floor on the raised stage of the congressional speaker and secretary sat a podium filled with a peacock's fan of microphones, he followed the cables down to the carpet they were hidden under and quickly lost track of where they went. He supposed it was being broadcast and recorded. He searched the periphery of the room and the edges of the spectator's balconies in search of any more, but couldn't identify any.

“Do you think he will make an appearance?” asked one of Deng's companions, a slightly younger man with with a broader face. He wore an old western-styled suit; it had to be over a decade out of style with the rest of Europe now and Deng was surprised he kept it so clean and fresh looking. His name was Zhu Junqi.

He was of course referring to Hou Tsai Tang. Several years previous he had disappeared from public light and sound after what rumors said was an attempt on his life. The state-controlled news covered it up, referring only to a vague incident in Beijing in the center of the city but said no more. In the absence of information rumors swirled that there had been a semi-successful uprising against the Communist government, that the government had been seized but was quickly and violently put down. Less fantastically people spoke of a bomb, or a sniper. In either instance, just prior to the event Hou seemed to be a public figure, quiet and taciturn in his daily power but known to posses it; yet vocal and omnipresent with essays and speeches enumerating the points of his government, like a teacher lecturing a class on civic affairs. He made himself much the speech maker and writer as he was the essayist he had been, mobilizing and encouraging a broad spectrum on the political left side.

Hou had spoken much of hope and of the future. Recalling it in that moment Deng realized in some way that had been the continuing theme. Not of victory or strength, but hope and the giving of an image of that; something people could reach out to and make their goal. He could credit him that much for doing such in trying times, but when Hou had eliminated his enemies the notion fell empty. At least to Deng. In the grand scheme it turned less into something to achieve in a far future and more of a tired theme when all opposition to reaching that goal had been defeated so thoroughly it would never again pose a threat.

People had disappeared, and still were. Which gave people like Deng and Junqi reason to fear.

“I don't know.” Deng said in a low voice, leaning over towards Junqi. Perhaps this was an announcement of succession? That Hou had been taken by an assassin.

The question wasn't just on their minds, it was in the conversation of everyone else around him. He listened as the same rumors from so long ago circulated again and found new life with new fuel to wake it up from its hibernation. The only other in Deng's entourage seemed to have no comment on it, and he sat erect in his seat chewing on the glasses. His wide dishpan face was red from the heat in the room and anxiety. His name was Guo Hu, he was known as a silent agent within the old Yuan. Xong Deng knew though that under his silence he was deeply meditative about the whole affair. As the rumors grew heavier, Deng watched as Hu's demeanor became subtly more agitated. The wait was taking its toll.

Deng realized in time exactly why there was such a minimal media presence in the congressional chambers. When it reached its peak and less people seemed to gather into the great hall there would have been no room for anyone to stand or sit. Any space available was currently occupied. Every congressional chair in the coliseum of politics was taken and somberly dressed congressmen who leaned to the side to speak to each other in the noisy chambers.

Deng looked on the crowd and realized with a softly churning malevolence that if there ever was a time to eliminate a government fully, here was the time. But he knew logically it couldn't happen. Outside these halls in the cold Beijing winter the military was thick. Heavier than he had ever witnessed. In greater numbers than he had ever seen them since the surrender of Nanjing.

Deng was watching the rest of the thousands now in the chambers when chatter went suddenly silent. He turned to look to see a tall man walking with a wide gait towards the podium. As the whole of Congress rose at his presence Deng realized fully who he was. In all his whole, thin provincial self was the manifestation of Hou Tsai Tang himself. He looked grayer than he had been often portrayed in the photographs of the leader, but he was very much alive and very much in one piece. Down the to the short pointed beard on his chin.

Taking the podium he rose his hands and placed them on the edge and looked up at the standing congress then up at the gallery. There was a sharp piercing quality in his gaze, even at the distance he was to Deng and he felt his stomach turn cold as he passed over him. He felt as though the great chairman was peering directly into him.

Then his gaze rested, and Hou's body slackened and relaxed. He allowed his shoulders to drop under his black Zhongshan suit and he raised a hand in a simple gesture to seat the congressmen. They obliged with silent obedience and the only sound that filled the chambers was that of chairs scrapping along wooden floors.

“Brothers, sisters. Comrades of all stripes.” Hou began, his voice low as he leaned into the mic. He spoke with a slow measured cadence. There was a heavy sternness in his voice, but Deng did not hear any suggestion of seeking to inflict discipline on his audience. It was the tone of a man about to make things clear, “I must begin simply by thanking you for coming. I realize that the winter is cold, that the snow and the ice has complicated travel. But with all due fortune on us as a people we have arrived here safe to conduct our affairs.

“China as it is now has come far. We have risen past our old barbarity. The evils of reaction have been left behind us and we move ahead, leaving the misdeeds of feudal barbarity to drift in the sands of time, to be the refuse of obscurity. We have rendered it false ideology, and raise ourselves a new one. We have relinquished the yoke of yokes of warlords, cast them into the fire and put those who would rule by terror upon the sword of virtue and elected the creation of a government and a state of law once again. But more appropriately we have come to assume a nation of freedom. A state of liberty that comes to eclipse all others before it. We have come now to assume the natural state of man unhindered by the oppression of class and exploitation and now that which truly belongs to the Chinese belongs to the Chinese.

“And I say not Chinese in the limited mindset that had ruled the minds and been the center of Imperial ideology. No Manchu, not even no Han may claim to be truly Chinese and to be Chinese is principle to many people. Let me remind you of that. And it is for this that we come together today: to observe this virtue and seek its truth.

“We have done much in these past years to build a country and a land worth living in. The damages of tyranny, or oppression, and of war swiftly and justly rendered a spectacle of the past. We are a community of millions that now stand face towards the rising east of the future! In liberation we as a people have come to realize the potential of our power. That we can be the fierce waters that carve a canyon deep. The shaping and forming hand of nature that molds fertile valleys and raises wondrous mountains. Our capacity is that; to shape a civilization reborn from the ashes of autocracy and oligarchy, from imperial feudalism and ancient bureaucracy.

“And now the stage is set. Much has been done to lay a firm foundation but to build this great temple to the people is not a project devoted to a single man, or a single party. For even the construction of a house is not assumed by a single person; but done so in association with an unity between he and his fellows within his community. The land has been cleared now, the designs much be drawn and the people brought together.

“And so now I step forward to offer out the final brick in the laying of the seat of our future, for I have done much. And much more could be done in the name of the present course of things. But at a certain time a true leader must step back and realize that it is time for others to assume the progressive force. The ship is freed from the rocks, it is out of the dangerous harbor. So we sail now the open waters of the mighty river of time and the only true captain of the ship in the open waters are its crew.

“I have requested the assembly of Congress here today and of people beyond the ship of state, our fellow countrymen set to the side to partake in a second great evolution and to participate in the assumption of the true potential of the people.

“And as an advance on this promise I request that Congress move officially to the advancement of the earlier delivered set of bills.” Hou said. Another figure rose from the congressional seats and walked to Hou. “I move to grant the floor to Xiogang Wen.”

Stepping back, Hou nearly disappeared into the background as a shorter wider figure assumed control of the podium. His black hair lay combed against his narrow rectangular face as he assumed the podium. “Congress moves to vote on Politburo Recommendation 1131, in which industrial assets in concerns on the textile industry are released from state control for local municipal control if over ten-thousand workers or control by local union if under.” Xiogang Wen read in a low stately tone.

In unity Congress rose, and one by one began submitting their yes votes in a loud clear voice. Deng leaned in his chair as each call signaled full party unity over the bill. When all was said, Xiogang announced unanimity and moved on, “Congress moves to vote on Politburo Recommendation 1132, on which assets of manufacture related to the production of small engine parts including the manufacture of pistons, gears, springs, seals, crank shafts, and other mechanical instruments for mechanical motors of civilian use for their redistribution to local government if over 10,000 persons or local union if under.”

Again, Congress rose and the same solidarity was displayed. One my one Wen Xiogang read out politburo measures before the witness of its center-left or ultra left critics. Seemingly to deliver on challenges made to it in part by either side. In one sense, liquidating state monopoly and delivering on a form of socialism for the far-left line and delivering on the demands of the Tokyo and Paris groups, as much as the old True Socialists. And at the same time, throwing a gesture to the old left-liberals. Silently mutterings rang through the gallery as the display continued, breaking down state control of many industries through manufacture, mineral extraction, and agriculture. Simultaneously de-bolshevising itself while also maintaining – or even giving – full proletariat control of state-run assets in one great sweep. As it finished legislating its new libertarian stance it moved steadily into affirming its grasp on the military, on regulation in healthcare, establishing – though also more accurately re-affirming the existence of – a state media corporation, and regular sounding adjustments to the what economic assets it retained for itself, establishing new quotas and shortening the weekly hours worked for state employees by four.

As it ended, Wen left the podium and Hou reassumed his position to make one final proposal. “As we prepare to leave.” he began in a dry voice, “Let me personally present a final piece of legislation finalized in the zero hour in Politburo assembly. Politburo Recommendation 1159, the lifting on the ban on parties in state, provincial, and county elections and for the establishment of a Party Registration Board to clear and approve official political movements for the expressed purpose of preventing Parties of Reaction. I move this recommendation for debate on the floor of Congress.”

Loud murmurings echoed in the hall. The gallery was caught by surprise. Xiogang Wen called for a congressional recess, but those above them were already too busy to notice as preemptively the old political men sought immediate alliances in the future they were sure may be coming.

Beijing

Present Day, May 17th, 1960


“So you are saying you need money?” Xong Deng asked as he leaned up alongside the window of his office. He turned from looking out into the street to his guest who casually reclined against the arm rest of his chair. Dressed in a starch white Zhongshan suit Zhang Auyi looking like a stranger to politics, more of a youthful actor than a Provincial Secretary, a governor. Young and handsome, barely forty he had become a sudden fixture in Guangxi. He had been a late volunteer in the Revolution, but not without his experience in conflict. He wore his mementos like the subtle dimpling of acne scars on his face and hands, though he had served mostly in logistical duties.

The young man wasn't a stranger to Xong Deng, nor was he unknown among the political circles in Beijing. While he was knew his youth was surprising, and some had begun whispering of him being the potential leader for the post-war generation. He wasn't committed either to any party, describing himself as a pragmatic socialist to the election bureau when he decided to run. He had been accepted, a test of the reforms in the fifties.

So now he was here, to petition and probe national government.

“For clean up and reinstating operations in factories.” Auyi said. He had a smooth voice, there was something provincial in the way he spoke, but certainly far more aware than his otherwise mountain country tone let on. He had seen things, he let it be known without ever letting on; kept it modest. “If nothing else to move the machinery out and clean up the refuse. Bored children often end up exploring the ruins and get cut on glass and metal. If nothing else short of demolition or getting the funds to get these places re-operating to make it so anyone who explores won't get sick.”

“I see, but exactly how much are we talking about? In terms of facilities you need cleaned out?”

“Maybe close to a few hundred, one to two hundred. Mostly small munitions plants the Kuomintang threw down in cement shacks all through the river and mountain country towards the end of their regime. Some are still packed with live munitions. Just the other week I heard of some farmer looking for scrap in a munitions shed setting off unexploded shells still packed away, killed himself and his son.”

“I see.” Deng acknowledged.

Auyi nodded, “There wasn't much I could do for reparations for his wife. Nothing I felt would repay the life lost.”

“I'll have to look into it.” Deng said flatly.

“Do you have kids?” Auyi asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Do you have a family. I got a three year-old and one on the way. Now I'm asking you: do you have family?”

“Comrade, are you sure this is the t-” Deng started before being interrupted. Both men turned as the door to the congressman's office opened, and there standing in the doorway was the lumpy form of Zhang Shu. He looked between Auyi and Deng.

“Am I interrupting anything?” he asked, pensive.

“Not at all. Auyi was just trying to get my attention.” Deng proclaimed.

Auyi looked back at Zhang Shu, and he looked down and smiled. “Good afternoon, comrade. Zhang Shu.”

“Xhang Auyi.” Auyi replied, and stood to bow.

Shu returned the favor, and turned to Deng. “Comrade, I have something I would like to discuss with you if this is the time.” he started, politely holding his hand out to Auyi.

“Depends on what it is.” Deng said.

“It's a matter surrounding foreign affairs. It concerns Russia. I took it on myself to meet comrade Dymtro Radek and have offered to take up his case.”

Deng's expression held a stony look and he nodded. “I will have to ask you to leave.” he told Auyi politely, “I'll take it up with some partners of mine in the Movement and we'll see what can be arranged. I will write.”

“Thank you.” Auyi said, standing. There was a bright optimism in his eyes, and he bowed low to the congressman before headed out the door.

As it shut behind Auyi, Deng turned to Shu, “Alright, so you spoke to the old priest.” he said, “What's your impression on him?”

“Hopefully, demanding. Stern even. But his followers really believe in him and his cause. I really am of the opinion that we should pursue his demands as it falls to the Russian matter.”

“Have you perhaps considered that this is a military matter, and not an issue of acting in regards to the outside?” Deng asked.

“I have, and I ask you to as chairman of the Congressional foreign affairs committee.” and as chairman to the January Second Movement's politburo in Congress, “Beyond simply being a military situation, establishing a firm Russian state I believe would be advantageous to China. As a matter of a close ally, and concessions Radek is willing to make in return for Chinese support.”

“What concessions is he willing to make?”

“Well he is willing to recognize Outer Manchuria and Vladivostok as Chinese territory. I didn't press the matter any further because I don't know the level of power I have for this sort of negotiation.”

“Outer Manchuria is Japanese. I suppose you recommend we go back to war with them then?”

“I know the situation.” Shu cried with exasperation, walking to the window. The two stood illuminated by the spring afternoon sun, “But I imagine we'll get to that when the time comes.”

“You are right we will. Because if it comes down to it I don't want to act without military advice. To invade Russia to for that matter.”

“I realize this.” Shu nodded, “But maybe at the least we can grant him a hearing, let him argue his case before the committee and begin a two-way dialog and not a desperate petition to Congress. If we can do anything after that, it's to take it to the Military Committee and get a joint assessment going. We can get Dymtro an ear that isn't just the QJ.”

Xong Deng gave it a moment of thought, and nodded. “Alright.” he said in compliance, “If it means anything I'll speak with the committee and get Radek in, he can present his case. Anything after that though is on you. You get to pull together the joint assessment and get the proposal to the floor. You get to speak with the military.”

“Understood.” said Shu thankfully, “I think this will turn out well.”
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