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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Pagemaster
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June 01, 1960, Western Rhodesia
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When he awoke it was to the delicious smell of fresh cooked meat, burning tobacco and the quiet but pleasant rumble of conversation. It took him a moment to open his eyes and when he did he was not disappointed. He was lying on his side and some fifty feet away two young women were bathing in a creek, naked and bent at the waist, their most private places exposed to him. He felt a small smile begin to creep across his face until he remembered where he was.

He sat up carefully, eyes darting around the small clearing he shared with at least fifteen to twenty other people, There wasn't a white face to be seen that brought a measure of calm to him. Of the group, about half were women, most of them were walking freely and moving about the camp with laughs and smiles. Two others, he knew they had been captured from a neighbouring tribe, were naked and tied to a tree. Though they were unmolested at the moment, Andrew knew that the men had been taking turns raping the women. It was a tribal thing apparently.

That, ironically, only made the situation he found himself in more unbelievable. His rescuers were a motley collection of "Freedom Fighters" that had managed to find each other and form a sort of rough community in the bush. They all seethed against the injustice of the White Man, his hold on Rhodesia, and how they had been turned into second class citizens. The irony of hearing that from men who, only moments before, might have been savagely raping one of the two captives was so painful it almost made Andrew sick. He was hardly a saint, but a hypocrite, he was not.

"Morning Andrew." A cultured voice addressed him as a handsome man with shaved head, well groomed beard, and green fatigues sat next to him. Wilbur Mudiwa had been educated in Rhodesia before being sent to Britain to attend University. There he had learned economics, politics, and found a taste for rebellion and dissent. He had returned home from University, where his opinion and voice had raged freely, to a country that threatened to lock him up if he did not desist. "A fine day. Have you thought about our offer?" He continued.

The offer. It had been made by Wilbur and his main henchman, Robert Mugabe, two nights before. They had plied him with women and wine as they did, clever moves on their part, but hardly two things Andrew had not enjoyed greatly in his lifetime. He had been a crime lord of some repute after all. They wanted his help, his connections, most of all, they wanted to try and access whatever money he might have left squirrelled away.

The two men had painted a picture of freedom. A Rhodesia without the Whites. A land they called Zimbabwe. Their plan involved turning the populace against the Whites with propaganda, even force if needed. They seemed blithely unaware that the Rhodesian Government paid excellent money to those who were willing to turn over would be revolutionaries. He also had his most recent experiences to reflect on. He had been wealthy, well connected, and well hidden, or so he had thought. Now he was sitting in the dust discussing the freedom and rights of black men while one of the two bound women began to sob quietly. It was ridiculous.

"I have. I think you underestimate the Rhodesians. I already said this. And I don't have all my money buried under a house in chests..." Andrew was exasperated. His fortune had been in business connections and a bank account or two in Switzerland. If and when he managed to make it to civilization he would be able to access them again, providing the Rhodesians hadn't found a way to shut them down or freeze them. He had to grudgingly admitted that they were far better counter-insurgency operatives than the Americans. The product of being a minority in their own country he supposed.

And that, right there, was the problem. He viewed Rhodesia as a White country in Africa. So did many other Europeans and Americans. Sure, everyone knew that Blacks lived there, but there were no great massacres to stir up public opinion, no savage injustices to fuel the righteous. The Rhodesians treated the Blacks well, and elevated some of them to proper citizenship when they proved their loyalty and worth. It was a brilliant system and he hated himself for admiring it. If he had managed to keep his nose clean he could probably have risen high but instead he had done what he had always done, the quick money scheme, and now he life burned all around him.

"We know that." Mudiwa said, waving away the concerns as if they didn't matter. "But you must understand that we need all the help we can get. We are small in number now, but we will grow stronger!" The man slammed his fist into the earth. He was passionate if nothing else. His point was somewhat lost since he was the only one wearing real clothes other than Andrew, the group had five rifles amongst them and no explosives or way of making them that Andrew was aware of. Apparently the two men he had seen fleeing into fields just before his rescue had been coming to join this group. Mudiwa had been certain one of them was an explosives expert but Andrew doubted that very much.

"Mugabe seems certain that we will receive some more recruits today as well." Andrew said, changing the subject. Mugabe was, at that moment, out of the camp with two other men, hoping to guide in a small group that they had been warned was coming in that evening with supplies. Supplies seemed to mean "literally anyone or anything not nailed down", all taken from surrounding villages, not a single one of which had a White person in it. "Are you not concerned that the locals might not like you... "Borrowing" their things, or their women?" He made air quotes and then jerked his thumb at the two battered women.

"It is for the greater good, they understand." Mudiwa said dismissively. Andrew was convinced he was an idiot, despite all his education. All the education in the world and he thought he was owed something by the common folk for his voluntary leadership role. Mugabe on the other hand had seemed more switched on when it came to not making a statement or drawing attention to himself, yet.

"I'm going for a swim." Andrew said and stood, walking towards the water where the other free women had finished their business and moved along after laughing at the desperate pleas of the captives behind them.

He stripped down on the edge of the water and knelt in the shallows, splashing water on his face and upper body, slapping at the dust that had collected as he slept. He splashed his face again and then became motionless. Someone was staring at him. The hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end and he felt a chill crawl down his spine. He had been watched before, he was a handsome man, but this was different. Someone was staring intently at him.

Slowly, pretending to splash water on himself again, he turned his head, eyes sweeping the clearing behind him. Then his eyes met the intense gaze he was seeking. It was one of the captive women. She was on her knees, buttocks exposed to the world, hands tied above her head so that her small breasts and their bite marks, were facing him. The others had attempted to coerce him into "Training" the women the previous night and he had seen the piteous thanks in her eyes when he declined. Now there was something else, fear perhaps? Yes, fear, but something more. Her eyes were moving frantically from his towards the tree line and back. He quickly shot a look that way but could see nothing.

"They're coming." She mouthed the words, not a sound coming from her lips as she desperately shot a look at the tree line again. Again he saw nothing. He quickly stood up, water cascading across down his body as he did so and strode toward her. He saw terror flash across her face as he grabbed her wrists and pulled her to her feet, turning her to face the trees and pulling her tight against him. She gave a small scream and a hoot of encouragement came from the other men as they paused to watch. He slipped his hands around her waist as if to pull her even closer and then leaned in to whisper into her ear.

"Who is coming?" He felt her relax slightly against him despite the panic that had engulfed her, but there was no hiding the fact that her body was shaking.

"The White Man."

Andrew's blood ran cold at the words. Still pretending to bite at her neck he ran his eyes along the edge of the clearing and that was when he saw the man. Standing back, deep in the shadows, almost completely invisible, was distinct human shape. He was nothing but a shadow against the darkness of the foliage. Andrew ran his hands along the captives body and, despite the situation, felt himself growing hard against her. "How do you know he is a White Man?"

"He has a gun and hides, I saw his shape, just for a moment. But you knew they would come."

So she had heard him talking to Mudiwa! She was more clever than her captors had given her credit. His brain raced quickly, a thousand ideas flashing through them as discarded them one after the other. He wanted to run, to flee, to vanish into the brush, but now he owed this woman his life and Andrew Walls never failed to repay a life debt. Then he hit on an idea. "Play along with me. It won't be hard." He whispered quickly.

He stepped back and gave her a gunshot slap across the buttocks. She gave a shriek of pain and surprise. "You need a bath, little slut." He said the words in English but the meaning was clear enough as he walked to his things, drew a knife from his pants, and walked back toward her. He felt terribly exposed and for a moment felt ashamed at the genuine look of betrayal in her gaze. The look vanished instantly as he slashed her rope and she collapsed to the ground, screaming again as he grabbed her by the hair and began to drag her towards the water. She grabbed his wrist with both her hands and hung on, preventing him from tearing her hair out by the roots. It would look real enough to those watching.

With a grunt he heaved her into the shallows behind the reeds and stomped in after her, swearing loudly in English and slapping her across the buttocks again. She gave another pained shriek and the laughter from the camp doubled. Then he knelt next to her in the water where they were hidden from those in the camp. He quickly cut the rope about her wrist and watched as she massaged the blood back into her hands.

"Can you swim?" He asked. She nodded. "Okay, on your belly then, follow me."

She did so without question, the two of them slithering like snakes through the water just at the edge of the reeds to avoid making them move. They paused once as a camp dog barked nearby. Andrew realized with a start it was the only animal sound he had heard in the last few minutes. The jungle had gone deathly silent. Only the sounds of the camp reverberated around them.

They reached a deep pool soon enough and Andrew slid head first into it. He felt rather than saw the girl follow him. He remained underwater as long as he could before surfacing for air. He was halfway across the pool now. The girl was a much better swimmer than he and made it to the far bank without surfacing.

When he joined her they huddled under the bank in the darkness of a small cave created by the high water season. They dared not try to climb the bank, it was in full view of the camp. The girl was shivering and he, ever so carefully, drew her into his arms. She resisted for a moment and then, with a small moan, she collapsed against him and began to sob.

They sat there for ten minutes before he saw one of the men shout a question toward the water where he had vanished. When no reply came the man shouted again. His angry tone startling the second captive awake. She glanced around and gave a small shriek when she found herself alone. More shouts and two men began to walk toward the reeds where Andrews clothes still lay. It took them fifteen steps to reach the water and they looked about in confusion as their feet touched the mud and they found no one. One turned to shout back toward the camp, and died.

Guns blazed from the brush and both men toppled into the stream. Men and women, even the dogs, tried to run but gunfire erupted from another angle and the piteous rebels, caught in the crossfire, were slaughtered. The girl had pressed herself closer to him as the shooting began and he found himself clinging to her as much as she to him. Unified by their terror, they didn't move even when a stray bullet slapped into the mud above their heads.

The shooting lasted no more than sixty seconds. As it died away the attackers appeared from the brush. Andrew was surprised to see primarily black police officers and then, to his stunned horror, Robert Mugabe strode into the clearing next to a white man dressed in Rhodesian Security Force fatigues. Four other white men followed and even the two white police officers gave them a polite berth. Andrew pegged them for Feds at once. He watched as Mugabe picked his way through the bodies, turning over the dead and dying, and shaking his head as he went. Andrew was stunned. Mugabe, the rebel leader he had heard so much about, was working with the Rhodesian's, not against them.

The girl obviously recognized him as well as she moaned quietly. "Quiet, little honey bee." He whispered urgently. Three more white men had appeared and there was no mistaking the tall, sleek shapes of Ridgebacks that trotted along at their side.

Mugabe gave an exclamation of satisfaction and waved the Federal Agent over. Using his boot he turned over a body and Andrew did not have to see it to know that the dead man was Mudiwa. The Agent nodded, took several photos, and then stepped back, gesturing at the captive who was still tied to her tree and sobbing loudly now. Two black officers quickly stepped forward and cut her loose, one of them taking a blanket from nearby and covering her nakedness before escorting her back the way the attackers had come.

Mugabe was speaking to the Agent now, shaking his head and gesturing at the jungle around him. Andrew could guess who he was looking for. He silently cursed himself for ever using his real name when he had been rescued. If he survived this he would take a new name immediately. He did not wish to die for the sake of being lazy. He watched as the Agent ordered the police officers to begin a search of the area. They did so, half heartedly, enough to make the man think they were trying. They found Andrews clothes, which meant nothing to them, and Mugabe had either forgotten, or failed to note, that there had been a second female captive present. The Ridgebacks scoured the edges of the camp for any fresh scents but found nothing. Mugaba had been gone for nearly two days, with any luck he would think Andrew had already left the camp.

For two hours they huddled under the riverbank, a fallen crime lord and a sex slave. Andrew could almost see the dime store novel he could write when he returned to America. The idea hit him like a Thunderbolt. If he survived, that's what he would do, he would be a writer! No more crime, no more dead bodies, just a nice cottage somewhere and a typewriter. It sounded awfully appealing given the last two weeks he had just gone through. He was still lost in the dream when the girl touched his face gently.

"They are leaving." She said so quietly that he almost could not hear her. He glanced across at the camp. The police had long given up their search and had stacked the bodies of the dead rebels in the middle of the clearing and set fire to them. What the fire did not eat, the Jungle would consume when night fell. Predators would come, as would the ants, and little would be let in the morning. The police left first, weapons casually slung as they walked away, eating rations taken from the camp. The white men and their Ridgebacks followed a short time later, leaving only the Agent and Mugabe standing next to the smoldering pile of corpses. Mugabe said something Andrew could not hear and the Agent nodded then the two turned and walked away into the brush.

The girl began to move but Andrew stopped her, holding her tight against him, eyes slowly sweeping the clearing. They waited for an hour, and then another, until, after what seemed like an eternity, the brush moved on the far side of the clearing and two white men stepped into the opening. They brushed dirt from their fatigues and slung their rifles, gave a final glance around the clearing and then vanished after their comrades.

He waited another fifteen minutes and, taking the girl by the hand, he slid into the water and swam slowly toward the camp. Nothing moved. The birds in the trees around them began to pipe up again and the smaller sounds of the Jungle came rushing back suddenly. The enemy was gone. The two exhausted fugitives staggered onto the bank and lay there for a moment breathing deeply, glad to be free of their mud prison. They didn't have much time until dark however and Andrew stood. He quickly began to go through everything left behind by the dead. He retrieved his own clothes, the knife from the streambed, and found his boots. The girl had been quick to take his cue and dressed herself with what was left of the womens possessions.

Andrew was rooting through discarded canisters for anything the police might have left behind in the way of food when he tripped over something imbedded in the earth. He cursed and turned to find a small metal spike that had been concealed beneath the now scattered fire pit of one of the cook sites. Curious, he took his knife and dug down, pulling the stake free along with a small rope attached to it. He heaved on the rope and, after several more tugs, a long case came free of the dirt. He knelt next to it, heart pounding, and found it to held closed by only a few rusty nails. Using his knife he pried the lid off and almost wept with gratitude. There was a rusty old rifle but, nestled next to it in the hay, was a six shot revolver with a box of ammunition.

Twenty minutes later they were headed west into the Jungle, to where he did not know.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Guatemala City, Guatemala
5th May 1960


Nathanael Blackwell had been working non-stop ever since his inauguration to learn everything about the current state of Central America. The rise of socialism and anti-capitalism in colleges and universities was considered to be a threat to the country. While calls for reunification with the Panama Canal Zone and demands of equal rights of minorities were minor issues. Blackwell kept himself busy with basic paperwork to avoid thinking about the week's events. Tomorrow, he is supposed to travel to the border town of Ayutla to give a speech about Central America's relationship with Mexico. Mexico never supported a united Central America and even viewed them as a potential threat to the economy.

Their rivalry began in the late forties as both countries managed to get out of the Great Depression. Now in 1960, the rivalry was slowly gaining more traction with Jonatán Maroto's sudden death and the rise of the Blackwell administration. Mexico had said nothing about the whole situation other than a half-assed statement about Maroto's death.

Blackwell finished up with the paperwork and decided to take a walk around the palace. However, work still found their way to interrupt his break time. The newly elected Vice President, Rubén Carvallo, approached the President for some unknown reason. The only reason why Carvallo became Vice President was that he was both a Hispanic and lived in Central America for his whole life. But, he was charismatic with the farmers and factory workers and it was going to be useful to Blackwell.

"We need to talk." Carvallo said to Blackwell, which he responded with a glance.

"I want to question your decision to send me across the country to deal with.. Don't you think that I should be standing by your side?"

Blackwell turned his head and said, "This isn't my first time with the press by myself. I can handle some petty news reporters who will bomb me with pointless questions to get brownie points with their editors. You are more useful in Amatitlán, giving a speech about how we are planning to produce more jobs. Your speech is going to be more important to the people of this country than my speech will ever be."

Carvallo wanted to protest the president, but it was going to be pointless. If he wanted to get mauled by the press, then he will happily accept his trip to a small town. Blackwell sighed and walked back to the office planning for tomorrow.



La Aurora International Airport
2rd May 1960

La Aurora was the busiest airport in Guatemala as a million passengers used the airport every year despite being in a poor shape. However, plans for modernization and expansion are finally being considered for approval. If the plans are approved, renovations could begin in late September and expansion of gates and ticket counters might get their start next year. For now, everyone had to deal with the current conditions. Both Santángel and Sanz walked inside the building. José Sanz had to go back to Belize City for work while Eustacio Santángel came along to say farewell to his friend.

"Well, it's time that we parted ways." Sanz said as he approached the gate with his suitcase in one hand.

"Farewell my dear friend. I hope that you arrive to Belize City safe." Santángel responded to his friend's goodbye. Before he could even leave the gate, Sanz shouted Santángel's name to get his attention.

"I will try to do it, but you might not get it. Do you understand?" Sanz asked his friend the question. Santángel thought for a moment before nodding his head, understanding what he meant. "Good."

Both Santángel and Sanz parted ways to go on with their own lives; however, a month passed by before the two men met again.



Unknown, Guatemala City
1st June 1960

José Sanz began lighting a cigarette as his hands were shaking all over the place. His friend was supposed to be back five minutes ago. Sanz started to think the worst possible situation for his pal, Eustacio Santángel: arrest for conspiracy against the government. Within a month, the Blackwell administration managed to pass a law that stated any socialist activities were deemed illegal and a threat against "the democratic unity of Central America." Then he heard footsteps. Several in fact. A warrant had been issued for both José Sanz and Eustacio Santángel, wanted for conspiracy against the government.

Santángel was the first one inside the apartment before closing and locking the door as several officers tried to open the door. They heard one of the officers going back to his patrol car to call for backup at the apartment. Before he could say anything, another officer demanded that they unlock the door and surrender to the authorities. "Fuck you pigs!" Santángel shouted at the cops in Spanish as he looked around for objects to block the door.

Sanz put down his cigarette in the ashtray, walked towards Santángel, and hugged him. His friend was at least safe despite bringing the authorities to their place. "God, you are alright! How were you spotted?" Sanz asked while finishing up the hug.

"I was getting some fucking food at the supermarket when one of the cashiers recognized my face and 'secretly' called the police. However, one of the pigs was nearby to see me running away with the food. Had to drop them down the street. I didn't want to get arrested by myself." Santángel explained his story and began to cry. "The fucking capitalist bastards in power are arresting us because we think differently!" As both men started to cry, the officer returned with backup and a battering ram.

Sanz and Santángel looked at the door as the officers began using the battering ram on it. No matter what, they couldn't escape the law. However, Sanz looked at the window and turned back to his friend. "I am sorr-." he tried to finish, but the battering ram did it's job and parts of the door flew all over the place. Officers rushed towards both men to arrest. Santángel was willing to get arrested while Sanz tried to jump off; thankfully, an officer managed to tackle him before he could kill himself. Sanz began to cry out curse words at the officers as he was handcuffed while Santángel joined.

"You guys are betraying democracy by listening to our piece of shit government. The revolution is coming for revenge and it will kill every single capitalist pigs!" Santángel repeated over and over as one of the officers read their rights. Once he was finished, the officers brought both men to the patrol cars and shoved them in. Then, they went to the police station to begin the booking process.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Letter Bee
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Letter Bee Filipino RPer

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The Brother's War, Part Four; Iron Lady, Part Six

Priscilla Aglipay-Rizal sighed at Sabiha a week later as the two met for tea. "If your husband had just brought Cameras and waited for the Letters of Marque you had when conducting his Vigilante raid, we would not be dealing with a diplomatic protest from 'Mubarak Kiram' right now. As it is, word has arrived from Marawi; the Muslim Congress of Mindanao has strongly condemmned the raid, judging it harmful to our legal case for the inclusion of Sabah into the Philippine nation. And to be honest, it is; I may believe that Mubarak was planning to move illegally first, that he is an usurper, and he is not worthy to be Sultan of Sabah...but I cannot condone the unwarranted raid against his ships without concrete evidence of his plans. And again, without your husband receiving his Letters of Marque which I know you planned to give him."

Sabiha knew she had no ground to stand on. She knew her husband; the raid would have seemed a good idea to him. Calm and intellectual Al-Hakam Kiram may be, but he was still a pirate deep inside; she loved that about him.

Sighing, the Sultana said, "And it would be against your morals and 'international law' to shield us from the consequences of our actions."

Priscilla nodded. "My power comes from legitimacy. Legitimacy comes from the people. When the people are taken advantage of, or when the rulers fail to explain their actions adequately, then they must be kept responsible. So I have to act; despite the strain this will cause to our friendship." A sigh as the brunette felt the weight of hard but moral decisions on her shoulders. "I have already signed the order for your Husband's banishment from Philippine Territory. He will keep his powers as the spiritual head of the Philippines' Muslims, but only that. Also, his properties and assets in Sulu will be frozen as well and transferred to a new worker's co-operative chosen from people without connection to Subic Bay. The rest of his family and followers, however, have the choice to stay in the Islands unmolested instead of following him; their property will remain untouched."

Sabiha's reply was, "You know that we act as one in this matter, Lady President. Nothing will really change in our covert activities; just a resuffling of legal identities and cover." She then gave a faint smile as the light made her multicolored headscarf glitter. "You know, the Sulu Sea is dangerous at the best of times. What will transport my husband to his place of banishment?"

Priscilla pulled a set of photographs from her long skirt; it showed a bunch of merchant vessels newly-built at the Cavite Naval Yards. Not as big as the merchant vessels made by the richer nations, but reasonably large...and more importantly, able to carry military materiel as well as serve as mortar and machine gun platforms. Her next words to Sabiha were, "Choose three suitable vessels to carry your husband and his followers. Choose three smaller ships as a makeshift escort as well."

"Then I pick this one, and this one, and this one," Sabiha took three photographs of large but still sleek merchant vessels, "And this model of small boat for the escort." She picked a small vessel barely big enough to withstand the stresses of the ocean. This flotilla as a whole can fit 250 men and women. The Lady President is really pushing the limits on helping us. A question came to her mind; "So, where do you get the iron and steel needed to build the ships? Lady Trung still has control of some of Vietnam's iron ore?"

A nod, "That and trade with the Dutch whose model we've adopted. And semi-legal, unregulated trade with Australia. Now, are you going to delve into every nuance of our external foriegn exchanges, or are you going to enjoy the pastries? They're Halal, after all."

"I will after a few minutes," Sabiha said, "I still have a few questions. Namely, where will my husband be banished to? There are few places we can go."

Priscilla smiled, "Anthony Dayrell Walter Brooke has agreed to house your Sultan and his followers for the time being. I hope they are good houseguests to him." As expected, the Rajah of Sarawak was involved in this entire charade; Priscilla had just donated him an army against Sabhan aggression. A thought came to Sabiha, who asked:

"Has the Sultan of Brunei talked to you about the situation with The Usurper? Last time I heard, Sabah was threatening to annex Brunei if they don't lower oil prices." Sabiha saw Priscilla frown at that, before she said:

"I received the news this morning; Brunei has agreed to Sabah's terms." The Lady President then sighed. "Its Sultan has also condemned your husband's attack; so do not expect support from that direction..."
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Chapatrap
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Tasucu, Ottoman Empire
May, 1960


Cem yawned as the morning sun peered over the docklands and warmed the narrow streets of villages across Southern Turkey. All night, the Derin Gizli operative had slept uncomfortably in his black 1944 Atingucu, a common civilian car of government officials. It was parked awkwardly on a quiet street that hadn't seen a repaving since the Great War. Cigarette butts stained the passenger seat and Cem again felt tempted to relight the end of one to liven himself up. A quick rummage through the glove box confirmed that he may have to do just that.

As he held the stale cigarette up to the match, a car began to roll slowly down the street towards him. It was a blue, Austrian style motor vehicle that purred as it pulled up beside him. Two men sat in the front seats and one raised a hand in greeting as it passed. It was Melik's men, clearly. No one in Tasucu was awake at this time. Especially those who drove unmarked, Austrian cars.

Cem nodded in return and turned the key in his own car. It sputtered and protested before roaring to life. He rolled down the window and spat the manky cigarette on to the street. He methodically checked his watch before slowly rolling the ancient car down the road to turn around. Quarter past four in the morning.

2 hours late.

The blue car moved slowly, almost frustratingly so, through the town, as the operative drummed him fingers impatiently on the wheel. His car stayed a few feet behind their own but he knew that on open road they could leave him in the dust. The town slowly fell way to rolling fields of olives and grapes yet Melik's men continued to move slowly. "Cheeky bleeders..." grumbled a tired Cem, his eyes firmly on the back of his guides.

They stuck to the coast for what seemed like an eternity before crawling up the side of hill overlooking the glittering Eastern Mediterranean. The Austrian car, with a superior Germanic motor, flew up the hill with no issues but Cem's government issue banger struggled up the steep track. He could almost feel the motor of the car struggling like a fat man on a run.

Ferries and fishing boats dotted the bay and if one squinted into a telescope in this morning light, they could see the tip of Cyprus. The road, which had by now become dirt, ended abruptly at the gates of a large villa. Green and white mould stained the sides of the walls and clung to the iron gates, which were firmly locked. The villa had seen better days and had obviously not been touched in decades. The locals had once called it the Big House but those days had been left with Ottoman dominance, far in the past. A lone Turkish star and crescent, limp with the lack of wind, hung atop of the gate.

The blue car was waiting for Cem as his own sputtered up the hill. The two men leaned on it, arms crossed and casually smoking. They both wore western-style suits that were crisp and clean in comparison to Cem's own. They wore Greek fishermen hats but the operative wore only a head of greasy, unwashed hair. One of the men walked over as the operative pulled his car to stand still and turned off the engine.

"You Cem?" barked the man, his Cypriot accent clear in the morning air. "Yep. You with Melik?" answered Cem, his own Ankara accent seeming bland in comparison. The man didn't answer. "Identification?" he asked instead, the cigarette staying between his lips. "One moment" the operative replied, diving into his glove department and returning with a Derin Gizil badge. He inspected it for a moment before turning to his friend and nodding. Cem took this as an invite to step out onto the ground and stretched his long legs.

"Any of you gents got a cigarette?" he asked and Melik's goon gave him one without a word. "I'm not going to beat around the bush, boys. My superiors read Melik's proposal and they are, well, very interested in taking it to the first phase".

"We're glad to hear. Those Greek bastards have begun seizing Turkish businesses" replied the other man, throwing his cigarette to the dew-covered grass in disgust. "We know. Operatives in Famagusta are concerned for our brothers and sisters in Cyprus. They believe tensions will be hitting dangerous levels in the coming months" nodded Cem, inspecting the Austrian-made car. The two goons seemed amused.

"You like the car?" asked one, kneeling down next to Cem. "It's a step up from that thing" grimaced Cem, referring to his own vehicle. "And I have to drive the bloody thing back to Ankara". The other goon went to the boot of the car and opened it. "I think you'll like this even better" he called to Cem, inviting him over with a wave of his hand.

Cem stood quickly and walked around to the back of the car. He whistled, impressed, a stream of smoke leaving his nostrils. In the trunk, three large briefcases were open, all filled with money. "Tell Melik he has a blank cheque, straight from the Sultan himself. We can help with money, guns, ships, hell, even soldiers" grinned Cem, his eyes never leaving the thousands of lira in banknotes. "As long, of course, that he agrees with our end goal".

"We have the same end goal" replied the goon, picking up a briefcase and handing it Cem.

"A Turkish, Islamic Cyprus".

Constantinople, Ottoman Empire

The day was dying in the city once heralded as the second Rome but it still held on, streams of light still piercing the dusk.

"Very good" replied Selim Pasha. "I will pass your dealings with these Cypriots onto the Sultan, he will be very impressed". Across from the Grand Vizier sat Mehmed Adil, the head of the Deren Gizli. Mehmed was to be trusted - he was Selim's, after all and years of loyalty to him had cemented him as a firm member of Selim's inner circle. The military may control the sultan but the internal security forces were damn well his. Selim rubbed his greying beard thoughtfully as Mehmed silently rummaged through his bag and produced a second document.

"As for the Kurdish situation..." he began. "Ah, I suppose I did ask for the good news first" smirked Selim. "Yes" replied Mehmed simply. "The Kurdish situation is not looking as rosy, I'm afraid. We lost two operatives within the so-called Kurdish National Front this month and we believe our other five are at risk, save for one. Before received no reports from them, save for their last. Our cell believed there to be rumours of a document being drawn up that will be presented to the Sultan. A petition, we believe". He passed a folder to Selim, who opened it slowly. A frown furrowed the older mans brow as he read the final report of a certain Fered Izit, under the name of Hilkar Kemal.

5am, 26th of April, 1960

I was to sign a petition today. There were some grumblings in the Front about it but I believe they are trying to maintain an image of political legitimacy in the province. No developments on the arms deal with the Islamic/Arab militia. The commander is sending us to a town for guard duty tomorrow. The Police haven't been seen in the area for months and it's 'crime-ridden', they claim. I remain safe - they don't suspect a thing.


"Famous last words" mumbled the Grand Vizier. "What happened to this man's handler?" "In a safe house in Izmir. We are instructing him to stay low for a few months, maybe take a holiday to Sofia" sighed Mehmed. "Allah save us" groaned Selim, closing the folder and placing it on the desk. "Are the Persians aware?" "I just got off a call with my counterpart in the Persian intelligence agency. They are concerned but are reluctant to take action on Kurds within their territory" replied Mehmed, placing the file back into his bag.

"At least it's only a petition. If they start signing declarations, we'll be in trouble" said Selim, standing. He leaned heavily on his desk until his hand found a wooden cane. "Well, Mehmed, keep me up to date. It's a long journey back to Ankara. I'm scheduling a meeting with the police and the High Command this week. We may find the grounds to have these separatists arrested".

"Very good, Selim Pasha. I'm on call if you need me" replied Mehmed, standing to his feet and shaking his superior's hand. As they walked to the door, the conversation became lighter. "That old war wound still acting up?" he smiled. Selim hobbled beside him. "I'll have to cut the bloody leg off soon" he grumbled, holding the door open. "You'll look like a Rhodesian Negro if you do" laughed Mehmed.

Even that cracked a smile from the humourless Vizier.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Shyri
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???, Poland


The sound of mumbled voices and a car engine flooded the darkness of Feliks' mind, as he came to in the back of a pickup truck. Looking around through blurry eyes, he immediately recognized the shape of the Russian who had pulled him inside before...

'What happened, again?' he thought, trying to blink away the blur.

“Hey, he's coming to.” said the Russian in a low, somewhat distorted voice.

Suddenly, another face was peering over him, taking up the entirety of Feliks' field of view.

'A woman?' he thought, as he finally cleared his vision, and looked down at his hands, taking note of the fact they weren't bound.

“Feliks? You okay?” she asked in a familiar voice.

Feliks tried to speak, but only managed a low grumble himself and he took hold of his spinning head. Suddenly, a soft hand took him by the chin, and lifted his head.

“Hmm... You're still recovering a bit, but you should be fine.” she said with a smile. “If you need to puke, please do it over the side of the truck. We're all a bit cramped back here.”

Feliks nodded, right as it all came rushing into his mind. Thin brown hair under a baggy hat, big round glasses like his grandmother used to wear, more layers than should be necessary, and skin so pale it could blind you after having the smallest bit of light shone on it.

“Bianka..?” he asked, incredulously. “What are you doing here? I thought you were in Krakow.”

“I was. Well, I still am. You will be soon, too. That's where we're headed. The Rotewache were still searching for you, it wasn't safe to keep you in Lublin. I swear, Germans don't eat enough greens, and it makes them all so angry...”

Ignoring the babbling at the end, Feliks finally took a look around him. They were, in fact, heading West, but why? How was Krakow, of all places, better than Lublin? Wouldn't it be one hundred times worse there, where they have to worry about the szkops AND pawie's? She also avoided the first half of his question.

“Bianka. You didn't answer. What were you doing in Lublin? I thought you said you were never coming back after what the szkops did to your grandfather.”

“Welllll, Fellliks.” she started, putting emphasis on the l's. “It wasn't really my call. All of the good stuff is being wiped out in Krakow, so I have to head elsewhere to get my fix.”

Feliks sighed.

“You're still doing drugs, Bianka? I thought you were going to stop!”

“Yeah, and you were gonna break things off with Kacper's gang, but that didn't happen, did it?”

Feliks opened his mouth to argue more, but quickly realized he had no comeback, and changed the subject.

“So, uh... Krakow. What's it like? We only really get stories in Lublin, and you never know how reliable those are.”

“Well, it's interesting.” Bianka said, twirling her hair around one of her fingers. “Contrary to popular belief, the pawie's are actually a lot worse than the Germans.”

Feliks cringed slightly when she called the Germans by their proper names, but let her continue.

“The Germans are fairly lax on their regulation, and only really go after the large gangs. IE, my supply getting fucked. They also go after rebels, of course, but most of them stay on the pawie's side.”

Feliks scratched his head. “But... Didn't you say the pawie's were worse than the szkops? Why would the rebels gather over there?”

Bianka took off her glasses, a sign Feliks knew all too well. She swallowed hard, and looked off the side of the truck as she answered.

“There's a lot more places to hide in Austrian-Krakow. They are a lot harsher on criminals. They also have much harsher terms for what defines a criminal. Because of that, there are a lot more... vacant, homes. I heard a story from a friend. She said that she watched as the pawie's rooted out a rebel cell. She said they butchered everyone right there on the roadside. Even children.”

Feliks sat there, shocked and disgusted, as Bianka was comforted by the giant Russian, who he only just now remembered was there, and very likely was the one behind the bump on the back of his head. After all, what reason would Bianka have to be behind it?

“Is alright.” the Russian said, handing Bianka a handkerchief, as he rubbed her back. “Your people. They are strong. You will free yourself from the Imperialists soon.”

Sniffling, Bianka smiled at the Russian. “Yeah, you're right. Thanks, Sergej. I just wish we could do more to help. Maybe if we ask Kaiser Wilhelm nicely, he'll speak out against the Austrians!”

“Ha!” Feliks basically shouted, making Bianka jump. “You really think that fat fuck cares about our people in the slightest? Yes, he may not be as bad as the Austrians, but at least they have the courtesy to be blunt about killing us off!”

“I don't know what you mean, Feliks.” Bianka said, staring daggers at him. “The Germans are so much nicer than the Austrians.”

“Yes! They are! That's the problem! Have you not noticed, Bianka? While the Austrians are making you focus on them, more and more szkops are moving in to Poland, taking over Polish businesses, forcing their workers to speak German. The pawie's are taking our peoples lives, but the szcops? They are killing our culture! They are trying to train us to be good little Germans! It's no different from what the Americans did to their Indians, like they taught us in school!”

Bianka just stared at Feliks, mouth agape. Did she really not realize this until now? Or were things really that different in Krakow?

“I'm sorry.” Feliks mumbled. “It's a hard pill to swallow, but you must realize. The Germans are not our friends. They are our hypnotists. They distract us with shiny things and kind words as they slowly erase our culture. I've heard that people speak more German than they do Polish in Warsaw, even. There's a reason all of us North of Krakow call them szkops. It's not that we're still bitter. It's that we see them for what they are. If you want to get along with the imperialists, then you might as well sign up for the Jäger's right now.”

Bianka still said nothing, but her Russian shifted, and Feliks suddenly remember how he came to be in the back of a pickup truck after walking into him in the alley.

“Fuck my big mouth.” he said, as Sergej's fist met with his face, and he was back to the inky blackness of his mind.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Letter Bee
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Letter Bee Filipino RPer

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Iron Lady, Part Seven - Midterm Madness

As Priscilla bought groceries in the Public Market, she couldn't help but hear chatter of what the new Opposition party, the May 25th Movement, were doing. She also couldn't help but look at the election posters and billboards that Aurelia had put up in Manila itself, posters with a simple promise even she can appreciate:

Vote for the May 25th Movement and Vote for Nationwide Lighting.

These posters were centred around pictures of a lightbulb illuminating rural and urban homes alike, no bias towards either. A nice touch, and it had Priscilla preparing to concede several points of the Opposition program, namely the fact that they can provide electricity if they wanted to, while she would find it...harder despite her position as Head of State. While she paid the accustomed price for the food, Irene would put her hand on her Lady President's shoulders, saying, "Let's end this early; no use seeing you worried."

------

Priscilla would find two people just outside her home, courteously waiting for her. The first was Isaiah Macadangdang, the main organizer of her Youth Leagues, and the second was Diego Gomez, the Senate Majority leader. Both were clad in the Filipino Barong Tagalog, a transluscent white formal shirt made up of pineapple fibres, and black Philippine Silk trousers. The Iron Lady gave a sigh, and spoke to the two: "It is about Aurelia, isn't it? If so, come on in."

Still in her simple clothing, Priscilla served tea and pastries to Isaiah and Diego as they sat down, before saying: "We are going to let democracy work, and we are going to fight within the bounds of democracy. If we are to preserve a majority in Congress, we will do it fairly."

Isaiah, a young, fresh-faced man who had just reached his mid-twenties, sighed at that. Diego, who was older with a more hardened expression that made him intimidating to others, implored, "Lady President, Democracy only goes so far; if we give power to reactionaries, it will end only in the undoing of the great work we've done to make things in the nation as a whole more fair. I don't even get why the people are seriously discussing Aurelia's...pitch. Haven't we given them enough?"

Priscilla stared at them, her glasses sharpening her gaze. She would then say, "We are entitled to what we give; we treat others the way we wish to be treated. But our ability to provide has limits; all governments encounter that problem." A humble admission. "But I have a plan around that, a plan that will blunt their offensive."

A smile. "We are going to co-opt their project. We are going to be humble, cooperative, and we are going to turn this concession of power into an avowal of our love and a declaration of modesty. We will let them bring electricity to the people, but on our terms. We will force them to compromise, we will force them to accept that we have a role to play, we will make them concede at least half of our points every time they propose a bill...and we will be the healthier for it. We are a Democracy and we will fight in a democratic manner; autocratic methods are only in extremis."

Isaiah was the first to catch on. "What would you want them to concede, then? You are prepared to let them bring Electricity, but what do you want from them in return?"

Priscilla smiled at that. "The one thing we have been focusing on since the liberation of our country. Defense." Elaborating further, she would then say: "If they can shell out enough money for an electric grid, they can surely shell out more for weapons and contacts that can hand us those weapons. Ethiopia strangely has an Indian Ocean fleet; we will try and see if we can charm them into parting with a few of their obsolete boats..."
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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Vilageidiotx Jacobin of All Trades

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---------------------------------
May 26th: Addis Ababa
---------------------------------

Abun Onesiphorus was an old man, and the patriarch of the whole Ethiopian church. He wore the black robes of his station, a mitre, and two loose gold chains around his neck, one bearing an Ethiopian cross, the other a pendant with the image of a saint. The Abun's beard was long and bushy, hiding most of the chain. Sahle waited impatiently as the Abun and his mob of priests blessed the airplane, then turned to say some words to Akale Tebebe, the new ambassador to China, and his companion, Leul Yaqob.

Desta Getachew stood at Sahle's right, and a fidgeting Rudolph von Lettow-Vorbeck stood at his left. The wind roared on the tarmac, whipping the priests robes and the Abun's beard, and making it hard to hear anything that was being said. Sahle was happy he'd decided to wear a Safari suit like the westerners standing behind him. Yaqob's eyes caught Sahle's attention. The younger brother was staring at the priest with that wide eyed, overly serious look that annoyed Sahle. Yaqob had a way of looking like a foreign explorer examining a strange new land and its alien customs no matter what he was doing.

The Abun walked slowly toward the Emperor. "Your majesty, the prince will go with God at his back."

"Very good." Sahle replied. He didn't like religious ceremony, and felt uncertain of what to do or say in front of the old saint.

"I'm not sure blessings will help the prince where his is going." Rudolph quipped, "The Chinese aren't fond of blessings. Or princes either."

"Christ will follow him into the lions den." the Abun said. He sounded like a kindly old teacher telling a story to children. "I do not fear for the Prince. I fear for the Communists who doubt our unified God."

Rudolph shut up. Desta spoke next. "Do you know of the republicans in the Semien region, your holiness? They are claiming the sanction of God. If God is on the side of our Emperor and his family, then perhaps these heretics need to be excommunicated."

"I agree with you, Bitwoded Desta." the Abun's friendly expression became grave. "I will need details on their sins. If they are preaching republicanism, I will do as you say. There are no men who believe in both God and democracy. Does God let man vote on the eternal laws of the universe? If there is a King in heaven, then the Kingly model is the closest the children of Adam can be to heavenly perfection. I've always said that the Americans and the French that call themselves Christians are really the worst kind of atheist; the lying kind. Yes. I will excommunicate any priest fanning the flames of republican violence against our heavenly ordained Emperor."

"I think the very same, your holiness." Desta smiled.

"Your majesty, go with God." the Abun said. The priestly party departed. Sahle watched as his brother and the ambassador boarded their plane. It took them into the sky, to the east, and out of his way for the present moment.

"Heavens" Sahle was ambushed by Bradford Carnahan, who got uncomfortably close until he was pushed away by one of the Imperial guard, "How did you get such a clean shave out her in the sticks? I was going to recommend Pennington and Pippin razors because you seem like a man who appreciates a good trim. An old school chum manages Pennington and Pippin, and he's a man you can trust with those sort of matters."

"I'll ask my pages when I get home." He looked past Bradford and saw his sister wearing a sunflower yellow dress, knee length, and the sight of her brightened his day. "Hello Miss Carnahan. Have you enjoyed your time in my country."

"Yes. It's great." she said, smiling politely.

"We'll have to talk later on when we have some time." Yaqob said, "I want to know more about America, and I think you would be the best teacher." He parted from her, smiling ear to ear, and the climbed into their caravan of four wheel drive bush rovers.

"We're going down the War Road." Desta told the Emperor's driver. The man nodded. Desta went to his own vehicle, leaving Sahle alone with Rudolph and a single guard. After running into the Carnahan girl and sending his little brother to China, his day seemed bright, and the sky was bluer for it.

Rudolph pulled a blunt from the pocket of his khaki shirt. "You owe me."

"Light it up." Sahle said, "We have a long ride ahead."

(Optional musical number)

The War Road was one of the first highways constructed in Ethiopia with automobiles in mind. It was a wide dirt road that went from Addis Ababa down south to the border of Kenya, its name coming from its original construction during the Great War in order to speed transportation to the front. Iyasu V ordered it maintained in the post-war years, creating the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works for exactly that task, seeing it as a way to connect the rich southern provinces with the Addis Ababa and Djibouti railroad.

The weed kicked in as they went down into the Awash valley. Ethiopia is a mountainous country being torn apart from the Danakil downward, and the Awash was part of the crack that continued into Kenya. Wild camels fed on the scrub brush that fought to grow in that rocky soil. Sahle and Rudolph laughed at their humps. Neither said a thing.

They stopped from time to time because Miyagi Yakuga, the Japanese manager of Negus Coffee, brought a camera with him and insisted on filling it. They stopped to see camels, to see farmers, to see rocks. From Sahle's truck, he'd see the long safari van carrying the Negus Coffee party stop along the side of the road and Miyagi jump out and start snapping photos. Sahle and Rudolph pointed out things Miyagi should get a photo of. They saw a wild ass taking a shit, and both of them said it at the same time. That made them laugh for thirty minutes.

In the village of Mojo, the local priests came out to bless the cars. A young beardless priest was last in the procession of holy men who blessed the Emperor's. In response, Sahle blessed the young priest. He didn't know how to react. They went on.

Before Adama, Miyagi went out to take a photo of a troop of Baboons. The Baboons were only twenty feet or so in front of him. "Steal it." Rudolph said, speaking to the monkeys far ahead of them. Sahle giggled. "Steal it." they both said. Any time one of the animals started in Miyagi's direction, Sahle felt a kind of joy that would be indescribable to the sober.

Adama sat at the bottom of the Awash valley, a town growing in the crack of the Great Rift, like people from the Ethiopian and Harar highlands had rolled down from the west and east respectively and settled where they stopped. Villagers lined up. Sahle allowed people carrying food to come through, and the gifts of fruit and bread helped the two men feed their starving stomachs. Here priests stopped to bless the cars again, but Sahle was too busy with a piece of injera to mess with them.

They passed a crew sent to work on the road. Governors still had the tools of feudal coercion available, and peasants could be required to work on the road as a form of rent. These men were performing simple maintenance before the start of the monsoon season. Seeing a caravan waving Imperial banners, they made way like a crowd of supplicants and bowed with shovels in hand. Sahle stood up, poked his head through a sun roof, and smiled like the child who just got away with stealing sweets from the market.

They climbed upward into the eastern highlands, and the lands once ruled by Somali Muslims until the crusades of Menelik II. The caravan scattered a heard of zebras. Far away, the Bale mountains were visible like ghosts behind the clouds.

"This is a good day." Sahle said, thoroughly pleased with himself, "Nothing can go wrong. We have women, we have drugs to tickle our souls, what can happen?"

"Women? Mrs Heap isn't with us." Rudolph said.

"We have Livy Carnahan."

"She is pretty. But she's an American girl. American girls lift up their skirts for anybody who asks."

"I hope so." Sahle replied.

They arrived in Awassa at dusk, the sun set streaking across the glittering lake. Shepherds watched from the hills and waved at them. Sahle waved back. The town greeted them in ceremonial fineness. The priests came out, as did the city elders, and a number of barefoot teenage girls chosen to award the new arrivals with food and flowers. They were ushered thus from their vehicles to the waiting elders.

"Your Imperial Majesty." the leading elder bowed, "I am Kentiba Lamrot. What is our is yours." Sahle smiled politely, but said nothing. They'd smoked more than just the one blunt earlier in the day, and he was still feeling the effects.

The people who met them were members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. They were a minority in this land. In a strange quirk of history, it was Evangelical Protestantism that dominated the south center of Ethiopia, particularly the insular Mennonite church, brought over by missionaries one hundred years earlier who radiated out from Sudan like the rays of a heretical sun. The Ethiopian Orthodoxy was the official church of the land, and though the reign of Iyasu had bitterly enforced religious freedom on the theocratic spirit of the country, the Orthodoxy did what it could to hold supremacy wherever it could.

They were brought to a beach on the edge of the lake where food was being prepared. Men lit bonfires like they would on Meskel, proclaiming the Imperial visit a festival. Honey wine flowed with the dinner. The Munchies set Sahle and Rudolph to eating, and eating a lot, while others mingled and danced to a traditional string and drum band.

Miyagi Yakuga took his camera to the beach and tried to take photographs of hippos despite the coming darkness. Bradford Carnahan got buzzed and tried to teach one of the flower girls how to dance the Charleston. When Sahle felt sated, he remembered Livy, and went to find her.

She was near the lake at the edge of the celebration, holding her arms to her chest as if she were cold, between the sound of music on one side and the chatter of roosting water birds on the other.

"You want to dance?" Sahle asked her, his voice soft.

She looked at him surprised, but followed his lead back to the glow of the fires. She danced properly, he moved like he was having fun. "Do you dance like this in America?" he asked.

"No." she said, "I like new things though."

"So do I. It would be fun to travel the world, like you. If I were not Emperor I would go with you and we could see the world together."

"Do you say that to all the girls?" she said, blushing.

"It would not make sense to say that to girls who are not traveling the world, and most of the girls I meet are not traveling the world."

She laughed, breaking the tension that had been building in her face. "You are an amusing man."

"So is that a yes?"

"A yes to what?"

"Do you want to get to know me more? Nobody will miss us if we go back to my room."

"Oh." she became tense again. "I don't know you that well yet."

Sahle wasn't sure how to respond. It had been a long time since he was rejected like that. "Oh. That is too bad." he said.

They danced awkwardly for a few minutes until Miyagi Yakuga approached them. He bowed stiffly to the Emperor, and then to Livy. "It would honor me if the lady would enjoy a dance." She looked at Sahle. Sahle nodded. They went away and Sahle spent the rest of the night dancing with one of the flower girls. Somebody had allowed her honey wine, and she was drunk for the first time in her life, dancing foolishly with her Emperor, a man she'd been taught to respect as second only to Christ himself.

Sahle felt hollow, having failed with Livy. Not defeated, no, not that. He'd try again. But his confidence wavered. That was something he wasn't used to. And though he went to his quarters with the young teenager and ended her virginity in the velour sheets of the nicest bed she'd ever seen in her life, he went to sleep still feeling that hollowness.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Shyri
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Berlin, Germany
May 26th, 1960


Berlin. A beautiful city, especially once you can see it from the air. None of the common folk would even be able to begin to comprehend the beauty that those in the upper echelons get to experience. It is truly a gift bestowed by God to those who stand tall, validating their right to rule.

As the loud hum of the Royal Zeppelin Fischadler filled the night air of Berlin, people stopped what they were doing to stare in awe. The Royal Family rarely brought out the Fischadler, usually traveling by car, or one of their smaller, faster aircraft. So actually seeing it was usually a public spectacle that the local police department would have to be warned about before hand so they could properly deal with the crowds that tried to follow the zeppelin.

Meanwhile, inside of the gargantuan dirigible, the hum had become background noise to the sound of children laughing, screaming, and playing. Birthday decorations lined the walls, replacing the usual flags and tapestry's that would be present any other occasion. In the back-center of the room, in his personal armchair, sat Kaiser Wilhelm, watching the children with a smile. Around him, either on couches or portable chairs, sat his wife, children, and their spouses.

To his left, his beautiful wife, Kira Kirillovna, a Russian Grand Duchess who spent most of her life before marrying Wilhelm in exile in France. She sat with a soft smile as she watched the children, occasionally leaning over and saying something to the Kaiser that would manage to make him smile, every time. It was her special power. Nobody else could make him smile like she could.

Beside her sat her younger children, Heinrich and Katrina. Heinrich is a pale, gangly boy with curly hair cut short, but not short enough to keep him from having little spiraled flyaways all over his head. Usually, he would wear a hat, but since it was just family, he went without one. The expression on his face was one of unease. He always hated flying, but couldn't refuse the night's party. His nephew would be disappointed if he didn't come. So, instead, he sat down on a couch, away from the windows, started biting his nails, and tried his hardest to focus on anything but where he was.

Katrina, on the other hand, is the perfect mix of her parents. With her mother's looks, her father's stern face, and a height to dwarf all in her family but her second-oldest brother, her heritage was clear. Her hair done up as it always is, a high ponytail, with bangs curving around the left side of her face, giving her the proper look for her line of work in the chemical branch of the Deutsch Verfahrenstechnik. She always says that they're just working on harmless solutions, but when she whisper's to her father, he get's a look on his face that he only get's when listening to military advisers.

Meanwhile, to the Kaiser's left sat the more awkward pair. His first and second oldest, Princes Wilhelm and Friederich Wilhelm. The former sat directly beside his father, black hair slicked back, pale skin, and dark eyes making him look sickly. To make it worse, he wore a slimming white naval uniform, as he was also there to speak to his father on official business, making him look like the spectre of Death has shown up to a children's party. Every once in a while, he would speak to his parents and siblings, but never to Friederich, who was essentially his polar opposite. Both the tallest and largest-built member of his family, Friederich was essentially the prime example of the Ideal German Man. Biceps that might well be larger than both of his brother's waists, a strong jaw, hidden away behind a large blonde beard, with a large, slightly curled mustache to match. His hair, too, was slicked back, but not in the same way as his older brother's. Where his brother's head looked like the carapace of a beetle, Friederich's was done quickly, leaving it fairly unruly. He, in comparison, wore the black outfit of the German Army. Whenever he spoke, it could be heard across the blimp, even over the playing children.

“Karl! Klaus! Come over here!” shouted Friederich, beckoning a pair of children over. As they came running, Friederich smiled, and leaned in to hug them both, as they came slamming into him, laughing. Upon letting go and giving them a look, he couldn't help but laugh at how much his twin boys looked like him. In comparison, all of his brother's children looked more like their mother.

'Yet the rat is the heir to the throne?' Friederich caught himself thinking all too often. The thought always made him a little bit sick. His brother preferred much more unscrupulous ways of going about his business. He would always choose a knife in the back over a fist to the face. 'The only thing he's fit to rule is a gang.'

“Papa!” shouted Karl, snapping Friederich out of it. “Can we take Franz and Wilhelm, and go see the engine room? Please?”

“Please?” echoed Klaus. “Oh, and Timo, too!”

“As long as your grandfather doesn't have a problem with it, I don't see why not.” Friederich said, looking towards his Father, who was getting up out of his chair.

“I can take them, so you just relax, Freddy. I want to stretch my legs, anyways.” said the Kaiser with a smile, making his way over to the children. “Come along, now! Let's go see how this titan works, shall we?”

As he watched his father walk away with the children, Freddy's view was blocked by his wife, Johanna, her green eyes and brown hair, and bright smile making him forget what he was doing.

“I just love the way your father interacts with the children, Freddy.” she said, giving him a look only she could. “Say, since they're away, why don't we walk out onto the observation deck? I love looking at the city at night.”

Without a word, Freddy rose to his feet, wrapped his arm around his wife, and walked out of the room.

“Johanna.” He said once they were on the observation deck. “Tell me. Do you really think my brother will be a good ruler? Every time I look at our children, I can't help but worry about their future with him in charge.”

“Oh, love.” She said, placing her hands upon his cheeks. “I don't think you need to worry. I'm sure that, when it comes time, Wilhelm will do what he needs to do. Remember. He will also have advisors to whisper in his ears, telling him exactly why he shouldn't act the way you're worried he will.”

“Yes, but...” interjected Freddy. “What if he get's snakes, who do nothing but encourage him? You know as well as I do that many Germans feel the same way he does. They think, oh, we can't go to war! But we are Germans! We still must earn our honor, our glory, our rightful place to rule!” Sighing, he looked out over the city nightscape. “I just worry he will make things worse for our country. I worry that he will cause another civil war, and we might end up like the Russians.”

Without words, Johanna approached Friederich, and embraced him from behind, as best she could, and just sat there with him for a good, long while, until they heard footsteps coming from behind them, and turned to see who it was.

“Mama! Papa!” he heard before he saw his sons running at him and his wife. “It was so cool down there! There were big things turning, and that was making other things go and...” Klaus rambled, making Friederich smile, but sending him back to his worries once more.

'If my brother doesn't improve, I will do whatever it takes to secure your future's, Karl, Klaus. I'll make sure you grow up in a Germany that is great. I'll make sure you grow up in a Germany you can be proud of.'
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Cloud Nine


10:34 PM

"I should have known from the very start, this girl would leave me with a broken heart.”

The little Italian man crooned into his microphone while the band accompaniment behind him played an up tempo number. They were all dressed in tuxedos, several of them with cigarettes hanging out of their mouth while they played and swayed to the music.

“So if you don’t want to cry like I do, keep away from runaround Sue.”

Mariano continued to sing while the rest of the Moonlights played the song that had made them household names twenty years ago. The crowd applauded when the song started. It was always the band’s big finishing number. From his vantage point backstage, Stein looked out at the crowd and mostly saw middle aged men and women watching with awe. It made sense. They were all smack dab in the middle of memory lane, Mariano and the Moonlights the soundtrack of their youth.

On paper, Stein was one of the band’s equipment managers. He’d traveled with them up to the ship and even helped them set up their amps and instruments for the two shows they were doing tonight. Stein had made sure he was the only one who touch the special amp that was among their equipment, the one with the false bottom. He’d taken what was in there out before they even started to set things up. The band knew to give him a wide berth; they also knew he wouldn’t be coming back with them on the ride down. It would have been too suspicious if three men like himself, Johnny, and the little doctor all showed up on Cloud Nine all at once, so they’d used the Trojan horse idea for Stein. Like a lot of entertainers, Mariano had some debt with the mob so he was in position to refuse when they demanded he slip Stein into his road crew.

From out in the dim lighting, Stein could see Prussian Joe sitting at a table at the center right. He had to suppress a smile when he saw the look on the man’s face. The guy was enamored with the band on stage. It made sense, Stein figured. Joe was the right age to have grown up with the band. He could get into it all he wanted, Stein guessed. The important part was that he was here. Johnny had said if he was at the band’s late show, then that meant the job was on.

The band finished its last number, getting a standing ovation from the crowd. The group bowed and exited off the stage, passing Stein without making eye contact. They knew the score. The less they saw of him, the less they’d have to lie if they were asked about him.
Stein followed behind the musicians, but veered to the left instead of going right to the backstage green room. The corridor led out to the exits of the theater. The little German was waiting for him. He passed Stein a stack of chips.

“Play on the floor,” he said softly. “We’re making our move at two.”

He cradled the chips in his big hands and nodded as Prussian Joe disappeared into the crowd exiting the theater.

---

Los Angeles


77th Street Station
3:22 AM


Chaos and disorder was the name of the game at the police station. Jeff Thomas was trying like hell to make sense of it. Everybody who was at the Voodoo had been brought in to the station via paddy wagon. Patrons and employees alike sat on long benches awaiting police interview. Even T-Bone and his band sat on the benches in their bright purple suits.

Jeff was in the middle of it along with the rest of the cops who worked nights at 77th Street. The night boss had called in dayshift detectives to help with the interviews. Hoyt was at the scene, working it with coroners. In the back of his mind, Jeff thought about the killing of Wendall Brock from a few weeks ago and how it had only rated a couple of uniforms and two detectives and nothing else. But a white woman gets murdered and it’s no stone left unturned.

“I already told you what I know,” the bartender said defiantly. Jeff knew him well enough to know the man didn’t like him. That put him in the same column as almost everyone at the Voodoo.

“I know,” said Jeff. “But I gotta put it down on the record. Just, give us time.”

He walked away as the bartender kept mumbling. Jeff headed towards his desk. He was the only detective at 77th Street Station who had a desk all to himself. The rest of the plainclothes shared their desks with one other detective who was always off duty when they were on.
Jeff knew exactly why his desk wasn’t shared. It was the one time he didn’t mind segregation.

Something on the desk caught his eye. There was a thick manila packet on the corner, resting on the top of his inbox. An LAPD logo had been stamped in the middle of the packet, a red slash cut diagonally across it meant it was an internal document not meant for distribution outside official police channels.

“Mack,” Jeff called to the nightwatch sergeant as he passed. “Did someone drop something off while I was gone?”

“Courier run from downtown,” Mack said in an annoyed tone. Mack was the type of nightwatch guy who liked working nights because they were quiet. The murder had thrown a monkey wrench into his plans and now he was actually having to work.

Jeff turned away from the package. Whatever it was, it could wait. He picked his notebook and pencil off the desk and found the bartender again, still looking perturbed.

“I don’t know why y’all interviewing me,” he said with a shake of his head. “It’s the whiteboy you need to talk to.”

“Hoyt?” asked Jeff.

“No, not your walking boss, Officer Tom. The mean looking one who stood out like a sore thumb, suh. The one who ain’t here, Officer Tom.”

Jeff ignored his insults. They were far from clever and he had heard much worse. Instead, he thought back to the nightclub just before it all went to hell. He had seen a white man by the bar, tall and with his face hidden by a hat. The bartender was right that he had been there. And he was right that he wasn’t at the station either.

Where the hell was he?

---


West Hollywood
3:51 AM


Elliot Shaw looked both ways before he popped the lock. This time of night, the foot traffic around Claire Beauchamp’s bungalow was non-existent. He pocketed his lockpicks and pulled on the leather gloves he wore to keep them tight before going into the apartment.

He knew he had to come here as soon as he saw that Beauchamp was dead. While the cops would be slowed by the procedure of forensics and confirming her identity, Elliot had no restraints. This wasn’t the first time he had to perform what Jeannie called sanitation. When western idol and gunslinger Phil McCoy died, Elliot made sure his house had been cleared of the bondage equipment and freaky porn before he pulled off the rope Phil accidentally strangled himself with while jerking it.

Elliot pulled out a penlight and flicked it on. The apartment was neat and orderly, everything in its place. It wasn’t what the home of an up and coming movie actress would look like. If not for the lack of cobwebs, it almost looked like nobody lived here at all. He stepped through the living room area into a hallway towards the bedroom. If there was any dirt to be had, it would be somewhere in that room.
He was on the lookout for drugs and porn, probably white on black stuff. He put odds that Claire Beauchamp’s killer was some spook that didn’t take kindly to being a white woman’s side thing. He knew the LAPD would at least try to spin it that way. A white woman is killed in darktown means a full-out assault of police resources. He knew that the cops would be an occupying force in South Central until the killer was found… or at least until one was fabricated to fit the narrative. The cops were a lot like the studios in that regard. The easier the storyline, the easier it was to sell it to the masses.

As far as Elliot’s job was concerned, as long as he got rid of the scandalous shit and made the press play down the jungle fever angle, the studio would have a boon of publicity. A young starlet killed in the prime of her life. It was another Hollywood heartbreak that would turn Claire Beauchamp from footnote to a silver screen legend.

Nothing under the bed, the obvious hiding place for dirt. Elliot swept out to the dresser beside the wall and went through the drawers. No pictures, but other shit. Worse shit. He found political tracts on the LAPD and the Pinkerton, a profile on some Chink commie, one glorifying the old west coast communes back during the war, one on the infamous Victor Hecht.

Elliot dropped the pamphlets like they were radioactive. Claire Beauchamp was a commie. That was so much worse than being a mudshark. The other way, Elliot could strongarm enough shines until her reputation as white girl persona non grata was established. But being a commie was different. It meant she was a radical, something dangerous even out on the partially radicalized west coast. The question the press would ask, and his bosses would certainly demand, was who else in Hollywood had she infected?

Pocketing the tracts, Elliot saw a sheet of paper at the bottom of the drawer with names and phone numbers on it. He pocketed that as well and did a final sweep of the house. When he was sure it was sanitized, he left the house and walked to his car parked at the end of the block. He got into his car just in time to see an unmarked police cruiser pull up to the bungalow.

He watched two uniformed officers set up a perimeter in front of the house before turning to the list in his pocket. A half dozen names in all, most of them just first names or monikers that were clearly nicknames.

“The good people,” Elliot said to himself, reading the heading on the paper.

Putting the list back, he started his car and headed home.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
May 27th. Hargeisa: The Capital of Al-Himyari Somalia
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Azima stood above the gate of an old stone fort. It was the monsoon season, and though it hadn't rained for several days, water flowed from the mountains through the shallow river cutting through town. The desert bloomed green, and a herd of antelope grazed peacefully on the boon. But out beyond them, coming from the distant mountains, she saw dust, and heard the high pitch whine of a familiar type of engine.

The Doofarka was a Somali invention, one of the few boons of Emir Hassan's obsession with military science. They were bare bones cars with tough frames, built light enough to skip over desert terrain, unburdened with armor except for that which protected the driver's feet. Two thick semi-circular bars arced from the front to the back, allowing the thing to role if it needed to. Five of these scrappy vehicles skipped into view now, machine gun turrets gleaming, driving the frightened antelope away in every direction. The Al-Himyari flag flew from each of them. Her father had arrived. She grabbed her quarterstaff and walked down the crumbling stairs to the dusty courtyard below. She wore her dress girded around her loins, bearing the legs beneath her knees, a circumstance that would be considered scandalous if she was another woman. A scarf worn dervish style hid her features.

Down in the dirt courtyard, a number of men in dervish uniform stood at attention. These men were new to the dervish, used to the macho chest pounding of the regular forces, and though they were smart enough not to laugh at the young woman standing shorter than her staff, none of them took her seriously. She stopped in front of them, staring them down like the good guy in an American western film facing the bandits in the street. Nothing happened. Somewhere outside the walls, the whining Doofarkas shut off.

The first man came. He ran at her with his staff in the way they always do, wielding it like a spear, fulling intending to to use his weight. She stepped aside, slid her staff down his before he'd realized what she'd done, and smashed his knuckles. This distracted him, and she struck him on the knees, then on his stomach, and brought him down.

"You do not underestimate your enemy." she screamed. Her voice was shrill against the wind, but she'd proven herself in front of them, making the sound of her voice irrelevant. "A peasant blusters and shows his strength, but the person who practices furusiyya knows that nobility and danger can come from any source." She offered the beaten soldier her hand. He refused it, got up, and awkwardly assumed a stance. He still held his stick like a spear, but less certain this time, trying to find something he'd seen in her but didn't understand.

He went again. When he swung at her, she deflected, always making sure the blows had somewhere to be. She wasn't stupid - if he managed to bring his weight into this, he'd have an advantage, so she kept the weight moving elsewhere, sliding away. She had two things he didn't; speed, and a minded trained for strategy in this type of fight. He swung too hard, left himself open, and she took him down a second time. His staff rolled into the dust.

"Do not rely on your arm strength. That is only one weapon in your arsenal. Use your entire being, all at once, head and heart and legs." She grabbed the man's staff and presented it to him. He took a moment, gripping it hard when he finally gave in, and walked back to the group.

Another man tried her. They sparred again, and she could tell this man had learned the lesson of his comrade's beating, as he was paying more attention. She still moved faster, but when she struck the man in the leg, he didn't go down. A hit to his shoulder caused him to falter, and she took the opportunity. Soon he was in the ground.

She saw her father enter the courtyard surrounded by a Dervish guard. He didn't announce his presence immediately. As if he wasn't there, she finished her lesson. "It is common to enter a challenge assuming you can know everything by simply thinking about the problem, but you cannot prepare with thought alone. You must do, and learn in the doing. This is true with all things in life. There are no experts, only men who are practicing to become better. I want you all to practice now, with each other, taking in all I have shown you."

"Emir Hassan Al-Himyari" one of her father's Dervishes announced, his voice ringing in the calm desert air. The men turned and saluted. They stayed at attebtuib while Hassan crossed the yard and met with his daughter.

"You are a tough teacher" he said to her. Before she could answer, he turned around and signaled the Dervish practitioners to be at ease.

"Would you want anything else for your Dervishes?" she asked. He was her father, and the only family she knew, but there was no warmth in their meeting. He smiled in his typical amiable way, but it was the same smile he used on merchants and soldiers.

"I have interesting news from Addis Ababa" Hassan said, "And something for you to do for me."

Those two sentences together intrigued her. She walked with him.

"The Emperor is selling a battleship to the Phillipines."

"Okay." she responded, "I don't know what that has to do with us. Or me."

"The Bahr Negus doesn't know about it." Her father said. They walked up onto the broken parapet.

"Oh." She stopped, putting a hand on a merlon. The antelope were grazing again.

"It sounds like you don't understand what this means." he said.

"I do, I know." she replied. He looked at her. She watched the desert below. "Politics is your world. I don't think about it as much as you."

"You will some day." he said coldly, "You are my heir."

She doubted she could be his heir. She'd been the focus of scandal and rumor for most of her life. Women were not supposed to be raised as men, such a thing implied the decadence that caused the west so much grief. Her life and everything she'd been allowed to do in spite of tradition she did because of her father. With him in power, she could be whispered about, but not opposed. After he was gone though...

"Hamere Noh Dagna is a difficult man" Hassan said, "But he doesn't know how to act around women. He won't play politics with you in the same way he would with me. He'll be hurt by the Emperor's decree. I think he'll be open to talks."

"About what?" Azima looked up at him.

"Politics isn't a single act. You'll have to learn about this if you are to replace me, or else you'll become like our Emperor. You make one move at a time. Maybe I know what I want Hamere for. Maybe I don't. But either way, the time to start earning his support is now, so when I need him, I have him."

"So you need me to go to Mogadishu then?" She asked.

"Mogadishu" he said, "And remember, keep your eyes about you. There is always something to learn in a city like that."
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Byrd Man
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1939

Denver

The deuce and a half rolled down the highway towards the city. A dozen men sat in the back of the truck’s cargo hold with rifles and helmets. Closest to the exit was First Sergeant Charlie Braddock. Braddock and his platoon were just a small part of the massive convoy heading into the city.

The 1st Montana, the Republic’s first and so far only army, had been called in to Denver to assist with the offensive to push federal forces out of the city. Back in the early days of the war, the western armies had swept through Colorado and into the Midwest before being slowly pushed back to the Rockies. All the republics and independent city-states from across the west were mustering manpower, a seven nation army, to help with that offensive. Word among the armies was that this offensive, if successful, could end their war. With the federals already bogged down with the south, a strong showing by the west might make the government call for peace so they could focus on one war at a time.

For Braddock and his men, it would be their first real taste of combat. They’d had some skirmishes up near the Canadian border, raiders from Saskatchewan trying to take advantage of the confusion and anarchy in the US. The pirates were driven back where they came from, more than a few bloodied and dead. But Charlie knew that hadn’t been real combat. Not like what they were getting ready for.

The truck suddenly came to a screeching halt. Braddock nearly fell off the bench seat, would have had he not caught himself at the last moment. The men talked among themselves while Braddock lifted the canvas tarp of the truck and looked out.

“Jesus Christ,” he said to himself.

Without talking to his men, he jumped out of the back of the truck. He found he wasn’t the only one. Other men were coming out of the trucks and on to the stalled traffic on the highway, the convoy stretched back miles and miles until you couldn’t see it. But none of them were looking at the roads.

They were looking at the sky.

Planes, so many that they caused the afternoon sky to turn into dusk as they flew overhead. Their engines were so loud that the men had to yell over the noise to be heard. They were thousands of feet in the air, but Braddock could easily tell that they were the big bodied bombers on a run. Some of the soldiers on the ground opened fire with their rifles, but most were too stunned by what they were seeing to respond.

Braddock turned around at the sound of the booms. The armada in the air began to drop their bombs on the city of Denver. The men of the 1st Montana could just look on in horror at the destruction before them, the explosions that came one after another so quickly that it sounded like the roll of a snare drum, the flames leaping up hundreds of feet into the air.

The sound of a closer plane drew Braddock away from the carnage. A fighter plane buzzed low over the convoy and strafed the area with its machine gun. Braddock hit the deck. Dirt and grass exploded around him as bullets whizzed by. He heard a few men nearby scream and fall to the ground. After the plane had passed by, he stood on shaking legs and turned back to Denver.

He saw that the entire city was engulfed in flames. Braddock could feel tears stinging his eyes from both the intense heat and the emotion of it all. Even from this far away, he could hear the screams and smell the burning of flesh.

Montana
Now


Chinook
9:18 PM


Vic Klein was used to contemptible looks. He’d grown up in a rough neighborhood in Minneapolis, too short and too skinny for his own good. A tough upbringing had turned him into a kid who could take a few licks, and give more than a few out himself. That childhood, plus a career in the Minneapolis PD, made Vic impervious to hard stares and cold looks.

The look he was getting from Bob Dixon was certainly one of the coldest and hardest he’d ever received. The two men sat at Vic’s desk at the courthouse. Sheriff Braddock and Jason Crowder were in the basement, the sheriff booking the man for assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder.

“What kind of name is Klein?” Dixon asked with contempt. “Certainly not a Montana name.”

“I’m from Minnesota,” Vic said nonchalantly.

He knew what Dixon was getting at, but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. The question was one he'd heard all his life, even in Minnesota. It was how people called him a Jew without calling him a Jew.

“My wife is from Chinook. We moved here a few years ago.”

Vic shifted and rubbed the back of his neck. He purposefully pulled at the Star of David necklace he always wore so Dixon could get a good look at it. Antisemitism was nothing new to Vic. He’d been called jewboy by people as long as he could remember.

“Now, Mr. Dixon,” he started back at his typewriter. “Let’s get this statement out.”

“I don’t want to give a statement,” hissed Dixon. “I want to get my employee back to Jordan’s Crossing. Our production at that site hinges upon him. Mr. Crowder is a very important petroleum engineer for Dixon Oil."

“He’s also drunker than a skunk,” Charlie Braddock said as he stepped into the office. He breezed through the office in that cool, confident way Vic was always envious of. Nobody made an entrance like the sheriff. “And he’s under arrest, charged with multiple felonies.”
Sheriff Braddock sat at his desk and propped his boots up on it.

“What if the man he stabbed declines to press charges?” Dixon asked.

“We’ll ask him,” replied Braddock. “Just as soon as he wakes up from that coma. I don’t know about you, Mr. Dixon, but if I was put in a coma I would be awfully keen on pressing charges against the guy that done the comatosing.”

“Dixon Oil is an international company, sheriff, it spans over four continents. Jason Crowder is a big part of that international machinery. If he’s in jail, then my company is losing millions of dollars.”

Braddock leveled his gaze at Dixon and regarded him coolly.

“I guess Mr. Crowder should have thought about that before he stabbed a man near to death. Judge Howard will arraign him tomorrow, set his bail. But for now, Mr. Dixon, he is staying downstairs.”

Dixon stood in frustration. Vic stood, one hand on his gun, as Dixon walked to Braddock’s desk and slammed his first against the surface, just inches away from the sheriff’s boots.

“You’re making a big mistake, Braddock.”

The sheriff stood. Up close, he was a few inches taller than Dixon and he made sure Dixon was aware of the difference in height.

“I’ll have to ask you to leave, Mr. Dixon, before you end up in the holding cell with Crowder.”

Dixon took a step back. He looked the sheriff up and down. Vic saw the man’s face shift, his anger evaporating into something else. Whatever it was on his face, Vic was certain he didn’t like it at all.

“You’re about the right age, sheriff,” he said too calmly. “Did you serve in the war?”

“12th Infantry Division, 1st Montana,” Braddock said without hesitation.

“I was in the air corps,” Dixon said with a smirk. “I served my country with honor. How about you?”

“I was proud to serve Montana. We didn’t have a tinpot dictator like Dugout Doug in Montana.”

Dixon nodded and started towards the door. He stopped short and turned back to look at the sheriff.

“You know, I flew bombers for the air corps. 1st Montana, they were in Denver, right?” He continued on, not letting the sheriff answer.

“Well so was I. I was above Denver, sheriff. Fought in that battle.”

“That wasn’t a battle,” Braddock whispered. “It was a goddamn slaughter.”

"Just remember who won the war, and who lost it, sheriff. The people of Blaine County like a man who betrayed his country?"

"They like a man who stayed true to his country, even when his government was being true to them. It's why they elected me, and they keep on electing me."

"We'll see about that."

Dixon winked and left the office without another word.

--

Los Angeles

Downtown
7:55 PM


An usher led Jessica Hyatt to her seat. She was among the last people to be seated in the theater. Almost every seat in the small venue had been filled by men and women in their finest formal wear. Jessica’s bright red dress made her stand out, more than a few heads turned as she walked down the aisle. The color of the dress was done on purpose, to stand out and to show her true red colors to the group assembled. She recognized more than a few faces in the crowd. The performance promised to be a who’s who in LA’s elite leftist society, and Jess was at least a nominal member of that coterie.

Her seat ended up being just three rows away from the stage, halfway down the twenty seat row. It was perfect seating, a prime spot to conduct her performance. She knew Parker was somewhere in the auditorium, watching her while his agents watched and recorded the people who came and went. If the Pinkertons were here, then the LAPD Red Squad had to be here as well.

Jessica saw a small entourage being led to a seat at the front row. Two men flanked a woman on either side. The two men were tall and handsome, one of them she recognized from films but did not know his name. The woman wore a plum gown and her light brown hair was cut short above the ears. The woman turned and looked out at the crowd.

She was beautiful, but not conventionally so. Her nose was too short and there seemed to be old acne scars on her cheeks. But it was how she broadcast herself to the world that made her beautiful. A clam elegance and grace, a playful smile on her lips at all times. It was a look of confidence. After a look at the audience, she settled in to a seat between the two men just as the lights flickered in warning of the coming show.

At exactly fifteen minutes past eight, the lights dimmed and the curtain opened. Harvey Edwards hobbled out to thunderous applause. He wore a simple brown suit and red tie, a matching pork pie hat on his head. His iconic sunglasses hid the eyes that had been rendered useless by bomb shrapnel. Everyone in the room, and all over the world for that matter, knew the story of the old bluesman who had been collateral damage during the war and used that to write songs decrying the unjust policies of the southern states. But after the war, he'd turned his focus to the US and how they continued to uphold Jim Crow and silenced critics. For his troubles, he had been given the choice of jail or exile. He was only here after years of negotiating between the US and Chinese governments.

The old man gave a slight bow to the crowd before walking to the stool where a guitar case rested on it. A lifetime of performance gave him the muscle memory to nimbly place the case at his feet and open it. Out came a simple acoustic guitar. The crowd cheered again when they saw the words ‘This Machine Kills Dictators’ scribbled on the body of the guitar. He flexed his hands, the long fingers with their calluses working the frets up and down.

The room went still and quiet as Edwards began to strum. When he sung, a raspy voice that came from a lifetime of smoking, oozed from his mouth and circulated through the auditorium without the help of amplification.

“I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me. Says I ‘but Joe, you’re ten years dead.’ ‘I never died,’ says he. ‘I never died,’ says he.”

Respectful applause followed the break of the first verse as Edwards went into the song. From her seat, Jessica had an odd thought that almost made her laugh. She held it up until the second half of the song.

“’Joe Hill ain’t dead,’ he says to me. ‘Joe Hill ain’t never died. Where working men go out on strike, Joe Hill is as their side. Joe Hill is at their side.’”

Jessica couldn’t contain herself and had to let loose a burst of giggles. The entire situation was so… bizarre. She was among a group of privileged people who had paid hundreds of dollars for tickets to a show where an exiled negro sang songs that extolled the virtues of the working class. Never mind that all of men and women surrounding her had never had to work and to strike and to suffer for their beliefs, like Joe Hill or even Harvey Edwards. They were armchair warriors trying to buy their bona fides. The absurdity of it all made her cackle with glee.

After a couple of dirty looks, the people around her began to shush her. She had to move now before she lost her composure all together and couldn’t get her speech out. With laughter still in her voice, she stood and shouted loud enough to make Harvey Edwards stop playing.

“The United States is a nation of oppressors, and the oppressed. While we sit here and pat ourselves on the back for our beliefs, negroes in the south are being lynched , the LAPD continues its anti-negro containment policies that is just thinly veiled racial genocide, our civil liberties are raped by the Pinkertons, we must take action. It is not enough to have progressive beliefs, we must also--“

That’s as far as she got before a chorus of boos began to drown her out. Part of it was because she was challenging them, throwing the injustice in the world back in their faces and that no matter how many concerts they went to, it wouldn’t change. But she figured most of them were booing because she was interrupting the show they had paid good money for.

Two ushers came into the aisle and passed by the people sitting beside her to take her out. She resisted until one of the ushers picked her up and drug her away, to the sound of applause and cheers. As she thrashed, she saw the woman in the plum grown watching her with a playful look on her face. They briefly made eye contact briefly, but long enough for the woman to smile at her and nod.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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Emir Hassan Al-Himyari's Journal
(Kept in Arabic)


May 31st - Left Hargeisa at 8:35 AM and arrived in Djibouti at 1:26 PM. I should have arrived an hour earlier, but my Doofarka flipped and I had to put it right side up. Djibouti is a stinking place. It smells like Khat and gasoline. I parked at the airport and spent some time before I found a man who could fly me into the desert. He is a helicopter pilot. I have no clue where his machine is made, but it is as rickety as the Doofarka I left in the dust near the runway. The impression I had of taking off from Djibouti in that thing must be the same impression a snake has when it is lifted by an eagle. Worse perhaps, because the snake is at least confident the eagle knows how to fly.

We stopped at Assab, landing near a pathetic airstrip where my pilot bartered for gas. Assab smells like neither gasoline nor khat, because it is a town that doesn't have nearly enough of either, or of anything else. I purchased a salted fish and ate it plain. It wasn't good, and was very thirsty. Though we are near the sea, water cost nearly as much as gasoline here.

The land between Assab and my destination is a vision of hell. I have lived in the desert all of my life, but the volcanic wasteland that is the northern Danakil is an habitat for only the most tortured kind of life, creating a world that is more comparable to the moon than it is my native Somalia. This is the homeland of the Afar people, who somehow manage to force a living out of the pumice. They live like Bedouins, but more savage, most caring for goats in the rare oases or mining salt near the salt lakes and hot springs that scatter the landscape. Half way there, we flew over Nabro: a dormant volcano, or rather two volcanoes, that rise above the wastes in a way that impresses the soul. It became dark before we arrived, and I watched the sun return to greener pastures. My pilot insisted he didn't have the equipment to find his way at night, so we landed on a sand dune, and he pulled out a blanket, sleeping in the sand. I remained in the helicopter and forced a night's sleep in the bucket seat. The sand was surely better for him, but I would not risk being left to die in this place, or to be cornered by some sun-stroked Afari shepherd and accused of being a demon so he can relieve me of my testicles and wear them around his neck as it is whispered these people do.

June 1st - I awoke at sunrise to the sound of chopper blades. We were shimmying into the sky. My pilot reached in back and handed me a piece of dried fish, making it the second time in a row I resorted to such a meager meal. I dreaded to know what my host would have for me when I arrived.

It was two hours before we saw the shimmering sight of Lake Afrera. It is the largest body of water we'd seen since leaving the Red Sea behind at Assab. As we got closer, I saw another dormant volcano on the east shore of the lake, and around the rim of that volcano I saw the buildings that are my destination. Why the Doctor chose this place is beyond my reckoning.

We landed in a sort of permanent camp. Afrera is a salt lake, and a significant amount of the world's rock salt comes from here. Afari work in these mines part of the year as an extra source of income. For some deprived souls, a place like this is the closest they get to tasting modern civilization. What they earn they trade for extra amenities to use in their depressing nomadic lives.

Once I was dropped off, my first shock was discovering that nobody was willing to take me to the other side of the lake, and to the dead volcano that is my destination. The people here fear the Doctor. I have heard stories about how unsettling his business is, but the superstitious natives speak of him as if he were a demon. What is worse is that coin money does not sway the desert dweller the same way it sways a modern man. I nearly had to threaten a man with death before he reluctantly offered a ride on his camel.

The miners collect the salt from the shore of the lake, where rising water has deposited it over millions of years of rare rainfalls. The heat in this place is intense, and the work is hot; I suspect that the men here do not fear hellfire, because they already know the experience.

We passed the minefields and started to climb the slowly ascending volcanic rise. My companion warned me to have my gun out. There are ghosts living among these rocks he said. They find corpses of strangers here all the time, their bodies mangled and their eyes soulless. I find myself liking the Doctor already; he has the good taste of choosing a haunted mine for his home.

We reached a road. My companion stopped. "I will not go further, even if you shoot me." he said, "For if I die here, Allah will know me. But if I die up there, I will live forever among the ghosts." He pulled out a gun, and for a moment I expected trouble, but when he aimed it in the air and pulled the trigger, I realized it was a flair gun. A speck of black dust came climbing down the imposing volcano. It came closer, and I understood it was a vehicle. When it arrived, I thought my companion was going to shit his pants, but I was delighted to see it was a Doofarka; Somalia's pet project had a home outside our borders. The man who got out of the vehicle inspired no fear in me.

He was a dark skinned man, not of the Afro-Asiatic peoples of Somalia and Ethiopia. His hair was messy and wild, both beard and afro like that of a mountain shifta, but he wore an outdated suit like some sort of Victorian English gentleman. He also had gloves and a cane. All of this he took with him down the mountain even though he was the driver, and it'd all been soiled by a thin layer of volcanic soot.

"You are late." he said.

"Ah... ah... all I had was camels." my companion replied, clutching a charm of some kind. The stranger ignored him, staring instead into my eyes.

"It's not easy to get here." I said.

The stranger smiled. "Enchanting, isn't it?" he said, "Isolation secures liberty. Come now, lets leave this pusillanimous provincial alone." he tapped his cane twice against the packed dust road, creating a small grey cloud. I shrugged and climbed into the back seat of the familiar vehicle. The Camel driver didn't wait for confirmation before he grabbed the reigns of the beast I rode in on and rushed back to his sad salty life.

"You are the Emir I presume." the stranger said.

"I am." I replied, speaking loudly over the rush of the wind. The stranger put his cane next to the shift knob, and I was amazed that he never confused the two. His hands seemed to operate as if they had eyes of their own, as he never took his real eyes off the road.

"I was informed of your visit by colleagues in the Shotel. Do you know of my work with that organization?"

"Your work?" I was surprised to hear the driver speaking of his work. "Are you the Doctor?"

"Doctor Babukar Sisi." he said, "Yes. I desired to make your acquaintance before any of my pupils. It seemed more sensible that way."

"Good to meet you, Doctor Sisi. I don't know of your work, except that it has to do with the brain, and that you are something of a mental wizard, always willing to take on new projects no matter how dirty they are. I was wondering if you had any understanding of military science and the art of soldiering? My Shotel contacts seemed to imply you would."

"Supersoldiers?" Sisi asked rhetorically, "Did you know that ancient Germans ingested the fungus Amanita muscaria before battle, transforming them from pig farmers into the mythical berserker? The supersoldier has been a psychological experiment since the first eon."

"That's a yes then?" Before he had time to respond, I saw an ashen grey face pop up above a rock in front of us and disappear. "Did you see that?" I asked. My hackles were raised, and my hand went to the grip of my firearm. "That face?"

"I don't mind them and they cower from me. Do not worry. This is not a dangerous place for us."

More faces popped, flanking us. What were these broken things? Were they ghosts like the Afari seemed to believe? Or was there something else going on? I observed that many were bald-headed, or grew hair in scrappy uneven ways. Were they sick? I kept my fingers on my gun just in case. We reached the rim, where a long three story building made from cheap wood sat on the edge. A helicopter was parked in front. We stopped and went for the door. Before we went in, he grabbed into a box sitting outside and brought out several hunks of flesh. He flung them, but the faces stayed still.

"I chose this locality because of the hot springs." Dr Sisi explained. "They have curative properties. Come, let these ones eat, we'll converse inside so they are not unnerved by our presence."

-------------------------------------------
June 1st: Kampala, Red Africa
-------------------------------------------

A lonely policeman sat in a booth at the edge of town. The police booths were an idea taken from Iyasu's reforms for Addis Ababa, a method of strategically dispersing officers in places where neither traffic nor proper roads facilitated response times. A bicycle leaned against the flimsy plywood structure. Inside the booth, aside from the officer himself, was extra ammunition, an old British era map of Kampala, and a flashlight. The officer smoked a cheap cigarette and played with his lighter, looking through the little flame at the night sky beyond.

On. Off. Fire. Extinguished. He did this over and over until the moment that, upon extinguishing the flame, he saw a couple enter town on horseback. It was midnight. The woman wore a neat green dress, the man had on fatigues. It was hard to see what they were doing in the dark. The man rode on back, the woman had the reigns. He seemed to be handling something. The officer thought he should ask, but gave them a moment, trying to figure out exactly what this couple was doing. It wasn't until the man threw something at the booth that the officer went for his gun. It was too late. The booth exploded, taking the officer with it, and the Ugandan countryside was once again disturbed.

(Optional Action Time Music)

More horsemen came out of the surrounding forests, two a horse, lit match cases dangling from their necks and bags of dynamite on their backs. They trotted through the suburbs, lighting dynamite sticks by pressing the fuse into their case. They each took their own street, surprising those officers who were awake, flashes of fire and roaring explosions taking up the night. Public buildings were their targets.

Booths went up. Government stalls went up. Cars went up. The city sounded like a warzone. Brave men and women looked out, but most hid. War wasn't new here. They had developed the instincts.

When one horseman saw another, they tried to break away, taking different streets and covering as much as they could. This way dispersed them far across the sprawling suburbs. They took out anything that looked like a government office. Flame followed them.

The quiet was completely dissipated. There was screaming, roaring fire, the explosions, and the dread sound of horses.

Cops came on their bikes and motorcycles. The man and the woman saw an officer come behind them on a small stuttering motorbike, and when he pulled out a gun, the man lit and threw a stick of dynamite. The street exploded, putting a wall of flame between them. Bullets rang out blindly.

They galloped now. Somewhere, a heavy machine gun rattled, sounding big enough that they assumed it was on the back of a truck. The Communists had been surprised, but they were hitting back. He threw a stick at a transformer. The explosion made lights flicker. "We need to loop out." he said. The suburbs twisted like a labyrinth and threw off her internal compass, but she looked at the stars and quickly regained her bearing.

She came to the dread realization that the heavy gunfire was on a road that was going to merge into hers. He did too. She spurred the horse as he grabbed several sticks. A diesel engine thrummed closer to them. Alleys were connecting them now. The gunner noticed them, and in between buildings he sent a burst of fire. He lit two fuses. They crackled forebodingly. When the roads merged, he threw the sticks. One exploded in the air, the other in front of the truck. It wasn't destroyed, but it was disabled, and the couple got away untouched.

The raid was winding to an end, the sound of explosions down from a constant roar to an occasional pop. The suburbs of Kampala glowed orange behind them, lit by fire, blotting out the stars and giving the rising smoke a salmon colored glow. Guns were going off somewhere, and truck engines labored in several parts of the city, but the countryside was calm, like nothing ever happened. They rode into the sleepy forest canopied with the fronds of jungle foliage. Rich red mud struck their legs and the side of the horse.

He kissed her on the mouth, just a quick peck. They heard each other's hearts beating fierce with adrenaline. "I love you, Grace Odinga" he said in a deep, quiet voice.

"I love you, Marcel Hondo-Demissie." she replied, smiling, the taste of him still on her tongue.

More horsemen trickled into the woods, one after another. All that went into town didn't return, but that didn't mean they were gone for good, and the dynamite cavalry rode home hoping to be greeted by their missing comrades when they got back.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Letter Bee
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Iron Lady, Part Eight, The Golden Lady, Part Two, Midterm Madness, End (For Now)

It was rare that Priscilla set foot in Makati, one of the remaining bourgeois places in Manila and the centre of the state capitalist financial institutions which bound the syndicates and communes of the country together. Here was where the Bangko Sentral had its headquarters; Priscilla had deduced that the Bank and Aurelia had been exchanging money in ways that were not illegal, but clearly biased and partial. And it was in said Headquarters, Aurelia's territory, that she would meet with the woman herself to congratulate her on her victory in the Mid-terms; Aurelia was now a Congresswoman for the Ilocos Region, and more able to deal with Priscilla as a fellow member of the Government.

I feel like I am heading to the lair of a beast, the Lady President thought as she and her bodyguards went inside the bank building, a 'chic' 1920s' Art Deco building built two decades after the actual 1920s as a show of strength by the property's owners.

The doors were opened to let her through; guards searched them for weapons but in as respectful a way as possible. Then, they were led to the second floor, where a comparatively luxurious cafeteria cooled by an American-model air conditioner; Priscilla couldn't help but turn up her nose at that, scandalized at the extravagance. Thankfully, she noticed herself just in time to put a smile in her face as Aurelia, clad in silks and pineapple fibre and dyed cotton, entered the managers' cafeteria, bodyguards in tow.

The two sat down on each side of a table that had a rather nice view of Makati; even Priscilla was impressed by the vista. As waiters set down milk for Priscilla and wine for Aurelia, as well as rice cakes, beef ribs, and rice itself, the newly-minted Opposition Leader said, "Greetings, Lady President."

Priscilla smiled in unease, "Greetings, Congresswoman Dizon." She then pursed her lips. "Congratulations on your victory; I never anticipated that the public would need electric lighting."

Aurelia smiled with exaggerated indulgence. "My dear, don't beat yourself up; we may hold different beliefs, but we both know this: The people are the source of power, for they are made in the image of God. We just deal with that fact in different ways." A pause, and she continued, "And I have a plan to keep the people's mandate; to give them what they asked me to give. And I will look good doing it, too." A chuckle as she used a fork and knife to eat while Priscilla used a fork and spoon. "You came here to hear my plan, right?"

Priscilla's nervousness faded as she found herself in the political battlefield once again, and she said, "Yes. I presume it involves 'Special Economic Zones'?"

A nod from Aurelia. "Your instincts are more impressive than your fashion sense." A glare from Irene and the other bodyguards as she said that. "Yes, I do plan to propose a bill for Special Economic Zones where regulations and restrictions on business are less enforced than on other portions of the country. Tax breaks, lower tarriffs and customs duties, allowing syndicates and middlemen to keep a larger portion of the profits, the works. However, all of this is to be balanced out by the redistributive mechanisms you so love; labor laws, a minimum wage and universal basic income, and of course, voluntary and 'voluntary' contributions to the funds earmarked for the minimum wage." A smirk. "Because even with those, we'd gain more than we lose."

Priscilla smiled thinly as she sipped her milk. "You regain your image as paternal...guides over the people."

Aurelia nodded again. "You say you value equality and fairness, and I see you regard it as a scandal that those who work the hardest taste the fruits of their labor the least. I see where you are coming from. But the mercantile spirit is more than just 'sociopathy, monopoly, oppression and cronyism'. The mercantile spirit has also produced entrepreneurship, innovation, exploration of new frontiers, and the overcoming of challenges. Ambition is needed for true progress; that is my belief."

"And it was ambition that led you to be the first to swear allegiance to my father, husband, and me when we led the charge for Independence." Priscilla's face hardened. "But whatever good came of the capitalist system came at too high a price."

Aurelia smiled faintly. "Then let's make a synthesis, a Hegelian synthesis; combine our systems together to create a greater whole..."
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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China

Beijing


It would be understandable to visit Beijing and not pass the Central Military Committee's central command in the commute. By effort it was tucked outside of view. Easily considered outside of Beijing proper in the rugged hills north-west of Beijing. Here on the forested bluffs, with the odd farm field distantly visible in the faint blue haze beyond competing ridges, visible only from the top-most floors an unremarkable brutal building stood as a haunting axis by which many of the nation's military concerns turned.

Shaped like a bone, the offices occupied a long central paved space inter-spaced with islands of grass and trees as further on the rim barracks and outer service structures hid within dense cedar stands, erect and tall like spears driven into the earth. Even more distantly the sounds of military drilling was muted by soft bird song as rifle fire popped in the still forest air.

Within his office, Lou Shan Yuang turned with a steely look out the window in time to catch the gleam of a black sedan passing through the trees, the spring-time sun glinting off the black gloss. He stood with his arms crossed behind his back, and took a deep breath. He was uncompassionately cold, as he was towards many political affairs. To have to speak directly to a foreign agent he believed below his time, and he wished that he could easily pass it off on his Political Affairs sub-commander and be done with it. The conduct and decision making towards war, as it applied to convincing congress was his job, not Shan Yuang's. But with a weighty grumble at the back of his throat the car pulling up there had much to do with the confirmation to his circumstance.

He stepped away from the window and scanned his office. Three other officers were present with him, obliged to acting relaxed in the presence of their superior. As he turned to look over them they felt his gaze and looked up questioningly for their orders to come. “Do we have the materials for note-taking?” the commander asked.

“I can only guess so, comrade.” the shorter of the officers said, “Seeing as how the Lieutenant hasn't raced back to say he can't find anything I would say it's all in order.”

“You think so, Huan Yu?” Shan Yuang asked.

“I am confident.” the officer replied with a bow.

“Double checking: what was Politburo's orders over this affair?”

An older officer, a man who would have been a powerful section commander in the revolution but whose physical decline and attachment to the service prevented him from retiring from him responded in a dry wandering voice, “Comrade Tsai Tang wishes that this takes its course.” the order made Shan Yuang's gut tremble bitterly, “Politburo wants to know as much as Zhang Shu will be left to know, if not more.”

“I don't believe I heard that condition.” the commander remarked.

“It's Shu Wang's, if it means anything.”

“I suppose we're allowed to edit the official report?”

“No, that's not his style. He wants what we would feed Congress as irrelevant. Behavioral information, from our Russian or any he might let slip about any other personalities.”

“Understood.” the commander acknowledged, turning now from the men to a large ring table at the far-side. Here was the table normal command conferences were had. Regularly it would be cluttered with the paraphernalia of the military's branch commanders and Committee sub-commanders, left behind according to their own tastes. Normally, a wall divided it from Shan Yuang's normal office, but as he had sent for a large map of Russia; if the center had one at all, he had moved the wall, it was now strapped against the interior wall strapped open by velvet rope. This he hoped would give them all a large enough, unencumbered view of whatever size chart they had for Dymtro Radek to brief them on what he knew. Preliminary dossier information from The Bureau indicated he knew much but had never been pressed before, since the political climate didn't dub it urgent.

As an after thought Shan Yuang turned to the third unaddressed officer in the room. Unlike the others he wore a long black coat the trailed down to just above his ankles. He was clean all over, his face bearing no sign of stubble or scar, the long black coat pressed and ironed to the point the seams were sharp. For someone ostensibly ranks below the older officers in the room he carried himself almost as an equal. And once more, his hair was combed so tight back across his head it seemed to lift his face, giving him an eerie skeleton expression. “Out of curiosity, does Dymytro Radek like anything?” Shan Yuang asked.

“Ahh-” the black-coated officer started, turning his eyes up at the ceiling, “Tea, cakes, vodka.”

“Right, I'll make an order to bring some up. We could be in for a while.”

“Understood.”

“I haven't had lunch, I hope you wouldn't mind if the lieutenant brought up dumplings from the commissary for a light meal.” the older officer requested with the voice of a soft wind.

“Huan Yu, you want anything if we're calling up a round of dim sum?”

“Chicken's feet would be OK by me.” Yu replied matter of factually, “Some black tea as well.”

“And you?” Shan Yuang asked, turning to the Bureau agent.

“I'll just have some plain water. I ate before coming in.”

Shan Yuang nodded, and sighing apathetically motioned for everyone to claim a seat, “He'll be here any moment now. Let's not look like Congress now.”

One by one they picked out their seats, minutes later the office doors were opened and in stepped the Russian Radek, in all his priestly manner and his two closest men. One was a broad shouldered man, who surprised the military policeman escorting them when he broke rank and walked ahead to meet Huang Shan Yuang directly with an outstretched hand. The commander looked at the opened hand baffled, and realizing one of his mistakes the poor soul shook his head and withdrew it, bowing low instead. “Is sorry, I forget.”

“He normally watches these things.” Dymtro Radek explained politely, while his Chinese was far better than his obstinate companion's, it was thick with an accent.

“I understand.” Huang Shan Yuang said, recalling his initially experience with foreign brigade commanders, “It's been a long while since I have had to shake hands.” he held out a hand though to gesture at the open seats along the round table. “We have plenty of space, do take a seat. And introduce your companions.”

Dimytro Radek smiled, and directed himself and his two companions to the table. “I have with me Nestor Yanikovich” pointing to a smaller man with a wild waxed mustache to his left, “And Nikolov Nitski.” he directed their attention to the bear. “They are my closest confidants and loyalist of followers. You might say they're the Politburo of the organization.” he said with a political smile.

“To confirm for the records, if I understand this right we are meeting here today to discuss potential future operations in the Russian Far-East, as one congressman Zhang Shu is putting together.” he paused briefly to turn to Huan Yu who was already busily scribbling down a transcript of the proceedings here and taking minutes.

“That is my understanding.” Radek confirmed, “That at the least and moving ahead that the two of us would have achieved a strategic consensus in Russia, and hopefully find our first goals.”

“First goals, so I take it you already know this will carry on?”

“I did not fight and loose as a liberator for my people just to come out of it more retard than I was headed into it.” Radek explained dismissively, “I may not be a military scholar, but Russia is a rack that can stretch out the most well equipped enemy. You and I will agree we will need to approach our enemies carefully, I understand?”

“Much understood.” said Shan Yuang. “But one of the first things I want to know is if before beginning operations there are any localized assets that might be of use to us. Surely, not all of you are in China.”

“You would be correct in saying so.” Radek confirmed, “Only the core of my movement managed to escape. We do maintain clandestine communications with various underground or rural cells we are sure are safe and who are willing to pick up arms once again if we finally get the strong hammer we need to smite our enemy.”

“Where are they located, can you say? Do you have a list?” Shan Yuang probbed.

“Yes, we do. Do any of you at this table here speak any Russian?”

“I speak a little.” the elderly officer said, “I served in Manchuria in the revolution. Almost personally I had to coordinate with Russian units and men. I will not say I am perfect, but I can communicate.”

Radek's expression lifted and he smiled, “Nikolai can speak with you in that case then.” he directed, before turning to speaking in Russian to the large hulk of a man. He nodded, and rose from his seat and walked gracefully to the older man's side and pulled out a dossier from inside his coat and went over it with him.

“What does he do?” Shan Yuang asked, pointing to Nikolai.

“He's like a secretary of sorts.” Radek explained, “He can cut fire wood like a machine and keep the correspondences clean and presentable. I leave him in charge of that kind of work. I do not imagine he'd ever fail in keeping track of the where abouts of one of the committee presidents still in Russia.”

Shan Yuang nodded – acknowledging - and moved on, “As a general statement then where are most of them?”

“Largely around Irtusk, Krasnoyarsk. Much of the population of this part of the country lives along the Trans-Siberian rail road. We had contact with with the groups in Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, but since the Japanese invasion of the eastern coast and occupation communications with them has been difficult to establish and maintain. Eventually the runners stopped coming and we can only fear for the worst. From time to time we hear stories about slavery of our people, and if they are not all dead then they certainly toil over whatever it might be the Japanese put them too.”

“That is not unfamiliar.” Shan Yuang remarked. At that moment the door opened and a young lieutenant along with a female junior cadet pushed into the room a large map of the entirety of Russia on a large board. They panted heavily as they moved it into the middle of the room and looked at the men, straightening up immediately.

“Strike this conversation from the notes.” Shan Yuang advised as he rose, “Did we have trouble?” he asked the two.

They nodded quickly, “We had to carry it before reaching the elevator. It was in the basement.”

“Fine, if you cold bring it forward. We need to see it.”

The two carried out the request, and wheeled it towards them. As it stopped they went to attention and Shan Yuang presented them with an order for food. Out of respect he consulted with Radek for what he wanted. He answered he wanted tea and bread and his two partners said they'd have the same. The junior officers left the room.

“Tzu Ju-Long, are you finished going over that list?” Shan Yuang asked, speaking to the older commander.

“I believe so.” he said.

“I have a box of thumb tacks.” Shan Yuang said, leaning back to rummage in a narrow drawer. He found a small paper box and breathed a sigh of relief to see it was full, “Could you mark them on the map for us?”

“Certainly.” Tzu said, bowing as he rose. He walked around the table, picking the box up as he made his way to the map.

“If you could use the blue ones, please.” Huang Shan Yuang urged.

“Excuse me?”

“The blue.”

“Oh, yes. Thank you.” the old officer said, opening the box and methodically placing pins across the map, starting from the Amur and slowly working his way west, taking sparing glances down at the register in his hands. The pace was slow, having to hunt and find the small printed names on the old paper atlas map. As he went, Ju-Long prattled off the names of the communities, “Blagoveshchensk, Tynda, Irkutsk...”

He rambled on the names for some time, speaking as slow as he could fish out a tack, find the location on the map, and pin it. But over the corresponding five minutes a clear pattern, a zone was emerging spanning east to west along a vague path, from Japanese-held Russia to almost the Urals, sprinkled along the southern side of Siberia. There had to be no less than eighty, no more than hundred-twenty marked towns and villages.

“They call them... er, Soviets.” Ju-Long said, finishing. “How did you describe them, Nikolai?”

Nikolai looked shocked he'd be directly asked a question at the meeting and appeared to be immediately trying to find the right vocabulary in his limited Chinese to explain. But Radek saved him by a hair, “Worker's councils, districts. Congregations of the followers of people's liberation in Russia, and even outside of Russia, in China with me. The worker's soviet in Russia goes back to 1905 and would have been the driving force behind the post-revolutionary government had the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary forces had not fallen, and had the czar not achieved a shock moment of wisdom by withdrawing his men to deal with the bubbling discontent in the country. Though while the soviet was smashed then and in the years following and prior only to tomorrow its council tradition has been maintained peace-meal and independent through the Russian workers and peasantry, in dusty basements, barns, and country churches and yards. These soviets are my congregation.”

“I see, do they have any fighting men?”

“There might be.” There was a dour tone in Radek's answer, “Many of them are angry, they want to organize. But they are afraid. They don't have the material or means to organize with if they could. Small rifles and small-game shotguns are not tools you want to take to battle against the Amur Cossack.”

“The Amur Cossack? I take it he's the one that rules Siberia then?”

“They.” Radek corrected, “My mistake, the Amur Cossack Host, the local Cossacks. Commanded by Hetman Yuri Mykhalov. They used to rule out of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok depending on season and mood or their military need but the Japanese invasion and occupation of those territories pushed them west into the interior. Now I am afraid I do not know where Yuri commands from, but he still commands. Whenever the host feels the need to make its authority known I get letters about when it rides into a town to make a show, sometimes they pick up a man to hang for communism, anarchism, or syndicalism or some such; perhaps their charges are right or wrong I don't know. Then they leave.”

“You say ride, like on horses?”

“With horses, and cars, and bikes. They may control the oil fields in the north of Siberia but I don't think they have the capacity to refine it large-scale, so light equipment; no tanks. All the industrial refineries in the country are out west, towards Moscow and Saint Petersburg.”

“Does Yuri answer to himself?”

“No, he claims to still serve the Czar and his family. But his ability to do that, to take orders or lend support his suppressed by his distance from the Russian far-west so I suspect it is only lip service. In reality he rules as a warlord. As any Zhang Zongchang or Ma Qi.”

The office doors opened once again, the young officers now pushing ahead of them dining carts of round steaming baskets. On one a pitcher of water rattled next to small glass cups and a kettle of warm tea and tin cups. They made their way behind the men, where they quietly served from the carts.

“How are they armed, do you know if they're being supplied by anyone?”

“They're mostly using old imperial weapons. How or if they're being supplied with fresh weapons, parts, or ammunition I could not say. I know no one who has infiltrated the Cossack's ranks. They treat themselves as a closed world. They hold their own meetings, speak with their own people. They pull fresh warriors from people they know. They are at war in their own land against anyone and everyone if it deems fits.”

“Who do they feel they're occupying? Who do they think is occupying them?” Shan Yuang asked. He was starting to feel the Hetman was deeply paranoid. That he was not a man who felt he actually had the land, but had lost it already.”

“The Japanese? Who knows. Siberia on its own could be much better without him. Fundamentally the region could do well without any leader. So many of these villages and towns young and old live so far out of the extent of any civilization they've learned to live off the dessert itself.”

“Excuse me, but what does desserts have to do with Siberia?” Shan Huang inquired.

“Forgive me, but it's an old way to refer to the wilderness. Many of the populations are fairly independent and have become more so as the years went on after the czar's death. Simply put, if you leave them be they'll be happy the most.”

With the dishes of food passed around there was a pause. The young lieutenant took a seat next to Huan Yu who relinquished his note taking duties for the junior officer to do. Rolling his neck he loosened his hands before he entered into the conversation, “You are aware a military invasion of Russia would cause interference in these municipalities?” he asked, then peeling off the lid to his fried chicken feet, “How might they react to a column of soldiers passing through their streets, perhaps with a tank? How long might it be until the Hetman reacts?”

“They might grumble about inconvenience unless you stay.” Radek answered him. “But to the question about how long it might take Yuri Mykhalov to learn: I can't answer. Again, I am not adept at knowing where he is, so I also don't know the full range of his capabilities or how he communicates. I trust he might have spies in place around Siberia, it may be how they find the people the hang in anti-communism.”

“Would your men – your soviets – be receptive to trying to find that out to the best of their abilities?” he asked. Then turning to Lou Shan Yuang: “Without knowing this I am not comfortable in making any set strategic recommendations.”

“I know that, but we're on a short time table so there's not much to do about that.” the commander asserted.

“I might be able to see what can get done.” said Radek, “I won't obviously promise you men results before this is through. At best you'll be getting the information when you're ready to march in.”

“Understood, if you can get that done then go ahead. But for right now can I get the record to indicate that the strategic decision making is being done on the belief that we will have limited internal information as to the state of Siberia.”

“Yes sir.” the lieutenant said. Shan Huang sipped his tea.

“Perhaps for the purpose of being complete we can have a few best guesses on where Yuri Mykhalov might have moved to?” Tsu Ju-Long asked.

“If you're putting me there I would say anywhere in the area of Omsk, Tyumen, or Novosibirsk area. They're cities far from their traditional haunt, but shifts their power closer to the west and the Czarist pretenders. Yekaterinburg would put them on the very border of the concentrated western politic if not within 'foreign' territory.”

“That sounds about right.” Tsu remarked, “If that's the situation then I don't think he wants to stir up the west too much. Keeping his forces and command too close to them might flag he's willing to step into the fray. To me it sounds as though his survival has been a feigned indifference to the happenings of the west and less to do with his supposed loyalty to the czar or any likely king or emperor on the European side of the Urals. If we want to keep the conflict politically isolated from what is happening so far beyond the Urals so we don't provoke a unified alliance our best course would be to operate in such a way we don't push him further west, physically or politically. We need to keep him east-bound.”

“It's Siberia though, we're going to have a limited fighting season.” Shan Huang commented, “It's why we're doing this on such a close schedule after all, right?”

Tsu Ju-Long laughed, “I never once kept my ass glued to the chair for any longer than a week in Manchuria.” he cackled, giving a wide toothy grin, “Oh, you won't be able to do it with tanks or cars. Too cold a winter makes steel brittle, freezes fuel oil and gas just does not pop the way it should. So you stop using cars, fight on foot like men.”

“Or with horses.” the small wax mustache man said, Nestor Yanikovich.

Tsu Ju-Long laughed and smiled again, “With damn horses.”

“I've had the pleasure of watching the Mongolian regiments train in my residency here in China. I do not see the reason why we could not use them in force in the field. Where and when mechanical transportation fails us or is too limited we throw thick, woolly beast at it. Were these not the animals your people rode in conquest of all of Russia once before.”

Lou Shan Yuang leaned over the desk, “Genghis Khan was not one of our people.” he corrected, “And if you spoke Chinese, why haven't you spoken up before.”

“My mistake.” Nestor said dryly, “And forgive me, I had nothing to say before now. But my point still stands: why not use horses? Not in a main capacity, a limited one perhaps. One enough to keep the Hetman bottled up physically where we need him.”

“You know, commander,” Tsu Ju-Long began, leaning it: “He has a point about the horses. As I remember yours were only ever logistical support with the mules. But I have some experience with them as battlefield animals, I will advocate.”

“That was close to twenty years ago.” Shan Yuang corrected him, “Times have changed.”

“But not in Russia.” Tsu Ju-Long observed, “It's a broader Manchurian front. Dense forests, cold winter, sparse villages. They may be spread further around but it's not entirely unfamiliar. You southern city commanders had your show in Tibet. Politics had its in Mongolia. But let Russia be the show of the sons of the Manchurian Volunteer Brigades, foreign and domestic! I have men, old prodigies who've graduated beyond their young grasshopper days who could go in. It would mean much to these veteran rifles to expand the Revolution, and to not waste themselves away overseeing drills and parades.”

“Tsu Ju-Long, this may be getting ahead of ourselves.”

“Bullshit.” the aging officer laughed, dry and cracking. “At the rate Zhang Shu wants to move this and how he's played you into a corner of enough tacit approval to get the military commission in congress to go along with his little charade we are at a stage we have the upper hand for once in these affairs. We don't get to let them put their favorite seniors out into the field for a political career, but we can press our own sons at the head for one moment and be the star of the army, to be the star of an overlooked part of the army. The Central Column had its hour, I want now to be the Northern Column's: tomorrow the South will hopefully get Taiwan and the Revolutionary generation and its sons will have had the hurrah we need before we die.”

“Who is this man you'd like to lead?”

“I'll send you his file later today, right now I want to eat.”

Shan Yuang sighed, he knew he was right in his own way. “Very well.” he conceded, “We'll call today's conference to adjournment and eat. We'll sit back down if we have questions in the future.”

There was tacit agreement from around the table, and the junior officers were excused.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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June 2nd: Ras Hotel, Addis Ababa
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The African Congress had no building. It was not an official government of any kind, but a loose set of agreements between nations, and though Addis Ababa was its official host, they had no designated space for their meetings. The Emperor of Ethiopia paid for them to use the Ras Hotel's convention space when they needed to meet, lining the marble walls with the flags of the participant countries. It was a nice place at least, built to the standards of the high class hotels of Europe and America, though some amenities like the convention space received very little use within the context of Ethiopian society.

Benyam Felege, Ethiopia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, sat next to his and the Emperor's guest, Reginald Heap. Benyam was an aging man with a horseshoe of white hair drawing the boundaries of his baldness. Age made him lean on the side of plump, but he still moved well enough. The motion to bring Rhodesia into the African Congress had just came to the floor. James Lutalo, Chairman of the Swahili People's Republic, was here in person. Benyam knew what that meant. He wasn't surprised when Lutalo walked up to the podium. He struck a dramatic figure, wearing military fatigues and a black cap with a red star on it, neither of which were particularly strange for a leader of the Swahili communists. But what stood out was his steel breastplate. When he spoke, he sounded as if he were giving a passionate speech to his men before they went over the trench.

"Nationalism is a thirst for blood. That is its purpose. The nationalist does not draw borders, he draws battle lines, for that is where he will slake his thirst in years to come. The black man knows this. We are not nationalists. We dwell in a living, breathing land. We are part of the fabric of this continent, and our relationships are natural and peaceful, not only with each other, but also with the land we call home. The white nationalist cannot integrate into our civilization. That is why, in front of my fellow Africans and for their sake, I exercise my veto as a founding member of the African Congress. Rhodesia will not enter the African Congress so long as free Africans still have rights."

Reginald heap seemed bothered and offended, but Benyam knew what came next. When Lutalo showed up, he'd set in motion a specific order to the proceedings, and Benyam had a part to play. It was unavoidable. What he did next was as necessary for his job as putting bread into the oven is for the baker.

"I want the record to show that Ethiopia objects to the Chairman's statement." Benyam started. Reginald Heap looked up at him like he was a hero about to do battle.

"State your objection." the presiding officer said. Benyam nodded graciously and began. "You say that white nationalism is unnatural because they bring war, and the black race lives in peace. Is your own people not evidence against you? Did Kampala not recently come under attack by revolutionaries within your government?"

"The Freedom Army of God is a fringe group. They are terrorists and enemies of the people, and they will be dealt with like dogs." Lutalo said. He was misleading the others and himself when he lead with the Freedom Army of God. That was a fringe group; a collective of misfits held together by the extreme form of Protestantism they'd found in English missions after their own people didn't want to associate with them. But they were only part of the coalition aligned against his Kikomunisti Party, and it wasn't FAG that kept Lutalo up at night. It wasn't even the Kingdom of Buganda, though they were the backbone of that coalition. What spooked Lutalo the most were the Watu wa Uhuru: the Free People, Swahililand's anarchist party, and their creative leader, Marcel Hondo-Demissie. Benyam knew all this. It was his job to know.

Part of what made the Anarchists so frightening was that they recruited from Lutalo's own base. Lutalo saw himself as a disciple of Hou Sai Tang, but not everybody on the left looked up to the Chinese example. There was a faction of primarily western Communists that derided China as "The Hou Dynasty". This group loved to spread an old rumor about Chinese revolutionaries marching into Beijing under a version of the Qing flag with the yellow swapped for red. Those yellow-scare tactics worked on some Africans, who saw the Houist philosophy as a guide to King-making, and who believed Anarchism to be the true path to revolution.

"So they do not live as part of the fabric of this country? In natural and peaceful relationships?" Benyam said.

Lutalo slammed on the podium. "I am offended that Ethiopia would chose to defend the tactics of Rhodesia. What kind of leadership is this? Are all monarchists traitors to their own people?"

"Be more grateful for the monarch, friend Lutalo. The Emperor is paying for both your dinner and your room."

"The veto stands." Lutalo glared like a revolutionary who just commandeered a camera. "Rhodesia will not enter the African Congress."

And like that it was done. The motion was rejected. Rhodesia was to be excluded. Everybody knew this was going to happen, even Desta Getachew's memos to government officials spoke of inevitable defeat. Politics isn't just grand victories and solid treaties. Ethiopia's stance throughout the process had been one of "Good cop." They knew how Lutalo would act, and they knew that Lutalo was a threat, so making a good impression on their southern neighbors was their entire goal, nothing more then that.

"That's it then?" Reginald leaned over and asked.

"I'm afraid so." Benyam said, standing up. "We can work out other deals, between our nation and yours."

"I appreciate that, good fellow, but my superiors will not be happy with a rebuff like this. I'm afraid my countrymen altogether will be like a man sent away to his mistress. Where else should we go but to the embrace of the fat wife?"

"I cannot promise the same deals to Britain. If your intentions are to return to that old wife, my countrymen will be very disappointed."

"I don't like it either, but I cannot control the girl. Rhodesia has a mind of her own."

"The female metaphors are giving me a headache." Benyam said. "Good luck in your country, sir. I hope we speak again."

"Good luck." Heap smiled, "And thank you." They shook hands and parted.

The ambassadors and delegates spread about the room. It was claustrophobic, and Benyam started toward the doors to the porch to get some air. He was stopped by a glowering James Lutalo, standing like a warrior guarding his King from an intruder.

"Mr Lutalo." Benyam said, "Rousing speech."

"Are you opposed to the needs of the great Swahili people?" Lutalo challenged.

"No. You won as I recall."

"If Ethiopia is so against us, we can become independent."

"Don't make that move." Benyam stood up straight, "You know the stakes. Do you know that the Rhodesians are looking at the possibility of reentering the British fold? You think when they are done, they might not have a score to settle with the uppity negro Houist in British East Africa?"

"It's been thirty years." Lutalo didn't waver.

"Grudges can last lifetimes. That's the nature of our relationship, Chairman. Don't pretend you are doing us a favor."

"You aren't doing the Swahili Republic a favor either."

"Exactly." Benyam pressed a finger onto the Chairman's steel breastplate. "We're on this mountain together. We don't have to be friends, but we need to be comrades. Now if you excuse me, sir, I have an appointment with a Cornell." Lutalo stepped out of the way and let him pass.

The outdoor air felt like freedom. He leaned against the wall and took out a cigarette. The Ras was located in the business district in front of the Gebi Iyasu. Around him were stubby buildings, paved roads, and waiting cycle rickshaws. Everything went the way Benyam knew it would. It had went the way Desta Getachew knew it would. But there was a major X factor in Ethiopian politics. How would the Emperor react? Would he even care? That was all beyond Benyam's control, and he resigned himself to that fact. Better men then him lost their minds worrying about things outside of their control.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago 4 yrs ago Post by TheEvanCat
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Hrazdan, Armenia

Yerevan often took the image of a bustling, cosmopolitan center of business and trade. Hrazdan, on the other hand, was the manufacturing heartland of the resurgent nation. While efforts had been made to soften the city’s aesthetics with art and other new development projects, much of Hrazdan was composed of concrete, square architecture. Much of the city was brutally efficient, from the roundabouts organizing traffic in the fastest way possible to the clean districting of factories to the west of the river in order to minimize the impact of polluted air on the residential areas. Hrazdan, as opposed to Yerevan, had been planned extensively by Armenian authorities instead of developed over thousands of years. Growing from what amounted to a village, Hrazdan housed major factories that in turn fueled the growth of the nation. Everything from cement to automobiles to battle rifles was made in Hrazdan, then loaded onto trains in the largest rail depot in the country and sent to their destinations.

A hundred years ago, Hrazdan didn’t exist: it sprang from a remote village in the Kotayk province in part due to its proximity to transportation hubs and natural resources. The village was bulldozed and a clean slate was built upon. Everything about Hrazdan seemed stern, from the strict grid layout of the streets in an unchangingly standard fashion to the scientific layout of city districts. Civil engineers, urbanists, and other educated Armenian workers used Hrazdan as a testbed for the “modern city.” It was only recently that a resurgence of culture began to change the hardened atmosphere of the town: painted buildings and unique architecture replaced harsh concrete structures. Many of these newer buildings were owned by the Hrazdan University of Industry, a school renowned around the country for its high standards and skilled graduates. Revolutionary ideas prized education and resourcefulness, with the government heavily subsidizing new schools early on that might produce citizens to turn the country around. This idea, it was said, stemmed from the Armenian martial tradition of wily Fedayeen using their wits to drive off foreign invaders. Now the invaders were gone, and it was time for the Armenian people to use their hardworking ethic to prepare their country for the next storm.

Jon Korkarian, aged twenty and a student of this prestigious university, did not feel like an enlightened bearer of Armenia’s future as he rolled out of his bed on a Monday morning with a massive hangover. It was seven in the morning, class began at eight, and he was still in his clothes from the night prior. His roommate, sleeping on the carpet as he was unable to make it fully to his bed, had developed a massive black eye after being punched by a fireman at the bar for making fun of his haircut. Final examinations for the term were just around the corner, and Jon realized that he ought to be showing up to class instead of drinking on Sundays. Carefully taking a drink of water from his dormitory sink faucet, Jon shielded his eyes against the rays of the morning sun coming through his window. Muttering about how much he hated himself as he swept an empty bottle of vodka into the trash, he quickly walked outside to the hallway to find the bathroom and shower before coming back. His roommate was still asleep.

School uniforms mandated every student wear a suit to class, and Jon was no different. He slipped into his cheap trousers and threw on his black jacket just as he looked at his wall clock: seven thirty, and it was time to go. Breakfast for him was a piece of bread and some peanut butter hastily spread onto it. As he ate it, he mused about how his industrial logistics instructor told the class about its supply chain: produced in India and then traded to the Persians, before it was sent to Armenia. Expensive, sure, but there was enough of a demand for the novel food to justify it. Closing the door quietly, he headed to class. Hurrying through the newly-renovated campus while shielding his eyes from the sun, he tripped over a curb as he crossed a street to enter his place of study: the Center for Industrial Management. His classes for the day were always the same: topics on management, supply, and production. Every aspect of the industrial process was taught, and students were frequently brought to Hrazdan’s factories to observe modern practices in effect.

Small classes and personal discussion was beneficial to someone like Jon, but he found the subjects frequently dry. Tests were frequent and exacting, designed to establish a high proficiency before graduation. He never believed himself to be a top student, and frequently landed somewhere in the middle of his class for academic performance. This Monday was especially rough as he nursed a hangover in the back of class and tried to make himself as small as possible to avoid being asked any questions. Many of his other peers were the same way, but that was normal for twenty-year-old students. Jon struggled through his lectures and assignments for the day, yearning for the afternoon nap. Lunch was followed by his final class of the day, his Farsi Persian studies. For two hours, the longest block of instruction, Jon memorized vocabulary and wrote paragraphs in cursive-like Arabic script.

Contrasting to Jon’s mellow, unassuming appearance was Professor Mahmoodi. A serious man with a serious demeanor and what seemed like zero tolerance for imperfection, it felt like he would have mercilessly beat the students for using the wrong verb tense if he had been allowed to. Balding, with greying hair, his eyes peered out from underneath thick glasses to inspect the writings of Jon and his classmates. The old man walked purposefully behind the rows of desks, his hard-soled dress shoes clacking against the tile floor. Jon felt Professor Mahmoodi’s presence get closer and closer and he hurriedly checked his work. Unfortunately for Jon, it was too late: Professor Mahmoodi pointed at a sentence at the end of his work and said harshly in rapid fire Persian: “What is this? What does this say?”

“Sir, it says: ‘For the first time, the summer’s agricultural products were sent abroad’” Jon stuttered, reading hurriedly through his text to ensure that there were no errors.

“Mr. Korkarian, what is your field of study again?” Professor Mahmoodi asked, as if he were a police interrogator.

“Industrial management, sir.”

“Do you have any idea how often you work with Persians as a manager? We have so many connections to this economy that this is a skill like breathing,” Professor Mahmoodi fired back. “They’re going to think you’re an idiot. I know I do. Tell me what’s wrong here.”

Jon bowed his head slightly as he surveyed the sentence for the most recent time. Upon finding the culprit, a missing grammatical identifier on his specific direct object, Professor Mahmoodi ordered him to fix it in the margin. It was something he always had problems with himself, and a constant source of grilling from his instructor. But Professor Mahmoodi was ultimately right: Jon’s job would require constant interactions with foreign partners, especially if he got a job in the oil sector like he wanted. News of a cross-border pipeline extension to Erzurum, Armenia’s sole source of petroleum, occasionally made the radio. Jon knew from his father, a blue-collar oilman, that the petroleum industry was a money-maker. Persia especially was involved here, providing assistance and opportunity to help the Armenian energy sector as its cities got wider and taller and grew to need more power. Jon scribbled down a note in the margin of his paper and began writing the second paragraph in his assignment. He would do this until the bell rang to signal the end of the class, prompting one last comment from Professor Mahmoodi.

“It’s good that most of you didn’t forget everything over the weekend. I will see you tomorrow. Come back with a finished assignment.”

The students rushed out of the room, grabbing their briefcases and books and heading to whatever they had next. On Mondays, Jon was done after lunch. He was the first of his roommates back in the room, throwing his suitcoat to the floor of his wardrobe before collapsing onto his bed. Almost unconsciously, he kicked off his shoes to the wooden floor. Within an instant, he was asleep. Homework and assignments and the lingering fear of exams could wait: for now, he was simply exhausted. His nap was the best thing to happen to him all day.

Yerevan, Armenia

Assanian was well acquainted with the Armenian government’s ministries. We had personally met with and discussed his hypothetical policy plans with several officials during the election, but now it appeared that he was on the verge of winning. It was a commonly accepted fact that Assanian’s victory was all but assured, so preparations were being conducted for the change of government. As a part of this, it was day three of an intensive review process for potential minister candidates in the changeover to Assanian’s cabinet. Armenia had established several Ministries since its independence: Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Finance, Justice, Agriculture, Health, Education, War, Development, Infrastructure, and Energy. Each of them was chaired by a Minister who sat on the President’s cabinet. For each candidate, usually around four or five per ministry, a dossier had been compiled by the campaign staffers. For months prior to the review, Assanian’s campaign had sought out talented, stand-out leaders in their respective sections. Meanwhile, liaisons began to talk with current leadership to help smooth over a transition and help them prepare internally for policy changes.

One of the more worrying development in politics was the current President’s attempts to inhibit as many of Assanian’s party’s policies as possible. Vadratian, knowing that his campaign had crumbled and he was losing the support of all but his most loyal backers, was attempting to pass legislation to make it difficult or impossible for Assanian to liberalize certain areas of Armenian politics: most importantly, immigration reform and development of Russian-dominated areas. Luckily, Parliament was keeping most of these off of the voting table by way of veto. Even members of Vadratian’s own party were trying to distance themselves from him as his warnings of the destruction of Armenia became more and more bellicose. The political strategy of President Vadratian seemed to be that if he couldn’t win, neither should Assanian. This was something to be used to Assanian’s advantage: a statement had been drafted that would run on Radio Armenia the next day that condemned Vadratian for betraying the ideals of the revolution with his juvenile, corrupt behavior. It was almost too easy for Assanian at this point.

Assanian had just finished up an interview with the final candidate for the position of Agricultural Minister. He sat in a padded chair outside the meeting room, sipping on a glass of brandy while reviewing the file again. This man seemed to be his favorite: he had proven results as a private landowner using his money to invest in an enhanced irrigation system for his home village and had not been afraid to champion the rights of his province’s farmers as a provincial governor’s aide. Exports from his province’s farms and ranches had doubled by the time his term was up, and he had proven his plans were thought out in terms of scalability to the national level. Assanian himself was no farmer, but he had conducted the interview with his campaign’s experts in the industry who asked questions that the man himself had no understanding of. Despite this, they assured him that this was one of the better candidates and that Assanian should take a deep look at him. He had already cut two of the candidates, and was going to bring them back for a second round of interviews the next day. Despite what the party said or wanted out of a candidate, Assanian was pragmatic: he wanted quality, not necessarily blind loyalty.

Loyalty was necessary, but Assanian felt that it should be to the Armenian state instead of a person like himself. This was, in itself, a revolutionary idea: the ASF that met many decades ago had laid out the principles of Armenian separatism. It was remarkably selfless, with the idea that the Armenian people needed to embrace self-sacrifice and devotion to something bigger than themselves being the most prevalent message. Assanian himself was inclined to agree: maybe from his time in the service, maybe from his ex-Fedayeen father talking with him on the long walks to school. There were times of crises when it appeared some people wanted to diverge from the revolution’s framework, such as Vadratian’s current state, but there was still a contingent of aging guardians who vocally opposed it. Part of Assanian feared the time when these old men would go away, leaving the country with an entirely new generation of governors. He liked to think he was well-read, and he had seen this many times before in history.

So Assanian’s ministers must too be loyal to the state. If the ministers lost their footing in their sections and began to use their power for themselves, it quickly became a road to failure. Part of the reason that Assanian liked the latest candidate for Agricultural Minister was his history of disagreement. He had made his views abundantly clear when actions arose that threatened his farmers. It seemed that he felt a sense of personal responsibility for their well-being, fighting things like taxes he felt were overly unfair. Sometimes he was shot down and put back in his place, but many times he managed to persuade the provincial governor to change his mind. While this was abrasive at first, to be sure, his input as an expert and a professional were quickly respected. When he spoke on his subject, people listened. He gave reasons for the things he suggested, and those reasons were grounded in reality. When he believed a potential policy to be against the interest of the state, he gave his reasons and offered a solution. Toxicity came from political maneuvering and complaints without solutions: this man was the farthest thing from that.

While agriculture was not the most pressing of issues facing Armenia, this Minister would still be an important part of Assanian’s cabinet. Good weather and many other factors had resulted in abundant harvests. A good leader could manage this growth but also handle failure. In this case, a drought had struck the Javakhk province and Assanian’s candidate had dealt with it by enacting several harsh measures. Water rationing and outright orders to change the types of planted crops were criticized, but in the opinion of Assanian’s experts had enabled a quicker recovery of the region. A thought briefly crossed Assanian’s mind on what would have happened if the ploy had failed: would he be currently throwing out the paperwork of an overbearing tyrant instead of approving the second interview of a genius? It was interesting to think about, but irrelevant if this man continued to prove his worth as a skilled leader in his section. After all, Assanian knew that a head of state couldn’t do the job alone. In the same way that he needed his staff as a military officer, he needed his cabinet to keep order and handle their sections.

The man sat back in his chair again, sighing deeply before shuffling the Minister’s papers back into the beige folder. A nearby aide approached and offered to take it, then scurried off to wherever the approved paperwork was to be processed. Even before governmental office, Assanian was already having to get used to bureaucracy. Many of the ASF revolutionary council were not political scientists, and were simply cobbling together local governments into a larger country. It took decades to get the kinks out of this, most infamously in the Army’s “Fedayeen” mentality. Only once graduates of bureaucratic academies began taking hold of power and attaining senior positions did the bureaucracy smooth, but it still had rough patches that needed reform. Competing departments, most notably the Ministries themselves, were constantly in a state of flux. Just three years ago, the Ministries of Commerce and Trade folded into the Ministry of Finance. Ultimately, however, this proved to be a success: clearly-defined missions eliminated much of the squabbling and infighting. Granted, there was some amount of frustration from the bureaucratic elites, but if President Vadratian did anything well it was put people in their place.

A quick glance at the wall clock revealed the time to be startlingly late for an office: almost five thirty. The presidential candidate had a dinner reservation at six at a nearby restaurant, and he planned to take the rest of the evening off to read a book or enjoy some music on his record player. Another lesson he took from the military: leave some time for himself, and his performance would be that much better. All too often he saw government workers burn out as they tried to climb to the top of a meritocracy, always saying yes and sacrificing their personal lives in the process. Assanian had more divorced friends than he had fingers, all because of the workload. He understood that there was a cultural distaste towards laziness, but there was a line that had to be drawn somewhere. So he dropped whatever information remained in his second folder off at his office, changed out of his business suit and into something more casual, told his secretary he was leaving, and headed off to his car. As he left, he tipped his hat to the security guard. The lean, tall, man ran a hand through the tight curls of his short black hair and started walking down the road.

Trabzon, Armenia

Gold was a hot commodity in Europe. Governments, always on the precipice of war with one another, sought the metal as a way to beautify their palaces and parliaments and showcase their economic power. It was a competition to see who could flex the biggest muscles with the biggest economies and armies, and Armenia was more than happy to supply the gold to help them show it off. Western Armenia contained several large deposits of the resource: the desert flatlands used to be the source of gold for ornate Ottoman structures. Now, there was so much to go around that the government was selling it to foreign countries. The city of Trabzon hosted Armenia’s largest port, and the place where most of its European trade entered and exited. The gold arrived here from the mines of Erzurum, Van, and other cities by train: these shipments routinely pulled into a dusty train station just south of the port and were offloaded onto heavily-burdened trucks. Normally painted bright orange, colors of the port authority, these trucks drove through onto the ports for the longshoremen to handle. It was rumored that each driver carried a shotgun underneath the dash in case a would-be robber tried to carjack them.

The company office for Black Sea Maritime was a concrete building with two floors and a meager garden in front of it. A row of trucks, forklifts, and other utility vehicles sat in front of it while to the left, warehouses holding mountains of wooden boxes were being emptied by hordes of longshoremen. A dark green-hulled vessel, modestly-sized and topped with a squat superstructure, sat in the waters nearby. This was Captain Joseph Sarkisian’s ship, the AS Breadwinner of Trabzon. It was part of the Independence class of merchant vessels, commissioned by the Armenian Merchant Marine to produce easy steel vessels for export into the Black Sea. These ships were also constructed in Trabzon, in a shipyard to the east of the expanded port. So far, just over forty had been produced and routinely crossed back and forth across the Black Sea. Black Sea owned seven of these vessels and held a contract with the largest gold mining company in Armenia: it ran the Trabzon-Odessa route. Because the gold shipments ran close to the troubled former territories of Russia, Captain Sarkisian’s ship was armed.

A single 102mm gun sat on the bow of the ship, and three machinegun stations lined each side of the hull to defend against the small boats often used by pirates. Usually this was enough to deter any attempt at robbery, but there had been a few instances of boardings before: this was dealt with by a team of sailors armed with automatic weapons that worked on every Armenian vessel. Most of these men were members of the National Service, a compulsory program that had most Armenians working in a public job for three years as opposed to two years of military conscription. While they were not conscientious objectors by any means, National Service personnel were usually not the most eager to fight. It took several close calls with Russian pirates before the sailors began to take their weapons training seriously. Luckily, the only casualty that Captain Sarkisian had to deal with was a sailor who took a rifle round to the knee two months prior. He turned out fine, and was now working at Black Sea Maritime’s office as an accountant, but it was enough of a message that things were getting serious.

The crew of the Breadwinner spent the afternoons on their off-days lifting weights in an open-air gymnasium in the back of the company office. Physical fitness was championed by the government for multiple reasons, ranging from public health to defiance against foreign oppression: it all depended on the poster that was advocating it. Most young men had access to a gym of some sort, and it was even more convenient for the sailors. Fights, wrestling matches, and other physical competitions usually broke out between the sailors and longshoremen, so the gym was a place to train for the next one. Even Captain Sarkisian took part in the exercise, bench-pressing a well-worn bar as his executive officer looked on with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth.

“Your form is shit, do you want to get hurt?” the XO asked as he smoked the cigarette down to just its stub. It burned his calloused fingertips, and he flicked it away to the dried bushes without apparent concern. Luckily, nothing ignited.

The Captain racked his weight and sat up, adjusting his cotton shorts and sweat-stained undershirt. He reached for a cigarette of his own and lit it with a steel lighter: “I think I’ve been doing just fine, I’m not sure about you. Is your lazy ass just happy to sit around?”

“I’m waiting on a call,” the XO replied nonchalantly. His name was Nazarbekian, and he hailed from Iran. His family, once sailors on the Persian Gulf, were now proud residents of Sevan. He took after his father: a strong, swarthy man with thick, curly, black hair and a mustache to match. Nazarbekian rested against the wall of the office with both of his hands in his pockets: a pack of cigarettes bulged against his shirt pocket.

“Of course you are,” shot back the Captain, wiping his face down with a towel. The telephone rang just as he finished throwing it into a laundry hamper near the weight rack. With a look back at Sarkisian, Nazarbekian pushed off the wall and went inside. He emerged five minutes later with a clipboard, marking down the date and time of the conversation.

“Today’s shipment just arrived,” he said, gesturing at the orange trucks now crowding by the loading stations just next to the Breadwinner. He went back to the clipboard and made a few more marks. “Just over five thousand tonnes of refined gold going into the hold. We’re delivering it to Odessa, like usual. Pier no. 12. We also have to make sure that the gold gets onboard the train at the station, since the Crimeans are apparently having difficulties making that happen reliably lately. Some big scandal busted their transportation guys for fraud and figured out that they were pocketing stuff.”

“How is that my problem?” Captain Sarkisian asked, cocking his head to the side in frustration.

“I’m not sure, but apparently it was just put into the contract we operate under. We’re getting more money out of it as compensation for it being such a pain in the ass, but the Ukrainian government really wants that gold.”

“Maybe they’ll start paying damages for the fucking pirate attacks, too,” the Captain remarked as he looked over to his ship. Although it was too far for them to see, bullet-holes pockmarked the hull of the veteran vessel. “See if they can write that into their goddamn contract. Can’t trust their own fucking company, my ass. I bet it’s the state-run Crimean agency, too.”

“Absolutely,” Nazarbekian answered nonchalantly. “But it’s nowhere near as bad as Poti.”

“We had to get a goddamn Army company to help us offload food crates in Poti, and that was all stolen by the warlords as soon as it left the city.”

Poti had been an instrumental part of Armenian actions in Georgia for almost five years now. It had started as an agreement with the Georgian government to bring food in as the Russian refugees quickly filled up camps and criminal elements began to raid farms. A port security element from the Army was dispatched to protect Armenian ships from hungry civilians in the winter of 1955. Fighting in the spring led to more troops being deployed, and soon enough a garrison was established under the pretenses of enduring protection for Armenian shipping companies. A local militia helped maintain order with Armenian troops who patrolled further and further from the port, and Poti was spared most of the instability that plagued Georgia. Poti and Tbilisi were the two “green areas” of security in a country lost to bandits and warlords in the countryside. Captain Sarkisian used to run the route to that city, before signing on with the far more profitably Odessa route: gold certainly paid more than aid shipments.

“Do we get the Army this time?” Nazarbekian joked.

“If we did, the Ukrainians would throw a hissy fit. I don’t want to deal with that.”

It took the rest of the day to load the gold onto the ship. Armenian longshoremen worked quickly and efficiently, knowing that Black Sea shipping lanes were crowded and deadlines were tight. A late ship could put the whole operation off schedule, and this resulted in lost money for their companies. Cheap labor was everywhere, especially with the Russians in town, and the Armenian dockworkers were afraid of being fired for mistakes. Sometimes that turned dangerous, and sometimes accidents happened: the week before, a longshoreman was hit by a truck while another was knocked into the sea by a crane. He drowned to death before anyone could get to him. This was seen as a normal occurrence: the sea was a deadly place for men, even the careful ones. Captain Sarkisian was edging fifty himself, and was still surprised at the length of his career. He had lost a number of good friends over his time at sea, either to preventable accidents or to sheer bad luck. Lieutenant Nazarbekian himself was forty, with almost as many dead friends.

That day was accident-free, however, and the Breadwinner was ready to depart at sundown. The gold was tied down in the holds and securely compartmentalized in case of attack. Recoilless rifles were known to punch through the skins of some ships if the pirates could get a good shot off, and so the gold was placed along the centerline so as to not be close to the outside hull. Security teams were armed and briefed of the route before being deployed on watch rotations. Theft and piracy were the main concerns on the Odessa route. Captain Sarkisian would tour these stations before departure, ensuring everything was locked down for the trip. Satisfied, he returned to the bridge to sit in his well-worn chair at the helm. A young sailor stood on watch, leaning over the controls as he waited for the call to get underway. Sarkisian, cup of coffee in hand, entered through the bulkhead hatch to the rear of the bridge and wordlessly moved to his station. A quick glance at his watch revealed the time: six o’clock. Time to go.

He gave the order, and the Breadwinner of Trabzon’s horn sounded. The dull, blaring blow of the ship’s horn echoed across the waters being lit now by the setting sun. Lines were slipped off the pier by dockworkers, and a tug gently helped the cargo ship away and into the open sea. Captain Sarkisian sipped on his coffee as he watched the tug finally pull away and give a blast of its own horn. His ship’s boilers began pushing power to the engine, and the screws of the vessel started to turn. A wake gently sloshed behind the Breadwinner, now picking up speed into the sea. The ship carried onwards as the birds first vanished, then the coast. Soon enough, it was the night, and the Breadwinner was alone in the sea: once again, it headed to Odessa. Business as usual.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Pagemaster
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June 3rd, 1960, Salisbury, Rhodesia
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Wind tore at Henry Cornell as he roared down Fourth Street in the heart of Salisbury in his open top Melsetter offroad car. The vehicle was large, with tires mostly seen on military vehicles, painted a deep green, and providing only a small windshield for the driver which required Henry to wear goggles and a scarf when on the dirt roads. The vehicle turned heads, White and Black alike, as it roared past. A couple of black police officers eyed it enviously as they leaned against the hood of their Riley Pathfinder patrol car in its distinctive white and blue colouring. One even waved and Henry waved back.

Fourth Street was the largest street in the city and housed many of the corporate entities, local and international, that had sprung up, attracted by low commercial taxes. The Cornell building was the largest of the all, matched only the Rhodesian Bank of Commerce. While Henry sold tobacco, cigarettes and cigars, the RBC ha carefully been investing across the world through shell corporations to ensure maximum investment opportunities and the building itself was even more heavily guarded than the Presidents mansion.

Henry rolled up in front of his building and stopped at the entrance to the underground parkade. A uniformed footman stepped from a booth, saluted, and activated the electric gate that ground open to allow access into the cool darkness below. Henry rolled the vehicle forward and down the ramp. His parking space was immediately in front of him and he let the vehicle weight carry it into place before shutting down the big engine and tossing his travel goggles onto the passenger seat. He climbed from the car as the gate behind him began to grind close again. He pulled a brown leather briefcase from the back seat and strode towards his nearby private elevator. The footman inside, warned of Henry's arrival by the gate guard, was already opening the metal cage as Henry approached.

"Morning sir." The Footman smiled, his teeth white against the honest black face. Like the footman outside, this man was carrying a semi-automatic pistol at his waist.

"Morning Dani. How are the wife and kids?" Henry was rich for a variety of reasons, but the loyalty of his employees was right up there. Regardless of colour, he paid them equally, treated them equally, and never forgot their names, no matter how low on the totem pole they might be.

"Good, thank you sir. Moreshah had to take the girls to school today. Our car was hit by a garbage truck last night so I rode my bike to work today." Dani laughed as he told the story. The image was amusing to Henry as well. Dani was a big man, nearing 6'4 and two hundred pounds, the only bike he owned was meant for someone far smaller. The last time Henry had seen him ride the bike, the big mans knees had almost touched his ears.

"I am glad you're staying healthy Dani." Henry replied with genuine concern. Dani was a valuable employee. Not only was he the size of a small Rhino, but he was highly intelligent and was being wasted as a Footman. "See you in a few hours Dani." He said he stepped off the elevator onto the sixteenth floor, his own personal space, which included an apartment, a library, massive board room, and of course his office.

The elevator opened right into the receptionist desk and his personal secretary Sandra Van Hell smiled at him. He smiled back, knowing full well that she had her hand on the double barrel shotgun that could cut him in half at the waist. She was a stunning beauty, long blonde hair and blue eyes that smiled out sweet innocence, cloaking the cunning mind behind them. She had worked for him the last three years after he lured her way from a shipping company in the Netherlands. No one got to him without going through her.

"Morning Mr. Cornell." She purred as she saw him, her hand releasing the shot gun as she stood and, with wave at Dani, she placed a stack of folders on the counter in front of her. "All for your attention. It seems the French markets are not as open as we had hoped. You may have to, how do you say, find another way?" She winked and he smiled.

"I'll take a gander at them then." He picked up the files. "But, we must find something better suited to Dani's talents. Do we have a reliable man to take his place?"

She thought for a moment then nodded. "A couple of Security Forces veterans names have come up looking for work. Two would be better suited to on-site protection but the third would be an excellent fit for your private staff. As for Dani, we have an opening for a shift supervisor at the Maputo docks?"

Henry thought for a moment. "Have the Security Forces chap you're thinking of come in today and I will speak with him. If he works out, we will get Dani transferred right away. Also, buy him a bike that would fit him would you?"

A smile shot across her pretty face and she laughed. "Of course sir, he does look a bit silly riding that child's bike around. I'll see to it at once."

Henry nodded his thanks and pushed open the big heavy oak door that led into his office. It smelled of leather bound books, rich mahogany, and very faintly of expensive cigars. The window behind his desk was one huge plate of glass, disgustingly expensive, but very much worth it as he looked out over the city of Salibsury. Life was good, very good.

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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Chapatrap
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Famagusta, Cyprus
Since the end of the Great War, Famagusta had changed substantially. Under the British, the town had boasted a large central market, pristine beaches and was a popular spot for Turkish and British high society. It was one of the only places in the world that Greek, Turkish and British cultures met, creating an odd patchwork of Turkish coffee shops, British pubs and Greek fish stalls. Following the meteoric fall of the British Empire, Cyprus itself was a brief, independent republic in the 40's. Famagusta had become one of the few economic centres on the island that successfully carried the torch handed to them by the British Army. A Greek military invasion in 1947 of the island had caused hot debate in the Ottoman Empire, with fears of a Greek invasion butting heads with the single decade of peace in Turkey. In the end, only the Ottoman embassy in Athens had closed in response.

Greek politics had brought economic growth to the Cypriot Greek community but the Turkish Cypriot community had largely been ignored. The upper classes of Turkish Cypriot society had fled to the open arms of the Ottomans, becoming a powerful minority in their own right. Famagusta had died a slow death, suffering from being only, Turkish periphery town on the edge of the Greek demesne. Of the few rich Turkish families that had remained in Famagusta, Melik Demir and his family were one of only three. The Demir's had made their money on a small, offshore natural gas drill and when that ran out, diversified, going on to own entire towns of real estate for Greek and European tourists. They had made their fortune under the Greeks and British.

But Melik, robed in an open-buttoned shirt and a pair of shorts, felt no less Turkish than the two Foreign Intelligence men sat opposite.

The meeting was to take place at Melik's Famagusta home. After a long dinner of olives, beef and Greek yogurt, where the men had made chirpy small talk with Melik and his associates, they had retreated to the balcony to smoke and discuss business.

"Well, Melik, to put it into simpler terms - what do you want?" asked Yusuf, drawing a long breath of smoke from his cigar. Melik, a darker man with a powerful moustache and a belly that only grew with the loss of his hair, smiled. "My associates and I are proposing this, gentlemen. A mercenary force, made up of Turkish Cypriot patriots, ex-soldiers and others with interest in our island, re-take our soil from the Greeks. Upon retaking our land, we wish for it to be annexed back into the Ottoman Empire, as it was prior to British occupation" said the Cypriot. The Ottoman, Emir, nodded slowly. "We are aware of that. In your original proposal sent a few years ago, we were led to believe there was to be an independent Cypriot republic, led by you" he smirked.

"I'm not interested in politics. I'm interested in Cyprus" replied Melik. "I reached the decision some time ago that an independent Cyprus cannot stand on its own two feet. We need the guidance of our brothers in Turkey". He dipped his bread into the olive oil bowl and nibbled on it as Emir and his partner glanced at each other. "There are complications to this, Melik. The Department, while believing an annexation is feasible, cannot see our neighbours reacting too kindly. Arabs and Bulgarians do not want to see a re-growth of the Ottoman Empire" said Emir, reciting the lines given to him by his boss. "This is not re-growth, this is the taking back a historically Turkish province" replied Melik, his usual warm Cypriot accent remarkable colder than just moments before. "I will remind you of my gift to His Sultans government".

"Yes, Melik and we are very glad for that but the military will not back a blatant invasion when you refuse to share any of your plans!" began Emir, his partner nodding in agreement. Before he could continue, Melik spat in disgust. "Oh, don't spin that old yarn. I know the military have had plans for an invasion of this island since the 30's!" he growled. "Yet you do nothing. If the Ottomans will not take the initiative to crush a clearly weaker enemy, then we bloody well will!"

Silence descended on the balcony. Emir took a deep breath before speaking again. "What do you need, exactly?"

"Men, ships, arms, money, anything the Sultan can share with us" said Melik, his smile from before returning. "Well, we can't give you uniformed soldiers but there are several Cypriots operating with the Ottoman security service who may be glad to aid you" retorted Emir. "We can get you guns and transport, easily. When exactly is this invasion to take place? Next year?"

"July" replied Melik. Emir dropped his cigar and scrambled to the ground to pick it up. "July!" he exclaimed. "We've been planning this for two years, gentlemen. Just because you only decided to get involved when we hit a road-bump on supplies doesn't mean we aren't prepared for this". With that, Melik snapped his fingers and a servant appeared in two seconds. "The file, Stavros!" he barked in Greek, who disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

By the time the file had reached Melik's hands, Emir still had not spoken but chewed on his cigar, incredulous at what he had just heard. Melik flipped through the folder slowly and nodded. "I want this to be in the hands of the Sultan by Friday. If you require further negotiations, I will personally meet with him myself" said Melik, sliding the file over to the Ottomans. "There's a boat leaving Famagusta tomorrow evening. Get on it and you will meet my associate, Ismail Ali. He will journey with you back to Constantinople and answer any questions that remain. Goodbye, gentlemen" he sneered, standing to his feet and retreating back into his villa.

"What the fuck was that?" asked Emir, incredulously looking at his partner. "I thought this guy had a plan! What am I supposed to do with a fucking file?"

"Give it to Ankara" replied his partner, staring out at the glittering sea thoughtfully. "We did our bit."

Karakilise, Kurdistan Autonomous Region, Ottoman Empire

The bodies swung softly in the breeze of the warm, May afternoon. Crowds of curious onlookers were held back by a cordon of police as Sergeant Nebez climbed the ladder, the cool steel of a knife bringing a metallic taste to his mouth. "Careful, sergeant!" called a police officer, standing below the bodies with a tarp. He spoke with a thick Kurdish accent that masked any sarcasm. Nebez's muffled reply was unintelligible but the officer nodded anyway.

The two bodies had been found earlier in the morning, hanging from the statue of some Sultan or another in the central square. On each outstretched, stony arm hung a man, each with a sign around their necks. "Traitor". Both men had been Kurdish police officers, by the looks of their dark uniforms. The army had been quick to the scene and Nebez's squad had quickly taken over from the police, who had been unsure what to make of the unusual scene. Bodies of local Turkish farmers had been appearing for months now but never had the murderers attacked the police.

When Nebez reached the top of the ladder, he removed the knife from his teeth and began to quickly slide it across the rope. It was thick and knotted, probably made in a local mill. As he slowly cut, the corpse swung around and he was face to face with the dead man. His hair was greasy and flecked with dried blood. One eye was swollen and his face was bloated with bruises. No doubt he had taken a beating before being strung up for the town to see. This was a message to the police and the populace and Nebez already knew who it was from.

The Kurdish National Front.

Nebez placed a hand on the rope to steady himself and began sliding the knife across the rope even faster. The body fell with such force that he almost lost balance but caught himself on the eroded face of the statue. "Fuck..." he swore loudly before quickly scrambling down the ladder. The corpse had already been wrapped up in the tarp and two officers were struggling to carry it into the back of a van. Nebez brushed himself down. The onlookers had lost interest yet the cordon was still in place.

"Boy" barked Nebez and a private immediately appeared at his side. "Yessir?" he answered obediently. "Send word of this back to base. I want arrests and suspects immediately". "Yessir" he answered again before hurrying off into the crowd of police officers who surrounded the second body.

"What's going on? Get him wrapped up now!" yapped Nebez, following the private into the crowd. The second corpse was already laying spread-eagle on the tarp but the officers were rifling through his pockets. "But sir, there's something wrong with this one" said an officer, squinting at the corpse. Nebez pushed past and bent down. "What do mean?" he grunted. This one looked like the other.

"Under his jacket, there's some kind of-" began the officer, pulling the mans jacket apart and revealing a bomb vest. He never got to finish his sentence as a large explosion rocked the square, blowing the statue into pieces and every man scattered across the ground. The dust cloud could be seen for miles and in Nebez's final moments of life, he could only see dust and feel the fire slowly consume his body.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Pagemaster
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June 4th, 1960, Salisbury, Rhodesia
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Two Rolls Royce Phantom III's rolling onto the Salibsury Airfield was nothing new to the men who worked the tarmac. The vehicle was commonly used by Government Officials and wealthy business men to come and go as they pleased. What caught their attention was the young women hanging out of the windows laughing and waving from the second car. Four of them, two white women and two black women, all of them heart stoppingly beautiful. Work by those within easy visual range ground to a halt as the vehicles swept by and headed toward the big hanger on the south side of the field where private aircraft sat gleaming in the hot African sun. The two Phantoms were followed by Henry Cornell in his Melsetter, the big engine roaring as he accelerated and tore past the Phantoms to reach the hanger first.

A Canadair North Star had been drawn out of the line of aircraft, the great silver flanks marked only by a green band that ran from nose to tail, which was also green and sported, in great white letters, CORNELL. When he had first bought the plane Henry had been worried it had been a frivolous expense but as his business interests expanded overseas he had found the plane invaluable. The aircraft Captain, co-pilot and four hostesses waited at the bottom of the ramp as he drove up and the Captain stepped forward to open the car door for Henry as it ground to a halt, rocking back and forth slightly on its heavy suspension.

"Fuelled and ready to fly sir. Flight plan filed for immediate departure. Salisbury to Cairo, Cairo to Bombay, Bombay to Singapore, Singapore to Manila." As he spoke the ground crew hurried forward to take the suitcases from Henry's car and stow them in the aircraft. Henry greeted the aircraft crew, complimented them on the state of the aircraft, and then turned his attention to the two Phantoms as they drew up to the aircraft.

The first disgorged four serious looking white men in business suits. One was undoubtedly a body guard but the other three looked like they might be lawyers. The second car was the real surprise for all as it stopped and the four women piled out giggling. They were dressed in identical green and white dresses with white gloves and their hair held back by Rhodesian flag styled hair accessories. This was a new tack for Henry, one that he had hit on in the last month during planning sessions for this trip around the world. He knew from his newspaper friends that violence, puppies, and sex were the stories that sold papers. There was no shortage of literature with beautiful women consuming products in the print ads, and air hostesses dressed fashionably. This trip would include these four young women who had been brought onto the staff as sales staff. They would assist in presentations, either pitching the ideas, or handling props. They were the real salespeople here. The four men who accompanied them were there to draw up the paperwork. It would be an interesting departure from the belief that only men could sell.

The giggle squad, as he was affectionately calling them, made their way into the aircraft followed by the legal team. The hostesses, long used to transporting men who were horrendous flirts, chatted happily with their female passengers and had to be reminded that they still had a job to do. The lawyers settled in as the aircraft engines roared to life.

Henry settled in his own private "office" at the rear of the aircraft. It was really just a larger cabin with a desk, and a double bed that was separated from the main cabin by a curtain. The trip would take roughly 36 hours of flying time and they would overnight in Singapore so that he arrived in Manila rested and ready to do business. He felt a jolt as the plane began to taxi forward and another gale of giggles came from the forward cabin. He smiled involuntarily. This trip had a promising start.

***Forty three Hours and one overnight in Singapore later***

The wheels of the North Star slammed into the tarmac, jarring the remainder of the party awake. Henry hadn't slept since the take off in Singapore that morning. He was pouring over documents to acquaint himself with the Philippines even further. What he was really interested in was the Tobacco industry and, most importantly the political situation.

Upcoming elections in a nation like the Philippines were a golden opportunity to back one side against the other and win some trade concessions in the mix. He took a moment to look up from his reading as they began to taxi down the long runway and back toward the main terminal. The Jungle had grown up tight against the edges of the airfield and he could already feel the humid temperatures beating on the sides of the aircraft. He was not looking forward to the amount of sweating that was in his future.

The forward cabin giggling had died away but he could still hear the girls commenting on the same things he had noticed. It did look somewhat like home but the jungle seemed much thicker and different birds could be seen exploding from the forest.

Henry had called ahead when they landed in Singapore and made arrangements for three cars to meet them at the terminal. His contact had already secured a meeting with Presidential hopeful Aurelia and that would be his second stop after they checked into the Manila Hotel. He wanted to shower and shave again before he met with anyone. He had invited Aurelia to join him for a buisness lunch at the hotel, it would attract far less attention than driving to her office. (@Letter Bee)

As the plane came to a stop against a pair of chalks, the door was lowered to allow a blast of hot humid air. Henry, as befitted his owning the plane, was the first one off and into the somewhat cooler interior of the rented town car. The rest of his entourage followed and they drew away from the aircraft within five minutes of landing. The Cornell brand had arrived.
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Hidden 4 yrs ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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June 3rd: Prewitt, New Mexico
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Taytu sat at a picnic table and fidgeted with a soda bottle, her pointer finger on the cap as she used her thumb to spin it slowly. "Sun City Sasparilla" it said, and there was an image of a cowboy on the label, facing forward, winking one eye while shooting at an Indian sneaking up behind him. Across from her, Noh Mareko ate an oversized hotdog.

"My friend says these are made of dogs." He said, unconscious of the mustard splatter on his over-sized tourist's t-shirt, "But the Americans say it isn't true. I do not know who to believe." He was fit, tall, and young; natural conditions for a soldier, and he was the body guard Gelay Hezekel assigned to her.

She still remembered the day Gelay told her she should travel the west. It was the day after her disastrous date with the Congressman from Illinois. Gelay hadn't looked at her very much, obsessing instead with his own aging face staring back at him from a standing mirror. It was on his insistence that every room in the Ethiopian Embassy in DC have a mirror, and he could insist because he was the Ambassador to the United States.

"They are not made of dogs." Taytu said, "They are pig meat."

"Pork?" Noh's face dropped.

"Don't bother, you're in America. God can't see you here." Noh was a Christian, but the Ethiopian church forbade pork. Taytu's own philosophy was When in Rome. Noh swallowed the bite already in his mouth, but he didn't eat any more.

A roller coaster rushed by in front of her, the image of a Vampiric Karl Marx painted on its front with blood dripping into his profuse beard. The imagery here at Liberty Land, a Rte 66 Tourist trap, was gauche to be sure. The coaster was art compared to the nightmare-inducing horses with grinning Presidential heads on the "Great Men Merry-Go-Round"

"I don't think the west is as bad as you thought it would be." Noh said. He had the voice of a man talking through a blanket. "I don't see the Communists you were worried about."

"I just saw Karl Marx go by. Behind you."

Noh looked. "Oh, that is just a ride. I do not think the guy who owns this place likes Karl Marx."

"No." she took a drink of Sarsaparilla. She was not a fan of soda, but America in its infinite brilliance were full of counties that scorned alcohol, and they didn't serve wine anywhere on the three acre premises of Liberty Land.

"I'm going to get popcorn." Noh said, "I do not think there is pork in the popcorn." Once he left, she sat alone, watching American families entertain their children. Why was she here? DC wasn't perfect, but a few bad experiences didn't mean she disliked the place entirely. Ambassador Gelay seemed to think she'd be able to clear her head on the coast, where the suffocating racial policies of the east had been resolved. But did that mean she liked the west? A world of outcasts and Communists? Those weren't her people. In truth, she understood the southerners better, even if they grouped her with their untouchables. Southern culture abandoned the presumptions of democracy, that all men were created equal. That made sense to her.

"Try the popcorn." Noh came back, smiling, holding a striped bag. "Let's go." She stood up. He looked hurt. "We haven't rode the coaster."

"I'm fine." She said, "Lets get on the road."

They'd rented a Ford Franklin in Denver; a long flashy car with a retractable hard-top that worked perfectly in the desert heat. Noh drove. She climbed in, retrieving a pair of rounded sunglasses and a headscarf from the glove compartment. They pulled onto the blacktop and headed west as American big band music played on the radio.

"What is your brother like?" Noh asked, speaking loudly so his voice would carry over the wind. He hadn't asked her much on the ride down from Denver where they'd met for the first time, but something about the amusement park made him feel more comfortable.

"I have two brothers."

"His Majesty?"

Sahle. "He's too busy with work." she said. A non-answer. She knew him all too well. When she was a little girl, she was embarrassed by how he acted in public. At seven years old Sahle streaked naked through the palace. She'd been six at the time, but she'd known better, and she'd known that she knew better, and she couldn't wrap her little head around why he was to be Emperor. She learned how politics worked as she grew older, but those early frustrations were still there, somewhere, in her subconscious.

"I bet he is busy." Noh said, "I do not know if I could do it."

"I don't know how he does it either." She looked out at the desert, watching the red mesas go by, hoping this conversation would end. The world seemed so big here, the mountains too far away to wall it in, and trees almost non-existent, that she easily imagined herself getting lost in it. Swallowed up by forever, forgotten, like one of the scarce houses she saw falling apart far in the desert on some dusty trail. The American Southwest was more arid than the Ethiopian highlands, having more in common with the Rift valley or the dry deserts of Eritrea. It reminded her of a time her family visited Eritrea on state business, the year before her father died. Sahle was just discovering the other sex then, and uninhibited by the shackles of shame, he'd entered puberty sprinting. Their trip was ruined when he was caught deflowering a local official's daughter. The issue had been hushed up of course, but the process of hushing it up replaced their father's business. Everything once again had become about him: the heir, the profligate.

They pulled into a small roadside inn at twilight, hoping to pass up the bar and find a room. A woman sat outside the parking lot wrapped in a blanket in front of a table of wares hard to make out in the setting sun. There were no cars here, only motorcycles. Taytu did not like this place, but she was tired, so she resigned herself to it and stepped out. The woman in the blanket called out to them. "Buffalo Soldiers." the old woman's voice cracked, "Don't go in there."

Noh walked toward her, looking at her curiously. Taytu followed. As they got closer, they realized the woman was an Indian, her wares a variety of nick-knacks made of beads and cloth. What looked like a pile of extra blankets near by her turned out to be a makeshift tent.

"The men in there don't like darkies" the woman said matter of factly.

"We're not from America." Noh said, "We're foreign visitors. Diplomatic immunity." Taytu rolled her eyes. Diplomatic immunity didn't mean a thing to your average person.

"They won't care about that in there." the old woman said, "They're Highway Rangers."

"Who?"

"They fought for the South in the last war. Got no home now. They travel the roads, hunting darkies. Commies. Whoever they don't like."

"They let you sell out here?" Noh asked.

"If I went in there, I'd be dead. But I sleep out here."

Noh bought beads from her and thanked her for the advice. They pulled back onto the highway, watching the flashing beer signs fade away into a neon star behind them.

The real stars were out when they arrived at the Petrified Forest Inn, on the edge of the Painted Desert. There were cars here instead of motorcycles. Still, Noh checked his concealed gun before they went in. The Inn was built from petrified logs used like rough stone, but its color was undetectable at night. Once the car had stopped, the desert seemed overtaken by a sacred silence, disturbed only by the buzz of a neon sign. They went inside.

The cramped lobby was dominated by a single leather chair and the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke. "Can I help you?" an old woman said kindly, putting her smoke out in a tray. Noh started toward the desk, but Taytu went around him, surprising him into stopping.

"One room, single bed please."

"Ten dollars"

Taytu took out a ten dollar bill and traded it for the key. "Room sixteen is on your right. If you need anything, I'll be here until midnight." Taytu smiled and went out. Noh followed her.

Their room was small and smelled musty. She didn't like the feel of carpet, so she paused before taking off her shoes and putting them under the small desk near the window. A clock made out of a wagon wheel hung over the bed. She crinkled her nose. This wasn't the America she'd fallen in love with.

"I'll sleep on the floor if you like." Noh started, looking down, "They've already made it soft like a bed. What an amazing country..."

He stopped talking when he saw that Taytu had slipped her dress passed her legs. It stunned him, but when she reached to slip off her hose, he looked away. "This is not appropriate, your excellency."

"I'll decide that." she said. In her underwear, she started undressing him, and she felt the bulge in his pants. Whatever he was professionally, he was still a man, and he didn't try to stop her anymore. Soon they were both naked, her body awkwardly thin to her, but his the figure of a warrior. She pushed him into bed and climbed on top. They both came before they were done, and he fell asleep.

She stayed awake. The big loneliness of the southwest had swallowed her after all, she thought, as the tacky clock above her head beat the rhythm of time. Somewhere, sounding far away, she heard a car engine purr gently, and it made her shiver.

At her side, Noh was dead to the world. She looked at him, reached over him, conscious of her nipples hanging just above his nose, and took the utility knife from his belt. It felt strangely heavy in her hands for something so small. She flipped it open, twisted around, and carved a notch in the bedpost. After returning the knife, she managed to fall asleep.
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