Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
March 3rd, 1933
EAGLE CLAW

Undisclosed Location // Washington D.C.
Smoke filled the rather small conference room with most of the windows sealed shut and covered by curtains. There was one curtain that remained partially opened, revealing the overview of Washington D.C. An older gentleman took in the view with a glass of scotch while everyone else was working harder than ever before. He began to reflect on his life and how he ended up here. After all, it wasn't remarkable. A veteran of the Great War, he returned home to take over his father's business after his sudden departure. He redirected the cattle business towards the equine business, which saw massive success thanks to the horse racing boom. Some of his company's breeds went on to win tournaments, earning it more recognition and prestige.

It was the reason why he and his family didn't suffer for the Great Depression compared to other families. And with the relaxation of gambling laws, partially in Nevada, he started to invest in other forms of gambling besides sports betting. His plans were in place until election night put them at risk. Henry Wallace's landslide victory spelled the beginning of trouble for the wealthy establishment, including those in the gambling industry. Everything that he built from his father's cattle business was at risk of falling apart. And with the Great Depression getting worst, he wasn't giving up without a fight for his family's sake. Yet, he wasn't alone.

He, and several prominent wealthy men (and women), were invited to attend a meeting in the heart of New York City. That was where his involvement began, and the rest was... well, secretive. Looking at the nation's capital as the sun slowly disappeared from the horizon, he took a drink and placed the glass down beside him. He wondered if he had just taken his last drink. Then, he saw that his glass was being refilled by a good friend and a major figure in thoroughbred horse racing, Joseph Widener.

"What are you looking at?" Joseph asked as he placed down the bottle of scotch and then picked up his glass.

"Nothing in particular. Just admiring the view." Clayton Bradshaw picked his glass and took another drink. He glanced at the roundtable and turned to his friend. "Did I miss anything?"

"Well-" Abruptly, the sound of knocking caught everyone's attention in the room. A servent made his way to the door and opened it. Two soldiers from the U.S. Army entered the room with their weapons drawn. Nearly everyone in the room, including Clayton, thought that they were going to be arrested. But when General George Moseley arrived, everyone started to calm down while still being suspicious of him. J.P Morgan was the first person to approach him and asked for the reason behind his presence. Moseley looked at the soldiers and told them to put down their weapons. Then, he looked around the room and said clearly:

"Eagle has struck."


U.S. Capitol // Washington D.C.
President-Elect Henry Wallace was growing tired of his conversation with the Speaker of the House. A half-hour of empty threats and pressure to abandon his beliefs didn't faze the farmer. After all, he had been dealing with politicians like John Garner since his win. It didn't matter if they were either Democrat or Republican. He understood that it was going to be an uphill battle against the capitalist establishment. Yet, he wasn't alone in this fight with his supporters and wife by his side.

Henry stared down the Speaker and confidently said, "Let me be clear: I will never betray my beliefs to satisfy the establishment. The people voted for me to bring forward change to this great nation. And, no matter what, I will fight for a better tomorrow. Now, if you're done, I will take my leave."

John remained silent as he watched several police officers and soldiers appeared from the shadows. He watched with delight as General Douglas MacArthur stopped and prevented the to-be president from leaving. Henry asked for a reason, but he never got an answer. Two soldiers grabbed his arms and managed to handcuff him while he struggled. He tried to call out for help but was quickly silenced with some tape. Then, Douglas pulled out a cloth bag and put it over his head. John made his way towards the general as Henry was being dragged off to the capitol's subway system.

"You know what to do?"

"Yes." Douglas answered and began to walk away before remembering James LeCron, the Vice President-Elect. "What about the rabbit?"

"I was told that General Patton is in position to strike at the spot." John answered and then directed his attention towards the entrance of the subway system. "Just follow the tracks, and the rest will be smooth sailings. Oh, by the way, make sure to get some rest for tomorrow. You have a long day ahead of you."


Washington Airport // Arlington (VA)
Vice President-Elect James LeCron had been waiting almost two hours for the arrival of his family from his hometown. He should've made them come with him weeks ago, but didn't because transferring schools for their children took longer than expected. Now, he was anticipating their arrival. James decided to go to the front desk and ask about the delayed flight. When he got there, however, no one was there. He called out to see if anyone responded, but no one did and it annoyed him.

Then, he heard the door opening and saw a general with several soldiers approaching him. Their weapons were holstered, but it didn't make him any less worried. James stared at the general and questioned his presence, "What are you doing here?"

George Patton turned to the soldiers and ordered to apprehend him. One of them restricted his arms while another went over to put on the handcuffs. However, James broke free and began running towards the airfield. Everyone gave chase while Patton pulled out his pistol and made his way quickly. A police officer managed to tackle him to the ground, but he was elbowed in the face. James attempted to get up, but a soldier kicked him hard enough to cause great pain. While he was finally being detained, George pointed the pistol and looked around at the airfield for any signs of witnesses.

"Hurry up! We don't have much time before someone spots us."

James desperately demanded answers even as the tape and cloth bag were on him. A Ford Model 40, painted black and lacking a license plate, drove towards them and stopped on the airfield. The driver reached over to open the back door and got ready to drive away from the airport fast. The soldiers and officers shoved James into the back seat and closed the door. George watched as the Model 40 drove off and made his way back inside. He made his way to the front desk and picked up the phone.

After entering a series of numbers, an operator redirected George to a secured line; however, the person was unavailable. It was all part of the plan. He had to say only a few words as instructed. "Rabbit has been caught."


Undisclosed Location // Washington D.C.
"Eagle has struck."

Everyone froze in place after the announcement and then stared at J.P Morgan for direction. He thanked the general for giving him the news and asked him to wait outside for a minute. Moseley nodded and ordered the soldiers to follow him out. Once the military presence was gone, Morgan walked up to the table and grabbed his glass. The servants rushed out with bottles of expensive alcohols and began filling the guests' glasses up. He began to speak.

"Eagle Claw has been a success. But, that doesn't mean our work isn't done—far for it, in fact. We have been planning for this moment. And all of you have your duties to protect the new United States of America. I suggest that we depart as soon as possible before the riots start. However, I wish that the following people stay here a while longer: Rockefeller, Hearst, Coughlin, Richard and Andrew Mellon, and Ford. The rest of you are dismissed, but not before sharing a final toast."

J.P Morgan raised his glass followed by everyone else in the room, including Clayton and Joseph. "To tomorrow! May it bless us, our families, and the United States of America!"

After the toast, everyone began to leave with Clayton and Joseph following shortly after saying goodbye to Morgan and the others. Joseph bid farewell with an offer for his friend to visit him and his family at Hialeah Park. Clayton accepted it, adding that his family would love to see the flamingos up close. But, he noticed that the general was talking to other generals. Also, several politicians were slowly making their way to the conference room. He didn't recognize any of them, but he noticed the Speaker of the House in the background.

Clayton felt like he wasn't supposed to see them and decided to leave before he was spotted. But in the back of his mind, he questioned their presence.


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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
June 1955

Despite the relief that the night gave from the constant beating of the sun, the air was still sweltering like an oven. They had even reached record temperatures the week before, with temperatures reaching over forty-five degrees Celsius in the sand and rocks of northern Chihuahua. Two riders sat atop horses at a slow trot, wearing baggy green fatigues while their heads were covered by sweat-ringed, pulled-low military field caps. They were riding thirty miles to the west of Juárez, alone on a single-track dirt path that went straight through the featureless desert, bathed in the star and moonlight that the clear desert air afforded them. Barely a hundred or so meters to their left, cloaked in darkness and marked by the occasional sign, was the United States.

A deep exhale left the first rider’s lips as he scanned the night landscape and stopped his horse. It was always beautiful out in the wilderness, he appreciated the lonesome nature of his patrols to enjoy the landscape. Such a rugged and harsh place, conjuring images of vaqueros and machismo. His partner rode up beside him and stopped, adjusting the collar on his uniform. The man, who wore a corporal’s stripes on his jacket sleeve, checked his watch: the radium-green hand was ticking closer to dawn. The soft glow of the sun could be seen below the horizon ahead of them, ready to come up soon for them. This was the most critical moment of their patrol.

The first rider, a sergeant, took a folded map from his jacket pocket and clicked on his L-shaped flashlight to read the wrinkled and weathered paper. He had been keeping track of their position the hard way, keeping a count of his horse’s steps and dividing them against a “pace count” he knew of how many steps it took for the animal to travel a hundred meters. He backtracked that distance from their last known point, where they had turned east along the border road after doglegging out from the spot where they camped. Not much else they could do to find their location in the middle of a flat mesa. They were right where they needed to be, with time to spare.

“We made it?” the corporal asked, a yawn creeping into his question.

“Just about, yes. This should be the spot we need to watch,” the sergeant answered duly, putting the map away. He sat on his horse and held his wood-stocked rifle across his lap, reaching for his web gear to take out a metal canteen from a pouch. The corporal nodded, although his sergeant could not see him, and waited. Nothing would happen until dawn; the enemies here followed that rule just as any other hostile force would. They called it stand-to. Except these enemies weren’t combatants in a formal sense, but instead cattle rustlers from across the border. They liked to come through this flatland between the mountains in Mexico and ride covertly south towards the ranchos past the outskirts of the city. It was enough of a problem that the Army had put them on duty to deal with it.

The corporal unwrapped a candy bar and bit into the soft chocolate underneath the crinkling wrapper. The sergeant shot a glance over at him, but realized it was pointless. They were the only people in this desert and would be for another couple of hours. They waited silently, their horses occasionally snorting and impatiently hoofing at the sandy path below then. The sun rose ever so slightly every minute, the dull glow beyond the horizon turning into orange fingers that extended past the silhouetted mountains and into the flat basin where the soldiers were posted. It was almost six in the morning, right on time. With his binoculars out, the sergeant was now able to see even further across the border.

Just like the reports suspected, their first indication of movement came at around seven in the form of distant horse galloping. It was the corporal who noticed this; his younger ears hadn’t fallen victim to tinnitus the same way that his sergeants’ had. He nudged his sergeant and pointed in the general direction that he heard. Instantly, the binoculars went up to his eyes and he scanned for the telltale clouds of dust that accompanied a group of American cattle thieves. The two both motioned for their horses to lie down onto their legs as a way to conceal their profiles against the sand. Hopefully the Americans would be too busy to notice them, as they usually were. The dust cloud of horses drew closer to the border and the sergeant could now make out a total of four riders. Dressed in jeans and their obnoxiously large Stetson hats, they barreled down the sands with no intention of stopping.

“Wait for it,” the sergeant said as he noticed the corporal unsling his rifle. The sergeant withdrew a flare gun from a holster on his belt and clicked the hammer back. With a dramatic sweep of his hand, he shot it directly overhead the path of the American cattlemen. The flare gun made a popping noise and the projectile whistled as it flew a few meters into the air before igniting with a whoosh and producing a brilliant red light that could still compete with the newly-risen sun. “Let’s go!” the sergeant shouted, kicking his horse with his spur to get it up and going. The two riders ran out on the dirt path, careful to keep on their side of the border as they raced to meet the cattlemen.

A bullet cracked overhead from the American side. The corporal ducked to the saddle instinctively, swearing and shouldering his own rifle. He let loose a trio of his own shots, hopelessly inaccurate but somewhere in the cattlemen’s direction. That seemed to do something: the Americans reduced their speed a little, perhaps rethinking their decision to cross the border that day. The sergeant rushed his horse faster, coming to within hearing distance of the Americans. He withdrew a whistle from a chain around his neck and blew it as hard as he could, waving a revolver in his other hand that he knew the cattlemen could see. The corporal kept his rifle shouldered as he suddenly stopped his horse and had it kneel again. There would be no missing this next shot.

The cattlemen must have seen the Mexican soldier drop his horse to a steady firing position, because their formation began to turn around. They didn’t want to play this game today, but they still had to have the last laugh. Another round slammed into the dirt ten meters to the front of the sergeant, kicking up sand that blew towards the pair. The corporal had enough experience to know that the cowboys just wanted to save face, tell their friends and the pretty girls that they had come up across the Mexican Army and escaped with their lives in a gunfight. He decided to give them some more fodder for the saloon that night and returned fire with a single shot aimed narrowly over their heads. He smirked as he saw one of the cattlemen almost trip over and fall off his horse from the shot. Luckily for him, he retrieved his cowboy hat at the very last second and rode off.

“Another job well done,” remarked the sergeant. The cattlemen went back through the same pass they entered from, disappearing into the rugged landscape almost as quickly as they came. The pair put their weapons on safe and slung them across their shoulders, turning around their horses and heading back to their campsite. Whatever happened during the day would be the next shift’s problem.
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Hidden 10 mos ago 10 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA

July 2, 1955



BATTLE OF THE CARIBBEAN - AMERICAN WARSHIP SUNK


The headline blasted all across Argentina, every newspaper, every radio channel, echoing the news of the triumphant victory of the Ironia over her American adversary, USS Isherwood. A great feat of arms spoiled only by the loss of the Ironia in a sudden storm that was to much for her injuries. Only her Captain, Jorge Lantana, had survived to be rescued, along with his defeated opponent, by the Mexican Navy. It was a story that would grip the nation.

The truth, however, was known only to two men and it was stranger than anyone would ever know.

Caribbean Sea

Captain Jorge Lantana stood tall on the starboard bridge wing of the Argentine destroyer Ironia, the sharp bow cutting through the blue of the Caribbean to leave a long wake rolling away behind the low grey hull. Above his head, snapping like a whip in the wind, flew the proud white and blue ensign of Argentina, the golden sun in the middle given a sort of new life by the freshly rising sun behind it.

“Come on, quilambo… Where are you?” He raised his binoculars to his eyes for the thirtieth time that minute and swept the blue grey horizon in search of his prey. His mission was supposed to be a secret but he was certain that every member of the ships crew, right down to the that fucking faggot of a cook knew what they were doing here.

The Americans, despite all their protestations of neutrality, had been sticking their noses into Argentine activity in Caribbean, notably the presence of an American destroyer. While it wasn’t much, it was enough to remind the rest of the Caribbean of the northern Gringos. Lantana and the Ironia had been sent to remind the Yankees just who controlled this part of the Caribbean.

“Captain!” A cry from the interior of the bridge drew his attention and he glanced through the window at the radar technician who was glancing from him, to the screen, and back again, the strange blue/green glow illuminating his face. “We have a contact bearing 1-8-7. Could be the Yankee boat.”

“Excellent. Helm, steer 1-8-7! Let us go take a look.”

“Steer 1-8-7, aye sir!” The helmsman called out and Lantana braced himself on the doorframe as the ship heeled sharply and dashed toward the unknown.

In the distance, Captain Byron Stanton was in the midst of a delightful lunch that the cook made for him. Usually, the food aboard the USS Isherwood was terrible to eat. However, the newest cook was the best one that ever served on the destroyer. For today's meal, it was a custom made footlong sandwich with meatballs. He was almost done with it when he saw something in the distance. Something troublesome.

Then, he was caught off guard by the cries of a sailor and dropped his sandwich in panic. Byron stared at it and silently wept before leaving it for the birds. He went over to the sailor and, after a minute of cursing for ‘ruining a fucking perfect sandwich,’ asked for a status report. “Sir, it appears that an Argentinian destroyer is heading our way!”

“Well, that’s fucking great. Get in contact with the crew and tell them to fuck off!” Byron ordered the sailor. He had been sent here to observe for any signs of Argentinian warships recently sighted in the Caribbean. Even though he was in support of neutrality, he understood that America still needed to safeguard its colony on the islands. Plus, Puerto Rico was his honeymoon destination for his fiancée. The wedding was also going to take place at a location known as The Ruins.
Isherwood started moving closer towards the destroyer.

A radio communicator stared in amazement at his microphone for a moment before turning to Lantana. “The Americans, they’re called the Isherwood, just told us to “Fuck off”.” A murmur went around the bridge and eyes narrowed collectively as they stared at the American warship, now hull up on the horizon and growing larger by the second.

“To hell with those Yankee pigs!” A growl of agreement went through the bridge and Lantana felt the fire of indignation flare through him. “Bring the ship to action stations. Man the guns. We’ll see how brave they are!”

BONG BONG! BONG BONG! BONG BONG! The ships bell crashed throughout the steel hull and sailors hurried to their assigned stations. Breaches slammed home as shells were rammed into place. Anti-aircraft gunners, life jackets making them look like puffy marshmallows, clambered into place. Amidships men broke a sweat as they manhandled torpedoes into tubes and swung the long steel casings outboard.

Below them the powerful engineers pushed the Ironia through an ocean that, as if sensing conflict, had begun to worsen. Whitecaps flecked the tops of waves now and a strong wind began to whip salty spray across the decks.

“So, they are still advancing toward. Brave.” Byron sighed and then turned towards the sailor that earlier scared him with his yelling. “Fire a warning shot. They will definitely run with their tail between their legs after that.”

Lantana ducked instinctively as the American fired, the shells fell wide and threw up geysers of water that drenched several of the men on the outer deck. Their meaning was clear and the arrogance of that meaning infuriated Lantana.

“Return fire!” He shouted, slamming a fist down on the helm console in front of him. Within seconds the two forward guns roared, sending their shells screaming across the wavetops toward the onrushing American ship.

“Holyfuckingshit!” Byron nearly shit himself when the other destroyer returned fire. He raced towards the control room to see what the hell happened. Once he was there, the sailors saluted and then got back to doing their jobs. The young sailor, who was about burst out crying, approached the captain and started to apologize.

“Why the hell are you sorry? Son, what did you do?”

“I told them ‘fuck off’ like you said to.”

Byron was speechless but not surprised that command would’ve assigned him the dumbest sailor in the navy. Instead of slapping the hell of him, the captain turned to the other men and yelled out to return fire. He gave a look of disapproval at the sailor and then ran over to his position. The Isherwood fired its guns back at the destroyer and the conflict in the Carribean began.

More geysers exploded around the Ironia as her helmsman spun the helm, constantly changing the profile of the ship to make it harder to hit. The movement had a dual effect, it made the ship harder to hit, but it also served to throw off the aim of the Argentine crew who slaved away at their guns. Round after round screamed through the air toward the American ship and even the anti-aircraft guns, with no planes to shoot, depressed their barrels and opened fire.

The ocean, not to be outdone by the meer actions of man, continued to grow and batter the two ships. Gunners who had been trained on calm seas, or even on land, suddenly found themselves trying to predict the pitch and roll, not only of their own ship, but that of their enemy.

It seemed that the training proved to be useless because every shot seemed to miss the Argentinian destroyer. Then, after minutes of unloading upon them, Byron got the bad news that the entire stockpile of ammunition was emptied. He tried to look indifferent to the news, but he looked like he was about to pass out. But after a few more minutes, there was nothing but the sound of waves crashing against the hull to report. He raced outside and saw the lone destroyer in the distance.

“The hell do you mean we’re out of ammunition!?” Lantana was furious as he raged at the petty officer who was doing his best to stand at attention on the moving deck. “We haven't hit anything!”

The petty officer tried to stammer out a response but Lantana waved him away. “Forget it. Hardly your fault, though our gunners had better have a damn good reason for this abysmal showing when we’re done here.” He looked hard at the American ship that was now turning inside his own arc. They were like two dogs chasing each other's tails.

“What do we have left?” He demanded of his gunnery officer.

“Torpedos, but they won’t be much use in seas like this…” Lantana glared the man into silence.

“Better than nothing. Prepare a spread of eight and lay them across the Americans path. It should be simple enough, he’s turning in a circle like we are.”

“Well, what is there left to use?” Byron asked around the control room and got no answer. Then, another sailor reported that the torpedoes remained. With no other choice, the captain turned towards the helmsman and ordered him to get the destroyer into position. He had a moment to reconsider it, but he wasn’t going to die a coward. So, without anymore hesitation, Byron yelled to open fire.

Sixteen torpedos entered the water at the same time. The two destroyers, despite being built almost half a world away from each other, were nearly identical in their armament. Perhaps it was the sound of their own torpedoes in the water, or the raging ocean beneath them, but neither ship detected the presence of the enemy torpedoes until it was far too late.

As predicted, the majority went wide, or simply vanished into the depths as waves hammered at them, but two managed to get through. One, the final fired by the American, struck the Ironia just forward of her engines. No warning was shouted as none of her crew saw the silver fish beneath the white froth of the ocean.

Lantana was first aware of the strike when his ship gave a massive shudder and her stern was forced into the air. The rumbling explosion drowned out all yells of alarm from the crew and his own shout of pain as he was thrown head first into the deck, the loud crack of his skull meeting steel was lost among the other noises.

Captain Byron held on to the railing for his life as the Isherwood was stuck by what appeared to be a torpedo. He honestly thought that his life was about to end in the middle of the ocean. Yet, he was informed that they have also run out of torpedoes. That was when he regretted the decision to restock on land; however, there was another option. It was incredibly stupid, but effective. “Ram into the enemy!”

The helmsman nodded and began steering the ship around until he realized that the ship had been hit by a torpedo. He turned towards the captain and quietly said, “Sir… we’ve been hit.”

“So what!” the captain cried out and then noticed the ship moving. “Ha! It’s moving!”

“Oh no.”

Lantana staggered to his feet, blood pouring down his face, scrapping desperately at his eyes, trying to clear them. He could hear shouts of alarm and the klaxons blared throughout the ship as she began to take on water.

“Where is the American?” He needed to know, and quickly.

“She’s foundering as well, sir!” A sailor, miraculously still on his feet, was leaning into the bridge. “Look!” He pointed and Lantana lurched to the frame, peering into the gale force winds that drove sea spray into his face. He could just make out the American ship listing heavily to one side but still moving toward them.

“Damn, she’s still underway. Can we maneuver?” He turned on his helmsman who shook his head. A glance at the damage control board told him that the Ironia] was dead in the water, her engines disabled.

“The American is slowing, sir!” The lookout called again and Lantana quickly saw the man was right. The sea must have been pouring into the damaged Isherwood but he could feel his own ship settling into the sea. She was becoming more sluggish in her movements and water was lapping around her stern rail, each wave gaining progressively more ground.

“Madonna…” The lookout muttered in awe and Lantana had to agree despite the fear that clutched his belly. A massive wave, the largest they had seen so far, was rolling in behind the American. They saw the enemy ship began to rise as the huge roller picked it up like a toy and, as if to prove that men were puny, drove it like a missile at the Ironia.

“Brace!!” Lantana screamed the words and heard them echoed throughout the bridge as the American destroyer, all control gone, careened toward them on the crest of the wave. For one horrid second Lantana feared his ship was going to be struck amidships by the bow of the onrushing Isherwood but the ocean, perhaps in a final trick, turned the bow at the last second and the two ships slammed broadside into each other.

The tortured scream of metal and cries of dying men filled the air between the two hulls as they buckled and water rushed in between the shattered plating.

The helmsman tried desperately to regain control of the Isherwood from the waves, but it was useless. The destroyer smashed into the other destroyer, sending everyone in the control room to the floor. Captain Byron went to check on his head for any signs of bleeding, but there was nothing. He stood up and began to laugh in delight. “Nice job with that steering! We sure caught the enemy off-guard!”

But, he got no response and saw the helmsman lying on the ground, with his head split open. The remaining crewmen in the room tried to save him, but it was already too late. Byron wanted to help out, but he heard his name being called out. He ran outside and then saw a sailor from the engine room completely drenched. Then, he heard words that a captain never wanted to hear. “We’re sinking, sir!”

Sinking was the understatement of the century. Both ships were rapidly vanishing beneath the surface even as the weather, so fickle and angry a few moments before, began to dissipate and clear. Within minutes the sky had turned blue once again and the ocean settled back into gentle rollers that came from the east, pushing the two ships toward distant Mexico.

It made no difference to 600 odd men who served aboard the two ships. Those who had not perished in the torpedo strikes and collision found themselves floating in the azure blue waters. Argentine and American alike gripping life jackets as they stared at each other, fear mirrored in every face, their conflict quite forgotten.

The Ironia was dying, nothing but her bridge was left above the water as she finally succumbed to her injuries and began a final slide beneath the waves. Of her lifeboats, none remained, having been smashed to pieces by the collision or washed overboard as the waves ripped them free of their moorings. Lantana himself stood on the bridgewing, the last man to leave his faithful ship as she gave a final groan and sank beneath the surface. There was a brief swirl of water and a “whoosh” of escaping air before the water closed in and covered her as if she had never been there at all.

Fortunately, the Isherwood had its lifeboats intact but there were only a few for the crew of six hundred. Captain Byron watched as everyone that survived was desperately trying to board one of them. One by one, each of them were filled and lowered into the sea before there was one left. Byron knew that he had to stay behind with the ship as part of tradition, but he always thought that was stupid.

So, as the last lifeboat was being filled, the captain made his way onboard and got ready for it to be lowered. But then, he saw the cook and called out to him. The cook’s face lit with delight and he ran towards it. One of the sailors spoke up about the limited space and received a shove into the waters below. Byron allowed the cook to board and then yelled to lower the lifeboat. Instead, one of the sailors responsible thought he saw a shark’s fin and cried out, “Shark!”

That caused everyone to board the lifeboat in an attempt to not be eaten, but it only made sure that it sank. Byron watched as the other men attempted to enter the other lifeboats, but only caused them to flip out. He wanted to kill each one of them, but he understood that there was nothing more to do other than accept his fate. Until he saw a lone piece of wood floating, big enough to fit his entire body without sinking.

So, in a last ditch effort to live, Byron swam towards it even as the first of the men around him screamed and vanished beneath the surface, a red stain spreading quickly as more fins sliced through the waves.

Lantana was treading water some fifty yards away, his own lifejacket given to another man, when the first of the screams cut through the air. The panic had been immediate as Americans and Argentines alike swarmed the few remaining lifeboats, swamping all of them. Vicious fights broke out among those still clinging to a safe space above the waves the momentary truce was broken as men bit, stabbed, and gouged at each other as they fought for space. All the while the sharks sliced through them, dragging men into the depths or removing chunks that let their owners bleed to death in the water.

By some great miracle, Lantana was untouched by the sharks. Perhaps it was his distance from the bloody mess and the struggling mass, but no shark even approached him. He was able to secure a lifejacket again, this one from a man who had lost both his legs, and floated as still as possible while men screamed and died around him.

It wasn’t until the sun had begun to set that the sharks at last retreated, perhaps they were full. He slowly turned his face, now sunburnt, toward the carnage of what had once been two ships and their crews. No one moved. A single lifeboat, upside down, bobbed in the middle of a mass of dead and ravaged men. Not a single soul upon it. He gently began to paddle toward it, keeping his legs still, in the hopes he would not attract any unwanted attention.

It took him several minutes to reach the boat, gingerly pushing the dead and still dying away, until he could drag himself onto the white hull and, for the first time, he wept silently.

Byron laid on that piece of wood for a few hours until it eventually started sinking due to his weight. He panicked and thought that he was actually going to drown or be eaten by sharks. But luck was on his side again, a lifeboat that wasn’t torn apart floated nearby. He immediately swam towards it without tiring himself out and alerting the prey of his presence. It wasn’t until he got closer that he noticed someone had already claimed the lifeboat.

Without a second thought, assuming the person was long gone, Byron used his strength and tried to pull the body off of the lifeboat. To his amazement it lashed out at him, landing a blow on that sent stars shooting through his vision. Enraged, he punched back, his knuckles colliding with his opponents shoulder.

Lantana grunted as the fist hit him, again punching the ugly face in front of him. More blows were exchanged as the two men fought on the top of the liferaft, their blows weakening until it was little more than a pathetic slap fight rocked back and forth by gentle ocean swells. They were still at it several hours later when a Mexican warship arrived and pulled them both to safety.

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Hidden 10 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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The roar of the trains in the station brought a rush of warm wind, dust and papers rose into the air. Though there was much more than the rush of the incoming and outgoing trains to stir the air in the industrial metro. Though it would be a hazard to say it was only the trains that brought this gust. The passing of life and business on the platform rose it higher on their breaths. The watchful gaze and chirping shrills of the whistles of the station men rose it with magic. The alarms and shouted announcements of the conductors to the departure of trains cheering it to greater heights. Children ran between the legs of tall strangers. Somewhere a busker played a song on a Erhu adding to the ritual that brought the particulate to life. Even the station itself seemed to breath its own life. Its construction pulling in air to push it out again. Though the station was only a few years old, the smoke of trains and of people covered the great throat with a patina as a smoker. The concrete floor was scuffed and rubbed smooth by the leather and rattan soles of a millions shoes. All was full of a tense life. And in the green glow of a light shining over a map of China a young man with a fistful of yuan looked up at the routes of the trains.

Shin Yu had for his eighteenth birthday been given a package of bills he had saved away and given the orders to, “go out, see the country I fought for” by his proud father. His gift had lifted the otherwise sallow and distant gaze of his already eighty-year old pa, who was really well into his forties. Some venom in the past had sapped away his life faster than he had to live it. So, he was often tired. It was only the moment the young Yu became an adult that his father found the life remaining in his heart, where it flicker secretly like a hidden jewel.

Shin Yu had prior to any grand plans expressed a desire to join the army. This, several years, perhaps really a year and a half before his eighteenth had at the time made his old father distraught and depressed and he disappeared for a time within himself. But somewhere in the old man he came around or thought of some strange, alien plan to distract him. Whatever it was, he had conjured the money and foisted it on his son and told him to, “go out, see the country I fought for”. And what was a young man to do with such money? He obliged.

Packing out from his provincial village in southern Hunan he meandered the countryside to Hengyang. He went by foot, by ox cart, and even stumbled into a man with a car who brought him to a small town. There, at a train station that he bought a twenty yuan ticket to board and complete the rest of his journey to Hengyang in only an hour. The youth was struck by the city emerging from behind the hills with its great expanse of human life, thriving traffic, and activity. He stepped off the train aroused by it. From the factory smoke to the bustling of the streets, the trams and trolleys, and all the small stores and hidden homes in the old streets. To him it all seemed amazing. He spent a day in the city, living out of his packs and sleeping outside in the parks. He had conspired to see as much of the sights in the city as possible, to be entirely romanced. But he soon found himself disoriented at the city. He became lost. He paid another fare for a street car and arrived back at the train station and looking up at the map.

A handsome youth, he was kissed by the provincial countryside. Dark sunny complexion, bright brown eyes, and his black hair was largely untamed. He had a carved figure about him, and thin stubble of beard grew in the round valleys, the round hills of his youthful cheeks and jaw. Despite the weight he carried on his shoulder, he walked light and bouncy. He could walk as far as any good bull. Though his clothes were old and dirty, it was only by time; care had been made to keep them right and well patched.

If there was anything someone might say was lacking, it was confidence. At least in this moment. He stood at the map of the country following with deep concentration the network of railroads drawn in red. He thought he would go to Nanjing and see the capital, and from there wherever the winds take him. Maybe turn around and go back home if he realized he didn't have the money anymore. But as he stood looking up at the map he found that translating it wasn't as direct as he would think. He fuddled with it, thinking of the rough maps he would draw in the dirt or on a piece of wood to help a friend find something or to be shown by his family what field was to be worked that day. These were all fairly routine: go to the old tree split in the middle like a fish's tail, and head east until you come to the ancient tea shop, follow the road north from the old abandoned store and it will be on the right. This was all known. He could handle the abstraction. It was always handled in words. It all involved land he was familiar in. He could walk it asleep. He knew the way the road was that a brisk walk would get him to the field in twenty minutes with energy to spare. He also knew the relation between the old tea shop and his family's hut, and that if it was rainy to not go to the fish-tailed tree and he could take a higher route that while more circuitous would bypass both it and the tea shop, and he would arrive at the field straight on because all four things were known like the sun and the moon and the stars. But this was new, and its newness confounded him. Because in what direction was anything?

He knew nothing on the map, though he could read the names just fine. But he could not see any of these routes. It bothered him. He became frustrated and turned from the map. Perhaps it would not bother him. Perhaps he could ask. He took his money and went to the window.

If there was one thing that he held in unyielding aw in the station, even as everything else lost the fantasy: it was the railmen. It was not that they were particularly magnificent, they did not wear any grand uniforms like the generals and the soldiers in the pictures books that he had read. It is just that they held a pride that radiated beyond the simple nature of their uniforms. They made up for that in a pride of purpose and of strength that glowed in the way they held themselves. The emblem, small and humble that was its symbol was worn quaintly on their collars. These men were communists. There was not a worker who did not have pinned on them the insignia of the Communist Party. They wore it with an air of coy manner of the mahjong player. “Oh, I do not have the pieces to finish my hand, what do you mean? Don't you want to lay out yours?”

He had known communists, several years ago a group of them passed into his village. They barely announced it, but everyone knew they were communists. Their small group had moved simply to a table at the local tea shop, and ordering dimsum began to speak with the locals, or whoever would come by. At the time Shin Yu was fourteen. He had heard of the communists during the war from his mother, who worked for a time following the army. Back then they were loud and always shouting. Their officers challenging others to an argument over some issue or another before being shouted down by a more superior officer. She talked about how they would often sneak captured Japanese rifles to the camp followers and teach them to shoot, or to sneak the rifles to the villages they passed and how the military police would find several when an old man would surrender a half dozen to the army. She thought back then they were fools and radical. His father was a republican, Kuomintang and never did such things. But when the communists visited the village, they were not loud and even his parents abided them in silent mutual respect, though they never visited them. He had meant to visit them then, but by the time he worked up his courage they had moved on. Shin Yu wondered at these communists though, they were not particularly meek and humble as the ones he knew before, they were far too proud for that. But they were not loud and preachy as his mother had described them. He considered them, not making up his mind.

There was a line at the ticket windows. He stepped in and waited, gazing around. The variety of people were amazing. He was struck always by the sorts he saw in the city. There were Daoist priests, elderly men in the old dress. Younger men in the sleeker western suits. Rugged individuals and a few soldiers. Women in qipao and mothers with children. Others dressed like ladies from abroad. A small huddled group of Buddhist monks stood nearby, gazing out at the station silently and brushing their bald heads with their hands.

“Hello.” said the woman at the counter as Shin Yu stepped up, “Where are we headed today?” she spoke flatly, without intonation.

“I was thinking a ticket to, uh- Ji'an?” he started, he felt himself clam up and his fingers began tapping the wooden counter of the ticket booth, “Though, I'm really trying to get to Nanjing.” he added out of reflex.

“Nanjing then? We can get you a ticket to the capital. You'll need to transfer still.”

“I can? Well, that's good.” a relieved Shin Yu said, feeling an invisible weight lift off of him. “How long will that be?”

“Do you have an appointment there?” the lady said, pulling aside a sheet of paper and starting to fill it in.

“No, I am just out to see the country. I just thought I would go to Nanjing.”

“Well lucky you.” she said with a polite smile, but Shin Yu picked up it was rather wooden.

“You don't look like you're having much fun.” he said as he was handed a ticket. The lady at the booth rolled her eyes and shook her head.

“Eighty yuan, please.” she said.

“Oh, I'm sorry. And: here.” he handed her the bank notes and bowed nervously as he stepped away. He looked down at the ticket. It took him a moment of concentration to read it. But he would be departing from platform four at fourteen hundred. He looked up at the station clock that hung large and looming like an ashen moon over the gate where the trains came from. Barely thirteen hundred. He mumbled to himself, and walked to the platform and found a bench.

He would need to wait some time. But he had waited many time before, so unslinging the weight from his shoulders he sat his rump down on the cold metal bench and began his wait, watching the station life move on around him and the song of the train whistles and the engine noise and the talking and shouting, with the Erhu playing in the background and the calls and shouts of the station and locomotive staff. It fell and slipped into a casual dissonance and he leaned back into the bench.

For much of his life he had known only the relative calm of the countryside. In the mountains and hills where he grew the most that would dissolve the peace were the festivals or the rolling in of a spring and late summer storm. Even the cry of the cocks in the morning was peaceful and in as much harmony as the leaves rustling in the wind or the soft low hum of cicadas. But the bustle of the city and of the urban rail station was new to him.

He laid his head back and breathed a long sigh and waited.
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Vatican City


The sound of heavy footfalls woke Harry up from a restless sleep. He blinked and threw off the sheets as he heard murmurs somewhere in the dark. The sheets of his bed were soaked with sweat. It was always like that when he dreamed of his past. Obscure shapes would float by in the void, people just out of focus and always just out of reach, and they would speak a language he himself never spoke.

"息子を起こして"

"行く時間です"

“Father Mitchell,” a voice called in Italian through the darkness. Harry heard shouts from outside his window and sat up.

“I’m here,” Harry replied back in perfect Italian.

Although the language of his homeland was lost to him, he could speak Italian, English, German, and of course Latin perfectly.

“What’s all the commotion?”

“There’s been some kind of accident,” the voice said. As the fog of sleep lifted from his mind he now realized it was Father Ricci, a fellow canon lawyer like Harry, speaking to him. Of course it was Ricci, Harry thought, he slept in the room next door.

“I think it’s Cardinal Moch,” Ricci said quickly. “It looks like... he fell from the Governor’s Palace.”

At that Harry was up on his feet and out the door of his room clad only in his pajamas. Ricci took a step back from the door frame as Harry came through the darkness. Even in the dim lighting Harry could make out that the taller, older priest was clad only in a long plaid sleep shirt that came down to his knees. The two men padded across the hard, stone floors towards the window at the end of the hall.

Murmurs from down the passage followed the two men as they passed by open bedroom doors. As senior priests at the Vatican, Harry and Ricci served in the capacity as chaperons and advisors for the young men here at the Ethiopian College. Harry heard the young seminary students conversing in their native language among themselves, but he ignored it.

“I heard a scream,” said Ricci. “I was in bed reading and when I came to the window here.”

They stopped and looked down at the scene below. A series of well groomed gardens lay between the Ethiopian College and the Governor’s Palace. Running around the back of the palace was a paved road mainly used for foot and bicycle traffic, though the occasional automobile made its way down the path. Harry saw a gathering of men around a prone figure on its back. It was dark and at a distance, but he was able to easily make out the bright red shoes on the prone figure. The same shoes Harry had seen on Cardinal Moch’s feet almost every day for the last five years. His one vice, the old Pole always said sheepishly, was his love of fancy footwear.

“I see a few Swiss Guard and gendarmes,” Harry said softly to Ricci. “They seem to have it under control.”

“The old fool,” Ricci said with a laughter that carried very little warmth. ”It’s almost three in the morning. Do you think he was up on some balcony drinking? I’ve heard rumors about him, you know and--”

“Umberto,” Harry said sharply in English. He glanced behind his shoulder where the young Ethiopian seminary students watched on. “Not in front of the boys.”

Ricci stuck his bottom lip out slightly in a pouty gesture that Harry found to be very unbecoming. It made him appear like an immature schoolboy who’d just been scolded, instead of the fifty year old priest he really was.

“But you’re right about one thing,” Harry said, softening his voice. He looked over his shoulder at the students. “It’s almost three in the morning. We should all head back to bed. It seems we’ll get our answers to what happened in the morning. Back to bed.”

He shooed the young men off. They slowly complied. Harry knew they would probably spend the rest of the night talking it out among themselves about the all the excitement. He expected that out of the young men. He glanced back at Ricci and saw he was unmoved from his spot. He continued to stare in rapt attention as Harry shuffled back to bed. Let him stare, thought Harry. They may have the full story of what happened by morning, but it would be undoubtedly peppered by rumor and innuendo from the likes of Ricci and his clique of gossips.

Harry climbed back into bed and pulled the covers over him. Despite the excitement he found himself rapidly falling back to sleep. The last thought he had before sleep overtook him was: Why was Cardinal Moch fully dressed at 3 AM?




Tangiers


“Well, well, well. Look at this sorry excuse of a priest.”

The heavyset bartender was not wrong in his assessment of Dr. Father Daniel Maguire. He wore a pair of dirty khaki riding pants with the cuffs tucked into his scuffed boots. His black dress shirt had long ago lost its sheen and was now dull. He’d once had a clerical collar for the shirt, but he’d lost track of it a long time ago. Over the shirt was a long leather jacket with a turned down collar, an aviator jacket that had once been popular during the Great War.

“A sorry excuse for a priest in this sorry excuse for a bar,” Maguire said in a Irish brogue. He ran his hands through his curly red hair before winking at the big man behind the bar. “Faisel in the back room?”

The bartender begrudgingly nodded. Maguire walked through the empty bar. La Esquinita, literally Spanish for “The Corner” wasn’t the most popular place in Tangiers. It catered to a lower class of clientele. Even though it was eleven in the morning you could usually find a few alcoholics propping themselves up against the bar. At night it was the kind of place you went for a drink and minded your business. Or else.

Maguire went through the door and found his contact in the bar’s office. Muhammed Faisel Al-Rabi didn’t even look up from the ledger on his desk. He continued to stare at the numbers on the page from behind his rimless glasses.

“You owe me money, priest.”

“That I do,” Maguire said with a smirk. He reached into his jacket and produced a wad of Spanish banknotes.

The site of money persuaded Faisel to sit upright. He was a very neatly dressed and groomed man. His hair was combed and gelled in the right places so that it never moved and his pencil thin mustache had not one hair out of place. To meet him in the street you would assume he was a banker and not Tangiers number one smuggler and black marketeer.

“We are no longer owned by the Spanish,” he said curtly.

“It spends just as good as any kind of money,” said Maguire.

He placed the notes on the desk. After a brief hesitation, Faisel took the money and counted it.

“This is more than you owe.”

“It wasn’t a mistake,” said Maguire.

“Good because I was not giving it back.”

“Think of it as a down payment for future services to be rendered,” Magiure said with a crooked grin. “I hear some rumors on the streets and in the circles we travel in.”

“Yes,” Faisel said with just the hint of a smile. “We have heard rumors that you actually bathe, but as of yet we have not had any confirmation of that fact.”

Maguire waved off the joke in annoyance.

“I mean actual information that my bosses in Rome would love to have.”

Maguire put his hands on the desk and leaned forward.

“I hear that somewhere in this country someone’s found actual proof that Count Julian was real, that they found a grave with artifacts.”

There was a twinkle in Maguire’s eye as he spoke.

“One of the greatest traitors in Christendom--”

“--And one of the greatest heroes for the Maghreb people--”

“And we may have actual proof that he existed!”

If Faisel was moved by this information, then he had one hell of a poker face. He squared his glasses and raised an eyebrow at Maguire’s excited expression.

“Do you have actual concrete information this time, Maguire?”

“That I do, lad,” said the priest. “I just need some manpower and resources, something an enterprising fella like you I'm sure has ins spades.”

“If there are artifacts,” Faisel said slowly. He put his hands together and held them close to his mouth. “They will be very valuable.”

“You know who I work for,” said Maguire. “You check our ledger and you’ll see we got that infinity symbol when it comes to money.”

“This,” Faisel tapped his left breast pocket, the place he’d put the money Maguire had forked over. “Is a start, but I’ll need more, and I’ll need more details than you having a vague idea where this burial site is.”

“I can get you the money,” Maguire said as he stepped back from the desk. He pulled up a chair and sat across from Faisel. “As for details, let’s talk shall we?”
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Pagemaster

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THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA

July, 1955



BUENOS AIRES - Presidential Palace

"Your excellency," There was a knock at the door, a short hesitation and then it opened to admit a tall reed-thin man with a face that was pinched like he had sucked on a lemon. "I have received word that the Santos are meeting this evening."

President General Dictator for Life Hipólito Yrigoyen looked up, any trace of annoyance at being interrupted vanishing at once. "Do we know where!?"

Pedro Brieger, Yrigoyens spymaster, shook his head. "No. We only know that they are meeting. I can not even confirm the identity of any of them well enough to try and ask more questions."

"Damn..." Yrigoyen slumped back in his plush red chair, fingers drumming on the teak desktop. For the past several months he had heard whispers of a group of military officers known as the Santos meeting in secret. He did not know who they were or why they were meeting but it did not take very much imagination to discern what they might be up too.

"I do have a possible lead, but all of my enquires in that direction have proven ineffective or hit a dead-end." Brieger had a folder in a hand that looked so thin it appeared to be little more than skin stretched over bone. "A Doctor, Lieutenant Osvaldo Soriano."

"Why him?"

"He is known to receive letters from one Ernesto Guevara, who is not currently in country."

Yrigoyen grunted as he stared down at this tapping fingers. Association with a known revolutionary living outside Argentina was not enough for him to arrest a military officer. He would have to tread carefully. Over the past year he had managed to "encourage" a number of high ranking officers to retire and replace them with his own men. Even so, one did not send the secret police to a military base and not expect trouble. He would need more proof.

"Do you have any of the letters?"

"No. We have tried bribing the post-master," Yrigoyen winced, recalling how poorly that had gone. "And the cleaning staffer we paid off to search his rooms found nothing."

"Known associates?"

"He has been seen with any dozens of people, but one lady in particular, María Laura Santillán, a Journalist, spends a lot of time with him. As for male friends, all military officers, most frequently Lieutenants Francisco De Le Cal Delgado, Roberto Alemann and Mariano Moreno."

"Nobodies." Yrigoyen dismissed them all. "I was the guest of honour at their graduation. Decent enough officers but unremarkable otherwise."

Brieger raised an eyebrow. This was a point he did not agree with his President on. Junior officers were notoriously enthusiastic in their pursuit of three things, wine, women, and trouble. Delgado, for example, was already well known for having something of an issue with authority, ironic for a military man. All three played in the militaries rugby league, spent extensive time training, and were well liked by the men they led.

"I disagree, your excellency." He waited for the black eyes to meet his. "They are all very active young men and would bear watching."

"Watch away then. But they command no battalions or ships. Find me the Santos!" Yrigoyen snarled the last words at Brieger. "And question that girl. Carefully."



Two blocks away, seated around a small table set with four glasses and a bottle of rum, sat the four men suddenly of such interest to the President. Sariano was the most animated among them, as was usual.

"You see, he was written me about Guatemala. The people are suffering! We must act!" Lieutenant/Doctor Osvaldo Soriano waved the letter he held in the face of the three other men who had joined him in the gardens of the Paz Palace.

The letter in question had been written to him by his friend and colleague, Guevara, a somewhat radical revolutionary who had shared his studies with Soriano at the University of Buenos Aires. Guevara had been popular in medical circles and spoke at length about his experiences riding his motorcycle throughout the Americas. Much of it had resonated with the young idealistic minds around him.

Sariano himself had become a military doctor while Guevara had chosen to continue his travels. He had written to Sariano about his experiences and his idea of a united Latin America. Never one to ignore a good opportunity to debate, Sariano had tried to engage many of his fellow officers over the topic but found them largely unwilling to take part. Argentina was in a better state than some, President Yrigoyen had done the country much good before the attempt on his life. Since then he had tightened his grip on power daily until Argentines were vanishing in broad daylight, never to be seen again. Many of the reforms he had implemented were being rolled back and more and more "political prisoners" were being sent to mines or infrastructure works throughout the country as slave labour.

Sariano had begun to despair he would ever find a sympathetic ear until he had been volunteering to stand by for injuries at a rugby game where he encountered Lieutenant Francisco De Le Cal Delgado, a junior Naval Officer, who had done his own road-trip throughout the Americas and come home deeply troubled by what he found. His experience in the United States had shown him a possible future for Argentina that he did not like. He had in turn introduced Sariano to Lieutenants Roberto Alemann and Mariano Moreno. Each of them had been affected by Yrigoyen in their own way, but all of them agreed that a change needed to be made.

"Okay, we understand, but what can we do?"

The four had jokingly called themselves the Santos, a name known only to them and one or two others. None of them knew quite how far the name had gone in the upper echelons of power.

"We could speak to the General?" Alemann suggested, taking a sip from his glass, beads of moisture rolling down the sides to splash onto his white dress pants. He swore under his breath and brushed at the liquid.

"And say what?" Delgado dismissed the idea. He, among them all, had realized that their amusing conversations had started to become deadly serious in the past several months. "Please, General, can you tell the man who gave you your job that he needs to stop kidnapping people." He stuck out his lower lip and spoke in a simpering tone.

"Do you have a better idea?" Alemann retorted with some amusement.

"Remove Yrigoyen."

Complete silence fell over the small gathering as three sets of eyes stared at Delgado. They had skirted around such an act in private before, but Delgado had said it with such finality that the others were taken aback.

"Remove Yrigoyen and seize control ourselves," Delgado pressed on after a long pause. "We do it for the people of Argentina."
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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Japan

Kamikatsu
1922


“Who is the boy?” Father Gallo asked the nun.

Sister Shaw looked up from her paperwork and frowned in the priest’s direction. Gallo stood at the window and looked out at the schoolyard as he worried the silver crucifix around his neck.

“What boy,” she sighed before looking back down at her papers.

Father Gallo had taken charge of the orphanage just a few days ago, but in that short time Sister Shaw found herself doing most of the administrative work. Gallo was some sort of favorite with someone back in Rome, and he certainly seemed to care for the boys, but the man didn’t seem practical at all. That didn't bode well for his future, thought Sister Shaw.

“The little one who sits off by himself and reads,” Gallo said. “I’ve noticed him for a few days. Doesn't play with the others."

“That would be Harry Mitchell,” Shaw said without looking up. “He’s a bookworm and very reserved. He's not a fan of mingling with the other boys.”

“You call him, Mitchell...what’s his Japanese name?”

“He doesn’t have one,” snapped Shaw. “He’s not like the other boys, Father. They all have papers on them and we know their heathen names.”

Shaw saw Gallo wince at her use of the word heathen. She got a small thrill out of it. Good. The man seemed to be too lenient to these boys and their people. This orphanage was all about saving souls and converting the godless. There was no place for softness when it came to helping others avoiding Hell.

“Young Mitchell was left on the orphanage doorstep when he was a newborn," she said. "There was some of their gobbledygook written on a paper and pinned to his swaddling blankets, but nobody kept it. We baptized him and christened him Harold Mitchell. That was eight years ago. He’s been with us ever since.”

Gallo nodded and continued to stare out the window. Sister Shaw simply shook her head and went back to her papers. Let the young priest stare and be lost in thought. She had real work to do.




Rome

Vatican City
Now

Harry peered over his reading glasses at his wristwatch. It was a quarter past eleven in the morning and he could hear chanting echoing through the opulent library halls. The 11 AM mass would be in full swing by now. He’d attended the 7 AM mass like always, but it had been a subdued affair. WNews about Cardinal Moch’s fall was already well circulated through the Vatican by that point. The word floating around also confirmed the worst: the old man was dead. His Holiness had already ordered three days of mourning, a funeral mass set to commence after that. Clergy from across Europe would gather in Rome to see the old Cardinal off.

He tried to drive away thoughts about the dead Cardinal and instead focus on the work before him. Laid out on the table was a collection of books and papers on one Josep Manyanet i Vives. Vives was a Spanish priest who died in 1901. He spent his life devoted to the cause of helping his parish despite being in ill health. It was reported the man suffered from open sores for over a decade. After over twenty years of campaigning from the diocese in Barcelona, the Church was moving forward with beatification of Father Vives and this was the first step.

That’s where Harry came in.

His official title in Vatican City was canon lawyer. It was true that he was an expert on ecclesiastical law. But his specialty had a very specific title. Harry was the Devil’s Advocate. It was his job to thoroughly investigate any proposed saint to see if they were less than worthy. If they met Hary's approval their case for sainthood would progress to the next step. In addition he also investigated any reported miracle for evidence of fraud, or to see if there was a simple scientific answer. Overall he was the Vatican’s resident skeptic in all matters. It seemed to fit him well in the five years he’d been here. He’d always been the odd man out from the time he was a child. The lone skeptic among the flocks of the devoted. He wore that badge with pride.

“Father Mitchell?”

Harry looked up from his papers and found a junior priest standing in front of him. Harry felt a little nervous when he saw the tall, imposing figure standing beside the priest in a dark suit. Colonel Stoller stared down at Harry with a look of boredom. Harry knew those seemingly bored eyes didn’t miss much. While he didn’t wear the gaudy show uniforms of his men, Stoller was a Swiss Guard through and through. While they carried halberds, Stoller carried a pistol tucked in a shoulder holster.

“His Holiness requests your presence,” said Stoller.

Harry was on his feet before Stoller could finish. He followed in the wake of the taller man across the library’s marble floors. The librarian who had accompanied Stoller would take care of the books and papers Harry left on the table. They walked across the beautiful Sistine Hall with the detachment of people who saw the breathtaking works of art Vatican City had to offer every day. Harry felt a mix of emotions as he followed Stoller. He always enjoyed seeing His Holiness, but it was highly unusual for Stoller to become involved. He coordinated security for the Pope and The Holy See abroad. He served, as they all did, at His Holiness’ pleasure, but he was not a simple errand boy.

Stoller led Harry to the papal apartments. The layout of the residence was spartan and in keeping with its current occupants’ more modest approach to the papacy. Pope Leo VIX, once upon a time Father Martino Gallo to Harry, flashed a wide grin as Harry and Stoller entered the sitting room.

“My son,” Leo said as Harry got on his knees and kissed the ring on the Pope’s right hand.

For Harry, the term son was not some generic greeting. Over thirty years ago Father Gallo came to a lonely little boy in a Japanese orphanage and took him under his wing. He taught Harry about God, faith, the Church, and all that it meant to serve the Lord. Father Gallo help put him through seminary school and legal training even as his own star rose within the Church. And then. five years ago, when Cardinal Gallo emerged from the Papal conclave as Leo XIV, he brought Harry to Rome.

“Your Holiness,” said Harry.

“None of that, Harry,” said Leo. “Not here in my home. “Call me Leo, call me Father, call me Marty, but no need for formality with me. And off your knees and have a seat.”

Harry got up and sat down in a chair facing Leo. Stoller stood at the threshold of the sitting room at parade rest.

“You can have a seat as well, Colonel,” said the Pope.

“I could,” replied the Swiss colonel. “But I won’t.”

“Suit yourself.”

Leo turned his attention back to Harry. Several months had passed since the two men last saw each other. That wasn’t out of the ordinary even in tiny Vatican City. So much of Leo’s time was scheduled out and planned to the exact minute. There was no doubt he had to make some sort of sacrifice on his itinerary for this meeting with Harry.

“How have you been, Harry?” Leo asked with a warm smile.

“I’ve been well, Father,” said Harry. Even in the less formal setting Harry would not call His Holiness Marty. “My work keeps me preoccupied most of the days.”

“Oh, I know.” A sardonic look flashed across the Pope’s face “I read your report on the American woman who claimed she found the image of Jesus Christ.”

“Yes, she was very committed,” said Harry. “Or at least she needs to be.”

The two men shared a laugh while Stoller looked on stoically.

“My good colonel could you please put on some music for Father Mitchell and I?”

Harry started to say something, but stopped when he saw Leo raise a hand preemptively. The colonel walked over to a record player in the sitting room. Opera music began to play from the speakers. Stoller adjusted the knob so the sounds of Cavalleria rusticana filtered through the apartment at full blast.

“The walls have ears around here,” Leo said soft enough so that only Harry could hear him. “I have learned that well in the past five years. We must talk quickly and cover much.”

The Pope reached into his robes and produced a folded piece of paper. He passed it to Harry and let him look it over. It was a Papal brief declaring that he, Father Harold Mitchell Esquire, had been bestowed the temporary powers of His Holiness when it came to access to Vatican City. Nothing or anyone would be off-limits to him as he acted as the agent of His Holiness. So ordained by His Holiness Leo XIV, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the Vatican City State, Servant of the servants of God.

“What is this, Father?” Harry asked.

“Cardinal Moch’s death,” said the Pope. “I do not think it was just a simple accident. I fear the worst... I think he took his own life.”

The two men exchanged looks. Leo didn’t have to explain any further the ramifications of Moch committing suicide. It was an abomination in the eyes of the Church. No suicide could ever have a Christian burial and no soul who took their own life could ever enter Heaven. For a Cardinal to do such a thing would be an enormous scandal.

“I want you to use that brief to find out everything you can about Cardinal Moch in the days leading up to his death. Found out his frame of mind, who he last spoke to, what he was doing the night of his fall.”

“Your Holiness,” Harry said, ignoring Leo’s chastising look as he pressed on. “You have the Gendarmes for this. They are the closest the Holy See has to a police force.”

“Manned by men with questionable allegiances,” said Leo. “Lombardi was appointed by the last pontiff. I question how much of our daily goings on gets reported to the Italian government. Lombardi and the Gendarmes are off the table for this one.”

The Papal brief in Harry’s hands suddenly felt heavier. It carried with it so much power, but also so much responsibility. The power of the Pope himself was vested in this document, Harry now an extension of that power. Harry’s sight drifted towards Stoller’s imposing presence.

“Stoller and the Swiss Guard are at your disposal,” said the Pope.

A slight nod from the colonel served as confirmation of Leo’s words.

“However only the colonel knows the full story.”

“I will assist you in whatever you require, Father Mitchell,” said Stoller.

“See what you can find, my son,” said Leo. “Speak to no one on any of this, not even Colonel Stoller once you two go your separate ways. Only report directly to me what you find. Things are at play here, Harry. Cardinal Moch’s death could set off a disastrous chain of events. But I know you are capable of finding the truth. There is no one here in the Vatican I trust more than you, no one I know is more capable or smarter than you.”

“Wait,” said Harry. “What do you know about Cardinal Moch, father?”

Leo stood and put a gentle hand on Harry’s shoulder.

“You two have to go now. I’ve already spent enough time here talking with you. If I keep my entourage waiting any longer they will grow suspicious. Let me know what you find as soon as there is something to find. Go now, Harry. And go with God.”

Harry was on his feet and following Stoller out the door of the apartments. His head seemed to spin as he tried to take in the gravity of the situation he now found himself in. His Holiness -- Marty -- needed his help. Even if he wasn’t the Pope, Harry would do anything for the old man he thought of as his father. He just hoped he was capable of For five years he’d done his job as Devil’s Advocate and kept his head down. He wasn’t like Ricci. He didn’t wade into the intrigue and relish the gossip. But now here he was, neck deep in it against his will.

“His Holiness is right about one thing,” Stoller said as they descended the stairs towards the plaza. “You must go with God if you wish to succeed.”

Harry reached into his shirt and pulled out his crucifix. It was old and tarnished by years of worrying from Harry and its previous owner, Father Gallo. Harry began to worry it again and say a soft prayer for guidance on what to do.




Washington D.C.

St. Patrick’s Church

“Forgive me, father, for I have sinned.”

Carl Speers waited to hear the reassuring voice of Father Miller on the other side of the screen. Instead he heard only silence. Speers leaned forward in the confessional booth and waited.

“Father?”

“How long since your last confession?”

The voice that finally spoke did not have Father Miller’s quaint midwestern accent. Instead the voice was deeper and with a tinge of a German accent.

“I...a few weeks ago,” said Speers.

“And this was the confession where you told Father Miller you confessed a child with your secretary.”

“How the hell are you?” Speers shouted.

The screen slid open and Speers saw a man that was definitely not Father Miller. The man who stared back had thick gray hair and good looks that seemed more like they belonged on a movie star instead of a priest. His only blemish was his glasses. Thick lenses and thick black frames rested on the bridge of his nose. They threw off his natural handsomeness and made his eyes seem insectoid. Those large eyes seemed to look into Speers soul.

“Hello, Mr. Speers,” said the man. “May I call you Carl? Carl, my name is Archbishop Eugene Koning. You could say I’m Father Miller’s supervisor. I’m sure you know what it’s like having a boss, Carl. I’m sure your work at the Treasury Department brings you into contact with Secretary Hall often.”

The outrage Speers had come with just a few seconds earlier evaporated. This man, this Koning, knew so much about him. He knew his name, where he worked, and worst of all, he knew about Archie. Spears looked at Koning's face and tried to muster his best snarl. Instead he sagged and sighed. He knew a threat when he heard one.

“What do you want,” Speers murmured.

“I need your expertise in American finance,” said Koning. He pulled a folded piece of paper from his jacket and passed it through the booth’s opening to Speers. The man took the sheet in his pudgy hands and unfolded it.

“What is all this?” Speers asked after looking at it. “I see routing numbers and amounts to bank accounts, but the number sequence is off on the origin account...are these Swiss accounts?”

“They are,” said Koning. “And as you can see the amounts are rather large. Can you request information on the people who own these accounts?”

“Eventually,” Speers said after a long silence. If this was the cost of Koning's silence, then it was an easy price to pay. “It would take some time to identify which banks these accounts were set up with. If I formally request the information that may raise some red flags, so backchanneling it will take even longer.”

“I leave Washington in three days. I want that information with me then.”

“What?” Speers looked flustered. “That’s impossible, I can’t. You’re asking too much I--”

Koning raised the volume of his voice but kept the tone neutral. “You should have thought about that before that late night at the office with Sarah, before little Archibald came along.”

“I was confessing my sins,” hissed Speers. “I wanted forgiveness. I didn’t know it would be used as blackmail. What kind of fucking priest are you?”

Koning squared his glasses and looked at Speers. The intensity of his gaze took the fat man back. He swallowed hard and began to stammer.

“I-I-I’m sorry I cursed like that. It was inappropriate in the house of the Lord.”

Koning ignored his apology. “I expect you to deliver the information I seek to Father Miller in a sealed envelope addressed to no one. Remember how much I know about you, Carl. Your address in Georgetown happens to be one of those things. I think our business is done here for now. You know what to do.”

Koning slid the confessional screen shut. He was already a few steps down the aisle by the time Speers came out the booth. But Koning stopped and turned to look back at Speers.

“You ask what kind of priest I am, my son, to violate the seal of confession. It is not something I do lightly, please know that. There are bigger matters at sake. And I am not a mere vicar, just as you are no mere parishioners. We’re warriors, Carl. The Crusades ended almost nine hundred years ago, but holy war still rages. The battlefields and weapons have shifted, though. Our enemies no longer use horses and swords. They use ideas and politics and money. And they are winning. The enemies are at the gate, my son. Men like me, we keep the infidels at bay.”

Speers stared at the archbishop in stunned silence as the man turned away and started down the aisle towards the exit.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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The Caribbean Sea
July, 1955

The haze-grey bow of a warship pushed gently through the field of flotsam and debris that cluttered its path. Ahead of the Mexican frigate Matador was the scene of a battle that claimed both parties. It became increasingly apparent as the investigation continued that the bloated bodies of the dead wore American and Argentinian uniforms. Something tragic must have happened that led the two countries into such a devastating fight. Lookouts had been posted with rifles to the gunwales of the frigate, a precaution called for by the captain with a distrust of the US Navy. Lifeboats floated empty throughout the rubble and bodies, the lookouts peering into them with binoculars for any sign of life.

One of the watchmen called out in alarm as he noticed a lifeboat rocking amidst the debris ahead. A petty officer ran towards him with his binoculars and saw two men limply attempting a fight inside the boat. They bore the uniforms of their own countries, but were obviously older and weak in the sun. Someone signaled to the bridge, and the ship stopped. A crew had been detailed to pick up survivors, led by a lieutenant. Their wooden boat had been lowered down into the water, a crew of three gently rowing towards the lifeboat. It, too, cut through the bodies and debris and the officer aboard could clearly see the maimed and mutilated sailors around them. Many of them looked as if they had been bitten by sharks and left to bleed out and die. The thought sent a chill down the lieutenant’s spine.

The rowboat had reached the survivors, who were too preoccupied spitting insults at each other in their own languages to notice until a petty officer had yanked them both by the collar and into the rowboat.

“Calm down, relax,” the lieutenant told the Hispanic one in Spanish, wrapping a towel around his shoulders and placing his hands on the man’s arms. He bore shiny rank insignia and still maintained an air of authority. It was obvious he was someone important. His petty officer tried the same thing to the white survivor, who himself wore a silver eagle on his collar. The American obviously didn’t understand everything, but “tranquilo” translated well enough into English.

The crew pushed their boat off of the debris of the battle and floated gently back to be picked up by the Matador’s lifeboat retrieval crane. Onboard was the security team composed of Marines in distinct olive uniforms, standing out from the denim pants and dungarees of the sailors around them. Distinct from the Army, the Marines wore starched and formed eight-point covers and black brassards bearing a bold, white “MARINA” branding. Two pairs of troops separated the American and the Argentinian and began their searches for weapons and contraband. While the Marine officer calmly asked the Argentinian if he had maintained his sidearm or any other weapon, the other team invasively searched every pocket of the American’s uniform. After a few minutes of shoving and roughhousing, they were satisfied. And besides, if either of them had any weapons then there wouldn’t be two survivors to begin with.

A figure emerged from the bulkhead in front of them. He didn’t wear the dungarees of the working junior personnel, but instead his black double-breasted coat with the shoulder boards of a Captain. It was the skipper of the Matador, Captain Rafael Miguel Pulido. A veteran sailor with a humorless face and a posture as if a metal rod had been fused to his spine, Captain Pulido ordered the Marines to bring the prisoners to him. Silently, he inspected each one: their sunburnt faces, soaked and faded uniforms, air of defeat, and simple physical exhaustion. With the wave of his hand, Captain Pulido ordered the Marines to take them to the spare bunks and give them a fresh set of clothes. He further ordered them fed from the galley. They were to appear in his office in two hours.

For Captain Pulido, the next two hours were spent figuring out answers as to what had happened there. Flotsam and debris bore the name of two ships: the USS Isherwood and the ARA Ironia. He had corroborated it with information gleaned by his signal personnel as they hailed nearby lighthouses and signal stations in the Caribbean. The two ships had indeed come across each other during Argentine activity in the western islands of the sea. What the Argentines were doing up there, Captain Pulido had no idea. It was too far from their anchorages and indicated a willingness to exercise their force projection and support fleet capabilities. It appeared to work well for them, until they picked a fight with the Americans and lost.

“So what happened there?” asked the Mexican skipper, calmly leaning back into his chair. He glanced at the two Marines standing guard by the bulkhead, revolvers snugly inside holsters on their pistol belts. Each one eyed either of the internees, carefully watching for any sort of argument or hostility.

“The Americans started it,” huffed the Argentinian as if he was blaming a sibling for starting a fight with him over cleaning their childhood room. He had given his name as Jorge Lantana, but Captain Pulido knew next to nothing about him other than that. He appeared almost humiliated to be wearing a Mexican Navy physical training uniform instead of his standard dress uniform. Pulido knew the struggle of a proud serviceman all too well, better to stand tall than face capture.

“You decided to start charging my position,” retorted the American. Pulido, a Tijuana native, understood enough English from the Californians who wound up in town to translate both for himself and Lantana. He repeated the American’s comments back to the Argentinian.

“You overreacted, I was simply repositioning as a result of your crude gesture,” Lantana growled. He turned to Pulido: “All I received was a radio transmission to ‘fuck off.’ I thought we were officers and gentlemen, but the Americans are obviously savages.”

Pulido relayed the Argentine’s words in a slightly more cleaned up manner. The American captain seemed just as hot blooded as the Argentinian; the captain kept the Marines in the room in case they started throwing punches at each other again.

“And so you decided to shoot each other?” deadpanned Pulido after the American, Captain Stanton, offered no reply except for a disgusted face. Perhaps a tinge of regret crossed his face, but only for a moment. He would offer no weakness to exploit. They sat defensively in their seats, no further response with their caged and stoic expressions. After all, if a few hours in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean couldn’t force a bonding moment of understanding then nothing Pulido could do would get them to calm down. It was of no matter: “That’s fine, I understand what happened here. Two proud men who couldn’t back down from proving whose dick was the biggest!”

Lantana glared at Pulido, and so did Stanton as soon as Pulido translated his ire. The Mexican officer continued, frustrated now that he had to deal with the equivalent of man-children onboard. Man-children, incidentally, that had just made decisions that led to the death of dozens of American and Argentinian sailors.

“I am going to drop you both off in Cuba when we reach there in a few days. We will take you to your embassies as a gesture of kindness and repatriate you. After that, I do not wish to see either of you again. I had to divert my patrol because of you and we will be late relieving other forces in the Caribbean.”

Pulido nodded to the Marines, who each took their captive and stood them up out of the chair. One after the other, they were forced out of the bulkhead in the captain’s office. The Marine officer, once this was complete, excused himself and departed. The door closed with a metallic thud so customary to Pulido’s ears now and the rotating handle squeaked as it rolled shut. The captain sighed, looking over to a map of the Caribbean on his wall. On it were a series of blue push pins designating the planned patrol route. They were supposed to head out from their base in Veracruz and pass through between Cuba and Jamaica. Then, a loop around down to Aruba and back to Panama would have them patrol the coast all the way back up to Mexico. Each pin point represented their planned location each day.

Beside it, a series of red push pins represented their actual position every morning. It followed the planned path fairly well until the days prior, where they had diverted to investigate the distress call. Now, they had to divert even further and physically dock their vessel in Cuba. They would probably have to go around the island and up towards Havana to establish contact with the embassies. Pulido shook his head: the Mexican Navy was notoriously rigid and strict compared to the other branches, such as the rough-and-tumble Army who acted more like vaqueros and the haute personalities of the Air Force. He would have to explain a lot to his fleet’s commander.

Whatever the case, Captain Pulido pulled the phone to the bridge towards him. Immediately, the voice of a young lieutenant answered him and asked for his directions. “Tell the navigator to plot a course for Havana, effective immediately. We will head there and drop off the shipwreck’s survivors… no use in keeping them around and I want to avoid making this international incident worse.”

The officer acknowledged and hung the phone up, leaving Pulido to himself. He contented himself with studying the charts and timetables for this operation, trying to brainstorm his contingency plan before his next staff meeting. Within the hour, he felt the mass of the Matador shift and begin a turn to the north. They were on their way to Cuba.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Rome

Two Months Ago

Koning walked through the park with both hands wedged firmly in his pockets. A pleasant spring breeze through Koning’s hair and he took a momentary break from his vigilance to enjoy the scene. There were picnicking families eating lunch on the grass, people walking dogs, and what looked to be a pack of young toughs smoking cigarettes beside a bench. Somewhere a radio played an uptempo music number with Spanish singing. The Appian Way ran through the heart of the park. No cars could safely pass down the cracked and worn cobbles, but plenty of pedestrians and bicycles navigated down it at the moment. The same road Roman soldiers had marched down over two thousand years ago was still being used. It was a testament to the ancient world’s engineering prowess, and a reminder that Rome’s history stretched back several millennia.

A child’s loud and playful scream brought Koning back to reality. He pulled a hand out of his pocket and squared his glasses. It was almost time for his contact to show. He’d left his vestments back at the Vatican in an effort to blend in. A priest in a dowdy black frock walking through the park would get noticed. On top of that, emissaries of the Holy See were scrutinized once they stepped on Italian soil. Koning spent nearly two hours executing his tradecraft. He’d double back on his route and walk the wrong way on one-way streets, looking over his shoulder for familiar faces going the same way as he was. Normally archbishops in the Catholic Church weren’t experts in espionage tradecraft, but Koning was far from a normal archbishop.

He found Dončić sitting on a park bench eating a gelato. Koning sat beside the thin, mustached Slovenian man. Neither acknowledged the other’s existence as they continued to stare forward.

“You have some gelato in your mustache,” said Koning.

Dončić wiped his face with the back of his hand and grunted thanks before taking another bite.

“There is a packet under the bench,” said Dončić. “It includes some banking information my bosses in Belgrade need help with.”

Koning reached down and pulled a closed manila envelope from under the bench. He tucked it into his jacket for later reading.

“What is it related to?” asked Koning.

“A criminal group active in Yugoslavia. They are ostensibly a Muslim revolutionary organization, but they are little more than gangsters. They run guns, sell drugs, and pimp out women to fund their terrorism, but they have other donors who live abroad that do the heavy lifting. State Security found the information in your packet during a raid on one of their homes. Our theory is if we can identify and cut off their funding, then their revolutionary zeal will fade. ”

“‘One cannot serve both God and money. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other’,” said Koning. “What do I seek to gain if I undertake this task for your country?”

Dončić shrugged. “The gratitude of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. In addition, you make me look good in the eyes of my bosses. I look good to them then I get promoted. That gives you a good Catholic friend deep inside the UDBA. A friend who will owe you a favor.”

“I’ll see what I can find,” said Koning. He stood and stretched. “Watch the wall outside the Yugoslav Embassy for the tic tac toe game. I’ll be in touch when I have something.”

Koning walked away from the bench without a look back at Dončić.




Boston

Now

Koning looked up from his papers as the train PA announced they’d arrived as his stop. He placed the papers in a briefcase on the seat beside him before standing. He stepped out onto the T platform and started the climb up the station steps. Speers managed to come through with the information Koning needed and it, along with a few items provided by other sources at his disposal, was in his briefcase.

He came out of the station and into the heart of South Boston. Southie, as it was called among Boston locals, was a neighborhood with a reputation. Heavily working class and heavily Irish Catholic, it wasn’t a place a lot of Bostonians liked to find themselves in this late at night. Koning wasn’t too worried. He could handle himself in almost all physical situations he may find himself in. On top of that he was decked out in his cassock. Only the most hardened criminals in Southie dared to accost a priest.

Clapboard row houses with multiple families living within them were on both sides of the street. Hungry faces peered out the windows as Koning passed by. He expected more kids and youngsters on the street, but a strict curfew administered by Boston police was in effect. Despite the huge Irish Catholic population in Boston they were still second class citizens. The nicer parts of the city were proddy only, so the Catholics had to stay in neighborhoods like Southie and Dorchester. Too many poor people living on top of each other led to crime and squalor. The old Boston Brahmins still had their hooks in city hall and their machine ran the BPD. On their orders the mostly Protestant cops treated the Catholic neighborhoods like occupied territory. Years of abuse built up resentment and rage at the cops and the establishment they worked for. Koning could feel that unrest even simmering under the surface even in the warm summer night. It was only a matter of time.

His glasses reflected the bright neon glow off the bar’s side wall as he approached the entrance. A green neon sign declared the place JOE’S. A four leaf clover above the E blinked on and off in an infrequent pattern.

Koning entered the bar. It looked like a typical dive bar: A few sadsacks were bellied up to the bar with a glass of beer and an empty shot glass. People sat at a couple of tables scattered around the floor smoking just as much as they drank. The walls were covered in graffiti along with vintage posters of old time boxers and black and white photos of people Koning assumed were somehow connected to the bar’s history. A jukebox in the corner warbled some Irish jig:

“Then we turned and shook as we had a look in the room where the dead men lay. So big Jim Dwyer made his last trip to the shores where his father's laid.”

He received a few curious looks as he approached the bar, but nothing too severe. There was a good chance he wasn’t the first man of the cloth to walk through these doors. The bartender sized him up with a slightly raised eyebrow. The middle aged man was beefy with a ruddy face and a flattened nose. The nose along with the cauliflower ear on the right side made Koning guess the man had been a boxer in his younger days.

“Sunday’s priests get penny shots,” he said with a grin. “Every other night it’s full price, father.”

“I would like to see the proprietor of this fine establishment,” said Koning.

The bartender wrinkled his brow and scratched the side of his head. “Do what now?”

“The owner,” Koning said with a sigh. “The Joe in Joe’s.”

“Ain’t no Joe,” said the bartender. “Never was. It’s just a name someone liked so they named the bar Joe’s.”

“Curious,” Koning said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “I was under the impression this bar was owned by one Joseph Sullivan, at least it’s a de facto ownership. The actual deed of ownership and liquor board license is in the name of Colleen McDonough, Joseph’s aunt. Yet Boston Police Department intelligence indicates Mrs. McDonough is just a front because Joseph, a convicted felon, would be unable to get a liquor license on his own.”

“Get the fuck outta here,” the bartender said sharply. He started to reach for something behind the bar, a baseball bat Koning assumed. “Get out now, padre, before something bad happens to you.”

“Let your boss decide my fate,” said Koning. “I will have some tonic water while you tell him I’m here.”

The bartender eyed Koning sharply as the archbishop simply stood there. Finally, he moved slowly and deliberately towards one of the taps behind the bar. He poured a glass full of tonic water before spitting in it and putting it on the bar in front of Koning.

“Drink up.”

Koning watched him lumber away towards a door off to the side of the bar. All of the regulars at Joe’s were now all watching the priest as he put his briefcase on the bar and calmly waited.

“Word of advice, your holiness,” said one of the drinkers at the bar. Koning turned to look at him. His face was permanently flushed red from a lifetime of alcohol consumption and his eyes had a glazed over look that Koning was sure was permanently there all the time. “People who piss off Joe go in that backroom and they don’t come out upright. Run away while you can, Father. Not even that collar is gonna save you from Mink.”

The drunk hushed up and scurried back to his spot at the bar when he saw the side door open again. The bartender came out with a companion at this side. A short man with a sharp pointed nose and dark beady eyes stared intently at Koning. His red hair was slicked back by pomade and he wore a sports jacket even in the warm bar. Koning was able to make out the shape of a shoulder holstered gun beneath the jacket.

“This is Mink,” said the bartender. “He’s gonna take you back to meet Joe.”

The old drunk to Koning’s left looked and tried to flash a look with his eyes. Koning saw it, but the two other men remained oblivious. Koning nodded and grabbed the briefcase off the bar before he started to walk towards Mink. He gently patted the elderly drinker on the shoulder as he passed by. He wanted to reassure the man that whatever awaited him in the backroom, he could handle it.

Koning started down a short hallway with Mink behind him. The little man stayed closely behind Koning as they approached an open doorway.

“What’s with the get up?” Mink asked. “You work with Father Jamison and those other faggots at Gate of Heaven?”

“No,” Koning said shortly. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle as his anger rose. “I know Father Jamison, but I am not here on simple parish business.”

They passed through the doorway and into an office. The heavyset man with dark hair and sunken eyes staring at him from across the desk had to be Joe Sullivan. Predictably, Koning felt Mink move swiftly behind him. Something hard and cold was placed on the back of Koning’s neck.

“What kind of fucking priest walks into my bar and asks to see me?” Sullivan asked in a thick Boston accent. “Not only that, the son of a bitch seems to intimately know details of my business.”

“One who seeks to find allies in unlikely places,” Koning said in a measured voice. “I was told you were a good Catholic once, Joe.”

“I was an altar boy for six years,” said Sullivan, just a hint of a smile on his face. “They kicked me out when I went to juvie.” The smile faded and he frowned. “But that was a long time ago. And I’ve already punched my ticket to Hell in the eyes of the church. So what’s one more murder, even if it’s of a priest?”

When Koning moved, he moved swiftly, driving the briefcase in his hand into Mink’s midsection. The sudden jolt made him step backwards and gasp. He pulled the gun away from Koning’s neck as he reeled. Koning spun and smacked Mink across the face with the briefcase. His free hand snatched the gun from Mink’s grasp as he fell to the floor. Koning delivered a hard kick to Mink’s face before spinning around again to train the barrel of the pistol on Sullivan. The fat man raised his hands in defense.

“He broke my fucking nose,” Mink cried from the floor.

“Your man said some very rude things about my fellow priests,” Koning said to Sullivan. He laid the briefcase on the desk in front of Sullivan. He stepped back and lowered the gun just enough to put Sullivan at some sort of ease.

“Now may we discuss business?”

“What the fuck do you want?!” Sullivan yelled. “Do you know who the fuck I am? You just waltz in here and attack my sister’s boy and train a gun on me like I’m some common hood.”

“You are,” Koning said impassively. “You are very much a small-time criminal living in a second class neighborhood. South Boston and all the Catholics in this city are just white negros in the eyes of the people in power. The Boston PD knows that you run a gambling and loansharking racket out of this bar, but yet they do nothing to stop it. It’s because you’re not worth the effort, Joseph. You do your part in keeping your own people down. You're an outlaw, but you still serve the state's purpose to a fault.”

Koning saw Sullivan flushing. He couldn’t tell if it was out of anger or embarrassment.

“What the fuck do you want?” Sullivan asked again.

“A partnership,” said Koning.

He heard Mink starting to get up from behind him, but a heel kick to the man’s chest kept him on the floor.

“In the briefcase in front of you are the details on a man named Oguz Özil. He lives in Brockton and is a very prosperous import-export merchant. He is also a financier of international crime and terrorism. Open the briefcase.”

Sullivan complied. He frowned when he looked inside. Koning knew he might. In addition to the information on Özil were manila packets numbered 1 through 22, along with stacks of hundred dollar bills. Over twenty-five thousand US dollars. A small fortune to someone like Sullivan.

“What’s all this?”

“Özil is a problem that needs to disappear,” said Koning. “Do not tell me the details, it is better if I do not know. The cash is your fee in advance for a job done well and discreetly, Joseph. There is more money where that comes from. The packets? That’s for after you take care of our Turkish friend. It’s thorough intelligence on all twenty-two ward members on Boston’s city councils, their dirty secrets and their innermost desires.”

Sullivan furrowed his brow.

“But why?”

“It’s an election year, Joseph,” said Koning. “And with the money and information at your disposal, you can become something more than a common criminal: You can become a kingmaker. I’ll be in touch.”

Koning pocketed the gun and stepped over the prone Mink. He walked through the bar, ignoring the shock on the bartender’s face. Koning winked at the old drunk as he walked out into the warm summer night.
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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
July 10th, 1955
LOST WAGES

Venice // Los Angeles
Melvin Merrill unloaded an entire round of his custom Thompson gun into the traitor as his fiancée watched in horror. She went over to her fiancé and tried desperately to stop the bleeding as the Midway transformed into a chaotic scene. He lowered the tommy gun and pulled out two California sunlights, throwing them at the dead body. The fiancée, caught off-guard by the poppies, went to turn around but felt the barrel of a pistol against her head. She sat there, frozen with fear as her husband's killer inhaled before pulling the trigger. Two more shots rang out in quick succession, and Merrill exhaled, relieved that it was over.

The traumatized crowd watched as the hitman walked past them and headed for the parking lot. None of them interfered because they knew who he worked for. Meanwhile, Merrill tossed his gun in the back seat and entered through the front car door. Without any words, the driver drove away from the scene with enough time to avoid the authorities. It was only when they were on the main road that the driver spoke. "Impressive work. The boss will be delighted when he listens to the evening news."

"I take it that there's no more work for now?"

"Actually, there is." The driver responded as he took a sharp left turn from Lincoln Boulevard. "You are needed for an urgent matter concerning Howard."

Merrill rolled his eyes when he heard that name. Howard Rowe was the drunken fool who was the proud owner of Kingship, a gentlemen's club in Culver City. It was close enough to The Culver Studios that its workers, and sometimes well-known individuals in the film industry, ended up at the club. For that reason, and how profitable it was, the boss often 'forgot' the late payments. But, what he did this time was inexcusable. "How much?"

"Fifteen grand. That bastard hid fifteen grand for us for the last few months. The boss wants you to remind him of his commitment to our family."

"How does he want it done?"

"Keep it in his office. He doesn't want to lose any clients. Make sure he never fucks with us again." The driver pulled up at the Kingship and opened the passager door for Merrill. "Almost forgot, tell Howard that the payment has increased ten percent after his betrayal. Don't disappoint."


The Strip // Las Vegas
The Magician's Menagerie was the twelfth casino and resort to open its door on The Strip. The stretch of road was covered with showrooms, nightclubs, shopping centers, and other resorts and casinos. But, this resort hotel and casino was the biggest one in Las Vegas and the nation. Its theme was based on medieval myths and fairytales, making it more family-friendly than any other place in the city. Naturally, it became an instant tourist spot for parents to gamble and travel around while their children were having fun around the resort. And it played a major role in boosting the city's popularity in recent months.

The mastermind behind Magician's Menagerie was none other than Russell Bradshaw, son of former horseracing and auto racing magnate Clayton Bradshaw. He and his younger brother, George Bradshaw, owned four other resorts and casinos (along with other businesses) in the city. Unlike Galveston or Atlantic City, Las Vegas was a newcomer not held back by anti-gambling laws or Prohibition in its history. As a result, it flourished quicker than expected, which caught some attention from the East Coast. And one person in particular who managed to make a name for themselves.

Mr. House. It was a nickname used on the mysterious individual who bought up both the Golden Nugget and Binion from their previous owners. It took them a year before acquiring most of Downtown and a massive chunk of the Strip. Nobody knew who they were, but they were treated with respect and dignity by their friends. And as for their enemies, well, they were never seen again or sworn a vow of silence. Much of the local population, and frequented tourists, deemed him the unofficial mayor of Sin City.

But for the Bradshaw Brothers, they weren't fazed by some outsider with trust issues. After all, Mr. House hardly had any influence with the city council nor city hall. Plus, their father spent his remaining years teaching them the life of a businessman and how to safeguard his business empire. Even if the stress of work ended up killing him, he would've been proud to see his sons preserving his legacy. Experience was something that Mr. House lacked while the brothers had plenty under their belts. So, they went on their lives until an envelope ended up on the front door. Inside the envelope, there were poker chips and two ace cards addressed to Russell and George Bradshaw with the message:

Golden Nugget. Ten o'clock.
You won't want to miss out.
- Mr. House

After reading the message, the brothers already made their minds up and ended up in front of the casino. Russell pulled out one of the poker chips from his suit pocket. But, his attention was on his younger brother, still talking to the driver. He called out George, which clearly annoyed him, but he finished the conversation and made his way towards him. "What was that about?"

"Nothing much. Just told the driver to enjoy a coffee break." George was rather dismissive of his older brother's question and made his way inside. "Let's get this over with."


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Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Dinh AaronMk Free Gorgenmast!

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Anhui Province

Along the Yangtze


The group of four moved up the road with a trunk full. Beneath the marching bags of clothes and personal effects packed tight under the heavy steel hood of the car boot lay three cases of shotgun shells, five boxes of rifle rounds, and a loose collection of pistol rounds in a hemp sack. Laid out like decking boards rested the unloaded armaments to the shell, a shotgun, rifle, and a pair of pistols. The four men that rode with them in the passenger cabins looking out the rattling windows with patient relaxed expressions. If told of what they had in the trunk they would be thought of as being bandits. But at a glance they would be believed to be perfectly normal civilians. They did not wear a severe uniform, or look particularly rough and scarred. There was no dead expression in their eyes. The driver and his companion in the front especially were jovial and casual, singing to themselves and their companions in the back; songs from the War from memory. Rude marching tunes, hopeful victory ballads, and the other dozen sort of things. In their song books they had also learned or transcribed – translated into Chinese – the fight songs of American labor, whose origins of their melodic tunes were alien to them.

In the back the rear two passengers gazed out at the scenery, sometimes mouthing along as they rode. To one side of the car the mountains rose nearby, high foot hills making a long and lazy march upwards. Rice paddies and wheat fields set side by side creating a vast golden and shining emerald and black plate on which the forested mountains sat with their nestled mines deep within. From the near farms were the tractors of the ox drawn cart the car had to share road space with. And they swayed side to side as they passed the occasional spate of rural traffic along the wide dirt highway. There was not much traffic in the oncoming direction, and what came was in loose bunches of blue, green, red, or gray sedans, trucks, and other what-has-yous. Occasionally there would be a man on a bicycle, with cages of clucking hens stacked on either side in a delicate balancing act.

The other side of the road was shared by the wide Yangtze whose far shore at times felt like a distant memory or a suggestion. Its dark gray waters running calm, broken only by small wind-swept waves. In the midst of its great wide body chugged a range of large freighters and barges whose white wakes trailed long behind them. Among the roving fleets too were the ferries and commuter boats that traveled between the cities of the river. All was on the great river as things had been for centuries. Unbroken by time, only changed in its size. Where they had once been boats with sails or oars there were not large steamers and smokers who took over the great Yangtze since the last century and became like a new Mississippi.

The two rear passengers who watched this rode in one of two ways. They mouthed quietly along to the old songs, barely murmuring out the lyrics as the two in the front belted them out and drummed them out on the wooden dash. Or sat in total silence. Of the two one had a leafed through copy of What Is To Be Done by one Vladimir Lenin on his knee.

The car came upon an intersection, and the driver dropped the clutch rather clumsily. They bounced in their seats as the gear dropped and the car roughly began to slow into the corner. It weaved, swaying to the side as it did not so much as drive into the corner, but fall into it. Righting out, the engine rose and it the gear was shifted up. “Sorry about that.” apologized the driver as they went up the road.

It was a narrow gravel track, packed firm by rain and animal carts. Nothing had been up to turn up the gravel and it was all beginning to sink below the fields. They continued on all the same. The sign on the road said they were approaching some small village called Baimaozhen. The village was small, and clustered up along the small canal that went out to the Yangtze. Its rude rural homes were packed tight against the road side where old men sat on milk crates smoking cigarettes and staring at the car as it lumbered through from their field worn and earthly wizened faces. Their ragged clothes hanging lose from sinewy shoulders. A way in the travelers found a lot to park themselves in, and they pulled in. Next door was a tea shop, where the proprietor had set out make shift tables to sit and drink in the summer afternoon. They got out there, stepping out to find a seat. The locals kept a curious eye on the newcomers as they sat themselves down. Moments later a middle aged woman came to them and asked if they would like anything. Tea they said, she went back in. The group sat in silence, waiting.

The minutes went on, and they sat in silence, rubbing their legs which had gone numb in the driving. Squinting into the summer sun they took in the small village with feigned disinterest. The server returned with a tin kettle, steaming with fresh brewed tea and a tray of cups. “Well that be everything?” she said in a reedy voice.

“Yes, I believe so.” the eldest of the four said, looking at his companions to look for signs of disagreement. They had none, “Thank you.”

“My pleasure.” bowed the serving woman, “May I ask a question though?”

The eldest raised his eyebrow. He was a handsome young man with a broad brow and narrowly set eyes. His complexion pale and soft. He was beginning to grow the shadow of a beard on his chin and neck that he had not shaved in three days, “Go ahead.” he invited.

“What brings you out here? We don't get many folk like you.”

“Looking for work.” the elder said, pouring his tea first and passing the kettle on.

“You have a car, did you not have good work where you before?”

The eldest smiled politely and laughed, “We had good enough work. But this is only my brother's, really.” he said nodding his head to the silent brooding man next to him. They looked much alike, though the younger brother held himself up much more like a brooding ape. His body dropped against his raised knees as he sat on his milk crate. His heavy hands held out idly in the air. “We thought we could find better work elsewhere. We heard the mills up the river are hiring, and we might try there. Have an adventure.”

“Tongling is quiet a ways away. Where did you leave from?”

“Nanjing, it got very expensive then.”

“Dear!” the woman said in an exasperated tone, “You've been driving for a long time. Why did you not take a ferry?”

“Didn't think it would be fun.” the eldest laughed.

“What it would be like to see the country though, I wish you boys well.” the woman bowed, and parted from the group who by now had poured their tea.

“How long are we going to stay, Aiquo?” one of the travelers said to the eldest, his hair was long.

“I suppose we could stay over night.” replied Aiguo, looking around, “We should find ourselves a place to stay overnight. We can have a break. We'll need to ask for a gas station, the tank is almost empty.” the table nodded their approval.

“What do you think of the town?” asked the other.

Aiguo shrugged, “I am not sure if we will be approached. This is an old man's town. Or all the men are in the field. Once we find somewhere to sleep, we may go out to drink and hear what the men have to say.”

“So we could be here for a while?” the long haired one asked.

“We could be, Chen.”

“Anyways: to a good time. Long live the working people!” Chen said in a subdued voice, raising his cup of tea. The others received the toast, and they drank their tea.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Mexico City, Distrito Federal
June 1955

Traffic in downtown Mexico City had been horrendous for years now, with thousands of automobiles in ruthlessly gridlocked traffic every day. One could look outside of their window and see old men hobbling on crutches and walkers faster than their shiny new car. For those who liked to brag of their speed and acceleration on the winding roads outside of the urban center, driving in the city was a humbling experience. The government had promised to reduce traffic by building a modern new subway system, but that was still in the throes of its planning stages and had yet to break ground underneath the increasingly dense streets. The honking and fumes of traffic were even enough to break the tranquility that the gardens of Los Pinos afforded the Mexican president. Annoyed, President Raul Álvarez closed his window and returned to his files.

Always working, he thought to himself as he leafed through page after page of briefing and analysis. It was a Sunday, after all. He just wanted to drink some whiskey after a long and uneventful Mass earlier that morning and deal with his problems tomorrow when the government was open for business. It was always the same. Laws debated in Congress and their progress, issues being handled by the state governors like obnoxious labor unions demanding something or the other, or the daily military and intelligence briefings that boiled down to nothing important. Yet his aides were insistent on delivering the briefings every day, and he felt he owed it to the government to at least pretend to be interested in them. It was his job, after all.

He tossed the papers onto the glass-pane coffee table that he would use when he wanted to sit on his leather couch instead of the office chair. Álvarez sighed, kicking his bare feet up to the wooden edge of the table. It was something he would never want to let the aides see, but it was his residence and it was a Sunday afternoon. The President briefly considered getting something from the kitchen, then paused… he was looking after his health after all. But the thought came back to him, so he left to find himself some food. Álvarez found himself past the wooden door of the sitting room and looking down the hallway, the thought now occurring to him that his goal now was to sneak past his wife who may be around.

Carefully, the President crept barefoot on the wooden floor of the hallway, past dramatic oil paintings of historical Mexican battles. Busy landscapes depicting General Obregón defeating Pancho Villa at the Battle of Celaya, General Santa Anna defeating the Texans at the Alamo, and the heroic but unsuccessful defense of Veracruz in 1838 were lined on the pine-wood walls of the residence. President Álvarez took care not to brush too closely up against the wall as he tip-toed to the door. He paused when he got to the saloon-style double doors leading into the kitchen, listening for movement inside. After a few seconds, he was satisfied. It seemed that his wife was nowhere to be found, probably out shopping with her friends like she said she had planned that day.

Álvarez successfully absconded from the kitchen with a bowl of assorted nuts and a glass of French red wine. He returned to the living room a little bit faster and carelessly than before, almost spilling the glass in his rush to open the door. He privately thanked God that he had wooden floors, or else he would be scrubbing a mess out of an expensive carpet that he no doubt would be shouted at for making. Setting the wine and nuts down onto the table, he went to turn on the television. Mexico City’s television scene was quite new, only existing for five years now, and had three or four channels. They were all owned by different families which were just now finding their niche and conglomerating into the Telesistema Mexicano corporation. Channel 2 was for national news, Channel 4 was oriented towards entertainment and musical productions. The rest were a mix of educational and variety programming.

Before the president had realized it, he had fallen asleep on the couch as the television news anchors talked about a particularly complicated bank robbery attempt in Guadalajara. Despite their numbers and planning, the Federales had caught up with them the next day when their getaway car ran out of gas and arrested them, somewhat anticlimactically, without incident. He had settled in amongst the comfortable velvet throw cushions of his sofa with his feet kicked up onto the coffee table, feeling the slight tingle of intoxication before his head drooped down to his chest.

A telephone ring abruptly woke him from his nap. Each room in the residence had one, or at least each important room. It made family time difficult for them, to the point where the president had to instruct his staff not to call in the evenings unless it was a serious matter. This went doubly so for Sundays. He had gotten up from the couch and smoothed out the wrinkles on his shirt, looking outside the window to the pine trees and foliage in the garden. The sun had set but the lights of the rapidly growing Mexico City glowed against the horizon instead, a kind of artificial dusk that necessitated he slept with an eye mask in bed. Álvarez fumbled his way in the dark to the phone, desperately hoping it was just his wife calling from a friend’s place or something equally benign.

“Raul?” came the voice of his chief of staff, a longtime friend by the name of Francisco Herrera. He was always working in the office on weekends or in the evenings. Part of it was him making the rounds to his subordinates like he would when he was a Mexican Army officer known for visiting his soldiers’ guard posts and charges of quarters on weekends or holidays, but he had been working nonstop in the few months after his wife of just fewer than twenty years had divorced him.

“Francisco,” answered Álvarez, his hopes turning dour upon recognizing that this would be official business. “Why the call? It’s a Sunday.”

“Raul, I need you to call our secure office back on your scrambler phone. This is important,” Herrera stated simply. “I’ll be there to receive your call.”

The president acknowledged and hung up. He looked around for a pen and paper on the coffee table and hastily scrawled a note for his wife, if she came in while he was on the scrambler phone: “Am in the vault: work call.” Then he found his slippers that had been kicked off in the corner, turned off the TV, and quickly grabbed the glass of wine. He shuffled down the hallway, stopping only to fill the glass up in the kitchen, and went to the end where a wood-paneled door that looked like the entrance to a closet hid in the corner. On his belt loop was a ring of keys, which he fumbled with before finding the correct one. The door unlocked, revealing a staircase down to the basement and another door below.

This door, nestled amongst the president’s various woodworking equipment and other miscellaneous shelves containing his hobbies and DIY interests, was distinctly marked as being for authorized personnel only. He opened it with another key on the keyring and went inside, closing it carefully. The secure office had been constructed with specific soundproofing and other features enabling him to be informed of classified or sensitive work from home. A simple black telephone with a placard labeling it “SECURE” was connected to a rack of humming machines. This was his scrambled telephone: an identical set was in a similarly secured office in the Palacio Nacional. Wiretapping would only yield a humming and buzzing sound, if the deeply buried phone line had been compromised at all.

The phone rang for a few seconds, before Herrera picked up directly. There was no operator to direct calls; this specific one was just for the palace’s secure room. He would need to be in the office personally to access the entire system of departments and divisions with a secured-line switchboard.

“Alright, Raul, here’s what’s going on. About a half hour ago, a representative from the Japanese embassy got here with a telegram from Tokyo. He said it was urgent, from Mister Ito himself.”

Tokyo, Raul mused. He checked his wrist, before realizing that he wasn’t wearing his watch. His attention turned to a clock in the secure office, pointing to the time: 8:46 PM, Mexico City time. He had only the one clock in his personal office, without the others to easily tell time across the globe. After trying his hardest to remember, he settled in on it being 11 or 12 in following morning in Japan, perfect for a leisurely start-of-the-morning telegram to get that week’s business in order. He rolled his eyes at the inconvenience, but there was really no way around it. Either they or he got a rude awakening. “What do they want?”

“They asked for a meeting with you, tomorrow morning. It is urgent. And they wish for the Secretariat of War and Navy to be involved as well,” Herrera replied hurriedly.

The Secretariat of War’s mention surprised Álvarez. The Japanese had been involved in a war against the British for some time now and… The president’s eyes widened. “Can you read me the telegram? You have a copy, don’t you?”

Herrera acknowledged and paused on his end while he unfolded the copy of the document in his pocket.

PRESIDENT RAUL ALVAREZ,

WE ARE TO BEGIN NEW OPERATIONS AGAINST BRITISH IMPERIAL FORCES IN SOUTH ASIA. AS CONTINUED FRIENDS OF MEXICO, WE REQUEST ASSISTANCE IN OUR CAMPAIGN OF LIBERATION AGAINST EUROPEAN IMPERIALISTS. WE REQUEST DISCUSSIONS OF THE FEASIBILITY OF MEXICAN OPERATIONS AGAINST BRITISH IMPERIAL TERRITORIES IN THE AMERICAS AND CARRIBBEAN SEA. THE PURPOSE OF THIS OFFENSIVE IS TO BEGIN ANOTHER FRONT AND FURTHER WEAKEN BRITISH DISPOSITION IN OVERSEAS TERRITORIES. THE AMBASSADOR HAS BEEN IMMEDIATELY DISPATCHED TO DISCUSS THIS PROPOSAL. PLEASE ANSWER WITH CORRESPONDING PROPOSAL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE: BRITISH NAVAL MOVEMENTS NEED TO BE DISRUPTED IN A TIMELY MANNER.

MINISTER MASAMI HOJO,
ARMY MINISTRY, EMPIRE OF JAPAN


The president said nothing over the phone, his eyebrows raised in surprise. “Hmm,” he finally uttered after a moment to process the new information. Thoughts began racing through his mind: a war with Britain? On the side of the Japanese? They had always been friendly, with Japan and Mexico establishing one of the most consistent pan-Pacific trade partnerships that the region had seen in history, but armed conflict was another thing. He would need some time to collect himself to meet the request. Obviously it was not a frivolous telegram of hypotheticals: the Empire of Japan was nothing if not aggressively up-front and businesslike. They surely had war plans in place that they were actualizing as him and Herrera spoke.

President Álvarez downed his wine and spoke into the handset of the phone: “Francisco, I want you to schedule a meeting immediately tomorrow morning. Seven AM sharp.”

Herrera acknowledged the request simply as Álvarez began listing names: “Get Torres and Admiral Aguilar,” he ordered, referring to the War Minister and the admiral in charge of Caribbean theater operations; “wake up the Vice as well and make sure Mr. Ito brings his military attaché.”

The conversation ended as both men gravely noted their dispositions. After Herrera confirmed the itinerary, he asked if Álvarez had anything else. The president said no, and ended the conversation with a stark comment for Herrera to get some sleep while he still could. The president hung up the phone, now adjusting to the room of spinning turntables and whirring machinery in their racks. A dim hum could be heard, records faintly playing their buzzing sound over the telephone lines. With that, the president locked up and secured the room just the same as he entered it, before heading up the stairs and to his bedroom. His wife was not yet back, and he had stripped down to his undergarments to fall flat into the grandiose bed that dominated his bedroom. An alarm was set, and he fought to get some sleep before he changed history the next day.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
July 10th, 1955
REVELATION

Downtown Culver City // Culver City
After reminding the doorman of who he was, Melvin let himself inside Kingship and immediately locked eyes with Howard, chatting away with the talented workers. One of them was in the midst of demonstrating her skills on the pole while the others surrounded him. While the owner seemed to be having fun, Melvin never cared about gentlemen's clubs nor strippers and made his way to the dance floor. Howard remained distracted with examining them before he felt a familiar grip on his shoulder. He froze with fear when he realized whose hand it was and turned to greet Melvin.

"M-Melvin?! It's nice to see you! What brings you to-"

"I'm not in the mood for your nonsense, Howard." Melvin gently pushed one of the strippers out of the way and advanced towards him. "Your office. Now."

Howard stood up from the leather chair and dismissed himself, ensuring his workers that it was fine. But the whole thing felt awkward to watch; even Melvin felt how uncomfortable the strippers were. Both men made their way to the office on the second floor, which overlooked the club. Melvin already knew that Howard would use every excuse possible on him like he often did on his business partners. Instead of letting him use one of them, Melvin opened the office door and suckapunched Howard into the room. He made sure the door was closed before processing to give a beating that he wanted to do for months now.

Howard pleaded with him to stop while his face was all bruised up. After a minute of kicking and punching, Melvin settled down and got down to Howard's level before pitching his nose. "Why did you fuck with us, Howard? I thought you were too busy blackmailing directors and fucking movie stars to betray us."

"I-I don't know what-" Howard screamed as his nose was broken and began bleeding profusely. Then, Melvin grabbed his arm and started squeezing it hard.

"We know about the fifteen grand you stole for us. So, don't lie to me again, or I'll break your arm."

"Alright! Alright, don't break it, please!" Howard put his freed hand up, after crying for mercy, and pointed at a bookshelf. Melvin dragged him across the office and threw him against it. Howard felt some books hitting him but avoided the pain to pull out a safe. It took a moment before it was unlocked, which Melvin inspected almost immediately. But, there was no money inside. Instead, he found something that was big trouble: coke.

Or, it seemed to look like cocaine expect it was a dark red. Melvin lacked the experience in drugs to be sure but he knew finding it in Howard's possession meant trouble. In an instant, Melvin pulled out his pistol and pressed it against his huge forehead.

"Tell me where you got the coke, or I will make your face unrecognizable." Melvin threatened.

Howard cried a little more before responding, "Delbert Nixon, one of my regular patrons, told me about how profitable it was going to be on the streets. He told me that if I were to give him some cash, he would contact his friends to include me in the trafficking."

Melvin pulled the pistol back as he was trying to figure out why the name sounded familiar. Then, it clicked. "Isn't he directing that Great War heroic for the Europeans?"

"Yeah, that's him." Howard struggled to get up from the floor after taking a severe beating and started making his way to the desk. "Delbert loves that white rock more than God. As for his friend, I only met him once, but he was definitely Mexican."

Melvin took a deep breath to process everything he heard coming out of Howard's mouth. He knew that shit was about to get really hot soon but understood that his boss needed to know about this revelation before more damage was done. Yet, even he knew that Howard Rowe's life was essentially over; but, his boss had the final say. So, after taking a nearby suitcase and stashing the cocaine, Melvin departed from the Kingship and met up with the driver.

"So, did you get the money?" The driver asked.

"No." Melvin placed the suitcase on his lap and then opened it to show the driver. "I need to speak with the boss."

The driver immediately shut his mouth upon seeing the strange-looking cocaine, knowing what it meant. "I will take you to him now."


Downtown Las Vegas // Las Vegas
Fremont Street was crowded with people from all over the world that could've overwhelmed a newcomer. But for the Bradshaw brothers, it was a regular Sunday night for them. In particular, the Golden Nugget was busy at nighttime with guests gathering in the gambling hall to spend their hard earn money. But, they weren't there to bet on luck. The brothers showed off the poker chips to the receptionist, who signaled a nearby guard. The guard, an older man with scars on his right hand, inspected the chips before asking them to follow him. They walked through the smoke-filled hall before ending up at the showroom, which was off-limits to guests for the night. Yet, it seemed like a performance took place earlier based on the same smoky odor from the hall.

A person was sitting on the stage, staring at them before gesturing at the nearest seats. George made his way there, which surprised his older brother because he was usually cautious about his surroundings. Russell followed his younger brother seconds later and took a seat by him. Then, the individual in the darkness started to speak femininely. "It's nice to finally see you two. I only wish you came sooner."

"We wanted to be sure of your intentions with our business." Russell responded with his arms crossed. "After all, our father helped made this city possible. We usually don't deal with folks who are... aspiring to be someone they aren't able to handle."

"You make it sound like I don't know a thing or two about running this city." the individual laughed and then took a slip. "People don't just call me Mr. House as if I'm some showgirl on the Strip. I got my hands dirty as your father did."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Of course, you don't." Mr. House snapped his fingers, and another person tossed the brother a folder. Russell took it before his younger brother could have a look and started reading it. It contained pages of a proposal to work for Mr. House and allow him to form a fractional ownership over anything owned by the Bradshaw brothers, including their resorts and casinos. But, in return, they would receive a cut of profits for all business under his control. Regardless, Russell viewed it as an insult to his father's legacy.

He got up from his seat and threw it at Mr. House, hitting him. "Fuck your deal. I will never allow your dirty hands to touch what my father built. Come on, George, we're leaving."

As Russell was about to leave the showroom, Mr. House gathered the scattered papers and reorganized them. Then, he made his way towards George, revealing himself to him for the first time. "Fortunately, you don't have the final say."

"What-" Before Russell was able to finish his question, he felt something tight on his neck and struggled to breathe. He tried to get free, but it was already too late. George couldn't watch his older brother die and turned his sights at Mr. House, whose feminine style clothing caught him off-guard. He grabbed the folder and then decided to see Russell, still fighting to live.

Mr. House saw George realizing what was about to happen and went to place his hand on his cheek to relax him. Then, he started to speak in a calm tone. "I'm sorry that it had to be done, but... he would've done the same to you."

Russell watched with his final breath as George nodded and turned away for his older brother. He tried to say something, but the world went dark around him.


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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Odin
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Odin JIHAD CHIQUE ® / Rehabilitated Bad Boy

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Kingdom of the Netherlands


June, 1955
Wilhelminahaven te Rotterdam




The organized footsteps of a troop of soldiers marched through the harbor of port Wilhelmina in Rotterdam, fresh-faced recruits all, but with a determined tread in their step. These were not the men of France, of Britain, of Germany, marching to a certain doom in the Great War years prior. These were not the frenzied marches of the Japanese, desperately trying to cut out a piece of the great Chinese tiger. Nor were these the legions of Russia, facing off against Bolsheviks in a pace that would later come to destroy Russia. These were the determined steps of men of the Netherlands, young men, men that were prepared to lay down their lives.

This was perhaps the giveaway that these were not career soldiers. They had not seen the Great War, they had not become shellshocked from second-hand war trauma, peering out into the smoke and fire, seeing only death and suffering in the trenches. These were men that had been convinced – by none other than the Queen – that it was not just their duty to expel the Japanese from Indonesia, it was their god-given task to ensure that not a single square meter in Indonesia would ever be home to a Japanese ever again.

In a rousing speech just a month prior, queen Wilhelmina had backed down from the vague promises of peace and reconciliation uttered by the cabinet that had been in charge at the start of the war and the 7 years after that – cabinet Herremans II and III – and she had acknowledged that the war had taken a turn for the worse under the leadership of cabinet Broodmans I. But with an unprecedented return to a true monarchy and a return of the power of the queen herself, she had hoped to rein in these mistakes and repair the damages. After all, Wilhelmina was not yet prepared to give up the crown jewel of the Dutch crown to the Japanese after ten years of war. “Indië wacht!” she had proclaimed, a rallying cry that would soon be taken over by many, leading to a surge in volunteers for the KNIL – where previously a single boat worth of troops was sent each month or two, now there were three boats worth of volunteers, prepared to fight. It seemed all they had needed to push them over the edge was the firm hand of a 75 year old woman who was fit of mind, angry, but unfortunately also ailing and ill frequently.

Princess Juliana – heiress to the throne – and her remarkable, strange and interesting husband prince Bernhard, who was originally from the German empire, hailing from Thüringen, frequently took over the duties of the queen, acting as her mouthpiece when she was unable to instruct her people herself, a phenomenon that was becoming more and more frequent as the years passed.

The situation in Indonesia was worsening, despite her interventions, and by now she had placed her final hopes in the city of Batavia – a city that, over the last ten years of the war, had been turned from a rich port city into a fortified stronghold that even the Japanese would struggle to besiege.

In another unusual move, the Noordzeevloot, traditionally the fleet that protected the North Sea and the Netherlands itself, had been ordered to set sail for Indonesia – to aid the colonial naval presence. This fleet – a rather impressive one compared to what one might have expected from a small country like the Netherlands – was headed by the Hare Majesteit (Hr. Ms.) Wilhelmina, the flagship of admiral van Doorn, who had been placed in charge of the entire naval offensive. He was given an impossible amount of freedom, given only the order “to eradicate the Japanese presence in the Indonesian sea through any means necessary,” giving him carte blanche to approach the situation as he saw fit.

While the war effort by the Dutch had thus far been lackluster, it would soon become clear to the Japanese occupying forces in Indonesia that, while they had been facing colonial garrisons and a small naval presence, they would soon have the full force of the Royal Dutch Navy bearing down on them, and the presence of many eager young men ready to defend their territories – or, rather, what was left of it.

Whether it would all be for naught was to be seen still – but to give all this up without a fight.. that would never happen.


Paleis Het Loo, Apeldoorn, late June 1955



The quick tread of prince Bernhard was followed by a quicker, but more light set of steps – the hallmark of Juliana and Bernhard moving together through the royal palace Het Loo, alerting everyone that they were on their way to queen Wilhelmina herself. The prince was dressed in his finest military suit – oh, how he loved to flaunt the fact that he was the supreme commander of the Dutch armed forces – and his wife, the princess, was dressed in a long blue dress with a white folded piece of fabric, made to look like a flower, on her heart. Then followed three resounding knocks, before the couple entered the room together, and then the door slammed shut.

Inside, the queen was laid on her bed, her hands folded together – even in bed, ill as she could be, she looked royal, and her posture was no different. She looked upon her two favorite members of the royal house – and, perhaps, the only ones she could count on.

“They asked us to give you this,” prince Bernhard said, handing the queen a single page of paper, summarizing a much more detailed intelligence report that he had received from the intelligence agencies of each individual part of the armed forces – a rather burdensome affair, as far as Bernhard was concerned, that would consume time he’d rather have spent in a plane. The man had smarts, and a certain charm – that could not be denied – but he was a bit of a daredevil, and quite rash. The perfect tool, however, for generating public support. Not a man could claim to dislike the prince.

The queen looked at the paper for a moment, squinting her eyes then enlarging them again, before throwing the paper onto her legs and looking at the couple before her. “God’s sake, you, just tell me what I need to know!”

“Ah, yes, well, the LAMID and LUID have found records that indicate that there is, in fact, a man that still has a valid claim to the throne in Korea – and in fact, should be emperor of Korea right now. His name is Jee Gee.. gee-yon?”

The queen remained silent, her eyes trained on the prince, before her eyes shifted to her daughter. “Tell me what this jester is trying to tell me?”

“LAMID believes we might be able to fund independence movements in Korea if we use this Yi Geon as a prop. LUID is not so assured – they believe that this prince lives in Japan currently, and is perhaps not as eager to take the throne.”

“Yes--,.. yes, well, if the LA.. LAM- those people believes it, we shall do so. Whatever it takes, I suppose. I’ll begin drafting a letter to the Czarina of Russia to ask for funds – I believe me and her are close enough that she might be willing to support a fellow monarch.”

Prince Bernhard raised a finger, interjecting that “Japan has a monarch too,” but this only earned him a death stare from the queen, who did indeed love him dearly.

“Do not strain yourself so, mother,” Juliana hushed, stepping closer and straightening the blanket that covered the woman’s body, before stepping back, “we discussed this. You need rest.”

Well,” the old small woman suddenly said, her voice booming in a way one might have never expected from a woman like her – although many an oma has been known to be quite capable of raising their voice – “how am I meant to rest when every second I am reminded that those Japanese are taking what is rightfully ours?”

“We know, mother, we know. We also had another proposition. Bernhard believes it may be beneficial if he visits Thailand and meets with the king.”

The queen hummed for a moment, considering her options, before slowly nodding in agreement. Bernhard was, perhaps, just charismatic enough to get something done. “Very well – but this will be a 2-day diplomatic trip. We need him here to coordinate the war efforts.”

And just like that the old queen lied through her teeth – Bernhard was often more of a nuisance at the meetings that determined the course of the war, his rash and brazen attitude often leading to strategical decisions that were.. questionable at best. And while occasionally his rather brave attitude lead to resounding victories that surprised not just the Japanese, but also the Dutch, it was quite clear to everyone involved that he was a great public figure, but an awful general.

And so Bernhard left for Thailand aboard one of the military vessels that would make their way there – transferring to the Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina along the way, since it was outfitted with a scout plane catapult and could launch him into the air before they reached Indonesia, so that he may fly to Thailand himself. Ofcourse, that part had not been communicated to Wilhelmina, and Bernhard may have convinced Juliana that he would simply make the fleet port in Thailand.

But, truth be told, a prince flying in in a plane would be far more impressive, would it not?
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Vilageidiotx
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The first victory was at hallowed Adwa where the Roman dead fell
The second victory was at traitor’s Segale where Solomon did quell
The third victory was at British Eldama where blood spilled under shell
The fourth victory was at distant Fashoda under where the Nile dwell
The fifth victory was the honorable peace worthy of the stele.

-Nebiyu Eleyas, Court Poet of Iyasu V, 1922

Cairo, The Kingdom of Egypt

A plain black sedan rolled down Soliman Pasha Street in the heart of Cairo. Two motorcycles flanked it, fending off the mixed traffic like motorized Hussars. Inside the car, Taytu watched the city go by. She looked composed, a young woman in meditation. On the inside, she agonized. She agonized over her training. Over her mission. Over the first time she would write her name into the history books.

Learn the differences between peoples. She remembered the lessons of her old teacher: Man Chelot Wesene. She could see his eyes; eminent eyes, emanating his overpowering confidence, the confidence that had won him the Fifth Victory all those years ago at Rotterdam. To be in a room with him was like being in a room with Zera Yaqob. A man that radiated the energy of living history. Learn the differences between peoples. An African man, or an Arab man, or any of our likely neighbors, our values are the masculine values. Honor, respect, whatever whatever. You might find that in Europe too, but theirs will be awkward. Nuanced. They have a hard time accepting that an African man is also a man. This is a double-edged sword. They might take greater offense at what you do. Or they might take no offense at all. Sometimes it is easier for them to give a victory by pretending they are patronizing a lesser people. They do this for their ego. Know how to play it.

Soliman Pasha Street went by, a wide vein of modernity in a city layered with so much history. The paved road crowded with cars, and trucks, and bikes. There were still some camels and mules here, but they were not common. They weaved and avoided each other according to their own design. The buildings here were tall, the concrete and plaster of the twentieth century. These were smart hotels and modern hospitals. An oftentimes scattered web of electrical wires connected them and lit up the street. Buildings that could afford them used electric signs. Light bulbs advertised apothecaries, hotels, cafes, and even a gaudy nightclub whose oversized sign advertised it as the “Pharaoh Club” in English; the only sign lit during the day, flanked by plaster renditions of ancient Egyptian kings.

Beyond this were the layers of old Cairo. Stone streets winding into shadowy alleys. Adobe walls and crumbling arcades. And in the distance, the oldest reminder of where they were, the Great Pyramids rising like mountains in the haze. She caught sight of them around corners and between buildings.

The old empires have a certain pride. But their pride is desperate. They have the most to lose, and have already lost much. This can make them dangerous. But it can make them surprisingly easy to deal with too, if you know how to salve a bruised ego. Learn this skill.

She looked down at her muted khemis and wondered at her clothing. She was conscious the part her sex played in this. She was a woman. But a woman of royal stock. The daughter of the previous Emperor, and the sister of the current one. That came with its own air. Breeding still carried the mystique of the old world. But it presented her with a burden Man Chelot never faced. He could fire invective at the battered European diplomatic core at Rotterdam and they saw him as a man, a knight, imposing his rightful will. A King or a Prince could do this too. An Emperor. But a woman hardly could. What about a princess? That was murky.

The strangest beast you will find is the Anglo. For most men, there is honor and there is money. But the Anglo is worse than the Falasha in that the Anglo doesn’t know the difference between honor and money. He will let you impregnate his wife if he thinks there is a profit in it, and he will consider himself the winner in that affair. Know this. This can make them the most two-faced opponent, but it can also make them the easiest. They were the people to build an Empire from dirty deals rather than victories.

Who were the opponents she would be facing off against? The British. Anglos. European strengths and weaknesses. The Yemenis holding on to Aden. Arabic. Muslim. Desperate. Their brothers from the north, looking to gain Aden for themselves. Arabic. Muslim. Dangerous. The real threat. Britain was in a bad position. Their ability to project power here was almost entirely severed. The Adenites... a variable. In essence, rebels. They only had one chip, and that was the city itself, which was a chip they couldn’t hold forever. But the Kingdom of Yemen, that was a potential regional power. A potential enemy. And one that would be hard for a woman to conquer.

--

Leyla loved the feeling of power that came with mounting a motorcycle. It felt like a horse, but with an added danger. Speed. The heat of the motor, knowing at the back of her mind that what was happening there was controlled explosions. Fire. Horses were a kind of people almost, fellow living beings. But this was a bomb. Controlled violence.

They came up on the Abdeen Palace: a long building of solid stone, columns, and the fanciful embellishments of 19th century architecture. Security instructed them to unload at a side door nearest to where the meeting would be held. Her partner on the other motorcycle, Elias Zelalem, took lead. She followed the Princess’s car and kept watch for threats. There was a contrast between the Egyptian Palace Guard and the two Shotel agents. The Egyptians wore fezzes and pearly white dress uniforms with gold trim. The Shotel both wore loose black Habesha Suits, dusty boots, and sunglasses. The Egyptian Palace Guard wielded a decorative gold halberd whose head resembled a lotus of ancient Egyptian art, though both Shotel agents saw the bulge beneath their uniforms where they hid more practical side-arms. The Shotel had Lugers in black holsters. They typically had knifes, though they left this luxury behind due to a limit of one weapon per agent required by the Egyptian authorities.

The car stopped. Elias opened the door for Le'elt Taytu Yohannes. The Le'elt came out, an awkward and gangling figure, her hair in braids that clung to the back of her neck. She presented her femininity to the world through clothing and subtle make-up rather than through any physical attributes of her own.

Elias looked down at Leyla, subconsciously comparing his partner to the princess in their protection. Leyla was lithe except for her hips, and her hair was done in braids brought up into a bun. A youthful grin lit up her face.

“You look like a child that just snuck a fart out at breakfast,” he said, soft so it wouldn’t stand out among the politicians greeting one another.

“It was a pleasant ride,” she replied. She stood a head shorter than him so that her eyes met his chin. His broad shoulders made his smooth face look boyish.

“Be vigilant.” he said, “You never know with these people.”

“I am one of these people.” she reminded him. Her father was Egyptian. They’d moved to Ethiopia in her childhood when her father was recruited by a Somalian agent into the Ethiopian Shotel in its early days. In those days, little more than fifteen years ago, the Shotel was simply a network of spies and cryptographers. Since then it had grown into government bodyguards, saboteurs, specialists, and occasionally secret police. Leyla had started her career early. Her father’s connections had given her access to the special Furusiyya training of the Somali military elite. She was a natural, adapting to its martial arts practices as she grew into adulthood. At nineteen, she was young for an agent.

“Well if you still are one of these Arabic ferengi, you know what to look for.” he said.

“Do you think I’m one of them still?”

“No. You are a proper Habesha woman. Though you still have an accent.”

--

Taytu took care to hold herself as collected as possible as they entered the Palace. It was an ostentatious affair. Gold leaf and burnished copper-tile floors. Light shone out from massive crystal chandeliers and shimmered throughout the room. This first cavernous entrance led them to rooms of decreasing decoration, until they were in a hall of golden granite with statues of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs standing guard. Here, the hall entirely went around and surrounded the room they entered.

There were four men sitting at a marble table. The first one she recognized as he stood up to greet her.

“A pleasure as always, your highness.” Sad al-Mir said, bowing. He was the Egyptian Ambassador to Ethiopia and had returned to Cairo to personally handle negotiations. He wore a suit, and his head was hairless except for a small patch of jet black on his chin.

The other three men stood up and bowed. “This is Angus Stevens, from the British Foreign Office, here to attend to British interests in this affair.” Sad motioned to a sickly looking man with thin grey hair and a bushy red and grey mustache. Angus stood up and bowed awkwardly before sitting down again.

“This is Saleet el-Baluch. He is a maternal nephew of Ahmad bin Yahya and represents the Kingdom of Yemen.” The man Sad motioned to was standard for an Arabic elite. Self assured, bearded, running a little on the fat side, with a white robe and black and white keffiyeh. He gave her a curt head nod.

“And this man” Sad motioned, “Is a representative of the Aden General Union of Workers, who has taken up the government of Aden in the absence of the British garrison there. Mahboob el-Sader.” Sad motioned to a thin, hollow eyed man wearing a three piece suit. He looked ill-placed in his clothes. He bowed, an obvious repetition of Sad’s.

They sat. Water was served. Sad spoke again.

“So the situation is thus at present, and we will see if we all agree on these basic realities. The British authorities claim that pirates are active in the Gulf of Aden, and that captured pirates have admitted to serving the Mahra and Qu’aiti sultanates” Sad looked at Stevens. Stevens looked satisfied.

Sad looked at the rest. “We understand that the British, Yemeni, and Ethiopian governments condemn these pirates. What is the position of Aden’s provisional government?”

Mahboob adjusted his tie and spoke. “These pirates have murdered sailors and fishermen from Aden, so of course we do not like them, though we see them as caused by British failures.” Mahboob did not look at Angus. Angus shifted in his seat but remained quiet.

Sad nodded and continued. “We understand that Arabia, the Sunni population of Yemen, and the British will not support the Kingdom of Yemen annexing Aden for its own protection, even though his majesty Ahmad bin Yahya has made several appeals for this very move?”

“The city of Aden is a city of the world” Mahboob said, “But we sit between the eastern desert and the Mutawakkilites.”

“The Mutawakkilites being the Kingdom of Yemen. For the purpose of the record.”

“Right. This placement means we would become the... the axis which a war in Yemen would revolve around. We do not want this! The city of Aden wants protection assured by the other nations of the region. In return we will continue to serve as a... a world city. A fortress of trade.”

“This is an unnatural state” Saleet spoke up. “How would the world deny Ahmad bin Yahya his own city? In practice Aden has served as a port for our Kingdom despite English rule. Its only natural places is either with us, or as a city of pirates.”

“We know the solution that Ethiopia has presented.” Sad said.

It was her cue. Taytu squared up and smiled. “I understand Britain is looking to other affairs and can no longer protect Aden. His Majesty Sahle is naturally interested in the safety of his own coasts and is confident our government can provide the same role for the city of Aden that Britain has filled in the past.”

“That would be unacceptable, trading another foreign, Christian power for another,” Saleet said coldly. “Understand this would be a provocation.”

“The Foreign Office is willing to support this exchange.” Mr. Stevens said, ignoring Saleet. “On the condition that the Commonwealth retain the privileges its members had under our own rule.”

It fit the pattern. Retreat for profit. Taytu smiled. “This would be best for all markets involved. His majesty agrees it would endanger the economy of the entire region to withdraw these concessions.”

Mr. Stevens sunk back into his chair. “To be frank, this is the only concern the Foreign Office has. We will agree to a transition of power...”

Sad spoke up. “I understand this is a problem for your patron, Saleet, but we can…”

“We will not be traded like this!” Mahboob interrupted. “I know you look over us because we are one city. But we know that if we bend to Ethiopia for safety, Ethiopia will make up what they lose from concessions to the other ‘powers’ by taking from us! We are Aden! I don’t represent a city, or a religion, I represent people! The men who work on the docks and at the oil refinery. Our own fishermen! Can you tell me that Ethiopia won’t bleed us to pay back their losses?”

It was quiet for a moment. Sad spoke up. “We have more to talk about...”

--

“Is it true you received furusiyya training?” Elias asked his partner, cutting the silence. They stood still in the gilded hall.

“I did,” Leyla replied.

“I knew you dabbled. Who hasn’t? I know they want all of us to know it eventually. But I always wondered how much of your knowledge was rumors. You know, my last partner told me about it. But I thought... well, they seem to think that all Muslims know furusiyya. Which is ridiculous. They tell ridiculous stories like that about anyone close to Hassan. They say he learned it from an old man from Japan...”

“China,” she corrected.

He looked down at her. Her expression didn’t crack.

“China?”

“Táofàn,” she said, struggling with the name, pronouncing it something like ‘Dow-fun’. “He’s an old man. But he is from China. An interesting man. He knows just about every language you can think of before he joined Hassan’s court. I saw him once. But he doesn’t teach much anymore.”

“So furusiyya is Chinese?”

“Well, I think its a mix of things. I mean, old Arabic warrior ideas. The swordsmanship of the Dervish. And Táofàn’s body training… but really, its just…”

The door in front of them swung open. Two men entered, not noticing Elias or Leyla as they carefully worked to shut the door behind them. When they whirled around, they met their eyes, surprised. These men looked out of place. Arab robes and keffiyehs, sure, but their expressions were... wrong.

One drew a knife, the other drew a gun. As fights so often do, it started all at once. They lunged.

Leyla roundhouse kicked the knife out of her attacker’s hand and whirled into him like a storm.

(Optional musical paring for scene)

Seeing his friend so suddenly disarmed, the man attacking Elias paused, giving Elias time to go for the man’s weapon. The two of them began to wrestle. Elias’s mind was now focused on the gun in his opponents hand. Where was it’s barrel? That barrel was a straight line promising death. Where was it? He was so focused on the gun that he didn’t have any warning before being struck on the back by an unseen attacker, sending him tumbling to the ground. He heard a gunshot go off.

--

“My word, was that gunnery?” Mr. Stevens asked. All of the Excellencies looked nervously at the door.

“You cannot treat us like cattle.” Mahboob said. Taytu met his eyes. They were watery. Inflamed. “We cannot be traded. We demand our independence and protection of that independence. It is our rights. Inevitable rights!”

The Fifth Victory. His speech brought it to mind. And that thought brought with it a tinge of respect. And jealousy. It was her job to carry the power of mind and speech that this khat chewing dock worker was commanding.

“We will work it out to your advantage as well as ours.” she said.

--

The gunshot hung in the air. He heard it like his eardrums were an inch from the barrel. It was like the bones in his ears were exploding TNT. For a moment, he saw white. A man had struck him in the back. He saw Leyla and her target disappear around a corner. Another body went around the opposite corner. Elias realized instantly it was his opponent. There were still only two men. Leyla’s opponent must have been thrown into him. He quickly searched the ground around him. There was no gun on the polished marble, only the dull reflection of movement on the stone. He jumped back onto his feet and pursued.

When he turned the corner, another shot rang out. He instinctively dodged. A light cloud of dust now wafted through the room, coming from a Pharaonic statue. Its nose had been shot off.

His gun was in his hand. He had pulled it without thinking at some point in the action. He saw movement somewhere around the next corner. He fired twice, running into the direction he was firing. He heard something. Movement? Fighting? Grunting?

He came around the corner and surprised the man he’d been wrestling with earlier. He tried to pistol whip the man at the same time he tried to fire at Elias. Both missed. Another shot rang. He grabbed for the intruder’s wrist to try and disarm him. They began to struggle.

He saw Leyla slide into view, seemingly thrown, gliding on her back along the polished floor. She sprung up just as her opponent attacked her.

Elias grabbed his man by his Keffiyeh and managed to grasp hair underneath. He slammed his head into the wall. He heard a crack, solid and deep. He repeated the move and the man’s eyes rolled back into his head. He slid down the wall as his keffiyeh soaked dark red blood.

One down. Elias looked over just in time to see Leyla’s intruder tossed into the door. The door held solid. Elias went to help, but in what felt like an instant, he saw the door swing fast open and both Leyla and her opponent seemed to get sucked in.

--

More gunshots made the room quiet. Something slammed into the door. Their Excellencies eyes were all on that one door.

It slammed open. Taytu’s eyes went wide, and she heard the shouts and cries of indignation from the other parties as a man in Bedouin dress threw one of her bodyguards onto the table. It was the small girl, who went sliding across the smooth stone service of the table, sending papers and folders and glasses of water flying in every direction.

“My word!” she heard Mr. Stevens exclaimed.

“This is a violation of Egyptian sovereignty!” Sad yelled.

They went quiet when they saw the Bedouin looking man aim a gun at the prostrate guard on the table.

The sound of a gunshot exploded through the room. The Bedouin man fell to the ground, a hole erupting from his eye and splattering gore across the table.

Sad reached out to check the woman on the table and see if she was okay. Mr. Stevens looked at Taytu.

“You have the Foreign Office’s support. Deal with this vexatious region! But make sure the interests of my government and of Europe are attended to!”

Egyptian guards filled the room. They looked awestruck at the bloody scene. Sad looked at them. “You should thank these Ethiopians, they did your jobs! Now find out how this happened!”

Taytu looked at Mr. Stevens. “It will be managed,” she said simply.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Hound55
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Hound55 Create-A-Hero RPG GM, Blue Bringer of BWAHAHA!

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T H E C O N S T R U C T I O N O F T H E
C O M M O N W E A L T H O F A U S T R A L A S I A



Princes Park, Victoria - 1955


Bob Menzies listened on as George Harris and Howard Houston prattled on about this and that. Usually he’d be well entwined with their conversation, however on this occasion his thoughts were otherwise occupied, rendering him as little more than a mere token presence – as undoubtedly his good man Harold would be losing his positive temperament being left to the harsh elements on such a day, abandoned at a losing football match he’d been dragged out to. Menzies swirled his Southerly Buster in his left hand and tried to pick up the conversation once more, dropping ash off his cigar with a quick tap of his right hand’s ring finger. It would do him no good being ostracized by these men. George Harris was a driven, willful man, it saw him out of Changi during the war, and Bob had little doubt he’d one day be the Club President of this fine football club.



“So did you hear about Ongarello, Bob?” Harris asked, forcing the Prime Minister to break his current silence.

“Fitzroy’s wog full forward fellow? More shanks than Australian Lamb. Sure, we saw them off just the other week, a fortnight ago, right?” Referring to their last home victory, and their player's general reputation for inaccuracy.

Howard had a knowing chuckle seeing where this conversation was going. “Yes, I heard about a few of his goals from last week.”

Harris continued, “Yes. Scored two goals off of placekicks against Geelong down at Brunswick last week.”

“Placekicks?” Menzies queried.

The other pair nodded and chuckled knowingly, waiting to see the response of the elder statesman’s bluster. “Placekicks. Imagine expecting the whole world to wait on you.”

The other pair laughed, as Bob raised his bushy eyebrows, and lowered his glass after draining its contents. He was about to leave when Harris hooked his elbow and asked him with a hushed whisper. “And as for the other thing..?”

Bob drew back and straightened his suit, a smile broadly crossing his face. “Suffice to say, I believe we shall have some ‘Gold’ standard views coming up in our near future.”

This pleased the other men greatly, who shared a knowing nod. "Splendid!"

“In fact if we play our cards right I wouldn't be surprised if we may even be sitting in our own named sections on the outer in a few years. But what could a humble Prime Minister say, to a future President..?”

The men laughed and finished their drinks, watching the politician leave to return to his seat for the second half.

Howard turned to George and got straight to the point, now that Menzies was out of earshot.

“Do you think he’ll do it? Really? Bring the Olympic Games here to Princes Park?”

“I know there’s few things, if any, that man cares more about than our Carlton Football club. As for whether he could actually do it? Who knows? But he’s put his name to it. Carlton will have his guts for garters if he doesn’t pull through. Sounds pretty good though, doesn’t it? 'The George Harris Stand'...”

* * * * *


Bob ambled back to his seat. Carlton down two goals at the half to the auld enemy Collingwood Magpies, courtesy of some free kicks the Princes Park faithful had deemed to be highly dubious. The weather still wet and blustery, the middle of the park churned into it’s trademark gluestick from the state of the first half’s play.

He saw his compatriot Harold Holt still sitting next to his empty seat up in the grandstand, looking about as miserable as the weather. Menzies was in no rush to meet him, he carefully carried back a drink for the other man. He’d abandoned him in this monsoon, to go and check in on his own quagmire with the ‘Members’. Still, the look on his chosen number two’s face wouldn’t do at all. Might give others the wrong idea.

“Scrub the dour look, Harold. You’re amongst your constituents here.” Bob announced, sliding between legs to return to his seat whilst carefully holding out the drink as if it contained the elixir of life.

Harold Holt looked up with a start, at the return of the Prime Minister before looking around himself at his immediate surroundings. He’d recently transferred to the safe new Liberal seat of Higgins from Fawkner, which put him a few suburbs over from Princes Park. This put a furrow across the younger man’s brow.

“My constituents, Bob? A little off there with your geography, aren’t you?” He reached out, taking the drink.

“Higgins, my lad. Henry Bourne Higgins himself, that your seat was named after, was this club’s very President back in nineteen-oh-four.”

"Well, given the circumstances I hope I can count on his vote. Since I'm more likely to get sick sitting around in this bloody torrential downpour, than if I went 'round the traps kissing every baby with cholera."

Menzies laughed and let the younger man have his gripe. Harold looked at the elder statesman and tried to discern if his warmth of his laugh was genuine, or if it were at his expense for having the sway to drag him out here in the first place. Harold decided it wasn't worth the time or effort to think about, and diverted the conversation to what was really bothering him.

"So are we going to get down to brass tacks as to why you brought me out to this deluge, or do I have to be completely saturated to the bone first?"

"Why Harold, I thought you loved a good swim." Menzies replied with a wry grin. "But if you're that bothered by it, I brought you down here to discuss your taking point on a major upcoming development project." He stuffed a fresh cigar in his mouth.

Harold now had an idea where this was going, and raised his eyebrows in surprise. Robert Menzies had this habit of revealing just enough to his ministers that they could figure out where he was going before he actually said it. He found it empowered them and made them feel steps ahead, and up on things. A position Menzies liked, particularly with this young up-and-comer Holt.

Menzies pulled his cigar out between fingers. "The Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme." He clipped his cigar and lit it, watching the game whilst waiting for the younger man's response.

"The Snowy? But I thought you railed against that when Chifley was pushing for it?"

Menzies rolled his eyes at the the younger minister being so slow on the uptake. "If the Labor Party only ever had stupid ideas it wouldn't be an achievement to get elected, now would it Harold?"

Holt's response had been a sullen jab brought on more from the discomfort than any real news, though, and both men knew it. In reality much of the work had been taking place for some years now, it was a popular policy point electing many and bringing a boosted sense of public confidence for the major engineering feat, even beyond the improvements to electricity and irrigation infrastructure and the widescale employment boons. A poke in the eye before the thankful acceptance and consideration.

"Well of course I'll take it on, although I am curious why this would fall to me. It wouldn't have anything to do with my family's South Australian ties to smooth over their concerns for how it'll affect their water flow downstream, now, would it?"

Menzies and the crowd jumped to their feet with a chorus of "BALL!" as one of the Collingwood Magpies players was tackled from behind and dragged into the growing mudpatch out in the middle.

Harold wondered if the Prime Minister had heard him, but soon found his answer as the older man replied. "Please Harold, these shots really are tiresome. I thought I was speaking to my Minister, not the media. Are you, or are you not, presently the Minister for Labour and National Service and the Minister for Immigration?"

"Well, yes."

"That's why you got the tap, old son. That coathanger they built up in Sydney Harbour has nothing on this in terms of feats of engineering prowess. You're perfectly placed for it. Whoever I put on it from cabinet would have had to work with you both because of your Labour and Immigration portfolios, we're going to have to bring in some top flight engineers. We've already worked with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to organize training, tech assistance and, in all honesty, we'll probably get the odd engineer from there over here on it. We've pulled this guy William Hudson over from across the Tasman to head the scheme. A lot of the real groundwork has already been done, and frankly, it's solid. I'm handballing you a sweetheart assignment that's primed to make you look good whilst you're still holding those portfolios. The correct response is 'Thank you, Bob. I won't let you down, mate.'"

Menzies took a deep draw on his cigar and went back to his intense focus on the game taking place before them. The margin rapidly expanding against Carlton's favour as poor goalkicking kept costing the Blues, whilst the Magpies remained accurate with their opportunities. Harold thought about what the older man was saying, Menzies had, after all, been a leading figure since both men's days in the Young Nationalists.

"Fair enough. You're right. Thank you, Bob. I won't let you down, mate." Holt breached the gap.

"You're welcome." Menzies didn't take his eyes off the game.

"Bob, what did you mean when you said 'whilst you've still got those portfolios'?"

Menzies sighed deeply, as if every distraction from the game to explain the seemingly obvious caused him great pain. "I thought that much was already clear."

"No. It isn't." Holt pushed for further elucidation.

Another sigh grumbled from well within Menzies' core. "Very well. You're getting given a sweetheart deal, a big public positive assignment because you're, in all likelihood, getting tapped to the Treasurer's seat. And I want you to have a major success under your belt before I send you there."

"The Treasurer's seat? What do I know about economics?"

Menzies screwed up his face as if he was offended with the stupidity he was having to deal with. "The Treasurer's seat is not about economics!"

"Isn't it?"

"No. No, it's not. Bruce, Lyons, Chifley, Fadden, myself... It's a stepping stone that says one is ready for the responsibility of the big chair."

"But what about the portfolio itself?"

"You've got bloody civil servants for that. A staff. Did you think everything I was coming up with from the Treasurer's seat was bestowed upon me from the Lord Almighty on gold tablets or something?"

"I suppose not." Harold said to himself. Thinking things through. Could this really be true? Could he really be that close to 'The big chair'? "Thanks for that as well, I suppose."

"Oh, there is one other thing though." Menzies said, not taking his eyes off of the game. Seemingly throwing it away as an afterthought. "There's this thing I'm going to need help with. The work's already done, though. Just need separation. I'm going to need you to pick up this '56 Olympic Games temporary ministerial assignment as well. Another sweetheart deal. Can hardly screw up something as popular as selling sport to Australians either, eh? We attach your name to a big part of the Snowy and to the Olympics, that'd go a long way on the resume. Should lead to a relatively seamless transition once I'm ready to take the big step down."

"Wow, the Olympics?" That caught Holt's attention instantly.

"Thanks, Bob--" Menzies led Holt along.

"Thanks, Bob. I won't let you down, mate."

Blues full forward Noel 'Nobby' O'Brien got out to a great lead and took a rock solid chest mark forty five metres from goal. He walked back to line up for goal and pulled his socks up and plucked some grass to test the wind.

Harold rocked forward. "You know what, you've certainly given me plenty to think about, Bob." He got to his feet. "I might get on my way and tell Zara the big news. Looks like I'll be pulling some extra hours and long nights for a while."

Menzies wasn't paying any attention anymore though, everything of importance had been addressed. There was only the Carlton Blues, the Princes Park buzz and Robert Menzies. "Hmm? Yeah sure. You go. Go." He absently waved the younger man away.

O'Brien began his run up and pumped a drop punt from fifty metres out over the man standing the mark. The Carlton crowd rose from a buzz to raucous cheering as the ball sailed true for a goal.

Menzies clapped from his so-far unnamed seat in the grandstand, and spoke to nobody remembirng the conversation he'd had with Harris and Houston earlier.

"Placekicks. Huh... Imagine expecting the whole world to stop and wait on you."
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Warsaw, PUL - 1955


Katarzyna was never one for grandstanding and speeches. They were necessary, in many nations - but they stunk of dictators and oligarchs; tools for whipping the people up into mindless, often violent frenzies. She preferred a lighter, more casual touch.

And so, every Monday, the Polish president sat down in a simple chair, relaxing in front of a spartan tea table, in an apartment not much bigger than those that nearly every person in Warsaw lived in. Cameras arrayed about her, artificial light shining down from above, she cleared her throat - and as the camera began rolling, offering a warm, comforting smile.

“Good evening, workers, comrades, and friends - whoever happens to be joining us tonight.” She said, shifting her stance forward as her palms, clasped together, came to rest in the center of her lap. “I hope you’ve all had a restful weekend - and for those who chose to work, let’s hope you didn’t get [i]too[\i] exhausted, eh?” She chuckled quietly, once again clearing her throat. “The month of January’s already nearly gone by, and we already have plenty to discuss! First and foremost...” She said, biting her lip. “You’ve all heard the news about Albert Einstein, I’m sure. His contributions to workers’ rights, his economic reforms in Germany - I hope you’ve heard of him, at least. In an effort to abide but what I think would be his wishes, I won’t bother you with a thirty minute speech, a sob story - instead, if you happen to be listening, I only have one thing to say: thank you for everything we’ve done. You’ll be remembered for decades to come, I’m sure.” She nodded, swinging one leg over the other. Outside, she could faintly hear the sound of children playing, but, quickly pushing the noise to the edge of her thoughts, continued as she idly poured herself a small glass of Spotykach, the sweet scent of vodka and blackcurrant wafting its way into her nostrils.

“Further away from home, I have a message for our Indonesian comrades in the PKI. We wish you well in your struggle, just like we do every last comrade worldwide. Whether you’re in Surabaya, Jakarta, Batam, or Pekanbaru - good luck, and know that the people of the People's Republic of United Workers/Popolrespubliko de Unuiĝintaj Laboristoj are with you! In fact, that’s the topic I’d like to focus on for today’s chat - the worldwide struggle of the working class. Our country might be one that truly works for its people, but it’s important to remember that most people still live under the pall of authoritarianism. Whether they be on the shores of the Americas or the coasts of spain, people everywhere are oppressed - and I want to make sure you all remember that. Our fight isn’t over until every man woman and child is well and truly free. We’re in this together, comrades!” She announced, briefly dipping her head in quiet remembrance of those the cause had lost. "Most importantly, remember this - you aren't alone, no matter where you come from or what you believe in."

Raising her glass to her lips, Katarzyna smiled as she took a sip. "Until next time, comrades - I'll talk to you soon."

Cameras off, Katarzyna let out a brief groan, leaning her head back with her eyes closed. She was no demagogue, at least - though she couldn't help but think she was delivering little more than platitudes, spewing non-committal words in an effort to avoid angering the enemies of the people too directly.

Soon, she told herself. Soon, she'd be able to make a real difference, she thought, downing the rest of her glass.




Surabaya, Indonesia - 1955


Jerzy hated Indonesia. Not the people, of course, but the place - the series of islands that comprised it - they were a nightmare, far too hot and muggy for his liking. Even at its coldest, temperatures soared beyond Polish springs, and sometimes even summers - worse than the weather, though, was the strangling presence of Japanese soldiers on what seemed like every street corner, barking orders in everything from Japanese to butchered Javanese.

He rubbed his eyes as the box truck he was driving trundled along down the road ahead of him, lit by little more than the faint headlights of the vehicle itself. Not far ahead was a small, wooden guardpost, the road blocked by a boom barrier. Two men - Japanese soldiers, by the looks of it - stood just to the side of the street, their eyes pulled away from an idle game of cards by Jerzy's approach. Scratching his shaven chin, adjusting his dark blonde hair, Jerzy slowed to a stop a few meters ahead of the checkpoint, his gaze idly darting between the silenced pistol strapped to the inside of his door and the rapidly approaching guard, hands resting on his steering wheel. Taking advantage of the brief time he was offered before the soldier reached his window, he cleared his throat, silently mulling over the complicated ins and outs of putting on a Dutch accent while speaking Japanese.

Finally, the soldier reached his window, brusquely greeting him in Javanese - or perhaps it was more accurate to say the words came out sounding like a bored, half-hearted demand, the sound of someone who hated what they were doing and simply wanted some rest.

"Ah... Ambroos De Vries!" He said. "Good evening, sirs." He continued, greeting the soldier in his native language. At first glance, he looked a handful of years older than the kind gentleman loitering around the wooden post - a bit more, a bit less, but it was hard to tell at this hour. His greeting, however, seemed to draw the tiniest amount of relief out of the soldier, even if his tone still seemed perpetually angry.

"You speak Japanese, Mr. Ambroos? I don't know many Dutchmen that speak Japanese." He grunted. 'Ambroos chuckled genially, rubbing the back of his neck with a smile.

"Ah, well..." He laughed, shrugging his shoulders. "I started learning a long time ago - in school, yes? My father, he went on these business trips in Japan, so he thought I should learn."

Noticing that the soldier wasn't speaking, waiting for him to continue, Jerzy cleared his throat. "Financier. Investor. I never had the stomach for arithmetic, so I ended up interested in brewing, eh? Right now, I'm moving some, eh? Old friend of mine, he owns a liquor store, and-"

"Where is it being transported to?"

"Gendagan - not too far from here. Old friend of mine." The soldier nodded back at 'Ambroos', glancing sidelong at his comrade.

"I'll be taking a look at your cargo." She said, gesturing for 'Ambroos' to exit the car. He complied, of course - but only after surreptitiously grabbing the pistol strapped to the inside of his door, sticking into an inconspicuous spot in his pocket and leading the soldier toward the back of his truck, quietly cursing himself under his breath for his idiotic cover story. It was believable, sure - but he knew he should've been able to come up with something better. Now, the soldier was sticking his nose into his business - and he'd have to think of something better. Fast. Letting out a grunt, he tossed open the rear doors - and revealed piles of planks and lumber, stacked high to the compartment's roof. He stepped aside, allowing the soldier to draw closer for inspection - then lunged at him, tightly squeezing the unfortunate man's windpipe as he helplessly scrabbled at the agent's arm, fingernails digging into his skin. Before long, though, the soldier dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes, leaving Ambroos alone with his fellow officer.

He dropped to the ground, quietly crawling along in the muck beneath the truck, slowly moving toward the front of the vehicle. Down here, he couldn't see much - except for the impatient foot-tapping of the other Japanese soldier. Then, the man called put - and Jerzy swore under his breath. "Gakuto!" The young man barked, adjusting his rifle on its sling, hanging over his shoulder. "What's taking you so long? I don't want to stand out here in the mud all damn night!"

Come on! Go investigate, you useless bastard! Jerzy thought to himself, thumping his fist against the underside of the truck. If the soldier was too lazy to move himself, Jerzy'd have to make him.

Growling, the soldier began to move though not with any expediency. Jerzy briefly wondered if he'd ever seen a man that hated his job so much. The poor boy probably expected the chance to go out and serve his glorious Empire, killing in the name of its territorial expansion - and yet, here he was, on thankless garrison duty in endlessly muggy occupied Indonesia. Still, Jerzy thought, at least the idiot was moving, now alongside the truck.

Leaping into action, Jerzy rolled out from beneath the truck, but before the soldier had a chance to turn around, his pistol was drawn. All it took was a squeeze of a trigger to end the boy's life, his corpse dropping to the wet ground with a pathetic thud.

Letting out a frustrated grunt, Jerzy brushed the mud from his face, hauling the soldier's limp body over to the rear before placing another bullet between the first man's head. He was still breathing, after all - that needed to change. Disposing of the bodies would be an altogether different issue, but out here, he had options - dholes fed in specific ways, and that was perhaps something he could take advantage of. First, though he had to get rid of their heads.




Jerzy hated Indonesia. The Japanese soldiers were far too nosy for his taste, feeling the need to stick their faces into everyone's business like they owned the damned place. He did appreciate, however, how many locals shared his sentiment - judging by the enthusiasm with which the PKI guerillas were helping him unload his cargo, at least. Stack after stack of lumber was lifted and pulled aside, one after the other, until they finally reached the back.

A treasure trove of rifles, ammunition, and explosives awaited them, stacked high to the roof of the truck, each in an unmarked crate. The men and women excitedly discussed their bounty even as they began to unload it, a few briefly stopping to thank their comrade in arms - the guns were made in Poland, of course, but they were reproductions of local weapons, built to use the ammunition already available to the guerillas in spades.

It was the first of many shipments of arms, no doubt - the instruments with which they'd overthrow their oppressors. And as much as he wasn't the greatest fan of the tropics, Jerzy had to admit that, at the least, he felt like he was doing something that mattered. That was worth something, at least.

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Washington, D.C. Department of Labor.


To say Evelyn was terrified of what was about to happen wasn't entirely accurate - anxious, perhaps, but bureaucratic meetings tended to be just that. Wrinkled, lecherous old men rambling on about anything under the sun, occasionally tossing an unwelcome remark her way, and otherwise doing a whole lot of jack-shit. Sure, sometimes something important was said - but the more she participated in the machinery of government, the more she thought that starry-eyed little blonde, blue-eyed girl from Kentucky was an absolute idiot for thinking she'd ever be able to do something important as a politician. She was young, beautiful, even, with decades of life ahead of her - and yet she felt like she was accomplishing little but wasting away through years of absolutely grueling hard work.

Maybe I'm dead. Maybe this is hell, she thought, quickly flipping through the sheaf of papers in her hand. Still, at least she had a way to do something important every once in a while. Her handlers assured her of that much, and all she needed to do was pay attention to what was going on around her, stay diligent, and do hee job well - just not in the way she was expected to. When she'd told the Polish woman that'd approached her all those months ago about a mysterious, classified meeting in the Department of Labour building, they almost immediately fixed her with a hidden microphone and recorder and sent her on her way, arming her with a single pill hidden in a serviceably pretty locket they'd given her. "Just in case," she said. "You don't want to find out what they do to people like us."

Evelyn hoped not, but she couldn't help but think the handler was telling her the truth. She'd heard what'd been done to so many activists in the country, after all, but it was better to do something and risk getting hurt than wallow in pity for the rest of her life.

Suddenly, the telltale tip-tap-tip-tap of dress shoes against a thinly carpeted floor echoed in from the hallways, and Evelyn quickly righted herself, ensuring everything was in place. For the briefest of moments in that lifeless room, she felt her heart tighten in her chest. Briefly forgetting herself, she almost failed to remember the state of her outfit; glancing down at the simple, whitish blouse she wore, she smoothed out a handle of creases, then her thin, grey skirt - and pulled out a notepad and pen.

One of the men noticed the young woman's uniform and gave a rather cruel sexual remark. The Secretary of Labor, Jonathan Saunders, didn't pay any mind as another man joined in by whistling at her. Jonathan was tired of being in a room mostly full of boys. He should've retired years ago. He should've to enjoy his remaining years with his grandchildren in Nashville. Instead, he was called to serve the President of the United States once again. In all honesty, he should've said no.

But, the country was still in despair and he was needed.

And after sixteen years of hard work and determination, a reliable solution was going to be presented. Jonathan didn't know much besides the basics of this supposed government jobs program. The Office of Management and Budget invited him and a few other secretaries (Commerce and the Treasury) to attend a classified meeting on the matter. It was unusual to him, but if there was a way out of the Great Depression, he would listen to their offer despite being left in the dark. So, he had to endure the immaturity of the men that were still harassing the aide until the director was ready to start the meeting.

“Director, Sir!” Evelyn perked up, immediately glad for the brief relief she was offered by the presence of the Budget Director. For the most part, she did her best to ignore unwelcome comments about her figure, the occasional dog-whistle - but it still tended towards the uncomfortable and aggravating. “I’ve prepared all the budget papers you’ve requested in advance, and a few additional sheets I thought might’ve been useful - I was able to get a hold on unemployment numbers over the past several years, and a handful of other points.” She said, ignoring a particularly ugly comment about her curves as she set a pile of papers down in front of him. “Is there anything else I can help you with before the meeting starts?”

Director Herbert Simons rolled his eyes upon listening to one of his aides talking before dismissing her. “No. You should go before you distract anyone else with your… “‘looks.’”

“She isn’t that distracting.” a familiar voice echoed across the room, which caught everyone off-guard. And upon finding out who said it, they stood up from their seats as a sign of respect. Herbert looked to his side and realized that it wasn’t an ordinary man. No, it was President Charles Lindbergh. Immediately, he got up from his seat and greeted the President. “I-It’s an honor for you to be here, President Lindbergh.”

“And I am honored. Please take your seats.” Lindbergh gestured at everyone and then turned to the aide with that carefree smile. “You too, lady. If you value your loved ones.”

"...Of course, sir. I'm sorry for-" Evelyn froze, not even bothering to finish her sentence. The moment she recognized Lindbergh's voice, in fact, it was as if she froze - whether in reverence or fear, she wasn't sure, but it probably didn't matter. The President was here - she had a job to do, and it was even more important than she thought.

"Yessir, Mr. President!" She replied, immediately finding herself an unoccupied seat. She was instantly rapt at attention.

Lindbergh nodded and then turned towards the director. “I assume you know why we are here today.”

“Of course. I read what you sent me and it was… a rather interesting proposal your team managed to put together.” Director Herbert chuckled. “But I have my concerns with it on ethical grounds. Besides being a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment, forcing a majority of Americans to work as servants is immoral.”

“Director, respectfully, did you actually read it? Because your concerns are completely wrong. Nowhere within that pile of paperwork states that Americans will be forced to work under the program. In fact, it’s completely optional!” Secretary of Commerce Ronald Barton dismissed his concerns and then reached for the projector to turn it on. Jonathan rolled his eyes at Ronald’s attempt to ease the director. He took a deep breath and then tried to calm the director down in his own way.

“Look, it’s understandable to be worried about the program. But, you have to remember, anyone that joins will be paid sixty-seven cents per hour and free housing—if they wish to live under their employer’s household.”

“And not to mention,” Secretary of Treasury Milton Stuart joined in the conversation. “our enemies need to know that the days of the depression are behind the United States. Ensuring that every American is guaranteed a job is that way.”

The projector was displaying the gradual decline of the unemployment rate, going from twenty-five percent at the height of the depression to ten percent. Then, a chart showed how much farmers from the states affected by the Dust Bowl were forced to abandon their farms. And then, another chart showed off how much crime activities increased on the East Coast and the estimated number of civilians joining crime families rising at an alarming rate.

Director Herbert was still unsure about it even after seeing the charts. “Believe me, I read every page that you provided to me. I know that there are Americans that still need work, but there has to be another way that can be achieved.”

President Lindbergh seemingly nodded in agreement and then stood up from the chair provided to him. “I see that you are conflicted on giving starving Americans the chance to rebuild their lives. Last week, I went down to a Hooverville in Cleveland that had been established almost twenty years ago. I remember talking to an older woman, who was ill for years of living in unclean conditions. She allowed me into her home, which only contained a dirty mattress and a broken board for her children so they had a place to do their homework.”

Lindbergh started to slowly make his way over to Herbert as he kept on talking. “I asked where the dining table was. The tables were too big for their hut. Then, I noticed that there wasn’t enough room for a bathroom. So I asked where they went if they wished to take a bath or use the toilet. She told me that they used a bucket as a toilet and went to a nearby bathhouse to get clean.”

Then, Lindbergh placed a hand on Herbert’s shoulder and began squeezing it. “Now, think about what would happen to that woman and her children if she found work under our program. Try to imagine doing the right thing. Instead, you’re letting your faith get in the way of progress.”

“M-my faith has nothing to do-” Herbert tried to speak up but was quickly shut down by the President.

“As someone who attends church every Sunday, don’t even think of lying to me, Herbert.” Lindbergh stared at him for a few more seconds before turning to everyone else. “Does anyone wish to tell Mr. Simons about the pain you and your loved ones suffered during that dark period in our lives?”

Evelyn's breath caught in her throat. She couldn't help but agree with the Budget Director's concerns, if she didn't say anything, she worried she might draw suspicion to herself. That was one of the few benefits of being a woman in her position, she supposed - she was expected to stay quiet and be demure in most situations except when spoken to. That was all she did in these meetings, for the most part - listen, take notes, and speak when spoken to. To question a man, however, never mind the President, was unthinkable to society, as much as some small part of her wished the entire building would simply collapse atop the gathering's heads. She couldn't help but think that the Polish agents listening in on the meeting were thinking the same thing. She wanted to say how Lindbergh’s plan was misguided at best, how she could think of work programs far more effective and humane in her sleep - but she stifled those thoughts, paying them no mind.

Lindbergh was disappointed with everyone in the room and understood their silence. Yet, Herbert still needed to understand his point. So, he looked at the young aide and went over to her. “What’s your story, Miss…?”

"...Harding, Sir! Evelyn Harding." She nodded, doing her best to maintain her composure in the sudden face of being the center of attention. "I was lucky not to see the worst of the dustbowl, but... My family's always lived in Kentucky. We saw a lot of the worst of it - one room schoolhouses, barely enough food to survive day by day... My father couldn't find a job after the coal mines closed. I wanted to help make things better, so... I got involved in politics. That's the short version."

“You see.” Lindbergh turned away for Evelyn and started directly at the director again. “Her parents struggled to allow their daughter to be here. They were determined to ensure their child had a better life than them. And look at her now, talking directly to me—the President of the United States! Sadly, that can’t be said for everyone. Even now, her father still struggles to find work! Think how much his life would improve if you help us out with the program. Have a heart for the common man. Or did wealth corrupt it?”

Herbert looked down while everyone else was staring at him with disgust. Jonathan, on the other hand, was too old to be spiteful and knew that petty insults were going to get them nowhere. He turned to the director and said, “I know how conflicted you are about this. Why don’t we give you some time to think about it and-”

Lindbergh put his hand up to interrupt the secretary. “We’ve been waiting for far too long. Herbert needs to make a choice today. I don’t know… wait. Why don’t we let Miss Harding talk some sense to him?”

“Are you sure that’s wise, Mr. President?” Milton asked with a grin on his face while turning to have a look at the woman.
“Of course! After all, she had some experience in politics. Maybe she has a better shot at convincing Mr. Herbert to make his mind up.” Lindbergh answered. Everyone was now staring at Miss Harding, waiting for her to speak. Most of the men were expecting her to embarrass herself while Lindbergh and Jonathan watched with interest.

As much as it pained her, Evelyn recognized that this was an opportunity for her to act. Mr. Herbert knew her well - she could only hope that he'd see that she felt pressured by the circumstances, but, nonetheless, she was being handed a chance to ingratiate herself with the President on a silver platter. "If I may be so bold, then... It's absolutely essential that something is done about unemployment. As many strides as the country has made in recovering from the Great Depression, there are still thousands of families in the country without work, without food, and, in many cases, without homes, as a visit to the homeless camps would tell anyone. If we have to create jobs to give to people, then so be it - it'd be wrong for us not to act." Evelyn explained, though her expression remained entirely neutral throughout her speech, her voice even and measured. "It's difficult for me to completely evaluate this plan right now, since I know so little about it, but... That's my opinion."

Lindbergh was rather impressed by the answer that came out of the mouth of an assistant nevertheless a woman. “You shouldn’t have given up on politics, Miss Harding, because I would’ve voted for you in a heartbeat.”

Then, he placed his hand on her shoulder and turned back to the director. “I hope that hearing another point-of-view on the matter sped up your decision, director.”

Herbert didn’t even try to hide his death stare at her, signaling that she was in big trouble for embarrassing him like that, before giving a response. “Mr. President, respectfully, I don’t need to hear my assistant’s thoughts on this or any matters whatsoever. Especially when I can clearly form my own opinion on the issue at hand. Please give me more time to think about it.”

“I am afraid that you already wasted enough of my time.” Lindbergh let go and then signaled to one of his bodyguards, who pulled out a folder and placed it in front of the director. “It’s unfortunate that I had to get my hands dirty. But your stubbornness made it necessary..”

Herbert looked through the folder and his expression immediately changed from confident to timid. He quickly closed it before someone else had the chance to look at the content and then stared at the President of the United States. “How?”

“I’m afraid that’s classified unless you’re fine with telling everyone that you like to-”

“Wait!” Herbert interrupted Lindbergh before he had the chance to reveal whatever was inside that folder. “I-It seems that I was too… harsh on my criticisms. If you are positive that it won’t violate the people’s rights, then.. I will support the program.”

“Good.” Lindbergh walked towards the director and extended his hand out in good faith, but Herbert avoided it and turned his sights on his aide. He was ready to shame her for humiliating him in front of his friends and the President of the United States. And then, if that wasn’t enough, fire her on the spot. However, the President stopped him before he had the chance. “Actually, let me have a minute alone with her.”

“... Fine.” Herbert grunted and then went to tell everyone to clean out of the room but Evelyn. In fact, he said something to her. “Not you. You and I have a lot to talk about after this.”

Evelyn was uncomfortable, so much so that she found herself practically paralyzed - but it'd have been stupid to not leap at the chance to ingratiate herself with the President,especially now. She wondered what her handlers were thinking, listening in on and recording their conversation - where were they, she thought? They told her they'd be monitoring the meeting, but not how or from where. All for the best, she supposed, in the event she should be discovered.

"...Yes Sir, Director." Evelyn sighed, clutching a binder full of files to her chest.

When they were alone, Lindbergh approached the aide with his hands in his pockets. “Well, he doesn’t look happy at you. It’s a shame that he doesn’t appropriate your thoughts because you’re a woman.”

“It is, but I’m... Used to it, frankly, Mister President, Sir.” Evelyn admitted, silently shrugging her shoulders. “I do my best to ignore it. It’s difficult when they get handsy, though.”

“Then, you should be at a place that respects you. I know of a place.” Lindbergh pulled out a business card and handed it to Evelyn. It had the symbol of the White House and a phone number on it. “Just call this number and you will have a brand new job as soon as the following day. Hopefully, I will be seeing you, Miss Evelyn.”

President Lindbergh smiled and then winked at Evelyn before he departed from the room, leaving her alone.

Evelyn blinked, staring down at the business card with what could only be described as abject shock - an emotion that, considering the circumstances, didn’t require her to make use of her High School theatre chops.

Her handlers would definitely want to hear this.
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Posen, Germany


He patiently waited outside the brightly bustling building, still barely glistening to life in the early morning while the soft pitter-patter of a morning’s shower rained atop his head. At four in the morning, the staff of the library slowly eked themselves into an opening position, the few assistants and staff unhurriedly etching papers and toting about carts through the hazy windows which peered out into the morning streets. Its sign, printed in both German and Polish, had yet to be illuminated for its opening, the phrase “Ludendorf Library” able to be shined on by the faint light which emanated from the library’s interior.

He twitchily shuffles in place, impatiently tapping against his briefcase as he cast his gaze alongside the door. The agent had half a mind to give it another tug, but the glances from the staff within held him to suspend his disguise for long enough to avoid outright suspicion; It was only through his miraculous baby-faced looks that the agent well in his thirties still had the appearance of one of Posen’s many collegiate students, looking to do some quick cramming before exams like so many before them.

But, as he cast his gaze side to side along the street, waiting for his contact, he heard the distinct ka-chunk! to his right. The double-door of the library slowly suspended open, the elderly librarian faintly smiling to him as she held it open. He returned the smile back, swiftly dipping into the library with a quick “Thank you.” Soon, he dipped into the long center hallway, into the back and around the rightmost corner. Pulling out his keyring, the agent fumbled about, fuming through keys as he urgently flipped from key to key, the weight of his briefcase as he had now carried the handle in his mouth straining the back of his neck.


“That contact had better come soon...”, he thought, switching through his keys...

A sound echoes from the space behind him, a woman dressed in relatively casual office wear, simple greys and blues that could’ve passed for any plain old accountant or law student working in any number of buildings nestled away in a business district. The tip-tap of her shoes was whisper-quiet, barely noticeable even in a deathly quiet library. Her face was downcast, perhaps simply due to the sheer stress of summer exams, raven-black hair framing a deathly pale face. Letting out a frustrated groan, she slumped back against the wall next to him, running her hands through her hair.


Fuck exams. I just got a ninety-six on my microeconomics test, but I still feel like I should be tossing myself off the nearest bridge. Aren’t exams the worst?”

He cast a glance over at the woman making her interjection, slowly raising an eyebrow as he sidelined over the last of his keys. He held the single, final key up in unceremonious fashion, quickly injecting it into the locked door. Slowly, he retrieved his briefcase’s handle from his mouth, a few rapid blinks soon following.

He sighed.


“I don’t wanna talk about that exam…” he warily responded, “My professor already won’t let me do a re-take. And it’s brought the average down by at least a letter grade…”

Exhaling long and hard, the agent puffed out his final, world-exhausted sigh. Grasping slowly to his left, he swiftly and gracefully opened the door to the private room, extending his hand to his guest before him.

“But at least we can study for the next one, right?”

“Ninety-six points, ninety-six more months off my lifespan.” She laughed, though the sound was, likewise, incredibly exasperated, moreso a half-hearted attempt to not sound like the ethics of drowning oneself were the first thing on her mind. “Still have to pass the course, though.” She shrugged, trotting inside with an economics textbook full of notes cradled in her arms.

“One step at a time, one step at a time…” he laughed right back, dotting in right after her entrance.

He unhurriedly closed the door behind them, slowly moseying over to the sole birch table set in an off-set corner to the room, adorned by three half-plushed blue-padded chairs which had clearly seen better days. The metallic incandescence shuttered over the room at so early in the morning, such lighting clearly obscuring the faces of the two as he set his briefcase square upon the center of the table.

Looking over at her, his face quickly turned from a smile into a staunch stone-face, quickly eyeing over the room, corner to corner, wall to wall. He addressed her in an unenthused, stern tone.


“Want the good news or the bad news first?”

“I was about to ask you the same thing.” She sighed, her expression likewise turning sour. “Fucking Amerykanów have gone insane, but there’s a silver lining. You checked for bugs?”

He shrugs, giving off an exhausted sigh at the same time. Slowly, the agent approached one of the chairs, pulling it out in a fashion more befitting for a senior than the spiritedly young man he so clearly was. Taking a seat, he stared right back up at her.

“Yeah. Not gonna do me much good, though.” the agent answered.

“I think i’m about to get pinched.” he bluntly responded, “I keep seein’ the same car, same two guys in the front seat, too, always outside my apartment block. Dunno if they’re OSS or Italians.”

“The ASG can’t get them?” She asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“Seems like they’re too tied up with Urwald to really give a shit about guys like me…” He shook his head. “Was my fuckup anyway. Left too big of a trail. Cocky guy like me makes too many moves, leaves too much evidence. Guys like me don’t usually last.”

“Boss Lady hates my guts as it is, anyway.” he quickly laments, “Especially after what happened in Zagreb.”

“Right. Zagreb.” She said, chewing her lips. “What’s the good news, then? Have your tails all come down with brain cancer?”

He chuckles. “Not that lucky.” the spy chortled. A quick shake of his head returned him to his usual straightforward demeanor. He almost even sounded upbeat about it.

“Zocker has made contact with Falker. And Bächer is in with Vogelscheuse.” The guy cracked an eager smile at the news. The first good news that they had gotten in months, at least. Something to show for all of the notoriously poor work and horrid results in the past. Something which finally was starting to show signs of paying off.

“Now it’s just up to us to see if we want to aim for Ukraine or Indonesia.”

“Business in Indonesia is booming, my bosses tell me.” She shrugged, glancing toward the space on the wall where a window would’ve been. “Made a very, very large delivery recently, but there’s something you might want to know first.” She said, taking in a deep breath. “We have someone working with Fat Cat. In his office.”

“Fat Cat?!” he exclaims. His jaw could almost reach the floor, just for a brief second, right before it snapped back up into his sinister crooked grin. That joker?! Tell me it isn’t who I think it is who’s trying to get Fat Cat to get a heart attack.”

He paused. Steadily, his grin turned to a smile, then a chuckle. A cackle, a beading, rolling laughter.

“It’s fuckin’ Sokoly, isn’t it?” He almost roars.

"You know I'm not at liberty to say anything about that son of a whore." She snorted, shaking her head. Then, suddenly, her expression went sour, as though she'd just laid eyes upon a horribly mangled corpse.

"As for my bad news - poor thing he has on the strings heard something big. New initiative - based on the reports, we're looking at sweeping economic policy. A compulsory 'work program'" she said, making air-quotes in the most obvious way humanly possible, rolling her eyes all the while. "It's bad news for our working comrades, bosses tell me, but the information's easy to spin."

“Leave it to the Yankees to always find a new low…” He spat out, a disgusted, disdained expression on his face, the likes of which not even were reserved for the worst of foes. But, of course, America always had to be number one in everything. Even in being the worst.

“New policy’s gonna make them have a real bad season… not like i’m the biggest fan of baseball, y’know. I prefer football.”

Doting around, the agent swiftly began to tap his fingers against his leg and along the tabletop. His hand motioned sooner and sooner toward his briefcase, all the while tapping along to some foreign beat. Tap, tap-tappity-tap. Tap, tap, tap-tap. Tap, ta-tap-tap… All the way until a single tap! reached the buckle of the case.

“Regardless...study guide’s in here.” He motioned to the briefcase, “Hope it helps you out more than it helped me.” the agent smiled toward her.

"Ah, I'm sure you'll be fine!" She beamed, rolling her shoulders. "Indonesia or the Ukraine, though... My parents would love to go to Indonesia, if you don't mind. My idiot brother is obsessed with Komodo Dragons. Didn't you say your father was a travel agent?"

Her response forced a smile from the agent, chuckling at the mention of it. It sure was a thought, to be brought back from all that way and dragged into the present, its light to bear for all to see!

“Yup!” he spotted back, spiritedly turning with a grin of his own, “He says that the area around Batavia is wonderful, the people so friendly...he always goes on and on about how great it is!”

He casted another glancing grin at her, almost as if to be knowingly puzzled.

“Or...is it ‘Jakarta?’”

Once again, she simply shrugged back, flashing a toothy, pearly-white grin, her expression practically bursting with radiance.

"I've heard Surabaya is especially fascinating to visit, actually - even with the IJA crawling all over the place." She said, nodding back. "I have some friends there that'd love to meet you."

Almost dumbfounded, such an offer would make any man at a loss for words. Even a spy the likes of him couldn’t pass up an opportunity so brazen and wondrous!

“Well, it’s always rude to keep them waiting, isn’t it?” he noted, smirking back, “I’ll make it a mission to see that I visit them as soon as I can. Wouldn’t want to give off a bad first impression, would I?”

“Definitely not,” she chuckled quietly, crossing her arms over each other just beneath her ribcage. “They’re very important friends.”

Not withstanding any mention of decorum, he nods a few times back at her, oddly, awkwardly smiling the whole time through. He tugged at the collar of his button-up shirt, letting in whatever ventilation was prevalent throughout the midsummer air even within the heat of a 4 AM library. It was getting hot in here, wasn’t it? The agent sure was feeling the heat, and he had yet to even make it far outside for a hard day’s work. But, with the rate of how things were progressing, even just these moments almost weighed down on him with the same weight of an entire day’s paperwork just over his shoulder.

He nodded back at her, chuckling to himself all the way. He glanced back at her, tilting his head to the side as he queried:


“Guess this might be the last time we’ll be seeing each other for a while…so, uh…”

“...do you do goodbye kisses?”
He smugly smirked.

Suddenly, total, deafening silence. The woman’s eyes went half-lidded, an expression that could only be described as impatiently contemptuous. Her posture, though relaxed - and she reached out towards him, only do land a light, stinging slap across his cheek.


“You’re an idiot.”

He recoiled back, groaning and gristling from the blow. Rubbing the side of his reddened, hand-printed face, he rubbed the wound in an attempt to tenderize the stinging aftershock of the resounding blow.

“Ough…” he grunted.

Slowly, he squinted, turning his grimacing, pained expression back into an approving smirk.


“...that really hurt…” the agent complained, cracking another approving grin back at her.

“...think you can kiss it and make it all better again for me?”

Moron! The raven-haired beauty grumbled. “You’re lucky I find stupidity endearing.”

Muah! A light, quick kiss on his reddened cheek, and the woman was moving, already on her way out the door. “I’ll have some friends look into those people bullying you. See you in Surabaya, mhm?”
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Mexico City, Distrito Federal
June 1955

The Palacio Nacional was a flurry of activity the next morning, with no fewer than four motorcades lined up in front of the grand complex of lavish buildings. A traffic policeman hurriedly waved his hands and blew his whistle to stop civilian traffic on José María Pino Suárez Street as a dozen black staff cars crowded the sidewalk edge. Most of them bore flags and placards of Mexican government ministries, except for a curious set of vehicles in the back waving small flags depicting the rising sun of Japan. From those vehicles, two men emerged: Ambassador Saburo Ito, with a dark suit and a serious look upon his face, took the lead over a man in a tan double-breasted military uniform topped with yellow shoulderboards adorned by shining silver stars. Both of them shaded their faces from the public with brimmed hats; a fedora and a round service cap.

The Japanese officials disappeared into the Palacio Nacional along with the other parties, before two stern Mexican troopers carrying rifles closed a set of wooden doors behind them. The group passed through a sally-port to emerge in a cobblestone-floored courtyard boxed in by arched windows. A solitary fountain trickled peacefully in the center. To the president, who was waiting in the center flanked by his aides and guards, the courtyard had always reminded him of Rome and classical Italy. Herrera stood beside Álvarez: the two men could almost be mistaken for brothers, with their tall, skinny frames and light skin. While Álvarez remained clean shaven and impeccably groomed to the latest fashion, Herrera allowed himself a mustache and longer hair that bordered on unruly. A movie star next to a politician from a history book.

The Mexicans shook hands with the Japanese. Ambassador Ito went through the line of seniority, introducing himself first to Admiral Aguilar before moving on to the next man. The Japanese general came next, with a rigid personality befitting the notorious Imperial Japanese Army’s strict seriousness. The short and stocky naval officer shook the pair’s hands and nodded at the Japanese general officer, surveying the shin guntō sword affixed to the man’s hip. Aguilar was famed in nautical circles for his interest in blades as a hobby. He had made his own officer’s uniform sword at a self-made forge in his hacienda near the navy base at Veracruz, a fact that he bragged about to every foreign officer he met. In return, the Japanese general gave only a slight nod to acknowledge the presence of a fellow warrior.

“Welcome, Mr. Ito,” greeted the next man in the line with a firm handshake. Minister Gabriel Torres was yet another retired general in service with the Mexican government, a longstanding tradition since the Revolution of the 1910s. He was not one for small talk, and quickly passed the Japanese ambassador onto the president standing next to him. He did the same for the general, before clasping his hands in front of his waist and waiting for Álvarez to finish the introductions.

“Thank you for meeting me with such short notice,” Ambassador Ito said to Álvarez in accented Spanish. His words were measured and deliberate, much like his actions.

“This is nothing, Mr. Ito. I appreciate your outreach to us,” coolly replied the president with a smile. “The fact that you trusted me with such a sensitive request means our nations’ friendship is unshakable.”

“I agree. We have to remain close now that there are uncertain times ahead. Allies are few and far between. I feel we are the precipice of war, or at least something close to it,” the Japanese ambassador said, a hint of sagely wisdom creeping into his voice. President Álvarez didn’t know if he was misinterpreting a Japanese saying or not, but the message came across clearly nonetheless.

“Well then, let us continue.”

The party finished their introductions, with the Japanese ambassador walking alongside the Mexican president as they went into the government palace. The military officials trailed behinds, their aides now catching up to them carrying satchels of documents. Torres nodded to Álvarez and slipped past the group, catching up to a Colonel in his more drab service uniform as opposed to the more ceremonial dress of Aguilar: a black leather briefcase was handcuffed to his hand, containing nothing but a notebook with the combination of the lock to what had become known as the “war room.” Behind a steel door in a reinforced concrete room built just recently, the room had been constructed at the behest of the War Ministry in anticipation of a future global conflict.

The door opened to reveal a humble vestibule with only two sets of wooden chairs lining either wall of the passageway. The Mexican and Japanese delegation crowded uncomfortably inside as Torres escorted the Colonel to unlock a second hefty metal door with another combination lock. With a metallic click, the door opened much like a ship’s hatch, squeaking as it revealed the main section of the war room. A world map appeared dramatically at the other end of the room with placards and strings depicting the great powers’ military forces arrayed as closely as Mexican intelligence could analyze. Two other blow-up maps were on similarly sized boards angled to the left and right of the world map, one depicting the US-Mexico border in its entirety, and the other one revealing the detailed locations of ships and military units scattered across the Caribbean.

Álvarez invited the delegation to sit at one end of the table where another map had been laid out. Two officers emerged from the staff sections at either wing of the war room with briefing aids and files marked “ULTRA SECRETO.” One laid out copies to each of the Japanese and Mexican officials while the other, a Major who looked like he had just risen to the rank, prepared some icons and symbols to pin on the map of the Caribbean to their side.

“We received a telegram from your Army Minister, Masami Hojo, last night,” Herrera said. Torres and Álvarez nodded in agreement. “We understand what the Japanese government wishes. Luckily, there needs to be no preparation of planning and only discussions of how we’ll execute.”

Herrera deferred to Torres, who took charge of the conversation in his authoritative tone. He had given many such briefings before, to soldiers and diplomats and politicians alike. His voice was sternly confident, a sure commander who followed a simple rule to always at least appear to know what he was doing. “If you open the secret documents in front of you, this is our war plan for a fight against the British in the Caribbean. It was developed many years ago and has been continuously refined as you yourselves have gone to war. Don’t think we didn’t suspect this day would happen.”

The War Minister shot a grin to Ambassador Ito, who merely nodded with a serious look on his face. President Álvarez cocked an eyebrow at the exchange, silently musing about the strictly businesslike nature of the Japanese men with their dark suits and round glasses. It was good to have these warriors on their side, at least, even if they didn’t know how to throw a party or crack a joke.

“On a large scale,” continued Torres, “our first step would be to identify and track down British forces capable of transport or rapid attack against our own fleet.”

He pointed to the Major manning the map of the Caribbean, who withdrew a pointer stick and began tapping red ship icons in the ocean. “The British don’t have a lot here, currently,” interrupted Aguilar. “They’ve withdrawn a lot of their ships, ironically to fight you.”

“This, we know,” stated the Japanese general plainly. All of the Mexicans turned to look at him, surprised after he shattered their assumption that he would not speak unless spoken to by a superior. “We came to you to keep them divided from us.”

Aguilar paused a second, allowing for the War Minister to take back over. “Correct. Our plan will simultaneously consist of patrolling and blockading strategic targets in an order of precedence while we prepare our land invasions. British garrisons in the Caribbean are run down, underfunded, and regiments have been withdrawn to handle their crises at home and in the Pacific. We are the perfect opportunity to launch an attack against critical components of their imperial pride and resource export.”

Torres called the Major to begin his movement of Mexican military symbols from bases across the south of Mexico the British colony in Belize. “Most of these targets will be symbolic to British prestige at home,” explained Torres. “Belizeans are a bunch of banana and sugar farmers, with some rich pinche Británicos going on holiday there.”

The Admiral continued, offering his military perspective. “We have drilled the staff exercises to accomplish an attack on these Caribbean possessions in two weeks. A month if they put up stiff resistance, which is unlikely considering the British drawdowns. But our goal is the Belize City garrison alongside its government house. With that taken, the country will be ours. We don’t have to worry about a militant population, and in fact it is highly likely the local Belizeans will take our side on the matter.”

“That is a bold assumption to make,” challenged the Japanese general again, leading forward to the table.

“You are used to your vicious wars with enemy empires,” Aguilar countered, the point of his argument having instantly materialized in his head. His knowledge of history matched his fascination with swordmaking. “Years of war with Russia where your presence has been as an invader, and a foreign one at that. So foreign, in fact, that nobody could have ever thought an Oriental power could challenge a European in years prior. You are the yellow Japanese against white Russians! Of course there will be partisans to sabotage you behind enemy lines. We are liberators to Belize.”

The Japanese general scowled at Admiral Aguilar, who suddenly realized how continental he had sounded with his comments. Immediately, the Mexican added: “We commend your country for its fight. You are an inspiration to us who seek glory outside of the European continent. But you must understand how our wars are not the same.”

Placated for now, the Japanese man offered a grunt of acknowledgement and leaned back into his chair. Ambassador Ito watched the scene and offered his input. “What kind of pressure will this put onto the British? I wish to develop a full report to the Army Ministry on how they can expect your contributions will change this war.”

“A naval task force, at least. Most likely initially drawn from colonial fleets like South Africa or other possessions, since they would want to send a response but our theater would be less important than yours,” Torres replied in an officially commanding manner, rapidly quenching the heated discussion between the two military men that threatened to become a counterproductive match of bickering debate. “Royal Marines from the British Isles proper would also need to be deployed to retake these possessions, as the British do not have amphibious capabilities even from their most fortified base in Bermuda.”

The Japanese ambassador nodded. Torres flipped through the next few pages of the file. “There is a sequential plan after that consisting of an amphibious attack on the Cayman Islands. Again, another holiday destination for the British. There is a local police station there that will surrender or be quickly dispatched by the marinas. We have two more targets on the list after Belize that should prove more difficult, but serve to expand the theater to draw in more British to our Caribbean killzone.”

The Major at the wall pushed two separate task force icons from Mexico to islands in the sea. The largest one went to Jamaica, while another cruised south until it assembled by a island labeled in small print as Trinidad and Tobago.

“Our campaign on the British West Indies concludes with attacks on Jamaica and Trinidad. These are identified as the two largest remaining garrisons of British troops and are important for different reasons. Jamaica is the ‘crown jewel’ of British Caribbean assets, while Trinidad and Tobago is inherently important to the oil exports from the area.”

Both Ito and the Japanese general perked up at the mention of petroleum, a key topic of discussion In Japanese military circles. The basis of their imperial conquests could be boiled down to the search to acquire oil, rubber, and other industrial materials. The Japanese, long reliant on imports much like the British themselves, were in a unique position to understand how disrupting even a small part of the sensitive oil import system could yield important operational results. Trinidadian oil, even if it made up a small percentage of British imports, could make the difference between a fleet or army movement that a skilled Japanese leader could deftly exploit.

“Again, these are lightly defended compared to their value as targets. Kingston in Jamaica maintains the largest British garrison outside of Bermuda, but we have a numerical advantage with our amphibious infantry and naval assets. Trinidad and Tobago has most of their targeting focused on oil refineries and the industrial areas there.”

The next steps of the briefing consisted of a reconsolidation of Mexican forces to secure their gains. They would prepare for a British counterattack towards the islands, with a Royal Navy task force being drawn from diverse colonies. The Major demonstrated on the board as the British forces assembled and steamed towards the Caribbean, where they were quickly entrapped by Mexican naval forces in a series of hit-and-run attacks. British amphibious forces that survived would be outmatched by the defensive positions on the islands. To the Mexicans, it was a simple problem of geography that could be solved quickly and violently. It took cues from the Japanese strategy of island-hopping, a point that was not lost on the Japanese attaché in the meeting.

“The strategy is sound then,” Ito stated, closing his notebook after taking down several pertinent notes in Japanese. The Mexican war plans were never allowed to leave the room, so he was transcribing as much general information as he could: in the background, another officer had been standing silently behind the Japanese men with his hands clasped in front of his waist. A fluent speaker of Japanese, his job was solely to monitor the ambassador as he took down classified notes. Ito, a veteran of foreign service, recognized the unwritten rules in place here, and respectfully kept his notebook free of specifics outside of what was considered acceptable by diplomatic etiquette. “Our concern comes to politics, then.”

President Álvarez leaned forward to the table and locked eyes with Ambassador Ito. “Don’t worry about that, my friend,” he said. “I’ll work with Congress. We have our avenues to do this, and the warhawks are more than happy for an opportunity to show off.”

Álvarez was, as Ito suspected, talking about the Americans. A fight with the British, a quick and easy demonstration of Mexican capabilities, was worth more than every parade and exercise from the past decade combined. The British and Americans had similar doctrines, forces, and structure. A quick conflict in the Caribbean would certainly light some fires underneath American military planners and change the calculus.

Ambassador Ito leaned back into his chair and made a humming noise. The Japanese were on relatively good terms with the Americans, so the Mexicans would just be looking for trouble on their own. That was their problem. “Then I trust you can make the necessary diplomatic arrangements,” the Japanese diplomat said simply.

“I will let you know when we start our campaign, if the newspapers don’t tell you already,” Álvarez replied with a nod. With an elegant motion, practiced in countless meetings during his time in politics, the president waved his hand and stood from his seat at the table. “Well, I think we have a plan going forward. Let’s retire to work our own ends.”

The Japanese delegation and the Mexican military men all rose behind him, nodding and gathering their documents. Aides rushed to secure them in satchels and briefcases before standing obediently beside their superior officers. The Mexican staff officers in the war room began to erase their notes and remove their icons from the map boards, sanitizing the briefing so that they could resume their daily operations later. Álvarez and his officials escorted the Japanese from the room, passing through the security partition again before heading up from the basement of the palace. In the courtyard where they had met just a short time before, they engaged with the niceties of diplomatic conduct and bid their farewells.

After the Japanese and Mexicans shook hands, the Ambassador and his attaché were escorted to the waiting motorcade on José María Pino Suárez Street. The gates of the Palacio Nacional closed shut behind them, and soldiers in ceremonial dress took their places flanking the wrought-iron metalwork. With little fanfare, the Japanese boarded their black diplomatic cars and drove away, leaving the seat of Mexican power to assess their own situation at the embassy. As the Japanese returned to their embassy, situated alongside the plain and unadorned Glorieta de la Palma roundabout just fifteen minutes from the palace, the Mexicans returned to work to make the necessary preparations.
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