Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Shyri
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Shyri Some nerd

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As the sun rises,
A thousand men march forward,
While red blossoms bloom.



Kyoto, Japan


海 勝 日
軍 利 本

り 日 強
! ! い


((Recommended Listening))

Lively fanfare, bombastic music, and the sounds of an excited crowd filled the air as Kyoto welcomed the Imperial Navy Festival to its streets. Thousands of men and women in uniform marched in tandem with the lively festival music, while the crowd watched on. Children hoisted upon their parents shoulders mesmerized by the show, while elders watched with a knowing reverence. Meanwhile, further along the parade route, the actual festival grounds were packed with people playing games, performers putting on shows, and naval officers hunting for individuals, hoping to embolden their ranks.

"Hey, you!" One of the officers shouted to a young man who looked to be alone. "Come here a moment."

The young man, barely out of school with a wispy mustache and shaved head, tried to avoid the gaze of the officer as best as possible and slip into the crowd. However, the recruiters had grown accustomed to this behaviour, and had help ready and waiting nearby. Just as the young man thought he had escaped, he bumped into a young woman about his age.

"Ah, excuse me." He muttered, a bit flustered at the sight of her. "I was distracted."

"Oh?" The young woman inquired with a smile. "What’ got you distracted?"

Sheepishly, he nodded over his shoulder, in the direction of the officer. "The headhunters were trying to get me. They're like sharks at these sorts of things." He gave an awkward chuckle, trying to keep the conversation light. "This is the fifth time this month they've tried to recruit me."

As he spoke, the young woman nodded along, furrowing her brow a bit. "Do you not want to serve?" She asked, looking him over. "You seem like the type who would be good at it."

With those words, he realized exactly what was going on. Ever since the navy started allowing women to serve in non-combat roles on ships, they’ve also been used to help officers recruit gullible young men. He knew he had to find a way to separate from her,though, he didn't want to make a scene and draw attention from any of the more conservative older folks. "Oh, no, no." He muttered. "I would love to but…" he stalled, thinking for a minute. "My back. Er, I hurt my back working in a factory. I'm afraid the navy wouldn’t have any use for me like this. It’s… Disappointing." As he spoke, he moved a hand to his lower back, feigning a phantom pain as he spoke. "At least I know my pain helped our soldiers down South." He feigned, hoping she wouldn’t catch the lie.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that!” She replied with a frown. “Though, I’m sure the officer would be understanding if you told him that, right?” She then paused, smiling. “I have an idea. Why don't we go over together, and explain. I'm sure the officer would understand." She said in a happy, helpful tone. "That way he doesn’t think you’re being rude or avoiding him. After all, people like him are the reason people like us can enjoy a festival like this. I want to thank him myself, so why not go together?”

With that, the young man lowered his head in defeat. There was no way he was talking his way out of that. With a nervous smile, he accompanied the woman over to the booth, where the officer was waiting, a smile on his face. He tried to explain, like the woman had managed to convince him to, though he was already in their trap. It only took a couple more minutes before the young man, with a grimace on his face, had been strong-armed into signing his name on some papers. They promised that, after an evaluation, if he was truly incapable of serving, that would be it. Of course, he knew they would find out he was fine, but… He’d have to figure that out later. Not wanting to go away completely empty handed, he turned to the woman and, with a smile of his own, asked if she would join him at the fair, since she seemed to be alone. She apologized, and said she was actually on her way out, running off before he could even respond.

As he waded back into the crowd, defeated, he heard the officers voice from behind him, calling out to the next unfortunate victim.

"Hey, you!"

Meanwhile, a bit further away at the imperial palace…

"… I'm afraid that, if things keep going this way, we may not have the supplies we need to keep things going at their current pace. We don't have enough men to man the front lines, the ships, and the factories. We either need some allies, fast, or…" the speaker trailed off, his gaze moving to the man seated in front of him.

"No, absolutely not!" The older man said, squinting from behind round spectacles. "I already allowed our men's wives and daughters onto our ships. I'm not letting them fight, I was very firm on this the last time you brought it up." As he spoke, there was a bit of a wheeze to his voice, making him sound much older than he actually was. "So long as I am emperor, I will not see my daughters put on the battlefield."

A solemn bow was the only response that was given by the man addressing the emperor. He knew there was no value in trying to argue this point any further. Raising himself, he turned to another in the room. A woman with extravagant hair and makeup, wearing traditional garb and sitting beside the emperor. Catching the glance, she nodded.

"Dear." She said in a soft voice. "You know that I agree with you on this matter fully. However… I think what Mr. Watanabe here is implying isn't the front lines, but instead, the factories. I know you've said they can be just as dangerous but… If we don't want to falter in this war, perhaps the danger closer to home wouldn't be so bad an idea…"

She was cut off as the emperor raised his hand to her, looking her in the eyes. “If you can honestly tell me that you would want yourself, or even one of our daughters working in a factory, then maybe I’ll consider letting this pass on to the Prime Minister. However, if you can’t tell me that, then why should I send anybody else’s daughter’s off to do it?” As he spoke, his eyes almost seemed to sink, as he paled a bit.

“Yasuhito…” The woman choked, trying to remain composed. “I understand what you are saying but…” She looked over, almost pleading for help from the members of the emperor’s cabinet present. “It’s not the same, dear. Me and our daughters… We’re not made for such things. It’s not fair to make such a comparison!”

As she was speaking, her eyes widened, looking to her husband. At first, she thought he was getting angry but… He began to reach for his throat and chest, and his face started to change from pale to almost purple. Panic in his eyes. It was clear he was struggling to breath.

"Go, get the doctors, now! Yasuhito is having another attack! Go!" She shouted to the cabinet members, many of whom were already rising to their feet at the sight of their emperor’s state. A couple lingered to ensure things were fine, but they followed the crowd when the prince, Nobushige, rushed to his father’s aid.

"Don't you dare, Chichibu!" The empress hissed through tears. "You'll make it through this one. Just like you have all the others.” She then turned to her son, watching as he started lifting his father to take him to his bed. “Be careful, Tatsu…” She mumbled, using her sons nickname.

“Of course, mother.” Was all he said as he disappeared into the hallways of the Kyoto palace, his footsteps joining with those of everyone else running about the castle, leaving the empress alone and sobbing in the meeting chamber.

Before long, an ambulance siren could be heard approaching the estate. A few minutes later, it began to fade, until it was drowned out entirely by the sounds of the lively festival n the distance. A sudden roar of cheers and laughter echoing through empty streets, as somebody managed to set off an early firework that briefly decorated the afternoon sky with hundreds of small, red blossoms of sparks. The people completely unaware of what was happening to the emperor only a short distance away.

Tampin, British Malaysia

A group of Japanese soldiers sat silent in underbrush, watching British guards patrol makeshift walls on the settlement ahead. Following their defeat at Malacca, the Brits retreated to Tampin, leaving a token force to buy time for their main force to properly set up defenses at Negeri Sembilan. In order to secure a victory, the Imperial Army would have to take Tampin quickly, and travel north along the road to Sembilan before the Brits could fully dig in. If they secured Sembilan, then there was nothing left between the Imperial Army and Britains final naval base on the mainland; Port Dickson.

With a quick conversation between two of the soldiers, one slinked away, to deliver the orders to advance to the main army, which was lying in wait a ways down the road. Returning their attention forward, all that was left for the scouts was to stay hidden and wait for the show to begin.

After about ten minutes of waiting, a gunshot rang out, followed by another, and another. However, the shots weren't coming from the road, nor were they coming from the Brits on the wall. Quickly fumbling for binoculars, the scout returned to looking at the Brits, just in time to see one fall forward over the shoddy walls, clutching a bleeding wound at their side. In the distance, faint yelling in English could be heard, but it was drowned out by a roar of shouts in Malay. Immediately, the Japanese soldier with the binoculars began hissing for one of the others to go and halt the army until they knew what was going on.

As yet another of their squad disappeared into the growth, the binoculared soldier watched on, as the Brits on the wall turned their backs to the road, and aimed their guns down into the town itself, opening fire on an unseen enemy.

Within minutes, bullets, stones, and assorted household items began flying at the soldiers on the walls. One rock pegged one of the Brits right on the left eye and dropped them to their knees, while another took a bullet to the shoulder. A third, watching this occur, backed up and practically threw themself off the wall, bloodying their hands as they did so before getting up and attempting to take cover in the underbrush; heading straight for the two scouts. Immediately, their hands went to the weapons at their sides,as they rose to greet the British soldier at gunpoint.

"Surrender!" The soldier who had been using the binoculars shouted at the Brit, who stared at the two like a deer in the headlights. "Stop!" The scout said, a bit clearer. Pausing, and looking over their shoulder at their falling comrades, the Brit raised their arms.

"Well hurry it up!" They spat, voice and legs shaking. "I'll take a Japanese prison over that bloody mess any day."

Almost hesitating out of confusion, the two Japanese scouts detained the British soldier, before hurrying along and taking them back to their CO, hoping that they could explain what the Japanese army was about to march into. As they march, they take note of just how shaken their prisoner is, and muse at what he must have seen peering into that settlement. However, neither are fluent enough to ask, so they march in silence, only breaking it to bark orders at the Brit.

When they finally make it to the main force, they find a messy assortment of vehicles pulled up on and alongside the single lane dirt road connecting the two settlements, confused and agitated soldiers strewn about between them all. From somewhere in the mess, an annoyed baritone called out over the crowd.

"Is Hirano here yet? I want to know what's going on! Hirano!"

Upon hearing his name, the binoculared scout called out in kind. "Hirano, reporting in." As he moves forward, he leaves their PoW with his squad mate, and weaves in the direction of the voice calling to him. "Excuse my delay, General Takeda. Something unexpected happened at Tampin. However…" He trailed as the general and his entourage came into sight, and have gave a firm salute.

"However, we managed to take an Englishman into custody. They can tell you more than we can. I think it's a local uprising, but I can't be certain."

As Hirano speaks, his partner eventually catches up, the Brit in tow.

"Very well, being him here. Return to your post, Hirano. I want to know if anything happens that we should be worried about." Takeda says, before turning his attention to the British soldier.

"I am going to talk to you." He says in accented English. "You will give me answers." As he speaks, he places his hand on the blade at his side. "Come." With that, he turns around and heads towards one of the vehicles pulled to the side of the road, and climbs into the back. The Brit is quickly escorted to the vehicle, and his hands tied to the seat to secure him.

"Now, tell me all you saw inside Tampin."

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Lake Arareco, Chihuahua
June 1955

“Are you ready? This is it.”

“Eh, as ready as I’ll ever be jefe.”

The poncho-clad man twisted the corner of his mustache and looked at the young boy in front of him. He held his lever-action rifle gingerly, looking around the hitch where they had parked their exhausted horses. Both of them were matted with dust and grime. Way up in the mountains near Lake Arareco, they had finally found the hideout of the man they were looking for. It had been a long journey over miles of rugged terrain, and both of them were exhausted. Yet the man in the poncho, who was known only as Javier, felt his heart soften as he gazed at the boy’s face. He knew what he had to do.

“Sit here, Eduardo, guard our flank,” Javier said after a moment of hesitation. He unslung his own bolt-action rifle from his torso and handed it out to the boy.

“But sir!” protested Eduardo, turning to plead with Javier. “I want to fight!”

Javier shook his head and reached underneath his poncho to pull a cigarillo from a stained shirt pocket. Eduardo immediately took out a book of matches and struck one, handing it to his boss. With Eduardo’s help, Javier puffed on the cigarillo until he could see the smoke rising. “Eduardo, this is something that I have to do. Maritza is in there, it’s my job to save her.”

The boy nodded, suddenly understanding. He wiped his face with a red handkerchief that hung around his neck. “What if this is it, jefe? What do I do if… you don’t make it?”

Javier stared off into the distance, gazing over the brilliant blue water and mountains surrounding the lake below. Despite the ruggedness, there was true beauty in these hills. “I’ll make it. I have to. Just stay here.”

He hesitated for a moment, puffing on his cigarillo while his hand reached down to touch the wood-handled grip of his revolver that lay nestled in the low-slung leather holster on his belt. Without another word, he turned to face the door of the hideout. It was a squat, clay-brick building built into the side of a hill, with an arched entrance bearing saloon double doors. Javier began his walk towards them, scowling at the entrance as he walked. With every step, the rattle of his gear and belt could be heard. He reached the double doors of the entrance and pushed them open, taking a deliberate step to the inside of the darkened building. He looked around, examining every corner of the structure.

Gold, treasure, and money lined the walls of the hideout. Priceless pieces of art, coins and doubloons, and anything else imaginable were stacked in lazy piles along the painted clay walls. Javier took a few steps forward, his hand continuing to clutch his revolver, until he noticed movement out of the shadows directly in front of him. He froze, staring down the figure that had just emerged from the shadows.

El Negro,” he scowled, dramatically taking a draw off of his cigarillo. “I knew I had found your lair.”

El Negro laughed, a hearty chuckle that reverberated throughout the room. Yet it was not genuine, it reeked of evil. The villain was a Black man: tall, broad-shouldered, and dressed in a ragged Union Army uniform jacket with a leather pistol belt and bandoliers that crisscrossed his body. He took a step towards Javier and stared the vaquero down.

“I was expecting you to find me eventually,” El Negro said, one eye glaring at Javier. The other was covered by a menacing eyepatch, a scar crossing his mean face. “But now I have drawn you straight into my trap! Who will find you here now when I kill you? The Federales? Don’t make me laugh.”

Javier stared down the villain, locking eyes with the bandit. His hand twitched towards his pistol, but El Negro shot his own hand to the revolver on his own hip. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he warned. His eye darted to the corner of the room and he quickly pulled a figure out of the shadows.

It was Maritza. The beautiful young maiden, still dressed in her vibrantly white adelita with barely a stain or coat of dust, had her wrists bound in front of her. El Negro grabbed her by the collar and dragged her in front of him, pulling his revolver and putting it to her head. Maritza wailed, flipping her black hair as she shouted: “Javier! Please help!”

Javier’s eyes narrowed as he looked for an opportunity. Time was ticking, and he had made his decision within seconds. El Negro’s head and shoulder protruded from behind Maritza: the vaquero yanked his own revolver from his holster in a lightning-fast motion and fired off a single bullet before El Nego could even react. A puff of smoke erupted from the barrel of his gun and El Negro yelped before falling to the ground. Maritza, screaming, ran forwards towards Javier where he quickly caught her in an embrace. In a deft motion, he cut withdrew a bowie knife from a leather sheath on his belt and quickly cut through the ropes binding her wrists together.

Javier gently pushed her aside, focused entirely on El Negro who lay on the ground. Blood trickled from the wound on his chest, while the villain pressed a handkerchief in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. “It didn’t have to be this way,” he said, towering over the dying man. “You could have just surrendered in San Juanito.”

El Negro scowled again, staring back up at Javier. He spoke slowly, shakily: “You’ll never get it. I could have been rich. You’d do the same if you were me.”

“Nobody gets away, not in my town.”

El Negro coughed, pressing the handkerchief into his wound harder. His body jolted with a death spasm and he made a faint grunt. With the last of his strength he tried to reach out for Javier, eyes filled with pure hatred. But he stiffened out and his arm dropped to his side. El Negro’s eyes locked forward, unmoving. He was finally dead. Javier turned to Maritza, who had been watching in the corner. He nodded, and carefully placed his revolver back in its holster.

“Cut! Good work, everyone!”

The dramatic dim lighting suddenly changed as a series of lightbulbs turned on inside the cabin. The man on the floor grunted as he sat up, while the vaquero extended his hand to help him to his feet. “How’d you think that went, Jefferson?” Javier asked as the actor dusted himself off.

“Heh, a little corny, but I suppose it will fly,” Jefferson West answered. He removed his eyepatch and wiped the sweat away from his forehead. “This costume is hot, though.”

Javier Cortez turned around to the actress in the corner who was rubbing her sore wrists. “I think they tied it rather tight, luckily you didn’t nick me with that big knife of yours,” she said. Maritza was played by a reasonably mid-level actress in Mexican cinema by the name of Emily Carrillo. She had been in a rut playing damsels in distress for Western films for over a year now. Much like Jefferson West, she had been typecasted after her performances in many similar films. It was all starting to feel like a day job to them, just showing up to work and collecting their pay.

The director opened the double doors of the hideout and stepped through. Manuel Gutiérrez had a similarly unimpressive resumé of almost mass-produced Westerns, even if he acted like a cocky executive in the glitzy Mexico City studios. He wore dust-covered jeans and cowboy boots completed by jangling spurs, with aviator sunglasses perched atop his wild head of curly hair. “I liked it, that’s what the audience wants!” he exclaimed. “Drama!”

Javier and Jefferson both looked at each other: Jefferson rolled his eyes subtly. El Gran Atraco de San Juanito was just the same as Gutiérrez’s other works.

“You know, I think we can finish this today. We still got some daylight left,” the director said, checking his watch. “It’s just about the right time too. How about we get you guys a break for a few minutes and then we’ll have you ride off into the sunset, Javier. We can wrap up shooting and head back to Chihuahua.”

“Thank god,” Javier muttered. Despite his portrayal of a rugged frontiersman, the real Javier Cortez enjoyed air conditioning and good food as much as anyone else. “Can’t wait to get out of this heat.”

The actors walked to the outside to where José Menendez, Eduardo’s actor and a man barely into his twenties getting his feet wet in cinema, had been grilling corn on a campfire near where the camera crew had set up a tent for shade. He waved them over, offering the tinfoil-wrapped ears of corn to Javier, Emily, and Jefferson. All of them took a seat on whatever they could find, mostly tree stumps and a log that someone had dragged over earlier that day. In a pot, José mixed the sauce for and used a camping spoon to drop a dollop on everyone’s snack. “I guess Manuel wants to film us… riding off into the sunset again,” José sighed. “It’ll be a late night then. I figured I’d make something.”

“This shit’s tough, I get hungry,” Jefferson agreed. “All this walking around up these mountains, I feel like I’m back in the army.”

“Probably better hours,” Emily mused as she took a bite into the corn, careful to not let the sauce drip onto her white dress.

“Not really… we’re filming from dawn to dusk out here, even the military works a nine-to-five like everyone else.”

Javier chuckled. “I just can’t wait to get back to the hotel.”

“Why, so you can go trawl the bars and bring back a lady to your room?” Emily teased. She cocked her head sideways and raised her eyebrows at him with a smirk. “’I’m a big movie star, I’m a cowboy! I’ll show you how to ride,’” she mocked him in a fake-gruff voice.

“That’s not very ladylike,” Jefferson replied, half teasing her in return.

“Yep, but I gotta be for my paycheck! Maybe eventually I won’t have to be tied to the goddamn train tracks for the fifth time. ‘Help me, cowboy! Help me!’”

The group all shared a laugh as they kept digging into the corn that had been made. José checked his watch that he had stashed in his pocket: it wasn’t allowed on his costume, seeing as it was a timepiece made in 1950. “I think he wants to go right when the break ends. Not much of a break, huh?”

Almost as if on cue, perhaps deliberately, Gutiérrez stepped out from behind a prop of a broken-down wagon cart and clapped his hands together. “You guys all fed up?” he asked. Even if he did think he was a better director than he really was, at least he cared about his actors. “Let’s get this all wrapped up so we can head home.”

They had finished up their corn and tossed the tinfoil into a wastebin that had been brought out by one of the film crew. The corn itself was just tossed into the surrounding trees. The cast of the film got up from their improvised campsite and quickly got themselves back together. A cameraman had gotten back to his station on the film camera that he had been using to track the exterior shots and Gutiérrez rushed them back to their places. Another intern arrived with the clapperboard and waited until Javier and Emily had taken up spots beside the door to the hideout. He let the stick fall onto the wooden slate, producing its characteristic sound.

El Gran Atraco de San Juanito, ending scene! Take one! Action!”
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Dinh AaronMk Free Gorgenmast!

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Jiangsu

Shanghai


The Guelin Shanghai Assembly Plan was by no means a small operation. Built on the banks of the great murky yellow waters of the Yangtze. The extreme end of Chongming island just a narrow brushstroke in the hazy near-distance. The Shanghai automotive plant was a fortress to industry built on the scale expected of automotive production in America. In fact, overseen by American engineers. Built to the scale of the Ford River Rouge plant. While the hand of Albert Khan did not lay directly on the plant, his ghost as inspiration did haunt the many complexities of the tightly integrated manufactory. Its own river port piers, rail connections, and many of the components of automobile manufacture built directly into the sprawling and churning factory. Piercing the gray skies with its dozens of nimble, scratching and reaching smoke stacks, towers, and beacons. It gave off a permanent stench of smog and fire as the furnaces roared day and night. The whistles of its shift changed screaming through dusk and dawn as great waves of workers filed in and out to take their bicycles home or pile into the street cars that had been extended out to meet the factory and integrate it into the urban maze of Shanghai proper. It was a sight to behold, a project undertaken under the auspicious watch of TV Soong and his president Li Su. Among the conservative circles, it was the most controversial of the otherwise hands-off president, who had ensured substantial funding for the factory from public coffers.

The project though was paying back in dividends. Not to full operation, it was producing cars and trucks at a substantial clip. There was not a moment that the factory's lot was ever empty. As a reward for the positive reports, today was special. As a fine drizzle fell over Shanghai, darkening the sky and polishing the concrete as state cars stood at wait outside the plant, a number of radio and television vans were huddled among them. An air of formality and cleanliness had been brought to decorate the entire plant to observe this special occasion.

“We're at maybe 1,000 trucks a day.” the plant manager proudly boasted as he took his State guests along the loud and clattering assembly lines. For the near length of a quarter mile hanging from chain-driven belts the frames were the stocky and rotund bodies of the Zhou Type-B model of light truck. A steel frame and body built and molded to fit and operate in China's growing cities. To move light construction goods and other such commodities in the ancient streets. Developed with a mind to maintain a market hold against cheaper Polish automobiles trickling into the country. “We'll push those gweilo contraptions to the country!” was the derisive comments cheered among Guelin engineers. Besides the bodies were the other components, creating a dazzling race of moving parts throughout.

“We move at a constant pace, there are no breaks. One shift only ends when the next is lined up right behind them to take over.” the manager continued to explain as he gently held the shoulder of a way-ward line worker as he nearly backed into the oncoming procession. He looked up with a startled expression and bounded back into the assembly line to quickly fasten a part of the body onto the frame. The security to the president were not so personal with the men, and made sure to fix whoever may with a look to tell them to keep their distance.

For president Li Su, he acted his part. Detached but casually interested in the whole scheme. To tell the truth, the constant humming and clattering of the plant floor pounded at his head and he found it difficult to pay attention “Now, here at this station is where we begin the process of affixing the chassis to the frame by bolting on the inner walls to the bed.” the plant manager explained proudly, combing his thick heavy hand through his slick oiled back hair as he gestured with his other, “Over these three sub-stations men at either side rivet stamped sheets in three locations, twice each; we have pairs for each part. After it moves towards the installation of the steering and under-side drive components as we'll see later.” his eyes shone with jade luster. He was king in his own court. This was his own kingdom. He conducted the president's and his premier's, TV Soong's attention to the men working quickly at the assembly line like a conductor at orchestra.

Li Su tucked an old and gnarled hand into a pocket on his old military coat as he walked. His heavy mustache and beard hiding a dour frown, leaving only a fat lower lip to show beneath the hair. To the wayward worker who stole the second to look up at him the only inflection of expression they saw was in the heavy commanding weight of his eyes in his wide walrus face. They looked away. The old president was balding, and on the hot shop floor the sweat was beginning to drip and he wiped at his pale face with a handkerchief as they went.

To the credit of TV, he seemed to carry himself in a totally different manner of indifference than President Su. His was professional, business like. He examined the scene like a man inspecting a fat steer before he purchased it. He lightly adjusted his glasses from time to time, looked passed his blunt round nose and passed the men at the line. To the materials they handled and the things they did. Then smiled curtly, revealing nothing, and moved on.

They went along, the plant manager going on explaining in detailed depths the procedures and the technicalities of what was happening. But ever more the din of the assembly floor increased and it irritated Li Su as he was confronted with the ever louder sounds of all manner of tools and equipment. The overlaid rattle of intersecting assembly lines that flowed like the tributaries of the Yangtze into the main flow of the plant at large. Impact wrenches thundered as they bolted tight new components. He suffered the discomfort of goggles far too tight and feared his prized facial hair would catch a light when they entered into the curtained and sheltered area where the frame and other parts were all welded together and filed down. Then a mask to protect himself from the fumes of paint as they passed through there. His legs ached, and his back was sore from holding him up for so long. They had been walking for an hour. He had long believed he had retired from such exertions.

It was an hour and forty-five minutes. Li Su had come to this conclusion by counting and guessing at his steps. He supposed he had made that much time in steps when they came onto the floor. At times the manager stopped the entire thing to introduce him to men the president did not care about, from classes of people he did care for. He had to go through the motions with them. To return their bows, or shake a hand, and pretend to remember names that truthfully he would not ever meet again. He would steal glances back to his premier, and TV would look back with a terrifying flicker in his eyes and know he was as contemptuous as he, after all: both of their fathers had worked hard to put substantial distance between them and the peasant. He began to wonder if there were communist shenanigans at foot, or if the plant manager was somehow a communist. He made a note that he also knew he would probably forget – it was otherwise that unimportant – to have the plant manager investigated for any socialist leanings. At best he'd be a liberal, no doubt. He settled on that.

By the end, the cacophony of the whole affair had gotten to Li Su. And in a move that startled TV he turned on one of the factory workers. “You damn fool!” he said in a loud low dry voice. It even stunned the plant manager, who to this point had carried on the tour as though the president was silently attentive. It did not take TV long to realize what Su was up to, and imagined something had caught his ire. That he had seen something he knew enough about to comment on. Or to pretend.

“You damn fool! I'm talking to you. Where'd you learn to fasten tires? Did you come from the farms, soldier? Lift your shoulder, hold it like this!” he demanded, holding up his hands as if holding an impact wrench before a pair of baffled line workers who were desperately trying to keep up with the flow of the line and pay attention to the president who leaned tall and wide over them with his great general's coat open.

“No no no, you egg headed morons! Are your heads full of water? Like this!” he insisted, shoving his hands forward. His intonation was heavy. He gestured violently, going red in the face.

“You keep doing it wrong, I tell you!” he shouted as another truck rolled off the line. More and more workmen were becoming livened to the spectacle as they came to pick up the trucks and push them in neutral from the line as another jumped in to try and start the car to deliver it to the lot. They looked at Su with wide-eyed awe and then down at their fellow workers with expressions of grief and hilarity. To the men Su were berating, it was only confusion. They continued at what they were trained to do; there was no time to make adjustments. Or when they did it was too small to get the president to notice and he continued.

“By God and Jesus you two still do not get it!” Li Su continued on, passing bit by bit back to a soldier, “I should think I am qualified for this sort of commentary, don't you think?” he continued on, speaking more generally to the men around him, “I did not dig trenches against the bastard Japanese for five years to be out-baffled by two line workers! I managed thousands, tens of thousands of vehicles such as these. Tens of thousands. Tens of thousands! I think this lends me a little authority when I say a tire is not being installed right! What happens when one of those falls apart on the road because of your incompetence?”

The plant manager was struck cold. Frozen. He did not think it would be proper to approach. What was next to show the president was the factory's kock-down procedure. These vehicles would have to be broken down before being put into their kit boxes for shipment. The tires, for what it mattered, did not have to carry anything far. So long as the parts were in place, they did not even need to start; though it was a bonus if they did at all. If they had just that little amount of gas.

“Lift, you must lift. With your shoulders! Put your back into it. Straight on! No, not at an angle, you'll strip the damned threads you empty vesseled peasants. Damn your fathers for breeding you! This is shameful. Can you not work at all? Christ! I haven't seen such indifference by anyone but Koreans! I am done here!”

He stormed off, waving his hands in defeat. He passed the plant manager. Stopped. Turned towards him, “Well, where are we to go now?”

It took the manager a moment to collect. And when he did he flashed back to life as though charged by a sudden current. “Ah, yes. Yes, sir. This way, please. After me.” he talked as quickly as he walked, leading them to large open doors and back out into the Shanghai drizzle.

TV followed for a bit, and stopped to loiter. A security attache stopped with him and stood back watching. TV looked back at the line. The two line workers furtively stealed glances towards where they were going and at each other. They danced away at their job. Moments later a man came up to them coolly, looking over at TV. He was dressed plainly, in the same light-blue jumper as the rest of the workers. He had tied a red handkerchief around his neck. He knelt by the two workers as he looked up at TV and spoke quietly to them about something before stealing off for a door.

“You knew we were being followed, sir?” the attache said in a quiet high voice.

“I thought as much.”

“The same man has been tailing us the whole day. He never got too close, but we all knew he was there. Should we arrest him, sir?”

“That may not be necessary.” TV said plainly, but he was hiding his contempt for the man. He knew who he was, not personally. But conceptually as a collective. It was a presence that kept an eye on him all through Shanghai. Since the old days.

“Right, well: we should catch up.” Soong said, finally cracking a smile and headed out into the rain at a brisk pace. The security man nodded, and followed after him at a brisk pace. The cold afternoon drizzle fell on their faces. It felt like needles on the bare skin. Back out into the open the crowds had assembled again on them and the camera men and the newspaper photographer men and the writing men had all come down on them again. Damn, had they waited? It was too packed for them to really follow through the plant, not for the weights on their shoulder. TV figured that much, but found himself astonished that they had all moved so quickly around.

He saw it though, the bikes they had rode in on. Now they were gathered here under a ceiling of umbrellas and Li Su was under his own black umbrella held by a tall mountain of a man at his side. The plant manager was already explaining something new, pointing to the sea of cars that extended out across a great open concrete plain. Here the rain water was collecting into its shallow pools and the gray light was reflected back at them.

Li Su's temperament had cooled. But he wore a sore spot in his chest as the indignation bloomed inside him at now learning at the tear down process for the kits. The cars never left the plant here fully assembled. They would be disassembled and sent out. He would have figured, but he was not a manufacturing man. All the same, he felt himself justified. Shoddy work had to be called out.

“At their ah- destination the final project is fitted um-, with glass, head-lamps, and some ah other accessories.” the plant manager was explaining nervously as TV caught up. “The tires are really just um, basic. Sometimes supplied as spares, I guess. Any known defects from the floor are, eh, noted. It's not really our responsibility. At all. They might do a finished paint job. White isn't really the final color. More a- er, primer. The batteries we also install are just for um, plant use. To move the product. We try and run the engines dry when we can on the way to or at the break down plant. The building over there.” he pointed to another large warehouse of a building towards the river.

Things went on this way for several minutes. They moved gradually into the shelter of an awning, where the lack of rain made things warmer. The shuffling of reporters following them soon made the space louder. It was harder to talk and to be heard. Eventually over the din, before the theater could be moved again a reporter spoke up: “President Li Su! Do you have any comments would like to make?”

“To who?” Li Su responded back.

“Does it matter?” the same reporter answered, pushing his way to the front. He was a weasel-like figure.

“Anyone then?”

“We are all here.” the reporter said, to the laughter of everyone else there.

“Very well.” said Li Su, smiling for the first time. He put on a loud theatrical voice that echoed under the metal canopy, “I am pleased to pronounce that Guelin's newest plant here in Shanghai is a booming success. So far what I have seen is, from beginning to end, top to bottom, from each rivet to weld to brick and all the turning and spinning wheels a singing success. With this plant, and all other institutions like it here in China we are smashing our way towards success. We are clearing a road straight ahead into the future. There we will find China's seat once again at the middle of all things. And all we have is to take our collective leadership, and as a people take initiative above all else. A little pluck, ingenuity, and the desire to compete against all peoples. It is not just what we must do to become respected, but to reclaim our respect lost to us over the centuries of degeneration.

“The workers here: I am impressed by their stock. They are ingenious workers. The company will go far with them. I have no doubt with that. The build of this plant: a splendid show. It is all laid out orderly and I dare say so far: I will not be lost finding myself out!” he held up a finger in exclamation. Everyone there took the cue and laughed politely, “There is a fine logic, and it is set up like all things orderly under Heaven. If I am saying if it is lacking in anything, it is that there is still much to do! And it has all the space yet to fill out to meet those demands!

“There is nothing out of our reach here. And be damned if we do not shoot for Heaven! Before long we shall be leaving America and England in the dust and we are streaming ahead. We shall be the ones dismantling their Great Wall and grand temples to rebuild here to preserve them from their culture! We are a united people! United in our values! And God bless us!”

The small crowd applauded and Li Su was pleased with himself. The plant manager himself was pleased. Someone asked TV Soong if he had anything and he only smiled and declined the officer. An over-enthusiastic reporter pressed the plant manager for any comments and all he said was, “Good words.”

The clamor reached a momentary pitch before subsiding. Not before long they were on their way again and the tour headed into several new spaces. But none to much very new. Li Su viewed the docking area to see raw materials brought in from upstream being uploaded onto the plant's local industrial rail to be delivered to earlier viewed furnaces and mill works. They passed briefly through a cafeteria, where a shift of workers were on lunch and to who Li Su was compelled to extol his compliments. They were very pleased.

At long last they reached the end of their tour. They ascended to the manager's office, where in his spacious den the president and TV reclined with glasses of imported whiskey and met with a new guest. A tall man with broad shoulders, who seemed more taller than he was through the stripes of his gray suit. While his hair was receding, though he was not very old it was combed back tight and to the side across his head. He had very sharp features. He identified himself as Gong Li, the chief financial officer of the Guelin company here to pay the company's respect to the president and TV Soong. Together in the plush brown leather armchairs of the manager's office with glasses of ice-cold whiskey for sipping they exchanged some casual remarks and conversation before the topic of business could be broached.

“So my friend, what were you doing in the thirties?” Li Su asked, looking at the CFO as he sat attentive in his chair.

“Me? I was studying in England during the war. Alumni of the University College of London. It was a good time. Business, namely. I thought I would stay in Europe out of the country but my career after brought me back home, wouldn't you know?”

“Oh no really? That was fortunate, if I'd say so myself.” Li Su said with a wide smile, “It is a shame these days about Britain. How low the Empire has fallen. But you've clearly done well for yourself.”

“Like many others, myself and them. But perhaps misfortune will someday lead me back to English shores as it did here. Who is to say?”

“So is it true then, that a country's bad fortunes is business's good?”

Gong Li laughed, leaned forward, “By God, where'd you hear that?”

“A little bird may have said something like that.” he said with a long drawn chuckle, looking to TV Soong who simply reciprocated the gesture with a polite nod.

“Well, it would seem that way. With the Qing gone and the whole of China with its guard down there was a high-stakes rush on the China market. I came back home to help manage in an import-export scheme. Made some proper finance for myself, went to Shanghai. Grew from there.”

“What were you trading in?” TV asked

“Oh, the usual: raw materials, iron and copper. General commodities for the European market. The race wasn't as good as it was during the war but European markets still needed to be provided for. So my firm handled the middle ground between here and Europe. It all came to an end when the Japanese made it truly impossible to ship anything across, and no one was willing to hike it across Russia. And I was trapped, but trapped with money. So I stayed, helped develop a business. Stumbled into industry.

He took a sip from his whiskey and opened up his arms to the space around him. Implying the whole of it. The entire factory: “A good spot of business, isn't it?” Gong Li remarked on he victory. He leaned back in his recliner, crossing his legs and assuming cheery, rosy eyed casualness.

“Yes, very.” Li Su said detached, “I am afraid it may be vulnerable to communists” he snarled.

“That's the threat of any good operation.” Gong Li placed the iced glass of whiskey to his face, “We can fight them when we can. But in the end it will come to a strike. The company is not yet unionized, and the board is aware of the vulnerability of the factory being new. We are working at training new security staff, but it may be some time to patch the holes before the barbarians run in.”

“I think perhaps they may be better entrenched than you'd like.” TV chimed, “They were following us the whole time.”

Gong Li hissed, shifting his position to the side. “Who are they?” the manager asked, “At the least we can put an eye on them.”

“How am I supposed to know?” TV responded acidly, “But I think I might have a lead: they were the men at the end of the line we were on. There was a man following us with a red handkerchief tied around his neck.”

“Yes, that'd b-” the plant manager began.

“Yes I know, it's fairly universal in this city.” TV interrupted swiftly, “I know some people though, if you need some quick security. Already trained for a fight. I can put a word in and they come forward.”

“Oh yes, if you can that'd be splendid!” the plant manager exclaimed, “Who are they?”

“Some war-time associates. They'll require pay, but not as much as any other security. You'll be contracting out to them.”

“How much?” Gong Li asked.

“Oh, I couldn't say right now.” TV said, scratching his chin, “I do know there are plenty in this city trapped, and who are desperate. Those are the bodies they pull from. You need not worry though, they are ruthless fellows. Quiet effective. Many fought in the war against the Japanese. Many served in other ways.”

“In what ways?”

“Yes, I'm curious.” said Gong Li.

“Well let's just say that there are more than a few ways to get through military blockades. These men were professionals in their time, and before. They are handy associates.”

“Oh, wonderful. Thank you. We will have to pay you!” Gong Li exclaimed.

“That won't be necessary.” TV said.

“I insist, the two of you. Sir President, what do you say?”

“It might be improper.” Li Su said dryly.

“No, really I insist. How about stock options? Me and my friend here can work on figuring out how much this may save us in the future, and present it to the board. I'd like to get the two of you in on the board. It would be an honor for you both to join us!”

“No, someone might notice.” Li Su again said, declining politely.

“No, that's not a thing that will do. And besides, who would notice? I'm sure it can be, you know: hidden.”

“I suppose we can pass the shares to my wife. If you have the sum, I will pay her and she you, and she'll be there on my behalf.” TV relented.

“Oh wonderful, and you: Li Su?”

“I am sure my son would feel up to the task of managing some shares. I will speak with him.”

“Oh, excellent! A top shelf endeavor. To the two of you a toast: to happy futures!” Gong Li cheered. He paused a moment and mulled to himself. Speaking as if unsure himself he leaned back towards the national leaders and made another offer, “I do not know if I should break this, but I have an acquaintance who is making new business.”

“Oh, what is this business?” TV Song asked.

“Well,” began Gong Li, “remember when President Li said profits can be acquired from failing nations? I have one such acquaintance who is casting his long gaze over the Russians. It's been several years of private labor at this point, but he's told me he is willing to make a public offering soon to fund it all in earnest. Perhaps then, like myself: you'd be interested?”

“Oh really, do we get a good deal at all?” Li Su asked.

“I'm afraid not on this. The information though comes free, for being such great men of course.”

“He is a daring man.” Soong chimed in, “What for?”

“He has his attention set on mining. Oil, actually. According to him the Russian state was exploring for oil before it really fell to ruin. And he happens to know a guy that gave him some details. So he took his money and followed up. And he believes he's found oil. He is looking at initial investments to get his company up and running. As an early investor, I hope to get details soon, and I will send you them when I am through with them. I will even ask if he is up to taking some money from some Very Important People.” he said with a smile.

“Then I will have to explore this option. This is good trade!” Li Su declared.

“This sounds like a major risk to me.” TV said to Gong Li, “I will wait.”

“That is fair, gentlemen.”

Hebei

Hutuo River


Somewhere north of the town of Shijiazhuang a small group of men hiked through the hills of the countryside, surrounded by the bucolic buzz of cicadas and the songs of birds. Long off any useful road, they walked with the weight of instruments and tools hanging from their backs. Large army rucksacks containing the multiple tools of destruction afforded to their art and the amenities to remain in the field for a long time. To a few, these forested hills and stony fields were a familiar scene. They had come here in the War; still a clear vivid memory with the pop and vibrancy of a shell burst. But in the short years the peasants and the peaceful dance of long grasses and the flowing meditations of rural life had returned to fill in the lightest wounds of the old war days. But to those who knew where and how to see the land, the bullets and craters were as open in the fields as the days they were set there.

But the memory of war was not their goal. They weren't here to simply soak in the sights of the countryside, to wash away the memories of war with rustic scenery. They were on the hunt for a river. Even if on this search, the walk itself was not inspiration to recollect and withdraw clear history from the river waters of cold time.

“You remember that day, don't you? The day we came down from over onto the Japanese. What a glorious day! A wonderful show!” a man said all too cheerily.“Oh what a show. I don't think I was here, I think I was somewhere over there.” he gestured lazily off to the north somewhere, “But this is all bringing back memories, yes. Oh the fire sure smelled sweet. It was a amazing rush to break out of those mountains and wash the Imperials back to the sea! Tang, you were here, weren't you?”

“No, I was further south.” answered a tall man, with slicked back black hair. He looked around him to the glades and the fields of wheat and grain, the pastures of cattle. Just years before this landscape was burned barren by the deployment of bombs and artillery. Gently pulling at his sharp spear tipped beard he wondered at how many cattle may have strained onto a bombshell in the time since. “I don't think we were ever this far up.” he added in long distant speech.

“Oh a shame, I would have liked to see them butted against the river when the mortar fire came down.” said the other man, his voice high and breaking in excitement. It was like a religious experience to him. And Tang wondered if this excessive enthusiasm was how he could cope with it. He did not have the same joys for the battlefields of old as he. He felt if anything mute towards them. Appreciative more of how the progress of China in the short decade sense had smoothed over the scars in the countryside, covered up the trenches and filled the craters.

They came to a spot on their walk where the dirt path began to dip down and the land around them opened up down a gentle embankment. Through scattered trees and thin under brush they could see the sparkle of the river they were search for. Its dark waters glistening in the sunlight. The water was running high, though slow. Already a few trees low along the banks were submerged, but among them swam several ducks, large numbers of birds sang in the trees over. The scene was alive, and the group made their approach, setting their packs down as a flattened area of land to the side, as the dirt path wound its way around and over to a small wooden bridge, nearly submerged in the water just downstream.

They set their packs down and looked down at the dark flowing waters of the Hutuo River, fresh from the nearby Taihang range. They chatted lightly as they unpacked for their campsite, inventorying their surveying equipment and preparing a plan to measure and search the river. Reams of paper were produced, and surveying notebooks opened. “What a country this would have been to fight in, the armor riding in straight ahead. And this river: this river is fine.” the man from earlier continued, “I wonder if this area had seen any action. I would have liked to see the Japanese pressed up here. You think if we pressured them hard enough would they have fallen into the river on their own? Would they have swam?”

“That's nice Chao Huang but some of us don't need to think about it.” scolded one. He looked up at Tang, “Is that right, Hou Tang?”

Hou nodded indifferently. He assembled some optical instruments, glancing up ahead searching for a good spot. They were here to identify a proper place to build a dam. They would need a good location. They would need sound soil. One of the lot would probably have to find the nearest town. Much had to be done, and he wasn't paying attention to the chatter. His disassociation registered on Huang, and he abandoned his line of conversation. The rest of them made up a plan, and they dispersed in pairs. Hou would have been alone, but he had company of his own.

He had his equipment gathered, and everything was laid out. The campsite would be throw together proper later, for now preparatory work would be carried out. The weather looked clear, and would be for some time. But with him, stepping out the periphery approached his wife.

Emma Liebermann was clearly not of Chinese extraction. She was a foreigner in a foreign land, but she had come here intended on adopting the land as her own after her former homeland had thrown her out. She stepped up to Hou's side and said with a smile, “You ready?”

Emma's Chinese was by this point almost perfect. She had made a great effort since she had met Hou Tsai Tang to master it. But as much as she tried to mute her old accent, the affect and presence of just a little bit of New York City would rise up the currents of her voice like incense. “If you're ready to get wet.” Hou answered her jokingly, pulling her close by the shoulder and leading her off upriver with, she giggled squealing with surprise.

The two side-by side stood almost the same height, Hou only slightly taller. And by many demographer's standards he was an already fairly tall man for China. His long limbs carrying him with not so much grace but a windy whirling that propelled him forward. His foreign extraction wife was the contrary foil, having learned to walk with earned grace and even a prideful strength; though being pulled along through the tall graces and reeds of the river side she not so much as walked but fell forward after her husband who commanded things in a controlled comedy for the two of them.

Reaching the water's edge to the location of Tang's choosing they went to work. He wading out into the water to make measurements, he called back to Emma who waited on the dry shore writing them down. By and large, the two shared something of the same education, or in as much as one and the other were willing to share and split the difference. Since meeting in San Francisco, on and off the campus of UC Berkeley and in the tumultuous strike and protest events that marked the end of the twenties and into the dawning shadows of the American thirties they had grown close. Marrying before Hou could finish his professional education and carry on to higher things, and before their forced exile and retreat to Asia. Since coming to what was to her the exotic orient, the origin of the simulacrum that was the Chinatowns of America the relationship had become even closer and more co-dependent between the two to the point that they practiced the same things in tandem. Even the course of the war, and Hou Tsai Tang's entrance into it as an officer could not physically separate the two and she joined him in as much a capacity as she could in fighting the good fight against the foreign incursion of the Japanese in the thirties, marking to Emma the opposition of China against the United States, the rising light against her home country's falling darkness.

The only thing that kept them apart in this time was that despite it all, they began a family and she had to invariably separate from the front.

The day grew long the sun set basking the day in an orange burning glow and the surveying team returned to their camp, at various levels of wet and muddy from their trudging in the field. At setting their tents and lighting a fire they gathered to heat rice and compare notes, to begin the work of building a profile of the river and make sketches of maps and details for the project to move forward. It was the beginning of a long process ahead of them.

Sitting shoulder to shoulder, the four surveyors sat side by side with the great folded cart of the river way on their lap. Much of it was old, drawn from a time where there was not nearly as complete a technical survey of the area. Compiled even from old army surveys. And they collaborated onto it their combined studies of the area made that day, making a mere drop in the bucket to produce the finer details of what was a very flat map of the region they planned to work.

“Where the locals put the bridge would be an adequate place.” Chao Huang said, scratching at an itch on the side of his round head. There was a dry roughness to the side of his face. A trophy he had won in the war. A light injury all in all, but something that never truly went away. No one could tell why, though it healed it still burned his face and left it lightly scared. “The distance between the shores is not to wide.”

“Perhaps so, buy the land is over all low.” said another. “We can mark it down as an option. But what were the dimensions?”

“Here, check this.”

“Thank you. Where was it again?”

“This spot here.” Huang pointed to the location on the map.

“If we can get some aerial photography that would be for the best, I believe.”

They chatted on like this for some time. They combined their noted together into a single folio, writing on the map. For the next day they elected to take some soil samples, to find where the land was its firmest. “It looks like it's mostly all rock through here but you can't be too sure.” said Hou Tsai Tai. They agreed.

“We should perhaps look upriver. We might have somewhere with more elevation to work with. It's narrow there but the land through here is rather low. We would be picking a site for a wide dam. Too expensive. We should build it narrow, save on time and money.” Huang Chan went on, “Maybe we should figure out how to get back in the touch with the provincial board. They'd want to know. Hell if we get lost they'll know where to look.”

“Good idea, I'll head into the village and ask look for a phone.”

“And leave you to campaign?” one of the companions joked

“Two jobs at once. It's efficient.”

“Then let me go at least. I could use some tea.”

“Never the less, are we going up river? The maps look like it might be better suited. Higher banks.”

“Sure.” Hou said.

“Can I borrow Hou, for a moment?” Emma spoke up from the other side of the fire.

“No, he's warm.” Huang argued.

“Yes, what do you need?” Hou asked.

“Can you come over, I have something I need to ask you about.” she answered back. Hou acknowledged and rose from his seat among the clump of engineers and made his way over. Tucking his hands into a faded and dirty UC Berkeley varsity jacket. No one really understood it here, besides the odd Yank or Anglo.

“Am I missing a paper for your report to the Party's press?” Emma asked, holding out a few loose leaves of paper, scrawled with writing, “You never numbered these, and I can't seem to order them. I think you missed a point.”

“How do you mean?” Hou asked, squatting down next to her and taking them in his hands.

“You talk about the necessity of leveraging the current status of organizing in China to procure greater shares of the profit. But here jump subjects to talk about landlords. The thinking seems to be incomplete.”

Hou considered, reading through the two sheets of papers as his colleagues mulled over the dam procedures for the next day. Furrowing his brow he scanned the other papers. “May have fallen out somewhere.” he said, “But everything flows well, right?”

“For what I can tell. Tell me what you want and I'll write it down. We can work it out later.”

“If I can find a phone I can dictate it to the press office. That's the plan for tomorrow at least.”

“That'll be well. But how did you connect the two?”

“Basic dogma.” he said, “You got anything to write it on?”

Emma nodded, and dug around in the portfolio satchel she had by herself. She produced a pad of paper and a pen. Setting the papers inside carefully she got to work.

“Firstly: the organized unions are doing good work in ensuring the representation of the worker at his or her factory. However: since the end of the revolution their quality of their demands has faltered, where as the quantity of actions has remained the same. However: we are not in any position for Communism yet, as it stands: simply put the masses are yet to feudal and the abundant labor for the labor armies are not ready; the Party press will understand this, they can reprint remarks from a couple years ago. Gou Xhi is a capable editor.

“To this end, what has been holding our efforts is the conservative alliance with the landlords. This is where it connects to the other point. It was really only a page. But:

“Because of the feudal character of the nation's countryside, a large number of labor is stored up in enslavement of the rural worker and tenant farmer. We can only do so much, but since the damnable court ruling of three years ago it has become more difficult. So our option to tipping the scales and to growing the working class and inter-class solidarity with the peasant and the city worker the first goal is the legislate the matter of land rights into something sensible.”

“And what about getting rid of it all together?” Huang Chan shouted, a slight smile on his face.

“Because that might invite reaction and we have been through too much war to turn peaceful governance into revolution.” Hou said back, “But yes, that was the gist of it as I remember.”

“Very well, I think I got it.” Emma said with a sigh, “Anything else?”

“If they need anything I'll tell them to just look at Antithesis of Capital. I think that'll be all.”

“Thank you.” she put the pen down and looked up at him, “Love you.” she added with a smile.

“You too.” he said, bending over and kissing her on the forehead. Turning back to his companions he said: “So where are we at now?”

“Hungry.”
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June 22, 1955
Ай Кармела



Pykiv, Western Ukraine

Arseny fumbled through his war-torn jacket pockets, busting about for the keys to the partisan's shed. He dug through what felt like oceans of lint and empty clips, twanging and tinging while his fingers made their search for the keyring he felt so stubbornly even through his soaking jacket. Every second he spent out here entrenched a lingering dread in the back of his mind, like a sniper was waiting around in the back woods all day for them to come out from their position. The fact that he felt the mud nearly seep into his boots every second he stood didn't help.

Clutching the rusty bronze key between his fingers while the rest of his assortment clanged in the pattering rain, the partisan produced forward his key, jamming the oxidized key into the contraption. He grunted, pushing his shoulder into the door as the grooves of the key stuck along the corroded slot, its tarnished chippings jamming back along his arm for every millimeter he pushed in, until eventually the lock gave way and turned with an audible chunk! The man sighed in relief, the heaving of his heavy breaths puffing mist like a steam train as he shoved aside the heavy oakwood door. Arseny cursed himself for volunteering for this damned mission; His profanity-lined expressions as he moved aside the country shed door peppered the constant patter of rain and distant summer thunder. The partisan knew the full importance of the mission - and the full danger of going alone - as Barynja Chaykovsky made him swear upon his life that he retrieve the cache entirely and undetected. The Devil take him if he wouldn't do it.

He leaned down as he entered, large beam-sections of the old shack creaking in as the rain stormed ahead. Pacing about the narrow midsection, Arseny squeezed himself between the wall and a tarp-coated tractor, shuffling his feet as he dragged soggy bushes of hay as he moved. As he finally nudged himself through the narrow path, the partisan dug beneath the dust-laden workbench, feeling about the straw floors. The wet straw formed into messy mounds, beneath the few centimeters of padding, his hands hand finally reached the solid, metallic coldness he searched for. Arseny wiped the rainwater dripping from his hair with his army cap, then fumbled about his keyring again. He quickly flipped through the verisimilitude of old keys again, plucking out a long, slender iron key. His spare hand brushed off the large metal box beneath, locating the tiny keyhole. The partisan gave a brief, narrow blow downwards, where particles of dust danced upwards like heavy snow. Finally, he gave one last brush-over of the lock and inserted the key with an audible ker-chunk!

Gripping the hay-covered handles of the cache box, Arseny propped himself upon the balls of his feet. He bent forward, straightening out his back, then, heaved upwards as he groaned and grunted as the giant stash resurrected from the Earth. The dark-haired partisan swung himself to the left, crashing the enormous box upon the nearby workbench, huffing all the while. His hands became busy at work, brushing off the final dashes of stuck hay, then he took two hands and flipped each side lever, heaving open the stash box.

The metallic shimmer from within the Red Army's cache was small, yet its contents glistened even in the dreary drizzle of the Ukrainian summer. Row after row of neatly-lined rifles, each separated by their own thin layer of packing paper, adorned the insides of the stash. Old Mausers, Mosin-Nagants, a few Wz's, and -
'Shit, is that a MG?' Arseny looked down, cracking a smile as he checking the status of the cargo, all the while in at what he was seeing for the fifth time today. He knew that Barynja Chaykovksy was good for the weapons - her and those Germans she was in with - but truth be told, Arseny expected museum pieces. But no, everything was all laid neatly inside, the polished wood giving off a shimmer like the brief luminescence of old tungsten light bulbs fading to black. Most of these guns looked like they were meant for collectors; From where Arseny stood - his impressed eyes scanning in steadfast approval - none of them had scratches nor wear anywhere to be seen.

He shut the large stash box with a sonorous thunk, tightening the two buckles on its side as he stared down at the front of the lockbox, then unto his feet. Arseny sharply inhaled, bending his knees just slightly as he tilted forth, heaving while he lifted the enormous metal box well over his head and slung it upon his shoulder while his beet-red expression exerted itself from the weight. Just lifting that hundred kilogram box? Easy as could be; Arseny had done worse in the camps in Lwow. But now? Now was the hard part. Now was when this man was supposed to shimmy his way back through the tarp-coated tractor, back through a sludge of soggy hay that ran so deep it was to be indistinguishable from the muddy bogs just outside. Arseny cursed beneath his breath, squeezing himself through the the narrow passageway, feeling every last zipper and spare thread along his patched-over war jacket catch along every splinter and jagger of the dilapidated shed walls. He would fume, squeezing himself through while immense weight of some dozens of rifles encased in this hulking safebox teetered him over with every odd movement. Sometimes, the box would bang across the walls, and the shed would shake so much Arseny instinctively glared upwards, praying to God that just this odd movement wouldn't cave the whole place down on him in it.

At long last, the partisan edged himself through to the other side, sighing in relief. Shifting the box around with his shoulder and right arm, he heaved the box to his waist level, carrying it in a more natural fashion. His straw-glued boots nudged the shed door open to a creek, where he finally simply slammed his shoulder unto the heavy egress to a complete opening. With his gait turning into a stagger not unlike the awkward waddle of a penguin, Arseny fumbled his way back along the mud-troughed footprint path he had left on his approach, all the while the steady downpour of the mid-morning amplified to a resounding drone. His eyes paced, nervously peeking out beyond the misty, dreary woods, constantly scanning the treeline for anything he could, the constant rain be damned.

The faint silhouette of his trusted wagon - and the ever so faithful, unbothered demeanor of Misha the Horse - brought with it a sigh of relief, mashed in with the grunts of his long haul. His shoulders dropped, his upright posture slumping to a relaxed slouch while Arseny hastened his pace to his vehicle. With one final huff, the partisan unfurled the cache, slamming unto the bed of his wagon with a mighty gasp. There, he pressed his palms up against the slippery, cold surface of the trunk, pressing it into place alongside other crates, some wooden, some metal, all displaying varied slogans and signs. Shifting his weight left, Arseny pushed the cache left, nestling it right in place next to the "Vasylyshyn Farms - Bulk Potatoes" crate.

He swung himself around the side of the wagon and sighed. Leaning an arm up against the wall of the wagon, he shut the back hatch closed, covering up his face as he'd protect the contents beneath. He plucked out a sheet of scratch paper, crumpled from a few hundred folds and almost sogging to the point of collapse, where he began reading out the list of stops on his daily "farming trip". Arseny still had 3 more stops to collect. But, by the time he and the others were done with all their pickups and back at base, his brothers and sisters in the Red Army would have more than enough to one-up the Whites.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Yam I Am
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1) "Handelsmarine" is the name for the German Merchant Navy.
Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
July 12th, 1955
A NEW MORNING

Big Bend National Park // US-Mexico Border
"<Run faster!>" a man cried out in pure terror while escorting his co-workers towards safety. There were fleeing from a couple of White Americans driving a custom jeep with the USBP emblem on the front doors. It was clear that they weren't working for Border Patrol because they lacked the uniform. However, it didn't mean they weren't sponsored, given one of their jeeps was being used. All of the white men were carrying some sort of loaded weapon with them. But, they weren't looking for wild animals to hunt.

The cattleman still was running away from them, but it was clear that the threat was catching up. He kept on running even as his legs were slowly giving in. Then, he felt a bullet going through his leg and fell to the ground in excruciating pain. The jeep came to a stop in front of him, and the white men began exiting out with excitement. It did, however, gave his co-workers enough time to possibly hide from the white terrorists. One of the white men got up close to the wounded man and stabbed his lit cigarette into the bullet wound for seemingly no reason. "That's what you get for stealing our cattle."

"No stealin-"

Another white man looked down at the worker and spit at him. "What a dirty liar."

"We should just leave him for the coyotes." An older white man said while holding the rifle that injured the worker.

"Nah, we got to send a message to these thieves..." The young white man stopped himself as he noticed someone, or rather something, approaching them in the distance. "What the-"

Before he had the chance to finish the sentence, a bullet permanently silenced him and left behind a hole in his forehead. The other men started to panic at the sight of their dead friends and randomly opened fire around them. They didn't attempt to flee until another of their colleagues was killed on the spot; however, one of them thought of doing something bold. With his friend's blood on his shirt, the white man placed his foot on the neck of the cattleman and pulled out a pistol. That was when he issued his ultimatum. "Show yourself, or this bean-bandit gets it!"

The man pulled back on the hammer of his pistol. "I mean it!"

In the distance, a figure appeared from a boulder with his hands up in the airs. Then, they made their way towards them with their weapons in holsters. As they got closer towards them, it was clear that they were a cowboy if their attire wasn't clear enough. And holding onto a silver revolver in their right hand. In an instant, a single shot rang out as the ring finger and pinkie of the white man's hand were blown off. Before he had the chance to speak, the cowboy unloaded his handgun at the man while the cattleman watched in horror.

Then, it ran out of bullets.

The cowboy began reloading his revolver while minding their business; however, they glanced over at the cattleman and peeked at the wound. "<Will you be alright?>"

"<Y-yes. I should have enough time to make it back home before it gets worst.>" The cattleman was surprised that the stranger spoke Spanish fluently. But before he had the chance to ask about it, another vehicle was approaching them; and unlike the wannabes lying dead, the goons were actual border patrol agents armed with military-grade weapons and looking for blood. When he looked at the cowboy, he noticed that the individual was holding onto a small black notebook and keys.

"<Take the jeep.>" The cowboy threw the keys at him and then pointed at some rocks in the distance. "<Go and get to your friends hiding behind the boulders there. I will handle them.>"

The cattleman nodded and made his way to the jeep with the keys on hand. There was so much that he wanted to know about his hero. But, it was clear that time was running out. He started the jeep up and stared at the cowboy for possibly the last time. "<Thank you.>"

There was no response other than a simple nod from the cowboy. As the cattleman drove away and heading towards the boulders, his mind was overwhelmed by everything that happened to him today. But before he had the time to process them, a series of gunshots echoed across the desert and then died out in an instant. The cattleman wasn't planning on stopping after that, but he needed to know his hero's fate for that brief gunfight. Instead, he saw something that was astonishing and unbelievable in the distance: the cowboy standing over the wounded border patrol agents with the revolver in his holster.


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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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Southeast of Ternopil, Ukraine

Southeast of Ternopil, Ukraine. 4:30AM Local Time


Operation: Hetman Molyboga Shits Himself; A.K.A. Redshift


One hand gripping the cord above his head, the other idly pawing at his rifle's buttstock, Maksim stared unblinkingly out the window to his side and into the dark Ukranian night. He could hear scarcely little, aside from the drone of the floating coffin he stood inside and the muffled chatter of his fellow soldiers - but he was far more focused on the deadly dance about to unfold outside. Two aircraft - one painted in the colours of the Hetmanate, the other marked with the Whites and Reds of his own country - sped toward each other. The White pilot's aircraft was far more maneuverable with its two wings, dodging and weaving wildly out of the heavier plane's line of fire. Suddenly pulling upward, it...

Burst into flame as it was struck by red cannon-fire, spiralling toward the ground with a sound that Maksim imagined must've been an incredibly pathetic whimper. His shoulders slackened, the wind taken out of him - only to be abruptly shaken back to full awareness by a husky woman's voice, a gently scarred face looking back at him from over her shoulder.

"What's got your attention, comrade?" She asked. A sergeant - technically his superior - but he'd never known his commanding officers to be especially unfriendly.

"Escort fighter. One of the white biplanes, it just..." He pursed his lips, bringing his hands together only to suddenly spread his fingers in a crude imitation of a fiery explosion. "I knew the Whites were running on elbow grease, but biplanes?" He snorted.

"Too busy trying to hand themselves back to the Tsarina to make anything else, I guess. Olga, by the way." The woman shrugged, nonchalant. "British scraps are better than nothing, I guess."

"Are they?" He said, earning a slight chuckle from the woman and the handful of comrades listening in.

"Better than the nothing we used to have." She said - and then, his entire field of view changed colour as the cabin was bathed in a bright green, a stark chance from the warm yellow of before.

"Go, go, go!" Came the sound of a barking officer's voice. Moving forward with the line of men ahead of him, Maksim watched as the aircraft's open door and the grizzled officer next to it rapidly came into view. His heart pounded in his chest. His first combat jump.

Before he knew it, the Sergeant leapt out of the plane ahead of him... And at the grizzled man's signal he followed, briefly deafened by the sound of a spinning propellor before it was quickly replaced by an onrush of wind. His body jerked upwards, compelling him to gaze upwards to see his vision covered by a circular chute.

Letting out a sigh of relief, Maksim gingerly gripped the cables, slowly turning his gaze toward the burning city to the northwest.

Ternopil, was it? He couldn't exactly remember the name. The village beneath him, though, he was intimately familiar with - or at least how to capture the place named Village Seven. It seemed so small, from so high up - Maksim even swore he could see the advancing tanks far to the west from here, or even the volunteers advancing in from Belarus to the East-northeast. He couldn't, of course - the horizon stopped long before then - but he liked to imagine he could, even if the only light he had was a distant moon and a few clusters of burning buildings.

Even then, it didn't take eagle-eyes to notice how rapidly the ground was approaching. Bending his knees, Maksim pushed himself onto the balls of his feet the moment they made contact with the grassy earth - then he fell, rolling onto his side before frantically detaching his parachute. Grabbing for his rifle, he quickly pushed himself to his feet, struggling to gain his bearings until his gaze fell upon the fat, boxy shape of a landed glider and the tiny tank trundling down the ramp that was its opened nose.

Good, he thought. He landed in the right place, already rushing to rendezvous with the vehicle and the rest of his squad, gathering around the vehicle as it began to advance.

One, two, three, four, five, six... All-in-all, he counted one short of two dozen men and women scattered in loose formation about the tank and the pair of small artillery tractors following it. A handful of men had taken most of the few available spaces on the back of the tank, quietly watching the surrounding treeline. Maksim quietly joined them at the front, holding his loaded rifle across his chest - and without a word, the formation began to move down the nearby roads, into Village Seven.

If they could even be called roads, that was - to Maksim's eyes, they looked more like poorly arranged sections of packed dirt, stone, and gravel, hardly roads at all. More of note was the rail line that passed through (and briefly stopped in) Village Seven, though Maksim noticed there seemed to be fuckall else of interest, staring into the cluster of buildings ahead.

Suddenly, the column came to a stop near the edge of the village as the man in front of him held up his arm, gesturing toward a large hill to the northwest.

He could hear it too - even at this distance, the sound of old Russian artillery pieces firing in staggered succession was clearly audible.

The sound of artillery-fire was suddenly broken by the crack of a gunshot, whizzing by Maksim’s head and pinging loudly off of the tank’s frontal plate. Acting quickly, Maksim dove to his left, out of the way of the road - just as the tank opened fire, presumably stitching the building toward the town square with gunfire. Truthfully, he couldn't tell. He was far too busy frantically smashing his way through a window and into cover to pay attention to exactly where his legs were carrying him or what he was doing, as long as it took him out of the line of fire. He wouldn't be much good to his comrades dead, after all, except as fertilizer, and-

Maksim found himself staring upwards as his ears caught the noise of the ratta+tat-tat of machine gun fire above him. Unthinking, he charged up the rickety staircase, toward the source of the noise - and skidded to a halt.

A door blocked his passage. He didn't have the explosives to blow it apart quickly enough, and if he tried to bludgeon it down...

Placing a hand on the handle, he turned it, and...

Clunk.

Maksim sucked in a deep breath, pushing the door inward with a grunt and a shove. Bringing his rifle up to his shoulder, he briefly scanned over the room - two men, manning a Maxim gun, by the window - and opened fire, pumping a hail of bullets into their prone bodies before they even had the chance to realize what was happening. Rushing over to the window, he peered outside, just in time to catch a glimpse of the distant hill upon which the White artillery sat before it was consumed wholesale in a devastating rocket barrage, the noise soon drowned out by the droning buzz of aircraft passing overhead.

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Hidden 4 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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Pagemaster

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THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA




Tales from the Front: Part I

Lieutenant Fernando Niembro lay on a salvaged mattress, cushioned on all sides by sandbags that were stacked three feet beneath the largely intact roof of an old stone barn. The building itself was nothing special but the view it commanded of the Chilean town of Osorno was nothing short of spectacular. The spires of Cathedral San Mateo soared above the town, magnificent in their beauty. The vaulted ceiling that has once housed Gods faithful was little more than a shall now, largely blown into oblivion thanks to Neimbros own efforts.

Several slats in the barn roof had been propped up on sticks to allow a view of the valley without leaving an obvious hole to be spotted by the enemy. Through this slim gap he could sweep the town with binoculars, watching for movement and hoping to find none. The roll of a forward observation officer - a FOO - was largely one of sitting and waiting. It had also proved to be the single most important role thus far in the campaign since low lying cloud cover had rendered Argentine air power impotent.

He suppressed the feeling that he'd been conned into into his current situation by the bomb-happy Major who had come by earlier lamenting the lack of boom boom. The conversation was still wheeling about in his head when he saw movement, a quick blur of grey steel between buildings. A tank? He focused his gaze and waited, breathing slowly, the same way a sniper might before taking a shot.

Yes! There it was again! An armoured car? Two! And a tank! His pulse had begun to race and he stifled the urge to giggle - it was an unnatural feeling - and instead glanced down at the map lying in front of him, establishing as quickly as possible the map reference of the tank, which was relatively easy, it being on the side of the hill in direct line with the road that bends right just before reaching it. He called over the wall to Menem, now jammed in a very small trench with the remote control he'd managed to drag over here, "Able Troop targetmap reference 985638 - right ranging - fire!"

All he wanted was to see was one round. If it landed anywhere close to that damned tank, he'd go into "fire for effect" - maybe five rounds gunfire - enough to satisfY command that he'd shelled the stupid thing. He didn't have to wait more than a minute or so, it seemed interminable out there on the road. Estimating the range from gun to target at about 4,200 yards, he figured the shell would take about eight seconds to come up from the gun when it did fire. And when at last he heard Menem calling out the message he's received from the guns, it sounded like: "Shot - four thousand." Meaning, of course, the range at which the shot was fired.

He started counting to himself, "Hippopotamus one, hippopotamus two, hippopotamus three ... " Before he reached seven, there was a sizzling overhead, and before he could get he glasses up, wham, there it was, an orange flash in the middle of a violent puff of rolling smoke very close to the tank. He slapped his hand down in excitement and shouted to Menem, "Five rounds gunfire - fire!"

He heard the guns begin to thump; watching the shells land was something else, and the only way watch them was to quickly swing down to ground level and stand on the road. He went down on one knee and got the tank in his glasses just in time to see the shells bursting all around it. No correction was needed - in fact he could almost imagine a couple of rounds hit it. Not that that would make any difference to the men inside if the hits were direct or not - they would be getting bounced around badly enough to injure or kill them all. Satisfied, he darted back back into the barn and joined Menem in his cramped trench.

When, after a minute, the firing stopped, he immediately give the order "Repeat!" as though the target really meant something. A head poked up from a hole nearby and asked, "Are those ours?" When Neimbros assure the infantryman that they were, the man yelled, "Give 'em hell, lieutenant!" This seemed to arouse other soldiers, and by the time the second bombardment is completed, a cheer sounds along the ridge. With a start, Neimbros realized that these were the first Argentine shells these guys had ever heard being fired, maybe ever. They were only recently arrived on the line and it had been a quiet couple of days.

As the last rumbling explosion reverberated around the valley, he leapt up from the bottom of the trench and scurried back up the ladder into his "nest". It took him a moment to find the tank again as dust and debris continued to obscure the area for a long moment. Ah, there it was! It had been blown completely onto its side, both tracks had been torn to pieces, and he was certain he could make out the shape of an armoured car crumpled in the dust beyond it. He was so pleased with himself that he almost missed in the shout from outside.

"Incoming!"

He didn't even paused as he turned and dove off his perch toward the ground. He hit the ground with a thud, rolling heavily on his shoulder, wasting not a second more as he hurled himself into the trench. Menem broke his fall with nothing more than a grunt as the first Chilean shells plowed into the hillside. They fell wide of the barn and he gritted hit teeth. He had been trying to locate this particular battery for the last three weeks. It was now or never.

"I've got to spot them!" He shouted over the thundering explosions outside. Not waiting for a reply, he slithered out of the trench to the base of the ladder that suddenly looked extremely tall. He took several quick breaths and then scrambled up the wooden rungs as quickly as he could and burrowed into his hideout. He smashed the roof shingles clear now, sending them cascading into the yard below, and frantically scanned the landscape for the enemy guns. Nothing but silence. He swore. If they didn't fire again he would have no idea where to look.

Thud! Thud! Thud-Thud-Thud!

There they were! Four of them! Firing from a hundred yards to the rear of an old elementary school, carefully camouflaged as just another collection of cheap shanties.

"Incoming!" He roared the words out, made a rough guess on his map where the guns were firing from, and then hurtled toward his ladder once again. The first shell hit forty yards away and the concussion rocked the barn. The floor beneath him buckled and in an instant he was free falling. He hit the ground hard and felt the wind driven out of him even as dust filled his mouth and nose. He couldn't breath, he couldn't cough. He groped in the darkness toward the trench and, to his everlasting relief, he felt Menem grab his wrist and heave him to the relative safety of the communications pit.

"All batteries..." He was gasping what little air he could get now, yelling in Menems ear. "All batteries - targetmap refernce 985651 - five rounds - repeat - fire!"

He could heard Menem screaming the words into the radio as the ground around them continued to shake and rattle. He wrapped his arms around his head and tucked them between his knees and waited for the Chilean rounds to cease. When they did, as it always happened, a strange silence descended over the scene. His ears were ringing but he couldn't hear any screams and the barn was still standing. He staggered into the open air again and sucked in grateful lungfuls as he observed the hillside. The Chilean shells had fallen sporadically across the area, a sign of inexperience, and for that he was thankful.

He jumped at the sound of a distant explosion and turned swiftly to see dust and smoke rising from the area around the back of the elementary school. His ears were still ringing so badly he hadn't heard his own shells go over. The crescendo continued and it occurred to him that he had ordered - repeat - meaning the guns would continue firing until they were ordered to stop. For a long moment he stood and watched the savage violence that tossed pieces of building and vegetation high into the sky.

"Cease fire!" He shouted back toward Menem who was still faithfully sitting by his radio. The call took a moment to make and another twenty shells or so thundered overhead to add their explosions to the din. He quickly took up his glasses and scanned the location. There wasn't much to see at this range but he could make out at least one gun barrel pointed skyward. He waited one minute, then two. Nothing. The battery had been silenced.

"Well done Menem!" He grinned as he hurried over to the trench. The Sergeant offered a dust covered smile and nodded, radio still held to the side of his head.

"Eh, no problem boss, that's what I am here for. Though, I wouldn't mind moving our spot. I suspect the enemy might demolish this barn the next chance they get."

"Yea, good idea. Get the half-track up here and let's find a new home."

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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Dinh AaronMk Free Gorgenmast!

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Shaanxi Province


The valleys of Shaanxi province passed through the window. Over verdant chasms speckled with villages beneath fell in and out of view as the train passed through the long ancient mountains of the Chinese interior. Erupting from the mountain's beds and breasts sprung countless trees. Immense explosive black clouds of birds flew smudged against the cold mist as they made their migrations south. Faded and ancient rested the villages among the boughs of emerald budding trees. Riding above them the train sailed along as a ship at sea on its long aqueducts and precarious cliff roads. Unaware to Shin Yu, he was on his way to Xi'an; he believed he was on his way to Nanjing. But hypnotized by the oceanic waving of the train he had not noticed he had long left the Yangtze valley and was headed to more ancient, northern parts.

Yu found it very easy to nap on these long trains, and he regularly passed into a heavy sleep between stations. He had generous space in the seats, and he used them as much as he could. Fellow riders would not bother him. And those that would did so at his invitation and opening of conversation. He could stretch himself out and lay slumped in the hay stuffed leather cushions. He had done well to find a seat such as this. In this way, he believed he could go on a long ways and he idled himself to nap, to watch the passengers, and to sip his tea.

He looked across from him. He had a traveling partner in this leg. The car was not very full, but the other man had sat himself down long ago. Between then and now they had not spoken much. Yu suspected it would be that way for the rest of the voyage. The other man was far better dressed than he, tightly cute, if casual. The collar of his under shirt lay folded up over the collar of his suit jacket. Breast partly unbuttoned. The entire demeanor framed a rosy if wide face, marked by uneven stubble of black beard and a messy head of it that obscured his face. The rest of it was hidden behind a newspaper, prior he had been reading a book.

Looking at the paper, Shin Yu became enamored with the article open to him. He leaned in close to read it, focusing on the characters before they became obfuscated and disorganized on the page. It was a profile of a man in the election. He had been dimly aware of the election. He only knew so much of it as the Communists who came to his village espoused. He considered the name. Hou Tsai-Tang, it sounded familiar. He believed he knew him. He leaned in to read.

Standing at a long and lanky near two meters, with his unkempt black hair and distant eyes one would not think that Hou Tsai-Tang was the man the Kuomintang had some ten years prior painted as an almost-villain. In his usual black suit coat and quiet demeanor he presents himself more as a college professor than a politician or anti-democratic mastermind. Yet however he none the less holds at his vanguard a rapidly expanding base heading into the election, making Hou Tsai-Tang and the Communist Party behind him the surprising black horse charging into the lead in an election otherwise believed to be a duel between the liberal Progressive Party candidate Huang So-Weng and standing conservative Kuomintang president Li Su.

But in the days since the revolution the Communist Party has not been inactive. While notably absent from the elective space, except for a few provinces the Communist Party has none the less been busy rousing rabble in the cities and countryside. Involved with union organization and the poor farmers of the countryside they have turned out a sizable base in many contested districts of the country. Had they not decided to directly run, the party could have used its assets directly or indirectly to frustrate the election efforts of the Kuomintang or the Socialist Parties. But their entrance into the elections has shifted the calculus and in the short free history of China many observers and election officials are looking ahead into what they are already calling an election of the century.

But to begin understanding the present Communist Party, we must understand Hou Tsai-Tang.

Tsai-Tang has not been candid with speaking of himself, though has not shied away from answering questions or calls from comments. Associates near him have also been free to answer any inquiries.

Born in 1909 to a small merchant family in Tianjin, Tsai-Tang would have what he has described as a “quiet life”. His father was able to afford a modest education for himself and his siblings, but in the desperate years after Yuan Shikai and the faltering stability of the Northern Regime his family left for the south. Though he has not explained how or why he separated from his family and ultimately found himself living in worker's housing in his mid to late teens. He was however, committed to his continued education and working with American missionaries worked to receive grants to study abroad. And this is how he would arrive to America.

Contemporaries who knew him from those days credited his ability to study in the Beautiful Country to his studiousness. Although he failed his application for the Boxer Indemnity Fund the first time he preserved and won it on the second bout. Sailing abroad to America he managed to escape the tumult and humiliation of the War Against Japanese Aggression.

By his own account, Hou Tai-Tang settled into America expecting to quietly go about his studies. Moving in with relatives in San Francisco he began his studies at the University of California: Berkley. He made agreeable marks, and was well into his studies when he got his first whiff of politics outside of Asia. Mixing with the people of Chinatown, San Francisco he crossed paths with America's Asian-rights movements that had sprung up in America's festering political scene prior to the tumult of the mid 30's. Intersecting the nation's labor movement he became involved in the country's union movements through the International Worker's Of The World.

It is in this milieu that Hou Tsai-Tang met his current wife, the New York born Lady Emma Liebermann. According to her accounts as printed in Xi'an based socialist magazine Women's Progress! she and Tsai-Tang connected slowly, meeting first by accident at a San Fransisco rally and over time finding each other on and off UC Berkeley's campus in and out of student affairs. Emma, who was in California in part to represent the IWW in their partnership with California's longshoremen's unions was also doubling as a student at the same university studying mathematics and literature. As the two's paths intertwined more and more their relationship grew and the two conspired together in their activities to produce a broad united front for labor and social activism across all of America's races and working class.

However, their dual mission was not to be, and the opening of the grand national purge of leftist and progressive opposition to the Lindbergh administration now known as the Great Cleansing hampered and complicated their actions, as well as being an open invitation for America's reactionary organizations to enact a pogrom on the country's non-white, and working class communities to stifle and terrorize any opposition to the anti-democratic regime. For their credit, Tsai-Tang and Emma threw up what resistance they could in rallying the community, but the strength of reaction even within California was too much and the pair made the fateful decision to leave for China. Organizing what was left of their political ambitions they rallied an exodus for China, where the hope was that the war with Japan aside there would be much more opportunity and safety in Republican controlled China.

On Tsai-Tang's return into China he was conscripted as an officer into the army and was organized into the 2nd Center Army as an engineer officer, following from his education in America in the same field. His service to the Republican cause was commendable and oft recognized in all the engagements he was in. Through the course of the war he made the rank of colonel.

At war's end is when the young Colonel Hou Tsai-Tang made his existence known for the first time among the greater national populace. Acting on a rumor that President Chiang Kai-Shek was considering continuing to run, and with the defeat of the Japanese had his eyes set on crushing the Communists, Tsai-Tang led an expedition on the headquarters of Kai-Shek himself, and having arrested him demanded his resignation and the closing of the provisional war-time constitution of China and to allow China to come to peace. Enraged, but if outplayed Chiang was obliged to do so as his esteem among the government collapsed. Fulfilling his duties, Tsai-Tang withdrew and resigned his post soon after.

Tsai-Tang's near coup of the military presidency of Chiang-


The news paper was closed and refolded, ending Shin Yu's reading. He was startled by the sudden flurry of the paper. He was shot back into his chair and the man across from his looked up perplexed and concerned. “I'm sorry,” he said cordially, “I didn't realize you were reading that.”

“No, no. It's my fault. I'm sorry.” Shin Yu nervously replied, looking the man in the eyes and away to the window. “I should have said something.” he added meekly.

The other man laughed. It was a friendly laugh, “Don't be too hard on yourself.” he said. With a light tap of the newspaper against Shin Yu's knees he handed the rolled up paper to him. “You can have it. I was done reading it anyways.”

“Oh, no. You shouldn't.” said Shin Yu.

“No sir, I insist. I'll just throw it in the trash when we get to Xi'an.”

“Xi'an?” Shin Yu asked, suddenly afraid and confused. Suddenly his brain began to swim in the now nauseating rowing of the train. He looked out the window. These were no long Nanjing mountains, and the landscape was beginning to open up to a wide river valley below. Just below the rhythmic thumping of the train and the staccato clicking of the wheels over the track he could hear the bursts of wind against the cars.

“Yes, Xi'an. Why?” the other man said.

“Oh, uh- I was. Uh- I was ah- I was going to Nanjing!” Shin Yu exclaimed, his voice breaking.

“Oh dear, Nanjing? That's way back south! Did you fall asleep on the ride?” the other man was clearly concerned for the young man across from him. He leaned in, crossing his hands together in front of him.

“I... I don't know. Maybe.” Shin Yu said, suddenly embarrassed. How could he be so stupid? He didn't remember what happened. Or if he could, he was too ashamed of himself to admit he did. He nervously whipped his hands through his hair. “But... Maybe it doesn't matter. I wasn't going there for any reason. It was- it was just to, ah- just to travel. I wanted to see the capital.”

“Still though, it'll cost you some more money to get back. Are you fine?”

“I'm sure I am. I'm sure.” Yu began riffling through his pockets. What was he going to do? He couldn't say for sure. He felt like he was in a cold sweat.

“Tell me, where are you from? Your accent isn't north of the River.”

“Hunan.” was all Shin Yu answered him. This amazed the man.

“You've really come far.” he commented. After a moment he went into his bags, and before Yu could find his wallet he had out and in his hand a small number of folded bills.

“I really would not feel right thinking you're stranded.” he said in a fatherly tone, “So I want you to have this. I don't know how much you have, or how much it'll be to get a ticket all the way back home. But in good spirit, I don't think I can leave you abandoned here. You've been a good riding partner.”

Shin Yu was shocked, and astounded. “Excuse me?” he said, looking up with his own collection of cash barely out of his pocket.

“I mean it. I'm sincere. On good principle, I can't walk away and abandon you.”

“Uh- Thanks. But, isn't that a lot to do?”

“Don't sweat it. I got a good salary. I can drop a little now and then.”

“But, I really don't want to inconvenience you!” Shin Yu pleaded. He was only being polite. He was hastily calculating how much more money he had left in time, and he saw the money held out before him. And he could not pass it up, not like the newspaper. He could find another in the trash, like the man said. But he couldn't make a fool of himself.

“No, it's really all fine. Take it.” said the man.

“I suppose, I guess I could. If it's not too much.” Yu choked out.

The man smiled as Yu took the money and pocketed it. Nodding, he said, “So why were you going to Nanjing to begin with?”

“I wanted to see the capitol.”

“Oh, that is an admirable pilgrimage.” the man said with a deep laugh, “But, I guess you didn't fail at things too much. You're still going to a capitol.”

“I am?” Yu asked.

The man nodded, “Xi'an was China's ancient capitol on and off throughout history for many centuries. It was were the most ancient dynasties had their home. The city is still rich with their signs and memories.”

“Oh, neat.” said Yu in a vacant tone, “So, why are you going there?”

“I'm an archaeologist. I work for the Nanjing National University. Very recently a find of great importance was discovered just outside Xi'an and I asked if I could not go for myself to stake out the situation! From what we have received it all points to the Qin!” he was smiling wide, his voice rose and he spoke straight from his heart, “This is all the moment that defines careers, and begins them.” he continued with a laugh, “So I knew for myself and my colleagues we have bright futures ahead. It is only a matter of staking it out, and surveying the field of discovery. This is a good time for us. A splendid time for China more-over!”

“To be honest, I'm not that excited.” Shin Yu said truthfully.

“How so?”

Yu shrugged, “I suppose I, uh- I suppose I just never studied history.” shamefully he said.

“Then I am sorry.” the man said, “But if you are in a position to care: perhaps I would be interested in seeing what was found? Our partners in Xi'an are holding a special exhibition of the artifacts found. Perhaps you can go and see them? It might change your mind.” he said with a wide anticipating grin.

“Maybe.” Yu said, “maybe.” he looked out the window again. Distant and gray among the trees and fields the sprawling modern city of Xi'an came into view along its gentle gray river. At their distance, the city's ancient walls stood prominent. Fields and hills of spring forest green enclosed it. Yu wondered just what was there. And he wondered about home. And about time.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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Nanjing


Inside the presidential palace the air was cool. Fans spun from the ceiling, turning the stuffy air in the conference room. Gray light broke through the windows, freckles of loose rain pattering against the window panes as outside the low roof tops of Nanjing lay in repose in a silver veil of spring mist. Standing at six stories, the morning sun yellow of the concrete presidential palace was once the tallest structure in Nanjing, although it was slowly becoming matched and exceeded as the capital of the Republic expanded and grew under the shifting weight of change in China. Barely visible in the spring drizzle the shapes of public housing and offices rose like saplings from the field of old urban sprawl throughout the city. The rising pillars of smoke stacks from power plants and factories all the more distant, and scientifically elegant. The office was even being dwarfed by the not even half-decade old Federal University of China's student faculty building. But despite its retreating physical dominance the comparatively infant seat of Chinese government had one that that kept it flying far and ahead, in the clouds: its political power.

A sprawling complex, the palace was nested over the grave site of the palace of the Heavenly Kingdom of Taiping, the rebellious Christian adventure that had burned and pillaged against the ailing Qing Empire from this city. Although destroyed when the Qing might came to bare against Hong Xiuquan parts of the old palace remained as an indelible mark on the land and a scar. A permanent growth on the body that could not be removed that became incorporated into the new world and stood alongside it. The palatial complex with its gardens and offices creating a libidinal space in time and place where all China drained into. It was where at the beginning of the day an official for the Control Yuan could walk under a Christian gate, passed Qing temples across stones first lain by Mind princes to arrive at an office erected by a government official in the early Republic after he had made a trip to Europe and sought to model their office in the style of the French or the Italian. Or an official working for the Examination Yuan might make the same trip to a corner by the Xu Garden, where Han princes once reposed by serene waters.

And all of this might be seen from the high windows of the great modern, golden-yellow center of the Executive Yuan and the presidency. Modern and sleek. Ornamented in ribbons of carved relief of men and women depicting scenes of the Xinhai revolution in sharp geometric proportion. Of miniature scenes of what a republic is, and the virtues of good governance. A piece of pre-Great War Paris lifted up from old Europe and planted down in China, embellished with Chinese character and set free to extend its reach to whichever wind politics blew.

“Attached with this request is our usual trade envoy invoice, of which our agreements you will find are standard faire. Have you any concerns or objections to our entreaties, please respond at your earliest convenience.” read Xiu Lu, the minister of foreign affairs.

Standing at an unimpressive hundred-sixty centimeters the impish and meager Xiu Lu wasn't an impressive character. Tall of brow, with thin wiry hair combed haphazardly over his head, he had a pale and loose complexion susceptible to spots and marked by ring-worm scars; he often wore a hat to hide it. His nose was stout and pressed, more so by how it had been broken and his eyes sagged and flesh around the eyes strange and dark. He spoke in a reedy harsh voice, which made it hard for him to be a diplomat though he had a sharp knowledge of other people and long had dealings with other nations as a businessman who was often on missions abroad to scrounge up finances for the young Republic. It rarely shown through, and he often acted through junior officers and colleagues whether to deal with the Chinese public or foreign nations; for he pretended not to be embarrassed by himself but he very much was. When dealing with the world at large, he was known for his excuses as to why he couldn't be there. He emerged only for small affairs.

“It's a fairly standard sounding request.” TV Soong remarked, lounging in his recliner. Its leather was thick with cushion and the stiff puckered vice-president appeared to sick into it, with his hands wrapped loosely in front of him. He adjusted his glasses with a move of his cheeks and carried on, “I don't see any reason why the government should deny it.”

“Communist bastards.” growled Li Su however, himself reclined in a similar chair. All of them had a pattern like orchids. Dull golden flowers flowing over earthy red leather. Their movement across the chairs regular. Su's old paternal weight fighting the chair as much as it fought to absorb him. He not so much as sat in the chair however, but lay. His arms relaxed bored to the side, one hand raised as he rubbed the fingers together impatiently.

“I share the feeling but I don't think we should bar this request,” Xiu Lu remarked, “as revolutionary as they are, Germany has been a remarkable ally since our own Revolution. If it were anyone else, I would bar them from our ports.”

“I disagree.” a grudging voice said. Dressed in a suit, a rather tall man leaned forward in his chair. Wearing a martial brow and eyes the glared stirnly and sought out the heart in all things so he might kill it was Minister of the Armed Forces Yuan Hu Shi. A former field marshal, he was a contemporary to Li Su but unlike him he had not retired from the military after the war and continued on in service. He was only recently compelled to quit the service in order to accept a post within the Executive Yuan. He was broad faced and broad shouldered. In the worst of times when or if he grew a beard he looked like a lion, a god of war. But in these times of cleanliness that only sign of this were his heavy eyebrows that dominated and shadowed his face, appearing as if quickly slashed on him with heavy brush strokes. “The geopolitical situation with Japan, as mentioned in the telegram makes this a strategically tenuous move. May I remind the general staff here that we do not have a navy to fight the Imperial Japanese navy? We may be able to relay on the Germans and any allies in a renewed war against the Japanese for naval victories, but it would be at the risk of placing potentially dangerous allies too close to home. The Germans are only reliable so long as they are in Europe, where we they can be leaned on to threaten the French, should they attempt to strengthen their position in Indochina. I believe this is still the imperative. Any presence of the Germany navy near or in our waters would be a violation of the balance of power.”

“I don't think believing the Japanese are a threat anymore is a good idea anymore.” chimed in a third minister, the Minister of Economic Development. The indifferent Robert Cao, a Hong Konger by birth. His Cantonese accent blended with something of a colonial British compliment. Also going by Chau Ming Gwan. His narrow set face twisted in thought. He rose his eyes to the white ceiling and said thoughtfully, “The Japanese are engaged on two fronts. They're prodding the Russian coast and are engaged with the Dutch and the British in the south. My people say they're an Empire stretched to the breaking point. They're at the end of their era if they can't find substantial allies elsewhere. So there is really no harm in letting the Germans in. Much do respect to you field marshal, but even if German presence did drag the Japanese into renewed hostilities against us the apparent fragility of their states means we could let our allies take the blow and land ourselves on Japan. If we had any fear of the Japanese home islands being any puppet to western forces that can threaten us, we negate that.”

“I see your point.” Hu Shi said, “But I still all the same urge caution. Enough so to tell them no. The Communist Party has been very active this past year. So Japan aside it's important that for the safety of the Republic we limit any chance that the can collaborate with the party of Tsai-Tang.”

“We'd be sacrificing hundreds of millions of Yuan for that!” Robert Cao protested.

“I agree.” Xiu Lu said, TV Soong nodded along.

“The costs would be too great to not let them continue.” the vice-president added.

“And how would we stop them from interfering?” Li Su asked, throwing barbs to Soong, “You're usual efforts to keep them checked haven't so far worked.

“I realize that, but there's more to all this than electoral gamesmanship. As Cao brings up: ther Germans are worth a lot of money to the economy. We can't cut them out.”

“Damn if I didn't know that, but this is principles!” Li Su said in a raised voice. Not quiet shouting.

“God damn it, what principles!” Soong replied, slamming down his fist for emphasis against the side of the chair.

“The security of the state!”

“This is too far in abstraction, and bordering petty.” Xiu Lu sighed, folding the copy of the telegram for his pocket. He rose from the half seated position he had taken after reading out the telegram to the assembled executive council and walked to the window. “If you do consider declining this 'on principle' I will have to consider a protest.”

“There'll be no protest from the Executive Council.”

Xiu Lu looked to Soong, asking with his impatient expression if the vice-president had his back. Soong nodded and the two shifted to Robet Cao, “I give my ascent. This is something that trumps security. It's too valuable.”

Li Su grumbled under his breath. He briefly considered bringing the rest of the ministers in to offer their piece. But this point, it would be too much. He recognized his defeat and rose from his chair, “Then fine. Send a response to the Germany embassy. They have our permission. Now I need to see a man about an oil pipeline.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA

July, 1955



REVOLUTION: PART II

BUENOS AIRES - Presidential Golf Course

There were some men in power who changed the score when it suited them, President General Dictator for Life Hipólito Yrigoyen however, preferred to actually be good at things, even golf. He had a sixteen handicap, better than virtually his entire staff, and never missed his Friday afternoon game. Those who were invited to play knew well to play their best for Yrigoyen suffered no fools. A Colonel had once let him win and paid for it with a posting to the Antarctic.

On this particular day, clad in a pair of black slacks, a plain white collared shirt, and swinging a custom made set of American golf clubs, he was waiting for a visitor. His toe scuffed at the sand beneath his feet as he glanced toward the pin held by a uniformed caddy. Thirteen or so yards with no wind, barely any slope on the green, and only the twittering of birds to distract him.

"Pitching wedge." He called back to a second caddy and hid a smile as the man tossed him the club he had been holding already. He appreciated a good caddy; it saved a lot of grief. Not so different than having a good advisor in politics.

A small knot of uniformed officers, their shoulders a blaze of golden lace, stood off to one side. None had been invited to play today, but all of them knew that being close at hand would ensure job security. Beyond them, manned by patiently sweating guardsmen, were a dozen white golf carts; their appearance made grotesque by the weapons strapped to the sides.

He eyed the ball again, touching the edge with the face of the club, like a lover kissing his lady. Then a quick twist of his body, flex of his elbows, and a short follow through shot the ball up onto the green. It bounced twice and rolled to a stop a foot from the hole.

"Damn..." He tossed the club back to his caddy and climbed from the sand trap.

"Still a fine shot, sir." The caddy wiped the club head clean with a silk rag and slid it back into the white bag; Yrigoyens named was monogrammed onto the side in black lettering. "You'll be under par at this rate. Might even best your handicap."

Yrigoyen nodded but didn't reply. His caddy, Paco Gomez, had been with him for six years now and was as the subject matter expert when it came to golf. Once a year he was permitted to play against Yrigoyen and if he won, he received a years pay that same day. In six years he had beaten Yrigoyen twice.

"Incoming vehicle!" The word was quiet but firm from a nearby guardsman and four of them unlimbered their weapons, gazing down the long fairway. Two more golf carts were racing toward them along the cart path. Nobody, and that meant NOBODY, drove on the Presidents grass. They slipped beneath the shade thrown by handsome trees along the edge of the fairway and over a small stone bridge. A manicured creek banked with imported marble burbled happily into a small pond that held at least one alligator.

"Friendlies." The guard commander growled and everyone relaxed.

Yrigoyen ignored them completely as he took a putter from Paco and walked onto the green. The surface had a slight spring under foot and the shadows of clouds raced across the lush surface. He stepped up to the ball, eyed the hole for a short second, and then tapped the ball forward. It dropped into the hole with the satisfying plastic clatter that he found so rewarding. He scooped the ball out before handing it, and the club, off to Paco and turning to where the two carts had finished their journey after pausing while he took his shot.

The lead two were guardsmen, while the second two were different entirely. One was male, and was most certainly a secret policeman of some sort. The third was a woman, her hands cuffed behind her back and what looked like underwear shoved into her mouth. Her eyes were wide as they stared at him and he could feel the fear. No matter how old he got, he found it intoxicating and very attractive; now was not the time to indulge his desires.

A nod to the policeman and the girl was dragged from the cart and across the grass toward Yrigoyen. She was pushed to her knees at the edge of the green, her head turning wildly from side to side before finally fixing on his face again. She had gone quite white with terror. Yrigoyen held out a hand and Paco passed him a water bottle that he slowly drained, his throat bobbing as he held her eye contact. Tears leaked from the corners of her eyes and he could see a bruise starting to form on her temple.

He finished the water, passed the bottle back and then went and crouched in front of the woman who was weeping silently now. Some dictators, most of them in fact, were given to dramatic gestures and dungeons with all sorts of nifty tools. Yrigoyen couldn't be bothered with the theatrics. Not for this conversation anyway.

"María Laura Santillán. A Journalist. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that you are mixed up in some sort of plot against me."

Muffled protestations and furious head shaking greeted the comment. In that moment he wasn't sure what made him angrier, the noises she was making, or the look in her eyes that told him she had no idea what he was talking about. He reached out a gloved hand and pulled the underwear from her mouth, letting it hang from two fingers as he stared at her.

"Your Excellency, I swear to you I have no idea what you are talking about!" Her voice was several octaves above normal and he made a soothing gesture. He hated loud noises, especially while golfing. She brought herself under control with masterful skill and repeated what she had said.

"I believe you, I really do." Yrigoyen said and there was brief flash of relief followed by suspicion, and then fear once again. "However, I think you know someone who does."

The policeman handed Yrigoyen a photo and he held it up in front of her. Her eyes widened even more, and a dozen emotions fought for control of her features; he couldn't help a thin-lipped smile.

"Yes, our mutual friend, Lieutenant Osvaldo Soriano. I believe you and the young doctor have a bit of a, how did the Americans say, "Thing"?"

All she could do was nod.

"Good. So, this is how we are going to help each other today. I understand your parents are in poor health and you cannot afford their treatment?"

Another nod, and despair.

"Your brother, one Sergeant Menem Santillán, is currently serving in Chile?”

She simply stared at him now and he knew she would do whatever he wanted of her. People always did when you reminded them they had something to lose.

“I want to know everything your boyfriend gets up to. In return, I shall ensure your parents, who by now have already been transferred to a private hospital here in the city, get what they need to stay alive. I’ll even make sure the young men who I have sent to keep an eye on your brother do their best to keep him alive, where possible. Do we understand each other?”

“Yes sir…” She managed to whisper the words as the consequences of any failure slowly settled on her shoulders.

“So make our Doctor friend happy, let him do whatever he wishes to you, keep him close, and don’t foget to share the little details with us.” Yrigoyen nodded toward the secret policeman. “This fine fellow and some of his associates will keep an eye on you, for your safety of course, and you will report to them. The details can be worked out before they drop you off at home.”

“Yes Excellency.” There was no fight in the girl, and Yrigoyen found that a bit disappointing. He enjoyed a woman who had some spirit to her and he loved a struggle. It seemed there was neither here.

“Take her home. Make sure you don’t hurt her, and give her a decent cover story for that bruise.” He glanced at the purpling on her temple and the secret policeman had the good grace to look abashed. That was the issue with being an undercover thug; you sometimes got carried away in the moment. “Goodbye, Maria.”

The girl didn’t utter a sound as she was pulled to her feet, her face a mask of sorrow as she was led back to the golf cart. The two vehicles pulled away again and Yrigoyen turned his attention back to more important matters.

“Right, how are we doing?”

“Twelve under par and four holes to go, Excellency.” Paco didn’t miss a beat as he held up the scorecard. “I’ve got it noted down.”

“Excellent! Well, lets not let the day waste away. I’ll meet you at the next hole, gentlemen.” He paused, realizing he was still holding the girls underwear. It was frilly, the type of thing she might wear for a lover. If only she knew how close they would become for the next little while. It would be rather fitting in the end. He laughed and held them out to a guardsman that hurried forward to take them.

“Keep those. I will enjoy taking them off her another time.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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The Caribbean Sea
July, 1955

The ARM Matador faced surprisingly calm winds and seas on its course to Cuba. After receiving its orders to drop off the American and Argentinian survivors of the battle in Havana, a scramble of diplomatic and military coordination was thrust upon the unprepared officers of the ship. Captain Pulido now had daily telegram contact with the Mexican ambassador to Cuba, an establishment politician and foreign service officer who made naval careerists look like uncultured bums by comparison. Every telegram, however businesslike, felt thick with posh niceties that felt almost passive-aggressive in nature. Pulido could deal with the Navy and its culture, but these diplomats spoke almost a foreign language to him.

He had brought the two officers into his wardroom to lay out his expectations for their arrival in Cuba, now merely a day or so away. Captain Stanton, the American, sat in an upholstered chair that had been bolted to the floor to secure it during heavy seas. He still wore the trousers and shirt of his US Navy officer’s uniform, laundered by the Mexicans after his rescue. So far, he had refused to wear any of the spare clothes offered to him by Captain Pulido out of a stubborn pride: he much preferred the faded and stained American uniform and only accepted offers of fresh socks, boxers, undershirts, and new dress shoes to replace his waterlogged undergarments. One of his telegrams to the Americans embassy, typed under strict surveillance by the intelligence officer onboard, detailed his request for a new uniform as soon as he was to enter port complete with exact tailoring sizes and a list of all his medals and decorations to be placed on his coat.

Captain Lantana, the Argentinian, had no such reservations. He gladly wore the Mexican dungarees offered to him with the sole caveat that the ship’s tailor provide him with sewn rank epaulettes and a nametag to Argentinian specifications. The tailor, who in actuality was a sailor confined to extra duty in the laundry room after a drunk and disorderly conviction on shore leave, made do with the rickety old sewing machine that he used to repair the crew’s uniforms. It didn’t look bad at all. He claimed, snidely, that it was close enough to what he wore for duty fatigues on the Argentinian ships.

Pulido twirled a pen around in his fingers as he leaned back in his bolted-down chair, examining the two men. It was a black ballpoint pen, identical to the millions of others produced by a government contracted factory that employed the blind of all people. It had been a jobs program catering to the captive market of government ordered office supplies, but usually the products came out just fine. It was bare and simple, save for two phrases printed on the side in tiny silver lettering: “Hecho en México” and “Gobierno de México.” The two officers and the American’s interpreter remained silent until Captain Pulido spoke commandingly.

“I don’t like that you’re on my ship, and you don’t like that you’re on my ship,” he said flatly. The Argentinian and the American were unmoved, blankly staring back at him.

“We’ll be reaching Havana tomorrow, if the seas keep in our favor. Now, each of you will be released immediately to your respective countries. A convoy of diplomatic vehicles has been arranged to meet us at the gate to our port facility there. We will all meet together and you will be escorted to your embassies.”

Pulido eyed the uneasy look on Stanton’s face. He turned solely to the American. “Don’t be so worried,” he said with a thin tone of sarcasm aiming to cut down the obtusely protocol-minded officer. He knew that the jab would fly right over Stanton’s head via the translator anyways: “This is not a prisoner exchange. The Marinas will not be armed, and we’ll dress them up nicely for you. Ceremonial belts and shiny helmets, not rifles or shotguns.”

Pulido cracked a thin smirk, but the American failed to see his humor. Instead, he muttered a simple statement of acknowledgement.

“How about a last supper while I still have you aboard?” the captain asked the two officers, breaking a bout of silence between the three. There was really not that much more to talk about. “I’ve directed the officers’ mess to make steak and potatoes. Better use them all up before we get resupplied in port anyways.”

Pulido reached below his desk and withdrew a bottle of French wine from one of the cabinets. “And a glass of wine never hurt anyone,” he grinned.

The Matador continued its journey into the night while the dinner was underway. Nobody spoke to each other, instead looking down at their plates. A record played classical music softly for the officers’ mess. Besides the music, only the sound of silverware clinking on plates could be heard. Dressed in their white double-breasted cook aprons and floppy hats blatantly stolen from French tradition, the enlisted aides watching from a distance and only came to refill glasses of wine or water. They muttered amongst themselves as they watched the strange scene unfold, commenting on the awkwardness of the captain’s two guests.

Distant lights from small Cuban towns came and went. The Matador kept to its lane several nautical miles off the coast, gliding past Santa Lucia, Puerto Esperanza, and finally Mariel as the sun crested the horizon. The early dawn shone into the bridge, reflecting off the windows of the frigate and making it markedly more inconvenient to navigate just as the warship entered the final approach to the port of Havana. A sailor called the harbormaster to confirm their entry while another detail commanded the hanging of signal flags from the tower to the deck. The Mexican ship passed dozens of small craft going out for the day: fishermen, pleasure boats, and small ferry vessels off to other coastal villages.

At six in the morning, the crew of the Matador who were off-duty or otherwise unessential to the port operations were dressed in their white naval uniforms. The crew was marched to man the rails of the ship as it approached its designated dock inside the city of Havana: a ceremonial gesture when a Mexican military vessel entered a foreign port. It was less formal than a full salute and presentation of the crew, but still a friendly show of mutual respect. The crew stood at parade rest, hands clasped behind their backs, and observed the city in front of them as it sprang to life. Cars started traveling the roads; citizens beginning their commutes to work.

The Matador slowed its speed, partly to reduce wake for other vessels in the port and partly to manage its tight turn into the docking complex established for Mexican vessels. In part due to Cuba’s supposed neutrality in Caribbean affairs, it maintained embassy complexes, communications networks, docks, and systems for commercial and government activity between the United States and Mexico. Havana was, for all intents and purposes, a no-man’s-land for the countries and a middle-ground for activities in the grey zone that often occupied North American foreign affairs. That is precisely why the Mexican Navy’s command had directed Captain Pulido to exchange the two rescued officers in Havana as opposed to flying them out of Mexico City.

On the shore, a permanent party of sailors performing their shore duty in Havana – a desirable location for Mexican personnel – waited to receive the massive mooring lines that kept a frigate such as the Matador secured to the dock. They waited patiently as tugs pressed themselves up to the ship and gently nudged it towards the pier. In the bridge, the radioman delicately sent commands to the Cuban tugs that helped it out. A dance of words and rehearsed poetry, the buzz of radio static not unlike the crackle of a record being played. Upon its final arrival to the pier, the thrumming of the engine that had been ever present during the ship’s cruise slowed to a stop.

While lines could be thrown by hand from a smaller vessel, the sequence of events for a larger ship like the Matador required a more complex series of events. A group of sailors at the fore and aft ends of the ships emerged with rifles fitted with rifle grenade launching cups. They aimed to a pre-made orange target on the shore that had been constructed to safely land the ropes away from harbor crew and fired, sending shot line flying across the bay to the concrete pier. Sailors scrambled to retrieve the line before it slipped into the water and wrapped it around two rotating posts. With enough wraps, a crewman with a long socket wrench could ratchet the post around and take in the slack from the shot line, bringing the Matador closer to shore.

The rest of the process involved deck crews manually tossing the ropes down to the shore team once the frigate was close enough. The sailors duly tied eight lines, four at the bow and four at the stern, to posts and tightened them down to ensure that the ship would be stable enough to stay in place. At the front of the ship, the mechanism holding the massive anchors in place were disengaged and the ship reverberated with the clanging of massive chains falling towards the sea. The two anchors, for port and starboard, both dipped into the still bay of the Cuban port and fell to secure the Matador. Six men on the ground rolled a wheeled staircase to the rail of the frigate and secured it in place while the deck crew did the same. The Matador had officially arrived in Cuba.

Captain Pulido had been the only one on the bridge in his officer whites, a curious difference from the officers and crew who were still in dungarees working to dock the ship. But after all, it was his responsibility to meet the welcoming party of Mexican officials that was now arriving at the pier in black sedans waving small Mexican flags from their bumpers. The watchman had already observed as distinguished men in suits emerged from the back seats of these cars, straightening their ties and patting down their suit jackets to smooth wrinkles.

He turned to his executive officer who would be assuming the duties as a skipper during Pulido’s absence to handle diplomatic affairs. “Alright, Enrique,” he said, paternally using the officer’s first name. “Once this is handled you should be coordinating with the logistics detachment here. I should probably be snatched up to go deal with the embassy and their debriefings… I may be gone for a while. I trust that you have command.”

The executive officer nodded: “I do, sir. Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll start releasing the men for shore leave later today while we get the new supplies onboard.”

“Excellent,” Captain Pulido replied. He patted his executive officer on the shoulder and turned to the door leading down the tower to the deck. “You’ve got the conn, Commander Fuentes.”

The captain arrived on deck with his entourage of personnel. The two foreign officers were front and center between two Marines with polished silver helmets, armbands, and white pistol belts and rigging that criss-crossed their green fatigues. A cadre of other officers, mostly to handle the administrative aspects of the Matador’s docking, followed suit behind them. Captain Pulido inspected his own uniform and walked to the stairs that had been secured in place by the welcoming party. The enlisted man standing guard saluted him, and Pulido returned it sharply. He urged the party to follow forward as he began to walk down the steps to greet the embassy staff that awaited him.

Captain Pulido stepped ashore in Havana and returned the salute from the dock’s commander. The officer offered a welcome to the base: “Welcome to Estación Naval de la Habana, Capitán.”

“Thanks, Teniente,” Captain Pulido replied as he returned the salute again. The official party was right in front of him. He straightened his tie and walked towards the men in suits.
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SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS



Basseterre - SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS

Inspector Runako Morton of the Royal St Christopher and Nevis Police Force ("RSCNPF") reclined in a heavy leather chair and sipped at a glass of whiskey, condensation beading the sides despite the fan that rattled away diligently in the corner of his office. The room was luxurious by Caribbean standards, more than one book shelf, a big desk, and even small second desk with a type writer where his he could dictate memos and the like to a clerk. Unlike most of the island, his office had electricity, one of the few perks to being in a police department that suffered from little funding in almost every other fashion.

The pages laid out before him fluttered gently every time the fan managed another turn and, judging by the noise it was staring to make, any turn might be its last. He had a dozen employment applications on his desk, most of them young men from the island who saw a better way of life in the police service. The pay wasn't amazing, but they could live in the barracks and when they bought their own home, they would not have to pay any land tax.

This particular application however was dramatically thicker than the others, twice the size of the other dozen put together. Unlike those applicants however, he had no say in the hiring of this man. Rather he had been informed that the newcomer would be arriving by plane that afternoon and it was Mortons job to make sure he was made welcome before meeting with the Commissioner the following day.

He reached out a finger, gently turning back to the first page and the picture that had been clipped to it. A white face, unusual in the past twenty years, stared back at him. The man wore a redcoat, tall brown boots, and blue pants with a yellow stripe up the leg. Blues eyes set above a white/blonde beard seemed to challenge him even from even from the picture.

Name: Thomas John Clarkson
Rank: Staff-Sergeant
Agency: Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Years of Service: 24
Experience: General Duty, Major Crime, Drug Interdiction, Counter Intelligence, etc.
Qualifications: Firearms instructor, police defensive tactics instructor, boat operator, crossed pistol, crossed rifles, diver, counter intelligence
.

The list went on and Morton could not help but be impressed by the mans resume. He had no doubt that St Kitts and Nevis was going to come as a rude shock to someone used to an agency that had any sort of budget at all, but the man had skills that the RSCNPF needed, badly. The military budget was even less than that of the police and the defence of the island was increasingly falling on the shoulders of men like him. No one could ignore the sudden uptick in Mexican, American, and Argentinian warships in the region.

Languages: English, French, Spanish

Well, that would be damn useful. If the man was willing to learn, maybe he could pick up the local creole quickly enough. It was a mix of those three anyway. It suggested a man of intelligence, but then why would anyone making a good wage and living far from the troubles of the Caribbean want to move into the middle of it.

Marital status: Widowed

There it was. Nothing to tie him to the homeland. Morton tossed back the rest of his whiskey and set the paper down. There had been a time, twenty years ago, when white police officer arriving from Britain had been common enough as they rotated through, an upper echelon that had been resented by the local, and primarily black, constabulary. Now the only white faces left in the department were the Commissioner and the Inspector in charge of the Nevis detachment. The island itself, by and large, was still split into two distinct economic groups, the wealthy white patriots from Britain, France, Spain, and America, and the poor sons and daughters of the slaves who had once worked the islands plantations.

Granted, a few of those plantations still existed, but everyone knew that the true money these days was coming from the tourists who were flocking to the white sand beaches as the world economy boomed and a thriving middle class began to emerge. Morton himself had attended the University of Oxford, learning the art of business, before returning home to serve his community. He had risen quickly in the ranks and made a name for himself as a resourceful and intelligent leader. Would this new Staff-Sergeant begrudge him the position? Racism was very much alive and well in the former Empire, no matter that slavery had long been abolished.

The phone on his desk jangled and he picked it up quickly. "Inspector Morton."

"Afternoon sir. The Staff-Sergeants plane is due in thirty minutes."

"Right, have the car brought round and I'll go meet him."

The car. It was literally just that, THE car. There were only two in the department and he had one, the Commissioner the other. Otherwise everything was conducted with old paddy wagon vans donated by various police forces in Britain. The last one had arrived ten years ago, about the same time the British government decided it wasn't going to return letters from St Kitts anymore. He would have to do something about that. Maybe Clarkson would prove helpful.

He rose, pulling on his white uniform coat and reaching for the pith helmet that was balanced on the edge of his desk. The mirror by his door caught the reflection and he paused for a moment. His own hair was salt and pepper now, a strong chin was clean shaven, and his dark skin showed the wrinkles and marks of age. Still, he was a strong man, his chest straining at the uniform buttons, and he had managed to keep the stereotypical gut from growing to large. He pulled the gold coloured chin strap into place, ensured the helmet was seated properly, and stepped into the heat of the outer office. Outside he heard the squeal of the cars brakes; not from an abrupt stop, just old age. Just another thing he would need to try and fix around here.

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Kingdom of the Netherlands


July, 1955
Recommended listening.
Golf van Bengalen.




The Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina carrying the daredevil general prince Bernhard had finally arrived in the Bay of Bengal, on its trip towards Indonesia to reinforce the bruised and battered colonial fleet -- and with the Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina came the sizeable fleet (and a hidden squadron of submarines) that was the Noordzeevloot. The Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina's prime directive was to deliver general prince Bernhard to Thailand, and potentially secure an alliance with the Thai king, as well as investigate the possibility of leveraging the fact that a Korean prince and grandson of the emperor Gwangmu yet lived. To the understanding of the involved parties, the Koreans were not particularly keen on a return to a monarchy, but they were living under one at the moment too. A Korean monarchy would still be better than a Japanese one -- that was the way of thinking for the queen and her advisors, at any rate. As far as prince Bernhard was concerned, the situation would be whatever he wanted it to be the moment he had a rush of inspiration. Only time would tell whether or not it'd be one of his characteristic genius moments, or a fluke like most others.

On the deck of the Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina the scout plane had been prepped, the slingshot was made ready, and prince Bernhard stepped into "his" plane, alongside his dog and a second pilot riding in the back, who would double as his bodyguard during their stay in Thailand. Before they had a chance to shoot him off into the air, the general prince opened the canopy once more, stood up and beckoned towards a photographer that had been brought onboard specifically for this purpose -- the Dutch had always known that prince Bernhard was perhaps a little, as they said, "camera horny", but few people knew the extent to which that particular fact went. He posed for the camera, standing heroically on the edge of the planes fuselage with one foot, and once a myriad of pictures had been taken of him, he sat down again, closed the canopy, and gave the all clear thumbs up to the sailors manning the slingshot.

With a roar the engine came alive, and seconds later he was shot into the distance, slowly falling for half a second, before pulling up and proceeding along its course to Thailand. It would be a few hours before they landed, and those hours would be utilized by the Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina and the rest of the fleet to reverse its route to the bay of Bengal, back to Sri Lanka and then move towards the last free holdouts of Dutch troops, giving the occupied areas of Indonesia, especially Sumatra, a wide berth to avoid being detected too early. It was inevitable that they would be spotted sooner or later, but it'd be better to make it later rather than sooner.

Paleis Het Loo, Apeldoorn, July 1955




“Your majesty, are you sure..? This is the Crown Jewel we are talking about..”

The queen, laying in her bed with a blanket over her lower body, propped up on a very, very large pillow sitting up straight, sighed deeply. “Yes! I'm sure! If I wasn't, would I have called you in?”

“But.. they will certainly vote for-” princess Juliana answered, though she knew her mother had already considered this.

“It doesn't matter what they will vote if the referendum will be held after the war. As it stands the situation is dire, and I would rather maintain a semblance of control over the situation by holding the key to the process than by giving it all up to those Japanese.”

“I understand but.. are we sure there is no other way?”

“Juliana, my sweet daughter; we've been fighting for years now and the Dutch people are tired. We cannot continue sending off good Dutch men to die in some far away country for the sake of the Kingdom, much as I might want them to do so. We need to end this war,” the queen said, looking aside and away from her daughter, for she was delivering a message she had thought she'd never need to deliver, “and we need to do so decisively.”

The intelligence gathering had been excruciatingly hard for the Dutch, at least when it came to Japan. Getting onto the home islands was no small task, but definitely not impossible. Finding willing agents that could speak, read and write Japanese, convincing them to become an informant, and keeping in contact with those people however, that was a task that was much much closer to impossible. As such, the reports of the situation in the Japanese home islands was largely based off of the few reports they did receive, and were mostly centered around more easily penetrated areas, such as Korea, Taiwan and whatever remained of the population in occupied Indonesia.

“The Japanese are exhausted from this war,” the queen continued, looking back at her daughter, “but they are stronger than we are -- they have more weapons, a larger navy, and as Bernhard may have put it if he were here, "gigantic-er guns", god bless him. We cannot hope to stand a prolonged conflict more than we already have -- we need to put every pawn, every knight, every queen we have into this fight, right here, right now.”

“That sounds like a big risk to take, mother-- I don't know that we--..”

We have been fighting them for ten years. I am tired. Let them have that rotten island if they want it so desperately -- the Indonesians will eat them up same as they have us. If this works, then the Indonesians will have played their part, and if it doesn't, then there was no hope to begin with and the Japanese have earned their spoils. Either which way, we need to be rid of these problems and look for greener pastures.”

“Where did this sudden change of heart come from, mother? Just a month ago you were unwilling to even consider giving up Indonesia, and now we're offering it to the-”

Not to them. We are offering it to the Indonesians and Moluccans. Let them run their own affairs for a few years, and then they will come crawling back to us.”

“I... understand. I will see to it.”

The clacking of princess Juliana's heels moved down into the hallway towards the press room. The world would soon hear about this news, but not before the locals in Indonesia did. Queen Wilhelmina seemed dead set on her plan, and in all honesty, it was not a particularly bad plan either.

The sounds of revolution had been stirring in the jungles of Indonesia for a while now, and there was no avoiding it any longer. If the people wanted freedom, they would get it, but not by their own hard work -- rather, by the good naturedness and virtue of queen Wilhelmina, as well as her dedication to freedom and democracy throughout the world. They'd be made to fight harder against the Japanese and openly rebel against them under their occupation, if everything worked out, because the offer for a referendum only stood if they won the war and the Dutch maintained control of Indonesia.





Aboard the Hare Majesteit Wilhelmina, Coast of Sumatra, Indian Ocean, July 1955, a few days after dropping off general prince Bernhard




Admiral van Doorn stood in the bridge of his ship the Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina, going over the large amount of plans and maps laid out in front of him once more. Most of the maps detailed offensive plans, rather than defensive plans, which was strange given the situation that the Dutch fleet and army had found itself in. Never the less, the admiral nodded at the man next to him; a man who at this time was largely unknown but would prove to become a naval powerhouse on his own right in the Japanese-Dutch war: admiral Conrad Helfrich. The Javanese-born admiral nodded back at van Doorn -- his superior for this assignment.

“Are you sure this will work?” van Doorn asked, to which Helfrich shrugged.

“No. But it will buy valuable time for our boys even if it doesn't -- and if it does work, we can inflict damage and create space. Space that we need,” he said, pointing at the maps. The maps marked zones that, as far as the navy knew, were controlled by the Japanese fleet. Moving here was possible, but risky, but the plan they had created sought to lessen this risk.

“I agree -- so, you will have your squadron of submarines.”

“Thank you, admiral,” Helfrich said, smiling at his colleague. The two were clearly friends, given the casual way they interacted.

“Remember what you promised, however; a ship a day, nothing less, preferably more.”

Admiral Helfrich declined to answer, and instead only saluted, before turning and proceeding out of the bridge. Van Doorn moved towards his radio, and finally got a glance out of the windows of the bridge. While he oversaw the fleet, laying there in a resting position as they awaited the formulation of their plans, he would proceed to instruct the commanders of the individual submarines. “Attention all submarine commanders, this is admiral van Doorn; as of right now, you are under the direct control of admiral Helfrich. He will take charge of the HNLMS O 16, and lead an offensive action striking deep into the Japanese naval arteries. He will explain your directives further as soon as he arrives on board the HNLMS O 16.”

With a satisfied expression, he placed the phone on the radio down on it's holder, and looked out over the ocean. The tide was turning -- at least.. it felt that way.

As soon as Helfrich took his position aboard the HNLMS O 16 the submarines would move out and away from the main fleet, which had now merged with the East-Indies fleet temporarily for the duration of the oncoming naval battles. The presence of the more modern Noordzeevloot was a strange sight laying next to the few Java-class ships that remained of the East-Indies fleet.

With the submarines out of the way and en-route to their mission, the combined Noordzeevloot and Oostindischevloot would begin to move eastwards along the coast of Sumatra, to cross the waters between Java and Sumatra and move on Surabaya. This city had been lost to the Japanese a year ago, and the immediate plan was to retake the city. When the fleet had arrived, it had done so with several troop transports from the Netherlands, carrying fresh volunteers and recruits that were ready to fight -- and they would do so in a baptism of fire in Surabaya. It would be a while yet before the fleet and troops were in place for their assault, and Surabaya was but one stepping stone in the war on Japan, but it would certainly prove to be one of the most important.

Meanwhile, a few hours after their dismissal and departure from the fleet, the squadron of submarines that had been dispatched by admiral Helfrich began receiving their first real orders that were not simple waypoints for their travel into the Java sea. It became clear now that the plans on the table of the Hr. Ms. Wilhelmina were not simple "attack this target and then go here" orders; rather, they were unspecific orders to simply hunt for convoys, ships and mercantile vessels that bore a Japanese flag.

The submarines moved spread out to begin with, but soon after they arrived at their predetermined meeting location began to veer out and spread out on the Java sea, and even beyond it. Several subs now found themselves in the Banda sea and even the Cellebes sea, and would soon begin their operations of harassing and sinking enemy ships where possible, using aggressive tactics and strategies to accomplish their goal: disrupt the flow of Japanese troops, supplies and raw resources that were headed back to mainland Japan.

The reasoning was twofold; obviously the goal was to simply cause as much damage as possible, to disrupt the Japanese war machine and grind it to a halt, to give the boys of the KNIL a fighting chance when the assault on Surabaya began.

However, secondarily it was also important to disrupt the availability of the Japanese fleet, or at least so Helfrich had reasoned and convinced admiral van Doorn. As far as their intelligence went -- which was considerably better on the navy of the Japanese than the intelligence was on the status of the home islands of Japan -- the Japanese navy was superior in most ways if it came to a direct battle and, while a victory in such a situation was not impossible, it was not an even fight. Helfrich reasoned that, if they could draw portions of their fleet away by striking fear and terror into convoy sailors and merchants, and force them to protect convoys and merchants instead of engaging the Dutch fleet, then they could equalize the fight and make it even, or even turn it in their favor.

All they'd need to do is sink a ship -- or multiple, preferably -- to let the Japanese know: the Dutch lurk here, and they're hungry for payback. The Dutch navy had found itself humiliated by the unfortunate, but expected results of the first few naval actions between the Oostindischevloot and the Japanese imperial navy, and they were eager to even the score and show them the might of the Dutch navy in full force, as opposed to the outdated Java-class ships and patrol boats of the Oostindischevloot.

Random Thai airfield, Thailand, July 1955




As soon as prince Bernhard was close enough to any random airfield he could locate, he'd reach out on the radio; “this is general prince Bernhard of the kingdom of the Netherlands, requesting permission to land for diplomatic purposes.”

“.. repeat, please?” a confused, heavily accented voice came back to him a few seconds later. “Is this a joke?”

“No, sir, this is not a joke -- this is general prince Bernhard of the kingdom of the Netherlands seeking to land at your airfield.”

“Sir, this is-- yes, he says he's.. no, it's not a jo-.. okay. Sir, can you confirm to me you're flying in a military aircraft?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You said you were here for diplomatic purposes?”

“Yes, indeed. May we land?”

“Umm..-- do I say--... hmmhm,” the voice said, growing a bit more distant, clearly talking to another person in the background, “okay, sir, you may land. You understand that we need to apprehend you and.. clarify what is exactly going on here?”

“Understood, I'm coming in!”

In true daredevil prince fashion, prince Bernhard suddenly turned his plane and began a daring approach on the airfield -- not dangerous, but perhaps a little more chaotic than one would desire from a pilot. As soon as he touched down, several jeeps with armed men dressed in tropical white uniforms followed along the side of the dirt runway, aiming their small arms at the plane. It didn't seem to phase the prince -- in fact, it only seemed to amuse him as he quickly glanced aside and smiled at them, though it'd be hard to tell at these speeds and distances.

As he finally came to a stop, he pulled open the canopy and stepped up onto the wing, raising his arms high, followed by his secondary pilot and bodyguard, who seemed to have resigned himself to following along with whatever plan the prince had hatched. A few seconds later the same jeeps that had been chasing them came over and pulled over, the guns still aimed at the two.

“Identify yourself!” one of the soldiers yelled, “rank and name!”

“Well, as I said, I am general and prince of the Netherlands, Bernhard. This is my co-pilot, Jerrie Visserman. We'd like to see your king.”

“Turn around!” the soldier yelled, and soon after the two Dutch pilots would find themselves pulled onto a jeep in handcuffs and driven to the ATC. Prince Bernhard had hoped for a more festive arrival, but well, they could hardly be blamed for their disbelief. Perhaps they should've called ahead?

The court of Phra Pok Klao Chao Yu Hua, Thailand, July 1955, a few days after prince Bernhards daring landing




Once the situation had been, ahem, rectified and the kingdom of the Netherlands had given their approval of prince Bernhard's presence in Thailand, the prince was released and aided in setting up a diplomatic mission. While his manners were perhaps a little unrefined, and his awareness of Thai customs and traditions was, well, nonexistent, the prince had managed to use his natural charms and charisma to his advantage already, impressing a few of the local MP's that were keeping him and his copilot confined in a cell by amusing them with his pseudo-rockstar behaviour.

If that were any indicator for the mission at hand, then perhaps things were looking better than queen Wilhelmina had originally imagined.

When the prince came before king สมเด็จเจ้าฟ้าประชาธิปกศักดิเดชน์ seated at the head of a long table, he was wearing his finest -- by which he meant his military uniform. He greeted the king politely, extending his hand for him, and smiling a smile that only Bernhard could muster. His charisma was undeniable, which was strange considering the fact that he was also a little strange.

“Goodmorning your majesty,” prince Bernhard opened, shaking the kings hand profusely before letting go after what may have been a second longer, and a bit more firm of a handshake than the king might be used to. The prince was, undeniably, very Dutch despite his German roots. “I'm sorry for the sudden appearance, I forgot to call ahead -- tight schedule, after all, given the war going on -- but I thank you gracefully for making time for me.” Despite there being extra seats, the prince remained stood up, taking only a step back to give the king some space.

“Yes-- I.. understand you arrived by plane?”

“Yes, indeed, your majesty. Flew it in myself!”

“Yes, so I heard. In your country, princes fly?”

“Well, I certainly do. I don't know of any other flying princes, but I'd love to meet them if they exist.”

The king had some trouble disguising his amused smile, to which Bernhard knowingly smiled as well. Strange, but charismatic, as always. “I assume you are not here to take in the sights of Thailand, many as they may be. By what purpose did you fly here?”

“I'll keep it simple, your highness -- the Dutch are currently embroiled in a long lasting war with the Japanese that we seek to end soon. We'd wish to requisition the aid of the Thai.”

“You flatter me by this request, but as you know, our ports are open to both Japanese and Dutch fleets for repairs, in emergencies.”

“I meant something a little more direct, your highness,” the prince answered, taking his aviator sunglasses out of his jackets inside pocket and putting them on, “ever been to Malaysia?”

“I.. can't say I have, nor do I plan to. The Japanese occupy the region. Why do you ask?”

“Would you like to? Because that's what the queen is offering you. Open up a second front, take what should rightfully be ruled by a Thai king, and earn a seat at the peace talks.”

“.. the queen is offering me this? Should it not be the Dutch people who offer me this?”

The prince smiled at the king, looking over the rim of his aviators momentarily before looking at the man straight again, “what do the people know of dealings between kings and queens?”

The king raised his fingers to his head and squeezed the bridge of his nose a little while he looked down at the table. After a few seconds of thought, he looked at the prince again. “I hope you understand me when I say I cannot offer my allegiance so easily, not after a single discussion with a prince who.. and I mean no disrespect.. flew into my country without informing me. Nor can I do so without a lengthy discussion with the rest of my family and advisors. I'd ask that you wait for my decision, in perhaps a few days time. I will call for you when I have an answer.”

The prince nodded, before extending his hand for the king again, offering to shake on it. “I understand. In the meantime, do you have a plane I could borrow? I'd use my own, but well, it stands out a little and I'd prefer to blend in.”

“For what purpose?”

“Oh, you know,” the prince said, smiling slyly as his hand was taken and shook, “just some sightseeing.”

Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thailand, July 1955




In the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok both prince Bernhard and his copilot Jerrie Visserman found themselves furiously copying down Japanese symbols and English words onto pamphlets. They were crude and rudimentary, but they got the message across apart from the occasional spelling error. Jerrie seemed a little less enthusiastic than prince Bernhard, and anyone who knew of the plan would understand why.

“So, why are we doing this? I was told by admiral van Doorn that we'd be flying here, wait for an answer, and then find passage back to the Netherlands.”

“What war has been won by following orders, Visserman?”

“A lot of them I reckon?” the man answered, befuddled. “That's not the point -- we're not just disobeying orders, we're actively seeking out our own deaths. This is suicide.”

“I beg to differ. It's a solid plan, and if I've calculated it right, we have more than enough fuel for a round trip.”

“Right.”

“If it suits you better, feel free to stay behind, of course. I won't ask you to disobey orders; all I ask is that you help me disobey orders.”

Jerrie sighed, audibly, before shaking his head, “no, no. It's fine. I'll do it. I've flown a hundred missions with you -- what's one more?”

“Well, this is not exactly a mission like the other ones we've flown.”

“I'm well aware, your highness.”

“Great! Now let's go find a printing house and get these pamphlets mimeographed, oh, lets say five hundred times each, neatly bound together?”

“.. yes sir.”





A few days after they printed their rigorously drawn up, copied and poorly scribbled (legible-ish) Japanese pamphlets, the crew of two was ready. They took charge of their Thai loan-plane, loaded it up with their pamphlets, fueled up precisely enough for a "sightseeing" route plus a little extra for emergencies, and then got ready to take off.

“This is prince Bernhard, requesting permission for takeoff.”

“Granted, have a pleasant flight.”

And just like that, the two were in the air -- and so was their precious cargo. They proceeded along their flight path -- deviating from what they'd told the Thai they'd be doing, and instead flying over China. From there they'd roughly follow the coast until they found Korea, cross the sea dividing Korea and Japan, and begin dropping pamphlets by hand in a daredevil attempt at spreading fear, discontent, and perhaps outright opposal to the war among the citizens.

Now, it was incredibly hard for the two Dutch men to find exact locations of Japanese cities, so they needed to play it by ear, which meant that they'd basically be dropping pamphlets on cities that, for all intents and purposes, could very well have been Tokyo but could just as well have been a meaningless fishing village, yet untouched by the effects of 10 years of war.

It would also take a very long time to even reach Korea -- and there were many perils along the way. There was the possibility of being shot down, which was why they requested a Thai plane in hopes of at least spreading confusion long enough that by the time anyone was ready to shoot, they'd be gone already. It was far from a foolproof plan, and in fact, Visserman was probably a lot closer to the truth than he may have thought when he called the plan suicide. But it was just insane enough to maybe work.

After several hours of fly time the two finally reached Korea, and began moving over the sea. “Are we ready to drop?” prince Bernhard asked, his aviators on already. He knew he had to look stylish, even when in flight.

“I-.. I believe so!” Visserman yelled, aware he was in over his head but not quite prepared to give up yet.

“I believe I see a town just over there, I'm going to fly over and you're gonna start dropping as soon as you can! Make sure to cut loose the stacks first!”

“Got it!”

Bernhard lightly banked the plane to the right and made way for the town, a place called Amino unbeknownst to them, and once Visserman was ready to drop, he cut the rope holding the stack of some thousand papers and tossed the entire stack overboard as well as he could -- it was a little unwieldy, and so he dropped them far too late, scattering half of the papers over a nearby rice field. Those papers would be soaked entirely before anyone even had a chance to pick them up, the ink probably barely legible at that point.



“Shit!” Jerrie yelled, looking over the edge of the plane and seeing that his handiwork had cost them half a stack of papers already. The rest of it had barely made the town, but most of it was on top of roofs -- a calculated loss of papers, but all the more meaningful when half the load was lost to begin with. “Shit, we need to go ba-”

“Go back for what? If they're lost they're lost, we can't dilly-dally here officer! I don't need to remind you we're flying a plane that we may or may not have taken from the Thai king and are currently using it to fly over hostile territory?”

“Y-you're right, let's keep going!”

“I see another town right there, a bigger one! Get ready!”

This time they were passing over Hayashino, and Jerrie was a little more prepared. He cut the cord a little earlier and tipped the papers over the edge of the canopy a little more gently, giving the wind some time to pick up the papers and creating a trail of papers, as opposed to one big bomb of papers that clumped together for a while before the wind got in between the papers. This time it was much more succesful, delivering a message that said "the Deutsch have risen in Japan, surrender early now, that we may give your lives too!" in poorly drawn Japanese, once more barely legible, but legible enough.

This trajectory continued, as they delivered similar but different papers to Okayama, Matsuyama, Miyakonojo, and lastly Makurazaki, before making a move towards Okinawa -- an unassuming island that neither the prince nor his copilot was aware of the significance of. So far it had been smooth sailing -- there was essentially zero armed response, which made sense since they hadn't exactly flown over military areas and dropped papers there. The goal was to reach the population and spread disinformation, propaganda and spread fear, insecurity and doubt about the war, not to persuade the Japanese soldiers to stop fighting.

But, somewhere along the line, someone somewhere must've seen something and reported it. As they reached Okinawa, Jerrie tipped the final two stacks of paper over the island that read "the Dutch are here, have no fear! Surrender and be treated kindly!", trying to lighten the load before they headed back to save on some fuel -- they had enough, but there was always the risk of a flight error costing them a bit too much fuel. As soon as the last stack of papers was tipped over, gunfire erupted from the island of Okinawa. It was incredibly hard to discern from the cockpit what type of gunfire it was -- small arms, anti-air? What was less hard to discern, however, was the sudden thud on the metal floor of the plane in the cockpit section behind prince Bernhard.

“Jerrie?” prince Bernhard asked, banking heavily with his plane to move away from Okinawa as fast as he could. “Hey! Jerrie?!”

He tried to glance back, but it was impossible to tell where Jerrie was -- or rather, what happened to him. But instinct and common sense told Bernhard that Jerrie had been hit, and if he wasn't careful, he too could ge-

Suddenly the plane shook left and right, banking awkwardly towards the left. Panicked, Bernhard glanced at both of his wings, noting that his left wing had taken enough shots for the wing to be considerably damaged. Whatever they were shooting at him with, it was working. The thought of bailing out crossed his mind, but what the Japanese would do to him if they caught him made him reconsider quickly. Plus, a true Orange would at least try and get home, and even if he wasn't a true Orange, he'd at least try and make everyone think he had the spirit of one. With some luck he could bring her home -- or perhaps close enough to home that he'd get picked up by someone other than the Japanese navy. Vietnam could work, or maybe China.

Unfortunately, he wouldn't quite get far enough for that. While he steered clear of the anti-air fire aimed at his plane, or rather the Thai kings' plane, it wouldn't be enough to salvage the plane. The wind ripped the wing up slowly but surely, making the hole bigger and bigger. Bernhard was now steadily losing altitude, and there wasn't much space to land here unless one was particularly keen on taking a nice, long swim for a nearby island.

“Jerrie, if you hear me, we're gonna go down! I see an island over there, I'm gonna try and land it!” Bernhard yelled, though by now the sound of wind speeding past them was overshadowing anything they could say. There was no response.

Using whatever energy he had left, and whatever power he could pull from the engine at such a low altitude, he steered towards a rather large island he recognized as Taiwan -- compared to Okinawa, an actually significant island. As far as Bernhard knew, the place was not only occupied by Japan, but had been occupied for a long time now. But it had once been Chinese -- and, perhaps, still was. Finding refuge here would be a coinflip, but it was better than being picked up by the Imperial navy.

He approached the beach of Taiwan, though the lack of illumination and the crawling darkness of the evening turning to night made it hard to see where he was going. It wasn't until the last moment, when he heard the crashing of waves, that he realized he fell far too short of the beach to make any sort of meaningful landing, so he did the best he could, and tried to glide the plane over the water and get as close to the beach as he could. He turned the engine off, and slowly but surely glided his way in, falling short of the beach by a good bit though luckily avoiding the typical flip planes liked to do when performing water crashlandings without the suitable pontoons under the plane. He grabbed what he could, including a personal firearm, and then stepped up onto the wing, which was already starting to sink -- it was undeep here, so the plane would remain above water for sure, but it made getting onto land that much more tedious.

When he checked the back, he confirmed that Jerrie was dead -- eyes wide open, his hands gripping the papers. “Shit,” Bernhard mumbled, quickly closing Jerrie's eyes and ripping the papers from his hands, tearing holes through them. He picked up a fistful of the papers, intending to throw them around whatever shelter he might find to at least spread the message further, and then hopped off the boat into the water, which was roughly chest-high. Holding the papers and his firearm above his head, he slowly waded to shore, and looked around trying to determine what way to go.
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THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA




GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

"Whooooooo!" The lookout gave a whooping cry as the bow of the ARA Independencia hung for one long moment in space, nothing beneath it but air and sea spray, before it began to plunge downward into the trough between waves. "Get some!"

The bow of the heavy cruiser slammed into the oncoming wave and the ocean boiled hungrily along the steel hull, engulfing the forward triple 11-inch gun mount before battering the bridge windows with a bone crushing force. For one awful moment it seemed as though the ship was going to turn into a submarine until natural buoyancy took hold and it shuddered its way free of the oceans grasping depths.

Under normal circumstance an officer might have called for some sort of decorum on the bridge but the enthusiastic lookout was one of only a dozen men out of the ships complement of 900 that wasn't currently violently ill below decks. Being one of the only ones on your feet and able to do your job gave you a certain latitude when it came to enjoying a pacific typhoon.

Beyond the salt stained windows of the Independencia, the rest of the patrol group could be seen battling the storm and no one onboard the flagship would dare complain about their own experience today as destroyers rolled and bucked in the waves; the even smaller minesweepers tossing about like corks on an ocean of champagne. Only the submarine, some hundred feet below them, was likely to be having what could be considered a normal day.

"Wind is slackening sir!" A sonar operator, his face so pale he looked like paper, shouted from his station. The man had thrown up everything he had ever eaten and yet gamely clung to his station; a true sailor.

The officer of the watch, a ruddy faced Lieutenant of some seniority, nodded his receipt of the message. He alone among the crew had been untouched by the storm and even now he stood, feet braced shoulder width apart, and swayed with the violent motions of the ship, one hand occasionally reaching out to grasp a nearby console to prevent pitching head first into the bridge windows.

Gradually the wind did shift, no longer screaming down from the north and battering the ships, it suddenly began to blow gently from the west. The seas began to calm from waves nearly sixty feet high to little more than three foot swells that patted the sides of the grey hulls as if in apology for the stress they had undergone. It was certainly a great relief to the crews of the six ships that now made their turn westward toward the Galapagos Islands.

"Commodore on the bridge!" A sharp eyed helmsman made the call and those on watch stiffened to attention as the white uniform appeared. Commodore Teodoro E. López Calderón waved them back to work and turned to the Lieutenant who had seen them through the past twelve hours.

"Luis, get these men relieved and then all of you get something to eat, and grab some rack time. You're excused from landing party duties."

Those still on the bridge grinned and the quartermaster, his knees aching from nearly thirteen hours of fighting the ships roll, hurried below to roust out the watch that should have relieved them six hours ago. The Commodore stepped across to the starboard bridge wing while they waited and pushed open the door, allowing a draft of warm air to swirl into the space. He inhaled deeply, his own skin was as white as any of the crew, and some of his colour returned with the fresh air.

He raised a set of binoculars and scanned the rest of the patrol group. The two destroyers were already back on station, along with the supply ship and one of the mine sweepers, the other however...

"The Heroína has lost her deck gun." He said to no one in particular as he continued to scan the minesweeper, noting that almost of all of its port guardrails and life rafts had been torn loose, likely by the passage of the gun when it came loose. Most deck guns were held in place by their weight and any extreme movement of the hull, or violent rolling sensation, could shook them loose. He reached up and pulled the radio phone from above his head.

"Heroína from Commodore. Report, over."

"Heroína reporting the loss of a deck gun, four life rafts. Two turbines damaged. All personnel accounted for. Will need to reduce speed to prevent damage to our remaining turbines, over."

With only two turbines now functional, the decidedly slow minesweeper would quickly fall behind. Already the effort of trying to bulldoze the sea was opening a gap between the Heroína and the rest of the fleet.

"Commodore acknowledges. The Espora will be tasked to escort you in. Out." He waited several seconds and then spoke into the radio phone again. "Espora from Commodore. Reduce speed to escort the Heroína into port, over."

"Espora acknowledges, over."

"Commodore, out."

The lean greyhound shape of the destroyer began to alter shape at once as it came to port and looped back toward the limping minesweeper. There was little chance of any enemies out here but after the recent debacle between the ARA Ironia and the USS Isherwood, one could not be to careful. How a shooting match had started when the two countries weren't at war was beyond him.

The watch changed around him as he eyed the fast approaching Galapagos Islands. Isla de San Cristobal was the closest now, uninhabited save for a defensive fortification with early warning radar and a naval gun battery that could sweep the ocean across to Isla Santa Fe. The ships passed well south of the San Cristobal, the shoreline was treacherous here and a rocky shelf extended far out into the ocean. More than one wreck could be seen half submerged in the emerald blue waters.

Isla Santa Fe came next in the chain of fortifications built to protect Puerto Ayora Naval Base. Men, released from the hellish conditions of the past thirteen hours, clustered at the railing to gaze at the huge tortoises that swam in the sea and the massive iguanas that sunned themselves on the rocks that bordered mine filled beaches. Gun batteries bristled at every point of the compass and the barrels of anti-aircraft guns jutted skyward. Several low lying platforms, barely a dozen feet above the water, showed torpedo launchers that could sink a ship up to twelve kilometres away.

Puerto Ayora itself was nothing fancy. An old Colonial town of a thousand or so fishermen and naturalists, swollen to four times its size by the presence of the Navy. Two other ships, the remainder of Calderóns command, rode gently at anchor in the space that passed for a sheltered harbour. Both were light cruisers, one swarming with sailors as its hull was repainted, the other riding high in the water as it underwent a resupply. Beyond them, the grassy runway currently empty, was the aerodrome. On one side, protected by several metres of concrete and neatly covered with grass and small shrubs, were the military hangers that housed some thirty fighter aircraft, anti-submarine patrol planes, and a pair of long range reconnaissance craft. Opposite them gleamed two civilian aircraft, both of them large four engined planes, the only kind big enough to make the journey from Argentina to the Islands in one flight.

"You may begin your preparations to anchor, Captain."

As the Commodore, he commanded the squadron, the Captain was responsible for the operation of the Independencia. The man saluted and barked out orders. The huge engines began to slow and signal flags soared up the halliards to let all watching know that the ship intended to drop anchor. Similar signals appeared on the remainder of the fleet.

"Now, Captain." The Commodore gave the order and the flag at the top of the mast dipped once. Four anchors roared into the ocean with a splash and the squadron slowed to a rest, their sterns swinging toward the sea as the tide exerted its strength against them. A hundred yards away the conning tower of the submarine broke the surface as it cruised toward its own small jetty ashore. The squadron was home.
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Eastern Caicos, Guarda Coasta Headquarters, King Alfonso Airbase - July 1955


The middle aged man sat quietly in the briefing room, watching the other officers briefing those in attendance. His glasses lay on the table next to him, his eyes already knowing what the maps displayed. He enjoyed this moment of respite, with a cold glass of orange juice held to his forehead, from the tedium of commanding his comrades. Thirty years, for his people, over one hundred for the Haitians, and for the Norteno Gringo's, a chance for a new home that wouldn't purge them. Leaning back into the folding chair, he brought his right leg up and over his left knee, taking another drink from his glass. El Exilio, his father and grandfather had referred to the mass exodus of like minded men and women who had fled from the Dominican Republic to escape the brutal regime of that American puppet, Horacio Vásquez. Of course now an even more brutal dictator ruled over their home, some illegitimate zorro named Rafael Trujillo, claiming to be the nation's president. Too bad for the ignorant pig Vásquez, he was too much of a lap dog for America to see his own traitors among his ranks. Finishing his orange juice, the man set the glass aside and rose up, putting his glasses back on. It was time for him to speak to his men.

The two officers that had been speaking stopped and turned, politely nodding their heads as the more senior of them spoke aloud. "General Francisco de Peralta, the floor is yours Señor." The two men backed away, and took their own seats. Francisco straightened his uniform blouse, before calmly presiding over the briefing room.

"Caballeros, Amigos, Familia, we are all gathered here today, from different parts of the world, but all with one goal, to retake our Patria so that we all may live as the true heirs and rulers of Hispaniola. I look around this room, at all your faces, and I do not see broken men, I do not see cowards or traitors. No, I see patriots and heroes, all willing to fight and die for a cause greater than themselves. Let us not waste time nor words, caballeros, for we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, their hard work and sacrifice allowed us to be here. Behind me is what we all have been training for, what all of our hard work in all those petty conflicts across the world has been for. In roughly 48 hours we shall commence Operación Martillo, and there will be no going back once we start. We shall fight our common enemy, we shall kill those loyal to the enemy, and we shall take by force what is rightfully ours." He took his glasses off to clean them, taking his time before placing them back on and speaking more.

"Dios is on our side, and he is the only one we truly need to win our campaign. The Mexicano's have been covertly contacted, whether or not they decide to help is of no consequence. Those rumors are true, that we've yet to hear back from them, but let me assure you, we do not need their help to ensure victory. In the end, as with all things, it will be our sangre y sudor that shall pave the way to victory. Our landing sites have been chosen, these beachheads will ensure that we can take our foothold upon Hispaniola, and then press ever onward further into the country. Study this map, memorize it, ingrain it into your being. Once the planes take off, there is no coming back. There is either victory or death. We shall not retreat." Francisco de Peralta turned to the board, looking it over once more, before turning back to the cadre of officers.

"We land at the following beachheads; Pepillo Salcedo, Monte Cristi, Punta Rucia, La Isabela, Luperon, and Puerto Plata. The two key locations are Monte Crisit and Puerto Plata, yet do not let the smaller landing sites lull you into a sense of complacency. We will all be fighting our enemy once we've made landfall, and I must stress this, all of us must keep to the timeline. We will have 24 hours to make it to the rally location, Santiago De Los Caballeros. Our intel suggests that the garrison there has been complacent in their duties for the last year, if not longer. We take this city as planned, the northern portion of the country will be ours uncontested. And an added bonus is the large armory there that shall be of great use to us. Remember your training, have faith in your men and yourselves. I leave the rest in your capable hands. Vida a la revolució caballeros. I salute you all, and I am honored to lead you into the hyena's den." The room stood to attention as General Francisco de Peralta took his leave, shaking the hands of a few senior officers, before heading out onto the beautiful tropical sunlit beach.

Peralta sighed to himself, fixing his cap upon his head, as he gazed out at the ocean. 'Soon, father... soon, you and grandfather will be home once more, and can lay at rest with your loved ones.' He smiled at a few of his friends, walking over to a strand of trees with them and of all things, to take a picture together on this monumental eve of battle. Dominican, Haitian, American, and Frenchman, the five friends stood together, and allowed their picture to be taken. "For the history books, my friends." Peralta said with a smile, before they all walked in the direction of the mess hall.



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THE REPUBLIC OF ARGENTINA




OSORNO, CHILE

"Right then, off we go." Lieutenant Fernando Niembro called out, tapping his driver on the shoulder to set the half-track lurching forward down a lane turned to mud by a recently arrived summer monsoon. Behind him, half hidden by the unexpected downpour, he could make out the shapes of the limbers as they revved their engines and began to drag the 5.5 inch guns from their positions and toward the road.

Ahead of the halftrack a small recce car, its back marked with a bright orange square so they would not lose it in the rain, struggled to navigate the mud. He could make out two miserable helmeted heads hunched over behind the pathetic excuse for a windscreen and suddenly found himself very glad for the heating system in his own vehicle.

The view he had enjoyed a week ago of Osorno was blotted out by rolling squalls now; but even the rain was not enough to completely dampen the fire that burned furiously to the west where an ammunition dump had been hit; it appeared as some nightmarish red glow, ever shifting beneath the curtains of rain, and constant reminder of the savagery that was hidden beyond.

Little remained of the once picturesque town; savage shelling had been followed up with a full scale assault that had degenerated into bitter hand to hand fighting. Niembro, having never bombarded a town before, had been flabbergasted at how many Chilean soldiers had somehow survived the near constant rain of artillery and tank shells. Up on his hilltop, well away from the barn that had become the focal point of enemy artillery, he had watched the attack advance on the town.

The lane through which his half-track now rumbled cut through the Eastern portion of the battlefield and the shattered hulks of vehicles loomed up and then passed in the rain, the steady drum of rain on their steel hulls like some demented orchestra. It wasn't until they had gone the better part of a kilometre that he saw, for the first time in his life, the enemy dead; he had seen a few men killed on the ridge of course, but never a Chilean; he was about as junior as an officer might come after all.

There was a small cluster of them, splayed out in a fan shape around a crater in the ground where an artillery shell had exploded. Their light grey uniforms were shredded and their wounds were horribly white, cleansed by the pouring rain. Most were mangled beyond any recognition but one lay with his face turned toward the lane and, despite the rain, Niembro thought he could feel the accusing gaze "You did this to me. He turned away uneasily and looked Westward to where the fire raged. Never had he ever been so close to a battle and its aftermath. Before taking his position on the ridge top he had never ordered any rounds fired except in training; to see the real effect of it was something new to him.

Mud turned to concrete as the column of guns turned onto the main highway leading into town. It was a fine two lane affair that had once served as the main artery between north and south Chile. Somehow it had largely escaped the actual shelling of both armies, but the ditches were filled with discarded equipment, destroyed vehicles, and the bodies of the dead. The steel beneath his hands suddenly felt terribly cold despite the fact he was sweating beneath his rain coat and he turned his gaze toward the first of the broken buildings appearing out of the rain.

Ahead of him the little orange square abruptly pulled over to the right shoulder, so close to the edge he thought they might slide into the water filled unknown below. His driver followed suit and the guns behind them did the same. He leaned forward, eyes probing the rain, until he could make out the military policeman who had waved them over.

"Anything sir?" Sergeant Menem asked from the back of the half-track, half a headset still hooked over his right ear. He, as well as the rest fo the gun troop, was only too aware of how this same stretch of road had been bombarded the day before by retreating Chilean guns.

"Military police have waved us over..." Niembro paused to rub his eyes for a moment, trying to clear the water from them as it dripped down from his helmet. "Hang on, vehicles coming."

Large flat bed trucks loomed suddenly out of the rain, so large that he could hear their sides scrapping against the house across the road even as they missed his half-track by inches. Perched on the back, its barrel twisted impossibly skyward, was the imposing bulk of a medium tank. More trucks came, each with a damaged vehicle on its bed, until the night filled with the roar of their engines and Niembro wondered if they had any functional tanks left at all. Some of the drivers waved, others nodded, the majority however kept their eyes glued to the road. The sign he had seen a hundred yards back came to mind:

[i]ROAD TO THE FRONT. DAMAGED OR BROKEN VEHICLES ARE TO BE PUSHED INTO THE DITCH. DO NOT BLOCK THE ROAD.[I]

When the last of the trucks passed by, its deck occupied by an armoured car whose front tires were gone, the military police officer waved them forward. The rain had begun to slacken now - he was already soaked through - and for that he was glad. He cast a long eye down the road behind them and saw that the delay had created a back log of vehicles that disappeared beyond his sight; countless supply vehicles, artillery pieces, and trucks filled with infantry.

"Is there no other road...?" He asked to no one in particular. Menem replied, as he had half expected he would; the man spent as much time as he did staring at maps.

"No. There is a single lane railway to the west but I think it's been blown up by now."

"This is a fucking death trap..."

No one responded to that, but all were desperately glad of the rain that hid their movements from prying eyes. The last word was of Chilean forces withdrawing to prepared positions north of the Bueno River - The Good River - that name would soon be an ironic footnote in history.

No shells fell on the long column as it navigated the broken town, and the rain returned with such a vengeance that even the shattered Cathedral, upon whose proud but broken spires he had gazed for so many weeks, was invisible to the passing Argentine soldiers. The road had been bulldozed clear by tanks fitted with blades and the shell holes filled with crush that had once been houses. Few bodies were visible either, it seemed that most had been pushed aside with the rubble and Niembro found himself glad of that.

Their new position was a big field bordered on the west by the highway, the north by a small country road, and creeks on the other two. Everyone else halted on the roadway while the regimental officers made their down to assign space. Neimbro remained in his half-track and stared down at the map in front of him, tracing his finger over the new grid coordinates he would have to memorize.

Somewhere ahead of him, hidden by the rain, was the Hamlet of San Pablo, and beyond that the Bueno River. His war was just beginning.

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Puebla, Puebla
July, 1955

“We have two weeks until we go to war with the British Empire.”

The company commanders around the table were stunned by the battalion commander’s blunt admission of the situation. They had been called into a briefing, unscheduled by anyone’s staff, with up-to-date readiness reports. Every soldier who had a mild cold was reported up with a timeline for their recovery, every weapon with a spot of rust on the barrel was examined and given an exact time and date it would be cleaned spotless, and every man from colonel to cook had their five-kilometer run time and rifle qualification score mercilessly examined with a foolproof plan to coach them into better shape. Despite the unannounced homework, the paratroopers in the Brigada de Fusileros Paracaidistas were in mostly good shape.

The meeting let out at seven in the evening, two hours past the five o’clock end of the duty day. Captain Dominic Lopez emerged from the door sipping his cold coffee out of a mug and grabbed one edge of the frame. He leaned forward to stretch out his sore shoulder for a few seconds, then swapped his coffee mug to the other hand and repeated the exercise. Behind him, First Sergeant Antonio Kan crossed his arms and waited for his commander to get out of the doorway before rejoining the officer in the hall. They were the command team of the second battalion’s Compañía A and would be participating directly in the first wave of the planned attack into Belize.

“We’re looking good out there,” Captain Lopez said nonchalantly. “Ever since we got… who was it… Vivanco back from the hospital with his motorcycle crash we are pretty full up on our people.”

The First Sergeant nodded and crossed his arms. His sleeves were rolled to his elbows, revealing the faded tattoos on his forearms, Mayan patterns weaving between depictions of a jaguar and an eagle. With paternal disapproval in his voice, he acknowledged: “Gotta remind that motherfucker to stop racing his motorcycle. If he’s going to get killed, I at least want him leading his squad while he does it.”

Lopez chuckled as he walked to the front entrance of the battalion headquarters building. The unit footprint was set up like a campus, with a battalion building occupying the center with four company buildings to its front. A fifth support company was slightly larger of its own footprint located opposite the line companies, with its own facilities for supply storage and maintenance. Lopez and Kan paused to withdraw their maroon-colored berets from under their shoulder epaulette straps and don them. The paratroopers were uniquely identifiable by their red headgear and purple rank insignia, derived, ironically enough, from British airborne tradition.

The two men walked together on a footpath through the immaculately groomed landscape that had been planted outside of the battalion headquarters. Their sergeant major had been putting the extra duty personnel – those who had gotten in trouble for a variety of things from being late to work or not getting haircuts – to work making the footprint look fit for an aristocrat’s mansion. Little signs, hand-painted by the extra duty soldiers, warned others to stay off the grass. The two men turned the corner to the company office and reached the strip of parking lanes in front where they both had put their automobiles. Cars were becoming increasingly common in Mexico, to the point where most officers and senior non-commissioned officers had owned one.

Captain Lopez’s automobile was a stylish, if slightly older, 1947 Nissan model made for the Mexican export market. The Pionero was the family of Mexican offroad trucks built similarly to the standard-issue jeeps that were driven by Mexican troops. Pulido’s was painted a dull blue with a spare tire strapped to the hood, but had no scrapes or mud marks on it. He always claimed that he was going to go offroading with it eventually, but never actually did. The commander put his coffee mug on the hood and told his First Sergeant to go home as he reached into his glovebox and withdrew a steel cigarette book.

The sun had since dipped below the hills in the distance as he lit a cigarette. His lighter clicked open with a metallic clink and the air was soon filled with the scent of burning tobacco. He watched as First Sergeant Kan turned on his bright red, two-doored sports car, which roared to life with the growl of its V8 engine thrumming through the aluminum body. Its tired squealed as he reversed it out of his parking spot and the transmission changed back into gear: the car hurtled out of the parking lot, almost drifting around the corner to reach the access road that would take Kan back to the housing area. Lopez remained alone, smoking his cigarette as the shadows of dusk encroached on the lone vehicle in the parking lot. He checked his watch, its radium dial faintly glowing in the darkening light, and saw the hand strike eight.

He was quiet at breakfast that morning while his wife fried some eggs for them on the stove. The kids had long since gone to school; Dominic had walked them down to the bus stop near the park where most of the army officers lived in base housing. He had twin sons who had just turned eleven the month prior and were going to a primary school in Puebla. It was a nice district in a nice part of town, the money invested by the well-to-do officers’ taxes probably having something to do with it. He had nodded to the others similarly dropping off their children. His colleagues at work in the other companies had similarly aged children.

His wife set the ceramic plate down with a clink on the scuffed wooden table. They had gotten it from his wife’s family as a wedding present, an old hand-me-down piece of furniture that he had much appreciated as a young Lieutenant. As the years dragged on, Captain Lopez and his family were slowly but surely replacing their older furniture with more high quality pieces: the dining table remained stubbornly sturdy even when couches were ruined by spilled drinks and shelves broke down from a too-heavy item. The pair both prepared their breakfast, a simple meal of huevos rancheros in near silence.

“Is everything alright?” Ana asked, her eyebrow cocked at Dominic.

“Sure. Busy few weeks coming up at work,” her husband answered simply, sipping on coffee in a different mug. This one bore the insignia of the parachutists, a welcome gift from his current company.

“Is that why you were late last night?” she probed further, a sly sense of humor creeping into her voice. “Not chasing skirts at the bar with that First Sergeant of yours, are you?”

“No, nothing like that,” replied Dominic with a perked up tone, playfully swatting his hand in her direction. “Leave Kan alone, he was on his third marriage. I think he needs time to act like he’s twenty again.”

“I thought your big training exercise was in October, did it move up?” Ana said, bringing the topic back on track.

Dominic shrugged and looked Ana in the eye. They had plenty of these talks before. Ana knew what he would say next. She heard it every time before a big operation: “I guess we aren’t doing that anymore, but we have about two weeks to hit the guys hard for something. I can’t really say what now, but you will know sooner or later.”

Ana nodded and pursed her lips in disappointment. “Just two weeks this time?” she asked, almost dejectedly. Her husband, caught in between bites of his breakfast, nodded and swallowed quickly.

“Two busy weeks,” Dominic confirmed, looking down into his coffee. As he spoke, he stood up from the chair and stepped over to the cabinet behind him. High above the counter, he opened the door and withdrew a half-emptied square bottle of gold tequila. “It will be a lot of late nights like that one, maybe a field exercise. But they do want us to at least spend some time with our families before we go.”

He sat back down and unscrewed the cap, splashing a bit of the alcohol into his coffee. He took a sip, the sensation of the liquor coursing through his body and calming his nerves enough to continue eating. Ana laughed at him, shaking her head in mild disapproval. They carried on finishing up their breakfast quickly, Dominic helping place the dishes in the sink before Ana told him to check the time.

His eyes made a pass on the clock hanging from the kitchen wall: it was fifteen to nine, giving him just enough time to get in the car and drive to work. He shrugged again, returning to the jacket that he had draped over the dining chair. He swung it over his shoulder, pushed his arms through the sleeves, and buttoned it unhurriedly. Gripping his coffee mug in one hand, he stopped to let Ana step over to give him a kiss on the cheek. “Okay, I’ll see you tonight,” he told her. “Have a good day.”

That week, Captain Lopez found himself managing the fastest-paced training he had ever seen since joining the military just six years prior. The battalion had been dedicated thousands of rounds of ammunition from sources unknown to immediately get people out onto the range. Through the checkpoint on his way to work where the gate guards checked the papers of all soldiers going on and off base, he saw dozens of green supply trucks being waved through the express lanes, bearing the white letters “MX” on their doors. He had never seen blatant identification marks on the plain vehicles before, but assumed it was a new standard made up to reduce friendly fire incidents. The British were an industrialized nation, far removed from bandits or the border smugglers that the military usually fought.

The training ramped up from there. Days spent in the hot summer sun on ranges turned into qualifications on all sorts of weapons. Rifles, grenades, machineguns, mortars, and even a run on the bayonet assault course generated massive piles of paperwork that were ferried off to battalion staff for their tracking purposes. Several chalkboards had been wheeled into the battalion office, with staff officers crossing off each squad in the companies as they reported finishing steps in the process. By the end of the week, all individuals would have gone through a refresher of basic individual skills. Leaders down to the sergeants running squads fulfilled extra requirements, like an afternoon of land navigation twenty kilometers south at the El Aguacate course.

Each night, Captain Lopez and First Sergeant Kan returned home sweaty and exhausted, tanned and reddened from spending hours underneath the beating sun repeatedly practicing their tasks. Every spare moment of waiting was to be filled with refresher training, from teaching impromptu classes on rope tying and jungle operations to meticulously cleaning and maintaining weapons. The only respite came as the soldiers were granted Sunday off to spend at church and with their families before the second week arrived. Monday was their qualification jump into the training area just of the city’s Parque Estatal Flor del Bosque.

A quiet Sunday turned to an early Monday as Captain Lopez found himself geared up and standing on the tarmac of Puebla base’s airfield in front of his hundred-or-so-man company. Ahead of him, a twin-engine plane’s engines roared to life and swept up a cloud of dust and dirt around them. Crewmen on the ground scrambled to load the men into carefully planned groups of paratroopers, counting them with slaps on the back of their equipment as they were rushed into the cargo holds of the plane. Captain Lopez had been through the process all before: the deafening noise of the propellers precluded any sort of conversation aside from the yelling of the jumpmaster.

The entirety of the transport plane’s cabin smelled of oil and the sort of industrial grime that permeated any military vehicle. The seats, thinly padded over an austere metal frame, shook violently. None of the flights had ever been comfortable, and neither was the gear that bogged down the parachutists like thick winter coats. As the plane followed others off the runway – the pilots had been practicing this maneuver themselves for the previous week, a close order takeoff to maximize planes in the air at a given time – Captain Lopez found that he had the sudden urge to piss.

Their flight was short, a relief to many of the men onboard as the jumpmaster ordered the troops to stand up and hook their static line clips to the metal wire overhead. Captain Lopez felt his carabiner clamp into place and screwed the lock on as the jumpmaster came by to quickly check for safety concerns. A red light lit the dark compartment where the troops nor stood, pressing into each other. One of the jumpmasters, looking out the door, brought his head back in and gave the other a thumb up: he hit a switch on the hull behind him, flashing the red light to a solid green.

“Go!” shouted the jumpmaster, setting the process into motion. Captain Lopez at the front couldn’t have stopped even if he wanted to, with the mass of men rushing forward and out the door pushing him more than he ran. He barely had time to think before he felt himself whipped out of the plane door in the crisp morning air, body hurtling out of the plane’s fuselage. Automatically, he kept his feet and knees together and counted to four in his head. The static line worked, and his body jolted with the shock of the parachute being pulled violently out of its pack. The muscle memory of instinct took over and the veteran paratrooper soon had his hands on the risers of the parachute: he inspected the rigging and the canopy and found he had made a perfect exit.

One of the soldiers behind him was not so lucky. The man had fallen for a moment longer than four seconds before noticing that his main chute failed to deploy. Captain Lopez saw the figure drop for a split second longer than it should have before a smaller white parachute canopy erupted from the reserve pack. A good catch. Lopez checked the rest of his element as the plane finished its drop and sped off towards the rising sun: everyone else was just fine. He then turned his attention to the sandy drop zone below him that was rapidly growing closer. Through a visual cue, Lopez dropped his gear on the paracord line below him that let it dangle below his feet and braced for impact.

Nothing about airborne landings was graceful. It felt more like being dropped like a sack of bricks than landing pleasantly. To distribute the shock, Lopez fell to his left side hitting his body into the ground sequentially: first, the balls of his feet, followed by his calf and thigh and rear before landing on the side of his back. He rolled to his back and quickly unclipped his gear as the parachute fell to the ground behind him. The man’s knees and ankles ached in pain, but he was used to it by now. Maybe one day he would find a nice desk job, but that would not be until much later for him.

Captain Lopez flipped open the clasps on his rifle case and withdrew the semi-automatic rifle known colloquially as the Mondragón. A quick check around him revealed that the paratroopers under his command were doing the same. The men of the Brigada de Fusileros Paracaidistas were on the ground and forming up into their sections to head out on their mission for that exercise: a mock attack on a mock village with a “government building” at its center. Their opponents would be wooden targets painted green, but bearing Union Jacks as bullseye targets. Someone’s clever little joke for the paratroopers.

With the rest of his gear donned and rifle in hand, Captain Lopez rallied with his small headquarters element and contacted his platoons through his radioman’s manpack. He gave the order to move out immediately.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Abefroeman
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Abefroeman Truck Driver

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Somewhere off the Northern Coast of Hispaniola - Tropical Storm Clouds


Francisco de Peralta looked out the windscreen of the plane he rode in, watching as the heavy rains lashed out, while the winds buffeted the plane. He held on tightly as the wind seemed to dropkick the plane upwards, the wings and metal tensioning wires groaning loudly over the roar of the engines. He cursed the lack of a meteorologist on the islands, had they known about the storm, they would have waiting, but now... it was too late. He stepped back away from the pilot and copilot, looking over to the navigator. "How much further? We're burning through fuel faster than we've anticipated... This is now for sure a one way trip." He had to yell in order to be heard. The younger man looked up at his commanding officer, beckoning him closer to point out at the map.

"We're at worst...." He steadied himself as the plane shook violently, "No more than another two hours of flight time. The storm has slowed us down considerably. I don't dare radio ahead, the vanguard would know more, but we're too close to enemy airspace now, they might pick up radio chatter." The crewman turned away, trying to keep his tools from flying off his station, the plane now kiltering off and down to the side. Peralta patted the younger man on his back, nodding thank you to him, before returning to his perch, looking at the windscreen again. 'If, God willing, the invasion force isn't completely scattered, I'll consider it a blessing.' He tightened the chin strap of his helmet, hoping that he'd not have the unluck of the plane going down in the middle of the ocean.

Peralta looked up at the plane's ceiling, holding his breath as it seemed every piece of metal groaned collectively. He thought he could even here a few rivets popping, giving way to the strain. Ahead, lightning flashed brightly, blinding the pilots and him for a few seconds. 'Of all the luck, a tropical storm just happened to form on this day... figures.' Taking a breath again, he strapped himself into his seat making sure his rifle was still nearby, Peralta clasped his hands together and began to quietly pray. He closed his eyes, focusing on his thoughts instead of the storm outside the thin metal body of the plane, and lent out his prayers to those on his own plane, and to all the souls on the other planes. 'We who fly unto the sacred lands of the our fathers, we who fight in God's name, we who are prepared to pay the ultimate price ask for your blessing and protection father. Grant us your holy strength, and if we are to fall in battle, allow your divine grace to guide us up unto heaven. Amen.'
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Shyri
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Malacca, Japanese Indonesia


Hirano sat on a bench, staring up at the sky cloudwatching. It had been about a week since the incident at Tampin, and he, like most of the Liberation Force, had been put on standby while command figured out how to deal with the rebel situation. There supposedly were talks with the British over the surrender, but that could easily just be hopeful gossip. As Hirano had been taught, British soldiers were bloodthirsty invaders who couldn't be spoken with; the only way to get them out was to kill them all. Of course, the talk was also that the natives of Indonesia had done just that. Some said that there was a pile of British bodies piled outside of Tampin. Some said that the British Stronghold in Port Dickson was painted red with their blood, and that their heads hung from the rooftops like flags. Hirano, however, believed the least exciting story.

The British saw Indonesia as a lost cause, and were pulling out to let the natives and Japanese fight over the broken remains.

With a deep, drawn out sigh, he sat up, adjusting his round spectacles to sit properly on his nose, and stood. There was something he had been hoping to do, and, with the help of a good friend, today it was going to be possible. As he started to walk down the streets of Indonesia, he couldn't help but notice the looks he was getting from the locals. While normally, they avoided his gaze and stared at him in anger, today they were... Smiling. They looked confident. It left Hirano feeling uncomfortable. He tried to ignore it as he made his way to the makeshift prison that had been made out of an old school building. Upon reaching the entrance, he was greeted by a tall, slightly older soldier with a patchy, scraggly beard and dopey face.

“Hirano!” He exclaimed, jogging up to his friend. “I was wondering when you would arrive. Are you ready?”

“Ito! Sorry, I kind of spaced out.” Hirano replied with a sheepish grin. “Yes... I think so. Tell me Ito, have you seen him at all? The Brit?” As he asked his question, Hirano looked a bit upset... Scared, almost. Ito, noticing this, simply laughed at his friend. “Don't worry, Hirano. He's nothing like you're thinking. In fact, he looks weak, like you!” Another laugh escaped Ito, though Hirano didn't quite find the joke funny, giving his friend an elbow between the ribs along with a small “Hey!”

As soon as the laughter stopped, Ito turned and unlocked the building, showing Hirano in. “Alright, we have about ten minutes at this point. Make sure you're back to the door before then. I don't want to shoot my friend for getting caught colluding with the enemy.” Another laugh came from Ito as he turned, closing the door behind him and leaving Hirano alone in the makeshift prison. Silently, he began to walk around the large room, looking between the bard of the various cages. Some held British and Dutch PoW's, some held local insurrectionists, and a couple even held defectors who were caught hiding out, or trying to escape back home. Eventually, Hirano spotted the man he recognized from Tampin, and reached out, tapping the bars.

“I already told you bastards, that's everything I know.” Came the reply in English. “I don't know what my people are planning, nor do I even know what happened in that shithole of a town. I was just in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Now, can I...” He trailed off, looking up and seeing the confused, yet familiar, face of Hirano. “Oh. It's you.” Came the unamused reply. “What do you want?”

With a furrowed brow, Hirano tried to make sense of what he was saying but, not knowing much English...

“Do you speak Japanese?” He asked, brow still furrowed.

“No, I don't understand you.” The reply came in English again. “If you know any Chinese though, then we can talk.”

With a start, Hirano looked at the Brit, shocked. “Yes, I do. Why does a British soldier know Chinese?”

Looking up again, the soldier gave Hirano a quizzical look. “Because my father was from Hong Kong, and regularly visits China. The real question is why you speak Chinese. I thought you were supposed to hate China.”

This time, Hirano gave the quizzical look as he shook his head. “No, of course not. China and Japan have been on good terms for years. They also want your people out of Asia.” He then starts to take a bit of defensive posture, crossing his arms as he looks down at the Brit. “Why is that so hard for your people to understand? I'm sure if we occupied Ireland, you would want us out too.”

That reply prompted a small laugh from the Brit. “It might, if we still had Ireland. God, they really do have you lot brainwashed, don't they? Do you even know what's going on in the world, or do you only know Japan?” He let out a small sigh, glancing up at Hirano with a look of pity in his eyes. “Look, I don't mind answering your questions, but you need to stop looking at me like a dog. My name is Charlie. What's yours?”

Hirano stayed silent for a long while, prompting another sigh from Charlie. When he finally did move to respond, he stopped himself and stayed silent for a little while longer. Eventually, with a frown, he crouched down in front of the cage. “What do you mean by brainwashed?” He asked, ignoring nearly everything else.

“What I mean is... Your knowledge of the world seems outdated, and just wrong. You think you're buddy buddy with China. You think the King still has control over Ireland. You think the people of Indonesia want to be Japanese, for God's sake! Well let me tell you friend, the people who chased me out of Tampin weren't just burning British flags. They were burning Japanese flags, too. They don't like either of us, and if you lot aren't careful, Malacca is going to be the next Tampin. Just a hundred times more brutal.”

Hirano, again, stays quiet for a long while, Charlie's words echoing in his mind. After the looks he was getting earlier, the last thing Charlie said actually made some sense. Was everyone in the city at risk? Did Charlie tell this to his superiors? The other things were clearly propaganda, but this... This was something that might be real. Looking back to Charlie, Hirano gave a small bow of his head. “Hirano. Nice to meet you, and goodbye. I need to go.”

With the small sound of protest behind him as he got up, Charlie headed for the door, giving the small knock to let Ito know that he was ready to come out. After a small wait without any reply, he knocked again. Maybe Ito just didn't hear. However, yet again there was no reply. Curious, he moved over to one of the boarded up windows, peering through the cracks to try to spot his friend. Finally, his eyes focused, and he saw Ito sitting down in front of the door, lazily lounging.

“Ito, you bastard! Come on, let me out!” He jeered through the door with another series of knocks. However, Ito still wasn't letting him out. “What happened to not wanting to put me on the firing line? Ito, this joke isn't funny!” Actually annoyed now, Hirano peered through the window again. As he did, he heard the distant sound of a crowd. Knocking on the wood, he looked down to Ito again, and noticed exactly why his friend wasn't responding. Barely visible, in Ito's stomach, sat a knife buried in his gut. Staggering away from the window, Hirano stared at the door, eyes wide. Here he was, locked in a prison, while his friend with the keys was bleeding out on the other side. He started to bang loudly on the door, shouting in hopes that somebody would come to help.

“HEY! HEY, WE NEED HELP! HEY!” He shouted, hoping somebody might hear. He glanced back to the prison where, having taken note of his distress, some of the prisoners started making a ruckus, cheering and jeering. Trying his best to ignore them, Hirano kept pounding on the door, until he heard a key click in the lock. Stepping back, he readied to explain himself, and urge whoever came to help Ito. However, when the door opened, his eyes widened, and the cheering behind him turned into an excited howl.

In the door, with Ito's gun pointed at Hirano's chest, was an Indonesian woman sporting a cocky grin. Hirano could only look at her in shock and confusion, muttering something about saving Ito, that she shouldn't be at the door, that...

SMACK

Before he could finish his thoughts, or even form a proper sentence, she cracked the back of the gun against his temple, causing him to crumple and start to pass out. Before everything faded, he heard her shout, in her language, and then in surprisingly good Japanese, and then English, and Dutch.

“Death to the invaders! We take back our home!”

The call was immediately echoed by the Indonesians in the cages, before to woman grabbed the back of Hirano's collar, and moved to the cages.

Suwon-si, Korea


The sun sat high over the city of Suwon-si in Korea, where the Japanese military presence was much more lax than in Seoul to the North, but not quite as lax as Daejeon to the South. Despite that, for a select few in Korea, life continued on as it always had. A group of old ladies in particular, whether Japanese soldiers were around or not, sat in a park chatting around a radio. The only difference for them was, when the soldiers moved on, they would tune in to a rebel radio signal, rather than the folk music they let the Japanese overhear. The conversation however, stayed the same. It didn't matter. The soldiers didn't know Korean, and even if they did, they weren't going to bother eavesdropping on the latest gossip of a group of old women.

“...down in Indonesia, tension is still on the rise. Earlier today, the rebels pulled off their most successful attack against the Japanese yet, killing hundreds of soldiers in the city of Malacca, and taking many officers captive. News of this has yet to reach the Japanese mainland, where they are still celebrating the false victory in Tampin.”

“Heh. Serves them right.” One of the grannies scoffed at the radio, as she looked around to make sure they were still in the clear. “Hopefully they send more soldiers down South, so we can start doing the same.”

“Oh, I wouldn't worry, Seung.” The second woman chimed in. “My son, the one working with the resistance in Busan, told me that they're ready to strike at a moments notice. They're just waiting for the news of the Japanese Emperor.”

“Oh, that's right.” Said the third with a snicker. “The old man seems like he's finally ready to follow his brother to the grave, right? This is the fourth attack he's survived. He should really just keel over already. If not for us, at least for his family's sake.”

“Oh, you're awful!” Laughed the fourth. “Why would you care what happens to a family like that? I hope they're so distraught, they follow him to an early grave.”

“Oh, that reminds me. My granddaughter, the one with the resistance in Seoul, said she might get sent to ask China for aid when the Emperor dies.” The second woman adds again. “Imagine the look on their faces, if the Chinese invaded them.”

“It would serve them right!” Laughed Seung. “By the way, Kyung-Hee.” She said, turning to the first woman. “What's your bet? Sung-Min thinks the old bag will kick it sometime this week.” She says, pointing to the third woman. “Eun-Yeong thinks it will be tomorrow.” She says, pointing to the fourth. “I already lost. I thought he was going to be announced dead this morning.”

At that, all the women laughed, before Kyung-Hee spoke. “I think we'll be stuck with him a while yet. He's like a cockroach. No matter how many times you try to kill him, he still hangs on, determined to make a mess of everything, bother everyone, and live uselessly.”

That prompted another laugh from the group, who stayed silent for a moment afterwards, to continue listening to the radio.

“...Meanwhile, we have received word that the people of Taiwan managed to catch one of the islands major officers off guard. He was found with multiple knife wounds in his back, curled in a ditch on the side of the road. He was announced dead this morning, though it was officially reported as a hiking accident. More and more, we see the Empire falling apart, piece by piece. Day after day, our odds of success only increase. And now, word is that the Emperor's family has gathered at his hospital bed. None of the previous attacks prompted a familial visit, leading us to believe that the end of our sorrows will soon be upon us. Tune in again tomorrow at this time for the most important update to date.”

Again, the group started to howl, their laughter heard across the park, promoting a Japanese soldier to approach them, and demand they quiet down.

“Oh, quiet, invader.” Kyung-Hee said, soliciting shocked expressions from the rest of the group. “I've grown tired of you all walking around, bossing us around, and acting like you own the place! This is my country, and it's about time you got out! Now leave us alone, before I make you regret it!”

With a slacked jaw, the soldier stood in stunned silence, before eventually running off. As he did, the group looked to Kyung-Hee in silence, before eventually cheering her on for her outburst. Eventually, Eun-Yeong gave her a pat on the back. “You know he's likely getting help. We should probably get out of here.”

“No!” Shouted Kyung-Hee. “You heard them! This is it. We don't have to take it any more! By the end of the week, the Japanese flag won't be flying over Suwon anymore! What are they going to do to a little old lady, anyways? They have more important things to worry about.”

However, as Kyung-Hee celebrated, a group of six soldiers approached the group, whistles blowing and weapons out. The old women held their hands up, one by one, Kyung-Hee going last with a pained look on her face. Soon, they couldn't do this anymore. Soon...

Kirun, Taiwan


“Damnit!” Came an angry shout from the Japanese Headquarters in Kirun, Taiwan. “First Hidaka gets stabbed, now we're being asked to find a missing plane? Since when is it my job to search the oceans? What do we even have a navy for?” An old, grizzled looking man shouts to a young woman in military dress, before sighing, and slapping his hands on the desk, doubling over a bit. “Sorry, Sakiko.” He corrected himself. “This island is a curse. Everyone who gets assigned her goes to an early retirement, and I'm starting to see why.”

“Of course, sir.” The woman replied. “Can I get you anything? Tea? Coffee?”

“Yes... Maybe a cup of tea, thank you.” the old man replied.

“Right away, General Mogami.” She said before disappearing from the room. Once she is gone, he moves to his chair, and collapses in it, making a call. “Yes. This is Mogami. I need you to scour the coast for an aircraft. It should be somewhere along the Northeastern coast. Yes. The sooner the better. Oh, and if you find anybody, alive or dead, bring them here.”

With a sigh, the general leans back, resting his head against the back of the plush European chair. “Damn Dutch... They're like rats. I was supposed to get a break, and then they go and pull something like this.” He then picks up the phone again, making another call. “Yes. This is Mogami. Yes. I need you to spread word to towns in the North. When you're ready then. Yes, of course.” He waits a moment. “Have the locals be on the lookout for an injured European. Tell them that if they turn him in to me, I will make them the richest person on this island. Yes. Make sure to emphasize the reward. Once they have something to gain, we'll see how loyal to their rebellion they are. Yes. Yes, of course.” Another sigh escapes his lips as he ends the call.

“That's somebody handling Hidaka's funeral, somebody searching the coast for the crash, and somebody spreading the message about the bounty. Maybe I can finally relax a bit.” As he speaks, he slides down in his chair some, before furrowing his brow, and calling out into the building. “Sakiko, is the tea ready?”
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