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Tibetan Militarized Zone, south of Yushu

The expansive plateau and foothills of Tibet sprawled out to the heavenly blue sky. The great earth covered in a mat of young spring grass, blooming in spring life. And under the blue ceiling of heaven sat sprawling across the heights of the ridges, rolling down into erosion carved valleys of the steppe the command center for the Tibetan Militarized Zone.

Formally established in 1949 as the permanent fixed command for the fluid and unresolved situation with Tibet, command had before rotated between posts at Wuwei, Xining, and Chengdu. The nature and location of the command changing based on the conditions against Tibet, the undeclared war which China had with them flaring on and off. It had made questionable gains in the years since the launch of the Western Expedition. It was a long zone of contention, spanning the length of the border from Diqing to the Hotan wastelands. Daily some small incidents erupted with long range skirmishes across the epic valleys of the low steppe, or close altercations with fist and sword and knife in the mountainous alleys under the shadows of immense boulders. Air missions to recon the mountains would receive fire, and combat air wings would sweep the region. Armed bodies of Tibetan soldiers would march down on the Chinese to dislodge a field post or to drive an equal body of Chinese into retreat. Here in this region, the careers and expertise of men were made and specialized.

“I just wanted you to know, that I put in my letter. I'm retiring from the service. I asked the Commission to review you as my replacement.” Quan Yu said, as he sat down at his desk. Across, a younger officer took his own seat, placing his hands on his knees as he watched his superior with deep interest and undivided attention.

Quan Yu was a man of sixty. Having cut his teeth in the revolution he had followed Zhou Enlai west as part of the expedition, and of one of the many junior communist officers the Kuomintang military authority of Whampoa wanted to dispose of. As soon as China filled out into Xinjiang and settled his career come to rest. Now to end at the outer extreme of Tibet. His eyes were deeply eroded, wind scars and sunburns wringing eyes. The wrinkles that rounded them as deep and complex as the landscape in which he had come to live and even start a family for over two decades. The time had balded the officer, scars from combat injuries from the old days were dug deep across his head. A mortar explosion in the fifties had broken an arm before he assumed command, and now it bent backwards and at an angle from his body. His soldier's vigor had drained away and he looked at the world through tired eyes. Yet he was man that none under his command could say they hated. His officer corp looked up to him and he was a fan of the theater, ordering a movie theater built at the command post for all servicemen, general enlisted or otherwise. Yet among his close confidants it was known his heart was elsewhere and not Tibet; he talked of going home to Jiangxi to retire, his children were now almost adults and had not seen their ancestral province.

The younger officer, Feng Lu nodded. Lu was a tall man, and his face was soft. Cosmopolitan. The fact that unlike many of the other older officers who had come into the army from the peasant class and who had hardened themselves through the blood and the grit of the revolution was well evident in his demeanor and his outward appearance. An officer that embraced the cleanliness of the new army, the manners of the army at peace, though he was in the last combat zone in China. He did not wear his hair wild, and he combed it back across his head with the assistance of hair cream to keep it held tight. He was closely manicured, his face narrow and pointed. Despite he youth, and metropolitan cleanliness he betrayed a sharp awareness in his eyes. Eagle-like. He pressed his lips flat before he spoke in a low voice, “I understand. I congratulate you decision, sir.”

Yu smiled, “It was a long time coming.” he said with a rattling sigh. “The status of the region hasn't changed much in the last ten or so years. While I hold you in complete confidence of doing anything, I do not imagine you would have a difficult time. And if things are to change, I don't think you'll have problems either. You have the entire weight of the army at your back.”

“I understand.” Lu said, “And the Commission willing, I'm eager to take up whatever challenge they send my way.”

Quan Yu smiled, and nodded, “I'm sure they'll agree. There is much to do, especially if Congress let's us do it. Perhaps it might be worth doing a strategic briefing. It would not help to get you started early.”

Feng Lu nodded, and followed his commander as he stood up from the small desk. Lu kept a small, tidy office. Not much larger than a closet, it was dominated primarily by his desk and several tightly packed bookshelves. Poking out from corners lit by the light from the room's single window stood portraits and photographs of the man's family. A short letter singing his praises from one of his then young sons hung on the door, framed and at eye level as they left.

They walked down the concrete corridors of the headquarters. Perched at the top of a rise they could look down into the valley below through the wide panoramic panes along the exterior hallway. A single switchback road whipped back and forth up the steep rocky slope with its emerald grass and blooming spring flowers. At the bottom of the valley the rest of the base sprawled itself out through the narrow crevices.

The headquarters were cold and drafty on account of no air conditioning in the halls. Only in a few offices or conference rooms were there stoves or radiators to heat the space in the winter. And on this early spring day, with the snow melted, the air was cold and bitter. The two men closed their coats tight against them. Passing offices and NCOs they met stood stiffly to salute them, their cheeks rosy and flush in the cold air of the passages.

“This will be yours to command, eventually.” Quan Yu smiled, authoritatively, “I hope you enjoy it. It's a fair enough posting.”

“I've enjoyed hiking the hills.” Feng Lu said, relaxed, “Have you been to the Yunnan Pocket?” he asked, referring to the southern extreme of the command zone.”

“A couple times. I've never explored it however. But I've been there.”

“The landscape is dramatic when you get well inside. The forests are a thing of magic, and the height of the mountains are astounding. It's wild and ancient there, impossible.”

“So I've heard from the units there. Men tend to get lose on patrol. The locals are uneasy about them as well. We've conducted intelligence research on the area to find if there is any link to Lhasa's politics affecting them. Or if it's just the soldiers interfering with the land. If I would call any area of concern, it'd be Yunnan. I've tried to find more suitable places to put men to not inflame tensions. Our fortune is it's not an active location, but we need someone there to survey it.”

“I can understand the need.”

They came to the end of the short hall and another wing of the command center. Here, General Quan Yu opened the door and granted his successor to be access to a briefing room. “You'll be spending a lot of time here if they accept.” he said, turning on the lights. They popped and sputtered and soon illuminated the room in a warm yellow glow. He walked over to a radiator in the corner, and turned it on. It kicked and hissed, shaking violently against the wall before settling and quieted.

In the center of the room was a long table for maybe twenty people. At the head a large paper map hung on the wall. It showed in over view a map of the region. Stickers scattered over the map showed the location of deployments and bases. Other stickers, red showed the suspected location of Tibetan forces. “I'll try my best to over-view things from memory. When the process of succession begins the detailed work will begin. Take a seat, comrade.”

Feng Lu bowed, and walked to a chair and took a seat. With the practiced routine of the instructor Quan Yu moved to the board and began explaining the situation:

On the whole, the Chinese side of the border was occupied by twenty-thousand men stretched across the whole of the Chinese border. During the time of the conflict with Tibet since preliminary invasion by Zhou Enlai the bulk of the fighting had occurred over southern Qinghai and Xinjiang. It always came as skirmishes. Chinese offensive efforts had been frustrated by the hard terrain of Tibet. In the field intelligence from the time and gathered since strongly indicated that the Tibetan forces were armed with comparatively modern fire arms, which while at this time would be out of date in an open field of battle had the advantage that equalized them against the Chinese in the high mountains of the Himalayas. The conflict stagnated and stalled. The inability of the Tibetans to make headway against the Chinese has since been confirmed by their inability to assault the Chinese positions. To a point, Chinese air power has been a great support, but the altitude of Tibet's vast plateau is a stress to Chinese air superiority and limits their operational capacity.

As the decades had gone on the militarized zone's priorities has turned from a region for unit combat duty, into training for fresh soldiers to receive fresh exercise it an extreme part of China. “I feel most of the time I am a headmaster for students more than soldiers.” Quan Yu said, tired, “Perhaps in my retirement I will go into teaching, I have many years of experience.”

“I wouldn't say it hasn't be worthless.”

“No, of course not. Never has been. After the War it's been a break. But I feel our importance has been waning in the weeks and months. I'd be prepared to fight to keep material interest on us. Otherwise it will slip into becoming a pariah for something else. The Commission is always in negotiation with other parties. The government is negotiating its policies. We're here to prevent banditry at the border. They won't notice until it spills over.”

“I wonder if we can push the war to conclusion.” Feng Lu said, “From my experiences in Hotan.”

“Yes,” general Yu said, “If you have the chance. General Feng Lu and his goat army march on Lhasa! That would be a headline. You will complete the struggle of several commands before you. Comrade Enlai would probably find it very funny, and very smart.”



The morning began as all others had. The bells rang and the horns opened in the tremendously low hours of the morning echoing across the deep valleys. A city at sleep curling up out of their beds under the still blue light of morning before the first hot rays of the sun could break over the ramparts of the Himalayas. Through the window the young boy could gaze out through the imported curtains at the still dark sky, just becoming illuminated by the first thin bars of blue morning light. The air was cold, and so was the sky. In the thing clouds that existed at these heights only the barest inflection of color could be seen in their long silvery bands. Orange, as in the robes of the monk. Soon the morning chants and recitations would begin, two hours before breakfast would be served. The youth protested silently to himself before leaving the bed. He had only on his mind sleep, the passion to return to the realm of the dreams where he had his freedom. Damn the rinpoches, the diamond could use some sleep for once.

But damn the liberty, as he turned from the windows his room was soon stormed by a squadron of attendants, who bowing delicately and apologizing profusely began to manhandle the young lad, pulling him from bed and forcing him into his monk's attire. He moved with them automatically, as if a robot and simply obliged their respectful demands. They may have touched him, it would have been the same effect, but he was carried down the halls of the Potala Palace and through its lacquer stench of yak butter and candle smoke to preside over the morning prayers. Where from route memory he chanted out the dharma and the sutras in daily ritual as the son peaked over the mountains and casting low fire rods up from over the peaks of the Tibetan mountains. Such is the morning of the 15th Dalai Lama.

For two hours he sat on a cushioned chair above the other monks and the faithful in the hallowed halls of the Potala Palace droning out the sacred texts from memory. In the corners monks beat on drums, gongs, and cymbals creating an atonal symphony joined in by the low bleeting farts of horns and the gut-low gurgling of the monks and they recited the prayers for Lhasa, for Tibet, for the world that morning. Beseeching ancient gods who lives in the deep valleys and dark caverns all throughout Tibet. For the dead picked up by the vultures on frozen wingtips to be carried to heaven and devoured. At its peak the young Dalai Lama gave one of the few offerings he had the power to make in these times, that the Chinese be kept away for another day. And perhaps someone was listening, because for every day since the prayers began the Chinese had not come.

By the time the prayers were finished the sun was well into the sky. The morning light had lifted and the sky was open in its vast clear blue. High into the peaks the thinness of heaven was revealed under a dark blue as intimidating as the great seas below, as if any on this plateau has been down to see the sea.

Breakfast began on a terrace. Accompanied by a few other monks the Dalai Lama sat at a simple wooden table drinking down a brothy soup with vegetables and yak meat. A pot of butter tea in the middle. Surrounding him and sharing from the same common bowls were other monks, all far older than him talking in hushed voices about all manners of things. A pair at the end was locked in a debate about the nature of reincarnation. The young Dalai Lama simply found himself adrift in the normality, his mind empty as he struggled to pretend his belly was full. But looking up out of the corner of his eyes, he saw them.

At a distance in the shade of a doorway seated at a small table of their own were the Britons. Their heads bowed low in secret concourse and their backs arched primitive over their bowl of stewed meat and vegetables. Somehow one of them had brought in cheese. They did not drink tea, but coffee. They wore over their olive green uniforms the robes of monks. Through their conspiracies of Albion they had made their way into the palace and set themselves up as monks before the Dalai Lama had arrived. Or at least, that is how they carried themselves: as monks, rinpoches of the highest order. With their thick moustaches which they never shaved they looked over at the Dalai Lama with eyes always squinted tight against the harsh glare of the high mountain sun. One of them had a cigarette. The Dalai Lama was powerless to stop them.

Watching them, the Dalai Lama noticed as one of them rose from their table as a high-ranking monk approached them. One of the regency council. The arriving monk bowed and engaged in gregarious conversation and joined them at their seat as the one who had just left stepped towards the Dalai Lama. Coming before the table the British man bowed low, and said in Tibetan highly inflected by his accent, “I hope his holiness is having a splendid morning. I wish to extend an invitation by his holiness's regency council that he may join us later this afternoon in a review of the troops. His presence and participation will be highly esteemed.”

He would have had rather do anything else. But in the end like many things he would doubtlessly end up there. He accepted the quest, and the Briton gave him a long smile and backed away.

As breakfast closed the Dalai Lama was again shuffled away to another duty or obligation. In a musty hall he was obliged to sit in on a debate between two monks. Ceremonially, he was there to moderate. In practice, it was for him to learn. Not yet into his majority, he could not assume the duties of his position. But in the moment, his heart and mind were not in it. Trying to pay attention, he could not and his mind was set adrift. As the talk and excited retorts of the two monks broiled, punctuated by the loud claps that accentuated Tibetan debate the Dalai Lama went to think about the English. Their guns and weapons they had brought with them south from India. He was not allowed to be privy to the circumstances why. The regency council that surrounded him kept that a strictly confidential matter. But in his young years in the palaces of Tibet he learned to find a way to learn. Even as he was drowned in meaningless obligations and duties.

From what he heard, the British officers had first come north under the waning influence of the Russians. Those far northern men had retreated back to whatever land they had rode from beyond China. He thought they were like Mongols. They could be. He had never seen a Russian before, let alone a Mongolian. But others side they were European, they were like the British. But far ruder. So he had to let that be the reality.

Despite their origins however, the English were here. And has tensions flared into war in India, the consul they established in Tibet did not leave. If anything, it dug in deeper. And through the influences of these high majors tucked away at the roof of the world their weapons and wealth and influence came north. To what end the Dalai Lama could not grasp. But throughout his life they had been doing it. The debate closed, and he was again taken away. To review the troops.

Leaving the palace for the first time that day he traveled out of Lhasa born in a litter. Secluded in his canopy he rode on his cushioned chair. The coach rocked gently back and forth on the shoulders of the monks bearing him. Looking discreetly out the curtained windows he looked down at the faithful who lined the streets to bow and pray to his holiness passing before them. Surrendered to never knowing his face, they kept their heads bowed. Some prostrated on the ground, planting their faces in the dirt as they held their hands before them, palms pressed together. In their poverty they prayed for wealth to his Holiness and the continuation of the peace of the city. But he knew, what little he did know, that was only where the peace was: in the city.

Leaving the city he opened the curtains wider to get a fuller look at the world outside. The liter was born across a small canal cut through the rocky soil. Here the city of Lhasa began to thin as they made their way north. The roads became less paved, less packed gravel and more soft free sand. Ranges for yaks and goat, and fields of barley. Turning his head out into the cold late morning light he looked ahead. Looming atop a small hill in the distance was the fort of Drapchi. Its old walls white washed and shining in the light of the day.

Rising up the road to the fort, the soldiers exercising in the field stopped what it was they were doing to run to the side of the procession and to begin to pray and cheer the Dalai Lama. But it wasn't all of them, the young boy noticed. His gaze was pulled up by the yet still more distant soldiers that simply stood watching him go by. He wondered at their loyalties. He entered into the fort, and lost sight of them.

Passing immediately into the inner courtyard of the fort he was brought to a space along the side of the dusty barren parade ground where there stood a small group of officers with their hands behind their back. They looked up to see who was arriving, and immediately dropped to bow to the arriving Dalai Lama. An attendant with an umbrella was quick to appear as the liter was lowered and the Dalai Lama was shielded from the sun as he stepped out. Cold footed and nervous he looked up at his military officers and quietly greeted them with a blessing. Each of them returned the favor with a quick, quiet, “Thank you”.

The assembled officer corp was mixed. Only two bore striking European features. The other ten were mid-level officers of some degree but Tibetan or Nepalese. They all wore the same uniform, a light cream field jacket with belt. Distinguishing them from the general enlisted all of them wore slouch hats in the English style, though the brims wore flat and lowered to protect their eyes from the sun. Some even wide brimmed pith helmets, with a length of long corded yellow cloth.

“The regimental inspection will begin in just several minutes.” an officer said congenially, “If his holiness would not mind waiting.”

He thought to say he did mind waiting, and if they could begin now. But resigned, he knew what the situation was. “I understand.” he said, “May I wait in the shade?” he asked, looking across to a shaded arcade against the far wall.

The officer smiled, and nodded. He had his permission. Turning on his heels the youth ran to the shade of the gallery. The attendant running after to keep up. Several of the monks followed. But the rest lingered. “Your holiness, why do you run?” asked the attendant. The Dalai Lama did not answer. Stopping in the shade behind a pillar he turned to watch.

Minutes however passed, and little happened. The time lengthened and impatiently the Dalai Lama waited. “Several minutes” turned to several hours before finely a lone brass horn blew and a corp of senior officials began to walk out on the parade ground. Finely dressed military men in uniforms of the European style. Tibetan ministers in robes and dress like that of the old Chinese court. Seeing them the Dalai Lama thought, as he often did of the story he heard of Puyi. The fated last Emperor of China and how like he he was only a boy Emperor when he was deposed of the throne. This also was not a story many in his circles wanted him to know. But their silence was suspicious as he learned the story in pieces and seeing the powerful men with their swords hanging at their side he could not help but be afraid. The attendant who was with him, a young lieutenant not much older than he caught his look of freight and asked him, his voice heavy with concern, “What is wrong?”

The Dalai Lama realized fast he had shown something, and recoiled. As quickly as he could throwing on the mask of stoic ironic detachment he was meant to wear where ever he was. “Nothing. It is nothing.”

“I am sorry, but you looked afraid. Is something the matter?” he asked.

“No. Nothing is wrong.” he lied.

“I ask because you look worried. That is all.”

“No. I'm fine.”

The lieutenant nodded. His expression glowed with respect. Looking back up at the men now taking the field he said in a low voice, “Sometimes I wonder about them too. The British. I don't know what country it is they come from but I wish they would go back.”

The Dalai Lama said nothing in response. He only noted it.

As they took their positions a single bugle call was made, followed by the sound of marching drums as a band sprung to life somewhere in the fort. In a distant corner the Dalai Lama could make out a column of soldiers marching out from a distant barracks. Their faces fresh and ready. Rifles at their shoulders. Or muskets. Some had muskets.

Japanese Taiwan

Atayal Territory

The prodigal son had returned and the community came out to celebrate him. In a clearing along the side of the Liwu river the people had come down from the mountain villages and along the coasts to celebrate the return of their war hero. He had not just come home with honors, but had come home a man. By proximity, he had made himself not just a man, but his brothers too who may not have the same fortunes to go to war. Still dressed in his Imperial Japanese Army uniform, Baay sat in the shade of a canvas tent as old men with the old tattoos on their faces quickly and haphazardly smeared a greasy paint over he and his brother's faces. Still hot to the touch, they could not help but laugh as globs of it got into their mouth. The elders making jokes as they went. Teasing them and telling them how much more painful it must be for them. The comment was not just sarcasm. The Japanese had long removed their right to tattoo their faces. Any of them who did would be outcast as the Yakuza on the imperial home islands. And only those who would dare to do so would have to hide in the mountains. And these boys had wishes and duties to perform. But these duties did not staunch the deep pain in their hearts for not joining in the tradition which was now dying. They hoped deep inside them that they could one day tattoo their faces and revive the tribe.

Standing just at the edge of the tent, their sister Sayta stood smiling. She joined in the fun making. Cracking comments and laughing along. No one brought up his service. It was not needed here, not yet. This was too good a moment. For the time being, all comments could be made to The Head.

The Head stood at a place of pride in the celebrations. Haphazardly kept preserved, it had been smuggled over from the East Indies by Baay to reach his home village in the mountains. The trip itself was a story as much its taking. Baay had found someone who was willing to transport the thing in a crate of fruits. It wallowed for several days in customs before being unceremoniously moved on when an associate of the shipper retrieved the box and removed the head. Dumping the fruits explaining they were spoiled. By which point the canvas sack the head was stored in was suspected on several occasions. “It is meat, for my dogs” the man is said to have explained. Or: “It is fish guts, for the pigs”. It had almost been intercepted, but eluded capture. And as well as a sign of Baay's martial ability sat now the grand guest of honor as a sign of his ingenuity and cunning.

The Head had belonged once to a Dutchman from Dutch Indonesia. As Baay explained it was simply a patrol they had encountered. A skirmish ensued and the Dutch were forced into retreat. Later, Baay crept out in the night with his knife to find the site of the battle. No one had yet arrived to retrieve the bodies. Perhaps he thought: they were forgotten. All the same in the deep darkness of the tropical night he found a corpse, and removed its head. He had known some officers to keep trophy heads for a time. It was not hard to keep it for a time saying he would sell it to such a trophy hunter. So when it missing, when he had mailed it; it was believed that is what had happened.

As the old men finished the freshly minted Atayal men stepped out into the afternoon sun beaming with confidence and the people applauded and celebrated. Someone had acquired wine, and the cups were flowing in celebration of the boys-turned-men's fortunes. Baay was not much older than twenty-one. His siblings: Yabis, 16; Taraw, 15; and Iban, 16. They all joined him in maturity. Sayta had not yet reached that point yet, but looked forward to the day she could leave the loom for good. She had not yet managed to master her weaving. But her grandmother told her every night she was close. She just needed to keep working.

But the art of weaving hurt her hands. Every night before she went to bed after a full day of doing her chores, studies, and weaving her hands ached and she felt her fingers were slowly curling like her grandmother's. She was barely older than sixteen. She wanted to leave the loom and see the world, or the island in full. She had been told by a distant uncle that so long as she spoke clean Japanese and kept her face free of markings then she could go about the island as she pleased. “But the others,” he added, referring to the old tribes of the island, “they will always know.”

She felt a pang of guilt though. The influence of the Japanese weighed heavily over the island and in these mountains it was more common to see people wearing the clothes of the Japanese. Only the older generations continued to wear the intricate patterned dresses and skirts of the Atayal. By comparison to the single color cloth of the Japanese they were much more fantastic. But they proved to be cumbersome and called one out in town.

Smaller than most, Sayta was easily lost in a crowd and soon after her brother's mock tattooing she was eventually lost to the celebration as the sun began to set. But by then the wine had flowed strong and many were too lost in their drunkenness and revelry to notice as she wandered off down river. Her brother, the war hero managed to see her slip off, and took advantage of the celebratory confusion to make himself scarce to follow his sister. He was joined by Iban, who went racing after, his flesh blushing from alcohol.

“Wait up!” Baay called out, stopping Sayta before she wandered off too far. She stopped, surprised, looking back, “Where you going?”

“Thought I'd head to the beach.” she said, “I was about done with the party.” she added, smiling weakly to try and hide the shame of having to admit it.

“I'm about done too. I don't think they'll notice.”

“What about m-me?” Iban added in, startling the two of them. It was clear he was drinking too much.

“Don't you think you should go home?” Sayta asked. Iban shook his head determined. “No.” he replied.

The two of them shrugged and walked away in silence. Iban staggering behind them. In the dusk the mountain valley was silent, save for the rolling to the Liwu river. Behind them the sound and music of the party carried on the gentle night air. A gentle coolness was falling over the island. The two of them walked in silence. Iban mumbled out a song. Now and then they would check on him, seeing him weave left and right on the mouth, routinely raising and lowering his head, “Feels like I'm swimming.” he said in a long droning voice.

“You may have drank too much. Careful you don't fall over.” Baay told him.

“'scuse me?” Iban mumbled.

The valley road was forested on either side of the small road. Barely large enough to support a car. But out here few vehicles traveled. The failing light was fast to turn to black under the protective awning of the trees. Behind the branches and leaves of saplings and bushes the water of the Liwu shone in bands of purple and orange. A few birds flew around. But in all the jungle was quiet.

The road opened up as they began to trek down the hill from the mountains and the trees cleared, opening up to the great coast and beach as it met the great Pacific beyond it. Looking at it, all of them knew somewhere on that inky black sea the Japanese navy patrolled and the entire arms of empire squirmed and throbbed with the aggression and blood lust that sustained it. Baay knew it to well. Sayta finally decided, she had to know.

“How was it?” she asked them as they walked down to the beach. Iban stopped somewhere up the path to urinate. The two were mostly alone.

For a long time Baay didn't answer. He starred down instead at the milky white sand. The beach glowed in the edging moonlight. “I can't wrap my head around it.” he said finally, “I went in expecting it would be horrible. But I don't feel anything.”

“You don't feel anything?” Satya asked.

Baay nodded, “Perhaps it was I just didn't see much fighting. A lot of the men that carried the assault were mainlanders. The rest of us from Taiwan took a backseat. We cleaned up what they left behind.”

“So, is the story of the head true?” doubtlessly, The Head was still being treated with honors. Last she had seen it, it was being served bowls and cups of wine and fruits. A veritable spread had appeared before it. Half the banquet had ended up somehow before its cushion and bed of flowers.

“No, that's true.” he said, “It was my only real action though. I think about it a lot.”

“So you do feel something?” she asked.

“I don't know.” shrugging.

“I always thought war would be a horrible thing,” Satya went on, “I hear so much about the scars and injuries. About what happened during the last uprising. The villages destroyed. But really, nothing?”

“I don't know if it's the Dutch or my fortune. But: nothing. It was mostly a lot of marching and cleaning. The worst thing was we did the cleaning for the Japanese, while they did the fighting. I feel lucky that I managed what I did.”

“Amazing. But, I'm just glad you're back and safe and sound.” Satya smiled

“I hope so. But I hear I could be called back at any time. So who knows.”

In the distance they heard a loud popping sound. They both managed to look up in time to see a shape darting across the darkening sky. Smoke and fire trailing from a wing before with a crash it landed and skipped across the ocean, shooting up silver spray as he lurched and lunged towards land. Satya's heart immediately froze. Baay was charged with an instinctive energy and he ran towards the crash.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Abefroeman
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Abefroeman Truck Driver

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The Jungles of Eastern Hispaniola

It was hot and painfully humid. Nothing had gone as planned thus far. Sure, the storm had sent the army regulars scrambling for their barracks, but it has also scattered the planes far and wide. de Peralta's own plane had to make an emergency landing in a river, nearly ripping off the right wing in the process. He drank from his canteen, sweat dripping down his face as he tried to get the radioman's attention. Six days ago, that was how long it had been since landing. His own weapon lay discarded somewhere in the jungle, a fallen enemy's rifle now firmly clutched in his hands. The radioman finally came darting over, his beret tucked into the shoulderboard of his uniform. The radio crackled and hissed as it came to life, frantic chatter coming over the waves as de Peralta ordered the net cleared. He had to wait a few moments as different commanders barked orders, before the chatter died down aside from the occasional cross feed of the enemy communications.

"Enemy forces around Moca are in full retreat. Keep pressing east towards San Francisco de Macoris. Bring forward captured enemy armor, and use it to take Concepcion de la Vega. I know you are tired, and I know you are hurting. We are all in this together, and we shall win our home back. Listen to your commanders, the enemy has fight in them still. Peralta out." He handed the set back to the radioman, before turning to join the firing line once more, taking shots at the rapidly retreating regime forces. Ducking down, a shower of earth filled the air as a rifle grenade slammed into the ground nearby. All Peralta could think was, "This must surely be hell, war is hell..."
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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June 10th, 1955

Treasure Island Navy Base, San Francisco
Connected to Yerba Buena Island and Interstate 80, Treasure Island stood proudly as one of the country's first artificial islands. Previously the nearby island, Yerba Buena, was used as a training station during the Great War. Then, it closed down and left abandoned for decades. That was until millionaire Lewis Harrison proposed plans of a "miniature city" as a solution to San Francisco's recent population boom. Initially, there were only a handful of backers due to the rise of the Marincello development project. However, the McWilliams administration took notice of the proposal and invited Harrison to the White House.

After private talks on the matter, an agreement was reached between both parties, with the government assisting in constructing the artificial island. But then, the administration ended abruptly with President McWilliams' assassination in 1939. With the new Lindbergh administration, the agreement ended up being void, and the government straight-up took up the land. Lewis sued the government for taking his privately owned land without cause, but the lawsuit was tossed out in a year. Meanwhile, the United States Navy moved in to secure the land and build a naval testing facility for submarines. It still functioned like any other naval base, but with the Japanese threat growing, the Pacific Fleet needed to prepare for possible war.

Thus, Treasure Island Naval Base was born.

Officials began moving to the artificial island almost two years, but testing didn't start until a year ago. One of those people was General Patrick Noel. Patrick joined the military right after his own father, a Great War veteran, was arrested during the Great Cleansing. He had a lot to prove to his superiors, who feared that he was like his traitorous father. And that hard work and determination earned him the rank of General. Now, his services were needed to protect their only colony in Asia: the Philippines. Governor-General Norman Merino-Lowe requested reinforcements after Japanese forces took the Dutch city of Soerabaja.

Patrick honestly didn't give two shit about some backwater colony; however, the American government cared enough to approve the Governor-General's request. The former Spanish colony was still rich with mineral resources essential to the "continued development of the United States." Of course, it was also valuable to keep an eye on both China and Japan in case they were planning something sinister against America. Losing the colony island would put the country at a severe disadvantage, leaving only Hawaii as the significant naval base in the Pacific.

However, high command didn't care about how Patrick felt about the assignment. They expected him to follow through or face the consequences. And based on what happened to his own father after being punished, Patrick understood it was stupid to resist. But it meant telling his wife the bad news. She assumed that the naval base was going to be easy sailings until his retirement. And now, her husband was a heartfelt letter instead of telling her in person. While finishing off the letter, Patrick got a knock on the door.

"The ship is ready to depart in a few minutes, sir." the voice on the other side announced.

"I will be there in a few." Patrick responded and then waited a second before sighing. He processed to finish the letter and sealed it up in an envelope. Then, he departed for the post office located near the docks. The USS Benham was waiting nearby when the general entered inside. There weren't a ton of people inside besides the workers. He made his way to the PO box and then processed to drop the envelope before leaving without saying anything to the clerk. Outside, he took in a deep breath and then marched his way towards the destroyer.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Pagemaster
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Santo Domingo, Hispaniola

The doors to the Argentine consulate had barely been unlocked for the days business when they were thrown wide open by a dozen well dressed and determined looking men who marched straight toward the reception desk. The big marble expanse served to protect the alarmed looking clerks behind it from any physical attack but did nothing to soften the raised voices that echoed off the colonnades and polished stairs.

"We demand to see the Ambassador, at once! You may tell him that Senor Adolfo Carranza is here, along with representatives of various Argentine bushiness here in the Dominican!" A clerk, a pretty local girl, nodded quickly and hurried away toward the staircases while the collection of gentlemen milled about, prevented from following her by two burly soldiers.

The clerk returned within a few moments and beckoned the men to follow her. The heels of their shoes echoed like so many horses or cattle as they bustled along the stone floors, each trying to puff up his chest in an effort to look more important than the next. They passed painted images of Argentinian countryside, even one of the new Chilean territories, and many smaller rooms that appeared largely empty. The building had once been a wealthy wine merchants home until he ran afoul of the Dominican Dictator, Rafael Trujillo. The house had then been gifted to the Argentine government in return for aid in rebuilding damaged infrastructure. Trujillo had gotten his country back on its feet, well, enough for the newly arrived capitalists to begin exploiting and for him to profit from it.

They arrived, eventually, in a small garden where there was barely enough for all of them to crowd onto the stones, more than a few desperately trying to keep their polished toes from the moist brown dirt of the well kept garden. The ambassador, a short plump man who had made it rich in exploiting the resources of Hispaniola, eyed them over a cup of tea, a habit he had picked up from his British counterpart.

"Buenos días, señores. Welcome to my home."

"Good morning indeed!" Carranza replied as he doffed his hat for a moment. The rest quickly followed suit. "I am terribly sorry to interrupt, but we wished to speak with you about the situation to the north. The rebels are already causing damage to a number of our investments!"

The Ambassador raised a hand to prevent the murmur of agreement that was about to swell into more shouting. People often mistook his small size and portly frame for someone of low intelligence. That was doing him a disservice. By enjoying the position he held, and the access it gave him to Trujillo, he had built a considerable business empire of his own. He was a man to be feared and admired.

"Gentlemen, I have already contacted the President General and he assures me help is on the way. We cannot let these uncivilized Jingoistic rebels undo everything we have done." He finished his tea and looked down at a sheet of paper that was being held in place by his tea plate. Nearby, one of the businessmen cursed under his breath as a parrot shit on his shoulder. "I believe a Naval task-force has been dispatched, including a seaplane carrier."

"You mean to support Trujillo then?" Demanded the shit stained man.

"Yes, as long as it suits our interests. I have already spoken with my Spanish counterpart and he assures me that Spain will not allow its interests to be threatened here either. They are in no position to project power into the Caribbean, but they have promised considerable funds to us in order to assist with our own efforts."

A collective sigh of relief went through the group.

"What next then?"

"What next? My dear sir, have you not heard the horrible things the Rebels are doing? It's truly terrible. Rape! murder! Torture! Daily executions of men they capture!" The ambassador placed one hand daintily on his chubby chest as he spoke and adopted a look of pure sadness. He leaned forward. "I even heard they have been eating the hearts of some captives to absorb their strength!"

Gasps of horror went through the assembly and a few paled. Carranza gripped his cane fiercely and held it like it might be some sort of weapon. "We shall vote some funds at once to raise and arm local militias here in the city and surrounding countryside. Come gentlemen!"

Like a heard of ducklings following their mother, they hurried back out of the embassy. The ambassador watched them go and couldn't help but smile slightly. He was certain there were some actual war crimes being committed out by the rebels, but likely none as terrible as those he had invented and would broadcast to the world that afternoon.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Abefroeman
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Abefroeman Truck Driver

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Propaganda in the Jungle - The Rebel Cause.

"General de Peralta!" The radio man yelled from his covered dugout. He frantically beckoned his commander over as he switched the broadcast from the headset to the speakers they had requisitioned from a burned out outpost. The look on his face was that of scared kid, but de Peralta placed his hand on his left shoulder to reassure him. "You are doing great solider. Turn up the volume, let all the men hear it, let the world hear the lies of El Presidente Trujillo. There can be no doubt in who we are fighting against." de Peralta stood back up, and listened to the broadcast being transmitted from Santo Domingo that very moment.

A male and female broadcaster duo were speaking very tersely, with a slight tinge of fear in their voices. 'Good and smart. Using a woman will help garner sympathy from the Westerners no doubt. Though the fear... I wonder if that is from what they are reading, or if that fat pig Trujillo has gunmen in the room with them.'

"Proud people of Hispaniola, of the Dominican Republic, rejoice and know that Presidente Trujillo stands with you against these rebel defilers. Take faith and comfort in knowing your loyal soldiers and marines are here to protect you. The Government has always had your best interest at heart. We have cared for you through the storms of both nature and man, and here we still stand with you." The man had spoken first, a strong and proud voice, before inviting the woman to speak.

"Your proud soldiers and marines fight in the North against the rebels, a pack of wild dogs without a master. Our sons, fathers, brothers, uncles, our proud men of the uniform can not fight without your support, as without us, they have but naught to fight for. Our soldiers, sworn by duty and oath to our Presidente, fight against barbaric monsters who seek to enslave our proud and free people. It is with a heavy heart that I must report to you these harrowing reports from the front, with permission from the military and Presidente Trujillo himself, to show you who we are fighting against."

One of the other radio operators called de Peralta over, having him listen in to a military channel they had tapped into via the outpost's telephone wires. "Yes, your orders are to seal off the ports and airfields. Presidente Trujillo's orders. No one is to leave the country. He and his commanders have issued strict travel orders as well, the people are to stay at their places of residence when not at work. Just get it done, General Garza already sacked two colonels who questioned the orders."

de Peralta shook his head in disgust, before listening back in to the propaganda broadcasts. He even agreed with his enemy on some level, using the civilians as shields against his invasion, and ensuring that no one could flee from the conflict. All about control with Trujillo, a man gone mad with power and his iron grip upon the people.

"It's truly terrible. Rape! Murder! Torture! Daily executions of loyal soldiers they capture! There have even been isolated reports that they are eating the hearts of captives to absorb their strength! People of Hispaniola, we can not let these devil worshipers into our midst. Together as one nation, we must fight against them, and repel them back into the sea." The woman finished speaking, even sounding as though she had been crying as she turned the broadcast back over to the man.

"And yet, sadly, there are some among our great people who do not march with us. Their voices raised in dissent and opposition. Rebel sympathizers and traitors! Soft minds that take the words of the Rebels for truth! Policía de Hierro are our guiding shepherds, these brave and noble men who seek out those who bear the seeds of rebellion in their hearts and question the way of Presidente Trujillo. To those of rebel sympathy, and to those who harbor sympathizers, hear this: Would you have us embrace the very monsters that seek to enslave us? Would you make us lay down our rifles and surrender our armor, stark naked before a force that wishes only death for us? Peace is something we all desire, none greater than Presidente Trujillo, but the rebels would make it the peace of the grave! Shattering our nation's spirit and burning us to ashes, our wives and daughters enslaved, our sons and fathers entombed! Beware the puppets amongst us, sons and daughters of Hispaniola! Know them, and spite them! Give them no succor or shelter! If any one of you doubts the fidelity of another, be it neighbor, brother, parent, or child, speak! It is the sworn duty of the Policía de Hierro to isolate and re-educate these misguided souls. To bring them back to our fold. Expunge their weakness for the greater good!" The man spoke in a fiery tone, as though he were giving a religious sermon rather than reading the news. He had finished, saying something to the effect of 'My apologies...'

The woman spoke up again, the sound of tears almost in her eyes personified into her voice. "I understand why people won't forget their pain, the loved ones we've lost, the countless innocents slaughtered by the rebels. We must never forget that these rebels are the same snakes driven from our great lands nearly thirty years ago. We must never forget. These men are no longer our friends, family, they are no longer our people. They make their pithy, mewling claims of liberty and righteousness, and all the while, they look upon the face of our brave and noble soldiers with loathing and disgust. The enemy sees your soldiers as prey, livestock fit only for killing. To the foe we are less than human, but they will learn their mistake, my people. We do not suffer the fox and the snake who threaten our chickens, nor shall we suffer the rebels who eat the hearts of men."

The broadcast ended there, outside of some updates on commodities being rationed, the power grid needing to be conserved, and the other litany of governmental control over its people.

Rebel support amongst the people - The Northern Front

General Corso was helping to oversee the distribution of captured arms and munitions to locals that had been flocking to their cause. Already, he had seen some two thousand men alone come over to them, and their stories had been a variation of the same tale. 'Presidente Trujillo was a brutal dictator, having sold his own people out to foreign capitalist investors, with his cadre of secret police meting out beatings, imprisonments, and executions to any who did not subjugate themselves to his regime.' They knew support for them would be greatest in the North and the South-West, but even this had not been expected. There was even the two battalions that had defected to the rebel cause. The Major and Lieutenant-Colonel of their respective battalions held no love for Trujillo, both of whom had lost family members to the Policía de Hierro roundups throughout the years. They had spoke to General Corso about the conditions of the army, with those closer to the capital receiving preferential treatment, better supplies, gear, food, pay, while those in countryside appeared to be an inconvenient after thought.

Together with the incoming local militias, and the defectors, General Corso was planning to push South over the Cordillera Central and seize control of San Juan de la Maguana and its vital airfield. With the jungles for cover, and now local knowledge of the terrain, the plan was in motion to be carried out in less than twelve hours. General de Peralta had given his blessing, and would continue the fight East, San Francisco de Macoris and Concepcion de la Vega needed to fall to ensure full control of the Northern sector. He had his own fight to trudge through, and now it was General Corso's turn to bring glory to the Guarda Coasta.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Pepperm1nts
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Pepperm1nts Revolutionary Rabblerouser

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(I’m posting this extremely unfinished post here just to force myself to write the rest sooner. I’m not bothering to space it out yet. Pretend this isn’t here)

Remgrad, City of the World Revolution

Things hadn’t aged here since the Great War. Their Aerowagon looked like something from the past and future had been fused together and hurled back in time - the product of insular thought and necessity, it had the appearance of a princely Victorian carriage, with rear, spoked wheels bigger than a man, and smaller front wheels like that of a bicycle. An aircraft engine powered a large rear-mounted propeller used for on-rail, high-speed propulsion. Louverture watched the blur of buildings pass by the windows as the Aerowagon sped over the tracks. The old dwellings became more deteriorated the closer they got to the outskirts of the city, where heavy bombardment rendered every construction an aging ruin. It felt like he had boarded a time-traveling machine to when the fires of Revolution raged most fiercely. First there had been buildings weathered by time but otherwise intact, with asymmetrical additions and repairs that clung to the old Tsarist structures like time-warped growths, rising vertically and outward one on top of the other, utilizing every bit of space available to the revolutionary inhabitants of this place lost in time. That was the present. Then came the crumbling remains of edifices long-ago destroyed by artillery barrages, slumped against one another and riddled with the markings of slaughter. This no-man’s-land was a glimpse of thirty years prior, in stasis, both destroyed and preserved by the war. Here the ruins were prowled by Communists and Queensmen shooting at one another from behind the rubble in sporadic skirmishes fought endlessly through a fog-of-war so thick it obscured everything physical and not. Louverture knew of men who fought here every day having long-forgotten why, their minds twisted and fixed only on the need to kill; the buildings were like desiccated trees too stubborn to die, and those who prowled the concrete jungle like man-hunters, lying in wait behind the ruins for men-prey to cross their rifle scopes. This was where the present and the past clashed without a future in sight.

Louverture hoped the men he led would turn out different. That the war would not sway them to their baser instincts and that they would instead carry on with grace and a good purpose. He had christened himself and them with the names of good men, of liberators, and men of moral character. He travelled with a John Brown and Shields Green; with Nat Turner and Robert Shaw; Rainsford Jayhawker, Douglass and Quaker Comet among them too. The Russians had done the same with theirs. Every man and woman here had rid themselves of their old name and taken up a new one in a ceremony awash with the color red. There were Revmiras, Ideyas, and Engelsinas here; Marlens, Barrikads, and Vilenors named that way after fallen revolutionaries, theorists, and simple concepts. As far as Louverture could tell, these were the names of people and things smashed together to create something new that was neither Christian nor Tsarist; it was a complete renouncement of the old Russian tradition. Something built on the ruins of the past, like all things in Remgrad.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Mexico City, Distrito Federal
July, 1955

The morning commute for these employees was just as routine as any other. A bus stopped at its station halfway down the street, outside of the wrought-iron fencing reinforced with brick columns that secured an imposing compound of office buildings. The employees, like most other government men, marched towards the entrance of the gates dressed in drab suits of black, grey, and blue while carrying leather briefcases. They queued on the sidewalk as guards checked their paperwork and badges, another traffic jam in a day full of them. Simple entrance signs next to the guardhouses of the bored policemen displayed the names of their workplace: the Departamento de Investigación Politica y Social.

The DIPS was born from security concerns following the revolution, being descended from Venustiano Carranza’s Sección Primera. Throughout years of name changes and reorganizations, the Sección Primera provided an organized intelligence service to hunt down lingering revolutionaries and insider government threats that showed themselves after the conclusion of Adolfo de la Huerta’s failed 1923 uprising. As the world regained its footing and international relations became a central focus of Mexican government policy, the mission of DIPS expanded to handle the onslaught of challenges. Responses to American border incursions, spy missions in the glitzy embassies of Havana, and rooting out Brazilian economic espionage all became daily activities in the DIPS’s foreign branch.

It was on the fourth floor of the foreign branch’s headquarters where a young man sat some time later in the morning, sullen faced, hands clasped in his lap. He wiped the sweat from his brow and looked down at his half-shined shoes. The sound of typewriters clacking away in the open-aired office in front of him wasn’t enough to drown out the thoughts that swirled around in his brain. His mind, albeit scrambled, formed one coherent message again and again that poked and prodded at his psyche: I fucked up. I really fucked up.

He hated waiting, but this was worse. He had just been bailed out of a Mexico City prison on Saturday night by his supervisor and was called in to report to Arturo Urbano himself, the director of the DIPS Foreign Service. The agent tried to steady himself but still jumped when Director Urbano emerged from the wooden door. “Valdés, Enrique,” Urbano called out sternly, eyeing the young man’s name on an index card. Agent Valdés jumped to his feet, standing straight up to the director. “Yes, sir,” he answered.

“Get your ass in here,” the director barked, stepping back through the door.

Valdés moved quickly, shaking as he stepped inside the office. Urbano had already returned to his massive upholstered chair behind the oak wood desk, staring intently at a printed out record atop a brown personnel file. The door shut, blocking out the typewriters and conversations in the office behind it. Only a ticking clock broke the silence.

“Agent Valdés, what project are you working on?” Urbano asked, eyes never looking up to the anxiety-riddled man in his office.

“The, uh, Jamaica analysis, sir,” stammered Valdés. “Local political factions that would be friendly to us there.”

“I don’t really care about the specifics,” Director Urbano said, putting the paper down. He stared at Valdés from behind a thick mustache. “Did something outstanding happen that I didn’t know about?”

“What, sir?” asked the young agent.

“Outstanding, you know. Cause for celebration. Because it sure looks like you were celebrating,” chastised the director. Before Valdés could respond, he went down the rap sheet in front of him. “Drunk in public, fighting a motherfucker, punching a goddamn cop, and trying to make a getaway in your automobile despite being drunker than a vagrant on the street. And this isn’t the first time this has happened. Your supervisor wants you off the team, and he kicked you all the way up to me. You’re in a shitload of trouble, kid.”

Urbano stood up from the desk, walking around it while still glaring menacingly at Valdés. He opened up a small humidor that sat beside a wooden bookshelf and took a cigar from its top shelf. A small yellow and green Cohiba label wrapped around the thickly rolled tobacco leaves. The director paused to light it, puffing smoke out into the room. Whatever he was doing, if it was a deliberate intimidation tactic or not, Valdés felt like it worked. He had removed his shirt jacket and was now directly in front of the young agent with his hands on his hips, puffing on the cigar.

“I should fire you and let you go get a shit job with the tax office,” he said, shaking his head. “You know how much of a pain in the ass people like you cause me?”

“No, I-”, stuttered the young man, trying his best to stay straight as the director leaned his face forward into his. Despite being shorter in stature, Urbano seemed like he could just as easily snap Valdés’s neck as sign a memo ordering his employment terminated.

“I wasn’t asking,” Urbano cut him off. He looked out towards the city street. Just a few blocks away was the famous Paseo de la Reforma with its fancily-embellished banks, high rises, and offices. He turned back to Valdés: “But you have one saving grace in this department, and that’s purely because God must love you or something.”

Urbano went back to his desk, withdrawing another, thicker folder from a filing cabinet adjacent to his humidor. Like most other documents in the DIPS office, it bore a red “SECRETO” classification stamp. He tossed it onto the desk in front of Valdés where it landed with a heavy thud.

“There were some developments at our Cuban embassy last week, a bunch of ragtag guys have decided that they wanted to take a stab at the Dominicans and Haitians… they call themselves the Guarda Costa of Hispaniola. Whatever the hell that means: I haven’t seen that word in print since my old history textbooks. Here’s everything we know about them. You’re the new project lead.”

Valdés was speechless. His fear turned to confusion, expressed in his face while he restrained his body to keep standing up. Urbano blew a puff of smoke at the agent. “You have questions?” he asked sardonically.

“I, uh, where is the workplace?” was all Valdés could say.

“Your workspace?” snorted Director Urbano. “It’s down in the basement, next to the boiler room. You have a crew of five. All of them are kind of fuckups like you. You’ll get along great. I’ll send you off that way with the deputy to give you your specific orders later. You’re dismissed.”

Valdés hesitated, the urge to click his heels together and salute washing over him. He had spent two years in the service like most men and had been in trouble many times as a young eighteen-year-old. DIPS, however, was nominally civilian even if most of the staff were former military men: there was no rigid procedure like he had to perform in uniform. But he simply nodded, grabbing the folder in front of him and turning for the door. Director Urbano called out his name as he pushed open the heavy door separating the office from the working floor.

“Valdés,” he said. “Just don’t fuck this one up.”
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Your colleague, friend, brother

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July 7th, 1955

Our country of Turkey has long suffered injustice. Indeed it had done so from its very inception, where Imperialist invaders occupied its rightful lands. The international stage as some called it scoffed at the Turkish people, they decried their efforts to be free from terrorism that the Arabs and Kurds so viciously insisted upon. But the Turks persevered. Turkish resolve pushed out the traitors, the villains South. It pushed them North, it pushed them East and West and every way away from Turkey. Many times a foreign coward has tried - and failed pathetically - to return these wrongs inflicted upon our brave people. Not once have these horrible people succeeded.

But our work is not done. Though within the Republic of Turkey our people enjoy unprecedented rights, freedoms, a cultural renaissance, luxuries, and a respect for our way of life, many of our kinsmen abroad cannot enjoy such wonders. Within the Caucasus, even now our fellow Turks of Azerbaijan, Azeris, Azerbaijanis, they are oppressed. The tyrants of the self proclaimed Transcaucasian Republic stifle their culture, their development, their faith. They demand their efforts for conflicts they have no interest in, they aim to remove the soul of our dear brothers and sisters for their childish cause. We cannot let this stand.

As of today, I, your Prime Minister, demand of the Transcaucasus that they issue a free and fair referendum for Azerbaijan to willingly join the Turkish Republic as an autonomous Republic. Should the self-determination of Azerbaijan’s people be resisted, then our nation will be forced to take drastic steps. Thank you.

The recording was distributed across the nation by television and radio, and a very similar letter was sent to the relevant embassies and couriers some time before. It was truly a throw of the coin on whether or not the Transcaucasians would accept the offer of a free referendum, and though he did not doubt the results of it he doubted the good faith in their presentation. They would of course be intelligent enough to not falsify the vote to a truly obscene level. But he knew there were other ways to suppress the will of the people. Perhaps men from the rest of the Caucasus would be bussed in to vote in a land they had never lived in. Perhaps they would create a protocol to apply for the vote by which they would cut out much of the relevant voters. But if lazy they could quite simply adjust the percentage for a narrow victory in their favour.

There were contingencies in place for just this. Mountaineers, artillery, and motorized infantry had all been discretely mobilized in the Turkish East to ensure that if the Transcaucasian government failed to do so, the Turkish government would ensure the destiny of Azerbaijan would come to life. At the same time, infantry and mechanized divisions had been prepared in the South for a counter-attack in the event of opportunism from the Kurds and Arabs. Avnicoglu truly did not want war. It was bad for everyone involved, but it was better than letting injustice reign. Drumming his fingers on his desk he relaxed, asking his secretary for tea and the newspaper. One of those which he didn’t control the headlines for if possible. Perhaps he’d go for a walk with the children after lunch! Then of course, he'd have to sit with the generals to hear of the preparations for the smaller, more isolated conflict that would be made to control an actual land border with Azerbaijan should it be allowed to reunify but said route was not given. After all, enclaves and exclaves were so messy on the map; they just wouldn't do.
Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Yam I Am
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Yam I Am Gorgenmast Did Nothing Wrong

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Tblisi, Georgia, Transcaucasia
July 8th, 1955

While the exterior of the parliament proudly proclaimed the iron willpower of Georgia's testament to time, the round table the premiers sat around only told the tale of some most desperate souls. The interior was musky, dripping an oozing haze of mist and lint caked from the morning sun. Their impromptu council room had flooded itself with village elders, generals, lieutenants, adventurers, and any and all who cared to pack themselves into this rancorous meeting of minds.

"If they want their damned precious Turks so much, I say they can have them! And if they aren't happy with that, i'll enjoy watching those Turks try to march a Renault across the Javakhk Range."

Ah, young Vazha. The Georgian incessantly boasted with impressive proclivity upon himself, leaning well along the more aggressive side, from the tiniest stern glance in basic small talk to the bombastic exchanges in the high courthouse. And here, in the early hours of the morning, he unyielded his verbal incendiaries. He had a temper, no doubt, but that same fiery temperament lent him a certain popularity. Blyukher cracked a faint smile, a bit remnisicent of that same tempering of temper fading as he had been through some four decades of war. From his etched, creased face easily slid an approving grin, a reminiscence of the fire he felt fade through the years.

"What are you suggesting?!"

"It's simple! If that minister is so concerned with Turks living in Turkey, well, we here in the Caucasus have plenty of horses to ensure they may all reach the border safely..."

All the Armenians - save Petrosyan - chortled in turn, peppered with acrimonious applause. She, on the other hand, mulled about in an awkward smile, its ilk given only for conflicted and uncomfortable disagreements. Most among them would never be so arrogant as to say they could march on Ankara, but a scrap with the Turks? One of the few things that seemingly kept the realm together, and at that, a chance few would pass up.

"We should wait to see what the foreign powers have to say." Viyan protested, "Terrain and the people may be on our side...but it's not too late to find more...amiable solution."

"And just who do you think will stick their necks out for us?"

Viyan flashed a warm smile.

"'If God is with us, then who is against us?'"

"Do you actually expect this to work?" a junior officer voiced, the doubt in his face dropping from his wary frown.

"If it does, all well and good." She confidently responded, "And if not...it will buy us some time."

"Time we're wasting..." Vazha hushed beneath his ruffian mustache. If the Turks wanted a fight, Vazha and many others would gladly oblige. Their Chechen friends ran the last time they had fought, and their bigger brothers might not prove much different; Apples never fall far from the tree, after all.

But thankfully, Petrosyan had the sense between them to prepare.
Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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And work it did.

Starosta was shocked, frankly, at the speed at which the General Assembly had convened and reached a decision on an official stance regarding the Turkish threats - pleasantly surprised, but surprised, nonetheless. There had been plenty of shouting, of course, as there usually was, but the shouting, for once, was mostly all directed at the Turkish government, or regarding various degrees of Republic involvement in a theoretical war with Turkey.

She, it was decided, would be the one to deliver the telegram alongside her air, as there was scarcely little time to waste finding someone whose job it was to courier the thing.

Thankfully, that only involved a breakneck sprint across the building, throwing open the door to the building's telegraph center without a second thought. Starosta slammed a sheaf of papers down on the operator's desk, jabbing at the topmost sheet with her finger.

"You've got a busy day ahead of you, comrade. Take this down Now."

Hidden 2 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Havana, Cuba
August, 1955

Whether by necessity of the mission or the sheer fact that the DIPS headquarters wanted to get rid of him, Enrique Valdés found himself and his crew on an Aeroméxico charter flight straight to the palm-lined avenues of Havana. Valdés could hardly wait; it was a far sight better than the basement office that he had been confined to for the past month. He had heard rumors of the Mexican government’s activities in Havana, but the office had always restricted transfers to the most talented or secretive operatives. More important than that, the clubs and nightlife of the city were world renowned for their glamor.

The plane touched down on the runway with a thud and taxied towards the terminal of the international airport, its facilities and concourses far beyond even Mexico City’s terminal. As a hub of often competing factions, Cuba proved to be a conveniently placed neutral ground for transit and business both legal and illegal. The Cuban authorities raked in cash from all sides of the regional powers, and it showed. Modern architectural design boldly defined the international features of José Martí International Airport. Over the intercom, the pilot announced that they were pulling into the terminal and thanked them for flying Aeroméxico. A stewardess patrolled the aisles with an ashtray, allowing the passengers to stub out their cigarettes before disembarking.

Valdés’s sunglasses shielded him from the worst of the sunlight as he emerged from the cabin door to descend the staircase that had been rolled up to the vibrantly bright-orange fuselage of Mexico’s premier airliner. He felt the humidity of the Cuban summer immediately wash over him. Clutching a pair of suitcases, he stepped onto the hot tarmac of the airport and scanned around the crowd of waiting people for his contact. The DIPS office had given him only a name: Carlos Rubio. Valdés knew better to ask around in the crowd, instead deciding to wait until someone called for him.

“Enrique!” came a cheery voice from his side. “Hey man, I’m over here.”

Valdés turned his head to see an eccentrically man with one hand in his pocket and the other waving him over. Dressed in Bermuda shorts with a rolled-up button down shirt and sunglasses atop a mess of curly hair, Carlos looked more like a tourist than a diplomat. The two DIPS agents met and exchanged a firm handshake. “I can always tell,” Carlos deadpanned. “You new guys always look like you’ve got a business meeting to remove the stick out of your asses. Did Urbano inspect you before you came out here?”

“What? Are you Sen͂or Rubio?” stammered Valdés, cocking his head to the side.

“You can just call me Carlos. And I’m just gonna call you Enrique. I don’t like last names, neither do most of the boys in the office here,” Carlos said with a chuckle, patting Enrique’s shoulder. His hand returned to his pocket after each exchange, almost like they lived there when not doing anything else. He looked down to the brown suitcases that the newcomer had just set down on the ground. “I can get someone to take care of that.”

He whistled for an attendant waiting with a baggage cart who ran over and stood smartly before the man. Carlos said the name of a hotel into the boy’s ear and placed a small bill into his waiting hand. The attendant grinned, waved to his friend, and both rushed forward to take Enrique’s suitcases. They scurried off to the cart, tossing them roughly into the back before walking off towards the airport terminal. Carlos looked at the perplexed Enrique: “Don’t worry,” he assured him, “the boys don’t steal your shit. They get beat by their manager if they do. Let’s go get some drinks.”

Carlos took Enrique inside, up through a staircase that led them to the terminal proper. Havana’s airport was massive, with spokes going in every direction leading to various countries’ national airlines. Pan Am flights left daily to Miami and the Southern states, Panair do Brasil flew to Rio de Janeiro, and a lavishly decorated gate to the British Overseas Airways Corporation led to their famed transatlantic flight services. Enrique looked at the sign for BOAC with a pang of morbid curiosity: part of their coordinated war plans involved capturing their pilots and aircraft with the express purpose of handing them British officials for a one-way trip back to the United Kingdom. A political act of merciful deportation to curry diplomatic favor and generate its reputation as a “good war.”

He ignored a uniformed British pilot chomping on a cigar with a cavalier swagger as he tried to flirt with a Cuban stewardess. Enrique wondered if he would be facing a Mexican paratrooper’s gun barrel in the next few weeks. Carlos led Enrique past the main concourse’s huge center stage where they apparently put on shows and musical performances during high-travel periods. It was empty now, with huge speakers playing an upbeat dance number much to the delight of a drunk passenger who stumbled around in front of the stage pretending to salsa dance with an invisible partner.

Outside the grand windows of the airport, the view of the tarmac and the airplanes parked along it contributed further to the grandeur of the airport. Enrique even caught a glimpse of the dirigibles moored along towers in a field past the runway: Cuba had bought several German zeppelins and had made a lot of money setting up Caribbean tour lines by air. Rich Mexicans and Americans alike would book leisure cruises on these airborne hotels, enjoying fine dining and entertainment with a view few things could match.

Their detour around the stage led them around to a large bar situated on a ledge overlooking the center stage. Carlos ushered Enrique inside, finding them a booth next to the window in the back. Carlos invited Enrique to sit down, carefully hiding an examination of the bar’s patrons. He’d been here before, and some of the other customers certainly had too. While Carlos never tacitly acknowledged it, he knew many of the people here. They knew him as well.

The window looked over a small garden separating the automobile loop by the main entrance. Tropical plants arranged pleasantly presented a welcoming view to frame the entrance of Cuba’s premier port of travel. A new parking lot had been built for the increasing number of private Cuban cars, many of which were owned by wealthier Havana residents in professional industries. Beyond that, the sprawling colonial architecture of the city was seen in the distance: José Martí had been built on old plantation land and was still in a rural part of the country just outside of the Havana city limits.

“So, Enrique,” said Carlos as he finally sat down and waved at the bartender. The balding Cuban man standing by the taps motioned for a waitress to approach the table. “How long are you gonna be here?” he asked.

“Hopefully not more than a few months,” the new employee replied. The waitress arrived at the table, leaning up against the table in a tight dress that left little to the imagination. Carlos obviously was enjoying the scene as Enrique uncomfortably tried to order a drink, his awkwardness twisting his words: “Yeah, hi, uh… shit, I’ll just have whatever… yeah, what my colleague wants.”

Carlos chuckled, cocking his head towards the waitress. “What’s your name, baby?” he said with an attempt at charm.

The waitress smiled and played the game, stepping back from the table and putting her hands on her hips. “Vera,” she replied. “Now it looks like you’ll be ordering for two. What are you thinking?”

“Tell you what,” Carlos said, looking back at Enrique. “My associate hasn’t had much of the stuff before so I think I’ll treat him to some of that bourbon you have here.”

Vera agreed and told Enrique that Carlos had made an excellent choice. She left back to the bar. “I thought you were some kind of party animal,” Carlos chuckled. “Getting all square about it now? You should be killing it with the ladies.”

“Yeah,” Enrique said, tugging at the collar of his dress shirt. “I guess not at work though. It caught me off guard. They have bourbon here? It’s hard to find back home.”

“Of course!” exclaimed Carlos as Vera returned carrying a platter with a pair of snifters and a bottle balancing atop it. She placed the glasses down with a sharp clink and poured from the white-labeled bottle. The name “Jim Beam” topped stamp with the letter B on its label, a banner boldly describing it as “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” in English. Enrique watched her pour a heavy amount of the whiskey before smiling again at Carlos. “Let me know if you need anything else, hon,” she said with a wink.

Enrique swirled the copper-colored liquor in his glass as Carlos raised his glass for a toast. The pair clinked together and both took a sip. It was good: Enrique was never a fan of the whiskies in Mexico, but something about the bourbon lit a fire in his chest. “Huh,” he said. “Shame we don’t have this in Mexico.”

“I know, right?” Carlos agreed as he took another drink. “I keep taking jobs here so I can enjoy the fine liquors of the world.”

Enrique laughed, sniffing the wide-brimmed brandy glass and enjoying the new smells of American whiskey. He was thinking about the bottles that he might need to stuff in his suitcase for the plane ride home. After all the fighting kicked off, he had no idea if he would be seeing this again.

“So the building you’re working in is real nice,” said Carlos as he changed the subject back to work. “It’s an old hotel a few blocks away from the embassy where your main staff are. Pretty far away from the flagpole, the environment is easygoing enough that the regional director won’t get too stupid on you.”

“That’s a relief. I need some time away from the stuffy assholes in charge.”

Carlos raised his eyebrows in agreement, looking out the window as a plane thrummed it way off the runway and gracefully raised into the air. It banked towards the coast, sunlight glinting off the blue and grey paint scheme that Pan Am was famous for.

“Another benefit, you’re close to these Dominicans that are holed up in Havana,” added the agent. “I couldn’t believe the balls on them, they just walked into the embassy and said they’re setting up their own country over there. Good for them. Got some drive.”

“Have they been talked about around town?” Enrique said, looking over his shoulder. He could sense the eyes on him: he turned around to see a handsome forty-something American man with a square jaw and a close-cropped haircut wearing a pearly white suit chatting with a friend in a booth on the other side of the bar. He had looked away by the time Enrique noticed, but Carlos had been keeping his own eyes on him.

“I wouldn’t worry about that guy,” reassured the veteran agent. “I think his name is Bill or something. American OSS, obviously. Very obvious, they just send the movie stars in white suits down to send a message. He clearly doesn’t want to know what we’re talking about, just tell us that the gringos are always watching. I see him around from time to time. I don’t even think he speaks Spanish.”

“Plus these guys already know your friends are in town. Didn’t exactly keep it secret when they arrived, asking every swinging dick on the street for directions to the embassy. Half these people are.”

Carlos nodded to Vera, who was serving the American another beer. The bottle appeared to be the stout brown bottle signature to the Modelo brand. Either the man liked Mexican pilsners or, more likely, he was signaling to the Mexicans. “She’s definitely collecting. But I like to ‘collect’ on her, if you know what I mean. Great ass, for a Cuban.”

Enrique shrugged. He couldn’t tell the difference, or least didn’t have the experience yet. Pretty girls were all the same to him.

“I figure the, uh, Gua-,” Enrique began, but Carlos cut him off.

“We have a phrase for them. Unidad is the project name, seeing as that’s what they want to do to that ‘Hispaniola’ of theirs. We generally want to obfuscate their identities and specifics, even if the actual group isn’t that secret. They’re fighting a vicious war, for fuck’s sake.”

In the corner, Bill quietly finished his beer and paid with a stack of Cuban pesos underneath the empty bottle. Without a word to Vera, the bartender, or the DIPS agents in the other booth, him and his partner both stood up to leave. They carried suitcases along with them to fool the average airport employee into thinking they were passengers, but the way they effortlessly jerked the cases off the floor indicated that they were empty. “Looks like the OSS is done here. And so are we,” Carlos said. He swirled the last of his bourbon in the glass and downed it before withdrawing his wallet from below the table.

“Vera!” he called out, catching the attention of the waitress who now only had them left to serve. “How much do I owe you?”

Vera sauntered over, looking down at the two men with her hands on her hips. “Well, for the two glasses of the American stuff? Three pesos.”

“Three pesos?” inquired Carlos, flipping out bills and flashing a thick wallet to her. He counted off three from his stack, looked at her, then counted off a few more. “How about if I give you nine, I’ll throw in the address of my hotel for free?”

Vera raised her eyebrow, her expression turning from playful flirtation to disgust. “How about you tip me an extra peso for my service, pig. That might convince me not to throw you out.”

Carlos walked back the money and put four pesos down on the table. Vera snatched it up angrily, fuming off towards the bar. The agent looked back to Enrique, untroubled, and shrugged: “Always worth a shot with these broads. Now how about we get a cab and I show you where you’re staying for the next while?”
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Yam I Am
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Yam I Am Gorgenmast Did Nothing Wrong

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A collaboration with @Jeddaven

Krakov, PUL
July 1955

With the flat end of his long cane’s handle, Blaskowitz gently pushed the model pieces along the gentle greens of the strategic map. The barely centimeters tall figurines would pale even in comparison to the height of a Zloty’s coinage, but when compared to the other markers which littered the map that was the West Ukrainian Front, the miniature tanks appropriately towered over their diminutive counterparts. Their coordinated transition elegantly slided alongside the browned outlines of the road to Korosten, at which their gliding slide gently stopped with a *clink*, stopping at the outline of an infantry token.

“An armored assault, northwest of Korosten due southeast, will be necessary if we are to make more substantial progress in Ukraine.” the old general announced, retrieving his cane with a hint of wariness to it. His greyed hairs gently escaped from his general’s cap, slowly brustling in the wind while he exhaled in tire. Johannes had long held his position - tenured from the bygone days of Toller’s administration - and had been tested from the training fields of Pomerania to the rugged mountains within China’s vast interior.

“I expect the Ukrainian National Army to be well-entrenched in the positions due central-west. It is best that we maneuver quickly.” he added.

Kompaniyets - Johannes’s grizzled Ukranian counterpart - nodded slowly, massaging his halfway bedraggled black beard. A notoriously practical (or perhaps lazy) man, he had little patience for maintaining his appearance beyond when it got in his way, but his decades of experience leading PUL tank divisions earned him a place at the table. To his right stood Representative Starosta, and to his left, a much younger man, clad in the dark blues of the PUL's Air Force.

“Our reconnaissance reports agree.” The old general nodded, lifting his moustache with a frustrated exhale. The young man nodded.

“I’m worried that they will try to destroy the rail hubs in the city. We will need to move at lightning-place if we want to stop them from sabotaging the rail lines. If everything remains on schedule, my tanks can start moving within... Three days, at worst.” He explained, glancing sidelong at the younger man - Szymon Nowacki, one of the youngest generals in the PUL military, and a major motivator behind the recent push towards a massive expansion of air power. “We don’t have time for a siege, either. Ideally, their fortifications are pounded to dust before we reach them.”

The old general frowned, lightly narrowing his eyes - a signature gesture of him in his advanced age as means to show that he politely indicated disagreement.

“I doubt they would try to destroy the railway lines within the city proper.” Blaskowitz dissented, shaking his head, “Without sufficient anti-armor, I believe it is more likely that they will use the railways to mount a retreat and regroup their forces along the Dnieper. To demolish them prior to such would pose them with a severe loss in mobility.”

“Regardless...yes, we do need to act quickly upon this. And I believe the longer we delineate on this, the more extensive their fortifications will inevitably be.” Johannes nodded along at last, slowly retracting his steps from the map as he paced about the war room. Light steps, one after the other, contrasted with the usual sonorous clomps of each cane clutch which reported throughout the hardwood.

With a heavy sigh, the greying general reclined into the most graciously provided chair alongside the opposite table. He slowly removed his cap, holding the peaked little artifact in his hands, staring at it with an almost nostalgic onset. The greying cap had long since wore off its once novel, bright brown shine, it's hammer and sickle insignia atop now faded and scratched to almost unrecognizable warping, but much like its owner upon which it sat, Johannes cared little for such ostentatious display; Much like how he cared little for petty politicking in military matters. All his checker-colored career, Johannes silently chuckled, wondering if he would be better off as a painter, or a gardener, perhaps, instead of the old Marshal of this so-Revolutionary army that would swear itself the shield of the German nation.

“If you don’t mind my aside…” he began, slowly setting his officer’s cap upon his lap as he looked back up, “You know I am not much of one for politicking. Please, pardon me if I am not as...enthusiastic.”

Starosta, of course, was the first to respond - both Szymon and the old general opened their mouths as if to speak, but they were far too late. Here, she wore her old uniform, a handful of relatively simple medals pinned to her beige uniform. “The people deserve to have a say, even in military matters. We built our new model of armed forces on democracy - unless you mean something else?” She said, halfway accusatory, halfway curious of the old German’s opinion.

Johannes had come well knowing he was to fight - no doubt - and knowing the combatants involved was only the proper course of preparation. And, of course, the old guard of the German Staff knew full well that he would likely butt heads with the Union’s Premier. On a personal scale, he could hardly stand her. Tolerate, yes...and little beyond. To Johannes, democracy had its due place, of course, yet there was little point in prioritizing democracy over decision. And, likewise, there was not much worse to do than to argue over such things in a time and place such as this.

“This is my advice, Ms. Starosta. It is my comments on the matter, nothing more. We have come here to discuss the affairs - all of them - in Ukraine, and with all due respect, I have come to voice them with my guidance. If you have concerns, I expect you to voice them, as much as I believe all of us here should voice our thoughts and opinions.”

Blaskowitz hated this: This bantering, this bickering. He silently thanked God that his retirement was only two weeks away.

“All *I’m* here to do is make sure that the interests of the PUL’s workers are represented here.” Starosta said, reaching up to idly fiddle with the rank pins on her shoulders - colonel. She no longer held the position, of course, but she insisted on wearing her old uniform, nonetheless. “However, if you want my opinion, then I’m concerned about the city’s minority populations. Jews, in particular - the city has a relatively large proportion of Jews, and I’m concerned that they will be targeted as we approach the city.”

“Then if we work swiftly,” he flatly retorted, “we will not give them an opportunity to do so.” Johannes was no fan of such deliberations, focusing right back upon the map with an uncharacteristically swift stance.

“If we are all in agreement about the haste of this operation...then I assume we will consider this session adjourned?”

Starosta glanced to her left, and the old general nodded at his German counterpart. “We are. Good luck, comrade - and try not to die.”

Johannes would ignore her last comment.

Korosten Outskirts, Northwest Ukraine
July, 1955

The crew congregated alongside the resting tracks of their steelclad beast, lazing about the moist grass while they kept quiet. Even during rest, the insides of the tank residuated its mechanical warmth, searing within while the engine silently roared and the guns blazed in repose. Its intimately close quarters spared much in the way of comfort, and even the universally shorter statue of its female crew did little to make its metallic constitution any less cold.

Beck - “Noemi Beck, Oberleutnant, 65th Tank Platoon, reporting for duty, sir!”, as she had ingrained so deeply into each one of her brain folds that it became so synonymous a greeting as a simple “hello” - scrunched up portion of the map along its well-creased folds, careful to iron it out with a hand beneath the map as to not even entertain the idea of sullying it further upon the muggy grass beneath. A symphony of scrapes aired over the bristle of the Ukrainian morn, its softness just sonorous enough to break the distant crack of combat in the distance.

Her all-so-trusted counterpart and all-too-faithful radio op, Zyma - “Zofia Zyma, Unteroffizier, 65th Tank Platoon, reporting for duty, sir!”, as she would boldly display given the slightest provocation - leaned impatiently along the tank’s wide wheels while she impertinently tugged along the telecord wires, waiting for the radio signals. The orders were to stay silent and stay put, until contacted by their opposite crew in the volunteer platoon. They all sat about impatiently, unable to do much aside from stare at one another and off into some vague dawnbreak, each in silent prayer that the dead of morning had not given away the bulging camouflage net draped over their tank to a white artillery crew.

”65th Tank Platoon, German, this is the People’s 89th Volunteer Platoon, reporting. We are in position; close air support is a few minutes out.” A voice responded, crackling over the radio. Even then, it sounded terse, even awkward, spoken poorly in slapdash Ukrainian.

The radio operator briefly adjusted the awkwardly-fitted headphones around the muffs of her ears, adjusting the scratchy pieces until that awful digging press unto her lobes was alleviated. Zyma cleared her throat, then pressed down on the signal.

“Understood, 89. Commence our attacks on Hedgeline 23 upon the CAS strike, out.” Zyma clarified. Quickly, she signalled to her compatriots lying about with a silent hand circle, at which the once lazy crewmates sprung to life. In seconds, they were opening up the top hatch, darting in one by one, some still with their ration’s spoons in their mouths whilst they grumbled their way over the massive treads. Zyma lugged the radio wire over her shoulder, waiting for the last of the crew to enter, dragging the heavy rubber-coated cable across the clanking metal giant.

Zyma herself sat atop the tank’s hatch, slowly peering into the misty morning sky…

A faint drone beat in the background. It blurred and howled, screeching into full force in seconds, until an unbearable siren shrieked out any other bird song.

The great bird plunged from the sky, swooping in tow with several others, diving at their unsuspecting prey.

A great wave of heat blasted across Zyma, like blasts from a furnace in a baking basement’s suffocation. She briefly shielded her eyes, yet the immense firestorm’s incendiary pierced her blockage as the insides of her eyes colored themselves yellow. As she returned to, slowly pushing herself forth in her hatch’s seat, the strikes of the eagles blossomed into cinnabar mushrooms while they pierced the village skyline.

Zyma leaned forth tensely. A single finger reached back to her familiar belt button.

“All units, commence assault.”

Mere minutes later, the battle sprung into full sway, embracing itself unto the chaotic rumble in all its savage glory. "Eat lead, świnia!" Anitka hollered, sweeping a pile of spent casings away from her cupola. The brass fell like rain across her Janiczek, a monstrous steel beast that dwarfed most of the other volunteers. Sat atop it, she felt practically invincible even with her upper body exposed. The flattened, rounded wedge of its turret sat upon a body nearly twice the size of the Łowca, an enormous gun protruding from its head, but perhaps its most distinctive feature was its pike-shaped nose at the head of its chassis. Her favorite, however, was the machine gun sitting in front of her. Her thumbs were sore, her knuckles white - but the muffled staccato of the weapon as it kicked in her grip more than made up for a couple of sore thumbs. Cresting the wooded berm ahead, she watched as the tank’s nose collided with a tree - and snapped the trunk beneath its immense weight, Red infantry following closely behind. Immediately, she turned her gaze towards a concrete bunker, and the muzzle of a long-barreled cannon protruding from it.

Before she had the chance to react, however, it opened fire.

Bracing herself against the lip of her cupola Anitka watched as a solid shell bounced against the tank's nose, bouncing away as it rang the beast like a bell, sparks flying as metal clashed. Her ears, too, were consumed by the noise, but the hull held all the same.

For now, at least.

“Ivan! I want a shell through that pillbox, on the double!”

“I see it, I see it! I’m not fucking blind, sergeant!” He laughed. The ponderous turret began to turn, gears clicking and groaning beneath its sheer weight, then came the sound of Ieva slamming the round into the barrel, and the subsequent dull thud of the breech block sliding into place. A deafening boom left her ears ringing, smoke and fire pouring from the muzzle brake in thick gouts. Before she could manage to blink, the shell impacted against the outside of the bunker, exploding in a ball of fire that merely left the concrete scorched - and then, the emplacement went silent.

“Keep it moving, boys and girls!” Anitka shouted, and the tank’s engine roared as it leapt into action, carving a trench through the muddy, upturned soil where it moved. Comrades poured into the Hetman’s trenches, stabbing at the few infantrymen that remained with knives and bayonets, blasting holes through their torsos with shotguns, Janiczek trundling along with them. In the opening act alone, the presence of the mere few planes and men swayed the tide of battle, and perhaps soon with it, the course of Ukraine’s future. The golden fields of Ukraine would soon pour red.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Puebla, Puebla
August, 1955

Captain Lopez felt the all-too-familiar weight of his gear constrict his movement as he awkwardly shuffled forward on the flight line. Loaded down with a large rucksack rigged between his knees, a stiff weapons case on his leg, a bulky parachute on his back and another on his stomach, he walked like a stiff penguin to the open door of the transport aircraft ahead of him. He and 29 other paratroopers each bore a “1” marked in chalk on their parachute bags, which led them to a corresponding aircraft with the same number written on its door. The engines were already roaring, so the jumpmaster physically grabbed everyone’s shoulder and loudly counted off to confirm all personnel were aboard.

Captain Lopez climbed into the fuselage of the plane, turning his head to observe the tarmac as he did so. The other members of his company were loading into four other identical planes, each shuffling orderly in a similar line. Captain Lopez would be the first to jump and First Sergeant Kan, at the end of the fifth chalk, would be the last: a way to ensure accountability of all their soldiers. The officer took his seat as the number-one man by the door, waiting for the rest of his chalk to take their seats. They crammed in on the benches, facing each other in silence as the jumpmaster finished his count and closed the door behind them.

The jumpmaster gave a thumbs up to the man closest to the pilots’ cockpit, who loudly thumped on the cabin door to confirm their presence. Inside the cockpit, the pilots chattered with each other on the radio and then to the Puebla airport traffic control tower. It was time to go. The plane lurched forward as its chock blocks were removed and the engines increased power. It taxied from its loading position onto the long runway, neat and orderly like the paratroopers on the ground. Captain Lopez heard the dull buzz of the propellers get louder and felt the plane rattle and shake: a few seconds later, they had lifted off.

Captain Lopez had thought after the brief that the battalion leadership had given him the prior week. It was going to be Mexico’s biggest and longest ranged airborne operation ever, and perhaps the biggest in history. Puebla was over a thousand kilometers to the drop zones in British Belize: the transport planes would be pushing the endurance of their aircraft with a two-thousand kilometer round trip. The pilots, too, were prepared for a flight of nine hours. Every nonessential component of the aircraft had been removed, from their protective machine guns to armor plating on the wings and fuselage.

The good news was that Britain lacked any sort of air defense capability in Belize. They barely had a regiment in Belize City, underfunded and undermanned and with a poor reputation as a castaway job for mess-ups and incompetent officers. The British maintained a squadron of Great War-era biplanes at the city’s dirt and soil airstrip, rarely utilized for anything more substantial than officers’ leisurely trips to the beach. The Mexican aircraft would have no problems flying through Mexico, then cutting directly across neutral Guatemala undetected. In the meantime, a division of motorized soldiers had staged in Yucatan State to rush down Belize’s main highway as soon as the paratroopers had secured the eastern flank.

He fell asleep to the dull thrum of the propellers, nesting himself within his bulky gear until he felt somewhat comfortable. Four hours without even a bathroom break would pass by better with sleep. Some of his soldiers read, others fiddled with their equipment, and more sat silently as they stared out the window. Lopez thought of his wife as he fell asleep: their goodbye at the gate to Puebla base was short and sweet. Even with the uncertainty of the conflict ahead, they were both sure that he would be back soon enough. The whole campaign was designed to be quick and decisive, to strike before serious resistance could be massed. It was more political than military.

The commander awoke sometime past Villahermosa as his executive officer nudged him. The young lieutenant had been awake the whole time, keeping an eye out for the checkpoints of the flight. Villahermosa was the last major Mexican city with a significant airport for the planes. Any malfunction in flight requiring an emergency landing would require them to turn around and make their way to the town. Otherwise, they had to press forward. The pilots had not reported any issues, so the squadron continued. Thirty minutes later, they had passed the border into Guatemala. Beneath the aircraft, it all looked the same: dense, green jungle.

Guatemala came and went, another quick leg of the trip. As the morning son shone its way through the windows of the cabin, the jumpmaster suddenly hollered from his seat by the door: “Fifteen minutes! Red light!”

The cabin became illuminated by the glow of bright red bulbs with the thud of an electrical circuit completing. All of the paratroopers had it drilled into them to prepare for the jump. They checked their equipment and the equipment of the man across from them, just to make sure that nobody had crossed or twisted straps and loose buckles that could be fatal in a jump. The jumpmaster yelled out the time in increments of five: ten minutes to go, then five minutes. At the three minute mark, he called for the jumpers to stand up.

Lopez was on autopilot, like all of his previous jumps. Stand up, hook up, get checked. The jumpmaster did what he was trained to do, checking all the equipment one last time before returning to the cabin door. He opened it and slid it on its rail to let the wind come rushing through the cabin, knocking Lopez back a step as he braced for its force. The jumpmaster looked down at the drop zone, a large clear farm field that had been cut into the jungle by Belizean plantation owners. He gave one look back and flashed a thumbs up to the soldiers. The red light switched to green, and the paratroopers rushed out of the door.

The commander didn’t think about the fact that he was in the air until the ground came up very fast to meet him. He instinctively braced for the fall, landing onto his legs, hip, and back like he had been trained. It never got easier: it still felt like getting hit with a sack of bricks. As he got up from his landing, he looked up at the sky to see rows of Mexican paratroopers each with parachutes opened heading straight for the ground. Groups of men scrambled to ditch their reserve chutes and open their weapons cases, regrouping in small formations to find their proper squad and platoon leadership.

Lopez found his executive officer nearby, struggling to cut the parachute cords with his knife. They had gotten tangled around his rucksack and were not coming off without a fight. He managed to cut the chute away just as Lopez arrived, rifle in hand, to take a knee. “Lieutenant Muñoz,” he said. “Let’s get oriented. Are we in the right drop zone?”

Lavulo rolled over and jumped up from the ground, reaching for the map case that dangled from a strap around his shoulder. Inside was a map of the drop zone and attack plan with directions of confirmation already written on a piece of paper with it. He took his compass from a pouch on his belt and quickly confirmed where they were. They had already figured out two identifiable mountains that they should have been able to see from the drop zone and gotten the back-azimuths. The numbers on the compass matched what they had calculated during their planning: they were in the right spot.

Lopez’s radioman, a short teenager named Reyes, jogged towards the captain and his lieutenant with the whip of his radio flailing wildly in his step. He took a knee next to the two officers and extended the telephone to his commander. “Sir,” he said breathlessly, “First and second platoons have organized and are ready to go. Third and fourth platoons are still reorganizing.”

“Thanks, Especialista,” Lopez replied. “Let them know we’re in the right drop zone and we’re to move into town when everyone is set. Send reports of injuries to First Sergeant Kan.”

Reyes nodded while Lopez observed the field in front of them. They were a kilometer or two outside of a small town in western Belize by the name of Belmopan. It sat at a critically important intersection between the main highway and a western offshoot and housed a platoon of British troops. Other paratrooper companies were dropping into similar towns to take out their local British units: in keeping with classic military theory, Captain Lopez had four-to-one odds against the defending British. A company was the ideal instrument to use against a platoon in defense. Not that the British appeared to know they were coming; the morning was still.

Eventually, third and fourth platoons reorganized and assessed their statuses. Only a handful of soldiers had been hurt from the jump, mostly broken or sprained legs and ankles. Every jump, especially combat jumps, were predicted to sustain these casualties even before contact with the enemy. They had been collected by the First Sergeant and the company’s detachment of medics, who would treat them at the company command post until they could be evacuated. With their reporting, the company immediately set into motion initiating their attack.

Captain Lopez made his way forward to the first platoon’s position, who were holding a line facing northeast to the city proper. They had seen nobody yet, but their element of surprise was undoubtedly going to be broken by some farmer seeing the planes and paratroopers on his way out to the field. The riflemen and machine gunners had nestled themselves into positions behind dirt mounds and irrigation ditches, awaiting orders to move forward. His other platoons were maneuvering into assault positions to form an “L” shape and flank the town. Once the first and second platoons initiated contact, the third and fourth platoons would sweep through and destroy the British garrison there.

Captain Lopez arrived just in time to see a lone light blue police car drive slowly up to the road some hundred-and-fifty meters away. Close enough that the Mexicans could see a pair of policemen emerge from the coupe, bobbin helmets silhouetted against the fields behind them. They appeared to be looking for something but couldn’t yet see anything. Through the scope of his rifle, Lopez could see that one had a pistol on his hip and the other was heading back to the trunk of the car. A sergeant on the Mexican line, receiving a nod from his platoon leader, reached for a megaphone that was strapped to his belt kit.

“Attention, attention,” he blared through the tinny-sounding voice amplifier. “Step away from the car and lay down your weapons. You will not be harmed.”

The policemen jumped in fright, ducking to the ground. One of them reached for his hip as a squad’s worth of Mexican soldiers emerged from the crop field in front of him, rifles drawn and pointed at the pair. They yelled in Spanish for him to surrender and drop the weapon, their voices all shouting over each other. The Belizean policeman changed his mind, yelping and raising his hands high in the air. “Okay! Okay! What the fuck?” he exclaimed as a Mexican corporal rushed forward to take his weapon. His partner similarly placed his hands high above his head, stepping away from the car.

“What the hell? Who are you?” he repeated, eyes wide in fright. The Mexican platoon bounded forward out of their positions to the road and he got a good look at their gear. Everyone’s helmet bore a white stenciled “MX” and the squad leaders wore large brassards with an embroidered Mexican flag on their right shoulders. “Mexico?” he stuttered, turning back to his partner. Before he had time to ask any further questions, a soldier had forced the policeman to the ground and was tying up his hands with a piece of rope. He slipped a blindfold out of his pocket and over the man’s face before forcing him up and rushing him to the prisoner collection point behind the platoon lines.

Lopez lowered his scope and turned to congratulate the sergeant with the megaphone. They were instructed to offer the British an opportunity to surrender first before shooting and try at all costs not to kill the Belizean local police. Knowing the town of Belmopan had only a few policemen, he only had a handful of prisoners that he needed to detain. The platoon reformed into a line past the now-abandoned police car and continued their bound further towards the town.

Belmopan was a squat farming town of only a few buildings, none of them more than two floors tall. Mostly made of wood with tin roofs, the town had everything a rural farmer could ever need: a general store that doubled as a clinic, a bank, a one-room schoolhouse, and a pub. Everything else was an automobile trip away to Belize City sixty kilometers to the east. The British blockhouse was the only thing made from concrete, a barracks building for forty soldiers located at the exact intersection the Mexicans were to take. It was three hundred meters north of their current position, well within visual range. Captain Lopez rushed forward with the platoon to where they took up more fighting positions in the fields outside the town.

In the distance, a man dressed in khaki held a Lee Enfield rifle hesitantly, pushing the brim of his tommy helmet out of his face with a palm. The Mexicans advanced through the crops, staying off the road where they had just taken the policemen prisoner. The British soldier could see the plants rustle as the Mexicans silently bounded to the edge of the fields just another hundred meters shy of him. He had no doubt heard the confusion down the road but didn’t know what to make of it.

He squinted, thinking he saw figures in the fields ahead of him. The Mexican sergeant with the megaphone turned it on again and, this time in English, offered a warning: “Attention, attention. This is the Mexican Army. You are severely outnumbered. Drop your weapon and surrender.”

The Brit, who appeared to be in his late forties, dropped his jaw and fell to a knee in the middle of the road. “To arms! To arms!” he shouted back to the blockhouse behind him. Before he could get the rifle shouldered, someone on the Mexican line fired a single round. The other paratroopers in the line immediately erupted into a volley of rifle fire that cut down the British soldier in the road before he could even shoot back.

Over Reyes’s radio, Captain Lopez heard the platoon leader report that they were firing upon a British position in town. The second platoon acknowledged as their machine guns swept the blockhouse perimeter from a position three hundred meters to Lopez’s west. The roar of automatic gunfire broke through the calm of the morning and the commander watched as bullets impacted across the concrete barrack’s façade. Someone inside pulled an alarm, and an air raid siren broke out in a screeching wail across the town. The Mexicans held their fire to await further commands before a team of four British soldiers came rushing out the front of their barracks armed with rifles.

The Mexicans fired again at the troops, forcing the British to scramble for cover behind crates and barricades in their supply yard. Some of them shot back, the high velocity rounds whizzing overhead of the Mexicans who were still camouflaged behind the lush crops of the town’s farms. Lopez turned around to see Lieutenant Muñoz and Specialist Reyes ducking into a small muddy ditch. Muñoz was white as a ghost, more so than his usual pale complexion, clutching his rifle with one hand and the map case with another while Reyes was rapidly chattering away on the radio’s hand mic. Someone on the firing line shouted “watch right!”

A pair of British soldiers had raced around the corner of a squat single family shack, both in berets. Only one of them appeared to have a rifle; the other held a revolver with a lanyard tied to his pistol belt. They both ducked down, surprised to have run into the enemy, and attempted to fire back. The rifleman squeezed off a trio of shots, clumsily charging the bolt on his rifle between each one, before a burst of machine gun fire raked across him. The soldier died instantly, his corpse jolting with the impact of the .30 caliber rounds into his chest as blood sprayed from his back.

His colleague panicked, jumping up from the ground and dropping his revolver as he sprinted towards the concrete barracks across the road. It was his last mistake, as he was shot down in the road by a volley of fire in the violent chaos. He buckled dramatically under the bullets, falling to the ground with his hand dramatically outstretched in front of him. Three British soldiers lay dead in the road with another seven sprawled out across the barrack’s parade lawn, killed as they rushed out of the door with no chance to fight back. Sporadic fire answered the Mexicans’ attack from the windows of the barracks as the defenders organized into a somewhat coherent defense. The building was already peppered with bullet holes as it sustained a violent attack from both ends.

At Lopez’s position behind the first platoon, he saw the fruits of his training manifest. Sergeants and officers were now racing behind their firing lines shouting at their soldiers to conserve ammunition. In the excitement of first contact, the paratroopers had seemingly forgotten about control and measured firepower. Hundreds of shells littered the muddy ground between the crops as the rate of fire slowed to a manageable rate. The squawking of Reyes’s radio could now be heard as officers and radiomen chattered in the background. The platoons were getting another series of status reports from their sergeants: ammunition, casualties, and equipment status was all sent up to First Sergeant Kan with the company command post.

An awkward silence befell the battlefield, punctuated only by the distant blaring of the air raid siren. The paratroopers reloaded in between British potshots as the sergeants ran amongst themselves and figured out a plan of action. The solution in first platoon was a volley of rifle grenades, which was approved by their platoon leader. “Grenadiers!” bellowed the officer from his position, “shoot two grenades to their bunker!”

Two grenadiers hurried forward from other positions, equipment jostling as they darted and dodged through the crop field. Affixed to the front of their semi-automatic Mondragón rifles were silver-colored grenades with fins. Secured straight to the bayonet lug and fired with the simple insertion of a blank cartridge to their open breech, the rifle grenades could easily fly the hundred meters from the Mexicans’ line to the British position. Lopez much preferred to attack with them, as opposed to sending teams of men dangerously close to bunkers and trenches with hand grenades. The two grenadiers dove into positions in a ditch next to the platoon leader who aggressively pointing out their target.

One after another with heavy thumps, the grenadiers shot off their projectiles and dove back into cover. Sunlight glinted off the rounds as they sailed through the air before slamming into the building. With quick thuds, two explosions rocked the barracks and kicked up clouds of dust and concrete fragments. Lopez looked through his scope to see cracks in the concrete wall, shattered windows, and large chunks missing from the British barricade. It seemed to silence the enemy, however, as a minute passed with no shots fired from either side. In the background, the platoon leaders debated over the radio on if they could see anyone moving.

Another minute passed as Lopez wondered what was happening. The air raid siren that had been blaring the entire time suddenly cut out, sending the small town of Belmopan back into its early morning silence. In the distant jungle, exotic birds chattered again. The smell of gunfire and carbon mixed with the humidity and dew. Through his scope, Lopez saw a rock sail out of the front entrance to the barracks with a white rag cut up and tied to it like a flowing tail. His eyes widened and he turned back to Reyes: “Cease fire!” he hissed to the Specialist.

Reyes echoed it through the radio, which was then repeated by the officer of first platoon to his sergeants. All of the paratroopers laid with their guns pointed towards the British barracks as a man in khaki emerged cautiously, legs shaking, from the entrance with his hands high in the air and a white undershirt. Lopez moved up, slowly and carefully to ensure that he wouldn’t spook either his men or the British into any reaction, and tapped the first platoon’s megaphone carrier on the shoulder. He gestured to the man that he needed the device and the sergeant duly gave it to his commander.

Lopez stood up, still camouflaged behind a mass of vegetation in front of him, and turned on the speaker: “Can you speak Spanish?” he asked calmly, knowing that the answer was probably yes. British forces in Belize usually had to be able to speak to the local population.

“Sí,” came the reply, a shout in a heavy foreign accent. It sounded like the Brit had learned his Spanish from Spain instead of Mexico. He continued to walk onto the parade field, leading a line of British soldiers without weapons and their hands on their wide-brimmed helmets to a loose formation behind him. Over the radio, the fourth platoon’s leader reported that they had moved a machine gunner to have an eye on them in case they tried anything. Lopez doubted that they would. He brought the megaphone to his lips and, after looking to Lieutenant Muñoz behind him, stepped out of the field and into full view of the British just a hundred meters away.

“This is Captain Dominic Lopez of the Mexican Army,” announced the commander. “We accept your surrender.”
Hidden 25 days ago Post by Dinh AaronMk
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In the world of the west, and in particular the Old America it was said often that Man came into the world as his (or her) own being. They were born equal, and the only thing that would propel them to greatness or mediocrity was their own will. Someone with strong pretensions could scale the social hierarchy and make a name, a company, secure the wealth for a thousand generations. And even their sons and daughters would have to in time prove their own mettle and establish their own fortunes and came into the world much as the store clerk or the factory hand. To the Anarchists there was no greater thing in the world than the humble equality of the peasant who tilled his soil and raised his buffalo in the blue shade of green mountains. But all of this known to many, others also know that the weight of time propels people forward. There are those with the entire weight of centuries and untold generations holding them in the fetid red mud of the yellow swamp of a dirty street while the same mass that anchors them gasping for breath elevates the dainty blue robed ones to be forever aloof. And thus is heaven's divine inspiration to all things good. And may one struggle in their own ways in their station. And after suffering in a thousand ways against your sins you will be reborn into one of the greatest.

To the Wu clan, this was particularly known.

They made it known in their car. In their dress. Always clean and scrubbed of dirt from their faces to their shoes. They showed it in their big house. They showed it in how they talked. They postured themselves as better. Found better friends. Did better business. Committed great violence, if they had to. They were a clan who walked knowing they were enlightened. And if you asked them why this was they would say they were illustrious. That their position was ordained by the will of Heaven. That they practiced daily their piety and righteous obedience to the true test. To the very course and correctness of their families history. That they had the most upright patriotism. That they were the most ardent observers of the sacred traditions. By the very test of history they managed to survive, conferring upon them the virtue that underwrote everything and gave value to their word, their name, and their chops.

They would explain further that they were a family from Jinan. That they were an ancient and venerable institution in the province of Shandong since the time of the Ming. That their family rolls went back fifteen generations, and would be more had the Japanese not destroyed it. Their family contributed happily to the Banners of the Qing and would have liberated the province from the evil and decadent rudeness of Zhang Zongchang, but his barbarians had beat them to the punch and they had to retreat south. South! And as refugees! They would say this with tears in their eyes, forgetting (or patiently and purposefully omitting) their vast fortunes that provided them a soft velvet thump in that “bastard Republic” south of Nanjing where at least they could live in peace. And as the Japanese were driven into defeat they dropped roots in Shanghai, if only temporary. Taking advantage of the war wreckage to build a humble mansion, in the French style, just across from the venerable Bund. They never left further for the north. Why would they? Shanghai had all the European amenities they loved to consume.

Now an entrenched family in the new Shanghai scene they flirted with the market. Trading in agricultural produce and limited amounts of oil futures as was their family way when they were such a same institution in Shandong, where still today they take the rents of lease farmers along their traditional holdings along the Yellow River to the delta; estimated at a value of 14.5 billion yuan. Which is a sum humbly taxed from the family at a rate of 1%, owing to the family's claim of expansive historical preservation in the northern Shandong region, an effort known locally as an open secret towards the restoration of the family estate as laundered through their charitable action.

“I don't really know why they chose him to cast for that Han Cho character,” bemoaned Wu Rou reclining back in the seat of the car. Her arms splayed haphazardly across the upholstery of said Cadillac as she leaned against the shoulder of her brother. Her slender porcelain face bore a detached drunken look, her cheeks flush with the color of roses. Playing with the sleeves of her cheongsam she turned to look up at her brother, “His nose, it was too big. It was a big nose. Do you think the actor they got was Russian? He could be Russian. I bet you his mother was fucked by a Russian. It's really not all that appropriate. They shouldn't do that. Not for someone Chinese.”

Her dress, long blue dress, tightly form fitting but barely hiding her love handles featured golden trim; highlighting the neck and the sleeves. It scrolled all over the dress's service creating scenes of birds and flowers across the crisp lapis sea of the fabric. She had purchased it from a high end merchant on Suzhou Road. The dress was advertised as being of fine hundred thread count silk, spun into a high quality sheet in southern France and exported back to China to be hand sewn into the sleek and fashionable dress she was in. Believing the merchant, like a gluttonous baby she purchased it at the hefty price tag of nine-thousand yuan, a considerable expense but not for her. She went further and bought seven: each for every evening of the week. The reality of the silk dress though was that it was not made in France and finished in China but came entirely from China. The base of which was a common middle of the road eighty thread count silk cheongsam at single ply in a single shade of blue, purchased at eight hundred yuan and then modified. The tightest weave being the golden decoration that emblazoned its sapphire fields. She wore also a three-thousand yuan perfume sold in small shot-glass sized crystal bottles marketed under the Xiangdao brand and given the enigmatic branding of “Rose Lavender Water of Lower Lorraine” as thought it were a classical French product; when in reality it was re-purposed and watered down Vietnamese incense. She wore a watch, sold as Italian but was sourced to Korea, purchased by wholesalers from Thailand to cut around bans on Japanese products and then marked up and given a face lift to fit the Italian mold. Only her shoes, blue to match the dress were an authentic French article. A hair dresser had told her the latest hair fashion in America was to wear it short and faded up the side, and demanding to be seen as one of the pretty ladies from the Beautiful Country had bought in. But such a thing was not real and she was forced to wear it as a badge of shame she dutifully fought to disguise simply by acting as though it were very true to life.

“It is not really important.” her brother said, “He wasn't an important character. If he were then he is where he belongs. Such people belong in only two positions: the villain or the supporting role. Shu Shoi-Ming was the most important man on the screen. He carried the movie. Such poise and presence! He is a star to shine clear into his future. He has a hard cold stare, as any good warrior man should have, and the way he moves his fists is an art form. The impact he makes can be felt clear through the air. He is a respectable man who made that movie possible!”

Wu Wing, the elder statesman of the children of the Wu family held himself to be and pretended as an officer. Though having joined the officer corp well after the Revolution he pretended himself to be a hero of the long liberatory war. In the end, he served only the shortest time possible as an engineer before resigning to earn his position on the board of the family estate. But as an engineer he was hardly much. His face was wide, round, dominated by a strong upper lip he hid under the overgrowth of his mustache he kept waxed in what he believed to be a premier English beard wax, but was really a Mexican petroleum jelly with some odd oils and sandalwood for fragrance. His read suit was sold as a Swiss product, but with a price tag of eight and a half thousand yuan was merely a Chinese suit made under a defunct Swiss brand, L'fard; it's long pinstripes promised the world in making a man seem taller and it was matched with a blue Italian dress shirt actually made in Indonesia. His pants, two sizes too big came from a men's store on Haining Road and were supposed to be all the fashion presently in London, though he had not left to ever see and never himself left Jiangsu except for his military service, they were black and made of a coarse thread; against the price of four-thousand yuan they were marketed at a price of one-thousand in similar Hong Kong retailers. His clothes hid a wide awkward frame, as much as he tried to hide it. But his black and white wingtips advertised as real leather but were of new artificial leather from plastic, made in Canada and not the France as advertised; these shoes could not hide the size of his feet.

“Yes, he was handsome. I love his cheekbones.” Rou swooned, “Suppose we got into a party he's at, or we got him into one of ours? I would like to meet with him. He looks like a delicious man.”

Wing, smiling: “I suppose that could be worked out.”

“Yes! And could we get Sima Hua as well? She is great.”

“I would not mind to meet Mrs. Sima. What about you, Tang?” said Wing.

Tang, seated opposite of them thought. At the age of twenty-one he was freshly graduated from his officer's training and like the rest of his family would pursue a career in the army. He was boyish, lanky, broad shouldered but promising to fill out yet like the rest of his family. His head was long and appeared to be ready to stretch back on its own and to pull away his brow. A class mate had said once of him under his breath that he looked, “monkey like” and went as far as to speculate he was a more degenerative Sun Wu Kong, if he let his hair and beard grow out. But he could not manage the beard or mustache, and besides the mustache no one in the academy or in the service would let him. Although he had seen soldiers who were deployed to the Russian border who grew their beards out and they all resembled wild men in the end. He feared them, but envied them just as much. His pudgy nose did a great deal to hold his glasses, and even appeared as though they might push them right off of his face. They were army prescription, large and awkward. Thirty yuan, mass produced in a factory in Guangzhou.

He still wore his academy uniform, even though he was on reprieve. Every where he went he wanted to be seen as a respectable officer the way his older brother wanted to have fought the Japanese. He took particular strong attention to the quality and the condition, going as far as to not eat and drink through the movie they had just seen. It was a wild film, and he craved something to eat; it had been several hours. “I suppose so.” he said weakly, lying. He barely knew who she was. He had not been to the movie theater much.

Film was one of the young Tang's least favorite subjects. For all the bombast and the visual style of the movie theater it never gripped him and he felt there was something off about the experience. Something decadent and feminine around it. Like poetry and comic books, it offended a deep part of his spirit, so much so he could not reach that far in and locate it. So whenever it came to it, he could not express why he hated cinema. He often found he could not express his distaste in a long of things. Perhaps he did not read enough novels. The most he had ever read were the cadet papers at the academy.

Wing laughed, it came deep and from the gut, “You would like to meet her and you just don't know it.” he teased, “It'll be something that would have to be worked out. When do you return to your deployment again?”

“Next week I have to return to Xinjiang.”

“What a shame. Never been to Xinjiang. But it must be an awful place. Nothing ever sounds good with a name like Xinjiang.” Wing said with a roll of contempt. But he said it with a smile, as if to try and help his brother. Tang could not help but smile, only a little.

“But what are your thoughts on Shu Shoi-Ming?” asked Wing, changing the subject back, “Do you not thing he was a wonder on screen?”

“I suppose he was.”

“You know I had heard somewhere that most of these fighting men have to train at the ballet for many years. I've not heard such a thing! It's entirely queer, I think. To learn to fight you have to dance?”

“I think it is a dance thing.” Rou said, “At least that's what a friend of mine said.”

“What do you mean? I had to learn to fight and it was nothing like dancing. Right, Tang?” Tang nodded. “You see?”

“No-no. Well, yes. But no. It's, you know. Not fighting. It's like,” she stopped to think for words, “It's all about the movement. It's all pretend, you have to know that right? When the actors playing the vampires were shot they weren't really shot. I'm sure you know that, don't know?”

Wing nodded. “I see.” he saw.

“Yes, so they have to learn it somehow. I'd know this because my friend is in the theater. She says a lot of men have to learn dance to do a stage fight. There isn't any reason for movies to not do it.”

“I see your point. Perhaps we should go to a stage show then. I wonder if there's anything like this playing on the stage? We should go to Yincheng! Tang, let's go to Yincheng, before you leave!”

“Sure.” Tang answered indifferently.

“Then it is settled.”

“I will call in on my friend then, she will help us!” Rou exclaimed.

“What is on now?” Wing asked.

“I don't know,” hesitated Rou, “But I will- I will check. Yes, I'll check.”

“Ha!” Wing clapped his hands, “Amazing! I hope there will be vampires. What a strong foe! Who would have thought. Quiet the time we live in. Tang, what did you think?”

“I think they were fine.”

“Oh they were amazing. I think cinema is moving in the direction to surpass even reality. It was stunning. The way they ate out that man's neck! Rou, you believe they ate his neck, did you?”

“It looked so real!” she exclaimed.

“It did, and it had to be the perfection of theater. What a profound new thing. Great. Excellent! China has come to match the Western Arts, someday we will even surpass. Tang, when do you think that will happ-” Wing was suddenly cut off as the car came to a screeching halt. The siblings were launched nearly from their seat, landing in a heap against the rear of the front seats with a hard bump. Their driver was already laying on the horn, swearing loudly out the driver's window at a pair of youths about Tang's age crossing the street. Tang managed to dig himself out of the pile of elbows and arms to see passed the front seats at the scene just outside.

Throwing hands up in the air and returning the driver's swears a small group dressed in tight jeans and sheep skin jackets were returning the angry tirades. Most of them wore flat caps of different colors, turned to the side. They were angry. A young woman identifiable only by the shape of her breasts from under her white blouse behind her open jacket was encouragingly pulling on the sleeve of her boyfriend trying to get him to move. The confrontation was only a few seconds, but it seemed to be a whole minute. In the end, the two parties separated with only sour looks between them and they were soon moving.

“Degenerates.” Wing moaned, leaning to look past Tang to catch one last sight of them as they went along, “The lower classes are scum. They dress like buffoons too. Why do they let their women look like men? Insane! Madness as gripped this country!”

“It must be that- must be that German science.” Rou sneered, “Why do we even accept their help.”

“They pervert us.” Wing continued.

“I agree.” Tang said, enthusiastic this time in his sentiments.

“You're right. This wouldn't happen if real men were in charge.” said Wing.

“I think about that a lot. What if there had been no Republic? They would be far more disciplined in their lives than they are now.”

“I hear you. Are the general enlisted still this bad?” Wing spoke in contempt. Tang could see in his brother's face he was hot in anger.

“They drink all day if you give them the chance, and hardly allow themselves more than a couple hours of sleep they stay up so late playing dice and mahjong.”

“Putrid. This Republican experiment is rotting at the core. Things have not changed a bit.”

“If only we had real leadership.”


Having no where else to be, Yu finally gav up and came to the museum. As the man had invited him to do, he found the exhibition.

Besides the stations he had been in, the museum was one of the largest buildings he had ever visited. On entering the lobby he was taken by the height of it. The coffered heights of the ceiling. The blue mosaics that festooned the coffers themselves. He looked up as looking down at him wizened figures watched down at him, each a portrait in their own large vault. He was only a few in that afternoon, and he was free to gawk. For a time he was left alone, but staff at the museum had identified him as a country fool and so approached him. “Can we help you?” they asked.

Startled, he recoiled. The man who had asked did not speak threateningly. Neither in his age was he threatening. But the suddenness of the question had made him jump. In a brief moment he recoiled to the first thing he had on his mind, “Nanjing!” he said, voice perhaps a little too loud. When the old man looked puzzled Yu shook his head, “Sorry. Qin?” he corrected, thinking back to the man on the train. The man nodded knowingly and pointed him to a small gallery off to the side.

The corridors the figurines he was lead to was much smaller than the lobby that had so impressed him. While were high they did not maintain the cosmic height that had captured his interest. But he saw in the cases the many dozens of artifacts and figurines, many of which still held the dirt and the clay from the earth in their cracks and crevices. Looking through, Yu was interested; but lacked any and all appreciation for them. They were small at first. Fragments. The half face of a man, staring up at him through dirty eyes on a soft pillow. A bow without string. A clay ear from an animal. Here was a metal crane, not much longer than his arm from wrist to elbow, but cracked and dented and petina'd by age so it looked like an ornament that had come from the family shrine. There too were the broken odds and ends of something else, a half a horse, a wheel, an umbrella. All of which bore the earthy tones of having being buried for so long. Detached, he felt as if he could have found similar in a dump. What would happen if he went through his neighbor's elderly parents garbage pile in their yard and produced a cup as an ancient artifact? Would the history men swoon and crave it? How old did junk need to be?

He stopped for a minute to consider a goose in silence. He had started to try and read the plagues, but the effort was too much for him to decipher. At first, the characters would seem out of order, or too similar. Then too similar to other words and it would take too long to make a sentence that works. And when he did, it would not tell him much. Invariably it would be “such-and-such from pit such-and-such, Qin State Era.” He wondered if he lacked passion, and maybe this would allow him to gleam some knowledge. Perhaps this is what stopped history men, archaeologist from finding enlightenment in garbage piles and trash among the cabbage leaves. Alongside him a young woman, perhaps a little older than he was studiously writing in her notebook something about the artifacts. He thought to ask her what was going on. “Excuse me?”

She stopped and looked up at him. She had a friendly face. She smiled politely, if at least between patience and impatience. “Hello.” she said.

“May I ask a, uh- a question?” Yu said.

She smiled, “You just did.”

“Er- um. Can I ask another?” Yu tried again, taken back.

The young woman smiled and nodded, “OK. Go ahead.”

“Are you an archaeologist?”

The woman laughed and closed her notebook. Holding it close to her chest she shook her head. “No, I'm not. I'm a student of history though.”

“So you're a history man, or- woman?”

She nodded, “I guess so.”

“So, what do you know about these?” he asked, gesturing to the glass cabinets with the artifacts.

Again she laughed, delicate and light. “Not much. I'm trying to figure that out. I'm just here to take notes. What about you?”



“Um- I was, er- here because a man on the train said I should. He invited me. I think. I'm really just here by accident. I wanted to be in Nanjing. But I somehow ended up here.”

“Well that's a terrible mistake. But welcome to Xi'an.”


“You're welcome. Is that all you wanted?”

Yu stuffed his head in his pockets and nodded. He turned from the woman, expecting things were done. For a brief second she remained, unseen, expecting things to continue and unsure if she should or not. Awkward, she herself parted her own ways.

This left Yu all the same clueless as he stayed at the artifacts. Their importance didn't dawn on him. He never figured that their presence confirmed history that had lapsed into legend. And sure, while he knew vaguely of the Great Wall, it was an even more distant relic of something far more ancient. Its relevance to him was sewn only through how his father had served and fought at the Great Wall during the Revolution, having been one of the first waves of soldiers to mount its earthly ruins and fortify them against Japanese counter-attack, as years prior to his service men now more battered and broken had taken to holding the wall against the Japanese, to try and break them and to give a venerable defense while the main army retreated south. To see the swords used in that first battle, as similar as they would be alongside the rusting hilts of the first iron swords used in China would be far more relevant in Yu's experience of China than the artifacts of the Qin at this moment; whose legacy was as distant and faded as that of the Yuan or the Ming.

He moved on, shuffling and idle more than anything. It became more an idea of there having been a spectacle. The value that there was, the value that he held because he was told it was there now fading to a dim glow rapidly receding behind storm cloud and threatening to blink out into night. He would leave, return to the train station, and ask: “I would like to go to Nanjing. The capital, Nanjing”. That is had he not heard a voice in the exhibit. “All I am saying is: it is a shame that we can't find the tomb, not yet at least.”

“Eventually, I'm sure.” someone else said, “But if he's right – and so far everything is pointing to it – it would be very dangerous. It'd be a different story if maybe it was shown to be open.”

“Yes, but then it's all lost.”

Yu realized he recognized that voice. It sounded like the man from the train. He followed the conversation as it went. “Do you suppose at this point we may have to revise the history of Sima Tan?” the other man asked.

“I would not say no, but I would think that we might learn a lot to certainly read the Records more critically.” the man from the train said, “The handiwork in many of these are astounding. I can't wait to see them back at the university so they can be properly cleaned. Xi'an is a fine city, but it lacks the international infrastructure for us to begin here and accurately catalog our finds. What we've managed is fine, I like to see the public imagination activated.”

“You should have seen the place the other day. It was full then.”

“What is the matter today? Has things burned out this fast?”

“Most people are at work. Or I hope it is work.”

Yu rounded a corner and found the pair. They were actually a part of a small group. Yu recognized his man. The other man with him was a taller and elderly gentleman, liver spots blemishing his head as he stood with a noticeable bend in his back. He seemed to lean to the side, his hands holding each other, or more the one more than the other. “Perhaps the national showing in Nanjing will be better.” mused the man Yu knew from the train.

“It will. These things are right up the alley for the Nanjing crowd. Between them and Beijing they swallow up anything ancient and national. I've heard a few wayward seminars by Hou Tsai, he's more right than those two cities try to insist: the Chinese people are incredibly provincial. I would not bet against our Xi'an showing being more because it is a local curiosity.”

“Still, I was speaking to Xu and he said there are many people who are trying to see the pits themselves. He's doing more work as a security guard and tour guide than any digging and studying. I'm grateful the city offered up their police as they did just to try and keep them away. I think the pits are the real spectacle.”

“Farmers' children in all honesty, they are bored.”

Yu drew close to them. He was able to see the case in front of them. Broken shards of some statue, hollowed out and brittle. A hand, a face, part of a torso clad in armor. One of the silent entourage must have sensed he was walking up, because before he could get to them one of the gathered younger men turned to him. “Oh, hello.” he said, a little hesitating and recoiling back. In the brief moment of seeing Yu the young urban student was taken out of his element in the moment by Yu's disheveled appearance. Having not taken a shower let alone a bath in almost a week, the young man was looking gray and greasy. “Have you been backpacking?” he asked, suddenly aware he may have been rude.

The others stopped what they were doing to look at Yu. He stopped, his chest suddenly going cold. How did he get this much attention on him? The man from the train smiled on seeing him. “Oh, so you did take up on the offer!” he said in a loud cheery voice. It put the others at ease, as they relaxed.

“Doctor Shao, you know this young man?” the elderly figure asked him. His face was long and pale. His jowls hung heavy from his face, his mustache was thin and pale. His bushy eyebrows were wound about as he considered Yu as if saying, “Why did you interrupt us?”

“I did.” the man named Shao confirmed. Stepping towards Yu, “He sat with me on the train here. He's actually on a trip. Made a bit of a mistake.”

“That's... true.” Yu admitted hesitatingly.

“I'm glad you could make it. What do you think of the exhibition?” Shao opened his arms, turning about the room, “magnificent, don't you think? Should see the pits, the wonders continue.”

Yu's response put Shao off. With a shrug the youth disarmed the professor. “They're, fine. I guess.”

“A provincial lad.” the older man said quietly.

“Oh that's a shame. Because we may be at the very start of China!” the professor exclaimed proudly. “Perchance though, what do you know of Qin Shi Huang?”

Yu shook his head. Nothing.

“Ah. A shame. But please, come over here. Please. Come, come.” Shao went on, encouraging the young man over to the case. “Do you see this?” He directed him to the shards of statuary protected by glass. Yu nodded. “These are the remains of at least several in so far many dozen warrior statues built entirely from terra cotta. Er- fired clay, you know. Yes?”

“I get the idea.” Yu said indifferently.

“Good. But these are parts of a much more impressive whole. If you- if you would follow me. I-I can show you.” Shao continued excited.

He nearly bolted off in a run and the group had to begin with a sudden start. As they went Shao went on breathlessly. “There is much we don't know about the Qin dynasty, what has been written about them came well after the fact, despite them having been able to write about themselves just as easily. But from what we understand from the Records Of The Grand Historian is that several thousand years ago they made the western most frontier of Chinese civilization, located where we are presently! During a pivotal moment of our people's history they managed to unite the Chinese nation after some seven centuries of war and strife in the country, becoming the first real and true Chinese State! Is this a story you heard before?”

Yu, drawing breath replied: “No.”

“I should I have thought so.” said Shao, despondent.

“As I said, a provincial.” the elderly man said from behind.

They finally came to a stop before a tall display, full height. Inside was an intact terra-cotta figure. Yu stopped before the darkened figure under its lone yellow light. Long shadows were stretched down over the proud figures features. Clad in armor, it looked positively medieval. And seeing it Yu could not help but remark to himself: it could come to life at any moment; it is a real man! Shao beamed with pride.

“This is the full figure.” he said delighted.

“One of potentially thousands.” the older man said. He inserted himself in the lesson, “We can't say for certain how many are buried in the field but we had to halt digging for them. We are not only searching the pits we have so far opened already. I was present for this one to be lifted out of the ground, and I tell you young man: if you are impressed at it now, you should have seen it when it was removed. Alive with color, I would say! Absolutely gorgeous. The most beautiful piece of artwork and handiwork you would ever see in your life. But as soon as this son of a bitch touched the air all that splendor peeled away and flaked into dust in the wind. This whole man was colored as though he were alive and breathing! Just frozen.”

“A remarkable turn of passion, Mr. Qi.” Shao said.

“Yes well, I've heard many people talk about how they would like to paint him. And I just want them to know he was painted.”

“It is... Scary.” Yu said. He was not wrong. It looked too similar to people he had seen. Every bit about it looked ready to move. His skin felt cold looking at it. He was stunned to see it fill Shao with so much energy. Did he not feel it cursing him?

“We have had no knowledge of the existence of such a treasure trove.” he laughed, “It's just one of those things that spring from the earth and bite all of human kind in the ass! And everything about him, from his armor and weapons and location here at Xi'an at Mount Li all points to us having found the resting place of China's first true emperor. We have a couple guesses where, but we are not confident in whether or not we should enter.”

“Why wouldn't you enter?” asked Yu.

Shao turned to him and smiled politely, “If the records of Sima Qian is to be believed, it is because the tomb would be an entirely hostile alien universe of sorts. A world that normal men would not and could not thrive in long. The emperor had built for his burial an entire scale representation of the world as the Chinese at the time understood it, complete with rivers filled with mercury. The tomb, if we were to open it would be a toxic environment. And: as my colleague Qi said: if these ancient soldiers lost their pant as fast as they have in this environment, how much damage might we do to the tomb simply be opening it? Qin Shi Huang may get to rest now for a time: because the elements are to his advantage.”

“I see, but who was he?” Yu asked.

“Our first emperor. But we have a long story to tell.”

“I have to say professor Shao, you are doing this very well.” one of the young entourage said with a smile. Turning to look at him Yu saw he had a notebook out and was already taking notes.

“Well, I was a high school teacher prior to this. Then I made the jump to tenured professor.” he said with a laugh, “But, let us begin at the beginning...”
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