Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Byrd Man
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Byrd Man El Hombre Pájaro

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Sitka Federal District

Chichagof Island

Ruth Endlemen-Coen’s eyes fluttered open. She could hear the sound of a ringing phone even over Danny’s buzzsaw snore. She scowled at her husband of fifteen years as he peacefully slept, unburdened with ringing telephones and anything that wasn't his own dreams. Her scowl was one of envy. Just once -- just for one night -- she would have liked to have slept as deep as Danny did every night. She wouldn't have to worry about ringing phones or crying children. Just blissful oblivion.

She slipped out of bed and found her slippers before padding towards the still ringing phone. This time of night, it could only be someone from Washington. Ruth peered at the clock on the wall through sleep blurred vision. 5AM Sitka time which meant it was 9AM on the American east coast. Somebody just starting out their work day had something that couldn’t wait for Ruth to get to the office four hours later.

Ruth snatched the phone off the cradle and answered in American, “Someone better be dead, dying, or the United States better be undergoing another fucking presidential coup.”

“Morin' to you too, Ruthie. A little birdie told me Greenleaf is at the White House right now. He's getting the approval coming back to Alaska to call for a constitutional convention.”

“Shit,” Ruth spat.

The southern-tinged voice on the other end was Joe Dawkins, Undersecretary for the Department of the Interior and Ruth’s boss. Greenleaf was Ernest Greenleaf, governor of the Alaska Territory and chauvinist on all things Alaskan statehood.

Ruth sighed and transferred the phone to the other ear. She glanced at the photos on the opposite wall. There were plenty of her and Danny and their two boys, but also photos of old men and women in black and white photographs. Portraits of Ruth’s ancestors in the days they called Germany home. Photos of Ruth and her brothers when she was just ten, photos of the entire Endlemen-Moses family outside their Sitka homestead in the days before the great migration began. Her Uncle Bob held a hand drawn sign in the photo "Welcome to Sitka: Home of the Frozen Chosen."

“If Greenleaf wants to make Alaska a state, that’s fine with me,” said Ruth. “My issue is he’s building statehood on the backs of four million Jews. Four million Jews, over a quarter of which are rightful US citizens and the rest in some murky limbo where they are citizens of Sitka in particular, but nothing else in general.”

“Save the speeches for the politicians,” said Dawkins. “I’m giving you a heads up because I don’t want some reporter trying to sandbag you and catch you off guard, okay. If they ask for a statement you tell them you are simply a federal employee, Alaska statehood is not your concern and you have no comment. Do not go on the record, Ruthie. I’m serious.”

Ruth bristled in silence as Dawkins continued to lecture her. His early call wasn’t the first step of some plan to change Greenleaf’s mind. No, it was a simple warning to keep her big yap shut. It was demeaning, standing here in her pajamas and slippers as a middle aged man talked to her, a thirty-six year old mother of two, like she was some child. Okay, she knew she had something of a track record when it came to the topic of statehood. She’d made it well known to anyone who would listen her thoughts on the matter. If the people she told in the past just so happened to be reporters, that wasn’t her fault now was it?

“You understand me, Ruth?” Dawkins finally said. “I need you to promise me you won’t go on the record to the press.”

A moment of silence passed. Ruth looked up at the photos on the wall again. She’d been here in the cold and snow for over twenty years, before people like Dawkins even knew where the hell Sitka was. How in the hell could he tell her to not fight for this place and these people?

“I promise,” she said, a smirk forming on her face. “To not go on the record to the press.”

Sitka Central

“So who killed Albert Einstein?”

Levy ignored Jake’s question as the two detectives rode the cage elevator up to the fifth floor. Sitka PD Central was a seven story dump of a building that sat at the corner of Lake Avenue and Gold Street. Bookings, holding cells, and the city jail comprised the basement and first two floors while the detective bureaus comprised floors three through five. While Sitka PD had six precincts that dotted the island, all investigations were ran out of Sitka Central. The third floor was all OCB – Organized Crime Bureau – territory. The fourth floor was home to narcotics, bunco, and vice. The fifth floor held the violent crimes bureau which included homicide, robbery, and sex crimes. The top two floors held administration. Whenever something came down from the bosses, it always was said “Seventh Floor wants this done," and in Levy's humble opinion Sitka Central would run much better without the top two floors.

Outside of the always opaque OCB, Levy had bounced around the other various departments as a detective. He’d gotten his start as a plainclothes cop working bunco, busting conmen and fraudulent fortune tellers Unter Tage. From there it was a two year deployment in narcotics followed by a wild three year run in robbery. His work on the Hebrew National Bank job helped springboard him to a plumb posting in homicide, and he’d been a murder police ever since. Levy had never personally gone back and looked at his numbers, but he knew enough based on memory to know his clearance rate had to be skewered higher than the average shamus Sitka entrusted to solve their murders. He was competent and knew how to avoid political shitstorms. Unless he fucked things up royally he could stay in homicide until he reached his 30th year of service and pulled the pin.

“I know who killed Albert Einstein,” Levy finally said, pulling open the cage door as the elevator halted on the fifth floor.

Jake perked up and looked at Levy expectantly

“An aneurysm…”

Jake furrowed his brow. “What?”

Levy pulled out a cigarette and lit up. “What do you mean what? You don’t remember the papers all last spring? Albert Einstein was some egghead yid who was president of Germany in the 40’s.”

“Really?” asked Jake. "So, a fake name on the registration."

“Yeah, considering the real Einstein died back in April. Wouldn't be the first time someone didn't put down their real name at a flop like the Disraeli.”

The two detectives walked down the hall towards the homicide unit. The fifth floor was quiet at this time of morning, just past seven in the morning, the last hour before shift change. The day squad hadn’t come in, and the night squad who hadn't left for the day were hunkered down and watching the clock, praying they could get through the last hour without being called out. No such luck for Detectives Levy and Abrams. Because of the call to the Disraeli the sun would be well into the sky by the time they were done with their paperwork.

Back at the crime scene Jake waited for medical examiners to show up to take possession of the body. Levy and Moose Moskowitz canvassed the residents of the sixth floor of the Disraeli Hotel for any potential leads. All they got were bleary-eyed people grumbling they hadn’t heard anything so please leave them alone. The ME’s had shipped the body to the city morgue where Dr. Feldenstein would do an autopsy later today. After that it was breakfast, Jake’s treat as penance for conjuring this murder with his words. Levy had opted for waffles at the all night diner. Seeing Moose Moskowitz in his lumpy, all-brown uniform killed his taste for latkes.

They walked into the bullpen of the homicide unit and found a sleeping Detective Mel Horovitz the only one "on-duty" at the moment. Horvitz had his feet propped up on his desk, his blazer wrapped around his front as cover. The bullpen contained twelve desks sectioned off in pairs facing each other. In the corner, behind glass, was Captain Katz’s office. The current squads were broken down into three eight men shifts. Twenty-four total detectives assigned to work and close the 150 plus murders Sitka City had every year. Broken down that meant every detective worked between 6 and 8 homicides a year. Levy, Jake, and the six other detectives on the nightshift would switch to the day shift of 8AM to 4PM in a month’s time, they’d stay there for three months before taking the evening shift of 4PM to Midnight, and then another three months before switching back to nights.

Levy took his porkpie hat off and rubbed the thinning, curly dark hair underneath. No yarmulke underneath his hat like Jake. He couldn’t remember the last time he wore one. His cousin’s wedding back in ‘52? That was probably it. He placed the hat and his coat on a rack beside the door and walked towards his desk. The desk across from his belonged to Detective Hiram Berg. Berg worked the afternoon shift this current rotation, so he and Levy were like ships in the night as they passed each other. But that didn’t stop them from their game.

On the corner of the workspace they shared was a small travel sized chessboard in the middle of a game. Levy played black and Berg was white. The rules were only one move could be made by each side per shift they worked. The current game had been going on for two weeks now and to anyone who knew the game it appeared that Berg had the upper hand. But that was Levy’s intent. He was playing a King’s Indian Defence, ceding control of the middle of the board to white and lulling Berg into a false sense of superiority. In a few more moves Levy would pounce on Berg’s pieces and surround his king. Levy surveyed the board with his hands on his hips. After about a minute of calculation, he moved a bishop to H6 for his turn that day before going towards the big board.

The large chalkboard took up almost the entire far wall of the room. Written on it was a variety of information – squad schedules and changes, reminders of upcoming training classes, even some scribbled bets and odds on that night’s Heshie Roth fight – but most important were the list of names and detectives that formed the grid. The twenty-four detectives of the homicide unit were broken down into a twelve square grid, each square representing a detective paring. Underneath the pairings were names and numbers – homicide victims and case file numbers – that were were color coded. Names and cases in white chalk were closed, names in pink chalk were still unsolved.

Levy crossed his arms as he watched Jake write underneath their name: “M1955173 - ‘Einstein’' in pink chalk. Murder number 173 for the year 1955. Shit, thought Levy, they stood a good chance to top over 200 by year’s end. Levy counted ten names above Einstein. Of those ten only two were still pink. Einstein made for the third open unsolved on their books. Far better than most other pairs on the board. That was the best thing to Levy about the big board. You could tell right away which detectives were solving cases and which were just soft humping them. The Rabinowitz-Greene team were either the worst or unluckiest duo on the board, twelve pink cases and only one white to show for it. But Levy had been there before. His 1949 year saw him go 0-8 on murders. That year the Unter Tage had been ripped apart by a shtarker gang war. Every single murder Levy caught that year was a victim of the war. No way to trace the killers and no cooperative witnesses. Nobody saw shit, nobody said shit, and nobody got arrested or convicted. His repeated requests to OCB for info on the victims were, as far as he knew, still under consideration pending approval from a supervisor. Maybe he’d get those files before 19 fucking 70.

“So who killed ‘Albert Einstein’, Detective?” Levy asked his partner, an eyebrow raised. “How about we find out?”

Ruth held an umbrella over her head to fight the slow, steady drizzle coming down from above. Her large purse sat in the crook of the arm that held the umbrella. In her other hand was a briefcase. She wore a trench coat over her dress to keep it protected from the elements. She was downtown at the corner of Lake Avenue and Trout Boulevard. The federal building and her office was just down the block, cars passed by on both streets while the rain seemed to not deter the throng of commuters walking the sidewalks on their way to work. Ruth had taken the train in from Chichagof Island that morning. It probably wasn’t any faster than driving into the city, but she liked the time to sit on the train and think. To plan what she wanted to do with the information Dawkins had laid on her lap hours earlier.

She glanced towards the federal building again. City hall sat directly across the street from it, Sitka Central next to it on the corner of Lake and Gold. She checked her watch and saw it was just past nine now. Uncle Bob would be into work by now. That was good. She could make this first little salvo and then consult with him. Because if there was one man who could see all the angles, it was Robert Moses.

The payphone door slid open easily enough. Ruth stepped in and shut it behind her. She shook the rain from her coat and umbrella before fishing through her purse for change. Ruth fed the machine a dime and waited for the operator to pick up.

“Eydish oder Rusish?” the voice on the other line asked.

“Yiddish,” replied Ruth.

“How may I direct your call today?”

“Connect me with OXford145, please.”

“One moment.”

Ruth heard the silence and fuzz, followed by a steady purr of a phone ringing.

New York Times, Sitka Bureau. How may I direct your call?”

“I’d like to speak to Artie Mayfield.” said Ruth.

“Who should I say is calling?”

“Ruth Coen.”

“Hold please.”

Almost a minute of silence until she heard the nasal voice of Arthur Mayfield.

“A good Sabbath eve Ruth, my dear. It is my honor, no, my privilege to be conversing with you on this Sabbath eve. What in the manner of answer, solution, or resolution can I provide for you today, Sabbath Eve?”

“Artie,” she said in America. “Drop the Yiddish.”

Though he would never confirm or deny, word was Baltimore native and Times reporter Arthur Mayfield jumped headfirst into his Sitka bureau assignment by learning Yiddish from an old German professor at Johns Hopkins. The problem? The old Jew’s Yiddish was even older than him, early 19th century and very formal. This left him with a stilted and very redundant way of speaking Sitka’s primary language. The joke was if Artie Mayfield could order a pizza in thirty minutes or less it was on the house.

“What can I do for you, Ruth?” he asked in his native tongue.

“Governor Greenleaf is in DC this week. This is deep background, but he’s drumming up federal support for a constitutional convention back in Juneau. He wants Alaskan statehood soon.”

“Where does that leave Sitka?” Artie asked. Ruth could hear something in the background, a soft scratch that was probably Mayfield writing notes.

“Nobody knows yet, but if Alaska gets statehood it’s because of Sitka’s population. All these Jews that fled and were born here, they deserve citizenship as much as our goyish friends in Juneau or Nome. So if the governor’s plan is to call a convention, you can bet Sitka will have representatives there. Whether we’re invited or not.”

“How much of this can I use?”

Ruth could hear the excitement in his voice. She remembered Dawkins words. No comment on the record. On the record.

“Keep me anonymous, Artie, and you can use it all.”

“Perfect. I gotta let you go. I need to start making calls back to DC and New York. It’s already the afternoon there.”

“Happy hunting,” Ruth said with a smile on her face. “Keep in touch.”
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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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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Summer 1955
Lone Star

White House, Washington D.C.
President Álvarez,

I know, for a fact, that you have fully weighed the ramifications of the invasion of British Belize. You should understand that my government condemns the actions of the Mexican military, as do I. The citizens of British Belize have the right of revolution against the tyranny of the British crown. Especially when their country is in the midst of a severe crisis within. Instead, they're subjects of your ambitions to make your home county relevant to the world stage. You and I know who actually belongs at that stage.

Of course, I will bring my concerns about your recent expansive attitudes to the international community. However, I wanted to write this letter in the hopes of arranging some sort of agreement. Of course, talks will be held on natural grounds as well as emphasize the future of the Caribbeans. Until then, please understand that the United States must take precautions right now. As such, we are moving troops back to the border due to the current escalation of tensions between our nations.

You got our attention. For your sake, do not waste this opportunity.

President Gordon Harrington

Gordon Harrington toss the pen aside and examined the finalized letter. Of all the souls inside the White House, he was the one that truly understood war. He was drafted into service when the United States joined the Great War against the Entente in Europe. Gordon partook in the Meuse–Argonne campaign, which was the deadliest battle that the American Expeditionary Force fought in the war, and remained in the frontlines for eight months. Then, the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Rotterdam. He refused to talk about his time there not even to his wife or siblings and it haunts him still.

Daryl Melton, the Secretary of War, walked in the room unannounced with today's paper from The Washington Herald. Gordon was caught off-guard by the secretary's presence that he nearly threw the papers up in the air. It only took a second to calm down while Daryl apologized for the rude interruption and then placed down the newspaper. Then, Gordon picked up the paper and immediately noticed the headline: MEXICAN NAVY STRIKES JAMAICAN FLEET NEAR THEIR ISLAND.

"Well, shit." Gordon put down the paper and stood up from his chair, looking pretty irritated. "Álvarez's escalating his plan quicker than I have foreseen."

"I fear that Mexico will invade the colony in the coming weeks. Afterwards, they will march for the Caribbeans next." Daryl didn't even attempt to tell a single lie with his response.

Gordon sat back down and stared at the Secretary of War with a sense of resolve. "Alright then, they clearly give us no choice. It's time to activate Lone Star and reinstate the Monroe Doctrine. I assume you understand what this means."

"Of course, I will notify the War Department of their new orders." Daryl nodded and began making his way out of the oval office. That was until Gordon called him back over, who was sealing the letter up. "What is it, Mr. President?"

"Since you're on your way out, please give this letter to my personal secretary. She should be nearby if she isn't doing her other duties. Her name's Evelyn Harding, in case you need to search for you." Gordon handed the envelope over to Daryl and then dismissed him. "See you soon, secretary."

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

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The Caribbean Sea
August, 1955

Captain Pulido’s change of mission came as a wireless telegram delivered to the cabin at eight in the morning as he emerged on deck with a freshly steaming cup of coffee. It had been delivered two hours or so earlier and decrypted by the ship’s intelligence and encryption desk using a curious electromechanical rotor cipher machine. The machines, utilized on both ends of a morse code or other radio network, encrypted messages into a cipher text and allowed free transmission of secret messages: any interceptor would merely see a jumbled alphabet nonsense. Its settings had switched over at six in the morning in compliance with the rule that the rotors be wired strictly according to codebooks distributed before patrols: the message came in full no more than five minutes later.

Captain Pulido put his mug down on a ledge by the ship’s wheel, studying the printout. It came directly down the chain from the Comando del Teatro Atlántico, or the Navy’s Atlantic command. He raised an eyebrow at the message. Of course, he had been privy to high-level indications of these preparations, but the course of action seemed to have jumped the gun on their supposed timeline.









4) ARM



Pulido sat down in his padded chair, reexamining the message. He had ordered Teniente Fuentes to retrieve a copy of Operation Plan Rey Grande from the classified vault so that he could refresh himself on the specifics of the plan. The current roster of ships assigned to his new task force were all small patrol vessels, with the Hernandez being the only speedy corvette of the group. The Matador by far had the strongest and longest-ranged firepower of the group: the patrol boats would have to be used for mopping up and commerce raiding after Pulido and the Hernandez had dispatched the British ships that were tasked to him.

He gave his order quickly, having the helmsman turn towards the identified rendezvous point. Their new course was charted and they took the rest of the day at full speed to head to the area. Atlantic Command’s meeting point for Task Force 11 positioned them squarely to the northwest of Jamaica, almost forty nautical miles north of Montego Bay. The Matador circled as, one by one, the Mexican ships assembled. The Hernandez, being the fastest, was the first to arrive on scene around midmorning. She hailed the Matador on radio, flying her signal flags to indicate her friendly disposition.

Two of the patrol vessels arrived later that afternoon as the pair circled the point. The last one, the Maravilla steaming in from a further patrol point around Cancún, came into formation by the evening. Pulido, with each of the ships’ skippers, confirmed their mission and ordered Task Force 11 to steam eastward as fast as they could go. This turned out to be the maximum speed of the patrol vessels, who simply could not go as fast as the Hernandez or even the Matador. Pulido checked his watch on the ship’s bridge and frowned. The patrol boats were making their best effort, but he was worried they’d be late to their interdiction location.

His navigator, another Lieutenant junior to Fuentes, was drawing a course in a grease pencil across a depth chart. His push-pins, now colored yellow to indicate their new mission, denoted the Matador’s abrupt shift of travel around the western coast of Cuba. A crudely drawn Union Jack was pinned to the map with an arrow denoting their path of travel. He updated the map whenever they received reconnaissance information or extrapolated their position based on speed and heading in the absence of the Navy’s seaplane flights. For hours, they puttered through the seas until, in the dusk, a lookout noticed the telltale silhouettes of ships on the horizon.

The watch officer called up to Captain Pulido: “Sir, we have a grouping similar in size to our target on the heading.”

Captain Pulido raised an eyebrow and looked around the bridge. He had been here for hours, only taking naps in his cabin between extended shifts on deck. “What do you mean, similar size?”

“Well sir, it appears to be slightly bigger. One or two ships more than anticipated.”

“How large are they?”

“It’s too hard to tell, sir,” the watch officer explained. “In these conditions, we can’t tell until we get close. It may just be another merchant ship that jointed the pack. But if we hurry, we can get to weapons range.”

Pulido nodded and thanked the watch officer. He hung up the phone and turned to his signal officer on the bridge. The young man fumbled for his pen and paper, quickly jotting down the commander’s request to signal the Hernandez. With signal lights, the Matador relayed the message and quickly got the commander of the corvette on a radio channel. Captain Ronaldo Sandia greeted Pulido cheerfully.

“You see them, Rafael?” he asked in a chipper tone. “We finally caught up to the bastards, these patrol boats be damned.”

“Yeah, yeah, I see them,” Pulido replied. He looked through his window where the silhouettes appeared as tiny specks against the orange horizon. “But we’re running out of daylight and I don’t want to engage at night. Worse yet, the lookout reports that there’s another ship in the pack.”

“Another ship?” said Sandia quizzically. “We haven’t seen that. Maybe it’s another freighter that got mixed in with the group.”

“That’s what the lookout suspects,” confirmed Pulido. He shrugged. “I fear we may be going too far out of our support network if we wait. I say we speed up to engage. Let the patrol boats catch up as we start shelling them from our maximum ranges. They can maneuver past us and pick off the wounded with their torpedoes.”

It was risky, but the Matador and and the Hernandez had actual cannons. The Matador boasted the heaviest armor and weapons, although not by much: the frigate could attack with two high-velocity cannons at the fore and aft, while the Hernandez needed to get a little closer to utilize its single medium-velocity cannon to hit more vulnerable parts of an enemy superstructure. The patrol ships had direct-attack capabilities in the form of a system of quad-barrel forty-millimeter automatic cannons but was far more deadly up close with its deck-mounted torpedo launchers. The two ships-of-the-line would need to cover the trio of patrol ships as they approached to finish off damaged and slowed vessels.

Captain Sandia agreed to the plan, which was quickly relayed by the signalers to the whole formation of Task Force 11. The Matador and Hernandez, upon receiving confirmation from the patrol ships to alter their course, turned their boilers up to unleash the maximum amount of power to the propulsion systems. The propellers churned up water, splashing a huge wake in the glimmering sea. The Matador had swung its guns to the enemy formation and waited. Mexican sailors rushed about the ship to attend their battle stations in flak jackets and steel helmets as an alarm blared general quarters. All lights on the ship had been shut off, with the red low-visibility lights taking their place.

Captain Pulido, steely eyed and gazing towards the first real ship to ship combat of his career, could hardly think of anything else. But for a split second, he realized something: he should probably give a speech while he still could. Finding the microphone to the intercom, he cleared his throat and addressed the crew as stoically as he could:

“Men, we are about to engage the enemy in defense of Mexico for the first time since our revolution. Like our forefathers who fought for liberation against the Spanish, French, and Americans, I know that our spirit will prevail. I trust that everyone will do his duty and I know that you are all well trained for the task ahead. Keep your heads down and your job in mind. Prepare for combat.”

He hung up his microphone with a static click as the bridge remained dead silent. For another twenty agonizing minutes, the only sound was the rushing of the ship as it cut through the sea towards their adversaries. The clock struck seven in the evening, and the weapons officer declared that they were inside of the maximum effective range of their cannons. Not that it mattered much, as the first few rounds at maximum range were bound to miss. Within three minutes, the crew had loaded a shell from the ship’s magazine and stabilized on what appeared to be a warship in the distance. Captain Pulido gave the order to fire.

With a roar, the front cannon on the Matador opened up with a burst of flame ejecting from the barrel. The whole ship shook from the blast of the cannon as the crew waited with anticipation. The first shot of the naval conflict had been fired. Through binoculars, a spotter observed the round splash down in the sea a minute later. It had been a miss. He shouted commands to the rest of the crew nearby to adjust their fire. Deep within the ship, in the plotting room, the data was relayed via intercom and the gunnery crew initiated a complicated dance with their electromechanical rangekeeper computer. The crude analog device’s rotors spun and whirred until a printout gave gun corrections to the gun chief.

Within a minute, the corrections had been made by the gunnery team in a cramped and sweaty control room, frantically spinning wheels to adjust the elevation and azimuth. Captain Pulido received confirmation on the bridge that the ship was ready to fire again and he ordered a second shot towards the British pack. In the distance, a few nautical miles ahead, the Hernandez had taken the lead and was now within range of its own smaller cannon. Distant thumps, more rapid-fire than the Matador’s own gun, emanated from the corvette as Captain Sandia ordered a rapid fire saturation gunnery of the tightly-packed British fleet.

By the time the third shot had left the gun, the Matador had splashed consistently up to the enemy fleet and was edging in on a hit. But the lookouts spotted the ships breaking formation, one at first but then joined by two others that now appeared to be patrol ships much like Task Force 11. A fourth, the corvette, followed suit and rushed towards the Hernandez. The rest of them continued their heading, more than likely the merchant vessels. Captain Pulido gave the order to fire at will at the ships who chose to stay and fight. Task Force 11’s own patrol ships broke formation to circle around and close in under the cover of the frigate and corvette’s guns.

“Rafael!” crackled the radio. It was Captain Sandia. “We see the enemy corvette heading right for us! I think it wants to fight. We’re going to focus our fire on it before they can target. I’m turning head on.”

Pulido acknowledged and watched through his own binoculars as the Hernandez fired off a round and spun quickly to charge the British corvette. Two ships of equal size, with mostly equal weaponry, were now playing a game of chicken with each other. The Hernandez presented itself with as small a profile as possible as its main gun continued firing in rapid bursts. After another two shots, Captain Sandia scored the first hit of the fight: a small cannon shell hit the foredeck of the British corvette and exploded. The round did little damage and didn’t knock out the British cannon, which fired a return shot. This near miss splashed up water next to the Hernandez.

Pulido kept firing, the Matador gunning closer and closer to the British corvette. He had closed in to an acceptable range during his charge, and now felt it appropriate to swing the ship to port and get his neglected rear cannon into action. The Matador, under the heavy hand of her helmsman, leaned dramatically to the side as it sought to bring her rear gun to bear hurriedly. The weapons officer finally received confirmation of a firing solution from the aft gun and Captain Pulido ordered it into action.

Two guns off the Matador erupted, sending high-explosive rounds rippling through the evening sky. They arced over the waves before finding their target. Both of them, somehow, impacted simultaneously on the British corvette’s super structure. Beneath its tripod mast and observation next, bright orange explosions lit up the sky and reflected across the dark blue Caribbean waters. Someone in the bridge shouted “good hit!” and Captain Pulido examined the impact of the shells through his binoculars. The corvette’s superstructure appeared mangled and burned, metal warped and darkened by the flash fires that were now starting in the bridge area.

“Repeat that!” he shouted to the weapon officer in uncharacteristic excitement. His heart was pounding through his chest and his hands trembled on the grips of his binoculars. Another roar of cannon fire rippled through the Matador, but these disappointingly fell short.

Over the radio, Captain Sandia reported in: “Good hit on that corvette’s bridge, Rafael. We can take it from here.”

“I got it, Ron, we’re going to shift fire to the patrol boats.”

With that, the Hernandez belched flame from its medium cannon. A dozen agonizing seconds later, that too found itself hitting the wounded British corvette. The Matador had already been given the order to focus one cannon on a patrol boat to engage two targets at once, but Pulido still watched the British corvette with morbid curiosity. Sandia’s gunfire had ignited a fire on the deck in front of the superstructure, perilously close to the corvette’s gun. In the light, he could now see the specks of British sailors running across the deck in panic. Its cannon fired one more time, sending a return shot towards its aggressor.

It may have been bad luck, or good training, or punishment for past sins committed, but the British corvette’s cannon fire seemed to go straight into the bridge of the Hernandez. It was textbook: the round practically went through the glass windows of the Mexican corvette and exploded inside, sending channels of flame rushing out through every opening on the bridge. Pulido’s knuckles went white as he realized that Captain Sandia, probably flamboyantly commanding fire from the bridge just like he was, had perished instantly. There was no response to radio hails. But Captain Sandia had his revenge on the way, as a moment before the British hit his vessel a repeat shot had been sent towards the enemy.

This one, just as luckily, buried itself into the deck where its previous impact had blown open a hole in the plating. Instantly, the British corvette’s front gun magazine was hit by the impact and exploded into a massive cloud of flame and smoke. The ship rocked, shaken by the explosion, and began diving bow into the waves. Beneath the smoke and dust, Pulido could see that a large gash was taking on obscene amounts of water. Sailors jumped from the gunwales of the vessel into the water and began swimming away. The Matador, still firing at the patrol boats, was unfazed even if Captain Pulido thought of the mutual suicide he had just witnessed.

Silently moving through to the south of the enemy pack, the Mexican patrol vessels had reached torpedo range of what appeared to be two merchant ships trailing the end of the convoy. Like wolves to a pack of sheep, the patrol ships settled into a formation and sped up to engage. Each of them swiveled their mounted torpedo launchers to the chosen victim and fired. The pneumatic tubes forced a torpedo off the deck and into the water, where the propeller was activated. Their tiny engines produced enough speed to ensure that the projectile was twice as fast as the British merchant ships, and they sped towards their targets. Unlike long-range naval gunfire, these torpedoes were deadly accurate.

One, then another, then a third torpedo found their first target. A coordinated attack on a single merchant ship sent the trio of explosions rippling across its keel on the port side. While the patrol ships reloaded their torpedo launchers and slinked away for another attack, the Girasol reported to the Matador that one of the merchant vessels was listing and taking on water. A quick kill, hopefully to be repeated on another target. Within fifteen minutes, they had reloaded and zeroed in on a second merchant ship where they repeated the process. Only two torpedoes found their target this time, but this was enough. The stern of the ship was torn to shreds, the merchant ship’s bow slowly raising into the air as it took on water to its aft.

But as the Matador dueled with the speedy British patrol boats, a ship emerged from the shadows of the pack heading straight for the patrol ships. It was a frigate, just like the Matador. The mystery vessel had been another warship all along, obscured by the merchant fleet until it was too late. The Girasol, after scoring its second kill of the night, was the British frigate’s first target. A heavy gun unleashed at close range on the much smaller patrol ship, detonating across the foredeck to deadly effect. It didn’t take long before the Girasol was as dead as the merchant ships it had just torpedoed. Unceremoniously, the two surviving patrol ships immediately turned tail and ran before the British frigate could target them at point blank range as well.

Pulido could hear the patrol vessels panicking over the radio as they aborted their mission to save themselves. Better to let the merchant freighters go than to commit suicide by frigate. Pulido’s guns had scored an important victory on one of the British patrol boats, hitting its stern and rendering it dead in the water while its two partners continued to rush forwards.

“We need help over here!” the commander of the Madreselva shouted.

So the Matador turned towards the British frigate, in direct opposition to any sort of common sense. The naval crossing of the tee, which had a ship bring all its guns to bear against a perpendicular enemy, was considered the epitome of a textbook attack. Captain Pulido, seeking to maximize the element of surprise while the British ship was busy taking care of the patrol vessels, was now at the wrong end of the tee. He ordered the Matador to fire, its gun crew having acquired a firing solution on the slow-moving frigate. This one hit, partially due to the larger size of the enemy vessel compared to the corvette, and battle damage could be seen on the hull.

“I scored I hit,” Captain Pulido announced over the radio. The British ship fired again, narrowly missing what appeared to be the Madreselva. “And they can’t shoot all of us. I need you to turn back and fire some goddamn torpedoes into that thing!”

With a moment of hesitation, the commander of the Madreselva agreed. The Matador repeated its shot, which fell slightly short. But now she was taking fire from the British frigate. Pulido could maneuver and, hopefully, survive a few hits with his own armor. In his heart, he hoped that Captain Sandia on the Hernandez had assumed all the bad luck of this engagement. Pulido turned his vessel to the port again, zig zagging closer to the British frigate to keep both of his guns in action. While he dueled with the enemy, the Madreselva took her opportunity. Her captain turned around, charging again towards the British fleet.

With both of the British frigate’s guns directed towards the Matador, the Madraselva was able to take revenge on the Girasol. The torpedo launchers held two torpedoes, which were both swiveled to the enemy frigate and fired immediately. Caught between the pincers of two attacks, the British frigate took one hit of the Matador’s guns to the starboard side of her superstructure and two of the Madraselva’s torpedoes to her port stern. The Matador’s bridge erupted into cheers as the British frigate went up in flames, the two bursts of fire from the port side condemning the vessel to a swift sinking.

With the two British warships sinking into the sea and a patrol boat beginning its own demise, Captain Pulido made a decision. The Girasol was decimated, the Hernandez was heavily wounded, and he had two patrol vessels in close contact with an enemy fleet that may have more heavy warships like the frigate they had just destroyed. Over the radio, Captain Pulido gave the order for Task Force 11 to disengage. They were to regroup, maintain a defensive posture, and pick up any survivors that they could find. The British were interested only in a quick getaway, and Pulido didn’t want to risk any damage to his ship or the damaged Hernandez if he didn’t have to.

Task Force 11 pulled together and waited through the night as the British patrol boats realized what was happening and broke contact. Captain Pulido watched and waited as the merchant marine fleet, now two freighters short, got away. But the British had also lost a corvette and a frigate underneath the waters of the Caribbean, and the Mexicans were picking up the survivors of a single patrol ship while one of its corvettes sought the safety of its task force for safe passage to a repair yard.

Survivors in life rafts fired flares into the air all night. The Matador slowed to a crawl as it sailed through the wreckage and debris of the battle. In lifeboats and rafts, her rescue parties picked up survivors both British and American. As the rescue operations continued into the morning, the British pack was long gone to the northeast. All that was left were the Mexican ships and the flotsam of the battle. To Captain Pulido, it reminded him again of the eerie feeling of encountering the USS Isherwood and the ARA Ironia.

This was mission success for Task Force 11. But the war had just begun for the ARM Matador.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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“With all due respect, Representative Starosta, I understand what the people want and what the General Assembly want us to do, but it simply isn’t possible for us to start a war with Turkey right now.” General Brózda sighed, gently creasing the wrinkles on her gently tanned face. Her tan uniform jacket hung halfway open, partway between a dress outfit and a simple footsoldier’s uniform, studded with a small handful of medals nonetheless. The Romanian Navy is small to reliably protect our troops, and at our current pace, we won’t have a hold on the Crimean peninsula for another month or two, at least. Maybe only one, if we are lucky.”

Katarzyna sighed in response, crossing her arms over her chest. “I understand that, Ludmila, but it’s not my decision to make. You’re free to meet with the Assembly yourself, or give me a message to deliver to them, but there’s a reason I’m just ‘Representative’. Despite what Blaskowitz might think, I don’t make the decisions around here.” She said, pursing her lips.

“I don’t exactly have time to wait for a meeting with the General Assembly. That could take days, and we’re already staring down the barrel of a major war in the Americas. Between assisting the Indonesians after Surabaya and that...” Ludmila groaned, running her hand through her hair with a shake of her head.

One of the two men on either side of her - the older of the two, with a couple more signs of wear on his face - straightened his tie, clearing his throat. “She’s right.” He said. I know Mr. Szymon,” he began, gesturing to the young, greyish blue-uniformed officer, “is eager to put the Turkish Navy at the bottom of the sea, but we have a bigger issue on our hands, as I’m sure you all know by now.”

Instantly, silence fell over the room. Everyone did, it seemed, know exactly what he was talking about - having a spy in the White House bore plenty of fruit, and on this occasion, it bore a particularly sour one. Nobody wanted to break the silence, it seemed, until Szymon finally did mere moments later. “We’re ready for it. You said the Americans haven’t caught on to the Curacao agreement, yes? When the Mexicans make their move, we’ll be ready. Progress is going well on the airstrips -”

“Airbases or not, we still need the Kriegsmarine. A single carrier group, a bundle of escorts, and a load of submarines isn’t going to sink the corporatist boats, not with coverage that doesn’t go further than Texas or Florida. And with the Mexicans poking the British...”

“...We might be going up against the Royal Navy, too, Vasilijus. Jezus Chrystus, we might be staring down the barrel of a three-way war.” Starosta sighed, her shoulder going slack. Finally, she understood exactly why an invasion of Turkey wasn’t possible. Russian objections aside, if they were about to go up against two, perhaps three of the largest navies in the world, with a whole ocean to cross to get to one of them...

That didn’t leave the PUL or Germany with the time or troops to seriously contest a Turkish invasion of the Caucasus.

“...I understand, but the Assembly is going to want options, since we can’t just go around telling everyone we magically know that the Americans are gearing up to invade Mexico. That information stats here, and with the *appropriate* allies. The point is, I need something to tell them, or they get suspicious, and we do too.”

“It doesn’t have to be that complicated. I’ve spoken with Mr Rudnicki - Foreign Affairs. He’s already prepared an official statement. The conflict between Britain and Mexico is worrying us, and, on top of that, the Turks are providing us with the perfect excuse to mobilize, as they’re threatening our allies in the Caucasus - or sovereign Russian territory, depending on who you’re talking to.” Vasilijus Narutowicz snorted derisively, knowing full well that not a single person in the room gave a solitary shit about the territorial integrity of the Tsardom. “That wouldn’t even be a lie, either. We do need to *show* the Turks that we are not weak nor unwilling to act, so that’s what I suggest we do. This looming war might not happen, but if it does, we need to be ready. We’ve already begun training and doing what we can to arm the Transcaucasus with the weapons they need, and in the meantime, our military is getting ready, whether that’s to fight the Turks...”

“...Or everyone else,” Ludmila added. “Our assets in America, anyway - are they ready?”

“Ready as they will be.” Narutowicz replied. “With the military mobilizing, we have less we can spare for them, but we’re sufficiently entrenched to cause substantial chaos. It may come down to them, frankly. The American worker, I mean - I don’t think we can win this without them. Not easily, anyways, and the good thing is that the American worker is very angry.” He nodded - and so did everyone else in the room. “If they don’t do the work they need to do to free their own country, we can’t do much except hope that we can manage to sink the US Navy, or at least hope that the Japanese can do it for us.”

Suddenly, the mood in the room dropped like a stone yet again. The Japanese were an enemy, a terrible one, but...

Finally, the last man in the room clad in crisp dark blue dress, cleared his throat.
“The Japanese Navy is large, yes, and they can probably give the Americans a bloody nose, but they can’t absorb losses as well. It’s in our best interests for them to sink as much of the Pacific fleet as they can, because it means destroying their own ships, too - ships they’ll struggle to rebuild, which means leaving them even less able to protect their quote-unquote colonial possessions. When the Japanese engage the US Navy, they’ll be getting themselves ready to be virtually unable to do a single damned thing about Indonesia, and they certainly won’t be able to keep a hold on the American coast, if that’s what they are planning. The point is, either way, I doubt they're coming out of it stronger than before."

Katarzyna sighed, slowly nodding her head, leaning down onto the mahogany table between them, her palms spread wide. "We're staring down the barrel of the Second Great War, aren't we?" She said, her words so laden with uncertainty that she could almost feel weight leaving her as she spoke them. War, she'd been prepared for - she'd fought in a few, even - but if everything that was being said was true, or even some of it, they weren't looking at any old war. They weren't looking anything like they'd ever seen before, she'd gathered. The Great War, the one her father fought in, that killed millions, but it'd been thirty years.
Thirty years for the art of killing men and women to advance. She felt her heart drop into her stomach as she realized the untold millions that, in all likelihood, were about to die.

Everyone else, it seemed, was realizing the same thing, silent as Starosta pushed herself back to her full height.

"I'll speak to the assembly and tell them as much as I can. I hope you're wrong, Narutowicz - for all our sakes."
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by Andreyich
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The answer was clear, even if unspoken. The oppressors of Turkey's Turanic brethren had no intent of ceasing their criminality, and worse had come as lapdogs to the foreign conspirators responsible for the insolence.

This would not go unnoticed. Declared terrorists not abiding by the Geneva convention, the republic of Turkey swiftly found itself justifications for planned reprisals against the banditry playing at nation, especially its friends from overseas cabals. The Bosphorus straits were promptly closed to those of the red flag, an effort to cause economic harm and more importantly to reduce the ability to ship support to the Caucasus.

The invasion of the red Caucasus happened before the elapse of the deadline, Turkish troops all too eager to reclaim the birthright of their kinsmen. But the Transcaucasians proved more resilient than the hours of propaganda by film and radio they had consumed lead them to believe. The trucks and other hardy vehicles diverted to the front in an effort to show off the modernization programmes of the republic were ultimately of little effect in the mountains and hills. If anything, vehicles were proverbial barrels of fish that the well-positioned artillery of the defenders was able to both directly destroy columns, but similarly avalanches were able to create effectively impassible terrain, clesring which was a slow process at best to ensure ambushes would not ensue.

But progress was not absent. While ordonary troopers struggled, sleeping bitterly every night dreaming of the retribution they would inflict, Mountaineers, Camel troops and other specialized divisions used the opportunity to go far deeper than their comrades. Infiltrating oft well past the front line of the foe, they would first perform reconaissance operations in preparation for the vengeance they would inflict.

But this was only half of the conflict. As violence escalated abroad, the enemies of the Turkish nation saw opportunity. All the Southern Arabs along with their Kurdish allies grounded in enemy of my enemy began their attack. It was a slow affair, one done with much caution to gauge the preparation of the Turks for the event. Finding it ample, a very slow shadow war begun with no grand declarations or flags planted. In the same night as a Turkish garrison slept and entered the arms of Allah with slit throats, a Kurdish village would go up in flames from incendiary shotte. Despite the underhanded nature of the nascent conflict, it would be a mistake to call it minor if counting the sheer human impact.

For the moment, the losses upon both sides were such that rather than demanding a cessation of bloodshed, mothers and fathers demanded revenge.
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Hidden 23 days ago 23 days ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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Summer 1955

Naval Air Base Key West, Key West (FL)
Alan Mercer observed the USS Los Angeles inside the custom-built hangar as mechanics performed routine maintenance. So far, there weren't any concerns found in the airship. The captain was usually patient with the inspections; however, this one was particularly suspicious since it had been only a week since the last checkup. But, Alan knew better than to question orders from his superiors—at least out in the open. Captain Stephen O'Neil of the USS Patoka approached with an opened envelope directly from their superiors.

"Urgent orders from command. We're leaving once the mechanics are done." Stephen stated while handing the envelope over to Alan, who started reading it. His eyes widened in shock and fear before shouting out, "They're putting hydrogen in my airship?!"

"Compressed hydrogen." Stephen corrected Alan. "It's something the eggheads down in Texas created for the military—took them a decade to produce. So, it is more than safe to use in your airship."

"You're only saying that because you aren't its captain." Alan, clearly annoyed, crossed his arms and stared at the Los Angeles. "Even if it was safe, I still don't trust using it. You know how easy hydrogen catches on fire?"

"Look, you probably won't be doing anything risky other than the standard operations. And if things do end up in the shitter, the Patoka and I will be there to help." Stephen smiled and then gave his friend an affectionate pat on the shoulder. Alan felt some relief in his friend's promise, which was genuine. Both men watched as a fuel truck (presumably containing the hydrogen) made its way towards the hanger. Still, it wasn't simple to be easygoing about this decision from Alan's point of view. Yet, he didn't want to keep on bothering Stephen about it. So he thought of something else.

"Will the destroyers be accompanying us to the destination?" Alan asked.

"I'm afraid not." Stephen responded without looking away from the fuel truck. "They got orders to journey near the Bahamas. I don't know the reason, but it looks like we're preparing for war."

Frontier Service Station, Welch (WV)
It was a rainy afternoon when a Mayflower moving truck finally reached the town of Welch after a six-hour drive. Emerson Henzel felt relieved upon noticing the welcome sign on the side of the highway. He was a first-generation immigrant that chose to remain in the states while his family went back to Germany in the thirties at the height of the Great Cleansing. In all honestly, there was a little regret in staying behind; but he still had a purpose to fulfill, which sent him into the Appalachians to meet with the contact.

Pulling to the Frontier service station, Emerson drove to a parking spot and parked the truck. He took a moment to stretch his legs and inspect the vehicle before making his way inside. There wasn't anything different inside this service station besides its owner—Frontier Oil. Emerson recognized the name for the papers, which reported on the oil company's contribution at persuading the Supreme Court to overturn its precedent on monopolies. And while he wasn't keeping up to date on the report, Emerson last read that four of the nine judges were still undecided despite pressure straight from the White House.

Only the cashier was inside the building, listening to the radio while reading a book. Emerson nearly mistook them as an older woman due to the streaks of grey covering up her jet-black hair. And yet, she appeared to be about the same age as Emerson. He ceased staring at her for afar before she noticed and made his way over to the counter. "Excuse me, how much for the gas?"

"I don't know, sir. Did our sign get taken by the state?" The woman sneered at the question before looking away for the book. She instantly noticed the bright yellow moving truck right away rather than the city fellow in front of her. And then, her mood shifted in a heartbeat upon detecting Emerson. "Apologies. It's thirty-two cents a gallon, sir. You want anything else?"

"No thanks..." Emerson replied with a smile before paying the appropriate amount for the gas. But he thought for a moment about the question before changing his answer. "Actually, I was wondering if you could help me find someone in town?

"Of course, who could that be?" The cashier asked kindly and awaited the name.

"Gilbert Hensley." Emerson revealed.

In an instant, the cashier's smile faded from her face and was replaced by a puzzled expression. She was secretly reaching for something behind the counter while trying to gather the words for a proper response. "Oh... that's quite interesting, sir..." Emerson sensed the discomfort in the air and tried to backtrack his question. But before he was able to say anything, the woman swung a baseball bat at his head and successfully struck it. He was already losing consciousness before tumbling to the floor.

And just before the world around him faded to black, he heard the cashier talking to the telephone somewhere away from him. "Brother... i-it happened again..."

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Hidden 14 days ago 14 days ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Hattieville, British Belize
August, 1955

The Mexican troops had taken two days to march the fifty kilometers up the east-west highway in Belize’s central corridor. The terrain was remarkably flat, almost textbook so, allowing Captain Lopez to spread the company out in even platoon wedge formations. The four platoons evenly split around the road, an ancient-looking paved throughfare with no frills beside a drainage ditch. It reminded the commander of a Napoleonic line battle: they were to march up the corridor in a straight line until they received contact with the British. Other companies in the battalion were methodically clearing sections of the road around Sibun Forest. Though they spaced themselves out, occasional radio communications yielded no significant news.

By the time the paratroopers marched carefully into Hattieville, a small village less than twenty kilometers from the capital, the only British they had seen were still the captured platoon in tow guarded by a detail from headquarters company. Lopez’s troops were ordered to halt in the town and set up a perimeter around it in the same sugarcane fields that they had snuck through at Belmopan. Villagers peered at the soldiers, saying nothing as they walked through the streets to investigate potential defensive positions. A general air of complacency had settled upon the company after their engagement with the British: they weren’t known for guerrilla tactics, so the lack of initial contact probably meant that there was nobody here either.

That assumption proved correct as the platoons settled into a ring around the village within an hour and Captain Lopez set up his command post in another farmer’s barn. The British prisoners were herded into an empty cattle pen with a waist-high fence. Not enough to stop an escape, but by now where was there to escape to for them? The commander sighed as Lieutenant Mun͂oz and First Sergeant Kan gathered around his map. “Based on the plan,” said Lopez, “we’re ahead of schedule. We didn’t have to fight through La Democracia or Churchyard. Or here, apparently.”

From a sleeve on his map case, he withdrew a blue poker chip with his company “A/2” written on it in marker. He placed it down on Hattieville, the chip almost completely covering the small town’s footprint on the map’s 1:50,000 scale. A handful of other poker chips, each for the battalion’s four companies and headquarters element, were placed on nearby towns. The battalion headquarters was set up at Belmopan with another company in the guard south to Santa Marta. One was screening the Sibun Forest directly to Lopez’s south while the fourth patrolled the Belize River.

“The problem,” he explained as he placed down red poker chips on Belize City and its suburbs, “is that the main effort of the armored brigade has not pushed down yet… at least according to the timetable.”

“Do we have communication with battalion headquarters,” asked First Sergeant Kan, arms crossed as he studiously examined the map.

“Reyes is working on it,” Mun͂oz replied. He gestured to the metallic antenna pieces that the radio operator was busy snapping together out of a green carrying case.

“Once we get in touch with them we can figure out where the hell those guys are,” Lopez explained. With a pen, he pointed out multiple British companies templated in the towns to the west of Belize City. “Until then we’re vulnerable. That’s why we’re in a security position here. Until I get word from battalion, I don’t want to advance any further until we’re back on the timetable.”

The company settled in for the day, repeating the waiting that they had experienced in Belmopan two days prior. They set up positions, rested a bit, and ate their canned rations at a leisurely pace. Non-commissioned officers whipped the paratroopers into improving their gun positions throughout the day, berating them for lacking camouflage, for not digging foxholes deep enough, or for taking off their uncomfortable steel helmets while they sat. “The Brits could be here at any minute!” they shouted to the grumbling soldiers. An engineer squad that had been attached to them for the operation milled about as they surveyed the town to prepare defenses.

Lopez had found some time to himself to finally sit for the first time that day, perching on a wooden crate in a barn that had been emptied of its animals. His boots and socks lay on the floor as he touched up the sore spots on his feet with a special medicated ointment. His wife scoured the markets in Puebla for the latest pharmaceutical treatments, even if most of them were bunk. He kept telling her that real medicine from an actual drugstore was fine, and that her protests of expense were mitigated by his officer’s salary. Regardless, the foot ointment seemed to work for him: he rarely developed blisters on the march.

Satisfied with his footcare, the commander put his socks and boots back on and stood up again. Dusk was approaching, the orange sun beginning to set below the jungle canopy beyond the town’s fields. Beautiful, but unnerving.

A sharp burst of automatic gunfire shocked the commander, nearly making him drop the helmet that he had been adjusting the leather straps on. From throughout the town, people started shouting. Personnel at the command post buckled up their helmets and ran off into the dimly lit streets as more people started yelling. First Sergeant Kan emerged from a nearby building, infuriated: “I swear to god I will kill a motherfucker if they just accidentally discharged!”

Another burst of gunfire made it clear that it wasn’t a careless private falling asleep on his weapon. Rifle fire followed it, paced gunshots ringing out in the still summer air. Reyes’s radio burst to life, crackling with a report from a platoon leader: “Contact! Five hundred meters, bearing north! Tracked vehicles!”

The gunfire picked up as Captain Lopez looked back to his First Sergeant. He commanded him to stay at the command post with the XO while he took off in a sprint towards the sound of the fighting. He ran through the dirt roads of Hattieville, ducking between farmhouses and jumping over its small wooden fences. He emerged at the edge of a field when he heard the snapping of bullets whizzing over his head. The commander swore and dove to the ground, hitting with a hard thud that knocked the wind out of him.

Fifty meters to his front, a Mexican soldier racked the charging handle on a steaming water-jacketed machine gun and let off another burst. It had been oriented almost directly upwards in a technique called plunging fire. Derived from the Great War, where machine guns were hidden in protected bunkers, plunging fire pointed he guns skyward and used them almost like indirect weapons. The hope here was that they could graze a greater area of the enemy position without frontally engaging armor.

“Sir!” called out someone. Captain Lopez rolled to his side to get a better look: the platoon sergeant was crouched behind a horse-drawn wagon with his carbine in hand. “Get over here, sir!”

Lopez crawled clumsily towards the cart. It had been many years since he had learned the basics of low crawling but the fundamentals were the same: stay low to the ground and don’t get up for any reason. He dragged himself across the dirty ground, smearing his uniform with mud and grass until he felt like he could get up into a kneel by the platoon sergeant. “Contact?” he asked redundantly. The platoon sergeant affirmed that they were taking fire.

“I heard tracked vehicles!” yelled Lopez over another round of gunfire. “Tanks?”

“Not tanks!” replied the platoon sergeant, to Lopez’s relief. “They’re personnel carriers! Take a look!”

The sergeant opened up a satchel on his hip and handed Lopez a pair of binoculars. He cautioned the commander to wait until the gunfire had gone over his head, holding down on his sleeve until he pushed him up. Lopez brought the field glasses to his eyes and hastily focused them on the black silhouettes in the distance. Two squat, boxy metal vehicles on treads slowly crawled along the road with a single machine gun belching fire. The outlines of British soldiers in their Tommy helmets were clearly visible over the lip of the armor. Lopez sat back down and handed the binoculars off.

“Personnel carriers,” he agreed with a sigh of relief. They looked like simple Bren carriers, supporting infantry vehicles that were armored only with thin steel armor. “Where is your weapons squad?”

“They have to move the projector,” the platoon sergeant laid out calmly. It had been positioned along the most likely enemy approach - to the west. The sergeant had seen action before and knew how to handle it. He had spent the first few minutes of the engagement calming down his overexcited lieutenant and how had to handle the commander’s questions. “I sent a team off to go get it! But they gotta come in closer first, they’re out of range. Four hundred meters and closing.”

“What’s the range on the grenade projector?”

“Three hundred!”

Lopez turned around to see a soldier with an awkwardly large tripod shuffling from behind a wooden house to their covered position. He laid down the heavy tripod into the ground and kicked it into the dirt, where its legs firmly made contact with the soil. “I’m sorry, sir!” he told the commander. “This is the only spot where we can move it easily! You and big sarge gotta move!”

“There’s a berm over there we can rush to,” the platoon sergeant said to his commander, again taking a fistful of fabric on the officer’s sleeve. He pointed to a pile of dirt that some farmer had left in his yard, complete with a shovel stuck spade-first into the soil. Lopez agreed and, after another exchange of gunfire, the pair rushed forward to the mound. They both hit the ground on their backs and rolled to see a pair of paratroopers rushing forward to the tripod with a device that looked like a potbelly stove.

With efforted grunts, the soldiers fitted the projector to the tripod behind the wagon. One of them dropped a rucksack to the ground that spilled out what looked like a dozen grenades on a cloth belt. The grenade projector had never been used in combat before, being a novel design brought about by the Mexican Army. It fed projectiles not dissimilar to their rifle grenades through a breech on the left side like a belt-fed machine gun. The operator depressed a trigger and cranked a handle on the right side to fire, reminding Lopez of old gatling guns from the 19th century.

With some effort to move the machine’s unlubricated mount, the gun crew adjusted the grenade projector as high as it would go: they could shoot out from behind the covered position and drop explosives down onto the enemy with the aid of a spotter. The gun’s tripod-man quickly withdrew a similar set of binoculars as Lopez’s platoon sergeant and poked his head up above the edge of cover. The British personnel carriers continued to approach: their doctrine was focused on dismounting infantry at the operational range of their own weapons, or around three hundred meters.

The enemy infantry were, in theory, protected against long range attacks until they could begin their fight. From his position, Lopez observed that the Mexican machine gun fire was not effective. What rounds did find their target often bounced off the armor of the carrier after losing a considerable amount of velocity over the distance. But the grenade projector was dialed in and sighted: the spotter raised his hand up in a “wait” signal. For a precious few moments, he held it there, then dropped it with the force of an axe chop. The grenade projector’s gunner squeezed the trigger and cranked the handle three times, feeling the force of three grenades burst out of the barrel.

The grenades spent seconds in the air, flying in a high arc over the heads of the Mexican firing line until they landed in a dispersed group just short of one of the British gun carriers. “Adjust fire! Add fifty!” screamed the spotter. The projector’s crew cranked another lever on the tripod mount and slowly inched the gun’s bore higher into the air.

“Ready!” the ammunition handler yelled. The spotter gave the signal again and another three grenades were cranked off. Each belt of ammunition held twenty, with every man in the projector team carrying a belt except for the ammo bearer, who had two. Eighty grenades to launch.

These projectiles were much more accurate, finishing their arc’s dive directly to the side of one personnel carrier. With a ferocious whipping motion, the track became broken and the carrier outran itself. What remained of the track’s length raced out behind the carrier and unspooled itself flat into the field. The vehicle stopped in its tracks as the British soldiers raced to jump over the sides of its hull and rush forward. Now the Mexican riflemen could engage more freely, firing at the British as they bounded forward. The machine gun in the platoon’s line continued to rake the area, now having been brought down to waist-level fire.

The enemy’s fire became much more intense as it became clear that the two Bren carriers were not the only enemy forces. Another platoon’s worth of figures emerged from the horizon, racing through the fields in an effort to flank the Mexican line. One of Lopez’s other platoons caught them, beginning an attack by fire through the crops to discourage their approach. Some of the British soldiers were hit by this incoming fire but continued nonetheless. In the distance, shrill whistled blasted. Two blasts: keep going.

The gunfire picked up, all parties engaging each other in rapid firefights. Bullets landed dangerously close to the Mexican defensive positions, some even finding their marks on exposed men. Medics from the command post emerged from behind the buildings with stretchers, sprinting through the fields to find the source of screaming wounded men. The smell of acrid gunpowder filled the air and gunfire rendered any attempt at communicating further than face-to-face impossible. The grenade projector finished off its first belt of ammunition and sat, barrel steaming, as the gunner handed his assistant another belt.

With the force of a truck, First Sergeant Kan emerged from the smoky air and slammed himself into the dirt berm where the commander was posted. “Sir!” he called out. “I’ve been looking for you. Casualties are coming to the collection point, XO is in charge back at the CP! What’s it looking like?”

“A lot of shooting,” Lopez answered simply. “We’re too pinned down to look!”

The explosions continued as the British advanced, slowly but surely. They were up against a company, pressing into a platoon to exploit its weak point. Captain Lopez rolled over from where he was watching the projector team launch another burst of grenades into the British line and told First Sergeant Kan: “Pull second platoon off the rear guard! Collapse third in to fill the circle and bring second’s weapons up front! And get weapons platoon, I want the AT rifles on those Bren carriers!”

Kan acknowledged the order and pushed off from the ground, racing back into the town. A bullet nipped at his heel and sprayed dirt into the air as he almost tripped in front of it. The commander endured the onslaught with the platoon sergeant for a few minutes before he made the decision to find the platoon leader. He asked the sergeant where his lieutenant was, and the answer was on the line.

Lopez kneeled down behind the berm until there was a lull in the speed of the gunfire and rushed into the crops. He clutched his carbine in front of him as he almost fell into the uneven planted rows of sugarcane that had been ripped to shreds by bullets flying through the plants. In the shade of the bush, he stumbled through piles of spent brass and emptied magazines, searching for the lieutenant on the line. Crouched low, Captain Lopez headed towards a machine gunner who was sawing through the engagement with his barrel red from heat. With a sucking noise coming from his boot, Lopez looked down and saw a pool of blood dragged off towards the town. Bloodied bandages and medical waste littered the scene. He continued forward.

Lopez’s lieutenant lay in the prone with a rifle squad, shouting furiously on the radio with Reyes back at the command point. He was directing fires, relaying locations of the enemy, and requesting support. He paused as he saw his commander treading carefully towards the line as a British round whipped by uncomfortably close. “Sir, we’re hitting them with all we’ve got. Where’s our support?”

“On the way, son, just keep it up.”

The second platoon arrived a few minutes later, rushing in to reinforce the position and plus up the defense. The sergeants directed their squads to fill in gaps, replace the wounded, and increase fire on where they thought the enemy could be. With this rush of personnel and weapons, the balance tilted. The British, now two hundred meters away, were stalled. In an attack, the common wisdom was that the attacker needed three-to-one odds on the defender. A company with additional mechanized assets pushed against a platoon could break through and penetrate the enemy lines, but not two platoons. The British had already suffered losses, both in personnel and equipment.

One short blast and a long blast of the whistle sounded. The British had been stuck, pinned down by the intense Mexican fire for an uncomfortable amount of time. The British commander had realized that, without momentum, they would be massacred. One by one, squad by squad, the British infantry covered their retreat and fell back. They rushed, bounding through the fields and disappearing back into the crops as they fell to a covered position. Captain Lopez’s company kept up the fire, shooting them in the back as they rushed off to the safety of distance. Through the crucible of rifle fire, the grenade projector, and the plunging fire of the Mexican machine guns, the British withdrew into the darkness.

As the British fell back, Captain Lopez stood up cautiously. The sounds and smells of battle were still harsh on his senses. He turned to his platoon leader and shook his head. "It's like the Great War all over again," he stated mournfully. The platoon leader frowned and stared at his boots. He had lost men. Captain Lopez knew that feeling all too well, and reached his hand out to the young officer's shoulder in a wordless moment of comfort. He left without continuing the conversation.

The Mexicans remained at arms for the next hour, scanning the night at full security in anticipation of a counterattack. But that counterattack never came, and Lopez slowly released the paratroopers back to their regular security posture. Second platoon was split up between first and forth at the north and east quadrants of the line, while third platoon kept up the back half of security. The wounded, of which there were fourteen, were taken back to the casualty collection point. Two men were killed in the skirmish. Captain Lopez, after sufficiently reorganizing the defensive line, finally trudged back to his command post as his watch struck midnight.

First Sergeant Kan and Lieutenant Mun͂oz were hard at work. Kan was tallying supplies, ammunition, and medical equipment used up and lost. He had both the supply sergeant and head medic at his beck and call to report on distributing the company’s supplies. Mun͂oz, meanwhile, was talking rapidly to his counterparts at battalion to report information and request resupply. Back at Belmopan, the battalion was receiving resupply by glider flights from Mexico proper. They would need to truck the supplies forward to deal with A Company’s engagement.

Lopez relieved Mun͂oz of his radio duty, telling the young lieutenant to go get some rest. The details of the resupply had been coordinated and motions were underway at Belmopan to load up and head out in the morning. The commander got onto the radio, specifically requesting an audience with the battalion commander from the adjutant.

“Sir,” Captain Lopez reported tiredly. “I’m sure you’ve heard the reports. We’re dug in for the night. What is your guidance for tomorrow?”

The battalion commander paused. “Hold fast, Captain. 2/a Brigada Blindada has begun their motor march. The Brits aren’t going to bother you anymore. Keep in contact: we’ll let you know when to march to Belize City.”
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The rain pours against the window in another dreadful Shanghai afternoon. The windows are streaked in a gray miasma of pounding rain. The storm is blown in off the sea. It's hard. Not quiet a typhoon, but in the quieter parts of the house the sound of the wind can be heard hissing in through the windows. It does not matter much. The staff is not frightened. This is not an emergency situation. This isn't the end of the world. It is just a shitty afternoon. In a city that is rarely if ever sunny, it is always overcast. If not then it is drizzling or misty and then it is raining. All the same in the windows the lights of the city in the rain can be seen as shimmering mirages and hazy dreams of another world. There is a spectral quality to them that makes them dream like. But more worthy of being real than anything else. They are the stars that long replaced the stars in the skies. They are the stars that shine when the sky is not clear, and they are more powerful when night has come to the city. But unless you leave the city, they are the only stars you will ever see. Not everyone is able to retire from the city to see the night and the stars in all its impenetrable purity, and most of those that could do not leave the city do not leave. So the lights are all the same their stars, raining afternoon or clear night.

From these windows the House of Wu would look out from across the river in the New City. Atop a hill made of the moved rubble from the war and covered over in dirt. Trees dotted the yard, small young saplings still, their roots digging deeper and deeper into the mild soil of the bulldozed clay, bricks, and bones underneath them. They were small enough still that they could be maintained in haphazard fantasy and trimmed by the staff of gardeners to transform into perfectly round green balls, or the shapes of animals. They were perfectly large banzais, not too large to be unmanageable, but not too small as to be ignored. They decorated a space of tiered levels, of flag stone courtyards and patios that lead into wine cellars and covered galleries and all the fine luxurious things that could boast their ancient generational wealth. There were in conspicuous locations in the house ancient relics displayed predominately in open spaces and at the edge of open portholes as if to show off to the city beyond; late Ming vases, Qing tea sets, encased swords and spears and more than a few portraits showing prestigious images of the family (which were and would be eventually: all of them) behind delicate crystal glass. From the position of these antiques, portraits, and proud treasures the garden of their yard could be surveyed. None of their yard was used for games, it was too good for that. Instead the garden was used to house a flock of peafowl that patrolled the far garden wall and shaded groves of the garden, making their crying wail songs and occasionally straying close to the house to threaten the antiques with their long tails and boisterous immaterial attitudes. They played games against the gardeners, venturing into the orchids and the bushes and threatening their very existence which was so much the pride of Lady Wu who thought them her children now that her children were all grown up, although she partook in the care of neither. There among the pretty pink, white and red blooms they dug at the soil searching for insects and digging up the rich black fertilizer the gardeners laid out, found roosts in the mulberry trees and guarded the tea bushes planted decoratively around the edges, preventing any old herbalist from coming near enough to trim the unruly shrubs that took a wild form through the presence of the fighting peacock. The ladies that made up the general staff were horrified of the birds, and the men wanted more to shoot them but could do little more than chase them away with a glove; if they so much as injured one they would lose their heads. Often the peafowl congregated around the dog house, because the Wus had no dogs. But it was the belief of the Master Wu that having a dog house made them seem more modern, more American, which he sought to bring into the family by having a dog house and posing as though he had a dog; was it ever around: no. There was also next to the dog house a koi pond, with it's small tasteful traditional garden was beginning to overflow in the rain, allowing the koi to swim over the white pebble walking paths that circled the pond, flowering bushes submerging in the dark cool waters as well as the stone bridge, a stone lantern that remained lit despite the storm, and part of the pavilion. On the far side of the yard, nearest the garage the walls were adorned with hop plants left to grow largely wild against their trellises and were thick and thicker still in the rain. But these were not used to brew anything but left to grow and wilt and grow again until they became a curtain of green that hid the many things dropped, lost, or willfully abandoned behind the thick foliage. The garage walls were dirty, a dull yellow ochor adobe vs the white brick and immaculate concrete of the house itself, a twisting combination of modernism vs tradition with smatterings of classic French baroque detailing. Further from it an experiment had been under taken to build a man made stream down the hill, but abandoned as quickly as it started when the ruins of the old city the house was built on was rediscovered, this was left to grow wild as the grounds keeper strategically keep everyone's distance from the area. The ground slowly collapsed, being over taken by weeds, wild bushes, and a dozen abandoned projects that fell into the mangle of bricks and hidden irons below.

“Crime! Foreigners! Communist rallies!” shouted Guan Yan-Fu inside the house. On a radio a song by the Shidaiqu performer Shu Xiu 'The Cherry Blossom Dance' played on a French made Radio-Electrique 300 series giving to the song a crisp sound. The radio sat on an Italian made end table cut from dark burnished oak, trimmed with gold lace designs besides velvet, burgundy upholstered arm chairs, imported from Canada at great expense. “This country is, I tell you: going to shit. There is trash in the streets, and the people are lower now than they were under the Qing barbarians. The finances are no longer in order, and an honest man can not make an honest earning.”

Guan Yan-Fu was of course not an honest man. Tall and slender with neatly trimmed hair combed back across his head he was from a model family that had entered banking in the late twenties as the southern gentry class was consolidated from their land holdings and usual mercantile interests in the decade's commercial shift. His blood was blue, and conceived through the as much the personal politicking of aristocratic families as the trade of young stocks and bonds emergent in the young republic. His family had managed a clever early transition and were able to dress the best and be the best of many peers around them. He had gone to fine schools and ascendant officer academies where he learned to stand buck straight and to pose at ever idle moment, to press his uniforms and his clothes, and speak in the proper dialect of Chinese and to long abandon his Yunanese voice. He had a rich diet, and was as round as anyone in his class. Complimented by the clearness of his skin, a traveler in new hygiene. “I was the other day in public and not a single person offered deference to me. They did not bow to me. They did not call me honorable, a sir, or a magnanimous teacher or any of the sort. And when I turn to the news I hear about all these awful things going on. This election, the socialist party. The communist party. Even the world is turning sour, with the communist invasion of Ukraine. I hope you agree with me, that this slaughter has to stop.”

Tang Wu could only sit and play at the gold watch on his wrist (purchased two years ago at a street market in Beijing, it was the only honest purchase he made, a Chinese watch from a Chinese maker but he claimed it was Italian). He knew his friend was right. But he had little to add. So he could only nod meekly.

Fan Gòngchǎn; fu Ming!” quoted Yu Chao, a second friend to Wu's and fellow graduate of the military academy, still dressed in his gray and white cadet uniform. He leaned forward in his chair, clutching his glass of lychee wine with tight fingers. His face bright with permanent tension. Permanently rosy in his cheeks, the alcohol would only make it soon worse. But until it dulled his senses, his eyes shone with a bright red energy. He seemed to twitch. A true rat of an individual. He would look insane when he becomes older. But now he is young, and is only over-eager. He wears a badge of distinction on his chest from the Whampoa military academy, he was fifth of his class. Wu was tenth.

“Yes, down with the communists!” Yan-Fu cheered encouragingly, “If only everyone could see it.”

“None are as sharp as we are.” chuckled Yu Chao, “But what say before we go to deployment, we join the Quomintag to try and keep the communists out of government, if they could seize it?” he asked, turning to Wu.

He looked up at him, puzzled, dazed. “Politics? What ever would I do in politics?”

“You? And your family's money? Well perhaps a lot can be turned. I know my parents donate substantially to the Quomintang.”

“So do mine.” Wu corrected, “We're not losers for patriotism.”

“Damn right.” Guan Fu-Yu cheered. Raising a toast of lychee himself. “We are a nation deserving of solid patriots.

“But hear this story also, I ask you.” Guan Fu-Yu continued, “It's something I just remembered. But a weak ago I was riding in my car on Chengshou road, having come from the Jade Buddha Temple and at an intersection we had just stopped at an old beggar approached the car and began immediately cleaning it. I was appalled at this: I have my own people clean and detail for me. How should this man approach my car? So I ordered my driver to roll down the window and accost the old man, to make him leave. And like a loyal servant who knows his duties and is pious he did so and ordered the old man to leave, we did not want his service. But the old codger did not leave us alone. He greeted my driver's demands by demanding money for services rendered! I shouted back from the rear that no, we would not pay. This was a service offered without request and he had broken the sacred contract. I said to him that had he wanted to wash my car and be paid for it he should have approached me first and asked and negotiated rates. So he said he was negotiating that right there. He was an awfully dumb sort. A true moron. You could see in his eyes. He was perhaps an alcoholic as all the poors are. Quiet tired looking, and missing teeth. And he stank. His stink got into the car. He fucking smelled terrible, pardon me. But he was a cesspit. But no, I was not going to have this. I told him to go away. It was the only thing I could do. None of this was wanted or warranted. Who knows what damage he did to my car. It was a one-million yuan Lincoln. It's very difficult to get Lincolns in this country. It's hard to get American cars in general. There's so many hoops to jump through. But if you must get an American car it has to be a Lincoln. They are smooth vehicles. They are the peak of their art. Wu, what car does your family have?”

“We have several.” Wu said.

“Then what cars do you have?”

“I have a- let's see...” he paused for a moment to think. He never paid much attention to them. They were a sedan chair to him. A means to get around. The garage would know, but it would not be good to call the garage. So he had to make it up. “I suppose a Hispano-Suiza, a Cadillac, and a Lincoln as well.”

“Ah good, I see: a fellow Lincoln man as well. Good taste.” the compliment made Wu feel good to himself and he leaned back smiling.

“You see, I have a Lincoln Zephyr-3 1939. It is somewhat old, but it is handy engineering. It is made with the best of lines. And the metal polishes well. I think it is something special the Americans do with the paint. It is fine work. Excellent craftsmanship. I idolize the Americans for the discipline they are able to enforce on their workers. Their managers must do wonderful work and it is a shame the socialists and the communists were able to block them from exporting directly to America. That was one of their many crimes in the forties.”

“Short of existing!” Chao said.

“Indeed my man. An esteemed gentleman. You earned your merits well.

“But you see: I had to import this car from the Russians two years ago. As I am told they had to purchase it from some Venezuelans. It came at a steep price for all the exporting and the importing. But I did this knowing that the Zephyr-3 was well worth the cost. You will not know a better car anywhere else in the world. It has a stunning reputation. It is used by warriors to put down enemies of the nation in its very streets. I am told a Venezuelan general owned it before and had the interior of the doors replaced with bullet proof material. So I would like to see these liberal mobs take me out in it!”

This was greeted with a shallow spell of laughs from the others.

“Yes, I am one with this legacy. And that is why I can not have any nobody from the street dealing with it.” he smiled to himself, nailing the landing, “But this ditch weed mongrel isn't going to let us be. When I notice the light has turned in our favor I order my driver to just go. Because this waste of breathable air is not relenting. He has me by the wrist. So the car goes and tears us free of him and the last I see is this heathen beggar and probably a catholic roll off my car and tumble in the streets behind us, stalling the traffic behind us! But it's all his fault, he should have never been there. I hope the police found him and took him off the streets. I swear there are camps in Xinjiang for this type of loafer. Maybe he will be sent there.”

“A catastrophic story!” said Yu Chao, “I have, I have one of my own!”

“Go ahead, tell it!”

“This is something I heard from a friend of mine, who is serving with the Northern Army! He told me a story of how the soldiers there neglect their professional duties. While they exercise and drill in the rural countryside they get drunk! Yes! Terrible. I do not think our soldiers should get drunk. Some even look for mushrooms. They've heard stories about these mushrooms the Russians eat to go crazy, or so it's told. So while they patrol, I guess, or they get time off they use this time to get high or hammered instead of practicing. They- they neglect themselves and no one is able to set them straight! If the government is too weak to discipline the regulars at the front, how can they protect the country? I am- I am committed to make this better.”

“Righteous cause!” Guan Fu-Yu cheered, “Yes, I've heard of many poor stories of lacking discipline about our men. I had to get out in a hurry, or I felt I would have to shame myself being there. It is unfortunate the two of you must. But our status demands it. Our patriotism forces our hand, because where the will of the nation lies to call on the best, so the best must call. But it's a shame our students further down do not follow our example. I wish we could make a national of gentlemen for us all. Where we do not get drunk.”

“Yes- yes, and stoned too! What's not to say some of them are doing worse. Having had to study so many battles, a soldier for sure must be at his sharpest to survive in the field. How- how did we defeat the Japanese? Were we sober? We must have been sober. Sober, yes. That is what we must have been. Sober and level headed. Do you see the pictures of the veterans of the noble war? They are sober and clear in their vision. They- they look you square in the eye through the photographs. They reached new heights of- of... of- consciousness or enlightenment to become alive even in their images! If they are killed today, I feel they will come back alive and well from their pictures in the newspapers and in the lists of graduates and veterans. The ones who died? They all seem to be smiling in their pictures. They were not captured when they had achieved their enlightened peaks!”

“What about Hou?” Tang Wu asked.

“Are you kidding? He has not reached any possible height to nirvana. He has not reached any divinity. He is an atheist. His soul is stunted, perhaps demonic. It weakens his spiritual nature. He will never stride out from his photo if he is killed. He, him, It will not grip the living! Fan Gòngchǎn; fu Ming!

“It is quiet the shame. And what about you, Wu? Do you have anything to add?” Fu-Yu asked. Coming to rest, dropping into an available chair. Reclining low into the cushion and crossing his legs with dignified ease.

“Well, I suppose I have a story to add.” Wu said, “It's fairly recent. My brother, sister, and myself were on our way back from the theater-”

“What did you see?” Chao interrupted.

“Attack Of The Western Vampire.”

“Oh great! I love that movie. How was it?”

“It was good.” Wu commented, rather indifferently, “But can I?”

“Yes- yes. Go ahead.” said Chao.

“We had left the movie and were on our way home. When we were held up in the street by a pack of untamed urban youth. That is how you might describe the type, you know, Fu-Yu?”

“Leather wearing, soft-bodied toughs? Women that look like men?” he asked.


“I know the type, yes.”

“Yes, so these delinquents cross the street and hold up our car. And begin accosting us for their crime of crossing through traffic. Our driver had a hell of a time with them. They were rather terrifying, and barbaric. A low type of people, untamed. I don't think they... learned of manners at all. Or how they're supposed to behave. And you're right: their women do dress and act like man and their men dress like the low criminals of America. The red types, you know. Not the proper ones. They are a blight on our country.”

“Indeed they are, I have to deal with them often. They loiter everywhere. If you don't call the police on them to bust their heads now and then they'll ruin everything eventually with their smoking and public drinking. They're dirty, industrial and in poor standing. The lot of them should be put in ghettos so the cities remain for those who rightly deserve them. China's global standing would vastly improve if we got rid of them! And perhaps being forced to live in filth would oblige them to uplift themselves and be proper members of society. And not Red factory trash either.”

“What is the future of China?” asked Chao

“That I can not say.” Fu-Yu responded with a resigned sigh, “If I had the power I would, as you've said, restore the Ming. But there is not one left alive from the House of Zhu. Or none that I know of. I do feel that after the Qing there are no esteemed houses left that might lead China.”

“If there are, we would have to call upon our enemies. There is the Japanese.” said Wu.

“No, we should never tolerate the thought of the House of Yamato. They are inferior to the Chinese legacy. They sprung from China, and should in the future be subject to China. They may call themselves emperors, but their place are as low kings!”

“We might have to start again.” said Chao, “But whom among us has the majesty to lead China into the future?”

Jing'an District

Through the window panes the vastness of Shanghai revealed itself in gloomy rain. In the protection of the balcony, a number of birds sought refuge from the summer rains. The song of a dozen sparrows could be heard through the screen door, occasionally they peered in with their brown bandit's masked face before being spooked at the slightest noise. In the park below the apartment the trees swayed in the storm as pedestrians walked by under the cover of black umbrellas. The solemn bell of a street car could be heard just below the drama of the storm and its yellow light arched across the rain darkened street, glistening red gold. Clear across the small park the other apartments in the neighborhood stood, their windows gleaming with the hundreds of lives playing out in the day.

Tsun sat at the kitchen table. He sat arched over a hot bowl of noodle soup, the broth steaming and smelling of sweet salt and shrimp and cilantro. A pile of mile sat off on the edge. The steam poured into his nose. He was suffering from a cold. It relieved the pressure in his nostrils as he breathed it in deep between great gulps of slick rice noodles held between his chopsticks. He savored each bite, the heat and the steam cleaning his sinuses and bringing his tongue back to life. Each time he added more chili. The flavor was not strong enough before. He needed more chili. It wasn't long until the broth was dark and red with the chili and he was satisfied at last. The cold had taken his taste. He needed to taste the chili. It cleared his head in this trying time.

His lived in a small apartment, sparsely furnished. His living room served as combination kitchen and dining hall, the toilet and shower hidden both in a cut-away in the corner, hidden by a curtain. A small bedroom, barely large enough for the bed itself off to the side. He had to walk side-ways just to get into bed. It was very fun for some of his guests that joined him at night. His closet was no deeper than his foot was long and was packed with his sparse clothes. A lime green cloth sofa rested against the wall, just within arm's reach of the balcony with the plastic furniture now full of birds. There was a little radio, now on to a local Shanghai popular music station; the song Marry Me by Judith Ai-Lynn, a migrant jazz performer from Hong Kong was playing; she mixed English with Cantonese in a very international style. In front of the sofa was an old coffee table, one part cardboard box with the storage under neath and one part home of the tea set and a copy of the Torah, a cat was also there laying reposed across a newspaper and several magazines; he rarely had time to read them – the cat was fine though.

He was not without his pictures and his artwork. His wall was a gallery of images. Here there was a black and white photograph of himself and friends, taken on a vacation trip to Hong Kong to meet college friends. There was a photo of his girlfriend in the studio, posing long and mean in a light dress that hung sultry off her shoulders. He had a picture of his brother in his army officer's uniform; taken outdoors at the foothills of the Tibetan steppe, he smiled broad and at ease with himself, arms crossed over crossed legs. His mother had supplied various drawings she had made of birds, buildings, the shoreline at home in Tianjin and a self portrait. And framed large on the wall, occupying a special place over the family altar in the corner of the room was a picture of his father; Hou Tsai Tang looking bright and optimistic, gazing at his wife next to him.

Hou Tsun held a special reserved sort of pride for his father. He would never announce it, but would scan the newspapers and the magazines for him. It was the only reason he paid attention to the news. The writing that many journalists made of him he often found funny, and would frequently cut them out and mail them to his parents as a trophy of just how far the writers missed the nail. And from his mother, Tsun had opted to inherit something more peculiar than his father could pass down: he inherited her religion.

His mother, being a Jew passed down to him and his siblings her own Jewishness and he came to move in much the same light. Though adopting Chinese custom of a family altar, he kept a strange altar: among the icons of his relatives there was also replacing the representation of the deities the effects of Judaism: the menorah, a second Torah, bits of text and images of select kings of Isreal and small postcard images of poets and radicals who also moved in the faith he admired. While he did not often eat kosher, he ate his unleavened bread and made a pass at the holidays and the rituals. He moved in close with the other Jewish expats who found their way to China. He attended a synagogue that was just a mile away from him. He learned not only English from his mother, but enough of Yiddish to pass but not nearly enough to be deeply intellectual, his Hebrew was scant. He sometimes wrote his family about how he would like to make a trip to the Holy Land to partake in that little bit of a thing he had inherited while also wondering about his relations in America.

Hou Tsun, who had also taken the name of David – Hou David Tsun – was therefore caught a drift between several worlds, though he could blend into a couple. It was for this reason he found himself far from the family seat in Tianjin, and as Hou Tang had before migrated south, pulled into the gravitational pull of Shanghai against all others. And Shanghai was full of displaced.

The effects of the soup finally had its effect he was hoping for on him and the pressure in the back of his sinuses lifted enough he figured he could think clearer. He reached for the mail and began going through it. Rent was due and he acknowledged that by simply casting the notice into the garbage; it never changed. And there were the other bills he organized in a pile off to the side; he'd delay these to the last possible moment as he often did. There was a letter from a friend of his who moved to Hong Kong in pursuit of acting and he opened it up and began to read it listlessly. He said he had made inroads, and was featuring in the background of several movies as a low played speaking bit; only a little better than an extra. But it was a start and he hoped to catch the eye of a director who would recruit him into his crew. For now he was one of those cut adrift in the large pool of 'unassociated talents' he called them. In the meantime, he was tending bar serving explicitly tourists, his Cantonese was not superb. But he had to hold high hopes and wished everyone well at home. Tsun smiled and put the letter down to start a new pile of correspondences to reply to as soon as possible.

He started on another which was from his sister writing to complain about domestic life. She had just married a couple years ago and for a time was optimistic to be a working wife, which was figured to be fashionable. “I will be devoted but independent!” she declared once. But clearly job prospects for married women were not well and could only find low paying work at part time hours and her husband was slowly becoming not very supportive. She wondered how this could be, and how mom could have gotten away with it. Tsun knew the answer for his younger sister and could compose the letter there and then if he could find his stationary: it was because she and their dad moved in much the same way. She ended up employed to him by a miracle.

There were other letters, not worth a response to. Offerings of extended family's best wishes to their nephew or uncle or cousin and so on and so forth. Friend's reaching out to ask about something or other; to schedule something of no admitted importance and could be delayed. These made a third pile which he had to remind himself he would just answer by phone whenever he was feeling better. They were close enough to the bills to get mixed in.

The last letter was from his mom. He tore open the envelope and began to read,

“Hi, darling,

“Your father and I will be in Shanghai in the coming weeks on a Party event and we'd like to ask you to come see us, Huang being in the serve and Liu occupied in Beijing. We know you're not that active, but it's been since last year we've seen one another and this would be your best chance. Tang is concluded his work on the dam surveying job and will be traveling again for the campaign, he's eager to see you.

“We'll be arriving by train and the visit is scheduled for the twentieth. If all goes well we should be in at 11:00. Personally, I would like to try the restaurant you described in your letter from last March. It sounded wonderful. Is it still open?

“It'll be exciting to see Shanghai again. It's been a long time since I've seen the city. How are the people? I hope your prospects are looking up, last you wrote you were looking for a club job and had found a few. How have they gone? Please write me.

“Your mother.”

It was brief and to the point and Tsun added it to his “respond to” pile and finished his soup. He rubbed at his face to message the weariness from his eyes and breathed one last deep breath in before he knew his sinuses would again close with a vengeance. He would have to soon break down the gates of his air waves with raw chili peppers soon, or go live in a warm shower for the rest of the day. He sniffled feeling the first inch of mud rising to close off his nose already. There was no way for him to carry on or even afford his two remedies and he swore bitterly to himself.

He did think about his new performing gig however. It had gotten it, and fortunately for him it wouldn't start until next weekend. The patron of the club considered himself a 'socialist' and when Tsun had complained to him about feel unwell he said he understood and could fill the space in the meantime. It was a small joint, fairly underground, catering to the already artistic scene of the city. It was by no means a big band gig for a cabaret or dance club but it would do. It would do indeed.
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Insert: NBC News Report

“Welcome back to NBC Radio News, brought to you by Sullivan’s Menthol Cigarettes. A taste of Sullivan’s is just what the doctor ordered. Now here is Martin St. John.”

“Turning to the international stage tonight, it seems what was originally small-scale rioting in Nigeria has blossomed into a full-blown civil war. A group of Muslim Nigerians have established a breakaway organization called the Fulani Liberation Army -- or FLA -- declaring the Northern Nigerian city of Kano as an independent region under their control.

This comes after weeks of civil unrest across the northern part of the country, an unrest that so far has taken the lives of hundreds of civilians and over fifty police and Nigerian Army soldiers. The spark for the violence was the seemingly anti-Muslim comments from President Akinwunmi Jacobs during a radio interview last month.

In the weeks since the initial outbreak President Jacobs has seemingly doubled down on his statements about Muslims and has not backed down. Last week the president declared country-wide martial law and mobilized two divisions to the north to suppress protests and violence.

The leader of the FLA, identified as only General Musa, issued a brief statement that read as, quote, ‘The President believes it is God’s will that Islam be broken. I believe it is the right and duty of every Muslim in Nigeria to fight for their religion and their right to worship Islam under the protection of the Fulani Liberation Army. I know me and my brothers will fight and die for that right, but how motivated are President Jacob’s Christian pawns?’ end quote.

When asked for comment, both President Jacobs’ office, and the British Foreign Office, which still oversees Nigeria loosely in accordance with the Federalization Act of 1937, declined to comment. More on this story as it develops.

Now to sports. Today the Brooklyn Dukes completed a three game sweep of the Pittsburg Pirates and overtook the New York Giants for first place in a tightly contested pennant race…”
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