Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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Tiira loved Kabuki theatre. It was loud, boisterous, and flashy, above all else - the perfect contrast to the usually subdued and hush-hush nature of her work. Staring out from her raised booth, she couldn't help but be enraptured by the exaggerated movements of the dancers - so much so that she almost failed to notice the sound of the floor behind her sliding open. An imitation of fusuma, it looked and felt almost exactly like the real thing - minus the extreme danger of flammability.

The man that entered stuck out like something of a sore thumb in his kimono, unlike her - as much as he tried his damndest not to. He wore the comparatively simple haori relatively well, a metal cherry blossom pinned on either side of his chest. She glanced up, briefly scanning over his youthful complexion, broken only by a handful of small scars. The gentle tan of his skin told her that he probably came from the southwestern United States.

She brought her paper fan in front of her face in an attempt to appear demure, her black hair bound tightly behind her head.

"Adam?" She asked.

He nodded, and she nodded back - and he took a seat next to her, immediately appearing interested in the performance unfolding below them. The performers were taking on a rendition of Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura, engaged in a "deadly" battle; eclectic dance broken up by the thunder of percussion instruments and the sound of shouts and cries of battle.

"Is it good news this time?" He whispered, his voice rough and gravelly despite his apparent youth.

"It is. You've been asking us for help. I don't know why, but someone's been listening."

He shrugged, holding out his hand, into which she dropped a small envelope.

"I don't have numbers," she continued. "But I'm authorized to tell you directly that it's... A lot. A couple thousand tons, at least. MANPADS, guns, explosives... In bits and pieces, but..." Tiira didn't need to look at Adam to know she had his attention. He was doing a good job of seeming invested in the Kabuki performance, truth be told, but the way his eyes darted over to her as if to confirm what she was saying told her plenty. She couldn't blame him for his surprise, however - her government had spent years feeding ELAN a steady trickle of weaponry, enough to keep it operational, but this was something altogether different - enough to equip a whole new army. A stockpile they'd been building up for years, stored in god-knows-where facilities and warehouses scattered across the country, just like they did with their militia armories prepared in the event of an American invasion, except far better hidden.

"...All-in-all, it's a lot, and they want you to know it is." She said.

"Jesus Christ, this feels like goddamn Christmas!" He breathed, quietly shaking his head. "How are you going to get them to-" he paused, abruptly shaking his head. "Never mind. Shouldn't ask. I mean, fuck - I know our people don't always get along, but... Thanks, I think. It's just a shame you're going with OTAN."

Tiira shrugged, indicating she simply didn't give a shit about whether her not Adam agreed with Brazilian politics.

"... What's the catch?"

'There it is.' She thought to herself.

"Chump change, and help getting in touch with a... Special someone that has something we need. It's all in the letter. Now enjoy the show, eh? We paid good money for the tickets."
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by TheEvanCat
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TheEvanCat Your Cool Alcoholic Uncle

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Saint-Nazaire, France

Red and blue lights flashed from a police car in the rainy night, the dancing colors illuminating the fog and surroundings. Its siren whooped twice as it slowly crawled forward on the wet road, a convoy of four passenger vans following behind it. It was four in the morning and a sizeable crowd of protestors had gathered around the main entrance to the sprawling Chantiers de l’Atlantique complex. A line of French gendarmes wearing riot gear and standing behind plastic shields stood sternly by the chainlink fence ahead of them, watching the crowd that had become a common occurrence in the last few weeks. The police car was blocked by a group of five raincoat-clad protestors locking arms along the road, staring down the convoy.

“No new Langium ships!” they chanted rhythmically. Others crowded in on the convoy, shouting slogans at the workers inside. Ever since the protests started, the shipyard workers had to be transported in from the nearby city of Nantes with a police escort. Outside the rain-streaked windows of the vans, the workers could see handwritten signs, some bearing the peace symbol and the logo of Greenpeace while others claimed harsh consequences of the shipyard’s work: “Langium ship waste mutates our sea life! Decommission them now!”

The police car turned on its sirens again, this time in a constant whine. Stuck in position, the driver had shifted it to neutral and revved its engine aggressively in an attempt to scare the human chain away. They stayed put, rightly convinced that the French police were prohibited from actually running into them. The workers in the vans sat silently, observing the situation outside. In the lead, the policemen activated their loudspeaker and broadcasted a message to the protestors: “Please disperse from the road and allow us to proceed. This is your warning.”

The protestors refused to move and instead more people linked their arms together. The police broadcasted a second message, warning of consequences if they refused to move. The activists instead shouted profanities at the convoy and someone threw an empty can at the police car. The man in the side seat turned to the driver, said something, and got on the radio to the gendarmes at the gate. Inside a command post within the perimeter of the compound, a police commander relayed the order to two officers who were standing on elevated scaffolding flanking the entry gate. From ammunition belts on their hips, they loaded tear gas rounds into their six-barreled grenade launchers. Each of them aimed into the crowd and fired off a trio of gas grenades.

The crowd had been through enough of these to know what was happening, and immediately dispersed as soon as the tear gas started billowing from the 40-millimeter cartridges on the ground. Using the opportunity, the police car advanced with the vans in line behind it, accelerating through the gap in the protestors to rush themselves and the workers through the entrance lanes of the gate where a security guard waved them through. The chainlink gate closed hurriedly behind them and the gendarmes resumed their shield line as the protestors scattered off into the foggy distance.

The object of the protest, lit by floodlights in a drydock several hundred meters into the compound, was a brand new cargo vessel commissioned specially by the French government. It was unique, unlike anything else that Chantiers de l’Atlantique had produced in its storied history dating back to 1862. A mix of dry bulk, liquid, and gas cargo, the vessel was designed for one purpose and one purpose only: the transport and safe storage of industrial amounts of Langium and NLC artifacts.

Many of these ships existed already, becoming routine travelers of shipping lanes across the globe, but this ship was designed to be the biggest. As research and applications required even more expansive stockpiles of Langium, the French needed a way to transport it more effectively than simply repurposing old vessels. Older ships modified with ad-hoc containers and shielding simply would no longer do the job. It was a tough sell to Parliament, but the funding arrived in 1986 for two of these behemoths to be constructed: one by Chantiers de l’Atlantique near Nantes, and a smaller vessel by Ateliers et Chantiers de France in Dunkirk.

Their chosen names, respectively, bore the names of French chemists as the SS Camille Alphonse Faure and the SS Émile Sarrau. Faure, known for his work on battery technology, represented the energy generation applications of Langium. Sarrau contributed heavily to shockwave research in the 19th century, so much so that older descriptions of the Mach scale for breaking the sound barrier bore the French name of nombre de Sarrau. His name symbolized the propulsion breakthroughs that Langium was spearheading throughout industry.

One by one, the workers exited the vans in front of the main offices of the shipyard and rushed under the awning to escape the worst of the downpour. They wore high-visibility neon yellow raincoats and carried backpacks and lunchboxes with their hardhats tucked under their arms. All looked the same hybrid breed of seaman and construction worker, faces and hands long since worn and calloused by a lifetime of tradesmanship. A trio of other figures emerged from the last van, this time wearing dark trench coats over white shirts and ties. These were the three engineers.

Paul Bernard, a bespectacled man from Marseille, ran the marine engineering design for the ship. Easily the oldest and most senior of the engineers, he was responsible for the whole-of-construction work on the vessel. His prolific career in the civil shipping industry had exposed him to a wide variety of techniques and designs, each of which was taken into consideration to construct a ship with such sensitive cargo. He was not a formal employee of Chantiers de l’Atlantique, but his firm had been specially contracted to design the project for their shipyard to produce. With a firm demeanor and a reputation as a sticker for exacting specifications down to the millimeter, the engineer ran a tight program with zero tolerance for cost overruns and delays.

Pierre Laurent was five years Paul’s junior but had an arguably more central role to the project. He was responsible for the design of all Langium-based functions on the ship, to include both the controversial propulsion system and the shielding of all transport compartments. Trained as a petrochemical engineer at the École Centrale Paris, he made a point to retrain himself into the newly developing Langium field during the 1970s as it became heavily apparent that oil was on its way out. While he struggled with the subject matter, the nuclear engineers and chemists had a much better grasp on the subject, he pulled himself into one of the most competitive firms after graduation and built a career designing civilian and military Langium power stations across France.

The third engineer, tall and slender and darker than the others checked the time on his curiously bulky watch. Somewhere between a calculator watch crossed with a pager and a miniature PDA, the device was strapped to his wrist covering nearly half of his forearm. A small screen displayed tiny text that reflected off his round glasses. His dark brown eyes squinted, remembering something he had to do later. And unfolded a keyboard from its base. He navigated it deftly with his nimble fingers to type a quick note before sliding it back into storage. This was Mohammad Zardani, the sole Lebanese-born electrical engineer on the project.

With a meeting for the morning occupying the next hour, the trio emerged with refilled thermoses of coffee to review the construction. Final modules were being connected to the most critical pieces of infrastructure inside the ship. Mohammad, chiefly, was the supervisor for this delicate work.

“So they’ll be hooking up the turbine to the propulsion system today,” he announced proudly as he tapped a pen against the glass of a monitor. It made a tink-tink noise against the thick CRT screen. “This is going to be tricky. I might have to get in there myself.”

“Why?” asked Paul, pursing his lips as he checked over the blueprints. “It’s no different from a regular ship’s motors.”

“Well that’s not entirely true,” Mohammad said, turning to Pierre. “What is it about Langium that produces such irregularities in the generation of power again?”

“It’s the structure of the actual power generation element in the molecule,” Pierre said, arms crossed. He wished he could have a cigarette now, but the French government had just passed a law that January prohibiting smoking in the workplace. Some of the other offices were rather lax on enforcement but Paul, ever the stickler, threatened to move his office furniture out into the cold, often rainy courtyard if he caught the man violating the new rule.

Paul rolled his eyes as Pierre began the science lesson. The reactor designer had brought his mind back to the topic at hand: “The core, power producing atom of a Langium atom molecule is weird. It’s encased in stuff that we know about, sure, but it appears to be a shell protecting an irregularly shaped and asymmetric atom, kind of like a teardrop. We’ve never seen anything like it, not on an atomic level. The atoms will also only ‘react’ if one side is interacting with the right kind of matter: the strike plates in the fuel rod. The electromagnet in the reactor does its best to pull the Langium into position to strike but there’s more to it than that.”

He took a breath, putting his hand to rub his chin and then reaching towards the computer’s mouse to drag the blueprint image towards the reactor: a blue box simply labeled as such, as the wiring diagram didn’t care for the specifics of the powerplant, and zoomed in. It showed more detail, with the fuel rods in a hexagon bundle connected to wired baseplates that fed to an intricate-looking series of circuits and wires.

“The molecule is fluid in its structure when magnetically activated. It all comes towards the source of magnetism like a loose rockslide, not as a whole. We don’t know why, it’s an unseen force that we can’t measure or model. This causes the stuff to get in the way and knock the atom around or jam it up between the strike plate. But unlike nuclear fission, you can’t probabilistically model all this. It’s just too much and too uncertain, all of these alien atoms and molecules just seem to… they just break our rules of particle physics. They should all behave the same all the time as the same molecules, but something hidden just introduces so much entropy.”

“We have no idea what that unknown factor is and we can’t control it,” he admitted with a defeated sigh. “None of this should work, but it does.”

“We can’t really figure out how to make it consistently hot like a regular powerplant to boil water and turn the turbine like usual. These reactions are odd in that it’s almost like producing electricity via photovoltaics, but Langium directly pumps almost limitless amounts of electrons into our system once it hits the strike plate. And it’s not like beta decay either, where it becomes an isobar and its properties change. Langium never changes… it seems to somehow produce electrons on its own, like a factory. We think that the core atom completes some sort of reaction between our physical matter and whatever energy is causing the weirdness inside.”

“Just get to the point,” bemoaned Paul. None of this was in his wheelhouse, but Mohammad was captivated. The engineer tapped his pen to the table, listening intently. It was making much more sense to him now.

“Right, yes,” Pierre stuttered, suddenly self-conscious of his rambling. “The point of this all is we need to directly link the reactor to a gigantic tank circuit that tunes the electrical flow to dampen out the regular variations. Once that’s done it charges a battery, and we make the rate of discharge smaller than the average rate of charge to totally nullify irregularities straight from the generation source. That’s what produces a constant current that is reliable enough to use in electrical systems.”

“I see,” Mohammad said, nodding in agreement and pushing up his glasses. He turned to the project lead: “The capacitors and the circuit after that are the tricky part with Langium, Monsieur Bernard. Plus with all the electrical activity and magnets in the reactor, all of the pieces need to be exactly in the right spot to limit their effects on the rest of the system. It’s big, heavy, and expensive. Very delicate work.”

“Kind of like trying to run a water wheel rain that you can't forecast,” explained Pierre, seeing the visible confusion on the older man’s face. “It either rains or it doesn't, a little or a lot, and you don't have radar or barometers or instruments to tell you when it will rain or how much. You have to make a funnel that will drip consistently in a drought or a thunderstorm.”

“I see,” Paul replied. He didn’t care much except for the cost and weight factors of the electrical subsystems onboard, but that had already been planned for. He focused on Mohammad. “And you’re going to be going in to supervise this yourself? I’ll have to get the site foreman to sign off and get you gear. Hard hat, safety glasses, a fall harness… the works.”

“I, uh, need that?” said Mohammad with a nervous chuckle. “Oh. I never have gone into anything that hazardous. Mostly office buildings.”

Paul pointed out the window at the Faure sitting in its drydock outside. They couldn’t see much of it besides the hull pressed close by the window, its gigantic frame dwarfing the engineers’ workplace. “These things are hazardous. I’ve seen quite a few widowmakers in my time, especially when it comes to such complicated machinery. It reminds me almost of the old nuclear vessels.”

The marine engineer shook his head, remembering the early days of experimenting with nuclear-powered vessels. Before Langium’s secrets were unlocked in advanced research labs and feverish megaprojects, nuclear energy appeared to be the future. Now it was relegated to the backwaters of human society, with the small reactors rusting away in unsafe conditions in the third world. If there was anything for the environmentalists to be worried about, it was the hundreds of shoddily-cased, secondhand reactors leaking waste in the backcountry jungles of Africa and Asia. Mohammad knew it himself: Lebanon had just suffered an incident outside of Beirut where a criticality accident at a fuel processing facility killed three workers and sickened eighty-nine.

“Well, in that case, let’s get you going,” Paul said. They three sat up from their table and made their way out towards the ready room below. They found their gear, stashed in their lockers but untouched aside from rare inspection tours. Mohammad threw together his raincoat, zipping it up to his neck and fitting the oversized hardhat over its hood. He wiped fog from his glasses and made his way out to the exterior awning, where the storm still was not letting up. Pierre followed, hurriedly bringing his lighter to from a cigarette that he pulled from a steel case in his shirt pocket. The thing was alight before he had even left the building. As Paul took his time, the pair stood silently underneath the awning while they listened to the rain plinking steadily on its metal cover.

Paul joined them shortly thereafter, where they piled into a small electrical shuttle that almost resembled a country club’s golf car. It drove them straight to the ship’s gangway, where the engineers disembarked and climbed aboard the slippery metal ramp to reach the cargo deck of the ship. The deck was festooned with knuckling spots for intermodal containers and specialized hatches leading to Langium containment units, which the construction workers were careful not to trip over as they scurried back and forth in the rain. It took several minutes before the engineers were greeted by a foreman and guided down to the stern of the ship. Passageways and berthing rooms meant for the crew quickly turned to even more claustrophobic hatches and crawlspaces below.

Mohammad squeezed his small body down a ladder hatch that he used to descend through a nest of cables and electrical systems to reach the main power generation station. Paul and Pierre had opted to stay up top when they realized the maze of tunnels that they would be getting into: Paul had other duties to perform anyways. Mohammad wrestled his way through a series of loose wires, careful not to dislodge them from their junction boxes and connectors. He emerged into a cavernous room where men on hanging platforms delicately directed a massive apparatus in from a hanging crane.

A cover had been erected to keep the water out, but the wisdom of installing electrical components in a rainstorm eluded Mohammad. He had heard that Chantiers de l’Atlantique was experiencing political pressure to finish the project quickly, something to do with an uptick in Langium quantities needed for some project. That was beyond his scope, but the work began to worry the engineer. The workers appeared rushed, a supervisor barking orders on a walkie talkie while the crane dropped the battery in. Something wasn’t right.

Mohammad pushed up his glasses and his stomach became twisted into a knot: he saw a sudden drop in one of the crane’s slings and a link snapping on a chain. The battery apparatus came loose, crashing into a series of electrical components on the wall. Something collided with the auxiliary power, sending an arc of electricity flashing across the chamber. The workers dived for cover and Mohammad ducked down right before two components erupted into a brilliant explosion. The young man was knocked to the ground; hitting his head on a bulkhead as a fire emerged in the generator room.

Topside, Paul and Pierre heard a cascading series of booms from below: they turned to face the stern of the vessel that was rapidly going up in smoke. Electrical fires were raging and lapping at the steel barriers surrounding the generator’s access hatches. They ran, clambering off the ship as alarm klaxons sounded and hurried calls went out for the fire department. Workers and managers fled the accident, abandoning their workstations to seek the safety of land. In the minutes of pandemonium, fire trucks arrived from the shipyard’s station and firemen hurriedly attempted to set up their apparatuses. One after another, streams of foam began to shoot onwards to stymie the damage.

The reactor vessel, punctured by the falling assembly, experienced a massive overload of power and heat. Test cells containing enough Langium to calibrate and start up the sensitive machine were damaged. These cells were now open to the environment as raging fires encroached into the compartment. Cladding burned and melted as flammable materials combusted: support structures and beams weakened, causing the upper deck to fall inwards on the reactor core. In a haze of smoke and flame, the Langium inside was now at the mercy of an uncontrolled accident.

The men onboard would have no idea of the accident's scale for many hours.
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Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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Andreyich Your colleague, friend, brother

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>>>March 2nd, 1991

>>>East Germany, Berlin, CLASSIFIED

The Oberst lit a cigar, offering one to the Gefreitor as he saluted to the Russian Private guarding the gates of the base. "They're from Cuba. You can tell by the smell." He said, as the young soldier graciously took it.

"You've been around far, Sir?"

"Me? No. A few conferences in Russia a few excercises in Poland, vacation in Bulgaria. I got these from a Spetsnaz commander. Terrifying man." They entered the building, the flash of NLCs on their keycards touching sensors leaving an afterglow in the eye.

"I see. Special Operations, in Russian. Was he related to this new unit?" The two entered an elevator.

"You catch on fast."

"So what is it about then?”

“You’ll see.”

The elevator went on for a rather long time, Gefreitor Joachim looking at the apparently malfunctioning indicator of what floor they were on. “Something seems to be wrong with the lift, Sir.”

“No. Nothing is wrong. Relax. Last opportunity to do so you’ll have in a while.

The soldier was confused, but he didn’t question what he was told lest he ruin what he was told was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

At last the door opened, and the two were on a rather peculiar floor. It had the sanitary white layout of a hospital or laboratory and yet whenever he received a glimpse of any rooms they were dark, either cramped or very spacious with little in between. Despite this being a military base he counted only a total of six firearms amkngst dozens of men and women going about.rms amongst dozens of men and women he saw about the place. A lot of people had their faces obscured in part or entirety. Some had balaclavas, other surgical masks, others peculiar helmets including goggles or some sort of rebreather.

“Follow me.” The Oberst said as he lead Joachim down a few turns, tapping him on the shoulder to get him out of a daze he had. He opened the door to one of the strange rooms, getting the young soldier to sit in a reclined seat whilst he himself stood behind a tall desk, typing at a computer. “Gefreitor Joachim Lukas Wegener. Medic of the 20th Engineer Battalion. Made Gefreitor rather fast. Talent.” At this point a large light descended from the ceiling along with several smaller devices all poised at the Gefreitor. With his surroundings he could hardly see the Oberst with all the things obstructing his vision.

He finished the cigar, and motioned with the stub to his counterpart. “Somewhere I can throw it out? It was a good one.”

A mechanical appendage was extended from beneath him, apparently a trash can into which he almost threw it, before it turned over to perform some function yet unrevealed; thus he simply blew out the embers and pocketed the stub. Joachim remembered when he had laughing gas pumped into him when he had his wisdom teeth pulled. For some reason, he felt like that now and the yet lucid parts of his mind told him that this was very very wrong. “How much do you know about Langium?” the Oberst asked.

“Same things as everyone.” Joachim replied. “What I learned in school, University, Academy.”

“Have you heard much about its biological applications?”

“Uhh… a little. I know mutations happen, usually fatal.”

The Oberst sighed, thanking a man in medical garb entering the room with a clipboard. “There is more to it. It is our division’s specialty, in a sense.”

Suddenly Joachim felt anxious despite being drugged, and looked down to find that there were now mechanical restraints on his hands, elbow, knees, feet. He tried to speak, but he felt unable to, as if there was an unheard speaker within him that had priority over his mouth, and was holding it shut.

“Our Fatherland has a long history. Long before the DDR was formed there was one of our kinsmen, a colonist in the Baltics. Weiss. Some Knight or something of the sort. As the Baltic traded hands between Poles and Lithuanians and Swedes and Russians Weiss become Weissau, Weissau became Wejsow, Wejsow became Veisov. A doctor Veisov existed, loyal servant of the Russians. He met Mendeleev who met Lang at a symposium on the material, and from there gained an interest in using the stuff for the betterment of their Empire. After Mendeleev’s death he was enamoured with the idea of using the material to cure the son of the royal family of his hemophilia, and take away the influence of Rasputin. You’ve heard of him yes?”

“What….” the dazed Gefreitor asked as more machinery arose from slots in the floor.

“But war broke out between our nations; Germany and Russia. His work was interrupted and in furor he went on to try to weaponize his research on what Langium could do to humans be it directly if used upon them, or what those under its influence could do to others. His breakthrough was interrupted when that glorious revolution of 1917 broke out. With the White Army he fled East until there was nowhere more to flee. He was granted a quiet amnesty in exchange for his services. Many doubted his loyalty to the Union, but the CPSU insisted that he was too useful to purge even during Stalin’s most harsh period. When war broke out between our nations his work was yet again interrupted as resources were pooled for more practical purpose and yet….”

The Oberst was now eerily visible through the light, as if he produced one of his own. Several brains were encased in some sort of plastic or glass case, wiring running beneath their stands glowing the glow of NLCs once the Oberst placed his hands on them. Soon after, the depressions of the brains started to glow too.

“Afraid? You should be. When the Russians came into our fatherland they found that we had been performing research of a similar vein. Not nearly as advanced of course, we had not our kinsman in Weiss to aid us. But advancement was a relative thing, it was all crackpottery then. Veisov simply hadn’t consumed so much methamphetamine as our scientists. With the peculiar peace of the cold war Veisov was soon showered with resources to create more wunderwaffe for the Russians. At some point he told high command of a breakthrough, but also a coming change in all the world. The New Earth Oracle then yet nameless had changed Langium, and with it the effects of it on mankind, our minds. History is a fickle thing, it is whatever we believe it to be, but often it is said that through the NEO’s effects on human brains in Veisov’s experiments the Russians knew of its coming long before their cosmonauts and probes actually saw it coming in space. They say their announced evacuation of territories to be struck by the NEO was ahead of its time thanks to their space craft. But others, those with more esoteric knowledge say they could have evacuated well before that. They chose not to, hoping to see the effects of NLCs upon humans first hand. Uncontrolled experiments upon thousands, millions of people.”

Joachim tried to squirm now but felt himself unable to. All he could do was move his eyes to look up, seeing a series of vices wrap around his head before a larger clamp started to squeeze.

“You won’t be hurt. I’ll see to that.” The Oberst said, interrupting his monologue to speak to his counterpart.

“What happened to Veisov after the visit is unclear, at least to those without appropriate clearance — such that it is said even the Soviet Premiere lacks. Some say he still works, some say he died, theories are many. But dead or alive, even now the effects of his work are felt globally.”

An ancient looking revolver floated from the holster at the hip of the Officer. “The Russians say this work is for the greater good. Those that haven’t disappeared, anyway. They smile and wink if you ask if it has had any relation to the inexplicable work of terrorists, zones, and other such things around our precious Earth. The Psychic Forces operate well above the Warsaw Pact joint command, or any other authority. It is rumoured Veisov had intended the psychic forces to be something… different to what they are now, and what the Soviets intended. That he left things around the world. Messages, items, all to ensure his work didn’t get out of hand.”

Without anyone touching it the hammer of the revolved was pulled back at the same time as a bullet was loaded into it and the Oberst placed a new, modern pistol into his holster. “I am sorry, Joachim. But in the coming times, remember all that I have told you. If you cannot, then at least all that you learned as a child. Minds should be free. Minds should be free. Don't let the Russians or the shadows in smoky rooms control thoughts.”
Joachim screamed a soundless scream as a sharp sensation was felt along his skull. “Good luck.” The Oberst said as the revolved evaporated, and a single shot ended his life. As he keeled over the table, a smile struck his lips and the consciousness of the Gefreitor escaped him.





>>>Several hours later

Joachim awoke in what looked to be a hospital room of sorts. He was still in the strange new uniform he was given, albeit it now felt more tailored to him. A doctor soon came in, writing on a clipboard. “Slept well?” she asked.

“I… what? The Oberst he? Why did he kill himself how did he get the gun in the air?”

“The woman raised an eyebrow but then relaxed. “That’s the sedatives and other medication we had to give you for the medical tests we performed. The barium-NLC derivative in particular does strange things in someone’s sleep. But you’re all healthy, just a few more tests before we go on.”

“How did you know I was awake now?” The man asked, surprised to be struck by what he thought only happened in movies.

“Our medical technology is somewhat ahead of what you might have seen in the domestic sectors. Come. Follow me.” she said, leaving the room with the door shutting itself behind her.

Joachim arose, grunting as something pressed into his thigh when he got off the bed. Stepping out of the room he pulled out the stub of the cigar at the same time as he realized that the door opened for him without it having been touched.
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Hidden 3 mos ago Post by Jeddaven
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Jeddaven the Dunmeri

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Five personnel. Heart rates within acceptable parameters. Slightly elevated levels of adrenaline within expected levels. Communications equipment is operating within expected parameters. All is well. Diagnostic check complete.

The artificial mind looked out into the work through five sets of interconnected eyes, five sensor-feeds woven together by short-range wireless communications, looped back into its false brain by enormous radio towers situated dozens of kilometers away, in a facility few people knew about. The mind made note of everything it witnessed, from the buzzing of jungle mosquitoes to the shifting of brush along the trail to the shafts of sunlight streaming down from above. In equally short order, it uncovered the source of each: the disturbance in the foliage, an apparently healthy male of the Sciurus spadiceus species of squirrel, the buzzing a negligibly harmful male mosquito, and the photons streaming down from above the natural result of the Earth's orbit around the sound. None necessitated a response.

They would arrive at their destination in five-point-five minutes, presuming that they maintained their present pace and did not tire at an unexpected rate. That did not seem especially likely.

“You will reach your destination in approximately five-point-five minutes.” It droned into the entire squad’s headsets at once.

“Understood, Lucky.” Sergeant Campbell intoned, his response breaking with standard procedure. It neglected to remind him of this fact, reminding itself that communication between it and its assigned unit did not fall under normal radiotelephony procedure, technically classified as an item of equipment. It only needed an affirmative response - nothing more, nothing less.

The item to address was the unusual form of address the Sergeant had used. It was not named "Lucky". Its name was "Zero-Seven, Oh-Seven", or any variations thereof. Why was the Sergeant calling it that?

It shortly thereafter completed a brief-check-over of its sensors, triggered by requirements in its code to ensure their proper function, re-confirmed that no threats had revealed themselves.

Communication with the databases it distantly operated from contained numerous requests for information from civilian sources on the Brazilian internet. It was simple enough to access these troves of information covertly, using proxy shells that made it appear as if it was merely an ordinary civilian internet user, a necessary procedure to maintain project secrecy.

In relative moments, it was able to access an enormous wealth of human knowledge, looking over it all in an equally short amount of time. It could have wasted time on the greater origins of the number "Seven", but it did not need to, instead focusing in on articles and pages mentioning "luck" and "seven". From there, it isolated academic sources and those speaking on the luckiness of "seven", all the while dedicating the requisite computational power to the routine safety checks and proximity scans required of it by its present assignment.

The number "seven", it seemed, held spiritual significance for large portions of humanity, particularly those of generally European descent. It held immense cultural significance dating back to Babylon, possibly further, and some cognitive psychology indicated that there may be a neurological reason for this preference.

It found that, in brief, the connection between "seven" and luckiness was positive. It was reasonable to infer, therefore, that the Sergeant may believe it would be more successful because it was the seventh in its series, rather than for a specific, scientific reason. This merited further study.

Abruptly, it found itself interrupted by an alert - the Sergeant was speaking. It shifted its focus to its sensor network - in front of it, a set of tall, industrial buildings, its rough border marked out by a sign - two golden arches on a background of red.

"Oh-Seven, why am I looking at a McDonald's?" He asked. The expressions of the rest of the squad indicated similar confusion.

"This is a replicated section of a typical American Megacity." It intoned after only a momentary search through the mission parameters. "Welcome to your home for the next several weeks. When you are finished here, you will know it "inside and out"."
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Paris, France

Doctor Delacroix still had his reservations about the neon-lit skyscrapers towering over the rustic quarters of Paris. Although kept at bay in La Défense, technically a district outside of Paris’s official city limits, he thought the massive towers were eyesores. Built by high-tech architects and cutting-edge designers, the towers housed multinational corporate headquarters dealing with trillions of francs worth of business and technology. To Doctor Delacroix, it looked the same as any other city: Tokyo, New York, or Rio de Janeiro. It lacked the French charm that he knew and love about his country, and he couldn’t help but tut-tut their merits away. Maybe he was getting old.

The lights were distant, though, and the warm glow of Paris’s classic architecture was much closer. Delacroix, Verne, and Roxanna Masson all sat at a conference table with several other cabinet members. Antoine Renault was the Bercy minister; so named after the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s neighborhood in Paris. He sat quietly, eyes fixated ahead of him while he held one hand on the table. The other patted the white plastic hide of a shepherd-sized robotic dog. The friendly, almost cartoon caricature model dogs were marketed as a replacement to seeing-eye dogs of the past. Renault, blind since birth, enjoyed the robotic companion’s ability to verbally warn him of obstacles in his path.

Next to him sat the Minister of the Overseas, Jacques Perrier. The outre-mer filled a critically important component of the Langium resourcing in France, seeing as all zone rouges were outside the territory of France proper. Young, ambitious, and aggressive, Minister Perrier had inserted himself into the government’s conversation on Langium purely by association with the supply. He had no technical or scientific background and was yet another lawyer from a rich family who knew exactly which buttons to press to get him through a political career. Delacroix didn’t like politicians like him either: he knew Charles de Gaulle was rolling over in his grave.

All the usual suspects besides them were present. Laurent Fortin, Minister of Defense, sat next to Simone Mooradian: the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Both were stone-faced in their own ways, sitting almost identically cross-legged in their chairs. Mooradian tapped her notebook with a pen impatiently. They had served as military officers and it showed. Fortin retired as an Army colonel after commanding a mechanized brigade, while Mooradian held dual records as the Air Force’s first female and first French-Armenian general before she retired as a général de brigade aérienne.

Curiously missing was the Ecology Minister. Frank Chirac was scheduled to attend but was pulled away for an urgent situation developing somewhere. A bored-looking intern sat in the corner with a notepad and instructions to take detailed notes for Minister Chirac’s office later.

The clock ticked past seven in the evening and the cabinet continued to wait. Five minutes later, the oak doors burst open to reveal the Prime Minister flanked by an aide with a briefcase of documents. The Prime Minister ran the French government in conjunction with the actual President who held the role of head of state. He had brought them together to finalize their plan for cooperation in the UN space travel project, which he would present to Parliament the next day. The Prime Minister, a portly and jovial man by the name of Richard de Normandie, worked his party to the bone on policies he wanted to see passed. De Normandie was often compared to a slavedriver in the tabloids for his tendency to keep parliamentarians at work over weekends and recesses.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” de Normandie apologized, wiping sweat from his brow. “Myself and President de Mer were both occupied with a developing situation.”

“Is everything alright?” Renault asked, his eyes fixated ahead of him. It was uncanny to the Prime Minister, but he got used to it. “One of my aides mentioned an… explosion in Nantes?”

“Yes,” the Prime Minister stammered. He looked back at his aide, who was furiously tapping out an email on a PDA in his hands. “Well, one of our big projects has been heavily damaged. We don’t know the full details. I’ll have to make it quick here so I can get back to my office.”

“Uh, Edward,” he said, turning his head towards his aide while he settled into his chair. “Can you set up the board? I’m sure that email can wait.”

The aide acknowledged the order and put down his PDA onto the table. Doctor Delacroix was able to see the title of the email on the screen from his seat: re: [CLASSIFICATION: SECRET] Army Decontamination Team Request. He squinted, trying to make sense of it. What would have the government panicking like that? Nothing had happened at CERN, he would have known.

“Okay,” the Prime Minister said, pointing to the presentation behind him. “Everyone is aware of that UN presentation that has been making waves. Faster than light travel, I’m sure Doctor Delacroix in the back there knows more about it than I do. But that’s for you guys to figure out, I wouldn’t be able to understand the specifics.”

Delacroix and Masson looked at each other. The Research Minister shrugged her shoulders and mouthed to the scientist: “Let me do the talking.”

“We got a communique from the Brazilians last week, more information about the project and what exactly they’re trying to accomplish,” de Normandie revealed. “That paper published laid out the math and science behind it, but what this UN project is trying to do is get enough of the NLC components in one area. NLC components that we have.”

The aide moved to the next slide in the presentation, a map of French Guyana. “Monsieur Perrier, you can probably explain this a bit better. What the Brazilians are looking for is mostly in this red zone, correct?”

Perrier stood up and squinted at the presentation before flipping his eyeglasses down from their perch atop his head. He looked at the map and the labels pointing to zone rouge 10. “Yes, monsieur le premier ministre,” he said. “That is zone rouge 10, the largest in South America. It lies just a few dozen kilometers south of our largest spaceport. It’s the zone with the gravitational anomalies, and we have been able to extract raw ore and refine them into alloys with absolutely incredible anti-gravity capabilities.”

“Right, yes,” de Normandie said as he nodded along. “This zone has been, eh, a pain for us ever since some Legionnaires got lost and almost got themselves killed down there. But the Brazilians have luckily been very understanding about it. Simone, good job on that one.”

Mooradian smiled softly and nodded. “I got to know the Brazilian ambassador very well over that one,” she commented. The repatriation of the rescued French soldiers went so well that it never even broke the papers.

“Anyways, the current plan of action involves us joining the UN program,” de Normandie explained, going back to the topic at hand. “We play along well with everyone else… the American and the Soviets, to name a few. But we don’t play our entire hand. Instead, we have very graciously been extended some back channels with the Brazilians. They hate the Americans more than we do, and are very interested in us having their back as we oppose them across the world.”

“What does this mean for us tangibly?” Mooradian asked. Masson raised an eyebrow at her.

“If I may, Simone,” interjected Masson. She was intense even if she didn’t mean it: even her bright red and frizzled mess of curly hair painted her as something of a mad scientist. “I’ve seen the specifics on the NLC research they’re offering to us and it is… well, years ahead of anything we can do. All theoretically ‘proven’, of course, but the Brazilians are experimenting with things we can only make mathematical equations about!”

Masson turned to Fortin: “You are still working on those hovercars for the Army, correct?”

The aide in the corner instantly cocked his head, looking confusedly back at Prime Minister de Normandie. Fortin pointed at him. “Should you really bring it up in this environment? That’s highly classified!” he barked.

“Relax, relax,” de Normandie replied as he shook his head. “The boy has a clearance, of course. And he knows not to repeat anything outside of this room. Or at least I hope he does.”

The aide nodded, placing his hands behind his back. “I can leave if you like,” he suggested. De Normandie shrugged and told him there was no need.

“Well anyways, Minister Fortin, I recall this being a high priority for Army research,” Masson continued. “Lots of government firms involved.”

“Of course,” Fortin responded. “A truck that can fly right over mines or improvised explosive devices or a tank that can carry heavy armor over terrain a normal vehicle gets bogged down in. Who wouldn’t want one?”

“And what were the big problems with it?” Masson asked. She knew the answer, of course.

“We can’t control the gravity field. It’s a lot like magnets… the antigravity ‘thrust’ is related to the amount of refined NLC antigrav alloy. We can’t tune the field or turn it off. It is unable to be controlled.”

“Right,” Masson said. “And what Doctor Kawaguchi presented to the UN was, in essence, a way to control that. While it can be used for faster than light spaceships, it has a practical application in nearly everything we do. The problem the Brazilians have is they can research really well but they don’t have the industry down. They’re simply not developed enough, nor can they access the critical quantities of NLC compounds that they need. We have both of those.”

The Prime Minister nodded again from his seat. “Roxana is completely correct. The benefits to France will propel us further along than we can imagine. Not just internationally, but domestically as well. Were you aware that they’re offering us medical NLC research? The Brazilians are able to control NLC enough that they can cause all sorts of medical fixes and improvements without the downsides of mutation that we are so used to seeing. If we could offer these treatments in hospitals, the health of a French citizen would see its biggest increase in quality in years.”

Masson sat down, looking back to Delacroix. She winked before returning to the meeting. Prime Minister de Normandie surveyed the cabinet ahead of him. “Does anyone have any concerns about this plan before I pitch it to parliament? Once the vote passes and it gets signed off by President de Mer, we will officially be joining this UN project. And, unofficially, in a pact with the Brazilians. It is of the utmost importance that we handle this appropriately.”

The Prime Minister turned to Delacroix. “This is why I brought you here. You will be chairing the French contribution to this project, which might take you away from your day-to-day activities at CERN. I trust you have a deputy to run the place in your absence?”

“Uh, of course,” Doctor Delacroix said. He was a little shocked: he was a scientist, not a politician, and this job seemed to require more political work than research. He had never wanted to be part of something so nationally sensitive but thought of what his old soldier of a father would say. That man lived and breathed liberté, égalité, fraternité. Everything he did was for God and country. Maybe his decades of scientific research instead of military service would make the old man proud in Heaven.

“Well I trust you’ll make your preparations. I assume it will require some use of email!” de Normandie joked. Delacroix’s quirks were an open secret in the government community and the source of no end to jokes. “We have a computer provided to help you out.”

Delacroix rolled his eyes. “Of course, monsieur le premier ministre.”

De Normandie went back to the meeting, surveying the cabinet. He asked again if anyone had any concerns. Nobody did. The cabinet seemed to understand the scale of the project and what France had to gain from participation. With that, de Normandie clapped his hands together: “Alright, well the vote is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon right after lunch. If my party has been working the right way, this shall sail through to be signed shortly thereafter. More instructions shall be coming down soon. For now, I need to get back to work. I hope you all have a better evening than I am having.”

The Prime Minister sat up, pushing the chair away with the force of his large body. His aide collected his things in the leather briefcase and followed de Normandie out the doors. The Ministers filtered out in their own ways, making quiet conversations with each other before leaving the conference room. Only Delacroix and Masson remained, sitting quietly in their seats after a few minutes of contemplation.

“What’s on your mind, Arthur?” asked Masson, turning to the old scientist. She could sense his confliction.

“It’s a lot,” Delacroix admitted. He shook his head. “I’m so used to things being deliberate. The slow, enduring march of progress. Experiment after experiment, reams of data to process and analyze. Years and years of peer review and refinement. Now, humans are about to reach other worlds faster than my grandson learned how to walk and talk.”

“It is a lot, but it’s a good thing,” Masson replied. She frowned. “We haven’t had an opportunity for progress like this since The Visitation.”

“Was that such a good thing?”

“You’ve made your career out of this, Arthur.”

“Some days I wonder what the world would be like if the Visitors never came and spilt their trash all over this planet,” said the scientist. “Maybe things would be less complicated.”

The Research Minister shrugged and crossed her arms. “I feel like it would be the same. Maybe we would all be sending troops to the Persian Gulf to fight over Iraqi oil instead. I don’t think we can blame the Visitors on something humans always have and always will be doing.”

Doctor Delacroix sighed and stood up from his chair. He looked at Masson, and then to the door: “I just hope this will yield more progress than the trouble it brings.”
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Andreyich
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>>>9th March, 1991

>>>Leningrad streets

Pasha walked through the streets with Vanyok, the duo shaking their head to the rhythm of the beat in their respective headphones. "Fuck man, and you said you got this free?"

"Yeah. Dima knows a guy, made the connection."

"Who's the guy?"

Pasha grinned. "A guy. You don't have to know him to get it."

"Come on, man, really? You know me!"

"Yeah I do, but… well, your dad and everything."

A grimace came upon Vanyok. "Yeah, okay. So you keep me around to make sure he can get us out of shit but beyond that I'm 'one of them'. Fantastic."

"Why are you speaking for me? We've only been talking for like a month and I've only known who your dad is for, like, a week."

“Whatever. Let’s go.” he said, opening the door in the alley they entered. After greeting a few people they went up a flight of stairs where Kolyan and Dima were waiting.

“You ready?” Pasha asked, picking up the guitar.

“Yeah. Here we can sing some shit about workers of the world uniting eh Vanya?”

“Fuck off man.”

“Oh come on, I saw like twenty Polish plates you know. Something’s happening, we want you to look good for daddy. Got to forget any music that might point out we’re the same fascist capitalist bourgeiousie whatever your family preaches against. Got to forget anything that can get you kicked out of the Komsomol eh?”

Vanya began one of many teenage bouts of fisticuffs, his first dive on his counterpart ruining one of Leningrad’s greatest mohawks.



>>>Leningrad Academy of Sciences

Shprotov smiled to the assembled company, nodding to the Romanian delegation as they took their seats in the meeting room. He looked down at his notes, once more mentally rehearsing the who’s-who. From the scientists of all the Warsaw pact states, to the military attaches, to the diplomats, to the strange Spetsnaz in an off-white uniform pouring himself a glass of water by the window. Pressing a button, the delegation from Cuba and other observer states of the Pact were immediately put on screen.

“Comrades, it is so good to see you!” Shprotov said, giving a measured grin to everyone present in the hopes of ceasing the sweat upon most of them. Since The Arrival the Soviet Union had been far less dominating than it once was letting the rest of the Warsaw Pact nations run much of their own affairs. Unfortunately for the new PR image the Soviets wished to cultivate, most of the men in the room were alive in a time when this was not the case, when a wrong move in Russia could mean their death within their homelands.

“I am sure you are all aware of current events and have read the agenda, but let us summarize. Several states have made moves to try demonstrate their efforts in the space race. They are laughable to the American NASA, not to speak of us — the glorious heirs of Gagarin, Korolev, Tereshkova. At the same time, there have been more recent researches into products of The Visit that leave us with the possibility of travel that is faster than light. A thought that once was the product of our pioneers in science-fiction is now a possibility to arise from Baikonur within our lifetimes. Comrades, brothers, we do not want the Soviet Union to be the only bearer of the bounties of the stars.”

The speaker licked his lips, pressing another button upon his desk. “We will reply affirmative to Rio. But we will remind the world who holds the orbit. As of today, the entirety of the Soviet holdings in space are being distributed amongst members of the Warsaw pact. Trucks are being driven to your nations to build the infrastructure for space flight, as well as factories to produce the actual spacecrafts. We shall have even the smallest of our glorious Pact’s members eclipse the upstarts. Indeed, even as this transfer happens the Soviet Union is preparing to launch entirely new lines of satellites and shuttles both automated and manned. Our astronauts will toast to the success of the worker united!”

Many a set of glasses were donned to review the figures before the delegations in shock. None dared raise the matter of global impact and perception of these announcements save the representative of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The space debris? The weapons? Do you not realize the amount of objections that will be had? Within our nations and without?”

“They will be quiet when we remind them this is all a prerequisite for our offer of free access to GLONASS to the entire damn world regardless of relations to the Soviet Union. Any who still whine will eventually see the light. Trust me.” The strange Spestnazer spoke. His lips curled in a smile, though the rest of his face hadn’t moved in the slightest.

“Thank you Teimuraz.” Shprotov said, clearing his throat and shuffling a few papers. “A new age awaits us!” he said, trying to diffuse the situation. Nobody had raised any voices, and yet after the speech of the Tatar soldier Shprotov knew that everyone in the room had sweat pouring down their backs now more than ever. He made a mental note to ask of these strange new Corps. among his sources. Whatever they were they kept his mind uneasy even as he went through the boring bullshit of bureaucracy within the meeting of Internationale Vanguards.
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Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Liam hated his job.

Moving cargo from one end of Canada to the other wasn't easy. Even before the Visitation, it was a job plagued with bad roads, even worse weather, and long, thankless hours.

Post visitation, many of the problems were the same, if not far, far worse.

Roads were often destroyed at random. Trucks often had to divert from the Trans-Canada highway due to sudden, supernatural weather. The only respite was the series of fortified towns situated along the highways, havens from the devastation in the wilderness, even though it was less impactful than in America largely due to the sheer emptiness of much of Canada compared to its southern brother.

Today, sipping away at a glass of Crown Royal in a bar in, he was drinking to a comrade - Alex Jackson - lost in one such freak weather incident. Silent, aside from his soft breathing, and the occasional noise of him scratching at his thick, bushy brown beard.

The worst part, though, was the Americans. The Canadian military was far too small to escort every truck that moved across the country, so the US military, invited by a newly 'elected' government, stepped in to fill the gaps. New bases, new posts - most of the bigger convoys were being 'escorted' by Americans now, and those who didn't want it were quickly shut down, just like dozens of other businesses hostile to the 'Canadian' government or its American 'friends'.

Friends, Liam growled under his breath, resisting the urge to spit out the word if only to save the bartender - a young, blonde woman - the wasted time cleaning it up.

Pushing himself up from his seat, he let out a strained grunt, straightening out the worn leather jacket resting on his shoulders. Liam turned, about to make his way for the restroom - only to be interrupted by the sound of a rapidly accelerating truck, followed by a series of sharp, terrified screams.

"Oh my god! Oh my god, Noah! My baby!" Someone shouted - an older woman, by the sound of her voice.

Within moments the bar emptied, the entirety of its patrons rushing outside - Liam included.

They were too late.

The broken body of a child lay strewn across the crosswalk, his mother kneeling by his body as a boxy US Army truck sped off into the distance.
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The Prime Minister's Statement

My sincerest condolences go out to the family of the late Noah Martin, a young life with so many years ahead of him. Many of you are angry, demanding that the soldiers involved in the killing be tried in Canada instead of US military courts, but the simple fact of the matter is that United States Forces Canada (USFC) is the entity best equipped to properly address the incidence, and I have full confidence that our American allies will see justice done, whatever that may be. As such, I have ordered the prompt and immediate transfer of the soldiers connected to the incident from a jail in Moose Jaw to USFC. Rest assured, justice will be done.

Ottawa, Canada. One week later.

Emma almost felt sorry for Mr. Pelletier. He'd been Prime Minister ever since the United States rolled into the country, a time marked by relatively few elections called for by the opposition, an unusual circumstance in Canadian politics.

Nonetheless, clutching a microphone emblazoned with the logo of the Globe and Mail, she couldn't help herself. It must've been a nightmare to be blamed for everything by your consituents, even if you probably were a lifeless puppet hand-picked by the CIA. Briefly glancing back at the crowd behind her, then the wall of RCMP Special Protection officers in front of her, and finally the Prime Minister standing at his podium above them, she quietly wondered if anyone gave a shit about what he was saying, or were simply there to shout expletives at him. He was an old man, too, in his late sixties, with few hairs that hadn't turned grey and wispy on his head, and a slight slouch to his stance as if his spine was getting ready to give up the ghost entirely.

"I understand your anger, your frustration, but I promise all of you - I was with USFC for every step of the proceedings, and I saw no evidence of corruption."

"Didn't see any?" Someone shouted from a few steps behind her. "What, were you too busy with the President's dick in your mouth to notice anything else?!"

"Yeah! How'd his balls taste?" Someone else added.

She was forced to clap her hand over her mouth to suppress the urge to laugh, narrowly holding back the noise.

The Prime Minister continued, undeterred; he was probably used to being belittled by now, she reasoned.

"...Furthermore, in fact, I saw the opposite. The proceedings were completely free of miscarriage of justice, and I have full confidence that the verdict that was delivered is the correct one. The judge presiding over the case was quite strict, to the point that I'm certain absolutely nothing could have slipped past his watchful eyes."

"Bullshit! That's fucking bullshit, asshole, and you know it! They flattened a fucking kid and drove off like it was nothing!"

"Now,' he continued, clutching his podium a little tighter as the crowd surged forward, pushing Emma to the RCMP officers that seemed entirely unwilling to lift a finger. Was Pelletier sweating?

"The facts of the case indicate that simply wasn't likely the truth. The truck was moving too quickly for the soldiers to have noticed young Noah until it was too late, and the vehicle was too tall for them to see him. Furthermore, they reported the incident to their superiors as soon as they arrived back at their base, and they were-"

"Then it's their fault for going too fast!" Someone else shouted. Emma tensed, feeling the crowd surge behind her.

"-they both showed great remorse for their actions, and young Noah shouldn't have been in the road at the time."

Even Emma knew that one was bullshit. The rest of the crowd did too, it seemed, devolving into loud, angry shouts, expletives thrown about in French and English. The bombardment was relentless, so much so that his bodyguards were finally forced into action, moving toward P.M. Pelletier to escort him away.

"On s’en coliss! Mon tabarnak!" A man shouted. Emma turned toward the source of the voice, and although she couldn't see the face it originated from, she saw a hand - a hand, holding a large rock.

The next few moments passed at a molasses-slow place. First, she saw the arm cock back. Then, it twisted forward.

The man's grip on the rock loosened as he reached the apex of his throw.

The rock leapt from his hands.

It struck the Prime Minister in the forehead. The man wobbled, and for a moment, it looked like he might stay conscious. Then his eyelids flopped close as he careened towards the podium, his neck snapping backwards on impact with a sickening crack. The bodyguards were on him not long afterwards, hauling him back up to his feet, while the crowd continued to surge dangerously forward, forcing the wall of RCMP to retreat.

"Worthless fucking puppet!"

"Doughead!"

"Keener!"

"T'es une osti de vidange!"

"Decriss!"

Within days, cities across Canada were bursting into flames, and Prime Minister Pelletier was dead.
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Hawthorne, Nevada

"Yeah, yeah - I've got the money." Michael sighed, shoving a hand into his pocket. Unceremoniously rifling around, he extracted a hefty bundle of crisp, twenty dollar bills - and shoved it into the tan-uniformed guard's hand, rifle slung across his back. The man pulled the rubber band holding the bundle together away, rifling through them - and nodded, handing half to his partner before stepping out of the way.

"Looks good to me. You ever think about telling us why we’re getting these bonuses?” The guard said. His face was hidden behind a balaclava, but the smugness dripping from every word told Mike that he was almost definitely wearing a shit-eating grin.

Asshole.

“So you don’t ask questions.” Mike snapped back, pushing his way past him and into the concrete hallway beyond., past the label of “2073” above him. He felt like a weight had suddenly been lifted from his shoulders - as often as the conmtractors needled them, he doubted they had any idea why he was actually here. In this post-visitation world, and especially with the EALN being an active problem, most of the under-the-table bullshit that went on was the black market sale of military-grade munitions, not a quartermaster making his way down dry, poorly lit concrete hallways at hours so unholy it was a wonder he could even stay awake.

Michael hated it. He hated sneaking around, he hated being forced to bribe corporate soldiers of fortune, and he hated being constantly afraid that someone would catch him in the act and put a bullet through his brain after a short, unceremonious trial. Legally speaking, he did deserve it - but the scumbags that built the place ‘deserved’ it far more than he did.

Scanning his way past another, final airlock, he patiently waited as the blast door ahead of him creaked open on its hinges, groaning loudly thanks to years of rust and improper maintenance. He stepped inside, and after a few moments of his eyes adjusting to the darkness, was greeted with a chamber full of artillery shells - stacks upon stacks of 155mm howitzer ammunition, piled high from the floor to the ceiling in huge wooden crates packed with plenty of cushioning.

He cautiously made his way over to one of the crates, checking to make sure that the airclock had rolled shut behind him before detaching a small satchel from his hip.

Wires, a small block of C4, a blasting cap...

He didn’t have much time before the guards changed shift, and so, quietly bending over the crate, he set to work. Setting the explosive was a relatively simple matter for a EOD expert - but time was of the essence, so he quickly got to work, gingerly setting the plastic explosive into place before connecting the detonator; a tiny little electronic thing with dozens of small wires - and a tiny computerized clock - hidden inside.

The minutes rolled past without any interference from the outside, his work undisturbed by not a single sound aside from the muffled droning of the bunker’s ventilation fans, and then...

He was done.

Shifting the cushioning back into place over the tiny charge, he slid the crate’s lid closed, stuffed his things back into the satchel - and turned, making his way back outside, through the airlock.

“What were you doing in th-” one of the guards began.

“Nothing exciting.” Michael shrugged, pausing for only a moment. “Just making sure everything’s in the right place, this time.” He explained, continuing down the paved path ahead of him without so much as turning around to speak to them.

Minutes later, he was in his truck, driving quietly down the ‘359 in the dead of the quiet Nevada night, north toward Hawthorne. He whistled a quiet tune to himself, near-silently enjoying the drive until he was suddenly interrupted by the beeping of his watch.

3:30 AM, it read. Suddenly, he pulled his truck to the side of the road, stomping on the breaks as he dropped down into a bracing position, covering the back of a dull neck.

First came the sound of a dull thud, the rush of air path his vehicle - and the sound of shattering safety glass, falling onto the backs of his hands.

Daring to push himself upward, Michael glanced back, over his shoulder - and laid eyes upon the towering, orange mushroom cloud that lit up the Nevada sky.
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oglobo.globo.com.br

by Gonçalo Brandão, Lead Correspondent for American Affairs

By now, news is starting to filter across the world wide web and television of the successful bombing attack against the Hawthorne Army Depot (HWAD) near Hawthorne, Nevada, a U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command ammunition depot in one of the few remaining habitable parts of rural Nevada that remained an extremely important storage facility for the US Army's ability to wage war beyond a period of approx. thirty days. This is perhaps unsurprising, considering the facility's nickname as the "World's Largest Depot", both in terms of size (occupying nearly 150,000 acres of land) and the sheer quantity of pieces of ammunition it stored, but, what is perhaps more surprising is the sheer totality of its destruction by a "terrorist" (we use the word carefully due to the possible biases present in its use in this case) organization widely perceived as disorganized and chaotic. How could random bands of passionate rebels so completely destroy the largest ammunition depot in the world? How, indeed, when the facility was make up of thousands of hardened bunkers?

We may never know precisely how the attack was carried out, or by who, but we can know this much: any such attack, considering the apparent totality of the Depot's destruction as determined by satellite imaging (believe me, there's not much left but several thousand craters and a couple hundred of very large ones), would have required a level of organization and coordination utterly unprecedented in the history of military sabotage.

That much is clear, at least according to an EALN cell's statement on the matter on local usenet newsgroups (or perhaps it was simply due to the total incompetence of the US military, or the corporate contractors of Day & Zimmermann Hawthorne Corporation hired to protect the facility) - this was not meant at a terrorist attack. It was a planned, surgical strike against a military facility, with minimal civilian casualties.

The question remains: does the crippled US government even have the ability to stop them?

(Edit: the attack itself occured on March 10, notably an anniversary of the first paper money circulated by the US government.)

>> Date: Mon, March 11 1992, 12:00:00 -0400
>> From: =?ISO-2386-5?N?John_S j=T8ui?= john.d.s@ucla.net
>> Cc: politics.talk@students.ucla.edu

[+]
>>
>> This is not an act of terrorism. This is a warning.

>> The HWAD has been destroyed, and with it, the largest storage of ammunition available to the imperialist, fascist United States military, by comrades dissatisfied with the injustices of their own government.

>> This is not a strike to create terror. Do not be afraid. We do not target civilians. We will not target civilians.

>> We are citizens of the United States government, and armed comrades of the EALN, who seek nothing but the following:

>> 1. The immediate cessation of the illegal American occupation and puppeteering of the former territories held by the nations of Canada, Mexico, the occupied territory of Greenland, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, Guyana, Suriname, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and a others as applicable, and the subsequent holding of fully and completely democratic elections free of any interference.

>> 2. The holding of completely free and democratic elections in the territory of the United States, absent of any interference

>> 3. The disarmament of the imperialist armed forces of the United States of America as they currently exist

>> 4. Legal guarantees of non-interference in the elections of American peoples

>> Anything less, and we will continue our war in the defense of the inalienable rights of the people to "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness". We will not accept any less. The people will not accept any less.

>> Inevitably, we will be accused of being violent, terrible terrorists. This is patently false. We attacked a military target, killing only those who willingly signed up to work for the US government at this facility, an obvious target. We will do so again. We are, nonetheless, saddened by the loss of any civilians working at the facility; this is why we chose very early Sunday morning to attack, a time when as few would be present at the facility as possible, and offer our sincere condolences.

>> Remember: this is a war. This is not and will not be an isolated incident until the demands of the people of the Americas are submitted to.
>> Everything for everyone, nothing for us!
>> Death to all enemies of the working people!

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Brussels, Belgium

In the situation room, an intelligence watch center located in the OTAN alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, a staff of multinational officers scurried about furiously. Fax machines whirred and printed off pages of documents and reports which were hastily collected to be analyzed by a myriad of different working groups and departments. The buzz of chatter and discussion filled the air as officers talked over plans and new intelligence coming in. The whole office smelled strongly of coffee and the officers, some with five o’clock shadows and bags under their eyes, looked like they hadn’t slept much for days. Televisions played out scenes from across the Atlantic, showing the deteriorating circumstances in Canada as years of pent-up frustration was finally boiling over.

An assassinated prime minister, someone’s lucky hit with a thrown brick, had unleashed total pandemonium across the country. Militias broke out from hiding, riding the wave of resentment to independently conduct raids and attacks against American outposts and patrols in the occupied country. The streets of Canadian cities had been ravaged by car bombs and improvised explosive devices as a wave of revolution swept across the country. Like the OTAN staff had suspected, it was the Quebecois that kicked off the show: now the resistance groups were finally rolling out to press attacks on American forces.

Capitaine Clara Fillion was exhausted, slumped over her desk with her head in her hands as she fought the urge to fall asleep face first into her keyboard. Beside her, a West German colleague reached for a slice of pizza that had been ordered for their cell in lieu of a dinner at the cafeteria downstairs. Too much information was coming in for anyone to leave for longer than a smoke break. She felt her eyes getting heavier as sleep began to overtake her, before the telephone on the desk rattled her awake. Hurriedly grasping for the phone in a startled rush, Capitaine Fillion answered automatically:

“CJ3 CAN CUOPS,” she blurted out, announcing her office using the unwieldy military staff designation for OTAN’s international staff planning division, current operations in the Canadian theater. “Capitaine Fillion speaking.”

The familiar voice of her staff section’s boss answered her from the other end: “Clara, Colonel Dupree here. We just got out of a meeting with the Président du CMO. He’s going up to the Secrétaire Général to brief him on the situation, but it’s highly likely we’re going to mobilize to go into Canada. Get your team and wait for me.”

Clara, now wide awake with surprise, hesitated for a moment. “Yes, sir,” she said simple. Colonel Dupree thanked her and hung up while she spun around in her chair to the West German officer next to her. He stared at her with a raised eye, finishing a bite of his pizza silently.

“Kohl, the colonel is coming down,” she said, barely containing her emotions. “Big fuckin’ news, I think OTAN is actually going to mobilize for this thing.”

Fillion jumped up from her chair and walked out to the floor of cubicles that her group worked in, announcing that they all needed to head to the conference room immediately. Her small staff of junior officers and senior sergeants all obliged, and she found herself sitting in the conference room for ten minutes waiting for the colonel to arrive. Just as the clock struck nine in the evening, the door swung open to reveal the tall, slender frame of Colonel Dupree. She called the room to attention and was quickly told to sit back down.

“Evening, everyone,” the colonel said. He practically collapsed into his chair at the head of the table. “I just spent a good long meeting with the CMO,” he said, referring to the Comité Militaire de l'OTAN that formed the highest military headquarters in the alliance. It was unusual enough that a Colonel, a comparatively low-ranking officer for them, was invited there. “And they recognize that we need to act fast with regards to Canada.”

The staff sat silently. “The Secrétaire Général is going to make a decision later tonight and then publish the order, and I fully expect our own president to make a statement and give the go-ahead in the morning. In the meantime, the Canada operations staff is getting picked to deploy.”

There was silence, then soft murmuring between the officers. OTAN had never deployed a battlegroup outside of Europe before. They didn’t realize that there was even a possibility that their staff section could be sent overseas. Fillion pursed her lips and shook her head. She had a husband and two children living in Brussels, what was going to happen to them if she left?

The colonel frowned, concern washed across his aged face. “I’m aware that this is so sudden, but the situation is worsening by the day and OTAN has decided they need to act to stabilize things before it gets too late. The good news for you is that this is now being picked up as a battlegroup command, which is currently being organized. I’m giving you all a few days off to pack your bags and settle your business here before we deploy. But once you’re back, it’s going to be straight on a plane or a boat or however the hell we’re getting over there.”

Clara Fillion found herself in her car an hour later, uniform top thrown onto her passenger seat along with her beret and a cigarette between her fingers dangled outside the car window. She kept promising her husband that she would stop smoking, but the army made it harder and harder to quit with every development. At the very least she refused to stink up the interior of her 1987 Renault with cigarette smoke, if only because the carseat in the back of her rearview mirror reminded her of the consequences. She started the ignition, a misnomer of a term now that most vehicles since ‘82 had been produced with hyper-efficient electrical drive systems, and waited the few seconds for the system to start up.

Her car’s bulky information display ran through its boot code before displaying a fast-moving screen of maintenance data. All the stats were green, which she assumed meant good: she was an artillerywoman by trade, not a mechanic. The screen skipped to the FM radio embedded in the car console, which picked up the Brussels radio station that she usually tuned to. The soft beat of a hip-hop song played over her muted speakers as she looked into the backup camera display on her mirror and reversed out of the parking spot. She drove on autopilot out the gate of the OTAN compound and turned onto the main throughway that led her skirting around Brussels to her home.

A million possibilities raced through her mind. The threat of combat was all but nonexistent, the pressing issues of her life were all she could think about. Was her will up to date? How about power of attorney? Did she need to open up a shared bank account with her husband? What about childcare? When would she be able to mail home? Her first son’s birthday was coming up in two months, she would definitely be missing that. The pager in her uniform pants pocket buzzed and she withdrew it to check the message on the screen. It was Colonel Dupree publishing some info on the staff group page: I just got 7 days of leave approved for all of you, come back once you’ve got some rest.

Three minutes later, as she turned into the exit lane for her neighborhood, the pager buzzed again. Fillion waited a minute as she merged into her proper lane before checking the pager. FR President will give a message at 0800 tomorrow – strongly advise watching.

Paris, France

François-Jean de Mer knew fully well that the cigarette and coffee breakfast was a joke among the international community about the French. He chuckled softly to himself as he stubbed out the cigarette, smoked down to its filter, and finished the last of his dark black coffee. With a sigh, he stood up from his table on a balcony outside of the governmental offices in central Paris. He had been up all night, conversing with military commanders and the OTAN Secrétaire Général. All of the information had resulted in one conclusion: it was time to head back to Canada.

Through a series of hallways deep within the complex of the office, he was escorted by a member of his press corps. The officer chattered nonstop about optics and tone and how to deliver the script that he, admittedly, had also written all night on short notice. Nobody in the building had slept. Such was life when the world seemed to be buzzing with conflict. Président de Mer nodded along, staring at the sheet of paper in hand and trying to commit the words to memory as best as he could. A teleprompter would be there, of course, but de Mer talked fast and often outran the words scrawling across the prompter. It had been quite the gaffe back in 1988.

He reached the podium, the familiar lights shining onto his stage while members of the French and European journalist community filed into the room in front of him. Behind him, the symbol of the French government eloquently occupied a tasteful background. It looked perfect for the television cameras, of which there were at least a dozen pointed at him. Such was life in the seat of Europe’s most important power. Président de Mer smiled softly, his trademark way of setting the crowd at east, before clearing his throat: “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I know it’s a little early. But things are moving fast and we need to get ahead of the situation.”

He confidently shuffled the papers in front of him and sat them down on the lectern. Looking into the teleprompter in front of him, the words of his speech began to flash across the screen:

“If has been an eventful few weeks for the Canadian nation,” he began. He stood up straight, confidently yet softly reciting the words of his statement: “A miscarriage of justice has enraged the long-oppressed people of Canada, and now they are expressing their frustrations. What the Canadians are feeling now is entirely justified – we have grappled with the reign of authoritarian rule ourselves, and have a long history of revolt against unjust governance.”

He paused to look around at the press corps ahead of him. “Yet as it has been demonstrated, the current Canadian government has failed to safeguard the safety and security of its people. Basic services and securities have failed across the nation, and millions of people are in danger of harm because of this tragic lack of governance. The international community has long agreed to a declaration that we owe the world a responsibility to protect from tragedies such as this. We saw the great humanitarian tragedies of the Second World War and the worldwide devastation of The Visitation and we agreed that this would be no more.

It is in concordance with this understanding that France and OTAN are organizing a task force to deploy to Canada as quickly as possible. The world sees the impact of this catastrophe daily on television news and on the Internet. We need to right these wrongs before more of our friends in the Canadian nation suffer. OTAN has pledged to uphold the new standards of international peacekeeping and stabilization. 28 million Canadians need help from the international community, and it is our responsibility to ensure they can live their proper lives.

I understand that this is the first deployment of OTAN outside of its borders since the alliance was reformulated in 1984. Rest assured, this is the work of almost a decade of planning and structuring to ensure that OTAN carries out the righteous application of justice in the world. We need to be a global force for good, ensuring the safety and stability of people who cannot otherwise fend for themselves. I give my word that France will use her military forces to maximum effectiveness in ensuring the prosperity of the Canadian people. Thank you.”

He nodded to the camera as the words ended on the teleprompter and the crowd erupted into a sea of raised hands and shouted questions. He was advised, rightly so, to not answer any of them. He waved the press corps goodbye as he left through a stage door on the side of the room and a public affairs officer rushed to the podium to stymie the flow of questions and accusations in the room. Président de Mer vanished into the backstage of the briefing room, heading back to his office where more reports and plans surely awaited. After all, this was only the beginning.
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The Greater Republic of India


Unnamed Building, Outer City, Mogadishu, Somalia


The man had been given a chance to speak, but in the end he'd finally spilled his guts to the unit after capture and 'persuasion' to speak. From there he'd been handed off to be processed further. It was progress. Finally, one of the holdout locations on the small northern coast of Somalia was in reach. But his friend has not been so fortunate.

CRACK


With a sickening split, the butt of the Indian marine's rifle rang out as it crashed into the pirate's skull. Man had balls of steel, but not the steel to reinforce his own skull. How quaint. They had only needed one man to speak out of the two they'd managed to capture from the latest pirate attack up in the Gulf of Aden, so it was only natural the other would be taken into custody with swiftness. No limits on how he had to subdue the pirate, so he'd taken the quick route to it...and now the limp but alive body of the pirate was on the floor once more.

The soldier made a gesture to a nearby man near the door, armed with a rifle, who with a nod walked over and began to drag the pirate's unconscious body out of the cement-floored room. Medic would patch him up, then he'd be sent to the rudimentary 'jail' the Indian Forces had set up nearby.

In truth, the whole area had been a blur of business after the operations had begun. Warring groups and warlords inland, with pirates smattered about the coastline. The latter had been rushed in a blitz by the Indian Navy, securing land and taking out most major centers over time beyond that. What did the west call this tactic? A 'blitzkrieg'? Sounded European, but that was of no concern to the soldiers and marines and vessels taking part in it all. They'd warned the Somalian government ahead of time, maintaining official documentation of their communications to build up their case before finally launching the operation.

They'd set it up to be laughed off, but when the pirates had taken bullets and barrages and bombardments it had brought things into line more quickly than not. The scant remnants that did flee the pirate purge moved to the northern coast, torn apart and in tatters at best, and landing parties of tanks and troops had pushed further in from there.

Admittedly some had been more entrenched among those fighting within the Somalian lands, but Anomalies and so forth had done enough to push most closer toward the coast by recent times. It also gave Somalia a semi-natural barrier of Anomalous Zones to the north and somewhat in the northwest. More importantly, though, it had given the Indian forces a way to take down most opposition in the short-to-mid term. Finally, the long-term operations were being started and cemented.

Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia, was being brought relief and security even as its infrastructure had prior been cracking and buckling under the weight of three decades of chaos. One year after its independence came The Visitation, which had sent the nation into a spiral as everyone else had seemingly been forced to look after their own hides for a time. Or something of the sort. Yet now, the reorganized Somalian Government was working on ensuring its own stability for the future. They had even signed a treaty with India itself as a start to bring in Indian businesses and new commerce to the area, mostly stuff to help rebuild and reinforce the nation as natuiral resources and Anomalous Zones would be tapped into...all of these things starting with Mogadishu itself.

The publicly announced 'Anti-Piracy Police Action' had been declared to the world prior to launching the Somalian and Burman operations, declaring the desire to create a safer Indian Ocean that would be intolerant of piracy and seek to forge stability within the boundaries of the Indian Ocean that would last for a long time to come. One that would be made for the benefit of international trade and the safety and prosperity of the peoples of other nations.

The soldier sighed as he readjusted his gun, using a rag torn from the pirate's clothes to wipe off the blood before tossing it down onto the dusty floor. Yet as he began to walk toward the empty doorway, one of the other men rushed in and gave a hasty salute. The soldier saluted back.

"Sergeant Gupta, we have new orders from command. We are to return to the ship and prepare for new deployment."

Finally.

"I take it they liked the intel?"

"Yes sir! Ships are heading to scout the location, and we are to be prepared to land as soon as the day after tomorrow if the situation proves favorable."

"Understood. Relay to command that we will be back at the ship soon...and how's Private Khatri doing?"

"Stabilized, sir. Medics say the bullet avoided critical parts, too low-caliber to go deep either, but they might not be able to remove it without sending him back home."

Pirate bullet to the head when they'd taken the boat those latest two prisoners had come from. Nasty, maybe even lethal for all he'd known. No hesitation in gunning down the feral asabhy that had rushed the private during the squad's nighttime interception of the pirate vessel. By the gods, the man had a young wife back home and a child on the way! Yet as much a warrior as ever, the fool had tried to insist he could still fight even has he tried to stand and bled on the heavens-damned floor.

Gupta nodded his head, face restrained in a stoic manner. His own father was a General...his grandfather even a soldier back in the day. He had to be strong, on or off the field, but he could not ignore his duty to his men either.

"Good. The faster they send him back, the better."




Office, 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi


Prime Minister Ishann sat at his desk, the air conditioning turned down as far as he could afford to get it. Even them, however, he could feel the hot sting of the Finance Commission's eyes on him from the last session.

Ever since Daksh's orbital strikes and the launch of operations in Somalia and Burma, the amount of things he'd had to keep up with was getting only worse and worse. Well, larger and larger at least. Both fronts were beginning to pay off with the anti-piracy operations, though in Somalia things had gone a bit faster thus far than with the Burmese. By now forces were rooting farther inland after the discovery of 'dangerous and corrupt bodies' in Burma that threatened the coasts and people of the land. Ties to smugglers, human trafficker's, and the coastal pirates had been drawn well enough to take action, but the insistence on evidence had taken up time that the Burmese Government had used to shore up a bit more than expected using those criminal assets they had and whatever of the Burmese Army they had been able to muster in that short window.

He knew what would come next regardless though.

The current Burmese Government was already being outed in the news for its rampant corruption, accused crimes, and other human rights violations in the wake of securing the Burmese coast from piracy. Likewise the Pakistani falsified documents and false reports about the Kashimirian Orbital Strike had already begun to make them less trustworthy as they seemed to scramble for ground to stand on within the UN, but growing troop concentrations around Hyderabad had been of some concern. It was going well 'enough' so far at least, despite some surprise resistance from the criminals running Burma or other criminals tied to its current government in the area around the capital, and the amount of press and propaganda in both rural and urban areas was generating the needed soldiers here at home for the efforts.

Yet the pressure that came from it was almost too much at times. He was trying to advise the president as best he could about how to deal with the worldwide media looking at them now, and with Pakistan getting itself moving the potential for a drive into India itself felt more and more real. Not to mention the Finance Commission was meeting more often than before as finances for the operations went out and they waited on the promised influx of revenue and resources to come in. Daksh had promised a lot to get his and the Army Minister's plans fulfilled, and so far Somalia was beginning to pan out as expected. Burma, though, was only slightly behind schedule but was making progress.

For a first push as a part of the 'Anti-Piracy Police Action', it was an effective one learning from tactics both new and old. Yet beyond this, any other announcements and warnings and such would only be taken more seriously by others. The road from there, most likely, would get harder and also likely require greater intervention and firepower to complete, relying on the dividends paying in from the new relations and economic support going to Burma and Somalia to continue to fuel in the longer-term.

Daksh even had pushed through plans to approach Japan for expanded economic relations! Not to mention sending someone to Moscow to speak with the Soviets about 'further economic and political ties', not that they'd ever been on bad grounds to his knowledge, though he would have to talk still to the Department of Atomic Energy about what Daksh wanted to propose to them. On top of this an ambassador was on their way to Brazil, of all places, to try to begin new talks with them about economic ties.

Not yet were they amidst a flurry of astra aimed to annihilate them all, but even so he felt it was a potential that could arise later down the line. The man had aspirations above and beyond the heavens, and yet at the same time it felt like it could all come crashing down someday. If naught else, he would have to fight back with Daksh to try to level the man's grandiose ideas out...or at least get him to fund a few non-military projects in New Delhi to keep him distracted for a time without anything massive going on. Maybe.

The man was supposed to be more subject to him technically speaking, but in the end the latter had a more forceful and charismatic personality to get things done and what he wanted it seemed. Ishann hadn't been much of a fan becoming Prime Minister, usually among the more quiet members of the parliament, but had entered the position as a means to fulfill his duty when it came to his own conscience. Some thought him to be a 'push-over', as the western saying went, but all the same he wasn't a man of the public but a man who knew his office well at least. A man who could get people to ease down, work things out, and try to keep the peace.

Ugh. He could hear the complaints already, or at least they would be that way before Daksh got to them eventually. Left a bad taste in his mouth, all of it.

But it was about time to stop work for the day at least. He could really use some of his wife's homemade mater-paneer about now...
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PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA

Spring 1991
GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY

Great Hall of the People, Beijing
Chairman Xue Xuefeng spent the last half hour being debrief on the chaotic situation in Canada. Their cities were on fire over the death of their prime minister. But, in all honestly, Xue didn't have a strong opinion of the Canadian government. So, a simple statement calling for peace and order throughout the lands was written up. And that was that. Or so the State Council believed.

A well-dressed soldier approached Xue and whispered something that caught him off-guard. "Hawthorne Army Depot has been destroyed by a revolutionary terror group based in the Americas. Their demands have been published shortly after the attack."

Chairman Xue examined the piece of paper handed to him as the State Councilors stared in silence. And then, he turned to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and ordered him. "Xieren, get in contact with Premier Kosygin and request a personal meeting on my behalf. But before that, issue a statement condemning the attack and terror group. We need to be ready for the likelihood of being accused."

Tao Xieren nodded and left the room to get started. Then, the Chairman turned to the Minister of National Defense. "Have the military be on high alert and begin conducting emergency-response drills. Ensure that we are in consent communication with our allies and offer supplies and reinforcements. And ensure that the East Sea Fleet is prepared for conflict."

"What about Taiwan? Should we increase the pressure against the resistance movement on the region?" Cai Hu asked.

"Not until they give us a reason." Chairman Xue responded and then stood up. "And if that is all, I have to leave early to get ready for our guest of honor. May there be prosperity at the end of these dark days."



Foreign Ministry Tao Xieren's Remarks on Recent Events in North America
"China clearly condemns both the bombing of Hawthorne Army Depot and the murder of Canadian Prime Minister Pelletier. We hope that those responsible are bought to justice for their crimes through the legal system. Chairman Xue expresses sympathy to the victims and plans on calling the American President within the week. While we've criticized the American takeover of Canada in the past, China had hoped that independence would've been secured through peace and non-violence.

And while we hope that peace returns with assistance from OTAN forces, China is worried that the countries in the alliance, specifically France, will use the opportunity to showcase their military might. Chairman Xue is hopeful that OTAN forces will leave Canadian soil once peace has returned. But, he is rightfully concerned that Canada will be forced to be a pawn for an eroding military alliance."


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A forest of forklifts moved about the shipyard, their cockpits filled simply with boxes studded by blinking LEDs. Captain Pavliashvili leaned on the wall with his arms crossed, rejecting the cigarette his Marine counterpart removed from his plate carrier. “You think this is going to last?” he asked.

“Robots in the navy?”

“Well what the fuck else?”

The Marine shrugged. “You’ve been deployed mostly to warm water, yes? The easy stations near home, Sakartvelo, yes? I can tell you now, the Soviet Navy and the Russian one before that never had a good reputation. Command put it to you guys being losers. If they take out th e human out of the matter then they can perhaps fix it, stop other fleets from laughing at ours.

“What? Who are you talking to Private?”

The Marine laughed. “Someone who’s going to lose his job in a few years it looks to me. I’d be more smug if I didn’t think there’s a good chance they’ll be cutting out the Marines after they cut you out. But hey, I’m still young, I can join OMON or something. Maybe you can go to the Space Corps!”

Pavliashvili growled. The little shit was right. First it was the sailors, then the officers. But he wasn’t just going to take it from the kid. “Who’s your commanding officer?” The Marine chuckled, turning around and walking off without reply. The Captain almost chased his counterpart, but decided against it and simply boarded his vessel, closing his eyes from the flash of NLCs that authenticated his keycard.

The vessel already felt… lonely. He knew this sail wouldn’t be a long one, but for future ones, the thought of being all alone on his ship terrified the man. Six, ten months with just machines and video calls to keep him company. He did not think he could stand it. With this business the Americans got themselves into, it was a scenario that was getting all the more probable. With the French biting off Quebec, it was no secret that there were discussions of an Aleutian Soviet Socialist Republic, and of Communist States of America.

That was propaganda of course. Pavliashvili has spoken to enough Admirals and once even the Minister of Defence that he knew there would most likely be no CSA. Far more likely was a deployment of Soviet troops around the zones, a kidnapping of all the scientists around, and a plundering of all the research facilities; the people therein would be left to fend for themselves. The luckiest might end living in Californian, Bajan, and similar such Democratic Peoples’ Republics. But for now, preparations were being made. The Soviet Union was not prepared to do any such land-grabs that the second NATO had done. However, it could lay the ground for some ambitious plays of its own. The vessels to be deployed this day were to go to the Americas and discretely deploy supplies, zone-suits, and even some infiltrators and Engineers to prepare for Soviet boots on the ground to take critical sites in the Americas with a great buffer of supplies to prevent the issues of maintaining such a force across the Pacific Ocean for a long time.

He supposed this is why they replaced the sailors with computers first. This was a delicate matter, as delicate as the Spetsnaz working to co-opt the many workers movements into seeing the Soviet Union as synonymous with liberation of the proletariat. There was no room for human error; when it would come time to throw in conscripts with orders to shoot whoever didn’t comply, such delicacy wouldn’t be needed, hence no automation for the army.
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Somewhere deep within the Santa Cruz mountains, four men sat astride a large nondescript white van, clad in an eclectic motley of hiking gear and thick jackets, semi-automatic rifles slung across their backs. One quietly puffed away at a cigarette, wispy trails of smoke rising from the smouldering tip, curling through the needle-studded branches of the Santa Cruz Cypress he was leaning against. The men rarely moved, occasionally moving about to readjust their positions...

Or, every once in a while, to water the shrubbery behind the tree.

It didn’t take a genius to see that they were bored, and incredibly so, even though they’d only arrived mere minutes earlier. Perhaps they simply didn’t like to wait.

The tallest of the men, his face hidden behind a balaclava, let out a yawn.

His eyes widened. He pointed down a nearby paved road, leading toward the path they themselves stood beside.

“Shit, shit!” The smoker sputtered, his cigarette dropping to the ground as he extinguished it with his own urine, feverishly zipping up his pants. By the time he’d reached the van and had swung his rifle around to his front, his comrades were already prepared, cradling their weapons at a lazy state of low readiness.

Each man, rifles at the ready, peered down the road toward the set of headlights crawling downhill toward them, beams of light occasionally flashing through the trees. With every second that passed, the lights drew ever closer, until a second van became visible, carefully snaking its way down the road, through the trees.

The three men tensed, ever-so-slightly pulling their guns upward, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

The van came closer.

Closer.

Closer.

It was only a few moments before the thing was practically staring them in the face, a mere handful of meters away... And then, pulling to the opposite side of the road, it stopped. The driver Didn’t bother to turn the key, instead allowing the near-silent electrical engine to thrum away as the car’s side door slid open, and out stepped two more men, a third cradling a large, sagging messenger bag in his arms.

“Nice day, isn’t it?” One of the new arrivals said, evenly eyeing the smoker.. “Sure as shit isn’t nice as it was before the visitation, I bed, but you almost forget the world’s FUBAR in places like this.”

The smoker nodded back at him. “My dad used to love these mountains. Took me out here all the time as a kid. I still miss him.”

The new arrival nodded back, gesturing toward the man carrying the bag. He nodded back, bent down, and pulled open the zipper, only to reveal stacks upon stacks of hundred dollar bills.

“Is there more?” Came a voice from inside the van, rough and gravelly, so slow and drawling that it seemed like he was frustrated to even be there, like he’d rather be literally anywhere else.

“We brought a dozen more bags. Unmarked, like you asked. The bags, too - should be untraceable. Will that satisfy the seller?” The first new arrival said, his hand wandering toward a small pistol at his hip.

“Check the bag. Make sure it’s legitimate.” The voice continued. The smoker nodded, though whoever the voice originated from couldn’t even see him, and bent down to inspect the bills, shining a UV light at a few handfuls as he went about his work, simply visually inspecting others.

After a few silent, tense minutes, each of the men present itching to pull a trigger, he rose back to his feet. “It’s real. Much as I can tell without spending five hours rifling through this shit, anyways.”

The smoker and the new arrival exchanged a quick nod, beginning the process of transferring bags between their vehicles. With a team of five, it was relatively easy work, despite the weight - and then, the three men briefly crawled back in their own truck. Wheeling out a tall, unusually long cart, down a ramp that unfurled from the open side of the van. They pushed it into the car opposite, and then, their mysterious business complete, the five men each piled back into their cars.

“Think this thing’ll blow up on us before we get back to Rio?” The driver said, glancing back over his shoulder at his comrades.

Then men gave a collective shrug in response.
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March 23, 1991
The White House, United States




"Mister President, how will we respond on the attack on Nevada?"

"Mister President, what is your statement on the publications of the EALN?"

"Mister President, what are your comments on the recent military maneuvers in the Bering Sea?"

"Mister President, a word on the attacks in Montréal and Mexico City?"

"Mister President-"

As each and every one of the journalists pressed for their final flurry of questions, they were each intercepted by another of the Secret Service. They all clamored on their way out, reaching through with their microphones as they exclaimed their queries, hopeful that the Commander-in-Chief might respond to at least one of their many pressing matters. President Hunter - to nobody's great surprise - addressed each of their issues with only what was to be expected from the prefigured head of state: He would give them each a reassuring smile, nodding twice - but never a third - and waved to them on their way out while he turned towards his desk, stacked to nearly his shoulder's height in folders and papers. Michael Hunter had practiced this song and dance for years - first as an assistant to Nixon himself back in '62, then as a senator, representing the great state of Arizona. He'd known for quite a while how to give a good smile; People needed one in times like these.

But answers?

Sometimes, the people didn't need to know all the details.


"Damn journalists. Always pressing their noses into things...." the President exhaled, shaking his head down at his paper mountain.

To each of their credit, all of the questions they asked were, at the least, a cut above from the usual drivel which came about into his office. It was a great change of pace from the usual "embezzlement scandal" and "senate affairs" that plagued his weekly Q&A sessions.

Across from him was "The Chief". Patrick LeMat often lamented that, even as the head of the FBI, LeMat was nowhere close to being the most - or even the second, third, fourth, or even fifth - most powerful man in the country. He'd never do such publicly, of course; He'd be supplemented several times over even by men who held no official office.

The title he could rightfully place his claim to, however, was that of the entrustee to the President. President Hunter would, likewise, never say so in public earshot, but he had long derided the military establishment as overly-fumbling to be worth anything aside from necessity. Nothing against the fine men and women in uniform of course - Hunter had long held them in high esteem, oddly enough. Yet, it was that careful balance of power that made him uneasy about them.


"We've got our work cut out for us." LeMat broke the silence. The way his hands were tightly placed on his hips, his squared stance, his lowered head as he gazed not at the President's eyes, but just below towards his red-and-white tie: All signs of an exhausted man. And if Michael were any less of an actor, he would share all the same.

"You've read the reports?"

Hunter nodded. He stared out the side of the Oval Office, up to the imposing figure of Washington himself, some two heads above him. Maybe secretly, he stared upwards like an apostle to Heaven, hopeful that there might be some last revelation, some wisdom to impart. But when met with silence, Michael resigned himself to his position, and turned back towards his colleague and friend.

"Now, the Intel Boys are saying that the French and Brits are pushing for Quebec! And the Ruskies are trying to set up some...some, goddamn pirate psyop on the West Coast! Everyone's out there making serious moves. Except us."

"Goddamn Reds." Hunter fumed.

"You speak with the general?"

The President nodded, confident in his response - if not necessarily his answer.

"Let me take care of this, Mike." The Chief almost interrupted. He took another step forward, raising his finger like a mother to an angry child, not to Michael, but to some imaginary figure between the two of them. Michael equally spurned the phantom, shown by the acrid glint in his eye.

"We have a way to solve this. We don't gotta get the Army involved."

"What are you thinking?" The President replied.

"Give me fifty million and a couple good men. I'll crack 'em like a fuckin' egg. We pussy out now, they'll be speaking Russian in Anchorage. 5 years. It's not nice, Mike, but shit...look at us. Things ain't exactly like we're in '53, and you know how it is. 'Want an omelette, break some eggs'. All I'm asking for are some eggs."

LeMat took a deep breath, and leaned in closer, almost like he didn't want a tape to catch him talking.

"Look...we have a guy in the KMT. He's a small fry, but he sings like a bird and he plays like a dog. We use him and get in real close with the Commission, the EALN, all those guys. And when we get all the intel we need, we clamp. Classic plan. No bullshit."

Well...finally, some good news. Michael sighed a bit. He wouldn't smile - no need setting up the table when the omelette wasn't done cooking. He would have shaken the man's hand with a tight grip and told him 'good work', but the buzz of his PDA indicated that the fellow had other places to be. As he was turning to depart with a nod and a glance down, LeMat exchanged a final phrase back for the day.

"...think about what I said."

"Oh, I will." The President agreed, "You can count on that."
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