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5 hrs ago
Current Every time I insult a certain coworker, i'll take money from their jar. Saving for beer would never be easier!
4 mos ago
The Jungle Book is good.
6 mos ago
Why go commando when you can be invisible?
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6 mos ago
If I had unlimited funds, my income tax would also be unlimited, which would cause runaway inflation and completely destroy the value of the dollar.
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7 mos ago
The commies showing up in the status bar is some riders of rohan type shit.


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May 24th: The Siege of Mombasa

What were the white men thinking when they saw what was being built on the other side of Mombasa Harbor?

Over the last couple of days, Thomas Jefferson Murungaru often found himself grinning at the absurdity of Agricola's plan. It looked like it would work, but it was still hard to take seriously. Five wood contraptions, like massive versions of the shadufs farmers used to draw water out of rivers, stood quietly on a rise looking out toward Fort Jesus on the Mombasa side. Most of the thing was simply the supporting base for the swinging arm, the front holding a bucket full of lead shot serving as a counterweight. When released, the counterweight was supposed to fling a sling on the other end of the arm and send an artillery shell flying through the air. It would be horribly useless on a modern battlefield, but Murungaru's unique problems gave the ancient devices a chance to relive medieval glories.

"They are trebuchets." Agricola told another set of tourists. Soldiers from other parts of the siege line found excuses, or straight up deserted their posts, to see the strange phenomena on the left flank.

"Tre-shays?" a wide eyed soldier replied, leaning against his rifle, gazing up at one of the wooden monsters. "This thing will win the battle?"

"I hope so." Agricola looked to Murungaru, addressing both men at the same time, "If we can get these things moving quickly enough, I think we'll put Fort Jesus into shock."

"They can destroy the fort?" the soldier said, running his hand over a support strut.

"No." Agricola said, "Fort Jesus was built to resist canon fire. But Fort Jesus was built to be manned by soldiers."

The soldier grinned wide. "I want to see it go."

"It'll go soon."

"We have more work to do." Murungaru walked up to the gawking soldiers. "You have work too. Return to your lines. This will be done soon, and we will be in the city, then you will have whatever you can find." They went, leaving the commander alone with his engineer.

"Come." Murungaru said, "I haven't worked on a boat yet. Time to show me how it is done."

Behind the stoic trebuchets, in a stand of palm trees, catamarans were being produced in the open air at an industrial speed. Li Huan was at work here. She was a veteran of catamaran production, and she was showing the less skilled workers how it was done. They were carving new canoes here too, having exhausted the supply of those that could be requisitioned from fishermen.

The workers who looked up were surprised to see Murungaru pick up rope and begin to work. He ignored their shocked faces. His eyes were on Agricola, and he twisted his Hou beard as he watched his engineer demonstrate the work.

It was understandable that his men were surprised. Murungaru was an educated man, having received an education from a mission near the village her grew up. This patronage put his nose in a book at young age and kept it there. He didn't enter into Kenyan politics through tribal affiliation; he entered it through his studies, and his prominence in the party came when Chairman Lutalo chose him as the man to write on the matters of theory the Chairman didn't really understand, which was most of it.

"I always meant to ask" Agricola stopped working for a moment. Sweat was on the white man's brow. The white ones were easily affected by the head. "Thomas Jefferson? Was that the name your parents gave you?"

Murungaru shook his head. "No. Edward was my childhood name. But that is the name of a King. I changed my name to that of a revolutionary."

"That answers it." Agricola went back to work, "This is a good idea, you know. Soldiers like to see it when their commander joins in the tough work."

"That is true." Murungaru was distracted. He was clumsy at working with his hands. Something as small as tying a knot took more effort than he knew it should, and it frustrated him. Agricola was a natural, and Murungaru found himself comparing his speed and comfort at work to that of his engineer, which frustrated him more.

"Look at you!" Li Huan came over, eyes beaming, to watch her lover at work.

"My thumbs are made for holding a pen." Murungaru excused himself.

"Your thumbs are made for whatever you do with them." Li said in her bubbly way, "You work quicker and we'll be sleeping inside the city by tonight. Here you go, I'll help you, I want to see the sun rise without gunfire..."

She smelled nice. Even on the battlefield she somehow managed that. Being close to her was a salve on his cramping arms, and he worked more contented with her by his side.

It was almost over. Finally. This damned siege. He was ready to go back to work in Uganda, work relevant to the theories he'd spent his whole adult life studying. Work those damned racists in Mombasa were holding him back from. As the makeshift catamarans stacked up, they counted down the hours until this would all be over.

Noon-time came, and so did the trucks carrying artillery shells. They'd been moved thirty miles around the city, avoiding use of the network built for the siege, kept instead on old farm roads that avoided Tudor Creek altogether. With them came several columns of soldiers who'd marched behind the trucks on foot. These new men gawked at the strange wooden things ahead of them.

"It's time to warm up the crew." Agricola said. Murunguru nodded. He put his fingers in his mouth and whistled. "Gunners! Form!"

The gunners made up most of the men putting together the catamarans. They were Agricola's engineering staff, who carried out the work he needed done. Agricola lead them up the the machines, everyone already knowing their place, while Murungaru followed behind.

Large stones played the part of ammunition for now. Two men carried each stone, wrestling it underneath the machine and placing it firmly in the pouch. Then they got out of the way. Another man stood by, and the moment his comrades were clear, he pulled the trigger. There was a wooden groan and a woosh as the counterweight swung down, slinging the arm in the air and throwing the stone. Five stones slammed into the water of Tudor creek.

"The weight of the artillery shells will be different than these rocks" Agricola said to Murungaru, "But the shells will be uniform. We'll be able to range find." Murungaru said nothing. He watched the crews of the machines grab onto straps, pulling down the long arm with all their weight, the one ton counterweight lifting back into place with the help of simple machinery.

"I wish they were faster." Murungaru said.

"So do they." Agricola replied, "But we are all new to this."

They tested again, and again. Some rocks landed on the beach, though most hit the water. "It will be different when it comes time to use real ammo" Agricola said, almost to himself, "I did my calculations based on the shells you have."

A rock hit the wall of distant Fort Jesus and let out a crack that could be heard across the channel. It did nothing of course, but that was to be expected. He hoped the enemy heard it. He wondered what they thought now.

"The men should have rest before tonight." Agricola said. Murungaru agreed.

There was more on their minds then the question of whether or not the projectiles would hit their target. The things had been built down where the boats were being put together now; a natural precaution against snipers. When they were pushed into place, those doing the work assumed they'd have to dodge sniper fire but none came. The whites in their island city had the machines in their sight, but they didn't seem to care. Sandbags were put in place around the machines to protect the crew when it was time, but that was was limited. Murungaru's gut told him the whites allowed construction to go on just to for the spectacle of the thing. But it was hard to tell what they were thinking, seeing beasts from their own ancient history revived on the other side of Tudor Creek. Murungaru feared they'd be able to stop them from operating when time came.

The men ate Irio; a starchy blend of boiled peas, potatoes, and corn. It was a simple meal, but one that represented the Communist's control of the surrounding countryside and the ease they had feeding their armies. When the armies came together, the arrived in their tribal groups, but Murungaru split them up, attempting to keep units multi-tribal as a first step in building an identity. Houism dominated the Swahili discussion, bringing with it a distrust of nationalism, but Murungaru knew a national character had to exist before a revolutionary one could be brought about, and he worked under that principle. But with the flanks mingling now, men sought out their tribal brothers, and swapped stories with them. A culture of counting coup and capturing trophies pervaded the besieging forces, and this moment gave the men a chance to show off their finds.

An hour passed by. Agricola and Li Huan helped finish up the catamarans, leaving Murungaru alone. He sat there, eating his green paste, thinking about the night to come. Fort Jesus was their target. It was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese, an early step in the march of white colonialism. Now it was a useful anachronism, a thick stone fort with timeworn plaster, watching over the harbor like an ancient monument. To take it was to take the last chance for Mombasa to feed itself, controlling the port as it did. But it was a fort. It was meant to defend against attack.

"We're going to need to start soon." Agricola sat down next to him, "My crew has to find their range before the sun sets."

"Give it some time." Murungaru replied, "We want most of the ground attack to happen at night. That'll mitigate their advantage."

"I'm not so convinced." Agricola said, "Darkness means confusion."

"I believe the African will handle the confusion better than the white man. The men we fight are organized in their defense, if we can break that organization, the warrior spirit will prevail."

"I hope so."

"A little longer." Murungaru asked again.


The battle started slowly, Agricola's men walking to their trebuchets as coolly as if they'd been called to dinner. The big explosive shells were brought to the wooden machines by hand, the ammo trucks parked a distance away for extra protection. Agricola himself dodged under a machine to load the first shell and trigger the rigged fuse. When all five were loaded, the triggers were pulled, and five shells were slung toward the quiet fort.

All five landed in the water. Three exploded and sent up geysers.

The engineers got to work. Unlike artillery, adjusting this machine was only a step removed from taking it apart entirely, and Murungaru regretted the time he had requested. It was twenty minutes before they were ready to fire again. Everyone held their breath as they watched the shells arc toward Mombasa a second time.

Three hit the shallows on the other side. Two hit the beach, cratering the sand in a blow that shook the dust of Fort Jesus's stone walls. A cry rose up from the Communist lines. Nobody but Murungaru seemed to notice the bullet that whizzed above all their heads, fired from the direction of Mombasa.

Fifteen minutes later, in the falling twilight, they fired another round, and a shell hit the wall, fire dancing up the stone walls. The celebration was cut off when one of the engineers hopped up to grab a strap on the long arm and was struck by a sniper's bullet. He was carried away bleeding. Their enemy might have found their efforts too strange to stop before, but now they were fighting back.

When the trebuchets found their range, no more adjustments needed to be made and the bombardment sped up. So did the return fire. Fountains of flame jumped from the enemy ramparts, and sniper fire cut down engineers as they prepared for the next round. Splinters were visible in the beams, lit up ominously by torches. War drums began to play. Shadows came from over the hill behind them. They were communists soldiers, boats hefted on their shoulders, ready to begin the attack.

"Get all fronts moving" Murungaru told his radio-man, who went away to retrieve his equipment. He pulled out his pistol. There would be no reason to use it, but when his blood was up the feeling of the grip in his hands comforted him.

Bombs flew above the heads of Communist warriors pushing their catamarans into the water. Sniper fire struck the sand, and sometimes flesh, but it was too weak to turn them back.

A sound of cracking wood crashed right above him.

"Their targeting the machines." he shouted. Agricola looked up, their eyes on a ugly hole in one of the supporting beams. The engineer stared for a long while, and Murungaru waited, hoping he had an answer.

"They'll be busy in a minute." Agricola pointed toward the fort, where Catamarans were landing on the other side. Gunfire was being exchanged. Murungaru knew this was the part of the battle where all he could do was wait, watching a dark battlefield lit only by bursts of fire.

Another bullet struck a trebuchet, hitting it in the long arm as it swung, causing it to snap in two. Men ran out of the way as the counterweight came crashing down and the rest of the machine split apart like a cracked nut. They were down to four.

Something about this attack felt different. His warriors used rope-hooks to scale the wall, and they did so with little resistance. More men crossed the channel, the sniper fire slowed, and the gunfire remained stable. In the firelight, he saw a red flag waving above Fort Jesus. The question was; would it stay there until morning?
There once was a man, who is well known in his shitty. His name was John but on weekends it was Britney. On Sundays, his name was Carl. The rest of the time, it was 'dumbass'. And he has two things that always accompany him, a list of names and a worn-out red marker. It would surprise you to know that, while it went against the expected function, the marker was not for writing on paper.

Morning light filled the hospital, the smell of death hung in the air. The pale walls shone wetly. Above Dumbass's bed hung a portrait of the Quartermaster of the KSR, and by his nightstand was a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush. John had ended up with a broken hip after tripping himself at the stair. Or, at least that's what he told the Doctors had broken his hip. In fact, it had been something far more sinister; autohypnotic asphyxiation. Heading back home, he saw, that the mayor's car had been entirely covered in cling film. Confused by his misadventures, he decided that a live tentacle porn show was the next best option.

He proceeded to go to the fishmongers, and detail precisely what his plan was. The Fishmonger agreed,

"Fourty dollars for fifteen minutes sounds fair." Dumbass reached into his pocket to find that he had forgotten his wallet at home.

"Do you accept IOUs?" Dumbass raised two middle fingers and asked. As a result, he received a look of disgust and a kick in the nuts. Swearing revenge Dumbass crawled away, winded and bruised. On top of that, he was slightly bemused. However, he appeared to have the upper hand as, with a devious smile, he pulled a remote control from his pocket. He pressed the button, and cursed out loud. Then he saw something he could not describe. It was a horrifying, yet beautiful, visage of his old dirty dog named Lasagna. Lasagna looked like it was going to bite off his... well... it's a delicate place.That delicate place is his head, the dog jumped into the air holding a flamethrower and somehow seemed both willing and able to use it.

"Don't attack me," cried the topless porn star who had just stepped into the madness. Because he was running out of gravity, he decided to swim away. At that moment he knew, he was in hell, and at the right second he saw a flying fetus straight to his face. "Why did you abort me daddy?"

With a horrified scream, Dumbass awoke - to discover that she was sitting on her toilet in Heaven having a heavenly crap. Satan called on his cell phone with fury at the latest posters disregarding former italics tags, the clouds rained unicorns as well.

Meanwhile on Earth,"Dong, where is my automobile?" asked the sexually frustrated old man.

"Where did you have it last?" his butler replied sarcastically.
"I checked my asshole 15 times." The old man's son said.

It seemed that old 80's movie references were in these days. A rolling skating Afro person went up to the old man,"I believe it's inside mine!" The Afro man bent down away from him,"Go! Check!"

"Ride my sweaty beating heart, daddy." pleaded the sexually frustrated old man whilst he silently regretted ruining yet another spam thread.

Afro man smiled a jive smile and spread his cheeks wide so the others could see his
May 22nd: The Semien Mountains, Within the Woreda of Debarq

Fitawrari Ergete Galawdeyos imagined himself the George Washington of Ethiopia. He was a revolutionary, a carrier of the flag of democratic liberalism in the ancient highlands of the Habesha people. Of course, he wasn't really a Fitawrari; that title was a military office now, something like a brigadier general. In older times it had been a baronial ranking within the aristocracy. No government had given him the title. And, of course, he was no George Washington either. His self image differed wildly from how others saw him.

Ergete walked boldly onto the property of a local Nagadras; one of the bureaucrats charged with managing regulation and taxation in the bustling market at Debarq. The man wasn't home. His nice country estate - a mud-brick affair with hints of Italian architecture - sat on top a hill not far from the pen where he kept his cattle. Only a few thin cows were in there now.

Despite his genteel self-image, Ergete looked like a wild man, his beard and afro overgrown and wooly, his cotton clothes covered in trail dust, and an Italian-made Berthier rifle slung across his back. In one hand he held a hammer and nail. In the other hand he had a copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; that old document that heralded the French revolution centuries before.

The mansion was quiet. He approached the door confidently, as if it were his own house, and when he stepped up onto the slate-wood porch, he brought the hammer up. The door rattled when it struck. A few strokes and the Declaration was solidly in place. He was almost done when the door opened, and a surprised looking servant stared him straight in the face. Ergete punched the servant, the hammer clenched in his fist as added weight behind the blow, and the startled man sprawled out on the floor. If there were more than just the one man home, they might have guns. Ergete booked it back down the hill and jumped on his horse just as a stampeding herd of cattle rumbled past. Ergete wasn't a lone vigilante. He had followers. And though Ergete thought of these men as his liberating army, most of them realized what the rest of the countryside around Debarq already assumed; they were Shiftas.

Shifta is an open ended term in cultures of East Africa. To Ergete's credit, a Shifta is part revolutionary, and many a revolution in Ethiopian government came about at the end of a Shifta's sword. But the term also described banditry and outlaw behavior. They were the minutemen, the cowboys, the outlaws, and frontiersmen, all wrapped up into one, products of the fact that government's grip was loose outside the major cities.

Bullets flew from second story windows. There were more servants after all. Ergete brought his horse to a gallop, pivoted, and shot back. The men driving the herd from behind also returned fire, but the ones riding in front or along the side kept to their duty, making sure the frightened cattle stayed on course.

The servants, lacking horses, didn't follow. Ergete and his men kept the herd on the run until they were well off the road, riding toward the cloud-sheathed Semien mountains rising like columns holding up the eastern sky. The cattle calmed down when they reached a deep gully trickling with a thin stream of water.

"See any Neftanya?" Ergete asked Mahetsent Lekonk, his right-hand man. Mahetsent had rode with Ergete's father as a boy. Now Mahetsent was a greybeard nearing sixty, and a good counselor to his Fitawrari.

"No." Mahetsent said. He'd rode up from the back. "It might be too late for them to leave their farms and organize, unless they want to search these hills by torchlight. Tomorrow though, they will be crawling over this place like ants."

"We'll follow this stream a little further before we cross the next ridge. That was cleanly done, friend."

"The gunfire was unnecessary." Mahetsent chided.

Ergete slapped his friend on the back. "You cannot milk a cow without spilling a little on the ground. I don't like to fight against the people, but the people don't know what is good for them yet. They stand in the way of their own freedom, and of ours."

"They won't thank you if you shoot them." Mahetsent said quietly.

"Even if we shot a man's arm off, he'll thank us anyway when he finds out how sweet freedom tastes. You can live with only one arm."

The foothills grew taller until they became small mountains, their tops crowned by rocky cliffs like walls built by God. This land was God's country, a monk would agree with this sentiment just as quickly as a peasant or an Emperor. The hope of the Christian faith was spoken by the babbling of mountain streams and the fresh green grass growing close to the ground. Even the men who realized they were bandits wore crosses. Weren't they in the tradition of David? Of the Maccabees?

The sun was setting in the west when the first of the Shifta's noticed they were being followed. News traveled quickly around the ambling herd of cattle, and soon the commanders knew it too. "There are men up there." Mahetsent said quietly to Ergete. He turned around and stared in the direction of the sun as it fell over the horizon. "I can't see them, but some of the younger men reported seeing shadows."

Ergete turned his horse around. The western sky was the color of fresh blood, fading into the blue like a bleeding wound in a pond. "Thank the lord for young revolutionaries, because I can't see a thing." He paused, "Post a watch."

"If that is them, they have the sun at their back." Mahetsent said, "They'll see us easier than we see them."

Ergete paused a moment more, struggling one more time to spot their enemy. "We're going to keep the herd moving tonight. We know this part of the country better then they do."

"We'll lose some." Mahetsent warned.

"We'll keep the rest." Ergete responded. He rode to the front while Mahetsent went the other direction to relay his instructions.

They traveled quickly despite the dark. It was easier in the river bed, still dry enough to travel, functioning as a road leading them in the right direction. It bent around a ridge and started to dissipate into the hills. Ergete wasn't boasting when he said they knew this land. The middle path led to a low place that acted as a sort of pass over the next set of mountains. From here on out the road was harder.

Torches went up, one after another, as the Shiftas found the material to make them. Ergete hadn't wanted this; torches made their procession easier to spot. But a leader had to make sacrifices to the wisdom of his people. They knew this land as well as he did after all, and it would be rough going. The path grew narrower and rockier as moonlight became their only guide. Ergete recognized that the path was becoming too narrow. He split the party, sending them around two different sides of a ridge. They were not far from home, so even though they were slowed down, their tensions eased.

Shots rang out somewhere in the distance. The tension snapped back into place, and guns came out. The cattle were spooked, sped up, and the Shiftas found themselves trying to settle the animals and watch for an attack at the same time. Ergete looked up at the towering rock-face above, but only starlight peeped down through the knifing crags. If there was an attack on the other column, they couldn't do anything about it now. They had to move on.

"Look out!" he heard someone shout. His head whipped around and he saw a cow tumbling down at him. He didn't have time to dodge, but his horse did, and it reared back just in time to let the limp side of beef roll beneath it. When it came to a stop, it stood up and dumbly rejoined the herd, and the procession moved on. The night passed without another incident, having only heard three shots. They arrived at their camp an hour before sundown.

The Shifta camp was essentially a nomad village. Women and children lived there, going about their day to day chores from flimsy huts and tents. They welcomed the men cautiously, recognizing the party was small, looking for the ones they knew and loved. The older children were prepared for the cattle, and they helped move the animals into temporary pens made from sticks.

"Fitawrari Ergete" an old man in the dusty white robes of a priest greeted.

"Hold on, Abba." Ergete announced. He looked at his scattered men and raised his gun above his head. "Soldiers! Your comrades are still out there! Follow me and let's find them." A manly bellow rose up. Rifles and swords clattered. They formed, still on horseback, and rode back the direction they came, half expecting that around the next bend they'd find the Neftanya.

Instead they saw cattle. Riding alongside were their comrades, Mahetsent leading them. This elicited another cheer, joyous this time, and they lead the cattle together into the camp, to the excitement of their wives and children.

"Did you lose anyone?" Ergete asked his older second.

"No" Mahetsent looked puzzled, "It was a pleasant night."

"We heard shooting."

"Oh yes!" Mahetsent laughed, "One of our men went after a wolf. We had to tell him to quiet down. He thought they were after the cattle." Ergete slapped him on the back.

It was a good moment. The soldiers sat their horses proudly, their wives and children grinning like lions, their prizes paraded in front of them. This was his people. He loved them. He wanted to see them thrive, to break the chains of old feudal government, and build the United States of Africa of which he dreamed.

The dusty priest came up, clapping to the tune of a hymn.

"God has blessed us." Ergete dismounted. He strapped his rifle to his saddle and turned to the little man.

"God has blessed all of us." the priest said, "You don't know how many lives you have improved."

"I have the men ready" Ergete looked toward the second cattle pen where some of the younger men were mounted and waiting. "Do you have a place for them?"

"Yes yes."

"Good." Ergete smiled, "Don't eat them all by yourself. We wouldn't want you to get fat."

The priest's face became dour very quickly, "You know I will give them to the people."

Ergete laughed, slapping the priest on the back. "Of course you will, Abba. They will be grateful to you. I am grateful too."
(co-written by Byrd)

May 21st: Washington DC, USA

Le'elt Taytu Yohannes loved living in the capital of the United States. It had an energy she'd never seen before coming here. The Western world wasn't new to her; she'd earned a Law Degree while studying in Turin, though her program had been sped up for diplomatic reasons. Europe was old, venerable; a shinier version of what she knew growing up in Ethiopia. But the United States was alive. Vital. Living here irked her of course, she knew it was essentially an exile, but she couldn't help but love most of the experience. She watched the city pass by from a taxi-cab window, the lights glaring on the glass. Men in herringbone suits walked arm in arm with their wives, women in fashionable dresses and hats, cozy underneath the lights of stately old buildings. She dreamed of the day Addis Ababa would shed its humble origins entirely and become like this place.

She was let out in front of Second-Empire building, stepping onto a cross-brick sidewalk, in view of a set of stairs leading to a fountain. Though she was not from here, she did her best to join American society, wearing their styles and having her hair relaxed with lye so that it looked straight and smooth like a European woman's. She straightened her green silk dress and walked toward a golden doorway, the English word "Occidental" above it. She made sure her embassy ID was on top in her purse before going in.

There was one thing she didn't like about America; their racial caste system placed her with the negros, a situation that grated on her dignity. She was the brother of the Emperor, not a shanqella at work on a coffee plantation, or some naked barbarian on the border of Swahililand. She saw how some of the whites gave her a wide berth when she mingled with them in public. She would have turned against America if it weren't for her Embassy ID, a talisman that got her out of the worst indignities.

The clink of glass and buzz of conversation surrounded her as she walked into the Occidental Grill. A waiter approached her nervously. "Black patrons need to use..."

She took out her ID and handed it to the waiter before he had time to finish. He studied it and smiled. "I'm apologize, your excellency.

"I'm here to see Congressman Rawlings" she said, taking back her card.

"Right this way."

She received ugly looks as she followed the man through the gauntlet between white-cloth topped tables and the bar. A person of her skin tone entering through the front was a minor scandal to some. Thankfully nobody spoke up, sparing her the humiliation. Even the Presidents of the United States seemed to silently judge her. The walls in this restaurant were covered with a gallery of Presidential faces; dozens of old men who had held the reigns of this young country in its short life. Like most Ethiopian aristocrats, she combated the hurt of western pretensions by remembering that even Rome was a baby compared to her country: the oldest civilization in the world still on its feet.

She arrived at the table and saw the man she was meeting. Jack Rawlins was a negro. This was true by American standards, but it was also true by Ethiopian standards. He stood up when he saw her. Neither noticed the waiter scuttle away.

"Your excellency," Jack said with a large grin and slight bow. "I'm glad you could make it."

He pulled out a chair for Taytu and pushed it in to the table once she sat. He took his place across from her and couldn't help but smile again. She was so beautiful. Jack had met and worked with her a few times since she had arrived in Washington. As the only negro member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he had been declared the expert on African diplomacy by his peers. They thought that it gave Jack and advantage to be the same skin color as the diplomats, but to almost all of them he was an outsider, one of the countless members of the African diaspora that existed outside the continent. He held as much kinship to them as the president did to a random Frenchman.

"I see you came through the front door," he said as he glanced down at the menu. "This place is good about letting us through the front, those of us that have enough influence at least. That, along with the way they cook lamb chops, is why I chose it."

"I'll follow your lead." Taytu smiled. She never liked the part of eating in public where she had to chose something. It was an art she hadn't mastered yet. What a person ate said something about them, she was sure of that, and she didn't want to order something with a subtext she didn't want to communicate. Her eyes went down to the wine selection, where she practiced having fashionable opinions.

"You come here often?" she felt obligated to make small talk, so she did.

"Not really," Jack said as he scanned the menu. "There's a little shack in Anacostia I like to go to. They do South Carolina barbecue." He looked up and grinned at Tatyu. "It's the best damn barbecue in DC, or anywhere this far from the South."

Like almost all negroes in America, Jack had roots in the South. His grandfather had come up from North Carolina to work in Illinois right after Reconstruction. He had distant relatives down there that he had never met, but knew of. He encouraged them and all the black people down there to head north. It wasn't ideal; the fact that a congressman and an honest to god princess were grudgingly given a table at a restaurant in the nation's capital was proof.

Jack ordered lamb chops for both of them when the waiter came. He let her order the wine as a compromise. He looked out the side of his eye at her as she ordered. She was very beautiful, probably the most beautiful woman he had ever met that wasn't an American. Jack had a reputation in DC as something of a tomcat. If the woman was attractive and lived in the area, then he had bedded or tried to bed them regardless of their race.

"So," he said with a smile. "You said that you had something you wished to discuss."

Taytu reached into her purse and pulled out a newspaper clipping. "Have you seen this? He's the son of immigrants from my homeland. He passed away last month and his collection was put in the storehouse of the National Gallery"

"Issak Ibsa." Jack read from the article.

"I would like the collection to go to my country. Since you are on the Foreign Affairs Committee..."

Jack looked up from the article and tried to hide his embarrassment. When she had said she wanted to meet over dinner to discuss some things, he thought it was a thinly-veiled attempt at a date. As royalty, it wouldn't be unexpected for Taytu to ignore usual male-female decorum and ask him out. He thought there was legitimate chemistry between them, and she had always been interested in him every time they had met? Or was that simple cordiality that Jack mistook as being something more?

"I don't know, your excellency," he said, feeling the warmth on his face and praying that he was not blushing. "Ibsa's parents may have been from your homeland, but he was born and raised here in America. That would be like England requesting the Wheeler Presidential Library be built in London instead of Montana. As much as I admire your nation, I also admire positive role models for young negro Americans and Ibsa is very much that."

"I understand the sentiment" Taytu said. "And Ethiopia is willing to pay a price. Whatever overcomes that sentiment." she poured the wine. The conversation made her forget about the dishonors of American life. When she saw Jack's expression slacken ever so little, she read it as the career deal-maker recognizing an exceptional bargainer; the hunter becoming the hunted.

"I'll see what I can do," he said sheepishly.

There was a pause as the waiter and a busboy brought them the meal. Each plate had a lamb chop on it with a vegetable medley of green beans, carrots, and peas along with a helping of mashed potatoes. Jack looked down at it. His appetite was suddenly gone. He felt embarrassed that he thought this was something more than an informal business meeting. Taytu had probably betrothed to some sheikh since birth.

"It would be beneficial and more expedient if you went through State instead of congress. When it comes to something like negotiating and selling artwork, they have leeway and I can give you some names of people to speak to."

He didn't want the artwork to leave the country and would fight against it, but right now he was eager to get off the issue and pass her along to someone else.

"How's your lamb?" he asked politely.

"Very good." she said. She didn't actually take a bite until after she'd complimented it, but her mind wasn't on dinner now. "Those names would be useful. You will put in a good word, of course."

There was something wrong. She couldn't tell what, but the conversation was falling... flatter than she expected.

"Do you have something on your mind?" She asked. As soon as she said it, she didn't know why she had, and she wished she could unsay it, but it was too late.

Jack finished the piece of food he was chewing. It was still as good as he remembered it. When he was done, he sat his knife and fork on his plate.

"I... got the wrong idea about what this was. I thought this was going to be more than business... I thought." He looked away, not wanting to make eye contact. "This was like a date."

"My English isn't perfect. I'm confused by your meaning." Taytu said. She thought she knew his meaning, and a sort of pre-revulsion was curdling in her blood, but she didn't want to believe it. Perhaps she was confused. She hoped that was it.

Jack put his hand on his face. If he wasn't blushing before, he sure was now. She was really going to make him spell it out. He looked down at the table and cleared his throat.

"Uhh... I thought you wanted to meet for... romantic purposes."

"Ro..." she pursed her lips, "That would be inappropriate, congressman."

"Yes," he said, clearing his throat. "Yes... it would. But... I mean, we're consenting adults. Plus, all the signals have been there, your excellency. You cannot fault me for making an assumption based on how you've been conducting yourself."

"Conducting." her hackles were properly raised now, and she poised her head like a cobra ready to strike, "I do not appreciate your tone."

"Well I don't appreciate being embarrassed" Jack cut into his lamb chop aggressively, "I know you're still new to this country, but even you have to have know when a man's interested in you."

"Even..." it was too much. Taytu didn't like being talked down to; her station in life was supposed to be above it. But to be talked to this way by a negro? Her hand wrapped around the stem of her glass, and she threw wine in the face of the impetuous congressman from Illinois. He looked stunned, his face and shirt collar stained red, and seeing him made her feel a tinge of regret. But done is done. She held onto her dignity like a life-preserver and marched out on her own, leaving the congressman behind.
@The Wyrm

Great post, but did you mean to italics most of it like that? And is Reggie Heap now officially the Ambassador from Rhodesia to Ethiopia?
May 15th: Addis Ababa

Sahle's golden train pulled up to Addis Ababa's station in the morning. Out the window the Emperor saw dozens of men on horse back dressed in the traditional clothing of the Galla cavalry; a lions mane headdress, a goat-skin cape with colorful embroidery, a small shield in one hand, and a lance in the other. Modern warfare had made this look obsolete, but the Ethiopians lived in their history, and their ceremonies demanded tradition.

Sahle himself was dressed Imperially, wearing excellent robes and riding boots. He dismounted the train in a good mood. His destination was the biggest party of the season.

Waiting for him near the platform was Ras Wolde Petros Mikael, one of the few feudal lords left in Ethiopia and Sahle's great-uncle. It is said that Ras Wolde Petros was conceived the night of the Battle of Segale by Negus Mikael, Emperor Iyasu's father, during a celebration of the victory. After Mikael's death, Iyasu had his younger brother made Ras and gave him the province of Wollo at the tender age of eleven. That'd been thirty two years ago, and the man dismounting from his horse was a bearded warrior entering middle age.

"Your Imperial Majesty." Ras Wolde Petros saluted.

"Uncle!" Sahle smiled, "It is good to see you. I'm distressed you had to ride on horseback all the way down here. Sometime we will introduce you to motor cars."

Ras Wolde Petros's expression remained flat. "Did you learn anything on your tour?" he asked. The two men were walking toward the Emperor's limousine: a German Maybach gifted to him by Tanganyika.

"I learned things. I always learn things." Sahle said nonchalantly. The door was opened for him by his driver.

"Good. I need your knowledge. There are disturbing things happening in this country. We need your guidance."

Sahle slipped into the limo where Rudolph was already waiting. The door was closed behind him. Sahle saluted his great-uncle and watch the man remount his horse. They proceeded through the city slowly so the horsemen could escort them to the Jan Meda near the center of town.

Addis Ababa was growing. Its city center didn't yet sport the boastful spear-like skyscrapers seen in American cities, but the solid squared off types were there, tall enough to be impressive, especially in a city founded within living memory eighty years ago. The modern core passed by on the Emperor's left. On his right was the hill where the palace and tomb of Menelik II stood. Up there, among shady eucalyptuses, were the stately reminders of Ethiopia's first lurch into civilization, the Romanesque married to the spindly and spend-thrift African.

Rudolph offered the Emperor a joint. Sahle waved it away. "I'd fall asleep. We'll go later."

"I'll save the date." Rudolph tucked it in an inner pocket and straightened his jacket.

As they approached the Jan Meda, foot traffic was busier. The Jan Meda wasn't much, just a massive flat dirt plain kept unoccupied so it could be used for special events. Crowds were forming. Sahle rolled down his window and waved. He didn't mind the people. They were what they looked like; just people, no worse than he was, but there was something alien about them too. The reality of their lives, how they lived and what they did, were just words to him. He only really understood his life, and he understood their life through his. Since his life was good, so must theirs be. He subconsciously suspected that every left-wing worry or peasant complaint was a show put on for him by God to flesh out the world around him. He wouldn't say this, he wouldn't even think it without laughing at himself, but some deep part of him assumed it was true.

There would be food for the common people here anyway. He'd given that work to Sisay Makari, who organized a feast outside the normal holiday schedule and opening it up for all the city, ensuring that many would show up.

The arrival of the Emperor caused a stir. People bowed. Some prayed. Others shouted well wishes, or whatever they had to say, which Sahle couldn't hear because it all blended together into crowd noise. The cavalry guard fanned out, giving the limo a place to turn and unload. Sahle found himself facing a sea of officials and delegates. This was the part of Emperoring that Sahle was good at, and he put on a big smile. He saw from the corner of his eye the Heaps, who he knew well from aboard the ENS Happiness, Mrs Heap much better than Mr Heap. They circled into the crowd. Sahle forgot they'd been on the train with him until now, since he had kept them in a different car.

The man of the hour greeted him, a man in his thirties wearing expensive robes, his hair cut short and his rounded face sporting a western style toothbrush mustache. When he signed it, his name appeared as Tsehafi Taezaz Bitwoded Desta Getachew. However, most of this was not his name. Ethiopia, like so many feudal governments in world history, was drowning in titles. Tsehafi Taezaz was his position within the court: Minister of the Pen. This meant he was the keeper of the Imperial seal, the Emperor's primary advisor, and his secretary. Bitwoded was an Imperial blessing, meaning beloved, denoting his position in the Emperor's personal circle. With this in mind, the name he signed, Tsehafi Taezaz Bitwoded Desta Getachew, could be translated as "The Minister of the Pen, and Beloved of the Emperor; Desta Getachew." And since Ethiopians didn't have true surnames, but rather placed their father's name behind their own, and their grandfather's behind that if they had a reason to be especially proud of that connection, Desta's name could be further translated as "The Minister of the Pen, and Beloved of the Emperor; Desta, son of Getachew."

Desta Getachew was surrounded my a number of hangers on and friends with political benefits. They came in all colors, like a bag of sweets. Sahle recognized Akale Tebebe, one of Desta's many secretaries, a young man with a habit of dressing in robes so well made and intricately decorated that they made all the women look like nuns in comparison.

"Your Imperial Majesty." Desta saluted. His voice was as smooth as butter. "Akale is here for your congratulations."

"For what?" Sahle said.

"He's leading our diplomatic mission to China."

"Very good." Sahle finally looked at the man, "We do not know much about China, besides that they are over there somewhere" he motioned northward, "But We know you'll find it. And you'll make Us proud." Sahle switched to the Imperial We, almost without thinking, when he was in the presence of his Minister of the Pen.

"I live to serve your majesty" Akale said.

"Come, your majesty." Desta motioned, "Most of the whose who have gathered near the Vin Rouge table." Vin Rouge, a French Restaurant and Culture Club, catered the food for the elite.

Emebet Hoy Eleni, Sahle's mother, chatted with her youngest son Yaqob, Sahle's seventeen year old brother. Eleni was a middle aged woman gone chubby, dressed in the thick dress of a royal lady, her hair kept short. Yaqob was young looking, nearly as tall as Sahle, with the difference in height made up by the young prince's impressive afro.

"Mother, brother, I didn't see you!" Sahle said buoyantly.

"Your majesty." they both replied.

"How did you like your visit to the south?" Sahle came closer to Yaqob, allowing them to speak in hushed tones. "I heard you had your fun."

"I said what needed to be said." Yaqob replied stoicly.

"You did!" Sahle slapped him on the back, "You are a speaker, my brother. You say what you need to say. Hello mother." He kissed his mother on the cheek.

"How was the ocean?" she asked.

He shrugged. "It's still there. We'll talk later. Desta probably has friends for me to meet..."

Desta did. He stood politely through the family reunion, but he had the look of business undone on his face, a look he wore too often for Sahle's taste. Desta Getachew hadn't become Minister of the Pen by fucking the right princess. He'd fought his way to the top, a shining star of the new bureaucracy, and a man who had his hand in more pockets than Sahle had in skirts.

Desta's friends were the typical kind. Foreigners for the most part, and businessmen. Some whispered that Minister of the Pen was only his side gig. This was true in a sense. He was Mesfin (Governor) of Sidamo, the government of which put him in a position to dominate the Ethiopian coffee trade, distributing world wide under the corporate umbrella 'Negus Coffee'.

"Your majesty." a youngish American man greeted in an accent that sounded partially British, "I'm Bradford Carnahan, President of the American branch of Negus Coffee." He was the first of several foreign dignitaries. Though they came from all over the world, they all dressed the same; safari suits and pith helmets, like Addis Ababa was a hunting camp in the bush. Carnahan spiffed up his suit with an inexplicable anchor pendant on his breast pocket.

"It is always a pleasure to meet Americans." Sahle said, "Your country makes the best music of all the big world."

"A fan of the Second New England School?" Carnahan acted delighted, speaking through his teeth at a higher pitch than he had before. Sahle had no clue what he meant. "I did not expect such class in this place. No offense of course, my good man... or your majesty, if you prefer."

"Does the Second New England School do Jazz?"

"Oooh, you're a Gershwin man?" Carnahan gave a wry smile, "Between you and me, I like a little taste of the wild life too. Don't tell the boys. Oh! You know who also likes Gershwin! I almost forgot..." He snapped, "Sis!"

A beautiful blue-eyed woman parted from the table, a cup of red wine in her hand. "This is my sister, Livy Carnahan. She's just graduated. Harvard, naturally. She wants to see the world..." Bradford continued to ramble. Sahle hardly noticed him now.

"Your majesty." she smiled, red hair falling across her shoulders.

"If Americans are so lovely, I should give up my crown." Sahle kissed her hand. She seemed surprised by this.

"I don't think you should give up your country. It is a lovely place." she replied, visibly embarrassed.

"Eh, scenery is scenery. How long are you staying, before you go off to see more world?"

"We're going to Sidamo, to see Mr Desta's properties." Bradford interjected. "That is why we are all here."

Desta was looking impatiently at Sahle. So was a line of goofy looking men. "We hope you enjoy your time." Sahle straightened himself up, inwardly groaning, outwardly Imperial. Livy was still in his mind when he went to the next person.

"Miyagi Yakuga" Desta introduced a short Asian man to the Emperor. "He's President of Negus Coffee in Japan." The Japanese man bowed from the waist in a way that Sahle thought looked awkward.

"I am happy to have met your majesty." Miyagi said, "Our countries, Japan and Ethiopia, are similar in many ways. We both respect our Emperors, and the beauty that is in the world."

"We appreciate your words." Sahle said, moving to the next man.

"Freiherr Wolfgang von F├╝rstenberg" Desta introduced a red-faced German with a mustache not unlike Desta's.

"We know him." Sahle grinned, "The German Ambassador."

"Of course you do, your majesty." Wolfgang beamed, "Mine is not a face you forget. It won't let you. Believe me, men have tried, and they have failed."

"You went to tour Magdala?" The Emperor recalled, "Were you impressed?"

"Your Emperor Theodore must have been a great man to have walked up that mountain more than once. It almost took the life out of me."

Sahle laughed. "We wouldn't know; We haven't been."

"You must go." Wolfgang seemed surprised. "The view from the top is brilliant."

"Maybe we'll go together" Sahle said, "Stay down at the bottom, and get drunk, and boast of the men who have been to the top."

"Germany is glad to have a friend like you, your majesty." The German Ambassador rolled with laughter. Desta nudged the Emperor to continue.

"Jefferson Davis Bacon, Ambassador to the United States." Desta brought Sahle to a fat man with a white suite instead of safari clothes, and greasy strings of hair hanging out from under his pith helmet.

"Well I don't think it's treason to call you 'Your Majesty'" Bacon had a slow drawn out accent, "So accept a true blue 'Your Majesty' from me."

"We do." Sahle said. He found it interesting that, though the German and the Japanese man spoke French, the Americans spoke their native English.

"President Norman wants the United States to be friends with all the world. So if you can think of anything, and I do mean anything in the most christian and hospitable sense, have no fear of asking it from us."

Sahle moved onto somebody he recognized.

"Mr Heap" he said, cutting Desta to the chase, "Mrs Heap."

"Your majesty!" Mr Heap said, giving the best excited and on the verge of climax smile he could muster. "I again must tell you how gay of a time we had on your ship. Beautrice especially enjoyed the ride."

The Heaps had a guest. "This is Ms Sarah Reicker." Reginald babbled, "She's, ah, what you call colored. Black and white parents, you know? Jungle fever, wot wot."

The effect was pleasant, a rich brown skin color and long black hair complimented, in her case, by a pair of green eyes. She was shorter than him, perhaps around 5'5, with a build that suggested she was no stranger to physical exercise. To Sahle she looked like an Ethiopian.

Her eyes met his and she bowed slightly. "Your majesty. A pleasure to meet you."

Reginald meanwhile made no secret of trying to see down the front of her shirt as she bowed, though a flash of irritation showed on his face. A failed attempt at wooing her perhaps?

"She's my Aide." Heaps said quickly to cover his momentary lapse, "Recently arrived from the Rhodesian Foreign Affairs Office. We breed them good down there!"

"You do." Sahle smiled. He kissed Sarah's hand. "If there is anything you need while you are in this country, I am at your disposal."

Sarah smiled. The two parted ways when Desta put his hand on the Emperor's shoulder.

Sahle had met Desta's special friends. But they weren't here for that. There was a party to have. The Emperor speed-walked to the dais - a stage set up at one end of the crowd, draped in fine cloth, glittered in golden ornaments, a throne in the center. Two male lions flanked the throne, golden collars around their necks and golden chains attaching them to the dais, a reflection not so much of their behavior (they roamed free in the Palace gardens), but of the nervousness of their foreign visitors around such animals. Sahle sprung up the Dais and turned around to address the massive audience.

"The Lion of Judah has prevailed!" he said, standing one foot on his throne and the other on the stage, his voice projecting without artificial aid. The Lion to his right, the one called Aron, roared. Sahle grinned, pointed at himself, and mouthed the words without saying them "I am the Lion of Judah." He then sat down, poised arrogantly with one leg resting on his knee, and ran his fingers through Aron's black mane. The second lion, Muse, woke up and became attentive at the presence of so many people look its direction.

"We are here to celebrate Tsehafi Taezaz Bitwoded Desta Getachew" Sahle continued to address the crowd, "Our good friend and worthy servant." Everyone's attention was on him. Desta calmly walked up to the dais and sat at the Emperor's feet. "You have all come to celebrate this man's honorable life. This is the time for well wishers and gifts!"

The government officials were not given the honor of first up to the dais. That honor was given to Desta's foreign friends. Jefferson Davis Bacon went first, giving the Minister of the Pen the keys to a new car he'd no doubt be shown later on. Freiherr Wolfgang von F├╝rstenberg gave him a custom-made pistol with leopards engraved on the grip. Reginald and Beautrice Heap walked up arm in arm, their cute young friend in tow, and presented Desta with a painting from some respectable artist Sahle knew nothing about. Miyagi Yakuga hefted up a large porcelain vase bearing the image of cherry trees in full blossom.

Bradford Carnahan marched up with his sister Livy following behind. Sahle only had eyes for the later. He might not have noticed Bradford at all if the man didn't raise his voice when presenting Desta with the deed to some property in Manhattan. "You said you love New York City, Mr Desta." Bradford almost shouted, "Perhaps you can spend some of the summer there, when the African heat sets in. The boys at the Union League Club would be fascinated by your company I'm sure."

Livy Carnahan stood quietly behind her blustering brother, glass of wine in hand. Rushed along by Desta before, the Emperor hadn't been allowed to fully drink in her beauty, but as the line of foreigners were followed by a longer line of Ethiopian nobles and officials, he had all the time in the world. She was thin, wore a knee-length daisy-yellow dress, and stood in a regal pose that she must have learned at some finishing school. Red hair flowed over her shoulders, and Sahle didn't stop himself from imagining her in the Eve pose, that hair barely hiding her small breasts.

His fantasy fully rounded out, placing them both in the Garden of Eden, standing on opposing sides of a babbling creek beneath the shade of eucalyptus trees. She was pale, graceful, a princess, and she felt right and warm in his arms. He melted into this image and lived in it as the ceremony dragged on.

"The Bahr Negus didn't make it." Desta's patient voice shook Sahle from his daydream. The gift giving ceremony was done. Those who were invited were proceeding to the palace.

"I didn't see him." Sahle said. He looked for Livy Carnahan and noticed she had left as well. That was disappointing, but now Desta had his full attention.

The Bahr Negus, Hamere Noh Dagna, was loyal as far as Sahle could tell, but he was a prickly man, and rarely left his stronghold in Mogadishu unless there was personal honor in it for him. Bahr Negus was an ancient office that had lapsed during the Era of Judges. It's literal meaning was "Sea King." In ancient times, it denoted a sort of Marquis of the coast, a man who's rule covered the coastal strip of Eritrea and whose job it was to protect the country from the Muslim empires bordering the Red Sea. In those days, the Bahr Negus had often rivaled the Emperors, even fighting them under the flag of a separate kingdom they called Medri Bahri, or "Sea Land". Iyasu V had resurrected the office for several reasons. First, Ethiopia's new found power made it necessary to build a navy, and the office of Bahr Negus put the naval project in the hands of a unifying individual. Second, by giving the government of the cities surrounding the major Naval ports to the Bahr Negus, Iyasu deprived the Al-Himyaris of Mogadishu, checking the most powerful subject of the Ethiopian State. It was clever. Sahle was in awe of his grandfather's ability to think of stuff like that.

Sahle also knew that Desta and Hamere Noh Dagna disliked each other. They were both proud men seeking honors, and that made them like two identical poles on a magnet. Sahle didn't feel slighted by his Bahr Negus's failure to appear. The slight was meant for Desta.

The procession to the palace was slow. Sahle climbed into his car and realized that Rudolph von Lettow-Vorbeck wasn't with him. They had split up at the beginning of the event and failed to come back together. Sahle rode alone to his home on a road choked with the traffic of nice cars.

Gebi Iyasu had been the home of the Imperial Family for thirty years now. It was designed by an Italian architect, its main entrance very similar to that of an Italian villa, with columned arches for the entrance way and balcony overlooking it. The second story connected to the east and west wing directly, but the first floor did not, as the second story connections were held up by a colonnade that led into the courtyard behind the estate. Sahle's limo went into a hidden garage meant only for the Imperial residents. When they parked, he smiled at seeing Sisay Makari's motorcycle, an Orthodox cross inlayed on the gas tank.

A less crowded version of the party filled the Imperial Palace. "The Conquering Lion of Judah, Negus Negast of Ethiopia, Sahle." A Page announced when he entered the main hall. Everyone bowed.

"We hope you enjoy your time." Sahle said, signalling for them to stand. Sahle went looking for Livy Carnahan.

"Your Imperial Majesty." A familiar voice grated on his ears. He was looking for Livy, but he found the Heaps. Reginald and Beautrice were admiring a vase on a pedestal. "You have a lovely place here, old boy." Heap said, "I cannot say that I've seen this sort of craftsmanship in all of Africa. I have been to plenty of wealthy homes in Rhodesia, so I can tell you that Rhodesia has plenty of collectors, but none with a piece like this."

"It's nice." Sahle said.

"I dare say Beautrice would be willing to pay for this..."

"I apologize." Sahle cut the old man off, "But I have the business of my country to attend to. We'll restart this conversation later?"

Reginald Heap nodded and let him go.

Sahle hoped he would find the Carnahans by echolocation, in the sense that Bradford Carhanan's voice tended to echo across entire locations, but he didn't hear it. He thought they were in the courtyard and started for there. That's where the lions would have been transported, he reasoned, and foreign visitors were always fascinated by the Imperial menagerie.

"Your Majesty." Desta Getachew put his hand on the Imperial shoulder. That voice meant business. Deflated, Sahle followed his Minister of the Pen into a mostly empty room.

Yaqob and a sharply dressed Akale Tebebe sat at a table together drinking some of the wine supplied by Vin Rouge. Desta sat down. Sahle followed.

"You've met Akale." Sahle looked at his brother.

"I'm wishing him luck on his journey." Yaqob said in a pillowy voice. "Hou Sai Tang is the greatest man of our time. It will be a challenge for Akale to represent our government to someone so important."

Akale giggled. "No pressure!" he joked. Sahle grinned. Yaqob didn't.

"Today is a good day for you then." Desta said, "Leul Yaqob, how would you like to..."

"I'm going to China." Yaqob completed his sentence. "I saw that coming, honestly. I do not appreciate being put away, but I will go."

"Good." Sahle felt relieved. "Enjoy yourself."

Desta motioned for Sahle to stop. "Yaqob, you must remember that you are there to observe."

"I would prefer you not talk to me like that." Yaqob said.

"The Rhodesians were offended. You know this..."


"That isn't good. We can afford a problem with Rhodesia, though we don't want to have to afford them, but China is important. I cannot have you spitting in Hou Sai Tang's face..."

"I would never do that!"

"You must respect the Chinese no matter what you feel. You are their guest. This isn't a manners thing either. You are their guest because your country wants something from them. Maybe not now, but someday we might want something from them, and good relations are necessary."

"I'll have my bags packed." Yaqob said.
Vagina Dentata
Oh boy, this thing really took off.

My internet service provider needs to fix my stuff so I'm still working with painfully slow internet. I can't really do research or anything with this internet without getting frustrated at how shit it is, so I've been procrastinating as usual. Feelsbadman. Sounds like a shitty excuse and it kind of is, but I promise you doing anything with my current internet is fucking painful. Can't even properly enjoy maymays because it takes longer to load a jpg than my attention span allows for. Kinda wish this whole thing had launched at a more opportune time, but that's my luck.

Just write some more playful posts, get a feel for what you want to do. Stuff that is small potatoes enough that it doesn't need research. Maybe translate some gopnik stereotypes into the PoW world.
May 20th, Addis Ababa

Three girls sat together in a coffee shop, sipping on their hot drinks and giggling to one another about their futures underneath a painted wooden sign advertising Negus Coffee. All three were the children of government functionaries, members of Ethiopia's small technocratic class, the pioneers of a western bourgeoisie lifestyle in a culture not far removed from its feudal past. From the looks of the three, they were hardly different from other girls their age, wearing the long cotton habesha kemis and their hair in tight cornrows along their head, where it expanded in a burst of natural hair behind them.

"Kofi is talking to my father tonight!" Eskedare Nebiyou said. Her impending marriage was the gravitational center of the conversation.

"An officer will do good for you." Konjit Bruk replied. She was the shortest girl, going a little on plump.

Leyla Masri watched the old woman in the corner of the room preparing the coffee. She roasted the beans in a pan over an open fire. The rest of the preparation was done on a short table in front of her as she sat on a stool close to the floor. Leyla wondered when she married, if she was happy with her life, and if she had dreams when she was younger.

"Are you still planning on getting a career, Leyla?" Konjit said, irritating Eskedare.

"Yes." Leyla said. "I read in a magazine that women in some parts of America are expected to get careers" Leyla said.

"That's so weird." Eskedare replied, making a face. "I don't think I could ever do a career. I mean, who would raise the children?"

"I don't know that I want children." Leyla informed matter of factly.

Eskedare looked scandalized. Konjit looked amused. "There has to be children." the former said, "That's the way the world works. What would have happened if your mother decided a career was more important that children?"

"I wouldn't have been born I guess." Leyla looked thoughtful, "But if I wasn't born, I wouldn't be around to care."

"Don't say that!" Eskedare made a concerned face and touched Leyla on the wrist. The round-faced Eskedare was matronly, but Leyla's tall slender form made her look more like an overgrown little girl, and she couldn't see herself as somebody's mother.

"Have you heard about Azima al-Himyari?" Leyla said, "She trains with her father's men."

"Because she is her father's only child" Konjit whispered, "And everybody knows that Ras Hassan would rather see his daughter rule when he is dead then have any of his great generals take the spot."

"They probably won't let her." Eskedare said.

"I want to see the world." Leyla replied, self conscious that her voice sounded whiny when she said this. "I don't see why only boys should do this. It is not just Azima al-Himyari, or the girls in America. The world is changing. All the world. Maybe in a hundred years, there will be more women with careers then there are men."

"I think you will do good." Konjit patted Leyla on the knee. Eskedare sulked.

"I have to go soon. Here..." Leyla picked up her cup, "One more drink, for Emebet Eleni School for Girls and the latest three graduates of their program." The other girls drank, aware that life had caught up with them, and they were soon to be pulled apart. Leyla left them and went into the street alone.

It was not that long ago that Addis Ababa wasn't safe for a girl to walk on her own. When Leyla was a little girl, the Emperor ordered the institution of the country's first true police force, focused on keeping Addis Ababa's growing metropolis protected. She saw them in their corner booths, catching gossip from familiar locals to keep themselves entertained, but present, and that presence was enough to dissuade most would-be criminals.

The city was changing in other ways. Tall buildings were going up downtown, towers like they had in far away fantastic lands like Manhattan or Beijing. Car traffic had far outpaced traffic by ass or cart. A growing middle class life brought luxurious conveniences like soda pop and cheap clothing. So much of this started to appear when Leyla was a girl; she had watched the process, and it was intoxicating. She wanted to be part of it.

She came to the monument of her hopes. It was a literal monument, a tall brass statue of Mikael of Wollo, the great grandfather of the current Emperor. The man on the statue was on horseback, a proud lion's mane headdress on his head, a flowing cape on his back, and a sword firmly in his hand. It stood in the middle of a roundabout in front of Negus Mikael Military Academy. This was her destination. If everything went right, it would be her life.

Negus Mikael Military Academy was not a single building, but a collection of buildings surrounding a perfectly circular courtyard. All of the buildings, if smashed together, could fit inside the expansive courtyard and leave extra room. As it stood, they created a perfect ring, gaps closed by a tall slat fence, leaving only a single entrance through a steel gate. Leyla passed through. The front half of the courtyard was a garden planted in honor of Negus Mikael. The second half was a dusty semi-circular drilling ground with a flagpole proudly displaying the Imperial colors. In that drilling ground, young men dreaming of careers in the officer core practiced with fake wooden guns. She watched them, not ignorant of the flower of lust flickering in her breast at seeing so many young men in uniform.

The Shotel had a building here. There was no sign, but rather a single sword crossed over a shield to mark their location, like something from a western pulp story. This was not the sleek western architecture one might expect from an agency like the Shotel, nor was it a militaristic bunker. The building was humble, like a two story house. She went inside.

"Can I help you?" a young man looked at her suspiciously.

"I'm here for a job." she said.

"A job? We don't hire everybody who comes in you know. What can you do for the Shotel?"

"I know two languages. Aside from Amharic." she said, "English and French. I am working on Arabic, but that isn't easy, and I am only seventeen."

"That isn't bad." the man admitted, "But there are many men who have the same skill. Do you feel comfortable taking a job from a man?"

She paused. How do you even answer something like that? In her mind, she imagined a smug look on Eskedare's face. "Correct me if I am wrong, but hasn't the Emperor ordered the government to hire more women?"

"That law isn't in effect yet. I know it has passed, but no word has came down to me."

"It has passed." she said, "You guys should get a head start. Not every day a girl walks in here asking for a job."

The man laughed and shook his head. "You are good. We should have you doing interrogations. Okay, here is what we'll do. You are young. You still live with your father, yes?"

She nodded.

"We need a letter stating his approval. If you can get that, I think we can find a place for you."

She smiled. "Okay. I will see you tomorrow."
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