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A World Pays Homage to Thee [Closed]

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

A World Pays Homage to Thee [Closed]

Postby Marimaia » Wed Mar 30, 2022 7:45 am

Sprawling across just over nine million kilometres of territory and inhabited by over three-hundred-and-forty-two million people, the United States of Columbia was undeniably one of the world's great powers. Following their achievement of independence from colonial rule in 1783, Columbia stepped out from its origin as a collection of colonies and forged itself into a federal republic that subsequently expanded across the continent. In the process, the United States had encountered other nascent nations that had achieved independence from their former colonial overlords; with the advantages of longer existence and undeniable strength of patriotism, Columbia had acquired desired territories from these young nations before bringing them under the 'benevolent guidance' of the USC. When the borders of Columbia reached the Pacific Ocean, explorers ventured forth and discovered additional territories that were brought under the nation's jurisdiction, while the majority of the islands in the Caribbean Sea either became states of the union or had formed a loyal client state that took its cue from the 'Big Sister to the North'. The modern-day United States of Columbia consisted of fifty-eight constituent states and fifteen unincorporated territories, with the unincorporated territories consisting of islands in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. To the south of the mainland United States lay five client states: the Antillean Union in the Caribbean; the Republic of Mexico and the Central American Republic in the lower part of North America; and the Republic of Cundinamarca and the Republic of Venezuela in South America. While Columbian influence was certainly heavily concentrated in the nation's home region, the United States had also successfully expanded its influence to other areas of the world. In Southeast Asia, the archipelagic Philippine Republic was Columbia's sixth client state as well as the primary base for the USC's military presence in the region. In Northeast Asia, the Republic of Korea was the seventh state affiliated with the USC, but it was less of a client state and more of a valued friend and ally. Between these two lay the Republic of Taiwan, the eighth of the USC's affiliates and a genuine beneficiary of Columbian largesse. The USC and its eight associates were officially bound together in the Alliance of Sovereign Nations (ASN) and the Pacific-Caribbean Free Trade Agreement (PCFTA), creating a strong military and economic partnership between them.

During the War of Independence, the Columbian capital had been situated in Philadelphia in what was now the State of Pennsylvania, but in time the organs of the Columbian government were moved to the planned city of Leybourne, which had been named after the first President of Columbia, Edward Leybourne. Built on land acquired from the states of Maryland and Virginia, Leybourne was also known as the 'Federal Capital District' as it was officially separate from the two states that surrounded it. Although only ranking as the twentieth-largest city in the nation by population, Leybourne was a thriving metropolis with a rich history and had proven to be an ideal home for the various components of Columbian democracy. The President and the members of the bicameral legislature were all elected directly, with all citizens over the age of eighteen enjoying the right to vote. The legislature was organised into the Senate, with each state sending two Senators to the august upper chamber, and the House of Representatives, which determined its membership numbers according to population numbers; this resulted in the legislature being comprised of one-hundred-and-sixteen Senators and four-hundred-and-fifty Representatives. While the political system was ostensibly multi-party, the reality was that two particular parties had come to dominate Columbian politics: the centre-to-centre-right Federalist Party (FP), and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). Due to a certain flexibility of policy agenda, the Federalists had managed to hold the Presidency more often than the SDP and frequently held at least one of the two legislative houses even under a Social Democratic President. The current situation saw the Federalists firmly in power once again, with President Lois Townsend's administration strengthened by her fellow Federalists holding a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. This had allowed the FP to continue with their newest ideological direction of 'liberal conservatism', combining policies such as the protection of same-sex marriage and the continuance of capital punishment under one banner. The FP's 'free market' economic policies never really changed, however, and this tended to garner the support of business interests and the wealthy; this meant that the Federalists never lacked for financing as the larger corporations and wealthier citizens of Columbia had no problem donating considerable sums to the party.

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14 March 2022, 11:30hrs [UTC-6]
America House
Leybourne, Federal Capital District
United States of Columbia

If there was one address that every single person in the United States of Columbia knew, it was 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as this was the address of the iconic Presidential residence known as America House. Designed in the neoclassical style, America House had been home to every President since 1800, when construction was completed and it was occupied by the nation's second President, Isaac Stanton. With one hundred and thirty-two rooms covering some fifty-five thousand square feet of floor space, America House provided the President of the United States with not just a suitable primary residence but also a state-of-the-art workplace. The primary workspace in America House was in the West Wing, which contained office space for the President's advisors and officials in addition to the staff that served under them, as well as the Cabinet Room, the Situation Room, and the iconic Oval Office of the President. Unsurprisingly given its name, the Oval Office was an oval-shaped room that featured three large south-facing windows behind the President's desk and a fireplace at the north end. It was customary for Presidents to decorate the Oval Office to their taste upon taking up residence, and President Lois Townsend had been no exception to this; Columbia's first female President had almost completely redecorated the Oval Office to reinforce the differences from the previous administration. The Townsend Oval Office featured gold drapery, white and grey brocade wallpaper, cream coloured sofas and a rug that depicted the Presidential seal at the heart of a 'sunburst' design. The only continuity between President Townsend's office and that of her predecessor was the desk. Constructed from the timbers of the second flagship of the Columbian Navy upon its decommissioning, the large oak desk featured decorative carvings and was simply known as the 'Pennsylvania Desk' in honour of the USS Pennsylvania.

This particular Monday morning saw President Townsend meeting with a small number of her Cabinet Secretaries, to discuss both recent and upcoming events. The sixty-seven-year-old stood in front of her desk as she waited for the others in the room to settle, her six-foot frame clad in a sensible black trouser suit with a white blouse while her shoulder-length light brown hair was worn in an off-centre parting. A former Senator from New York State, President Townsend was approaching the mid-point of her second term in office and was committed to contesting every future Presidential election until she decided that it was time to retire. As far as she was concerned, that time was nowhere near close. She was being joined by four members of her Cabinet for the meeting, all invited because the discussions would likely require input from their respective Departments: Secretary of State Sterling Blake, Secretary of the Treasury Olivia Doyle, Secretary of Defense Aldrich Cook, and Attorney General Thomas Montgomery. The final individual of note present was the White House Chief of Staff, Truman Reeves, due to his integral position within the administration. Once everybody was ready, President Townsend folded her arms and addressed the Cabinet members.

"Thank you for coming today, we have a few things to get through. First of all, Sterling, how are things looking in Korea now that Park Won-Shik has won a second term in office?"

The stylish fifty-six-year-old took off his glasses and lightly chewed the end of one of the temples before responding. Not out of nervousness, but simply because it had become a habit. "President Park was always a vocal proponent of the 'special relationship' during his first term, and that's not going to change. Simply put, Madam President, he's going to be just as perfect for us as he was before. The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs did send me a message to express President Park's appreciation that you were the first national leader to congratulate him on his re-election, by the way."

Townsend smiled and nodded. "That's good to hear. He was the first national leader to congratulate me on my re-election, after all. Speaking of elections, the Philippine Republic also has a general election coming up soon. Any word on how things are looking for Damario?"

"Uh..." Blake picked up his tablet and quickly brought up the relevant information. "President Esquivias is also looking at being re-elected, with a slightly larger majority according to recent polling. Oh, and before you mention Cundinamarca's upcoming elections, President Valdovinos is on course for a third term so we don't have any concerns there either." He set down his tablet and gestured toward the President with his glasses. "We don't have to worry about any newbies showing up at the ASN conference in September."

Aldrich Cook nodded agreeably at that point. "It also means that we won't have any orders getting cancelled." The bald sixty-eight-year-old African-Columbian was a retired general and was known for his no-nonsense approach, as well as the fact that he only tamed his language when speaking to the President. "The Philippines and Cundinamarca are finalising the purchase of F-35s for their air forces, paid for by our military aid admittedly, but the point is that the orders will help to secure jobs here and show that Columbian hardware is in demand around the world. Madam President, I think we should consider giving the Central American Republic a bit more in military aid while we're on the subject. It can't hurt for them to put in an order or two for more up-to-date hardware."

"Good idea, Aldrich. Olivia, any objections?"

The bespectacled fifty-one-year-old tucked some of her long auburn hair behind her ear as she replied to President Townsend's enquiry. "As long as we don't have to increase the military budget to pay for it, Secretary Cook can do whatever the hell he wants." She flashed a grin at Aldrich, who chuckled and wagged his finger as she continued. "If it's going to give jobs to hard-working Columbians, or at least keep them in their current jobs, then I'm all for it. Especially with the midterms in November, although I have to say that the recent polls are looking pretty good." She then tapped her hand on the oak coffee table nearby. "Touch wood."

"Yes, let's not start celebrating just yet. We still have to get through the SDP's attempted lawsuits over the redistricting proposals, so how's that looking?"

The fifty-two-year-old Attorney General smirked at the President's question. "Madam President, we've got nothing to worry about. Thanks to the Federalist-majority Senate blocking judicial appointees under President Grant's administration, we've been able to appoint three hundred and twelve judges since you first came to office. The majority of state governors are Federalists and their state supreme courts are highly unlikely to rule in favour of SocDem lawsuits if they get that far. If they try taking their complaints to the Supreme Court, the majority of Supreme Court Justices lean more towards us than the SocDems." Thomas Montgomery grinned more broadly and sat back in his seat. "It won't matter how high up the chain the SocDems try to take their lawsuits, they'll get thrown out. It's taken our party a long time, but the system is finally back in our hands once again."

Truman Reeves chimed in as Thomas Montgomery finished speaking. "Our main concern right now is Congressman Waters and his little clique of old school conservatives. Madam President, they simply don't appreciate that you won your second term with almost ten million more votes than Senator Kyle. Waters and his buddies think that you've corrupted the party when, in fact, you've made it the most electable that it's ever been."

President Townsend shrugged and sighed. "Unfortunately I can't please everybody, but I think that Waters is reacting out of fear that the time for his particular views has passed. Anyway, in all honesty, I don't mind if there are a few dissenters within the party. It keeps me on my toes."

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun Apr 03, 2022 11:30 am

19 March 2022, 14:50hrs [UTC-6]
Beauregard Castle
Arkansas, United States of Columbia

Constructed in 2008 and located on the outskirts of the city of Fayetteville, Beauregard Castle watched over one hundred wooded acres of private land and served as an ancestral seat for one of the wealthiest and most influential dynasties in the storied history of the United States. Despite having only achieved their first major success in the business world some seventy-one years ago, the Beauregards were currently the wealthiest family in the USC and had ascended to the heights of corporate Columbia through a combination of cunning and ruthlessness. Throughout the decades there had been whispers about certain business partners and rivals meeting a conveniently timed demise but nothing had ever been proven, so the whispers remained precisely that; any books that were written about the Beauregard family always omitted these whispers for fear of litigation. The family's 'crown jewel' was the largest corporation in the United States, the retail giant Beaumart, which had been founded by Montgomery Beauregard and his younger brother Garfield in 1950 following previous ventures in the world of retail. Now employing over two million people around the world, Beaumart operated stores in all fifty-eight Columbian states as well as in all of the USC's client states and allies. All told, the family's net worth was conservatively estimated to be at least three hundred billion dollars, thanks to the combined value of not only Beaumart but also the family's other corporate holdings. The family were not exclusively focused on profit, however. The Beauregard Foundation was well-known for generously funding various initiatives such as improved schooling and anti-discrimination campaigns. Of course, it could be questioned whether the Foundation was a genuine expression of the family wanting to give something back to the nation or simply an excellent method for strengthening their public image.

The family had now developed into three groupings: the Arkansas Beauregards descended from Montgomery's elder son Calvin, the Louisiana Beauregards descended from Montgomery's younger son Noah, and the Missouri Beauregards descended from Garfield. The Missouri Beauregards resided in Jefferson City and numbered three in total: Winston (fifty-four), his wife Caroline (fifty-four), and their son Ethan (thirty-two). The Louisiana Beauregards resided in New Orleans and consisted of Paul (fifty-six), his wife Rosaline (fifty-four), and their daughter Phoebe (twenty-nine). The Arkansas Beauregards were regarded by many as the primary side of the family and were headed by Calvin's seventy-six-year-old widow Vivienne. The only Beauregard to permanently reside at Beauregard Castle, Vivienne loved her family but had absolutely no time for fools, expecting a certain standard of behaviour from her relatives. Vivienne also had her favourites among her family, and they were left in no doubt of the matriarch's partiality towards them. She was currently awaiting the arrival of the Arkansas family at the castle as the day had arrived for one of the more unusual family occasions. The two branches of the Arkansas Beauregards were the Bentonville Beauregards and the Springdale Beauregards, headed by Vivienne's two sons. The Bentonville Beauregards consisted of Vivienne's elder son David (fifty-five), along with his wife Samantha (fifty-four), and their son Grayson (twenty-six). The Springdale Beauregards consisted of Vivienne's younger son Michael (fifty-two), along with his second wife Tiffany (thirty-nine), and son Michael Junior, also known as 'M.J.' (twenty-five). Michael's first wife and Michael Junior's mother, Diane, had divorced Michael after discovering his affair with Tiffany and returned to her maiden name of Holmes, meaning that she was no longer invited to official Beauregard functions. This did not mean that Diane had dropped out of the family orbit completely, however, as Vivienne greatly preferred her to her much younger replacement.

David and Samantha were presently fussing over Grayson as the Crown Victoria limousine that they occupied began its final approach towards the castle. They had been on the road for just over half an hour, travelling south from Bentonville. As Samantha double-checked their son's black suit for any fluff or lint, David adjusted his glasses and scratched his stubble beard before leaning forward to address Grayson. "Now remember, this time could well be it, but she won't give anything away if she thinks you're not taking it seriously."

Grayson ran his hands over his slightly side-parted wavy brunette hair. "I know, Dad, I know. Last time, both me and M.J. were at university, so Nana didn't give anything away. She didn't want us throwing our studies out the window."

They were referring to Vivienne's imminent second five-yearly review of younger family members, where she decided whether or not to hand out Beaumart shares to them and therefore make them independently wealthy in a heartbeat. There were an estimated 3,710,917,615 shares of Beaumart stock in existence with 52.7% of them owned by a limited liability company (LLC), Beauregard Enterprises, which was 100% owned by the family. Beauregard Enterprises was the vehicle through which the family as a whole maintained ownership of Beaumart and their other corporate holdings, with regular meetings of senior family members to decide how to invest the dividends that were earned by the LLC. Another 22% of Beaumart shares had been sold on the stock market, leaving 25.3% in the hands of individual members of the Beauregard family. While this might not sound like a large number, the stock still provided a healthy dividend. For example, Vivienne's current holding of 6.4% of Beaumart stock provided her with a pre-tax annual dividend of over $287,000,000. Today's review had a total of 2.4% up for grabs, as Vivienne had no problem dropping down to 4% if it meant giving her grandchildren a deserved reward. Keeping four percent would still leave her with an annual dividend of $179,000,000, and she also had the option of taking a dividend from her stock in Beauregard Enterprises if she needed more money.

Samantha completed her scrutiny of Grayson's attire before looking at her husband with a smile. "David, I think you're worrying too much. Gray hasn't set a foot wrong in family terms over the past five years, and besides, we both know how fond she is of him." She turned to Grayson and winked at him. "You'd have to go in there and slap her to walk out with nothing. Especially after you were the one that she asked to help her with her new phone at her birthday party last month."

David nodded as he interjected. "Yes, and don't think that I didn't see M.J.'s little scowl when she did that."

As the limousine pulled up at the main entrance of Beauregard Castle, a smartly dressed servant stepped out of the residence and quickly crossed the short distance to the vehicle, opening the rear passenger door and respectfully gesturing for the three family members to exit. They were then swiftly greeted by Vivienne's butler as they approached the thick wooden front door of the castle. A stalwart employee of the family, the fifty-nine-year-old Remington had short receding grey hair, wore round-framed tortoiseshell spectacles, and was never seen in anything other than his immaculate butler's uniform. He took two steps out of the residence before stopping with his heels together, bowing his head slightly before speaking with a cultured tone.

"Welcome once again, sirs and madame." He then turned a discerning eye upon the youngest of the arrivals. "Master Grayson, the Lady of the Castle is awaiting your presence." He extended his arm to gesture towards the open doorway. "This way, please."

Once inside, David and Samantha were directed towards the Greatroom to relax and have a drink while they waited. Grayson, on the other hand, was directed to follow Remington to the Library even though he knew the way like the back of his hand. As he began to lead Grayson through the tastefully decorated interior of the residence en route to the Library on the ground floor, the butler held up his hand to signal the need to stop. He then turned to the confused Grayson and leaned forward in a conspiratorial manner, lowering his voice even though there was nobody in the vicinity who could have overheard him.

"Just between you and I, young master...Bentonville has outperformed Springdale. Again." Remington tapped his nose once before straightening back up and motioning for Grayson to follow once again, the young Beauregard smirking to himself as he considered the butler's rather obvious message. In public, the Arkansas branches of the family made sure to be seen as united, but privately they enjoyed any perceived victories that they achieved over one another.

After a few minutes, the pair reached the solid wooden door of the Library. Remington produced a pocket watch and regarded it with mild irritation before offering Grayson a seat. "Apologies, young master. It would appear that you'll have to wait for your cousin. Please make yourself comfortable." Grayson took the offered seat and began looking around his surroundings as Remington headed back towards the main entrance to await the arrival of the Springdale Beauregards. Roughly five minutes later, Remington returned with Michael Junior in tow. Dressed identically to Grayson, although with much shorter brunette hair that was slicked back, M.J.'s eyebrow twitched at the sight of Grayson as it meant that his slightly older and slightly taller cousin had arrived earlier despite living farther away; Springdale was only about thirteen miles north of Beauregard Castle, compared to the almost thirty-two miles between Bentonville and the castle.

Of course the golden boy got here first, M.J. thought. He also noticed that Grayson was wearing his Harvard Business School lapel pin, in contrast to M.J.'s own Yale School of Management lapel pin. In a lazy attempt to disguise his irritation, he offered a smile towards his cousin that anybody would be able to identify as insincere. "Gray."

Grayson nodded and gave a smile of his own, one that was just a tad more convincing as it stemmed not only from Remington's previous hint but also from Grayson's sense of self-assurance when it came to his cousin. "M.J."

As the pair exchanged awkward greetings, Remington knocked on the Library door and waited a few moments for a response. Upon receiving a curt "Enter" from within, Remington opened the door and stepped inside, gesturing for the two young men to follow him into their grandmother's presence.

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun Apr 10, 2022 7:41 am

19 March 2022, 15:00hrs [UTC-6]
Beauregard Castle
Arkansas, United States of Columbia

Covering roughly seven hundred and seventy square feet, the Library of Beauregard Castle was spacious yet still gave off a warm and intimate atmosphere. Decorated primarily in cherry wood, the Library featured nested bookcases and wood-panelled walls, with twelve Corinthian-style columns situated around the room. The three sets of French doors that led to the exterior loggia and patio provided ample light during the daytime, while the antique chandelier illuminated the Library during later hours. Two leather armchairs and a stylish couch were located atop the carpeted section of the room, in front of the large stone fireplace, while the rest of the floor consisted of smooth stone cladding. A fine blue and white porcelain tea set sat upon the cherry wood and marble coffee table in front of the couch, complete with cubed sugar and silver sugar tongs. Vivienne Beauregard sat upright on the right side of the couch, dressed in a designer black dress suit and idly sipping tea as Remington brought her grandsons into her presence. The silver-haired family matriarch set her teacup down onto the matching saucer on her lap and nodded to her butler.

"Thank you, Remington. Please leave us."

Grayson and M.J. continued to stand in place as Remington retreated and closed the door behind him as he left, remaining in place until Vivienne had finished another sip of tea and finally addressed them. "Michael Junior, take a seat and have some tea." She gestured to the right-hand armchair and waited until her younger grandson had collected some tea and taken his place, then patted the left seat of the couch. "Grayson, join me please."

"Yes, Nana." Grayson quickly crossed the distance to the couch and took his indicated seat, positioning himself so that he faced his grandmother. She gestured for him to pour himself some tea and waited while he did so, then offered a pleasant smile.

"Grayson, I must say that you've done very well over these past five years. An 'A' grade Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in Business Management and Administration from Harvard, then you went on to earn a Category I MBA from Harvard Business School. Since earning your MBA in 2020, you've attended shareholder meetings as your father's proxy if required. You've also assisted with several fundraising events on behalf of the Beauregard Foundation."

"That's correct, Nana."

"I'm also pleased to say that you've been exemplary in your personal life. No drugs, no smoking, no scandals. Two boyfriends, thankfully not at the same time, both relationships ended unremarkably." Her smile became more warm and sincere as she reached out and patted Grayson on the hand. "You'll find the right man, my dear. These things can take time." Vivienne and Grayson then took simultaneous sips of tea before she continued. "You've made me proud, Grayson. You've proven that you can be counted on to assist the family when necessary, and you've never complained. So, I am pleased to say that you shall be receiving one-point-two percent of Beaumart. Congratulations."

Grayson beamed happily and nodded respectfully at his grandmother. "Thank you very much, Nana. I hope that I can continue to make you proud."

"I'm certain that you will. Now, take the seat over there." Grayson rose from the couch and settled into the left-hand armchair, putting him diagonally opposite Vivienne as she turned her attention to her younger grandson. "Michael Junior, join me please."

"Yes, Nana." M.J. quickly rose from his armchair and took the spot on the couch that Grayson had previously occupied, turning to face Vivienne just as Grayson had. As M.J. sat down, Vivienne slightly pursed her lips before directing a smile towards him that was more polite than pleasant.

"Michael Junior, these past five years have been rather eventful, haven't they?"

Grayson's face betrayed no emotion as he casually sipped at his tea, while internally he was ready to burst with glee as he knew that 'eventful' was not a good way for Vivienne to describe something. Here we go, this should be good, the older grandson thought. Vivienne briefly cocked an eyebrow at M.J. before continuing.

"A 'B+' in Business & Entrepreneurship from Yale, not too bad at all. Then a 'Proficient' MBA from Yale School of Management. It could have been better but could have equally been far worse. Since earning your MBA last year, you've been looking at investing, perhaps planning to become a venture capitalist? If you have ambitions in that direction then by all means explore them, you could build yourself an excellent network by doing so."

"That's the idea, Nana."

"Let's talk about Amanda Yelton now, shall we?" Vivienne observed the change in M.J.'s demeanour at the mention of that particular name, as her younger grandson's expression became far more downcast. "You met her at a party held by one of your friends, you got drunk, and then you slept with her. A few weeks later, she came to you and told you that she was pregnant. You had no interest in marrying the girl, and we do not appreciate illegitimate Beauregards, so there was only one course of action open to us." Vivienne sighed slightly with disapproval. "The family lawyers had to become involved. Amanda came to my home and signed a non-disclosure agreement, agreeing to have an abortion in return for five million dollars. Of course, it is regrettable that she was involved in a fatal road accident while returning home that night. Every cloud does have a silver lining, though. She didn't have a copy of the agreement in her car, and the accident took place before any money was transferred, so we incurred no loss. Harsh, I admit, but it's the truth.

"If it had not been for that particular...oh, how shall we describe it, 'intervention of fate'...your poor judgement would have cost this family five million dollars. Balanced against your academic performance and business ambition, you shall be receiving zero-point-nine percent of Beaumart." Vivienne shot a look over at Grayson, then returned her gaze to M.J. "Grayson shall now be receiving one-point-five percent. Consider that to be a lesson, Michael Junior. Poor judgement has consequences."

M.J.'s jaw dropped slightly. "That's not fair, Nana. Why should he get the shares you aren't giving to me?"

"Life is not fair, Michael Junior. Grayson is receiving the additional shares because he knows how to behave. I know that I can count on him not to embarrass the family or cost us money with his indiscretions. For complaining despite still receiving shares of considerable value, it will now be zero-point-six for you and one-point-eight for Grayson."

"What?!" M.J. put his cup and saucer down on the coffee table before pointing in Grayson's direction but paused as Vivienne let out a second sigh of disapproval and rolled her eyes.

"Zero-point-three percent for you, two-point-one percent for Grayson. Do we need to keep going for you to learn a lesson about being grateful for what you have?"

M.J.'s shoulders sank in defeat and he hung his head, looking at the Library floor. He recognised that one more comment would see the inspection end with him receiving nothing while Grayson would receive the entire two-point-four percent that their grandmother was handing out. "Sorry, Nana."

"That's better." Vivienne took another sip of tea and then deliberately cleared her throat. "Now, apologise to Grayson for your behaviour."

The golden boy wins again, M.J. thought as he turned towards his first cousin with the best apologetic expression that he could muster. "I'm sorry, Grayson."

"Apology accepted." While outwardly appearing to be gracious and humble in the face of victory, internally Grayson was enjoying every single second of M.J.'s predicament.

"Now that that has been settled, I would like to thank you both for coming this afternoon. Congratulations on your respective share allocations. If you would like to go and wait with your parents then the lawyers can have the legal documentation amended, and you can both sign the official documents before you head back home." Vivienne set down her tea and rose from her seat, signalling to her grandsons that they were dismissed. At least, one of them was. "Grayson, could I have a word, please?"

"Yes, of course, Nana."

Vivienne waited for M.J. to leave the Library and close the door before beckoning Grayson over to her. "I don't want you to think that you're only walking away with more than him because he complained. I would have happily started the two of you at two-point-one and zero-point-three respectively, but his father would complain if I did that, and I cannot abide whining. The simple fact is that I know that I can trust you and your judgement, Grayson. You won't go overboard with your new wealth. I have considerably less faith in Michael Junior's judgement."

"It's okay, Nana. You don't have to explain."

Vivienne smiled warmly and gave Grayson an affectionate tap on the nose with her index finger, earning a broad grin from him. "That's why you're my favourite grandson. Now then, I have some news that I think you might find interesting. I've been talking to Winston in Jefferson City about his branch of the family and their involvement in the family business. He's running as the Federalist candidate for Governor of Missouri in November and so he can't be involved in any corporate activities. To avoid any claims of 'conflict of interest', he and his wife have divested themselves of their shares in both Beauregard Enterprises and Beaumart. The shares are now in a revocable trust under the administration of their son."

"Cousin Ethan?"

"Yes, that's correct. According to his father, Ethan isn't all that keen about becoming involved in politics. The latest polling shows that Winston is likely to be elected, so instead of staying in Missouri and being part of the political circus, Ethan has decided to move to Bentonville to take a more active role in Beauregard Enterprises. It's not a bad idea since he now has effective control of his family branch's entire portfolio."

"I'm not sure what Kaitlyn's going to think of Bentonville compared to Jefferson City, but it'll be nice to see Ethan more often."

"Oh, Kaitlyn won't be joining him. He called off the engagement a few days after the New Year's party, so it'll just be Ethan."

"Really?" Grayson's eyes widened, and he ran his hand through his hair as he considered this new information. "Whoa...I mean, I know they were arguing about something at the New Year's party, but I didn't know they had split up."

"Well, now you know," Vivienne noted the brief smile that flashed across Grayson's face. "A little surprising considering that they were engaged for over two years, but these things happen. It's no great loss in the grand scheme of things, to be honest. Kaitlyn was nice enough, but she never really struck me as family material, not even distant family material."

"I know precisely what you mean, Nana. I never said anything because Ethan liked her enough to propose, but she wasn't exactly my favourite person. So anyway, when is he moving to Bentonville?"

"That is still to be determined, so he will be visiting me here next weekend to discuss the matter in more depth."

Grayson nodded in understanding. "Fair enough. Well, if he's going to be here next weekend, would it be okay if the rest of us paid a visit too? He might appreciate a warm family welcome."

"Yes, of course. Good thinking. Now then, we'd better go and speak to the others about this before Michael Junior gets paranoid about the amount of time that you're spending alone with me."

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun Apr 17, 2022 1:14 pm

22 March 2022, 14:30hrs [UTC-6]
America House
Leybourne, Federal Capital District
United States of Columbia

Located on the first floor of the West Wing of America House, the Emerson Guthrie Press Briefing Room was the Columbian media's primary window into the workings of Presidential administrations. Named to honour the sixth President of Columbia who had presided over the abolition of slavery, the Briefing Room was a rectangular space sandwiched between the workspace of the America House Press Corps and the office of the America House Press Secretary. It was comprised primarily of a raised stage with a podium against one of the smaller walls, with seven rows of seven chairs positioned to face the podium; it was very rare for there to ever be an empty seat during the daily press briefings, as the seats were assigned to specific media organisations and outlets, both domestic and foreign. These daily press briefings were also broadcast live both on social media and a variety of news networks, so anybody with an interest in them could easily watch them as they happened. The briefings covered a wide range of topics, from genuine political issues to the President's schedule for the day, and the America House Press Secretary had to be prepared to be asked about pretty much anything by the assembled journalists. Over the years it had been realised by administrations that the best Press Secretaries were usually drawn from within the media as they possessed first-hand knowledge of journalist tactics, as well as a degree of insight into which subjects were more likely to have captured the media's imagination. The current Press Secretary had been appointed in line with that way of thinking. Luis Vázquez was a forty-two-year-old New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent and had been a prominent political journalist for the right-leaning New York Sun newspaper, rising to the role of deputy political editor. He had joined the current administration following the retirement of President Townsend's original Press Secretary, Morgan McAllister, and Luis had quickly settled into his role. With swept-back short black hair and a neatly trimmed goatee beard, Luis always appeared at press briefings in a full suit and tie, providing a rather dapper representation for President Townsend's administration.

Naturally, all forty-seven journalist seats were occupied for the imminent Tuesday afternoon briefing. The assembled press representatives were familiar with each other as they attended every briefing, for the most part, meaning that friendships and the occasional antagonism had developed within their number. They continued chatting amongst themselves as Luis strolled onto the stage and reached the podium, setting his notes down in front of him and offering a beaming smile to the faces that he was now so used to seeing every weekday.

"How is everyone today? Everybody doing okay?"

The was a ripple of assent from the journalists as Luis started the briefing. "We'll start with the President's schedule for today. This morning, President Townsend had a virtual conference with President Liao Shu-hua of the Republic of Taiwan. The conversation covered several topics related to bilateral cooperation between the US and Taiwan, and it was a very constructive discussion. President Townsend then held a face-to-face meeting with Secretary of the Interior Abigail Poole, where they discussed potential renewable energy initiatives. This afternoon, President Townsend will be conducting virtual discussions with the Federalist Party gubernatorial candidates and incumbents in the Southeastern United States, where they will discuss the prospects for November's elections and potential cooperation between state governors in the region. Then this evening at America House, President Townsend and First Gentleman Robert Townsend will be dining with Vice President Isaiah Holden and Second Lady Viola Holden.

"Okay, so that is the President's schedule for today. Let's move on to questions, shall we?" Luis scanned the room before showing some courage and selecting a journalist who was not the most pro-Federalist in their reporting. "Carrie Forbes, All Columbian Network."

Fifty-three years old and a veteran political reporter, Carrie Forbes rose from her seat and waited for a microphone to be handed to her by a member of the Press Staff, clearing her throat before speaking. "Thank you, Luis. Any response to Congressman Waters' remarks in his CTN interview last night? He accused President Townsend of, and I quote, 'driving the traditional voter base of the Federalist Party away with her liberalism'. Well, that and other things."

Luis chuckled, as he had been expecting questions on that very subject. "President Townsend has stated, on many occasions, that the Federalist Party is the political party most representative of the United States of Columbia. A variety of viewpoints but in the end, a consensus is reached and things get done. Congressman Waters is entitled to his views, it's a free country. His constituents elected him on the back of those views so they obviously have some relevance to his constituents in Utah's First District. Of course, living in a free country means that people can challenge your views if they disagree with them. President Townsend won re-election with ten million more votes than her opponent. She first became President with roughly three million more votes than the incumbent, President Grant. That's an increase of seven million votes. Under President Townsend, the Federalists have been increasing their majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. With all due respect to Congressman Waters, that sounds to me as though President Townsend is increasing the size of the Federalist Party's voter base. Of course, it's certainly possible that some long-time Federalist voters disagree with the party's current policy agenda, but those policies appear to be attracting more voters than they are deterring.

"Maybe I'm wrong, but I always thought that increasing your voter numbers was what everybody wanted in politics." He held up his hands and shrugged. "All that being said, I honestly think that some of you guys are making way too much out of the Congressman's statements. Thank you for your question, Carrie. Next, we'll go to...Guy Graham, Federal Broadcasting Network."

As FBN was a network renowned for championing the Federalist Party since the party's reorientation towards 'liberal conservatism', it was no surprise that their representative had been chosen next. The balding sixty-two-year-old Guy Graham took the microphone and smiled warmly at Luis. "Thank you very much for taking my question. Is there any further comment on the frivolous lawsuits from the Social Democratic Party concerning the redistricting proposals?"

"You used that term, Guy. Not me." Luis' face displayed an evident smirk as he answered the question put to him. "You know, it is funny though. The Social Democrats never have a problem with redistricting when they're in charge of the proposals. Yet when it's the Federalist Party making the proposals, the system is suddenly completely unfair. Look, let me be honest. The Federalist Party could easily submit their own lawsuits against SocDem redistricting proposals in states where the SocDems hold the reins of office, but they don't. From what I can see, these lawsuits are just an attempt to try to hide from the fact that the Social Democratic Party has veered too far to the left and they can't admit it to themselves. Their current ideas have support from some in this country, but their supporters are a relative minority compared to the supporters of a more centrist policy agenda, like the one presented by President Townsend and this administration. So instead of accepting reality, they claim that the system is stacked against them, or the last election was rigged by the establishment, or whatever their latest excuse is."

Guy Graham then spoke up in response. "So rather than change to appeal to more voters, the Social Democrats are whining that Federalist redistricting plans will make it harder for them to gain seats in states where they are already a minority anyway?"

"I wouldn't necessarily describe it as 'whining', but I will say that the President and her administration are not overly concerned about these lawsuits. I suspect that they will end up simply being a waste of time and money for the Social Democratic Party. Does that answer the question?"

Guy nodded with a broad grin. "Absolutely. Thanks, Luis."

"No problem." Luis then began to scan the assembled journalists once again, in search of his next opportunity to answer a query.

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun Apr 24, 2022 1:59 pm

26 March 2022, 15:45hrs [UTC-6]
Beauregard Castle
Arkansas, United States of Columbia

Remington waited in the entry foyer of Beauregard Castle for the now overdue arrival of Vivienne's expected guest, clucking his tongue in a disapproving manner whenever he inspected his pocket watch. After roughly fifteen minutes, the sound of an approaching vehicle prompted the butler to sigh. Fifteen minutes late, he thought. He'll have to work on that timekeeping.

Emitting what almost sounded like an angry purring, the Zeus Bronze-coloured Chevrolet Corvette C8 Stingray smoothly came to a halt at the castle's main entrance. While it was commonplace for the wealthy of Columbia to own foreign-made luxury and sports cars, the Beauregards preferred to own Columbian-made vehicles. This preference had served them well in terms of public perception, as they could portray themselves as patriotic Columbians who were proud to drive domestic vehicles; this meant that domestic vehicle manufacturers had no problem providing the family with customised vehicles due to the publicity and the fact that the Beauregards could easily afford it. The trunk sprang open before the driver-side door opened outwards and out stepped the well-built five-foot-eleven figure of Ethan Beauregard, who took a moment to look the castle up and down before noticing Remington's presence. With neat side-parted short brunette hair and wearing a stylish navy suit, the clean-shaven Ethan grinned and offered a wave to the castle's butler, who betrayed no emotion as he stepped forward.

"Good afternoon, Master Ethan. Did you have a pleasant journey?"

"It's always pleasant when you're in this beauty. Occasional traffic but hey, I'm not that late." Ethan quickly checked his custom-made Keaton Myrick watch to confirm his statement.

"Indeed. Well, if you'll come with me to the Greatroom, I'll have somebody take your luggage up to your room."

"No need, Remington. I'm just here overnight, I can carry my own."

"As you wish. Please, this way."

Ethan quickly grabbed his overnight bag and closed the trunk of the Chevrolet before following Remington inside. The butler only took a few steps into the building before reaching the oak door of the Greatroom, at which point he opened it and gestured for Ethan to enter. The Greatroom was a 2200 square foot space with wooden flooring that combined the roles of lounge, dining room, and kitchen in one large rectangular room. In addition to an oak dining table accessorised with ten plush dining chairs that were upholstered in red and gold brocade at the southwest end of the room, the Greatroom featured a small kitchen complete with a breakfast nook at the southeast end; the kitchen was constructed primarily of white oak with a copper range hood. Between the dining area and kitchen was a large patterned floor rug upon which lay the lounge area, which featured two three-seat sofas in addition to two large upholstered club armchairs and four thinner antique-style armchairs. As Ethan stepped into the Greatroom, he paused and smiled as he was greeted by the sight of the Arkansas Beauregards waiting for him; after setting down his overnight bag near the door, he crossed the space to greet his relatives properly. David, Michael Senior, and Michael Junior received firm handshakes, while Samantha and Tiffany received a kiss on their left cheek. When Ethan finally reached Grayson, the twenty-six-year-old beamed as his older third cousin gave him a wink before proceeding with a kiss on his left cheek.

"Hey Gray, how're things?"

As Grayson went to respond, Vivienne's voice cut him off. "You're forgetting somebody, Ethan."

Ethan turned and flashed a boyish grin at the Beauregard matriarch. "I could never forget about you, Auntie Vivienne." Although technically she was a cousin-by-marriage twice-removed, Ethan always referred to Vivienne as his aunt for the sake of simplicity. She rolled her eyes as he approached her and kissed her on her left cheek.

"You're late, by the way."

"Driving from Jefferson City to Fayetteville isn't an exact science, Auntie. Fifteen minutes isn't the end of the world." He then stepped back to where Grayson was standing, slipping his arm around his younger cousin's shoulders as he continued to talk to Vivienne. "I'm here until tomorrow afternoon so we've still got plenty of time to discuss things."

"I suppose that you have a point." Vivienne took note of Remington's arrival in the room before she changed the subject. "Would you like anything to drink, Ethan?"

"Sweet tea would be great, thanks. With lemon if possible." He waited for Vivienne to turn her attention to Remington before nudging the side of Grayson's head with his own. "Let's try again. Hey Gray, how're things?"

Grayson returned the head nudge, letting out a slight giggle as he did so. "So much better with my favourite cousin here."

"Damn right I'm your favourite. Although it's not like I've got much competition." Ethan caught M.J.'s eye and waved at him, continuing to speak to Grayson through the masterful fake smile that he directed towards their cousin. "How can a member of our family be such a tool?"

"Oh, you should hear about what happened at the review last week."

"Well, now you have to tell me all about it." Before Grayson could begin weaving the tale of the previous weekend's events, Vivienne approached them with Remington in tow. "Damn. Tell me later, Gray." Thankfully neither Vivienne nor Remington heard Ethan as they reached the two Beauregard cousins, and so the butler simply handed Ethan his requested beverage, a glass of ice-cold sweetened black tea with a slice of lemon. Vivienne then raised her voice slightly so that she could address everybody.

"If we could all take a seat, we can discuss Ethan's reason for being here today."

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Beauregards in attendance quickly took their seats, with the two Arkansas branches aiming to occupy the couches. Michael Senior, Tiffany, and Michael Junior were successful in claiming one of the greenish-brown sofas, but the Bentonville Beauregards had to disperse slightly. Samantha and Grayson managed to take the right-hand and middle seats respectively on the remaining couch, but David's intended spot on the left-hand side was instead occupied by Ethan, who set his drink down on the nearby side table before once again slipping an arm around Grayson's shoulders. David and Samantha exchanged a brief look before David fetched an armchair and took up position next to his wife, while Grayson scooched slightly closer to his older cousin before glancing across the lounge area at M.J. with a victorious grin. Vivienne observed all of this as she settled into her favourite armchair, taking note of Ethan's continually tactile manner around Grayson. This was not the first time that she'd seen such an interaction between the two, however; she had first noticed it at the first family gathering that had taken place after Grayson had earned his MBA from Harvard. As Ethan was also a graduate of Harvard Business School and the pair had both been members of the ultra-exclusive Preclarus Club during their time at the elite university, Vivienne had chalked it up to the easy-going Ethan displaying camaraderie with a fellow alumnus. Once everybody was settled, the matriarch of the Arkansas Beauregards cast her eye around the room before speaking.

"Some of you already know the full reason for Ethan's visit, but I shall explain it to the rest of you. Winston Beauregard has been selected to be the Federalist Party candidate in Missouri's gubernatorial election in November, as Governor Rankin will not be seeking another term. Missouri tends to be one of the more Federalist states in political terms so it is highly likely that Winston will become Governor. To avoid any potential questions regarding his relationship with the family businesses, both Winston and Caroline have divested themselves of their shares in Beaumart and Beauregard Enterprises. All of the shares are now in a revocable trust under Ethan's administration. Including his own shares, this means that Ethan is personally responsible for five-point-five percent of Beaumart as well as the entire stake of the Missouri Beauregards in Beauregard Enterprises.

"As he has said that he has no interest in being involved in politics, Ethan has decided to move to Bentonville to play a more substantial role in the family's business empire. I've discussed this with Winston and he is more than happy for Ethan to follow his own wishes in this matter. Ethan?"

Ethan chimed in at Vivienne's prompting. "The simple fact is that if I stayed in Jefferson City, I'd probably have to appear on the campaign trail with Dad and Mom. Then if he gets elected, I'd likely get dragged into attending all sorts of occasions as well as having to deal with lobbyists who would try to use me as a way to get a meeting with Dad. I don't want to have to do all that if I don't have to. Dad's only fifty-four so if he's successful, he's potentially got twenty years or so in office. As I'm now in charge of all of our branch's shares and whatnot, moving to Bentonville makes a lot of sense because it's where Beaumart and Beauregard Enterprises are headquartered. It gets me away from the Missouri political scene and gets me closer to the businesses that I'm now kinda important in."

Michael Senior nodded understandingly. "I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it'll be good to have you around, Ethan. How does Kaitlyn feel about the move?"

Ethan's nose wrinkled slightly at the mention of that particular name. "Oh, she won't be moving here. We ended things a couple of months ago. We'd been having a lot of disagreements, and I could no longer see myself marrying her. I figured it was best to end the engagement and the relationship honourably, rather than stick with it and end up cheating on her or something."

Grayson's eyebrow twitched in response to Ethan mentioning infidelity to Michael Senior, who had of course cheated on his first wife with his now-current wife. Sensing some tension in the air, David quickly interjected to change the subject.

"So, where are you going to be living in Bentonville?"

Ethan turned to the head of the Bentonville Beauregards with a smile. "I'm not sure at the moment, to be honest. Auntie Vivienne suggested that I could always stay here for a bit while I look for somewhere in Bentonville, I've had a preliminary look and I've seen a few places that I like the look of."

Grayson quickly spoke up. "Why don't you stay with us?" He looked to his father and then to Vivienne as he continued, finally turning his gaze to Ethan. "We've got three guest bedrooms that aren't being used. We're in a high-end part of Bentonville and some of the other houses on our street are available, so you won't have far to travel if you want to look at them. You won't have to drive back and forth from here, and Nana gets to keep her peace and quiet."

Well, you're definitely up to something, my dear, thought Vivienne as Grayson finished. She certainly couldn't argue with his logic and she did enjoy the peace and quiet of the castle's location, but she suspected that there was probably more to the suggestion than Grayson was letting on. Not that she would openly question her favourite grandson in front of the rest of the family, of course. "That sounds like an excellent idea, Grayson. David, what do you think?"

David was not completely happy about his son springing the idea upon him in front of the rest of the family like that, but it was true that their home had plenty of room for a guest. "Yes, absolutely. We'd love to have you stay with us, Ethan."

Ethan's grin was so broad that it almost split his face in half. "I really appreciate that. As Gray said, it'll be a lot more convenient. It won't be for a couple of weeks yet though, I need to sort out storage for my stuff before I move."

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Marimaia
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Postby Marimaia » Mon May 02, 2022 1:45 pm

10 April 2022, 13:10hrs [UTC-6]
Beaufields
Bentonville, Arkansas
United States of Columbia

Located in the peaceful and secluded upscale neighbourhood of Heathrow in the city of Bentonville, the house known as 'Beaufields' was the primary residence of the Bentonville Beauregards, situated at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac that was home to several similarly large private residences and governed by a homeowners' association. Unsurprisingly the Beauregards held considerable influence within the homeowners' association as David was currently serving his fourth term as the association's president, but it was not a position that was particularly taxing; the residents of the cul-de-sac were all wealthy and of similar moral persuasions, so rule infractions were rare and often quickly resolved via a 'quick word in private'. Constructed in the European architectural style, Beaufields covered almost 8,800 square feet and sat upon a 2.44-acre plot surrounded by trees. The residence featured five bedrooms and eight bathrooms spread over the basement and the two above-ground floors, with a detached pool house that had its own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. As befitting the wealth of its inhabitants, Beaufields also possessed several luxury features such as a home cinema, a heated pool, a three-car garage, and a greenhouse with an auto-watering system. The location was incredibly convenient in business terms as well, as Beaufields was only a six-to-seven minute drive from both Beaumart Home Office and the headquarters of Beauregard Enterprises. Considering the renown of the family name as well as the money that their businesses brought into the city's economy, it was no surprise that the six-to-seven minute drive was via North Beauregard Avenue, one of the many examples of the Bentonville authorities naming something in the city in the family's honour. Due to the amount of money that the Bentonville Beauregards donated to the police charity fund every year, it was widely believed that the Bentonville Police Department would likely shrug their shoulders and turn a blind eye if the family were ever caught breaking the law, regardless of how severe the crime was. Thankfully, the Bentonville Beauregards had never been foolish enough to test that theory.

Of course, this high profile came with a certain level of observation. While no paparazzi were brave enough to camp out in the cul-de-sac as previous attempts had resulted in the homeowners' association successfully filing restraining orders, basic human curiosity meant that the Beauregards' neighbours would often take a peek from their windows if they thought that something unusual was going on at Beaufields. This was certainly the case on this particular Sunday afternoon, as the purring of Ethan's C8 Stingray drew a certain amount of attention as he navigated his way to his new temporary residence. After finding a suitable storage facility in Bentonville and having his various possessions trucked from Jefferson City to be safely held at the facility, Ethan had arranged for his mail to be forwarded and a real estate agent was retained to sell his apartment on his behalf. The Beauregard name and family money had expedited this process considerably as the businesses involved in Ethan's relocation had no qualms about offering better services to their wealthier clientele, especially the wealthiest of their wealthier clientele. As his car traversed the residential neighbourhood, Ethan couldn't help but smile at the street names, as they were named after prestigious universities in what was undoubtedly an attempt by the developers to create a more refined area; it was all the more amusing to him that Beaufields was located at the end of Northwest Harvard Walk, due to that New England university being the alma mater of both himself and Grayson. He also noticed the number of expensive town cars being washed in driveways by what appeared to be an organised team, as the car washers were all dressed in identical clothing. I bet they're making a fortune for themselves, Ethan thought. Not that he would be willing to allow anybody other than himself to wash his Chevrolet, of course.

Upon reaching Beaufields, Ethan drove down the short driveway on the west side of the property and pulled into the open garage, parking up next to David's black 2020 Lincoln Continental. The garage was wide enough to accommodate both vehicles with sufficient space to navigate around them, so there was no risk of scratching either car as he popped the trunk before exiting the Stingray. Due to the far more casual nature of the day compared to the visit to Beauregard Castle, Ethan wore a dark purple shirt unbuttoned at the collar and a pair of black chino trousers. As he retrieved his luggage from the trunk, Ethan heard the opening of the inner door that connected the garage to the main house; he looked up to be greeted by Grayson's beaming smile as the younger Beauregard almost bounced his way towards him, wearing a simple red t-shirt and khaki-green trousers.

"Hey, Ethan."

"Hey, Gray." As Grayson reached him, Ethan greeted him with the wink and the kiss on the left cheek that had become his customary 'hello' to his younger cousin. "You've picked out the best guest bedroom for me, haven't you?"

"Do you really have to ask?" Grayson grinned. "Can I carry anything for you?"

"Nah, I'm good. Lead the way."

Grayson led Ethan through the primarily cream and white-coloured interior of the house, their footsteps easily audible on the hardwood flooring. Due to Vivienne's prominent status within the family, any gatherings held in Arkansas had always been at the castle, so this was actually Ethan's first time visiting Beaufields. He was therefore paying close attention to the interior as he followed Grayson, noting that several of the rooms on the main floor of the house lacked doors, instead connected by open archways. As he was led past the entrance to the lounge, he received a friendly wave and salutation from both David and Samantha before they returned to watching the wall-mounted television. The rather nonchalant manner of their greeting caused Ethan to wonder if they were actually all that pleased to be hosting him, given that Grayson had volunteered their home in front of the rest of the family and had therefore left them with little choice. I'll get them something to say thank you, he thought. It was not too long before Grayson led Ethan upstairs and pointed towards the easternmost room at the end of the landing.

"That's my room, your room's just along here." The pair only had to take a few steps before reaching the door to Ethan's accommodation, passing a door along the way that piqued Ethan's interest.

"So that's David and Samantha's bedroom?"

Grayson smirked at the assumption and opened the door in question. "It's actually the home cinema. Mom and Dad's bedroom is downstairs on the main floor. They did initially suggest giving you one of the basement bedrooms but I thought that you'd prefer something higher up."

"They wanted to put me in the basement?"

"It's not as bad as it sounds. We call it the basement because it's underneath the main floor, but it's got windows and doors that lead out to the garden. Anyway, as I say, this is yours." Grayson opened the door to the guest bedroom, revealing a well-appointed bedroom with mahogany furniture. In addition to a large wardrobe and a chest of drawers, the bedroom also featured a kingsize sleigh bed, a desk with an attendant chair, and two nightstands flanking the bed. Ethan made an impressed sound as Grayson demonstrated the television that could be elevated or retracted from within the frame at the bottom of the bed, and he was also suitably pleased with the amenities provided within the ensuite bathroom.

"So, that's everything. I'll leave you to settle in and grab a nap if you want. If you need anything, just ask."

"Okay, cool. Thanks, Gray, I really appreciate all this."

Grayson grinned happily. "Ah, don't worry about it. Anything for my favourite cousin."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

The rest of the day went by rather quickly. Grayson gave Ethan a more detailed tour of the house and its surroundings before the four Beauregards sat down to a pleasant evening meal in the dining room. After a post-dinner discussion in the lounge regarding a wide variety of topics, the permanent residents of Beaufields bade each other goodnight and then dispersed, Grayson heading upstairs while David and Samantha remained downstairs. Ethan took his cue from this and headed to his room after thanking David and Samantha for dinner and their more general hospitality. After going through the mundanity of bedtime ablutions, Ethan strode out of his ensuite bathroom ready for bed, wearing only a pair of black pyjama bottoms, when there was a tentative-sounding knock at the door. Upon opening the door, Ethan was unsurprised to see Grayson standing there, dressed in a white pyjama shirt with black-and-white checkered pyjama bottoms.

"Hey, um, mind if I come in?"

Ethan smirked slightly and nodded. "Sure, come on in." Grayson wasted little time in crossing the room and plonking himself down on the side of the bed, at which point he began to idly kick his legs back and forth.

"Sorry if I'm keeping you up, I just wanted to chat."

"Hey, don't worry about it. I was just going to channel surf for a bit so I'm glad to have company." Ethan casually walked over and manoeuvred himself onto the bed so that he was sitting back against the headboard with his legs stretched out. "So, what's on your mind?"

"I want to ask you something, but if you don't want to answer then you don't have to."

"Okay, no problem."

"I admit that I'm being nosy. So, if it's none of my business then just say 'Gray, it's none of your business'."

Ethan chuckled and regarded Grayson with his eyebrows raised. "Ask your question, Gray."

"Okay, okay. What exactly happened between you and Kaitlyn? I didn't realise that you guys had had that much trouble, the only sign I ever saw was you two arguing about something at New Year."

Ethan pursed his lips and took a few moments before responding. "Okay, I'll tell you. Only because it's you, Gray. I know that you won't run around gossiping." He sat more upright as he continued. "We'd been engaged for over two years, and she was starting to question if I had been serious when I proposed. I mean, I had been, but we just got kinda stuck in the engagement phase without naming a date because of other disagreements. For example, I wanted a prenup, but she hated the idea because apparently by wanting one, it showed that I thought we wouldn't last. Never mind that Mom and Dad both agreed that it would be a sensible idea. The longer the engagement went on, the more and more we wound up arguing. The New Year party was pretty much the last straw for me.

"Leading up to it, she'd been asking me not to leave her alone at the party. She always got along okay with Tiffany but not so great with everybody else, so she wanted me to stick with her and not 'abandon her to hang out with you' as I'd always done."

Grayson cocked his head slightly in confusion, earning a gesture of agreement from Ethan. "Exactly, Gray. Was it my fault that she didn't get along with some of the family? I wasn't happy about her request but I said that I'd do my best. That argument you saw was her chewing me out because once we'd arrived and said hi to everybody else, I said hi to you and then spent most of the party with you instead of her. Oh, and there was the whole kiss thing too."

"What 'kiss thing'?"

"When it hit midnight and we rang in the New Year, I kissed you because it was New Year. Then I kissed her only like a few seconds later. Anyway, she was annoyed because I'd not only abandoned her to hang out with you, but also my first kiss of 2022 was with you and not with her."

"Well, in all fairness, it's not like we saw each other that often throughout the year, so of course you were going to want to spend time with me. She could've easily put up with a handful of parties and gatherings every year, especially since she had you to herself for the rest of the year. If she couldn't cope with the gatherings then she probably wasn't a good fit for the family."

Ethan nodded in agreement with Grayson's last statement. "You're right, Gray. So right. Admittedly, I could've phrased it a bit more gently than that when we argued about it again after we got back to Jefferson City. She slapped me, told me that I was way too in love with my family to love anybody else, and went to stay with her sister so that I could decide which one I wanted to prioritise: her or the family. She pretty much decided for me."

Grayson gave him a sympathetic smile. "Then you called off the engagement and that was that."

"Yeah. Not exactly the ending that I'd envisioned when I proposed to her, but I guess that's life." Ethan let out a sigh before smiling warmly at his younger cousin. "It's not easy being a Beauregard sometimes, is it?"

Grayson patted Ethan on the foot. "Most people just don't understand us. That's not our fault, it's theirs. If somebody wants to become a part of our family, then they need to follow our way of doing things. If they can't accept that, then why should we bend for them? Our family didn't get where we are today by compromising and doing what other people wanted us to do."

"Am I talking to Grayson or Auntie Vivienne?"

Grayson pulled a face and slapped Ethan's ankle, earning a laugh from his older cousin. "I'm serious."

"I know, I know. Her loss, right?"

Grayson grinned and nodded. "Absolutely. She had her chance and she blew it. You'll find somebody better, somebody who'll appreciate you properly." He glanced at the clock on the left-hand nightstand before getting to his feet. "Well, I should let you get some sleep. Night-night, Ethan."

"Night, Gray."

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sun May 08, 2022 8:04 am

16 April 2022
Constitutional Republic of Kulandu

More popularly known simply as 'Kulandu' or 'the CRK', the Constitutional Republic of Kulandu was a fairly small nation situated on the west coast of Africa. The population of Kulandu was remarkably diverse given its small size, with over 25 ethnic groups comprising the total population of just over 5.35 million people. In terms of natural resources, Kulandu possessed plentiful water as well as mineral resources and forests, and the nation also enjoyed a climate that was favourable to agriculture. Unfortunately, these natural advantages had not translated into prosperity for the Kulandan people. Over the past fifty years, Kulandu had experienced the horror of two civil wars and several coups, meaning that the Kulandan people only rarely enjoyed the democracy that was promised to them by the nation's constitution. Even when they were experiencing a peaceful period of democratic rule, it was not uncommon for there to be 'influences' at work behind the scenes. This had certainly been the case thus far in the current period of democratic administration. Tobias Soromou had come to power following the end of the Second Kulandan Civil War in August 2004; the end of the peace process had resulted in free and fair elections that saw Soromou and his Kulandan Patriotic Front triumph quite convincingly. Soromou's first six-year term as President proved to be a peaceful one as he worked to entice foreign investment into Kulandu, in an attempt to help the rebuilding process after the end of the second civil war. The United States of Columbia had been one of the more generous foreign partners of Kulandu during Soromou's first term as they were keen to encourage Kulandu's stability, in hopes of gaining access to the African state's natural resources for Columbian corporations. There was also a more strategic element to Columbia's support of Soromou's administration, as the United States was interested in gaining basing rights on the African continent and Soromou appeared to be a potential willing partner in that regard.

When it came time for them to face re-election in August 2010, Soromou and the Kulandan Patriotic Front managed to not only secure the Presidency once again but the KPF managed to increase their majority in the unicameral Senate. This was due to a combination of populist policies and a certain amount of covert assistance from Columbia's foreign intelligence service, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA viewed Soromou's continued leadership of Kulandu as being in the best strategic interests of the United States, and so they had quietly helped him and his party by providing them with damaging intelligence on his political rivals, intelligence that he then used to make public accusations and denouncements. Taking Columbian support for granted, Soromou began to enrich himself and his family at the expense of the Kulandan state; in doing so, he managed to turn the Kulandan military against himself. Rather than antagonise the Kulandan Armed Forces by helping Soromou to retain his position, the CIA arranged the leak of Soromou's financial activities three months before the August 2016 elections. Those elections saw Soromou and the KPF lose heavily to the Kulandan Democratic Coalition, bringing Moses Touray to the Presidency. Idealistic and well-educated, President Touray was elected not only due to Soromou's corruption but also because he promised reforms. True to his word, Touray began introducing a more 'democratic socialist' government agenda. Increased taxation on the wealthy, universal health care and a minimum wage had been introduced, and Touray's popularity continued to grow.

Now aged fifty-three, President Touray was four months away from the next election and so he had been setting out the KDC manifesto for the public to consider. Building on his previous policies and continuing popularity, the manifesto called for a mandate on foreign companies to enter into a partnership with the Kulandan state so that some of the profits from their Kulandan activities would go to benefit the Kulandan people. The CIA were decidedly unimpressed with Touray's intentions to infringe upon the rights of foreign actors in Kulandu, and they also noted a pledge to increase social spending by reducing the defense budget. Given the choice between supporting the strengthening of democracy in Kulandu and supporting Columbian interests abroad by disrupting that democracy, the CIA's decision was disturbingly easy.

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16 April 2022, 20:30hrs [UTC+0]
Embassy of the United States of Columbia
Ducor, Constitutional Republic of Kulandu

As the capital city of the Constitutional Republic of Kulandu, Ducor was undoubtedly the most important population centre in the nation. Located on Cape Montserrado on the Atlantic coast, Ducor was home to roughly thirty percent of Kulandu's total population. In addition to being home to the national government and such a large number of the nation's citizens, Ducor was also Kulandu's economic, financial, and cultural heart. Practically all major Kulandan companies had their headquarters in Ducor, and every top figure in the Soromou regime resided in the capital. This did not mean that Ducor was an oasis of prosperity, however, as the city was also home to several 'informal communities' that struggled to gain access to electricity and running water. Assisting the informal communities was a high priority for the KDC government as they could scarcely claim to help the entire nation if there were still residents in the capital without such amenities. Other neighbourhoods in Ducor did have access to these basics, however, including Mamba Point. The Mamba Point neighbourhood was home to the majority of foreign embassies, the largest of which was the embassy of the United States of Columbia. Constructed over Soromou's first term, the USC embassy was a walled compound that encompassed the main embassy building itself as well as five ancillary buildings, a tennis court, and a helipad. Due to Columbian doctrine regarding their embassies, the grounds were regularly patrolled by personnel from the USC Marine Corps, making the embassy one of the most secure sites in the nation.

Ambassador Nicolas Canizares sat at his desk in his second-floor office within the primary embassy building, the curtains drawn and the door closed so that nobody would be privy to the meeting that he was currently engaged in. Across the desk sat Chief of Station Cyrus Hale, the top CIA official stationed in Kulandu, and he was about to provide the ambassador with a briefing that the diplomat would not be overjoyed to hear. The forty-six-year-old African-Columbian adjusted his black-rimmed spectacles as he began.

"Mister Ambassador, what I'm about to tell you is strictly classified. You cannot repeat this to anybody. Not your wife, not Secretary of State Blake, not even President Townsend herself. Plausible deniability is key here. I know that you understand, but just confirm it for me."

The forty-four-year-old ambassador sighed and blinked deliberately. "I understand." He ran a hand over his greying swept back hair before rising from his seat and crossing to a nearby cabinet. "Can I have a drink while you tell me what I'm afraid you're going to tell me?"

Hale chuckled and gestured towards the cabinet. "Of course, Mister Ambassador. I wouldn't mind one myself if you're in a charitable mood."

Canizares nodded and poured two glasses of scotch, adding ice to his own before returning to his desk and handing the other glass to Hale. "It's that bad?"

"Well, 'bad' is a relative term. Things won't be bad for the United States, or you, or me."

"Uh-huh." Canizares gulped at his scotch. "That's good because I'd hate for my first ambassadorial posting to be a disaster. What about Kulandu though, will it be bad for them?"

"Depends on who in Kulandu you're asking about." Hale sipped at his drink, nodding approvingly as the scotch met his tastebuds. "That's good." He then smiled at Canizares, who had fixed him with an expectant look. "Okay, here it is. Touray and the KDC haven't rocked the boat too much thus far, but the manifesto for the August election is unacceptable. They want to impose conditions on Columbian corporate operations that have, thus far, had none. I mean, who do these guys think they are? We ensured their victory in 2016, if we hadn't leaked Soromou's financial shenanigans then who knows what the election results could have been. The United States of Columbia is the greatest nation on the planet, we're not going to be dictated to by a guy that we helped put into power.

"Now obviously we don't want to publicly oppose him if we can get away with it, and thankfully we can get away with it. We have friends here in Kulandu who will do the work for us."

"Uh-huh." Canizares took another drink as he absorbed the Chief of Station's words. My first posting is going to see a coup. "By friends, you mean the Kulandan Armed Forces."

"That's correct. They're deeply unhappy about the idea of a cut in defense spending. Something you need to understand about the Kulandan Armed Forces is that they see themselves as the ones who ended the Second Civil War. As far as they're concerned, there would have been no peace process if they hadn't been successful on the battlefield. According to our sources, some higher-ups in the National Intelligence and Security Service are wondering if a cut in defense spending would be followed by a cut in security spending. Let's just say that there's been a discussion or two already regarding the election and whether it's actually going to happen."

Canizares closed his eyes and groaned deeply. "It's not going to happen, is it?"

Hale smirked and shrugged. "It might, although if it does, I wouldn't hold my breath on the result being respected by the KAF or the NISS. Completely informal and off-the-record chats are ongoing regarding guarantees that they would like from us and guarantees that we would like from them. It helps that we both roughly know what the other will want."

"Uh-huh." Canizares finished his glass and sighed heavily. "So now that you've told me, I'm to keep my mouth shut, look surprised, and 'enjoy the ride'?"

"Got it in one, Mister Ambassador. I'll keep you apprised of any pertinent information when necessary, of course. Keep in mind that a good relationship with friends from Langley could be a considerable boost for your career. I mean, you're the ambassador to Kulandu at the moment. With a little help from your friends, your next posting could be to the Antillean Union or even Mexico."
Last edited by Marimaia on Fri May 13, 2022 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Marimaia
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Benevolent Dictatorship

Postby Marimaia » Sat May 14, 2022 12:24 pm

22 April 2022, 13:00hrs [UTC+0]
NISS Headquarters
Ducor, Constitutional Republic of Kulandu

While it may not have been on the same scale as the headquarters of security services in larger and wealthier nations, the headquarters of the Kulandan NISS was more than capable of serving the purpose required of it. Located in the Capital District of Ducor, the NISS headquarters was a rather unassuming building. It featured four above-ground levels and two below-ground levels, and the outside of the building was off-white with navy blue railings for the balconies that were evenly positioned along the exterior of the top three floors. At first glance, you could easily be forgiven for believing the building to be a hotel. In a sign of the good relationship that existed between the intelligence communities of Kulandu and the United States of Columbia, the NISS headquarters had been constructed with financial assistance from the CIA in 2019. This relationship also meant that nobody saw anything suspicious about a meeting between the CIA Chief of Station and the Director of the NISS, a fact that was all the more useful given the covert discussions that were taking place regarding the upcoming August elections. This relationship also meant that Cyrus Hale was effectively waved through any potential security checks upon his arrival, as everybody at the NISS was aware of his identity. He made his way to the top floor where the Director's office was located, offering a warm smile to the Director's secretary as she waved him past. After knocking three times on the office door, Hale received a response and so strolled on in.

"Afternoon, Paul."

Paul Delamou rose from his seat behind his desk and extended his hand as Hale stepped closer, exchanging a firm handshake with the Columbian. The bald fifty-nine-year-old NISS Director was quite an imposing individual, standing six-foot-two with a penchant for staring over his spectacles in the manner of a disapproving teacher. He wore his standard 'uniform' of a black suit with a white shirt and a black necktie, and he spoke in his usual calm manner.

"Good afternoon, Cyrus. Won't you have a seat?" The pair sat on opposite sides of the desk in the primarily white and blue decorated office, Hale sitting back in his chair while Delamou leaned forward with his clasped hands resting on the desk in front of him. "Thank you for coming to see me, I believe that we need to have a face-to-face discussion about the developing political situation."

"I'll always make room in my schedule for a friend, Paul. So, what's on your mind?"

"Guarantees." Delamou paused for a moment. "I've now spoken to Major General Massaquoi at length regarding our mutual concerns about the direction of the Touray government, as well as the possible courses of action open to us. I know that we've both spoken to your people over the past couple of weeks, but I've asked you here so that I can give you our 'official' list of requests. Once I've told you what we would like to have from you, I can tell you what we can offer in return."

Hale nodded and 'hmmed'. "Okay, that sounds good. So what sort of guarantees would you be looking for?"

"First and foremost, either outright public support for our actions or, at the very least, the bare minimum of condemnation."

The Chief of Station shifted in his seat. "Well, the United States of Columbia cannot publicly endorse a coup against a democratically elected government. You know that and I know that. However, I'm certain that the diplomatic response could be minimised to something like 'we call for calm and hope that the situation can be resolved peacefully'. The State Department isn't stupid, they'd be able to see how any action would be in our interest. What else?"

"The continuation of financial and military aid. Stabilising the situation quickly will be far easier if we continue to receive assistance from the US during the 'period of transition'. If we were to lose that assistance as a result of our actions, then it would pull the rug right out from under us."

"Again, the State Department isn't that stupid, and neither is the Department of Defense for that matter. The CIA would naturally provide advice to both departments on the situation anyway, so we'll make sure that the cash keeps flowing. Anything else?"

Delamou nodded. "One final thing. While it's doubtful that any neighbours or other nations would try anything against us while we're taking action, it would be reassuring to know that the USC would step in to deter any potential encroachments or invasions."

"We'd certainly do our best, Paul. Kulandu's been a good partner for years, and we'd prefer not to lose you. I can't promise direct military intervention, but there would certainly be some sort of help in such an eventuality."

"Good to know." The NISS head sat back in his chair and rested his hands on his lap, smiling slightly at Hale. "So, now for the part that you're undoubtedly waiting to hear. Provided that everything goes according to plan, we intend to establish a 'National Administration Directorate'. It will be comprised of individuals from both the NISS and the KAF, as well as any experts whom we believe could assist in forming an effective technocratic government. There would be a pledge to return to proper democratic elections in due time, naturally."

"Naturally." Hale chuckled, as he was not completely convinced that such a pledge would be honoured promptly. "So what will this 'National Administration Directorate' do for the United States?"

"Well, we won't be forcing Columbian corporations into any local partnerships. At worst, we'll make sure that they are paying taxes on their Kulandan profits. We would also seek to formally recognise the friendship between our two nations in the form of a military alliance. That would permit the United States to station troops and other forces here in Kulandu whenever you wish. We would also follow through on the basing rights issue for you, so the United States would gain physical military facilities in Kulandu as well. Naturally, we're open to any suggestions or requests that you might have."

"I can't think of anything right now, but I'll contact my superiors at Langley and see what they think of this proposal. I suspect that they might prefer you to hand over to democratic elections sooner rather than later though, but that would be mainly for the sake of appearances. If you and Major General Massaquoi remained the true bosses around here then I doubt that the United States would have any objection to that."

"Ah, I think I know what you're getting at. The National Administration Directorate might smack too much of a dictatorship." Delamou pondered this for a few moments. "What if we set a deadline for fresh elections? We could give ourselves a few months to set up a new political party that would act as a front for us, then have them stand in the new elections. Perhaps the United States could provide electoral observers, to make sure that everything is above board."

"That's why it's a good thing that you're involved in this, Paul. You can see a more subtle route ahead. I'll tell Langley about your idea, I reckon that it'll make it far easier for us to support you. It won't be a coup, it'll just be a reset of democracy."

Delamou laughed at the turn of phrase from Hale. "A 'reset of democracy', I'll remember to use that at some point. Now then, if I might ask one last thing of you...it would strengthen our case in overthrowing Touray if we had something that we could use against him. Misuse of state finances managed to hit home rather hard for Soromou, so is there any chance that the CIA might be able to provide us with something to use against Touray? Even if it isn't entirely true."

"I'll see what I can do."


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