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Once Upon a Time in Noctur [Closed, Noctur Only]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]

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Nui-ta
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TrickiBlog: On Culture Shock

Postby Nui-ta » Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:27 am

One of the things I really enjoy about having a blog is that it allows me to take a break from TrickiLeaks while still getting to write. I never realized until I moved to Arthuria just how much I like writing, from both a professional and personal standpoint. Maintaining this blog has been relaxing and has helped me stay focused on slow news days, when TrickiLeaks just doesn't have much on the table.

I get a multitude of questions from readers, and one of the most requested that I get concerns culture shock. The brunt of my reader-base have never lived in the UNCA. They're lucky just to meet a Seglander or a Hadinian who have lived in and fled the UNCA in search of freedom and a better life elsewhere. Everyone understands that life inside and outside the UNCA are two drastically different things, but it takes first hand experience to be able to discuss just where the surprises lie.

So, what did culture shock look like for me?

Firstly, people love to ask what the things I miss most about Hadin are. There's plenty of things I don't miss. Church attendance in Hadin was mandatory: I don't miss that for a second. Homophobia and a closeted existence for homosexuals is also standard Hadinian fare, and that's another thing I don't miss. On a much more light-hearted and apolitical note, I can't say I miss what passes for a good cup of coffee in Hadin (a nation which strongly favors tea). I also don't miss the lack of casual dress. Don't get me wrong, I'll dress formally for work or another situation that requires it, and I think Hadinian dress-codes have helped me prepare for looking sharp when the situation demands it.

But there isn't a concept of casual dress in Hadin. Dressing down is the thing that gives me culture shock here in Arthuria. Dressing down in Hadin means you lose your tie, and maybe you unbutton your top button. I'd never even seen a t-shirt before I arrived here.

And I love it. When I'm sitting down in my home or going out for a coffee, I love that I don't have to be dressed to the nines to do it.

Secondly, people ask me what I do miss. Most definitely, I miss pastries. I have a sweet-tooth, and Hadinian pastries are just unbeatable. Even Nui-ta doesn't get pastries right the way Hadin does, and knock-offs here in Hadin just aren't the same.

I miss the casual drug culture as well. I've never been a fan of the harder stuff, but I have no understanding of why some countries illegalize things like marijuana. Coming from a country where mere possession of almost any drug isn't enough for a criminal charge, I don't understand why some governments feel that its necessary to keep these things off the streets. Hell, being able to get high freely was one of the few rights that Hadin actually understood.

I also miss Hadinian alcohol: but alcohol is another thing that Hadin just does way better than many nations. Arthuria is actually quite on-par with Hadin, though, so that's helped.

One more thing I find myself (somewhat) nostalgic for is free healthcare. Don't get me wrong: Arthuria's healthcare system is certainly a respectable one. However, I'm a guy who became very spoiled off of Hadin's Essential Health Services Provision.

What is the Essential Health Services Provision? It's a law that makes it such that every Hadinian citizen, whether young or old, male or female, has access to the most basic levels of healthcare. If you seek a service that maintains a basic standard of health, whether that service is preventative (a flu shot), life-saving (emergency appendix removal) or integral to your basic quality of life (mending a broken leg) --- and if you're a Hadinian citizen, it's free.

There's a lot of things that AREN'T free about this. Someone, somewhere, has to pay the doctors. Obviously, this provision is largely funded by taxpayer money, but surplus money from public transport, religious or secular administrative bodies, or education is also funneled in. It helps that Hadinians aren't a particularly materialistic people: most people don't really care about being rich as long as they can provide for themselves. It also helps that other services in Hadin are kept to a rather basic level: basic education in Hadin is subsidized by taxes, but higher-level education [past grade school for females and high-school for males] is totally privatized as far as where the money comes from.

Furthermore, anything that isn't a "service that maintains a basic standard of health" isn't free. You're entitled to get care from a doctor under the EHSP for free, but choosing which doctor isn't covered by that same law. You're entitled to a hospital visit for an illness or injury, for free --- but getting a private room or treatments outside of what a doctor deems appropriate is massively expensive. You're entitled to nursing care that meets a standard deemed acceptable by the Nursing Board, but hiring a private nurse without a doctor's order is massively expensive. [Oh, I should mention, a lot of nurses in Hadin aren't doing the job for pay --- Hadinian nurses tend to be nuns who do their job for free as part of their ecclesiastical orders and call to service, so that eliminates a ridiculous amount of Dir paying for a "professional" nursing sector in the healthcare field].

You're entitled to a basic prosthetic (mechanical and in some cases myoelectric) if you lose an appendage, but a high-model prosthetic (robotic) won't count towards the EHSP. You're entitled to some fertility treatments if that is a problem in your life, but after a certain point, the healthcare system will oftentimes encourage you to adopt, or otherwise continue treatment outside of the EHSP with private-pay.

Also: non-essential healthcare services don't count towards the EHSP at all. Plastic surgery for anything that isn't directly attributable to a traumatic injury, for example, is not qualified as an EHSP expense (and even when it is attributable to a traumatic injury, it may not always be covered).

I find it really amazing that this system "only" costs Hadin about 4.5 trillion Dir a year (a little over 3.75 trillion Nui-tan Had). In comparison, Nui-ta's partially privatized system costs its government 27.5 trillion Had (!!!). More interestingly, Nui-ta's new government is on the verge of dismantling its current system in favor of a more privatized version, citing cost. Granted, Nui-ta's standard of healthcare might be considered higher overall, and Nui-ta also has an entire fleet of nurses who are expecting paychecks, unlike the Hadinian ones who work in exchange for personal privileges granted by their position.

(Those privileges are, namely, freedom from the societal pressure to settle down and marry, as well as freedom to pursue more of an education than the average woman, and freedom to work in some industries such as nursing, teaching, or some low-level administrative work).
Last edited by Nui-ta on Sat Oct 20, 2018 1:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
Someone cares? Okay then. Economic Left/Right: -2.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.85

INFP-T personality, quite heavy on the I,P, and T.

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Nui-ta
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Life After You

Postby Nui-ta » Sun Oct 21, 2018 10:25 pm

Whose wedding was this?

It was obviously a wedding. A small one, at an outdoor venue. The place was quiet.

On the western edge of the land, where the sun began to sink beneath the horizon, there was a beautiful lake. The opposite side stopped just shy of the horizon, at the foot of some far-away hills. A few houses dotted the opposite shores.

On the side where he was standing, there were a few small cabins. He knew exactly which one he'd be staying in, although he couldn't remember how he knew that.

Facing the lake was a makeshift arch, followed by a few chairs which had been arranged in a semi-orderly fashion. There were a few people hastily running up and down the outdoor lot in which all of this was taking place. He recognized most of them, from various points in his life.

A weird suspicion ran through his mind. It seemed so outlandish to him that he shook it from his mind.

He looked down at his clothing and realized that he was rather nicely dressed for this occasion.

Too nice.

It was almost like he was the one getting married. No, that couldn't be correct, and yet...

...he was dressed the part. This was his nicest outfit. Yellow shirt, black slacks, black blazer. There was even a tacky carnation pinned to his lapel hastily. His memories told him that Cordelia had placed it there, even though he couldn't actually remember this happening.

He looked up and noticed her sitting in one of the chairs, watching him. Several others were now seated too. He wanted to sit down with them, but his legs wouldn't move.

He wasn't supposed to be sitting.

He was standing, near the arch. Another man was standing with him, holding some paperwork and a book.

"You ready for this?"

"Simon, do I look ready?" He said, following it up with, "I can't believe...how is this even happening?"

"Can't you just be happy that it's happening?"

"But...I..."

His thoughts were interrupted by Simon yelling out to the crowd, "now, we weren't able to get the violinist out for this, so if everyone could follow along using the provided kazoo's with Deniva's piano playing, we can get the wedding procession down here with a proper welcome!"

What?! The other man could only watch in shock as the classic bridal march was played via a chorus of kazoos, kept partially in tune with one woman playing a piano.

How did they even get that out here?

The man shook his head in disbelief, wondering how the hell he even got into this situation. He turned to look at who was coming down the hillside, alone with no family to accompany them, speaking to the lonely nature of this band of misfits.

His knees nearly collapsed from under him when he saw who it was.

Rufus was still as charming as ever, partially because he didn't look like the stereotypical Hadinian. His darker features betrayed that some of his ancestry was from elsewhere in Karas. The island which had become the Nui-tan state of Kavia was his best guess.

Rufus made his way down to the arch just as the dissonant sound of kazoos came to a rest at the final doooooo.

"Hans," he smiled, greeting the man who had been watching this scene unfold in total confusion.

"R...Ruf..."

How could this be? Rufus was dead.

The more Hans looked around at this small group of attendees, the more he realized that virtually everyone here was dead.

Most of them had been fellow dissidents who hadn't escaped the Hass Envoyship in one piece. A few died through other means. Hans looked back at Simon, who was waiting to officiate this strange spectacle.

Simon had died in a mere car accident, after his brakes went out and sent the car careening into a tree.

There were a couple of others who weren't dissidents, who'd met their ends in other ways, that Hans could remember: Deniva had overdosed on cocaine. One man sitting to the furthest left in the front had gotten drunk and fallen from a balcony. The child sitting next to the man who died from an overdose had "merely" gone missing --- although by now it had been over a decade and their fate was almost certain. At the far back of the chairs were people that Hans only knew through photographs. There was a grandfather who'd died in the Partition. There was an aunt dressed in Nui-tan military uniform who'd defected to Nui-ta and lost contact with the rest of the family. There was a grandmother who'd died of pneumonia a year before Hans was born.

Everyone was dead. Was he dead too?

The crowd had gone eerily still. It took Hans a moment to realize that he and Rufus were the only ones still moving.

"You need to stop wishing for this," Rufus said quietly. "It's never gonna happen".

"What are you talking about?"

"Hans, it's over. Life goes on. And life is only meant for the living".

"I don't understand".

"It's been a few years. It's time to move on".

"Move on, how?" Hans gulped. He was nearly choking back tears at this point. It was all starting to hit him now.

"You'd be best off settling into your new life. I hear Arthuria's really nice. Much too cold for my blood, though".

"Life after you wasn't worth living, Rufus," Hans said softly. He felt one tear --- just one --- slide down his cheek.

"We both know under that big exterior you're not the tough one," Rufus laughed. "But even you can do better than this. After all, you deserve better. Throwing yourself at one singular goal isn't really living, Hans. Sooner or later, you're going to have to allow yourself to be happy".

"I am happy," Hans lied.

"Don't get me wrong, you have your moments," Rufus chuckled. "TrickiLeaks, though? What a tacky name. I know you didn't really choose it, but...still. You couldn't come up with anything better?"

"I mean, it keeps you motivated, sure, and there will be days where you'll need to stay motivated and keep fighting that good fight....but you got out, Hans. That's more than most of us can say".

"We did so much stupid shit for a better life. I'm going to hate you so much if you don't let yourself enjoy it in the meanwhile, just a little bit".

"Rufu--"

"Hans, I ain't going anywhere. But for now...it's time for you to go".

"Go where?"

"To bed".

"I don't understan--"

And then he woke up.

The alcohol was the first thing to hit him. He'd clearly been drinking way too much on this particular night.

"Night". Actually, it was almost morning now. There were alcohol bottles and cigarettes everywhere. His clothes were scattered in-between, mixed with someone else's clothes, all over the floor.

This wasn't his apartment.

There was another man, whom Hans didn't recognize, sleeping next to him. The radio was on, somehow, playing a song Hans recognized as playing in his native tongue. Hadin and Hadinians had developed a weird counter-culture: some people went particularly insane with the freedoms afforded to them by more liberal cultures and the lack of a censorship board.

Oh fuck me, what the hell did I just do?

He hastily rose up from the bed, re-dressed himself, and left a quick note on the counter. Sorry, I'm not ready for this.

As soon as he closed the door to the stranger's apartment, he realized he was missing his ring.

Fucking damn it!

He proceeded to knock on the stranger's door loudly. A few moments later, a very confused and half-dressed stranger stared back at him.

"Ugh....what was your name again?"

"I forgot something," Hans said hastily. "I just need to grab it and I'm gone".

"Hey, hey now," the stranger mumbled, "all that last night and I don't even get a "thank you? What happened to common decency?"

"Look," Hans gulped, "I made a really terrible mistake. And then I made another one when I walked out the door".

"You're damn right you did? I'm quite the catch, you know".

"Wha...no. Just....I forgot my wedding ring".

"YOU'RE FUCKING MARRIED?" The stranger began to hastily slam the door shut, and it took all of Hans's strength to hold it open while still suffering the effects of a rather severe hangover.

"WAIT WAIT WAIT. WAIT. No, I'm not. I mean, yes. I mean....it's complicated!"

"Are you fucking married, or aren't you? Maybe you should call your wife and let her know where you left it --- see if she can come get it for you!"

"I don't have a wife!"

"Right, you were smoking lights. Guess the old stereotype holds: let's call your husband!"

"I don't have a husband!"

"THEN WHY THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE A WEDDING RING?!"

Hans recoiled for a moment before finally realizing that there was a line on his hand where his ring usually rested.

He stuck his right hand through the door.

"What the hell is this?"

"I wear it every day. My skin'll be paler where it usually sits".

"So?"

"That's my right hand".

The stranger was definitely Karasian --- this entire exchange was happening in Latin. The custom of wearing one's wedding ring on the right hand for a deceased fiance or spouse was universal across Karas: North or South Zanzes, Hadin, or Nui-ta, it was the same.

It took a moment for the stranger's own hungover mind to process what was happening before he said, "show me your left". Hans obliged.

There was a moment of silence before the stranger relented and opened the door fully.

"Grief is a hell of a drug".

"I'm sure all the alcohol was contributory," Hans muttered. "Anyway, look, I'm really, really sorry but....I wasn't thinking clearly last night and I'm really not ready for this kind of thing".

"I can't say that misfortune has been mine, but I still can't believe I got suckered into a one-night stand..." the stranger sighed. "Fine, grab your ring and get the hell out of here".

There was a long and awkward walk of shame all the way home, with Hans staring at his retrieved ring nearly the entire time.

When he finally made it home and sat down at his desk, he stared at his cork-board. One of the pictures pinned to the wall was of Rufus.

"You know," he muttered, "life after you really isn't worth it".

He got up from his desk for a moment and went to the kitchen, pouring himself out a shot of whiskey before returning to the chair. With his eyes still fixed on the picture, he reached into the top-most drawer of his desk and pulled out a pistol, placing it to his temple.

"Hope you don't hate me enough to cancel that wedding on the other side," Hans quipped.

He downed the drink and placed his finger on the trigger. There was silence for a moment as he tried very hard to will himself to let his finger squeeze down.

Nothing.

"Well fuck," Hans said, before putting the gun back in the drawer.

"Guess I'm just going to have to tough this one out".
Someone cares? Okay then. Economic Left/Right: -2.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.85

INFP-T personality, quite heavy on the I,P, and T.

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Nui-ta
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Founded: Feb 11, 2012
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The Vassal

Postby Nui-ta » Sat Dec 22, 2018 3:04 am

The city of Tarashka, in the state of Sangaur...


In the year A.O 978, also known as 161 years ago...





In his bedroom, the master of the house was declared dead an hour before midnight. As was the custom of the time, an attending physician oversaw the death alongside a priest, a male servant, and a lawyer.

It was a quick death. Peaceful. The deceased had been escorted to his bed with a glass of prescribed medicine after sunset. The appropriate prayers and appeals had been said. The lawyer and the deceased had then discussed a few final formalities regarding the carrying-out of the last will and testament. When all of this was over, the priest and lawyer stayed on hand to oversee the death, as the deceased drank his medicine --- a glass of poison --- and entrusted his final hours to the care of the physician and servant.

Once it was evident that the man had breathed his last, the servant was employed with the cleaning and preparation of the body for transport to the local temple. The physician did his duty of breaking the news to the wife of the deceased, who was not allowed into the room during the ritual suicide by virtue of her gender. This left the priest and the lawyer alone. They relocated themselves to the parlor of the house and discussed the night's events.

"So ends the story of our Soj-badal'a...1," remarked the priest.

"The relik'ir2 will not be pleased," the lawyer replied. "It's been only three years since we claimed our land back from those damned Zanze. To lose such an esteemed war-hero so soon, and over his damned honor, no less..."

"The Soj'a won't be suffering anymore though," the priest sighed. "With an injury like that, he'd never walk again. It's such a pity, to be sure, for him to undergo a ritual suicide, but given the grim prospects of his life in any other capacity..."

"I don't think it's fair of him to leave his wife and child fatherless".

"Given time, after the period of mourning, the Soj'i will find another husband. Sooner or later, we must all move on".

"You sound an awful lot like his ku'jai3, priest. They pressured him into it. All this talk about the family's honor...even if the man couldn't pick up a sword or a gun anymore in defense of the Monarch, could he not still have imparted his experiences to the next generation?

"You are aware of his final wishes, as the executor of his estate and will. You should know more than anyone that he has considered the fate of his descendants".

"Neither his wife nor his ku'jai will approve of his...plan. Hell, you know his wife, if she had her way, wouldn't even permit for us to send for this Tahrim Ahena, even for the funeral!"

"You sound like you don't approve of this decision much yourself".

"Of course not. We can't possibly invite a bastard to the funeral. I kept trying to tell the Soj'a to just stick to the usual formalities in his position --- giving Ahena his Sana'mal4 and be done with it".

"You're still honor-bound as his executor, and from what I hear the ku'jai are somewhat ambivalent..."

"They've no right to judge Ahena's claim to the Sana'mal, and their fine with the matter of making Ahena a vassal of the estate, if he should accept. They're not as keen about inviting Ahena to the funeral, but they've stated that under the circumstances, they'll overlook this small taboo. And then there's that final wish..."

"We needn't worry about the final wish," the priest said. "So much could change in the amount of time required".

"I should hope so," the lawyer muttered, as the sound of a woman's wailing in the distance echoed in the hallway. It was time to end their conversation.




"Daddy! Daddy look! Train!"

The steam engine was a marvel of engineering introduced by the Zanze not long before their ejection from the Karasian Isles. Tahrim could feel the tension in the air as he presented the officials with the travel permits provided by his family. The news of an old friend's death, and all of the changes that death would bring, came within a week of the actual event. The speed with which Tahrim had been notified of the death of the Count was attributable to another left-over introduction by the Zanze: the electric telegram5.

When the Count's lawyer began enforcing his will, he'd sent a message through this strange technology which had been printed out unto paper and sent by a courier to the village where Tahrim lived. On said paper, the lawyer had mentioned Tahrim's claim to Sana'mal, and the offer by the Count to hire Tahrim as a retainer of the estate, and thus allow Tahrim the benefits of moving to a much wealthier portion of the country. Though his wife Aisha was initially reluctant, the benefits of living within a proper noble estate ultimately outclassed their current lifestyle. As servants to the nobility, they could afford to abandon a life of subsistence-farming. Their son would even be afforded a basic education. Tahrim quickly sent back word of his acceptance.

Within another week, they were granted travel papers and seats aboard a locomotive bound for Kaurizil, where the Count's executor would personally arrange transport to Tarashka.

The train's whistle amused Tahrim's son Ahgal. A few moments later, the family were ushered unto the train. Even within the modest "coach" seats afforded to them, Tahrim became acutely aware that he was the lowliest person on the train. Most of the other passengers in this class were low-ranking nobility or wealthy businessmen from the ranks of the commoners. Tahrim, as a bastard, ranked even below these.

The term for a bastard in Nui-ta was a "trivada", and the term trivada was also frequently used as a slur against Tahrim's kind --- people with ancestry looked down upon even among the commoners. At least the common-folk of Nui-ta could point to being born within proper wedlock in a Stalari temple, even if the exact origins of their ku'jai were disputable. Tahrim had been the result of a brief union between a Zanze official releasing stress while on assignment, in the time of occupation, and some lowly barmaid. His wife was assumably also a trivada, with no memory of a childhood outside of being a street urchin on the outskirts of Nepos.

The offer of employ in a place as high-class as Sangaur was about the best that a bastard could hope for, and the other boons and requests made by the Count before his death on Tahrim's behalf were never stated to Ahgal or Aisha. The lawyer had advised Tahrim, in his correspondence, that while he was legally entitled to certain boons, he was better off not requesting them in a place like Sangaur, lest he rise above his station.

Attending the funeral would be the final allowance before Tahrim accepted the rifle given to him, and kept his head down in his imminent position as the retainer of the Count's household. Anything further was a gift beyond what he deserved from his days fighting alongside the Count against the Zanze. This, he swore to himself.

Of course, history would not know of this un-kept oath.




1"Soj-badal'a" both means "Count", and a proper form of address for nobility who possess this title. The female equivalent is Soj-badal'i. When speaking informally, it can be shortened to "Soj'a", or "Soj'i", depending on the gender.

2"Relik'ir", similarly, translates to either "King" or "Emperor", with the feminine being "Relik'iri".

3Ku'jai are one's clan at large: the extended family. In modern day Nui-ta, a ku'jai possess at most a small advisory or ceremonial importance. In the early days of the Second Monarchy, however, they were vastly more important (especially towards the nobility), where they made many important life decisions on behalf of their younger kin.

4An old Nui-tan military tradition, in the time where soldiers retained ownership of their weaponry, was to bequeath the weaponry to a valued brother-in-arms. This practice became known as Sana'mal. It was notable for being an extreme honor for the recipient, and for being one of the few traditions and gestures that could cross the lines of apartheid in Nui-ta's history and not be questioned. This is why, in this story, even the extended family of a noblemen, who held such power as to coerce the nobleman to commit suicide, have no claim to said nobleman's wish to give his Sana'mal to someone who was, at the time of this story, a bastard and thus an outcast to society.

5Well, sort of. Industrial-age technologies like the steam locomotive and telegram were few and far between in Nui-ta, even going as far as the A.N 50s and A.N 60s --- but there were one or two working train lines and telegram lines between major cities. Access to what was then cutting edge technology was, of course, reserved to government matters or the concerns of the aristocracy.
Last edited by Nui-ta on Sat Dec 22, 2018 3:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
Someone cares? Okay then. Economic Left/Right: -2.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.85

INFP-T personality, quite heavy on the I,P, and T.

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Hadin
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Founded: Feb 19, 2012
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Out With The Old

Postby Hadin » Tue May 28, 2019 1:49 am

The High-Envoy was away from his desk, in another office. Nikastro's station as the leader of Hadin was such that people usually came to him, or were brought forward to him. To have Fiete Nikastro in someone else's office, therefore, was either an exceptional problem for that individual, or an extreme sign of respect.

For Janus Kafka, it was the latter. Despite being a "mere" Vir Consili, Janus Kafka was also best known within and without Hadin as Fiete Nikastro's right-hand man and chief council. Nearly every decision, every thought, and every action in the Nikastro Administration passed through Janus at some point. As far as Fiete was concerned, Janus Kafka was the most reliable man in all of Hadin --- and in about four days, Janus Kafka was posting his official retirement from public life.

"Pancreatic cancer," I'm afraid," Janus had told Fiete when he first broke the news. Somehow, Janus had done it with a smile on his face. "It's to be expected. I'm an old man".

"You're not seeking treatment?"

"I was, for a time," Janus shrugged. "Back when I first learned I had it, and when I was still keeping it under wraps".

"I'm surprised I never found out".

"My lawful son Ulrik is a doctor," Janus explained. "It's very easy to keep a secret if you choose who you share it with carefully".

"An interesting choice," Fiete mused.

"The boy owes his name and legitimacy to me. It's a lot better than merely being named "d'Patri", which is all his mother would have been able to give him."1

"I suppose..." Fiete sighed. "Still, you aren't seeking treatment anymore?"

"It's at the point now where more aggressive treatments pose more risk than benefit. I have better things to do than fight a losing battle".

Both men were sitting on opposite ends of Janus's desk. The discussion shifted slowly to questions about what Janus planned to do once he left Kopurauth and went home, and questions about what Fiete would be doing while still remaining in Kopurauth. Slowly, these topics shifted further to small talk.

How was the weather back in Janus's hometown? How were Fiete's wife and children liking this year's Midsummer Festival? What was each man's opinion on the latest Hadinian fashion trends? The nature of the decline of conversataion highlighted a fact that both men were trying to forget: their time together was coming to and end. In a few days time, Janus Kafka would leave Kopurauth for what was assuredly the rest of his life. After all of the time that both men had spent together overseeing an entire country, they had become friends.

Goodbyes were always painful --- somewhere amidst this realization, it was Janus that rose first.

"I do have some pills to take, if you'll permit me".

"By all means, do what you have to do".

Janus asked for no further permission. As Fiete watched for a moment, Janus pulled out a few pill bottles and a pitcher of water. With a moment's hesitancy, he put the water pitcher back into the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of wine instead.

"Are you sure that's healthy?"

"It certainly can't make me lose anything I wasn't already losing. Besides," Janus smirked, "I'm leaving Kopurauth soon. You'd be quite rude not to give me a proper send-off".

Fiete turned his attention to the window. The view of Kopurauth's main square, surrounded by the large Cathedral and all the office buildings and government chambers surrounding it, was a pleasant distraction from the worries on his mind. The city had changed a lot since he'd first come to it. There were far more people on the street now, even this late at night, and most of them were dressed better than they had been in the past. It was plainly obvious that Hadin had moved squarely into the second-world, sustaining an economy now that offered a standard of living higher than most other places in Noctur.

The city's lights were beautiful this late at night. It was a far cry from the backwoods little colony that he'd been born into. That thought was almost pleasant enough to ignore the sounds of Janus mixing some of his medicine into the wine.

"Are you absolutely sure that won't make things worse?" Fiete mentioned, looking back at Janus. Janus was now holding both glasses in his hand --- one of them was clearly marred and discolored with whatever medicine Janus was being given for his treatment. On the tray remained the wine bottle (mostly full), the bottle opener Janus had used to get the cork off of the wine, a few pill bottles, a pill crusher, some labelled and unlabelled vials of liquid (Fiete recognized one of them as liquid morphine sulfate), and two soiled spoons.

Janus handed Fiete the obviously drugged wine.

"I don't know, what do you think?"

"I'm not drinking that".

"No, you most certainly aren't. My medicine is in there."

"So why are you handing me this?"

"Smell it," Janus deadpanned. There was a moment of silence before Fiete finally let go of the giggle that he'd been trying to surpress.

"That's cruel, Janus".

"Hey, I'm the one who has to drink it."

"Fine, I'll share in your pain and suffering."

In earnest, Fiete leaned close to the glass and took one, swift, sharp inhale. The smell of crushed medicine in a vintage Fiete didn't recognize was absolutely rancid. Fiete turned his nose and handed the glass back to Janus.

"It definitely smells, ugh...potent".

"Yep," Janus laughed, handing Fiete the other glass, "that's medicine alright".

He paused for a moment and looked back at Fiete. "You're a good friend to humor an old man like this".

"You've been at my side for many years through this journey, Janus. Together, this nation is the strongest it's ever been. I couldn't have done that without you. Smelling whatever that concoction is, well. It's the least I can do".

There was a moment where both men just sighed and let the reality of the situation sink in before Fiete raised his own glass. "A toast, Janus. To your retirement and your replacement. If the next man is half as good as you..."

"That's not good enough, I'm afraid" Janus laughed, "but sadly old age has made its decision clear. Still, it was fun Fiete. I'll miss you".

"I will miss you too. Cheers." Both men began downing their glasses, Fiete a bit quicker than his host.

"I'm glad I got this glass".

"I suppose you would be" Janus winced, looking down uncomfortably at his own beverage before silently finishing off the rest of the glass. Janus went back to the tray and poured out a bit more wine to get the dregs of the medicine in more liquid. "If you want anymore wine, just ask".

"No thanks. You know I'm an ale drinker myself."

"Sadly, I prefer wine. And it is my office. Maybe some other time".

"Some other time, indeed. I'll come visit you, Septima willing that I have the chance before..." Fiete went silent for a moment before looking back at Janus and starting again. "You know what, Janus? Tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Aren't you booked all day with the other Envoys and the Overseer of the Zanzean Colonial Government?"

"And the Chiefs of the Hadinian Armed Forces...they're wanting to discuss fortifying our holdings off-shore".

"And I think you have to see your tailor," Janus thought. "Something, something, public appearance at the end of Midsummers? Splurging a bit on a new suit? That's not like you..."

"I'm not splurging on anything, I just need a few outfits adjusted. I think I'm getting shorter, Janus".

"That's how it starts. Next you'll be losing your car keys and thinking I'm your uncle from Junista."

"Cracking jokes now?"

"If I'm already facing old age, I may as well laugh at it Besides, a little laughter makes the morphine go down easier," Janus sighed. "Well, that and the alcohol".

"Morphine..." Fiete trailed off. "I was on that stuff once due to a procedure I had while I was in the military. That's a hell of a drug."

"Makes me have strange dreams," Janus sighed. "I dreamt the other day that my name was in a history book. School children were reading about something I did...it was surreal".

"The history books will have plenty of good things to say about Janus Kafka," Fiete smiled. "I'll make sure".

"I've done everything I possibly could for this nation, all because I want to see it rise to the best it can possibly be," Janus said, drifting off into a moment of melancholy. For a moment it seemed like he was looking through Fiete. Through the walls, past the fabric of space and time itself --- he seemed to be very much "somewhere else".

"I couldn't remember what they said I did, but I didn't like it. And that's a shame, Fiete, because I feel like you and I have done a lot of good together".

"History will remember us both fondly, Janus. That's all there is to it --- and if not both of us, at least Hadin ought to remember you".

"I would hope the opposite," Janus chuckled. "I'd rather be unknown than reviled. As for you, I'm sure you have nothing to worry about. No matter how much some of the naysayers might bitch, ultimately I think you've done all the good you can for this nation".

"The history books don't have me quite yet, Janus. It'll be hard to say how I'll be remembered, especially facing the rest of my administration with you gone".

"No," Janus sighed. Fiete noticed that he was blinking a couple of times. Janus's eyes were a bit glassy.

Janus, meanwhile, took another sip of his wine before finally answering. "No, it shouldn't be too hard to guess what they'll say about you...but you're right when you say that we won't know what the history books will say. You aren't a part of history. Not yet".

After a moment, Janus sighed. "It's getting late. It's been fun reminiscing with you over days gone by, but I need to prepare myself for the days ahead. Who knew retirement was so much work?"

"Cecilia's probably missing me," Fiete nodded. Though he would never say it outloud, this dismissal was Janus asking to be excused. After all these years of friendship, Fiete intended to respect that wish. "And I should get some sleep. Tomorrow's another long day".

"You'll need it," Janus nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow."

There was silence, other than the sound of Fiete's footsteps, as he got up out of the chair and opened the door where two guards were waiting outside.

"Oh, and Fiete?"

The High-Envoy turned back around to look at Janus and suddenly felt his blood go cold. Looking back at Janus, Fiete noticed something that he'd never seen before: a tear rolling down Janus's cheek.

"I really enjoyed working with you. I want you to know that."

"Janus, it's been an absolute pleasure. I hope we see each other again. Don't be a stranger." A moment later, Fiete disappeared into the corridor, flanked by guards, safe again. With this thought in mind, Janus closed his office door, sat back into his chair, and listened to the bells in the square toll at the top of the hour.

For the first time in what must have been decades, Janus wept. The weeping only lasted a few moments --- the bells were still echoing when Janus dried his eyes.

He steeled himself. There was much that still had to be done.

He still had four more days until retirement.




Envoy Dmitri Rasch loved his view of Kopurauth for a reason no other man in the Envoyship could boast.

Whenever Rasch sat at his desk and looked to the left, he could see the place he was born from his desk. When he was born, it had been a lower-middle class hovel. Dmitri was born in something of a shanty hospital as the only child of his parents. His father, as far as he knew, was also born and bred in Kopurauth, while his mother had come to Hadin from the island of Kavia (back when that sort of thing was still common). His half-Kavian ancestry made him the only Envoy to not boast relatively pure Hadinian heritage.

Besides being the only half-Hadinian on the Envoyship, Rasch was also the only Envoy from the state of Kopur (in which Kopurauth was located).

None of this stopped him from rising to his current position. This city was his life. 'Nothing else matters', he kept telling himself.

All his life, this was his mantra. When he was a young boy getting teased for his mixed-ancestry, his short height, or his freckles, he kept his head down. Keeping out of trouble made his mother and father happy --- nothing else mattered.

When he was a teenager and his grades were high enough to give him the opportunity to attend college on a scholarship, he accepted. His first degree was in law: something safe. Something that was guaranteed to get his family out of the hovel they were living in. He paid no mind when richer, more well-to-do students (or anyone else, for that matter), told him that he would never make it. Unlike them, he had to work to be able to afford the left-overs from his tuition, once the scholarship fees and what little his parents could throw in for assistance were done.

His father had even pulled him aside at one point and gently re-assured him that, if he needed to, he could stop school. By this point in his life, he'd already gone far enough to score a less-prestigious, but still respectable job as a legal assistant. Dmitri had politely but firmly refused this concession --- he'd come this far for a specific reason. Nothing else mattered.

The day came when he graduated and began practicing law. Concerns by his parents that his low birth and accrued debts would set him back in his career were quickly abated by an unforeseen event.

The Partition hadn't hit Hadin as hard as it had hit the main Nui-tan islands, but in times of war, the military were far less picky about who they recruited and why. Dmitri started his career in the colonial forces. His formative years were spent between patrols, breaking up small skrimishes on Hadinian lands, and one major incident where he was deployed to the then-Hadinian holding of Alinia, to support troops that were liberating that area from rebel forces.

The end of the war brought vacant positions and new opportunities. Dmitri moved from combat into a position in the colonial military's legal system, returning home to Kopurauth in the process. The prospect of a free Hadin came a few years after the Partition, under the rise of a government which was supposed to be spearheaded by a prominent local figure.

Dmitri Rasch had respected and supported Junakaur Grender's bid for peaceful separation from Nui-ta. Like him, she was from Kopurauth. Like him, she was only half-Hadinian. Like him, she understood that her bid for peaceful annexation was the only thing that mattered --- it was the only way, at that time, for things to get better. He had once thought his father's preaching about Junakaur's foolhardy nature was closed-minded thinking, just like when he'd tried to convince Dmitri not to continue with law school.

All of a sudden, Junakaur Grenders was dead. The Hadinian War had come and gone, and parts of Kopurauth were blown to bits. Antonio Rasch didn't seem like much of a closed-minded fool after that. Courtesy of the damage done to Kopurauth during the Hadinian War, Antonio Rasch was also not around for Dmitri to ask.

Dmitri instead kept his head down, working as a lawyer and bettering his circumstances while Hadin recoiled from the shock of the war. When the Theocracy rose, Dmitri quietly undertook the necessary training to become a priest. Without that training, he would never rise past the rank of Vir Consili. The necessary changes to ensure his vision for Hadin would not be available unless he was further towards the top.

Nothing else mattered.

Even when Janus Kafka walked into his office, Dmitri was repeating this mantra to himself. Even when Janus approached Dmitri with a worried look, Dmitri was repeating this mantra to himself.

He looked up at the old Vir Consili who had arrived to his office.

"Councilman Kafka".

"Envoy Rasch".

"That was a bit of a nasty show back there the other day during the council meeting".

"They got very out of hand. It was unfortunate business".

Rasch nodded a bit and motioned for Kafka to take a seat.

"If I'm going to be frank, it's one of the worst things about this great country".

"I'm not following," Janus said politely. "What is it?"

"How short-sighted most Hadinians are".

"They certainly couldn't see past their own opinions there".

"Opinions don't mean much of anything in the face of the facts. The facts are, quite simply, that we have two squabbling factions developing among the Patricians".

"We've always had different factions amongst the Patricians. I know you weren't an Envoy then, but surely you remember how much High-Envoy Hass and then-Envoy Nikastro used to squabble."

"It was widely discussed by the news, even in the round-about way they used to have to report things during the Hass days".

"Indeed it was. In a round-about way." Janus's response was almost robotic. There was a moment of silence before Janus spoke again. Dmitri noticed Janus's eyes flash to his right.

"Would you mind if I have something to drink?"

"Of course," Dmitri chuckled awkwardly. "Where are my manners? I'm the one who called you here. It would be rude not to offer you a glass of water, at the least."

Dmitri rose from his chair and walked to the water cooler at the other end of his office. A moment later, he returned with a paper cup full of water.

"I heard some bad news. You're retiring?"

"Is that why you called me here?" Janus took a sip of the water glass.

"Why else would I want to have a private conversation with you?"

Janus gestured around the room. "It's -very- private".

"Yes," Dmitri nodded. "Just us".

"Normally I would expect the Envoy of Kopur to have an aide or attendant of some kind who was responsible for the water-fetching. Maybe an intern..."

"They are all busy with other work I had for them".

"Seems awfully convenient that you would meet with me while all of your aides away".

"I can't imagine you dismissed them just to talk about my retirement with me? It's still a month and a half away".

"90 days is a very short amount of time".

"The successor to my seat in the Vir Consili is already decided, if that's what you're worried about. Olaf Gehring will be taking my place. He's worked for the Foreign Affairs office for many years now, and he's just as well informed as I am on such matters".

"I'm not here to talk about your successor".

"Then what do you want?"

The air seemed to grow cold as Envoy Rasch's silence lingered.

"Obviously I wanted to talk about the growing problem within the Council of Patricians. If I didn't, why would I have mentioned it earlier?"

"Considering that I only have a month and a half of time left on the Council, I'm not sure why I'm the one you're mentioning it to".

Janus leaned back in his chair and took a long sip of his water. "One of the nice things about retirement is going to be sleeping at night without having to worry about what the Patricians are doing".

"Leaving the Council and going into private life is exactly why you -should- be worried about what the Patricians are doing".

"A fair argument. Continue, Envoy Rasch".

"One of these days, the Patricians are going to rip themselves apart. When they do, everything this government has achieved will be lost forever".

"The Council's factions can barely agree on anything, it's true," Janus nodded. "But the High-Envoy has proven himself a very capable leader. I'm sure he'll manage".

"High-Envoy Nikastro is one of the wisest men I've ever met," Dmitri agreed. "'Capable', however...maybe, but not enough, I think".

Janus cocked an eyebrow as Rasch explained, "think about it. When High-Envoy Nico Hass's growing instability threatened to throw us into a total war, Envoy Nikastro convinced the nation to break from that path. He convinced the other Envoys to rise against Hass, and they did".

"When the Council of Patricians were squabbling over how to handle the maritime borders with Nui-ta, the High-Envoy convinced them to accept the deal with the Nui-tan Emperor that we currently have. When the nation was un-convinced to accept the deal with Arthuria, the High-Envoy convinced them. When the High-Envoy wanted to institute major reforms to the economy, he was able to convince the other Envoys to tow the line. Despite their differences, he kept them from tearing the economy apart".

Janus's eyebrow didn't seem like it could rise any higher. "You say he's not 'capable enough', but then you praise his capabilities?"

"Capabilites have limits". Dmitri's eyes narrowed as he continued.

"The High-Envoy has convinced the Patricians of increasingly difficult changes as of late. You saw how they were frothing over those decisions lately. Think of all the things that have happened as of late: some people think Arthuria is one of our greatest allies, and some think Arthuria's sheltering of Mr. Tricki is a betrayal of that alliance. Some people think we could actually have and benefit from a real, long-standing peace with Nui-ta...and others think that the decision to maintain that peace is foolish. Some people think that we should continue to focus on our domestic growth, while others think we should turn our sights back to the UNCA, and others still think we shouldn't even be a part of the UNCA".

"The temperature is rising, Councilman Kafka. With enough heat, sooner or later, everything melts. The High-Envoy is better than most at dealing with extreme heat, but even the thickest ice can only tolerate so much".

"I understand," Janus sighed, placing his half-empty cup on the Envoy's desk. "You think with enough time and impatience, Fiete will lose control of the council".

"I know with enough time and impatience that this will come to pass. The sad thing is, it isn't a critique of High-Envoy Nikastro. He's a powerful piece on the chessboard in his own right. I would venture so far as to give my opinion that he's done everything that he could have done correctly".

Rasch sighed in frustration. "He's just playing an impossible game. It's very treasonous of me to say this, but as long as the Patricians remain divided, this High-Envoyship will end with someone trying to tear the High-Envoy down. The possibilities that would result from this would be disastrous".

"Disastrous," Janus Kafka said understanding, "like the reversal of several years of progress".

"Something I'm sure every person in Hadin who gives a damn about this nation would not like to see that, no matter what their political opinions".

"Safeguarding progress is more important than anything else," Janus nodded. "I would like to go into my retirement knowing everything all my hard work hasn't been for anything. Not just mine, of course, but you seem to understand".

"And so do you," Envoy Rasch nodded. "Petty squabbles don't matter. Political opinions don't matter. Keeping the status quo of our development and progression, at any cost, is the only thing that matters".

"What do you propose then?"

"We need something to happen to unite all of the Patricians and buy their unity for a time. It won't last forever, but it will last long enough, I hope, to secure their united co-operation for the near future. Let's say the rest of both of our terms in office, for example". As he said that, Rasch sat back down in his chair and slipped a key from his breast pocket. He began to unlock a drawer at his desk.

"What kind of massive development would it take to stop the infighting between all the Patricians?"

In response to Janus's question, Rasch unlocked the drawer, fumbled around for a moment, and produced a vial of liquid in a dropper. He placed the vial on the desk in front of Janus Kafka.

"What's that?" Janus asked.

"Simply put, I want you to get the High-Envoy to drink this."

Janus's eyes narrowed. "Fiete Nikastro is not only just our High-Envoy. He is one of my personal friends. You're asking me to poison him".

"Actually, I'm asking you to kill him".

Janus rose up in anger. "I could have y---...no".

"I will have you in chains for this, at least".

"I understand he's your friend. I'm not asking you to do this out of malice".

"What you're asking, I'm not doing". It was at this moment that Janus nearly stormed out of the room.

The thing that stopped him was a man standing at the front of the office, pointing a pistol at Janus Kafka.

The door didn't open. How the hell did he get in here?

"Meet Fritz Landa," Envoy Rasch smiled. "He works for the secret police here in Kopurauth. He was special operations before that. 57 confirmed kills, you know. 57. That's very impressive, especially considering he never worked as a sniper a day in his life. I keep him around because he's very loyal, very capable, and understands the need for the things that have to happen in this nation for our continued success. I also like that he's very quiet when he wants to be".

The next thing Janus heard was the hammer of the gun being cocked. Janus just laughed. "I didn't think I'd make it this far in life just to get shot to death by a crooked Envoy and his guard-dog".

"Janus, Janus, Janus..." Dmitri sighed. "Do you think this is a threat? I didn't think an old man like you would be afraid of dying".

"If you didn't want to threaten or coerce me, why would you wave a gun in my face?"

"This is neither a threat nor a coercement. This is insurance. I can't risk Fiete Nikastro knowing that I've determined he needs to die for Hadin to progress any further. You are completely free to maintain your loyalties to Nikastro. I will not look down on you at all for that".

It was Fritz Landa who spoke next, in a thick rural accent that Janus had some difficulty understanding: "Unfortunately Councilman, we can't let ya leave this room alive without yer co-operation".

Janus thought very carefully for a moment before mustering up as much determination as he could find within himself. He turned to Dmitri Rasch. "Alright, let's say I accept your offer".

"You have done no such thing, Councilman Kafka," Dmitri smiled. "No man can make a choice without knowing the totality of the situation".

"I already know the totality of the situation. If I decline your offer, I die in this room. If I take the poison, I get to leave".

"You think I'm stupid enough to assume you won't just take the poison and then reveal me to the High-Envoy anyway? How stupid do you think I am?"

Janus cursed under his breath. Whatever the circumstances, he wasn't faking his way out of this one. He began to resolve himself to die at that moment ---- surely they would aim right for his head, yes? At least it would be painless. Despite this, he couldn't help but to ask, "but why even come to me anyway if you factored for that possibility?"

"Because I believe I can convince you, of your own accord, to agree with me. We're very similarly-minded people, Janus. We both agree that something needs to be done to keep this nation in order. We simply disagree about what needs to be done. For now".

"Given the choice, after all the man has done for the nation --- hell, for me --- I choose an option that doesn't involve him dying. Surely you must have some other plan?"

"There has to be some great sacrifice to ensure that the nation unites under the subsequent tragedy. I could arrange a few other cataclysms that would allow for such a reaction from the Patricians".

"So why murder the High-Envoy?"

"Lowest possible death toll, and lowest amount of suffering caused".

"You must be joking, Rasch".

"Think about it 'fer a minit, Councilman," Fritz Landa responded. "E's right. How many other people gotta die t' get the Council t' listen?"

"You are suggesting capital treason," Janus Kafka scowled. "And I bet you plan on benefitting from this plan? I bet High-Envoy Rasch has a nice ring to it".

"Whether or not I make High-Envoy, we can get the Patricians to listen," Rasch sighed. "But either way, we need someone to die first".

"So let's say you shoot me for my refusal to co-operate and get someone else to do the job," Janus sighed. "You seem very intent on killing Fiete Nikastro. I think your plan will survive my lack of cooperation".

"Fiete's life is already over, one way or another," Fritz Landa sighed. "Yours, however, doesn't have to end today".

"Neither do the other lives that would end if you did not accept this plan," Dmitri added. "I can find some way to get the events I need to happen to come to pass. As Officer Landa mentioned, if I need the High-Envoy dead, I'll find a way to make that happen. I can manipulate some dis-enchanted political official to attempt a coup. I can stage an accident. It would take more time than this solution I'm offering, and it would yield far more collateral damage, but I could see it come to pass".

Dmitri looked up at the ceiling. "Don't think about Nikastro, Councilman. Think about his wife and children. Let's say I kill you in this room. The next two opportunities to get the Council's attention would be either to murder the High-Envoy while he's on the way to a particular charity event happening around Midsummers....or to avoid him altogether and bomb the Council at a particular hearing scheduled in one month where particular people will be in attendance. If I bomb the Council, dozens will die. Your friend Fiete Nikastro won't be one of them, since he's scheduled to be in North Zanzes at that time...but what kind of political situation would that cause? I would be creating more discord than I would be overcoming. On the other hand, if I choose to strike at Midsummers, I'd likely kill ten to twenty people, Fiete Nikastro included".

"Let's further say that I choose to abandon all of my plans altogether. Let's say I do nothing. Sooner or later, the situation with the Patricians is bound to go badly. Someone might attempt a coup. Someone might succeed. Someone might decide, in the process, to tear down all the changes that have been so dear to you and I --- that have been so vital to the progress of the country. In the name of their purges, men like ourselves and Nikastro would likely wind up face-down in a ditch somewhere, a la Nico Hass. Based on that possibility you know damn well that doing 'nothing' for me isn't an option. And as for my other options..."

Dmitri picked up the vial from his desk and held it up in front of Janus. "You're his friend. Think about the journey he'd be making around Midsummers to get to Laetiera. A train accident would be a bad way to die. Many innocent civilians will be on that train. Fiete's bodyguards and administrative assistants will be on that train. Fiete's wife will be on that train. Fiete's son and daughters will be on that train. How old is little Anastasia now --- the youngest? I hear she just started school. I also hear she's the sweetest child in all of Hadin. It would be such a shame to involve so many other people".

Janus found Dmitri slipping the vial into his hand. "Or, I convince the only man with such elusive private access in all of Hadin to use this vial...Fiete could just have a drink with you late in the evening, one of these days. And then he could go to bed that night and never wake up. His wife would be devastated. His children would be devastated. The nation would likely be quite devastated, as a whole....but that devastation yields many possibilities and future opportunities to consolidate and grow stronger. Your friend's memory remains secure. He dies in his sleep, painlessly, the way that every man wishes he could go. I've made sure of it. His family would remain untouched. Hell, for greatest success, we'd even have to play up the tragedy of the whole thing a little bit. The greatest leader this nation has ever seen, struck down in his prime by a heart attack".

Dmitri closed Janus's fist around the vial. "I know you want to save your friend. I admire you for that. Unfortunately, you have no power to do that here...but you can choose how he leaves this world, and what that will be for".

When Dmitri let go of his hand, Janus's fist remained closed. Dmitri nodded and smiled slightly.

"You see reason, then, most likely. Good. You may go". Dmitri waved a hand to signal Fritz to open the door as an uncharacteristically stunned Janus Kafka slowly turned to the exit.

"Oh, and Janus?"

Janus turned around, wide-eyed and speechless.

"Fritz, I think it's better if you say it".

"Last week, y' had a private meeting wit' yer son. Sumthin' 'bout pancreatic cancer. Certainly explains yer retirement".

"How did you..." Janus's voice trailed off weakly. "I was so careful..."

"Dun worry, wasn't 'cuz o' Ulrik. It was just me," Fritz smiled. "I got a nasty habit of turning up in very inconvenient places. Can't guarantee I'm not watchin' y' at any given time. I know y' dun really care that I know this, o' course..."

"But if we know this," Dmitri warned, "we can know anything else. Very quickly. Don't let us down, Janus. I can promise you we'll find a way to make you regret it if you do".




It was another small council meeting. Twice a month, at minimum, the highest ranking Vir Consili met with all but one of the Envoys of Hadin to discuss matters of concern to the government. These meetings were perhaps the most interesting of all the political drama that the Hadinian government could bolster. Because only the highest of Hadin's Patricians could expect a seat, the meetings were packed with more sensitive information and intrigue than a standard government debate. There was less fear of criticism from the state media, and less fear of the possibility of leaks to pesky entities like TrickiLeaks.

At the same time, half the small council meetings were not attended by the High-Envoy, who simply couldn't be everywhere at once. His allies took the absence as an opportunity to assert their own political weight. His enemies took the absence as an opportunity to openly criticize the High-Envoy. Neutral parties among the small council took the opportunity to gauge their standing against the other heavyweights of the Hadinian political stage. Who they would support or betray was ultimately determined here.

Somewhere after a long-winded speech about the development of Hadin's economy, in what had meant to be a bid by the Head of Foreign Affairs's request for more finds to his department, an argument had broken out about the policies enacted by the current administration. That argument had escalated to a direct debate about the benefits and drawbacks of the Nikastro Administration itself.

"Things are only getting worse," Envoy Teodor Abate argued. "When I first supported High-Envoy Nikastro's bid for power, I wasn't expecting our laws to -change- as much as they have. The man has no respect for the old ways. "Sure, he's brought us a standing peace with the southern imperialists, but at what cost? Hadinian society is virtually unrecognizable from just a few years ago because of him".

"I think the Envoy of Tristicco is foregetting that Hadinian society is safe because of him," the Head of Commerce, Marius Franke said. "I think I speak for many Hadinians when I say that, no matter what anyone's opinion on Nikastro, we're all better off today than we ever were under High-Envoy Hass".

"He's right! We've thrived as much as we have in these past few years because of how well Nikastro has been able to resolve our previous international squabbles. Do you realize how much we've been able to achieve since the peace with Nui-ta?"

"No good could be worth the cost of acquiescing to the tainted Radiatian and Nui-tan elite. The road to hell is paved with good intentions".

"The working peace we have needed to grow as a society is finally here," the Head of Industry, Gerhard Airaldi chimed in. "Our people have never been more prosperous. Our nation has never had this much wealth to expend on its own development. Speaking of development, have you considered that we're better protected from those same Radiatian and Nui-tan entities --- should the peace sour --- than we ever have been before? When I was a boy, less than half of the population could read beyond an elementary school level, and getting sick in the slums was a death sentence. Now we have enough food production to put three meals on every table in Hadin, every night. Who do you think would be willing to rise up and defend the values of our great Theocracy better? A pack of starving peasants or a prosperous people with everything to lose if the first-world invaders got their way?"

"If that's true," said Valentin Fava, Head of Defense, "then explain to me why we've supposedly grown in strength and yet find ourselves bowing to the demands of greater powers in this nation?"

"That's blatantly untrue! Who do we bow too?"

"You can't seriously think so little of us that you think we're off kow-towing to some other nation!"

"Arthuria spurned us, and we didn't react. Nui-ta sits on islands in the Straits of Nar'ha-tal that are Hadinian by right".

"Nui-ta hasn't sat on anything that the Nui-tan and Hadinian government haven't jointly agreed to per the terms of our standing peace agreement!"

"Those terms were negotiated in Nui-ta's best interest. We fell in line to get them off of our backs because people thought we couldn't win otherwise and didn't want to fight. You know that's true!"

The chamber fell into a momentary unrest, with a cacophony of voices rising from every corner in agreement or protest. After much yelling, the Head of Foreign Affairs finally managed to calm everyone.

Janus Kafka, who was due to retire in a month, was the one who had managed to gain the silence of the chamber. Behind Janus, his soon-to-be-replacement Olaf Gering watched with steely eyes. Janus was best known as the right-hand man of High-Envoy Fiete Nikastro himself. When Fiete Nikastro wasn't around, Janus held an un-official position as the most powerful person in the room. Despite being a "mere" Vir Consili, Janus had enough influence and insider knowledge of the plans and powers of the Nikastro Administration to run the whole country in the moments where Fiete Nikastro couldn't be there.

All eyes were fixed on Janus as he spoke: "may I remind Councilman Fava that making peace is an action we do not perform with our friends. Not everyone here may agree with the diplomatic approach to handling our enemies, but we can all agree that it is certainly a less exhausting option than war".

"Making peace with our enemies is a sign that we're backing down, and I don't want to be a part of a Hadin that backs down from an enemy. Sure, things are fine now according to some of you. Let's imagine for a moment that the first-world finds some reason to find fault with us, however. What do we do when Radiatia the giant decides that we've done something they don't particularly care for?"

"As disgusting as Radiatians are, we can rely on their indolence. Most Radiatians don't want anything more than to watch pornographic filth on their television sets and eat themselves to death with what passes for food in that country. Furthermore, they are a democracy. With mob rule in such a country by such an indolent populace, we can avoid a fight with the giant simply by not waking him up".

"You miss the point! Trying not to wake the giant isn't the same as being prepared for when the giant wakes up! Eventually all giants wake up! If we really want to make our mark on this world and solidify a real future for ourselves, we need to be able to do so without worrying about being able to negotiate for that future".

"Our future should never be up for negotiation," others agreed.

"It isn't up for negotiation though!" Still others argued back.

"Councilman Kafka wants to talk about his faith that we're able to negotiate our security abroad, but let's discuss Nikastro's failings at home! Once upon a time we used to deal with ur criminals and domestic threats effectively. Nowadays, we practically have a blind eye to criminals on the street. There's no need for me to tell you that the Hadinian mafia have regained some serious ground in this country. Do you really want to see the return of underground brothels and gay bars? Do you want to see political information on the black market? Do you want to be held accountable by the people when organized robberies start?"

"None of those things you're trying to scare everyone with have happened yet! Look at this man --- one TrickiLeaks article or so about the Hadinian mafia and suddenly you're afraid they're lurking in your doorstep? Are you some kind of coward?"

"You might be trying to insult me, but by bringing up the worrisome topic of TrickiLeaks you've just given me more means with which to prove my point. Dissidents still leave this country and slander it from afar in a fashion not unlike a certain 'Mr. Tricki'! Who lets most of them out? The Hadinian Mafia --- and they've grown rich in the process!"

"Mr. Tricki --- Hans Sebastino --- did not leave this country with the help of the Hadinian mafia. Once again, you're just sensationalizing things".

"Firstly, I'm not going to grant that degenerate the satisfaction of being called by that name. Calling that fag by the name Hans Sebastino legitimizes his insane claim that a man can have with another man what is meant to be between a man and a woman. There was never any wedding. There was never any law that recognized their disgusting relationship. Mr. Tricki's name is Hans Yarringsen!"

"Secondly, may I remind all present that one of our great diplomatic concessions to the outside world was forgiving Arthuria for allowing Mr. Yarringsen political asylum in their country? Considering that he was masquerading as a law-abiding citizen and government aide, and that he disappeared during an off-shore meeting between Hadinian and Arthurian diplomats before his re-appearance in Arthuria, I want an explanation as to how the supporters of this government propose to prevent other dangerous individials from gaining that kind of clearance! Furthermore, I want an explanation from them as to why they saw it as necessary to let Arthuria off for such a betrayal without so much of a slap on the wrist!"

"Arthuria remains one of our most valuable allies! What would we have done, demanded they send us his head on a platter?"

"Arthuria isn't even part of the UNCA! What we -should- have at least attempted to do was demand his return through the process of extradition! How much sensitive information did that man have in his head when he left?"

"We aren't even here to debate Mr. fucking Tricki!" Another voice, previously silent, boomed from the back of the room. This was Envoy Dmitri Rasch's first entrance into the political foray happening in the room. "He's long gone. I hear he'll be a citizen in Arthuria before long. They can keep him. The boy was a traitor and a degenerate. He might have done a fine job for a while as far as blending into Hadinian society and posing as a fine, upstanding man, but he ultimately had no place in this country".

This response was so unexpected that no one seemed to have anything to say. Seizing the opportunity provided by the moment of silence, Dmitri Rasch rose from his chair, signaled everyone to be quiet with a finger to his lip, and then began to speak.

"I would like to acknowledge that the Nikastro High-Envoyshi has been unprecedented, extraordinary, and controversial. There isn't a singal point here that has been said that can be contested, in my mind. We've had our fair share of ups and downs these past few years. The single fact of the matter is that High-Envoy Fiete Nikastro has been both Hadin's greatest blessing over the past few years, and the greatest threat to this nation's way of life".

Dmitri's focus shifted to the stalwarts in the room. "On the one hand, you can't just deny that the High-Envoy hasn't changed this country for the better. Do any of you really want to go back to Hadin under High-Envoy Nico Hass? Sure, we had a tighter hold on the populace. Sure, we could enforce a greater measure of law and order. However with Nico Hass's skill in keeping the populace unified, he also managed to keep them miserable, sick, and engaged in wars they wouldn't benefit from. If High-Envoy Hass had kept power through the end of the Karasian War, there's no doubt in my mind that we would have been dealing with an internal rebellion afterwards. The country would have sunk into anarchy. High-Envoy Nikastro came in and placated that same disenfranchised populace with a few civil freedoms, a better economy, and most importantly, the avoidance of a greater war. Is there anything so terribly bad about that?"

The room was silent. One of the moderates among the stalwarts, Envoy Matfei di Pascari, gave a nod to Dmitri. With this nod, Dmitri turned his attention to the more liberal faction of the council.

"And yet, there's also the fact that High-Envoy Nikastro has empowered some less desirable elements of our society. The danger they pose in turning the world and our own people against this government, if given enough time, cannot be denied. Considering that criminals, dissidents, and social rejects are gaining more of a platform than they ever should have had in regards to this country's movements, one can understand why there are some things our great High-Envoy does which are not well-received".

"Now, do we really want to fight each other about this?"

Everyone remained silent and listened. Envoy Rasch smirked thinly and continued his argument.

"I'd like to remind everyone that despite our concerns about what direction we should go in that it is our unity that keeps this nation standing. Our unity keeps us able to maintain the prosperity this nation has come to consider commonplace, and our unity keeps us able to be strong enough to displace the threats against us. We must reflect on that considerably if we want to get anywhere in this country, under this High-Envoy or any other. 100 years from now, it will be the same way".

With that, Rasch clapped his hands together one time. In the silence around him, the sound echoed through the chamber.

"I would like to motion for a recess," he said, aiming his eyes at Janus Kafka. Murmured "yea's" could be heard around all sides of the room --- this day had been an exhausting one.

"It seems like a good time for everyone to have a moment and get a drink. We've already had enough time to wrack our brains with political conjectures. We all know that we want the same things. We want order. We want strength. We want prosperity. We don't need to sit and argue with each other over how we're going to manage these goals. Sitting and arguing is for those so-called democratic countries and their campaigning leaders. We don't campaign here".

"We think deeply, sometimes over a cold glass of lager. And then we act".




1d'Patri is one of a couple of common surnames assigned to people in Hadin who cannot traditionally take the surname of their father. One of many reasons this could happen is bastardry, but other reasons include falling into a status where you would become a ward of the state. [Due to how family law and nomenclature work in Hadin, this frequently happens with orphans who were born to legally married parents but later came into the care of the state. It can happen in a couple of other circumstances as well to grown individuals, particularly women].

In the case of Ulrik Kafka, he was born as the bastard child of his mother, but then legally adopted by Janus Kafka upon his mother's marriage to Janus, which allowed him to use the Kafka surname in place of the more embarassing surname of d'Patri.

In fact, the surname can be so stigmatized in some circumstances that it is the only surname which is commonly dropped upon marriage or adoption (whereas Hadinian custom typically dictates that women who are married use hyphenated surnames to dictate both their parentage and marital status).
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

User avatar
Hadin
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Posts: 193
Founded: Feb 19, 2012
Ex-Nation

In With The New

Postby Hadin » Tue May 28, 2019 1:52 am

Others recognized the High-Envoy's quarters as the official residence of the Hadinian Head of State and his family. Alexei Patrocia-Nikastro had only ever known it as home.

On the morning in which his life changed forever, he had not been home. Three blocks away from the Central Square of Kopurauth, Alexei was away at the residence of a school friend. It was the tenth birthday party of his classmate Matvey, and Alexei had begged for days to be allowed to go for the party, which included a sleep-over. Matvey's mother had initially suggested the idea to Mrs. Nikastro one day at a school event. Despite Alexei's begging and pleading, Cecilia had initially refused to allow him to attend.

Something must have changed her mind at some point, because Alexei was informed of his ability to attend the party by none other than Fiete Nikastro himself.

He knew Fiete Nikastro wasn't -really- his father. Alexei's hyphenated surname was all that was required to display this fact. Even though he couldn't remember this himself, Alexei had been born as just Alexei Patrocia, and didn't earn the hyphenation to his name until his much older sister's marriage to then-Envoy Fiete Nikastro, and Alexei's subsequent legal adoption as Fiete's "son".

There was a feeling of betrayal in his younger years --- the first brush with the concept of the word "betrayal" that he could remember --- when Cecilia had explained to Alexei that his surname was written as it was because she was not really his mother, and Fiete was not really his father. He felt out of place in a society where people paid attention to these hyphenated names (especially when they happened to be a given to a male). He felt even more out of place to know that his and Cecilia's real father, Cecilia, had essentially given Alexei away before Alexei could remember him.

As much as Cecilia tried to explain that this was done for Alexei's benefit, the boy couldn't bring himself to call Fiete "father" after that incident. Much to Cecilia's chagrin, Alexei instead referred to him passively as "Signor1".

He had continued this habit even into what would be his last interaction with Fiete Nikastro.

"Alexei," Fiete had called him. The High-Envoy had semi-casual attire on. He was apparently going to meet with the man whom Alexei knew as "Councilman Kafka". Cecilia was standing nearby, holding Alexei's youngest sister in both arms.

"Signor".

Fiete's shoulders stiffened slightly for a moment, but then relaxed. He approached Alexei carefully and bent down to get on one knee. While it was a commonly known fact that Fiete Nikastro suffered from arthritis, only the Nikastro family knew that it was bad enough to be quite the hindrance. Fiete winced a bit while going down to Alexei's eye-level.

Alexei stood in silence.

"Your sister tells me you were wanting to go to a sleep-over with your friend? What's his name again? Matvey?"

"Matvey Raimund," Cecilia Nikastro clarified. Alexei looked up momentarily and noticed that Anastasia was playing with Cecilia's braid.

"Ah, yes. I remember now," Fiete nodded. "Mrs. Raimund also though it would be a nice experience for you. Did you still want to go?"

Alexei's response, rather stoically, was "of course..." Somewhere underneath that response, the boy imagined that Fiete was here to break bad news to him.

It was thus a bit of a surprise when Fiete smiled and broke the rather frigid air between himself and Alexei by giving Alexei a pat on the shoulder.

"I figured I'd stay out of it, but then I heard from someone that you had the highest marks in your class. How come you didn't tell me?"

Silence. Fiete sighed and decided to just continue.

"Anyway, I feel that deserves a reward. I asked Cecilia to let you go have some fun. I'm glad you're working really hard but you should have some fun".

Alexei just nodded casually. "Thank you, Signor".

He could hear Fiete sigh in exasperation. Cecilia could be heard asking after Fiete, noticing the frustration in his voice.

"Alexei, could you do me a favor? Please?"

"Yes, Signor?"

"Could you stop calling me that?"

Alexei answered back meekly, "I don't have anything else to call you. You aren't my dad, remember?"

"Call him 'Brother'," Cecilia asked. "If you want to be technical, he is your older brother-by-law". Given her blindness, Cecilia couldn't see their expressions, but she could feel a strange reaction in the air from both of them the moment she had said that.

Alexei felt awkward calling Fiete "brother" given that Fiete was old enough to be his actual father. Fiete, though he would never admit it, felt a bit hurt by the fact that he'd adopted Alexei into his home in infancy and thus secretly considered Alexei to be his own son.

Finally, Fiete decided on something rather unconventional. "How about just 'Fiete'? At least in private?"

"No!" Cecilia protested. "He can't just call you Fiete! He's so much younger than you!"

"Does it really matter?" Alexei mumbled. Cecilia had started to say something, but then stopped. Alexei looked up for a moment to notice that Fiete actually looked quite hurt by that last comment.

"I-it's fine. You're right, I guess it doesn't matter. Forget I said anything".

"Fiete, it does matter," Cecilia began to protest. Fiete stopped her.

"No, no, it doesn't. He's just a kid, Cecilia. I shouldn't have said anything. We shouldn't be focusing on petty formalities anyway. This doesn't change anything".

He smiled down at Alexei. "You won't be a kid forever. You should enjoy it while you can. Go have fun at the sleep-over, okay? Tell your sister all about it tomorrow morning. Depending on when you get back, I might be around to hear about it as well".

Alexei tried hard to suppress an eye-roll and just nodded. As nice as Fiete seemed, one of the reasons why Alexei couldn't feel as close to him as a genuine father was because of all of the times in which Fiete was gone in the morning, or late at night.

Soon after that conversation, once again, Fiete Nikastro was gone. Alexei Patrocia-Nikastro put the incident out of mind quickly and spent the rest of the day at school, and then having fun at the sleep-over that he'd finally been allowed to attend. In the background, he vaguely noticed the armed men who took shifts outside of the Raimund's home that night. As much as everyone else considered him Fiete Nikastro's son, to Alexei, they were just a reminder of his awkward social status. He put them out of mind as quickly as he noticed them, for as long as he could.

It was the morning of May 18th when a pounding at Matvey's bedroom door had alerted Alexei to what would be the end of life as he'd known it. Mr. and Mrs. Raimund had ushered Alexei up quickly. Two visibly uniformed officers of the Red Guard were waiting for him.

Alexei did not understand why they ushered him out of the Raimund's home so quickly and hurried to drive him back home. Amidst the backdrop of the sunrise in Kopurauth and the sound of static cutting out intermittently on a guard's earpiece, it was obvious that something was out of place.

Peeking out from the window of the car into the world, Alexei noticed a large crowd of people gathered around the display of an electronics store. All of the TVs in the window had a screen which looked like a "breaking news" screen. The guards were careful to drive the car around the Cathedral and government buildings so that they could enter the residential portions of this section of town from the back. As they were circling around, Alexei noticed the largest crowd he'd ever seen gathered in the square. They were all reporters, he could see. The window of the car was cracked just barely --- enough for Alexei to hear words coming from the crowd.

"Is it true?" Someone shouted. "Is he really dead?!"

"When did this happen? Does anyone know how?"

"What do you mean, they think he had a stroke?"

When the guards ushered Alexei up the steps to the High-Envoy's residence, Alexei still hadn't figured out what had happened. Everything at home seemed normal when he first entered the apartments. His three younger sisters, all too young to understand what was happening, were playing in a corner with their dolls while another guard stood over them.

Slowly, things started to seem out of place. There were two doctors and a few government aides running in and out of the living quarters to the master bedroom. Alexei had never seen so many people in his home before.

When things finally started to make sense was the moment that he was ushered into the kitchen. Alexei then noticed his sister sitting off in the corner, flanked on either side by another guard and a nun, the latter of whom was consoling her.

Alexei had never seen his sister cry so much.

"What happened?" He asked. Cecilia noticed his presence and grabbed him without saying a word. She held him as tightly as she could.

"Sis, what happened?" Alexei asked again, uncharacteristically screaming this time.

"Councilman Kafka!" The nun said, interrupting them, getting up to greet the aforementioned man as Alexei saw him enter the kitchen.

"Cecilia," Janus Kafka sighed. "I'm so sorry. I'm so very sorry..."

"Oh my god..." Cecilia trailed off. "This can't be real. Everything seemed fine when he got home..."

"Mrs. Nikastro, these things happen..."

"What. Happened?!" Alexei screamed again.

There was silence for a moment, yet again in Alexei's life, before Cecilia composed herself and explained what was going on to Janus Kafka.

"He was at a sleep-over last night. They only just brought him home. He doesn't know".

"Son," Janus said calmly, walking over to Alexei and bending down to meet him at eye-level. It was the same thing that Fiete had done last morning, and yet Alexei felt himself bristle uncomfortably at the motion.

"I'm very sorry to tell you this, but, well..."

"Your adoptive father, Fiete Nikastro, died last night in his sleep".




After extensive review by the Kopurauth Medical Board and Department of Health, the High-Envoy's death was ruled to be the result of a pulmonary embolism. A funeral was held in the Dalena Cathedral of Kopurauth, and Fiete Nikastro was interred with full honors in the cemetery adjunct to that cathedral, where every High-Envoy with the exception of Nico Hass was laid to rest.

The Patricians debated for a week over who would take Nikastro's main office of High-Envoy before selecting Suile-Blan's Matfei di Pascari. Two days after that, the Council of Patricians collectively agreed to raise Bishop Gianmarco Schvets to the rank of Envoy, filling the empty seat left over from Nikastro's home state. As Matfei di Pascari settled in with his family in the High-Envoy's quarters, Fiete Nikastro's wife and children faced the next chapter of their life, away from Kopurauth.

Given that both Fiete and Cecilia's parents were dead, Cecilia Nikastro feared being placed into state custody2. If this were to happen, they would give her very little time before marrying her off to someone else, and Cecilia doubted that any other Hadinian man would be as kind to her as the late Fiete.

Her fears were alleviated when the terms of her husband's last will and testament were carried out. Faithful to the end, Fiete Nikastro had made arrangements so that, if it came to it, his younger brother would assume custody. Marwen Nikastro may have been a simple clerk in Salutem, but he was as kind as his brother. He also had a wife who was a good friend of Cecilia's, and his children got along well with their cousins through Fiete. Furthermore, being under Marwen's wing gave Cecilia freedom from needing to marry again until she wished it. Unlike the state, her brother-in-law would give her plenty of time to mourn.

"You're my family, just like he was. You take as long as you need," Marwen told her, "and you stay as long as you want".

With all these matters settled, the books closed on the Nikastro Era, and a new chapter began under Matfei di Pascari. The media commented on his similarities and differences from his predecessor. Like Nikastro, di Pascari was focused on economic growth. Like Nikastro, di Pascari seemed relatively uninterested in a return to the religious ultra-conservatism that had dominated Hadin during the Labriola and Hass High-Envoyships. Like Nikastro, he also kept close council with one Patrician in particular. As Janus Kafka left Kopurauth forever to retire in Aelia, Envoy Dmitri Rasch stepped forward as the new right-hand man to the new High-Envoy.

Unlike Nikastro, di Pascari did not seem as interested in diplomacy. While he was not hawkish in his dealings with countries like Nui-ta and Arthuria, di Pascari was also quick to shy away from continued diplomatic engagements with them. Furthermore, unlike Nikastro, di Pascari was heavily invested in colonizing Hadinian territories in North Zanzes. While Nikastro had only loosely enforced colonial governments in the area, di Pascari pushed for industrialization and for Hadinian entities to move into North Zanzes and leverage the increase in territory and resources as much as possible. Unlike Nikastro, di Pascari returned some authoritarianism to Hadin. The public mainly accepted this as a move to distance di Pascari from one of the only critiques that had heavily plagued Fiete Nikastro's rule --- a lax enforcement of law and order.

Besides, it wasn't like di Pascari was taking away any advancements that Nikastro had pushed forward. He was just ensuring the laws could be enforced better.

Overall, the beginning of the di Pascari High-Envoyship was well recieved. Knowing that Hadin seemed to remain in good hands, most of the populace continued on with their lives: business as usual.

And so it was with some trepidation that Dr. Pietro Kistner nursed his doubts about the future.

When Fiete Nikastro's final autopsy was being conducted, the Hadinian Medical Board had a few government doctors sign off on their findings. They also had an independent doctor, Dr. Orso Volk, observe the autopsy. At that time, Kistner had been conducting his final year of residency under Dr. Volk. Due to a mix-up in the scheduling, Kistner had been present for part of the otherwise closed-off autopsy.

The other doctors would not talk to him. Dr. Volk had done his best to keep Kistner as "off-to-the-side" as possible. At one point, Kistner noticed that Fiete's organs looked too perfect for someone who had suffered from an embolism at all. Strangely, his liver seemed to be quite damaged. When Kistner brought this up to Dr. Volk in private, he was told in no uncertain terms that he must have been hallucinating, and to take the next few days off.

"I'm sure I saw what I did though," Kistner had protested.

"Boy, you will go home, take a day of rest, and then spend the next two days re-reading your pathology books until you understand the error of your observations".

Once Dr. Volk further threatened him with a damning review to the licensing board, Kistner realized what was really being said to him.

"Forget what you saw, or suffer the consequences".

Even with his silence and subsequent "acceptance" of the board's findings, Dr. Kistner noticed the same few faces frequenting the bar he went to occasionally. The same few police patrolled outside of his home at night, and those patrols seemed to increase. Something compelled him to swipe a damning copy of the autopsy report, full of retractions and photographic evidence that supported the theory that Fiete Nikastro's untimely death was not quite what it seemed. Knowing that he was being watched, Dr. Kistner kept the copy very carefully hidden. His drawers, file storage, and desk were all terrible hiding spots. After much deliberation, he decided on hiding the documents behind the cardboard backing of an old family photo. It stayed up in the attic, collecting dust and looking very unassuming.

Within days, Dr. Volk left for an official trip to a mortician's conference in another state, leaving Dr. Kistner to practice alone. Unguarded. The walls were beginning to close in --- with Dr. Volk gone, there would be no witnesses if something were to suddenly happen to Dr. Kistner. He would likely only have a few days to act.

Through his patients, Kistner very carefully determined who was a threat and who was a potential ally. The 26-year-old bearded man was an incompetent narcotics seeker. Careless.

The 35-year-old stockbroker was probably a secret police plant. Definitely not a safe option.

The 30-year-old woman with chronic heart palpitations loved Kistner dearly, but she had a brother who seemed politically inclined. Not a safe bet.

And then one day, Dr. Kistner noticed the old man with the gash across his eye. There was no acknowledged record of military service, and yet the man seemed battle-hardened. Upon further investigation, Kistner was sure that over 35 years ago, this man had fought -against- the Hadinian Liberation Front, and then quietly covered up his pro-democracy sympathies.

It became clear that this old man would be the key to everything. The day came when another appointment was scheduled. Kistner carefully removed the autopsy paperwork from the old picture frame.

The world needed to know.




1"Signor" is the Hadinian equivalent of "Sir".

2A woman may not lead a household in patriarchal Hadin. If a married woman is widowed, she and her underaged children are returned to their father's custody, or her father-in-laws if the former is not possible. If either option is unavailable, the local government typically becomes responsible for their custody until such time that a new match can be made. Some more diligent husbands, however, can make alternate arragements in the event that the worst comes to pass, to avoid having their wives and children be sent to the state.
Last edited by Hadin on Sat Jun 01, 2019 10:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

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Radiatia
Powerbroker
 
Posts: 7928
Founded: Oct 25, 2011
Capitalizt

Postby Radiatia » Wed May 29, 2019 12:57 am

State of the Federation 4065
Steven McCarthy

"We're all in this together"



"Thank you Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of the Federal Parliament, First Lady - it's a frosty trip home if I forget her [Laughter] - and most importantly, my fellow Radiatians.

"Almost a year ago, I was given the greatest honour of my life when I was asked by the Radiatian people to serve as our nation's President. I used that occasion to reflect on where we've been as a nation, for we had just celebrated a half century of freedom, and I was and am the first President to have been born after the fall of communism.

"That was a time of reflection on the past, but today I'd like to share with you my thoughts on the future.

"It's true that we have come a long way: Radiatia, as it stands, is the beacon of democracy and torch bearer for Free Noctur, a far cry from the oppression that generations before endured.

"We are by far the wealthiest nation in Noctur - so wealthy that the poorest 10% of Radiatians still rank among the top 30% of the world in terms of wealth.

"We have become the envy of Noctur, and it's why over the last few years we have seen an influx of millions of New Radiatians, who have arrived from other lands, wanting to make the most of the opportunities that decades of hard work and efficiency have brought.

"Facts are facts - Radiatia did not become an economic superpower because of big government, or because of who was President at the time. It was through the innovation, dedication, hard work and efficiency of the Radiatian people. It was through decades of sacrifice - long work hours, a limited social safety net and for a time in the face of scarce resources and our infamously harsh climate.

"Yet despite these things, the people - not the politicians - but the people rose to overcome these challenges and build what is today the wealthiest and most powerful nation Noctur has ever known.

"But we cannot rest on our laurels when there is so much more to be done!

"By landmass we are the largest nation in Noctur, by population we are among the fastest growing, and the challenges we face are what I would describe as 'Radiatia-sized'!

"The accession of eight new states to our Federation has brought as many challenges as it has benefits - but chief among them is the fact that the quality of infrastructure in our new states is often far below what Radiatians in the rest of the Federation expect and demand.

"We also face challenges too in terms of the quality of life in some of our new states - our nation's enormous wealth has yet to trickle down to some of the more isolated and rural parts of the new states, and many of the cities need cleaning up too.

"I travelled to the city of Gengaia, Numongolis and though I was in awe of the city's rich heritage and beauty, I was shocked when I travelled to the outer suburbs and found families living in slums, four families living under a single sheet of corrugated iron in areas where street gangs have so much power that local police are too scared to venture in.

"It is the kind of sight I expected to see in the third world - not in the richest nation in Noctur!

"During the Autenberg Administration we launched a massive infrastructure building programme targeted at the northern states, and rural areas. I am today asking Parliament to expand this programme so that we can ensure that residents of Numongolis, North and South Chiridia, Chauch, Navanga, Norfus, Naras and Slibezoneer can enjoy the stand high standard of living that the rest of our Federation enjoy.

"Infrastructure will be the key focus of my administration - we are long overdue for a major overhaul of the nation's highways and trainlines, and we risk falling behind the rest of the world if we don't act soon.

"Ageing tracks rotting away in the middle of the desert have prevented the rise of high speed rail, which could transport not just people but billions of Tsenyens worth of goods, quickly and efficiently, across our nation and abroad for export.

"Rotting potholed and weather-beaten interstate highways have turned the great Radiatian roadtrip into, in many cases, the great Radiatian gamble - with some parts of the interstate so treacherous that people have to be known to write their wills in advance of driving on them, expecting not to survive. And I have seen tragic statistics that suggest they're not wrong to do so.

"What is the point of having a thriving automotive industry, when our federal roads simply aren't up to the task of being somewhere that new and ever more high-powered vehicles can safely ride on?

"It's a national security risk too - in the unlikely event that we ever face a direct attack, poor infrastructure could lead to difficulties mobilising troops. It sounds absurd but right now it takes longer to send a mechanised unit from Fort Affa, Mendovium to the southern border of Naras than it does to take a train from Hyuganberg to Nepschu.

"I would at the point like to convey how pleased I was to be open to open the Yissel mountain tunnel on the Exe-Rad high speed line, which will ensure swift transport links between our largest city, our oldest city, and the nations on our southern border.

"In terms of defence, we will continue to fund our military at the present level. We will continue to invest in next generation technology - new tanks, new weapons for our infantry and continued research on stealth technology for the Sea Force.

"We will continue operating military bases both here and abroad and it is my desire to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform see across the board payrises in recognition of their service to our nation. Anyone who serves our nation should not be struggling to feed their family.

"At present we are enjoying a period of peace and prosperity that we have not seen in some time. Our nation have not been in a major armed conflict in over a decade, and troubled areas of the world such as the Karasian Strait and Tressian Gulf remain quiet because our enemies jnow that the Sheriff of Noctur is always watching.

"I anticipate that the real battle to be fought is one that must be fought at home - I am of course referring to the ongoing struggle against corruption!

"There is not a single person in this room who is not aware of the amount of dirty money in politics. But we must remember that our power is far greater than that of any corporation, or of any multinational. And the people we serve - the Radiatian people - are far more important masters than those who donate us money in exchange for whatever favours are asked of us.

"But of course there are far more sinister and harmful forms of corruption in our nation that must be overcome. I am talking about the presence of the mafia in some of our police forces, the bribery of our judicial systems, the number of officials who will turn a blind eye to the most heinous of crimes in exchange for a few Tsenyens.

"Corruption is harmful. It means innocent victims remain unsafe from crime. It enables human traffickers to get away with their vile trade - and by the way I am ashamed to note that even today, Radiatia remains the mecca for human traffickers in Noctur. It breeds extortion, racketeering and undermines the kind of efficiency that we as Radiatians strive for.

"I also believe, as controversial as it may be, time for us to review our tax system and ask in whose interests does it serve. The time has come to redesign the system in such a way that we retain the efficiency of our present system but ensure that those at the top, with the least to lose, are meeting their obligations to the rest of society.

"For too long the ultra rich have not been paying their fair share and I ask for your help to change this.

"We will continue to invest wisely in policies and programmes that not only create jobs, but which aid businesses in creating jobs. I am pleased to report on the strength of our energy sector - Radiatia is now the biggest crude oil exporter in Noctur. But we cannot rely on commodities along to secure our prosperity - we must invest and plan wisely for the future, including one in which petroleum is no longer the dominant energy source for the world's population.

"My fellow Radiatians, we did not get to where we are through luck, or by finding favour with a nonexistent deity. We got to where we are on our own, through our work ethic, our efficiency and our sense of rugged individualism. I have not the slightest doubt in my mind that we have it in us to rise to any and all of the challenges before us.

"We are Radiatians. Though individualism may be ingrained in our culture, the truth is that we rise together and we fall together. We are all in this together, and I have full confidence that as always, Radiatia will prevail!"
Last edited by Radiatia on Wed May 29, 2019 1:03 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Hadin
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Founded: Feb 19, 2012
Ex-Nation

Dark Clouds

Postby Hadin » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:26 pm

These had been the worst two months of Matfei di Pascari's life.

The protests had started in his hometown of Caesal. It was understood that there would be protests in the street after TrickiLeak had gotten their hands on the autopsy report of the previous High-Envoy. When Caesalites shouted in the streets that they wanted the truth, the Envoys had paid the situation very little mind.

Fiete Nikastro was a well-liked leader, and there was understandable anger at his death and the possibility that he had been murdered. After much debate, the official story that the Patricians cooked up was that TrickiLeaks was "right".

The autopsy job was rushed and incompetently documented. The doctors in charge of the post-mortem were co-erced, behind the scenes, to plead guilty in a rather public judicial affair about how poorly they had done their job and how suspicious they had made the whole affair. Matfei di Pascari found himself praying to all seven aspects of the Great God in gratitude for Dmitri Rasch and his friend, Fritz Landa. Officer Landa had managed to use his ties within the secret police to make sure the doctors all said exactly what the Patricians wanted them to say.

Some Hadinians were satisfied with the trick, and life seemed to return to normal. At least, it seemed normal, before the Caesal protests started.

These were the general, disorganized, student protests. Many college-aged youths had decided they knew how to run the nation, and started protesting for unreasonable concessions on things like free speech and voting rights. Maybe they were idealistic. Maybe they had read one too many books or managed to get their hands on one too many banned discourses on democracy. Maybe some of them were hoping for some sort of political unrest and disruption, given that Hadin was in a particularly weak position.

No change in leadership was ever seamless or perfect.

Unfortunately, the problem didn't stop at Caesal. The protests had spread across most of Hadin, reaching cities like Jubilee, Aethel, and Krostas. Even in Kopurauth, there were noticeable signs of unrest. One month in, the government had responded by limiting access to the nation's intranet, but that only made things worse.

At this moment, there was a particularly notable protest in Brokal-Weiss. A state away from Kopur, Brokal-Weiss was notable for being the capital city of the neighboring state of Beliti. During the Hass Envoyship, it had also been infamous for a stronger presence of anti-Theocracy resistance than other cities had noted.

The Envoy of Beliti, Anastasio Vacario, was away at home, hoping that his presence might help restore some law and order. Brokal-Weiss had now been up in arms for a week. Even worse, what began as a movement limited to affluent, over-pampered college students had now spread to include the working class. Young and old, man and woman, wealthy and poor --- Brokal-Weiss was unique in that so many more Hadinians were now revolting.

All the more reason to act quickly.

As Matfei was wont to do in other circumstances, he called upon his closest ally to counsel him during this difficult time. Rasch had suggested that this incident had gone on long enough. Despite their reservations, they had ultimately decided that Brokal-Weiss needed to be made an example of.

On the morning of August 9th, NC 4065, the High-Envoyship declared martial law in Brokal-Weiss. As with all such unfortunate incidents such as this, everyone knew there would be clashes between the populace and the forces sent to keep order. Even when tanks and soldiers marched into the city in a show of dominance, the soldiers were ordered not to use lethal force. Tear gas, pellet guns, water hoses, pepper spray --- there was no reason to make this overt show of power worse than it needed to be. It stood to reason that many in Brokal-Weiss would see the military arrive and realize that their little stunt was over.

What had happened next had shocked the Hadinian nation to its core. Like many others, Matfei di Pascari saw this incident on live television. News outlets had somehow managed to cover the situation with a live broadcast, and as per protocol, had been instructed to paint the situation with as many pro-government colors as possible.

The silence of the reporter at that one critical moment was a sign of just impossible this was going to be.

As the line of tanks rolled into the city, an old man approached and stood in defiance. The relatively narrow streets of Brokal-Weiss had made it difficult for the operator of the lead tank to manuever quick enough. Furthermore, with the advance of tanks following him, he could not stop.

The elderly man's name had been Boris Danovich. Boris had apparently been quite the Hadinian patriot, serving with distinction for the Hadinian Liberation Front during the Hadinian War, and then serving until retirement age after that in the Hadinian People's Army. It was increasingly difficult for the goverment to put any kind of blemish on Danovich's character --- and covering up the incident altogether, thanks to the live news feed, had been impossible.

As a result of the incident, the enacting of martial law had resulted in the opposite effect compared to what was intended. The populace became so much more resistant that non-lethal force was not enough to keep the peace. The numbers varied from source to source: some said that only a handful of protestors died, and only a handful more were hospitalized. Others painted a much more distressing picture. Even worse, the rest of the world soon came to know of these incidents, thanks to persons within Brokal-Weiss that managed to leak images and videos of the events to the outside world. Matfei did not want to hear the word "TrickiLeaks" one more time this week.

Soon, TrickiLeaks would be the least of his problems. In retrospect, maybe he should have seen the dark clouds forming when the Envoyship all went home to their states of origin.

He should have known some of them weren't coming back.
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

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Hadin
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Founded: Feb 19, 2012
Ex-Nation

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Postby Hadin » Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:00 pm

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same"




"Who comes up with these things? Technology, am I right?"

There was a click from the merchandise dispenser as Locker 32's door opened. Inside were various items that had been ordered online, via the Decennia online shopping app, earlier in the day. The Altimari family had decided to make a day out of exploring the new mall that had opened up in the town of Aria's Rest.

Jubilee, the capital city of Tristicco, was twenty minutes away. Aria's Rest was a stereotypical suburb, sitting somewhere between the spectrum of urban and rural life. Isaac Altimari cited this as one of the reasons why he found it a perfect place to raise a family. They were far enough away from the chaos of urban life to have quiet, diligent lives, while still being close to some of the modern comforts that many of Hadin's metropolitian areas boasted.

Isaac sorted through the contents of the locker while his wife held their youngest son up to get a better view. His other children, Myron and Clarissa, both began pointing out their selections.

"I can't believe the hat fits!" Myron grinned.

"The shawl is perfect!" Clarissa exclaimed.

"I'm really impressed," his wife Francesca mused, as Renato tried to reach for a toy among the items. "We only ordered everything about an hour ago".

Decennia was a store with a new retail concept being toted across certain areas in Hadin. Using a free smartphone app, users could select from an entire catalog of items. From there, Decennia would either have the items available for pickup from one of hundreds of locker-machines all across Hadin, or get the items delivered for an extra fee. Isaac and Francesca selected a number of items, and within thirty minutes, a notification appeared on Isaac's phone that the items were ready.

They had been placed in Locker 32, and the locker had been secured with a six-digit code that was generated for the order. Isaac had twenty-four hours to pick up the items, unless he paid extra for an extension. After church, the entire family had come by to pick up their order and marvel at some of the other amusements available around town.

While the wife and children marveled at the spoils, Isaac took a moment to close the locker door and confirm his pickup. His payment had already been processed through the app as well, though he could not place another order until he'd finished rating the current one.

In the middle of this process, a different notification appeared on his phone. This one was from the Agnitio app. Isaac stopped what he was doing to view the alert.

-----PENDING REQUEST: [MEDICAL/ESSENTIAL]CARA ALTIMARI-----


His sister. Isaac opened the app in full to view the details.

The Agnitio app was another marvel of Hadinian modernization. Agnitio was a government services application that was free to use for all Hadinian adults. It streamlined the process of making medical appointments through the national healthcare system, filing for government documents, and even managing employment or university applications. It even had a beta release for a matrimonial's section.

All citizens had access to the basic services of Agnitio. Isaac's sister Cara had just filed for a physical at her local doctor's office.

As a woman, Cara Altimari had limited access to the app. Women's accounts were tied to a "master" account owned by their closest male relative. With both of their parents gone and with Cara unmarried, Cara's account ultimately fell under Isaac's control. With very few exceptions, no request made from a subservient account could process until the master account approved it.

Isaac scrolled down to the bottom of the request details page and hit agree. A moment later, a screen appeared confirming the details of Cara's appointment. No doubt, she would be receiving a notification on her own phone confirming that her appointment was approved.

For this particular request, Isaac's participation only made the process quicker. Any medical item marked with the "essential" tag meant that the master account had three hours to confirm or deny the request. If three hours passed with no response, or if a "deny" response was sent, the request would be passed to the doctor's office for final review before officially being denied. Approval within three hours merely finalized the appointment automatically. Essential tags were limited to very, very basic services. Certain medical appointments qualified. Requests to renew one's state identification also qualified.

In the early days of Agnitio's release, audits had found that some men used Agnitio's wide control over subservient accounts to make it impossible for their wives or other female relatives to do virtually anything. The essential tag had been created to close that opportunity for flagrant abuse.1

Of course, anything -not- listed as essential fell to the ultimate authority of the master account. Francesca had just filed for her birth control prescription to be renewed yesterday. Non-essential requests only processed with a confirmed approval from the master account, and denied automatically if left untouched for over 48 hours. It was a good thing for Francesca that Isaac also thought three children were enough for now.2

There were other functions too, of course. Many schools published their attendance records to Agnitio, making it easy for both Isaac and Francesca to make sure their children were where they were supposed to be. Their oldest son, Myron, also had a smartphone. On his smartphone, Isaac had downloaded a companion-app to Agnitio which forced the "location services" on Myron's phone to report to both Isaac and Francesca's Agnitio accounts.

"Isaac? Everything okay? Did Cara forget to check in again?"

Francesca was undoubtedly familiar with Isaac's constant need to check his Agnitio. Their whole family were linked to that app, under Isaac's control, just the way the Theocracy had deemed fit for a man to rule over his household. Because Cara did not live with them, Isaac had set her account permissions to include a "check-in" requirement. Once a day, before noon, Cara had to place her finger on the fingerprint reader on her smartphone for 10 seconds with the Agnitio app open. Doing so would send Isaac a notification which included her location at that time. If she failed to do so, Isaac would also be notified in the same way once the time-limit had passed. In this way, he could keep track of this dependent who did not live with him. When Isaac was away on business trips, he would enable the same function on Francesca and Myron's phones. Francesca's time limit was noon each day. Myron's was before his curfew at 6pm, solely by virtue of the fact that Isaac was already notified of Myron's whereabouts during school hours.

In a few years, Myron would reach the age of nineteen (Hadin's latest age of majority), at which point he would be able to set up his own Agnitio account with full permissions. The same would eventually go for their younger son, Renato.

As for Clarissa, she would only be able to set up a subservient account, which would have to be tied to her father's until either Issac's death or Clarissa's marriage. For girls too, the age of majority was now set to nineteen.

Most of the outside world considered Agnitio a human rights offense, but Isaac marveled at the fact that it allowed Hadinian women to live alone for the first time in decades. Before Agnitio, most women had to live with their male relatives in order to fall in compliance with the country's strict male-guardianship laws.3 Now, Agnitio allowed for Cara (and Isaac) to meet the requirements while still letting Cara maintain her own apartment on the other side of town. Cara had even managed to get her most recent job by posting her credentials as a teacher on Agnitio.4

It had become so successful in Hadin by embracing technological change, while still protecting some of Hadin's most conservative cultural talking points. Of course, there were some who argued that Agnitio had the ability to be abused quite easily by the government. Such limitless tracking of citizen's affairs via a device as common as a smartphone meant that the government was always present. Even for Hadin, this was an unprecedented level of control. There were times where Issac stopped to think about the possibilities...

...but here, in a mall with his family, away from the worries of the outside world, was not the time for such thoughts.




"Da? Aunt Verochka? I'm home!"

Having parked his motorcycle in the driveway of his family home, Lenard Tracy made his way through the main door and up the stairs to the second floor. Theirs was a rather large home, which made sense considering his father's job as the city's police commissioner, and the rather large family of which Lenard was a part.

By sheer dumb luck, Lenard had been posted to Fort Kastas. Soldiers conscripted into the Hadinian People's Military who were lucky enough to live within 10 miles of their posting were able to live off-base, as long as they were not within their basic training period. Every day, Lenard would drive his motorcycle to the base, report for his duty-shift as a mechanic, and then drive back to his home in the very close-by township of Kastabal (for which Fort Kastas was named). Three more years of service and his mandatory five year term with the military would be complete. For all intents and purposes, he was the ideal Hadinian young adult. All he needed was a spouse.

Lenard was already starting the process of getting married by seeking out potential matches through the community. His parents were already searching for a suitable woman for him, and the Tracy's were well-off enough to be able to hire part-time help from a matchmaker. While staying at home with his family (when he wasn't on base), Lenard was also managing to save up money for a bride price.

The beta release of the Agnitio matrimonials app had not hurt things. Lenard's step-mother had even written up a matrimonial ad for him, and was filtering through the responses on a daily basis. Lenard honestly thought she was a little too overzealous, considering he wouldn't be done with the military for a while longer.

"Two more today, Lenard," his step-mother had said once he got up the stairs. She was the first one he saw once he made it to the end of the hall. A little to the left, Lenard's half-brother Artur was playing with a toy truck.

"Lenard!" Artur squeaked. The much younger boy was on the cusp of seven years old. His mother was only thirty, having married Shelton Tracy not long after Shelton's first wife Anna passed away from cancer.

Lenard missed his mother, but Ambrosine wasn't bad.

"Two more, eh? I'm flattered," Lenard sighed. "You'll have to tell me about them later".

"Lenard, Lenard, I got a new car!" Artur held up another toy, this one modelled after an older model of military ATV not unlike the ones Lenard spent much of his time working on.

"Hey, I've driven in one of these," Lenard mused.

"Wow!"

"Their names are Elliana Sessa and Laci Treloar," Ambrosine continued, "Apparently they're both from Kastabal. You wouldn't know them, would you?"

"The name 'Sessa' sounds familiar". Lenard thought about it for a moment before realizing, "wait, she doesn't have a brother named Victor, does she?"

"The matrimonial profile didn't say, but I can ask the matchmaker to find out! Unless that's a bad thing?"

"No, I remember Victor from high school. We used to get on decently enough".

He took a hungry look over at the kitchen counter. Ambrosine was in the middle of making dinner.

"Oh, are you hungry Lenard? I'm making chopped steak tonight for dinner".

"Oh, yes please!"

"That won't be ready for a while, but I'm mostly done with some of the sides. I can get you something small while the steak is marinating. I've got some rice I was boiling to mix with some vegetables..."

"I knew I smelled something good. I bet that's your famous roasted aubergine I'm smelling."

"MMM," Artur interrupted, "me too please!"

"Artur, you didn't just get done fixing cars for the soldiers. Why don't you go play with Trev for a bit? He's watching television".

"Okay," Artur whined slightly. Still, he took his toys to another room and left Lenard and Ambrosine alone.

"The aubergine's are a ways away from being done," Ambrosine continued, "but I know something I can mince up right now that should hit the spot?"

"The possibilities. So what do I get? Curried eggs? Salted ham?"

Ambrosine held up a kitchen knife and a round, orange object. Lenard felt his stomach turn. Not all traditional Hadinian foods were as tasty as the ones he'd mentioned.

"Minced roasted onion over rice".

While Lenard waited on his food to be prepared, he took a walk down a different hall to find the room in which his half-brother was now sitting. Alongside Artur was Trev, who was the younger of their two cousins.

The boys were watching "The Bibi Show", which was a children's program catering largely towards boys and girls between the ages of six to twelve. The star character was Bibi the Squirrel, who was played by an actor in a man-sized squirrel suit. In the earliest days of The Bibi Show, when Lenard had still been a teenager, the squirrel costume was of low-quality. The later seasons, including the episode which Artur and Trev were watching, no longer featured a main character that gave Lenard nightmares. Considering Lenard was exposed to the program frequently, on account of Artur, he was glad to be able to at least watch a version of Bibi that looked more like a children's cartoon character and less like some sort of mutated hellspawn.

Bibi was singing along with a supporting character on the show by the name of Lana. Introduced later as a means to increase the appeal of the program to female audiences, Lana was a twelve year old who was supposed to be the "calmer" of the two personalities. Better yet, Lana wasn't wearing a squirrel costume, instead sporting typical Hadinian dress for girls her age as a subtle propoganda tactic to teach girls about modesty.

Sometimes the songs and skits were light-hearted. Sometimes they were about the importance of going to school despite not wanting to, or about the need to not bully other children. Other times, they were about the glory of the Hadinian state. When the last High-Envoy had passed away, "The Bibi Show" had even had a special episode about dealing with death and the afterlife.

Even other countries made it in occassionally. There was a Seglandic character whose name Lenard couldn't remember that popped up from time to time, mostly as a means to teach Hadinian children that some other nations were just as glorious as they were. There was an Algrabadi character who was a shout-out to the long-standing citizen-exchange program between Hadin and Algrabad. There was an ethnically-Hadinian character who appeared once, from Nui-ta, discussing how he'd been persecuted in Nui-ta because Orthodox Septimism was illegal there.

Lenard's favorite international shout-out was a Radiatian character, who fled Radiatia to come to Hadin because he used to be homeless in Radiatia, and heard that there was no such thing as homelessness in Hadin.5 That episode also discussed how just because Radiatia liked to flout its high standard of living for the rich didn't mean that everyone got to live like that, and even touched a bit upon some of the terrible ways that women were persecuted in Radiatia.6

Lenard liked that particular character because it showed how much Hadin had grown. In the olden days, when he was Artur's age, the Hadinian mentality towards other nations was "either they're our friends, or we're going to bomb them all". This new portrayal of less civilized countries by their faults, while still maintaining a more sympathetic attitude, was much better. In the end, the once-homeless Radiatian character was given a house and taught about religion by Bibi, and infrequently showed up in the background during church episodes, piously praying away.

The way things should be.




1In post-Nikastro Hadin, some things have changed forever. Nikastro cracked down on custodial abuse of women and children by their male guardians while he was High-Envoy. As many flaws as Nikastro had, the fact that these behaviors now remained frowned upon in the days after him show that he did have some real, positive effect on Hadinian society.

2Women's rights may have improved in Hadin, but we must still remember that this is Hadin. They have only improved so much.

3Agnitio is really something of a double-edged sword for civil rights in Hadin as a whole. It has bestowed some rights by denying others. On the one hand, in the days before Agnitio, a woman was essentially required to live under someone else's authority. This usually meant their spouse or their male next-of-kin, but in cases where this wasn't possible it could also mean that a woman was shipped into state custody until such time that a male could be found for her (read: state-mandated arranged marriage).

With Agnitio, a woman living alone can simply use the "check-in" feature to maintain a direct line of contact with a male family member, giving her more personal freedom to maintain her own life. Women also have the freedom to pursue job postings and educational opportunities while being almost completely autonomous. All that is now needed from a male guardian is the final consent. In cases where women do not have male next-of-kin, many dormitories have existed for years [usually managed by the local parish] to act as collective community guardianship entities. Many of these dormitories now host "bulk" Agnitio accounts so that their services can remain available to their tenants.

4Under both Labriola High-Envoyships, women saw themselves largely stripped of the right to work or pursue a higher education. The first of these regressive policies, denying women the right to enter these domains altogether, was reversed under Nico Hass. Fiete Nikastro further returned the ability to hold employment or pursue some modicum of education to women. The current Di Pascari High-Envoyship have continued to return these rights to women, allowing them to apply for any employment or educational opportunity within Hadin. Of course, some key set-backs still apply. Job applications and university applications are still subject to guardianship laws. Furthermore, there are virtually no penalties in place for employers or schools to discriminate based on gender.

5Mostly true. There is technically homelessness in Hadin, but it's an extreme rarity due to multiple factors. The high prevalence of mission work is such that those too frail to work are taken care of by the church. The healthcare system within the state is such that the mentally unwell are largely kept off the streets, within psychiatric asylums. Meanwhile, those willing but unable to find work are usually seen to by employment agencies within the state.

6Despite the fact that Hadin doesn't have the best track-record for women's rights (although they are "slightly" improving), they actually think of the situation in Radiatia as being much, much worse. Hadinians honestly think that in Radiatia, women are forced to walk around in their underwear in the cold for the amusement of men. (How else does one explain bikinis in the cold?!) Some of them are thrown out unto the street by their husbands when they no longer look beautiful, and many women with no other means of making a living are forced to sell themselves for money.

------
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

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Hadin
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 193
Founded: Feb 19, 2012
Ex-Nation

Have A Pleasant Trip

Postby Hadin » Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:28 pm

Have A Pleasant Trip




There was no doubt that distractions needed to be put in place for much of the Hadinian public following the scandals and protests that had rocked the nation within the past year. For many of the populace, this simply meant a decrease in taxes, and an increase in technological diversions meant to make the citizen's life easier.

As the Brokal-Weiss protests had shown, however, these peaceful distractions were not enough to calm everyone. There were still far too many Hadinian youths who still thought they knew better than the government. A sense of idealism was strong with this generation, and that idealism needed to be directed somewhere more constructive than towards the government.

This was Jasper Adami's epiphany. If the government played this next initiative right, they could leverage this sense of idealism into a initiative that would benefit the Theocracy. As Adami stepped through the doors of the "Sgro Fine Wines and Liquors" shop for his three-o-clock appointment, he kept this grand plan in mind.

A few eggs would have to be broken.

"Is the manager in?" He asked the woman at the front counter. "Sgro Fine Wines and Liquors" was a high-end retail outlet. Everything from the shelves, to the merchandise, to even the outfit that the woman was wearing screamed that this was an establishment only catering to the elite of Hadin.

"By appointment only," she said curtly. The woman gave him a cold, piercing stare as she waited on his appointment information. That kind of glare would not have been out of place within Hadin's armed forces. Pinned to the right shoulder of her dress, Adami noticed a very small, uncommon pin, with a seal only issued to a select few women with the country.

He was definitely in the right place.

"I have a three-o-clock. Jasper Adami".

She softened for a moment before pointing to a door on her right. Tasting Room #2.

"Mr. Sgro will be with you momentarily".

As he walked into Tasting Room #2 and sat in his usual spot --- it was good to be back --- his mind continued to contemplate the work ahead of him. The entire building was pleasantly air-conditioned: a luxury becoming increasingly common as Hadin's modernization marched forward. There was a new addition to the room somewhere where Adami could not immediately see it: a speaker overhead which was faintly playing some oddly dissonant music.

A few eggs would have to be broken, and he'd have to be the one breaking them. Of course, if the incidents leading up to and including Brokal-Weiss had any lessons to be learned, it was that it was dangerous to break those eggs too close to home. There were other eggs further away from the Hadinian populace, but not so far away as to gain too much international attention. He fixed his eyes on the back wall, where they kept all the good merchandise.

His thoughts were interrupted again by the sound of Mr. Sgro walking into the room. Mr. Sgro was a middle-aged Hadinian man, looking almost completely average save for a slight scar on his cheek. With certain clientele, he'd let it slip that this was a result of some shrapnel during military work in his younger years, while he was deployed overseas. Some of the details of the story seemed to change each time: once it was a car bomb, another time it was a piece of glass...

"Mr. Adami".

"Mr. Sgro. I'm here for a sampler".

"For business or pleasure?"

"Business, though I'm open to some leisure purchases as well".

"Any particular kind of leisure affair?"

"I'm going on a trip. Somewhere on the mainland. A bit cooler than Kopurauth. Let's say I'm sitting on the balcony of my hotel room one evening, looking out at the forest. What would you recommend?"

"Will this be before, or after your business work?"

"Before. I like to de-stress".

"Let's stick to wine, then. I have this lovely Merlot imported all the way from Segland..."

"I'd prefer a domestic batch. This is meant to be rather patriotic work".

"In that case, may I recommend something from the Brochia winery?" Mr. Sgro pulled a bottle of white wine off of the table and showed it to Adami. "Made in Suile-Blan. Oaked Savignon Blanc, fermented for 6 months, bottled, and then aged in my cellar for 4 years. Not too bitter, and not too sweet. I imagine the crisp Zanzean air will be a nice contrast".

"I never mentioned I was going to Zanzes".

"You never needed too". Mr. Sgro held up the sampler bottle, which was still about three-quarters of the way full. "Shall I?"

"Please".

For a moment there were no sounds except the pouring of liquid into a wine glass. After re-sealing the bottle, Mr. Sgro carefully handed the glass to Adami. He observed the glass carefully, gave its contents a decent swirl, took a sniff, and then a sip.

The taste of a very, very sour apple. A bit of lime? Hints of tobacco and vanilla at the end.

"I very much enjoyed that".

"I have others, if you'd like to try".

"No, no. For pleasure, this will do nicely. How much?"

"90 Dir a bottle".

Yep, this is a rich man's shop..., a little voice in Adami's head echoed. Nevertheless, he forced himself to smile and nod. Mr. Sgro was too important in this industry to offend over something as trivial as overpriced wine.
.
"Sounds reasonable. I'll take a bottle with my business purchases".

Mr. Sgro walked over to the back wall, which Adami had been eyeing earlier. This was his favorite part of these visits. He took another sip of the Brochia.

"If you're buying, feel free to pour yourself any of our other varieties, while I pull out the business stock," Mr. Sgro said casually, while unlocking the concealed displays that the back-wall was so famous for in Adami's memory. "There are more tasting glasses under the table, and if you run out, I can always have Moira bring in some more".

"Right. About that. Mr. Sgro, you have a female member of the religious police at your front desk".

"Moira's skill-sets are quite versatile. That's necessary in this line of work. Impressive eyes, by the way. Most people don't realize she's a police woman, even with the badge".

"Most people don't think there are police women, Mr. Sgro".

"Most people aren't as well-versed as to the government's many secrets as you and I, Mr. Adami. Are you opposed?"

"I'm not sure what to think. I've never actually seen a female police officer before".

"Sometimes for certain covert operations, they are quite necessary. High-Envoy Hass was too prejudiced to see their potential, and High-Envoy Nikastro's idealistic sensibilities --- may he rest in peace --- were too easily offended. Women can be quite useful. High-Envoy di Pascari and his government are very realistic people".

With the last click of a final lock, the back wall opened up to reveal an outrageously well-stocked gun cabinet.

"Unto business matters, it's time for your real sample. What do you think the occassion calls for?"

"Any personal recommendations?"

"Mr. Adami, I know your previous preference for the Seglandic models, but I can wholeheartedly endorse the latest Hadinian model".

He handed Adami a pistol. "This is the Dracovita-44. I'm sure you've had experience with the Dracovita-28 while you were in the police force. This is basically an upgraded version with .44 caliber ammunition".

"It's a fucking hand-cannon," Adami marveled. "It'll definitely be useful for negotiating..."

"Oh it's better than a hand-cannon. Hand-cannons are slow. This has been re-fitted for rapid fire capabilities and equipped with an expanded magazine. The only problem is that these modifications came at the cost of added weight and a bit less stopping power..."

"I don't like hearing about the lack of stopping power".

"It's not a huge trade-off. In its current state, the gun is still capable of dispatching your average problem. More reinforced problems will simply require a more reinforced solution".

"So this is the cheese and crackers. What do you recommend as the steak?"

"A tried-and-true classic. The Rostislav".

"Mr. Sgro, you know I hate the Rostislavs. Patriotism or no patriotism, we should have kept the Kal'ria style weaponry from Nui-ta as far as light machine guns go".

"You're talking about the 2.0. You're aware that they updated to a 3.0 model with some of the 2.0's kinks worked out?"

"I read the reports. They made it less cumbersome. Big deal".

"That's the 3.0. I have a 3.5 available".

Adami cocked an eyebrow. "You have a Rostislav 3.5? I thought those were still in development".

"Officially. Unofficially, they're up for pre-release to particularly valuable clientele like yourself". Mr. Sgro took back the pistol from Adami, setting it on the table before pulling the fabled Rostislav 3.5 off of another rack and handing it to Adami.

"The gun has been fitted with shock absorbers, so you can stay in control even when negotiations get out of hand. I'm sure you'll also appreciate the piercing ammunition that this particular model can be fitted for, as well as the custom-made accellerator on the muzzle". Mr. Sgro watched his client manipulate the gun for a moment or two, sampling all of the custom modifications, save ammunition, that was available.

"It may well change my mind. I'll consider it".

Adami pointed to a strange-looking gun on the top shelf. He'd never seen its like before. "What is that?"

"A Bluevaier-Class VII rifle. This is one of the Radiatian models. They've been in production by the Radiatian company that makes them, largely the same way, since the Hadinian War".

"Seems a bit outdated".

"They're surprisingly reliable. If there's one thing the Radiatian government funds in spades, it would be companies in charge of their national defense. You should remember those heathens up north may be morally backrupt...but not so much financially".

"It was good enough for you to stash, eh?"

"If nothing else, getting my hands on a few foreign weapons gives me some collateral with the government. You'd be amazed what kind of things the intelligence agencies of Hadin can glean when they get their hands on Radiatian tech".

Mr. Sgro took a moment to get a step-stool, got within reach of the top shelf, and then retrieved the Bluevaier rifle for Adami.

"This particular one isn't for sale".

The gun was remarkable. Adami was still preferential towards the Rostislav 3.5, but he was clearly enjoying the Bluevaier counterpart. He scowled a bit at Mr. Sgro.

"Why not?"

"I don't have near enough of them, for starters. What few I do have, I tend to keep for other clients who are more on the intelligence side of things".

"Rather than the "getting-things-done" side?"

"Sadly. I should remain competitive to all sides".

"So what's the benefit to not selling me the Bluevaier instead of them?"

"All those innovations and proprietary secrets helped make that Rostislav 3.5, you know. Besides, that particular gun is disabled. It's more of a curiousity at this point than a useful weapon".

"Disabled, why?"

"It came to me in that condition. Many years ago, the seller apparently managed to acquire it by stealing it from a dead Radiatian".

"During the Hadinian War?"

"Apparently. It's a bit older than most of the other Radiatian model's I've acquired. A bit more cheaply produced. Apparently it jammed on the soldier my supplier got it from. The new ones don't do that nearly as often, I've observed".

"Radiatia and Hadin haven't really had direct conflict since the Hadinian War. How'd you get the newer ones?"

"Radiatia sells them, of course".

"They don't sell to us".

"No, but they sell to many other people quite readily. That's the nature of corporations. And those people then sell to other people, usually. You'd be surprised how many people there are in the world who have gotten rich just by enabling Hadin to by-pass embargos. The government of Radiatia has gotten quite complacent because money tends to talk, and the corporations don't care what happens to the guns once they get sold. Hell, if they wind up in our hands, chances are all it means is that those same corporations can drum up an excuse to sell even more guns to their legitimate clientele".

"I tell you what," Mr. Sgro said, as Adami put the Bluevaier down and picked up his wine glass to finish the rest of the wine. "If you like the Bluevaier so much, I know someone who specializes in making facsimilies. They've got everything you love about that Radiatian rifle without the name".

"I can live with that. How much for the other two pieces?"

"2,250 for the pair. I'll see what I can do about ammunition. Don't forget the wine".

"Great. Now how many for ten pairs to make it to North Zanzes, Mr. Sgro?"

"Name the destination, and we'll talk, Mr. Adami".
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

User avatar
Hadin
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 193
Founded: Feb 19, 2012
Ex-Nation

It All Starts Falling Apart

Postby Hadin » Sun Oct 13, 2019 3:39 am

It All Starts Falling Apart





Janus Kafka spent the last three weeks of his life hunched over a carpentry workshop, pursuing a long-lost hobby. Woodworking came back to him quickly enough; it had been one of the lost pleasures of his teenage years before he'd had to grow up and pursue a more sustainable career within the government.

Every particular inch of this item was meticulously measured, cut, and then measured again. Then came the sawing, and the pinning of various little fittings and gears (all hand-made!) together, and then the fastenings, and the lacquer, and finally the paint.

Red seemed best. Here and there, a touch of gray and orange, and it was perfect. He began to feel the change wash over his body. The end was near. Two days before he died, he presented the present to his grandson Arnoldi.

"See?" He said meekly between coughs, "Grandpa made you a toy".

"A handmade toy car," Ulrik mused, before ushering his son away to play with his new gift. "That was very nice of you, Da, but he'll stop playing with it after a week. He's only three. You know how that age is".

"Not from experience," Janus chuckled. "At least, not with you. You were a teenager when I married your mother".

"Yeah. I used to think you were just that weird old man my mum married when the Theocracy started to take hold".1

"It was the law for single women to marry. They couldn't raise children without fathers, and I was needing a wife. It all worked out in the end though, Ulrik. I hope I haven't been too much of a bother".

"Nah, on the contrary, once I grew up I enjoyed finally having a father".

The two men chuckled for a moment before Janus leaned back against the mattress.

"Allow me to be an old fart for a minute then. Son, they don't make 'em like they used to".

"What?"

"Toy cars, Ulrik. Nowadays we buy this cheap crap from other countries...cheap plastic toys. They last a week, and then either the kids beat them or toss them into a landfill somewhere...but back in my day, mind you, back in my day there was such a thing as quality!"

"Sure Dad, whatever you say..."

I knew I should have prescribed Dad some anti-psychotics.

"I mean it, Ulrik! Work went into that, you know. Real, quality work. It's made of solid wood! When your son does stop playing with it, it'll last long enough for you to give to the next boy, or even your grandson".

"I'm sure it'll be a very nice heirloom for years to come, Dad".

Janus grew serious. "Ulrik, I really mean this. Unscrew the back of the thing one day and take a good look inside. You'll learn things".

"I wouldn't want to mess up such fine work".

"Oh," Janus boasted, "you'll have a hell of a time messing up anything. I made sure those parts fit together with the tightest connection possible! But it can be removed, and you'll see the insides. The stories that woodwork will tell..."

Ulrik decided to humor his father. "I'll try and remember that, Da".

Janus grinned. "Really? Oh I've wanted someone to know for so long..."

"Yeah," Ulrik said, half-heartedly. "Sure. I'll keep the toy".

Two days later, Janus Kafka lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. A week later, as Janus predicted, his grandson Arnoldi lost interest in the red and orange car. Ulrik had almost thrown the toy away before noticing its unusual heft, even for a toy of such a large size.2

"Hmm..."

He examined the toy closely for a moment, before deciding he couldn't really be bothered to take it apart. Still, it was very nice looking, and of a much higher quality than all the cheap toys that passed for children's playthings these days. Ulrik ultimately decided to take the toy car and put it in a box with some other memorabilia. In that box, undisturbed, the red car slowly gathered dust...




"Thank you for calling Macrohard Online Technical Support. This is Kurt speaking, how may I assist you today?"

It was the usual "support call". Some idiot, probably in rural Radiatia, had clicked a spam email link which had resulted in a fake "blue screen of death" appearing on their computer. The blue screen wasn't really an error screen built into Macrohard computers --- it was a false flag made by the spam emails which directed the victim to call a support line leading back to a queue of scammers across Hadin. Of course, the people calling in who were stupid enough to click the link in the spam emails sent to them weren't aware that they were calling a fake technical support line based out of Hadin. They likely thought they were reaching some Macrohard call center being operated on the other end of Radiatia, or even overseas in a place where Macrohard actually had offices like Poldania or Nui-ta.

Kurt (real name Benedict) did well with Radiatian callers because he was better at accents than anyone else in the little office where he worked. It helped that Radiatia was so big that not all Radiatians seemed to have an ear for what other regional accents of their country actually sounded like. It was much harder to get away with, say, a passing Nui-tan accent, given how much smaller Nui-ta was compared to Radiatia.3

The calls went about the same general way each time. Once the caller had complained about the "blue screen of death", "Kurt" would then walk the caller through how to "fix" the "problem". The fake blue screen could be cleared with a simple reboot, and from there Kurt would direct the caller to information on the computer that would allow him to remotely access the computer and make it download two types of trojans.

The first trojans were meant to be spyware. Kurt could later remotely view keystrokes and passwords on the computers to see what the caller had been accessing and what passwords they had been inputting. Through these means, he could usually remotely access bank accounts and drain retirement accounts. Since this constituted theft, it made this line of business officially illegal in Hadin. To this end, the accounts were drained into shell company bank accounts, and then the funds were laundered through several transactions, withdrawals, and deposits, until they made it into business accounts that actually existed legitimately in Hadin. One such "legitimate" business was the "bank" for which Benedict worked. The sign outside of the door of the rented office space denoted the little call center as officially being "Ulrigari Credit Union Office 431".

Hilariously enough, Ulrigari Credit Union was an actual thing in much of Hadin, with most of its workers not knowing about the money laundering that was taking place. This was one of two reasons as to how the little operation had managed to stay hidden from Hadinian law enforcement for as long as it did. Those among the staff who were cognizant of Ulrigari Credit Union's more nuanced activities were even emailed memos regarding actual business operations. In the rare but not unprecedented event that the some officer or another came to investigate illegal activity, the memos helped sell the idea that Office 431 was just another ordinary cog in the machine.

Benedict took calls as Kurt for most of the work day. Towards a certain point in the day, he'd stop taking calls and start pulling up reports from all of the spyware programs that he'd put in that day. Usually, it would just be banking or email passwords, which he could then hijack for less savory purposes. Draining a retirement account and cashing in on the almighty Tsenyen's conversion rate was usually the next step. After that, emails would be hijacked, contact information would be acquired, and the cycle could begin again through even more emails.

Every now and then, he ran into more valuable finds. Some of the idiots that called him were dumb enough to click the link on business computers, giving Kurt access to valuable information as far as corporate entities abroad. On this last call, he was lucky enough to get the login credentials for someone who worked on local infrastructure in some small Radiatian town.

There was a second reason why the operation had lasted so long: such valuable cybersecurity breaches were enough for him to pass on that particular case to a "specialist". The "specialist", whom Kurt only knew as "Mr. Gorza", was only to be contacted on two occassions. The first of these were if any information was found from the social engineering scheme which Mr. Gorza happened to be interested in. Kurt didn't mind the decent bonuses that were authorized by payroll when these cases were successfully forwarded.

The second was when the authorities came sniffing around the operation. Every now and then, a detective or an officer would get wise to the fact that something was going on at Office 431 that shouldn't have been happening. When they started showing up with questions, Mr. Gorza got a call from the manager. Within forty-eight hours, the police would stop showing up. Most officers would later be seen going about their normal police work, treating Office 431 as if it were just another white-collar workplace. One or two who kept asking questions tended to find themselves on meter-maid duty for months at a time.

The call he'd just finished had been his last for the day. Kurt, reverting to "Benedict", hung up the phone, made sure the spyware was reporting to his computer, and then decided to pull up a report on a computer he'd hacked earlier in the day. After carefully examining the passwords that he'd acquired, and making sure he'd translated some of the names of the entities to which these passwords were associated, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"Berrik, you might want to take a look at this".

Berrik, his supervisor, walked over to Benedict and took a look at the screen.

"I don't get it".

"How good is your Radiatian?"

"Written Radiatian...not as good as yours. What does it say?"

"These are military accounts and login credentials, Berrik. Radiatian Navy, it looks like".

"Oh shit," Berrik laughed. "You forward that to me right away. I'm calling Gorza".

Benedict did as he was told while Berrik rushed back over to his desk and called the oh-so-familiar phone number. Mr. Gorza was always quick to pick up, and apparently even quicker to verify the information. A few minutes later, Berrick returned to him.

"Anything else noteworthy?"

"Not so far, no".

"Suppose we can't get too blessed," Berrik scoffed. Benedict chuckled a bit in reply.

"Benedict, which do you prefer? A bonus of 2000 Dir, or an week of paid leave?"

"Oh, I'd love a week of paid leave..."

"When would you like that week of paid leave? Mr. Gorza wants to know..."




It was not clearly understood what had caused the Arthurians to withdraw from Karas.

More than likely, it was the fact that Thor Hammarskold's plan to physically separate South Zanzes and North Zanzes from one another was not particularly popular in his home country. Maybe the cost of keeping Arthurian troops in Karas, on another side of the world, got to be too much. Maybe with Fiete Nikastro gone, there was less reason for Arthuria to invest in Hadin. After all, Nikastro and Hammarskold had been friends4: it remained to be seen what Matfei Di Pascari thought of Arthuria.

Whatever the reason, North Zanzes and South Zanzes had grown closer together since Arthuria had left. This wasn't in a friendly sense --- the two countries were now brushing up against each other in terms of land. In some areas, such as here in Nabaghada, half the town was South Zanzean, and half was North Zanzean. In the center of town was the North Zanzean-made "Peace Center", where reunions occasionally were held between the inhabitants of North and South Zanzes.

The separation had changed the Zanze. Nui-ta unofficially ruled over the South (more by the South's insistence than any actual desire by the Empire to expand), and North Zanzes was very clearly a Hadinian territory now. As time wore on and the two halves of Zanzes simmered in this political climate, they started to display more and more tendencies of their patron nations.5

The Zanze would always be Zanze, first and foremost. They were beholden to their old traditions, using virtually the same ancient method of nomenclature that they always had. They had adapted to technology as best as such a backwards civilization could within a generation, and yet they also maintained their own tribalistic mannerisms.

It was something beautiful, in a twisted way. Jasper Adami liked that it kept their world rather small.

He was watching quietly as the display going on in the Peace Center unfolded. A group of local leaders from the border towns of South Zanzes and North Zanzes --- Zanzes Janubi and Zanzes Shamar, as said with the local tongue --- had come to negotiate. A translator whispered the goings on to Adami as he watched.

One of the South Zanze spoke first.

"I am Nabaghada-Janubi Gadisa Hafez". The mayor of the southern half of Nabaghada. Adami was impressed. He was a fairly well dressed man, wearing the traditional garb of upper class Zanzean men.

His North Zanzean counterpart spoke next, "I am Nabaghada-Shamar Sardar Na'im". The North Zanze was dressed in Hadinian formal wear. Cultural idiosyncracies weren't as encouraged in North Zanzes as they were in the South. The Nui-tans had only intervened to keep the whole Zanzean country out of Hadin's hands back when High-Envoy Hass was invading, and this reflected in the way that the South Zanze carried themselves.

They were their own country, and part of the Nui-tan Empire only because they had asked to be.

North Zanzes was very different, largely because the Hadinians had intentionally taken over. It wasn't like most of the North Zanze could complain. Nico Hass had the worst dissenters killed outright after the tribal queens were all removed from power. Fiete Nikastro and Matfei Di Pascari treated the North Zanze reasonably well, by contrast, with one condition: assimilate to Hadin.

And as much as the North Zanze could be made to assimilate, they did.

The South Zanzean, Gadisa Hafez, introduced two of his colleagues: Mahazd Ebrahimi Abdul, and a woman, Yabyan Karimi Fatsahi. They were the leaders of two other border towns, respectively: Mahazd and Yabyan. In the same fashion, one other North Zanzean diplomat was introduced as well, another man by the name of Akpassu Masego Itri, of Akpassu. Obviously.

Jasper took a sip from the water bottle he had been holding and mused on some of the remaining vestiges of North Zanzean culture which had survived the Hadinian purges. Hadin had allowed the Zanze to keep their nomenclature because Hadin had thought of it as being somewhat novel and humble. It was certainly a concept: naming oneself first by their homeland, and then by the surname, and only then by the given name. The more religious Septimists marvelled that such humility was a product of Zanzes having been untouched and innocent against the sinful ways of the modern world. He felt cold water graze his lips as he took another sip.

"You do not have more representatives?" One of the South Zanze had asked.

The leading North Zanze, Sardar Na'im, gave the South Zanzean entourage an awkward look for a moment before turning his head to Jasper Adami. Before Sardar Na'im could answer, Jasper stood up. It was time to assert dominance.

He walked up to the South Zanzean delegation with his translator following behind him, waited for the translator to finish his explanation, and then greeted the South Zanze as pleasantly as he could muster.

"Aballo Adami Jasper". When in Zanzes, do as the Zanze do...

One of the South Zanze --- Ebrahimi Abdul --- snorted quietly in response. Jasper always thought that Radiatia and Nui-ta had hated Hadin more than any other country in Noctur. He was wrong. The winner was South Zanzes. The other two South Zanze remained somewhat cordial. Sardar Na'im simply nodded in response and muttered something which the translator chose to relay to Jasper as "charmed". Karimi Fatsahi merely kept her mouth shut and her lips visibly pursed. Jasper tried his best not to stare --- he wasn't used to her outfit. The women of North Zanze had generally been allowed to keep their traditional style of dress, so long as their outfits complied with Hadinian standards of modesty.6

"The brunt of your business is with the gentlemen from Akpassu and Nabaghada-Shamar. I am only here to observe on behalf of Hadin".

Again, he waited for the translator to finish.

"Very well. It is a pleasure to meet you, Aballo Adami Jasper," Sardar Na'im sighed. Jasper did his best to fade into the background as the Zanze all began discussing their grievances. It was a bit hard to do with a translator repeating everything that was said over again to Jasper in Hadinian, but appearances had to be maintained.

The South Zanze were here to make allegations that someone had been attempting to break into security systems for various government buildings dotting the South Zanzean border. They were specifically alleging that the attempted hacks were coming from North Zanzes, and they were demanding that the North Zanze cease any espionage activity immediately. The North Zanze responded that they had no idea what the South Zanze were talking about. No one in North Zanzes was trying to spy on South Zanzes.

The South Zanze argued further that, with Nui-tan assistance, they had traced the hacking attempts back to North Zanzes, complete with North Zanzean IPs. Jasper did his best not to laugh. Again, the North Zanze insisted that they had no idea what the South Zanze were talking about. Akpassu Masego Itri even became visibly distressed and confused when Yabyan Karimi Fatsahi alleged that one of the locations could be narrowed down to the town of Akpassu.

"We do not fund any sort of hackers! Why would we seek to undermine our South Zanzean brothers?"

Tensions flared, and Ebrahimi Abdul crossed a line when alleging that the North Zanze before him had sold out to Hadin. At this point, after his translator had finished, Jasper decided to intervene.

"Alright, that's enough".

"I don't want to hear what you have to say, albino snake".

"No, no. Let's just go ahead and settle this right now. The Hadinian Theocracy are very careful to monitor internet and intranet usage in both its own borders and that of North Zanzes. We are a religious country, after all. The internet is a good way to expose the populace to things that are less than godly. Tell me, do you have more information on this mysterious hacker or hackers?"

"Why should I trust anything you have to say, Hadinian?"

"Because Hadin takes such allegations quite seriously. What you are suggesting is an international incident, and I doubt High-Envoy Di Pascari wants any of those under his belt. Now do you want to get to the bottom of the issue, or do you want to keep making allegations?"

It was Gadisa Hafez that spoke next. "If what you say is true...Abdul, let him see the report".

Jasper reached out to take the report, giving it a brief scan with his eyes and noticing that it was written in Zanzean. His translator hovered behind his shoulder and read out the report in Hadinian.

"Mr. Masego," Jasper smiled, "this location within the report, do you know where it is?"

"I do sir".

Jasper nodded. "Akpassu isn't more than an hour from here. Would the South Zanzean delegation be interested in a field trip?"




It took an hour to print out temporary visas for the South Zanzean delegation and their small security entourage. It took 15 more minutes for someone to fetch Yabya Karimi Fatsahi a more modest outfit to wear when entering North Zanzes. After that, the North and South Zanze, along with Jasper Adami and his own Hadinian bodyguards, all took a field trip to Akpassu.

The alleged location of the cybersecurity breach was an office building registered to the Ulrigari Credit Union, Office 900.

"We're here".

"You told them ahead of time we were coming," Ebrahimi Abdul muttered.

"I did no such thing," Jasper grinned. "Watch".

He wasn't lying. He ushered his translator over to the receptionist, who promptly let her know in Zanzean that officials from North and South Zanzes were here to investigate an incident which had occurred on the property. The receptionist was genuinely shocked to see them, and promptly called down the building manager. The manager, whose name was Akpassu Sultan Atiya, was just as surprised as the receptionist. To make matters more interesting, the translator further announced that all business done during this investigation was to be conducted in the Zanzean language, for the benefit of the South Zanzean delegation. The Hadinians among the group would be kept in the loop by the translator.

The entire group were then ushered through the call center, room by room, to view all business being done within the center. Since the primary language of business was Zanzean anyway, the South Zanze could clearly see that there was nothing being done here in Office 900 other than official business by the Ulrigari Credit Union. The building manager even gave Ebrahimi Abdul a map of the building and let Ebrahimi Abdul examine the basements and server rooms.

At the end of a three-hour long walk-around, Jasper finally sighed and asked the South Zanze if there were any further questions. Gadisa Hafez and Karimi Fatsahi were disappointed, but satisfied. Ebrahimi Abdul was still not convinced.

"I know you are up to something. I am sure of it".

"Mr. Ebrahimi," Jasper sighed, "if you can think of anything else your country needs to examine to clear North Zanzes of guilt in this matter, I'm just dying to hear it".

"I...ah...ugh...!!!"

As frustrated as the mayor of Mahazd was, he was also out of allegations. Even an idiot could see that the only business being conducted in this building was of an average credit union. With the exception of the mayor of Akpassu, everyone else returned to Nabagahad-Shamar. The South Zanze existed back into their own country through the Peace Center's southern entrance. Sardar Na'im and Jasper Adami went back to their respective home and hotel room. Once he was back in his hotel room, and sure that he was not being observed, he made a phone call.

The next day, the reports were all over the news: someone had shot and killed the mayor of Akpassu, claiming the act as revenge for their co-operation of the security breaches within South Zanzes. Worse off, the South Zanzean local government within the border region did not issue a comment on the incident.

Sardar Na'im, who did not speak Hadinian, was sitting with Jasper Adami and his translator as the news broke.

"My god, this is a disaster," Sardar Na'im gasped. The translator did not have time to relay the message. Jasper Adami spoke first.

"It's gonna be worse for South Zanzes when everyone finds out the guy was innocent".

The translator and Sardar Na'im both stared at Jasper Adami, dumbfounded.

He was speaking fluent Zanzean.

"It's always a good idea to not let people know you speak the language," Jasper noted. "They don't realize you know as much as you do..."

He pointed at the TV, "for instance...I know that office 900 didn't have anything to do with the security breaches. All they do is credit union business, and occassionally they host virtual private network servers on the side, for extra cash".

He smiled. "Lots of people fake IP addresses to North Zanzes that way, actually. I'm sure someone on the dark web decided they wanted to sell some military secrets".

"You knew about this?"

"I know a lot of things, Mr. Sardar. Let's just say it's my job to know things".

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"I represent the Hadinian government. I'm not going to take responsibility for anything the Hadinian government isn't doing".

Sardar looked ominously at the TV.

"What happens now?" He finally asked.

"I don't know," Jasper shrugged. He was being honest. "I'm just here reporting back to the government. This area has been rife with tension for a while. Hadin wants to know what the situation is, so here I am observing..."

He smiled. "Though, given how dangerous the South Zanze are, and the fact that they're willing to attack North Zanzean government officials over such perceived slights, I can't say Hadin won't be upset".

"You could say it's time to assert dominance, before it all starts falling apart".




1 When the Hadinian Theocracy first formed, women lost the right to be the head of household. Single mothers were forced to marry or live with a male relative, so that there was a "paternal" figure in the child's life.

2 It's a rather large handmade car, being almost 9 inches long.

3 Strangely, many Hadinians find Radiatian to be a somewhat easy language. Once you get past how much harsher the pronunciation of letters is, as well as master some basic vocabulary, it isn't as hard for Hadinians to learn as Zanzean or Melodian.

4 It could be said, with some minor level of accuracy, that the friendship between Nikastro and Hammarskold was instrumental in the positive relationship the two countries once enjoyed. The Di Pascari government was quick to subdue those ties, treating Arthuria far more neutrally.

5 South Zanzes officially recognize the Emperor of Nui-ta as their head of state, for now. Despite this, Nui-ta holds them at something of a distance, allowing them to share the Emperor for ceremonial purposes and international affairs, but otherwise wanting South Zanzes to handle its internal affairs as independently as possible. While the South Zanze quite enjoy their status as a Nui-tan protectorate, Nui-tans are not quite as enthused.

On the other hand, Hadin is VERY involved with North Zanzes, essentially treating them as an extension of the Hadinian mainland. North Zanzes is still officially its own country, but only because the Hadinians are trying to "prove" to the rest of the world that the Hadinian way of life works for more than just Hadinians.

6 Hadinians do not mind if the Zanze keep the same general style of clothing, so long as it is modest enough to fit the standards of the Orthodix Septimist church. To this end, women need to keep their shoulders, midriffs, and cleavage completely covered. Their sleeves must be at least 4 inches long, and their skirts must not be less than 4 inches below their knees. Before puberty, a woman may not leave their hair loose in public. After puberty, they must also cover it at least partially with some sort of shawl, veil, or head-dress.
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

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Nui-ta
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1614
Founded: Feb 11, 2012
Ex-Nation

The Outsider

Postby Nui-ta » Sun Oct 20, 2019 3:09 am

The Outsider


Following the advent of the Karasian War, South Zanzes had needed a new capital city. The old Zanzean capital of Do'ana fell firmly within North Zanzean territory. South Zanzes's provisional government had relocated a couple of times before settling within the city of Riyalwan. This particular location was within the center of the country, not too far from North Zanzes, and not too far from Nui-ta. Some of the larger cities of Zanzes had always been enclosed within the thick brush, but Riyalwan had developed to the point where much of that brush had been cleared away.

On the VIP tarmac of the only airport in the city, Chancellor Farhana Abdulrashid Imen stood accompanied by his support staff, smoking a cigarette, while waiting for a particular Nui-tan plane to make its landing. Emir'Kal 1 soon appeared into view, having been preceded minutes before by two smaller military planes carrying some of the entourage for the Nui-tan delegation. A car had also pulled up, further down the tarmac, decorated with the insignia of the Nui-tan Monarchy. A woman whom Chancellor Abdulrashid knew as Ismat Chaudri stepped out of the car alongside her own entourage and made her way to him.

"Chancellor Abdulrashid," said Ismat. She gave him the typical Nui-tan bow, which made sense given that he was now the first official head of the South Zanzean government. He nodded his head in response.

"Ambassador Chaudri".

He would need his assistance for this matter. The guest of honor for this visit was the most important man in both Nui-ta and South Zanzes. Given the recent incidents along the border, the Emperor himself was appearing to help de-escalate the situation before it became an international incident. From what Abdulrashid remembered about the Hadinians, Nui-ta was going to need to give South Zanzes all the help it could get.

After the main plane landed, military personnel and civil servants of both Nui-tan and South Zanzean origin lined up in their appropriate spots. Immediately before the Emperor stepped out of the plane and unto the stairs to descend, Ismat Chaudri stepped forward to announce his arrival.

Given that Emperor Rowan di-Amori was the Emperor of both Nui-ta and South Zanzes, and that both nations had delegations present for this important visit, Ismat Chaudri's position as the Nui-tan ambassador to South Zanzes made her the most suitable person at the time to address both delegations at once. In the Zanzean language, she announced, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Emperor of Nui-ta and South Zanzes".

Rowan di-Amori stepped out of the plane greeted with the usual bows and salutes from the Nui-tan entourage that followed him. The South Zanzean military forces that stood closer to their Governor also saluted, but the Zanzean salute was a bit different from the Nui-tan one in that instead of holding the right palm face down over the heart, the Zanze instead made a fist over the heart. The Emperor instinctually made the Nui-tan salute as he reached the end of the steps, and only made a momentary pause before also returning the Zanzean salute to the Zanze. While he was glad everyone else seemed pleased with the idea, Rowan was not particularly thrilled about now finding himself at the helm of two nations. Nui-ta was already difficult enought to manage some days as it was.

At least the Zanze don't throw themselves down on the floor anymore....1

The South Zanzean civilians bowed in the same fashion as the Nui-tans as Rowan passed, with the Ambassador and South Zanzean governor both bowing once Rowan reached them.

"Your Highness".

"Chancellor Abdulrashid. Ambassador Chaudri".

Farhana Abdulrashid Imen raised himself back up and nodded at the Emperor. "I'm honored to have you in South Zanzes".

"I'm honored to be here," the Emperor sighed, "but I must be honest. We're going to have to make this quick. This situation should have been handled before it even happened".

"I regret that it has come to such a point that we needed to involve you, Your Highness".

"Right now isn't the time for regrets. I trust the rest of the Zanzean National Council are present?"

"They're ready and waiting to convene as we speak".

"Then let's not keep them waiting, Chancellor..."




"Where is Mazahd Ayodele Batul now?"

Rowan di-Amori found himself becoming more uneasy as the seconds ticked away at this meeting. He hadn't initially believed the reports that a group of South Zanze had made it into a North Zanzes border town and shot up a credit union office. For one thing, the border between North and South Zanzes was quite well-fortified. For another, Hadin wasn't as low-maintenance about North Zanzes as Nui-ta was with South Zanzes. Even if a small band of South Zanze could make it past North Zanzean defenses, Rowan sincerely doubted that Hadin would be as easy to fool. Unfortunately, all available intelligence indicated that it really had been South Zanze who had been behind the incident. The perpetrators behind the crime had already been captured by South Zanzean officials after returning to their home country. Some of them remained silent on their alleged involvement, but the ringleader, Mazahd Ayodele Batul, had openly admitted to his part in the crime.

Ayodele had also mentioned that his motivation for this act was based on the fact that many South Zanze believed North Zanze and Hadin to be responsible for recent cybersecurity breaches in South Zanzes. This belief seemed to persist in South Zanzes even after South Zanzean and Nui-tan intelligence could not definitively confirm that the breaches were being conducted by the Hadinian or North Zanzean governments. Mazahd Ayodele Batul's actions had essentially been made without Hadinian provocation. Understandably, on behalf of North Zanzes, Hadin was now demanding that Ayodele and his cohorts be brought to justice in the North Zanzean capital of Do'ana.

There was just one problem.

"The Zanze have already voted on the issue. There are 117 national council members across South Zanzes. 74 of them have voted against extradition".

Rowan noticed Farhana Abdulrashid Imen's lips remaining rather pursed after that statement. One of his Vice Chancellors, Imamu Asad Jaffar, also gave Rowan a rather off-put expression.

There were three other Vice-Chancellors in the room. Two of them, Mphatso Talib Faruzha and Tehrani Thurayya Aref, looked rather relieved at the idea of declining to extradite. The fifth Vice-Chancellor, Abbasi Olamilekan Soraya, maintained a rather neutral (if worried) expression.

"You realize the consequences of this decision, right?" Rowan sighed. "I know the Zanze are feeling threatened, and I don't doubt that Hadin can be a major, major threat if left unchecked, but this..."

He rubbed his temple out of frustration as he continued, "you can't just allow a man who openly admits to terrorism against another country to remain here in South Zanzes unchecked. The man murdered several North Zanzean and Hadinian citizens. Even if we knew for sure that it was Hadin behind the incidents along the border, crime is still crime".

"We need our people to be able to meet a crime with a punishment. No one is exempt from that, not even the Hadinians," Tehrani Thurayya Aref responded. "Ayodele was enacting a punishment that none of us could manage".

"Unfortunately for us," Imamu Asad Jaffar snapped, "Ayodele chose to punish Hadin for something that we can't even prove Hadin did".

"The Hadinians have lied before. Hell, they lie about their own populace's living conditions all the time".

"Not quite like this, though," Abbasi Olamilekan Soraya sighed. "Hadin isn't usually so up front as to allow South Zanzean officials into the building in question to investigate. Our officials left no stone unturned, and even then they admit to not finding anything".

"Worse," Rowan sighed. "I've been in contact with Hadin since this incident began. Apparently, the company that was affected by this incident rented out server space to other Hadinian entities. The hack came from one of these leased servers, and the shell company associated to that rented server space has recently come under investigation by Hadinian authorities for domestic cyber security incidents that have caught the attention of their government".

"That's just more Hadinian bullshit," Mphatso Talib Faruzha scoffed.

"It might be," Chancellor Abdulrashid said. "But we don't know that yet".

"Even so, we can't just turn a blind eye to what Ayodele symbolizes to many South Zanze. The Karasian War ripped Zanzes in half, and Ayodele is willing to make a stand against the entities that tore our nation apart to begin with. So many Zanze support him --- that's why the extradition vote tanked as badly as it did!"

"The Zanze need to move forward," Asad spat. "The Karasian War was years ago. Hadin has had two separate leaders since then, and they've undergone some pretty significant changes. It's not like we're dealing with Nico Hass anymore".

"You might think that's the right thing to do, but some things need to be remembered. Idha thuaben yedak wan tae'ish, lae adjibu'a ealekan ar'tha yedak marat ukhraa.2 The council's vote just shows that most Zanze still remember this lesson".

"It would be wiser still for the Zanze to show some restraint in this matter," Rowan cut in. "For now, anyway. We don't know enough yet to speak of whether or not Hadin is lying, but we know that Mahazd Ayodele Batul has confessed to his crime. We should allow Hadin to prosecute him for murder accordingly".

"The council have already voted no, Your Highness," Thurayya deadpanned. "They have made up their minds".

"And I have made up mine. As the Emperor of South Zanzes I have the power to veto the South Zanzean Council. Mazahd Ayodele Batul needs to face justice, and we need to avoid making this international incident any worse".

"With respect, Your Highness, the Chancellorship have the final say as to whether or not your veto will stand," Talib responded.

He added, "and I vote to override you".

Thurayya spoke next, "I vote in favor of the Council".

Rowan looked at Abdulrashid for a moment. Abdulrashid looked back, gave the Emperor a nod, and said, "I vote to uphold the Emperor's veto".

"As do I," Asad said next. "We chose to follow Nui-ta's guidance in international affairs. We're still in the dark about whether or not Hadin had anything to do with this and pissing Hadin off is only going to make finding the truth harder. Why should we be refusing the help?"

"Two and two," Abdulrashid sighed.

Everyone in the room looked expectantly at Abbasi Olamilekan Soraya. Soraya felt a bead of sweat form on the back of her neck as her gaze shifted between Thurayya, Abdulrashid, and then the Emperor.

"I..."

She sighed.

"Ayodele Batul was definitely in the wrong. The people he killed were obviously innocent. He deserves to be punished".

Rowan di-Amori felt a weight lift off of his shoulders for a moment --- only a moment. What Olamilekan Soraya said next brought the whole situation to a screeching halt.

"But with that being said...I don't feel that His Highness's veto is reflective of the best interest of the Zanze. Just because I think Ayodele had no authority to do what he did, that doesn't mean that I can't refuse to comply with the demands of a dictatorship that did its part in destroying half my country".

"Vice-Chancellor!" Rowan di-Amori was on his feet, with both his hands gripping the table. The Nui-tan and South Zanzean support staff behind him flinched a bit. It was rare to hear him raise his voice, and rarer still to see the Emperor have a full-on outburst.

"Think about what you're deciding before you cast your vote. If you maintain this position, you're giving Hadin all the license it wants to escalate the situation further. South Zanzes can't afford any kind of conflict with Hadin or North Zanzes".

"We have Nui-ta to help us," Olamilekan insisted. "We can find a way to get through this, but we can't back down".

"Vice-Chancellor, Nui-ta and South Zanzes have a collective population of 60 million people. North Zanzes is almost that large by itself. I understand there's still a lot of suspicion on Hadin but sometimes we need to know when to keep our fangs in check. If we let Hadin extradite Mazahd Ayodele Batul, we can buy enough time to fi---".

"I vote to uphold the ruling of the Zanzean council".

Silence. The Emperor sat back down, dumbfounded.

Finally, Asad could be heard muttering the word "shit" in the background.

"You realize that you're opening the Pandora's Box now? Right?" The Emperor sighed. "How well do you think Hadin is going to recieve this decision?"

"We'll just have to see. The Zanze may be impulsive, and I admit to this flaw personally, but we're resilient. We'll find our way, with or without the help of certain outsider nations".

Abdulrashid flinched for a moment before reprimanding Vice-Chancellor Olamilekan. "Apologize to the Emperor".

"Why should I apologize? I'm not sorry".

"Vice-Chancellor, apologize to the Emperor".

"No, she's right," Rowan interrupted, looking down at his desk. "I knew the Zanze weren't going to like the Nui-tan Emperor anymore once he told them no. It's one of the drawbacks to being an outsider".

He looked back at the dissenting Vice-Chancellors, "but don't forget that you needed outside help to survive when Nico Hass came calling the first time. Now hopefully, High-Envoy Matfei Di Pascari falls into the Fiete Nikastro school of diplomacy, but if he doesn't..."

Rowan shrugged. "Well, I guess that'll be up to the Gods to decide. Chancellors, I think it's best if we end this meeting".




1 The Zanze used to kow-tow to their authority figures. This persisted even into the beginnings of their modernization and their partial assimilation into the Nui-tan Empire. These days, the kow-tow has been abandoned by the Zanze, largely due to the fact that they've noticed that even the Nui-tans don't kow-tow to the Emperor. In terms of Zanzean greetings, the South Zanze have adopted Nui-tan bowing etiquette for civil purposes. The South Zanzean military salute mirrors the Nui-tan one in all but two aspects: firstly, the South Zanze make a fist instead of holding their palm flat. Secondly, during certain ceremonial events in the military, a yell may also be included during the salute.

2 "If a snake bites you once and you live, you should not give the snake your hand again."
Last edited by Nui-ta on Sun Oct 20, 2019 10:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
Someone cares? Okay then. Economic Left/Right: -2.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.85

INFP-T personality, quite heavy on the I,P, and T.

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Hadin
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 193
Founded: Feb 19, 2012
Ex-Nation

The Start of Something Larger

Postby Hadin » Sun Nov 17, 2019 2:10 am

The Start of Something Larger




"You've got to be kidding me".

The motorcycle wasn't starting. Lenard had checked the ignition, the engine, the wheels, and any other reason he could think of as to why his bike wouldn't start up. He'd just put gas in the tank this morning. As he gave the keys one last twist to try and spur the vehicle to life, he could feel the chassis shake momentarily and then sputter out.

"It's probably the battery..."

A couple more minutes of frustrated muttering and the phrase "I'm a mechanic, why can't I figure this out?" passed, until Lenard Tracy suddenly heard a voice from behind him.

"Sergeant, everything okay?"

Lenard turned around to notice a younger man a few feet away from him, staring inquisitively at Lenard's motorcycle.

"Do you need help?"

The younger man in question was a Private First Class by the name of Trevor Barthold. Lenard recognized him as a trainee mechanic who had just recently been placed at Fort Kastas.

"It's no use," Lenard sighed. "I'm pretty sure it isn't something I can just fix by myself..." He could see Trevor examining the motorcycle carefully as he said that.

"It's definitely the battery," Trevor murmured. Lenard cocked an eyebrow.

"How do you know that?"

"Everything else looks really well-taken care of. It doesn't look more than a year old, and that's pretty impressive considering that it's a Libertas-30 model Corvega, right?"

"Yeah, actually," Lenard nodded. "I'm impressed. It's not a common brand. Not a lot of people know that".

He sighed. "I'm gonna have to wheel it down to the nearest civilian mechaic or have it towed to get the battery replaced though...great".

"I've got a pick-up truck and some straps, if you wanna help me get it into the back".

"Really?"

"Sure. I have to head that way anyway".

After a bit of heavy lifting, securing, and driving, Lenard felt Trevor's truck come to a lurch and then a stop. They were two blocks away from the closest mechanic, and suddenly they were stopping in front of a flower shop. In front of the shop was a young woman, about Lenard's age, dressed in a white long-sleeve shirt, black skirt, and a chic black vest. Lenard could see wisps of wavy blonde hair peaking out from under the veil she was wearing.

The first time Trevor had asked Lenard to "open the back door and let her in", Lenard was so busy trying to swallow the lump in his throat that he barely registered a thing.

"Sergeant! Let my sister in!"

"Oh! Oh right, let me just..."

Lenard unbuckled his belt and turned around, opening the door as Trevor's sister approached the vehicle.

"Thanks for the lift, Trevor". The woman looked back at Lenard for a moment and made a surprised expression, introducing herself as "Alessa".

"Hi," Lenard murmured awkwardly. "I'm Lenard".

"We're going to have to give the Sergeant a lift to the mechanic. Stay in the car while I help him unload the motorbike".

"If you're going to the mechanic's office, do you think you could buy me a bottle of water from the waiting room?" Alessa asked.

"Sure".

The news was playing from the truck's radio. There was a moment where nothing could be heard but the voice of the radio jockey.

"...police commissioner Shelton Tracy has announced that there have been several arrests made regarding the bomb scare in Kastabal stadium. Investigators believe that the main culprit behind the planned attack, a North Zanzean immigrant by the name of Zhadar Jimawala Kodi..."

"Ugh," Trevor groaned, turning the station from the news to a music station, where the band "Feral Orca's" latest hit was playing.

The singer's voice crooned a melody that all three Hadinians had heard countless times by now.

"Feel like a brand new person (but you'll make the same old mistakes). I don't care I'm in love! (Stop before it's too late)".

"Just when you think we've civilized the North Zanze, we have these barbarians from the south radicalizing them," Trevor said, shaking his head.

Lenard shrugged for a moment before muttering, "thank Septima they found the bombs before someone was hurt. Can you imagine if the third game had been played here and something happened? The world would have been blaming us for it".

"The world has a habit of blaming everything on Hadin. I just hope this means it won't be too much trouble to get a ticket for the next Karasian Cup match here in Kastabal".

"The police did a good job with their investigations. They found the culprits within a week!" Alessa chimed in. Trevor rolled his eyes at her, while Lenard couldn't help but crack a smile.

He slicked his hair back a little, subconsciously, and made his best effort to look charismatic. "My dad's the police commissioner, you know..."

"Wait, Alessa smiled innocently, "wasn't he the one on the news?"

"Oh yeah. Dad's quite excited about the break in the case that they just uncovered. Apparently the South Zanze have been giving some of the North Zanze ideas about independence".

Trevor scoffed. "A few years ago they were backwards savages. They barely had indoor plumbing and television, and now they think they want to be independent?"

"South Zanzes is a pretty good example of what happens when you give such a backwards country independence too quickly though," Lenard muttered.

"Well, I'm sure the North Zanze mean well, but we only do this for their own good," Alessa added. "At least that's as far as I can tell. I don't keep up much with the news".

"You must have some other hobbies though," Lenard said nervously. He could feel Trevor give him an awkward look as the car stopped at a pedestrian crossing. They'd had the bad luck to get to the intersection right as several preschool-aged children were leaving school. A crossing-guard held up a stop-sign, buying Lenard a bit more precious time.

"So, er...what is it you like to do?"

Alessa smiled. "I work part-time at the flower shop I was just at. I like to garden a lot in my spare time as well".

She seemed just as taken with Lenard as he was with her. She inched just a little closer to him, leaning forward in her chair while still maintaining a respectable distance.

"I'd say my other two favorite hobbies are watching soccer games and reading novels".

Trevor decided to interject into the conversation, "she was crestfallen when Unare lost the Cup. Still, I have to hand it to the Alinians, that was a hell of a match".

"Oh, I was sulking all week over that loss," Lenard said, more at Alessa than Trevor. The truck began to move forward again as the last of the children crossed the road. "I completely sympathize".

Alessa sighed. "I haven't been able to vent about it much to anyone though. The matchmaker told me to stop discussing sports. She said it was a man's thing".

"Matchmaker?" Lenard asked.

Trevor interjected again. "Have you heard of Aligheri Matchmaking Services? Alessa is a client there. Mom and Dad are looking for a good match for her".

"Oh," Lenard laughed, "I've...I've heard. My family are looking for someone for me. It's getting to be that time".

"Hey," Trevor yelled, bringing the car to a sudden stop. "We're here! Alessa, stay in the truck, I'll get your drink".

"Oh, I'd actually like to come too..."

"Alessa..." Trevor murmured.

"Y-Y'know," Lenard mentioned, "you wouldn't want to leave a young woman in a running car alone. Strange times, these are. You never know what could happen".

Trevor cocked an eyebrow.

"I mean she can wait until we have the bike unloaded but...y'know, I would just feel bad leaving her alone like this".

Lenard could feel the heat rising to his face. He could also see Trevor's suspicion of him rising.

"Oh, Trevor, I'd feel safer coming in with you. I don't like being here by myself".

"Fine..." Trevor murmured. "After we get the motorcycle unloaded. Don't go too far".




To most of the outside world, Hadin was a rather secretive country. The rest of the world knew so little about Hadin on account of how secretive the country was. What little about Hadin which did happen to be in the sphere of "common knowledge" for most Nocturians only served to cement how different Hadin ultimately was from much of the rest of the world. In such a situation, it was understandable how many conspiracy theories arose across the world which were centered around Hadin.

Some of the theories were reasonable. As much as Hadin adamantly denied it, there was plenty of credence to support the theory that there were re-education centers in North Zanzes and Hadin which effectively served as prison camps. If the theories were to be believed, most of these were concentrated in remote areas of North Zanzes. There was also plenty of credence towards the allegation that there were certain espionage initiatives sanctioned by the Hadinian government which didn't officially exist. Whispered rumors among certain circles even loaned evidence to the assertion that the Hadinian government had certain deep cover agents working across Noctur to attempt to sabotage or silence high-profile defectors from the Hadinian regime, such as Hans Sebastino or Petyr Maloviich.

That wasn't to say that all of the theories were hits. A particularly hilarious debunked theory about Hadin was that there were aliens being housed in the elusive "Area 34". When questions about this rumor made it into a press conference during a meeting of the Vir Consili, the Council's spokesman laughed so violently that he had a hiccupping fit on live television.

There was no denying that Hadin had secrets. Like any other country in Noctur, classified information was par for the course. Those who were privy to such privileged information had the capacity to make better the lives of those who were too simple to be trusted. The insipid reactions from some less intellectually shrewd citizens when faced with the more sensitive aspects of a government's workings, from Hadin and otherwise, made the need for secrecy all the more necessary in Dmitri Rasch's eyes. The general populace were happy with their quiet lifestyles and modernized conveniences. They felt privileged and freer than they ever had been, and they were half right. Dmitri found that most of the flock could be kept obedient and malleable, as long as this illusion were kept up.

The presence of a newer generation made things easier. The last major generation to come of age in Hadin dealt with the end of Nui-tan occupation in Hadin and the pre-Theocracy years, after the Hadinian War. At that time, there were still many deep divisions within Hadin regarding the future of what Hadin's government would look like. Just as there had been supporters of the Theocracy, there had been communists, republicans, anarchists, fascists, and even the occassional monarchist --- not that Hadin ever had a "royal bloodline" of any sort. This newer generation was different. In their earliest childhoods, the Theocracy had already cemented itself, and while it was still in need of much improvement, Hadin was also undergoing a period of isolationism from the rest of Noctur. In effect, these children spent their earliest years knowing nothing of the outside world.

As they grew older, Hadin began to rapidly change and advance. Admittedly, there were spurts of poor leadership under the second and third High-Envoys. There were many good things too, though.

An economic boom.

Increased civil rights, to a point, under High-Envoy Nikastro.

The smoothest transition of power in Hadinian history, upon the consecration of High-Envoy Di Pascari to the most powerful seat in the country.

An exit from isolationism into the UNCA, and the benefits of trade and cultural exchange with like-minded countries like Segland and Algrabad. In his own youth, Dmitri remembered harboring a particular hatred for the isolationists. He wasn't keen on influence from culturally incompatible nations like Radiatia, but too much isolationism was like walking into a lion's den while being blindfolded. Another drawback to isolationism was the lack of friends. Maintaining moral and ethical hygiene was a two-fold process: other countries could serve as good examples just as quickly as they could serve as the opposite. Furthermore, a more international approach to Hadin's cultural attitudes also helped to stamp out old tribalistic views on race. Now there was a prejudice that Dmitri could not understand. He quite enjoyed the company of his Seglandic-born wife, Veronika Partanen-Rasch.

Certain countries simply knew the right way of doing things. While Hadin was doing great now, Dmitri still worried about outside influence slowly eating away at Hadin's culture. There would always be degenerates trying to undermine the Hadinian way of life. Yesteryear, it was the Radiatian heretic, but they were now far enough removed from Hadin to be more of a nuisance, so long as they were left alone. Today, it was domestically-grown dissidents, but Dmitri Rasch had already begun advising the High-Envoy on how to combat these threats with minimal collateral damage. Most domestic terrorists could be weeded out quickly with an increase in public security initiatives. Police forces around Hadin found themselves receiving massive overhauls and substancial government funding. Social service applications like Agnitio and Connexus were also leveraged to provide accurate data about the Hadinian populace. A few particularly subversive Hadinians had managed to leave the country before the government could stop them from causing issues, but depending on the nature of their work, Dmitri found individual ways to neutralize the threats that these individuals represented. Whether that was blacklisting any works they produced, issuing warrants for their extradition if they happened to touch UNCA soil, or just limiting the amount of outgoing material that they had to work with, one by one, the dissidents became less troublesome to deal with. In particular, Dmitri's tendency to work under the table resulted in virtually no paper trail. With no paper trail to latch unto as proof, TrickiLeaks was left virtually powerless against Dmitri's work.

Dmitri's calculations and foresight led him to predict that the largest future threat to Hadin would actually be South Zanzes. In the aftermath of the Karasian War, Hadin had made an enemy of South Zanzes. Now there was trouble brewing on the horizon from that direction. South Zanzean hatred of Hadin had led to some interesting interactions with the barbarians. The "nation" to the southwest --- if one could call them that --- openly admitted to interference with Hadinian operations in North Zanzes. This was mostly limited to non-compliance with Hadinian policies regarding North Zanzes. Hadinian policy within North Zanzes was that no North Zanzean national could leave North Zanzes without a travel permit. South Zanzes frequently took in North Zanzean defectors, arguably luring them away with propaganda and dubious promises. South Zanzes also frequently dropped packages of subversive and heretical materials in North Zanzes, undermining the Hadinian policy of introducing Hadinian values (like religion), in the hopes of grooming North Zanzes to be a successful, civilized state.

Recently, the world's attention was being drawn back to Karas. This time, it was due to the developing stories of South Zanzes initiating violent attacks and inspiring the North Zanze to commit violent rebellion against their Hadinian patrons. Some persons within Noctur dismissed these allegations as being conspiracy theories.

Dmitri chuckled to himself.

They were half right. The South Zanze were definitely inspiring their Northern brethren to break with Hadinian traditions. Considering that even Nui-ta recognized North Zanzes as being under the authority of Hadin, most of the international community could agree (at least in public), that South Zanzes was in the wrong. Now, South Zanzes hadn't been particularly violent towards Hadin of their own volition. That idea was planted by Dmitri and a couple of other enterprising Hadinian officials, in the form of off-the-books agents like one Jasper Adami.

Adami and others like him would bring illegal weapons into North Zanzes. Some North Zanzean agents for the Hadinian Theocracy would pose as rebels and lure out dissidents. They would befriend these dissidents, gain their trust, and learn more information as to where the South Zanzean side of rebel operations lied. Regrettably, such entrapment measures resulted in arming real rebels and causing real messes, like what had happened in the border town where a North Zanzean mayor was shot and killed. Other operations, like the would-be Kastabal bombings, were successful attempts to ensnare rebels in the act and gain evidence of South Zanzean radicalization and their subsequent intrusion of Hadinian affairs. Seven of the eight suspects behind the Kastabal incident were genuinely radicalized North Zanze who would now be dealt with accordingly. The eight was a Hadinian plant who would be re-assigned to a different operation in the coming months.

In some ways, it was a conspiracy --- a flawless one which no one could definitely trace back to Hadin. South Zanzes had still actively participated in the process of all events involved. They merely didn't know that Hadin had been stringing them along the whole time.

And neither did anyone else.




After getting his motorcycle fixed, Lenard spent the next few days at work before heading back to Aligheri Matchmaking Services for a scheduled appointment.

Upon arrival at said appointment, Lenard noticed that the office in which he usually met his matchmaker was closed. Looking through the decorative glass siding around the door, Lenard could faintly see Mr. Aligheri talking with a female matchmaker. They were comparing notes on particular clients. Lenard could see several pink and blue binders scattered around the table. One pink and one blue binder were next to each other, and it was over these two binders that Mr. Aligheri and his associate were having their conversation.

Deciding to assert that he was present for the appointment without being too rude, Lenard ducked behind the door and gently knocked with two knuckles. He could hear the last vestiges of the conversation within the room as he moved.

"...they seem like a really good fit. I think we ought to try having them bot --- oh. Someone's at the door".

Mr. Aligheri opened the door in time to see Lenard standing presentably on the other side.

"Ah, Mr. Tracy. Your timing is impeccable". Lenard let his eyes instinctively fall to the table before suddenly realizing that the blue binder composing the pair was marked with a particular identification number. His number".

Mr. Aligheri continued, "So I was told by Mrs. Petehan-Rostal that you met a lovely young woman a week or so ago who happens to be one of her clients. Do you remember a Ms. Alessa Barthold?"

Lenard felt his cheeks go crimson. He could hear Mrs. Petehan-Rostal giggling faintly while all of this was happening. Mr. Aligheri just gave Lenard a knowing smile.

"Well, it appears, the two of you have quite a bit of potential. With your permission, of course, we were wondering about going ahead and setting you both up for lunch this afternoon at a cafe? I'm sure Ms. Barthold would be quite enamored with the idea so long as you are..."

"She won't stop talking about you," the other matchmaker giggled again.

"Bah...yeah...uh, sure! I-I'd..."

"Confidence, boy. You can't let her see you stammering like that..."

Lenard heeded Mr. Aligheri's advice and assumed, as best he could, a cool and confident position. "Of course. Where and when?"

The date had been at Aaradigo's Cafe, a block away from the office. Lenard had gone there first, on his own. About ten minutes after his arrival, Mrs. Petehan-Rostal could be seen escorting Alessa Barthold to the venue.

"You two have fun. I'll just be over there if you need me. We'll all go back together when we're done..."

Lenard knew, of course, that Mrs. Petehan-Rostal's real reason for sticking around was to make sure that nothing too scandalous happened on the watch of the matchmaking agency. She'd likely also swoop in and alleviate tensions if the date went sour.

Don't think about that, Lenard. Order two teas and ask her how she's been...

He pulled the first of two chairs out for Alessa, watching her sit down elegantly and adjust her floor-length skirt into a more modest position.

Don't stare.

He pulled out another seat for himself and sat down, muttering something to Alessa that sounded vaguely like a nervous greeting.

Septima above, she looks gorgeous...

He suddenly realized he was expected, by societal convention, to order something on behalf of Alessa. And to pay for the whole date.

Oh no. What does she like? I don't even know! What did she ask for last week at the mechanic's office...wait don't think about that, we're at a nice cafe!

Oh crap, I didn't think I was going to be going out on a date today. I put most of my check into my savings account...I don't think I'm going to have enough in my checking to cover the date and my other bills!

I could try and move some money over right now but I'd need to grab my phone, and I can't just do that now! She'll think I'm not paying attention to her!

"Lenard?"

Oh Septima help me, now she's talking to me and I don't even know what to say!

Lenard felt a bead of sweat roll down his neck. This was not off to a good start. Hadinian men were supposed to be stoic, confident, and capable. Lenard didn't seem to be encompassing any of that at the moment.

This was it. He was rejected. Time to throw in the towel and start over with another girl, another voice in his head told him. Actually, no. Forget that. You'll be alone for the rest of your life.

A soft graze against his hand snapped him out of it. While the chaperone was busy ordering tea with a waiter, Alessa managed to stealthily graze Lenard's hand with her own to comfort him.

"It's okay Lenard," Alessa whispered. "I'm nervous too..."

He felt his heart skip a beat. Oh my god I'm on a date with the nicest woman ever.

In a break from tradition, Alessa suddenly began initiating conversation herself. "So, I hear the omelettes here are really good. I think I'm feeling like having some raspberry tea, too. How has your motorcycle been? Did they fix it?"

Lenard felt himself relax and let another part of his mind take over. Despite the rocky start, their first date was now picking itself back up, swimmingly. Suddenly, Lenard got the idea that maybe things were going to be alright after all.

The second date was a bit easier than the first. The third was a bit easier than the second. A few weeks went by, and then a few months. Soon, conversation became much easier. Alessa and Lenard suddenly found themselves friending each other on Connexus and meeting each other's families. Alessa's brother Trevor went from begrudingly welcoming Lenard to actively engaging him in conversation, and even speaking with him at work like a friend. The relationship grew in seriousness, enough to the point where the agency stopped setting them up for regular appointments. Mr. Aligheri's visits became less about finding Lenard a woman who would interest him, and more about the financial and social intricacies of adjusting to marital life. Sometimes, during their time together, Alessa would tell Lenard little snippets about what her own matchmaking visits were looking like. Apparently, she was getting the same treatment.

Marriage was some time off, according to Lenard's pocketbook. The Tracy family were fairly well off, but Lenard's own wages weren't as plentiful as his fathers, and Lenard was certainly not going to ask his father for a loan. He could already hear how that conversation was going to go in his head.

When I was a boy I worked and paid my own bride price, and unlike you I didn't live at home! Builds character! Put your nose to the grindstone, Lenard! Only 8,000 more Dir to go before you're in a good spot! That's not so hard!

Considering he was also setting aside money for a home, those 8,000 Dir seemed a long way off. He tried to remind himself about the fact that he was still relatively young. He still had two more years in the service before he could really settle down, find a civilian job, and actually enjoy being married.

At least...that was what he thought.

November 18th, 4066 was the day that changed everything. Lenard was up late in his room, on his laptop, browsing through part-time job listings in the hopes of searching for some extra cash. There was a knock on his door.

"Dad? Shouldn't you be sleeping?"

"Shouldn't you?" Shelton Tracy seemed more exhausted than usual. Lenard knew his father's job as the city's police commissioner was quite exhausting, but something didn't seem quite right.

"I was up looking for a job. Part-time. Something on the weekends for some extra money. The savings account could use some extra padding".

"Oh really," Shelton said, coming inside of the room and shutting the door. "And what did you find?"

"The mechanic shop down the road --- the one where they fixed my motorcycle --- they're hiring part time. I could probably manage that on the weekends between babysitting Artur and the occassional date with Alessa".

"How good is the pay?"

"Decent. A little less than what I make in a day at the base. I don't know if that'll get me where I need to go as quickly as I need --- I mean, I've only got a couple of years before my discharge, but I figure if I put my nose to the grindstone I---".

"How much money are you needing for the house and the wedding?"

"Nice houses close by are about 1,400 a month, and Mr. Aligheri says it would be best if I had a few month's advance just in case. Maybe I could skimp a little and look for a flat for when we first start out. 900 a month, maybe?" He paused to think for a moment. "We're probably going to need about 5000 for a nice church wedding, and Alessa's bride price is about 4,000 Dir".

"Only 4,000?"

"Yeah, Trevor told me she was 7,500 when they started, but for me her parents are willing to cut me a break. I only have about 7,000 saved up".

"So that's..." Shelton paused as he took a moment to do some mental math. "...about another 6,000 that you need. Okay, not bad".

"Yeah," Lenard muttered, "I guess I could manage that in a year. If I worked really, really hard at it..."

"Don't worry about it. I'll give you the rest".

Lenard felt his brain come to a screeching halt.

"Wait...what? I mean, thanks but...I thought---"

"Normally," Shelton said, interrupting his son, "I'd just tell you to keep working at it. Saving up for these kinds of things are going to make you appreciate your family life when you finally have it. Builds character. Y'know, typical Hadinian dad talk".

Lenard felt the air grow heavy. Bad news was incoming.

"However," Shelton continued, "given recent events, I think it's probably for the best that we start planning the wedding now and get you two settled in together while we still can".

"Dad," Lenard asked. "What's going on?"

"I already talked about it with Alessa's parents. They agree that this is for the best. I'll let you break the news to Alessa if you wish?"

"W-w-what news?" Lenard stammered. He was starting to become seriously unnerved by the situation. "You're helping me get married faster. Alessa will be thrilled...why do you say this like it's a bad thing?"

"With all the work you've been doing I doubt you've had time to watch the news".

Silence. Shelton was right. Finally, Lenard answered with a meek "what's happening?"

Shelton took a deep breath.

"The High-Envoy had a meeting with the Emperor of Nui-ta and South Zanzes. The Emperor pledged that he would not support the terrorist attempts made by the South Zanze against Hadin. You know, all that nasty business with the bombings and the shootings in North Zanzes?"

"Okay, so the Nui-tan Emperor supports peace. Isn't that a good thing?"

"It would be...if three of the five states of South Zanzes hadn't decided not to fall in line with their Emperor".

Oh shit...

"There's no official declaration of war because the Emperor sees reason, but the South Zanze are actively rebelling against that same reason. Apparently there's been numerous riots in South Zanzes, and worse, there's heightened activity at the border".

"Fuck, are we going to war?" Lenard gulped.

"Not yet..." Shelton sighed. "But we will, the way things are going. I guess it could be worse. It looks like it may well just be Hadin against South Zanzes, given that the Emperor refuses to support the war effort, and that the conservative government in Nui-ta is pledging to cut aid to South Zanzes".

"So how long do you think we have?"

"A month or so, maybe. You don't get to become police commissioner and stay that way in a major city in Unare without making some friends in the state government. One or two in the national government even..."

Shelton sighed. "I'll give you the 6,000 Dir tomorrow. Get the wedding planned, pick out a house, have a short quick honeymoon while you still can, and maybe make an honest woman out of that poor girl before this fiasco starts".




Shelton's prediction had been slightly conservative. In reality, it took a month and a half before High-Envoy Di Pascari decided that enough was enough and finally declared war on "the terrorist entities within South Zanzes". Lenard and Alessa had just gotten back from their honeymoon in Kopurauth. The last of the boxes was still needing to be unpacked in their new flat, two blocks away from Alessa's parent's home.

Putting together his gear and getting ready to ship out to the airport, Lenard gave Alessa a quick kiss goodbye before proceeding to leave the life he'd just started behind. Alessa's words final words to him that day were that "hopefully, it will be a short, quick war".

By all accounts, she was right to think that. South Zanzes without Nui-tan assistance would be practically defenseless against Hadin. Hell, North Zanzes alone could probably manage to win the war the way things were going. The South Zanze were just being stupid. They were making a mistake, and now they had to pay for it.

And yet Lenard couldn't help but feel that this was the start of something much larger than him, and far more terrible than he could ever imagine.
Just so you know, this nation, in character, is a highly sexist, highly theocratic, and highly authoritarian state. (Though under the new guy, it seems to be improving a little).

I disagree with a lot of what this nation stands for. It was invented for its intrigue and ample opportunities for satire, not for its ideals.

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