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Imperial Konsolodation [GD]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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The Macabees
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Imperial Konsolodation [GD]

Postby The Macabees » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:02 pm

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Fedala, Imperial Seat of the Golden Throne
March 2028 — The Will dictates one of two fates to a traitor: death or redemption.

I


Thirty thousand men in Ordenite military uniform marched in closed, tight ranks down the Kapes Viksedén. They moved slowly, their pace restrained by brilliant silver shackles around their ankles, wrists, and necks. All were traitors, all Macabeans who had fought for the Reich in Kashubia. Around them rode thousands of kabalga, the emperor's honor guard, on regal, white steeds. They moved slowly to the music of a colorfully garbed marching band that led the procession, their militant and celebratory music propagated by giant speakers spread along the flanks of the grand boulevard from one end to the other. Around them were over twenty-five million souls clamoring to witness the fruits of the empire's blood and glory.

All but the youngest had seen such a thing only once before. Not even for the conquest of Theohuanacu was a Triumph celebrated, not since the great feat of The War — and that one had been the first for over three centuries. Millions of citizens and celebutants converged upon Fedala like a dark, loud blob of ink that spread from along the Kapes Viksedén and back through the streets that branched out on either side. It was a quite a sight to behold!

It had all been preceded by a stunning military parade, led by the thirty-seven Koro Kirim, eighty-one Mekugian reguliés, and sixty-six Grup Koda that had sacrificed so much to slowly pick away at the Wehrmacht's rear echelons, deep in the hellish rainforests of South Panooly, even as the Reich's army threatened to swallow the northern capital whole. Theirs was the honor of the vanguard. Behind them marched the survivors of the original garrison and they proudly soaked the warm embrace of an ecstatic crowd. One thing above all captivated the people, though. That was armor, and in that spirit it was the two surviving tank brigades of the original garrison that took up the rearguard. Linces rode ahead of Nakíl's, and all of their cannons pointed menacingly towards the crowd, bringing wows and great acclaim. All of these men had held on to North Panooly against all odds and they now reveled in the clamorously glorious cheers of their fellow citizens.

Most of the people looking on, tightly packed in with friends and strangers alike, could not see the parade directly. That was how crowded Fedala was this magnificent day. So tightly packed in on the cobblestone streets were they that they seemed about to burst like a balloon overfilled with water. The majority of the millions watched on large screens hanging on the nearby buildings, hiding beautiful and intricate baroque and gothic façades that made even the great city of Macabea blush. Although there were speakers throughout the city, there was no need for sound as the noise of people was roaringly deafening. They loudly and proudly hailed the defenders of Holy Panooly as the heroes that they were.

The captured and surrendered Macabean SS marched in chains behind the main procession, booed by the crowd throughout. Many aggressive onlookers threw old, rotting vegetables and fruits at them, aiming especially for the face or the groin. Prisoners fell between their strides, bringing down those behind and in front of them. When this happened the kabalga stepped down their horses to help, taking their payment in liberal strikes and blows on the stragglers.

This made the crowd, whose energy was boiling in anticipation of the most important part of the Triumph, yell even louder than they already had. One could hear them urging these 'pigs' and 'turncoats' to move faster.

As that sorry gray-clad throng of traitors moved down the broad boulevard, their chains glittering in the sun, there was a sudden cheer that arose from the far eastern end of the Viksedén. It flowed along the kapes like a wave, losing intensity at its tail to gain it at its crest. The forefront began to raise their voices in anticipation, like a crescendo that moved but never ended. None of the prisoners of war turned their head, for they knew who was behind them just as much as they knew who would deal their ultimate justice. They knew whom they had disappointed and whom they would have to redeem themselves to.

He emerged on an illustrious golden chariot pulled by a trio of majestic, white horses. They were impeccably groomed and their harnesses were decorated with intricate scrollwork that took one's eye to the carriage. The imperial double-headed eagle stretched and wrapped to either side, dominating the chariot's front. Golden edged trimmed its white body, with an aureate castle keep one flank and a trident of the same color on the other — His coat of arms.

A blonde mane that gave Him the look of a lion was broken only by a crown of blades interwoven like laurel leaves, colored black so that it could be seen against His hair. Fedor, He who commanded the Golden Throne, rode triumphant.

Behind Him, two thick chains attached to hooks on the rear of the undercarriage extended back to two men who stumbled and struggled as they were pulled by His chariot. They were dirty and grimy as if they had just come from a long wait in the dusty confines of an old prison cell. And it was true, they had. One since early December, at South Panooly's fall, and the other in February, when he had been nabbed before his command ship was struck by a blood-boiling nuclear blast.

"The Will giveth, The Will taketh," whispered an imono — a servant of He — in His ear over and over.

Fedor stood straight, his back rigid and proper, with one hand on the reins and the other on the hilt of his sword. He wore his military uniform, with the eagle and crossed swords on either side of the lapel. The infamous cuirass covered his chest and stomach, with its light, white fabric covering thin ballistic plates. On the chest flew a black double-headed eagle with claws that dug into rippling armored abdomens, clutching the head of a Zarbian togera — a feline-like predator that, even with the humans that abounded, thought it owned the jungles — and an Indran sycle in either talon. On either flank of the breastplate were intricate scenes to memorialize the defeats of Safehaven and Theohuanacu. One was of a Havenic soldier losing his head and the other of the city of Tiwanaku aflame. All victories that the Fuermak had won under His command.

On the right breastplate was a new engraving. It fit just right, a Panooly stepped temple with a sword driven through it and the five-pointed star of Red Star Union behind them. One of the eagle heads faced it with mouth agape as if destroying them with fire. To the left, with flames reaching out at it the same as its brother to the right, was the pitchfork and arrow of Nicaro and Firmador. Two fresh victories. And He had his sight on another.

The back was to have the crowning piece. Along the lower segment of the backplate was to be engraved with scenes of battle in Gholgoth, commemorating the Empire's ultimate victory in Gholgoth. Fedor could, and did, not see it any other way. He was, after all, graced by Will. She had chosen, nay blessed, Him. Hundreds of millions of men and thousands of warships were amassed in Gholgoth at that very moment, poised and sprung to launch one of the most audacious amphibious landings in the history of man. Fedor smiled ever so slightly at the prospect of victory, as His people cheered for him.

"The Will giveth, The Will taketh," the imono whispered on.

Never did his gaze pass onto the Macabean turncoats who had abandoned their faith in Him. He would not bestow them that honor. Neither did he stray too close, always keeping a distance, with plenty of his kabalga pushing the prisoners to move faster. The people still showered them with rotting good, even meat, to illustrate the shame that they had brought to their empire.

Lyrila kept pace with His carriage, and even then her stride seemed a dangerous prowl. She roared, turning her head to scare the crowd a few feet back. It was the back of traitorous procession that received the worst of it, nipped incessantly by the beast at their heels. The tyger was a gift of Nifon, and now she almost always went where Fedor went. With black-stripped fur as white as snow, she matched His cuirass well, and her hair rose across her mane like spikes. At over three hundred kilos, she was no small animal. If Lyrila wrought fear out of those directly around her, she rose the crowd's fervor to a level beyond anything the capital had ever experienced before. It was a spectacle for the ages.

The great Porta Laró was a massive square and it was surrounded by four sprawling, elaborate complexes that extended down their own blocks that radiated out from the Porta like rays of the sun. On the northwestern corner sat the walled Palace of Igadelga, the trim of its rooftop decorated with small byzantine spirals that made it look like a sandcastle with towers of terraced mud drops, which housed the Alkad — mayor — of the capital. While far more utilitarian, Fuermak Kommand was by no means a plain piece of architecture, although its buildings were mostly hidden behind tall, thick trees that purposely obscured vision into the complex. Armed soldiers walked its parapet. Facing the podium of a large stage that sat only a few dozen meters from Igadelga, on the southwestern corner, was the Grand Temple of the Willed, one built to rival even the ancient Grea Tabót of Macabea. Finally, and not to be outdone by the others, stood Banka Lok Pavat, one of the oldest and most prestigious banks in the empire.

Formidable as it was, the architecture seemed small in the presence of Fedor and his Triumph.

The heroes of Holy Panooly had passed through the Porta Laró by now and continued marching down the Kapes Viksedén, until they finally settled in place once the last Nakíl had rolled off the square grounds. Behind them, the captured Macabean traitors filed in row-by-row until almost the entire space had been packed in with them. Whatever space was left was taken up by a just-wide-enough corridor to fit His chariot and by the kabalga, which took up position around the perimeter of the Porta and the central stage. The buildings had been opened to the public, so that those wealthy enough to afford the connections could watch from the many balconies that hung from opulent walls, with their distinctive pointed terraced spires, ribbed vaults, and intricate ornamentation.

His chariot was pulled westward through the corridor between the two drab-looking walls of prisoners. They averted their eyes when he passed. Lyrila walked alongside with cool relaxation, despite having muscles coiled as if ready to pounce right then and there. Menancing as she was, the tyger would not do harm to any of them without her master's command.

""The Will giveth, The Will taketh," said the imono, one last time.

Finally, the chariot came to a halt just before the stage. Fedor let go of the reins in his left hand and he turned to descend. Even then, every movement oozed with authority and imperial prowess. He was every inch the showman, and it was effective. Fedala was already boiling and trembling from the millions upon millions of men and women shouting, cheering, and jumping as the procession moved through the Porta. But Will was on the empire's side, for the crowd somehow managed to grow their noise to a tremendous level. Some glass shook and quivered as waves of sound struck against them like storm-driven waves against a seawall made of rock. When Fedor stepped down onto the cobblestone pavement the capital roared as if it could be heard from all corners of the empire, from Indras to the western edge of Levante. Fedor basted in it as he gracefully made his way up a stairway that did the Porta's grandeur justice, to the stage that extended from almost one side of the square to the other.

It was a massive thing, with four rows of seven gallows each. Nooses hauntingly hung from every one of them. Only meters away from the edge of the stage stood a squat chopping block made of a dark wood. It was the same one that had hosted the head of Heinrik, prince of the Golden Throne and Fedor's father, another man who had dared to commit treason against Fedor.

As He ascended to the stage, the crowd climaxed until He put his hands up to signal his intention to speak. Slowly, the city came down to a low hum and millions of people looked to Him expectantly, if not directly then through screens throughout the city or in their living rooms. It was rare to see His Imperial Majesty in public and to speak even more so, and when He had it was moving. Fedor was a showman and His people His loyal audience. Their attention was focused like a beam. Those who still went about their days stopped in the corner market to watch with a dozen others on the store's security television or listened to their radios, their cars parked in a lot or some even by the side of the road.

Fedor made them wait. Not for long, but just enough to be unpressured, cool as the tall Vindoahn Mountains of Targul Frumos.

"People of the Golden Throne," he began, "your sons and daughters have made the Empire proud. Against them was a torrent which brought ominous odds, and yet they resisted. They found every last resource at their disposal and they held 'til our armies arrived to quash our enemies." There was a particular menace to His voice as He pronounced those last words. The crowd rose and cheered.

"For that, they deserve our gratitude, as do the men and women who stormed the Panooly beaches and broke down our foes in the forests. And, of course, our allies, the Crown of Imbrinium, deserve praise for aiding us at a time during which our Empire faces many threats. To the west, lie the slavers. They are manifestations of evil itself and they must be eradicated. Already, Nicaro and Firmador has fallen." He pointed to the new engraving on his breastplate. A camera focused in on it to display it on millions of televisions worldwide. In the background, the people cheered again. "In the east, we fought the fascists and defeated them" — there was a martial emphasis in his tone. "It is to the Empire that Holy Panooly and Pezlevko-Rubino can once again taste the sweet petals of freedom." At that, the people howled and fluttered small one-hand flags or gold-and-white ribbons.

Fedor rose his hands again to bring the public back to a hush. "Our largest challenge looms before us. The Scandinvans armed a rebellion for the sake of their detestable slave trade and they threatened the well-being of our empire. Their boldness will inspire others evil and we are compelled to crush them so that others can know the price of their crimes. Hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters gather on the southern end of Gholgoth now, as I speak, preparing for the most momentous occasion in the history the Golden Throne. Our armies converge upon the wretched Scandinvan Empire with the intention of securing the rightful justice that has so far been denied to us."

The crowd has quieted to a murmur. "Many of you are afraid. 'It is Gholgoth,' you say. You are right to hold respect for the Goths, for they are a fierce group with ancient roots and this is truly a daunting mission. Hear me now, Citizens and Peoples of the Golden Throne, fear has no place in our vision! Will herself flows on the side the Empire and so shall we be victorious. Do you hear me, brave people? Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends of those who sacrifice all to fight for us, do you hear me?" His voice was like thunder.

An explosion of bellowing cries erupted in response.

Fedor knelt, introspectively tilting his head downward, and the millions around him quieted once again.

He slowly rose back onto his feet, a somber look on his face. "But I must admit that I am wounded. The prisoners before you chose to betray us." He spat at one of them in the front row, and many in the crowd cheered. "They betrayed you, The People! They harmed us and so we must all decide their fate. Shall they be punished? Tell me, should I serve them death...or redemption?" By then the color of anger had returned to his cheeks and his eyes danced with fire.

The crowd raged with him, as it uttered an extended, and loud, boo that was quick to spread down the various streets and avenues that spread out from the Porta Laró. From the balconies, some began to rain down old food of all kinds. Some even poured milked, hitting several prisoners in the head. Others tossed their trash in open bags, the contents spilling all over those below. A kabalga rider was hit as well, and he swore under his breath as he angrily looked up in search of the punk who had done it. For a few brief seconds, it seemed as if order would give way to chaos and that the Triumph would turn to riot. The people clamored for blood. "Kill them all!" shrieked one woman with a shrill, ear-piercing cry. There was hate flowing through their veins and it came out in their shouts.

Fedor raised his hands once again, and the people hushed. "You have been heard, brave Citizens and People."

He looked to the men in gray below Him and turned to sweep His frigid gaze across those standing behind. "Traitors!" he growled. "You shame your emperor and the people. No, not your people. How can they be? You chose to oppose them, to fight them. You chose to fight for our enemy. I struggle to find a punishment that will deliver the justice that you deserve for your dispicable" — he spat as he spoke, that was the degree of anger flowing through him — "crimes. What shall I do? How shall I carry out The People's Will? I can only think of one."

Fedor paused and the crowd's murmuring fell even lower. One could hear the clink of a chain as a prisoner moved his legs from the discomfort of the weight. He looked over to where his chariot still stood, at the two men shackled to it. "Henry Cunningham, you are a traitor to your own people, a people who have been allies of the Golden Throne since the reunification. Because of you, and your weakness, sixty million of your people, the Panooly people, allies and vassals to the Golden Throne, have died. Sixty million of your people. I see no more suitable punishment for you than death. Death comes in many ways, some more honorable than others. You, parasite, do not deserve an honorable death. No. You shall die like a slave, a slave to your own depravity." In the balcony and on the streets the people exploded in an uproar once again. Their faces turned red, they felt what He felt. The showman was a good one.

"Guards! Bring him to me," ordered Fedor, over the sheer cacophony of the clamoring crowd. Two kabalga rode up to the chariot and dismounted their white steeds. One of them revealed a key from out his pocket and used it to snap the irons off the undercarriage. Yanking them, the soldier dragged the prisoner to his feet.

"Stand for your emperor!" bellowed the soldier ordered.

Tall, slender, and blonde, Henry Cunningman managed to pull off a relative air of dignity as he was pulled by the chains up the stage. His wrists were the red kind of raw as they chafed under the shackles that tightly bound them together. The prisoner stumbled over the last step and hit his face against the surface of the stage. Frustrated, the soldier yanked on his chains again to forcibly lift him to his feet once again. "Rise, scoundrel!"

As Fedor waited by the wood block at the center of the stage another soldier trotted up from behind the gallows. The man carried a sheathed sword on both palms. He stopped in front of the emperor, knelt, and bent his head, holding the sword above his head. Fedor took it and unsheathed it. Her sleek, curved blade shined so brightly under the sun that it was blinding. Linceta was the sleek thing's name. As Fedor weighed it in his hands and swung it around, wooing the crowd, Henry Cunningham was brought up to the block and forced down to his knees. He said nothing, although as his head came closer to the wood his breathing became shallow and anxious, and his muscles began twitching in panic.

By the time He had brought the sword up, sharp tip pointed toward the sky, Henry Cunningham was crying. Fedor had been here once before, when he had brought his father through the same humiliation and executed him in this exact square. The blade dropped. Cunningham's head rolled onto the studded wood floors of the stage. So died the once president of the short-lived 'Free Republic' of South Panooly.

A third soldier came up quickly to take the body and severed head away. Fedor then turned to look at the last remaining man chained to His Triumphal chariot and bellowed, "Mikael Varis!"

The crowd fell silent. They knew Varis. He was a traitor, but he was also a kríerlord, and to the common man a kríerlord was almost god-like. Had they not lived in an age of science, most would likely believe that they were full-on deities. As advisors to His Imperial Majesty, no person had ever lived through the execution of one. That kind of discord and conflict within the Imperial Bureaucracy simply did not exist — well, so they had thought. But now a kríerlord stood before them in rags, stripped of his power, dignity, and humanity. He looked mortal as the same guard who had brought up Henry Cunningham unlocked the irons and pulled him up to the stage's platform. He looked hunched and dejected, as if the very fire in his soul had been squelched to the point of leaving behind not even embers to reignite

As he was brought to his knees and his head was pushed onto the chopping block, Varis seemed resigned to his fate. How had he gotten here? "I gave you all, Mikael," said Fedor, a mixture of anger and sorrow in his voice. "I trusted you, Mikael. And you betrayed me and our people! In a time of great need, you murdered good officers, good men, and good soldiers. You tainted the loyalties of my fleets in Krasnova. You were a kríerlord, the standards you are held to are above all others. Therefore so shall the penalties you will pay. Your titles shall be revoked, and neither your children nor anyone else in your family shall inherit them. Your lands shall be forfeited to the Imperial Bureaucracy and returned to The People and Citizens. Your memory and legacy as a kríerlord shall be wiped away. You are now nothing more than a traitor and for that your sentence is death."

He brought that great curved sword called Linceta up and it dropped swiftly, lopping Varis' head off in one fell swoop. As the crowd watched silently, one could hear the head plop onto the platform's surface. First, one man dared to cheer, and then thousands followed, to turn into millions and finally into tens of millions applauding and yelling for bloody gore.

Fedor sheathed the sword and handed it back to the soldier who had brought it to him, and who was still kneeling with palms upright above his head. Red stains quickly spread over the man's white gloves from the blood that was running out from inside the sheath. Once the emperor turned his back, the soldier stood and marched back through the forest of gallows and back down the stage. Fedor's attention had already moved on.

The prisoners around him below kept their heads down, and as his gaze swept over them he arched an eye and said, loudly so that all could hear, "As for you lot of larval scum, your status of Citizens has henceforth been revoked. You have been stripped of all rights, and of all claims to sovereignty as an individual in the Empire of the Golden Throne, putting your fates solely in the hands of The Citizens and Peoples. They have asked for your lives. And rightly so, for you have all proven to be nothing more than excrement from the glorious and brilliant organism that is our empire."

He paused then, for a second that seemed to drag on for eternity. His eyes, as blue as a crystal lake, were judging. "Bring them," he ordered, finally, tone as wintry as the arctic frost.

A sektón of soldiers was already moving through the right ranks of prisoners, pulling one man here and another there with a quick tug of the arm. Twenty-eight men were dragged up to the stage total, taken from all sides of the sea of prisoners around it. They were hastily brought to the gallows, where they were positioned one-by-one on smaller mini-platforms that brought their heads up right to that frightening rope noose. Once their heads were secured inside the loop, the guards walked away to prepare the next man, and then the next, until all twenty-eight were ready for their demise. Once done, the soldiers quickly made their way off the stage. Fedor looked on as they completed their tasks and then allowed another moment to pass when they were done, as if to allow the import of what was about to happen to fully settle amongst the traitors still waiting for their own deaths below.

The pressure was too much. One man cried out from the sea of the dispossessed, "We beg for Your forgiveness, Your Imperial Majesty. Grant us mercy! Please! We accept responsibility for our transgressions against The People, Your Majesty, and offer penitence. Please, Your Majesty, please, People and Citizens, show us mercy."

Fedor turned to the man, eyes ablaze of anger, anger toward the fool who dared interrupt Him. "Am I not showing you mercy, traitor? To offer you the judgment of The People is mercy alone, especially for swine like you and your fellow lice that await the same fate as you," He retorted, each word sounding like poison being spat. He addressed the crowd, "Have we not been merciful, People and Citizens?"

"Bring the traitors death!" cried out a man from a balcony atop.

"Am I not being merciful" repeated Fedor, His voice now calm like a river slowly ebbing after a winter rainstorm. "Those of you who surrendered voluntarily will be rewarded. Nine in ten of you shall survive this day. Of the others, two in ten will die. Those of you lucky to survive today will be given another opportunity to prove your newfound loyalty to the Empire. With your property and citizenship stripped, you are now new recruits for the auxiliaries. You will re-train to be the warriors that you never were and you will seek redemption and forgiveness on the shores of the Scandinvan Empire, proving to your comrades that you are worthy as brothers. Is that not merciful?" He finished in a growl.

No one answered. The prisoners kept their heads low. Whoever had spoken only minutes before kept his mouth, wisely, shut. Then, after a few more seconds of silence, another man in the crowd yelled, "His Imperial Majesty Fedor the Merciful!" And it began to echo, "Fedor the Merciful! Fedor the Merciful!"

He smiled, then with a deep, mighty roar, commanded, "Release!"

The floor came out from under the feet of each of the twenty-eight men standing at the gallows. Their was a collective crunch of breaking necks, all except for one of them. The one dangled for a long minute, as the rope asphixiated him slowly and painfully. He squirmed and wiggled, trying desperately to remove the binds from his wrists that held his hands behind his back, but naturally to no avail. It was a hard death to watch and many turned away. Their bodies hung there for a long while, swaying in the light winds, waiting to be cut down and stored beneath the platform. Then, when the decimation was done, their limp corpses would all be taken away.

"Fedor the Merciful! Fedor the Merciful!" the People sung out. "Fedor the Merciful!"

He walked with the dignity of a man who had conquered the world as he made his way down the stage back to his chariot. Once on it, he took the reins once again and snapped them to command his horses forward. A bandag of kabalga followed, while the rest remained to keep guard over the traitors, who twenty-eight at a time were culled. By the time the second group of men were hanging dead from their nooses, Fedor had already left the Porta Laró and much of the city's noise went with him. At the gallows, most only remained for a little, soon moving on to other spectacles or returning to their homes. The executions would continue for over a day and a half, day and night, without cessation. Soon the square would be empty, but for the soldiers on guard, the bodies, and the prisoners still waiting to find out whether they would live or die.

Further down the Kapes Viksedén children played on the massive Nakíls and the sleek Linces. 155mm artillery guns stood covered with civilians becoming acquainted with the intimidating steel beasts. The heroes of Holy Panooly coversed with those who had come to meet them, all while twenty-eight men died every fifteen minutes less than a mile away. "Fedor the Merciful," they'd continue to chant for days to come.

Fedor ended the procession at the white marble steps of Imperial Palace's southern gates. There, twenty-seven senators and four hundred porodoi clapped as He arrived. Some talked among themselves, others seemed mildly disinterested, and a few failed to even simulate any interest at all. But most, especially among the porodoi, put on a grand display to glorify His Imperial Majesty. Fedor, for his part, paid them little mind. He knew them for the petty souls that they were, and he relished in the looks of the few who dared pout, for he knew that they raged beneath the public's loud support of their Emperor.

The chariot came to a stop at the feet of the marble staircase. He quickly dismounted and gave one last wave to a crowd that had gathered at the outer walled perimeter of the palace grounds. Then he proceeded inside, his large golden cape flapping behind him as he moved.


II


After His Imperial Majesty had stormed into the palace, the porodoi and the other senators had turned inside too. They went to congratulate Him and to seek attention, squabbling politicians that they all were. Not Mers Tabers, who refused to play along with this expensive game. The Rezeghi took his time and he followed the last of his comrades into the main hall of the southern wing.

Alongside him walked Frommian Senator Gaar Benoht. They were far enough away from the nearest person to converse among themselves without risking being overheard.

"You know," said Senator Benoht, "you don't need to always look so glum. There are benefits to putting on the charm, sometimes at least."

Senator Tabers eyed him. "I will have no part in condoning this preposterous illusion of a tradition just for the sake of stroking His ego. Not even put on the charm, as you say. In fact, I think I rather go to Gholgoth and die on some blood-bathed beach, just like our sons and daughters will soon be, rather than spend one second with Him."

"Now, now, don't be bitter," chastized Benoht. "For we will soon get ours, we will soon get ours."

[N.B. This post will be periodically edited for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as to improve flow. As usual, the substance of the post will not be changed.]
Last edited by The Macabees on Fri Sep 08, 2017 7:42 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Mokastana
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Mokastana » Sat Aug 19, 2017 8:31 am

Embassy to the People's Unified Federation
Fedala, Empire of the Golden Throne


The Ambassador watched, with staff, the broadcast regarding the fate of the traitors. Fedor brought down the sword on a traitors head, the separation and fall causing it to audibly plop on the ground, no doubt a well placed microphone by the chopping block for the punished last words, or maybe the added physiological effect. Blood got everywhere, as blood naturally does, for even the man with the sword sheath was now stained with the blood of traitors. Such was the nature of these barbaric executions. The camera panned out, showing a large cat nearby, a fearsome beast, as Fedor began his speech to revoke the citizenship of every traitor. It was certainly one way to handle the problem of traitors. As the first batch of hanged prisoners came up to the chopping blocks, an aide spoke up:

"How long is this going to go on for? The Isla Riverlords versus Panmoka Waves is starting in a few hours, I got some money riding on that game."

"Shut it, this is our host county having one of its biggest events in recent history, it is our job to make sure we observe it. It may come in handy for future relations." The ambassador snapped back. She was a Mokan, and therefore familiar with televised executions and grandiose speeches. Her acceptance of such things as normal was a small part of why she was picked for this particular job. The aides remained quiet for the rest of the ceremony, and within an hour the news was starting their post Fedor discussions and its impact on the greater world, while a corner image continued to show the prisoners being hung one group after another. The aide that made the reference to his Football game bet was excused to get back to work, he could listen to the game while working after all. The rest followed him shortly, leaving only a few stragglers who were more interested in the press' opinions of the "Effects this will have" and "What the symbols mean on Fedor's Chest" than getting back to work. One Commentator asked why Fedor had a Nifonese Lyger, and that started a discussion between the remaining staff.

"Isn't it weird that Fedor has a giant cat as a pet? I mean, could you imagine someone keeping a Mokan Jaguar as a pet like that? Thing would eat it's owner first chance it got."

"Not all large cats are as independent as the Jaguar," the Ambassador responded.

"True, I still wouldn't want a big cat like that anywhere close to me."

"Didn't you ever see a Marshite Tiger during your time in the service?"

"Naw, I was stationed in Aqua Anu, my secondary service ended just a few months before the war started. Closest I ever got to seeing the Animal Combat Teams was at the zoo on leave."

"Understandable, well, here's a bit of trivia for you. The reason the Jaguar became the symbol of Mokastana is because, unlike the Tygers and Tigers of the world, they are not able to be tamed. The Natuls and other indigenous Mokans tried, but there is no making it obey orders or working with you. Sure, we have Jaguar farms and hunting grounds for it these days, but none of those animals are docile. Even in captivity, it will look at its master like nothing more than the next meal. That is why it became our national symbol, ever untameable, despite every empire in the world trying. Even the Wellovian Loin and Anuien Sea Dragon are uncontrollable beasts, it is what unites us."

"You sound like you have really strong opinions on Jaguars."


"I do, my Family runs a Jaguar Farm back home, my father made it very clear what we do and what to expect from them. They may act docile, or even affectionate, but in the end, it is always going to be who eats who first. It was a very important life lesson that applies to a lot more than just farming."

"Even running an embassy?"

"Especially running an embassy. Now, make sure we release a statement congratulating Fedor on his sense of Justice and extensive Mercy when handling traitors, get something typed up and pass it to my desk for final approval within the next two hours. I want to release it to MNN and other local news outlets by the end of the day. Stress our support and loyalty to the Golden Throne as allies against injustice. Today, we are the Jaguar showing affection... Today."
Factbook
Montana Inc

Quotes about Mokastana:
Trust the Mokans to be armed even when among their allies
-Zaheran

The fact that the Mokans hadn't faced the same fate was a testament to their preparedness, or perhaps paranoia
-United Gordonopia

Moka you are a land of pimps, prostitutes, drug lords, and corruption.
We love you for it.
-The Scandinvans

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Tue Sep 05, 2017 7:54 pm

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Panooly City, Satrapy of Holy Panooly
December 2027 — The brutal death throes of civil war.

Joao Bagamba had never cried until the night of the Reich's surrender. That night he wept like a boy who had lost all. The jungles ran black from the blood of his dead brothers. Over three hundred million of his people had died in the great tragedy that had cloaked his nation. There were some who stilled prowled the north as savage monsters, victims of a virus that had still not been entirely quelled. The destruction of the wars had been total, forests burned and entire cities laid to waste. Delapesca, Guamlumpeiron, and Panooly City were piles of rubble at best, black and burnt ruins. Dominic Templeton, the tyrant, the dictator, the killer, was dead, but at what cost? And was it worth it? As he cried, Bagamba doubted it for the first time since it all started. He seemed so much younger then, not more than two years ago, when he was a fool kgosi leading fool men in a fool rebellion. With tears strolling down his face, head down in his hands, Bagamba wished he could go back to before those times.

But he could not weep for very long. Holy Panooly needed a strong leader and he would not show weakness now, not during his people's darkest hour. Four days after the end of the war, the satrap decided to walk the open streets of the capital city for the first time in months. What Bagamba found was an emptiness beyond solitude.

Under a brilliant morning-red sun, they left the remnants of the old Governor's Palace, where he at one point slept in the same bed that Templeton had. The very thought of it made him shiver.

With him came Lasagos Bernard Gorguga, an overweight little man with a high pitched voice seemingly crafted by the devil himself for the pure pleasure of irritating Bagamba. This was the man who had 'saved' Holy Panooly. Gorguga never experienced the invasion, he had never lived the siege, he had simply pulled the strings from his safe, quiet headquarters in North Point, Theohuanacu. Neither did he do it for the good of Holy Panooly. No, the lasagos was here as too much of a conqueror for that, and the empire too concerned with levying its tribute and parceling newly won lands. The satrap was tiring of this game.

"Is the aid we provide not generous enough, Satrap Bagamba?" It wasn't the fat Gorguga who asked. A third man was in the vehicle with them. Thin and sinewy, the man's head almost touched the ceiling of the tall all-terrain vehicle they rode in. Kríerlord Angiko Bas was looking out the darkened windows at throngs of beggars, meatless lips curled in disgust and nose wrinkling as if retreating from some unbearable stench. Most of those begging were Plánol.

Bagamba eyed him. If the short, rotund field marshal was annoying, the kríerlord was simply reprehensible. If he ever held the indigenous in anything other than contempt then the satrap had never seen it. When Bagamba didn't say anything, Bas turned his head to lay his black, beady eyes on him. The Macabéan's look could melt fire. He studied you, not as if you were human, but a specimen instead. It made Bagamba feel uneasy. If he had his way, he would have already snapped the man's neck. Men like him were insane, sick; the satrap had known many like him before, including Templeton. Better to kill them early, before they could do more damage. But, how? Murdering a kríerlord could very well bring down the weight of the empire down upon you, and it was already breathing far too much down Holy Panooly's neck as it was. "Apparently not," replied the satrap, who kept his discomfort well hidden beneath a veneer of patience.

The kríerlord sniffed. "Nothing is ever good enough for you people." It was a thinly veiled insult, almost as well not to veil it at all.

Bagamba's stare could not have been colder, not had they been in the coldest corner of winter's soul. Before he opened his mouth to respond, though, the lasagos cut in brutely. "You'd think they'd fight better, too. The valueless buggers can't even carry a rifle right, how can you expect them to care for themselves?" If the satrap's eyes had been frigid before, now they were a blizzard.

"Three hundred million," he said, "three hundred million." He enunciated each word to give it the weight of each and every body. "Dead. Two and hundred fifty screamed as their muscles ripped their skin and asphyxiated their lungs, and only the lucky ones passed out from the pain. The others vomited blood as their bodies tore apart like slices of meat in a roast. Fifty million were put the work, dying from the heat, the whip, and all too often the rifle. Four more shot, like unneeded livestock, during the siege. Where were you then, Kríerlord? And you, Lasagos? Both of you should be more respectful of the underprivileged. In the end, God's standards are equal for us all."

Gorguga looked at him with a look that held both indifference and pity at the same time. Bas' eyes narrowed. He wasn't accustomed to being spoken like that. "You can hardly blame us for your inability to protect your people from the Reich," he said, curtly. "It matters not, His Imperial Majesty has told me to supply you with whatever aid you need. I think it's much too expensive, better to let the excess starve, but I could not get him to see logic no matter how much I debated his points." He sounded disappointed.

It was as if Bagamba was not even present. It was as if a slave, a servant, someone whose mind did not matter enough to be concerned about the words you use. If anyone thought that the Golden Throne had come as benevolent saviors, true believers in the idea that only through their oversight would peace come to a troubled country, they were fools. Perhaps that's what Fedor believed, but the men he appointed to administer his command were here for other purposes, and they stemmed from the same moralistic superiority. The indigenous were uneducated barbarians clamoring to suck from the teet of their betters, a culture of such superiority that you were to be honored when they turned their attention to you. Even Bagamba, a Satrap with all of its powers, was nothing more than invisible to them, nothing more than an inconvenience better worth ignoring. His blood raged beneath his skin, but none of it bubbled to a surface that defined serenity. "The People of Holy Panooly thank you, kríerlord."

"As well they should. Our aid is the least of it, in any case." He pulled up his briefcase to his lap, where he opened it and from within it unveiled a tan folder thick with a jagged-edged stack of documents. With one hand he closed the briefcase back up and placed it back on the floor, neatly against his feet. "Sign these," said Bas, handing Bagamba the folder.

The satrap thumbed through them quickly with an arched eyebrow. "And what am I signing, exactly?"

"Look out there, Joao." It was the lasagos, not the kríerlord, who answered. He drummed on the glass window separating them from their driver with ugly, sausage-like fingers. As the vehicle came to a stop, he pointed out the window and said, "You see that beggar on his knees with outstretched hands? He is incapable of producing what he needs to survive. That is why he begs. He takes the scraps that society is willing to give him. And when he's offered a way to produce, he does not ask questions. Do you see him asking questions, Joao?" When the satrap did not respond immediately, Gorguga asked more pointedly, "Do you?"

The etiquette of imperial politics was a fickle subject. It had picked up the flexibility and viciousness of the capitalist mentality with the coming of the new age, or so had said the tutor, the well-known Dogian philosopher Meera Josol, pretentiously assigned to him by Kríerlord Bas himself. More than anything, manners were driven by what you needed and what kind of position you held relative to that of the other. It was opportunism at its finest. Bernard Gorguga was calling him a beggar, someone with so little power that he hardly deserved to be shown manners at all, but Bagamba wasn't quite certain that this was truly the case. After all, Fedor had appointed him. Perhaps he was nothing more than a tool to placate a rabid indigenous population tired of being oppressed and massacred. That still gave him leverage; it still gave him value. His brown eyes shifted from the kríerlord to the commander with mischievous grace, like a man who had just undressed his adversaries' intentions bare. It was confident that his deep, rumbling voice exuded when he suddenly said, "You are afraid."

"Excuse me?" Angiko Bas' right eyebrow pulled up as if by string, his face too thin and too angular. A long, thick nose looked a beak, and with those little blue eyes of his he looked like a possessed bird. A scary man. One who was born to be evil, thought Bagamba. The lasagos first looked at the kríerlord and then back to the satrap, frowning as if in confusion.

Gorguga barked a laugh. "Why would we be afraid, boy?"

"You are afraid of my people," answered Bagamba, cooly. "I was appointed satrap. There may have been countless of men, of my own color no less, more qualified than me, but it was me who was chosen. Do you know why?" It was rhetorical. "Because I am a known warrior. I represent the strength of my people and behind me they rally. I am not a figurehead, I am a symbol, a symbol for something that's terrifying enough to appoint a man of their kind to appease their thirst for a nation of their own."

One can hear the tension in how the silence pierced their ears. "You are a smart...and a brave monkey, I must concede," said Bas, finally, etching a sinister smile. "I can now see why He chose you to replace Carragher. I hope you entertain me, I have subdued so many lesser men than the task has begun to bore me." He returned Bagamba's stare, pin prick eyes looking through him like laser beams, then sighed as he tapped at the window behind him. The vehicle lurched forward and continued moving down a highway that led from the emergency compound into the city. The hungry and half-dead lined the road in search of mercy from the well-paid patrolling Macabéan soldiers. Bagamba barely stopped his eye from quivering, anger and sadness together rising within him only to be pushed back down into his soul. Perhaps he would cry that night again.

"How long will Holy Panooly be able to count on your presence, Kríerlord?" Bagamba's voice was steady, despite the raging river inside of him. "I will miss our discussions, you know, for they are...revealing." He turned to Gorguga, "You commander, I will miss as if you were an infected woman of the night carrying my bastard son." Bas raised a hand to hide a laugh that was loud enough to make his efforts moot.

The lasagos looked ready to open his mouth in reply, but it was Bas who spoke. "You might think me an arrogant lout, Mr. Bagamba, but you would only be half-right. I am arrogant and I have a right to be, as I am Willed. Through my hand, I affect great change, you know that as well as I. And although I am arrogant, but I am not stupid. I truly do respect you, if you walk away with anything from this conversation I hope it is that. Your exploits are well-known to me. But you were not meant to lead an entire people. Even if those people are looking to you to lead them. Your destiny is another one, not this one. Perhaps a good one, perhaps a bad one, or, as most of us can ultimately hope for, a decent one. But none of those are paved in glory, not for you. For now, you can look forward to having your strings pulled by the Willed, for I will be remaining here for the foreseeable future. The lands that we have claimed as the rightful property of the empire, I will be overseeing their sale. They are the lands whose legal rights you are now signing over to the Imperial Bureaucracy, Mr Bagamba. I suggest you get started now, the drive is not a long one."

The satrap chuckled. One day he would kill them both. "May I borrow your pen?" he asked. With curious eyes, the Kríerlord handed him a pen that had been sitting in his front coat pocket. Gorguga looked at the two wrily. The satrap opened the folder and started skimming and signing the small stack of papers. By then, they were already moving through the outer suburbs of northern Panooly City.

Here the city was the least damaged. Almost every other building remained standing, the rest ran a spectrum from half-shelled to leveled. The fighting was some of the sharpest and hardest here, and you could still seen the deep, thick trench lines that ran beneath and through houses like meandering ravines. Thousands had died in those ramparts when the Wehrmacht completed its encirclement of the city toward the end of the second week of the war. The Ordenites suffered their fair share of casualties, running into a trap that had been well-laid by the defending Koro Kirim-led North Panooly forces, and the carnage fell both ways. Even hidden deep within an emergency bunker under the Governor's Palace as he was, he could hear the livid screams of the dying as the battle raged.

Behind a sea of toppled walls and piles of rubble stood the ruins of that old palace. It had been built in the 18th century by Knotossian-Guffingfordi colonists and had since then stood as a testament to colonial power, with its tall, fluted columns, each as wide as a mighty tree. They towered forty feet tall, guarding a bifurcating series of marble steps that led up to a colossal wooden double-door dotted painted the purest of whites, like the color of the columns and their rich, elaborate capitals. Most of these had fallen over, with just the bottoms of the spiraling pillars left standing. Around them were strewn its rock walls, with only some left standing, and all of those only in part. Below that, Bagamba waited alongside other key politicians, while that symbol of oppressive power was pummeled by Ordenite artillery and bombs. It was one of those wicked ironies that the threads of history could weave. As they moved further south, the desolation worsened until soon all that was left was mostly rubble.

Any estimate of the destruction wrought by the siege would invariably need to be multiplied in order to fully capture the extent of the damage. It was related by prisoners of war after the war that the Wehrmacht was operating under orders to systematically demolish the capital city, their mission being the annihilation of its defenders. What they did was turn it into a fortress, but one that would be scarred for a long time to come, if not forever.

Construction had started here and there, but it was still a rare thing to see. People had begun coming back to their homes weeks ago, but most of them had lost everything. Wherever they had lived was now buried under steel and concrete. Entire families moved into cavernous spaces still open in the hollowed-out ruins of the taller apartment buildings. They were like brick and concrete skeletons rising into the air, dark and damp, hardly somewhere fit to live. But it was all that most had left to look forward to, for their were not much of their old lives left. In the south, entire city blocks had been imploded to trap thousands of Ordenite troops. Where would its inhabitants live now? That was a question that as of yet had been left unanswered.

The drive went on in silence as Bagamba finished signing the last documents. They were all property right certificates, signing over old mineral sites, mines, and fields owned by people long dead, or otherwise left with little choice in the matter. Suddenly, the vehicle came to a stop and Bas said, "We are here."

Here there were actual throngs of people moving up and down dirty, shattered sidewalks coming to buy groceries, shoes. and other necessities from ad hoc shops set up alongside the road like a weekend market. The noise gave life to a hollow city. It was like a heart struggling to beat, but beating nonetheless and every day growing louder.

"What the hell is there to do here?" asked the lasagos, loudly. Fat Gorguga looked out of place in his poorly-fitting uniform, but it was mostly because he oozed discomfort like a cornered animal radiating fear.

Around him flowed countless of people dressed in the local styles, the women wearing dresses which flowed with the wind and the men garbed in drably-colored cloth pants and shirts. They wore strange hats and spoke a strange language, most tall — taller than the puny Gorguga, at least — and dark-skinned. The commander's face was drained of color.

Bagamba could not help but laugh to himself. "To meet with the people," was all that he responded with before walking away, up to a man and his wife standing by a fruit vendor displaying dozens of items of various vibrant colors. There were yellow lemons, orange-red peaches, and purple plums, all freshly arrived from foreign markets. The woman wore a red skirt that came down to her knees and she wore red flats with gold trim. A thin, silk button-up skirt suggested some sort of wealth, perhaps the daughter of a merchant, or the wife of. She turned just in time to catch the satrap walking up to them, and she tugged on her husband's arm to draw his attention. "Greetings sir," said Bagamba, outstretching his hand. He greeted the wife next and to both of them said, "Would you honor me with conversation?" An old custom of respect, a custom that suddenly ran stronger among survivors who now clung to the traditions around which they could rally harder than ever before.

"Of course, kgosi," replied the man, enthusiastically. The horrors of the Reunification hadn't lessened Joao's legend one bit. Sometimes he wished it had. The wife smiled up at him, mimicking her husband's expression.

"It is a beautiful day to be out today, don't you think? Do you come to the market often?" asked Bagamba. Behind him, the commander tapped his foot impatiently and the kríerlord looked on with curiosity. On the other end, the fruit vendor looked somewhat perturbed that his customers were suddenly distracted by the greater attraction that was Bagamba. Indeed, others were looking on, wondering what kind of event would draw out the great kgosi himself.

As if suddenly noticing them, he turned to address them all. "I remember coming to the great street markets of Panooly City as a small child. My father would bring me no more than twice a year, usually to visit family down here. I can still smell the wafting aroma of freshly roasted chickens and the scent of flowers. Can you remember the roar that filled our city? Oh, it was an extraordinary thing to a country boy like me, more accustomed to the stiff darkness of the coal mines. I cannot even to express the emotions that come from seeing us slowly return to the old days, to better times."

He smiled and turned slightly to gesture to the two Macabéans standing behind them. "With the help of our allies, perhaps we can return to some sense of normalcy. Never can we forget what happened, but perhaps one day we will learn to cope—"

Loud screams and shouts interrupted him from somewhere behind. Several dozen spans away, at the far end of the market, the crowd was hurridly parting away from something. Gunshots from automatic fire echoed along crumbling walls, overwhelming the ears with its shrill staccato.

It was only then that Bagamba realized that their drivers were fully armed soldiers, as they crouched and leveled their rifles, pulling at his and other two men's sleeves. "Get to the vehicle, Mr. Bagamba!" shouted one. The other was already escorting the kríerlord and the commander to the car, both them not shy to run afraid for their lives. Joao was too much of a warrior to be scared of a little gunfire, so he turned to face whatever it was twisting its way through the panicked mass of flesh that the market had suddenly become.

The crowd split ahead and closed behind something that was out of view until it was close enough to poke over the head of the throng. Three men stood on the back of a heavy blue pickup truck with loud, revving engines. They were armed, as were two more of them sitting in the cabin. All five were white. All five were shouting things at the people around them while waving their rifles at them menacingly, warning them to submit to their terror or die. One of them in the back stooped down to grab a baby that the mother had been carrying only mere moments ago in her arm. The woman jumped and screamed, crying for them to give her daughter back. She followed their truck and tried to grab it, only for another one of them to hit her in the face with the butt of his rifle. They laughed as if it were sport. One fired into the dense crowd, and suddenly all were crouched or on their knees, heads on the floor and none bold enough to move.

Only Bagamba still stood. The kríerlord was climbing into the armored car, the lasagos on his tail, and the two soldiers stood on guard, their faces a picture of confusion. The pick-up truck stopped and the three men in the back aimed their rifles at the satrap. Total silence invaded the street, broken only by feeble mumbles of distress coming from the people laying on the street.

The truck's driver's door opened and out stepped a man taller than the truck by perhaps another third of foot. His height was matched by more than broad shoulders, muscle-bound along with his arms and his shirtless chest, the latter of which bore an enormous black Ordenite swastika. The satrap had heard of these boys already. Gangs of white youth led by older men too eager to waste blood other than their own had started to patrol streets that the government could not. Death squads, some reports had called them. Whether the situation had truly gotten that bad Bagamba did not know, but from what he saw here it could not be good. They had certainly at least seriously injured one person, undeniable given that the satrap had just seen the crime with his very eyes. And one of them still carried the small baby in his arm; it was crying hysterically, like its mother, afraid as it was and for good reason. As chaos swirled around them, the gunmen all trained their eyes on the satrap. "Well, well, well," started the driver, who was walking toward Joao now. "Can I believe to have the pleasure to meet Mr. Bagamba? Today must be my lucky day."

"That it seems to be," he replied, his voice steady. In truth, he wanted to snap the man's neck. "You know my name, it would only be fair for me to know who I have the pleasure of conversation with."

The driver laughed. "Name? No, no. You need not be concerned about us, for we are good people. We come only to join our fellow man in their daily pleasures, as you can see." There were laughs among those in the truck. The one with the baby held it by the neck to dangle it over the side, giving him a toothy grin. Below, the mother was on her knees, sobbing, pleading, begging. The two soldiers still stood unsure of what to do. Neither lasagos nor kríerlord had intervened yet, although Bas has stepped back down from the door and had turned to look at the rag-tag collection of sober-looking riflemen. "So what say you we both part ways to enjoy this beautiful sunny day at hell's end of paradise, as if we were none the wiser?"

The artery in Bagamba's neck was beginning to pulse and he turned back to give the kríerlord a glare that could freeze ice over again. Bas stared back impassively at first, but finally turned to the driver — the leader of the group, for sure — and said, "You will give the baby back to her mother now, and that is by order of His Imperial Majesty Fedor I, as decreed by His Kríerlord Angiko Bas."

With his intervention, there was no longer any ambiguity and the two soldiers trained their rifles on the riflemen, who no longer looked so certain, although neither had they been cowed. The driver turned and nodded at the one with the child, who gave a sinister chuckle as he bent down to almost toss the thing back to a mother who had just started to approach him. Had that child fallen, Bagamba was sure he would have exploded. For the Kríerlord to have tolerated this plain violation of civil peace for so long was beyond excuse! Bagamba stepped up to order the militiamen to put down their arms and turn themselves in for murder, but Kríerlord Bas had not finished. "Good, you may leave now. And should you do anyone harm on your way out, I will see you all hung and quartered. Do you understand or should I expect more problems from your men?" His tone warned of unpleasurable consequences for those who chose the latter path.

Gaping, Joao Bagamba looked back to glare at the kríerlord. "Leave? These men are murderers!" he shouted. "And you will let them go? I thought you a kríerlord, a man of power, but you will disgrace yourself if you allow these...men —" he spat that last word with acid vitriol — "to leave at no cost! You dishonor me!" The market goers around him were, if not shaking, looking at the commotion in horror. How could the Macabéan's let murderers go?

"Now, now," replied Bas, his tone thickly putrid with pretention, "let us not make a bigger deal of this than it must be."

The leader of the gang nodded as if he hadn't even heard the satrap speak and said, "As you say, kríerlord." There was a respect in his voice that he hadn't offered Bagamba. Of course, Bagamba was colored and the kríerlord was not. In the distance, a siren wailed; hopefully, it was an ambulance for the poor man who had been shot by the barbarian gunment who stilled stared the satrap down, their eyes conveying the same contempt that Bagamba knew all too well. It was the same taste of dislike that oozed from the lasagos and even the kríerlord. Strangely, this no longer angered Joao. He had lived with it for his entire life, why should he expect any different? But at that moment he decided to do something about it. Fuck the pleasantries, he thought.

As the leader and driver reached out to close the door shut behind him, Bagamba got a glimpse of a tattoo that traveled down the inside of the man's forearm. "Hakara Hunter, eh?" he boomed before the man could fully close the door. "Tell the Hunters that I will be looking for them on the field."

"We shall see," was all the leader said in response before he began backing up into a crowd that managed to only just part before he passed.

Behind him, the Kríerlord said, "They are leaving, Mr. Bagamba. Come, it is time for us to leave, as well."

Bagamba waved him away, "You go, kríerlord. I will find my own way back."

The Kríerlord's lips thinned even more than they already were, his disapproval evident. He wasn't accustomed to being contradicted, no. But, today had been a revealing day and Bagamba had lost his faith in a kríerlord that had already proven that his interests did not lay with Bagamba and his people. Let the man dislike him, even hate him. In fact, the satrap looked forward to the man's disdain, as it would only add fuel.

Fuel to what? Bagamba walked through the crowd, toward the body of the man who had been shot by the gunmen when they were first snaking their way through the mass of people. Those around the man lying on the floor had parted, giving him space. They parted again to allow the kgosi to walk to him. Eyes red and half-closed, the man clung to the wound in his abdomen, a big one from the likes of it. He had already bled profusely and was still doing so, chortling bood through the mouth even. In faint words he was trying to say something and Bagamba came down on one knee, bending his body forward to hover his ear right over the wounded man's mouth. Words weaker even than they were a few seconds ago, the satrap heard them clearly enough. "I believe in you, kgosi." The man died then, his eyes staring emptily at the sky, and tears formed at the edge of Bagamba's. But he would not cry here; his people needed a strong leader, and they needed one now more than ever.

When Bagamba lowered his head and prayed, a sense of guilt swept over him. For there was some part of his that wanted to smile. Here lay the seed for what would pass to be known as Operation 'SUNSET OVER THE BUSH'.

[N.B. This post will be periodically edited for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as to improve flow. As usual, the substance of the post will not be changed.]
Last edited by The Macabees on Wed Oct 25, 2017 5:54 pm, edited 7 times in total.

User avatar
The Macabees
Senior N&I RP Mentor
 
Posts: 3737
Founded: Antiquity
Anarchy

Postby The Macabees » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:58 am

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Panooly City, Satrapy of Holy Panooly
Late December 2027 — An insurgency or another civil war?

I


Maverick Dynamo had fought in many wars. There wasn't a colored this side of Delapesca whom he couldn't kill and by the gods' will he would kill them all.

Through gritted teeth, he held a thick, long cigar that he puffed on with gentle determination. Blue eyes were hidden behind dark-framed aviator sunglasses covered in dirt and soot, much like the rest of his face. From a hundred paces away he blended in with his surroundings, nestled as he was within the vast concrete graveyard of southern Panooly City.

Two other men stood closely by his side. One carried a light machinegun and the other a heavy battle rifle, and they both looked as weathered and gritty as Maverick. Thick beards covered their faces and they too wore large-framed sunglasses, with whatever skin left revealed camouflaged under a spread of the ghostland battlefield's natural grime. Their stances were relaxed, but in the sort of the way as a tiger ready to pounce in a heartbeat's notice. It was the way a trained killer carried himself, and these were trained killers, make no mistake. Maverick and his crew were Hakara recce and veterans of too many wars against the same enemy — the colored man.

While his two lookouts kept watch, Maverick stood perched over the lip of a giant pipe that rose from the ground, his feet at the edge of the jagged cuts where the rest of the pipe had been torn off. A small convoy of light vehicles was coming out from the broad gate of a large concrete compound. It was the first patrol since the last one they had seen three weeks ago.

Maverick smiled. It was like taking life from a crippled.



II


Scantly lit as southern Panooly City was, the stars above shined brightly in the night. There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the half-moon hung over the city like a brilliant crescent aflame in the cosmos. Below, broad, tall tenements were scattered inside an ocean of ruins like the lonesome survivors that they were.

This area of the city was perhaps the one that suffered the most damage. Spread along a backward-bending arch that traveled on either flank north as one started from the very center of the south, a vast expanse of ruins was all that was left of the pre-war suburbs that once seemed to be the only thing that thrived in this gods-forsaken country. The Ordenites had done their worse, purposefully dismantling and demolishing the urban infrastructure with their artillery and missiles. Of course, the defenders had hardly done Panooly City any favors, using explosives and underground tunneling to cave-in entire blocks of apartment buildings and offices. The war had been total, fought for destruction and survival, and the post-war scars ran deep throughout the satrapy, but most especially at its shattered, fractured core — the capital. There no longer existed the will, let alone the financing, to heal.

Formidable and under the little glow that the stars and moon afforded, the fortress imposed on its surroundings. Its walls were high and made of concrete left unpainted. Standing mightily like a castle overlooking its fiefdom, it had a plain look and was decorated with nothing but the snake-like symbol of the Panooly security forces, the Aboma, on either side of the two columns that flanked the compound's front gate. On each corner, and in intervals, rose a tower that went even beyond the height of the thick walls. What, or who, was inside of those towers could not be seen from the outside, as the guard room's windows were well tinted.

It was an artificial ferocity. Afterall, anyone who truly knew the Aboma also knew that most of their footmen were lazy, poorly trained, and ill-disciplined. Commanders were hardly separable from their men in those terms, often the instigators even. Since the end of the war, discipline had become lax, duties forgotten, the policemen fat on salaries paid for mostly by the rich Golden Throne.

This compound, or Security Outpost 4, was responsible for the southern-most district of the capital, Gardenrose, in which it was aided in how utterly leveled this part of the city was. The few buildings that remained intact stood out expressly because of their rarity, everything around them seemingly pulverized into scattered clumps of concrete, steel, and brick rubble. Some reconstruction had started, but it was a rare thing in these parts still, with most of it focused on the center and the north. For its part, the widespread destruction left a chaotic network of narrow passages and organic bunkers which, not too long ago, Panooly Reunification Army (PRA) forces had used to defend the city. These remained, and they were left largely unguarded.

Suddenly, a bright flash emerged from a pillar of collapsed brick wall sitting on a pile of assorted urban waste. A rocket streaked the sky, trailed by a translucent trail of light smoke. It impacted with the top of a tower, rocking the outpost with a savage explosion that seemed to shake the heavy concrete base it sat upon. The first rocket was quickly followed by a second, with an explosion of its own.

Any settling silence was quickly disturbed again by a new shriek of a speeding rock and the roar of the subsequent explosion, as the top of a second tower went up in flames. The body of a man lit on fire tumbled over the railing and he screamed on his descent until he struck the ground with a heavy thud. His corpse continued to burn and the stench of cooked flesh slowly wafted through the ruins like a thick, asphyxiating gas.

Heavy machine gun fire sounded in return. It sputtered a few times, peppering the outskirts of the outpost with suppressive fire. After a few more rounds, it fell silent again.

Inside the tall concrete walls, a warning siren was blaring and traveling through narrow, cold halls that wound through the inside. Men were waking up, getting dressed, and running about in every direction. Commanders desperately shouted orders, some half-dressed in their sleepwear, and whether their troops rallied or routed seemed to be tied to the flip of a coin.

By the time the heavy pounding of small arms gunfire erupted from the peripheries of the outpost, perhaps as much as a third of the security garrison was fleeing out the back. They sprinted in the narrow ravines formed by the walls of destruction that was the rubble, splitting into small groups as large veins spread into dozens of smaller tributaries, like a maze that never stopped growing. When they retreated far enough inside the valley of debris, a small squad of four or five men emerged to cut them off from where they had come from. They were dressed in faded fatigues covered in grey dust, most of everything covered with some sort of cloth or ceramic. In unison,other groups like the other one sprung up from the darkness on every side and opened fire, cutting the cowardly security officers down as they fled. The lone survivor was hunted, closed down, and exterminated.

The attackers continued to suppress the security outpost from all sides, covering for small sub-units that were closing in toward the southeastern walls. This very clearly was not a rag-tag group of insurgents. Their movements were too well-rehearsed as if they had already wargamed all the unfolding scenarios. Eight of them, all sporting heavy gear that looked a mish-mash of captured uniforms and pieces of armor, darted through the bombed-out valleys of rubble until they reached a clearing about fifty paces around the fortress in any direction. But, as they sprinted across the open space the resisting machinegun fire was haphazard and dispirited, soon falling silent again and this time for the rest of the fight. Its gunner had apparently thought twice and decided to run. He was killed by a Hunter who was crouched on a height overlooking the building's rear exits. It was an effortless death, needless, without purpose. An execution.

A rocket escaped a flash from somewhere in the surrounding ruins and thundered into the wall. It cracked and chunks of concrete broke loose to fall on the ground with a cataclysmic crash. Another rocket hit the wall but it struck with no effect, and it finally took a third to carve a hole that slowly widened as the fractured wall around it came down in a shower of shattered cement.

The two sub-units of four Hunters each entered through the newly blasted entrance almost as soon as the dust settled, with two dozen more following minutes after.

They were met by under-strength, under-armed barricaded defenses that quickly gave way under the enemy's surgical precision. Knowing the tenuous position he and his men were in, the local Aboma commander determined that his salvation lay in an attempted northward breakout. There was no order to it, the mass of some two hundred officers simply moved like a mob. Through sheer numbers, they forced the blocking guerilla sub-units to withdraw to their heights and, although a great many fell were they ran, perhaps just over half finally exited the gauntlet to barely escape with their life. They left the dead behind them, and dozens of injured comrades, screaming in pain on the ground as they writhed until an insurgent came to place a brass-jacketed bullet in their heads. Most who surrendered were rounded up and escorted to the outpost's courtyard, where they were summarily executed.

When the last of the garrison was either killed or captured, and very few were allowed the false-relief of surrender, the attackers methodically ransacked the outpost. They took weapons, armor, radios, and electronics. Anything of value was taken, including medicines, rations, and ammunition. The facilities were thoroughly defaced, decorated finally with the bodies — often dismembered — of the dead.

Panooly security forces reinforced by a company of regulres arrived almost three hours later, scrambled from their disparate garrisons and feebly organized to 'repel the insurgent attack.' Upon arrival, they found Security Outpost 4 abandoned. The enemy was already well away, having melted back into the ruined jungle of concrete, steel, and brick, carrying away their loot like victorious raiders after a city's sacking. Only the corpses were left behind. These were already rotting, the smell of decaying flesh rampant through the narrow hallways of the fortress. Those that did not wretch were undoubtedly the most steeled, men who had smelled too much death before to be put off by it now.

As the red glow of a crowning sun peeked over the horizon, Security Outpost 4 burned. Flames danced in the junkyard that was southern Panooly City, a city that would not yet see a much-needed peace.



III


Joao Bagamba arrived at the site of the attack the late morning after. The Kríerlord, Angiko Bas was already there, surveying the damage to the structure of the building with undoubtedly counterfeit scrutiny. As if the condition of the building mattered at all. Had he even asked about the men who died inside?

Security Outpost 4 had been quiet since the war's end. Militant gangs roved the north, where the city was in better condition and most of its inhabitants lived now. There was little in the south to terrorize; those who survived in the blight could survive the Hakara Hunters, hidden deep within its ravaged urban jungle they were not worth the effort to hunt. These people were in a prison of their own, in any case. The outpost has helped distribute water and food, but it was always undermanned as most of the Golden Throne's army was still in the south overseeing the Integrakán — Reintegration — and what scant indigenous security forces there were, in the shape of the Panooly Reunification Army, were badly mauled in the war. Bagamba hoped to build on the small force he had managed to amass here, but whatever his plans they had just been delivered a devastating blow.

"Good to see you Your Lordship here so early," said the kríerlord. "I suspect you have good reason for your tardiness."

Joao sniffed sardonically. "There is fighting to the south. I am sure you have heard of it. I have been hearing of it all morning, and of the mothers that my government must now console and...compensate."

"What an inconvenience that must be for you." The kríerlord never turned to look at the satrap. He continued to scan the walls, until they settled on the large, gaping hole carved into the wall. He studied it and then, after some pause, said, "They say that it takes civilized armies their first urban siege of every war to rediscover the correct tactics. We forget our lessons because we prefer our 'conventional' wars of large battles and decisive victories. This sort of vile creativity requires experience of a different sort of war, experience the attackers must have had. All veterans of the South Panooly army perhaps."

"A great many more will die in the coming months," said Joao. "Either I will destroy these Hakara Hunters or they shall defeat me, and with me will die my people. It is not an inconvenience for me, it is a reality, something that I have been tasked to combat but without the resources I need to do so. If these are veterans, trained killers, my task has been made all the more difficult. I do not have an army like you, kríerlord."

"You had three hundred men here and all but thirty of them died. What good would an army do you if you cannot use it properly?" growled Bas. "I give you arms, I give you training, I give you money and, despite these embarrassingly lackluster results, you want more. Tell me, satrap, what more should I give you?"

A Macabéan soldier unwittingly walked into the room on the other side of the hole and stopped, startled, when he noticed what he had interrupted. "Apologies, kríerlord. There is something you should see."

"Very well," answered Bas. "Let us see. Come, Your Lordship."

Joao's eyes narrowed at the command, but he said nothing as he followed them into the fortress. Thick pools of blood were gathered in patches where the old stone floors dipped like bowls. The halls were poorly dipped and he would occasionally plunge a boot into thick red puddles, making a disgustingly disturbing sound of suction every time he stepped out of them. They went on for some time, deep into the outpost where the men had been sleeping. None had been killed in their beds, at least. The dead littered the halls, though, often in pieces. The body could be lying limply against the wall and they would find the head perhaps fifteen paces further down the corridor. In one room they passed, there were several corpses, their torsos carved open and gutted, their organs harvested carefully and skillfully. Everything was stained red, in some places still dripping from the stone bricks the walls were built of.

"One wonders whether your mens' lethargy stems from their leader's," said Bas, when they walked by.

Joao's mouth straightened, but still he said nothing until they finally arrived at where the soldier was leading them. It was the infirmary, where the outpost's wounded and ill were treated. Their lives were spared no greater mercy than the others, and they too were slaughtered were they sat, although many of them most likely could not even raise an arm to protect themselves.

It was not they who caught the kríerlord's attention, though. That was reserved for the white man and the two white nurses strewn across the floor, their skin scarred and tortured, their frozen faces contorted in evidence. They were not just white, they were Macabéan — medical volunteers who worked with Panooly forces to treat civilian victims of the war. And they too had been killed in cold blood. Though not quartered, they had clearly been maimed, most likely while they still lived. The two women were barely clothed, their uniforms ripped and torn off of them. The empire's civilians had not been treated with respect, which was an affront that the Golden Throne did not take lightly.

Bas was silent for some time, and Joao spoke. "The Hakara Hunters have nothing to offer you or the empire, kríerlord. Remember that most of these men fought with the Reich, your enemies. They are not honorable, they are not rational, and it truly is either us or them. The emperor has done much for me and my people, yes. But, that does not allow you to ignore the responsibility you hold toward your vassal, whose allegiance you command only with the promise of security."

"Yes, well, the Hunters have chosen the wrong side. And they have stepped too far this time. Nevertheless, the bulk of the empire's soldiers are preoccupied with overseeing the Wehrmacht's withdrawal from South Panooly and with the re-quarantining of Guadalumpeiron and the other infected zones. The Aboma is the force that we are relying on to secure the cities and towns, there is no other option." Bas turned his attention directly on to Joao now, stepping closer. "You shall see to the dispensing of retributive justice for this barbarity. Panooly City will be secured, by the Aboma, and I am sure of your success in the matter. You will not fail as, should you, you will most certainly dislike the alternative option."

Joao began to formulate a response, but the kríerlord turned abruptly and marched out of the room. When the satrap went to follow him, the soldier stood in the doorway and said, "I will show you the rest of the site, Your Lordship."

"That is okay," said the satrap. "I have seen everything I need here. Take me to my car."

"As you say, Your Lordship," the soldier said, curtly.

The long drive back to the Pleysbeir Mansion was one full of thought. He suspected that, despite it all, these early days of the post-war would be the easiest. The Hakara Hunters struck where it hurt the most, but the Hakara threat could only be weighed against the other causes of the slow downfall of a fledgling democracy. Old warlords, his fellow kgosis of the old order, sought to reestablish their domains, extorting a cut of their own from the country's mineral and oil economy. Their land may have been taken by the empire and sold, but their loyalty could still be bought. The warlords would terrorize but under the guise of security, their pockets being filled both by corporate gold and peasant scraps. Just as they had done under Templeton little more than a year and a half ago. A greed-fractured front was what the Hakara Hunters faced. He wondered if his people had the strength to resist and whether he would be remembered in any better of a light than Templeton, or whether his name would be forever recorded as more of the same. Or worse, a traitor to his people.

[N.B. This post will be periodically edited for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as to improve flow. As usual, the substance of the post will not be changed.]
Last edited by The Macabees on Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby The Macabees » Sun Oct 07, 2018 3:37 pm

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Çuroga, South Panooly Special Administrative Area
Early January 2028 — The ambush and first domino.

I


Tall grasses concealed the men as they moved in a low crouch through the field, up the hill. Most carried rifles, although some held machine guns and others rocket launchers. In total, there were perhaps just over one hundred men climbing the slope, moving with dangerous intent like predators stalking prey. The man leading them was unmistakable: the infamous Maverick Dynamo.

His face was covered with war paint, almost unrecognizable. Over one eye he wore a red optical piece which hung from behind the forward lip of his helmet. But his presence made Dynamo easy to spot. The others moved around him, aware of where he stood and moved to at all times, as bodyguards almost. They were most certainly on high alert, especially after the missile strike on the Lambusa Compound. Dynamo had barely made it out alive, only coincidentally not in the compound during the attack. He had meant to arrive from a long raid in the north the previous night but had decided to bivouac ten kilometers from the town during the night to arrive fresh in the morning. He and his men looked on as three missiles shrieked from out the cloudy skies and struck the walled keep that stood atop a small rocky outcrop. Then an attack aircraft appeared to strafe the remains, dropping a bomb as it peeled upwards once again. It came around for a second pass then left as suddenly as it had come. Below, the height above Lambusa burned. Dynamo looked at the blaze, his eye burning with hate, knowing that the attack was meant for him. His men looked at him then and promised to themselves that their leader would never be killed by the enemy under their watch.

The Aboma thought they had him. On the other side of the hill, on some opposite crest, was a company's worth of Panooly security forces. In the valley below, the one that Dynamo and his men would soon see, traveled a winding dirt road just wide enough for a truck to drive on. Patrols that took this backwater route were conspicuous prey for the Hakara Hunters and many had already died in battles fought throughout its interminable length. In one of those, someone had spotted him in the thick of the fighting, and the satrap had sent this force to find, ambush, and kill the legendary commander Maverick Dynamo.

Of course, Dynamo knew this.

When the Golden Throne's war with the Reich was over and Panooly was one again, the empire had "recommended" their vassal government to reintegrate willing white officers and noncommissioned officers into the security forces. They sought to avoid the widespread defection of experienced military leaders to the Hakara Hunters. But the Hunters did not necessarily need those leaders in their rank, in fact the new white officer corps of the Aboma was one of his most faithful sources of intelligence. With information passed on by friendly officials in the north, he had staged his most successful and most crippling attacks on the disgustingly colored-majority satrapical regime.

They reached the ridge of the hill, finally, staying hidden behind a small copse of trees that covered the top of the mound. From where he stood Dynamo could see the road, which disappeared into the distance in one direction and led to the quaint town of Çuroga in the other. Somewhere up this trail, there was another company of his men marching down it with a mule train. It was a routine supply convoy for the guerillas, who held a discrete presence in the village.

Çuroga was an ancient site. To its south lay ruins of the great ancient Plánol city of Cohuatxl, with its towering stepped temples and freestanding spires. Some fifteen thousand people lived in the modern town now, most whites descending from old colonial families. They made for welcoming hosts, especially with the depravity and lack of restraint shown by patrolling Aboma enlisted men. In exchange for help, the Hunters gave the inhabitants of Çuroga protection and offered retribution. Often was it that some local Aboma commander was assassinated in his sleep. Once a colored captain involved in the rape of a local white woman was gunned down in the middle of an intersection inside the town while approaching a technical and its dismounts while these menacingly watched over the flow of traffic. However intimidating these guards hoped to be, the attack certainly undermined their effort with devastating effect.

Indeed, Çuroga had been abandoned by the Aboma in the last week. The last of the small garrison had withdrawn north to the larger town of Huicatpoch Meadows, the local Aboma stronghold. With their withdrawal, the route to southern Hunter bases was open and all knew that the Hakara Hunters would want to take the opportunity to resupply themselves. Satrapical intelligence had no doubt interrogated captured Hunters, tortured them even. These captured men were told of a great supply convoy headed south, one larger than the usual, and that is exactly what they revealed to their interrogators. The Aboma then intercepted a runner carrying a note meant for Hunter command in Çuroga. The boy had made a mistake of stumbling into the path of a roving the countryside to the north. Dynamo, the note said, was on his way to commend the men for their victory and he was traveling with the convoy.

A convenient clue found in a convenient way. Perhaps better men would not have fallen for the ruse so easily. The Aboma did. Then, a source within the organization, a white colonel who had fought in Templeton's army during the dictatorship, was quick to warn the Hunters of the security forces deploying to the area. The source called it Operation GHOST KILLER.

Four geroxcha of Aboma were involved, according to the source. Each geroxcha contained thirteen thousand men, but the truth was that this was only on paper. The entire of the Panooly security was suffering from frequent desertion and Dynamo knew from experience that they were often as low as half-strength in reality. That made for perhaps thirty to forty thousand men involved in the hunt. Thirty to forty thousand men trying to find and kill him. It was a number he could handle. He looked back at the hundred men stalking forward with him and smiled. This was only his vanguard.

How exactly these geroxcha would be deployed was unknown, the source did not have access to that information. But Dynamo had faced the same threat many, many times before. They would try to enclose him with a space that would start large but slowly contract as they tightened their lines and brought them forward. They would hold every pass, guard every route, and ensure that he and the Hunters under his command could not escape. Then, town to town, house to house, hideaway to hideaway, they would search for him until Maverick Dynamo was in their hands. They wouldn't stop until every stone was turned, every crack inspected, every conceivable hiding place flushed out. And they would undoubtedly have imperial air support to help.

The Aboma would fail, just like they had in the past. The Hakara Hunters knew these lands too well. They knew how the hills folded over each other and where the grasses grew so tall that a man could pass through unnoticed. His men were also veterans who were steeled, resolved, and prepared to make the enemy bleed for this land.

The south was the domain of the white man and it was too late for the coloreds to have it back. How many years had the white man ruled this country? How many centuries? Too many to roll back, too many to erase by mere imperial decree. No, the whites of Holy Panooly would defend what was theirs, what they had taken by right, and they would do it no matter who the enemy was.

Dynamo scanned the hills on the other side of the road. Somewhere there, Aboma ambushing forces lay in hiding and in wait. He directed his men to stay low but fan out, taking position across the ridgeline to have an uninhibited field of fire once the fighting began. They did as ordered, moving slowly and quietly as to not give themselves away to the enemy. Overhead, the silence was suddenly pierced by the scream of a fighter jet passing through. It darted by without a trace, probably en route to some distant target. Dynamo paid it no mind, his focus was on the road and the unknown that lay on its other flank.

He did know, however, that another two hundred of his men were moving through the shallow valleys behind the low-rising hills of the opposite end. They were converging on each other from either side, hoping to catch the enemy in the middle. Scouts in the night had seen the Aboma deposited by APCs about two miles to the northwest, tracking them all the way to a point between Dynamo and the two other companies of Hakara Hunters. The scouts had reported an enemy strength of two hundred security forces and their transports, although where the APCs had gone to nobody knew. There were thousands of other Aboma about, but most would be too far away to help their comrades here. By the time enemy reinforcements arrived, Dynamo hoped to already be escaping through the narrow footpaths that carved through the more inhospitable terrain of the region.

As he looked behind him and beyond, analyzing everything before him one last time, he turned his attention to the far end of the road because just a moment before the convoy had come into view. A makeshift armored car was in the lead. It was made from the body of what looked to once be a van, but its shape had been altered by armored additions almost beyond recognition and atop it swiveled a manned machine gun. The armed and armored car was followed by a horde of trucks until the convoy transitioned into a line of five more armored cars. More trucks followed behind them. The middle-most vehicle was slightly larger than the rest, better protected. It's where the enemy would think he, Maverick Dynamo, sat.

The convoy continued unimpeded until it passed just before him. It went on down the road toward Çuroga, the lead vehicle almost disappearing in the distance by the time the middle segment approached. Birds squawked in the distance and the wind picked up then, its tendrils flowing through the leaves of the hilltop trees.

In the distance, then, the low, rumbling thunder of helicopters.

A flash comes from a hill on the other side. The trail of smoke starts at a rocket that is pummeling down on its way toward the segment of armored cars, striking the one just in front of the largest vehicle. It exploded, bursting into a million pieces thrown every which way. The man manning its machine gun was thrown off the car and landed thirty-feet away, with all of his body from the waist down no longer attached. The others inside must have died, too. Another flash, another rocket, and the vehicle behind it burst into flames. Machine gun fire instantly came to life, rifles cracked at each other, and the battle was on.

Dynamo stood and looked at his men on either side and bellowed, "To battle! Open fire!"

His machine gunners responded eagerly, laying down heavy fire across the valley in two-to-three second spurts. Riflemen began firing too. Nobody could quite see what they were firing at, but the enemy must have noticed because they began to return the fire. A rocket shrieked across the gap and exploded somewhere to the left of Dynamo, who looked to see some of his men crying out in pain and others dead.

Cursing under his breath he stomped down from the heights he and his men were on toward a group of his soldiers carrying two light mortars. "Come with me," he said, and they followed him a ways southeastwards, just behind a rise that dipped down to connect with the hill the rest of the men occupied. Dynamo continued to a small group of eight or nine trees and pointed to a clearing behind them where the ground stopped slopping to provide a small area of flat land before sharply dropping off again. It was just far enough behind the lip of the mount to make it more difficult for the enemy to hit them with their own artillery. He watched them set up their mortars, pacing around them, spreading his anxiety to them. "Move quickly," he repeated. "Move quickly, our brothers are dying." The battle was intensifying. Soon, the flanking Hunters would strike and the trap would be fully sprung.

When they were finally finished and ready to fire, Dynamo looked at them and said, "Rain your hell upon the enemy on that hill across the way. Remember that your brothers are dying. Remember the power that you control in your hands. Know that you are deadly when you are focused. Do not finish firing until you run out of ammunition. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Sikar," they shouted in unison.

Sikar. An ancient term for warlord, long forgotten, now remembered. Dynamo could not even remember when the men first started calling him that. It apparently hailed from the old culture of the Edomanúa which had established colonies along the northeastern coastline of Theohuanacu and even along the western coastline of the Jumanota isthmus. Their mythos was of white northerners who defeated the local Plánol and Theohuanacan tribes, although the truth was that their success was limited. The colonies ultimately succumbed, in fact. They rotted away after a steep decline, their exact fate now lost to the viciousness of history. But the mythos served the white Panooly man well. It gave them strength and ancient roots in the area to grab on to, especially now as they hung from a cliff as it was, a cliff that stood high above the spiked ground below. If they let go, if they surrendered now, they would surely fall to their deaths. The death of the white Panooly. Dynamo was their sikar, the warlord they entrusted to lead them through these troubled times. And lead them he would, to better pastures or to death. For life in chains, or life in flight, was not a life worth living.

He made his way back to the rest of his company back on the other ridge. They had taken a few more casualties, but fire on both sides looked to be ineffective. The convoy below was the worst positioned, with more trucks fuming or in flames. The trucks that had been allowed to pass before the ambush had started continued without stopping to Çuroga and, behind them, those that could simply swerved around the knocked-out steel carcasses left strewn along the road. But the terrain on either side of the roads was tough and uneven, and some trucks broke down. It was a mess, but all according to plan. What was important was that the enemy in front of them was distracted.

The noise of war then accelerated. The pincers had finally closed. A surge in gun fire came from the other side of the road, where the Aboma forces were suddenly sandwiched between two hundred Hakara Hunters hungry for colored scalps. Mortars were falling then too, adding to the confusion and most certainly spreading fear within the ranks of the enemy. Panooly security forces were not known for their discipline and they had no bravery to make up for it.

Dynamo perked his ears. The sound of helicopters was getting closer.

He waved his hands in front of him with intent, catching the attention of his commanders among the men. They heeled the soldiers beneath them, shouting at them to cease fire. With the attention of his century of men on him, the sikar ordered his men forward across valley and toward the enemy. The began to rush forward even before he finished his command with a great yell that almost overpowered the raw clash of battle. Machine gun fire attempted to cut them down, but the enemy could hardly organize a concerted defense. There were simply too many Hunters upon them, cutting down satrapal forces where they stood. No mercy was shown and no quarter was given.

As he ran across the valley, through the burning wrecks, they helped their wounded brothers to their feet and pulled them to cover. They put whatever arms they could find in their hands and told them to prepare themselves for death if they could not stand and fight. There was no time to bring medical attention to them and no time to carry them to where there were doctors. Any who could not make it home on their own two feet would have to fend for themselves, and if they did not commit suicide before the enemy fell upon them then they would either be captured or fight to the last.

Before moving on, as the rest of his men surged forward up the slope, Dynamo took a look toward where the town of Çuroga lay. There was battle ongoing there too if the tune the winds carried ringed true. That had been expected, as well. It was natural for the Aboma to attempt a retaking of Çuroga and while they most likely eventually would it would come at a steep price. Indeed, there were three hundred Hunters waiting for them in the houses, sewers, and alleys. Every inch of street would have to be combed through, every residence searched, and every tactical building fought for. No doubt the Aboma had encircled the town, but their lines were always porous and in the end most of the Hunters would slip away, just as they had been ordered to. This was the way most of these battles went. The enemy was simply too poorly trained, too lethargic, and the Hunters were simply too knowledgeable to be outmaneuvered own their own terrain. It was not Dynamo's fight regardless, his focus was here, where two hundred Aboma would die trapped between three hundred Hakara warriors. He sprinted up the hill to join his men just as they crested the rise. The sikar slung his rifle behind his back and revealed a long, curved blade. Pointing it at an enemy, he charged into their lines as he spread tremors with a sudden bestial, guttural yell.

Some of his men followed suit, revealing swords of their own. They cut through the ranks of enemies, striking them down where they lay or stood. Panooly security forces defended as they could, but enclosed on all three sides there was little they could do. It was only minutes later that they buckled and the first began to flee. But just as the smell of victory began rising in the air, the enemy APCs made their return.

Dynamo had seen their like before. They were the new standard of the Aboma, purchased at a remarkable discount from the Golden Throne, who had them stored in their warehouses in droves. Built from the hulls of old Nakíl 1A1 tanks, either those stripped from the Imperial tank fleet modernized to Nakíl 1A4 standards or repurchased from second-hand markets, they were then exported to the empire's many client states. Affordable and effective, they made welcome additions to an army trying to rebuild themselves in the face of domestic insurrection. Armed with heavy machine guns and even rocket launchers, their fire was devastating.

At first, it seemed that they would be able to turn the tide. Indeed, the Hunters had nothing to match their firepower or armor, at least nothing in the same class. However, to leave them unprepared for this eventuality could not be expected from a commander like Dynamo. No, he had seen this coming. His scouts had warned them of their presence, after all, and these tactics were common. They were borrowed from the Ejermacht, who had used them against the coloreds before the War of Panooly Reunification — the irony was not lost on Dynamo. As the APCs maintained their fire on the Hunters surrounding the now panic-stricken security forces between them, small teams of Hakaras attempted to approach the twelve armored vehicles. There must have been more, those twelve could not have brought all two hundred of these Aboma soldiers, but with the chaos of battle growing still there was little time to think about that. Dynamo's soldiers used shoulder-fired light anti-tank missiles kept from Ordenite stocks left from their occupation to engage once within range, which was enough to light up three vehicles, immobilize two more, and force the rest to withdraw once the surviving crew of the other five were safely within the bowls of the surviving APCs.

Just then, another fighter jet darted overhead, its high-pitched, puncturing shriek pulling Dynamo's attention away from the violence before him. He pulled his blade from out the body of another victim and looked up. His face, neck, and clothes were covered with blood. The war paint was washing away, mixing with the red. He looked a madman then. But his mind was sound.

He turned back up the road. The helicopters were upon them. "Withdraw! Withdraw!" he began to shout.

The enemy was beginning to run in droves. They escaped toward where the APCs had been minutes ago. These emboldened again, splitting up to avoid split the attention of any more anti-tank crews among the Hunters. Although his own men tried to run after them, shooting or cutting them down, slowly Dynamo pulled them back. They would not stop a chance against air support and with behind that helicopter surely came jets just like the one that had just flown overhead. As if to validate this there came an explosion precedent from Çuroga, where the unfolding siege was getting louder and louder. Other firefights were happening elsewhere, all along the countryside as the Aboma's Operation GHOST KILLER proceeded. Events were spinning out of Dynamo's control, but he had already accomplished what he wanted to do. The enemy had been embarrassed again.

His men back to their senses, for the most part at least, they suddenly broke apart and began to withdraw back over the hills and away from the scene. They broke up into smaller and smaller groups the farther they ran. The coming helicopters responded and broke apart as well, now on the hunt to gun down as many Hakara Hunters as they could. But the Hunters were fleet-footed and intelligent, and if any were caught at all it was only small groups so that the great majority finally bled into the bush where the tall grasses concealed them. When the imperial jet fighters finally arrived to join in, their bombs made scarcely an impact and instead fell mostly on the empty ground, the Hunters they were targeting being simply too fast and too knowing of the land's lay to be caught cold.

Dynamo withdrew with a small guard of eight men around him. He led them several miles to the southwest, toward the small farming village of Letogi. Perhaps a thousand people lived there, although most would be gone to the cities this time of the year with no harvest for them to share an income in through their labor. Hardly a map even included it. Few knew it existed. But it was key to Dynamo.

Behind him, he could hear the aircraft make their bombing runs and the helicopters strafe any unfortunate Hunter they found. Surely the Aboma had rushed in reinforcements by now to help the beleaguered ambush party that thought their victory to be so certain before the battle began. They had undoubtedly expected a swift victory and to have Maverick Dynamo in chains, but the sikar was too experienced and knew his enemy too well. He had killed many, many colored before and there were still many, many more that needed dying. He and his eight men continued their way through tall grasses to Letogi.

The village suddenly appeared in the distance once they had found a broad plain full of tilled fields. Some of the crops had been burnt down or had suffered damage in the frequent fighting that plagued the area, but most of it was still lush with cereals, vegetables, and expansive groves of fruit trees. These lands were rich and their farms plentiful. They made their way through them, using the foliage as cover as they zig-zagged toward the village. It was indeed small, with thatch-roofed houses built small and compactly. Narrow streets led inward, converging on a church with three tile-roofed towers that rose above all else. Someone in one of the towers must have seen them coming for their bells soon began to toll, each strike of the clapper sending out a deep, reverberating ring. People were waiting for them when they approached, ready to guide Dynamo and his men to the temple.

A tilt-rotor aircraft appeared suddenly, landing vertically behind them in one of the cereal fields. It flattened the crops below and around them. From within emerged a team of vaunted Koro Kirim. They were immediately recognizable in their battle suits with helmets sporting a single red eye. It turns out there was a surprise the source, that white colonel and spy within the ranks of the Aboma, hadn't warned them about. Perhaps he hadn't known. Perhaps the enemy had figured some of the operational plans would be leaked. Dynamo did not think on it too much, he hurried his men forward. There was no more time to waste.

Walls loomed on either side of them as they ran through dirt streets toward Letogi's center. The koro kirim were surely on their heels, their powered legs carrying them farther faster than the human legs of their prey. The village's people hid inside their homes, avoiding the empire's soldiers as much as they could. Although Letogi's people sympathized with the Hunters, they respected the empire and the mythos of its might.

When they reached the church of rock walls, they were hurried inside. Tall, beveled columns rose high to support a vaulted ceiling painted beautifully with heavenly scenes. How such art had survived these years of war was a product of how isolated Letogi stood. Dynamo almost felt bad for bringing the war to it, but the truth was he had little choice. Indeed, the father met them once inside and quickly led them to the altar. He instructed some of Dynamo's men to move the marble structure, which shifted easily on tracks that allowed it to swivel open. It revealed a staircase, which Dynamo and his men took. This led to a dark, narrow tunnel barely wide enough for one of them. They took this, soon disappearing and the marble altar moved back into place to cover the escape route. Dynamo breathed relief. All was going according to plan. "Let us go," he said to his men, "let us meet with the others at the rendezvous point."

He could hear the faint sound of banging coming from the surface. Then, "Let us in! In the name of His Imperial Majesty Fedor the First, let us in!"

He ignored it. By the time they were allowed inside, their prey would be long gone.



II


Krierlord Angiko Bas was in Fedala, thank goodness. Joao Bagamba held his head in his hand, propped against his arm. The Kríerlord would be furious upon his return, furious that the Aboma had failed again. In fact, they had not only failed, but they had also been bloodied and humiliated by a numerically inferior enemy. The Battle of Çuroga, as it was becoming known, had been a miserable defeat.

"How many dead?" he asked, his voice tired.

In the room with him were three Aboma commanders, two of them white. One of them said, "Almost three hundred, Your Lordship. Another two hundred or more wounded. Perhaps another one hundred to be accounted for, either dead or deserters. If the latter, they shall either die soon enough all alone out there or will be rounded up and executed. Traitors shall not be tolerated. Of course," continued the general more cautiously, "morale is dangerously low among the conscripts. The battle was meant to be a great victory, but the loss has proved absolutely crushing. They are bottling themselves up in their security outposts, where I fear they are actually greater targets than they are on the field."

"Indeed," said the other white commander. "If Security Outpost 4 was a warning, then the men have missed it. Your Lordship, the Aboma lacks discipline and these events will surely make things worse. We must take steps now. If these had been imperial soldiers, they would have been decimated for such an embarrassment. I suggest we do the same."

"A decimation?" said the third commander, the dark-skinned one. Bagamba looked at him. He went on, "These are not imperial soldiers, these are the children of Holy Panooly and they would not respond to such measures the same way the Macabéans do. It is a different culture, a different context. Your suggestion is preposterous."

"Preposterous?" recoiled the one who made the recommendation. "These men fight like women and run like children. How can we ever expect to defeat the insurgents with this rabble?"

"Quiet," said the satrap then, sternly. The three commanders shifted their eyes to him. "How many enemy bodies have we counted? How many have we captured?"

The commander who had answered his first question answered this one, as well. "Sixty-six officially dead. We have told the press one hundred and twelve, afraid that if we told the truth the people would choose to overthrow us. Surely, they must tire of these failures as much as the empire does. Regarding prisoners, we have captured only seventy-two. The fighting persists in some areas, so we can expect to kill and capture more over the coming weeks, but most of them have undoubtedly escaped the encirclement. As we expected, of course. But we remain completely unaware of the location of the target, Maverick Dynamo."

"Of course we are," said Bagamba.

"We must press, Your Lordship," said one of the two white commanders, the one who had answered the two questions. "He may have escaped and we may have suffered losses, but Çuroga and the surrounding villages are under our control. Let us take advantage while Geroxchas III, VII, XI, and XIX are still strong enough to maintain their presence in the area. Every house must be searched, turned upside down. Those who aided the rebels must be punished. Executed, if need be."

The colored commander looked at his colleague in horror, but Bagamba spoke before the general could burst. "Our men cannot hold that area. You said so yourself, General Whitson, morale has never been lower and most of the Hunters have escaped. The enemy is strong, we are weak, and your solution is to terrorize the civilians? No, no, reinforce Huicatpoch Meadows so that they may survive this catastrophe yet and bring the rest back here. We haven't control of our own capital city even and here we are fantasizing about controlling insurgent-friendly population to the south. Ridiculous." The satrap waved down the commander's protests and stood. "Do as I say. I have other matters to attend to."

He walked out of the room, his expressionless face hiding the rage of anger within him. Not only had he been humiliated, but his forces had been wrecked like ships against a cliff in a storm. Worse still, it was obvious that someone within the ranks of the security forces had leaked operational plans to the enemy. To think that he could not trust even his own men. He wondered if his generals were turncoats too, whether their bad advice was only an attempt to sabotage him.

Bagamba stopped suddenly and pounded his chest with both fists. "Steele yourself kgosi," he said, silently. "Steele yourself."

These were dark days ahead and it would take a strong man to survive them.

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:08 pm

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Senelica Village Complex
February 2028 — The heavy hand of imperial rule.

I


"Remember boys," said the captain to his men over their helmet communications system. "Kill as many as you can. Today we know of no civilians here at Senelica."

They crept through a grove of olive trees, only somewhat concealed by an ocean of trunks that had not yet time to regrow its leaves. The grove extended along a hill terraced at far intervals, with sections flattened and rock-cut back to create short escarpments. Wearing fatigues and standard body armor, these soldiers were a far cry of the battle-suited men who had first stormed the northern beaches of Indras almost two years ago. Still, they looked menacing and well-drilled, moving in concert and no man doing anything that would give the position away. There were perhaps a hundred and a half as many more soldiers here.

When they reached the crest of the hill the land immediately fell downward again, revealing a wide, green and yellow valley full of farmland and dotted with villages. In the center sat the largest settlement of them all, marked by a temple with two tall towers which sported two large half-suns. Its façade glinted as it reflected daylight across the land, like a lighthouse guiding those under its watch to safety amidst the storm around them. The temple to Dumezo — roughly, Indran for God — had stood before the imperial annexation, but its current form was a gift from His Imperial Majesty. Unfortunate that it and everything else Senelica had been provided with had not satisfied its people.

Intelligence showed an escalating insurgent presence in Senelica since the onset of winter in the last year. Sitting just southeast of Targu Iulia, the complex was just beyond the border of the Arad Treivurlui prefecture. This border divided the Territory of Indras between the highly urbanized northern and northeastern coastlines and the rebel-rich 'unorganized' territory. Senelica was a natural target because it was secluded and, in fact, communities like this one were common throughout this part of the country. It also sat on the northwestern edge of lands increasingly controlled by the coalesced remnant of Adrian Aurelio's armies. Aurelio had died a long time ago, but now his militias were under the command of a charismatic guerrilla who went by the name of Intelegapul, or "The Sage." His true identity was unknown. Subverting imperial authority here would give the Aurelian militias a base of operations to plan attacks around both Targu Iulia and Vasozia, the latter a particularly attractive target given its status as the territorial capital.

Senelica and her many villages had been here for many centuries, but its population had surged in the last two years. Imperial money in the form of local patronage, bankrolling municipal administrators who built needed infrastructure and more propagandistic public architecture, was designed to promote a feeling of goodwill toward the new imperial authority. Schools were raised, temples rebuilt more lavishly than ever before, water pipelines and reliable electrical infrastructure installed.

To be eligible for funding, administrators were required to establish municipal constitutions following an imperial law modified for existing local institutions. Complex citizens were to vote for how this funding would be distributed, and often enough the chosen administrators were those with the imperial capital to amplify their case to their people. Hospitals, markets, and sanctuaries made powerful statements and were direct improvements to the day-to-day lives of the local villagers. But to truly enjoy the spoils of imperial rule, it paid to live close to the municipal center where the decisions were made, for then your home was more likely to see the fruits of societal improvement. There was capital enough to bring water to most of the homes within the valley, but those who lived beyond the hills were a smaller voice within the polity. The new temple to Dumezo served as a magnet of its own, as well.

Senelica was governed by Virgiliu Gherea, a retired warlord turned politician who was moderate enough to receive imperial backing. He was liked by the villagers, who had undergone a noticeable increase in their standard of living under his oversight. Indeed, the violence had died down except for the fighting to the southeast, and the people could once again enjoy a life of forgotten luxuries that others considered the basics. Honest, he had just been re-elected in elections that were fair except for the ríokmarks at his disposal. After his commissioning of the new Foreto, the tall, wide enclosed marketplace that dominated the central settlement alongside the temple, his political opponents were hardpressed to match his generosity.

Gherea, unfortunately, was assassinated during the ides of the previous December. A car bomb killed him at his home, whilst he slept in bed with his wife. His daughter and younger song died, as well. The older one, who was away at the newly christened Imperial University of Cruzau, was the family's sole survivor. Teo was evacuated to Fedala, his every expense paid for by the Imperial Bureaucracy.

The imperial authority should have seen the attack coming. They should have prevented it. Local informants, of which there were many, had been alerting their employers to a deluge of newly arrived outsiders, who although Indran were not from the immediate area. Few brought families and they did not like to work. Most were thugs. They provided their own sort of justice, but their victims had no choice in the matter. Gherea was a major obstacle in their road to control in Senelica and so they removed him. The explosion reverberated throughout the valley as the fireball rose into the sky beyond even the towers of the temple.

The deed was done and now the only option was to retaliate. The Aurelian presence in Senelica had to be eradicated. Its people had failed to rise up in revolt against the guerrillas and so they were accomplices to subversion, defacto enemies of the empire who could be killed with impunity. And so they would be.

The captain lay prone on the ridge, looking down into the valley. He could see small groups of men, most concealing their weapons beneath their garb, posted at most of the entrances and exits of the many villages. There were also local police patrolling, but these were thought to be almost completely infiltrated by the local militants who had come throughout the past year. They would be among the first dead.

"Let's close in," he ordered, standing to move down the opposite slope.



II


Sebastian Iliescu's father had died a rebel and so would he. Born and raised into the militias of Adrian Aurelio, this life gave him adventure, women, and meaning. And now that Aurelio was dead, he followed Intelegapul. Although far more radical than his predecessor, The Sage was both wise and strong. It was under his command that Senelica had been infiltrated and occupied.

Standing watch on the southern hill, he surveyed the land opposite of the village complex. What was once golden farmland of wheat, rye, barley, and corn was now a dead land, waiting for winter to pass so that their stocks could tall once again. But this year it would not grow at all, not if Intelegapul's plan unfolded as he had explained it to the men. Sebastian hadn't met him, of course. But The Sage spread his message by video and literature alike. He demanded commitment from his commanders so that they too espoused the new philosophy. One day, Sebastian would be a commander.

He decided to turn around and he caught a glimpse of a reflection in the distance, on the slope of one of the eastern hills. What was that? He looked closer, unveiling binoculars to see as if he was there. Slowly descending down the hill were two hundred Macabéans, unmisteakable in their fatigues and by their helmets. They were heavily armed and where there were some imperial soldiers there were always more.

With the binoculars, he swept toward the north and then the west. Sure as day, there were more enemies crawling through the limited cover there was. Hundreds of them. Probably more. Without a second thought, Sebastian put down his binoculars and picked up a torch he would set fire to light the warning signal.

A black-gauntleted hand reached out from behind and grabbed his mouth, breaking the neck with one sudden movement.

The koro kirim did not waste any time and was soon off to hunt for his next prey.

On none of the hills were any of the warning signals lit. The braziers were left cold, ignored by the special forces that had carefully surveyed the valley during the previous day, taking note of guard positions and other routines displayed by the militants in the town. Nobody, not even their informants — who thought they spoke to locals themselves in service to the Ejermacht — ever knew they were there.



III


A boy played on the recently paved street. Three men were smoking cigarettes by the doorway of a bar with rifles slung around their shoulders. Inside, others were drinking ale and sharing stories. The Jota B was a favorite of the guerrillas occupying the nearby homes and there were perhaps thirty in all at the bar at that moment.

The birds sang overhead.

Trees lined the street in intervals. They were not too tall, having been planted only recently. It was part of a general beautification effort initiated by Gherea and continued even after his death, although in some settlements the trees were looking rather unkempt. Shade covered much of the cement sidewalks that ran parallel on either side. It was one of those luxuries that Indras had not known for many years.

A girl skirted into a narrow alley, and then into a home. Some of the men eyed her. It was not safe for pretty young women anymore. Even the peasant men kept their heads down as they walked by. The children were too innocent to know better. But since the death of Gherea, Senelica had changed. There was a rule of law, but it was a different law, a law determined and enforced by the militants. Self-discipline was fleeting and the grunts did as they liked, murdering those they wanted and raping the women they lusted for. Villagers who tried to escape were executed if captured. Informants estimated several thousand insurgents in the valley, total.

At the Jota B there were some thirty of them. For a moment. Then, they were gone.

First came the low but increasingly sharp whistle. Second came the explosion. A fire swept through the narrow street, incinerating the gunmen and the children alike, burning down doors that hadn't already been leveled by the force of the winds conjured by the missile's warhead. Walls came down and glass shattered. Flesh burned.

Another missile struck elsewhere. Then another. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of impacts altogether. Above, the sound of imperial aircraft finally came, too late to warn the targets below. It was a terrifying bombardment that left no settlement within the complex unaffected. A sweltering heat filled the valley, burning the crops it touched.

In the distance, gunfire sounded.



IV


As the smoke cleared, Olimpia staggered out of her home. She could hear nothing but ringing and her sight was blurred. Much of her house, or what she had once called a house, stood in ruins. Indeed, she was "lucky" to be alive at all. The old constabulary across the road had been struck by a bomb with a force so strong that it had shattered the buildings around it as well. Its remains smoldered.

She turned at the sound of men running down the street, their sandals slapping the pavement. They were not imperial troops, but the gunmen who had invaded their villages and stolen their foods. Olimpia looked at them with contempt. Look at what they had brought to Senelica, look at the death and destruction they were causing. She almost muttered something at them, but they did not afford her the time. One simply rose his rifle and shot her. She fell to the ground like a rag doll. Blood extended from a pool beneath her body like small rivers to a lake. To die so quickly would probably be considered mercy once the day was through.

"Let's go," said one guerrilla to the other. The other four looked on. "Come, let's move on, there is not much time before the enemy is upon us."

The other one, the one who was being spoken to, looked at the slain body. "Did she have to die?" he asked.

"When the battle is over, all of the deaths will lay at the hands of the empire. They will be remembered as butchers for Senelica," answered the first one. He took out a phone and swiped his thumb across the screen, opening the camera and taking shots of her body. "Next time, let us ensure that the scene is even more gruesome. Make Intelegapul proud.

The other one did not seem persuaded, but he only sniffed and moved on. They continued making their way down the street heading southeast. Elsewhere, the screams and gunfire were getting louder, much of it from within the villages rather than outside. Other death squads, much like this one, were committing as much damage as they could as they withdrew in different directions. Civilians who were smart remained where they were unseen and many survived. Those that tried to flee in terror were cut down. Imperial soldiers would have to march on the corpses of the dead.

When the group passed a corner at first they did not catch the body of imperial infantrymen advancing up either flank of the street that crossed their own. If any had a warning at all it was only for a split second before rifle fire crackled to life. Three insurgents fell to the floor, one dead, another clutching his bloodied leg, and the third gasping for air as his hand held his punctured side. The three survivors found cover where they could. Downrange, the Macabéans had stopped as well and they were hardly visible, except for the bobbing helmet of one behind a far wall. An unnatural silence reigned between them then, and suddenly something screamed down from out of the sky and the intersection was torn apart by a searing explosion. When the dust settled, the Macabéans had covered three-quarters of the distance between them and the dazed Aurelian fighters that had crossed their path.

For his part, the one who had looked upon the murder of the woman, Olimpia, lay dead. His eyes were open and empty, the soul behind them having transcended or, all the more likely, burned along with his skin. The other two were wounded. One was quickly dispatched when a soldier pushed his knife through between the shoulder blade and the neck, blood squirting out like a fountain.

The last one, the one who had killed her, was now the sole survivor.

He sat with his back against a rock planter that once housed a tree that was no longer there, blooding oozing from the sides of his mouth. One of the soldiers approached him, the man's face hidden behind his helmet's faceplate. They looked more human without their suits of armor, but even now the Macabéans seemed alien. He did not flinch when the end of a cold barrel was pressed against his forehead.

The soldier pulled the trigger of his sidearm with little thought.

The last survivor's head bounced against the rock like a ball.



V


Her green eyes looked into his like she was looking into his soul, even though he very well knew he could not see what he truly looked like behind his helmet. Indeed, to her, his only eye was a small cluster of sensors and optics, like a robotic cyclops. For all her youth, the little girl did not cry. For that, he gave her credit, for whatever that was worth.

The girl's family was dead. Her father had probably died years before. Her mother lay in tatters next to her, holding the girl's two dead older sisters. Their bodies were riddled with fragments of a grenade that had gone off inside the room. The soldier who had thrown it never bothered to check what was inside. He had been ordered not to, to instead exterminate any and all life. If the little girl was not dead yet it was because this soldier could not find it in him to murder her in cold blood, orders be damned. One of his comrades looked at him, undoubtedly failing to envy his friend.

"Let her live," said the one watching, finally.

The one looking at her nodded, then kneeled to speak to the girl. He spoke in Common, a language she hardly understood. But his words would forever stick with her, so much so that she would learn what they meant years later. "Hide girl, hide until you are absolutely certain that there are neither men like me nor those like the ones we seek. Then run, run to the northern cities where perhaps there is hope for you yet."

When they both had left the home, the girl began to cry then. Life seemed so cheap, even to one as young as her. But no matter how loudly she cried, the sounds of battle overwhelmed her voice until it went hoarse and she could no longer scream.



VI


"Emanuel, run!" yelled a bearded gunman to the one beside him as they both ran toward the south.

The other one, Emanuel, was panting. "Are you sure we are going in the right direction, Valentin?" he asked.

Valentin nodded. "Yes, the enemy is closing from the west, east, and north, but the south remains more or less quiet and that is how we shall escape from this burning trap. Look, follow the others." Hundreds of other guerrillas were making their escape, as well. Indeed, all but a group of fifty had taken flight, the remaining fifty tasked with making the retaking of Senelica as costly and bloody to the enemy as possible.

Homes gave way to the countryside. The wall of the wide northern hill rose before them, its slope covered with olive groves and small vineyards. The two insurgents, along with the hundreds of others around them, rushed toward this hill. They each had their own route, their own path through a rural land that they knew very well. It was within their nature to slip into the terrain unseen, moving about with the enemy none the wiser. How many times before had the Macabéans thought them surrounded, only to find the insurgents gone? Too many to count, too many victories for any doubts to sprout now.

Then, on the ridge emerged six armored vehicles — four infantry fighting vehicles and two tanks, the latter Nakíls with their imposing figure crouching just behind the lip of the rise. Their cannons flashed to life, sending dirt in every direction as it bombarded the valley floor. The IFVs used their chainguns to mow down the militia fighters as they crossed into the open to make their escape.

"Come, this way brother!" said Valentin.

They turned east, where a crevice between tall rises provided a narrow and difficult to traverse route of withdrawal. They ran and as others saw their intentions they began to follow. But when they were but a mere hundred meters from their target, a hellish noise became pervasive and, worst of all, visible when four helicopters rose from behind the mounds' crests. They sowed devastation with their autocannons and rockets, illuminating the skies with tails of fire paired with explosions that slaughtered all those caught within their flames. No man was safe, rounds as long as a tall man's arm ripping through their bodies as if they were nothing but paper.

Emanuel was the first to fall. He did not see what hit him or truly know what it was that struck his chest. But he could feel the spreading warmth...and then the cold. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was the streak against the sky of three imperial jets flashing by overhead, the three billowing smoke towers they left behind invisible to him.

Valentin saw his friend die and grimaced. Not having time to mourn his death now, Valentin continued to run for his escape. He was one of the guerrillas who made it closest to leaving the valley, killed by one of the koro kirim sent to secure and hold the perimeter around the complex. Just as he seemed about to leave, death caught up to him in the form of a sniper's single shot.

Across the fields, dead bodies littered the ground, carrion birds picking off the meat from the corpses. The encirclement of Senelica had been complete and the cordon established was tight. The insurgents always found ways to escape, but this time the Ejermacht had done everything right. It had the intelligence, the manpower, and the element of surprise. For its achievement, it claimed over twelve hundred enemy fighters dead. As many as four thousand civilians died, how many each side had killed being unclear and more a matter of propaganda that one of truth, as sorry as this was for the legacy of those killed. The Macabéan army had accomplished all of this for less than twenty dead.

And although resounding, the empire's victory at Senelica would only be a temporary one.

In fact, this victory would turn out to be a mere distraction, a sideshow to the real battle.



VII


"Was the body of Intelegapul found?" asked the commander.

"No, lasagos," answered the officer. "But there were many bodies burned beyond recognition. He could easily be among them."

The commander shook his head. His voice was tense, cold, and angry, "No, if he has not been found then he is not dead. Dammit." His fist struck the table with a thunderous rattle. "We've killed hundreds of them in one go and, yet, the most important one escaped our grasps. How could this have happened, koronel?"

"Very few insurgents were able to run, sir," answered the officer. "If Intelegapul was not killed then it was because he was not here. If that is the case then it was an intelligence failure and I can only work with what I know, lasagos. But if he is still at large then he will inevitably be found, killed, or brought to us as a prisoner to face justice."

The lasagos snorted. "It may already be too late for that."

There was a silence then while the commander surveyed the remains of the complex. No villages had been left without its own suffering. Few buildings stood anymore in one whole piece. Most had little standing at all. "Ensure that no survivor is able to tell the world the true story of what happened here today," he ordered, not turning to the officer.

"What is the truth of what happened here today?" asked the officer. Many of the civilians were already dead by the time they had arrived, although the Macabéans certainly had no intention of showing them any sort of kindness.

"Whatever is Willed," the commander said in response.
Last edited by The Macabees on Tue Feb 05, 2019 8:13 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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McNernia
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Founded: Oct 05, 2011
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby McNernia » Sat Feb 09, 2019 7:07 pm

The Mcnernian Assesment


“They are desperate Prime Minister, trying to hold on with Native troops. The local Satrap doesn’t want Imperial Regulars knocking on the door.”

“One of the Kreirlords is present…Bas…real brutal man perhaps…three medics were killed Director.”

“I understand that sir but the fact is, if there is a problem in such an area. People here have invested in Panoolys future as a part of the Macabaen Empire a stable and quite democratic state.”

“You were summoned by the Intelligence Committee of Commons were you not?”

“You know me too well Mr. Prime Minister.”

Andrew Holtworth looked at the Director of MD-6 the Mcnernian Secret Intelligence Service. Fully it was the Sixith Department of Military Intelligence, Military intelligence Department Six. Jeremy Blakeford knew that Dienstad was full of nations that Mcnernia had to play nice with and it was best perhaps to play nice with the Golden Throne lest the armies of Feodor I come knocking. Having the Golden Throne on side would protect Mcnernia from the Reich and allow things to proceed in getting the trade networks established to ensure Mcnernian prosperity.

“So about this territory the Golden Throne has…”

“Two of their Satrapy’s, Holy Panooly and Indras, though Indras is more a territory than a full fledged state under the Empire. Both have insurgencies. I believe we can help with the first one. We have the capability to operate in the jungle and the fact is, maybe we could bring some experience to bear on the problem.”

“Does this problem have a name?”
“Maverick Dynamo according to underworld chatter, leader of the Hunters, the Haraka Hunters. White militia killing colored folks, defended at least by the Aboma. Though they have had a poor record against the Hunters.”

“Who may have the backing of the Reich.”
“That is true, we cannot discount that at all.”

The Prime Minister asked questions of the SIS Director. Mostly about the investigations into the whole thing about Panooly as that was possibly where there was an Ordenite operation. The Mcnernian way was to make sure that their allies on the Throne were not facing a covert means of the Ordenites trying to reclaim the territory.

Teams would be prepared, a few battalions to demonstrate the Mcnernian tactics that had been honed by settlers in the distant outlands. Wars against other nations that had devolved into insurgency and the destruction of that. But as of now the Prime Minister considered the prospect of getting involved in fighting insurgents in the distant jungles of new lands won for an ally.



Mcnernia was as always looking to invest and Holy Panooly with its massive war devastation needed infrastructure and security. Mcnernia could provide both in theory but the practice was that the Infrastructure would be provided by the Mcnernians. Satilites passed over the country and maps were pulled from the archives looking at the country. A history of the Ordenite occupation and the sabotage that they had done.
All of it was catalogued. The Macabees had experience with the area and well there was also a consideration of the need for PMCs in the face of the fact that one could see that this was not like Indras. And Indras was not a priority for Mcnernian security. As much as the Panooly situation was, the situation seemed like Prime Ordenite target. A former white nationalist dictator and the Ordenites, by all accounts from what Mcnernia was able to get the man had been a good friend of the Fuerher. The leader of the Nazis. And the cleansing that had resulted had left bad blood between the communities. Ironically it had all been a Macabee company that had started the crisis. By assassinating the leader through PMCs.



It kind of did not matter to the investors who gathered in the upper levels of the building that looked towards the river from the top. Cathcrides streets were far below them. What mattered was what was on the map on the screen. Panooly, a former war zone of the Golden throne that was now facing a white insurgency agaisnt a nominally democratic government. Infrastructure was destroyed and there were mines that were there for the taking. The investors formed the board of the International and General Mineral company. Also they dealt in engineering. Would be best to develop Panooly city they reasoned to get the resources out to Mcnernia.

The corporate leaders looked at the report and made a decision to write the Satrap.
TO:The Office of the Satrap of Holy Panooly
FROM:The Board of International and General Minerals
SUB:Investment in your Country
SEC:STANDARD

Greetings
We are writing today to state our intent to invest in the future of Panooly. Our desire is to improve the infrastructure. To ensure mineral extraction and a good standard of living. We hope that you and the Imperial government will consider our proposal.
Polaria
Erin Islands
Kaisong Islands
Al-Azkar
Rhodana
Eragh
Arisal
Kirav
Neu Engollon
New Edom: Clyde Hullar Ambassador
Aurora
Children of Aurora
A Luta Continua
Aneas
Tyrennia
Golgoth
Pardes
Cornellian Empire
Rostil
Sondria
Ajax
Astyria

Greater Dienstad
Minyang
Endorser of the Amistad Declaration
SIgnatory of the Amistad Declaration
IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY RPing, TG ME PLEASE, THANKS A BUNCH.
A Time of Trouble
All my posts shall be dedicated to Tom Clancy. May he Rest In Peace.
I Consider the above to be Canon. Which means I want to RP with you if you've been in those regions. Or Are.

Call me Archinia ICly and well maybe Mcnernia is plausible....I don't know.

Lore change?

User avatar
The Macabees
Senior N&I RP Mentor
 
Posts: 3737
Founded: Antiquity
Anarchy

Postby The Macabees » Tue Feb 19, 2019 7:37 pm

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Vasozia, Arad Treivurlui Prefecture
Early March 2028 — The art of escalation.

I


The city of Vasozia was a jewel that lay around a natural harbor that faced the open sea. Natural, then, that a city had stood there since 1137 B.C. An ancient palace and temple, along with the ruins of other antique structures, still stood on a flat outcrop that dominated Vasozia's heights. Its six-hundred-year-old walls, not the oldest it had seen, still rose up on all sides around it.

Around this archaic citadel sprawled the rest of the city. Port facilities occupied much of the city's northern edge, directly along the harbor on all sides. Gargantuan cargo ships and other merchant vessels of all sides floated next to dock space or came and went, guided by tiny towing vessels. Tens of thousands of people crawled this way and that land-side, mixed with just as many or more sailors coming or going to their ships. Vasozia had always been a popular trade city, but its full integration with the greater Golden Throne had most definitely paid dividends. Over fifty thousand TEUs of wares passed through it every day now and this number still grew day-by-day.

Nearly adjacent to the commercial harbor was a newer, expanded artificial harbor occupied by the military facilities of the Kríermada kríerstatón. A nearly complete kríerflot, or almost 300 ships, called it home. Another hundred regularly came from the north, sailing from Fedorograd in Pezlevko-Rubino, and if one looked at this harbor he would most certainly see a war vessel or two always on the move.

To the west rose the skyscrapers of modern society. Buildings made of glass, concrete, and steel strained and stretched toward the sky alongside older peers of lesser stature. Like with most things these days, this sector had changed since the imperial annexation as well. There was more wealth, to be certain. And it manifested conspicuously and unevenly, concentrated among the rich provincial and Guffingfordi investors who came to expand their economic realms to new, virgin lands opened up to foreign money by imperial soldiers. High rise towers were met with the apartment buildings of the masses and across from this eclectic ocean of the city's mundane, in the rapidly expanding southeastern suburb of Orabiu, were the homes of the capitalists. Dome topped with rosary windows and colonnades, they were built in the new colonial style that was spreading across a larger, strengthened empire.

The old highways still winded through the urban landscape like black-skinned snakes, but many of them had since the annexation been widened and reinforced. Hundreds of thousands of cars used them each and every day. On frequent occasion, they were joined by imperial military convoys of trucks, utility vehicles, and tanks traveling through the city or to faraway outposts. They were a common and accepted sight now, a part of all Indran's everyday lives. So were the jets and helicopters, the ships, and even the distant explosions of remote battles. Much had changed, it is true, but change always normalizes.

Most of the traffic on this day was civilian, however. The military, in conjunction with local security forces, had set up checkpoints all along the city. Yet, in terms of numbers, they were simply overwhelmed by the tens of millions of people who had flocked to the streets of Vasozia for the Festival of Bosocus.

The festival was celebrated every four years and was not a minor event by any consideration. It was, in fact, the most important festival in Indran culture — the celebration of life and death, light and dark, good and evil. Bosocus was an old god, the god of the soul, and one that many Indrans still sometimes prayed to. Nowadays, the festival was more of a reason to drink and celebrate, but some still believed and many still took it quite seriously. Of course, after the annexation, many of those dancing and singing in the streets were foreigners coming to share in the customs of the exotic Indrans.

A procession was planned to snake through the central boulevard of the city, from its southern outskirts all the way to the old citadel, directly below which sat the Dragunçar or the house of Vasozia's governing council. The great majority of bodies remained closed to this street, but there were hundreds of thousands visiting nearby markets, restaurants, and all the other entertainments the great city had to offer. No matter, so many bodies had accumulated that regardless of where they spread it seemed as if there was not an inch of ground left unoccupied by those who had come to celebrate.



II


Four inflatable rubber dingies landed on a small, secluded beach just to the east of Vasozia's commercial port. Sixteen men disembarked them. They wore all black, the bulk around their torsos suggesting body armor, and their faces were covered by masks. Each carried a TK-60 assault rifle.

A lone man witnessed them arrive. He was older, with grey hair flowing down to his shoulders, and he was pulling a small wooden boat ashore. A small boy who looked to be his grandson sat inside. They both looked warily at the sixteen armed strangers before them. One of these looked at them, raised his mask halfway to uncover his mouth, and raised his index finger to it.

The armed men broke off into six groups, four of three and the others of two. Fisherman and grandson looked on with worried faces as they left.



III


Nico sat hunched over his computer in a small, damp room he was sharing with another four guys. Two of them were also on computers, a balding one was supervising, and the other was next to a table cluttered with phones and other devices. He was scrolling through Accelafeed and all of the other social media websites that were heavily trafficked by imperial and, more generally, Greater Díenstadi citizens.

He missed his home. Teripulco, a small village between Vosozia and Cruzau, was where his mother and sister still lived. He hadn't seen them in two years and now they were separated by thousands of kilometers worth of sea. Nico couldn't help but wonder how they were doing now. Whether their lives had gotten any better or if they moved to the city, or whether they were still even alive. The thoughts of their deaths only made him sad and he forced himself to believe that they were still there, waiting for him to return to Teripulco. That he didn't know for sure made him angry. Nico refreshed the Accelafeed page. "Nothing," he said, to no one in particular.

The supervisor looked at the clock on the wall and responded, "It's not time yet."

Nico grunted, scrolling down the page tab by tab, window by window. Anxiety had swept over him. This was what he had joined Adrian Aurelio's militias for, the promise of a great victory, and now he was happy to follow the madman Intelegapul over the brink. Still, despite the excitement, there was a certain fear. How would the empire respond to this? And the people? Was he doing the right thing?

He couldn't doubt that now, regardless.

"Okay, it's time. Refresh your screens," said the supervisor.



IV


A throng of people, mostly foreigners, moved along two cramped sidewalks on either side of the avenue. Infinite storefronts continued on as far as the eye could see. Some sold clothing, other stores sold shoes, and there were restaurants as well. A great majority of these did not exist two years ago, before the annexation. Some did, but few. Most of the old businesses had been bought out by boutique vendors who catered to a wealthier, international crowd. It was a new glamor that Vasozia had not seen in a long, long time. Of course, few Vasozians could afford to shop here themselves.

A woman with blonde hair and blue eyes stood on the street corner, he boyfriend or husband holding her by the hand. She was beautiful, most likely from one of the northern provinces of the empire. The shoes and rings on her fingers signaled conspicuous wealth. He looked no less affluent. Perhaps not as wealthy as some, but undoubtedly better off than the majority of the people to whom this country belonged to.

They all carried phones and most people had them in their hands at all times. This vice had swept over most Indrans, as well.

The cars were loud, but the overwhelming noise also came from the thousands of simultaneous conversations and shouts. The shops themselves all produced noise, including an endless variety of upbeat music blaring from countless speakers. How anyone could enjoy this place was beyond the men who stepped out from a cab with tinted windows. As they opened the door, one could see the fear on the driver's face. Tears streamed down his cheeks and red eyes looked down, no doubt from shame. He knew, then, that he should have driven these men somewhere else. He should have sacrificed himself for the rest.

Too late, now. Besides, few people are truly that brave.

No sense to judge the man put in that position.

One of the men, masked and dressed in all black, raised his assault rifle and began to fire. The other two joined in and they fanned out, spraying the vehicles and sidewalks to either side with bullets. Windows shattered and steel crumpled, flesh tore and men, women, and children alike screamed. In the blink of an eye, the crowd had gone from restless but ordered, to anxious, afraid, and ready to kill one another in an effort to escape.

When they emptied one magazine, they dropped it to the ground with a metallic clank that was drowned out by the chaos and they quickly inserted another one. Relentlessly they fired into the mass of people, shooting dozens in their backs and others in the face and from the front. It was a slaughter, like firing into a pen full of animals. Senseless. But the three men fired on and soon began moving up the street, following some as this block quickly emptied. Those who could ran where they could, whether through an alley or into a storefront. Some would find no respite in these places, becoming victims to grenades and other explosives. The wounded writhed and sobbed where they had fallen. Blood flowed down the gutters. And the day was still long, yet.



V


Viorel Covaci had joined the constabulary because it paid better than menial farm work. To call him a policeman perhaps best encompassed what he did, but in reality he was a mercenary. On his right arm he wore the flag of the Golden Throne and on the left was the flag of Indras, but the symbol on the right side of the chest was that of Cojocaru. Cojocaru was employed by the Vasozian city, but it was hardly a part of it. And it wasn't the only company serving Vasozia exclusively — sometimes, Covaci wondered just how exclusive Cojocaru was. Regardless, at least the money was good.

Truth to be told, the work could be boring at times. Here in the city, crime rates had died down quite a bit over the past two years. Everyone always heard stories of the firefights out in the southern jungles, but in Vasozia the normalcy was mind-numbing. Even the field agents complained about their jobs. They said there was no excitement. Viorel would have killed to do some undercover work.

His feet were on his desk and he was leaning back against his seat.

He heard a phone go off in the other room. Then another, and another. Soon enough, dozens of phone line were ringing, even his own. As he reached over to pick it up he saw his other lines light up red one by one. "What the hell is going on?" he asked out loud. Everyone else in the office was busy figuring out the same thing.

The captain's door swung open, crashing back against the wall. "Covaci, Goian," he bellowed. "In fact, everyone. You have five seconds to run to the conference room."

Covaci looked at his partner, Cristofor Goian, and arched an eyebrow. "This should be interesting."

Cristofor was looking at his phone. He turned to Viorel and leaned in, showing him the screen. It was a short video clip taken somewhere in the city. Gunfire filled the background and people were screaming. Whoever was filming was crying and anxiously talking, their hands shaking as they moved along. For a brief second, they saw the quick shadow of a man carrying a rifle. The clip ended.

"We should get going," was all Cristofor said before standing.

They followed the other officers to the conference room down the hall. People found seats quickly and the captain was already standing by the front. Next to him stood the station commander, Dimitrie Kogalniceanu. Their faces were grim and they hardly greeted the other commanding officers as other departments arrived. When everyone had found a place, Commander Kogalniceanu, a large man in height as well as weight, began his solemn brief.

"There's little time to waste," he began. "Vasozia is under attack. An unknown number of gunmen are opening fire at separate points all over the city, although they all seem to be moving south in a general sense. People are dying. Many are undoubtedly already dead. We need to bottle this and minimize the casualties. All hands are on call, all hands will be working late tonight. When you leave here, your orders will be delivered to you via dispatch, and you are to follow them without question. We are coordinating with the imperial army and I don't want any phone calls regarding my men out of position or in the way. If an imperial officer asks you to do something, just do it. You are all under orders to shoot on sight, but if you can manage to capture them alive to do so. Civilian lives have priority, though. Remember that. Don't try to be a hero, just get the job done. Understood? Good, get moving."

Viorel was on his partner's heels as they left the room. They rushed to the stairwell and took these down to the garages. He checked his handgun while they moved, it had a full magazine and a round in the chamer. Three other magazines were on him and they had weapons in their patrol vehicle.

He thought about the excitement he wanted in the job. He wasn't sure he wanted this.



VI


Nico watched the footage on his screen. There were so many videos, thousands of them. People were filming as they ran, some even as they died. Others were getting footage of the police as they rushed through traffic-heavy streets. The guy next to Nico was looking at a digital map of the city, provided by the Díenstadi internet giant Nexotel.

His supervisor was standing directly behind him. "Pekurar, connect me with team C."

The man sitting next to the table covered with mobile phones, radios, and other gadgets nodded, took one of the former and dialed a number. He handed it over to the supervisor, who grabbed it callously and raised it to his ear. Barking the intelligence on police movements, including their strength, location, and vector, he spent no more than thirty seconds on the phone. Then he handed it back to Pekurar, who took it and used a knife to open it in two pieces. After extracting the chip from the back, Pekurar took a hammer and smashed its circuits into a million pieces.

Nico continued to watch video after video. Tourists liked to film.



VII


The seven-story hospital was a relic of old age. Its elaborately trimmed outer walls and frontal colonnade marked it as a building of the early 19th century. Almost two thousand patients resided within it, many of them being brought in that very day through the emergency room. At first, it had been dozens of victims and it quickly grew into hundreds. The hospital was, in fact, on the verge of being overwhelmed, and it took much ingenuity and persuasion to find capacity for the wounded and bring in the staff needed to treat them. Inside, one could hardly walk through the halls, that's how busy it was.

Two gunmen entered from the southern wing. They began to shoot as soon as they stepped in. A security guard was killed within the first fifteen seconds of the attack and another one died soon after. They left behind them a trail of dead and wounded as they walked through the halls. Peppering the pharmacy with gunfire, they moved quickly, going room to room, chamber to chamber, shooting down anything with a heartbeat.

Another security guard appeared from a back corridor and pointed his handgun shakily at one of the shooters. He was too slow and indecisive. Three rifle rounds punctured his chest and sent him back into the wall. Blood dripped from the streaks left by his body as it lifelessly slid down to the floor.

People were screaming upstairs. They took the stairwell to the second story, killing anyone trying to escape by going downwards. Some waited seated, wrapped up in balls, and crying. They were shot just the same as any other the gunmen came across. Bronze colored shell casings littered the floor. Without bothering to make sure their victims were dead, they left a mind-wrenching horror behind them. The wailing was incessant. On the second floor they caused much of the same destruction, murdering doctors, nurses, and patients. People who had given their lives to help those in need and the sick were butchered together. Many tried to hide in the rooms, and many would survive that day, but many also died no matter where they went. If they were not killed by bullets, then it was the explosives that found them. Neither were those who lived fortunate, for they would have to live this experience for the rest of their lives.

From out another stairwell came out two more guards, who quickly found cover and started to fire back at the gunmen.

The two shooters, unable to kill their opposition quickly, moved behind cover, as well.

The stalemate was broken by the sound of gunfire emerging from the northern wing. Faint screaming came from that direction. Another shooter team had joined the attack, using the chaos in the south to take a fleeing crowd by surprise. Gaining strength, the two shooters rose and charged forward. Frightened, the guards could not hit them and they were executed at close range.

But rather than continue on their killing spree, they began to move around the rolling beds, cabinets, and other furniture. They were raising barriers. The shooters were barricading themselves in, they were preparing for a siege.



VIII


They saw the bodies as they sped by. Two shooters were down, but they were the exception to the rule. The others were still rampant and they were showing an uncanny ability to avoid the police, moving away from areas that were being swarmed into or ambushed. How they were doing it no one knew yet, but that they had some sort of intelligence on the whereabouts of the authorities was clear. Even the military, which was slow to deploy, was having trouble cornering the shooters into a more constrained space where they could be tracked down and killed. All the while, people continued to die.

The radio crackled to life. "10-32 at Salvator Colțea hospital, I repeat 10-32 at Salvator Colțea hospital. Squad car 347, report to the scene immediately."

"Fuck," Viorel cursed. It was the first thing he had said in a long time. He and Cristofor had not felt like saying much, not with the things they had seen. The vehicle turned on the next street on its own and continued to speed, now toward its new target. "I can't believe they're hitting the godsdamned hospital."

This was their third detour of the day. Radio was constantly moving them in different directions. It seemed one emergency was immediately replaced by another. Neither did it help that they couldn't seem to pin the suspects down, couldn't even find them out in the open. Whenever they arrived at a scene, radio communicated to them that the shooters have moved on to somewhere else. It was frustrating, extremely so.

It took fifteen minutes to reach the hospital. When they stepped out of the car they could hear the shooting and screaming inside. The two of them quickly moved into the building through the southern wing, coming across trails of blood and bodies. Some of these people had died of their wounds. Some were still alive, but barely so. It was like a scene out of a horror movie, something no one thought could actually happen in real life. But it had happened. Even the doctors were being killed. Anybody and everybody. It took all his effort for Viorel to not to throw up everything he had eaten that morning.

Passing by the pharmacy, they saw the destruction. They saw even more bodies. Blood was everywhere, collecting in puddles like wine colored rain puddles. It was flowing down the pathway like tributaries to rivers, collecting by the walls. Viorel and Cristofor pushed themselves to keep moving. "Let's climb up to the second floor," said the latter.

"Let's kill these motherfuckers," said Viorel, nodding.

They climbed up two flights of stairs and slowly opened the door to the second floor. Walking into the main hallway, Cristofor suddenly struck his arm out and held Viorel back. He pointed down toward the floor. A thin, almost invisible string extended from one molding to another. A grenade was half-hidden behind a shallow cut that would have gone unseen without Cristofor's sharp sight. Viorel let out a long breath.

Along the ceiling, some of the lights were flickering violently as they proceeded down the hall, careful not to set off the booby trap. Both of them moved slowly, their eyes darting in every direction in search of the gunmen or one of their surprise devices. Viorel could feel his heart pumping through his chest and the adrenaline-enhanced fear coursing through his veins. It looked like whoever was here had tried to purposefully turn the lights off, but the hospital had managed to turn on emergency lighting somehow. But whatever illumination there was it was scarce. Gunfire sounded from another floor, seemingly from the north. When Viorel opened his mouth to suggest they move on to where it was coming from, Christofor raised his finger to his mouth and shook his head. The man was an old veteran of this sort of work. He led the way through the hall, stepping around tumbled filing cabinets and other obstacles, each and every step of his carefully placed.

Each room they passed was another heart attack that Viorel barely survived.

There were people weeping and groaning along the hall. But there were more dead bodies than live ones. Anyone who was still alive most likely had to sense to stay silent while there were active shooters on the floor. There was nobody with any capability of pointing them to the gunmen, but when they arrived at the barricaded room it was obvious enough that their suspects were in there.

A single display was mounted over the door, above all the rubbish piled in front of it, and on it they could see the two shooters and a room full of hostages. One of these was wearing a vest lined with explosives and it was one of the attackers who held the triggering device in his left hand. The bastards.

One of the attackers lifted his ski mask just halfway, revealing his mouth. "Enter and they will die," he threatened. "Meet our demands and they will live."

Cristofor reached for his radio. "We have a situation at the hospital," he said.



IX


It took less than an hour for the entire hospital to be besieged by a small army of security personnel and their armored cars. A cordon had been stretched all around and officers patrolled the line to keep bystanders at bay. The shooting inside had ended no less than twenty minutes earlier. What was known was that there were two attack teams inside and a total of five gunmen. Both teams had holed themselves up with hostages.

With them were four officers employed by Cojocaru, which had been first to respond to the scene. Two officers were on the second floor, keeping watch over the only entrance and exit to one of the barricaded rooms. The two others were on the fifth floor, where they had finally managed to pin down the team of three shooters. One of these had been wounded and arrested, now in custody and on his way to a local station. The other two were hiding behind impromptu defenses that separated them and their hostages from the rest of the world. Outside, just beyond the automatic doors of the hospital's southern entrance was an armored special tactics team ready to storm in.

Gunfire sounded here and there. It came from elsewhere in the city. Most of the attackers were now dead. One by one, they had been tracked, hunted, and exterminated. Only the one from the hospital was caught alive. There were still shooters out in the wild, but their hours were numbered. If they even had hours left.

Three had, apparently, been gunned down by officers at a mall near the city's commercial center. Another one had been killed on the street, the second man with him now on the run, although as of yet uncaught.

Four others were shot and killed while attacking a small neighborhood police station belonging to Bacaharo, another security company working with the city.

The military checkpoints had restricted, what according to most Macabéans was, the terrorist attack and in some sense contained the carnage. And while the shooters were able to reach malls, hospitals, theaters, and too often simply gun down their prey in the streets, at least some had somewhere to run and escape to. Perhaps it was more than a mere 'some.'

Still, the wake came with dozens of dead and hundreds of wounded. Small victories and big pictures were small respites.

Around the hospital, there was not a soul who did not feel the tension around them...and within. Civilians were looking on as urban security officers seemingly lounged about, more focused, it looked, on controlling the growing crowd than solving the problem inside the building. Of course, few of these people understood the precarious situation. They knew of the hostages, but not that all those innocent people were likely to die should security forces do anything too rash, too precipitated. The shooters had made it difficult for it to turn out any other way. Their callousness was a strategic cold-blooded calculation. Of course, they were not the only ones playing chess.

The one who looked like the commanding officer on the scene was pacing back and forth, right ear always occupied by a radio.

Barely audible outside his immediate area, he asked, "Are all the other vents closed?"

A few seconds later. "Good." He brought the radio down and dialed another series of numbers, after which he raised it back up. After a moment, he said, "All is ready. Plan Orange is a go, over. I repeat plan Orange is a go. Remember," he added, "I want them alive. I want these fuckers alive."



X


Cristofor hadn't taken his eyes off the door for even a second. Even when he put on his mask, his eyes seemed locked on that exit.

Viorel's anxiety hadn't gotten any better. He half expected the shooters to kill everyone inside and come out to fight, like a last stand against insuperable odds. The bastards were disciplined, though. Viorel gave them that. They stayed inside that room, confidently terrorizing their hostages, and going as far as to array them all around the one with the explosive-filled vest.

Inside, there was a young girl hugging her mother. She had been crying since Viorel first noticed her on the screen. She was the youngest in the room, but some of the prisoners look hardly a year over twenty. It would be such a shame to lose that youth, a shame to lose any one of them. But, the situation was grim. They refused to surrender, either these two or the other three. The one they had captured was of little use. He was holed up in some concrete cell, but he refused to talk. They should have killed him when they had the chance. No chance of surrender, they said. Everyone would die, one way or another.

What are they waiting for, then? Viorel wondered. He knew the answer.

They had all the time in the world, all the reason to be patient. If security forces attempted to storm the rooms, the hostages would die and police forces would be left looking like fools. If security tried to wait them out, they'd kill the prisoners before they starved or fell to dehydration. They most likely had water for days stockpiled inside those rooms, anyway. The first to die would always be the hostages. Viorel cursed under his gas mask.

The wait seemed eternal. For hours, they simply looked at the door and the small screen just above it.

Suddenly, the stairwell entrance behind them swung open and hit the wall with a crash. Four fully armored policemen stepped out, rifles pointed forward. A medical team followed behind them. Viorel was confused at first, but then he looked at the screen the shooters had set up so that they could see the hostages inside. The two gunmen had collapsed onto the floor and the hostages had closed their eyes, many of them laying slumped against the wall as if knocked out.

...the gas.

It worked. The attackers had been knocked unconscious.

"Go, go, go." The four armored SWAT officers moved forward at a bull's pace. The EMTs followed closely.

When they arrived at the door, the SWAT team cleared the impromptu barricades quickly. Another one carried a ram with which she burst the locked door open with three swift hits. They entered with thrilling pace, placing the ends of their barrels on the attackers' heads while the medical team focused on extracting the hostages.

It was all Viorel could do to not fall back on his butt and breathe an enormous sigh of relief. The day was not over just yet. The hostages were not entirely safe yet, as the gas could be dangerous to them if they consumed too much of it. So, alongside Christofor, he helped where he could.

And while he was happy the worst of it was finally over, he knew that it would be a long time before Vasozia forgot what had happened that day.

User avatar
McNernia
Negotiator
 
Posts: 5327
Founded: Oct 05, 2011
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby McNernia » Sat Mar 23, 2019 5:14 pm

Vasozia, Arad Treivurlui Prefecture
Hospital
Matthew Maloman



He looked up at the ceiling, the hospital was not the best place that he would like to spend time, but Matt Maloman had been shot. He had been at a festival enjoying the parades and the vast crowds. He looked down at his feet under the blanket. The room was singular, a rarity. His fine clothes as he had been brought in, a fine suit to mark the festival was something that had kept him from being with someone else. Of course there were also tour groups, a cruise ship had left some time ago, putting the dead in Medical on a tour back to Mcnernia. Maloman had to stay, his injuries had put him in a coma for a while. And now he had been up for several days. Sleeping and eating and staying in bed.
Now he would wait. He turned on the television on the opposite wall. And saw news from his homeland.
PARLIAMENT VOTES FOR RETRITUBTION-PM:OUR DEAD WILL BE AVENGED, GOLDEN THRONE SHALL HAVE ALL NEEDED AID WE CAN PROVIDE
“Interesting.” He said looking at the press conference which had taken place after a speech by the PM before the house of Commons. Outlining the plan. Seven Mcnernians would bring their nation into a war.


TO:The Empire of the Golden Throne of the Macabees Foreign Affairs
FROM:HM Secret Intelligence Service
CC:
SUB:
SEC:STANDARD
Greetings
HM Government has a standing policy of combatting revolutionary terrorism and all terrorism of whatever stripe. The goals of those who use terror tactics are revolutionary in that they desire to change the order. So HM Government shall oppose them and make common cause with most of those who oppose them. We offer all assistance that might be need in combatting this threat. As seven Mcnernians are dead at the hands of these terrorists we wish to assist.
Polaria
Erin Islands
Kaisong Islands
Al-Azkar
Rhodana
Eragh
Arisal
Kirav
Neu Engollon
New Edom: Clyde Hullar Ambassador
Aurora
Children of Aurora
A Luta Continua
Aneas
Tyrennia
Golgoth
Pardes
Cornellian Empire
Rostil
Sondria
Ajax
Astyria

Greater Dienstad
Minyang
Endorser of the Amistad Declaration
SIgnatory of the Amistad Declaration
IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY RPing, TG ME PLEASE, THANKS A BUNCH.
A Time of Trouble
All my posts shall be dedicated to Tom Clancy. May he Rest In Peace.
I Consider the above to be Canon. Which means I want to RP with you if you've been in those regions. Or Are.

Call me Archinia ICly and well maybe Mcnernia is plausible....I don't know.

Lore change?

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The Macabees
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Postby The Macabees » Sat Feb 29, 2020 4:32 pm

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[Governor's] Palace of Zarmuzuela, Nuevo León
April 2028 — The New Strategy and the limikari.



I

The room was solemn. Few of the people present had the appetite to talk. There was still a stark grimness to the mood, even though weeks had passed since the Vasozia attacks.

Terrorists had claimed the lives of 213 people, many of which were people of the provinces, from other territories and satrapies, and from the world at large. It was a tragedy that left Macabéan security in evidence. The heavy-handed approach of the occupying forces was well known, and yet it had not prevented the worst terrorist attack in the history of the Golden Throne.

It left people asking why the Golden Throne was in Indras, in the first place. Perhaps in some countries, this was a common question in other countries. Not so, in the Golden Throne. It hadn't even been three decades since the empire was reformed, but the emperor and his foreign policy was supported by an obvious majority and the people had faith in him. His grandfather, his predecessor, was revered. The first twelve years of rule had come with tremendous growth and newfound wealth, and while the War of Golden Succession was a hiccup in that upward curve of progress it nevertheless gave Fedor an aura of invincibility. He had overcome Herculean odds, formalized via a mythical ideology — in the same as other peoples have said to have "Manifest Destiny" —, and as such the religion of the Willed is believed by a great many with clear conviction. That the Vasozia attack had even only dented the façade was significant.

A solution had to be implemented, and the emperor's kríerlords, governors, and highest-ranking military officers were convened at Zarmazuela to learn what that solution must be. The site held meaning. Zarmazuela was one of of the Bi-Territorial Governor's homes and the only one in the Territory of Nuevo León. The eastern territory, Nuevo León, was the insurgent core and, although the insurgency had been pushed to the southeastern fringes of the territory, hosting the conference in Zarmazuela sent a strong message that the Golden Throne went and convened where it pleased, even if it was at the heart of the enemy.

The attendants had all flown into a military airfield just outside the small city which sprawled before the governor's palace. They were driven to the palace grounds in armored vehicles, even though Zarmazuela was a very Macabéan city. Retired veterans lived here, as did the civilian family of the military personnel who lived on the airbase and army operating base. Tens of thousands of locals lived here, too. But, they were migrants to what had been built around the imperial military and political infrastructure established in Zarmuzuela. Here, they were foreigners. The heavy military presence and the predominance of Macabéan inhabitants made Zarmazuela one of the safest cities in Nuevo León, by a considerable margin when compared with the southeastern sectors. Still, they came in armored luxury vehicles, and through the layers of the city's defenses.

"Cities like this one," explained the lecturer, "form the spine of our security and political operations. They are the islands of civilization within an ocean of squalor, beacons of liberty guiding the people of Zarbia and Nuevo León to a new era. Secure and prosperous, they show the way to those who seek peace, safety, and the benefits of governance that can provide."

The lecturer continued, "By acting as nexuses around which we organize the Secured Municipalities, New Cities like Zarmuzuela provide for a strong local imperial presence for a significant number of locals. Our soldiers can rapidly respond to security threats and launch frequent patrols throughout their areas of operation, giving little breathing room to guerrillas who are finding themselves increasingly marginalized along the Guffingfordi Frontier, where they are sandwiched in between us and imperial soldiers on the other side of the territorial border. For local, indigenous gendarmerie and police outfits, they are an insurance against possible military threats that would be impossible for them to handle, such as the larger insurgent fall and winter offensives that for years plagued the Pan-Zarbian Territories. Know that we are winning here. But, if I have focused mostly on the military so far, the truth is that the core of our efforts is political."`

Some across the crowd nodded, others looked perplexed. There was no consensus on the proper method of counterinsurgency. Far from it, with some preferring a more heavy-handed approach favoring the display of imperial firepower.

Anticipating the disagreement, the lecturer suddenly approached his point from another direction. "We have tried the military-first strategy everywhere Will has driven us: The Pan-Zarbian and Havenic Territories, Holy Panooly, Theohuanacu, Indras, and New Empire. It has not worked. In Indras, where once the fighting existed almost exclusively along the Omegan Frontier, the violence is getting worse and is leaving our control. In Theohuanacu, we are still fighting the worst rebellion of three. Three! After a decade of war, we have not yet been able to satisfactorily pacify the pirates, and this leaves out the unincorporated peoples that live along the western coast of the continent. The military-first strategy must be evolved."

"Zarbia and Nuevo León," he went on, "give us the new model. A model that puts politics first."

"The imperial model of governance provides us with a good starting point. Ultimately, territorial military forces are under the political oversight of the governor and the theater's kríerlord. We must take this one step further and place it under the territorial government as a whole. The military must operate around political objectives, both trans-imperial, territorial, and local. This sounds scary and abstract, but we can generalize based on experiences here in Nuevo León, as well as our experience in Sarcanza after The War. We won that insurgency, and it was won by politicians, not by the military. This does not mean the military plays no role, simply that the military's role must be aligned with the government and the people who are being governed. You, commanders, are responsible for the government's ability to conduct its affairs without fear of terrorism. My colleague, Lasagos Eber Zerot, will speak more to that later." The lecturer gestured to a man sitting in the front row, who gently bowed his head to acknowledge.

The lecturer continued, "How have we pushed the fighting to the fringes, isolating it from almost the entirety of Zarbian civilian society? How have we continued to make progress on the pacification of urban and rural Zarbia and Nuevo León? By making our first and foremost goal the monopolization of the enforcement of justice. Justice, of course, is a very personal thing. If a burglar entered your sister's home and, without originally intending to, murdered her, many of you would kill him or ask the state to. Others think that inhumane. We are a state which uses penal labor, but this is an injustice to many in the world. This disagreement exists within systems of strong legal institutions, imagine the chaos that exists within the society of a wartorn, failed state. The key is not to define justice, simply to enforce it. It is vital to respect the local's conception of what is right and wrong, after all, it is the locals' problems that we are purporting to arbitrate."

"Of course, our flexibility must be negotiated." The lecturer smiled. "We are the Golden Throne. That we are empathetic and understanding does not mean that our services of security and justice come for free. Until the Long Wars, as these insurgencies are now being called, end, the price of our security is restricted freedom of movement. In Zarbia and Nuevo León, there are New Cities, there are cities, and there are New Towns and New Villages. There are analogs of these throughout the empire, I will explain their differentiation here in the Pan-Zarbian Territories."

"The cities are larger municipalities with an existing degree of urban sprawl that prohibits us from fencing- or walling-in the entirety of the community," he explained. "They must be controlled through a series of checkpoints and roadblocks, organized around the organic flow of urban life. Civilians go to work, to the market, they take their children to school, and the same sort of thing they do in Fedala, Macabea, or Beda Fromm. Disrupting these floods produces resentment. Resentment may push them to cooperate with the enemy. Roadblocks and checkpoints must be able to isolate districts, like watertight hatches that control the spread of flooding on a ship, but they must not disrupt normal life."

Going on, he said, "New Cities are cities like Zarmuzuela, built around our bases. The original civilian area is walled. As the locals continue to move here, where there is work and it's generally safer, the urban sprawl will inevitably extend beyond the walls and New Cities start to rely on security systems much like the cities."

"New Towns and Villages refer to different sizes of the same thing," the lecturer said. "Some are walled, others are surrounded by layers of fences, obstacles, and watchtowers. We have built or secured hundreds of thousands, and more, of these municipalities. More than ninety-six percent of the Pan-Zarbian population for is accorded for, and all locals who live in the New Towns and Villages must check-out in the morning and check-in at night with the checkpoint guards. There are only two-to-four gates to leave, depending on the size of the settlement and of the local security detachment."

"Through this system," he elaborated, "we can account for the population, control their movement, and isolate them from the guerrillas. These guerrillas are forced to live within a smaller, ever-increasingly rural part of the country. They have less help to count on from the civilian population and we can use food control tactics to lure them out into the open, where we can eliminate them. For example, by placing certain sectors of the territory under strict restrictions on the licensed sale of food for months at a time, we can get more oversight on who is buying it and where it's going. This starves out those who we cut off from the food supply, forcing them into leaving or into desperation."

He stood confidently. "It works. Nuevo León is proof, as are Sarcanza and the Pan-Havenic Territories. We have combined this system of organization with the provision of justice, and thus provide for two of the things that the Pan-Zarbian Territories desperately needed. Add to that improving political representation through the Pan-Zarbian Congress and the strengthening local civilian security forces, and we have found the recipe for success."

"This is the path forward, ladies and gentlemen," he concluded. "We are Willed to bring progress to the weak. This is our crusade. And victory is only a matter of time, patience, and righteousness."

"I am certain that all of you are capable of applying the same techniques to the areas you govern and with the soldiers you command. All of these lessons are applicable. In fact, this is the new model that will be followed throughout the empire, to be rolled out in phases. The tangible and concrete objectives of these phases will be communicated to you individually, as your rank and position require. Later, we will go into greater depth on some of the more general strategies and tactics in smaller workshops, focused on your command theater and what makes it unique. For now, I cede the floor to my partner, Lasagos Zerot."



II

Lasagos Eber Zerot rose to take the stage. Before him sat hundreds of officials, commanders, and other important people who were to take his recommendations and implement them elsewhere. Eber had acquired long years of experience in this kind of warfare, of course. As the original governor of Belmonte, he had governed over the brunt of the Havenic resistance against Macabéan occupation.

"In Belmonte," he began, "we came not as occupiers, not as bringers of civilization, but as conquerors. Our first mission was to remove the indigenous population from the occupied Pan-Havenic Territories and clear the lands for the settlement of our veterans whose blood had been spilled to win The War. We had millions of troops, hungry to further humiliate the people who had once seemed on the very verge of securing an overwhelming victory against the empire. Still, the expulsion of the indigenous Havenic people was a messy, and costly, operation. One that ultimately failed, if you consider the hundreds of millions of Havenics who have immigrated back since the normalization of the Frontier."

He paused for a moment to gaze over the crowd. Then, he said, "We implemented the most absolute sentence on the original peoples of the Pan-Havenic Territories, their complete removal. In theory, once complete, there would be no disgruntled natives to wage an insurgency against our occupation and the bulk of our land forces could be organized along the Frontier. This, as we learned, would not be the case. For seven years, we fought the guerrilla resistance. We began with the search-and-destroy, encircle-and-sweep operations that had won us the conventional war. If we could simply kill all of the insurgents, there would be no insurgency. The enemy had started with no more than two thousand fighters, by the first year we had killed more than that. By then, the enemy had also grown to six thousand. By the year after, they were at more than thirty thousand. We would kill more and more, yet they would get larger and larger. How?"

"You see," he continued, "our heavy-handed approach was causing resentment among the population, and in those days the infrastructure of our empire had spread most reliably to the larger urban populations. Much of the rural country, where a bulk of the local population lived, was not yet fully benefiting from the government services that the citizens of the provinces enjoy. The less connected the locals are to the government, the more likely they are to connect with the insurgency."

"Missing that crucial detail," said Zerot, "was our most costly mistake."

The wall behind him suddenly displayed a map of the Pan-Havenic Territories. Levante, to the west, Belmonte, and Castilla were all different colors, with their major cities, military bases, and other landmarks pictured with symbols and names. The Frontier looked like a trench line that spread from the west coast to the southern border of Zarbia. Displayed prominently on the map was the year '2023.'

"This was the status of the Pacification of the Havenic Territories in the year 2023. The crossed swords indicate battles, eighty-five percent of which were initiated by the enemy." The screen changed. "This was the status in 2019. As you can see, despite millions of troops and non-stop efforts to isolate, surround, and destroy the insurgent enemy, our efforts failed at the task. We were losing our grip over our prized, conquered lands."

"In 2023," he went on, "we decided to implement a new approach. Plan Karl, named in honor of His Imperial Majesty's son, was adopted across all three territories, although first proposed and put in effect by Vicadmiránt Gregor Desal. Desal, is of course, the man who forever shall be remembered as one of the commanders of our victorious imperial forces at Targul Frumos. But, he will also be remembered as the man who brought civilization, and its peace, security, and justice, to the wildlands of Castilla. He accomplished all of that despite suffering from the most intense insurgent fighting in the theater."

The map changed again, this time displaying the operational movements of the various battalion- and even corp-sized unit during the sweep-and-clear operations of 2018–22, then transitioning to show the network of patrols that followed from 2023–25. "Elaborate military maneuvers to flank and surround enemy forces, incorporating combined air-land forces, transitioned to tens of thousands of simultaneous patrols conducted by platoon-sized units throughout Levante, Belmonte, and Castilla," said Zerot, taking them through the maps. "Our switch in tactics increased engagement rates with the enemy. It made it harder for them to hide since we could cover more ground. It made it harder for them to cooperate with civilians, who were getting more exposure to imperial forces, and the security from a greater on-the-ground presence of our troops helped to assuage the threat of intimidation by the guerrillas."

He stood still, then. "The enemy is willy and capable. They know the land better than we do, the folds of its hills, the banks of its rivers, all the nooks and crannies that allow their forces to move around undisturbed. They know the language and have ties to the locals that precede, and often supersede, ours. Carrying their weapon and protected by no armor, they travel light and very quickly. When ambushed, by the time the air support called in by the under-fire platoon arrives, the attackers are already gone. Our soldiers are well equipped, in all sorts of material needed for combat, and their lives are difficult to take as a result. But, they are also heavy and, relative to the lightfooted insurgent, slow."

"This kind of war," Zerot added, "requires a different kind of soldier. One who travels lighter, and one which is amply supported by quick artillery and low-flying air support. That is exactly what we experimented with in the Pan-Havenic Territories. Most of the Ejermacht deployed to the Havenic Territory had to remain traditional by nature. The threat of war against another state exists always in Greater Díenstad. It is in the nature of the peoples who call this region home. But, we had to adapt to the local conditions. Luckily, we had a burgeoning veteran population that was being settled there in the years following the end of The War."

"We incentivized these veterans to form into defense organizations and institutionalized them, turning them into a network of local militias that could enforce imperial and local laws on behalf of the territorial governments and Imperial Bureaucracy. And we placed them under imperial command, organized under each territory's governor. These men often needed to acquire their own rifles, and most hardly wore armor, although they had access to military-grade technologies. Advanced, but light, their patrols helped to secure the rural lands of the territories and slowly the insurgency withered. Attacks occur here and there to this day, but most of them originate from south of the Frontier. There are less than three hundred suspected guerrillas within the borders of the empire and the majority do not actively operate in a combat role, rather they act as spies and other contacts in what has become more of a crime network." The map continued to change throughout, shifting to show the progression of the pacification process and the stability that had been achieved in Levante, Belmonte, and Castilla. "This story matches that of Zarbia and Nuevo León to a significant degree."

Zerot was coming to the culmination of his talk. "This success will be formalized and institutionalized. You have all heard the rumors and seen the evolving plan. The Ejermacht is changing and for the better. Following the end of the Gothic War, whenever our victory there may come, our army will be brought back to the region and it will undergo a simultaneous demobilization and reorganization. Rather than regulares and [/i]auxiliaries[/i], a distinction that is only made by name and race these days, there will be regulares and [/i]limikari[/i]. The former will carry on the traditional model that has brought the Ejermacht success over countless foes. The latter will become the most important element of the empire's pacification forces, designed in all respects to fight and defeat the insurgent rival in cooperation with the political objectives of the province, territory, or satrapy of the empire."

"Drawn only from the citizen body of the empire, meaning the provinces and all citizens living in the territories and satrapies, the limikari will be the face of the empire to the locals. Many of its ranks will be filled by the children of auxiliary veterans who have earned citizenship, and the right to pass it, through their service. These will serve as examples, their equality with a citizen from a pure a Macabéan province as Díenstad proof that membership within the Golden Throne brings with it great opportunities." There were some grumbles at the suggestion of equality. "The regulares will draw only from the territories and recruit will open to the satrapies."

"This reform accomplishes a number of objectives."

He held his hand up and raised one finger. "First, we have a light and agile force equipped specifically for the needs of pacifying the new conquests. Their sole function is that purpose, making them experts in that task. No longer do we need to split and dilute training time for our frontline combat units, making us less efficient at traditional war and counterinsurgency alike. Now we have two departments organized around two distinct needs."

"Second." A second finger popped up. "Central command in Fedala will be minute by comparison of territorial and satrapical headquarters. The regional commander will report directly to, as Mr. Treter explained before me, the governor and any kríerlord assigned to the theater. These forces are in the territorial government's disposal to facilitate their political agenda of civilization and integration. The objective is not the destruction of the locals, but their incorporation into the empire. Remember, it is their blood that will spill on foreign battlefields for the glory of us all."

"That brings me to the third." A third finger stood. "The limikari will assist in the recruitment of local men of military age into the regulares. This will help us soak up the unemployed and otherwise remove a consider portion of the local population of able-bodied men through fully voluntary means and with long-run benefits to the empire, namely a wider citizen body class."

"The reforms will begin as soon as the end of the Gothic War comes. Will will compel our victory sooner or later. Then, our focus will return to the region and, more importantly, the consolidation of imperial power throughout its newly acquired territories. This will be accomplished by providing security and justice to those who have lacked it for so many years, protected by an imperial army made up of soldiers who started out in straits very much like theirs." He opened his hands to the audience and finished, "Mr. Treter and I will take questions on our subjects for the next sixty minutes."

The floor erupted in noise and the questioning could have very well gone for much longer than sixty minutes.

Regardless, the attendants of the Zarmuzuela Conference did not come to debate and participate. They were here to learn the new approach because they were expected to implement it.



III

The New Strategy would take time to implement. Indeed, the reorganization of the Ejermacht was still years out, with no end in sight to the war in Gholgoth. The political reforms would require buy-in and pressure, things that would take time to accumulate and bring about the desired results.

Still, when in the future the 'Long Wars' were studied and judged, it would be the Zarmuzuela Conference on which the consensus would bestow the honor of being the definitive turning point.

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Postby The Macabees » Fri May 29, 2020 9:10 pm

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Unorganized Territory, Territory of Indras


I

Early April 2028 — Retaliations.

While commanders learned "The New Strategy" in Nuevo León, the boots on the ground in Indras responded to the Vasozian attacks the only way they could — bloody retribution.

Finding evidence to positively identify senior members of the Aurelian militias was easy when you're looking for it. A lot of things start to look like evidence, even when they're not or when there's more evidence to the contrary. In any case, building a list of about two hundred names was the easy part. Finding them was a mixed bag. Some lived in the Arad Prefecture and were easy to find, others lived south of the prefecture's boundaries and were lost in the cesspool that was the Unorganized Territory. It took a couple of weeks to flesh out the hit list and one more to prepare simultaneous operations to bring these targets into custody, or kill them.

Before the arrival of morning's reddish-orange hues, when the sun first rises from behind the horizon, thirty-two separate flights of tiltrotor transports carried a combined force of just a shy over three-thousand Koro Kirim. Fully armored, they stood within the bowels of their aircraft twenty-four to each.

The tiltrotors left their sky-bound bases, perched as they were within their respective docks on their assigned airships. Blunted blades made them almost noiseless and their curves made them invisible to the rudimentary radars employed by the insurgents. The airships they left were enormous, in conjunction with their red canvases, made them to be out obvious. As was intended, of course. Best for the enemy to know that the empire, even with stretched manpower, was omnipresent.

Many reasons abounded for the scarcity of the necessary troops to civilize the entirety of Indras, but five stood out in particular. The insatiable demand for soldiers' flesh in Gholgoth, was one. Second, the need to defend the core provinces against invasion by the Fourth Reich. Third, the demand for troops in eastern Theohuanacu to put down the pirate rebellions in Palenque and Tiwanaku, and patrol the 'New Towns and Villages' that separated the majority of eastern Theohuanacans from the enemy. Fourth, the offensive and defensive requirements of New Empire, where there were no less than two hundred million soldiers at any given point in time. Finally, fifth, the need to spread the leftovers to suppress a multitude of resistance throughout the new territories and satrapies. Suffice to say, high command in Indras had to suffice with limited manpower.

The airships' primary function was, therefore, propagandistic. Even with limited troops, the always-visible presence of imperial forces was demoralizing, especially when compounded with the fact that from those airships came none other than Koro Kirim forces. On this day, those forces came down low to the ground before continuing on to their targets. The enemy would know something was afoot, but they would not know exactly what or where.

With the rising sun to their backs, the tiltrotors flew toward their disparate landing zones. Below, the tall, rolling grasslands that penned in the farmed areas along the coast gave way to an increasingly dense jungle forest. In the jungle was where the Aurelian militias planned and brooded. Under the leadership of Intelegapul — a local word meaning "The Sage" —, the militias had withdrawn further from civilization, where they were harder to discover and fight. Their withdrawal into the darkness of the unorganized territory did not imply a retreat, as their savage offensive in Vasozia had shown. If anything, they had overstepped all bounds in their violence and the Golden Throne could not let such insolence go unpunished.

Intelegapul's identity remained unknown. For all the money, technology, and intelligence manpower in the world, the Imperial Bureaucracy and its agencies had not found a modicum of evidence on "The Sage" or who he was. Even torture hadn't revealed a detail worth mention and after the atrocities like those at Senelica the well of civilian intelligence in the unorganized territory had dried up harder than the cracked desert canyons during the peak of summer. Intelegapul operated at will and for all of his losses, the attacks he was pulling off against the "invincible" Golden Throne were making an impact that if left unchecked could very well snowball into a wider rebellion that would be much harder to put down and control. It was hoped that some of the people captured in today's raids would provide information on his identity and whereabouts.

Each group of tiltrotors arrived at their destination at different moments. The first strikes were on targets that sat closer to port cities of Vasozia and Cruzau. The tiltrotors landed quickly, unloaded their armored, human cargo, and left to hover about while they waited for the Koro Kirim to complete the rest of the operation.

The Koro Kirim were not alone. Coming from a different origin, each mission was accompanied by one or more armed drones. These not only provided crucial aerial surveillance and different forms of intelligence, including signals interdiction, but could also provide close air support in event of particularly difficult resistance.

Between unseen drones and the heavily armored special forces sent after them, the militants were easily overwhelmed by this parade of strength. In many cases, the operations were as simple as locating, arresting, and boarding the target for the return flight to the airship. From there, they'd be flown to Vasozia, where they would first be interrogated in an unmarked military compound in one of the great city's southern suburbs. Only after their usefulness to the Imperial Bureaucracy had been extracted would they be turned over to civilian authority for a trial by their peers. These peers were of the more refined urban kind — people of culture — who had no love toward the rural, illiterate rabble that tended to fill the ranks of the insurgency. All who made it to trial would be convicted for treason, most would die, the rest would spend many years in hard labor as prisoners of the state.

Not all operations went as smoothly. In a village called Iragu, the Koro Kirim walked into a fortress and were made to pay for their intrusion. Hundreds of fighters fired on them from the rooftops, using assault rifles, rockets, and an assortment of other weapons. The fighting continued street by street, through narrow alleys and paths, and within the houses themselves. Even the intervention of two drones could not desist the violence. It was only after an air strike, two hours later, that the enemy dispersed. By then, the target had escaped and three imperial soldiers had died for no gain.

By the day's end, of the two hundred names on the list, one hundred and eighty-three were brought back to Vasozia. How many of them were innocent? Unfortunately, that was a piece of datum that would never be known. The evidence against them had already been laid out. Where it was weak, it was strengthened, even if by slight fabrication.

But, someone had to pay for what happened in Vasozia.



II

May 2028 — Assassination.

The town of Drimbaso was a bustling merchant center just south of the border of the Arad Prefecture, closer to Cruzau than Vasozia. Although most of Indras' commercial trade was seabound, many overland routes of transportation passed through Drimbaso. It was one of the few big towns in the unorganized territory that was connected to not only Cruzau and Vasozia, but Botoșani as well.

As one of the few outposts of civilization in the unorganized territory, it was also one of the most secure places to live in. Even with the Koro Kirim in the skies, Drimbaso had a battalion-sized mechanized garrison on the ground. From their base, the imperial army patrolled the rural roads that spanned out from all sides of the town like spokes from a wheel's hub. Even local security cooperated and was considered to be among the best, and most loyal, outside of the Arad Prefecture. It was a distinction that made Drimbaso one of the empire's primary success stories of the pacification process in Indras. It was one of its few, as well.

Governed by a man named Sebastian Cornea, Drimbaso had seen an exceptional rise in wealth in the past two years. Under the Golden Throne's rule, Indras' ports had become more integrated with regional and global markets than ever. Macabéan financing and goods had poured in, Indran goods flowed out, and the town was well placed to see significant profits from economic growth. More and more people flocked to it, like an oasis in a parched desert, and today there were informal suburbs that flowed well outside the traditional township boundaries. In fact, Drimbaso had grown so quickly that not all of these new neighborhoods had running water or electricity yet, with the expansion of infrastructure still underway. Indeed, many people lived in walls made of plywood, corrugated metal, and plastics, with no central heating and floors made of dirt.

Despite the extreme living conditions of some, most were proud to live in Drimbaso. Those who settled the land were awarded it in the form of recognized property titles. It was believed that through homesteading Indras could incentivize the productive use of its land by allowing locals to use their landed property to secure business loans, or otherwise provide them with a simple sense of security.

This progress had happened under the auspices of Sebastian Cornea.

Cornea was an interesting man for other reasons. He was a former warlord who had operated with the rogue Mutu militias that dominated the Indran Frontier, which marked the international border with Lamoni-held Omega. Like many of the Mutu warlords, he had come to the imperial side very quickly after the annexation. Unlike most, his loyalty harked back to the very beginning of the occupation, and for that he was awarded with his township.

This day was a very special one for Cornea in particular. His Imperial Majesty had taken an interest in Drimbaso and was gifting it a university, which would be constructed during the next two years. It would be massive, offering students the opportunity to learn the sciences and the arts within an educational environment on par with many of the universities in the provinces. Just as importantly, it would have an enormous pool, fields for sports playing, and other amenities that offered entertainment to the town's young adults — many of whom would otherwise be drawn to crime or worse. And the conceptual drawings showed high-rising towers with elaborate carvings, arches, and statues, like the palaces and temples of old, providing Drimbaso with an architectural culture that it sorely lacked. Its foundations had already been laid and some of the construction started, but Cornea was presenting the project to the public today. A great crowd had already gathered outside the construction grounds to await his arrival.

He stepped outside his front door and headed through the garden path to the gate, where outside there was a throng of people and reporters waiting for them. They had been gathered under the guidance of the prefect, the local arm of the Imperial Bureaucracy, with the intention of showing the citizens of the core province just how much progress had made been made in the territory and the good the empire was doing. It was propaganda. But, it suited Cornea's purpose, whose political currency was rising far beyond the ambitions of a local township. He smiled and waved at the cameras, shaking the hands of the Indran people reaching out for his touch.

"Sir, we must go now before we are late," said a bodyguard, who pointed him, and urged him on, toward the armored car parked by the curve. On the hood, two small flags flapped about against the wind. One was of Indras and the other of the Golden Throne. Two other bodyguards stood waiting outside.

Cornea took the back seat, with one of the bodyguards taking the one on the other side. The door was closed behind him. The bodyguard which had urged him on took the driver's seat, and the other the passenger's. Behind them, the cameras stuck to their subject like flies on cheese, filming on as the locals who had been gathered for the shot continued to cry and reach out.

The engine clicked on and, suddenly, the vehicle was nothing but a raging red fireball rising into the air.

No one in the crowd had time to gasp or mourn, as they all shielded themselves from the heat and burn of the explosion. The cameras went black. Scraps of metal flew in every direction, cutting through metal, rock, and flesh alike. There were screams and, just as quickly, those in the crowd still able to use their two feet began to run away in any direction they could.

Behind them, they left the burning wreck of what used to be an armored car, with the charred bodies of Sebastian Cornea and his three bodyguards.

With Cornea died almost two years of growth, progress, and peace in Drimbaso. There was a sad silence that befell the town as the noise of the explosion and the rush of people died away, temporary though it was as it was filled with the sound of sirens in the distance. Then, to add to this new misery, there was a sudden spark of gunfire and it soon became clear that the assassination of Cornea was just the beginning of something much bigger and more dangerous.

Wars' wails quickly reverberated through the tightly packed and winding streets. It was not just rifle- or small arms fire, but also cannons and mortars. Not far from Cornea's home, another bulb of fire rose into the air. It was the police headquarters, the largest garrison of local civilian security personnel in the town. And when the air cleared of the thick, black smoke, the headquarters building was in ruins and from it poured out a drip-like stream of wounded and miserable officers who had clearly been caught unawares. They were not alone. By the day's end, Drimbaso's security forces would know well enough that the town was no longer in their hands.



III

May 2028 — Siege.

Constantine Vasilescu, known by many as Intelegapul or "The Sage," smiled as he observed the rooftops of Drimbaso from an improvised watchtower his men had prepared him. From this post, he could observe the breadth of the imperial garrison near the northern outskirts of the town. The fools didn't even know who he was. They would know soon enough. And if the attacks in Vasozia hadn't been enough, then his feats in Drimbaso would be proof enough that "The Sage" could not be defeated.

The previous day's surprise attack had dislodged the civilian security personnel and annihilated the town's leadership in one fell swoop. Resistance had been disappointing. Vasilescu expected more from his enemies. But, he suspected that success was more of a commentary on the capabilities of the army he had rebuilt since the death of Adrian Aurelio, than on the failures of one of the finest civilian security forces south of the border with the Arad Prefecture. Still, the first battle was not yet over. There were more than one thousand Macabéans penned up behind the walls of their fortress.

Of course, the destruction of the imperial garrison in Drimbaso was the ultimate prize, the only thing that really mattered in this fight. The taking of the town was worthy enough and it was a victory that would raise the hopes for a free Indras, but if Vasilescu could destroy a battalion-sized garrison of imperial troops, then his legend would be unstoppable. Such a humiliating defeat could even be enough to dissuade the Macabéans of continuing their occupation of the southern lands of Indras altogether, the first step to retaking the whole country and driving both the Golden Throne and Lamoni into the sea. Under his rule he would unite the entire island once again and return it to its former position of respect among the nations of Greater Díenstad. These were the objectives of Intelegapul's dreams, his ultimate desires, his raison d'etre, and he swore that he would one day achieve them — or, die trying. But first, the Drimbaso garrison had to fall.

To that effect, over ten thousand fighters had surrounded the Macabéan base and placed it under siege. Men with shoulder-fired rockets and other heavy weapons guarded the paved approaches, guarding for sallies or breakout attempts, but the Macabéans hadn't attempted one yet. To inhibit their ability to man the towers and emplacements along the perimeter of their base, Vasilescu had placed sharpshooters on all sides. A steady and perpetual stream of mortar and artillery shells also did their part to suppress the imperialists and bring them to the edge of their nerves.

At moments, the sound of fighting intensified as war parties assaulted the barracks from different sides. Each time the attacks were repulsed. But the enemy's resistance could not go on indefinitely. They would attempt to reinforce the base and resupply it. Such a task would have to be done either by ground convoy or helicopter, and Intelegapul had seen to ensuring that either route was a treacherous one. Apart from the war parties poised to ambush an attempt at a sally from the base, others awaited attacks from outside the town. And there were fighters with man-portable anti-aircraft missiles deployed along the rooftops of Drimbaso, awaiting their opportunity to bring down one of the Golden Throne's prize tiltrotor aircraft or utility helicopters. If this strategy succeeded in completely strangling the fortress, the imperial garrison of Drimbaso would have to surrender in three weeks or less.

Imperial airpower had made only timid attempts to intervene. Apparently, the Macabéans were worried that they would lay to ruin one of the few towns in what they called the "Unorganized Territory" that approached their standard of civilization. The fools. By the end of this war, Vasilescu promised, they would not have an enduring legacy in Indras anyway.

Still, Vasilescu had his men hide in the buildings and disperse to concentrate only when needed and the heavier guns were moved on a regular basis. The empire could change their minds on the use of airpower at any moment and "The Sage" would not allow himself to be caught unawares.

But, imperial airpower was not his only concern — another one approached from the distance. When he saw the small black dots against the horizon he immediately recognized them for what they were, and that was Koro Kirim. There were ten dots total, Vasilescu counted, and they slowly grew in size as they came closer. By his experience, that meant almost two hundred and fifty Koro Kirim soldiers. "The Sage" wetted his lips. This was the fight he was looking for, the great showdown against the Golden Throne. He hoped that by the end of the fight not only will he have humbled their feared special forces, but that the remnants of the besieged battalion would be in chains.

When the tiltrotors made their final approach toward the city, a missile streaked out from one of the ad hoc structures along the fringes of Drimbaso's western outskirts. It narrowly missed its target, the lead transport in the flight, but a second one emerged soon after that. It hit the left engine, causing the aircraft to shudder and veer in the opposite direction, beginning to spiral about itself as smoke poured out of its mechanical wound. It soon lost altitude and landed harshly just outside of the town. The other tiltrotors descended too, quickly unloading their occupants before lifting again and flying out of range of the insurgent MANPADs. Still, one was struck on its way too and it too crashlanded in the wilderness outside of the town. Another one was struck, but the damage light enough to allow it to return to its airship. The Koro Kirim extracted the pilots from the downed tiltrotors and then destroyed them with explosives, taking the pilots with them as they entered the westernmost suburb.

The battle shifted to the ground. The Koro Kirim met heavy resistance as soon as they stepped into Drimbaso. They were heavily outnumbered and Vasilescu's men converged on them by the thousands. Of course, the Koro Kirim were fearsome, veteran warriors who could kill ten for each one of their deaths, but against numbers like these even they were overwhelmed. Their initial progress was slow and they were soon pinned down, forced to fortify themselves however they could among a group of buildings that they seized. The empire's early reaction to the fiasco of Drimbaso had been expertly parried.

From his perch, Intelegapul looked on with pleasure. The battle was going exactly to plan. He had in his grasp not only an imperial battalion but two companies worth of Macabéan special forces. What better prize was there? What greater feat would signal his rise to supremacy in Indras?

The sun went down to give way to night and Vasilescu went to sleep reassured of his ultimate victory.



IV

Late May 2028 — Batle.

The Golden Throne's timidity over bombarding Drimbaso ended rather quickly. By the third day, the Laerihans was running regular airstrikes against targets inside the town. They often came in pairs of two to drop their precision munitions from high altitude, beyond the range of ground-based air defenses. More often than not, they missed the brunt of their targets, but they still killed hundreds and made movement difficult.

Vasilescu also figured that they were flying reconnaissance UAVs because artillery batteries outside the town were also doing their part to suppress insurgent movements within the town. The Macabéans had been able to deploy their mobile batteries faster than "The Sage" had predicted, although the artillery fire was still subdued relative to some of the battles he had fought in the past. This was not the empire at its full strength. Nevertheless, they were reacting with haste to rectify the deteriorated situation in Drimbaso. Vasilescu, regardless, kept faith that he would emerge victorious in the end.

But, the more days that past, the less his men retained the same conviction. The intensifying imperial bombardment had allowed them to resupply and reinforce the base with more success. Despite losses, they brought ammunition, food, and other wares needed for the siege. They evacuated the wounded and flew in their replacements. And the battalion soon grew by another four companies in size, increasing the garrison's total strength by half. The Koro Kirim had managed to extricate themselves from the precarious situation they had put themselves in. At considerable cost, they fought their way back out of the town and into the countryside, where between intense bombardment and the arrival of their transports they were able to be moved to a treeline just over a kilometer outside the furthest extent of the suburb. There, they licked their wounds.

It took over a week to prepare and another few days to aggregate the necessary resources but, by the second week of the garrison's besiegement, a rescue force had been assembled. A mechanized division in its entirety had been assembled around Drimbaso. More than eighteen thousand men entered the town from various directions, supported by aircraft and artillery.

Vasilescu had planned for this eventuality, of course, although the Macabéans were responding much more quickly than he had anticipated. He had over thirty thousand men in the town by now, having brought in more from the countryside to bolster his position. By sheer mass and by virtue of the defensibility of the urban environment, the imperial counterstroke was slowed to a house-by-house crawl.

Likewise, a sally attempt from the base was repelled after heavy losses. An armored column had attempted to breakout and place pressure on "The Sage's" fighters from the rear, but it was quickly bogged down by a resistance that relied more on the sacrifice of life than on anything else. The fighting went on for many hours but, finally, the Macabéans withdrew back behind the outer gates of their fortress. Not even the force of their aerial and artillery bombardments was enough to disperse the rebels from their cause of putting the sally down no matter the cost. By the end of the day, the ruins outside the garrison's barracks were littered with bodies, but Intelegapul still held Drimbaso.

The next day, the battle was renewed. And the day after that and for many days longer it raged on. Imperial progress was slow but, for all the effort Vasilescu's men put into reducing the garrison while holding the Macabéan reinforcements at by, the garrison was not falling. Their resupply aircraft had taken damage and many had been shot down, but the base could not be completely cut off and its position was strengthening. Despite their best efforts, the Aurelian militias' grand offensive was coming to an inauspicious conclusion. Intelegapul prepared for the climax that would determine it all.

While about a third of his forces continued to wear the imperial force moving toward the center, the remainder assembled around the garrison's fortress amid intensifying aerial bombardment. Losses be damned, they gathered their strength and made one last all-out attack against the base in an effort to annihilate it via pure strength. In the early morning of that late-May day, almost twenty thousand fighters crept into their advanced positions as any remaining canon and rocket pieces were used to suppress the garrison and damage the outer walls. Then, after letting loose a guttural scream, all the men began their charge toward the perimeter of the base at once and from all directions. Minutes seemed like hours and by the time the two sides began firing on each other the Macabéan artillery was already responding vigorously, obliterating entire spans of frontage at once. Still, "The Sage's" warriors pushed on.

Despite the rocket artillery, cannon fire, and aerial bombardment, the imperial perimeter began to give way at points. Reinforcements were quickly cycled in to fill the gaps and weak points, but the waves of insurgent gunmen were oncoming and incessant. For all their firepower and resistance, the garrison's perimeter forces were forced back to secondary positions deeper inside the base. And Intelegapul's armies continued to pour forth with full zeal, growing more confident with every centimeter of soil they gained. Even as they amassed atrocious losses, hundreds of corpses strewn across the scorched battlefield, they mounted their pressure on the imperialist dogs.

The sun climbed to its highest point and the heat pounded upon all those toiling below. The fighting had not abetted but instead grew further agitated and frantic, and the garrison itself stood on the verge of being overrun. Thousands of insurgents had been killed, but there were still thousands more and they were more confident now than ever before.

The Macabéan garrison's new perimeter began to buckle again. If they broke through, the insurgents would run rampant through the base.

As the garrison's fate looked its bleakest, the bombardment reached its crescendo and among these clouds of fire, smoke, and dust emerged the Koro Kirim laden tiltrotors who had attempted an aborted relief mission on the second day of the battle. They had bid their time, operating in small groups to scout ahead of the infantry advancing block by block from all sides of the town. Now, at the direst moment, they were to reattempt their rescue attempt — this time, with the intention of breaking the will of the enemy's assault.

Repelling down from their transports, they fell in just behind the rebels at one sector. They moved quickly and with deadly efficiency, striking down their surprised opponents with mechanical swiftness. Bending back into itself, the rebel mass at that point began to shift away from its attack to focus on this threat and confusion spread throughout their ranks.

What seemed like certain victory suddenly turned into defeat, as the insurgent fighters' morale plummetted believing the new attack upon them to be committed by a much larger force than what it actually was. After insisting on their attack for some time longer, they simply could not stop the steam from leaving their offensive and at the point where their defeat seemed imminent they scattered. Retreat turned into route as thousands of surviving fighters fled through the narrower passages out of Drimbaso. Out in the countryside, they were ruthlessly targeted by imperial aerial firepower, but thousands nevertheless still made it to disappear into copses of trees or behind rolling hills.

When the fighting finally died and the dust settled, the once vibrant town of Drimbaso now lay in ruins. The civilian population, which had no time to flee the combat zone, suffered most grievously. More than one thousand had died, thousands more were wounded, and tens of thousands no longer had standing homes. The insurgents had suffered too. Nearly four thousand bodies were found. Thousands more must have suffered wounds to varying intensities. Imperial casualties were in the hundreds, mostly among the garrison forces. But, the empire's greatest loss was not its soldiers, but the image of progress that it once claimed in Indras. That myth had been shattered as one of the shining examples of prosperity, growth, and law in the unorganized territory of Indras was seized within a single day and then reduced to ashes during the battle to recapture it. Indras had turned into a quagmire and the battle of Drimbaso would sow doubt in the empire's ability to lift itself out of it for the final victory.

At the very least, it was clear that the Golden Throne's pacification of Indras had a long road ahead of it.
Last edited by The Macabees on Sun Jun 14, 2020 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby The Macabees » Sat Jun 20, 2020 12:02 pm

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Drimbaso, Unorganized Territory, Territory of Indras


I

June 2028 — Fighting west of the town.

"The Sage will be pleased with us today," said one of the fighters to his comrade. They were crouched beside a tall, luscious tree just at the edge of a forested area looking down upon the asphalt highway that led south from Drimbaso toward the town of Brasiova. To the north, perhaps still a kilometer away, traveled an imperial convoy. The vehicles' outlines were just visible in the distance, their edges dancing between the shifting of the heat.

The other man nodded, "Yes, yes he will."

Since the failed investment of Drimbaso weeks ago, the battle had continued outside of the town. The Macabéans had reinforced their garrison and regained control of the town, but the insurgents in the countryside had proven elusive and difficult to destroy. They fought only when they wanted to, rarely being pinned and annihilated, and their principal method of fighting was the ambush. "The Sage's" soldiers were not as well trained, well equipped, or as well led as their enemy, but they were just as fervent and they exploited their better knowledge of the local geography to move around unimpeded.

Overhead, two gunships beat at the air with their large rotors. The engines were vertical and the aircraft were flying slower to better match the pace of the convoy they were performing flanking reconnaissance for. The two insurgent men hiding in the woods shrunk their bodies, in fear of being found.

The convoy was most likely going to Brasiova to resupply one of the many nearby FOBs, which were now popping up throughout the unorganized territory. Indras was garrisoned by three armies of mixed auxiliary units, or about 1.2 million soldiers. Half of these were deployed along the northern edge of the Indran Frontier, a shared border with Lamonian Omega. Another quarter was deployed to the four major coastal cities and the Arad Prefecture, which left another 300 thousand soldiers to be dispersed throughout the country for counterinsurgency duties. Most, if not all, of these were "stuck" where they sat, responsible for patrolling their areas of responsibility. Any that weren't got convoy duty, which required a significant fraction of the total force as the logistical demand across the entire garrison was considerable.

As it neared one could see just how far back it went. Over fifty armored military trucks were led by a HIM-TAC and a company of Type-52GT IFVs, with other armored vehicles interspersed between strings of trucks with another armored company taking up the rear. Even as the first HIM-TAC drove past the woods, the imperial convoy still looked endless.

The fighter who had spoken first opened a mobile phone and pressed a series of three numbers. He looked up, toward the road. For a second, nothing happened. Then, just as the first truck was making it past the woods something erupted from underneath it and launched it in the air, a ball of fire and smoke rising from below. The truck landed with a thud, on its side.

Before anyone could react, the second insurgent leveled his rocket launcher toward the lead HIM-TAC and fired. A small anti-tank missile left the tube and zig-zagged towards its target like a snake across grass. As it neared the HIM-TAC, one of the IFVs launched a grenade and intercepted the income missile mid-course, exploding it harmlessly some distance away from the vehicles. Cursing under his breath, the insurgent labored to quickly load another missile. By then, however, the gunships were circling back and the lead armored vehicles began laying down extreme suppressive fire. Machinegun and cannon fire ripped into the nearby tree trunks, sending chips of wood flying in every direction.

The one who had detonated the bomb stood and ran in the opposite direction. Looking at him, the second fighter cursed again, raised the launcher to his shoulder, and fired off another missile toward the HIM-TAC. It too was knocked out in mid-air by the same IFV, which had moved in front of the armored car to protect it. The man with the launcher gave up, threw it on the ground, and fled behind his comrade.

In their wake, they left behind a highly damaged armored truck, a dead driver, and a wounded copilot.

This was the style of fighting which characterized the Battle of Drimbaso.



II

June 2028 — The symbolism of politics.

Constantine Vasilescu, known as "The Sage," walked the main market of Drimbaso without worry. His identity remained unknown to the Macabéans, so he traveled without fear.

Although the town had been thoroughly ransacked during the fighting, it had come back to life in the weeks following the siege. These people were used to war and not shy to exploit the newfound peace, but also the town was flowing with more capital than ever now that Drimbaso had taken on colossal symbolic importance. Not only did the enlarged garrison bring with it the salaries of the soldiers, who'd spend much of it on local goods, services, and women, but the bureaucratic presence of the empire grew too. The town was to be the capital city of a future prefecture and the city's mayor — vacant since the last one's assassination by a car bomb — was replaced by a prefect. Picked from local stock, the new prefect came with an extended imperial bureaucracy designed to run a proper imperial capital city. These bureaucrats came with families, and so grew in size the elite population in Drimbaso as did the coin purses of the local merchants.

Vasilescu stopped to observe the row of cleared land. Four excavating tractors were parked near one corner. They were fully armored. Construction workers were often at risk of being fired upon, so they had become increasingly protected. The tab had been picked up by the Imperial Bureaucracy, which sought to make a statement by rebuilding Drimbaso into something even grander than it had ever been. There was a sign describing what this particular patch of land was going to be, which Vasilescu stepped up to read. Forata of Cornea, after the late mayor, the sign said. It looked impressive, with three stories of stalls looked inward into an open-air garden below.

"They say that the forata will stand as if it sat upon the heavens, with nothing but air below it," said one of men walking with Vasilescu. His name was Artur Voicu, he owned several of the brothels frequented by the soldiers of the imperial garrison — male and female customers alike."

Vasilescu replied with a dry laugh. "And how will it do that?"

"Steel," said another man. Simon Petrescu was one of the most important industrial tycoons of Drimbaso. He owned the town's largest construction firm and oversaw most of the imperial contracts. "Concrete-reinforced steel, to be exact. Massive beams supporting concrete pillars at intervals to support the weight of the structure, but the first floor will sit more than a tall man's head above the ground below, giving the appearance of floating. It bears the name of a man who was important to the people, Intelegapul. And it will only bring more commerce and money. The town deserves it after what it's been through."

It was true. Drimbaso had suffered from the siege and most of its inhabitants were only starting to return, and there were still hundreds of thousands of refugees who could not return to their homes in the countryside or even some of the smaller towns, which were subject to frequent raiding by Aurelian insurgents.

"Yes, well," replied Vasilescu, "perhaps you shouldn't get too comfortable yet, because the town is still in the hands of the eternal enemy. Or, have you forgotten who the enemy is, Simon?"

The construction tycoon seemed to miss a step and he cleared his throat in embarrassment. "Pardon me, Intelegapul. I forget my place."

Vasilescu looked around him. There were vacant plots like this one on all sides of the market and even the street was being widened. Toward the end of the market were the beginnings of two rectangular columns of marble walls that would form the legs of a triumphal arch which would undoubtedly portray the victorious image of His Imperial Majesty Fedor I, like so many others throughout the empire. The conquered must know their conqueror. Some called them the liberated and the liberators. A simple matter of perspective. Vasilescu understood both the power and the risk that came with the change of perspective. In it was either his victory or defeat.

"The Sage" understood that he was up against a powerful opponent with a battle-tested propaganda machine. All the new construction was not just a philanthropic charity to the local populace, but also a symbol of power. The empire sought to project its control and the prosperity that came with it. They were buying Indras' loyalty.

To defeat the empire, Vasilescu had to not only undermine the empire's image but also communicate his own power and the cost of disloyalty.

Clasping his hands behind his back, he said, "Do not worry, dear Simon. Do not worry. The next time I am here with my army will be the last. The imperial garrison will be driven out and the empire will be thrown back into the sea. Until then, those who are not actively fighting for me will be considered my enemies and will be dealt with accordingly, remember that when choosing your friends."

He stopped and turned around to look at Simon Petrescu. "Three men will arrive at your home tomorrow for lunch. Treat them as you would the most highly esteemed imperial guest. They will ask you to lend them men and free entry to all and any construction site under your control. You will give them everything they need. Do you understand?"

"What do you plan to do?" asked Petrescu.

"The Sage" smiled. "You don't worry about that, Simon. Simply do what I tell you or I will find someone who will."



III

July-September 2028 — The violence in Drimbaso continues.

The old man had a long white beard that came down below the middle of his chest. He poured tea into five teacups and each man around the table took one, including Constantine.

It was "The Sage" who was speaking. "Your hospitality is very much appreciated and will, of course, be rewarded, dommo. Thanks to you, we have rebuilt our presence in the city. The Aurelian Militias owe you many favors, wise one. When we first met, many years ago now when I was just another Aurelian commander, I asked you what you wanted the most. Do you remember what you told me?"

The old man nodded. "Yes," he answered, "I told you that I wanted the head of the man who killed my son."

"That's right," replied Constantine. "The man who killed your son. It was a Macabéan soldier, wasn't it? Your son was a soldier under the old regime, I know. When the regime fell, he joined the Cruzau regiments. He was killed during a skirmish with imperial troops outside of the city. We learned this after interrogating the general who had ordered your son's unit to resist, the same general who now oversees the local security of the city — oversaw, I should say. It took some time but with enough pain they all squeal." He smiled, turned, and motioned to one of the other men around the table. "Bring it," he said.

This man revealed a box. The old man helped to clear the table to place it down. He opened it, bent back the flaps, and flared his eyes at the sight of the gift inside. He turned, bent down, and heaved as if to vomit. A vile stench wafted into the air, floating between the walls of the home. "What is this?" he asked.

"That's the head of the man who ordered your son to defend against a vastly superior foe," said Constantine. "I don't have the Macabéan soldier who killed your son. But, I will. I promise you that, wise one. You have done the Militias a great favor and it shall be repaid. Accept my gift as a sign of commitment to your cause, as you have shown a commitment to mine." He lifted his teacup and took a sip.

"This is too much," protested the old man. "Take this away. Take this away!"

Constantine nodded and the man who had put down the box closed it up again and moved it to the floor. "The Sage" turned to the old man, and said, "Oh, but this is just the beginning, dommo. Our attack in May may have been blunted, but great victories require persistence and our next offensive will be larger, greater, and experienced from the last fight. We will make the empire treble. Those of us who aid it in its quest of endless conquest shall be rooted out and put to death as traitors, and the faithful shall unite under my command to eject the occupiers out once and for all. Out not just from Indras, but from everywhere. Tomorrow, I leave for Tarn, from which I will take a ship to Tlaloc. From there, I travel to Tiwanaku. There are weapons there, from their war with the empire. And there are men, too. Men already committed to the empire's destruction. I shall bring the men and the weapons back with me upon my return. I tell you this because I trust you, wise one. I know you are loyal to my cause, as I am to yours." He looked down at the head and smiled again. "You will have what you want the most soon."

The older man seemed suddenly sad. He answered, "Very well, Intelegapul."

"Good," said Constantine. "Peace be with you, wise one."

"Peace be with you," said the others.

They rose and left the house. Outside, the street was noisy and busy as people walked this way and that. Children played in the streets with toys made of wood. It was hard to imagine that this had been a place of battle months earlier, except for the bullet holes that still decorated the outer walls of almost every structure in Drimbaso.

One of the other men stepped up to the Sage, and asked, "Theohuanacu, Intelegapul? I thought we were going to Holy Panooly."

Constantine nodded, "Let us see who soon learns that I am traveling to Tlaloc. Then I will know if that old man Octavian Apostol is truly loyal or not."

Gunfire sounded in the distance. It did not seem to disturb anybody outside. The noise of shooting was common these days in Drimbaso, and not just from the insurgency. The city's gangs had inflated in size along with the weapons and funding that was funneled through Constantine. But, they were committed more to crime than to the cause of independence, sadly. Still, they helped to undermine the government's authority in the city through their violence and internal wars, and for now that's exactly what they needed to do. Once Indras had been liberated, then the gangs would have to be rooted out and annihilated.

First, though, came Holy Panooly.

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Postby The Macabees » Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:55 pm

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Drimbaso, Unorganized Territory, Territory of Indras


I

June 2028 — Fighting west of the town.

"The Sage will be pleased with us today," said one of the fighters to his comrade. They were crouched beside a tall, luscious tree just at the edge of a forested area looking down upon the asphalt highway that led south from Drimbaso toward the town of Brasiova. To the north, perhaps still a kilometer away, traveled an imperial convoy. The vehicles' outlines were just visible in the distance, their edges dancing between the shifting of the heat.

The other man nodded, "Yes, yes he will."

Since the failed investment of Drimbaso weeks ago, the battle had continued outside of the town. The Macabéans had reinforced their garrison and regained control of the town, but the insurgents in the countryside had proven elusive and difficult to destroy. They fought only when they wanted to, rarely being pinned and annihilated, and their principal method of fighting was the ambush. "The Sage's" soldiers were not as well trained, well equipped, or as well led as their enemy, but they were just as fervent and they exploited their better knowledge of the local geography to move around unimpeded.

Overhead, two gunships beat at the air with their large rotors. The engines were vertical and the aircraft were flying slower to better match the pace of the convoy they were performing flanking reconnaissance for. The two insurgent men hiding in the woods shrunk their bodies, in fear of being found.

The convoy was most likely going to Brasiova to resupply one of the many nearby FOBs, which were now popping up throughout the unorganized territory. Indras was garrisoned by three armies of mixed auxiliary units, or about 1.2 million soldiers. Half of these were deployed along the northern edge of the Indran Frontier, a shared border with Lamonian Omega. Another quarter was deployed to the four major coastal cities and the Arad Prefecture, which left another 300 thousand soldiers to be dispersed throughout the country for counterinsurgency duties. Most, if not all, of these were "stuck" where they sat, responsible for patrolling their areas of responsibility. Any that weren't got convoy duty, which required a significant fraction of the total force as the logistical demand across the entire garrison was considerable.

As it neared one could see just how far back it went. Over fifty armored military trucks were led by a HIM-TAC and a company of Type-52GT IFVs, with other armored vehicles interspersed between strings of trucks with another armored company taking up the rear. Even as the first HIM-TAC drove past the woods, the imperial convoy still looked endless.

The fighter who had spoken first opened a mobile phone and pressed a series of three numbers. He looked up, toward the road. For a second, nothing happened. Then, just as the first truck was making it past the woods something erupted from underneath it and launched it in the air, a ball of fire and smoke rising from below. The truck landed with a thud, on its side.

Before anyone could react, the second insurgent leveled his rocket launcher toward the lead HIM-TAC and fired. A small anti-tank missile left the tube and zig-zagged towards its target like a snake across grass. As it neared the HIM-TAC, one of the IFVs launched a grenade and intercepted the income missile mid-course, exploding it harmlessly some distance away from the vehicles. Cursing under his breath, the insurgent labored to quickly load another missile. By then, however, the gunships were circling back and the lead armored vehicles began laying down extreme suppressive fire. Machinegun and cannon fire ripped into the nearby tree trunks, sending chips of wood flying in every direction.

The one who had detonated the bomb stood and ran in the opposite direction. Looking at him, the second fighter cursed again, raised the launcher to his shoulder, and fired off another missile toward the HIM-TAC. It too was knocked out in mid-air by the same IFV, which had moved in front of the armored car to protect it. The man with the launcher gave up, threw it on the ground, and fled behind his comrade.

In their wake, they left behind a highly damaged armored truck, a dead driver, and a wounded copilot.

This was style of fighting which characterized the Battle of Drimbaso.



II

July 2028 — The symbolism of politics.

Constantine Vasilescu, known as "The Sage," walked the main market of Drimbaso without worry. His identity remained unknown to the Macabéans, so he traveled without fear.

Although the town had been thoroughly ransacked during the fighting, it had come back to life in the weeks following the siege. These people were used to war and not shy to exploit the newfound peace, but also the town was flowing with more capital than ever now that Drimbaso had taken on colossal symbolic importance. Not only did the enlarged garrison bring with it the salaries of the soldiers, who'd spend much of it on local goods, services, and women, but the bureaucratic presence of the empire grew too. The town was to be the capital city of a future prefecture and the city's mayor — vacant since the last one's assassination by a car bomb — was replaced by a prefect. Picked from local stock, the new prefect came with an extended imperial bureaucracy designed to run a proper imperial capital city. These bureaucrats came with families, and so grew in size the elite population in Drimbaso as did the coin purses of the local merchants.

Vasilescu stopped to observe the row of cleared land. Four excavating tractors were parked near one corner. They were fully armored. Construction workers were often at risk of being fired upon, so they had become increasingly protected. The tab had been picked up by the Imperial Bureaucracy, which sought to make a statement by rebuilding Drimbaso into something even grander than it had ever been. There was a sign describing what this particular patch of land was going to be, which Vasilescu stepped up to read. Forata of Cornea, after the late mayor, the sign said. It looked impressive, with three stories of stalls looked inward into an open-air garden below.

"They say that the forata will stand as if it sat upon the heavens, with nothing but air below it," said one of men walking with Vasilescu. His name was Artur Voicu, he owned several of the brothels frequented by the soldiers of the imperial garrison — male and female customers alike."

Vasilescu replied with a dry laugh. "And how will it do that?"

"Steel," said another man. Simon Petrescu was one of the most important industrial tycoons of Drimbaso. He owned the town's largest construction firm and oversaw most of the imperial contracts. "Concrete-reinforced steel, to be exact. Massive beams supporting concrete pillars at intervals to support the weight of the structure, but the first floor will sit more than a tall man's head above the ground below, giving the appearance of floating. It bears the name of a man who was important to the people, Intelegapul. And it will only bring more commerce and money. The town deserves it after what it's been through."

It was true. Drimbaso had suffered from the siege and most of its inhabitants were only starting to return, and there were still hundreds of thousands of refugees who could not return to their homes in the countryside or even some of the smaller towns, which were subject to frequent raiding by Aurelian insurgents.

"Yes, well," replied Vasilescu, "perhaps you shouldn't get too comfortable yet, because the town is still in the hands of the eternal enemy. Or, have you forgotten who the enemy is, Simon?"

The construction tycoon seemed to miss a step and he cleared his throat in embarrassment. "Pardon me, Intelegapul. I forget my place."

Vasilescu looked around him. There were vacant plots like this one on all sides of the market and even the street was being widened. Toward the end of the market were the beginnings of two rectangular columns of marble walls that would form the legs of a triumphal arch which would undoubtedly portray the victorious image of His Imperial Majesty Fedor I, like so many others throughout the empire. The conquered must know their conqueror. Some called them the liberated and the liberators. A simple matter of perspective. Vasilescu understood both the power and the risk that came with the change of perspective. In it was either his victory or defeat.

"The Sage" understood that he was up against a powerful opponent with a battle-tested propaganda machine. All the new construction was not just a philanthropic charity to the local populace, but also a symbol of power. The empire sought to project its control and the prosperity that came with it. They were buying Indras' loyalty.

To defeat the empire, Vasilescu had to not only undermine the empire's image but also communicate his own power and the cost of disloyalty.

Clasping his hands behind his back, he said, "Do not worry, dear Simon. Do not worry. The next time I am here with my army will be the last. The imperial garrison will be driven out and the empire will be thrown back into the sea. Until then, those who are not actively fighting for me will be considered my enemies and will be dealt with accordingly, remember that when choosing your friends."

He stopped and turned around to look at Simon Petrescu. "Three men will arrive at your home tomorrow for lunch. Treat them as you would the most highly esteemed imperial guest. They will ask you to lend them men and free entry to all and any construction site under your control. You will give them everything they need. Do you understand?"

"What do you plan to do?" asked Petrescu.

"The Sage" smiled. "You don't worry about that, Simon. Simply do what I tell you or I will find someone who will."



III

July 2028 — An unwelcomed visit.

The door shuddered as three knocks could be heard all the way down the hall and in the other rooms. It timidly opened to reveal a short, older woman of darker skin wearing the outfit of a maid. Her hair was grey and she'd look frail if it wasn't for the weight on her. She looked innocently at the three men standing outside and with a voice sweet as honey, she asked, "Can I help you, gentlemen?"

For their part, the three men did not look like anyone who frequented this house. They were dirty, their clothes were ripped and torn, and there but one or two teeth between all three. "We are here to see Mr. Pestrescu."

"Mr. Patrescu is not availa—" the maid started, before being cut off.

"He is expecting us," another interrupted.

The woman did nothing for a second. Then, she shut the door and for a few minutes the three of them were waiting outside with no hint that they were going to be let in. Finally, the door opened again, but this time there stood the imposing, broad-shouldered frame of Simon Petrescu. Of course, the width of his shoulders was more than matched by the depth of his stomach. Most would simply call him a big man. He looked at them with grave eyes and a face that appeared none to pleased, but with his baritone voice he finally said, "Welcome boys, I assume you are with the Sage."

"That is right," said one.

Simon nodded. "Then come in, please. I have had your rooms prepared, I will take you to them."

"That is not necessary," said the same one as they walked through the hall and into a sort of large living room with couches of sorts to lay on and tables for food, drink, or other use. They removed their packs and revealed sleeping mats. "We will sleep here. All three of us will need keys. Do you have spares?"

Their host shook his head. "No, but I can get you some. Why do you need keys, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I do," said the man. "If you have questions, ask Intelegapul."

"Of course," replied Simon. "Is there anything I can do? Do you need something to drink? Something to eat?"

The man looked at him with lifeless green eyes. He said, in a threatening tone, "Yes, Mr. Petrescu. I need you to keep your mouth shut. Should anybody learn that you have three guests of Intelegapul in your home, he will not be pleased and you can rest assured that your life will be forfeit. It is best that you give us what we ask for and get out of our way."

Simon chuckled. These men were disrespecting him in his own house. "You go against custom..." he answered, "... but, I suppose that a friend of The Sage is a friend of mine. How long will you be here?"

None of the men replied. They were now unpacking other items, including weapons, rations, some electronic equipment, and what looked like explosives. Waiting just a moment longer, Simon turned and walked out of the room once it was obvious enough that they were no longer willing to speak to him. To disrespect a man in his own home went against Indran way. He walked into and across an open courtyard upon which the sun shined its vibrant light, illuminating the green leaves of the plants and their multi-colored flowers. When he was in another room, far away from his new guests, he suddenly dropped his head back, growled, screamed, and put his fist through the weak plaster of the wall.

He put his forehead in his bleeding hand and breathed a deep sigh. Thinking for a moment, he suddenly jolted into step as he went to his room, showered, and got dressed. Heading back to the front of his quite expansive house, he took his keys and went to his car in the garage. Taking a black sedan, he left for the city.

His estate was not far from Drimbaso, just a short drive through the countryside. Now the fields were barren, although the neat rows created by plows betrayed their recent seeding. Within months this land would be golden with grain stalks. Most people preferred to live inside the city these days, and not only because of all the fighting in the countryside. Indras was a nation undergoing rapid urbanization; it was already on that path before the Macabéan empire, but the great migration to the city had accelerated under imperial rule. But, Simon enjoyed the quiet of the countryside. There was a certain calm that you could never enjoy in the city.

Driving on to the highway, he took it to the political center of Drimbaso. He parked within a lot that sat beside an indistinct building. On one end there was a garage and a neon sign that read "Snappy's Auto Service" in Indran, with a Díenstadi translation on a more haphazard extension of the sign below. But, it was a long structure and he walked beside it before climbing a short flight of stairs to a front door. Opening it, he disappeared behind its tinted glass as the door closed behind him.


Sitting a car much more humble than Mr. Petrescu's, one of the men who had come to his home that morning was watching from a distance. He studied the man as he entered the building. What was this place? What was he here for? For certain, whatever was going inside that building was something The Sage would want to know about.

Suddenly, the device in his ear vibrated and he pressed a button. In his ear, a male voice spoke, "Status, Laurensiu?"

"He stopped, unmarked building," he replied.

"Come back," said the voice.

"I can find out what's in there," responded Laurensiu.

Silence. Then, "No need, come back. We must continue with our mission."


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