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The Merritian Secession (TWI ONLY | IC | CLOSED)

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

The Merritian Secession (TWI ONLY | IC | CLOSED)

Postby Atnaia » Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:31 am



DAY ONE



Hegemon's Office
Hegemonic Administration Buildings
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia


Cold, early morning light streamed into the Hegemon's Office through the floor-to-ceiling window behind his desk, casting yellow slashes across the exposed concrete, polished steel and white paint of the ultramodern space where Atnaia's leader worked. Once, the office had been that of the Prince, but that was before the renovations. While the shape of the room couldn't be expunged, that cookie-cutter outline indelibly a piece of the fabric of the building's architecture, the interior was unrecognizable. Gone was the polished wood, the portraits on the walls, the ancient objects of tradition, replaced with cold steel and modern austerity. It was a room built to house the man within, built to make others feel small and insignificant and distant. It certainly ahd that effect on the other Quorum members, aside from that small circle who worked directly with the Hegemon on a regular basis. Lady Jessica Lostwith and General Peter Albright certainly felt offput now.

"I can't imagine any way this could get worse for us," Lostwith said, closing the black folder in her hands and laying it upon the Hegemon's tempered steel desk. She smoothed out a crease in her skirt, frowning. "Honenstly, Tomas, I can't imagine it getting any worse."

"That's a failure of your imagination then, Jessika," Hegemon Tomas Wessich replied. "Things can always - always - get worse. Keeping that in mind and planning for contingencies it what separates the successes of history from its failures. It's what separates the Napoleons from the Hitlers."

"It's Henri, Tomas," Lostwith replied. "Henri Lucer."

"I'm well aware of who it is," the Hegemon replied.

"Then you know what that means," said Albright. "Henri didn't make a lot of friends during the Crisis, but we've alienated certain individuals since. Supporting a Lucer means something to them. Even if it means supporting SOAR...or whatever they want to call themselves now."

"They're doing the math, Tomas," Lostwith said. "They're balancing the equations. They're wodering if popping over to the...the Asorist Republic," she spat those words with disgust, "will allow them to gain a position of influence, maybe skew things in their direction."

"I'm well aware," replied the Hegemon.

"We should have put the boy down when we had the chance," Albright said. "Or at least announced his escape. Now we've been caught with our hand in the cookie jar. Taubadel isn't a good enough liar for this one."

"Could-have-beens and should-have-dones amount to very, very little in my company, Peter," the Hegemon replied. "What we have is the here and now, and what is to come. The past is only useful to contextualize the present. I want solutions."

The room was silent for several moments. A waxwing darted by the window outside, it's shadow absurdly exaggerated on the walls and floor as it passed before the still-rising sun.

"So?" the Hegemon said.

"So what, Tomas?" Lostwith asked.

"So," he said, "I asked for solutions."

"I don't have any," Lostwith sighed. "You've put us in a tenuous position, Tomas."

The Hegemon's face remained stoic. He folded his hands upon the desk in front of him. "Did I? As I recall, we voted on how to handle the solution with the former Prince."

"You strong-armed half the Quorum," Lostwith said.

"Use historical revisionism however you wish," Wessich shifted in his seat. "We were all in agreement that a quiet solution was best."

"A quiet solution that failed," Albright pointed out.

"It hasn't failed yet," the Hegemon unfolded his hands and tapped the glass desktop. "I will admit that I didn't foresee this development when the MLF decided that Merrit would eb Merritia. But viewing obastacles as failures is the sign of a weak mind. We can use this. I just haven't decided how yet."

"I don't like it," Albright said.

"Nor do I," Wessich replied. "But we have proven time and again that we can turn disasters into opportunities."

It was then, because fate has a sense of comedic timing that few trained comedians can hope to master, that the Quorum members' phones buzzed in unison. Knowing that this only would have happened in an emergency, they shared a glance and looked at their devices.

"A Stone Wall-Bastion armory in North Aspis has been hit by trained soldiers," Lostwith read.

"Who?" Albright asked.

At the same time, the door to the office swung open and an aide in a slate gray suit rushed across the room. She laid an indigo file on the desk and Hegemon Wessich dismissed her. He flicked it open, read it, frowned, and passed it over the desk to Albright. Albright frowned.

"Defectors?" Lostwith asked.

Albright shook his head. "Veterans. Old Lucer loyalists. A few Asorist rebels. A bit over the hill, for the most part, but trained and ready to go. And armed. And now they've hit an armory and loaded up on big stuff they can hand out like candy to the Asorists."

"Attack of the Grandpas?" Lostwith cocked an eyebrow.

"Not all of them," Wessich murmured. Then he spoke up. "Someone has been gathering allies. This sort of thing doesn't happen spontaneously."

"Henri?

"With help, probably," the Hegemon nodded. "Colt, I would expect."

"Shit," Albright said.

"I think we have to face facts," the Hegemon said. "We can't do this dance anymore. This is war again. The Crisis is back. Call the Quorum. We have decisions to make."
Last edited by Atnaia on Sat Sep 23, 2017 5:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Atnaia » Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:57 pm

General Ban Gharrt Memorial Marina
Vjeraisjalburj, North Aspis Prefecture, Atnaia
19:30


"Alright, lads, fifteen minutes and we have to be out of here, get the last of these crates loaded and get the engines moving."

The small town harbor was a flurry of activity. A few small ships, not large enough to be considered serious cargo vessels but too large for the standard civilian yachts that made up most of the other boats in the space, buzzed with the movements of a couple dozen men, carefully rolling pallets and crates fown steel gangways from the concrete pier onto their gently rocking decks. The crates and boxes were marked with the logos of a small pharmaceutical concern, and the men were marked with the logos of rough lives. Most were pushing into their middle age, with wiry salt and pepper beards and well-calloused hands. A few were younger, with the first signs of wrinkles around their stressed eyes, a burden brought on too soon by some unknown anxiety. They wore knitted wool caps, fingerless gloves, waterproof jackets and rubbery coveralls and boots. The evening was unseasonably warm, but the cold breeze off the ocean bore a surprising chill, leading the crew to feeling alternatively far too hot and far too cold, an unpleasantness that led to an increase in the normal amount of cussing and arguments as the hard work was done.

Holding a clipboard loaded with documents and overseeing the transfer of the goods from the trucks to the boats was a man who could have been forty or could have been sixty, with graying black hair, a curly beard and a sun-toughened face. He was missing the pinky on his right hand and had a bandage on his left cheek which was peeling up at the edges. He picked at it out of annoyance and finally ripped it off and tossed it i the water. The cut on his cheek wasn't large but was a little infected.

He watched his men work, and as his head moved on a swivel, he saw the flash of vehicles coming around the corner onto the pier. They were black, shiny, and bore the robin's egg blue castle logo of Stone Wall-Bastion. The overseer flipped his clipboard shut and swore under his breath.

"Balns balls, jsut the hassle I need right now."

As the vehicles approached, pulled to a stop, and a number of black-clad SWB enforcers climbed out, the overseer sauntered over to them, plastering his most friendly smile on his face.

"Evening, gentlemen," he waved. "Can I help you out with something?"

A man in a slate gray suit and blue tie approached. He was young, dark haired and had a touch of sommething foreign about his face. Maybe of Bhikkustani descent, the overseet couldn't tell. Still, the young guy was clearly in charge, a contract detective or local SWB district manager or some combiantion thereof. He had an under-the-arm holster visible under his jacket.

"You can," said the young guy. He reached into his blazer and pulled out his badge. A detective then. "Awfully late to be doing some loading and shipping. Do you have papers?"

The overseer smiled and held out his clipboard. "Everything we have is there. The trucks were late, not all that surprising given the situation."

The young detective checked the clipboard, skimming through documents. "What are you shippng out?"

"Vaccines, bound for Anta James and Merrit Isle. The good's have been delayed for two days now, and the trucks were two hours late today. Bad luck."

"Strange way to ship vaccines," said the detective. "I thought the military was handling their own vaccinations. Big cargo planes and everything."

"Private contract, actually," the overseer responded. He tapped the top form. "Some rich lordly type bought up supplies for himself and is storing them at some private resort that he's building on Merrit."

"Building a resort on Merrit?" the detective raised an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Hey man, talk to him about that, not me," the overseer shrugged. "I get the sense that he wanted an anti-flu bunker but...like...a luxury one? Construction began before the Asorists went bonkers. As far as I see it, he's safe, right? I mean, the Asorists have the city but the rest of the island is just like before, so building a beach resort for private use with reinforced walls seems like as good a use of a rich old sod's money as anything else."

The detective grunted in response and flipped through the rest of the documents. He glanced over at the enforcers who were at the sleek vehicles they ahd ridden in on. "Go open a crate."

A couple of the officers moved over to the boxes that were still on the pier. The work had basically stopped, and the hum of the boats' motors rose above the splashing of waves. The detective pointed at the boats as his men crossed the pier.

"Turn those off, please."

A pair of the workers nodded and moved into the control rooms. Meanwhile, the officers stopped at a chest.

"No," said the detective. He pointed at a crate on the back of one of the boats. "That one, please."

The overseer could hear one of the black-clad jackboots sigh, and the pair began to descend the gangway. The overseer turned back to the detective with a raised eyebrow.

"Really? We're already behind schedule here."

The officers grabbed a crowbar from the deck and began to pry the wooden lid off. Packing material slipped out and the officers rooted through the stuff inside. One reached in and lifted up a square container mde of styrofoam, vacuum-sealed in plastic. The yellow label was familiar to everyone there.

"Vaccines," shouted the enforcer to the detective.

"Humour me," said the detective. "Dig a bit deeper."

"What's this all about?" asked the overseer.

"Earlier this morning, a local weapon depot was struck by Asorist rebels," the detective said, his face impassive. "We're being careful as a result. Surely you can understand."

The overseer nodded. "Yeah, I get you."

As he spoke, the officers on the deck continued digging. The engines kept humming. The detective frowned.

"I told you to shut down those boats," the detective shouted across to the men at the controls.

The enforcer on the deck reached deep into the container and frowned. "What the hell?" he said, and withdrew his hand. Held within was a fragmentation grenade. His eyes went wide.

At the same time, the overseer shot forward his hand slipping up and under the detective's jacket. He withdrew the gun from it's holster with a practiced flick and had fired two shots before anyone could react. The first struck the hood of one of the SWB vehicles. The second hit the detective in the leg. The man screamed and fell.

As soon as the frst shot was fired, the workers were drawing weapons from under their coats. The Stone Wall enforcers were diving for cover and drawing their own weapons. The overseer caught the collapsing detectve with his knee and began running towards the boats.

"Go! Gun it!" he shouted.

The drivers didn't need a second order. The boats shot forward, tearing away from their connections on the pier. Several workers left on the dock dove for the decks. Some were lucky. Others weren't, and struck the water hard. One particularly unlucky man landed inches from the motor blade and watched as his hand got mulched.

The two enforcers on the deck of the boat got kicked backwards with the sudden momentum and were tossed backwards. One toppled over the edge and into the water, where his bulky kevlar began the process of dragging him udner. The one with the grenade landed on his side and slid into another crate with a crack.

The overseer dove behind a truck and opened fire on the enforcers with the few remaining workers on the dock. It wasn't a long fight. The disguised Asorists hadn't wanted a fight, and had been caught flatfooted. The enforcers had been caught by surprise, but once they had regrouped, their counterattack was swift and decisive. In the end, the Asorists lay dead on the concrete.

The detective limped over to the body of the overseer once the bullets had stopped flying. The man on the ground wasn't quite dead, despite the blood covering his yellow rain slicker. He was croaking something that sounded like a laugh. The detective frowned, holding his wounded leg.

"What's so fun--funny?" the detective grimaced through the pain. He'd lost a few men, despite the sound thrashing they'd given the terrorists.

"We got away...you won but you still lost," the overseer croaked, spitting blood on the ground. "We got the boats away."

There was a dull thud and somewhere out in the ocean a fireball lit up. The fallen enforcer must have pulled the pin on his grenade, and the resulting explosion had caused the other munitions to detonate.

"One, maybe, but not both," the detective looked at the fireball on the horizon. "And the coast guard will sink the other."

"Maybe," the overseer laughed. "Or maybe it will be the first step to us kicking your asses off of Merrit."
Last edited by Atnaia on Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Atnaia » Thu Sep 28, 2017 1:21 pm

Quorum Chambers
Hegemonic Administration Buildings
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
21:00


"A full-scale attack on Merrit City would be the same as flushing a year of hard work and millions of dollars down the toilet," Rheya York said.

"And not attacking is makng us look bad," replied the Hegemon. "We've been here for ten hours, we have heard both sides spun every way they can be. We're stuck between a rock and a hard place. We have done everything we can since we sat down in this room to deal with the crisis other than to deal with it head on: we've allowed our intelligence agencies increased authority to pursue and detain possible links with the Asorist rebels; we've authorized increase military and security presence in our cities; we've ordered our fleets scrambled and our airforce to do increased flyovers of the Merritian Strait and Merrit itself. We have done everything other than the one remaining thing we can do. I am as loathe as anyone to attack Merrit City directly, but we have to accept that we may be reaching the end of our options."

"Are you suggesting we authorize an attack now?" asked Lady Klaj. "The people of Merrit City do not want us there. They'll take to the streets to support the Asorists, and we all know exactly the lengths we will have to go to to end this. The press..."

"The press are my concern, just like they've always been," replied Chris Taubadel.

"How are you going to spin down mowing down unarmed civilians with tanks?"

"We don't know whether or not they'll be unarmed," said Bartimaeus Jorke. "The attack in North Aspis means they suddenly have quite a lot of military equipment. Not enough to equip an army, but enough to build a battalion or two, maybe."

The Hegemon nodded. "Do we have an update on that situation?"

Jorke glanced down at the screen built into the desk in front of him. His eyebrows raised a micrometer, basically an expression of utter shock for the man's usually expressionless face. "Actually, yes. LISA just confirmed that SWB agents tracked down the weapons at a small North Aspis harbour town."

"So we shut them down, then?" asked Armin Painter.

Jorke's face returned to stoic placidity. "Not quite. Things got violent. While about an eighth of the goods were recovered, we've confirmed that two boats left port. One of the boats was destroyed by one of our men, who'd gotten aboard with a grenade..."

"How'd an SWB enforcer get a grenade?" asked General Albright.

"From the crates," Jorke continued. "Anyways, we sunk one of the boats, so that's about half of the weapons there. That's...significant. However, it is not a complete victory."

"There's a good chance that the navy or coast guard get the other boat," said Lady Klaj.

"Good is not one hundred percernt," the Hegemon replied.

"There is good news, though," Jorke said. "Well, even better news, I suppose. We've confirmed that Claudio Hohenberger was among those involved with the attack, and he was killed at the port."

"The Inferno?" asked Klaj. "As in the man behind the GIS Weapon attacks?"

Jorke nodded. There were murmurs around the table. The Hegemon tented his fingers before his mouth and thought for several moments, then spoke.

"That," he said, "may not be better news."

The Quorum fell silent. "What do you mean?" asked Robert North.

"I mean," said Hegemon Wessich, "that that may mean that the MLF and SOAR have the GIS Weapon on Merrit. There hasn't been an attack since the Pallisades. What if they stopped because the early attacks were more of a test than an actual attack. Or what if Henri contacted them and their priorities shifted? Either way, Hohenberger's presence at those docks is unsettling to me."

The murmurs rose again. Above the din, Jorke spoke. "SWBSPD and ARK have been working on working on a way to counter the GIS Weapon."

"Of course," said the Hegemon. "Unfortunately, their priorities shifted with the Ticking Flu, and with that went their resource allocation. Even now, their best minds are working on Protaex and Operation DOGSTAR, not a new kind of gas mask. Think what a battlefield application of GIS could mean."

The Quorum did. The image of trenches coated in bioluminescent material and soldiers drowning in their own fluids came to mind and sent a shudder through the leaders of Atnaia.

"Another reason not to directly attack Merrit City, then," said North.

"You can't actually believe that the MLF would detonate a GIS Weapon in the middle of Merrit City, do you?" asked Lord Klaj, Lady Klaj's husband.

"Men will do a lot when their backs are to the wall," said Afram Kwaku. "The basuu will fight the bear if his young are at risk, is that not so? And that same basuu will chew his leg off if it is caught in a trap. Men are the same. They'd rather lose the leg than the head."

"So what do we do?" asked York.

"We make a statement," said the Hegemon. "We tell the press that the MLF may have a GIS Weapon. Drum up international fears on the matter. Maybe Ostehaar will come running to our aid."

"And do what?" asked Albright. "Send in the spies? Special forces? We can do that without them."

"We need the world to believe that we are defending ourselves from villainy," the Hegemon replied. "We need the Asorists to be the Boogeyman again, not a government facing oppression. Henri gave them legitimacy when he came forward. We need that gone."

The others agreed with that.

"So we just delay more?" said Duchess Sunderman.

"As long as we need troops keeping the peace and corraling the sick, we have to delay just a little longer," said Wessich. "And as long as there is even a one percent chance that there is a GIS Weapon in Merrit City, we have to take it as certain."

Taubadel smiled. "Actually," he said, "that might be our best case scenario."

"What do you mean?" asked North.

"If we march our men down Main Street Merrit City guns ablazing, mowing down protesters with placards, we're the bad guys. But if we march as peacefully as possible - you know, considering this is an invasion and all - and then SOAR and the MLF set off a GIS Weapon over us and their civilians...well, the press regionwide will consider us the heroes of that tale, right?"

"Are you saying we risk our men's lives for PR?" asked Lostwith.

"I'm saying it's a win-win," Taubadel replied. "Well, not for the men on the ground, but for the nation at least."

Everyone looked at the Hegemon. He scratched his trim beard and nodded. "I agree. We'll have Central Command order a proper attack. Not full-scale, we'll hold back, but it is a risk worth taking, even for the intelligence of whether they have the weapon or not."

"Jesus," said Sunderman. "This is a bridge too far, Tomas."

"Not yet it isn't," said the Hegemon. "I am the Hegemon, and this is the Hegemony. We have not yet crossed the moral event horizon, my friends. Certain risks are worth taking. We have not yet reached the final bridge we will need to cross."

The room fell silent. The Hegemon stood. "Now, if you will excuse me, I think we have all been here long enough. We send the order, we have a press conference in the morning, and we go home now. I'd like to say good night to my children before I prepare my speech. Ladies and gentlemen, this Quorum is dismissed for the evening."
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Postby Ostehaar » Thu Sep 28, 2017 6:15 pm

A North Graje underground hangout
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
21:30

Tomaas slammed an empty shot glass of whiskey down on the bar. Duke of Rap came loud through the speakers with his 2010's Cold Water Anthem, still barely dominating the atmosphere over the chattering of all the drunk Atnaian youth who filled the place. Some A-Dollars changed hands and bottles of cheap booze moved around between Magarati, Gudaoan, and Atish looking folks - some of them evidently Tickers and some were not - in a vibrant and animated chaos. Like a lion king surveying his Pride Lands, Tomaas patrolled the place, making sure not a single transaction took place without him noticing and mentally documenting.

"Da geldig," he said in his broken Atish as he passed by a young guy sitting on a counter, counting cash. "Vas?" The guy replied, making Tomaas sigh in annoyance. "The cash, fucker," he gestured at the notes, "I saw who gave it to you. I don't want this stuff here. Bring it." Sure enough, the Atnaian dropped the money on the counter and left.

As an undercover foreign agent, one had the luxury of already acting under the radar. Running a nice little side business was not much of an exception to that lifestyle, and Tomaas was one of the few who knew how to carry it to the extreme. His Eric Clapton style hair and mustache circa 1976 were a familiar sight in the North Graje immigrant district of the Atnaian capital. Nobody was really sure how he could keep his businesses so clandestine, but the fact remained that he rarely got raided by the authorities - and when he did, he himself was miraculously not around. Informants, rumors suggested, or some other connections in the relevant places.

A reminder to report all anti-Atnaian activities and Ticking Flu cases to your local Stone Wall-Bastion tipline, the text at the bottom of the silenced television in the corner alerted. Smoke produced by cigarettes containing almost every kind of inhalable drug known to man obscured the rest of the image. Perhaps it was a news reporter reading some updates on the trouble in Merrit Isle, or maybe a Lukas Park film rerun for the 900th time.

Amidst all this unholy mess, a clean-cut Atnaian entered and sat at a quiet table near the bar. Upon approaching, Tomaas noticed the finer, gruesome details of the man's face. He was not just an ordinary Ticker, though. Tomaas handed over a bag to the unlucky soul.

"This should be enough for the next week-or-two," the Oster said without much confidence in his tone. He patted on the man's shoulder and managed to produce an empathetic smile.

"This..." The man mumbled, eyes fixed at the bag, "this is life."

"That's the best I could get in a short notice," Tomaas explained. "I started working on it the minute I heard you were forced to leave your house."

"What about my wife?"

Tomaas sighed. "I will try to find out more, but chances are not good."

"You are a good man," the Atnaian determined, forcing the tears back in.

"No I'm not," Tomaas admitted.

The man nodded incoherently and shook his head in despair, unsure of what would be appropriate to say. "Look," he finally said, "I found the papers you needed. It's all in this case," he gestured at a black leather briefcase on the floor next to his feet.

"How did you get that?" Tomaas' tone sharpened, as if in surprise, although he had been waiting for the content of that briefcase for a while. "Are you trying to get yourself killed?"

The man shoved the case with his feet towards Tomaas'. "How else could I repay you?"

The music shifted styles and landed on SKALD's weird and somewhat distressing Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean They Aren't Watching You Sleep. The place's Pre-Crisis playlist was too mainstream for Tomaas' taste, he thought as he took the black briefcase into a back room. "Get out," he ordered a mixed couple who were probably in the middle of fucking. He waited for them to limp away and closed the door, a bit shocked by how red the lighting was in this room. Did he request this here? Did one of his minions do this?

The SKALD beat kept pounding through the walls. Tomaas pulled out some of the papers and quickly read the headings. "Ah, fuck yes," he said to himself aloud. "Balns Balls." He drew out his cellphone, almost dropping it in the process, and dialed to the secure line of the OVAST's station in Purth-Graje.

"This is Persian Cat, echo six," he said and waited for a reply. About ten seconds later he sighed in relief and smiled broadly. "He is Henri."

"Oh, yeah, I'm sure of it."

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Postby Atnaia » Fri Sep 29, 2017 8:39 am

DAY 2



Press Room
Hegemonic Administration Buildings
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
09:15


"Citizens of Atnaia, ladies and gentlemen of the press and all those honoured members of the Western Isles watching from around the region, we stand at this moment upon a turning point of the history of our nation, our region and the world."

Hegemon Wessich's voice was sure and steady, the attending press at the Hegemonic Administration Buildings attentive. The Hegemon was dressed in a black suit and yellow tie. A tea pansy pin shone on his lapel. Standing behind him on the stage of the press room were the other members of the Quorum, standing together in solemn solidarity.

"Pubililius Syrus once wrote that 'Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm'. Since the end of the Crisis, the sea has been calm for Atnaia. Unfortunately, what we took for doldrums were really the calm before the storm. The Ticking Flu has rocked our people, shaken our stability, sown the seeds of division. However, what we need now more than ever us unity, for Syrus also once said 'where there is unity there is always victory'.

"We have given the Merrit Liberation Front and the Sons of Asorist Retribution every inch that they could have and then some. We have tried the path of mercy, we have tried the path of peace. However, yesterday revealed the depths of the corruption that run through this nation, the hidden evils of Asorism that still plague us. Men that the former regime pardoned for their roles in the 1980's Coup turned upon us and struck out, revealing that their true faces. Where mercy was offered, they stewed in hatred. Beyond even this, they showed who they were willing to work with. Last night, Stone Wall-Bastion enforcers tracked down and took out the Asorist cell that had perpetuated the attack upon the North Aspis armoury, and confirmed among the casualties was the notorious terrorist leader Claudio Hohenberger, known by his moniker 'the Inferno'. This man was responsible, from all of our intelligence, for the creation and use of the Ghost-in-Sea Weapon attacks upon the cargo ship Adirondack and the Pallisades Hotel several months ago, and has been one of LISA's top suspects in the coordination a dozen other attacks since.

"We have to face facts, ladies and gentlemen. The Asorists cannot be given any more slack. We cannot simply linger. They will not take mercy as an option for anything but more violence. With this news of Claudio Hohenberger's involvement in the rebellion on Merrit, we have to accept the fact that not only do the rebels have access to the GIS Weapon, they are likely intending to use it. As such, the Quorum and I have authorized immediate action to be taken against the terrorists dug in in Merrit city. Infantry and armored divisions are beginning a coordinated push into the city as we speak, looking to recapture the city. We will not allow hate to divide us. Merrit is Atnaia, Atnaia is Merrit, and we will ensure unity again.

"My friends, I must admit that we made a mistake leaving things as long as they have been. Hesitation breeds only fear. It was for the benefit of the people of Merrit, for the benefit of those who voted to become a part of our fair nation again. But we offered them defense and have left Merrit City in the hands of villains. We will rectify that error now. Merrit City will not have to live in fear of the Asorist oppressor any longer.

"Thank you for your time, we will now take questions."




Hegemon's Office
Hegemonic Administration Buildings
Purth-Graje, Atna, Atnaia
10:00


"Laid it on a little thick, don't you think?"

"For all of your tact, Christopher, you fail to realize that in moments like these 'laying it on thick' is required. Subtlety is not always the best course of action. Churchill did not claim that 'perhaps we'll fight them on the beaches, perhaps not'."

The young man across from the Hegemon waved a hand vaguely in the air. "Sure. Sure. But I'm pretty sure Churchill was talking about marching against Nazis, not driving tanks into a city full of people who really don't want us there who may or may not be sitting on top of a deadly biological weapon."

"A false division," Wessich frowned. "The Asorist ideal is as dangerous to the modern Atnaia as Nazism was to England during WWII."

"I don't see Asorist bombers blitzing Purth-Graje," Taubadel leaned back in his chair.

"They would if they could," the Hegemon replied. "We musn't let their Beer Hall Putsch become a regime change."

"You know, some people would say that we have this metaphor backwards," Taubadel said.

"The irony doesn't escape me."

"So, what if this all goes sideways?" Taubadel replied. He scratched his chin. "I mean, what if they don't have the weapon and we wind up driving tanks over protestors? I put on your little song and dance for the Quorum, but you and I both know..."

"We will cross that bridge if and when we come to it. For now, do your job and begin pushing the new campaigns for enlistment. Our men are too spread out presenting a strong face in the community and, of course, preventing Asorist sympathizers from marching. The numerical advantage we have on the Asorists is one on paper and little more. This may be bloodier than we expect."

"Seriously, Tomas, we could deal with this in days if you would stop dancing around."

The Hegemon frowned. "Show me the respect I am due, Christopher. I am no fool. You and I both know there is more of a threat here than we have revealed. Our military is half crippled from resource reallocations and illness. It's been your team overseeing how much of that we've revealed. We are not in a position of strength and we do not want to overplay our hands."

"Fair enough."

"Go, do your job. We need to get ahead of the issue."
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Postby Atnaia » Sat Sep 30, 2017 6:31 am

Merrit Isle Camp Wtrun Command Centre
Merrit Isle
09:30


"Confirmation from 1st Promethean Infantry, Dolark Street Overpass is down."

"2nd Stone Wall Infantry is held up at Marst and Mannis blockade."

"5th Armored is through at Tortjhan Square Bridge."

The command center was a buzz of activity. The constant relay of information would have been a wealth of overstimulus to anyone who wasn't used to mining the mire of data from the wall of sound. Thankfully, General Fidik Kahnjte was used to just that. In his 30 year career, he'd developed the finely tuned ear of a professionally trained concert musician, able to pull a single note from the air and study it alone, separate from the noise around him. Even more worthwhile, the thin-haired man could disseminate the information in secods, and was usually able to pick out the most important information and draw connections in a matter of moments. It made him worthwhile as a commander in situations like these. He may not have been a man who could inspire loyalty in his troops, but surround him by maps and radio transmissions in the chaos of battle and he was in his element.

"Bring the 5th around to support 2nd Stone Wall from Mannis," he ordered. "Do we have eyes on the area around Black Fog Square?"

"Our quadrotors are getting shot down left and right," came a reply from a nearby communications analyst. "We've got overhead sweeps from UAVs, but no granular details."

"Situation?"

"We've got heat signatures on three, four dozen bodies down there," the analyst replied. The general walked around and looked at the man's screen. The analyst circled his finger on a few white dots. "Pretty sure those are explosives rigged in the nearby buildings. Moving men in there is a death sentence. Can't be sure how many of the pings are civilians either."

"Assume anyone in the streets are hostiles," the General said. "Has High Command come through on artillery permissions?"

"Negative," someone replied over the din. "They're still asking us to keep damage minimal."

"Fine," Kahnjte rubbed his eyes. He was exhausted. He and the other commanders had had to put together their plan of attack basically overnight. They'd had the outline for weeks, of course, but High Command had ordered minimal force engagement. Three quarters of the army around Merrit City had to be kept in reserve, holding the siege, and they couldn't use either air support, artillery or naval bombardment. It was liike trying to box with your hands tied together: possible, but your right hook was going to suffer. Kahnjte relished a challenge, but not like this. "Once the 7th Armored is down Folson, have them redirect and hold positions at Harrengaj and Vvinstine. If they can fire down the street without doing 'undue damage to local infrastructure', have them blow the hell out of the square. Otherwise, they're to hold and await reinforcement from infantry."

Three thousand men were currently attacking Merrit City, pressing in against an assumed force of an equal number SOAR and MLF troops. However, the reality of the situation was far less equal. While most of the civilians of Merrit City had fled to the countryside over the past several weeks, those who had stayed were those who supported the MLF. Gun laws in Merrit were less strict than back on the mainland, what with the need to defend flocks and herds from the nastier predators of the Isle, which meant that access to sports and hunting rifles was far more endemic. As a result, there was an additional amount of armed, zealous people in the city ranging between anywhere from 1000 to 10,000, depending on who you asked. While a standard hunting rifle was no match against a UAR-37, especially in a city, the level of uncertainty made this whole thing a shitshow from beginning to end. Kahnjte would have preferred softening up the whole city with a few good bombing runs and rolling artillery strikes, a bit like Santa Ana, but the Quorum just didn't want to see their investment up in flames. It was infuriating.

"Holy shit," someone said. Kahnjte's head spun towards the utturance. "Sir, we have an issue."

"What's going on?"

"The ground just gave out under the 5th."

"What?"

Kahnjte crossed the room to the analyst's feed. Grayscale UAV footage showed smoke and debris, a tumble of tanks and infantry inside a trench where a street had been a few moments before. It was like the ground had just opened up under the troops and dropped them twenty feet. Water from city mainlines was flooding into the newly formed gap. A few soldiers were trying to crawl out, being helped by those of the company who hadn't been sucked down.

"What in Baln's name happened?" Kahnjte asked.

The analyst pressed the ear of hhis headset tighter to his head as his brow furrowed. "Sir, it looks like the Asorists have rigged the sewers with explosives."

"And is the ground here made out of papier machee? It looks like they dissolved the earth!"

"I'm not a geologist," the analyst said, "but my guess would be that the earthquake loosened up the soil base and damaged the dirt layer between road and sewer lines. Chances are, half the city is still resettling. The MLF is basically just kickstarting small sinkholes."

"Jesus," Kahnjte said. "Can we get an idea of where in the city they have surprises like this rigged up?"

"Not from the air. Dirt layer is too thick to get heat visuals."

"How many men did we lose?"

"Around two dozen, plus armor."

"Order troops to hold positions at defensive points," Kahnjte ordered. "We need to reevaluate here. They've turned the damn city into a weapon against us."
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Postby Atnaia » Mon Oct 02, 2017 2:00 pm

Merrit Isle Camp Wtrun
General Fidik Kahnjte's Office
Merrit Isle
10:15


"General Kahnjte, the video call from Port Gray University is coming through."

Kahnjte's aide, a young soldier named Ilja Vorres, had a rough crackle to her voice. The past forty-five minutes had been a scramble of phone calls, redirections, connections and half-finished conversations that had pulled everyone a little bit thinner than they already were. Kahnjte would have felt bad for the girl, but there were people in far worse situations, stranded out in Merrit City with rebels opening fire on them from dug in positions. The armored companies were taking the worst of it, and if the command couldn't figure out a solution to the sinkhole issue, this whole assault was going to be twice as costly as anyone was willing to pay.

"Patch them through," Kahnjte said. The screen on one wall of his office flicked over from reports he was having filed to his office over to the slightly grainy texture of a Skype call with a professor with salt-and-pepper hair and a thin nose.

"Hello, general," the professor said, his voice distorted by the connection. "I'm Dr. Mel Rohl, head of the Geographic Research Lab at Morri Hall at PGU."

"Good morning, Dr. Rohl," Kahnjte said. "I'm thankful you were willing to set aside your work on such short notice."

"Of course," the professor said. "Anything to help my country."

"A true patriot," Kahnjte had caught the slight sarcasm under the professor's last statement. "I don't have time to screw around here, Dr. Rohl. My men are out there dying. You've been briefed on the situation?"

"Of course."

"Well, obviously you understand the issue," Kahnjte said. "My men are stuck in a city where the local rebellious populace have figured out a way to drop the ground out from under their feet. Now, detecting the presence of sinkholes isn't normally as difficult as we have it here, but obviously we have the added strain of an unknown number of hostile forces laying my men under constant fire. We don't have the time or the present safety to be able to commit ourselves to standard methods of geographic surveying in the city right now. What we need is a different solution. You're the expert here. We need help."

"Well," Dr. Rohl scratched his chin. "I don't think the situation is quite as dire as you are suggesting, General."

"I assure you," Kahnjte responded, "my soldiers would disagree."

"By no means am I undermining their dedication or sacrifice," the professor said. "I'm just saying that I actually have a fairly simple solution to the immediately pressing issue. Methods of determining the presence of sinkholes already exist that could be helpful here. Obviously, the whole city isn't sitting on one big depression or the reconstruction efforts would have had the entire place sinking into the ground like it was putty."

"That can happen?"

"It's the phenomenon the MLF are abusing now," the professor said. "Sometimes, when a large geographic upheaval happens, such as a volcanic eruption, earthquake or, god forbid, nuclear explosion, previously solid earth can be disrupted. The particles are literally shifted and a solid soil bed can begin to take on the features of a fluid. Quicksand works a bit like that. Buildings can sink like a boat slowly taking on water, foundations can shift and break, sinkholes can open. Now, presumably, the Disaster last year caused this sort of damage in areas of Merrit Isle. The MLF have probably used local geographic surveying information kept in the government offices they have captured and have determined locations where the application of sudden force, like that of an explosive detonation, can cause the process to become active and for the ground to take on those fluid-like traits. I can see two solutions."

"I don't have long, doctor."

"The first," said Dr. Rohl, "is that the government here on the mainland likely has copies of those same records. Of course, I'm highly aware of the nature of bureaucracy, and I'm sure that the records we have are probably slightly out of date, and even getting them will be a hassle. There is another option, however."

Kahnjte wanted to force the professor to speed up, but there wasn't much he could say or do with the nature of the conversation. He gritted his teeth. "Yes?"

"We can use satellite imaging to detect minor alterations in the levels of the earth in various positions. While it's not perfect, sinkholes will show minor variations in depth that should allow you and your men to plot a somewhat reasonable course through the city."

"Is your lab equipped to do that?

"Yes and no," said the professor. "We have the capacity and software to analyze images that we have, but we'd need realtime satellite imagery that we simply don't have access to. We don't have that sort of funding here. However, the government almost certainly does. The military almost certainly does. Requisition the use of some spy satellites, aim them at Merrit and we're in business."

Kahnjte tapped his desk. "We've been using UAV's for aerial reconnaissance this whole time for a reason," he said. "I don't exactly just have the ability to re-aim satellite cameras at a whim."

"This isn't exactly at a whim, General," Dr. Rohl said. "Your men's lives are on the line."

"Goddammit," the general swore. "Look, can we use UAV images?"

"We could, but I can't be certain of the quality of our analysis if we do. Our current methods are based on satellite imaging arrays."

"We're going to transfer your lab what we have," Kahnjte said. "I'm going to do my best to get the satellites turned around. Will your lab be ready to analyze the information as soon as we get it to you?"

The professor nodded his head side-to-side. "I believe so. It does mean we'll be setting aside important work for..."

"I'm sure that your facility will be well compensated," the general said. "If we win this, that is. I'd hate to see what the Hegemon has to say if our men start collapsing into the earth based on your lab's recommendations."

The professor was silent for a moment. "I understand," he finally said.

"Get to work," said the general. "We'll be awaiting your data."
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Postby Atnaia » Wed Oct 04, 2017 12:17 pm

ANIA Headquarters
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
10:30


"You know we can't just swing a camera around, General Kahnjte," ANIA Director Rice said, carefully smoothing the pleat in her pant leg as she spoke into the phone. "They aren't just sitting idle up there."

"And you're sayig that not one of those cameras is currently pointed at the Isle? The world's current largest hotbed of anti-Atnaian activities?" the Geenral's voice crackled with the loose connection generated from the lackluster Merritian wireless towers.

"You know I can't discuss ANIA operations with you, General," Rice replied. "Needless to say, however, that Merrit would fall into the jurisdiction of LISA, not ANIA. It is, after all, a part of Atnaia."

"The same way a leg is a part of a body after it's been blow off by a mine," the General replied. "Come on now, Karen. We both know you have eyes on Merrit. Hell, I'd be surprised if you didn't have field agents weasling there way through alleys and basements as we speak."

"I can neither--" Rice began.

"Confirm nor deny," Kahnjte sighed. "Look, you and I both have done that song and dance before. I [ii]know[/i] you have satellite imaging on Merrit, and not sharing it with me is going to cost lives. What was that imaging for if not for tactical application in the field?"

Rice rubbed her eyes. "Fidik, I understand what you are saying. I appreciate that you think you need this. But if I have cameras trained on Merrit, and that is an if, releasing the images to you could be a matter of national security. The law still has the military releasing things like that sooner than we do, and ongoing missions on Merrit could be compromised by release of that information."

"Five years from now?" the General scoffed, the signal making it sound like a burble of underwater noise. "Come on, Karen, really?"

"I don't know how long some of these operations could take," Rice replied. "One month, a year, ten years...I have to be prepared for every eventuality. You read the reports of our actions on Merrit post-disaster?"

"Yes, Rice, I did," Kahnjte replied. "The ginger kid who got beat to death by someone and the operations teams from Redacted. I get it. Are you saying that your cameras have somethig to do with a disused Panopticon that we currently have secured? That nuclear plant is the most defended place on the entire Isle! What in Baln's name could releasing those images to me compromise?"

"Nothing? Everything?" Rice sighed. "I have to be prepared for everything. There's a reason my job has a high turnover rate, Fidik."

"Karen," Kahnjte said, then repeated it softer. "Karen. We've been friends a long time. I have my men stalled up in hostile territory, under fire from dug in forces with a zealous belief in an ideology that drives them to toss them into a suicidal amount of danger. I am undersupported and undermanned and most of my boys out there have half their minds on the fact that they have some relative back home currently spasming themselves to death. I need something or morale is going to crack."

Rice grit her teeth. She drummed her fingers on her desk for a few moments. Thump-thump-thump. Thump-thump-thump. Finally she sighed.

"I can get my cameras in place for twenty minutes," she said. "That's going to get you enough to work off of, but if there are quality issues or your analysts decide they need more, you'll need to take this to the High Command and go through proper channels. It'll have to pass through the Hegemon's Office."

"I understand."

"And if one of my future ops gets screwed by this, I'll pin it on you in the debrief. You know all this is being recorded."

"Naturally."

"You'll have images within the hour," Rice sighed. "Good luck, Fidik."

"And good luck with whatever it is you are working on, Karen," Kahnjte replied.

The line went dead a few seconds later and Rice hung up. She sighed and pressed the intercom button on her phone.

"Send in Knight Ship, please."

"Yes, Paladin," came the reply.

A few moments later, a woman in her early 30s, with dark curly hair and a tasteful amount of makeup entered the room. She was dressed a bit too casually for office work, but a bit too formal for anything other than government work. Her casual scan of the room clearly marked her as a field agent, with all the instincts that entailed.

"Knight Ship," Rice said, standing. She gestured at a chair across from her. "How are you today?"

"Well enough, ma'am," Ship said. She walked over and sat down. "Honored to speak with you."

"Of course," Rice smiled. "It's very important actually. I have an assignment for you. It's Blackcoded."

Ship's eyebrows shot up. "Ma'am?"

"Have you heard of Operation LOKI?"

"No ma'am."

"Good. You are now."

Rice leaned forward. "Are you prepared to kill a Prince?"
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Postby Atnaia » Mon Oct 09, 2017 9:00 am

SWBSPD Research Facility
Dombe Ajisal Prefecture, Atnaia
10:30


Dr. Mar vich Kult checked his watch and glanced around the conference table at the collection of chatting scientists, the heads of the various departments of the Stone Wall-Bastion Special Projects Division's Research and Development teams. The men and women were chatting good naturedly while sipping on paper cups of coffee and picking at the somewhat dry muffins set in the middle of the table. Mar stood and heads turned towards him.

"Alright then, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "I think it's about time we got started with the meeting. I'll skip the preamble. Everyone saw the news this morning, I expect?"

There was a general murmur of assent from the scientists. Mar nodded. "Good," he said, adjusting the cuff of his sleeve slightly. "So, I'll jump right to the point. Obviously, all of our projects are of utmost importance to Atnaia and the further development of the business interests of Stone Wall-Bastion both at home and abroad. However, ARK, in conjunction with the DOD, have decided that the news this morning warrants some reevaluation of the priorities of our initiatives. Now, you all know that the work of the SPD has been mostly funded by our contracts with the Department of Defense and ARK, as dictated by Stone Wall-Bastion's board of directors. Now, while I'm loathe to adjust our priorities in the midst of some very important work, the board has agreed with both ARK and the DOD and, for the purposes of current events, I side with them. This leads to some news that I'm sure is going to be applauded by some of you and will cause some of you extreme consternation. Before I move forward, let me explain that no one's projects are being shut down. However, funding and personnel deployment may have to be...reworked."

There were murmurs of concern from around the table. Dr. Lukas Smythe, head of the Psychogenics Project, spoke up. "Are our funds being slashed for the spooks again?"

Mar cleared his throat. He knew that the question was coming, he just hadn't expected it to be the first question. Broadly speaking, SPD was split into two main branches. The first was the Research and Development projects, which Mar oversaw, covering everything from experimental weapons development to a reactivation of the 1970's and 1980's government Black Projects, a recent development following work on Merrit. The second branch was Information Procurement, which was a clean way of saying privately funded black ops, off the books from direct government involvement and therefore not subject to some pesky information laws which the Hegemon had had difficulty expunging. It was one of the few areas where the Quorum had managed to hold out against Wessich, as Mar understood, but the former owner of SWB had found a suitable workaround. The rapid expansion of SPD into the Hegemon's private intelligence agency, handling everything from the dry to the dirty, had caused R&D a lot of problems with budgetting in the past year, and had led to some bad blood amongst the directors. The spooks, as they were taken to being called, were not highly appreciated among the scientists. The agents were frequently barging into projects where they didn't belong, and maintaining a consistent project timetable had become a nightmare.

"To an extent," Mar said, then cleared his throat. "But the real changes are coming in the reworking of our project focuses and budgets. Projects which ARK has determined to be of importance to the war effort are being moved forward on our priority list, while projects with less application will be shifted down."

A couple of scientists let out audible sighs. Dr. Ai Kurasaki and Dr. Leopold Armanov both knew right away whose projects were being moved down the timetable.

"Obviously," Mar continued, "anyone involved in the joint Protaex or Veritas Projects with ARK are still our top priority. Speaking of which...Dr. Tumin, where is Veritas at? The DOD wanted an update ASAP, given the situation."

"You're not suggesting they want to use Veritas on Merrit, are you?" Tumin asked.

"They're keeping options on the table," Mar said, and made a get-on-with-it gesture with his hand.

Tumin sighed. "We're ahead of schedule, although ARK could really give the DOD a better picture. They're the ones who get to root through all of the old government warehouses and blacksite bunkers to pick at the old data and documents. We're working on new designs. I expect ARK will have something functional in mere weeks, a couple of months tops. Our stuff is going to be a bit longer. Six months at least for a functioning prototype that I'm willing to let the DOD get their fingers on."

"Fair," Mar nodded. He got back to the topic at hand. "Let's stop beating around the bush. The following projects are being moved to the top of our priorities list: Project LOKI, Project Tesseract, Project Spectre, the Psychogenics Project and Project Volta. Anything I did not just mention is being moved down appropriately. Any questions?"

There was a wave of voices all at once. Mar waved them away. "One at a time, please."

Dr. Porter spoke up first. "Project LOKI? Surely Project Viking has more application than..."

"That one isn't my call," Mar said. "It was a direct request from the Hegemon's Office."

"I can hardly see the profit-margins on LOKI being sustainable," Porter replied.

Dr. Gil, the head of LOKI, gave Porter a smiting glance. "Are you saying the same rich assholes who pay tens of thousands on post-agency indents wouldn't pay for what LOKI is offering?"

Porter held up her hands. "I'm saying Viking is more directly related to the war effort."

This turned into an immediate wave of debate. Mar could see here this was headed. Put enough smart people in a room together and you inevitably got nowhere fast.

"Look," he said. "ARK determined that Viking wasn't going to be viable for another five years at best, and I am prone to agree. As such, it wasn't determined to be a priority It's been downshifted. I can see we aren't going to be able to be civil about this, so I'll be e-mailing you all the details. Any concerns will come through me directly. Understood?"

Another wave of assent. Mar nodded. "Good," he said. "Now, down to actual business. Any concerns this week? Outside, of course, of this mornings news..."
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Postby Ostehaar » Tue Oct 10, 2017 12:52 pm

Ejidastragha
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
10:30

It was a cool, foggy morning in that part of Purth-Graje. Fine rain was drizzling out of a low sky, producing a wet ambient white noise. Grey silhouettes of people moved in and out of Tomaas' sight, only a few of them getting close enough for him to notice details such as color and texture through the thick milky air. He wore a black oilcloth duster a-la heavy metal, one hand in pocket and the other holding a plastic cup of coffee; his medium-length curly hair and dark thick beard suited that profile.

"Persian Cat back on foot," Tomaas said quietly on the radio, "crossing Ejidastragha next to Rudboj Kaffe."

Got it, the response fired back in the inner communication network, which he heard through a concealed earpiece. Waiting for confirmation from Logarithm at Flatfoot's residence. We'll have it soon. Tomaas acknowledged and kept walking. Two other agents were disguised around him as well - one as a homeless beggar right next to the cafe and the other a tourist with a camera exploring some Atnaian Fusion architecture across the street - both replied that they were listening and ready.

A few kilometers from there, Mehnard skillfully unlocked the front door of a small apartment, bearing in mind not leave any evidence of intrusion. Logarithm in, Place is clear, his reports circulated through the network. Radio silence until he's out, the team leader ordered. Mehnard carefully checked the two small rooms and the rather dirty kitchen before sitting down in front of a computer screen. Bright light entering the apartment through dark aluminum blinds projected a shadow in the shape of his head on the opposite wall. Running it now, should take a few minutes. He inserted a USB device and let it run automatically - it scanned the computer for spywares and other hidden surveillance programs, so the team would know if it had been compromised by Atnaian counter-intelligence. All team members were on their toes, anxiously waiting for the results.

All good. Flatfoot's machine is clear. Logarithm out. Everyone released a mental sigh of relief. Good job, the team leader said. Persian Cat, you may proceed. Turbofan and Blacksmith, make sure you keep the entrance to the pub in view.

Tomaas took the last sip of his coffee and stepped into Da Pikzjirtn, an old neighborhood bar with a 60's nuclear chic. He felt at home in such dark and smoky hangouts, which is why he chose to meet his informant there. Rob Domfrej - or Flatfoot, as the team referred to him - was waiting for Tomaas at a back table, already drinking some local brown ale. His large round glasses were easily noticeable thanks to the reflection of the yellow table lamp on them. He smiled as Tomaas approached.

Rob was an underpaid assistant researcher in his mid 30's, working for SPD's Research and Development branch. He first met Tomaas while waiting for a job interview almost a year earlier, when he thought about quitting his own. Instead, Tomaas convinced him to take a long vacation around the isles and rethink his steps, and later offered to hire him part-time for some project so he wouldn't need to leave the SPD. At first Rob did perform some technical calculations for an end goal he wasn't told about, but gradually he and Tomaas became closer friends, and Rob was asked to tell more about his other, formal job.

"How have you been?" Tomaas asked as they shook hands. "We haven't met in a while."

Rob chuckled, a bit embarrassed, and turned his look to his nearly finished glass of beer. "yeah, I know, I'm sorry," he said, "I had... difficulties at work."

"Oh? Well, you could have said something, man. I can usually help or at least listen." Tomaas looked over his shoulder and waited for the barmaid to notice him. He raised his hand, "Another ale, please." She nodded and grabbed a clean glass.

Rob sighed. "It's the Doctor Smythe thing all over again, like four months ago."

"Still giving you a hard time?"

"Yes. I should have been at Dombe today. There's an important branch meeting and he called some of the assistants in case he might need something afterwards... and obviously I was left out. So did Nora, Pjotr, and a some others."

Tomaas got his beer and took a short sip. "Listen, I'm sure you're just overthinking this. Most chances are that there was another reason. Maybe you were doing after hours lately and he decided to let you rest a bit. Maybe it's just not so important, you know? They're not joining him in the meeting anyway."

"Hmm, maybe." It didn't cheer him up.

"One more?" Tomaas asked, referring to Rob's empty beer glass.

Rob waved it off numbly, "thanks, man."

"Alright," Tomaas gulped some of his beer and cleared his throat, "have you had time to think about what we discussed last time?"

"Jorke? Yeah," he took a breath, "I asked around about a job in his office, but they don't seem to be hiring. I mean, I figured it could be interesting to work for him, like you said, but... I don't know, they'd probably just throw me back to Smythe's project."

Tomaas hummed in understanding. "Look, let's just talk about it again soon, and I'll try to find something for you so we could improve your chances. I myself have some connections around, so I might hear something. After all, this could be a major stepping stone for you, right? Imagine how far this could take you in just a few years. You could probably even replace Doctor Smythe eventually."

Rob's shy smile reappeared. "I'm not so much into the Psycho stuff, though."

"So not him. What about the others?"

"Well, there's Doctor Porter doing something called Viking, which sounds interesting. Tumin does Veritas with ARK, and Gil is in-charge of some Project LOKI."

"Oh?" Tomaas' brow furrowed in curiosity. "That sounds intriguing. what's it about?"

"To be honest, I don't know. There's been some chitchat about it recently and they say it's a very important thing. So I thought maybe getting into something like that could improve my stance around."

Tomaas nodded. "That sounds right. Why not ask around, then? Surely you researchers can move from project to project once in a while. You've been working under Smythe for, like, years now, right? It only sounds reasonable."

"Yeah, you know? Why not. It's just a suggestion anyway, they can always say that they don't need new people or something. No harm done."

"I really think you're on the right track here," Tomaas said cheerfully. "So let's agree to meet again soon and discuss these two options. Jorke's office and Project LOKI. Can you do one more thing for me?"

"Sure, anytime."

"Tell me a bit more about Doctor Gil next time? You told me so much about Smythe that I don't really know if he's a good example of the sort of bosses you have there. I'd love it if you could just message me your impressions when you meet him. If you have anything written it would be the best, of course, but I'm counting on you."

"Alright. I'll do that. I should also give you the results of my recent check for our own project." Rob reached for his bag to pull out some papers.

"Ah, excellent, you're ahead of schedule again. I'll get you your payment as soon as possible." He took some cash of his pocket and pushed it across the table. "Here's for now, and your drink is on me." Rob took the money and thanked Tomaas as he grabbed his bag and left the pub.

Flatfoot is out, Tomaas' earpiece woke up to life with Turbofan's report. Alright, let's keep an eye on him until he's back home, the team leader said. Blacksmith, take the bus. Turbofan, change profile and get the car. Logarithm and Persian Cat, very good work today. Go home. Meet here this evening for debriefing. I'll run the new information with headquarters in the meantime.

"Understood," Tomaas said. He finished his beer and left some money on the table. The barmaid winked at him and waved him off. "See you around!"
Last edited by Ostehaar on Tue Oct 10, 2017 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Atnaia » Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:02 pm

Merrit City
Merrit Isle
11:30


"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuuuuck."

The bullets rattled around Tod Gharsburj's head, ping off the exposed I-Beams of the construction site. He covered his head with his hands, an ineffectual defense if ever there was one, and pressed his back against the bags of cement mix he was using as cover from the Atnaian soldiers below. A shot blew through the bag next to his head and a caustic cloud of greige dust filled the air around him. He coughed, feeling the dust stick to the inside of his mouth and the tears on his face.

He and the rest of his group of freedom fighters had a few squads of Atnaians pinned down at the city square below. It was one of those little tourist trap places that were around every corner in Merrit City: a fountain ringed by cafes, souvenir shops and a church which looked a few centuries old but was probably only pushing a hundred years, tops. The construction site was a new development on one side of the vaguely hexagonal square, a would-be mini mall that the Atats had been putting together after the disaster. It was still all exposed metal and piles of building supplies, loomed over by a crane. Tod and his fellow Merritian liberators had taken up positions in it and had waited for the Atnaians to be funneled into the square, where they had taken up defensive positions and refused to move. Evidently, Colt's plans for the city had worked. The radios had been talking for the past hour about how the Atnaians had stopped their advance and hunkered down.

It hadn't made it any less terrifying to leap into a firefight, though. At least when the Atnaians were advancing, running away could be considered a tactical retreat. Now it was just cowardice.

Tod had never considered how real bullets felt. Not that he had been hit. Just their mere presence, in the air, buzzing like wasps. The clatter of them against points of cover. He'd heard similar sounds at the makeshift ranges he had shot at when he was training, but then the bullets had always been going the other direction. Now they were coming at him, and the Doppler shifting pitch of them in the air set his teeth to rattling.

There was a momentary lull in that rattle. Tod squeezed his eyes together, steeled himself, and popped up. His own rifle rattled off a rapport of shots, then clicked. He popped back down, not sure if he had actually hit anyone and not wanting to wait a second longer to find out. He reloaded, the whole time repeating his mantra.

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck."

He knew what he was doing was right. It had to be done. It didn't make it easier to do it. He kept thinking of being hit. Nearly worse was the thought of actually hitting someone. He kept trying to remember what Matis had told him, over and over again, as he was being trained by the MLF.

"These fahkers don't caah about yeh," he had said. "They wahn you did. They wahn your mother did. They wahn your father did. They tink Merrit belongs to them. They want us ahll on our knees or in our grahvs. If we wahn freedom, we haff to tik it."

Tod kept trying to picture the soldiers below as faceless mooks, like in a video game. He kept picturing them burning his farm down, or dragging his wife out and...and anything to help him hate them. Make him want to put a bullet in them. It was easier said than done. The soldiers below had been so careful not to damage anything. Well, other than people, Tod thought. They damaged people.

"Oh fuck ooooooh fuck oh fuck."

The return fire had come back. Someone a floor above him shouted, and a shadow passed over Tod's face for a moment as a body toppled from above and passed in front of the direct sunlight.

They were winning though, Tod thought. They were winning. The Atnaians weren't throwing enough men at the wall, this whole thing wasn't going to stick. Especially with Colt's sinkhole trick. They were winning.

There was a thunderous rattle that set the bags of cement shaking. Tod's eyesbrows knit together.

"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck."

He knew that feeling, rumbling through the ground into his body. That was the feeling of movement. Of a tank, or an APC, or something. Something deadly, and not something his gun would punch through. Something that would punch through him.

"Oh fuck."

The Atnaians were on the move again. They were moving. That wasn't good.

As the solid block of armor rumbled into the square, Tod thought about what he'd been told that morning. What Matis had said.

"Those fahkers are gunna move in here sooner er lahter. Mahrk mah words. But don't worry, kid. We haff a plan. Colt's always thinking. We're not stopping at the City. We never were. And just when they think they haff us, we'll haff them. The Isle awahts."

He could hear the spin of the gun below, and the staccato rumble of shots. As his cover was shredded and the first bullets entered his flesh, he thought about that.

"Oh fuck. I hope there's a plan."
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Postby Atnaia » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:53 am

Camp Wtrun Military Base
Merrit Isle
11:30


Cpl. Riccird Stakh shifted uncomfortably. The sun beat down on him, and his equipment, even at the bare minimum required for guard duty, was far from breathable or light. The headset in his left ear crackled with the interior communications of the base, and the blacktop rolling out from the gate towards the nearby village of Zagarbuurja shimmered slightly with heat haze, lending his whole experience a vaguely aphysical feeling. He rolled his shoulders slightly and sighed, glancing over at Pvt. Datmur on the far side of the gate. The young man's lips moved slightly, like he was singing or talking subvocally. Stakh looked back at the road and coughed.

Pulling guard duty at Wtrun was just about the worst job Stakh could have gotten, at least while their was an attack on the City going on. Guard duty had always been shit, but knowing that there was something so much bigger going on loaned it the dragged out feeling of trying to fall asleep on Christmas Eve.

Through the heat sheen off the asphalt, movement reached Stakh's eyes. A convoy of several transport trucks was rolling down the straightaway towards them. Datmur looked over at Stakh.

"We have any deliveries today?"

Stakh shook his head. "Not that I know about."

Stakh adjusted his headset slightly. "Wtrun Base, this is Wtrun West. We have a convoy incoming here. Were we expecting deliveries today that weren't put on record?"

"Negative, Wtrun West," came the reply.

Stakh sighed and made his way over to the little gate control booth, with it's plexi-glass siding and air conditioning. He banged on the glass with a hand, and Jaskrjin and Zhang glanced up from their monitors. Zhang frowned.

"Fifteen minutes ands I'll switch off with you," he said.

Stakh shook his head and jerked a thumb down the road at the oncoming trucks. "Anything on your end? We have records for something today?"

Zhang checked his screen and shrugged. "I've got nothing."

"Shit, okay," Stakh said. "Can you two lock down until we get this sorted out? Datmur, get Sergeant Valgh aware of the situation."

The transports passed through the first fence layer of defense and slowly rolled up towards the gate. Stakh stepped forward, hand raised to indicate for them to stop. The three transports ground to a halt thirty feet from the concrete walls and the chain-link gate into the camp. Stakh and Datmur stepped foward, and Stakh heard confirmation from west tower that they had eyes on the situation.

Stakh came around to the driver's side of the lead transport, rifle gripped but aimed down. He made sure his face was a stoic mask.

"Hey there," the truck driver said. He was a middle-aged man with a curly gray beard and a big, gap-toothed grin. "Mornin'!"

"Good morning," Stakh said. "We weren't expecting any deliveries this morning. Do you have a manifest?"

The driver nodded and leaned over to his passenger seat. Datmur's gun barrel crept up slightly, ready to fire if the driver pulled anything other than a clip board or stack of papers.

The driver leaned back over and passed down the clipboard. Stakh skimmed it. "Can you step down here and let us in the back?" he asked.

The driver nodded and the door to the cab popped open. The man climbed down, stretching slightly as he did. "Sorry about the confusion," he said as he did so. "I'm just the driver, I go where the paper's say."

Stakh remained silent as the man led him around to the back of the trailer. The driver popped it open. There was the slight hum of the refrigeration unit, and stacks of plastic pallets with perishable foods filled the cool interior space. Stakh's eyebrows knit together.

"We're getting something off on thermals," a voice said in his ear.

"It's a refrigeration unit," Stakh said. The driver gave him an odd look. "Could that be it?"

"Maybe," said the voice. "Anything out of the ordinary in there?"

"Not that I can see," Stakh replied.

"We have eyes on transports at Wtrun South," came a new voice over the comms.

The driver checked his watch. "Can we get a move on, please. We have other deliveries to get to."

"We're making calls out to the delivery companies. Get the trucks to back up to the first fence."

Stakh shook his head. "Sorry, mate. We need your convoy to back up to the fence back there," he gestured with his gun. "We're just sorting this out."

The driver sighed and walked back around to the open cab. He climbed up into the idling truck and shut the door. As the guards watched, the convoy slowly backed up the hundred or so feet to the first fence. Once they had stopped, Stakh relaxed and turned back to the booth and gave a thumbs up.

Suddenly, there was the sound of revving engines, and the transports exploded forwards. Stakh had enough time to dart off the road and behind one of the concrete barricades just as the transport flew past. Instinctually, his rifle came up and spattered the side of the transport with bullets, but they did nothing to slow the approach. From up on West Tower, there was the sound of heavier ordinance being fired, and the last of the three transports was struck by an RPG. At the same time, the lead transport struck the fence. There was a boom, a tearing of metal, and a screech. The third transport rolled sideways with the force of the blast and skidded along the dirt just off the asphalt.

There was shouting, but it was drowned out only moments later. The lead transport had rolled to a stop just past the fence. Suddenly, it detonated. The flames started in the trailer and rolled forward to the cab before expanding and tearing apart the concrete nearby. Stakh was caught by the force of the shockwave and thrown from behind the barricade into the guardpost, cracking the plexiglass with the force. A second later, the second transport exploded, just as Stakh hit the ground. He was caught by the force again and sent ragdolling backwards, smouldering like a coal as he skidded along the bleached dirt nearby. The third transport exploded two seconds later, lying on its side, tearing a pit out of the dirt and concrete.

To the south, the sounds of similar explosions rolled out. Lying on his side, dazed and burned, Stakh had a view down the road. Seeing movement through the heat haze and smoke, he wondered if the others were alright, if they would be the first ones caught up by the makeshift armored vehicles and men who were suddenly charging towards the camp.

The last thing he saw before he lost consciousness was the smoke-line of a rocket flying above his head towards West Tower.
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Postby Atnaia » Fri Oct 27, 2017 10:36 am

Camp Wtrun Military Base
Merrit Isle
12:10


"General, we have to get you out of here," Captain Vost shouted over the panicked din. Kahnjte frowned at the man.

"I'm not abandoning Wtrun."

"General, they're overwhelming the defenses. We are going to lose the camp. We need your permission to proceed with Protocol Kjevh-22, and we need to get you out of here. If you don't, those terrorists outside are getting everything stored on the local networks."

Kahnjte's brow furrowed. "Baln's balls," he said. "You're right. You're right. Alright then. Initiate---"

The room shook. People gripped whatever was nearby to keep steady. "They hit the fuel tanks," someone shouted.

Kahnjte had bit his lip when the shaking had hit him and could taste blood in his mouth. "Initiate Protocol Kjevh-22."

The Captain sighed and stepped forward, helping Kahnjte regain some balance. "Let's get you to the helipad, sir."

Kahnjte nodded and was led from the command room while they began to follow his orders. Activating charges nested inside computer banks, hard drives began to burn to slag. Anything salvageable that could be removed was ripped away and packed as quickly as possible, to be loaded and removed by helicopters or APCs. Anything in paper form was thrown onto the hard drive fires while people began to exit the now smoking room. If the whole place burned down, they didn't care. Kjevh-22 had been initiated, and they were abandoning ship. They sure as hell weren't going to leave anything for the Asorists to pick through.

Kahnjte moved with the Captain and a small contingent of soldiers through the halls of the main building, up several flights of stairs, and out onto the roof. The sounds of fighting below were explosive and constant, the Atnaian troops on the back heel from the surprise of the sudden wave of Asorists entering from the south and west. The fuel containers near the south side wall were flaming ruins, with several vehicles twisted wrecks nearby and the concrete wall torn apart. The western guard tower had a sizable chunk blown out of its side, and smoke was pouring from within.

A helicopter was rotating to speed on the platform on the roof. Kahnjte rushed over, covered by the squad around him. He climbed aboard and the men joined him. Captain Vost gave a thumbs up to the pilot, and the vehicle lifted off. Several bullets from below pinged off of the helo's side as it swung northward and flew off.

As the helicopter cleared the edge of the camp, it floated above a small collection of vehicles which were retreating with critical documents and supplies. Troops were boarding vehicles near the North Gate, following the retreat order of Kjevh-22.

It had taken only 40 minutes to lose Wtrun. The lingering sense of doom Kahnjte had been feeling all morning grew deeper.

This wasn't a simple matter of clearing Merrit City. He knew better.

This was war.
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Postby Atnaia » Sat Oct 28, 2017 5:43 am

Quorum Chambers
Hegemonic Administration Buildings
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
12:45


"As of half an hour ago, we lost Camp Wtrun," General Albright read, frowning deeply. "The attack on Merrit City has slowed to a snail's pace, fighting is reduced to a street-by-street basis, and as far as I am concerned, we don't have any hope of retaking the government buildings there without some serious rethinking of our strategy. We're not going to be able to throw more men at the problem, either. The men we have on the island are clearly going to have to have to be realigned to a more defensive stance. We have no idea how much support the MLF might have on the island: could be 1,000 men, could be 10,000, could be 100,000. Any civilian could be housing, feeding, clothing, arming or fighting alongside the separatists. This is no longer a simple smash and grab job of the city."

"What about moving in more troops from the mainland?" Lord Klay asked.

"Not feasible," said Jorke. "They're needed here to prevent panic and oversee checkpoints and operations until Protaex can be deployed."

"Do we have a timeline on that?" asked Vvishull.

"Final testing in Schalkenmund has been promising," the Hegemon stepped in. "I've given leave to the NHS to begin widespread test deployment in quarantine camps closest to major urban areas."

"Without consulting us?" Postelli slammed down a hand on the circular table. "Dammit, Tomas. You can't keep going over the heads of the Quorum like this."

"Did you want to wait longer to give our people life-saving drugs amidst an epidemic and a war, Tulio?" Wessich glared at the balding man across from him. "Maybe you'd rather I let it fester a bit more?"

Tulio Postelli remained quiet. The Hegemon nodded. "I thought so. We have enough to deal with without your...dissent."

Postelli shifted uncomfortably.

"Protaex deployment will begin as soon as possible," the Hegemon went on. "Until then, we need troops here to keep the peace. Do not let Merrit distract you. There are as many Asorists here on the mainland as there are holed up in Merrit City. More, even. We cannot let them feel like they are safe to undermine our work further. The Ticking Flu has nearly destroyed two years of hard and careful work. We have much to..." he grimaced slightly and touched a spot on his stomach with one hand "...much to do if we are to regain our reputation internationally and set the nation back on track for our plans."

"How does losing on Merrit do that foe us?" Duchess Sunderman cocked an eyebrow.

"We are not losing on Merrit, Carole," Wessich shifted in his seat to look at her. "We are delayed, perhaps, but what you all fail to see is how Merrit helps us."

"Helps us?" Sakamoto crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. "Men are dying out there, Tomas."

"I am aware, Kido," Wessich said. He turned his head to Kwaku. "Afram?"

Afram Kwaku removed his glasses and cleaned them with the edge of his jacket. "North and I have been going over statistics for months. Feelings of disharmony and fear, quite reasonably, spiked during the height of the epidemic. Again, reasonably so. The sight of trucks laden with bodies headed to crematoriums and mass graves, along with the hazmat suited NHS crews, was not good for the psychological health of the nation. Asorist, Communist and anti-Quorum sentimentality and support grew, despite the best efforts of Mr. Taubadel's team."

"I'm glad you appreciate my work," Taubadel's fingers drummed a slow beat upon the surface of the table.

"I do," Kwaku continued. "I'm particularly fond of the pieces on the monorail trains. Simple text on a white background can be just as eye-catching as any picture."

"We're going for stark chic," Taubadel replied.

Wessich made a get-on-with-it motion with one hand. Kwaku cleared his throat and returned his glasses to his face. "That all being said," he continued, "polling trends were...disturbing. But the short-term polling numbers since this morning's announcement show the highest degree of support for this government since before the epidemic. Since education reform, actually."

"Merrit is polarizing, but it is polarizing in the right way," Wessich said. "For the short term, something more drawn out there could work in our favour while we work to fix things here and internationally."

There were murmurs around the table.

"Besides," Albright chimed in, "a single loss does not lose us the war. Wtrun was unprepared and incomplete. We will learn from this."
Last edited by Atnaia on Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Atnaia » Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:48 am

1237 Jannastragha
Apartment 621
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
18:45


Leslie Ship walked into her apartment, tossing her purse onto the couch and sliding her laptop satchel onto the island in the kitchen area. With exaggerated exhaustion, she collapsed into the chair by the window and stretched out with a sigh. It had been a long day of briefings, and she was only going to catch exactly enough time for a shower, packing and to set her situation in order here until she had to catch a train to Davlhan. Three minutes of centering herself in her favourite chair was about as much as she was going to be able to get.

Her cat, Plato, padded across the carpet towards her and leapt up onto her lap. Leslie delounged and scratched the white feline behind the ears.

"Sorry, buddy, but I can't stay," Leslie said. "Mrs. Pjirsbrus will have to feed you for a little while."

Plato butted her in the chest with his head, then seemed to rethink friendliness and leapt down from her lap, disappearing off down the hall to the bedroom. Leslie sighed, stood, and felt her back pop. She twisted and stretched with a yawn, kicking her shoes off into a corner. Then she followed Plato down the hall and into her bedroom.

The cat had already leapt up onto one of the pillows and had curled up for a nap. Leslie walked past, unbuttoning her shirt and letting it drop to the ground as she grabbed a towel from the closet and then went over to the en suite. She got the water running, and while it warmed up she grabbed some make-up removal pads from the medicine cabinet and cleaned her face. She finished disrobing and stepped into the hot water, letting it run through her tight curls and over her dark skin for several glorious seconds before grabbing a container of body wash.

The whole time, she was thinking. Almost her whole day had been taken up with a detailed briefing of her mission. LOKI. She didn't like it much. She hadn't liked a lot of her missions lately. Too much skullduggery, and that was saying something given her line of work. When she had first begun working for ANIA, she had gotten into the business for the sake of her country. She was a patriot and a professional, and those two things lined up in intelligence operations. She had been doing the initially boring and eventually dangerous work that kept her country safe. Then the Quorum had taken over, and now it felt more and more like her work was simply pulling the wool over people's eyes. Sometimes more literally than she liked. There had been one too many black bags being tugged over people's heads in the dead of night over the past few months. That was mostly LISA's thing, but Leslie wasn't innocent of it, or of moments of biodegradation.

Still, it was her job, and she had to do it. Somebody had to. Ultimately, it was all for the best, whatever moral qualms wormed around in her gut. But LOKI just felt...off. There was disinformation and counterintelligence, and then there was just outright lying and burying the truth. LOKI was well over that line. She couldn't tell if it was the photos of the people in the debtor's camps that the project had been tested on, or if it was the nature of the mission, but the whole thing made her feel dirty.

She washed the suds of the body wash off and shampooed her hair. Then she stepped out, dried off and blow-dried. She wiped away some condensation from the mirror with a dry facecloth and looked herself over. She applied a tiny amount of eyeshadow, enough to hide the shiner on her left eye, and a bit of lipstick, then walked back into the bedroom. Plato looked up at her with one eye, then slowly shut it again.

She quickly got dressed in some casual but utilitarian clothes, good for a long train ride, then grabbed a couple days worth of various clothing, a pre-packed bag of travel toiletries, and two pairs of shoes. It all fit in a single, small, over-the-shoulder bag. She zipped it, scratched Plato behind the ears once (causing him to give her a whack in annoyance with one paw), then grabbed her keys, wallet, badge and phone. She left the apartment, having been there less than half an hour, and crossed the hall to 622. She rapped on the door with a knuckle.

She could hear Mrs. Pjirsbrus shuffle down the hall and fiddle with several locks. The old woman tugged the door open a few inches, just as far as the chain on the far side would allow, and stared up at Leslie from behind her thick glasses. Mrs. Pjirsbrus wore a medical mask and latex gloves, as she had for the past few months. The edge of her door had the overpriced rubber seal that some people had added to their homes midway through the epidemic. Leslie could see a huge bottle of hand sanitizer on the small table in the hallway, even through the tiny gap of the door.

"Oh," Mrs. Pjirsbrus said, her Kalghish accent thick as old porridge. "Ihs you. Tot you were da delivery mun."

"Sorry to do this to you, Mrs. Pjirsbrus," Leslie said. "Do you still have the key to my apartment?"

The elderly woman nodded.

"I'm being sent out of town last minute for my job," Leslie said, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. "Up Davlhan way. I was hoping you could feed Plato for me? Grab my mail?"

Mrs. Pjirsbrus scratched at a piece of the doorframe with a latex-clad finger. "How long?"

"I don't know," Leslie shrugged. "I'm sorry."

"No nid, dear, no nid," Mrs. Pjirsbrus shrugged. "Cats cin't catch the Tick, you ken. I cin help."

"Thank you," Leslie replied. "I appreciate it."

Mrs. Pjirsbrus waved a dismissive hand and slowly closed the door. Leslie rolled her shoulders. Without even consciously doing it, she'd stooped slightly and raised her pitch while talking to Mrs. P, coming off quite a bit more demure and shy than she really was. Faking her personality was second nature. She sighed again, and turned to leave.

Twenty minutes later, she was passing through a military checkpoint at the train station, her eyes being scanned for twitches by a small hand-held device, and then she was waved through. She boarded a train and in a matter of moments was being swept northward.
Last edited by Atnaia on Thu Nov 02, 2017 12:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Atnaia » Sat Nov 04, 2017 6:13 am

DAY THREE




Atomic Boy Station
Northwest Merrit Isle
05:30


The faded blue van rattled into the weathered parking area of an abandoned gas station. The asphalt of the ground was sun-bleached to a near-white, with foot-long weeds and grass sprouting from a webwork of thumb-thick cracks that snaked across the surface. The gas station itself had boarded widows, faded paint, the peeling and broken plastic siding of a bygone era. The molded plastic sign still retained enough colouring to be identifiable as a young, winking boy riding atop a rocket like a bronco atop a bull. Adam the Atomic Boy, a symbol of a time thirty years earlier, when Merrit had been on the rise as the frontier of Atnaian nuclear development. A heyday, when all had seemed bright for the Isle. Then had come the coup, and disarmament, and all the reactors had been turned off. The island's uranium, its reactors, its people, just hadn't been needed anymore, and the Obsession had faded away. The people had been left to rot, just like the gas station.

The driver parked and climbed out from behind the wheel. He walked to the back of the truck and popped open the rear doors. Four other people climbed from the shadows within, blinking in the hazy light of morning. Two wandered just off the asphalt towards the trees behind the station to take long-held hygenics into the knee-high scrub there. A third made his way to the boarded-up front door of the gas station, fiddling with some keys. The driver and the last person shut up the van and leaned against it while they waited.

"Helluva drive," the driver said.

The other man nodded. "Back roads are a bit too windy to my taste. Felt sick, not being able to see out the front."

"It's Merrit, all the roads are windy," the driver said. He pulled out a packet of marijuana cigarettes from his pocket. The man next to him gave him a look, and the driver suddenly remembered who he was standing next to and put them back. "'Sides, I'm sure you prefer back roads to the ones being patrolled by Naiers."

The man next to him shrugged. "You're not wrong," he said, scratching his cheek. "But I'm a Naier, remember. Hell, you're a Naier."

The driver grunted. "Yeah, but we don't wear jackboots and drag protesters out of their homes at night, kicking and screaming. We don't shoot innocent people 'cause they don't toe the party line."

The other man chuckled grimly. "No, we just organize terror attacks. We're not the good guys, Jak."

"Well, we ain't the bad guys either," Jak replied gruffly. He sounded a bit like a petulant child, he realized.

"Sure," the other man nodded. "We're doing the right thing. That doesn't make us the good guys though."

The door of the gas station was opened and the pair rejoined the others. They pressed in and found themselves in a dark, crowded space. The interior had all the standard staples of a small rest stop along an old highway: prominent bathrooms, snack displays, a bank of old refrigerators with windowed fronts that would have once contained soft drinks and bottles of juice. The shelves and displays had been pushed to one side, however, and at some point a large table had been pulled into the middle of the room. Behind the counter, a series of electronics had been set up by the team that had been in before them, loading the place up with communications equipment, maps, supplies, all the amenities needed for an operation like this. The men set down their duffel bags. The one with the keys locked up behind them.

"This'll work," said the one named Velt. "This'll work."

The driver glanced over at the one he'd been chatting with at the van. "You want to check out the back?"

The other man nodded. He lowered his hood, now in the warmth of the gas station. Someone who had been in before them, setting the place up, had managed to get the electric heater hooked up to the generator in the cellar, and the place was balmy in comparison to the pre-dawn chill outside.

He and the driver went to a side door which would have once been a stock room. Inside, the shelving had been cleared out. There was a desk and a chair in the middle of the room, and the walls had all been padded and sound-proofed. A microphone and a laptop sat on the desk. The man checked his watch.

"Let's let them know we're here," he said.

The driver nodded, and returned to the main room. The other man closed the door behnd him and fell into the silence of the dark materials and sound-proofing. He walked over to the desk, sat down and booted up the computer. He quickly ran a soundcheck.

There was an LED light mounted on one wall. The man looked up at it and waited. The light turned on red. A few seconds later, it flipped green. The man leaned into the mic.

"Good morning Merritia," he said. "This is Henri Lucer, and this is Asorist News Radio."
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Ostehaar
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Democratic Socialists

Postby Ostehaar » Sat Nov 04, 2017 9:55 am

OVAST safe-house
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
05:30

"What are you doing here?" Fred asked as if he had just seen a ghost.

Across the room, Tomas glanced at his wrist watch and buried his head in his hands, rubbing his eyes slowly. He was sitting in front of his laptop, a small lamp next to him illuminating the desk and an empty cup of tea within reach. "Fuck," he muttered as he yawned, "five thirty."

Fred closed the door behind him and approached slowly. "Yeah. Have you been here all night?"

Tomas nodded. "Cross-referenced Flatfoot's info with earlier reports. Sent some of it back home and got some remarks back."

"And?"

"Seems SPD is going through some changes," Tomas explained. "Not sure what exactly is going on, but priorities have shuffled, we think. New requirements from Doctor are projects Veritas and LOKI."

"Why these two?" Fred said as he grabbed a chair and sat facing the laptop.

Tomas clicked on the last e-mail he got and presented it on screen. "Mainly Flatfoot's comments. Veritas because it involves ARK and Tumin, who we think is a nuclear physicist, and LOKI because it's very classified and our guy thinks it's important. It could be anything, but resources are limited so that's what we have. Primary objective Veritas, secondary LOKI, tertiary is still Jorke's office."

Fred chuckled and sighed. "Some things never change. They've been trying to get into his stuff for over a year now. No success."

"Well, the man is very InfoSec aware. Doesn't elaborate on anything on the phone and doesn't save anything of value on his home PC, doesn't talk about stuff with anyone he doesn't fully trust... you know."

"Yeah, not our kind of guy," Fred said in a disappointed tone.



Unit 1088 offices
Porohare, Ostehaar
05:30

Alex Vulf walked slowly up the wide staircase, breathing heavily with each step and stopping to stabilize himself on his wooden walking cane every few. At 73, it was clear to him he could not run up to his office as he used to do for years, yet he still refused to use the lift. When he finally reached the third floor, he turned to the left, walked all the way to the office at the end of the hall and opened the door to see a young secretary staring at him in surprise.

"Mr. Vulf," she said as she jumped from her seat and stepped forward to assist him in taking off his coat. He thanked her with the a mild facial gesture that only few people knew to interpret as a form of a smile. "Your guests are waiting in the office," she informed him and opened the door.

The tall, gray-bearded legend of an individual quietly walked around the desk to his comfortable leather armchair and sat down, resting his cane next to him. His mere presence was enough to instill awe into anyone who knew him in person or by reputation, and the room was waiting for his words in silence, as always. The wall behind him was decorated with many honorary certificates of appreciation, each bearing the code-name of some successful past operation. The recent one was from 2017, yet most of the people sitting in the room did not know what it was about.

One of those who did know was Dihn Brohn Sjast, also known as The Doctor, the current head of the OVAST. He bowed his head slightly to show his respect as Alex entered. As everyone sat down Dihn opened a file he was holding in his hands, and passed a paper around for the others to see.

"I'm sorry we had to schedule this so early in the morning, Dihn," Alex said, "but as you know, some people in high ranks decided this could be a great time to force-change the agenda, and this pushed the entire system over a metaphorical edge."

Dihn smiled. "I've been up all night anyway, so no harm done."

"Second night in a row, then. Since the Henri confirmation."

"Yes, exactly," Dihn confirmed. "This jerked the system awake a little bit. We were pretty sure of that for some time now, but that confirmation from our sources in Atnaia was what we needed. I mean, this is the type of information the Minister has been waiting for ever since the discussions about the Atnaia agenda began several weeks ago, and we all know what the Prime Minister thinks... so naturally any opposition to the decision vanished, and if I'm not mistaken, our diplomats across the region already started working on it."

Alex hummed in acknowledgement. "League and G4 first, I assume?"

Dihn nodded. "Main effort is a League resolution right now. We'll see how that goes and adjust accordingly. For the moment my people out there still continue as planned... but I suppose this is what we're here to talk about."

"Yes, I've been talking with the Minister about that myself recently. Can you give me a quick update on your status down there?"

Dihn turned his head to one of his subordinates in the room - the head of the OVAST's operations department - who sat across the table and knew the details by heart. "We currently have four top-level operatives in Atnaia, all stationed in Purth-Graje but they can move around. They mainly handle several local assets, the most important of them being one we call Flatfoot. He's a young SPD researcher we currently try to push up the organization's ranks, hopefully up to Bartimaeus Jorke or to one of the most classified projects."

"I understand he wasn't the one who gave us the information on Henri?" Alex asked.

"No," the head of operations said, "that was another one, a ticker who managed to steal some documents somehow... and frankly we're not sure he'd survive another month on his own."

Alex nodded and spun his hand in a get-on-with-it gesture.

"Other than them, we have a few more low-level operatives who mainly do background operations and run the other safe-houses around the country. They occasionally join surveillance activities on SPD individuals and Asorist underground leaders."

"Do you have any infrastructure on Merrit?" A brunette sitting next to Dihn asked, ready to write down the answer.

"Not at the moment," head of Operations replied.

Dihn glanced at the woman, brow furrowed, and turned to Alex. "Are you requesting we develop such infrastructure? This," he paused to consider his words, "would necessitate significant resources. We cannot do that with the current requirement, and that's after we've already dropped many of the requirements regarding the SPD and other threats."

"I'm aware of that, and I explained that to the Minister myself," Alex said. "but again, they seem to be very eager and they don't want to be caught without options. One of those options consists of actually operating on Merrit against the Atnaians."

Dihn adjusted his glasses. "Alright," he cleared his throat. Everyone knew he was not as close to the Minister of Defense as Alex Vulf, but he could not help but feel that the Ministry was sometimes stepping on his agency's toes without even talking to him. "This is something that would take weeks, or probably months, to develop properly. We would have to give up on several assets, maybe even keep only one or two, and greatly diminish our cyber-access operations against the SPD to a point it might not be cost-effective to even keep them active. This means completely abandoning some of our top targets in Atnaia in favor of developing local access routines and direct routes to Merrit, and that's without even mentioning the level of security we would have to establish because it's a war zone. I know the Minister is aware of that."

"He is," Alex nodded, "he asked me to allocate some of my resources for this as well, and said he'd be willing to give up on Lovsk and Arvan assets if you'd tell him you need more funding for this."

"Your resources?"

The brunette hummed in response. "I'm from the unit's financial office," she said. "I spent most of yesterday working on this. Formally we can define Merrit as something like testing grounds for advanced equipment, and then we have authority to operate there as well or to share resources directly with your people."

"The point is that it's possible," Alex insisted. "We need to work together on an option or two for the Minister. It shouldn't take more than a few days so let's get it done by the weekend. Do you agree?"

Dihn took a few moments to think. "Did he put you in-charge of this effort?"

"No," Alex admitted, "but I am taking the initiative. I can see you turning tables upside down in his office, so I think it would be the best if you distant yourself from the Minister for the purpose of this planning. Your people can keep doing what they do for the time being, and I'm sure you're needed for that. I can work on this second option in the meantime and coordinate this with you, of course."

"Alright," Dihn reluctantly agreed.

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Atnaia
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Ex-Nation

Postby Atnaia » Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:50 am

Merrit City Encampment
Merrit City, Merrit Isle
06:00


Kahnjte settled onto the narrow bed in his CHU. He kicked off his boots and carefully slid them under the steel frame of his cot, sighing as his back tore from the leaning over. He was getting older, and small things were starting to become major discomforts. He reached over to the narrow nightstand and grabbed a bottle of ibuprofen and a glass of water. As he slipped the pill onto his tongue and downed it, he lamented age and experience. It had been easier, far easier, to be young and stupid. Back then, the 30 plus hours without sleep wouldn't have affected him. He would have had a few cups of coffee, a caffeine pill, and would have been back out in the fight. Back then, he wouldn't have lamented the loss of Wtrun. It would have made him angry, would have gotten his hackles raised, would have pressed him to fight all the harder. Back then, his back wouldn't have hurt from putting boots under his cot.

He lay down and stared at the textured ceiling of the CHU. He had two hours for sleep, he reckoned. Despite his exhaustion, however, he wasn't whisked off to sleep. Hi mind was too busy. He contemplated taking a sleeping pill, but a Valium would have screwed with his mind too much once he woke up. He needed to be sharp. Exhaustion was a slow path to failure, but medication was a fast one.

He hadn't been called to task for Wtrun. No one had blamed him. He'd spoken with Albright, who had lauded Kahnjte's swift use of Kjevh-22, and had blamed intelligence operations in Merrit for the lack of warning.

"We were taken by surprise," Albright said. "We were all stupid. The Hegemon doesn't blame you or any other commander. Just don't fail to fix the mistakes we've all made."

There was something unsettling about the lack of retribution or punishment. Kahnjte knew that the fall of Wtrun hadn't been his fault, but it had been his responsibility. He should have been called to task, should have been reprimanded. Something should have been done. Instead, he remained in command of the attack on the City. He operated now from less permanent structures with more vulnerability to attack, of course, but that wasn't punishment. It was a natural consequence. Camp Ast Lluhain and Camp Urta were too far away from the City to be a reasonable location for the frontline commander. He needed to be where he was, with the men.

It felt like the other shoe was about to drop. The Hegemon was not a forgiving man, and he certainly wasn't a stupid man. He knew where to level the responsibility, but he hadn't, and that set Kahnjte's teeth on edge. It felt like standing on the edge of a cliff and feeling the unnerving feeling of someone standing behind you. Regardless of whether they were going to push you, the chance they would was more than enough to bring the fear of god into your heart.

"Baln's balls," Kahnjte whispered, and sat back up. He went to his dresser and got a towel and fresh fatigues, showered in his private shower (an perk of his rank) and then got dressed. He bent down for his boots, feeling another pop. This time he swore out loud. He laced his boots and left the CHU.

The guards outside looked at him a bit strangely. Kahnjte turned to one. "I'm heading to command. Whenever that damn embed shows up, bring them there. And get someone to bring me a coffee ASAP."



Merrit City Encampment
Merrit City, Merrit Isle
07:10


Piah vich Kel could feel the rotors of the helicopter in her bones. She nervously cracked a knuckle against her hip. She had ridden in birds like this one a dozen times, but her fear of heights was a hard thing to get over. The fact that the pilot and her guard had given her detailed instructions on what to do if the chopper was struck by an RPG while passing near the city was not helping matters. She thanked God that they were beginning their final movements in towards the military encampment just outside the city. The chances of a crash or attack here seemed a lot less likely to her.

To occupy her mind during the final descent, she checked all her gear and supplies over. She'd been allowed to bring very little, which was standard. Everything she had fit into a single backpack, an overhead travel bag and a camera case. She made sure her camera and lenses were secure first, being as they were the most expensive things she had on her. She made sure the vocorder and handicam were still snug in their pouches in her duffel, as well as charging cables and spare batteries, before wasting a few more minutes counting t-shirts (three), pairs of pants (two), sweaters (one) and sundry smaller and more intimate pieces of clothing. She rezipped her duffel, rooted through her backpack a bit, and was interrupted by the soldier next to her.

"We're going down," he said, and for a moment her stomach dropped out, but then she realized he meant they were landing. She rezipped her backpack and prepared to disembark. As the helo thumped down, the soldier slid open a side door and she hopped out, covering her head with a hand to prevent her long, brown hair from getting too messed up from the backdraft of the rotor blades. She rushed out of the landing zone to a group of waiting troops.

"Miss vich Kel?" said the one who seemed to be in charge, a man a couple years her senior with a dark complexion and serious eyes.

She nodded. "Yes," she said.

The man held out a hand. "I'm Captain Vost. General Kahnjte is waiting for you in command. Follow us."

The Captain and the soldiers led her through a temporary village of tents, vehicles and storage containers, occupied solely by soldiers and support staff. Piah wanted to start grabbing photos, and two years ago she probably wouldn't have waited. Now, though, it was better to be safe than sorry where these sorts of things were involved. She knew that asking the General's permission would save her a lot of grief in the long run.

Vost spoke good-naturedly as they walked. "Is this your first military embed, Miss vich Kel?"

Piah shook her head. "I was embedded here during the relief effort. But I guess that wasn't a real military assignment."

Vost chuckled. "No, not quite. You were sent back because you knew the area?"

Piah nodded. "I know people too."

"People?" Vost glanced at her sideways.

"Soldiers," she amended. "And I know locals, although I think that'll only be useful for human interest stories. I doubt I'll get a lot of chances to interview Asorists."

Vost remained silent at that. After a minute or so, he nodded. "Asorists captured are being sent elsewhere. No, I don't think you'll have a chance to interview them."

That ended the conversation. They approached the command tent and Vost led her in.
Last edited by Atnaia on Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Atnaia » Fri Nov 17, 2017 1:12 pm

Command Tent
Merrit City Encampment
Merrit City, Merrit Isle
07:15


The Command Tent was not so much a tent as a collection of CHU's, portable construction units and tents strung together. It had grown organically when the siege of Merrit City began, and the interior was a series of strange angles and mixed materials, lit by generator-powered fluorescent lights and dozens of computer screens. It was hive of activity and noise, an overload of information in every form from auditory to visual to occasionally tactile.

Piah was a bit overwhelmed as she was led in. The last time she had been in a place like this, it was in an emergency medical tent during the Merrit Disaster. The atmosphere was the same as when a patient crashed and someone called code.

"It's life support," she murmured. "They're struggling to keep people alive."

Vost glanced over at her. His eyebrow lifted. "What was that?"

"Nothing," Piah replied. "Just thinking out loud."

"Alright," the captain nodded. "The general's over here. Come on."

The soldier guided her through the compact space to a man standing at a table laid out with diagrams and notes. Several analysts were speaking to him all at once. He nodded along with their speech, although Piah could only make out one word in six. He glanced up as they approached.

"One moment," he said to the analysts, then approached Piah, hand outstretched. "Piah vich Kel?"

Piah nodded. "Yes. Pleasure to meet you, General Kahnjte."

The man nodded. He was dressed in a general's uniform, although the first few buttons of his jacket were undone. He was in his late fifties or early sixties, she guessed, with gray-white hair and a short, curly beard and moustache. He looked very, very tired, his eyes deepset and showing bags beneath them that hadn't come with age. He was a large man, a bit over six feet tall and quite broad shouldered, the sort of build that revealed an ex-athlete, although he carried a little extra weight around the middle.

"Pleasure's all mine," he said. "I've read a few of your pieces. You're good."

Piah turned her face down. "Well, thank you."

"Don't do the bashful thing," Kahnjte said. "I said you're good, but you've got a ways to go before you win a Mogan Award or something."

Piah felt like she was being spoken to by a teacher or grandparent. His voice was stern but not scolding. She turned her face back to him. "I'll...work on it?"

"Well, that's what you're here for," Kahnjte looked around the room. "Look, let's get something unpleasant out of the way, alright? You're a journalist."

"Photojournalist," she nodded.

"Alright," he said. "Have you ever been embedded with a military unit before?"

"During the Disaster," she said. "It's why I was sent back here."

"Right," he nodded. "Right...the pieces you wrote for The Gresian. I've read a few. That doesn't really matter though. The Disaster was a horse of a different colour. What we're doing here is...something else entirely. Let's get this entirely straight, Mrs. vich Kell, you're going to have to set aside some of your concepts of journalistic integrity here."

"Taubadel's office..." Piah began. Kahnjte waved away her statement.

"Clears everything that's published, I know," Kahnjte said. "But that's their thing. What Taubadel's office is concerned with and what I am concerned with are two very different things. Taubadel's office cares about how the public and foreign agencies see what we do. I care about keeping my people alive and winning."

"Ooookaaay," Piah said.

"It's not just my people," Kahnjte said. "As long as you are here, my concern is keeping you alive as well. And to do that, I need your cooperation."

"I've been briefed by MI," Piah said. "I understand."

"No, Mrs. vich Kel," Kahnjte said. "You understood what they said, not what I am saying. I need your cooperation, and that means I need a few simple things from you. Number one, what my men say is what goes. If they tell you to stay back, you stay back. If they tell you to keep down, you keep down. And if they tell you to put away your camera, close your notepad and shut up, you will do it. Understand?"

Piah looked up at the man. She understood from the look on his face that this was not an argument, but an order. She nodded.

"Secondly, anything and everything you write or take photos of gets approved by me before you send it out to anyone," he said. "Even before MI or SPD or ANIA or LISA or whatever other sets of letters are watching every communication in and off this island. Me first, intelligence second."

Piah nodded again.

"Finally, don't try and get an interview with any prisoners we take. Don't ask me, don't ask my men, don't ask any men in black you see stalking around. This is non-negotiable. If you ask, I can't be held accountable for what happens thereafter. Is this understood?"

Piah nodded.

Kahnjte nodded himself. "Good. As long as you follow those three rules, we'll get along famously."

Piah cleared her throat. "May I ask you a question, sir?"

Kahnjte raised an eyebrow. "Depends on the question. You are a civilian, you can ask me anything you like, aside from what I mentioned before. Doesn't mean I will answer."

"I'd like an interview," she jutted out her chin proudly, just a bit.

Kahnjte blinked at her. Then he chuckled. "I think that can be arranged. And yes, I think we are going to get along famously."
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Postby Atnaia » Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:38 pm

Hegemon's Office
Hegemonic Administration Buildings
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
8:00


"Our response to the Osters should be clear and inarguable," Jorke said. "They either stand with us or they stand against us."

"We don't have the sway to just toss around veiled threats," North replied. "Recent events have significantly sapped the weight we could once toss at problems. The international community would strangle us."

The Hegemon nodded. "I have to stand with Robert on this one, Barty," he said. "The Osters have firmer ground in the battle of international perceptions right now."

"We can't keep tiptoeing around," Jorke said. "If we don't give a firm response it will be viewed as weakness. We cannot afford to be seen as weak, not with Protaex deployment around the corner and the situation on Merrit being what it is."

"If we go in guns blazing, we will be seen as the aggressors," North said. "Bullets may not fly, but the war of public perception is every bit the battle as what our boys are facing on the Isle."

"I understand that but..." Jorke was interrupted by a wave from the Hegemon.

"They fired the first shots," the Hegemon finished for him. "True, but the buffoons in charge of half the nations in the region aren't going to see it that way. They're already circling like vultures. They are looking for an excuse."

"So we do nothing?" Jorke asked.

The Hegemon shook his head. "Have you ever known me to do nothing, Barty? No. We simply have to think...tactically. We can't rely on the Osters, and we either need them on our side or need the region to at least remain neutral if diplomatic actions are taken."

"How?" Jorke asked.

"Afram?" the Hegemon asked.

The quiet, dark man adjusted his glasses. "We could subsidize uranium sales from Merrit," he said. "People will overlook a lot for power. In addition, it gives them a vested interest in our success on the Isle. Cheap nuclear material in exchange for distance from whatever issues we have with Ostehaar."

The Hegemon mused on this. "Interesting," he said. "It's useful symbolically too, with the Oster reputation for nuclear technologies. Also, we're all aware of how Veritas will be viewed when it goes live. This may be an interesting way to head that off. It implies that we are refocusing our efforts on becoming nuclear extractors and developers in our own rights, and reframes the Oster response as an attempt to undermine our burgeoning industry."

"We do want to refocus our efforts in that direction," North said.

"A distraction doesn't need to be a lie," the Hegemon said. "It just needs to be a truth in the wrong place to look."

"So we're stage magicians now?" Jorke asked.

"We've always been stage magicians, Barty," the Hegemon smiled. "The world stage is just as much a stage as anywhere else. And sufficiently advanced politics are indistinguishable from magic."
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Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Dormill and Stiura » Thu Nov 30, 2017 4:13 pm

Palace of the President, New Avillon, Federal Republic of Dormill and Stiura
10:18
Office of the President


"You wanted to see us, Madame President?", Rébecca Leroy begins as she walks past the oak doors of the Office of the President, followed by Minister of Defense Maxime Guillory who is carrying several files obtained from the Bureau before showing up on the President's request.

President Richelieu turns in her chair to face her two advisers, taking a sip of water before speaking, "I wanted you both here to brief you on on a new assignment I've already given to the Empress. Both of you and your successors should be aware of the next moves Dormill and Stiura makes on the international stage in the next few months."

"I have the files on the assignment from the BRS right here, ma'am. They were very particular about not opening it until I got to your office. Must be something important." the former general responds, placing the file labeled Operation: Lucina marked with an ominous red stamp reading FOR EYES ONLY; OPEN ONLY WHEN WITH PRESIDENT.

"What I am about to tell you two does not exist. Whatever you see or hear never happened yet you are to perform the duties assigned to you by the letter for no other reason than you believe it is in the best interest of the nation. Am I clear?" Richelieu said coldly.

"You have my word, Madame President.", began Rébecca; "And mine, ma'am", Guillory added.

After closing all of the blinds, a projector begins to display the mission along the wall of the office. "This is Merrit Isle, officially under the dominion of the Technocratic Hegemony of Atnaia,
and unofficially claimed by the Merrit Liberation Front and the Sons of Asorist Retribution as the Asorist People's Republic of Merritia. Over the past few months, the situation in the Isle has gone to hell.
At the moment, the APRM, as we'll refer to them, have held out in Merrit City while the International Community has been split on what to do. Overall, we have evidence to believe that most of the Western Isles does not intend to be involved in this internal issue in Atnaia. Recently, the Oster Delegate to the League has approached Mrs. Hambelton with an offer regarding launching a condemnation against the government of Atnaia regarding both Merrit Isle and supposed 'quarantine camps', as she reported to your office Mrs. Leroy.
", the President pauses a moment and switches slides as the two ministers watch on.

"Now, she has told us that she intends to go forward with the condemnation after consulting with the Oster Delegate on the validity of the information he has given us. What was your response to her action?", gesturing towards Rébecca.

"The Ministry has decided to endorse her decision, but we have decided to await confirmation from you and the assessment of the validity of the information." the Minister of State replies, almost solider-like.

"You have my approval, Mrs. Leroy. Let's continue. -- Whatever we do now will be left to our successor to deal with, but we have to set things in motion from now before whomever comes in after us has few chances in taking some other action that would risk the security of the nation. The plan is to send three special squads to Merrit Isle via boat insertion, with a cover of a cargo ship to deploy them. Once there, they will make their way to Merrit City and begin setting up connections between BRS and the Asorist Rebellion. With time, the plan will develop into sending old surplus from the Civil War to further arm the rebellion alongside a few more special squads, the intention is to build up for a breakout to the sea and set up for greater support from BRS. Eventually, Hambelton will deliver the condemnation against the Hegemony for their actions and open the door for a Dormill-Stiuraian intervention."

"That would risk a war against Atnaia. The United Republics faced them and won long ago, but nowadays, that's a pipe dream.", Guillory points out, obvious concern reeking from his mouth in mention.

"We're betting on Oster and wider international support once the condemnation is issued. Whether or not it passes is no concern of mine since as long as it is there, Dormill and Stiura would be seen as the leader against an oppressive regime opposing the will of the people of Merritia and Atnaia as a whole. Until then, it is critical that our involvement does not exist. Got it?" the President finishes, shutting off the projector and opening the blinds and bringing the morning's light back to the office.

"As we said before, you have our word that this meeting never happened.", Guillory replies.

"Perfect. If there's nothing else either of you need, that'll be all.", Richelieu notes as she stands up from her desk, turning towards the windows overlooking New Avillon.

La mémoire des Républiques Unies disparaîtra bientôt.

She pauses in her head for a moment, the flags of the Federal Republic and of the state of New Freisland billow off the Governor's Palace in the distance.

Dans ma République est ma fierté, dans sa défense, je tiendrai.
Last edited by Dormill and Stiura on Sat Dec 02, 2017 6:23 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Ex-Nation

Postby Atnaia » Sat Dec 02, 2017 8:31 am

Merrit City
Merrit Isle
10:48


The military truck bounced across the cracked asphalt. Captain Vost spoke over the sound of the engine and crush of dirt under tires. Piah made mental notes. She hadn't wanted to wait long to begin her work, and the General didn't have room in his schedule for an interview immediately. They'd managed to get her attached to a patrol, and Captain Vost, who normally would have remained back at the Camp overseeing other operations, had taken direct control of the operation to get her situated.

"The city is roughly divided into three misshapen rings right now," he explained. "The first is the safe zone that we have under control. It consists of most of the outer areas of the city and the attached suburbs and industrial zones, with the exception of several major areas along the docks and open coast of the city. The second zone is the combative neutral zone. This area isn't well-defined, but it's where the majority of combat is currently occurring in the form of building-to-building operations. You can basically consider most of the city proper to be under this heading. The neighbourhoods directly around the government buildings and the nearby commercial zones are in the hands of the rebels, and we don't have feet on the ground there. In the next few minutes, we're going to pass into the open combat zone. Keep your head about you."

Piah nodded. "Got it."

"Our job here is simple. We're consolidating ground that's mostly been cleared by other forces. The main obstacle we're facing right now is that the rebels are acting like bacteria. We think we've cleared them out, but a few hours later they pop back up in a neighbourhood we already cleared out. These pockets can get behind our men and cause serious damage to patrols. We're not considering any area of the city safe and clear until we've rooted out any pockets of resistance we can find. To that end, most of our forces are currently tied up going door to door and sweeping cleared areas."

Piah could detect the disdain in his voice for that. "Isn't that always an issue in these sorts of operations?"

"To an extent," the Captain nodded. "When literally anybody could be an enemy combatant, it makes it nearly impossible to clear out all resistance. However, we face two particularly difficult obstacles in this case in particular. First, the design of the city. Merrit City is far from well-planned. These aren't city grids that we're talking about here. There has never been proper city planning. Over the course of centuries, Merrit has had competing ideas about what the city wants to be. It's like a hive or a fungus. Bits of the city are built under overpasses, which have been built wherever they could fit. Half the city was built up and half of it was built out. As a result, the rebels have more hiding spots and vantage positions than can be counted, and there's more backways and shortcuts between areas than I feel safe with."

Piah remembered what he was talking about from the Disaster. "During the Disaster, it made rescue efforts and body recovery a nightmare."

"Apparently people still sometimes stumble across fallout from that," Vost nodded. "Now imagine that all of the victims are moving, have guns, and want you dead, and you see our problem."

Piah nodded and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "What's the second issue?"

"The Disaster has made most of our records of the city a minefield of inaccuracies," Vost said. "That, combined with boobytrapping, has turned the city into a more literal minefield. Reconstruction efforts have blocked off streets, while some buildings have collapsed walls or scaffolding that has created new routes between once unlinked areas. We can only trust our own senses and not building records. Intelligence through most of the city is limited to current imaging and the naked eye. Add on top of this that any given citizen could be or could be aiding our enemies, and we have ourselves a hell of a job making sure any portion of the city is safe."

Piah checked her camera, which dangled from it's strap around her shoulder. "What would you suggest we do different, if you could?"

"Is this on the record?" Vost asked.

Piah shrugged. "I don't think it's off the record, but the General made it abundantly clear that he and LISA and the Quorum were going to take a black marker to anything I write anyways. I'm pretty sure you can speak openly."

"Doesn't matter anyways," Vost said. "I've made my opinion abundantly clear. We need proper fire support. If we had leave to soften up chunks of the city from the air or through artillery strikes, we'd be able to smoke out the enemy before we moved in. It would make things a hell of a lot easier. Still not perfect, but better."

"What about civilians and infrastructure?"

"Civilians who refused to evacuate when we started the attack accepted the risks, or are enemy combatants, as far as I am concerned," Vost replied. "And the fact that we are placing greater value on the buildings than on the lives of my men shows a distinct mischaracterization of priorities. It's not helping win us the war."

"This is a war, then? Not a basic anti-dissident operation?"

"What's the difference?"

He had a point, she thought. The truck rattled and Vost cocked his head, listening to the voices in his headset. He looked around at the other men.

"Alright, you heard them," he said. "Get ready. Heads on a swivel..."
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Postby Atnaia » Sun Dec 03, 2017 10:39 am

ANIA Headquarters
Purth-Graje, Atna Prefecture, Atnaia
10:50


"You called me, Director Rice?"

"Page Mazik," Rice said to the young man in her doorway. "Please come in."

She waved a hand at a chair across the desk from her and Mazik crossed the room and sat down. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, adjusting his yellow tie.

"So, Page Mazik," Rice said, smiling in as comforting a manner she could muster, "a report you put together has come up the chain to me. I assure you, this little meeting is not to reprimand you in any way. That wouldn't be my job anyways."

Mazik nodded, loosening up slightly. "I did think it was strange that you'd want to speak to me. You're...more than a few steps up the ladder..."

Rice nodded. "That's true. Here's the situation. We get a lot of information through our offices. Almost all of it is useless. What isn't useless is, four out of five times, meaningful to national security in only the barest sense. We allow Pages like yourself to handle that information to the best judgement that we have trained them four. One out of five times, however, information gets passed through which winds up being more pertinent. That gets passed up to more senior members of ANIA's staff who can make a better judgement call. But this is all standard operating procedure. You know this."

Mazik nodded. "I do. It's my job, ma'am."

"Of course," she smiled again. "Of the information that gets passed up, most of it winds up being dealt with by various higher-ranked Pages, or specialist Squires, or occassionally gets disseminated to a Knight in the field when it would be useful to them. Sometimes it gets passed up higher, and higher, and higher. The information that matters may land on the desk of a Cavalier, or, eventually...me."

She tapped a file on her desk. Mazik looked at it.

"You intercepted this information?" Rice asked.

Mazik shook his head. "A Knight in the ID did the leg work. Most of what Agent Yats does is hobnobbing with diplomats, but sometimes he sets up recording devices in important places. Hard to keep things under wraps near the League. It was my job to scrub through the hours upon hours of video recordings and see if there was anything pertinent."

"So Yats collected the information, but you're the one who actually noticed this," Rice said, flipping open the file. "This is direct confirmation of something that the Quorum has been assuming for awhile now, ever since the Osters started pulling back. It's why it hit my desk."

"So why am I here, ma'am? Everything is covered in the report."

"When something like this lands in my lap, I like hearing a report directly from those who found it," Rice said. "Reports are reports, but I sometimes like to hear the opinions of those who have had time to think about it. So...explain the situation to me."

Mazik cleared his throat. "Well...uh...okay, I know where to start. So, a misconception that a lot of people have about the League is that the important work goes on in the Hall, with votes and debates and all that, but the majority of that is just high school drama played out writ large."

Rice nodded. "Continue."

"The important international diplomacy goes on in the back channels, in the hotel bars and back offices of the Independent District," Mazik said. "That's where Yats has his networks. Through these contacts, he managed to get a bug into a VIP lounge at a bar near the League. Most of what we caught from there is really only useful as blackmail, if that. But we did overhear certain private discussions, and what we did get made oblique mention to communications between the Osters and Dormill and Stiura. I noted that to Yats, who delved deeper, and he managed to get me a surprising amount of video. I didn't ask how. Again, most of it is dull, barely usable trash info. Conversations between the Osters and various dignitaries. Bickering over minor trade concessions in exchange for votes, that sort of thing, not pertinent to Atnaian interests."

"It's been collected, though?" Rice raised an eyebrow.

"Aside from the ninety six hours of dark rooms from when people have gone home at night, sure," Mazik said. "Anyways, what happened in the meetings with Dormill and Stiura were basically that too, except for some interesting discussions. It seems like the Osters are drafting a condemnation against us and were trying to buy Dormill support."

"What's your read?"

"Oh, the government of Dormill and Stiura will support it," Mazik waved a hand. "They're not fans of Atnaia. My concern is...well, it's conjecture."

"That's why I asked you in here, Page Mazik," Rice said.

"Weeeelllll," Mazik bit his lip for a moment. "My concern is with half the recent League resolutions sending in League investigators to every nation that steps on toes. We've supported most of them just to keep eyes facing another direction, but...well, with the camps..."

"You're afraid that this condemnation will open the doors for the League to send in people?"

"I'm concerned that half the nations there already HAVE people here," Mazik said. "God knows the junk data supports it, but it's not like anyone intends to do anything. But if the League decides to send in investigators..."

"You think they'll become a swarm of vultures?"

"I think that a lot of the world has nostalgic feelings towards the Lusser dynasty and the old days," Mazik said. "I think that the imposter on Merrit will make people feel that nostalgia all the stronger. And if what is in my report is true, and this condemnation happens, that's all the cracks we'll need for whatever sleeping dogs might be in Atnaia to start waking up and barking."

"We've been thinking the same," Rice nodded.

"Ma'am, if I may," the page said.

"Yes?"

"I think it's extremely likely that foreign forces may have contacts with internal dissident groups," Mazik said. "I think that all they're waiting for is a hint. If it were me, I'd have LISA and the Quorum on the phone now. We need to snuff this before it can happen."

Rice nodded. "Noted. You're dismissed, Page."
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Postby Atnaia » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:49 am

Merrit City
Merrit Isle
10:55


Gray light reflected off the windows into Piah's face. The corner apartment building was a mass of cracked concrete that had been built at the height of the Nuclear Obsession, one wall covered in a half-faded mural that a graffiti artist had probably done a half-dozen years before. Scaffolding was set up on its roof, climbing up the wall of the adjoining construction like ivy. A pair of kids were outside, kicking around a football in the street. As Piah and her group of soldiers approached, the older of the two girls stopped the ball with her foot and put her hands on her hips.

"Mom's not home," she said in a clipped Merritian accent.

The squad were keeping their heads moving, scanning windows and rooftops. Piah's camera clicked. Vost stepped forward, hands off of his rifle, letting it hang by its strap around his shoulder.

"Alright," he said. "I'm Captain Vost. Have you girls seen any men with guns in this neighbourhood lately?"

"Just you," said the older girl. "And the rest of the soldiers."

Vost nodded. "I mean besides us," he said. He tugged on his uniform. "People not wearing matching suits."

The younger girl nodded. "Lots of people have guns."

"Are there lots of people here?" asked Vost.

The older girl shook her head. "There used to be. They left."

"Why didn't you?" Vost asked.

The girls shrugged. The older one rolled the ball a bit with her toe. "Mom and Dad said that we'd already run once from something, and last time when we got back there were strangers in our apartment. We weren't about to let people steal more of our stuff."

Vost nodded. "Do you know where the people with guns are?"

The girls shook their heads, and Vost took his leave and came back over. Piah was glancing over the photos she had taken on her display screen. They were good, the lone soldier talking to the two girls. Good PR shots. Not award-winning, though.

"I don't think this neighbourhood is clear," he explained to the squad. "I think there might be a group here, hunkering down and waiting for us to pass. We're going to have to go door to door."

The disappointed tension was palpable.

"Come on, Cap," said one soldier. "This whole place looks empty. Half the buildings have no windows. The roads haven't been repaved."

"Would you rather we have a cell at our backs when we move on?" Vost asked. The man quieted. Vost rubbed his eyes. "Just do what I ask when I ask it or I'll have you up on charges. Get the job done."

The next two hours involved the squad moving from door to door. Where places were occupied, they would ask politely to search the premises, to which the response was almost always a worried yes. Where places weren't occupied, they would enter of their own accord.

It was an exercise in frustration, and Piah could feel it, see it in the photos she took. The creased brows and tight grips on weapons. No matter how hard they searched, there was no way they could clear every inch of every room on the block, let alone the city. Piah could see what the Captain had been saying. The city had turned into a warren of dead-ends, tunnels, scaffolding and half-finished construction. What was visible from the outside was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the hive inside the buildings of Merrit City.

The people here were the stubborn and the terrified, the old and the injured. Those incapable or unready to evacuate. Once, Piah saw an MLF flag pinned up on the wall, and the fireteam checking that building had torn up the apartment residence of the teenager and his parents who had owned the place. In the end, they had found nothing, but had dragged away the family anyways. She didn't take photos of that. Instead, she focused on the calm moments where the soldiers interacted more peaceably with the two dozen residents of the neighbourhood. At one point, a private had joined the two girls for a brief scrimmage with the football. That had been quality material. Smiling faces. It put a shine on the whole experience.

In the end, there had been no signs of anything untoward, aside from the family with the flag and the remnants of an old camp in the basement of a bodega. Nothing untoward, that is, until the attack.
Last edited by Atnaia on Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Atnaia » Sat Dec 09, 2017 11:18 am

Atomic Boy Station
Northwest Merrit Isle
12:10


"Baln's balls, I'm thirsty," Henri said, collapsing into a chair across the card table from Velt. From behind the old counter, Jak grabbed a water bottle and tossed it underhand to the former Prince of Atnaia. Henri popped it open and began to chug it down.

"It's almost like 7 hours of constant radio talk jockeying is a good way of giving you cottonmouth or something," said Rudjol.

Henri polished off the water bottle and slammed it on the card table. "Christ," he said with a breath of relief. "That's good."

"Can you pick a religion to blaspheme and stick with it, your highness?" asked Jak dryly.

Henri shrugged. "I'm equal opportunity in who I choose to piss off. Any updates?"

Jak tapped the map in front of him. "Things are ticking along. Pretty sure the Naiers have pieced together that we're more...involved here than they thought."

Henri nodded. "Wessich's not a fool. He'll be swift to change tack when things don't swing his way."

"What are you thinking?"

Henri held up his hands in surrender. "I'm no strategist. We all know that."

The others grunted assent. There was a sudden series of thumps from the panel in the ceiling. It swung open, and Lee looked down from his watch on the roof.

"Pate just radioed from uproad," he said. "Spotted some vehicles headed our way."

"Military?" Jak asked.

Lee shook his head. "Doesn't look like it."

Jak nodded. "Be careful."

The hatch swung shut and the four men inside the station grabbed their guns. Jak and Rudjol left out the front, rifles slung around their shoulders, to take up overwatch positions before the vehicles arrived. Henri tucked his stub-nosed revolver into the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt and threw on his jacket. He stood, his heart thumping in his chest.

"Calm down," Velt said to him. "You look like your wife is about to give birth."

"We can't have been tracked down already, right?"

Velt let out a bursting guffaw, shoving his handgun into the rear of his jeans and covering it with his jacket. "No way. Calm your tits, mate. You're our talker, after all."

A few minutes later, there was the sound of crunching tires outside. Henri cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and threw on his most winning smile. He opened the door and stepped outside.
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