NATION

PASSWORD

[Anterra] The Cradle of Civilization

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Tippercommon
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Founded: Feb 04, 2011
New York Times Democracy

[Anterra] The Cradle of Civilization

Postby Tippercommon » Sat Jun 23, 2018 3:57 am

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CHAPTER I

THE RECALL




1 June 2018 - 1032 Hours - Palace of Cardinals, Ambrosia, Tiperyn
Hauke Dykstra, Captain (Ret.) | Formerly Tipslan Intelligence Corps, Realm Guard




I was fidgeting; bouncing my leg up and down out of anxiety and sweating from the humidity of the summer rains. I had been called to a meeting with the Empress herself to discuss matters that were explained to me only as “classified.” Given my history, I had hazarded a guess that I was being recalled for some sort of intelligence-gathering work; work I had walked away from years ago. Even so, I heavily doubted the Empress would petty herself with such matters. It must have been something else, and the burden of that thought made me sick.

I sat in one of a row of four wooden chairs sitting in an almost endless corridor. The chair was draped with robes, more gold and constructed from a deep, dark red wood. Expert craftsmanship I assume; definitely expensive, but not comfortable in the slightest. That was the undercurrent of the entire corridor. The height from floor to ceiling was probably almost 10 meters, and the corridor itself was expansive. However, despite its length, there were no doors or rooms feeding from it except for a massive set of double-doors at its very terminus. The walls on one side were adorned with golden ornamentation, royal blue drapes and countless paintings of Tiperyn royals through the centuries. The other wall was almost entirely covered in windows, giving me a nice view of the summer rains pouring down onto the royal district of Ambrosia. I was in the Palace of Cardinals. The entire palace housed the Empress’ cabinet. Meanwhile, the corridor I had found myself in seemed to be an offshoot of an inner labyrinth designed to impress or intimidate guests. As I had the privilege of calling myself a Tiperyn citizen, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if they started pumping in a spooky floor-hugging mist just to unsettle me a little more.

Two massive Realm Guard soldiers donning the burgundy berets of the airborne flanked the double doors. The palace cycled airborne and mountain units every year to guard the Empress’ property. However, they did not guard the Empress nor the Cardinals. This honor was left up to the Dame Commanders and Holy Guard respectively. Throughout Tiperyn, the Holy Guard at its lowest echelons was not an uncommon sight. They were often characterized as henchmen of corrupt bishops, enforcing Ecclesiast Law - or their own - while the gendarmerie actually enforced criminal law. However, the idealized image of the Holy Guardsman in his white dress uniform, bearing an almost absurd number of medals, ribbons and regalia permeated Tiperyn culture and media. The Dame Commanders on the other hand...

The double doors burst open and the two guards snapped to attention. Through the door marched a column of women. They wore jet black trousers and dress coats, accented with red and gold. The head of the column wore white berets and bore a blood stripe running down the sides of their trousers. They did not avert their forward gaze as they continued marching. Meanwhile, the women behind them - armed with carbines and lacking the ornamentation of the first four - stared me down as they passed. The column was deep. Over the tops of the agents, I could just make it out. Diamond encrusted arches bowed over a dome of blue velvet, meeting under a dazzling sapphire and golden cross. The crown. The Empress.

My eyes remained affixed to the jewels. I couldn’t make her out, but I knew she was there. The column marched on. By the time they had moved all the way through the corridor and through the next set of double doors, my head remained cocked, my eyes wide and pasted where the Empress had left her wake.

“Hear Dykstra?” The voice rattled me, knocking me out of my trance. I swung my head around back to the doors. In the middle of the entrance stood an officer clad in olive drab and a red beret.

“Ja?” I answered after a second’s hesitation. I didn’t recognize the man from any of my briefings or any press conferences.

“We are ready to meet you now,” he replied dryly.

I rose hastily, fumbling to grab my briefcase by my feet and coat resting on the right arm rest. My puddle dampened shoes squeaked against the glossy floor as I stiffly marched through the massive double doors. I held my tongue. The words “Was I not supposed to meet with the Empress?” cycled through my head, as well as her prompt exit stage left. However, I dare not raise my voice to even implicitly question the Empress’ agenda of the day. To be honest, I was slightly relieved to have averted the encounter.

I was immediately flanked by two soldiers who had been guarding the inner chamber. They began marching with me, rifles in hand. The men themselves could have passed for boys out of uniform; soft faces empowered by a uniform and a straight face. However, unlike the olive drab-laden Realm Guard soldiers who had been guarding the entrance, they wore white trousers and jackets with black markings on standing collars and black berets shielding their scalps. They were Holy Guardsmen. Meanwhile, the officer who had summoned me continued to march at least 10 meters in front of me through yet another long corridor. However, this one was less ornamented and dimly lit. Neither the officer nor the guardsmen spoke to me. Their forward facing gaze did not shift as I turned my head to get a look at them. There was an almost comical, cliché atmosphere of ominosity.

“In here, Hauke,” the officer said as he walked through the doors at the end of the corridor.

I crossed the threshold. The dimness of the corridor was washed out by the well lit chamber. The ornamentation was on par with that outside; the walls adorned with lots of gold, blue drapes and pelts. A crystal chandelier hung from the almost vertigo inducing ceiling, and the room was grounded by a grand table fit for a feast. The officer cut left along the length of the table and I followed him. By this point, the two guards that had been shadowing me had taken posts outside and shut the door. It was strange; there were no Holy Guardsmen inside the hall. Just Realm Guard soldiers. At the end of the table where the officer was leading me, four figures sat. The scale of table to the officials made the scene almost absurd. As we got closer, I could make out two of the figures that I had at one point seen almost every day during briefings when I was in the business: Georgia Seiter - the Cardinal of War and cabinet member responsible for the military outside of the Holy Guard - and Admiral Katherine Rijnder - commander of the Realm Armada and ranking member of the Defence Council. The other two I did not recognize and sported suits and ties rather than military uniforms.

A soldier walked over to the table and pulled out a chair.

“Have a seat, Mr. Dykstra,” the officer motioned towards the chair. I obliged.

“Mr. Dykstra,” the officer now stood at the head of the table. I sat directly across from one of the figures I couldn’t recognize. “Cardinal Seiter and Admiral Rjinder as I am sure you are aware.”

“Yes,” I almost whispered, shaking my head quickly and listening as my rasp echoed off of the massive walls of the hall.

“These two gentlemen I don’t expect you to know. Maxwell Williams and Jacob Bright, Ministry of Subterfuge.”

“Much obliged,” I replied. I smiled timidly at one; it was met with a stone cold stare. My eyes darted back to the officer.

“I’m sure you’ve noticed, the meeting with the Empress was just to get you in the door willingly.”

“W-well-”

“We did have a meeting with her just before you, but she has a booked schedule I imagine. But cutting straight to the chase My. Dykstra, we’re recalling you to the Ministry of the Sword for a special assignment under the direct supervision of Admiral Rjinder.”

“Uhm, e-excuse me, sir? Sir, I retired nearly three years ago-”

“These are extraordinary circumstances, Mr. Dykstra,” Seiter interjected. “Your experience in Nasiria is an asset, and you’re one of the few intelligence experts not in the pockets of Holy Guard. Your cooperation is imperative.”

“Wait…” I said cautiously. “Ma’am, why are these things important?”

“Forgive us, we seem to have gotten ahead of ourselves,” the officer chuckled. “We are recalling you for an assignment in Nasiria. As I am sure you are aware, the Holy Guard established a presence there in 2016. However, as opposed to what was promised to us, they haven’t contributed to the fight against Mihrani terrorists. Rather, they’ve just garrisoned themselves in the major, secured cities.”

“We’ve been investigating them for months,” Williams said. “We know they have been colluding with the Nasiris. As the Holy Guard is under the control of the Ministry of Values, the military and Ministry of Subterfuge have been left unawares of what they are actually doing. We suspect human trafficking, funneling oil money out and directly into the Church’s pocket, a number of things. We need someone on the inside to confirm our suspicions.”

“W-what?” I was enamored. “I-What if I refuse? I served what was required of me, I’m not just going to give up-”

“This isn’t a choice,” the officer scolded. “It is an order. You will be given considerable compensation. If you refuse, you will be thrown in the brig and put in isolation indefinitely. That is, unless we don’t line you up against the wall for what you now know.”

“This is ridiculous,” I sat lower in my seat, brooding. “I… fuck. What’d be the compensation?”

“First off, Captain, watch your mouth around a ranking officer,” the officer smirked. “Your pension will be doubled and will be delivered to you in a lump sum. Further, you will have the option of taking the rights for an estate the Ministry of War confiscated from suspected Goidelic rebels in eastern Rosraig.”

“Goddammit,” I sighed.

I looked around the hall. The walls were lined with soldiers standing at parade rest, loading carbines in hand. “I suppose there isn’t any reason for you not to just shoot me now.”

“Oh, don’t be silly,” the officer retorted. “I’d never order such a thing in front of our esteemed Admiral and Cardinal.”

“Why was I chosen?” I snapped.

“Well… you’re one candidate among a few,” the officer said hesitantly. “Thus far, as of right now, you are the most desirable that we haven’t had to… levy corrective measures against.”

“And why is that?” I asked again.

Bright rose his head, “You left the intelligence community before the Ministry of Values gained oversight over the military’s intelligence gathering. You don’t have any connection with the Holy Guard or the Church, and more importantly, despite being a capable spy, you have no connection to the Ministry of Subterfuge.”

Williams continued on, “We have hundreds of agents more than capable of taking on this task, but the Holy Guard knows who they are. We can muddle the records to place you as a Holy Guardsman under a bishop who we’ve bought. Retired soldiers join up all the time, and with your skillset and clearance, we’re hoping we can get you a view of the guts of their operation.”

“The power the Ministry of Values has rapidly acquired is worrisome,” the Admiral said, stoically. “We’re not only losing autonomy, but we believe the Holy Guard is corrupting military units in Nasiria. We’ve publicly denied the human trafficking allegations. However, they’re rooted more in reality than fiction.”

“And why should I care?” I asked, brazingly. I was a touched flustered at that point.

The officer stepped forward. “The money. And you won’t have a life to speak of if you refuse,” he replied. “But, if you particularly care about the country you live in, the military is one of the last secular institutions left. And, it is the only institution that is capable of balancing the power of the Empress. We pledged loyalty to her, but we ultimately swear to protect the realm. The Holy Guard has no code outside of its obedience to their bishops and the Empress.”

“I hear sedition,” I blurted.

“I’m a Colonel of the Realm Guard upholding my duty,” he fired back. “Before you are the two most powerful people in the Realm Defence, and they agree. If you actually thought sedition was offensive, we wouldn’t have let you walk through those doors.”

I looked down at my lap. I had been absent mindedly twiddling my thumbs throughout the meeting. The combination of the pressure and the awkward humidity had caused me to sweat through my dress shirt. I bet the two spies had been the first to notice.

“So Mr. Dykstra,” Cardinal Seiter said inquisitively. “Are you with us?”
Last edited by Tippercommon on Mon May 10, 2021 12:06 am, edited 13 times in total.
Last edited by Tippercommon on Wed Oct 09, 1996 10:46 pm, edited 3.1416 times in total.
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User avatar
Tippercommon
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1132
Founded: Feb 04, 2011
New York Times Democracy

Postby Tippercommon » Tue Jun 26, 2018 10:09 pm

Content Warning: Abuse, Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, Human Trafficking


CHAPTER II

FORGIVE ME FATHER




3 June 2018 - 2021 Hours - 20 km SE of Qades, Nasiria
Rutherford Blaze, Lance Corporal | № 1 Realm Parachute Regiment, Holy Guard




A humid, dank smog loitered throughout the dimly lit room. A yellowish film clung to the speckled windows and stained drapes, leftover from years of heavy smoking. Dust particles mixed with smoke that lingered above the hookah pipes, shimmering in the sun rays that broke through gaps in the drapes and holes in the walls. Sunset was approaching. The golden daylight hit the opposite walls, highlighting deep cracks and subtle textures with intense shadows. The room was enclosed by stacks of mud bricks; the concrete floors only softened by piles of tracked in sand and dirty handwoven rugs. In the corner laid a crumpled heap of military fatigues, a rucksack, webbing and a rifle. This was a Holy Guard safehouse.

The Lieutenant heaved himself off of a bed centered in the house’s “master bedroom,” letting out a hoarse groan and lazily grabbing for his trousers. A young girl laid before him, unconscious and laying on her face. She was bare. She might have come from Kodeshia; maybe Guurdalai. Her skin was light and smooth with a slight golden tint, and she wore long black hair that hung past her shoulder blades. From a distance, it might have seemed like any brothel in Nasiria; she could have been any prostitute or a girl we had taken in from the streets. However, upon closer inspection, the scene was much more insidious.

I could make out reddened bruises and scars splattered over her back. Her hair was clumped and soaked in her sweat. The pillow her head rested on was lightly sprinkled with blood. The Lieutenant had struck her on the head to “stop the screaming.” The platoon had taken to calling her Loni. She was likely trafficked through Asharistan and passed over the border to our contact or a paid off Nasiri militia unit near Qades. The contact – who we only knew by the presumed pseudonym Aldubu – classified her as a “late-adolescent Mongoloid.” We knew she was from Kodeshia, but not much else. She couldn’t have been older than 16; we all knew that. However, given the fallibility of man – especially the corrupted hearts of our particularly hubristic and hungry company-grade officers – the Lieutenant had chosen to take advantage of her vulnerability instead of respect it.

Roy and I had been standing watch at the entrance of the bedroom for the whole three minutes that the Lieutenant was going at it. We were meant to prevent any other members of the platoon from taking a peak, and to restrain Loni if she tried to run. Roy and I had been forever tasked this lowly billet by being the troopers unfortunate enough to walk in on the Lieutenant during a similar scenario. All officers and colour sergeants in the company “sampled the buffet.” Lower enlisted such as ourselves were not given the privilege. Just as well; it’s not that the lot of us didn’t realize our complicity in this wholly reprehensible ritual. We knew of our sin. We also knew the consequences of insubordination in the service we had been conscripted into.

"Blaze, Roy," the Lieutenant grumbled, sloppily pointing at us. "Dress her, bind her, and throw her with the rest. We move in ten or we’re gonna be late."

I snapped from my absent minded glare, still a little shaken from the whole scene. After placing my rifle against the wall, I briskly walked over to the bed, intending to follow my orders as quickly as possible so I could be out of that muggy prison. Roy on the other hand lazily hoisted himself up from his lean against the wall and strolled over to Loni’s clothes. After dressing her, we propped her up and bound her hands together. Her wrists were already purple with seemingly permanent rope indents from months of captivity. She flung her head up, groggily mumbling a few words in Yu. Roy reached for his pocket to grab some ketamine to sedate her, but she suddenly collapsed in my arms. She was sobbing, and began crying, "Mama! Mama!" She was covered in a thick film of sweat. She had obviously not been allowed to shower – probably since her capture. Every slice of her humanity had been taken from her; all she had were her memories of a life before.

I was paralyzed. Shook to the core. As tears streamed down her face and landed on my exposed arm, a flicker of rebellion kindled inside me. I could feel tears beginning to well and lump in my throat. What was probably moments felt like an hour’s worth of reflection; but before I could formulate words, or even let out any of my bewilderment, Roy stuck her with the ketamine and the Lieutenant grabbed her.

“Silly things they are,” the Lieutenant scoffed.

The words, “I am sorry” floated in the back of my mind as Roy and I helped drag her out of the decrepit hut. Even if I had the courage to utter them; even if she could understand, they would have been empty words. No amount of sympathy or gestures could atone for what we were doing. They might’ve lightened the burden of our guilt; well deserved guilt. But they would never atone.

Our faces were bombarded by a torrent of coarse dust carried by the cooling evening’s breeze as we emerged from the den. The sun had set now, but her aura still peaked over the mountainous horizon. A few low lying clouds partially shrouded the aura. Her raging inferno lit up their fringes with an almost blinding brilliance. The fringes bled yellows and oranges into the darkening night sky, leaving a gradient of pinks and blues. The midnight blue sky marched west as the sun continued to retreat below the horizon. Her fiery stream of gold and pink receded as twilight sunk in.

Three technicals, two cargo trucks and a Krait infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) sat on the unpaved gravel surrounding the safehouse. The technicals were manned by fellow guardsmen, hoisting their massive heavy machine guns in the air. They and the armored vehicle protected the cargo trucks. A taught canvas netting wrapped over their truck beds concealed almost two dozen women; all kidnapped from throughout Kesh and forced through our pipeline. Loni was but one of many who we handled, transporting from conflict zones in southeastern Nasiria up to the to the coast for final processing. With them were stashed fifty crates of liquor and several bags of money. The rearmost technical was partially situated to protect the cargo, but also light it up in the case of an attempted escape.

We heaved Loni onto the bed of the rearmost truck. She was so limp that the girls had to help us get her onboard. We slammed the tailgate closed and curved around the back of the truck towards the leading Krait. Behind us, we could hear the chilling sound of the technical racking its charging handle and chambering a round; almost as if they were waiting for Loni. We walked past the other cargo truck. It was a similar scene; although instead of eastern women, this truck appeared to be full of Mihranis. Normally, when they were out of the truck or the column was resting, Roy and I would try to sneak water or rations to them. That wouldn’t be possible today.

We climbed through the hatch of the Krait, following the Lieutenant. The infantry compartment was illuminated by a dim red light, meant to help us retain our night vision as the sun set. As Roy and I settled in, the Lieutenant was already slumping, head back and service cap covering his face – likely napping after his brief session of “love.” Once the other guardsmen had piled in, the ramp closed and sealed, letting out a squeal of air. The Krait’s engine revved to life, filling the cabin with an almost deafening rattle. The Krait burst forward and plowed through a pile of stones, jolting the cabin and raising the left side slightly. It launched us, hitting our heads against the metallic ceiling. The Lieutenant was still slumped over, fast asleep. Soon, we’d be on Madrastan’s mountain roads heading west towards Sharistan, and then hook north towards the badlands. We were off to a sparsely populated area of southern Amedi. As the Realm Guard and Fleet Marine presence in the area was non-existent and the chances of running into Koryeo peacekeepers were remote, it was the perfect route for our column to pass through undetected. Thank God, for if I had to actually defend what we were doing...
Last edited by Tippercommon on Mon May 10, 2021 12:05 am, edited 3 times in total.
Last edited by Tippercommon on Wed Oct 09, 1996 10:46 pm, edited 3.1416 times in total.
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