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Just One Big Happy Family [Earth II]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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Founded: Apr 10, 2018
Corporate Police State

Just One Big Happy Family [Earth II]

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Fri Feb 12, 2021 1:30 pm

(OOC: So after almost three years, my nation in Earth II has gotten a little bloated and there were aspects of it that could badly do with a rethink. Some things needed a little tweak, others needed an overhaul. This thread is effectively the 'rebooting' of my nation claim in Earth II. Many elements will be recognisable to anyone who has read my previous threads as the basic idea has remained the same.)

As the first anniversary of its founding drew near, the Afro-Asian Unity and Cooperation Organisation (more popularly referred to as the 'Shenzhen Pact' as the founding treaty was signed in the city of Shenzhen) was preparing to celebrate its first full year of existence with an elaborate ceremony and the accession of new members. The Shenzhen Pact had been the brainchild of President Yang Mingshu of the Nanfang Republic, who had envisioned the Pact as a means to expand the Republic's international influence while also securing access to natural resources that would continue to power Nanfaren economic growth. This was being achieved thanks to the Pact's disinterest in concerns such as free democracy or freedom of the press, allowing the organisation to attract states with abundant resources but less-than-abundant political freedoms. The current membership of the Pact numbered some thirteen states as 'full' members (including the Nanfang Republic itself), and two observer members; the observer members being larger and fully independent powers in their own right that had sought observer membership, primarily out of economic and security considerations. Out of the thirteen full members, the Nanfang Republic was unquestionably the 'equal among equals', as it was the largest full member in economic terms, military terms, and population terms. The remaining twelve full members were located throughout Africa and Asia and were ostensibly completely independent nations, able to pursue their own agendas; while the patience of the Nanfang Republic had never actually been tested by any of the other Pact member-states, there was a widely-held suspicion that the Republic would step in if a Pact member got 'out of hand'.


23 November 2020 - 13:00hrs [UTC+8]
Taohuayuan
Suzhou, Nanfang Republic

Being President of the Nanfang Republic certainly had its perks. Understandable when you consider that they were in charge of a nation of 1.02 billion people.

According to the Nanfaren constitution, a President was elected for a six-year term with no limit on the number of terms that they could serve. The public elected delegates to the National Electoral Commission (NEC) which was charged with electing a President, but the requirements for candidacy were so stringent that only one candidate could ever be presented to the NEC for election. This single candidate was invariably the incumbent President, except in situations where the incumbent had died or was demonstrably unfit to remain in office. The office of President possessed sweeping powers which could allow the incumbent to suspend constitutional freedoms and rule by decree if necessary. This was often unnecessary as the office also had the power to appoint one-third of the members of the National Assembly, enabling an incumbent President to stack the National Assembly with supporters and ensure a majority for their political party. This had resulted in the continued dominance of the Constitutional Democrat Party (CDP) since 1909, to the point where the other political parties had become glorified puppets of the CDP. In addition to the job security and the power that came with the position, the President of the Nanfang Republic enjoyed the luxury of having multiple residences situated around the massive Asian nation. The primary Presidential residence was the Palace of the Republic in the capital city of Nanjing, but other homes included such delights as Shilin Gardens in Taipei and the domicile where the Presidential family were currently in residence, Taohuayuan in the city of Suzhou.

Situated approximately 134 miles east of Nanjing and about 70 miles west of Shanghai, Suzhou was a prefecture-level city with roughly 11 million people within its administrative area and was renowned for its Classical Gardens which had been developed over almost one thousand years. In the south of Suzhou was Dushu Lake, and a private island on the lake was the site of the 1,663-acre estate of Taohuayuan, built in the style of a traditional Nanfaren home complete with upturned roofs and a courtyard-style layout. With a name that translated as either 'Utopia' or 'Peace Blossom Land', Taohuayuan was a garden home that boasted 32 bedrooms and 32 bathrooms, with all of the bedrooms facing south for optimal natural light. Also featuring a massive wine cellar, a lakeside swimming pool, and gardens modelled on Suzhou's Classical Gardens, Taohuayuan was more of a palace complex than a mansion due to its various ponds, bridges, and outhouses. It was a residence where the President and their family could truly get away from things, provided of course that they didn't mind the ever-present patrols of personnel from the Central Security Bureau of the Constitutional Democrat Party, the 8,000-strong military security force tasked with protecting the senior members of the Nanfaren government and their families.

Thankfully for the staff of Taohuayuan, today's lunch was not going to be a particularly involved affair as they only had three individuals of high standing to cater for. President Yang Mingshu had recently turned fifty-eight and was in her fifteenth year as President, well into her third term in office with the next election scheduled for 2023. Of course, thanks to the Nanfaren electoral system she was guaranteed a fourth six-year term but this did not mean that she was resting on her laurels. Hailing from Taiwan Province and with a background in national security, President Yang had received plaudits from across the Republic for her domestic economic policy which had seen the nation's economy continue to grow at a healthy annual rate, to the point where the Nanfang Yuan was now one of the world's most prominent reserve currencies. Her dream of the Nanfang Republic becoming a truly global power was also a reality due to the Shenzhen Pact, which featured 'full' members from across Africa and Asia, and was on the verge of welcoming three more members into the club: the Republic of Cameroon, the state of Tibet, and the first European member in the form of the Republic of Portugal. Under the charter of the organisation, nations had to join as observer members first but could then advance into full membership at any time thereafter, and it was pretty much a done deal that Cameroon and Portugal would seek advancement to full membership after joining. Tibet seemed more interested in the looser affiliation of observer membership however, something that President Yang had no real issues with.

President Yang was sat at a rosewood dining table as she waited for lunch to be served, looking across the table at her husband with a warm smile. Yang Jiawei was one year older than his wife and had been a history lecturer at the University of Taipei before becoming the First Gentleman of the Nanfang Republic; he was now involved in various initiatives such as the prevention of bullying in addition to being an informal advisor to his wife of twenty-three years. The pair engaged in idle small talk as they awaited the arrival of the third member of their family, an arrival that was finally signalled by the sound of a loud yawn as the final diner entered the room. President Yang arched an eyebrow and smirked as the chair at her left was occupied with a thud and a sigh.

"Nice of you to finally join us. Long night, was it?"

Yang Zhihao offered a smile towards his mother as he yawned once again. "You know how it is, sometimes it feels like you're herding cats." The twenty-two year old 'First Son' had graduated from Nanjing University only three months ago with an 'Excellent' in Politics and Government Administration, a clear sign that his future was intended to be in the leadership of the Nanfang Republic. As his mother would likely be serving as President until at least the end of her fifth term, Zhihao still had at least twenty years of being the President's son with all the influence and opportunities that would be afforded to him as a result. He ran his hands through his styled short black hair and nodded to his father before continuing.

"We've got two days before the Pact's anniversary celebrations. That means we've got two days before we have to host the Young Lions and we've got to be ready to show them who's superior. Unfortunately some people can be a little...well, not useless, but-"

"Ah, of course." President Yang had some degree of sympathy for her son as she realised that his late night had resulted from what was known as 'princeling culture'. As with many regimes where leaders remained in power for extended periods, the sons and daughters of senior Nanfaren officials tended to receive opportunities that would have otherwise been out of their reach. They also tended to frequent the same social events and in some cases grew up with one another, so they inevitably formed a tightly-knit clique. Upon the formation of the Shenzhen Pact, the Nanfaren princelings had come into contact with their African counterparts. The authoritarian, and in some cases kleptocratic, African administrations that had joined the Pact had a history of supporting one another against attempted coups and the like, and so the children of these regimes had formed their own social network. While neither clique bore an official name, their counterparts had named them to make them easier to refer to; the Nanfaren princelings referred to their African counterparts as the 'Young Lions' while the African princelings had labelled their Nanfaren peers as the 'Baby Dragons'. The two cliques had developed a certain level of friendly rivalry and the Baby Dragons viewed the anniversary celebrations as an opportunity to wow the Young Lions with their hosting prowess. As the son of the President, Zhihao was the 'chief' of the Baby Dragons and was therefore eager to show the Young Lions how things should be done. Admittedly this was more out of ego than national pride.

As two immaculately uniformed staff members approached the table with the food prepared for lunch, Zhihao wagged his finger at his mother as he remembered a fact that he believed to be of importance. "We might have a trump card to play though. We'll be in Liao territory down in Shenzhen and Liao Meiling said that her cousins are more than willing to help out. That family knows a thing or two about having a good time."

"Just because they have the Governor of Guangdong Province, the Mayor of Guangzhou, and the Chief Executives of both Oumún and Hēunggóng in their family, it doesn't mean that it's their territory. Owning most of the major casinos in Oumún, admittedly that makes it their territory slightly more." President Yang thanked the staff for delivering the meals before returning her attention to Zhihao. "You're taking the Young Lions to Oumún, aren't you?"

"I don't know what you mean."

The President rolled her eyes at Zhihao's feigned innocence. "Alright. Just don't gamble too much. Or get too drunk. Or get mixed up with prostitutes. Or get anyone kidnapped by the gangsters who may or may not operate down there. If at all possible, I would like to avoid having to inform, for example, the President of Nigeria that his son is missing and presumed to be at the bottom of Nam Van Bay."

"Let the boy be, darling. You know you can trust him not to do anything stupid."

Jiawei's interjection drew loud tutting from his wife in response. "Most of the time, I would agree. Most of the time. When it comes to showing off or trying to impress someone, our son can get a little carried away, as you well know." President Yang paused in thought for a moment before turning back to Zhihao. "I'll make sure that you're accompanied by your Central Security Bureau detail at all times, they'll keep you out of trouble."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sun Feb 14, 2021 5:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Freistaat-Ostafrika
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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Feb 16, 2021 2:44 pm

24 November 2020
Shenzhen
Guangdong Province, Nanfang Republic

As the Nanfang Republic's leading technology hub, and home to the Ping An Finance Centre (the second tallest building in the Republic, behind the Shanghai Tower in Shanghai), Shenzhen was truly a city on the cutting edge of 'fashionable'. It was not unusual to see new construction projects popping up in the city's environs as corporations sought new buildings for their presence in Shenzhen despite the city already being home to over 283 completed skyscrapers. The city was also renowned as one of the Republic's best shopping locations thanks to the growth in popularity of 'smart retail', which uses technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data in production, circulation, and sales of consumer goods. It was not uncommon for Nanfaren celebrities and the nation's political upper class to frequent Shenzhen's innovative retail areas and shopping malls, and shops in the city had no shame in publicising visits by their more famous clientele as a marketing aid. Despite being home to the third-busiest container port throughout the entire Shenzhen Pact (behind Shanghai and Singapura), the city's biggest claim to fame was undoubtedly the fact that such an influential international organisation bore its name. Indeed, the headquarters of the Shenzhen Pact was located in Shenzhen, at the heart of Futian Central Business District. The government-owned Shenzhen Civic Centre had hosted the signing ceremony of the original Shenzhen Unity and Cooperation Treaty, and it had been decided that the building would become the organisation's headquarters in honour of this fact. Admittedly there were also other reasons, such as the fact that there was no way to build an appropriate headquarters for the Pact at the heart of Shenzhen without great cost and the demolition of several corporate headquarters skyscrapers, but these factors were understandably left off the official briefings when the announcement had been made. At almost eighty-five metres tall the Pact headquarters housed a vast array of offices for the organisation's dedicated bureaucracy, as well as other associated establishments such as cafeterias. It also housed a large conference hall with a capacity of two thousand five hundred attendees, but the most striking feature of the Pact headquarters was its roof, which spanned four hundred and eighty-six metres with a width of one hundred and fifty-four metres. The roof was meant to represent the wings of a mythical bird named Dapeng, the same creature which lent its name to the Dapeng District of Shenzhen and the nearby Dapeng Peninsula which was known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the Nanfang Republic. This had led to the more popular name for the building, the 'Dapeng Centre'.

The day before the anniversary celebrations saw Shenzhen buzzing as leaders from across the Pact flew into the city. This was primarily to give themselves plenty of time to rest before such an important occasion, but in some cases, it was to allow time to hit the city's retail areas, as oil-wealthy nobles and kleptocratic dictators (and their spouses, and their children) often had a weakness for spending their nation's wealth on high-end merchandise that was far out of the reach of their nation's regular citizenry. Due to the Republic's geographical size, there were no foreign embassies situated within proximity to Shenzhen so the visiting leaders had sourced their own accommodation in the city; the closest city with foreign representation was Guangzhou, but the representation was only in the form of consulates and there was no way that such facilities could house the dignitaries. As a result, the more opulent and palatial hotels in Shenzhen had received multiple bookings from the Pact member nations to accommodate the visiting leaders and their attendant entourages. If a full member nation possessed a head of state whose role was largely ceremonial then their head of government was to represent them at the anniversary celebrations otherwise, they would have their head of state in attendance. This was because there would inevitably be policy talk at some point during their visit and it, therefore, made sense to send someone responsible for policy decisions.

For the most part, the full members of the Shenzhen Pact each followed one of three historical paths: the colonial history of Portugal, the colonial history of the Kingdom of Apilonia, or the history of the Great Yue Kingdom. The Great Yue Kingdom had been overthrown in 1859 following a four-year civil war that had resulted from their defeat at the hands of the then-Republic of Layarteb, a defeat that had seen the Kingdom lose the island of Hainan to the Layartebians. The overthrow of the Kingdom had seen the establishment of the Nanfang Republic, while the monarchist loyalists fled to the tributary state of Singapura Raya as well as other nearby nations. The attempted Yue Restoration in 1887 saw the defeat of these monarchist remnants and Singapura Raya was subsequently occupied by the Republic until 'order was restored'; Singapura was granted independence in 1892 and became one of the Republic's staunchest allies. Often referred to as 'Little Nanfang', Singapura Raya's political system was identical to that of the Nanfang Republic, although Singapura's Constitutional Democrat Party was deeply connected with the Thrashing Dragons criminal syndicate that dominated the underworld of Southeast Asia. The overthrow of the Great Yue Kingdom had also released the tributary state of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya from its obligations. Ayutthaya's absolute monarchy eventually found themselves at the mercy of their own military, being forced to accept a degree of democracy in 1910 after a military coup against a particularly inept monarch. The Ayutthayan military conducted several 'interventions' over the following decades whenever they tired of the incumbent democratic government, until finally in 2014 the military simply overthrew yet another democratically elected government and installed themselves as the ruling administration. The monarchy at the time had welcomed the 'enforcement of stability' for a very strong reason. While the monarch no longer possessed any real political power, their word still carried weight with the general populace and so their public approval would lend further legitimacy to the military administration, and they had received assurances that the military would continue to respect the Royal Household's somewhat autonomous administration over the kingdom's ceremonial capital, also named Ayutthaya. Relations between the Nanfang Republic and the Ayutthayan military had always been cordial and mutually beneficial, so it was no real surprise that Ayutthaya had entered the Shenzhen Pact, especially as the Thrashing Dragons had used their own contacts in the Ayutthayan military to encourage such a move. In a demonstration of the civility and cordiality in the region, the Thrashing Dragons enjoyed an excellent working relationship with their counterparts in the southern Nanfang Republic, the Howling Devil-Tigers, with clearly defined spheres of influence and regular conferences to discuss matters of business.

The colonial history of Portugal had produced seven of the thirteen full members of the Shenzhen Pact, yet the size of the Nanfaren population meant that Portuguese was still a minority language when it came to calculating the number of primary speakers in the organisation. Six of these states were in Africa, where they formed a solid contiguous Lusophone bloc at the heart of the continent. All republics, the states of Gabon, Zaire, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Madagascar had fallen under regimes that had no compunction about rigging elections or pilfering public finances for their own ends, with varying degrees of success. Their post-independence histories had seen attempted coups and civil unrest that were inevitably put down when their fellow Lusophone republics intervened to ensure the victory of the incumbent regime; as such, they enjoyed excellent relations with each other. The seventh Lusophone full member of the Pact was the Kingdom of Travancore, located on the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent. Known for centuries as 'Portuguese India', Travancore had remained rather peaceful for their colonial masters and had found themselves in an advantageous position following independence in 1961, enjoying a continuing economic relationship with Portugal and often acting as something of a diplomatic bridge between the former motherland and the African republics. Of course, these seven nations did not encompass the entirety of the Lusophone world, just those Portuguese-speaking nations that had aligned themselves with the Nanfang Republic.

The colonial history of the Kingdom of Apilonia had produced two of the Pact's full members, both nations that bordered the Indian Ocean. The East African Federation had declared independence from Apilonia following a leftist revolution in 1948, and the EAF had subsequently started to cause trouble by attempting to spread the revolution to both their neighbours in Africa and other Apilonian colonial holdings nearby. The so-called 'Trucial States' in the southern Arabian Peninsula began agitating for independence as a result of EAF support for the ambitions of the semi-independent Sultanate of Oman, a situation that continued even after the Lusophone neighbours of the EAF cooperated to undermine the leftist regime and engineer a military usurpation in 1967. The Trucial States eventually united with the Sultanate of Oman to become the independent Unified Arab Sultanate in 1974. However, the UAS had been reorganised in 2019 to become the United Arab Emirates following a palace coup that overthrew the Sultan, creating a federal elective constitutional monarchy under the sway of the eight noble families that each ruled an emirate within the federation. Meanwhile, the East African Federation was a de facto one-party state thanks to the almost-symbiotic relationship between the EAF military and the ruling East African National Union (EANU) party. The EAF had drawn closer to their Lusophone neighbours over the years and was regarded as 'one of the club' while the UAE enjoyed close economic ties with the Kingdom of Travancore which provided the oil-rich Arab nation with an abundance of agricultural goods and migrant workers.

The one full member of the Pact that did not truly fit into any one of these three categories was the Republic of Nigeria. While Portuguese colonialism had played a part in the internal politics of the region that was now a nation known as the 'Giant of Africa' due to its large population and economy, Portugal never actually controlled the region but instead had willingly sold arms to various small kingdoms along what was now the Nigerian coast. In the 19th century, the rulers of larger kingdoms in the area sought out advisors from the colonial powers to modernise their own states, and so the territories successfully managed a careful balancing act between colonialism and independence. Eventually, the Federation of Nigeria was created in 1952 following a mediated peace accord between the major ethnicities of the region. The new nation began to carefully tread the waters of democracy but this fell by the wayside as corrupt political parties were overthrown by the military, who then paved the way for new elections only to end up overthrowing the democratically-elected government a few years later. Much as in Ayutthaya, the military had eventually given up all pretence and established the 'National Administration Directorate' in 2003, creating a technocratic government under military supervision. The Directorate's initial teething problems were resolved and the Republic of Nigeria was now experiencing constant economic growth, with the nation's influence in Africa on the rise.

As for the three nations that were about to receive observer membership within the Pact, two of them fell into the colonial history of Portugal while the third fell into the history of the Great Yue Kingdom. The Republic of Cameroon was another of the Lusophone states in Africa with a somewhat questionable regime, but they had been 'late to the party' due to the handover of power from the retiring Felipe Nmbega to his eldest son, Gabriel. Gabriel's first months as President of Cameroon had been marked by a dispute between himself and his brother Fernand, the Minister of External Relations, about whether Pact membership was right for Cameroon. The dispute had been resolved thanks to the personal intervention of their father who had smacked heads together and laid down the law, and so Cameroon had applied for membership. The Republic of Portugal was incredibly keen to join the Pact as the centre-left government of the Partido Socialista saw Pact membership as not only a way of enhancing Portuguese influence on the world stage, but also as a means to re-engage with the rest of the Lusophone world within an established framework that would eliminate any possible accusations of Portugal attempting to reassert control over their former colonies. Prime Minister Aurelio Cordeiro had put the prospect of Pact membership to a vote in the Assembly of the Republic and had won thanks to his party's majority in the unicameral legislature, making Portugal the only genuinely free democracy to seek membership of the Shenzhen Pact.

Finally, the state known as Tibet had once been in what was known as a 'priest-patron relationship' with the Great Yue Kingdom during Tibet's days of theocratic monarchism under the direct rule of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. The fall of the Kingdom and the establishment of the Nanfang Republic had seen Tibet take a step back from engaging with neighbouring nations, but the 20th century had seen that change. Still nominally ruled by the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, modern Tibet was no longer the theocratic monarchy of old due to the strong bureaucracy which had developed since 1751 to handle the mundane day-to-day affairs of governance. This bureaucracy had undergone extensive reforms between 1914 and 1950 due to the influence of Tsarong Dzasa, a Commander General of Tibet who acquired substantial power in the pursuit of modernisation and economic progression. Tsarong was influenced in this endeavour by his travels to nearby nations such as the Nanfang Republic and the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, particularly noting the Ayutthayan military's role in forcing democracy upon an inept absolute monarch in 1910. Tsarong believed that a strong military could be a suitable guiding force for a nation on the road to modernisation and that a modern Tibetan state would require a centralised military-based elite which could eliminate internal strife and remove unwarranted privileges from the likes of the aristocracy. By 1933 Tsarong was not only Commander-in-Chief of the Tibetan Army, but he was also Head of the Tibetan Mint and Armoury. His ideas began to gain traction in Tibetan society and he began to organise regular military parades in the major cities of the nation, with pride of place going to the soldiers known as 'Gurkhas'. Tibet had gone to war with the Kingdom of Gorkha in 1788 and successfully conquered the mountain kingdom with the help of Tibet's then-allies in the Great Yue Kingdom, but the fearless prowess of the Gorkhali soldiers had so impressed their new overlords that they were recruited into the Tibetan Army; over time they became known as 'Gurkhas'. In due course, the Gurkhas became one of Tibet's best-known exports as foreign powers were permitted to recruit Gurkhas for their militaries, and they assumed pride of place as the most elite fighters in the Tibetan Army. Tsarong found himself with a window of opportunity in 1933 when the 13th Dalai Lama died and a regency was declared while the search for his successor was undertaken. Parleying his gathered influence and military support, Tsarong ousted the appointed Regent and took the position for himself. This allowed him to appoint a new Prime Minister as well as removing any obstructive members of the Kashag, the governing council of the nation. With the governance of the nation consolidated under his supporters and the general populace behind him after a crackdown on bandit groups, Tsarong instituted wide-ranging reforms in Tibet. Serfdom was abolished, the monastic educational institutions were opened to laypeople, and education was opened up to females as well as males. Cooperation with neighbouring nations was improved and the nation's industrial base began to grow, albeit slowly. Now ruled by Tsarong Dzasa's great-grandson, Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong, Tibet was joining the Shenzhen Pact out of pure national self-interest, seeking investment and expertise from the members of the Pact while maintaining whatever distance they could.

Under different leadership, the Shenzhen Pact would undoubtedly be an exercise in 'herding cats', to use an expression much loved by Yang Zhihao. However, the Nanfang Republic was simply too large, too wealthy, and too militarily powerful to be ignored when they spoke. It was, therefore, no surprise that the organisation's charter had been signed in the Republic, its headquarters was located in the Republic, and the first Secretary-General of the Pact was Duan Shen, a fifty-eight-year-old and formerly the Republic's ambassador to the Empire of Layarteb. For all of the official talk of equality between the full members of the Shenzhen Pact, it was clear to any observer that the Nanfang Republic pretty much owned the organisation.

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The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Wed Feb 17, 2021 3:02 pm

Sir William K. Ecclestone, KCG
The Commonwealth Club, Royal District of Bainbridge
Duchy of Washington, Kingdom of Apilonia
Monday 23rd November 2020, 2100hrs Local Time




The Commonwealth Club, until recently the Empire Club, was one of the oldest social clubs within the Kingdom of Apilonia. Unlike most of the traditional gentlemen’s clubs within the Kingdom, which were highly selective in their membership by political affiliation, particular skills in the sciences or medicine, or service as an officer in His Majesty’s Forces, membership of the Empire Club had been open to anyone who had held a position of responsibility in the King’s name on colonial service. This had included those that would not normally be considered gentlemen, but had distinguished themselves and been granted the perquisites responsibility, making the Empire Club historically one of the more egalitarian clubs in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Empire Club had been thrown into deep mourning by the 1950s however, as it became clear that Apilonia’s colonial empire was on the decline and that it would only be a matter of time before the Club became essentially irrelevant, as there would be far too few members who could meet the original requirements; service to the Crown in the Empire. As a result, by the 1980s, the club had expanded its membership to include all those with an interest in the heritage and history of the Empire, as a means by which to keep the club alive.

The foundation of the Apilonian Commonwealth had been a much-needed turning of the tide as far as the club was concerned, and by the time the Treaty of Cape Town was signed it was quickly decided that the Empire Club would be renamed the Commonwealth Club and it’s membership would be open to all those that served the Commonwealth, whether from Apilonia itself or from any of the present or future Commonwealth realms. Given the club’s history and reputation, it had quickly attracted a great deal of attention and interest from those from across the Commonwealth that would be flocking to Seattle and the Royal District of Bainbridge to serve as part of the Commonwealth Secretariat, it’s executive body that was already in the process of being established that would tasked with overseeing the administration of the various Commonwealth Agreements that stood at the centre of the organisation. The reason that the Club was attracting attention was much for the same reason as similar clubs always had for their members; the standard of accommodation and social interaction that was available to them as members; with the membership fees (whilst not substantial) being significantly less than a hotel room, or indeed renting or buying a property, for use whilst working at the Secretariat.

In the three weeks that had passed since the Commonwealth had officially been established, the Club had also quickly become a popular meeting place for Commonwealth diplomats and officials. Not the least of whom was the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General himself, Sir William K. Ecclestone, who being a native of the Duchy of Ontario, and a veteran of His Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, only had a small property outside of Toronto, which was far too far to commute daily to Seattle and the Royal District, only going home for weekends. Whilst there was talk in Parliament of extending a grace-and-favour residence to the Secretary-General, this required an Act of Parliament which was working its way through the system, so the Commonwealth Club would suffice in the meantime. It also had the added bonus of making the Secretary-General accessible to the various Commonwealth diplomats and officers in the critical opening weeks of the organisation’s existence, and this was in no way a bad thing.

To facilitate this, Sir William had taken to spending his evenings in one of a number of reading rooms off the main saloon, whilst completing a veritable mountain of paperwork and reading critical reports, and let it be known that he was available there to all comers, so long as they came with something worthwhile to discuss. As with the rest of the Club’s interior, the reading room was both ornate and cosy; holding one of a number of fireplaces providing a luxurious retreat against the cold winter weather that had taken hold outside. Despite the warmth of his environment, Sir William’s expression was grim and he could not help but feel a chill as he ready a report on the deteriorating situation in Yugoslavia. The nascent Commonwealth had found itself involved in the conflict in the Balkans after the Socialist Republic of Hungary, a constituent republic of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, had declared its intention to secede and join the Archduchy of Austria, a Commonwealth realm with which it had extensive historic ties. The Yugoslavians, doubtless determined not to appear weak, had launched an attack against Austria which, under the Treaty of Cape Town, constituted an attack on the Commonwealth as a whole. It had quickly become apparent that it was essential to respond quickly and decisively to the challenge to the Commonwealth’s protection and unity.

From a purely military perspective the campaign was going excellently; Austrian forces had advanced deep into Bosnia and were approaching Sarajevo, whilst Apilonian and Commonwealth forces had landed in Albania and forced the capitulation of that constituent republic. However, the Serbs, who stood to lose the most if Yugoslavia collapsed, viewed the capitulations by its erstwhile partners as a betrayal and angry civil unrest had escalated into semi-organised violence that was one order away from becoming atrocities. The Commonwealth was scrambling to intervene, which was by no means easy as it would mean advancing troops fast faster than even the optimistic military situation allowed, but could not be avoided as the Commonwealth could not allow such atrocities to be the legacy of its first intervention. Whilst it was certainly true that this kind of violence along ethnic lines had been growing within Yugoslavia even before the conflict, the optics of such an outcome would likely not care for such nuance, and no one wanted unnecessary civilian deaths on their conscience.

“Do you have a moment, Sir William?”

Sir William glanced up from the report he was reading at the sound of the cultured voice of Andile Malinga, High Commissioner of the Union of South Africa to the Commonwealth, and smiled warmly. Although officially speaking the voice of each of the member-states was throughly there constituent heads of state or government, and primarily heard at the annual Commonwealth Conference, it had been recognised that there would be a need for each member-state to have a day-to-day representative to the Commonwealth in the same manner as an Ambassador; which had given rise to the position of High Commissioner, ranking as an Ambassador these individuals spoke with the same authority. In any event, Sir William and Malinga had worked closely during the former’s time as His Majesty’s Ambassador to the Union with the latter serving a s senior official in the Union’s foreign ministry.

“Of course, Andi,” Sir William nodded, placing the report down on a side table and gesturing to another of the comfortable armchairs arrayed around the fireplace. “Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you,” Malinga smiled, settling into the seat. “How are Sarah and the children?”

“They’re doing well enough, settling back into the Toronto house… I suspect the children will much prefer the stability of staying in one place; as it seems unlikely that I’ll be dragging them around the world, even once I’m finished as Secretary-General,” Sir William replied wryly. “Jonathan and Amelia are both off to university of course in the next few years, so we might have to start dealing with an empty nest, but I’ll be kept busy with the Commonwealth and I’m sure Sarah will pick something up to keep herself entertained now we’re home.”

“Understandable, it’s a difficult life for our loved ones,” Malinga agreed sagely. “Is Jonathan still intending to join the Apilonian Army?”

“Yes indeed, he very much enjoyed his time at the Army Foundation College, Roswell, over the past few years, and he passed the military foundation syllabus, so he has an appointment at Kingston waiting for him,” Sir William replied with a found, proud smile, as he considered his son whom he had mostly seen over the summer and at half-term, given that he had been a cadet at Roswell. “Amelia is firmly going for university next fall, then she’s torn between the diplomatic service like her old man, or potentially a career in the Navy, as you know she’s an avid sailor so a life at sea is appealing, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see… how is your family, my old friend?”

“Well enough, although I don’t think my wife is pleased that I’ll be spending half my time halfway around the world,” Malinga replied with a laugh. “Fortunately my children are all grown up, so they’re all doing their own thing, so I think she’s just a little lonely!”

“Understandable, those of us who choose this life do ask a lot of our loved ones,” Sir William nodded sagely. “So, what’s on your mind, Andi?”

“The Pact,” Malinga replied simply.

“Ah,” Sir William grimaced. “Anything in particular?”

The Shenzhen Pact was the closest thing that Apilonia, and by now the Commonwealth as a whole, had to a real rival. After all, the Kingdom was close friends with the Layartebians and the Cottish, and was friendly enough with the British, leaving the Pact, and in particular the Nanfang Republic. The fact that the Pact was particularly prominent in regions that Apilonian foreign policy considered particularly critical, most notably the Pacific and Indian Oceans and their respective coastal states, only highlighted this. It had been a longstanding imperative for His Majesty’s Forces to maintain naval dominance over the Pacific Ocean, and to a lesser extent the Indian Ocean, as well as a sizeable naval presence more generally over the world, due to both the presence of Apilonian territorial possessions and the volume of trade that plied the world’s shipping lanes. Much like the Cottish, Apilonia had long maintained a policy of responding decisively to any attack upon its shipping or any infringement of their right of innocent passage. Although Nanfang did not seem to be attempting to infringe upon Apilonian naval strength in the Pacific, the distribution of the membership of the Pact certainly made it likely that they would see the Indian Ocean of being of particular importance

This had been unfortunate enough, as it seemed likely to conflict with Apilonian interests in the region, however the foundation of the Commonwealth only heightened the stakes of the competing interests. Although it seemed likely that, in the short term at least, new Commonwealth membership would be forthcoming in Europe, a full half of all Commonwealth realms were firmly located around the rim of the Indian Ocean; the Emirate of East Africa and the Union of South Africa… which was doubtless what High Commissioner Malinga wanted to discuss. Of all of the Commonwealth’s founding member-states, South Africa was undoubtedly the most isolated and the most at risk should compering interests with the Shenzhen Pact turn into anything more. Already the majority of its trade had been via the sea, and that was only likely to increase as the Commonwealth Single Market was established and made trade with other Commonwealth realms more profitable and much simpler, which meant that securing the sea lanes of communication to and from the Union was essential to say the least. This was without even considering the fact that the Union’s strategic situation on land was any better, facing an extensive land border entirely against Pact member-states, and whilst their militaries were not to the same calibre they were easy and obvious staging grounds if Nanfang decided to get involved, whose military was far more of a concern.

The fact that it had been the influence of a Pact member, the East African Federation, and its leftist revolution that had resulted in it gaining its independence from Apilonia, that had started the dominoes falling as far as much of Apilonia’s colonial empire did little to ingratiate the Pact as a whole as far as the Kingdom was concerned. At the same time, Nanfang was a key part of the world economy, as was Apilonia, and the simple fact of the matter was that any actual conflict (or even a trade war) between the two would be disastrous for all involved and had to be avoided at all costs. Nevertheless, the Pact as a whole, and it’s less than reputable membership, could not simply be ignored. Not could the legitimate geopolitical and national security concerns of a Commonwealth realm could not be ignored either.

“President Mulder, and indeed both Congressional defence select committees for that matter, are concerned that the continued spread of Shenzhen Pact membership across Africa poses a potential risk to our maritime trade routes in the event of a conflict,” Malinga explained after a moment. “As a result, in addition to the presence of Commonwealth Standing Maritime Group Four, South Africa would be most grateful if the Royal Navy were to reestablish the position of Flag Officer, South Atlantic, based out of Simonstown.”

Sir William raised an eyebrow; the Eastern Fleet of the Royal Navy already provided a fairly significant naval force in the Indian Ocean, but the Atlantic Fleet was comparatively limited. Requesting the reinstatement of the old position of Flag Officer, South Atlantic, would bring at least half a dozen extra ships into the area and provide a naval counterbalance to Pact member-states on the western coast of Africa. It certainly made sense; there was little point in developing intra-commonwealth trade if potential foes could cut it off at the outbreak of any conflict, or indeed any hostility. Moreover, the presence of a Royal Navy squadron in South Africa, almost certainly with other Commonwealth warships joining it, would be a very clear gesture of Apilonia’s, and the Commonwealth’s, commitment to the collective defence.

“I doubt that will be an issue, I know that the Navy had been concerned about its ability to protect trade around the Cape in the absence of a forward naval base in the Union, so they’ll doubtless be more than happy to comply with that request,” Sir William commented. “However, I’m surprised that you’ve not just made the request to the Admiralty through the normal channels, I doubt they need any inducement to do as you request… why bring it to me first?”

“I know that we’re only just starting out here, and still working out exactly how this is all going to work, but to me it seems that this ought to be something that should be considered by the Commonwealth as a whole, or at least be brought into the loop on,” Malinga replied. “It occurs to me, and President Mulder, that the Common Defence Policy ought to concern itself with all such matters, not just those that fall under the immediate operational jurisdiction of Commonwealth Defence Command… it would all be of concern in wartime, so why not keep it simple and do the same in peacetime.”

“You make a fair point, it gives the common policy something of a wider remit than we had in mind originally, and may very well lead to changes on other common policies, but it definitely has its advantages in more than a few fields I can think of,” Sir William nodded thoughtfully. “I suppose we have the enviable position, as the founding members, to largely determine precisely how we interpret the Treaty of Cape Town, if there is appetite for closer integration across the board than the text of the treaty stipulates, I see no reason to stand in its way.”

“I’ll discuss the matter with my colleagues from East Africa and Austria, as well as Dame Stephanie, to ensure we’re all on the same page, I suspect we’ll be having plenty of these conversations over the next few months, turning text into action is no mean feat,” Malinga smiled wryly. “I hope you didn’t expect leading the Secretariat would be a cushy position, we’re going to be the ones doing all the heavy lifting, whilst our political leadership go and parade themselves in front of the cameras for the Commonwealth Conferences.”

Sir William chuckled.

“My friend, I must tell you I almost turned the position down, because I knew it would be like this, as we turn broad politics into specific policy, which you know as well as I do is easier said than done,” He smiled. “However, when the King himself asks you to take the position, well, as you may already be aware, His Majesty does not always play fair.”

Malinga smiled.

“What what it’s worth, William, I can’t think of anyone better suited for being the inaugural holder of the position,” He said firmly, the genuineness obvious. “Whoever held the position sets the standard by which all successors are judged, I know you’ll set a high one.”

“I appreciate your confidence, my friend,” Sir William smiled fondly.

“It is well placed, I’m sure,” Malinga replied, then frowned. “Talking of the Pact… are we sending anyone to their anniversary ceremony?”

“No,” Sir William shook his head with a sigh. “We’ve not been invited, either collectively or individually.”

“Really?” Malinga frowned. “An oversight perhaps?”

“Difficult to tell; I don’t think they were tremendously impressed that we stole some of their thunder by founding our Commonwealth shortly before the university of their own foundation,” Sir William replied wryly. “There’s been little else on most newscasts, both inside Commonwealth realms and on most other global channels, other than the foundation and early development of the Commonwealth… unlikely to be what they had in mind for their first anniversary.”

“Probably not,” Malinga agreed with a laugh.

“I’ve talked it over with His Majesty, and the Prime Minister, and we’re inclined to hold off on any major announcements of policy initiatives for the duration of their festivities,” Sir William explained, with a sigh. “It’s not ideal, as there are plenty of policies that we’d quite like to announce, and dozens of major appointments and initiatives ready for public consumption, but we can afford to hold off to try and smooth any ruffled feathers.”

“A sensible precaution,” Malinga nodded, leaning back in his chair. “Changing subject, whilst I have you I wanted to discuss the implementation of the single market…”
The Kingdom of Apilonia
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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Feb 20, 2021 5:47 pm

24 November 2020, 19:50hrs [UTC+8]
Yang Family Villa, OCT East
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

Located in the Yantian District of Shenzhen which was positioned on the Shenzhen River and adjacent to the autonomous port city of Hēunggóng, OCT East (Overseas Chinese Town East) was a major ecological resort that covered an area of almost 3.5 square miles. OCT East was divided into three theme parks: Knight Valley, Tea Stream Resort Valley, and Wind Valley. Alongside eight hotels and a Buddhist temple among other amenities in the resort area, there were several mansions and villas primarily used by vacationers, and one of the riverside villas was the unofficial Presidential residence in Shenzhen. With space at a premium in the city and no desire for the potential security complications that could arise from residing in one of the many high-rise apartment buildings, the Yang family had acquired a five-bedroom villa in OCT East as a vacation home; the Central Security Bureau had then acquired the neighbouring villas either side of the Yang villa to act as living quarters and surveillance stations for the personnel tasked with protecting President Yang and her family. Approximately an hour's drive from Futian Central Business District, the 222-square metre property also featured five bathrooms, two living rooms, and an outdoor swimming pool. With the Shenzhen Pact first anniversary celebrations taking place the next day, President Yang was carefully going over the list of notable attendees with her husband and son. President Yang and Jiawei were sat on a comfortable brown faux-leather sofa together while Zhihao stood a few feet away, looking out at the pleasant view while sipping at a drink. Joining the family at this time was Colonel Liu Bai, an experienced officer of the Central Security Bureau who headed the Presidential detail and was currently providing the President with the latest information on the attendees.

"So as of right now, Madam President, all of the notable attendees have arrived and are settled into their accommodations. When it comes to Pact leaders, we have eleven Presidents, one Maharajah, one Regent, one Prime Minister, and one Marshal, as well as spouses and other close family members. They are quite evenly distributed between the Shenzhen Marriott Nanshan, the Hyatt Regency Shenzhen Yantian, the Sheraton Shenzhen Nanshan, and the Shenzhen Nanshan L'Hermitage. Thankfully their security details have been highly cooperative and we are receiving real-time updates whenever one of their charges decides to head off somewhere." The forty-three-year-old chuckled to himself. "There's been a lot of retail therapy already."

President Yang responded with a smirk of her own. "Nothing wrong with a boost for Shenzhen's retail sector. So are any of them up to anything tonight that I should be aware of? I've spoken to all of them via video call but some of them are likely to go exploring."

"No plans as far as we are aware, Madam President. We've also received details of the other major representatives who will be present. If you'll turn your attention to your tablet."

President Yang tapped the touchscreen of her tablet as Colonel Liu swiped on his own, sharing the information that he was looking at as he continued. "Representing the Empire of Layarteb is Marcy Denon, we have extensive experience with them and so we're fine on that front. Representing the United Empire is Akihiro Watanabe-"

"Ah yes, I know him." Yang smiled. "Always very smart and respectful, precisely what you would expect from a United Empire trade representative. Who did the Realm of Cotland send?"

"Karl Søderhjem, forty-five and a member of their diplomatic corps."

"Excellent, good to see." While the Shenzhen Pact was primarily designed to provide a vehicle and framework for the Nanfang Republic's neo-colonialist ambitions, the organisation had attracted the interest of nations who were global powers in their own right. These nations would never be targets of Nanfaren ambition due to either their national strength or existing excellent relations with the Republic (or more likely both), and the Republic was extremely happy to have these powers as friends and/or partners depending on the relationship involved. The Empire of Layarteb was one of the preeminent global powers, with its heartlands located in the Americas and various territories distributed around the world. Some of these territories were located close to the full members of the Shenzhen Pact, and so the Empire had joined the Pact as an observer member out of economic self-interest and security interests. The United Empire was located to the north of the Nanfang Republic, covering territories such as Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and Greater Manchuria. Relations between the Republic and the United Empire were warm and friendly due to a mutual interest in maintaining the stability of East Asia, and the healthy trading relationship between the two powers had seen the United Empire join the Pact as an observer member. Finally, the Realm of Cotland was located in Northern Europe, having expanded eastwards from Scandinavia. Renowned for their attitude towards free trade, Cotland was viewed by the Nanfang Republic as their 'key strategic partner in Northern and Eastern Europe'. Several of the smaller full members of the Pact, who could not afford to maintain large merchant navies, used Cottish-flagged vessels and so there was a healthy economic relationship in existence between the Pact and the Realm. Cotland had thus far refrained from seeking observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact but in all honesty, there was no real need for them to join at this time.

While other global powers had not received an invitation for the simple reason that they did not enjoy a relationship with the Pact as close as that of the three already described, one particular organisation of nations had consciously not been invited. While there was no open animosity expressed towards the Kingdom of Apilonia and the other members of the Apilonian Commonwealth by the Nanfang Republic, other members of the Pact had enjoyed a less-than-amicable relationship with the North American kingdom in their history. There had also been a quietly-held feeling of resentment towards the Apilonian Commonwealth due to what Nanjing viewed as 'blatant disrespect', as the organisation had been founded at the start of the very month of the Pact's first anniversary. While it was highly unlikely that anything would ever be said publicly, the Republic's opinion was that such 'thunder stealing' had been completely deliberate on Apilonia's part and only served to demonstrate the Kingdom's disdain for the Nanfaren nation. A disdain that would be remembered, if not necessarily openly responded to.

The Nanfaren President continued going over a variety of details with Colonel Liu before broaching a new matter, raising her voice slightly so that Zhihao could not help but hear her. "Now let's discuss arrangements for this Oumún excursion that my son and his friends have planned."

Zhihao turned to look at the three older individuals, taking another sip of his cola-and-coconut-rum before interjecting. "You make it sound like we're in school."

President Yang raised an eyebrow at him. "I thought you might like to know who's been assigned to your security detail for tomorrow."

Zhihao sighed and rolled his eyes like a petulant teenager. "You do realise that I'm going to be the only one there with a chaperone, no-one else is taking a security detail. We'll be at the Venetian Oumún, in a private room complete with our own bar and gaming tables, bouncers on the door to keep people out. Nevermind the rest of the casino security. It'll be fine."

"I see." Yang sighed slightly. "Colonel, who did you assign to my son's security detail for tomorrow?"

"Sergeant Song Cheol-jin, Madam President. He's completed his two-month discretionary period without putting a foot wrong and so, in my opinion, tomorrow would be an excellent opportunity for his first solo assignment. As your son has just said, it's unlikely that there would be any genuine security threat in Oumún's largest casino. Sergeant Song seemed more than happy to take on the assignment."

Zhihao perked up at the mention of the sergeant. "The new guy? I suppose it would be unfair of me to deny him the opportunity for his first solo assignment, wouldn't it?" He did his best to mask his glee with an air of nonchalance. "If you've already assigned him then I suppose it's okay."

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

24 November 2020, 20:30hrs [UTC+8]
CSB Villa, OCT East
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

Sergeant Song Cheol-jin sat in a comfortable armchair in his assigned bedroom as he perused the intelligence on his upcoming assignment, tapping at his tablet to move onto the next piece of information. The newest CSB member assigned to the Presidential family's detail, Cheol-jin was twenty-nine and a member of the Republic's relatively small Korean community that primarily resided in major port cities such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. Cheol-jin had served for eight years in the Nanfaren Navy Marine Corps before successfully applying to the Central Security Bureau a year ago, which recruited its membership from the Nanfaren military's elite units. The retirement of a member of the Presidential detail had required Colonel Liu to find a suitable replacement, and Cheol-jin's record impressed the colonel sufficiently to earn the spot. According to established protocols, he had spent his first two months in the position assigned to a more experienced CSB officer to ensure that he mastered the duties expected of him as a member of the Presidential detail; while he was happy to receive his first solo assignment, he had not expected his first solo assignment to be quite what he'd been given. There was a knock at the door that heralded the entry of Lieutenant Shi Bohai, Cheol-jin's partner up to this point. The thirty-four-year-old grinned as he gestured towards the tablet.

"Interesting reading?"

"You're laughing, but this is serious. I need to know about the people going to this princeling thing in case any of them are troublemakers." Cheol-jin gestured towards the screen. "If any of the African princelings start a fight then I'd have to step in, after all."

Lieutenant Shi laughed and shook his head. "I'd be less worried about the Africans and more worried about Yang Zhihao. If he gets too drunk then you're the one who has to cut off his drinks, and you're the one who'll have to make sure he doesn't get himself into any trouble. It's more babysitting duty than bodyguard duty."

"He's not so bad, he's always smiling when I see him."

"Rumour is that he likes you, he's probably always smiling when you see him because he's seen you."

Cheol-jin pointed at the open door. "Get out and stop distracting me."

Shi crossed his arms and remained where he was, a mischievous glint in his eye. "Get out and stop distracting me...?"

Cheol-jin blinked slowly. "Get out and stop distracting me, sir."

"Very well, Sergeant. Make sure you get a good night's sleep, you're going to need it."

Cheol-jin scowled and hurled a cushion at Shi as the lieutenant retreated out of the bedroom, chuckling as he pulled the door closed once again.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Mar 02, 2021 2:54 pm

25 November 2020, 10:10hrs [UTC+8]
Yang Family Villa, OCT East
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

"Right, we're going now. Have you got everything you need?"

Yang Zhihao looked up from his smartphone as his mother finished speaking, nodding in response. The day of the Shenzhen Pact's first anniversary had finally arrived and there were several events scheduled throughout the day to commemorate the milestone reached by the organisation. The Nanfaren media's morning broadcasts were focused completely on the Pact and what it had achieved, as well as speculation regarding potential announcements that were to be made that evening. Well, more like 'speculation', as the media had already been briefed on what was to be announced. The first scheduled event of the day was a luncheon to be attended by the representatives of the Pact member nations and the three nations that were to be inducted as observer members later in the day, with a concurrent luncheon for the spouses and/or partners of the representatives; President Yang Mingshu would host the representative luncheon while Yang Jiawei would host the luncheon for partners and spouses. There had of course been plenty of time permitted before the luncheons for any representatives to meet with President Yang for the usual photo opportunities and 'constructive conversations', and this was why she was heading into the centre of Shenzhen relatively early. She was dressed in a stylish black pantsuit with her dark brown hair styled to hang down to her shoulders, while her husband was dressed in a typical black business-style suit. As he had no official engagements whatsoever and his only real plans for the day centred on the evening's trip to Oumún with the other princelings, Zhihao was still lounging around in his sleepwear, which consisted of a short-sleeved red silk v-necked pyjama top and a pair of matching pyjama shorts.

"Yeah, got everything. Oh, when's the sergeant coming round? I need to go over the details for tonight."

President Yang smirked slightly at the speed with which Sergeant Song had been brought up in conversation. "Most of the security detail will be coming with us so he'll be taking over your protection as soon as we leave. Try not to harass him too much, and don't put him in any awkward situations."

Zhihao waved his hand dismissively. "It'll be fine, you know me."

"Yes, I do know you. That's why I'm saying it."

Zhihao replied with a particularly smug grin that quickly disappeared as the doorbell rang. Yang Jiawei opened the front door of the villa and was greeted by Colonel Liu, who was dressed in the CSB's security detail uniform of a black suit and security earpiece; just behind him stood Song Cheol-jin in identical clothing. The two CSB members entered the villa and Colonel Liu began talking with President Yang and her husband, while Cheol-jin began casting his gaze around the immediate surroundings. As he looked over to the nearby lounge area, Cheol-jin could not help but notice Zhihao stretched out on one of the couches on his stomach, kicking his bare feet in the air as he intently tapped away on his smartphone. In a completely deliberate move, Zhihao 'casually' looked up from his phone and offered a friendly smile towards the sergeant, adding an understated wave with his right hand. Not wanting to appear rude, Cheol-jin acknowledged him with a smile and a polite nod of the head.

"Alright then Sergeant, we're going to make our way to the Pact headquarters. There will be two security personnel in each of the two neighbouring villas maintaining surveillance, so if you need assistance then just contact them."

Cheol-jin turned his attention back to Colonel Liu as his superior addressed him. "Understood, sir." He then stood to one side as President Yang and Jiawei said their goodbyes to Zhihao and left the villa, escorted by Colonel Liu. Cheol-jin had barely closed the front door before he heard the President's son speak up.

"So is it true that you were in the Marines? That's so awesome, I bet you could cripple a guy with one hand."

Unable to suppress a chuckle as he turned and crossed the distance to the lounge area, Cheol-jin realised that perhaps Lieutenant Shi had been onto something the night before. "Maybe with both hands, but I'd need a reason to do it."

Zhihao appeared to be suitably impressed as he gestured towards the couch closest to his own. "Sit down, relax for a bit. I'm not going anywhere for a while." As Cheol-jin took a seat, Zhihao carried on. "So...if someone tried to rush at me or something, would that be a good enough reason or would you just tackle them?"

"Depends if they fought back. I could be wrong, but it almost sounds like you want to see me cripple someone."

Cheol-jin's comment earned a slight mischievous giggle as Zhihao put down his phone and shifted position on the couch that he occupied, now stretching out fully on his left side and resting his head on the arm of the couch so that he could properly pay attention to his minder. "Just curious about the guy who's accompanying me to Oumún later on. What have you been told about tonight?"

"You're having a party at the Venetian Oumún. The attendees will be the sons and daughters of prominent figures from our nation and several nations in Africa. I've gone over the list of attendees already but you probably know more about them than I ever will, so at some point before tonight I'd like to go through them with you. I also saw that you're getting to Oumún via helicopter, one of the Presidential air fleet I'm guessing?"

Zhihao cocked an eyebrow and smiled at Cheol-jin's questioning. "Very thorough, I like it. We'll be travelling in NP-7, Mum insisted that I not travel by road or ferry so she ordered one of the Presidential helicopters to be available. Technically I am hosting foreigners of status so you could say it's a diplomatic event, which fully justifies using NP-7. It'll just be me, you, and the pilot using NP-7 though, everyone else is making their own way there. Meiling will be at the Venetian first to greet the Young Lions and escort them to the private room. The rest of us will then arrive a bit later."

"So that's Liao Meiling, daughter of Minister for Culture Liao Wenyan?"

"Bingo, she's one of my best friends. She pulled some family strings so we're getting the full VIP treatment at the Venetian, only fitting for a Tier One princeling event." Zhihao noticed Cheol-jin's quizzical expression and explained the term. "Princeling culture has several tiers. I'm at the top of Tier One, and Cabinet of Ministers princelings then form the rest of that tier. Tier Two is comprised of national-level military and civil service princelings. Tier Three is then comprised of gubernatorial princelings at the top and provincial cabinet princelings forming the rest of that tier, along with province-level military and civil service princelings. Then we have Tier Four, which is comprised of mayoral princelings and local official princelings."

"Huh, I see. What about celebrities and business people? Do they have princelings that fit in somewhere or are they separate?"

"Mostly separate. They can be freely invited to events and they often look for invitations because making the right connections can open a lot of doors for them, but they don't count as proper princelings. So right now, you're talking to the pinnacle of the princeling pyramid."

The corners of Cheol-jin's mouth twitched slightly with amusement as he took the measure of the President's son, realising that some informality might well be appreciated and make him easier to handle if the situation required it. "So do I bow to you, then? Since you're atop the pyramid."

"Cheeky." Zhihao grinned as Cheol-jin was proving to be more amiable with him than the rest of the security detail personnel. "So anyway, the rest of the Nanfaren princelings will meet me and you at the airport, then we'll drive to the Venetian. It's only about four or five minutes by car, and we've got limousines booked. Meiling strikes again." He paused for a moment while he cast his eyes up and down Cheol-jin, causing the former marine to shift slightly in his seat. "Have you got a tuxedo or something formal that you could wear tonight? There's nothing wrong with your CSB suit but the rest of the guys are going to be in tuxedos and it would be great if you matched the rest of us."

"I can't say that I do, sorry."

Zhihao quickly clambered to his feet with a sudden expression of determination. "Right. I'll grab a shower and get changed, then we're going shopping."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Fri Mar 05, 2021 1:55 pm

25 November 2020, 18:00hrs [UTC+8]
Shenzhen Pact Headquarters
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

While the regular citizens of Shenzhen had been treated to a variety of open-air cultural shows featuring performers from the various member nations of the Pact, and the city itself was awash with displays and exhibitions designed to promote awareness of the Nanfang Republic's allies, the most important events of the anniversary had been taking place within the organisation's headquarters. The luncheons had proceeded without any issues, and copies of the menus from both events were included as a component of the official commemorative gift sets that had been made available for purchase in retail sites across the city for the anniversary day. Sales of the gift sets were doing rather well even by the Nanfaren government's hopes, as the people of Shenzhen evidently had an interest in the organisation that bore their city's name, and so it had been decided that there would be further rollout and distribution of the sets to make them available to the wider population of the Pact. The luncheons had been followed by an extensively televised tour of the headquarters as Secretary-General Duan Shen escorted the national leaders around the facility, showing them the latest upgrades and additions that had been made. In all honesty, many of the leaders of the full member nations allowed their minds to wander during the tour as they had no real interest in the inner workings of the organisation's headquarters, but they kept up appearances as President Yang was genuinely interested and they couldn't be seen to be bored in case it was taken to be disrespectful of their hosts. Given the Republic's status within the Pact as well as their economic and military power, none of the Pact's full members wanted to risk losing out on any benefits of membership that could be quietly revoked by Nanjing. Once the tour had ended, the leaders and representatives had the opportunity to disperse for refreshments and hold any number of off-the-record conversations before the next phase of the activities; while this was going, the media coverage shifted focus to the various events taking place elsewhere in the city. The Nanfaren news networks were particularly in their element as they brought in numerous experts to tout the benefits that the Pact had brought to its members thus far, as well as the benefits that were to be brought into effect at midnight.

The anniversary was not only being used as a public relations and propaganda opportunity, as it was also the day of inauguration for several new organs of the organisation. Under the charter of the organisation, all of these new agencies and endeavours were compulsory for full members and optional for observer members; the trade-off being that full members got to vote on the terms and conditions of such things while observer members enjoyed no such privilege. The first, and most significant, of these, was the Unified Free Trade Area (UFTA). It had been something of an inevitability that the Nanfang Republic would seek to establish an organisation-wide free trade agreement as economic ambitions had been one of the reasons for the Pact's creation. The Unified Free Trade Area would create a massive tariff-free market for Nanfaren products and make it easier for the Republic to acquire the natural resources necessary to continue powering its formidable economic growth. Of course, it would also make it easier for other members of the Pact to trade with one another, but that was of secondary importance to the Nanfaren government when compared to the economic benefits to the Republic. The second new organ of the Pact was to be the Unified Anti-Terrorist Structure (or UATS). A subsidiary agency that would be administered by an appointed representative, the UATS would encourage cooperation between the organisation's members regarding the fight against terrorism, separatism, and extremism. In order to achieve this, the UATS would draw upon the intelligence services of contributing nations to pool intelligence and develop joint operations. As the Pact's leaders seemed to be enamoured of the slogan 'Stability, Security, and Prosperity', it was unsurprising that the organisation would have an agency dedicated to fighting three elements that would threaten the stability, security, and prosperity of its members. The third new venture was the Unified Interbank Consortium (UIC), a partnership between investment and development banks from the member nations. The UIC would be tasked with organising funding for investment projects within the Pact, as well as enhancing interaction and cooperation with the financial institutions of those Pact members who were a part of it. The fourth and final new organ of the Shenzhen Pact was to be the Unified Science and Research Forum (USRF). The USRF's remit was to encourage and build upon scientific and research cooperation within the Pact, to foster a strong scientific base that less wealthy nations could participate in and benefit from. All of these new organs would be coming into existence as of midnight, following several months of preparation, negotiation, and laying down frameworks.

The evening of the 25th November would see the treaty signing ceremony held in the conference hall of the headquarters building, before an audience that filled every seat of the 2,500-capacity hall. Comprised of media representatives from around the world, guests of the national representatives, and a large number of the civil servants who worked within the building, the audience gave a warm welcome to every national representative who strode out onto the stage that faced the bustling throng. Secretary-General Duan Shen was first out to a round of applause, bearing a broad smile as he waved happily to the assembled audience. The representatives of the full members took to the stage next, according to the order of nations as you travelled westwards from the Nanfang Republic. President Yang was the first to emerge, followed by Marshal Dusit Tangwongsan of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and then President Najwan Wakiman of Singapura Raya. The ever-casual Maharajah Rama Varma VII was attending on behalf of the Kingdom of Travancore, while Emir Murad bin Zayed Al Nahyan represented the United Arab Emirates in his capacity as President. Next came the African leaders: President Santiago Miadana of Madagascar; President Armando dos Santos of Mozambique; President William Nderitu of the East African Federation; President Afonso Tembo of Zambia; President Rodrigo Vicente of Angola; President Adalberto Gizenga of Zaire; President Gaspar Andjembé of Gabon; and finally, President Zakari Akinrinade of Nigeria. Marcy Denon of the Empire of Layarteb and Akihiro Watanabe of the United Empire were invited onto the stage next, and once the representatives of the existing Pact members were present, it was time for the representatives of the three soon-to-be members to take to the stage: Regent Rangdol Shata Tsarong of Tibet, President Gabriel Nmbega of Cameroon, and Prime Minister Aurelio Cordeiro of Portugal. Each of the three walked along the line of national representatives that had been formed, shaking hands and exchanging warm words before making their way to the large ornate table that had previously been used at the inaugural signing of the organisation's charter, where they were greeted by Secretary-General Duan. After a brief chat with the Pact's chief civil servant, each of the three individuals sat at the table and attached their signature to the charter document, thereby seeing their nation join the Shenzhen Pact as an observer member. Upon signing the charter and posing for the prerequisite photo opportunity with the document, each of the three took their position in the line-up of Pact representatives, on display for the media to see.

Once all three had taken up their position, Secretary-General Duan approached the podium that had positioned to the right side of the table to address the audience both in the hall and elsewhere in the world.

"Member state representatives, honoured guests, representatives of the media, those watching around the world. It has been one year since the formation of the Afro-Asian Unity and Cooperation Organisation, known more popularly as the Shenzhen Pact. In that time we have grown from strength to strength. We have welcomed new members to our organisation, established closer relationships with strategic partners, and advanced our agenda of bringing stability, security, and prosperity to our membership. Over the past year, we have laid down a firm and solid foundation that we shall continue to build on as we move forward. Essentially, we are just getting started.

"As of midnight tonight, we usher in new frameworks for greater cooperation between our members. The Unified Free Trade Area will unlock the incredible economic potential within our organisation, making it easier for goods and services to flow unhindered throughout the Shenzhen Pact. The Unified Anti-Terrorist Structure will strengthen our ability to cooperate more effectively in the fight against terrorism and extremist ideologies, allowing us to provide our citizens with even greater protection against harm from hateful creeds that target innocents in their quest to destroy society. The Unified Interbank Consortium will give our members greater ability to organise investment projects that will benefit multiple nations, and it will complement the Unified Free Trade Area by enhancing cooperation between our financial institutions. The Unified Science and Research Forum will allow us greater opportunities to pool our greatest scientific minds and conduct joint research projects, increasing the chances for scientific breakthroughs that will benefit everyone. The Shenzhen Pact is truly an example of what can be achieved when nations work together, instead of working in opposition to each other."

He paused as he received a round of applause.

"How have we been able to create and foster this cooperation? The answer is simple. We do not judge. We are well aware that there are nations in the world who pass judgement on our membership and brand them as not being 'acceptable'. These nations believe that the best way to engender global cooperation is to lecture smaller nations and tell them that they are wrong. Confrontation only leads to resentment, and to further confrontation. The members of the Shenzhen Pact follow a different belief. We believe that the best way to engender global cooperation is not by passing judgement, but rather by finding common ground. and building a firm relationship upon that common ground. For us, 'stability, security, and prosperity' are the aims to reach for, and all nations have an interest in achieving those aims. If nations are interested in working with us then we encourage them to leave their prejudices at the door before they come in, because cooperation is made difficult at best if nations are constantly judging one another for what are often cultural differences. If nations are not interested in working with us then that is their prerogative, all we ask in that situation is that they do not attempt to disrupt our endeavours or bring harm to our membership. The Shenzhen Pact does not go around looking for a fight, we will always prefer peaceful resolution to any disagreements with other powers. We do not seek to become anyone's enemy."

Another round of applause followed, and Secretary-General Duan smiled warmly as he continued.

"It is a great honour to be the Secretary-General of this auspicious organisation, and it is a great honour for me to officially welcome our three newest observer members. The Republic of Cameroon, the Republic of Portugal, and Tibet. I would now like to allow the representatives of each of our new members to say a few words, starting with President Gabriel Nmbega of Cameroon. Mister President?"

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Mar 08, 2021 12:02 pm

25 November 2020, 20:30hrs [UTC+8]
Venetian Oumún
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

While the anniversary events in Shenzhen had now moved on to an open-air concert outside the Pact's headquarters, the concept of unity had given way to blatant competition just over forty miles away in the autonomous city of Oumún, across the Pearl River Estuary. Once used by the Great Yue Kingdom as a gateway through which they could control the access of foreign traders to the rest of their realm, Oumún had been one of the least reputable ports in the region, hosting such ne'er-do-wells as pirates, smugglers, gamblers, and slave traders. The Great Yue Kingdom had legalised gambling in the port in 1840 and the subsequent licensing system saw over 200 gambling houses paying 'gambling rent' to the Oumún authorities, with many of these gambling houses having been acquired by the Liao family through their contacts and talent for bribery. Modern-day Oumún was a major resort city and a top global destination for gambling tourism, and the Liao family maintained their influence over the territory with considerable ease. The Liao owned the vast majority of the casinos and other gambling venues in Oumún, and their political clout allowed them to effectively block any foreign gaming companies that did not provide the customary kickbacks or share percentages. As gambling was illegal throughout the rest of the Nanfang Republic, Oumún was popular with the wealthy as they could indulge in 'seedy activities' in the territory; the continued seedy reputation of Oumún played to the advantage of the Liao as it was almost expected that the territory might be corrupt to some degree. The Liao were also the power behind the Howling Devil-Tigers, the criminal syndicate that dominated the underworld of the Republic's southern provinces, meaning that there was genuine reason to refer to the area as 'Liao territory'. While the Nanfaren government officially decried organised crime, in truth they had no real incentive to attempt any moves against the Devil-Tigers as the syndicate often did favours for the Ministry of State Security in return for 'considerations'. The Liao family were also unlikely to ever lose their stranglehold over gambling in the Republic as the Ministry of Culture oversaw the licensing system and the current officeholder was one Liao Wenyan, putting a family member in charge of the system and ensuring that the Liao would continue to receive favourable treatment.

One of the many casinos owned by the Liao family was the Venetian Oumún, a thirty-nine storey casino hotel located on the Cotai Strip. The Venetian was the largest casino in Oumún and one the largest in the world, with a floor area of 10,500,000 square feet. This massive casino resort featured 3,000 suites, 1,200,000 square feet of convention space, 1,600,000 square feet of retail space, the 15,000-seat Cotai Arena for entertainment and sports events, and 546,000 square feet of casino space. The casino space was further divided into four themed gaming areas: Golden Fish, Imperial House, Red Dragon and Phoenix. The casino consisted of over 6,000 slot machines and 800 gambling tables, but there were also amenities for the Venetian's more exclusive clientele. Catering exclusively to premium guests, the Paiza Club featured its own entrance, lobby, reception, and guest lifts to the club's suites and private gaming rooms. Each of these private gaming rooms was named for a notable Asian city or region and featured smartly-suited bouncers at the door, along with a bar area that served a wide variety of beverages and light foods. If premium guests wanted to dine on something more substantial then they had exclusive access to the 24-hour Paiza Club Dining Lounge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Oumún Room was the best equipped and most efficiently staffed as it bore the name of the Venetian's host city, and it was the Oumún Room that had been reserved for the social event involving the Young Lions and the Baby Dragons. Decorated in rich red and gold tones and featuring a variety of murals painted by local artists, the Oumún Room currently saw the twenty-eight-year-old Liao Meiling playing host to the princelings from the Pact's African membership. As the daughter of Liao Wenyan and a scion of the wider Liao family, Meiling had only had to drop her name to the Venetian's manager (a cousin of hers) to receive the very best service that the Venetian had to offer: the best private gaming room, the most competent staff, complimentary limousines laid on for her guests, and several little 'extras' that no-one outside of the family would have access to. Although her father held a cabinet position outside of the 'Great Offices of State', Meiling was nonetheless one of the pre-eminent Nanfaren princelings as one of Yang Zhihao's closest friends; Zhihao often referred to her as 'Jiejie' (older sister) in person while Meiling called Zhihao 'Didi' (younger brother). With her brunette locks worn up and clad in a stylish black tuxedo that raised some unasked questions among the African princelings, Meiling was keeping the Young Lions occupied while she waited for Zhihao to signal her that the Baby Dragons had arrived.

The Young Lions consisted of eleven individuals, all aged between thirty and forty, and all bar one of them was the offspring of leaders of the Pact's African member states; the exception was Leo Nmbega, the thirty-three-year-old youngest brother of President Gabriel Nmbega of Cameroon and that nation's Minister for Energy and Water Resources. Leo had been invited due to his proclivity for using parties to conduct business and the fact that the rest of his peers wanted to include him in their ranks as Cameroon had now become an observer member of the Shenzhen Pact, and for his part, Leo was keen to make contacts among the Nanfaren princelings. The 'leaders' of the Young Lions were Adao and Augusta Gizenga, the son and daughter of President Adalberto Gizenga of Zaire, while the other African members of the Pact were all represented among the other Lions: Julinha Miadana of Madagascar; Estevao dos Santos of Mozambique; Michael and Bianca Nderitu of the East African Federation; Marco Tembo of Zambia; Silvio Vicente of Angola; Carlitos Andjembé of Gabon; and Kyauta Akinrinade of Nigeria. Due to the dynastic nature of the political systems in the represented nations, many of those present were being groomed by their parents to become the next leaders of the Shenzhen Pact's African contingent. For the most part, the Lions were either chatting with each other with drinks in hand or looking over the gaming tables available, earning polite smiles from the professional dealers stationed at each game, while Leo Nmbega was engaging Meiling in conversation at the bar. As she was discussing her family's business interests, Meiling received a text from Zhihao that read 'Music Time!' with an accompanying winking emoji, causing her to smirk with amusement before turning her attention back to Leo.

"Just a moment, please." Knowing that the text had been sent because her fellow Dragons were approaching the doors of the Oumún Room, Meiling gestured towards the bar staff who had been briefed about the entrance that Zhihao wanted to achieve, then nodded to the bouncers who flanked the doors. One of the bar staff tapped away at the controls for the Oumún Room's self-contained sound system and the Young Lions exchanged glances (as well as more than a few eye-rolls) as they heard the intro from a piece of music that they all recognised from a well-known movie scene. As 'Battle Without Honor Or Humanity' hit its stride, the bouncers opened the doors for the Young Dragons to make their entrance. At the head of the group was Yang Zhihao, who was dressed in a completely white tuxedo suit and enjoying his moment of showboating, while his fellows followed behind him in pairs, all dressed in black tuxedos. Directly behind Zhihao was the pairing of Song Cheol-jin, who had only learned of the intended entrance about an hour beforehand and was doing his utmost to hide his amusement at the situation that he found himself in, and Tang Nianzu, son of Minister for National Defense Tang Dongwei and the enabler-in-chief of Zhihao's love of showmanship. The pairings behind them were as follows: Huang Jinhai (son of Minister for Foreign Affairs Huang Li) and Zhang Peizhi (son of Minister for State Security Zhang Yong); Guo Meixiu (daughter of Minister for Natural Resources Guo Meihui) and Jiang Yaozu (son of Minister for Education Jiang Bai); Xiao Junjie (son of Minister for Justice Xiao Donghai) and Fan Guowei (son of Minister for Public Security Fan Shun); and finally, Ma Xiaojian (son of Finance Minister Ma Zhen) and Zhao Lin (daughter of Zhao Weizhe, Minister-Governor of the Central Bank of the Republic). As the eleven-strong procession reached Meiling and Leo, Zhihao winked at her before exchanging a tight hug followed by exaggerated air kisses, Leo observing all the while with considerable bemusement. Meiling then gestured to the bar staff once more and the sound system reverted to more generic background music as Zhihao addressed the room with an exceedingly self-satisfied grin.

"Welcome everyone! Shall we get started?"

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

26 November 2020, 00:40hrs [UTC+8]
Venetian Oumún
Oumún, Nanfang Republic

"Are you suuure that you don't want some?"

Cheol-jin smiled and shook his head at Zhihao's latest offer of alcohol as President Yang's son returned from the bar and sat down heavily next to him, clutching two glasses of champagne with a rather mindless grin spread across his face. "I'm going to stick with the orange juice, thanks all the same."

"Oh, okay. Noooo problem." Zhihao giggled slightly and took a mouthful from the glass in his left hand, then blinked slowly as a thought entered his head and departed, then returned. "Do-oo you like me, Sergeant?"

"Yeah, we get along well."

"Good. Good!" Zhihao finished off the glass in his left hand and then set down both glasses as slowly and as carefully as he could on the small table in front of the comfortable red couch that the pair were sitting on, then let out a loud sigh, sat back and shifted closer to rest his head on Cheol-jin's right shoulder. "I know that some of the security guys laugh at me behind my back, but you're a goood one."

Cheol-jin couldn't help but chuckle at Zhihao drawing out the vowel sounds of some words as his intoxication increased. "I'm sure they don't mean it in a nasty way."

"Yeah, yeah they do, but they need to remember that I can have them all fired, fired like that." Zhihao attempted to snap his fingers but failed, so appeared to concentrate on his fingers for the second attempt only to fail once again. After the third failed attempt, Zhihao gave up and let out another sigh. "Not you though. You're cool, Mister Marine. Everyone goes on about army guys being all that, but the Marines, now, they're the guys you want to fu-"

Before he could finish that particular utterance, Liao Meiling wandered over with a sympathetic expression. "Didi, you're drunk."

Zhihao frowned at Meiling's interruption and idly swatted at her with his left hand as she drew closer. "N-no, no I'm not! I'm just getting my...uh...second thing."

"Second wind?"

"That's it." Zhihao grinned at Meiling as he patted Cheol-jin's right thigh. "He's sooo good at his job, he's correcting my talking. Is everyone having fun?"

"Yes Didi, everyone's having fun. With the possible exception of Carlitos." Meiling gestured towards the blackjack table, where a loud exclamation of profanity was followed by Carlitos Andjembé rising from his seat and marching towards the bar. "Down twenty-five thousand yuan, Nianzu's now up twenty-five thousand."

Zhihao looked past her at Carlitos, who had now reached the bar and was ordering another drink, and clambered to his feet. "I-I'm gonna go talk to him. Cheer him up."

"Didi-"

"Nah nah nah, it'll be fine."

As he began to slowly make his way over the bar, Meiling groaned and turned to Cheol-jin. "You might be needed in a minute."

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

Upon finally reaching the bar, Zhihao sidled up to Carlitos and leaned forward, resting his forearms on the counter. "How's it going?"

The thirty-seven-year-old scowled but kept looking forward, refusing to acknowledge Zhihao's presence and instead downing a shot of vodka. The lack of acknowledgement would have been irritating for Zhihao at his most sober, so his current state didn't help matters. "I said, h-ow's it going?"

"Fuck off."

The blunt delivery, combined with the fact that Carlitos still refused to look at him, caused the six-foot Zhihao to stand up as straight as possible in an attempt to look imposing. "Say again?"

The attempt to seem imposing failed spectacularly as Carlitos turned to face him, as the son of the Gabonese President had five more inches in height and about one hundred pounds more in weight than Zhihao. "Get lost, Mommy's Boy. The only person I'd want to talk to right now is a girl, not a guy who looks like a girl."

The admittedly-slender Zhihao stuck his chest out in response, earning himself a dismissive laugh from Carlitos who reached out with his right hand to shove Zhihao away...except his hand never made contact. He'd been so focused on Zhihao that he had failed to notice Cheol-jin's approach; the just over six-foot ex-marine wasted little time in intercepting the intended shove, grabbing Carlitos by the wrist and twisting his arm behind his back in a hammerlock. "Enough."

Carlitos responded to Cheol-jin's command by trying to reach back towards him, resulting in the sergeant sweeping his legs out from under him so that he hit the floor face-down with a loud thud. The rest of the princelings turned at the sound of the resulting commotion to see Carlitos face-down on the floor and yelling various expletives, while Cheol-jin had his knee planted squarely in Carlitos's right shoulder and the hammerlock had progressed into a pronating wristlock. "He's younger than you and smaller than you. So enough."

Ordinarily, the bouncers on duty would have stepped in by this point, but they had been made aware of Cheol-jin's rank in the CSB and therefore allowed him to get on with his job; if anything, it made their job easier and they honestly found the situation rather entertaining to watch. After waiting a few seconds and not receiving a positive response, Cheol-jin began to twist and quickly received the desired response as Carlitos banged his left hand against the floor repeatedly to show that he submitted. As the ex-marine released his hold and rose to his feet, Leo Nmbega approached with his hands held up in a show of peace. "Easy now, let me get him out of your way." As Leo helped Carlitos to his feet and led him over to one of the couches that lined the walls of the Oumún Room, Cheol-jin stepped over to Zhihao, who was standing with eyes widened at the scene that he had observed.

"Are you okay?"

Zhihao's eyes practically sparkled as he closed the distance between himself and Cheol-jin, wrapping his arms around Cheol-jin's torso and once again resting his head on the older individual's shoulder. He blinked coyly at the bodyguard before closing his eyes and emitting what could best be described as a contented sigh.

"You're sooo awesome."

"I'll take that as a yes." Rather than attempt to break the hug that he was now trapped in, Cheol-jin gently patted Zhihao on the head and elicited yet another sigh from him in the process. "Maybe I should get you home."

"No, no...I'm gooood right here."

As the rest of the Nanfaren princelings approached the pair to check on their illustrious leader, Cheol-jin became acutely aware of Zhihao's left hand slowly moving down his back towards a lower destination but maintained his composure as he addressed the situation. "Keep it up where it was, mister."

Zhihao giggled happily and moved his hand back up, then slightly tightened the hug as Meiling inspected the scene, shaking her head and letting out a chuckle at Cheol-jin's predicament. "I think you're the first person to meet the octopus so early, it usually takes a few more drinks before he starts latching onto people. You're the first CSB guy that he's ever attached himself to, though."

"I guess I should be honoured then. How do I, um-"

"He'll probably want some chocolate soon, so dangle a bar in front of his face and he'll detach pretty quickly."

"Right, thanks." As he observed the Nanfaren princelings doing their best to hold back their laughter at his situation, Cheol-jin still did not regret agreeing to the assignment...although it had certainly been a different experience than expected.
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Tue Mar 09, 2021 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Thu Mar 11, 2021 9:10 am

26 November 2020, 13:30hrs [UTC+8]
Yang Family Villa, OCT East
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

President Yang and her husband were sat quietly in one of the lounges of the family villa, reading the daily newspapers and their coverage of the previous day's public events, when they heard slow and cautious steps coming down the staircase. They exchanged amused glances and both turned to look as Zhihao carefully made his way down to the ground floor, having only just risen from his bed and obviously feeling the effects of the previous night. Once his feet touched solid flooring, Zhihao slowly headed into the kitchen area and eventually emerged clutching a large glass of water.

"Good night last night, was it?"

Zhihao initially responded to his mother's question with an almost pained grunt as he shuffled into the lounge area and slowly eased himself down onto one of the couches, squinting as he realised that he was sitting directly in the afternoon sunlight. "Uhh...yeah, it was good. Damn, that's too bright."

President Yang sat and observed with interest as Zhihao slowly rose from his seat and shuffled over to an armchair opposite so that he now sat with his back to the sunlight. Deciding to be charitable, she gave her son a few minutes to settle and drink some water before continuing.

"Sergeant Song came by earlier, he asked how you were doing."

Zhihao paused his drinking and in his less-than-optimal state, was unable to suppress the broad smile that quickly developed across his features. "Oh?"

"Yes, he seemed to be genuinely interested in your welfare. That wasn't the actual reason for his visit though. He'd filed the report about his assignment with Colonel Liu, and the colonel felt that there was a certain something that I should be made aware of. Before I heard about it from someone else, like President Andjembé for example."

Zhihao's smile instantly dissipated. "Oh. Ugh, look, I just want to say-"

"Don't worry, it's alright. Sergeant Song fully detailed the incident in his report, and President Andjembé is unlikely to make anything out of it. He'd probably find it embarrassing that his son got himself handled so easily, and he'll likely be unimpressed about Carlitos losing...how much was it? Twenty-five thousand yuan? Admittedly it's a drop in the ocean for the President but he'll still be unhappy. I also believe that the President is intelligent enough to realise that making a complaint would be a waste of time." She paused for a moment and 'hmmed'. "I did ask the sergeant how he felt about yesterday and he said that, aside from the Carlitos incident, he enjoyed himself."

"Really? That's good." Zhihao drank some more water before setting the glass down and curling up in the armchair. "We're not heading back home today, are we?"

"No, we're heading back tomorrow. Better to spend another night here than have you throwing up in NP-1."

Zhihao closed his eyes and let out a loud yawn. "Love you."

"Love you too. Oh yes, before I forget, I did tell the sergeant to come over later if he still wants to check on you."

President Yang noted the return of her son's smile at that snippet of information, then lifted the newspaper and continued to read from where she had left off. It was not long before she heard soft murmurs of sleep begin to emanate from the direction of the armchair.

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

26 November 2020, 18:40hrs [UTC+8]
Yang Family Villa, OCT East
Shenzhen, Guangdong Province
Nanfang Republic

With their evening meal finished and no official engagements planned, the Yang family settled down in their preferred lounge area of the villa. Yang Jiawei was about to switch on the television when the doorbell rang, something that would normally be of little interest to Zhihao; however, on this occasion, he leaned forward to peer at the door before gesturing in the door's direction with his head, as if to encourage his father to answer it more quickly. Jiawei began to make his way over to the front door, deliberately taking his time so that he could annoy his son, and upon finally answering the door he took great delight in announcing the rank of the individual he was greeted with.

"Colonel! To what do we owe the pleasure?"

Zhihao pouted slightly and slumped back in his seat until his father spoke again. "Oh, and Sergeant Song. Sorry Sergeant, I didn't see you there." As the pair of CSB personnel entered the villa, Jiawei couldn't refuse another opportunity to repay his son for the earlier gesture. "Look Zhihao, it's Sergeant Song. You know something Sergeant, Zhihao was hoping that you'd drop by again."

Cheol-jin looked at the floor in an attempt to hide his growing smirk at Jiawei's behaviour, while Zhihao narrowed his eyes and slowly shook his head at his father, who did his best to appear completely unaware of how embarrassing his announcements were proving to be. "Zhihao, aren't you going to say hello to the sergeant?"

"Yes, thank you so much." Zhihao got up from his seat and walked over, stepping around his father to reach Cheol-jin. He looked a little sheepish as he spoke to the sergeant as he was well aware that everyone else was watching him. "Hi."

"Hey. How's the head after last night?"

"Better than it was earlier." Zhihao felt a little awkward talking to Cheol-jin under the attention of Colonel Liu and his parents, so he gestured towards the kitchen area. "Can I get you some coffee or tea, or something?"

Cheol-jin nodded. "Coffee, thanks. I'll give you a hand. Does anyone else want anything?"

The three older individuals all shook their heads, and Colonel Liu headed into the lounge area with Jiawei as the pair went into the kitchen. The colonel quickly cast a glance to check that Zhihao and Cheol-jin were far enough away before he spoke to President Yang.

"I think we might finally have success, Madam President."

"I think you may be right, Colonel. We might finally have someone in the Presidential detail who genuinely gets along with my son." She gestured for the colonel to take a seat before continuing. "Zhihao likes the sergeant, that much I do know for certain. Has the sergeant said anything to you, aside from what he told me about last night?"

"Well," Colonel Liu leaned forward conspiratorially, "he did hint that he wouldn't mind being assigned to Zhihao again. His exact words were 'if last night is the worst it can be, then future solo assignments won't be an issue'. I will just point out that he's finished for the day so he's not over here in an official capacity."

"We'll hold him to his word then. From now on, if Zhihao needs to go anywhere on his own then I want you to assign the sergeant to him."

"As you say, Madam President. Just to inform you, preparations are complete for your travel tomorrow. Is there anything else that we can do for you?"

"No, thank you though. See you tomorrow, Colonel."

"Of course, Madam President. Good evening." Colonel Liu rose from his seat and offered a respectful nod to Jiawei before making his way back towards the front door, pausing briefly to look into the kitchen area. "Sergeant, don't forget that you're off-duty now so no rush to get back."

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

"Understood, sir." Cheol-jin nodded to his commanding officer and then returned his attention to Zhihao as the colonel left the villa. "So how much do you remember? You did get pretty drunk."

"I remember most of it up until you took down Carlitos, then it gets a little fuzzy afterwards." Zhihao handed Cheol-jin a cup of fresh coffee and then leaned back against the kitchen counter, tapping his chin thoughtfully and attempting to appear innocent. "I didn't do anything inappropriate, did I?", he asked, positing a question that he pretty much already knew the answer to. The only thing that he genuinely couldn't remember about the party was how he had gotten home; of course, the answer to that question was quite literally standing right in front of him.

"Nothing I couldn't handle." Cheol-jin's eyebrows briefly flicked upwards at Zhihao as he took a drink from his cup, then nodded as he lowered the beverage. "Mmm, perfect coffee. Don't worry, you didn't do anything that you need to apologise for."

Zhihao beamed happily. "Awesome. Hopefully, you'll get assigned to me again sometime, I see the other Tier One princelings fairly regularly and 'Madam President' always wants me to take a security detail when I'm out with them. I mean, only if you'd be comfortable being assigned to me again."

"I'd have no problem with it, and it would set your mother's mind at ease if you were in the hands of someone who can actually handle you."

Zhihao did his best to scowl at Cheol-jin's grin but ultimately wound up shaking his head and trying not to laugh, before lightly slapping the CSB officer on the arm and earning an amused "Ow!" as his reward.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Mar 14, 2021 4:41 pm

Part 2: Guinea-Bissau and Other Shenanigans


27 January 2021, 09:30hrs [UTC+0]
Palácio Presidencial, Bissau
Republic of Guinea-Bissau

The collapse of the Portuguese colonial empire in the 1960s had seen the formation of several new nations around the world, some having been granted independence peacefully while others had achieved independence after a period of violent struggle. The Republic of Guinea-Bissau was one of the latter nations. The Bissau-Guinean independence conflict had started in 1961 and lasted until 1969, as the leftist African Party for the Independence of Guinea (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné in Portuguese, hence the acronym PAIG) led an armed insurrection against the Portuguese colonial authorities. Supported by the leftist regime that controlled the East African Federation at the time, the PAIG had taken advantage of the fact that the Portuguese authorities initially failed to take them seriously. Very little was done to actively combat PAIG guerilla operations and nothing was done to drive a wedge between the PAIG and the general population; by the time Portugal began to conduct serious anti-guerilla operations, the independence movement had successfully formed a conventional army. The Portuguese appointment of a new governor and attempts to win back the support of the population ultimately failed, and the PAIG continued to extend their control throughout the territory. Eventually, on 25 October 1969, Portugal withdrew from the territory and the PAIG declared the new nation's independence. Relations between the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and their former colonial master began to improve slowly following the fall of the authoritarian regime in Portugal and the restoration of Portuguese democracy in 1976, but unfortunately, this was not sufficient to guarantee the long-term stability of the small African nation. Factions within the ruling PAIG began to jockey for position until a coup in 1981 by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the People (Forças Armadas Revolucionárias do Povo, hence the acronym FARP). President Osvaldo Dutra, who had led the PAIG since its formation, was ousted from power and replaced by a nine-man Revolutionary Council. Factionalism was not defeated by the coup, however, and the Revolutionary Council fell victim to internal power struggles in 1986. The renewed civilian rule resulted in a civil war from 1987 until 1992 when Portuguese mediators assisted with a new constitution that brought an end to the civil war and implemented multi-party elections for the first time in Guinea-Bissau's history.

Unfortunately, the path to democracy did not run smoothly. The year 2000 saw the military once again intervene in politics, overthrowing a democratically elected government and installing a junta that retained control of the nation until 2004, when they stepped aside to allow elections to begin once again under yet another new constitution. The nation's transition back into democracy since then was a difficult one, with the process hampered by the military's predilection for meddling; it was a regular occurrence that elected governments would be hesitant to enact genuinely innovative policies because they feared a possible overthrow by the FARP. Matters were not helped by the state of the economy, which had been severely damaged by the civil war and was very much left to heal itself by successive governments. As a result of this, more than 55% of the nation's GDP came from agriculture with more than two-thirds of the population of 1.9 million living below the poverty line. The vast majority of multinational corporations showed very little interest in the small nation due to its turbulent history, with one significant exception. Owned by the Dourado family that was renowned as the wealthiest family in Portugal, Grupo Dourado was a conglomerate based in Lisbon that possessed holdings in several industries, with one of the conglomerate's primary interests being agribusiness. Grupo Dourado had signed an agreement with the Bissau-Guinean government in August 2017 to purchase a large number of cashew and rice farms, touting their record for efficiency and responsible management. As the recently formed National Unity Party (Partido da Unidade Nacional, PUN) had been elected in March of that year on a manifesto of encouraging foreign investment and improving the nation's economy, they saw the deal with Grupo Dourado as an excellent way to prove their pro-business credentials. The conglomerate kept its word and proved to be a good partner for the PUN, not only running its acquired farmland efficiently but also contributing to the welfare of its Bissau-Guinean workers. As much of the Dourado farmland was in more isolated rural areas located significantly far from the capital of Bissau, the conglomerate provided on-site community services such as free, furnished housing (admittedly essentially barracks) for workers and their immediate family members, health care via clinics staffed by company doctors, primary education for children, commissaries, and even religious buildings depending on the faith of the community that they were serving.

As a result of this success story, the opinion polls ahead of the upcoming election in March were showing the possibility of re-election for the PUN, although no-one in the government was under any illusion that victory would be simple. The PAIG, having managed to reinvent themselves in recent years as a softer left-wing nationalist party, was attempting to paint the PUN as a puppet of Grupo Dourado. The PAIG leader, Dinho Gwadabe, positioned himself as a visionary who would 'cease foreign exploitation of Guinea-Bissau', pointing to the fact that Grupo Dourado was pretty much the only major foreign corporation to invest in the nation. He decried the conglomerate's community projects as neo-colonialism and suggested that the PUN leadership were on Grupo Dourado's payroll, accusations that had managed to resonate with some voters as well as, more importantly, elements of the FARP officer corps. The accusations played rather loosely with the truth, of course. The community projects had been carried out to improve the living standards of the company workers and encourage employee loyalty in a nation known for internal turbulence, while the PUN had of course viewed the projects as beneficial and allowed Grupo Dourado to continue as they wished. The problem was that the conglomerate was now seeking to invest in Guinea-Bissau's fishing industry and the PUN was naturally in favour of this, but the PAIG were attempting to spin this potential fishing deal as an example of the PUN rolling over for their 'foreign masters'. It was for this reason that President Ulisses Kibiya had invited the Managing Director of Grupo Dourado's operations in Guinea-Bissau, Cesar Da Cunha, to the Palácio Presidencial in Bissau for an urgent meeting.

The Palácio Presidencial was not an especially large building when compared to some of the palaces enjoyed by other African leaders, but it served its function well. Constructed in the Neoclassical style, the two-storey building's exterior was off-white with a roof made of orange-brown tiles, and the building itself sat within a compound surrounded by high black railings that featured gold-coloured spikes. The President's office was situated on the ground floor and was quite understated, decorated primarily in off-white with wooden panelling. As he awaited the arrival of Cesar da Cunha, President Kibiya gazed out of the office window at the expanse of the Praça dos Heróis Nacionais (the Plaza of National Heroes). The bespectacled fifty-six-year-old viewed recent intelligence reports of renewed PAIG sympathies within the FARP with a significant degree of concern as such sympathies could prove to be incredibly dangerous with the elections just over a month away, and he needed to explore his options as a result. The buzz of the intercom on his desk drew his attention, and he strode across the room to address it.

"Presidente, Senhor da Cunha to see you."

"Very well, send him in." President Kibiya smoothed down the front of his suit as the office door opened and Cesar da Cunha entered, offering the President his usual friendly smile. Slightly shorter than the President, the forty-one-year-old Lisbon native was always immaculately styled per corporate policy. The pair shook hands and took seats on opposite sides of the large desk that dominated the office, at which point President Kibiya began the conversation.

"Thank you for coming to see me today, Cesar. I shall be blunt. The opinion polls are looking promising for the March elections but I still have my concerns about the outcome, and I think that it is only fair for you to made fully aware of the possibilities."

Cesar nodded, sitting back in his chair and crossing his legs at the knee. "I appreciate that, Senhor Presidente. Is this to do with the PAIG?"

"Indeed." Kibiya leaned forward and rested his clasped hands on the desk before him. "I have reason to believe that they are gaining supporters within the FARP, essentially meaning that they are attempting to rekindle a relationship that was supposed to have ended many years ago. As you are undoubtedly well aware, the FARP was founded by the PAIG during the independence campaigns, but the two are supposed to be completely separate these days. Under the constitution, the FARP is supposed to be impartial. If the PAIG gain enough supporters within the military then the FARP could instead become a tool of a political party."

"So if the PUN wins the election, the PAIG could turn to their friends in the FARP and have the military do what they've done before. Oust the democratically elected government."

Kibiya nodded with a grave expression. "Precisely. If that were to happen, then Grupo Dourado's holdings in Guinea-Bissau would likely come under threat of appropriation and nationalisation. The PAIG paint me as your corporate puppet and you as the 'viceroy of the neo-colonial Dourado empire', so we would likely both face more personal trouble if there was a coup. As this is a problem that would affect both of us, I wanted to discuss possible ways that you and your conglomerate could help."

Cesar sighed and winced slightly. "Senhor Presidente, I'm not sure that there is anything significant that we could do. We have a corporate security division but they're security guards, not soldiers. Grupo Dourado makes money, not war. The best that I can do right now is contact Senhor Dourado himself and see if he can use his connections, he has friends in the Portuguese government who might be willing to help. Failing that, have you asked any of the other Lusophone African nations for possible assistance? Just an idea."

Kibiya gave a defeated laugh. "I should throw myself upon the mercies of the wider Shenzhen Pact? Don't misunderstand me, I've considered the possibility of applying. I just doubt that they would step in to assist a non-member administration on the promise of considering a membership application. Particularly as Guinea-Bissau is likely to be incredibly low on their list of 'nations of interest'."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Mar 16, 2021 2:36 pm

29 January 2021, 18:30hrs [UTC+0]
São Bento Mansion
Lisbon, Republic of Portugal

After leading the Republic of Portugal into observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact, Prime Minister Aurelio Cordeiro could safely say that he had made some new friends while also reinforcing the views of those who opposed him. The leader of the social-democratic centre-left Partido Socialista, Cordeiro was fifty-four years old with a stylish beard and a neatly-short haircut and had previously served as Minister for Foreign Affairs under a previous Partido Socialista government. He had led his party to victory in the October 2019 elections by pledging to boost economic growth and employment, as well as to reinstate several benefits which had been eliminated under the previous Partido Popular Democrático administration in an attempt to save money. A confessed 'Nanfanophile', a word that he coined during a press conference in December 2019, Cordeiro had often discussed the potential benefits of a closer relationship with the Nanfang Republic and it was, therefore, unsurprising that he had led his government in applying for membership of the Shenzhen Pact. To give the decision necessary legitimacy, Cordeiro had put the idea of the membership application to a vote in the Assembly of the Republic, the nation's unicameral legislature, in August 2020 and won quite easily due to the Partido Socialista's majority as well as support from some of the smaller parties represented in the Assembly. In addition to the potential benefits of closer economic ties with Nanjing, Cordeiro had sold the idea of Pact membership as a way to re-engage with those former Portuguese colonies that were already members, but on an equal footing rather than as a returning colonial overlord. This had won him the support of the left-wing Partido Comunista Português and Partido Ecologista, with both parties continuing to speak favourably of the Pact after voting with the government on the application proposal. The support of both smaller left-wing parties was something that Cordeiro had been more than happy to have over the past few months. The Presidential elections had been held in Portugal on January 24 2021, with the Socialista incumbent Jerônimo Salgado unable to run according to the constitution as he had finished his second consecutive term. Fortunately for Prime Minister Cordeiro, the smaller left-wing parties had encouraged their voters to support the Socialista candidate, and so Gualberto Serra had been elected for his first five-year term. This kept the Presidency, the Government, and the Assembly in the hands of the Partido Socialista, meaning that Cordeiro could continue with his policy plans relatively unhindered.

On this particular evening, Cordeiro had agreed to a hastily requested meeting with Joaquim Dourado, the sixty-four-year-old patriarch of the Dourado family and the wealthiest man in Portugal. As the Chairman of Grupo Dourado and a shareholder in several other Portuguese corporations, Joaquim had become a major financial donor for the Partido Socialista due to his support for Portuguese membership of the Shenzhen Pact. Admittedly this support was out of financial interest more than anything because Joaquim reasoned that his business holdings would benefit from Portugal joining the Unified Free Trade Area, but the support was still welcomed by the party. The meeting would be taking place in the reception lounge of São Bento Mansion, a fairly small room in the Prime Ministerial residence that was usually used to host visiting dignitaries from other nations; indeed, Prime Minister Cordeiro had once had a meeting with President Yang in the same room. While President Yang's visit had seen the reception lounge's decor given a very contemporary makeover in an attempt to provide a modern and forward-thinking backdrop, for Joaquim's visit it was the usual traditional cream-coloured decor with dark blue furniture as there were not going to be any officials or press representatives in attendance.

Prime Minister Cordeiro waited patiently in the lounge until finally the door opened and an aide gestured for Joaquim to enter, at which point the aide pulled the door shut behind themselves to leave the two men alone. Immaculately coiffed with short dark hair and dressed in a black suit with a lapel pin that depicted the Portuguese national flag, Joaquim Dourado looked more like a politician than the Prime Minister as he strode over and extended his hand. "Aurelio, thank you for seeing me on such short notice."

Cordeiro shook the offered hand with a warm smile. "It sounded like you needed to meet urgently. Take a seat and tell me what's troubling you."

As the pair settled into opposite armchairs, Dourado let out a heavy sigh. "Guinea-Bissau is what's troubling me."

Cordeiro scowled slightly. "Ah. Anything in particular?"

"As you're undoubtedly well aware, they've got elections in March. The PUN is being forecast to win, which is excellent news because Grupo Dourado is on the verge of securing a deal regarding the Bissau-Guinean fishing industry. The problem is that according to local intelligence reports, the PAIG are rebuilding their links with the military."

"The same military that they founded to drive Portugal out during the independence conflict. Yes, I can see how that would be troubling."

Dourado shifted in his seat before leaning forward. "President Kibiya is concerned that if the PUN wins the elections, then the PAIG will attempt to declare them illegitimate and stage a coup with the help of the FARP. That would be disastrous. Not only would the fishing deal fall through but the PAIG would likely seize all Grupo Dourado assets in the country and nationalise them, claiming that they are reclaiming their nation from the latest colonial power. Now there's not much that I can do about that if it happens. I don't have a military, and I can't hire mercenaries because the PAIG could use that as justification. If I hire mercenaries and deploy them before the election then that makes it look like we're expecting trouble, if I hire mercenaries and deploy them after the election then it would look like I'm planning something. So is there anything that you can do?"

Cordeiro sighed. "Not right now, no. If the PAIG is running an anti-colonial agenda then the Portuguese government getting involved would play into their hands. My government can't do anything before the election in case we end up influencing the outcome of the election. We would likely be unable to act even the PAIG were to stage a coup."

Dourado held his hands up in disbelief. "You're not serious, surely?"

"If the PAIG stage a coup with the help of the FARP, then imagine how it would play out if Portuguese forces were sent in to stop them. Do you think that they'd apologise and relinquish power back to the PUN? Of course not. In their narrative, the PAIG defeated Portugal and secured Guinea-Bissau's independence. Naturally, they omit the domestic issues that Portugal was having at the time, but it is still an effective narrative. They could spin it as us being afraid of them being in power once again, or even a case of us trying to reimpose colonial rule. Hearts and minds, Joaquim. Of course, that's just the potential issues caused in Guinea-Bissau, not the potential issues that we'd have at home. As a rule, we've never interfered in the internal politics of our former colonies, unless there's a civil war or similar situation and we can help to mediate a peaceful settlement somehow. It's often better to let them handle their politics on their own and not pass judgement because that way, we're more likely to be able to continue relations with the new government. Now that we're an observer member of the Pact, we have the opportunity to build a closer relationship with our former colonies. That could be blown out of the window if we were to intervene militarily in this potential PAIG coup.

"There's also the reaction of the Assembly to consider. Any military deployment would require a vote in the Assembly. The Partido Comunista Português and the Partido Ecologista would vote against it, and the left wing of the Socialistas would likely join them in that. Hell, I suspect that the Partido Popular Democrático would also vote against it just because that would hand me a defeat. Never mind the difficulty in explaining why we need to intervene in the first place. How do I justify acting against a coup in Guinea-Bissau when we've never done anything about the political practices in Angola, or Mozambique, or Zambia, or Zaire, or anywhere else?"

Dourado grimaced and shook his head. "So if President Kibiya and the PUN win the election and then get couped, they're on their own?"

"We could give them refuge in our embassy in Bissau pending potential mediation, per existing policy. I appreciate that this isn't what you want to hear, but my hands are tied. The Partido Socialista was the party of power when Portugal's relationship with Guinea-Bissau started to improve in the late seventies and we've always preferred to leave the former colonies alone when it comes to their politics. At best, I could lead a call for us to act as peacekeepers but that would require the permission of whichever group was in government in Bissau. I'm sorry, Joaquim."

Dourado rolled his eyes. "So if the PAIG stage a coup, they get away with it and my company loses millions. Remind me why I bother donating money to your party."

"Look, I would help if I could but I can't just abandon decades of diplomatic practise and potentially threaten the stability of my government just to safeguard your investments." Cordeiro rubbed his forehead as he truly was not enjoying this difficult conversation, then his eyes lit up as an idea came to him. "There might be another way though. Portugal couldn't intervene in the event of a coup because of our history in Guinea-Bissau. That doesn't mean that a different nation would be unable to step in."

"What are you proposing?"

"I can't guarantee anything because I'll need a bit of time to explore an option. Give me a couple of weeks and I'll see what I can do."

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Fri Mar 19, 2021 11:24 am

9 February 2021, 21:30hrs [UTC+8]
Taohuayuan
Suzhou, Nanfang Republic

Although the Nanfang Republic celebrated New Years Day on January 1st like most of the other nations in the world, they also celebrated what was known as 'Spring Festival' or the 'Lunar New Year'. The Lunar New Year was also celebrated by other nations in the region and was regarded as one of the most important holidays in the Nanfaren calendar, meriting a week-long public holiday that saw a massive human migration every year as families travelled across the nation (and beyond) to spend time together. This year would see Lunar New Year's Day land on February 12, which meant that much of the annual migration was either underway or completed as Lunar New Year's Eve landed on February 11. This date was significant because Lunar New Year's Eve was traditionally the day of the 'reunion dinner' when families reunited to dine together on the final day of the year. In Nanfaren culture the reunion dinner was more of a grand family banquet, known as 'Happy Gathering', where everybody in the family was allowed to and encouraged to drink. However, before the banquet it was customary to offer a sacrifice to the family's ancestors; although the Nanfang Republic was nominally a secular nation, they still retained many customs and practises from the days of the Great Yue Kingdom. After the completion of the banquet, the family members present would traditionally stay up until dawn, engaging in various entertainment activities and seeing in the New Year. For younger generations, the excitement of being allowed to stay up late was often secondary to the customary money gifts given to the children in the family, in lucky red envelopes or pockets. Of course, some children stayed up late far more often than simply once a year.

President Yang Mingshu had always gone an extra step when it came to the Lunar New Year. Every year, she held a pre-New Year banquet for her cabinet ministers and their spouses, always two days before Lunar New Year's Eve so that her guests would still have the following day to travel to their relatives if they needed to; she would even make the Presidential air fleet available for her ministers on this occasion so that they could spend plenty of time with older relations who were unable to travel themselves. This banquet was always held at the Palace of the Republic in Nanjing as it provided a rich historical backdrop to the event. While the President and her ministers dined in style, their offspring had a different idea for a final social function before travelling to be with family. In short, Taohuayuan became a princeling palace for the evening. This New Year's party was the main event of the princeling cultural calendar as attendance was not restricted solely to Tier One princelings, as princelings from the lower tiers were offered the opportunity to attend alongside celebrities and business representatives. This always led to stiff competition among the lower tier princelings as each Tier One princeling had a limited number of invitations that they could hand out, meaning that lower-tier princelings showered them with gifts and sycophantic praise in an attempt to secure an invitation. Naturally, Yang Zhihao possessed the largest number of potential invitations by dint of being the 'Presidential Princeling', and of course there was also the prestige of being invited by the 'pinnacle of the pyramid' himself, so he was always deluged with all manner of gifts, appreciative messages, and even large amounts of money at this time of the year. Naturally, he loved every single second of it.

Although Taohuayuan was guarded by members of the Central Security Bureau at all times due to its status as an important 'facility', President Yang had expressed her wish that Zhihao be accompanied by a security detail for the evening, and of course, this meant that Sergeant Song Cheol-jin was in attendance. The sergeant was not particularly put out by this assignment so close to the Lunar New Year because his family lived primarily in Shanghai and so it would be a short journey for him the following day. There was also the fact that he would be spending time in Zhihao's company yet again, something that the ex-marine had genuinely come to enjoy. Cheol-jin had been assigned to Zhihao quite regularly over the two-and-a-half months since the Oumún party, not only when the President's son was partying but also for various official trips and shopping expeditions, and he had come to rather like the younger individual. Yes, Zhihao had a penchant for latching onto him when drunk, and yes, Zhihao's hands attempted to wander under those circumstances. Also yes, Cheol-jin had to make sure that Zhihao got home in those situations and that often meant slinging the President's son over his shoulder and carrying him, and yes, Zhihao's hands usually attempted to wander under those circumstances as well. All the same, the sergeant had quickly learned that Zhihao would only try to get handsy if he was drunk and if he was permitted to do so; a simple 'no' or similar remark halted the nascent sexual harassment in its tracks and led to the return of drunken hugging. When he was sober, Zhihao delighted in the friendly and playfully irreverent banter that he and Cheol-jin engaged in. The sergeant had initially taken a more informal approach after realising that it would make Zhihao easier to handle, but that behaviour was now part and parcel of their relationship, and he knew that it must have been noticed by both President Yang and Colonel Liu by now. He, therefore, found it interesting that he was still being assigned to Zhihao because CSB personnel were supposed to be 'friendly with professional detachment' towards their protectees; he suspected that the reason why he was always being assigned to Zhihao was that he exhibited far less professional detachment towards him than would normally be expected.

Thankfully, the party was not getting out of hand. Fully aware that they were being hosted in one of the Presidential residences, the attendees were treating the event more like an extended cocktail party, with the lower tier princelings and the non-princelings attempting to network with their social superiors as well as with each other. A variety of different buffet dishes had been prepared and laid out stylishly so attendees simply had to pick at whatever they wanted, and a wide selection of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) was available for guests to help themselves. As President Yang was no fool, the vast wine cellar had been firmly locked and the keys were in her possession. The attendees were distributed throughout the ground floor of the main residential building, for the most part, divided into small groups as each of the Tier One princelings found themselves entertaining several individuals at once. These hangers-on laughed at the stories and jokes being told even if they honestly didn't find them very funny, as doing so might help ingratiate them with the children of the cabinet ministers. Zhihao could be found in front of the fireplace in the main lounge, dressed in a designer outfit that was comprised of black trousers, a white shirt with lace collar and cuffs, and a black jacket that featured intricate decoration in gold and red; for his part, Cheol-jin was wearing a typical black tuxedo and starting to relax somewhat as he returned to Zhihao with a glass of champagne, having been politely asked to get one for him.

Zhihao was currently surrounded by Kang Lan (daughter of Governor Kang Sung of Jiangsu Province) and three of her fellow Tier Three princelings as they listened intently to him complimenting the designer whose outfit he was wearing. Cheol-jin could not fail to notice the way that the four twenty-something women exchanged glances as he returned and handed Zhihao his glass, but refrained from saying anything for the time being. Instead, he moved back to his chosen position at the side of the fireplace, listening to Zhihao's grandstanding while occasionally casting his gaze around the room. When Zhihao eventually finished and excused himself from his audience, Cheol-jin moved closer and tapped him on the shoulder. "Have you got a moment?"

"Sure thing, what's up?"

Cheol-jin glanced to the side and noticed Kang Lan looking back at them before she continued moving off with her friends. "That is what's up. I'm getting some very peculiar looks."

Zhihao made a show of looking him over (while taking the opportunity to genuinely look him over) and smirked playfully. "Nothing missing, weird, or out of place as far as I can see."

The sergeant rolled his eyes in bemusement. "That's not what I meant. It's whenever I'm interacting with you. The Tier Ones aren't doing it, but some of the others-"

Zhihao's eyes sparkled with mischief. "Maybe they think we're fucking, or something." He giggled and took a sip of champagne. "Don't worry about it. I'm guessing that they either don't know who you are and haven't figured out why you're here, or they do know who you are and they're just gawping at you. More likely to be the first one if you think about it, I mean it's not like any of the Tier Two or lower princelings would ever know the name of anyone in the Presidential detail. As far as the watchers are concerned, you're an unknown guy in a tuxedo who just walks up and talks to me."

"Surely they'd figure out that I'm your security detail?"

"The trouble is that you're not wearing the usual CSB suit and you're not touching your ear, or speaking into your right sleeve cuff. Alas, some of the Tier Twos and below just aren't that bright. For example..." Zhihao scanned the groupings of guests until he identified his target, then leaned closer to Cheol-jin and lowered his voice slightly. "See that tall guy over there listening to Nianzu? With the long hair."

Cheol-jin looked in the direction that Zhihao indicated and nodded once he located the individual in question, so Zhihao continued. "That's Wen Xianliang, son of General Wen Duyi."

"General Wen is the commander of the Eastern Theater Command, so that makes Xianliang a Tier Two?"

Zhihao grinned. "Very good, especially because General Wen is technically not national-level military but he's higher than provincial-level, so in princeling terms, we round up for tier qualification because we're nice like that. Anyway, General Wen wanted Xianliang to follow in his footsteps and become an officer, so Xianliang was enrolled in the Central Military Academy in Nanjing last year."

"He got into Whampoa? Huh." Cheol-jin initially seemed impressed with that information, although he guessed that Zhihao wouldn't be telling the story if it ended with Xianliang graduating and enjoying a career in the Republic's military. "Go on, what happened?"

"Notice that I said 'he was enrolled', not 'he enrolled'. General Wen called in some favours and had him accepted. Let's just say that Xianliang didn't quite cut it."

"Come on, out with it." Cheol-jin cocked an eyebrow at Zhihao. "You're not one to leave it at that."

Zhihao's eyes gleamed as the sergeant coaxed the story out of him, not that he needed any coaxing to gossip. "Well, Xianliang might have the physical attributes for the military but not the mental attributes. He was kicked out for propositioning female students, telling them that if they slept with him then his father would make sure that they graduated." He giggled as he continued. "General Wen was so mad, he sent Xianliang on holiday to Zambia for three months so that he didn't have to look at him. Bless him, how can someone that attractive be so stupid?"

Cheol-jin shrugged. "He's not bad to look at, I guess, but he's no Marine. Or ex-Marine."

Zhihao initially regarded him with some curiosity following that statement, but he couldn't help beaming happily as the sergeant gave him a cheeky wink.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sat Mar 20, 2021 5:29 pm

19 February 2021, 09:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The weekly Friday morning meeting of President Yang Mingshu's cabinet was being held with all attendees fresh and rested, as it was only two days after the end of the Lunar New Year holidays. Known as the Third Yang Government as President Yang was currently in her third term of office, the cabinet was comprised of twenty-six ministers who worked diligently to ensure the continued prosperity of the Republic. Several ministers had played a part in President Yang's administration since her first term while others had filtered into the upper political echelons of the nation as existing ministers retired for a variety of reasons. They sat at a long lacquered conference table, thirteen ministers seated along each of the longer sides, while President Yang was positioned at the head of the table due to her leadership role; as the size of the table meant that those furthest from President Yang might struggle to be heard properly, microphones were available if any minister needed to use them. After everyone had taken their seats and settled down, President Yang began the meeting.

"Good morning everyone, I trust that we all had a pleasant holiday. Now, the first order of business concerns the video conference that I had with Prime Minister Cordeiro of Portugal yesterday afternoon. I would like to mention the fact that he was at his desk earlier than usual to account for the time difference; as he was the one who wanted to have the meeting, he was willing to allow me to decide upon the time. I provided the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the minutes of the meeting so that they could conduct some preliminary research into the issue that we discussed, and I shall now inform all of you about it directly. If you would direct your attention to your tablets, please."

She donned her spectacles and tapped at the touchscreen on the tablet in front of her, and information was quickly relayed to the tablet of each cabinet member around the table.

"The Republic of Guinea-Bissau, a West African nation with a population of just under two million. A former Portuguese colony that achieved independence following a leftist guerilla campaign, they have experienced a great deal of political instability since becoming independent and their economy is still heavily based on agriculture. They are due to hold general elections on March 25th, deciding upon their President and the composition of their unicameral legislature, the National People's Assembly. According to the latest opinion polls within the country, the incumbent PUN is likely to retain a majority in the Assembly and the current President, Ulisses Kibiya, is likely to win a second term in office. Unfortunately, the situation is not as straightforward as it seems."

She swiped across her screen to the next page of information, an action quickly replicated by her ministers.

"The PAIG are the primary opposition party. They are also the organisation that led the armed movement against the Portuguese administration, and they ruled Guinea-Bissau for twenty-three years as a one-party state, with some internal factionalism, until the end of a civil war saw them agree to multi-party democracy. They are also responsible for the creation of the FARP, the nation's military forces. The FARP has shown a willingness to intervene in Bissau-Guinean politics if they feel that it is warranted. The reason why Prime Minister Cordeiro brought Guinea-Bissau to our attention is that the PAIG have reportedly been rebuilding their ties with the FARP of late. He, and others, are concerned that if the PUN does indeed win the elections then the PAIG could incite their newly reconnected allies in the FARP to declare the election invalid and overthrow the PUN. This is of concern because the PAIG have reinvented themselves as a nationalist party with slightly softer left-wing ideals, and they oppose the involvement of a major Portuguese conglomerate in their nation's economy."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Huang Li now addressed the rest of the ministers. The sixty-one-year-old possessed an almost stereotypical bureaucratic appearance and had been a cornerstone of President Yang's government since she first came to power, presiding over the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for as long as Yang had been President. "The President explained to Prime Minister Cordeiro that we would have absolutely no objections to Portugal intervening against this potential coup if it were to take place, as Guinea-Bissau is not a Pact member and we have no real interests in the nation. However, Prime Minister Cordeiro then stated that Portugal would be unable to intervene due to historical practice. The Republic of Portugal does not intervene in the event of a coup or any similar political upheaval in a former colony unless it is mediation and all involved parties agree to it. Essentially, they have no wish to be seen as attempting to police other independent nations, all the more so in this particular case as the PAIG would easily incorporate Portuguese intervention into their anti-colonialist narrative. Even if he were willing to commit to military intervention, Prime Minister Cordeiro would need to persuade the Assembly of the Republic to vote in favour of intervention, and by all accounts that prospect is unlikely at best."

He then yielded back to President Yang, who clasped her hands together and rested them on the table before her as she spoke. "If the PAIG did orchestrate a coup then it would likely seize and nationalise the Bissau-Guinean assets of Grupo Dourado, one of Portugal's largest conglomerates; the conglomerate is owned by the Dourado family, the wealthiest family in Portugal. They accuse Grupo Dourado of colonising their nation, even though the conglomerate's activities are actually proving to be somewhat beneficial to Guinea-Bissau. Incidentally, the Dourado family have donated a great deal of money to the Partido Socialista, Prime Minister Cordeiro's political party. So if the PUN win the election and the PAIG manage to stage a coup with military assistance, there could be unfortunate repercussions for Portugal. That is why Prime Minister Cordeiro asked if we could step in."

Minister Huang then picked up the briefing once again. "As we are all well aware, as a rule, the Nanfang Republic does not conduct interventions in other nations. However, I believe that we may have an excuse for intervention if individuals perform the correct actions. What the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is proposing is that we officially say and do nothing until after the election has been held, as there is no need to commit ourselves unless it becomes necessary. However, President Kibiya will be advised on the best course of action via unofficial channels. If the PAIG lose in the elections and attempt a coup with FARP support, then it is our idea that President Kibiya will request assistance from the Shenzhen Pact to maintain the results of free and fair elections. If we are invited in, then it is not interventionism but rather 'peacekeeping' at worst. Minister Tang, I believe that the best hope for President Kibiya's government in that scenario would be Rapid Response Force Africa."

Minister for National Defense Tang Dongwei nodded in response. An appointee of the Third Yang Government, the sixty-year-old was a general in the Nanfaren Defense Forces but was always referred to 'Minister' rather than 'General' as his ministerial rank was technically higher than his military rank. The Rapid Response Force that had been mentioned was one of three in the NDF, distributed across the Shenzhen Pact on the invitation of specific full members. Rapid Response Force Asia was based in Singapura Raya, Rapid Response Force Indian was based in the United Arab Emirates, and Rapid Response Force Africa was based in the Gabonese Republic. "That would be a correct assessment, Minister Huang. Would we be permitted to provide them with forewarning about a potential deployment to Guinea-Bissau?"

President Yang spoke up. "Of course. We have just over a month before these elections are held, so we have plenty of preparation time for this possible coup. I want projections on how our forces would perform against the FARP, admittedly they are not a modern fighting force but we should still take them as seriously as any other potential military opposition. I want recommendations on potential concessions that we would request in return for saving President Kibiya's government, I have some in mind already but I would like to hear other suggestions as well. We should also consider engaging directly with Grupo Dourado and the Dourado family. We would be riding to the rescue of their assets as well as the rescue of the Kibiya government, and I think that we should get to know them. Any objections to this course of action?"

She looked around the table, noting that none of her ministers expressed any objections to the potential intervention. As it should be, she thought to herself.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Mar 23, 2021 3:15 pm

20 February 2021, 08:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

As it was a Saturday morning, President Yang and Jiawei were sitting down to their usual weekend breakfast of morning tea and 'dim sum'. Professionally prepared by the staff who worked the kitchens of the Palace of the Republic, the dim sum served to the First Couple consisted of several small dishes, primarily different types of dumpling with a variety of fillings as well as a selection of sweet buns. Weekend breakfasts in the Yang household were far more leisurely than their weekday equivalent, with a great deal of conversation and the consumption of at least two cups of tea throughout the meal. President Yang had just poured herself some chrysanthemum tea when the door to the dining room opened and, much to the surprise of both her and her husband, Zhihao strolled in, looking decidedly bright and breezy as he walked up to his mother and planted a gentle peck on her cheek. She raised a quizzical eyebrow in his direction as he sat down next to her, then turned to her husband with a wry smile.

"Further confirmation that the prospect of a shopping trip to Shanghai is one of the few motivations that can get him up early."

Zhihao let out an exaggerated sigh and brandished his smartphone in her direction. "There I was, about to do something nice for you, but now I'm not going to bother." He reached out across the table and grabbed the dish that contained the sweet cream buns, completely abandoning traditional etiquette by pulling it to sit in front of him. He picked one of the buns up with his right hand and took a bite, emitting a slight sound of satisfaction before speaking again, this time gesturing towards his mother with the bun in his hand. "You were saying last night about contacting the Dourado family so that you could have a meeting, but you want it to be as non-official as possible. The name rang a bell, so..."

He took another bite before using his index finger to tap on his phone a few times. "Is this guy one of them?"

President Yang turned to look as Zhihao showed her the screen and the picture displayed upon it. It was a selfie taken by a young man with wavy brunette hair, who appeared to be in his mid-twenties and was reclining by a swimming pool while smiling. She gestured towards the picture with some degree of incredulity. "Yes, that's the son. Florêncio. How do you know him?"

Zhihao shrugged and turned the phone back to himself. "I don't actually know him, he started following me on Guanxi just before the Pact's anniversary celebration. I saw the name 'Florêncio Dourado' and thought it was kinda funny so I looked at his profile, he seems rich so I followed him back." 'Guanxi' was a Nanfaren-designed photo and video sharing social media service; its name roughly translated as 'connections' or 'relationships', and in Nanfaren culture, the word was more generally used to describe personal networks and relationships, as well as the benefits that could be gained from such connections. "I just thought that since he knows who I am, if you wanted to meet with him or his family then I could send him a private message and invite him to visit us. It'll all be nice and informal."

President Yang raised her eyebrows in surprise and looked at her husband, who was wearing a similar expression, then looked back to Zhihao. "I don't think I can find the words to express how impressed I am. See what happens when you get a good night's sleep?"

Zhihao grinned. "I'll take that as a 'thank you'. Do you want me to message him?"

"Yes, please do so. Thank you, Zhihao."

"No problem. Oh, by the way-"

President Yang tutted and regarded him with an expectant expression. "Here it comes. What do you want in return?"

"I resent that, you know. What I was going to say is that I might be back from Shanghai a little later than usual, there's a restaurant that's run by the family of a friend and I've never been to it before, so I want to see what it's like."

"Ah, I see." She smiled slightly. "Well, Sergeant Song has been assigned to you for this trip so...oh, wait. His family live in Shanghai, don't they?"

The comment was met with an overdramatic eye-roll from her son. "Honestly Mum, I think you're becoming obsessed with Sergeant Song. He always seems to come up in conversation when you talk to me. He's half your age, and Dad's sat right there. Have you no shame?"

President Yang chuckled at her son's response. "I bet you that dish of buns that this restaurant that you're going to serves Korean food, and that he doesn't know that there will be a massive coincidence where you happen to get hungry in the general vicinity of his family's place. Hmm, I'm also guessing that he hasn't told you exactly where it is, so you most likely searched for it on Soso Maps and now the location has been added to the Shanghai shopping route that you have stored on your phone. Could I possibly be correct?"

Zhihao did not answer his mother directly, instead finishing off the bun in his hand before silently pushing the rest of them along the table to her while looking at his phone. "I don't want to fill up on these so you can have the rest if you want."

She turned to Jiawei with a satisfied smile. "I know him better than he thinks I do."

Jiawei was intrigued by one particular point of the conversation. "I didn't realise that he stores shopping routes on his phone."

President Yang nodded. "In all fairness, when was the last time we went out shopping as a family? He has a route saved for every major city in the Republic, and he updates them if new stores open that he's interested in. We often underestimate just how organised our dear baby can be, at least when he wants to be."

Eager to change the subject, Zhihao loudly cleared his throat. "So anyway, what do you want me to say in this message? 'Hey there, heard about your Africa problem and Mum was wondering if you and/or your dad wanted to come to Nanjing for a chat about it. Drop me a PM if you're interested', would that be okay?"

"Yes, I should think so. We could probably extend an official invitation but Prime Minister Cordeiro might wonder what we're up to."

Zhihao snorted dismissively. "Like he matters. If he wants us to handle this coup thing, then he doesn't get a say in how we do it. You said it yourself, if this family have big money tied up in Guinea-Bissau then we should talk to them. Simple." He quickly typed the proposed message and hit 'send'. "There we go."

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

20 February 2021, 10:00hrs [UTC+0]
Villa Dourado
Lisbon, Republic of Portugal

Ten hours later and 6,500 miles away, the soft beeping of an alarm penetrated the sleepy haze that currently encapsulated Florêncio Dourado. After slowly opening his eyes and letting out a loud yawn, he reached over and switched off the alarm before rolling onto his back and staring at the bedroom ceiling for a few moments. He eventually propped himself up on his elbows and blearily looked around the stylish room with its predominantly blue-and-grey decor, then noticed that the notification light was flashing on his smartphone. Did I give my number out again?, he wondered as he swung his legs out from under the warm covers and sat on the side of the bed, grabbing his phone and tapping in his four-digit code to unlock it. The twenty-five-year-old did a double-take as he saw the name of the message's sender.

What the fu-

Upon reading the contents of the private message, Florêncio leapt to his feet and dashed into the ensuite bathroom to take a shower; once he had finished showering and had thoroughly dried his hair, he pulled on a white designer tracksuit and hurried downstairs. Upon reaching the ground floor lounge of the modern three-floor villa that served as the family's residence in the Portuguese capital, Florêncio looked around for his father and quickly located him; the elder Dourado was sat outside next to the pool, reading the newspaper in a comfortable blue wicker chair. Florêncio stepped through one of the open screen doors into the poolside area and quickly crossed the distance to his father's position. "You are not going to believe what I've got."

Joaquim responded without lowering the newspaper. "I do hope it's not gonorrhoea."

The younger Dourado ignored the attempted quip and instead perched himself in the chair next to his father. "I've had a private message from Yang Zhihao."

The mention of the name caused the newspaper to be lowered, and Joaquim regarded Florêncio with some degree of skepticism. "Any particular reason why?"

Florêncio held up a hand as he read aloud. "'Hey there, heard about your Africa problem and Mum was wondering if you and/or your dad wanted to come to Nanjing for a chat about it. Drop me a PM if you're interested'. Do you know what that means? They know about Guinea-Bissau and they want to talk to us about the situation."

Joaquim folded up the newspaper and leaned forward. "Interesting. Cordeiro told me that he'd spoken to President Yang and was waiting to hear back from her, and now we get an invitation to Nanjing. Perhaps she wants to talk to us about Guinea-Bissau before she makes an official decision, yet she didn't ask Cordeiro to relay the invitation. Instead, it's her son contacting you via social media, through back channels as it were."

"So do I respond?"

"Yes, message him back and say that we'd be delighted to have a chat about our Africa problem whenever it's convenient." Joaquim smiled slightly. "We're not beholden to schedules like politicians so we could fly out there on relatively small notice."

Florêncio nodded and sat back in his chair, scrolling through Zhihao's Guanxi posts and smirking. "Ha, look at this post from today. He's been to some Korean restaurant in Shanghai today and is recommending it to his followers. His thirty-seven million followers."

Joaquim's smile grew upon hearing Florêncio's statement. "Maybe we should take some of our products with us, see if he likes any of them."
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Tue Mar 23, 2021 3:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Wed Mar 24, 2021 11:49 am

25 February 2021, 13:30hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

Joaquim and Florêncio had been pleasantly surprised by the haste with which they had received a provisional date and time for them to meet with President Yang, as it had only been just over an hour before Zhihao responded to Florêncio on Guanxi. The meeting date on offer was Thursday, February 25th, just after lunchtime, and the Dourado patriarch had been more than happy to accept. Recognising that there was likely a good reason why he had been contacted via his son's social media account rather than via official invitation, Joaquim had not informed Prime Minister Cordeiro of his trip to Nanjing; if anyone were to find out about it and ask, they would be told that it was a business trip to meet with potential Nanfaren partners, something not unusual given the strengthening economic ties between Portugal and the Nanfang Republic. Father and son had flown to Nanjing on February 24th in the Grupo Dourado corporate jet and had booked into the luxurious 5-star Republic Hotel at the heart of the Nanfaren capital for their stay. After an excellent night's sleep and a delicious breakfast, they had taken time to discuss what they thought might come up during the meeting, then started their journey to the Palace of the Republic in one of the red limousines that were complimentary for well-paying guests of the hotel.

The limousine arrived at the walls surrounding the palace complex without any incident, and they were granted permission to enter after an inspection from the armed CSB guards manning the guard post at the main entrance. While those CSB members who were part of the Presidential detail wore black suits as their 'uniform', the rest of the active Central Security Bureau personnel wore military camouflage as they were the more visible arm of what was, after all, a military bureau. After entering through the main entrance gates, the vehicle drove across the plaza towards the entrance to the palace complex itself, passing a statue of the Republic's first President along the way. Zhang Guoliang had been an officer in the Royal Army of the Great Yue Kingdom, holding the rank of Captain-General when the Tea War with the Republic of Layarteb ended and he had harboured a great deal of resentment towards the monarchy for what he viewed as their botched handling of the entire situation, both during and after the war. A former bandit and member of the Tiandihui fraternal organisation, Zhang had thrown in his lot with the nascent republican movement and provided both leadership and manpower to the anti-monarchists, eventually becoming so popular that there was no real alternative as the first President of the newly-declared Republic in 1859. Joaquim and Florêncio were greeted by a dark-suited functionary as they exited the limousine and were then escorted along the walking route to Zichao House, passing various other aides and employees until finally reaching the most significant building of the complex. The escorting functionary led them through the corridors of Zichao House until they reached the Presidential reception lounge; the aide then gestured for the pair to enter before heading off to carry out other duties, so they strode into the well-appointed room to be greeted by President Yang, who rose from her seat and offered a nod of acknowledgement, while Zhihao rose from his seat and offered a broad grin accompanied with an understated friendly wave.

Joaquim responded with a polite nod of his own. "Madam President, Mister Yang. Thank you for your generous invitation. You know my son, Florêncio, of course."

Florêncio offered a polite nod of his own. "Thank you for hosting us this afternoon."

"Not at all, gentlemen. We have a potential matter of mutual interest and it only makes sense for us to discuss this matter before it becomes a potential mutual problem." President Yang turned her attention to Zhihao. "If you want to stay then you're more than welcome."

"Nah, me and Florêncio were chatting on Guanxi and I'm going to give him the tour of the palace while you two talk about Africa."

President Yang nodded, a slight smirk crossing her lips. "Very well then. Make sure to stay out of trouble, won't you?"

Zhihao beamed with a cheeky grin at his mother before turning to Florêncio. "Shall we?"

"Sure thing." Florêncio smiled warmly and followed Zhihao out of the room, the pair beginning to chat loudly while Zhihao closed the door as they left. President Yang then addressed Joaquim. "Shall we?"

The elder Dourado smiled slightly and the pair settled down onto antique Yue-era couches that faced each other across a similarly antique lacquered coffee table before President Yang gestured to the blue-and-white porcelain tea service on the table. "Would you like some tea?"

"Please. Allow me, Madam President."

After Joaquim poured some tea for himself and President Yang, the pair took a moment to sip at their beverages before the leader of the Nanfang Republic spoke once more.

"I'm not sure how much Prime Minister Cordeiro has told you about the conversation that he had with me regarding Guinea-Bissau, so I'll briefly recap. The Portuguese government is either unable and/or unwilling to intervene in Guinea-Bissau in the event of a coup by the PAIG, so Prime Minister Cordeiro asked me if the Nanfang Republic would be willing to intervene. I've been discussing the idea with relevant cabinet ministers and there is no doubt that Nanfaren intervention would be of great value to President Kibiya's government. Of course, we would likely need to retain a presence in Guinea-Bissau following the intervention, to ensure that the rule of law is maintained. Our thinking is that if a significant percentage of the FARP were to join a coup attempt then the Kibiya government would have to build a new, more independent military for itself, and so we would likely have to remain in the country until such a force became operationally viable. In that situation, I believe that it would be sensible for any Nanfaren presence to be liaising with your corporate operations in the nation as your conglomerate is the major foreign presence at the moment."

"That would indeed be sensible, Madam President. Grupo Dourado has a significant presence in the Bissau-Guinean agricultural sector and we are on the verge of finalising a deal to enter their fishing industry. As I believe that this unofficial discussion can be a candid one, I will admit that we have our eyes on other sectors of the Bissau-Guinean economy. The nation finally has a President who truly recognises the value of foreign corporate operations, rather than simply paying lip service to the idea, and it would be in the best interests of everyone to have President Kibiya remain in power. If I might ask, how exactly do you intend to justify intervention? I know that your nation prefers to refrain from such actions and that you don't like commenting on the internal political matters of other nations."

"That is indeed correct, Senhor Dourado." President Yang took another drink from her cup. "We believe that it will be best to have President Kibiya officially request assistance from the Shenzhen Pact in the event of a coup against him. According to our charter, observer members would not be bound by such a request so Portugal could maintain their non-interventionist stance. The full members of the Pact will have already been briefed on the eventuality of Kibiya's request so we can convene an emergency meeting of the national leaders via video link and already know that we'll be agreeing to assist. The Nanfang Republic maintains a Rapid Response Force in Africa, stationed in the Gabonese Republic, so it will be relatively simple for our troops to deploy to Guinea-Bissau. As we would prefer to have Kibiya informed of this potential plan through less-than-official channels, would Grupo Dourado be able to assist us?"

Joaquim nodded. "Absolutely. It was through Grupo Dourado that I was made aware of the situation and then I was the one who spoke to Prime Minister Cordeiro. Our managing director in Guinea-Bissau can easily pass on any information to President Kibiya. Now if I might ask another candid question of you, what would the Nanfang Republic expect from Guinea-Bissau in return for defeating a coup attempt and introducing some desperately needed stability? Just in case there is any way that Grupo Dourado could assist in securing anything."

"My ministers and I are still finalising proposals in that vein. However, I feel that we would expect President Kibiya to commit Guinea-Bissau to Shenzhen Pact membership. We would also expect his government to respond favourably to Nanfaren corporate interests seeking opportunities in his nation, dependent on your own conglomerate's objectives naturally. You mentioned that you had eyes on sectors of the Bissau-Guinean economy aside from agriculture and fishing?"

"Primarily food processing and tourism. If we can build up the food processing industry in Guinea-Bissau then we would be able to manufacture some of our food products in-country rather than transporting the raw materials to Portugal, thus saving money. We also believe that the nation has great potential as a tourist destination, provided that it becomes truly stable of course."

President Yang responded with a confident smile. "It sounds as though my government will be more than able to conduct business with your conglomerate, Senhor Dourado. Now, tell me about President Kibiya. What sort of a man is he?"

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Fri Mar 26, 2021 4:17 pm

27 February 2021, 19:30hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

The tallest building within the walled complex that comprised the Palace of the Republic, the six-storey Zichao House was both the Presidential residential building and a working government facility. Floors one and two were primarily administrative, with the Presidential Office situated on the second floor. Floor three was home to security offices and accommodation, while floors four to six were residential. Bedrooms were situated on floor five of Zichao House, and it was Yang Zhihao's modern-decored room that was hosting visitors this evening. The room was actually more of a small open-plan apartment, with a small lounge area that featured a black sofa with a matching armchair, in addition to a wall-mounted 65-inch high definition television and a collection of the latest electronics. This area merged with the bedroom area that was dominated by Zhihao's king-size bed, with a lockable ensuite bathroom adjacent.

"So he said that if I wanted a spokesperson deal, the company would pay me every time I featured one of their products in one of my posts on Guanxi."

Liao Meiling and Tang Nianzu exchanged intrigued looks as Zhihao told them the tale of Florêncio's tour of the Palace and the matters that they had discussed. While the Tier One princelings had their parties where all members of their clique were in attendance, it was only natural that they had formed stronger individual friendships within their group. Of course, Meiling and Zhihao had their older sister-younger brother pet names for each other, while the twenty-one-year-old Nianzu referred to Zhihao as 'Zhǔxí' ('chairman'), due to his position as Zhihao's sycophant-in-chief. As the princelings had held the Lunar New Year party earlier in the month, the end of February often involved smaller informal gatherings; in this particular case, a movie night. Although admittedly most of Zhihao's attempts at a movie night involved the movie playing in the background and being ignored while he chatted with his guests, as was going to be the case tonight.

"So are you going to do it, Zhǔxí?"

Zhihao shook his head at Nianzu. "I thought about it, but Mum wasn't too keen on the idea of me 'shilling for a foreign company', even one that we're going to be playing friends with. I can see her point. So I messaged him and said 'sorry, I can't', and he was fine with it. I can't fault him for trying."

Meiling smirked. "That's not what you said after Lysander Margrave suggested the very same thing, involving you and the Margrave Tea Company."

Zhihao narrowed his eyes and wagged his finger at her. "That's because Lysander Margrave is a bitch. Honestly, after last year, the less I hear from him the better. He's like one of those little yappy dogs, looking for attention." He then proceeded to perform his best imitation of the individual in question. "Zhihao, such a great party. Zhihao, have you seen the latest fashion from Jiang Yu? Zhihao, who's that guy over there? Zhihao, pay attention to me. Zhihao, I'm jealous of you so I'm going to be nice to your face while bitching behind your back."

Meiling and Nianzu both started laughing, while Zhihao paused and tutted loudly. "If it wasn't for the fact that his family have been living here for so long, and if they didn't make such damn good chocolate, I'd convince Mum to deport them. Do you know what's funny though? The Dourados don't like them either."

The Margrave family were originally from the then-Republic of Layarteb in North America but had emigrated to the then-Great Yue Kingdom in 1795 following rumours of a major scandal involving them (namely their involvement in the assassination of President Vincent Hardy). They had established themselves in the city of Guangzhou as tea merchants and successfully weathered the storm of the republican revolution through an alliance with the Liao family, an alliance that had long since fallen by the wayside and been replaced with Liao toleration as the Margraves still resided primarily in Guangdong Province. The modern Margrave Tea Company was not just focused on the cultivation and export of tea as it also owned a chain of teahouses throughout the Nanfang Republic, and had branched out into more general food and beverages. As such, the Margrave Tea Company was one of Grupo Dourado's main competitors. While the products of the company were of high quality and were enjoyed by many in the Nanfang Republic, the Margraves themselves did not enjoy such a favourable reputation. Lysander Margrave was the twenty-eight-year-old grandson of the family patriarch, Alexander Margrave, and he was viewed as something of an egotistical social climber. His reputation had not been helped by the fact that he had been overheard saying something uncomplimentary about Zhihao's outfit at the 2020 Lunar New Year princeling party, and had been under an unspoken ban from all Tier One events ever since.

Meiling reached for her glass as her laughter subsided and took a quick gulp of champagne. "So, no Sergeant Song keeping you out of trouble tonight?"

Zhihao let out a disappointed sigh. "Since we're inside the palace, no need for him to be here." He picked up his glass and idly ran his finger around the rim of it. "I did think about inviting him but he's on duty tonight, probably patrolling, or guarding, or something."

"Didi's in love, Nianzu."

Zhihao directed an indignant look towards Meiling. "I'm not in love, Jiejie. He's just so nice to have around, you know? He puts up with my shit when I'm drunk, and he's cheeky. He's also really nice to look at." He noticed Meiling's amused expression, so he set down his glass and leaned over the arm of his chair towards her. "Yes, okay, I'd jump his bones in a heartbeat if I had the opportunity. I get the feeling that he wouldn't necessarily refuse, either."

Meiling leaned over the arm of the sofa towards him. "Why do you say that?"

"Well, at Lunar New Year I was telling him about Wen Xianliang and I mentioned that I thought Xianliang is good looking. The sergeant said 'He's not bad to look at, I guess, but he's no Marine. Or ex-Marine', and then winked at me. Not like a 'friend' wink, but like a 'you know what I mean' wink. Then when we were in Shanghai last week and I accidentally on purpose wound up going to his family's restaurant, I raved about the food on Guanxi-"

Nianzu chimed in. "Yeah Zhǔxí, I saw that. Is the food genuinely that good?"

"Seriously, it's fantastic. Anyway, on the way back home he told me that none of his exes had ever done anything that nice and that he really appreciated it. Why mention 'exes' specifically when he could have just said something like 'not many people' instead? Then yesterday morning, I was heading down to breakfast and I ran into him on the stairs because he was doing a security sweep. We said hi, had a bit of a chat. I then started heading down, he started heading up. I turned to check him out and I swear he was checking me out because he was looking in my direction as I turned my head; when he saw me looking back, he smiled and winked before carrying on up the stairs. I think he's trying to tell me that he's interested without actually saying that he's interested."

"I bet I know why, Zhǔxí." Nianzu sat up and turned so that he was properly facing Zhihao, his arm draped over the back of the sofa. "The Central Security Bureau is supposed to be highly professional, and the Presidential detail is the best of the CSB. You'd only have the best of the best looking after the President and their family, after all. There are probably rules about sleeping with a member of the President's family, so although he may well be interested, he can't actually say it because he'd get in trouble. He's probably just about within the rules with his informality towards you as it is."

"That would make sense, I guess. So if he can't say anything directly, then he also couldn't make a move on me, so that would mean that I've got to make a move on him." Zhihao drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair as he considered this. "I suppose that ideally, I'd need a situation where we're alone together, preferably overnight with no risk of getting caught, and then I could see what happens. That way, no-one would know except me and him. Damn it, if he'd been more hinty before then I could've tried something when Mum made me visit Chongqing University back in January."

"Maybe it's taken him a while to realise that he likes you like that, Didi. It's not like you see him every day. Maybe he's been figuring out what he can get away with and he's working within the rules as much as possible."

"Yeah, maybe." Zhihao then fixed Meiling and Nianzu with a gaze of steely determination. "Next opportunity I get, I'm going for it."

Meiling and Nianzu responded with firm nods of support before settling back in their seats, then Meiling pointed to the television screen and posed a vitally important question. "So which movie is this again?"
Last edited by Freistaat-Ostafrika on Sat Mar 27, 2021 12:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Sun Mar 28, 2021 8:50 am

5 March 2021, 13:30hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

As he stepped out of the Fengshen-A9 executive sedan that served as the official automobile for the Prime Minister of Portugal, Prime Minister Cordeiro could not help but notice the stark contrast between the media in his home country and the media in the Nanfang Republic. In Portugal, there would be a scrum of journalists waiting for him with camera flashes going off and questions being shouted at him, but here in the Nanfang Republic, he was faced with state-approved journalists who politely asked him to pose for pictures and requested permission to ask him questions. He was in Nanjing for a brief visit that included a reception for Portuguese companies operating in the Republic, but the centrepiece of his visit was the imminent meeting with President Yang. Cordeiro was riding an upswing in his approval ratings back home, a side effect of the Realm of Cotland having recently acceded to observer membership of the Shenzhen Pact in an evolution of the Northern European kingdom's relationship with the organisation. Cordeiro's unashamedly pro-Nanjing foreign policy stance had been vindicated as Portugal's membership of the Unified Free Trade Area meant that it was part of a free trade area that now covered over 3 billion people, earning him plaudits from Portuguese business leaders and union officials alike as the nation was now part of such an enormous market. The venue for this meeting of leaders would be the Reception Hall of the palace complex, located along the same central axis as Zichao House but between the main gate and the Presidential residential building. The Reception Hall was used for official visits by foreign leaders, while more general guests could be hosted in a location of the President's discretion.

Cordeiro smiled politely as President Yang stepped forward to greet him, doing his best to savour the moment of his first-ever visit to the heart of the Nanfaren government. While Cordeiro stood 5'9" and was dressed in a typical dark navy business suit, President Yang stood 5'4", dressed in a cream-coloured pantsuit and with her long dark brown hair pulled up into a rather strict and sensible-appearing style. The pair shook hands and posed in front of the approved media presence before beginning the walk along the covered central pathway towards the Reception Hall, Cordeiro's security personnel hanging back to give them room to talk while CSB personnel were clearly visible no matter where you looked, either patrolling the grounds or observing their national leader's movements.

"I must admit to being somewhat jealous, Madam President. Such a beautiful and historical residence, and such respectful journalists."

President Yang chuckled. "I suspect that some of your journalists are not best pleased with their limited access compared to your homeland. The media does things very differently here in the Nanfang Republic, journalists take their jobs very seriously and work tirelessly to maintain their high standards of professionalism. I will say that there was one Portuguese newspaper, Correio da Manhã, that attempted to file a formal complaint because we refused to grant access for all of their intended representatives. They soon backed down and accepted the clearance that we were offering, but I imagine that they may have something to say about it back home. No doubt they will try to implicate you somehow."

Cordeiro snorted. "They're a right-leaning tabloid, they complain about everything. Being criticised by them is nothing new to me, but these days they are in more of a minority in that regard. The Portuguese people are now starting to see why it was wise for us to pursue membership of the Shenzhen Pact, and I know that the benefits will continue to accumulate for years to come." He paused for a moment before broaching a potentially sensitive subject. "While we have some time to ourselves before we do all of the official on-camera discussions, have you given any more thought to Guinea-Bissau?"

"Indeed I have. I've consulted with the cabinet as well as with parties who may have an interest in that country. I have concluded that if the PUN wins the election and then suffers a coup attempt at the hands of the PAIG, then we shall become involved if our assistance is requested. President Kibiya has been made aware of our intentions through intermediaries, and so he knows what to do if he requires help in maintaining order." Yang offered him a wry smile. "Everything is well in hand, Prime Minister. No need to concern yourself with any specifics. You asked if we could handle this potential situation for you, and we shall do so if the need arises."

"Well, can I ask if-"

Yang shook her head. "Best not to. With the greatest respect, Prime Minister, this is a Nanfaren issue now, as you wished it to be. Any attempted coup will be handled and Portuguese interests will be safeguarded. Rest assured that you will see the outcome that you desire, and let's leave it at that."

Cordeiro went to open his mouth to respond but quickly thought better of it. She did have a point, after all. He was the one who had asked her for help with Guinea-Bissau, and he had done so in an attempt to placate a major financial donor to his political party. If he started asking questions about Nanfaren plans after essentially abdicating responsibility for Guinea-Bissau to them, he could end up looking ungrateful. Thankfully for Cordeiro, President Yang broke the momentary silence.

"How is your family? Everyone keeping well?"

He was inwardly relieved at such a dramatic change in the subject of conversation. "Yes, very well thank you. Andreia is spearheading a new environmental campaign, and Nelihna is studying her first year at the University Institute of Lisbon."

"Ah, what subject is she studying?"

"Political Science. She says that she's interested in a career in politics, with the Partido Socialista no less. Who knows, one day she may well become a Prime Minister of Portugal herself."

President Yang nodded approvingly. "You must be very proud of her. Political Science, eh? Most commendable for her to be taking an interest in the governance of her nation. My son Zhihao graduated with an 'Excellent' in Politics and Government Administration from Nanjing University last year, so hopefully, he will be following a similar path."

"That's not an easy grade to achieve, he must be a very intelligent young man."

"He certainly is." Of course, President Yang refrained from mentioning that Zhihao tended to focus his intelligence on rather frivolous matters. "Speaking of education, I've been considering the potential for the Pact to have a dedicated student exchange programme. The Nanfang Republic already has an existing exchange programme, but I think that we could expand it to be more Pact-wide than strictly national, or perhaps use it as a template. I have yet to formulate something concrete to present to the rest of the national leaders and Secretary-General Duan, but I'm curious to hear any initial thoughts that you may have."

"Hmm, such a programme could present excellent opportunities for students from the less wealthy members of our organisation as well as potentially providing a more rounded worldview for students from the wealthier member nations." Cordeiro was then struck with an idea. "Would there be a possibility for students to apply for grants to study abroad? I'm just thinking that a student from, say Zaire, might not necessarily find it easy to meet the costs of residing in the UAE or Singapura Raya, for example."

"Yes, that is a very good point. We wouldn't want any programme applicants to miss out on opportunities solely based on their financial situation, and a grant system could certainly offer a solution to financial issues for programme students. I'll incorporate your suggestion into my considerations, thank you." She smiled as she looked forward and saw that they had arrived at the entrance to the Reception Hall. "Time for a few more pictures, I believe."

The two politicians turned to face the journalists who had been permitted to follow them at a respectful distance, posing for a few more photo opportunities before venturing inside the building for official discussions on non-sensitive subjects, in yet another choreographed event that would be captured by the media.

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Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue Mar 30, 2021 4:12 pm

20 March 2021, 14:20hrs [UTC+8]
Taohuayuan
Suzhou, Nanfang Republic

The death of Emperor Kazuhito of the United Empire on March 12th had come as a great shock to the world, as the Nihanchu monarch had only been fifty-three years of age. The fact that his death had been caused by an accident, a plane crash in the Sea of Japan, only enhanced that shock and surprise. As the Empire's neighbour and undoubtedly one of its closest friends, the Nanfang Republic had also mourned the Emperor's death in their own way. The Nanfaren media had discussed his legacy, describing him as a true friend of the Republic and a great statesman that any nation would have been proud to call their own. There had been a minute's silence held on March 13th across the Republic to honour the Emperor, and President Yang had sent a personal message of condolence to Kazuhito's son and successor, Crown Prince Seiji, or as he was now, Emperor Seijihito. President Yang had been invited to attend Emperor Kazuhito's funeral in Tokyo on Sunday, March 21st and had wasted little time in RSVP'ing, deciding to travel with her husband Jiawei and a relatively small detachment of the Presidential detail; as Tokyo was both the capital city of a valued ally as well as quite a safe city in general, she did not want to insinuate that her safety was in question by taking a large entourage of security personnel with her. It had also been decided that it would be best if Zhihao remained at home. Not that President Yang believed that her son would get drunk and embarrass the nation at Emperor Kazuhito's funeral, but rather she knew that it was far easier to let him remain in the Nanfang Republic rather than bringing him with her. Arrangements were put in place for President Yang and her entourage to fly to Tokyo on Saturday, March 20th, so then they would have time to settle in at the Nanfaren embassy and get plenty of rest before the funeral the following day; they would then fly back to Nanjing on Monday, March 22nd. Anticipating the possibility of Zhihao attempting to organise some sort of impromptu princeling event while she was out of the country, President Yang had informed him that he would be staying at Taohuayuan for the weekend while she was away, with strict instructions not to hold any parties and, if possible, not to even leave the confines of the estate's private island. As she would be attending the funeral of a great friend of the Republic, President Yang was not overly fond of the idea of Zhihao and the other Tier One princelings getting drunk and partying over that same weekend. Zhihao had initially responded somewhat petulantly to the news of his intended confinement within Taohuayuan until his mother mentioned that Sergeant Song would be keeping an eye on him, at which point he became rather more cooperative and understanding of his mother's wishes. This was, of course, because he had quickly realised that this would put him in a position where he could be alone with the sergeant for an extended period.

At 11:00hrs on Saturday, March 20th, President Yang had departed from Nanjing International Airport on NP-1, an NCAC-C929 long-range wide-body airliner that had received a wide variety of special customisations to make it appropriate as the Nanfang Republic's primary Presidential aircraft. NP-1 featured conference rooms, private bedrooms, office suites, and all manner of other amenities that made it possible for the Nanfaren President to continue governing while in the air. The flight would take roughly six hours, meaning that President Yang would arrive in Tokyo around 18:00hrs local time, giving her and Jiawei plenty of time to settle in before the funeral the following day. Zhihao had then departed Nanjing shortly afterwards, being driven in one of the Presidential limousines to the city of Suzhou. Due to Saturday morning traffic, there were a couple of delays along the journey, but he eventually arrived in the city not long after 14:00hrs. While he had promised his mother that he would not leave the private island once he had arrived, the ever-interpretive Zhihao decided to do some shopping before going to Taohuayuan. This decision led to a detour that took the limousine to the luxury shopping area of Suzhou Village, located on the western shore of the Yangcheng Lake Peninsula in the city. Suzhou Village was populated entirely with designer boutiques, exclusivist dining, and other refreshingly expensive retail outlets, and unsurprisingly Zhihao was greeted by name and feted by the staff of the premises that he regularly visited; Cheol-jin, on the other hand, simply received a polite nod in most cases as he was 'just the security' in the eyes of the retailers. After first having lunch at one of the high-end bistros in the Village, Zhihao was treated like royalty by his regular haunts and he unsurprisingly bought several new items of clothing that each cost about an average month's salary in the Republic. Once content with his purchases, Zhihao finally decided that it was time to head to Taohuayuan at about 17:45hrs. Upon entering the main residential building, he headed upstairs to shower and change, eventually emerging clad in a pair of newly-bought tight black designer jeans with a matching t-shirt. He then called the ten-strong weekend house staff together into the lounge area, smiling warmly as he addressed them.

"Okay everyone, it's just me here this weekend so I'm giving you all the rest of the weekend off. I'll be fine here on my own, I know where everything is and if I need any help then I'll pester the security guys. So thank you for your continued hard work, enjoy your time off, and I'll see you all when my family next stays here. Oh, and don't worry, you'll still get paid for the entire weekend and it won't come out of your holiday allowance. Think of it as a bonus for all your hard work and dedication."

The ten staff members were initially a little confused as the announcement was completely unexpected, but he was the President's son and therefore if he said that they had a paid weekend off, then they had a paid weekend off. They all politely thanked him before filing out of the lounge, facing a short journey home as the residence's domestic staff all resided within the city of Suzhou. As the staff left the lounge, Cheol-jin approached Zhihao with a quizzical expression.

"You do realise that it's just me and you for the rest of the weekend now. The CSB personnel are only going to come in here if there's a major security issue since I'm in here with you."

"Yeah, I know. I thought it might be nice if we got to spend some quality relaxed time together since we only really get to hang out when you're assigned to me and there are always other people around." Zhihao looked at his newly-acquired watch and saw that it was coming up to half-past six in the evening. "So it's about dinner time but I just want something quick and easy, what shall we have?"

"You've just dismissed the kitchen staff for the weekend."

"And?"

"Does that mean that you're going to be cooking then? This I have to see."

"I'll have you know that I'm quite skilled with my hands, thank you very much."

Cheol-jin folded his arms and smirked. "I imagine so. Takes a lot of finger dexterity to call for takeout."

Zhihao folded his arms and raised his eyebrows indignantly, doing his best to suppress a smile at the rather quick comment. "Okay, smartass. Since your family owns a restaurant, you can cook."

Cheol-jin did his best not to laugh at Zhihao's not entirely convincing indignation. "No problem, I'll see what I can put together." He turned in the direction of the kitchen but paused, and gestured for Zhihao to follow him. "I'll need a glamorous assistant." Zhihao's face lit up, but Cheol-jin couldn't resist imparting a little snark. "Unfortunately I can't see one around, so you'll have to do."

Zhihao scowled and shook his head as he began following the ex-marine. "I hate you, you know that?" While he did his best to sound angry, Zhihao was far too happy with the situation to make it at all believable.

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

Taohuayuan's kitchen was a spacious room with just about every cookery appliance you could think of, as the kitchen staff were always prepared to cater for whatever culinary request might come their way. Thanks to the efficient organisation of workspaces and storage, Cheol-jin was able to quickly determine the location of various ingredients as he paced up and down the kitchen.

"Quick and easy, hmm. Dinner will be...street toast." He grabbed an apron from the freshly laundered selection hanging up, then tossed one to Zhihao before crossing to a storage stand and liberating a large skillet. "If you could chop up some cabbage, onion, green onion, and carrot, then that would be awesome. The vegetable fridge is the one labelled 'vegetables'." He pointed to the relevant fridge and grinned at Zhihao's exasperated sigh.

"I can read, y'know."

"Just making sure."

While Zhihao rummaged in the vegetable fridge, Cheol-jin effortlessly moved around the kitchen area, quickly acquiring other items necessary for his intended dish. Street toast was not a particularly complicated meal and was one often available from street vendors, hence its name; it essentially consisted of a mixed vegetable patty between two pieces of toasted bread. Clutching the requested vegetables in his arms, Zhihao kicked the fridge closed before crossing to the counter where Cheol-jin had already laid out a large mixing bowl with a chopping board and a knife for him. The Presidential princeling watched intently as the ex-marine continued organising everything that was required for the meal, then placed some green onions on the chopping board and held the knife above them. An idea popped into his head and so he cleared his throat to catch Cheol-jin's attention.

"Um, how do you want this cut? Don't say 'with a knife, genius' or anything like that, because I'm holding a knife. You might have some special way you want it done."

Cheol-jin chuckled as he walked over. "Chop the ends off, then thin slices. I'll get you started."

He positioned himself behind Zhihao and stepped up close enough that their bodies made contact, then reached around with his left hand to hold Zhihao's left hand on the green onions while using his right hand to gently guide Zhihao's right hand, which was holding the knife. "So we hold them in place like that, then chop off the ends. Okay, now that we've done that, thinly slice. Like this."

The smile on Zhihao's face was nothing compared to his internal squeals of joy, as the approach taken by Cheol-jin only reinforced his belief that there was indeed a mutual attraction between them. "Okay, so like this?" He continued chopping as Cheol-jin removed his hands, then Zhihao took a sharp intake of breath as the ex-marine's hands briefly rested on his hips for a few moments.

"Exactly like that." Cheol-jin then stepped away to finish getting everything else set up, smiling mischievously to himself as he had noticed Zhihao's reaction.

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

After the light dinner had been successfully prepared and eaten, the pair loaded everything into the kitchen's dishwasher and returned to the lounge, sitting on one of the comfortable couches and turning to face one another; Cheol-jin had brought a glass of orange juice with him while Zhihao clutched a glass of merlot.

"So what do you want to do now? Watch a movie, something like that?"

An answer instantly sprang into Zhihao's head but to his credit, he refrained from uttering the first thought that came to mind. He opted instead for something potentially cunning. "Well, we could play 'Truth or Dare'."

Cheol-jin appeared skeptical. "Really?"

Zhihao shrugged with feigned innocence. "It'll be a good way to get to know each other better." Cheol-jin's agreement to this brought a broad grin to Zhihao's face. "Since you cooked most of dinner, I'll let you ask me first."

Cheol-jin thought about his options for a moment. "Okay then. Truth or Dare?"

"I'll go Truth."

"What's the largest amount of money you've ever spent on one of your shopping trips?"

"Um...oh." Zhihao paused to consider it. "Yeah, one hundred and fifty-seven thousand-ish. After I graduated from university, the Tier Ones took me on the Guangzhou-Oumún-Hēunggóng circuit. One day per city. Okay, your turn."

Cheol-jin cocked an eyebrow. "I'm genuinely terrified of what you might ask and what you might dare me to do. I'll go Truth."

"Are you single?"

"Currently, yes. Truth or Dare?"

"Truth."

"When was the last time you genuinely got into trouble?"

"Hmm." Zhihao took a drink from his glass as he tried to remember. "Oh! When I was fifteen and I told my security detail that he was fired, after throwing a glass of soda at his head. There was a guy at school that I had a thing for and my security detail guy told my mum, so I kinda went nuclear. I had to apologise and my consoles were confiscated for a month. Right, your turn to pick."

"Okay then, I'll risk my safety. Dare."

Zhihao's eyes gleamed. "I dare you to do a striptease for me while I curl up with my wine. Oh, and you have to perform it to 'Little Bit Dangerous' by LoveLight."

The ex-marine chuckled as Zhihao flashed his eyebrows at him. "Okay...that's incredibly specific. Any chance we can each have one opportunity to change our decision?"

"Aw, I suppose that means that you want to change to Truth, then." Zhihao sighed with slight disappointment but quickly regrouped his thoughts and leaned forward. "Fine, you want Truth. Here's my question. Do you want to fuck me?"

"Wow." Cheol-jin genuinely seemed shocked at how blunt Zhihao was being while still sober. "Either you're drunker than you usually get and you're really good at hiding it, or-"

"Or I'm pretty damn sure that you're interested in me, and I don't want to waste an opportunity as perfect as us being in here alone until Monday afternoon. Answer the question."

"So that's why you gave the staff the rest of the weekend off."

"Still haven't answered the question."

Cheol-jin composed himself and looked directly at Zhihao, who raised his eyebrows expectantly. "Yes."

Zhihao giggled and gently bit his own lower lip in a coquettish fashion. "I pick Truth."

"If this happens today, are you going to want it to continue after this weekend?" Cheol-jin reached forward and gently took Zhihao's hand. "It might not be easy to sneak around behind everyone's backs. Trust me, I've been wondering for a few weeks if it's possible." The beaming smile that that statement brought to Zhihao's face caused Cheol-jin to smile as well. "You've not exactly been subtle about your interest, you know. I was unsure about whether I wanted to risk it or not, but I realised that I'd hate it if I had to accompany you on dates with other guys. I didn't want you to think that you were wasting your time, so I've tried giving you as much of a hint as I can while trying to figure out how the hell we'd manage this."

Zhihao brought his legs up onto the sofa and got onto all fours, prowling across the short distance between them. "Do you honestly think I'd put in this much effort if I thought it would be a one-time thing?"

Cheol-jin shifted forward so that they were face-to-face, both smiling as they leaned in and kissed. As they broke the kiss, they maintained eye contact until Cheol-jin whispered something to Zhihao, smirking as he did so.

"You taste like street toast."

"Oh, you can just go to fucking hell." Zhihao pulled away slightly and began playfully slapping at the laughing Cheol-jin with both hands for a few seconds, then got off the couch and started walking towards the stairs. "You know, I asked you to wait outside the Zhūquè store because I was buying some new underwear." He turned his head and gestured with an index finger for Cheol-jin to follow him. "You're only going to get to see it if you're ripping my clothes off."

He giggled excitedly and ran up the stairs as Cheol-jin rose to his feet and began to follow.

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

21 March 2021, 01:00hrs [UTC+8]
Taohuayuan
Suzhou, Nanfang Republic

Cheol-jin glanced over at the bedside digital clock as it emitted its hourly beep, wondering if it had been deliberately set to do so or if Zhihao had simply not bothered to disable the beep in the first place. He then turned his attention back to the ceiling as he was still unable to fall asleep, shifting slightly before putting his left hand behind his head and letting out a soft sigh. His eyes began to travel around the room after a minute or so. Zhihao's Taohuayuan bedroom could best be described as opulent and capacious, featuring a stylish blue and white decor. Two doors in the wall opposite the entrance door led to a massive walk-in closet and a state-of-the-art ensuite bathroom respectively, and positioned between the doors was Zhihao's emperor-size bed with attendant nightstands. A short distance in front of the bed lay two plush couches which were positioned to face the 72-inch plasma-screen television which dominated the wall opposite the bed, easily viewable not just from the couches but also from the bed itself. A large cabinet beneath the television housed a collection of gaming consoles and attendant games as well as numerous Blu-Ray movies. This room must be worth more than an average apartment, he thought.

A grunt to his right caused Cheol-jin to look over, and he couldn't help but smile as Zhihao blearily lifted his head from his pillow and blinked a few times before giving the ex-marine one of the most satisfied grins that he'd ever seen. Cheol-jin laid out his right arm and Zhihao accepted the invitation, moving closer and sprawling slightly over him before resting his chin gently on Cheol-jin's chest and looking up at him. "How are you not tired?"

"Just thinking." Cheol-jin let out a loud 'oof' as Zhihao clambered on top of him and stretched out. "Bloody hell, you're heavier than you look."

Zhihao jabbed a finger into Cheol-jin's chest. "Don't be such a baby. You're heavier than me and I had you on top of me for a hell of a lot longer earlier, did you hear me complaining?" They smirked at each other before sharing a kiss, then Zhihao sighed slightly as Cheol-jin began gently stroking his back. "So what are you thinking about?"

"When I joined the Presidential detail seven months ago, I never expected this."

"If someone had told me seven months ago that I'd sleep with one of the Presidential detail, I'd have laughed them out of the room. If they'd told me that after the first time I laid eyes on you, I'd have listened."

"Couldn't keep your eyes off me, huh?"

"I wouldn't go that far," Zhihao murmured amusedly. "Although when I finally gave you a smile and a wave, that smile you gave me back almost killed me." He directed a preemptive scowl at Cheol-jin as he opened his mouth to respond. "Don't say 'I should've finished the job when I had the chance'."

Cheol-jin's eyes sparkled and he very deliberately paused after his first word. "I...wouldn't dream of it." He took a few moments to cast his eyes over Zhihao's face. "Well since I'm awake, and you're awake, wanna go again?"

Zhihao's gleeful expression was all the answer he required.

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Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Mon Apr 05, 2021 4:09 pm

22 March 2021, 19:50hrs [UTC +8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

"Not long until they're home."

Zhihao sighed rather deflatedly as he considered his current situation. Having attended the funeral of Emperor Kazuhito on March 21st, President Yang and Jiawei had flown back to Nanjing with their small retinue of security personnel at 14:00hrs on Monday, March 22nd. Due to the hour time difference between the United Empire and the Nanfang Republic, this meant that NP-1 touched down at Nanjing International Airport at around 19:00hrs. Taking into account the time necessary to disembark from the Presidential jet, collect any important items of luggage, and be driven back to the Palace of the Republic, the First Couple of the Nanfang Republic was due back shortly. President Yang had contacted Taohuayuan upon her departure from Tokyo to let them know that she was returning home, so Zhihao and Cheol-jin had returned to Nanjing to greet her upon her return to Zichao House. The pair were currently on one of the couches in the residence's private lounge, Cheol-jin sitting back on the right end seat while Zhihao was stretched out across the rest of the couch, his head resting back on Cheol-jin's left thigh.

"I know." Cheol-jin smiled as Zhihao reached for his left arm and pulled it to him, idly playing with the ex-marine's fingers. "We have a plan though, that's the main thing. Plenty of ways to be together if we're careful about it."

"Hmm, I don't want to be careful about it. I want to tell her that we did Tu'er Shen proud over the weekend and that you should be allowed to visit my room any time you want, but I don't think it would go down well." Tu'er Shen was a deity whose name literally meant 'rabbit deity', responsible for managing love and sex between gay men; the Nanfaren gay community used the term 'doing Tu'er Shen proud' as another way of saying 'going at it like rabbits'. There was some scholarly debate about the origin of Tu'er Shen being an attempt to mythologise the system of male marriages that existed in Fujian Province in the seventeenth century, but ultimately his origin mattered little in the modern Nanfang Republic. Almost every major city was home to a temple or shrine to the Rabbit God, with gay pilgrims visiting the temples each year, praying to find a suitable partner; the temples were also incredibly popular venues for same-sex marriages, which had been officially legal in the Republic since 1977. Zhihao looked up at Cheol-jin and reciprocated the affectionate smile directed at him. "We'll use the plan. I volunteer for official appearances and things like that if they're far enough away that I'd have to spend the night somewhere else, and I start looking further afield as far as shopping is concerned."

"Singapura and Bangkok are supposed to be good, although I'd steer clear of Muscat and Dubai, because...well, you know."

"I don't think they'd be stupid enough to arrest us, but yeah, I know what you mean. I went to Dubai last year when Mum visited them, it felt a little weird. Like they were deliberately being way too polite to me." Zhihao shook his head dismissively. "Never again. Singapura's pretty much just like us except for the marriage laws, Ayutthaya's very easy-going when it comes to sexuality. Maybe I could go on holiday to Phuket, go to one of the nude beaches." He grinned as he thought more about it. "As my security detail, you'd have to stay by my side the whole time. I could show you off to the locals."

"Yeah, and then when some tourist takes pictures and puts them on social media, the entire Republic would find out. The general idea of holidays abroad though would work well." Cheol-jin gently entwined his fingers with Zhihao's and winked at him. "When it comes to my days off, we've got each other's numbers. Just call me if you're feeling lonely, I'll be in Shanghai with the family so nothing to worry about." The working schedules of the Presidential detail meant that personnel usually worked for fourteen or twenty-one days without a day off, with breaks of between four and seven days between each working block.

"As long as they don't get nosy about any noises coming from your room if we're facetiming." Zhihao's eyes lit up as Cheol-jin shook his head and laughed in response.

"If you're thinking what I think you-" Cheol-jin paused and looked to the door of the lounge. "They're coming."

Zhihao sat up and grabbed his smartphone from the nearby coffee table, turning to share a kiss with Cheol-jin before stretching out in the opposite direction, leaning back against the far arm of the couch with his feet resting in Cheol-jin's lap. The lounge door opened as Yang Jiawei entered, followed by President Yang. The pair were almost immediately met with a cheerful greeting from their son.

"Hey, welcome back! How was your flight?"

"No worse than usual. When did you two get back from Taohuayuan?"

"Only a couple of hours ago, after you called to let us know that you were on the way back." Zhihao grinned at his mother. "Don't worry, Sergeant Song took excellent care of me while you were gone. I was in good hands as always."

"I'd expect nothing less. Sergeant?"

Cheol-jin got to his feet and turned to face the President, adopting an 'at ease' stance with his hands behind his back. "Yes, Madam President?"

"I know that it's your job, but thank you all the same for your hard work when it comes to my son."

"No need to thank me, Madam President. As you say, it is my job."

President Yang tutted slightly. "Modest as ever, Sergeant."

Cheol-jin simply offered a polite smile in response. "I'll leave you all to your evening." He nodded respectfully towards the three of them in turn and headed for the door, acutely aware of the fact that Zhihao had risen from the couch and was following him; upon reaching the door, he turned to face him. "I'll see you soon, okay?"

"Looking forward to it. See you soon, Sergeant." As he had his back to his parents, Zhihao took the opportunity to mouth a simple command. Check your phone later. Cheol-jin quickly glanced to make sure that President Yang and Jiawei weren't paying attention, then smirked and fired off a sly wink at Zhihao as he left the lounge. Zhihao grinned to himself before turning around and walking straight into a question from his mother.

"So what did you two get up to over the weekend?"

He shrugged casually as he began heading back towards the seating area, where his parents were settling down. "Nothing massively exciting. Watched a couple of movies, chatted a lot. It was nice to have a load of quiet time where we could just talk about stuff, he's a great guy."

President Yang arched an eyebrow as Zhihao flopped back onto the couch that he had previously occupied. "Nothing else?"

"Okay, I drank a bottle of the Shandong '99 merlot and I told the weekend staff that they could have the weekend off but still get paid for it. It's okay though, the sergeant cooked." Zhihao didn't waste any time continuing, in an attempt to head off any potential disapproval. "Before you say anything, he volunteered and I made sure to thank him properly."

His mother seemed rather amused by his admissions. "So I suspect that you gave them all the weekend off so that you could have time with the sergeant without being interrupted? That's rather sweet of you, Zhihao. Did anything else happen that I should know about?"

"Um, not that I can think of. I'm just going to pop up to my room, I'll be back." Zhihao quickly changed the subject and headed for the lounge door, thoughts rushing through his head. Surely she hasn't figured it out...not already. She's only just walked through the damn door!

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Freistaat-Ostafrika
Envoy
 
Posts: 202
Founded: Apr 10, 2018
Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Wed Apr 14, 2021 3:39 pm

26 March 2021, 13:30hrs [UTC+0]
Palácio Presidencial, Bissau
Republic of Guinea-Bissau

At a time when he should have been celebrating, President Kibiya was instead on tenterhooks. The casting of election ballots had taken place the previous day and there were still a couple of rural constituencies that had yet to report their results for the National People's Assembly, but the Presidential election result had already been called. He had received a majority of the votes cast, some fifty-four percent to be exact, meaning that there would be no second round of voting and he had won a second term in office. Thus far in the reported results for the National People's Assembly, the PUN had held all of their seats and had even captured a small number of additional seats, so it appeared as though the incumbent party was on course to retain power with a slightly increased majority. Under normal circumstances, something to celebrate. Unfortunately, the PAIG had already started screaming loudly about electoral fraud and the PUN allegedly stuffing ballot boxes before the end of the previous day; they were also claiming that Grupo Dourado had ordered their Bissau-Guinean employees to vote for the PUN or be fired. Cesar da Cunha had responded to the allegation earlier that morning by giving an interview to the state-funded Rádio Nacional, where he refuted the claims and accused the PAIG of trying to return to some romanticised version of the independence struggle, an accusation that did nothing to calm the noise coming from the PAIG. So as a result, President Kibiya was in the unfortunate position of not knowing quite what to do. If he continued as normal then any potential coup attempt might be able to catch him, in which case he would find it even more difficult to fight back. If he tried to take preemptive action then he may well end up inciting an even larger response from the PAIG and their apparent friends in the military. So he was attempting to follow the middle road between the two possible courses of action. He was remaining in the Palácio Presidencial in an attempt to appear unfazed by the possibility of a coup, although he had taken the precaution of asking the Nanfaren embassy to host his wife for the time being. Kibiya had been rather surprised when Cesar da Cunha had come to him with a plan that had been agreed upon by the Nanfang Republic, but with all of the uncertainty, he had to admit to himself that it was fortunate to have a contingency plan. In the event of a coup, he simply had to get himself to the Nanfaren embassy and he would be welcomed in, then all he had to do was officially request assistance from the Shenzhen Pact and let the Nanfang Republic handle the situation.

He continued to pace up and down the length of his office, hands behind his back until there was an insistent knocking at the door.

"Enter."

A smartly-dressed aide rushed into the office, eyes wide and attempting to suppress a panic in his voice. "Senhor Presidente. The Interior Ministry has received reports of shots being fired outside of the army garrison here in Bissau, the police personnel deployed outside the garrison are coming under fire from the soldiers within. It looks as though the FARP is trying to make a move."

Kibiya paused in his pacing, taking a slow and deliberate breath. "Thank you, Martim. Contact the Interior Ministry and tell them to order the police to stand down, I don't want a high number of casualties."

Martim nodded quickly. "As you say, Senhor Presidente. I'll make sure that the car is brought around to take you to the embassy."

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

26 March 2021, 13:55hrs [UTC+0]
Nanfaren Embassy
Republic of Guinea-Bissau

The Embassy of the Nanfang Republic in Bissau was a rather pleasant domicile for the Asian nation's representative. The walled compound featured two main embassy buildings along with three ancillary buildings and an ambassadorial residence which had its own outdoor swimming pool, all constructed in a Nanfaren architectural style that made the compound stand out even more than it normally would have. Zhang Jiayi was the incumbent diplomat, a sixty-five-year-old with short grey hair and a pleasant smile who rather enjoyed the climate of his current posting. He had served as ambassador to other African Lusophone nations in his time and he, therefore, had extensive experience when it came to dealing with more authoritarian regimes; the Bissau-Guinean government had been rather more democratic than he had initially expected when he received his posting two years ago, but the current instability was certainly something that he could handle. After receiving word that President Kibiya was en route to the embassy due to the situation outside the FARP garrison in the capital, Ambassador Zhang had ventured outside the embassy and spoken to the guards patrolling the grounds, ensuring that they were aware of the developing situation. He was heading back to the embassy building as the compound's gates were opened and the President's vehicle began moving up the driveway, so the ambassador was able to meet President Kibiya as his car pulled up outside the embassy and the Bissau-Guinean leader stepped out.

"Senhor Presidente, welcome to the Embassy of the Nanfang Republic."

The pair shook hands, and Kibiya then smoothed down his suit in an attempt to appear less ruffled than he genuinely was. "Thank you, Ambassador Zhang. I would like to officially request sanctuary within your nation's embassy."

Zhang nodded and smiled politely. "It would be a pleasure to host you for the foreseeable future, Senhor Presidente. Will you be joined by any other members of your ministerial cabinet?"

Kibiya grimaced at the question. "I genuinely don't know. As we arrived here, we were receiving a report that the FARP is sending squads out from the garrison. If any of the ministers make it here-"

"Then they will be welcomed with all of the hospitality that the Nanfang Republic has to offer." Zhang maintained his polite demeanour as he escorted the President into the two-storey embassy building. "I'm sure that your wife will be most heartened to see you alive and well, we've been taking excellent care of her as requested. Now..."

"Yes?"

"We will of course have to wait for official confirmation of the military's activities before you request assistance from the Shenzhen Pact. I would suggest enjoying some lunch with your wife while we monitor the developing situation, I hope you don't mind me saying so but you look as though you could do with a sit-down and a nice meal."

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

26 March 2021, 21:05hrs [UTC+0]
Nanfaren Embassy
Republic of Guinea-Bissau

"...and so in accordance with our patriotic duty, we hereby declare the results of yesterday's elections to be invalid. The PUN government engaged in obvious electoral fraud with the assistance of their Grupo Dourado paymasters. There is evidence of forged votes being placed into ballot boxes, the deliberate misplacement of votes for the PAIG, and widespread voter intimidation by Grupo Dourado, including the threatening of employees with termination if they did not vote for the PUN. The PAIG would have been the true victors if it had not been for such rampant corruption and abuse of power.

"The PAIG hereby declares that we shall form a National Directorate in conjunction with the FARP, to continue the administration of Guinea-Bissau. We shall oversee the nation until we feel confident that fresh elections can be held without the widespread problems that marred yesterday's proceedings. We ask that you respect the curfew now in place within the limits of Bissau, this curfew is in place for your protection. We also repeat our request that the Nanfang Republic hand over Ulisses Kibiya and any of his collaborators currently sheltering within the Nanfaren embassy here in Bissau. They need to be held accountable for their involvement in the subversion of our democracy. We-"

Ambassador Zhang switched off the television as Dinho Gwadabe continued to address the nation from the Palácio Presidencial, confident that he had heard everything that he needed to. The FARP units from the Bissau garrison had successfully seized the government ministries and broadcast studios within the Bissau-Guinean capital over the past seven-and-a-half hours, and additional forces had been deployed to Bissau from other nearby facilities. As just over a quarter of the nation's population resided within the capital city, Bissau was truly the main prize to be held in any coup or conflict. Zhang then turned to Kibiya, who was pacing up and down the reception lounge of the embassy building.

"There we have it then."

Kibiya continued pacing as he angrily jabbed a finger in the direction of the now-inactive television set. "He sits in my office, claiming to protect democracy by overthrowing it. At least one saving grace is that some of the cabinet must have made it out, otherwise, he would have been demanding that you release me without mentioning others." He crossed to the windows and carefully peered through a crack in the curtains. "How many are out there right now?"

"Two APCs are parked outside the walls, we've counted twenty or so soldiers thus far. They'll likely send more in due time." Zhang walked over and put a reassuring hand on Kibiya's shoulder. "They won't breach the walls because Nanjing wouldn't hesitate to respond. Speaking of Nanjing, I believe that this is an opportune time to officially request some outside assistance. I can set you up with a direct line to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Kibiya closed the curtains and nodded. "Enough of this nonsense. I want Gwadabe and his collaborators defeated. I want my country back."

Zhang smiled happily. "Then all you have to do is ask."

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Freistaat-Ostafrika
Envoy
 
Posts: 202
Founded: Apr 10, 2018
Corporate Police State

Postby Freistaat-Ostafrika » Tue May 04, 2021 4:48 pm

27 March 2021, 08:00hrs [UTC+8]
Palace of the Republic
Nanjing, Nanfang Republic

"Our top story this morning is the developing situation in the African nation of Guinea-Bissau, where a coup has been launched against the government of President Ulisses Kibiya. The coup follows the results of the nation's general elections, where President Kibiya won a second term in office and his National Unity Party was successful in increasing their majority within the national legislature. The coup is being led by the opposition African Party for the Independence of Guinea, which is disputing the validity of the election results, with the support of the national military. It should be noted that the accusations of electoral fraud are not backed up by any meaningful evidence and that the coup is likely a reactionary response to the growing level of foreign investment and involvement in Guinea-Bissau. Latest reports state that the coup forces are currently in control of the capital city of Bissau and that several members of the Kibiya government are being held by the military, while President Kibiya and his wife are currently being given sanctuary within the Nanfaren embassy in the city.

"We will bring you more on this story as it comes in. In other news this morning..."

Zhihao frowned and looked to his mother as the morning news broadcast began to feature a different story.

"Is this something to do with what you discussed with Joaquim Dourado?"

President Yang nodded with a wry smile at her son's enquiry. "Well done. President Kibiya and his wife are being treated to the very best of Nanfaren hospitality while wheels are in motion for his restoration to the Presidency of Guinea-Bissau. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received an official request for assistance from President Kibiya two hours ago but we're not making it public yet, some pieces have to be moved into place and we don't want to tip off the PAIG."

Zhihao leaned forward in his seat, clearly intrigued. "So what's the plan?"

"Rapid Response Force Africa were warned four days ago to expect possible deployment, the Ministry of National Defence is currently informing them that deployment is a go. It'll take their naval contingent about three days to get from the Gabonese Republic to Guinea-Bissau, and then the PAIG and their allies will meet President Kibiya's new allies. We're talking roughly two thousand fully-armed and highly-trained Marines with armoured vehicles and helicopter support. As I understand it, their primary task will be to secure Bissau's international airport so that we can land additional forces from Gabon via Nigeria. The Ministry of National Defence has drawn up the plan and they'll be monitoring everything in real-time. I'll be holding a video conference with President Akinrinade tomorrow to see if Nigeria wants to contribute any forces to the operation."

The younger Yang grinned at the idea of the operation that his mother had briefly described. "Wow, they won't stand a chance. Sergeant Song was in the Marines, would it be okay if I borrowed him for a bit? He could explain their tactics and everything to me."

President Yang's right eyebrow arched at the request. "You've never been that interested in military deployments."

"Well, I've never seen us do this sort of thing."

"Very well then, you can consult with him. I may well test you afterwards, though."

"No worries." President Yang watched as Zhihao practically bounced out of the lounge in search of Sergeant Song, then turned to Jiawei and nudged him. "He must think I'm an idiot."

Her husband checked to make sure that their son was out of the room before responding. "So you really think that they're, well..."

"Of course they are. It's not doing any harm at the moment but we need to consider what to do if it becomes more widely known. Sergeant Song could lose his spot in the Presidential detail and potentially even get kicked out of the CSB, depending on how egregious his conduct is determined to be."

"Who would decide something like that?"

"Either Colonel Liu as his commanding officer, or Lieutenant General Feng Zhaohui as he's the Director of the CSB. Why?"

Jiawei shrugged. "Well, you're the President. Couldn't you have it hushed up or something?"

President Yang pursed her lips disapprovingly. "I'd prefer not to do that, it could cause unhappiness within the rest of the Presidential detail if Sergeant Song were allowed to just get away with breaking regulations. Although perhaps he could be...hmm, I might have an idea but I'll need to consult about it."

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

30 March 2021, 00:25hrs [UTC+0]
Rapid Response Force Africa
Off the Coast of Guinea-Bissau

"Sir, the Bissau-Guinean Navy is still nowhere to be seen."

Admiral Jin Shi replied to the comment with a shake of the head. "Of course not. They don't have one, unless you count three patrol boats as a navy."

The amphibious task force of Rapid Response Force Africa was currently positioned some twenty-seven miles off the coast of Guinea-Bissau, putting them roughly sixty-five miles west of the nation's capital. The task force's flagship was the Type 075 LHD Taiwan, accompanied by the Type 071 LPD Nanling and the Type 077 LSD Beijiang. In all honesty, such deployment by a global power like the Nanfang Republic was going to be overkill for the operation that they had been assigned to carry out, but that was rather the point in this particular case. The six thousand-strong FARP were nowhere as well-equipped as the Nanfaren forces now positioned off the Bissau-Guinean coast and the Nanfang Republic had every intention of taking advantage of that fact. In total, the amphibious task force was carrying two thousand Nanfaren Marines, as well as forty amphibious armoured vehicles, six transport helicopters, and thirty attack helicopters, in addition to ten air-cushioned landing craft. Admiral Jin was currently on the bridge of the Taiwan, watching the time tick towards 00:30hrs and the appointed commencement of Operation Western Hurricane. When he had been assigned to Rapid Response Force Africa upon its creation just over a year ago, the admiral had only really expected to see active operations carried out to support existing members of the Shenzhen Pact. Now here he was, about to launch what would inevitably be called an invasion by some, but as far as the Nanfang Republic would be concerned, it was intervention and peacekeeping by invitation of the legitimate government of Guinea-Bissau.

"Three, two, one. We are now at zero-zero-thirty hours, signal the Nanling and the Beijiang that we are now commencing Operation Western Hurricane."

On the flight deck of the Taiwan, the deck crews were completing their final checks with the pilots and gunners of Flight Zero-One, which consisted of six WZ-10 medium attack helicopters. Nicknamed the 'Fierce Thunderbolt', the WZ-10 was an agile two-person attack helicopter capable of electronic warfare and night operations and was equipped with a nose-mounted chain gun in addition to up to sixteen rockets or missiles, depending on the operator's choice. Although the FARP's air force possessed twelve attack helicopters and was therefore well-equipped for putting down internal unrest, their helicopters were older models than the Nanfaren WZ-10 and were not equipped for night-time operation. While the FARP could boast that they also possessed six jet fighters, they were not in any true operational state and were currently in storage inside a hangar on the military side of Bissau's international airport.

As the bridge received notification that Flight Zero-One was beginning to depart for their selected target, Admiral Jin felt a true sense of pride flowing through him. While the opposing combatants would likely be nowhere near as formidable as the likes of the Apilonians or the Republic's associates in the Empire of Layarteb or the United Empire, the rarity of Nanfaren offensive operations meant that this was an occasion to be remembered.

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Cotland
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1101
Founded: Nov 05, 2004
Father Knows Best State

Postby Cotland » Thu May 13, 2021 8:06 am

J361 Skremmende– ÅRVÅKEN-class DDG
Cruising 24 nautical miles WEST of Ihla Caravela, Guinea-Bissau
Monday, 29 March 2021, 23:02Z



For the better part of three days, His Cottish Majesty’s destroyer Skremmende had been steaming at high speed towards the coast of Guinea-Bissau following the disturbing development of the post-election shenanigans in that country. President Kibiya had been effectively ousted by a coup orchestrated by the opposition party PAIG, usurping the election through fraud and the threat of violence. Like in many coastal regions, there was a small diaspora of Cottish citizens, and more importantly, Cottish merchant ships regularly called upon Bissau and other port cities in Guinea-Bissau, and an alteration of the status quo had the potential to threaten the Cottish trade, which remained a cornerstone of the Cottish economy. Both needed to be protected, and whilst the Cottish government issued statements of concern and condemnation of the election fraud, warships were dispatched to monitor the situation and be ready to intervene if required.

Thus, the 7,300 ton guided missile destroyer Skremmende had been detached from Force A, which had been exercising with the Imperial Layartebian Navy north of the Azores, and covered the 1900 nautical mile distance in just over 67 hours, having slowed off the Canary Islands to replenish its fuel stores from a Cottish fleet tanker at sea before speeding back up to cover the distance. At 2100 hours on Monday, Skremmende had arrived off Guinea-Bissau and reported on-station to Atlantic Fleet Headquarters back at Naval Base Faslane. Almost immediately, the destroyer received orders to take up station off Bissau, show the Cottish flag, and monitor the situation closely.

Image


Almost at the same time, the warship’s ESM operators had reported new skunks on their scopes to the south-southeast. These were quickly identified as Nanfang-made sensors, not that this made the identification much easier. The Nanfang were willing to export military equipment to whoever could pay for it, much like the Cottish, so closer identification was warranted. Kommandørkaptein Alfred Bruun decided not to take any chances as the situation was still developing and its outcome uncertain and ordered Action Stations, making the destroyer fully ready for battle as he ordered the destroyer to close with the skunks.

“Captain sir, EWO. Picking up additional jitters, ties in with Skunk Alpha. Skunk Alpha now bears one-six-two, strength forty-three.” The thirty-four-year-old Chief Petty Officer serving as Electronic Warfare Supervisor reported matter-of-factly. In theory, this was no different from the countless exercises the CPO had been on over the course of his sixteen-year career, and he had been trained to keep his head cool under stress and project an aura of calm to his subordinates, in this case two enlisted and one conscript rating manning the Electronic Warfare station in the operations room.

“Thank you,” KK Bruun replied from his station in the center of the Operations Room. Toggling a button to activate the microphone on his headset to the 21MC communications circuit that connected the CO with the bridge and engineering plant, he issued new orders. “Bridge, Captain. New course one-six-two.”

“Captain, Bridge. Aye sir, new course one-six-two.” The Navigating Officer that served as Officer of the Deck with responsibility for the safe navigation on the bridge answered. A moment later, the Nav added, ”Captain, Bridge, steady course one-six-two.”

“Very well,” Bruun acknowledged. “Surface, expected threat sector now one-four-zero to one-niner-zero.”

That meant that Bruun expected the surface contact and thus potential threat to be somewhere in the fifty-degree sector specified, and that this was where the surface sensors should be concentrated. Less than fifteen minutes’ cruising later, the 3-centimeter surface search radar in the mast top gained a new radar contact, followed soon after by several more. Training the electro-optical sensor towards the contacts, the thermal imager quickly managed to make out several mast tops. Within moments, the contacts emerged over the horizon, and were soon positively identified as a Nanfaren amphibious task group consisting of at least one YUSHEN LHD, one YUZHAO LPD, one YULAO LSD and an escort force of at least one RENHAI and three LUYANG class DDGs and JIANGKAI class FFGs. To say that encountering a Nanfaren amphibious task group off the western coast of Africa was surprising was putting it mildly, since this was the first time this had happened as far as the Cottish knew.

Given that the Cottish Realm enjoyed observer status to the Shenzhen Pact, the risk of the Nanfaren taking any hostile action against the Cottish destroyer was virtually non-existent. Therefore, KK Bruun stood Skremmende down from Action Stations and reassumed modified Condition 3, which saw the crew return to the normal operating mode with certain functions strengthened. Deciding to use the opportunity as best he could, Bruun left the Operations Room for his leather chair on the Bridge, where he could observe the goings-on first-hand and be on-hand in case of any interaction with the Nanfaren force was required.

Up on the darkened bridge, Bruun had barely gotten comfortable in his leather chair when the Nanfaren flagship contacted the Cottish destroyer on VHF channel 16 and requested the Cottish stand clear at least three nautical miles as they were about to conduct flight operations. Acknowledging the request in a professional manner, Bruun ordered the OOD to position Skremmende four nautical miles off and slightly to the south of the nearest Nanfaren amphibious ship, between the Nanfaren group and the African mainland. Manouvering expertly, the 7,300 ton destroyer had assumed its station, with a Nanfaren JIANGKAI class frigate positioned to screen the amphibious ships from the Cottish destroyer, when helicopters started taking off from the flight deck of the YUSHEN class.

The destroyer’s photographic intelligence gathering team, codenamed the Snoopy Team, had been standing outside photographing as best they could the darkened Nanfaren warships for past hour, enjoying the tropical night-time 23C temperature as they were used to the significantly cooler temperatures. As the Nanfaren helicopters started heading towards the African mainland in the direction of Bissau, the Cottish diligently gathered information in all available spectrums while flash reports were sent from the destroyer’s communications center back home to Fleet HQ that the Nanfaren were going in.

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The Kingdom of Apilonia
Spokesperson
 
Posts: 114
Founded: Feb 10, 2020
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby The Kingdom of Apilonia » Thu May 13, 2021 11:13 am

Commander William T. Blake, RN
HMS Thrasher
Off the Coast of Guinea-Bissau
Tuesday 30th March 2021, 0030hrs Local Time




“They're launching helicopters, Sir.”

Commander William T. Blake, Commanding Officer of His Majesty’s Ship Thrasher, nodded his acknowledgement of the officer of the watch’s report, even if the gesture would be almost imperceivable in the darkness of a warship's bridge at night. No white light was visible on the bridge, with only red tinted flashlights being available, in order to preserve night vision and all of the WECDIS consoles were also in their nighttime modes. Truth be told, if he had been particularly interested in the details of what was going on, Blake would have been down in the Operations Room where an unusually busy group of officers and ratings were pouring over the information that the ship’s radar and other sensors were gathering of the Nanfaran warships and their activity. However, given that this situation was unlikely to escalate into anything approaching combat, his presence would be an unnecessary distraction so he had made the decision to observe from the bridge. It was perhaps a little old-fashioned to observe visually, when he would have all the same information and much more at his fingertips in the ops room, but Blake was not above being old-fashioned, and Thrasher was certainly the ship for it.

The Thrasher was of the ageing Type-43 Paladin-Class destroyer, one of the last ships in service, stationed to the South Atlantic Station due to the relatively minimal threat level since the re-establishment of the formation following South Africa joining the Commonwealth. The Type-43 was an air warfare destroyer, and had once been the backbone of the Royal Navy’s escort force, after a contentious period in the fleet’s history on the exact design path that its principle escorts should follow, with a flurry of potential designs being proposed out of which the Type-43 was eventually born as the larger and more powerful options. In truth, although she was outdated in some respects, being equipped with old-style twin-arm launchers, one fore and one aft along with matching gun turrets, rather than the more modern vertical launch systems, the ships themselves were relatively young even if they were being replaced by the far newer and more advanced Type-45 Vigilant-Class. As such, although the Type-43 was no longer suited for a modern high-risk environment, she was more than capable in lower-threat environments, or against less powerful or advanced foes, or for observing activity in which she herself was unlikely to be caught in the crossfire.

That being said, examples of the Type-43 had seen combat as recently as the previous year in the First and Second Battles of the Adriatic Sea, and had proven their worth, so were by no means obsolete even if they were designed to fight the previous war (which was part of the reason why they were being retired after relatively short service lives) and technology had moved on rapidly ever since.

The Thrasher had been ordered north as soon as the situation had begun to deteriorate in Guinea-Bissau, both to provide a presence in the event that any Apilonian or Commonwealth citizens required assistance, and to observe the Nanfaran response once it became apparent that there would be one. Upon first encountering the Nanfarans, professional greetings had been exchanged and Thrasher had agreed to remain a respectful distance whilst keeping close enough to watch what was going on. Both the Apilonian Government and the Commonwealth, as well as South African Government independently, had expressed their concern and condemnation over the electoral fraud, and the former had made clear that the presence of the Thrasher was strictly to protect Apilonian and Commonwealth citizens and interest, and that they would not get involved in any other manner. There were a handful of other assets involved, including a satellite, that, combined with the wealth of intelligence being gathered by the Thrasher, would allow Defence Intelligence to get very good indication of the capabilities of the Nanfaran Military.

Aside from the Nanfarans, the most interesting recent development was the arrival of a Cottish warship, which was quickly identified as the Skremmende, and a friendly greeting was sent across to the Cottish destroyer. The Kingdom of Apilonia had long enjoyed positive relations with the Realm of Cotland, indeed although the Senate had voted against deploying combat troops the Kingdom had sent trauma surgeons and other medical support staff to Cotland during their recent conflict. As such, encounters between Apilonian and Cottish warships were usually fairly friendly affairs, with all the appropriate honours being exchanged. Of course, given that they were effectively in an operational environment, such formalities could not take place at this point, but it seemed likely that they exchange passing honours when they went their separate ways.

With two major global partners in the immediate vicinity, Blake was eager that the Thrasher be the best possible representative of the Kingdom; she might be a few years behind the curve but those systems that could be upgraded had been over the years, and it was a point of pride for all Type-43 commanders that the material state of their ships be of a high standard, and their upper works top notch, both of which would become apparent to any observers in daylight. Moreover, Blake had made entirely clear to his watch keepers that he expected their manoeuvres to be smooth and navy-like; this was not the time to put a rookie on the wheel. If the presence of the Thrasher was likely to be seen as an unwelcome irritant looking over the fence, then by god Blake was determined that it would be a very well presented irritant indeed!

“They’re going to be at this all night, and the Ops Room can see better than we can, so I’m going to turn in for the night and review the records in the morning,” Blake commented to the OOW with a wry smile at the man’s envious expression. “Keep out of their way, but keep us close enough for us to get the data the boys at defence intelligence are looking for, let me know if there are any issues, or if the Nanfarans reach out to us.”

“Aye, Sir.”
Last edited by The Kingdom of Apilonia on Thu May 13, 2021 11:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
The Kingdom of Apilonia
An Earth II Member


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