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Days Gone By (Closed. Tyran Only)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Gylias
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Days Gone By (Closed. Tyran Only)

Postby Gylias » Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:32 am

This thread is for Tyran nations to be able to post things from their nation's history. Whether it be historical documents, news stories, historical scenes, daily life scenes, exploits of famous people of your nation's past, and so on.

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Gylias
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From the Archives: Sound Observer, February 1970

Postby Gylias » Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:33 am



Image

Sound Observer

16-22 February 1970Ћ400



New releases

Image
The Supernauts
Dark Days
Spiral Records
13 February 1970
Credits
Torren Ierunmungur - guitar
Joseph Bultunn - bass
Vaal Ward - drums
Junn Ulsunn - vocals, harmonica on "The Wizard",
tambourine on "N.I.B." and "Sleeping Village"

Ruger Baen - jaw harp on "Sleeping Village",
shaker on "Sleeping Village"

Produced by Ruger Baen
Engineered by Tomys Alum and Baeryng Shaeffur

Recorded at The Sandwich Shop, Tyrrswatch,
Nyurdlynd, Allamunnic States





Track listing
1. "The Figure" (6:10)
2. "The Wizard" (4:24)
3. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (3:37)
4. "N.I.B." (6:08)
5. "Evil Woman" (3:25)
6. "Sleeping Village" (3:46)
7. "Warning" (10:28)
8. "Wicked World" (4:47)

All songs by The Supernauts
"Warning" by Torren Ierunmungur/Joseph Bultunn/Vaal Ward/Junn Ulsunn/Haensly Baartunn

Our newest import from the Allamunnae this week is The Supernauts, a four-piece from Tyrrswatch, in the Allamunnic States. And by the sound of their debut Dark Days, they must've arrived in a combination of marijuana smoke and noxious fumes spewed by a factory chimney. Their influence is unmistakeable in the murky, hazy sonics of the album and the often-grimy material served during the album's 40 minute running time. The sole intrusion of the natural world comes right at the beginning of "The Figure", which opens with the sound of a thunderstorm and distant bells, building up anticipation for half a minute before we're ushered into the song proper by a crash from Vaal Ward and the sound of both guitarist Torren Ierunmungur and bassist Joseph Bultunn hitting the same note on their instruments.

Some opening indeed, but unfortunately "The Figure" ends up summarising the shortcomings that make this album such an often wearying listen. The initial slow pound sets an interesting scene, Torren and Joseph playing away at an E-E-A# tritone while Vaal produces a lumbering rhythm, which eventually dissolves into a quieter section with the same tritone riff being played more quietly amidst a foreboding tom-tom beat. Vocalist Junn Ulsunn then enters, displaying a voice of the kind that the listener needs to adapt to; they sounds for all the world like they're singing with a bad fever and peanut butter stuck to the roof of their mouth. The inscrutable lyrics add to the atmosphere, prodded along by the steady rhythm section, before a rather laughably reverbed yell of "oh no" pushes the song back into the louder section from the beginning. So far, so good, but even with some decent fills from Vaal to prod the song along, it's impossible to escape notice that three minutes of a six-minute song have now elapsed with the band still hitting away at that fucking tritone. It also fails to escape notice that Torren plays only the three notes on the first, third and fifth beats of each measure, it falling to Joseph and Vaal to try to fill in the gaps. Vaal does not contribute much, limiting themselves to the beat with occasional fills on the off-beat, while Joseph attempts to provide something resembling forward motion by playing quarter notes on their bass, with no real effect since they are still locked into that tritone. Whatever effect the song is going for has dissipated and the only thing emanating now is the musical equivalent of seeing someone get stuck in quicksand. The lyrics? Limpid Abrahamic nonsense about being pursued by some evil figure or the other, in one ear and right out the other. Substitute anything for the lyrics and it would have the same effect. One more interminably lethargic plod through a quiet iteration of the same fucking tritone followed by a loud iteration of the same fucking tritone, and the song suddenly moves into a more interesting section with two minutes to spare: a cymbal build heads into a faster 3/4 section with a more complicated guitar riff complimented by Joseph militaristically plonking at a single bass note in time with the rhythm. One last verse is followed by the addition of a wah-wah'd guitar chord and a bluesy guitar solo over a falling bass, until the song finally crashes past the finish line with an insistent flourish reminiscent of the opening of Gustav Holst's "Mars, the Bringer of War".

Far, far too late to do any good.

And here in six minutes we have the album in a nutshell: potentially interesting ideas, too much wasted time, snail-like pace, and worst of all a severe weakness for rudimentary musicianship. Time and again The Supernauts fall into the mistake of playing riffs beneath their obvious instrumental talents (far better showcased in the introduction of "Wicked World", for instance, or the comparatively interesting drumwork on "Sleeping Village", or the relentless tom rolls in the middle of "Warning"), and repeating them far past my patience. Needless to say, "Smokestack Lightning" they ain't. It's surprising to open up the LP and see a photo of the band showing them to be clearly not a band of secondary schoolers still working out their act; the two notes one semitone apart passed off as a riff in "The Wizard" and the constant up-and-down E-E-G E-E-E-E-D plus palm-muted chugs simplicity peddled by Torren through too much of "Wicked World" sure could've fooled me.

The monotone instrumental palette on almost the entire album and the repetition that stubbornly refuses to become hypnotic is done no favours by the washed-out sound. The band work strictly with the basic ingredients of guitar, bass and drums, producing a thin sound typical of a studio rush job, captured in a colourless manner by engineers Tomys Alum and Baeryng Shaeffur. At least on most songs the instruments are well-mixed and clearly separated (the slightly overdriven bass sound and good punch provided by the drum kit), even if they sometimes sound rather hollow - not a good look when trios like The Watts can make not just a ton of noise but interesting noise when let loose in a studio. The sourness increases when the opening and closing songs on side 2, "Evil Woman" and "Wicked World", even degrade in sound quality: "Evil Woman" feels beamed onto the album several generations removed from a master tape, featuring a guitar overdub that amusingly sounds like a belching saxophone, drums lacking in thickness, murky guitars with all the high-end frequencies scooped out, but a good bass sound. "Wicked World" botches its jazzy intro by muffling the drums and burying the hi-hats in the mix under the low-end-lacking bass and a vocal from Junn that sounds like it was recorded by placing a microphone in front of an old transistor radio. When a new instrument breaks through the monotony - the harmonica of "The Wizard", the acoustic guitar, jaw harp and additional percussion of "Sleeping Village", the tambourine in the bridge of "N.I.B." - the effect is startling. And I'm quite confident that it's not done on purpose. Ruger Baen is credited as producer, but apart from their jaw harp and percussion contributions, the only production techniques I could identify in the whole album were the panned solos on "Warning", "N.I.B." and "Sleeping Village", and the reverse echo on "Wicked World".

Truly maddening are the moments when the band rouses themselves from their slow-motion slumber, such as the introductions of "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (why can't we have more of the beat Vaal plays at the end, over the oppressively metronomic 4/4 and 3/4 thwacking in too much of the album?) and "Wicked World" (it's a bad fit when the minute at the beginning and the minute at the end single-handedly trumps the lethargic body of the song), but the energy peters out too quickly and they recede back into business as usual. It's a safe guess, from titles like "Evil Woman" and "Wicked World", that a particular dark mood is being aimed for here, but the band's shambolic performance undermines it; they cannot put across their darkness with authority, and too often seem not even half-committed and prone to distraction. To their credit, the Supernauts do provide some variety with their inclusion of disparate sections into the songs, some of which sound like jamming, but whatever fun was going on in the control room (likely of the stoned variety, judging by the propensity for simple riffs played slowly and at great length) translates into hit-and-miss results. Successfully hitting their mark are "Sleeping Village" (which besides boasting probably the album's most extensive instrumental palette and a solid lead bassline, is the best jam on the album by far because it cycles through several ideas just enough to reward attention before moving on, instead of getting stuck in one groove and pounding away doggedly), "Behind the Wall of Sleep" and "Wicked World".

Top of the misses would be "Warning", a complete waste of ten minutes with a three note central riff, a brief switch to swing time blues boredom halfway in, and worst of all, Torren soloing away as if too stoned to be aware of the passage of time, let alone the uninteresting and clichéd licks strung together and passed as "solos". The worst part is when they solos unaccompanied; they's not a good enough guitarist to get away with it, especially when they take a turn in the spotlight to offer up... every blues shuffle and feedback-drenched soundcheck ever barfed out by your boilerplate bar band. (They does the same in "Wicked World", but only briefly at least.) I feel bad for the good fast riff buried away amidst the self-indulgence, and unsurprised that when the band comes back in, even they slow down, as if they're too tired and just want to get it over with. Second would be the awful excuse for a bass solo at the beginning of "N.I.B." - take away the wah-wah pedal antics and it sounds too close to comfort to what happens if you shoved a bass into a 15-year old's hands and asked for their best Senai impression. That the song salvages itself with a compelling E-E-D-E, A-G, E-E-D-E, A#-A-G riff, nimble drumming from Vaal with very good use of subtle syncopation, ghost note kicks and swift snare rolls, and an interesting double guitar solo, is quite amazing, though it still manages to lose its impact by stumbling past the finish line, 6 minutes on, when it would have been better served by going directly from the first double solo to the chaotic ending.

The best cut on the LP by far is "The Wizard", which showcases an energetic bounce far removed from the molasses-embalmed boredom of the rest of the album. While it still features the band mistaking an E and an F played one after the other for a riff, it features an agile rhythm from Vaal, more interesting than the preponderance of basic rhythms that marks the album, and is powered by an enthusiastic band performance, topped with a simple yet fitting harmonica solo. Running close behind are "Behind the Wall of Sleep", if only for the nimble playing by Joseph over Vaal's steady rhythm, tempo shift in the bridge, decent guitar solo, use of more than three notes for the central riff, and the nice touch of the unaccompanied drum solo at the end, and "Sleeping Village". Are they worth putting up with the stultifying repetition and inconsistent musicianship to get to them? I'd say so.

The most frustrating thing about Dark Days is its capricious performances and material quality; in that respect, it will probably go down in history as the inevitable "eh" first album put out by a band that subsequently improves greatly and leaves it far behind. Throughout, there are clues about what improvements lie in store if they succeed in getting the early jitters behind them and progress as musicians. Vaal is not that amazing of a drummer, resorting too often to lumpen stomps when more lithe swings would benefit the pulse, and flailing away very quickly on rolls during fills like a crutch; they's nevertheless a solid backbeat for the band and will hopefully find better ways to channel the energy and subtle grooves of "The Wizard" and "N.I.B." so that they can be sustained for a whole album. Joseph demonstrates a good command of their instrument and already a camaraderie with Torren - if only they'd spend less time locking into the same riff and pursuing more of the complementary licks used in "N.I.B." and "Wicked World". And Junn...

... wait a second, why is Junn in the band? They only plays harmonica on one song; that's their entire contribution? Either way, they seems to have trouble staying on pitch. For instance, witness the last word of "Sleeping Village", or the "just a little bit too strong" parts on "Warning"; they consistently sounds nasal when trying to get in the lower range of his voice. And singing the exact melody as the riff in "N.I.B." was not a good idea. But you don't get to lay down vocals in a studio if you're incurably tone-deaf (unless the law is different over in Nyurdlynd), so improvements are on the horizon there as well.

I look forward to the next Supernauts album, in the hope that they abandon their weaknesses like unimaginative blues changes and excessively cautious, monotone playing, and use it instead to showcase their skill with riffs and group performance.

- Zinon Dimitriou
Last edited by Gylias on Sat Nov 18, 2017 1:10 am, edited 2 times in total.

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From the Archives: Planet Rock, May 1999

Postby Gylias » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:04 am


Many Questions
Asuka returns from vacation with a new band, new album, and new concerts. Lindsay Allen is there to ask what's in store, and more. The result? The interview you're currently reading, of course!

Editor's note: Asuka graciously gave us permission to refer to them with gendered pronouns for this article.

Image
Photography by Michael Friedman
The Willowtree House in Iásas, at first glance, doesn't seem like the ideal launchpad for a media blitz. In fact, I'm starting to think it's not intended to be in the first place. Still, never look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if the gifts include tea, digestive biscuits, and all the time I could wish for interviewing Asuka. "Hi-chan [Hikari Horaki, Asuka's wife] is recording some lines and the kids are in a class, so this was the only time I could manage", she explains sheepishly, as we both soak in the pleasant spring atmosphere of the teahouse, not to mention the actual beverage too.
I ask if there would have been a problem with conducting the interview at her house.
"Oh, no, not at all, I just prefer to keep things separate when I can.", comes the reply. She lays back in her seat, taking another sip from her tea. "Hi-chan's got her own thing happening, and I've got mine. I'd rather not get her caught in my silly thing unless I first make sure she's okay with it!"
So much for that carefully planned opening line of the interview. But perhaps it's a bad idea to try to prepare for a musician whose work includes such a large element of spontaneity.

The woman born Asuka Langley Sōryū is many things to many people. Her parents' pride and joy, a strong and responsible daughter who followed her dream and achieved it beyond their wildest imagination. The greatest thing since bread came sliced for her fans, an object of passionate adoration who would be followed to the ends of the earth. A minimal talent for her detractors, who punches above her weight by drawing on a talent for media manipulation, a lot of live smoke and mirrors, and a much better band that she's unfairly hogging the spotlight from. A national treasure for her compatriots, whose very name has entered the lingo as a useful shorthand for qualities like audacity and gusto.
She also happens to have made herself indispensable for Gylian pop music. You'd never know this from listening to Guten Morgen, an album of generically agreeable power pop, heavy on the guitar-driven hooks, medium on the glam moves, tragically light on the infectious grooves. The gap between the outsized personality and the earthbound backing seemingly strands her in the odd netherworld between comedy gold, and disappointing bad luck. And yet (there's always an "and yet", isn't there?), she managed to achieve escape velocity with Full On, part of the essential curriculum for the schooling of any musician, filed under "The Benefits of Line-Up Changes". Drawing on the help of a crackerjack band teaming up one of the best bassists in Gylias (Misato Katsuragi) with one of the best drummers in Gylias (Chichi Trzetrzelewska), the music becomes nimble and casually impressive, the rhythms cause involuntary hip-shaking, the melodies grow appropriately massive, and the lyrics shine. The band is now lean, stylish, thoroughly modern, and brings one of the best shows in town. Music journalists can't get enough, audiences are dazzled, and from there it's only one stop to nationwide popularity and a place reserved for their CDs in every Gylian household. Further cheers are heard when they follow it up with Electrified, just as tight in the quality songwriting department, and admirably using their new status as a starting point to dive further into more genres, more improvisation, and more up-to-date technology. Unofficial research (read: asking various store owners around the country) establishes that, upon release, it is a strong contender for the fastest-distributed Gylian album since... Full On.
Not too bad for the small-town daughter of a researcher and a mechanical engineer.

The first thing that strikes me about Asuka is how tall she is. It's one thing to read about how her height is 187 cm, and another to conclude in person that, if not for pop music, she could've easily been an athlete or a gymnast. She is clad in a yellow tube top and a snazzy combo of denim jacket and skirt, her omnipresent red hairclips the main identifying mark attracting occasional recognition. She happily interrupts our interview several times when approached by fans and curious onlookers, to confirm that she is indeed Asuka, make silly jokes, answer questions, and sign anything she's asked to. Throughout, she remains friendly and cheerful, the right topic bringing her into a state of heightened animation, and expounds on any subject at such length it becomes exhausting to follow. I also develop a welcome familiarity with her joyful, big-hearted laughter, perhaps the most disarming thing that makes me feel at ease in her presence.
"You're going to interview them too, right?", she asks, through a mouthful of digestive biscuit. It's the first thing she asks before we begin the interview proper. "Them" are of course her ever-reliable bandmates: the rhythm section of Misato and Chichi, keyboardist Hysáen Nairenud, guitarist Jennifer Andrews, and the new and passionate arrival, metalhead guitarist Lin Cernai, making their first appearance on an Asuka studio album.
When informed that we are planning interviews with them as well but it's likely other magazines might get there first, she smiles with relief, and says, "That's good, that's what matters, that they get their own side too. Anything else would be unfair."

PLANET ROCK: Obvious question out of the way first, you've had quite a vacation so far. How was it?
Asuka: Relaxing, quiet in the right moments and exciting when it needed to. Exactly like how a vacation should be! It wasn't the initial plan, but we ended up drifting into it after Infrared Riders. Things piled up a bit that year [1995], since we didn't just record the soundtrack, but also assembled Audience [the live album The Audience Is Listening], and I got started on making a website for us. Hi-chan and me had also become parents, and that comes first; I certainly wasn't going to risk not being there for my children during their first years. Those first years are crucial - it's safer to get back to concerts once they've gotten used to the notion that, no, your parents won't be able to be with you all the time. You don't want the formative years of your kid to produce memories of their mother not being at home for months on end because she was off gallivanting around Kirisaki or wherever, playing concerts. I can't allow them to think I regard them as less important than an audience.

No Little Darlings to expect then?
No, I don't think I could make something like that, and even if I tried, I've already been beaten to it! I don't work that well when I'm on parental leave, and ask any of my friends, they'll agree I don't have any inherent feeling for that kind of prog-drone-ambient thing. It sounds great when done right, yeah, but it doesn't come naturally to me. Plus, it's not like parenthood's changed us dramatically or anything! Things like "Kissing With Confidence" and "[Who's Gonna Drive Your] Bike?", they still come to me more easily and often than things like "Everyday [I Have a Favourite Memory]" or "See You in Bed".

I don't imagine you intended that as a statement of sorts, given how other countries approach the issue of parental leave and parenting.
If I ever made a statement, I'd probably just say so without trying to write a whole album about it. There's no deeper statement here than just, me being myself. If the idea that I still eat, drink, shit, piss, fuck, and other basic human stuff, after having had a baby surgeried out of me, might seem like a statement in other contexts, that's just reflecting badly on the other contexts. If you want to see it as a statement, that's a valid interpretation, and I know what you're aiming for, that there are places like Megelan and Alizeria, where if I was myself, I'd get arrested or something. Thankfully, I don't live there!

Is there an overarching theme for the new album?
Only the same overarching theme as my previous work: no overarching theme! [laughs] I don't work that way, I'm more of an intuitive musician. I've sometimes tried and managed to start from the point of, "okay, I want to aim in the direction of this feeling, or get this image across sonically", but it's rarely been, "Now I shall sit my arse down and compose a new oeuvre about... about... [gazes around] a teahouse worker! Who is... half-robot? And is pursuing a relationship with a computer programmer!" I mean, when I'm stuck for ideas, I just start gluing together unused shit from my notebook until something resembling a song emerges! My approach is closer to waiting for an idea to occur, and then once I have it down, polish away at it and figure out where I can take it. Sort of like creating a statue from a block of marble, or cutting a rough diamond, you could say.

The obvious pitfall of such a method would be knowing when to stop polishing.
Absolutely correct! Again, in my case, that's a very intuitive process. First, I get the structure of the lyric down, figure out how many verses will be, that sort of thing. Then once it's more or less steady in form, I start tinkering with the content. I go through every line, nearly word-by-word, with a different pen, and I start asking, "Can I say this in a more clever fashion? Could this be shortened?" This is the phase where I also start bringing in figurative language, I keep my mind sharp and on the lookout for possible metaphors, figures of speech, and especially any way of rephrasing it so that it would have multiple meanings. "You Rock Me Well", for instance, I'm proud of how I managed to find some good phrasings for that song that could be interpreted different ways, simultaneously. For me that's always been one of the best parts of lyric writing, the part where I get to challenge myself to see if I can come up with better ways of communicating whatever I wrote down, be it a feeling, or a specific image, or something like that. It's, how to say... I grew up with a lot of entertainment I loved, where the was always this element of stimulation involved in it. Especially on TV and in the cinema - some of my favourite series and movies all have this element, that they threw me extra facts and so on, and trusted me to work out the connection between them, or they could suggest an entire world or history with just a few well-placed details or lines. I call it "brain-tickling", for lack of a better term, and I want to be able to do the same with my own lyrics; ideally, somebody who listens to my lyrics will feel that same impulse, to puzzle out over them, to feel their imagination fire up, y'know? I played Rainbow Moon so many times as a kid it's completely etched in my memory, and it never got old; every time I listened, I'd find something new, another layer, another nuance, I'd have a better understanding of how an effect was achieved. That sort of level of quality I've always set as my benchmark - every new song I wrote got me a bit closer to that level. It's a daring target, but I think I work best that way, no?

So, the overarching theme of your albums is that they work on a number of levels?
Fuck, should've thought of that! Thank you so much! That's a much better way of putting it.

I don't suppose you can edit the interview and just swap that for my previous response?

'fraid not.
Yeah, I knew you'd say that, but I did make you chuckle, so it was worth it.

Please describe for us what we should expect from the new album.
Musique concrète power ballads, 20-minute soft rock drone metal workouts, and pornogrind club trance smooth jazz!

Nah, just pullin' your leg. [The album]'s been in the works for a while, and we've all got our ears to the ground, so we've tried to take what we usually do, and take it in newer directions. We like to keep up to date, you understand. [wink] We share a good knowledge of what our building blocks are, so we approach any new album as an exciting opportunity to stretch and play with them, see what they can be melded with and what they can withstand. Last time [Electrified], we were pushing at the edge of our sound, expanding it into more improv and prog territory. This time around, on top of that, we've added some shiny new state-of-the-art technology to go with it. It's definitely a big thing on this album, pushing further into the realm of... cyborg music, if you will! Fusions of electronic music and rock. We've got some experience on that front already, but I definitely feel it was more in the driving seat for this album, looking into new ways to enhance our style with drum machines, sampling, synths, all those cool electronics. Lin's also been integrated into the band now and has the Infrared Riders under their belt, that project was very useful to mapping our mutual strengths and reconciling them, so you will hear a wacky metal influence too.

Courting a new metal audience, then?
Not consciously, unless we're talking about a metal audience with eclectic tastes who likes to go out and about in techno nightclubs. I wouldn't mind being seen that way, though. It's one of my ambitions as a musician, to be able to appeal to any audience. And I think I'm very fortunate that in Gylias, we don't have the kind of genre tribalism that infects other countries' musical scenes.

You have the opportunity to provide free publicity to a new band or musician you've been enjoying lately. Who do you sing the praises of?
Ne-crooooooooos!♫ Oh, wait, you don't mean that literally, do you?

Not strictly speaking, no.
I've been definitely getting into this demoscene and tracked music craze that's swept the nation, very rightly earned in my view, though Misato-chan has more practice than me with ImpulseTracker. There's a lot of trackers who make brilliant music, but if I had to pick one favourite, I'd pick Necros. They's definitely one of the best I've heard at making some amazing music with computers, and even past the whole technical 'oh wow I can't believe they're doing that with just a computer!' whiz-bang factor, Necros' melodies are to die for, dahling! I think my favourite Necros song would be their collaboration with Basehead, "In Search of the Lost Riff". It hooked me in from the start with that wonderful piano melody, but then when the extra synths come in, they really take it somewhere else! The only way I can describe it, is that the combination of those chord progressions and those melodies really soars. And it helps that there's a lot of variation in the arrangement - little differences in the bassline, melodies, drumfills everytime, and I love that piano solo close to the three-minute mark. It's one of the few songs I know that changes key up twice, and makes it work. That may have a slight advantage, but the rest of Necros' work is just as lovely, and varied. "Metroplex", for instance - I like the combination between the bassline and the chord progression on the piano, and how they meld incredibly well with that swung rhythm. Plus, it has sharp solos on every instrument, for a cherry on top! "Realization II", I dunno what happened to the first one, but this one's a wonderful, swinging pop song, though I'll admit I may like it very much because it partially sounds like another of my favourite songs... old one, "Cornflake Girl", five years ago.

Where'd you put the keys, girl?
I tell you, if I could write a song like that, I'd be really happy. I haven't managed yet, but it's something I'm working towards. If it goes well, I might even put it on the next album, without cringing!

Sounds like you have high standards. Have you ever felt pressure because of your status, that you had to come up with something mindblowing for your next release because you've built up that expectation?
I've scrapped material now and then because I didn't feel it was up to my standards, or took breaks to recharge my songwriting batteries, but as a whole, no, I can't say I've felt that level of pressure. I have the advantage that I'm in control of my career, and so are my wonderful bandmates. When you see other pop stars flaming out, or producing bad music, and you dig for the background, too many times it's traced to the fact that they're subordinate to their record company, instead of vice versa as it should be. So you get contractual obligation albums, that kind of bullshit, and a musical rat race which is just awful. As a human race, we've lost too many musicians to the grind of touring, and destroyed the joy, fun and creativity of making music for too many others, by allowing commercialism to destroy creativity and try to meatgrind such vibrant and diverse forms of art into interchangeable rotten slop. Seeing those cases only helps me realise what a relative luxury we're afforded in Gylias, in the greater scheme of things. I'm not under any obligation to keep releasing albums. If I ever feel like I've hit a brick wall creatively, I stop and go do something else. And the ability we have, to stop, go do other things, and then come back together when the time is right and pick back up where we left off, is why we have a very good discography. Of course, I've had those worries every now and then, that I wouldn't be able to come up with something that would stand up to my previous work, but guess what? I still ended up doing so, and putting out good quality work with my bandmates. So by this point, I have enough of a track record and practice, that I can shut down that pesky fucker if it ever arises, with a little, 'Okay, shitdropping, you're clearly too stupid to know, but you are talking to the mighty Asuka Langley Sōryū and her Invincibles! I've put out albums people adore across the country. I've put on shows that have dazzled audiences. I have a brilliant family and some of the best friends I could ever hope for, who love me and care about me deeply. What the FUCK have YOU done, you worthless crapfeast?!'

Have you ever felt the urge to revel in your status?
Depends how you define "reveling in my status". If it means getting a big head about my material status or my achievements, the answer thankfully is 'no'. This is one of the main things I feel incredibly grateful to my parents for, that they taught me to have a good strong head on my shoulders. That kind of resilience and discipline is second-nature to me by now, so I don't let the whole 'queen of pop' thing get to me.

I remember one magazine's review described you as "standing head and shoulders above other pop musicians".
That's a judgement call, and I'm exactly the person who can't comment on that objectively, so that's a matter of individual opinion. But the fact is, my feet are still on the same ground as everyone else. More often, I have moments where I feel like I see myself from the outside, just one small dot on this huge mosaic of humanity, and all I can think is, [laughs] 'how the fuck did this happen?'. Like, 'fuck me, I'm a pop musician! Shit!' Those moments are really precious - a healthy sense of the absurd is a good thing to have in life. And it's those times that I also realise, fuck me I am one lucky Asuka. It's really humbling, knowing the reactions my work has received, and the knowledge that I've contributed something to society. I still can't hold it in sometimes and end up crying when I read and answer mail from people, telling me how much our albums mean to them, or how they've made them feel better, because I'm just so happy it brings tears.

Well, it also helps that I have the most amazing Hi-chan in my life I could ever wish for!

Hikari, as I understand it, was quite an influence on you forming a band, besides Misato. Would you say your relationship is a specific influence on your music?
If it wasn't, I doubt I'd have written songs like "Während wir allein sind", "You Rock Me Well" or "[Fun Day at the] Fun Fair"! Being with Hi-chan's enriched my life immeasurably, so of course it would also have that effect on my output as a writer. We share everything in our marriage, the good times, the work, the sacrifices, the commitment. Obviously it means I share my lyrics with her as well and she helps out now and then, with suggestions or simply as a good test audience. I think the greatest influence she has, though, is keeping me grounded - she's probably my best insurance against becoming haughty! [laughs] I can just imagine it now, if I ever did start getting high and mighty, Hi-chan would be there to cut me back down, yelling, "I don't care if you're the fucking queen of Cacerta! It's your fucking turn to take out the bloody trash!"

Sounds passionate.
We're both very passionate people. Sometimes, it pushes both of us to great heights together. And sometimes... [getsures dramatically] hooo-wee, when we lock horns, do we lock horns! It works for us, so I couldn't imagine it any other way!

You have a lot of arguments?
We argue, but we never fight. That's an important distinction I make. I don't necessarily know if we disagree with each other more often or loudly than other couples, but the great thing is that we both thrive on it, to an extent. What I've always loved about Hi-chan is how she's my equal in everything, so being married has done a great deal for both of us, in terms of pushing us to know each other better as people, and always make progress in becoming even better as a team. Everybody has their own vision of what makes a successful romantic relationship, and for me, the multi-faceted part is key. We love each other deeply, and do affectionate things, but I think it's strengthened our relationship so much, the fact that neither of us are pushovers, and we can both be very headstrong at times, and we both enjoy challenging each other and giving each other a good kick in the arse when necessary. It's all done with love and laughter - I can't remember one of our arguments that didn't end with both of us breaking into laughter and hugging tight. When I look back at it, it makes me happy that my fondest memories of being together, include everything from, snuggling in bed, the simple joy of being together and doing things together like watching a film or recording a song, brilliant sex, and the heated debates when one of us would stop and think, "wait, why am I so fired up about this? Is this really the most important thing?"
The shortest way I can put it, is the greatest specific influence Hi-chan has had on my writing is that I love her, and the person she helps me grow into when I'm with her. So, anybody who's ever enjoyed my lyrics because they're feisty! You all owe Hi-chan a great big belly kiss!

You've talked about squelching the voice of doubt and affectionate arguments as one of the components of your successful relationship. Do you feel that is reflected in your lyrics?
If it is, it would be subconsciously. I aim to be honest and have my lyrics reflect where I am at a given moment, or what particular feeling I'm trying to communicate and share. But, no, I wouldn't record a song specifically about how I had this debate with Hi-chan about X and at the end we both laughed and held each other close, or how I was being super-stubborn about having Stéph[anie Michaud, former guitarist in The Invincibles from 1983 to 1994] record a guitar part a certain way but Stéph wanted to do it a different way.

Why is that?
I don't feel they're inherently interesting or remarkable. If I did record a song like that, I'd only do it to amuse Hi-chan, or my bandmates. I can't picture putting it on an official album and standing behind it as quality work I expect the public to experience. What would the listener be able to relate to, or identify with? My leftover collection at home doesn't just include demo tapes that we weren't able to satisfactorily turn into finished songs, it's also stuff that I don't regard as fit for public release.

Private material?
[nods] Mhm, you could call it that. When I work alone, it's very different from when I work with a band. About a decade ago, I used to grab and put down any idea that came to me, but these days I'm more selective - there are certain ideas I'm happy to let fizzle out of my head because I don't regard them as worth preserving or working on. Take for example low moods and negative emotions. They're a universal experience, but they're also an individual one. I'm not comfortable with the idea of preserving them, I prefer to preserve my good moods. So, when I feel melancholic or alone, or anything like that, I don't go anywhere near my tape recorder entirely. My parents taught me that some things are meant to be private. When I'm not feeling so good, I reach out to people I trust, and ask them to help me, and usually it's as simple as doing something else or being with somebody else, and it evaporates. Those kinds of feelings, they want me to feel bad and overwhelmed, but it turns out they're really sandcastles washed away by something as simple as the tide. I'm not going to give them the oxygen they crave by preserving them in song. I savour the satisfaction of crushing them entirely! [laughs]

Is there a particular meaning behind the title, Any Questions?
No, my thought process about all my album titles always begins and ends with "does it sound cool?", and rarely gets as far as "does it mean something?". This time around, the title came from Misato-chan, actually! We were goofing around in the studio, I can't remember about what specifically, and then Misato-chan just had this huge grin, brushed her fingernails against her T-shirt, and then imitated my voice, saying, "Any questions?" It's better heard than read, but we all laughed at that one. I was like, "this is just such a me thing to say!", and decided to thank Misato-chan by making it the album title. Not to mention, the title proved useful when Mikki [Mikaela Berg, Asuka's photographer and co-art director] and me were brainstorming the artwork, we got to do that homage to Class Representatives!

I've always enjoyed the humorous bent of your album covers.
Hehe, you have fun looking at them, think about how much fun I'm having when we're shooting them!

What's your fondest memory related to shooting one of your covers?
I don't know if one stands out in particular, but I loved coaching Hi-chan into getting the right facial expression for the debut! That image actually took the longest for Mikki, because we were just cracking each other up all the time, it was almost impossible to sit still!
And if you don't mind me rubbing myself for a bit, I do enjoy the body language I have on the new cover. It's so confident it's sexy, haha!

It is a very Asuka-like posture, I'll give you that.
I could do that pose in my sleep! In fact, I should ask if I do do that pose in my sleep...

Were there any working titles for the album before you settled on Any Questions?
I think at one point I tossed out Tastes Great, Less Filling. Jen[nifer] said it sounded like a live album. Hys[áen] suggested Flavour of the Month, I shot that one down because it had too many words. Chich tried to one-up that with A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld. And I was so glad I found out where I left my Orb CD! I thought I'd lost it!

What's the most selfless thing you ever did?
[raises her finger to her lips and winks playfully] It's a secret!

Not even a hint?
Nope! My lips are sealed!

How about a hint why it's a secret, then?
That's easy, it's because if it wasn't, it wouldn't mean anything now.

What do you mean?
If somebody came up to you and said, "Hey, I'm a really nice person!", how would you react?

I'd wonder why they had to tell me that, and start wondering if they're actually not.
Precisely! So the most selfless thing I did is between me and who it was done for, and I'm taking that secret to my grave.

Sounds reasonable. Should we expect more videos for the album in the future? I hear "Kissing with Confidence" already made a splash.
As much of a splash as you can make in space! And yes, I'm always open to the concept of making more videos, it's just a matter of finding the right ideas for them. If somebody wants to see us just performing, they already have Audience, or whatever other filmed performances people have generously donated to our website. They're not that many, because it's much easier to carry around audio recorders than to lug around a camera to a concert. Not to mention if you did, you'd have to find a good standing place to capture the actual band, instead of the sea of hands and people it's performing to.

Isn't it good to see a concert from the audience's perspective?
Yes, I agree, that is why I asked Mikkel to get those shots for the front and back covers of Audience, but you also notice that the inner sleeve shows us more clearly, in the middle of a performance. It's about finding that right balance. Get a bad position, and it's a high chance somebody'll get annoyed with how the people in front of them are blocking their view of the show. When I want to look at concert footage of another band or musician performing, that balance is fundamental for me. I want to be able to both see exactly what each musician is doing, and see how it all melds into a whole, and they create a symbiotic relationship with the audience.

I gather you don't have a high opinion of that concert film played in an empty amphitheatre then?
It's an interesting watch, but I wouldn't consider it one of the best performances I've seen on film. Magnificent concerts rest on the foundation of a great rapport between the performers and the audience. Both are active, both push each other to greater heights, and both share a moment of transcendence, of communication, like a plane breaking past the cloud cover and seeing the sun and endless blue sky. For me, a performance can be as amazing and flawless as can be, but without the audience to share it with, it falls short of that.

Other musicians who express the same thing you're talking about have generally used more spiritual or religious metaphors for that effect.
I find the comparison with a plane at flight altitude does the job just as well. Well, I could compare it to magic too. The magic feeling, of listening to music and feeling an overwhelming communication, somebody taking your hand and leading you into amazing, bloody brilliant new worlds you didn't know existed before. Even if I was a poet in every language on the planet, I don't think I could ever find the right words to do justice. It's a sweet and humbling sensation, realising you've managed to share your private joy with so many people and brighten their day as well. I used to ask my dad, all wide-eyed and preteen, "Why don't they teach art in medical school too?" I probably express it differently, but I definitely feel that art is an extraordinary tool for healing.

You've mentioned not being comfortable with preserving your low moods earlier, is there a connection to that?
Yeah. I'm fundamentally an optimist. I don't believe in, y'know, forcing listeners to commiserate with me about whatever, when I could be elevating and inspiring them instead. That's the role I was born to play, and I'll play the fuck right outta it! [laughs]

Are you a religious person?
No. I practice Kisekidō, but I don't regard that as a religion.

Is it important to you?
It is. One of the many positive legacies of my childhood, is that I grew up in a mixed family, in a very open and diverse society. Iásas has grown since I first came into existence in hospital, but it's a city that's always had all kinds of people. I've always had this impulse, since I began to be aware of the greater world, to rejoice and flourish within multitudes. Who I am is the sum total of all my experiences up to now and more, but I've always taken the fact that I'm half Kirisakian, and half German as one of the foundations of my identity. It's still a personal thing, though. I practice Kisekidō because it makes me happy, it features some good stories and it represents a connection to my Kirisakian heritage. But I do it in private.

Kisekidō is a significant component in Miraian culture, is it not? Do you think that's influenced your music?
Yes, and not necessarily. The only thing from Kisekidō that I consider directly relevant to my creative work, is Kagamiko-no-Seikahime. She's our deity of cleansing and purification. I guess you can say that when I make music, I try to do Seikahime's work by creating songs that I hope will make the listener feel happy, and inspired.
Other than that, no, I don't consciously sit down and plan to use my music as propaganda. If other people think they can hear a lot of Kisekidō influence in my songs, I'd be happy to read a dissertation about it, but I'm afraid they'll be wasting their time looking for things that aren't there.

Irastia Mastali of Tessellations was recently quoted saying, "I wish music videos were never invented." It's safe to say you hold the opposite opinion?
You already know the answer, right? [chuckles] I see music videos as an interesting challenge, coming up with right extra visuals and action that will best complement the song in question.

Do you have any preferences in terms of working on videos?
Not repeating ourselves, and taking the opportunity to work with new collaborators. Videos for us, are like a cherry on top of a cake. The song being the cake, of course. And they're a good way to have more fun! Like, fuck, we threw such a wonderful party when were were filming "Kissing with Confidence"! Yeah, videos for me are a fun bonus, for us and our audience. Seeking and finding the perfect combination of sound and vision, it's an art form, and a craft. And when you get a good result, it's a real achivement, it's special.

How do you feel when you hear that other countries have banned your videos for being too explicit?
Vindicated!

In what sense?
In the sense that I'm doing the right thing! They're a bunch of backwards oppressive shitholes, so it's a great honour to be banned there!

Any concert plans?
Mhm, certainly! We couldn't not perform for our loyal listeners. We'll be starting rehearsals soon, and then begin working out our itinerary. We haven't done that for a long time... not since... '87, I think. We didn't need to rehearse when Stéph was in the band; that lineup was like a machine that ran itself. Now it needs a lil' recalibration to run itself again, with Lin in Stéph's place, which should be quick. We're looking into playing in Suenaga this time, I think we can bring a new audience there.

Cacerta in the plans too?
Nope, we've already played there for Electrified, and they didn't seem that impressed. I saw that coming, since after all the Kingdom has much different music tastes and traditions than ours, but it became a bit underwhelming and exhausting by the end regardless. The Cacertian people are absolutely lovely and have a special place in my heart, but the mistake we made was to try to cover nearly all of it. Morale was definitely being chipped away a bit by the time we played our last show in Cacerta; Kirisaki was much smoother sailing because we had audiences that were more into it. Oh well, live and learn. We still go there for vacations, they're just delightful, but we failed to interest them last time, and I don't see much of a chance we'd have better luck if we tried again, so it's better if we spare us both the fuss.

You sound rather disappointed about it.
Not really, that would imply anybody's at fault, which is certainly not the case. I would've loved to win over a new Cacertian audience, but I'm afraid it wasn't the right time. I can't claim to be that disappointed, since I knew from the start it would be a long shot, to say the least. It's more that I would've loved to have beaten the odds, but not every risk you take turns out rewarding, haha.

If you could give other musicians advice, what would you say?
I don't know if I would, to be honest. I'm not the horn of all knowledge, and I can't know for sure if I'm actually qualified to give useful advice except on a case-by-case basis. I think the important thing is, you're the best judge of their own capabilities, so trust yourself to decide whether a piece of advice is useful to you or not.

"I'm not sure if I should be giving you the advice I'm giving you at the moment"?
[laughs] Ah, what can I say, I am a dedicated hypocrite and proud of it!

Dedicated hypocrite. Doting parent. Hometown hero. National icon. Expert in pop ecstasy. Possessor of the secret of what the most selfless thing she ever did is. Returned, and still in no rush. As ever, Asuka remains her immense, inimitable self. As she shakes my hand goodbye and leaves, the only question I have left is, "Where will they head from here?"

And as I watch her walking off and gradually fading into the street, I can see her face break into an impish smirk as she provides the obvious answer.

"Wherever we want, dahling! You coming?"
Last edited by Gylias on Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:39 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Gylias
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Left-wing Utopia

A Veteran Squad's Responsibility

Postby Gylias » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:06 am


THE NATIONAL INQUIRER



Letters to the editor
Monday, 1 October 2007

Dear editor,

Please congratulate Nancy Laurent on our behalf for their necessary demolition ("Failure of Thought", 29 September) of the loathsome "Failure of Courage" article that's gathered attention it does not deserve last week. Why that article was published in The Sunday Thought instead of the National Action News where it clearly belongs will surely be a mystery for the ages. Nancy Laurent's column has already done an admirable job of picking apart the failures of that polemic, but we consider this an occasion where it is important for us to add our voices in support as well. We believe our record speaks for itself in justifying our decision.

It is rather amusing that the "Failure of Courage" article was a pseudonymous editorial, all too fitting given that its author does not understand what 'courage' is. Seemingly half of the article is given to an extended, fact-free diatribe regarding Lt. Col. Sara Iskamne's announcement that she will be stepping down next year as Minister of Defense. That the author sees fit to compare the negative reaction to the Lt. Col.'s professed opinions regarding the possible transformation of the GSDF into a military to a "kangaroo court" and a "witch hunt" speaks volumes about their opinions regarding democracy. Lt. Col. Sara Iskamne is not a "victim" of "mob rule", and painting her that way, not to mention the use of the all-purpose snarl word "mob", betrays unsettling hints about the author's resentment towards the very idea that an informed, engaged public has the right to express an opinion that the government which serves them must take into account.

Whether the GSDF should be converted into a military or remain as is, in our view, is an issue for the public to decide. Lt. Col. Sara Iskamne discussed in a publically broadcast interview why she supported the idea. The public was not convinced. It is that simple. And in more vivid contrast with our pseudonymous author, she fully accepted the consequences of her argument and announced that she would step down out of respect for the public's loss of trust. It may not have been the right course of action, granted. The author seems to wish that the Lt. Col. would have instead remained in her position and indulged in a petulant display of "defiance", all of which would have made it more inevitable that she would have been sacked come February. The Gylian public has little patience for such antagonistic and irresponsible behaviour from public institutions that exist to guarantee their safety. Perhaps the author has never seen any of the tests administered to people who decide to pursue careers in the GSDF, or NPF. What they advocate would instantly mark a candidate as grossly unsuitable for the office. If anyone desires to see the GSDF become a military, all they have to do is make a more convincing case than the Lt. Col. and present it to the public. The only thing she can be "accused" of is miscalculating in making her comments so soon after the Prime Minister announced they will not run for re-election, which would be an incredibly petty and cynical thing to do, or perhaps overreacting, to which we respond that there is a reason the phrase "better safe than sorry" exists. At the end of the day, in recognising that she's alienated a section of the public with her comments and taking action to rectify this, the Lt. Col. has displayed the good judgement and qualities that are mandatory for anyone managing an organisation such as the GSDF.

Beneath the overblown bluster about the "shackles" imposed on the GSDF and its "submission", the author has, however crudely, landed upon an accidental point. The conversion of the GSDF into a military is not a decision to be taken lightly, hence why it is all the more important that it be discussed with the public. The unfortunate thing is, there will always be on some level a tension between the existence of a military, and the existence of democratic government. This is a fact: the two have rather incompatible goals and methods. A military is traditionally understood to involve rank, discipline, and prioritise the ability to carry out orders.1 A democratic government spits in the face of pretentions to deference, and governs based on the consent of the people they serve.2 Reconciling the two is the most vital feature of a modern state. Nancy Laurent rightfully takes the pseudonymous author to task for citing Laudine and the Allamunnic States as their preferred models. Laudine cannot be said to have a healthy balance, where the military is a constructive and responsible institution of the state with a healthy internal culture. And the Allamunnic States are not even a democracy, which speaks volumes. Meanwhile, right across the sea, Cacerta provides a sterling example of such qualities. Accuse Lt. Col. Sara Iskamne of whatever you want, but she spoke in detail about her admiration for the way the Cacertian Armed Forces are a respected and trusted institution in the Kingdom, and how their use of peacetime conscription contributes to a feeling of national unity and shared service. What she did not do at any point was advocate anything close to the return of Xevden's conscription. If parts of the public wince at the suggestions of the discipline and respect for authority taught at the Anzio Women's Academy or Fumicino Naval Academy, that is a legitimate question: how do we reconcile such values that ultimately have to be present in some form to have a well-functioning military, without betraying the principles of empowerment and trampling on the individual's right to develop as they see fit, that form the backbone of our cherished public education? It is a question bigger than us, and if an answer will be found, we won't be around to see it. Answering the question is possible; it requires generous application of the ingenuity and sensitivity our Republic has done its best to nurture and encourage in its residents.

What it does not require is open contempt for anyone who does not share the author's confidence that the only function of a military is to be a killing machine and those who disagree are to be held in contempt. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Liberation War. We have heard all of this before, too many times to count, in these five decades. It has gone from provoking our outrage at the ignorance they betray, to provoking our laughter at the ignorance they betray, to merely eliciting sighs of exasperation and disappointment at the irritating tenacity of such a toxic worldview. And it is the undefensible part where the author proclaims that an army needs "swagger" and "warrior spirit", that it is our duty to confront and throw back under the rock whence it crawled from whenever it arises. It is this, that made it all the more important for us to speak out with our perspective, instead of merely contacting Nancy Laurent to commend them for their public service.

We did not need "swagger" or "warrior spirit" when we fought against the Xevdenites.

We needed ammunition, supplies, the support of our comrades in arms, and the support of the populace3.

What we did not need, and do not need, are cheerleaders, or defenders, or raving fans angry with reality's refusal to conform to their delusions.

It is hard to escape the creeping feeling that 60 years ago the author would have been an NXUFite calling for indiscriminate killing and brutality to be wreaked on Gylians. The same Gylians they pompously lambasts as "weak" and "repressed", scraping the bottom of a barrel of privilege and presumptiousness populated by the deluded types who believe that militaries and violence are the only true measures of strength and power.

What seems to escape the author is the fact that we were not, and are not, "warriors". We did not join the People's Army because it granted us a license to shoot at people freely without risking prosecution for murder. They have never looked into the eyes of a crying child, desperately trying to wake up the corpse of their parents. Or the thousand-kilometre gaze of a comrade-in-arms who has seen too much and does not see the point of existence anymore. Or a bright young recruit whose face becomes bereft of will to live, devastated by the news that they will be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of their lives from a bomb attack.

What use would they have for "swagger"? What patience would they have for a lecture on the importance of the "warrior spirit" that has affected their lives beyond measure?

We joined the PA out of a sense of duty to play our part in the struggle against oppression. There were moments where our faith in this higher purpose was shaken, sometimes seemingly beyond repair. It is impossible to describe how overjoyed we felt when the war ended and all our hopes were vindicated. We have tried before, but we never succeeded. The efforts and sacrifices of our comrades and fellow Gylians were not in vain.

The author continues the theme of ironic cowardice by resorting to quotes attributed to "anonymous sources" in the GSDF. This clever ruse prompts the question of whether the quotes are blatantly false, made up to support their position and attributed to fictional people, or they are real quotes and the author's sources are simply psychopaths who have managed to hide their unfitness for service so far but have now given sufficient clues that they will be found soon4. Their repulsive worship of power for the sake of power is only matched by their breathtaking ignorance. No, the country does not need so-called "hot shots" with big egos, who are supposedly honoured for "running into conflict". Are these supposed GSDF members serious when describing their indispensability for the defense of the Constitution? Have they read the Constitution? It beggars belief that somebody could fail to notice the first article obliges all Gylians to fulfil the solemn duty of resisting "with all their might and vigour" any attempt to usurp authority, democracy, or their rights and freedoms should all other recourses fail.

It should not even have to be said: people with attitudes of undisguised bloodlust, who pride themselves on their ability to kill other human beings without seemingly a pause to consider the implications of such an act5, who give every indication of succumbing to creeping prætorianism and growing to find Ruvelka preferable to Gylias, absolutely have no place in defense of this country. They do not believe in the ideals of this country. They only care about a military as a socially acceptable outlet for their power fantasies and pathological obsession with war; we daresay they only want a military to exist as an excuse for them to shoot at people without being arrested and prosecuted for attempted murder.

What really escapes from the quotes provided by the pseudonymous author, besides their foul inhuman odour, is the overwhelming impression of how pathetic they are. If these people are real, whoever they are, they are not well-developed human beings in any sense of the word. They have all the mentality and logic of aggrieved, antisocial toddlers throwing tantrums that they are not getting their way. They feel oppressed by the basic recognition that sharing this planet with other human beings requires compromise, recognition and mutual respect as the basic foundations of any civilised society. Their complaints regarding the code of conduct is the whine of the bully and the bigot, not yet faded completely into the ash heap of history, furious that the world does not revolve around them and they do not live in a society based on inequality that benefits them.

Is this how they view themselves? Is this how they view us? Hotshots and swaggering daredevils? Is our only function in life to robotically engage in acts of "daring bravado", and then once a conflict ends we are tossed aside in the closet, like a toy or a tool that's served its purpose and is now useful only for gathering dust?

Are they interested in us as human beings, or do they only want us to be objects onto which they can project their disgusting power fantasies?

We have seen war first-hand. We have fought in it. All the time we fought, we dreamed of the day when we would fight no more. That day arrived for us. It didn't arrive for many of our comrades, who had either died, or found themselves burdened with shell shock, lifelong traumas, paralysis, quadriplegia.

What the pseudonymous author and their execrable sockpuppets are doing amounts to spitting in the face of the soldiers of the People's Army, and shitting on the graves of those who gave their lives, sanity, limbs and more they expected in the service of the ideal that there would come a day when Gylians would be able to live in freedom and have a government that listened to them and looked after them.

To this repugnant jingoism, to this odious bellicosity, we say no.

We have fought together with people from all walks of life in the People's Army, people who banded together in resistance against a community that had excluded them and cast them to the margins, to live lives of deprivation, destitution and daily, countless offenses against their dignity as human beings. FInally, here for us, was a community where we were accepted as equals, treated as people instead of plague-infested corpses. Contrary to the narrowminded perception of the author, we learned many things during the war, in our time away from battle. We learned how to act towards each other with respect and thoughtfulness. We learned how to learn, and expand our knowledge. We cultivated new talents and passions, for that long ached-for day when we could stop being just rebel soldiers and become more than that as persons, when our lives would not revolve around slaughter and alertness.

As long as we have breath left in our bodies, as long as we have voices, as long as we have pens in our hands when those voices lose their strength, we will say no.

We understand why the public have been so generous in giving us the reputation we have. Even in the darkest hour, people need hope. We have accepted without complaint the public's desire to elevate us onto a pedestal and praise our actions. Yet we have also known the great responsibility that comes with this status, a responsibility we have never shied from once in our lives. We have done our best to use our stories to educate anyone who would listen, so that even as they felt entertained, they would leave with an understanding of the brutality, the inhumanity that is war, etched into their consciousness.

Nancy Laurent, you have our praise, our gratitude, and our sympathy for having to endure being exposed to such poison as "Failure of Courage".

To the pseudonymous author of said article, your jingoistic bullshit is an abominable insult to everything the GSDF stands for. We are proud of knowing that the efficiency, quiet professionalism, honourable conduct, and responsiveness of the GSDF give it a prestige and strength you will never understand. We are proud of the way it has become a unique and valued institution that reflects the positive values and ideals Gylias strives towards every day. And we are especially proud that your little tempest in a teapot will soon evaporate and disappear from memory, and life will carry on as usual.

Gertrude Burkhart
Erica Hartmann
Shirley Hunter
Francesca Lucchini
Mio Sakamoto
Minna Dietlinde Wilcke

formerly of the 15th Special Operations Squad of the People's Army

1 The highest compliment we can give to our GSDF is that it demonstrates that a self-defense force can operate on democratic and egalitarian principles, even if at times the intrusion of rank will be inevitable given the logistics of functioning at a large scale. Those who wish for that to be abolished entirely are understandable, but they would've also condemned the People's Army to defeat. Such is the give-and-take of life.
2 Perhaps our author's real frustration here is that governments govern instead of ruling?
3 We say this not out of twisted bitterness, but out of pragamatic realism. War is a nightmare of death, destruction and suffering far beyond the capacity of mere language to capture. Those who speak positively of it have never experienced it and cannot comprehend its horror. It is disgusting and execrable to accuse a population of "losing" a war through a dolchstoßlegende or to conflate opposition to a war with hatred of the people fighting it. If the Gylian people did not support us, all the yelling and thrashing in the world would not have been able to bully them into doing so. Sending people to be shot at, injured, maimed and killed for a cause, even if that cause is justified, is a decision that carries a heavy burden. To put people in danger and death's way for unworthy reasons and then blame the populace for their defeat is a failure of humanity.
4 Or the author's "source" for this section was Ilona Ekes.
5 People who've said nice things about the "career" we're famous for as rebel soldiers have the right to hold these opinions, but also the obligation of acknowledging that, at the end of the day, we killed people. Whether they construe this as negative or positive, they have to start with this basic fact. One of the advantages of peacetime is more time to grapple with the philosophical implications of such actions.


Last edited by Gylias on Mon Jun 29, 2015 4:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Schottia
Ambassador
 
Posts: 1236
Founded: Feb 20, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Schottia » Mon Jul 13, 2015 3:21 pm

The High Council Leader's Residence,
Handon, Schottia. 2007


'Ye no' eatin yer peas?' Asked Jan Connell looking over at his daughter's plate, as he sat sipping a glass of red wine. She had been absent-mindedly moving them around her plate, seemingly lost in thought. 'Ah doot yer ow'er auld for playing wi yer food.'

'Aw sorry Dad, I guess I'm finished yeah.' Amy pushed her plate into the middle of the table and reached for her orange juice. She seemed to take no notice of the way her father's eyes narrowed as he slurped from his wine goblet.

'Dae ye no' eat yer greens when ye bide wi yer Mother?' He waited for her reply, but it was apparent that she wasn't listening. 'Ah said, how come yer no' eatin yer peas?' Connell snapped, almost snarling the last word.

'Oh my god Dad, I'm sixteen, I'll eat vegetables if I want to eat vegetables.' She stared at him, eyes wide and mouth slightly open. 'If I "dinae" then I "willnae!" got it?' She put an emphasis on the two Scots words, which almost had a mocking tone. Over the last couple of months she had been down right insubordinate when it came to speaking her native tongue and Jan thought he had a good idea why. It was the same reason she had been acting-up, playing "Little Miss Cocky."

'It's this boyfriend of yours, isn't it?' Jan asked smiling. 'Scots is no' guid enough fur that arrogant wee shite, Ah'll reckon.' Amy had been seeing some boy she had met at hockey, Jan could never remember his name, and he didn't want to. He seemed posh, entitled, even if he wasn't. His parents must have brought him up that way, fuckin' capitalist wank jobs nae doot!

'Eh, his name is Jonathan.' Amy snapped back, demonstrating that she wasn't scared of him.

'Yo - nah - tan.' Jan spat each syllable back at her, as if he were a cobra defending its nest. 'What kind ay a name is that?' He laughed through his nose, taking another drink of his wine before topping up the glass.

'It's the German pronunciation for Jonathan, his father is German!' Amy sat back and folded her arms and crossed her legs. 'You'd know that if you ever listened to a word I said.'

'Jesus Christ.' Jan shook his head laughing. 'Why the fuck does he spell it Jonathan if it's pronounced in such a stupid way?' Jan was enjoying himself now, stiffing the pot, watching his hormonal daughter getting wound up.

'I'm not even going to answer that, you...'

'You, what? Go on say it.'

'You... you... you fucking... eh, twat.'

Jan Connell was in a full-on belly laugh now, watching Amy trying to play tough was like watching a puppy fighting with a soft toy.

'Ye'll maybe get a bit better at swearing when yer a bit bigger Amy.' He reached over and roughed her hair. 'It takes practice.' He didn't really know why he did it, why he wound her up like this. Maybe it was to get back at her mother for walking out on him. Maybe it was because he knew their relationship was already irreparable. 'Dae ye luve him?' He asked trying hard to keep a straight face, as he watched his daughter’s face pinken.

'What?' Amy gave an awkward smile looking at the table, buying for time.

'Ah said dae ye luve him.' The High Council Leader was having fun. 'It's luve's young dream, is it no.'

'Shut-up dad!' She snapped back, getting up to her feet. She wasn't going to sit around and be insulted like this.

'Ye'll learn aw aboot it when yer aulder sweetheart, Ah promise ye.' Jan gave her a wink.

'Well I'm old enough for some stuff already.' She said defiantly.

'Such, as what?' Jan asked very slowly drawing each word out.

'Jonathan and I are sleeping together.' Amy waited for the words to take affect, to wound her father.

'You what!' Jan looked close to having an aneurysm, as he stood up gripping the table with his large hands. The former rugby player filled most of his kitchen as he reared up to his full height, like some troll waking up after a long sleep.

'We're sleeping together. We're fucking each other. Whatever way you what to say it father, is fine by me.' Amy felt now that she had dealt the decisive blow.

'BUT YE'VE ONLY JUST MET THE WEE SHITE!' Jan slammed an aggressive fist on the table causing everything to shake. 'Ah hope tae fuck that ye'r using protection!' He pointed a finger directly at his daughter, looking around for more wine. He was shaking with anger, a mountain rather than a ball of rage.

'Hah! Are you joking, its the 21st century dad, I've been on the pill for almost a year.' She made to storm out of the kitchen but before she did she took one last parting shot at her father. 'You're so out of touch with young people, no wonder the party are saying you're unelectable.'

Jan Connell sat for a good few minutes, deep in a rage that would sink a battleship. He held the glass of wine so tightly that it might have splintered at any moment, but he was too angry to take a sip. There were going to be a few members of his party getting a bollocking tomorrow to let of some of this steam.

'Right.' He said turning to Jonathan who had been sitting quietly through the whole argument. 'Finish yer fuckin' peas, and then I'll drive you home. I think we'll take the scenic route tonight.'

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Gylias
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From the Archives: Musical Update, March 1968

Postby Gylias » Fri Sep 11, 2015 3:15 pm

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Inside the Upside Down World of The Watts

Catching the whirlwind with the power popsters gone psychedelic.

■ BY MYZÍE KEIS | 11 March 1968

T
he evening's treat is a feast for four of khorovats, baked beans, Greek salad and baked potatoes. At first, I watch with polite curiosity the eating habits of my hosts. Rabnak Méiryadz dives excitedly for the meat, devouring no less than five chunks of them directly off the skewer within fifteen minutes. In the meantime, they jokingly uses the stick as a pointer, and at one point brings it close to their ear and curiously taps on it with their fingers, testing its potential as a percussion instrument. Senai Kajved largely eschews the meats and green vegetables for the potatoes, which they eats carefully. As they leave theys hand lingering in the air while chewing one, they give off an air of reserve, redolent of a scion of old sophisticates, raised to stand up straight and respect the nonsensically arcane rituals of eating at tables in public. Djasei Nály, whenever unable to pawn any meats off Rabnak, largely sticks to the baked beans and salad. In person, they are just as assertive, sharp, clever and prone to wearing a heart on their sleeve as in theys music, with the addition of a welcome garrulousness. They and Rabnak seem to be in a contest over who can say the most; Senai in a contest for saying as little as possible and still being an equal member of the conversation. They are all, by turns, funny, teasing, impulsive, nonsensical, and earnest, a distinctive intelligence lurking underneath their extraordinary vitality and sometimes poking its way through the surface.

The only special occasion being marked is their return from playing a few shows in Acrea, an experience undertaken out of curiosity and judged unanimously disappointing. "We bombed!", Rabnak fumes through a mouthful of meat. "I get more reactions than we did on that stage!"

Senai sighs and shakes their head. "Everybody was just staring. I felt like an animal in a zoo." They taps on the table absent-mindedly. "I spent most of that gig staring at my fretboard."

"Yeah, that wasn't a good idea, on reflection.", Djasei nods, frowning on the side of her face. "It stopped being a show and it became, nothing. We could've smashed our instruments on stage and I think they'd still have been blank-faced. It wasn't fun."

The mood suddenly changes as Djasei breaks into a smirk. "I'm never doing that again!", they protests with tongue firmly in cheek. "Fuck crossovers!"

Their bandmakes break into laughter and an infectious giddiness fills the room from their easygoing banter. They volunteer anecdotes about the shows and the making of Transmissions, the album that is the reason we are here in the first place. Rabnak gleefully offers the details of being sternly cautioned by security for impromptu percusiveness. "Ja, they had a sign in the hotel lobby, with the letters made individually out of metal and fastened onto the wall. So natch'lly I was bored after I'd gotten out of a piss and we were gonna be heading to a show in a while, and I found myself standing next to the letters. And I thought, well, I thought what I always thought, y'know." The last sentence being punctuated by an appropriately mischievous wink. "So, I was on the thing, tapping it with my hand, and then I moved to trying to knock about a beat on it, with my right hand fingers. It went on for about, eh, two-three measures? Then allofasuddens, this big... fuckin'... security guard's hulking behind me, starin' at me like I'd just shat in 'es face, ne?, and they's like, growling, 'Please do not use the sign as a percussion instrument.' All serious, and with a voice like permanent belching - I laughed! What else could I do?"

"I can guarantee you we did not let Rab out our sight for the rest of the night.", Senai adds wryly.

E
ven if The Watts have no specific impetus to celebrate, they have good reasons to feel triumphant. They're riding high with Transmissions, the album through which they have finally elbowed their way from local attractions to the forefront of Gylian pop music. They have done so in the face of sexism, doubtful audiences, unconvinced reviewers, and the need to learn the ropes of organising a career along the way. As well as the infamous incident where they played in Nordkrusen three years ago and had the show end in a riot and a brutal police crackdown with a tally of numerous arrests and several injuries.

"In a weird way, that riot helped our career.", Senai comments. "If we'd have made it there, I think people would've looked at us cross-eyed, 'something must be wrong with you'. There's some places bridges shouldn't be built to, and all that. But no, we came out with Nord headlines screaming for our heads, so then the people back home closed ranks behind us and were like, 'good on you, you showed those fuckers what's what'. It also gave us a bit of a reputation for..." They pauses for a second, and allows their usual subtle smile to curve upwards at the edges playfully. "If you're feeling generous, being risk-takers. If you're not, reckless showoffs."

They wisely demurs on the question of which they thinks is more accurate.

The Watts' roots lie in the old working-class neighbourhoods of Arxas, where all three members were born (only a year difference between the oldest and youngest) and grew up amidst first war and then rationing. Rock 'n roll came in the form of intact LPs scavenged from wreckage, incidental music in incomprehensible films made in incomprehensible languages, musical leftovers worn raw by the time they trickled their way down to Gylias (to the undoubted bemusement of the exporters who never understood why Gylians would be interested in their trash) and then passed on like a game of broken telephone. What was Wynonie Harris singing about in "Good Rocking Tonight"? Just wot's this "iuesei" Chuck Berry keeps banging on about? With no way of breaking the language barrier, the pure sound of the cuts, the vivid vocals and exciting performances, provided by themselves all the shock of the new necessary. In another context, they could've easily become mystical artifacts, chunks and souvenirs from another world, not unlike the high culture that demands rituals of experience and reaction. Instead, they drove Gylians to produce homegrown to avoid the costs of imports; instruments can be made by stretching strings over boxes with holes or hitting them with sticks if they can't be come by.

Rabnak and Senai were the first to answer the music's siren call; Rabnak in particular precluded any other possibility by being so obsessed with drumming as to have trouble with wartime education. Senai joined The Substitutes, as a guitarist at first, and subsequently brought Rabnak along in 1961. Most coverage of their story tends to focus less on the music of The Substitutes and more on the drama of how it was torn apart and The Watts split from it, and with good reason: their repertoire mainly consisted of passionless renditions of swing jazz and the kind of soaring-vocal, excessively-orchestral pop with pretentions to limited notions of 'elegance' that don't go down very well in a society that's aiming for the elimination of social classes and bringing about more equal distributions of income. Rabnak particularly finds it hard to muster memories that do not include some form of playing wildly and changing tempos at their whim to lend something resembling interest to songs proponents call "standards" and opponents "dead horses". Still, It was nearly enough for a living, except for the fact that the other Substitutes were older and had not gotten the message that arbitrary discrimination would no longer be tolerated. Rabnak and Senai fought to get the message through in their own ways, only to discover that it's very difficult to get someone to understand something when their identity depends on their not understanding it. "The worst thing about it", Senai says, resting her head on her hands, "was probably that it wasn't ever as overt as 'you've got ovaries so you're worthless'. We thought that with the war done, things would get better. They thought that, with the war done, nothing'd change."

"Like they couldn't call us nasty names up front.", Rabnak says. "Out in the open. But that it was fine to do it when no one was around to hear." They reflexively makes a dismissive flick of the hand through the air. "It was like they were surprised that me and Sen wouldn't take that lying down."

"It was always, 'oh, you fucked this up', and 'you fucked that up', never a word when we got things right. And it was never, 'Rabnak', 'Senai'. It was always, 'you', 'you there', in a nasty way."

Senai nods. "Or, they'd butcher our last names, spat them out like vipers. Especially Rab's. I mean, I still get Rab's last name wrong sometimes because my family was from the other side of the country. But these ones, they didn't even try. It was just a way to try and belittle us."

Opportunity knocked a year later with the band needing to recruit a new lead guitarist after their previous one had been driven out of the band by Senai. In stepped Djasei Nály, lacking much in the way of lead guitar skills but perfectly suited for the role of Senai and Rabnak's ally, on account of their being the same age, sharing an interest in rock 'n roll, and most crucially, being stubborn, hot-tempered and not shy about butting heads. Senai chuckles and places one hand over Djasei's shoulder, saying, "The funny thing is, Djasei was probably the worst player at the tryout. But they had this jet black stare, the look of someone who's trying to glare 'fuck you!' in your general direction. And they was only a year older than me and Rab. Right away I knew, we need them in here - we won't be outnumbered anymore. So, we forced them into the band."

"By that point the Substitutes was six people.", Djasei adds. "Us three made a natural group." The tug-of-war between the two camps entrenched and ultimately ended with Senai, Rabnak and Djasei leaving the band to strike out on their own. They shared a rehearsal space, a love of rhythm and blues, a desire to do anything that would save them from factory work, four role models, and a knack for harmonising. Along the way they picked up and discarded a bassist (Nickolaus Gerst), changed their division of labour to allocate Senai to bass duties, and cycled through several bandnames (about which they are astutely tight-lipped; "gotta leave something for the biographies!", explains Rabnak) before settling on "The Watts" (grabbed from an electricity metre). Perhaps few details reflect the band's tortured conception as much as the fact that Nickolaus is the only former bandmate they remember fondly and never spoke a bad word about, and the highest praise they ever received from Djasei was, "Nicki was a nice, quiet boy who knew his place and never argued with me."

Rabnak stifles a laugh at the mention of Nickolaus. "I'll always love that Nicki only got into the band in the first place because they was all dressed up like Sæna." They pokes Djasei. "I gotta admire a bandmate with such a sharp eye."

Far from the past outbursts on the subject of the early days, Djasei is now more reflective and measured; dangerously like Senai. "I don't recommend it to anyone, but it's a fact that can't be escaped.", they says, their tone pregnant with acceptance and a degree of resignation. "When we started the band, it was a gesture of defiance. Sen and Rab might have gotten over it quicker once we were out of the Substitutes, but I let it get to me for a while longer, even though I was in it less than they were. Suppose that's thought fodder in its way. We were all angry when The Watts came to be. Or, if not angry, foot slamming down the pedal on a car going nowhere. I think the only reason Nicki even survived that long in the band is because he had that instinct to keep quiet and stay out of the way when we were arguing."

Their early cuts are, by their own admission, bad attempts to ape R&B recorded by a band that wasn't so much a band as a lead guitarist, lead bassist and lead drummer fighting over who gets to be in the spotlight. They could've easily amounted to nothing more than another go-nowhere, bar-filling band making some enjoyable background noise for socialisation. Then something odd happened: they started to enjoy each other's company and forge a close friendship. Their music matured, mastering the R&B idiom and charging ahead into exciting new directions. Their lyrics developed from the early, uncertain grasp of English betrayed on "I'm a Wheeler"/"Another Face", through the crucial breakthroughs of "Come and Go", and blossomed into the witty, imaginative kitchen-sink fantasias and chronicles of a changing society heard on Transmissions.

W
e are gathered together at Djasei's residence, a sparsely furnished room in an apartment on Lusitania Street, in eastern Arxas. The floor is all wooden and the walls haphazardly painted in psychedelic designs. The modern conveniences in evidence are a sofa that doubles as a bed, a table, and a a television. The rest of the room doubles as a shrine to Zangt and Gadjam: a small radio on the nightstand, a vinyl player in one of the corners, an acoustic guitar and an electric one hung up on the walls, an amplifier, a microphone placed haphazardly next to the other end of the sofa, a tape recorder with headphones plugged in. Various LPs are scattered about the place or stacked hurriedly in particular areas; the overall effect is a curious mix of clutter and wide open space.

The band have a long-standing policy of agreeing to interviews only if they're all together at once. For a journalist, the advantage is that it saves time by compressing three interviews into one; the disadvantage is that with three people together in a room, it can be harder to get a grasp on their individual personalities outside of the band, or probe interesting but uncomfortable areas of questioning. Djasei greets me at the door with a friendly hello, and as we're getting comfortable for the chat, seductively purrs, "You'll flatter us, right? I think we've earned the right to be sucked up to a bit."

"You forgot to say 'please', Djas.", Senai interjects. None of the trio are related and Senai rightfully has a reputation as the soft-spoken, serene one of the group, and yet being around Rabnak and Djasei is still enough to naturally transform them in to the affectionately needling sibling.

"Oh, I'm sorry.", Djasei says contritely before returning to the purr. "You'd please flatter us, of course? I would ever so enjoy reading a lil' of that in such an esteemed magazine as yours."

The band's configuration as a trio makes it too easy to notice certain ways in which their personalities differ and complement each other. In any other band, Djasei, recently turned 23, would've easily been the leader. Strikingly purple-haired and buxom, nearly inseparable from a guitar slung low over her neck, on stage they is the conduit of a crackling vitality as they struts, sashays, leaps joyously and strums furiously, singing playful celebrations of modern culture and well-observed slices of life with the full-throated joie de vivre of someone who simply loves being alive too much to let life's shortcomings get to them. Both in person and in the music, they is so wisecracking and self-assured they lends even their most sensual poses an intimidating air. It's a measure of what strong bandmates they's assembled that here, they's merely one among equals.

Senai, months away from 22 but a natural at projecting a wisdom beyond their years, seems to float serenely above the fray, the most static member in concerts as a counterpoint to Djasei's energy and Rabnak's enthusiasm. They speaks softly, in an enchanting voice perfect for reading fairytales to little ones at bedtime. They seems to have acquired a permanently subtle smile as their default expression, akin to a visiting spirit fondly amused by the foibles of the world, liberated by the acknowledgement of life's absurdity and having achieved contented acceptance. Albert Camus may have written, "One must imagine Sisyphus happy.", but Senai can be seen so. The fact that their peacefulness coexists with a fondness for creepy-crawlies, critters, and scary stories by flashlight only underlines the absurdism of it all. And the influence of the venerable Madame Rouge's beguilingly sly humour, carefully couched in eerie trappings, is unmistakable in Senai's lyrical contributions. There's a reason they assures us "Here Comes a Spider" is their biggest hit with children, after all.

That distinction probably needs qualification in the presence of Rabnak, the 21-year old joyous id of the band, they of the stormy drumming and irresistible impulses. Just as crucial to their happily aggressive sound as Djasei's intense guitar playing and Senai's rumbling bass, it's Rabnak's flamboyant drumming and instinctive sense for embellishing songs with driving rhythms and noisy drum rolls that gives The Watts the power of their power pop. They also does double duty in keeping the band earthbound - mugging behind the drumkit, cracking jokes at their and their bandmates' expense, working up the audience, singing harmonies (on a song mocking Djasei's clueless narrator) and leads (on songs about cars made of rockets and loyal fans, not necessarily in that order) in their heartfelt, unconventionally charming throaty voice. Few encounters with The Watts are complete without a silly shenanigan on Rabnak's behalf.

Compared to four years ago, the camaraderie of the band and their aura of fun are the true revelations. Their past interviews were all disasters in one shape or another. Djasei too uptight and sullen, responding to needling as if Senai or Rabnak had just tried to stab them; Rabnak suffering a woefully inconsistent sense of humour; Senai playing the beleaguered peacekeeper. Their TV appearances had an atmosphere of uncomfortable awkwardness, light years away from their current unforced frivolity. Unsurprisngly, the discussion first turns to the past.

"I have trouble listening to our old sides anymore.", Djasei admits, in between gulps from a glass of strawberry-flavoured cider. "They're just... so awful." They gestures emphatically and laughs, prompting similar mirth from their bandmates. "I didn't know what the fuck I was doing, Rab was all over the place, and Sen was all, 'what am I even doing here?'. So you'll excuse me if I don't have a burning urge to relive past interviews too."

Rabnak adds with a snort, "I might've missed those and been replaced with a cartoon character. Y'never know, it's plausible!"

"I had this delusion when we started the band that I was gonna be leader.", Djasei says, leaning back on the sofa. "I'm surprised I didn't try to call it Djasei Nály and The Watts. I suppose I thought it sounded stupider than Martha and the Vandellas, or Gladys Knight and the Pips."

"Djasei Nály and the Pops, perhaps?", Senai volunteers.

Djasei looks at Senai with an impish grin and narrowed eyes. "You're lucky you didn't come up with that then, Sen, or we might've been really fucked as a band." They then toys with the nearly empty glass while talking. "So, obviously, in my 'I'm the leader' ego trip, I ended up taking decisions that had the exact opposite effect. As you do. I pushed Sen to bass because I wanted to be the guitarist, dahling, the star, can you dig it, and I wake up with reviewers praising 'ir..." She looks at Senai with amused confusion. "What'd they call your bass-playing again? It was one of them big words I can't remember?"

"Not just one of them.", Senai adds matter-of-factly. "I think last time I read any it was either 'propulsive' or 'driving'. Which's odd, because I don't drive, nor am I a mechanical engineer."

Rabnak pipes in with a well-timed, "You played on 'Jet Car', that's close enough!"

Unfazed, Djasei laughs and continues. "Yah, and I was like, 'aight, I'm Haruka and I'm saying you're all hanging out with me after we rehearse, no ifs, no buts. I don't care how drunk you have to be, you're sticking with me!' And that ended up making us a democracy, haha. I suppose I was still in the mindset of, 'fuck you, I'm doing this' when the band started proper, but instead of Martin, Lani, Myn, or Del to fight with, I ended up bossing around Sen and Rab. But life's good now, life's good." They jokingly puts their arms around Senai and Rabnak and pulls them closer. "We're all married now, we are."

Rabnak eagerly reciprocates the sentiment by coiling themself so tightly around Djasei's left half so as to cause them slight difficulties with breathing. Senai blissfully joins in the embrace as well.

"Now we only throw chairs at each other out of love.", Djasei jokes.

In reply, Senai places her hand over Djasei's mouth and whispers, "Shhh, Djas, remember what I told you about ruining moments."

T
he mention of one of The Sunday Girls turns the discussion to matters of influences, and whenever the subject comes up The Watts are nothing if not effusive in their praise of their sisters up north. True, no band reared in the Gylian pop music scene can escape the debt they owe to the foursome who have done so much to act as its mothers, but the Watts' relationship towards them bears an endearing resemblance to that of a parent and their excitable adolescent child, swinging from intense devotion to an even more intense need to carve out their own identity. "I think of ourselves as a good complement.", Senai says. "The Sundays are the nicer, more polite people; we're a bit more reckless. We got both sides covered that way."

Seemingly not satisfied with the phrasing, they returns to it after letting it lie for a moment, adding, "I look at it this way. We're both naughty but nice. The Sundays are primarily nice. We're primarily naughty." The last phrase comes with one of their trademark playful winks.

"I hate that phrase!", Rabnak announces mock-dramatically. "Fuck's wrong with naughty? People who say that are horrible parents."

"Okay, how's about 'sugar and spice', Rab?", Djasei volunteers.

Rabnak nods, their concerns mollified. "Yeh, that'll do."

"Sugar 'n spice it is then.", Djasei offers with a snort. "The Sunday Girls are 80% sugar, 20% spice. We're 80% spice, 20% sugar."

Ever the stickler for details, Senai joins in. "Eh, Djas, I think you're overestimating their sugar and underestimating ours."

"60-40 then?", Djasei says.

"Sounds closer, ne.", Senai responds with a nod, apparently satisfied.

Rabnak laughs and chimes in with, "We're definitely spicy food, eh. We burn your tongue and you like it that way!"

The praise The Watts' music has earned in print and through concert attendance suggests they isn't that far off. Though it presumably has more to do with ears than tongues. Even if their path to their current success was less charmed and more rocky than their idols', they remain agreeably unspoiled by their ascent. Their musical inspirations are still mostly the same as ever. Chuck Berry. Bo Diddley. Muddy Waters. (Pause for the hushed hint from Senai about the amount of times they've played "Rollin' and Tumblin'".) Booker T & the MG's. Not so much blues rock - they weren't into the lyrics as much as only around for the riffing. Motown Records. "I think we really found our niche when we decided to be Motown with fuzztone.", Djasei laughs, a not inaccurate summary of the appeal of "Come and Go", "Tripping Nowhere" and similar early works.

We venture forth into areas of newer influences, eliciting agreement from all band members about the brilliance of Are You Experienced?. "I kinda wish we'd sounded like that!", Rabnak says. "But we'd already had the plan down before we got a hold of it, so we had to settle for having it leak into some of the parts."

Djasei reaches out for one of their guitars, places it on their lap and offers a droll smile. "That album made me want to never play guitar again.", they says, pausing judiciously for impact. "That was at first. Then, it made me want to never do anything but play guitar again. But that would've killed me. So in the end I just carried on playing guitar."

Rabnak's mention of greatly enjoying A Love Supreme draws a question from Djasei: "The entire album, or just the drumming?"

"I got Krupa and Rich for that.", Rabnak says, and laughs. "Wish they'd have left just the drumming on there. Got 'Wipe Out' too, but that's kids' play."

Senai giggles, curling the edges of their smile mischievously again. "I tried Out to Lunch!.", they says. "It... definitely left me out to lunch, alright. It was very confusing."

Similar praise is given to recent releases from The Woodies, Lesnudés, Wax, and Heavy Syrup. "I'd love the name alone, but luckily they rock too!", Rabnak testifies enthusiastically, holding their thumb up.

"I guess it's mostly a cross between what's going on down here and what dribbles down from far-off places.", Djasei ponders with enthusiastic arm movements. "There hasn't been a better time and place to be an artist than here and now."

That sentiment is often reflected in Transmissions, in the simple photograph of a radio tower on the front cover, on the soaring cut "On the Air" and its giddy celebration of the liberating possibilities of the airwaves, through the radio and television sounds and wiseacre station idents that link the songs together. Ventures and escapes form the heart of the quilt that knots the songs together - the trying circumstances of the band's consolidation long behind them but their music never having lost that primal urge to scream at the world in the off-chance that anyone is listening. Hearing the album from start to finish feels greatly like picking up on broadcasts into the ether and feeling the rush of discovery as one discovers a special frequency that resonates perfectly with them.

It is unsurprising that the influence on the album was more geographical than musical. From mainly regional jaunts, punctuated by the occasional disaster abroad, The Watts suddenly found themselves playing venues in Velouria and Mishawaka around the time the "Ask Me Nicely"/"All-Day Night Driver" single properly catapulted them to greater exposure. For a pair of saucy squirts hailing from a small town by the sea of no special significance, the experience provided a most pleasant culture shock. "I remember in Velouria, we got to sleep in a room at a hotel with 20 floors!", Senai says. "I think it was a luxury one before the war; we had a balcony with a view of the city to the right, and the sea to the left. And I'd just spend hours, standing on that balcony, looking around, and thinking, wow. I thought we'd become modern once we had electricity, gas, running water, and more hospitals and schools set up. But here! High buildings, neon signs, more bustle... it was quite intoxicating."

Djasei nods, and adds, "Being in Velouria properly really turned our notions upside down. I hate to sound like a dumb backwoods yokel who got off a bus and got enraptured by the magic of flashy lights, but the fact is, the place was just so much... bigger. It really put it all into perspective, in that way. There was things going on back home, don't get me wrong, it wasn't just houses and a whole lot of nothing, but it is a small place. It can feel a bit like a village, everybody knows each other and so on. Here, it was more of a metropolis! We'd thought we were pretty modern and all, like Sen said, but now we had a much wider horizon."

Rather surprisingly, it's the excitable Rabnak who adds a note of caution after having opening a can of rum from Djasei's fridge. "Velouria's nice to visit, but I can't imagine living there.", they says. "There's gotta be a good middle ground between it, ne. Otherwise... a million people crammed in the same space. It's gonna be a bit much, yeah?" They looks out the window. "Seems like that many people sardined together, 's gonna make them rude. That many people, you're probably not gonna see most of them more than once..." They throws their hands up in the air. "Who cares, right?"

Studios were booked, mixing consoles made to suffer for art, songs laid down. "That might have been the first time Lestudios was exposed to ear-shattering volumes.", remembers Raymond Highsmith with a laugh. The three-piece with the almighty racket dragged the recording studio into modernity, kicking and screaming. (Mainly the former.) Maybe it was too many luckless days in a row, maybe Rabnak hit the nail on the head with their comment on the specific loneliness that only big cities can engender, but the sessions were relocated to Mishawaka, which had its own vibe - closer to the reconciliation of the intimacy of a small town and the lively swing of a metropolis that Rabnak yearned for. The band would hit the studio at all hours, mostly during the day, sometimes at night on short notice; the sessions stretched out as long as needed for them to both record the songs and play around with ideas in the studio, obtaining the silly fragments and sonic equivalents of messy children's fingerpaintings that share space with the proper songs. Several fragments were improvised on the spot about whatever was on their mind - one of the ones that didn't make the final cut was titled "Swimming Pool", and as Djasei dryly explains, "It was about a swimming pool. Rab made up the lyrics. We went swimming quite a few times between recording."

"Despite what impression the LP might give, we did not actually spend all of our waking hours taping and fiddling with radio dials.", Senai jokes.

"Only most of them.", Djasei says.

O
n stage, The Watts may not be able to summon the full studio-bound brilliance of their recorded work, but they still manage to forge a remarkable experience by aiming for the core of their sound. They travel as a trio, with no leader. Each of them has something to say with their instrument, and now contributes to a complete picture along the others - sometimes pushing, sometimes pulling, sometimes bringing it down for a quiet number spotlighting their delightful harmonies, sometimes shoving at the outer limits of their powers, sometimes extending a song with improvisation that finds them charting new territories. Rabnak attacks a hundred drums with a dozen hands and feet. Senai moves their bass in circles of frantic rhythm, easily tap dancing between filling the low end or directly charging ahead with Djasei. They play together and drive each other. The result is a thrillingly unstable alchemy, ever teetering on the edge of falling apart, but always landing safely on the beat.

The show over, they all stand together in an embrace and thank the audience, and pack up their equipment to leave. In the backstage area, they occupy a small room that would probably qualify as comfortable if they hadn't squeezed their equipment into most of it. Djasei has taken the seat next to a table with a mirror on it; Rabnak sits on one of the amplifiers and Senai is sprawled over a club chair.

"Oh, we're carrying on with this?", Djasei asks with some surprise on seeing me enter. When I confirm that we are, they smiles and adds, "I know just what to do then!"

"What to do" turns out to be Djasei puckering their lips exaggeratedly into the mirror and pretending to apply lipstick and other make-up. "How's that then?", they quips. "Last thing I want is to get painted as some kind of simpleton brute who plays rock 'n roll. I'd rather get painted nails!"

A further light-hearted inquiry into whether that is a kind of statement brings an unexpectedly frank answer: "Yes. It's a feminist statement.", they says, their playful smile taking a determined edge. "I won't let anyone forget we're women playing rock 'n roll, after all."

They of course know they'll be taken on their terms and take comfort in the fact that they've already gathered a diverse audience. "It's not until you get confronted by the lack of diversity that you realise how important it is.", says Senai thoughtfully. "I remember in some of the place we played, like in Schottia for example, I noticed at one of the pubs the crowd seemed to be all male, and that was quite disappointing. More so there, as they're supposed to be our comrades; I would be disappointed but not surprised to see it in places like Nordkrusen or Alemarr. At least there, you know ahead or time you're getting into a bizarre time warp."

Djasei chimes in with spirited certainty, "It's a fact that if you have most the bands in a scene, be it a city or a country or whatever, and most's only one flavour, it'll easily turn into a bloody elite club. And then you'll get that awful atmosphere where everyone thinks they can slag off everyone else, like us for being women, or poor people for being poor, and they'll fester in that and think everybody's as awful as them." They takes a sip of water from a glass. "So, our music is our music, it comes first like in any civilised country, but you're not gonna forget who made it. We got names, we got faces, we got a background, we didn't sprout out of thin air. My mum got denied their due for too much of their life. If you're wanting to do that to me or my mates..." They bares a toothy grin, and says "Let's just say there'll be some... spirited discussions." with an innocent tone that makes it entirely clear what they means.

"You was listening to that 'they can't take it away from me' just yesterday, eh Sen?", Rabnak says with a snort. "Well, I got a right to vote, right to my body, right to do whatever I want for a living, and they can't fuckin' take that from me, hah! And they can't take the rock from us either!" They clutches their drumsticks in their fist. "They try that, I'll get to find out what sound a skull makes."

Djasei laughs, while playing slightly with their necktie. "I'm pretty sure it'd be, 'ow!' 'argh!' 'stop fucking hitting me!', Rab. It's got the mouth on it, y'know."

A disambiguation of "dead skull then?" draws the comment, "probably no different than woodblocks. Depends how thick we're talking."

The contrast between the comfort of an oasis of the new and the disappointment of a world that doesn't seem to catch up lies directly at the heart of "Money Stench", one of the key cuts on Transmissions. Over an easy strutting groove and riffs that give off a contact high of sheer cool, the band harnesses pop music to tell the poignant tale of a woman who tries to climb up the ladder of a materialist society but who gets tripped up by one of the invisible wires strung by the elite to prevent access from the less fortunate. "That was something I saw in Nordkrusen.", Djasei says, admitting that the details were slightly embellished for the sake of the storytelling but the fundamental facts are true. "There wasn't any singing, but I saw a woman in a bar who was, clearly, just desperate for a way out, and thought that courting this one rich guy would be the meal ticket. Except it turned out she couldn't pretend as well as she had to, got found out, and a whole lot of insults flew." They sighs. "I don't know what happened to her, where she is. I was hoping in a way that if we put the song on the album it'd be our way of saying, 'don't lose heart.' I'd love to tell her things will get better, but I can't guarantee that, and if I can't guarantee that and they get worse, it's as good as kicking her again."

"I was disturbed by the advertising.", Senai says. "It seemed like it was everywhere the moment you got out in public. It's creepy, really. Billboards all over the place, the TV channels were either turgid wastelands or relentless barrages of ads..."

They ponders. "I think it's healthy to have a stigma around advertising, like the government's built here. If it's something shameful, at least they'll be apologetic and either get it over quick, or be easy to ignore. It's good to have advertising meek and beaten down; that's what the balance of power should be, us holding it all."

I play along and ask facetiously if any one of them would sell out for anything. The question makes Djasei grin and gain a conspiratorial glint in their eye. "Sex.", they offers. "With myself."

"I think that's redundant, Djas.", Rabnak says, in between casually moving a match between their teeth rhythmically. "You can't be selling sex with not yourself."

"Re-lax", Djasei says, with a sassy wave of the hand. "You know what I meant, and I wasn't saying I'm gonna do it. Just that it'd be the only thing I could tolerate selling."

They explains that they feels it's not as spiritually destructive as selling products. "It's a situation where I've got the special talents, and I know I have the special talents, and there's nothing more to it than that.", they says, lasciviously tugging their shirt and winking. "I mean, with having to talk up, I dunno, lingerie, skin creams, cars, soft drinks, whatever, you have to say all this bullshit and you know it doesn't mean shit but you still force yourself through it for the dosh. It's an awful feeling. All the money in the world can't buy back your spirit once you feel like you've corrupted it. With prostitution, at least there's no agenda. There's no, 'I'm going to use psychological manipulation to make you feel depressed solely so I can hook you onto my product'... it's got more honesty. If a prostitute's with a client, it's a case of, they both know what they want and it happens to be the same thing, so go ahead and just get on with it then."

Senai laughs and stares cheekily, the giggle of a sibling savouring the perfect opportunity to catch their sibling in an embarassing corner. "And what would you do if you did do prostitution on the side?"

Djasei smiles and continues without missing a beat, "Buy more equipment. Buy more guitars. Upgrade my home recording. Look into making an entire studio at one of our places if enough gets saved up. Get Senai a 12-string bass. Get Rabnak a gong. Get Rabnak a hi-hat."

"Don't need one!", Rabnak yells and chuckles. Senai's facial expression brightens with each new addition to Djasei's list.

"Get Rabnak some tranquilisers.", Djasei resumes. "Maybe all three of us move in together to a place to fit the studio. Figure out how much money I need to dangle in front of Simone, Sira and Ray to get 'em over."

Satisfied, Senai pats Djasei's hair and gives them a puckish kiss on the cheek. "That's a good girl, Djas.", they says. "You've learned."

Beyond the dressing room door awaits the siren call of fresh gigs, new recordings and more countries to hit, drinks to drain, foods to feast on, people to meet, things to watch and hear... and as it happens, it's a call these three just can't say no to.

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Gylias
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Ulkoasiainministeriöarkistot : eteläinenvirasto : Gyljas

Postby Gylias » Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:54 pm

CONFIDENTIAL


(2232/15/64)
ALEMARRI LEGATION,
VELOURIA.
June 16, 1964



Dear Arkisto,

You may well by now have seen Terho Nieminen's articles in the Jyväskylä Sanomalehti about Gylias, following his visit here during the Gylian "International Conference of Reporters". We enclose a translation of selected passages from two articles, which have been run together in order to heighten the effect. Our Nord colleagues are commenting to the State Department on these articles; we gathered that they found them upsetting.

2. By way of comment, it is perhaps fair to point out that juvenile delinquency is not entirely unknown in this people's paradise, nor has piousness been completely eliminated.

3. In the process of translation, we have also taken the liberty of correcting the peculiar eccentricities you are undoubtedly familiar with from Gylian linguistics.

4. We are sending a copy of this letter, with enclosure, to the office of His Imperial Majesty.

Yours ever,

ARKISTO.


Arkisto,
Jyväskylä.








II.- FOREIGN

Terho Nieminen About Gylias

(9) FREE GYLIAS carries at the bottom of page 4 an article under the "Reading the Foreign Press" column headed "Terho Nieminen About Our Country", reading:

"The renowned Alemarri journalist Terho Nieminen, who took part in the International Conference of Reporters held by the Gylian Journalists' Union, began to publish his impressions formed of our country. His articles are published in Jyväskylä Sanomalehti and many other newspapers.

"Nieminen presents Velouria as a 'beautiful town with strange paradoxes', in which 'the egalitarian doctrines of a communist rebellion clashed with the indifferent corruption of the debased monarchists, and the communists won.'

"It is a town whose parks are delightful,whose children are well cared for, whose streets are are plentiful in automobiles, bicycles and trains, and whose interesting museums... are well managed by the communists.

"Nieminen says that Xevden had been 'a rundown monarchy where every royal courtier, from the king's mistress down, put their hands in the State treasury'.

"Velouria was considered the Capital of reverence and efforts to eradicate sex, sin and sensuality. Whether you agree with the communists or not, their policies are consistent: they have brought back sensuality into full flower and they seem to have eradicated a certain amount of piousness.

"'This is, however, the past', Nieminen goes on saying, 'and the communists live for the future. They are tough, practical, and on the whole successful. In order to see how they view the future, I went to several of their schools. One was a nursery school attached to a small factory which manufactures clothing. Mothers working in the factory left 50 children at the nursery, from babies to age 7. I found it excellent. In fact it was better than some Alemarri nursery schools which my grandchildren have attended. The furniture, decorations, and the beds were arranged with taste, cleanliness and imagination. I also visited a free school, a special school and place of relaxation for children. This was installed in the ancient summer palace of the king and it was beautiful. The halls which once housed kings had been changed into class-rooms for the study of radio, electronics, telephone, painting, theater, and numerous other subjects. All were extremely well done'. Nieminen goes on to show that because of this concern for the education of children there are no juvenile delinquents, nor 'gangs that sometimes plague the streets.'

"Remarking the friendly attitude with which he was met, Nieminen expresses his opinion that the true basis for friendship between Gylias and Alemarr must be sought in the friendship between the two peoples".

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From the Archives: The Mishawaka Star, September 1965

Postby Gylias » Thu Oct 08, 2015 3:18 pm

(OOC: With apologies to Maureen Cleave.)

The Mishawaka Star
17 September 1965


How does a Sunday Girl Live?
by Leik Medren
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It was around this time three years ago that most of the country first heard The Sunday Girls. A simple three-chord surf jam was all it took to catapult them beyond the small following they had in Kyman. Ever since then, their fame has only grown, leaving in its wake curious observers trying to gauge its evolution, lovestruck followers, and legions of new musicians eagerly forming bands.

Album after diligently-recorded album, their fame has become an incontestable fact. In a country that has sought to define itself through a celebratory diversity and exhilaratingly messy equality between its groups, The Sunday Girls have achieved the remarkable feat of forging as close to a consensus as possible within the disjointed musical landscape. They have achieved the rarefied position at the top that practically has no equivalent in Gylias. A mere five years past it would have been unimaginable, and even today the whirlwind of rapturous attention, eagerly awaiting fans, and shallow aspirations to rebellion for the purpose of épater l'bourgeois, that so often forms the model of "pop stars" elsewhere, seems unreal and alien.

For better or worse, The Sunday Girls are our first idols. It is a stroke of good fortune that they are also the idols we deserve.

Far from adopting the conspicuous trappings of their stable life of success, the foursome still live securely in Kyman, instead of secluding themselves away in outer neighbourhoods or fleeing at the first taste of success for more puffed up surroundings like Velouria. They insist, tongues firmly in cheek, that they live within "spitting distance" of each other, though the actual distances involved may disagree.

Actual boundaries between their dwellings are nonexistent. Sæna may drop in on Haruka and Tsukasa; Haruka and Tsukasa may drop in on Sæna; Meja tends to split equally between visiting the siblings and Sæna, or three of them might round up and all go round to the last one remaining. When not visiting each other, they often relax outdoors, drop by local pubs and teahouses, watch films or television, play records, play games, and while away the small hours making tapes.

They haven't worked since the release of At Home With, nor have they needed to. Gylias isn't likely to forget their existing oeuvre so quickly. "It's healthy to disappear for a year, I'd recommend it to any band.", Haruka said. "It prevents music from becoming a chore, it's a respite to think about what you're doing and why..." Even on a break, she can't stop herself from naturally being the authority figure who keeps the whole team together.

"...and it makes your listeners anticipate your next release even more!", Tsukasa interrupted.

~*~

Most of the glamour has gone to the state-of-the-art Sunday Studio, much to Maarika Linna's delight. The Morishima family residence, by contrast, is the same as it was when the band first formed: a two-story, rent-controlled, red brick and concrete block of flats, nestled snugly on a small street sprinkled with trees and gardens. There's little indication of anything out of the ordinary on the outside. Knocks on the door are answered with warm greetings from Hiroshi and Misaki, the siblings' parents, and the obligatory offers for tea.

"We simply don't allow our visitors to leave if they haven't had tea with us.", Misaki cracks with an innocent smile.

This is supposed to be the residence of two of the women (it bears emphasising, the women) who have drawn howls of terror from self-appointed cultural Nakovs, whose lyrics have provoked screams for censorship, or up north, screeds about the destruction of society.

There are four rooms in the heavily carpeted, white-walled flat, not counting the kitchen and the bathrooms. Haruka and Tsukasa live upstairs. Hiroshi and Misaki have long grown used to their talent for losing track of time, eating at odd hours, subjecting each other's lyrics to trials by ordeal, and staying up late into the night banging out chords or melodies on guitar and pianet, warbling lyrics into their tape recorders. Hiroshi recounts a favourite anecdote, of Haruka clumsily stumbling into the kitchen and out of the blue asking what day it was.

Apart from a television set, the living room, furnished in a Miranian style, has been repurposed as the nucleus of Making Records. Stacks of papers compete for space on the table, receipts are carefully arranged and stored on bookshelves, fanmail is sorted in a large box on the floor. The label is a true family affair: Hiroshi and Misaki its managers, Haruka and Tsukasa part of its flagship band. "We made it all up as we went along.", Hiroshi cheerfully admitted. The trial and error has allowed Making Records to become a highly successful operation, its existing model happily swiped, reproduced and adapted across Gylias: reciprocity and treating fans with respect produces more loyal listeners, eager to expand the audience.

Haruka and Tsukasa emerge from upstairs around this time, the mood of the room noticeably changing. Misaki and Hiroshi don't do much speaking; they defer to the knowledge that unfamiliar visitors are most likely seeking their daughters. They also don't possess their fluency in English, making conversations awkward. Hiroshi is completely at a loss; Misaki manages with great effort to produce halting, heavily-accented stabs at it. Conversations in the household often dissolve into a blur of English and Miranian, the siblings often called upon to play translator.

~*~

I. Haruka: Responsible Leader of the Pack

Image
Haruka Morishima's 25th birthday is due in a week. She has recently ended a romantic relationship. "We just drifted apart, that's how it goes.", she said. "There was some petty jealousy in there too. Feeling threatened by my sister and friends is basically guaranteeing it won't work." She's unconcerned about the future, explaining, "I've got my bandmates, and my friends. I'm not gonna die if I go without a lover for a while."

There is also a cat, named Nekochan. It roams around the house, providing both companionship and endless fodder for Tsukasa's jibes about how much thought went into the name. (The name is Miranian for "little kitty".) Neither of the siblings can remember who first brought in the cat; their parents' memories are even hazier. They couldn't decide who the cat belonged to, so it became a collective pet. Currently, it has taken place of honour on Haruka's lap and has successfully obtained a petting after some insistent exhortation.

Haruka is much the same as she was before fame struck. Her striking blue eyes have not lost either their capacity to soothe or peer intently. She is still charming, quick-witted, easy-going, still a demanding perfectionist. Her enthusiasm is undimmed, and she insists on sharing it. On her vinyl player, she puts on something called "Dripsody". "That was pretty cool, wasn't it?", she asks after the record ends not two minutes later. "It's amazing this - fun to hear too!" She sweeps her hand in the air, pointing towards her large music collection. "Some of the others don't sound nearly as nice. But even when it's more unpleasant, it's still new sounds. Electronic ones! Very exciting."

A responsibility to the band

While the Sunday Girls remain very much a democracy where all members have an equal voice and lively discussions are plentiful, the other members still recognise Haruka as the band's undisputed leader. It is a relationship marked by trust and a greater degree of restraint than the summary might imply. Songs are a group effort, with everyone contributing to recording. What gets released and in what order is decided collectively. But in administrative matters, Haruka is the final authority. When she says they must rehearse, they rehearse. When she decides a concert must be played, a concert will be arranged. When she decides they must work on a new release, they all round up at the studio. Haruka's orders are also acceded to with nary a protest or grumble.

But if one were to point out to Haruka that she has achieved a status other musicians would lust madly after, she is the first to play down her position and emphasise the responsibilities involved. "I got to this point after years of being together and earning their trust.", she said. "Every decision I've taken was first and foremost for the good of the band. If somebody has any other ulterior motives, they aren't meant to be in such a position." She laughs. "The funny thing is, people get fixated on me being the leader, but forget that I got there by giving my mates good reason to trust me with that, and that I don't overwork or exploit them like some people think I do. We actually have a lot more time to be things other than The Sunday Girls, than we would if we'd had somebody else managing."

All in the household take turns doing the shopping, both for the entire family and for themselves. Haruka usually haunts Temly Street's shops for groceries and has visited practically every music outlet in Kyman at least once. She speaks as if daydreaming about visiting similar shops and in the other cities they've been to, and laughs wryly about the experience of being offered particular releases simply because she's Haruka Morishima. "I think that's when I first realised, fuck's sake, I'm famous now?", she said; she seemed disconcerted by it. "It was a weird time, before that we were pretty well insulated from it. I'd get recognised on the street now and then, probably more because people know what clothes I wear. But it gets to a point where you think, 'oh, shit, am I getting pulled away?'." She sighs with great relief. "No, thank Amatsuka. Yes, we get recognised, people know who we are, but at least they're polite. We don't get our privacy invaded or end up treated like a rack of meat being thrown to a hungry crowd. And we're not put on a pedestal either."

We did a speedy tour of the house and the sisters' rooms; one feels that their possessions are firmly kept in check. Haruka lingers over each of the objects; the tape recorder, the three television sets (one for her, one for Tsukasa, one for their parents); the boxes of vinyls; the shelf of books and manga; the two small radios; the gloriously bulging wardrobe. Her room's table is a mess of pencils and papers, lyrics and scrawlings. Propped up against it is her trusty acoustic guitar. "I've been thinking about buying an organ.", Haruka said. "It's good to have a keyboard at home."

But before she can continue, Tsukasa added with a laugh, "We already have the family piano, nēchan!"

They then explain that the family piano is actually a small pianet since a grand or upright piano wouldn't fit in the house ("They're made for upper-crust places", Haruka scoffs), and that it's actually in Tsukasa's room at the moment. Haruka reaches out with one hand to tenderly pet Tsukasa's head. "Much as I enjoy bossing around my beautiful little sister", she says, voice thick with affectionate goading, "it's in her room, full stop. I can't be going around borrowing it all the time. That's not right."

Small hours

Haruka is very keen on books, and will always ask what is good to read. Her large quantities of books are split between the ones kept tidily on her room's shelf, the ones she leaves with Tsukasa, and the ones kept tidily in her parents' room that she occasionally borrows to read. She has Angela Déurey, Polyxeni Katsaros, Éina Atradeg, Zedía Radeshak, Hendrik Dirchs. Then there's the family heirlooms of her childhood, Ran Saito, Noriko Nishimura, Hachirō Matsumoto, the expensive leather-bound editions of the Asajiki and Tsukaga Monogatari diligently passed down the family line for generations, of which she now finds herself the custodian.

She approaches reading with a lively interest, nurtured by the education received from her parents and the PA. "I've read a lot of books", she said, "that's why I seem to know things." She is obsessed by history. "I'm on Gylias' side.", she said. "All those bloody blue-eyed blonde upper-crusters chopping people up and condemning them to misery, I have an awful feeling. The converters - it's easy for me to say that I would've never done that, but, principles are harder when the alternative's poverty. But principles are supposed to stay for good or ill; how does that formula go, 'in sickness or in health'? It's how you measure someone's character by tempting them with bribes; you know they're solid if they resist that."

She can sleep almost indefinitely but remains probably the most conscientious person in the household. "Tsukasa calls me her alarm clock.", she said, giggling. "We take turns who's the lazier one; that way we can both grow to be nice and soft." She betrays a feminine abhorrence towards labour and notions of 'work ethic', one of the few elements of libertarianism she playfully admits to having a good knowledge of. "The thing about where we are now, is the world is so old, but we've seen so much change in such a short time historically.", she said. "The best thing that could happen is that we get to the point where we have machines that do all the work, and then our lives will be devoted only to creativity and pleasure."

She gazes out her window and smiles, her delicate features illuminated by sunlight. "I'm not denying that indolence is seductive, but no one would want to have a life of just that. It'd get boring awfully fast.", she continued. "When I see large groups of people together, large ones, scurrying everywhere, I feel an urge to do the opposite." She taps her forehead. "People might think I'm lazy, but I'm actually thinking about many things. I write songs. I wouldn't be able to write songs if I didn't have all the time I needed to write them. I feel lucky to live in a country that prizes such things for their own value; we fought against the denigration of everything but money, right? It'd be a nightmare to live in a place that doesn't recognise any other values but monetary."

Money can't buy me love

Image
"Don't you feel like a change of scenery?", she asks. However, the answer is already decided. I am pulled along outside the flat, and we bowl along amiably through the gardens in the vicinity. Clearly, among Haruka's many talents is the ability to ask a question at the right time and in the right way so that only one answer can be given, while her interlocutor believes they have made the decision themselves, without feeling like they've been infringed. It's a talent she's perfected over years as the leader of the Sunday Girls.

The discussion turns to money; Haruka does not dispute the description of them as "loaded". "I'm alright for money", she says. "I don't want a lot, and I'm happy with what I have. When my parents were my age, you could either be born rich, or chase money just to be rich. Having money was power without having to be powerful. Now, you don't have to be rich to feel safe. All my money could run out tomorrow, but I don't have to be afraid that I'll go hungry, or that I won't have shelter over my head. And you don't have to be an upper-crust twit to be able to take the time away from work to do what you're interested in; though if you ask me that privilege was wasted on brainless dolts like them."

She finds the success of The Sunday Girls quite easy to handle, and believes it to be a sign of progress. "Somebody had to get there first, and it happened to be us. If it wasn't us, it could've been anyone. Nobody has to think anymore, that they'll be famous or rich or whatever, if only they'd had the Latin, or they went to the right private school, or went to the right church. We didn't jump through the hoops somebody else put up, but we took our own path. Mum used to say, 'You'll make it with that voice, Haru-chan.'" She merrily adds that her mother made sure of that, actually.

Talk briefly turns to politics, more specifically the cabinet. "It actually makes me comfortable that Aliska and Rin are in the government.", she said. "Especially Aliska. A lot of the others, Kirigiri knows they're doing a good job, but I just feel sorry for them. They had to live through the war and all that... look at the Prime Minister, really. They just seems haunted. And the others, I'd be scared by a cabinet of just ascetics. I've heard some pretty stupid insults hurled at Aliska, but honestly, I'm glad they's in government. When I see them out and about, going to the theatre, wearing jewellery, it's reassuring really; they're more human that way. I like the way they knows how to pamper themself."

Happy where we are

She said that to live and laugh were the things to do; but would that be enough for a restless spirit?

"Kyman", she said, looking around, "isn't just our hometown. It's what made us, us. There's always going to be other things I want to do - things I don't even know yet I want to do. It's why I go around painting and taping and drawing and writing and all, you never know which it could be. The most ghastly fate for me, would be to spend my life sitting in a big house, planning holidays, having to be around braying snobs who only mix with other braying snobs. This was the most a woman could aspire to before the war? What a crime! The fact is, if I wanted to, I could live in any house I wanted, any place I wanted, but it just wouldn't be like Kyman."

She smiles one of her ingratiating smiles. "This city fits me just like a velvet glove."

It's Tsukasa's turn to drag her sister back indoors, an action she performs with great relish. Haruka merely looks pleased, giggling softly as she lets herself be dragged by her sister's hand.

~*~

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II. Tsukasa: Day and Night, Sun and Moon

Tsukasa Morishima's face often wears an expression of sweet, playful innocence. The expression is an engaging one, but offers not quite as good a clue to her character as the instances when she arches her eyebrows downwards and curls the edges of her lips upwards into a savouring grin. Those who like to think of Tsukasa's role in writing "Why You?", that song of inescapable romantic charm, or "Together", would do well to remember she much prefers the opportunity to strut her way through "Life of the Party" or "Me み". "Haru-chan calls me the Cheshire Cat sometimes", she joked, "because I have such a winning smile!" She proceeds to show it off, naturally.

She is an interesting and complicated young girl, still 23, giving off the impression that she was born to play the role of the jesting little sister, always chuckling and holding her arms behind her back, enjoying one's inability to guess what surprise she has in store. She is tall (though shorter than Haruka), agile, neatly dressed in the band's fetching outfit, with straightened shoulder-length hair, lacking in her sister's curlicues. She is a terrible tease in the best way possible, and an excellent mimic, possessed of wicked charm, shrivelling wit and an intelligence that finely complements Haruka's.

A family's a family

Tsukasa's story is fundamentally intertwined with Haruka's; they've grown up together and live together. They sometimes can't stand each other but can't live apart. They are both all bark and no bite, and know each other inside out; none of them can truly get angry at each other and both know myriad ways to make each other smile. Yet when Haruka impresses as the conscientious and dignified daughter of the family, Tsukasa is ever ready to be the rightfully unruly and fancy-free brood. When Tsukasa looks like she's about to fall off the ledge, Haruka will always grab her hand and pull her back to safety.

"A pleasant headache", is what Haruka calls living with Tsukasa, not without laughter from both. "I know it doesn't make sense, but Tsu-chan is a headache I enjoy having in my life. My life would be so much poorer without it."

Tsukasa makes a big show of kissing Haruka on the cheek and saying, "I love you too, nēsama." She then says a phrase in Miranian that makes them both laugh, which Haruka later informs me translates to, "My life would be so much poorer without an empress to irritate."

Both never need much convincing to speak candidly about their relationship. "I love Haruka.", Tsukasa said. "But of course I do, she's my only sister! We'd crack each other up all the time when we were kids. There's not much I remember from my childhood that doesn't somehow involve her." Her eyes sparkle wistfully. "Ah, I don't know why, but now I'm remembering a time at seven, when it was bedtime; and it took a while to fall asleep, so we were just looking at each other. A staring contest. I thought, wait a minute, why does Haru-chan have blue eyes but I don't? And that was my first encounter with genetics."

For the good of the band

When they both ended up becoming Sunday Girls, it enriched their relationship with some characterful imperfections. "I had to learn how to compete with Haruka properly for the good of the band. I had to learn to hear her new song and not just sit there in awe but kick myself to match the standard, and do even better. I had to learn how to see Haruka not just as my sister, but my competitor. That's very important for a band, especially one with family involved; it would've been too easy for us to get into shouting matches and destroy everything by being too driven and getting into conflict. We write together, we write apart, we're a team, but we also learned how to have a healthy sisterly rivalry. There's no animosity between us at all, which is the trick - too many people hear 'rivalry' and think 'enemies'. We're best friends. We both stand up for each other. And we have a standard to uphold when it comes to music."

Having absconded with me to her room, Tsukasa slips into her familiar conspiratorial giggle. "Trust me, Haruka says she loves bossing me around, but that's only 'cause she knows I fight back." She holds her palms up in imitation of a cat, showing off her short manicured nails in the process. "I scratch real good!", she said, laughing. "Haruka knows how to get under my skin, and I know how to get under hers. So we're equal like that."

True to form, her room is slightly less neat than Haruka's, and more of a purposeful mess. She claims to clean it regularly but professes a horror at the thought of putting everything in order. "I know where everything is.", she explains. "If somebody else rearranged it, I wouldn't know where anything would be anymore! Nothing would be in its right place."

She lives in Kyman too, not content with letting Haruka claim it all. She goes to the pictures, reads The Kyman Herald and The Daily Standard devotedly, loves The Prism, goes shopping, keeps appointments, gets herself around with her bike or bus, finds out what she wants to know. "I'm only recognised when I wear the clothes.", she said, pulling on her jacket to show off just a little. "A parent once sat next to me on the bus with their child, and then eventually they said to me, 'You're Tsukasa Morishima, aren't you?' Who, me? Haaaai, mochiron da yo! Their little one loved us very much, they was saying how I was the greatest for writing 'Cathy'. Well, I didn't write it alone, you know! They wanted to kiss me, so I gave them my cheek. I think I didn't notice when I left the bus I was doing ballet jumps." She slaps her knee as she giggles. "The children love me because I'm a natural with them!" She narrows her eyes cheekily and slips into a seductive tone, adding, "After all, we do have a few we look after in the band..."

What's the point...

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She tolerates a minimum of fuss: the bike is the only luxury she allows herself. She hates cars, especially cars with chauffeurs and black windows. "What's the point of having a car if you don't even drive it?", she said tartly. "Either drive it or don't. Getting a limousine to show off is just stupid."

She enjoys moving without detection, and occasionally revealing her identity to bask in the glow of it. "Depends how I feel. Most of the time I can slip in and out with none the wiser, which is great. I get that people find us interesting, but really, our lives aren't that different from everyone else's. But now and then I like a little being indulged. I'm not going to pretend we're absolutely normal, because that'd be ridiculous, not to mention that... how do you even decide what's normal among so many people, different yet similar? But we are The Sunday Girls." She strikes a movie star-like pose. "So, definitely, spotlight us sometime, we're ready for our close-ups. Ameraku knows I love the centre stage; I can treat those spotlights to some good lovin', definitely! Just as long as I can leave whenever I want!"

Tsukasa is nurturing an interest in politics. If asked, however, she will quickly button up her jacket, sit on a chair with one leg crossed over the other, grab the nearest pen to hold in her mouth, and jokingly monologue an imitation of a dry newscaster. "Well, you see, there are two things at stake here, and of course the matter, such that it must be addressed, is of paramount importance..."

Her party political program is more houses, more buses, and more supplementary income payments.

She voted for the Democratic Communists three years ago, and assures me her vote in the next general election is already secured. "Just have to wait four more years.", she said, smiling. Her most terrifying nightmare is that the National Bloc might somehow get anywhere close to power. "Luckily, that will never happen. They're old reactionaries, they're history and they know it." She considers the Revolutionary Rally a joke. "They should just change their name to the Acrea Association, because that's what they are. There's already an Acrea. We don't need another one, certainly fucking not us to be pushed into the role!"

"I thought I might need one"

"Oh, did I tell you?"

She rushes to the closet and opens it, standing beside triumphantly to show a gorilla suit. "I thought I might need one.", she said. "I pop it on sometimes and ride around. If you don't go with the head, it makes an amazing fur coat, except without animal slaughter. At least, I don't think so."

The danger of seriousness successfully warded off, Tsukasa moves to the topic of life. She sees no limit to her possibilities; and ideally speaking, would like to know everything. "As it is, I'm trying to catch some things I've missed.", she said. "People are saying things and painting things and writings things and composing things that are great, and I like to know what they're doing."

She is taking a music lesson a week from an old composer. "The other day", she said admiringly, "I was sitting there saying, 'I wish I knew how to read music.' So I started to." Aforementioned composer insists on being described as an "old gentleman" and prefers to refer to her as "Miss Tsukasa". "It was 'Miss Morishima' at first", she said, "but it sounds weird. Haru-chan and me visited the family back in Kirisaki a while ago, and I kept having to remind myself that if somebody was calling me 'Morishima-san' it wasn't because they were angry. I kept trying to bargain them down to 'Tsukasa', but they wouldn't drop the 'Miss' part. It's not so bad. We chat over tea too."

She is fascinated by composers like Luciano Berio and John Cage; she is anxious to write electronic music herself, lacks only the machines. She would like to paint, she would like to write. Who knows what she is creating in her mind at this very moment. "That way, we won't have to always pester Meja's brother for the visual things.", she joked.

Culture: not just for the few

"I'll tell you what I feel strongly about, that's people's attitude to things like music and painting, culture. It's an absolute joke that we used to have an elite that decided what culture is; if a navvy or a workie was seen coming out of an art gallery it was always a joke to them. Culture with a capital C, that's a fancy term for braying snobs hanging out with braying snobs. It still eats my gourd when I hear upper-crusters or would-be snobs talking like the rest of us little people want to be like them. But now we have Eoni, they's on our side, definitely smashing up that nonsense to shreds. Theatre, ballet, opera, I don't mind 'em, but they were used as weapons in a class war before - y'see, those are culture, us punters only get entertainment. Now, we have a right to not want to be like 'em, because we are already as good as them. That's liberation!"

Tsukasa then honestly admits that she probably doesn't have as good of a ground to talk on the subject of class war as Meja. Misaki and Hiroshi were merchants and lenders before the war; by any standard the sisters had a well-off upbringing. Neither of them avoids or denies the fact that they were able to buy rock 'n roll records because of that. "None of us are trying to play working class hero," Tsukasa said sheepishly, "just to make it clear we and our families weren't on the wrong side."

She can remember when she was twelve, and asking herself what she would be when she grew up. "No answer came back," she said, disappointed. She took perfunctory lessons in mathematics to start working at her parents' business, but it became clear her heart wasn't in it. "I had a horror of doing something ordinary."

She ended up a Sunday Girl. "We knew something'd happen sooner or later. Can you imagine if we were Schottians? Argh, it'd be either this or a lifetime of working in the mines, or factories."

A matter of discipline

As songwriters, she and her bandmates are now rich, but they are all disciplined with money. "Something grand is really only a novelty," she said, "an affectation. Sæna-chan found the other day she liked Avrillon chocolates. Well, she bought a collection of them; it was on every bloody table in the place and she got pretty sick of it in a week. I learned to do things in clumps."

"I mean, if you can have everything, there’s no point in having everything, is there? I don’t want more money. I already have enough, why would I need more?”

Unsurprisingly, she is in favour of subsidies for the arts and the GNBS. In her opinion, every nation needs a public broadcaster. "Whether you want to listen to it or not", she said, "it's there."

She thinks Eracura is a grim and repulsive place. "I mean, come on, Acrea, Nordkrusen, and Alemarr? Talk about awful; they almost deserve being close to each other so that way it's easier to make a cordon sanitaire around them. I guess the only thing missing is Azurlavai having a direct border so they could be lumped in too."

She doesn't really know what she will do next, but is confident it will be exciting.

~*~

III. Sæna: Stepping Out, Getting Around More

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Sæna is 23, the second-youngest Sunday Girl; she would've been the youngest if Meja hadn't pipped her to the post by four months. She is one of the two who aren't siblings (although spend any time in their company and you will grow very skeptical of that), and isn't Meja. Some people like her because she's the soft-spoken, quiet and sympathetic one. "Good old Sæna," is how she used to see herself, and still does to an extent, "good old sweet Sæna."

Of all the Sunday Girls, Sæna is probably the one that has been most defined by her reputation as a timid shrinking violet, the one who needs steady reassurance from her protective bandmates. That sensitive aspect is part of her appeal, but she is far from a fragile flower who will melt into tears at the slightest provocation. The years since the band's success have been exceedingly kind to her, as she has grown more mature and self-confident without losing her cutie-pie charm.

"I didn't specifically want to be famous", she said. "I wanted to be successful, but I got more famous than I wanted to be... I never intended to be a big cheese or anything. I just wanted to not have to worry about the future."

She lives in the Rumorro neighbourhood with her parents, in a sunny bungalow home surrounded by a wall of hedges. "I think this used to belong to one of the converts", she said thoughtfully, "before the war. There's not a lot to say about it - we got it at a knock-down price." She bends down to brush her hands delicately over some flowers. "Mum loves gardening."

Everybody's sweetheart

She has her own music room in the house, full of tape recorders, a vinyl player and her collection of albums and singles, and her instruments so far: two basses (one electric and one acoustic), an acoustic guitar and a small toy piano. Another room in the house has a shelf of 48 so far unread leather-bound volumes on natural history in French. "I don't know how we got those.", she said with a giggle. Her smile is still as heart-warming as ever and makes comfortably frequent appearances; her voice is especially delightful when she is enthusiastic about something or having a laugh.

In this setting she was a curiously innocent figure draped in a loose-fitting sundress, with apple-flushed cheeks and the ever-present twin ponytails. She is interested in Indian music just like her bandmates, watches television sometimes, and thinks cars look dreadful. She shares one revolutionary idea she's recently gotten a hold of. "I've been thinking we could try exercise. Swimming, really; I'm not one for going to clubs."

Of course, there is only one way such a plan would succeed. "If Haruka decreed it, that'd work.", she said, covering her mouth and laughing softly, as if whispering a secret.

She is hospitable, charming and good company. Even though her demeanour remains gentle and her normal speaking voice is whisper-soft, it is her enthusiasm that is so engaging - you can see why they all like Sæna. She reminisces briefly about her own beginnings over a cup of tea. "You probably don't need me to mention that I used to be a bit of a scaredy cat.", she said. "I don't want to sound like I've suddenly become a life of the party - that's Haruka and Tsukasa's job. But I feel like I don't get embarassed over everything as much. I still do, that's just something I have to live with, but I've been at this whole 'playing shows and getting fan mail' gig for five years already. Something of it would sink in at some point."

Not the easiest childhood

It would be no surprise she considers it such; Sæna frequently either avoids the topic of her life before The Sunday Girls or speaks about it briefly, with pregnant pauses that suggest something perhaps deeper is lurking underneath the calm surface.

She was actually born in Zavsæ, now on the border between Slahar and Tandar. The reason she arrived in Kyman in the first place was that her parents, Ravan and Dezag, were volunteers in the People's Army; Dezag as a medic and Ravan as a soldier. Ravan is a genial host and the sort of parent who believes that it is important to be strong for the sake of their child, to be as a rock of certainty amidst a difficult world. He uses a wheelchair as he was left paralyzed from the legs down from being shot and injured at the battle of Dáuzas. Dezag herself walks with a noticeable limp; "I got shot in my leg.", she said stoically, lighting a cigarette.

Between the suffocatingly small residence, lack of plumbing, and Dezag's need to take precarious work, Sæna's childhood was difficult. "If she'd been born earlier, that would've been all there is for her.", Ravan said, while Sæna talked with her mother in another room. "I can't forget how her face lit up when she got a guitar... it was like the world suddenly opened up."

Good with the music

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Any other attachments aside, it is clear that the main romantic passion in Sæna's life is music, a subject on which she can speak humbly and movingly. She wishes she could write songs as fine as Haruka and Tsukasa's, but still requires practice; words cause her the most difficulty. "I'm good with the music...", she said, heistantly. "But I'd like to not have to rely on Haruka and Tsukasa for beautiful words." Her own voice came over on the tape with a new composition: "I want to tell you; I feel hung up but I don't know why." While she concedes that it's not "Please Don't Push Me", she feels it's hardly in better spirits. "I mean... I don't know why I come up with these words.", she said. "I want to write something that's just lovely; maybe something you can listen to while in the garden and the sun's shining."

She has a thesaurus and an English dictionary to help. "I thought I had a verse, it had 'thick' in it.", she said. (By thick she means stupid.) "But in English, it didn't rhyme anymore. I looked at the list of synonyms..."

She plays the bass and the guitar for hours, taking it up like a piece of knitting. Out comes R&B, musical theatre, anything. "Was that Blumyna Kintakie?", she asked suspiciously, her memory stirred. It had been.

She is excited about the new Motown releases, and feels a duty to consume more R&B for the good of the band. "You have a good groove, that's what me and Meja have to carry. We've been getting groovier lately; I like a dance band as much as anyone else." She confidently predicts that she will be able to write on the same level as Haruka and Tsukasa in the future, and eagerly anticipates hearing how they would improve her songs the same way they trust her to improve theirs with her parts. "It's actually a band policy, Haruka said it herself: 'No one, absolutely no one else but Sæna is allowed to play bass.' I thought about it in bed the other night, waiting to fall asleep... it's just beautiful, isn't it? I'm that important to them..."

"You don't mind if I light up, do you?"

She retrieves a small piece of paper and rolls it with marijuana leaves, casually lighting up and smoking while carrying on the conversation. Perhaps counterintuitively, Sæna was actually the first member of the band to discover marijuana. "Everybody expects it to be Meja.", she joked. "Though some particularly humorous fellows assume it would've been Haruka or Tsukasa. Them? First? I'm telling you, never. Absolutely impossible."

Perhaps taking up this type of smoking is one clue towards her development in recent years, the infectious giggling with an unfortunate side-effect of glazed eyes. (Not one for the smell of it, Dezag, far more the earthy type, sticks to tobacco.) A further unfortunate side-effect comes on the musical front; she readily admits that being high has produced one too many tapes of lengthy one-note drones and monotone chants. "I can't quite do any James Jamerson things while I'm smoking.", she said, gesticulating slowly to make her point. "I feel relaxed, but I can't move my hands about as much... obviously. If I smoke too much I even have trouble pressing down on the frets because my fingers melt on the inside. At least when that happened I learned what my limit was."

She plays down any further talk of drug consumption. "It's not particularly interesting, no?", she said, baffled. "It's the same thing anybody else can do. There's nothing particularly new about it. It's the same everybody else smokes." She fears the notion of being seen as an advert for marijuana. "The moment you take that money to talk up something... it's just over. Your life has ceased. You're not a person no more, you're an ad. A piece of paper to be crumpled up and thrown away."

No such qualms affect her ability to discuss the effect it's had on her musicianship. "We only stick with pot and acid, really... they feel funny. The first song Haruka wrote after getting turned onto pot, I think she came in with a lyric sheet that looked like a therapist's, but in rhyme. I think. Acid's just real life in technicolour, cinemascope, and stereophonic. You'd have experienced it anyway but with tripping, it's just on a new level."

She casts a thoughtful gaze over her tape recorder. "Trouble is tripping's just such a personal thing; you don't see the same as somebody else'd see. I can't put it in words, maybe I can sing about it? I'd like to see our next album, have us try to paint, but with a studio."

Buying civilisation

But there is a practical side to Sæna too, a side that does not believe in the existence of mysteries in life. She can often be disarmingly practical and utilitarian when it comes to running errands, looking after supplies, or keeping her house in order. She is firm when she believes herself to be right - epsecially on big questions.

"One of the other days, somebody'd asked me why I wasn't moving out of Gylias.", she said. "Huh? They went on and I found out they were trying to say I'd pay less taxes elsewhere, and I just broke their fucking nose, real good. Makes me sick. That kind of ungrateful bastards, selfish. My dad didn't get his legs ruined so you could get to use public services and not support them."

Her views are simple: she thinks that her taxes are going directly to pay for hospitals, schools, houses, roads. She sees Aliska Géza with a respect tempered only by a reluctance to be seen as cozying up to authority. "She's doing a good job.", she said. "As a country, we're better off now than we were just five years ago. It can only go up from here."

She believes that as musicians, they have a duty to keep a firm distance between themselves and the trappings of power, regardless of personal beliefs. "We didn't need or ask for the government's permission to play rock 'n roll, nor our parents', church, or whatever. That day's done. We won't be taken over by no one, or bow down to a censor. I like the government, but you just can't be seen to be too cosy with them, y'know? We're outside the tent, and that's the only way to be; if you're inside the tent, you're a goner."

"Yes, we met with a few people in that tent, but meeting isn't the same as being taken over. None of us have more access to the government than any other one in Gylias does; if somebody else wants to talk with Rin they can just call their number. We're no different."

Think about the future

As she excuses herself to fetch a drink, Dezag meanders in, sighing. "I see Sæna more happy now than she would be before, and as a mother that makes my heart leap for joy.", she said earnestly. "But she's still not that good with people. She's only got three friends, and they're in that band of hers. What if they break up?"

It was a distressing thought, but it had dissipated by the time Sæna returned to the room. "I tell you what I think", she said, "the main thing's to have a good time and do the best you can."

"OK - we're the famous Sunday Girls, me included. And? That's not the alpha and omega of it. Life's not that small. I could have been somebody else, after all. But I'm me, and I'm very pleased with that."

~*~

IV. Meja: Every Band Needs Its Lifeblood

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To be invited for a home visit with Meja is so akin to being invited to a realm of delight and excitement that it almost seems disappointing to actually be received in a small two-room flat in the middle of a block of flats, sprouting out of the ground of the Neyndak neighbourhood,
towering slightly solitary over smaller buildings, looming close to where a section of the elevated rail is being built.

This does not stop her from enthusiastically crowing, "Ah! So glad you could come!" and go dashing into the kitchen to prepare an offering. (What kind of barbary would it be to receive a guest empty-handed?)

Hiroshi and Misaki Morishima reliably informed me that Meja actually is the most popular member of the Sunday Girls, at least going by volume
of fan mail. It's a situation the other members do their best to encourage; one of the few perks they ask for when scheduling concerts is any kind of platform available to ensure she's always visible, and she eagerly laps up roles in their New Year recordings, forming an inspired duo with Haruka's love of nonsense literature.

Chirpy chutzpah

Something about the goofy, good-natured drummer seems to capture listeners' hearts. Perhaps it's the tomboyish energy, the eyes (brown and innocent), the attractively short mop of hair crowning her head, the fox-like grin, or her warmly broad working-class Scandinavian accent, the
way she langorously stretches her vowels and softens her consonants while sounding as earthy as the family hearth. Or it could be her infectious enthusiasm and ability to approach life as a joyride.

"I'd give you a tour of the grounds, but it's not really the grounds now, is it?", she asked. "It's more like the airs; who wants a tour of the airs?"

A brief discourse on the unpleasantness of airs and their emergence from class stratification accompanies the promised tour regardless. The
flat's walls are painted in muted colours and the floors are plain wood with some carpets here and there; the only real innovation is that the
doors are sliding, wooden, and of a particular design. "I heard Haru and Tsu's parents talking sometimes about old houses.", she explained. "I thought the doors sounded like a neat idea! Took a bit of work with the builders to reconcile them with the concrete the flat came with."

Her bedroom is simply a mattress on the floor with a large pillow and a soft blanket. The living room has a sofa, a television set, stereo equipment and a small drum kit in the lower left corner; the upper corner of the room is a kitchenette with a small fridge, an oven, cupboards, and a sink. She is very diplomatic about her practicing. "I know my neighbours.", she said. "They understand I have to play, and I understand
they have to have peace and quiet. We know each others' schedules; I usually play when everybody or most everybody else is away, or at work.
Or, sometimes a neighbour drops by, 'Mei, I'm having a date tonight. Bang away to your hearts' content, I'll be back around eleven.' 'Roger that, Rog, I'll bang in your honour!'." The laugh makes its first appearance, a charming sound that defies attempts to represent with onomatopoeia.
"If they need me to stop, they just knock; 'Aye, don't worry Kyoko, I'll be quiet as a mouse.'" Her eyebrows lower puckishly. "Of course, if they
ask all rude... I make no guarantees, of course. You understand."

Everyone's favourite

Meja is now 23 years and four moths old, the youngest of the Sunday Girls. Though the smallest, the cutest and the favourite of tiny children,
she seems just as mature as the others beneath her jovial demeanour. Though subject to occasional flights of fancy, some more occasional than others, you will see that she is basically a sound person. Indeed she gives the impression of being utterly contented.

This makes her a charming host and restful company. Her only ambition - to end up sort of unforgettable - was rather vague and it was achieved in a roundabout way. Things turn out right for Meja.

Her flat is spacious and comfortable, and she has it all to herself when the other Sunday Girls or guests aren't around. "Rén lives elsewhere.",
she mentioned. "I actually can't remember if he moved out from our old place, but I know he'd been thinking of it. He probably feels a bit threatened, syrra moved out first! Though if he moves out, I'll make fun of him for moving out to try to escape me making fun of him!" She is very adamant about the importance of the sisterly duty of mercilessly teasing siblings.

There is a bookcase, of course: science fiction, leather-bound old volumes, the children's books she was raised with by her parents - Edith Unnerstad, Hans Peterson, Gösta Knutsson, Lennart Hellsing, Astrid Lindgren. One of her fondest memories is a period when she repeatedly making Rén read her Allra käraste Syster before bedtime. "I did not let him stop until he could tell it all from memory.", she assures us. She would like to have a pub in her flat. "My mum works for the Control Board, it's close enough.", she said.

Meja Ståblom is the youngest child of two, and her mother still thinks the light shines out of her eyes. She used to live with her family in a house on Eryb Street. "Bog in the yard, no bathroom.", she said. "We had great times there. It was rough but I never felt bad about it once. Mum and dad were lucky, they made sure to spoil us nice and sweet. I wouldn't want anyone else to have my childhood, but the importance of learning to enjoy what you have and understand you won't always get what you want, and you can't buy happiness, I was able to grasp those very early."

She learned most of what she knows from her family, and would occasionally go to PA classes but freely admits a lot of it sailed over her head. "I stuck with what I was interested in", she said, "and ignored the rest. Doesn't mean I'm thick. I can't spell but I can read, some of English sounds wrong, but I ain't stupid." One of her most unpleasant memories from abroad was having a hotel room next to a school and suddenly realising that the ebb and flow of a day in Kyman's public schools was absent. "It was like opening and closing a light on the hour - fifteen to the hour, kids in the yard being kids, then marched back in like it was a bloody regiment. What kind of child abuse is that?"

Following her calling

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The prodding from her parents about being responsible and making a living was dashed the second she became a Sunday Girl. "They didn't get it for a long time.", she said. "It's part of why I moved out - I didn't just join a band but I pulled bror behind me too. Dad was saying, drums aren't gonna make you a living Mei, but now Rén saw that he didn't have to go hammer crap in a factory for a salary when he could do photography he cared about."

She shakes her head. "I'm not trying to make them sound bad, they're wonderful parents. They're just... older-fashioned. Mum used to go, 'I don't like the look of those girls you're hanging out with, Mei.' And I'd say, 'They're fine!' On and on for a bit, even though she met Haru, Tsu and Sæ and there was nothing wrong! That stopped about the time we started wearing our special clothes. At least then we looked clean, so she couldn't complain about that."

She identifies strongly with her parents' background and manifests pride in her class consciousness. "One thing I'll never do", she insisted, "is drop my accent, change wardrobe, fuck off to Velouria and forget my past." One of her treasured documents is actually a press clipping from one of the city's Daily Workers, aeons ago when the Sunday Girls' dominion only covered Kyman, precisely because it described her as a "working-class girl done good".

"Our appeal's that we're ordinary lassies"

It is obvious the identification is close to Meja's heart. "If I care to analyse it, our appeal's that we're ordinary lassies.", she said. "Just the four of us, eating out of the same bowl. I'm as stumped as anyone else where the whole, Sundaymania thing came from. But if it wasn't us, it would've been someone else. It knocked me out to see and hear the kids waving for me. Dad had tears in his eyes when he saw us on Gynbris the first time, he'd never have dreamed it." She laughs at the hand-wringing from close-minded censors who crow about what would her parents think. "If they'd actually talked to 'em they'd know most of their effort goes to finding new ways to be proud of me!"

She feels strongly about a number of things. She will brandish her claws at the slightest provocation or condescension to her class background; a fact already known to listeners of the last album's "Lark Worker". Her only comment is, "We had a song with no lyrics, and I had my tits twisted by some stupid git acting like they'd worked hard and had a hard life and all that shit." She would like to meet Rin Tōsaka again. She thinks the upper classes were inbred pigs and that abolishing them was the right course of action. She is irritated by Gylians badmouthing Gylias, and being propositioned directly. "Come on, good that you're honest, but what do you expect when you just ask, 'Hey, do you want to have sex?'. Why would I want to? You've given me no reason to. I think it's better when they flatter me first, then ask. Put some creativity into it, gudskul! I like some savvy with the speech, and when people make an effort."

She used to have a four-minute plan for being Prime Minister but the only fragment she can remember was joining everybody's flats to friends' flats with underground tubes. If she had a yard, she would've started working on her own.

When it was midnight she decided to go to a nightclub, getting ready with not just her Sunday Girls costume but a new bracelet she had just bought. "I feel like prancing around a bit.", she announced with an easy smile and a wink. "After all, what's the point of being a Sunday Girl if you won't flaunt it a bit?"
Last edited by Gylias on Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Gylias
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Left-wing Utopia

Misato-chan's marriage proposal! (part 1)

Postby Gylias » Sun Oct 25, 2015 7:44 am

11 July 1971
Mishawaka, Gylias


Machiko Suzuki was in her bathroom, looking into the mirror and applying some turquoise eyeliner to her face. She lived in a low-rise block of flats owned by the Mishawaka municipal authority, one of the newer public housing projects built to accommodate the capital's growing population; the flat consisted of five bedsit rooms spread out over two floors, with a bathroom on both floors, and a large common kitchen downstairs. Machiko's own room was on the bottom floor next to the kitchen, modest in size but feeling comfortable; it also had a balcony attached, making it an excellent place to hang out with friends. The TV was still on, tuned to ATV Mishawaka. It was currently in continuity between programmes; the screen displayed a stark black background with white text listing the upcoming programmes, a clock in the bottom right corner showing the time, and above it a mention of weather conditions in Mishawaka - 22 °C with gentle breezes expected for most of the day. The continuity was entirely silent, with no announcements, no sounds made, not even clock ticking.

Machiko had already changed into a black evening gown in preparation for her important date (at least, important in her mind), but apart from the mild cosmetics she was currently applying, she wore no other accessories, and only had sandals on her feet. The fact that a university student like her, from a working-class Kirisakian background, could afford an evening gown said more about the strength of Gylias' clothing industry and its economy than statistics likely could. As she applied her makeup, she tried to mentally beat down her last-minute doubts and reassure herself that everything would go fine.

The TV had started showing the next scheduled programme as she stood in front of the mirror, having finished applying her makeup, and looked at her reflection. The edges of her mouth curling upwards into a sly grin, she decided to show off to herself by striking a defiant pose, dramatically throwing her head backwards and placing her arms akimbo. She broke into a self-satisfied smile upon seeing the results, at least until she'd noticed she slightly disheveled the right side of her hair, prompting her to exclaim "Oh, fuck." and reach for the comb to bring it back into symmetry.

Footsteps could be heard with increasing loudness outside her flat, until finally they came to a halt and were replaced by a knock on the door. Oi, it's time already?, she thought as she went off to answer the door. Opening the door, she was greeted by the sight of her girlfriend Misato Katsuragi, looking dazzling in a brown sheath cocktail dress with a white collar; she wore ballet flats and two earrings, a small handbag of matching colour slung over her left shoulder, but the main attraction was undoubtedly the casual confidence with which she was leaning against the door frame with her right hand, unconsciously drumming her fingers on the wood frame in rather elaborate patterns, holding the other hand on her hip, and with which she gazed at Machiko with a playfully conspiratorial smile, as if she had just heard the greatest joke in the world and was about to share it but only after she'd set the scene properly by building up anticipation.

"Ohayō, Ma-chi-kooo♫", Misato said in an enthusiastic, melodious tone, playfully stretching the vowels ever so slightly. She even broke down Machiko's name into its respective morae, lingering on each in a different tone, sounding for all intents and purposes as if she'd just sung Machiko's name. She then looked at Machiko, and subtly shifted her eyes to point slightly towards her left.

"<Good morning to you too, Misato.>", Machiko replied in Miranian. "<Even though it's closer to evening at this point...>", she added, delivering the joke with a hint of bashfulness in her tone, and nodding subtly. This signified that she had understood Misato's eye-pointing as asking for permission to enter, and had in turn nodded to grant it. The fact that the two were capable of communicating in such a non-verbal way showed just how well integrated they had been into Gylian society as well as their very well-developed social skills.

Having received permission, Misato still made a show of cheerfully waltzing into Machiko's flat with verve, casually waving her hand in a jokingly dismissive manner. "<Ahhh, details, details, Machiko!>", she said as she walked towards Machiko's room. "<It's closer to morning back in Kirisaki, so it still counts, haha! In fact, at any given moment, there's someplace on earth where it's morning! How about that, huh?>" As she thought out loud such, Misato let herself into Machiko's room, pretending to offhandedly pick up and munch from an open bag of chocolate cookies Machiko had lying on her bedside table. "<Speaking of which, do you have anything to drink?>"

Machiko chuckled and gazed at Misato with a teasing expression. "<You barely walked into my place and you're already lusting for alcohol?>", she joked.

Not missing a beat, Misato played along by grabbing the glass from Machiko's table and holding it up proudly. "<Hey, hey! Alcohol helps me lust, darnit!>", she replied lightheartedly, thrusting the glass into the air and moving it to punctuate her sentences. "<It's like a, like a, shortcut to horniness, 'tis what it is!>" She then suddenly stopped, gained a look of sudden realisation, and exclaimed, "<Oh, hang on, I gotta get this down!>", before putting down the glass hurriedly and retrieving a pen and paper from her handbag. As she wrote, she muttered inaudibly to herself, "<'Shortcut to Horniness', yeah, 's a good title. Sounds good with some wah-wah and a bit of that nasty distortion...>"

Machiko laughed, shaking her head and pushing her hair upwards on her forehead. "<Oh, Misato...>", she said affectionately, as she herself leaned against the wall and looked at Misato writing away, lost in her thoughts, with undisguised admiration.

It was true, Machiko and Misato had several significant things in common; the fact that they were both of Kirisakian descent and that they were born in the same year, for instance. However, there were also differences in their upbringings that had contributed to giving them different personalities. Machiko and her parents had left shortly after birth to move back with their Kirisakian relatives, whereas Kokoro and Hayato Katsuragi chose instead to tough it out in a reasonably safe city once it was clear how the Liberation War would end. (Or possibly had no choice; Misato hadn't yet managed to get a definite answer from them on whether they stayed more out of choice or lack of means to take refuge in Kirisaki as well. Suffice to say both were factors.) On balance, Machiko had enjoyed the more comfortable childhood, but her growing up in Kirisaki had instilled her with certain Kirisakian values and notions of social etiquette that weren't applicable once her parents chose to move back to Gylias after it started picking up as a country. She could make it just fine, but had racked up quite a count of moments when she felt lost at sea from the cultural difference that resulted - even if Kirisaki and Gylias had a special closeness due to the size and significance of the Kirisakian minority in Gylias, she sometimes felt like Kirisakian Gylians acted in a way that was a confusing mix of familiar and bafflingly alien.

Meeting and befriending Misato had been reassuring to her, since now she properly felt like she had at least some solid dry land as a reference if she ever got lost out to sea. (She also felt that she should stop relying on nautical metaphors so much, but that wasn't relevant at the moment.) For her, Misato was a wonder to behold; sometimes she was the vivacious young woman possessed of incredible energy and a whirlwind presence, eternally rambling pleasantly about every topic under the sun, jovial and captivating enough to get along with everyone; when she ran low on batteries she smiled and reverted to a serene demeanour, one Machiko had most often seen when Misato had stopped by with a friendly arm over her shoulder and listened to Machiko's troubles, or when she was encouraging friends and fellow students to not give up on something and continue in spite of setbacks. Her voice had a particular ring to it, from the enthusiastically high-pitched, goofy chirp that promised endless excitement awaited whoever had come into contact with her, to the quiet warmth it gained at her most relaxed, providing an almost soothing (and when Machiko was in the mood for it, sensual) effect, and the burgeoning hale singing voice Machiko would be treated to now and then.

Sometimes, Machiko still lightly slapped her forehead and laughed in disbelief at how lucky she was to have become lovers with Misato. She even had a pet name for her, with the appropriate mixture of tenderness and tease required; she sometimes thought of Misato as "that purple-haired chatterbox".

Having allowed Misato what she considered a reasonable time to get her ideas down, Machiko then gingerly stepped back into her room, bringing herself as close to her lost in concentration girlfriend as possible, and reached out with her right index finger to poke her nose. "Pyon, pyon, pyon~", she said in a cute voice, a playful cat smile on her face. "<You remember why you're here, right?>"

Misato was slightly startled, but she responded with a grin of her own and reached out with her left hand, taking hold of the top of Machiko's gown, in between her breasts. Using her right hand to put her pen and paper back in her handbag, she drew Machiko close to herself. Then, she pressed her lips together into an oval shape, and brought her head as close to Machiko's as possible without actually touching or kissing her. She lingered in this position for a few moments to tease Machiko, and then gazed at her with her best ravishing smile and narrowed gaze, and whispered, "<Do you?>"

Machiko chuckled and gave her a cat smile. "<How could I ever forget?>", she said. She moved her right hand and pinched Misato's cheek lightly. "<I swear, Misato, sometimes you act like you don't know what you're doing to me...>"

Misato got up from the chair and gave Machiko a quick peck on the lips. "<It's fun that way, darling.>", she remarked sensually. Then she abruptly shifted to a perky tone, took hold of Machiko's arm and announced, "<Besides, you haven't made it to the part where I do act like I know what I'm doing, haha!>"

Misato dragged Machiko with her outside of the flat, leaving Machiko just seconds to reach out and take her own handbag from the coathanger on her door; she then hung onto the flat door as they walked and swung it closed, as it was a door that automatically locked upon closing and needed only a key to get in. She'd left her room's door open but that wasn't a problem - she knew her roommates and none of them would dare to walk in without her permission. She'd found it slightly bizarre that some of them seemed to be so unabashed they regularly left their doors open and carried on with things as if it was closed and they either didn't care or simply didn't register the possibility that somebody might see them doing private things. Then again, Kirisaki was already a safe country so she'd grown up used to the idea of, for example, it being possible to leave the door unlocked while one was out of their flat because nothing would happen, so she didn't need to adjust that part at all when she moved.

As the two walked down the stairs, and through the small unpaved walkway surrounded by grass and trees that was around the back of Machiko's flat (for her flat's entrance was on the back of the building), Machiko looked at her hand in Misato's, and Misato still concentrated on walking up, and she couldn't help but smile and have a longing glimmer in her eyes. This was one of the things Misato did that simply made her desire her girlfriend even more. She found herself attracted to Misato's energetic initiative-taking; there was something exciting about being comically swept along with her latest shenanigans.

How far off are we from the part where you do?, she thought jokingly.

After a short walk, the two reached their destination: Misato's motorbike. It was a slender, Kirisakian-manufactured model, painted red with a yellow and blue finish, and an almost flat saddle, parked near the exit to the street. Sprawled laterally across the length of the bike was a jacket, on top of which were placed a helmet and pair of gloves.

Machiko eyed the motorbike with curiosity, but jokingly pretended to be less than impressed. "<That's what we're doing, eh?>", she remarked. "<For where we're going, doesn't it seem a bit,> ēto... couth?" If nothing else, her sudden switch to English showed that living in Gylias was rubbing off on her rather well, even if she felt that her fluency still left a lot to be desired and was below Misato's.

Misato grinned, and replied, "Motorbikes don't cough, silly!" She lightly punctuated her reply by elbowing Machiko in the left arm. "Actually, I think that's the first time I've heard you attempt to make an English pun, darling. So, congratulations! Just keep at it and soon you'll master the quality!" She said this while she left her handbag to dangle on the right handlebar and began to put on her protective gear.

"It might take me longer than you did, Misato... hehe, you know you've had more practice than me.", Machiko replied sheepishly while watching Misato put on her jacket and gloves.

"Yeah, but don't let that discourage you!", Misato said while finishing fastening her gloves. She then threw her arms wide open and looked into space at some indistinct point above and to her left. "We live in Gylias, so you'll pick it up eventually, even if it's subliminally!" She then took a hold of her helmet with one hand, used the other to curl up her long purple hair together, and then put on the helmet in such a way that all of it was inside the helmet.

Machiko giggled and said, "<Yeah, yeah, good point.>" She then pointed towards the motorbike and asked, "Ano, <don't you have a spare set for me too?>"

Misato laughed one of her infectious laughs, and put her left arm over Machiko's shoulders, leaning her head against that of her girlfriend. "<Nonsense!>", she said, using her right hand to point at Machko. "<Piffle even! Love, you're traveling with Misato Katsuragi, you're not gonna need a protective gear.>" She then closed her eyes and drew Machiko into a closer hug, blissfully unaware that her helmet was awkwardly rubbing up against Machiko's face. "<Because I will protect you.>"

A small pause ensued during which Machiko wondered whether priority in terms of her attention should go to the romantic declaration Misato had just made, or the awkward sensation of having the visor of a full face helmet rubbed against her face. "<Eh... I'd still find it safer to have protective equipment too...>", she said hesitantly.

Misato seemed to deflate with that statement, and stammered out, "<Well, that is... ehehe... I... er, don't have, a second set of gear... I, didn't really anticipate, um, using it with other people... when I bought it.>"

Machiko smiled sympathetically and placed her own arm over Misato's shoulders to reciprocate the hug. "<Don't worry, dear, I understand - it couldn't be helped. Just... be careful, okay?>", she said, attempting to reflexively stroke Misato's face but finding her path blocked by the helmet, but continuing awkwardly since she felt that putting down her arm would draw more attention to the ineptness of the gesture.

Misato nodded. "<Mhm! Don't you worry about it! They don't call me, 'Autobahn' Misato Katsuragi for nothing!>", she joked, raising right hand to about the same height as her face and lifting her index finger while keeping the rest of the hand curled into a fist.

As she let go of Machiko and got on her motorbike to start it, Machiko thought for a second and replied, "<Wait... don't autobahns have no speed limits?>"

Misato either didn't hear Machiko's question over the sound of her starting the motorbike's engine, or mischievously chose to not hear it. After she gave the handlebar two quick twists to rev up the engine, she motioned to Machiko enthusiastically, saying, "<Come on, on you go!>"

Machiko swallowed and rather inelegantly worked her way onto the rear of the motorbike's saddle, leaning forward and wrapping her arms around Misato's stomach. In response, Misato smiled and took one hand off her handlebar to affectionately brush Machiko's hair. "<There you go, that's more like it.>", she said sweetly. "<I told you you have nothing to worry about, darling.>" Her tone turned more playful as she added, "<And look at it this way: how many people d'you think can say they rode a motorbike to some highfalutin' eating place? Hehe, that's why you're special...>" She gave the last word a melodic lilt, before moving her hand back onto the handlebar.

Reassured, Machiko closed her eyes andsmiled broadly as she hugged closer to Misato. Sometimes, she wished she could just do this for all time, just spend it in an endless embrace with the woman she loved. (It was partly why she found Gylians rather intimidating, since they seemed less reserved about being like this all the time than she was.)

Misato revved up the motorbike engine again, and pulled up the kickstand with her foot. The sound of the growing engine noise awakened Machiko from her reverie, as she worryingly stared below her at the engine. "<Erm, Misato?>", she asked nervously. "<Don't you think that's a bit lo-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

She never got to finish the word "loud" due to Misato suddenly roaring the motorbike onto the street and quickly disappearing into the distance.
Last edited by Gylias on Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:09 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Nordkrusen
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Ex-Nation

Postby Nordkrusen » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:09 pm

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (Cut out from Viborgska Kuriren, 4th of November 1964)

Dear Editor,

These are perilous times, with Satan seemingly everywhere. That comes as no surprise, for that is how the world is. What does unpleasantly surprise me is the extent to which some people refuse to understand the threat we face from evil, both within and without.

I simply ask, how dare you. I would've accepted your latest brainwashed nothings about the importance of big government, for I am used to the cluelessness of the young, especially the ones such as yourself who have been mollycoddled by their parents. But with your article, "Youthful Enthusiasm Finds An Outlet In The Sunday Girls", you have simply crossed the line of morality. I am astonished you could even put your name on the article's byline - do you want to bring shame to your family name for generations to come with your sick promotion of degeneracy?

I am astonished that a theoretically upstanding Nordling such as yourself cannot understand the menace these four socialist scum represent to our way of life. Perhaps you are too enraptured by their deceptive siren song yourself, so allow me to disabuse you of your delusions. No, The Sunday Girls are not "harmless" or "fun", they have about as much musical value as the shrieks of a cat undergoing surgery, and they are "exciting" only to lost souls who have rejected the love of God and have dedicated their lives to a war against His good grace.

The fact that The Sunday Girls hail from Gylias is already an immediate sign of danger: they have been thoroughly brainwashed and converted to good little poster girls for the heinous degeneracy and institutionalised crimes promoted by their insane government. Remember, after all, this is a country where promiscuity is rampant, there are no boundaries or taboos when it comes to sex, pornography is fed directly to kindergarteners, and anyone can marry anyone. Even the most cursory glance through an interview reveals these four girls as shockingly coarse, gutter-mouthed, crazed whores with no bounds or standards, dedicated only to base self-indulgence and plumbing ever greater depths of debauchery. What they promote is the destruction of morality and embrace of every kind of reprobate abomination under the sun. They are too far a lost cause, good only for the fires of Hell, so I must ask you, what could have possessed you to promote such an obscene, degeneratised, disgusting abomination?

There is a reason we have laws in place to silence these people and their disgusting communist-degenerate ilk. If they tried to even set foot on the grounds of our upright kingdom they'd be forced to get real jobs and perform real works that would teach them the blessings of a moral life, or they would be fit only for the stocks. We cannot allow a Nordkrusen that finds itself surrounded by enemies who seek to destroy it the luxury of tolerating treason and wickedness for the sake of soothing a few soft-headed consciences. What these girls are is a definite danger to the security of Nordkrusen, with actions aimed solely at rousing the sexual passions of our youth in an ungodly way, that they might more readily accept the seductive bolshevik lies that pose a direct threat to our great kingdom. These Trojan horses have shamelessly sung about sex positions, one-night stands, threesomes, lustfulness and Lord knows what else, peddled propaganda about Gylias' moral disintegration that couldn't fool anyone with the slightest ounce of personal responsibility and accountability, and if unchecked represent nothing less than a corrupting influence on our virtuous daughters.

How I thank God I live in a wonderful land where a courageous king and men of noble blood stand as a bulwark, defending our national spirit and the soil our ancestors have toiled for generations! where we with righteous contempt can see this garbage for what it is.

The Gylians are beyond any kind of salvation and can rot in their own cauldron of sin and bolshevism, but I pray for the repressed gylian national character to work in the young minds of those who are reading this garbage that they may rise up and take thte salvation of their nation in their own hands.

Edvard Engdahl
Last edited by Nordkrusen on Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
National Anthem:Den Snöiga Nord, Vårt Fädernesland
Motto: "“Is quisnam persevero , perficio maiestas”(he who perseveres, achieves greatness)
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Religion: Lutheran Protestantism

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Quen Minh
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Founded: Oct 29, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Quen Minh » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:19 pm

The Illustrious Inquirer

Hay chất vấn Có danh tiếng




Volume 20Wednesday, 16 June 1969No. 3



BLOODY TUESDAY



Image


Riots Tear Through the Streets of Bich Nguyet
by Thompson Duong


Bich Nguyet is considered to be the "Diamond of the River," where all the shoppers come, stay, and go ever since the ancient times. Today, that diamond remains stained in the blood of the rage that shocked the nation yesterday afternoon.

Absolutely terrifying. Just pure horror like the ones you see in films and TV. I really don't know how long it is going to last.
- female incapacitated citizen of Bich Nguyet


What led to the riot has to do with the incident with several Tam youths the day before in the Ninh Duong District of Bich Nguyet, where a majority of the city's Tam population resides. At about 11:02 PM QST1, the city's police claimed to have pulled over a "group of four youths with food in their hands and bags." The youth group was interrogated, to which one of the them answered "from a food seller for free." Dismissing it as a lie, the officers demanded that they hand over the food and lie on their torsos. From that point after the food was collected, the youths were beaten with a baton and called racial slurs, as one of the youths we interviewed claimed. When they about to be handcuffed, one youth fleed the scene of the crime towards the darkened grassy field. The runner, later identified as Rangsiman Suttikul Duong, was shot in the back three times.

We were heartbroken when we heard the news of our son's death. We only sent him to do errands, for goodness sakes!
- Korrakoj Suttikul Duong, mother of Rangsiman, in the aftermath of the Riot


At about 10:36 AM a day later, the city was perturbed by the aggravated cries of Tam protestors and Quenminese sympathizers who have heard of the news. They held up signs denouncing the police brutality among the youths and saying, "Phần còn lại trong hòa bình Rangsiman,"2 as they march through the streets of the city, even in their language. Police arrived on the scene about 11:02, coincidentally, with riot shields, batons, bamboo sticks, and riot guns. Approximately two minutes later, an amplified voice commanded them to disperse within three minutes. However, with Rangsiman's death still playing in their minds, the protestors stood where they are, resonating their chants. Suddenly, as the protestors continued to get closer to the line of police, stones from their sides were thrown onto the police and the crowd was met with tear gas. The confrontation later turns violent as the protestors started to hurl gas canisters and anything they could get their hands on back at the police and make use of their signs to attempt beat their opponents on the head. The police then responded brutally with batons, riot shields and guns, and even hoses to quell their disturbance. Even then, the callous methods of the police won't mean that the crowd will all flee from them. As columns of black, clouds of white, the breaking of glass, the pops of tear gas canisters and the infuriated cries filled the air of the city, it suddenly became like a battle in the ancient and medieval times. At 5:02 in the afternoon, the sounds of ear-splitting shouts and cacophonous pops started to die down. There were a few people left, sauntering on the streets that are embellished with the bodies of the severly wounded or dead from both sides and the clutter of thrown objects and blood. All that could be heard were groans, the smooth breeze, the sweeping of multiple brooms of some who were obliged to clean, and medical personnel tending to the care of all the injured at a designated area--despite it having to contradict the Edict's laws3. Very grim it is for someone to see something gory in a middle of a beautiful day.

In the aftermath of the riot, it has been reported that over 539 Tam and 34 Quenminese who have participated in the riot were detained and about 79 stores have been ransacked and a nigh insurmountable amount of 14,380,000,000Ѧ of property has been tarnished. However, the most disturbing part of the report was that it was claimed that over 267 were killed in the riots, with about 210 injured over the course of six hours; by far, this makes the riot the deadliest civil upheaval this nation has ever had since Hoa Nhung 18 years ago.

There have been questions looming about whether the Edict should be discouraged by the government or not, whether the Tam should have the same privileges as with the rest of the Quenminese, all resulting from the bloody riot. Whether or not when government takes time to ruminate on them, only time will tell if they have answered them.




1. Quenminese Standard Time
2. "Rest in Peace, Rangsiman" in Quenminese
3. The Edict of 1922, HIH The Emperor's policy on the Tam minority
Last edited by Quen Minh on Sun Oct 02, 2016 10:10 am, edited 3 times in total.
Tis' best that you call my nation Quenmin.


"It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal” - Jose Rizal

“You call me a legendary general, but I think I’m no different from my soldiers" - Võ Nguyên Giáp

"Learning never exhausts the mind" - Leonardo da Vinci

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us" - J.R.R. Tolkien

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Gylias
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Left-wing Utopia

The National Observer, 26 October 1989

Postby Gylias » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:52 pm

Former Prime Minister Darnan Cyras, "architect of modern Gylias", dies at 87
By Larisa Zinec
26 October 1989


Editor's note: We would like to thank the estate of Darnan Cyras for graciously granting permission to use gendered pronouns.

Image
Mishawaka -- Darnan Cyras, who fought for Gylian independence and served as Prime Minister for the first eighteen years of the republic's independence, died late last night at Mishawaka's Louïr Hospital of natural causes, aged 87.

Filomena Pinheiro, the current Prime Minister, has ordered Gylian flags flown at half-mast and declared a day of national mourning. "We have lost a great figure, to whom we owe so much.", they said.

In accordance with his wishes, Darnan Cyras will receive a modest, private burial in Djuras, the village in southwestern Gylias where they were born. The Prime Minister has indicated that a separate, official rememberance ceremony will also be organised to honour their memory.

Darnan Cyras embraced the cause of liberating the downtrodden and forging a fairer society throughout his long political career. He dedicated his 18-year prime ministership, the longest since Gylias gained independence, to building a modern republic of Gylias on the foundation of economic and social justice.

In Schottia, High Council leader James Taylor emphasised the international ramifications of his time in office, saying that "what Darnan Cyras dedicated his ministership towards building is something which all of us can be proud of, the positive knock-on effect of a strong socialist Gylias is as important to the East of Tyran as it is to the people of Gylias themselves."

Cacertian Prime Minister Marana Tierno said that Darnan Cyras would be remembered for "his extraordinary efforts to improve the lives of Gylians".

Alemarri Kejsare Kalevi III, known for their cautious and pragmatic stance towards Gylias, remarked that, "While my vision for the future was not Cyras's vision, it does not diminish the change he achieved nor the significance of his revolution. He will be long remembered even by those who dwell far from his homeland, for ideas of greatness do not fade in time."

Andrew Holland, the former Imperator of Shalum, expressed sorrow of the passing of the former Prime Minister; but also mentioned that he should be remembered for all of the great works that he did, both at home and abroad.

Darnan Cyras' rise to power in 1958 marked the culmination of twenty years of war between different factions vying for power in the disintegrating Xevden empire. Assuming office as the first communist to govern the new Gylian state, he inherited a country ruined by violence, bitter polarisation, and centuries of oppression and marginalisation of the majority by a tiny privileged minority.

His taking office represented a fundamental shift to the left for the politics of the new Gylian state - in his first year in office a referendum was organised that abolished the monarchy, and the first free and fair elections were organised in October, allowing him to assemble a leftist-liberal coalition government.

The elation of supporters and ordinary Gylians free of the yoke of Xevdenite oppression quickly mixed itself with the challenges of rationing and reconstruction. His background and beliefs produced apprehension within Tyran, with other states being noticeably fearful and suspicious of the new government's intentions.

From the beginning, Darnan Cyras sought to affect a fundamental transformation of the Gylian state, and set a record for frenzied legislative activity. His government nationalised major sectors of the economy and placed them under workers' self-management, hastily set up the National Health System and public education, created an all-encompassing welfare state, and organised public services and utilities.

Pushing through this program in the immediate aftermath of war inevitably imposed a great strain on the new state's finances, but he never wavered from his path and carried on firmly, asking the people of Gylias to allow for the ambitious programs to begin delivering results. That they soon began to do so reinforced his government's standing with the public, although several historical analyses since have emphasised just how far he pushed his program in the face of urges for caution even from coalition partners, and how much the government was out on a limb without crucial support provided by Kirisaki and Ruvelka.

He hailed the Constitution and Civil Code adopted in 1961, drafted through a process of popular consultation, as being "fit for a civilised country", and took an uncompromising line on the Arnak Trials, refusing to commute sentences or allow any early release for those sentenced to life imprisonment at the strict Karnaz Prison. The intertwined themes of creating a civilised country and purifying Gylias of the taint of past misdeeds were ones he returned to frequently throughout his career, and it was one of his government's most significant achievements that they succeeded in channelling the revolutionary fervour that fueled the Liberation War into peaceful nation-building instead of red terrors and concentration of power.

In the newly emerged political system marked by multi-party alliances, Darnan Cyras took the helm of the Progressive Alliance and won a plurality in the 1962 general election, forming a coalition government with the Liberal Union and Independent Regional Alliance for Minorities. The government's dominant status in politics was such that it was easily returned to office seven years later with its majority intact.

An ambitious figure whose idealism survived the horrors of war, his second and third terms in office were marked by a combination of pragmatism and zealous dedication to the cause of progress. Cabinet colleagues described him as open-minded but firmly committed to his principles; former Senior Minister and Liberal Union leader Andreas Servas commented, "Darnan understood the value of reaching out and bridging the gap. Above all else they wanted an overwhelming majority behind their program, they thought that way it would be accepted instead of challenged."

The 14 years from 1962 to 1976 saw intense social, economic, political and cultural change sweep across all walks of Gylian life. Known as the "Golden Revolution", it saw his government ally itself with a broad array of social movements and activists in order to wage a comprehensive attack on the legacy of Xevden and establish a new society on the basis of justice and freedom. Among his and his colleagues' greatest accomplishments were the creation of a democratic and critical public education system, numerous reforms and initiatives that helped the growth of a gender-neutral and sexually liberated society, a high-minded culture policy that allowed Gylian culture and society to develop in a creative and diverse direction that scorned traditional claims to authority, and the fostering of participatory democracy in politics and public life.

The Darnan Cyras government had the benefit of a long period of rapid economic growth, and he cited the general prosperity that resulted from its policies, as well as the massive decline in poverty and inequality, as one of his best achievements. But the best-known legacy of the heady years of the Golden Revolution will likely be the fundamentally changed society that it produced, one where a person's right to develop their own identity without interference or pressure is paramount, and where anything seemed possible. If Darnan Cyras may have preferred to be known for his government's success at delivering prosperity and great improvements in Gylians' quality of life, he will most likely be known for enriching their lives through the freewheeling, inclusive and adventurous popular culture that arose.

Internationally, while perhaps more of the credit for overcoming Gylias' initial isolation and making it an accepted member of the Tyranian community belongs to Foreign Minister Erika Djilesh, it was Darnan Cyras who strove to use his platform to advance and keep libertarian socialist ideals in the conversation. He sought to position Gylias as a "moral force" within regional diplomacy, supporting human rights, democratisation, multilateralism, and international cooperation. His wish to enter Gylias into an alliance with Cacerta, the country where he studied and which had a profound influence on his politics, has not come to pass; his vocal opposition to Acrea resulted more in symbolic measures than ones that had a serious effect on Acrea's diplomatic status.

Once caustically described as "a supporting player in their own cabinet", Darnan Cyras was a private and often ascetic figure, driven by deeply-held convictions but with less concern for details. He possessed a simple rhetorical style and a sober presence that seemed chilly to voters more attracted by the charisma and glamour of ministers like Erika Djilesh, Rin Tōsaka or Aliska Géza, but his greatest talent was his ability to assemble a team of accomplished ministers and direct them towards the same goal, leaving implementation and conception of policies to them. An often-cited anecdote about Benedita and Aliska returning from an event to find him asleep at his desk reflects his dedication to his work as Prime Minister, even at the seeming cost of non-political interests.

Ultimately, despite his government's success, Darnan Cyras' ambitions of having the "neutral state" inaugurate a gradual transition to an anarcho-communist society remain unfulfilled. If his government was not seriously challenged in Parliament or in popularity, the 1968 protests robbed it of its indomitable aura, and the controversy surrounding its response to the Yoav Goren v. Avram Baruch case reflected poorly on his stubbornness in advancing an agenda. He would've likely regarded the National Bloc only becoming a serious political force under the moderate Lǽa Kersed to be a vindication of his triumph in permanently reshaping Gylian politics.

By 1976, the dizzy pace of change had become impossible to sustain, and had severely exhausted the government. Suffering a severe blow from Aliska Géza's death, Darnan Cyras had to endure the further indignity of seeing the Revolutionary Rally pick up a sizeable contingent of working-class voters whose support he had taken for granted, who had come to see the government as detached from their priorities and overly obsessed with social reform. It was an unfitting end for his government, eliciting a famous protest from writer Uá Ierus that it "deserved better than this woeful whimper."

After leaving office, Darnan Cyras initially moved to a flat and led as private life a possible for two years, barely interacting with anyone. Some interpreted this as a sort of personal crisis, but his colleagues argued against this interpretation, regarding it as merely part of the greater pattern of his ministers' lives after politics. "Eighteen years is a bloody long time to be in government," former Foreign Minister Erika Djilesh remarked. "Once it was done, everyone else went back to what they worked as before - Régine [Walras] returned to being a doctor, Rin and Sakura taught again, Theo[phania Argyris] worked with computers. Darnan simply didn't have something to go back to." Initially unwilling to publically comment on the Aaén Janez government, he gradually became a vocal critic of it starting in 1980, returning to a public profile somewhat as an elder statesperson. His last public statement urged Gylians to vote against extremism in the upcoming general election.

The only surviving child of his parents, Darnan Cyras never had a partner and leaves behind no living relatives.

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Postby Acrea » Sun May 01, 2016 9:44 pm

Outside of Frankfurt
Empire of Shalum
3 May 1957





The new Shalum was not the Shalum that he knew. The Shalum he knew was a sea of burnt-out buildings, rubble, and the crackle of gunfire and rumble of artillery. This? This was a pure miracle.

Frankfurt had not been especially damaged during the war. Not nearly as much as more southern cities such as Fontera, which had been nearly reduced to a city of rubble and rats. It had not nearly been as vital to the Azurlavaians. Frankfurt was… bright now. He had not been here since the summer of ‘55. Construction was always ongoing, being rebuilt. Suburbs, of the same sort being built in Arcadia and Aurelia, were being constructed with over a hundred houses per project being built in a day, and just in Frankfurt alone. The sheer size and scale of the Acrean reconstruction of their western ally was astonishing. But, there was something different. A sense, almost, of safety. And he knew why.

The concept of ‘Atomkrieg’ was not foreign to his ears. It was a strategy, a defence policy advocated namely by Wilhelm Strauss and Nicholas Freeman, Aurelian and Arcadian politicans respectively who advocated a defence policy of ‘Atomkrieg’ or ‘Atomic War’. Their concept, in the simplest sense, stated that the Acrean militaries must take the fullest advantage of the power of atomic weaponry, and adapt it to purpose. Since the first use of the atomic bomb in 1946, their respective military research departments had developed everything from atomic artillery to atomic rocket launchers to a whole new class of high-yield bombs termed ‘Thermonuclear Weapons’, many times more powerful than the first bombs dropped. It was frightening, to say in the least, but the lingering threat of a future of atomic warfare did not seem to phase anyone around here.

‘He’ was Erich von Aust. It was a name potentially not many Shalumites knew, but that was certainly famous in Acrea. As a flying officer of the Aurelian Luftwaffe, he was a top ace of the war, having scored 356 victories during the war over his career. And now, this decorated pilot was grounded, spending his two-month leave in the very country he had fought in in the first place that started all of this. While a higher-scoring pilot, his older brother was still the higher officer. Hell, his older brother had began his career when piston-engined fighters dominated the skies, before the beginning of the Jet Age that Erich had trained and fought in.

The pilot was a man of true pilot stature- confident, almost cocky in his demeanor, and handsome with finely styled hair and his grey uniform fitting his body well. He was well-built, a physique designed and chiseled to handle the immense physical requirements to withstand the g-forces of jet age combat.


He still remembered the 40s fondly, as a teenager. But he greatly enjoyed the 50s now more. This new decade was almost like a time for re-invention after the horror of the Great War, and people reveled in it. Spending saved up money like nobody’s business- and the fashion. Gone were the stuffy, almost dull suits of before. Now suits were well-fitted, sharp, and not necessary always. Not it was the age of button-down shirts and fitted, clean slacks. And the women? There was hardly a thing that pilots loved chasing more than women- kills, perhaps, but women came close second. And the new liberalised fashion that started in Acrea and had spread to Shalum was something to be proud of. In his teenaged days, during the early war, girls had worn long skirts. Sweaters, almost-dull shoes, sometimes with little kitten heels. Now they wore shorter, flowy skirts in all sorts of colours. Blouses of cotton, satin, chiffon. They danced and skipped in bright tennis shoes and pranced around in full high heels. There was more than just the idea of sex appeal, or liberal clothing, though. It was freedom. Freedom from the dark cloud of war, and from worry of where to find the next meal for families. People were happy to be free, and they expressed that here more than ever in their attitudes, clothing, and language.

It was in this train of thought that found Erich walking into a smaller, neat little diner along the town in this small suburb of Frankfurt, the name of which he had yet to know. There was small talk, people smiling, talking. It was a small town and everyone knew each other. He glanced around. There was little in the way of decoration other than framed photographs, aside from one framed Shalumite recruitment poster from, displaying the image of an outline of a soldier, with streaks behind him leading to the outlines of Sabres and a few tanks to his right, small as though far away, with the words ‘Never Again’ on the bottom. He stood a tad awkwardly, his cap in hand as he continued to look around.

Truth be told, the diner was not quite as busy as it could have been on a Friday night. Sure, the dinner rush was present, but already beginning to ebb away as the sun slowly disappeared over the horizon; hiding behind towering tenements that had seemingly sprung up overnight, once the war had shifted away the city. Many of those eating here were younger, some covered in greasy coverall, or other articles of clothing that indicated they had only recently gotten off work, and had come to meet their families at this cozy eatery. As the trend went, the old did not survive war, nor were they capable of rebuilding and keeping the country running once everything was said and done.

The same could have been said for the staff of the diner, mostly young people who were either still in high school, or had recently graduated. The exception, of course, was the owner of the establish. Rooba was her name, and she was by no means the most pleasant woman to have walked the earth. Not necessarily bad, or even inclined towards making her employees’ lives a living hell. Put simply, she was rather particular about how everything operated, from the way food was prepared, to how the tables were wiped down afterwards. The ultimate outcome was a restaurant with wholly positive reviews, as well as near-perfect scores from the local health department.

Of the three waitresses currently on the clock, it was Sarah Wasser who noticed the Acrean soldier standing just in front of the front door; looking over the poster her boss had put up earlier in the week, as he clutched his cap in his hands. She smiled softly as she gazed at him. The lad was handsome, obviously one of the many soldiers who passed through her lovely city on a near daily basis. He looked, dare she say, almost a little lost at the moment? Without a second thought, she found herself walking towards him, picking up a spare menu along the way. Sarah had a job to do, if nothing else.

“Excuse me, sir? Would you like a table, or a seat at the counter?” She asked with a polite smile, holding the menu over her stomach, which was partially covered by the apron wrapped around her waist.

While she had never considered herself all that attractive of a woman, especially during the time of war when resources were more sparse, and she had been reduced to threadbare clothing-- her beauty in reality was really more than enough to win any friend or lover than she could have ever desired. Sarah had porcelain skin and dark red locks -cherry red, almost- pinned in a large, loose bun at the nape of her long and slender neck.

Overall, her features were so perfect that they could have been chosen from an Acrean catalog: neatly arched eyebrows over almond-shaped hazel eyes. Sarah’s lovely orbs were hemmed by a fringe of of equally auburn-colored lashes; a small, elegant nose; high cheekbones, and a slightly pointed chin. Her figure was neat and slender, but not bone skinny; breasts and hips providing just the right amount of curve beneath her knee-length calico blue dress. In the day of modern fashion that Acrea had introduced, it was not exactly the most modern garment around, but what her boss had insisted upon her wearing.

Erich blinked a few times, staring at this girl. It was as if he had laid his eyes on diamonds. He liked to chase women, sure, but she? She did not look like the kind of girl one chased. She was to be treasured, remembered. She was amazing. All in a glance.

“Oh-er-counter. Counter please,” Erich replied. He wouldn’t waste taking up a whole table by his lonesome.

Sarah nodded, not seeming to so much as notice the war Erich looked at her. Many men had gazed upon her in a similar way, but she had never noticed, much less had it in herself to care. Looking over her shoulder, she spied the counter, which was only occupied by a tired looking factory worker who sat alone, nursing a glass of water. “Of course, right this way,” she beckoned Erich; leading him to an open seat. Her hips had a natural sway to them, and her smile was seemingly genuine as she set a menu down in front of him. “Is there anything I can get you to start off with? Drink?” She asked, knowing the menu was full of dishes imported from Acrea.

“Surprise me. Your favourite here,” Erich replied for the drink as he regained some semblance of his usual confidence, giving the girl a bright smile and a wink as he sat down, having willed his eyes to avoid staring at her hips.

“Oh -ah- of course,” she replied with a smile; already moving to round the corner of the counter so that she could serve him. Silently, her mind raced, reaching a near panic state as she went to fetch him a glass of coca cola-- one of the many imported products from Acrea. Truth be told, she had never eaten any of the food this restaurant served, at least nothing of any real substance. Bites her and there, leftovers or something that had been burned. Her paycheck was nice, but it wasn’t as if she could actually afford anything they served her, even if it was somewhat geared toward the working man.

Finally, after a few moments, she put in an order for a ‘Shalumite special’ which was apparently quite popular with the local men. It wasn’t fancy, but good nonetheless. A hamburger with two, thick pieces of meat, topped with lettuce and cheddar cheese, along with mustard and tomatoes. On the side was, of course, Avenian fries. Potatoes that she had helped cut earlier in the morning. Thankfully, the restaurant was known for being as quick as it was good, and before long, she was placing a plate in front of Erich. “Here you go, sweetheart. Can I get you anything else?”

“No, this is just fine. Thank you, süß,” Erich told her with a genuine smile. He tilted his head at her slightly, running his eyes up and down her body, though with an appraising and proving look rather than lecherous.

“No problem, it is my pleasure, sir.” She replied with a demure smile, ducking her head for a moment as a light flush crossed her cheeks. It was not so much the man that caused it, as the words that came from his mouth. Sarah was not used to compliments, after all, she was just doing her job. Glancing down the counter, she nibbled her lip. Things were slower at the moment, so it was not as if she was needed elsewhere. Reaching under the counter after a moment, she pulled out a damp washcloth, and began to wipe the counter down; inadvertently displaying her figure as she leaned over.

Erich enjoyed his meal quite thoroughly. It was different. Not necessarily as good, or as fanciful as the food he was used to, but the view certainly made his meal all the more while. They were the only two left now, the last table having cleared how as he sat back from his now-empty plate.

It was amazing how time passed. One moment, the restaurant the full of people, and the next it was nearly empty; or at least, that was how it felt to Sarah. Moving through the diner, she and her co-workers went about cleaning the place up, the young woman occasionally pausing to refill Erich’s drink. “All done?” She asked with a smile, glancing down at his empty plate.

“Yes ma’am. My compliments to the cook,” Erich replied, handing her the plate rather than allowing her to take it herself. When he stood, he stood tall over the redhead, biting back a yawn at the long day.

“I will be sure to pass it along,” she chuckled as she took the plate from him; shifting on her heels so that she could deposit it in the sink. One thing she was glad she no longer had to do: dishes. They had some younger, poor sod in the back who was working on those right now, and apparently would have one more to tackle shortly. “Can I get you anything else, or would you like me to ring you up now?” She asked, tilting her head slightly as she looked at him. “I’d give it to soldiers like you for free, but I doubt my manager would approve,” she said with laughter in her voice.

“That’s quite alright,” Erich replied with a chuckle, reaching down towards his back pocket for the wallet he kept there, always. He followed her over to the register. He always found it amusing how informal these diners were. He loved them.

The cash register was at the end of the counter, where it curled into the wall. Sarah nibbled her lip as she rung the man up. ‘Accidentally’ she, somehow, ended up not charging him for the drink. The closest to a discount she could really give him, and he would be none the wiser, given he hadn’t so much as glanced at the menu. “That will be a whole dollar and fifty cents, good sir,” she said brightly.

Erich handed her the money. More accurately, he extended his hand, with the money with it. When she reached to take it, he made sure to close his hand around her’s, flipping his hand over to show a ten-dollar bill, folded, tucked between two fingers. “And a lovely tip for a lovely waitress, of course.”

It was almost comical, the way Sarah’s eyes widened at the sight of the money in his hands, much more than she could have ever asked him for. It was practically a week’s pay. At the very least, that was how long she could live comfortably on it, if not longer. “Thank you,” she said breathlessly; accepting the bill with a certain hesitance, nothing but awe showing in her expression. “You’re too kind,” she said quietly, looking up at Erich with wide eyes.

“Not at all. Just being as generous as you have been,” Erich replied with equal tone, a genuine soft smile on his lips as he looked down at the girl. If this was a lot for her, then she would likely have passed unconscious at how much he really had. Not spending any of your pay for five years tended to give one quite the savings.

Sarah had never been rich. Really, she came from a working class family that had been hit hard during the war. She had gotten quite accustomed to an empty stomach, with only strong mint tea to really help her ignore the hunger she felt many nights as she had gone to sleep. It was only recently, really, since she had reached a healthier weight again. “Every soldier deserves a good meal after all they have done,” she smiled softly as she looked at him. Suddenly, she found herself wanting to spend more time with him, but this was where they were to depart. He had no reason to stay, much less an interest in her. “Have a good night, sir. And feel free to come back any time,” she said; a little shyly.

Erich smiled and nodded, turning to leave, before pausing. He turned back to Sarah. He had yet to know her name, but the look in her eyes and that smile. That soft, gentle smile made him turn back. “What are you doing tonight?”

The young waitress visibly startled at the question, blinking in surprise as she looked up to meet his eyes. For some reason, an odd feeling settled in the pit of her stomach, just because of the look he gave her. “Um,” she said aloud, and blushed a little harder. “Nothing that I know of, other than visit the grocer a little earlier in the week than I normally do,” she said as she glanced down at the tip still in her hand. “Why do you ask?” She questioned him ignorantly.

“Feel like having some fun tonight?” Erich asked, motioning at the door with his head. He smirked, seeing the blush come onto her otherwise creamy cheeks. She was adorable, he had to give her at least that much.

Sarah blinked again in surprise, one auburn eyebrow raising slightly as she looked at this strange, foreign man. His name. She did not even know that much about him. “F-fun?” She stumbled over the word, not quite believing what he was saying. “Why would you want to do...anything with me? You don’t even know me,” she said practically. Glancing over her shoulder, she realized no one else was around. None of her coworkers would even note her disappearance until she was well and truly gone.

“Isn’t the fun in life being spontaneous and trying new things?” Erich explained, glancing back around the diner. Nobody was paying much of any attention, particularly to them, and he extended a hand to Sarah.

Fun. The Shalumite girl had given up on the notion of that quite some time ago, when the first bombs had dropped and taken inadvertently taken out the middle school she had attended daily for so many years. Since then, she had only known a life of hardship and work, trying to rebuild and improve what life she had. “I suppose it is,” she said quietly; glancing back and forth, not quite certain of what she would do. Finally, she sighed and walked around the corner, untying her apron as she went. “Fine, lead the way before I change my mind,” she said as she took his hand.

“Gut,” Erich replied, chuckling, taking her hand and pulling her out the door before anyone could be the wiser. He immediately set off with her down the street, placing his cap back on his head. The streets were still relatively busy with cars, their headlights illuminating everything along with the window displays of shops.

The young Shalumite woman looked torn between mortification and excitement as he took her by the hand, leading her down the sidewalks of the city. A man had not let her around this since she was a child, and even then, that had been her father, so it was expected of him. But this man was certainly not her parent. No, he was very much foreign, and handsome from an objective standpoint. “Where are we going, exactly?” She asked quietly, looking up at him with hazel eyes, full of wonder and a tad of nervousness. It was rare that she took this path, full of shops with things she could never afford on her salary.

“To have fun,” Erich said simply, boots thudding on the pavement with each step as they walked, glancing down at Sarah. He tilted his head to the side slightly. “You know- I never quite caught your name.”

To have fun. The notion was almost foreign to the young Shalumite woman, after the life she had lived, but not something she had never experienced either. There were times when she had been younger, and her parents livelier than they were now, when she had gotten to live life as any child deserved to. But, like for many, the war had limited any possibilities of frivolities. “Sarah. Sarah Wasser,” she said as she smiled up at him. “I, um, never got your name either.”

“Erich von Aust, at your service ma’am,” Erich replied, smiling down at Sarah. Her name sounded Aurelian, in heritage at least. That piqued his interest for a moment. He took her hand in his, so that she was walking right beside her.

“It is a pleasure, Erich,” the Shalumite woman smiled widely; taking his hand in her own. Very gently, she ran the pad of her thumb over the soft skin of his hand as they walked. “So, um, von Aust...what is a soldier like you doing here in wee ole Frankfurt?”

“Taking a look at just how it looks like on the ground. I was a pilot, during the war. Everything looks different from the air at six thousand metres and traveling nine-hundred-fifty kilometres an hour,” Erich replied, looking up at the sky for a moment before looking down at Sarah. “I must say, though, I quite like what I’m finding down here.”

“A pilot, huh?” She asked with a soft smile, secretly hoping that her eyes did not give anything away. During her lifetime, she had learned to grow nervous to the sounds of planes overhead. Because where they were, bombs usually followed, or falling debris at the very least. “Yes, the city is very nice,” she went on; looking around the local area. “They’ve rebuilt pretty much everything that got bombed, hard to tell there was ever a war here at all.”

“Perhaps for some,” Erich replied in a slightly quieter voice, his smile flickering for a moment. But not for too long, as he gazed back down at the woman walking beside him. She represented the beauty of now for him, he supposed.

If Sarah noticed the flicker, she did not comment it on it as she gently stroked his hand, and walked alongside him. Night had fallen, but it was young, bright lights illuminating their path. Given that it was the beginning of the weekend, there were a fair number of couples out. Even some Acrean soldiers with Shalumite women, or in one instance, a Shalumite man and a female Acrean in a military uniform. Given her lack of experience, Sarah had no idea what unit the woman belonged to, but knew she had to be daring. “So, um, Erich, what do you have in mind for fun?” She asked with a smile.

“How much do you enjoy… dancing?” Erich questioned, raising an eyebrow and smiling down at Sarah, reaching to wrap an arm around her waist as they walked, slowly now rather than at any sort of brisk pace.

A small blush creased Sarah’s expression at the mention of dancing, and she couldn’t help but glance down at her current attire. It was...simple, to say the least. Not that she minded, but if anyone wanted to show her off in public, there were much better choices. Both in terms of clothing, and women, in her own opinion. “It is fun,” she said quietly as she looked up at him; smiling softly. “I haven’t done it in a while though. Haven’t had the time for it, and all of that,” she shrugged.

“Well then, young lady. I hope you feel like a long night.”

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Postby Shalum » Sat Jun 11, 2016 9:30 am

Until the year 1983, it was against Shalumite law for individuals of the Maldorian race to marry, or engage in seuxal relations with those of the colonial population. Since the early 1970s, such practice had been considered a ‘grievous crime against humanity’ by the sitting Imperator, Andrew Holland; but even he, with his executive powers, could not see such legislation repealed immediately. Due the legislation’s high popularity with the vast majority of the population, it took the better part of a decade to build up enough support to see such regulations overturned.




Krazis Crargastar spent May 8th of June 1965 in the cell of a police station, where some overzealous police officers broke his: nose, collarbone, and the majority of the bones in his left hand.

The trial that followed a few weeks later was a mere formality. Any Maldorian man who admitted to raping a white woman should have been grateful to receive such dignity. Krazis, strong, and brave, and guilty of nothing but loving a woman whom it was illegal to even touch, malingered under his sentence of hard labor until the day came when he did not stir, even when the guards pulled his body from his bunk and kicked his stomach with their steel toed boots.

Every night for the next four years, Tatiana Martens wept, while her tiny daughter, with clear grey eyes and dark olive skin grew to look more like her father. The man who had lied and died to keep Tatiana out of jail for associating with the ‘lesser’ Maldorian people, so that he could protect the one small fragment of family that he had left in this world.

A man that she had loved more than life itself.

Few good white men in Gilze-Rijen wanted to marry a woman with a colored daughter, but Katrijn’s mother was a true beauty -with golden skin and flowing golden hair- who had no shortage of men who wanted to share her bed. For the most part, she drove them away, but there were times when her loneliness was so deep that she was nearly drowning in it, and Katrijn awoke in the morning on more than one occasion to see the backs of men leaving through the side door of their tiny house in a poor, but white, neighborhood.

From one of these unions came Sofie, the delicate half-sister of Katrijn.

Their cold and distant grandparents, who had ignored Katrijn and her constantly working mother for years, doted on this new, clearly white child. They provided her with the best of everything, sending her to a private school at the center of the city, giving her fresh clothes every season, and any toy that she could possibly desire.

Their older grandchild, they treated her as if she did not exist.

But despite all of her preferential treatment, Sofie loved her sister with a true devotion that Katrijn did not understand, much less do anything to mirror. And everyday after school, the half-Maldorian girl walked a mile and a half out of her way, so that young Sofie would not have to walk back to their empty home alone.




The first time that Katrijn saw the blonde boy, she was eleven. He was with a group of friends playing rugby on the pitch outside of her sister’s school. She did not even notice him at first, until a wild kick knocked the ball right into her sister’s face.

Immediately, there was blood everywhere, and Katrijn, who couldn't bear the sight of it, was certain Sofie had to go to the hospital, that her nose would never stop bleeding. When the kicker ran over to retrieve his ball, she shoved him as hard as she could, desperate to do something for her sister, even if it was after the fact.

If she had been allowed to attend the same school as Sofie, she would have been aware that the boy she shoved was Lennert Veldjen, a short-tempered bully whom it was best to avoid. But her school was poor, closer to their neighborhood, full of children whose skin looked like hers, and full of theft, drug deals, and worse. So she had no idea.

"What are you doin', you dof mutt?" He shoved her backwards so violently that she tripped over her sister and sprawled on the ground. Sofi was shaking in terror as Lennert picked up her backpack and dumped the contents on the ground.

“Leave them alone,” a voice instructed from behind them.

And then for a fragment of a second, Katrijn saw a smaller, stockier boy, with curly blond hair and bright, kind, blue eyes. He glanced at her with serious concern, before staring unwaveringly into Lennert’s sneering face.

The taller boy laughed, "Varwijk, lest you need someone other than your mama to knock you around, you should just go."

Taking the momentary distraction to shove Sofie’s things back into her bag, Katrijn stood and ran, dragging her sister behind her. She didn't look back. Get away, avoid attention, stay out. That was the way to be safe. It was always the way to be safe.

That night their mother looked at Sofie’s nose and said it was fine. Nothing broken. As though the sight her youngest daughter's blood was a catalyst, for the first time in a month Tatiana didn't go directly to bed after her shift at the hospital. Their tiny family played Parcheesi and each drank a bottle of Coke, a rare delicacy on the salary of a single mother.

When Katrijn showed up at the schoolyard the next day to escort her sister home, the boy named Varwijk’s right eye was swollen shut.

She chose to stare at the dandelions creeping up through the cracks in the sidewalk.



Dom pas?" The prissy blonde girl asked, tossing her hair and throwing quick, flirty glances at the rugby pitch. She was tall, and her teased hair was in a side ponytail that she flicked casually over her shoulder. With scornful eyes she glanced at her friends, who were preening themselves like peacocks.

Looking at the ground, Katrijn muttered that she didn't have to carry one, even while red stained her cheeks. She had expected that after fifteen years, she'd be used to this.

She still wasn’t.

"Oh, it's you," the girl sneered, before looking at the group of players and smiling again. "Little princess Sofie’s kaffer bodyguard. I wish you would wait further away from the pitch," she sighed, "I'm busy trying to make an impression, not that you'd know anything about that.”

Not even looking up, Katrijn crossed the courtyard, hoping to get as far away from this awful girl while still staying near enough that her sister Sofie could find her easily. But it was impossible, there was nowhere to go. The tall blonde and her friends whispered loudly about her boring braid and plain clothes, until they hissed themselves into silence.

"Oh hello Sebastian!" The tall girl said brightly, with just the perfect hint of flirtation. It was clear that whoever ‘Sebastian’ was, he was the person the girl had been working so hard to impress.

"Hallo, Anna," the boy said, in a friendly but distracted voice. Katrijn could hear footsteps coming closer to her across the gravel, and the gaggle of girls began to whisper frantically among themselves. She drew lines in the dirt with her foot, hoping they'd just go away, and trying to conjure up something calming to think instead. She focused on the hike up in the mountains around Concordia she had taken with Sofie and her best friend Markus only last weekend.

The sound of a throat clearing behind her startled her from her reverie. "Heita, uh, Katrijn, is it?" the boy asked, with the slightest edge of shyness.

She looked up. It was the same boy. Varwijk. Or Sebastian. She didn't know which one was his first name, both words sounded strange on her tongue. Either way, it was him. The one who had gotten into a fight so she and Sofie could get away. He had grown up, though. A lot. His awkward childhood huskiness had filled out into the beginnings of muscle, and the soft lines of his face had melted into sharper angles. But his eyes were still the same: bright and kind.

He was looking at her earnestly, as though he was expecting her to give him something, but she had no idea what. The only boy she knew how to talk to was Markus. She had known him since before being a boy mattered at all, but when being the only child at school who lived in a white neighborhood most definitely had, Markus had spoken to her when no one else would, certain that she was putting on airs. He was brave and didn't care what anyone else thought.

But Sebastian was nothing like Markus.

"Your sister sent me," he finally continued. It was only then that she realized he had expected her to respond somehow to his earlier statement. A simple "yeah" probably would have sufficed. "She's… in detention."

"What?! Why?" Katrijn burst out, attempts to be unnoticed completely forgotten. She was frantic, Sofie fretted when other people got in trouble, and cried if there was even the remotest chance she had upset anyone. She was never the sort of person who ended up in trouble at all, let alone in detention.

The boy looked sympathetic, "Well, I wasn't there myself, but I understand that she got in a fight with the history teacher about segregation laws. I think, although I'm not certain, that your sister called the teacher a damn idiot in front of the whole class."

Katrijn’s mouth had dropped open.

"They're holding detention in the art room today. She came in when I was leaving my last class in there. I guess she thought the team would be practicing when you showed up to meet her, and I could wave you down," he paused again, as though waiting for her to say something. "She was really worried that you'd send out a search party," he grinned, obviously trying to alleviate the awkwardness with a joke.

“You know my sister?” Katrijn asked, suspicion lacing her tone.

“We’re in student government. She is very political, that sister of yours.” The young man replied with an easy smile, shrugging a bit.

That was news to Katrijn, however.

Taking her blank look as meaning something other than surprise, the boy tried to explain. "I mean, I don't blame her. Having a sister like…"

"Like what?" Katrijn barked at him.

The boy blanched, his fair skin turner a pale shade, except for a tiny bit of red that flushed on the tip of his nose. In any other circumstance, he would have looked cute.

But she knew what he was implying.

"What I mean to say is…" he started awkwardly.

"Save it. You don't know anything about my family, okay? Don't pretend you do."

"I didn't mean…" he tried again.

"Thank you for letting me know about, Sofie," she said firmly. "But I think your team is waiting for you."

They were.



“I’m bringing home a history tutor from school,” Sofie stated; readying her bag for school one particular morning. “He is going to walk me back to the house, so you don’t have to meet us.”

“No, it's not safe.” Katrijn protested quietly, but firmly. “After what happened to Saar…”

Sofie had fallen silent at that.

Saar was Markus’ sister. They were the same age, both fourteen. A few months ago, she had been walking home from the corner store when a white man had pulled her into an alley and assaulted her. No one had stopped him, even though Saar had screamed so much that she couldn't talk for days afterwards.

Markus’ impotent rage had been almost as painful to see as Saar herself. He had scoured the neighborhood looking for his sister's assailant. But he was gone. No white man needed a dom pas to travel in a neighborhood that wasn't his, but Markus was dark and menacing enough to be forbidden passage into the neighborhoods where such a man as his sister's assailant could easily hide. One look on his face and he was escorted to the nearest Maldorian neighborhood by the police, despite the fact that as a coloured person, he didn't even live there, a fact his ID clearly stated.

It went without saying that, barring actions that would get him imprisoned, there was nothing Markus could do, even if they had let him in.

"He's the captain of the rugby team, Katrijn," Sofie had insisted seriously, trying to understand the gravity of the situation but obviously missing the point. "I'm pretty certain if someone tried to touch me, he could rip him into three separate pieces."

"What if he tries to touch you, Sofie?"

"Katrijn, come on! He won't. We'll just walk home and meet you here."

But her sister had been unmoving. "No. Absolutely not. I don't trust this boy."

Sofie had half-sighed, half-laughed. "Okay. Do what you want. I'm just sorry that you have to walk so far out of your way for me every day."

Katrijn had ruffled her sister's blonde hair with a grin, "Bokkie, I'd walk twice as far."

But now as she saw her sister crossing the schoolyard with the same blonde boy, Varwijk or Sebastian or something like that, Katrijn felt like she might have been better off just waiting at home. He was even taller now, and his thick blonde hair was longer, falling in waves across his forehead. His shoulders were so broad that both Sofie and Katrijn could stand side-by-side and still fail to span them. He had the build of a seasoned rugger. Sofie had not exaggerated when she had speculated that he could rip someone into pieces.

But his eyes were the same, bright and kind.

"Oh, it's you," she said brusquely, before Sofie could even introduce him.

Sofie shook her head and rolled her eyes, "Katrijn, this is Sebastian Varwijk. Sebastian, this is my sister, Katrijn."

Katrijn said nothing, and Sebastian looked nervous, obviously still remembering their last interaction. The three of them walked to the Martens’ neighborhood, conversation dominated by Sofie, who ranted about the injustice of what her history teacher had mentioned in class that morning about the necessity for segregation within the government and nation.

Surprisingly, Sebastian seemed to agree with her on most points. Not just agree, but add ideas of his own from the perspective outside of an obviously biased girl with a coloured big sister. He was good at talking, eloquent even, and he seemed to really believe things that Katrijn had been convinced no white person other than those within her immediate family had reason or need to ever really consider. She found herself wondering if maybe she had unfairly judged his statement three years ago. That maybe he was trying to say something kind, instead of cruel, but it just came out wrong.

"So why do even need history tutoring, Sofie?" she demanded, interrupting them as well as her own sympathetic line of thought towards this boy. "It sounds like you know what's going on."

Sofie fell silent and Sebastian chuckled.

“Well come on, bokkie, you've got to tell me now, since it's clearly so hilarious."

"I maybe haven't really been in a lot of history classes," Sofie admitted more quietly than she had been all day.

Katrijn stopped walking completely. "What?" she asked coldly.

"Mrs. Shepherd said that I could only stay in class if I stopped arguing with her," Sofie sighed. "And since that was never going to happen, I've spent every class for the past month in the library."

Ignoring the fact that her school didn't even have a library, Katrijn shook her head angrily. "Sofie, you want to be a doctor! How are you going to do that if you fail?"

"Well, that's where Sebastian comes in then isn't' it?"

"The school is letting him tutor you when you are purposely missing classes?"

Sebastian cleared his throat, "Well, they don't exactly know about it. To everyone in school, we're in the throes of a somewhat age-inappropriate relationship."

Katrijn glared at him, "If you so much as even touch my…"

Sofie giggled loudly. "Don't worry. There's no fear of that, trust me."

"Yeah, I uh… like someone else," Sebastian looked at the ground, face red. "Someone… older."

"I'm sure she's really…something," Katrijn scoffed, feeling a sharp, unexpected twist in her stomach that seemed to come from nowhere.

Sofie snorted in amusement.

"Oh, she is…" Sebastian confirmed wryly.



"So… what's your favorite subject in school?" Sebastian asked he waited for the kettle to boil.

"Don't have one," Katrijn muttered, "just trying to get through it."

"What are you working on there?" He asked in reply, glancing at the book laid out on the kitchen table. It was old and tattered looking, and had likely been in service longer than the two’s combined ages.

"Trigonometry," she sighed angrily. Seeing his inquisitive expression, she continued, since she couldn't really escape without making things uncomfortable, "Second year I hardly had any maths classes ‘cause of the teacher strikes. I had maybe four weeks of geometry total. I don't understand it hardly at all, but they moved us all up a year because they had to."

There was a pregnant pause.

"Can I help?" He finally asked.

"Aren't you supposed to be helping my sister?"

Sebastian laughed nervously and pulled out the chair next to her, "I don't think she needs my help anymore. She's brilliant. She managed to catch up on her own pretty quickly. I just showed her what to read and told her what will be on the exams. I'm exiled into the kitchen until she finishes reading, and then we're going to discuss whatever it is. I have a feeling she's going to make me look a right idiot."

"She is so bright, always has been," Katrijn found herself gushing. "When she was a wee toddler she just started speaking in whole sentences at so young. She basically trained herself to use the… oh… she would not like me telling you this."

"I'm her fake boyfriend, Katrijn. I'm bound to find out these embarrassing details sooner or later. Bring out the awkward baby pictures, and let's just get it over with."

For the first time, Katrijn found herself laughing outright at one of his jokes. The kettle whistled, and she jumped from the table, eager to make him his tea, to get away from the line of thought that had her giggling enthusiastically at something the boykie captain of a rugby team would say. Her hands flew as she busied herself with the kettle.

"No sugar, please," he said, directly behind her.

She spun herself around, slamming right into his arms and then disengaging herself immediately. He had felt so solid, warm, and inviting.

"Who doesn't like sugar?" she scoffed, trying to keep her heart from racing as she handed him a mug.

"Mad people, I suppose," he shrugged, grinning. "And trigonometry tutors. Come on, let me help you. It'll be good review for my own exams, anyway."

He looked at her so kind and earnest that she couldn't say no.

"Fine," she scowled, hoping he'd take the hint and withdraw his offer. But he didn't.

Quietly, they worked through the problems together. Katrijn found herself focusing on his eyelashes as he wrote out the numbers on a piece of scrap paper. The fine strands were so light and gold as to be almost luminescent, catching the late sun that streamed in through their dingy window.

"Sofie doesn't really have one, does she?" she asked nervously, trying not to focus on this boy who would not leave, even when he was no longer needed. Trying even harder not to focus on the fact that she didn't want him to go.

He raised his eyebrow, "Have what?"

"A boyfriend."

Sebastian shook his head, "Not that I know of." He stared at his spoon as he stirred his tea, then glanced up at her nervously.

"Do you?"



Two weeks later, after confessing to a crush that had started long before Lennert Veldjen and the rugby ball, he kissed her for the first time.

She had looked at him in shock, and his face had immediately reddened with embarrassment. Before he could apologize, she ran past him and hid in her room.

He had tasted like cinnamon sugar, and she could taste him on her lips even when the actual kiss had been long past.

Seeing her at school the next day, Markus smirked and asked what it was exactly that could make Katrijn Martens smile for the entire day. He suggested she keep it up, as it vastly improved her appearance.

When Sebastian arrived for the next tutoring session, awkward and apologetic, she was the one who kissed him.



She was on fire. Every molecule in her body begged him to touch her, to pull her closer, even though nothing about this could last.

"This is against the law," she whispered into his mouth as he pulled her head to his. They were at the kitchen table, trigonometry completely forgotten as she straddled him on the vinyl chair.

"Haven't you been listening to your sister?" he chuckled, kissing down the line of her neck, "the law is bloody wrong."

Sofie was with her grandparents. She had been visiting them a lot more recently over the past few months.

Katrijn wondered if this hadn't been her plan all along.

But it was working, because when she and Sebastian found themselves twined around each other more tightly than they had ever been before in the small room that she and Sofie shared, there was no one home to stop them.

With a sudden motion, Katrijn brazenly stripped off her top. It didn't matter if this was doomed from the start, that boys like him never stuck around, just left girls pregnant with more little coloured, Maldorian versions of themselves.

She wanted him too much to care what happened in the end.

Sebastian gently pushed her away and stared at the ground, refusing to look.

"Don't you want me?" she hissed, voice bitter with regret. She sat heavily on the bed next to him and crossed her arms over her chest, feeling like a complete fool.

But when he looked up, it was obvious how very, very much he did.

"I want you to know I'm not doing this just to do it, Katrijn."

He was going to do this again, she just knew it, "Sebastian, don't. Don't even say it. You know how things are, how they're always going to be. We're kids fooling around, that's all that–"

"Katrijn, I love you."

She bit the side of her cheek to mute the feeling of joy that swelled in her heart, despite herself. "Stop it."

He shook his head firmly. "I won't, because it's true."

"Don't expect me to say it back," she whispered, staring at the ground. His shoes were on top of hers in a pile. They were just shoes. Nothing made his any different from hers. They were just shoes, and they were given more rights than she was.

"I don't," he smiled sadly, catching her eye.

She kissed him to keep him from saying any more.

He was so nervous when their bodies came together that he trembled, his big hands shaking as he gently touched her face.

It stung at first, she had never done this with anyone before, and he didn't last long at all.

But afterwards, when he looked at her with such desperate adoration that her heart clenched, she abruptly felt terrified about how this would end for reasons that scared her even more than the grim possible future itself.



One night, Sofie didn't come home, even when the "tutoring" session was long over. When Katrijn called her grandmother, the woman was at first dismissive, and then terrified. Her granddaughter had visited earlier that evening, then left, saying she was going to visit "some blerrie coloured girl named Flower." Katrijn hung up in the middle of the woman's tirade about how dangerous it was for a girl of Sofie’s "quality" to be visiting a Maldorian neighborhood.

She ran the entire two and a half kilometers to Markus’ house, Sebastian in tow, but when they arrived, Saar shook her head nervously, particularly uncomfortable at the sight of a large, white man that loomed over her as he waited at the door frame.

"She's n-n-not here. I th-th-think she went to a rally over where the workers m-m-meet in the industrial district. I told M-M-Markus as soon as he–"

The sound of sirens cut her off.

Katrijn ran, completely forgetting about Sebastian.

The first person she saw in the mostly deserted industrial district was Papris, Markus’ seventeen-year-old brother. He was leaning against the corrugated steel side of a warehouse, smoking reefer. Inside, a man could be heard making an impassioned speech.

"Sofie’s at home," he blew smoke through his gaping front teeth. "Markus found her 'bout a half hour ago and pretty much drug her away. She's fine with him. Don't worry. Take your kêrel and go home. Things about to get fokin' messy. There's government people spyin' on our meeting 'bout to get what's comin'."

She heaved huge gasping sighs and Sebastian, who had been by her side the entire time, pulled her close to him and tried to calm her down. Sofie was safe, that was all that mattered, but the fact remained that she was still in a doomed relationship with a boy whom it was illegal to even touch. After running through town like that, there was no question that someone had seen them both. They were on borrowed time. And the longer things lasted, the worse the ending would be for her, for him, and even for Sofie.

There was only one way to protect them all, and that was what she had tried to do in the first place. Stay quiet, unnoticeable. Stay to herself.

From inside the long building, shots ran out. The crowd that had gathered began rushing the exits. Some were leaving the warehouse in terrified panic, headed to their homes to lock the doors (those that had doors) behind them, others were pulling handmade weapons from the folds of their clothing with grim delight.

"Let's get out of here," Sebastian muttered, pulling Katrijn by the hand, but not before she saw Papris pull a handgun from the belt of his pants.

The shabby industrial neighborhood erupted in violence as they ran, hand in hand, looking for some shelter. Their way back to the coloured and white districts was blocked by the bulk of the violence, so they headed deeper into the industrial district, weaving through the maze of tiny roads in between shacks. They finally found something, an abandoned ramshackle warehouse. It was on the verge of collapse, but was also untouched by the fires that seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. It was little other than a cave of safety against the chaos that surrounded them, but it was something, and Sebastian broke down the door with ease.

Inside, Katrijn fell back against the far wall, put her head in her hands and tried to hold herself together. She was a disheveled mess. As they had escaped the riot, her tee shirt had gotten torn. It hung off her shoulder, ripped down the neck. Sebastian wrapped her in his arms and leaned his forehead against hers.

"It's okay. We're safe. Sofie’s safe" he sighed, his breath sour with fear. He seemed more shaken by the fact that she was so upset than the fact that industrial grounds were burning around them. But he hadn't seen what she saw on a regular basis. He was safe behind the walls and dom pas laws. No one told him what jobs he couldn't have and places he couldn't go to eat or buy food. He wasn't offending anyone by merely existing in a place where it was deemed she shouldn't. If something went wrong, his government -the Shalumite government- would protect him.

Unless, of course, what was wrong was him wanting to marry a girl who wasn't white.

She never cried. There was no reason. She had dealt with this injustice all her life. It didn't matter, she had accepted it a long time ago. Acceptance was the only way to survive. At least it had been, until the way things were started to really threaten the people she cared about. People who would be safe if they didn't decide to involve themselves with her. To take her side. She hadn't asked for this. She hadn't even asked to be born. But she had been, and everyone around her was stained by her existence.

"You know, we've never been out in public together," Sebastian tried to joke. "I think this might actually be our first date. Little much on the candlelight, I think. We really should complain to the management.”

His attempt at humor broke her. Her sobs began and then increased in volume, until he had to press her against the corrugated steel in order to keep her from falling over. He muttered soft comforting things that she could barely understand over the strangled sound of her weeping.

"We can't do this!" she cried out, trying to push him away, growing frantic in her hysteria. "Not anymore! You see how it is. We have no future, Sebastian. Nothing! I am going to ruin your life."

Sebastian gently but firmly grasped her flailing wrists and pinned them above her, trying to calm her down. "Katrijn, not now, okay?" he murmured almost inaudibly. "Just relax, you need to relax. We can talk about this when we're safe. But this is not on you. You are perfect, okay? I love you."

"NO!" she wailed, trying to push him away and pull her to him all at the same time. He needed to go. Just leave her alone. But he wouldn't. He held her up, solid as a rock but softly, gently, as though she might break otherwise, as she struggled hysterically against him.

"Get off her, maafoedi," a familiar voice behind them snarled threateningly.

"Go to hell," Sebastian gruffly shouted without even turning. He pulled Katrijn tighter to himself in a protective gesture.

As he did, his body went stiff, and he made a choked noise. Coming out of her hysterical fog, Katrijn lifted her head to try to understand what was going on.

It was Markus.

Katrijn saw the flames flicker in his grey eyes as his face loomed close to Sebastian’s. He was insane with rage, and she didn't understand. What could possibly be wrong? Markus had never even seen Sebastian before. He didn't know him at all.

Then he stepped back, yanking hard to pull out the long, combat-looking knife he had thrust in Sebastian’s side.

The blond boy slid to the ground.

"You think you can just do this?" he spat in fury. "Have your way with our girls when they don't want you? Like they're not people? Well you can't! We won't let you." His dark skin shone in the light from the fires that flickered from the door. "They're not worthless. You're fooking worthless."

She slid down the wall, eyes wide, completely unsure of what had happened.

"Run Katrijn, quick. I'll take care of him. You don't have to worry. Sofie’s safe and now so are you."

The ground was dusty. Fragments of broken glass cut into her fingers as she crawled to Sebastian's side.

"Markus...what have you done?" she whispered raggedly. Something slammed against the side of the warehouse outside and there was a shattering sound.

The rage drained out of Markus’ face, replaced by horrified realization.

"He… he was hurting you…"

Katrijn shook her head, lips curling in fury, "He was keeping me safe!"

Markus fell back against the wall, shaking his head frantically. "No… I… I was doing the right thing. I didn't… I thought…" he sputtered helplessly. The knife fell out of his hand and thudded in the dirt.

She ignored him, instead trying to roll Sebastian onto his back. He was trembling, blood spilling out of the ragged wound in his stomach as she laid his head in her lap.

"You know, for a first date, this is pretty awful," he murmured, reaching up to push a hair out of her face. "You still look beautiful, though. Flames suit you."

"Go get an ambulance," Katrijn hissed across the room at Markus. "Tell them he's white. I don't care what else you tell them, but get help NOW!"

He paused for only a moment before he ran.

Sebastian shuddered in her arms and his eyelids fluttered closed. Katrijn shook him violently.

"Stay with me!" she nearly screamed.

His eyelids flew open and he quietly coughed out something that she couldn't quite make out.

She pushed his sweat-soaked hair off of his trembling forehead and babbled about trigonometry, Sofie’s new shoes, anything and everything that she could possibly think of, but his skin grew colder and colder and his trembling grew worse. The shattering sound earlier had been a homemade fire bomb. Since then, there had been more, and the building was beginning to burn around them.

"Katrijn…" he whispered weakly, interrupting her. "You need to run. This building is going to collapse soon."

She ignored him and kept talking, telling him about the day that she and Sofie had found an abandoned kitten in the gutter and tried to give it a bath when they brought it home. He slowly lifted his hand and covered her mouth.

"You have to go," he insisted finally.

Katrijn shook her head, "Then I'll bring you with me."

"We both know you can't."

"Then we'll wait for Markus and the ambulance. He'll be back. I know he will. He didn't… he didn't mean it," she closed her throat around the sobs that threatened to choke her again.

"Katrijn...if he comes, he comes. But you need to be safe. Please, just go. For me."

"I'm not leaving you!."

With a burst of strength, he pushed her as hard as he could, sending her sliding across the floor

"Go now!" His eyes were wild, mad, and tears made thick lines through the smudged dirt on his pale cheeks.

But Katrijn crawled across the dirt and lay her head on his chest.

"If I do, promise me that you'll stay awake. Promise me!"

"I promise," he chuckled faintly, "you have to pass trigonometry, after all. I just couldn't live with myself otherwise."

She was halfway to the exit when the entry wall collapsed. The building groaned and twisted around itself.

There was no way out.

"What was that noise?" Sebastian asked as she kneeled next to him. His lips were turning blue and the pool of blood on the ground looked large enough to swim in.

"It's nothing," she smiled down at him, stroking his forehead before she lay by his side and wrapped her arms around him, "just the ambulance coming."

He was so far gone, he believed her, nuzzling into her side with the little energy he had.

"Katrijn?" he asked, as the heat around them grew.

"Yes, Sebastian?"

There was a long pause.

"You love me, don't you? You never say… but… I swear it's real."

She closed her eyes against the tears. “It's real." She promised him quietly.

Markus was too late. Trying to bring an ambulance to the center of a shanty-town was difficult under the best of circumstances, and nearly impossible in a riot. When he finally arrived, there was nothing but the charred husk of a building. The police found their bodies, wrapped around each other like victims from the explosion of Vesuvius.

With the knowledge that he had become that which he most despised, a destroyer of innocent lives, Markus turned himself in.

No coloured man who admitted to killing a white man could expect an easy sentence.

He was sent to to an Imperial Prison south of Concordia in May of 1982. The papers were surprised he hadn't been executed.

There was a man there. A man with a violent past and a fervent a desire for freedom. A man who also felt that the blood of innocents stained his own hands. He found Markus one day in a black despair, full of rage over the great injustice that had led him to destroy his own life, and the terrible guilt over his own actions. They spoke, for a time, about the tangled good intentions that had led them both to their own imprisonment.

Markus swore that if he were ever released, nothing in the world would stop him from destroying the white men who led him to this place. The man smiled sadly and told him that his resentment was like a glass of poison that he drank himself as he waited for his enemy to die. That the only way to a new a new Maldorian, a new Shalum, was forgiveness from every man, to every man.

For there was much for all to forgive.

Eight years later, when the man, Kophi Donsowar, was released from prison, Markus felt something akin to hope for the first time in his life.
Conscription is the vitality of a nation, the purification of its morality, and the real foundations of all its habits.

It is better to be a warrior in a garden then to be a gardener in a war.

User avatar
Azurlavai
Diplomat
 
Posts: 618
Founded: Aug 29, 2013
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Azurlavai » Fri Jun 17, 2016 4:32 am

The 1st Great Border War was the first industrialized conflict between Shalum and Azurlavai. From 1924 to 1928, the grinding battle of attrition highlighted how technology had bounded far beyond tactics, and how the military might of both sides had to realign their thinking. By 1928, war had changed completely, and both nations walked away having gained nothing.

For Azurlavai, the losses were especially catastrophic. On top of an entire generation of Azurlav men and women who had been killed, crippled or lost to the fighting, the revolution that cast down the Norse Republic and established the new fascist order combined with economic sanctions and war reparations pushed the country into the worst depression in known history. Through all of this, crime, poverty and a general sense of helplessness ran rampant through the streets of every major city in the nation.



Ironwerks District
Schmeidesse, Rheinmetall State
August 5th, 1931 CE


“Okay, shift’s over! Everyone, go home!”

The factory’s whistle connected to the clock had gone out weeks ago, and the various bells round the floor weren’t loud enough to be heard properly over the din of assembling automobiles. Fortunately, the foreman and managers were locals, they’d worked their way up from the bottom too and knew the importance of calling out the shift ends to their boys and girls. Mattias Garloff leaned back, sighing out as he pulled his goggles up, shutting off his rivet gun. Another day done, another shift finished. He racked the gun in its station, grabbed his jacket and moved for the door as he felt his joints aching. Eleven hours was a long damned time to be working in this sweat shop, though from what he’d heard the local labor union was attempting to fix that. He almost hoped they would, but how would he get by with fewer hours?

“Hey, stranger,” said a voice near him, and Mattias glanced over, spotting his closest friend Abeline Veder. She was a bit younger than him at seventeen to his nineteen, but the two had been thicker than thieves since before he could remember. First neighbors, then accidental flatmates when his parents had died of polio. She’d written to him when he’d gone to the Great Border War in ’27 for the last year and a half of it, then his flatmate again when he’d come home and discovered Mister and Missus Veder had died in an automobile accident, of all things. Those were rare enough, and usually only caused a few injuries here and there. After, the two of them had worked odd jobs to get by, and the auto factory was the latest one for them both. Gods only knew how long this one would last.

Mattias and Abeline strode out of the factory compound itself, feeling the August chill roll over them. The smoke clouds over Schmeidesse kept the city relatively warm, but when the winds kicked up, the breeze rolled down the roads, reminding everyone that there was indeed weather out there. Summer had already come and gone, and they were on the rapid fall to Autumn. But when the smog rolled back in, the streets were warm again, and one could almost go without long sleeves out here. The paved avenues, ragged and cracked from poor maintenance after heavy trucks kept rolling through, held host to massive amounts of other traffic, namely foot and horse. In this day and age, it was far too expensive to purchase an automobile, and sometimes Mattias had to wonder where they all went. No one in the Ironwerks district was buying them, for sure.

“We have a little extra stashed away,” Abilene was saying as the moved out onto Main Street, where traffic really picked up after the back roads leading to the foundries and workshops. “I say we treat ourselves to some hamburgers!”

“Meat’s pretty pricey these days,” Mattias grunted back, blowing a lock of black hair out of his eyes. “Hamburgers are up to almost a whole centra.” They moved past a soup kitchen, its doors constantly open as the soup and bread line extended out past the building and around the corner, full of tired and hungry looking men and women. It was even worse at the Employment offices, with the state desperately trying to find people jobs that wouldn’t get cut in a few weeks to save someone’s floundering company.

“I know, but it’s only gonna get worse. Sides, I wanna treat that tastes better than those ten pence candies at the store. That stuff’s dis-gus-ting!” The last word was singsong, and Mattias noticed she was practically bouncing on her heels at this point. Still tired from his shift, he couldn’t help but be jealous.

“How are you always this peppy?”

“I’m getting laid.”

Normally, such a statement would have shocked someone else, but Mattias knew Abilene. And also knew that she was totally full of it.

“You are not.”

“Yeah? How would you know?”

“Because we live together in a single room for rent. And you’re home every night. Where would you get the time or place to do it?”

“Maybe I’m screwing someone at the factory? Didja think of that?” Her eyes were alight with mischief, but he wasn’t fooled for a second.

“Abbie, your station is just down the belt from mine. I –see- you all day long. Besides, you wouldn’t be so high on the work roster if you weren’t busting your ass.”

“Maybe I –am-, and that’s –why- I’m so high on the roster!”

“Abbie…” Mattias groaned.

“Fine, why don’t you just suck all the fun out?” she stuck her tongue out at him, and he couldn’t help but laugh. She was too ridiculous at times.

Before they could talk further, however, the shop window in front of them shattered in a glorious explosion of glass, sending a man dressed in an apron flying into the street. A rider on a horse had to pull up fast, about to protest before he saw who came next and decided against it.

The door flew open, and two large, burly looking men emerged from the shop, one carrying a crowbar, another with some knuckledusters and a tough looking woman with a Kalt revolver in hand and a nasty scar on her face. They were all dressed in suits, and Mattias knew the looks of killers when he saw them. He’d spotted plenty on the Shalumite Front. Hell, they may even have been vets. Times like these, ex-military found little work outside of what they knew, which was between security, joining a mercenary company or turning to crime. And the local mafias were snapping up trained fighters left, right and center. The military didn’t care about genders anymore, and the families were quickly changing suit. Times were certainly changing.

“Okay, Hans. Let’s go over this again,” said the one with the knuckledusters, moving over to the shopkeeper, a butcher by his sign. “You’re gonna stop paying the Erlhatz, got it? The Lundgers are taking over, so you’ll pay –us-. Got it?”

“B-but they’ll come back!” Hans the butcher sputtered, blood flying off his moustache. “Dan Erlhatz said if I double-cross him, he’ll kill my family and burn my store down!”

“And if you –don’t-, we’ll kill you right here!” the goon spat, planting a shoe on Hans’ head and pressing down, hard. “Then I’ll go pay that pretty little wife and daughter of yours a visit! Maybe add a few siblings to the family, yeah?”

As the three criminals chuckled, Mattias slowly raised an arm, pulling Abilene behind him. It wasn’t that the girl knew how to take care of herself, but he’d seen firefights. They tended to spring up out of nowhere and go south fast.

Abruptly, a whistle blew shrilly, and a trio of blue uniforms emerged from the crowd of people trying not to look interested in what was going on. The police sergeant in the lead strode forward, and Mattias was surprised to see the white stripe of an MP on her epaulets. Since when had the Haer taken control of law enforcement in civilian society?

“Alright, break it up! What’s this about?”

Quickly, the goons backed off, the ringleader even helping Hans into a sitting position before the cops got a good look at what was happening.

“Oh, officers! Thank Odin you’re here! He must have blessed you with Sleipnir’s speed to have gotten here so fast!”

“Can the crap!” said one of the MPs, baton in a white-gloved hand. “Why are you brutalizing this man?”

“Brutalizing?” The goon looked passably confused. “You’ve got me all wrong! It was the Erlhatz! There were a bunch of them harassing this man, threatening his family and his store! Why, they tossed him out a window before we could intervene, and they took off soon as we showed up!”

“And, being civic-minded citizens, you stopped and helped him, that right?” snarled the female sergeant in the lead.

“Of course!” said the lead goon, placing a supporting hand on Hans’ shoulder. “What else would we be doing here?”

As they watched, Mattias spotted on of the goons ‘accidentally’ drop his hat. It landed next to one of the cops, who instinctively picked it up, handing it back rather forcefully. The thug took it, nodding his thanks, but as Mattias watched, a sizable stack of paper bills slipped from one to the other, and the cop leaned over to his sergeant, whispering something in her ear. The sergeant looked alerted, then hmphed, glaring down at the goon, glancing around before her eyes fell on Hans.

“You sir…these men were helping you?” She tilted her head, eyes narrowed, and Hans seemed to understand that his protectors had been bought out. He gulped before nodding sorrowfully, knowing he had no other choice than to agree. “Y-yes Sergeant.”

“Right,” said the officer, glancing around at the crowd. “Since I see nothing out of place here aside from a broken window and a beaten shopkeeper, we’ve got some Elrhatz boys to hunt. Karl, go get the shotguns from the van. Jan, I need you to call this up the line, make sure HQ is aware there’s no problem here. Let’s make it happen, boys!”

Slowly, the crowd dispersed, but over the murmuring, Mattias saw Hans nod sadly to the goons, then pull out a small wad of crumpled bills from his pocket. The goon looked disgusted, but pocketed the meager amount, standing and gesturing to his men. They left Hans there, bloodied, with a broken window, empty pockets and battered pride, hanging his head in shame.

Mattias and Abilene went the rest of the way to their room in silence. They didn’t stop for hamburgers or candy or anything. After that all too-brutal reminder on top of everything else today, the life around them had been thrust back into their reality.

That night, Mattias made soup on the beaten up gas stove in the corner. A dirty pot full of some sludge the label promised was chipped beef, but looked more like vomit. That was okay to him, better than the canned rations he’d eaten on the front. Abilene usually complained, but tonight she was silent, reading the newspaper at the table in the middle of their room for rent, under a single hanging, bare light bulb.

He scooped the sludge into two faded bowls, hefting them over to the table and placing one down on each end. To this, he added a slice each of tough bread and a glass of powdered milk. They ate in silence, him staring at his bowl, her glancing out the window, listening to the busy streets below, still bustling even after sundown. The old stigmas and prejudices about single women living with men were long gone, thrown out the window during the Sufferage movements of the mid 1800s. Women had been an important part of Azurlav society since the beginning of civilization, and stories coming through about parts of the world where women couldn’t serve in the military, couldn’t work in a factory, couldn’t even vote or own property came as a shock to both Mattias and Abilene. It was alien, in this day and age, to think anywhere could treat their women like that. But, for some reason, that was the case in many places of Tyran.

Abruptly, Abilene looked straight at Mattias. “What was it like? The war?”

He looked up, startled. She’d only ever asked him that question one time, and he had refused. For that topic of all things to come in out of the blue, breaking the silence they’d held all night was quite strange to him, and he needed a second to collect his thoughts. They’d run all over the place, after all.

“Well…it wasn’t nice. A different kind of not nice than here. Over There, you don’t have to worry so much about your job, or if you pull another shift, or how much bread is going to cost. Over There, you sit in a muddy trench all day long while you hear tanks dueling out beyond the lines. Sometimes there’ll be an air battle overhead, and you’ll get to watch it. That’s really something…other times, you’re told its time to move out, and you have to get up, load into a truck and drive down the road to the next battle. Some of the lucky guys got into something we called a halftrack. It’s got wheels and treads both, so it’s fast but doesn’t get caught in the mud, and it’s also much tougher than a truck. Those guys were sent to the worst of the fighting with the tanks, but at least they were better protected. I had a rifle. Some guys had machine guns, shotguns. If you were lucky, you got a ’38 so you could at least let rip and keep running.”

He paused, his face sobering up.

“And then sometimes you move up through a battlezone to reinforce a fight in progress. And you move past the aid stations, full of the wounded. The medics are trying their best to treat them all, but there are so many. Boys and girls both, screaming for their mothers and fathers. Just kids, really. All of us were just kids. And then you get past the aid station and you move into the killing grounds, and there’s bodies –everywhere-. Corpses can’t be helped, they can be recovered when the fighting’s done. Bloated, rotting in the sun and mud, missing limbs, some of ‘em can’t even be identified as man or woman, much less Azurlav or Shalumite. Some of them are being eaten by rats, birds, dogs…”

He hesitated again, looking up at Abilene. She was watching him with rapt attention, eyes focused intensely on his face. Mattias gulped, taking a breath before moving on.

“Every time an attack is called, there’s a barrage before it. Early on, some of the lads told me we used to hunker down in trenches, both sides. Just shoot each other and charge every once in a while. But when tanks and planes started getting deployed, that changed. But the artillery always comes first. If you’re attacking, you’re hunkered down in a foxhole, listening to the shells in spitting distance, praying to the Gods the gunners didn’t get the coordinates wrong and you don’t become a friendly fire statistic. Then you move up. Rifle ready, standard file line, use the battlefield for cover. If it’s a trench, you call up the guys with the grenades and the rifle launchers. If it’s a town, you have to get to a building as fast as possible so you can start clearing it. But either way, when you see the enemy, he’s right up in your face.”

Out of reflex, he took a drink from his milk, feeling sweat on his forehead.

“Shalumites aren’t so different, after all. They use bolt rifles, bayonets, machine guns and grenades, just like us. They fight like us, down to the last inch; even if it’s just their teeth and a spade they got left. When you get into hand-to-hand, that’s when it’s…”

He gulped, feeling himself shake. Mattias didn’t want to talk about this anymore. The scenes of chaotic combat kept whipping before his eyes like a frenzy.

But suddenly, he felt her arms around him, and Mattias glanced up to find Abilene pressed up against him, staring right back into his eyes. Most people, when they heard he was a veteran, looked at him with pity. But all he saw in Abilene’s gaze was sadness. Sympathetic sadness. Life here, in these years, was no different than life in the trenches, he realized. He’d never left the war, three years ago. It had followed him home.

He hugged her back, taking a deep whiff of her scent. If Mattias still had a war to fight, then he was damned glad he had such a dedicated battle-buddy to watch his back.
Last edited by Azurlavai on Fri Jun 17, 2016 7:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
*No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.
*If your positions are firmly set and you are prepared to take the enemy assault on, he will bypass you.
*If your ambush is properly set, the enemy won't walk into it.
*If your flank march is going well, the enemy expects you to outflank him.
~Murphy's Laws of War

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Democratic Socialists

Postby Shalum » Wed Jun 22, 2016 8:37 am

Frankfurt, The Duchy of Heneheim
The Empire of Shalum
December 20th, 1930


The stove was broken again. Third time this week, not that Isabelle really expected any less at this point. The little home she had made for her family was really nothing more than a side room in a tenement building. That's what Sutton, a measly neighborhood for factory workers, seated along the ridge of Frankfurt, was mainly full of. There were the occasional rickety brownstone houses that held a shift manager, but for the most part it was just workers crammed together like sardines.

Sutton was usually crawling with factory workers heading out to the morning shift at this early hour. Men and women with hunched shoulders, swollen knuckles, many who have long since stopped trying to scrub the dust out of their broken nails, or from the lines of their sunken faces. But today the black cinder streets were empty. Shutters on the squat gray houses were closed. Christmas was the one of the few rare holidays that the residents here got, and most spent every second with their relatives.

There are no presents under the tree. No peppermint sticks or an orange, just once, like there had been when Isabelle’s father had been alive. But her younger brother, Jakob, wouldn't be disappointed, not this year at least. He had learned not to expect much.

It had been just the two of them for the past two years. Well, them and the ball of fur that that was lying beside the rickety cot they called a bed, guarding Jakob, the world's ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Jakob named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower. He hates Isaebelle. Or at least distrusted her at the very least. Even though it had been years ago, she was sure that he remembered how she tried to drown him in a bucket when Jakob had brought him home.

Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing she had needed was another mouth to feed. But Jakob begged so hard, cried even, that Isabelle had to let him stay. It turned out alright in the end. Their mother got rid of the vermin and he was a born mouser. He would even catch the occasional rat. Sometimes, when Isabelle got a rare piece of meat, she would feed Buttercup the entrails. He had stopped hissing at her after a while.

Entrails. No hissing. This was the closest they would ever get to love.

It's well into the morning by the time Jakob woke up. There was once a time when the siblings would leap out of bed once they awoke on Christmas morning, greedily anxious for the treats our father had brought them. But now a morning full of sleep is more than enough to sate the pair.

It has been just the two of them for a while. Their father had passed before Isabelle’s twelfth birthday, burnt alive in some deathtrap the media had called a ‘tank.’ Their mother didn't do much else after he passed, but it got better, eventually. Sadly, pneumonia took her soon. One could blame it on poor living conditions and a lack of proper medical care, but her children would contend that her death was because of a broken heart.

Isabelle managed to keep her brother in school, but just barely. Jakob wanted to be go on to be a teacher someday. Sweet, innocent Jakob. He had no business in the factories, he was intelligent and had an actual shot in life. The least that Isabelle thought she could do was keep her brother in class, even if most children his age had long since been shipped off to the sweatshops.

Breakfast was dull, nothing more than the usual mash. Isabelle had tried to save for a bit of sugar and cinnamon, like she usually did around this time of year, but Jakob needed a new school smock and she was able to trade away the confections for what was needed.

The pair dressed quickly. Jakob in worn out pants and a black shirt, while Isabelle pulled on a blue length of fabric that had been her mother’s. It's was her best dress, the one she usually reserved for church and birthdays, but since she had pawned off her mother’s other clothing, Isabelle had started wearing it to work at the factory. There was no salvaging it from the dark fumes and dust that had accumulated over many long hours of strenuous work.

"Isabelle," Jakob said, his already small voice wavering as she slipped into her boots, "I can stick my toe through it this time."

The dark haired older sister sighed quietly. It would be a while before they could afford new boots, much less a patch for that matter. Wordlessly, she pulled some worn newspaper from the increasingly small stack on the shelf, carefully stuffing her brother’s shoes. She would have readily given up her own pair up to Jakob if she could have, but they simply wouldn’t have fit.

Money has been tight in the past few months. The landlord had raised the rents, the factory had been cutting down on hours. Isabelle had pawned practically everything of value at this point.

"You don't have to feel guilty, Isabelle," he placed her hand atop his sister’s, so patient, so knowing, "many have it worse. I'm thankful. Really."

When did my little brother become so grown up?

But she couldn’t help it. Isabelle wanted to give him something, so she offered the only thing that she could. "I know, Jakob. Perhaps we could stop by Blackburn’s Department Store?"

"Really," his face lit up. "Maybe we could go see the Christmas display! Rebecca’s mother brought her the other day, she said they have twenty velvet dresses and bustles so wide you could barely stand in them." While very much products for girls, he sounded interested in something so extravagant.

He meant the ones that were displayed in the windows. Beautiful dresses on mannequins, decorated with velvet polar bears or crystal 'snow' falling from above. A gimmick to bring people inside. They were even grander on Christmas and New Year's Day. When they visited the city’s square, Jakob would always drags his over to admire whatever was on display, through they would never be able to afford anything set up there. There's was so little beauty in their life, however, that Isabelle could not find it in herself to deny him something as small as this.

"Of course, Jakob," she replied with a smile, though it didn’t quite reach her eyes.

His eyes widened in wonder and she swings around to pull me in a hug, "Oh, Isabelle! Thank you!" He said with sheer delight. And for a moment she felt nothing more than a pang of guilt. What kind of sister was she if her brother got excited over just being able to look at pretty things?

It took them a while to get to the city’s downtown area. More than usual, really. In these parts of the city, where days off aren't such rare occasions, where fathers bring their kids to shop for trinkets and candies, the streets are littered with shiny faces and people in their best clothing.

It's beautiful, Isabelle had to admit. The city’s central avenue was always bustling with excitement, it was almost a treat to be surrounded by such pretty things and happy moods. But this wasn’t their part of town. She know better. But regardless, Jakob always wanted to stop and look at the department store windows.

Blackburn’s is a luxury shop along Central Avenue. Although, shop was certainly not the right word for it. Department Stores is what they called them these days, the type of place that has a whole floor just for ladies' hats or a whole floor of just men’s pants. Bridget, the girl that lived across from Isabelle and Jakob in Sutton, claimed that they've had them back in Aragon at least a decade.

The department store was packed to say the least. It's ten floors of perfectly manicured light brick, even the name, Blackburn’s seemed to beam across the floor in those bright, uniform gold letters. The young brother and sister stood out just a little, but there were enough people here today that none of the store clerks downright shooed them away.

This year, instead of polar bears or crystal snow, the main display was a little more natural. There's was a girl, a beautifully painted mannequin with a simple braid and a gorgeous dark green gown that had to have flowed at least ten feet. She was standing in what had to have been a fairytale wonderland. Around her was a beautiful 'forest' of silk scarves and paste jewels, an enchanted cottage detailed with gold. It was the most tasteful of the displays, without a doubt, and Isabelle couldn’t help but wonder who designed it.

Jakob spent a great time admiring all the displays, an antagonizing time, really. The pair of siblings ended up circling the building twice before he was finally satisfied.

The inside of Blackburn’s was just as fascinating to Jakob as the displays. Racks of bright pre-made clothing, rows upon rows of hats, he even spent time admiring the ties. There was something about the endlessness of it that was comforting to Isabelle, if not the slightest bit revolting. He best friend from the factory said that it was despicable .For there to be so much splendor when so many of the country’s citizens were starving. But that didn’t make it any less enchanting. In the Ladies' Wear section of the store there was a whole room, the size of Isabelle’s entire apartment floor, just for sleeve laces. And with all the drudgery that was in her life, she couldn’t help but marvel in it just the slightest bit.

And around that time, as she meandered into the line that divided the men from women’s area, she saw them.

They were displayed callously in the open. Black leather boots, exactly Jakob’s size. Nothing fancy, but nothing she could ever hope to afford. The were just in her reach, all tempting the young woman. She couldn’t help but wonder she just reached out and slipped them into her bag. Nobody would even notice, and it wouldn't be like stealing from a local shoemaker. It would barely make a dent in the department store's profits. With the flurry of people bustling through the store at this hour? Surely, she wouldn't be caught.

So I reach out and touch them, just touch them, running her fingers along the smooth material. She waited for a moment, just to see if a clerk would spot her, scream for the Sutton-hailing girl to get away from her wares. But nobody did, much less gave her a second glance.

Isabelle glanced over to her left. Jakob was busily occupied on the other side of the room, admiring the wallets they have for sale. He would never even have to know. She could tell him that she found an old ring of their mother's, or that she picked up a new shift at the factory. Jakob wouldn't suspect otherwise, he was too trusting. And oh, to see the look on her brother’s face! How proud would he be? To wear a brand new pair of bright patent leather shoes?

Isabelle didn’t even think about it when she finally did it. She just reached out and grabbed them, shoving the shoes into her bag.

Nobody even gave her a second glance.

There was nothing that could quite describe the relief that she felt wash over her as she went over to Jakob, nobody the wiser to the stolen merchandise hiding in her bag. It was wrong, she knew it. But what else was she to do?

Ideally, Isabelle would have liked to leave as soon as possible, the contraband is practically burning through the bag and into her side. She was anxious, of course, but what would she tell Jakob without arousing suspicion? So, the girl let her brother wander around a bit, indulge in his fantasies of a better life. Letting him tell her what he was going to buy 'when he was a teacher'.

And then she heard it.

"It's her! The Sutton brat right there! Thief, thief!" The frantic urges of a store clerk bellowed through the room, and at first, Isabelle tried to make an exit, pulling on her brother’s sleeve, trying to get out of there as quickly as possible.

But somebody, a pudgy bald security guard, stopped her. "Hey there, missy, where do you think you're going?" He snarled as he got close to her.

"I didn't do anything!" Isabelle cried, pulling her hands away from the man.

He growled impatiently. "Empty your pockets, girl." By now, everyone was staring at the spectacle.

"I didn't do anything wrong." She protested, trying once again to get him off of her.

She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t even look at her brother, who stood close to her.

Isabelle must have waited too long for the security guard’s patience, because he quickly at her bag, a cruel smile on his face as he pulled out two new patent leather boots with Blackburn's stamped on the soles. "Just like I thought." He tried to pull at her hands so that he could wrangle her into compliance, something that caused her 'fight or flight' reflexes to kick in, causing Isabelle to shove the guard away from her.

That landed her face down on the ground, the guard’s sweaty elbows digging into her back. She closed her eyes, wincing in pain, only brought out of the haze as she heard-

"Wait, wait! Dear god, don't hurt that girl." The voice stood out among the murmurs of the crowd, an authoritative infection evident in it. And suddenly, there's was a hand, pulling the young woman up, carefully sitting her against the smooth glass of the counter.

And when Isabelle looked up, she couldn’t help but startle slightly, never able to meet the man’s compassionate gaze. She knew the sandy blonde hair, the piercing green eyes, the powerful but gentle hands on her shoulders.

None other than Count Marek Blackburn, the next Duke of the Duchy, and owner of this department store. He did not look angry, or even disgruntled by her sorry appearance, or worn out clothing. No, he just looked sad for her, sympathetic though he had never worried about a meal or been in need of new clothing. “Come on, let’s go to my office and see if we can work this out,” he sighed quietly, before hauling her to her feet. Looking at the crowd, he made a sound of annoyance. “Go on, there is nothing to see here. This is just a misunderstanding!”



Aragon, The Duchy of Haford
The Empire of Shalum
September, 1929


The clock struck 5:00 and a light bell rang through the corridors. Elisabeth looked up from the wires and small metal pieces all around her workstation and cracked the cracked her knuckles. Another day, another week gone by, another paycheck. Reaching down, she slipped on her shoes that she had kicked under her stool hours ago, and grabbed her bag and hat. While everyone got a locker, she didn’t put it beyond her creepy boss to take the master key and go through her things.

"Thank God today's over," She heard one the girls say as she packed up her own workstation. "I can't wait until I meet someone and can finally leave this job!"

Her brunette friend nodded. "I know. Did you hear about Freida? Nico Homann -finally- popped the question, and they're getting married next month! And her dress is just divine…" The young woman went on to describe some ridiculous combination of silk and lace in a dreamy voice, and Elisabeth was more than was happy to ignore her. Freida was just another example of a coworker biting the dust and surrendering to domestic life.

Elisabeth didn't mind the work. She actually looked forward to it every morning when she woke up, felt pride from it. Or at least, she had used to. She had originally hired to weld truck parts of the Imperial Army, at least before she had been moved up to a tank assembly line. She literally reveled in the importance of her work, grinning behind her welding mask as sparks flew before her eyes. For the past three years, she had been doing a man's job, earning a man's salary, and providing a decent lifestyle for her family. But now that the war was over, the excitement of making war equipment was long gone. They were now making generic old house phones, and she was demoted (or, as Imperial Electric management called it, "relocated") to an all-woman's workroom, where her "little hands" were better suited for small equipment. As more men came home, her pay was cut, her hours shortened, ("Got to give the boys their jobs back, ladies") and she was told to "dress properly" – in a skirt or dress, not the comfortable overalls they had been used to ("Let's remind the boys what they were fighting for!"). Elisabeth watched more and more women leave their jobs, either to go back to being housewives, or, as many put it, to "find a nice soldier and marry him." She couldn’t help but laugh under her breath at that last thought. She had no plans of ever getting married, and that bastard Richard Wasserman would have to come down from his top floor office to fire her, before she would ever so much as consider quitting.

As Elisabeth walked out of the elevator, she saw her good friend Lena emerge from another. The new woman slipped her arm through Elisabeth’s as they walked out under the giant Imperial Electric sign that hung over the doorway, venting its thousands of workers into the city streets. "It's Friday night! What-cha doing tonight, Lizze-beth?" she sang to me in her sweet voice.

The blonde Shalumite glanced at her brown-haired compatriot, a knowing smile creasing her lips. She knew exactly where this was going. "First of all, don't call me Lizze-beth, and second, I'm going home to read a good book and -not- going on your date as a wingman."

Lena laughed, her reddish-brown curls bouncing down her back. "Alright, Elisabeth. Is this because of Leon? I swear, Daniel told me he was a nice guy! He goes to confession every Saturday and everything."

Elisabeth snorted. "Did Daniel mention that he liked to grope girls on the train? Did he tell his priest -that- one? I'm sorry, Lena, but I'm not falling for another blind date. You'll just have to find someone else to set up with Daniel’s lousy bar friends."

Elisabeth started walking a little faster towards the corner, thinking that if she didn’t catch the first bus, she would have to wait half an hour along with the crowd of other workers. And during that time, Lena would -without a doubt- convince her to go on a date with whatever guy it was this week.

"Wait, Elisabeth, wait, this one's different." The woman in question simply gave her friend a I-don't-believe-it kind of glance. "No really, he grew up with Daniel. He just got back from the southern front like a week ago."

"Great, so he's all battered and traumatized? I'm not playing nurse to a broken soldier." Elisabeth could hear the words coming out as she said them, and she knew that they sounded crass and rude, perhaps even cruel. But on the other hand, she knew too many boys from the neighborhood that came back broken men, unable to sleep, afraid of fireworks, yelling at their mothers at the dinner table for so little as the dropping of a couple of plates. She knew, of course, that it wasn't their fault, and that whatever happened over there must have been terrible. For a second, Elisabeth’s thoughts went to one neighborhood boy that didn't come home at all, but she quickly shook that thought away.

"Lizzie, he's fine. Really, he's been down helping out with former POWs and treating the wounded on both who couldn’t get proper medical care when supplies were running low. He's a combat doctor. They made him stay to help out with the recovery effort. He's a war hero, you know. Written up in the paper and everything."

Even better, a war hero. Someone who would brag about their good deeds on the battlefield and wear their medal around town. "Good for him, I'm glad he came home. Not my problem, though." Elisabeth replied, and gave her friend an indifferent shrug.

"Come on, sweetheart," Lena cooed as she rested her head on my on the shoulder of her closest female friend. Elisabeth silently panicked, Lena really was pulling out all of the stops this time. "Please, for me? You do owe me, you know?"

Shit, she did owe Lena, for better or worse. A few weeks ago, her brother Peter had gotten sick and needed to be picked up from school. The school had called her manager at work, and she immediately received an evil glare from him because of that. Elisabeth was terrified to leave work early, especially after being "relocated" and my paycheck cut. Girls were getting fired left and right for the littlest offenses, like talking too much or going to the bathroom more than once a day. Lena knew how important the job was to Elisabeth, and how much her friend worried about her brother’s health. So when Elisabeth told Lena of her problem, her friend had walked right up to their manager Mr. Winter, and told him, loudly, that she had "women's problems" and that she needed to have sick time immediately. Winter, forever disgusted and fearful of women and their monthly "problem," sent her off straight away with a warning to "don't let it happen again." The girls all snickered at the thought of being able to control their menstrual cycles, and Lena had winked at Elisabeth as she walked off. When she had gotten home, Lena was still tending to Peter, wiping his brow with a washcloth and making him smile with stories of how she met her fiancée Daniel at the beach, and how handsome he looked in his Navy uniform, and of course how charming he was.

Elisabeth really did owe her. Double shit.

"Fine," she finally sighed in reply. Lena bounced up and down and clapped her hands. "Where and when?"

"Umm, the Aragon," Lena practically whispered as she turned her head away from me.

A bus pulled up, but Elisabeth didn't even bother fighting the crowd to get on. "What?! The Aragon? Are you kidding me? Lena, I'm not going dancing." The Aragon was a spectacular ballroom on the North Side, ridiculously extravagant, loud, overcrowded, and, worst of all, required dancing. Something the young woman had not even the slightest interest in.

"Come on, Elisabeth, please? I promise you, you don't have to dance. Just come with us and have a few drinks-"

"I don't drink."

"Fine, then have a soda, it doesn't matter!" The redhead shot back,

"I have nothing to wear," the blonde tried to argue. The girls at work were always talking about going to the city's many ballrooms, and how they saved their paychecks to pay for the dresses, shoes, and hairstyles required to fit in. They didn't have to turn over their entire paycheck to the landlord or grocer like Elisabeth did. Because of that, she had no dancing shoes, no fancy dress, and no knowledge of fixing her hair in anything but my simple braid. The Aragon was no place for an overworked, underpaid woman like her.

"You can wear that blue dress of your mom's. Just add some jewelry and you'll be fine. I promise, you'll like him. And if you don't, I'll buy you lunch all next week."

Elisabeth looked at her friend from the corner of my eye. "You swear I don't have to dance?"

"Swear."

"And Daniel will bust his nose if he touches me?"

"Scout's honor," Lena promised, holding up three fingers.

The blonde sighed dramatically. "Alright then. I'll go." She started towards the bus and pushed her way up onto the steps.

"Eight o'clock, and don't be late. Oh, and Elisabeth? Curl your hair!" Lena shouted right before the doors closed. Her friend gaped at her as the bus drove off and she waved, smiling at Elisabeth. Curl her hair?

She was in trouble.
Conscription is the vitality of a nation, the purification of its morality, and the real foundations of all its habits.

It is better to be a warrior in a garden then to be a gardener in a war.

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Nalaya
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Founded: Jul 02, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Nalaya » Fri Jul 08, 2016 12:55 am

Warning: Contains Mature Content


Dyon G’ennivalz
Homeland-Highland Border, Nalaya
21 April 1995


It’s always spirits with you people, Imasdun thought bitterly as he pulled on his boots, kicking over an empty bottle of the local rotgut in the process. He pulled on his coat well before he got to the door with his rifle. It was a battered old assault rifle of some foreign make. He didn’t even know the name, but he knew that when he pulled the trigger, it would go bang. It could barely hit the broadside of a barn with the ammo being what it was in this part of the country, but the law of averages could still be used. Besides, Imasdun didn’t really like killing people. It was his job more often than not, but he didn’t like it. He called after the woman who had disrupted his sleep at 0300, “God damn it, T’riss, will you give me a little more to go off of than this spirit bullshit!”

There was no rhyme or reason with her sometimes. It drove him crazy. Then again, if he’d wanted sane, he probably shouldn’t have tried finding it with the first Mak’ur priestess who walked his way. The problem was that he loved it as much as he hated it. The almost fey wildness to her, that taste of the supernatural when they kissed, was what held him here in a town that he felt was on the very edge of the world. Oh, sure, there were things beyond the ocean to the west, but they were so foreign that they might as well be alien to his mind. If he wanted alien, he could stay right here in Dyon G’ennivalz, dealing with this bullshit at three o’clock in the goddamn morning. And really, Maerimydra—civilization—wasn’t all that far away. A few hours along that winding coast road at most, and that was in a farm truck going at farm truck speeds. Dyon G’ennivalz was civilized. There were cars here and telephones and a visiting doctor and people with college degrees.

It was the thinking that hadn’t always changed.

They were a long way from the war at the moment. Dyon G’ennivalz was too small to be important and on the wrong side of the river anyway. It was technically Nava’ai territory. Technically. The town had been controlled by the Nava’ai for more than a generation now, but that hadn’t changed a thing. Dyon G’ennivalz was, in its very bones, just like its name, Mak’ur. It always would be. We have watered the ground with so much of our blood, sweat, and tears. We give it our dead, young or old. It will always know us before you, T’riss told him once when he asked her about it, sitting out on the porch in the summer.

He inhaled sharply when he stepped out through the door, feeling the chill bite like a great white shark. Anywhere at this latitude had no right to be so cold, but those sea winds at this hour at this elevation made for a bitter air. Dyon G’ennivalz was trapped between the sea and the few mountains. It was hit with all of the storms that swept in, many of them less than warm and charitable. He hated it because they usually took out power.

A flake of white landed on one of his eyelashes. Of course it was trying to snow. The weather in this place made about as much sense as T’riss did at three in the morning. He trudged along the road after her to where his men were waiting with their visitor, chatting amicably. They tensed up when she arrived, clearly deeming her more of a threat than the new guy. It made sense. She was the wrong religion, the wrong ethnic group. Imasdun was a cosmopolitan man of the world, all the way from Sevan, but he knew his fellow Nava’ai seldom could say the same. He’d grown up around the Arusai anyway, and they were far more modern in many ways…even if they still clung to their own sometimes medieval traditions and honor codes. He wanted to go someplace nice and progressive, somewhere people didn’t kill each other on a daily basis. He’d given up on his chances of the first half and settled successfully on the second half. Dyon G’ennivalz wasn’t at war. Nalaya was at war, but not Dyon G’ennivalz.

His men saluted when he approached. He waved for them to relax, scrubbing at his stubbled jaw for a moment before crouching down to lace up his boot. “I hear you’ve got a spirit here, Mirzoyan,” he said groggily, blinking his dark eyes a few times. He ruffled up his dark hair as he stood, in that messily handsome way that T’riss seemed to find so appealing. She seemed to like him better when he was coming apart at the seams. Maybe it was the idea that he was wild then, just like her.

“He’s a journalist, Kapitan. Hakob Sargsyan,” Mirzoyan reported. “Err…used to be. Bought a bunch of land in the mountains last spring, built a house for his family, lived up there. Rockslide closed off the road to Maerimydra a while back and the snow kept him from coming down here. Thaw hit, he came our way.”

“Lies,” T’riss hissed. “He is Tahcaluss.”

“In Nalayan, T’riss,” Imasdun groaned. Normally he would have focused on how attractive she was when she was angry, but it was too early in the morning. His lover—old fashioned sounding in his head, but it had the right vibe of passion without commitment—was a tall, lithe Mak’ur woman with dark tattoos that covered her body in the shape of a stylized image of a lioness, its face superimposed over her own. He was familiar with every line, considering how many times he’d followed them with his lips. Her blonde hair was bleached to almost whiteness by the sun and her green eyes were heavily hooded, almost half asleep, even during reasonable hours. At present, her lips had pressed into a thin line and her jaw had tightened just like her fists.

“I need help,” Hakob Sargsyan said. He was a healthy looking man in his mid-thirties, a fellow Nava’ai. His swarthy skin had no tattoo, which meant he wasn’t one of those faithful to the L’i’dol religion. A little nervous or maybe tired, but it was early and honestly, an angry T’riss would have been enough to make anyone a little nervous. Even Imasdun knew that when he pushed her buttons, he could get punched just as easily as kissed. Thus far, he’d been lucky. “There was a fire.”

“Right,” Imasdun said. He wasn’t certain why he’d woken up in the middle of the night for this other than T’riss’s inexplicable spirit-rage or whatever the hell was going on with her. “Anybody hurt? Serzhant Mirzoyan mentioned a family.”

Hakob shook his head.

“Right. Well, I guess sit tight for a little bit. It’s too dark to head up there now without breaking a neck. Miracle you made it down. Show us the way once the sun comes up. Hovnanian, go get him some food and coffee. I’ll talk to our lovely yathrin, shall I?” he said before grabbing T’riss by the arm and almost bodily dragging her away from the man she was glaring daggers at. “Honey, you woke me up at the literal worst hour of the day for a journalist whose house burned down?”

She shook her head sharply. “That is not what he is,” she said fiercely. “He is Tahcaluss, a spirit of hunger.”

“Right, of course he is,” Imasdun said. Sometimes, honey, you are a lot more crazy than you are sexy. Now is one of those times. He saw other locals poking their heads out of the doors, a few making signs of aversion. Apparently someone had heard his Yath priestess talking. “And that means?”

“Do not follow him. Do not be alone with him. He is tsak,” she said emphatically. That was a word he recognized immediately. Normally it was a word she reserved for Casimir, expressing a sort of vile malevolence that few could match. “He will lead you to a place where only death may follow.”

“Do spirits usually wander around with a journalist’s identification papers, honey?” He started to fish out a cigarette.

“They steal bodies,” she whispered. He heard it then, something that he’d never heard before in his lioness.

Fear.

He was so surprised that he forgot to move his thumb away on his lighter. “Xsa ol!” he cursed. He always did like the sound of Mak’ur profanity. It flowed off the tongue in a way that he felt Nalayan didn’t. But maybe that was because he’d learned most of it in the bedroom. He shook out his hand and then picked up the lighter to touch flame to the end of his cigarette. He was awake now. “What’s going on, honey? Spooking isn’t like you at all.”

“They wear the faces of men but they are not men,” she said, looking up at the sky for a long moment before looking over at him. “What if this one takes yours?”

Sometimes, when she got like this, he found it was better just to humor her. “Is there a way to not be possessed?” he said. “Maybe a prayer or something?”

“If you are going to follow it, I will mark you, so that when you kill its body, Tahcahluss does not take yours. But it will not protect you from what harm the body may do. Do not be alone with it,” T’riss said. He heard a tremor in her voice. She really was worried about him.

“Sure thing, honey,” he said. “Why don’t you go back to bed? I’ll chat with Mirzoyan about our guest.”

She shook her head, but she stalked off in the direction of the house he’d fixed up last summer. He supposed it was as close to his as it could be without a deed of some kind. He sighed and then took a long drag on his cigarette. Her mood would probably improve once the journalist was on his way. That was a nice thing about the tempestuous nature of his lioness: even the bad ones never lasted long. Out of sight, out of mind with her for the most part.

“What’s her problem, Kap?” the serzhant asked, sidling over. Mirzoyan didn’t really approve of the fact that he was fraternizing with a local, but they’d fought together for so long that he would put up with it without saying a word about it to anybody higher on Jivanshir’s chain of command, lest someone decide to make an example of him.

“Demonic possession, I think,” Imasdun said. “I’m too old for three in the morning, Mirz. I’m going to be forty-three in a month.”

“Whippersnapper,” the serzhant grumbled. He was fifty now. “Think she’ll settle down? I don’t want her to go off and kill anybody. You know how they are.”

“Yeah, she’ll settle.” The kapitan exhaled a stream of smoke. “I’m going back to bed. Tap a couple of the boys. We’ll go see about this fire at dawn.”

“Ayo, Kap,” Mirzoyan said with a little salute. “Get some sleep.”




“Damn, hell of a hike,” Imasdun said, his breath coming in wheezes. The journalist had strolled up into the mountains like it was no big deal. Obviously the kapitan’s life was too sedentary, despite T’riss’s best efforts. He felt like an idiot right now anyway, with symbols painted on his hands and one cheek. His men at least didn’t know about the giant one over his heart, but he could feel the paint itching slightly. Still, if it was a choice between looking like an idiot and sleeping on the couch for two weeks, he would take idiocy every time. For one, his back couldn’t take the couch and two, it was boring out there. At least T’riss kept his bouts of insomnia entertaining. It was late afternoon now and they were standing at the ruins of a good-sized house, burned to the foundations.

Imasdun knew a lot about fires. That was the only reason he’d agreed to come. “Right, well, grab what you can salvage,” he said to his men, lighting up another cigarette. “I’ll supervise and…uh…check my watch for effect.”

They chuckled, but set to work, which left him to talk with Hakob. “My family’s down in Armavir. I’m glad they missed this,” Hakob said. “I’m going to get hell for it from my wife when I go meet them, though. Fires are supposed to be kids messing around.”

“Yeah,” Imasdun said with a nod. “I’ve got a boy back in Sissak with his mom. She hates my guts. How many have you got?”

“Four,” Hakob said. “Two, five, nine, and twelve. Thank you for coming up here.” He seemed a little nervous still, but he seemed oddly happy too. “It’s so good to see people again.”

“How long were you up here?” Imasdun said, sauntering forward towards the remains of the house. He was careful, though. A misstep too close could drop him into the basement and cover him with ash and soot or hurt him. The last thing he needed was an injury that might validate T’riss’s demonic concerns.

“Couple months,” Hakob said, faltering slightly at the thought.

“Damn,” Imasdun said with surprise. “You really were prepared.”

“Not prepared for the house burning down,” the journalist said with a laugh, taking a seat on a stone near the front door.

Imasdun caught sight of something on the floor and craned his neck slightly. Odd, he thought. Looks like the kind of mark accelerants make. Somebody trying to get up grease stains with gasoline while smoking? He felt a little twinge in his gut. Something felt just a little bit off. “So what do you reckon started the fire?” he asked in the same exact conversational tone, not showing a hint of that nagging little suspicion.

“Probably a fault in the wood stove,” the journalist said.

A red flag popped up in Imasdun’s mind. “Hey, Mirz, come here!” Imasdun called. “I need somebody to entertain Paron Sargsyan while I pop down and check the basement. Fire burns up. A lot fell through, but there might be something salvageable down there.”

“Oh, you don’t need to put yourself at risk,” Hakob said quickly.

Too quickly, Paron, Imasdun thought grimly. What are you hiding? He ignored Hakob and hunted down the stairs to the basement. They were stone, fortunately, but badly scorched and heaped with grey ash. He waded down into the wreckage, moving with the utmost of care. Wood around him creaked and crumbled, cold now but still blackened by fire where it wasn’t completely consumed. It was barely better than coals in most places. That was a pretty good burn for a mostly wooden construction.

Hakob trailed after him until Mirz grabbed him and pulled him back. “Too dangerous,” the serzhant said as he took Imasdun’s rifle for him before he descended even further. “Let the kapitan handle it. He knows fires.”

Good old Mirz, Imasdun thought with satisfaction. He feels it too.

Fifteen minutes later, Kapitan Imasdun Eskandarian came striding up out of the wreckage. His face was grey, even where it wasn’t smeared with ash, and his trembling hands were covered in black and grey. Without saying a word, he snatched the rifle out of Mirzoyan’s hands. “Xsa ol. Xsa ol. Xsa ol,” he was muttering over and over, staring at Hakob.

Hakob was starting to quiver. He shook his head. “It wasn’t me!” he blurted out. “It wasn’t me! I had to! It was quick! I was so hungry!”

Imasdun shouldered his rifle and shot the journalist four times in the chest. Once the man went down, he walked up and shot the man in the head, spattering himself and Mirzoyan with brain matter, blood, and bone fragments.

“The fuck?” the serzhant sputtered out.

Imasdun backed away from the body and sat down hard on another stone, the rifle cradled in his lap. “She was right,” he muttered. “Mirz, have the boys fill in that basement with wreckage.”

“Kap?”

He chuckled darkly. “Couple of months, and he looked so healthy?” he muttered. He was going to see that for the next few weeks, every time he closed his eyes.

“The fuck is down there, Kap?” Mirzoyan said. Without waiting for an answer, he headed for the stairs.

“You don’t want to do that,” Imasdun called after him, but he knew the serzhant wasn’t going to listen.

There was no food in the larder downstairs. Well, maybe that wasn’t strictly true. There were bones, big bones and little bones, gnawed and cracked for marrow. It wasn’t until he found the skulls, each one hit once with an axe, that he felt the crawling sensation under his skin really sink in. Animals, rats. Yeah, rats, had been his first thought. But the teeth-marks were all wrong and rats didn’t use axes.

It was one thing to eat a body. One thing to eat a dead relative. Imasdun’s family hadn’t practiced the rites. They were Muslim, not Voghjuyn. But murdering people—kids—to eat them…

Suddenly, he was grateful that T’riss had painted his body. He hated the idea of that kind of contagion getting under his skin, twisting him, turning him into that...he'd been in Dyon G'ennivalz too long. That was what was infecting him. The thoughts, the world, the talk of spirits. He started walking back towards town without waiting for anyone.

Mirz caught up with him halfway back, trembling slightly. “I—”

Imasdun shook his head. “Never happened,” he whispered.




T’riss kissed him fiercely the moment he stepped in through the door. He could feel a lot of things in it. Fear, relief, hope, anger, worry, sorrow. “I tried to tell you,” she said when they broke apart. He knew she could see it in his eyes. She could always see it in his eyes. “Tahcaluss is wicked.”

He wrapped his arms around her and felt the shaking come back. “I wish I could believe in your spirits,” he said softly. “That’s a lot easier than thinking he was a man, just like me.”

She kissed him again. “He was tsak,” she whispered. “Tahcaluss knows only insatiable hunger. It does not distinguish. It does not care. It steals the face and does wicked things with it.”

Imasdun nodded slightly.




The story spread, just like his T'riss was afraid the hunger might.
Last edited by Nalaya on Fri Jul 08, 2016 1:01 am, edited 2 times in total.
Do you know, my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?
- Pope Julius III

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Azurlavai
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Posts: 618
Founded: Aug 29, 2013
Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Azurlavai » Fri Jul 22, 2016 2:25 pm

On June 11th 2015, the matriarchal monarchy of Aerick was invaded by the United Republic of Azurlavai. The fleet was spotted offshore in time thanks to a lucky sign on approaching Coast Guard radar, and the Royal Army was mobilized while patrol boats scouted out the size of the force. An entire division’s worth of enemy troops stood ready to strike, led by the infamous 105th Stormtrooper battalion, and the Queen knew they were in for a bad fight.

Four weeks later, the capital city of Bachridhe fell.

The doors of the Royal palace were kicked in and UR soldiers gunned down the Royal Guard, capturing the Queen before she could evacuate. She formally surrendered a day later, and Aerick became the 16th state of the United Republic.

But the Royal Army hung on. Though badly outnumbered, equipped with last-generation weapons and vehicles and lacking veteran combat troops, the fight they faced was certainly a long, hard one, but it was a struggle they’d see through to the end and beyond.





Bachridhe, Queendom of Aerick
July 2nd, 2015 CE
0436 military time
1st Field Corps, 4th Brigade, 6th Company


“Ammo check!”

They moved numbly, trying and failing to keep their hands from trembling as they automatically removed their magazines, checking the rounds inside or patting themselves down to count magazines left. The unit hadn’t had a decent resupply since the invasion had started, and now were down the what they could scavenge from abandoned depots and annihilated units. They had to leave the bodies of most of their sisters where they had fallen, moving on instead to try and defend the next phase line, the next rally point, but it was no good. As soon as they’d start massing in decent numbers, Azzie strike fighters from their carrier offshore would flash overhead, cluster bombs and precision munitions would drop hell on them. Then, when they were just barely recovering, artillery would rain down from beyond their sight, and Azzie tanks would starts hammering them to clear the way for those damnable Stormtroopers to start rolling in.

For four weeks, the Royal Army had been in a constant state of retreat. Reinforcements had become replacements, those had become remnants of other destroyed formations, and then there were greater and greater numbers of reservist Home Guard and militia troops joining them. Only half of the troops here at this choke point even wore a uniform now, or carried standard G3 rifles. The rest wore plainclothes, and either carried hunting rifles and shotguns or wielded heirloom rifles so old as to barely be from this century. Some few even carried looted Azzie weapons, taken off the dead come across in the fighting. They seemed so advanced compared to the Queen’s armory, like aliens had come down and invaded instead of mere men.

Lance Corporal Aerona Mkvenner accepted the handful of magazines she was handed. Twenty rounds, 7.62, made in Acrea. German hardware was good, after all. She pulled the bolt back on her G3, inspecting the chamber briefly before taking a cloth and doing a rudimentary wipe of her weapon’s furniture. Then, she slapped a 20 round mag in, letting the bolt go with a snap. All she really could do, with the minutes they had left. The urban nature of the capital had given them some defense, and the shorter range let them consolidate faster. The siege had gone on a week here, longer than any other defensive line in the country. So far, the Aerickans were holding.

There were a few men here, some in uniform, most without. Male military service in Aerick was an unusual thing, because men from Aerick didn’t usually have the temperament for it. They were normally intellectuals, accountants, druids, that sort of thing. Even in service, men under the Queen’s service were usually cooks, clerks and attorneys. But she saw more than a few men in uniform prepping mortars, accepting det-packs, one or two even with marksman rifles. Not to forget the ones who stood on the line with rifles. It was…a bit surreal. Truly a sign things were really desperate.

This stretch of the city they were defending was a long, zig-zag stretch of housing, climbing up the hill. In this case, there was no way the Azzies were going to be able to just blast through the buildings and push on, as they’d done in other places. The geography forced them to take this urban stretch, and the canal would definitely help them bottleneck the foe. A single company of infantry sat here, supported by four M113 APCs with heavy machine guns and a single Scorpion 90 recon tank, taking up the dominating position at the bridge. The rest of what they had were a handful of Jeeps for their limited motor pool, but urban warfare was the key here.

Mkvenner felt her hands shake, and steadied herself. She was the closest to what Aerick had that passed for a combat veteran, having survived every skirmish since the invasion had begun. Her hands fumbled for her canteen, and she unscrewed the lid quickly before taking a swig, feeling the cool water rush down her throat. In the distance, Queen’s artillery traded fire with Azzie guns, and it sounded like the Nords were pounding them. Gunships choppered nearby, and she knew they couldn’t be friendly. Maybe they had more important things to worry about for now. The dark, pre-sunrise skyline was illuminated by gunfire and burning buildings. A lot of refugees had come to the capital, looking to escape the fighting. Fortunately, it had gotten here so fast, the rest of them had been able to disperse once the siege got under way, and the flow of civilians coming in had petered out. While the UR forces seemed ill-content to cause collateral, it wasn’t a guarantee to use them as a shield, as the Queen’s troops had figured out. All civilians had to go, for everyone’s sake.

Mkvenner grabbed her rifle again, glancing down the dark street. Power outages were extremely common, and she wondered how many of those flats she saw still had families in there, crouching in the dark, hiding from the war that had come to their homeland.

“Hey,” said a voice to her left, and she glanced over to see a man, from a comms unit, he seemed, offering her a cigarillo from a pack. He had a soft smile to his face, a radio pack on his back and a jacket that looked a size too big for him, the single stripe of a Corporal also on his sleeve. And kind eyes. The sort of eyes she never thought she’d see recently.

She took the smoke, nodding gratefully as he lit a match, letting her light up. The sound of jets roared overhead, but whether Queen’s or invader’s, she couldn’t tell. Mkvenner took a puff or two, humming as the acrid taste hit her.

“It’s good,” she said, ruminating on the fact that before Azzie troops had set foot on the island, she’d been a vehement non-smoker. That had swiftly changed after the first battle, for sure. Like it really could have been called that, though.

“I’ve been trading for things here and there,” the man replied, resting his elbows on her barricade. “Giving to a few of the women when they need them. You really looked like you needed one.” She nodded again, taking another puff before realizing he’d stuck out his hand. “Loinsigh. Radioman, 2nd Highland Guard. Dale, if you like.” She smiled, taking his hand and shaking, firmly. “Mkvenner. 1st Infantry. Aerona, if you do.” He smiled back, and it looked so natural on him.

They were silent again for a time before Loinsigh spoke up again. “Y’know, before the invasion, I was an electrician in this little hamlet called Nalith outside Lochsborough. Had a shop, fixed small issues here and there.” He sighed, and she noticed his smile became a bit wistful, his eyes unfocused. “It seemed so perfect there. Only a few hundred souls outside the city, most of them scattered across the countryside. I’d open the shop in the morning and already have a dozen calls. Get in my van, head on out. I think I was maybe one of…twenty people in the area with a cell phone.” He laughed. “Big difference to the city, let me tell you. I’d stop into Lochsborough every now and then, pick up some parts, head back home. And the people in Nalith, they loved to hear about the ‘big city’. Buildings higher than four stories, the Queen’s Road leading up to the capital, seeing the foreign imports in the shops. I’d buy candy here and there. Cheap stuff, but the kids in town loved it. Their parents really appreciated my visits, cause I’d fix what was wrong on the farm and make their children happy.” He sighed again, his smile slowly slipping from his face. “That was…a good place.”

She didn’t dare ask what had happened to the town. Lochsborough had folded up a week and a half in. There had been a blanket call to surrender, and after that everyone who resisted had been rounded up, lined up against a wall and shot. Then the Stormtroopers left a garrison and moved on. She couldn’t have imagined a little backwater community faring much better.

They watched a short show of a few flak batteries lighting up the sky, streams of tracer fire pouring up for a minute or two. A few more units in the city, defiant to not go out with a whimper. At one point, she even imagined she saw a helicopter in flames, going down. Maybe. Although, the Queen’s army might still have helos left. She didn’t want to think on that one.

“What about you?” he asked, turning to her. She chuckled.

“Westfeld. I was a troublemaker, for real. I used to play in the old factories with my friends. We’d have little ‘wars’ as we threw mud at each other and brawled. A few boys came around a few times from another neighborhood, tried to take our turf. It never went well for them, we just unified and took the fight to them.” She tried not to notice the uncomfortable parallels her childhood drew to her life now. “We’d sneak into the temple and draw funny doodles on the walls. The druids all got so bleedin’ pissed.” They both chortled, him imagining the druids’ supposed fury, her diving back into her memories. “They had this sacred grove on the outside of town, paid homage to the bear, the wolf, the owl. But most importantly, the stag. Yeah, he was the guardian of that forest…I remember at night on the Solstice, we’d head down to the grove where the druids would hold the ceremonies, and look up at the stars. I never paid attention to the lip service they paid, but…sometimes, I swear the sky would look back down on me.”

This morning, the stars had long retreated behind a film of smoke. Artillery fell on the city, and gunfire in the near distance told of what was happening. Why it hadn’t hit this part of the river, no one knew. But they were all glad of it.

A small cluster had formed around the two, she realized. A tiny crowd of soldiers, militia, men and women both, as they listened to tales of a better time. One by one, they all began recalling their own tales. Ealaighthe had been a carpenter, making furniture lovingly by hand. Murchadha had actually traveled to nearby Syara, and described a few of the Commonality’s sights and sounds. Gallchobhair had worked in a factory, but when he came home he had his own next-gen video game console shipped in from out of the country, to which he poured all the money he didn’t need to survive.

Eventually, both Aerona and Dale managed to escape the small knot of troopers at the barricade, slipping off to the side in a nearby house that had been abandoned. They locked the door and snuck off to one of the beds together. In the hour or so that followed, they were both able to release and enormous amount of tension, with every reminder of feeling alive that speaking of their memories had awakened. And when she gasped, sweating and shaking on top of him, he just smiled, reaching up and pulling her down to his chest as he too let go.

They lay like that for a while. Neither wanted to let go and return to the ugliness around them. Reality was a nightmare, and so the two stayed tucked between the sheets for some time, not really asleep but more than willing to accept the dream they were in while it lasted.

But it wasn’t to last.

“Hey! Hey, we got contacts!” yelled a scout as she rode her motorbike in past the barricade, leaping clumsily from the seat to go find the captain, hollering to alert as many of the defenders as she could. “Hey, they’re coming! They’re coming!”

In a flash, Mkvenner and Loinsigh were up, dressing in a hurry as hands that had previous been clumsy in fresh passion suddenly reached for weapons they were more than familiar with. Actions snapped, rounds chambered as they sprinted out, lunging for the street. Boots clattered as soldiers and militia sprang to action, moving to their positions to get ready. Machine guns were loaded with barrels nearby, the two mortars the company had were adjusted to prepare to lay down fire, the Scorpion 90 on the canal was brought to readiness while Jeeps and APCs rolled forward, flanking the infantry and using the alleys to navigate next to the main road.

Reaching the front barricade, Mkvenner and Loinsigh readied their weapons, staring out into the darkness. At first, it was silent, or as silent as things could be while a war raged in the near distance. All the soldiers could hear was low curses, prayers and their own labored breathing as they all fought to keep their meals down.

But then, it came to their ears. The clap of foot troops, clattering of armored vehicles and harsh orders barked in the hard, unforgiving Nordic tongue, so different to their own almost musical Gaelic. The Azzies were coming, alright.

“Clear up! Get ready!” barked the captain, and they all prepared themselves, aiming down their sights as they tried to ascertain which of those shadows might be enemies about to come end their lives.

The first Azzie they actually saw was a scout. Mounted in a soft-top Pitbull with an LMG mounted up top, they clearly didn’t expect to roll around the corner to find what they did. The truck skidded to a halt awkwardly, as if they were gaping, before the mounted recoilless rifle boomed. The first shell tore into the engine block, and the Aerickans claimed first blood as the vehicle detonated. An infantry squad followed, dressed in dark green and moving quickly up the road. 6th Company’s machine gunners opened up, and the defenders at the barricade fired as well. The Stormtroopers were elite soldiers, and this was obviously just a probe, but some of the militia let loose like there was an army out there. The enemy finally pulled back after about half of their number dropped, fighting as they went, and a ragged cheer went up. They were holding!

But it wasn’t to be. In the near distance, there were several thumps, and then whistling overhead.

“INCOMING!”

The enemy mortars landed among their ranks, detonating spectacularly. Bodies were shredded, blood and pieces spraying the walls. Gunners had to abandon their posts or die, and the barricade defenders scrambled for something to defend them from the concussive blasts. Under cover from the assault, several enemy squads opened fire from the buildings down the road, using the structures for cover. An enemy Panter AFV emerged, its automatic grenade launcher coughing as it carved gouging holes out of the nearby homes. A Panzerfaust from a nearby Queen’s soldier put paid to that quickly, but they only had six rockets, five now.

Mkvenner reloaded, coming up again to find two Stormtroopers about to try and push her position. The opened up on her as soon as she emerged, and she fired back, feeling the kick from her G3 as brass casings sang to the ground. The muzzle flashes presented a curious strobe effect, making each second that was lit up seem like a freeze frame in the early pre-dawn light.

A sharp boom sounded beside her, and she watched another Stormtrooper fall, a hole in his face before glancing up at Loinsigh, his .45 smoking. He’d lost his rifle somewhere, but she abruptly realized he was the only one alive next to her. Everyone else had fallen back.

“Let’s go!” he yelled at her, grabbing under Mkvenner’s arm and hauling her up.

6th company fell back, their losses already mounting. Two squads dead or dying in the street behind them, an APC and a jeep lost to enemy grenade launchers and the mortars. They fell back to the canal, turning only to fire on the enemy who pursued them to hold them back from time to time. It was a hopeless, desperate gamble, but if they could make it to the canal, bottleneck them on the bridge and then blow it, they could buy some time here, force the invaders to go somewhere else to cross.

Around them, Aerickans were dying. Ealaighthe lay in the street, her eyes wide as the holes in her chest oozed blood lazily now her heart was no longer pumping. Murchadha had been vaporized by an enemy mortar, and Gallchobhair stood his ground as a Stormtrooper rushed him with a bayonet. The factory worker had tried swinging his shotgun like a club, but the Azzie had simply side-stepped and thrust forward, spearing him like a boar through the heart.

And through it all, they kept falling back. More vehicles became twisted scrap heaps, mortars pounded the approach trying to chase them. Mkvenner and Loinsigh sprinted now with the survivors, turning the fighting withdrawal into a full retreat. The Stomrtroopers were too determined, and as spotted the flare of a flamethrower as one Azzie burned out an isolated holdout. The mortars hadn’t started dropping white phosphorous yet, but it would only be a matter of time now.

Another UR fighting vehicle came up behind them, and she felt her hammering heart leap into her throat. A Mammut tank, their flagship heavy armor. The main gun swiveled around, pausing for only a second before the cannon boomed flatly. The front of a nearby tenement vanished in a cloud of rubble and shrapnel, killing the dozen or so defender inside. The twin machine guns began chattering.

They ran. The final turn came up ahead now, and Mkvenner and Loinsigh poured on all the steam they could, fuelled by desperation and adrenaline. Out of forty defenders holding the main approach, only six were moving towards the bridge with all haste. The rest were dead, wounded or cut off further back down the road. Of the vehicles, only a single jeep remained, which vanished with two survivors as the Mammut fired again. Bullets kicked up at the heels of the last four, tracers zipping past overhead, grenades detonating. On the other side of the canal, the squads stationed there shot back, trying to lay down cover fire to not only allow the four left (three as a .50-cal round caught one man in the back, blowing out his navel in a gory burst of guts) to escape towards the bridge. The last other survivor was a teenage boy, a hunting rifle in hand that he desperately tried to reload as he moved, but he kept dropping rounds. In frustration, he stopped, trying to shove more bullets into the chamber, but Mkvenner caught his arm, pulling him along to the last leg of the bridge.

The Scorpion gunner had to be terrified. Already, it had leveled out three shots, but the 90mm didn’t have the punch to get through an MBT’s heavy armor. A fourth shot sailed over their heads, whistling before it smashed into the Mammut’s turret and spiraled up lazily into the air, clattering back down onto the street.

And then, the Azzie tank responded. Its own 120mm cannon roared, and the shell rocketed away, a HEAT round that burrowed into the Scorpion 90’s weak front plate, detonating spectacularly and blowing the recon tank to hell and gone so badly the explosion tore the turret off and blew out every compartment, vaporizing ten more fighting women around it.

Finally, -finally- the trio made it to the bridge and began sprinting over the canal. On a deserted ferryboat down below, another squad of defenders began firing up at the building, safe from the tank for now, but they would have to relocate soon. A nearby flat had just been his by a white phosphorous mortar.

They made it over to the other side before Loinsigh was hit. The rifle bullet hit him in the shoulder, but because he was running at an angle, it exploded out his chest. He collapsed on the opposite side, gasping and choking on his own blood.

“DALE!” Mkvenner screamed, grabbing the radiotech by his webbing. The radiopack he wore was ruined now, she could see the bullet had carved straight through, so she kicked it off, dragging the man over behind a concrete wall as the teenage boy sprinted for a nearby building. Around them, the defenders of 6th company held on as long as they could, but without armor or artillery, they were just a bunch of infantry trying to hold back a mechanized force.

Loinsigh gasped, blood running down his chin and staining his jacket. His cap was gone, and tear streamed from his eyes. Mkvenner dropped her rifle, pulling her lover into her lap as she slapped his face, trying to keep him in the here and now.

“HEALER!” she yelled out as the Azzie tank fired again, the shell detonating close by and blowing out a machine gun nest. The captain had been killed, so her lieutenant turned, detonator in hand as she slapped the button. The demolition charges under the bridge blew in a shower or rubble and steel, and though few Azzies had been on the bridge when it went, if they had waited longer there might not have been anybody to trigger the blast. But now they had to exchange fire with the Stormtroopers while the lieutenant tried to get some anti-tank firepower down here.

“Dale, Dale, Dale! Look at me! Stay focused, stay here with me!” Mkvenner whispered frantically, trying her best to keep him alive. But Dale Loinsigh simply smiled up at her, coughing as he whispered “I…its okay. I’ll be…fine. The spirits will…they’ll take care of my soul…take me to…to see my family.” He coughed again, more blood splattering his jacket. “My wife…my daughter…they were killed in the crossfire. I was…in Lochsborough…been feeling…dead since.” He reached up with a bloody hand, cradling Mkvenner’s face. “You…you helped me feel…alive.”

Dale Loinsigh bled out before the healer reached Mkvenner. In a few minutes, 6th company was forced to abandon the destroyed crossing, fall back towards the Royal Palace.

Later that day, the 105th Stormtrooper battalion took the high ground of the city and cleaved through the Royal Guard to capture the Queen. She formally surrendered her country the next day.

Aerick was a state of the United Republic within a week.
*No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.
*If your positions are firmly set and you are prepared to take the enemy assault on, he will bypass you.
*If your ambush is properly set, the enemy won't walk into it.
*If your flank march is going well, the enemy expects you to outflank him.
~Murphy's Laws of War

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Nalaya
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Founded: Jul 02, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Nalaya » Sat Jul 23, 2016 1:07 am

The Tkhrali Opera House
Sevan, Nalaya
October 31st, 2002


The first strains of La Traviata’s Ah, fors'è lui was playing through the destroyed opera hall, coming from a small radio sitting at center of the front edge of the rotted stage. He could hear a woman singing along in hushed tones as if she were afraid someone might catch her, a soft alto voice that lacked the vibrato of a proper classically trained singer. She knew every word, however. Hravad Ardzuni glared at the two men with him as they undid his handcuffs. He thought about punching one out, but they’d been polite enough about it. His pride just didn’t appreciate being manhandled. It was early morning, the last of the drizzle finally dried up even though the clouds were still overcast.

”...Ah, maybe he's the one who
often rejoiced painting my soul
alone amid excitements
with his occult colours.
How modest and vigilant he
climbed the sad doorsteps
and lit up a new fever
arousing my love!
Such a love that makes
the whole universe palpitate
mysterious and lofty
crucifixion and delight for my heart...”


One of the men with him cleared his throat. “Arzhani, Ter Ardzuni is here to speak with you, as you requested,” the young man said. His tone was apologetic, as though he hated to interrupt the woman.

Hravad ground his teeth a little bit. Lovely, this one thinks she’s an Arzhani. It was galling enough that he’d been beaten by some warlord that he’d never heard of. And it hadn’t just been a victory, no. It had been a crushing, decisive victory that ended with his own capture. He could not expect to maintain his solid grip on the small territory he’d carved out to the west of Sevan. Well, what had once been a solid grip. He wasn’t certain how the hell they’d gotten here, considering the agreement he had with Casimir. He hated the man, but he didn’t want to fight the famous Dragon head on either. Supposedly, Sevan had been well under Casimir Narekatsi’s thumb, but now here they were in the heart of the capital with not a scale or puff of flame in sight. It was impressive, though he wasn’t about to admit it. Hravad scowled when he heard someone get up from one of the creaking, scarred seats. Angry words were already leaping to the tip of his tongue.

They died there.

Silvery grey eyes looked at him like they were made of moonlight, laughing without sound and dancing without motion. She was a petite thing with gentle features and a disarming smile. She was pretty in soft ways, though if she was really a warlord, there was some steel beneath. What he saw more than anything else was fire. Suddenly he was in front of someone who was fervently, passionately alive in a world filled with walking corpses. Her fair hair was pulled back into an untidy knot at the nape of her neck, a concession to uniform. That was one thing he’d noticed about her troops that impressed him, as it matched his own: discipline. They wore uniforms and they took good care of those uniforms too, even if they were threadbare in places or worn. “I apologize for the mess. Had I known I would have a guest, I might have dusted the rubble a bit first.”

The grim and growling general felt something flicker across his face that he hadn’t felt in a long time: a smile. He squashed it, but he couldn’t find it in him to force a scowl. “Next time I’ll call ahead,” he said dryly.

“I hope that next time will be different.” She gave him a polite little bow of greeting.

He grunted, then said, “So it’s Arzhani, then? I suppose if you can trounce the Dragon out of Sevan, you’ve earned it.”

“He wasn’t paying attention, that’s all. I’m sorry, we aren’t having a proper conversation. My name is Anahid Vaneni. I’m at your service.”

The scarred man rubbed his wrists. “I think you might be confusing the situation, Arzhani Vaneni,” he said. It seemed more appropriate to use the title than not. Powerful people could be very particular about such things. Casimir had plucked people’s tongues out for less than forgetting the proper mode of address. “You have me at something of a disadvantage, considering what you and your people just accomplished.”

“Please, just Anahid,” she said more gently. “I am sorry about the unpleasantness. I would have just come and spoken to you, but that wasn’t possible between your mutual defense pact with Casimir Narekatsi and your customary reticence. I sent a messenger, but I think someone in your camp had him shot before he reached you.”

Hravad frowned deeply. “So this was just to talk to me?”

“Well, it was also to protect the people at Vorotan against Casimir’s reprisals. I needed a defensible position, you were holding one, and you weren’t much inclined to let me use it. I’m not quite overextended into the west, but it’s a little more of a stretch than I’d like at the moment. I couldn’t afford to not have it,” Anahid explained. She went over to a small, folding table that was standing in what had once been an aisle and picked up the bottle of wine that was sitting there. “I don’t have any coffee, I’m afraid. I can’t drink any right now and I didn’t realize that you would be arriving so soon. However, I did somehow end up with a very nice bottle of Ijevan red. I think it was probably Casimir’s, but he’s not in much of a position to object. Would you like some?”

“I won’t object,” he said, relaxing a little bit. The soldiers had withdrawn slightly. They were still nearby and keeping eyes on him, but he could probably do her harm before they arrived...not that he wanted to. This was more of a conversation than he’d been expecting and he was curious to hear what she had wanted to talk to him about. He found his smile creeping back when he saw her pour the wine into two tin cups.

“The glass did not survive the explosions or the truck ride, I’m afraid,” she said with amusement as she handed one cup over to him. “You’re going to have to settle for something a bit more rough and ready. Next time, maybe. Granted, you may hear me talk and decide you never want to repeat the experience, so we’ll see.”

Hravad tested one of the creaking chairs before sitting down in it. His fatigues were old and worn, but immaculately neat. He hadn’t been able to shave with his straight razor since he was a captive, so he had altogether more stubble on his face than he would have liked. His mustache was still neatly trimmed, though. They’d allowed him that much, albeit very warily and only after getting his word of honor that he would behave. Hravad Ardzuni’s word was his bond. Other men could break theirs, but his was built to endure. He smoothed a hand over his short hair, trying to minimize the ruffling. “Well, you have my undivided attention now, Anahid.”

She nodded thoughtfully, a little more serious now. She looked at him and suddenly he was struck with a feeling that she was somehow looking not at him, but into him. “If there were no war, what would you do with your life?” she asked softly.

“I don’t understand the question,” Hravad said. “There has always been a war. There will always be a war.”

Anahid smiled, a touch of sorrow to the expression. “You’re not the first to say that. But what if it didn’t have to be this way?”

“This is how it is.”

She held up a finger, lips turned up at the corners in that same, almost but not quite melancholy smile. “What if.”

He sipped his wine. “Very well, hypothetically,” Hravad said after a moment’s pause. “I...don’t know. I’ve never entertained the possibility.” He had always been a grounded man, a pragmatist, someone who didn’t think about what could have been or what might have been or even sometimes what should have been.

“Didn’t you ever play make believe? You weren’t always in the trenches. None of us were,” Anahid said softly. “What did you want to be when you weren’t a soldier, before this became a whole world?”

Maybe it was the wine or the music or the way she spoke, but he felt at ease and relaxed, enough to let something slip out. “My mother baked. I used to wish I could just do that. Not that I know how. These hands know how to fieldstrip a rifle, not knead dough.”

“That’s all mine know,” Anahid said, holding out her hands. They were mangled, some of them partially missing. The scars were dark and fresh. He recognized the marks: those of Jivanshir Lazaryan. She wasn’t just Casimir’s enemy. She’d crossed paths with the Nava’ai too and bore a survivor’s marks. “But they can build just as much as they tear down. I’m building something right now.”

“An empire?” Hravad said with a chuckle.

She shook her head. “A home. A safe place. A place where I don’t belong.”

His brow furrowed. “I don’t understand.”

“That’s because this world is all we know,” Anahid said, motioning to the ruins around them. “The ugly, the wicked, the evil. But even if it’s all we know, it’s not all we are. This world has life and light and music. I listen to these recordings because they take me to a different place, a better place. I want to share that with everyone. Not the music, because for everyone it’s different, but the feeling. I want you, I want everyone, to feel safe. When we aren’t safe, it’s all we can think about. Where is my meal coming from? Where can I sleep? Where can I scavenge? Are they coming to kill me? Can I kill them if they try?” She shook her head slightly. “It turns us into something less than people. We’re so frightened that we can barely think, let alone dream.”

Hravad shook his head. “You can’t eat dreams,” he said.

“Man cannot live by bread alone. Does eating practicality actually sate you, Ter Ardzuni, or does it just make you tired and sick? I don’t understand why we operate under the mistaken impression that we have to be at war.”

“Because there are people in the world like Casimir,” Hravad said. “And if you kill Casimir, there’d be ten fighting for his place before you could blink.”

“Then maybe we’re getting rid of him in the wrong way. Maybe it’s not about killing,” Anahid said softly. “We talk a lot about justice, but when does mercy ever have its day? We talk a lot about revenge, but when do we care about healing? There has to be truth, there has to be honesty, but there has to be more than that. We are always quick to say, ‘remember or it happens again’, but maybe we’re remembering wrong if we just use it as an excuse for revenge. What the people here want, what I want, is to create a new way to remember. To give the past a funeral, rather than just burying it where its bones can be disturbed over and over again whenever it’s convenient for whoever’s in power.”

Hravad wasn’t used to being inflicted with doubt, but he could feel it starting. Not about what she was saying, but what he’d been thinking. “We can’t kill Casimir with kindness,” he said.

“But we can kill the evil that made him with compassion. We can kill the evil that makes more like him every day with mercy. And if we do that, the war will end. Maybe forever, maybe not, but for long enough that the wounds can start to heal. There will always be people who want to tear them open, but they only have power if you try to break them. Lash out at someone, they lash out back. You reap what you sow. Everyone who’s ever tried to unite Nalaya has done it by force. They’ve broken people until they follow the right banner. They’ve crushed opposition, they’ve stomped it out. It’s always about them, about their ego, about their power, about building a world where they can have anything they want. What I want is to be unnecessary. I want children to look at me and not understand what I was thinking when I went to war, because they’ve never had to.”

Hravad ran his hand over his stubbled jaw, trying to understand the scenario she was laying out for him. “And what would you be, then, if Nalaya started following this song and dance you want to put it through? The one person who did the impossible…”

“Never ‘the one person’,” Anahid said with a shake of her head. “We are doing this. The first drop to break a drought isn’t any different or any better than any other drop of water. I’m just a part of the flood that wants to bring new life. By the time the dust is settled, I hope to be forgotten, like every other warlord who walked under the sun. When I die, there will be no monument or mausoleum. Just ashes scattered anonymously on the mountains and seas. And it is not impossible. I’ll grant that it’s improbable, but if all of us say that we have had enough, we can put an end to this. It will be slow and painful and hard, but it is possible.” When she spoke, there wasn’t a trace of doubt in her voice.

He leaned back in his seat, studying her. “You really do think that, don’t you?”

“I don’t need to think. I know.” She was describing a fever dream, but with such conviction that he felt himself suddenly feeling unreasonable for disagreeing. Those grey eyes were studying his. “No amount of force is ever going to end this. We will need it for the battles, to bring everyone to a point where they’re willing to listen, but there is a better way. I want people to be able to sit across the table from those who have done them wrong and talk. I want them to explain. I want them to feel. And in the end, I want everyone to walk away with an understanding. We’ve had enough retribution for the rest of the earth’s days. We’ve had rivers of blood and oceans of fire, but it never changes anything. I’m tired of it, Ter Ardzuni, and I don’t have to just sit quietly with the rot in my soul saying, there’s nothing I can do. I have hands. I have voice. I have heart. I cannot expect the world to change without changing myself too, but once I give up this old way of thinking, of doing, then it will change.”

Something forgotten in him was starting to stir to life, even if he would never admit it. He could feel the flame flickering up as if she’d just given breath to a fire that had been reduced to cinders. He was beginning to hope again, foolish as it was.

“I don’t believe you,” he said with a shake of his head. “You’re wrong about people.”

“Am I?” Anahid said with a sudden, soft smile. She stood up and finished off her wine. “You and your people are free to go, Ter Ardzuni. I’ll be here if you change your mind.”

“I...what?” he blurted out, his grim and growling composure cracking. He realized he was waiting for her to jerk the metaphorical rug out from under his feet by suddenly making an about face on the offer.

“You’re free to leave. I do control Vorotan now and I’m afraid I can’t let go of it, but you are prisoners no longer. My men kept account of everything we took. We can return the weapons we captured and I’m certain you have ammo caches enough to resupply that we haven’t found yet. You could very easily come fight us, but I hope you won’t.”

“You’re letting a lot ride on hope,” he said.

“It’s what matters in days like these,” Anahid said. “I hope I’m right about you, Hravad. I hope you always remember that you are the man of honor and principle that I saw. I hope you think it over and consider helping us. We are all in this together. And if not, I will consider it a rare privilege to have spoken with Hravad Ardzuni over a bottle of wine among the bones of an artist’s dream.”

"...I must always stay free,
cavorting from joy to joy.
I want my living to run
through paths of pleasure
day in and day out,
Always happy in hangouts.
Among always new delights
my thoughts should fly..."

She let him go.

He was back the next morning, his officers at his heels.
Do you know, my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?
- Pope Julius III

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Nalaya
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Founded: Jul 02, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Nalaya » Mon Jul 25, 2016 1:16 am

Abandoned Farmhouse
Ijevan, Nalaya
April 3rd, 2005


The first time they kissed, the first time they fell into bed together, hadn’t been planned. It was just magnetism, gravity, something that couldn’t be resisted. They had been talking about plans for after the war, the light in her eyes so bright that her face glowed. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Hravad struggled to remember the time before she was in his life these days, the years of that past filled with a life that wasn’t living. When their lips met, he felt his heart catch fire the way only she could make it. Kissing Anahid was kissing hope and dreams and the angel of his better nature that she always told him to listen to.

He felt her arms link around his neck and suddenly they were in an unsteady waltz towards the bed, his hands fumbling with her uniform. He was used to hurried, desperate liaisons that were about base need and nothing more. Anahid was a world apart from that, her hands dancing gently and slowly across his body as if they had all the time in the universe, tracingscarred imperfections. He stopped his rush and felt his nervousness evaporate. This was something to be savored. For the first time in his life, he understood the difference between having sex and making love.

“I love you,” she whispered between breathless sighs and approving murmurs.

“I love you too,” he said, meaning it for the first time in his life. He didn’t know what a future without her would be like, but he knew he didn’t want to find out.

There was something different about it, a feeling that somehow their time together mattered. It didn’t matter that it was an old farmhouse with a creaky floor or a bed with threadbare sheets. There was nowhere else in the world he would have rather been. They lay together in afterglow, her back against his scarred chest with his arm draped around her, her scarred and mangled fingers interlaced with his. He could tuck her head securely under his chin, a comfortable arrangement. It was warm and safe under the blankets, in a cold and unsafe world.

“How are your feet so cold?” Hravad muttered, almost jumping when he felt hers against his own.

She laughed. “Give them a minute or two and they won’t be.”

“Heat vampire.” He inhaled deeply. She smelled like rosemary and mint. It would forever be a smell he associated with Anahid, the smell of her soap. It was a common scent, often found even when scavenging, and was one of the few luxuries she could afford, just as he had his cigarettes.

“You love me this way.” He was pleased with the way it sounded, said with such confidence. But that was Anahid in a nutshell: she spoke with such certainty about the things she loved, both her dreams and him.

He smiled widely, expression no longer set in a granite grimness. “I do.”

“Now that that’s settled...” she murmured. He could hear sleep creeping up on her in her voice.

“Sleep,” he said quietly. “Early day tomorrow.”

She sighed. “That’s what I’m going to love most about peace,” she said softly. “Laying in bed with you until a reasonable hour.”

He chuckled at that. “Every morning, if you like,” he said. Their time together had changed his mind radically from when he’d first met her and assumed peace was a fever dream. Now, it seemed almost inevitable. It was that certainty. It was so easy to be swept up in. He had thought for the first year he’d known her that Anahid was invincible, unshakable. But in that moment, dozing with the length of her body against his, she felt so fragile. Whatever symbol she was to people, there was a woman buried beneath. When they’d grown close, he’d seen her for who she really was behind the curtain. The woman that lead fearlessly through battles also cried at night when she hadn’t managed to save a town from the other warlords. She constantly questioned herself, doubted if she was the right person for this undertaking of theirs, feared what would happen if she failed. But once public eyes were on her, all of that faded away. She knew who she needed to be.

“Love you,” she murmured sleepily, just before her breathing started to deepen and slow in slumber. He felt his heart warm even more. He knew that meant he was the last thing on her mind before dreams claimed her.

He gently removed his hand from hers, but only so he could run it down her side. She didn’t stir, a good sign that she was well and truly asleep. He knew she had trouble with that sometimes, mostly from nightmares. However unfazed she seemed most of the time, he knew that the cruelties she’d experienced still haunted her. Sunlight could banish them, but eventually night came and they grew powerful.

Hravad didn’t want to close his eyes and sleep. He wanted to stay in this peaceful moment away from the world forever. He wanted to marry her and put down roots and have children instead of this wandering emptiness that the war left him with. He’d never been so certain of anything as he was that he wanted her in his life for the rest of his days. She had made herself a home in his heart, one where he hoped she would always want to stay.

Anahid was a constant woman. She abided like stone with a soul as deep as the ocean. She reflected back an image of him in her eyes that he liked better than what he saw when he looked at himself. She had a way of looking at people as though she didn’t care about the bad in them. It came without condition, without a price. He knew that if she decided to stay with him, he would never have to worry about her leaving.

It wasn’t certain that they wouldn’t die, of course. She bled and so did he. This war she—they—had started for all of Nalaya would not be an easy one. Already Casimir was making advances on the territory they controlled, no doubt enraged by what they’d accomplished. Jivanshir and Tadevos were both reinforcing their positions to the west, though their competition against each other would no doubt weaken them both. Hravad was grateful for the fact that the other warlords couldn’t stand each other or form a united front. It made it that much easier for them to forge a nation out of shattered pieces.

Anahid’s troops were not plagued by constant infighting, if only because she relentlessly pounded it into their heads. You are Nalayan. You are all Nalayan first and forever, no matter who else you are. We are all fighting for the same thing: a peace, a future. He had watched her painstakingly arrange for everyone to be treated fairly and exactly the same. She wasn’t interested in special favors or unfair treatment of anyone. She was the first person he’d ever met who cared so much about it. Even he had to have the same thing hammered into his own thought processes. Anahid refused to stop trying to ensure equality, no matter how difficult it was to implement. I want everyone to rise as far as they’re willing to take themselves.

Most of all, she believed in dreams of something better. He felt foolish for once assuming that such flights of imagination didn’t matter. Even if one couldn’t eat them, one would certainly eat for them. Granted, he had to remind Anahid to occasionally. She worked so hard she forgot sometimes. That was the one thing he worried about more than anything else: that she would forget to take care of herself. Maybe that was his purpose in life, to remind her to slow down, breathe, eat, and sleep.

“I love you,” he whispered softly with a smile, his hand resting on the curve of her hip. “Wherever you go, I will be there. If you fall, I will catch you.”

It was a promise easily made, one that he didn’t second-guess for an instant.

It was probably an hour before Hravad fell asleep too, his breathing deep and even. He was more relaxed that night than he’d ever been. His own sleep wasn’t troubled in the slightest. At least not until he felt her body shudder in his arms. Immediately, Hravad woke. She didn’t say anything or make a sound, but he recognized the catch of tears in her breath. He doubted she was even awake, but he knew her dreaming mind had gone to dark places.

“I’m here,” he murmured, stroking the point of her hip. “I’m right here.”

There was a shaky inhale. “Hravad?”

She’d woken up. He wasn’t certain if that was better or worse than her staying asleep. “I didn’t mean to wake you,” he said.

“You didn’t.” Her voice was thick with sleep still, the tone of someone barely conscious. “Thank you.”

“My pleasure,” he said softly. “You should go back to sleep.”

She shook her head slightly. “Not yet. Not for a while. It’ll just come back.”

He understood. His own sleep wasn’t always perfect. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. I just want to be with you.”

He shifted so that she could roll over. Her head came to rest on his shoulder. Her fingertips gently traced patterns on his back, brushing across shrapnel scars and old knife wounds. He’d been stabbed in the back before, both literally and metaphorically. “I’m going to miss this when we make for Armavir,” he murmured. “Sleeping in trucks isn’t the same.”

“Mhm.” Her noise of agreement was soft and small. “Beds were invented for a reason.”

“So I’ve heard.”

They talked for a few minutes more before she fell asleep again. He was quick to follow her lead, as always.




Kentronakan Train Station
Armavir, Nalaya
October 31st, 2006


“...I feel pretty, oh so pretty and wi—”

“Inna Karapetyan!” Anahid tried to snap, but she was laughing too hard to put on a scowl of disapproval. Their friend was perched on a bank of seats, grinning. Everyone in attendance had an open bottle of wine—or two, in Inna’s case—to celebrate their victory over Jivanshir. He was running north and east now, right at Casimir and the Tigress, Khavar T’avish, who were ripping away at each other. Tadevos was driven inland as well, forced towards the Dominion where their Vatani allies were lying in wait. It was an alliance Hravad was both surprised and grateful that Anahid had managed to secure. But then again, she had recruited him with a single conversation. It was just something about her.

Siran was too giggly herself to even pretend she wasn’t amused. Then again, she was halfway through her bottle. They were with a dozen senior officers from all different walks of life, everyone having a good time. Stories were beig traded back and forth, scars compared, and a few friendly games of chance starting up. Cards were a common source of entertainment.

Hravad grinned as he sat down beside Anahid, handing her something. “I thought you might like this.”

Anahid studied the tin cup he’d just brought her. “What is this—" Realization hit and she laughed. “It is rather nice wine, I suppose. It deserves a cup.” She poured some of it into her new, shiny tin cup.

“Yes, because drinking it out of the bottle is pure savagery,” Inna said before doing exactly that. “Siran, come play cards with me. Let’s leave the lovebirds to their own devices. Remember, you two, don’t do anything prim and proper Siran wouldn’t do. I’d hate to catch you two in flagrante delicto.”

Siran frowned. “I resent being called prim,” she said as Inna jumped down and caught her by the arm. She squeaked when Inna jerked her away to go join one of the card games.

“Quite a pair,” Hravad said with a chuckle.

“They say the same thing about us, if in a different way,” Anahid said softly, smiling at him. “Has it really been four years already?”

He chuckled. “Best four years of my life.”

Anahid blushed. “You say sweet things,” she said with a smile. “Who knew the grim and growling general was so romantic?”

“I try.” He may have been the grim, growling general, but he was her grim, growling general. “I would have brought you flowers, but my hunt was unsuccessful.”

“I don’t need them. I have you.” She leaned against his shoulder. “It finally feels like it’s starting to happen.”

“I thought you might like your present,” he said. “Happy anniversary. I got you a city.”

She laughed. It wasn’t untrue—he had been the architect of their battle plans, and he’d adapted them on the fly with aplomb. It had been a nightmarish battle, but now that the dead were handled and the enemy were routed, he could hear music in the air. “Thank you,” she said with amusement. “I love it. I love you.”

“I will never get tired of hearing that.” Hravad kissed her gently before drawing back. “I love you too.”

“I will never get tired of saying it.” She sighed contently and leaned into his side when he wrapped his arm around her. “It’ll be years before the city’s rebuilt, but it can start now.”

“Half the Heartland, half the Highlands…not a bad start at all,” he agreed. “Plus the Dominion is almost all on board.”

“It’s not going to be easy to get the rest,” Anahid admitted. “Particularly Casimir. He’s dug in like a tick in the north. I want to talk to T’avish. We could use her help.”

Hravad frowned. “I’m not sure I like the sound of that,” he said. “She’s a venomous creature, Anahid. What if she bites your hand too?”

She shrugged a little bit. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

He sighed. “I want to be there when you meet with her, just in case.”

“Of course. What would I be without you?”

“Fighting off men with a stick, probably,” he said with a touch of humor. He knew that wasn’t necessarily true. People regarded Anahid with something approaching reverence. She probably didn’t seem human enough for most to approach her that way. He was one of the few allowed behind the mask.

“I have the only one I need,” she said, finding his hand with her own to give it a squeeze. “There’s no one I’d rather take over the world with.”

He laughed. “You make a fine conqueror.” It was the furthest thing from who she was, almost absurdly so.

“Perhaps I should demand people use that title,” she mused playfully before laughing. “I think I would cringe every time I heard it.”

“And that is one of the many things I love about you.” He put his arm around her, feeling perfectly content. “When this is over, I’m going to marry you.”

She smiled and looked down at the ring on her finger. It was a plain golden band without a stone, engraved with thorns and leaves that flowered into a single rose. “I can’t wait.”

He’d asked her the night before they launched their assault, just in case something happened to either one of them. “Well, I guess we’d better hurry up and win, then.”

“I guess so.” She sounded as happy as he felt. “I wish every day was like this.”

“We’re always moving one step closer, even on the bad ones,” he said softly. “Before you know it, we’ll be living the dream.”

“I like the sound of that.”

They both looked over when someone pounded on one of the folding tables that had been set up in the station for their use. Every hotel in the city needed serious repair, so they’d agreed to congregate here. It could accommodate many people. “Anahid, we need a toast. Talk pretty for us,” Siran called.

There was a general murmur of approval at the idea.

“Someone’s had rather a lot of wine,” Anahid murmured with amusement. Then she called back, “What about, Siran?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one who rallies the troops,” Siran said with a grin.

“It’s going to be short,” Anahid warned. “Anything long and you’ll forget what I’m talking about.”

Siran laughed, but didn’t argue. “Get on with it then.”

“Since when are you the mouthy one, Siran?” Hravad said with a chuckle.

Anahid smiled at that. She gave Hravad’s hand a squeeze and then stood up, her tin cup full of wine in hand.The conversations died away. When Anahid talked, people listened. “You all did something incredible today,” she said. “Something many would have called impossible. You conducted yourselves not only victoriously, but honorably and mercifully, proving what poets know to be true.” She raised her cup. “Amor vincit omnia.”
Last edited by Nalaya on Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:30 am, edited 2 times in total.
Do you know, my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?
- Pope Julius III

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Nalaya
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Founded: Jul 02, 2011
Ex-Nation

Postby Nalaya » Thu Aug 04, 2016 12:04 am

Ruins of the Chapel
Tatev, Nalaya
April 22nd, 2009


Sometimes in April, the rains came to Tatev.

...we must believe fervently in what we are doing. Dreams are not made reality by half-heartedness. And more than that, they do not come easily. We will need every ounce of belief to see this through...

Anahid had a way of making the world feel what she was feeling. He could almost hear her thoughts pounding against the walls of what had been the priests’ quarters. It was starting to rain again, tears from heaven, the drizzle coming through the cracks and holes in the ceiling that were open to a sky of the same color as her eyes, grey and sorrowful. Now that everything was settled and they were fortified in case Casimir decided to launch his counterattack to recapture the ground they’d gained, she had withdrawn to the privacy here to think before she said anything to anyone. Most were too busy either celebrating or mourning or preparing for the next step to come looking just yet, though everyone noticed the absence. Anahid Vaneni, despite all she hoped, was not a woman easy to overlook.

They’d taken Tatev, but there was a price paid. Both sides took heavy casualties, civilians and combatants. Casimir had made them bleed for every bitter inch of ground. The city—such as it was now, in its ruinous glory—was theirs. Both sides would catch their breath now, resupply, and lick their wounds before the next clash. The Dragon was not about to go quietly into the night. His fire and claws were a power to be reckoned with. This was the bloodiest battle any of them had seen in a long time, desperate need fanning the flames of the inferno. The siege of Tatev had actually lasted longer than that of Armavir—Sevan was the only battle that had it beat, a nut that had taken Anahid a year to crack and that fell only because those inside were far more sympathetic to Anahid than they were afraid of Casimir. Fear, after all, couldn’t last forever. What it could do was breed anger and hate, both forces that had worked against Casimir as much as for him.

Anahid, with all her dreams and passions, couldn’t save the people who had fallen in Tatev and she knew it. He’d seen that knowledge in her grey eyes when she looked at the rows and rows of bodies laid out under an azure sky. Her face was composed, her eyes dry, but there were centuries’ worth of heartache in that expression. She walked along the rows, stopping at each one, bowing her head, and murmuring something. He’d gotten close enough to hear the quiet words.

...I will do better...I will do better...I will do better…

Every row. He was certain she would have gone to every body if she’d had time. There were just too many, constantly in the process of being claimed and cleaned up where possible before being returned to comrades and what loved ones were close enough that it was feasible. Anahid didn’t want to intrude on the grief of others or inconvenience them with the weight of her own conscience. People needed their space and their time. The next week was going to be funeral after funeral. Tomorrow, she would be saying words about it, offering as much comfort to the grieving as she could.

Hravad picked his way through the rubble to where she was sitting, her head in her hands. He eased himself down to sit beside her on a slab of fallen pillar, sore and bruised from the fighting. He’d been a little close to an explosion. Raindrops pattered down on his head and shoulders just as they pattered on hers. Most of the buildings in Tatev were either damaged or destroyed at this point. People were already trying to sift lives out of the rubble again, because what else could one do? They were Nalayan. The world continued to turn no matter how much it felt like it had ended.

For a long moment, he just sat there quietly, not certain what to say or do. Then he put his arm around her, letting her curl into him a little bit. “Is there anything I can do?” Hravad asked softly.

“No.” Anahid’s voice was soft and raw. It had a waver to it that the world would have been stunned to hear. It didn’t surprise him, however. Anahid was not a stranger to grief. But the body count was over thirty-five thousand now between soldiers and civilians. That was a bitter pill to swallow. He could hear the tears more than see them, that little catch in her breathing. He’d never seen Anahid sob, but he’d seen her cry.

Hravad sighed softly. There really wasn’t anything he could do and he knew it. “It’s not your fault, Anahid. It’s a war. People die in war.”

“That does not mean we should be comfortable with it.” She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. “They trusted me, Hravad. They believed in me, in us, in what we’re doing. They sacrificed everything. People call me Arzhani, and I may have bled and suffered for it, but no sacrifice of mine can even be compared to the one they made.” She twisted the ring he’d given her on her finger, a sign that she was thinking. “Every single one was a life, a collection of countless probabilities, could-have-beens and should-have-beens. It might be straightforward to send them to their deaths—a simple order, a mark on a map, a careful calculation—but it should never be easy. Life isn’t cheap, whatever people say. Losing it should always be heartbreaking.”

“If there was another way, you’d take it,” Hravad said with certainty. He held not even a sliver of doubt about that.

She nodded and sighed. “In a fraction of a second,” she said softly. “We wander this world so certain, until the blindfold is ripped away, that the universe is just and apportions to all as they deserve. They are proof, silent and eternal, that this is not the case. And tomorrow, I am going to have to stand up and convince people to fight, to die, even after everything they’ve already lost.”

“Death comes to us all.” He was somber and grim, a fitting companion to her funereal aspect. “Even in peace.”

“True.” He heard her pull in a shaky, but deep breath. He never heard her voice falter, even in the midst of the worst losses and the most heartache. That was Anahid’s instrument—not weapon, as she always seemed to build with it rather than cut down—of choice: her voice. In a world where so many resorted to blades and guns at the blink of an eye, that made her a rarity. He’d never seen Anahid forced to duel before. She could always find common ground and talk someone down, in that calm and pleasant way she had. A few sentences and even the angriest were almost spellbound. More than that, she was willing to do the one thing so few people in the world would if pushed and angry. She would apologize. “Someday, it won’t be like this.”

He nodded. “Someday,” he agreed.

They sat there for another few minutes, or maybe few hours, before finally the cold was too much for Anahid and a shiver ran through her body. “We should get back.” She wiped her eyes as she spoke, her tears lost in the rain. There was a certain wisdom in choosing then and there to let them fall, where they wouldn’t be seen or heard.

Siran was waiting half a block away, the collar of her coat turned up as if creating a wall against the chill. It looked like she’d been walking towards their little hiding place. “The others want to see you.” Siran’s tone spoke volumes about who it was who was asking for Anahid—only the warlords could bring out tension like that in the intelligence officer’s voice. “It’s about Casimir and what we’re going to want to do. Kella is keeping the peace for now, but...she’s not you.”

Anahid nodded and squared her shoulders, the sorrow hiding again behind those silver eyes. She was ready to face the world again.
Do you know, my son, with what little understanding the world is ruled?
- Pope Julius III

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Schottia
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Founded: Feb 20, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Schottia » Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:08 am

The Old Burton, Dodds & Sons Building,
East Handon, 2014


'Nae fuckin' way.' Replied David Scott, nervously exhaling cigarette smoke while he paced the desolate room. 'Ye'r stayin right here, until Ah work oot how tae get ye oot the country; then ye'r aff! Oot ma life for guid!' He threw the remains on his cigarette onto the old dusty floorboards and stamped it out angrily.

David Scott and his brother John were criminals; and in terms of peaceful little Schottia they were as bad as it got. They specialised in smuggling people and goods in and out of the country, as well as using extortion, torture, and on occasion murder to achieve their means. But even they were Anxious. When they had accepted two hundred thousand pounds from John Mortimer to get him and a few documents out of the country, they hadn't thought much of it. A crooked political advisor, probably trying to blackmail someone and things got a little too hot to handle. Easy 200k. But that was before the found out whom he had been trying to blackmail.

'If you just get me to Amy Connell, let me have a quick word, I can stop all this shit falling back on you.' Mortimer said staring out through the bars, barely able to see through the decades of grim on the old fish processing factory windows. It was a bright clear Autumn day outside, but from the small amount of sunlight able to penetrate building, it would have been impossible to tell.

'Just shut the fuck up, afore Ah puit a bullet in yer heid masel!' John Scott snarled, as he finished urinating in a bucket in the corner of the room. 'Hud we kent whey it wais ye were dealin with, Ah'd huv telt ye where tae go!'

The Scott brothers grew up in the housing estates of Kirk Preston back in the early seventies, and got into gang politics from a young age. Aggression and lawlessness was the only life either of them knew. Their father Ian, a petty criminal had been serving a jail sentence for housebreaking and assault when the boys were young, leaving their mother and paternal grandmother to raise them. Since before they had left school, the two brothers were making a living from dishonest means, building up a criminal empire around them. If you needed something done, and were unable to go through the official channels, then you came to the Scott brother - obviously with a large amount of used bank notes. With Schottian unable to have more than 100 thousand in their bank accounts, dishonest individuals were always approaching underground banks to keep rainy day funds safe. One of the Scotts' steady streams of employment had always been working as security for these seedy operatives.

Mortimer tried to clear some of the grime from the window, but realised most of it was on the outside. He could just see down to the street below, where one of the Scott's men, posing as a homeless person sat guard near the back entrance to the factory. He probably had a gun concealed somewhere under his blanket, or at least a knife. The disguise was obviously working as a plump, ruddy-faced businessman was handing him few coins and a cup of hot tea. The disguise was obviously working. On the other side of the road, a little further up the street, the same two men had been standing at the bus stop all day, they were no doubt keeping guard from the other way.

In addition to this, there were at least another six armed fighters inside the concrete tower that once was the processing plant; and then there were the two brothers themselves. David Scott was the elder brother, he was thin, grey and gnarled, with a lank, yellowing ring of hair round the back of his head, and silver stubble covering his scarred chin. Despite his age, he looked like the last person in world you would want to get into a fight with; like the kind of guy who would rip your throat out with his fingernails. John on the other hand, the younger by four years, was a couple of centimetres taller and a good thirty kilos heavier. He had speckled grey hair which looked thicker in patches, broad shoulders, muscular arms, and a troll like face. He was constantly marching back and forward through the only door in and out of the room, with a sub-machinegun slung over his shoulder.

Mortimer couldn't imagine who it was that had them so worried, but the Scotts appearing scared had to be like one of the harbingers of the apocalypse, so it had the former press adviser on edge. He really needed to get to Amy, tell her what he knew. Once he was on the other side, probably relocated to some distant nation with a fake ID, it would be almost impossible to get back in touch. There was no way to achieve that now; if he tried to call this off the Scotts would shoot him, if he tired to run they would shoot him; if he actually escaped, either they, Connell's men, or the Communists would shoot him. It was hard to tell whether he was a client here or a prisoner.

'Aye, and get yer fuckin pus awa fae thon gless!' David Scott barked as spit flew from the corners of his mouth. 'D'ye ken how near they bastards will be from findin ye? The last thing Ah want them tae see is yer ugly mug pressed against a fuckin winae!'

Mortimer took a step back, feeling angry now. Then something caught his eye. The man sitting disguised as a beggar had fallen forward clutching his throat. Mortimer was no expert on these kind of situations, but this couldn't be good.

'The guy.' He pointed at the window, as the Scott brothers got ready to yell at him. 'Across the road, someone's just poisoned him. Him there, the beggar!'

John Scott jumped up to the window, with a face that told Mortimer exactly want would happen if he were wrong - but that expression quickly changed. 'We've got about thirty seconds before this building is breached.' He turned and said to his brother. Meanwhile Mortimer's attention was drawn to a screeching sound as a bin lorry ploughed into the bus stop, wiping out the other two gang-members. 'You two, git tae the front door!' He said to a pair or rugged looking men with assault rifles. 'Billy. You, Nicky, and Sparky get tae the boats, that's whaur they'll be expectin us tae take him. Let's make them think we're takin the cunt oot that way!'

As Mortimer saw people gather around the scene of the bus crash, the ruddy-faced businessman had reappeared, and was removing a large two-handed drill from a holdall. Very calmly he began drilling out the rivets of the huge steel panel over the entrance to the building. As he finished two more men came from out of the crowd, and under his instructions, began using crowbars to remove it.

'Mortimer! ye'r with us.' Said David Scott, pulling him away from the window, just as he heard machine gun fire coming from the stairwell. 'Move! Move!' Scott added, thrusting a handgun into his hand, and pushing him at speed towards the other side of the room. 'Barry! You guard the doors. Anyone comes up here, ye kill them!'

John Scott banged furiously on the roof of the building, prompting the skylight to be opened almost instantly. Mortimer was given a boost up by the brothers who then began helping themselves up through the opening, careful not use anything like a box or ladder which might have indicated their exit. On the roof of the processing plant Mortimer was greeted by a young woman with long black hair most of which concealed under the hood of her jumper. She pushed him back down onto his knees to keep him low, and out of sight from the road.

'Four of them in the building.' She said to David Scott as he emerged through the skylight. 'Three have gone round the back. I don't know if they have boats or other vehicles.' She added in a North Island accent.

'Fire escape!' Was David Scott's only answer. Pushing Mortimer in that direction, making sure they kept his head down. As they reached the iron gate, which lead to the external staircase, they encountered another of his men keeping guard. 'Go!' David said, slapping the man on the back and peering over into the courtyard round the back of the complex. There was the sound of yet more bullets from inside the building. 'Mortimer, ye're ahint me, and afore John. Laura, you bring up the rear.'

They moved at pace down the first set of stairs, Mortimer couldn't really see what was happening from his position in the middle. So when John Scott stopped and started firing he placed his hands to his ears in shock. The gang member out in front had been shot in the chest, either with a silencer or there was so much adrenalin pumping that Mortimer hadn’t heard the bullet. Eventually he regained his composure, and his eyes fixed on a two men in the courtyard, who the Scotts had just taken out. Mortimer had never seen a dead person until today, now he had seen three in the space of two minutes.

'Go go go!' Mortimer was pushed down the steps, stumbling over the corpse of their associate, staggering, half-tripping, faster than his legs would take him.

Another gunshot. He turned to see Laura had shot someone standing on the roof who fell past them screaming, before hitting the ground with an audible crunch. 'They're on the roof!' She shouted.

It continued like this for what felt like hours, but in actual fact can't have even been a minute. Shots being fired, bullets pinging off the iron fire escape, bodies collapsing. Mortimer was completely out of it; his legs were simply on autopilot. He had a gun in his hand, but he couldn't compose himself for long enough to even aim it. Eventually they were only four or five meters from the ground. David Scott kicked a side gate open and jumped onto a flat, felted, garage roof. John Scott threw Mortimer bodily onto the roof after him, before pulling his assault riffle to his shoulder and putting a bullet in the head of another man who had just rounded the corner.

David Scott was hanging over the edge, looking down at the wooden double doors. Keeping low he then doubled back, and removed an area of loose felt, and lifted a trap door. 'Jump doon aifter me!' He shouted through gritted teeth. All Mortimer could do was nod, before Scott descended into the darkness.

Mortimer looked back. There was the sound of a struggle, although he couldn't make out exactly what had happened. The Businessman had reappeared, and he had John Scott pinned to the wall with his own riffle to his throat. The woman Scott had called Laura was getting to her feet, heading for her gun which had been lost in the melee. The Businessman left Scott for a second and ran to Laura, kicking her in the face, almost knocking her clean unconscious. John Scott swung for the Businessman, but he ducked it and connected with a fist of his own to Scott's gut. John Scott was a hefty individual, but the blow looked like it could have cut most people in two. He then went to pick up his gun, but as he did, John Scott rugby tackled him, the two of them landing with a crunch on roof, causing the entire wooden structure to shake. Mortimer pointed the gun, hands shaking, but he couldn't be sure of whom he would hit. Eventually the men were back on their feet again. Once more John Scott swung a massive clenched fist at the Businessman, who this time palmed it, pulling his opponent in and catching him with an elbow in the jaw. The Businessman was tall, and definitely overweight, but he was quick, and very obviously had been trained in fighting at some point. Grabbing Scott by the belt, and the collar of his jacket, he spun and ran him off the edge of the garage. It was a two and a half meter drop, and Scott skidded for about a body length face first across the tarmac before stopping in a crumpled heap.

More men were running towards them, handguns pointed at Mortimer, telling him not to move. Just as he was about to put his hands up, Laura, who had regained herself, kicked the Businessman in the back on the knee, and hauled Mortimer towards the trapdoor. Everything was happening in the blink of an eye. They landed on the roof of a car, where they heard David Scott screaming. 'In baith of ye!' Laura bundled Mortimer in the front, and climbed into the back herself. She picked up a gun from the back seat and wound down the back window.

The car revved into gear and smashed through he wooden doors, splintering them into pieces. More bullets flew as they careered through a group of people, a twisted body flying over the windscreen. David Scott clutched the wheel with determination, his eyes fixed to the road as he spun this way and that. The vehicle was a heavy four by four, probably very expensive. Two cars barred the way out into the street, and behind them men aimed their weapons. Scott pushed Mortimer's head down under the dashboard, as Laura returned fire from the back seat. You could almost feel the tension fizzing inside the vehicle as they burst their way through the roadblock. Mortimer looked up the windscreen, which was smashed, with pieces of glass everywhere.

'We need tae get tae Granton harbour.' Scott said back to his accomplice who was just finished emptying a clip of ammo at the men behind them. 'Steal a boat or somethin, it's our only chance.' Laura nodded, wiping some of the blood from her mouth on the arm of her grey hooded top. She prodded one of her front teeth, which had probably become loose during the scuffle.

'I'm sorry.' Was all Mortimer could think to say, as they hurtled through the streets, passing police cars and emergency vehicles with sirens blaring. But no one even acknowledged him.

'Fuckin cunts!' Scott said, looking at his wing mirror. 'Left hand side, fuckin bike!'

'Got it.' Said Laura, who took her aim, and shot the rider in the head. 'Just a matter of time before the police are on us too. I reckon Jan Connell will have bought them some time, but whatever diversion he had planned won't keep them on the other side of the city for long.' There was an expression of genuine worry in her eyes, the left one now barely open, as the swelling grew.

'Agreed.' Scott replied shortly, still trying hard to concentrate on the speed he was driving.

'I always thought that big guy was in the secret police.' Laura added, holding the cold handle of her gun against the swelling around her eye. 'He's the one that shot Len Martin; I remember him, clear as a bell.'

'Well, whether he is or he's no' we ken his loyalties.' David Scott, swerved to avoid a woman crossing the road, before taking a right up McAdam bridge. 'We're no huvin' a debate aboot who he's workin for the'noo.'

Laura nodded, conceding the point. 'Are you okay?' She asked Mortimer, who could only nod in surprise, such was his shock at the fact that someone had actually addressed him, let alone inquired after his wellbeing.

'I'm fine.' he answered. It was hard to judge the woman's age, but Mortimer would have placed her in her late twenties. She was not an unattractive woman, but she looked a little under weight, with dark bags under her eyes, probably the result of tiredness. Her skin was also a little greasy, with a few spots here and there. If Mortimer were being a detective, he would have said this was a result of wearing too much make up, possibly a hit towards undercover roles.

'Good.' Laura answered a little more upbeat. 'While you're alive at least we know they have to be careful, can't take you out in the collateral-damage.'

'D'you reckon?' Mortimer asked, looking down at the gun, contemplating whether or not he would ever use it.

'If they wanted ye deid, we'd aa be deid.' Scott snarled, as he took a sharp right and then another left, as they now were heading north out of the city.

'I'm not sure if John will have made it Davy.' Said Laura, sounding genuinely aggrieved. 'He took a big fall, of the roof like.' Mortimer wasn't sure how the news would go down. He knew David Scott was unpredictable, but he didn't know him well enough.

'He's deid.' Scott answered coldly. 'Whoever they are, they've nae reason tae keep him alive either way.' He paused for a second, his face softening from a grimace for the first time since he had started driving. 'Ah genuinely hope Sparky makes it.' Scott swallowed hard. 'Ah like the laddie.'

There was another silence as the conversation was left dead. Sparky, he had been one of the gang members guarding Mortimer, he'd gone down to the boats. Mortimer wasn't sure what relation he was to Laura. Brother? Partner? A week ago the Scotts and their cronies probably felt untouchable, now everything they had was crumbing to dust.

'Chase is back on.' Said Scott looking into the mirror again, as a sports came into view. 'Laura see what ye can do. Mortimer, try tae stay alive, eh?'

Scott did his best to lose them, and Laura shot furiously out of the back window, but there was no shaking the car. There was now a sense of panic in the vehicle, as it became abundantly clear to Mortimer that the people protecting him knew the game was nearly up. Another car came in from a side street and pressed them up against the kerb. Scott turned the wheel franticly, as sparks flew, but they were beginning to slow. Scott lifted a gun from his side and shot the driver in the head, but it only bought them a few seconds, as they came to a stop against a bollard. The car, which had been pursuing them, drove past them and pulled up on the pavement ahead. The windscreen was riddled with bullet holes, and Mortimer could see the passenger was dead.

'Bide there!' Said Scott as he pulled another gun from the glove compartments and took off his seatbelt. Just then blood sprayed all over Mortimer and the car interior as a bullet went right through Scott's head and out the other side. Laura leaned forward and shot the culprit, but that was her last action as she was pulled out of the car by the side door. The Businessman, had a large hand round her throat, so large in fact, that he could lift her to her tiptoes with one hand. She thrashed, kicking him with both feet, digging her nails into his wrist, but it was to no avail as she soon went limp, and was dropped in a heap.

'Don't move!' Mortimer pointed his gun at him, for some reason genuinely mourning the death of two people who would have probably killed him if they'd had the chance. His hands were shaking as he held the gun high, pointing it at the Businessman's chest.

'Hello Mr Mortimer.' He said, smiling under his moustache. Before calmly snatching the gun off him, as if he were a petulant child. 'You've been a rather slippery fish to catch...'

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Gylias
Diplomat
 
Posts: 824
Founded: Dec 19, 2012
Left-wing Utopia

Kansatsu-sha, 16 February 1968

Postby Gylias » Fri Dec 30, 2016 6:16 pm

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A Gylias-Kirisaki coproduction, brought to you by Gylias and Kirisaki.
Click on images for full-size versions.
Last edited by Gylias on Fri Oct 19, 2018 11:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Quen Minh
Chargé d'Affaires
 
Posts: 497
Founded: Oct 29, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

Postby Quen Minh » Fri May 05, 2017 10:34 pm



The Counterarguments
對數椎及

Các Đối số truy cập

by
Lam Kinh
Substitute Official for Tống Sắc Triều Thuận
Member of the Imperial Court of His Majesty, Minh Đức


published by
The Imperial Literary Guild
in
1625, Month 10, Day 6




AN ADDRESS TO THE READERS


There were stories about famous women that I have been told by my mother and father before I go sleep in my room, or having an afternoon or evening walk with my mother when my father is currently working in the Court, back when I was young. Such tales, like that of the Empress Ỷ Huệ of the Liễu Dynasty, Empress Aí Thanh of the Early Nguyễn Dynasty, and Lady Trinh of Âu Lạc, have kept me to let my eyes stay wide open whilst hanging onto the edge of the blanket with much eagerness. Their attention to detail of each respective woman's achievements and hardships during their times has conjured up a cause in me that would help me get on my feet and exert the potential hidden within, if not also prolong my desire to stay awake in my bed for a little longer; it was the mere reason I had implicitly convinced my father to study literature and writing. Similarly, I have often heard of the stories of those that reside within the realm of a thousands islands to the East in conversations with fellow ambassadors and merchants from the aforementioned land, and I was astonished as to how the women there have held much social status as that of men. From that sort of feeling, it has lifted my spirits more, and it has certainly helped me persevere in using the talents that were given to me from the heavens above. I thought that I, as a woman, could do as I completely willed in those days.

Yet, despite possessing such vitality, my anticipations were, to be honest, shattered as I gave myself time to observe and glance at the current conditions that were still being set against women in today's society. Everywhere I go, I see other women not being free to do what they wish. Every street I walk on, I see women with their husbands not speaking unless indicated to do so. Every party organized by a particular court official that I would go to with my father, I see wives not being able to discuss what they had in mind towards other politicians, with the blanket of false privilege preventing them from doing so. And furthermore, I've seen female dancers continuing to do whatever is asked without ever having to say a word of gratitude and trying to calm themselves mentally amid the cheers, laughs, and sneers of the dominant amorous lot watching. I tell you that it is really aching to keep those sights in my eyes for as long as time tells. Seeing as how these experiences and the troubles I've experienced in regards to the context of the aforementioned deliberate discrepancies has affected me with such grief and torment, I almost felt intense remorse for myself being a woman, and with those tales still revolving around my nation's history, that mental tribulation only exacerbated.

However, after realizing the truth, it never meant that I should lament with so much pity for other women. It also meant that I should never let that same feeling of remorse transform me into the typical frail girl that society in its subtle tones highly cherishes. In fact, as much as how aggravating it is to have these problems tear my heart apart from time to time, it has given me more reason for the incentive to stand up for myself to sink in and let it reshape my mentality and goals in life. Prior to how reserved I am, however, I cannot say I have the will to fight entirely like a man, but by utilizing the talents of a writer and an orator, I can say that I have the will to fight as a woman and a man altogether.

Fellow readers, I have obtained some time from your daily labors to give myself the chance to enunciate to you, in the best words I could inscribe in this work, a complication that has been silently plaguing the minds of every citizen of the Dynasty. On that note, I am not asking you to become rioters against the government, or sadists against those that preserve the social oppression against women. I am merely addressing this predicament in a more educated manner for you to inform the populace about how repressive this current rendition of society is rigged against women in the most cunning manner, and do whatever you can in your potential to speak to the government about it in the most respectful manner possible. As much as how women tend to be more reserved than men, not to deliberately express hate against the latter, it is a trait that should be highly valued amongst all. While audacity may be a strength to keep one staunch to his or her beliefs, respect is another manner that can get you to accomplish whatever goals you have in life, and that is how I want the fight against this injustice to turn out.
Tis' best that you call my nation Quenmin.


"It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal” - Jose Rizal

“You call me a legendary general, but I think I’m no different from my soldiers" - Võ Nguyên Giáp

"Learning never exhausts the mind" - Leonardo da Vinci

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us" - J.R.R. Tolkien

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Quen Minh
Chargé d'Affaires
 
Posts: 497
Founded: Oct 29, 2014
Liberal Democratic Socialists

The Diary of Tiêu Yến Hạnh: Entry #1

Postby Quen Minh » Tue May 09, 2017 1:04 am

12 September 1940


Dear Diary,

It's so finally great to have you as a birthday gift from my mother. I've been waiting so long for something to write my thoughts down on, and it REALLY gives me a headache on how long I have to keep it that way. I'll be back to write to you later. I'll be getting some more cake.





(OOC: This photo is attached on the back of the front cover)


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(A quite loathsome picture of me before going on a business trip, thanks to my parents)
Tis' best that you call my nation Quenmin.


"It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal” - Jose Rizal

“You call me a legendary general, but I think I’m no different from my soldiers" - Võ Nguyên Giáp

"Learning never exhausts the mind" - Leonardo da Vinci

"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us" - J.R.R. Tolkien

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