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Stray Embers and Howling Fires [CLOSED; Noctur Only]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Karasi-a
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Stray Embers and Howling Fires [CLOSED; Noctur Only]

Postby Karasi-a » Wed Dec 16, 2020 7:38 pm

December 16th, NC 4067 - North Zanzes, the village of Rinayuris


Rinayuris, located just shy of the border between North and South Zanzes, could barely be considered a town. More accurately described in English as a hamlet or possibly a village, it consisted only of a small number of families whose livelihoods all revolved around the cultivation of rare blue papaya1.The plant was rare on account of being almost impossible to grow outside of these select areas, and this was one of many factors that resulted in blue papaya being considered a delicacy. Another factor which helped blue papaya prices (like those grown in Rinayuris) was the fact that it could be distilled and aged into a particularly fine wine which was abominably popular (and expensive) in places like Hadin. For this reason, the blue papaya trade was big business; poor towns with no other means of profitability like Rinayuris survived solely because they were one of the few places one could reasonably expect the plant to grow in all of Noctur.

When the Septimists found their way into North Zanzes, they had taken great care not to leave any stone unturned in the business of extinguishing heathenism in North Zanzes. Providing the good word of Septima to the backwards savages who'd never known his grace was one of the necessary duties of the occupying Hadinian government, who had deemed it a necessary service to modernize their newfound holdings on the mainland of Terra Occidens. To this end, they made every attempt to ensure missionary efforts were made to every population center in North Zanzes, from large cities like Zanzibar to lowly hamlets like Rinayuris. Of course, even the High Envoy of Hadin himself would tell anyone that ministering to the souls of an entire population of heathens when one's own country has only half the same population is a... difficult affair. So it was that the missionaries assigned to Rinayuris found themselves assigned to other towns in a large area as well; sadly this does not allow the same quality of expungement of heathenism.

Thanks to the missionaries from Hadin, every man, woman, and child currently living in Rinayuris officially identified as a Septimist. They could identify the seven facets of Septima, recite basic Septimist prayers from memory, and attended church services once a week which, for lack of town-space, were held at the village elder's own home. All of the houses of Rinayuris had been given a Zanzean-language print copy of the Bibi Albus. A few of the townsfolk even read the book occasionally. All of them would tell you, when the missionaries were in town, that they had rejected their old faiths and animistic beliefs.

When the missionaries were around, Rinayuris Mtolo Asrar would take her daily walk into the forests around her home and search for seeds or other bounties from the forest. Seeking out mushrooms or rare herbs for home use wasn't against the new normal that came with several years of occupation by Hadin. She knew of a particular spot, about a half-mile from the path leading south from the granary in Rinayuris and somewhat off to the right, where trees leaked a slow-burning resin that could keep the candles burning for nights on end. When the missionaries weren't around, sometimes Asrar would instead carry away a basket of potatoes and take the path leading south from the granary and somewhat off to the left.

The Septimists hadn't yet found out where Khatibi made her home, in a small hut hidden in plain sight and by chance of being far enough away from what the missionaries considered "a population center". Here, at Khatibi's hut, the smell of Septimist incense and the noise of Septimist prayers was out of reach.

Khatibi had once been Rinayuris Sibari Khatibi, but when the Septimists had come with their books and their God and their missionaries, Khatibi chose a life of recluse and isolation rather than to betray the old traditions she'd called hers2. Out in isolation, stripped of township name and family name, the woman now known only as Khatibi continued the practice of forbidden rites once considered commonplace. When the missionaries weren't around, some like Asrar would go to Khatibi for a number of requests: healing, soothsaying, talisman-making, spiritual communion with the departed, etc. Upon arrival to Khatibi's hut and being welcomed to sit at a lonely table to one side of the room, Asrar found herself pondering how plain Septimist spirtitualism seemed compared to the mysticism littered around Khatibi's home. Khatibi, dressed in drab brown clothing, sat across from Asrar. Asrar, in turn, pushed forward the basket of potatoes to present to Khatibi, who removed them one by one and counted them. Asrar had loaded the basket with six potatoes in total. She'd also added two small tins of oil and salt, which Khatibi met with slight surprise.

"Three questions, Asrar," Khatibi warned her. "Salt makes me generous". Khatibi reached into her pocket and produced a number of stones, handing them to Asrar.

"Ask aloud, then drop them. I will tell you your answer". Nervously, Asrar took the handful of stones and raised them a bit above her head. There was a moment's hesitation before she recited her first question: "is there life for me outside of Rinayuris?" --- and with that, she let go of the stones, watching them fall from her hand and clatter unto (and occasionally off) the table. Khatibi's eyes glanced at the stones that remained for a moment before gesturing for Asrar to fetch the two stones that had fallen from the table's surface.

"This figure, Asrar...the spirits say yes. I see a flood of people before you. I see steel towers and shimmering lights brushing against the sky. I see a banner whose meaning I do not know, Asrar. Perhaps someday, you will consider such sights commonplace. Next question, child". Annoyed by Khatibi's curt response but eager to collect on her remaining two questions, Asrar pouted for a moment before collecting the stones and contemplating her next question.

"When I leave, will I go for love?" Asrar's mind flashed to Rinayuris Chafik Tahmir. She and Tahmir had always been close. Once, when they were both small, they'd spent entire days hand-in-hand. The onset of adulthood and the prudishness that came with the missionaries saw their closeness as no longer acceptable unless bonded by the missionaries in holy matrimony. Tahmir seemed reluctant to initiate such a change in their relationship. Pining for him still, Asrar dropped the stones again, and as she collected the four that had fallen off the table, Khatibi read her the answer.

"I see a tall man who has watched you for a time. He will beckon and you will go".

That couldn't be anyone but Talmir, Asrar thought confidently, readying herself for her last question. Once Khatibi signaled that she was ready, Asrar dropped the stones again, asking, "and what will Talmir and I do once we've left?" Perhaps she'd used too much force when extending her arm, or perhaps the stones merely fell at a strange angle. Not one of the stones remained on the table once she'd dropped them, all scattering to the floor in various directions.

"I'm sorry!" Asrar began, getting up to collect them from the floor. "I'll go pick them up ri--"

The sharp gesture of Khatibi grabbing Asrar's arm stopped the younger woman in her tracks. Khatibi's dark eyes, rimmed with sleepless black bags, glared darkly at Asrar.

"Child, don't ask questions you don't wish to know the answer for".

"I-it...can't be that bad, can it?"

"I think you should return home, Rinayuris Mtolo Asrar, while you still can".




December 25th, NC 4067 - an undisclosed location in North Zanzes


When Jasper Adami had begun his work in North Zanzes, he'd never expected to be so successful. His (off-the-books) orders from the Hadinian Envoyship were to manipulate the volatile situation on the Zanzeanic border to the benefit of the Hadinian government. Officially being in North Zanzes as a businessman procuring rare goods and looking into investment opportunities, Jasper Adami had found himself with adequate opportunity to operate in North Zanzes unchecked.

He'd learned a lot in the few months he'd been here. It was common knowledge that in pre-modern times, Zanzes had been a powerful nation with several vassal states. As the world neared the industrial age, Zanzes suddenly fell off the political map and into isolationism. The centuries-old mystery was eventually solved after Zanzes, now a relic of the past struggling to play "catch-up" with the rest of the world, re-opened its borders to foreigners. Anthropologists and historians descended on Zanzes to find it had been recoiling from a devastating natural calamity which had pushed it back into the dark ages when the rest of the world was on the cusp of modern industry. If history had been kinder, perhaps Zanzes would have remained one of the greatest powers in Noctur.

It would not be so; Jasper's presence in Zanzes was the beginning of another catastrophe. His true, hidden task had been merely to test the waters of the tensions that existed on the border. To this end, he'd orchestrated a few menial skirmishes to put the North and South Zanze further at ends with each other. The fact that this power-play had resulted in political discord in South Zanzes was just icing on the cake. Three out of South Zanzes's five states had openly defied the Emperor's efforts at diplomacy as the squabbles continued, and now Hadin was on the brink of being able to declare a "war on terror". Adami's superiors at home were pleased, and an opulent retirement was within Jasper's reach. All that was needed now was one final push, and Jasper knew exactly where to get that push from.

Har'et Tahir Shujaa was a mid-ranked bureaucrat working in the township of Pasir'han. What most people didn't know about Shujaa was that he was a South Zanzean sympathizer, and that sensitive information which happened to cross his desk occasionally found its way into the hands of South Zanzean extremists. In turn, the extremists were using this information to further antagonize the North Zanzean people they'd once called their countrymen. This inevitably led to actions which allowed the Hadinian press to demonize the South Zanze as radicals who were attempting to upheave the order Hadin was attempting to set forth in North Zanzes. As South Zanzes played further and further into Adami's hands, any attempts by Nui-ta to try and smooth things over with diplomacy became more and more futile. Thus, the perfect storm was nearing completion.

Adami did know about Har'et Tahir Shujaa's treasonous activities, which he'd found out from contacts in the Pasir'han government who were getting ready to out Shujaa as a traitor to the North Zanzean state. Rather than allow the arrest to occur, Adami had managed to get clearance from the Hadinian authorities to suspend any legal action against Shujaa and instead slowly coax the unwitting man into thinking no one was any wiser to his crimes. Before long, Shujaa showed signs of becoming more comfortable and daring with the information he leaked, and thus Adami and his contacts fed Shujaa more information to ensure that he too would become putty in their hands. Shujaa's leaks had become reliable enough for South Zanzeans on the other side to trust his information with little vetting. Adami had chosen, for Shujaa's final leak, a small piece of false information which would set off a tidal wave of chaos.

Through Shujaa, the extremists would come to find that Hadin was pre-emptively planning an act of state-sponsored terror in South Zanzes. They would find that there were hidden efforts to disguise this terror attempt by hiding plans, weapons, and operatives in plain sight. One such hidden base for these terror attempts would be in a small, backwater hamlet no one cared about called Rinayuris. In actuality, Rinayuris was nothing but a small papaya plantation, and the only Hadinian agents who operated in that area were religious missionaries and their contracted protection. Of course, by the time South Zanzes realized this, they would likely have already burned Rinayuris to the ground. This final attack, motivated by lies, and fear, and hate, would surely give North Zanzes (and Hadin) the justification they needed to force military action. By the time the truth came to light that South Zanzes had been tricked, it would be far too late to halt the Hadinian war machine. The Theocracy would have a fantastic opportunity to exert an increased amount of control over Karas as a whole, perhaps finally cementing itself as the dominant power in Septima's grace.




January 14th, NC 4068 - North Zanzes, the village of Rinayuris


When blue papaya crops burn, there's a distinct smell. One could describe it as charcoal with a hint of ammonia --- or maybe that was a result of the fertilizer on the soil combusting as well. Asrar didn't have a lot of time to think about it.

It wasn't just the crops that were on fire, but everything else too. Every house in Rinayuris was on fire. When Hadin had spread its influence into North Zanzes, the Hadinians had brought updated infrastructure into the country. This was much more effectively done in the cities and towns, which all boasted the same concrete and asphalt roads, similar electrical grids, and working water systems. It had helped that those parts of Zanzes which had been the most advanced before Zanzes's fall almost two hundred years ago had remnants of steam and water systems from those centuries ago which still worked and simply needed a face-lift.

Rinayuris and other small locales like it had no such luck. Just as missionary efforts were more diluted on account of the rather backwoods nature of such a place, so too were infrastructural upgrades. Unlike places like Zanzibar, Rinayuris had no existing infrastructure from the days of old either. It had always been a small settlement of dirt floors and thatched roofs. Once, this had given it a sort of charm in the midst of the industrialization going on not far away from it.

That charm would not save it now. The billowing smoke surrounded Asrar as she ran, disorienting her and cutting off precious air. As she stumbled to the ground and attempted to crawl to safety, she could hear the popping sounds in the distance closing in.

Bang Bang! "La tutrak'u wahid yaq!"3

Knowing the men meant the people of Rinayuris, Asrar panicked and continued crawling away. At one point, she tried to pull herself back to a standing position; to run, rather than crawl, as far as her legs would take her. There was another bang-whizz!! sound as she made this attempt, and she soon watched with horror as an old man's figure collapsed suddenly just to her left. The man was an eighty-year old who'd lived in the hut next to hers with his family --- or at least he had been, until the invading soldiers gunned him down in cold blood before her. Seeing his still open eyes, already turning glassy as a smear of blood trickled from his mouth, Asrar froze in terror and remained low to the ground. Hazy figures, some with guns, some unarmed and screaming, ran around her. None seemed to notice she was there. The smoke rose above her low position on the ground, not quite choking her but still burning her airways and clouding her senses. Suddenly, a pair of hands grabbed her. Asrar screamed.

"Sssh!!" The man coaxed her, covering her mouth with one of his large hands. For a moment, Asrar feared one of the attacking soldiers had found her, but as the man pulled her with him out of the smoke and into the nearby woods, Asrar realized she'd seen him before. This was one of the missionary men from Hadin.

"Esne saucius?"4 She did not speak his Hadinian tongue, and looked at him with confusion as he pulled her to her feet and dusted her off. He quickly realized the gap in their communications, and corrected himself by switching the same question to her own language: Halant taldit?

"I-I...I'm fine," she lied to him. She certainly didn't feel fine, and yet there was no denying she'd likely be much worse off if he hadn't found her when he did. The missionary man, who she remembered to be called Vel, began pulling her further into the woods where she soon found a few other Rinayuris residents waiting for them. One by one, the missionaries had apparently been leading them to safety from the flames. Most of the escapees were children; a few elderly men and women and only three young men and women stood with them. Talmir was nowhere to be seen. Two other Hadinians, one missionary and one travelling doctor, were also present in the group, trying to administer first aid to a belligerent woman who was bleeding profusely from the abdomen. The two men were having a hard enough time keeping her from screaming and alerting the attacking soldiers to the group's location. In the process of pulling her from the burning village, they had inadvertently stopped her from running into her home and retrieving her child. Somewhere in the process of all of this chaos, a stray bullet had pierced her.

"Euseo and Lambi have guns. You stay here, I have to go grab others if I can," Vel advised Asrar. He gestured to the two armed men Euseo was a mercenary, rather than a missionary, who'd been contracted to the Hadinian missionaries to protect them on their journey. Lambi was another resident of Rinayuris. Vel hesitated for a moment, noticing Asrar had not let go of him. Her hands were trembling as she stared out past the edge of the woods, where the haze of smoke could still be seen. Behind them, the wailing woman suddenly fell silent.

"She's dead..." the doctor said, shaking his head. The remaining missionary closed the dead woman's eyes, hastily mumbling a prayer. As he finished, Vel loosened Asrar's hands before running back towards the town. To everyone's surprise, he soon returned with a crying six-year-old boy, though this child was not the same as the one whose mother had just passed away in front of Asrar.

"Vel?" The other missionary asked, getting up to help. Vel Ammirati passed the child over to the group to be calmed down before shaking his head. "I think that's the most I can do...the only others I saw were shooting at me or dead".

"We need to go," Euseo warned the two missionaries. The mercenary had used the Zanzeanic tongue to extend this warning indirectly to the Rinayuris survivors.

"What about Aleandro?" The second missionary asked about a colleague. "He could still be down there helping others escape".

"If they haven't escaped some other way already, they're dead by now," Euseo said coldly, switching to Hadinian Latin. "If they have escaped, we'll likely see them at the main outpost for this region soon enough. We need to get these people to safety and report what's happened to the authorities. It's a bit of a trip, but I suggest we make for Albava. There should be a local town in between that we can drop the civilians off at. Pasir'han, I think it's called?"

"Why go all the way to Albava instead of stopping at Pasir'han and notifying the local authorities, unless you mean to contact the Hadinian government specifically.." Vel surmised, also speaking in Latin while gently coaxing the frightened civilians into a group. "Euseo, who the hell were those people? I'm not aware of any kind of organized militia forces in this part of North Zanzes".

"Because they weren't North Zanzean," Euseo replied, switching back to a language Asrar could understand. "Those were South Zanzean men attacking Rinayuris. We may have just witnessed the outbreak of war. If that's true, we can't afford to take any chances..."

Euseo turned to address the group as a whole, "...so I need everyone here to start walking. We have a long walk ahead of us".

Obediently, the group began to follow after Euseo, with Vel taking a spare gun from Euseo and covering the back of the group. Asrar stayed near him, watching him cautiously look back and scan for threats coming from the pillar of smoke that had once been her home. For a moment, she turned her head away, glancing off in the general direction of where Khatibi's familiar hut was. There too, she noticed another pillar of smoke. The old gods, much like the Septimist one, had no power here.




The wee hours of January 14th, NC 4068 - Kaurizil, Nui-ta


The Emperor was brushing his teeth and getting ready to go to bed when the telephone rang.

It was one specific telephone that was ringing. Hooked up in key locations of the Emperor's residence to one specific phone line, it would only ring when the Emperor was on his personal time and something very serious was happening. Hurrying to put his shirt back on and rinsing the Oral Pleartgrav brand toothpaste out of his mouth, the Emperor picked up the telephone and heard the voice of Prime Minister Binyamin Hajukugi on the line. This was already concerning enough as it was because Hajukugi wasn't much of a talker. Strong and silent, Binyamin's severe countenance was rather unusual for a politician --- but it came with the side effect of knowing that when Binyamin did choose to initiate a conversation, it was best to listen.

"There's been a situation with External Affairs," Hajukugi advised the Emperor.

"Hadin?" Rowan asked in response.

"No...and yes". Somehow, Rowan already knew what that cryptic response meant, and let out a semi-stifled "Shit! under his breath.

"South Zanzes," he stated, half-asking only for confirmation.

"It's bad. Whatever they did, Hadin's so furious they're now on our doorstep. We only have a short amount of time before this hits the media. The Councilman of Foreign Affairs from Hadin is requesting to be transferred to this line by External Affairs; I guess he's on the line with them right now. Apparently he told someone there the gist of what happened, but no one's telling me".

"I'll talk to him. Send him over right away". Before long, another voice, much older and somewhat wispy with a strong Hadinian accent, came on the line. Olaf Gering, Hadin's current Head of Foreign Affairs, had unfortunately spoken with Rowan di-Amori before. Their conversations were becoming common enough to where Olaf had taken to addressing Rowan in the Emperor's native tongue out of respect, despite the Hadinian's lack of fluency. Still, this was the first conversation conducted on the emergency line.

"Your Highness".

"Mr. Gering".

"You are knowing that all my tries to reach the..." Olaf paused before switching to English momentarily... "South Zanzean Foreign Affairs Department..."

Another switch, back to Melodian, "...they are useless?"

"Given recent events, it unfortunately doesn't surprise me".5

"I regret to speak bad of you. You are only helpful South Zanzean leadership, but your government not so helpful and need express control. In Hadin, unhelpful government are set on fire by High-Envoy".

"I..." Rowan gulped for a moment before switching to Hadinian Latin. "...I'm not sure you said what you think you said, Mr. Gehring. Again in your native tongue, please?"

"Oh. Sorry". The Hadinian official then switched to his mother tongue before stating: "I regret to criticize you considering that you're the only government official of South Zanzes I can rely on for any diplomatic efforts, but your government are utterly useless and I wish there were more avenues for you to express control over them. Here in Hadin, such incompetence would see me fired by the High-Envoy".

After a moment's pause, Olaf added in Latin, "...what did you think I said?"

"You said dol'kalnai kaurkarini High-Envoy sal-maig, which means the High Envoy literally sets the government on fi---....you know what? Don't worry about it. Why are you calling so late? Please continue in Latin".

"Oh. My apologies for that mistranslation. Very well," Olaf confided, "let's get right to the point. We have confirmation that a South Zanzean force invaded a North Zanzean town. The town was put to the torch. North Zanzean and Hadinian casualties are confirmed". At Olaf's news, Rowan felt himself nearly choke on his own tongue.

Shiiiiittttt.

"To make matters worse, the South Zanzean government has been completely un-cooperative in addressing the issue. I'm sure you're aware by the fact that I've exhausted going through diplomatic back-channels and the South Zanzean Foreign Affairs office that I'm now reaching out to you directly via Nui-ta's External Affairs office".

"I'll do everything I can to address the issue with the Chancellorship of South Zanzes at once. I'll have an answer as soon as possible for you as to why this happened and what measures we're going to take about it".

"I'm well aware that you will, Emperor. I have no quarrel with you, and I have full confidence that at least your cooperation on this sensitive matter is guaranteed. Let me re-emphasize emphatically that I am advocating as minimal damage to the Hadinian and Nui-tan diplomatic relationship as can be had in a situation like this. Just as Hadin is duty-bound to North Zanzes, we understand that Nui-ta is bound to South Zanzes. You may soon have no other choice but to intervene just as we must intervene now. I aim to make that interaction between Nui-ta and Hadin as smooth as possible".

"Now, I have reason to believe that this is not an officially sanctioned attack on North Zanzes by the South Zanzean government. For this reason, having exhausted all of my other options for a smooth and decisive end to this conflict we now face, I'm reaching out to you directly. With this having been said, I have it on good authority that there will be a declaration of war exercised by High-Envoy Matfei Di Pascari within hours. I am doing all within my power to have it be a declaration of war on terror, rather than an international war between our countries and yours outright. I believe suing for this option will ultimately make this campaign much less costly for us all in the end. I am even hoping that it might open the door for us to co-operate against the elements of terror Hadin and North Zanzes are currently combating, though I know that has to be put to extensive debate in Nui-ta before you can speak to such a possibility".

"Mr. Gehring, do you think it might be possible for you to submit all intelligence you have on this matter to Nui-ta as soon as possible?"

"I can determine if that will be a possibility".

"Good. I have to make several calls now. I'll need to contact you again --- or perhaps even High-Envoy Matfei Di Pascari once I've done what I need to do. Can I count on being able to reach you again as soon as possible?"

"I will advise our communications team to direct you to either myself, High-Envoy Di Pascari, or another Envoy of the Theocracy when you have collected what information you need to on this matter. I look forward to discussing a quick resolution, though I must warn you, the Envoyship as a whole are enraged. War is an inevitabity now, and I can only hope to limit its scope".

"Understood. We'll talk shortly, Councilman". Once Olaf was on the phone, Rowan's first call, on his business phone, was to his chief of staff, Ali Rastkar.

"I need you to help me get the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministers of External Affairs and Defense on the phone. Now. And tell Sharina I'll be gone all night tonight". Once that call was done, he switched back over to the emergency line, frantically dialing the number of Chancellor Farhana Abdulrashid Imen. It was Imen's secretary who picked up the phone, prompting fury from Rowan.

"I don't care if he's on the goddamned moon, get Imen on this line!"




January 15th, NC 4068 - Official Address by High-Envoy Matfei Di Pascari


My fellow Envoys of the Hadinian Theocracy, and esteemed members of the Vir Consili...

Yesterday, January 14th, Nocturian Calendar Year 4068, our North Zanzean brothers were suddenly and deliberately attacked by South Zanzean agents.

The Theocracy of Hadin and its North Zanzean protectorate were at peace with that nation and, at solicitation of the Nui-tan Empire, still in conversation with the Emperor of Nui-ta and South Zanzes looking to the maintenance of peace on our Karasian Straits. We are at full understanding with the Emperor that this attack and other acts of aggression towards the North Zanzean people by South Zanzean entities have been done without the approval of the South Zanzean executive branch. I will freely admit that our own diplomatic communications with South Zanzes, in the wake of recent events over the past few months, stated an honest confession that it seemed useless to continue existing diplomatic negotiations. However, I will also add that these sentiments were made without any desire or threat of war or armed attack.

Our diplomats and agents in North Zanzes have been monitoring the situation in our protectorate for some time to ascertain exact avenues for a cessation of tensions. It will be recorded that the wake of the rise of aggression by South Zanzean entities over the past several months, despite every attempt at diplomacy by government entities, makes it obvious that these attacks will continue without our intervention over the next several weeks, or months, or possibly even years. While the South Zanzean executive branch and their associated state of Nui-ta have genuinely engaged in diplomatic efforts to cool tensions in the region, the utter lack of co-operation from the Zanzeanic populace itself makes it clear that further efforts at diplomacy are merely false statements of continued hope for peace.

We have passed the usage of diplomacy. If the Hadinian Theocracy is to fulfill its duties of protection to the North Zanzean people now, we must do so by armed conflict. Decisive, defensive, armed conflict.

We are not without cause in this endeavor. I regret to inform the Hadinian Theocracy and the North Zanzean protectorate that the latest attack on North Zanzean soil has seen the loss of innocent North Zanzean and Hadinian life. Local North Zanzean infrastructure has been damaged extensively, delaying efforts by both Hadin and North Zanzes to lift North Zanzes expediently into the modern world. I also regret to inform the world that this latest, most brutal attack on North Zanzean soil is not the only attempt at sabotage of a peaceful, developing nation. South Zanzean officials have condemned and attacked simple North Zanzean industries and towns. They have shut down many reconciliation points within the demarcation zone for families separated by the divide of Zanzes to have peaceful reunions and interactions with each other. Their radicalization efforts of North Zanzean civilians has led to the discovery of spies within our midst, such as a treacherous individual who we believe to have been feeding the South Zanzean extremists information for months and enabling their efforts at terrorism. Their efforts even include ties to the near-miss attack on our own Hadinian soil in Kastabal, during the Karasian Cup finals, which if successful would have caused the deaths of countless Hadinian, Zanzean, and Nui-tan spectators.

The facts speak for themselves. The people of the Hadinian Theocracy and within the North Zanzean protectorate have formed their opinions and understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nations. As High-Envoy of the Hadinian Theocracy, I have advised the Commanders of both the Hadinian and North Zanzean militaries to take all necessary measures for our defense. No matter how long it may take us to overcome these unprecedented attacks, I believe that our forces will achieve absolute victor through our righteous might. I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the utmost, but make it certain that this form of treachery will never threaten us again. With no further ability to deny that our people, our territories, and our way of life is in great danger, I pray for a swift and decisive resolution in this conflict and an inevitable triumph, so help us Septima!

With the consent of the High-Envoyship of Hadin as a whole, and the co-operation of the Lord Governor of North Zanzes, I declare that since the latest unprovoked and dastardly attack by South Zanzean terrorist elements on Thursday, January 14th, NC 4068, the Hadinian Theocracy and its affiliated states are in a state of war with those rogue elements of South Zanzean society.




1 In much of the rest of the world, blue papaya was a reference to a particular strain of the Cannabis sativa plant, which, strangely, was not the type of blue papaya being cultivated here in Rinayuris. There was something peculiar about select locales on the Zanzeanic landmass that allowed for the cultivation of actual blue papaya, meaning a version of the plant known under the scientific name Carica papaya, sporting an almost iridescent, aquamarine hue.

2In the wake of Septimism's rise in North Zanzes, those North Zanze who refused to identify as Septimists often found their living conditions grim. At best, such as in the case of Khatibi, they were exiled from their rural societies and stripped of all but their personal names --- a great mark of shame in Zanzean society, northern or southern. Oftentimes when they could not elude Hadinian authorities by simple exile, they were subjected to classified re-education programs. Some haven't been heard from since.

3 "Don't leave a single one standing!"

4 "Are you hurt?"

5 Rowan di-Amori is the official Head of State of both Nui-ta and South Zanzes, although his influence is more strongly felt in Nui-ta due to the monarchy's establishment in that country for so long. While South Zanzes was the party that initially pushed to join the Nui-tan Empire, recent months have seen it far less co-operative to fall in line with Nui-ta. To make matters worse, the current government of South Zanzes is currently at odds with its Emperor, causing some political instability.

It's a secret, though the truth, to say that Emperor Rowan di-Amori would much rather cut South Zanzes loose given their lack of diplomatic co-operation with recent conflicts. This is especially true considering that he was a dissenting voice in the decision to have South Zanzes recognize him as a suzerain. However, certain legal barriers in the Constitution (among other things) make this an impossibility.
Last edited by Karasi-a on Sun Jan 24, 2021 8:59 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Radiatia » Thu Dec 17, 2020 4:52 am

January 17th 4067NC
Xerconia, FCT


"Mr. President, I think you're gonna want to see this."

Steven McCarthy sighed and did his best to fake a smile for his enthusiastic young intern.

"Call me Steve," He said. "And this better be good."

"I-I can't, Mr. President, it's... my boss said, I have to call you Mr. President. Even if you tell me otherwise."

"Interesting policy," Said McCarthy. "So I am ostensibly the most powerful man in Noctur, the most powerful man in Radiatia, elected to this office in a landslide and I can't even get my own interns to call me by my first name?"

The intern was about 23 years old, but the President could see by his terrified expression that this kid really was just a kid, way out of his depth despite his high grades and fancy qualifications.

"I'm sorry, what was your name?"

"It's Bryan, sir."

"Okay Bryan, well... if you can't call me Steve that's fine. And I didn't mean to make fun of you, it's just how I like to let off steam after a long day. Being President isn't an easy job you know!"

The kid gave him a look that demonstrated clearly that he was conflicted between wanting to relax in the President's presence, and his sense of duty keeping him uptight.

"Anyway... you had something I wanted to see?"

"Yes... I don't know the First Lady's tastes but there are balcony tickets available to Captain Radiatia the Musical and based on the number of five star reviews I think you're gonna want to see it."

"Hmmm... it does sound good, but I'm not sure the First Lady is into that sort of thing," The President looked at the brochure for the play. "Then again it has Godfrey Krantz wearing tight spandex... and she has said she thinks he's handsome. Let's put it on the maybe pile."

The door burst open.

"Mr. President! I think you're gonna want to see this!"

It was Mark Fleischer, the Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs and he was waving a folder full of documents which told the President two things: The first is that he was probably going to be spending the next 15 minutes trying to stop the Minister from hyperventilating over some minor foreign development and the second was that it was probably going to be really boring because the interesting stuff always came the Federal Ministry of Defence, not Foreign Affairs.

Minister Fleischer stopped abruptly at the President's desk, and leaned against it panting loudly as sweat drippled down his large red face.

"Sorry, Mr. President, I ugh..."

"You need to hit the gym more often, Mark."

"I do, but there's a Greasy Joe's outside of it," Wheezed the Minister. "Anyway, that's not the point. We've received word of important developments in the Karasian Straits."

President McCarthy leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the famous Presidential desk.

"Go on then," He sighed. "But try and make this quick."

"There's been a border skirmish between North and South Zanzes."

"Okay." Said McCarthy. "And?"

"Mr President, I'll be honest I thought you'd be a bit more..."

"Look Mark, I appreciate what you do, I really do. But that whole area is a powder-keg. They're always having border skirmishes. If it's not Zanzes, it's Algrabad, if it's not Algrabad, it's Rango Mango and if it's not Rango Mango it'll be some island that I need a microscope to find on the map. Unless Hadin have declared war then I'm not really..."

"Mr. President, Hadin have declared war!"

McCarthy put his feet flat on the ground.

"Are you joking?" Though he knew that humour was not and never had been Mark Fleischer's strong suite.

"No, Mr. President. Hadin have declared against, and this has not translated well into Radiatian, but they're saying 'Rogue Elements of South Zanzes.'"

"What does that mean?"

"Well that's what we were hoping you could decide. It could mean they plan to invade South Zanzes."

"It sounds like meaningless drivel. It's like when we declared war on corruption. The High Envoy might be a nutjob but he's still as much a politician as I am. It's just something for his people, it'll all fizzle out by next week. I'm late to the theatre."

"Mr. President, I really think that..."

"Mark, I chose you for this job because I trust your judgement. Put out a vague statement calling for calm and for a de-escalation of the situation and keep watching. But it's going to be fine, really."

The Minister, looking dejected, began to put his papers back into the folder as it became clear that President was not in the mood for discussing them.

"Actually, Mark - before you go." Mark's ears visibly perked up. "I need your advice on a very difficult decision. Maybe one of the hardest I've had to make yet as President."

"You do?" Fleischer tried to straighten up, but all it did was transfer some fat from his face to his neck and draw attention to his crooked tie.

"Yes... ugh... do you think the First Lady would enjoy Captain Radiatia the Musical? It's our anniversary and I wanted to take her to the theatre..."

But before Mark Fleischer could answer the door burst open once again.

"I'm starting to see why other Presidents didn't have an 'open door' policy..." McCarthy muttered.

"Mr. President! I think you're gonna want to see this!"

Chester Nagami, the Federal Minister of Finance ran to the desk, nearly tripping up on a rug bearing the Presidential seal on the way.

"The only thing I want to see right now is my wife, a play and a room with none of you people in it."

"That's great, Mr. President but look at the latest figures from the Exegrad Stock Exchange!" Minister Nagami proudly brandished a piece of paper bearing a large graph. "It's finished up by ten points today!"

"Yes... after falling by eighty yesterday."

"Yeah but... it's up! Those Liberal-Conservatives in the Senate can't blame your economic policies any more! I told you to hold the line and it's working!"

"Okay great, listen unless Hadin actually attacks the mainland Radiatian Federation in the next hour, I do not want to be disturbed. Okay? I'm going. I have a date."

"But Mr. President... you have a duty to the Radiatian people, do you not?" Whined Minister Nagami.

Though not a tall man by any stretch, the President still towered over his diminutive Finance Minister.

"Minister Nagami... there is no amount of damage that Hadin could inflict on this land that would even remotely compare to what the First Lady will do to me if I miss our anniversary two years in a row.

"I. Am. Leaving.

"If you two want to prattle on to someone, I don't know... go bug the Vice President. He could frankly do with the company. I'm outta here."




January 18th 4067NC
Zanscho, Detzertscha


"Mr. President, there's something I think you're gonna want to see!"

"Mr. President!?"

"Oh, well... you are technically President of the company, Dr. Pleartgrav."

"Not any more, we were bought out by RBEC months ago." Said the esteemed dental hygienist. "But anyway, what is it?"

"Well, ugh, we have received reports that your brand of toothpaste, Oral Pleartgrav is used by none other than the Emperor of Nui-ta! That's an incredible endorsement, we're thinking of a new ad campaign - something like 'Oral stimulation fit for a King', we might workshop the first bit, I don't-"

"Ugh. How did you obtain this information?"

"Oh well we know who all our customers are."

"How did you obtain this information!?"

"Oh well we have hidden cameras in every tube of toothpaste."

"WHAT!?"

"Don't worry we don't record film or use it to perve, just basic stuff like retinas, fingerprints... just normal marketing metadata."

"We cannot have our products used to spy on the head of state of a foreign nation. Hell... we can't use it to spy on Radiatian citizens! What is wrong with you people? If the federal government find out, we'll all be in jail!"

"Actually the federal government did find out. Twice."

"What?"

"10,000 Tsenyens might not be a lot of money to us, but it's a lot to a federal inspector. We made the problem go away."

"Did you even run this by the ethics department?"

"The ethics department? Actually I've been meaning to tell you... once RBEC bought the company the entire ethics department all died in mysterious freak accidents on the same day. Very tragic, but totally not suspicious."

Dr. Pleartgrav looked out the window. Outside he could see it was snowing in the desert.

"I've created a monster," He said. "All I wanted was cleaner teeth and brighter smiles. But what have I done? What have I become? What have I let my name be attached to!?"

"Oh ugh by the way, forgot to mention - you're now a member of the billionaires club. Congratulations!"

Dr. Pleatgrav turned to his young assistant. His teeth were perfectly white but his eyes were red with tears.

"I may be a billionaire now... but at what cost?!"
Last edited by Radiatia on Thu Dec 17, 2020 4:56 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Karasi-a
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Postby Karasi-a » Thu Dec 31, 2020 3:28 am

January 23rd, NC 4068 - Kopurauth, Hadin


A series of neatly framed pictures was on one wall of Dmitri Rasch's private office in Kopurauth. There were five in total, one for each High-Envoy of Hadin from the Theocracy's founding until the present time. Many who had reason to enter Envoy Rasch's office speculated that Rasch was interested in seeing his own face framed among those official portraits one day; this could not be further from the truth.

A reporter for the Kopurauth Sun once asked Rasch about the pictures, and Rasch responded with the simple truth: he liked to look upon the pictures and contemplate the history of Hadin as seen through these five men. Dmitri knew as much as anyone how pretentious this sounded, even as the newspaper ultimately published this quote without alteration. He didn't expect others to understand because he'd known for a long time that he was playing a very different game in comparison to the other High-Envoys.

Standing in front of the first portrait, Dmitri's eyes locked with those of the long dead Rosario Labriola. Dmitri respected the work that had been done decades ago by Rosario; taking a broken, failing government left in the wake of the Hadinian War and restructuring it to the foundations of what would become today's Hadin was certainly no easy task. If Hadin were a house, no one would credit Rosario for the walls, the windows, or the furnishings --- the foundations and blueprints, however, those were all thanks to Rosario Labriola.

It had been Rosario who had realized that religion was the sole unifying thing that would unite Hadin where political divisions and cultural differences tore its people apart. By convincing the people to turn to parochial lines instead of party lines, a measure of local control through the church was achieved. From this, Rosario crafted the state from the parishes up; township governments became state governments; state governments became a loose national one. In truth, the national Envoys only had as much power as they did because they represented a unified front of parishes and states before them. Dmitri had been a boy when Rosario's great work began, and found himself wishing that he'd had the opportunity to have been an Envoy all those years ago, when the wheels were first beginning to turn.

Of course, Rosario wasn't perfect. Far from it, the system Rosario Labriola put forth presented many flaws, and many of them became apparent following the old man's death and the subsequent ascension of the second High Envoy. Lucas Labriola's face, like Rosario's, was old, wrinkled, and rotund. Like the picture before this one, Dmitri noticed a noticeable lack in quality between the pictures of the first two High-Envoys and the next three that would come after them. Each picture was taken at the beginning of their terms, with the exception of Rosario Labriola's picture (it had needed to wait until a year or so, when things in Hadin had begun to calm down enough for such trivial matters).

It was interesting and unusual that there were two Labriola High-Envoys back-to-back. Rosario and Lucas Labriola were distantly related, but neither had apparently helped the other into their positions in the Theocracy. Rosario Labriola had earned his position as the founder, while Lucas had perhaps risen to power from another state out of familiarity rather than direct nepotism. Familiarity had certainly seen Lucas go from Envoy to High-Envoy after his distant cousin's death. There had been fears about a peaceful transition of power following Rosario Labriola's death from old age, and a qualified distant relative with the same name seemed to ease the minds of even the other Envoys who saw Lucas ascend to Hadin's top job.

Still, maybe a shakeup wouldn't have been such a bad thing. The ultra-conservative Rosario Labriola had seen an especially restrictive version of Septimism influence the government. Times had been hard in the days of the Theocracy's founding because so many Hadinians, even devout Hadinians, didn't yet consider society as it now was normal. Before Rosario Labriola's High-Envoyship, Septimism wasn't the sole religion allowed to be practiced in Hadin. There hadn't been a banned books list yet. Women voted and held jobs; homosexuals couldn't marry, but could say what they were without fear of execution. Dmitri remembered a teenaged version of himself being dragged out of his room by his older brother as his father raided his bedroom and destroyed elements of his childhood that weren't allowed in the new Hadin. Foreign music CDs, liberal-leaning novels, even letters from a girl he'd been smitten with whose whole family had disappeared when the Theocracy first rose up --- all of it was burned away when the Theocracy came to power. Dmitri, like so many others, had to learn how to live with the "new normal".

Lucas taking over meant order and stability, but it also meant a continuation of Rosario's ultra-conservatism --- no, a normalization. Still feeling a bit of distaste in his mouth over the Theocracy's early years, Dmitri moved from Lucas to a portrait containing the visage of the late Nico Hass.

The Third High-Envoy, and arguably one of the most hated men in Noctur. Even in Hadin he wasn't popular, and yet Dmitri couldn't deny that he was necessary. Dmitri had entered the government before Nico Hass came to power, but was not yet a powerful man in his own right. Watching from afar, he could already tell that Nico Hass was going to be a game-changer.

For starters, despite his exceptional militarism, Nico Hass was a break from certain elements in policy. Like Rosario and Lucas Labriola before him, Nico Hass was an ultra-conservative man. Unlike his predecessors, Nico Hass was willing to make adjustments where it didn't suit his reign. By mandating an education for girls until a certain age, Nico ensured that both halves of the Hadinian populace could be well-indoctrinated into the system. It was apt timing too, as Nico Hass's rise to power coincided with the dawn of a new generation who couldn't remember life before the Theocracy. Brilliant moments such as this, alongside spear-heading efforts at industrialization, saw Nico Hass responsible for Hadin's shift from a third-world country to a second-world one. The change would not be complete until after his time, but Nico Hass had been the one to sow the seeds.

For this, Dmitri respected him. Sadly, there was no denying that Dmitri would undoubtedly not like Nico Hass, but 'like' and 'respect' were two different words for a reason. If Dmitri had been an Envoy in the time of the Hass High-Envoyship, perhaps it would have been possible to exert some level of influence over him, but Dmitri soon found himself laughing at the idea. For all of Hass's better ideas, he was obsessed with enacting a vengeful war against Nui-ta. This would backfire so spectacularly for Hass that it would lead to him being the only High-Envoy forcibly removed from office. Reflecting on this, Dmitri came to the fourth picture and gave the dashing Fiete Nikastro a smile.

Unlike Nico, Fiete Nikastro had been likable. Having become an Envoy under Nikastro's administration, Dmitri had memories of directly engaging the man. With Hadin reeling from the after-effects of Nico Hass's militant policies, Nikastro had been the perfect antidote. Where Nico Hass had sown distrust between Hadin and the rest of Noctur, Nikastro cultivated begrudging trust. It didn't seem like much of an accomplishment until one realized that Fiete Nikastro was the only Hadinian High-Envoy who could have a conversation with Radiatian diplomats that didn't end with Radiatian ICBM's pointed in Hadin's direction. Furthermore, Fiete Nikastro had the rare talent of ruling as a beloved leader rather than a feared one.

Here was a High-Envoy who could address a nation as a priest addressed his congregation. Beyond his words, Nikastro was a man of action, enacting policies that preserved the religious culture Hadin was used to while closing loopholes used for cruelties like child marriage or unwarranted executions. Conservatives wound up loving him because was a leader who embodied the religious ideals that had birthed the Theocracy, while everyone else loved him because the lives of so many Hadinians improved under his administration. Nico Hass's military exploits across the Bay of Zanzes had seen Hadin acquire North Zanzes, but Fiete Nikastro was the one who laid the groundwork for leveraging North Zanzes's full potential for the Hadinian Theocracy via annexation.

When Dmitri Rasch had set up his plans for Nikastro to die, he did so knowing that he was signing the death warrant of arguably the greatest Hadinian who had sat in the High-Envoy's chair. To this end, he'd taken multiple steps to ensure that no one would know Fiete had actually been murdered --- the public outcry if such a discovery came to light would be nation-shattering. It was also to this end --- respect for a great man --- that had seen Dmitri opt for a painless death as his first choice in ending the Nikastro administration.

With that, the tables now turned to the current High-Envoy. Matfei Di Pascari was considered something of an understudy for Fiete Nikastro. The two had been good friends during the time serving under Nico Hass, and both Nikastro and Di Pascari shared common ideas when it came to how a country should be run. The one fundamental difference between Nikastro and Di Pascari was that Di Pascari was easier to manipulate. Both Nikastro and Di Pascari were capable of continuing an administration that would see Hadin become a truly global power, but Nikastro was too stubborn to take the necessary steps that would see Hadin take its rightful place. Di Pascari didn't have the stomach for such steps either, but if he were convinced...

This realization sparked the series of events that would see Dmitri standing here. Having Nikastro killed by a man who was already dying tied up one loose end. Talking up Di Pascari rather than himself during the conclaves following Nikastro's death set forth the right conditions. From there, Dmitri worked diligently to gain Di Pascari's attention and slowly influence his style of governance, all the while manipulating the situation out west so that the conditions that would push Di Pascari to action would soon come to rise. Dmitri found this role suiting him far more than imagining his picture sitting next to Matfei's on this wall in his office --- everyone's eyes were on the High-Envoy as things grew more tense, while standing behind the High-Envoy and subtly whispering in his ear gave Dmitri all the same powers with none of the targets drawn on his back.

January 31st, NC 4068 - Kaurizil, Sangaur


"I keep telling you that you need to incorporate more personal time into your schedule".

"There are many luxuries the Emperor of Nui-ta and South Zanzes can enjoy," Rowan di-Amori retorted. "Unfortunately I've found that extended vacation time isn't one of them, Doctor ha-Jaresh. We've been through this".

"I understand your concerns, but part of being a good ruler is understanding that your subjects are entitled to a medically fit ruler. I'm concerned about your recent bloodwork, your Highness".

"Why? Heart disease? Diabetes? You took several vials of blood from me a week ago and then had me peeing in a cup nonstop yesterday. Is there something pressing I should be concerned with?"

"We talked about this just yesterday and you've already forgotten, sire?"

"I might have been only passively paying attention, sorry," Rowan muttered. "I'd just gotten off the phone with Olaf Gehring for the third time when you came calling yesterday morning for the nonstop bathroom collections".

"I ordered a 24-hour urinalysis because I wanted to confirm that your cortisol levels are through the roof, your Highness. That means unhealthy amounts of stress. I'm seriously concerned if you don't do something now you may be looking at severe outcomes over the next few years. As your doctor I'm insisting we take action in some form or another".

"For the last time, I can't afford a vacation right now. Any other suggestions, Doctor?"

"Rowan...I understand you have commitments to our great Empire and with the onset of the border skirmishes going on in South Zanzes right now, you can't exactly take time to remove yourself from your stressors. Therefore, I'd like to attempt anti-anxiety therapy until such time that things have settled down. I'm going to prescribe you some medicine, sire, and I'd like you to continue the regimen and report back to me for the foreseeable future".

"This isn't going to impede my ability to stay coherent, is it?"

"Of course not," the doctor smiled. "My goals are to lower your unhealthy amount of anxiety so you can get back to ruling the country without tearing your mind and body apart - not take you off the throne altogether. Just to be on the safe side, I've prescribed a loading dose to start. You're only going to take only a quarter of the optimal dose this week to give your body time to adjust. I'll check in with you at the end of the week as long as you have no concerns to ensure that it's safe to bump the dosage up. We'll hopefully go from there to a half dose and then eventually a full one".

***


Not long after the fateful doctor's visit, an intern of the Chief of Staff soon showed up with the first batch of pills for Rowan di-Amori's new prescription. To make things especially easy, the pharmacy had already cut the pills into quarter doses, with the expectation being that Rowan would simply double up as the regimen continued. As night fell and the last phone calls and paperwork passed over him, Rowan made his way to his personal quarters within the palace.

Though the palace had been his home virtually all his life, it was also a government building. Thus, security was around every corner of the exterior. Security within the Emperor's private quarters was limited to remote surveillance and two guards on rotation outside the entryways to the private quarters of the Royal Family.

He'd been Emperor now longer than he'd been anything else in his life, and he'd been used to security detail for most of his life even before he rose to the Throne on account of his father. Still, Rowan couldn't help still feeling more at ease when military guards weren't following him around everywhere. Sometimes it was nice to relax and imagine what life would be like as a normal person. Perhaps he'd simply be some mid-level bureaucrat somewhere, or even a military man if life had permitted it so. Sharina and Eza were out at a public event somewhere; Rowan tried to imagine them for a moment as anyone but the Empress and Heir Apparent and found himself at a loss.

He felt his stomach growl, staring at himself in the bathroom mirror as he washed his hands, and remembered that he'd been craving a club sandwich for dinner. Pulling his new vial of medication from his pocket and swallowing one sliver of a pill, he left the vial on the bathroom counter before heading to his bedroom and changing into more comfortable clothing. With that done, he then headed to the kitchen and seeing if he might be allowed the privilege of making one himself. Sadly, it seemed as though Sharina had been messing around the pantry. Furthermore, someone surveying him must have noticed that he was hungry and spending several minutes thumbing through the fridge, as the voice he was dreading emanated from an intercom near the kitchen.

"Your Highness?" It was someone from the security detail in the basement. "Should I call up the palace staff?"

"I'd rather you just send me some bread and some deli meat. I was feeling like making a club sandwich".

"I'll have the staff bring over a club sandwich". It wasn't a courtesy so much as a command, in its own strange way. Before Rowan could even attempt to say "no really, I'd rather just make it myself", the disembodied voice was already gone, likely calling up someone to make the Emperor a sandwich.

You shouldn't gripe. Most people would kill for this kind of hand-and-foot pampering, Rowan reminded himself, although it somehow just made him feel even worse.

Maybe those were just the pills talking....wait...was the room always spinning? He felt his head begin to turn as if it were on its own axis. Reality and his subconscious thoughts suddenly seemed to blur together. He didn't feel his own head crack against the tile, though he vaguely remembered hearing the voice of the man in the security office scream into the intercom, "Sir? SIR?"

***


When he came too, he was in a hospital room with an IV bag hooked to his arm and a dull, persistent pain on the left side of his head.

"Easy there..." a familiar voice advised him. As his faculties returned to him, Rowan recognized the man as Dr. ha-Jaresh.

"Do you know where you are?" The doctor asked him. A rather confused Rowan tried, with some difficulty, to turn his head and observe his surroundings. Amidst the irritation of the bright lights, he could make out the sound of medical equipment.

"Hospital?"

"Very good. How about today's date and your daughter's name?"

"January 31st, and Eza".

"How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Four. How long have I been out?"

"Not very long. Do you remember what happened?" The doctor asked him. A moment passed as Rowan closed his eyes and searched his recent memory for the last thing he could remember.

"I was in the kitchen thinking about making a sandwich. Someone phoned up and said they'd call the palace staff to bring me one. I don't quite remember the next, but I think there was spinning..."

"Did you take your medication?"

"Yeah, not long before whatever happened, I think..."

"I figured, but I had to ask. I'm going to discontinue that prescription immediately. Once we're reasonably sure you're feeling better, maybe we can look into some other kind of anxiety management".

"Wait, that tiny little pill did this?" Rowan asked in disbelief.

"Sort of. As with any medicine there's some occasional side effects, though you happened to suffer a very rare one: fainting. Remember when I said I'd be starting you off with a quarter dose? Things like this are why... now, if you'd been in your bedroom and fallen on the carpet, it probably wouldn't have been such an escalated issue. However, you fell in the kitchen. Security says you fell backwards and cracked your head on the tile. Thankfully all security protocols worked the way they were supposed to and you were in the hospital getting a CT scan and an MRI within minutes. Because of the loss of consciousness, we're going to be running several more tests and having you remain on observation for a day or two, but it's thankfully looking like this whole thing looked a lot worse than it really was".

"Well I'm glad to hear I don't have brain damage..." As he winced and moved his hand up towards his head, he noticed the doctor moving forward and stopping him from touching his temple.

"Don't get too carried away. Your brain's alright but you've got a pretty large bump and we're fairly sure you might have a crack on the bone. It's a very small hairline fracture, so it'll likely heal on its own with a little time --- just in case, don't touch it. A few other ground rules while we're at it: not many people know you're here. It's hardly been a couple of hours and we were hoping to avoid a national panic or a media frenzy. So far it's just a few medical and security personnel, your wife, your father, your daughter, your chief of staff, Chief Judiciary Amir Sulta, Prime Minister Hajukugi, and Chancellor Farhana Abdulrashid. Your publicist isn't far from that list since the Empire does have to be informed soon that you'll be out of office for a few weeks".

"Sounds gr-- a few weeks?! There's a war going on! I thought you said I'd only be here a couple days!"

"Yes, there is a war going on. Yes, I did say you'd be here a couple of days, and no, that doesn't mean you're off the hook. You had a concussion that was bad enough to cause you to lose consciousness --- it's a wonder you didn't wake up thinking you were the High-Envoy of Hadin. I can't comment on politics, but as your medical doctor I am well within my rights to put you on a medical leave of absence. A couple of weeks probably isn't enough enough time considering what just happened, but I'm also trying to respect the fact that you are the Emperor and you will need to get back to work as soon as you can".

"For both our sakes, make this easy, Emperor. The more compliant you are with taking care of yourself, the sooner you can get back to your duties. That's not such a bad way to think of it, right?"

Feburary 6th, NC 4068 - Rahku City, Nui-ta


The Prime Minister and Emperor would meet often to discuss the status quo of Nui-ta. With the Emperor out on medical leave and the Prime Minister engaged with the Minister of Defense, the latest meeting between Nui-ta's various political branches had instead fallen to Amir Sulta and an annoyingly happy Rasim Kulkanni.

"It's good that Arthuria's vacating the buffer zone," the Deputy Prime Minister said with a barely contained smile. "Aye, with things the way they are between both halves of Zanzes, there's not much buffer left for them to patrol now, is there?"

"I wouldn't be so happy about it if I were you. Arthuria leaving Zanzes means that the international community doesn't believe peace is an option anymore".

"It hasn't been since High-Envoy Nikastro died," Kulkanni muttered. "And for a long time before him too, aye. Maybe we'll at least manage to keep ourselves out of it; Di Pascari's no Nikastro, but he seems more reasonable than Nico Hass....then again, a rabid Yak could be more reasonable than Nico Hass".

"I highly doubt we'll be able to stay out of it". Amir Sulta's weathered face wrinkled around the forehead as he spoke. "South Zanzes is already in; as much as I'd like to deny it, Nui-ta will be pulled along before too long".

"Could have been avoided if they hadn't insisted on choosing our Emperor as their Head of State too..." Rasim's eyes narrowed for a bit as his smile faded. He was giving the Chief Judiciary a rather incriminating look as he continued, "...and if a certain someone hadn't been the deciding vote on upholding that decision..."

"Well what was I supposed to say? The Statute of the Imperium is clear. Kavia and Tuvia recognized the crown the same way, of their own volitions. I don't see how this is any different".

"They came in as states. Aye, South Zanzes came in as a whole other country, and your decision obliged Nui-ta to join hands with South Zanzes for better or for worse, like a bad marriage. That's double the work for our government, and even more so for an Emperor who never had a say. You and I get to shrug South Zanzes off because we're Nui-tan officials, but what about Farhana Abdulrashid and the South Zanzean Chancellorship? They're unruly enough when they do listen to the Emperor, and with him being gone right no--"

"You're overthinking things," Amir interrupted. "South Zanzes might not like to do things the same as we do, but I can't imagine them choosing to instigate a war..."

"Can you imagine North Zanzes pulling the same shit with us?"

"No".

"Why, Chief Judiciary?"

"Well, I mean..." Amir Sulta struggled to answer. "They wouldn't just escalate a situation without cause".

"Wouldn't, or couldn't, without Hadin's express approval? One would think we'd expect the same of South Zanzes, and yet we don't. Just you watch, aye, that'll be the downfall of us all..."

Februrary 10th, NC 4068 - On The Buffer Zone Between North and South Zanzes


When Zanzes had ruled Karas, they'd won their superiority by shows of force. There was no talk of alliances or "clean" warfare. A country won power by conquest or trade superiority, and Zanzes had plenty of both before the Fall. If Zanzibar had been devastated by the gods a hundred years later, it might have been developed enough to still maintain its hold on Karas. Sadly, its descent to the dark ages had seen it re-emerge last on the geopolitical stage, only after rival nations had been free long enough to vastly outpace it.

As such, Zanzes found itself playing by new rules. In a world where most countries could erase each other off of the map with a few well-placed missiles, Zanzes had to make do with diplomacy and submission to a higher power. That higher power came only by siding either with one of two former Zanzeanic colonies: Hadin, or Nui-ta. The Zanze responded with Nui-ta, and Hadin repaid this decision by annexing and oppressing three-quarters of the Zanzean lands. In a few short years, North Zanzes was rendered unrecognizable to their southern brethren.

As far as the Southern Zanze were concerned, this was a slight that required avenging. Knowing that they were in no state to enact vengeance, they sought out the assistance of Nui-ta to develop themselves to a more suitable state. The Nui-tan laws allowed for foreign lands to integrate into the Empire, and South Zanzes was not the first to choose this option. Soon enough, the South Zanze began to move into the modern world as planned. Unfortunately, things had changed.

When Zanzes had controlled Karas, Nui-ta had a reputation for militarism. Nui-ta's society as a whole prized soldiers and military valor above all else. Even their class system had origins in an ancient military meritocracy. Modern Zanzes awoke from their isolationist dream to find ancient Nui-ta replaced with a dovish version of itself. Faced with the increasing threat of aggression from the North, the Zanze could not rely on peacekeeping methods, nor could they rely on international watchdogs to prove the guilt they knew to be true. The South Zanze responded, by way of majority vote within the Chancellorship, to respond to the Hadinian declaration of war with the deployment of their own soldiers to the border. In lieu of the absent Emperor, Chancellor Farhana Abdulrashid Imen signed off on the orders.

Tit for tat.

With diplomacy having been dismissed from the realm of possibilities, the South Zanzean soldiers began conducting operations to mitigate the flow of North Zanzean and Hadinian forces into the south. The war soon became a game of capturing cities, towns, and villages along the border zone. Whether they were north or south of the buffer zone was of no consequence. To make matters more interesting, a few Zanzean fireteams found themselves inhabiting fortifications held by foreigners: blonde, Nordic appearances, and harboring a strange love of tea. In one case, the Zanze even delayed the departure of these strangely reluctant soldiers before finding out later that these soldiers were not Hadinian, but Arthurian.

February 20th, NC 4068 - International Waters on the Bay of Zanzes


Deep waters in the Bay of Zanzes churned uneasily. Gray seafoam spawned and dissolved upon the fringes of blue-green waves and a darkening sky. The sea's fury had never dissuaded Talat from following in the footsteps of her mariner relatives. There didn't seem to be anything that could scare her, until the fateful day where she found herself staring out from the deck at a line of Hadinian ships in formation off the coast of New Zanzes.

Talat was not a soldier. In her youth, she'd enlisted with the Nui-tan navy, but the relative time of peace saw to it that her conscription time was extremely boring. Three years passed with nothing but monotonous drills and some seafaring experience. When they were done, she took a civilian job working on cargo ships and thought herself safe from the horrors of war. This trip was meant to be especially mind-numbing: packages and mail from the main portion of Nui-ta to the continent. The ship was meant to dock in U'aiti, a sovereign Nui-tan city within New Zanzes. Given the heightened tensions in the area, the mail ships were being accompanied by Nui-tan naval frigates.

They weren't exaggerating. The Hadinian blockade really extends all the way past South Zanzes? A voice in English, which Talat could not understand, emanated from one of the Hadinian ships: "This area is under a blockade enforced by the Hadinian Theocracy! No ships may pass! The Nui-tan ships (military or otherwise) ground to a halt. Before long, translations came to Talat and others like her working on the ship. Transmissions between the Nui-tan and Hadinian naval ships had resulted in a deal: the Hadinians would inspect the Nui-tan cargo ships due to concerns of smuggling and terrorism. After passing the inspection, the peaceful convoy would be allowed on its way. Most of the crew remained on one portion of the deck, away from the action, while Talat and several others remained close-by to assist with the inspection.

Nui-tan sailors boarded the cargo ship first, to provide a buffer and ease the tensions on the civilian crew. Once they'd had a minute to make their way unto the ship, unfamiliar Hadinian sailors made their way unto the ship. Despite it's location in a tropical zone, Hadinian genetics produced unusually fair complexions, and the choice of gray rather than the Nui-tan blue for the sailor's uniforms added a further contrast. Occasionally a darker soldier could be seen among the Hadinian troops, oftentimes wearing an orange armband to distinguish themselves as a North Zanzean soldier. One particular foreign sailor, sporting a crew cut, no armband, and steel-blue eyes, glanced sternly at Talat. She felt a slight catch in her throat as he gave her a once-over with his eyes, scanning for threats, before moving down the line and continuing his business.

More soldiers, Hadinian and Nui-tan, walked up to various trailers of cargo and ordered them open. Talat complied when they came to the stack that she'd been assigned. A Hadinian petty officer with a flashlight strode past her, shining a flashlight within the trailer and looking carefully for anything that might earn his ire. Once he was satisfied, he nodded at a nearby Nui-tan, who told Talat in turn to close the trailer. The soldiers seemed to be doing their best to work quickly, though Talat swore the whole ordeal was taking ages.

Finally, it happened. With the last inspection quickly done, the lead officer for the Hadinians barked commands in his native tongue, which Talat [i]could
understand: Nothing to report? Good. We're done here. We'll disembark first...

Sweet freedom, Talat thought to herself. Before long, the last of the Hadinian soldiers had returned to their ship. The Nui-tan soldiers accompanying the convoy started to disembark as well, and the captain of the cargo ship began relaying orders for the ship to proceed to its intended course. The wind seemed to grow still for a moment, as though the tension had melted away. As Talat headed to the other side of the deck to return to her station, she heard a whiizzz sound, as though something were rapidly approaching from one side.

Suddenly, there was an intense shaking and a cacophony of bullets. Expecting the worst, Talat turned in fear towards the nearest Nui-tan ship only to find that it, not the civilian ship, had been the target. A pillar of smoke rose from the fragged Nui-tan escort ship. Shrapnel from the explosion had flown unto the deck, narrowly missing Talat. New orders were suddenly being relayed; the captain moved for the ship to turn away as the military ships began engaging each other. Grasping the railing when it was over and the fight was on the horizon, Talat couldn't stop shaking. She watched one ship sink into the bay as the second was forced to begin its own retreat. Finding herself praying for the earth beneath her feet, she promised the gods that if this were just a dream, she'd never set foot on another ship again.

February 20th, NC 4068 - Kaurizil, Sangaur


The Emperor had spent the last few weeks trying to stay as far away from other people as possible.

Dr. ha-Jaresh's medical orders had been clear: the Emperor was to do as little work as possible during his recovery time. The first few days after the accident were understandable, as Rowan suffered headaches persistent enough to limit his mental capacity. Two of them were spent in the hospital staring mindlessly at the television, while the only hint of politics allowed to the Emperor were urgent briefings on matters of the utmost importance, and even then only after the Chancellor or Chief Judiciary had handled it first. It would likely have been a nice vacation, all things said, if it hadn't been for the fact that one wrong move would plunge the entire region into war.

Once he went home and the headaches began to subside, things seemed to grow harder. His faculties returning meant more desire to engage in the diplomatic efforts moving forward without him, but his staff and doctors continued to insist he leave the situation be. He had to hide in his bedroom to be allowed to watch the news in peace, and even this became impossible when Sharina began paying more attention to him.

"You're supposed to return to your office on Thursday," his wife scolded him, "and you're going to wind up not going back until next month because you can't learn to allow yourself to rest!"

"I can sit still and watch the news," Rowan retorted.

"And give yourself an aneurysm because you keep stressing out? Unnecessary. I've ordered your favorite for lunch --- catfish! The spicy kind with the red crust you like?"

"I'd rather just watch the news".

"Ugh..." the Empress groaned, rolling her eyes in Rowan di-Amori. "I didn't want to do this, but fine, you can watch the news".

"Sharina, I don't want to have to fight with you ab--- wait, really?"

"Two conditions," Sharina added. "First, I haven't seen you eat since last night. I won't leave you be until you've eaten".

"And the second condition?"

"I pick the news network".

"Done," Rowan said smugly, while his wife grinned with satisfaction and turned on the television, switching it to the Channel 38 news. The news reporter was standing in front of the Kaurizil office of the Nui-tan Mint, where the announcement was being made that the 10 Had banknote was being re-designed to feature the late Trenta i-Harendo.

"Finally," Sharina chuckled. "A woman makes it unto the currency".

"And another woman presides over the ceremony," Rowan chuckled, pointing at his substitute. It had initially been meant to be Rowan in attendance, but recent events had seen to it that Crown Princess Eza di-Amori attended instead. Flanked by handlers and security staff, the teenaged daughter of the Emperor smiled into the cameras like a natural. Despite an awkward growth spurt, the Heir-Apparent's bronze diadem sitting on her head, and the recent addition of pastel blue braces to her smile, Eza seemed to be much more of a natural at being a public figure than Rowan had been when he was her age. Rowan even found himself musing, for a moment, that Eza exuded the same charisma as the long-dead woman on the banknotes being unveiled that day. In the quiet of that moment, Rowan felt Sharina's arm cross behind his shoulders and leant into her hug.

"Give her a few good years and she might just replace you," Sharina laughed.

"Several good years," Rowan added. "Let her enjoy some of her life before the country takes it all".

"It's not always that bad, is it?"

"No," he mused. "Not always. Especially not with you around".

"Good answer," Sharina laughed. "Oh, that reminds me, I guess this is the best chance I have to tel--"

DING DING. The sound of a bell ringing indicated that Sharina's special order had arrived. Watching her walk to the door, Rowan found himself completely in the moment, almost searching for the remote to turn off the news and enjoy a nice lunch with his wife. The breaking news alert on the television suddenly snapped him out of that fantasy.

Good afternoon from Kaurizil, we're coming on the air to bring you some breaking news --- very troubling news. Our affiliate offices in Limara, New Zanzes, are reporting that a naval engagement between Nui-ta and Hadin has resulted in the deaths of almost four-hundred Nui-tan soldiers after the HMS Xirjin was torpedoed by Hadinian forces...


Last edited by Karasi-a on Sun Jan 24, 2021 9:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Radiatia
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Postby Radiatia » Sun Jan 03, 2021 5:41 am

I have completely and utterly fucked up the date and year IC but I ended up deciding to write this bit anyway because I thought it would be funny.


January 1st 4068 NC
Xerconia, FCT
Radiatian Federation


"We're live in 60 seconds - remember the teleprompter is on camera two, Mr. President."

Steven McCarthy did his best to maintain a straight face, ignoring the tickling sensation on his cheeks as a make-up lady from the Administration's communications team (whose name he didn't even know) ran a brush across his face at the last minute for reasons he wasn't entirely sure he fathomed.

Being President was a job that came with many perks and surprises; the amount of make-up, reading scripts and costume changes involved certainly fell into the latter category. In the final seconds before the red light turned on and filming began, the President mused to himself that Xerconia may well rival Das Engel in terms of the number of film production staff, even if one city was focussed on making fiction seem real while the other was focussed on making reality seem fictional.

The President's Chief of Staff, Karl Lebrecht, was stood silently next to a man with headphones and clipboard, the director apparently, who was now gesturing at the President to count down until they went live.

The lights roared silently to life and McCarthy found himself washed away in a tunnel of amber, at the end was darkness with the text of his speech superimposed over it.

"My fellow Radiatians,

"On behalf of myself, the First Lady, our family and our administration, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a productive, prosperous and efficient new year.

"The previous year saw great challenges. The global economy is facing uncertainty and I want to acknowledge millions of Radiatians who are also facing challenges, adversity and uncertainty. Please know that change always comes and nothing ever stays the same forever, no matter how dire the circumstances you face are.

"Through hard work and efficiency Radiatians can, have and will overcome any obstacle we face. We have had many triumphs too - better infrastructure, better communications and the lowest levels of income inequality since the fall of communism mean that no matter who or where you are, you have a shot of making it and living out the great Radiatian dream.

"Hard work and efficiency will always bring prosperity. I wish you all a happy new year - Glory to Radiatia!"

"This official Presidential broadcast was proudly sponsored by Pleartgrav Pharmaceuticals, Inc. - It's Not BAD Medication!"1

President McCarthy stared at his Chief of Staff with his mouth slightly agape.

"We have corporate sponsors for Presidential broadcasts now? Really?"

Karl shrugged. "What's the big deal? We aren't exactly communists."

"Surely a Presidential broadcast is considered a public service though? I would have thought that there's some law that allows us to do public service broadcasting once in a while without having advertisers flocking to it like vultures."

"There is, but... a new years broadcast isn't a public service, is it?"

"I beg to differ..."

"It's not, Mr. President. You know as well as I do that this is an election year, and you need to remind everyone who the President is and what a great job you're doing."

"Okay and what about all the other years?"

"Let's see..." Said Karl. "There's the year where you had midterms coming up. Then you trying to get them back onside after doing poorly in the midterms. Then if you're re-elected it'll be for the next midterms... after that it's still not public service as by then you're basically doing an early sales pitch for your memoirs."

"Jesus H. Christ." Said the President. "And another thing: Why are we doing this live? Most people don't watch television. Surely a pre-recorded message for people to watch on their phones makes more sense?"

"The people who watch you on their phones don't vote." Said Karl as if he was explaining something simple to an infant for the 18th time that day. "The people who still watch television do vote. Regularly. Not only that, they tend to be swing-voters living in swing states. That's why we do this on TV."

"Okay but that still doesn't explain why we're doing this live." Steve looked out the window.

Xerconia's usual vista of golden buildings against the backdrop of golden sun and the Great Radiatian Desert was instead just a blanket of white lit by streetlights in the twilight. The outside temperature was minus 13 degrees Celsius, with a forecast low of minus 25 overnight. To the untrained eye it appeared to be snowing in the desert, but in reality it was just that the temperature was so cold that the trace amounts of moisture in Xerconia's dry atmosphere had turned into an icy white powder and covered the city.

"Seriously, I'd like to be literally anywhere but Xerconia right now," He added. "We could have recorded the message and I could have spent New Years in South Corpshire. Or better yet South Chiridia. Hell, it's 2 degrees in Exegrad and even that feels tropical compared to here!

"I mean... why did we build our capital here anywhere? It's insanely cold in the winter and in summer it's too dry to grow anything and it's so... remote. It's a weird place for a capital city."

"Well the legend goes that the guy who built Xerconia castle was a madman with some kind of fetish who was looking for the remotest place he could find," Said an overweight cameraman with a ponytail, whose name Steve also didn't know.

The President smiled. "Okay, but why have the capital here? Radii and Exegrad both make more sense geographically... and their winters aren't half as severe."

The obese man with the ponytail shrugged. "I guess the idea is that if we can barely survive the climate here then an invading army doesn't stand a chance. I mean... if Segland or Hadin tried to get to Xerconia their armies would starve or die of frostbite probably before our troops make it out the barracks."

President McCarthy laughed and turned to Karl. "I like that guy. Promote him!"

"He doesn't work for us, Mr. President."

"Well... tell his boss to give him a payrise."

"We can't, that would an illegal interference in the market which borders on being unconstitutional."

"Karl, I like you, but you are the most cynical man I've ever met and the stick up your ass has a stick up its ass. Is it true you worked in the Autenberg Administration too?"

"I've worked for many administrations, Mr. President."

"You know, sometimes I can't shake the feeling that the President isn't nearly powerful as the bureaucracy in this country..."

Karl didn't even blink. "Well of course they aren't. It would be hugely inefficient if we let politicians make all the decisions."

Steve laughed. "This is insane. I'm going home. It's too cold in Xerconia, I think I want to be back on the family farm for a few days."

"You need to stay in Xerconia, Mr. President." Said Karl robotically.

"Make the arrangements, Karl. I'm going back to South Corpshire. That's an order."

"Mr. President... there has only ever been one national leader since the fall of communism who stood up to the bureaucracy and won. Who managed to bully their way into having real power. Who was strong and charismatic and had a will of solid iron. Someone who we were all terrified of..." Karl allowed a sly smile to flicker momentarily on his face. "But you, Mr. President, are no Lena Toriah. And you're staying in Xerconia."

Just as the camera crew were shuffling out, a young man came running in. He wasn't dressed in a military uniform but the President knew that anyone wearing a suit that stiffened with starch and that perfectly creased could not have come from anywhere else but the Federal Ministry of Defence.

"Mr. President... sir!" The young man clearly had the mind of the soldier but the physical fitness of a bureaucrat as he tried to stand to attention whilst puffing and wheezing from the long run underneath Federation Square from the Fortress Building to Silviu House2.

"Can I help you?" McCarthy looked for the young man's name badge, but it had twisted itself into the man's chest making it unreadable.

"Yes... you have a phone call. I-I mean, a request for a phone call."

The President looked at Karl. Surely this was the kind of thing Karl was supposed to deal with?

"Ugh... okay. Tell me more."

"General Schwartzemann, sir! He wants to talk to you. Says it's for your ears only."

"Commander of Southern Command..." Murmured Karl.

"Yes I know who Jack Schwartzemann is!" Snapped the President. "What does he want? Does he know what time it is?"

"Actually, Nui-ta are in the same time zone as Xerconia..." Murmured Karl again.

The President frowned and then suddenly his face lit up. "Nui-ta... I've not been to Nui-ta yet, as President."

"Mr. President..."

"Warm, tropical country if I recall?" He said. "Not winter there? Never winter there! And... gosh, if anything important is happening at San Sipi maybe I should catch the first flight down there to um, ugh, inspect it myself!"

"Mr. President, that would be highly --"

"Young man, put General Schwartzemann on the line at once!"




RFSOUTHCOMM Headquarters
San Sipi Naval Base
Off the coast of Nui-ta


The air conditioning was broken again, so General Jack Schwartzemann had been forced to make do by filling his office with as many fans as he could an in many cases by taping blocks of ice in front of them to cool him down.

The General was suffering in the heat, but aside from a slight redness in his face you would not have known it. His chiselled, weather-beaten skin did not seem to sweat and if it did it was well hidden by wrinkles, scars and crevasses. Yet despite his leathery complexion, Jack was lean and muscular with sharp blue eyes and a the kind of perfect smile that meant that if he was ever discharged from the military he could easily find work modelling in an Oral Pleartgrav commercial. In fact he was the total embodiment of what Das Engel filmmakers assumed a Radiatian general would look like.

He leaned back in his chair and took in a deep breath of moist, watery air, realising he had almost forgotten what he was calling about when he saw President McCarthy's face appear on screen via secure videolink.

"General Schwartzemann!" The President was smiling like an idiot. Probably drunk, the General thought. "To what do I owe this extraordinary pleasure?"

"Mr. President, thank you for your time, I'll try to keep this brief." Said Jack. He noticed in the background that it seemed to be dark in Xerconia. "Err... sorry if this is a bad time. I believe we are in the same time zone?"

"We are," Said the President. "It's just that you know... the sun set at 3pm today. How's the weather there?"

The General glanced out the window. "It's hot. Nothing but tropical sunshine... and tropical rain. It's pissing down."

"It's raining? How wonderful! I can't tell you how long it's been since I saw real rain... or felt real humidity."

"Mr. President... are you sure it's okay for me to continue? If this is a bad time, then..."

"No, no, no, no... go right ahead!"

The General blinked, which to anyone who knew him well was the equivalent of a full eyeroll.

"Okay... I'm not sure what kind of briefings you've been getting from those bozos in the Ministry of Defence or those even bigger bozos in the MIA3 but I'm on the ground and I'm gonna tell you what I'm seeing."

The President glanced at Karl who was shaking his head. "Alright..."

"Something big's going down. I don't know the ins and outs because we're on a fucking island but things are looking pretty tense between Nui-ta and Hadin right now."

"I'm aware," Said McCarthy. "There's been a bit of shelling over the Zanzean border, there's been some angry rhetoric and we've released statements calling for cool heads to prevail."

"Well with the greatest of respect, Mr. President..." The greatest of respect that General Schwartzemann was able to muster for any politician was about equal to the greatest amount of respect he was able to muster for a dung beetle. "When the bombs start going off, your statement is going to make for a pretty lousy shield."

McCarthy sighed, immediately regretting the call. If he'd wanted to talk to a nutjob, he'd go outside and have a conversation with the average voter.

"Sorry, Mr. President - I like to talk straight is all. But what I'm saying is that the reports are kind of... underestimating how bad things are. Look, I was here during the last Karasian War, the last Straits crisis... when that dumb bitch Dehran fucked it all up... I was there.

"This isn't like that. This is something bigger. This is serious. There's mobilisation going on, the Nui-tans are kind of looking to me like they're on the verge of war and the really scary part is that so far no one's going public."

"Okay, well I'm sure I can follow that up with the Nui-tan government during our next bilateral meeting..."

"Mr. President, I don't think this is going to wait that long. I'm telling you now... you need to put RFSOUTHCOMM on Orange Alert. Right now. And you need to be prepared for the possibility of a Red Alert. Because we're seeing a lot of naval traffic from both sides... a lot of aircraft flying around and seriously... I don't think Hadin are fucking around this time."

"Thank you General. Your opinion is always most valuable."

The screen went dead, and General Schwartzemann lit up a cigarette while calling the President an ignorant motherfucker.




"What do you think of that?" Said the President, his facial expression halfway between a smile and a grimace.

"Jack Schwartzemann is a lunatic," Said Karl. "He's been wanting us to drop a nuke on Hadin since at least 5 years before the first Hadinian War broke out. That's why we sent him down to San Sipi - the man's batshit insane, and we don't want him anywhere near Xerconia where he might actually do some damage."

"He seems pretty convinced that we should be raising the alert level..."

"He once tried to get President Autenberg to put RFSOUTHCOMM on Red Alert because he thought he saw a UFO. Turned out it was because a spider somehow got picked up by a radar and he thought it was an alien bug monster. The man's a loon, frankly you should be looking at replacing him."

"If he's insane, why is even there at all?"

Karl looked nervous. "Ugh, it's because of his surname. He's a Schwartzemann."

"Oh of course. A surname says more than real competence ever could." Said McCarthy sarcastically. "Oh wait: no it doesn't!"

"Schwartzemann is the maiden name of former Prime Minister Lena Toriah." Said Karl. "He has connections."

"I see," Said the President, trying to hide his shock at the obvious display of nepotism in upper echelons of the Radiatian Armed Forces. "Okay well... let's humour him. I'd to have a phone call with Emperor Di-Amori when he's next available, if someone could schedule something in, preferably in the next 48 hours."

"Oh about that." Said Karl.

"What?"

"Ugh, word on the grapevine is that the Emperor is under the weather. Possibly in hospital, details from the Embassy are a bit hazy."

"Oh... dear. If that's so then we'd better send the Emperor a gif."

"What?"

"A gif." Said McCarthy. "You know... send him a gif."

"Okay..." Said Karl pulling out his smartphone. "What sort? A dancing cat with ''get well soon", or that raunchy one of the topless woman that's been doing the rounds...?"

"No not a gif as in that, but..." The President struggled. "You know that thing that foreigners do when they give someone an object and don't ask for money?"

"Oh." Said Karl. "You mean a gift. Yes I'll get the Foreign Minister to organise something."

"In the meantime, I suppose I should talk to their Prime Minister? Hajukugi was the name?"

"Yes I'm sure that we can organise a quick phone call between you and Binyamin Hajukugi," Said Karl. "But do be warned. He's said to be a man of few words."

"Great, he's like a Radiatian! Efficient and laconic..."

"Yes, Mr. President. He's just like a Radiatian. Unfortunately that's something you and him don't have in common..."

"Excuse me!"

"I'm just saying. You're a politician. You like the sound of your own voice. Politicians are generally viewed as the least efficient people in Radiatia."

"Good lord. Well if worst comes to worse... the Nui-tans still respect Josko don't they?"

"Yes, my understanding is that Vice President Ivers continues to be held in high regard in Nui-ta."

"I guess I'll have to take his advice. Where is he anyway?"




Executive Tower4
Xerconia, Federal Capital Territory


"How's this for a happy new year, Dad?"

Vice President Josko Ivers cradled his newborn grandchild while staring out at Federation Square below, which was completely frozen over.

"It's certainly a surprise, but, I mean..." He looked out the window again. "It's freezing out there! Are you sure Xerconia is really a good place for a newborn baby? I easily could have come to Das Engel where... I mean it's cold but it's more 'frostbite' cold rather than 'you're going to die' cold."

Johanna Ivers-Foster (who had chosen to keep her maiden name when she married) laughed.

"Dad... I was born in Xerconia. This is my hometown in case you've forgotten. If you think it's a bad idea for a newborn baby to be in Xerconia then you shouldn't have had me."

Josko chuckled.

"Well... we did actually move to Nui-ta pretty soon after you were born and the climate had a lot to do with it." The baby gurgled. "Oh I can't believe I never asked - have you decided on a name yet."

Johanna looked at David, her husband.

Josko liked David. He was a sound engineer from Das Engel who worked in the film industry, not as one of those typical creative nutjobs but just a professional who did an efficient job. He also wasn't particularly political, and having spent so much of his life in politics, Josko tended to find people more likeable the less political they were.

"Well it's... kind of a funny story." Said David. "See we had picked out a name but... something went a bit wrong."

"Oh?"

Johanna went weirdly quiet, as if she was struggling to find the words - a trait that Josko found unusual in his usually quite verbose daughter.

"So... when I was pregnant we were told the baby was going to be a girl," Said Johanna. "So we decided that... we'd name it after mum."

Josko was silent.

Despite the years that had passed since Kiana's death and despite his current position as the second most powerful man in Radiatia, Kiana's death was still something he had trouble coming to terms with. Johanna knew this and it was clear that this was why she was tiptoeing around the name - she wasn't sure how Josko was going to react.

"I see." Said Josko quietly, after what seemed like an eternity.

Johanna looked out the window, but Josko saw in her reflection that there were tears in his daughter's eyes.

"Ugh..." David broke the tension. "Anyway, that plan went out the window. It turned out what they thought was the umbilical cord was in fact... another appendage."

Josko, despite himself, laughed. "I see. So I have a grandson!"

"Yeah," Said Johanna, quickly snorting back tears. "But we decided to keep to the theme anyway."

Josko looked at the baby. Its eyes weren't open and it was so small that if he had to, he knew he'd be able to hold it with one hand. The newborn baby carried his genes and Kiana's, along with David's. It was at least 75% Radiatian. But it was another generation, a continuation of Kiana's bloodline and someone who would one day inherit the world he was trying to shape.

"So anyway," Said Johanna. "This is your grandson. His full name is Kian Ivers Foster. And I think he's very pleased to meet you."




February 20th
Silviu House
Xerconia, FCT


The Noctur Press Association broke the news before anyone from the Radiatian Intelligence Department, the Federal Ministry of Defence or the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Their speed was as impressive as it was concerning - information was vital to the nation's defences and yet the most powerful military in Noctur was reacting slower than a few journalists to bring critical information to the President.

The President was barely out of his pyjamas when officials came flying in - Karl was there, and so was much of the Cabinet and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Get dressed, Mr. President, this is serious." Said Karl.

"No shit, Sherlock." Said McCarthy, brushing crumbs off his collar and trying to quickly get a tie around his collar. "I saw the news. How the fuck is this on the RPNN before it's on my desk?"

"I'm sorry Mr. President, there was a mix-up between departments, we didn't know whether this fell under Defence of Foreign Affairs and then the intelligence services wanted to get involved and..."

They began moving, with the President grabbing a suit jacket and leading them toward the War Room in the basement.

"Karl, I'm not interested." Said the President. The jovial 'call me Steve' persona was gone, having been replaced by that of a very angry Commander-in-Chief. "Once this briefing is over, we are going to have a little chat, one on one. And if you do not have a fucking good explanation for why I wasn't informed of this an hour ago, then that conversation is going to end with the words 'You're Fired'. Got it?"

"Y-yes, Mr. President." Said Karl, who remained silent then on but found himself realising that Steven McCarthy may have had more of Lena Toriah in him than he realised.

"Right someone give me the broad strokes." Said the President as they marched through the halls of Silviu House toward the War Room. "Preferably someone in a military uniform. I'm sick to fucking death of bureaucrats and political hacks."

"Our latest report indicates that at approximately 0400 hours Xerconia standard time the Nui-tan warship HMS Xirjin was torpedoed by Hadinian forces, with an estimated 400 Nui-tan seaman dead." Said Mykhalia Falk, the Chairwoman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"Fuck." Said McCarthy. "There's going to be retaliation isn't there?"

"No word from Nui-ta yet, Mr. President." Said Commander Falk.

He nodded as he sat down at the briefing room. President McCarthy had a huge amount of respect for Mykhalia Falk - she was efficient and had a soothing, non-bureaucratic voice and gave a straight answer when it was needed. The fact that she was also a woman holding the highest rank in the Radiatian Armed Forces was impressive in its own right.

"Okay, well for anyone not in military uniform, this is your job: Get the Nui-tans on the line. I want to speak to either Binyamin Hajukugi or the Emperor as soon as possible. That's an order!

"As for the military - we don't know how Nui-ta will respond but we can decide how we're going to respond."

"Okay, Mr. President." Said Commander Falk. "Right now the entire military is Code Green across the board."

"That needs to change," Said McCarthy.

"I'm sorry to interject but... it's my job to advise." Said Karl. "I'm just playing Devil's Advocate here: If we start raising military alert levels, the media is going to start wetting itself and asking questions and people will start panicking."

The President sighed. "For once in your life Karl, you make a useful point. Get General Schwartzemann on the line."

"He's been waiting on the line the whole time," Said Karl. "I'll patch him through."

"Mr. President?" Jack Schwartzemann's strong Exegrad accent was pretty unmistakeable.

"I've got some news for you, Jack," Said McCarthy. "You're going to be getting that rise in alert level you wanted."

"Code Orange?"

The President laughed. "Don't push your luck. I'm putting RFSOUTHCOMM on Code Yellow. We don't know what way this thing's going to go, but I'm effectively giving you permission to start scrambling and making preparations and doing whatever it is you guys actually do down there."

"Yes, Mr. President." Said Schwartzemann.

"Okay as for everyone else... it's gonna be Code Blue5 across the board."

"Are you sure, Mr. President?" Asked Commander Falk.

"Is there a reason why we shouldn't go to Code Blue?"

"RFNORTHCOMM and RFCENTCOMM make sense at Code Blue," Said Falk. "RFSTRATCOMM, RFSPECCOMM and RFMOBILCOMM... fine. No objection there. Can take it or leave it."

"Okay?"

"RFTOCOMM and RFEASTCOMM though... do we really need to start hyping them up?"

"It's only Code Blue..."

"Yes but even so, you need to remember what's out there. If Segland get even a whiff that Radiatia might be considering thinking about lubricating the gears on the war machine... they might start escalating."

Steven McCarthy thought for a moment. "Okay. Leave RFTOCOMM at Code Green but take RFEASTCOMM to Code Blue.

"Mr. President, with all respect that makes no sense. Segland is in RFTOCOMM''s AOR. There's nothing in RFEASTCOMM's AOR unless you think Arthuria are planning to side with Hadin?"

"I'm hedging our bets," Said the President. "By keeping RFTOCOMM at Code Green we can't be accused of escalating things with Segland. But... if Segland are up to something, and I think they are, they're close enough to RFEASTCOMM's AOR that we can at least say we're prepared."

Commander Falk nodded, although the President couldn't tell whether this was her acknowledging his plan as a good one or her being too polite to call him an idiot.

"As you wish." She said.


1 This is an injoke. Please laugh.
2 Remember how the President used to live in Level 101 of the Executive Tower? Not anymore! I decided to retcon that because it was... just stupid. The official Presidential residence is now 'Silviu House'.
3 Military Intelligence Agency - one of R-SOD's successor agencies
4 Okay so, like, the Executive Tower does still exist and house the Vice President but it's now smaller and connected to Silviu House... somehow. Yes I'm making this up as I go along.
5 This used to be in my sig, but the military alert levels in Radiatia go from least severe to most: Code Green, Code Blue, Code Yellow, Code Orange, Code Red

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Postby Segland » Fri Jan 08, 2021 9:51 pm

July 7, 406X NC -- Several years before present
Ryutsvaag, Segland


It was well into the invasion by Poldania.

A pair of sapphire eyes flicked around in the dark of a warm summer night, scanning a ministerial report by candlelight. Chancellor Alexei Haussmann was alone in the room. The electricity in the Estate of the Republic had shut off nine minutes ago, exactly ten seconds after the air raid sirens began keening through the air of the Seglandic capital city. A ghostly sound, it reminded the chancellor of war stories his grandfather had told him as a child, stories of the Seglandic Civil War. Back then, it had been Seglanders dropping bombs on Seglanders.1 At least now, thought the chancellor with a wry smile that was invisible in the shadow of the room, the country had graduated to getting bombed by foreigners instead.

In the era of modern warfare, municipal blackouts in the face of air raids secured, at best, merely psychological benefits for the populace. Peace of mind. Unlike the Etatist bomber planes a century before, the Poldanian jets would be equipped with satellite-guided munitions insensitive to the play of photons from the city miles beneath. If President Cesare ordered a strike on the Seglandic State Palace itself, nothing besides missile and anti-air defense could thwart his designs. Military reality notwithstanding, the blackout drills continued every couple weeks across the whole of Segland.

Seglandic forces still held uncontested air supremacy west of the Ryutsvaag Line, the defensive formation that stretched from the Tressian Gulf in the north to the Ida Stann River in central Segland. What had started as a hastily organized military occupation of strategic settlements was now an archipelago of bunkers, forts, bases, airstrips, and missile installations arcing thousands of miles through the upper half of the country. Der Arkangel, the second-largest city in Segland and the locus of recent fighting between Poldanian and Seglandic troops, was on the eastern side of the Line. Reestablishing control of Der Arkangel was first priority for Haussmann -- second and third priority, too. The still-ongoing war in Karasia had been placed on the backburner, and hardly a Seglander remainded in Zanzes, the expeditionary force having been recalled to Segland to defend the fatherland from attack.

And now the dimly illuminated report that lay before Alexei's eyes. It was brief, but he read over it three times. Energy Minister Hildebrand, responsible for the Seglandic nuclear weapon program ever since a major reshuffling of duties after the chancellor's ascension to power, wrote that the new tunnel system for covertly transporting ballistic missiles had reached 90% completion. A veritable warren, the hundreds upon hundreds of miles of underground tunnel would go a long way in keeping foreign eyes off of Segland's most powerful deterrents. To be sure, the whole world knew that Segland possessed a modest stockpile of nuclear weapons, with the highest public estimates around 40, but the groundwork (or undergroundwork, as it were) was almost done being laid for the future accumulation of warheads that would finally be politically possible once the war with Poldania was over.

Poldania was the key to it all. For his entire life, Alexei had had a knack for figuring out who his real enemies were and acting accordingly. He credited that instinct with his being able to outmaneuver his predecessor in the highest office of Segland, Heinrich Mueller. But he had to admit to himself that the surprise attack by Poldania had surprised him too. To some extent, this was the fault of the intelligence agencies as well as the border garrisons. Yet Alexei had not even locked on to the Poldanians as an imminent threat, so focused was he on the Radiatians whom he openly aspired to surpass in international power. So he was reading a government paper by candlelight in an air raid blackout drill while maybe eighty miles away a pitched battle raged for control of Segland's second-largest city.

The deployment of weapons of mass destruction against Poldania was nearly out of the question. Even if the unthinkable occurred and the invading armies captured Ryutsvaag, the Demarchist Party leaders could escape easily enough to the south of the country and from there mount a conventional response. Even if all of Segland fell to the enemy, Alexei found it preferable to attempt flight to Hadin or, if necessary, take his own life rather than ignite a potentially global thermonuclear exchange.

No, the tunnels and the upcoming expansion of nuclear capabilities would serve a strictly deterrent function in international strategy. Besides, this war would surely never come to the point of WMDs being a serious temptation. And if this war couldn't, a war where Segland really was existentially threatened, then what war ever could?

January 1, 4067 NC
New Tressia (formerly known as Seglandic Zanzes)


Through the howling wind and the driving rain at the mining camp, a number of hunched figures moved, only illuminated by floodlights that filled the area with a garish light. Shards of rain could be seen as they sliced through the beams of the floodlights. There was no thunder, and the storm was eerily silent besides the insistent wail of the wind. If it had not been for the wind, the Zanze workers outside and in the mines might have heard the uproarious laughter of Seglanders drinking and celebrating the new year in their canteen.

This was Markku-5, one of the many temporary labor camps established by the Seglandic emergency administration in the wake of the Karasian War. Like most, it had begun in the guise of a refugee camp to help cope with the postwar crisis of displaced people, and it was still accredited by the UNCA Commissioner for Human Rights as a legitimate refugee camp. But the men in the camp had almost immediately been put to work in the mines -- the place had been conveniently sited on an ore deposit -- and before long, the women and older children followed suit.

When the emergency government gave way to the commercial supervision of the Zanzes Exploration and Development Company2, the inchoate philosophy of the Seglandic presence in Zanzes was refined into an art, if that word can be used for an evolving system of ever-more sophisticated exploitation. For a nation whose northeastern quarter had been devastated by war with Poldania and whose economy was constantly strained by a litany of sanctions issued by Radiatia and its allies, it was crucial to get access to a safe and guaranteed stream of resources. It occurred to Demarchist Party high-ups late in the war that a suzerain Karasian territory might give the Seglandic economy just the break it needed. So they came down hard in their talks with Hadin about postwar partitions: it was essential that a Seglandic Zanzes be created.

In the Markku-5 canteen, beer steins were overflowing. The ZED Company executives usually dined in their own room, but it was New Year's Day, so tonight they drank with the men. Only a skeleton crew of guards remained in the towers.

"Where's the domestic lager at? I'm tired of this local slop," complained one of the Seglanders.

"This is domestic, you idiot!"

"Lying bastard. They can't afford the imported Seglandic anymore, you know how tight the budget is!"

"Hah! That was in 4066, but this is 4067. Much money, big budget, new year, lots of domestic beer!" At this, a cheer went up through the whole hall, and beer splashed onto the wood floor as everyone raised their steins.

A new voice entered into the fray from one of the tables. "Ah, but what about the women? The only blondes I've seen in the last three years have been on TV!" A murmur of agreement passed through the room. Blonde Seglandic women were indeed in short supply in the hinterland of Markku-5.

Slowly and with affected dignity, a tanned man in his late fifties sporting a pointy black beard rose from his seat in the center of the canteen. It was Jerma Lokanik, the deputy director of the labor camp. "My fellow Seglanders of the ZED Company, of Markku-5," he declaimed. "I have been in spirited negotiations with the big brass in Ryutsvaag. As you know by now, there is a pilot program for sending over Seglandic women to selected enterprises here in Zanzes. Well...I am pleased to announce that we have been selected." A total hush, and then a roar of excitement that seemed to shake the whole canteen.

"Yes," he continued, straining even with his stentorian voice to be heard above the renewed din, "it's true, these soon-to-be immigrants are all coming from women's prisons. And no, none of them actually chose to be sent to Zanzes. But who the hell did!" Laughter and slamming of the tables, of the walls. "This is no far-off promise. The first maidens are to arrive on the fifteenth of January! Fourteen days, no more!"

Upon hearing this ultimate revelation, the entire canteen of Markku-5 boiled over into a saturnalian, mardi gras-esque frenzy of epic proportions. Heads were anointed with beer, steins were thrown and smashed to smithereens against the wall, three-sheets-to-the-wind Seglanders started wrestling with each other and tipping over chairs. Deputy Director Lokanik had to take flight into the kitchen to avoid being struck in the firefight of beer tankards and comestible projectiles. At least one person was definitely peeing on the floor. This was a fairly average Seglandic New Year's.

One fellow was notably absent from the festivities. In another building, the chief of the camp, Director Onni Rothko, abstained from the drink and revelry. Instead he gazed out the window of his private quarters, taking in the stormy scene outside, the floodlights, the guard towers and the indigenous Zanze laborers. Slaves, actually, in almost every practical sense. Their scrip wages were barely enough to live on.

Onni Rothko was the personified antithesis of his deputy, Jerma Lokanik. Pale as Arthurian snow and clean-shaven, only 39 years old, the youngest director of any ZED camp, Onni Rothko lived an ascetic existence and hoped in vain to inspire his men to do the same. It was Jerma who had insisted on flying to Ryutsvaag (a trip paid for out of the camp's operating expenses even when they were terribly strapped for money) to importune the corporate leadership for scarce female workers that could pacify the deprived men. Jerma, too, had been the one to swing a shipment of Gyerte beer from Segland just in time for the new year. Onni had to give it to him, he had the personality and connections to make things move in the occasionally inefficient Seglandic party-state bureaucracy. And maybe even more importantly, Jerma seemed to take little interest in replacing Onni as director of Markku-5.

Still, the culture at the camp would need a lot of work, Onni knew. And the labor force, mostly Zanze, had severely underfulfilled ore quotas for the year 4066. By comparison, the camp's quota had just barely been met in the year before, 4065. The downward trend worried Onni, and he wondered what could be done about it. How could the Zanze be pushed harder? He didn't view them as subhumans or primitives, like many Seglanders in the ZED Company tended to, but he did need to keep his job as director. He had kids back in Der Arkangel, a boy and a girl in primary school. And the ZED Company had placed a great deal of trust in him by making him the youngest director in all of Seglandic Zanzes; he knew he would not get a second shot after 4067.

With these thoughts and many others in his mind, Onni took one last look at the grey-black landscape outside and then closed the blinds. There was much to be done in the new year.

February 10, 4067 NC
Ryutsvaag, Segland


"'All the world's at twilight twain / and in between begin again / the likened lives of pigs and men / where ne'er is evil seen therein.' Do you know that verse, Alexei?"3

The chancellor was seated facing away from his interlocutor, toward the huge arched window of his office, beyond which the setting sun made a psychedelic tapestry of the sky over Ryutsvaag. In the far distance was the multitude of buildings accruing ever more rapidly to the city's business district. "Rings an ancient bell. Kruhueller? Or someone else?"4

"Uexmann. From the final stanza of 'The Ambrosia of Man'. A fine sentiment, though all too often misunderstood by the poet's readers, in my experience conversing about this poem."

Alexei Haussmann swiveled around in his chair to face Rupert Specht, the grey-haired Liaison Minister who increasingly embodied the role of elder statesman of Segland. A career diplomat, the man, now in his sixties and putting on some weight that didn't yet show through his suit, was a proud dilettante of Seglandic literature.

"And what's the right way to understand it?" Alexei asked.

Rupert grunted. "You would have me explain it to you before you've made your own thoughts on the matter clear? The chancellor is the great helmsman of the Seglandic realm, the guardian of the arts and culture! Concerning the meaning of any poem, then, your word is final. I'll hear it from you first, then give my own view."

The chancellor chuckled a bit at his minister's flippant use of certain Demarchist propaganda phrases: "great helmsman of the Seglandic realm" (which had once referred to the Demarchist Party as a gestalt and increasingly referred to Haussmann himself), "guardian of the arts and culture". These were partly a holdover from the honorary monarchical titles of the Seglandic Empire, partly an insistence of the grandiloquent Minister of Enlightenment, Tillo Urslerev. Even the LED light displays on privately-owned skyscrapers in Ryutsvaag and other cities were mandated to project these pro-Demarchist formulations for an hour every night.

“You're forgetting one thing," Alexei said, "which is that as the great helmsman of the Seglandic realm, I can order you to disclose your opinion. So what's this proper interpretation?"

Rupert straightened himself a little in his chair and looked at Alexei behind the intervening desk. "The key to it is the very last line. 'Where ne'er is evil seen therein'. Often this is taken as a token of Uexmann's optimism, or of his belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. Isn't that correct?"

"I'll take your word for it."

"Oh, you know the poem, don't be disingenuous. In any event, the final line makes no sense as an optimistic description of the world, not in the context, anyway. Uexmann doesn't mean that bad things and crime and so on are not occurring in the world. But this isn't what he means by 'evil'. He grouped the lives of men with those of pigs in the line before, didn't he?"

"Yes, and an apt grouping, really. He wouldn't have said the same of the lives of women."

Rupert laughed. "No, I imagine he would have compared women to swans or a beautiful Karasian bird of paradise. You have to keep in mind that he never saw our Demarchist women. Anyway, Uexmann's point with those two lines is to elevate 'evil' as an ideal too grand for the likes of mere men and pigs. And if this is the case, then he cannot mean 'crime' by 'evil', because men are at all times engaged in petty crime."

"Then only those who are not mere men, who are more than mere men, are capable of this ideal evil."

"Or possibly those who are less than mere men. But yes, it takes an extraordinary soul to do evil, if we are to agree with Uexmann. What is the titular 'ambrosia' in 'The Ambrosia of Man'?"

"Well, schoolteacher, I couldn't possibly say. I don't believe the poem ever directly mentions ambrosia outside of the title."

"That's because the ambrosia is precisely Uexmann's ideal evil. Partaking of a magnificent, glorious evil is sufficient to render a man immortal, if we understand immortality to be the transcendence of ordinary human life. If he had said this all plainly and connected ambrosia with evil, King Wulfhard would have had him put to death at once!"5

"I take your point. So the lives of mere men are acted out in the daytime, whereas night can only be brought on by evil, with twilight being a sort of border region. It's all cryptic now, the way you interpret it."

"The first two lines I quoted are indeed the cryptic part compared to the second two. What is the twilight, and why do lives begin all over again in the daytime rather than simply continuing?"

"I think you have a good answer waiting in the wings."

"Not a good one, but a relevant one. There are two twilights, dawn and dusk. Dusk brings on the night, and since Uexmann accords the night a place of honor -- this is where the extraordinary men act and realize his ideal of evil -- dusk must be better than dawn for extraordinary men. Dawn heralds the day of the pigs and the ordinary men. These two twilights are strange and discombobulating times where the order of the world can never be sure to the uninitiated. More than that, such times will appear chaotic."

Alexei smiled, apprehending where his Liaison Minister might be going with his explication. "And we are in a twilight world right now. The old world order of the Radiatians with their undisputed hegemony is passing, while most are unsure what new form of order will succeed it."

"Without a doubt. But it is hard to be sure whether that Radiatian era was the night or the day. Knowing which is of the utmost importance because of what happens to the extraordinary men when they cross through dawn into the day, and what happens to the ordinary men when they cross through dusk into the night."

"Their dominance comes to an end," Alexei said. "Although I suspect Uexmann meant something more than that."

"As do I. The choice of pigs in the third line was no happenstance thing. They connote the slaughter, and slaughter is exactly what unfolds under the twilight. Like pigs in the abattoir, the extraordinary must face the slaughter at dawn to commence the day, and the ordinary must face the slaughter at dusk to inaugurate the night. Thus lives literally begin again in between the twilights, not only in the daytime interval that Uexmann speaks of in the last two lines, but also in the nighttime interval as the extraordinary men of ideal evil take their place at the throne. For the only life worth living is life among one's fellows, whether base or virtuous, ordinary or extraordinary. This, in short, we can now finally see, is the archetype of the rise of Segland and the inauguration of the global Nocturian night. We live in a dusky, darkling world, and we are the extraordinary men. You and I at least can have no illusions about our place in this poem."

"A perverted, wonderful exegesis such as I would expect from no one but you, Rupert," said Alexei, slowly clapping his hands. "Though I am curious to hear more of your thoughts on this ideal evil, which can't possibly--" he stopped speaking when the tall doors of his office opened outward, and a corpulent, sweaty man entered in, followed by a taller man with a buzzcut. They were respectively the chancellor's obese chief secretary, Linus Dischinger, and the Minister of Fortitude6, Jovian Moser. Both of their faces were painted with worry, and Linus Dischinger was sweating twice as much as usual.

"Your Excellency. And Minister Specht. There's a, uh, something." Dischinger could barely get his words out, on account of his panting as well as some embarrassment at interrupting what was clearly an animated discussion between the chancellor and the Liaison Minister.

"An incident in Karasia," Jovian Moser specified. "A Hadinian ship torpedoed and sunk the HMS Xirjin of the Nui-tan navy. Four hundred Nui-tans died." The Minister of Fortitude let this sink in for Chancellor Haussmann and Minister Specht's sakes, as they seemed slightly jarred by the mention of military matters.

The chancellor quickly recovered. "Any statements from either the High Envoy or the Emperor? Or any spokespeople, for that matter?"

"No, we've only just received word on this from our naval base in Hadin. They pieced together some frantic communications in the area and figured out a ship had been sunk. The rest of the info came soon after," said Moser.

By now, Alexei was already out of his chair and walking toward the door. Rupert rose and followed. As he walked out the room with the three others, Alexei asked intently, "Is everything quiet with Poldania right now?"

Moser replied, "The last I heard, which was a meeting this morning, there was no evidence for impending Poldanian military action. Their ships have not been anywhere near our waters. And their government rhetoric has been no more bellicose than normal."

"And Radiatia?" asked Alexei, visibly relieved now. The four men were continuing down a hall and to an elevator that would take them underground to the chancellor's crisis room.

Stepping into the elevator behind the chancellor, Moser said, "No provocations against us from their quarter, either. But it is my strong belief that President McCarthy will be quick to reinforce Nui-ta. If he does, then our naval forces stationed in Hadin will be at much higher risk. The danger of a preemptive attack there, whether by Radiatia or Nui-ta, cannot be underestimated. My advice would be to deploy and scatter the bulk of the Southern Fleet."

"Why deploy the Southern Fleet before we know that Radiatia is sending ships down? Such an action might tip them into doing just that. Unless you seriously expect a preemptive attack by the Nui-tans," Rupert said.

"McCarthy would be foolish not to intervene directly. Nui-ta has been at a regional disadvantage ever since the end of the war in Karasia," Moser defended himself. "If the Radiatians don't support their ally, it could well seal Hadinian dominance in the region."

"I'll wait to feel out the men at Corlehn Base before deciding on the Southern Fleet. Either way, New Tressia is obviously threatened now, and we need more than a paltry thousand government troops there. That's an escalation I'm definitely willing to make," Alexei stated as he exited the elevator in front of the other men. Already, the crisis room was filled with other officials and a couple of ministers rustling through their papers and swishing down coffee.

"I'm feeling more cortisol than twilight right now," Rupert quipped to Alexei as he slipped past him and took his seat at the room's black circular table. The crisis room as a whole was also circular, centered on a holographic projection in the middle of the circular table that could display video calls, maps, charts, and other data for everyone in the room to view. One of the priorities of the nation's cyberwarfare division was to maintain the data security of the crisis room.

Alexei sat down and said to no one in particular, "Get Admiral Kelhoven on call immediately." Wulfhart Kelhoven was the commander of the Southern Fleet and the highest-ranked Seglandic naval officer in Hadin. His distinguished service in the Karasian War led to his appointment to the eleven-person Central Military Commission, the body which coordinated Seglandic military efforts and was headed by Chancellor Haussmann. A few of the CMC members were physically present in the room, and the rest could be contacted at a moment's notice.

A square-jawed, tanned face appeared on the holographic display. It was slightly distorted by the projection, and tilting one's head to the side could interfere further with the holographic effect. "Your Excellencies," he said.

"Hello, Admiral Kelhoven. What's the situation in the Bay of Zanzes?" Alexei asked.

"Shitty and getting shittier. I've already mandated armed escorts for all merchant ships with destinations in New Tressia. This installation's defense readiness has also been raised to Yellow. I have ordered drills across the board, and I am awaiting further orders before I coordinate a potential operation with the mainland base in New Tressia."

Minister Moser asked, "Are the carriers still at port in Hadin?"

"One is. The other is conducting an exercise nearer the mainland."

Moser turned and addressed Alexei. "Sir, remember what I told you earlier. At the very least, get the second carrier out of port."

The chancellor was about to respond, but evidently Kelhoven had heard the remark, for he broke in: "If your concern is some sort of pie-in-the-sky preemptive attack by Nui-ta or Radiatia, I wouldn't lose sleep over it. With modern detecting systems in place, that style of warfare is a thing of the fourth millennium. Besides, even if the enemy was dumb enough to launch such an attack and we were dumb enough to be caught off guard, a carrier would probably be one of the safest ships in that scenario."

Alexei added, "Both carriers of the Southern Fleet being on the move near Nui-ta would skirt dangerously close to some incident with the Nui-tans. We don't want any incidents that aren't manufactured by us. It might also drive the Radiatians to send a carrier down. No, I think we had better keep the one in port."

"I think that is wise, Your Excellency," said Kelhoven. "Shall I coordinate any operations with the mainland naval installation?"

"First of all, what is the status of the Hadinian blockade?" the chancellor asked.

"No significant change since before the Xirjin was sunk. The entirety of South Zanzes is still cordoned off. A real ballsy move by Hadin. Sinking that ship was maybe too ballsy," Kelhoven replied.

Alexei turned to the Fortitude Minister. "Jovian, what do you think of a restrained show of force?"

"I would prefer a pure show of force," Moser said, "but we must do something. That carrier off the coast of the mainland, why not have it conduct a new exercise? Sail down from New Tressia to between Nui-ta and New Zanzes, then eastward through the waters south of Nui-ta, and up around again to the Hadin base. Maybe even actually pass into Nui-tan territorial waters near one of their cities, scare the bastards a little."

"Let's do that, but I want a restrained show of force, so absolutely no intrusion into Nui-ta's maritime territory. We want to make them reconsider retaliating against Hadin, but there's too much at stake to do more than that when we are already appearing as the aggressor. Admiral Kelhoven, give that carrier squad new orders effective immediately. Sail around Nui-ta," said the chancellor.

"As you wish, Your Excellency," the admiral said.

As the meeting in the crisis room went on, Chancellor Alexei Haussmann became surer and surer of the apprehension he had gained when Kelhoven was speaking. No matter how restrained or unrestrained Segland might try to be in the coming days, the gears of history were turning inexorably. The sun was in motion, twilight was arriving. But was the sun rising or setting?

Surely it would not be unclear for long.


1 The war was between the Neo-Imperialists (essentially a post-Empire rump state) and the Etatists (provincial forces that wanted to establish a decentralized republic). Bomber planes were used extensively by both sides in the war.
2 An ostensibly private concern out of Ryutsvaag, the ZED Company has de facto control over many sectors of New Tressia, including its economy. The Demarchist Party controls it ultimately, but the Company has been given extreme latitude to pursue profit in Zanzes to the extreme of running countless labor camps.
3 From "The Ambrosia of Man" by Med Uexmann (3756 - 3795), renowned Seglandic poet. Schoolchildren memorize his poems.
4 Halse Kruhueller was another Seglandic poet but lived slightly later than Uexmann, from 3782 to 3842.
5 King Wulfhard of Segland reigned through Uexmann's entire life, from 3746 to 3796.
6 Equivalent to a minister of defense.
Last edited by Segland on Sat Jan 09, 2021 6:51 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Karasi-a
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Founded: Nov 05, 2020
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Postby Karasi-a » Mon Jan 18, 2021 8:15 pm

Feburary 20th, NC 4068 - Kopurauth, Hadin


"They did WHAT?!"

President Steven McCarthy did not know this, but he was not the only major leader in Noctur to find about the HMS Xirjin incident in a way that should not have happened. High-Envoy Matfei Di Pascari's mouthful of honey-lavender tea had found itself ejected unceremoniously from the High-Envoy's mouth and splattered across his desk.

"A Nui-tan military ship was fired upon by our ships when it attempted escort a merchant ship to breach the blockade, High-Envoy. It was a clean shot with one of the new Pistrata-45 MK II's. The vessel was destroyed on impact; all hands were lost".

"Any losses on the Hadinian side?"

"None, sir. Reports aren't clear, but it's said we fired first".

Fuck me sideways, the High-Envoy found himself cursing in his mind before admonishing himself as a man of the cloth. After calming down for a moment, Di Pascari added the query "why did we fire first?"

"That's still being investigated, sir. The captain of the ship that fired its torpedo stated that they were initially instructed to allow the ships to pass and head to Limara -- the Nui-tan port in the area -- if they followed procedure. Apparently, a later order came down to fire upon the ships if they tried to pass, but where this order came from is dubious".

"The Captain of the ship can't tell us where the order came from?"

"No, he stated it was from off-shore command over the radio, and the command deck personnel of the ship all agreed. Who issued that order to him is what's being questioned". At this statement, the Councilman's tone became more serious.

"Your surprise, High-Envoy Di Pascari, contradicts the working theory that the Envoyship issued the command..."

"No comment," Matfei mumbled. Matfei's clear-blue eyes glanced upwards slightly at the Councilman's name badge --- Bassiano Scire, one of the newest Patricians. Bassiano was young and likely unaware of the internal politics that swirled around the Theocracy. The High-Envoy was becoming more and more convinced that there was someone within the upper echelons of Hadinian politics, perhaps another Envoy, who had been quietly working towards pushing Hadin to another war with Nui-ta. The untimely death of Fiete Nikastro had been an early indication that something was off, as was the fact that Matfei's appointment as Fiete Nikastro's successor was unusually well-supported by the rest of the Envoys in the Conclave1.

Someone was playing at a higher game here, though Matfei lamented that he didn't have the brains to figure it out for himself.




February 22nd, NC 4068 - Rahku City, Nui-ta


There had been understandable confusion when Radiatian diplomats had phoned-in on the 20th to speak with the Emperor and instead gotten Amir Sulta. For some reason, the McCarthy administration seemed convinced that Hajukugi, rather than Sulta, was their point of contact with the Emperor not being available. Avoiding further diplomatic bru-ha-ha's in an already messy situation involved getting the current Ambassador to Radiatia on the phone. Ambassador Nitesh Krasimir2 resorted to reading, in Radiatian, the portion of the Nui-tan constitution in Radiatia that conferred executive duties to the Chief Judiciary during times when the Emperor was not in a position to command his armies.

From the day of the HMS Xirjin incident, it would be five more days (at minimum) before the Emperor was medically cleared to return to duty. The prospect of an additional week where the Most Honorable Amir Sulta would have to lead the country had just become infinitely more stressful. Although the incident was serious enough to warrant the Emperor being briefed by Nui-tan intelligence while on leave, the Constitution made it clear that it was Sulta who had to decide the Nui-tan response in the interim. Radiatia was not the only country waiting on a response; Segland, Hadin, South Zanzes, these two were all waiting with bated breath on a decision that would be forever etched into the history books.

The wisest response would have been to wait until the Emperor was medically clear to return to office. Reports had stated that Rowan was showing signs of already having recovered from his head injury, and even the Prime Minister was pushing for the royal physicians to allow the Emperor to return prematurely to deal with this crisis. Though they ultimately relented on not extending Rowan's medical leave further, they refused to give clearance to an early return, leaving the Chief Judiciary without this option.

The second wisest response would have been to put pressure on South Zanzes to stand down in the wake of this difficulty, but this too was impossible. The Emperor had already been working this angle for some time, but the South Zanze were beginning to go deaf to Imperial pressure in the wake of their own anger. Amir Sulta was not a well-respected man in South Zanzes, largely by virtue of not being a well-recognized man there3. The Hadinian blockade in the Bay of Zanzes was there because of South Zanzes, not Nui-ta --- if South Zanzes could be convinced to stand down, there was a possibility that Hadin would become more receptive to peace talks.

But then came the next question: were peace talks even viable anymore? The Hadinian Foreign Affairs office had reached out not long after the Xirjin Incident to discuss what had just happened. While the Hadinian Vir Consili on the other end of the line was not opposed to negotiations, they had mainly been calling regarding the peaceful exit of Nui-tan and Hadinian diplomats from each other's borders. The Hadinian declaration of war had been understandable, aimed at unruly factions in South Zanzes who were genuinely endangering Hadinian holdings in the North. The Hadinian blockade had been a show of restrained force, pushing South Zanzes to back down by cutting off trade while also minimizing the number of Hadinian troops who stepped on South Zanzean soil. However, the Hadinian blockade also impacted the Nui-tan state of New Zanzes, and Hadin had violated the protocol for allowing New Zanzes leniency from the blockade when it sent a torpedo crashing through a Nui-tan naval ship.

By the 22nd of February, it became clear that the sharks were starting to circle Nui-ta in the water. Though no UNCA ships had crossed into Nui-tan maritime territory, the blockade around southern Zanzes had only thickened. The only way for Nui-tan holdings in the area to get trade now would be through South Zanzes, and while South Zanzes had natural resources to spare, those resources wouldn't last forever. In Radiatia, RFSOUTHCOM had been placed on Yellow Alert - McCarthy seemed to be turning on the war machine but letting it run in idle in case things blew over on their own. More concerningly, a Seglandic aircraft carrier had been seen circling around Nui-ta's southern shores. It was far enough away for both "pre-emptive scouting attempts" and "Seglanders taking the scenic route back to Hadin" to be possibilities, but whether this was a threat, an accident, or someone's idea of a crude joke was yet to be determined.

As much as he didn't like it, Amir wasn't willing to take that chance. The Gods had seen fit to ensure that a decision could not wait until the Emperor returned. Every second that Amir waited for an opportunity for peace to display itself was a second that war became more and more of an inevitability. The only thing Amir could do now as a preventative measure was call the Emperor and inform him that when he returned to duty, he would be doing so with the nation in a state of open war. Knowing he had no other choice but to play into Hadin's hands, Amir Sulta decided it was best to go out fighting rather than roll over.

Preparations would have to be made. More torpedos would be necessary.




February 27th, NC 4068 - Kopurauth, Hadin


By the time the Nui-tan Emperor returned to his office, there had already been at least one major skirmish in the Bay of Zanzes. Nui-ta had finally issued a formal declaration of war and followed that declaration with naval retaliation. This declaration of war had seen to it that Hadin's highest-ranked military officials met more often to discuss their next moves in a classified location underneath the many government buildings in Kopurauth.

Chief Admiral Decimo Cinelli was carefully drawing out the latest formation of ships composing the Hadinian blockade. With his thumb, he erased one particular segment of red dry-erase marker from the screen --- he'd had an aide superimpose a high-resolution satellite image of the Bay of Zanzes over a whiteboard so he could sketch out planned naval movements himself and erase them at will.

The erasure of a small segment of the line was due to the fact that Nui-tan ships from both sides of the blockade had since mobilized to attack the Hadinian vessels around the area. Hadin's ultimate response here had been to allow a few ships to slip through, effectively weakening the blockade in this particular area enough for mainland Nui-ta to regain maritime traffic with New Zanzes.

Cinelli's logic had been that it would be more opportune in the long run to have Hadin pressure on other key locations in the Bay. Allowing Nui-ta to win one battle and refill its New Zanzean ports was less of a priority than playing the long game. Nui-ta's second order of business had been to have some of its other naval forces roam the straits, effectively forming a defensive line around its main island and its periphery. The Chief Marshall of the Hadinian People's Air Froce, Milo Passeri, had lamented that this would make aerial warfare more difficult.

"We're almost firmly at having superiority in the region," Passeri noted. "If we could send a few missiles out to key locations in South Zanzes, we could make this a very, very quick war".

"That ring of ships circling around the southern bay isn't going to help". This third voice belonged to General Dante Bini --- the five stars on his sleeve indicated his place as the ranking General in Hadin's army. "I'm no midshipman, but having ships around the bay is going to allow Nui-ta to start sending out surface-to-air missiles".

"They would not possibly be stupid enough to bomb us," the Admiral responded. "Even without the UNCA, Nui-ta doesn't have the numbers required to blitzkrieg us like that and force this war to a close....unless you think their big brother4 is going to get involved?"

"Intelligence can't make much of Radiatia's decisions yet," Chief Marshall Passeri responded. "With that having been said, I can't discount that possibility".

"There's only one other reason they'd be doing that then," the Admiral realized. "They're going on the defensive and setting up to shoot incoming missiles down".

"They've got the range and the armament to extend this all the way to South Zanzes's borders," Passeri added. "It's a smart move..."

"It's been well-documented that the Karasian War shifted things in our favor enough to end the possibility of Nui-ta winning a conventional offensive war. Last time they shook us off, they had to break the rules of war to do it and use sarin gas, and they still lost most of the territory they had meant to be defending," the General smirked. "They know they're not winning an active engagement with us, so they're making defensive moves and hoping to dig in long enough for this to go away..."

"I don't think it's so much attrition as preparation," Admiral Cinelli added. "They aren't waiting for us to go away so much as buying themselves time for the tides to change. Maybe they're hoping they can bring South Zanzes in and negotiate a surrender. Maybe they're waiting on Radiatia; maybe they're just waiting until we're not looking to start dropping paratroopers in --- they're planning something".

"Well, the tides are changing," the Field Marshall smiled. He watched as the Admiral returned his grin and changed from one color of marker to another. In green, the Admiral wrote the word "Segland" east of the Bay, and then moved to the other side of the board to write "Algrabad" on the far west of the map.

"They can wait as long as they want --- we're inviting friends over. Segland's not about to let New Tressia catch so much as a whiff of this mess, and Algrabad owes us a few favors5. The latter's support might be a bit minimal since their plates are pretty full, but we can be assured they'll help with something. Let's not forget that it's almost March. Radiatia's ships are only just starting to thaw out in that icy hellscape they call home, and by the time that they've unfrozen enough to start moving, they'll have to race against hurricane season. Therefore, one of the best strategies we can work with is doing like Nui-ta is doing and bulking up on resources. By the time Nui-ta's going to be in a position to be here, our forces will effectively have tripled and we'll be able to take almost anything that gets thrown at us. There are, of course, a few worries about how Radiatia will respond, but I think you'll find my next proposal on that topic quite interesting..."



1High-Envoy Matfei Di Pascari is the first High-Envoy to have been selected as High-Envoy without having volunteered for the position. The usual process for filling the vacant seat of High-Envoy is for other Envoys to offer themselves up for the position, and then to be selected by majority vote. Despite the small number of Envoys, all Envoys can offer themselves up for the position and be voted on. This means that a typical selection process will see about half to three-quarters of Hadin's Envoys initially up for selection before the numbers whittle down as Envoys with similar ideologies throw their support behind each other and gradually filter out candidates from the running.

The selection of Nico Hass, for example, took several weeks, because the Envoyship was almost evenly split between choosing him and choosing Fiete Nikastro. In the end, shifting political tides saw some Envoys shift their votes from Nikastro to Hass, giving the Third High-Envoy the votes he needed to take control of the Hadinian government.

The only thing necessary to become High-Envoy is the majority, not the volunteering. Following Nikastro's death, Matfei Di Pascari became the first High-Envoy to be given a majority vote by the Hadinian Envoyship without ever having put himself up for the position.

2 Ambassador Nitesh Krasimir is the most recent in a group of several Ambassadors that Nui-ta has appointed to Radiatia throughout the years. His appointment to the Ambassadorship came after Hajukugi's administration purged many Dehran appointees in Radiatia. Among other qualifications for the position, Krasimir is part-Radiatian on his father's side and has a personal familiarity with Radiatia due to having spent some of his life there even before his career with the Nui-tan Ministry of External Affairs.

3Per South Zanzes's constitution, at the express behest of a South Zanzean Chancellorship during its writing, the government of South Zanzes recognizes themselves as an internally autonomous country, but suzerain to the Nui-tan crown for ceremonial purposes. This was a controversial decision in Nui-ta (most of the Dehran administration supported it, as did the Judiciary, but the Crown did not). In the end, the pro-suzerain faction won. However, as tensions in Zanzes escalated and Nui-ta experienced a change in government, the two countries now find themselves reaching more and more of an impasse in handling escalated situations like the border disputes between North and South Zanzes. South Zanzes is much more quick to escalate, as events like what happened at Rinayuris have already shown. Because he was well-respected in South Zanzes, Rowan could exercise some sway in holding South Zanzes back, but even this is tricky.

With Rowan out of office and Eza di-Amori being very young, the South Zanzean government's substitute for the Emperor is Chancellor Farhana Abdulrashid Imen, who is in favor of the aggressive stance South Zanzes has against the UNCA in Karas. As Amir Sulta is neither South Zanzean nor a Nui-tan royal, he finds himself effectively shut out of the South Zanzean conversation.

4Radiatia has engaged Hadin so many times on Nui-ta's behalf that Hadin now (sort of affectionately) calls Radiatia the "big brother".

5It's hard to say exactly how involved Algrabad will be with no Algrabad around, but I'm just going to assume there's at least some minimal involvement here. Hadin's owed a few favors...
Last edited by Karasi-a on Sun Jan 24, 2021 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Radiatia » Wed Jan 20, 2021 5:29 am

February 20th
Xerconia, FCT


You couldn't tell by looking, but President Steven McCarthy was grappling with what was growing into not only the biggest crisis of his Presidency, but also the biggest in his lifetime. And he was doing this with both of his feet up on the Presidential desk, leaning back into his chair and staring at the roof while making his way through a small packet of sugar-frosted high fructose corn syrup 'n glucose drops1.

"Who's our guy on the ground in Nui-ta, Mark?" He said, biting off the end of one of his pieces of candy.

"Our guy on the ground?"

The President looked at the Foreign Minister. "You know... our ambassador. Who's representing us to our closest ally?"

"Ugh..." Mark Fleischer had always been slightly surprised to have been offered the job of Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs but had been able to patch over any gaps in knowledge quite easily. This was not one of those times.

"Come on Mark... our ambassador to Nui-ta. We can't just give it any old idiot, this is an important post." McCarthy said between mouthfuls of sweets. "Did you know Josko used to be ambassador? That's how important they are - the give the job to guys like him."

Mark winced. He'd been so distracted by trying to open up new trading relationships that he realised he was at risk of what the administration internally referred to as 'Doing a Pavlovic', or ignoring the important maintenance of the Nui-Ra relationship.

"I'll have to double check, I actually think we're waiting for the Senate to confirm someone new as the last guy stepped down," He said. "At the moment it's all being handled by the Charge D'Affaires."

"Oh?"

"Yeah but don't worry, she has tonnes of experience, she was actually there when Nui-Ra was signed... was even an Ambassador once."

"Does she have a name?"

"Ugh..." Mark thought for a moment. "Khristiansen. Francine Khristiansen."

"Well," McCarthy swivelled his legs off the desk and sat upright. "If she's half as competent as you say she is, why isn't she on the line? I'm supposed to be talking to the Prime Minister Nui-ta. Head of state is unavailable - I want their head of government."

"I said 'experienced', not 'competent'," Mark mumbled as he turned to one of his aides, an attractive blonde woman in her late 20s. "Helena, would you mind?"

The aide, 'Helena' nodded placing a tablet on the President's desk before hitting a few buttons that ensured that everything was ready for the video conference.

"Dial the embassy first." Said Mark.

There was a pause and the sound of a call being connected before everyone in the room's ears were suddenly assaulted by a terrible shriek.

"HELLO HAROLD!" Screeched an old lady's voice.

"Hello?" Said Mark, leaning in to the nearest microphone.

"WHAT?" Yelled the old lady.

"Is this the Radiatian Embassy in Nui-ta?" Said Mark. "I think we have the wrong number..."

"YES!"" The old lady screeched. "WHAT DO YOU WANT?"

"This is President McCarthy." Said Steve, sitting up and leaning in. "I am looking to speak with Francine Khristiansen or whoever is in charge down there."

"WHAT?"

Mark sighed. "Francine... have you remembered to turn your hearing aid on?"

"WHAT?"

"Oh for god's sake..." Mark said before yelling into the microphone: "I HAVE THE PRESIDENT ON THE LINE. TURN ON YOUR HEARING AID."

"WHAT?" The old lady screeched again. "YOU HAVE A PRESENT FOR ME?"

"THE PRESIDENT."

"PRESIDENT?"

"THE PRESIDENT. TURN ON YOUR HEARING AID."

"THE PRESIDENT HAS AIDS? I'M VERY SORRY TO HEAR! SEND HIM MY BEST WISHES!"

Mark turned to Helena. "How about we go through Nui-ta's embassy? Ambassador Krasimir is a pretty efficient guy. Let's just... go via him."

---

Nearly an hour later, the President was pacing up and down his office musiing with alarm that if Nui-Ra couldn't efficiently manage a simple phone call between leaders, then Hadin and Segland would probably have both countries conquered by the end of the week if it came to it.

"Can someone, for the love of all that is efficient, tell me why I can't just talk to Binyamin Hajukugi? Is he not the Prime Minister?"

"He is, but the point of contact is Amir Sulta." Said Helena, who it turned out was fluent in Melodian. "That's what Ambassador Krasimir is explaining."

"Fucking hell, are they even a democracy anymore? It's one thing that have the Emperor leading the troops, he's a smart guy but who the hell sends a judge to do a Prime Minister's job?"

"I appreciate your frustration Mr. President, but they're our oldest and closest ally even if they are a little bit inefficient at times," Said Helena. "Incidentally, did anyone remember to countersign form C-081 before making an international call?"

Finally, after considerably wrangling and the crossing of more than a handful of language barriers, Amir Sulta appeared on videolink before the President.

The President glanced at Helena. "I take it you're translating?"

Helena nodded.

"Most Honourable Amir Sulta, thank you for responding so promptly!" The President was trying to be polite, but the sarcasm fell out of his mouth before he could do anything else about it. "I'll try and keep this efficient.

"We're aware that Hadin have opened fire on your ships. We're also aware that Segland is beefing up its presence and we're disturbed by rumours that Arthuria are planning on... not having a presence much longer which obviously leaves Nui-ta isolated.

"I want to make this as clear as I can: Radiatia has got your back. I don't know what your plan is, but keep us involved. We are here to help.

"We're looking to start sending ships into the area ourselves to protect merchant shipping and it goes without saying that the lend-lease agreement from the last Karasian conflict remains in effect.

"But I want to do more than that. Let's put it bluntly: If you're going to war, do you want our help?"


1 Radiatian candy
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Postby Karasi-a » Thu Jan 21, 2021 12:30 am

February 20th, NC 4068 - Rahku City, Nui-ta...mostly


Nitesh Krasimir had spent the better part of his day fielding calls from the Nui-tan Ministry of Defense, mostly interested in getting in contact with their Radiatian counterparts. The lack of time difference between Radiatia and Nui-ta was swiftly made up for by cultural and bureaucratic divides that should have been manageable before requiring his attention, but weren't. The longer Nitesh's life as the Nui-tan Ambassador to Radiatia went on, the more he appreciated his lifelong balance between the two cultures and the role it had in making his work manageable now.

What his experience could not have prepared him for, though, was the call from President McCarthy. In hindsight, it was inevitable. Nitesh had met Radiatia's Francine Khristiansen once at some function or other. Her lack of competence was just more motivation for him to do his job properly.

"Mr. President!" Nitesh required no Radiatian translator, transitioning between languages with ease. Better still, while he did have a Nui-tan accent, it was noticeably muted.

"You're trying to contact the Emperor? I have a communique here that says he's indisposed for a week longer. I'm sure I sent it to--" he stopped talking, allowing President McCarthy to instead ask for the Prime Minister.

"In regards to matters of the Head of State's portfolio, no, I can't refer you to Prime Minister Hajukugi. The Constitution is quite clear about the order of succession for temporary leaves of absence like what's happening with the Emperor now. I can get you to Chief Judiciary Amir Sulta, though he's been quite difficult to reach lately".

"Yes, I understand you want to speak to Prime Minister Binyamin Hajukugi, but the Constitution clearly states--- here, the Embassy gives out Radiatian-language pamphlets let me pull one of out the drawer..."

He's not listening, Nitesh mused, suppressing an eye-roll as McCarthy insisted on not wanting to speak to the Chief Judiciary. Radiatians, too, have their own inefficiencies... When McCarthy had finally relented, Nitesh diligently reached out to the Chief Judiciary's office, as efficiently as he had promised. After Nitesh set the expectation that Amir Sulta's office would have to hold the call for a moment so that Amir could get on the video-link, the call seemed to move smoothly to its next phase.

Unfortunately, the next Nui-tan to field the call wasn't nearly as efficient. Confusion and language barriers prompted the President to instead be transferred three additional times before someone finally figured out that the President of Radiatia was on the line and trying to reach out to a substitute for Emperor Rowan di-Amori. That person, though technically correct, was also a trainee. Instead of getting the President to Chief Judiciary Amir Sulta, the trainee somehow managed to get the President to the ceremonial replacement for the Emperor. A very frightened and confused fourteen-year-old child, the Crown Princess of Nui-ta, was the next voice the President heard.

"Er...um...I'm sorry Mr. President, but Dad's not here, he's seeing the doctor..." Thankfully, despite having a middle-school Radiatian vocabulary and a hilariously squeaky voice, it was Eza (with a tiny bit of help from Helena) who finally managed to figure out what Steven McCarthy actually wanted.

"Oh, you want Judge Sulta? Um...he's in his office. I can get him, it's just a bit of a walk..."

If nothing else, the future ruler of Nui-ta managed to prove herself more competent than anyone in External Affairs, walking the phone to Amir Sulta's office within the palace and banging on the door until someone in Sulta's office finally got their shit together. When it was clear that Steven McCarthy was finally getting somewhere, the Crown Princess decided to break the ice and ask an innocent question.

"Um...can I have your autograph?"

As Steven McCarthy was answering, Amir Sulta became available. Helena's presence was more necessary for Amir Sulta than for Eza di-Amori, the former of whom only spoke Melodian.

Radiatia wrote:"Most Honourable Amir Sulta, thank you for responding so promptly!" The President was trying to be polite, but the sarcasm fell out of his mouth before he could do anything else about it. "I'll try and keep this efficient.

"We're aware that Hadin have opened fire on your ships. We're also aware that Segland is beefing up its presence and we're disturbed by rumours that Arthuria are planning on... not having a presence much longer which obviously leaves Nui-ta isolated.

"I want to make this as clear as I can: Radiatia has got your back. I don't know what your plan is, but keep us involved. We are here to help.

"We're looking to start sending ships into the area ourselves to protect merchant shipping and it goes without saying that the lend-lease agreement from the last Karasian conflict remains in effect.

"But I want to do more than that. Let's put it bluntly: If you're going to war, do you want our help?"


When the Nui-tan Constitution's current iteration had been codified, it was done so with the express intention of settling matters of Nui-tan governance that had been unclear in prior years.1

One such matter was the clarification of what checks and balances each of Nui-ta's branches of government had over the other. Checking Parliament involved giving the Emperor the power to veto or append legislation. Checking the Emperor's ability to do so involved allowing the High Court to a process to discount unconstitutional attempts by the Emperor to use this power. Checking the High Court involved allowing Parliament and the Emperor to be the ones to admit individuals to that Court in the first place.

Another such matter that was clarified in detail was what happened if the Emperor's office suddenly vacated, and the circumstances that could cause the throne to be left empty with no prepared heir. Traditionalist sentiment in the country made it such that having an elected or appointed Head of State was laughable; though weakened, the nobility still had a grip on some aspects of life in Nui-ta2. Still, modernization required having more doors open than relying on a single family line. Sooner or later there would be an Emperor who couldn't (or wouldn't) produce an heir; to this end, a process was put in place for a different royal family to take shape.

Sooner still, (now in fact), there was another situation that had to be worked around. The throne would be empty for one more week. Tradition demanded the Heir Apparent take control during this time, but what could be done when the rightful Heir was a child? A suitable regent had to be found, and with distrust in allowing manipulation from Parliament3, the military4, or even other appointees from the nobility5, the job ultimately fell to the most trustworthy figure that Nui-ta could agree on --- its top judge.

Said top judge was flustered and embarrassed already on account of not having a clear plan of action put together for the President of Radiatia. Though it was becoming clear he would need to declare war, he'd been hoping that things would stay silent long enough for Rowan to be back at his post and handling the worst of the prospect of war.

It certainly didn't help that Amir Sulta was now also grappling with the fact that his staff were less competent than a teenager, and that said teenager's father would no doubt be asking why it took her to make this phone call happen in a few days when he returned to his post.

"I'm going to reach out to the Prime Minister for support with this...he is the one with power of the purse. As things stand we're going to be gearing up for a war where Hadin has Segland and North Zanzes at its back while we can barely bring South Zanzes to heel..."

As Amir and Steven discussed South Zanzes a bit further, Binyamin Hajukugi quickly came on the line within moments. There was a stark difference in how Amir Sulta and Binyamin Hajukugi managed things; while Amir did most of the talking and speculating, Binyamin could clearly be seen listening and soaking in the conversation like a sponge. Only when it became clear that Amir needed to get to the point did Binyamin finally speak.

"Military movements are not my speciality," Hajukugi said, his Tuvian accent and low voice further set him apart from Amir.

"However, I am for Radiatia sending ships to Karas. Hadin is trying quite hard to cut us off economically and militarily with their latest movements. Recent actions make these actions obvious --- a heightened presence in the area may actually help to dissuade them from escalating further".

"Radiatia does have that island now to the east," Amir added, "why not use it? All the ships can stay there on autonomously Radiatian land!"

Binyamin Hajukugi was silent, again choosing to observe and contemplate the situation rather than speak candidly. Something in his eyes seemed to indicate that despite his support of McCarthy's idea to move troops in, that he had reservations about something...




1It also modernized a few things. In the apartheid days, the Judiciary Branch constituted of the Emperor's advisors rather than the highest judges in the land. The High Court had been formed as a break from this antiquated measure before the writing of the Constitution, but the Constitution's writing flushed out any remaining dregs of old laws or customs that had the High Court occasionally functioning like the King's Council. Another, more well-known example of this modernization was the removal of the requirement that an Emperor produce issue or otherwise acquire an heir (a requirement that was on the books all the way until the Constitution's enactment, though the last time the law was enforced was in the early days of Emperor Vincentius III).

2The biggest arguments that exist for keeping the nobility as a concept in Nui-ta is the fact that there's a lot of history and cultural phenomena involved with the existence of said nobility in the first place. Said historical and cultural idiosyncrasies are still well-respected enough to where its likely the Nui-tan nobility will never disappear, though the shifts caused by modernization have been strong enough to change rules affecting the nobility that were considered unbending a half-century ago. In short: if you're a noble, you'll likely stay a noble, though unless you're among the highest of nobles, don't expect anything more than an empty title.

3McCarthy's suggestion of having the Head of Government be the next point of contact was originally a fielded idea, but the concern was having the Head of Government take on the Head of State's role during a period of regency would be putting too much power in the Legislature's hands. Hence, no Binyamin Hajukugi.

4Next, the suggestion came to have the military's top officials take charge if the Emperor wasn't available. This idea got thrown out almost as quick as it was fielded...

5The idea of having a regent be from the nobility came from the idea that there's already precedent for some of the highest ranked nobles to hold executive power under very specific circumstances. This suggestion went the way of the suggestion involving Parliament...
Last edited by Karasi-a on Sun Jan 24, 2021 9:02 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Postby Radiatia » Thu Jan 21, 2021 5:12 am

For all his rhetoric about the importance of freedom and democracy, as he found himself passed on to yet another inept Nui-tan official Steven McCarthy caught himself wondering if dictators ever had to deal with this sort of thing and whether the fact that neither Radiatia nor Nui-ta appeared capable of organising a stink in a sewage plant suggested a flaw in the democratic model of government.

He batted the thought away as a young girl's visage filled the screen who he instantly recognised - although she was now a teenager.

"Er...um...I'm sorry Mr. President, but Dad's not here, he's seeing the doctor..."

Eza's Radiatian was actually fine though it was clear she lacked confidence in her abilities and occasionally Helena would step in. However with Radiatia being a multilingual federation1, her skills at the language were actually no worse than the Radiatian spoken by people from Chongluntz or any of the English-speaking states.

"Is there someone else I can speak to... ugh, your majesty... highness... m'lord? I think we're supposed to speak with a Judge of some description?"

Steven McCarthy had hosted the Nui-tan royals for the 50th anniversary of the fall of communism only a few years earlier but had already forgotten the protocol for addressing them. While he and Rowan were cordial enough to usually ditch formality, he still felt that the young princess deserved to be treated with as much respect as possible. She may have been a teenager, but she effectively held the equivalent rank of a President-elect.2

The young girl thought for a moment, clearly trying to parse Radiatian and then translate her own thoughts. "Oh, you want Judge Sulta? Um...he's in his office. I can get him, it's just a bit of a walk..."

The President braced himself to be transferred yet again, but was pleasantly surprised to see the picture start wobbling as the young princess got up and left her room (which looked not unlike a typical fourteen year old girl's room and even featured the same sort of posters for movies and pop idols as his own daughter Meghan, who was of similar age) and began to walk through the halls of her residence.

"Who is that young man in the poster in your room?" Said the President, deciding to speak to her the same way he spoke to any young person he was lucky enough to have contact with. "He's some sort of pop singer isn't he? My daughter is about your age and she has the same poster. I remember she wanted him to sing at my inauguration."

They continued chatting, with the President asking her about all the things he thought a fourteen year old girl would possibly be interested in talking about.

Just as they were about to finish and it was clear she had found the right room, the Princess suddenly blurted:

"Um...can I have your autograph?"

In spite of everything else that was going on, the President was genuinely taken aback.

"You want my autograph?!" He quickly composed himself. "Well... yes of course, I'll happily arrange that. I'm surprised though... I thought autographs were considered old-fashioned. Most young people prefer selfies!

"And to be completely honest... I should be the one looking for your autograph."

The girl gave him a look that sat somewhere between flattery and confusion.

"Some day your autograph will be worth far more than mine. Presidents come and go, but you've got a great future in front of you and you'll always be more popular than I will ever be. I mean... you've been famous longer than I have, believe it or not!"

It was true too - Eza probably didn't know it, but she was already more popular in Radiatia than the President. While the idea of a royal family and a monarchy was utterly alien to Radiatians, the actual family themselves were extremely popular with their lives proving to be of as much interest, if not more, to Radiatian tabloids and journalists as the media in their own country.

Eza's birth made it to front pages of most Radiatian newspapers, and her family's visit a few years ago was still talked about, such was their esteem in Radiatia.

"Anyhow, I need to go and talk about boring things with some boring people... it's been a real pleasure to chat and best of luck with everything!" Said the President as Eza handed him over to Amir Sulta.





February 23rd

There were snowflakes falling outside the President's window and he noticed that there were now a number of large icicles hanging from the eaves above it. Growing up in South Corpshire, he was no stranger to heavy snow and yet there was something about seeing this in Xerconia, the desert city, that made him feel uneasy.

It wasn't the only reason he was uneasy. Nui-ta had declared war on Hadin and he honestly had no idea what to do.

He knew that sitting it out the way that Angela Pavlovic sat out the Karasian War wasn't an option - that decision was already a large part of the reason why Nui-ta was on the backfoot in the region and he knew it was something of a sore spot in Radiatia's relationship with Nui-ta.

Yet if he escalated, it would get ugly. Segland were already in the area basically to deter Radiatia and even if they weren't, Hadin had been allowed to modernise and grow to a point where they actually posed a genuine threat.

And then there was politics: Radiatians did not want to go to war, and certainly not go to war in a part of the world that they could not find on a map.3 The LCP controlled the Senate and he knew full well that there was no way that Senate Majority Leader Rudolf Ackermann was going to allow national security to take precedent over partisan bickering and points scoring. Because this was Xerconia and priorities were fucked in this town.

"Mr. President! We have some intelligence!"

"Really? Well you had me fooled..." The President quipped as a number of military personnel entered his office accompanied somewhat disturbingly by several cabinet members and the Vice President.

The smile on his face didn't last long as soon as he saw the satellite photos. There were ships amassing in the Karasian Straits, not unexpected given that the two main nations there were actively at war, but the disturbing part was that there were aircraft carriers. Specifically, Seglandic aircraft carriers.

"Those sons of bitches..." He spat.

"There's been no engagement from the Seglanders. They're just... there. Waiting. Blockading."

"Okay. We can't ignore this." He looked up, accidentally locking eyes with Vice President Ivers. "Can we?"

He could never quite explain how or why, but all through his Presidency, McCarthy had found Ivers to be a soothing presence, a reassuring one even if he wasn't saying anything. This was exactly why he wanted the man as Vice President, perhaps even more so than his ability to win over rural swing-states.

Ivers said nothing, instead giving the President a look that said "Your call."

The President sighed loudly and audibly.

"Tell General Schwarzemann that he gets his wish," He said, his eyes closed and his teeth clenched. "RFSOUTHCOMM goes to Code Orange.

"Furthermore. RFCENTCOMM is now at Code Yellow. So is RFMOBILCOMM.

"And it's too late to ignore Segland so... RFTOCOMM is now at Code Blue. Actually... make it Code Yellow."

There was a murmur in the room followed by a small chorus of "Yes, Mr. President."

"Okay, that's not all. I've spoken to the Nui-tans and they think we should send more ships to the region. Frankly... I agree. What do we have in terms of Carrier Strike Group availability?"

"RFSOUTHCOMM already have more CSGs attached than anyone else," Said Admiral Barney Akiyasu of the Radiatian Federal Sea Force. "They have the Soden Larssen CSG and the Nazumi group and I think we have the RFS Lena Toriah not far away."

"Okay, well tell those groups that they need to be even less far away. Who do we have not really doing anything?"

"At the moment sir... the entire northern fleet. It's pretty icy up there and even if we get some icebreakers to get them out, they'll have to sail down the entire length of Terra Occidens and around the horn. It'll be weeks, even months, before we can get a northern CSG in the area."

"Okay, what about RFEASTCOMM and RFCENTCOMM? We can surely borrow units from there?"

"I have some reservations, sir."

"Okay well call the restaurant and tell them to cancel your reservation because I think we're on verge of war," The President quipped again, not even missing a beat despite the serious situation. "What's the problem?"

"RFCENTCOMM's AOR is the second most ugh... they have almost as much activity as RFSOUTHCOMM. I don't think we should be seconding units from there."

"Fine. What about RFEASTCOMM? Does anyone here seriously think that Arthuria is going to invade Radiatia if we pull a ships out of the area?"

There was short silence before the "Yes Mr. President" chorus resumed. But there was one voice notably absent from it.

"What is it?" Asked the President.

Josko Ivers shook his head. "It's probably nothing. No, I think you're doing the right thing. Something doesn't feel right but... well, making judgements based on feelings is the height of inefficiency, isn't it?"





1 Oh did you think there would be a useful footnote here? Well you're wrong. It's just that every other post in this RP so far has footnotes, and using them makes me feel clever so I thought I'd join in.

2Footnotes are an interesting concept. I actually think writing notes on your feet probably isn't a bad idea. If I ever go back to university and have to take an exam, I'll kill myself. But if I survive that, I'd probably cheat by writing notes on my feet. I feel like I'd get away with it.

3 In other words, it was literally anywhere on a map. Most Radiatians can barely find Radiatia on a map.
Last edited by Radiatia on Thu Jan 21, 2021 5:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Karasi-a » Fri Jan 22, 2021 2:13 am

February 29th, NC 4068 - Kaurizil, Sangaur


When Rowan had been a new Emperor, wide-eyed and innocent, he'd relied on having competent support staff and advisors to make his reign a possibility to begin with. Though he'd technically been old enough to rule on his own, he hadn't been much more mature than Eza was now --- the wrong influences around him could have easily affected how he grew into his career. By the time the political winds had changed and things started to get difficult in Karas, Rowan had gained the foundations he needed to be capable of supporting the country. His return from his leave of absence saw positive news coverage and a change in how everyone around the palace carried themselves. Foreign officials even reported a drop in inefficiencies or difficulties speaking with Nui-ta's various officials once Rowan was back at his post.

In the years that he'd been Emperor, Rowan learned that there were a few things in Nui-ta that transcended party politics and petty squabbles. One very specific thing that bound Nui-ta together was the consistency that was found in a monarchial system. Through political shifts, wars, and the changes in Nui-ta's culture that had risen over the years: politicians came and went, but Rowan remained a familiar face for people to look to when things were difficult. Even after he left the throne1, the country knew where they'd look next. Until a time came when Nui-ta was ready for him to leave, Rowan himself would be one of those few constants that truly kept the country united --- his medical leave had confirmed that much.

When he'd returned from his leave of absence, the Nui-tan defensive efforts began to take full swing. Nui-tan ships began to increase their patrols around the bay, and planes of Nui-tan army personnel began shuttling soldiers across the Bay to key points in New Zanzes. Radiatian ships were moving into the area, mostly docking at their autonomous fortification at San Sipi.

"You sure we can't convince them not to spread their ships out a little?" Rowan had asked Binyamin Hajukugi. "Ask the External Affairs Minister and the Minister of Defense to convince Radiatia to post some of their ships around the straits? It's not like we don't have a lot of places for them to dock right now..."

"I can have them field the idea again, maybe together this time," Binyamin said. "So...Minister Panikkar and Minister ni-Jadhav2 on a conference call...oh dear..."

Rowan could hear the annoyance in Binyamin's voice.

"What's the problem".

"Nothing I can't handle," Binyamin said, defaulting back to his usual veneer of stoicism. Rowan thought about the possibilities of what could irk Binyamin involving those two particular Ministers before deducing the issue.

"Personality clash?"

"Yes".

"Bad enough where you can't get them to play nice?"

"No --- but it will take work," the Prime Minister muttered.

"I can't say I know them well enough to know why they might clash so much," the Emperor mused. Binyamin Hajukugi normally wouldn't have cared to explain further, but the Prime Minister and Emperor shared an unusual friendship that had yet to be seen in Rowan's tenure as Emperor.3

"Rasim4 might be a chauvinist asshat, but he's a chauvinist asshat who knows how to run a government, Your Highness. When it came time to make a coalition, he was the clear choice...Yad, on the other hand, is just a prejudiced asshat".

"...I take it Minister Arsinia ni-Jadhav doesn't care for prejudiced asshats?"

"You have to learn not to care for prejudiced asshats, in more ways than one, if you want to be a woman like Arsinia ni-Jadhav".

"Noted," Rowan sighed. "I'll let you make the arrangements. I need to call McCarthy again --- maybe see if I can warm him up to the idea. I know the Radiatians are still sore over San Dhohra, but..." the Emperor's voice faded as he reached for his desk phone.

"You're wary of having them dock all their ships at San Sipi too?"

"We definitely need the increased naval support but..." Rowan muttered, "I dunno, I just can't shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen".

"Feelings don't justify hesitation," Binyamin chided the Emperor.

"I need to call McCarthy..." the Emperor grunted. After the wait to be put through to the Radiatian President and the usual pleasantries, McCarthy's voice came on the line.

"Mr. President," Rowan addressed his Radiatian counterpart with cordial respect. "I was wanting to get in touch with you regarding the latest developments on the Straits". As the Emperor allowed the Radiatian President to respond, he noticed a red light on his phone indicating a call holding on the second line. The light soon faded, and Rowan found a moment of silence to explain something that had been weighing on his mind.

"Look, I appreciate how eager you've been about having San Sipi all to yourself, but I think you might want to consider spreading out your influence in the straits. There's a lot of ground to cover and considering that Hadin..." as he spoke, he noticed the red light come on again. This time, he could hear a faint bzzz... coming from Binyamin's suit pocket. Binyamin's face betrayed a sudden look of alarm as the Prime Minister mouthed out the word missiles...! in silence while McCarthy spoke further.

"Hold that thought, Steven," Rowan said abruptly, "I'll be right back". What the Radiatian President heard for a moment after that was a faint buzz as Rowan placed the President on a silent hold. It was brief, and before long, the Emperor returned to the line.

"Steven...we just shot down three Hadinian missiles".




1...duty-bound as he feels to the office, even Rowan wants to eventually retire and spent his old age on a beach in Ocini as far away from ruling a country as possible...

2Minister Yad Panikkar (Derch Party - Hephazi) is the current Minister of External Affairs. Minister Arsinia ni-Jadhav (Neo-Cons - Alinia) is the current Minister of Defense.

3Despite having been Emperor for years, Rowan never managed to have a political friendship with any Prime Minister until Hajukugi. Though the Emperor did have some friendly moments with Prime Minister Trenta i-Harendo, his career began right as hers was ended by a diagnosis of cancer, leading to them sharing the stage for very little time. After her, Prime Minister Ultimus Renton served for three terms, all the while holding a distant relationship with the Emperor. Prime Minister Paolo Medici's sole term in office appeared to be promising, but ended with the two having a falling-out over the Karasian War.

As for Dehran...well...the Emperor hardly batted an eye when Prime Minister Talia Dehran's sole term in office ended. Let's just leave it at that.

4Deputy Prime Minister Rasim Kulkanni (Derch Party - Yevzar) is the leader of Derch Party (Derch is currently the secondary party in a coalition government between themselves and the Neo-Cons). Though known on a national level as being a bit backwards on women's rights in Nui-ta, Kulkanni maintains some popularity within his home state due to his tenure as Yevzar's governor.
Last edited by Karasi-a on Sun Jan 24, 2021 9:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Capitalizt

Postby Radiatia » Sun Jan 24, 2021 5:02 am

February 29th
Silviu House
Xerconia, FCT


When Steven McCarthy had been a new President, wide-eyed and innocent, he had promised himself that he wouldn't let it change who he was, that no matter how high the office he attained might have been, he would always be just a humble farm boy from South Corpshire.

He realised he had broken that promise to himself the day he played a round of golf for the first time.

To the average blue-collar person, golf is simply Scotland's successful attempt at one-upping the English by creating a sport even more boring and tedious than cricket. And yet, through some unseen and inevitable force in the universe, the minute you find yourself in any kind of executive position (be it business or government), you'll suddenly become the proprietor of your own nine-iron, a caddy and a membership at your local golf club.

The President looked up suddenly from one of his briefing papers.

"Hey Karl?"

Karl Lebrecht, the Chief of Staff looked up from the corner of the room, where he was doing something on his laptop. "Yes Mr. President?"

"Are there any good golf courses in Xerconia? I'm sure I've asked before but today I could really do with a good quick 18 hole game right about now."

"No, Mr. President there are no good golf courses in Xerconia. This city has neither the climate nor topography for it."

"There must be something. 6 million people and you're telling me none of them golf?"

"Mr. President it's minus 14 degrees Celsius outside and expected to go down to minus 30. Even if there are some... after about three minutes out there we'll be needing to get the golf club surgically removed from your frost-bitten hands."

"Okay, jeez... but we could build one couldn't we? That would create jobs! The Steven McCarthy Golf Course... 'Xerconia's finest course!' I might sign an Executive Order to have one built..."

"Mr. President if you sign such an order then you are signing away your second term. The Liberal-Conservatives would eat you alive over that... we're already in a budget deficit thanks to overrun on the high speed rail project."

"Yeah you're right," The President said with a wistful sigh. "I'll put it on my second term to-do list."

Karl looked like he was about to violently headbutt his desk as one of the phones on McCarthy's desk began to ring. Despite the fact that the phone (one of a few dozen direct hotlines to the President's desk, and reserved only for extremely persons) was on the President's desk, it was Karl who walked all the way across the room to answer it.

McCarthy watched Karl interact with whoever was on the other line.

"Yes? What do you want?"

Karl, despite his many dealings with foreigners, had still not yet grasped the fact that what Radiatians saw as a sharp and efficient way to answer the phone tended to come across as rude and gruff to foreigners.

There was a little more grumbling from Karl who then handed the phone to the President. "It's for you."

"No shit, sherlock, is it really?" Said McCarthy. "I thought it was going to be a Macrohard phone scammer who somehow had access to a Presidential hotline."

McCarthy grabbed the phone and quickly looked at which one it was. The phone was purple, which meant -

"Rowan! To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" (President McCarthy had grasped the fact that what Radiatians considered polite was generally considered rude overseas and as such had learned the art of small talk.)

"Mr. President," Said the Nui-tan Emperor. "I was wanting to get in touch with you regarding the latest developments on the Straits."

"Of course," Said the President, briefly becoming serious before hastily adding: "I know this isn't a good time to ask this, but just as an aside... do you play golf, Your Highness?

"Anyway, sorry, what can I do for you?"

"Look, I appreciate how eager you've been about having San Sipi all to yourself, but I think you might want to consider spreading out your influence in the straits."

"Hmm," President McCarthy nodded. "Actually I don't disagree with you. Vice President Ivers was making a similar argument.

"The issue, as always, is logistics. No we don't want our whole fleet sitting on San Sipi making themselves targets, but at the same time on each ship are several hundred Radiatian seamen and they need shore leave.

"San Sipi is basically Radiatia... they drive on the same side of the road as here, they have Greasy Joe's and Kerpruss Fried Yak, access to Radiatian TV and other, err, fleshy pleasures less likely to be found in Nui-ta...

"If you're offering to have our ships dock on the Nui-tan mainland I'm happy to oblige of course but... you know... do you really want your ports flooded with hundreds rowdy drunk Radiatian military personnel? Heh - if anything we're doing your people a favour by keeping our lot on San Sipi!"

He waited for the Emperor to respond, or at least laugh but instead he detected a note of urgency, even panic, in the Emperor's voice.

"Hold that thought, Steven," Rowan said abruptly, "I'll be right back."

The President raised an eyebrow and looked to Karl (who was listening in on the call) and then glanced at the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff who were also listening in and looking confused.

After what seemed to be an eternity, Rowan returned sounding a little breathless.

"Steven...we just shot down three Hadinian missiles."

McCarthy could barely process the sentence and for a moment thought he had misheard. However a glance at Karl's wide-eyed expression and urgent tittering of the Foreign Affairs staff confirmed that he heard what he thought he had heard.

"Fuck." He said despite the fact that this was not the kind of thing one world leader was supposed to say out loud to another world leader, no matter how close the alliance. "Fuck, fuck, fuck....

"Rowan... whatever you and your people are going through right now, let me assure you: You are not alone. It may not be today, it may not tomorrow but when the time is right I can promise you that the Radiatian Federation will defend you."



March 1st
Xerconia Castle
Xerconia, FCT


McCarthy both loved and loathed the journey between Silviu House and Xerconia Castle.

On one hand it was his only chance at real exercise. Going out for a walk down the street as President was simply out of the question - yet this journey, in underground tunnels deep under Federation Square that had been built by the Communists fearing nuclear against Tuthina, was sufficiently long as to feel like a good stroll down the block.

There was also something about being back in Xerconia Castle and specifically the debating chamber that felt like coming home - Steven had after all spent much longer as a Senator than as President.

On the other hand though, it was always nerve-wracking. It tended to only happen in times when every eye in the nation needed to be upon him, usually for the State of the Federation address. He also knew that while these tunnels looked to be constructed from reinforced sandstone and decorated with portraits of great and heroic Radiatians, the walls of Xerconia Castle were stained with blood. Not visible blood or even literal blood, but blood from the bloodsport of politics, where backs were stabbed and dreams died.

He was about to deliver the most important address of his career, doing something very rare: Addressing Parliament when it is not the State of the Federation, a move that almost always heralded instead a state of emergency.

He was nervous, but there was only one way he knew that cured nerves: It was best to be in the moment and try not to think too hard on what had been or what was coming. Pretend it doesn't matter. Pretend it's just another speech.

The President stood outside the entrance to the Federal Assembly debating chamber - the chamber which ironically he was least familiar with, but which was used for joint sessions due to its larger size.

He had to wait for the Sergeant-at-arms to open the doors, for this was the legislature and the President was bound by protocol never to enter the chamber while it was locked, unless specifically invited by the speaker. Inside he knew that there were around 600 politicians waiting to hear him speak, and that he had to convince over half of them to vote the way he intended or else this was it: Pretty much the end of his career as a President and the tattering of his legacy.

He heard the familiar voice of his friend and fellow Social Democrat Wesley Yamada [SDU - Chongluntz 35th District] address the chamber and then the doors opened as if they were guarding the gateway to heaven - though perhaps it was hell.

"All rise for the President of the Radiatian Federation!"




Special Address to the Joint Session of the 19th Radiatian Federal Parliament
Steven McCarthy

1st March 4068NC1
Xerconia Castle
Xerconia, FCT
Radiatian Federation


"Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Parliament and most importantly, my fellow Radiatians:

"Ordinarily, I would only address the Federal Parliament in order to deliver the State of the Federation. Tonight I am here not to talk about the State of Federation, but an even graver and more far-reaching matter: the state of the world.

"Over the last few weeks we have seen tensions in the Karasian Straits escalate to the point of open warfare. A cowardly and unprovoked attack by the theocratic dictatorship of Hadin against a non-combatant Nui-tan vessel in international waters has lit the fuse to the powder keg that has lain dormant in those straits ever since Hadin became an independent nation.

We are not here to condemn or oppose Hadinian independence, but we must firmly condemn the actions of its military and its government which are in egregious violation of international laws, international treaties and international norms.

This is a regime that is truly evil - a regime that treats women and homosexuals as if they were subhuman and which brainwashes its young into believing that such heinous violations of basic human rights and dignity are sanctioned by mythical supernatural beings whose morality should not be questioned upon pain of death.

It has become patently obvious to even the most casual and lazy observer that this regime and its allies have no intention of abiding by international law. Indeed this nation is guilty of a long pattern of refusing to keep to the terms of treaties they have signed.

Following the Hadinian War of 4034, this nation agreed by treaty to disband its theocracy, improve its human rights record and not to engage in non-defensive military action. Barely two decades later, it had broken these terms and was engaged in active conquest of Karasia and the central and southern region of Terra Occidens, specifically the area known as Zanzes.

Following intervention from the international community, Hadin agreed to a ceasefire and the peaceful partition of Zanzes. This was enforced partially by the Radiatian and Nui-tan alliance and also significantly by the neutral peace-brokering nation of Arthuria whose great contribution to world peace should never go unapplauded.

And yet in spite of these measures and in spite of Radiatia's minimal presence in the region and respect for the sovereignty of all nations, including those with whom we have ideological differences, Hadin appears once again hell-bent on conquest of the region.

Last night I became aware of a particularly vicious attack aimed squarely at the heart of Nui-ta. Thankfully, Nui-tan missile defences prevented a tragedy and yet it is clear that Hadin is not a nation fighting for independence but instead a force of evil with aspirations to build an empire and subsume our oldest ally into its repressive and backward system of government.

And we must be aware that Hadin and its allies are plotting not just to reduce Radiatian international influence but to destroy Radiatia and our way of life. For years this has been the rhetoric of the United Nocturian Co-operation Axis but only now are we seeing tangible signs that they intend and indeed have the means to carry out such plans.

I am here before you tonight because our great constitution makes very clear what decisions are to be made by the President and what decisions are to be made by Parliament, by you - the representatives of the great Radiatian people.

The decision to engage in pre-emptive military action against Hadin rests with you, not with me.

But let me make this very clear: The motion before you is not asking us whether or not we will go to war with Hadin. For that, I'm afraid, is inevitable. The question is when.

Do we strike now, while we still have the upper hand in the area, while Nui-ta are still able to hold off their advances and while the Hadinian war machine can still be readily disarmed?

Or do we choose the coward's way out - to abandon our oldest ally and leave Hadin and Segland to dominate the area, murder and subjugate millions of innocent people and enslave half of Noctur before we finally act?

As a wise man once said: If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

My friends, I appreciate that the decision to authorise military action is the greatest and most serious moral challenge that you will ever face in your lifetimes. I appreciate the heavy burden that weighs down upon you and your genuine desire for peace and to do good.

Thirty-four years ago, almost to the day, a great Radiatian President called Yerkal Nathus stood where I am standing right now and declared war against the same enemy that I am asking for declaration of war against.

At the time he said that it was not a declaration of war, but of peace - enforced peace.

Let us be efficient and take action now so as to prevent massive loss of life in future.

Honourable members and Senators, that is all I ask of you: Please vote not to declare war, but to declare enforced peace."




1 I'm really sorry to fuck everyone around like this but I've just realised that this kinda does need to be 4068 not 4067. Apologies for the inconvenience, I should have been clearer at the beginning - it turns out I've already written stuff for 4067.
Last edited by Radiatia on Sun Jan 24, 2021 5:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Radiatia » Mon Jan 25, 2021 6:18 am

Image



KARASIAN CRISIS:
MCCARTHY LOSES KEY VOTE ON MILITARY ACTION AGAINST HADIN


March 2nd 4068NC Last updated 00:33 Exegrad Standard Time
ImageImageImageImage



XERCONIA, FCT
The Federal Parliament has rejected a motion authorising military action against Hadin despite an impassioned plea from President McCarthy.

Image
Parliament has voted down a call by President Steven McCarthy for pre-emptive military action against Hadin


S.J. Res 52 was defeated by a vote of 271-200 in the Federal Assembly and 60-40 in the Senate in a special joint session of the Federal Parliament, following an address to the Parliament by the President and 24 hours of urgent debate.

The result of the vote was widely seen as 'surprising' given the escalated situation in the Karasian Straits as well as McCarthy's decision to give a special address to Parliament. It makes for President McCarthy's biggest and most humiliating defeat in the legislature since his term began.

"I am extremely disappointed by this result," Said the President in a brief statement following the disastrous vote. "I believe with all my heart and mind that Parliament has made the wrong decision, that we must act now against Hadin or face disaster later.

"However, the constitution makes clear that I must respect this result and as Parliament are the representatives of the people, it is clear that the Radiatian people do not desire war with Hadin. I will respect this result."

Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Fleischer confirmed that "Despite the results of this vote, Radiatia will not abandon Nui-ta and we will continue to help them in every way that we still can - financially, technologically and strategically."

Nui-ta and Hadin formally entered a state of war following an unprovoked attack by Hadin on a Nui-tan ship which killed 400 sailors. Since then, Nui-tan missile defences have intercepted a number of attacks aimed at the Nui-tan mainland.

Senate Majority Leader Rudolf Ackermann [LCP - Alayenia] said that the vote meant that Parliament "has spoken loudly and clearly for the Radiatian people. We do not desire to send our sons and daughters to die in some foreign jungle when we have more pressing matters to deal with here at home."

Senator Ackermann, who became the de facto leader of the 'No' voters, criticised McCarthy's willingness to go to war "for a country that has consistently treated us with very little respect.

"I have two words for the President: San. Dhohra.

"Remember that? If they wanted our help they shouldn't have closed San Dhohra and with it put hundreds of not just military personnel but civilian contractors out of work."

A NEW POLITICAL CLEAVAGE EMERGES


One of the most interesting facets of the vote was that it was not actually done along partisan lines: President McCarthy was abandoned by many members of his own party yet supported by a surprisingly large cadre of hawkish Liberal-Conservatives.

In the Federal Assembly the vote was almost bi-partisan. While the total result was a 271-200 defeat, there were significant numbers from both parties on either side of the vote. 130 Social Democrats (of a caucus of 237) voted no, while 93 Liberal-Conservatives defied their party leadership to side with the President.

The LCP-controlled Senate was a little more partisan, with only 3 Liberal-Conservatives defecting to the Yes vote while 12 Social Democrats voted No.

"I have a huge amount of respect for President McCarthy but I think that on this occasion, he's got it wrong," Said MP Richard Yaroslava [SDU - Clode 8th District]. "I was a big believer in an idea promoted by the President's predecessor, President Autenberg: 'Radiatia First'. This motion does not put Radiatia First and I think it marks a return to the disastrous years of foreign policy adventurism. I can't possibly support this."

"I ain't able ter stand that thar President but when yer right yer right and dangnabbit, he's got it right for once!" Said Travis Playton [LCP - New Vashura 5th District]. "I've been sayin' fer YEARS that we gotta bomb the crap out of Crata before it's too late. What's that? Hadin? Where the hell's Hadin? Oh ugh... no Hadin's what I meant, yeah ugh, we gotta take 'em down!"

Political analyist and perennial commentator Dr. Boris Kahler said that the vote represents "that Radiatia is less divided along a left-right axis and now increasingly politics is about Interventionists versus Isolationists. It's a trend that began under Autenberg but we're seeing it reach fruition here."

'A HUGE BLOW TO THE PRESIDENT'


The vote marks a crushing defeat for the President and the first time that a President has ever been defeated by Parliament on such an important matter of foreign policy - even Angela Pavlovic was still able to gain some Parliamentary support for limited military action in the Karasian Straits in 4057.

"This is a crushing blow for the President and weakens his standing not just nationally, but internationally," Said Dr. Kahler. "Internationally it sends a message that he is not really in control of Radiatia and that Radiatia would once again rather sit on the sidelines than actively engage with the world.

"At home it's even more grim - Radiatian voters don't like failure and the President was deserted by dozens of members of his own party. He might have been elected in a landslide but this could be the beginning of the end of his Presidency."

Foreign affairs experts are also questioning whether the vote will see other countries, especially Nui-ta but many in Terra Oriens too, question the reliability of Radiatia as an ally with one columnist even suggesting that the Radiatian Parliament "has effectively signed the death warrant of the Nui-Ra alliance."

Former President Keldon Silviu, meanwhile, said that he felt the defeat could be put down to the fact that the President put forth a 'flawed' and 'incoherent' argument for war against Hadin and failed to remind MPs of the significant threat that Hadin poses to the federation.

"The Liberal-Conservative Party absolutely outfoxed the Social Democrats here - because yes this was actually partisan," Said Silviu. "The LCP knew that they were going to have rebels who would vote for war, such as Senators in Miitlania who rely on the local arms industry.

"I think the McCarthy Administration was naive to assume that the SDU would fall into line when the truth is there are a lot of isolationist Social Democrats in Parliament."

He pointed to the speech given by former Miss Radiatia turned Social Democratic MP Kristine Engel [SDU - Diifgrao 16th District] as an example of the 'weak and incoherent' response of the 'Yes' vote.

Engel, who reportedly ran for Parliament by accident after thinking she was filling out paperwork for a beauty contest justified her Yes vote to the Federal Assembly by stating:

"I personally believe that the Federation of Radiatians... federation... should, ugh, go and fight against those people who don't have ugh... Radiatian... and ugh I believe that military action like such as in ugh Poldania and the Rango Mango and everywhere like such as and I believe that Radiatia should help the Radiatian Federation or we should help Poldania and like Tuthina and help or help Terra Oriens so we can have a future for our children?"

"I winced at that," Said Silviu. "As soon as I saw her speech I knew we'd lost the vote. And that's a tragedy because we need boots on the ground in Karasia."


"THE SYSTEM WORKS"


Several Social Democratic isolationists said that the vote represented a victory not just for dovish politicians but also "for the constitution".

"The decision to go to war is one of the most serious that any politician in any nation will ever face," Said Senator Gideon Hurst [SDU - Resterbury], one of the 12 Social Democrats to vote against the motion in the Senate. "That's a decision that needs to be made by the representatives of the people, not by one individual and what we saw today is that the Radiatian people do not want war.

"We did as the constitution intended and made sure that a declaration of war continued to be a measure of last resort, rather than a kneejerk reaction every time a foreigner does something we don't like. We have saved lives today."

Senator Zilla Nakano [SDU - North Chiridia] agreed stating that while she was "sickened" by Hadin's recent actions she felt that "Radiatia has not yet exhausted every option for bringing Hadin to heel. We should really be trying to host peace talks or engage in diplomacy to de-escalate the situation. This is not the right time for military action."

World leaders have thus far not commented on the results of the vote.

- RPNN

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Hugtreeer (Das Engel, Amentra)
3 HOURS AGO
This is a great day for democracy! McCarthy's corporate puppet masters might have wanted a war but, to my absolute shock, our elected representatives actually stood up and did their jobs and represented the people for once. For the first time in years, I feel proud to be a Radiatian.
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471 likes
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User274921 (Midgard, Midgard)
2 HOURS AGO
So glad to see the smile being wiped off that smug twat's face!! Can't believe I voted for McCarthy in 4064... rest assured, this year I'll be voting LCP all the way!
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434 likes
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Matilda (Tovvil, Naras)
1 HOUR AGO
I think this seals it: Steven McCarthy will be a one-term wonder. Good riddance too - he doesn't hold a candle to Jaagen Autenberg (who btw would NEVER have tried to start a war!)
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369 likes
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Karasi-a
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Postby Karasi-a » Tue Jan 26, 2021 6:06 pm

March 1st, NC 4068 - Caersi, Hadin1


On a special broadcast being televised nationwide on RIA-33, one of Hadin's biggest news networks...


Marcus Crotilo: "Welcome back, I'm Marcus Crotilo, and for those of you just joining us, we're moving on to discuss, at length, ongoing international developments. Tonight, Radiatia's President Steven McCarthy addressed his nation and implored the Radiatian Federal Parliament to formalize a declaration of war against Hadin. In a surprise move, his motion was defeated by the Radiatian Federal Parliament. What does this mean for Hadinians? Joining me now are Vir Consili Verano D'Patri, our Chief International Affairs analyst, Dr. Marolo Galati, and Dr. Acrisio Zella, dean of the University of Beliti's Department of History".

"Vir Consili D'Patri, for those who don't know, you are one of Laetirae's representatives to the Council of Patrician's secular arm. There's been a lot of debating going on within said Council as the situation here in Karas escalates, and your position on the sub-council of Zanzean affairs puts you at the helm of many of the things happening in North Zanzes at this moment. President McCarthy's address stated that the ultimate intent of his plea to the Radiatian Federal Parliament was to declare 'enforced peace'. It's apparent that the Radiatian government didn't see this request as sincere, though there were many Radiatians who did vote to declare war. Vir Consili, do you think the ultimate result was justified?

Vir Consili Verano D'Patri: "Well Mr. Crotilo, let's consider the sum of President McCarthy's actions during this debate. This emergency debate came shortly after escalations between ourselves and Nui-ta. Radiata was reacting to our actions in the area, with McCarthy even stating that his main reason for escalating further was to defend his country's oldest ally. Of coruse, the government didn't seem to feel the same way. Radiatia's a large nation, and there were a lot of reasons for their dissent. Some in Radiatia are still feeling betrayed following a former administration in Nui-ta closing down the Radiatian headquarters there. Others are simply of the mind that they don't want to send the young people of Radiatia to fight in a foreign land. Of course, there were also corporate zealots backed by the arms industry and hawkish members of the government who are more inclined towards an aggressive foreign policy in their country to begin with. I do think it's a bit strange that the Radiatian government made their decision based on their own internal affairs rather than any feelings they've had about us, for once...

Dr. Marolo Galati: He can be seen suppressing a giggle. "Wait, you say it's strange that much of the Radiatian government made their decision based on the internal affairs of Radiatia? I thought that's how most goverments worked..." The news anchorman can be seen suppressing a slight smirk as well.

Dr. Acrisio Zella: "If I may, Dr. Galati, I think what the Councilman is getting at is the fact that Radiatia's interventionalist policies in Karas historically have been based on a sort of need to enforce a 'global Radiatianism', if you will. Radiatia's status quo for so long has been based on a psuedo-imperialist model: look no further than the fact that they call themselves the "Sheriff" of Noctur. In much of the world, you see Radiatian carriers on the horizon, you buy from Radiatian corporations, and your country's economy is somehow tied to the Radiatian stock market. This is exactly the way the Radiatian elite would have it, and its no secret that the UNCA endangers the possibility of Radiatia being able to maintain this psuedo-empire unchecked throughout all of Noctur".

"With that having been said, the tides are changing across the world. Jaagen Autenburg's rise to power in Radiatia hallmarked a glowing wish for change among a beleagured Radiatian populace who, quite frankly, seemed tired of constantly putting the world's needs ahead of Radiatia's. Even before Autenberg, the Federation was moving towards a 'hands-off' approach for quite some time. I don't think Dr. Galati is old enough to accurately remember the presidencies of Gregori Fyoderov and Angela Pavlovic, but compare even those administrations to Yerkal Nathus and you'll notice a marked difference".

Dr. Marolo Galati: "Nui-ta has been tottering for years now on a less stable version of this trend. The last truly hawkish administration in Nui-ta was former Prime Minister Renton's administration, and the only reason Hadin didn't really see a lot of the backlash from this was because we were facing our own internal issues at the time2. The Medici Adminsitration was interventionalist, but strongly tended to a diplomatic approach. The Dehran administration wasn't isolationist, but it was probably the least globally focused as it eschewed international affaris for regional ones. We're starting to see a backlash in the Hajukugi administration, but only time will tell what this administration will bring to the table, or if it will remain with the upcoming election in Nui-ta at all"

Marcus Crotilo: "Indeed. Both Nui-ta and Radiatia are holding elections within the year, with Nui-ta's being mere weeks away. I'm no expert, but I'm of the opinion that Hajukugi is almost assured a second term. There's a general trend towards leadership in democratic countries remaining in power when their people feel threatened in times of crisis, and I'm sorry to say that if I were a Nui-tan I suppose I'd be feeling a sense of precariousness myself. On the topic of Nui-tans feeling threatened by Hadinian defensive measures in the area, what say you, Councilman?"

Vir Consili Verano D'Patri: "Well, I have to argue Hadin's case to talk about Nui-ta's feelings at all. It's no secret that Nui-ta has defensive agreements in place with South Zanzes. Any reasonable ally is going to respond in force when they perceive a sufficient threat on the horizon. In our case, we responded with force when repeated attempts at diplomatic ventures had failed and South Zanzean extremists persisted in attacking our ally to the North --- that's just the next obvious step to take. To that end, we had to begin actions like the blockade and when Nui-ta violated that blockade, we had no other choice but to intervene. Radiatia isn't talking about any of this, and it's safe to say that Nui-ta's actual declaration of war was more focused on the loss of its own military personnel than anything else. That's the big issue that individual Nui-tans were affected by. Before the HMS Xirjin, the Nui-tans were escalated over South Zanzes, but war wasn't yet a problem. Now, it's personal".

Dr. Acrisio Zella:: "You're insinuating that Nui-ta is justified in escalating a war with us over a ship that was blown up because it violated a blockade we were enforcing against a different nation?"

Vir Consili Verano D'Patri: I'm saying the average Nui-tan likely doesnt even know the full terms of the blockade that their navy violated. To them, we blew up one of their naval ships and that's all there is to it. Were this the sole truth of it, it would be a valid casus belli. There's a lot of disinformation that comes with the 'free speech' the Nui-Ra block touts so openly. In an official address to his own people, President McCarthy wrongfully stated that Hadin was bound by treaty to disband the theocracy after the end of the Hadinian wa--"

He is interrupted by the other panelists openly snickering.

Vir Consili Verano D'Patri: "Yes, yes, we all have our gaffes. The President stated that we never keep to our treaties and then followed it up with an impossible example. Any history book that mentions Hadin at all should be able to tell you that the Hadinian Theocracy was not founded until NC 4038. Even Radiatian news outlets criticized the President's address as being rather incoherent at moments, and that's worth mentioning. Many Radiatians don't want anything more than to watch Radiatian television, eat Radiatian food, and stay out of wars that don't involve Radiatia, and quite frankly I can't blame them. Most Hadinians want nothing more than to watch Hadinian movies, eat Hadinian food, and stay out of wars that don't involve Hadin, but unlike Radiatia we've been left little choice on the matter for this conflict.

Dr. Acrisio Zella: "With respect, most of the rest of the world holds the position that we have escalated multiple conflicts in the past without as much reason as this one..."

Dr. Marcolo Galati: "With respect...we have!"

"I'm not the historian here, but let me tell you how I see it --- hear me out for a moment before you cast judgment. Once upon a time, Hadin really did have some egregious human rights abuses. Under the first three High-Envoys, we put apostates and homosexuals to death. High-Envoy Hass openly supported the Hadinian Liberation Front despite its terrorist actions across the rest of the world. Until just a few years ago, women's rights in Hadin were not what they should have been. It has been a long road getting us to this point, and mistakes have been made along the way".

"Let's talk about that a little further, though. Firstly, show me a country involved in this conflict that can't say the same. Radiatia's dark and troubled past, even after the fall of the RPSU, could fill an entire shelf of books at least. Nui-ta's human rights record before apartheid fell was abysmal. Look at Zanzes before the Second War of Nar'ha-tal and tell me what you think of them".

"Second of all, the idea that we have not improved our human rights record is laughable. I just criticized failures of past administrations on broadcast television. Yes, there was sadly a time where this could have gotten me killed, but if you are watching this segment on Hadinian television right now, that's proof of how far we've come. We've moved past the extremist views of our earliest founders and disavowed our most grevious offenders like Nico Hass. We've decriminalized homosexuality3, increased women's rights across the country4, and radically improved the way Hadin's government is set up for our youth5. Despite being a Theocracy, we even allow apostasy now!6 Now that we've finally made it this far, it appears to me most of the world simply isn't ready to believe that we have put our past behind us".

Vir Consili Verano D'Patri: "Exactly. This war, shocking as it may be to the rest of Noctur, is in place solely because of Zanzean aggression and a series of escalations and misunderstandings across the rest of the world. If South Zanzes can be brought to heel, it may well allow us to negotiate a truce with the rest of the world. Certainly, with the South Zanze not causing difficulties for our allies in the North, we will have more room to return to diplomacy when it comes to other countries like Nui-ta who were simply pulled into the mix like we were. I would gladly welcome that conversation".

Marcus Crotilo: "Excellent points brought up thus far. Now, I'd like to move on to our next question..."




March 3rd, NC 4068 - Pasir'han, North Zanzes


Where Rinayuris was a hamlet that barely registered on even the most detailed maps of North Zanzes, Pasir'han was a small town of note for being one of the last places in the area where anyone would see "civilization" for a while. Unlike Rinayuris, Pasir'han had a small commercial zone and a major road passing through it which eventually led to major cities like Zanzibar. In late February, that road was surprisingly busy - Hadinian news outlets had travelled to Pasir'han to interview survivors from Rinayuris who remained in the town.

Asrar's grief was genuine as she wept before the cameras and lamented the loss of the only home she'd ever known. Once upon a time, she'd dreamt of leaving the hamlet for greener pastures with her lover. It had hardly been two months since Rinayuris had been razed and burnt to the ground, but it seemed like an eternity. Being alone in an unfamiliar town with the knowledge that Talmir was dead only made things worse. As the tears streamed down her face and she told the journalists and anchormen all that had happened to her, she didn't even consider that her anger and pain might be corrupted by higher powers later to serve the very war she was lambasting.

Of course, that was in the future. Asrar's pain was in the present, fearing the knowledge that she could not remain in Pasir'han forever. The Hadinian government had given her a stipend to survive off of, but in a few months this would be used up and she would soon be expected to move on with her life. With her family dead and her hometown wiped off of the few maps it had once been on, Asrar honestly had no idea where she'd go. When the interview aired on television a few days later, Asrar felt her wounds open right back up as she saw her responses on camera, juxtaposed with news broadcasts from Hadin and North Zanzes regarding the ongoing situation in Karas.

In the time between when the press had appeared in Pasir'han and the day the interview actually went on the air, Pasir'han had seen another surge in visitors --- this time, military. Hadinian and North Zanzean soldiers passed through Pasir'han on a regular basis, setting up a base of operations about halfway between the town and where Rinayuris had once been. Looking out from the window of her temporary flat and watching Hadinian and North Zanzean soldiers walk around in their green and khaki uniforms, Asrar felt a sense of unease. She could remember life in Zanzes before the Hadinians took over --- she had flashes of old memories from her early childhood during a time when even the rest of Noctur had not yet turned their sights back to Zanzes, though this time of her life seemed increasingly distant the more she tried to remember it.

She was almost twenty-one now. Had it really been so long since the world had changed? A knock at the door snapped her out of her thoughts. Expecting the building manager or one of her neighbors, she opened the door to instead see a familiar missionary.

"Vel?" She immediately retracted, feeling embarassed to call him that despite the fact that it was the only name she knew him by. A commonality shared across all of Karas was that the use of the first name was rude outside of very particular circumstances7. The exact structure of Hadinian nomenclature was different from that of the Zanze, but even the Zanze would have preferred to at least have had a surname rather than solely the first name. The missionary blushed a bit, clearly unused to being addressed this way, before nodding at her and putting a hand to his chest to introduce himself properly.

"Brokal-Weiss Bautista Vel". Asrar wasn't used to hearing Hadinians introduce themselves in the Zanzeanic style. Despite the way he carried himself and the position of relative authority she remembered him holding, he wasn't more than a few years older than herself. Suddenly, she found herself questioning how to reverse this to the Hadinian version of introducing oneself before Vel stopped her.

"I already know," he chuckled, speaking in Zanzean knowing full well that Asrar's command of Hadinian was non-existent. "Rinayuris Mtolo Asrar, right? I tried to remember everyone's names. It helps that I've seen you on the news lately".

"Are they really showing the program all the way in Hadin?"

Vel sighed. "Ugh...I wouldn't be surprised if half of the UNCA knows your name. What happened in Rinayuris has everyone on edge. You know very well there's a war going on right now, but forget about that. I'm in from Albava and I figured I'd stop in and check on everyone who was still here. Did you need anything while I'm in town?"

She stood in silence, unsure what to do or what to say. A few moments later, he began to take her confusion for a declination.

"Oh...well, I assume you're alright then? If I'm bothering you I can come by later..."

"Bautista..."

He stared cluelessly at her before finally asking, "yes?"

"Er...what do Hadinians drink?" At this, he began laughing.

"The same things most other human beings drink, I imagine. What do you drink?"

"I..." she trailed off... "we used to brew a nice drink out of some of the plants that grew around my home. Like what you call 'coffee', but smoother..."

Noticing her homesickness, she saw him smile at her.

"I remember that too, I think. Someone from your village offered me some once. Yandale, I think it's called?"

"Yes..."

"It would be nice," Vel trailed off. "Of course, none of that stuff grows around here. Asrar, I'm sorry. You've really been through a lot".

"...would you like to go get some coffee?" She asked him suddenly.

"M-me?"

"It's just...you're the only one I actually know who survived that day..."

"I see," he said softly. "You sure you want to invite me out to coffee? People won't stare at the pretty girl walking around with a Hadinian man?"

"Hadinians won't stare at the priest walking around with the Zanzean?"

"I'm not a priest," he corrected her, laughing a bit. "I'm a missionary".

"What's the difference?"

"Maybe it's best I tell you over coffee," he said, still chuckling. "But seriously, I know it doesn't seem this way sometimes, but you don't need to worry about being Zanzean. People talk a lot of nonsense about Hadinians being nothing but intolerant, warmongering zealots, but I've never actually met anyone like that. All of the people I know are very friendly --- my best friend in school was an Algrabadi boy named Maaiz. Believe me, we don't care about your skin tone, and after everything that's happened, we've got your back".

Asrar smiled. "Perhaps I was too hasty in judging you, Vel..."

"No offense taken. Anyway, you look stressed. Maybe we should consider tea instead of coffee. My treat?"




1Dates have been moved up on all posts accordingly. I now have to factor for the fact that I need to retcon a post, that Eza's actually almost 16 and therefore almost at the age where she's considered a legal adult, and that it's now an election year in Nui-ta...but honestly when this war is over and any closing posts have been thrown up, that may well be the end of this account.

2During the time of the Renton administration, Hadin was in an isolationist phase. The government that had been installed following the end of the Hadinian War only lasted a few years due to various factors. When it fell, there was a short period of dissent and difficulty before the Theocracy came into place.

3By 'decriminalized', he means it's no longer treated as a criminal offense. Homosexuality is currently classified as a mental illness and can see a person committed. On the bright side, you can technically use your sick time in Hadin to get out of work if you're feeling a little gay...

4This one's actually kind of true. Women still have no right to vote or hold political office, but the Nikastro Administration paved the way for women to hold some jobs, guaranteed women the right to an education through the secondary school stage, and loosened male guardianship laws in Hadin to the point where women have a degree of financial and civil independence. Furthermore, domestic abuse is now a punishable crime (and oftentimes a felony, to boot). It's still a lot less than what women in other parts of Noctur get, but it DOES mean that women's rights have significantly increased in Hadin from what they were.

5Children's rights in Hadin have also gone up immensely, actually, regardless of gender. The age of majority used to be only 14 years old, largely to allow for boys to be indoctrinated into the church and military, and to legally allow girls to be married off quite young. Nikastro raised it in increments during his tenure, ultimately stopping at 19 years of age in 4064. [It was raised in increments to get people used to this new system in steps]. This alone closed a lot of loopholes for parents (or the state) pushing children into these situations. All children are guaranteed the right to attend school until the completion of secondary school, and most schools in Hadin are paid for by the state, ensuring that even the poorest children have access to education.

Recent initiatives into the workforce, education, and healthcare also meant that this new generation of Hadin face a standard of living that was previously unprecedented in the country. If you limit comparisons to low-income families only, Hadinian children arguably have a higher standard of living now than Radiatian or Nui-tan children. Arguably...

6Like with homosexuality, this one's kind of a stretch. Apostates in Hadin can be punished for apostasy IF they have also committed other crimes. If someone's only offense is apostasy, they're instead put through the citizen exchange program with Algrabad. [Algrabad and Hadin have very different cultural outlooks, and the idea between the two nations is that qualities considered detrimental in one nation might actually be beneficial to success in the other one].

Talks are being had as to whether or not to roll out a similiar initiative with Segland and New Tressia.

7In Nui-ta and Hadin, the first name is reserved for a person whom one is close to. In Zanzes, it can also be used as an insult if the former situation is not applicable.

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Karasi-a
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Postby Karasi-a » Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:21 pm

NNN - Nui-tan News Network

Snippets of Top News for Those On The Go


NEW YEAR, NEW PARLIAMENT

A.N 144 SEES A GOVERNMENT THAT'S SO SIMILAR YET SO VERY DIFFERENT


Rahku City, Rahku State--- 02:47 NST (March 19th, A.N 144) / 01:47 NZT, (September 25th, A.N 144)
NC 4068



Overview:

Decision 144 confirms a continuation of the Hajukugi/Kulkanni Coalition government, but changes brought in by the NEC sees a major change in the Parliament anyway.

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Prime Minister Hajukugi becomes the first multiple term Prime Minister since former Prime Minister Ultimus Renton.


In a time of unprecedented crisis in the Karasian Straits, Prime Minister Binyamin Hajukugi goes on to win a second term at the polls and continue the Neo-Conservative coalition with Derch. The Prime Minister's election comes at a time when UNCA troops are moving in full force into the Bay of Zanzes. With fears rising that Nui-ta may be moving into an unwinnable war, talks are reportedly already beginning regarding the use of diplomatic backchannels to negotiate a de-escalation agreement with the Di Pascari High-Envoyship.

Hajukugi's re-election is largely attributable to both a positive public opinion of his handling of the situation by his supporters, and a relative unwillingness in swing voters to vote against him and risk a major governmental change in the midst of an international crisis.

"Public opinion in Nui-ta has tended to shift in favor of incumbent politicians during times of international conflict," said political analyst Kalina Zohran. "A lot of people who wouldn't normally have voted for the Neo-Cons, or voted at all, went to the polls to ensure a Hajukugi II administration. The populace isn't ready to risk a change".

Change has been a hallmark of the A.N 144 election regardless, with the NEC's landmark ruling to shift the ratio of seats for this election from 150,000:1 for Parliament to 300,000:1.

"There was a lot of debate over the imbalance that heavily populated states like Rahku could exercise over the elections," said NEC spokesperson Jatabh Mukesh. "At the same time, NEC analysts reviewing the post-electoral math worried that overcorrecting would simply reverse the direction of the problem rather than actually solve it. After reviewing the data from A.N 140's election extensively, the NEC ultimately agreed to double the ratio of constituents to seats".

"The move could not come at a better time, especially considering that the population of registered voters has risen beyond most predictions that the NEC had put together in A.N 140. South Zanzean immigration into the country has inflated the numbers so much that a nation-wide recount had to be done to confirm a lack of electoral fraud. The numbers don't lie; we're facing a second population boom we were never expecting and adjusting the ratio now will prevent a bloated Parliament in the years to come".

The overall trimming-down of seats hasn't affected the Hajukugi Administration much: the Neo-Cons actually performed better in A.N 144 than they did in the previous election, with their only seats lost being attributed to seats that don't exist at all anymore following the NEC's alterations. The CRP, on the other hand, lost a large number of seats even after accounting for the Parliamentary shrinkage.

"Alinia's managed to heavily influence the elections again," said Kalina Zohran, who had advised in a A.N 140 opinion piece that Alinia was one of the highest-priority states to watch. "It's seen a sharper rise in population than other states over the past ten years because it's also getting a high percentage of Hadinian ex-pats. Over the past few years, it's even started to see traffic from its neighboring state of Ocini, as the latter state's economy has been experiencing a dip. Some experts are remarking that Ocini's infrastructure and economy as they stand now has hit its maximum population capacity, and as Ocinians feel the crunch, they're moving into other states like Alinia".

"In addition, the war is also driving politics in Alinia --- Alinia's history makes Alinians in general especially nervous about the goings-on oversees, and the normally safe state for the CRP saw its dynamic shift towards the incumbent government as a result of the collective anxiety that most Alinians are facing at the moment".




NEW YEAR, NEW CONCERNS

CONFIDENCE IN SOUTH ZANZES AT LOWEST EVER LEVELS IN POLLS


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An expose on North Zanzean survivors of the most recent border skirmishes leaked online, fueling concerns that the latest war in Karas might not even be justifiable by Nui-ta.


#MtoloAsrar has been trending on CONFERO following the reveal of North Zanzean media documenting the current challenges faced by survivors of the border skirmishes that set the stage for the most recent conflict in Karas. The content of North Zanzean news programs is not often available due to the tight media restrictions of the second world, but this particular documentary somehow managed to leak unto the internet through unspecified means.

The program, called 90 Minutes, is a North Zanzean program run separately from Hadinian state media (although in Hadin and other UNCA-affiliated countries, the program is widely available for viewing). This particular episode included interviews from numerous persons claiming to have been affected by South Zanzean actions along the border zone. In particular, the plight of one woman, Rinayuris Mtolo Asrar, has captured international attention and raised questions in Nui-ta as to whether or not a defensive war can truly be argued.

During her appearance on the segment, Mtolo Asrar could be seen crying as she described how South Zanzean attackers razed her village and burned most homes to the ground. Rinayuris, the small farming community which Mtolo Asrar was born and raised in, was destroyed in an engagement by terrorist entities in mid-January of NC 4068 (the end of AN 143). Hadin ultimately went on to condemn South Zanzes over such attacks and others like it and cited it as their casus belli, although no border engagements were authorized by the South Zanzean government. Nui-ta's entry into the war was prompted later, by the recent sinking of the HMS Xirjin.

Even so, the program's surfacing unto mainstream media has shed new light on another perspective on the war, and prompted calls at home in Nui-ta for the government's own casus belli to be re-evaluated. Internet boards such as Dreadit have been inundated with debate over the issue.

One commenter, DeafLeopard, supported Nui-ta maintaining an aggressive stance over the HMS Xirjin's sinking while otherwise supporting a withdrawal from the war: "this is South Zanzes's problem, not ours, and #MtoloAsrar lends new light to the idea that the Zanze might not even be fighting a defensive war to begin with anyway. Assuming Hadin addresses the ship they sunk, we should let the Septimists give the South Zanze the thrashing they're due".

Another commenter, FlyingF---Fish, was even more damning: "did we lose 400 Nui-tan men and women because of Hadin, or because of South Zanzes?..."

Hadinian state media has also reportedly been pushing the platform that South Zanzes is the party at most fault over the war, with a Hadinian Vir Consili (Councilman) even stating that he viewed South Zanzes as being the ultimate party needing to be dealt with by the Hadinian military. Said Councilman even added that diplomacy with other involved countries like Nui-ta was on the table, and that he would reportedly "welcome that conversation" when South Zanzes had been dealt with accordingly. As Seglandic and Radiatian ships move into Karasian waters, state of war or no, a worldwide push for a quick and diplomatic end to the current war is gaining popularity. Only time will tell if the various nations of the world can come to such a conclusion.




NEW YEAR, NEW VISITORS

MR. TRICKI TO BE ALLOWED ENTRY INTO NUI-TA ON MEDIA VISA


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The Hajukugi Administration has expressed support for Mr. Tricki, aka Hans Sebastino, to be allowed into Nui-ta on a media visa.


In a surprise reversal from the Hajukugi I platform, the External Affairs Ministry has revealed that Mr. Tricki will be granted clearance to visit Nui-ta in late March regarding his work in the media.

Mr. Tricki, also known as Hans Sebastino, has made waves over the last several years due to his high-profile status as a whistleblower. Most of his work has been concentrated towards the Hadinian Theocracy, of which Sebastino was a citizen since age 4. With this having been said, Sebastino has targeted classified information from other countries as well, including Higgins and Brown, Radiatia, and even Nui-ta.

Born in NC 4035, Sebastino was originally a Nui-tan citizen whose parents defected to Hadin in NC 4039. In NC 4062, Sebastino fled Hadin and gained political asylum in Arthuria. He became an Arthurian citizen last year, in NC 4067.

Although originally a dark-web site catering solely to classified leaks, TrickiLeaks has grown to become a news outlet in its own right. Though Sebastino has stated that the site's primary purpose remains as an outlet for whistleblowers such as himself, the project's move to the neutral shores of Arthuria has allowed Sebastino to widen the scope of TrickiLeaks to include non-classified news and opinion pieces on various activities in Karas. TrickiLeaks itself remains a non-profit organization, though Sebastino's fame has recently seen him go on web-based interviews and write as a guest author for other news related sites outside of the project. The 33-year-old Hadinian man has a huge following across Noctur, with his CONFERO now boasting almost three-quarter million follower across the world. It is even thought that Sebastino's incredible popularity may be one of the driving reasons for the Neo-Con/Derch coalition government to have reversed their stance on Sebastino going into their second administration.




NEW YEAR, NEW.....LAWYER?

SURPRISE APPOINTMENT BY THE CROWN LEAVES MANY PUNDITS SPECULATING WHAT IS TO COME


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In a move fueling political speculation, the Emperor's office has confirmed the appointment of New Zanzes's Crivan i-Harendo as its next Attorney General.


In a shocking move, the Emperor's office has confirmed that Emperor Rowan di-Amori has appointed New Zanzean state's attorney Crivan i-Harendo as its incoming Attorney General. i-Harendo will begin his tenure in April of NC 4068, when the present Attorney General Kitara o-Nalanalir vacates the office.

o-Nalanalir tendered her resignation from the post effective April 1st. Though the reason for her resignation has not been made public, many insiders within the Imperial Court in Kauruzil report that o-Nalanalir's reserved actions as the Emperor's chief legal council were becoming growingly unpopular.

"Following the failure of President McCarthy's bid for a Radiatian declaration of war, some Radiatian members of the Federal Parliament cited San Dhohra as one of the biggest reasons why they did not support Radiatian interventionism into the current situation in Karas," said an employee of the Emperor's office, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"In truth, the executive order that prompted San Dhohra was a last-ditch effort by the Emperor to prevent the Dehran Administration from pushing Radiatia out of the country more forcefully. Following military leaks that jeopardized San Dhohra and San Jarahi during the first Karasian War, the Dehran Administration was prepping to have a field-day gutting Radiatian operations on the former base. Efforts to move RFSOUTHCOMM to other bases had failed largely due to Parliamentary concerns, and the Emperor privately put a lot of blame on his outgoing Attorney General not being able to successfully put together other solutions without being shut out by Parliament and the High Court".

"The Dehran administration was a particularly stressful one for the Emperor because it resulted in a lot of loss of power for the most powerful man in the country. By having o-Nalanalir be succeeded by one of the most aggressive attorneys in the country, there's no doubt the Emperor is looking to prevent such a weakness from inhibiting his office a second time. The Hajukugi administration has reportedly been a more friendly one for the Emperor than that of Talia Dehran, but there will come a time, likely sooner than one thinks, where the Emperor may find himself needing a really powerful enforcer at his back. It's likely the Crown's hope that i-Harendo will be that enforcer".

It's well known that i-Harendo comes from political roots. His mother, the late Trenta Crumlo i-Harendo, was Nui-ta's first Prime Minister to have been both female and a non-noble. She's also widely famed as being one of the greatest Prime Ministers in Nui-ta's history, though depending on whom you ask, recent polls have seen her ranking dip slightly in comparison to Paolo Medici. Her achievements included sweeping reforms to the Nui-tan Internal Affairs Ministry (which has since been separated into two separate Ministries), spearheading the Nui-Ra alliance, and breaking a cultural barrier by marrying a nobleman at a time when such a thing was still relatively taboo. Despite the famous name, Mr. i-Harendo does not seem keen to follow his mother's political footsteps, having gone on record as declining to run for public office as recently as NC 4066.

That may well be for the best: the 37-year-old boasts an impressive resume in his own right, graduating at the top of his class from the University of Mercuria's Law School. While completing conscription requirements, he was successfully admitted to the bar via multistate examination. Following the end of his conscription term, he began work in the state of New Zanzes, moving from private firm work to the state's attorney office in NC 4058. Beginning with the NC 4062 corruption case of disgraced-governor Kumal ha-Nagachir, state's attorney i-Harendo gained a reputation for tackling cases usually reserved for much more experienced lawyers --- and winning. To date, he's handled 24 cases on behalf of the State of New Zanzes, prevailing in 21 of them. Of 3 defeats, 2 of his presented cases were dismissed without prejudice. Furthermore, of the 21 cases he's successfully argued, 12 involved multiple states.

"Without even considering his family background or the respect his name commands," the anonymous employee stated, "i-Harendo is a formidable force in any Nui-tan court. There have been a few cases put forward where New Zanzes was the respondent which were folded the moment that he [i-Harendo] was confirmed to be defending the state. Future executive orders that are put forward by the Emperor may suddenly see a bit more bite to them. This is no trivial change in office".



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The Arthurian Isles
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Posts: 281
Founded: Feb 26, 2016
Left-wing Utopia

Postby The Arthurian Isles » Sun Feb 21, 2021 9:32 am

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Warning: mild swearing and violence appear in this post.


Henrik opened his eyes. He had not been sleeping, but it was the best way to shut out the world around him and snatch a moment of peace. He would have been content to have stayed there, eyes firmly shut as he lay on his sleeping mat under a hastily erected bivouac, were it not for the sudden pause in the rain. It had been pelting the column all afternoon, so it was a relief when the sound of the wind hitting the leaves and the birds chirping their exotic songs finally broke through, signalling the end of the downpour. For Henrik, this small change was sufficient to bring a modicum of happiness to the tedium of constant marching, tinged as it was with the perpetual fear that they would once again be engaged by any of the armies out to get them. He sat up, checked his rifle to make sure it hadn't started to rust in the damp, and slipped his t-shirt back on.

The squelch of boots on wet leaves announced the arrival of another. From under the bivouac, all Henrik could see was the same camouflage trousers and boots that everyone else in the column wore - except for Jakob, who had damaged his trousers so badly in a firefight that he was now wearing some scavenged Hadinian ones. But you get to know people's gait and the sound of their foot hitting the ground. Before the visitor bent down and crawled under the bivvie, Henrik already knew it was Tilde - or Jansen, as she was known, surnames being more popular than forenames in the ground self-defence force. She was a good-natured sergeant who used to work in the signals hut when their main job was to keep the peace. The two of them got on well. Henrik certainly wasn't as upbeat as Tilde, but her optimism wasn't of the irritating sort and she was good to talk to when something was on your mind. (Certainly better than the chaplain.) She also had a knack for knowing when people were feeling down, sometimes before they realised it themselves. Henrik figured that's why she was already a sergeant, despite being relatively green after only three years in the force. She was one of the few who countered the presiding pessimism in the column, which wasn't unexpected given their dire circumstances but which threatened to be far more dangerous than the bullets, the disease or the heat if it was left unchecked.

"How are you, sir?" She asked, crouching under the bivouac and sitting on the sleeping mat next to him.

"Fine, I suppose. I was tired this morning."

"Me too," she replied, "though I'm not sure why."

"Could it be the eight days of fighting retreat we've been making?" Henrik felt a little guilty for saying that. It wouldn't do well to bring Tilde's spirits down, but he wasn't a natural optimist. Besides, the pressure of fleeing through the Zanzeanic jungle was straining him, along with most of the rest of the troops.

Tilde smiled. "You've got a point." And then, after a brief pause in which the only sound was the chorus of animals: "But I think it will be over soon. I can't explain why, but I feel we're getting to the end."

Henrik raised his eyebrows. This was hopeful, even for Tilde. They had been slogging along the same dirt track for over a week after being forced to abandon their position. They were due to evacuate in the same orderly fashion as the rest of the Arthurian peacekeepers, but events had overtaken them and by the time fighting broke out they were still hunkered down in their fort, far inland, the last Arthurians in a world in which they had no right to be. They had lost contact with headquarters early on and had no plan other than to aim for the sea and hope they could be extracted somehow. They weren't even close to achieving that, moving forward only slowly in the rough terrain and remaining far from the coast. So when Tilde said that she thought it would be over soon, Henrik was unconvinced. "You feel it?" He asked, with a hint of unbelief in his voice. "How?"

Tilde thought for a second, staring up into the stretched-out bivvie before looking back to Henrik and smiling faintly. "I feel gentler now. I remember when we were leaving the fort and things were in chaos. We were destroying everything that couldn't be carried or loaded onto the trucks. I was helping the chaplain move some medical supplies when a young private asked whether he could use some of the chaplaincy's whisky - the stuff they use for the services. When the chaplain asked why he needed it, the private replied that it was to help set fire to the paperwork in the command hut." She sighed. "My point is, everything was uncertain. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what the future looked like. It was pure chaos. But now, I'm resigned to this..." she gestured around her to the ramshackle camp, "...this struggle. I can handle the fear, the firefights, the brutality. I think it's because we have a purpose: to get home."

"You think so?"

Tilde nodded. Henrik wasn't so sure. "What about everyone else, though? We're not alone in this world. And right now, we have soldiers from Hadin, Nui-ta, North and South Zanzes, all out to get us. Maybe we're not being targeted by them directly, but as far as they're concerned we're a battalion of rogue Arthurians who they can't trust, storming through God knows which country at this point. If they stumble across us in this jungle, they'll shoot just because we're not them, and that's all that matters. I can't feel gentle with that thought pressing down on me."

"They're not all ruthless killers, Henrik. In fact, I'd say that almost none of them are. You're more likely to find mercy than bloodlust in a war."

"Then why have we been in three battles already?" Henrik asked, running his hands through his hair. Tilde was staring at him, her eyes almost pitying him. "What?" He asked. "I'm being realistic."

She sighed again. "Mercy comes from defeat. And this war is a defeat for everyone involved, from the politicians who are losing their countries to the soldiers we face who had a uniform thrust upon them and a rifle put in their hands, their lives forever changed against their will. They're not bent on destruction. They have the capacity for mercy, if you give them the chance to show it. That's realistic."

"I don't know." Henrik shook his head, looking out into the jungle. "It's early in this war. There was no consideration of mercy when they started it, and I think it's too soon for the brutality to have hit home. Nobody realises they've been defeated yet." He kept on looking out into the jungle, letting the birdsong wash over him. The two were silent for a full minute before Henrik said, "I don't believe we can get out of here. Not soon, anyway."

"What do you believe in, then?" Tilde asked, turning to him.

Henrik sat still for a moment longer. Then he lay back on his sleeping mat, resting his head under his hands and shutting his eyes. "In sleep." A few isolated drops of rain began to spatter on the bivvie. Within a few minutes it was a downpour once again. Tilde smiled at Henrik's resting face and left.

***


Henrik was awoken the usual way, by a sentry going down the bivouacs and gently kicking his ankle until he stirred. It was a cool morning, though the relief from the heat was countered by the smell of the column. The retreating troops had been wearing the same clothes for over a week now, though a few days ago they had passed over a fast-flowing river and taken the chance to bathe and wash their spare kit. It had been a moment to forget their grim reality, which even then had made itself known in the sight of sentries guarding the riverbanks. Now, at least, Henrik had some clean underwear to change into, which he did before stepping back into his stinking uniform; he had ditched the camouflage jacket and stripped down to the dull-green issued t-shirt in a futile attempt to stave off the heat. After brushing his teeth and grabbing a cup of tea from a communal pot near one of the column's supply trucks, he took down his bivvie and folded it into his pack along with the rest of his kit. Slinging this over his shoulders along with his webbing and armour, and donning his helmet and rifle, Henrik was ready to advance. The whole morning routine took about ten minutes, all told. By the time he was done, the column was just about ready to move, save for a few more supplies being reloaded onto some of the trucks, along with the wounded.

It was quite the sight. There were almost nine hundred soldiers and over twenty vehicles in total. The latter were an assortment of open-topped armoured trucks which had been loaded up with extra machine guns and improvised armour, alongside some bigger supply trucks. Getting a ride on one of these was no easy task. You either had to be in the command team, who had their own command vehicle, or else be wounded. Those who were too ill or injured to walk were put to work manning the machine guns on the gun trucks, and the really serious cases were placed on stretchers atop supply boxes in the larger vehicles. The rest of the soldiers were on foot. Two long lines stretch down the sides of the dirt track on either side of the vehicles, forming a huge snake of troops that lumbered forward slowly and not entirely surely. Those on foot were supposed to be looking out into the jungle for threats, which sounds easy enough but which is a difficult task after eight days of constant marching, little sleep and multiple firefights with unknown assailants. Add onto that the stifling heat and the weight of packs, rifles and ammunition, and the march was miserable. A few times a day, the soldiers could remove their packs and tend to the sores emerging on their shoulders before hurriedly eating a warmed ration pack. If casualties were suffered, you might also be called on to form a grave-digging party - there wasn't the room or the sanitary facilities to carry the dead, so all the Arthurians could do was note down their graves and hope that the remains could be recovered after the war. In short, this column was a far cry from the expectations heaped upon the peacekeepers when they first arrived in Karas. Once smart and professional, they were now a ragtag bunch whose chief characteristic was their desperation.

What's more, these soldiers hadn't been the conscripts who make up the majority of the Arthurian self-defence forces. They had been drawn from the professional core of full-time soldiers. It was even more jarring, therefore, to see the pressures of the campaign affecting them. Sergeants would move up and down the column, checking in on the troops and occasionally finding one who was staring at their feet rather than looking out for hostiles. A quiet pep talk, laced with a dash of military discipline, and a slap on the back would get the erring soldiers back into line for a while. But it was no long-term solution. There was no long-term solution, for they were woefully under-equipped. The peacekeepers had no heavy armour, air support or self-sufficient logistics. None of that was needed for a peacekeeping mission, and it was apparent now how much the Arthurians had relied on support from Nui-ta and South Zanzes to even survive in the jungle. But those other countries had their own concerns right now. Henrik doubted they were minded to divert their resources to a rescue mission for some stranded peacekeepers.

As he was making some final checks of his equipment, Henrik noted another sergeant walking down the line towards him. The sergeant was a large man, of average height but extremely muscular. He wore a camouflage baseball cap rather than a helmet, covering up his bald head. More distinctive was the beard, beneath which was his ever-unsmiling mouth. His name was Oskar Gundarson, one of the more feared sergeants but deeply respected among the troops.

"Sir." Oskar said. Henrik nodded in a silent greeting, which Oskar returned before continuing, "Command wants you up front. We've got tasking."

"Do you know what it's about?"

"Yes, sir. I'll brief you when we get to the head of the column. Sergeant Jansen is already waiting for us there with your personal radio and the transceiver. She'll be joining us."

Henrik and Oskar set off down the line. Most of the rest of the troops were in their positions and ready to set off; a few stragglers were finishing packing their kit away. Their morning chatter, which accompanied the dawn chorus of the animals, had gradually died down as they waited in anticipation to set off for another day's march. It was replaced now by the hum of idling engines as, one by one, vehicles started up. The walk to the front of the line was a quiet one. Neither Henrik nor Oskar had the inclination for small talk at this point, and the slight nervousness of being sent on a tasking required a few moments of snatched inner reflection where it could be got. This did not cross Tilde's mind, apparently, for as the two men reached the head of the column, she was already there chatting merrily with a young private. When she saw Henrik and Oskar approaching, she said her farewells to the soldier, patted him on the shoulder, and walked to meet them. As she did, she held her hand out to Henrik, revealing a small radio wired to a headset.

"Your PRR."

"Thanks." Henrik replied. He took it and clipped it into its slot on his webbing. He, Tilde and Oskar gathered in a small circle, just ahead of the foremost vehicle in the column. "Right, Oskar, what's this all about?"

Oskar pulled a map out of his breast pocket and reached down to the floor to pick up a small twig. He used it to point out a spot along a thick line which marked the track on which the column sat, a new construction which the Arthurians had built along the entire length of the buffer zone right up to connect their forts. "Sir, Jansen. We're currently here. Command is aiming to reach this point by sundown today." He pointed out another spot on the map, further up the track. "To get there, we have to pass through this village here." Again, he used the twig to highlight a small settlement on the map, not much larger than a small operating base. "Prior to the rest of the force's withdrawal, we knew it to be a friendly village - they readily provided information and some logistical help to our patrols. But since the evacuation, we've had no ISR activity so we can't be sure what the situation is currently. Command fears that the village may have been occupied by a military detachment. So, our mission is to head there in advance of the column, conduct a reconnaissance sortie, and report back to command. We'll need to assess whether the area is occupied and, if so, by whom, with how many troops, and with what sort of armament. Once completed, we'll wait for the column to catch up with us. All happy?"

"Yes." Responded Henrik. "I'm surprised command didn't brief me, though."

"Ah, yes sir." Oskar said. "I was originally the lead on this mission and the third was going to be one of the corporals from B Company, hence I already received the briefing. He woke up with some tropical illness this morning though, so he's on the back of a gun truck for the next few days. I suggested yourself, sir, as the person with the next most recce training. You'll of course take charge for the mission."

"Poor guy. Still, thank you sergeant. I assume we've all topped up water and ammo, and that you've checked the transceiver, Jansen?"

The two sergeants nodded, Tilde with that upbeat smile and Oskar with the same slight frown as always. He flipped his cap backwards, and slightly loosened his rifle's strap, grasping it firmly in both hands. Tilde and Henrik tightened their helmet straps. After a last look down the line and a quick thumbs up to the driver of the front vehicle, the team set off into the unknown jungle.

It was a relief, at first. After five minutes at a good pace, the sound of the column had disappeared, absorbed by the thick vegetation. It still wasn't quiet - the animals especially made a constant racket. But Henrik hadn't realised how tedious the never-ending hum of engines had been until he could no longer hear them. It was also pleasant not to be surrounded by the sight of bored or anxious soldiers trudging slowly forward. He almost had an energy about him, buoyed by Jansen's infectious mood. Of course, this was no time to get complacent. None of them could pause to savour this newfound peace. It was, after all, tainted by the persistent threat of contact with any number of foes, human or otherwise. Worst of all, Henrik didn't know who he was fighting. In the chaos of a war's opening moves, confusion reigns. That confusion is only amplified in a hostile environment like the jungle, which thwarts most of the technology or training designed to bring clarity to a soldier's job. In the last few firefights in which the column had been engaged, Henrik hadn't even seen the enemy. Muzzle flashes here and there and indistinct figures had guided his aim, but he hadn't truly been able to make out any faces or uniforms. In the heat of battle, he wasn't sure whether he had been fighting Hadinians, Zanze or Nui-tans. Only afterwards, when the area was scoured for dead and wounded enemies, did that become obvious. All Henrik knew was that he shouldn't be fighting any of them. He was there as a peacekeeper, but now there was no peace. This small band of Arthurians had no allies, nobody to fight for them, just obstacles to their long journey home.

***


"We're approaching the village." Oskar said, quietly. Henrik looked around. To the right of the track was dense vegetation, mainly trees but with scores of low fronds too. To the left, however, the jungle appeared to thin out and be replaced by tall grass with only the occasional tree to provide shade. He gestured in that direction, prompting Oskar to step off the track into the grass. It would be an ideal final advance to the village, sufficient to conceal their advance without being unduly noisy. Henrik followed Oskar, noticing how cool it became as soon as he was surrounded by the tall stalks and how refreshing it was when they brushed against his arms, wiping away some of the sweat. It was difficult to see far ahead, though, and he had to move within a few steps of Oskar, Tilde doing the same behind him. All of them, whether out of nervousness or training, raised their rifles slightly, aware that they were in an entirely hostile environment right now. They did not want to be caught unprepared if they stumbled across another soldier out here.

About fifteen minutes after wading into the grass, Oskar raised his fist and called the three of them to a halt. Henrik moved forward to join him, understanding immediately why they had stopped. The grass suddenly thinned out and fell to waist height, revealing the village about a hundred metres ahead of them. It was no more than a circle of clear ground in the midst of the jungle, bisected by the track. The team did not want to advance further, lest they show themselves to any onlookers, but nor did they need to. They could see all they needed to from there: the village was completely destroyed. Piles of rubble were strewn about in the clearing with a few wooden frames revealing where houses used to stand. There were still some walls here and there - crude mud brick constructions - but nothing was habitable. A thin layer of ash on some of the rubble and scorch marks on the remaining walls suggested that fires had ravaged the place. This was made even more apparent when the team realised that amongst the rubble lay some burnt human remains. Henrik pulled his binoculars from a pouch, scanning the village for any sign of life. All he found were more bodies, not necessarily burnt but in a bad state and covered in flies. He put the binoculars away and turned to Tilde, whose eyes were lowered as if in shock - or prayer. Oskar, having taken a moment to survey the scene, had already turned around and was listening out behind them for any sign of hostiles to their rear.

"What do you think?" Henrik asked Tilde.

"I think it's disgusting." She replied. It was especially jarring to hear from that from her, of all people. "I also think that by the state of the bodies and the buildings, this happened many days ago. Perhaps four or five. If whoever did this left it this way, I can't imagine they intended to stay here or revisit. My initial estimate is that it's unoccupied."

"Agreed." Henrik nodded, looking back through his binoculars. "Though we can't rule out whether they've turned it into a killing zone, or booby-trapped the remains. I want to check the perimeter to make sure that there's nobody observing this place other than us. Once we've done that, we need to head into the village and do a quick sweep of the track."

"Yes, sir. I'll radio back to the column." Tilde unclipped a handset from her webbing jacket, the wire of which disappeared into her pack, and began speaking softly but clearly into it. Henrik, meanwhile, kept a lookout through his binoculars. He was particularly interested in the ring of vegetation which surrounded the village, mostly thick jungle. To the right, it sloped steeply downwards - he figured that if anyone else was surveilling this place then they wouldn't be able to get a view from there. That left the other side, on Henrik's left, where dense foliage was interspersed with areas of grass, like the one he was in now. The only way to see if anyone was hidden within it was to go through on foot. Henrik sighed, and turned to Tilde and Oskar.

"Alright. I'm satisfied that the village itself is empty, but I want to do a further recce around the perimeter to the left, to check it's secure. We'll move slowly around that side of the village until we hit the track on the other side, staying five-to-ten metres back from the edge of the treeline. When we hit the track, we'll follow it into the village and do a sweep for booby traps or mines. Understood?" Silence from the others. "Good. Fix bayonets and lets move."

All three reached behind for their blades. The soft metallic clunk of the knives being hitched onto their rifles was the only noise for a minute, until Oskar took point and led them back into the jungle. The mood was tenser, rifle butts jammed determinedly into their shoulders and barrels aimed almost straight ahead. The relief - that sense of freedom - of having left the column behind had now evaporated in the tropical heat.

***


The patrol was eventless, another painfully slow crawl through the jungle marked by heightened tensions and fraught nerves. The sight of the track was therefore an opportunity to relax, however ill-advised that might have been. Kneeling by its side, just where it entered into the village, the team stopped to take a few gulps of water and rest for a minute or two. Oskar, ever vigilant, stared down the track as it headed away from the village. He was concerned by a rightward bend about seventy metres off, which concealed any approach to the village. He asked to stay in the rear so that he could keep an eye on it, which Henrik agreed with. He and Tilde, would take point, then, emerging onto the track and entering into the clearing which housed the destroyed village. To their right they noted a building which was almost intact. It was a single storey, one-room dwelling, no more than a cube with a thatched roof. One of its walls which faced away from the track had been torn open such that a large hole revealed the interior, a pile of rubble at its base. There was not much inside the building - some discarded rugs, a pot and a small wooden table. Henrik supposed that whoever had lived there had managed to flee with some of their belongings. He hoped that they had survived the jungle.

As the team moved ever forward, Oskar kept up guard on their rear. Tilde and Henrik, meanwhile, were scanning the area immediately ahead of them for any tripwires, disturbed earth or suspicious devices. So long as the track was clear, they could report back to the column, lead it into the village and claim their mission as a success. It was easy to get distracted by these thoughts, the hopeful notion of finishing a tasking and being back in the line with a cup of tea or, even worse, memories of Arthuria and its home comforts. It was harder to remain focused on the task at hand, not to succumb to complacency.

"Shit." Henrik heard Oskar curse. "Contact rear!"

Henrik and Tilde span around. Oskar was dropping to the ground, adjusting his firing position to get a good look down the sights. Ahead of him, emerging from that right bend in the track were an ever increasing number of indistinct figures. Henrik could not tell who they were - they were too far out for him to make out their uniforms or their facial features. They didn't look Hadinian, but they could have been North or South Zanzeanic, or perhaps Nui-tan. They were definitely soldiers, though, dressed in fatigues and carrying an assortment of weapons. Even as he and Tilde dropped to the ground and crawled up to form a line along with Oskar, it was obvious that these newcomers had seen them. They were shouting what sounded like orders, and running to take up cover behind trees on either side of the track.

"I thought the area was clear?" Tilde said.

"It was. Probably bad luck - some patrol that happened to arrive at the same time as us." Henrik responded. He was surprised by the clarity of his thought at this point, no doubt thanks in part to the adrenaline. He looked around him and spotted a low heap of rubble just to the side of the track. "OK, baseline, five metres, behind that rubble at 10 o'clock. Jansen, move!"

Tilde heaved herself up and sprinted to the rubble, throwing herself down on the ground just behind it and then crawling up to it so that she could aim her rifle over its top. Henrik followed her lead, shifting a few of the bricks when he reached the pile so as to give himself a better firing position. Oskar was the last. Three soft clicks announced that the safety catches had been clicked off and that the team was ready for action. But there was no shooting. Henrik was not about to start another firefight if he could avoid it. He still couldn't quite make out the soldiers coming down the track, but they were advancing menacingly and had made it to about twenty metres back from the village's entrance. "Stop!" He shouted once in Melodian and once again in Latin, hoping that whoever these soldiers were they would understand one of those languages. Perhaps they didn't and carried on oblivious to Henrik's instructions, or perhaps they did understand him and chose to advance regardless. Either way, the soldiers kept coming.

"What's your order, sir?" Oskar asked.



Henrik thought for a moment. He figured that there were four possible outcomes: either he could convince these soldiers to talk and come to an informal accommodation; he could fight and win, repulsing them and waiting for the column to arrive; he could fight and lose, raising the possibility of the team's death or capture; or he could surrender now and guarantee their capture. The last was a non-starter. Neither he, Oskar nor Tilde would ever consider it. And attempting to negotiate was infinitely better than fighting. So Henrik raised his left hand slowly into the air, palm open, and began to wave to the unknown soldiers, keeping his right hand firmly on his rifle, his finger resting against the trigger guard. The soldiers slowed slightly, ceasing their mad dash up the track and forming a baseline which spread into the foliage on either side. They kept their rifles pointed directly at the team, but Henrik wondered whether their halt was an invitation for him to stand and try to negotiate with them. He lowered his hand and prepared to lift himself off the ground.

Just as he began to push up, a distinctive crack tore through the air. It was followed by a snap and a small plume of soil as a round struck a metre-and-a-half in front of the pile of rubble the team was using for cover. Almost immediately, a deafening howl of squawks and flapping wings accompanied the sight of hundreds of birds lifting off into the sky, fleeing the battle's opening shot. There were more snaps and whisps of smoke emerging from the soldier's rifles as a volley of fire was unleashed.

"Shoot!" Henrik shouted, taking aim down the track and gently squeezing the trigger of his rifle. The three of them let off their own sustained pace of fire, which was not so much a crack to their ears as the metallic clunk of bolts sliding backwards and rifles bucking into their shoulders. It was almost a comforting sensation, something familiar after years of training, which contrasted with the utter chaos of the unknown which otherwise defined their situation.

After a few rounds, Henrik called out, "Advance to the building, eleven o'clock. Jansen, move!" He was referring to the almost-intact house with the hole in its wall. As soon as he gave the order, he and Oskar increased their rate of fire, trying to suppress the attacking soldiers and give Tilde the time to check her ammo pouches, roll to her left, heave herself off the ground and sprint to the corner of the house, which she then leant against for cover. She shouted over the radio, "Firing!" as she knelt down and began shooting again at the soldiers. As soon as he heard this, Henrik repeated the same manoeuvre, advancing towards the house and jumping through the hole in its wall. He was struck by how cool it was in the shade, but quickly banished this odd thought and ran over to a window. Getting a good line of sight on the soldiers, but staying back from the window itself and at an angle from it, he re-engaged, making sure to call out on the radio so that Oskar knew he was covered to advance.

A few seconds later, Henrik heard the sliding of brick as Oskar clambered over some rubble and into the house, followed soon after by Tilde. Oskar picked up the small wooden table, placed it close to one of the windows, and used it as a support on which to rest his elbow as he let rip a string of five tightly-packed rounds. Whoever these soldiers were, they were tenacious. Their energy was directed entirely at the house which was now being peppered with rounds. They were moving closer to the village too. The team had the advantage for the time being, in that the track presented a bottleneck towards which they could concentrate their fire, but they wouldn't be able to hold for long.

"Ammo check!" Henrik called.

"Seven mags." Oskar said. His rifle then emitted a dull thunk, and he pulled out its magazine, replacing it with another from his pouch. "Make that six."

"I've got seven." Tilde responded. Henrik had seven, too. It wasn't much, but the Arthurian self-defence forces had retained high-calibre battle rifles as most other armies shifted to smaller-calibre assault rifles. They were better suited to the open spaces of Arthuria, the defence of which was the only purpose of the Arthurian military. It meant that if you were hit by an Arthurian round, you were out of action for good. But it also meant that the troops couldn't carry as much ammo and were more reliant on their supply chains. That may have worked fine back home, but when it was three soldiers cut off from any allies and under persistent attack, it certainly made Henrik nervous. Still, the brutal lethality of his rifle provided a smidgen of comfort.

"How many did you count, Oskar?" asked Henrik.

"At least twenty, sir. But more were arriving down the track as I moved into here. I estimate that there are between thirty and forty out there now."

"Good. Sounds about right." Henrik was contemplating the viability of their position. The prospects were not ideal. "Jansen, update command on the situation and request expedited relief. I want a gun truck, fast. Tell them we're low on ammo and can hold for no more than twenty minutes."

Tilde let her rifle drop on its strap and rushed over to a corner in the building, where she knelt down and began speaking into the handset again. Henrik, meanwhile, noticed one of the soldiers make a break for the village entrance. He was trying to run from a tree by the side of the track to a pile of rubble that marked the boundary between jungle and village. As he was running, though, his right shoulder jerked backwards with such force that he performed a full 360-spin on the run - a grotesque pirouette - before losing his footing, slowing down, and stumbling forward to the ground. He had made it halfway before falling in the open, and was now lying on his chest, his head turned sideward, half covered in soil. He was still breathing, but looked pained. One of his arms looked shattered, the uniform sleeve torn to shreds and a red mess beneath it. A red stain was spreading across his chest. He reached towards his wounded shoulder with his opposite hand, tentatively feeling for the damage. When he felt it, his face turned from pain to terror and his screams pierced the air, temporarily cutting through the rattle of gunfire. Henrik figured that one of Oskar's rounds had found its mark. He felt a little sick.

Tilde was soon back in the fight. The poor bastard whose shoulder had been shot was only the beginning of a determined rush by the soldiers to get into the village. Their rate of fire was increasing, and their aim was improving as they zeroed in on the house in which the team was holed-up. The sightlines from the windows were fast being filled with shrapnel as fragments of mud brick exploded into the air, rounds slamming into the walls. Henrik was increasingly forced to duck down beneath the window frame. When he came back up to shoot, more soldiers had entered the village. At least four were setting themselves up behind the pile of rubble which the wounded attacker had been trying to reach.

"Oskar, odds on them being able to surround us?" Henrik asked.

"High. Now that they've pushed through the entrance, we should..." He paused to duck down as three bullets tore up a chunk of the window frame next to him, quickly re-emerging to fire off five rounds of his own in quick succession. One of them hit its mark, leaving another soldier sprawled awkwardly on the ground out in the open. "As I was saying, we should try to move out of here towards the interior of the village. I saw a good-looking low wall jutting from a building about a hundred metres from here."

"Alright, on my mark we'll move out of here." Henrik called. "Oskar, you lead the way; Jansen, you cover the rear. This is a scoot-and-shoot job. Lay down some lead, understood?"

The simultaneous "Yes, sir." came in through Henrik's headset. He removed his spent magazine from his rifle, shoving it into a pouch and replacing it with a fresh one. As he did so, Oskar began walking backwards from the window, maintaining a line of sight through it such that he could keep firing up until the last moment.

"And, move!" Henrik ordered.

Oskar stepped up and over the rubble at the base of the hole in the wall, twisting to face the soldiers and let loose a few rounds in their direction as he ran. He wasn't aiming to hit them now, just to pump enough lead in their direction so as to force them to duck down and stop shooting at him. Henrik was not far behind, keeping Oskar in his peripheral vision while he tried to suppress the attackers too. Tilde followed up at the rear. The snaps of rounds hitting at their feet were now accompanied by hisses as others sailed over their heads; the soldiers were having a harder time aiming at moving targets than at the house. It was a brief moment of thrill as the team outran their attackers.

But holding the initiative did not translate to immortality. Henrik and Oskar heard a scream come through their headsets. It reverberated in the air, too. They glanced behind them just in time to see Tilde skidding forward on her front, a fast-spreading stain below the knee of her trousers.

"Hit...I've been hit." She managed to say, through gritted teeth, before turning over onto her side, sitting up and re-engaging with the attackers from the ground.

Henrik shouted to Oskar, "Cover me!" Oskar obliged, increasing his rate of fire. Henrik sprinted the few metres back to Tilde, letting his rifle hang to his side and pulling out his pistol from its holster on his thigh. With his right hand, he shot at the soldiers by the village's entrance, again trying to suppress them. With his left, he grabbed onto the collar of Tilde's webbing, dragging her behind him as he moved towards the low wall, Oskar taking the lead.

"Keep shooting!" Henrik shouted. Tilde, still on the ground, let off a continuous stream of rounds, most of them hitting piles of rubble and trees, forcing the soldiers to get down as best they could. By the time her magazine was empty, the team was at the low wall. Oskar helped Henrik lift Tilde over its lip, unceremoniously dropping her to safety on the other side. She quickly leant herself up against it, ripped her first aid kit from her webbing, and started to apply a dressing to her wound. Oskar and Henrik rolled on over, Oskar immediately kneeling to return fire at the soldiers and Henrik pausing to take a gulp of water - the strain of dragging Tilde for thirty metres whilst under fire had gotten to him. A three second break was, perhaps, deserved.

"Good job they're using pea shooters." Tilde laughed. "This one's just a scratch."

"In that case, quit joking and shoot the fuckers!" Oskar called.

She nodded, packing her first aid kit back away and turning to face the soldiers. She propped herself up on her rifle and, after stabilising herself, settled it into her shoulder. The attackers were far into the village by now. Even with the casualties they had suffered, there looked to be about thirty. They were spreading in a long line from one end of the village to the other, occupying any gap between buildings and any piece of cover they could find. Bit by bit, as half of them fired at Henrik, Tilde and Oskar, the other half would advance further forward. It was getting harder to shoot at them; every time Henrik tried to raise his head above the wall, he could only get off one round before a hail of fire narrowed in on him, forcing him to duck back down as fragments of the wall showered his helmet. He unloaded one of his magazines and, when going to replace it, noticed that only one full one remained in his ammo pouch.

"Last mag." He called out. To his left, Oskar had already abandoned his rifle and was firing a pistol over the wall. Tilde was reloading her rifle and, when she caught Henrik's eye, gave a grim nod as if to confirm that this was her last magazine too. "If we run out, I say we charge them." Henrik said.

Oskar paused for a second, and then turned to Henrik. For the first time since they had known each other, Oskar was smiling. "Aye, sir. I think you're right."

Henrik raised his rifle over the wall for what he knew would be the last time. Between two ruined houses, about twenty-five metres ahead of him, a soldier was trying to get to cover. He had hopped over a pile of detritus and was now running low to the ground. Henrik took aim, leading the soldier's movement and breathing out slowly. As he did so, he squeezed the trigger, reaching the bite point and holding it just there. As he reached the end of his exhale, Henrik clicked the trigger, the slight addition of pressure being all that was needed to take it beyond the bite point. The bolt of his rifle slammed backwards and the butt rammed into his shoulder. A smoking cartridge flew out of the side, arcing down to the ground with a hollow metallic clink. As the recoil subsided and Henrik looked down the sights once more, the soldier was no longer running. He was, instead, on the ground, rolling onto his back and desperately grasping at his chest. It looked as though the bullet had passed through the side of his chest, and almost certainly emerged out the other end. The shockwave alone would have devastated his insides, puncturing his lungs and causing so much internal bleeding that the soldier would now be suffocating on his own blood. His frantic attempt to put pressure on his chest was the last futile effort to stop that bleeding. Henrik couldn't bear it. He aimed his rifle once more and discharged one of his last rounds at the man.

This time, when he looked back down his sights, Henrik saw a lifeless body.

"Get down!" Oskar roared, leaning over, grabbing Henrik's arm and pulling him down to the ground behind the wall. "What were you doing?" He shouted. Henrik wasn't sure. The crack of gunfire and snap of rounds hitting nearby seemed somehow stifled. He shushed Oskar.

"Listen..." The noises of battle were indeed quieter. Henrik was sure it wasn't in his head. There was still the sound of rifles being fired, but there was more, too. It was as though the cacophony wasn't centred around the team anymore. There were shouts from further back in the village, a low humming noise, and the repetitive thud of some heavy weapon being let off. Henrik raised his head above the wall again. The soldiers were no longer in a line advancing towards him and the team; they were in disarray, running back from where they came and turning to shoot in the opposite direction. Between two ruined buildings, just visible through the rifle smoke which was being blown into the breeze, Henrik saw a vehicle drive by. It was accompanied by Arthurian uniforms. Relief had arrived. The gun truck was here, with a few extra reinforcements from the column. The soldiers were retreating.

"Get up, Oskar. Come see this." Henrik lifted himself from his knee to his feet. He flipped the safety catch on his rifle and slung it to his side. Oskar stood too, letting his arm, pistol still in hand, fall to his side. Tilde lifted herself with the support of her rifle as a makeshift crutch, and hobbled over to the two of them.

"You see." She looked at Henrik, that smile back on her face. "Everything comes to an end."

As Henrik smiled, about to respond, he noticed Oskar raise his pistol once again. Turning back towards the village, he saw one of the attacking soldiers emerge from behind a small well, no more than ten metres away from them. Now there was nothing indistinct about his features. His face was filled with pure fear, but a determined sort which showed in his clenched jaw and wide eyes. His rifle was held in front of him, a flash of sunlight reflecting off its bayonet. He was running straight towards Henrik, screaming something in a language which the Arthurians could not understand.

Oskar let loose some rounds from his pistol, hitting the soldier twice in the shoulder and stomach, but not enough to slow down his suicidal charge. Henrik moved to retrieve his rifle from his side, but before he could raise it up, he felt himself being shoved to the ground, hitting it hard on his right side. He looked back up, only to see Tilde stepping into the path of the soldier, whose scream suddenly turned into a wail and whose expression transformed into one of horror as his bayonet slid smoothly into her stomach. She let out a gentle gasp, and then a pained grunt as the soldier pulled the bayonet back out. Henrik was scrambling for his pistol but Oskar, as always, was a step ahead. The axe which had been hanging from a loop in his webbing came swinging down into the soldier's neck, accompanied by a roar of anger. The attacker slumped to the ground on the other side of the wall, his body out of sight of Henrik.

Tilde looked down at her stomach, the blood spreading uncontrollably. Then the pain went from her face. She looked down at Henrik, the sun shining on her face, the sound of the birds returning after the battle. She smiled, not in her usual way but more serenely. Then she closed her eyes and fell backwards, Oskar catching her body and lowering her gently to the ground.


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