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Forget Nothing (AMW)

Where nations come together and discuss matters of varying degrees of importance. [In character]
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Iansisle
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Founded: Antiquity
Left-Leaning College State

Forget Nothing (AMW)

Postby Iansisle » Mon Oct 03, 2022 12:12 am

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The Last Moments of James Callahan

Over the North Sea


How strange, she thought, after a decade of waiting to find herself impatient on a half-hour helicopter trip. Ten years of exile in Chrinthania among the loudly ignorant and boorish surfers; ten years of dodging assassins sent by the Committee on the Common Welfare; ten years of grieving her dead brother and nephew, knowing the fate of her family would rest with her.

Next to the queen sat Phillip Clayburgh, recently reconfirmed in his title as the Marquess of Westergate. He was not the trustworthy sort, Jessica knew, and she was not sure if his rat-like eyes presupposed her inference or if her knowledge of his twisting career through the revolution shaped her view of his physical features. He sat more like the commoner he had been during the days of the gull than like the noble he was supposed to be and gawked out the window as they approached St. Adie’s Island.

Jessica shot a quick glance at her son James, hoping he would not be foolish enough to copy Westergate and act as a common tourist, but she need not have worried. Her eleven-year-old son sat upright in his seat, staring at the empty chair across from him. He was undersized, she thought, probably as a result of their less-than-royal diet in Chrinthania. A few weeks with a proper cook back at Jameston would strengthen him.

The capital had cheered for her when she arrived, as Westergate had promised they would. There hadn’t been a hint of the Gull Flag, not even one peak at red. Instead, St. Adie’s cross–the green saltire on a white field–flew from every pole in the city. She had not wanted to make a public appearance, mindful of what had happened to her nephew in a similarly naive fit of good will, but Westergate insisted there was no danger and, after five minutes of waving, Jessica had even started to enjoy it.

Then it had been straight to work. Confirm the Duke of Dorchet as her Prime Minister. He was no great intellect but the little Wyclyver with the oversized tophat had been with them throughout their exile. Authorize the expenditures for her official coronation. Send out the invitations to world leaders: the heretical little Walmies and Arcans, without whose underhanded Protestant tricks she might not now sit her throne; the arrogant and aloof European republics; the loud-mouthed Chrinthani, who certainly would follow no protocol but their own; the shifty traders from Karaya Kamot; the opportunistic and imperiled Victoria and Salvador; the decadent Kimunda and the frustrating Japanese. At least she could forgo invitations to the godless communists of Spyr and Beth Gellert. And nobody would even know where to send one for the Drapoel. Finally, she had to sign the execution orders for several batches of recalcitrant Gull terrorists and Ranaltist usurpers, may God have mercy on their souls.

“There’s the castle!” Westergate couldn’t contain himself.

James started to turn but a sharp look from his mother froze him in his seat. He had not seen the holy island before, having lived all but his earliest days in exile, but Jessica had drilled into him the necessities of royal decorum. Besides, despite Westergate’s unmanly excitement, St. Adie’s Island was nothing worth a second glance. A small, dreary, windswept rock on an unforgiving sea with a small, dreary monastery, whatever its history, overlooked by a small, dreary castle that was more folly than fortification.

Her stomach lurched as the helicopter descended and Jessica worried a brief moment of discomfiture may have passed her face. A quick glance showed the idiot Westergate still mesmerized by a small flock of monasterial sheep and her son looking at the empty headrest over her shoulder. As the blades slowed, white-coated Grenadiers ran to open the doors. Westergate disembarked first, smiling and waving to the official press documenting her arrival. Young James went next, hands clasped behind his back, face stoic, the perfect vision of an heir to the throne.

Then it was her time. At last.

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The Queen arrives at St. Adie’s Island

St. Adie’s Castle

Alice had been a girl the last time she was here, so she supposed her memory might be tainted by nostalgia, but she remembered St. Adie’s as a cheerful place, where her older brother had claimed his crown, then chased her around the golden light in the Honey Room, tickling her when she fell. Those days had been, she realized, more than twenty years in the past. Now James was dead, hanged from a gallows in Gull Flag Square, and his son murdered on an airport tarmac, and all because her brother–so loving and caring to his own blood–could not see that things must change.

She rounded a corner into the grand dining hall. It had seemed so much bigger in her recollection, but here was a table with enough seats for twenty dignitaries–far short of the hundreds that might be accommodated at Jameston and hardly enough for the great event Alice knew her sister desired. Or perhaps that is why Jessica wanted to celebrate the return of the Callahans here at St. Adie’s: the limited space would force a limited guest list and, by exclusivity, return some of the mystique the crown had lost in a decade of revolution.

“Oh, your Highness. Please excuse us. We were not expecting anyone yet.”

Alice had interrupted the work of the castle’s caretakers. The old woman now bowing to her–had she been here in those halcyon days before the Gulls? Alice thought she looked familiar. Did this woman serve General Ranalte when he had thrown his great parties on the island, looking to claim some of St. Adie’s legitimacy for himself?

“Please, don’t allow me to interrupt your work. My sister will be here soon.” And you know what a bitch she can be. The bustle returned and Alice made her way through the dining room, doing her best to stay out of the way. She paused at the end of the room, looking back to confirm her first glance, and indeed – one half of the table was set with eggshell colored china, the other half white. None of it was terribly high quality. The woman who had first noticed her came up and scraped her head in a bow.

“Oh, please, your Highness, we sent to Jameston for new dishware a week ago, when we heard about her Majesty returning, but nothing has arrived. Citizen Madders took everything away. We had to make due with what the local gentry had saved away.”

“Surely General Ranalte left something behind?” Alice was delighted by the mismatched settings, mostly in the knowledge that it would drive her sister wild.

“Well, he did.” An older man pulled a credenza door open and produced a gorgeous china plate. “We didn’t think it would be wise to use them.”

Alice had only barely contained her laughter, but when she saw the plate it pealed out of her in long, unlady-like bursts. The staff stood around shocked, until the man at the credenza began to chuckle as well. He sat the plate, featuring Ranalte’s stern face gazing out from under a red beret and flanked by two gulls, on the table.

“No, that won’t do,” said Alice once she recovered. “Give it here. If my sister says anything, she is to be reassured this issue was my doing, and I did it to play a trick on her. She’ll believe it. And I know with such splendid help, everything else will go right for the dinner.”

As the staff busied themselves, Alice tucked the plate with General Ranalte’s face under her arm and made for the Honey Room. There in the warm golden light was the Duke of Evanpass, his eyepatch only managing to give him more roguish charm.

“I knew you’d come here eventually.” He waggled the brow above his missing eye. “God knows you never shut up about it.”

“There’s magic here.” Alice twirled through the furniture, waving her arms to kick up trails of particles which flared in the honey glow.

Evanpass lumbered to his feet, favoring the left by propping himself against a chair back.

“I’d never been invited. Your brother didn’t think highly of me.”

Alice waltzed to an inaudible tune closer to him, the plate still grasped in her left hand.

“Neither does my sister. In fact, neither do I.” She took him by the front of his white coat and pulled him into a kiss. They lingered long over the embrace until Alice’s free hand explored too far past propriety and Evanpass pulled back.

“I’d love to, darling, but your sister will be landing any minute now and it wouldn’t take much to send me to the gallows again.”

“And, if I’m lucky, it’ll take this time.” Alice took Evanpass’s hand and dragged him from the room.

“What are you carrying?”

Alice tucked the plate closer to herself and laughed. “A gift for Jessica.”

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President General Nicodemo Ranalte

Pardens, Weshield

The rain was really coming down now, lashing at the windows and rattling them in their sills. Behind the desk of one of the city’s smallest police stations, a sergeant rubbed his hands together and held them above a space heater. He didn’t envy the suckers out on patrol right now, that’s for sure, but he had been lucky to have an uncle (by marriage, but close enough) who had been cagey enough about his politics to be placed in charge of the local police.

On the television, a blue-and-white royal helicopter was circling over a field of golden grass. The sound was turned off, but the subtitles flashing across the screen conveyed the reporter’s almost fevered excitement about the return of the Callahans.

The sergeant wasn’t a political man. He’d stayed out of the way of the Gulls, bad lot they seemed, and kept his neck at its proper length. Then he’d voted for President Ranalte whenever someone with a gun had told him it was time to vote for President Ranalte. Being drafted and serving two hot, miserable years on campaign against the Rumbiak Brigade in Victoria and Salvador had soured him as a potential Ranaltist. Now the Callahans were back and he felt like he’d hardly had time to miss them. At least this regime had a more cozy job than his last one.

The door pushed open and stayed open. The sergeant turned to yell at the fool to close it up, but then he noticed the fool was familiar. Old Harold Falt, a farmer from the village where the sergeant had grown up, some way off in the middle of nowhere. Falt had been a local muck-a-muck before the Revolution, the local squire, and the sergeant was surprised (though not disappointed) to see he’d made it through without being hanged.

Falt was holding the door open for a thin figure on crutches, who limped through the door at a glacial pace. At first the sergeant took the figure for a girl, as they had long brown hair past their shoulders and a long, delicate chin, but as they came closer he second guessed himself. They were dressed in a black-zippered jumper and blue jeans, both soaked through. The young person must have been fifteen or sixteen years old, but–and of course he checked–the sergeant didn’t see any chest development.

“What’s all this, then?” The sergeant leaned forward over his desk. “You’re a long way from home, Mr. Falt.”

“And we’ve a while longer to go.” The effort of speaking sent Falt into a coughing fit. “I need you to call your uncle.”

“A pig’s chance.” The sergeant didn’t want to do anything to upset this plum gig. “Unless you’ve got Sam Longdale there, I wouldn’t lift a finger.”

“Better than Longdale.” Falt turned to the teenager. “Go on, then. Like we practiced.”

The teen nodded but didn’t make eye contact with the sergeant.

“My name is John Callahan, the son of James Callahan.” They paused for a moment. “I require transportation so I can take up my rightful throne.”

On television, two white-coated Grenadiers pulled the doors to the helicopter open. A man in a tophat disembarked, waving to the cameras.

“Go on, then,” laughed the sergeant. “What are you playing at, Falt? Everyone knows the Boy King was killed years ago, wasn’t he?”

“Show him, then.”

The teenager leaned hard on one crutch and reached into their jumper. Out came a golden, jewel-encrusted four pointed star against a circle, attached to a long, green, diamond-studded ribbon emblazoned with the crest of Shadoran. The sergeant gasped. He knew what this was. Everyone on the Shield knew. Ranalte had been furious when he discovered the Directory of Justice had not recovered it.

“The last gift my father gave me,” the teenager said. “The Star of the Sovereign and Grand Master of the Most Illustrious Order of St. Adie.”

“Good work, John.” Falt turned to the gaping sergeant. “So maybe you can call that uncle of yours, what?”

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His Majesty, High King John III of the Grand Empire of the Shield (?)
Last edited by Iansisle on Tue Oct 18, 2022 3:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Chrinthanium
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Posts: 14863
Founded: Feb 04, 2006
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Chrinthanium » Thu Oct 06, 2022 3:56 pm

Presidential Palace
Ciudad de Álvarez, Distrito Federal, Chrinthania

Naomi Ortega Hernández (known simply as Naomi Hernández) stood at her desk, phone in hand, listening as the reports came in. She nodded and smiled every once in a while to give her secretary an indication that things were, as they should be, going well. While the President of the Federal Republic wanted to be at the airport, her schedule didn’t permit it today. What it did permit was enough time to get first-hand reports from the staff of Vice President Castellanos. Not that she was exactly distraught that she wasn’t there for the big send off, she wanted to be there. She wanted to make sure the Shieldian Royals left safely and, most of all, permanently. To say the least, the last 10 years were a bit difficult.

Hosting the Shieldian Royal Family in exile for such a long time, it had become apparent there were cultural differences between the dreary-island nation of The Grand Empire of the Shield and the tropical, sprawling Chrinthania. Chrinthania, as a Republic, respected no titles of nobility and while that didn’t mean they didn’t show royal persons the respect owed by their position, they weren’t treated much differently than most other Chrinthani. The cultural differences also fueled random and muted moments of displeasure from the Shieldian Queen with regards to issues such as food, accommodation, blankets, sheets, pillows, indoor climate control, and even whether or not haggis was really a food anyone in Chrinthania would--let alone should--eat. While the Chrinthani attempted to maintain the Queen and her family in a manner commensurate with their high status, the entire affair felt like it was more difficult than it should have been and the Queen certainly left a lot of overall happiness behind her.

The hope was, however, that by allowing the Callahans a safe place to protect them from those in the erstwhile Gull Flag Republic who meant to do them harm, in due course the troubles--minor as they were--would be overlooked and grant Chrinthania at least a somewhat more favorable diplomatic position with the Grand Empire. In fact, discussions had already started regarding the coronation of the Queen and how the Chrinthani would like to send a small-yet-important delegation consisting of Vice President Maxi Castellanos and the Hawaiian Crown Prince Kai. These plans still being processed, the Chrinthani sat back with relief as the Queen made her way across the Atlantic back to her home.

“She’s gone,” The President said as she put the phone down on the desk and sighed.

“Was she that bad, Ma’am?” the secretary said.

“I found her to be graceful and dignified, though the staff reports indicate she was a spoiled brat. However, she’s a spoiled brat going back to a shattered nation. She has a lot of shit on her shoulders right now. She knows if she needs us, we will be there for her.”

Then President Hernández began whistling Ding Dong the Witch is Dead as she started to sit down and begin to sign a few bills into law.
Part of the Radical Leftist LGBTQIA+ Agenda fighting for Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism since 1995.
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Spyr
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Founded: Antiquity
Democratic Socialists

Postby Spyr » Thu Oct 06, 2022 7:13 pm

The Tower, Sithin, People's Republic of Spyr

The Diplomacy Committee of the Strainist Party was in an uproar! Well, the European Section of the Diplomacy Committee... no? Then the Gull Flag desk, surely? Ah, yes, of course, no longer the Gull Flag desk, the Shieldian desk of the Diplomacy Committee of the Strainist Party was in an uproar!

No? Perturbed, then, surely it was perturbed? Yes, perturbed, of course, for it had not been invited to a coronation!

Ah, no? I see...

The perturbation was in fact concentrated in the person of Ezo Areshii, undersecretary of the Gull Flag Shieldian Desk of the European Section of the Dipcom. The Section itself had its concerns of course, restoration of monarchy anywhere in the world marked a step back from the march of workers towards their inevitable victory, and perhaps more pressingly important the failing health of the Party's Vice-Chair meant a need to concentrate on one's position should a void need to be filled by his absence. But Ezo's concerns were more focused on his seat at the desk: he had been elevated to his position not long ago, after acceptance of his graduate thesis 'A Gull-borne Burdock: Failings and Potentials of the Ranalte State in context of global Revolution'. Well researched, well regarded, and now thoroughly irrelevant... no path from a regional desk to the ranks of the Secretariat by way of his academic work now.

Which was why another path had appealed, the reputation from crafting a cutting rejection letter that would have brought tears to the eyes of the feudal imperialists who opened its cherry-blossom-scented envelope, absolutely perfect. Page after page had been drafted, long nights with copious tea expended. The workers of the world would toast the vicious condemnation of royalty, voiced by a state which unlike the waffling Bedgellens had successfully completed its revolution and moved on to guide the workers of the world!

And then... they had not even been invited? Over a half-century of export policy by Labcom, manufacturing textiles, then electronics, of supplying rare earth minerals, of allowing partnerships and bourgeois 'profit' in joint enterprises to rebuild productive forces, and these monarchists could not even give him an invitation to reject?

Unconscionable! Risible!

There would be a reckoning, to be sure. It would just require a month or two to draft a properly condemnatory public statement. Surely circumstances could not change drastically within that time...

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Beddgelert
Chargé d'Affaires
 
Posts: 492
Founded: Antiquity
Democratic Socialists

Postby Beddgelert » Thu Oct 13, 2022 7:10 am

At 349 knots and with a stop-over in the Walmish Suez, Prince Llywelyn Llewellyn's trip from castles Ceyloban-Gaul to Shieldian was likely to be one of the most prolonged made by any of the Queen's honoured guests. But that is what one gets when adopting not only Walmish sensibilities but also their blasted propeller-driven airliners.

"SIX! Wouldn't you say, father!?" A croaky voice cried above the hum of four 5,730shp Stockley turboprops as a rubberised sponge ball zipped about between headrests and crashed into a silver trolley mercifully emptied of wine over the preceding hour's travel. The Prince raised both hands in a jerky motion, assenting to the dubious claim. "Don't get carried away, Maelgwyn, he is bowling under-arm..." He cautioned with a cock of his head indicating the two-metre cabin height. "I told you we should have taken Skymonster!" came the petulant reply. "Let's change ends! Maybe you'll get some pace if you chuck your bloody pies in the direction we're going!" The young heir to the last Gaulish throne sneered as he called down the aisle to his already exhausted footman.

Llywelyn sighed and returned to his boxes, only the least important of which he'd left for his wife and the Earl of Jog to address in his absence. If he didn't get through the rest now, there was, if memory served, a night-spot in Port Said that would put paid to any hopes of dealing with them later.

"One more over, Maelgwyn, and then to your studies. You'll not be able to mess about on the cricket pitch all day once you get to Walm..." The Prince stopped himself. Too late, that sarcastic brow was already being cocked in his direction. "...All right, but you are going to learn how to be an officer, too. The Guard won't lead itself!"

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Maelgwyn Ap-Llywelyn Llewellyn
That's the kid dropped-off at soldier practice; now, on to the Shield!
One hopes that they can fit enough peaty Javian whisky on such a little isle...
Last edited by Beddgelert on Thu Oct 13, 2022 7:15 am, edited 1 time in total.
So True! So Brave! A Lamb At Home - A Lion In The Chase!

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The Crooked Beat
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Posts: 657
Founded: Feb 22, 2005
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby The Crooked Beat » Wed Oct 26, 2022 3:38 pm

Had it been his decision alone, Superintendent Jaggers would have made the trip to St. Adie's island, to its ferry-stage at any rate, by high-speed train, and it was a point of pride for Jaggers as with many Arcans that the innovative Arcway Class 370 could have whisked him there from Eltonia's majestic Colonel Leonard Lanley station in a few short hours, comfortably and safely. Travel by air, though obviously much faster, paid for that extra margin of speed with comparatively monstrous inefficiency, and Arcansa's serving Superintendent was scarcely one to look upon a few additional prospective hours of boredom as any severe hardship. With such a dense, reliable, and well-maintained rail network to make use of, in his view there was every reason to ban short-range air travel for government business completely. Considerations of security, however, proved unanswerable, even for an individual so tolerant of personal danger as Orval Lee Jaggers. It simply would not answer for a task of such importance and sensitivity to be put at risk of disruption by nefarious elements, and if Arcan security planning rested upon a set of imagined worst-case scenarios, many of these did not seem to officials in Eltonia altogether farfetched. Few, after all, could seriously pretend that Shieldian hearts retained much good-will for their southern neighbors after ten chaotic years of revolution, reaction, and, now, restoration, throughout which Arcan policy, however compelling its internal logic, seemed to have succeeded mainly in angering all Shieldian parties equally, to say nothing of Lime Crescent. And it was no secret that the policy in question owed its content and character to Orval Lee Jaggers more than any other single mind, first in his capacity as Commissary General of Trade and Industry under Duane Hatch and then as Superintendent in his own right. While never in doubt of its essential correctness, he knew perfectly well that it was an approach that had gone over poorly indeed with both the Callahans and their principal foreign backer. History, however, had taken its course, and Jaggers, perhaps more readily than most, was prepared to face whatever consequences Arcansa's ostensible allies might have in store.

Rapid as a train journey would undoubtedly have been, by air the same destination was reachable in almost no time at all, and the Loring-Eagleman 125 assigned to collect Jaggers at Heron Quay Airport enjoyed access to a special flight corridor that conveniently sidestepped the normal process of air-traffic organization. Arriving at Heron Quay by postal train directly from his state offices, Jaggers was pleased to be met by none other than Ward J. Grover, well-traveled Special Coordinator for Trilateral Policy and, though one in truth had no bearing on the other, radioman for Jaggers as a field-commissioned lieutenant, thrust into the role of acting company commander, more than three decades earlier. While the two men greeted each other warmly as befitting such very old friends, the Superintendent's notorious reticence took over thereafter and they spoke barely a word as they crossed the dispersal area, saluted crisply by police and Air Force guards, boarded their transport, and took off into an almost inevitable mid-morning overcast. Both men, settled into the aircraft's 'plushed' interior albeit, in Jaggers' case at least, uncomfortably, watched the cityscape unfold below them until the rain-laden clouds socked them in, and then turned reflexively to reading. Jaggers, habitually, brought along that morning's Political Register, though Grover noticed that his flight companion had turned directly to the paper's Culture & Entertainment section, and was evidently reading film reviews with a heap of disordered pages piled on an adjoining seat. Grover, for his part, had brought along a book of crosswords, and each man was sufficiently engrossed that no word was shared between them for almost twenty minutes.

The aircraft reached its assigned course and cruising altitude high over Arcan Wyclyfye, most of which, unsurprisingly, hid beneath a blanket of elephant gray. For most of their route it would simply be a matter of keeping an eye on the autopilot and an ear out for traffic-control alerts, so, turning the controls over to his second-seater, the aircraft commander took the opportunity to go aft in search of coffee. Approaching his passengers, he stood to his modest height and gave a regulation salute.

"Pardon me, sirs, would you care for something to drink? Coffee or tea?"

Jaggers looked up from his paper. "No, thanks, Colonel, nothing for me. And please, we don't stand on ceremony. I'll be a civilian again soon enough."

"I'll have a coffee if you don't mind, Cap. Just black, thanks," replied Grover. The pilot nodded and ducked into the closet-like kitchen. A faint gurgling could soon be heard, and the cabin filled with a rich wakening aroma. Grover had just turned back for his crossword when Jaggers gave an amused "Humph!" With a crinkling and shuffling he re-folded his paper.

"Something funny, Orv?" asked Grover, with a familiarity to which few others were entitled.

Jaggers, dressed correctly if by no means glamorously in an off-the-rack suit which seemed to hang from his thin frame, turned to look out on the sea of clouds beneath them, before meeting Grover's gaze with a rare smile. "This Lynn Lyman, she's quite a wit. Almost makes me want to see some of these superhero flicks in person."

"Sure, and there's three and a half hours you'll never get back. Trust me, you're getting the best parts on that page." Grover peered at his crossword through a pair of bifocals. "Say, here's one you might know. 'Wetland that contains decaying plant matter,' seven letters."

"Peat bog?"

Grover frowned. "Well, heck, it fits for sure, and then that solves fourteen across...but eight down's obviously wrong, and so much for 'stalactite.'" Contorting his face into a cartoonish scowl, Grover began erasing with an exaggerated intensity. "Lucky I don't do these in pen, huh? I don't learn quick, but I do learn." Disheartened at the prospect of starting over almost from scratch, he dog-eared his page and set the book down. "We must be getting close to the border. And would you look at that, we might even be able to see it."

Over northern Wyclyfe the typical morning haze had largely burned off. Clear at last of the rainy front which they had climbed into over Eltonia, it was possible to make out details of countryside with ever-increasing clarity. Northeast Mansbar's border uplands rose faintly off to port, still largely hidden under a low-lying mist. To starboard, it was possible to see a patchwork of agricultural fields, dotted with towns, stretching off to the eastern horizon. Directly below, however, an urbanized corridor reaching patchily north from Haverbrook had grown dense and crowded. Jaggers and Grover watched as a faint line drew ever nearer, marked not so much by any visible barrier as by an otherwise inexplicable separation between two floods of settlement, halting them and forcing them into unnatural convulsions as they seemingly sought a way around some immovable obstacle. Within minutes they were directly overhead, and they could just make out the successive fence-lines, pierced here and there by road and rail crossings, which gave evidence of the fact that dreams of a single, united island were still just that. Razor-wire glinted threateningly against a warming sunlight as a sudden increase in radio traffic indicated their departure from Arcan airspace.

"Goodbye, Maurice and Steve," said Grover, using an old Army expression whose true meaning had been forgotten long before even their days as National Servicemen, forty years past.

Jaggers, silent, gazed landward, and as it appeared to Grover, deep in thought. There was, for sure, a great deal to think about. His had been a Superintendency largely defined, after all, by north-south affairs, and his approach to Arcansa's northern neighbor had been animated by an earnest if delicately-phrased determination to rebuild what had so often devolved into a relationship of one-sided exploitation along lines that were both equitable and sustainable. Now, as his seven-year term neared its end, Jaggers had to admit that much of his program had failed. Whether anything of substance might still be salvaged, he knew only too well, depended upon his success in tempering whatever vengeful currents ran through Callahan minds, and not least those of their Walmingtonian allies. Suddenly, the telephone console bolted to the cabin wall began to flash rapidly. "Incoming for you, sir," called the pilot, leaning in his seat to look aft. Without another moment's pause Jaggers lifted the receiver.

"Jaggers here, go ahead," he answered, and Grover watched with deepening concern as his friend's expression grew severe. Jaggers listened silently for some moments. "I understand," he said at last, taking his now furrowed brow in his free hand. "And by the way, Mrs. Dayton, please inform Director Pepoon's office that he is dismissed with immediate effect. Thank you." With that Jaggers hung up, and slapped his knee in frustration. "Well that just tears it!"

Grover raised an eyebrow at this unaccustomed display of vehemence. "So Director Poopen's finally run out the roll, huh?"

"That gangster, that...that pirate! I should've got rid of him my first day." Jaggers turned to look out the cabin window, which reflected back an expression of such fury that he himself, feeling embarrassed, turned away.

"What's the Reading Rambo done now?"

"You'll never guess...ten years and we were nearly free of them! Fifty planes, and all but two of them wrecked." Jaggers held his head in his hands. "Heaven knows how much this will cost us!"

Grover held back an impulse to reach out and place a comforting hand on his friend's shoulder. Jaggers, he knew, had never been comfortable with close physical contact, and a lengthy spell as prisoner-of-war had done nothing to improve that. "Isn't that more of a G. Rex problem? It's his office in charge of these things, isn't it?" Grover took a sip of his coffee, before twisting around in his seat to peer forward. Both pilots were looking back into the cabin wearing expressions of unseemly interest, and Grover turned them around with a scowl. "Let me pay him a visit, if you ask me Garney's getting too comfortable. His job isn't all motorways and tramlines, and forget the politics."

Jaggers shook his head. "It isn't his fault. Cantine's a good man, he's an innocent. It was wrong of me to think he could handle this." He met Grover's worried look with a determined expression. "This has Pepoon written all over it. I thought the name Jardine sounded familiar, and now I remember. Another rotten cloak-and-dagger man. I thought we were done with them after the war!"

Memories from long ago flooded back to Grover as well. "Well I'll be. But what in the hell does he have to gain by it? The Callahans won, and Pepoon's as cozy as anyone with the SOW so he must be happy about that, right?"

"Pepoon is a fool!" Jaggers boomed, startling Grover with such a striking departure from his normal equanimity. "And if he thinks the Walmings don't think so, he's a fool twice over. And, by God, I'm three times the fool for not giving him the sack seven years ago!"

In spite of his famous insouciance Grover felt himself becoming angry as well. "Well, what could you have done? He's a Walmy stooge, maybe. He's definitely Culbert Steen's man, and anyone you kick out, Steen can put back in. Hell, what are the chances he's on the phone with Steen right this minute? They might have him reinstated before we're back home."

Superintendent Jaggers turned back to the window. Well beyond the Shield's heavily-industrialized south, the landscape had turned sparse, rugged, and empty, a district of shepherds and crofters. "Here I was, thinking I'd play it smart, humor Steen and the bible-thumpers, say all the right words, and then they'd leave me enough space to do some real work. All this maneuvering, in the end what did it get me? Tied up in knots, and the country deeper into that puffed-chest madness than when we started out."

By that point Grover had reddened appreciably, though even as he gave himself over to a building anger, he knew there was nothing to be gained by it. Jaggers, it was clear, knew as much himself. Walmington, no doubt, had been kept well abreast of matters, and it would not do to give them something else to chuckle over, Grover thought to himself. Cool, calm, and collected was their only option. And yet, they still had some time left before they would have to confront any foreign faces. Working himself up, Grover let loose with an explosion of obscenities, his full colorful vocabulary on impressive display. The pilots, cringing, kept their eyes studiously glued to their instruments, and prudently muted their headset microphones while their passenger unspooled his lifetime's stockpile of profanity. At last, a burst of laughter from Jaggers broke the mood.

"If only, Ward, if only."

A crackle of terse commands over the traffic-control channel indicated that Jaggers and Grover were nearing their destination.

"Excuse me, sirs, we've been cleared to start our approach. We should be on the ground in a few minutes," the senior pilot called back.

"Well," said Grover, "here goes nothing."
Last edited by The Crooked Beat on Thu Oct 27, 2022 12:44 pm, edited 2 times in total.


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