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“Why don’t kids just shoot school shooters?” Rhodellian youths baffled by school shootings

Frederick Becker, 16 December 2018 20:04

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The foreign indie film All The Other Kids debuted in Rhodellian cinemas to significant controversy last Friday after an extensive viral marketing campaign. The thriller-drama follows a diverse cast of high school students as they struggle to evade a classmate’s bloody, indiscriminate rampage across their campus. It depicts scenes of frightened teenagers hiding in bathroom stalls, curling up under cafeteria tables, barricading doorways, and suffocating in dusty air vents while waiting for police to rescue them. Many plead for their lives before being gunned down. The film holds absolutely nothing back in its explicit, gruesome, and emotional yet grounded depiction of school violence. All The Other Kids earned high praise from various news publications and gun control advocates in its country of origin, who pushed the film's shocking portrayal of a school violence as a 'stellar argument against civilian gun ownership'. Rhodellian cinema-goers were just as shocked upon seeing the film as viewers were in its country of origin, albeit for different reasons.

The film raised many questions about other countries' attitudes to firearms and gun violence. Many Rhodellian netizens took to social media to express confusion at this along with the film's events. Many were confused by how nobody could defend themselves and how everyone instead depended on the late arrival of armed police officers to save the day. RNN journalists were present on the ground to interview young cinema-goers as they exited screenings of All The Other Kids.

Friedrich Bauer, 18, when asked if he thought that the film was a criticism of gun ownership, said: “If anything, [All The Other Kids] reminds [Rhodellians] just how lucky we are that we can actually defend ourselves should some psycho snap and start trying to smoke people.”

Stefanie Schulze, 16, when informed of the film's anti-gun interpretation in other countries, said: “Why are people in other countries so scared of guns? Guns don’t kill people. They’re just tools. People kill people. They see a 'gun' problem when in reality it's a 'people' problem. [Gun control advocates] are pointing the blame at the wrong things, and that's dangerous.”

Klara Bauer, 14, when asked about whether she believed school shootings like in the film could happen in Rhodellia, said: “It would never get this bad here [in Rhodellia]. School shooters wouldn’t get very far. Literally every kid is required to bring a carbine and several loaded magazines to school like it's a part of our uniform. No matter how good you are, a lone wolf can't successfully commit a mass shooting against multiple students counter-attacking as a team, if he isn't shot before anything even begins.”

Hans Schumacher, 12, when asked what he thought of the film in general, noted that nobody but the police and the school shooter ever had a weapon on hand. He said: “How come kids don't just shoot the bad guy themselves? Why does everyone gotta make themselves a sitting duck?”

Quite a few of the cinema-goers interviewed by RNN, such as Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Hussein al-Walid, 16, also denounced the decision to screen All The Other Kids in Rhodellian theatres in the first place. They saw it as an attack on their country's military traditions. "I get that ours is a free country and all, but it's still not cool to have screened [the film] here. Rhodellia wouldn't exist without civilian gun ownership. Promoting anti-gun sentiment here is not only disrespecting our culture, but it's basically equivalent to advocating for our country's complete and utter destruction. It's dangerous. It's irresponsible. It's complete madness.", said Muhammad.

Rhodellia has a unique position on firearms. Gun ownership is not just a legal requirement for each and every household. It is a central aspect of our country’s centuries-old martial culture. It is a patriotic duty. It is the means by which our nation has survived since its colonial origins in 1594. Gun violence is currently not a significant issue in Rhodellian political discourse. Rhodellia boasts a disproportionately low rate of firearms-related crime for its high rate of gun ownership. The vast majority of its firearms-related deaths and injuries are either accidents, suicides or attempted suicides, or legal duels between consenting individuals. Even then, such events are few and far between. All The Other Kids simply does not resonate with the everyday experiences of most Rhodellians.

Many Rhodellians reject the foreign media narrative that the film is explicitly anti-gun. The film's director and lead screenwriter, Patricia Evans, is known to have a strong anti-gun stance. However, she already stated at her film's premier that she wants to leave it open to interpretation. Film critics Jacob Kerry and Walther Braun argued in a column published last Sunday (published in the film magazine Notebooks on Cinema) that it is far more useful to judge All The Other Kids as a social commentary on other issues commonly observed in neoliberal More Economically Developed Countries (MEDCs).

"...All The Other Kids brings to light a range of worrying trends in MEDCs, especially under neoliberal capitalist systems .There is much widespread misunderstanding and social ostracization of perceived misfits and non-conformists. Bullying incidents tend to be poorly handled by apathetic or incompetent school faculties... if they even bother trying to handle them at all. Furthermore, these rejected kids often have no light at the end of the tunnel to give them hope. Many of them lack, or at least fail to see, opportunities for social and economic advancement after finishing education. They can't cope with the high levels of stress imposed by the demands of postmodern urban society. They have no effective support networks. And just as it was for them in school, the mental health infrastructure offered to people suffering from depression and other conditions is typically either inadequate, not readily available, or non-existent..."

Braun and Kerry also note that All The Other Kids’ notorious rampage only makes up a small portion of the film’s 122-minute runtime. Interspersed between the film's gory executions are scenes of students theorising and imagining what possibly drove the film’s antagonist (who is referred to only as “That Kid” by other characters) to commit his killing spree. These theories include but are not limited to: That Kid’s parents urging him to give up his musical aspirations to focus on future employment in a respectable career he lacks passion for, his inability to find a romantic partner, and his friends’ and teachers’ hesitance to help him as his mental health clearly deteriorates. Many Rhodellian netizens have echoed Braun and Kerry on social media, placing emphasis on the need to tackle societal and economic issues instead of just banning guns. Many have praised the film for being brave enough to suggest That Kid is not entirely at fault for his actions. They lamented that his “sick” society performed a grave injustice and that more should be done to help vulnerable kids from falling down the same path. 

Despite the great controversy and discourse it stirred among Rhodellians, All The Other Kids failed to top last weekend’s box office. It was surpassed by Frohe Weihnachten (2018), All Quiet on the Northern Front (2018), Imperial Truth, and finally Stefan Kielberg’s epic war drama Fur Das Vaterland. Nevertheless, All The Other Kids was still rated highly by Rhodellians cinema-goers. Most of those interviewed by RNN also praised its stellar production values, characters, and ability to create tension for a low-budget film.

Rhodellian responses to All The Other Kids highlight a stark contrast between Rhodellians and the rest of the wurld. Very few countries have a right to bear arms, and an even fewer can match Rhodellia’s. Here, children are instructed in safe and responsible weapons handling starting from Kindergarten. Weekly classes are held to teach students to wield them effectively in various realistic combat scenarios in preparation for National Service after college. National exams are held to gauge students’ proficiencies and qualify the best for special courses. The rifle is also seen not just as a tool for self-defence or defence against foreign aggression, but a symbol of struggle and freedom. Things are different here. When the rifle is so prominent in our lives that we can practically wield them like extensions of our bodies, what else can we feel but utter culture shock that others don’t have it as good?

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Terrorists attack military base, killing 46
Alfonse Schmidt, 20 December 2018, 19:58

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The Native Aurelian Free State (NAFS)-backed Nordwalde Separatist Movement (NSM) claimed responsibility for Tuesday's assault on a Rhodellian Army installation near Schwarzwald that claimed the lives of 34 Rhodellian soldiers (all of them Landwehr personnel) and 12 Loyalist militiamen. A further 47 Rhodellian Army personnel and 38 Loyalist militiamen were wounded. Rhodellian forces sustained a total of 46 deaths and 85 wounded. On the other hand, they inflicted 171 terrorist fatalities in return. No survivors were reported among the Separatist forces that participated in the attack. This marks the deadliest single attack on Rhodellian troops by the Nordwalde Separatist Movement since the 1997 Hohenstein Shootout, in which 12 soldiers and 11 police officers were killed in a bloody firefight against NSM-affiliated terrorists after a hostage negotiation broke down.

The attack on the military installation, Camp Kirstein, marked a new peak in the Insugency in Nordwalde after a two-decade lull in violence. According to an announcement posted on the Native Aurelian Liberation Army (NALA)'s official Wittier account, the NSM's attack was a response to the recent expansion of Schwarzwald Station to accommodate the RĂŒdiger Line of Rhodellia's high-speed railway network. They repeated the bogus claim that increasing mass transit capacity between Nordwalde Province and the rest of 'Dolchlanderised' Rhodellia is part of a grandiose conspiracy to increase Friedrichstadt's central authority and erode Native Aurelian autonomy, particularly among the region's indigenous Powanak people. They also said that more attacks would follow should the opening ceremony of the new HSR platforms go ahead as scheduled.

This coincides with recent escalations in protests organised by the Nordwalde Tribal Association against the station's expansion. A Department of Transport spokeswoman has since affirmed in a press statement that '[Rhodellia] will not be intimidated by terrorists' and that the new HSR platforms' opening will go ahead as originally planned. Additional police officers, Rhodellian Army troops, and State Security Service operatives will be deployed to ensure the safety of all in attendance. 

What happened during the attack?

The separatist assault on Bergenstein began in the early hours of the 18th, while most of Camp Kirstein's inhabitants still slept slept. At 0324, Corporal Abdul-Jabbar bin Rahman al-Farsi, a military policeman manning the base's east gate, called attention to a small fleet of unmarked trucks and cars cruising up the A36. At 0329, two of the vehicles turned left and sped towards the east gate. Meanwhile, the remainder of the vehicles swerved off the road and accelerated towards the camp's eastern perimeter fence. Sensing something wrong, Second Lieutenant Frierich Meyer, who was in charge of the east checkpoint at the time, immediately ordered his unit to open fire with armour-piercing ammunition. They disabled all of the vehicles except for one truck approaching the perimeter fence. At 0330, the truck exploded on contact, blasting a gaping hole in the fence, and springing the entire base into action.

A light show of muzzle flashes lit up the nearby woodlands 400 metres to the east. This signaled the start of a large separatist ground assault. Rhodellian troops at the east gate and near the site of the truck explosion hit the deck as they suddenly came under a intense hail of suppression fire. Private First Class Tanya Siegmeyer, one of the military police manning the east gate at the time, described seeing through her night-vision goggles a 'human wave' of heavily-armed fighters. They poured from the treeline and descended on the east gate and perimeter breach, guns blazing. The insurgents augmented their volume of fire with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, ensuring fire superiority over the military police at the gate.

The insurgents also fielded improvised weapons. One Rhodellian Army mortar emplacement was destroyed after an insurgent dropped an artillery shell on it from a modified commercial drone. A heavy machine gun emplacement by the east gate was destroyed after another insurgent reportedly drove an explosives-laden remote-controlled toy truck behind it.

With their mortar and heavy machine gun emplacements disabled, at 0341, Meyer ordered his troops to withdraw to secondary positions. By 0342, Rhodellian Army drone operators hovering their UAVs overhead observed "hordes" of enemy fighters "flooding" through the gap in the wire. The enemy made it inside the base.

At 0354, base commander Colonel Helmut Hartmann rallied his forces for a three-pronged counter-attack. At 0421, Camp Maxim scrambled a flight of three attack helicopters at Hartmann's urgent request. Intense firefights ensued at Camp Kirstein's main car park, rec area, cafeteria building, and radar station. Rhodellian troops also stumbled upon separatist demolitions teams attempting to sabotage the camp's radar equipment and missile defence systems, and promptly neutralised them. 

By 0432, the separatists unexpectedly began a fighting retreat back into the eastern woods, despite the tide of the battle still being unclear to everyone on the ground. There was no clear indication that either side was winning or losing at that point. Captain Wohali Awiakta, one of the intelligence officers at Hartmann's headquarters, theorises that "...[Separatist] ground observers must've caught wind that our [attack helicopters] were on their friends' asses like bloodhounds."

By 0437, Rhodellian ground troops and drones confirmed that no enemy fighters still remained inside the perimeter. Hartmann gave the order not to pursue the insurgents beyond the wire. He decided to let the incoming attack helicopters do the remainder of the work so his troops could focus on tending to the wounded and assessing the damage done to the base.

The attack helicopters, led by Captain James Falkirk, arrived above Camp Kirstein at 0444. Enemy fighters initially tried to drive them away with MANPADS and concentrated small arms fire. Falkirk and his pilots took the brave risk to stay close enough to see them through their thermals. The helicopters' defensive aids systems thwarted the missiles, but their airframes sustained what Falkirk later discovered to be "dangerous" amounts of damage. "It's a miracle that none of us were hurt or shot down.", he would later say. Before being turned into pink mist, many insurgents evidently underestimated how well the helicopters could see and shoot them through dense tree cover. The Department of Defence has since posted online uncut and uncensored thermal imaging footage of the entire helicopter chase on its official Volkscast channel.

The Rules of Engagement for Falkirk's unit was that 'anyone outside Camp Kirstein's perimeter brandishing a weapon is considered hostile'. It came as a surprise for him when he noticed a staggered line formation of unidentified dismounts ambushing NALA insurgents in the woods. He quickly decided not to shoot at these newcomers until they were positively identified.

At 0512, Tayanita Chubbuck, the leader of the Black Forest Wolverines militia, phoned Camp Kirstein's reception desk that his militia was operating in the area. Hartmann accepted their help and relayed the news to Falkirk. Falkirk then began providing overwatch for the Wolverines. Together, they hunted down the remaining enemy fighters until sunrise.

A subsequent Battle Damage Assessment conducted by foot patrols the following sunrise confirmed 171 terrorist fatalities with no survivors. Identified among the dead were NALA regulars and NSM insurgents from multiple domestic terror groups, including the Powanak Freedom Brigade, the Tomahawks of Justice, and the Nordwalde Liberation Army. Meanwhile, 27 suspects in nearby Hohenstein and Schwarzwald were arrested by local police officers and Stasi operatives in connection to the attack on Camp Kirstein. Among them is radical Nordwalde Tribal Association activist Desagondensta Doxtador, whom local authorities put on a watchlist out of the suspicion that he was an active recruiter for local domestic terror groups.

What is happening in the aftermath?

Rhodellians across the nation are voicing their solidarity for the service people and militia who gave their lives for a strong and united Rhodellian nation. The attack drew widespread condemnation from government officials and the royal family.

Prime Minister Theobald Michaelis called December 18 a “black day” for Rhodellia in a press statement following the attack, saying "It is senseless to spill the blood of your fellow countrymen. the NAFS and NSM's terrorism will not stand." Michaelis also slated to hold an emergency Cabinet meeting to discuss whether Rhodellia's counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency strategy in Nordwalde Province needs urgent reworking.

King August III posted on Wittier “The NAFS and NSM have committed crimes against Rhodellia and her people... They must pay with their blood!" 

Princess Elysse announced her intent to travel to Nordwalde to visit hospitalised soldiers and militia. Knights from the Order of St. Longinus, Knights of the Rose, and Order of St. Celestine have volunteered to join her guard detail.

MPs in the Reichstag also began their most recent meeting with a full minute of silence. Rhodellian Wittier was awash with overwhelming support for the families of those either killed or wounded in the battle.

If anyone has any information that can help bring justice for those killed in the Battle for Camp Bergenstein, and thus spare Nordwalde Province from further bloodshed and destruction, please send a tip to the Nordwalde State Police, the Schwarzwald Metropolitan Police, the Hohenstein Police Force, or the State Security Service's official websites. Instructions on how to safely, securely, and anonymously forward information to the proper authorities can be found on their websites.

Follow-up stories will be posted as more information becomes available.

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Last First Anéantic War and Red Deluge veteran dies aged 121

Gottfried Huber, 18 February 2019, 10:41

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Herr Roswalt von Wagner, the last surviving Rhodellian combat veteran of the First Anéantic War and Red Deluge, passed away on Sunday of natural causes. He was aged 121, and the oldest Rhodellian to have ever lived.

Wagner had a long and distinguished military career in service of Rhodellia and its people. It began when he was only 16 years old. He served in the Heer's 13th JÀger Division as a rifleman and then stormtrooper during the First Anéantic War and Red Deluge. He would fight in some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict. Wagner would later serve in the Heer again during the Second Anéantic War and Rhodellian Crusade. This time, he would serve as a tank officer in the 1st Panzer Division. He sped to wherever the fighting was thickest, commanding his tank and leading his comrades with skill and distinction. His grit, courage, and expertise with mechanised manouevre warfare earned him the nickname "The Iron Lancer". Wagner retired from the military in 1948 at the rank of Colonel, aged 50. He earned every military combat award for valour available to Heer personnel over the course of his military career, including 2 Iron Crosses (2nd Class), 2 Iron Crosses (1st Class), and an Order of the Black Eagle. 

Wagner showed an immense passion for sharing his experiences in both wars. He was a regular guest star at every Memorial Day service since 1922. He frequently visited kindergartens, schools, colleges, and universities to inspire students with riveting stories, share life advice, and pass on knowledge. He guest starred in many television documentaries. He also worked as a military advisor for numerous war films. His most recent film credit was in Stefan Kielberg's Fur Das Vaterland, which was released last year to astounding box office success. It was particularly praised for its historical authenticity, attention to detail, and lack of glorification. Kielberg previously worked with Wagner on multiple other war films set in the 1910s and 1940s, including The Last Knight of Schwarzwald (1976), Last Stand (1994), Fall Rot (1999), and Panzer Ace (2005). In an exclusive interview with RNN, Kielberg recounted that Wagner was a "stellar guy to be around" who "never failed to make the whole crew laugh with the most wildly inappropriate dark jokes you'll ever hear". Kielberg also said that he will miss the long conversations he often had with Wagner on-set about weapons, tactics, and ultra-obscure details commonly left out of school textbooks and 'subpar' military films. "We lost an irreplaceable pillar of knowledge yesterday.", Kielberg lamented.

Herr Roswalt Wagner: A Biography

Early Life

Roswalt Wagner was born on February 5, 1898, in Janbourg. He was the fourth eldest of nine children. Their parents, Alger and Edda Wagner, were factory workers at the The Rödelian Motor Company. Wagner often recounted having a happy childhood. He shared a close relationship with his parents and all of his siblings. They often went on family trips to the countryside together, where they would go camping, fishing, deer hunting.

"I was probably the worst shot in my family." said a laughing Wagner in a 1969 interview with Janbourg Daily "I couldn't help but feel sorry for the deer we hunted. I couldn't fathom ever killing one of the poor things, especially when other members of their herd were around. If some lunatic randomly shot my mum, my dad, or any of my brothers and sisters in front of me, I'd be real bloody distraught at that... putting it lightly. And so I went out of my way to hit anything but the deer."

Wagner had a reputation in school for being a bit of a shy and awkward loner, but was nevertheless known to be a decent person. He stuck with a small and exclusive circle of friends. They mostly hanged out at the school library and at after-school martial arts and shooting clubs.

Wagner also recalled a period when his relationship with his father was sort of strained. His father returned from serving in the Heer, traumatised by his experiences during the Nordwalde Revolutionary War (1903-1904). Alger was the most decorated man in his unit, being credited with several military honours including the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes. Alger saw no worth in his medals, but Wagner felt inspired by them.

"I remember telling my dad that I wanted to be a soldier when I grew up. He got right mad at me. Almost slapped me, he did.", said Wagner in the aforementioned interview. "He asked me if I was willing to kill a man. Me, being the kid I was, shouted 'Yeah!' with enthusiasm. Then he hit me with 'Even though you can't shoot a dear?' I shut up after that. He got me there. My dad gave me the longest lecture about the horrors of war. Even though I was only maybe six, seven, or eight years-old at the time, his stories never held back any punches. Back then, I never really understood what it all meant or what he was trying to achieve. It all sounded fun and adventurous to me. I really should have listened closer."

He seldom spoke with his father until 1921.

Military service in the First Anéantic War

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Wagner was just entering sixth form college when The Red Deluge (part of the First Anéantic War) began in 1914. When news hit the papers that Rhodellia's traditional enemies were banding together to form a 'Second Grand Alliance' and preparing to invade, Wagner recalled being "just as patriotic as every other bloke. It was such a rush. Everyone from my schoolmates to everyone at my parents' labour union was swept up in the war. Everything my dad told me in 1904 just vanished from my head."

Against his father's wishes, Wagner did not even wait to be conscripted. He was among the first people to queue up at his district's local recruitment office. This was in spite of himself being 16 years old - 2 years below the legal age to enlist in the Rhodellian military. He never informed his parents or elder brothers about this even as he left for basic training. He simply disappeared and hoped that his family would be none the wiser. Wagner was assigned to the Heer's 13th JÀger Division. He was started off as a common rifleman but was later retrained as a stormtrooper ahead of the Spring Offensive of 1918.

Wagner recounted that the recruitment and medical officers clearly knew that he lied about his age. "The Kingdom was so eager for fresh recruits that they just accepted any bloke old enough to grow facial hair." Wagner was one of 125,189 Rhodellian boys under the age of eighteen known to have served in the Rhodellian military during the First Anéantic War. 

The First Anéantic War would see entire towns bombed into oblivion; the fields churned into bloody quagmires; and millions dead on either side. Even with the advent of tanks and aircraft, such was the stalemate of trench warfare that we measured captured land in centimetres. Historians regard it as the first true 'total war' the Kingdom of Rhodellia had ever committed herself to fighting. Wagner's most notable engagements included the Fifth Battle of Black Forest, the Eighth Battle of the Northern Plain, and the Third and Fourth Battles of Gottesthal, and the Second and Third Battles of Wipers.

In an interview filmed for The Red Deluge in Colour documentary series (2003-2004), Wagner said that he was initially averse to taking human lives. "Me and my mates are Rhodellians after all. From cradle to grave, we train all our lives to kill other people as efficiently as possible in defense of our homeland. I knew full well that the [Grand] Alliance was invading our homes and trying their damned hardest to kill us all for living in 'em. But even then... just like hunting deer as a boy, I couldn't bring myself to do it back to them. I've heard Grand Alliance soldiers dying out in No Man's Land. I've watched the life fade from their eyes up-close and personal. I've even seen one man's family photo after it fell out of his coat-pocket. They were ordinary blokes just like me. If someone charged me with a bayonet back then, I'd have let him skewer me rather than shoot him. I didn't want blood on my hands. didn't become as desensitized to violence as everyone else until one day, in 1915, my mate was... charged by an Alliance soldier. My mate's name was Christoffer, by the way. Even though I... I had my sights trained on his attacker whole time, I froze up in the moment of truth. As a soldier, I knew the day that I'd have to end another man's life was coming. But when it actually came, I had no idea what to do. I really, really didn't want to pull the trigger. I kept pointing my rifle at him, but he just... ignored me. He just kept stabbing Christoffer... over and over. I remember Christoffer's eyes staring at me in disbelief as they lost their colour. I remember his screaming fading with each puncture. The thing scarred me for life, it did, but it did toughen me up to reality. I swore I'd never let indecision or weakness cloud my judgement ever again. From that point on, every time I saw or felt someone trying to hurt me or my mates, I'd hear Christoffer calling my name, begging for help like when he died that day, when I failed him."

Wagner's fellow soldiers knew him as a quiet but dependable guy. He had a reputation for being eager to help out other people in his company. At several points, he even went as far as to infiltrate No Man's Land to rescue them whenever anyone was trapped or too wounded to crawl back to friendly trenches. However, he started out never talking much about himself. He told no stories about school sweethearts or college banter. He just kept a private stash of letters addressed to his family, but could never bring himself to send any of them home. It would take until 1915 until he really began opening up to his comrades, coinciding with the day he first shot another human being at the Second Battle of Black Forest. Wagner recounted that it was only then that he could bond with the others in his unit as a 'fellow warrior'.

Wagner often spoke about his experiences during the Spring Offensive of 1918. "I still get shivers every time I think about it", he said in a 1997 interview with RNN. The Spring Offensive was a massive operation. 1,050,000 Rhodellian troops, over 500 tanks, and over 1,500 aircraft were committed to one last shot to break the stalemate and win the war in a single stroke. Wagner recounted the 13th JĂ€ger Division seeing more action in six months than in the previous four years put together. His company performed reconnaissance, conducted offensive patrols out in No Man’s Land, captured outposts, engaged in firefights, and stormed trenches. Wagner performed his duties with distinction, and is credited with many acts of heroism in the face of the enemy. He always volunteered to be the 'point man', he always found a way to advance, and he always found a way to push the objective. He went above and beyond the call of duty. Driven by patriotic fervour, he refused to let his country and fellow countrymen down. Wagner would earn both the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes for evacuating 8 wounded soldiers while under fire in one night during the Eighth Battle of the Northern Plain.  He would also be awarded the Order of the Black Eagle for heroic actions during The Fifth Battle of Black Forest, where he single-handedly stormed and captured an entire Grand Alliance trench during a night raid, earning himself the noble title of 'Knight of the Realm'.

However, it would take more than just heroism to win a total war fought with logistics and modern technology. As the history books tell us, the Spring Offensive eventually ground to a halt. Its rate of advance proved too fast and too ambitious to be sustainable. Rhodellia suffered too many irreplaceable losses in manpower and equipment in the process. The tide of the war turned against Rhodellia. The Grand Alliance would exploit this weakness and launch its own successful counter-offensive, taking back all of the land the Heer captured since 1914. The war would drag on for another 3 years as Grand Alliance forces pushed deeper and deeper into Rhodellian sovereign territory. On November 11, 1921, the Armistice would take effect. The 'Black Treaty' that was signed the following June brought Rhodellia to her lowest point in history: it resulted in major territorial concessions to neighbouring countries, the demilitarisation of key industrial areas, the entire military downsized to a meager 50,000 men, and worse. Even though Rhodellia didn’t (technically) start the war, the Grand Alliance still dumped full blame and responsibility on the defeated kingdom anyway.

Wagner regretted not having fought to the bitter end. Thanks to his government, he felt, all the hardships and sacrifices he and his comrades had endured had all been for nothing. He denounced his government’s signing of the Black Treaty as treachery in its highest form. He was formerly a loud advocate of the “stab-in-the-back” myth (Dolchstoßlegende). He blamed 'civilian politicians' for ending the war 'prematurely'. He blamed them for accepting the outrageous demands of the Black Treaty instead of trying harder to bargain for better terms. He blamed them for launching his beloved homeland into a downward spiral with no foreseeable hope of recovery. Wagner would maintain this stance until the 1960s, even though revisionist historians thoroughly dispelled the myth by the 1950s.

Military service in the Interwar Period

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In spite of her warriors' skill and tenacity, Rhodellia lost the Red Deluge. Much of her territory either declared independence or was conceded to Grand Alliance member states. Millions of Rhodellians left the military feeling dejected and betrayed. Meanwhile, Wagner was just happy to be reunited with his whole family again. His extraordinarily lucky family managed to survive the entire conflict without suffering a single loss. Wagner and his father also managed to reconcile over their remarkably similar wartime experiences.

Throughout the summer of 1921, almost immediately after the terms of the Black Treaty hit national news, Rhodellia was racked by a series of protests and armed uprisings. They were spearheaded by a number of prominent left-wing activists and politicians. The threat of radical communists hijacking the government did not sit well with Wagner, who identified as a staunch libertarian at the time. And so his entire family took the train to Gottesberg just to join one of the many 'Freikorps' opposing the 'Red Army' revolutionaries swarming the then-capital city. They fought in several firefights, moving from city block to city block city with rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, bayonets, and hand grenades. At one point, Wagner and his eldest brother, Hans, worked together to smoke out a Red Army hideout with a flamethrower. However, the Red Army had the popular support of the majority of Rhodellian people. Red Army sympathisers took over Rhodellia's train network, and began shipping in socialist and communist paramilitary groups from all over the kingdom. By November 1922, Gottesberg was completely under Red Army control. Wagner and his brothers went into hiding as Prime Minister Ernst von Ritter was coerced into stepping down and calling for a snap election. The new government would be dominated by a hard left-wing coalition mostly consisting of the Rhodellian Socialist Party, The Social Democrats, and the Communist Party of Rhodellia. After this, Wagner and his siblings quietly returned home to Janbourg to continue working for the Rödelian Motor Company. They never publicly admitted to their anti-Communist Freikorps involvement until 1968.

Wagner was also active during the Rearmament of the Rhodellian military. Prime Minister Dieter Pfiefer of the Rhodellian Socialist Party won a landslide victory in 1932. He roused the Rhodellian people into voting for him by loudly denouncing the Black Treaty, openly criticising other political parties for 'not doing enough' to disregard the treaty, and making his campaign slogan "Make Rhodellia Great Again." His patriotic rhetoric of restoring Rhodellian pride and reclaiming 'rightful Rhodellian clay' proved extremely effective. After being elected into power, Pfiefer began pursuing an aggressive policy of military Rearmament in defiance of the Black Treaty. Contrary to his accusations against his 'cowardly' predecessors, his predecessors began the process in the 1920s, thinking up all sorts of creative ways to circumvent the treaty. From calling their tanks 'tractors'; to organising, training, and equipping police forces in paramilitary fashion; to starting national youth clubs dedicated to teaching children key military skills; to actively encouraging the citizenry to set up their own extremely well-armed paramilitary groups; they tried a lot of things. Wagner was one many 'tractor' commanders sent abroad to partake in secret training programmes for mechanised warfare.

Pfiefer needed highly experienced and accomplished soldiers to lead the newly established Wehrmacht. And so, the government approached First Anéantic War veterans such as Wagner and his brothers. All of them accepted their new roles, roused by burning wills to restore Rhodellia to her former glory. Even Alger approved of it. Wagner rejoined the military at the rank of Major and was put in charge of a tank company.

In 1938, Pfiefer appointed Frederick von MĂŒsel (secretly Crown Prince Frederick von Rödel) as his successor. The Rhodellian Socialist Party won the 1938 General Election on the same anti-Black Treaty platform. Frederick showed more open disregard for the Black Treaty. He stopped hiding all the tanks and aircraft in Rhodellia built up over the past decade for everyone to see. Wagner, who had just been promoted to Colonel, was assigned to lead Panzer-Regiment 2 of the newly formed 1st Panzer Division. Wagner participated in 'The Reclamation of Rightful Rhodellian Clay' during the Anschluss and Appeasement. His tank can be spotted in several archive films of Rhodellian troops parading down the main streets of retaken cities. The fact that the entire thing seemed to be working out for Rhodellia lit a fire in his heart of iron: it was going to take a lot more than a piece of paper to reverse almost four hundred years of Rhodellian military tradition.

Military service in the Second Anéantic War and Rhodellian Crusade

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By 1940, Rhodellia’s enemies finally realised that their strategy of Appeasement was not working. Rhodellian tanks, aircraft, and infantry kept disregarding other countries' sovereign borders. The former members of the Grand Alliance faced a brand new episode of 'Dolchlander Imperialism' and set about making hasty preparations and (ineffective) ultimatums ahead of the inevitable war.

Rhodellia's enemies from the First Anéantic War and Red Deluge hastily reformed as the 'Third Grand Alliance'. They declared war in 1940 to contain the Rhodellians' advance. In response, Pfiefer declared a 'crusade' against the Grand Alliance. And thus, Rhodellia's main theatre of the Second Anéantic War would be referred to as the 'Rhodellian Crusade'.

Similar to the first war, the Grand Alliance intended to bog down Rhodellia in a bloody stalemate. From there, they could hold still and let attrition and resource drain do the rest of the work. They also fully expected the Rhodellians to make a repeat of 1914’s Schlieffen Plan, where the Rhodellians circumvented the Grand Alliance’s main defensive line by invading through a neutral country. The Grand Alliance spent much of the Interwar period upgrading that same defensive line with even more advanced border fortifications to make the Rhodellians more likely to act according to plan. For when that happened, the Grand Alliance would already have a significant permanent force stationed in the aforementioned neutral country. This force would be meant to buy enough time for the rest of the Grand Alliance to mobilise and transport its forces to the frontlines. Unfortunately, the plan fell through in 1939 when said neutral country unexpectedly withdrew from the agreement. This forced the Grand Alliance to spread their forces along another, much wider and less well-fortified stretch of border. 

In 1940, the Rhodellians invaded the same neutral country as expected. What the Grand Alliance's leadership did not expect was for the Rhodellians to circumvent their entire defensive line yet again. The Wehrmacht infiltrated into Grand Alliance territory by driving its armoured and mechanised divisions through what the Grand Alliance previously thought was an 'impassable' forest. This strategic manoeuvre, the Manstein Plan, enabled the Wehrmacht to flank and encircle Grand Alliance divisions and terrorise their logistics. The Grand Alliance launched desperate counter-offensive after desperate counter-offensive to reverse the situation, only for their hastily-mobilised replacement armies to get flanked, encircled, and enveloped by Rhodellian Panzer, Panzergrenadier, and Motorised divisions. The Spring Offensive of 1918 may have doomed Rhodellia in the First AnĂ©antic War, but it would actually help the kingdom during the Second AnĂ©antic War: it gave the Heer and Luftwaffe the institutional experience to perform textbook combined arms assaults from the start of the war. Within seven weeks, Rhodellian troops were already goose-stepping through the streets of their first enemy capital. Historians would coin the term “blitzkrieg” with this success in mind. 

The 1st Panzer Division took part in Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) and Fall Rot (Case Red), seeing the destruction and surrender of numerous foes in the opening years of the Rhodellian Crusade. At this point, it was still primarily a war of movement. Wagner relished these years the most. His Panzer-Regiment 2 served in the vanguards of numerous operations. He fought with speed, cunning, and aggression that very few Grand Alliance commanders could match. As per Rhodellian doctrine for officers, Wagner always stayed close to the action where he could closely observe new developments and direct his troops. His men respected him as a paternal figure, trusting his experience and wisdom. Wagner reciprocated this trust, and so his men went out of their way  to make him proud in return. His penchant for offensive operations, manouevre, and mechanised warfare earned him the nickname “The Iron Lancer”. His meritorious actions in Fall Gelb and Fall Rot would earn him the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st classes yet again. At this point, everything seemed to be going great.

Unfortunately for Rhodellia, the war would start slowing down after 1942. They intended to win the war by 1943 before their manpower and oil reserves began drying up. But the Grand Alliance began putting up better, more organised resistance the deeper the Wehrmacht pushed. It did not help that the Wehrmacht was severely overstretching its supply lines. By 1943, the Grand Alliance’s conscription programmes were fully operational and their industries had fully adapted to the needs of total war. Successive layers of defensive lines were built to bog down Rhodellian advances while they prepared their own counter-offensives. Urban, woodland, and mountain warfare became the order of the day. Wagner - who preferred the fluid “war of manoeuvre” that defined the previous years - was way out of his element. While he was able to improvise, adapt, and overcome like most other Heer officers, Rhodellia was still faltering on the grand strategic level. It sorely lacked the manpower, the oil supply, and the industrial output to match all of its neighbours in the Grand Alliance. Most historians agree that the war became completely unwinnable for Rhodellia by 1944, if it was ever winnable at all. The Grand Alliance would gradually begin pushing the Rhodellians back to their Post-Black Treaty borders. Rather than winning the war, Prime Minister MĂŒsel changed the Wehrmacht's objective to making the Grand Alliance "bleed for every inch of ground." Fighting would persist for another four years, until MĂŒsel 'suspended' the Rhodellian Crusade with the inconclusive Armistice of 1948 - in effect, it would be a glorified ceasefire.

The Kingdom of Rhodellia failed to achieve any of the objectives it originally set out to accomplish in 1938. No territories ended up exchanging hands despite millions of people dying on both sides. Nevertheless, many Wehrmacht troops like Wagner took some morbid satisfaction in inflicting disproportionately horrendous death and destruction on the Grand Alliance. Wagner described the end of war as "rather cathartic". As far as soldiers like him were concerned, the fight to 'Make Rhodellia Great Again' was still far from over. Peace is just time to prepare for the next war.

Wagner retired from military service soon after the 1948 Armistice.

Retirement

Wagner continued to live in his home city of Janbourg with his wife, Amelia. They married back in 1924. They raised seven children together. Among them was rock musician Royce 'Roy' Wagner and soap opera actress Isabelle Lacy. Wagner kept his experiences in the AnĂ©antic Wars close to heart. He attended every Memorial Day service since 1922, each time without fail. He regularly met with his comrades from both AnĂ©antic Wars at various Veterans’ Reunions every year, each time without fail. As many Rhodellians will fondly remember, he even gave a heartfelt speech at the 'Thank You' concert for disabled veterans last December.

Death and Funeral

On February 17 at 1731, Herr Roswalt von Wagner's family called paramedics to their multi-generational home in Janbourg’s suburbs. Wagner cheerfully told the paramedics that he could 'feel' that his time had finally come. He had previously stated on national television, on multiple occasions, that he had no intent of dying in a hospital bed. His family and the paramedics respected his wish.

His grandson and a paramedic helped the wheelchair-bound Wagner to his house's garage. In there, Wagner kept the tank he commanded in the second half of the Rhodellian Crusade, a heavily-customised Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H Command variant his crew dubbed 'The Edelweiss'. As all of his crew mates had already passed away long before him, his great grand children crewed the tank as surrogates. Wagner himself occupied the commander's seat. He reportedly brushed his hand along the inside of the turret, shed a few tears, and laughed as he mentioned feeling nostalgic about being in the tank again. He had a short but pleasant with one of the paramedics kneeling next to the hatch, telling listing off all the battles the tank survived in the final years of the war. From his energy, nobody would have thought that Wagner would pass away mere minutes later. Wagner and his descendants would drive multiple laps around the neighbourhood while the rest of the local community was informed of what was going on. Wagner exchanged military salutes with people as his tank rolled past them on the street. He also began singing every verse of the Panzerlied. At precisely 1811, Wagner passed away a few seconds after reciting the last few lines:

“If Death's bullet does find us
 and fate calls us away, then our tank will become an honourable iron grave.”

Despite his extraordinary age, Wagner’s death came as a shock to Rhodellia. His last major television appearance was the previous December. Such was his passion and energy at the Thank You concert that many Rhodellians on social media were convinced that the super-centenarian still had more than a few good years left in him. 

People have been hugely supportive towards Wagner’s family as the news made the rounds on social media and national television. King August III and Prime Minister Theodore Michaelis have expressed their condolences on all of their personal social media accounts. Most Rhodellian government buildings and military bases lowered their flags at half-mast. Panzerfahren ace Fredericka Wagner, one of Wagner's great-great grandchildren, posted a tribute video on social media that has since gained over 121,000 likes within 24 hours. Another tribute video made by the Rhodellian Veterans’ Association celebrating his life has gained over 423,000 likes within 24 hours.

A state funeral will be arranged for Wagner on February 24 at 1100. The procession will take place in his home city of Janbourg.

More information will be updated as soon as it becomes available.

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Flashpoint Studios confirms final November 5 release date for Battlespace 5 after 2-year delay

Dan Haley, 30 September, 2021, 13:55

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After two long and painful years of delays and uncertainty, gamers are cautiously unhooking themselves from their military-grade copium: Flashpoint Studios just announced a final November 5 release date for Battlespace 5. Apparently for real this time. The new release date was revealed at the end of a new gameplay trailer uploaded to Flashpoint’s Volkscast channel and posted on Wittier on Tuesday, called Beyond The Wire. The trailer currently has 4.6 million views and over 162,000 likes as of the publishing of this article.

Beyond the Wire was met with both widespread celebration and skepticism from Battlespace's beleaguered community. Gamers have taken to Volkscast, Wittier, Threadit, and other social media platforms to discuss the trailer and reminisce over how far the soon-to-be 22 year-old series has come. Many are also exchanging doubts on if Flashpoint actually fixed anything and if Battlespace will live up to its 5-year hype. The zeitgeist is one of excitement and uncertainty. 

What is Battlespace?
Battlespace is a long-running series of first-person tactical military shooters by Rhodellia-based game developer Flashpoint Studios. The studio’s late founder and first creative director, Reynart Schulze, envisioned Battlespace to be a series of realistic military combat simulators. The games are designed to set grounded and realistic expectations of the modern battlefield, particularly for young Rhodellians soon to enter National Service. Their campaigns depict a wide range of military scenarios such as: large-scale combined arms warfare between conventional military forces, guerilla warfare with insurgents and militia, counter-insurgency operations, close quarters combat in urban environments, and dogfights between air superiority aircraft. Through powerful in-game editor modes, recent Battlespace titles also offer players the ability to create their own custom missions and play around in sandbox environments.

All titles were developed using Flashpoint’s RealSim Engine (RSE). The series’ most recently released main installment, Battlespace 4: Warfighting Evolved, uses RealSim Engine 3 (RSE3). Ballistics is simulated with a high degree with realism; RSE3 is capable of simulating factors such as: bullet drop, drag, wind, inertia, the Coriolis effect, the Magnus effect, ricocheting, and projectile penetration through a variety of different materials. 

The first game, Battlespace: Highwayman (1999) was a linear infantry-focused historical tactical shooter based on the ill-fated Operation Highwayman (or Littenheim Offensive), a disastrous campaign to destroy the Native Aurelian Liberation Army (NALA) and reconquer the Native Aurelian Free State (NAFS) which took place from 1993 to 1996. Highwayman's narratives and in-game combat scenarios were closely based on the personal experiences of Rhodellian military veterans who participated in the campaign, including Schulze and many other founding Flashpoint staff. Later titles would expand on Schulze’s original creative vision as Flashpoint Studios grew, technology improved, and past limitations became practically surmountable. 

Battlespace 2: Combined Assault (2007) departed from its linear predecessor, introducing an expansive open-wurld map; a map editor; the ability to make custom scripts and missions; and an increased emphasis on vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft. After many years of inactivity on the civilian market, Flashpoint Studios wanted to reaffirm its ‘ethical and moral duty’ to help Rhodellians familiarise themselves with or sharpen up on battle drills, guerrilla warfare, counter-insurgency operations, and the doctrine of combined arms warfare in a full-scale combat environment before they either ship out for Landwehr Basic Combat Training or receive call-out notices to mobilise for the next 'big' war. Battlespace also began portraying fictional events and locations instead of real history, granting Flashpoint more creative freedom. The game saw the introduction of RealSim Engine 2.

Battlespace 3: Crisis Point (2009) continued on the path of its predecessor. It expanded on modding and scripting capabilities. It introduced an improved command system for commanding AI-controlled fire teams and squads. And, in collaboration with the Rhodellian Red Cross, it added a new DLC that familiarised players with humanitarian crisis response and international humanitarian law. A similar DLC would feature in the next sequel. 

Battlespace 4: Warfighting Evolved (2014) speculated about the near-future of warfare in the 2020s, introducing many conceptual and emergent technologies to the game’s battlefields. It introduced optional realistic simulator controls for vehicles, watercraft, and aircraft. It also introduced the RealSim Engine 3, which over time saw significant improvements in ballistics and physics simulation. The game is partially dedicated to Schulze, who in 2012 died of complications from pancreatic cancer early in the game's development.

The newest title, Battlespace 5 (2021) promises a return to the present day, compatibility with virtual reality, and various community-requested improvements over previous titles. 

Battlespace is one of the most successful video games to have ever come out of the Rhodellian video game industry. It enjoys a large domestic and international playerbase as well as a very dedicated modding community. Its largest player communities and community groups are based in Rhodellia, Iverica, and Kirvina. 

Battlespace (or at least the RealSim engine) also features in non-gaming contexts. Flashpoint Studios is a known Rhodellian defence contractor. The Rhodellian Armed Forces have used both Battlespace and progressive iterations of the RealSim engine for virtual training programmes and scenarios since 2001. Some Iverican military schools have also experimented with RealSim engine-based virtual training programmes at one point. Since 2009, the Rhodellian Department of Education has also contracted Flashpoint to produce educational modules of Battlespace for use in schools. Outside of Rhodellia, many news stations are known to have mistaken gameplay footage from Battlespace games (particularly Warfighting Evolved) for real combat footage.

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The Original 2018 Announcement
Three years ago, at GamesCon 2018, Flashpoint Creative Director AenĂŽhea'eotse JĂ€ger (better known as Charging Hawk, or Hawk) stepped onto a spotlit stage, with the eyes of the Wurld upon him. From Kirvina to Iverica, tens of thousands of gamers stayed tuned across various livestreams on multiple platforms, keeping their eyes glued to their monitors just to see the big ‘surprise’ Hawk had to present for them. 

Flashpoint Studios is renowned for maintaining open communication with its player community. They announced as early as 2016 that they were working on a new main Battlespace installment, yet never decided on a concrete official release date. Hawk, social media managers, and interns kept the community informed of development progress with regular blog articles with screenshots. However, even with a public development roadmap, Flashpoint's overall progress with the new title seemed largely ambiguous. When Hawk announced that Flashpoint would be making a big appearance at GamesCon 2018, most players expected just another Battlespace 4 DLC. They were wrong.

It was no overhyped announcement for a new DLC, but the long-awaited sequel: Battlespace 5. It would be the studio’s biggest and most ambitious project to date: his voice booming from the stage, Hawk announced to the Wurld that Battlespace 5 would be “a radical across-the-board upgrade” from its 2014 predecessor, Battlespace 4: Warfighting Evolved. It would run on a brand new iteration of the RealSim Engine, RSE4. It would feature “better movement, better physics, better AI, better stability, better netcode, better vehicle damage calculations, and better optimisation for virtual reality-friendly frame rates.” Hawk promised “a more immersive and realistic VR-compatible simulation experience that better-reflects the reality of the modern 21st-century battlefield.” He even went as far as to claim Battlespace 5 would be, in terms of ‘realism’, “a close match for any virtual reality training simulator currently in use by Wurld-class armed forces.” It was perfectly understandable why the tens of thousands of gamers either attending GamesCon or watching livestreams were roaring with applause. 

Of course, to many veterans of Combined Assault, Crisis Point, and Warfighting Evolved, this had to be nothing more than a schizophrenic pipe dream. They had good reason to be skeptical; some of their most recent and vivid memories of the series involve: tanks suddenly rubber-banding into space; flipping over transport planes by ramming them with bicycles; getting crushed body tissue and broken legs from bumping their multi-tonne tanks and APCs into bushes; and top-of-the-line machines chugging from highly populated servers, very complex custom missions, and bloated mod lists. RSE3 had improved immensely from five years of regular updates, but as a game engine, it was still heavily flawed and continued to suffer from extensive optimisation issues. How could Flashpoint Studios’s next title possibly deliver on Hawk’s extravagant promises?

Flashpoint Studios more than doubled its size since 2014. Warfighting Evolved was an international commercial success. Rhodellia’s Department of Defence and Department of Education awarded the company lucrative contracts to develop new virtual reality training programmes, granting the company even more funds. Many highly experienced and talented people were lining up to join the prestigious company. Flashpoint was able to massively expand its operations: it grew from 436 employees in November 2014 to over 1,100 by August 2018. The newcomers included numerous seasoned programmers, modellers, designers, writers, engineers from across the Rhodellian video game industry. The company also took aboard graduates from Rhodellia’s top universities, including the Janbourg Institute of Science and Technology (JIST), Gottesberg University, the University of Friedrichstadt, and St. Isidore’s University. Also among the new hires are many respected veterans from Battlespace’s modding community; these include, but are not limited to: SeniorRisitas, Pokey0331, and casheeew (from the multiple modding teams behind the UltraRealismX mod); SpahKrab and SNOIPAZ (who co-created the Aurelia at War campaign mod); and ch33kibr33ki, MrAppleby, Luka Schmidt, and Stavrooo (who were modelers and programmers for the Entente of Oriental States, ATARA, and TRIDENT mods). Several of these community hires live outside of Rhodellia, and have been given the option to work remotely from home rather than move all the way to a different country. Flashpoint Studios had enough people to work on regular updates for Warfighting Evolved, its DoD and DoE contracts, and Battlespace 5 at the same time.

It came as a shock when Flashpoint couldn’t deliver after all. Mere weeks before the November 5 2019 release date originally planned on its public development roadmap, Flashpoint suddenly announced that Battlespace 5 would be delayed indefinitely. According to Hawk, the game was “in no state to deliver on all of the promises [Flashpoint Studios] made to the [Battlespace] community.” Cracks were showing when, in the months prior, Flashpoint’s blog articles reported several issues encountered during playtesting: unstable, non VR-friendly frame rates on contemporary, commercially-available hardware; physics continuing to bug out as they did in previous titles; AI failing to function effectively as teams, squads, or platoons; and the detailed rendered interiors of vehicles, aircraft, and watercraft continuing to cause lag for players outside of them. Flashpoint had too many technical hurdles to overcome before it could release something that could satisfy the Battlespace community. The community bargained that they were okay with a ‘Scuffed Alpha’ or a ‘Buggy Beta’ if it meant they could play Battlespace 5 sooner, but Hawk refused to release a "subpar and unfinished" product. Battlespace 5 would, rather unfortunately, not be released in time for the series’ 20th anniversary.

What followed was delay after delay, setback after setback. Flashpoint’s staff went radio-silent for months at a time as they rigorously playtested the game, tackling any issues they encountered. They went out of their way to fix various bugs, to fix the bugs caused by those bug fixes, and to fix the bugs caused by the bug fixes for the bug fixes meant to fix the original bugs. They redid entire sections of the campaign they felt were flawed or executed to a subpar standard. And they worked on further innovating and optimising the RSE4 engine so that commercially available PCs could run multiplayer servers with lots of players, vehicles, NPCs, and scripts at stable VR-friendly frame rates (90+ FPS). Just from reading the blog articles, Flashpoint’s situation seemed desperate. Even after up-sizing, the company still had a Herculean task ahead of them with new problems sprouting up like the heads of a Hydra. Many Battlespace players lost hope and turned to cynicism. Others just accepted the delay and went back to Warfighting Evolved, which was still receiving regular updates. A few tryharding LARPers even went outside and touched grass for the first time in years. It surprised no one when November 2020 rolled past with no confirmed release date in sight. Positive progress reports began appearing in March 2021, but even then, most gamers remained cautious and skeptical. This was especially the case when Flashpoint Studios made no public appearance at GamesCon 2021 last month in August.

Nobody could have expected Flashpoint to suddenly drop a brand new release trailer this September, saying that the game was slated to release in just over a month.

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Beyond The Wire
Beyond The Wire dropped on September 26, first on Flashpoint Studio’s Volkscast channel, then on Wittier, then on the company's official Subthreadit, and then on other social media platforms. Social media buzzed with activity as Battlespace’s community debated whether or not they were living in another simulation. Volkscast react and gaming channels went into overdrive as trailer reaction and analysis videos flooded the recommendation algorithm. Meanwhile, in Rhodellia, many rural county sheriffs were receiving noise complaints due to a surge in celebratory gunfire. Many neighbourhoods in towns and cities celebrated with firework displays (and firework battles). It’s probably safe to assume that Beyond The Wire renewed a lot of lost excitement for Battlespace 5. Perhaps with good reason too.

Beyond The Wire is a 3-minute trailer that showcases a lot of improvements Flashpoint Studios has accomplished in the past two years. A few highlights noted by RNN journalists include but are not limited to:

  • Multiple shots of what appears to be an intense battle possibly involving up to 200 AI or Player entities, all crammed into a small urban area, without the game slowing to a Slideshow presentation.
  • Improved building destructibility, with recoilless rifle rounds blowing chunks out of buildings, tanks smashing holes through bottom floors while leaving the top floors intact, and explosive charges being planted to create new entry-points in buildings.
  • Vehicles not bugging out or launching into space from colliding with terrain features, foliage, buildings, NPCs, and other vehicles.
  • Enhanced movement with player characters finally being able to jump; climb onto things; vault over obstacles; rappel from helicopters, buildings, and rock faces; and more; all without mods.
  • A revamped construction system where players can dig fighting positions into terrain with shovels and entrenching tools, place down sandbags, unroll concertina wire, and set up camouflage netting.
  • Civilian AI behaving more like real people, talking to each other, independently performing a wider variety of idle animations, diving out of the way of incoming vehicles, running away from gunfire and explosions, cowering in cover, and automatically raising their hands if they notice guns being pointed directly at them.
  • BLUFOR and OPFOR AI units autonomously and competently executing team, squad, and platoon-level tactics that, in Warfighting Evolved, were only made possible with mods and very complex scripting.

Indeed, there appear to be many improvements over Battlespace 4. Hawk's promises from Gamescon 2018 may end up being upheld after all.

But of course, not all is perfect. Prominent gaming Volkscaster ResonanceCascade, whose main content consists of dissecting and analysing video game trailers and pre-release footage, produced a list of flaws that were visible as early as the 2019 trailers. One of them was that, even with the presumably high-end hardware Flashpoint Studios used to run the battles, scenes of massive fights involving over 100 AI in the same space still seemed to frequently dip below 60 frames per second. But in his recent video (the same one where the aforementioned list was created), ‘Beyond the Wire’ BATTLESPACE 5 Trailer Reaction/Analysis, he conceded that, while there is definitely still a lot of things left to improve on, Flashpoint Studios “actually did their work this time around”, and expressed confidence that Battlespace 5’s release day "at least won’t be anywhere close to the mess Battlespace 4’s was on its release day. And failing that, the game should still improve with regular updates just like 4 did. I just want to play the game, to be honest.”

Meanwhile, other Volkscasters, including prominent gaming channel KillaPlays, remain skeptical. They generally feel that there wasn’t enough content in the trailer to make accurate assessment from, and urge gamers to continue exercising caution. In a recent Volkscast stream, Killa said: “Not to say that I think they're bad people going out of their way to deceive us - I still think the guys at Flashpoint are genuinely good people who deserve love and support for the work they do -, but you have to consider the possibility that might be masking shortcomings by carefully curating their shots. They could be using camera and editing tricks to minimise the visibility of flaws. For example, they might not actually have 200-or-so concurrent AI or playtesters going at it in those battle scenes we looked at earlier. They might just be filming different battles at different locations with the usual 100 AI running on the server at a time, and then putting the footage together during editing to give the illusion of an ever bigger battle running smoothly. We also don’t know how complex the scripting is for the triggers and events shown in the trailer, so, in practice, things might be a lot laggier for us when we get around to scripting our own missions and trying them out in multiplayer. We might experience a lot of desyncing if a lot of AI is spawned in a populated server. We need more information before we can take anything for certain. We mustn't get our expectations too high up or we might end up being disappointed again. Calm your boners, guys. Chill.” Killa's words appear to capture the essence of many gamers' worries.

Ultimately, the only way we’ll know for sure if Battlespace 5 will live up to its five years of hype is to play it on release day. And that day is just over one month from now, on November 5, on the 22nd anniversary of Battlespace: Highwayman’s release.

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More Indiense immigrants to patch RHS shortages

Joshua Pagaduan, November 2, 2021, 0500

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An already-beleaguered Rhodellian Health Service (RHS) is expected to come under ‘increased and unprecedented’ pressure in the coming years. The RHS continues to suffer critical shortages in newly trained nurses, with vacancies consistently numbering over 5,500 each year. A significant portion of these vacancies are concentrated in RHS trusts in Nordwalde Province. As escalating Separatist violence continues to wreak havoc across the troubled province, staff in many Nordwalde hospitals are already struggling to accommodate growing numbers of patients wounded by stray bullets and IED explosions. Among these casualties of war are many new amputees in need of rehabilitation for new prostheses. In a press statement on Monday, Secretary of Health and Care Dame Eve Jones announced that ‘urgent action’ will be taken to alleviate the heavy burden being placed on Rhodellia’s healthcare workers.

The Department of Health and Care (DHC) will continue its longstanding strategy towards tackling manpower issues: immigration. Dame Jones announced that Rhodellia will be greatly increasing its annual influx of foreign healthcare professionals. As has historically been the case since the 1990s, most of these migrant workers will be newly trained Indiense nurses from the Duchy of Verde. 

'[Indiense nurses] comprise a large and important portion of the RHS’s manpower.', Dame Jones said. 'They have a stellar track record of being hard-working, disciplined, and selfless workers. Since the first wave of Indiense nurses arrived in 1998, they have been a massive boon to Rhodellia’s healthcare system throughout all the challenges it has faced these past few decades. They have weathered through thick and thin to provide patients with some of the best quality of health and care in Aurelia, if not the entire Wurld. Their commitment to their work is truly Wurld-class, and I can never thank them enough for all that they have done for Rhodellia. It is always an honour to accept such wonderful people into our country and community.'

Clips of Dame Jones’s comments were positively received and widely shared on social media by Rhodellia’s Indiense community. RNN reporters reached out to a number of Indiense people for comments:

Corporal John Mark Garcia, a Rhodellian Army Combat medic currently in his second year of National Service, said: 
‘My friends keep tagging me about it... I remember sitting in the chow hall at [Camp Bergenstein] when [Dame Jones’s press statement] was showing on the TV. “Garcia!”, a friend of mine kept shouting. “Garcia! They’re talking about you on the news!” It makes me really happy to hear the government is recognising us for hard work. But in the end, ah
 we are just doing our jobs. That’s all.’

Sophia Avila-Cañizares, a Senior ITU nurse at St Barbara’s Hospital, Friedrichstadt, said:
‘I think it is really nice that the Rhodellian government is doing this for us Indiense nurses. I came to Rhodellia alone, and most of my family is still in Verde. I have two nieces and two nephews that want to move here, but couldn’t before. But now they FaceTimed me saying that they all might come in the next batch of nurses. This is good because now I don’t have to save up for a holiday and use my annual leave just to see them in person.’

Dame Mia Abellana, a Senior Sister at St Camillus de Lellis Hospital, Schwarzwald, said:
‘It’s been really hard for us nurses here in Rhodellia. We are stretched very thin because there are too many beds and not enough staff to look after all the patients. We also noticed that even more patients are being taken to hospital since 2017 because fighting here [in Nordwalde] has gotten much worse. The A & E I oversee is also receiving a lot more patients from up North because of the NALA’s rocket attacks. We are trying our best, and even doing a lot of overtime to make sure that our patients get all the help they need. But it is becoming too much for us to handle. One nurse in my ward even had a breakdown last week because he was so stressed. I was happy to see Dame Jones’ announcement on the news because it means we will be getting more of the help we desperately need out here’

Ethan Estenzo, a Cardiographer at St John’s Hospital, Opelika, said:
‘I moved to Rhodellia a few years ago so I can send more money back to my family in Verde. I have a wife, one son, and two daughters who couldn’t come with me because there used to be a limit on Verdense immigration, at least until now. I feel very grateful to Dame Jones and the government because — instead of just sending money home and having to FaceTime them — now my entire family can be together again. I’ve been FaceTiming them a lot yesterday, and they're very excited to come over. I can’t wait to pick them up at the airport when that day comes. You know, I'm just so glad because it's as if God has finally answered my prayers. ’

The Rhodellian Indiense community has a long and storied history. Rhodellia’s first wave of documented Indiense immigrants arrived in Dochland’s Rhodellian colonies in the 17th century. Like many other settlers, they saw the territory as a ‘land of opportunity’ where they can start afresh and forge their own destinies. Most early Indiense colonists lived in the emergent coastal towns and cities, putting their people’s maritime traditions to good use as successful fishermen, whalers, and sailors. They contributed much to the colonies’ trade, commerce, and growth. The second big wave of Indiense immigration to Rhodellia arrived in the late 19th century, as Indiense Free Companies were hired to assist in counter-insurgency operations in the lead-up to the Nordwalde Revolutionary War (1903-1904). Many Indiense mercenaries chose to settle down in Rhodellia with their families after the conflict. Many of their descendants would go on to defend the country during the Red Deluge (1914-1921) and Rhodellian Crusade (1940-1948), mainly in the Rhodellian Navy. The third big wave of Indiense immigration began in the 1990s, as Verdense nurses were imported in large numbers to address staff shortages within a rapidly expanding RHS. Indiense labour played a major role in shaping Rhodellian history as we know it.

Rhodellia’s Indiense community has grown big over the centuries. The 2020 Census is still ongoing, but the Duchy of Verde’s embassy in Friedrichstadt estimates that at least two million Indiense people currently live in Rhodellia. As the Rhodellian government ramps up its latest immigration drive, this number is expected to grow even further.

The DHC and Department of the Interior (DTI) are taking measures to accommodate a greatly increased annual intake of foreign healthcare professionals. The DTI will incentivise immigration by making it easier for arriving healthcare professionals to attain Rhodellian citizenship. As per the Spartan Protocol’s Citizen-Athlete Initiative (CAI), all male arrivals (below the age of 30) intending on becoming citizens will still have to pass the Landwehr Pre-Joining Fitness Test (LPJFT) as part of their citizenship application. The LPJFT is the same fitness test undertaken by all Rhodellian males undergoing National Service. It has historically been a strong barrier to citizenship for many prospective immigrants, but the DHC is promising to help new migrants surmount that obstacle. Each new migrant will be assigned a Personal Fitness Trainer by the DHC. This is to help them get into the habits of frequent exercise and healthy eating, preparing them for the LPJFT as safely and time-efficiently as possible. This way, Rhodellian citizenship should become more attainable.

Newly arrived male migrants interested in citizenship still have to go National Service. To help them prepare, the Department of Defence (DOD) will be paying for Weapons Qualification Courses and Mixed Martial Arts lessons. This is also meant to help ease them into Rhodellian martial culture and instill Rhodellian military virtues, as part of the Spartan Protocol's Citizen-Warrior Initiative (CWI). The DOD will also be expanding the Rhodellian Army Medical Department (RAMD) with the expectation that most arriving healthcare workers will opt for the medical spectrum of Military Occupational Specialties. Service Guarantees Citizenship.

With these measures, the main pathway to Rhodellian citizenship for new Overseas Indiense Workers (OIWs) is becoming significantly easier. They will also be extended to OIWs already within the country, as an offer for those who are permanent residents but not yet citizens.

Meanwhile, the Department of Housing, Communities, and Urban Development (DHCUD) and Department of Education (DOE) are making preparations to help new migrants settle in as soon as possible. The DHCUD is readying public housing units across the country for new arrivals and (if applicable) their families. Available public housing within walking and cycling distance of medical centres are being reprioritised for incoming foreign healthcare professionals. Over the course of the 2020s, additional family housing and apartment complexes are slated to be built in many Rhodellian towns and cities to meet this sharp rise in demand. The DOE is also helping nearby schools prepare to accommodate the children of migrants who might settle nearby; until new schools begin construction, many Rhodellian schools are expecting increased class sizes. On social media, many local Indiense community groups have also expressed a willingness to welcome and help out new Indiense migrants as they arrive in their locales. The Kingdom of Rhodellia will welcome newcomers and grant them a good standard living as best as it can.

The Reichstag is next scheduled to meet on Friday to discuss the Rhodellian national government’s FY 2022 budget. This new immigration drive is expected to be part of that discussion. Questions have arisen over how the DHC, DTI, DOD, DHCUD, and DOE plan to fund these new measures to accommodate new immigrants. As of this time, the most probable solution appears to be a tax increase. In the meantime, the Rhodellian Indiense community is looking forward to the impending arrival of the friends, family, and compatriots they left behind.

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Edited by Rhodellia (see edit history)
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RHS nears 'breaking point' as amputations skyrocket

Joshua Pagaduan, November 5, 2021, 0015

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Trauma from explosive incidents is the Number One cause of limb loss and amputations in Rhodellia. On average, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), and rocket artillery either kill or wound at least one Rhodellian every single day. Since the year 2000, IEDs, ERW, and rockets have killed 2,769 people and wounded a further 8,791. That averages to 131 people killed and 418 people wounded every year. In total, 11,560 people were either killed or wounded in explosive incidents within the span of just 21 years. Many of the wounded have required amputation. Since 2000, an average of 516 amputations have occured in the country each year. Now, as of November 2021, there are almost 50,000 amputees living in Rhodellia. But violence is once again flaring up in Nordwalde Province and along the Nordfluss river. So now that number is growing at an alarming pace. 

This year alone, 421 amputations were carried out due to trauma from explosive incidents alone. Meanwhile amputations from other causes, such as diabetes and vascular diseases, remain largely level from previous years at 309. In total, the Rhodellian Health Service (RHS) has conducted 730 amputations as of November 1, 2021. Already, this marks the third consecutive year where the number of amputations carried out has increased. The Department of Health and Care (DHC) and Department of Defence (DOD) project that this number will only keep increasing if Nordwalde separatists and the Native Aurelian Liberation Army (NALA) continue to intensify their attacks. This worsens quite a few existing problems for the RHS.

The RHS is already struggling to accommodate the country’s amputee population as is, and its staff are uncertain that they can cope with an accelerated increase in amputation rates. The RHS has long suffered from staff shortages, including prosthetic rehabilitation specialists. Secretary of Health and Care Dame Eve Jones announced on Monday that Rhodellia will be accepting more migrant workers to fill more vacancies. However, critics continue to point out that immigration fails to address the underlying issues behind said shortages; a combination of relatively longer working hours, larger workloads, higher stress, and lower pay compared to most other sectors in the Rhodellian economy contribute to high attrition rates among RHS workers. As the growth of the amputee population outpaces improvements in the RHS’s capacity to accommodate them, ensuring a high quality of care for all amputees is becoming an ever-more difficult task for the RHS’s hard-pressed workers. Prosthetic Rehabilitation Units in RHS trusts across the country are nearing full capacity. Unless things change, both workers and their patients are bound to suffer.

RNN reporter Stefano Lucas managed to contact Elijah Padilla Sr, a Specialist Occupational Therapist who works in a PRU at St Anthony’s Hospital, Hohenheim, in Nordwalde Province. His unit is one of many struggling to accommodate newer amputees, most of whom were wounded by Separatist IEDs and Native Aurelian Liberation Army (NALA) rocket artillery. In an interview, Padilla said:

‘Our PRU is almost at breaking point. I have friends who work at other PRUs, and they say they’re facing similar situations at their workplaces. A lot of time, observation, and care must go into the rehabilitation of each individual amputee to ensure the smoothest possible return to normal life and the lowest possible rejection rates. But there are only so many hours in the day, and there aren’t that many of us SOTs to go around. 

We have to work very long hours to make sure all of our patients get all the attention they need. Some patients also need more time in rehabilitation than others. Me and a lot of my colleagues at the PRU have to work up to 60 hours a week just to see everyone. And it’s really getting to us... We are tired. We are exhausted. There’s only so much work we can take. We are almost reaching the point where we can’t deal with more patents without creating a backlog or waiting list. And that can't be done, because research tells us that prosthetics rehabilitation ideally has to start within five days post-surgery. We are getting some new SOTs at the PRU, which is good, but we are not getting enough of them quickly enough. If the situation is going to get a lot worse like they say on the news, and I pray that it won’t
 We need more help.’

Such is the pressure on RHS staff that many are working twice as many hours as most other people in the country. The average Rhodellian works 6 hours a day 4 days a week (a 28-hour work week). Working hours approaching Padilla's 60-hour work week are also commonly observed in many other patient-facing roles within the RHS. In the DOD's War Readiness Committee's 2020 Report, the DOD has even gone as far as to describe these long working hours as a 'national security threat' as they hamper RHS workers' 'combat-readiness as Rhodellian citizens'. This is because a 60-hour work week tends to leave little time and energy to practice marksmanship, train in martial arts, and participate in community militia activities (such as military simulations and exercises).It also leaves them with even less time to pursue hobbies and self-actualisation. Long working hours are a grave threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 

To alleviate the burden on SOTs like Padilla, the DHC’s Health and Care Committee have proposed in its 2021 Report that the Rhodellian government needs to commit to filling all existing vacancies, hiring even more people to work in the PRUs to distribute workloads, and ensuring that all of them are paid ‘worthwhile’ salaries. However, this is only possible if the government's FY 2022 budget includes a massively increased DHC budget. 

But that might not come to pass, or at least not to the extent that is necessary to continue ensuring high quality care for all of Rhodellia’s amputees. Prime Minister Phil Seymour promised in a press statement last Sunday that the DHC’s budget will ‘receive a 40% increase’ as part of the FY 2022 budget. Theoretically, this should enable it to fill more vacancies and ‘substantially’ raise the salaries of all RHS workers. But many critics feel that this new DHC budget increase is ‘nowhere near enough’, that it is ‘many years overdue’, and that it is doomed to prove ‘inadequate’ to tackle the challenges of the near-future. 

But in spite of all the concerns being raised, Dame Jones believes the coming storm is one the RHS can weather. She stated that a 40% increase in its budget and accelerated imports of foreign (mostly Indiense) healthcare professionals should be ‘more than enough’ to allow the RHS to persevere through 2022. She also assured that there are contingency plans in place should any RHS trust ever get too perilously close to being ‘overwhelmed’ by an escalation in the war against the NALA and Nordwalde separatism. Should any RHS trust face a ‘state of emergency’, possible DHC contingencies include deploying medical staff from the Rhodellian Army Medical Department (RAMD) and temporarily relocating members from less pressured RHS trusts.

Meanwhile, further criticism was aimed at Secretary of Defence Ekhardt Krieger’s Monday press statement; Krieger vowed that the Rhodellian Armed Forces will ‘bring the fight back to the separatists’ and ‘bring a swift and decisive end to Rhodellia’s War on Terror.’ To achieve this, Krieger has also stated that the DOD’s FY 2022 budget will be increased by 25%, granting Rhodellia ‘among the largest [military budgets] in the Wurld’. This implies that Rhodellia’s military spending will equate to roughly 10% of the country’s entire projected GDP for 2022. Most vocal critics towards this were Rhodellian Peace Movement activists. In an interview with Lucas, Peace Movement activist and spokeswoman Halfrid Weber said that Rhodellia’s increased military budget could have instead gone into funding other public services, such as the RHS:
 
‘This is unacceptable. The DOD focuses too much on their outdated and frankly bullshit delusions of “Making Rhodellia Great Again”, “Reclaiming stolen clay”, and “Restoring the kingdom to its former glory.” Yes, there’s a military frontline to maintain along all of our borders. That’s all perfectly understandable considering how most of our neighbours actively want to kill us. But what about the medical frontline? The RHS is falling apart at its very seams. Hundreds of our boys, our children, are losing hands, feet, arms, and legs for their country every year, and it is the RHS’s burden to rehabilitate them and help them resume life as normal. 

But even with that 40% budget increase, the RHS would still be rapidly closing in on the point where it can’t even do that much for our troops, in spite of all they have sacrificed. Practically leaving our amputees by the wayside is an irresponsible and inhumane policy. Meanwhile, RHS staff themselves are among the most overworked and stressed people I’ve ever seen. With just a 40% budget increase, the DHC still can not hope to greatly relieve the burden on individual workers, let alone compensate everyone with fair, competitive wages for their labour. That goes to show just how underfunded the DHC was to begin with. By neglecting the RHS in favour of not only perpetuating, but escalating Rhodellia’s Forever War, the Prime Minister is betraying the very troops and medical staff he claims to support. By no means do the abhorrently skewed priorities in his proposed 2022 Government Budget back his words. It is beyond morally reprehensible.’

For sceptics hoping for good news regarding the RHS, there is a silver lining. The Reichstag will review and debate the first draft of the Rhodellian government’s FY 2022 budget on Friday. At around the same time, the Rhodellian National Nurses Union (RNNU) also scheduled a nationwide general strike. The RNNU demands an even larger DHC budget that includes a 15% pay rise for all RHS workers at minimum. The general strike was organised out of frustration with Secretary of the Treasury Conradin Kaufmann, who throughout the year has offered what the RNNU described as ‘pitifully small’ pay rises of 1, 2, and then 3 percent. They barely compensated for a 14% drop in real wages due to inflation since 2010. In an interview with RNN journalist Emlyn Kraus, RNNU organiser Amadahy Immookalee said that there is widespread disappointment with Seymour and frustration with Kaufmann's 'stubborn insistence on underpaying [RHS workers]':

'I don't like their plan. Nobody in the RNNU does.' Immookalee said, referring to the DHC's apparent under-representation in Seymour and Kaufmann's proposed FY 2022 Budget. 'We understand the need for greater military spending and an expanded foreign aid budget. Don't get us wrong, we largely think it's a good thing that the government is actually doing more to combat terrorism and separatism. It's also very admirable that we're doing more to make friends on the international stage and help comparatively less developed countries like Velaheria and Nyantastan.

But since taxes are being raised to fund these new military and foreign economic ventures, the issue is that there's now more burden on the taxpayer to pay for things that don't directly benefit us. Basically, the source of [the RNNU's] anger this time is that not enough of that increased tax revenue is going towards overburdened healthcare professionals like us, even though the DHC has been warning the government year after year that the RHS is in crisis. We are on the brink, and more people than ever are realising and feeling it. What's going on with the NALA and Separatists up north is going to be what really tips us over the edge. We literally can not afford to wait any longer, so we have to act now. We have the will, we have the numbers, and we have the power. We must put pressure on our elected representatives to fix this situation before the RHS collapses, before it's too late.'

On social media, dozens of Members of Parliament from the Rhodellian Socialist Party, the Rhodellian Communist Party, the Green Party, and the Liberal Party have already proclaimed in advance that they will stand in solidarity with the RNNU on Friday. It is believed that these MPs will represent the RNNU's interests in the Reichstag. Prime Minister Seymour has thus far declined to comment on the situation. So at the moment, it’s anyone's guess on whether or not any of this will actually bear any real fruit for the RHS.


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Edited by Rhodellia
Added interview with RNNU organiser Amadahy Immookalee (see edit history)
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ARs at dawn: Deadly duel between kids gets meme'd

Ramhart BĂŒlow, November 14, 2021, 15:39

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Pictured: #TeamKuhn and #TeamLange billboards in Friedrichstadt

The viral duel between Inaliyi teenagers Paul KĂŒhn and Leon Lange is drawing ever closer, and Rhodellians are showing mixed reactions. Many people are excited to watch the morbid spectacle of watching two kids potentially fight to the death live on air. Others are (very understandably) horrified. 

Even in an age of libel lawsuits, Rhodellians continue to enjoy a thriving duelling culture. Duels and other consensual fights remain a common means of settling disputes, defending one’s honour, and honing one’s skills in preparation for war. Knights, gentlemen, and working-class citizens alike all engage in duels. Teenagers also regularly fight each other, either to test their abilities or assert dominance within a school pecking order.

Duels, or at least consensual fights, are very normal events in Rhodellia. They rarely get noticed beyond the social circles, communities, and locales they take place in. And yet, a duel between two normal kids is making national headlines. Even some foreign newspapers in Kirvina and even countries in other continents are reporting on it.

Over 200,000 people have implied on the duel’s Boogaloo+ event page that they will be commuting to Stoneaxe Field, Inaliyi to watch a live screening. Meanwhile, a larger (and possibly global) audience is predicted to watch the online livestreams on Volkscast. With these numbers, KĂŒhn vs Lange’s clash will likely be the most watched judicial duel in Rhodellian history.

Against the expectations of its combatants, the duel has achieved ‘meme’ status among the Rhodellian internet community. It dominates people's social media and news feeds. It performs well in recommendation algorithms. 

With the date of the duel less than a week away, it is becoming increasingly hard to ignore. Memes and discussion is ramping up among Rhodellians on big social media platforms such as Boogaloo+, Wittier, Threadit, and Volkscast.

This article aims to give RNN readers brief glimpses into how the duel got its viral status as well as how Rhodellians are reacting to it.

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How #KuhnVsLange went viral
KĂŒhn and Lange never expected attention for their duel to blow up to the extent that it has. They never tried to advertise it beyond their small town of Inaliyi. Even now, they are not trying to publicise it; untold thousands of other people are doing that for them.

In July 17, the #KuhnVsLange hashtag began as an inside joke by students of Balck High School, which KĂŒhn and Lange both attend as Year 10 students. Interviews with various school staff and pupils suggest that the duel is the talk of the school. The duel is commonly compared to a high-profile MMA match between Wurld-champion fighters. Accordingly, the #KuhnVsLange hashtag was a joke where KĂŒhn’s friends hyped up the duel on Wittier in mimicry of professional promoters.

In July 19, the two boys co-created a new Volkscast channel, ‘KuhnVsLange’, where their friends, neighbours, and families, could spectate the duel from both boys’ livestreamed POVs. The channel’s livestreams are also meant to be used by Inaliyi Sheriff’s Department and Rhodellian Dueling Association representatives to remotely oversee and referee the duel from safe locations. One of Lange’s friends, who is a Volkscaster and locally known ‘video editing prodigy’, created a high-production-value trailer explaining the duel and its combatants as the channel’s first video.

As what usually happens whenever anything happens in Small-Town Rhodellia, news of the upcoming duel was quick to spread among Inaliyi’s 4,000-or-so close-knit residents just through word of mouth. 

They were quick to organise a town-wide community gathering to watch the duel. The organisation process entailed starting a Boogaloo+ Event called ‘KĂŒhn vs Lange Duel’. The original location for the live screening was set as ‘Walthari Park Arena, Tsaladihi Street, Inaliyi’.

The fight promotion joke was quick to spread to Inaliyi’s adult population as well. Both the KuhnVsLange Volkscast channel and Boogaloo+ Event were linked to the #KuhnVsLange, #duel, and #fight hashtags. Almost the town’s entire population was soon posting about the duel on their social media accounts as if it were the biggest event in the country. And that is how word of the duel almost instantly spread outside of the town.

According to 2020 statistics from the Office for National Statistics, Rhodellia has one of the highest internet usage rates and social media penetration rates in the entire Wurld. 98% of the Rhodellian population actively uses the internet. The country has a social media penetration rate of 85%. Rhodellians are very well-connected via the Wurld Wide Web and ubiquitous high-speed internet. 

Without even being shared or retweeted, a single Inaliyi’s resident’s social media posts could reach someone in practically any corner of Rhodellia. They can even reach people in other countries. Like atoms splitting in nuclear fission, a single social media post can start a chain reaction and be shared by even greater numbers of people further down the line. 

The first non-Inaliyi residents to be exposed to the duel were simply direct friends, followers, and subscribers of Inaliyi residents on social media. Some of them were real-life friends, family members, or coworkers living in the next town down the road or railway. Some were online friends living on the opposite side of the country. Some were complete strangers from distant lands.

Also among the first to take notice was Rhodellia’s sizable duelling community. They saw the KĂŒhn vs Lange duel being discussed on the #duel hashtag on Wittier, and it shocked them. The sheer oddity of the duel certainly helped a lot with engagement from Wittier’s Rhodellian community. Wittier’s algorithms would start randomly recommending even more posts including the #KuhnVsLange hashtag in mid-August.

On August 28 2021, for the first time, the #KuhnVsLange Wittier hashtag reached #1 Trending in Rhodellia. #duel followed shortly behind at #3. Over the next several weeks, the duel’s related hashtags would lead hundreds of thousands of people to the KuhnVsLange Volkscast channel and Boogaloo+ Event. Many more people would be shocked, and this in turn got even more people talking.

As the duel between teenagers began trending on Wittier, it was also being discussed on Threadit. Most serious Threadit discussion of the duel was concentrated in five Subthreadits: th/RhodellianPeopleWittier, th/Rhodellia, th/fights, th/Duel, and th/GoodRhodelliaMemes. Threadit discussion and memes would give the KĂŒhn vs Lange duel even more exposure, both directly and indirectly.

What is shocking to Rhodellians is not that the duel’s combatants are legally minors. Rhodellian kids and teenagers commonly settle disputes with martial arts; foam, rubber, or wooden practice weapons; paintball guns; and airsoft guns, usually with school and parental approval. Duels between Rhodellian kids are not unheard-of events.

What is shocking to Rhodellians is not that minors are going into combat. Rhodellian kids are extensively instructed in the use of firearms starting in primary school in preparation for National Service and war. Children as young as twelve years old have fought in defence of Rhodellia during the Red Deluge (1914-1921), the Rhodellian Crusade (1940-1948), and even in the ongoing Nordwalde conflict. Rhodellian kids going into combat either out of sheer patriotism or desperation are not unheard-of events.

What is particularly shocking about the KĂŒhn vs Lange duel is that both combatants are young Rhodellians voluntarily choosing to fight fellow countrymen with real weapons and ammunition. 

What is even more shocking is how the duel is being turned into a huge public spectacle. People are either cheering on combatants to win or making jokes rather than actually calling on the combatants to seek a peaceful (or at least less lethally violent) resolution. While duels were initially popularised by being public spectacles, that does not necessarily have to be the case in the modern day.

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Pictured: The earliest known #KuhnVsLange billboard edit posted onto th/GoodRhodelliaMemes on Threadit

#TeamKuhn and #TeamLange
All over Rhodellia, people are seeing billboards advertising KĂŒhn and Lange’s duel. They typically consist of black text on plain white backgrounds. They are often accompanied by photographs of KĂŒhn or Lange superimposed over the Rhodellian flag. With the hashtags #TeamKĂŒhn and #TeamLange, they call on Rhodellians to pick sides. This advertising campaign did not originate with the duelists or anyone else from Inaliyi.

These billboards began in late August as a series of photoshopped images and template memes on Threadit caked in varying levels of irony. Netizens then began renting real-life advertising spaces before posting photos or videos of them onto various social media platforms. And then several popular mainstream Volkscasters hopped onto the trend, renting even more advertising space to spread the word of the duel.
 
The first of these photoshopped billboard images was posted onto the Subthreadit th/GoodRhodelliaMemes. It was titled ‘Who else is hyped to watch two random kids kill each other?’. It contained KĂŒhn and Lange’s now-familiar portraits superimposed onto the Rhodellian flag, giving the duel a patriotic dimension. These portraits were then edited into a generic stock image of a billboard. In the comments, the original poster linked the duelists’ edited portraits for other users to make their own edits.

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Pictured: The earliest known meme about the Kuhn vs Lange duel, also posted onto th/GoodRhodelliaMemes

Meanwhile, the earliest known ‘KĂŒhn vs Lange’ meme is a gang war meme captioned ‘WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?’. It asked th/GoodRhodelliaMemes users which of two duelists they were siding behind. The terms ‘Team KĂŒhn and ‘Team Lange’ appeared soon after, borrowing terms popularised by the fandom of a certain series of vampire-themed romance fantasy books and films. These were then converted into the familiar hashtags circulating today.

The abnormal nature of the duel gripped the Subrthreadit’s 350,000 or so users. They went about producing great quantities of memes and billboard edits. By early September, #TeamKuhn and #TeamLange started appearing on most KĂŒhn vs Lange billboard edits being posted onto Subthreadit. The simplistic ‘black text on white background’ format also became standard at around the same time as part of a decentralised yet concerted effort to ‘optimise’ the meme for spreading beyond the th/GoodRhodelliaMemes community.

September 12 marked the day #TeamKuhn and #TeamLange left the confines of Threadit and cyberspace. A Threadit user rented a real-life billboard in Boubonweir, Nordwalde Province, throwing his support behind KĂŒhn. The original poster first uploaded video footage of the billboard onto his personal Volkscast channel. He then posted an image of himself standing underneath the billboard on th/GoodRhodelliaMemes. The thread currently stands at over 12,000 upvotes, has received dozens of Threadit awards, and has become the Subthreadit’s highest-rated post of all time.

More people would follow that example in pursuit of laughs, upvotes, and awards. In towns and cities across Rhodellia, netizens in on the joke would rent hundreds of billboards telling the country about KĂŒhn and Lange’s duel. Seeing the traction #KuhnVsLange, #TeamKuhn, and #TeamLange,  even popular Volkscast content creators such as DaKMannzTV, Jakob Paul, and RiceGun hopped on the trend. These social media influencers would use their above-average wealths to rent even more billboards in high-traffic areas well beyond the affordable range of the average person. 

Rhodellians are now noticing these billboards everywhere. You can see #TeamKuhn and #TeamLange billboards on the flanks of the Autobahn. You can see them suspended above busy high streets in Friedrichstadt. You can even see them scribbled on the walls of public bathroom stalls. Overall, the billboards seem to be generating huge publicity for the duel.

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Many people seemed excited about watching the upcoming duel, despite its combatants being kids. Everyone loves watching a good test of arms. And many don’t seem to discriminate based on the age of the combatants. It’s all good so long as the blood flows.

Human-human blood sports are very popular in Rhodellia. For example, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Historical Europan and Argic Martial Arts (HEAMA), and Panzerfahren continue hitting record-high television ratings and internet livestream viewerships. Other combat-related sports such as competitive paintball and MilSim airsoft are also very popular to watch.

As has normally been the case throughout the centuries, whenever a duel is publicly declared, they usually become the talk of the neighbourhood or town. Public duels typically draw in dozens, sometimes hundreds, of spectators from around the area. In KĂŒhn and Lange’s case, the billboards and the social media buzz around them are raising awareness of the duel to millions of people around Rhodellia and around the Wurld. Television and internet streaming made viewing the duel an extremely easy task.

People are also placing bets on the duel. Pubs and betting parlours around Rhodellia will be tuning into the duel’s livestreams. Even as far away as the South Oregon Hinterlands, The Financial Gazette newspaper has reported a marked ‘rise in profits’ for local bookmakers directly because of people betting on KĂŒhn and Lange’s duel.

Meanwhile, many people were either not in on the joke, are feeling that the #TeamKuhn and #TeamLange billboards have lost all irony as it entered mainstream discourse, or are unamused regardless. Of course, there are also a lot of people who see ethical and moral issues in advertising a lethal duel between kids. The advertising campaign has thus seen a great deal of controversy too.

It’s safe to say that #KuhnVsLange is driving a fair bit of public discourse and economic activity.

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The memes
The duel has also been the subject of a lot of memes being generated and shared across social media. It has indeed become Rhodellia’s de facto ‘Meme of the month’ for November 2021. #KuhnVsLange memes have touched on many aspects on the duel, from the recent hype around it, to historical parallels, to the idea of using lethal force to stand up to bullies, to the unusually young age of the duel’s combatants, to theories about the duel being fraudulent. 

Many memes and social media posts expressed shock, disappointment, or concern towards the country being more enthusiastic about watching the duel than doing anything to stop it.

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Many social media posts and memes compared the KĂŒhn vs Lange duel as a public spectacle to the historic gladiatorial duels of ancient Arome.

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Many memes poked fun at KĂŒhn’s unusually lethal and violent approach to settling his personal beef with Lange.

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Many memes poked fun at the combatants being minors as well as how Rhodellians may have unrealistic expectations for KĂŒhn and Lange’s performance as combatants in their duel.

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Considering that the combatants were known to be friends before starting secondary school, many memes have also theorised that the duel is just a fraudulent scam, will be staged, or how the duel is more about making money than settling a dispute as per Rhodellian custom.

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These memes reflect a range of opinions, observations, and talking points about the duel. The Rhodellian internet community and meme machine has certainly been busy these past few months.


Reactions from KĂŒhn and Lange
KĂŒhn and Lange are very much aware of the memes, unofficial advertising campaign, and explosion of attention surrounding their duel. In interviews with RNN journalist Kenneth Michell, they each reacted differently to how their duel basically became the talk of the country:

KĂŒhn expressed nothing but positive emotions towards the spotlight being shined on himself and his duel with Lange:
‘I’m happy like you wouldn’t f*cking believe right now.’ KĂŒhn said, smiling widely. ‘I never had all that many friends growing up. So believe me when I say that I’m feeling an astronomical amount of joy right now, just from seeing so many people say they believe in me, that they’re rooting for me to succeed. I don’t even care that it’s all an ironic joke, or just a meme. It’s the most acknowledgement I’ve ever gotten from other people outside of my own family. Scrolling through my Wittier feed after school nowadays just gives me the best feeling in the wurld, and I can’t
 I can’t thank everyone enough for it. Keep it up with those billboards, guys. I really love you all, and you’re all awesome people!’

Meanwhile, Lange felt more irritated towards the billboards and all the disruption national attention brought unto his life:
‘Honestly, this duel’s nobody’s business but me and Paul’s. It’s a personal thing, and I'd prefer if people respected that.’ Lange said. ‘I’d prefer it if everyone just took down these ‘Team Whatever’ billboards, went about their daily lives, and let me and Paul sort our own business in peace. I mean, they’re plastering photos of two minors in the middle of big cities without their consent. That’s pretty messed up if you ask me.

Oh, and in an ideal wurld, I wouldn’t have to be bothered by all these dickheads who don’t know me personally, jacked up on Misinformation SchnĂŒsch, giving me shit for allegedly being an “asshole” or “bully” to Paul. People are off the hook, man. They’re sliding into my DMs, stalking me on my way to school, or straight-up standing outside my house. I keep being painted as some f*cking villain by people who have never so much as met me. And it’s all thanks to these dumb billboards coupled with misinformation and outright slander that I basically can’t do so much as browse art on Wittier in peace. The Sheriff’s Department legit has a patrol car outside my house 24/7 because my parents got sick of telling people to “f*ck off” every single day. Like, holy shit dude, people need to focus more on their own lives.

If you’re interested in the duel and want to watch it, that’s okay. Just watch the livestream and maybe drop a like while you’re at it. All I’m asking of people right now is that they stop going out of their way to bother me.’


What now?
KĂŒhn and Lange are said to be training ‘relentlessly’ for their duels when not in school or quality spending time with friends and family members. Both KĂŒhn and Lange have said that they want to avoid embarrassing their country by appearing ‘sloppy’ and ‘unprofessional’ when clearing rooms at Inaliyi Wood. So for the past few months — even in the holidays — the two have been scheduling private lessons with their school’s firearms instructor, martial arts instructor, and P.E teacher. All of them were ex-Rhodellian Army special forces operators who served in Nordwalde and Operation Highwayman. The duelists themselves intend on doing their utmost best to win.

The duel is set to start at 0800 on November 21. It will be livestreamed using Volkscast’s pay-per-view platform. It will be broadcasted from three different perspectives: KĂŒhn’s POV, Lange’s POV, and various cameras around Inaliyi Wood’s being operated by a Department of Defence cameraman. KĂŒhn and Lange will be using helmet-mounted cameras as well as UAVs whose footage will also be broadcasted.

Inaliyi Town Council is asking anyone visiting Inaliyi to watch live screenings of the duel to go to Stoneaxe Field instead of Walthari Park Arena or Inaliyi Wood. The Walthari Park Arena screening is for Inaliyi residents only. Stoneaxe Field has its own separate screening, with an even larger capacity for the 200,000+ people on Boogaloo+ who said they were coming over. Inaliyi Wood is on Department of Defence-owned land, and access to unauthorised personnel and site users is prohibited.

The Borries HSR Line (which Inaliyi is a stop in) is expected to run at maximum capacity due to all the commuters expected to travel to the town. Free bus and coach rides to Inaliyi are being offered in Gottesberg at St Christopher’s Bus Terminal, Heinrici Avenue, Altenburg and in Friedrichstadt at Ludendorff Bus Terminal, Ludendorff street, Archangel’s. Visitors are being asked to not drive their cars to Inaliyi due to a lack of parking spaces as well as to avoid causing traffic jams on the A7. 

KĂŒhn vs Lange is projected to become the most watched judicial duel in Rhodellian history. Hundreds of thousands of people in Rhodellia and other parts of Eurth are looking forward to this surprisingly historic clash between two normal teenagers. It will surely be a fantastic start to people’s Sunday morning.

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  • 3 months later...

War tourists converge on Baltica
GansĂŒkhiin Batzorig, March 4, 2021, 03:11. Edited March 6, 2022, 01:51.

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Armed Rhodellians have a penchant for showing up in odd places far away from home

In the weeks since Baltican president Algridas Varkas collapsed from a fatal stroke, the Republic of @Baltica plunged into another bloody civil war. The Central Argic nation-state disintegrated into many smaller successor states divided along ethnocultural lines, interspersed with some regional governments and military commanders-turned-warlords declaring independence. The main driving forces behind the conflict are long-standing ethnic tensions between the native ethnic-majority Ras, the mixed-heritage Jonikai, and the ethnic-minority Dolchs. The Baltian Dolchs consolidated hegemonic power over the rest of the Baltican population and propped up an oppressive authoritarian regime favourable to their own interests. A grave humanitarian crisis looms over central Argis as critical infrastructure gets damaged, civilians get caught in the crossfire, and refugees flee in all directions. But regardless of thoughts and prayers, RNN journalists on the ground report that the situation in Baltica is only getting worse.

The Kingdom of Rhodellia has yet to make an official statement on the Second Baltican Civil War. But hundreds — if not thousands — of individual Rhodellians are already planning on getting involved. The battlefield may be on the other side of the planet, but this is not deterring the so-called ‘war tourist’ community from organising an impromptu expeditionary force over the internet. 

Since major fighting broke out, hundreds of Rhodellian social media users declared their intent to join in. The war tourism communities on Threadit, Volkscast, Wittier, and Boogaloo+ are buzzing with renewed vigour as ordinary users share their inventories of tactical helmets, body armour, night-vision devices, weapon accessories, radios, batteries, medical supplies, portable chargers, power adapters, MREs, canteens, baby wipes, and other important items for thriving on the modern battlefield. Almost every travel agency and tourism website that offers information and guided tours to Baltica is reportedly going offline from Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks as prospective war tourists scour the internet for what limited available information exists of the former isolationist country. The more other nations’ governments urge their citizens to avoid Baltica at all costs, the more reasons war tourists find to flock there.

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The sound of battle can act as a clarion call for Rhodellians

What are war tourists?
In the context of Rhodellian culture, a ‘war tourist’ is a private individual who travels to active war zones to participate in the conflict, usually as active (and often unlawful) combatants. They do not arrive as members of state militaries or private military companies. What separates the war tourist from a normal mercenary is that they are primarily motivated by non-financial incentives; common reasons for embarking on war tourism include: support for a foreign cause, wanting to make a positive difference, finding better opportunities to win glory on the battlefield, honing one’s abilities as a warrior, boredom at home, and difficulties readjusting to peaceful civilian life after leaving the military. The prospect of dying on foreign soil, their body potentially doomed to never see their homeland again, does not deter them. In the eyes of the wider Wurld, war tourists are some of Rhodellia’s strangest exports.

Rhodellia has a long history of ‘war tourism’ traceable as far back as the late 16th century. Both Native Aurelian warriors and non-indigenous Rhodellian colonists boast well-documented histories of sailing off to far corners of the Glube just for the sake of fighting. Among Rhodellians, the 'Father of War Tourism' is Walther von Rödel. Walther was a 16th-century Dolchic fencing master, duellist, rival and later travelling companion to legendary Kirvinan duellist Constantine. He was also the progenitor of Rhodellia’s royal family. He claimed in his fencing treatise, Life by The Sword, to have won 60 duels in his lifetime, never losing once. He wrote that he wanted to ‘see the Wurld’, live by his ‘own strength’, and ‘die a legend, with [his] sword in hand.’ A century after his death, his descendants, now the House of Rödel, arose as royalty of Rhodellia in 1755. Life by The Sword became a national bestseller, cementing Walther as a national hero, popularising early war tourism, and inspiring a still-unbroken line of warrior-adventurers. This includes many of today’s war tourists.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the typical war tourist from Rhodellia grew up within the kingdom’s militarised education system and underwent two years of National Service in the Rhodellian Army. Roughly 28% of war tourists come from combat arms backgrounds; this entails that they are seasoned combat veterans with extensive military training, technical certifications for operating a variety of advanced military hardware, and at least some experience fighting near-peer adversaries (namely the Native Aurelian Liberation Army and Nordwalde Separatist Movement). The remainder hail from combat support and combat service support backgrounds. However, thanks to the Spartan Protocol and Citizen-Warrior Initiative, ‘Every Rhodellian is, first and foremost, a warrior’; even truck drivers, cooks, and administrators should be able to give a decent account of themselves in combat. A large variety of backgrounds are represented among the war tourist community.

Among the war tourists with military backgrounds, most of the Rhodellian Armed Forces' military hierarchy is represented. Roughly 82% of war tourists with prior military service were enlisted personnel. Of the former enlisted ranks, 52% were junior enlisted, 44% were mid-level non-commissioned officers, and 4% were senior NCOs. The remainder are commissioned officers between junior and field-grade.

War tourists typically lack military logistical support and local connections, so they have to reach their battlefield of choice through their own means. They book normal flights to countries adjacent to war-torn countries, as civilian air traffic over active war zones usually gets suspended right before the outbreak of hostilities. From the nearest airport, they travel the rest of the way in taxis, buses, or trains. Sometimes, they have to hike cross-country to their faction of choice’s nearest recruiting station. The journey is often long and arduous. 

But if a conflict rages on for long enough, they will inevitably give rise to entrepreneurs offering support services to war tourists. These include language classes, translators, liaisons with a war’s factions, transportation to recruitment offices, and body retrieval and repatriation. This emergent war tourism industry appears to be in its infancy. However,  it is rapidly growing more complex and sophisticated as more Rhodellians show interest in the activity and enterprising individuals seek to profit off them. But until this supporting industry matures, war tourists generally lean on each other for help.

War tourists congregate on the internet before shipping out. The Internet enables the international war tourism community to discuss history and politics, share advice, give recommendations for military hardware, help each other plan their journeys, and view 4K 60FPS helmet camera combat footage uploaded by other war tourists. Throughout the 2000s, war tourists were mainly scattered across dozens of small hobbyist forums. But the consolidation of social media platforms and skyrocketing popularity of war tourism-centric Volkscast channels throughout the 2010s both exponentially grew the community and concentrated its online discussion within just a few popular websites.

Threadit, a ‘social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website’, hosts the most popular online spaces by and for war tourists. Virtually every armed conflict on Eurth (where at least one major faction accepts foreign volunteers) has its own war tourism-related Subthreadit. But by far the largest and most active online war tourism community is based in the aptly-named th/wartourists Subthreadit, which currently has 81.5k registered members and is frequently updated with new user-generated content.

Many people deride war tourists as ‘thrill-seeking morons’, ‘LARPers’, and ‘cowboys who couldn’t hack it in a PMC’. But at the same time, many people in Rhodellia still respect them as modern successors to the medieval knight-errant or comparable to the adventurers of modern fantasy literature. The tradition of war tourism is still going strong.

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Rhodellian war tourists involve themselves in various ways, for example: serving as frontline combatants, medics, intelligence analysts, engineers, and logistical truck drivers.

Who are the war tourists going to Baltica?
From analysing 10,420 Wittier posts including the #Baltica or #BalticanCivilWar tag posted between February 27 and March 4, 2022, RNN’s Cyberspace Research teams identified 104 Rhodellian social media users showing ‘serious’ intentions of war tourism to former Baltica. Of these people, RNN journalist Tao Liáng managed to contact and interview five people, all of whom shedded some insights into the goals and motivations of war tourists gearing up for this specific conflict.

Gunther Köhler, 29, is a former combat engineer and Civil Engineering postgraduate of the University of Gottesberg. He served in Nordwalde in the 3rd Brigade Engineer Battalion “Tunnel snakes” between 2012 and 2017, concluding his military career as a Sergeant. He currently works as a civil engineer at König Engineering AG, but gave a week’s notice of his resignation so he can travel to Baltica with some friends.

“While I’m glad to be out of the Army, I sort of miss the feeling of going outside the wire with the guys.” Köhler said. “In a f*cked up sort of way that I can’t exactly describe in detail.. I felt more alive hunting muzzle flashes and getting shot at than I’ve ever been at any other point in my life. Yeah, I might have a well-paying job, a comfy lifestyle, and a [video game] library full of tactical shooters, but it’s nowhere near as fulfilling. If I ship out to Baltica, where there’s a lot more fighting going on, maybe I’ll get more chances to feel that genuine combat high again. I can’t think of a better idea for a long vacation.”

Mark Taylor, 27, is a former artilleryman and Physics graduate of the Janbourg Institute of Science and Technology (JIST). He served in Nordwalde in 1st Infantry Division Artillery between 2013 and 2016, finishing his National Service as a Specialist. He was considering taking a Master’s Degree in Physics before hearing of the Second Baltican Civil War.

“I’ve probably smoked more motherf*ckers than most Infantry guys nowadays can brag about, but I’ve never been in a firefight myself.” Taylor said. “I was pretty good at Maths and Science back in school, so when I graduated and started National Service, my parents told me to pick ‘Artilleryman’ as my first job of choice. I got to become a crewman on a Black Knight Systems PH63A7 Trebuchet self-propelled howitzer, and it was pretty cool. But all my kills were from miles away, and it’s not like I ever got to see my own handiwork first-hand. I just want to go to Baltica because it may just be my last chance at crossing ‘being in a firefight’ off my bucket list.”

Paramjit Singh, 22, is a former rifleman who fought in Nordwalde between 2019 and 2021. He served in 3rd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment “Bloodthirsters” concluding his military service as a Corporal. He plans on resigning from his job at a Friedrichstadt call centre before shipping out with a few internet friends.

“I want to help Baltica rebuild itself as a flourishing bastion of freedom and democracy in Central Argis, and make a positive difference in the Wurld.” Singh said. “I heard that [the Free Republic of] Kauni was Baltica’s best bet for that. I mean, if Seylos is deploying peacekeepers to Kauni, then it must be better Freedom Index-wise than every other faction. Problem is, everyone on Threadit says Kauni’s not taking foreign volunteers. So people are going for the next ‘best’ thing, which is apparently this smaller Baltican Army remnant faction that’s at least paying lip service to democratic ideals. It’s something, and fighting for them should still be better than helping genocidal Ras nationalists, fighting for Dolchic supremacy again, or doing absolutely nothing.”

Ranjit Gurung, 26, is a former rifleman and decorated Durkha warrior who fought in Nordwalde. He began his National Service in 2013, serving in 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment “Manslayers” until 2015. At that point, he enlisted for four more years; was reassigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Durkha Regiment; and left the military as a Sergeant. He earned three eagle feathers and an Iron Cross (2nd Class) for gallantry in action against Nordwalde separatist insurgents and Native Aurelian Liberation Army regulars. Gurung currently works as a martial arts instructor at a Gottesberg secondary school.

“I come from a long tradition of Durkhas, and I want to bring pride to the Mahanan people through feats of skill and gallantry on the battlefield. A high-intensity conflict like Baltica’s will give me plenty of chances to do just that.” Gurung said. “A lot of countries are jumping on the Baltica bandwagon, and it’s safe to say that the war’s drawing a lot of the Wurld’s attention. So me and a bunch of other Rhodellian Durkha vets are planning on flying over to Argis while the war’s getting hotter and there’s still a lot of glory to be won.”

Siegfried Ritter von Nordufer, 52, is a knight and former Infantry officer. He served in the Rhodellian Army between 1992 and 2018 before retiring at the rank of Colonel. He fought on the frontlines of the Littenheim Offensives against the Native Aurelian Free State between 1993 to 1996. He spent the rest of his career in Nordwalde. He now works as an author; his most well-known work is national bestseller 18 Hours, which recounts his experience on Day One of the First Littenheim Offensive.

“My youngest son is telling me that there’s hundreds of Rhodellians going over to Baltica, and I want to be there for them when they get there.” Nordufer said. “I proudly served our country for 26 years, ever since I was a butterbar in ‘92. I also led our troops as the commanding officer of the 1st Infantry Brigade Combat Team in counter-insurgency operations across Nordwalde Province from 2011 until I retired in 2018. With my decades of leadership experience, organisational skills, and credentials, I have what it takes to whip this haphazard expeditionary force into a true force to be reckoned with. Someone has to step up before they forego military discipline, devolve into cowboys, and make a complete ass of Rhodellia in front of the international press. And I’m not hearing of any other retired field officers willing to make the trip to Central Argis.”

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When armed conflict breaks out anywhere on Eurth, there are always a significant number of Rhodellians expressing joy and excitement, especially if there's a chance they could join in

To make the trip to Baltica, the most upvoted routes being recommended by th/wartourists users all involve a connecting flight to @Hinterlands, disembarking in @Transbaltia, taking either a taxi or bus to Transbaltian towns near the Baltican border, and proceeding on foot towards the Baltican Army-occupied zone on the southernmost tip of Baltica. Alternatively, for more humanitarian-minded prospective war tourists, the Seylosian Foreign Humanitarian Corps (FHC) is taking on volunteers as aid workers and security personnel.

The Subthreadit’s members are also discouraging prospective war tourists from attempting to join either the Republic of Kauni, Ras nationalist factions, or Baltian Dolch factions. Despite the presence of Seylosian and Delamarian peacekeepers in Kauni, the provisional government is not accepting foreign volunteers, and the Baltica state media is reportedly cautioning its citizens to avoid all contact with foreign peacekeepers. Apparently due to Baltican government propaganda, Baltian Dolchs also allegedly view other Dolchs with disdain as ‘fake’ or ‘inferior’ Dolchs; the Baltian Dolchs will similarly not be taking on foreign volunteers. Ras nationalist factions are vehemently anti-Dolchic, reportedly to the point of assaulting and systemically killing people merely for speaking Dolch or having Dolchic-sounding names. The situation is complex and volatile, and discussion shifts and continues as new information filters out of the country. Anyone browsing th/wartourists is advised to stay alert for misinformation and baseless speculation.

The Rhodellian government does not officially condone or encourage war tourism. But nevertheless, the GOV.RD website’s ‘Foreign travel advice’ page contains comprehensive advice for prospective war tourists. The government does not consider anything that happens to Rhodellian war tourists — including death in battle and kidnapping for ransom — to be its responsibility. Travel to foreign battlefields at your own risk.

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Edited by Rhodellia
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Rhodellia mobilises for war against Anglia

GansĂŒkhiin Batzorig, October 11, 2022, 19:40

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Prime Minister Philip Seymour addresses the Reichstag

Prime Minister Philip Seymour declared a state of ‘partial mobilisation’, with plans to call up at least 100,000 military reservists after the Aurelian League invoked Case Two: the alliance’s article of collective defence against external aggression. Case Two brings the Kingdom of Rhodellia into an official state of war against Cîte de Fourrure, Azuria, Anglia, and the rest of the Occidental-Azanian Pact.

The Anglian War is predicted to escalate into a glubal conflict the likes of which Eurth has never seen before. With Cîte de Fourrure’s recent attacks on Zaxar, Anglia and Azuria launching a joint invasion of Anatea, and many other AL member states also facing threats of military aggression from their Anglia-aligned neighbours, a new continent-wide front is opening in Aurelia. Military analysts predict that the situation will soon escalate into the largest armed conflict Aurelia has seen since the First Aurelian War in the mid-19th century.

There is an expectation that the Rhodellian Armed Forces, being one of the most advanced, well-trained, and experienced militaries on the continent, will play a pivotal role in the collective defence of the AL. Seymour insists that Rhodellian troops and military equipment are ‘desperately needed’ on allied fronts to deter and turn the tide against Pro-Anglian forces, as well as to prevent direct attacks on Rhodellian soil. The Department of Defence currently deems the threat of a pro-Anglian invasion on Rhodellian soil to be ‘very unlikely’, so long as as Pro-Anglian forces continue to be preoccupied abroad; most mobilised reservists are thus expected to be deployed abroad to reinforce AL forces elsewhere in Aurelia.

Seymour announces war
“The beacons are lit. Aurelia calls for aid. And Rhodellia will answer!” Seymour announced in his Sunday speech in the Reichstag, where he reaffirmed his intent to honour Rhodellia’s obligation to protect its allies against military aggression. A heavily abridged version reads as follows:

“...Rhodellia will not stand idly by as an axis of evil plunges the Wurld into war
”

“...As I speak, Anglian and Anglian-aligned troops are rampaging across our very own continent, leaving blood-soaked trails of death and destruction in their wake. These are not the actions of good nations with the interests of you and the wider Wurld community at heart. This is unabashed terrorism sanctioned and perpetrated by rogue states. They have proven themselves to be enemies to peace, criminals with no respect for international rule of law, and imperialists who wish nothing more than to rob us of our freedom. Where sanctions and diplomacy have failed, only the swift and decisive application of military force can halt these atrocities
”

“
It is thus our duty as free people, as Rhodellians, to intercede. We must preserve the freedoms and autonomy of our fellow Aurelians. We must make the devils who forced our hands answer for their crimes of aggression. And we must guarantee the restoration of peace, justice, and harmony to Aurelia. With fire and sword
”

“...We should not hesitate to honour our pledge to protect our allies in their time of need.”

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People cheering the outbreak of war in a bar

Reactions
Seymour’s address to the Reichstag and later press statements, where he officially declared war and partial mobilisation, received widespread support from both Members of Parliament and the general public.

The Reichstag observed a rare moment of solidarity as all Members of Parliament, regardless of party and affiliation, declared ‘unanimous support’ for Seymour’s plans to mobilise reservists, declare war, and commence large-scale military operations beyond Rhodellia’s borders.

“United, we stand. Divided, we fall.” said Leader of the Opposition Karl Hartmann. “Our common enemy is Great Anglia and its legion of vassal states.”

Meanwhile, reactions among much of the Rhodellian public appear similarly positive, with a strong wave of ‘war fervour’ sweeping the nation. In scenes reminiscent of the outbreaks of the Second Aurelian War and Great Crusade, neighbourhoods in multiple towns and cities are holding block parties celebrating the declaration of hostilities.

RNN reporters interviewed various attendees of these street celebrations to get a general ground-level feel for ordinary people’s feelings on Rhodellia’s entry into the Anglian War. A few of which include:

Frederick Karlsberg, 31, a Life Guards Regiment veteran and resident of Gottesberg, said: “I’ve always wanted to try fighting a conventional war against peer opponents. To be honest, dodging TBI from IEDs, getting f*cked over by overly-strict ROEs, and attempting Hearts and Minds with pissed-off locals who clearly hated our guts back in Nordwalde made for a pretty shit National Service. Y’know, this war against Anglia could be a fantastic change of pace from COIN, and I feel a lot of other vets feel the same way.”

White Bird JĂ€ger, 28, a Nordwalde Foresters Regiment veteran and resident of Flintaxe, Nordwalde Province, said: “Try being one of the only guys in the village who have never earned an eagle feather. I get so much shit for that, like, you’ve got no idea. So I’ve basically been praying for a second chance for like seven years now. And now that I’ve got one, I swear that I’ve been spending hours just staring at my phone and refreshing my email inbox like crazy waiting for the call-out notices to drop. Assuming I don’t buy the farm in an arty strike or something, this war may end up being the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Klaus MĂŒller, 21, a Friedrichstadt Regiment veteran and resident of Friedrichstadt, said: “I was a grunt and there’s this one dude on my block that’s got a bigger scalp collection than me, and he served in a f*cking H&S company. On God, bruh, now that we’ve got an honest-to-God war to fight, I gotta correct that shit and start stacking more bodies, because just the mere thought of being outdone by a POG drives me up a f*cking wall. Tie me to a missile and fire it at Godstone. I am ready.”

Hawk-eyes Busch, 21, a Schwarzwald Regiment veteran and resident of Bellwald, Nordwalde Province, said: “[Anglia] came to the wrong neighbourhood. If the OCA thinks they can just waltz into Aurelia and occupy our lands just ‘cause they got money and firepower, then they’re in for a rude awakening. My ancestors made expansion a living hell for colonisers a few centuries back. And we sure as hell won’t make this shit any easier the second time around. I guarantee you that we’ll make those f*ckers bleed for every inch.”

James Smith, 18, a sixth form college student and resident of Eisenthal said: “I want to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill. The war’s already kicking off and I’ve still got just under a year until I can start my National Service, so I just hope that it’s not over before I get some.”

The vast majority of people randomly interviewed in the nation’s streets seemed to support the outbreak of war. Many people, including young men likely to be drafted in the coming days, even expressed excitement at the prospect of fighting in Rhodellia’s first true conventional war since the Great Crusade and Second Aurelian War over seventy years ago.

Meanwhile, similar war fervour is being observed on the internet. On Wittier, a smartphone recording of soldiers from the Foot Guards Regiment’s 1st Battalion reacting to Seymour’s official declaration of war with ecstatic cheers in Camp Neuemeyer’s Mess Hall has already achieved over 32,300 Rewits and 163,200 Likes. Another recording making waves on multiple social media sites shows tenants of an apartment complex (identified as Gunner’s Bridge Court in Willemhausen, Gottesberg) whistling, cheering, and blasting loud music from their balconies the night after the announcement; one Threadit repost of the video on th/Rhodellia has already achieved over 36,000 upvotes. Many other popular displays of public support are already being reported across the country.

To outsiders, this overwhelmingly positive reaction to the outbreak of what is likely to turn out to be a long, destructive, and costly war may seem highly unusual. RNN reached out to Dr. Keegan Krieger of the Gottesberg University’s Faculty of History for a theory explaining the historical and cultural context behind this phenonemon:

“Rhodellians have a special relationship with war. Rhodellia is a nation threatened by enemies on almost all sides. To ensure their nation's continued survival in the face of overwhelming adversity, Rhodellians at the community and government-level would invest extraordinary amounts of time and resources into raising, educating, and training the next generation in preparation for the next war. Since the colonial era, nearly every man, woman, and child would be prepared to fight, and fight they did: Rhodellia has spent nearly every year of its 426-year-long existence fighting one existential war after the other.

Dominant historical narratives, the ones we teach in schools, attribute Rhodellia’s continued survival to this Spartan-like indoctrination and training. And it traditionally involves a lot of mental preparation to kill or be killed. So naturally, Rhodellia grew into one of the most militarised societies on Eurth, for which war is basically the default state of nature and ‘peace’ is merely the brief time window to prepare for the next battle.

Up until the first half of the 20th century, most cultures and societies saw war as this glorious and honourable venture. But military innovations like accurate rifles, barbed wire, quick-firing artillery, poison gas, land mines, and machine guns stripped war of its traditional romance and adventure. Many nations came out of large-scale conflicts in the early 20th century not only with hundreds of thousands or even millions of casualties, but also terrible and long-lasting collective trauma. And so by the mid-20th century, most people in most cultures are in agreement that war is this horrible, horrible thing.

Rhodellians are no different in that regard, yet most still look forward to it, or at least try to. To us, the arrival of modern warfare — as brutal and random as it can be — just became something we must learn to accept, adapt to, and master. The nation's enemies are many, and they are still as strong and hostile as ever; most Rhodellians understand that becoming peaceful, 'soft', and 'weak' will only just doom them in the long run.

To help with this, many people develop coping mechanisms. They find ways to come to terms with the inevitable and enjoy war. They turn it into a game, a competition, a challenge, a spectacle more genuine than any war film, something to dedicate their lives to and master, something they need to get good in order to protect their comrades, something to give their life purpose, or a joke with varying layers of irony. At the end of the day, you need to find your own way to make sure you can defend your country when the time inevitably comes.

Every generation grows up just waiting for their turn to fight. The Lost Generation had the Red Deluge. The Greatest Generation had the Great Crusade. Generation X had the Gold Valley Uprising and Littenheim Offensives. And it seems that, for today’s Millennials and Generation Z, the Anglian War will be the ‘Great War’ they’ve thus far spent their whole lives preparing for. And on top of that, it seems like the kind of ‘just war’ that can feel satisfied fighting in.

From the perspective of a people and nation on the receiving end of Pro-Anglian military aggression, it is extremely easy to condense the Anglian War into a classic struggle of ‘Good versus Evil’. In recent years, Anglia and its Aurelian allies have embraced ideologies you could appropriately describe as imperialist or even outright fascist. I believe it is safe to say that they are openly out to conquer and oppress others. Compared to the counter-insurgencies Rhodellia has been fighting for decades, where our opponents are understood to be fellow ordinary people who just want to express their human rights to self-determination and be left alone to build their own independent societies on their own ancestral lands, the Anglian War seems to be far less morally ambiguous.

A Rhodellian would be far less likely to develop moral injury fighting against Anglian invaders openly bent on conquering and oppressing them, rather than an Indigenous Aurelian separatist insurgent. Rather, it is easy to see themself as a liberator, a freedom fighter, a warrior of justice fighting on the truly righteous side. This is the same reason why, earlier in the year, thousands of Rhodellians were so attracted to volunteer in the Second Baltican Civil War, specifically to fight against the Republic of Dokestva’s Banis regime. Anglia seems like a rather clear and worthwhile enemy a lot of normal people can feel good fighting against.

Basically, Rhodellians are born and raised to fight. They want to fight a war for a worthwhile cause. The Anglian War seems to check most people's boxes. And a once-in-a-generation existential war like this gives Rhodellians purpose.”

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Rhodellian troops about to embark on a ruck

How does Rhodellian National Service and mobilisation work?
So far, the Department of Defence has announced an ambitious goal of calling up ‘at least’ 100,000 military reservists within 14 days before deploying expeditionary forces to fight on the frontlines against Pro-Anglian forces by mid-November. 100,000 may seem like a massive number, but it only comprises a small minority of the total manpower Rhodellia can draw on for defence. And for that, the nation can credit National Service: its system of universal conscription.

Rhodellia remains as one of the few nations in the Wurld that still practises universal conscription. This is because the Rhodellian Armed Forces has always expected to engage peer or near-peer adversaries (such as the Native Aurelian Free State’s Native Aurelian Liberation Army) in a prolonged large-scale conventional war in the near future. Given how deadly modern weapons can be, a war of this nature will likely burn through a lot of manpower very quickly. It is thought that retaining conscription, which would draw from a much larger and more diverse manpower pool, would be more practical than maintaining an all-volunteer professional military for fulfilling Rhodellia’s manpower needs in a hypothetical ‘total war’ scenario.

All adult Rhodellian males aged between 18 and 60 are liable for military service. At age 18, normally soon after one graduates from sixth form or college, male citizens receive summons to serve about two years of active duty in the Rhodellian Army along with others within the same age cohort. However, in practice, only about 40% of male citizens, or approximately 24,000 conscripts yearly, actually end up completing National Service. Much of the remainder of male citizens either opt for Alternative (civilian) Service or fall under an exemption.

There are a number of exemptions to the draft. These include students in full-time secondary and tertiary-level education, practising religious ministers, active-duty armed forces and internal security forces members, men with dependents who seriously need their care, government officials, non-citizens, dual nations, conscientious objectors, and people with certain health and mental conditions.

Upon completing their National Service or any Army service contract, Rhodellians automatically join the Rhodellian Army Reserve. They are obligated to attend Refresher Training programmes taking up between roughly one and three months a year, depending on their rank, military occupational specialty, and how dependent their specialised skills are on constant maintenance. They remain in the Army Reserve until they either reach the age of 60 or enlist in the Rhodellian Air Force or Rhodellian Navy (or those branches’ respective reserve components).

Many Rhodellian universities also offer extracurricular programmes for training commissioned officers, such as an Army, Navy, or Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). After graduating, ROTC cadets who complete their programmes are commissioned as Second Lieutenants (Army and Air Force) or Ensigns (Navy) in their respective military branches, and are contracted to stay in active duty for at least eight years. When they finish their contracts, they re-enter the military's reserves.

National Service aims to develop and maintain a large and diverse core of well-trained and experienced manpower that Rhodellia can readily draw from in the event of a war or other national emergency. Not having to train fresh troops from scratch allows the Rhodellian Armed Forces to swell massively in numbers within a relatively short period of time. As of 2021, out of a conscription-eligible male population of roughly 3 million, the Rhodellian Armed Forces has approximately 800,000 reservists.

Seymour has, thus far, never specified an exact cap on the number of reservists the Rhodellian Armed Forces intends to conscript for the Anglian War. It is estimated that it will never exceed 200,000 over the course of the war. However, this of course ultimately depends on how many extra troops the Aurelian League needs to reinforce its various fronts to secure a final victory against Anglia, the length of the conflict, and the casualty rates deployed units will end up sustaining in and out of combat.

As of October 11, all Rhodellian Armed Forces reservists and their employers by this point should have been alerted about potential call-out notices at least 28 days in advance. This was due to the invocation of AL Case One following the start of armed conflict between Zaxar and CĂŽte de Fourrure in early September.

Reservists can expect to receive an actual call-out notice by text, by email, and by post within the next 48 hours. These notices should come complete with detailed instructions on what to do next.

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Edited by Rhodellia (see edit history)
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