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Best Detente for a Best Serbia


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15:34, Variota local time, Kaptein A.H. Ferrefaaier International Airport, Ferrefaaierhafen

The landing gear deployed, and the envoy put away their rakija into the silver cup holders in the leather chairs. Chancellor Sivkovic turned his head to his assistant: "Are our Department boys and White Eagles ready with the motorcade?". "Yes, Chancellor." replied Dragan. The plane glided closer to the runway, the rubber meeting the asphalt. The pilot announced on the intercom: "Welcome to Variota." The Serb Air plane taxied on the runway until it met the motorcade near the rear gate. Men in suits rolled out the carpet for the bureaucrats and the Chancellor. The plane staircase unlatched from the fuselage and the bodyguards quickly took positions to walk with the envoy to their cars, Serbian made full-size sedans made only heavier with the ballistic protection and guns stashed away. "Good flight, sir?" Asked the head bodyguard. "Yes, let's get out of here before someone tries something." answered Sivkovic. The envoy of 8 got in the 4 sedans, with 1 more sedan ahead of the convoy. The heavy armored doors clunked closed and the V8s rumbled quickly towards the security gate at the back of the airport.

 

 

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An official visit to the Unified @Variotan States by an Arhomaiki official was a rare event. The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion would have preferred it that it was a rare event for the average Arhomaioi too. Of course, there were the deviants and the hedonists that would travel to that sink of iniquity to get a standard and class of sin that didn't exist in back home. Arhomaneia would also like to pretend that these sinners didn't exist, either, but they were often carefully monitored when they arrived back in true civilisation. This was just in case they started to pollute the rest of the population with their barbarian-inspired degeneracy. And in case they had been turned into agents of Het Apparath through blackmail or having been won over by the lures of vice.

Contact between Het Huisselant and the Megas Agios Basileia was rare as well – the two countries had rather opposed ideologies and only occasionally interacted, for better or worse. However, both nations had fallen on the same side on the subject of @Greater Serbia. It was strange, or at least it struck Megas Logothetes ton Barbaron Eugenios Goulielmos as strange, that Variota had been chosen by the government of that foul barbarian nation to act as neutral ground. There were nations who hadn't bolstered the embargo by joining it and had stayed apart from the mess that could have acted as hosts. Perhaps it was because of this feeling of possible threat that meant that the Serbian head of state was still holed up in a bunker under a mountain, like the foul little creature he was. A country that was more neutral may have meant that Milosevic would have crawled out of his hole and arrived in person.

Goulielmos sighed quietly and pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his thumb. At least he wouldn't have to befoul his hand by shaking the monster's paw. Instead, it was some other minion. Likely one with bloody hands but presumably not quite as sodden as Milosevic. He shuffled the papers around on the table in front of him. The aircraft he was on was a small airliner, in the light blue-grey of the Basilikoaeroporeia. As well as the roundel of the air force, it had a black-bordered red stripe running from nose to tail, indicating it was in the service of the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion. It was outfitted in the manner of a luxury private jet, as befitted a high minister of state of God's nation on Eurth. On the flight over, Eugenios had looked back over the intelligence gathered by his nation's intelligence service about the actions of Greater Serbia against their minorities, as well as estimations of the economic damage done to that nation by the embargo.

And the message that invited Arhomaneia to send a delegation to this meeting, where they had had the sheer balls to lay out terms.

These wishes included one that stated that Greater Serbia wanted to avoid economic punishment for past actions. Goulielmos was a diplomatic man by nature – he had ascended to the head of a Logothesion, which required a cunning mind as well as knowing when to cooperate and compromise – so it was rare that he allowed himself to entertain thoughts that went contrary to that. But, this time, he definitely thought that the f*ckers deserved it.

It wasn't a Christian thought, though. He shuffled the papers again, in the hope that somehow the situation might change. Public opinion, such as it mattered to an autocratic, theocratic monarchy, was against Greater Serbia, even though there was the link of shared religion. At that thought, he looked around at the gaggle of priests that were accompanying him as part of his entourage. Part of that was going to be for the benefit of the Serbians, emphasising Arhomaneia's place as God's chosen nation but also for the Variotans, as perhaps the sight of such godliness would draw them back from their unhallowed ways. And to make sure that no one in the mission got spiritually contaminated by a visit to the sinkhole of wickedness that was Het Huisselant.

And there was also the fact that Arhomaneia was planning on using this summit to draw itself closer to the TRIDENT nations present. Establishing a closer working relationship with them was a key Arhomaiki aim in the coming year, as the actions of the Gharoi had demonstrated that the Megas Agios Basileia was both isolated but possibly on the cusp of gathering a good collection of allies about itself. Perhaps the looming Sentist clusterf*ck in Ceris might also go some way towards that...

The seatbelt light on the ceiling above Goulielmos blinked on.

“This is Topoteretes Maleinos speaking. We are about to land at Kaptein A.H. Ferrefaaier International Airport. If everyone could make sure all luggage is stowed, sit down and fasten their seatbelts, please.” The wing commander flying the aeroplane gave a good bash at pronouncing the barbarian name of the airport correctly, but it would likely have caused a Variotan to wince at the butchering of it.

Dutifully, Goulielmos started packing away his papers and handed over his briefcase to an aide, who stowed it. He cast a glance around the passenger compartment at occupants of the plane as they sat down and made themselves comfortable. No one looked as if they thought they were going into the very depths of the hedonistic hell they actually were. There were a couple of bumps that shook the plane's occupants, but nothing too rough. The plane taxied to a halt and there was a series of clunks and whines as the doors were unlocked and the airstair was lowered. Four members of the Tagmata accompanied Goulielmos, more out of show than of any genuine fear for his safety. There were two from the Athanatoi, dressed in green robes and wearing blue armour, and two from the Paramonai, these wearing blue robes with brightly polished bare steel armour. They were there to show the glory that was Arhomaneia to the barbarians. Their sallet helms were closed and their horsehair plumes caught the wind as they descended to the tarmac.

As soon as the airstair had been lowered, a band had started to play the Arhomaiki national anthem. It was an odd mix of hymn and military march and summed up Arhomaneia more than it ought to. As the first two bodyguards led the way, the cameras lingered on them more than the Megas Logothetes. If Arhomaneia could do anything right, it was gaudy, ostentatious uniforms. Once Goulielmos was on the tarmac, a minister stepped forward to shake his hand before stopping, remembering it wasn't the Arhomaiki way to do so. There was a slightly awkward pause before the Megas Logothetes took the offered hand and shook it.

“Good morning and may the blessings of Christ be on you, minister,” said Goulielmos, in the traditional manner. He had no idea whether the man actually understood what he was saying. He himself had nothing more than a very basic knowledge of Variotan, far too poor to do anything more than embarrass himself by using it. He was going to leave that all up to his own translator and those provided by the hosts.

The minister replied in his own tongue and indicated that they should follow him. He led the way towards some vehicles – Prymontian-made, from the badges on them – and the Arhomaiki delegation was taken towards the accommodation, to prepare for the start of the summit.

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The presidential suite smelled of rakija and cigarettes after only 2 nights, Sivkovic and his envoy writing down and pondering for solutions to begin the negotiations at the hotel. It was around 9 in the morning, the politicians having breakfast, a hearty serving of proja with a small glass of rakija. Sivkovic drank in the mornings rather than the evenings, but wasn't an alcoholic, a stereotype of Serbia, a massive alcoholic. He was sent because Milosevic knew he was the easiest to get along with, but just as strong in the nerve and stubborn as the rest of the cabinet. The deputy head of embassy staff had an epiphany, one of the ideas that the rest of the staff didn't bring up. Just as he was about to work up the courage to ask Mr. Sivkovic, a diplomatic bag came in, brought by a DNS bodyguard. Sivkovic unzipped it, it was his daily intel report as Milosevic's staff receive being part of his inner party, the cabinet. He read through it for a short time, it was the usual, what the integrity of the economy is like, defense forces, chemical weapons readiness, etc. By this time, the Serbian entrance into Dopraystein was on the paper, intriguing the Chancellor of Commerce. "Hmm." he mumbled. He wondered if his people could get through the summit fast enough to prevent a media firestorm once again on Greater Serbia if the reporters found out about this happening. Sivkovic didn't worry himself about the finances for this project, the weapons are surplus from the 80's and 90's, only the plates for the armor vests were new. For now it was merely a drop in the bucket - personnel numbered 65 as of right now but over 800 military advisors and weapons techs were scheduled to arrive at the end of April. More worrisome was the already growing amount of materiel being delivered by plane, the planes were unmarked but that wouldn't be enough to ward off suspicion. He made a reminder to himself to talk to Milosevic after the summit to recommend building an airbase in Dopraystein, away from cities or people for that matter. He refocused himself on the current task - the summit. He asked Aleksandr, the deputy, if he had any idea. "Well, sir, we can't kill them anymore, we can't hide them, we can't let them leech off of our society, we can't much let them live most of all. It pains me to say but perhaps we could find a country that would take them off our hands? There has to be a country that stands up for the 'human rights' of these people. We should challenge them if they'll be willing to accept them." suggested the deputy. "I think you're onto something Aleksandr. This will be our main angle, the plan A for the Bosniak issue. I want someone else to come up with a follow up plan if this doesn't work with them." commanded Sivkovic.

"I want a meeting in the evening with the Tagmatines before we kick off this summit in front of the world, off the record, don't tell the press anything." Sivkovic told his staffers. The staffers nodded and left the room to try to get hold of Goulielmos. the counterpart that @Tagmatium Rules sent. Sivkovic continued his breakfast and conversed with the rest of the embassy people at the table. After finishing his 3rd glass of rakija, he took out his first cigarette of the day from his gold case, "CCCC" inscribed in Cyrillic, samo sloga Srbina spasava, meaning Only Unity Saves the Serbs. It reminded him of who he was representing, the Serbian people.

Edited by Greater Serbia (see edit history)
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"You know, Generalissimo, I think they were hoping we would miss out."

Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ismail Tian-Han flashed a joking smile from his wrinkled face at the other passenger in the limousine. Across from him sat Secretary for Defense Jinhuang Choinom, the man who commanded the armies of Fulgistan at the highest level. The two had often been at odds in recent years; Tian-Han was a senior official in the Party who had maintained a reputation as the nation's senior statesman since the late 90s, and Choinom was a decidedly unpolitical man; he fell in with Almas on near any issue, and his unwillingness or lack of ability to engage with the more ideological elements of policy making left him somewhat disrespected among the members of the Central Committee. Nonetheless, the General Secretary had sent them both on this mission, and he was counting on them both to get concessions from the Serbians.

It was already a farce; the Argics were keeping their president in a hidden location while they sent his underlings to negotiate. Although the Worker's Republic had not been formally invited by the Serbians to participate in the summit, Fulgistan had contributed the largest contingent of ground forces to the blockade coalition, and moreover had strong political motives to see the Greater Serbians taken down a peg; although Tian-Han and Choinom often came to blows, they were both anti-fascists to the marrow.

Choinom sat up to adjust the heater, his medals clinking gently on his chest.

"What will we do if they don't comply? We can hardly push this all the way to war."

Tian-Han shrugged ambivalently and lit a kretek. The cloves popped and sputtered as the tobacco burned cherry red.

"You've no sense for these things, Comrade. Everyone knows the Serbians aren't negotiating in good faith. They also know the Serbians are in a weak position; there can be no favorable resolution for them. However, I have no doubt that our collaborators in the blockade will attempt to negotiate their own favorable settlement and stymie the process. Nonetheless, I'll attempt to arrange a meeting during the summit with the rest of the coalition. It can't hurt."

"I'll help you however I can. We've got the force to back up the words."

"Quite right. Fix your hair; we're here."

The two men emerged from the limousine, their security detail following from the car behind them. Variota was not a place that fair deals were negotiated, especially in Fulgistani history, but they were ready to represent the Fulgistani people, and in their minds, the Alharun people, in their ongoing conflict with the evils of reaction.

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The hotel was certainly luxurious, if in a style that was more modern than the usual Arhomaiki tastes. It couldn't be expected that the locals had the sophistication of taste of the Arhomaioi but it wasn't bad, considering that the Variotans had spent most of their history living in rotting hulks. Both at sea and then using the wrecks as shelter on land. This perhaps explained a lot about the seemingly ingrained need to live a life of ostentatious luxury, conspicuous consumption and profligate degeneracy that dominated both the conscious and unconscious thoughts of the barbarians.

Once the agents from the Arhomaiki Diktyo Pliroforion had swept the room for listening devices and other electronic espionage equipment, the delegation from the Megas Agios Basileia made their way inside. Searching for bugs wasn't a slight against the Variotans' hospitality but standard practice – if they had missed any, then Het Apparath had hidden them well. And, in all honesty, the Megas Logothetes expected some level of spying from their hosts. It would have been foolish of them not to.

Two of the Tagmata soldiers stood near their charge whilst the other two stalked about the room, following the AND agents. Whilst they did not expect anything to actually happen, they still had to be careful. They were dealing with a country that was happily massacring their own citizens because of some bizarre ideas of purity or some other nonsense. Such a gang of criminals could even go as far as to make an attempt on the lives of delegates if the negotiations weren't going their way.

After the intelligence agents had made their rounds, the priests made their way about the room, murmuring prayers and wafting clouds of incense from their thimiata making the air thick with scent and smoke. Occasional dabs of holy water made sure that none of the taint of sin that undoubtedly covered the room would besmirch the delegation. Once both the agents and the clerics had performed their work, Goulielmos entered into the suite of rooms. He at once made a beeline for a desk in the central room and gestured for an aide to set up his workstation there. Whilst the Agios Basileos kai Autokrator had given the Megas Logothetes free rein to act as the representative of Arhomaneia and take decisions on behalf of the Leader of the Free Wurld, Goulielmos would still need to transmit information back as best as he could. The workstation would be able to contact the Arhomaiki embassy in Grootwaterflakte and then on to Tagmatika. If need be, it would also be able to go via the clandestine ADP vessel located outside of Variotan territorial waters and pretending to be a trawler.

Once it had all been set up, the Megas Logothetes sat down on a sofa and a cup of tea was handed to him. Two of the guards took up position either side of the door whilst the other two put themselves in locations in the room that meant that they could quickly respond to anything that happened.

“Do you want the television on, Endoxotatos?” an aide asked. She used the formal title for a high member of the Arhomaiki government. It meant 'most glorious'.

Before he answered, Goulielmos looked over at one of the priests, who shook his head. The spiritual well being was going to be taken seriously on this mission. “No, best not. Who knows what type of sin we might be exposed to?”

“I think we can pick up the ARE or AATD on this, though,” she continued, waving the remote at the TV mounted on the wall and looking through the instruction book provided by the hotel. Those were the two main television networks in the Megas Agios Basileia and both had a wurldwide service.

“No, thank you, Asekretis,” said Goulielmos firmly. “I want to be able to look through the information that we have and think upon the demands made by the Serbians. And I'd prefer silence in order to concentrate.”

Suitably chastised, the aide retreated from the Megas Logothetes and started to help with moving the luggage the delegation had brought with them. Goulielmos turned his attention towards the initial communication from Greater Serbia that laid out its wants for the summit. Some of them were understandable – the Greater Serbian government didn't want itself destabilised or a humiliating deal foisted upon it. Not that that would be possible without it being forced and that could only really happen through a war against the Milosevic regime. That wasn't really something that anyone wanted, despite their litany of crimes and the just punishment they certainly deserved. Economic penalties was about the only thing the embargoing nations could do and it was what they were doing. And it did seem that they were working. After all, the Serbians had been forced to the table. That was something of a victory, even if the suspicion was that the bastards were still murdering their own citizens.

He and his analysts within the Logothesion expected that the Serbians would want a similar end result to what the Gharoi had done with the Gerenians – get the religious minority perceived as troublesome off of their lands and into the hands of others. And because the Exousiokrateia had been able to successfully badger the rest of the wurld into taking the heretics, it would be likely that the Serbians would get what they wanted too. The fact that the Milosevic regime would get what it wanted was pretty galling and even highlighted the fact that Arhomaneia's northern neighbour wasn't as savage as they liked to portray themselves as. After all, even the northern barbarians hadn't sunk as low as to commit mass murder.

A knock at the door broke the Megas Logothetes's concentration on the sheaves of paper and the laptop in front of him. He looked over at his chief aide, who shrugged when he caught Goulielmos' eye. No one was expecting anything. The summit itself wasn't to start for a few more hours, so it couldn't be anyone from the Variotan government summoning them. Even then, he'd have expected a phone call if the timetable had been stepped up. The guards on either side of the door were looking alert and the two others had quietly got to their feet.

“Open the door,” Eugenios said.

One of the guards cautiously opened the door whilst the other stood poised to spring into action. Goulielmos swivelled in his seat to take a look at. It turned out it was a small group of people.

The Megas Logothetes nodded at his chief aide. “See what they want, Protoasekretis.”

The man stood, bowed and walked over to the door. A whispered conversation ensued, not helped by the fact that both groups were having to use a language that wasn't their own. After a moment, the aide walked back over to the sofa where Goulielmos was sat.

Endoxotatos, they are from the Serbian delegation,” he said, sounding almost nervous. “They wish to express that the Chancellor Sivkovic wants to meet with you before the summit starts.”

Goulielmos' first instinct was to tell the Paramones soldier standing next to the door to slam it shut in their faces. That, however, would likely fatally undermine the summit before it had even started. Meeting the Serbians beforehand would probably do that as well and do a significant amount of damage to the standing of the Megas Agios Basileia on top of that. Again, the gall of the Serbians struck Goulielmos as astounding. Pretty much the only thing that they had to offer was to not murder people, as if that was some sort of hard struggle that they should be rewarded for. He almost shook his head before he realised that the gesture might well be seen from the doorway.

Protoasekretis, come here, please,” spoke Goulielmos after a moment of thought.

The chief aide walked away from the door as the blue robed guard subtly place herself in a position to block the door to the suite. Picking up a pen and a notepad that was lying on the table, he wrote a note down and then handed that to the aide.

“Please give that to them and express my apologies to the Chancellor.”

Well, Goulielmos wasn't sorry, but Sivkovic wouldn't know that. Likely, the barbaros sought to drive a wedge between the embargoing nations before the talks even started. He couldn't imagine what they thought they could offer Arhomaneia. After all, it had been almost two years since the Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion had placed an embargo on Greater Serbia. Whatever economic ties Arhomaneia had had with that isolated, impoverished backwater had been severed some time ago. It would just be a proposal to not murder the Bosniaks or somesuch thing. Whilst Goulielmos would ultimately feel some guilt, the blood was on the hands of Milosevic and his warlords.

 


 

The note to Chancellor Sivkovic:

Your excellency,

I apologise for not being able to take up your offer to meet before the summit starts. I feel that all of us need to go into the summit without any subterfuge or devious intent. That, after all, will undermine the potential for an equitable result and that is what we are all looking for. Because of this, and the fact that if news of our meeting got out it would damage the summit, I cannot accept your offer of meeting.

God will see a path through for us all,

Eugenios Goulielmos

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Beep.
No response.
Beeeeeep.
Beep, beep. Beeeep. Beep beep beep.
Beeeeeeep.

''Teringlijerrrrr! Opstaan of ek ram ji's kop in!"

A loud thumping could be heard from the floor under Reemy Loopentlant's bedroom. His lovely downstairs neighbor, a Reierfer woman that could best be described as the human equivalent of a piece of beef jerky that had won the lottery, had been suffering this fate ever since he'd been elected to head the new cabinet. Having a dastardly loud alarm clock wake you up way too early every morning would lead you to call the leader of your nation a typhoid sufferer too, not to mention giving him the lovely offer to bash his head in to help him get up better.

''Ja, ja. Hou ook fan ji, Tita.''
''Hou ji bakkes, Reemy! Neem peuk'n mee foor mi."
''Sal'k toen."

Of course, love and hate were often close together. A thin line, one that Reemy and his neighbor Tita often skirted but generally ended up on the loving side. He'd bring her cigarettes, she'd bake him a steak. He ends up in bed with some political groupie, Tita shoots at the paparazzi with her souped up BB gun. The dynamic worked, even if it was strange. It kept him sane in a world where things happened that made even Het Apparath shake their heads in disappointment. And today was one of those days where he'd have to be part of it, part of changing up the world for the better by embracing the lesser evils.

The diplomatic equivalent of making up the balance between taking the risk of going out to get condoms and possibly losing your coat rack deer for the evening or taking the risk of having to visit the doctor for some antibiotics against the burning feeling bubbling up deep inside your urethra and testicles. A summit to discuss lifting the restrictions placed on Greater Serbia by the international community in exchange for concessions. When the Serbians contacted his government through their embassy, he had to think about it. Yes, his government was on the hunt for something to wave around. But this could've backfired immensely.

Luckily, the international community was willing to do their little song and dance in the Pollervan Hallen. The Tagmatines, the Fulgistani's, the Serbians, the lot of them would come and kowtow in the hope of ending up with something that wouldn't be called the Wurld's Greatest Mistake in twenty years. Like Reemy's father always told him, the road to the best outcome is blocked by compromises. But in a wurld where Karrewasser wasn't yet able to offer up a missile that could level a city for the price of Dina Diva's average weekend of fun, that best outcome wasn't possible.

The bathroom mirror showed a scruffy face, a face that had seen a lot. Dina Diva had taken him along on a night of fun a couple of days ago and he still hadn't fully recovered. He tried to tell her no but, similar to how he had to kowtow to the international community soon, Dina Diva was a force to be reckoned with in her own way and having her and her show on his side meant having a large share of the Variotan population on his side or, at the very least, less against him. If that meant snorting lines and banging a parade of mask-wearing, non-disclosure agreement signing unknowns, that's what Reemy had to do. It's a truly hard life, being a Variotan politician.

A splash of water and a quick shave and he was out the door. Delegates would be arriving, although he had been able to pass off the chore of welcoming them at the airport to Quintana Wijnmaaker, leader of a party and coalition that supported his party and coalition and had in turn been given the role of leading some minor ministry. He hated waiting on some minor functionary from Backwater Nation Wherever, having to greet them like they were your best friend and pretending to care about what they did, who they were and the nation they served.

In a way, it was weird that a man with this mindset would end up becoming a leading politician as well as long-serving minister of Diplomatic Affairs but for Reemy, it was simple. Everything a person did could be explained, analysed, used and influenced. Empathy, something that more idealistic snowflakes liked to espouse as the next best thing since the invention of fire, came down to one core concept. Lying. Lying, lying, lying. Big, fat lies. Do you really care that that small kid's cat was killed by a spaced-out tourist that didn't notice the difference between cocaine and meth-laced PCP? Of course not. Reemy had never been a cat person. But when it came down to it, he lied, he cried, he worked and he toiled. To better himself, to better the nation.

And now he'd do it to better the wurld. Better the wurld according to the Variotan vision of what it should be. If only because, like the Leeffessang song that was on the radio as he drove to the banquet hall told him, 'Every day is the same, you'll never know if you'll be able to walk away.'. And Reemy wanted to have his name down in history before he wasn't able to walk away.

Spoiler

For those interested, the Variotan bits are:

''Typhoid sufferer! Wake up or I'll bash your head in!''

and 

''Yes, yes. Love you too, Tita.''
''Shut up, Reemy! Get me some smokes.''
''I'll do it.''

 

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