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The Imperium Reunited


Salvia

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Keno thrust his hands deep into his pockets as he walked in the night, the streetlamps dimly illuminating the sidewalk he walked on.  The suburbs he walked through were unfamiliar to him, Keno himself growing up in the urban slums of Alvernia's north.  His family still lived in the same one-room house that they had lived in for 16 years, but here Keno was in suburbia, a 45-minute bus ride away.  His baggy shorts and t-shirt failed to cover him from the chilly winds, which accompanied the rapid drop in temperature that came with the sunset, while the bag that carried his clothes made his back sweat.  Despite feeling chilly, Keno enjoyed the walk.  He was alone with his thoughts, a small field to his right and the road to his left.  The 2 lanes were separated by a median that made them one-way roads, and the grassy median held a row of trees that extended across the entire road.  The leaves whistled gently as the breeze blew while the night air was filled with the noise of the local fauna- the chirp of the local bugs in early fall was especially loud in the night time.  A soft mist began to fall as Keno checked the time on his battered wrist watch: 11:30.  Despite the late time, the house he was heading to was expecting him.  The Piannas were family friends of Keno’s family and Keno and their son, Leo, knew each other since they were 3.  After they were both accepted into the same private secondary school, the Piannas had offered to house Keno, aware of their economic situation.  With undying gratitude, Keno’s family accepted the proposition.  Saving up his money, Keno was able to buy the cheapest bus ticket he could find, packed his bags, and headed towards the suburbs.

 

The blaring of a car horn from behind Keno interrupted his thoughts as he whipped his head around.  A 4-door sedan had slowed down to a roll next to Keno but he kept looking straight, ignoring the car.  The light that poured out of the headlights made him squint and Keno heard the car come to a stop and doors open and close.  Even though he was sure he would not be mugged before he had left, Keno had taken a small switchblade with him just in case, the one he had carried with him for years now as protection in the urban slums.  The sound of footsteps came closer and one of them shouted out, “Where you going, asinavulo*?  We just wanna be friends.”  Keno’s throat closed as his heart raced.  What was he to do?  The bag on his back made it difficult to run quickly.  But the Piannas was what, two blocks away?  He might be able to make it.  He turned his head around for the first time.  One person was sitting on the hood with a cigarette in his hand.  While three others were walking shadily behind Keno.  Running wouldn’t be an option.  Upon making eye contact with one of the three, the man smiled.  Keno realized all three were reaching into their waistbands; his heart began to thump harder than ever before.  Adrenaline pumping, Keno, as quickly as he could, slumped the bag off his shoulders and bolted while screaming as loud as he could.  “HELP!  HELP ME!”  He heard the footsteps of the men behind him inch slowly closer as the car revved and drove towards him.  Keno heard one of the set of footsteps disappear for an instant before feeling a hand slap his foot into the other one, tripping him.  One of the men and Keno slammed onto the pavement while the other two reached him.  Keno fumbled for his blade but didn’t reach it in time- one of them had grabbed the back of his head and was repeatedly slamming it into the ground, cursing him with each blow.  

 

Keno’s face numb and bloody, the man finally stopped.  He sat there dazed for a moment before one of them rolled him over, back on the pavement.  He couldn’t make out much, but Keno saw four figures around him.  He dimly heard a switchblade flick open and one of them saying, “This is for running, you dirty asino.”  More blades flicked open as they bent down towards Keno, who laid there, still.  They drew their arms back, then Keno felt several sharp stabs of pain in his stomach before blacking out for good.

 

*                                        *                                        *

 

Alvernia had not seen so much violence in one week.  Not since the People’s War, anyway.

 

Just five days ago, the death of a native Marenesian by Salvian nationalists ignited anger amongst the native community.  In the north, where most of the native population was present, peaceful demonstrations garnered hundreds of thousands while newspapers and local news stations reported on the murder 24/7.  The boy was honored as a hero, a martyr, a rallying call for any and all native Marenai who still inhabited the Salvian lands.  The story ran quite differently in the south, especially in the overwhelmingly Salvian capital, Soncinia.  The men were labelled as “drunken vagrants,” having nothing to do with the Salvian identity.  Other, more extreme tabloids went on to discuss the identity of this Marenai boy, saying the event never happened, or that it was in fact the boy that had started the violence.  The story spilled over into national politics: several members of the Body of Representatives took sides, while most refused to even acknowledge the rising tensions and conflict between native Marenai and Salvians.  States of emergencies were declared across the country as the National Guard and Alvernian military were deployed to quell the revolts.

 

Keno’s family was caught up in it all.  Interviewer after interviewer requested for a conversation with the grieving family, while the mailbox spilled over with letters of compassion and support as well as death threats.  How their address was leaked in the first place, none of them knew.  Keno, according to the Catholic Marenai tradition that was frequently observed in northern Alvernia, was placed in an open casket during his funeral despite the gruesome outcome of the crime.  The family was not allowed to speak, sleep, or eat- only pray- for 24 hours, while anyone invited mingled around and remembered the teen’s life. At the end of the 24 hours, at sunset, the priest sprinkled the casket and the congregation with holy water before burning the casket and after that the family could talk.  But they didn’t.  Only wept.

 

*                                        *                                        *

 

Lunex,”  The minister addressed the president while bowing.  While the word might seem appropriate for a democracy to an outsider- the word translated most literally meant “leader” or something of the sort- in the Salvian context, it was closer to “king” or “grand leader” than a humble title.  Just another of the many “reforms” Lunexus Marzeni had instituted since his first election in 2005.  Of course, even if his second victory was legitimate, Alvernia’s two term limit would’ve guaranteed Marzeni leave in 2015, but he was able to convince the entire Body of Representatives to amend the Constitution to grant him four more terms.  Yet it didn’t matter- every Salvian loved him anyways.  His promises of creating a new and strong Alvernia that would dominate Marenesia and reuniting all Salvian people was pleasing to the ear of many Salvians, even those of the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum.  The native Marenai be damned if they stood in the way of the great Lunex’s dream.

 

The president let the minister stay in a bow for several seconds before gesturing with his hand.  Marzeni began talking as soon as the minister stood while fixing himself a drink, “Good morning, piccliocho**.  You wish to discuss with me about the Northern situation, do you not?”  The minister, Bergio de Wohine, was Secretary of the Poka’i- Marzeni’s new police force he had established a few years back.  They essentially replaced all local police departments with a national force that had pledged loyalty to Marzeni.  “Yes, Lunex.  The Poka’i have been combating the crisis for over two weeks now.  I wanted to come to you personally with a request for extra aid.  Perhaps calling in the military?”

 

The pouring of whiskey and clinking of liquor stones stopped abruptly.  De Wohine swallowed, Marzeni kept staring at his drink, half poured.  A moment of tense silence seized the air before ending as soon as it had started with the Lunex chuckling and continuing fixing his drink.  Taken aback, de Wohine began chuckling awkwardly.  Marzeni’s glass completely filled, he kept chuckling before violently snapping at the man, “I did not ask for you to laugh!” De Wohine flinched then put his hand over his chest as Marzeni stood and walked towards the window that sat behind the Lunex’s “throne”.  Marzeni breathed deeply before sipping his whiskey then walked over to a small table to his right and picked up a knick-knack, closely observing it.  De Wohine was frozen the whole time.

 

“Mi piccliocho.  You are very, very unintelligent.  You know very little about a true Salvian’s goal in life.  Do you even know what it is?”  He said this last sentence sharply, looking back at de Wohine while setting the object down.  The minister just sat there, wishing he could be absorbed by the upholstered chair he sat in.  Thankfully, Marzeni answered the question for him. “It is to unite Salvia, is it not? The asinos are nothing but specks of insignificant, unworthy dust in our path.”  He took another sip.  “To suggest our great military needs to be deployed in order to combat a couple million rebellious asinos is pure folly.”  Beginning to smile and chuckle while speaking, Marzeni continued, “You see now, how funny your joke was?”  Marzeni took another sip, shook his head slightly and continued to chuckle.  Sighing, he walked behind the minister and put his hand on the man’s shoulder, gripping tightly.  “Now, you’ll see that those asinos are dealt with, will you?  That’d be excellent.”  He patted the minister’s shoulders; the minister just nodded.  “Good.  Now get the F*CK out of my office!”  De Wohine practically jumped out of his seat and quickly exited, rushing to his office.

 

He was in his own office chair before he even began to think.  His heart pounded against his chest as he poured himself some hard liquor, then drank it like a cup of water and poured another.

He had to do something.  The crisis was only worsening as the Marenai revolted, boycotting work and Salvian businesses.  Marzeni would surely fire him-- or worse-- if he failed.  

But maybe this something would instead be against the “Lunex”.  With that thought in mind, de Wohine picked up a pad and pen and began drafting a letter.






_____________________________________________________________________________________

*Incredibly derogatory term for native Marenai used by (some) Salvians

**Salvian word meaning “little friend,” as if talking to a child.  In this context, used in a demeaning and patronizing way

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  • 4 weeks later...

“An’ I says to ‘im, I says ‘What you mean I got a small cock? S’bigger than any prick your mum’s taken!’”  Uproarious laughter filled the tavern as the dismissed platoon filled it almost completely.  Other than the soldiers, the only patrons of the sports bar were older couples enjoying a drink out who were now chatting with some of the soldiers.  Some of the older men were themselves veterans of the Alvernian Army and reveled in the stories they told to anyone who listened.  The bartender, a fervent Alvernian patriot, welcomed soldiers from the nearby military base often and with open arms - besides the business, he was supporting the military, a profession he would have pursued if his poor eyesight didn’t stop him. 

The door suddenly opened, bringing warm air into the air-conditioned bar.  A brief moment of silence interrupted the revelry as the pair walked in and appeared to be native Marenai.  They were common enough, here in the northwest, but not as plentiful as they were in the northeast.  The noise quickly returned as the soldiers lost interest in the pair, a young couple.  The platoon commander, sitting with his platoon warrant in the corner of the bar, took notice of the young couple and invited them over to the two empty seats that sat next to them: one next to the commander and the other across from it next to the warrant.  The couple walked over while politely nodding and smiling to the troops, who did so likewise.  The amount of drinks the soldiers had had would probably turn even the most nationalist Alvernian into the friendliest of friends to a dreaded asino.

The couple made their way to the officers, who patted the empty seats.  They sat down as the commander waved over the bartender, ordered them beers, and sent him off.  As the man took out his wallet, the commander waved him off, “The pleasure is all mine, Mister…?”  the native man finished for him, “John.  John Avalo, sir, and this is my fiancee Kiana.”  He gestured towards the woman who sat across from him; both of the men smiled at the woman and nodded politely.  “Please, John, feel free to call me Ross.  But what brings you here, Mr. Avalo?  Just a night of drinking?”  John began to relax a bit at the officer’s relaxed tone, “Yes, sir.  Just having a lovely evening with the lady.”  The woman smiled and the group made a bit of chit-chat before the woman excused herself to the bathroom.  John rolled his eyes as she walked past, “Native woman, man, I swear they piss twice as much as a Salvian.”  The commander and the warrant laughed at the quip, and laughed harder when Kiana turned around to slap the back of John’s head with a purse.  The men continued to chatter and the conversation continued uninterrupted when the woman returned. 

Another hour and a half had passed before the man looked at his phone to check the time: 11:30.  He looked up at the woman across from him and nodded - the woman nodded back.  He downed the rest of his drink before addressing the commander.  “Mr. Ross, sir, it was a great pleasure, but alas the babysitter awaits us at home.  I’m afraid we must be going.”  The pair stood up and shook the hands of the officers before exiting the building, waving the soldiers goodbye as they left.  The couple got into their car, backed out of the parking lot, and began to drive away from the pub.  With it being late at night and the pub being at least two miles away from the nearest town, there was no traffic as the car sped down the road.  The woman reached into her purse and pulled out a black rectangular device with a lever attached to the side as the man continued to drive.  Once they were about a quarter of a mile away from the pub, she held down the lever and flicked a switch.  The woman looked at the radio clock and waited a few moments.  Right as it hit 11:37, they both muttered, “For a free Alvernia,” and the woman pressed the red button on the device.  A moment passed before night became day - an explosion rocked the ground.  Looking in his rearview mirror, John saw nothing but shadowy rubble dimly illuminated by the fires that were now burning it.

 

*                    *                    *

 

...the blast comes as protests continue throughout northern Alvernia, many of which quickly turned violent between the police and demonstrators…

Marzeni simply leaned against the front of his desk, the TV tuned to the news hung in the corner behind his desk.  The numerous aides and ministers he had called in simply sat or stood in front of Marzeni, his back to the TV, their eyes on the screen.  The Lunex reached for the remote which sat next to him and turned the television off, then set the remote down and folded his arms.  The fact that Marzeni was silent terrified them all.  They all tensed up when he stood up, but the Lunex simply walked to the back of his desk, pulled open a drawer, and opened a snuff box.  He offered it to the nearest aide before placing some of the snuff in between his lip and gum, then closed it and returned it to its place.  Holding himself up with his arms, Marzeni hung his head over his desk, then met eyes with each person in the room before talking slowly.

“The problem with Alvernia is that the asino has been allowed to live freely.  If our ancestors had been proud Salvians as we are, they’d have shipped them all to that wh*re-house @Gallambria, where the asinos are respected - nay, worshipped.”  He said the last word with utter contempt.  Marzeni stared at de Wohine as he added on, “I’ll authorize the use of the military in putting down these ‘people’.  You all are dismissed.”

 

*                    *                    *

 

“Vice-President, sir.”  The aide handed the man sitting behind the desk a single sheet of paper.  As the man was skimming it, the aide saw his face progressively shift from bothered to concerned.  Deeply concerned.

“Get me the President, immediately.”

 

____________________________

 

OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT

TS//SUMBRA CLEARANCE

FOR SUMBRA INDIVIDUALS ONLY

BEGIN MESSAGE

 

Mr. Bergio de Wohine

Minister of the Alvernian Poka’i Administrative Force

Soncinia, Alvernia

 

Dearest friends,

I write this frantically in a time of need.  You have no doubt heard of the Marenai protests spreading throughout our country; I also trust you have heard of Marzeni’s ambitions: he has echoed calls for Salvian unification since he began his campaign sixteen years ago.  He has promised to keep Alvernia “pure” - ethnically, culturally, racially.  With attacks on his own military and more violent protests occurring every day, I am deeply troubled that the man, already a complete loose cannon (his drug and alcohol habits rival even the most wild Variot), will try something drastic.

He has already suggested forced relocation, violent suppressions, and further oppression of the native people.  The Marenai, having already been forcibly expelled by Salvians two thousand years ago, might yet again witness another tragedy befall their people.

I have been an accomplice to Marzeni’s anti-democratic, radical nationalist policies for too long.  I seek the Sanctum Imperium Catholicum’s support in counteracting this radical terrorist in order to restore Salvian unity in a way that does not result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent native Marenai.  I hope that, through further correspondences, something more tangible than words are pledged to bring down Marzeni.

May God bless you and the Salvian people.

 

/END

____________________________

 

President Saulius sat back in his chair, hand supporting his head.  He simply muttered, “Well, f*ck.”

Edited by Salvia (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

“This Marzeni guy, he’s popular, no?”

“Among the people, yea.  And the military with all the checks he’s giving out.”

“But…?”

“Well, as you know, I’m not his biggest supporter.  And I don’t really have anything concrete to base this on, but… there are definitely some… higher-ups that think he is delusional.”

The questioner took a drag of a cigarette before shaking off the ashes into an ashtray sitting next to him.  The other man continued. “And to be frank, he’s a bit more than delusional.  Psychotic, perhaps.”

Another drag, another shake.  Truth be told, the man already knew the answer to his first question.

“His ego is something we’ve picked up on.  Something we could use.”  The cigarette already to its end, the man snuffed it out before shaking the hand of the man opposite him.  “Thank you for your time.  Your plane leaves tomorrow.  You can bring Mr. Bianchi in.”

De Wohine nodded before standing up and exiting.  A moment later, another suited individual walked in, closed the door behind him and leaned against it. “What’d you learn?”  The smoker stood and walked over to the window overlooking the city of St. Paul’s.  “Nothing new.  Marzeni, it seems, has a strong cult of personality but as we suspected there are cracks at the top.”  He turned back to the man leaning against the door with a slight grimace on his face.  “We got nothing new for tomorrow.”

Bianchi shrugged his shoulders. “Do we need anything new for tomorrow?  Cracks at the top of the dam will flood the village just as well as the cracks at the bottom.”

 

*               *               *

 

“Tamar!  Stay close!”  Her voice could barely be heard over the din of the protest.  Chants being shouted by thousands swirled with the sounds of chaos as the police force attempted to maintain order.  Several times the protesters charged the riot shield wall of the Poka’i - an act of futility for sure, but one that got the message across as Salvian and international cameras kept rolling.  Smoke billowed as fires burned stores and cars and tear gas arced through the air, wafting the irritating gas throughout the streets.  Rocks, water bottles, and other objects were thrown back at the Poka’i in larger numbers as police cars were flipped and burned.  Stores and neighboring buildings were also set ablaze, looted and demolished; the pair fought through it all, cutting across the street.  They had been separated from their group and after furious texting back and forth, they had figured out where each other were.  Now it was just the matter of getting back to each other, which proved to be easier than expected: they had ran away from the police line to a point where the protesters were less dense - numerable, for sure, but not as dense.  

The two wove their way through the crowd and were about halfway there when the unmistakable sound of gunfire rang out.  The rioters, once courageously bearing attacks from pepper spray, tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons, now broke and stampeded away.  Tamar and the girl turned and didn’t look back, their hearts pounding.
 

 

Some hundred miles away, the Lunex watched his television attentively in his office.  Seeing the fleeing rioters, he covered his hand with his hand and sighed.  While his thoughts on the Marenai were well-documented to be… less than favorable, he still thought them as at the very least sentient creatures.  He struggled to find the word in his head… they were something like a pet, if you will, to him.  To be disciplined, to instill within them the knowledge that they are inferior, yet to treat them with care and kindness.  But what if they are just like us--

He struck the thought out of his mind.  Impossible.  Marzeni stretched within the back of his memory, recalling some Derthaler novel he had read as a pre-teen.  The Salvians, they were like, what was the word, Ubermensch.  “Over-men,” he said the word out loud, almost in affirmation to himself that the concept was real.

 

*               *               *

A day later

 

Saulius scratched his chin while looking absent-mindedly at his desk, “It’s risky, Gio.  I don’t know…”  Saulius downed the rest of his cup, the whiskey stones clinking.  He rubbed his temples with his forefinger and thumb as Bianchi tried to convince him.

“Sir, this is our best plan going forward.  What else can we do?”  

Saulius snorted before retorting, “A lot of things.”  He poured another cup of spirits and took a sip before continuing, “For one, we could negotiate something, literally anything, to avoid going in and killing half of the government.” 

Bianchi shook his head, “Could we, really?  Marzeni’s convinced the Salvians of Alvernia that the Marenai are at the root of their inferiority to Salvia.  He’s reduced unemployment to artificially low levels, gotten the economy back on track, maintained law and order - the people love that guy.  And he knows this.  He’ll use the entire state of Alvernia as a bargaining chip, it’ll be all or nothing with him.”  Bianchi leaned forwards and talked in a hushed tone, “This is our only option.  Either we get rid of Marzeni, or we let him live and f*ck up the situation more.”

Saulius looked away from Bianchi, who sat back in his seat and stared at Saulius, arms crossed.  “Your move, Saulius.  You know we can take him down.”  Saulius, stroking his chin, looked back at Bianchi and nodded before signing the piece of paper before him and handing it to Bianchi, “We’ll have a briefing at 9 in the morning tomorrow.  Have your presentation ready by then.”

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  • 5 weeks later...

June 6 | 1643 Hours

Hilocani, Northeast Alvernia

 

The most powerful man in Alvernia stood with his hands in his pockets in the middle of an intersection, eyes squinting as the sun beat down on the city.  A cool breeze swept through, bringing a number of different objects and litter with it.  Looking around in a circle, the Lunex observed looted stores with broken windows boarded up with rough planks, cars overturned, charred or burning, with concrete and transportable barriers acting as remnants of the violent riots.  It brought tears to his eyes.

Shameful.

He could almost hear his father’s voice and instinctively flinched, but nothing followed.  His wife came over from behind him and put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it.  “Relax your jaw, dear.”  Marzeni became conscious of his clenching and relaxed it, a dull ache on his teeth setting in.  The man sighed wearily before leaning into the woman’s embrace, silently sobbing as he continued to look over the wreckage.  A shameful display of authority indeed, leading to disaster like this.

 

*              *              *

 

Sneaking up behind the house, the man knocked on the small window that was near the ground seven times in an asymmetric, odd rhythm.  Knock knock. Knock. Knock. Knock knock knock. Looking through the window pane, the couple saw a man sitting in a plastic chair pull a cord above him, turning on a single dim bulb, a rifle in his other hand.  He simply nodded at the couple in front of him and turned the lights back off, returning the basement to darkness before opening the window.  The couple slipped themselves through, falling some 10 feet before landing on a mattress.

Pitch black, they navigated their way with ease, having done this uncountable times before.  Although curfew was just instated last week, they had been meeting in secret anyways.  After all, the same few dozen people entering the same house several times a week and sometimes exiting with duffel bags and satchels would mark the house and anyone who enters it as incredibly suspicious.  Especially if said people were also Marenai in a Salvian neighborhood.

Making their way to the back room of the basement, the pair took great care in avoiding the numerous arms and explosives lining the hallway.  Even though they were well packaged, homemade explosives were still homemade explosives - not to be trusted on that much.  Opening a door at the end of the hallway, they entered a room in the very back of the basement, its windows blocked and another dim lightbulb on the ceiling the sole point of illumination.  All it lit was a metal table, several chairs pushed aside to make room for the people - about six - working at it in an assembly line, crafting some sort of bomb.  The pair greeted the workers before pulling up seats to the table, unpacking their bags filled with supplies.  An older Marenai, possibly in his fifties or sixties, sat on the opposite side of them and spoke up.

“Tamar, Aria.” 

The two looked up, still unpacking their bags without looking.  “Yes?”

“You missed this since we were separated, but Marco was arrested.”  The man continued to focus on whatever he was tinkering with as he told the pair the news.  “He got too close to them, man.  We were telling him to-” he was cut off by the man guarding the window entering, shotgun in hand.  Holding his pointer finger to his lips, he whispered, “THEY’RE OUTSIDE.”  The group quickly and silently packed everything on the table and hid it in cardboard boxes scattered throughout the room.  Grabbing guns, they all spread out, hiding, the pair positioning themselves to another window, this one closest to the forest behind the home. 

A moment passed.  Several more then, before loud thuds and thundering footsteps announced the breaching of the house.  Clutching the weapon tighter, Tamar gently pushed Aria away from him towards the wall.  Risking a peep, he heard the footsteps come down the basement and ducked back down.  A couple of people had made it out of the room and were somewhere else in the basement but most of the group was stuck in the room they were in.  The group heard a muffled, “Freeze!” before a series of gunshots and screams echoed throughout the basement, then silence.  Tamar squeezed his eyes before opening them and dragging Aria towards the window.

Someone whispered, “Tamar what the f*ck are you doing?”  

“Getting the hell out of here, what do you think?”

“What? There’s no way they don’t have the neighborhood surrounded!”

“I’ll take my f*cking chances while I can.”

Footsteps thudded louder as Tamar rotated the handle that slowly opened the window.  Two more series of gunshots, then total silence.  He counted 6 of them in this room, meaning the other three had slipped out.  And were now dead.  Shaking his head and squatting slightly, he cupped his hands, motioning the others towards him.  “Well? Let’s go!”  When they crept over, taking careful care not to hit anything on the ground, he whispered to them, “When you get out, run for the woods.”  Tamar had boosted four of them out before he turned to the last man, who simply sat at a chair facing the door, a pistol on the table in front of him.  He began to load it with a single bullet as Tamar just observed silently.  “You coming?”  The man at the table sat motionless, then replied, “No.”  Cocking the pistol, he pointed it at one of the cardboard boxes to his left.  “You need to go.  Keep the mission, Tamar.”   Tamar tried to protest, but all he could do was open his mouth and close it again.  He nodded, tears rolling down his cheek, “I won’t let you down, tama*.”  With that, Tamar hoisted himself up and out of the house.  Aria was crouched by the window and reached to Tamar for help, who took it.

“Is he-?”

“Just go.”

 

The two began to run as silently as they could and upon happening by a foxhole Tamar slid in it, grabbing Aria and bringing her down.  He stared at the house and listened intently.  The sounds could still be heard at the distance, some 250 feet away.  The door banging open and the officer’s yell were faint, but the gunshot was unmistakable.  As was the deafening explosion that followed.  Tamar, on his stomach, pressed his head against the hard dirt before carefully standing and pulling Aria with him, away from the fire and sirens that now filled the air, tears streaming down his face.

 

*Tama: Salvian-Marenai word for father

 

*              *              *

 

June 6th | 2133 Hours

Deopolis, Salvia

 

Bianchi slapped the paper down on the desk and jammed his forefinger on the paper.  “Bingo.  The proof you need.”  Saulius slid his reading glasses on and picked up the paper, a conversion between the President of Alvernia and de Wohine, the latter being the person who had recorded the conversation and sent it to the Salvian intelligence agency.  Bianchi had highlighted the most pertinent section:

Quote

“... a Salvian state is what we want and it’s what we’ll get.  The suppression of these protests is needed to send the signal to the Salvian people that we’re stable and able to lead over Saulius.  This is all I want from my presidency, I want to ensure this is done.”

Saulius returned his gaze to Bianchi, arms crossed for a moment before he threw them up in a shrug.  “I don’t know, Pat, seems to me like Marzeni plans on uniting the Salvians; more importantly, he wants to unite the Salvians at the expense of us.”  Saulius took a breath in and pointed at Bianchi.  “Alright, first off, don’t call me Pat.  Second,” Saulius began motioning with his hand towards the paper in his hand, “this, this doesn’t tell us anything, alright?”

“Oh cut the shit, it does too.”

“Look, the point is that I’m still not convinced.  And neither is my cabinet.  We aren’t gonna budge until we’ve exhausted everything else.”  Bianchi rolled his eyes and began to protest before being shushed by Saulius.  “Gio, what the hell do you think is gonna happen if they’re able to link the deaths to us?  McCoy was right, we’re in no position to pull this off.”  The president sighed.  “We’ll… keep this as a last resort.  I don’t want to escalate anything - Marzeni’s done nothing in relation to us publicly.”  Bianchi slightly shook his head, “That’ll change soon, I can guarantee it.”  Saulius shrugged.  “You’re dismissed, Gio.  Get some sleep tonight.”

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  • 5 months later...

June 13

“Strange?  In what way?”  The man on the other end of the line shook some ashes off of his cigarette as he replied back, “His manner is entirely different.  He’s usually much more lively.  Now he won’t even take his evening drink.”  He took another draw.  “I don’t know what to make of it.  Or what changed him, for that matter.”

Saulius’s brows furrowed and he leaned forward in his seat as Bianchi sat on his desk.  “Alright Bergio.  Anything else?”

“Yea.  He’s been mentioning meeting with you guys.  Or at least, President Saulius - no offense Bianchi.  He’s not said anything else about it, though, and other than that nothing’s new.”  Saulius nodded, “Alright, Bergio.  We’ll keep in touch, God bless.”  De Wohine farewelled and hung up and Bianchi moved the phone to the side.  Saulius sat back and crossed his arms, “There you go, Bianchi.  Maybe next time your first suggestion won’t be to go in and kill a world leader because… why not?”  Bianchi scoffed and hopped off the desk, fixing himself a drink at the table in the far corner of the office.  “Whatever.  I stand corrected.  He’s still dangerous, you know.”  Saulius rolled his eyes, “No, he isn’t.”  He paused before remarking, “Not to any Salvian, anyways.” 

Bianchi just raised an eyebrow before shaking his head slightly and taking a sip of his drink.

*                     *                     *

The two of them slumped over, exhausted.  Tears streamed down Tamar’s face but he felt nothing.  There was no feeling, no emotion, no sense of anyone or anything.  Everything was uprooted, shaken, upturned.  Questions raced through his mind - how did the authorities find out?  Why didn’t his father just follow them out?  His death seemed so… unnecessary.  And out of place.  He had always stressed laying low, not drawing attention, it wasn’t a Marenai’s job to demand attention - just keep your head down.  Except his tama went out with a bang.  Pun intended, Tamar thought with a dry, wry smile  as he thought of his father.  None of it made sense. 

They stopped for a breath of air, the chill of the late winter evening cooling the pair off.  They had been scrambling through the woods for a while now; for exactly how long, Tamar couldn’t say.  Long enough to put some distance between the house and the present.  Pressing forward, they stumbled upon a road and followed it.  The sun had risen by the time they had reached a town, battered and dirtied.  They received several glares and stares as they searched for a payphone, and even more when Aria switched from Salvian to Marenai when on the phone.  She hung up and the pair limped into a cafe.  The couple didn’t escape the looks there, but they were too exhausted to care.  They ordered their coffee - both black - and sat in one of the booths to recover and wait for their ride.  Neither of them spoke.  Neither of them could.  They both laid their heads in their arms on the table, occasionally sitting up to sip their coffee.

An hour passed before a rundown pickup pulled up to the curb outside the mostly empty cafe.  Seeing them leave, the waiter began, “Sir, that’d be 8-” she was silenced by Tamar pulling up his shirt slightly to reveal a pistol in his waistband, a tired, cold look on his face.  The pair left and climbed into the pickup.  To the waiter’s chagrin, the license plate was covered.

The truck was the first time Tamar spoke since last evening - he screamed.  Kicking, punching, slamming his fists against the dashboard, a wave of pure anger, frustration and energy.  Neither Aria nor the driver batted an eye or acknowledged the fit.  Tamar was always like that.  He slumped back in his seat, slightly out of breath, then slid off to sleep, where an idea began to take hold.  Then a plan began to formulate.

*                     *                     *

“This could be big.”  Marzeni leaned on the railing, overlooking the Bay of Salvae.  A serene blue backdrop to Soncinia, the waterfront properties of the city went up to several million.  Unless you were the Lunex, of course.  Then, it wasn’t so much.

De Wohine took another sip of his whiskey, the rocks clinking.  Oddly to anyone who knew the other man, Marzeni was dry.  The wind from the sea swept into shore, flapping flags and the sails of the boats that were in the harbor below them.  Marzeni made it evident he wasn’t paying much attention to the man to his left, but de Wohine either did not realize it or made no indication he knew.  “I mean, really, a meeting with Saulius?  We could run with this, you know?  Push for greater cooperation and all that.”  De Wohine took another sip before continuing, “If you make it public enough, Saulius’ll have to follow along with it or risk those progressives in the northe-”

“Shut the f*ck up.  For just a second.”  De Wohine became flushed and turned away, nursing his whiskey.  Marzeni took a deep breath in and sighed.  “I already know what I’m doing, de Wohine.”  Marzeni turned away from the bay and looked towards the fat, stout man next to him and smiled gently.  Something de Wohine had not seen in a decade.  “You are right.  I believe many Salvians share this goal with us.  Saulius is weak and will push back against us; if I can make the Salvians realize this, then they will surely switch to our side.”  He turned back to the bay.  “Salvia is stronger than us.  There is no doubt in that.  But I am not trying to lead Alvernia to dominance - I am leading the Salvian people.”

Bianchi leaned forward in his seat, holding the headset over his ears with both hands.  There was some crinkle as the mic rubbed against Bergio’s shirt before Bianchi took off the headset and leaned backwards in his seat.  He did not know what to make of this, but he knew what to do.  He would not, could not let this man live.  There was no reason to risk it.  Intervention needed to occur now, and swiftly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

June 25th

Zahabo, Salvia

Nothing much could be heard over the din of the parade.  Marching bands blared out songs as the Alvernian president Marco Marzeni slowly drove down the avenue, the sidewalks crowded with cheering Salvians.  The man stood as a symbol of unification while Salvia’s own leaders piddled around, fussing over whether it should or should not be done.  To hell with them, many of them thought.  Zahabo, a medium-sized town on the southern border of Alvernia and Salvia, was tied to neither party, instead pledging their allegiance to the Salvian people.  Overwhelmingly populist, the populace was an anomaly among the conservative northwest and would likely be more fitting for Sicania.  But instead it was nestled at the foot of the Agrillians on the coast, with the rolling hills up north, the ocean to the south, Salvia to the east and the river to the west.  On the border, it had changed hands several times over the centuries between the two rivals, even during their long and unhappy marriage throughout the early modern era.  It was a hotbed of revolt and revolution throughout its history, and not only political in nature.  Many argue Zahabo is the birthplace of modern Salvian nationalism, and indeed many of these people consider it a holy pilgrimage to visit the writer John Doxditier’s first house.  It was a shrine to these people, and this visit was like an Aroman victory march.  As the parade wound through the town, the crowds became thicker and louder until they reached the town center, with the large podium Saulius and Marzeni were to hold speeches deliberately placed in front of the ‘Temple of Doxditier’.  This was, of course, done at the request of the Lunex - the Salvians, confused but otherwise oblivious, obliged.  It was to send a message, a message that no Salvian could mistake or miss.  Well, besides the event planners, I guess.

An old coastal port town, the town square was similarly old in fashion, itself being a literal enlarged square of open space with a monument in the dead center.  The salty wind of the sea was noticeable but subtle at this distance as a temperate sun presided over the winter’s warm day.  The town’s hall, built in the Salvian Neoclassical style of the infant Divine Republic, stood opposite the ‘Temple’ and dominated that side, while the large basilica, itself almost Gothic in appearance, stood to another side.  Doxditier’s house was on one of the closed ends of the square and standing on the podium revealed a crowd that filled the square and the streets beyond.  People crowded the monument, itself a terraced affair with steps that made it stand up over the entire square.  At the topmost level stood a statue that itself towered over the rest of the square, although this was largely due to it being placed at the top rather than its own size.  Around 18 feet tall stood the revolutionary figure Leo Angelo, one of the Divine Republic’s first presidents and founders.  A path was made to allow Marzeni’s open-topped car to the podium, where Saulius was already there, ready to greet him.  This was the last of three planned meetings the two had, the other two being somewhat secretive and private.  They had discussed the third, public meeting, economic and political cooperation, and the “u-word” was floated a couple of times solely by Marzeni.  Saulius quickly shot him down.  It would only happen if the Salvian people want it, he had said.  Surely, they are just a vocal minority.  A large minority, make no mistake, but a minority nonetheless.  Marzeni wasn’t convinced, and certainly was not when he saw the crowded streets of Zahabo the day of his visit.  Glory would once again belong to the Salvian people as it had before.

The car stopped at the foot of the podium, where Marzeni dismounted and walked onto.  Saulius walked over and greeted him as the pair shuffled over to the two podiums set out for them stationed at the center of the raised stage.  While the introductions seemed natural, everything was planned with excruciating detail which, in Salvian fashion, was largely ignored.  The two took their places, their respective flags set behind them some 20 feet away at the end of the stage.  They began their speeches in earnest, Saulius going first.  It was dry if not a bit boring as he welcomed his guest to Salvia, stating his hopes that their discussions would yield great results, et cetera.  Marzeni knew the masses, some Alvernians themselves, were here for him.  Saulius invited Marzeni to speak, and he began,

“People of the same blood should be in the same State. The Salvia people will have no right to engage in living with clear conscience until they shall have brought all their children together in the one State-”

His opening was cut off by the cheers of the crowd.  The counter-protestors, nestled in an adjacent avenue that spilt into the larger square, were overwhelmingly Marenai, and their faces, already exceedingly disapproving, grew more so.  Marzeni’s smile grew all the wider, and as the cheers died down, Marzeni continued.

“And so this little frontier town appears to me as the symbol of a great task. But in another regard also..."

Bianchi just took another drag of his cigarette then tossed the stub over the knee high wall and off the roof.  Head of Saulius’s personal security, he was in charge of protecting the man, and liked to have a high vantage point.  Instead of being alert for danger, however, he was instead engrossed in the pomp of the ceremony and was disgusted.  He had previously kept his nose out of politics but something had grabbed it and was starting to pull it down.  Usually reliably neutral and stubborn in his work-focused attitude, there was something that lured him away.  He did not know what, but he was able to recognize it in himself.  Perhaps he finally realized that there is something bigger than him at play.  Or maybe there was no rational explanation.  He had no answer.  But he knew he must act.

Tamar simply sat on a bench at the edge of the square, a light coat pulled up against the mild Salvian winter.  He had insisted on observing but could not remember what for.  He could only remember his father and the hole it left.  The expectation of small things - a sudden tap on the shoulder, seeing him in the kitchen, tending his garden - went unsatisfied.  It was all Tamar could think about.  It was all he cared about.  There must be some way to bring him and his legacy back.  The movement he led was now scattered, the authorities arresting most of his associates and on the trail of those who were not yet snatched up.  They had been active for some years, it wasn’t much of a surprise they knew so much about them.  They were sloppy, and Tamar knew as much.  He had lobbied for his father to tighten the ship up for years.  If only he had spent that time learning about the man.  Tamar sighed.  Their goal would not be lost.  Just as his father would not.

Edited by Salvia (see edit history)
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  • 1 year later...

December 3

The large container ship sailed blissfully into the Alvernian capital of Soncinia, the waters calm and the moon near full. The dock workers that watched the ship pull in slowly were not ordinary, rather carefully selected by the government. While the identity of the Anglian ship was by now known - the Salvian Intelligence Agency had made sure of it - the contents were to be carefully hidden. 

Some time had passed. The first container made it to land. Two workers made their way to the front, undid the latch, and peered inside with a flashlight. Military SUVs. One of them took a clipboard, jotted some notes, and stepped out, the other latching it shut. After he finished writing, the man waved his free hand towards another group. The container was loaded to a freight truck which took off.  

As the workers went through the rest of the shipment, a man sat in a bar near the docks, nursing a drink. His phone began to vibrate in his jacket pocket. The man pulled it out and answered it.

“Go ahead.”

“Lunar’s given the green light.” The line clicked off. The man placed the phone back into his jacket, left a few marks on the table, and walked out the bar, heading towards the Presidential Palace across the capital. 

De Wohine reclined in the chair in his study with a drink in his hand and began to relax. It was another day working late, balancing his government job and anti-government work carefully. Head of the Lunex’s secret police and Alvernia's intelligence community, he had been building support for the removal of Marzeni for over a year, creating and maintaining contacts with Marenai resistors, pro-democratic forces, and some in the Divine Republic. Anglian support, secretly secured by the Lunex a few months prior, made the plan even more important. Marzeni would no longer cooperate with Saulius; he would become the leader of Salvia, with the backing of one of the greatest powers on Eurth. Alvernia no longer needed the Divine Republic with its new benefactor. Marzeni had to be removed.

He was mid-sip when there was a bang and clattering by the front door. De Wohine immediately reached for his pistol on the desk and took cover. There were footsteps, many of them. They cleared the den, the kitchen, some were making their way upstairs. A few pairs of muffled footsteps shuffled closer to the study. He clenched his pistol tighter. The doors, glass, were open. The steps stopped outside the door. A figure peered in. De Wohine squeezed the trigger rapidly, firing off three shots, hitting the figure once in the head. He dropped dead, footsteps throughout the house became loud and all seemed to focus in on the study as the other men by the door began to yell in a language De Wohine could not recognize, and several flashbangs were thrown into the room. He ducked behind the desk as they all went off at once, the light and noise disorienting and deafening despite the fact he covered his face and ears. He popped back up, pistol drawn, ready to fire, and saw three figures in the doorway with suppressed SMGs. The three held down their triggers, firing into the desk, the wall, the glass of brandy, and de Wohine. Their clips empty, silence returned. One drew out a pistol and walked behind the desk. The head of the Poka’i, a man only less powerful than the Lunex himself, lay dead, his chest and face mangled. The man looked over to his comrades and nodded, then signaled to move out. Hearing the screams of a woman and muffled gunshots, they moved towards the foyer, where they met the rest of the crew.

“His wife?” One of the three asked. One of the others simply dragged his finger across his neck and nodded. “Let’s scram.”

The police arrived the next morning by dawn and taped off the scene. Any reporters that attempted to film or interview the police were promptly booted. One was arrested for refusing to comply. The official police report, filed 12 hours later, determined the case to be a murder-suicide committed by de Wohine, and he was swiftly replaced.

 

*          *          *

 

“I got bad news, sir. De Wohine is dead.” Saulius, leaning back in his chair, simply continued to fiddle with his pen in one hand while resting his head on the knuckles of his other hand. “I’ve reports he was assassinated, though they’re framing it as a murder-suicide.” Bianchi breathed out heavily and looked at Saulius with an expression that had “I-told-you-so” written all over it. 

The situation had become much more complicated over the past year, especially over the summer. Previously, Salvia could simply work towards peaceful unification with their Alvernian counterparts. A student of history, Saulius knew well enough about the last time the two were unified and how the Salvian president, Mikaere Autimo, carried out unification then. While Marzeni would be a tougher colleague to handle than what Autimo had to deal with, Saulius figured he could keep him well under his thumb, perhaps persuading him to leave the political life well before he intended. Or, worse came to worst, Saulius could leave Marzeni nominally in charge of Alvernia, focus on economically and socially integrating Alvernia, and leave real, total unification to a future president. But the rise of Anglia in far off Europa completely flipped the dynamic. Marzeni, who Saulius figured already wanted his spot of leader of the Salvian wurld but was content with simply being second-in-command when push came to shove, became increasingly less cooperative in negotiations regarding unification. It was why talks, both those involving the two leaders and those done by lower officials and diplomats, petered off. His demands increasingly focused on not just retaining Alvernian autonomy, but shifting power closer to Soncinia rather than Deopolia. The Divine Republic refused. It was soon uncovered by Salvian intelligence, with help from their Gallambrian counterparts, that Alvernia had begun receiving shipments from Anglia, most likely containing military equipment, and in increasingly large numbers.

“So? Nothing to say?” 

Saulius stopped playing with his pen and met Bianchi’s gaze, which made the other man fidget in his seat. He thought this would be what made the president finally give in to his own desired course of action, but he sensed he had instead just pissed the man off. Saulius leaned forward as he set the pen down, clasping his hands together and placing them on the desk. “You don’t ask for my response,” he said in a leveled tone, “I give it to you when I want.” Bianchi locked eyes with him briefly before looking away and sighing. “We’ll begin a quarantine of Alvernian shipping immediately. With Ceris we’re a bit stretched, physically and financially - we’ll need a bit to refocus ourselves. And we’ll get the Gallambrians involved.” Saulius, who had looked away from Bianchi and sat back once more, looked back at the agent across from him. “That’s what I have to say.” Bianchi stood up and headed for the door. “Make sure your agents are ready and alert, Director. We no longer have the Alvernian intelligence community in our grasp.”

Edited by Salvia (see edit history)
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