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Ferocity of The Waves


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Madame Secretary Ponagar stepped out of her office, taking a deep breath of fresh air. That moment quickly passed as the scent of fuel and gas entered her nose. She loved the city of Hai Bọt Biển. The fresh ocean breeze, and sound of the sea grass in the wind, and the beautiful mountains looming over the city. She did not like the reason she was here. 

"Madame Secretary, the senator is right outside." Ponagar slid open the balcony door and entered the office, which has ceiling high windows, and pale white walls, with one desk in the middle. 

"So what are you waiting for, let him in" the Madame Secretary exclaimed. The aid quickly rushed to the door, to welcome the young representative to the room. His name was Ametung Hidayat, and he was the representative from the state of Sambal Bokur present in the senate. 

"Tôtl'rí Naam Ponagar. Tôtl Mầy Tôtl?" asked the representative, as they both sat down.

"Spare me the pleasantries. Let’s skip the bull and get on to your point. What do you want this time" the madame secretary said as she sat down. "And while we're at it, aid, get me some tea. I'm not getting any younger." The aid ran out of the room to fetch hot jasmine tea from down the hallway. 

"If you insist. I'd like to ask for permission to go to Yeosan." Ponagar sighed, and slid her chair closer to the death, releasing a noise as the chair inched closer.

"You know I cannot keep doing this, while I am sympathetic to all ethnic groups in Rhava, there just isn't a lot I can do while still helping you from office. It's only a matter of time before the head of state snitches on me to the council." The aid reentered the office, spilling some tea. "Oh, so now you are in a hurry. I am one of the most goddamn powerful people in the country, show some urgency. Leave us." The aid bowed, and ran out the door again, this time for his job. "Now why do you need to leave Rhava." This time, it was Ametung's time to sigh. 

"The government has one of our lead scientist. We know they are using her for something, we just don't know what." Ametung frowned.  

"You know as well as I that we can't send a Rhavanese citizen to Yeosan, much less a helpless one." 

"Hey!" Ametung exclaimed, slightly offended." 

"Perhaps I can find someone though, hmm." Ponagar opened her laptop, and scanned her email. The representative slid closer, and Pongar slammed the laptop closed. "Did I say you could look at my stuff, no. Get out of my sight." The representative shuffled out of the room leaving Ponagar alone in her office. She once again went to her balcony, and stood there for a while. Change was in the air, she could sense it.

Edited by Rhava (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...
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The sound of quick steps rang down the hallway. A shadow ran by the sea blue walls inlaid with gold naga decorated with fake paintings, a faint echo of Mandura's past. Reya stopped at a tray with three jade rings. That looks good, I'll take it she thought sliding the rings onto her fingers, the preceded to enter the next rooms. The rooms were dotted with lights from down below of the bustling Yangkorn market at the center of Mandura city. The next rooms had statues of Nian dynasty in Rhava, the statues stripped of the materials past all recognition, another faint echo of the two Alharun nation's histories. This room had a higher ceiling, with a glass dome stained with green and dark brown colors from soot that had started clinging to it after decades of not being cleaned. The palms rustled outside the transparent dome, waving in the wind and scratching the surface of the buildings. In this hallway there was only one painting. The painting was surrounded by a dirt covered seal of plexiglass. around the exhibit was a moat of clear water dotted with lily pads and lotus flowers. Reya slid off her mud soaked sandals as she entered the room, glancing over at the mural. She walked towards the exhibit and knelt next to the water. She cupped the cold water in her hands and trickled the water on her face and hair, and raised her palms in reverence. Then from her bag, she took out some incense and lit it, as well as leaving fresh mangoes and longan. She then jumped over the moat landing soundlessly, and wiped off the dirt revealing a picture of Nayasarri, Reya's great great grandmother, and symbol of rebellion in the eastern Alharun isles. It was common for the people of Mandura to come here and pray to the painting, and though foreigners thought this was weird, it was a symbol of reverence to Nayasarri from the people. As quickly as she came, she leaped back over the moat and slid on her sandals. There it was. Her target. At the back of the next room, lay a sapphire, the size of a monkeys head. The room was colored blue and there was a windowed dome at the top. A gold naga  crisscrossed the room, each scale a separate chunk of gold dug up right there on Mandura. She took out a small pouch from her bag, and opened it to reveal pale chalk dust. She blew the dust into the room, revealing almost unseeable ropes, that if tripped would set off every alarm. She slowly walked through the room, jumping over and sliding under the transparent tope, as grainy chalk sprinkled down onto the floor of the room. She arrived at the end of the room, and walked over to the glass, and took off the entire box, lodging it in her armpit. Reya briddled with annoyance. It was a fake, a ball of thick blue material. A shadow moved above her. She glanced up to see a shadow holding her sapphire. The figure spotted her, and saluted her, the figure then jumped off the side of the building. The thunder rumbled shaking the entire building. Reya chuckled.

"If its a chase you want, then I wont loose" Reya voiced. She launched her grappling hook into the sky shattering the dome and clinging on to the rim, she let the glass box fall triggering the alarm. She smirked as the guards came into the room to see her calling guard painted into the ground, a monkey baring its teeth, and as the guards looked up she waved and then leaped off the dome following the figure. 

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"Yaz, order at table 12!" 

The Cas Bar was bustling, with unique smells and tastes of the Thaboul province. Zaatar lingered in the air, as Hashim ran around the kitchen juggling tubs of labne, and half cut parsley for the tabouleh. The mushederah was burning, and the raw kibbeh was attracting flies. 

"Here's your order Tata Fatimah" said Yasmine as she bustled to table 12 handing them grape leaves and cubes of a pink pickle that was too sour for most foreigners. 

"Thank you habibti" thanked the elderly woman as she dug in to her usual. Yaz ran into the kitchen barely missing Hashim as he ran around like a headless chicken. 

"Woof, we could really use some extra help. Even for a day." 

"Order for table 3. Yes I agree, but you know every 'good Rhavanese citizen' would never want to work at a dirty Tonmai establishment" Hashim muttered rolling his eyes as he handed Yasmine the kibbeh, drenched in oil. 

"Our time will come brother!" Yasmine sprinted off back into the Cas Bar. 

~ A Few Hours Later ~ 

Hashim sat at a table, with a Rhavanese iced coffee in the center. Papers cluttered the floor, as he tried to sort out the mess of tax returns. As most pages went with the new laws passed by the acting president, there was an extra 2% from Thale, and an extra 5% from Tonmai. 'The way you earn your rights in a socialist utopia like Rhava'. 

"Big brother, go to bed, you know those just anger you more." Yasmine stood on the edge of her door, staring knowingly as her brothers hunched back. "

"Just go away Yaz, I'm not in the mood. Our parents are in Rhavapura, trying to get money. And we have little to no money to even afford this building, not to mention food and water. And we owe some bad people, some bad money" Yasmine sauntered over to her brother, and pushed him out of the chair.  

"Don't talk at me like I'm a child!" she yelled, glaring at him. Hashim sighed.

"I'm sorry, sometimes I forget how much you've grown up" said Hashim. Yaz smiled, and sat down, moving Hashim out of the seat.

"Let me do the forms, go for a walk, maybe the pub." She winked at him knowingly. A knock on the door suddenly shattered the moment. The knock grew louder, until clouds of dust flew into the air. The white plaster walls shook, and they both stood there, tensed up, and ready to run. Yaz grabbed a knife, and Hashim slowly got up and grabbed a knife as well. 

"We know you're in there, give us the debt and this will all be over quickly" yelled a gruff voice. Yasmine looked at her brother with wide eyes, the mafia she mouthed, while they both backed away from the door. If your not coming out, then we're coming in. They both increased their pace to the window. The door came down with a crash, sending up clouds of dust. Yaz threw the knife, and hear a sick squelching sound of sinew and flesh as it hit the target. 

"Go!" They both ran out of the window as yells of pain echoed through the apartment, and the sounds of steps as they were chased. They slid down the tiled roof, into the bustling street below. They made their way across the street, and then sprinted down the road. Hashim frantically waved his hand into the road, trying to call a taxi. Sounds of screams erupted from the street, as two burly figures jumped down from the two story window of the Cas Bar. A yellow taxi pulled up, and they opened the door and jumped in, slamming the doors behind them. 

"Anywhere but here" Yaz said as they pulled onto the roads of Al-Cedaan, and then onto the seaway leaving all they ever knew.

 

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She spotted the figure ahead of her about three buildings and she sprinted after. She quickly gained ground, the figure looked back. 

"Stop!" she shouted, then uttered a swear as she stumbled on the loosely tiled roofs. The figure waved and then jumped into the bustling streets. Reya leaped after the figure, shoving people out of her way. The figure grabbed fruits and tossed them back at running through the crowds. Reya narrowly missed a huge durian flying at her, which proceeded to his someone who fell into the icy depths of the canal, to resurface sputtering. "Sorry!" Reya shouted chasing after the figure. The figure then jumped into the canals filled with boats filled with people buying all sorts of products. Reya continued on the edge of the canals. They both entered into the Sam Đung floating market district of Mandura city. Reya jumped onto an empty boat, and grabbed the motor launching the boat into the center of the canal. The figure jumped onto a boat then pushed the person off and sped into the harbor. Both boats sped after each other entering open water. The figure then stopped to Reya's surprise. "Hey!" Reya shouted, "I think you have something of mine." 

The figure took off his hood, revealing darker skin, and a Rhavanese complexion. He removed his cloak to revealing a enamel pin of a Jade dog, clutching a fan in it's teeth. The foreign minster's symbol. He was an aid of the Ponagar. 

"We have been watching you for a while, I think you have what it takes to join our team." The boats touched and the aid climbed onto Reya's boat, clutching the gem. "I'm Jesse, part of the Rhavanese Restoration act, and I think that your talents could be put at a better use, then petty burglaries." Reya laughed,

"Why would I ever help you." She grabbed for the sapphire, but Jesse lifted it out of her reach. Reya growled.  

"Because you could be doing good for a change, bringing unity to Rhava and bringing Mandura onto the wurld stage."

Reya chuckled.  "I don't think anyone wants to see a unified Rhava here. What happens when Rhava is united, Mandura will lose sovereignty, but more importantly, I'll lose a job. If Mandura is handled then there will be less crime opportunities for me. Now give me my gem and I'll let you go." Jesse not even a little surprised handed her the gem. 

"Well Reya, I see where you are coming from, and I won't force you to do something you don't want to do. Here's my card, contact me if you want change your mind." Jesse turned around and climbed into her boat. "By the way, the jet leaves at 10pm, there is also a hefty reward" He winked, and the turned on the motor into the distance towards the Rhavanese border.  

The words caught up to Reya, "Wait! How much!" She tried to wave at the already small spec on the horizon. "Hello!?" She grabbed the gem and headed for her jet muttering about how annoying that aid was.

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Cockroaches scuttled across the beer stained rug, as RNN played on the television detailing another defeat for the resistance. Yasmine, perched at the door, ready to strike if needed while Hashim made a bowl of yogurt and cucumbers, and heated up some pita. A bureau towered over the kitchen shadowing over everything, leaking dust from all compartments, making it harder to breathe. The room was incredibly small, as Hashim made his way to the table, where he set down the food. He beckoned Yaz, where she leaped down, pulled out a chair and dug into the food. They both sat in silence, their eyes acknowledging their predicament. About three days ago, they crossed the provincial border into Cạm Rãng province, and got a room at an inn a couple towns out of Cao Khoát. It became increasingly hard for them to go anywhere being half Tonmai Rhavan (lighter skinned), they were seen as helpers of the TTMR. Yaz sat there thinking to herself, and decided to stretch out her legs which were searing in agony from sitting like that. Not her one of her best ideas. She got up and left, Hashim not even looking up. She sighed. She walked onto the street, enjoying the warm breeze, as leaves rustled above her, and windchimes made of bone echoed down the streets. She sighed again, swallowing the fresh air. The street in question was on the promenade, looking out onto Cao Khoát. The lights of the city reflected beautifly like a mosaic of lights on the river. Suddenly, a loud crash and explosion startled Yasmine back to reality. A magnificent red firework flashed into the sky, more following it. Cheers from the other side of the river made it over to Yaz, as her eyes widened in awe. She laughed as more and more exploded into the sky, in all different noises. And then it was done, only the smoke and tiny flickers were left in the pitch black night sky. As she turned around, a figure at the end of the road stared her down, not moving an inch. Yaz unsheathed her knife, and crouched into fighting position. 

"What do you want" her voice strongly rolling down the street. 

"You have guts kid, and I think we need that on our team." The figure took off their hood to reveal the face of Chantrea Ponagar, the minister of Rhava. "Could you put away that damn blade, I'm not going to hurt you. I'm here to offer you a job." Yaz slowly rose, not putting away her blade. 

"Why should I except said job" she questioned, tightening her gript. 

"Your a hard cookie to crumble, but I've seen harder." The madame secretary threw a package of San, and Yaz gasped on how much it was; 日20,000. "The rest will come after, it'll be enough to pay off your certain...debts." She then looked at the light shining out of the motel room, as Hashim stared out the window directly at her. "So, are you going to let me in, I'm f*cking burning out here."

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Bora Bora Island, North-Western Rhava 

"No sir, I'm sorry. If you don't have the identification, you are going to have to leave."

"Please Tang, my family and I have been here for weeks." Tâm Nguyễn was at a crossroads, he could either help smuggle this family into the country and be at the mercy of the Vĩnh Cửu acts. Or he could politely refuse them, he was sure they could easily get into the FASR.  "I'm really sorry sir, but we just can't let you in. The territory of Đảo Thận (Shendao) is on the list, and without proper identification there is nothing else I can do for you. "Next!"

As the man sulked away, Tâm felt a pinch in his stomach. He glanced down at his cheat sheet, granted to him on his first day, 'Good Law Abiding Rhavanese Citizens Follow Their Benevolent Government.' After another few devastating stories, that made Tâm want to puke, on how horrible he was being. He headed home through Guanling Port, passing all the orphan families, from places like Thannam, and Azania.  He picked up his speed not even wanting to look at these events, for he must be loyal to his country. 

Rhava is benevolent, Rhava is merciful, Rhava is true. The class yelled this at their teacher as the teacher smiled, gazing at her pupils. 

"Tâm, what is the number one rule of Rhava!" She pointed at Tâm who was merely mumbling the chant, while gazing at the birds playing outside the classroom. He snapped out of his daze, trying to remember what she asked. 

"The Rhavanese government always puts the people first!" 

He bumped into a large figure who turned around angrily. "WATCH IT BUB." he swung with a huge fist at Tâm who got hit right on. He staggered back, banging his head on the hard stained concrete of the inn behind him. The figure noticed the elephant carrying the sun patch on Tâm's clothing. "WAIT, YOU'RE A SERVANT OF THE PARTY! YOU TRAPPED MY FAMILY IN SUVERINA." He took out a knife, and slashed at Tâm who dodged slowly, and got slashed across the waste. He clutched his hips, searing in pain as warm syrup like liquid trickled down is leg. As the figure raised the knife for the final strike, a red splotch appeared on his chest as looked down surprised, and then he collapsed to the floor. A warm hand reached out to Tâm who quickly grabbed it, and winced in pain as the wound seared in pain. 

"Lets get that fixed up shall we. And after that, why don't we change Rhava for the good" said a female voice, an aid of Ponagar. 

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"Welcome Mr. Ping, the general is waiting." A helicopter landed on a pad, illuminated by a structure jutting out of a mountain, 20 kilometers away from the Yeosanese border. Rain poured down, as the head of the council Pen Ping stepped out. Decked out in all black, and wearing black shades, he walked with 3 aids tailing him into the bright hallway of the fortress. "As you can see, the general has been working tirelessly for the plan to come into fruition." Pen nodded as the continued to walk. They entered into a glass tube overlooking a huge device. "The device is almost fully operational." Pen smiled, sliding off his glasses to look down on the device the size of a school bus. Wires pierced the outer metal shell, going into a huge monitor, which a group of strategists were studying. 

"Bring me" he drawled in a thick Rhavapuran accent, "General Lai." The aid bowed, and rushed down the corridor, the footsteps slowly fading into the distance. Eventually clacking sounded from the end of the hallway. A stunning woman strutted into the hallway, dressed in an ao dai, a gorgeous accompaniment to the head council members fancy suit. Her black hair trailed down her back in a thick braid, dyed red at the end. Mara Lai, commander of the national army. 

"Champagne?" she asked offering him a glass held in her hand. 

"No thank you mistress Lai." 

She smiled. "More for me then." She downed both of them quickly, and handed them off to an aid. "Its beautiful isn't it" she gestured at the device. Pen nodded. "13,000 lbs of titanium armor to protect it. Almost indestructible." They both smiled. 

"When will it be fully operational" the council head asked. 

"By the end of the weak sir, the...scientist. She has been most stubborn, it took a little...convincing if you know what I mean to help." 

"Good. The resistance will be destroyed by the end of the weak. And then nothing will stand between us and our goal." 

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"Here's the sitch." 

Reya, Yasmine, Hashim, and Tâm sat around a wide table, in the resistance base of Goran island with Chantrea Ponagar and Lieutenant Hien. 

"So let me get this straight, you want us to parachute into Bugjjognamu forest, infiltrate a government owned base, rescue a head scientist of who cares blah blah, and destroy anything that could be a danger." Reya questioned annoyedly. "Oh Po, this is gonna cost extra." 

The Lieutenant spoke up, "I know this asking a lot from all of you, but this is something only you can accomplish, this can change the future of all of our lives." 

"How are we getting out, is there some sort of exit plan?" Hashim questioned, staring pensively at the diagram laid out on the table. 

"Yes, after the mission is completed, you will all escape through the air ducts to the peak of the mountain, where you will be extracted by one of the pilots that go you there" answered Ponagar. "And yes, you will all get payed extensively for this and the service you will provide to the country." Reya smiled at this, nodding her agreement. "You all have traits that we heavily need. Reya, you have a keen sense of survival, which will be crucial for getting in. Yasmine, you are handy with the blade, and show no mercy to those that hurt you our your family. An excellent weapon against those who get in our way. Hashim, a memory as sharp as steel, not to mention a pinch of realism that always snaps us back to reality. And Tâm, a heart that will anchor us all back to what our goal is. A better Rhava. Some People in there, do not agree with what they're doing. I'm sure you agree with this." They all nodded. 

"Rest, we leave at sundown" the lieutenant said, as they all walked away to their quarters.

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The large propellers were the only noise in the silent starless sky, as the crew left Rhavanese airspace. Hashim caught himself gazing at Tâm as Tâm watched tree after tree pass under them. He was surprisingly good looking, a slight build under his blue uniform with a white dragon patch, the sign of the resistance. After only a day he had become interested. Maybe it was love, or maybe it was just the insanity he was participating in a mission like this. Tâm gazed away and noticed Hashim's stare, and blushed. Hashim turned to look up at the front of the plane, a light warmth to his face. 

"You like him, don't you" whispered Reya, slightly snickering. Hashim blushed a deep red. 

"Shut up" he playfully pushed her away, as Yas covered her mouth from laughing. Even Tâm smiled, if not only for a second. A loud voice shattered this sweet moment on the intercom. 

"We are about to reach the Bugjjognamu forest, strap on your parachutes, as we begin to straighten out" yelled Hien on the loud speaker. They all quickly got up, and grabbed 4 bags, filled with their only means of getting to the fortress . They all strapped on their bags, as the back of the plane opened, showering them in bright moonlight, over a cloud filled sky. "Jump in Săn, Gấu, Mọt!" They all jumped into the cold lifeless sky, as wind circled around them. All of them twirled through the night sky, piercing threw could over as the mountain came into view. In the distance if you squinted far enough, you could barely see Haeju city, in Yeosan. The dove even faster, birds passing them. They each simultaneously released there parachutes, drifting down to the helipad. They all dropped their bags behind them, and sprinted for the door. As they entered, a guard noticed them, and charged them with a gun drawn. Bullets whistled by them as they each drew their Arnis. Tâm was the first to reach the guard, and jumped striking him straight in the temple. He lay on the ground, groaning. 

"Finish him!" Yaz yelled, as Tâm glanced down at the guard already regaining consciousness. Tâm gulped, slowly drawing a pistol, and holding it to the guards head. He clenched the trigger, sweat going down his face. He suddenly dropped the gun. 

"I can't." The alarms sounded on, sounding like air raid sirens. A shot echoed down the hallways, as Yaz gazed coldy at the lifeless body. Hashim gasped, as Tâm held his hand to his mouth in surprise. Even Reya looked away in disgust. Laughing sounded back. A woman walked towards them, sword drawn. 

"Do you think" she laughed. "You can take us out, if you can't even kill someone...as expensable as this." She cackled evilly. Mara Lai, slashed her sword, the guard's head rolling away. 

"Tâm, Hashim, go!" Reya yelled. "We'll hold her off. Yas nodded, as the both settled into fighting stance. Hashim turned to Tâm. 

"According to out intel, this is the way to the holding cells." They both sprinted off, Mara looking at them with uninterested. She then looked at her prey. 

"I though you might be tough girls, but you shouldn't mess with a lioness." Yas and Reya charged, as Mara cackled and swung her blade. 

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The picked up speed, entering a circular room, with monitors detailing each cells containment. Thankfully, only was filled, as the opened that one, they gazed at each other. Hashim and Tâm looked away blushing. A scientist with dark skin, exited the cell, adjusting her glasses, her hair tied in a bun. She spoke with a thick Tagalonese accent, definitely from one of the island states. "Who are you?" 

Tâm spoke up; "We are with the resistance, we are here to free you." Hashim nodded rushing over to support her, as she merely collapsed from exhaustion. "We must hurry, our friends are stalling." She gazed up with a strong gaze. 

"I will not leave. I have put millions of people in danger, I must fix my wrongs. Follow me." Pushing off Hashim, she made her way down the hallway. The two boys glanced at each other, and then followed after her. 

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Reya slashed forward, as Yas parried a strike from Mara, a sickening sound came, from the snapping of one of Yas arnis. With the other Arnis she disarmed Lai. They both were a mere 5 feet away from each other. Yas punched at Mara, as she dodged and kicked her in the groin. Yas yelped in pain. Reya slashed again with her arnis, both breaking on impact with Mara's armor. She sneered, at Reya as she punched her straight into the stomach, Reya losing air. They both backed up, lowering into horse stances. Mara relaxed, noticing their exhaustion. "As much as I'd like to continue play with you little girls, I have places to be." She leaped over them somersaulting in mid hair and sprinting to the helipad. They both sighed, collapsing the floor from tiredness. Reya slowly got up. 

"We need to help the others." She picked up Yas, who held her hand to her face, revealing a black eye. 

"Don't worry, I got this." Yas slowly got up, and they both started running in the direction that the boys had gone, slightly limping. 

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The scientist and the two boys reached a wide room, with a large hole gaping out of the wall. "No, no, no!" The scientist collapsed in tears, as she looked at the place where the monitors had been. 

"What is it?" They both sat down next to her, trying to comfort the scientist as much as they could. 

"They made me do it." She sobbed, her shoulders shuddering. 

"Made you do what?" they asked, already fearing the answer. 

"I built a weapon, a powerful weapon." She continued to wail. 

"...What kind of weapon." They both pale faced glanced at the scientist as sniffed, wiping tears from her face. 

"The kind to level cities, islands even."  

They both looked at each other fear stricken. "Goran island!" Hashim dialed Ponagar's number, nervously waiting for her to answer. 

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A jet passed over town after town, houses dotting the ground below as the went over ocean. Goran island, a major island off the coast of Rhava, home to millions. And the resistance base. Mara hung up a call, and walked to the front of the plane, with officers circling monitors, eriely looking similar to the base. "We have the go ahead." 

"Are you sure mistress? There are innocent people down there." The all looked up at her, sweat drenching their faces.

"Collateral damage." She didn't even flinch. "Officer, I said drop it. I will not repeat myself." 

The officer stood up, I will not be a part of this. You and the head council member. You don't care about this country at all. To think I've been working for people the likes of-" A shot rang through the plane, smoke leaking from Mara Lai's pistol. 

"Does anyone else have a conscious?" She yelled. They all shook their heads, stricken with fear. "Then what are you waiting for. Drop it." A small orb dropped from the bottom of the plane, followed with millions more, each dropping from a titanium container in the plane. In seconds it hit the resistance stronghold, obliterating all life in it. As people gazed from the cities surrounding it, a bright light exploded across the island, a circular cloud coming off the island, visible from the mainland, sending tidal waves in all directions. And when the dust cleared, only the remains of a once beautiful island remained. A scar on the land.

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4 hours before the bomb drop

The madame secretaries phone rang, as she arrived at the resistance compound a couple miles out of Goran island. The palm trees danced in the wind, backdropped by the sparkling adlantic under the night sky. 

"Who the f*ck is calling me at this hour" she thought to herself as she picked up. "Hello?! Who is this." 

"Madame Secretary!" 

"Hashim?" She swore realizing something was up. "What is it. I expect the mission went smoothly." 

"Madame secretary? This is doctor Janai Kazembe, lead scientist for the RUA. You need to evacuate the island as quickly as possible!" 

"Why is this doctor...Kazembe?" She became more and more fearful by the second as the caller paused. The wind seemed to pick up, putting Ponagar on edge, as the voice sounded through the speaker again. 

"I built something for them. They took me because I was in Ceris, during the crisis. I was part of a small Rhavanese group, studying the island. I saw the bombs with my own eyes. And I saw what they did to Liechnenfax with my own two eyes. And they made me build...a more compact version. Tiny orbs filled with fuel, munitions, fertilizer even. Thousands of them. And one big one, to light the match. It could level the entire island, and they will blame it on you." She sighed, they weren't out of the dark yet. 

"Thank you doctor, I will make sure that today isn't a day where millions die from a shit ton of fertilizer." There was a slight chuckle, though it didn't do much to lighten the mood. She turned to her aid as she hung up. "Get me on a line with Vu Pham." After a couple minutes, you could hear Vu's voice on the other line, drawling with tiredness. 

"Chantrea? Why are you calling me at this godforsaken hour." 

"Vu, listen. A Ceris level bomb is going to blow this island to a GODDAMN CRISP! AND YOU ARE WORRIED ABOUT YOUR SLEEP!" She yelled into the speaker. "I need you to f*cking get off your ass, and evacuate all essential personnel and the island residents to the fleet, and get them as f*cking far away from this island as you can!" she rasped. 

"We don't have enough boats for everyone. But I will do my best, the woman and children first." Ponagar sighed, not everyone was going to live today, but she was going to make sure not everyone died. 

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half an hour after the bomb drop

The boat was eerily quiet, as the citizens of Goran watched their homes and the loved ones they left behind smolder into a crisp. Children cries, and wails of families echoed off the murky waters as they drifted away from the only country they had ever known. As the three ships continued to drift off into the sea, sirens shattered the silence. From behind, an armada of Rhavanese ships came into a view, turrets in view, waiting to fire once they got closer. They would reach the fleet by the hour. Their only hope was to rendezvous with the rest of the resistance, outside Rhavanese waters. Each problem they faced, was like wave after wave crashing against the shoreline, their ferocity growing before storm.

Edited by Rhava (see edit history)
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Ponagar gazed into the now foggy horizon, looking for signs of the resistance. It was almost impossible to see 10 feet in front of her. She sighed, and turned around to glance at the fleet. She was on lead ship of the fleet, surrounded by a frigate and a destroyer, each quickly turned into evacuation ships. She had recently found out that the council had removed the senate and president from office, and had declared her dead. She laughed at this notion, they tried so hard to erase her. 

"Madame, something has come up on the radar, I think you should see this." She glanced back the man speaking to her, pointing at a monitor. "It says that the rendezvous fleet, should be right in front of us." Ponagar rushed to the window, only to find something that was truly horrific. Shipwreck after shipwreck, the resistance fleet operating in international waters had been destroyed. They all gasped, as civilians all looked in horror at their only hope sinking to the bottom of the sea. "Even more bad news, we are running out of fuel." She swore in outrage, realizing their dire situation. Three ships, in the middle of the Adlantic, being chased to the edge of the wurld by an unstoppable armada. 

"The Seylosians, the Gallambrians, is anyone on this f*cking planet able to help us!" 

"No madame, they are all tied up in the Anglian crisis of Europa, or simply don't care." 

"How far are we from Tagalo, or Tikongkhett. Any Rhavanese ocean territories?!" They shook their heads. Ponagar sighed in outrage, they were in the middle of f*cking no where. They had no fuel. Their crew of misfits were somewhere near Yeosan possibly being hunted down. And she could do goddamn nothing! 

The comms turned on, with a male voice sounding though it. "This is Lieutenant Chau, in charge of the S.S. Dango, we are on low levels of fuel. We are requesting immediate docking so we may evacuate all personnel." The crew all shook their heads at Ponagar, it was too risky. 

"I'm sorry S.S. Dango, there is no wa-" 

"This is Chantrea Ponagar, we will take your people." 

"But Mada-" 

"That is not a question commander!" The S.S. Dango began circling back, to where it almost was touching Ponagar's ship. In 10 minutes the ship had emptied out, with only the lieutenant remaining. "Lieutenant Chau, please change ships." 

"That's a negative madame secretary. A captain goes down with his ship." 

"That preposterous Chau, get over here no-" The comms shut off. The Dango undocked, and began heading straight towards the Rhavanese fleet. She realized what he was doing, "He's going to give us a fighting chance." The Dango now meters away angled towards angled towards the lead ship of the armada, when it abruptly slowed. "NO!" 

A barrage of fire lit the sky as the Dango took the hit, slowly sinking into the ocean, smoke leaking from every where, the ship in flames. Screams and cries erupted from the upper deck, as the civilians were once again filled with agony, and hopelessness. And once again the resistance fleet drifted into the unknown. 

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"Admiral Collins. 12 Rhavanese ships have exited Rhavanese waters. They head right towards us, at highspeeds." Admiral Collins was incharge of the S.S. Chimera in the Anglian Whanganui fleet, currently protecting Anglian shipments to the new wurld, though protecting was a loose term. He stared at the open waters to where he assumed Rhava lay. From what he heard, Rhava was a backwater country in equatorial Alharu, and one of the only obstacles between Anglia and Shendao. "It seems like most of Rhava's military has been detailed to this one fleet, whatever they are doing, it must be important." 

"Prepare to fire." 

"But sir?! This would be an act of war against the Rhavanese. And what will we tell Naval Command?" 

"You heard from Captain Morce, they prevented a key victory against the Ryderians. Plus, by eliminating these tiny pests, we not only clear the way for Anglian-Shendao negotiations, but also a full scale invasion of Rhava with little to know opposition. You've heard the news, Rhava is wounded. Besides, we will do away with it swiftly like the other fleet. News will never reach the mainland." 

"Sir, they have come close enough for us to fire, are you sure about this." Collins thought to himself, he'd always wanted to best that bastard Morce. This victory, could be the key. 

"Fire."

(End of Part 1)

To Be Continued...

Edited by Rhava (see edit history)
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  • 2 weeks later...

"Madame, four Anglian warships are firing on us." The RUA fleet smoked in the middle of the Coral Sea, 700 kilometers off the coast of Rhava. Alarms sounded, as the lights flickered on and off, the ships withstanding bombardments from both sides. The floor shook, with papers and pens scattering in every direction, with the crew of the S.S. Haikilong shouting orders into walkie talkies. The torpedoes struck the ship, sending Ponagar swearing and falling to the ground, blood dripping from her nose. To their surprise not only did the attack hit them, but also the ships behind them. It seemed the Anglians had no idea of the situation. "Madame secretary, what are we going to do. We are a couple hits from fully being blown to pieces, and the lower decks are already taking on water. We are sitting ducks." Chantrea sighed, it was looking like their loss was inevitable. Snap out of it Chantrea, think she thought. 

“Get me a line with the Rhavanese fleet.” It was a gambit, one they had to take. The crew nodded, signaling an open line. "General Nguyễn of the Rhavanese fleet, there is something you must know about Goran." Time passed, as more and more impacts shook the ships, as the Anglian bombardment continued. Ponagar tried to convince Nguyễn that he was on the wrong side to no avail. Screams erupted from the lower deck as another impact shook the ship. "General Nguyễn, empress Lin Chi once said; I have a duty to my people. A duty to this city. And a duty to these lands. If, you guarantee the people's safety, and the joint attack on Anglian forces to defend these fleets, I will turn myself in." The crew immediately shouted their disgust towards this notion, but Ponagar shushed them. 

"That deal sounds, acceptable." The 3 Rhavanese fleet ships docked with the S.S Haikilong, as people jumped ship, heading into the less damaged national fleet ships. Rhavanese and RUA ships fired on Anglian boats, as the fleet not prepared for this unity. Perhaps it was luck, or perhaps it was mercy, but the Anglian fleet retreated back into the fog. The crew let out a collective breath. Ponagar now turned to the crew, gazing as soldiers made their way onto the ship to probably arrest her. 

"Let's talk about how we are going to free Rhava, shall we?" The crew grimly smiled, as soldier shouts erupted from down the hall. She took a chip from her pockets, running towards the crew. "You must get this to my agents in Bugjjognamu forest. They will know what to do." Rhavanese soldiers dressed in red and yellow ran into the room with guns drawn. And like that they took Ponagar, leaving the crew with one choice, save the resistance. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

20 days on the run, that was how long it had been. Under a month ago the Rhavanese government was taken over by the power hungry Chairman Pen Ping, imprisoning all government officials. Pinning an attack on the resistance when he had ordered the drop. The jailing of resistance leader, Madame Chantrea Ponagar. 2 days ago, the border closed, all international personnel  removed from the now locked down country.  And the last agents of the resistance; Janai, Hashim, Yasmine, Reya, and Tam were somewhere in the Cam Dong province, a region infamously guarded by the military. 

The crew walked through the long yellow grasses of the inner savannas of Rhava, elephants calling to their children in the background. Yellow mountains topped with puffed trees, like the hair of the hills loomed in the distance, with trees sparsely spaced in between. 3 days ago they had been contacted by Kilong's crew. They had been instructed to meet in the Cam Dong province. Now they walked through this yellow expanse of Rhava. 

"Rumor has it that Mueng people come out of nowhere and take all your belongings and attach your heads to the tusks of an elephant" said Reya shattering the silence. 

"Don't be silly, that was only a story made my crazy Rhavanese to scare people out of not coming out here" replied Yasmine. 

"Hey! I'm Rhavanese, you know" shouted Tam. They all laughed, putting their spirits at ease. As they waded through the leg long grass, they heard shouting in the distance. The crew picked up their pace, wanting to rendezvous with the last of the resistance quickly. 

"Lieutenant Hien!" The tall women turned around her hair a mess, with scrapes and bruises all over her body. 

"Thousand-eyed Buddha, if it isn't the Mandurae mercenary herself and her band of misfits." Reya and Hien bumped chests and laughed, as the others looked on dumbstruck. 

"So...why are we here lieutenant?" Hashim asked wiping the confused look off his face. She turned around to face him and said smiling; 

"Who else is going to break out Ponagar of jail!"

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  • Similar Content

    • By Rhodellia
      Chapter One - S.S.D.D
       
      It’s late in the afternoon when Sergeant Alarick Schäfer tells his squad that they’ve reached their next waypoint along ASR Blue Lagoon. They’re located in a small patch of forest somewhere in rural Nordwalde Province; as far as most of this band of average 18 to 20 year-old Rhodellian conscripts is concerned, they’re somewhere south of Camp Bergenstein, north of the provincial capital of Schwarzwald, and west of MSR Spirytus - the main road connecting Bergenstein with the rest of Rhodellian civilisation. Judging from the rotting picnic benches, leaf-littered public toilets, and shuttered ice cream stall, Schäfer determines that this place is indeed the derelict campsite he marked on his map. Although one of his fire teams, Fire Team Alpha, has already scouted out the area, deemed it safe, established an observation post 100 metres from the entrance, and is currently maintaining a triangle-shaped perimeter around it, he makes a few quick sweeps of the area with his thermal weapon sight, and confirms that nobody has slipped past their cordon and is preparing to ambush them.
      “Rest up while you can on your turns, gents, we’ve got twenty mikes each. We’re Oscar Mike in thirty!” He folds up his map and turns first towards his team leaders. “Meier, your team’s on perimeter watch. Be stealthy about it in case the enemy's nearby. Collins, rotate with Meier's team in ten. Jung, with Collins's team in twenty.” and then to the rest of the squad “Maintain your weapons. Have Doc check your feet for blisters and rashes. Reapply any face paint that might’ve worn off due to face-rubbing or sweat. Add some more local vegetation to your helmet bands, helmet cover slits, and combat webbing. And if you still have time after all of that, eat whatever chow's left in your MREs.”
      The squad breaks their patrol column formation to do whatever they have to do. While maintaining a reasonable level of noise discipline, they complain about the objective, the ROE, the stones that somehow got into their boots, how much they’d rather be back at base sweeping the motorpool or sleeping through another SHARP lecture, and how their mission may end up being yet another waste of their valuable time if they - once again - end up not killing anything. The one exception is the automatic rifleman of Fire Team Bravo, who’s asking around to see if anyone has a spare can of energy drink before he goes off to watch his sector of responsibility. Schäfer notifies his platoon leader of his location over the radio before checking over his equipment. He is in the middle of changing the batteries on his rifle's thermal weapon sight when Fire Team Alpha is relieved from sentry duty by Fire Team Bravo. He notices Alpha’s team leader, Corporal Rolt Jung, approaching him. 
      “Schäfer, interrogative...”
      “Yeah, Jung?”
      “Why the f*ck are we here?”
      “Can you expand on that question?”
      “Okay… Why are the fourteen of us out here in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, spending our entire afternoon rucking up and down all these steep-ass hills in full gear?”
      “Well... That’s easy, Jung. Somewhere, in this…” he looks around to see that he is no longer surrounded by the beautiful vistas of Nordwalde’s hills, just a long-disused campsite and the densely packed trees and foliage of an unnamed forest “...beautiful expanse of Rhodellian countryside, a bunch of Native Aurelian Liberation Army assholes are up to no good. Our job and patriotic duty as soldiers of the Rhodellian Army is simply to hunt them down and f*ck ‘em up for having the absolute f*cking audacity to set food into our 'hood. Ideally before they do something nasty.” 
      “I know that’s our mission, man, but I mean... I was asking about the reasons why we’re doing all this shit in the first place. Like, what’s the rationale behind this whole war anyway? Does it ever hit you sometimes that this whole thing’s been going on since way before any of us were born?”
      “Did you fail history class, or is National Service the first time you’ve crawled out from under your rock since the Cambrian period?”
      “Nah, dude.” Jung chuckles, “It’s just that, I swear to God, my grandpa patrolled through this exact same ASR and stopped in this exact same picnic area while hunting for NALA insurgents way back in the Sixties. And maybe his grandpa before that too.”
      “Well, Jung…” Schäfer rubs his mouth as he tries to think up a satisfactory answer “This land of ours is a diverse and multicultural one. De facto Rhodellian territory’s only like what, 89,000 square kilometres? Yet, within these tiny-ass borders of ours, for thousands of years, hundreds of different peoples and cultures have been living in and dying over the same patch of dirt. You’ll see evidence of that painted across almost every cave wall in the country. As for us Rhodellians and the f*ckheads in the Native Aurelian Liberation Army... We just happen to be the latest generation of retards bleeding over who gets to call this land rightfully ‘theirs’. And for NALA, who still haven't gotten over colonialism, sharing was never an option.”
      “Just for fun, which side do you think is in the right, Schäfer?”
      “In the opinion of this conscript, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. None of that shit’s worth caring about. Not to me at least.” Schäfer shrugs his shoulders. He turns his head to admire the trees and shrubbery around him. “I live here. I like living here. And honestly, I can’t be arsed to move out. f*ck that noise. If anyone's got a problem with that, they can talk to the business end of my rifle.”
      “So who do you think is in the right anyway?” 
      “Jung, I could write you a whole f*cking essay on the damn thing.” Schäfer removes his helmet to inspect the camouflage paint on its NVG plate “But again, that’d be a pointless-as-f*ck exercise.”
      Jung shrugs, supposing that Schäfer wants to change the subject.
      “Alright, I guess…”
      “Actually, let me ask you a question, Jung.”
      “Hit me with it.”
      “Why do you think this country is still called ‘Rhodellia’ and not something more... Native Aurelian-sounding? Why are we still here?”
      “Just to suffer?” Jung smiles to himself. A few nearby squad members overhear the two and start cracking up, also recognising the reference. Schäfer chuckles, acknowledging that he set himself up for that.
      “Yeah, that’s one reason Goodsprings has us rucking through the countryside today. But that's not exactly the answer I'm looking for.”
      “Uh…” Jung pauses to think of an articulate (or at least smart-sounding) answer “Because of the rule of law? Legally speaking, Schäfer, our country pretty much own the rights to the land we're standing on right now.” He sweeps his finger across the forest around him  “And a good chunk of the international community agrees with that. By most counts, the Rhodellian government in Friedrichstadt is considered the ‘legitimate government’ who exercises sovereignty over this territory. That, and because the N-A-L-A's always been a violent-as-f*ck terrorist organisation that can't let go of a grudge. I swear to God, bro, those psychos will try to genocide all the white people the moment they step foot in our government offices.”
      Schäfer nods a few times.
      “A good answer, Jung. But that’s only part of the story.” He breathes in and out as he tries to collect his thoughts and think of what to say next “In the opinion of this conscript... it’s mostly because we are capable of superior violence, and NALA is not. It doesn’t matter how many articles some self-hating, guilt-tripping, latte-slurping liberal hippie ethnic minority cock-sucker publishes on their blog...”
      Every nearby squad members squad smiles. Even its two Native Aurelian members are trying to contain their laughter in keeping with noise discipline. Schäfer continues.
      “Those self-righteous pseudo-intellectual assholes can screech into the void all they f*cking want about social justice, native land rights, and how our country’s entire existence is technically an illegal occupation of stolen land. But in the opinion of this conscript, all of that shit’s irrelevant. So long as the Rhodellian government has tanks, fighter jets, and the continued will to fight, it doesn’t matter how much other people b*tch and complain about us being here. We’re not budging off this land. And f*ck anyone who tries to kick us out. And that’s that.”
      “Can’t you come up with a better justification than ‘Right of conquest’ or ‘Might makes right’? What’s next, Schäfer? The f*cking ‘discovery doctrine’?”
      “Maybe.” Schäfer shrugs while readjusting the camo netting and foliage secured by his helmet band “This country is imperialist to the core, and we’re too proud of that to let go.”
      Jung shrugs as well. He shifts his attention to the squad medic, Corporal John Mark ‘Doc’ Garcia, who’s applying some kind of cream to the foot of someone from Fire Team Charlie. As physically fit as all able-bodied Rhodellians are legally mandated to be under the Spartan Protocol, Jung supposes that not everyone’s an avid hiker. He supposes that near-non-stop marching across several-dozen miles of hilly terrain while hauling over 100 lb of gear is starting to take its toll on some of his squadmates. He looks down at his own combat boots, and wriggles his toes to revive the blood flow to his feet.
      “Okay… Next question: Why, in his infinite wisdom, is Goodsprings making us do this whole search-and-destroy mission on foot? Y'know, If I'm gonna be illegally occupying rightful Native Aurelian clay and shit, I'd at least like to do it in an AFV with air conditioning.” Jung frowns, referring to his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Emory Schreiber. Schreiber’s callsign is ‘Goodsprings’, after the starting location of his favourite video game. 
      “Hm?”
      “Just for f*cking once, man, I just wish that motherf*cker would give us a mission with non-retarded orders. Y'know orders that won’t put us all in unneeded danger, or at least won't make us waste more effort than needed to do the simplest f*cking things. I mean, you saw the motorpool back at Bergenstein, right?”
      “What about it?”
      “We’ve got a shitload of perfectly good APCs and other armoured utility vehicles back at base. Plenty of helicopters too. Despite that, Goodsprings just had us dropped outside the AO and told us to f*cking hoof it the rest of the way. Can’t we cover more ground more quickly if we actually had some transportation?”
      “Yeah, I can think of a few reasons why we're doing it this way.” Schräfer unfolds his map, spreads it across the picnic bench, and beckons Jung to look closer. Schäfer plants his finger on a single carriageway roughly 500 metres to the east of their current position. On Rhodellian military maps of the AO, that specific road is called ‘MSR Spirytus’; it’s a common route for supply trucks delivering supplies up north to Camp Bergenstein from the nearby city of Schwarzwald. 
      “Whatcha got?” Jung leans closer, resting his arm on the picnic bench for support.
      “Ride in an APC, and our movement will stay restricted to the roads, and our sight will be confined to what we can see from those roads. That, and the enemy can more easily anticipate our movements. They’re more likely to prepare an ambush for convoys driving down a main road than for random dismounted conscript squads chasing animal trails in the surrounding hills. Logistics vehicles are way juicier targets than random dismounts like us. You get to shoot people AND get piles of neat shit out of it.”
      “And the helicopters?” Jung looks up at the overcast sky, imagining himself manning a rotary machine gun, spraying streams of 7.62×51mm tracer rounds into the woods below as Ride of the Valkyries blares from the Bluetooth loudspeakers he recently ordered online. He looks ahead to see Schäfer looking up as well, correctly guessing that he’s imagining the same thing. 
      “Well…” Schäfer snaps from his daydream “This whole operation is supposed to be kind of a secret, stealthy one… Only BCT headquarters, Intel, and our battalion knows why we’re really out here. For all the rest of the wurld knows, we're just on a regular training exercise. The enemy might not even know that we’re aware of their presence. If they see random Rhodellian Army dismounts like us walking across the hills, they might just think I’m a lost butterbar, failing spectacularly at basic LandNav, gloriously leading his men to the Land of f*ckknowswhere. Maybe they'll let us pass out of pity, all without suspecting a damn thing.” he then points up at the sky “But if we ride in with helicopters, searchlights, and Wagner playing, that just screams that we’re on to them. And they’ll escape by hiding in one of the local woods where we can't see them with binoculars or thermals, and f*ck off back across the Nordfluss or whatever other shithole they came from. If we’re especially unlucky, they might even shoot us down for shits and giggles and scoot off. At least that’s Goodspring’s logic.“
      “Fair enough.” Jung shrugs. “Y'know, speaking of logic, I get that commissioned officers tend to see things from a radically different perspective than the guys under their command, but… uh…  sometimes, I swear to God, the bars they graduate with at officer school must be prime breeding grounds for dementia-inducing brain parasites.”
      “Evidence suggests that they most probably are.”
      “I mean, where else would they get their advanced terminal retardation from?”
      “Who knows?" Schäfer shrugs. "You know, after National Service, I'm thinking of enrolling in Gottesberg Military Academy after I do my Masters', graduating with a commission, and making a difference out here. Think I'd do a better job?”
      Jung laughs.
      “Bro, if I see you with shiny new butter bars, you'd best believe I'm fragging your stupid ass before you can make us bayonet-charge an MG nest or some shit." 
      "Bet?"
      "But yeah, when you do, please, for the love of God, just don't prioritise petty workplace politics and career-climbing. Don't be that kind of that douchebag. The Rhodellian military's already got more than enough of those.”
      “I’ll try to get my priorities straight.”
      “Christ… You know, Goodspring’s actually a really good guy in person and all, but what turns a well-meaning Rhodellian into something like that anyway?”
      “I dunno. Some ‘Sword of Damocles’ shit?”
      “F*ckin’ Goodsprings, man.” Jung shakes his head.
      “Alright…” Schäfer pats Jung on the shoulder before removing his rucksack “You can go back to your team now. Tell them what's up. Meanwhile…” he exhales as he unzips a side pocket, retrieves a pack of baby wipes and a bottle of neutral-smelling hand sanitizer, and starts heading towards the campsite's public toilets. “I gotta go take a shit.”
      “Aight.” Jung nods before rejoining his team. 
      Fire Team Alpha is busy gathering pieces of foliage with their bayonets, using breezes of wind and leaf rustles to mask their sound, when their team leader returns to them.
      “Yo. What it is, hoes?” Jung takes off his helmet and starts comparing the shape and colour of the local plants with those already attached to his uniform. He opts to start swapping them out.
      Alpha’s automatic rifleman, Private Garrick Wolff, rubs his fatigued eyes with his sleeve. 
      “Hey, Jung.”
      “Yeah, Wolff?” 
      “We’ve been rucking for like… almost five hours now. Where the f*ck even are those NALA infiltrators we’re supposed to be looking for?”
      “F*ck if anyone knows, dude.”
      “With four entire companies patrolling the AO on foot, you’d think at least one squad would’ve run into them by now. The AO ain’t even that big.”
      “Think about it this way, Wolff: every square meter of ground we cover is one less they could be hiding in.”
      Wolff shakes his head, feeling even more tired
      “That’s… still a lot of ground left that our squad needs to cover…” 
      “Then think about it this way, man: every step we take is one step closer to us kicking the absolute shit of them for making us waste such a fine afternoon.”
      “I guess...” Wolff shuts his eyes for a brief few moments, stewing in bitterness and rage, imagining all the creative ways he could take revenge on the NALA infiltrators for making him leave his room “Man, to hell with busting my spine and kneecaps on these f*cking hills... I could be playing Warzone right now… I swear, I’m finna scalping each and every one of them NALA motherf*ckers the moment I spot their sorry asses. No cap.”
      “Good! Use your aggressive feelings, boy.” Jung smiles as he cuts some leaves off a bush he knows is not poisonous “Let the hate flow through you!”
      “Goddamnit.” Wolff laughs. The thought of scalping fellow human beings brought another question to his mind, this time addressed to one of the two Native Aurelians in the squad. He also happens to be Alpha’s rifleman.
      “Yo, Wickwash.”
      ‘Wickwash’ is the nickname for Fire Team A’s rifleman, Private Puhihwikwasu'u Geldfeld. Despite being half-Native Aurelian, he’s proud of his mother’s native heritage but ashamed of his Dolchic surname. When he first introduced himself, he asked his squadmates to use his forename instead; they all respected his wish without question. Problem was, most of them kept mispronouncing and misspelling it. The squad eventually shortened his name to ‘Wickwash’ after watching him snuff out a row of lit candles with his rifle.
      “Sup.” Wickwash nods up.
      “Aside from being half-Dolchic, ironic as that is for you, you’re basically a Native Aurelian in every way, right?”
      “Nʉmʉnʉʉ.” He corrects Jung. At least in Rhodellia, Native Aurelians prefer to be known by their specific tribal affiliation instead of a generic term. “And f*ckin’ A I am. What about it, you cream-faced, culture-destroying, genocide-happy Dolchic coloniser?”
      “So I’ve been wondering, bro… When you started your National Service, you signed up to be an infantryman, right?”
      “Yeah, dude. What does that have to do with me being from one of The Tribes?”
      “So when you wanted to become a rifleman, you knew full-well that you’d be sent up North to Nordwalde... to help The White Man, er... slaughter your fellow Native Aurelians, lay waste to their cities, and re-colonise your ancestral lands?”
      “Man, I don’t get why all you white people keep lumping us all together like that.” Wickwash smiles as he inspects his newly re-camouflaged helmet, puts it back on, and examines his head's increasingly certainly-not-human outline in the mirror.  “Not every shithead in the N-A-L-A is from my tribe, so it ain’t like I’m specifically out to kill my own people. I just came out here to scalp some motherf*ckers, maybe earn an eagle feather or two, and go home to watch some anime. You feel me?”
      “Yeah, I feel you, bro.”
      “And just as we overheard Sarge saying 10 mikes ago: we’ve been smoking each other long before any of your pasty asses first set foot on this continent. Hell, when Dolchic settlers first came along, you paid my ancestors state-of-the-art muskets, your fancy carbon steels, and your dirty blood money for scalps claimed from other tribes. We accepted the absolute shit out of those.” Wickwash nods, grinning. "And damn, were we f*cking good at getting scalps!"
      “That’s hardcore.”
      “Hell yeah it was, dude! And three-hundred years later…” He flourishes his bayonet and taps on the tactical tomahawk on his belt. He shakes his head and smiles in reassurance to his Dolchic squadmate. “That time-honoured tradition ain’t dying with me, bro.”
      Private John Adebayo, Alpha’s grenadier, budges closer to Jung, Wolff, and Wickwash. He’s a second-generation immigrant who has neither Dolchic nor Native Aurelian blood in him, somewhat sparing him from centuries of bad blood running between Dolchic Rhodellians and a significant number of Native Aurelians inside and out of Rhodellia.
      “And it’s all thanks to that tribalistic attitude that The Dolch managed to divide-and-conquer the shit out of your lands. I know how you feel, brother. That aside, don't you guys have any sense of Native Aurelian solidarity?”
      Wickwash hands Adebayo some spare vegetation, which Adebayo heartily accepts and adds to his combat webbing.
      “I’m a Rhodellian first. Nʉmʉnʉʉ second. Native Aurelian third.” Wickwash shrugs.
      “And that brings us to the wonderful f*cking SNAFU we have today...” Adebayo chuckles as he uses a mirror to help gauge the new changes to his equipment’s leafier, grassier, and increasingly inhuman outline.
      “It really do be like that, dawg.”
      Seeing the lull in the conversation, Wolff re-inserts himself into it.
      “So yeah, Wickwash, what anime are you watching at the moment?”
      “Right now, back at the base?”
       “Yeah.”
      “So I’m watching this long-running Rhavan anime called ‘Now I’m here, now I’m gone.’ It’s just been rebooted with a whole new animation studio. So I’m trying to get up to date with the eleven seasons that came before it, so I can compare the original anime with the new one.”
      “Jesus Christ. Eleven f*cking seasons? Just how many episodes is that?”
      “Around 270ish episodes, not counting filler episodes or the reboot. I’m binge-watching the original seasons while waiting for the next episode of the reboot to come out. I just finished Episode 172 this morning after chow, and I’m telling you bro…” He smacks his lips “This shit’s A-grade classic material, dude.”
      Taken aback by the episode count, a long whistle filters through Wolff’s mouth.
      “What’s the anime about? I only see episode counts like that from long-running Shounen anime.”
      “Well, allow me to subvert your f*cking expectations, my guy.” Wickwash chuckles as straps his helmet back on. “It’s actually not a Shounen. No power-ups, jutsus, bankais, stands, or anything like that. It’s a drama show with romance and stuff. Like a... live-action soap opera, but animated. We can watch the first episode when we get back to base.”
      “Damn, bro. From all your talk about doing hardcore shit, like scalping motherf*ckers and keeping their heads as trophies and lawn ornaments, I’d never have thought you were into that kind of anime.”
      “Eh, they’re nice to watch once in a while.” Wickwash shrugs “Even for us Rhodellians, there’s gotta be more to life than just violence, right?”
      “Wickwash, my friend… I can not believe that beneath that blood-crazed ice-cold warrior exterior of yours, you’re actually a massive f*cking faggot holy shit!” The whole team bursts into laughter. Wolff continues once it dies down. “So should we start with the earlier seasons first, or do we start with the reboot?”
      Wickwash pauses in thought before nodding a few times.
      “Yeah, we can start with the reboot. It basically follows the original story, but with nicer-looking visuals. You can watch the original in your own time.”
      “Sounds cool to me, bro.” Wolff nods as he opens his mirror, noticing that perspiration has caused some of his camouflage face paint to fade. “F*ck, man. I gotta redo my face again. My skin's shinier than f*cking silver.”
      Having already finished repainting his face, Wickwash tosses a pack of tissues and his own face paint kit to Wolff. While Wolff's busy, Wickwash continues the conversation with Jung and Adebayo. 
      “How about you, Jung? You watching any good anime either?”
      “Nah, dude.” Jung shakes his head as he finishes redoing his camouflage, and very carefully takes a sip from his canteen to avoid accidentally washing away his new coat of face paint. “I don't have the patience to sit all the way through a single 24-minute episode nowadays, so I just read manga and webcomics whenever I feel like it.”
      “Like what?”
      “Well, for starters, there’s this Kirvinian one I’m reading called ‘Like In Those Days’...”
      Upon hearing Jung mention that last title, Adebayo perks his head up.
      “Hey, I’ve been reading that one too!”
      “No shit.” Jung chuckles, “Your patrician taste never fails to impress me, bro.”
      Adebayo and Jung bump fists and start talking about the newest chapter.
      “Nice.” Wickwash nods, trying not to get left out of the conversation “So what’s it about?”
      Adebayo takes it from there, raising his bayonet for a flashy performance.
      “It’s a story set in a fantasy version of 16th-century Aurelia…” he shuffles backwards, creating a safer distance between himself and his fellow teammates. With the grace of a professional fencer, he thrusts, swings, and flourishes his bayonet in all directions. Some squadmates from Bravo, returning from their watch, quietly cheer on and clap to his knife-play. Adebayo is encouraged by this and continues doing knife tricks with enhanced vigour.
      “It’s about a guy, named Constantine. He goes around hunting monsters in the woods, getting into sword fights with people, getting caught in political intrigue, and just being an overall cool guy. A guy from Haus Rödel is even one of the guy’s nakama! The art's great, and the action is badass as f*ck, my dude. You gotta see it to believe it!” 
      Adebayo spins his bayonet one last time before sheathing it. Wickwash nods as Adebayo speaks. He imagines his squad ganging up on a dragon with spears, swords, and magic missiles 
      “Damn, bro. That sounds so much cooler than whatever the f*ck we’re doing right now.”
      “Yeah brother, the whole webcomic’s f*cking awesome.” Adebayo laughs, more eager than ever to get back to base so he can show Wolff the webcomic “Whenever Constantine goes into a forest, he gets to duel spriggans, werewolves, and all kinds of other crazy shit with f*cking swords and magic. That’s badass. Meanwhile, if we go into a forest, we don’t even get to slay wolves or bears. Y’know, because we drove all the local ones extinct. Nah, dude. Instead, we just get blown up by landmines. Or shot.”
      Wolff’s ears wriggle at the mention of landmines, and interjects. It appears that he just finished re-applying his face paint.
      “Speaking of landmines, y’know, I grew up near a Red Zone as a kid.”
      In Rhodellia, a ‘Red Zone’ is an area of land so devastated by past conflicts (usually either the First or Second Anéantic Wars) that they’re no longer safe for human habitation. This is generally because they’re still littered with uncleared landmines and unexploded artillery shells. And so, to protect the populace from the explosive remnants of war (ERW) inside them, Red Zones are either fenced off or marked with warning signs.
      “Oh shit. Really?” Wickwash gestures to Wolff that he has the whole team’s undivided attention. Wolff nods, pauses to gather his thoughts, and continues.
      “My family couldn’t go camping in the woods behind my backyard because it’s sealed off behind three thick-ass rows of razor wire. But whenever I did sneak in there, say, because the other boys in the hood wanted to f*ck around in old trenches and ruins, we always, ALWAYS had to watch our step for unmarked unexploded ordnance. Kids still get blown up in there every year! Did you know that, at one point in the First Anéantic War, both Rhodellia and the Grand Alliance fired like a million f*cking shells per day back there, just in that one sector.? 
      Wolff’s teammates are amazed by the figure.
      “That’s a f*ckload of ordnance, brother.” Adebayo whistles, mimicking the sound of a falling (subsonic) artillery shell.
      “I wish I could drop that much shit on NALA headquarters.” Wickwash wishes out loud.
      “How the hell does your Red Zone still have ruins left standing in it?” Jung raises an eyebrow.
      “The wonders of Rhodellian engineering, I guess.” Wolff shrugs, unsure of the answer himself. His figure about artillery shells was probably just an exaggeration, unless a major battle actually was fought over his hometown. The team imagines just how much industry and logistics it would take for a group of artillery batteries to even sustain that rate of fire. It’s an amusing thought. Wolff continues.
      “So yeah, back home, we still use discarded shell casings as house decorations. Flowerpots, fence posts, pencil-holders, you name it. And now, on top of unexploded ordnance potentially lying outside of the marked Red Zones, we gotta look out for signs of potential ambushes too. I’m always too busy staying frosty to feel like I’m going on some big adventure like the dudes in fantasy anime, manga, and webcomics. Ain’t no magic up in this b*tch. This sucks major ass, I tell you.”
      Wickwash shrugs.
      “As long as we get to make motherf*ckers bleed by the end of the day, whether it be with tomahawks, bayonets, rifles, or magic spells, it’s still all good, right?” 
      “Yeah, I guess so, man.”
      Jung stands up, brushes the dirt off his knee pads, and looks around him. He pulls up his glove to look at his watch, checking how long it will be until his team is supposed to take over perimeter watch from Fire Team Charlie. It should be about time, but neither Charlie or its team leader, Corporal William Collins, have returned from perimeter watches.
      “Well, look on the bright side, Wolff.” Jung pulls down his glove “If an unexploded mine gibs any of us before NALA does, at least we’ll get to become cyborgs.” He pats his right arm “Have you seen the Cyberpunk-looking shit the VA’s rolling out nowadays? A Military Police vet in my neighbourhood lost his right arm when NALA raided Camp Kirstein a few years back. According to him, the f*ckers dropped a 155-mike-mike arty shell right on top of his mortar emplacement using a civilian drone.” He taps his right arm again, and swings his hand away while mimicking the sound of an explosion. “Shrapnel severed his arm. And now the VA’s hooked him up with a cybernetic arm with five independent fingers and the capacity to feel. He ain’t exactly shouting ‘Hocus Pocus’ with a wand, but at least he can still say ‘Avada kedavra’ while pulling a trigger. That’s still pretty magical, ain’t it?”
      “Rhodellian healthcare’s nice and all…” Wolff shrugs “But imagine dedicating years of your life to getting swole... imagine building up the discipline to stick to a strict diet and workout routine, and suffering through extreme lactic acid build-up day after day to grow all this muscle mass in your arms and legs... just to get them replaced.”
      He pauses.
      “And once you get past all those ‘initial reaction’ marketing stunt videos that keep showing up on everyone’s Volkscast recommendations… You’ll see that the prosthetics we have commercially available right now aren’t exactly at 'Sci-Fi' levels yet. They’re still nowhere near as good as the biological limbs we’re born with. So losing a limb is still as much of a downer as it’s always been.”
      “You seem pretty knowledgeable on prostheses.” Jung whistles.
      “I’m not, but my older brother has one. Two years ago, while he was still doing his National Service, he volunteered to help some combat engineers demine part of the Red Zone back home. Thing is, their demining robot broke down on ‘em. And… You know where I’m going with this?”
      “Oh f*ck, dude.”
      “Yup.” Wolff nods “He and the engineers had to go in themselves and do shit the old-fashioned way. My brother missed an unmarked landmine he didn’t catch with his detector. Apparently, the mine was partially unburied by a recent rainstorm. But by some f*cking miracle, my brother survived. He was fine everywhere else, but he lost his entire left leg.” He then taps his thigh to show where his older brother’s stump is. “The mine ripped it clean off."
      “Jesus…” Adebayo wipes his mouth. Wolff pauses to recall more of his memories regarding the event.
      “The Red Zone incident made the local headlines. Before we knew it, this prosthetics start-up came knocking on his hospital room door. They asked him if he’d like to take part in a PR stunt. If he agreed, he’d get a fancy new leg out of it. And that's how he got it.”
      “Was it a bad leg?”
      “By 2019 standards? Naw." Wolff shakes his head. "Nah, bro. It’s one of those state-of-the-art myoelectric legs that pick up muscle impulses, with electrodes, microprocessors, motors, and shit. It’s definitely a direct upgrade from the usual prostheses most amputees are issued by the RHS or the VA. But it ain’t the cyberpunk techno-wizardry the advertisements hype them up to be. My brother was very happy at first, ecstatic even, but he’s moved past that. I mean, his f*cking leg’s still gone. Poor guy still copes with phantom pains from losing a literal, tangible part of himself that's grown with him since birth.”
      “Damn, man, I’m sorry to hear that.” Jung pats Wolff on the back.
      “Sorry, bro, if I crushed your transhumanist fantasies.”
      “Ah well... It's no biggie.” Jung shrugs as he tries to figure out where Charlie is; they’re running slightly late on their rotation. “Maybe we’ll get some really cool developments, like, five years from now, and another five years until they become affordable enough to be widespread. At least our kids will be shooting lasers from their eyes!”
      “Looking forward to it, man.”
      Meanwhile, at a close-by picnic bench, the boys in Corporal Koen Meier’s Bravo team are talking about magic and slaying fantasy creatures because they overheard their buddies in Alpha talking about it.
      Bravo's rifleman, Private Waltz Fischer, has scooped up a long stick from the ground and is switching between a series of longsword guard stances. 
      “You know, I went to Dolchic longsword fencing clubs back in primary school, secondary school, and college…” Fischer boasts at length about his swordsmanship prowess, backing it up with well-rehearsed footwork and a swift Zornhau cut “Hey Kowalski, think I can solo a dragon?” 
      The team’s automatic rifleman, Private Jakub Kowalczyk, shakes his head “Your stupid ass would get eaten in three seconds. Tops.”
      The team’s grenadier, Private Robert Powell, laughs with Kowalczyk as he inspects his weapons. “I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t.” He taps his rifle’s underbarrel grenade-launcher “If I had magic, I’d cast a spell to turn my 40-mike-mikes into Davy-f*cking-Crocketts. A dragon’s hot shit, alright, but I’d like to see just how well they’d do against seven tactical nukes-a-minute!”
      “You’d still f*cking die before shooting your second shot, Powell.” Meier chuckles at the surreal thought of Powell running up to a dragon, screaming like a banshee, and unintentionally blowing everyone at.
      “You shut your pussy lips, Meier! Kamikaze’ing a dragon with a nuke has still gotta be one of the most hardcore ways for a man to go out! That’s gotta be worth some award, right?”
      “Yeah, a f*cking Darwin Award!”
      The lads in Bravo laugh until they notice half of Fire Team Charlie jogging behind them, with excited smiles across its member’s faces. More specifically, they see Collins and Charlie’s rifleman, Private Danuwoa Catawnee.
      “Oh shit! Look who’s finally back from their combat circle-jacks!” Meier calls out to the two. Catawnee politely responds with a wide grin and middle finger.
      Seeing as Charlie’s automatic rifleman, Private Ludwig Zimmerman, and grenadier, Private Abdul Hamid bin Faisal al-Latif, are both missing, Meier takes this as a very good sign.
      “Look at ‘em.” Meier slings his rifle “They look like kids wanting to show their parents a cool toy they saw through a f*cking store window.”
      “Think they found those NALA pricks we’ve spent the past five hours looking for?” Powell checks the status of his face paint in the mirror, one last time, to ensure it properly blends with the local environment and masks the natural shine of the human skin. He seems proud of all the camouflage he's attached to himself throughout the day (without compromising his range of movement, ability to perspire, ability to move quietly, or turning his combat uniform into a full ghillie suit). Fischer crouches next to Powell and checks the ammunition in his magazine.
      “After all the rucking those shitheads made Goodsprings put us through today? God, I f*cking hope so.”
      Kowalczyk squats on the grass next to Fischer, eagerly waiting for Schäfer (who just returned from the biological weapon called the campsite’s ‘public toilets’) to announce a pre-combat inspection.
      “If we actually get some today bro…” He looks up at Fischer and clenches his fist around his squad automatic weapon’s pistol grip. “I swear to God, all of the bullshit we took today would’ve been f*cking worth it.” 
      Meier nods, knocking on the side of his helmet.
      “Especially if we get eagle feathers for this. They’d look so badass on my helmet band. B*tches love feathers.”
      They see Collins and Catawnee briefing Schäfer on something urgent. Schäfer absorbs what information he can, and relays it back to his platoon leader over the radio. Once that's done, Schäfer starts jogging between the different fire teams, flanked by Doc, grabbing their attention with kicks, nudges, and creatively verbose threats of grievous bodily harm. 
      “Everyone in the squad who's not busy, form up around this table!” Schäfer beckons the squad to his picnic bench. Jung, Meier, and Collins take out their ballpoint pens and notepads as their squad leader unrolls his map of the AO, and plants his finger on their grid square. Wolff, Kowalczyk, and Catawnee walk off to maintain watch while their team leaders note down some plans for them, and Zimmerman and al-Latif are away monitoring what potentially could be the possible enemy. “Zimmerman and al-Latif have contact on a squad-size element of eleven unidentified foot mobiles setting up cammie nets 500 metres to the east of our pos. They’re at the edge of the forest on the west side of a hill overlooking MSR Spirytus, fifty metres directly east of the T-Junction at Checkpoint Niner-Bravo at Grid Bravo Sierra Four-Five-Niner-Five Four-Five-Three-Two!”
      Schäfer shivers, barely able to contain his excitement or maintain a serious, stoic exterior. “Get ready for pre-combat inspections, we're going into REDCON-2! If Goodsprings doesn’t f*ck us in the ass by calling in an airstrike instead, we might actually get to kill some motherf*ckers!”
      And so they all cheered for war.
    • By Metztlitlaca
      An Empire Divided
      Chapter 2, Part 1
      "The Hot Road Ahead"
      The dust was a serpent. It's body slithered across the rural savannah roads, its form created out of the red and yellow dust tossed out from the hundreds of wheels from the numerous military vehicles part of the mechanised infantry. The convoy was almost entirely land rovers, ranging from lightly armoured rovers to larger armoured beasts imported from Fulgistan, to the behemoths near the back of the line stuffed with infantry. Atop almost all of the vehicles were small flags of Metztlitlaca, waving to anyone who may see them. It was a bright blistering afternoon, the start of the monsoon still weeks away, and Metztlitlaca and Sitallo were at war. The war began only 9 days ago, It took three days for the first village within Sitallo to fall. Six days later the 30th village had been put under Metztlican occupation. The Wītzilōtxtli Battalion for the past seven days had been travelling across the northern territories of Maliano, largely opposed and only ever stopped at nearby villages for water or to meet the local rulers to discuss the terms for their village to surrender. Metztlican officers were hesitant to send out a mechanised battalion by itself, but when the environment is more hostile, more willing to kill, then its inhabitants, the choice to use a smaller but faster army proved far more useful.

      Tewila sat in the back of one of the many personnel carrier trucks, the only noise came from the ground below crunching against the wheels and the occasional cough from one of the fifteen other men and women in the back with her. The heat from outside leaked into the back, combined with the breaths and body heat of her comrades left the whole experience uncomfortably hot for even the most durable soldiers. She had seen the truck from the outside and without any previous knowledge, one could easily mistake the carrier as a rich farmer's vehicle. In truth it probably was to some extent, cheaper to use the same frames and designs for other vehicles designed to go off-road in the scalding savannah.

      "Water?" Another soldier offered Tewila. She turned her head and immediately recognised the other as Dureau, although most just called him Dūl, holding out a flask and a friendly smile.

      "Thanks.." Tewila turned her attention to the flask, it was rectangular – common for the army – but its design was peculiar. It was almost entirely baby blue with a white diagonal line and a black horizontal line wrapping around. It took her a couple seconds to realise it was the flag of Galahinda. ".. Real patriotic, huh?" Tewila smirked raising an eye brow as she shook the half-full flash in her hand, the water sloshing back and forth inside garnering the attention of several other soldiers. "It's chill, far from home. I gotcha"
      Dūl's face flushed pink turning away from Tewila as she took a sip from the flask. It was lukewarm and slightly salty but even that was gloriously refreshing compared to the alternative of sitting tight.
      Her eyes trained themselves on Dūl; half Galahindan half Tapelt, She never understood why he'd ever give up the life of endless partying and debauchery to come to shit hole one, especially if it meant he would've chanced being drafted into the military. His face was angular with a long head, unlike her squished and rounded face, though both had similar dark brown hair. His complexion was arguably indistinguishable from most of the interracial people in the country, though he did retain the green eyes common with so-called "pure" Azlo people.
      “Tewila?”
      His accent was light, which was shocking. Almost every Galahindan tourist she Tewila had ever dealt with.. well most never spoke her native tongue outside of a heavily accented “Moīxpantzinco” or “Nipohpolwiā“. But those that did always spoke with a heavy accent.
      “Tewila!”
      ..Still, it was better than being stuffed in the back of a truck going from village to village packed with firearms and artillery like a Rhodellian road trip.
      "Tewila!. Did you.. finish the.. water?" Dūl asked, his tone flustered and hesitant. Tewila looked down to see she had completely emptied out the flask down her throat. Now it was her turn to go red.
      "Oh. We'll get more at the next village.". She tried to be blasé about the situation, pushing the flask onto Dūl's chest, but she quickly looked away from the Galahindan, betraying her attempts to act cool, towards one of the transparent plastic 'windows' between two half-awake men. The landscape beyond the plastic sheet was homogenous; the same red cracked dirt, the same succulent planets, the same dust tossed up by vehicles in the front making it hard to see beyond a couple tens of metres out.

      Galahindans, Seylosians, Rhodellians, Hinterlanders, being a tour guide in the next city over to Kaseka she had seen her fair share of people. Which probably made her more tolerant than the average Metztlican – much more than your average Tapelt or Popolocon at least. Probably why Dūl was only ever talking to her.
      "We're twenty miles from the next village – look alive people!" a man shouted from the vehicle in front, barely audible to them over the tens of engines roaring and shaking. The two men in front of her suddenly snapped upright, all the soldiers began to murmur and hastily gripped their rifles to their chest, eyes staring forward. Tewila did the same, her face tensing into a poker face. She glimpsed a sign past the window – Zacanopicpac
      They sat in silence, awaiting orders. Suddenly the vehicle jolted to a stop, their driver trudging on the harsh ground around to the back of the truck to speak to the sixteen soldiers.
      "Village has sent their surrender over radio – we're free to buy water."
      The soldiers stared blankly at the man.
      “We’ll stop for an hour, stretch our legs, and continue to the next village.”
      Half the soldiers in the truck groaned, the other half relieved. The driver left, going back to the front and the convoy continued down the road.

      “This is bullsh*t.” One of the Atencan men mumbled, crossing his arms and allowing his rifle to slip to the floor. “A week. A f*cking WEEK.” He yelled out in exasperation just as the truck jolted upwards, passing over a pot hole. “And NOTHING.”
      Tewila opened her mouth but no words came out, the heat was clawing its way into her brain, tiring her down. So instead she shut her mouth again with a sigh. Her eyes scanned over everyone else, who seemingly had given up in trying to talk. The man’s outrage was just met with more sighs and muttering, his friend beside him elbowing him.
      “This isn’t even a f*ckin’ war. It’s a camping trip. And none of us can afford a sh*tty phone to take pictures with!”

      “C’mon man.” Dūl began, taking the attention of the ranting Atencan, “We’re too tired for this sh*t.”. The soldier’s eyes squinted.
      “Tired? TIRED? What have we even been doing that makes you TIRED?”
      Tewila watched the confrontation, the man’s exasperated yelling and Dūls attempts to stay cool, making sure to avoid contact with either parties involved.
      “You’re the Galahindan right?” The man began, causing Dūl to swish his eyes from one side to another – Tewila making sure to look away as he looked towards her.
      “Half- Yeah?”
      “Dont’cha call people ‘dolls’?. Well listen here ‘doll’, you’re no longer in some penthouse suite in Cascadia who gets tired after eating their twelfth f*ckin’..-I don’t know!. This is the real wurld, where real men and women fight! So stand down ‘doll’ and shut the f*ck up.!” The soldier hissed back, Dūl sinking down in his seat in response.

      The carrier went silent. Tewila shifted, her brain wanted to speak, to say something, but her throat betrayed her and sealed shut. Her tongue and mouth remaining still. Eventually she gave up and settled her head on the back of her chair, attempting to sleep through the awkwardness. She didn’t see Dūl’s face or reaction. And to be frank she didn’t want to, the heat made things bad enough.
      So much for being honourable to friends rang in her mind. She scrunched her face in response and pushed the voice in her head aside.
      Eventually her tiredness overtook the gross heat of the truck and the prickling pain from the sun baring down through a nearby plastic window, succumbing to her sleep - even if it was just for half an hour.
    • By San Castellino
      San Castellino,
      Gazallenoa,
      Hotel Juenèz - seat of the Council of the Republic,
      March 1, 1878,
      11 h 49
      Manuel Velledito, the Prime Minister, storms into the office of the President of the Council.
      "Presidente, we have a problem. "
      The President of the Council Ninio Picion - a small, thin man with a constantly despaired expression - stands up from his chair. His stunted physique contrasted with the slender, shapely appearance of the Prime Minister. The latter, visibly extremely worried, was pacing the office.
      - It's terrible, Presidente. Terrible! "
      - What's going on? I beg you, speak! "
      - "We just received this from the Neo-Lyrian anarchist party. "
      Velledito holds out a letter to the President of the Council. It is addressed to the San Castellinos government in general, proclaims the independence of New Lyria as well as the establishment of a provisional New Lyrian government. Picion almost fainted when he read it. The poor man had been overworked since the beginning of his mandate. The country had been in crisis ever since it gained independence from Lysia and annexed the colony of New Lyria. Picion had to deal with the demands of the socialists, the ambitions of the monteplutillas - the private army of general Monteplutos - and the tensions with the New Lyrians. And the latter now wanted their independence!
      - "President, we're not going to let them have it, are we? "
      Picion had propped himself up on his desk so as not to fall to the floor and was thinking intensely. From the beginning, he had been strongly criticized by his opponents, and even by the Christian Democrats, his brothers, for his decisions, which were always considered too weak. The President of the Council had always wanted to play the card of appeasement and moderation. But this time, Picion had decided to really take things in hand. From now on, he wanted to prove to those b#stards that he was a strong man, and the Neo-Lyrian revolution was the perfect opportunity. So, as if suddenly won by an unsatiable energy, he stood up and said in a firm tone.
      - Repress them. Send the army and have all the independentists arrested. "
      - But, Presidente, that will be difficult. The majority of the army is still disloyal to us, under the control of the socialists. And they are not likely to want to help us. "
      - "Sweet Jesus! "
      Picion sat down in his chair but immediately stood up, obviously having found a solution.
      - "Send a telegraph to General Monteplutos, I want it in my office as soon as possible. We don't have an army anymore, so we might as well get one. "
      "Even if it means making a pact with the devil," he added in his mind. Velledito, although surprised, approved the decision with a nod and left the office.
       

      A few hours later, a fat and coarse man with as much military distinction as arrogance entered the office.  General Monteplutos, because it was him, sits down heavily on a chair, in front of Picion. Then he takes a cigar from the mahogany box placed on the desk like if it belonged to him and starts to smoke.
      - "Monteplutos, what an hon-"
      Monteplutos cuts Picion off.
      - "General Monteplutos. "
      - "Yes, my apologies, General Monteplutos. It is truly an honor to receive you, General Monteplutos. I have humbly asked you to come O great General Monteplutos in order to amiably ask you if your so great person-"
      Monteplutos interrupts the President of the Council a second time.
      - "Come to the facts. "
      - "Yes, of course, General Monteplutos. How about making a deal? "
      - "What do you mean? "
      - "I suppose you must have heard about the Neo-Lyrian declaration of independence through your contacts. "
      The general nods.
      - "So here's the deal. You'll have to take care of suppressing the neo-lyrian independence fighters with your monteplutillas. In exchange, I promise you a place in Parliament. "
      - "More. I want more. "
      Picion looks down, both sheepish and intimidated by the general. Still, he raises his head after a brief moment and proposes.
      - "A seat on the Council of the Republic and state-supplied equipment for the monteplutillas. "
      - "It sould be enough, for the moment. "
      - "Perfect! I'll let you take your departure from me then. "
      Monteplutos crushed his cigar in the middle of the President of the Council's desk, got up and left the office. Picion took a deep breath and began to pray inwardly to God that this so-called revolution would be nothing more than a passing rebellion.
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