Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Eirinn Go Brach's Bold New Direction

May 24, 2017,
17:55 local time,
Visigothic Kingdom Mundiali Field Office,
Toulouse, Visigothic Kingdom

All Stephen Alvarez wanted to do when he entered the break room was to unwind and prepare for his long ride home when something caught his attention.

“Top of the afternoon to ya,” said Danforth Grayson with a wry smile.
“You!” said Stephen, drawing his gun. “How’d you get in here? In fact, you have over 325 charges against you by my last count…I could arrest you right…in fact, I will arrest you right now!”

“Stevie buddy,” said Stephen’s brother, Luke, walking into the break room, taking a bite out of his customary sandwich. “Relax…I brought him here.” Luke took another bite as Stephen’s anger abided, though not his caution. “He’s got some information on Annabelle Sanchez.” Luke then took another bite before continuing. “Plus he scored me this really cool bites on this ciabatta bun…I mean, this sandwich is exquisite.” Luke took some more bites, really enjoying the sandwich as Grayson smiled in appreciation.

“I know Roger,” said Grayson, referring to the local deli where he got the sandwich. “So I was able to get him to make you something real special. You should try it some time too, Stephen. I think you’d like it.”

“He’s right you know,” said Luke. Luke took more bites, enjoying the sandwich even more as he ate.

“All right, all right,” said Stephen, his patience wearing thin. “Maybe some time, we can go to Roger’s, but right now…Danforth, you better have some darn good intel or I’m going to book you just for wasting my time.”

Grayson chuckled.

“Yeah,” he said nonchalantly. “I woke up on the wrong side of bed too sometimes…I just learned, taking it out on others isn’t at all productive.”

Stephen let out a deep, frustrated sigh while Grayson chuckled again.

“First of all,” he said, getting serious. “Annabelle is fine. She’s safe…found a safe house for her and her new friends.”
“I’m sorry,” said Stephen, getting exasperated, “but you can’t bring her somewhere and not tell me where she is…that’s kidnapping.”
“I wish it was that simple,” said Grayson. “Under normal circumstances, you’d be right…but Annabelle wasn’t captured under normal circumstances.”
“Captured?” said Stephen, his interest now piqued.

“Yes,” said Grayson, confidently. “By a man named Connor Conacher, a member of Eirinn Go Brach. He works as a ‘scout’ who kidnaps vulnerable people, men and women alike, recruiting them as slaves for the Celtic cause. In Annabelle’s case, she was taken to a brothel in Casara, where Conacher and his gang could hide in plain sight…when they paid their taxes, that is. I think you’d appreciate that the nature of their business meant they weren’t always on top of their books.”

“All right,” said Stephen, getting really intrigued by Grayson’s information.

“See, everyone knows Eirinn Go Brach as a terrorist organization,” said Grayson, “but they’re more than that. They’re a nationalist organization, bent on recreating the ancient glory that was the Celtic Empire, all under a pro-Irish name. Part of this is viewing anyone who isn’t even remotely Irish as slaves, and Sinn Fein seeks to execute on that worldview.

“In this, Annabelle was part of a larger game, where she and millions of other hapless souls are taken against their will to live a life literally serving someone else’s greed. Now, usually Eirinn Go Brach will go to places like Germany or Gaul where the police is lax and the people are so poor and desperate that some will unwittingly prefer their servitude, so Annabelle’s kidnapping represents a turning point for the group.”

“A turning point?” said Stephen.

“Yes,” said Grayson, “because Conacher proved that Eirinn Go Brach don’t need to operate where it’s ‘easy’, they can challenge themselves and go after the people they really want, like the Romans, the Carthaginians, the Welsh, the English…you as the Visigoths. All standing on territory that Eirinn Go Brach believe is rightfully theirs, but because the policing proved too difficult for them to penetrate. The brothel in Casara was done for ‘practice’, to prove to the group that they don’t have to fear the ‘developed’ nations anymore.”

“OK,” said Stephen, “all right…slow down. I already know that Eirinn Go Brach want to create a Celtic Empire…it’s kind of not that much of a secret…and they’ve been terrorists for decades, even in places like Roman territory. I still remember the Slaughter of Seville.

“…and besides, how do you know all this?”

“I’ve been studying Eirinn Go Brach for a while,” said Grayson, “and Conacher in particular for a number of years. I observed the parts of their organization that only academics know about, if that. I knew that, for years, Eirinn Go Brach sought not just to terrorize and make countries acquiesce to their demands but also to infiltrate them, and to slowly subvert them into puppets that will do their bidding. Many places of the Western European Confederation are practically Eirinn Go Brach principalities in all but name, and their power there is growing. I wondered when Eirinn Go Brach would branch out and determine that the WEC doesn’t meet their ends and that they need to expand their reach…and Conacher showed they can do that with Annabelle.

“Now, there’s still a lot of details that I don’t know about…but one thing is for sure. Annabelle’s kidnapping is part of a larger problem, one the world can’t dismiss as happening from a ‘fly by night’ terrorist organization. The Celtic Empire found a way to operate right under your noses, and you need to figure out how they did it…otherwise, this group will get even bolder and maybe even more successful, creating a tide that will be impossible to stop.”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Connie's Blog, May 14, 2017


I’m often amazed at how oblivious the general population is about the truth.

Yesterday, after barely three weeks in office, Roman Caesar Erasmus faced yet another challenge to his Caesarship, this time from American President Haylie Modine. Modine, obviously unhappy that her lapdog, Valerius IV, didn’t get re-elected, launched a broadside from left field that asserted that Erasmus only gained power because of the electioneering shenanigans of “agents within the Ontarian governnent.”

Predictably, Modine didn’t provide any evidence that the Ontarians meddled in the Roman election, only alluding to “sources that brought the matter to (her) attention.” Roman officials- including those from Valerius’ own camp- were quick to denounce Modine’s assertion, calling it “nothing but innuendo with little basis in fact”. Valerius himself even went on the record to deny anything untoward occured during the election, saying the assertion was “nothing more than sour grapes.”

Of course, this has done little to placate Erasmus’ enemies, foremost of which is Rome’s alt-left leader Viridis. Viridis pointed to a campaign event where Erasmus spoke positively of Juan Castro, the current Ontarian Chancellor, asserting that Erasmus equated Castro to a “modern day Diocletian” and upholding him to “a standard that I myself may once meet”. While Erasmus is certainly on the record as praising Castro for his resilience as well as having a certain fondness for Diocletian that isn’t necessarily shared by the rest of the Roman public, Viridis’ statement is misleading. The video of the event that Viridis used as evidence is heavily edited, involving film from three separate campaign stops at the same place spliced and put together in one film, with only the eagle-eyed able to spot the differences.

Even if Viridis’ video was factual, the video in no way suggests that Erasmus ever wants to go as far as Diocletian did and actually destroy the democratic institutions. Erasmus’ praise of Diocletian extends only to Diocletian’s “take charge attitude” and the decision to end all facades about the realities of Roman politics at the time, as Diocletian removed any doubt that the Empire was a monarchy and not a monarchy disguised as a democracy. We can debate the merits of Diocletian’s decisions, but there is no doubt that Diocletian’s attitude resonated with Erasmus, whose main campaign message was for the Empire to start acting like one instead of “pretending” like it did under Valerius.

I can understand why invoking Diocletian is scary, since Diocletian isn’t considered one of the many figures who defended Roman democracy, raising fears that Erasmus himself wants to undermine Roman democracy. The man himself also projects a very strong, authoritative persona, one that evokes strong emotions and could make some afraid of him (and, if you were to ask Erasmus himself, he’d probably say that he’d be OK with people afraid of him).

I can also understand why Modine is a much more “favourable” figure outside of Rome, because she’s a lot more approachable and likeable personality-wise than Erasmus is. You look at Modine and you see someone who is reassuring, kind, and generous, someone who’d give you a hug and tell you everything will be okay. You look at Erasmus and you definitely don’t see someone you can hug, and that scares a lot of people.

Yet, if anyone is more destructive to democracy and human rights, you need to look at Modine and move well away from Erasmus.

Erasmus has more than done everything he can to prove he is as democratic as it gets. He’s already put forward constitutional amendments that would ensure the Caesar would be accountable to an independent judiciary, amendments that are expected to pass. He’s held numerous meetings since gaining office with the Republican Consul and the Tribune of Plebs, and he’s already planned numerous town hall meetings across the Empire to get feedback from the people. He’s offered to testify publicly before the Plebian Council and the Roman Senate regarding any issues they may have with him, saying that “the Caesar should never need a subpoena.”

He’s even gone so far as to say he’ll publicly testify before the Council and Senate regarding Modine’s latest broadside and hire a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations, even going so far as to allow the Virtue Ensurers to verify the election results, even though some view that move as risky.

He’s been more than forthcoming and open about anything.


She’s refused, time and again, to allow any kind of investigation into the elections that got her into power and established the American Confederacy, despite clear evidence of improprieties. Hundreds of her political opponents have been jailed and even convicted under spurious charges, with many others resigning than be reduced to that fate. She’s enacted many laws that have removed basic civil rights for her citizens, such as indiscriminately banning and expelling Nathanites and jailing thousands of men who were merely accused of the slightest bit of harassment, with no evidence needed to convict (and many wrongfully convicted). Elections- right down to the municipal level- have become a farce, with Modine bullying and intimidating voters into choosing her candidate and scaring off any actual opposition, and that’s only if those elections are even allowed to be held at all.

Which was before Modine rammed a Constitutional amendment that requires her, and only her, to approve of any candidates for office beforehand.

Sure, Modine can point to a “nicer” America where harassment and assault, especially the sexual kind, are in steep decline. A good result, yes, but it comes with a cost, as more and more Americans are losing trust in their police systems, with millions- of men and women- stating they’re now afraid of the police, because now people are worried that even the slightest transgression could get misconstrued into a situation that ends careers and throws innocents into jail.

So, I ask you, do the ends justify the means when Modine, whose sister was brutally raped and murdered, seems to be only serving herself and her friends and not the country as a whole?

...and who really is better for democracy? Someone who is imposing but actually listens, or someone who sounds like your friend but will stab you in the back later?

Modine may feel virtuous in her intentions, but, as the saying goes, actions speak louder- much louder- than words.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Path To Victory: Chapters 5-7

Chapter Five

April 3, 2017,
11:02 local time,
Andrew O’Baley’s house,
Raith, Birea

After a long trip back to Birea, Connie finally arrived at Andrew O’Baley’s house. She first marveled at its beauty and its expansiveness, before realizing it was home to the many horrors that Holly had told her about.

It all did little to calm her nerves about her mission, until a man with a decorative top hat, a silk shirt and shorts greeted her.

“Hi,” said Danel Hanno approaching Connie. “You must be Connie? I’m Danel Hanno, from Global Citizens.”

He outstretched his hand before Connie jumped in with a hearty hug.

“Okay,” said Hanno, shocked but reciprocal. “I’ve never had that before.”
“I’m sorry,” said Connie. “I’m just…so nervous…and I’ve read a ton about you. You’re my idol.”

Connie squeezed Hanno’s hand and looked into his eyes starry-eyed, which Hanno found weirdly gratifying.

“Well,” said Hanno, struggling with his words dealing with his pleasant surprise, “Let’s, um…let’s get started.”

The two walked into the house, hand in hand, which the lonely Hanno appreciated.

Upon entering the house, the two parted, and Connie approached another investigator on the scene.

“Hi,” said Connie, her hand outstretched. “I’m Connie.”
“Connie, eh?” said the man, middle-aged but still physically fit. He grabbed Connie’s hand and cupped it with his other hand, giving Connie a look that spooked her.
“Okay,” said Connie, wrestling her hand away from the man. “I don’t know who you are but…I’m just here to work.”

“Back off, Leroy,” said Hanno, entering the room and addressing the man, Leroy Simms.
“Oh yeah?” said Simms with a devilish grin. “What are you going to do about it?”

Simms began to move his hand down Connie’s back before Connie made a move on him and dropped him to the ground, writhing in pain.

“Mason taught me a few things,” said Connie to the surprised Hanno as the two walked away from Simms. “Only way I could survive in Birea.”
“I’m impressed,” said Hanno. “Leroy is a great investigator…maybe the best in the world…but…”
“His hands like to wander?” said Connie with a knowing smirk. “Don’t worry, I can handle myself. How does he get away with it though?”
“He works for the Virtue Guards, primarily,” said Hanno with a sigh, “who look away because they value his contributions, and arresting him gets treated as ‘an act of war’. He also hires very submissive women as his subordinates…not just because they won’t report him but so he can also be ‘the smartest guy in the room’.”
“The Virtue Guards?” Connie said, shocked, “but Birea was kicked out of Virtue.”
“Officially, yes,” said Hanno, “but technically they’re still part of Virtue until the exit negotiations are complete. Plus the Mundiali are getting a reputation for harassing world leaders, even if they deserve it…so more governments are calling the Guards because they know they’ll ‘behave’…and the Bireans called him in, it wasn’t my decision. We, unfortunately, are just here for information, as our power as activists only extends as far as people are willing to listen…which for Simms isn’t very much.”

Connie sighed, pensively.

“What happened to Andrew O’Baley?” she said, figuring it best to change the subject.
“Andrew is in jail but is not talking,” said Hanno. “So we’re here, trying to collect evidence that he was involved in the Order of St. Maria Goetti…we’ve got evidence of kidnapping, but we suspect he’s much deeper involved.”
“Because of Bessarion,” said Connie.
“Yeah,” said Hanno. “We’re scouring his house looking for anything that would give us a clue.”
“From what I understand about O’Baley,” said Connie, “his file said he was an investor in many different industries, all with varying degrees of legality. What’s in the Bessarion file?”
“Lots and lots of numbers,” said Hanno, “and only numbers.”
“Could Bessarion be financial records?” Connie said.
“Financial records?” said Hanno. “How do you figure?”

Connie pulled out her smartphone, and after examining the Bessarion documents even more, she came to a conclusion.

“The numbers have a distinct pattern,” she said definitively. “Not all of them, but some of them, and each case of random numbers is followed by numbers that follow the pattern.”

Hanno had a look himself and was impressed.

“You’re right,” he said.

“The random numbers,” said Connie, “represent monetary values, while the patterned numbers represent codes…I’m thinking they represent transactions.”

Meanwhile, Simms’ lead assistant, the buxom blonde Louloudi, was also looking over the files. As she did so, Simms came up from behind her and pressed his entire body into her backside.

“Ooh,” she cooed, “you’re hard.”
“I’m hard for you, baby,” said Simms, lifting up her shirt and running his hands up her torso.
“Your hands,” said Louloudi, unable to resist him, “they’re so smooth.”
“Always smooth for you,” said Simms right into Louloudi’s ear as his hands lifted up her bra and began playing with her breasts, especially her nipples.

As Louloudi was getting aroused, she allowed Simms to lift her skirt and undo his pants, where the two had sex right there against the table. Louloudi’s moans caught the attention of Hanno, who caught the pair as they finished.

“I guess now you’re ready to work on the case,” deadpanned Hanno, not hiding his disgust.
“You should let your pants fall more often,” snapped Simms. “Maybe then you’d loosen up a bit more…say, you know, that Connie girl is pretty hot. You should bend her over right now.”
“I will not let you talk about Connie like that,” said Hanno. “Unlike you, I respect women.”
“Dude, you’re Birean,” said Simms, shaking his head. “How does any self-respecting Birean male get the idea that women deserve respect?”

Hanno tried his best to keep his composure despite the anger brewing up inside. Louloudi stood there, saying nothing, though she wasn’t too comfortable with Simms’ words.

“See, you got nothing,” said Simms forcefully, which prompted Louloudi to get close to him again. “Why? Because you’re still a virgin…and secretly you know that if you had half the balls I did you’d have yourself a girl right now. Maybe even one half as pretty as the one I got.” Simms and Louloudi clutched each other closely and looked alluringly into each other’s eyes. They started to fondle each other’s butts before Hanno decided he had enough.

“Connie figured out who Bessarion is,” said Hanno with an exasperated sigh.
“Oh,” said Louloudi with interest.
“Bessarion are financial records,” said Hanno confidently.
“How does Connie know?” asked Simms, still being dismissive.
“Connie noted that within the sequence of numbers you’ll find random numbers in between numbers that have a distinct pattern,” said Hanno. “She figures the numbers that have a pattern are codes for transactions, while the random numbers are monetary values.”

Simms looked up the files again on his smartphone.

“How does she know this isn’t just some giant number,” said Simms. “There no spaces…the numbers are continuous.”
“Yes,” said Hanno, “but you’ll see the same pattern repeat itself several times…it’s not a coincidence. I also have to question the value of writing a number so big it needs 112 pages to fill.”

“They’re names,” said Connie, entering the room. “At least I think they’re names…the patterned numbers each represent a letter in the alphabet, multiplied by two. The letters don’t make up any words I know that are used for transactions, but they are words.”
“It’s Bulungian,” said Simms, referring to Bulungi, an embattled country along the Niger River Delta in Africa. “Some of those names aren’t names- they’re transactions, written in Bulungian. Two names stick out…they could hold a clue.”
“Looks like we’re headed to Africa,” said Hanno.

Chapter Six

April 7, 2017,
11:07 local time,
Warricksville Police Headquarters,
Warricksville, Birea

“Okay,” said Simms as he entered the interrogation room. His suspect was Raina Cameron, an Irishwoman who became a Bulungian citizen many years ago. The busty, svelte redhead with freckled ivory skin was roused from her sleep by Simms’ entrance, looking on in horror.

“This is going to go smoothly for you if you give me the answers that I want,” said Simms, walking casually towards Cameron.

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” said Cameron, inviting a huge slap from Simms.

After catching her breath, the shocked Cameron soon regained her composure.

“You know exactly what I’m talking about,” sneered Simms into Cameron’s ear after he grabbed Cameron’s hair and yanked her head back.

Cameron began to breathe heavily, trying her best not to give in to the pain.

“Sir,” said Cameron, “I really don’t know…please, please…you gotta believe me!”
“Oh I believe you,” said Simms.

He then proceeded to slam her head against the desk before delivering several hard punches to her face.

Still, despite blood streaming from her face, Cameron refused to relent.

“Hit me as hard as you want,” she said defiantly, “but you won’t break me.”

Simms was not fazed, letting go of her head and throwing it down back on the table.

He then went behind her and unchained her from the chair, moving her to the centre of the room. He then lifted her arms and chained her wrists above her head onto the ceiling, while chaining her ankles to the floor, spreading her legs apart. Simms then ripped off Cameron’s clothes, making sure she heard every rip. He then grabbed weights and applied them to her nipples, which were so heavy they dragged her down.

Cameron breathed heavily, doing all she could to overcome the excruciating sensory experience she was going through. Not only did she have to deal with immense pain, her nipples became so sensitive that her estrogen kicked into overdrive, giving her an involuntary arousal that she struggled to wrestle with.

Simms sensed this, so he stuck his hand into her genitals and began to stroke them, arousing her even more.

“I need a name,” he said, stroking her slowly. When she stayed silent, he stroked her even faster, but Cameron still didn’t relent.

Simms knew what he had to do. He then pulled down his pants and thrust his hard penis into her vagina, ramming it back and forth inside of her as hard as he could.

“You gotta tell me his name,” said Simms, still thrusting. Cameron stayed silent, despite experiencing a whirlwind of senses that Simms was delivering her.

Simms then picked his speed up, which sent Cameron’s senses into overdrive. She felt a torrent of emotions and feelings, her senses almost blinding her with intense arousal, an arousal that eventually became so strong and so unrelenting that she just had to give in.

“Licinus Marcus,” she said, before saying it again as a scream. Simms then withdrew, got up onto a chair and stuck his penis in her mouth, ejaculating down her throat as she swallowed his immense load.

“I’m glad you’re in jail,” he said with a snicker as he formally arrested her to send her to Birean prison, where he could enjoy her as many times as he wanted. “Because you were such a good suspect.” He then grinned as she was whisked away in the back of a police van, her destiny being that of a sex slave as every female convict in Birea eventually became.

Chapter Seven

April 8, 2017,
14:25 local time,
Plains of Donovan,
Donovan, Republic of St. Daniel’s

“A major Constitutional crisis was averted in Rome today,” said Wolf Blitzer on a CNN video that Sinn Fein was watching on his phone. “Licinus Marcus was arrested today in an elaborate scheme involving a Birean human trafficker and the former Emperor Valerius. Connie Hedburg, an investigative reporter for Global Citizens, reported that Marcus, his accountant, tried to blackmail Valerius into a human trafficking scheme when Marcus held his money hostage. Marcus apparently was sitting on several salacious stories on Valerius that he said would have seen him arrested, necessitating that Valerius stay on as Emperor to avoid arrest. Due to Hedburg’s great work, she was able to prove that Marcus’ stories were all lies, allowing the Emperor to relinquish his crown- as he was supposed to do via the results of the Roman election- to Erasmus, the victor. Erasmus has pledged to push through an amendment to the Twelve Tables forcing the incumbent Caesar to resign right before a Caesarean election, with the Praetorian Guard required to uphold that law if the Caesar refuses that move. The previous Caesar can still run in the Caesarean election and regain his throne, but, during the election, he cannot serve as Emperor. Judgements appealed to him during this period must be deferred until a new Caesar is in place. This amendment is expected to pass easily among the provinces, and should be in place for the next Caesarean electoral cycle.”

One simple move by a Birean sent the Romans into chaos, thought Fein, while the Bireans are sacrificing everything they once had. They’re a country in turmoil…giving me an opportunity. He then turned off the video and sat on his couch, contemplating his next move.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Path To Victory: Chapter Four

April 3, 2017,
11:22 local time,
Erasmus Campaign Headquarters,
Alert, Roman Forces Base Ellesmere Island

“While I can appreciate the efforts and intentions behind their wish,” said Consul Praeliata at a news conference outside of the Senate buildings, addressing Viridis’ blog post that had gone viral, “and while I too share many of the same sentiments that a vast majority of the population share, as do many of my colleagues within the Senate, after much consultation, deliberation, thought and prayer, we made a firm decision that denying Erasmus his legitimately obtained, clear and decisive victory in the Caesarean election would be tantamount to destroying the democracy that the Roman Empire has so strongly defended and upheld for over twenty-five hundred years. For our democracy to work, we have to respect the way elections work, even if those results do not go our way. Furthermore, denying one a legitimately won election will only serve to erode the public’s trust in the process, irreparably so, and would set a precedent more dangerous than even the election of the poorest possible candidate. Therefore, I, on behalf of the rest of the Senate, am announcing that on April 21, 2017, the first day of Erasmus’ reign, we will crown him Caesar. Thank you.”

“That was earlier today,” said CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer after the video clip of Praeliata’s announcement. “Which was not unexpected…but then, moments later was this.”

“I have heard you all loud and clear,” said Valerius, holding his own news conference at the Flavia Domus. “Today I was supposed to give you a concession speech…however, I will do no such thing. The people of Rome have spoken…they regret the decision that was made. Therefore, I will not be stepping aside and will resume my reign as the 294th Caesar in Roman history.”

Erasmus shut off the TV in disgust.

“He can’t do that, right?” he said, nerves tinged in his defiance. “We legitimately won, right?”
“Yes we did,” said Licinus Ludus, his lead counsel, joining him alongside his campaign chairman and long-time friend Primus Gratius.
“We can challenge that, can we not?” Erasmus said, hanging on to the faint hope that he had.
“We could,” said Ludus, sensing Erasmus’ worry.
“So let’s get in front of a magistrate and do it!” Erasmus said, goading Ludus to pick up his phone and make the call.

Ludus could only sigh.

“Erasmus,” said Ludus, “you’re right…we could go in front of a magistrate. We could go in front of several…we’d probably do very well. Until we get to the last step…which is appealing to the Caesar…who is still Valerius.”
“The Twelve Tables are very clear,” said Erasmus. “He has to relinquish the throne if he legitimately lost, which he did. Not even he can rule against that.”

Gratius jumped in, giving Erasmus a look.

“Do you really think that Valerius would rule against extending his term?” said Gratius. “No matter what the law says, he is the ultimate interpreter of it…he’ll find some way to interpret it so he can keep his power.”

Erasmus let out a heavy sigh.

“What do we do?” he asked, almost breathless.

“I’m not sure,” said Ludus. “From a legal standpoint, you have nothing.”
“We could organize some protests,” said Gratius, “maybe see if the Senate or the Plebeian Council will go to bat for you, but I doubt they’ll accomplish much, if we can even count on their support anyway. Other than that…there is the Army. They could forcibly remove Valerius…but he’s still their boss, and military intervention is always a risky proposition, on every front.”
“A province or two can break for me,” said Erasmus, hopefully. “The Army may support me...there has to be a lot of people who be angry at Valerius.”

Gratius sighed.

“Bill,” said Gratius, using Erasmus’ birth name, “that may happen. I don’t think it will. You don’t have too many endorsements from politicians...the Senate nearly all hates you...and besides, if you are seen as instigating violence what support you may have for the crown will evaporate. You need to play it cool Bill. We’ll release a statement condemning Valerius for his actions, urge everyone to do what they can to uphold the voice of the people and leave it at that. More importantly, though, we need to tell the people to remain calm and tell them to contact their Councillor. There’s going to be a lot of anger, and the potential for violence will be high. At the very least, we don’t want anyone blaming us for whatever violence breaks out.”

Erasmus was downtrodden, unable to rectify how his dreams could be crushed so easily and so recklessly. What does it say about our democracy if the people can choose to brazenly disregard its rules?

Ludus picked up on Erasmus’ feelings.

“We should call the Mundiali,” said Ludus.
“The Mundiali?” said Erasmus, starting to get hopeful.
“Wait,” said Gratius, “Licinus, didn’t you just say that nothing illegal happened?”
“I know I did,” said Ludus, “but that doesn’t mean Valerius did something illegal to spur his legal decision.”

“He’s right,” said Erasmus. “You don’t subvert democracy on a whim, and Valerius is usually a man of honour. Someone got to him…and I’m going to find out who.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Path To Victory: Chapter Three

March 31, 2017,
15:39 local time,
Angkor General Hospital,
Angkor, Khimerium

Connie Hedburg arose from her slumber with instant anxiety. She darted her head around the room, confused over where she was and shaken by how she got there. Her heart began to race, which caused her to cry out after experiencing a significant dart of pain coming from her chest.

The nurse attended to her quickly, and, after determining it was just a panic attack, worked to sooth Connie’s worries.

“Connie,” said the nurse, “you’re fine now. You will make a complete recovery.”
“Where am I?” Connie asked, struggling to regain her composure.
“This is Angkor,” said the nurse, “in the Roman Republican province of Khimerium. You were airlifted here to the General Hospital because the Birean hospitals couldn’t take care of your had a ton of complications arising from your stab wound. Whoever did it to you was a very nasty man.”
“No, he wasn’t” said Connie adamantly, “and I stabbed myself.”
“That’s not what the police told me,” said the nurse, confused.
“They lied to you,” said Connie, who began to get defiant. “I was married to the nicest man in the world...and the ‘police’ took him away from me.”
“Sweetie,” said the nurse, “you were used in a human trafficking ring...he was not a nice man.”
“That is not true!” Connie declared. “Mason Jeffrey treated me with the utmost care and respect...I have never met anyone who treated me better than Mason did. Did he find me using a service one would call a ‘human trafficking ring’? Yeah, he did. However, Birea is so messed up that Mason could not find a woman in ‘more conventional ways’...the demographics there won’t allow it. So he had no choice...and this ring, the Order of St. Germain Cousin, they nursed me back to health, saved me from actual rapists in Sweden and never forced me into anything. I chose to be a part of their program...and I talked with Mason beforehand. In fact, I chose him from a list of men they gave me. Really, there was no more of a way that the Order did not degrade or disrespect me.”

“You know,” said Connie with tears in her eyes, “if it wasn’t for that stupid Ingrid coming in and messing things up...I wouldn’t be here in a hospital bed. I’d still be in the best possible life...with him.”

Connie then broke down and cried, causing the nurse to take pity on her.

“Well,” said the nurse. “Good news is you have recovered. We’ll need to keep you here one more night for observation but after that, you’re free to go.”

The nurse then left, leaving Connie with her lone roommate, who woke up.

“Hey,” said Connie with a warm smile to her roommate, an athletically slender blonde woman. “You finally woke up. I’m Connie, by the way.”
“Holly,” said the woman, neither shaking hands because they were too tired to make the gesture.

“How long was I out?” said Holly, scratching her groggy eyes.
“I don’t know,” said Connie. “I just woke up from surgery myself.”
“I’m glad you did,” said Holly. “I was worried about you.”
“You were?” Connie said, pleasantly surprised.
“Yeah,” said Holly. “You had a lot of is the first day I’ve seen you that they’re not running any tests on you. I’ve been in here longer than you...I heard what that guy did to you...I never wanted anyone more than you to pull through.”
“Well,” said Connie with a wistful smile, “I never should have been here...truth is...I stabbed myself.”
“What?” said Holly, aghast. “Why would you do that?”
“I don’t know what story you heard,” said Connie, “and I don’t feel like going into detail...but I wasn’t trafficked. A charity took me away from my troubles in Sweden and paired me with the best man I have ever met...but the police took him away from me so I tried to kill myself.” Connie then let out a sigh. “I wish I was more successful.”

“Oh muffin,” said Holly, taken by Connie’s words, “don’t ever say that. Life is a’ve been given a chance to continue, and it’s been given to you for a reason.”
“What reason?” said Connie. “I’ll probably have to go back to Sweden…stay with my parents, who loved paddling me more than actually taking care of me. I might have to go back to the streets…the cold, hard streets where there’s too many of us because the welfare state sucked us dry. Or go bed surfing with men who simply see you as an ‘opportunity’…my life was so much better with Mason.”

Connie sighed as Holly sat up in her bed, struggling to do so.

“What happened to you?” said Connie, seeing Holly’s struggle.

“I,” started Holly, wincing in pain. “I was in Birea too…on assignment. I don’t know if you know of the Spitzenkrieger, but that’s who I am.”
“Spitzenkrieger,” said Connie, “you’re a Vandal superhero.”
“Yup,” said Holly as proudly as she could with her strained voice. “Born and raised in Saldae…there were rumours floating last year that the Soldiers had abducted some girls from the city so I went…on my own…to the country to investigate.”
“The Academy let you do that?” said Connie.
“I told them I would do it,” said Holly, “and they were okay with it. Understand, we’re given a lot of latitude as Spitzenkrieger…we work alone, so we don’t need ‘clearance’ like other police departments do. We just follow our leads.”
“Of course…it leaves you vulnerable,” said Connie
“Yeah,” said Holly. “It’s tough…but I knew the risks…and the reward is great…”

Connie picked up on Holly’s facial expression.

“Sounds like there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere,” said Connie.
“There are just some problems I can’t solve,” said Holly with a sigh.
“Not even Birea?” Connie asked.
“Birea isn’t the Vandal Kingdom,” said Holly. “The Vandal Kingdom…despite how weird our criminals get, we still have order and respect. In Birea…it’s a dog eat dog world…only the strongest of alphas survive there.”
“Mason told me it was no picnic,” said Connie. “I’ve seen a few times…Mason taught me self-defence to get through it…I mean, it wasn’t the greatest society to live in…but if you found a way to be comfortable in it, you could manage. It’s probably no worse than a lot of countries…heck, it’s better than Sweden.”

Holly let out a sigh.

“Birea is a ticking time bomb,” she said gravely. “The country only succeeds because James Dowell ruled with a fair but strong hand, but since Ingrid Fjallsdottir came around and forced his hand, the people have been getting restless. You don’t understand what the world created.”

Connie looked on, intrigued by what she was hearing.

“There are what, ten, 15,” said Holly, “30 million Birean men unable to find a wife simply due to demographics…I don’t think the world truly understands what kind of social problems that creates, especially when those are exacerbated by Nathanism.”

Connie was about to protest before Holly stopped her.

“I know,” she said, gesturing to Connie, “it’s really the people who choose to interpret the religion in the worst possible way…but, given what happens in Birea, it only compounds the problem.”
“How so?” said Connie.
“When you have an entire society that is literally told that, as men, you are owed a woman and you are to be dominant over her,” said Holly, “and you suddenly can’t find a woman for yourself that…creates issues.”
“So you don’t think human trafficking is wrong, then,” said Connie.
“Not quite,” said Holly. “I don’t agree with human trafficking…I’m just not sure the solution was to round up all the customers. Sure, there were a lot of bad ones, but there were a lot of good ones too, and besides, arresting them doesn’t address the actual societal pressures.”
“Good ones left with no other choice,” said Connie with a sigh. “Like Mason.”

“…and then there’s Andrew O’Baley,” said Holly wistfully. “I was simply following a lead…I found that a woman from Saldae had gone missing…tracked her via the Order of St. Maria Goetti.”
“Ingrid’s ring,” said Connie, “the one where she employed all kinds of abusers just so that she could give the Birean traffickers a bad name.”
“Which worked,” said Holly with a wry smile.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Connie, “there are a lot of traffickers who were bad people…but bad operators doesn’t mean the concept is bad.”
“That’s fair,” said Holly, “but I still think you got lucky.”

“Anyway,” continued Holly, “I come up to Andrew’s house and right away something was off.”

Holly paused to collect herself before continuing.

“I heard the screams of a woman from outside of the house,” said Holly. “I decided to forgo pleasantries and just kicked down the door, my gun drawn. As soon as I enter, a security guard bashes me in the head with his fist, but before he struck me again, I took out his legs and slammed him to the floor. I then tried to move towards the screaming but the guard got up and tackled me from behind. He was a clumsy guy so after a bit of wrestling, I was able to knock him off of me.

“I picked up my gun and moved from the front towards the basement, where the screaming was coming from. There was another guard, who was much more of a capable fighter than the other guy, and we fought for quite some time before I could subdue him. I then went for the door, but, noticing it was locked, I drew my gun on the guard I had just subdued and got him to give me the key.”

Holly took in a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh before continuing.

“I got in,” she said, tears beginning to form in her eyes, “drew my gun and pointed it at Andrew. When I saw what he was doing, my rage got the better of me.”
“What happened?” Connie asked, with grave concern.
“He had the girl,” said Holly, “the girl I was looking for. She was...” At this point, Holly could barely keep her composure. “She was naked, spread eagle on the chair...and Andrew was doing...oh gosh I don’t want to get into it...but believe me when I say that Andrew was a sick, sick man.”
“Oh gosh,” said Connie, horrified.
“I ordered him to stop,” said Holly, “showed him my badge and everything. He just...kept going. So I cocked my gun and that’s when he decided to stop.”
“That allowed you to arrest him, right?” Connie said. She was gripped, hanging on to every word Holly was saying.

Holly lowered her head and let out a heavy sigh before continuing.

“It,” said Holly, stammering, “it happened so fast…one of the guards I had knocked down earlier clocked me from behind…I fell to the floor…I tried to get up but soon I had Andrew and another guard all over me sending me a fury of fists and kicks all over my body…I become so weak…helpless. In my daze, I see them ripping off my clothes and being unable to stop them.” Holly then began to breathe heavily, the toll of the story getting to her. “They rip open my legs, their hands so strong keeping them apart…then Andrew…Andrew…”

Holly then hunches over, wincing and grimacing, all while hyperventilating. Tears began to flow liberally from her eyes and she buried her head in her hands. Connie was shaken by Holly’s show of emotion, and it was not long before she cried too.

“It’s okay Holly,” she said, wanting to comfort Holly but unable to do so from her bed. “You don’t need to tell me what that…monster…did to you.”

Holly raised her head, appreciative of Connie’s words.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I…I have to make peace with it. Fortunately the pain was so unbearable that I passed out while they did their worst…I woke up here, in this hospital bed. Told me I was lucky to be alive…I was beaten beyond a point where most would have died…I needed weeks of physical therapy just to regain any kind of movement in my limbs…and…I’ll never have kids in my life.”

Holly sighed.

“I wanted to die too,” she said. “I don’t know how I made it here…but I did. Maybe to meet you…and tell you to fight for me…because it’ll be a while before I can fight for myself again.”

Connie sat in her bed, contemplating what she just heard.

“Fight for you?” she asked, intrigued. “I’d love to, because I hate what those monsters reduced you to. I’m just not sure how.”
“I have friends who work for Global Citizens,” said Holly, referring to the worldwide human rights advocacy group. “I don’t always see eye to eye with them…but, like you, they want to challenge worldwide conventions and hold governments accountable for their policies.”
“Policies that have led to you and me in these beds,” said Connie with a wistful sigh.
“Global Citizens want to work with governments through,” said Holly. “Because governments can get caught up in their idealism...we just make sure they get things right.”

Connie nodded her head.

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll do it. What’s my first task?”

Holly smiled at Connie’s eagerness while sending a text message.

“While I was in Andrew’s house,” Holly said, “I saw a file folder that had simply the word ‘Bessarion’ written on it. It may be nothing, but it could be tied to something. You’ll be going back there…Danel Hanno will assist you.”
“Danel Hanno?” said Connie. “The lawyer?”
“He’s helping the Birean government review the bust of the human trafficking rings,” said Holly, “so he has access to Andrew’s files. He’ll be here tomorrow afternoon to get you started.”

“Sounds good,” said Connie as both women smiled.

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Path To Victory: Chapter Two

March 2, 2017,
17:02 local time,
CNN Studios,
Manhattan, New York

“Joining me here in The Situation Room,” said Cable News Network (CNN) anchor Wolf Blitzer, opening his show with his trademark booming baritone, “is Roman Consul Gaia Julia Praeliata, here to talk about the Roman Caesarean election now winding into its final weeks. Thank you for joining me, Consul Praeliata.”
“It’s my pleasure,” said Praeliata, who possessed a strong but biting baritone herself. Middle-aged but youthful looking, the tanned blonde was dressed in her ceremonial toga, form-fitting so that it brought out her bust. She did so because she found the inherent sex appeal of her outfit intimidated her colleagues in the very macho world of the Roman Republic, the Empire’s most influential group of provinces, collectively administered by the Senate. Her hard-nosed approach helped her become the Senate’s top Consul, the “Ordinary Counsul” (or simply the “Consul”), in 2011.

“We’re going to start with the topic that’s on everyone’s mind right now,” said Blitzer, “and it’s the fact that Erasmus now leads Valerius in the polls for the first time in this electoral cycle. What’s your immediate reaction to that?”
“Well Wolf,” said Praeliata confidently, “I’ve said it many times before- I think Erasmus is too stubborn and too temperamental to be the right fit for Caesar. Many of my colleagues in the Senate believe he would be very hard to work for which is why the Republic is taking the unprecedented step to campaign for Valerius who, while having many faults, has proven that he’s capable of compromise.”
“Yes,” said Blitzer, “but I’m sure you have worked with difficult politicians before. What makes Erasmus so different?”
“Erasmus,” stated Praeliata emphatically, “is the classic example of the civilian who thinks he knows more than all of us experienced politicians so he decides he’s going to become one. Usually many of those people learn on the job or they at least are willing to do so, but Erasmus has shown no signs that he wishes to do so. What’s worse, because he has this cocky, arrogant attitude, he’s more likely to hold us all in contempt and refuse to listen to suggestions that could be of benefit to the nation.”
“I understand,” said Blitzer, “but I’m sure you have dealt with a few arrogant politicians too.”
“At least politicians understand what’s at stake and how it all works,” said Praeliata. “There are things in the political world that a layperson like Erasmus will never understand unless you’re involved in it like I am. He may be a former Police Chief, but that’s an entirely different world from politics. If he really thinks he can walk in and pretend that politics is the same way, he’s in for a ride awakening.”
“Are you scared of him?” Blitzer asked, point blank.
“No,” said Praeliata without hesitation. “Not at all. Wolf, there’s a difference between being scared and recognizing when someone is too naive and stubborn to ever have a working relationship with. Erasmus isn’t fit for the job, and I’m going to say that.”

Praeliata smiled confidently as Blitzer decided to forge forward.

“Consul,” he started, “I want to get to the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Ever since Augustus was first crowned Emperor in 27 BC, the Senate has technically held the power to decide who is truly deserving of the crown. Now, it’s mostly a ceremonial role today, but there’s rumours that because of your pointed stance that the Senate may refuse to fulfill that role and decide to crown someone else. Will you state for the record what your intentions are in that regard?”
“Well Wolf,” said Praeliata confidently, “it’s a little premature to be talking about that kind of thing when the vote is still two weeks away. Having said that...all options are on the table at this stage and we will examine them when the situation comes.”
“So you are saying that you may forgo crowning Erasmus as Caesar,” said Blitzer.
“I’m saying all of our options are on the table,” said Praeliata, with a wry smile.

March 22, 2017,
20:34 local time,
Viridis’ Apartment,
Rome, Roman Republic

“This isn’t just a victory for you,” said Erasmus, addressing his supporters in a video, “but this is a victory for all Romans. For far too long we have been under the destructive policies of inaction and ‘compromise’ under Valerius, but no longer. For today, we will forge ahead as a Rome that is decisive, a Rome that is assertive, a Rome that is fearless, a Rome that is strong.” Erasmus waited as thunderous cheers emanated from the crowd.

“A Rome,” he continued, passion oozing from his smooth, commanding baritone, “a Rome that is Rome again! The Empire is back!”

Cornelia Marva Viridia, better known as Viridis, closed her laptop and sat up on her bed.

It had been over a month now and it still didn’t sink in. Despite Valerius making a comeback in the polls, on the Ides of March, Bill Firechild, now known regally as Erasmus, won the election to become Rome’s 295th Caesar.

It was a close contest, with Erasmus barely eking out a majority with 50.4% of the vote. Valerius came in second with 49.2%, with other candidates garnering the remaining votes. For the first time, a Caesar won the election despite not carrying the Republic, where Erasmus only gained 28% of the vote.

Many who opposed Erasmus’ candidacy used that result as further proof that he was not “a real Roman” and thus should not be Caesar.

Viridis saw it differently.

To Viridis, Erasmus reminded her of the tough-talking, authoritarian-minded politicians she believed dominated Rome’s enemies, the Virtue Federation. She was struck in particular about how much Erasmus reminded her of the English Conservatives, forever a thorn in the Romans’ side, not just of Jack Kent but also of politicians of yore, like Margaret Thatcher and former American Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, the latter whose hawkish policies started the destructive Third World War.

She didn’t want a Fourth, so she was determined to stop Erasmus.

Viridis got on her blog and wrote a post for her millions of followers, one of whom was Praeliata. She wrote a long but impassioned post, reminding Praeliata that nowhere on the Twelve Tables does it say that the Consul must crown the victor of the Caesarean election as the Caesar, as the Tables clearly say that the ultimate decision rests with the Senate. She then reminded her readers that this was “written into” the Tables so that the Senate could be a “check” on “the mob”, overruling them when “their passions override their better judgement” (she was factually incorrect- the Tables simply stated that the Caesar is to be crowned by the Senate. The perception that the Senate could be a “check” on the mob arose from statements by revolutionary Canus Magnus in 1848, who merely suggested that the Senate take up this role).

Viridis continued by telling Praeliata that she had a “duty” to spare the Romans from “the passions of the plebeians” and use her “better judgement”. “For you,” she wrote in the post’s final sentence, “know that this is not simply about an ideological difference- this is about Rome falling to a Caesar that will undermine the Empire’s every value, one that will devolve from the dignified world power to the impulsivity of the barbarians. We cannot, as a generation, allow such a travesty to happen. Only you, Praeliata, have the power to make that happen. Make it happen. –Viridis.”

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Path To Victory: Chapter One

“There is no greater lie than the idea that the masses will respect democratic decisions”- Appius II, first speech upon restoring the Empire after defeating Republican rebels, 1825

April 6, 2017,
13:01 local time,
The American Presidio
Seattle, Sierra

“So glad for you to join me today,” said American Confederacy President Haylie Modine with a forced smile.
“You as well,” said Modine’s guest, English Parliamentarian Jack Kent, who also forced a smile.

The two then proceeded to stare at each other with awkward smiles, underscoring the animosity between the Conservative Party member Kent and the Unionist President Modine.

“I’m not sure what you hope to achieve today,” said Modine, the young President whose nasal shrill could be both endearing and biting at the same time. “My decision has already been made...your friends are not being freed.”

Kent, an experienced man with a commanding baritone, was not fazed. Modine’s Justice Department announced yesterday that it found “evidence” needed to jail 51 politicians, almost all members of America’s “religious right” and all “right wingers” who were strongly opposed to Modine and her “alt-left” movement.

“Your naivete is more boundless than your enthusiasm,” Kent said with a wry smile. “Unfortunately for you, enthusiasm is no substitute for intelligence.”
“Keep up with your snarky remarks,” said Modine, “but you won’t get to me.”
“I don’t have to,” said Kent, “but your people will notice. Maybe not now because they have been infected, but once they regain their brains they will notice.”
“The people voted for me,” said Modine, “they gave me a mandate.”
“You escaped the last North American election by the skin of your teeth,” said Kent. “You have opposition, and you know it. You just refuse to listen to it because they don’t go online like you do.”
“Dinosaurs only have a path to extinction,” said Modine. “I’m not troubled by the desperate pleas of a fading generation.”

Kent chuckled sardonically.

“These are not ‘pleas of a fading generation,” he said. “They were good, honest people who were only unlucky to be caught in a witch hunt by the world’s most insecure leader.”
“A witch hunt, eh?” said Modine in disbelief at what she heard. “So you’re saying that I should have done nothing when Marty McCreary made duck noises and called the Emeldic people ‘crybabies’ simply because they’re tired of being bullied? Or when Sasha Marino declared that the poor ‘made their own bed’ and thus deserve not a single penny of government help? Or when Faith Dumore declared she’d never hire a Sinaloan because she can’t bothered with someone who ‘likes siestas’? Oh, and here’s the real kicker! What about when Ken Murray told a female heckler that ‘someone should bend her over and give her something to really scream about’? That’s totally cool, right?”
“As cool as it is for your chief of staff to Squawk that all men should be sterilized,” sneered Kent, “because men can’t control themselves.”
“The patriarchy is a fact, Jack,” said Modine assuredly. “It’s not hate if it’s based in fact.”

Kent shook his head and shifted in his chair, leaning forward and looking Modine right in the eye.

“Just because your ‘allies’ approve of who you are jailing doesn’t mean you get to throw them in jail on trumped up frivolities,” said Kent. “You denied them their rights, so now you can’t stand at your altar and pretend that you believe in human rights.”
“Of course I can,” said Modine with a smug chuckle. “The people I put away are not humans...they don’t deserve rights.”

Kent could only shake his head.

“Your hypocrisy would be amusing if it weren’t maddening,” said Kent. “You don’t get to decide who qualifies as a ‘human’.”
“I think they make that choice for themselves when they spout such unbridled hate,” said Modine bluntly after folding her arms. “Nobody who holds such vile views qualifies as anything more than an abhorrence.”
“No matter how ‘abhorrent’ a viewpoint may be,” said Kent pointedly, “it is still a viewpoint, and if you respect democracy at all you would recognize that.”
“…and you fail to understand that if human society is to grow and prosper,” said Modine pointedly, “there are just some viewpoints that should never be shared.”
“Listen to yourself, Haylie,” said Kent, not hiding his disgust. “No politician is qualified to be the arbiter of what opinions its people get to share…positing that means you are no better than the authoritarians you claim to despise.”

Kent folded his arms and gave Modine a smirk, which made Modine think she’d had enough.

“Thank you for your visit today,” she said with a fake smile. “As I predicted, you got nowhere. Just like your sorry Conservatives against a real opponent in Koiji Kawasaki.”

Kent got up and put his fedora back on. He headed for the door but turned to address Modine before he left.

“Enjoy the moment Haylie,” he said ominously. “Believe that you can forge a career believing that you are always right and antagonizing everyone who so much as delivers even the tiniest sliver of disapproval. Because one day you’re going to antagonize the wrong person…and it will be an opponent so difficult that there will be no amount of self-righteousness to protect you from the fact you have no friends.”