Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Man's World: A Diary by Arlene MacArthur. Entry One- Behind Those Hazel Eyes

December 22, 2015,
12:09 PM,
Warricksville

Dear Diary,

I am opening you today in the hopes that one day, someone will discover this and understand the realities that I and many other women in Birea go through. You see, because Birea's media is so good, all the world sees are women who seem to be nothing but smiles and radiance as they happily serve their male counterparts, all while Birea sells their country “as a dream.”

See, what I want you to know is that what I live is not a dream. What I live in is a nightmare. A horrible nightmare where I wish I could one day wake up from and pretend my horrors don't exist. Instead, I must go through it, every day, slogging through the aches and the pains as well as the sweat and the tears of being way overworked and underappreciated. One day, I hope to escape from all that. One day.

First, I should tell you who I am. My name is Arlene MacCarthy. I'm 26 years old, and I have lived in Warricksville since I was 13. I used to live in George Bay, a small town on Celebes, but I was sold by my father once I became a teen, because, as I understand, my dad was a heavy user of heroin and needed to settle off some debts. I was whisked away on a boat and I never did see my father or the rest of my family ever again.

Right away, I was abused. I was shorn of my clothes and chained to a bed, day in, day out, so that my new master could have sex with me whenever he wanted. A doctor did monitor my progress and kept me fed and in good health, but he too eventually couldn't resist the urge to take advantage of me so he too began to mount me and have his way. Eventually, the two of them realized what 'prize' they had and they team up for their assaults on me, 'experimenting' and grinning in glee and high fiving each other after every encounter while leaving me in a pile of tears. For one month, on this boat, I had to endure this daily, before I received relief once we hit the shore.

Once at the shore, I met another man, a middle-aged gentleman who told me his name was Jack. He wore a dress shirt and black slacks, along with a fez, and he looked like a sage with hazel eyes, a pointed beard and moustache. He saw the many bruises that I had and that I could barely walk, so he went up to the man who held me captive on the boat and started to yell and scream at him. Jack openly admonished him, asking him how they could treat a girl like me this way. Jack then punched the man in the face and walked away in a huff, shaking his head.

Jack then walked up to me and looked me straight in the eye. He was moved, visibly shaken by what he saw from me. As I peered into his hazel eyes I could see the tears forming in them. He caressed my cheek and stroked my hair, all while keeping his hazel eyes trained on me. I could see a grizzled man, someone for whom life had dealt a very bad card, someone who struggled and felt that nothing at all made sense in this world. The light in his eyes were gone, replaced by a dying ember that seemed to long for a simpler time.

“I'm sorry he did this to you,” said Jack to me, his hazel eyes still staring at me. “The people of this country...they don't understand Nathanism. They got lost in lust and their selfish desires and assume servitude means slavery...they don't understand that even then, a slave has a soul.” He then put my forehead against his and clutched the back of my head, continuing to look me straight in the eyes, with tears beginning to form.

“By gosh, what a beautiful soul you have!” Jack exclaimed, which made my heart melt so much I lunged forward and hugged him as if he was my real father, which at the moment felt like he was. With his crying I soon began to cry myself, and the two of us held each other for what seemed like an eternity before he invited me inside so he could make me dinner.

Unfortunately, as time passed I realized Jack's niceties was merely a ruse, designed so that he would gain my trust and my devotion, all so that he could manipulate me. It wasn't too long before he too would pressure me into doing chores for him and having sex with him, and I never raised a peep of protest, since in my youth I thought that this was the way it was, because Nathanism taught me this as I grew up.

However, as I got older I got more perceptive, and my life just didn't seem to make sense to me. Where was my benefit? What did I gain blindly following whatever Jack wanted? I would ask Jack these questions all the time but he always came back with 'this is what God wants, and you will please God by pleasing me.' In time, it just didn't make any sense. Why was it my duty to please him? Why was everything always about Jack? Why couldn't it once be about me?

Anyway, I need to cut this short, because I hear those footsteps climbing up those stairs. Ugh...why can't he give me a break for once?

-Arlene

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Keeping The Peace, Volume #49751

May 23, 2015,
21:10 local time,
The Oasis luxury hotel,
Muscat, Oman

“No,” said Casaran Erad Semptor (or simply “Erad”) Psia Gydunk, talking on her phone as she walked with her things towards the elevator. “No more extensions. You need to get it done this time.” Gydunk let out a sigh and shook her head in disbelief as she heard the response through the phone. “Listen Mirel, I have given you six extensions so far to get me that report. It was supposed to be on my desk three months ago but I realized then it wasn’t so pressing. Now, it is, and if I don’t have it on my desk on Monday morning, you’re out of a job. No excuses.” Mirel started to give Gydunk his reply but Gydunk wouldn’t have any of it, hanging up on him right away without a response. She took a deep breath as she put away her phone and got to the elevator, doing her best to keep calm despite her obvious stress.

Once inside the elevator, Gydunk, a slender but strong middle-aged woman whose skin was a well-toned shade of bronze, thought about her task tonight. She was meeting with the Omani Sultan, Mahmoud Al-Nasr, who told her he had an urgent matter that needed her discreet attention. This wasn’t the first time Al-Nasr (who arranged for her travel and accommodations) dragged her away like this- the two of them forged a strong bond as leaders of major powers unaligned with Rome or Virtue, and Al-Nasr recognized as much as Gydunk did about how delicate and important it is to get things right when trying to keep the peace. Still, she wished there was an easier way to meet- even though modern communications meant neither had to leave their countries to talk with each other, all of it would leave a paper trail, and the last thing Gydunk or Al-Nasr wanted was someone creating an unnecessary panic.

After leaving her stuff with her designated attendant in her room- a small but serviceable one, as Gydunk was never one for luxuries- Gydunk left to meet with the Sultan in his suite.

“I’m glad you could meet with me today,” said Al-Nasr after greeting Gydunk. He was an imposing man, muscular, with large, tanned skin, piercing eyes and a head shaved bald. Since the meeting was secret, Al-Nasr wasn’t in his traditional garb, opting today for sweats as was his normal style. It was in stark contrast to the business suit that Gydunk wore, but at this stage, the two leaders had become good enough friends that the contrast didn’t matter.

“I’m happy to be here, Sultan,” said Gydunk as she sat down on the couch opposite Al-Nasr and took her complimentary cup of coffee.
“Apologies for dragging you here on such short notice,” said Al-Nasr. “I know it was a huge inconvenience, but I wasn’t sure how else to facilitate the meeting. How was your flight?”
“We hit a bit of a rough patch going over Midian, but other than that it was a pretty smooth affair.”
Al-Nasr chuckled before responding. “It’s uncharacteristically stormy there, I know. I hope it holds off.”

“Anyway,” said Al-Nasr, trying to move the conversation along, “I didn’t bring you here just for some idle chit-chat over a cup of coffee, as much as I wish that were the case.”
“Oh believe me,” said Gydunk with a smile, “I wish that were the case too.”
“I imagine you’ve heard about the Romans moving into Illyria.”
“Yes, of course. That’s been going on for a while now.” Gydunk leaned forward, anticipating the news Al-Nasr was going to deliver her.
“There’s a twist in the plot.”
“There is?”
“Yesterday I was informed by both parties that the Romans and the Rajasthani have started to conduct training exercises on a military base not far from Jaipur.”
“I see. That is a twist…Rome’s war with Illyria has never gone that far before. Do you know for sure the Roman-Rajasthani war games are tied with the dispute with Bactria?”
“That’s what I’m still trying to figure out, but obviously I have my suspicions.”
“It makes sense- Rajasthan is a Roman ally, and only the Punjab separates Rajasthan from Bactria. The question is, though, why would the Romans not involve you? You share a border with Bactria.
“Perhaps they’re afraid of dragging us into the affair.” Al-Nasr paused to sigh. “We’re officially neutral...although I doubt it will stay that way.”
“How are things between you and Patel?”
“Officially we’re maintaining the status quo…however, I hear rumours from my intelligence community that Patel wants to invite me for a state visit.”
“He wants to court you.”
“Exactly…and I’m not having that. His only interest in showing me around is just so he can ‘prove’ to me that he doesn’t have the lithium weapons the Romans contend he has.”
“Of course, if you decline the invitation…”
“Precisely…and there’s the dilemma.”

Gydunk looked with interest seeing the concern overcome Al-Nasr’s face. It was the mark of true friendship, since, like many a good leader, Al-Nasr never showed weakness to anyone else, always being a picture of confidence and power. Gydunk drank her coffee and pondered the situation for a moment before a thought hit her.

“You could always go,” she said with conviction.
“You think so?” said Al-Nasr, surprised with the response. “What about the Romans? Surely they will see it as an aggressive move.”
“Mahmoud, Rome always sees everything as an aggressive move. They don’t trust anyone, not even their own allies. So I wouldn’t worry too much about what they think.”
“Yes, but I wouldn’t want them thinking I am taking sides.”
“Well, if you doubt Patel’s motives, don’t you think Rome would too?”
“So as long as I don’t make any statements regarding the weapons program, I should be okay.”
Gydunk pursed her lips and sighed. “You might still have to…Patel’s goal is to use you and the fact the world trusts you just so he can ‘prove’ that he doesn’t have weapons we both know that he has.”

Al-Nasr was downcast, letting out a heavy sigh.

“…and no doubt if I even hint at doubting Patel,” said Al-Nasr with grave concern, “their PR machine will turn me into an instant villain.”
“I don’t find any of this surprising,” said Gydunk. “With a war coming, obviously both sides will start recruiting allies…and the two of us will swing the balance.”
“I do have one card to play…Patel is still far behind on the payments he needs to make for the death of Asma.”
“It’s perfect…use it…and milk it. Let Patel know you’re not a pawn…and, while you’re at it, let the Roman intelligence unit know about the trip and know what you really think about it.”
“Backstab Patel?”
“You don’t think he’s looking to backstab you, don’t you?”
“Good point.”

Al-Nasr leaned back on his couch smiling, a happy man, beaming with a confidence about the situation he didn’t have before.

“Thank you Psia,” said Al-Nasr warmly. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you. You have helped me out more than you know.”
“Anytime,” said Gydunk, smiling and reciprocating Al-Nasr’s warmth. “So, do you want to have that idle chit-chat over coffee?”

Al-Nasr laughed heartily. “Oh would I ever.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stress Relief At The Roman Senate

March 2, 2015,
22:12 local time,
Roman Senate Recreational Centre,
Rome, Roman Republic

Jana Woolley needed a good workout. After a long day at work- today was dedicated to preparing for the upcoming “Summit of the Americas”- Woolley, the Praetor Extraterritorialis, decided that, instead of going home where all she would do is curl up in bed and sleep (since her dog, Lucky, would already be asleep), she’d stay behind at the Senatorial buildings and let out her frustrations. At this time of night, there were few people left at the gymnasium, allowing her to find a corner all to herself where she could have a “personal” moment with her and her volleyball.

She came with her red hair in a ponytail and clad in her normal workout gear- her white spandex volleyball uniform, knee braces and her short black volleyball shorts- but due to the intensity of her workout, she’d doffed her top to reveal her black sports bra underneath. She had a lot of space to work with at the gym, allowing her to run full speed all over the place in trying to keep the ball from bouncing off the ground. She ran for a good five minutes chasing her ball before deciding to take a break and get some water.

“Hey stranger,” said a warm voice that Woolley recognized, despite being surprised that someone had taken a seat next to her stuff.
“Hey Bruta,” said Woolley, greeting her guest, Cornelia Compisia, the Quaestor. The 31-year-old Compisia had just gotten off work herself and seemed ready for a workout of her own, using hair ties to hold back her curly blonde hair, with the svelte woman clad in a pair of short volleyball shorts and a sporta bra of her own, both articles in black that contrasted nicely against her ivory skin.

“So I guess you feel like a bit of a workout too,” said Woolley, smiling and taking a seat next to Compisia.
“Yeah,” she said, “it’s been a long day. I love coming out...I’m glad the Senate keeps it open, it’s a great stress reliever. Plus I saw you working out and I figured I might come and join you.”
Woolley smiled. “You don’t have to.”
“It’s no big deal...I played back in my high school days...thought about going pro before I decided that politics was more my thing...so I kept up at that.”
“Kind of like me.”
“Yeah...except I was appointed by Valerius when he was inagurated for his second term three years ago...I wasn’t a replacement like you were.”
“I heard about that...glad you guys have accepted me.”
Compisia put her hand around Woolley’s shoulders, causing Woolley to rest her head against Compisia’s shoulder. The two seemed to bond pretty quickly. “It helps that you’re such a tireless and diligent worker. Plus, if you knew who the other guy was, you’d understand why.”
“Was that story true about Faisal Omar?”
“Yeah...every bit of it.” Omar was Valerius’ original choice as Praetor Extraterritorialis before Woolley, but a series of high-profile blunders- including opening mocking many North American politicians and their cultures, culminating in an embarassing episode where he got into several physical altercations at a New Year’s celebration in New York late last year after being four sheets into the wind- caused Omar to be fired by Valerius, prompting him to hire Woolley after noticing her during her time as a lobbyist in Vancouver.

“I guess I’m still trying to get used to Rome,” said Woolley. “Birea’s not known for their truth in reporting.”
“We believe in honour,” said Compisia, a lifelong Roman, “and that means accountability. That’s why we don’t have a state news agency- the news needs to be independent of the government.”
Woolley scanned her eyes around her surroundings before responding. “I’m also trying to get used to the fact that we’re two beautiful ladies in skimpy outfits and no one is oogling us.”
Compisia chuckled warmly. “Like I said...honour...and that means respect. We cannot function as a society without it.”
“That’s true.” Woolley sighed wistfully before smiling. “I remember the cads in Birea taught me that ‘respect’ makes a man weak...what a load that was.”
“That’s the other thing about Rome...we teach critical thinking, so the vast majority of us never go overboard. No one would dare suggest a thing here.”
“That’s why I love this place so much more than my old home.” Woolley smiled, squeezing herself briefly next to Compisia and tapping her knee before getting up.

“Guess you’re feeling better?” Compisia said with a smirk.
“Yeah,” said Woolley, doing some stretching. “There’s nothing like getting misty-eyed to get you worked up to hit some balls.”

Compisia smiled, enjoying seeing Woolley’s glee and gladly joined her new friend playing volleyball, which they did for over an hour before calling it a night, though not without the knowledge that they’d do this again soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bob and the Duke: Something from Nothing: Chapter 1



“I was amazed as people must be who are seized and kidnapped, and who realize that in the strange world of their captors they have a value absolutely unconnected with anything they know about themselves.”- Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women (1971)

April 19, 2015,
21:29 local time,
RSC Field Office,
Verona, Venetia Province, Roman Republic

This is Roberto Tranquilla. He’s 45 and looks 55. His nickname is Bob. Bob was a veteran detective in Taranto for ten years, working in homicide and anti-trafficking, before he came to the Roman Special Crimes department two years ago.  He was recruited to work in the RSC because when the RSC had a case in Taranto, he was instrumental in helping them catch the killer.  They were impressed with his abilities and asked him to join them. He disdains the regulations because they “get in the way”, but he follows them anyway, though through his experiences he knows how to cut the necessary corners. He’s married with two kids.  His wife is cheating with his best friend.  His hair is thinning because he works too hard and the stress has become too much, though he’s too stubborn to admit that. He’s got a dog, Pucci. He drives a minivan. He’s tubby. He can’t cook. He’s got a spot on his tie from when he grabbed a quick lunch from the taco truck on the corner. That doesn't matter. It’s an ugly tie anyhow.

Tonight, he was stuck at the office, but not because he had a lot of work to do. Sure, he found things to do while he was there, but this weekend was all about inventing excuses so he wouldn’t have to deal with his family. His wife told him that she was “away” on business but he knew what that actually meant, and she took the kids with her, no doubt to continue brainwashing them against their dad. At some point, he knew he’d have to stand up to his wife and do what’s best for his life, but lately he had neither the time nor the energy to do so.

Feeling thirsty, Bob got up from his desk and walked across the length of the bullpen floor to the cafeteria, whose only offerings at this hour were an assortment of snack food and soft drink offerings. He rubbed his eyes in a vain attempt to jolt himself awake, before sighing at the machine. There was always too many choices, Bob thought, and since the coin return function never seemed to work, he always had to make a few selections before he was able to come up with something to munch on. After a few seconds, he finally made up his mind and put in his coins.

“Seriously?” Bob said, groaning in his grizzled gruff voice as the machine told him the lime soda was sold out. Frustrated, he pressed the coin return button, thinking that maybe this time the button would work even though it was a fool’s game. After pressing it so many times, Bob kicked the machine in anger before putting his arm on to the machine and leaning his head on it, again letting out another sigh.

His ordeal wasn’t unnoticed. Carla Duke was sitting by herself in the cafeteria when she heard Bob hack away at the machine in frustration. Duke is 27, a recent graduate of the RSC Academy after graduating at the top of her Criminology class at Simon Fraser University. She is a sponge intellectually, able to learn quickly and gather considerable knowledge about anything in a matter of moments. She always smiled and offered many a friendly gesture to everyone she met, often aiming simply to brighten one’s long, often thankless day.

Despite her gifts, she suffered from many insecurities, and second-guessed herself often. Her youth meant that many still doubted her abilities, since she never had quite the experiences many of the veteran agents had. A shapely redhead with ivory skin, she wore prescription lenses along with a loose-fitting, long-sleeved blouse and a maxi skirt, which she wore mainly due to her own insecurities about her own beauty. She has an impulsive streak and is very eager, and her many smiles and general friendliness was a cover for her own feelings of loneliness. At 13, her parents were both arrested for kidnapping the girl Duke thought all along was her sister, forcing Duke to live out her teenage years at the house of her largely indifferent aunt, more concerned with partying than rearing her kid.

So when she had the chance to come to Italy, she jumped at it, since it was an escape from her turgid life, even though it’s been quite the adjustment.

“It’s…um,” said Duke walking up to Bob, slouched over the machine. She nervously cleared up her throat before continuing. “It’s…it’s an old machine…the button’s…um…likely loose.”
“No kidding,” said Bob, grunting as he slowly lifted his head from the machine. He turned his head to look at Duke and acknowledge her presence, but the sight of the scowl on his face and his large frame intimidated the youngster, who stepped back in fear.

“What are you doing here kid?” Bob asked, folding his arms. “It’s Sunday night…shouldn’t you be at home, enjoying life or something?”
“Well, I, uh,” said Duke, stuttering, “I’ve got work to do as well.”
“Really? What kind of work?”
“Oh…oh…it’s nothing.” Duke hung her head in embarrassment before flashing a nervous smile, though she hardly kept eye contact with Bob.
“C’mon, kid.” Bob lowered his arms and flashed his own wry smile, which relaxed Duke a little. “We’re the only two people in the office at this hour…must be something big if you had to come in.” Bob usually scorned the youngsters, but Duke, through their few interactions, always struck a chord with him.

Duke took a deep breath and paused for a moment to regain her composure, which elicited a chuckle from Bob.

“It’s Sergio Sacchi’s case,” she said. “I’ve been following it as much as I can…reading what I could…I have a hard time believing the police’s conclusion…she had to have been kidnapped…there’s too many Birean rumours for them not to mean anything. Something big is going on and the man needs our help.”
“I agree,” said Bob, assuredly.
“Really?” replied Duke with a wide smile.

A sense of relief overcame Duke, with her breathing becoming even more relaxed as she was overcome with euphoria.

“Really?” she repeated to Bob, overcome with excitement.
“Yes,” said Bob, who thought Duke was going a bit overboard but did enjoy her enthusiasm.
“You’re the first person that didn’t brush me off after I brought up the case…everyone dismisses me.”
“I know…it’s sad. I only know bits and pieces, but I never bought that it wasn’t a kidnapping. I worked in trafficking for decades…I’ve seen it all the time…‘missing’ people who get lost in these rings and turn up halfway across the globe…and we lose a step because traffickers are so good at covering their tracks and making things look like something else. Especially the Bireans…right now, they’re desperate enough to try anything.”
“I agree…I agree completely. Conservatively, 15 million Birean men will be unable to find a wife- couple that with Birean Islam’s proclivity for multiple wives and a strong aversion to same-sex unions, and the market for wife-napping could be much bigger, maybe even 45 million.”
“45 million eligible bachelors…that’s a market.”
“Which is why this is serious…but no one wants to do anything about it.”
“If you want my help in this matter, I’d be more than happy to assist you.”
Duke smiled, appreciative of Bob’s offer. “That would be great, thank you.”
“Let’s have a seat and we can talk about it some more.”
“Yes, yes…of course.” Duke then looked behind Bob and noticed something.

“Oh,” she said with a chuckle. “Looks like the machine was nice to you after all.”

Bob turned around and saw that a cola drink had emerged from the machine. He smiled before palming the drink, offering it to Duke (who refused) before opening it himself. He had a small swig before accompanying Duke to a table to talk some more about the case.

“The Bireans kidnapped my wife”, man asserts

Roman Free Press, April 19, 2015

VERONA, Venetia Province (RFP)- The City of Verona is no stranger to martial squabbles. The setting to William Shakespeare's famous play, “Romeo and Juliet” and home to one of the world's highest rates of divorce, the citizens are well-versed in the lores of love unfulfilled.

However, none of those stories could ever top that of Sergio Sacchi's.

Since there is almost no way of recounting the story without inducing obvious reactions, it will be told very bluntly.

It begins on the day of February 9, 2013, when Sacchi and his wife, Meredith (nee Collins), met their new neighbour within their quaint cul de sac in the sururbs of Verona. His name was Porter MacTavish, who had recently arrived in Verona from Birea. MacTavish was a quiet, but friendly man, who always offered at least a “hello” and a chance at small talk. He was very relaxed, a stark contrast to the busy lifestyle of the native Veronan, but he soon warmed up to Sacchi and his wife. As MacTavish worked at home and Meredith was a housewife, the two of them would eventually forge a strong bond.

That, according to Sacchi, was the harbinger of things to come. About a year and a half later, on September 22, 2014, Sacchi came home from work to find his wife missing. He said he went to visit MacTavish only to find his house door wide open but without a single item in sight- it was if MacTavish had vanished without a trace.

Sacchi said he immediately called the police, but was warned that the process could take a while since there was not a lot of evidence to work with. He was also told that he may have to accept an alternate possibility, that his wife may have fled on her own accord.

“That's preposterous,” he said, angrily. “I know my wife, she wouldn't do that. We loved each other.”

The police didn't see it that way, and initially charged him with domestic assault and her kidnapping, before being forced to drop the charges due to a lack of evidence. Not once, Sacchi asserts, did they look into MacTavish, despite Sacchi's repeated claims.

“They say I'm delusional,” said Sacchi, angrily. “I think the police are just being 'politically correct' and failing to implicate the real culprits, who are the Bireans. The evidence is there if they'd just look.”

With the police failing him, Sacchi went online, finding through social media a lot of men like him who told similar stories of Birean “friends” who'd pop up into their lives and eventually kidnap their wives or daughters or sisters, and leave without any kind of trace. He says many of these men have become his friends, and together they hope to uncover the truth behind the disappearances.

Verona Police Chief Enrico Favale insists that, despite Sacchi's claims, he has no biases against him.

“It's just common practice,” Favale said, “to look at the husband first when investigating the disappearance of a wife. Our investigators did a poor job communicating that to Mr. Sacchi, but I stand by their findings.”

Favale says his investigators have done their due diligence, though he declined to get into too many specifics, citing the sensitive nature of the investigation. He did state that at the Sacchi home there was no sign of forced entry, which indicates that MacTavish was let inside willingly, and that there were no signs of foul play. He also told reporters that he found no “irregularities” concerning the phone or bank records of MacTavish or anyone within the Sacchi residence, nor did investigators find anything suspicious concerning travel or travelers to and from Birea.

“It's obvious that if- and I can't emphasize that it's only an 'if',” said Favale, “if Mrs. Sacchi was indeed abducted by Mr. MacTavish that they fled the country via falsified documents, documents paid with through cash.

“However, at this stage, something like that is pure conjecture, as we have no evidence that Mrs. Sacchi or Mr. MacTavish have left Venetia. Therefore, we are treating both subjects as missing persons, and have devoted the appropriate resources to those cases.”

When asked about the similar nature to Sacchi's case with other allegations spread across the Internet, Favale simply stated that he has no evidence to suggest that any of them are related.

“These are simply stories,” said Favale, “with very few police reports, and very little to connect those reports besides some very broad similarities.

“That said, we do urge the public that if you do have concerns to relay the information to us. The more incidents that are brought to our attention, the greater the chance that we have to make a connection, if in fact there is one. Right now, there just isn't the evidence to make that connection, and none appears to be forthcoming. So therefore, we are sticking with our initial analysis but have kept the case open for further investigation.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Battle of Rozmanici

Romans defeat Illyrians, occupy Kvarner Bay

Posted 08-04-2015, 04:33 local time, by World News Services

FIUME, Istria, Roman Republic (WNS)- After weeks of tensions, the Romans today crossed the border here into Rozmanici and inflicted a heavy defeat on the Illyrian Army. The day's results mean that the Romans have moved their armies southeastward into Kvarner Bay, with provisional bases formed around the area. A Roman military spokesman asserted that the move is only an "occupation" and is not a move to annex territory, but he would not give a timeframe for when Roman withdrawal from the area could occur.

It is unclear what began the buildup to today's battle, but speculation is rampant that the move is tied to Rome's assertions that Illyria is hiding what the Imperium terms are "illicit" weapons from Bactria, part of a greater weapons program within Bactria. Ever since the Bactrians discovered a large lithium deposit near Ghazni in 2011, the Romans have asserted that the Bactrians are using the lithium for its own clandestine weapons program, part of which involves importing the new weapons to the Virtue Federation's "front lines" like in Illyria. The Bactrians and Illyrians both assert the Roman accusations are baseless, being nothing but an attempt at "fear-mongering" by the Romans towards their own people, and claim their interests are purely economical.

Roman-Illyrian tensions are nothing new. The two neighbours have frequently clashed over territory over the decades, mostly because the larger city of Fiume- or Rijeka to the Illyrians- is a valuable seaport. The two nations have signed treaties in the past agreeing to a border just outside of Fiume proper, but the treaties are frequently ignored- Illyrian terrorists have infiltrated Fiume from time to time and the Romans breach the treaty numerous times in response for justice and defensive purposes. Thus, the presence of war in the area is nothing new, but residents here believe the tensions are "different", rising above the simple territorial squabbles.

"This is the first time the Roman Army has actually pushed into Kvarner Bay," said Gaius Raelius, Professor Emiritus in History at the University of Milan, via E-Mail. "Usually the Romans content themselves with occupying the suburbs of Fiume and nothing more, but something has spurred them to push deep into the Bay. It's an excessive grab of territory, so it can't just simply be a 'defensive' move. It's likely tied to lithium."

In 2011, the Bactrians discovered near Ghazni a large reserve of lithium- which it asserts is triple the size of the world's largest known deposits, although independent estimates peg it almost similar in size to the world's largest known lithium deposits, in the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia and within the eastern Ural mountains in Roman-held territory. Roman officials long believed that the Bactrian deposits are "too tempting" not to weaponize, given Bactria's extensive uranium deposits. However, the Romans do not believe the lithium is simply being produced for nuclear devices, a known application- intelligence sources that assert that the Bactrian lithium program is geared towards creating novel weapons the world hasn't seen, since Roman officials believe there might not be enough weapon-grade materials within Bactria to make effective use of the lithium deposits. The Bactrians have steadfastly denied the charge, asserting their usage of lithium is simply economic.

In 2012, due to Bactria's new found wealth, it began exports with other countries, almost entirely within the Virtue Federation although some non-aligned countries such as Arlynal and Ophir have received exports, starting massive growth within the Bactrian economy. This didn't cause too much concern until the June 2014 death of a nine-year-old girl from Oman after she drank lithium-contaminated water while on holiday in Sarajevo. After Omani officials confirmed the lithium originated from Bactria, the Illyrians were forced to admit that they had been importing Bactrian lithium, but have insisted, like Bactria, that their interests are economical.

"We had that big 'a-ha' moment in Sarajevo that forced the Illyrians to admit what they were doing," said Raelius, "so you can understand the Romans' concerns. However, the world kept asking them for 'proof' and Rome so far has not been able to provide it. While I won't jump the gun just yet, this move into Kvarner Bay must be an indicator that it has proof, or that it is close to it."

Illyrian officals have decried the Roman move and promised retaliation for the Romans' violation of their soveriegnty, although the Illyrian Kingdom is massively in debt and the Army is currently in disarray, meaning a response isn't likely any time soon.

Meanwhile, the Roman move could be part of a bigger story- or more hot air in a place that already has enough of it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pleasing a Dictator Is Harder Than It Looks



March 20, 2015,
13:22 local time,
Outskirts Marketplace,
15km from Cuttack, Orissa

Today was a downcast day at the market. Normally, March was supposed to be the beginning of the “wet” season, with an average rainfall of 5.1 inches, with that total increasing until October. However, several heatwaves descended upon Orissa from the northern deserts, meaning that an uncharacteristically hot and dry month was the result. Barely half an inch of rain had fallen this month, and it showed in the crops, many of whom the Oriya had hoped they could start planting now but with the ground insufficiently nourished, there wasn’t any water to feed the seeds.

Thus, for the past few weeks the Oriya went about their day to day lives without much food. Many knew to “stock up” during the dry season and wait for the rains to grow the crops they needed and feed the elephants, but without the rain, there was not much hope. Thus, the Oryia Republic relied a lot more than usual on the foreign aid it received, which in 2014 amounted to the equivalent of over US$13.4 billion.

So while the marketplace remained open, very few vendors had much to sell, opting to spend the time visiting each other’s stalls (all of which doubled as tents, with them being the vendors’ living quarters) chatting amongst themselves and trying to make jokes about their bleak situation, which only provided momentary relief. Kids could be seen running around the stalls, many of whom playing an Oryia equivalent of “cops and robbers” yielding little more than branches, which was a joy for the parents to watch, even if they knew their youth made them too young to “appreciate” the conditions they really lived in.

As the noon hour passed and the people made do with what little food they had- and, in these circumstances, people were more than willing to share, knowing that a smaller pittance shared equally trumps the inequity of some eating while others didn’t- there was little people could do besides sit and wait...and then it came.

In the distance, the roaring engines of the food trucks could be heard, with the noises getting so tantalizingly louder as they approached. The trucks may be rusty, with several well past being on their last legs, and their cargo would be riddled with bugs and slime and other nasty stuff the Oriyan elements couldn’t prevent from landing on the food, but the Oriya did not care. For them, the sight of the trucks was all that mattered, because with the trucks came the knowledge that the food the crowd so desperately wanted and needed, was well within reach.

Eventually, the drivers of the trucks would park and enter into their open flatbeds, ready to dispense their load. The people gathered en masse around them, all eagerly outstretching their hands and pushing each other just to get a closer spot to the loot. There was supposed to be a structure where the Oriya were supposed to line up and receive their food one at a time, but as the drivers themselves knew, that would be an impossibility when you have a village that’s been starving for a week. So the drivers did what they always did, grabbing the care packages and carelessly tossing them into the crowd, as the people fought to be the one that grabbed the lucky package. Several would get broken and others would become useless by getting trampled on, but the drivers didn’t care- whatever the villagers could salvage they’d split amongst themselves anyway, once they came to their senses and overcame their starving anamalistic urges.

In all, some 500 loaves of bread, 500 bushels of corn and 1500 2L bottles of Pepsi were handed out, all compliments of Love, the Virtue organ responsible for international charity. As the goods were distributed, a camera was rolling with a Mongol narrator, Ganbator Enkhtuyaa, or simply “Enkhe”, happily telling her audience- the millions that watched Virtue’s video aggressively shared across social media- that this was yet another example of the good that Love provided. The viewers, drawn in by Enkhe’s bubbly personality, her bright, white smile, boldly black hair and glisteningly smooth ivory skin that gave her supermodel good looks, would mostly all lap it all up, believing the cheery video and the happier people that populated it, because the image was only one of unending positivity.

It never occured once to these people- the video’s viewers or the aid recipients it showed- that everything about the video, from the setting, to the people involved and the overall setup, was over the top and planned so that it could appear the most positive depiction possible. The truck was actually supposed to roll in two days ago, but overcast skies meant the video makers wouldn’t get the bright, sunny display propaganda videos demanded. It also never occured to the people that, despite getting a week’s worth of food, they weren’t likely to receive another shipment for a month, if they were lucky. Meaning in about a week or two’s time, the aid receipients would be back to where they were before the trucks came rolling in- tired, hungry and deflated, with all the positive energy the video created was a sham.

They also never seemed to wonder why the vast majority of the Oryia were essentially homeless, forced to live in makeshift huts or tents based on whatever items they could forage (or whatever items didn’t blow away through the rain), and yet their President, the seemingly indomitable Raju Dash, lived in a sprawling palace that was the picture of opulence. Not only was it built in the finest marbles and stones and contained all sorts of statues- mostly ones that depicted him- the Presidential Palace (located just south of the marketplace) included a large petting zoo, the only portion open to the public, that featured every kind of animal that’s available on the Indian subcontinent. He did pay his staff well, although he didn’t have to, as most of the people that worked for him needed to pay off some kind of debt to him anyway.

Perhaps they didn’t notice because Dash was hardly one of a kind. Of Virtue’s 201 members, 176 received foreign aid from Love, which Virtue proudly boasted was lower than the 182 nations the old United Nations routinely tried to give aid to. The organization argued this is because their funding formula was not as complicated as the UN’s old approach, since Virtue’s funding formula was based on a nation’s total population. Love claimed this ensured aid went to the people that needed it the most, but Love’s accounting books are never opened- except to the highest levels of government- which allowed it to distribute the wealth as it saw fit.

As it happened, the result was that aid flowed almost entirely to the top government officials, who spent what they needed to keep their armies capable of suppressing revolts with the top leaders keeping the rest for themselves. This always ensured that Dash always lived in luxury, all while keeping his own people impoverished and unable to revolt- like the rest of Virtue’s happy dictators. Today, some US$2 million was received by Orissa, but only $7500 went to the people- $10,000 went to administration, another $500,000 each went to the government and the army and the rest went to Dash himself, which he wasn’t impressed by considering he expected more, though there was little he could do at this stage.

After the trucks rolled by the village, one of them drove up to the Presidential Palace to deliver Dash a new easychair, made of the finest leather. As the truck rolled in, Enkhe slipped into something a little more “comfortable”, a tiny red cocktail dress which she wore when she greeted the President, awaiting her in his room after the truck checked in at reception.

“I heard you were coming,” said Dash as Enkhe entered the room and closed the door behind her. The muscular Dash, wearing nothing but a tight T-Shirt and shorts, was nonchalantly sitting on his bed, munching on vegetable snacks and having a protein bar while watching satellite TV.
“You don’t seem too happy to see me,” said Enkhe, who smiled hoping it would lighten the dour President’s mood.
The President didn’t offer much of a response, giving her a short glance and a small huff before resuming watching his show, which was far more interesting to him.
Enkhe was surprised by his reaction, widening her eyes and leaving her mouth agape, but she wasn’t fazed, knowing that the dress she had on was the President’s favourite.

“What are you watching?” Enkhe asked, cheerfully, sitting down next to him and curling up next to his big, beefy arm.
“Oh, it’s just something,” he said, refusing to take his eyes off the TV.
“You don’t know what it is?” The Mongolian beauty then began stroking his arm with her hand, gently, which Dash noticed, though only slightly.
“At this time of day, there’s hardly anything on.”
“Then why don’t I give you your present?” Enkhe smiled, looking at him suggestively as she mouted him and straddled his groin.
The President was unmoved. “My present wasn’t as big as it was before. I’m not sure I want it.”
“Oh come on.” Enkhe started to rub his chest with her hands in a circular motion, feeling every groove of his perfectly sculpted muscles. “You know I can’t control how much the people give you.” She then gave Dash a kiss on his forehead, a smooth, slow sensual one that allowed the President to feel every inch of her soft, comfortably bubbly lips.

The President liked feeling Enkhe’s skin, smooth as silk, on his body, but he wasn’t going to give in to her feelings that easily. He easily had millions of women- many of them as pretty as Enkhe- that were willing to throw themselves at him, so he saw no need to be taken by Enkhe right at that moment.

Enkhe, though, was nothing but determined, deciding to rock herself back and forth, rubbing her groin right against his, hoping to spark a reaction. The President’s attention was piqued when he felt that Enkhe had no underwear on, but he quickly reminded himself that Enkhe planned it that way.

“You’ll have to do better than that if you expect these pants to come off,” said Dash nonchalantly, gently pushing her off of him.

“Oh come on you big brute!” Enkhe cooed, leaning in and nibbling on his ear, which just made him more annoyed. “You’ve had a long day...let me take care of you.” Dash just gave her a glance with his eyes and resumed watching TV, which prompted Enkhe to take his hand and thrust it between her legs. She then took his hand and let him feel his way in there. “Come on! I even exercised for you...”

Dash did like what he felt in Enkhe’s genital region, but for some reason, he was still nonplussed. Enkhe was unfazed, again whispering in his ear.

“I even brought Oyuun here,” she said, softly and seductively.

Dash’s eyes widened, his face overcome with excitement with the thought of the blonde Oyuun’s body thrust right in his face. She was a portly woman with a very round figure who wore her hair in a ponytail that made her look like one giant baby. Her obesity would usually repel even the most desperate of men, but Dash was different. He was aroused instantaneously, and dropped his pants as soon as Oyuun, dressed in the skimpiest of bikinis, walked in, with Dash’s grin wider than the horizon.

“Shall we get started?” Enkhe said, as Dash forewent an answer and decided to start passionately kissing her.

The Explosion That Started a Revolution



March 6, 1992
23:16 local time,
Town outskirts,
Thule, Greenland Province, USA

“Crap,” said Tarak, recognizing the unmistakable throttling sounds his snowmobile was making. Forced to make a stop, Tarak slowed his vehicle down, coming to a full stop by a snow bank before turning off his engine. He took a look around the exterior of the machine to see if he could find any evidence of leaks, but after a few fruitless minutes, Tarak shook his head and grimaced.

“Stupid machine,” he said angrily to himself while kicking a small piece of ice. “I had this serviced last week…how could it possibly fail now?” He popped the engine hood and took a deep breath, which left a burning sensation in his throat due to the extreme cold, before grimacing, as he was now forced to take off his gloves just to look around the engine and see if he could find the source of the problem.

As he was checking out his snowmobile, he thought he felt the wind pick up a little. Already gusty, the wind seemed to pick up in speed with each passing second, a phenomenon that struck Tarak as odd. Eventually, rumbling permeated the air, with the strength of the air beginning to crescendo. “The katabatic wind was yesterday,” said Tarak, whose confusion was starting to display. “We usually don’t get them two days in a row.”

Then Tarak popped out from under his hood and took a look, taken aback once he left the underside of the snowmobile and got to see what was actually happening.

“What the heck is that?” he said in astonishment.