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.