Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Philosopher Queen

“It is government’s greatest truism- no matter what it does, there will be a point where its own interests will conflict with those of its people. Those people will rise up, and will demand that their needs be met. The government must then acquiesce, because, if it wishes to continue, the will of the people cannot be ignored- even if the people are wrong.”- Terentius Marcus, “The Tyranny of Democracy” (1738)

October 6, 2016,
08:09 local time,
Channel 9 Studios,
Hippo Reggius, Vandal Kingdom

“You can tell me all you like,” said Hilda Serena, one of hosts of The Great Debate, a Vandalic news commentary program that has gained a worldwide following since the Vandal Kingdom was one of the few places where neither Rome nor Virtue dominated, “but Anatu isn’t a hero. She’s a criminal…she should be in jail right now, Gunther.”
“Her only crime was that she facilitated some other guy to cheat on his wife,” said Gunther Hilderic, his bombastic baritone having a commanding presence. “Adultery as a crime is such a 19th century thing…we should be past that.”
“Gunther,” said Serena, who had a velvet shrill of her own that also commanded attention, “whatever we may think the laws should be for a particular country are immaterial…Anatu broke her country’s laws…that alone should disqualify her from running for the Presidency of Asia Minor. If we found out that our Emperor broke a law, we’d be calling for his head too, wouldn’t we?”
“Oh come on!” said Hilderic, scoffing and shaking his head. “I’m a pretty forgiving man…unless the Pharaoh did something really egregious, then I wouldn’t call for his head.”
“You did when Alaric was found to have stuffed millions in taxpayer money for vacations for his friends,” said Serena, folding her arms and looking intently at Hilderic. She referred to Alaric, whose term as King ended early with his resignation for embezzlement.
“All right,” said Hilderic, who held out his hands as if they were the ends of a balancing beam, lowering and raising them for effect. “You got adultery, all the way up here, and embezzlement of public funds, all the way down here. There’s no contest.”
“That’s us,” said Serena. “In Asia Minor, they see adultery as just as bad a crime as corruption, if not worse…and Anatu is guilty of it. She even admitted so.”
Some people do,” said Hilderic. “I’m not sure the entire country really believed what Anatu did was a crime.”
“I don’t know,” said Serena, “the polling was pretty clear to me. When the allegations first came out, 66% of the country said they believed Anatu was in the wrong for what she did, and her poll numbers started to slide.”
“Yeah, but that poll was skewed,” said Hilderic. “More respondents were registered members of her opponent’s party, the Bearers of the Cross. Of course they’re going to say she was in the wrong.”
“The numbers are the numbers,” said Serena. “Besides, it’s only Anatu’s followers saying the poll is skewed.”
“Doesn’t she get a little bit of a pass because she was misled?” said Hilderic.
“I don’t know,” said Serena, giving Hilderic an incredulous look. “Does a murderer get a pass because he killed the wrong guy? Besides, Anatu is the only one saying she was misled- John Razos said from the very beginning that she knew.”

“All right,” said Hilderic, who let out a sigh. Even though their debates were always staged and their on-screen opinions weren’t always the ones they actually had (as they were tailored to provide maximum on-air conflict), both Hilderic and Serena always personally invested themselves in their side of the debate, and their heartfelt banter was a huge source of their popularity.

“Let me ask you this,” said Hilderic after a brief pause to collect his thoughts. He then adjusted his tunic and sent the hairs of his Suebian knot behind his head. “Even if the country disagreed with what she did and felt she would be a disgrace to the Presidency…wouldn’t it have been better if the Mound Party had just let her compete on election day and have the Asians decide for themselves if she’s fit for rule, instead of the Mound just unilaterally declaring she’s unfit?”

Serena looked at her opponent. She adjusted the straps of her dress, before clasping her hands in front of her.

“Alaric didn’t get a chance to contest his next election,” said Serena. “Why should have Anatu?”
“Because Alaric resigned on his own accord,” said Hilderic. “Anatu had her choice taken from her. The Mound Party’s own voters made a choice, and the Mound decided they didn’t care about that. No matter what her indiscretions may have been, when you have a democracy, it should always be the people who choose if someone is unfit for rule. No one else.”

October 6, 2016,
08:56 local time,
Aramean Imperial Palace,
Nicosia, Cyprus, Aramean Empire

“Sir,” said Nikos Christos, Aram’s Chief of Intelligence as he walked in to the office of Aramean Chancellor Aris Pomas.
“What now?” Pomas said, shaking his head, exasperated.
“It’s all over social media that we are being accused of orchestrating Anatu’s arrest,” said Christos.
“What?” Pomas said, giving his head a shake. “We did what?”
“Seems like Governor Gudleskis orchestrated attacks on Pamphylia on his own,” said Christos, “We have numerous unconfirmed reports that state that Gudleskis sent his faction of the Knights of St. Peter to go into Pamphylia and murder families, just to disrupt order.”
“Why would he do that?” Pomas said.
“We don’t know sir,” said Christos. “We believe that Gudleskis was doing this as a kind of ‘power play ‘, to exert his own dominance in the region, and perhaps send a message to Anatu, as Pamphylia was a strong base for her support.”
“So Governor Gudleskis went rogue on me,” said Pomas, running his hand over his face. “Why would he do that?”
“He’s the designated survivor, sir,” said Christos curtly.

Pomas let out a huge sigh, running his hands over his face again several times while looking on in disbelief.

“The designated what now?” Pomas said, still trying to make sense of the situation.

“The designated survivor,” said Christos without skipping a beat. “We don’t tell anyone who it is to prevent coup leaders from killing you and taking over the country themselves, and we leave you in the dark so that your own decisions are not biased in any way towards them.”
“I’m aware of why it’s done,” said Pomas, “I just want to know what it has to do with our current situation.”
“Well sir,” said Christos. “We believe that Gudleskis may be using his position in an attempt to start influencing the country, maybe even to take a run at the Chancellorship himself.”
“...but now he’s dead,” said Pomas. “Aside from having to pick a new guy, I don’t have anyone who is actually a threat.”
“We won’t have someone new for at least a week,” said Christos. “You understand that after Gudleskis’ betrayal, we’ll need to get it right.”
“OK,” said Pomas, “so why the urgency?”
“We’re worried the public won’t believe that Gudleskis went rogue,” said Christos. “The world knows we’re aligned with Virtue in all but name, and Virtue wanted Anatu gone. So the protests you are dealing with now all across the Empire are only going to get worse.”
“Play that story,” said Pomas. “Push Gudleskis’ rouge activity as far as you can, and be ruthless in destroying anyone who dares to criticize that narrative. Also tell Asia Minor they have our full support.”
“Sir,” said Christos, “with all due-”
“I don’t care,” said Pomas. “Those who are already upset at me have already made up their minds. I need to remind them who is boss. I’m not about to display weakness in front of Virtue, and I’m not going to let a few mindless morons dictate my policy decisions. Or allow Anatu to even think she can have even a symbolic victory. Today starts a new day...and it starts now.”

October 6, 2016,
09:15 local time,
Assyrian State Police Headquarters,
Nineveh, Assyria

“So you finally got to your senses, eh?” said Assyrian State Police Captain Robert Barnes, a strong, heavyset man who shaved his head bald for greater effect, as Anatu walked through the front doors alongside Stanner.
“I’m not being arrested today,” said Anatu. “I’m taking charge.”
“Didn’t say anything about an arrest,” said Barnes. “I’m glad you could be here.”
“Me too,” said Anatu, flashing a warm smile as she strolled into Stanner’s office without an invitation and closed the door.

“So now what happens?” Barnes asked, turning to Stanner, who was just as perplexed as Barnes was.
“I’m not sure,” said Stanner. “Anatu told me she has a plan, and I told her she has my full backing.”
“Well, we need to have a plan, Roger,” said Barnes. “Because if this doesn’t go well we’ll have the Asian army on our backs.”
Stanner grinned and readjusted his fedora. “Robert,” said Stanner. “When have I been wrong?”
Barnes looked at Stanner and raised an eyebrow, wanting to respond before something caught his eye.

“Wow,” he said, as the entire department was speechless. Stanner scratched his eyes and continued to stare in amazement, as he was surprised.

Anatu could only look on, smiling, knowing the effects of what she did. She put on her outfit from her days on TV, amended for her new role today: a flowing skirt held up by a belt, attached to a small ring that encircled her navel with a latch. Tied to that ring were two straps of silk that went over top of her nipples, with the two straps tying behind her neck. She put her hair in a ponytail, held up by a hairtie, with a headband on her forehead. At the front of her headband was a small arrowhead, where a small yellow disc was affixed to the top, representing Assur, the Assyrian national god.

“I always knew how to make an entrance,” she said, her smile hiding her nerves underneath. “I’d like to think you are all in awe because I added the symbol of Assur, but I know what you are all really looking at.”

Anatu then tugged at her straps, causing her breasts to jiggle, which, as she thought, caught the attention of her audience.

“It’s okay,” she laughed. “I know never to underestimate the power of female skin.”

The crowd of police officers laughed, many of them smirking with Anatu as they understood her greater point. After all, her sexually liberal attitudes and her campaigns for sexual liberation is what both caused her to be so popular with the masses and so reviled by the country’s elites.

After the laughter abated, Anatu gave Stanner a nod, to which Stanner nodded back and placed a phone call. When he was finished, he readied his smartphone for recording when a notification gave him pause.

October 6, 2016,
07:12 local time,
Downtown square,
Antayla, Pamphylia

Great, thought Zavos Michelos, the captain of the downtown police precinct of Antalya. The protesters are still out there? Don’t they ever sleep? He shook his head as he peered out of his window, the deafening echoes of the protesters’ deep-throated pleas that the Mound Party respect democracy and put Anatu back on their ticket reverberated through the police station.

However, as Michelos stood and stared, he knew there was nothing the police station could do. The protesters were a nuisance, sure, but these ones were peaceful, unlike the scores of others the Pamphylians- and many others across Asia Minor- had to deal with before. Besides, a police force weary and exhausted from all the clashes needed the break, and public sentiment was eager for Asia Minor to get back on with their lives.

So Michelos got up from his chair and walked around the station, making small talk with his officers. Many of their nerves were frayed as well, frustrated with having to deal with the endless array of protests. Several officers hadn’t slept in days, forced to put in long hours to deal with the many problems the rioters created within the city. The precinct itself was understaffed, as several of its force was needed in other parts of Asia Minor to handle their riots.

Thus, the force appreciated the quiet morning, even if many of them felt that this was merely “the calm before the storm”. Sure enough, their fears were realized, when Michelos realized the sound of car horns was louder this morning than it usually was.

Upon realizing this, he went to the window and had a look outside, immediately dismayed that the protesters had now caused a traffic jam. He looked on, horrified, seeing the protesters linked, arm in arm, lined up across Antayla’s busiest road and stopping the flow of cars, at this, the most crucial hour, when many Pamphylians were eager to get to work.

He burst out of his office in hysterics, his yelling being greeted with the loud groans of his officers, wondering what the commotion was but annoyed they had yet another commotion to deal with.

“I know you’re all annoyed,” said Michelos, his voice as frayed and harried as his workers. “However, those idiots are stopping traffic! They are intent on bringing this country down to its knees! We can’t just sit here! Get your gear on and let’s crush this riot once and for all!”

The police, despite being exasperated, were rallied by Michelos’ words, deciding that if they were decisive enough, perhaps the rioting could end and Asia Minor could regain a sense of the normalcy it had lost. His forces hurriedly put on their gear, with Michelos marching them out to greet the protesters.

What Michelos saw when he confronted the crowd surprised him, but he resolved to be undaunted. Everyone seemed to be wearing huge burgundy cloaks, with masks that featured a long, silver beard. The face on the mask was expressionless, with the blank stare haunting the scores of police officers, for whom the symbolism of the protesters’ attire was not lost on them.

Charon, Michelos thought. The gatekeeper of the dead. They’re baiting us, daring us to attack them and send this country to its grave. I’m not going to allow that to happen.

“People of Antayla,” said Michelos, as his phone beeped loudly and continuously with notifications. “I know you are upset that Anatu isn’t your President and won’t get a chance to be…but I’m telling you…fighting us is not going to solve anything. If you guys care at all about the future of this country, you’d all go home and allow all of us to get back to normal.”

“There is no normal,” shouted one of the protesters. “There is no future. You guaranteed that when you decided that our voices were meaningless.”
“Excuse me?” said Michelos, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Quit playing games, Captain,” said another protester. “The establishment wants to remind us who really gets to choose our leader…who we want doesn’t matter.”
“Look,” said Michelos, letting out an exasperated sigh. “I’m not going to get into Anatu’s qualifications and whether or not I think she should be the President…but she broke a law. We had a job to do, so we did it.”
“You took away our President,” said the protesters in unison, “so we will take away your country.”
“Oh come on guys,” said Michelos, “I didn’t do that, the Mound Party did…and, you know what, they should be condemned for their unprecedented move. It scares me thinking that future votes could be invalidated just because one person doesn’t like the results.”
“Democracy is a sham,” said the protesters. “We must end it now.”
“…and what?” said Michelos, sneering at the protesters, whom he felt were just acting on emotion. “Replace it with what? A tyrant who will only care about what he wants and not what the people want?”
“Tell us that isn’t happening already,” shouted a protester. “Tell us that democracy isn’t the continuation of the rule of the elites.”
Michelos was dumbfounded, not knowing what to say. Technically, democracy is “the rule of the people” but how could convince the people of that when the candidate they had voted for was yanked from them?

“Look,” said Michelos, letting out a frustrated sigh. “I’m not here for a political interest is keeping this country moving and right now you thugs are blocking traffic. If you do not move immediately you will all be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Do you understand?”

Michelos felt his heart start to race as he stood in silence anticipating a response that was never going to come. After several agonizing seconds of eerie calm, Michelos gave the signal to his officers to begin rounding the protesters up.

As Michelos predicted, none of the protesters were going to go down without a fight, with the police’s batons and fists met with rocks and other projectiles hurled by the protesters. When officers managed to pin a protester to the ground, several other protesters collapsed to the ground on top of the officers, preventing a “clean” arrest and forcing the officers to back off.

Realizing face to face confrontation was not going to work, the police donned their masks and let out cannisters of tear gas into the crowd. As they sprayed, the police reacted in horror when they saw the protesters weren’t at all deterred by the spray.

Eventually, the protesters managed to overpower some of the weaker officers and steal their guns, after which Michelos and his men had no choice but to open fire. As protesters were felled Michelos could see more protesters pouring into the downtown core, many of them carrying weapons they purchased from the black market. Molotov cocktails soon rained down on the embattled police officers, who had no choice but to retreat into their office.

Michelos at this stage hurriedly picked up the phone, begging that the Asian Army be brought in to quell the protests. The Army obliged, with a local regiment there in minutes. Although the protesters still had the numerical advantage, the Army’s advanced weaponry and tactics soon meant the protesters were easily overwhelmed, with many of them arrested or killed.

October 6, 2016,
10:03 local time,
Ben Cypress’ neighbourhood,
Antalya, Pamphylia

“I need to make something very clear to all of you,” said Asia Minor President Andrew Arakos, who released a video message nationwide just moments ago. Arakos’ term was supposed to end early next year, before Anatu’s arrest and the subsequent rioting upended the election campaign that was to decide his replacement. Arakos had just announced the Army crushed a revolt in downtown Pamphylia, using it as a warning to any would-be protesters to back down and allow Asia Minor to “get back to normal”.

Arakos then sighed in his video, acknowledging how difficult his speech was but also the importance of making it.

“I know many of you feel that the Mound Party and ‘the elites’ took away your candidate,” said Arakos, himself a Mound member, “and I know it feels illegitimate to all of you. I understand that...but understand that Anatu’s actions were unprecedented, and thus we needed to take an unprecedented action ourselves. It was tough, it was difficult, but we had to do it. It is also within our rules, part of Party policy which is freely available on our website, so please...stop your anger. Channel it for different reasons and use it to get behind our new candidate, which we can only select once your rioting ends. Because it is only you that is breaking the law...we did not.”

As the video ended, the gathered crowd- Ben Cypress’ neighbours, all gathered by The Virus- could be seen collectively shaking their heads and mouthing words of derisiveness, although many of them feared the retribution Arakos promised to meet out.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Cypress said as Danforth Grayson got off the phone. “ heard the Asia Minor President...he finds out we’re out here, we’re doomed.”
“Majoran, do you see anything?” shouted Grayson to Majoran, guarding the gathered crowd on watch for any Asia Minor Federation Army operations.
“Nope,” said Majoran, shouting back. Both Grayson and Majoran were the only ones whose nerves were not frayed by the video.
“OK, but,” said Cypress, still nervous. “The Army has tons of weapons and people...only myself, yourself and Majoran have guns. The rest of us have just sticks and stones.”
“Sticks and stones are powerful things,” said Grayson. “Besides, if we back down, they win and your children and the families of your neighbours die in vain. Look, you didn’t believe my forged papers would work for you, but they did. Trust me on this.”

Cypress wanted to believe him, but before he had a chance to respond, he heard in the distance the sounds of the AMF vehicles coming for the neighbourhood. An AMF scout tipped off the Army, who were ordered by Arakos to encircle any groups of protesters, and remain until the protesters dispersed voluntarily. Their sieges would last as long as they needed to.

The Army’s appearance was enough to rile the crowd, some of whom recoiled in fear while others grabbed what they could to prepare for the fight. As the Army’s vehicles finally entrapped the neighbourhood, everyone stood and waited with baited breath anticipating what would be next.

October 6, 2016,
10:23 local time,
Aramean Imperial Palace,
Nicosia, Cyprus, Aramean Empire

“Sir,” said Aramean General Petros Panakos to Pomas in Pomas’ office after getting off the phone. “I’ve received word that Anatu is at the Assyrian Federal Police Headquarters, and I understand she is ready to give a speech.”
“What’s the status of the sieges around the protesters so far in the AMF?” Pomas asked, displaying no attempt to hide his anxiety.
“We’re told the AMF has things contained, but they are stretched,” said Panakos. Despite being old enough to be a grandfather, Panakos was still an imposing figure, towering over the tiny but scrappy Pomas with his broad shoulders and his muscular, well-toned physique. His ivory hair and his piercing red eyes along with his cool, controlled demeanour served to make him even more foreboding.

“Stretched, sir?” said Pomas, furiously wiping the stress off of his face.
“Yes, sir,” said Panakos in his booming baritone. “Since the tip was only a few minutes old, the AMF were unable to lay the Headquarters under siege, so they’re requested our assistance.”
“Give it to them,” said Pomas without hesitation, hyperventilating. “Whatever they need, they don’t need to ask.”
“Roger sir,” said Panakos. “I have a battalion ready to go...we can go right now and deal with Anatu.”
“Go,” said Pomas, eager to get things moving. “Don’t wait.”

With that, Panakos and Pomas parted ways so that Panakos could get his men to Nineveh.

October 6, 2016,
11:15 local time,
Assyrian State Police Headquarters,
Nineveh, Assyria

“Anatu,” said Stanner, his voice laced with urgency after looking at his phone.
“What is it, Roger?” said Anatu, puzzled by Stanner’s fears.
“I know you want to send a message to your followers,” said Stanner sternly, “but the Aramean Army have a battalion surrounding us and they’re looking to get you…I don’t know if we have time for this.”

Anatu cupped her chin and thought for a moment, looking intently and observing the worry in Stanner’s eyes. Her hesitation wouldn’t last long.

“No,” she said forcefully. “Aram wants me to back down…there is no way I’m doing that. We’re recording this video and today…we’re having our last stand.”

Stanner looked on and nodded, still unsure if this was the wisest decision but it wasn’t his to make. He set up his smartphone in position to begin the recording.

“Hello, my fair nation,” said Anatu as she started to broadcast her speech via Stanner’s phone and a widely-shared social media post from The Virus. “I know you have not heard from me for a while…and, believe you me, I did not anticipate having to deliver an address so soon…but…”

Anatu took a deep breath and wiped away a tear, unable to wrestle the conflict of emotions of her fear of the retribution of Aram and Virtue alongside her need to relay the feelings of calm and hope.

“Believe me, I didn’t prepare for any of this,” she continued, as she wiped away even more tears from her face. “If you are scared…know that I am scared too. I have faced many a camera before in my life but none have required the courage that is required of me today. Today is a day of reckoning…and I know a lot of you are afraid. Afraid of what’s going to happen. Afraid of what this country will do with you…afraid of what this country has done to you…not just to me.”

She took in and let out a deep breath, allowing her to compose herself and calm her own nerves to allow her to continue. Although she couldn’t see it, she could sense she had millions of eyes glued to their screens, anticipating every word, all of them looking for some kernel of hope that the AMF had so swiftly denied them up to and including this morning.

“Understand this though,” she said firmly, her demeanour and tenor unyielding. “Asia Minor…Aram…Virtue. They want us to be afraid, to be all afraid, because they want to sow the seeds of confusion…doubt. Disarray. Why? Because if we are afraid we can be divided, and once we are divided we can be defeated.

“As you already know, though, you were already divided. Democracy and its many institutions are designed for this purpose…it pretends to offer you choice but in reality the factions are there to sow differences, to make you, the people, have contrasting and conflicting opinions…all so that the ones who are really in charge…the elites and the power brokers…can ensure that, you, the people will never agree on anything and thus you will never come up with the unified response that would be needed to end the elites’ fortuitous grip on its power and wealth, a power and wealth that it took from you.

“See, you have to understand…the elites make you afraid because, in fact, they are the ones who are afraid. Afraid of what may happen when the conflicts stop and the divisions end. Afraid of what may happen when the population stops being confused and becomes emboldened. Afraid of what you the people can do when you finally band together.

“That is why I am telling you today that even though you are afraid, do not back down. Do not give in…do not let them take away your hope. You have all felt for very long that within your society you never had any power, because the elites kept telling you that you never did…when, in fact you do have the power and you do have the capability to take back what is rightfully yours.

“All you need to do is unite and come together…and stare into the faces of your adversaries. Tell them that today the bickering stops. Today the division stops. Today their monopoly on power stops. Today we are going to make an impact and we are going to band together and let our voices be heard.

“Because today we will no longer be afraid. We will no longer cower in to their fear and bow to their wishes. We will stand up and we will fight against them.

“…and if today is our last stand…then know that we did not go down in vain. Know that if our revolution did not work today it will work somewhere else and the world will not be able to ignore the work we have done.

“So join me…your Philosopher Queen…and tell your oppressors that you will not back down!”

Loud cheers erupted not just inside the station but outside of it too, as unbeknownst to Anatu a large crowd gathered outside all collectively listening to her words. As she listened to the crowd with its cheering reaching a deafening crescendo, Anatu stepped back after the recording ended, allowing her to break her stoic character. She began to cry audibly and took in several deep breaths, overcome by the strong emotional and moral support she received at that moment. As she grappled with her feelings of elation, in the back of her head she wrestled with containing the fears that came from the knowledge that her antagonists, the Armies of Asia Minor and Aram, could at any moment come flying in and stamp out not just her future but all the goodwill she caused.

Her fears seemed to have been realized when the cheering abruptly stopped and she saw a group of soldiers walk in to the station, led by Panakos. They continued their march forward, walking coolly and unflinching, their icy stares and businesslike demeanour casting a pall on the entire building. Everyone, from green rookies to grizzled veterans who had “seen it all”, was paralyzed in fear, all unable to rectify the brazen attitude the soldiers were displaying right in front of them.

No one was more thrown off than Anatu, whose tears of joy turned into tears of sorrow. As the soldiers got closer and closer to her, she couldn’t help but hear the ominous sounds of their footsteps, each one closer to taking away her life for good. She broke down and collapsed to her knees, her head buried in her arms with her tears flowing relentlessly.

As Panakos and his men climbed the stairs that allowed them to the elevated floor that Anatu had just filmed on, Panakos could only look at Anatu and shake his head.

“Stirring speech,” said Panakos, his cold voice booming with a menacing echo throughout the station.
“Please sir,” said Anatu, refusing to take a peek with her voice cracking through her inconsolable sorrow. “Whatever you do…please go easy on the people. They meant no harm…they don’t deserve your wrath…only I do.”
“Oh I’ll go easy on them all right,” said Panakos sternly, his compassionless voice reverberating with immense distress in Anatu’s eardrums.

“Get up!” he barked at Anatu. “Don’t get me to make my soldiers have to peel you off the ground!” As Anatu continued to kneel on the ground, crying uncontrollably, Panakos had no choice but to direct his soldiers to pick Anatu up, which they did. Despite a struggle, the much stronger soldiers managed to get Anatu to her feet, with one on each side of her holding her up by her arms.

“Get yourself together!” sneered Panakos. “I can’t believe this!” He let out a sigh and pulled out a handkerchief, instructing his soldiers to wipe her tears off her face.

“Now stand up straight!” barked Panakos. When Anatu failed to do so, he barked at her again in another futile attempt.

“Sir,” said one of the soldiers holding her up. “She’s got no energy…she’s too overcome with grief…she’ll collapse again.”

Panakos sighed again, shaking his head. “Well then,” he said. “You leave me no choice.”

Panakos took his rifle and set it on the ground, before fumbling through his pockets to eventually locate his pistol. Anatu let out an audible shriek as she saw the gun being unleashed, closing her eyes and attempting to recoil into one of the soldiers before they shook her straight. She continued to have her eyes closed and started to hyperventilate, letting out the tears again as she rectified her fate.

“I bow to you, my Queen,” said Panakos, setting down his gun and all of his knives, as he took a step back and knelt in front of Anatu. Soon, his soldiers let go of Anatu, and they did the exact same thing.

What?” said Anatu, as she could only let out a gasp. Everyone stood in silence doing their best to understand what was happening, only for the soldiers to continue bowing before Anatu.

“I- I…I don’t understand what’s going on?” Anatu said, still shocked at the developments. Murmurs began to ring through the hallways before Panakos’ words put it to a halt.

“I believe in you,” said Panakos with the strongest of conviction. “I believe in your revolution. I don’t care what my government wants…I refuse to serve someone who only wishes to serve themselves. You are here to serve for the people and you were always the rightful choice of the people…and thus, I will do everything I can to make sure I uphold that.”

Panakos then handed Anatu a sheet of paper, which was a signed document by both Panakos and the AMF General, pledging their support behind Anatu, whom they described as “the Honourable People’s Empress of Assyria”. It also told Anatu that the Aramean people- who were always divided under Chancellor Pomas- had rejected their government and the shenanigans of Virtue, and were ready to accept Assyria as their rulers.

“All it needs is your signature,” said Panakos, “and then it becomes a reality.”

Anatu nodded, wasting no time finding a pen and signing the document. She then gave Panakos and his soldiers a hearty hug as everyone in the station clapped and cheered, serenading their new Empress.

October 9, 2016,
08:34 local time,
Aramean Imperial Palace,
Nicosia, Cyprus

“Sir,” said Christos as he walked into Pomas’ office. Since Pomas had no Army the entire Palace was cleared, with Aramean officials fleeing to the Carolinian Empire, which agreed to give Aramean officials a safe haven. This was done in response to the suicide of Arakos after the AMF and Aramean Armies combined into the “Great Army of Assur”, arresting and killing his government, as they were gunning for Aram’s former government next.

Sir,” said Christos again as Pomas adjusted his suit. “You have no Army…no protection…you can’t go out there to the people. They’ll kill you.”
“What does it matter, Nikos?” said Pomas defiantly. “They’ve succeeded in killing everything I had…there is nothing left for me to live.”
“…but sir,” said Christos, “the Carolinian Empire will give you a high position of authority. Many of our officials are already there, crafting Carolina as the ‘new Aram’. If we go now and forget this joke of a press conference, you too can join them and craft a new beginning for Aram.”
“Maybe so,” said Pomas, nodding his head. “Or…maybe not.”

Pomas then walked out of the door and attempted to address the gathered crowd, upon which it was mere seconds before Christos heard gunshots and Pomas’ screams, leaving no doubt about what had happened. Pomas had agreed to let The Virus broadcast it on Cypriot television, with the hope that his message would go “viral” and convince Virtue that Pomas and Aram still had death. Unfortunately for him, his death only confirmed what Virtue and the greater world already knew- that the Philosopher Queen, and their rejection of democracy, had truly won the war, leaving Aram and the AMF as a distant memory.

“I’ve never met a monarch that said he wasn’t serving the people. I’ve also never met a monarch that actually did.”- Fredricus, Roman revolutionary, speech in Rome (1848)