Have I Got Coups For You

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Aug 10, 2018 11:26 pm

Resistance HQ, Elopolis

Laura Moore and Victoria Juarez sat in a room along with four others watching Charlene Hendry's broadcast. As soon as she finished, Juarez turned to the room.

"Thoughts?" she asked.

"Clarke'll never agree to it. If we stop our advances, we basically hand the country to her, signing democracy's death warrant," Johnny Hudson, the Resistance's main computer expert said.

"With all due respect, I disagree," added Roberta Tracey, who had once been a professional runner, then served in the military briefly, and now spent her days training new recruits. "Since the whole Sonja debacle, we've been losing people. Much less than their propaganda is saying, but it's still happening. People are dying, we're starting to see supply shortages, and the longer this goes on, the more the general population are going to start not caring who wins. I think we need to negotiate."

"There's nothing to negotiate," argued Hudson, "you either support freedom or not. We cannot give them any concessions. And we have something in our possession that could change the war."

"If you mean that USB from Jae Chung, does that mean you've decrypted it?" asked Laura Moore.

"Um... sadly no," began Hudson, "but I have all the best people working on it and I'm sure we'll have the contents soon."

"So, you want us to turn down a chance to end the suffering of our people on the off-chance that it actually contains something of value?" Moore said.

"You think Chung's lying?" Hudson said.

"No, I think she believes it's important. But she doesn't know herself what's on there. She could have been tricked, for all we know."

"I knew Yasin," came Nico Alfaro's voice, "he's an honourable man. If he thought this was that important, I believe him." The former Carville Resistance leader was confident of his words. He'd gained a scar across his face since Gonhog's assault on Carville, and he'd refused the opportunity to go back to the city after the Coalition liberated it. He wouldn't tell anyone why.

"I do not doubt his honour, but are we really willing to risk everything for this?" Moore asked the group. There was a brief silence.

"When I first entered politics," Juarez began, "I was almost religiously a pacifist. I believed war was never justifiable under any circumstances. I think a lot of people who were in politics when Chaher staged his coup would agree. We were elected upon a wave of pacifism that came across this country... and has now evaporated as if it was never there. My beliefs then were naive, I know that. But they were based upon something real - the knowledge that war is nothing good. I want Clarke out just as much as all of you, but if we have a chance to end this suffering, we really ought to take it."

Tracey nodded enthusiastically as Juarez finished.

"We cannot unilaterally agree to a ceasefire," said Ethan Marks, the last person in the room. "Anything we agree to must be conditional upon its reciprocation by the enemy forces."

"I would think that was taken as a given," Tracey said.

"Shall we vote on it?" Moore suggested.

After much discussion and an angry rant from Hudson, they were agreed with five votes to one. Moore would announce today that the Resistance would agree to a ceasefire and peace talks... provided Clarke's government said the same.

As Hudson stomped from the room, Moore pulled him aside.

"Keep at it with that USB," she told him. "Whatever happens, it could be useful."

Liaville, Aeluria

Keitha Noguera watched Charlene Hendry's broadcast from her bed. She was still devastated by both Anael's death and his apparent betrayal. She was crushed that he'd felt the need to go to such lengths to oppose her politics, and that it had evidently gotten him killed.

She picked up the phone and dialled Nazario Mací­as, her Education Minister and deputy.

"Have you seen the news from Sanctaria?" she asked.

"Yes, First Minister. And I know what you're going to say, that we'll get nothing out of such negotiations, but I really urge you to..."

"I think we should agree," she interrupted.

"... you do?"

"Yes. In a month people will be starving, we already have massive shortages of some items, and people have actually started dying. I never wanted a war, and this situation is unsustainable."

"I must say, I'm surprised to hear you say that. After your welcoming of the Kivasekians, many of us thought you were gearing up for a conflict."

"And you were plotting to overthrow me in the event, I'm fully aware. This is not something you'll hear a politician say often, but I was wrong."

"We were not 'plotting', as you say..."

"Don't try and deny it, it only makes you look like a fool. It's all in the past anyway. This has to end, and Sanctaria is offering us a solution."

"I fully agree. There is only one problem."

"What is that?"

"How exactly do we get to Sanctaria, if we can't get off the island?"

"I think if the Lauchenoirian government refuse to let us travel to peace talks, we may gain even more allies."

Clarke Residence, near Buttercity

"What do you mean Kieran MacKenzie has escaped?" Clarke demanded. Her new foreign secretary, Niall Watson raised an eyebrow.

"I didn't say 'escaped', I said 'disappeared'. You ought to watch that, don't want other people to think you're keeping the President prisoner."

"My terminology is irrelevant," she shook her head, "just how exactly did he 'disappear'?"

"Yesterday he was last seen going to bed after eating his dinner by one of the people you had placed there. This morning, he wasn't in the building."

"I thought I gave explicit orders for all the exits to be watched 24/7!"

"Indeed, and they were."

"Then how did he get out!?"

"I'm afraid we don't know."

"Then find out! And tell Sanctaria to stick their peace talks up their entitled, neutral..."

Unknown Location

Leonie was exhausted. She was convinced the Kerlians had turned the heating in the van on full, as the temperature inside was high enough that three of her fellow prisoners had already passed out. One of them had also been sick, though thankfully on the other side from Leonie. The woman across from that one had not been amused.

When the van finally stopped, Leonie felt that she must have imagined it. They had stopped twice before, but for no longer than a minute. One of the other prisoners speculated that they were changing driver. So, when the doors to the van opened, sending in bright sunlight, Leonie was half convinced she was dead and briefly noted surprise at the presence of an afterlife.

Her eyes adjusted to the light and she noticed a pair of armed Kerlians staring at the group.

"Out!" one of them demanded. Leonie and the others stumbled out of the van. The three unconscious people were pulled out by the Kerlians and dumped on the ground. Leonie took in her surroundings. They were in what appeared to be a normal car park, but for the barbed wire surrounding the three sides that weren't taken up with a low building.

"In a line! Now!" another Kerlian yelled. Most of them complied, including Leonie. A couple, including the woman who had been in the army, tried to resist. The Kerlians beat them and forced them into the line. One of the unconscious people woke up, and was also dragged into the line. Of the other two, one opened her eyes but did not seem to be fully aware of her surroundings, and the other appeared to have died. The unaware woman was also forced into the line. She slumped on the ground.

A Kerlian wearing an officer's uniform began walking up and down the line, holding a tablet and seemingly making notes about each of them. Leonie wasn't familiar enough with Kerlian uniforms to know her rank. Once the Kerlian had finished, she returned back to the start of the line.

"Two," she said, and another Kerlian demanded the first person stand to the left.

"Three," she said at the next person, and a Kerlian led them to stand near the back of the van.

"Two. Two. Three."

"One," she said, and the woman who had been in the army was led to the right.

"Two. Three. Two. Three. Two. Two," she said, going down the line.

She stood opposite Leonie.

"Three."

She continued like that along the line. There was about thirty of them, and Leonie noticed that those labelled 'one' had been those who had resisted lining up in the first place. As the Kerlian got to the end with the two previously unconscious people, she labelled both of them 'one' as well.

Once everyone had been sorted into three groups, the Kerlians moved all at once, a group of them raising their weapons at group 'one'. Leonie and some of the others shrieked as the Kerlian shot the unaware woman. The others in group 'one' panicked at that point and a couple tried to run, but the Kerlians forced them up against the wall of the building. The woman who had been in the army looked distinctly less afraid than the others.

"I see you haven't changed!" she yelled. "Same old story, isn't it? Just shows you're scared, anyone you see as remotely a threat you kill! God forbid I might escape and strangle one of you in your sleep, eh?"

The girl who looked younger than Leonie buried her face in Leonie's chest. Leonie wished she could hug the child, but she'd almost forgot what it felt like not to have her hands bound. Groups two and three stood there, turning their heads away as the Kerlians executed the rest of group one.

"Move!" one of the Kerlians yelled at group two. The increasingly nervous group were led inside the building. Leonie heard no shots from inside.

"Inside!" a Kerlian demanded to Leonie's group, gesturing back into the van. Leonie wasn't sure whether she was relieved or dismayed.

Kerlile

Jennifer Hale sat in the back of the car as she was driven across the country. Naturally, the door was locked, and the only reason she bothered to try it was out of some kind of routine that made her feel less helpless.

Following her last visit to the Council, she spent eight hours alone, almost certainly watched, and trapped, then she had once more been summoned to the Council. They had repeated their plea for her to join them, and once more she had refused. After that, she was locked in the apartment for a full twenty-four hours, and all her attempts to summon someone ignored.

This morning, she had once more been summoned in front of the Council. They had informed her that they would grant her one request, 'within reason'. She had asked them to release her wife. They had refused. Then, she asked to see Josephine. This, they reluctantly agreed to.

Evidently, Josephine was being held somewhere far from Grapevale, because they had already spent two hours in the car. Jennifer recognised the landscapes much more than she had hoped. They had passed through some towns Jennifer had been in as a child, and she noted with dismay how little they had changed.

The roads they were on now were unfamiliar to her. She knew of this area, where civilians were banned and people of her family's standing rarely went. They passed by the mountains that Kerlian citizens often referred to as the gates of hell, and into the restricted area. Jennifer closed her eyes as they passed by a low building surrounded by barbed wire fences. She knew what happened in there.

They pulled up to a tall, thin building. A woman walked over and opened the door for her to exit. Men were often employed in this role for Council members, but no men were allowed in the restricted region.

Jennifer climbed out of the car and nervously took a breath. The air didn't taste any different from free areas, but nevertheless she felt like she was somewhere exceptionally terrible. Perhaps the 'gates of hell' was a good description, even if the Kerlian government had tried to have it outlawed.

Jennifer did not initiate any conversation with the women who showed her through the building, and following Kerlian tradition, they would not speak to her until she spoke. She was still a Hale, even if she knew one of the guards who followed her was there more to keep her from running than to keep her safe.

Eventually they entered a corridor that was about ten degrees colder than the rest of the building. Jennifer shivered. The guide gestured to a cell part of the way down the corridor.

"You may leave," she said, finally addressing the guide.

"Ma'am," the guide said, bowing slightly on her way out. The guard who was following her waited at the end of the corridor. Apparently, she was not to be left alone. She hesitantly walked up to the cell.

*

Josephine Alvarez was determined not to show weakness. But she hadn't slept since the Kerlians had surrounded Usera, and that had to be... three days ago? Four? For all she knew, it had been longer and she was just losing her mind.

She had tried lying on the bed, but every time she started to fall asleep the Kerlians had started with the noise.

"I KNOW!" she yelled back once. After that, she'd taken to sitting on the floor. Frankly, it was more comfortable than the bed. She sat in the corner staring into space. She tried to distract herself by remembering random facts she'd learned throughout her school career. After trying to list all the elements in the periodic table, and going over her lines from a terrible school play she'd been in at the age of fourteen, the sleep deprivation really started to hit.

She wanted to cry. She wouldn't let herself. The Kerlians who delivered her vomit-flavoured food still refused to speak to her. She hoped they turned away from the screen when she had relieved herself. She was horrendously embarrassed, and at the same time she no longer cared.

She wanted to give up and beg. She was more determined than ever to not give in. Her mind was full of contradictions, and it was full of nothing at all. She wasn't quite sure if she was really there, or if she was in bed in Usera and this was all a bad dream.

When she heard voices, her first thought was that she'd finally cracked. She squeezed her arms tighter.

"Josie... Josie?"

It's not her, they're just playing mind games, don't give in, don't tell them anything...

"Josie!" the voice said more insistently. Josephine looked towards the bars.

"Sonja!" she gasped out. She'd lost track of when they'd been giving her food and water. Evidently not for a while, judging by how dry her voice came out.

"Josie," Sonja smiled at her, "oh thank God you're alive!"

"Why do you keep having to rescue me from prisons?" Josephine tried to joke. Sonja's smile faltered. "You... are here to get me out?"

"I... Josie, I'm so sorry, but they won't..."

There was something at the back of Josephine's mind that she couldn't quite place her finger on, until the moment when she could.

"Wait... you... they said you weren't... Sonja? Jennifer Hale?"

"Josie, I am so sorry for lying to you..."

Sonja... no, Jennifer, continued to speak but Josephine didn't hear her. Her head was spinning. Sonja was Jennifer Hale. Sonja's mother had been on the Council of Kerlile. Sonja was now...

"You're on the Council," Josephine stated.

"No, I refused to take their vows, I will not join them, not for anything!"

"Council members can order the release of prisoners."

"Like I said, I'm not on the Council, I am so sorry there is nothing I could..."

Josephine stood up all of a sudden and half-walked, half-stumbled until she was grasping the bars. She looked Jennifer Hale in the eye.

"You could be on the Council. You could get me out of here."

"I can't do that, if I join them they will never let me out, you don't understand..."

"If you love me, Sonja, Jennifer, whatever your name is, you will get me out of here."

With that proclamation, Josephine collapsed onto the ground and fell asleep. Jennifer stared at her for a few moments and then turned back to look at the guard. She betrayed no sign of having heard a word, even though Jennifer knew she had. She couldn't join the Council, not for anything...

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Sanctaria » Sat Aug 11, 2018 12:56 am

Alexandra Maye was burning the midnight oil. Not quite alone in the Situation Room of Sanctaria's government manor, a number of military officials were also chattering away in the room, she sat in a chair in the corner of the room, pouring over various confidential and top secret reports.

"Director Maye?' a voice broke her own relative silence. Alexandra turned to see an SIS analyst with a file in his hand.

"Is that Lauchenoiria?"

"Yes, Director."

She took the file and skimmed through it, smirking when she read the Buttercity Junta was making moves to reject the offer for negotiations and ceasefire. "As expected", she murmured aloud to herself. She looked up from the report and gazed into the distance for a number of moments before standing up and smoothing out any creases in her skirt. "Excuse me gentlemen", she said to the generals, before removing herself to an adjacent office. Though everyone in the room had the same security clearance, Maye was by now used to operating more privately, and didn't feel comfortable making phonecalls in front of others.

The office was small, but it had a desk, a phone and, more importantly, was empty. Maye didn't need to second-guess herself. She grabbed the phone off the hook and dialled the numbers she knew from memory confidently.

"Marcus, it's Alexandra. Tell your contact to remind Clarke that there are thousands of Lauchenoirian families here in Sanctaria. It'd be awful if we would have to deport all Lauchenoirian adults to secure Sanctaria's neutrality during their civil war - not their children, though. The children are Sanctarian citizens and they would stay here. They would be ok though. We'd place them in child facilities and foster homes. One would hope they would see their parents again but ... it is a deadly conflict." Maye waited while the message was repeated back to her. "Thank you Marcus, have your contact deliver that immediately."

After ending the call, Maye sat for a few minutes in the empty, and eerily quiet, office. Sanctaria made a generous offer to end the war via peace talks, she thought to herself. If the sides refused, then Sanctaria had to take further steps to protect its neutrality. Hendry hadn't quite approved Maye's approach towards Clarke - the Prime Minister would be told tomorrow - but all intelligence showed Clarke's soft spot for child welfare. Maye was confident this would bring her to the table.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Gonhog » Sat Aug 11, 2018 3:58 am

National Park at Annatown, 1 mile away from Annatown Airport, 0500 Hours

Private Louis sat on a nearby rock in a small clearing, his legs tired and his eyes more so. His squad had guard duty along with the rest of the battalion, and along with scouting the countryside (the Gonhogians had little intelligence of this) they were to make sure Coalition forces didn't move closer to the town. Reports had been circling that the Coalition army were moving closer to Annatown, and many of the higher-ups believed that a battle was nigh.

Sitting next to Louis, his captain, Ashok, addressed his squad.

"Alright team. Command has ordered us to push another half mile or so, then we can fall back to the city in time for breakfast, understood?"

The squad muttered in agreement, the sky beginning to turn slightly brighter as the sun began its heavenly path. In the dim light, Louis could see something in the bushes, and after a moment's hesitation, began firing.

His squad members jumped, scrambling for cover as Louis continued to fire into the bushes. The figure slumped over, and Louis was about to call the all clear when a bullet found its way into his head. He fell, dead before he hit the ground.

The squad began returning fire as more figures could be seen around the clearing. Captain Ashok shouted something not heard over the noise while someone radioed command.

"This is Private Henry, 5th Platoon, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry, our squad has engaged with hostile forces, we need immediate back up."

Ashok saw movement to their right and left, and called out to his men.

"Movement on the flanks! We're being encircled!"


Encantan Parliament Building, Annatown, 0507 Hours

General Herman had gathered much of the leadership of his army into his makeshift war room has they discussed the current situation unfolding. Reports had been flowing in of encounters with Coalition forces, and he needed to come up with a plan to ensure he was not defeated again.

"Well sir," piped up one major, "the whole 3rd Battalion is encircled, I suggest we move in most of the 7th Infantry to face the Coalition. We can always withdraw to our defensives if they begin to get the better of us."

"What about our flanks?" began another major. "They'll have superior numbers; they could move into Annatown through the south and catch us completely off guard."

General Herman nodded, thinking about what they could do, before getting an idea.

"We could use the 73rd to sweep southwards, see if they encounter anything. If not, they move to flank the Coalition."

The council of commanders murmured in agreement.

National Park at Annatown, ½ of a mile away from Annatown Airport, 0535 Hours

Captain Ashok looked down one side of the hill that his battalion was situated on. The whole battalion, included his squad, had been pushed back and were now surrounded. The Coalition had already sent up a couple of waves to take it but have so far failed. Ashok then heard someone shout from behind him.

"Here they come!"

Ashok readied his rifle as he heard gunshots ring out. Taking cover behind a tree, he saw Libertans running up the hill, firing upon the Gonhogians. Ashok took aim and squeezed the trigger, seeing the man he fired upon fall down. They keep firing, more and more waves stormed the hill.

0600 Hours

Ashok swung his knife at the Skodenian soldier, missing and embedding the blade into a nearby tree trunk. Desperately trying to pull it out, he felt pain in his back before his vision went black.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Sat Aug 11, 2018 4:38 am

DIS Press Room, Litudinem
August 10th - Afternoon

General Wallace took a deep breath before begining. He was standing on the only podium in the small room. He pointed at a young reporter who had her hand raised.

"Sir, I am led to believe that the Kerlians are behind the attack on Brown's life. The assassin was acting on their behalf. Is this true? If so, what is our next move against Kerlile?"

"We plan to hold the Kerlians government accountable for their blatant and highly illegal attack on us. This will most likely have to weight until the conclusion of the conflict in Lauchenoiria. So... yes. We do believe it was the Kerlians. As for our current actions, we have identified two potential suspects. They are both females and may be the assassin's handlers or liaisons. We have identified one woman as Melanie Chevroux. Her face is now on the bulletin outside. In addition, our soldiers in Lauchenoiria are keeping an eye out for her if she is deployed in Lauchenoiria at this time. As for the suspect, we assume that at this point he has left the country. Though we can't be sure. Our analysts say that there is an 87% that he has left the nation. I'm afraid that is all the time we have. We will talk later when we have more information to give."

Exhausted, Wallace stepped off stage and smiled, "Well, that was a fun way to spend the last 3 hours of my day." he then walked towards his limo, parked behind backstage. He smiled as he climbed in. Silence at last, he thought to himself as the car drove away.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Laeral » Sat Aug 11, 2018 5:30 pm

Coalition Forward HQ, Annatown Task Force
2 miles from Annatown International Airport
0500 Hours, August 11th
"Sir, forward forces report that the enemy rear guard is continuing to retreat," a Libertan officer said. "Our forward elements are ready to engage Gonhogian forces and cut them off before they reach Annatown." His statement was rapidly translated into the various languages of the Coalition forces present, and the assembled commanders nodded in understanding. The Coalition task force of roughly 11,000 Coalition soldiers had been deployed to besiege Gonhogian forces in Annatown. Over the past two days, they'd been advancing rapidly northward, sweeping enemy opposition away before them.
"We need to cut them off before they can escape into the city's defenses," Slokaisian General John Acura, Jr, said. "We won't be able to get at them then."
"The general is correct," a Skodenian major said. "Our reconnaissance elements tell us that the Gonhogians are dug in like a- I mean, dug in very well. Trenches, emplacements, the works."
"We'll order our forward units to attack," General Acura said. "Is that acceptable?" The ranking Libertan officer and the Skodenian commander nodded their assent.

1 mile from Annatown Airport
"We have orders to attack!" Corporal Arnold Baker Jr said. His arm was still in a sling, but he'd requested to be posted along with his men. They were part of the left pincer that had extended to surround the Gonhogian rear guard, currently perched near the crest of a large hill. The area here was actually a national park- strange, wasn't it, for there to be a national park so close to a major city- and so they'd easily crept through the cover of the underbrush to surround the beleaguered Gonhogian force. Tired, hungry, sleep-deprived, wounded...Arnold Baker had been there himself. He didn't envy them. All around him, his men readied their rifles.

A shot. Then more, as Baker could see in the distance the Gonhogians yelling and firing at the advancing Coalition soldiers. "Let's go!" Arnold yelled, and his forces started charging and firing at the Gonhogians.

0.5 miles from Annatown International Airport
0640 Hours
Sergeant Ramiro Villaverde, from the Slokais Islands, walked among the corpses on the downward slope of the hill outside Annatown. They were Gonhogians, and he noted that some of them had been shot in the back while trying to flee. He grunted dismissively. Any enemy who would rather flee than fight was no soldier at all, in his opinion.
"Sarge!" one of the younger soldiers in his squad called to him from the hilltop. "The Gonhogians have fled! The rest of 'em are inside the city!"
"I'd probably be p***ing my pants right now if I were them, eh sarge?" One of the other soldiers said. There were a few chuckles. "Won't be much longer before they're all dead and we can go back home, am I right?"
"Shut up," Villaverde said urgently. "Shut up." Everyone fell silent. They knew better than to disobey an order.
Villaverde had heard something off to his right. Something familiar. He took out his binoculars and scanned the underbrush off to the east. There. "Tank!" he yelled. "Take cover!"
About fifty yards away, a Gonhogian tank burst through the woods and into the open, turret swiveling to face Villaverde's squad. Behind it was a wave of rushing Gonhogian soldiers, yelling indistinctly as they began to spray fire towards Villaverde's men. True to their training, his men ducked for cover and returned fire, their shots cutting down the advancing Gonhogian troops.
"Radio Command!" Villaverde yelled. "We need reinforcements, tanks, bloody air support!" After he said it, he realized that there would be no air support forthcoming, but he was too focused on firing madly at the advancing Gonhogians to correct his statement. The tank's turret fired with a rush of flame, and the ground itself seemed to lift up Villaverde, punching him over and over again with the dirt raining down. He saw a bloody thing to his right, and he realized it was an arm.
"Nothing's coming!" the radio operator yelled. "We're under attack all along the line!" A moment later, a bloody hole appeared in his chest, and he fell backward, screaming. The Gonhogians were getting closer and closer, far too many of them to fight.
"Fall back!" Villaverde yelled. "Fall back!" His men broke and ran, Gonhogian fire killing some of them as they fled. Villaverde stayed, spraying fire at the Gonhogians, before a shot hit him in the arm. He stared down at it, noting the blood beginning to trickle out of it, when the next shot hit him in the chest. He fell backwards and had time to think about how strange it felt before everything went dark.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Laeral » Sun Aug 12, 2018 6:09 pm

Office of the President
Republic House, Laeralsford
"The Prime Minister and her party here to see you, sir," one of President Brennan's aides said through the cracked-open door. Nicholas Brennan looked up from the latest reports of the Battle of Annatown as Tanvi Misra came in. Behind her was Foreign Minister Beringer and a cluster of foreign relations and national security advisers. Brennan took off his reading glasses, set them on the desk in front of him, and looked at the Prime Minister.
"Tanvi, have you seen this report? Annatown's turning into a problem."
"I can prevent the Opposition from making too much of a fuss about it."
"The reason we're here," Foreign Minister Beringer said flatly, "is to discuss Hendry's ultimatum."
Brennan stood up. "We'll, let's be seated. Wine, tea, anyone?" They all shook their heads and sat down on the couches in the office.
Brennan was silent for a moment, and then abruptly said "Fabien. What do you make of it?"
Fabien Rolland, a veteran of Brennan's 2014 campaign but ultimately more of a speechwriter than a policy wonk, was startled. "Well, it seems as if we don't have much of a choice. The Sanctarians are a real heavyweight, and we'd look very bad if we refused their offer. Very bad."
"I doubt that I have to remind anyone in here," Foreign Minister Beringer said, "that we owe them about 395 billion Marks in debt. If they recall that, we'd have to either gamble on a successful international court case, or immediately introduce austerity and reduce government spending to about that of the 1930s. We've been successful at avoiding the trap of being reliant on Sanctarian oil and natural gas, but they have too much of a grip on us for us to resist if they serious want to hurt us."
"When the Sanctarians say to sit," Tanvi Misra said, "we sit. I don't believe that we ever had the choice to refuse their peace talks."
"I will make preparations for a speech announcing our acceptance of the Sanctarian terms," Brennan said. The President held broad discretionary powers with regards to foreign relations. "After that, we can discuss our negotiating position and who we'll send to represent us. Marie-Claire, who else has agreed to attend?"
"Laura Moore's Lauchenoirian government, and the Aelurians have both announced they'll participate. We fully expect the other Coalition members to do so as well, and the Sanctarians will probably force the Junta to attend as well."
"Laura Moore and Charissa Clarke in the same room," Prime Minister Misra said. "Imagine what fun that'll be."

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Aug 12, 2018 10:16 pm

Two Days Ago

Somewhere in Kerlile

Leonie Bennett stretched her arms above her head. Her muscles complained, her arms were stiff after so many days of being kept in the same position.

After the execution of members of group "˜one', the nine in group three were bundled back into the van and driven elsewhere. The young girl had ended up next to Leonie, and was shaking quite violently. Evidently the events outside the van had terrified the girl.

"It'll be okay, I'm sure the war will end soon and then they'll let us go," Leonie tried to comfort the girl but she didn't believe a word she was saying, and the girl had only kept sobbing. "Hey, what's your name?"

"H... H... Helena," the girl said, shaking.

"I'm Leonie. Are you from Usera?"

"Sí­," she nodded then switched back to the English Leonie had been using. "But before the war I was living in Melissa City. My parents moved there a few years back but my older brother still lives "“ lived in Usera. Was visiting him."

"What happened?" Leonie asked gently.

"We were at the protest, when it started," Helena began, then started sobbing again.

"It's okay, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I was there too."

"N... no I just... we were at the protest and a group of soldiers started charging towards us. My brother stepped in front of me and then behind us there were police and they grabbed me, so I screamed. My brother turned and tried to get them off me but the police yelled over to the soldiers and they..." she trailed off into sobs.

"I am so sorry," Leonie said.

"They killed him! And then someone else came behind the police and the one holding me dropped me and I just ran, I don't even remember it, but I woke up in the middle of the night in some alley with an armed Resistance guy asking me if I was okay."

"I am so sorry you went through that."

"And so, I said yes and asked if I could join the resistance, because I wanted to make sure that nobody else went through the same thing. He asked me how old I was and I told him I was sixteen, so they let me carry messages and stuff but they wouldn't let me fight."

"When's the last time you spoke to your parents?"

"Not... not since before I went to Usera. I didn't... I didn't want to contact them in case they were arrested or something, and also, I couldn't tell them that James was dead or that I'd lied about my age."

"You're not sixteen? How old are you?"

"Fifteen. When the Kerlians were arresting people, I tried to tell them but they just ignored me."

"The Kerlians execute children, I don't think they care."

"Comforting," commented Helena, who had finally stopped sobbing.

"If they were going to kill us they'd have done it with group one," Leonie said convincingly.

"Why'd they split us up from the older ones they didn't kill?" Helena asked.

It was only then that Leonie realised that group three was comprised of the youngest of the Kerlians' prisoners. The oldest looking person in the group was one of their computer people who Leonie had met once and knew was twenty-two.

"I... don't know," Leonie replied.

They'd spent the remainder of the journey in silence. After only a few hours, the van stopped again. Helena, who had fallen asleep, awoke with a jump. The Kerlians had ordered them all out of the van again, and then led the group inside a building within a built-up area. They lined them up...

... and then uncuffed them and forced them into a small square room that contained a few chairs dotted around and a high-up window with the kind of panes you couldn't really see out of.

So, Leonie stood now in the room, stretching her arms out. The computer expert, Jessica, had walked over to a chair and was standing on it, trying to see out the windows.

"Anything?" Leonie called, walking over to her. Helena trailed behind her like a puppy.

"Judging by the fast-moving shapes that keep passing we're near a busy road. Probably one of the Kerlian cities," Jessica said.

"Wait, we're in Kerlile?" Helena asked.

"Yeah, I mean we were driving way too long to be in northern Lauchenoiria, and we're definitely not south. It's actually cold out there."

"Oh god," Helena whimpered and sat down on a nearby chair. She put her hands over her face, as if she could hide from the world like that. Leonie sat next to her and gave the young girl a hug.

"This is not a good situation, but if they've brought us into a city then it's less likely they're going to do anything too terrible," Leonie said hopefully.

"Unless they want some kind of public execution," Jessica suggested.

"Not helping," Leonie hissed at her. Helena started crying again.

"Or maybe this is the waiting room for the torture chamber."

The door to the room opened and three armed Kerlians walked in.

All nine of the prisoners turned to look at them.

"Welcome to Kerlile," one of them began. "We must apologise for the conditions under which you were brought here. The men of the Lauchenoirian government insisted upon it."

"Did they also insist that you stopped halfway to shoot unarmed prisoners?" a woman who looked around Leonie's age called out.

"Those "˜unarmed prisoners' were known spies and terrorists, convicted of offences against the Kerlian state. We will be happy to provide evidence supporting this claim, if it will make you feel any better."

"You can fake pretty much anything these days," the woman said.

"Indeed, such as all the information on our country provided to citizens of other countries. Lauchenoiria is particularly bad for it, unfortunately. I feel dreadfully sorry for all of you, growing up in that misogynistic country."

"Lauchenoiria has some of the best gender equality protections in the IDU," Leonie said. The Kerlian shook her head and looked at Leonie with an expression of pity.

"I see their propaganda has worked well on you. Of course, it would have to be pretty effective to encourage a woman to take up arms against Kerlile, when her life would be so much better if she had been fortunate enough to be born here."

"What, so we could be happily enslaved if our father made eye contact with someone on the street?" Jessica asked sarcastically.

"I see even our anti-harassment protections are the subject of ridiculous stories abroad. Men are expected to avoid eye contact with strangers in order to protect our female citizens from the harassment they experience in every other country. It is not illegal to do so, however, and we do not "˜enslave' people."

"What exactly is the purpose of this little propaganda exercise?" the woman who had mentioned the executions said.

"We are merely attempting to correct the lies you were taught about our country. It pains us to have to detain our fellow women, and I would like to assure you that as soon as the war is won, you will be released. Now, we are going to call out names. When your name is called, you will line up at the door."

Yesterday

From: William Jones
To: Yousef Chaher
Subject: HOLY SHIT

I've attached the results of my research. You are not going to BELIEVE them. I can't even begin to imagine the consequences of this. It almost makes up for all the stuff your father did (no offence).

Oh, you should know the Resistance took a copy of the results. But if they hadn't, I'd have sent them one anyway. Not gonna apologise for that.

Will.

Unidentified Kerlian prison

Leonie was sharing a cell with Helena. Much to her surprise, the Kerlian prison looked no different from the fictional Lauchenoirian ones she'd seen in movies. She'd been expecting something a little more... terrifying.

Helena was still asleep, she had been for hours. Leonie thought it must be some kind of coping mechanism. Leonie had slept, of course. It had been several days since she'd had a proper sleep, and even a prison bed was better than trying to sleep while handcuffed in an overcrowded van.

"Wake her up, or she's not getting any breakfast," a Kerlian guard who had appeared outside the cell said. Leonie gently shook Helena, who groaned in the manner of a teenager being told to get ready for school. It occurred to Leonie that Helena ought to be returning to school in about a week.

They were led out of the cell into a communal canteen area. Leonie was handed something that looked like porridge. She tried some. She realised how long it had been since she had eaten and wolfed down the bowl. It didn't taste as awful as she'd expected. She grew increasingly suspicious of the Kerlians' motives. Somehow, torture would have made more sense.

"Hello," came a voice and a girl slid in across from Leonie and the half-asleep Helena.

"Hi?" Leonie said suspiciously.

"I am Myriam," said the girl. She looked about sixteen.

"Were you also in Usera?" Leonie asked.

"Oh, no, I haven't been to Lauchenoiria since I was seven."

"Um, forgive me but, why are you here then?"

"I am from Libertas Omnium Maximus."

"... do the Kerlians just kidnap random Maximusians?"

"No, I have been here since I was seven."

"The Kerlians have kept you in prison since you were seven? How did you even end up in Kerlile?"

"No, I was raised by a Kerlian family. But because my country is at war with Kerlile I am here. It is a sensible precaution."

"... you're okay with this?"

"Of course! My country is a terrible place. Kerlile must be kept safe. I am glad I had the fortune to be raised here."

"Um... okay?"

"My parents were on holiday in Lauchenoiria when they crossed the border. They said it was an accident but they were lying. They were Maximusian spies and they were sent to Kerlile to try and undermine their government. But the Kerlians took me from the bad people who would put me in danger and raised me."

"The Kerlians took you from your parents and raised you on a bunch of ridiculous propaganda and you're happy about it?" Leonie asked incredulously.

"You still believe what your government has told you. Once the war is over you will discover the truth about Kerlile."

"Uh huh."

Today

"Hello Lauchenoiria! Alex here, and I bring you good news! My sources tell me that they expect a ceasefire soon in this war! A little birdie told me that Charissa Clarke might be about to accept the invitation to peace talks after all.

I think everyone is starting to feel fed up of this fighting, and I hope that we can find a peaceful solution to restore democracy to this country. And now, this is going to be my last broadcast. Don't worry, all is well, and good luck for the future, Lauchenoiria!"

Council of Kerlile Chambers

Jennifer Hale stood facing the Council after the usual ridiculous formalities.

"I have decided to take the vows required to join this Council."

"That is excellent..." began Anita Patel.

"... if you meet my terms."

"Ah, you never do anything easily, do you?"

"I think you'll find them... relatively acceptable."

"Go on, get it over with," sighed Patel.

"You will release my wife," Jennifer began.

"Of course, that was never in doubt."

"... and you will agree to Sanctaria's peace talks."

There was silence in the room. Eventually Letitia Greenwood spoke.

"What makes you think Sanctaria has offered to host peace talks?"

"You think because you only let me watch your propaganda channels that I'm unaware of events? The only reason you'd be insulting them so much is if they were doing something that annoyed you. And since they are constitutionally neutral, they didn't get involved in the war on the other side. And your reaction just now gave it away, beyond any doubt."

"You were always clever," Rebecca Arnott said, "I remember you always received higher marks than me in school."

"And you will allow Josephine to remain here or leave as she sees fit."

"If you betray us, and go back on your word..." began Patel.

"I will not."

"If you do, we will hunt down Josephine Alvarez, we will hunt down every person you have ever cared for and we will destroy your precious Lauchenoiria."

"I will not break my word."

"Then we have a deal."

Two hours later

"... will be accepting Sanctaria's offer to mediate in the ongoing conflict in Lauchenoiria. We thank them for this generous offer."

Joanna Greenwood did an excellent job of trying to appear sincere on the TV. The propaganda channels had begun to praise Sanctaria instead of insulting them and Jennifer was ashamed at the slight happiness she felt at being able to influence such things.

She was no longer in the Council apartment, but instead in her family's mansion on the outskirts of the city. Her childhood room was still there, looking almost untouched even though Jennifer knew that it would have been thoroughly searched when she had run away and joined the DKS fighters in the civil war.

The doorbell rang and Jennifer, who had refused to allow the Council to assign her servants, wandered over to open it. Outside, stood a filthy Josephine, being held up by two Kerlian guards.

"Josie? My god, what did they do to you?"

"Nnngh," moaned Josephine.

"Get her upstairs to the bed!" Jennifer commanded. The Kerlians complied.

As soon as Josephine was placed upon the bed she fell asleep. She didn't wake up when Jennifer checked to make sure there was no visible marks of other forms of torture. Thankfully, there wasn't. Jennifer switched the TV in the bedroom on and turned the sound off. She watched with subtitles as Charissa Clarke also accepted the offer for peace talks.

The landline rang. Jennifer jumped. She answered.

"Hello?"

"Councillor Hale, you are invited to attend a ball in your honour tomorrow evening to celebrate the unity of the Council. You may attend with your wife, Josephine. Please instruct her on Kerlian customs before attendance."

The line clicked off and Jennifer sighed, glancing out of the window at the view of Grapevale. She never wanted to be here. She never wanted to be on the Council. But perhaps the war would end, and nobody else would die. That almost made it worth it.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Gonhog » Sun Aug 12, 2018 11:02 pm

1 Mile Away from Annatown Airport, 0700 Hours

Private Conner sat in the gunner spot in the IFV, firing at anything that moved in front of him. They had swept from the south and crashed into the Coalition line, forcing their right flank to retreat while the front line was engaged with the 7th Infantry. Now, a combination of IFVs, light tanks, and a battalion of infantry drove through the park, their only orders being to engage and find any weak spots in the Coalition positions.

"Enemies spotted, 11 o'clock!" Someone in the vehicle shouted.

Conner swiveled the gun, hearing some rifles being fired off and a tank exploding to his left. Trying to see through the underbrush, he could make out some figures, and began firing rapidly. Some of the figures slumped over while others fled.
***
Annatown Airport Runway, 0705 Hours

General Herman stood over a map of Annatown and the surrounding area, the chatter of radioes echoing sparound him. Herman had decided to move his Command Room, the "Bug"to the airport, where he would be closer to the battle. He began to speak to the group of commanders and his communication director, John Kelly, surrounding him.

"Now that we have engaged the Coalition, we must encircle them. In order to encircle the Coalition we must combat their defensive positions with a three-pronged attack. The 2nd Battalion of the 73rd will lead the left prong, and will head around the national park and circle around to here, while the 4th will engage through the center prong to distract the Coalition and inflict casualties. The 3rd Battalion of the 7th will head directly northeast to here as well. 2nd and 3rd should try to mostly avoid firefights, however if there is someone in your way, shoot them. Rules of engagement: anything that moves that isn't us is declared hostile," Turning towards Kelly, he finished, "Get that to the front line."

***
1/8 of a mile from Annatown Airport

Soon Conner's IFV broke through the trees and reached a railroad track, and could see the airport east southeast of them. They could still hear much gunfire among the tress as they headed tothe airport. They had encircled the Coalition.

The Bug, 0830 Hours

"General, we have the Coalition completely surrounded. We lost around 26 vehicles- IFVs and light tanks."

General Herman nodded in approval. "Good. The circle shall close at 0900 hours. Let's remind them of Summersea."
Last edited by Gonhog on Fri Aug 17, 2018 6:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Aug 14, 2018 11:27 pm

Hale Residence, Kerlile, Yesterday

"I am not going anywhere with you!"

Josephine turned away from Son- Jennifer and slammed a door behind her. The room she'd entered appeared to be yet another bedroom, this one designed for a child. Josephine walked forwards and picked up a teddy bear lying on the bed. It looked like it had been well loved once.

"Josie, when I said "˜invited', I meant it in the Kerlian sense. It's not optional," Jennifer called through the door.

"I'm not Kerlian, and I will not play your games. So, if it's a choice between acting like a good little Kerlian and vanishing into some hellhole... then I hope you'll do the decent thing and kill me gently."

"Josie... Josie I am not asking you to defect to Kerlile. Just play the game for one night and the Kerlians will go to peace talks. Then, if you want, you can return to Lauchenoiria and you never have to see me again."

Josephine walked back to the door and opened it.

"I married a woman called Sonja Viratnen. And then, one day, I find out that Sonja Viratnen died as a child. She was killed by the family and friends of the woman who took her name and who I thought I loved. I have learned two things in the past week: never let Kerlians take you alive, and the woman I loved never existed."

"Josie..."

"Don't call me that. You have no right."

"Josephine, I know I have told some terrible lies, and I can't expect you to forgive me right away, but I have always loved you."

"No, you don't get to do this. You joined the Council, you are nothing to me."

"You asked me to."

"I was being tortured Sonja! A situation I wouldn't have been in if you hadn't lied to me for our whole relationship!"

"You're naí¯ve if you think the Kerlians wouldn't have tortured you if it wasn't for me."

"No, you're right. I'd still be in Chaher's jail. Which, in hindsight, given everything that has happened since, was probably a better place to be! So, you will answer me one question: will Kerlile really pull out of the peace talks if I don't go to this party?"

Six hours later

"Councillor Jennifer Eleonora Hale and her partner, Josephine Alvarez."

Jennifer walked into the party with Josephine stiffly clinging to her arm.

"They can't introduce you as my wife, because Kerlian customs forbid Councillors from marrying so Kerlile doesn't recognise the marriage," Jennifer whispered in explanation.

"I am aware," Josephine replied tersely. She extracted herself from Jennifer's arm and made a beeline for a table with free alcohol.

Jennifer glanced around the room. There were a few men dotted among the crowd, some servants and a couple of the heterosexual Councillors' playthings. The most conservative of the Councillors and invited guests curled up their lips at the sight of them.

Jennifer found it quite pathetic and heart-breaking, how thrilled the men seemed at being there. They clearly didn't know what usually happened to the Council's male hangers-on. She'd warned one of her sister's suitors once. The boy had tried to run, and she'd been punished for it. She never found out what happened to him. She hoped he'd got out.

"Councillor Hale! It really is splendid to have you here!" called a voice. The hairs on the back of Jennifer's neck all stood on end. She turned and swung in a grand bow.

"Madam President! It is a pleasure to be here."

"You may look at my face, Councillor. I am not as strict as my predecessor."

Jennifer looked up from the ground and resisted the urge to scoff.

"I thank you."

"So, peace talks? Interesting choice of conditions, Hale. Of course, you must know we would not refuse. A full Council is of much greater importance than the war in your partner's country."

"Wife," Jennifer corrected without thinking. President Joanna Greenwood raised one eyebrow in response.

"You really ought to let go of this absurd fantasy, Councillor. Your so-called marriage is not valid in Kerlian law."

"It's valid to me."

President Greenwood let out a large, probably fake laugh.

"You may call Josephine Alvarez what you wish in the privacy of your own home, Councillor! If you will excuse me," Greenwood gestured towards her daughter Letitia, and she and Jennifer exchanged a farewell bow. Jennifer breathed a sigh of relief once the President was out of the area. She walked over to join Josephine, who seemed to be on her third glass of wine already.

"I know you don't want to be here Josie, but you shouldn't overdo it."

"Your country is a fascist dystopia," slurred Josephine, "but you make good wine."

"It's imported," a passing member of Greenwood's Cabinet remarked. Jennifer glared at the woman, who she didn't know. The woman bowed her head in deference to Jennifer's superior position, but Jennifer thought she caught just a hint of bitterness in the gesture. She ignored it. Most of the other Councillors wouldn't.

"Hey, Sonja, remember this one? From the wedding?"

Jennifer pricked up her ears to listen to the music that had started playing, and sure enough it was one played at their wedding reception. Kerlile banned foreign songs with lyrics, but instrumental music wasn't restricted. A visibly drunk Josephine grabbed a hold of Jennifer's arm and dragged her onto the dancefloor.

The pair swayed from side to side, and Jennifer became aware of something wet on her shoulder. Josephine was crying as they danced.

"Tell me it's not real," Josephine whispered.

"I wish I could, I really do. I am so sorry."

"You had to join the Council? No other way?"

"No, I wish there had been."

"Then make it count."

Suddenly, Josephine pulled away, and Jennifer realised all of a sudden that Josephine was not nearly as drunk as she had been acting.

Josephine spun away from Jennifer and towards President Greenwood, who was dancing nearby. She pulled out a knife from somewhere "“ how had she smuggled in a knife? She had been searched! "“ and pointed it towards Greenwood.

"NO!" Jennifer yelled and surged forward, pushing Greenwood out of Josephine's way. The whole room turned abruptly. The security guards suddenly all had their weapons trained on Josephine. President Greenwood sat on the floor. Jennifer stood, her arm bleeding where the knife had cut her. Josephine stood shaking in front of her, hand still on the knife.

"I see you've picked your side," Josephine said to Jennifer. The hurt and disappointment was evident in her voice.

"If you'd killed her, they would have..."

"I know. You still picked their side," Josephine shook her head, then dropped the knife to the floor. It clattered as it fell. The security guards pounced on Josephine and forced her to the ground. She didn't resist.

Someone was trying to tend to Jennifer's wound, but Jennifer pushed her away and ran out of the room into the courtyard behind the building. They were high up a hill, and Jennifer opened her mouth to scream but no sound came out. She collapsed to the ground in silence.

A figure came and sat down beside her. It was Rebecca Arnott, fellow Councillor. Rebecca put her arm around Jennifer.

"I will not pretend to know how you are feeling, but I can tell you this "“ you have saved countless lives tonight. If a Lauchenoirian had murdered our President, the consequences would have been... unimaginable. I do not want that. I hope one day we can have a better relationship with our neighbours, but I will need help."

Jennifer couldn't speak, but leaned against Rebecca's shoulder to cry.

"You are a hero, Jennifer," Rebecca said. "The people of Kerlile will never forget what you have done for us tonight."

Unidentified Kerlian Prison

Leonie Bennett glanced at Helena out of the corner of her eye. Helena appeared to be intently watching the screen. Leonie resisted the urge to grab the girl and shake some sense into her. Leonie silently turned her eyes back to the front. Myriam sat in the first row, eagerly mouthing along to the video. Leonie wanted to vomit.

On their second night in the prison, Helena had noticed that Myriam had been given a portion of fruit at dinner. Helena, who desperately wanted something other than porridge had asked her how she managed to acquire it.

"Oh, it's wonderful! Fruit is given to everyone in the film club! You should join."

"There's a film club in a prison?"

"After morning exercise, for the hour before lunch, we go and watch the film. Once you've been going for a week, you start getting fruit. But you have to pay attention every day! They'll give you a quiz at the end of the week. And every week it's a new film."

"Oh, let's do that Leonie!" Helena had suggested excitedly

"You realise this "˜film' is probably some kind of brainwashing thing, right? Why else would they want people to watch it?" Leonie had retorted.

"Oh, I don't care! Fruit, Leonie! It won't work on us anyway, we're too committed. We're not seven-year-olds like she was."

"You will find the film so interesting! There's a lot you're not taught in other countries!" Myriam had said.

"See? Propaganda," Leonie had said and turned to leave.

"Please? If you're not there with me, then it's so much more likely they'll hypnotise me somehow. You can keep watch!" Helena had begged.

"Fine, but when you're a little Kerlian zombie drone, don't say I didn't warn you."

As they sat now watching the film, Leonie felt that her every suspicion had been confirmed. The film was a repetitive loop of description of how wonderful life in Kerlile was, intertwined with examples of why all other countries were misogynistic evil places hell bent on oppressing women.

An example of a Lauchenoirian newspaper spreading "misogynist propaganda" came up on the screen as the voice described why this was proof of Lauchenoiria's ulterior motives. Leonie was rather disturbed to see that she remembered the headline. It was a real thing that had happened sometime last year. Her politics teacher had mentioned it in class as an example of a provocative headline. She shivered.

No, she reminded herself. This is just nonsense put forward by the Kerlians with no basis in fact. Resist their brainwashing, Leonie.

After the film, as the group headed to lunch, Myriam came up to Leonie and Helena.

"So, what did you think?"

"They actually made some good points," Helena said, with no hint of lying in her voice. Leonie shot the girl a sharp glance. "Oh, don't look at me like that Leonie. Is it so hard to believe they have a point?"

"They shot most of our people in Usera, executed a whole bunch more because they weren't well-behaved enough and then locked us up here for no good reason."

"Hey, I didn't say they were good, just that they kind of had a point."

This is not going to end well, Leonie thought.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by conterniasgloriousleader » Wed Aug 15, 2018 12:27 am

13.30
Cattaldad
Hebrosian Mountains
Conternia
August 8th

Ezra Griffiths carefully peered through the keyhole before opening the door to his small hovel, making sure no-one had snuck in. He knew it wasn't likely, but in his position you could never be too careful. He'd lost track of the days (weeks? Months?) since he fled the capital, abruptly booted from Mirrel House. He kept playing the events over and over in his head - Barrow telling him about the operation, him agreeing, the MCPD bombing; he'd known then that sanctioning the operation was a mistake, but before he could do anything about it, the next thing he knew there was a prominent academic missing, three CIS covert operatives dead in downtown Melissa City, a leaked file identifying all four operatives and tying them to Conternia, and press asking him what he knew and when he knew it. And he had no choice to but to say that, yes, he had sanctioned the operation, after publicly declaring neutrality, and yes, he had known it was dirty. That he hadn't known what the operation would involve, never would have agreed if he had, was immaterial. A whole career spent trying to be decent, to be honest, working his way through the ranks of the Conternian Social Democratic Party first as an activist then a Minister, always trying to embody Conternia's values: integrity, community, progress. It had all been undone by one mistake. He often grimaced to himself as he realised that it was precisely because he'd made people expect honesty of him that one dishonest act had been able to sink him. He'd had to get out once it became apparent his career was over, and so he'd come to the remotest place he knew: the town of Cattaldad in Conternia's infamously inaccessible Hebrosian Mountains. He'd stayed there in his younger days, meeting with activists for the rights of the indigenous mountain tribes, and new nobody would be looking for him there. And so he now lived a solitary life, going out only when absolutely necessary, showing his face and speaking as little as possible - he still remembered enough of the language to get by, not that e was having much opportunity to use it - and listening intently for word of what was going on in Lauchenoiria. Shaking his head and snapping out of his latest bout of melancholia, Griffiths, having seen there was nobody inside, gingerly opened the door and entered his new home. As put down the bag of food he had gone out to purchase from the market on the table, he noticed something that gave him a sharp intake of breath: lying on the counter, a brown paper package. Someone had been inside. Someone knows where he is. This was very bad. He walked slowly toward the counter and picked up the package, reading the words scrawled on the paper:
'Listen, then come to us'
Slowly, carefully, peering through any cracks he could find, Griffiths unwrapped the package. Inside were three items: a piece of paper, bearing an address, a blank CD, and a CD player. After a moment, he put the tape into the player. After a crackle of static, voices became audible. The quality was rough, but he quickly realised that these were voices he knew. As he listened, his eyes went wide and his jaw dropped.


One day earlier
Mirrel House
Kiwi Bird City
Conternia

"As we approach these talks, we are firm in our commitment to peace in Lauchenoiria". Etan Bloomberg tried to keep his impression inscrutable as he addressed a crowd of reporters outside Mirrel House for the second time in a matter of days. The announcement of peace talks in Sanctaria had came as a shock, and he was aware that this was not an eventuality Operation Counterpoint had been planning for. Nonetheless, an official line had been decided upon, and he was determined to seem in control as he laid it out to the world. "However, the situation being what it is, we believe that a complete military withdrawal is not realistic or desirable at this point. Thus, we intend to maintain a military presence - a limited one, but a strong one - in the country going forward. Conternia's previous government helped make this awful conflict worse, so we feel it right to take on some responsibility for its recovery. We believe in Lauchenoiria, we believe in Conternia, and we believe in free minds, free eyes, and free people! That is all, thank you". The crowd erupted into questions at that, but Bloomberg walked away from the podium before he could make out any of them. He nodded to his two bodyguards, who flanked him as he walked back into the house. Almost as soon as he walked through the door, he heard his phone ring. Taking it out of his pocket, he saw the number and quickly ducked into the bathroom to answer it after locking the door.
"Hello?"
Donna Barrow's voice sounded from the other end of the line.
"Great speech. I liked the part about your commitment to peace in Lauchenoiria, almost sounded like you believed it."
He laughed bitterly. "I do believe it. What's going on? Are we shifting strategies with regards to the talks? I thought it was settled that we argue for a continued post-conflict presence to aid the peace process, control the redevelopment of infrastructure"
"Yes, but it couldn't hurt us to have a contingency plan"
His brow furrowed
"A contingency plan? What do you mean?"
"Well, let's be honest, your strategy is going to prove contentious. Most nations want this over with and will worry that keeping your troops around will drag it out. I'm simply letting you know that I've got something in place if things don't go our way."
"And what is that, exactly?"
"A sniper two rooftops away ready to blow away every Lauchenoirian representative in the room, in an apparent attack by communist hold-outs. Set the whole thing right back to square one." She paused, then added
"If worse comes to worse"
Bloomberg breathed deeply, let himself mentally get used to the idea, then spoke.
"Is this line secure?" He asked.
Barrow snorted
"A little late for that, isn't it? But yes, it is"
But it wasn't quite so secure as they thought. For, hundreds of miles away in a Lauchenoirian outhouse, the call was being listened to by someone Barrow had left for dead. Helen Blunt turned to the Lauchenoirian hacker who was tapping the call.
"Are you getting all that?"
"Yep.", he responded. "Every word."
"Is there any way I could get a manual copy of the recording?"
"Sure, for a price."
Blunt rolled her eyes but continued.
"And would you have a way of getting that recording transported somewhere?"
"You know I do. Where do you have in mind?"
"Conternia. I'll get you the address later." She turned to leave, then turned back. "Thanks for helping me. I might be about to save the world with this recording."

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Aug 16, 2018 6:26 pm

Council of Kerlile Chamber

"Ms Alvarez will be tried according to Kerlian law," insisted Anita Patel.

"You promised me that Josie would be allowed to leave Kerlile if she chose," Jennifer begged.

"This is no longer a question of politics, Councillor Hale. This is a question of legality, and we cannot just flaunt the rules because of her relationship to you," argued Carmen Robinson. "In fact, with all your talk of democracy and "˜civil rights', I'm surprised you would ask us to."

Caught in their trap, and frustrated that they were using her own values against her, Jennifer stormed out of the chamber in a huff. She sat down on one of the benches next to a statue of her great-grandmother.

Jennifer had saved President Greenwood. Jennifer was not sure why. She tried to tell herself it was only instinct, or she was trying to save Josephine from the even worse punishment she'd have faced if she'd succeeded. Truthfully, though, she wasn't sure. And she knew that Josephine now hated her, she'd seen it in Josephine's eyes as she'd been dragged away.

Jennifer Hale had spent most of her life using the name Sonja, and for that period she had hated the Council just as much as the real Sonja Viratnen might have if she'd lived. Now she was back, and she felt like she'd just slipped back into her old life. It had been so easy to be different when she had been abroad. It wasn't so easy when surrounded by the memories of her family's past.

Josephine was being held in a standard Kerlian criminal prison, which was in some ways better than the political institutions, and in some ways worse. Letitia Greenwood had come up to her at the party after Josephine's attempt on her mother's life.

"Your little pet Lauchenoirian can either be placed with the rest of her ilk from the war or tried as a Kerlian. Your choice."

Jennifer knew where they'd take Josephine if they put her with the rest of the Lauchenoirian POWs. She was hardly a prime brainwashing candidate. "If it's a choice between acting like a good little Kerlian and vanishing into some hellhole... then I hope you'll do the decent thing and kill me gently."

If Josephine faced a Kerlian trial for attempted murder or assassination, she'd likely be executed. Jennifer couldn't face either prospect. But, she knew that if Josephine vanished beyond the Gates, she'd never get her out again. If Josephine faced a trial, there would be more opportunities for Jennifer to try something.

Jennifer stood up and, avoiding looking at the statue, walked over to the room where the Council's dedicated civil servants catered to the Councillors' every whim. As soon as she entered, one woman rushed over and stood in front of her, looking at the floor and indicating her willingness to serve. Jennifer noted with alarm that she didn't find the move as embarrassing as she had when she'd first returned.

"Where are you keeping the Lauchenoirians undergoing the brainwa... I mean, the re-education programme?"

"They are divided across seven facilities, Councillor Hale. I can provide you with a list, ma'am."

"Yes, fetch it immediately."

The woman scurried off and Jennifer glanced around the room. It looked like a standard office, apart from everyone bowing their heads in respect when she passed. Jennifer knew that these women had probably all carried out terrible deeds under the orders of the Council, but Jennifer couldn't help feeling a bit sorry for the women working there. She knew if they did anything other than obey completely, they'd probably end up dead and their families imprisoned.

"I have the list, Councillor!" the woman called, scurrying back.

"Thank you," Jennifer said, taking the paper.

"You are most welcome," replied the woman, surprised. Council members did not usually thank their office staff.

Jennifer read through the list, and selected the nearest. She went outside to where her driver was waiting. She told him the address and then sat in the back of the car. They drove through the streets of Grapevale, and Jennifer watched everyone scurry out the way as the Council branded car passed through. Soon, they were five miles south of the city.

Jennifer exited the vehicle and went over to the gates.

"I demand to see several of the Lauchenoirians being held here."

"Councillor!" the woman on guard said, looking a mix of horrified and terrified. "Of course, I'll... I'll... um..."

"Make arrangements?"

"Yes, of course!" the woman bowed and hurriedly picked up a phone, almost dropping it in her haste. Jennifer held herself in the manner of a Council member, hoping that if she acted the part, nobody would dare question her motives.

"You may enter," the woman said, bowing again and pressing a button. Another guard held a doorway in the gate open and Jennifer passed through, trying not to roll her eyes. Nobody searched her on the way in, nobody dared. She made a note of that fact.

"Councillor Hale! It is an honour to have you visiting our establishment," a woman who was clearly a high-ranking officer in the Kerlian Correctional System.

"I am here to inspect the programme prepared for the young Lauchenoirian women," Jennifer said. She didn't ask the woman her name. The woman would not expect it from a Councillor.

"Of course," the woman bowed slightly, "would you like to follow me?"

The pair, accompanied by two armed Kerlian guards, passed deeper into the prison. They walked along the ground floor, even though most of the facility was underground. They passed over a walkway that ran around above the canteen.

"Down there are those who have yet to voluntarily join our "˜film club'," the woman informed Jennifer, making quotation marks with her fingers around "˜film club'.

"When will you be starting phase two?" Jennifer asked, both relieved and annoyed that she still remembered how the programme worked.

"Tomorrow," the woman said, "we've had quite a high uptake, but some of this lot have been... stubborn. We believe only sixty percent will successfully respond to phase two. The rest will be taken back to the labour camp in the restricted zone with group two."

"Do you know how group two are progressing?"

"The last report I heard was that around seventeen are still holding out, but most of them have begun to comply. We have increased our... persuasive techniques on the hold-outs, but I am no expert in the activities of the restricted zone, ma'am."

Jennifer resisted the urge to order the woman to not let a single one of the people below them end up in the restricted zone. She knew the Council would find out, and if she wanted to help these people, she'd have to play the game a little longer.

"Would you like to see the members of the "˜film club'?"

"Yes, I would. How far along are they?"

"We have a Maximusian girl who has been here for a number of years, and she is proving effective in encouraging more members to join. She was placed in this facility in order to increase success in phase one."

"Knowingly or unknowingly?"

"The latter. She is an avid believer in Kerlile. Her genuine belief makes her persuasive efforts more successful. There are several Lauchenoirians already close to completion. One Lauchenoirian girl is already voluntarily reporting all the anti-Kerlian statements her cellmate makes."

"Is the cellmate down there now?"

"No, she is also in the "˜film club', but it's taking a lot longer to work on her. Unless she begins to respond soon, she will be moved to the phase two group. There are several more like her."

Kerlian Prison, south of Grapevale

Leonie finished counting to one hundred in French and began in German. She wasn't even nearly fluent in either language, but it meant she had to concentrate more than if she'd counted in English or Spanish. And the more she concentrated on the counting, the less she concentrated on the propaganda film.

There was no clock in the room, but Leonie knew from experience that the hour was almost up. Helena next to her had joined Myriam in eagerly staring at the screen. Leonie had been trying to counter the propaganda to Helena when they were in their cell, but Helena was starting to sound more Kerlian by the day.

The film ended, and the group began to stand up, when one of the Kerlian guards walked in and gestured everyone to sit back down. This was unusual, and Leonie started to feel a little worried.

"We have someone visiting this institution today who wishes to see you. Throughout the duration of this visit, you will not speak unless spoken to. You will not make eye contact with our guest. You will not move from your seat. Any deviation from these instructions and you will be shot."

Leonie was now incredibly curious. The Kerlians were normally not quite so brazen with their death threats. She joined the others in staring at her knees in their identical rows. As the guest entered, she couldn't help but try and look.

She couldn't see above the guest's waist without moving her head, and by this point there were about twelve guards, all with their guns trained on them.

"You may look up, I wish to see your faces," came a familiar voice. Leonie's head shot up, heedless of the danger. The rest of the group raised theirs slower. Leonie looked up at Sonja Alvarez, dressed in the Council of Kerlile robes Leonie recognised from the propaganda film.

Myriam squeaked and bowed in her seat. Helena excitedly copied the gesture, along with some of the others. Sonja glanced over the crowd. When she reached Leonie, her eyes went wide. Leonie's expression mirrored it. The two stared at each other briefly, both like animals caught in headlights.

"Councillor? Is this prisoner distressing you?" one of the guards asked, pointing her weapon at Leonie's head.

"No, sorry, I... thank you for having me, I must go now," Sonja said, running out the room.

Resistance HQ, Elopolis

"We have important information," said one of the students.

"We are about to attend peace talks, this better not be something that would jeopardise them," Victoria Juárez pointed out.

"No, it won't. In fact, I'm not quite sure what it means for us, but I think you should have it."

"What is it?" Laura Moore asked.

"We intercepted an email from Yousef Chaher using his university email to contact his flatmate. He sent some black ops guy into Carville to deliver a blood sample for his flatmate to analyse. We believe it to be taken from his father."

"Suleman Chaher's blood? And this interests us how?" Juárez asked.

"The results of the tests. We let the flatmate carry out the tests, and the results imply that Suleman Chaher did not die as a result of his wounds. In fact, Suleman Chaher was poisoned. I have a copy of the results here."

The entire room fell into a stunned silence. Eventually Laura Moore reached over and took the piece of paper off the student. She read through it, even though she didn't understand enough of the science for it to make sense.

"By who?" she asked eventually.

"We don't know."

"Who had access?"

"We don't know."

"Was it one of us?"

"Not as far as I know," Juárez said.

The silence returned, until Laura Moore spoke.

"We absolutely have to find out."

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Aug 17, 2018 8:41 pm

Somewhere in Kerlile

Camino Arreola had decided that bucket lists were silly. Their opposite, however, was well justified. Arreola had three things in his life he definitely never wanted to do: get shot, eat a spider and visit Kerlile. At least, he thought, he hadn't eaten any spiders yet. That he knew of.

They had arrived in Kerlile a week ago, and immediately been split into five groups that Arreola thought corresponded to perceived strength. Due to his wound, he was in a group of distinctly weak looking men. His group was bundled into the back of a van and driven across the country, to a place that looked distinctly how Arreola had always imagined a labour camp would look.

From what he'd managed to overhear, and after his group were placed with another group, the Kerlians had taken Usera and almost everyone was dead or imprisoned. Rumours ranged from imminent peace to a complete Kerlian takeover of Lauchenoiria. The Usera group said that all the women had been taken first, and their group of men had been left without any food for three days.

From his own experiences, Arreola believed every word. He wondered where all the women were, and if they were going through better, worse or just about the same. He thought about all the people he'd known in Usera. The thought that most of them were now dead hadn't quite hit him, although that could be down to his constant exhaustion.

The Kerlians provided the prisoners with just enough food to enable them to work, but little enough that Arreola felt constantly hungry. Some Kerlian mathematician had probably spent her whole career trying to calculate that exact amount. Arreola fantasised about tracking her down. After a nap and a good meal.

When Arreola had first arrived in Kerlile, he had tried refusing to obey the Kerlians, along with the majority of the others. The Kerlians had convinced most of them that this course of action was not smart. Arreola did not allow himself to think of the events of the start of this week. If he did, he would start shaking uncontrollably, and then the Kerlians would punish him.

He could feel his spirit breaking inside him, and tried to hold out against it, but the rumours he heard didn't help. The Kerlians had conquered all of Lauchenoiria, they had been abandoned by the rest of the IDU, the Kerlians had filed all their names on a list of dead people so they'd never be released. He knew that it was just as likely to be Kerlian propaganda designed to remove all their hope than anything true.

It still chipped away at all his hope slowly but surely. He didn't know how much longer it would be before he was broken completely.

Sophiehill, Kerlile

The town of Sophiehill in Kerlile was about three miles to the west of the Gates of Hell. It was the closest town to the restricted region, and its inhabitants were generally much more aware of the dangers of disobedience than the rest of the population.

Cathy Wilson lived in Sophiehill with her husband Marcus and their three children, Katie, Maggie and Arthur. She worked as a teacher in the local boys' junior school, where young boys were taught about their role in Kerlian society. She knew deep down that her job was to teach propaganda to kids who would never have a chance at a decent life. She would push this thought out of her head and continue.

Her husband worked in the local factory, along with almost all of the men in the town. He worked long hours and she rarely had the chance to see him. Men were generally required to work seven days a week in Kerlile, unlike the women who had four or five-day weeks. Her son was still in her school, and her chest would tighten whenever she thought of him growing up. She would push that thought out as well.

For most Kerlians, the war in Lauchenoiria was just the latest mission to bring feminism to the misogynist outer world shown on the news. For the residents of Sophiehill, it was much more of an annoyance.

The prisoner convoys would pass through the town at all hours on their way to the restricted region. Sometimes, it would only be the engines that disturbed their peace, but often someone inside would be screaming and yelling out various threats. Cathy's thoughts on this were mostly along the lines of: can't they gag the prisoners, or I wish someone would teach the Lauchenoirians that Kerlile isn't in the WA.

One Saturday, she was walking with her kids towards the river a mile or so out of town, where Arthur wouldn't have to worry so much about accidentally making eye contact with someone. They were walking along a footpath, and had almost come upon the rarely-used road to the restricted region, when one of the convoys came along. She made the kids stop a safe distance away.

"Look, mum!" called Maggie, pointing at the back of one of the vans. The door was hanging open. Suddenly, a woman jumped out of the van and rolled along the ground a little. She then stood up and started to run. The entire convoy ground to a halt.

"Come on, let's go home," Cathy urged the kids. "Don't watch it."

The kids didn't listen. Their eyes were glued to the chase. The woman, her hands still bound, ran back west, as the Kerlian guards continued their chase.

"Why don't they just shoot her?" remarked Katie, who was thirteen and had already been through enough of the Kerlian school system to accept such things. Cathy suddenly felt an intense shame at the way she'd raised her kids.

"Come on, get away!" nine-year-old Maggie urged, but quietly. Arthur, six, grabbed his mother's hand.

The guards had almost reached the woman, who had begun to move in a visibly desperate manner. Suddenly, the woman tripped and fell onto the road. The guards walked up and surrounded her. She rolled over and appeared to plead with them. One of the guards lifted up her weapon and pointed it at the woman's head. Cathy covered Arthur and Maggie's eyes, but Maggie shrugged her hand off. Cathy turned her head away as the shot rang out. A flock of birds flew away, startled, leaving only silence.

"Come on. No river today," Cathy said, herding her children back the way they came.

A few days later, she pushed away the thought, as she had done with so many things before.

Kerlian Prison, south of Grapevale

Leonie Bennett had never failed a test before. She was extremely proud of herself for failing this one.

"You should have paid more attention!" Helena informed her over dinner, savouring an apple she'd been given. Leonie kept her focus off the fruit. "I was really happy with my mark on the essay."

Leonie's essay on "Suggestions for countering misogynist propaganda about Kerlile" had consisted of the words "here's a suggestion: the Kerlian government could stop making every bad thing said about them true". One of the guards had ripped up the page in front of her and informed her she was no longer invited to "˜film club' sessions. She didn't care.

"You really have turned into a little Kerlian zombie drone," Leonie said to Helena, echoing her warning from when they first joined the film club.

"Have not," Helena insisted, "I have decided for myself that they have a point, after seeing both sides of the argument, from what I learned in Lauchenoiria and what I learned here."

"Keep telling yourself that, traitor," one of the other prisoners who had refused to join the film club said as she passed.

"You are the traitor, to your gender!" Helena called after her. The woman, who looked about 20, rolled her eyes but didn't respond.

Myriam came bounding over and sat next to Helena.

"They said my essay was especially good and that they would pass on one of my suggestions to the Ministry of Information," beamed Myriam to Helena and Leonie. Leonie lifted up her food and walked over to the table the woman had sat at, leaving Myriam and Helena to praise Kerlian propaganda to their hearts' content.

"Fed up of sitting at the zombie drone table?" the woman remarked.

"You have good hearing," Leonie said.

"It's a very apt description. Caroline," she said, holding out her hand.

"Leonie," Leonie said, shaking it.

"You from Usera? I was taken prisoner during the battle in Nuevo Baeza, but you look too young. No offence."

"I'm from Buttercity, but I was taken in Usera, yeah. And I'm eighteen, not a kid."

"Close enough that your parents are probably terrified out of their minds right about now thinking about what became of their little girl."

Leonie looked down at the mention of her parents and tried to bite back tears. Caroline softened her voice.

"Hey, I'm sorry. This is a bad situation, I get through them by switching off my emotions and forgetting they exist. I shouldn't assume others have."

"I'm fine, I just..."

"Wish you'd never got involved in all this? Yeah, I get that. My twenty-first birthday was yesterday, at least I think, and this is not how I envisioned spending it."

"Happy birthday," Leonie said.

"Birthday anyway, nothing much to be happy about in here."

Leonie opened her mouth to respond when one of the guards cleared her throat to demand the attention of the prisoners. Both Leonie and Caroline turned towards her.

"All members of the film club will return to their cells immediately. All other persons will remain here until their name is called."

"You better go," Caroline said.

"I got kicked out," Leonie replied.

"Really?" Caroline looked impressed. "And they didn't send you off to some labour camp for whatever you did?"

"Not yet anyway."

"Brave kid," Caroline remarked.

"Elena Ibáñez!" the guard called. A tall woman who had been sitting alone in a corner stood and walked over to the guard with her arms folded. As she passed Caroline and Leonie, she winked at the pair.

About half an hour later, the guard returned.

"Leonie Bennett!"

"Good luck with... whatever happens," Caroline said.

"Thanks," Leonie said, suddenly much more nervous than she had been when she wrote the "˜essay'.

She was handcuffed once more, and led down a series of corridors she hadn't been through before. The prison was much larger than she had initially thought. She wondered where she was being taken. Eventually, she was told to enter a room. The handcuffs were removed, and the door locked behind her.

It was dark inside the room, and Leonie's first thought was that the Kerlians were going to leave her here to die alone in the dark. But then, all of a sudden, a light was switched on. Leonie blinked in the brightness. The room was about two square metres and contained nothing but a single chair.

"Please take a seat, Ms Bennett," a voice came from somewhere. Leonie nervously did as she was instructed.

"Welcome to phase two."

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Aug 19, 2018 11:29 pm

Liaville, Aeluria

Esmee Douglas cradled her mug of coffee and shivered. She had battled through the storm to the Moles house, but the rain had seeped through her layers and the air was hot and humid to an almost unbearable extent. Alejandra Moles sat in the corner, staring out the window. Her husband Cornelio stood in the corner yelling in Spanish down the phone. Esmee deliberately didn't try and translate it. She didn't really want to know.

"After the war," he said in accented English as he slammed the phone down. "Always "˜after the war'." He sat down, dejected.

"Surely they can't keep fourteen-year-olds locked up for no reason?" Emsee asked, already knowing the answer. They'd had this conversation before.

"They say they are being kept in "˜protective custody' until the situation on the island changes."

"Why must you go through this again and again?" Alejandra said suddenly, spinning around to stare accusingly at her husband. "They will not change their minds. I bet it was that Laeralite boy. He was a bad influence."

"Nothing like a bit of xenophobia to solve a problem," Esmee said, her voice dripping in sarcasm. She'd always had a poor relationship with Carlito's mother. Alejandra was a traditionalist, and Esmee had brought up Fergie in a very... untraditional manner. The look Alejandra gave her now could have killed.

"Why are you always in my house?"

"Esmee is here because her daughter is in exactly the same situation as our son," Cornelio stated in a voice that implied it was not up for debate.

"Between her daughter and that Laeralite, it is no wonder Carlito is in this mess! Nunca deberí­a haberle permitido ser amigo de ella.

The sudden switch to Spanish caught Esmee off guard and she missed what Alejandra said.

"Look, I think I should go..." Esmee began.

"No, you don't have to do that," said Cornelio.

"Yes, please do," said Alejandra.

"¿Mamá?" came Marcos' voice.

"Esmee, don't go anywhere. ¿Por qué estás siendo tan grosero?"

"¡Es su culpa que nuestro hijo haya desaparecido!"

"Eso es una tonterí­a! Nunca te ha gustado Fergie."

"¿Mamá?

"Listen, I think I should go..."

"¡Siempre te pones de su lado! ¿No me amas más?"

"¡Claro que te amo! ¡Eso no quiere decir que tengas razón!"

"¡Mamá!" yelled Marcos, his voice echoing above the din of the argument. "Look at the TV!" he switched to English and pointed at the screen the three adults had been ignoring.

On the TV, a news report showed some Lauchenoirian Navy ships moving. It took Esmee a few moments to notice the headline: "˜Aelurian blockade ends as peace beckons'. Alejandra reached over and turned up the volume.

"... in preparation for peace talks in Sanctaria. This will come as a great relief to the inhabitants of Aeluria, where supplies have been running low since the start of this month. While the Lauchenoirian government are still exercising some control over the comings and goings on the island, all will welcome the supplies headed to the island and the release of those in custody for unauthorised attempts to pass through the blockade."

Alejandra squealed in joy and hugged her husband and her younger son. Esmee breathed a sigh of relief and felt like a weight had been lifted off her. Alejandra broke from her hug and awkwardly offered her hand to Esmee. Esmee shook it.

"I am sorry," Alejandra said. It sounded slightly forced, but Esmee bowed her head slightly in acknowledgement regardless.

"Does this mean Carlito is coming home?" asked Marcos.

"Yes, my son, yes it does!" Alejandra beamed.

Chaher Residence

Yousef Chaher sat in his father's large country house, in his father's office, reading through his father's papers. His brother was away at the Aelurian blockade, playing at establishing peace, even though a few weeks earlier he'd remarked to Yousef that they should just "˜bomb the s*** out of Aeluria and be done with it'. His mother was with her sister, distraught over her husband's death.

The house felt oppressive to Yousef, which he found rather fitting. His grandparents had refused to set foot inside, even though they'd attended the private memorial service "“ after much begging on Yousef's part. They had refused point blank to attend the massive state funeral Charissa Clarke had insisted upon.

Yousef loathed Buttercity these days. His father and his allies had beefed up security in the city so much and arrested so many political dissidents that the city felt more like the home of a cult than the country's capital. Yousef had lived in the city in his teenage years, though had drifted apart from the friends he'd had there. He was dismayed to find a couple of them on a list of his father's political prisoners.

He had begun the arduous task of sifting through all his father's documents in an attempt to discover who had killed him. The task was made harder by his reluctance to enlist any help. He was too scared. He didn't know who to trust, and the fact that all the factions weren't blaming each other worried him. In fact, the official position of pretty much all the factions in the war was that the death was caused by Leanna Walker's bullet.

He understood the logic in taking this position. It made Clarke's government seem like they had done all they could to save him. It made the Resistance seem victorious, they had slain the monster who started the war. It meant all the various foreign armies could claim it was nothing to do with them. The problem was: it wasn't true.

Yousef mourned his father, but he wasn't quite sure if he mourned Suleman Chaher, Prime Minister. Nevertheless, he was determined to get to the bottom of the cause of death.

Kerlian-Occupied Usera

Olivia Quirós wished she'd never been born. Not in the sense of an angry teenager screaming it at their parents, but in the purest, true sense. She attached no emotion to the statement, she just acknowledged that her life would have been better if it had never been at all.

She felt no shame at her actions, not any more. What good would shame do, when nobody cared? She felt no fear at her situation, because if she had, the sheer amount of it would have killed her stone dead. She felt no hope, because she knew it was pointless. Olivia ate, slept and breathed, but in every way that counted, she was already dead.

A Kerlian walked past her cell and Olivia looked up. The Kerlian stopped and stared at her. She returned the gaze.

"Who are you again?" the Kerlian asked.

"Olivia Quirós," Olivia said.

"Oh, the one who kept switching side. They still not decided what to do with you?"

The Kerlian's accent was different from those of the officers Olivia had spoken to before. She had little experience of Kerlians, but she figured this one to be more working class than Major Littlewood.

"Apparently not."

"If it was up to me, I'd just shoot you and be done with it," the Kerlian said, her voice sounding like she was discussing no more than what to eat for dinner.

"Do it," Olivia said, echoing the Kerlian's tone.

"Can't," she shrugged.

"So that's that."

"That's that."

As the Kerlian left, she felt a small bit of pity for Olivia Quirós, who clearly no longer had any desire to live. As she left, she passed Littlewood.

"Well? How is the prisoner?" Littlewood asked.

"She no longer seems to care if she lives or dies."

"Well, we can't have that. Send her across the border, to the restricted region. No point in having her here, eating food and being useless."

Littlewood left, and the Kerlian walked around the corner to where a group of enlisted women were standing.

"Prep the transport!" she called to them. "Another one for beyond the gates of hell."

Kerlian Criminal Prison

If Josephine Alvarez ever got out of this alive, she was going to write a comparative guide to prison food. The food in Ginsap tasted of cardboard, the Kerlians' torture dungeon of vomit, and the Kerlians' normal prisons of rotting eggs. She'd never been a big fan of eggs.

A tall Kerlian slid into a seat across from Josephine.

"What you here for?" she said in a strong working-class Kerlian accent. The difference to how Jennifer spoke was so noticeable, Josephine wondered how Jennifer had ever fooled her into believing in Sonja Viratnen.

"Tried to assassinate your President," Josephine said, hoping that it would intimidate the woman somewhat. She'd learned quickly that most of the people in Kerlian criminal prisons were rather violent to those perceived as weak.

"Wait, you actually did that? Thought that was just an excuse to stick you in here with us lot instead of with the POWs."

"And why would they do that?"

"You're Jennifer Hale's wife, you should know."

Josephine groaned inwardly. She'd been hoping the other prisoners had no idea who she was.

"No, I'm not, your government says our marriage isn't valid."

The woman let loose a stream of laughter that echoed around the canteen.

"You foreign politicians, you're exactly like what the propaganda says! You twist anything and everything to suit your aims! Oh, this is hilarious!"

"Uh, huh."

"So, you know why you're here with us," the woman said.

"Because I tried to assasi..."

"Of course not! If a Kerlian tried to assassinate Joanna Greenwood she'd be in some torture chamber right now. I tell you, you're damn lucky you're here. Well, for now. And what is it with Lauchenoirian politicians-turned-assassins?"

"I don't..."

"First Leanna Walker and now you. What? You think we don't hear news here? Honey, your government loves their propaganda about us just as much as ours does about yours. But back to your reason for being here. You really don't know?"

"I don't really want..."

"So, a Lauchenoirian citizen tries to kill Joanna Greenwood, and ends up in this place instead of some hole in the ground. Why? Well, for starters, she's married to Jennifer Hale. And the Council needs Jennifer Hale. If her beloved was to vanish, Jennifer Hale might not be so cooperative. So, Josephine Alvarez has to be kept relatively okay."

"Look, can we not..."

"Kerlile has four kinds of prison. Criminal facilities, like this one, labour camps like the ones most of your pals from Usera will be in, "˜alternative education' facilities and then the ones we don't talk about. I believe you know what I mean. So, to keep our esteemed Councillor Hale happy, you can't vanish off into a hole or a labour camp. You're clearly not going to defect, and so logically you must end up here."

"I'm not going to..."

"And besides, they're going to try their hand at peace talks. And peace talks frequently end in an exchange of POWs. If you're not classed as a POW, then..." the woman raised her eyebrow to imply something terrible would happen.

"I don't want to listen to this."

"Of course you don't! You're a coward, like all Lauchenoirians."

"Goodbye."

"Aww, don't go!" the woman called after her as she scurried off to another table. "It's unusual I get to speak with someone of your position."

"Don't mind her," came a voice from behind a pillar. Josephine peered around it. A small Kerlian with a scar across her face stood there. The scar seemed fresh. "They're bribed by the guards to torment the politicals."

"Is that what I am?"

"We don't get many here, at least not ones that are known. Trisha, the woman who you just spoke with, used to be a shining example of Kerlian discipline... until she was caught kidnapping little boys from the government education camp to be her own personal slaves."

"Jesus, that's terrible!"

"It's even worse when you consider that the slavery thing played no part in the trial. It was solely about stealing government property."

The two women stood in silence for a moment. Josephine felt rather sick.

"Why are you here?" she asked eventually.

"So about ten years ago, my neighbour reported my husband to the authorities for anti-Kerlian activities. He'd taught our son that he was worth as much as our daughter. That was all. So, they came for him, and the kids. He ended up in a labour camp, I don't even know if he's still alive. I don't even know about the kids.

"Oh my god, I am so sorry."

"So about three years ago now, I'd almost got over it. You have to, here, or you end up in some such place yourself. And then I overheard the same neighbour discussing with her friend about how she'd "˜taken down' her "˜snotty neighbour a peg or two' seven years ago by having her husband sent to a labour camp. I just... lost it. I didn't mean for it to go so far, but by the end they were both dead."

The woman was shaking now, and Josephine was sorry she'd asked.

"I didn't even try and run, I was so shocked. I just sat there, and eventually the police arrived. They didn't make the connection with my husband, else I'd have ended up past the Gates. And so, I ended up here."

"Sorry, what are the "˜Gates'?"

"Gates of Hell. A pair of mountains that mark the start of the restricted region, an area populated entirely by female political prisoners and their guards. Referred to as "˜hell' by most Kerlians, even though the government has banned the term. It's one of the few laws they don't generally enforce. Has more mineral resources than the rest of the country, so they built a bunch of labour camps there. It's also where... interrogations take place."

"What about the male prisoners?"

"There's other labour camps."

"Is there anyone with a job in this country that's not in a labour camp?"

"Of course! There's tons of other jobs... police officer, labour camp guard, interrogator... um..." the woman pretended to forget. Josephine snorted with laughter.

"So, was... Trisha?" Josephine tried, the woman nodded. "Was Trisha right? Am I only here so the Kerlians can keep me longer and play games with Jennifer?"

"Look, I don't want to give that woman any credit, but..."

"... but she's probably right?"

"Yeah. Sorry."

Kerlian "˜Alternative Education' Camp

Leonie Bennett refused to eat. She sat at a table with Caroline. Helena and Myriam were on the other side of the room. Every so often, Helena would glance over at Leonie with a worried expression. The last signs that she'd once been human before they turned her into an obedient zombie drone.

Caroline, Leonie and some of the others from the "˜phase two' programme were staging a hunger strike. This was partly a political protest, and partly a direct result of what phase two entailed.

Two days earlier...

After being left in the room for about an hour, another Kerlian had come in, and taken her through another door into another, larger room. This had confused Leonie, which she supposed was the point. In the second room was another solitary chair, this one with a bunch of straps for wrists, ankles and a seatbelt. Leonie had stepped back from the chair.

Two Kerlians had grabbed her from behind at that point, and dragged her towards the chair. Natural human survival mechanisms had kicked in, and she's struggled against them, to no avail. They forced her into the chair, and strapped her in so tight she was worried there would not be enough oxygen getting to her hands and feet.

The two Kerlians who had forcibly moved her stood at either side, while a third one sat on a normal chair across from her and smiled a false smile.

"Leonie! How are you doing?" she said in a false friendly tone. Leonie chose not to answer. That was her first mistake. At the flick of a wrist from the woman, one of the guards sprayed a puff of water onto Leonie's face.

Oh, so the time for friendly "˜film clubs' has passed, she thought. A creeping fear began to fill her. She tried not to let it show.

"I will ask you once more, Leonie. How are you doing?"

"Not great," Leonie answered.

"I'm sorry to hear that. Perhaps we can work on that in these sessions? Tell me, Leonie, what do you like to do for fun?"

Leonie was rather confused by the Kerlian tactics. The question seemed relatively harmless, and pointless, but still she felt like she shouldn't answer it. The guard with the water had other ideas.

"Stop it! I don't know! I... I guess I read books?"

"Books, that's good," the woman wrote something down. "Any particular type of books?"

"Sci-fi, I guess," Leonie said warily.

"I'll see what we can find. Now, let's discuss targets. It is the wish of the Kerlian government that you grow to understand that we only want what is best for women, and that your government has taught you otherwise in order to keep you subversive to men."

"Yeah, this didn't work with the films and it's not going to work with..." Leonie trailed off as she realised she didn't quite know what the Kerlians were going to do.

"Not everyone learns visually. Some people require more active stimulation."

Okay, Leonie thought, that doesn't sound scary at all.

The woman signalled one of the guards again, and Leonie braced. No water came, and one of the guards unstrapped her wrists. She opened her eyes carefully. The woman stood in front of her with a stack of cards.

"On these cards are twelve different statements. Some of them are true and some are false. I want you to sort them into two piles. If you get them correct, you will earn a reward. If you do not do the task properly, you will be penalised."

Leonie took the cards hesitantly off the woman. Should she comply? If she did, then of course things would go much better for her. But at the same time, that was letting the Kerlians win. She deliberately dropped the cards on the floor and smirked at the woman. She sighed, the way a teacher would with a misbehaving pupil.

"I'm sorry you feel that way Ms Bennett," she said, gesturing to the guards. Leonie noticed how she's switched from using her first name.

The guards unstrapped her from the chair and dragged her over to yet another door. They shoved her inside and slammed the door behind her, locking it. She tried to take a step forward but crashed into the wall. The room was dark except for the light coming from under the door, and was small enough that Leonie couldn't turn around.

Don't panic, she thought, that's what they want.

She must have been inside for about ten minutes when they let her out. She gasped in relief, and then immediately felt ashamed of the weakness she'd shown.

"Shall we try this again?" the woman said.

This time, Leonie had complied. When she'd finished sorting statements such as "Kerlile is the only country in the IDU where women are not considered inferior to men" into a pile marked "˜true' and statements such as "women in Kivasek are granted the same rights as men" into a pile marked "˜false', the woman spoke again.

"Well done, Leonie. But I'm afraid since you didn't complete it first time, you can't have your reward."

The whole "˜session' lasted about six hours and was filled with such tasks as the "˜true or false' card sorting, repeating sentences such as "women in Lauchenoiria are oppressed" over and over again about fifty times, and learning the Kerlian national anthem.

At the end of the session, the woman offered Leonie a choice.

"For your meal tonight, you can have a choice of foods. If you vote in our poll."

Leonie's heart had leaped at the start of the sentence, but she was wary.

"What poll?"

"Every day, at the end of your session, you will be given a list of names of the other inmates. We would like you to vote on which one you believe is the most hostile to Kerlile."

Leonie's heart sank right back down.

"And what happens to the person who is voted for?"

"It would be a waste of time trying to integrate such a person into Kerlian society," the woman said, but the implication was clear. The person would probably vanish off into a labour camp or end up being shot in the head, the Kerlians favoured style of execution. "So, Leonie, will you cast a vote?"

"I will not," Leonie said.

"That's a great shame. Perhaps you will change your mind tomorrow."

The woman left, and Leonie was led back to the canteen. This time, when she stood in the queue for food, she was handed a bowl covered in foil with her name on it.

"Anyone caught sharing their food with others will be sent to solitary confinement for four days!" one of the guards yelled to the queue.

Nervously, she walked over to a table, closely followed by Caroline.

"How was your "˜session'?" Caroline asked. Neither of them had removed the foil.

"Neither a great nor glorious mission," Leonie responded, mocking the line in the Kerlian national anthem that spoke of their great, glorious mission for womankind.

"I don't think I reached that part," Caroline said. "I never even finished the true or false nonsense."

"Really? There was a lot more," Leonie cast her eyes to the ground, feeling kind of guilty that she hadn't refused for longer.

"Nah, don't feel bad, their little "˜punishments' kept getting worse. I don't blame you for not wanting more of that. So... shall we?" Caroline gestured at their food. The pair both removed the foil at once.

Leonie's heart sank at the same time as she wondered just where the Kerlians had found such a good psychological profile for her. She was averse to getting her face wet, scared of small spaces and had a visceral hatred of cabbage, which is all that filled her bowl.

Caroline stared at the bowl like it might eat her, then pushed it to the other side of the table.

"Nope!" she said. Leonie lent over to look. It was filled with chilli peppers. "I cannot tolerate spicy food. Is that cabbage?"

"The last time I ate cabbage I vomited for two hours straight. I loathe it."

"I think that was the point," Caroline said glumly. It was the first time Leonie had seen her "˜everything is going to be okay' act falter. If she hadn't been worried before, she was now.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Aug 21, 2018 12:15 am

Kerlian Re-education Camp, Yesterday

"Why cabbage?" asked Jessica, the computer expert, as she slid onto the table next to Leonie and Caroline. She was followed by Rosa, who had been captured in southern Yervia attempting to deliver information to the Usera resistance from Elopolis. Rosa had a bruise on her face from when she'd really angered the Kerlian running her "˜sessions'.

"Makes me gag, don't know why. I'd rather starve than eat the stuff," Leonie shrugged. Her stomach rumbled as if in argument, but she was determined not to let the Kerlians see how much she wanted to snatch the apple out of Helena's traitorious hands at the other side of the room.

"Funny, I feel the same way about anchovies," Rosa said, plonking a bowl of them on the table.

"Two words: blue cheese," Jessica added, pushing her bowl up against Caroline's and Leonie's, which were in the middle of the table untouched.

"I am so hungry," complained Rosa, "that when I woke up, I kind of thought Myriam looked a bit tasty."

"Is this a kink thing or are you going to turn to cannibalism?" teased Caroline.

"Ewww, gross," Leonie wrinkled her nose. "Myriam can't help what she is."

"No, but your old pal Helena could," Jessica said, looking in their direction.

"She's just..." Leonie struggled to think of something to say, while resisting the urge to pour Rosa's anchovies into her mouth. They didn't disgust her nearly so much. But Elena Ibáñez had tried something similar the previous day. Elena Ibáñez had vanished. According to Myriam, Elena had been sent to the "restricted region". Leonie didn't want to know what that was.

"A traitor," Caroline finished. She was not very forgiving. "When we get out of here, we're not taking her."

"I doubt that will be our choice," Leonie said.

"Not if I have anything to say about it," Caroline said, lowering her voice. The other three leaned in closer.

"You have a plan?" Jessica asked.

"Today and yesterday, they took us all for the goddamned "˜sessions' at the same time, right? If that pattern continues, I think I can figure out a way that we can use it to escape."

"How?" Leonie asked.

"Not sure yet, give me three days and I'll either have something or let you know. You'll need to hold on until then. Can you do that?"

Leonie and Jessica both nodded. Rosa was staring at Leonie's cabbage with a wistful look. Jessica jabbed her in the ribs. The sight of it made Leonie's gunshot wound sting, it had been doing that since she stopped eating. She bit her tongue.

"Yeah, yeah I can," Rosa said, unconvincingly.

Elopolis, Today

Jae Chung hated computers. She never used to feel that way, but after so many days of watching the Resistance's computer people try and crack the encryption on the USB that she'd spent several months trying to deliver, she'd come around to that way of thinking.

"Are you sure there's anything on there?" she asked, exasperated.

"Yep, and something big, judging by how well it's protected," one of the guys answered after an excessively long pause.

"I am going for a walk," Jae said. She waited a few moments for an acknowledgement that never came, and then left. Since the agreement of peace talks, Elopolis had started to once more function in the manner of a normal city. The streets were filled with civilians out doing shopping and nothing in particular, rather than hiding in their houses.

A group of schoolchildren in uniforms ran across the path in front of her, giggling, which startled her. She'd forgotten schools should be going back this week. Seeing such a normal sight warmed her heart, while also making her even sadder. She wondered if such scenes would be happening in Gonhogian-occupied Annatown. Her home had never seemed so far away.

She walked south from the university, where they had commandeered a section of the computer science department. As she passed over the railway bridge, a train passed underneath. They were running again, so long as you didn't want to cross the lines. She could have boarded a train to Carville or Summersea as easily as in any other year, but her hometown was about as accessible to her as Grapevale, Kerlile.

She stood on the railway bridge, looking down the tracks eastward, towards where the Junta troops would still be lined up. They were far too many miles away to see, but even just knowing they were that much further down that direction gave Jae a sense of foreboding. She turned away.

Jae Chung's life hadn't been particularly easy. She'd lost her mother when she was young, and when she was only a little older her brother had started dealing drugs and drifted away from the family. She was used to loss, but as she walked through the streets of Elopolis she saw so many people mourning on a terrible scale.

She passed an elderly woman with two young children clutched to her, both crying and all dressed in black. They placed flowers at a spot on the road that seemed unremarkable, but Jae knew had been the scene of a small battle between some Junta holdouts when the Resistance took over the city.

Elopolis had fallen quickly and with a lot less death than many of the other cities. Jae didn't want to think about the others, especially her own.

"This is so messed up," she said to nobody in particular. "How did this even happen?"

Summersea

Felipe Moore looked at himself in the mirror, to check once more that he was alive. It was odd hearing the propaganda proclaiming his death. He'd always been the sort who tended to trust official broadcasts, and so hearing such obviously false statements created a sort of cognitive dissonance he was struggling to reconcile.

He picked up the phone once more. He put it down. He picked it up. He put it down.

Why was this so hard!? All he had to do was call his wife. He'd done it countless times before. And yet, he hadn't spoken to her in over three months. She probably believed him dead. He'd wanted to call her as soon as he'd found out she was in Elopolis. The Coalition had warned him against a trap. And now, with her location confirmed and peace on the horizon, he couldn't dial the number.

He picked up the phone. He forced himself to dial the number he'd been given. The line rang out.

"Hello?" came Laura's voice on the other end of the line. Felipe froze. "Hello?"

"H... hi Laura."

Silence.

"Laura?"

"No. No, this is a sick game, Clarke!"

"It's me, Laura, it's not a trick."

"My husband is dead, you snot-haired worm. I'll go to Sanctaria and talk to you because I'm a civilised human, unlike you, but if you keep playing these games..."

"Our children's names are Kelli and Jamey, which we already knew from the first time we met, because we both knew we wanted two kids, a boy and a girl, and we didn't want their names spelt some common way. I walked you to the top of the hill overlooking Buttercity, and you told me that I was the first man you met who cared more for nature than trying to impress a girl, and it was that which impressed you."

"You're dead," Laura whispered.

"We went back to that spot a little over a year later, when the sky was clear and we could see all the stars at night. I brought a bottle of rosé wine and two glasses, even though drinking in the woods is illegal and you were never one for breaking the law. And as the clock struck midnight I pulled out a ring..."

"Oh my god you're alive."

"... and I placed it on your finger and I looked into your eyes, but before I could speak, you brought out your own ring and asked me the same question I planned to ask you. And we both said "˜yes' at the same time and kissed for such a long time I don't know how we didn't both die of oxygen deprivation."

"Felipe, you're alive! Oh my god, you're alive! Oh Felipe, I... where are you? What happened? Why did Chaher say you were dead?"

"I'm in Summersea, have been this whole time. I don't know why they said that, it's been really weird to hear. I couldn't contact you, you'd vanished off the grid for so long..."

"Come to Elopolis! Please, I want to see you!"

"I will, if it's safe, I will."

"I love you, Felipe. And I am so, so sorry."

"I love you too. And what have you to be sorry for?"

"This! This would never have happened if..."

"If you'd let him win? If you'd let him treat this country as his own little playground with the population as his toys? You stood up for democracy. Never be sorry about that."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

Kerlian Re-education Camp, Today

Leonie Bennett's stomach growled so loud she was impressed the Kerlian next to her didn't cover her ears.

"Would you like to vote on who is the most anti-Kerlile inmate, Ms Bennett?" the woman asked. Leonie still didn't know her name. After the fourth day of endless, repetitive tasks, and no food, Leonie was struggling.

Caroline, she thought. Caroline's planning to escape. It's Caroline, Caroline, Caroline...

"N-no," she forced out.

"Are you quite sure? As a woman, you must know that standing up for the enemies of Kerlile only disadvantages you."

Why are you resisting this? A voice in Leonie's head said. Just tell them. It's Caroline, Caroline, Caroline...

"I... won't," Leonie said.

"I'm going to give you one more chance, Ms Bennett. Are you certain?"

No, you can't give them a name. You can't.
Wait, why? Why can't I?
I don't remember... they're bad, right?
Kerlile is a haven for women, who are oppressed in all other countries. So, they can't be bad? Wait, no, that statement goes in the "˜true' pile but it... isn't?
That doesn't make sense. Why am I resisting them if they only want to help?
No, that's not true. It's not, it's all a trick... they trick you. Resist, Leonie, resist it.
Why should I?
I don't remember! I don't remember!
Just tell them: it's Caroline.
No! I can't. Even if I don't remember why, I can't! I won't, I won't, I won't!


Leonie snapped out of her argument with herself.

"I won't! I won't, I won't, I won't," Leonie cried out, collapsing to the ground and sobbing, when a smell made her turn around. A Kerlian was holding, just out of reach, a slice of cake. Leonie lunged towards the cake, to find herself restrained.

"You can have it, all I need is the name of who you believe to be the most anti-Kerlian inmate."

CAROLINE! Leonie's inner voice screamed. Caroline, Caroline, Caroline! Just TELL them!

"No!" Leonie yelled while she still could. She shut her eyes and let out a scream of anguish. She sobbed, and when the hands holding her vanished, she collapsed in a heap in the floor. She was so hungry. She just wanted it to be over. But she couldn't tell them.

"Up!" commanded a Kerlian, pulling Leonie to her feet. Still sobbing, and in a bit of a daze, Leonie half-walked and was half-pushed back to the canteen. She was handed another bowl of cabbage that she even considered eating. But it wasn't just a question of her intense dislike, it was a question of resistance. And she would not eat what they gave her.

She collapsed next to her normal table and curled up in a ball on the floor, sobbing. Caroline and Jessica were already there.

"Hey, you okay?" Caroline asked. Leonie just sobbed.

"Still cabbage," Jessica commented.

"Not broken then," Caroline responded. Neither comment was addressed to Leonie. Caroline got up and knelt down beside Leonie. "Not much longer, hey? You're strong, L. You can do this, okay? Come sit up at the table."

Caroline spoke in the manner one might to a small, upset child. Leonie felt too weak to argue about it. She let Caroline give her a hand up and sat down on the bench alongside her. She leaned forward onto her arms.

"Hey, there's Rosa," said Jessica. Leonie didn't look up.

"Why's Rosa going to sit... oh hell," Caroline said sharply. Leonie still didn't move. She was so, so hungry. She heard Caroline leave the table and stamp over to Myriam and Helena's usual table.

"Rosa!? What did you do?" Caroline's voice echoed across the entire room. All conversations fell silent. Rosa spoke quietly but Leonie still heard.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't keep it up any longer. I'm sorry."

"Traitor," Caroline spat at Rosa and then turned and stormed back to sit by Leonie.

"What happened?" Leonie mumbled.

"Bitch gave them a name. Has some fancy meal over there at the zombie drone table. She's lost."

"Can't she look at a map?"

"Jesus, you're really out of it. You should probably eat some of the cabbage, if you can bear it."

"Won't."

"I get the defiance, I do, but if you go and give them a name tomorrow that's worse than breaking the hunger strike today."

"I..."

"Silence!" came a Kerlian voice and the room complied. Caroline lifted Leonie gently to an upwards position. "We are here to announce the results of the first four days. Following information gathered from various places, we have decided one of you is not suited for this programme."

"So soon?" Jessica breathed, the words quiet enough that they wouldn't go further than Leonie and Caroline's ears.

"That individual will be moved to a location more suitable for them to contribute to Kerlian society. We thank all of you who have assisted in our decision-making process. That individual is..."

The Kerlian paused, and in Leonie's muddled brain, she thought for a second that she was watching a reality TV show.

"Caroline Fowler."

Leonie's body stiffened as she turned to the woman next to her. Caroline had on a nonchalant expression, but there was a flicker of fear in her eyes.

"Stuff it," Caroline muttered, and lunged forward, throwing the bowl of chilli peppers at the Kerlian. The bowl smashed off the Kerlian's head, but she was wearing a helmet and seemed unhurt.

Two Kerlian guards moved towards Caroline but she moved out of their way. She made a beeline for where Rosa sat with a whole tray full of food, and snatched the tray. As a Kerlian approached her from behind, Caroline brought the tray down hard on the Kerlian's head. The second guard grabbed Caroline around the waist. She reached back with her arms and tried to grab the Kerlian's face.

"You're not going to do anything worse than what you already planned to do!" Caroline yelled as she struggled.

The Kerlian she'd whacked over the head stood back up, and helped the other drag Caroline to the door.

"Remember! This is Kerlile! Whatever they tell you, they're not good! Resist! Free Lauchenoiria! FREE LAU..."

The door slammed, cutting off her sentence. Leonie noted with equal parts horror and amusement that her appetite had disappeared.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Sanctaria » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:59 pm

"Prime Minister! Prime Minister" the chorus of reporters rang out as Charlene Hendry exited Government Manor and walked towards the podium placed about 10 feet on front of the large marble steps leading to the imposing double doors.

Hendry used to be nervous at press briefings, but that was over ten years ago when she first became leader of the Democratic Left Party and then-Leader of the Opposition. Now she was used to it. She knew all the reporters by name and was friendly with most of them.

"I'll take Joey Sessions from The Times", Hendry said quickly as soon as she reached the podium.

"Prime Minister, have all parties agreed to a ceasefire for the duration of the negotiations?"

"I have sought and received assurances from all factions that a ceasefire will be observed from 12 noon Buttercity time this Friday, August 24th."

"A quick follow up?", Sessions interjected.

"Sure."

"When do you anticipate negotiations to begin?"

"Negotiations are scheduled to begin 9am Haven time on Wednesday, August 29th. Patricia from the Sanctus Post next."

"Madam Prime Minister, have you determined who will be mediating the peace talks on behalf of Sanctaria? I'll have a follow up too."

"We've asked former Deputy Prime Minister Robert Smyth if he would mediate on the government's behalf. All of you know Robert, so I won't delve too much into his background, but for the foreign press here, Smyth is a former Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, and was also twice Secretary General of the now defunct Council of IDU States. His ability is without question and he is respected not only here in Sanctaria, but across the IDU, so we felt it was an obvious choice. What's the follow up?"

"Do you know who will be representing the other factions?"

"I have been made aware of who they are sending for security purposes, but we have all agreed each faction may announce their own negotiation teams in their own fashion. I'll take Jim from S:TV next."

"Prime Minister, two questions. Firstly, what security is being planned and related to this, where in Haven are the peace talks being hosted?"

"Jim, I can't divulge the location of the peace talks just yet for security purposes, you'll be told around 8am on the 29th. As to what security will be there, I won't get into specifics, but we'll have Sanctarian Police, members of the Sanctarian Defence Forces, members of the Diplomatic Protection Bureau, and obviously some intelligence agents will be there too. Since your second was asked as part of your first, I'll let you go again", Hendry added with a smile.

"Thanks Charlene - is the Sanctarian government preparing for all eventualities here in terms of negotiations?"

"We have a pretty experienced negotiation team. Supporting Robert will be some of the team members we had during the Great Horn Conflict peace talks, which as you know ended very successfully, so we're hopeful we can come to a mutually agreeable situation for everyone. All outcomes will be considered, but we're confident in the peace talks. I'll take one last question ... Sandra, from the Haven Chronicle?"

"Thanks Prime Minister. You've mentioned the security of the attendees, but not much about the security of the people in Haven. Are you aware of planned protests and calls for the Divine Republic to immediately arrest the faction leaders as soon as they step on Sanctarian soil?"

"I'm not aware of those specific calls, no, but these are issues that arise every time we host peace talks. The Sanctarian government is working with Haven City Council and the SPF to ensure there will be a place for people to peacefully assembly and voice their opinions, should they wish to do so. Further security details, all designed for the protection of the people of Haven, will be announced in due course, but we are anticipating such things as streets being shut down to traffic, the potential of implementing a no-fly zone over the city during the day, and so on. There are a few agencies involved in this and for operational reasons we won't be going into too much detail this far in advance. You have a follow up?"

"Just to confirm, Sanctaria has no plans to arrest some of those who are accused of carrying out war crimes or acts of genocide?"

"Sanctaria has no plans to arrest individuals covered by diplomatic immunity, particularly when no arrest warrant, either domestic or by a recognised international tribunal, has been issued for them. That would be an abuse of power and would not only be insulting to the rule of law, but it would severely damage our reputation abroad, as well as domestically - we can not and will not undermine our own body of laws. Thanks everyone, Foreign Secretary Young will be taking care of further briefings over the next week from the Foreign Department."

As she turned to leave the clamour of "Prime Minister! Prime Minister!" rose again. It was going to be a long few weeks.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Wed Aug 22, 2018 1:07 am

Helipad somewhere in Kerlile
August 21st - Mid-morning

"No! No way in Hell!"

Staff Sergeant Chevroux had to scream over the sound of the sound of the helicopter that was slowly descending on her position. The woman standing next to Chevroux had both hands in a long trench coat. Both women knew that she was cradling a pistol beneath the canvas coat.

"Listen," the woman said, "Get on that chopper. I don't give a damn about what you think about the soldiers. I'm sending you in with a dozen others. Listen, you are the best operative I have. I need you in their to help those Gonhog men out. I don't trust them to finish off the Coalition. Please, for your sake."

Chevroux felt the press of a metal gun through the jacket of the other woman. That was all the incentive she needed. The woman waved as the helicopter departed. Chevroux did not wave back.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Laeral » Thu Aug 23, 2018 3:14 am

It was the fifth day inside a Kerlian interrogation facility, and Matéo Labat had already been moved twice. He hadn't been worried when the truck carrying him and two other prisoners had stopped in what looked like a run-of-the-mill prison camp somewhere in Kerlian territory. In fact, his heart had leapt as he'd glimpsed crowds of POWs milling about outside. But his hopes of being mixed in with the groups of ordinary prisoners had been dashed, when after a brief conversation between a prison guard and the truck driver, the truck had driven onward into Kerlian territory. When the truck had stopped, it had been in the driveway leading to a bunker in the middle of the woods, with forest all around.
"Out!" the guard had yelled, and Matéo had quickly stepped out. "Not you," the guard said, pointing to the other prisoners in the truck. "Just this one." With a heavy heart, Matéo watched as the truck reversed and drove away, leaving him standing next to a Kerlian prison guard. Two more watched from near the door to the bunker.
"You can go ahead and run," the guard said, noticing him looking around at the open forest. There were no fences in sight. "You won't make it far. If we don't get you, the wolves will." She smirked, and then cuffed his hands together behind his back. Matéo, seeing nothing else he could do, let himself be led inside the bunker.

As he entered, one of the guards reached over and tied a blindfold around him, before leading him down a hallway, through several twists and turns, and down a set of stairs. Matéo stumbled on the bottom one, banging his knee painfully against a wall. The guard laughed, and he could hear a few other chuckles from other women there. Matéo heard voices, and tried to listen to what they were saying, but he couldn't catch more than snatches of conversation. Instead, he concentrated on trying to memorize the way out. He'd need it for his escape.

The guard told him to stop and wait in the main hallway (he knew it was the hallway since he could hear people walking past him) while she went into a room to his right. He heard a brief, hurried conversation from inside the room, before the guard quickly came back out and marched him down the hallway, down another flight of stairs, abruptly around a corner and into a room. She shoved him inside and he fell to the ground, before the guard slammed the door shut behind him. The blindfold and handcuffs were still on, and then a pair of hands pulled the blindfold off of him.
"Meilleur? J'ai peur de ne rien pouvoir faire avec les menottes."
Matéo started. He blinked suddenly at the light, to see a man, about 30, leaning over him, having evidently taken off his blindfold. "You speak French?" Matéo said in that language, having taken a second to readjust to speaking it.
"I do," the man said. "But I can speak some English as well, if that's better for you."
"No, this is fine," Matéo said.
"Quentin," the man said.
"Matéo," Matéo replied. "A pleasure to meet you."
"Same here," Quentin replied. "So what brings you to this lovely five-star hotel we have here?" He gestured around to the completely bare concrete walls, with a single bed (more of a stone slab, actually) and a bucket in the corner.
"Nothing much," Matéo said. "I'm honestly not sure."
"Are you from Laeral?" Quentin asked. "I'm from Carellon province myself. Bellecombe."
"Bellecombe?" Matéo asked. "That's nice. I'm from near there myself." He was from Rilos, Cenefort province, in fact, but he didn't want to advertise it.
"It's great to meet a fellow Laeralite!" Quentin said, clapping Matéo on the shoulder. Outside, they heard the footsteps of approaching guards.
"They're coming for you," Quentin said quietly. "Listen to me. The first thing they'll do is show you a video, while you're hooked up to some machine that measures you're heartbeat. They want to find out what you're scared of. Just remember, it's not real. Okay? Remember that it's..." The door opened, and Quentin suddenly cut off. The guard from earlier was there, along with two of her compatriots. As Quentin quickly looked down at the floor, they grabbed Matéo, blindfolded him, and took him away. He didn't struggle.

They took him down to a medical examination first. The doctor (Matéo extended the title more as a courtesy than as an assessment of medical skill) examined him, while the guards looked on. Matéo blushed at one point when she asked him to strip naked, and her face took on a half-smile, but other than that, she was completely emotionless throughout the examination, as if she did this every day. Matéo tried not to wonder whether she had. After the examination, Matéo was permitted to put his clothes back on, and he was blindfolded and taken to the next room. As he sat down, the blindfold was taken off, and he realized that he was in a cinema for one. There was a single red carpeted chair and he sat down in it, as various technicians came in and out, attaching monitors to points around his body, presumably to measure his heartbeat. Then, they restrained his limbs, and secured his head so that he could not turn away. A pair of headphones- high quality ones, the kind Matéo might have seen advertised back in Laeral- were secured to his ears. And then, the movie began.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:00 pm

Hale Residence, Grapevale

Jennifer Hale sighed and stirred her coffee.

"I already told you no," she repeated to the three women standing there. Anita Patel looked impatient, Rebecca Arnott was trying to look friendly, and the third woman, Jennifer hadn't been introduced to.

"Look, Jen, I understand your reluctance, and if it is the childbirth that bothers you we could try to find a surrogate to carry the baby to term..." Arnott tried.

"You can't force me to have kids. I'm sorry, Ms..." Jennifer looked at the third woman, the head of Council of Kerlile Reproductive Services, an organisation that both ensured daughters of Council members were treated well... and was responsible for getting rid of sons.

"Annette Gardiner, Councillor," the woman said, bowing in deference. Jennifer once more tried not to roll her eyes.

"Ms Gardiner, you have wasted your time."

"Jennifer," began Patel, "there is a record of a Sonja Viratnen-Alvarez and Josephine Alvarez visiting an adoption centre in Lauchenoiria. We are offering you IVF and even considering finding you a surrogate, which would be a Council first. We know you wanted a child from the record of your visit. You are doing this only to irritate us."

"I'm doing this because I don't want to have a daughter who grows up to be like you. Or, even worse, I have a son who vanishes off into the ether. I won't bring life into your world."

"Please leave," Patel ordered Gardiner. Apparently not even the head of CKRS was allowed to hear someone criticise Kerlile. Gardiner complied.

"You can have all the privacy you want to make your case, I won't change my mind," Jennifer insisted.

"That would be a shame. Especially given your... partner's upcoming trial."

Jennifer's blood ran cold.

"Oh, hell no. Nope, you're not doing this."

"I understand, Jennifer, really, I do. You do not want to be disloyal to Josephine by starting a family without her while she is still alive. I am sure, after the trial, that will not be a problem any longer."

"I swear to god, I should've let her kill all of you at that party."

"Now, now, Jennifer, that is not a very nice thing to say," scolded Patel.

"Jen, if you agree to have a child, I am sure Josephine can come and live with you in Maytown while you raise your daughter. We want you to be happy," Arnott pleaded.

"Your absurd performance is like a really bad quality Lauchenoirian crime drama," Jennifer commented. Arnott looked confused and turned to Patel, who ignored her.

"Josephine's trial begins on Monday. On Wednesday, I will be in Sanctaria for these peace talks you so desperately wished for. After that, I will no longer be able to... weigh in on matters. I hope you make the right decision before then," Patel smiled her false smile.

Patel and Arnott exited the room. When she was sure they were out of earshot, Jennifer picked up her sister's Council-branded ashtray, screamed at the top of her lungs and threw the object at the door. It smashed into a thousand pieces. It didn't make Jennifer feel the slightest bit better.

Kerlian Re-education Camp

"Leonie?"

Helena Ortega was concerned. Leonie was unresponsive.

"Leonie?" she tried again, prodding the woman with her finger. Leonie blinked, but did not acknowledge Helena. "Leonie, please! You're scaring me!"

It was almost breakfast, and Leonie still wouldn't move. Helena had been sad when Leonie had been thrown out the film club, but really, she didn't blame the Kerlians. Leonie seemed so completely unwilling to learn. She continued to spout the same misogynist propaganda as when they'd arrived.

"Is something wrong with her?" a Kerlian guard stopped outside their cell.

"She won't respond to me at all," Helena said. The guard unlocked the cell and came in to look at Leonie. The door was left open. Helena stood over to the side and made no attempt to leave.

"One of the hunger strikers becoming unresponsive. Need medical here," the guard said through a radio.

"Her choice not to eat," a voice crackled back.

"This one's on the list to keep alive."

The radio crackled again in response, with a rude word of the sort Helena's parents would never have let her use.

"Go to breakfast," the guard ordered Helena, "nothing you can do here."

Helena complied. When she arrived at the canteen, she sat next to Myriam as usual.

"Guess what?" Myriam said excitedly.

"I don't know, Leonie's not well though."

"That's a shame, but she should know better than to stick up for the men of Lauchenoiria over her own kind."

"I completely agree, but... still."

"I'm sorry. But we're starting a new film today!"

"Really!? Ooh I can't wait!" Helena was genuinely excited.

"I heard," Myriam began, eyes sparkling, "that this one is about everyday Kerlian life. Oh, you should see it."

"I will, after the war!"

"Does this mean you're going to stay?"

"Of course! I could never go back to misogynist Lauchenoiria. No, I want to stay in Kerlile for the rest of my days."

"I'm so happy!" Myriam squealed, hugging Helena.

The voice in the back of Helena's head, tried to argue once more that Kerlile wasn't the utopia the films claimed. As Helena embraced Myriam, though, she became ever more convinced remaining in Kerlile was the right thing to do.

The voice in the back of her head died. Permanently.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Laeral » Fri Aug 24, 2018 1:05 am

Matéo knew what was about to happen abstractly, but that didn't make it any easier to bear.

The Kerlian guards gripped him by the shoulder and forced his body downward towards the tub of water, and he didn't resist, just trying to suck in some air on the way down. The cold water hit his face like a hard slap, stinging the cuts on his face, and the guards held him underwater. He tried to keep his breath in, but it dribbled out in great bubble which, if he could have turned his head to watch them, broke the surface of the water, an infinite distance away.

It was always easier at first, when his lungs had oxygen to spare. But then, his lungs started to scrape the bottom of their reserves, and that awful sensation of a deadly emptiness began to take its place. Matéo needed air, or he would die. It was as simple as that.

He lasted a few more seconds before he started to squirm, trying to raise his head above water. A hand from above grabbed him by the hair on the back of his head and forced him down, deeper into the tub of water. His lungs were burning. He thrashed around more, wildly now, but he was unable to escape, water pouring into his nose and throat. Faster and faster, and he was going to die without air, air...

The guards wrenched him upwards, out of the water, and he gasped in relief, coughing, water trickling off his face and neck and onto the concrete floor below.

"I asked you a simple question, Mr. Labat," the interrogator said. "Who was your contact in Lauchenoiria when you were planning your terroristic attacks?"

"Go to hell," Matéo said. He'd meant to shout it, but his lungs failed him, and it came out as a croak.

"What was that?" his captor asked casually.

"Go to hell, you Kerlian bastard," Matéo said. His voice worked that time, but he didn't trust it to shout.

The interrogator sighed. "If you continue to be so uncooperative," she said, "we may have to be less generous with you. The traditions of Kerlian hospitality, after all, don't require us to make our brave women at the front go hungry to feed a misogynist pig like you." She made a note on the file in front of her.

"Again," she said, and the soldiers grabbed Matéo's shoulders again to force him downwards, towards the tub of water.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Aug 24, 2018 10:54 pm

Kerlian "˜Alternative Education' Camp

"She's only half conscious, see, she's slipping away again already..."

"... have the Maximusian girl pay her a visit? She'll be easier to convince sedated..."

"...going to live. But it was a damn close one. If Councillor Hale wants this one alive, we'll need to take her out of phase two."

Leonie drifted in and out of consciousness. She wasn't quite sure where she was, but she felt so relaxed. She couldn't remember feeling so relaxed. There had been pain. Awful, terrible pain. Why was there so much pain?

"Leonie Bennett? Can you hear me?" came a voice.

"I'm up, I'm up, I'll be ready in five minutes," Leonie mumbled. "I won't be late to school again."

"Damn, if she doesn't snap out of this soon, the Council will send us to Hell," a second voice said.

"If Bennett dies, I'm going with her," said the first voice. "Far less painful."

Leonie began to feel so, so sleepy once more...

*

Myriam walked with Helena along the corridors to the medical wing. The Kerlians wanted the pair to talk to Leonie, try and snap her out of whatever trance she was in. Myriam hadn't been in a hospital setting in years, and didn't quite know what to expect. She knew the Kerlians would give Leonie the best care, even if it had been Leonie's own fault she was in this state.

They crossed the threshold into Leonie's room and Helena rushed over to sit down on the chair by Leonie's bed. Myriam froze as she walked through the door.

A memory, old, so very old, flashed past her eyes.

She was five? Four? Young, anyway. She was with her parents in a hospital room similar to this one. Her grandfather lay on the bed. He gestured to her and she nervously walked over. He took her hand in his.

"Hello Myriam," he said. "I have something very, very important to tell you. And I need you to remember this for me, okay? You are so special to me, and to everyone here. You can do whatever you want, never let anyone tell you different. I know you're going to have an amazing life."

His grip on hers faltered, and his eyes slid closed. Her mother yelled for a doctor, and her father picked her up and carried her out of the room.


Myriam grabbed the doorframe in the present day and gasped. She hadn't had any memories of her life before Kerlile in many years.

"Are you okay?" Helena asked, worried.

"Yeah... yeah," Myriam said. She was fine. Yeah, she was fine. Except... the memory made no sense. Her grandfather, a man, had told her she could do whatever she wanted. In Libertas Omnium Maximus. But men back there always told girls they were worthless. That is what she knew. The memory didn't fit.

She tried to shrug the memory out of her head, but it lingered there all the same.

*

Helena sat by Leonie's bedside for hours. Myriam had left, had gone to talk to the other film club members about something. Leonie had been sleeping the whole time, until she suddenly yawned and opened her eyes.

"Hey, Leonie," Helena said.

"Mmm..." Leonie murmured, turning over slightly.

"Are you okay?"

"I had a dream," Leonie said.

"What was your dream?"

"I dreamed that we were back in Lauchenoiria... and we were being driven further and further and further... north, here, like what happened. But then we stopped."

"Stopped?"

"And suddenly the doors opened and there was a woman and she saved us all. There were others too... they stopped the Kerlians," Leonie said, tapping Helena's arm and giggling. She had clearly been given a large quantity of drugs.

"The Kerlians only want what's best for us women, Leonie."

"We were fine, and all was well. It was God's plan."

"I thought you were an atheist? If you really wish to worship a deity though, film club members can go to the temple of the goddess."

"But there was another god, who told the first god... or goddess, yeah, okay, goddess... who told the goddess that it was boring, and the world needed to be more interesting. And so now we're here and you're gone."

"I'm not gone, I'm sitting right in front of you."

"You're gone," Leonie insisted, and met Helena's eyes. "You're gone and gone and gone."

Leonie shuddered slightly and then fell back asleep. Helena was taken aback by Leonie's sudden religious rant. She felt something inside her tighten at the thoughts Leonie had shared.

And then she shook her head, and went to report them to the Kerlians.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sat Aug 25, 2018 1:07 pm

Resistance HQ, Elopolis

"You will accompany us to Sanctaria, and remain in constant contact with the computer people back here. The moment they get something, you tell us," Laura Moore instructed Jae Chung. Chung nodded.

"Understood. Should I just... interrupt, or...?" Chung asked. She knew nothing of diplomacy.

"Depends what's on it. Use your best judgement. I'll be leading the negotiations for the Resistance, along with Juárez. We'll have Nico Alfaro and Ethan Marks there as well, as a secondary team should we need them. I want you to accompany our security team, but your main purpose will to be to keep us informed about the progress around the decryption."

"Of course," nodded Chung.

"We'll be announcing our team later tonight. Thank the stars for this ceasefire, though. The Kerlians were causing us real problems in the north of this province."

"I met some kid on my way here who thought I was a Kerlian. Looked terrified."

"Yeah, they kept creeping in here, spreading propaganda. Terrified the local children, especially the boys. A couple kids disappeared, we suspect it was Kerlians. Something else we have to deal with."

"Sounds like you'll have your hands full at these negotiations."

"You have no idea."

Kerlian "˜Alternative Education' Camp

"But I didn't. I swear! I never gave them a name!" Leonie repeated.

"See, now why don't I believe you?" Jessica sneered. "Here you are, with edible food and no requirement to attend "˜sessions'. And you expect me to believe you didn't give the Kerlians anything?"

Leonie half-wished she'd never recovered. Truthfully, she didn't know why she was suddenly exempt from the others' torture.

"Jess, I swear to you, I would never, ever give them anything."

"Look, Bennett, weakness I can understand. Lying just makes it worse," she shrugged, taking a bite of her blue cheese and immediately gagging.

"I'm not lying! Look, I swear on my life I didn't tell them anything," Leonie pleaded. She only had partial memories of what happened in the hospital, but she knew deep down that she hadn't told the Kerlians anything.

"You'll regret that someday, traitor. If you didn't give them anything, then why are you still alive?

"I don't know," Leonie said truthfully.

Jessica scoffed, then stood up and walked away, leaving Leonie sitting alone.

"Leonie! Come and sit with us," Helena called from across the room. Jessica turned around and raised one eyebrow, waiting to see how Leonie responded.

Leonie knew that if she joined Helena and Myriam, that she might as well defect to Kerlile right now in the eyes of Jessica and the others still holding out.

"No, thank you," Leonie said glumly, and continued to eat alone.

Funeral Home, Kerlile

Councillor Rebecca Arnott sat in the empty row, dressed all in black.

"W... we can wait a little longer," the minister said, nervously. Arnott had given general permission for her to speak throughout the funeral, but she was still worried Arnott would suddenly have her shot.

"No, nobody else is coming," sighed Arnott.

"Your sister..." the minister began.

"Is off at war. And my biological brothers have disappeared. Patel's doing, no doubt."

"I'm... sorry?" tried the minister. Arnott smiled sadly.

"That is of course the correct response, but nevertheless, I would not let any members of the Patel family know you said that. They are male, and therefore they are not part of my family in any legal sense."

"But?" the minister prompted.

"You are living dangerously today, asking such things. You are right, though, there is something there. My mother raised us daughters alone, of course, if you were to ask anyone. My father raised my brothers, which was frowned upon by the other families. Still, they never did anything about it.

Anita Patel's father was killed when she was seven. If you ask her about it now, she tells you he deserved it. Maybe she even believes it. But however frowned upon it was, I was raised by two parents, with brothers. Legally, they were not related to me. Biologically and emotionally, they were. Fathers are meant to play no part in the raising of Council Daughters. They do, though, more often than one might think. So, Patel can go to hell. I will attend my father's funeral if I want."

"That is your right."

"There is one question I want to know the answer to, though."

"Of course."

"Just how did Patel find out? I hid my father and brothers away from the other Councillors after my mother's death. I was careful, very careful. And when my father died, I called you, because I trusted you. And now my brothers are nowhere to be found. So, just how did Patel find out where they were?"

The minister froze like a rabbit caught in headlights.

"I assure you, I..."

"I did some checking, and there are records of contact between you and some of Patel's household staff. I suppose you thought she could get you some reward. Never trust a Patel, is the first lesson every Daughter of the Council learns. You are clearly not one of us."

"Please, Councillor, I never meant..."

Arnott held up her hand to indicate that she wanted the minister to be silent.

"If I had you sent to the restricted region for this, the other Councillors would never take me seriously. Defending men in such a way is unthinkable."

The minister looked visibly relieved.

"I am so glad you feel that way, Councillor!"

"And so, I will have to deal with this betrayal in a different way," Arnott shrugged, then drew her concealed pistol, something most Councillors carried. She pointed it at the minister.

"Please! Councillor, I swear I will never betray you again!" she begged, dropping to her knees.

"No second chances in Kerlile," Arnott said, and then shot the minister in the head.

She felt a sting of regret as she did so. It had been a long time since Arnott had killed by her own hand. It was harder to ignore the taking of a life that way than when she ordered others to kill for her. She turned away, gesturing for the security in her direct employ to deal with the body. She walked over to her father's casket.

"I am sorry, father. I failed you. But I swear to you, and to all our family, Anita Patel will suffer for this."

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Sat Aug 25, 2018 4:47 pm

2.3 Kilometers from Annatown
August 23rd - Afternoon

Staff-Sergeant, Johann Mitz was standing in nearly 8 inches of muck. His boots, swamped. His coat, splattered in a nasty mixture of mud and gore. His head, wrapped in a bandage. The bullet had grazed his head nearly 32 hours prior. Since then, he had spent only 12.5 minutes with a battlefield medic before advancing forward to meet up with his squadron.
The truth was, he was dead. His heart was still beating, his nerves were still fully functioning, but he was dead. Dead on the inside. Here was the simple truth. He, along with thousands of young men and women, were trapped. On all sides were people who wanted nothing but to see them die. Faceless, nameless, demons, at least in Mitz's opinion. I in the middle sat the a great mud pit. It was little more than a several mile wide depression in truth. A depression that was now more like giant swimming pool by now due to the fact that it had started raining relentlessly two days prior.
Mitz lifted his boot slowly and listened to the gurgling sound it made as it exited the small mud whole he had just stepped in. His orders were clear. Leave the area at once. It was a simple as that. There was no strategic planning, no battle maps, no briefings, no roll calls, none of it. It was a simple kill or be killed. Escape or die.
The Gonhogite troops were slowly moving in on all sides of the depression. Already nearly 500 Coalition troops were dead. So many more were to follow. Mitz had received the same orders as nearly everyone else in the Coaltion forces: Move west. Destroy all opposition. West means liberated territory. West means the shore, only a few hundred miles from the coast of Libertas Omnium Maximus. Mitz had been told that there would be hundreds of boats waiting to take wounded soldiers to allied shores. Later they would be transported to their homeland. That was the plan. That was all there was to it. It meant death.

4.6 Kilometers from Annatown
August 24th - Mid-night

Bang! Crunch! Bang!

His eyes rolled open. The last thing he had remembered was an explosion in the trees. Then another and another. Then darkness. The Skodanian soldier had been knocked out from at least several hours. It was now pitch black. The shooting had finally stopped. Slowly the man clambered to his feet. The sky was dark. The trees, dark. Then the ground. A woman to his left. A man to his right. A young man, no older than 20, beneath him. All dead. There eyes stared blankly up. They had had nowhere to run. Whenever the battle had reached its full intensity he must have been knocked out. All that mattered was that he was stranded. The rest of the Coalition was either dead or had long since escaped. He was alone.

Hours Earlier...

The gunfire wouldn't stop. Slowly the Coalition men advanced up out of the depression. They had long since abandoned the vehicles. Ranks were abandoned too. It was just soldiers and there survival. The Gonhog soldiers were pouring in from the east. The airstrip had been overrun nearly a day prior. A small cluster of structures were situated to the north-west of the depression. Somehow, the Gonhogites had managed to get snipers into the buildings. They were picking off troops like flies. That left the south. The only exit route.
The south side of the depression was the steepest section. It was 45 degrees in places. This made for a slow accent. A painfully slow accent. At least 1,000 soldiers were already lost. Their bodies were strewn out across the muddy plain or captured by the oncoming soldiers. It took nearly 20 minutes from the start of their accent for the first soldiers to reach the top. By this point the depression was overrun. Gonhog soldiers were starting to make the accent. Every moment, another dozen soldiers dropped to the ground. Some clutching at holes in their chest. Others merely fell down. Silent. Like a marionette with its string cut. The sun was setting. The glare adding to the general discomfort of the Coalition troops who were already terrified out of their minds. This was there apparent end.
The troops who made it to the top of the hill immediately faced opposition. Atop the hill sat a large estate complex which had appeared to be empty. In reality, it was crawling with troops. They immediately engaged the Coalition who made it out of the depression. There they stood. The seemingly invincible Coalition. Once nearly 12,000 soldiers was now closer to 10,000. Their Vanguards fell before the gates of the estate in droves. The stragglers were mowed down as they continued to climb. The Coalition was disintegrating before its members' eyes.
Last edited by Libertas Omnium Maximus on Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:28 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Libertas Omnium Maximus
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Sat Aug 25, 2018 5:00 pm

A young Slokaisian soldier dove into a gulch just before the top of the depression. Taking a big breath of cold, damp air, she turned to look back down the mountain. Things looked darn grim from where she stood. The few hundred soldiers still climbing had their rifles still slung around their back. The Gonhog soldiers behind them were quickly moving in. Most of them had abandoned their positions in buildings. They were working their way up the hill as well.
Then it hit her, they had ABANDONED their positions!

"Everyone, shoot back!" She screamed. She lifted her rifle and sprayed 3 rounds down the mountain. One landed its mark. The man tumbled backward down the rock-face. It took only a few seconds before more soldiers joined in. Minutes later the Coalition was firing an entire volley back at the Gonhog troops. They began to scatter, desperately diving for cover. Atop the mountain, nearly 40 Coalition troops managed to storm the estate. The front gates were busted. The stucco siding riddled with bullet holes.
Now imbued with a new sense of hope, the Coalition forces rushed out past the estate. Desperately, they ran safety. An all out sprint. They were free. They had escaped.

After nearly 2 hours, the Gonhogites gave up their chase. Only around 9,000 troops made it out. Nonetheless, they had escaped. The last battle of the war was over. The Coalition had survived.
Last edited by Libertas Omnium Maximus on Wed Aug 29, 2018 2:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Aug 26, 2018 9:29 pm

Aeluria

Keitha Noguera felt numb. She'd been feeling numb for days.

"I can't do this," she said to the empty room.

There was a knock on the door and Alyssa came in.

"Okay, so the travel plans are all set and food supplies have arrived, so everyone's too busy eating to stage any kind of protest, so..."

"I can't do this."

"Can't do what, ma'am?"

"This. This. Any of this."

Alyssa sighed, shut the door and sat down beside Noguera.

"Look, I know you're still upset..." she began.

"I'm so done with this. I'm going to resign."

"Ma'am, I understand why you feel that way but can this not wait?"

"Wait? Wait until when? Until everything's suddenly okay? When will that be? Things are never okay."

"Do you trust Mací­as to lead these negotiations alone?" asked Alyssa.

Silence.

"I'll take that as a no, then," Alyssa said. "Ma'am, we are almost at the end of this. You almost have what you want, or something close. Don't give up now. Send Mací­as if you wish, but don't send him alone."

"I can't...

"Anael wouldn't have wanted you to."

Noguera froze at the mention of her late husband's name and tears gathered in her eyes. Alyssa spoke the truth. However much Anael might have disagreed with her politics, he wouldn't want her to sit around and mope.

"You're right. You're right. Sorry. Okay, travel plans. You were saying?"


Grapevale Private Hospital

"When can I expect to know if it worked?" Jennifer Hale asked the doctor.

"You should test in two weeks," she responded. "Is there anything else?"

"No, that's all. I'll just... wait a minute."

The doctor bowed respectfully and exited. Jennifer lay back and breathed. She had never wanted biological kids, because she never wanted the Kerlians to get their hands on them. And at the same time, she still felt a tingle of excitement at the prospect. Even if she had been coerced into doing this.

She thought back to the conversation she'd had two nights ago.

"I'll do it," Jennifer had said after Patel picked up the phone.

"I am so glad to hear you say that! I will contact Ms Gardiner in the morning and we can discuss surrogacy if you wish."

"If I'm going to have a kid, I'm carrying the baby myself."

"Of course, if that's what you wish. Well, I will contact Ms Gardiner as soon as possible and we shall begin IVF as soon as possible."

"I want Josephine at home."

"We shall have to wait for the verdict at her trial, of course."

"I said I wanted Josephine at home."

"You call yourself a "˜democrat', though goodness knows why. You expect me to circumvent Kerlian law?"

"If Josephine is not in my house by the start of September, then so help me God..."

"I see you have acquired religion in Lauchenoiria. It will not help you here. I will contact you in the morning. Goodnight.


Jennifer Hale had decided three things that night. She would find some way to get Josephine out of Kerlile. If she had a son, she would give her life to make sure he got out of Kerlile. If she had a daughter, she would make sure she taught her daughter how messed up Kerlile truly was. If the Council even let her raise her own daughter.

Jennifer placed her hands on her stomach.

"Take my kid, Patel, and so help me God...

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Laeral » Tue Aug 28, 2018 2:23 am

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Room
Laeralsford
"You can be seated," Minister of Foreign Affairs Marie-Claire Beringer said as she came into the room. The assembled reporters, several dozen of them, sat, and Marie-Claire had a few seconds of peace before the camera shutters started going off, as she made her way to the podium with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs seal on the front.

"First, I would like to make a statement regarding the peace talks in Sanctaria, and then I will open to questions," she said. The room quieted as she looked around. "I have had a productive meeting with the President in which we discussed Laeral's goals for the peace talks in Haven, which start Wednesday. We've also decided upon the final makeup of the Laeralian negotiating team. The President has made arrangements to be present at the peace talks on the first day of the summit, where he will use his personal connections with the other national leaders present to get the negotiations off to a good start. Following the first day, I will move into the role of chief negotiator." She looked down at her notes. "The Laeralian negotiating team consists of three of our top experts on the crisis as well as a large support staff, so that we can move to resolving the conflict in the best possible way for all involved. In addition to myself, we will have Mssr. Aarón Varela, our lead expert on Lauchenoirian affairs and the Lauchenoirian conflict here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mme. Alyssia Simonine, who is currently the Ambassador to Lauchenoiria and has, I am pleased to report, been named by the President as his Special Envoy for the Lauchenoirian Conflict, effective immediately. We are confident that our choice for the negotiating team will help us resolve the Lauchenoirian conflict and restore peace and democracy to Lauchenoiria."

The easy part was over. "Any questions?" she asked, already preparing for what would come next.

Southern Fleuria province, Lauchenoiria
The guns had officially fallen silent on Friday, but that hadn't been universally observed. Around midnight last night, an outbreak of gunfire a few kilometers away had caused Brandon Lau and his men to scramble for their weapons, but it had stopped quickly. The LNSF soldiers arrayed along the front line, now just barely two kilometers north of the Ulinaria-Fleuria border, were under orders not to engage the enemy, but that wouldn't stop a few trigger-happy soldiers from either side getting off a few shots now and then. Still, pleasantly enough, there didn't seem to be too many ceasefire violations, and so First Sergeant Lau and his men were just now getting into the football league they'd set up.

"Over here!" Lunwei called from up the field, the wiry soldier sprinting across the dusty field towards the other team's improvised goalpost. Brandon tried to pass to him, but one of the other team's midfielders intercepted the ball in mid-pass, running up towards Lau's goal. With a cry, Kevin Chang, Lau's team's star soldier-turned-midfielder, ran to catch him, the rest of the team's midfielders racing behind. They weren't exactly ready for Ligue 1, but they played with vigor and grit. From within the melee, which Brandon had stayed out of, one of Brandon's team's strikers got the ball and started running across the field, his fellows cheering him on.

"Brandon Lau?" someone called from the sidelines. "First Sergeant Brandon Lau? Is there a Brandon Lau here?"

Brandon turned and jogged to the sidelines, his team's players in a rowdy melee with the other team's defenders behind him. It was an LNSF messenger standing there, by the looks of her uniform. "First Sergeant Brandon Lau?" she asked.

"That's me," he said.

"Come with me," she said, and turned to walk away.

"Right now?"

"You want your promotion?" she asked.

"Promotion?" Brandon asked, walking quickly to catch up with her.

"Leiutenant Zhao needs a Second, and approval came from command a few hours ago. Congratulations, you're a Second-Lieutenant once you come with me to pick up the stripes."

Brandon had stopped dead in his tracks once he heard of the promotion, but then realizing what was happening, he ran up to follow the messenger, a wide smile breaking out across his face.

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