Have I Got Coups For You

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Libertas Omnium Maximus
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Sun Sep 30, 2018 4:21 pm

Encantra Province, Lauchenoria
September 5th

While the negotiations were going on in Sanataria, there were still thousands of soldiers in Lauchenoiria. As far as anyone knew, the last gunshots had been fired only a few days prior. Now, with the ceasefire in place and it looking like accords would certainly result in the removal of all foreign forces from Lauchenoiria, most of the armies, including the Maximusian's, were preparing for their impending evacuation. Arnold Baker, who had just been promoted to Colonel, making him Colonel Arnold Baker, was currently walking around his campsite ordering his troops around. He stopped for a brief moment as he felt his phone buzz. He pulled it from his pocket and read the text from his fiancé:

“Haven Accords signed moments ago.”

He quickly responded: “Then it’s over. I’m coming Home. Start sending those Wedding invitations.”

He turned to his Aid-de-camp and smiled. “The deed has been done, we are going home.” He made sure to say it load enough that many nearby soldiers could hear the tidings of great news. Soon a great cheering went up. It could be heard all around. Cigars were smoked, stories of home were exchanged, and for a brief time, it almost seemed to the Maximusian encampment that they had already made the trip home to their loved ones.

In reality, they still had days of packing up to do. They still had to tend to their wounded. Undergo a long debriefing process, and cross a bay to get home. This did not matter to them. All that mattered to the Maximusian forces, and the rest of the militaries present in Lauchenoiria, was the simple and very basic fact: They were all going home.

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:12 pm

Sunday 16th September 2018

Yousef Chaher scrolled through the international job listings once more. After one of the tabloids had put a video of one of his drunken rants about his father from just before the war online, something he didn’t even remember doing, there was no corner he could turn without a million people staring at him. He wanted out of Lauchenoiria, at this point by any means necessary.

He was about to give up and log out for the night, when an email popped up in the corner. Expecting either more spam or more requests from journalists (just how were they getting his contact details?), he reached for the ‘delete’ key.

He paused, and read over the email a second time, more thoroughly. Then he read it a third time, and a fourth, and a fifth. After that, he grabbed a jacket and ran out the house into the night. He pulled his hood right up over his head as he headed out. He pulled out his phone and checked the address again.

When he arrived at the location, it had begun to rain, and he shivered as he pulled down his hood and entered. His footsteps echoed on the ground of the church hall, as he crept ever forwards. It seemed to be empty, and he had started to feel panicky about this whole thing.

“Heard you were looking for a job abroad,” said a voice from behind him. Yousef leapt in the air as he turned to see the figure behind him. The figure was of Korean descent but spoke with a strong Annatown accent.

“H… how did you…?” Yousef began to ask, nervously.

“Same way I know who killed your father,” the other man said.

“Who!?” Yousef asked, his desire for information overcoming his fear.

“Mmm, that’s not information I’m willing to share with just anyone. Employees only.”

“Are you offering me a job? Doing what?”

“Whatever needs doing.”

“That sounds ominous.”

The figure laughed, the sound echoing through the hall so loud Yousef’s hairs all stood on end in fear of… well, something.

“How desperate are you?” the figure asked, in a manner that showed he already knew the answer. Yousef took a deep breath.

“When do I start?” he asked.

“Immediately,” smiled Ji-Hun Chung.

*

Helena Ortega sat in the Kerlian sun feeling blessed. It was the end, she knew, but also the beginning.

“Are you quite certain?” a Kerlian asked her. “There is no going back after this, you understand.”

“I completely understand,” Helena said, meaning every word. The Kerlian smiled, a cross between thrilled and bemused, shaking her head slightly. She walked over to where another group of Kerlians were fighting with a large amount of paperwork.

Helena swung her legs back and forth, sitting on top of the small wall, watching the distant buses fill up and leave.

“I need a name,” the Kerlian was back. Helena thought for a moment.

“Do I have to decide right now?”

“Bus is leaving in ten. If Helena Ortega died in Kerlile, her death certificate would be on that bus. We’ve got the surname, need a first name.”

Helena considered some more.

“Renee. It means ‘reborn’.”

“Renee Moreno, born 13th January 2003…” the woman scribbled some more things down then handed the paper to a younger woman. “Get that to the document office, Sana,” ordered the older woman, the younger nodding and running off.

“Welcome to Kerlile, Renee,” the woman said.

Helena, or she who had once been Helena, smiled a genuine smile. This was what was meant to be.

As the newly renamed Renee Moreno walked with the Kerlian woman back towards town, a death certificate with the name of Helena Ortega was added to a pile of paperwork on a bus carrying Lauchenoirian prisoners of war back to the border.

*

Leonie Bennett didn’t believe the Kerlians who told her Helena Ortega was dead, and she told them so.

“Bull,” she had shrugged, staring a Kerlian in the face.

The Kerlian had responded by pinning her against the wall by the neck, squeezing so tight Leonie had struggled for breath.

“You think Hale can save you, little girl?” the Kerlian had hissed. “You know nothing.”

Then she’d let Leonie go, managing to scratch her with her nail hard enough to draw blood, by accident or design, Leonie thought the latter. She had been herded onto a bus with all the rest of them, minus Helena and Myriam. Nobody had told anyone what was happening, which had led to some horrible speculation.

“Whatever Sonja Alvarez, or Jennifer Hale, or whoever she is, said two weeks ago to stop them from starving and torturing us all, I bet they killed her or something and so now we’re all being sent somewhere way worse than where we just came,” Jessica speculated.

“Do you mind?” hissed Rosa. “Some of us don’t want to hear this stuff.”

“Well if you don’t want to hear it, then maybe I should yell it louder, traitor!” Jessica retorted, then cleared her throat.

“Just stop it!” Leonie interrupted. The other two fell silent. After Jennifer Hale appeared to halt the phase two programme, people had begun to accept that she had been telling the truth when she said she hadn’t broken.

Jessica knew the face of Sonja Alvarez, and knew Leonie had been close to her, so upon the final proof that Sonja was indeed Councillor Jennifer Hale of Kerlile, Jessica had formed a theory that Hale retained a soft spot for Leonie. Leonie didn’t know if the theory was true or not, but she was relieved to be believed.

She had slept for most of the journey, and when she woke, it was to exclamations of joy and relief. Leonie, who had become unaccustomed to hearing anything positive over the last month, was rather confused.

“What’s going on?” she asked Rosa, who seemed to be weeping with tears of joy, a smile on her face.

“The war’s over! We’re being sent home!”

Leonie sat bolt upright and glanced out of the window. Sure enough, they were stopped in front of a gate in the Kerlians’ border fence. Leonie gasped in disbelieving joy. A part of her was quite certain this was a trap, but at the same time she allowed all the hope to wash over her.

Many hours later, hours that passed in a blur of exhaustion and relief and the sheer wonder of finally feeling safe, Leonie fell into the arms of her parents, who were crying and clutched her so, so tight. She couldn’t even get the words out to speak with them, and in the end, they had to deposit her in her bed, the one she hadn’t slept in since the beginning of June.

*

Myriam Underwood maintained eye contact with Renee Moreno, smiling.

“I shouldn’t have listened to her, I’m sorry. I know now, Leonie is manipulative and evil. I swear, I will never betray Kerlile.”

“I believe her,” Renee said, looking up to the Kerlian who watched the pair. The Kerlian sighed.

“Bet your life?” the Kerlian asked. Renee hesitated.

“Myriam, I… I want to believe you,” she said, looking down.

“I understand if you cannot place that trust in me, what I did is hard to forgive. I will accept the consequences of my actions,” Myriam smiled calmly.

“Yes,” Renee said suddenly. “Yes, I am sure she speaks the truth.”

“On your own head be it,” the Kerlian shook her head, tilting it in a symbol to the other who stood by the door. The guard unlocked it, and the Kerlian gestured for Myriam and Renee to follow.

“I can’t wait to see the rest of Kerlile! After so long in a misogynist country, I am so happy to finally be somewhere women are truly treated the way we deserve!” chattered Renee happily.

“You’ll love it, I assure you. This country is a women’s paradise, truly. I know Leonie and her ilk used to say that sarcastically but only because they didn’t understand,” Myriam assured her.

The conversation continued as the pair were driven back to the neighbourhood Myriam had lived in before she’d been employed in the position of brainwasher for the Lauchenoirian PoWs deemed malleable. Myriam continued to extol the virtues of Kerlian life to the girl who had once been Helena Ortega.

Inside, though, Myriam’s doubts had become even greater. She would not, however, make the same mistake twice. No, until she had a plan, she would not utter another doubt aloud. She hadn’t a clue what she was doing, but she would get one, someday.

She felt a smidge of guilt, knowing that the Kerlians would probably take it out on Helena, or Renee as she’d chosen to be called. Then again, Helena Ortega had made her choice. And if the Kerlians caught Myriam doing anything, well, Myriam had the feeling she’d be past caring about what they did to someone else at that point.

So, life continued for Myriam Underwood, outwardly appearing as if the war had never happened. Inside, though, something stirred and grew. And Kerlile would one day regret trusting Myriam, of that she was certain.

*

Jennifer Hale sat by a river, watching the water run and trying to forget the world existed. She snapped out of her trance only when she heard footsteps approaching. Almost instantaneously, she was on her feet, weapon pointed at the intruder.

“You used to come here as a young child. Snuck away from your security, over and over. They always knew where you were, of course, or they would never have allowed it,” smiled Rebecca Arnott, ignoring the gun. Hale sighed and put it back in its holster.

“Are you following me for a reason, or just here to spout childhood anecdotes?” she said, sitting back down. Arnott awkwardly sat next to her, unaccustomed to ever sitting on the ground.

“A reason, naturally,” Arnott began, “and as you can see, I didn’t bring any security either. This conversation cannot be overheard.”

“Only reason I didn’t let Patel shoot you was to piss her off. Doesn’t mean I like you.”

“I’m not interested in your personal opinion of me, Jen, I merely…”

“I’m not interested in anything you have to say, Becky…”

Arnott sighed and let out a small chuckle.

“You don’t want me to call you Jen? Fine, Councillor Hale, you might not like me but I have a feeling you will like what I’m about to say.”

“I’ll give you five minutes,” Jennifer shrugged, skimming stones across the water.

“The terms of the Haven Accords were not very beneficial to Kerlile.”

“No shit, Sherlock.”

“That’s a reference to some outsider culture, isn’t it? Anyway, the Accords do not benefit Kerlile, but they could be of benefit to the two of us.”

“How so?” Jennifer said, her tone sceptical.

“Neither of us likes Anita Patel, and now you can’t blackmail the Council any more, the only thing protecting your friends is the threat of Sanctarian sanctions. But, if we play our cards right, Anita Patel could no longer be a threat.”

“I don’t do political assassinations, Arnott, and even if I did, Patel is so paranoid I wouldn’t be surprised if the one we’ve been dealing with is an actor hired to play her.”

“I’m not talking about assassinations, Jennifer. Right now, none of our enemies in the war can tie a single little war crime down to Councillor Patel, she’s made sure of it. But what if some new information came to light down in Lauchenoiria?”

Jennifer Hale stopped skimming stones and turned so she could make eye contact with Arnott.

“You’re talking about leaking Kerlian documents to Lauchenoiria.”

“I am.”

Hale let out a low whistle.

“I’m impressed. Both that you’d take such a risk to speak those words aloud, and that you’d ever give the ‘misogynists’ an advantage over Kerlile.”

“Anita Patel will kill me, the way she’s killed so many of my family. You want honesty, Jennifer? I do this out of my own self-interest. But you, you want the same things. Sure, you want them out of ‘morality’ and doing the ‘right thing’, but at the end of the day, if we work together, we can both get what we want.”

“Joanne Robinson had allies too. And then she died, and her allies fell away so fast nobody bothered to record who they were. Your mother or mine could have been on the list, but they never said, not to either of us.”

“Joanne Robinson died because she moved too fast, and too foolishly.”

“Joanne Robinson died doing exactly what you tried to do at the end of last month. Which is why you fear for your life now. So, tell me Rebecca, why should I help you?”

“Carmen Robinson has vanished, after some very compelling evidence was produced that she betrayed Kerlile.”

“See, you’re just stating facts I already know now,” Hale shrugged and turned away.

“I know where Robinson is. You support democracy and freedom,” Arnott said mockingly, “and I’m willing to make concessions.”

“You’re willing to suddenly support democracy?” Hale laughed.

“I wouldn’t go quite that far, but if we win, I guarantee you, nobody will go to prison for looking at the wrong person the wrong way.”

“That’s… that’s the best you could come up with? Okay, Councillor Arnott, you want my support for some coup? I’ll give you my terms. First, the release of all political prisoners in this country. The immediate closure of all labour camps and ‘alternative education’ facilities. And human rights for men.”

This time, it was Rebecca Arnott’s turn to laugh.

“I’m not planning a coup. But if Anita Patel ends up in some Sanctarian prison, and Joanna Greenwood is deposed, then perhaps over time we can edge ever closer to a state where your terms could be possible.”

That’s what you want my support with? Gradual change?”

“I want your support in choosing a new president, one who will be more amenable to such an eventuality.”

“Hart will be the next president, everyone knows it.”

“Not if Patel is in jail.”

“You know something, don’t you?” Hale said, narrowing her eyes.

“Six votes are required to become president. Hart had the support of Greenwood, Patel, Pierre, Viallamando, Chiu, Georgiou and herself.”

“That’s seven, even without Patel, she wins.”

“If she retains the support of the rest.”

“You want the presidency? There’s you, Robinson presumably, myself if I choose to participate in this absurdity. If Patel is out of the picture, it’s still six-three. Unless you’re going to fabricate evidence, nobody else is going to be convicted, Patel was the only Councillor who had anything to do with the war effort. Hell, if two Councillors end up in a Sanctarian prison, the second is most likely to be me.”

“That is not going to happen.”

“You’re not in control of that. Does it scare you? Not being in control? I’m sure it frightens the life out of Patel, after a lifetime of controlling everything.”

“If anyone should be scared of that prospect, it should be you.”

“There are worse things than imprisonment. Most of them in this country. Anyway, you still haven’t told me how you expect to swing the vote.”

“Greenwood, Patel, Pierre, Hart. The worst of us all. Your sister, too, when she was alive. But Chiu and Georgiou are opportunists. If they thought it would benefit them, they’d swing for us.”

“Still leaves you short of a vote. What about Viallamando?”

“Trickier, to be sure. Which is why I need you.”

“What can I do?”

Arnott whispered something in her ear, to which Hale only scoffed.

“You’re too much the optimist, Arnott.”

Hale then stood up and began to walk away. She turned around briefly when Arnott had just about given up.

“You won’t win this one, Rebecca. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. Don’t tell me where Robinson is. Keep her hidden. And if you’re serious about this, come and find me when you can win.”

Jennifer Hale walked away, not letting the tiny sliver of hope Arnott’s words had created take root inside her. No, this wasn’t over for her. Jennifer Hale knew the future held nothing good for her, she didn’t know how but she knew. But whatever happened, she would accept it because she was so, so done with fighting.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by conterniasgloriousleader » Wed Oct 10, 2018 12:25 am

Anthony Santos knew what he was. He’d always been good at causing pain, and the morality of it never bothered him. His first memory was of being four years old and deliberately stomping on a spider. He’d liked it. He liked most things.

One thing he didn’t like, however, was peace. There was no use for someone like him in peacetime. And with every little treaty signed, there became more and more people out for his head. So, Santos had learned to vanish.

Not literally, of course. But enough that nobody was able to find him. He sat in a building on foreign soil now, somewhere he would never reveal the location of. He was waiting. Waiting for the next time his government would call upon his services. They always said never again. They always came back.

Crunch.

Santos froze. The sound should not have been there. It was almost imperceptible, but Anthony Santos had learned to never, ever ignore anything. He was not alone. He picked up the gun on the table in front of him and stood, edging ever closer to the door. Suddenly, it flew open.

The light pouring through the door stung his eyes as several kevlar-clad figures all in black and holding guns burst into the room.

"Confirmed visual on the target, he is armed, I repeat, target is armed!"

Santos pointed the gun ahead, his eyes wild.

"Get back, get back", he muttered

"We have this place surrounded. Drop your weapon and put your hands where we can see them"

He kept the gun pointed forward, his hand now shaking a little with a mixture of fear and excitement

"You have five seconds to comply before we blow your goddamn head off"

The thought of opening fire crossed his mind: how many could he take out with the bullets he had? Before their bullets pierced him?

"Five"

His sense of self-preservation won out, and Santos threw his weapon to the ground before raising his hands above his head, snarling with contempt at the intruders.

"Get up against that wall", cried another soldier. Santos slowly approached the back of the room, followed by two men with guns. "Quicker, quicker!", one screamed, and he obliged. Some of the soldiers rushed out of the room, and soon cries of "clear" were echoing throughout the building. Santos soon felt the butt of a rifle against his back as one soldier kept him pressed against the wall while another rifled through pockets and inside his clothes. He winced as they pulled away the small switchblade he kept inside the hem of his trousers and threw it to the floor.

"Do you have any other weapons?" the officer with his gun against Santos' back asked.

"No. Now, what.."

"Is there anyone else in the building?"

"No, just me. Do you know who-"

"Are you lying to me?"

"No"

The officer looked back at one of the men who had been checking the other rooms, who nodded.

"Good, because if you are you will not leave this room. Are you Anthony Santos?"

"Listen to me..."

Smack.

Santos' head was slammed into the breeze block wall, his answer evidently not having satisfied the soldier. Through the fuzziness in his head and the ringing in his ears, he could make out an insistent question: "I'm gonna ask you again, are you Anthony Santos? Your life might depend on the answer, motherfucker, so think about the next thing you say to me"

"Yes, yes, I am Anthony Santos, what business of it is yours?", he growled out indignantly, still wincing in pain from the blow to the head.

"Mr Santos", the man currently inches away from him said in a voice that was utterly calm but permeated with obvious disgust, "you are hereby arrested for crimes against humanity committed over the course of the Lauchenoirian Civil War, including but not limited to non-lawful detention, torture, and murder." As he said this, two other soldiers forced Santos, grunting, to his knees, and tied his hands behind his back with an elasticated tie. The taste of blood in Santos mouth made him realise he was bleeding from where his head had hit the wall. "You will be detained in Conternia pending extradition to Sanctaria to face a Truth and Reconciliation Committee who will decide your sentence."

Santos laughed, a nervous, hysterical cackle.

"Do you have any idea who I am? The powerful, the politicians, they need me." He smirked a bloodied, toothy smile. "They wouldn't dare touch me."

The butt of another assault rifle soon collided with Santos' stomach, winding him and crumpling him into a heap on the floor.

"Mr Santos", the man who had moments earlier been forcing him up against the wall said, his voice still level. "I know full well who you are. I've seen photos of the states you leave people in. I've read just about every report on you there is. If it were up to me, the contents of your skull would be redecorating this room right now; the only reason you're still alive is that some very powerful people have a slower death in mind for you, after they've got you to tell every dirty secret from your sordid little life. This is the beginning of the end of your life, Mr Santos. You're about to become one of the biggest war crime prosecutions in history."

He laughed again, a bitter laugh stained with tears and blood.

"You say the word 'crime' like any petty law applies to what I do! The constraints of peacetime's false morality hold no power over me!"

"Let's get him out of here"

Laughing and weeping, Anthony Santos was forced to his feet and marched out of the room.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Oct 18, 2018 8:53 pm

Various dates, between Sept 16th and Oct 7th

Camino Arreola would never speak about what happened to him in Kerlile. Less than two weeks after being returned to Lauchenoiria, he packed his bags and took a train to Summersea, the farthest point in Lauchenoiria from Kerlile.

Arriving in Summersea Central Station, Arreola stepped out onto platform six with the other handful of people on the train. A makeshift barrier blocked platform 6 to platform 9 off from 1-5. On the lower numbers, a crowd of people trying to leave the city was gathered. Arreola had known that people were trying to leave the city after the war had destroyed most of the suburbs, but he hadn’t expected quite so many.

As he passed through the ticket barrier, he caught a woman in the crowd’s eye. She had a pair of baby twins in a pram, with two other kids clinging to her and demanding attention. All five of them were dressed in black. As she met Arreola’s eye, she turned away sharply. He kept walking, in the other direction from the crowd, but fleeing from something just the same.

*

Chloe Conde was ambitious, but she was also smart. She could tell when the tables had turned, and she knew that sooner or later, the Kerlian government would blame her for losing the war. Conde knew very well what would happen to her then. She may have delivered Jennifer Hale, but she knew that Hale wouldn’t thank her for it.

Conde packed a single bag, and left her house under the cover of darkness. She headed towards Conternia, where she hoped her face would be less recognisable. She travelled on foot and she almost made it. Several miles from the border, she heard the sounds of a helicopter. She heard the barking of dogs. She pulled out her weapon, and noticed with fear the almost invisible tracking tag that had been attached to it.

Chloe Conde ran. She had watched a thousand people do the same thing before, and always remarked upon how foolish and futile it was. Nevertheless, she ran. She passed over a hill and suddenly there was lights ahead of her. She froze, trapped.

“You will remain there!” someone yelled at her. All the faces of the people she’d done this to flashed past her eyes. Her heart began to beat so fast she thought it might leap out of her body. She heard some people move towards her, but the bright light in her eyes made it impossible to see them.

Chloe Conde imagined what her life would be like in a Kerlian labour camp. She thought of all the people she’d sent to such places. She thought of what they’d want to do to her. She decided.

Conde ran once more. She heard their rifles cock and she could almost sense them pointing towards her. Chloe Conde closed her eyes, knowing full well that there were worse things than death. She was ready to embrace the end.

She wouldn’t receive that luxury. She felt an arm grab her from behind and she went tumbling to the ground. She tried to reach up and strike the attacker, but she found herself pinned against the ground. For the first time in her life, Chloe Conde felt properly terrified. She opened her eyes.

She didn’t recognise the woman who held her, but she recognised the expression on her face. She’d worn the same expression many times. She didn’t like it very much from this end.

*

Daniel Garza only spent a few days in Lauchenoiria after delivering the Moore children back to their parents. He’d met someone in Laeral, but that wasn’t his main reason for leaving. He couldn’t bear to be in his own country, after what had happened. Every moment he spent there, he spent thinking about Leanna Walker.

He had failed her, he knew that. Not only that, but he felt he’d failed the entire country. Walker had died for nothing, in the end. For a month after her death, he’d comforted himself that at least she’d taken Chaher with her. And then came the revelation about Clarke, and he didn’t even have that.

Daniel Garza had sat out the war, safely abroad and away from the fighting. As he’d walked through the streets of Lauchenoiria, he’d seen all the people who had been there, grieving for the ones they’d lost. He didn’t share their experience. He didn’t belong there any longer.

*

Eduardo Sanchez had spent his life in service of Lauchenoiria. When civil war came, he was forced to pick a side. He had believed what he was doing was right. He had been wrong. After the allegations that Charissa Clarke was Kerlian, General Sanchez had felt his heart sink deep, deep down.

The realisation that he had ordered his men to open fire upon Lauchenoirians in service of a Kerlian spy made him doubt his reason for ever being born. He was not a religious man, but he had the distinct feeling the universe had played a cruel trick on him.

He wondered if he would face trial for his actions in the war. A small part of him wanted it to happen. The part of him that thought he deserved punishment for his actions.

One Sunday, he decided to go to church. He did not beg for forgiveness. He did not believe he deserved it. Instead, he prayed for souls of all those lost in the war, on both sides.

*

Jae Chung still carried the burden of the Kerlian USB with her. Though she had delivered it, and the war was over, the contents still weighed heavily on her mind. Owing to the way Clarke had chosen to remain in Sanctaria, everyone was certain she was indeed the little Kerlian girl raised to infiltrate Lauchenoiria.

This was not what interested Jae. She was interested in why the USB existed at all, and who exactly had given it to Yasin Zaunq. She returned to Annatown, seeking out other survivors of the Gonhogian assault. Of the few she found, none knew any more than her about how it came into Zaunq’s possession. Most were dead, if not in that battle, in subsequent ones.

So, Jae continued to search. She found all the information she could on Councillor Carmen Robinson, the Kerlian who appeared to have ordered most of the files on the USB collected. She researched Kerlile with an almost obsessive vigour, contacting academics who had studied the country, and doing research into the early hours of the morning.

Jae Chung had not yet found what she sought, but nor had she given up. She would discover how the USB came into existence, and perhaps if she did, she could prevent something as terrible as this war from happening again.

*

Josephine Alvarez didn’t know if she loved Jennifer Hale or hated her. She knew she hated Kerlile, and that if Noguera’s government decided to extradite her, unlikely as it was, that she’d die before she let it happen.

Her first action upon her return to Lauchenoiria was, slightly shamefully in her opinion, not to get to work trying to rebuild the country, but instead to order a large pizza, accompanied by dessert, and consume them at a speed that left her sister gaping in amazement.

She hadn’t wished to return to her own house immediately, knowing it would be full of Sonja… Jennifer’s stuff, and it was nearing the end of September before she felt ready to move back there, alone.

Upon setting foot on the doorstep, Josephine felt a horrible kind of heartache. She warily checked her phone, but she hadn’t received any more calls from Kerlian numbers. Jennifer had been trying to contact her ever since her return. Josephine had refused to answer any of the calls.

She turned the key in the lock, and then paused with her hand on the doorknob. She pushed it open only a little, to where she could see nothing but the spare set of car keys and the key to the mailbox. Delaying her entry, she pulled the mailbox key off its hook and opened it, to find it stuffed completely full. She pulled out the bundle into her arms and walked through the door, keeping her eye on the mail to avoid looking at the house.

When she reached the kitchen table, she dropped the pile on it and looked up, more out of some habit from what seemed like a previous life than a deliberate choice. Josephine knew the house had probably been searched at some point by Chaher’s police, but there were no visible signs. Perhaps because her sister had already been by to clear up.

Josephine hit the button on the answering machine, letting the messages play aloud. There was a teenager speaking nonsense in some kind of obvious code, several silent messages, about three threats, one spam call, and, finally, a message from a Kerlian number. As Josephine heard Jennifer’s voice, she leapt across the room, pulling the plug on the landline.

Josephine sat down at the table, shaking slightly. She leafed through the mail, picking out all the obvious spam and chucking it in the recycling bin in a furious fervour. Then, still trying to distract herself from where she was, she sorted the remaining into mail for her, mail addressed to Sonja, and mail addressed to both or neither.

The last pile contained mainly bills, with the letters getting increasingly threatening as time went on. It had been over three months since the house had been lived in. Also in the pile was a bunch of government ‘information letters’ about the war. What to do in the event of an air raid (and thank God that never happened, thought Josephine), the emergency rationing system, and a bunch of pro-junta propaganda.

Josephine was about to start opening her pile, when one of those addressed to Sonja caught her eye. ‘Sonja Viratnen’, it read, using the unmarried (and false) name. It was handwritten, the writing curving in an elegant and curious fashion. The stamp seemed to indicate the letter had been posted in Conternia, but Sonja knew nobody there. Just looking at it gave Josephine the chills, and somehow, she knew the letter was from Kerlile.

Gingerly, she took it in her hands. She shouldn’t open it, she knew, it wasn’t addressed to her. But then, the real Sonja Viratnen had been dead since they were teenagers. Against her better judgement, Josephine tore open the envelope and pulled out a letter.

Sunday 3rd June 2018


Jenny,

I was sorry to hear of the imprisonment of your wife at the hands of the Lauchenoirian authorities. Family is important, at least some of us still remember that.

We cannot escape this game, I fear, no matter how far we run. And you have certainly ran far. It took me considerable time to find you, but you must know by now that your newfound high profile will have attracted attention to the north. It is devastating when those close to us are the pawns we must sacrifice and yet sometimes necessity is a curse.

For all my mother’s sins, the only one grave enough to be punished in this life was that of failure. She paid the price with her life, and cursed me to play this game from adolescence until the day I inevitably follow her footsteps.

The Pierre family still run the Aurora Programme. You do not know what that is, but a high profile failure surrounding it would weaken them to the point where I can finally break free of this curse. I give you this information freely, but I dare not send you it directly.

You may not remember, but in our youth I had a cousin who chose to abandon our country. She travelled far, and in her travels she became enamoured with a Lauchenoirian who is now a member of your organisation. Through her, I have delivered the information to your country of residence.

Do with this as you will. We have all become failures, a horrific parody of what we set out to create. I sit in the Chamber every day and I despair at what we have become. I dare not reveal my feelings, I will play the part for as long as I must. I implore you to start the end game, but should we meet before you do, I will say nothing of this.

His name is Yasin Zaunq, part of your Annatown operation. I ask you, meet with him as soon as you can, if not for me, then for the Lauchenoirian people you purport to care about so much. Pierre is behind this, even if it does not look like it. Do not stop searching until you find the proof.

Yours,

Carmen.


*

“Definitely not!” the teenage girl wrinkled her nose.

“What about him?” another teenage girl asked.

“Ehhh… maybe, if I was drunk!” the first teenager shrugged.

“What about you, Leonie?” the second teenager asked.

Leonie Bennett continued to stare into space, ignoring her friends. The second girl waved her hand in front of Leonie’s face, and she blinked and turned.

“What? Sorry, I was…” Leonie began.

“Distracted, yeah, we know. I was asking about that guy over there,” the second girl asked and pointed.

“And I’m meant to just look at that guy and decide whether or not I’d go out with him? I know nothing about that guy. Is he kind, is he respectful… what side was he on in the war?”

“War’s over, what does it matter?” the first teenager shrugged.

What does it matter? Everything! If that guy over there was willing to give up democracy, justify the atrocities carried out, I wouldn’t want anything to do with him. You can’t just act like what happened in the past doesn’t influence the present!”

“Jesus, you’re no fun since…” the first teenager began, then realised what she was saying and shut up.

“Since what?” Leonie pushed. The other two remained silent. “Since what?” she yelled louder, standing up and staring at the other two. A couple passers-by stopped to watch.

“Megan didn’t mean it…” began the second teenager.

“No, Casey, Megan didn’t mean it. And neither did you. The pair of you mean absolutely nothing. You just sat here sipping lattes while your parents stuck up freaking Chaher posters in an attempt to convince the communists you were on their side. And it worked, probably because Chaher was distracted by the war. But what if he’d won in the end?

How long would you have been able to sit in your imported jeans, sipping lattes and pretending nothing had changed? You think you’re immune to any danger if you just sit there and ignore it! But playing it safe isn’t always enough to save you. I hope you never have to learn that lesson the hard way. I’d say see you later, but frankly I don’t want to.”

Leonie spun around, storming away from the two teenagers who didn’t look nearly as guilty as Leonie felt they should. She didn’t slow down until she’d turned a corner, where she stood, shaking and trying to calm her breathing. She let the early October breeze blow her hair behind her and pulled her scarf tighter.

She turned to walk to the subway, when she noticed someone walking the other way, someone she thought she’d never see again.

“Caroline!” she called, thrilled, and ran across the street, prompting several drivers to peep their horns at her. She ignored them.

Caroline froze at the sound of her name, and as she saw Leonie, her eyes went wide. Leonie grinned and moved to hug the woman, but Caroline stepped back quickly, tensing up and looking to the ground.

“Are you okay? We all thought you were dead, I’m so glad to see you!” Leonie exclaimed. Caroline remained silent, avoiding Leonie’s eyes, and trying to appear as small as possible. “Hey, what’s the matter?”

Suddenly, a man and a woman, older than the pair, hurried over.

“Leave her be,” the man snarled at Leonie.

“Sorry, who are you? I am a friend of Caroline’s, I just wanted to make sure she’s okay.”

“I am her father, and I know exactly who you are, Leonie Bennett. You’re that Kerlian Councillor’s little favourite, who stood by doing absolutely nothing when your little role model hurt my daughter!”

“I… I didn’t…”

Caroline tugged at her father’s sleeve, shaking her head at him. He ignored her, staring daggers at Leonie. The other woman, who Leonie took to be Caroline’s mother, fussed over her daughter, ignoring the father and Leonie.

All of you did nothing. Little bitch,” he spat at Leonie, who by this point was shaking and on the verge of tears.

“Mr Eastwood, I never…” Leonie began but she was struggling to get the words out.

Suddenly, Caroline’s father reached over and slapped Leonie hard on the face.

“Enough!” the mother yelled. Caroline was frantically shaking her head and arms at her father, gesturing for him to stop. She still didn’t say a word. Leonie gasped and jumped backwards, beginning to sob uncontrollably. A considerable crowd had gathered around the group.

“Stay away from my daughter,” the father spat and stormed away, shoving several of the crowd out of his path as he went.

“I think that would be wise,” the mother said to Leonie, not quite meeting her eyes. She pulled Caroline off by the arm, pulling her sleeve slightly out of place and revealing a horrible looking scar. Caroline made brief eye contact with Leonie, in a manner that Leonie thought meant she was sorry.

As the Eastwood family moved away, Leonie, still sobbing and with her heart rate much higher than it should be, turned in the other direction and ran away. By the time she stopped, she was half a mile away from where she’d seen Caroline, and her tear ducts were almost dry. She collapsed onto a bench next to the river, gasping and shaking.

Across the street, someone was putting up a poster advertising an initiative to get people of different political persuasions together to discuss their differences over a coffee and move forward with a ‘united vision for the future’.

Leonie thought it was a bad joke.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Laeral » Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:16 am

October 22nd, 2018
The Laeralian flag flapped in the brisk winds, almost drowning out the Minjian chaplain's words. Brandon Lau, Second Lieutenant in the LNSF, had been to several funerals before Lauchenoiria. All of them had been back home in Laeral. They had taken place at either Minjian temples, with full choirs and priests there to conduct the service, and ardents and scriveners to burn the prayer strips. The casket would be open, to display the body to the Divine, the Luminaries above, and the assembled family. Trooper He Zhen had been hit by a rocket during a battle in Ulinaria. The body had been so mutilated, the chaplains hadn't condoned sending it home to his family. The casket, rather than being elaborately carved and open in consignment to the Divine, was a plain box, sealed tight. Instead of a priest and priestess officiating, there was an LNSF chaplain. Zhen's squadmates had taken the place of the choir. "Let us consign the spirit of this man," the chaplain said, raising his voice to be heard over the brisk wind, "to be brought swiftly in the arms of the Twelve to the...". Brandon tuned him out. He had heard it all before. For the tenth time that day, Brandon checked his uniform's breast pocket, where his transit papers home were. The ticket guaranteed him a one-way flight by military aircraft to a Maximusian airbase and then to Lyrene's Jean-Paul Gauvain International Airport.

The ceremony ended in a puff of smoke, as Trooper He's white prayer armband (a scrivener had written 祺, for 'Felicity') was incinerated in a brazier, while the ashes of the armband were reverently placed into blessed water and flicked over the assembled soldiers. Brandon, and most of the others, left at this point. Zhen's closest friends would stay behind, to watch as his remains were cremated. A grave marker in that Lauchenoirian cemetery would remain, as a lasting reminder of the war. It would be the only Chinese-language grave there, and Brandon wondered for a moment if he would be lonely there.

Brandon broke into a quick walk as he left the graveyard behind him. Soldiers and military equipment clattered the roads and alleys of the tent city. Brandon patted his breast pocket again. As he walked, some of the soldiers saluted, and he returned their salutes. He'd have to get used to being one of the commissioned officers from here on out.

___________________________________________________
Matéo was alone in his cell, and had been for several weeks. H'd had a feeling about his erstwhile cellmate, "Quentin". His Kerlian interrogators had been taking him out of the cell for several weeks, into the same room, with the same interrogator waiting with the tub of water. Matéo had almost drowned more times than he could remember. He'd even blacked out during a session the day before. The Kerlian had started to beat him during interrogations as well. And every time the Kerlians had tossed him back into his cell, Quentin had been there, professing that it was hopeless to keep resisting, and that the Kerlians would break them eventually, so why not tell them everything he knew and let the torture end? Last week, Matéo had finally grown tired of his defeatist talk and so casually changed the subject to soccer and mentioned that he was a "huge fan" of 'AS Rilos'. When "Quentin" had enthusiastically agreed that he, too, was a huge fan of that fictional team, Matéo had leapt at him with all of his strength and punched him again and again. It had taken three guards to restrain Matéo and let the stool pigeon beat a hasty retreat. They'd made him pay in the next day's session- but at least that stooge Quentin was gone.

The Kerlians had told him about the Haven Accords, of course. They'd laughed at him, saying that although the other POWs would go back to Laeral, "dirty spies like you" would die in Kerlile. Matéo hadn't told them anything at all, and so he knew that they would come to kill him sooner or later.

When they barged into the cell and picked him up, he didn't resist. Why would he? He was too tired for that. He stumbled along the concrete floors of the prison-bunker, and noticed that this was they first time they hadn't blindfolded him as he walked. They walked him into the back of a military truck. Handcuffed, and with guards besides him, the truck drove off through an evergreen forest. It was a lovely day, as far as Matéo could tell through gaps in the canvas. The truck finally stopped, and the guards told him to step out. Matéo was so very tired, but he did it anyway.

They were parked in a clearing in the wood, surrounded by trees. The road they'd driven in on only entered through one side. This was the end of the road, then. On one side, the forest. On the other, a sheer drop down a cliff face to the valley below. As the Kerlians walked him over to the cliff edge, he could see how far down it extended. There were more trees at the bottom.
"Jump."
"Excuse me?"
"Jump off the cliff."
"But then I'll die," Matéo said. It seemed to him that the Kerlians must have made some mistake. "You need me."
"We're done with you," the Kerlian standing next to him said. "Jump off the cliff, or we'll shoot you. It's your choice, but I recommend the cliff. At least that way you'll get to fly before you die." Matéo looked at her, blankly. "Make your choice," she said. "It's over for you. If you try to run, we'll shoot you."
Matéo turned away from her and the other guards and walked over to the cliff edge, his shoes crunching in the gravel. It was a long way down. Matéo turned and looked back at the Kerlians. Their leader gestured, as if to say "get on with it". Matéo looked down at the endless drop by his feet. Behind him, he heard a gun cocking. He took a deep breath and stepped off into space.

Matéo fell, the wind whistling past his ears as the rock and trees of the ground below rose up to meet him. He couldn't hear anything but the wind going past him, and his heart pounding. The falling lasted one, two, three second, the treetops screaming up towards him- and then the ground hit.

Within the nondescript former courtyard house in Laeralsford that served as the headquarters for the Bureau of External Action, a clerk found the name of Matéo Labat on a list and scratched it out in pen.

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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:39 pm

October 30

“Wait ‘til you see, I’ve got the scariest Halloween costume ever,” boasted the teenage voice from behind the door.

“Is it a Kerlian Councillor?” teased Leonie, as she sat outside waiting for her brother’s big reveal.

“I thought we weren’t allowed to make Kerlile jokes,” he called back.

“No, I said you’re not, Liam!” Leonie replied. She was dressed as a bog-standard witch, ready to babysit their little cousins at a Halloween party. It was 15-year-old Liam’s job, really, but Leonie had volunteered to help, anything to take her mind off… itself.

“Boo!” screamed a voice as a horrific looking zombie emerged from Liam’s bedroom. Leonie didn’t so much as flinch. The zombie looked disappointed. “Come on, you’ve always hated zombies.”

“There are fates far worse than having your brain eaten,” Leonie said, trying and failing to keep her tone light as they began to walk downstairs.

“Leonie… you don’t have to come if you’re feeling…” Liam searched for the right word.

“Nope, I need a distraction tonight. Especially given November comes day after tomorrow.”

“What’s even going to happen?” Liam asked.

“Consequences,” Leonie responded, her mind far away, “for those who deserve it.”

“And is Laura Moore included in that?” Liam pushed. Leonie turned and narrowed her eyes at her brother.

“Just what have you been reading?”

“My friend online said…”

“Your friend online is probably a Kerlian bot.”

“Is not. Anyway, he said that Moore started the war and is a terrorist and is the worst of all the war criminals and…”

“Your Kerlian bot is full of nonsense. Moore isn’t a terrorist, and if you’re looking for who started the war then…”

“Annatown, the war started in Annatown. When the Resistance took the city without any warning and killed lots of people. So, it was Moore’s fault.”

“Laura Moore wasn’t anywhere near Annatown on the 12th June. It was Sonja Alvarez, I mean, Jennifer Hale, who gave the order!”

“And how would you know that?” Liam asked, his facial expression unreadable under the zombie make-up.

Leonie froze all of a sudden. She’d let her guard down, being at home. The war was over, and it was so easy to believe that nothing needed to be secret any more.

“Why are you so keen to see Moore in prison anyway?” she asked her brother. “You been reading too much commie propaganda?”

“You didn’t answer the question,” he pointed out.

“Neither did you,” Leonie retorted.

In silence, the pair went outside and walked down the street to their aunt’s house to pick up their cousins. The sun was setting, and cast brilliant beams of light over the suburbs, and it was almost enough to make the residents forget about the terrible war that had just happened. Almost.

*

“You should call her,” Jae Chung said suddenly.

Excuse me?” Josephine Alvarez swung around on her seat to stare at Jae with piercing eyes.

“It’s November tomorrow, and we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen once the Truth & Reconciliation Commission is up and running, and you might not get the chance…”

“Don’t tell me how to manage my relationships. You’re here to figure out what Carmen Robinson is up to.”

“Another task that would be easier if we were in contact with Jennifer Hale,” suggested Jae. Alvarez looked like she was going to pounce on her. “Ma’am,” Jae added.

“How did you survive all those months, Ms Chung? Surely someone would have shot you, if not for political reasons, just because you’re irritating.”

“I’ve become a lot more confident in voicing my opinions since then. Ma’am.”

“Evidently.”

The pair sat in silence for a moment, then Jae suddenly closed the laptop lid, hiding the pages of information on Kerlile she had open.

“My brother’s a drug dealer,” she told Alvarez.

“…and?”

“He’s a piece of work, and he refused to help me during the war, and he profits off of other people’s misery.”

“I’m not a therapist, Jae.”

“My point is, even with all that, if I knew he was going to go to prison soon, I’d want to talk to him.”

Josephine sighed and stood up, walking over to the window and turning her back to Jae. They stayed like that for several minutes, before Josephine sighed once more.

“Get me a phone.”

*

Councillor Jennifer Hale of Kerlile sat in the Council chambers, rocking back and forth on her chair as she waited for the others. Since her return, the procedures of the Council had moved forward with far less ceremonial flair, owing to her tendency to just ignore it. The others had decided it wasn’t worth the battle. Small victories, smiled Hale.

The doors flew open and Pauline Pierre ran in, looking half-dressed without her usual dramatically placed layers. She screamed in frustration, kicked the table and only then noticed that Hale was present.

“Hale! Tell me where Carmen Robinson is! NOW!” she shrieked, looking panicked.

“I don’t know where Carmen is, Pauline. Why are you so would up about this now, instead of two months ago when she vanished?”

“Look!” Pierre said, practically throwing a smartphone at Hale, who caught it easily. She looked at the screen.

On it was a Lauchenoirian news article, discussing a fresh leak of Kerlian documents. The documents appeared to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Pauline Pierre was the Kerlian who had specifically ordered Charissa Clarke to infiltrate and take over the Lauchenoirian government. Hale let out a low whistle.

“Well this crisis meeting just got longer,” she commented.

“Is this a joke to you, Jennifer!? This is my freedom on the line!”

“Then maybe you shouldn’t have committed any war crimes,” suggested Hale, smirking.

“I swear, when I get my hands on Carmen Robinson, Sanctaria will really have something to accuse me of,” Pierre growled, shaking.

“You think Robinson leaked this?”

“Who else?”

“If this was Robinson, why didn’t she stick it in with the rest of the revelations that came out during the negotiations? And why would she now risk being found to leak it?”

“… then who? Only other person I can think of would be…” Pierre turned to look at Hale, her eyes wide with shock and suspicion.

“Oh, I can assure you it wasn’t me. I didn’t even know of the Aurora Programme until the Clarke revelations. And you’re all still restricting my access.”

“Wasn’t Robinson, wasn’t you, wasn’t Arnott because I’ve had her watched…” Pierre frowned.

“You’re using contractions,” smirked Hale. The aristocracy of Kerlile had long considered it beneath them to shorten words in this manner. Pierre glowered at Hale.

“I am quite certain that is not the priority here. Tell me, Councillor Hale, which of us do you think leaked this information?”

“I don’t think it was a Councillor. Sure, it might be hard for a random citizen to get their hands on this information, but it’s not impossible. So, who would stand to gain from your downfall? Robinson, yes, Arnott also. Myself, only if I was feeling vengeful and I’m not. But that brings up a question. Maybe nobody could gain from this, but could someone get revenge?”

“I do not… you certainly have a knack for frightening people, Jennifer. I must say, I am surprised to find you attending this meeting at all, never mind being first here.”

“Why? This ‘crisis’, so to speak, affects me just as much as you, and far more than some of the others.”

“The word is that you do not view this as a crisis at all.”

“That a large portion of the Council of Kerlile, myself included, are probably about to end up in prison? If that’s not a crisis, I don’t know what is.”

“Rebecca said…”

“Rebecca says a lot of things. Do you honestly think I want to go to prison? If the Council can come up with a plan to avoid that eventuality I will jump at the chance, in spite of any other factors that may have influenced my opinion of this body in the past.”

“You’d give up your little democracy fantasy?”

“If I’m… if I’m going to have a daughter,” Hale began, her hand unconsciously going to where the foetus developed inside her, “I want to raise her myself. I can’t very well do that from behind bars. The Council owes me this, it was part of our deal.”

“And if that deal is broken by a third party?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“Then we are indeed in the same boat. We need a miracle, and we need it soon.”

Hale was about to respond, when her phone rang. The pair both jumped slightly. Nobody ever called a Councillor directly, unless it was an emergency. The ‘nuclear missile launched against this nation’ kind of emergency. Hesitantly, Hale answered the call.

“Hello?”

“S… Jennifer. Hello.”

“Josie? I… Josie!” Hale stood abruptly, and nodding to Pierre, ran out the room into the courtyard. “Why are you… I mean, how are you?”

“Don’t. This isn’t normal, don’t try to pretend it is.”

“I’m sorry, I…”

There was silence for no longer than five seconds, but to Jennifer it felt infinitely longer.

“Jennifer, listen. I find it hard to forgive you for lying to me throughout our entire relationship. This is difficult for me, calling you. But we both know what’s coming soon, and I need to know where we stand.”

“Josie… I am so, so sorry. For everything. For… Josie, I love you. And I will do anything to make it right.”

“You have neither the ability nor the time to do that. I’m not trying to be mean, Son… Jennifer, but that’s just the facts. You can do one thing for me, though.”

“Anything.”

“I need to speak to Councillor Carmen Robinson.”

Hale blinked. On the other side of the line, Jae Chung hovered behind Alvarez, listening to the call.

“I… I don’t know where Robinson is.”

“You said ‘anything’. If you don’t know, find out.”

“I… I can’t. She’s in hiding and nobody knows where she is,” Hale sounded distraught. The one thing she couldn’t do is what Josie asked of her.

“You’re a Councillor of Kerlile, Jennifer. You expect me to believe you don’t know anyone who knows where she is?”

“This is not a secure line.”

“No? Well, if I was to call you on a secure line would you tell me what I want?”

“Josie, I can’t. People will die if I tell you that.”

“That’s never stopped you before. Even when it should have, S… Jennifer.”

“If it would cost lives, would you want the information?”

“Of course not! Jennifer, at the time I didn’t realise it was you who gave the order to attack Annatown and start this war. All that death is on you. If I had known, I doubt I’d have been as surprised when you turned out to be Jennifer Hale. My Sonja… did she ever really exist?”

Yes. Everything I told you was true in what mattered. I love…”

“STOP. If I need to say it in certain terms to get it in your head, then fine. This relationship is over.

“Josie…”

“If you want to know if there’s hope of some kind of reconciliation, there isn’t. Even if you weren’t about to go to prison. I called you because I’ve an acquaintance investigating the Clarke Revelations and speaking to Robinson would have been helpful. If you can’t help, I’m sorry but I’m going to hang up now.”

“I’m pregnant.”

“… sorry, what?”

“I’m pregnant. In August, when they were going to put you on trial for attempting to assassinate President Greenwood…”

“You agreed to give them an heir. What does this have to do with me?”

“They’ll take the baby from me, unless we find… and give it to my next of kin, hopefully.”

“Ha! ‘Unless we find’. You’re plotting with the Council. You find a way out, the people who tortured and killed a lot of my friends will find a way out too. And this is why we’re done, Jennifer.”

“If you’re not my next of kin, the baby will fall into the hands of the Council. And by the time I get out, she’ll be one of them, truly.”

“Oh my god you still want to drag me into your aristocratic bickering. Jennifer, why would I want to raise your kid?”

Josephine’s voice was sharp and hit Jennifer like a brick wall. Jennifer gasped and felt tears coming to her eyes. She’d kept her composure throughout the call, but the sharpness with which Josephine spoke of her unborn child broke all the barriers she was working so hard to keep up.

“I… I…”

“Are you crying, Jennifer? Look, I didn’t mean…” Alvarez softened her voice. “I shouldn’t have been so harsh. But you do understand that I live in Lauchenoiria? And at least half this country would lynch any Kerlian aristocracy who dared to cross our borders right now. Regardless of whether it was Anita Patel herself, or a new-born baby. Your child wouldn’t be safe here.”

“My baby won’t be safe here either,” Hale said, her voice no more than a whisper.

“No good options, then. When are you due?”

“April 26th.”

“Hopefully, an option will present itself before then. Look, I have to go. But Jennifer?”

“Yeah?” Jennifer said, hopefully.

“I mean it. If you help the Council find an out, you will be so far past the point of no return. Maybe you already are, maybe not. But if you do this, you are lost, in so many ways.”

“I…”

“Don’t say anything if you don’t mean it, Councillor.”

With that, Alvarez hung up the phone.

*

“It wouldn’t be fair on the kids if I went.”

“It wouldn’t be fair on the kids if you didn’t go.”

“If someone recognises me, it could get ugly, fast. November…”

“It’s Halloween, you can come up with a costume that nobody will recognise you in. Then just use a false name or something.”

“The kids names were everywhere during the war, especially when Chaher… especially after that broadcast. If someone makes the connection…”

“They won’t. The kids want to spend time with you. If the rumours are true, the kids need to spend this time with you.”

“Stop, Felipe!” Laura Moore said to her husband, as her heart rate spiked again. Deep breathing, she told herself.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“This month has gone by so fast. All the meetings with lawyers, and seeing Peter like that, half dead from what the Kerlians did to him. I thought after the war we would have all the time in the world. I didn’t think that… I didn’t think what I’d done was…”

“You don’t need to say it.”

“I couldn’t, even if I did.”

“It’s not true, Laura. You’re not a war criminal.”

Laura flinched like she’d been hit. Her heart rate spiked and her vision went blurry. She thought she was going to pass out, even though her therapist assured her that anxiety made your blood pressure increase, and therefore made it less likely that you would faint.

“What if I am?” she gasped out, as she turned away from Felipe.

“Laura…”

Don’t. Don’t tell me everything will be okay, or that I’m a good person, or all the rest of the lies you tell yourself to sleep at night. Truth is, there’s no happy endings, not for anyone. There’s just… death. Eventually. For us all.”

“You never used to be so depressing, my love.”

“The world never used to constantly feel like it was ending.”

“It’s one night, get a costume, go out with the kids…”

“I’m not going trick-or-treating tomorrow, Felipe. It’s not happening.”

“Laura… if you’re right, this could be the last time you have the chance.”

Laura Moore froze, then turned and ran into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. Felipe heard the sounds of someone throwing up.

“I DID EVERYTHING I COULD!” she yelled after a few minutes. “What other option was there? Surrender? Suleman Chaher would have killed me, and our democracy with a single bullet. It would all have been over before it began, but so would any hope we had of a bright future for this country.”

“Laura…”

“I tried to get out of the country. It was impossible! If Leanna Walker had played her cards better instead of sneaking around trying to assassinate people then maybe a diplomatic option could have been found, but I had NO OTHER CHOICE. I tried everything, do they think I wanted war to break out!? Of course not! I did what I could but…”

She broke down, sobbing, panicking, the fear flowing through her veins. After a minute, the bathroom door opened, and Felipe picked his sobbing wife up off the ground. He flushed the vomit down the toilet and carried Laura to her bed, still sobbing.

He would never say this to anyone, but he didn’t believe Laura was entirely innocent.

*

The seal of the Council of Kerlile adorned the room that a woman, high ranking in Kerlian society, now sat. It was fast approaching midnight, and she wanted to sleep, but knew it would not come until she knew if her plans had been successful. She kept her own counsel, and had banished her household staff from the room.

It had been almost two months since the signing of the Haven Accords, and still there were loose ends that the agents loyal to this woman still worked to tie up. If all went well, nobody would trace these things back to her. In fact, if all went well, nobody would know these things had even happened.

For those who thought that the Clarke revelations were the most shocking turn of the war, the activities of this woman would have made the contents of Jae Chung’s USB pale in comparison. For those who sought to place blame on one individual, or a group, for the worst atrocities of the war, this woman was who they should have turned to.

She had spent her life treating other people like pawns in a deadly game of chess. She thought of herself as being like a goddess. And yet, even for her, plans could go wrong. Time was running out, and she was impatient. She awaited news, the most important news. It had to come soon.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Mother,” said her daughter, who appeared beside her as they both stared at the door.

“Your father is back,” said the woman.

“Are you certain?”

“One can never be certain.”

“In my schooling in Maytown, they taught us men could never be employed in this manner.”

“As agents of Kerlile, sent abroad to carry out those tasks other nations would declare war on us if we knew about?”

“Precisely.”

“Well, my dear. Why would we tell everyone? The world believes Kerlian men are not employed in such tasks. And if a man is caught carrying out such tasks, who would trace him back to us?”

“You could at least tell your children. I remember my father, you kept him around when we were children in spite of tradition. I had no idea.”

“Not all the Council approves of such things. And in this task, the rest of the Council were most certainly not informed.”

“So, you sent my father to carry out tasks, not for the Matriarchy, but for you, and you alone?”

“Now you understand. Oh, they will blame the war on Jennifer Hale who took the name Sonja, they will blame the war on Charissa Clarke, they will blame the war on the Aurora Programme. None of them have the slightest idea. Well, from what I heard, one did.”

“Is that not a problem?”

“No, he died, by your father’s hand. Poor Anael Noguera.”

“Why? Why all this trouble? Starting a foreign war that we didn’t even win?”

“Simple, my daughter. The rest of the Council are always there, pushing their agendas and ruining my plans. Well, the mistakes made in this war are about to cost a good portion of the Council their freedom. Soon enough, the Council will be weakened.”

“Is that not a bad thing?”

“Tell me, if nine of the ten Council families were to disappear off the face of the planet, what would happen?”

“I…”

“What would happen?”

“The tenth would rule alone?”

“Precisely. But were the tenth to wipe out the other nine, the pact would be broken, and the consequences of breaking the pact would destroy the tenth.”

“So, the only way a single family can take full control…”

“Is if someone else disposes of the other nine. Oh, I expected the war to last longer. I was hoping some Lauchenoirian missiles would do the job. A Sanctarian prison works just the same, though, as far as I’m concerned.”

“If this is traced back here…”

“Fear not, my daughter. They never will.”

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Perhaps we should answer the door.”

“Indeed.”

The daughter pulled open the heavy door. Outside, stood the same man who had stood on the island of Aeluria and met with Suleman Chaher nearly six months ago, and set events in motion, the conclusion of which remains to be seen.

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Libertas Omnium Maximus
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:34 pm

Department of Internal Security HQ, Litudinem
Early morning - Mid-September.

The man had no registered name. In fact, he didn’t even exist according to authorities of Libertas Omnium Maximus and Lauchenoioria. Neither did any of the three men and two women who were handcuffed in chairs to the left and right of him respectivly. He was now reciting his well rehearsed defense to the large man who was interrogating him.

“I was contacted by a man using what was likely a burner phone, using a speech scrambler. All he told me was to meet him on 32nd street at an exact time in Litudinem and I would be able to make a difference. I would be able to reinstall a regime friendly to the Communist cause, my cause. He said there would be many. There were few. Not enough to take the Senate, just to cause some mayhem. Kill anti-comunist Senators maybe. The publicity would be what would do it. The people of LOM would see how truly week their system is. They would look to Lauchenoiria, my nation and they would see how fully democracy can fail!”

At that the big, brutish, interrogator punched him in the face. Blood sprayed from his nose and onto the woman next to him who seemed completely unfazed by the violence.

“Listen,” the interrogator began, “I don’t give a damn about your “cause.” Its all a bloody lie! A facade! A fake! You were hired or forced by Kerlilie to commit murder in the first degree. You cant lie to me. I already know.”

The interrogator prayed that this tactic would work. He of course, had no actual information naming Kerlilie as the mastermind behind the attack, just a hunch and a lot of loose ends. He was just hoping that by dropping names he could get a confession out of someone. The tactic clearly wasn’t going to work based on the blank expressions of his prisoners. The Interrogator was beginning to grow concerned. Perhaps Kerlile had just operated through Trotsky, or worse, they weren’t involved at all!

One of the terrorists had been carrying the burner phone he had reportedly found in his mailbox one day, in the backpack he left in the motel room he had been staying at. Unfortunately, it had looked to have been disassembled. It’s motherboard pulled apart by a pair of pliers or scissors. This confirmed his story of the phone. Alas, it had clearly been wiped clean of finger prints. The phone was generic looking to begin with, a 2008 model at best, and had been made to look even less conspicuous by the fact it had a few attachments that had been glued on to it from another phone to make it look even older. There were a lot of poor sections of Lauchenioria. A ten year old phone wouldn’t turn any eyes, even if one of the terrorists was dumb enough to bring it out in the open.

The Interrogator spat on the man’s now emaciated face and cackled maniacally, his deep, baritone, voice reverberating off the thin aluminum cell walls. A scare tactic he had learned nearly a decade prior.

“Kind sir,” began the woman sitting next to the bloodied man exclaimed suddenly, and with a snarl, “Even if we were working or were influenced by the Kerlilians or a Kerlilian individual, why would we ever tell you? We are not afraid to die. We knew that this could potentially be a suicide mission. I certainly didn’t want to die, but I knew it was a possibility, a possibility I am willing to take, er… was willing to take.”

The woman realized her mistake all to quickly, she had made a passionate but utterly inaccurate statement. The woman did fear death. In every word she had seemed less and less sure of her own statements. She, like many prisoners that he had come into contact with over the past 13 years with the DIS, had spoken. When she should have kept her mouth shut.
Silently, and with an air of finality about him, the interrogator stood up from his folding chair, reached into his peacoat pocket, and pulled out a handgun. Slowly, he raised it to the injured-face prisoners head and smiled. He could hear the sweat, dripping in huge globules from the mans face and onto his, now blood satined shirt. The interrogator could hear the mans short, raspy breaths, desperate to somehow find a solution, a way out, or at least get it over with.

“No, wait!!!!’ The man suddenly cried. “The TRC will never allow this. You are about to murder him! The news said, right before we entered the Senate, that death was not an accepted penalty for anyone involved.”

The interrogator smiled, backed up a step while keeping his pistol aimed at the man’s head, “correct, how very perceptive of you to pick up on that, but their is one thing you forget. If you don’t tie Kerlilie into this than you don’t fall under the TRC’s jurisdiction! Therefore, I can put as many holes in you as I want until you tell me of the Kerlilian’s involvement in all of this!”

The interrogator moved his weapon to the woman, cocked it, stepped towards her, his huge figure casting a large shadow across her face. He smiled and slowly, carefully whispered one word: “Talk.”

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: Have I Got Coups For You

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Nov 08, 2018 10:15 pm

“Our top story tonight: an investigation into the death of Suleman Chaher has concluded that he was killed by a poison of Kerlian origin. The government of Kerlile today released a statement claiming that the attack was the responsibility of Jolene Walters, an officer in the Kerlian Army who had allegedly secretly been passing information to the so-called resistance during the war. She was found dead in her apartment in Grapevale, Kerlile late last night. Her death has been ruled as a suicide by Kerlian authorities due to the presence of a note in which she confessed to the passing of information to the resistance and the murder of Suleman Chaher.

The results of this investigation come on the eve of the beginning of the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, due to begin in Sanctaria this week. Police across Lauchenoiria are preparing for widespread protests throughout the trials, and the acting commissioner of the Melissa City Police Department, whose headquarters were destroyed in a terrorist attack carried out by agents of the Conternian government during the war, has stated that any protest that takes place without a permit is liable to be broken up, by force if necessary.

Weather forecasters are predicting a particularly harsh winter for Lauchenoiria, which comes as unwelcome news to those in the agriculture sector who have already been disturbed greatly by the war. We now go live to our reporter in northern Ecanta where early snow has already beaten rec… hold on, I… I’m receiving news that President Joanna Greenwood of Kerlile has resigned.

This is unprecedented in the history of Kerlile… it is being suggested that this is an attempt to force the election of a younger president before the cases of several members of the Council of Kerlile appear before the TRC. If elections were to take place when these Councillors were not in a position to vote, then there would be a chance for a reformist majority to vote out the traditionalist faction who have ruled Kerlile since its foundation. However, this vote makes that seem far less likely…”

The man who had stood on Aeluria with Suleman Chaher all those months before turned now to his Kerlian lover, who watched the Lauchenoirian broadcast as one might watch an approaching missile.

“I planned for everything…” she said. “We were so close to winning…”

She picked up a glass adorned with the seal of the Council of Kerlile, and threw it at the wall. It shattered on impact, causing a spider at the top of the wall to scurry off to safety.

“We can fix this, I’ll…” the man began, but was silenced by a wave of her hand.

“Stop, Liam. This is over. All the reasons the war started, the secret truth and the public lies, none of it matters any more. No, we’ve lost control of the situation. All my plans, and all the plans of the others, have been shattered to pieces like that glass. As for what happens now, it is out of everyone’s control. So, good luck to all of them. Especially the ones who think they’re untouchable. Nobody ever is.”

With that, the Kerlian woman turned and left the room. And perhaps it was the man, Liam’s, imagination, but he thought he felt an icy wind as she walked.

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