The Hunt for Auroras

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Democratic Republic Of Eiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Democratic Republic Of Eiria » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:12 pm

CLAN Broadcast Studio, Cape Lucifer, Eiria
11:58 AM

Diana Reese stood on the set of the news studio, smiling into the camera as she finished up the broadcast. "And that's all for today. Thank you all for tuning in, and see you this evening". As the red lights next to the camera turned green, she stepped off the stage. "Great work today!". One of the camera operators exclaimed.

"Thanks, Steve! I'm going on my lunch break!". She said, walking down the hallway hurriedly and entering the restroom. After flushing the toilet, she went to wash her hands, and saw two other women she didn't recognize washing their hands also.

She thought nothing of it, and started the faucet. Suddenly, a cloth was being forced into her face. She panicked. No! This can't be happening! She grabbed her assailant's wrist and twisted, hearing a sharp crack. The cloth fell out of her face, but the other woman quickly picked it up and shoved it back.

She kicked the second woman in the chest, sending her flying along the counter. She tried to steady herself, but holes were already appearing in her vision. No! Her legs gave out, and everything went black.

The other two women wasted no time. The one who got kicked in the chest went to alert the staff of Mrs. Reese "Randomly collapsing", while the women with the broken wrist called the agency to signal the disguised ambulance. Diana Reese may have put up a fight, but she was captured nonetheless.

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Feb 18, 2020 11:02 pm

Rebbeka Ochoa lived a privileged life for one in Iustos. Residing in the city of San Bartillo, she spent most of her time at parties and society events for the wealthy and powerful in the country. She socialised on a regular basis with people with more money than sense, in spite of the abject poverty in other parts of the country. Her ‘friends’ were all rich socialites who’d never had to work a day in their lives. They spent their time discussing fashion, celebrities and boys. Rebekka hated every single one of them.

When she received her message on Sunday afternoon she had laughed aloud in joy. She couldn’t wait to get out of there. She was disgusted by her existence and by the people around her. Ironically, she had developed quite a strong desire to help the poor and unfortunate - perhaps because the shallow, awful people around her didn’t care. She wanted to be nothing like them and looked forward to returning to Kerlile where perhaps she could do something that would actually matter - before Shuell took over Iustos and it became riskier for her to remain, too.

It took her a couple of days to make her arrangements. She didn’t want to cause undue suspicion, so she decided to book a holiday to Butterfly Island, the wealthiest part of Lauchenoiria. Her friends all enjoyed their expensive, last-minute vacations to destinations which they could then bore the others to death boasting about what they did there. Lauchenoiria was seen as a risky destination since the war, but she hoped her friends would interpret that as her desire to get one up on them in the storytelling.

She left for Lauchenoiria flying first class early in the morning, even though the thought of airport security made her stomach clench. It wasn’t as if Lauchenoiria was a safe place for her; they despised Auroras more than any other country, if the media was anything to go by. But it was on her way to Kerlile and was a convenient stopping point. From Butterfly Island she could take the ferry to the mainland and then make her way across land to a northern town and walk across the border on foot. The less her passport was scrutinised the better.

There was a moment of terror when they were checking her passport to board the plane, and the man checking paused and looked up at her, but then he smiled and handed it back. Still, her heart rate was worryingly high until take-off, and even when they were in the air she worried they’d be waiting for her on the other end. But they weren’t. She walked out of Seahaven Airport easily, with the Lauchenoirian barely glancing at her documents. Lauchenoirian border security was very lax, as rumoured, and all she had to do was say she was staying less than 3 months and they let her in no problem.

She paid a taxi driver to take her to the hotel she’d booked, but after checking in, she left again quickly, leaving the majority of her belongings in the room - she didn’t need them. She was carrying a lot of money in cash, in a variety of currencies, more than the average Lauchenoirian made in a year. She wasn’t afraid, however, any muggers who dared attack her would find themselves dead or unconscious before they knew what was happening. She headed to the port on public transport, paying cash.

Her backpack was heavy, with all the cash, even though she had the highest-value notes available in the respective currencies. She would try to access her accounts once she was back in Kerlile and try to transfer some of the money but she wasn’t convinced she’d be able to, so this was her backup plan. She didn’t really want to survive on a Kerlian income, given the state of the economy. She paid for the ferry in cash also, heading to the mainland. It was a pleasant journey in the winter sun, and upon arrival she began to feel a little safer.

It was early evening by now, and she bought a ticket on one of the last trains going far north. She was lucky she’d caught it, the night trains didn’t head to the northmost villages. She would leave the train at one of the border villages that were full of terrified Lauchenoirians convinced they’d be kidnapped, and then continue on foot. By morning, she’d be safely back on Kerlian soil, and all would be well.

*

Eva Dreeni had spent most of her life working out how to cause a global recession. When she received her message, she assumed it was because Kerlile had decided it would be a terrible idea, something she’d always known. She breathed a sigh of relief. At no point did it occur to her that it was because she might be in danger. She’d always remained confident in her abilities, and she was very willing to either kill for, or die for, the Matriarchy.

She did not see the need to return to Kerlile just because they were changing her mission, but she’d been given an order and she would not disobey it. She asked for time off work at the Department of Trade, and the secretary Trista Demore was happy to approve it. Demore liked Eva, more fool her, given that there had been a time when Eva was convinced she would have to assassinate the woman. Eva rarely asked for time off, however, not wanting to go far from where her wide-reaching influence was.

Debating her options, she decided she would be better off leaving Zamastan over land, and headed to the Andhra Republic in her car, planning to take a flight home via Laeral from there. She packed what she wanted, relieved she didn’t have a partner that she’d need to leave and lie to. The car journey would be long, which irritated her slightly, but she could always stop on the way and get some food or something. More than anything else, she felt slightly irritated and inconvenienced by the order.

As she drove, she put on pop music that was banned in Kerlile on a CD she had in her car, and sang along as she drove down the long, straight roads. If she was going to return to be reassigned, or get a job training new Auroras, or whatever boring job they’d make her do, she was going to have fun beforehand. Kerlile and her childhood hadn’t been fun, but she was getting kind of sick of her life in Zamastan too.

In the end, she’d been too tired to keep driving, and spent Monday night in a motel, watching poor quality TV shows and eating fast food. She thought about calling them up and requesting some kind of new assignment, preferring that over returning home, but she decided against it. They’d only get angry with her for asking and questioning their orders, and in the end it would only end up worse for her. She’d just go home and see what options she had.

In the morning, she continued her long drive, still humming the tunes even though she’d played the CD on loop so many times she’d had to switch it off. She was calm and collected, and didn’t think anything of it when she crossed the land border. While not particularly pleased to be going home, she was at least looking forward to no longer having to live under a false name and false identity. She didn’t particularly like her name, Eva.

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Libertas Omnium Maximus
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Thu Feb 20, 2020 6:41 am

MCNS Broadcasting Studio #2, Iustitia City
February 16th, 2020 - 5:59:55 PM (local time)

"We are live in 5...4..."

Dianne Prince spun in her chair to face the camera. There had always been something truly exciting to the young woman about knowing that in just seconds her face would be on hundreds of thousands of television screens around the nation. It invigorated Prince in a way that nothing else could because every time the camera went live she knew that she was carrying out her mission.

The news has an incredible influence over people, Prince knew that much. What people read and how their reading is presented has the potential to change their entire outlook on a given subject. As a news anchor, especially one as well respected as she was, Prince could manipulate quite a lot of information in order to make it sound more in line with the traditional views of the matriarchy. It was a difficult and demanding task, especially since the DIS had announced that they were actively investigating Aurora Program, to strike a balance between carrying out her mission and not getting caught but the young news anchor was under the impression that she had found that balance. That was, until the day before.

"3...2..."

Prince nervously relived the events of the previous day as the timer drew closer and closer to zero hour. The anchor distinctly remembered the vehicle that had "tailed" her while she was driving to pick up her two sons from school. The sudden raw terror had penetrated all the way to her innermost self, shaking her to her core. Had she been discovered? Was this the end? Then came the doubt. Her cover couldn't have been blown! She was too careful. The tail could easily have been a figment of her imagination. There were, after all, hundreds of grey SUVs on the road that day. Prince could have easily seen two different vehicles and thought they were one. It wasn't worth giving up all she had worked so hard to create.

Unfortunately, this self-rebuttal wasn't cutting it for her. Something was off. Prince was beginning to regret her decision to not bail the minute she saw that grey vehicle. She should have gotten on a plane the second she saw the tail. The anchor could have been back in Kerlile by now. With a start, Dianne realized that she could still make for Kerlile tonight. Once the broadcasting session ended she could theoretically make straight for the Iustitia International Airport and board a flight for Xiomera. Unfortunately, Prince's gut told her she didn't have until then.

"1... and we are LIVE."

Prince began to mechanically read the teleprompter. Her mind was 5,000 kilometers away. Her mind was made up this would be the night of her flight from Libertas Omnium Maximus forever. With that decided, Prince realized that she needed an escape plan and she needed it fast!

One hour later

"Aaaaaand you are.... off the air!"

Prince was shocked how little time it had taken her to make it to the end of her session. Regardless, now was the time to act. She had a feeling it was the last shot she would get.

"I'm heading out now." she announced quickly to her producer, who was sitting next to the camera and looked rather bewildered the request. Usually anchors would stick around at least long enough to get debriefed by the producers and chat with the camera crew for a few minutes.

"I'm sorry. I'm not feeling great and would like to get home as soon as possible." she added as an afterthought before bolting out of view.

This wasn't going to be easy but it was a scenario Prince had gone over in her head a thousand times since she formulated it ten minutes prior. She just had to quickly take the stairs down to the underground garage bellow the studio where she had her car parked, take the car to the airport, come up with a legitimate reason to travel abroad that would fool the airport security officers, and board the soonest flight to Xiomera. Her main priority would have to be keeping things cool and remaining calm.

The three flights of stairs Prince had to take to make it to the garage seemed to take an eternity to her. Upon reaching the garage level she practically sprinted to her brand new 2020 Bailey SC50 and jumped into the car. Fumbling with the key fob, Prince realized that she was going to need to stick to her training and calm down if she wanted to make it out of the country alive. Breathing deeply, Prince centered herself and and silently turned on the car, fastened her seatbelt, and pulled out of her parking space.

The city was at rest. Surprisingly, no one was out and about despite the relatively mild winter temperatures. This was the perfect night to escape. Relaxing slightly, Prince turned on the vehicle's advanced navigation system and asked it for the fastest route to Iustitia International Airport. It confirmed to her that she only had 12 minutes remaining in her journey, prompting Prince to smile genuinely for the first time in a while. She was about to be free.

Inexplicably, Prince's sedan began to drift to the left. The anchor attempted to adjust her car's position, reckoning that she had simply lost focus on the road for a second too long, only to realize that turning the wheel was doing nothing. Panic replaced any happiness or hope that had had any holding within her mind. Prince was simply unable to believe that car troubles would be her end.

The sedan unceremoniously crossed over into the right lane of her side of the road and began angling itself so that it would eventually cross the center line. It was finally beginning to sink in for Prince that if she couldn't regain control of her vehicle in the next couple of seconds she would hit oncoming traffic and be killed. In desperation, she slammed on the breaks only to have the speed of her car be completely unaffected. Her car had gone rogue. In a last ditch effort to save herself, Prince foolishly turned her steering wheel all the way to the right. It was at that exact moment that the car returned control to her. Prince realized her mistake far too late.

Bystanders agreed that she must have been asleep at the wheel. Maybe she didn't sleep well the night before, maybe she had been drinking, frankly, the cause of the event was entirely irrelevant. What is not irrelevant was the fact that Prince's vehicle drifted across the center line, facing oncoming traffic. The car then suddenly swerved to the right so sharply that it jumped onto the sidewalk of the narrow city streets, slammed into a street lamp, and completely flipped over from the force of the impact. Officially, Prince was killed when the car landed on its roof. She snapped her neck during the role and was then impaled through the chest by a piece of metal that had broken away from the street lamp. The newspapers would all record her death as being an accident. The poor woman was under so much stress from work and must have dropped her guard for a few seconds. The public would never learn the true fate of Mrs. Prince. Everything was going according to plan.

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:35 am

19th February 2020

Anna Larson has been sick. It was just a bad cold, nothing major, but it meant she’d taken a few days off school and, inconveniently, left the spare phone she used for communications with the Matriarchy in her locker. She’d taken to carrying it with her to school since the warning in November that hunts for Auroras may be taking place. She’d become concerned, thinking school was a good place to corner her since she’d be unwilling to risk the lives of children - not that she was an adult herself. The 17-year-old had only spent a few years in Eiria and had no strong ties to the place.

On Wednesday, when she returned to school after two days off, she checked the messages during the morning break and her eyes went wide. Withdrawal, so soon? She was thrilled. Since starting at Leighton High School, she’d watched the other teenagers make plans for their future, make their own choices. Many of them, including her friends, had been extremely excited to see what would come in their adult lives, and Anna had always felt a little sad that her fate seemed to already be written. But now she had a chance to forge her own path.

She went outside at lunchtime, and called the number for the Aurora support line, as instructed to do if she needed assistance in returning to Kerlile.

“Good morning, please state your identification number,” came the voice on the other end of the line, though a yawn could be detected. It was much earlier in Kerlile than Eiria.

“24556987,” Anna replied, and waited for the person on the line to confirm her identity.

“Miss Larson, hello,” said the voice calmly. “May I ask if you are in any immediate danger?”

“No, I’m calling to ask for assistance in getting home. I don’t believe I’m at any particular risk, but as a minor I may have difficulty travelling alone.”

“Understandable, yes,” the voice on the other end said. “We can look for someone to accompany you, how quickly would you like to leave?”

“As soon as possible,” Anna said, checking nobody was nearby. “I kind of hate my part-time job here, and I’d prefer it if I wasn’t here by the weekend!” she added in a low voice.

“Janitor at the Leighton Hydroelectric Plant? Doesn’t sound particularly fun, yes,” laughed the person back in Kerlile, which made Anna relax a little. When she was growing up, some of the employees at the Aurora Centre were horrible, others were kind and fun to be around. She was pleased this was one from the latter category.

“Can I go to the embassy perhaps? Or maybe make my way to Xiomera, there’s a lot of flights from there,” suggested Anna.

“You would be safe if you reached Xiomera, we have an arrangement with them. I’d caution you against going to the embassy, it may increase any suspicions. I’m just checking if we have any agents in the vicinity we can send to you immediately… yeah, we’ve a couple people in Xiomera we can send over. We can have you on a flight tomorrow.”

“Thank you!” Anna beamed. “I’m looking forward to coming home, the people here are so annoying. Naive, and the people in school talk about the most boring topics. I look forward to actually being able to have an intelligent conversation.”

“I’m sure,” chuckled the voice. “You should continue as is for the time being. Good luck, Anna, and we’ll see you soon.”

*

Li Fengchao had received her message on Sunday, but it took her until Wednesday to make the arrangements. She had a busy time in her position, as secretary to the Chief of Staff of the Rén Self-Defence League, and given she was dating her boss, she didn’t want to run out without any notice. It would have just been rude, and the relationship wasn’t entirely just to further her influence. It was also quite good fun.

It didn’t occur to her, at any point, however to disobey the order. She was very disciplined, and she knew that if Kerlile wanted her back they had a good reason to ask. It also meant she’d never have to meet with certain politicians again, Hsieh Pai-han among them. She wasn’t particularly keen on the Laeral Unbowed! leader. He did not seem like one who would be friendly to the Matriarchy.

She packed light when she left, not having much which she felt the need to take back to Kerlile. She didn’t know what her future held, and she hadn’t disliked her life in Laeral, but she was open to seeing what would come next. It was raining at the airport, not particularly strongly, but enough that she wished she’d bothered to bring her rain jacket. She pulled up the collar of her coat as she hurried inside and checked in. She would change planes in Lauchenoiria, to reduce suspicion. Direct flights to Kerlile usually had an overt purpose.

Fengchao watched the clouds as she flew west. She’d been planning to read, and had a novel on her lap, but she couldn’t focus on the words. She felt slightly melancholy, but she wasn’t sure why. It couldn’t be the order, she hadn’t been overly attached to Laeral, but it was something. Perhaps the uncertainty of the future, and perhaps that she knew this was the end of the Aurora Programme. They hadn’t said so, but she felt it. It was obvious, clear, that things in Kerlile were changing beyond recognition. What place had she in this new order?

She sighed, and lay back in her seat, closing her eyes. Her life had been meticulously structured since the age of three, she was unused to uncertainty and unplanned change. They had been taught to adapt, to embrace change smoothly and without complaint, but it was a skill Fengchao had rarely had to put into practice. She shivered slightly, finding the plane too cold and the circumstances too upsetting. The world was changing around her, and she was going to have to adapt in a way she never expected. She was still young, at 27, she would cope - but she was unsure how.

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Feb 20, 2020 8:51 pm

Samantha Collinsgate rarely had any spare time. Between studying for her PhD and working as a receptionist in Hennepin Banking in Little Upham River, Zamastan, she rarely had time to think never mind check her communications from Kerlile. She dreaded activation, knowing what her mission would be - assassinations. It would likely be a suicide mission, and Samantha rather enjoyed being alive. Her fear of activation made her rather obsessive in checking for messages from the Matriarchy.

On Sunday, she reluctantly checked, with her fingers crossed. She was alone in her house, and she checked the door was locked, her general procedure when doing anything to do with her job as an Aurora. Then she went upstairs and brought out the little phone she used to contact Kerlile. A message. Her heart rate increased a little as she paused before reading, but upon reading she was elated.

“Hell yes!” she shouted aloud, jubilantly, doing a little dance of joy. She went to the kitchen and pulled open the alcohol cupboard, pouring herself a glass of celebratory wine. She flopped down on the couch and switched on some music and relaxed.

Thank the Goddess, she thought to herself and chuckled a little. She wouldn’t have to deal with the conflict after all! For Samantha was one of a select group of Auroras, who had secrets beyond the others. Secrets which meant that if she’d been activated, she would have had to make a very difficult choice over which set of conflicting orders to follow. The thought that she wouldn’t need to do that now made her very happy. It also meant, she thought, that her other mission, the doubly-secret one, would likely be carried out soon. And that filled her with great joy too.

She was unhurried in leaving Zamastan. Rushing would only draw more suspicion if any already existed, and she was confident she could get out of any trap set for her. She booked a flight for Thursday to Gardavasque, from where she’d fly to Kerlile. It was a long, roundabout, back-and-forth trip, but it would reduce the chances of someone knowing what she was up to. She’d only booked the first flight, and she was quite happy as she headed to the airport.

In the airport, she had a little drink, bought a nice perfume in duty-free and an assortment of tea towels, table mats and trinkets with maps of Zamastan and other souvenirs which would make rather amusing gifts for anyone she reunited with from training. Given the rather hostile relationship between Kerlile and Zamastan, she doubted any of them would pass this way soon, even from her little secret sub-faction of Auroras. Samantha boarded her flight with a heavy bag and a light heart, looking to the future.

*

Ingeburg Simons knew she wouldn’t be able to follow the order. Not that she didn’t want to; it would be quite a relief to get home safely. But she lived on a Shuellian military base and it would be impossible for her to leave alive. She knew that, and it hurt her. It was very likely that she would be captured and tortured. The thought was unpleasant. Death was a marginally better option, not that either was good, but she couldn’t bring herself to end her life. So she resolved to try and run, and hope that if she couldn’t escape, they’d kill her in the attempt - even though it was very, very unlikely they wouldn’t try to take her alive.

She left in daylight. They’d be far more suspicious of someone in the dark, and she could at least walk part of the way without trouble if it was day. They’d be able to track her anyway, given the ID chip. The night before, she’d stood in front of the mirror, fingering the back of her neck and smiling sadly at what could have been. She was proud to be an Aurora, to serve the Matriarchy in this important way, but she would have preferred to live.

Ingeburg knew where the cameras and patrols were. If there was a gap in security, she’d have known, but inconveniently, there was none. Her best bet was to try and get through the gate somehow, but she had already been worried they were suspicious of her. She’d spent the last few weeks convinced she was being watched, and when she saw two soldiers whispering and looking at her, one pointing, she panicked, and ran.

They shouted after her as she continued, running in zig-zags and dodging around obstacles. She could hear the sounds of pursuit, and at 47 she wasn’t as fit as she’d once been. They were gaining on her. Adrenaline rushed through her body and kept her going, as she rounded a corner and spotted the gate, open to let a delivery vehicle through. She headed for it, knowing she wouldn’t make it but feeling the need to try. She sped up, but they were pointing rifles at her and she just had to hope they’d shoot to kill, despite the unlikeliness.

She felt a pain in her leg and fell, unable to run or keep standing. Her momentum carried her forwards and she bashed her head off the road, and scraped her arms as she rolled over. She was still conscious, and blinked, her body full of pain. Ingeburg looked down at the blood seeping out of her leg. She would survive the injury, she knew. She looked up at the sky, and watched in despair until the blackness took her.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Feb 24, 2020 10:05 pm

Almuenda Benitez remained a true believer in the Kerlian project. If anything, she was even more a follower of Kerlian ideology than when she was a child. She was loyal to the Matriarchy, most completely, despite the horrible life they’d condemned her to live. She did not view it as a contradiction to hate her life while still loving her country; the fact she was willing to suffer for it only emphasised her loyalty more, in her mind.

Upon receiving her message a week ago, she felt a curious mix of relief and disappointment. Or perhaps she only felt relief, but told herself it was disappointment. She was relieved to be leaving her life of poverty in the slums of Iustos, doing laundry for those richer than her and listening to their secrets while they forgot she was even there. Yet at the same time, she told herself she felt disappointed that her time serving the Matriarchy was coming to an end.

They’d told her, of course, before her assignment about the lives of Iustonian women, and the danger of the gangs that roamed the slums. As a 14-year-old, Almuenda had been terrified that she was being sent to Gálrez. Yet, she’d managed to convince herself it couldn’t be as bad as they’d told her, before she arrived. She would have a gun, she knew how to use it, she would be fine. It was probably exaggerated propaganda anyway.

It wasn’t. The gangs were terrifying. She’d managed to survive to the age of 37 but she knew people who hadn’t. A lot of people. Even so many years later, she continued to sleep with a gun under her pillow every night. She spent half her wages one month buying a more secure lock for her front door. At night, even with her training, she worried about going out alone - after all, while she might be more skilled than them, they were by far more numerous.

Almuenda left in the early hours of Monday morning the day after the message was sent. She didn’t have enough money to pay for the whole trip to Kerlile on short notice, so she was going to make it piece by piece, by foot as much as possible. Her fitness level was still high, she should be able to do it. And she was armed, if anyone tried to attack her. She packed her bags full of food and set off.

Looking at a map, it seemed technically possible to travel over land the whole way. But any sensible person would know that it wasn’t really - the route passed through Vulkaria, a war zone, and some rather treacherous land. So she headed to the sea, trying to find a way to cross to Lauchenoiria or elsewhere by boat. Her money didn’t stretch to paying for a ticket on one of the fancy cruise liners, and she’d already spent a day travelling to the sea.

It took her another 24 hours to find someone willing to sell her a ticket to Lauchenoiria at a price she could afford. They set off, and she stared glumly out at the ocean, convinced that someone would have found something suspicious and she’d be captured. But she wasn’t. She managed to make her way to Lauchenoiria by the end of Wednesday night - with not a single penny in her pocket. Which would make the next part rather difficult.

Even with Lauchenoiria’s cheap rail and bus fares, she couldn’t afford a ticket to Kerlile. She didn’t want to beg, it would draw attention, and someone might ask her for papers. It was too risky. She tried to think of other ways to make money, but they’d all require her to either betray her principles, or subject her to too much scrutiny from the authorities. So, she would have to make her way on foot.

It was a long journey, and she was in a weakened state. Her food was running low, she needed to make it last, so she ate sparingly. It was slow going, and she wanted to avoid major paths. She ended up going the wrong way more than once, and she slept outside during the night, waking up shivering. One morning, the sheer awfulness of her life got to her, and she ended up crying under a tree. But she made it to the Kerlian border at 3am, and crossed.

When border patrol found her, she gave them her KCID and waited for them to verify her identity. It didn’t take long, and they invited her inside their vehicle to drive her somewhere more convenient. She gratefully accepted, and entered, asking the day - Monday again, it had taken her a whole week - then promptly fell asleep in the back seat.

*

Qira Demerson was thrilled to be able to go home. Her job had become increasingly hard recently, given the hostility of the Zamastanian government towards Kerlile at the present time. Her mission to influence the Green Liberal Party seemed increasingly futile, and she gained no satisfaction from her life. She could tell that circumstances had changed so greatly since her time of assignment, that she was rather useless.

She guessed that it would be riskier to behave abnormally and leave quickly, than it would to wait a while before going, so she asked for time off work as a research associate for the GLP for the following week, which she was granted. She then booked a budget package holiday to Eiria, planning to travel home from there. To anyone watching her, it would look just like she’d got a good deal and decided it was a good idea for a little break.

She left on the 24th, flying to Eiria, her bags full of beachwear, sun cream and lighthearted paperbacks. She wore her sunglasses to the airport, and had almost convinced herself she was just heading away for a holiday. It was almost tempting to actually stay for the holiday before going back to Kerlile - but she would be rather embarrassed during her debrief if she had to explain that.

In the airport, she bought herself a nice meal at one of the fancier restaurants after security, and sat back to read one of the paperbacks, a romance set on a beach. It was the kind of nonsense that would rightfully be banned in Kerlile, but it was amusing to read just how terrible certain genres of patriarchal novels were. She put in her headphones and hummed along to the music as she queued. From Eiria, she would head to Xiomera and then home to Kerlile.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:43 am

Laurene Ferre managed to convince her work to let her travel to Kerlile. It was a difficult task, given that she was now a news anchor rather than an investigative journalist like she’d started her career as. But with all the new things happening in the Matriarchy, it was a fascinating place - the reforms had been rather unexpected, and were happening much more quickly than most people had expected. Yet, few still wanted an assignment to that country, where journalists were frequently persecuted.

Her eagerness and her ability to subtly manipulate people had combined to ensure that she was able to travel - and, conveniently, that she had her expenses paid. Of course, she would never return from the Matriarchy, nor complete her assignment on arrival. But they didn’t know that. The thought rather amused her. She’d enjoyed interviewing politicians on TV in Laeral, either helping or hindering them as she saw fit. But returning home would be a nice change of pace, and an opportunity to pursue other activities that interested her.

She was too young to retire at 35, but she had all kinds of plans for what she wanted to do in the future. After the bright lights of television studios, she thought she might like to do something quieter for a while. Perhaps work outdoors, or with animals. If, of course, they let her. The message had said that her mission was over, but not that she was free to choose. She was, of course, very up-to-date with the Kerlian reforms, and she guessed that perhaps she would be granted more freedom than she would have even a year ago.

Her flight was quiet, and she sat doing work as they flew, keeping up appearances until the final moment. Perhaps, if she had time, she’d even send back some stuff as they were expecting. Though she was perfectly okay with taking advantage of people, as she’d been taught in childhood, she liked many of those she worked with. If the reformists were to ask her, she’d suggest that Kerlile try and improve relations with Laeral as they were a lot further forwards in feminist progress than she had been taught as a girl.

As she landed and stepped foot on Kerlian soil once more, she felt all the muscles in her body relax for the first time since her teens. Laurene was safe once more, safe from discovery and the terror of living under a false identity. The reforms helped, perhaps if Kerlile had been as it once was, she wouldn’t have felt so comfortable. But as it was, she grinned on passing through border security and continued to grin as she took out her phone and dialled the Aurora Centre for further instructions.

*

Sofia Lance didn’t want her partner, Christopher Jackson, to be suspicious if she just disappeared overnight. It was better to wait, and create a situation where her absence wouldn’t be noted for quite some time. So she spent the time after she received orders to return being as irritating as she could, in the hope that he’d break up with her. It was an unpleasant thing to do, and she felt bad about it, but it couldn’t be helped. This was something she had to do for her mission, and for her safety.

She came home acting very drunk, and called him by the wrong name on purpose, planting suspicions in his head. Then, she proceeded to start eating out after work and coming home late. She left the house messy and never cleaned up after herself, always running off somewhere and saying she’d get to it later. One night after work, she spotted him in a car on the other side of the street, and let him follow her to a fancy restaurant where she ordered a table for two, went into the bathroom and put on extra make-up.

As an Aurora, it was easy for her to watch him watching her, especially since he himself wasn’t trained at all. Really, his movements were extremely obvious to her. When she ordered champagne with two glasses, she saw him storm away from the window where he’d been watching angrily. Sofia stayed out late that night, coming home at about 1am and deliberately smearing her lipstick and ruffling her clothes. She drank all the champagne herself, and had made no attempt to hide it from her breath.

It worked. He yelled at her, and accused her of cheating, which she denied in a way that seemed extremely false. He then told her he was sleeping on the couch, and when she woke up in the morning, her bags were packed and sitting next to the door, and he had already gone to work. She called her own work, at the Women’s Chapter of the Socialist Party of LOM, told them her boyfriend had thrown her out and she was going to need to take a few days off to sort out a living situation, which they accepted.

She then took her bags, and headed to the airport, smirking at how easy it had all been. Any sadness she felt at the end of her relationship she buried deep down inside, not allowing herself to feel anything for a second. It was another skill she had learned in training, skills that made her able to be cold and cruel without a second thought. She flew via Laeral, and on the second flight, thought a woman sitting up in business class looked very much like someone who had been in the younger class than her during training.

*

Noemi Saller had long since forgotten what hope felt like, if she had ever known. Upon receiving her message, she knew there was no way she could get out of Shuell. She contacted the Matriarchy asking for help with returning, and was told to sit tight and wait for a response. That had been over a week ago, and she was covered in scratches that her pet cat had given her when she squeezed him too hard while she was stressed.

Continuing to work in her job as an engineer, she made certain that her colleagues didn’t see her fear or her worries. If they had seen anything, she would have surely been taken away by now. The thought stressed her out - they’d torture her, almost certainly. She’d been trained to resist, of course, but there is only so much someone can do and the longer one resists for, the more pain one suffers. If it happened, she would have to make some difficult choices over how much she was willing to suffer.

Her life continued as normal, except that she continually checked her messages, hoping that Kerlile would find a way to rescue her before she was captured, but no such message came. The next time she contacted them, they irritably told her she had to wait just a little longer. She was not pleased with that response, and almost punched the wall on receiving it. It wasn’t fair, she hadn’t even had the chance to do anything, and now she knew that Auroras were being hunted. She had little time left.

One morning, Noemi woke with an uneasy feeling. She couldn’t place the cause, but it made her wary. She ate her breakfast quickly, without opening any of the curtains or blinds. The thought of going to work frightened her, but not going would look even more suspicious, so eventually she worked up the courage to get ready and leave the house, keeping away from the windows beforehand. She looked at her car, and had a disturbing feeling that she shouldn’t take it. Something about it looked wrong.

It was freezing as she walked, and she kept looking over her shoulder in case she was being followed. So when it became clear that she was being followed, she felt completely sick. There was no way this would end well, and running away would only make it worse for her. So she froze on the spot, and clenched her eyes tightly shut. It was a few minutes before she heard them approach her, warily, like she might have set a trap. She hadn’t.

She didn’t resist when they grabbed her and dragged her to the van. She just kept her eyes clenched shut, pretending that she wasn’t there, that if she couldn’t see it then it couldn’t hurt her, like a disturbing version of peek-a-boo.

“Please,” she whispered suddenly, as if it would help.

“Shut up,” one of them said to her, and pulled her more roughly.

As she was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a van, she thought about the day they took her from the orphanage. Though she had been three at the time, she remembered it somewhat. She remembered the look of fear on the face of one of the orphanage staff as they took her, looking at Noemi like she faced a terrible fate. Perhaps the future wasn’t so difficult to predict.

*

Sou Liren had spent the last week of her life having a very good time indeed, in spite of her fear. Upon being recalled to Kerlile, she had contacted them asking for assistance, knowing that it would be difficult to leave Shen without raising suspicion. Unlike with Noemi, the Kerlians had responded to her, considering it at least possible to rescue her. They’d instructed her to leave her university in Singse and make her way to Liaren, on the island jutting out from Shen that was a popular vacation spot.

She spent the week at an establishment which would have been very illegal in the Matriarchy, on the orders of her superiors. There were two advantages to this: it was unlikely that someone would look for a Kerlian there, and also such places were rather wary of the Shen authorities. Liren had been rather nervous beforehand, but knew that those assisting her in her escape would meet her there. The thought of spending so much time around a male worried her, so she chose to spend it with a woman. She was 18 and inepxerienced in such things, worrying about the attachments and early marriages that many Shen subjects got into.

It was almost a disappointment when the knock came on her door. Three Kerlians stood outside, two women and a man. Male employees of the Kerlian Intelligence Service were rare but not unheard of, even though many foreign states considered their existence a rumour, much to their glee. One of the women remained behind in her place, and she headed out with the other woman and the man.

“Enjoyed yourself?” the woman asked once they were outside, smirking a little. They took a taxi to the docks, speaking in English, but with false accents. Liren kept her Shen accent, and the other two sounded Lauchenoirian. Liren did not bother to answer the question, and the other two settled into a conversation about types of fish.

When they arrived at the docks, they made their way to a Lauchenoirian-registered yacht, and sat on deck, sipping at some alcohol and canapes, pretending they were just there for a nice holiday in the heat of the equator. Liren herself was far too nervous to join in much of the activities, but she relaxed a little when the other woman joined them. They did not bother to exchange names while still in Shen territory, in case they were all captured. They sailed straight for international waters, wanting to get there as quickly as possible. When they arrived, Liren laughed aloud in joy.

“Oh, I hated it!” she cried aloud, laughing and leaning back on a sunbed, helping herself to a chocolate canape. “They’re so old fashioned with their gender roles. They claim that women can do many things, and it’s true, but really, there’s so much that needs work. And it’s impossible to do anything, lest the government shut it down. I’d have been no use there.”

“I don’t envy you,” one of the women remarked while the other dealt with the actual matters of sailing. “I’d have hated to be an Aurora. It wouldn’t have been so bad in a country like Xiomera or Lareal where their feminism is more advanced. But Shen, or Shuell, or LOM… I’d have rather faced whatever consequences refusing assignment leads to.”

“Imprisonment within the Aurora Complex,” Liren clarified. “Not, like, the worst kind, they have activities and can study things, and sometimes teach school subjects to young Auroras, but they’re not allowed to leave. I confess, I was tempted, but in the end the thought of possibly never seeing the sun again was too much.”

“I imagine they’ll be releasing them,” the man remarked, speaking more freely than a Kerlian man usually did. “Since the Programme is being shut down.”

“It’s being shut down entirely?” Liren said, startled.

“Yeah, the reformists want rid of it,” the woman nodded.
“Good,” said Liren suddenly. “I hated it. I’m not even going to pretend any more. If they want to kill me or lock me up for it, fine. But I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went to.”

“Don’t worry, they let you Auroras say anything, the reformists. They let the rest of the population say a lot too,” the man said bitterly

“Surely that would be a good thing for you? Given your… well, gender” Liren said.

“I know my own kind,” he replied, “and some of them are dangerous.”

They remained silent for a while, and continued to sail as the sun began to set, turning towards Lauchenoiria and eating their dinner.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Feb 28, 2020 11:29 am

Hiranur Aksoy was one of the oldest Auroras. She’d been in Laeral since 1980, and she had adapted well to her life there. She barely remembered her childhood in Kerlile, or her training - which, as a member of the very first class of Auroras, was less extensive than those younger than her. Her mission had merely been to try and influence Laeral to move in a more feminist direction, nothing like what had come later. She’d watched the Charissa Clarke fiasco with horror, angry with Kerlile for using her like that and disappointed in her country.

It seemed to Hiranur that Kerlile had itself diverged from the feminist ideal it had set up to realise. The reform would do them good, but it was still a long way off what it wanted to be. She enjoyed her studies as a feminist academic in Laeral, and she felt that, frankly, she was doing more for the cause than the whole Kerlian government in the present day. The thought of going home with nothing accomplished upset her. She didn’t want to return, and she wondered about the ways she could get out of going back.

Despite the rules, she’d come across one of her friends from training in her life, an Aurora sent to Lauchenoiria. It had been a coincidence, they’d both been attending an academic conference and had seen each other. In spite of their training, they decided to meet up, get a coffee, go for a walk and reminisce. That had been many years ago, long before the Clarke fiasco, and they’d shared a lot of insights into the development of feminism, and the state of Kerlian politics. Since then they’d continued to correspond by email, keeping it to academic discussion primarily. They shared the occasional phone call as well.

But Amaya had stopped responding to her messages a month ago, and when Hiranur did some digging, it became clear that the Lauchenoirians had her somewhere, and not on a legal basis. She’d been devastated. She was terrified for her friend, given how much the Lauchenoirians hated Auroras, and it made her rethink the wisdom of the entire Aurora Programme. As a medium for spreading feminism across the globe, it really came with far too many unnecessary risks - and clearly was being abused by the present Councillor Pierre.

She called the Aurora Centre.

“Good morning, please state your KCID.”

“Uh… 23601..527?” she replied, uncertain. It had been a long time since she’d needed her Kerlian Citizen ID number.

“Do you require assistance?”

“No, I just… I’m not coming back.”

“... that is unacceptable. You have been given a direct order.”

“Yes, but there is no purpose in my return. The Programme of my day was very different from now, and I’m doing good here. More than I ever could at home.”

“You’re in Laeral, yes? Come back, and we can work something out. We have already had a request from one Laeral-assigned to return to the Allied Provinces, there is the possibility of us negotiating a deal with the Laeralian government, but you will need to return to be debriefed in any case.”

Hiranur sighed. “Fine, fine. But if you don’t make a deal, I’m not going to be very happy at all. I hope you’re going to do something to help all the others who have been imprisoned in various places, too.”

“That is not your concern. Return to Kerlile as soon as possible. Goodbye.”

Hiranur threw the phone down in anger, but she would obey anyway. If they made some kind of a deal, maybe she wouldn’t need to live in fear. And maybe Amaya would be rescued too.

*

Marita Vogel had a terrible life. As a member of an Iustonian rebel group, she lived every day and night wondering if this would be her last. They had to fight Shuellian penal legions, which was a terrifying thing to do. They were so willing to die - or, at least, they had no choice in the matter - that they’d fight very persistently. She hated it, but had to pretend at all times that she was some kind of religious zealot. They were also infuriatingly sexist at times - she was by far the best fighter, but nobody would ever acknowledge it.

It had occurred to her many times that she could just run away, abandon her mission and set up a new life for herself somewhere they’d never find her. But between her own people and the Shuellians, she would be lucky to make it out of the jungle. In the oppressive, humid heat it was a horrible place to run, anyway. And they were getting closer to her group’s encampment every day. Soon they’d be completely surrounded.

One night, when she was sleeping in her uncomfortable hammock of twine and rope, after eating her disgusting rations and relieving herself in a bucket, she heard a noise in the distance. At first she thought it was just an animal in the jungle, but then she heard a call from the night patrol… followed by a gunshot. She leapt to her feet and grabbed a rifle, joining the others in the ruckus that had been raised by the call. They got into position, and readied themselves to fight against whoever was attacking.

It was a long fight. She was an excellent sniper, and probably managed to kill more than 10 of the attacking Shuellians, but it wouldn’t be enough. They were outnumbered, outgunned, and the rest of the rebels, the real rebels, weren’t the best fighters. They would likely all die that day, a thought that she tried to keep out of her head while fighting. A grenade exploded nearby, and she had to switch her hiding place. Unfortunately, this would require crossing open ground for a few seconds, which would be enough for someone to shoot her. But she had no choice.

She ran, and as she did, she felt a pain in her leg, and she went down. She managed to pull herself by her arms behind a tree, leaving a trail of blood in her wake. Examining the leg, Marita was concerned. The dirt of the jungle floor was collecting up with the blood, and if she didn’t clean it, it would likely get infected. She looked around for water, or cloth, or anything, but she’d got up in such a rush her water bottle wasn’t with her. She swore and leaned against the tree, trying to catch her breath and stop the bleeding.

The blood loss made her dizzy, and she fell unconscious after a while. When she woke, she was tied up and a man was looking over her, some kind of medic. She was woozy, and the words spoken were spinning around in her head. She recognised the language, German, but she wasn’t completely fluent and it was too much effort to translate at first, though she tried her best. Eventually she woke up enough to understand what they were saying.

“The leg’s infected, she’ll die if we don’t amputate now.”

“No!” she gasped aloud, causing them all to turn and look at her.

“Shut up, Kerlian,” one of them spat at her in English. Fear flooded through her.

No hablo inglés,” she replied in Spanish, trying to sound confused.

“We know what you are, Aurora,” one of the soldiers said in English, stepping over and pressing on her leg, causing her to scream out in pain. “Knock her out and do what you need to.”

“No, no please,” she begged, horrified. “Don’t! Please!”

“Oh, now you speak English,” the soldier sneered as the doctor stuck a needle in her.

Please!” she yelled, noting with terror that someone had just handed the doctor a machete. She was feeling woozy again, and they were all glowering at her as she fell unconscious, terrified.

*

Mackenzie Walhorn was very proud to be an Aurora. There had been no doubt in her mind when she was deployed that she would do something great in service of the Matriarchy that she would be remembered for and honoured for. She did not expect to survive whatever her mission turned out to be, and accepted it, looking forward to dying for the Matriarchy in a rather disturbingly eager fashion. The whole time she’d been in Zamastan, since 1991, she never wavered from her conviction that one day the world would be run using the Kerlian matriarchal system, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

So when she was recalled to Kerlile, it crushed her completely. Her entire reason for being was to one day sacrifice herself for the military. She was 42, she would be too old to join the military if she went home. Her mission would end there, and nobody would ever remember her, and no good would have come from her life living in this goddessforsaken patriarchal country. Despite her loyalty to Kerlile, the order to return home made her angry. So angry, that she decided not to follow it.

Mackenzie vanished. She disposed of her methods of contacting the Matriarchy entirely, and she left Zamastan. Using her skills, she required a new false identity, a fourth name added to the three she already had. She spent days flying back and forth across the world using a variety of fake passports, erasing any trail she could have left. Anyone trying to track her, from Kerlile, Zamastan or elsewhere would not be able to. She changed her appearance, learned a new accent, new mannerisms and made no attempt to contact anyone from either of her old lives at any point.

When she arrived at her destination, neither Mackenzie Walhorn, International Investment Specialist at ZSuites Incorporated and Kerlian Citizen 12287723, Aurora known as Layla during training and member of the class of 1991 existed. She had erased her past entirely, but she hadn’t erased her mission. Kerlile may have become weak and spineless with the rise of these reformists, but she had not. Orders were one thing, but she served a higher cause - that of women’s liberation worldwide. And she would continue to champion that cause from the shadows - and the world better watch out.

*

Comilō had struggled greatly when she was ordered to return to Kerlile. She’d spent a long time that night watching her 6-year-old daughter sleep and thinking about what it would be like to never see her again. The thought hurt her greatly, and it was there that she made the decision that she wouldn’t return to the Matriarchy. As the days passed, her husband noticed her nerves and commented on it, but she just said she thought she was coming down with a cold. In reality, she was having terrible nightmares.

As the day approached when the deadline for returning or being cut off from support loomed, she began to feel even more nervous, until eventually she had a panic attack in a shopping mall and had to hide in the bathroom. She sat there for a long time, head in her hands, wondering what she could do. She didn’t want to leave, but at the same time being abandoned to her fate frightened her. There had to be another option, surely? Perhaps if she just called up the Matriarchy and asked? It probably couldn't hurt…

She left the shopping mall bathroom and got into her car, then drove to the nearest park and made her way to the waterfall she knew was nearby. The sound of the running water would hopefully mask what she was saying, and the fact she would need to speak English, which had a chance of attracting suspicion. She dialled.

“Good morning,” yawned the voice on the other end, and it suddenly occurred to Comilō that it was probably around 3am in Kerlile. “Please state your KCID.”

“26027537.”

“Ah yes, I have you here, Com… ma’am. How may we help you?” the voice said, hesitating on her name, clearly uncertain how to pronounce it.

“I know we were told to return home, but… I have a daughter here, and I can’t leave her.”

“Ah, yes. We have that on your file. Well, good news for you, we have a special deal with the Xiomeran government. Can you wait on hold? I don’t know the details, someone else will need to speak to you. Hang on.”

The voice disappeared and was replaced by some pretty standard hold music, which at first caused Comilō to pause, and then to laugh aloud, unable to stop at how utterly mundane it was for something which was a helpline for secret agents.

“Hello, Comilō,” came another voice after about 5 minutes. “My name is Susan, I work for Councillor Hale. You don’t need to worry, you’re completely safe.”

Comilō was confused and uncertain, but there was something in Susan’s voice that relaxed her and made her believe that the woman was telling the truth - even though she couldn’t quite believe that there was any way she was safe.

“We have an arrangement with the Xiomeran government to allow any Aurora in the country who wishes to remain to stay,” explained Susan. “I understand you have a husband and daughter in the country? Is it your desire to remain in Xiomera due to your family?”

“Yes, but…” she glanced around and lowered her voice, “I don’t want to end up disappearing or something, and I worry.”

“You don’t need to worry about that. You need to get in contact with the Xiomeran authorities if you wish to remain, or we can do that for you. You’ll register with them and they’ll explain the further nuances of our arrangement. You will no longer be an employee of the Kerlian Intelligence Service and you will be free to live your life.”

“I… no offence, but this sounds like something an Eiria-assigned dreams when she’s seven,” said Comilō sceptically.

“I understand why you feel that way, but I promise you. You’ve seen how we have an alliance with Xiomera, they are the ones who asked for this deal and we accepted. If you wish further reassurance, I can ask Councillor Hale to contact you.”

“No, no, that won’t be necessary,” Comilō assured Susan. There was no way she was going to put a Councillor out of her way. “I’ll… I’ll contact the Xiomeran authorities.”

“Are you sure? We can do it for you, if you prefer.”

“No, I’d rather it came from me. Thank you,” Comilō said and then hung up the phone. She leaned back against a tree and breathed deeply. It was rather nerve-wracking, the thought of going to the authorities and admitting what she was, but if it meant she had a chance of keeping her life without having to live in fear… it was worth the risk.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Feb 28, 2020 11:00 pm

Xing Yawen was quite relieved to have an excuse to return to Kerlile. Thank the Goddess, was her immediate thought. She wasn’t particularly keen on her life in Laeral, and she was glad of an excuse to stop pretending that she supported the ideology of the Laeralian People’s Party, of which she was the Deputy Chief Whip. In truth, she hated their ideology passionately, her only solace being that she was in a position to slowly sabotage the party and use them to create the backlash that would fuel the feminist revolution.

Of course, in her long time in Laeral, Yawen had noticed that the Allied Provinces were making good steps towards women’s equality by themselves. Perhaps others like her were influencing the development, but there was certainly a global trend in the direction of women’s rights. She liked to think that Kerlian influence had helped speed up the trend, but she knew such a thing could never be proven. Correlation does not necessarily mean causation.

It took her some time to make her plans for leaving, as she had many things that needed to be taken care of before she could depart. Her two adult children didn’t live with her and her husband - thankfully. They lived nearby, so she went around to visit both of them as it was likely she wouldn’t see them again for quite some time - if ever again. Her relationship with her husband wasn’t bad, per se, but it had settled into a kind of boring comfort without the passion of her youth. It wasn’t overly difficult to leave.

She had trained with Charissa Clarke, and upon seeing what happened to Clarke and all the mess of the Second Lauchenoirian Civil War, it had kind of worried her. Although, in training, Clarke had been a horrible bully to the other girls, and liked to snitch to their trainers for minor things. All the other girls had hated her, and Yawen managed to get a small amount of joy out of seeing how badly Clarke’s mission had crashed and burned. It served Clarke right for all the times Yawen had been locked up alone crying in a cold room in punishment.

Yawen resigned her position, told her children that she was taking an extended vacation, and left. She had claimed to everyone that she’d had a medical scare which the doctors thought had been caused by work-related stress, and that she needed to take some time for herself. It had terrified her, she said, so she was going to head south and get some sun and hopefully improve her health on an Eirian beach. Of course, upon landing in Eiria, she continued onwards to Kerlile, finding it amusing how her lie contained one fundamental truth - what she was doing now would reduce her stress levels immensely.

*

Stephany Keller’s husband was going on a business trip. It was like a blessing from the Goddess, she thought. He would leave, and she would vanish, and he’d be none the wiser until he returned. It was providence, she’d be able to take her beloved 8-year-old daughter, prevent her from growing up under the horrors of a patriarchy. It wasn’t like her husband had contributed much to childcare, leaving it primarily to her, much to the annoyance of her Kerlian sensibilities. Her marriage had been purely a way to reduce any suspicions, but out of it she had gained a daughter she loved.

It was going to be rather awkward to explain to her daughter what was happening, so instead she just told her they were going on a surprise girls’ holiday. Emily was very excited at the thought, and packed far more things than Stephany would have liked her to take, but she allowed it - after all, they wouldn’t be back. She felt a little guilty, truthfully, about disappearing in the night. She’d have to, if possible, contact her husband once she was in Kerlile and explain things, perhaps try and work out something. But she couldn’t leave Emily, and it wasn’t safe to stay and disobey her orders.

They made their way to the coast, and thankfully Emily fell asleep on the journey. She’d contacted Kerlile for help in returning last week, and she’d been told to sail to particular coordinates on a particular day, where she’d be met by a team extracting another Aurora. This intrigued her, she hadn’t had the opportunity to talk to another one for quite some time, not since her assignment began. She rented a boat, paying in cash, from a company that does, well, boat rentals, and she moved all their things from the car to the boat, and gently carried the sleeping Emily on board, preferring not to wake her.

She was not a particularly experienced sailor, but she knew some rudimentary skills, and with modern technology, she managed to make her way to the coordinates without any trouble. They were still in Maximusian waters, but over the horizon just marginally from the land, somewhere near Bjeorg. Naturally, this was further out than one was meant to take the rented boats, but she doubted they were paying such close attention yet. There was already a boat waiting there, a fancy yacht on which three women and a man were lounging on the deck, laughing. They spotted Stephany’s boat and one did a hand signal she recognised as a code from training. She responded.

“Come over!” the woman called, waving. Stephany manoeuvred the boat next to the yacht and one of the women jumped over and helped her move her belongings. The woman suddenly stopped and turned to Stephany. “Um… there is a child here.”

“Yes, she’s my daughter, Emily,” Stephany said.

“You have a daughter?” asked a Chinese-looking young woman leaning on the railings of the yacht. She had an accent that was a curious mix of Shen and Kerlian.

“Yes, she’s returning with us,” Stephany replied.

“Goddess, this is gonna cause trouble…” the woman next to Stephany muttered, shaking her head, but she let Stephany lift Emily onto the yacht and checked over the boat and then sent it adrift as they turned back on course towards Lauchenoiria, and then onwards to Kerlile.

*

She was walking with her husband and kids when she noticed something was off. It was obvious to her what was about to happen. It had been her greatest fear, that they’d come for her and ruin her life. As two men crossed the road up ahead and began walking towards them, seemingly casually, and she noticed in the reflection of a car window another pair behind them, she paused and took her husband’s hand.

“I love you, Rudi,” Liesa Dirks told him, meaning the words completely.

“I love you too,” he laughed, “but why now?”

“I mean it. I promise you with all my heart. What I was, despite my past, I love you so much. So, so very much. My love is genuine, I promise you, and I really hope you can forgive me. Please, please, please forgive me.”

“Mum, what’s going on?” asked her 12-year-old daughter Miriam. Her son, Alex, stood looking slightly alarmed and embarrassed, as 16-year-olds tend to do when out with their parents.

“I promise, I love all of you so much,” Liesa insisted as the men got closer. She knew they were only there in case she ran. The door of a van parked on the edge of the street flew open and more emerged, heavily armed. “I won’t run!” she yelled at them, but they tackled her anyway.

Miriam screamed and her father grabbed her, shocked and staring at Liesa. There was chaos, and Liesa couldn’t make out the words between all the screaming that was happening, voices overlapping. She joined the cacophony, tears running down her face.

“Please forgive me!” she sobbed loudly as she was dragged away by the Shuellians. “I love you, I promise, Rudi. Please forgive me!”

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Xiomera » Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:05 pm

(Posted with input from Lauchenoiria)

The day after her conversation with the Kerlian helpline-for-Auroras, Comilō found herself even more perplexed than she had been from the phone call.

That morning, she woke up having no idea which "Xiomeran authorities" she was supposed to approach. She lived in Tlilotl'pac, an affluent city that was home to the corporate headquarters of Cala Computer and the epicenter of Xiomera's tech industry. The city was more a home to expensive stores, fancy restaurants and trendy coffeehouses than the dour institutions of state power. Finally giving in to a sense of desperation mixed with exasperation, she drove herself to the Imperial Police station in the center of town.

When the slightly bored-looking officer manning the reception desk asked her how he could help, she threw her fate to the winds, or the gods, if Xiomerans were right about that sort of thing. "I am an Aurora. I was told to contact the Xiomeran authorities to report this and register...." she said, trailing off. It sounded ridiculous, even to her.

The officer seemed as stunned as Comilō was. "Um....wait here a moment, ma'am," he said finally, walking over quickly to his sergeant as another officer watched Comilō, unsure if she was supposed to arrest her or ask her if she wanted a coffee.

After several phone calls followed by approximately twenty minutes of waiting while the officers tried to make awkward small talk with Comilō, another woman came into the reception area. She was dressed in a business suit from a second-tier Xiomeran designer, not as expensive as the truly high-class designers but still very nice. Her outfit, and the briefcase she was carrying, were practically a uniform for those who knew how to decipher Xiomeran class and rank markers. Bureaucrat, businesswoman, or agent. Which one are you? Comilō thought.

"Good morning, you must be Comilō. I am Tezliteza, with ASI. I have been assigned to take your report and transition from your Aurora service to Xiomeran residency. Please come with me," she said.

Agent. I still have the knack for identification, Comilō thought with bemusement. Still nervous, but deciding to trust everyone involved in this very odd situation, she walked to the door with Tezliteza. "Oh, officers....neither of us was ever here," Tezliteza said pointedly as she led Comilō through the doors.

The Imperial Police officers simply nodded. They weren't about to argue with the Agency.

"Am I under arrest?" Comilō asked directly as they reached the ASI agent's car. She wanted to get everything out in the open. "Arrest? Oh, no, of course not," Tezliteza replied with a smile. "That's why I got you out of that police station. I think we should have our talks in a more innocuous location, so you can relax a bit," the agent replied.

After about twenty minutes of driving, the two reached the outskirts of Tlilotl'pac. The area they were in was a more working-class area of the city, home to the many people who kept the city working for its affluent residents to enjoy. There were significantly fewer new buildings in this neighborhood than there were in the bustling heart of Tlilotl'pac, but there was one of note, Comilō noted as the car pulled up. Tlilotl'pac Community Services Center - Secretariat of Support, the sign over the front doors read.

"We're going to talk at....a public services center?" Comilō said, surprised.

"Yes...it's still a government facility, and it has private meeting rooms, but it's not a police station or an ASI office. That should help you feel a bit less nervous," Tezliteza said.

It did, in fact, help Comilō feel less nervous. The shiny new building, a symbol of the reforms of Empress Yauhmi, seemed to represent a different Xiomera than the one which would have probably thrown her in a prison cell, while Topilpopoca had been Emperor. The people at the center also helped reassure her, if only because they seemed as happy and surprised as she was beginning to feel. As Comilō and Tezliteza walked through the building, they walked past people speaking to advisors or standing in line to apply for the new benefits the Empress had launched. All of them were smiling. The new Xiomeran "safety net" was not as broad or as extensive as that of the more liberal IDU states. But any social safety net at all, in a nation whose previous leaders had viewed poverty with a mindset of if you're poor, you're just not working hard enough, was a godsend to the people in this building.

The two of them eventually arrived to a private conference room at the back of the building, looking for all the world like two people meeting to plan social programs. Once they were inside the conference room, Tezliteza activated a small device that she took out of her pocket; it lit up and hummed slightly. "Just disappointing any potential eavesdroppers," the agent said with another smile. "So....as your Kerlian contacts probably advised you, we have come to an understanding with the Council of Kerlile to allow Auroras in Xiomera to remain here, in their current lives, or to return home if you wish. My job is to help you with whichever decision you make."

Comilō nodded. "I'm sorry, I just have to ask....why am I being allowed to make this choice? I don't mean to seem ungrateful....I do want to stay here, with my family. But it just doesn't seem real that the Xiomeran government would let us stay without repercussions....we were sent here as agents, after all. You're an agent yourself...that would seem odd to you, I am sure."

Tezliteza nodded, smiling. "You're not wrong. But the Empress has decided, in her wisdom, that punishing Auroras for the actions of those who sent them here just doesn't make sense. Auroras are very talented individuals, and if they wish to serve Xiomera, that benefits both us and them. The Empress is loath to waste talent, especially if it can help our nation and its people. Also, Kerlile and Xiomera are allies now. And, as far as we can tell, no Aurora sent to Xiomera ever did any harm to this country. So, the Empress considers this a matter worth overlooking."

The ASI agent's expression turned more serious. "There is one overriding reason, though. You may have been born and raised in Kerlile, but you are a Xiomeran. This is your homeland. It belongs to you, just as much as it does to me, or anyone in this building, or this country, even the Empress herself. There is no other Xiomera, anywhere in the world. It would be wrong for us to deny you the chance to remain in the land that is your birthright. The Empress views this land as a refuge for its people, and herself as their protector. So, when confronted with Xiomerans who had their youth stolen, who were forced to serve as spies, with no right to refuse, on their own ancestral homeland....the Empress doesn't want to punish you, or the other Auroras sent here. She wants to save you, and bring you home. You're already here, luckily enough. The only question is....do you trust us enough to take a chance?"

Comilō sat, lost in thought, for a moment. It all still seemed like a dream, like a fantasy of rescue. But if the Xiomeran government had wanted to punish her, they could have just arrested her and been done with it. She thought about her husband, and her daughter. In the end, there was only one choice.

"I will give you my trust. I want to remain here in Xiomera, with my family," she said. Tezliteza smiled again in response. "Then that is what shall happen. You'll need to complete some paperwork, and take the loyalty oath again as a formality, but we can take care of that all now."

"And then...that's it? I can go home?" Comilō said, still slightly dazed at the idea that it could be this simple. Tezliteza nodded. "Let's get started."

A few hours later, Comilō arrived back at her house, her emotions a mix of amazement and shock. It was all done. As she walked inside her home, her husband, Miztal, smiled from the back of the living room. Her daughter, Zia, ran up to her to give her a hug. Hugging her daughter back, Comilō smiled more broadly than she had in ages. She was truly Xiomeran now, and truly free.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Gardavasque » Sat Feb 29, 2020 9:53 pm

2/28/2020 6:45 AM Eternity International Airport

Dawn Marcourt-DeFarge wasn’t feeling at all well. All day yesterday, she had had a constant unquenchable thirst and this morning her throat was beginning to feel swollen. She was fighting chills all over, and it was more than just the cold wet winters the Eternity Bay Area was known for. Her stomach was uneasy, and try as she might to rationalize, it was more than garden-variety anxiety. She was popping CBD cough drops every thirty minutes and slurping herbal tea by the hour with no noticeable effect. Nevertheless, Dawn had one final mission to accomplish, and she knew she couldn’t let some stupid cold get in the way. She just had to make it on board her flight and the rest would be a walk in the park.

As her High Speed Train emerged from the Emerald Tunnel and began its gradual deceleration, she began to form a backup plan in her mind. Recent events like the Ferry Bombing, daily protests to remove the president, and now this new Bat Pox outbreak had made Gardavasque a significantly less stable, albeit more lucrative, business environment for the trading of political secrets. She had some extremely valuable kompromat with her that could help bring down Gardavasque’s corrupt ruling party; Dawn held, expertly stitched into the lining of her designer handbag, paper originals of bank notes, signed by President Snollygoster himself, that proved his purported wealth was all a grand illusion, that he was in fact a simple tool of a foreign dictator, and that cynical journalists possessed this evidence, but killed the story because it was more valuable as a kept secret. And now, unfortunately for everyone, there was a Bat Pox epidemic rapidly making its way around the globe. Not only was the disease itself dangerous, macroeconomists were blaming the sudden free-fall of world stocks on worldwide loss of confidence in international trade.

If she could just get through security without coughing.

It was a little late in the operation to change any of her contingencies, but the health screenings had only started this week. She had a 48-hour mandate to return to Kerlile at all costs. The combination of these two factors meant that aborting her trip would not be an option. She needed a contingency plan for getting out of the country if she couldn’t make her flight. As she walked past the pharmacy she picked up a pregnancy test and an Ekie Diet Cola. Faking morning sickness would be a dubious explanation for her symptoms, but she calculated a 70% chance the Federal Police Officer would be young and male and obviously eager to avoid getting too much detail about her medical issues. It could explain fatigue, slightly elevated temperature (if she had one), and of course irritability which she was fully prepared to demonstrate if the situation called. She just couldn’t cough.

Dawn knew she had a to create an optimal window of about ten minutes where she would almost late to catch her flight; it would put extra pressure on anyone scrutinizing her to get it over with quickly so she could catch her flight. This meant she had to time her getting into the security line just right. As she eventually came to the line, she noticed it was longer than usual. That was not a good sign, it could indicate the news reports of tighter scrutiny of passengers at the airport we true. There were posted signs explaining that extra medical screenings were taking place due to the Bat Pox outbreak; passengers with any health symptoms were required to notify the Federal Police and report for screening which included temperature-taking.

She brought up her electronic boarding pass on her PearPhone and got out her Sentinel Pass and her Photo ID. The Sentinel Pass was new under the current Administration, it allowed her to skip most of the line and present directly to the Screening Agent, for a hefty fee of course. She drew in a slow breath on a count of ten, held it ten, and released it slowly on a count of ten, just as Hester Perel had practiced with her. What luck, the agent was a pale-faced young guy whose uniform hung off his lanky shoulders, giving him the appearance of being undernourished.

“Have you traveled to Shen in the past 30 days?” The agent asked.

“No.” Dawn replied.

“Have you have any flu-like symptoms in the past two weeks?”

“No.” Dawn replied, this time she could feel a slightest bit of irritation in the back of her throat, a cough, wanting to come forth. Oh Goddess, not now she thought.

The agent looked at her and narrowed his eyes. Here was an obvious business traveler, well-dressed, with a round trip flight to Kerlile, a somewhat unfriendly country with a history of spying on Gardavasque, but he was now looking out for Vulkarian terrorists and passengers potentially infected with bat pox.

“What is your reason for travel?” The agent needed to hear speak with a Gardavascan accent, so he asked Dawn an open-ended question.

“International business. I own a winery in Loyalty.” She replied, smiling slightly and making sure he heard the twang of elongated vowels in her regional speech. Something that she had learned generally helped working people feel more at ease with her.

She knew the standard was to ask three questions and move on. So it surprised her when he didn’t flag her on right away.

“And how many traveling in your party today?”

This question stunned Dawn, because it was somewhat unexpected, but not completely out of order. She began to calculate percentages in her head.

“Just me… My husband will be joining me in Grapevale tomorrow. We will be petitioning the Council of Kerlile for a license to export wines.” This was of course a major lie made up on the spot, something that she knew would be difficult but not impossible to verify. Her husband Jordan was in fact still at home sleeping in. He didn’t know she had left, or where she was, or who she really was for that matter. Eventually when he learned the truth, maybe later today maybe tomorrow, it would be too late. The woman known as Dawn Marcourt-DeFarge would be dead forever, and she would return home to take up an identity she hadn’t known since she left Kerlile Her actions rematriating today was going to break his little heart. She became acutely aware of the fake smile plastered on her face, and had to remember to slowly relax her muscles in her cheeks and forehead. The cough she felt a second ago was tickling again. She needed water to stifle it right away.

“And you said you’re traveling for business?” The agent was growing more suspicious of her, although he had no evidence she wasn’t who she said she was.

“That’s right.” Dawn breathed in slowly for a count of ten as the skinny agent scrutinized her documents one more time. Just at that moment, someone somewhere in the middle of the line sneezed! People turned to look, there was a noticeable pause of background chatter as the person sneezing drew attention.

“Excuse me, but my flight is boarding. Can I go please?” Dawn asked in respectful but firm tone. He noticed she wore a gold lapel pin of the Conservative Christian Capitalists, Gardavasque’s ruling party. It lended her credibility. She was obviously rich, and making life difficult for rich people was a good way for a Federal agent to collect grievances against him.

The agent’s attention had be successfully drawn away. “Have a nice flight, ma’am.” He said flatly returned her documents, making no further eye contact with her.

She was in the clear. As she hurried toward the gate to catch her flight, she exhaled slowly. Life in Kerlile was going to be different, but she hoped simpler and more honest. As she reached the gate, she stopped for some water and another CBD cough drop. She imagined these would probably still be banned in Kerlile. She had had a taste of another life as Dawn Marcourt for 37 years, and now it was time to return to her native Kerlile. To be among her people once again. She looked forward to going to Church of the Goddess and trying some Kerlian soda bread you couldn’t get in Gardavasque. As she bordered the flight and took her seat, she closed her eyes said silent goodbyes to Jordan, to Saint Antoine, and to Dawn. Now should would once again be “Donna, Kerlian Citizen ID 22025946.”

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Mar 01, 2020 11:02 pm

Josephine Poirier enjoyed her life in Laeral. The thought of returning to the Matriarchy, to a life which would be of a much lower standard was not one she wanted to think. Her education and career was already going well, and she was only 22. Things were looking incredibly bright for her, but back in Kerlile her options would be very limited. Returning was not a very attractive option, and she could do much more for feminism here than she could at home.

It was when she was at work she made her decision. Her internship at Les Couloirs was one of the things about her life she loved the most. She had learned a lot during it and she liked the other people there. They were intelligent and thoughtful, they also spoke very freely, something she knew would never happen in Kerlile. She liked the intellectual stimulation and the opportunities her conversations brought her for personal development. All that would be lost if she followed her orders - so she decided not to.

She kept working, living her life, rubbing shoulders with Laeralian lawmakers and debating feminist policy with politically minded Laeralites. Josephine made no move to contact the Matriarchy at all, and hoped that after their deadline expired in a few days, they’d just let her go and make no attempt to contact her. If she had any trouble in the future, she would deal with it by herself, in whatever way necessary. She hoped though, that she would be able to continue her spotless academic record, her model-student image and never need to deal with the authorities at all. Only time would tell if that would come to pass.

*

Felicité Marin did not particularly want to return to Kerlile. She was in a good position, and all that would be lost if she returned - or, indeed, if she came under suspicion. Since the discovery of the Aurora Programme by foreign nations, she had slept rather uneasily at night. The Minister of Inclusion and Women’s Affairs in Laeral was not a particularly happy person at this point in time. Everything hung in the balance.

She didn’t want to go back, but maybe there was something she could do, a way she could convince the Matriarchy to permit her to remain in Kerlile. It was unlikely there would be any way she was able to be completely safe; she wasn’t who she said she was, and that would always hang over her if she remained in Laeral. Yet, it was worth a try, and she could get in contact with Kerlile and ask.

"You're leaving it late, aren't you?" the voice on the other end of the phone answered, much to her surprise.

"I… I'm sorry?" she said, baffled.

"Well, the deadline to return is in a few hours. You should have asked for help before this."

"You haven't even asked who I am," Felicité said, slightly concerned about the breach in protocol.

"I'm about to lose my job in a few hours, what do I care about protocol? Tell me, why haven't you returned yet? And give me your KCID, I'll still need to look it up on the system."

"26419547, and I must say, you are not following protocol at all," she answered firmly.

"Get me fired then. Oh wait, you can't. Look, why… oh, I see now. Yes, someone in your position would find it hard to come back."

"I believe it would be detrimental to our cause for me to take that action at this time," Felicité began cautiously. "My sudden disappearance could lead to questions we do not want raised. It would be beneficial for me to remain here."

"Another one? That's more common than you'd think," laughed the voice. "It's kind of funny how badly Pierre messed up."

"Okay, who exactly are you, because you are not acting remotely like one in your position should."

"Calm down, I'm just having fun! Councillor Hale is gonna give me a job, probably, I can feel it," she said, and all of a sudden Felicité noticed a slur in her voice. The person on the line was drunk. Great.

"Could I please speak to someone else?" she enquired as politely as possible.

"Fine, fine, hold on…"

There was a pause of a few moments, and a lot of background noise, the phone clearly having been left on the desk in another horrendous breach of protocol. Felicité was starting to worry that this was all some kind of bizarre dream.

"Ms Marin? I'm so sorry about that," answered another voice, this one sounding slightly familiar. "There has been a bit of chaos here today, she shouldn't have been on the phones. May I ask what you need?"

"I believe it would be harmful for me to return," Felicité sighed as she explained again. "I would like to remain where I am, I feel this is the best way to move forward."

"Okay, that's understandable. There are a lot of things going on here, and you're not the only one to say this. We are currently formulating a plan to try and enable those who wish to remain. Someone will be in contact with you in a few days, in that case, to discuss this further. Now, I'm sorry, I really have to go, we have an alarm going off again. Good luck!"

The line went dead and Felicité slowly put the phone down and sat, leaning back against a wall and wondering whether that was the wisest idea. It appeared that the Matriarchy had fallen into chaos, and the action of a low-level employee insulting a Councillor without being immediately taken away was something that she couldn't quite process. It seemed that times has indeed changed.

*

Keitha Noguera was in her house, sipping her afternoon tea and staring out at the garden, lost in thought, when the doorbell rang. She barely heard it until the second time it was pressed, after which she shook her head and stood, walking over to the door and opening it. Outside stood her former aide Alyssa Robinson, now working for her successor as First Minister of Aeluria, Nazario Macías.

Alyssa had been by her side during the war, in the worst times of rationing and blockades, when nobody was quite sure if they'd survive. She had developed a fondness for the woman during the time, and knew her to be an intelligent, calm and collected individual who she had come to trust. She had not expected a visit from Alyssa, but it was a very pleasant occurrence nonetheless.

“Alyssa! I wasn’t expecting you! Would you like to come in?” Keitha smiled.

“If you don’t mind,” Alyssa nodded. Noguera let her in, and walked into the kitchen, putting the kettle on as Alyssa took a seat at the table.

“So, what brings you here?” Keitha asked as she poured the tea.

“You see, I’m leaving tonight, and I felt we needed to clear some things up. It’s likely most of it will come out soon and I owe it to you to prepare you. I trust that you won’t tell anyone else of this until I’m long gone - it would give you no advantage, and would be counterproductive and, to be frank, a little dangerous.”

“I’m… very confused,” confessed Keitha.

“Here’s the thing: people misinterpret things. We see it all the time, it’s why we have to be so careful what we say to the media. Yet sometimes things get leaked that the original creators of are not given the chance to comment on - or, indeed, are not surviving to this day.”

“This is not producing any more clarity.”

“President Susanna Pierre of Kerlile, you’ll likely remember her from your childhood. The founder of the Aurora Programme. Oh, don’t get me wrong, she was corrupt too, she used it for her own ends - from what I heard there was a lot sent to Kvask in the 80s. But her daughter was a lot better, and actually ran the Programme on the principles it was set up by, and advertised to the wider Council as.”

“The Aurora… why would you… wait, you’re not…” Keitha turned pale, and she looked up at Alyssa in fear.

“It was meant to be a Programme to spread feminism across the globe. Not the imperialist nonsense that the Clarke affair implied. It’s been misunderstood, but now it puts the whole thing in jeopardy so I rather think the Matriarchy are scrapping it entirely. I don’t know, there are different interpretations and different missions. But I’m in a complicated position, you see. I subscribe to an interpretation that is not what is commonly believed, or perhaps even commonly practiced.”

“Oh Arbrera, you are one!”

“Please don’t freak out, I’m not going to hurt you. Everything I’ve done here has been as it appeared, at no point have I been activated. And even if so, I would not carry out a mission that is not in keeping with true feminism. The government of Kerlile at the time of the war here practiced a corrupted version. I have more loyalty to the Reformist faction, or even what no longer exists.”

“What… okay, okay, let me get this straight. You’re a Kerlian agent, but you don’t support the Kerlian government?”

“Not the Kerlian government at the time of my assignment. There are a few of us, members of the Aurora Programme who have a secondary mission. I need to carry that out now. Please don’t worry, it is a domestic affair. There are elements who dislike how some families have turned the Matriarchy into a tinpot dictatorship which tortures people for fun. It is time that we returned to our primary mission - women’s liberation.”

“I am not sure I understand.”

“You don’t need to, you’ll see soon enough. I must go, but remember that if you report me, if my identity comes to light, it will reflect very badly upon you. I came here as a courtesy, and I trust you will do the same to me and allow me to leave. People already call you collaborator behind your back, don’t make it worse. I will help you, if I can, when things change.”

“When what things change!? You’re a Kerlian!” Keitha cried, distraught and afraid.

“Everything. Trust me. Keep your eye on the news for the next couple of weeks, events are in motion which will change everything. Goodbye,” said Alyssa, the Aurora, and then she left, vanishing into the trees outside.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:16 pm

Large Meeting Room, Kerlian Intelligence Service Building
3rd March 2020

Councillor Jennifer Hale stood with Councillor Pauline Pierre at the front of the room, flicking through sheets of paper containing lists of identities and assignments. Across the room, which hummed with the noise of various conversations, just over 20 former Auroras sat in groups of 3 or 4, going through paperwork with various employees of both the Aurora Programme and general records offices in Kerlile.

“Okay, so we have one confirmed dead and one missing from Zamastan, and three returned… not bad,” mused Hale. “A majority safe.”

“Unlikely, I agree. The statistics from LOM seem stranger. Four dead in a variety of ‘accidents’, three returned – one with a daughter, I might add,” sighed Pierre.

“Well, that will cause issues. But we can deal with the fallout from that later. I highly doubt those four died in accidents. I’d suspect they were either assassinated, or they aren’t even dead. They could still be in Maximusian prisons,” Hale suggested.

“Yes,” nodded Pierre. “We should attempt to ascertain if that is the case, and if so come up with a plan to get them out.”

“We can always offer a prisoner exchange with some of their people we have here,” Hale said. “We’ve been looking for a way to handle that issue.”

“Ugh, you lot. Fine, fine. Whatever works. Two back from Lauchenoiria,” Pierre returned to the initial topic at hand, “and one still free confirmed. Four in prison, it seems, from what we’ve been able to gather.”

“Alvarez is willing to negotiate, I’ve had contact with her.”

“Well, your wife would be.”

“I remember when you didn’t acknowledge my marriage.”

“Times have changed,” smiled Pierre wryly. “It would be foolish of me to continue denying that fact.”

“Nevertheless, I can’t believe you fully accept it.”

“Moving on,” Pierre said swiftly, “no contact with any in Shuell, or one in Iustos though two from the latter have returned. We have three back from Kvask, one still missing and one refusing contact, though I can imagine why.”

“I don’t know what it is with your family and Kvask…” Hale shook her head. “Anyway, we’ve had two back from Xiomera and four deciding to stay there, two back from Eiria and four missing. One back from Gardavasque, almost missing the deadline. The one in UNE is missing, and there are numerous requests from those in Laeral to remain.”

“The numbers are sufficient,” nodded Pierre. “We’ve had more return than we expected, and if we can negotiate with some of the less overtly hostile nations, we can do this without endangering too many. If the Programme has to end, I’d say this has been as successful as it can be.”

Hale nodded, and glanced around the room at the assembled Auroras, sitting in groups according to their age, laughing and joking. It seemed to her almost miraculous that so many of them had made it out so easily, that so many of them were safe and happy. It was a better outcome than she’d predicted, and it made her pleased, in a way, that the leaks had happened in spite of everything. At least now, reform would be able to move ahead as planned without any complications.

On the other side of the room, three 50-year-olds sat clustered together, discussing in subdued terms what had happened to their old classmate, Charissa Clarke. The one who’d been in Laeral, Yawen, was resting her head on the shoulder of the Kvaskm Aurora, the one who’d arrived back early and had already been processed. Rhona, her birth name was, the one she’d never known until a few weeks ago. She went by it now, tentatively, no longer going by either Daniela or Slavjena. The third, Dawn, the late arrival from Gardavasque, was silent, as someone from the Kerlian Database Agency, which managed the KCID database, explained how they were going to be allowed to choose their names.

Anaïs Lasserre, who wanted to return to Laeral, was talking to Stephany Keller, the one who’d brought back a daughter. They’d trained together, and seemed to be sharing stories about their lives and laughing. Both were pretty happy, even though there was a chance they would both be in serious trouble for violating protocol. It seemed that reform had made Kerlians much more comfortable with, well, existing. The thought gave Hale pleasure, before her eyes fell on the unfortunate Hiranur, who sat alone, depressed upon receiving confirmation that Amaya Morse was indeed in prison.

Irena Wilson, Li Fengchao and Eva Dreeni also sat in a circle, looking up three-bedroomed flats in Grapevale. The friends from training had decided to share together during the day’s events of filling out paperwork, more paperwork, and more paperwork. All three of them had managed to come out of their ordeal relatively unscathed, and seemed to accept their sudden forced career change without too much pushback. They’d been surprised to hear that one from their class, Comilō, had chosen to remain in Xiomera, but they were pleased to hear of the deal, and that she was safe.

As Jennifer Hale looked around the room, she felt an odd sense of peace. It seemed like a conclusion to the old order, and a sign that Kerlile truly was changing. Perhaps this particular change had been forced upon them, but it was no less significant. These were Kerlians whose lives had been entirely controlled by the government. Now, they were free to make their own choices, and to speak freely. It was proof, undeniable proof, that things in the Matriarchy were changing, and Jennifer couldn’t help but feel joy.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Mar 05, 2020 7:50 pm

Aurora Centre, Unknown Location, Kerlile

Olivia Pierre glanced around at the mess. Things were being piled up in cardboard boxes, two lorries were parked outside being loaded up with paper to be taken directly to the recycling plants in a special collection, and computer hard drives were being destroyed before the rest of the equipment was loaded onto yet more lorries. As Olivia walked through the office area of the complex, she saw members of staff putting potted plants in boxes from their desks like it was any old office shutting down. It was rather surreal.

Most of the office staff had managed to find new jobs at other agencies, particularly the Censorship Bureau following their announcement that they would be reviewing many extra foreign films. Some of the staff who taught ‘normal’ subjects had found employment as teachers, some who taught other things had found jobs as martial arts instructors, but many more were struggling. The mood was subdued, but it was that of a closing company, not that of an espionage programme.

She headed past the office workers, trainers and assorted security personnel until she was out of the main building and crossing what appeared like a generic unused field to another building on the other side. This building was large, and seemed like a large block with no windows on the lower two floors, but Olivia knew that inside was a large courtyard with a garden and many windows overlooking it. Usually when she visited, it made her nervous and upset, but today she felt so much lighter.

As she approached the building, the woman who acted as ‘manager’ of this segment of the Aurora Complex opened the outer door and waved to her, smiling. Behind her, Olivia could see that the three other security doors had been left wide open and she couldn’t help but speed up with a spring in her step, almost skipping the last few metres before reaching out and shaking the woman’s hand.

“Olivia, I’m so glad you could come,” the woman said warmly, grasping Olivia’s hands between both of hers.

“Of course, Poppy,” Olivia smiled, “I wouldn’t have anyone else do it. They deserve to hear from someone other than my mother. She’d probably be cruel about it. I imagine many didn’t think this day would come.”

“Oh, I don’t know, since you started visiting regularly, there’s been a resurgence in hope among the girls. You’ve done wonders for them, Olivia. I can’t thank you enough.”

“I did the best I could do, I only wish I could have done more before now,” she sighed. “Have you assembled them already?”

“I did when one of the others saw your car pull in,” nodded Poppy. “They’re in the courtyard, it’s such a nice day, it would be a shame to keep everyone inside.”

“Then let’s go,” Olivia said decisively, walking in ahead of Poppy. They passed through the first two doors, Poppy closing the first to keep the cold out. Then they were in a crossroads, the door to the left marked ‘security’, the door to the right ‘administration’ and the door ahead of them, which had been left open ‘residences’. The pair continued to walk forward, finding themselves in a corridor which ran alongside the courtyard, full glass windows ahead of them.

Walking along a little, they came to a patio door which led out to the courtyard and headed out, walking to where a couple of picnic tables were set out. Olivia sat on the table, her legs on the bench, and looked out over the gathered women and girls. There was about 30 of them in total, ages ranging from children to women of around 40. Some were sitting on garden chairs, and others on the grass, looking at her with a mix of trepidation and hope. Poppy stood beside her.

“Hello everyone,” Olivia called, projecting her voice loudly so that everyone in the courtyard could hear. “I have good news. Some of you have waited far too long for this, and for that I apologise. My mother is a cruel woman, and for too long people like her have been in charge of government in this country. But things are changing,” she paused, looking around the room. Everyone, even the children, was watching her.

“We have a Reformist President, and a Council who are willing to consider new ways of doing things. Those who believe in the days of my great-grandmother, and the cruelty she saw fit to unleash on the people of Kerlile and the world, are falling out of favour, growing old, and being replaced by people who can see a better way of doing things. Which is why I am delighted to announce that the Council of Kerlile has unanimously voted to end the Aurora Programme, effective immediately.”

She paused to allow them all to take it in, and then continued. “As a result, all those who live and work on the Complex are being allowed to – and asked to, I might add – leave. That includes all of you. You are completely free to go, whenever you like.”

There was a silence, and then someone let out a cheer, and all of a sudden, the courtyard was a cacophony of noise, people talking over each other, hugging, and running around. Olivia and Poppy looked at each other, and shared a smile. Olivia had been paying regular visits to those who failed the Aurora training, those who weren’t allowed to leave the Complex ever, for several years now and it gave her great joy to be able to tell the women who’d had their freedom and lives stolen that they were getting them back.

“Ms Pierre,” came a small voice suddenly, and Olivia looked down to see a small child, of about seven or eight, with a large burn all down the side of her body. “Thank you.”

“This place never should have existed,” Olivia replied. “What’s your name?”

“I was Kimberley before the accident, but I don’t know my real name,” the girl shrugged.

“What happened to you, Kimberley?” asked Olivia softly, moving to sit on the bench so there was less of a height difference.

“There was a fire, it was an accident, but I got burned and so they said I looked too cons… I don’t remember the word, but they said I can’t be an Aurora because of it.”

“Conspicuous, probably. I’m so, so sorry Kimberley,” she said gently.

“It’s okay, we’re all going to be safe and free now, because of you and the others. Thank you,” Kimberley said, and then ran off back into the group. Olivia noticed she was by far the youngest.

“Goddess, I can’t imagine the horror of their lives,” whispered Olivia.

“It’s not pleasant, no,” Poppy agreed. “Some people here consider themselves the lucky ones, especially those who refused assignment rather than failed. They’d rather be imprisoned here than sent out on some risky mission.”

“I know you’ve done the best you can for them, you and the others, but still. I’d hate to be trapped here forever.”

“The administrative team and I try our best to give them the best we can, but it’s difficult with your mother’s security personnel in the other corridor trying to make things worse. We had to fight so hard to get them to allow this courtyard, and the other things we try to get to make it better for them. Thank you for all you’ve provided, too.”

“It’s a messed-up situation,” Olivia said, shaking her head as the would-have-been Auroras began to leave the courtyard and disperse to their various rooms to pack things.

“Yes, it is. That’s why I pushed so hard to get this job, I was afraid it would go to someone who would just hurt them. But that’s history. Could you accompany me upstairs, maybe? There’s one girl who wouldn’t come down. She dislikes crowds.”

“Of course,” nodded Olivia, and she followed Poppy to a different set of doors leading into a staircase. Olivia rarely went to the upper floors, where the bedrooms were. The ground floor was admin, the second living space and kitchens, and the top two rooms. The upper floors reminded her too much of the fact that despite the appearance, this was a prison.

They stopped outside a door on the third floor marked 317, and Olivia softly knocked. There was no answer, but Poppy gestured for her to enter so, tentatively, she did. Inside looked like a cross between a student dorm room and a prison cell. The window had bars across it, the door locked from the outside, but inside was a desk strewn with books and art projects, a reasonably comfortable looking bed, and the walls had posters. Soft music was playing from a CD-player in the corner.

“Poppy, can you just leave me alone!?” a teenager said, spinning around on a chair from where she’d been drawing, and abruptly falling silent and standing up when she saw Olivia. “Um, sorry, I…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Olivia waved away the apology and gestured for her to sit back down. “I’m here with news.”

“Unless you’re here to tell me I’m free to go, I don’t want to hear it,” she said, crossing her arms again, her fear of Olivia’s status quickly passing.

“That’s exactly what I’m here to tell you.”

“Well then, I… wait, what?” she paused and looked up in shock.

“The Aurora Programme is ending, and all of you are free to go,” Olivia repeated.

“I…” she trailed off, then laughed and stood up. “Yes! I knew it! Take that, Chloe! I knew things were going to fall apart. It’s why I refused assignment. Why should I risk my life when things will pass soon?”

“You have a talent for seeing the future, then?” smirked Olivia.

“It was obvious. Charissa Clarke had just been discovered, I mean, there was no way this could keep going on. My name is Carina, by the way. Well, my Aurora name. I want to know my birth name.”

“You can, all in due course,” Olivia assured the teenager as Poppy slipped off to help with the general chaos. “How old are you, Carina?”

“I’m fifteen, but I’ll be sixteen in May. I don’t have to go back to an orphanage, do I? I know how to look after myself, after all that training. Please, I can live on my own.”

“That’s… not up to me,” she said carefully.

“Yeah, I figured. Still, I better pack my stuff! I’m glad your lot, the reformists, managed to convince them to let us actually keep our own things here. This year would have been a lot more tedious otherwise. Wanna help, or have you got places to be?”

“I have some meetings to get to,” Olivia excused herself and slipped quickly away before the teenager could start chatting again. She made it into the staircase and exhaled. That one didn’t like crowds? Well, it wasn’t her place to question such statements.

She headed out of the building, leaving the doors open behind her, much to the annoyance of some security personnel she smiled sweetly at on departure. Back in the main area, the children who had been training to become Auroras were boarding buses, ready to be taken back to assorted orphanages. The youngest girls of the group didn’t quite grasp what was going on, while the older girls were busy arguing about how they were capable of being independent. It made her smile.

Olivia got into her car after waving at the woman who was checking people in and out of the complex to indicate she was leaving. Her mind was still on Kimberley, the young girl who seemed so calm about things, even though her life must have been horrendous. These people, the girls stolen by the Kerlian government and raised without any real childhood, were a million times stronger than she’d ever be. What happened in this place was an atrocity, Olivia thought. She was so glad it was over.

She drove back down the rural roads to the Complex, finding her way back from memory, even though there were a hundred turn-offs, and the place was a deliberate confusing mess, passing through a thick forest which almost certainly contained wolves. Seeing the Aurora Centre had solidified what she had already been thinking. Her mother couldn’t be allowed to get away with this. There would need to be a reckoning, some day soon.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Mar 06, 2020 4:11 pm

Gabriel Fleming’s Office, Unknown Location, Lauchenoiria
Early morning - yesterday

Gabriel Fleming sat at his desk, going over the list of information they’d managed to extract from their Aurora prisoners. Every so often he would pause and wonder if he’d manage to find an assassin who would be good enough to take out the traitor, Jae Chung. She’d vanished, along with one of their Aurora targets, weeks ago, to his great anger. He should have known not to trust anyone who’d worked with that spineless Laura Moore.

He sighed, and leaned back in his seat, and suddenly heard a clinking noise, like something metal falling. Hissing in anger, he stood up and pushed over the chair, irritated that whoever had repaired it a few days ago clearly hadn’t done a good job. As he examined the bottom of the seat, looking closely at the mechanisms that allowed it to spin and change height, he didn’t notice a silent figure creep up behind him, and before he knew it, he’d been knocked unconscious.

*

Alvarez’s Office
Today

“Congratulations. Evidently, the rumours about your training are not exaggerated. I didn’t think it would be so easy for you to take Fleming into custody,” Alvarez laughed, shaking Veronica Penners’ hand eagerly. She gestured for the young Aurora to take the seat next to Jae Chung, and leaned back.

“What’s going to happen to him?” asked Jae.

“He’ll be put on trial. This isn’t Kerlile, nor is it the country he wanted to create,” Alvarez shook her head. “It’s about time we had a reckoning with our past. There are too many remnants of the Communist regime out there, thinking they can get away with whatever they want. We need to show them that the law will come for them.”

“What of the others?” Veronica asked. “The Auroras, I mean.”

“I’m already in touch with the Matriarchy. We are conducting negotiations for the return of a number of Lauchenoirian prisoners north of the border in exchange for them. As for you…” Alvarez trailed off and looked at her.

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t imprison me,” Veronica gave a half-smile, “but I’ll understand if you feel you have to.”

“Ms Chung, can you please wait outside?” Alvarez requested, and Jae nodded and stood up quickly, leaving without saying a word. The Prime Minister turned back to the teenager seated across from her. “You understand, I can’t just let you go, especially now I know how dangerous you have the potential to be?”

“I understand,” Veronica said, though her shoulders slumped in dejection.

“But perhaps if you tell me what this secondary loyalty of yours is, I could look the other way,” said Alvarez softly. “This thing you said you’d be able to speak of in a week’s time?”

“I…” the Aurora hesitated. “I’m sorry, things haven’t proceeded on the timescale I believed they would. I cannot speak of this thing.”

“Then I’m afraid I cannot allow you to walk free.”

“Prime Minister,” Veronica pleaded, “I promise this is of no danger to you, or your people. It is a purely domestic matter and I can assure you that if I, and some others, are allowed to complete what we have started, that it can only benefit your country.”

“That may be the case,” sighed Alvarez, looking the teenager in the eye, “but you can offer me no proof of it, and that’s what I need.”

“Well…” Veronica trailed off, thinking, opening her mouth to speak a few times, then changing her mind. Eventually, she gave up, and slumped forward, her head in her arms.

Alvarez pushed a call button, and her secretary opened the office door again. Jae Chung remained outside, and the Prime Minister gestured towards Veronica. Sighing, Jae walked over and gently but firmly grasped the Aurora by the arm and pulled her to her feet. Before she knew what was happening, she was on the ground, Veronica standing over her, the secretary screaming and Alvarez standing by her desk in shock.

“I helped you,” hissed Veronica angrily. “And this is the thanks I get? As for my freedom, I don’t need you to grant me what I can take for myself. Piece of advice: this is no way to build lasting alliances.”

She took off down the corridor, and it took a few seconds for Jae to get to her feet and give chase, but Veronica was already gone, a window at the end of the corridor open and letting in the wind outside. Jae ran to the window and looked out, but there was no sign of the Aurora, who had vanished without a trace.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Mar 08, 2020 10:40 pm

Greenwood Residence, Kerlile

“This is excellent news, thank you so much, Madam President,” Juliette Greenwood said to the phone, and then paused, waiting for Rebecca Arnott to put down the phone before she removed her own from her ear. “It passed.”

“Oh, thank the Goddess!” Elisa, the middle sister of Joanna’s three daughters said, collapsing back onto her couch. “So she’ll be coming home, then?”

“Yes, they all can. It was going to be too complicated otherwise,” shrugged Juliette. “Between Mother, Councillor Robinson, whatever Hale did, Olivia Pierre, Xia Chiu, and the Auroras themselves, we’d have so many people in prison for treason it would be unreal.”

“I wonder why she did it,” mused Elisa, moving to smoke something that probably wasn’t tobacco, only for Juliette to swipe it out of her hands and throw it in the bin. “Left, cooperated with the anti-Aurora stuff?”

“Does it matter?” shrugged Juliette. “Our mother was the victim of unkind fate, the reckoning that we always knew was coming arrived at an inopportune time for her. That’s not her fault, and I can get why she’d be distressed.”

“But this is an amnesty, not saying she’s not guilty. She is, she committed treason. Actual treason! And I still want her back, and free. What does that make me?”

“A good daughter,” Juliette said firmly, leaving the room, and forcing Elisa to get up and follow after her in order to continue the conversation. “You need to quit that habit.”

“Why should I? Everything just falls to pieces.”

“The economy collapsed, Elisa. It’s not the end of the world. You can rebuild your business. It would be a much more productive use of your time than destroying your health, which is what you seem to be determined to do.”

“We should speak with Letitia,” Elisa tried to change the subject.

“She was at the Council, she’ll know what happened already - she’ll have voted on it!”

“Yes, I know, but…”

“Don’t change the subject! You need to get your act together before mother gets back. They’re not going to lock her up for that teenager either, it’s a fresh start for her. Take it as one for you too. You can improve your life, you don’t need to be stuck in the same place you have been since the war. Look on this as the dawn of a new era for Kerlile.”

“You sound like a reformist,” scoffed Elisa.

“Maybe,” chuckled Juliette, turning around and taking Elisa’s hand surprisingly gently. “Maybe that’s what we all need to be to get on in this new world. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing.”

“Maybe,” Elisa echoed, looking away. “It’s just hard.”

“I know. But you’re not alone, Elisa. You’re never alone.”

The two sisters hugged for a long time, taking deep breaths.

*

“The amnesty for all accused of treason and related crimes in reference to the Aurora incident is necessary in order to move forward from this dark moment in Kerlian history. We, as a people, have allowed too many to be locked up in the past for things that did not deserve such a punishment. We need to move forward, and as we usher in this new era of reform, we must be willing to put the dark aspects of the past behind, and refrain from repeating the mistakes of those who came before us.”

“Mum, you know they’re only doing this because it’s Councillors and President Greenwood, right?” Natasha Robinson said, spinning over from where she lay on a couch reading a Lauchenoirian magazine.

“Well, of course they are,” scoffed Councillor Carmen Robinson, crossing something out on the speech in front of her. “But I for one am rather grateful, being one of those they’ve accused of treason.”

“I mean, fair, but you can’t say that statement to the press.”

“Why not?” she said, flicking a piece of dust off a counter.

“Cause then you’d have to admit Auroras are real.”

“Oh, the world is going to know they’re real soon enough,” Carmen said, adjusting her outfit in the mirror.

“Don’t make it worse, Mum!” Natasha said, getting up and walking over to her mother, holding her firmly by both hands. “You know they’ll attack you if you do this. Why are you trying to provoke them!?”

“There are things you don’t understand, Nat,” sighed the Councillor.

“No, Mum, I understand. I know what you’ve been working on, but you can’t. This is not the right time. Call it off, Mum. Please. We’re winning without this! It’s an unnecessary risk, and people could get hurt. Please. Just think about it.”

“Natasha…” Carmen sighed, then sat down on a chair. “Very well, I won’t make the statement just now. I don’t know how you found out about the plan, and I’m going to need you to tell me, but I’ll consider calling it off. I will.”

“Good,” nodded the teenager. “And it was Olivia Pierre. She thought I already knew, which I should have. Gran told you when you were my age! According to Olivia, anyway.”

“I was trying to protect you from this, but I should’ve known you’d get yourself involved. If this goes ahead, it’s going to be very dangerous. Especially with Joanna Greenwood returning home.”

“Which is why it shouldn’t happen,” said Natasha firmly.

Carmen rolled her eyes, and stood, pulling off the smart jacket she’d put on for the speech, and tossing it over the back of one of the couches. She shook her head, and smiling a little walked out of the room towards the kitchen, followed by Natasha who swiped a cookie out of a jar by the door, as she spun around, dancing.

*

On a plane, Joanna Greenwood rejoiced. She never thought she’d ever see her beloved Kerlile again, but now she would have the chance. It was ironic, in betraying the Matriarchy, she and many others had forced Kerlile to forgive them, just by sheer numbers. It also helped that they didn’t really want her out in the world causing trouble. So she’d be going home, where she could make her own trouble.

“This reform experiment is doomed to fail,” she muttered to herself, attracting an odd look from someone sitting across the aisle. Nodding to herself, the former President of Kerlile settled back in her seat, closing her eyes and thinking of all the plans she could use to restore Women’s Party dominance in her homeland - something that was increasingly unlikely to happen, not that she knew it.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Mar 12, 2020 5:30 pm

Kerlile-Lauchenoiria Border
3am

“So you’re just letting us go?” Kerrie Lee asked one of the Lauchenoirians, who continued to stare ahead and ignore her. “After all those nights you left me literally tied down to my bed, you now bring me outside in only this tiny pair of handcuffs?” she smirked, holding up her bound wrists.

“Shut up,” one of the Lauchenoirian guards hissed at her as they stood in the cold.

Kerrie shivered slightly as they waited. She knew what was happening, of course. They hadn’t told her, or the others, but from the situation it was patently obvious that the Lauchenoirians were trading her and the other prisoners. She just wished her own people would be a little more prompt with whatever they’d offered to the Lauchenoirians, it was getting cold out here and the metal handcuffs were beginning to irritate her.

“Hey, cheer up, we’ll be free soon,” she said brightly to the older woman they were holding nearby, also restrained but with her face stained with tears. The woman looked up at her, then looked away, shaking her head.

Amaya Morse didn’t particularly want to be traded back to Kerlile. Like Kerrie, she’d worked out what was happening, but it didn’t make her feel any better. Once she was back in the Matriarchy, she’d never be able to return to her life in Carville. Her childhood had been terrible, she didn’t want to go back to the hell that had been. She’d managed to build a decent life for herself in spite of everything and she didn’t want it to end.

“She’s not lying,” one of the guards by her side murmured to her, “you’ll be free soon.” Amaya ignored him.

Maricela Tobin was shivering, though whether it was in fear or from the cold, she couldn’t tell. All she knew was that they’d managed to break her, she’d talked, and now she was going to be sent back and probably punished. It terrified her, the thought of what punishments they could dish out to her for what she’d done. Despite all her training, she’d been weak when it counted and she hated herself for it. She should have let them kill her.

Lorna Rigley, lying in an unmarked van, the inside of which resembled an ambulance, was still unconscious. Alvarez had been concerned what sending her back like that would do, but it was better, she figured, to let her go home than keep her - after all, it’s not like they’d done it to her. Lorna had done it to herself, in her failed attempt at not being taken alive. It was ironic, her actions had actually stopped her being interrogated!

On the Kerlian side of the border, a vehicle approached, and everyone (conscious) in the handful of Auroras and Lauchenoirians suddenly fixed on the approaching lights.

*

The transfer went without hassle, they’d been warned about Lorna Rigley beforehand. She’d sent a message to the Matriarchy before she tried to kill herself, so they had already known of the attempt. The Kerlians who welcomed the Auroras home were professional about it, and the (considerably larger) gaggle of assorted Lauchenoirian spies seemed incredibly relieved to be going home as well. Everyone was happy - except Amaya Morse.

The whole way to Grapevale, Amaya sat silently, scowling, her arms folded now that she wasn’t restrained. Nobody attempted to speak to her, her body language was rather uninviting. It was assumed by the Kerlians present that she’d undergone some kind of horrible torture at the hands of the Lauchenoirians, and didn’t want to talk about it. In reality, unlike Kerrie and Maricela, she hadn’t been tortured at all, not even the ‘mild’ forms the other two were subjected to.

When they arrived at their destination, a familiar figure stood nervously outside. Amaya quickly got out of the car, and ran over to Hiranur, embracing her friend, and squeezing her hard like they’d be separated at any second. She began to cry again, her tears soaking the shoulders of Hiranur’s t-shirt.

“Audrey, what’s the matter?” Hiranur said, using the other Aurora’s training name.

“I don’t want to stay here,” whispered Amaya, afraid someone will overhear. “I want to go home, and my home isn’t here.”

“Oh, Audrey!” laughed Hiranur. “You always did have a tendency to think the worst of any situation! Wipe up your tears, my friend, this problem can be solved.”

“What… what do you mean?” Amaya said, looking up at her friend and finally letting go of the tight hug.

“Well, they’re already going to negotiate with Laeral so that I, and a few others, can return and stay, they seemed fairly willing to do so, so I’m sure they’ll be willing to do the same thing with Lauchenoiria too.”

Really?” she said, immediately brightening, and wiping away the tears. “I guess they’re not wrong when they say Kerlile is reforming, then!”

“Oh, they’re definitely not wrong,” Hiranur laughed, putting her arm around Amaya and guiding her inside the building where she could fill out the required paperwork.

*

A few hours later, by which time it was almost the afternoon, Josephine Alvarez received a phone call from her still-legally-wed wife, Councillor Hale. After listening, and talking to the Councillor, remaining professional and detached from their still-unresolved emotional issues, she put the phone down, and laughed hysterically until her secretary brought her a glass of water, clearly concerned she would choke. Eventually she recovered enough to speak again.

“As the Kerlians say, oh, for Goddess’ sake!!”

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:12 pm

Grapevale, Kerlile
Present Day

Veronica Penners read through the letter she’d found in her pocket for the umpteenth time as she made her way through Grapevale, heading for the address she’d memorised long ago, when she was only almost a teenager. She’d misjudged Alvarez. It was an error she shouldn’t have made - assuming that the woman would underestimate her. While Auroras liked to be underestimated, assuming it was a certainty was foolish. Of course Alvarez would have known she’d escape, it was meant to happen. Democratic politicians, always trying to save face.

Dear Veronica, and whoever you answer to,

I couldn’t risk it being leaked that I let you go, but I trust that if you’re reading this, you managed to escape regardless. I’m glad. I do not know who exactly you work for beyond the obvious, but I believe you when you say that your mission will not harm my nation. But, to be on the safe side, I’ve enclosed this letter for you to show your employer.

The Federation of Lauchenoiria has a complex history, as you undoubtedly know. Our relationship with the Matriarchy has been tense for many decades now, a fact which up until recently seemed impossible to change. It is a source of bafflement for many here that your actions in our civil war have led to the possibility of reform, but despite what you will hear from some in Lauchenoiria, there is hope that our relationship can improve.

If you are, as Ms Penners says, on the side of reform, then I invite you to consider the ways we can help each other. I do not want our hostile relations to continue, but without true reform that seems inevitable. We cannot violate the sanctions we must place upon the Matriarchy, but I write to ensure you that if there is a way in which we can end the hostility and live in peace, that I am willing to take it. I have granted Ms Penners her freedom in this manner as a gesture of goodwill.

Yours sincerely,

Josephine Alvarez
Prime Minister of Lauchenoiria


Veronica thought it was rather a lot of trouble to go to in order to deliver a letter, but she supposed that Alvarez was rather concerned about it falling into the wrong hands. After all, there were many who would use such a thing against her. She was grateful, however, that they had allowed her to make her escape. It would not have been good for their mission if she had been imprisoned; she had to make contact soon.

Reaching the door of the building she’d been instructed to go to, should she find herself in this kind of situation, she hesitated somewhat nervously before knocking. Things hadn’t gone according to plan so far, since her assignment, and it suddenly occurred to her that perhaps it had fallen apart long ago. If this was the case, then what awaited her on the other side of the door? Freedom and salvation from her mission… or a fate worse than death?

“Hi? Who is it?” poked a head around the door. A teenage girl stood there, one that Veronica recognised immediately.

“Natasha Robinson,” Veronica said, hiding her surprise. “My name was Renee, once.”

“Oh, you’re one of our Auroras,” the teenager shrugged. “Come in.”

Natasha pulled the door open fully and headed back off down the corridor, leaving Veronica to enter, shut the door and follow. The corridor looked like a normal hallway of a residential property, with photographs on the wall, of nobody she recognised. They were probably a random family, somewhere, who had no idea their photos were on this wall. Natasha led her to a door, which she opened and disappeared through. Veronica followed, entering the stairway to the basement, and shut it behind her, hearing the click of a lock.

“It’s an Aurora,” Natasha called as they headed down the stairs. “Renee.”

“Ah, Renee, or do you prefer Veronica?” asked Councillor Carmen Robinson, who was sitting in the basement on what seemed to be a normal couch, knitting something. Several filing cabinets on the other side of the room had drawers open, revealing empty compartments. A paper shredding machine sat in the corner, and three boxes of shredded paper were sitting nearing the staircase. Natasha headed over to a small kitchenette and picked up what looked like a mug of hot chocolate, sipping it and watching Veronica.

“Veronica, if you don’t mind,” she said, hovering, uncertainly looking around the room. Aside from the two Robinsons, it was empty. This was not what she’d been expecting.

“Please, sit down Veronica,” the Councillor said, gesturing to an armchair across from her. “I understand you must be confused. You’re lucky we were here, actually, we’ve just been checking out the paperwork. This is our tea break. Would you like some?”

“Coffee, if possible,” she said, still confused. “What happened here?”

“We decided against going through with the mission,” Carmen said gently. “I know you might be disappointed, but this is for the best. Reform is happening without us needing to take these risks, and so we’ve called it off.”

“Oh, thank the Goddess,” Veronica breathed, relaxing into the armchair and looking up at the ceiling. “This is a much better plan, honestly.”

“That’s what I said, mother,” smirked Natasha, coming over and sitting down on the couch next to the Councillor. “Us young people can see clearer. You’re still stuck in the old days.”

“Thank you, Natasha,” her mother said sarcastically, but with a slight grin. “I was going to send out messages to you all, of course, but we haven't got around to it. Between the USB mishap and President Arnott, it would be foolish to move forward.”

“You’d have done it if I hadn’t told you,” Natasha said. “Cause you’d think you wasted all this time,” she laughed as her mother rolled her eyes.

“Um, Councillor?” Veronica said, more confidently than most when addressing a Councillor, “I just wanted to ask what your plan is for the ones you rescued in 2003?”

“Two possible solutions,” Carmen said, “one is we bring Councillor Hale in and we see if we can negotiate some kind of deal for them. The other is that we get in contact with a friendly government, such as Xiomera, on the matter.”

“Oh, on the topic of foreign governments…” Veronica began, then pulled the letter out of her pocket and handed it to the Councillor. “This is from Alvarez.”

“Wait, I’m confused. Who did you rescue in 2003?” frowned Natasha.

“Ah, so you didn’t figure that part out?” Carmen smiled. “Well, this is going to be an interesting conversation…”

*

Restricted Region, Kerlile
13th October 2003 - dawn

Kat sat slumped in the corner of her cell, her eyes gazing blankly at the wall. She’d been in the position for hours, watching the door as the others slept curled up on the floor. Kat didn’t sleep at the same time as the others. She couldn’t, she’d been captured while she was asleep and she feared sleeping without someone keeping watch over her. Even after all these years, she still needed someone to be awake.

They’d been allowed to wash yesterday, which meant the cell was cleaner than it was for the rest of the week, but it was still cramped conditions for the four of them. It had been worse at the start, when there were six, but then…

Kat shook her head. She didn’t want to think about that. It hadn’t happened. None of this was happening, it was all a nightmare and she’d wake up one day. She wasn’t locked in a small cell with four others, forced to sleep on the floor, alone, not knowing if any of her family had even survived the war. It wasn’t true, it couldn’t be true, it was just a test, just a long nightmare and she’d wake up soon. This wasn’t the rest of her life.

On the floor, Meg groaned and shifted position as she started to wake, turning over so her left hand was visible to Kat. In response, Kat quickly squeezed her eyes tightly shut. She didn’t want to see Meg’s hand, not with the missing finger. She clutched her own hands tightly to her chest, checking all ten digits were intact. She’d been one of the lucky ones, considered too young for that particular torture when she’d been captured.

“Sorry, Kat,” whispered Meg, as she woke to see Kat’s eyes squeezed shut. Meg sat up and moved to sit next to Kat, putting her arm around the younger girl, who promptly pulled into Meg as if she could hide from reality in the woman’s arms. “It’s okay, I promise I won’t let them do it to you, ever,” she soothed Kat.

“I can’t do this,” Kat said, tears running down her cheeks again. “Please, please just let me.”

“[i[No[/i], Kat,” Meg scolded softly. “You’ll survive this. It won’t last forever. I know you don’t want to end it, really. There will come a day when we’ll be free again. It will happen.”

In response, Kat nodded, and closed her eyes, slowing her breathing and preparing to fall asleep now that she was in Meg’s arms. The other two had started to wake as well, but Georgina hadn’t spoken a word in two years, just sitting there staring, and Chrissie had been beaten for talking back the other day and was still shaken.

“You’re so optimistic,” whispered Kat. They always whispered, the guards got angry if they heard talking. Her stomach rumbled, but it always did. The constant hunger made her feel incredibly weak.

“Well, I…” Meg fell silent quickly as they heard the clunk that signified the cell door was about to be opened. Meg, Kat and Chrissie shared alarmed looks. They were not expecting anyone.

Chrissie joined the other two, and the trio pressed themselves against the corner, clutching each other tightly and staring unblinking at the door in terror. Georgina stayed lying down, she didn’t move very much, only really responding to direct orders. The others had tried to help her at first, but she’d fallen apart after Isabel had died. Just slowly deteriorating, piece by piece, as their long, indefinite imprisonment continued.

“Get up!” one of the guards commanded as she pulled open the door. They all obeyed, even Georgina, though she was slower to do so. Standing up made Kat feel dizzy, in her weakened state of hunger and mistreatment. “Follow.”

Kat looked at Meg, who shrugged before they left the cell, being surrounded and led by guards into a line of prisoners. Kat was suddenly very alert, and not at all tired. Only part of it was fear, the rest was the thrill and excitement of something different. The lives for those imprisoned for being part of Democratic Kerlian State had been the same day after day since their capture. This was a change in routine.

“Do you know what’s happening?” the prisoner in front of them whispered as they all were forced to shuffle forward slowly. Kat and Meg shook their heads, but Chrissie leaned forward.

“I heard a rumour…” she began, but a guard glanced in their direction and all of them shut up immediately.

Suddenly, Kat felt a peculiar feeling on her arms, like something was playing with the short hairs, a ghost of a memory… or perhaps it was only the wind. Startled, she stood on her tiptoes and looked over the line. Yes! They were being led outside! It had been many years since she’d stepped outside, they hadn’t been allowed at all. The thought of it made her dizzy with excitement and a dash of hope. Perhaps they were being let go!

She moved more eagerly, knowing their destination, as she felt the rest of the line realise it. For every prisoner like Kat, who pushed forwards, there was one who hung back, fearing the outside and the change more than daring to hope for what it meant. The guards pushed those who held back. But for Kat, who had been captured when she was only 16, it represented a chance of life, a chance of survival she’d almost given up on having.

They were led into a line of women, surrounded by buildings and fences. She could see male prisoners being led out of another building and lined up also, which startled her. Kat looked around, wondering what was happening, as the others filed out behind her. Her cell had been among the last to be collected, it appeared, as there weren’t many behind her, and soon everyone was standing in the crowd. They weren’t restrained, they were so weakened from years of mistreatment and almost starvation that it would be hard for any of them to fight. Suddenly, one of the guards stood up on top of something and surveyed the crowd, gesturing for silence which fell immediately. The guard then spoke.

“You are all going to be executed today.”

Kat’s heart plummeted.

To be continued…

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:15 pm

Restricted Region, Kerlile
13th October 2003 - sunrise

“You are all going to be executed today.”

Kat’s heart plummeted. For a moment, she’d dared to hope that she’d survive. It was a foolish dream; this was Kerlile, there are no happy endings. She let out a desperate sob and fell to her knees, wailing as the lines of prisoners erupted.

Chrissie vanished, pushing forward with some others, desperate to fight for their lives, to try and escape or fight back, even though it seemed futile. Georgina, though Kat couldn’t see her, would be standing blankly, waiting for death. Meg, on the other hand, picked up Kat and clutched her as she sobbed desperately, wailing into Meg’s shoulder throughout all the chaos.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, I really thought they wouldn’t,” Meg said to Kat, devastated herself. In response, Kat only sobbed harder, gasping for breath every so often. Meg was supporting all of Kat’s weight, she couldn’t stand herself in her present state.

Around them, there was a cacophony of noise, as people fought and screamed and begged. There were four main groups: those who stood, silently accepting their fate. Those who cried and wailed like Kat. Those who were trying to run, only to find there was nowhere to run to. And then, finally, those who fought back. Meg could see Chrissie up at the front, she’d managed to acquire something metal and was trying to fight off some guards. She managed to hit one on the head and it gave Meg some satisfaction to see the guard fall.

A gunshot rang out across the now-messy crowd, which caused people to scream. Kat clutched Meg tighter, and Meg clutched her too. They both fell to their knees, eyes squeezed tightly shut, waiting for the end.

*

Restricted Region, Kerlile
13th October 2003 - around 30 minutes earlier

“Fern, Gemma, Carmen, wait here,” Councillor Sarah Robinson whispered, then vanished into the night as the three teenagers huddled together. The 19-year-old Carmen, who would one day become Councillor, seemed by far the most frightened of the teenagers, despite the youth of the other two.

“What if this doesn’t work?” Carmen whispered in terror.

“It will,” Fern, the older of the two trainee Auroras replied. “Trust us.”

“You’re children!” she hissed quietly at them.

“That may be so, but we’re well trained,” said Gemma. “We can survive this, and much more besides. And if we don’t, thousands are going to die.”

“We’ve prepared well. We made sure the right staff are on shift, those who are working for us. Trust me, Carmen, it will work,” Fern reassured her.

“It’ll be dawn soon,” remarked Gemma, gazing at the horizon. Sure enough, a thin line of light was beginning to emerge. The three looked on in silence as suddenly an alarm rang in the distance, and Councillor Sarah returned.

“Quickly, Carmen, inside, it’s go time,” Sarah whispered, and Carmen quickly got back inside the car parked beside them. The two Auroras shared a look with Sarah and then vanished, heading down towards the prison they overlooked from where they were perched halfway up one of the mountains.

Gemma and Fern headed down the mountain on foot by themselves. They were dressed to blend in, which was fortunate, given that the sight of a 13-year-old and a 14-year-old walking down a mountain by themselves would have attracted some looks. Never mind that anyone caught walking alone in the Restricted Region was liable to be shot. Despite their age, they seemed calm, either a testament to Aurora training, or a sad reflection of the fact of their stolen childhoods, depending on what side one was on.

“You’ll be assigned soon,” Gemma said as they walked.

“Yes, I will,” Fern replied, then paused slightly, looking out to the horizon as the light began to increase ever so slowly. “I would rather not.”

“You’ll take the assignment though? Or would you rather go to failure prison?” Gemma kept walking, using the name Auroras called the building where those trainees who were never assigned were confined to.

“I’ll take it. I expect I won’t get back alive.”

“Many of us won’t,” shrugged Gemma. “I hope I do.”

“I hope so too.”

They continued to walk in silence, and as they approached the fence, they could see the lights turning on inside, the sounds of a few screams of those reluctant to obey orders, and the movements of the nervous guards, who knew what was coming.

“Oi! Stop there!” called a voice, and two women carrying large rifles ran up to the pair of trainee Auroras. The Auroras paused, and looked up at the women in unison as they stopped in their tracks and looked uncertainly at the teenagers. “Uh, do you two girls know where you are?”

“Yes,” Fern replied calmly, and then attacked.

The fight was short, taking only a few seconds before the two guards were unconscious on the ground. Gemma stared at Fern, alarmed at her skill - she hadn’t even had to lift a finger to help the older girl. In response, Fern grinned and showed Gemma a piece of cloth.

“I wouldn’t breathe it in, that stuff is strong,” Fern said, then dropped the cloth on the ground. Gemma stepped cautiously around it as they continued. They ignored the main entrance, opting for a secondary way in that Sarah Robinson had discovered on one of her recon journeys to the facility. The Councillor had the right to visit the DKS prisoners whenever she wanted, which had been useful for their purpose.

They slipped inside through a section of fence that had been rotting, that they were able to create a small gap in with minimal effort. Moving forward stealthily, they crept around the buildings in the dawn light, seeking the one which held the administration offices. For, although gender was the largest dividing factor in Kerlian society, it was as true there as anywhere else that those in better-paid professions were more likely to support the status quo.

Upon reaching the admin office, Gemma slipped inside and made her way to where the highest-ranking officials in the prison were. Fern waited outside as Gemma knocked on the door where they were all drinking coffee and talking as their underlings rounded up the prisoners for them.

“Excuse me?” Gemma said, pushing the door open and causing all those inside to jump. “Hi, my mum works in Facility 14 down the road, our car broke down, and there is a hole in the fence out there. I think someone escaped.”

“You can’t be in here!” one shrieked as another cried “What!?” and a third pushed past her, running outside. Someone grabbed Gemma’s hair and yanked her backwards, causing her to shriek in pain.

“Stupid little girl,” hissed the voice of whoever held her. “You’ve seen too much to leave here,” the voice continued, then the person began to drag her backwards down a corridor by her hair. Gemma panicked slightly. This wasn’t part of the plan; she hadn’t expected them to want to kill a random teenager. Still, she let herself be pulled. Showing off her skills too early would be a mistake, and ruin their plan.

As Gemma was dragged into a windowless room and thrown roughly on the floor, Fern watched a crowd of high-ranking Kerlian officials file out of the building and towards where the prisoners were being gathered. Silently, she snuck closer, making sure she wasn’t spotted - a task made considerably easy by the fact that everyone present was very distracted and panicked, both guards and prisoners. When those in charge were close enough, Fern raised a gun, steadied herself, and shot the highest-ranking officer in the prison right in the head.

The gunshot served multiple purposes. It caused panic, as evidenced by the noise as the crowd began to scream. It was also a signal to the guards loyal to their cause to begin shooting. Suddenly, as the prisoners for the most part surged together, trying to protect themselves, most closing their eyes, half of the guards turned on the other half. Fern sprinted to a safe distance and watched the battle unfold. She looked back to the admin building, expecting Gemma to emerge, but she didn’t.

When the fighting finished, silence fell and Fern watched as one by one, still-alive prisoners opened their eyes and cautiously looked around. The guards who had turned on their colleagues looked rather worried as they looked at the main gate where two figures were walking up towards them. The vast majority of them bowed their heads respectfully as Councillor Sarah Robinson and her daughter Carmen walked up.

“You needn’t be afraid any longer,” Sarah said, her voice echoing around the deathly-silent prison. “As far as your enemies are concerned, they believe you were executed. Now, you may wonder why I would spare you - am I not part of the Matriarchy you all so despise? Well, that may be true, but please be assured: DKS has far more friends left than the rest of the Council thinks.”

*

Kat stared at Councillor Robinson in disbelief. Next to her, Meg was sitting on the ground, confused and looking exhausted. Before Kat knew what was happening, she was standing up, and pushing through the crowd. She barely noticed the others, a mix of blank and terrified, many bleeding, and some even dead - not all of them had managed to survive the fighting - as she passed, heading towards the Councillor.

“Stop,” a hand grabbed her gently, and she turned to see a teenage girl holding her. “If you approach the Councillor, someone might think you mean to harm her.”

“I don’t,” Kat said, as if that was explanation enough.

“Trust me, I know, I can see it on your face,” the teenager gently urged her, leading her off to the side as the Councillor began to address the crowd again. “My name is Fern, we’re here to help you. You’re safe now.”

Kat had never seen the young teenager before, but something told her to believe the girl. She nodded, and allowed herself to be led away from the crowd and into another building she’d never known was there. It was filled with what seemed to be deserted offices, and Fern sat her down and handed her a mug of something. Kat sipped it and gasped, looking down at it. Taste. She’d only been fed the blandest of food and drink for years.

“Don’t move, you two,” warned a voice suddenly at the doorway, and Kat tensed as she looked around to see someone standing, holding a gun to the head of another teenager, who was bleeding and had a cut on her face. “I know what you are. And when I tell Councillor Pierre what the traitor Sarah is using you for, the whole lot of you will be begging for death.”

Fern held her hands up in a calming gesture, as Kat remained frozen to the spot, the mug of tasty tea grasped in her hands, burning them slightly. The woman who held a gun to Gemma’s head stepped towards them slightly, only to gasp and then suddenly let Gemma drop as she moved to clutch her chest. A sharp knife was sticking through it, and the woman fell forwards, to reveal a terrified Carmen Robinson standing behind her.

Carmen then proceeded to vomit on the floor.

“It’s okay,” Fern gently took the tea from Kat, trying to reassure her, as Gemma looked after Carmen. “It’s over now. We’re going to take you all away from this place, you’re going to be safe. The rest of the Council think you’re all dead, which is why you’ll be safe. They’ll never come looking, trust me. We have a plan. We’ll keep you hidden away, and then when the time is right, and we know we can win, DKS will live again.”

“You…” Kat trailed off, her eyes wide with disbelief as she looked at the would-be Aurora.

“Democratic Kerlian State was not destroyed. It still exists… but they don’t know that. And when they feel the safest, then we’ll strike. They will never see it coming,” Fern said. “The Robinson family is with us. Trust me, this time we’ll win.”

*

Robinson Safehouse, Grapevale, Kerlile
19th March 2020

“Wait… the DKS massacre never happened!?” Natasha jumped up, her eyes wide, as she dropped her mug of hot chocolate, not noticing that it spilled. She moved around the coffee table so she was facing her mother, eyes wide. “The DKS prisoners are still alive!? They weren’t all shot in 2003!? They’re free? Grandma worked with DKS!? What!?”

“I did say it was going to be an interesting conversation,” Carmen remarked.

“You killed someone!? I mean, for good, sure, but still. This changes everything I knew about everything. The Auroras, you, grandma, the Council… Goddess,” Natasha said, sitting down on the arm of Veronica’s chair.

“Most of them live abroad, we managed to sneak them out. Especially those who had been scarred by the torture, they would be noticed, and if they were caught again the game would be over. But some remained, working as household staff for our family. Kat, from the story, she remained. She goes by the name Julia now.”

“Julia was in DKS!?” Natasha gasped, then turned to Veronica. “She’s one of our gardeners.”

“She likes being outdoors, the inside reminds her of her confinement sometimes. But yes, there was no massacre. The rest of the Council covered up the deaths of the other guards, explained by prisoners getting loose and managing to kill some. They would never let people know prisoners had rioted, so they did our cover up for us. Nobody wanted to ask too many questions. Everyone was dead, and it was over. Or so they thought.”

“You knew about this?” Natasha confronted Veronica.

“There are some members of staff at the Aurora Centre with DKS sympathies,” Veronica nodded. “When each of us is recruited from an orphanage, we are assigned a member of staff to look out for our welfare. One of those members has in turn recruited a number of us for this mission, including myself and the two who helped with the prison break in 2003.”

“To bring back DKS… and presumably win another civil war?” Natasha looked at her mother. “I’d figured out that much. I knew you were planning on starting one in favour of democracy, but I never realised it was the same people.”

“But you made me see the light, Natasha,” Carmen said, then looked at the floor, ashamed. “There is no need for a war, at this stage. We are managing to achieve what we set out to do peacefully, if rather slowly. And what we’ve seen from Lauchenoiria would indicate that such a course of action could end very badly indeed.”

“What happened to Gemma and Fern, the Auroras?” asked Natasha.

“Fern is in prison in her assigned country, we’re negotiating for her release just now…” Carmen sighed, and then put her head in her hands. “Gemma… Gemma died. She was about to be captured in Zamastan, and rather than face interrogation…” Carmen wiped away a tear that threatened to fall. “This is all so wrong. So many people have died.”

“What of Kat’s cellmates?” Natasha asked again, clearly curious about the outcomes of those from the story.

“They’re real people,” Veronica said quietly, feeling that Natasha’s questioning was rather insensitive, but Carmen answered her daughter anyway.

“Meg and Chrissie were among the groups we sent out to various countries. I don’t know where they are, or if they’re still alive. Contact is limited, for obvious reasons. “As for Georgia, she was unfortunately too upset by the torture. As you’ve heard from the stories and propaganda, DKS prisoners were kept in groups of six. The other two, Isabel and Lorna, had died during their confinement. Lorna became sick, and was denied treatment. And Isabel was executed for trying to escape. Georgia and her had been… close.”

“So what happened to Georgia?”

“She eventually recovered enough to speak, but all she would do was ask for the end, as peacefully as possible. She’d been through too much. Her wish was granted, eventually.”

“Oh,” Natasha said, sliding off the arm and sitting down on the floor. The room fell silent for a while, as the two sat there, letting Natasha process all she’d heard. They were still silent when suddenly the door to the basement flew open, revealing a woman standing, silhouetted in the light.

“Councillor Robinson, you need to come with me.”

To be continued…

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Mar 23, 2020 6:16 pm

Council of Kerlile Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
19th March 2020 - afternoon

When Councillor Carmen Robinson arrived at the chamber, she halted in amazement. In front of her, the room looked entirely different from her last visit a week ago. Gone were the pretentious drapings and family-assigned chairs and darkness. In their place, the chamber had been painted a brighter colour, a frosted window had been installed on the outer wall which let in natural light. The other Councillors aside from her and Hale, who’d come to fetch her, were seated in a strange order that was certainly not alphabetical by surname. And there were computers, something which had been banned in the chamber up until now.

“What happened here?” Carmen asked in awe.

“A little redecorating,” chuckled Jennifer beside her. “We got the votes for it at one of the sessions you missed and decided to leave it as a surprise.”

“How? There’s always been enough to veto any change from tradition here,” Carmen said, still looking round the room in awe.

“Chiu and Viallamando switched,” replied Jennifer, leading Carmen to two spare chairs next to each other. “And, the final vote was - believe it or not - Letitia.”

“Yeah,” interrupted Letitia Greenwood from the other side of the table, “it always seemed too gloomy in here. It’s about time we embraced the modern world and stopped trying to act like we’re some feudal court.”

“Okay, I think I’m dreaming,” Carmen let out a chuckle of disbelief. “Either that, or I’ve fallen through a portal to an alternate dimension.”

“If you think the decor makes this an alternate dimension, wait until you see the agenda,” piped up Natalia Hart, who handed Carmen a piece of paper.

Council of Kerlile - Afternoon Session 19th March 2020
[CLOSED SESSION - AGENDA CLASSIFIED]

Update on Aurora withdrawal and shutdown.
Councillor party affiliations.
Early Parliamentary elections.
Emigration reform bill.


“Wait, we’re actually debating…” Carmen began, but trailed off when she noticed Chiu stand up.

“Councillors,” Chiu began. “We have a lot to get through this afternoon, so it would be helpful if you could all keep to time. Our first two items shouldn’t take overly long, so let’s try and get them finished promptly. Councillor Pierre, can you update us on the situation with the Aurora Programme?”

“Yes,” Pierre nodded, standing. “The shutdown is proceeding according to plan. The site of the Complex is empty, and everything has been destroyed or moved to different departments. The individuals involved with the Programme have all been given, or are in the process of being given, fully valid KCID cards and papers. We have managed to get back those captured in Lauchenoiria, and are in talks with Laeral for a deal. It’s all going smoothly, and we are going to save a lot of money in the budget with this gone!”

A chorus of chuckles rang around the room, and Carmen accidentally met Pauline’s eye. She froze, still afraid of Councillor Pierre, but Pauline gave a slight, hesitant smile. Carmen, uncertain what to do in this unexpected scenario, chose to smile back. The two Councillors, whose families had hated each other for decades both looked away awkwardly.

“Thank you, Councillor Pierre,” Chiu said. “Now, we have several Councillors wishing to change their political affiliations. This does not require the permission of this Council - however, those of us involved felt it right to give the Council notice. There have also been requests to table a vote on legalising more parties. Councillor Hart?”

“Yes, sorry,” Hart lowered her hand. “If we’re legalising more parties, then why are we announcing affiliation changes just now? Surely that would be better done after we are given a wider choice?”

“I agree,” Pierre said. The rest of the Council turned to stare at her incredulously. “I know it’s not what you’d expect to hear from me of all people, but I do. We need to change.”

“Well, in that case, we can table the political party vote for tomorrow. Any objections?” Chiu asked, eyebrows raised in surprise at Pierre as she glanced around the room. Nobody had an objection, but Robinson was watching Pierre suspiciously, wondering what her angle was. Pierre never did anything that didn’t benefit Pierre. “In that case we’ll move on.”

As the Council continued, debating the merits of holding early elections, and what form those elections should take, Robinson looked around the room in amazement. The change in decor was one thing, but the words she was hearing were quite another. There seemed to be a much greater appetite for reform in the Council. She didn’t quite understand it. Chiu and Viallamando were both expressing reformist sentiments, in addition to those who had previously. Even Patel and Pierre were arguing in a respectful manner.

Perhaps she really had passed through a portal to another dimension, or perhaps this was related to the Aurora affair. When the third leak had begun, she had been horrified and worried this would set reform back years. It seemed to have had the opposite effect. With the world against the Matriarchy, it seemed that the Matriarchy had decided there was only one way to change this state of affairs - to change themselves. Carmen didn’t know if it would last, or if the motivations were pure, but one thing was clear to her.

Things would never be the same again.

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