Children of the Sun

Discussion in 'The World Stage' started by Mazidia, Oct 31, 2018.

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  1. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    October 31st, 2018
    Day of the Dead, Prosperitas, Mazidian Dominion

    The sky was full of stars both real and artifical, as ghostly lanterns and lines of electric lights criss-crossed the boulevards and narrow avenues of the great city, Prosperitas. The air was chill, but not too cold, and it hummed with the dancing and singing of a hundred thousand people or more.

    Auraria might have the largest Halloween Festival in Europe, but Mazidia's Dias de los Muertos was surely a worthy Occidentian contender. No cars or trams could pass through the usually spacious boulevards, so packed were they with revellers and calavera dancers.

    Huge, inflated balloons of Supay, the God of Death and Lord of the Underworld, gently floated above the streets, grinning skulls and serpent-entwined idols decorating every window-sill and porch-way. Far overhead even all this, hovered helicopters trailing shimmering, silvery banners inscribed with wards against bad spirits. Old and New merged seamlessly in the City of Pyramids of Stone and Towers of Glass.

    In the great Sol Plaza, thousands of painted-faces of all races gazed up at an enormous TV screen, suspended from the side of the Great Pyramid of the Sun, where live, bone-shaking heavy rock and metal music of Mazidia's top artists played. Vendors sold Anticuchos, the beef heart shish kabobs iconic to Mazidian street food.

    It was a day of celebration, of wild joy, music, dancing, drinking and eating. For Mazidia, the Day of the Dead was the holiday to enjoy life. Conversely, the Day of the Sun on the summer solstice was the holiday to hide indoors and fear the dawn.

    But that was six months past and six months away, and so the majority, poor and rich, young and old, lost themselves to the ghoulish revelry of Dias de los Muertos.

    Keeping a nervous, watchful eye on the shifting, twisting crowds were the blank-visored Tempestas Millitar, the armed and armoured police who kept order in the capital of the Dominion, and in its other large cities. The TM rarely brought in suspects for questioning. Those judged guilty were often sentenced to death on the spot. But tonight, such strictures were -mostly- relaxed.

    Sat high above it all on a balcony, was the Sun King Rodrigo Amaru himself. He was a middle-aged man of olive complexion, sunken cheeks and wide staring brown eyes. Long, oiled black hair, in the style of a Mazincan Lord of old, cascaded onto his immaculate shoulders. He drank from a wide glass, enjoying Pisco Sour, the national drink of Mazidia.

    "A wonderful holiday as always, don't you agree daughter? You can surely feel the energy and life even up here."

    Sat across from the Supreme Lord of the Sun was his eldest daughter. Her olive skin was lighter than his, and her eyes were a blank, unstaring sea-green, that saw no light at all. Her long, raven-black hair was done up in a coiff, and a simple bronze tiara held it all together. She wore her usual plain white one-piece dress, like an Incan peasant woman of old. She was traditional, unshowy simplicity next to his more modern opulence, her bronze tiara off-set by his gold watch, neckllace and many rings.

    Tanai smiled, a gesture she didn't normally make consciously, but one she knew that pleased her father, and her friends.

    She had been blind since she was an infant, when during her Presentation on the steps the priest had left her lying in front of the Jade Mirror for a few minutes. The few minutes had been enough for her infant eyes to drink in too much of the bright, reflected sun, and go forever dark as a result.

    The priest had been disembowelled for his incompetence, of course, but now Tanai was an oddity in Mazincan society- Highborn, and disabled.

    "I can indeed feel it, father." She replied softly. Her relationship with her father was often rocky. He expected her to live the strange, syncretic life of a Mazincan princess, a delicate trophy to reflect the merging of Europan and Mazincan culture, and nothing more.

    She had other ideas, and would not let a little thing like blindness get in her way.

    "The drums they beat...can you feel their vibrations too?" She asked. Empty conversation, but it kept her father happy, and more importantly kept him away from discussing her latest...transgressions.

    "I can. They are made from stretched llama-hide, and require two men a piece to carry them. They beat drums like this as far away as Pisac, and tonight all Mazidia dances to the beat of the dead."

    "I wonder what the Calavera looks like." she said idly. "I have felt the smoothness of bone, but I can't imagine how a painted dancer could... "look" like a skeleton."

    Rodrigo chuckled lightly. "Sometimes I am glad for your strange insights, daughter. You have a way of putting things that is...refreshing."

    Tanai felt and heard the arrival of someone else on the balcony even before their waiting attendants announced his arrival.

    "Your Highness, I present Zoltan Reyes-"

    "I know who it is, thank you Chaca. Ah, Zoltan! What brings you here on this day? Bored of the revelry below, perhaps?" Rodrigo said with humour.

    Tanai kept herself facing away from the new arrival, but she could hear every word all the same.

    "Your Highness. I am sorry to disturb you. Princess." he said curtly, nodding unconsciously in her direction. The slight shift in tone told her that his head had moved in this way, even though she couldn't see it.

    "I bring grave news. About our little investment in Europe. It seems the Aurarians will be buying out Stonecastle Finance afterall."

    The King pouted. "A shame. I know you thought it would be beneficial to our state portfolio to have a foothold in Gallo-Germania. Still, we have plenty more silver, do we not? Let the Old Aurinos have their german debt."

    "It is more than that, your highness. It's a snub. A reminder that they do not take our aspirations to world prominence seriously-"

    "Oh, Zoltan! Must you -always- go on like that even today? Relax. Chaca, bring our esteemed friend here a glass of Pisco."

    "I prefer not to drink, your highness." Reyes said stiffly.

    Tanai allowed herself a smug smirk at that. No, she thought. You prefer other vices, don't you?

    "Highness, I know matters of finance are dreary, but perhaps you will reconsider my other proposal-"

    "I said no, Reyes." Rodrigo said sharply, his louche attitude dropping for a moment.
    "Frankly, it is pushing the limits of our friendship for you to ask this more than once."

    Reyes nodded. "Forgive me, your highness. I apologise. But you must understand-"

    "Yes, yes. I understand. Rare earth metals. The Northern Frontier. Lost Cities hiding treasure greater than gold. Neodynium. Mazidium*. Ytrium. Fourteen others I can scarcely remember. Lots of "ium"." Rodrigo waved the matter aside airily.

    "This is the Day of the Dead, Zoltan. The day when we celebrate what it is to be alive. I'm sure your proposals can wait another day. Those metals aren't going anywhere, are they?" he chuckled.

    Zoltan kept his face blank, though even Tanai could feel the tenseness in his frame. His posture screamed discomfort, even to a blind girl.

    "No your Highness."

    "There. Now, relax. Ah, Chaca is back with your drink. I'd offer you one, Tanai, but you are only fifteen. We wouldn't want you falling afoul of the law." He chuckled at the idea. As Sun Princess, Tanai was above the law.

    "Now, lets enjoy the atmosphere a while longer. Though-" Rodrigo sighed heavily. "I'm sure our Court below wishes our presence. The poor dears can't go fifteen minutes without trying to impress me or beg my favour."

    Finishing his drink, Rodrigo carelessly threw the empty glass over the balcony, to fall two hundred feet onto the revelling crowds below.

    Tanai stiffened, imagining what the consequences of such an action would be. But her father could never understand. Noone in the palace really could. But Tanai always sought to understand.

    That was why she had been sneaking out, more and more, with only her bodyguard for company. To understand the world beyond, and the consequences of the life she had inherited.

    Tomorrow she would visit the State Hospital. She had heard that it was always busiest on All Souls Day, the day after the Day of the Dead. She had assumed that meant many hangovers and cases of alcohol poisoning.

    But the truth was so much worse. The real reason, she had learned despite her father's efforts to shelter her, was because of all the rape victims.

    In the dark alleyways below, the drugged and inebriated young girls, some still in their calavera face-paint, would stagger home. Some would not make it, as demons both real and painted took hold of their prey.

    She shuddered at the thought. Is this truly the Kingdom I will inherit? She thought, for the thousandth time.

    But a darker, more paranoid part of her also thought. Assuming they let you.

    *=The Mazidian name for what is known as Europium in our world.
     
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  2. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    November 11th, 2018
    Swamp Slums, Prosperitas Outskirts, Mazidian Dominion


    A cold, tepid dawn rose on the great city once more, its thin watery rays piercing the smog to illuminate the murky, pollution-filled waters of the swamps. Pushing their rough wooden boat through the muck and murk, Sokal regarded the water with distaste. The smell grew fouler every-year, as industrial run-off mixed with people's trash and the rotting and dying vegetation of the ever shrinking mangrove-swamps.

    Through the thick fog, as the dawn sun rose, one could see the sky-scrapers and great pyramid illuminated, stark, ever-present reminders on the horizon of where the true power lay in the Dominion.

    Sokal and his sister Kava were almost the lowest one could get in Mazidian society. Both young and biracial, they were Mazethians, a mixture of Nethian and Mazidia Native blood. Though, their ancestors were clearly not Mazinca, but rather a different tribe the Mazinca had once ruled over in these parts. Otherwise they would be a little further up the racial hierarchy that predominated.

    As swampies, though, Sokal and Kava got by as best they could, rising each dawn to fish among the muck for salvage left by the currents of the river. Sometimes it was junk from the factories, sometimes it was even stuff from the great ports, though the harbour scavengers further down-river tended to pick that stuff clean.

    They had thought about braving the Effluent to paddle further down-river for better pickings, but the Rivermouth had its own hazards, including caiman, passing ships, local river-gangs, and the Port Authority itself.

    So they, like many others, made a pittance by selling trash to junk-vendors, who in turn recycled and reused whatever they could to sell to those living in the slum-towns that surrounded Prosperitas, the great coastal capital of the Dominion, and home to some eight million souls.

    "Shit, more shit...is that a dead cat? ewww..."

    "If it was a dead dog we could fish it out for food. Good eats on a Dog." Kava joked. His sister was a little older than him, nearly fourteen. She was scrawny, and kept her hair in long dreads for hygiene. As far as he knew, she hadn't taken the easy route for food or money, keeping both her health and virginity intact. STDs were rampant amongst the lower-orders.

    Still, even he wished sometimes his sister might risk it, just once, to help them find money or food. Not that keeping your virginity was an option for long even in the swamps. Sooner or later one of the passing gangs would demand it as fee for their continued safety.

    "I still think we should risk the Effluent, sis. Man, all sorts of stuff falls off the tankers. We might find a crate of beer, or some folding furniture, or even a working laptop..." he drooled at the prospect of selling a laptop, and the month of food it represented.

    "Hell no. Ma made me promise." Kava said stubbornly. "Never let that fool brother of yours fish the Eff, she said."

    "Yeah well, Ma aint here no more." He said stubbornly. "What about Upriver? Maybe we could steal something from the Mangroves and the Plantations?"

    Kava rapped him over the head. "Ow! what?"

    "I'm as hungry as you, Sokal, but that don't make me no thief!" she swore fiercely. "Even from them blancos in the Plantations. Sides, they'll just gut you if they catch you. And you're too black and clumsy not to get caught!"

    She rapped him again, softer this time. "And please...don't talk about Ma so lightly." she said softly, hiding an old hurt. Ma hadn't died easy, eaten from within by some parasite she got from whoring. The rest of their family had died young, sooner or later. Da was out there somewhere, probably run off to find his fortune like so many other good for nothings.

    Sokal had promised not to be like them, but a part of him yearned, oh how he yearned to see more than these wretched swamps. But Kava wouldn't leave, saying with good reason that without knowing where they were going they were as like to be hangshai'd by some slaver gang or detained by the porcos.

    So he took out his long stirring stick, and stirred the turgid muck of the swampy waters, and hoped to find something shiny, something glittering to take him and her away from this life before swamprot or a gangbanger finally caught up with them and their miserable lives.

    His belly rumbled. "Can't we at least try our hand at some dry-work again? Im old enough, maybe I can find some day-work in the slums or the docks?"

    Kava sighed. "I'd...love you to try Sokal, but you ain't learned your books and you're scrawnier than I am. No hauler or shopkeep would have you. Besides..."

    "Yeah, yeah, I know. My face is blacker than a monkey's hairy ass." he grinned, his mouth already full of yellow and rotten teeth. "Ain't nobody gonna trust or give a fair chance to this mug."

    They poled on in silence, stopping only to stir the dawn-lit muck. Out there, other little craft of all kinds went to and fro, as the busy river traffic began to get going for the day.

    None of them had strayed more than a few miles from the Swampside here in the capital. None had even been further inside than the slums. None had seen the Sun King, except stamped on copper-coinage. They'd gone to the Day of the Dead festival earlier, mostly to try and get work with the vendors or carnival crews. Sokal had not left Kava alone for a moment, at her own insistence. The Demons of Dias la Muertos were no legend, as they well knew. Kava's best friend Tial had risked going with a man as a painted whore one Dias last year, and she'd never come back.

    Sokal began to sing, part-mourning, part slave-song, part river-chant.

    "Somedaaay...Heyoooh...Someday Imma find my wayoh..."
     
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  3. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    November 17th, Sacred Panopticon Hospital

    It was a cold sterile world that the eighteen-year old Zoran had inhabited these past seven months. White walls, white sheets, white-attired nurses, white bandages. When he'd finally been allowed to have a room with a view, he'd almost wept simply to see the grey and brown of old Prosperitas, even if from afar. But now though the novelty of such gloom and urban decay had worn thin, and now he longed to see other, less neutral colours.

    By such token, even his father, in his stiff, formal black business suit, was a visual feast. The old man's stiff expression and solemn manner, however, was not.

    "The doctors have assured me you are healing well." he said firmly. "I see no reason for you to resume your service in the Air Force, however. You've proven your point. Its high past time you continued your studies, to make yourself useful to this family."

    "Father-" Zoran stood his ground, though his weak, emaciated legs shivered and shook from the effort. Thankfully, he no longer had to wear a hospital gown, and so his father could not see his son's pink, stick-like legs quake.

    "Zoran, you are my son and heir, whatever else you may be." Zoltan said with no affection or pride, merely stating neutral facts. "Your disgrace can wait. You are wasting your time and your life here. The least you can do is put your mind to work and prepare for Law School."

    "I don't want to be a lawyer. We've had this discussion-"

    "And now it is over. You understand me? I have shown-" he swallowed his cold fury. "I have shown enormous patience with you, because of your injury. But now that stops, do you hear? Great things are a foot. A chance to build a legacy, one that could last a thousand years. I need you to be ready. Not tomorrow, not next year, I need you to be ready -now-."

    Zoran looked up, defiantly, into the cold, remorseless eyes of his father. "I am not quitting the air force."

    His father simply shook his head in firm disgust. "Your face is ruined. Your arms and legs would be too, if not for the grace of god and a fifty million pacem treatment that I paid for. You do not have adequate depth perception. You couldn't fly even if they let you. Forget your boyish dreams. It is time to be a man."

    The burned young man did not flinch from his father's words. "I will continue to serve."

    "You are a stubborn fool and a disgrace. But fine, have it your way. I will see to it you are transferred to the military law division. You can study law and pretend to be an airman at the same time. But you -will- study law, Zoran. I have indulged you beyond the point of reason, and when the time comes, I will have you at my side."

    The young man finally relented, and bowed his head low, his physical weakness matching his worn will. "As...as you wish, father."

    "Good. Zola is waiting. Try to be civil with your sister."

    Zoltan Reyes, most wealthy man in the Dominion, First Advisor to the Sun King, and father of Zoran, left his half-burned son without a second thought. The boy had survived, was healthy, and had now bowed to his will. No further actions or thoughts were necessary to his mind.

    Waiting in the door-way was Zola Reyes, Zoran's twin-sister. Her black hair was done up in an asiatic style, her cruel green eyes offset by her mocking smile. She wore a form-fitting red-dress and black thigh-high boots.

    "Zola." He said stiffly, sitting on his bed. Fighting his father had been taxing enough. Dealing with his devil of a sister....

    "Oh Zozo, you shouldn't look so down. You got to stay in the air force a little longer. I didn't think father would let you have even that." She sauntered into his room as if it was a catwalk, oozing sexuality and hidden menace. She was beautiful, perfect even. Everything one could want in a Reyes daughter.

    Unlike him.

    He clenched his fists tightly, hiding his inner rage.

    "I don't have time for your games, Zola."

    "Oh? Brother, it seems to me like you have -nothing- but time." She sat down beside him, uncomfortably close, almost draping herself on his frail shoulders.

    "At least he didn't blame you for the crash. Computing error, was it? Mmm. You cost father a hundred million pacem in one day, and he's let you off so lightly. He must love you after all." Zola gloated.

    "A hundred...?"

    "Oh? didn't he tell you? The Meridian fighter you were piloting. He had to pay in full for its replacement. Those things don't come cheap, you know. Destroyed utterly. But it -was- a computing error. No way a boy pilot like you could have..."

    He turned around with a snarl, his hand reaching for his sister's throat. "Don't. You. Dare."

    She gave him the most villainous of smiles, like a cat that had just go the cream.

    "Zozo, why so serious? You know I'd never say anything to hurt my baby brother."

    "You were born eight minutes before me." He said flatly, tiring of her games, releasing her. She rubbed her neck lightly. Makeup to hide the bruises. She'd been choked before, and harder, and by worse than her brother.

    She liked her rough games.

    "Zozo, you are an idiot." She rolled her eyes impatiently. "I had hoped we might have a little fun...like old times?"

    He turned away from her, keeping his eyes firmly fixated on the wall. The boring, plain, white wall.

    "Zozo?" Her hand, treacherous, snake-like, caressed his cheek. His burned, scarred cheek.

    "You know I don't mind the burns...I still see my brother. My...beautiful brother. I don't hate you, you know. I never have."

    "No. You just lie, and use me. Like always." He growled, holding the anger, the rage, the fire deep inside of him. Oh how he knew what it was to burn.

    "Fine. If you're going to be stubborn..." she shrugged, rising from the bed. "Then there is one last thing I need to tell you....the Sun Princess will be making one of her oh-so-secret-but-not-really ward visits soon. Might be a good chance for you to meet again."

    "What...?" Now Zoran was flustered, confused. Zola smiled again at that.

    "Mmm, predictable. Even with half your face burned you are like an open book, brother." She sighed. "But leave it to your big sister. I will arrange for everything."

    "Arrange what?" he said stubbornly.

    "Don't insult my intelligence. If you won't play with me...well, I'm sure father would approve of this dalliance more. Or maybe not? Things are afoot, Zozo. You should stop being a grump and pay attention, or you will be set aside."

    Zoran froze. This was typical of his snake-like sister. Seduction, followed by betrayal. But...like this?

    "Set...aside?"

    "Don't be fooled by his generosity, brother. Father is this close to giving up on you. Everything you've worked for, everything you've tried to do to prove yourself...it's not enough. It's not remotely enough. Frankly, even if you begged him and took a job at a law firm...well. How can he have a burned son?"

    He closed his eyes, letting her words wash over him. It was not true. Nothing she said was true. Zola always lies. Zola always lies. Zola...

    "Zozo?"

    "Go away. I'm tired."

    "I'll let you rest on that brother. Give Tanai my love when you see her, why don't you?"

    With the last word, she left her brother alone. Left him alone with his thoughts, and the fading memory of her vibrant red dress.
     
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  4. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    November 23rd, 2018
    Sacred Panopticon Hospital


    Princess Tanai preferred to keep her entourage minimal. Ideally, she would have liked to wander the streets alone, and experience Prosperitas and her future Empire alone, as a regular young woman. But this was no fairy-tale or movie. So, at the very least, she always had Tanaka at her side.

    Tanaka was her bodyguard, and, more, close to a big-brother figure. An Eagle Warrior, Tanaka had been aside to guard her since her sixth birthday. At first she had been afraid of the tall, silent warrior with the rippling muscles. His quietness made it hard for her to ever be sure if he was there. But over time she had grown accustomed to his presence, and now she found she could sense his presence even without obvious sound.

    It was strange, now, to think that there ever might be a time when he wouldn't be there.

    Tanaka, for his part, kept his own thoughts and feelings to himself. But he loved the Princess dearly, and considered this post the highest honour possible for one such as he to achieve. Not all Eagle Warriors shared this view, of the Dominion royalty or the Dominion itself. But if anyone deserved an opportunity to live up to the legacy of the Intirru, he thought, it was surely this young, blind girl with such passion and promise.

    Their armoured limousine arrived at the Sacred Panopticon, though it was a short distance from the Great Pyramid and the Imperial Palace. But the streets in Prosperitas were often narrow, winding and dangerous, and so she had to go everywhere by car and armed escort, though she felt this made her more of a target than it might otherwise.

    Entering the familiar, wide reception area, Tanai was assailed by the smell of bleach and cleaning fluids, a smell present almost nowhere else in Mazidia. The Sacred Panopticon was a vast, modern hospital complex that had specialised wards for a number of different injuries, diseases and conditions. She had visited almost all of them, and held the hand of raped girls no older than her, gang members dying of gunshots, and sat by the quarantined beside of those with Mazidic Fever and worse.

    It had been hard, for all that she could not see the damage for herself. She could almost smell the different kinds of sickness and decay. Still, her regular visits were greatly appreciated, and she did her best to liven the lives, however short they might be, of everyone she visited.

    Today though, was something of a more...personal visit. One she had been shamefully avoiding for some time.

    She heard her steps echo down the long corridor as she and her bodyguard approached the private ward room. She'd visited the Burns Ward before, but todays visit was to a dedicated long-time patient, paid for privately.

    Tanaka's discomfort was palpable, and not just because he was wearing a formal suit and tie, rather than his more familiar and traditional Eagle Warrior tribal garb. Nonetheless, even without his feathered skirt and khupi neck-tie interlaced with eagle feathers, he was a formidable warrior, skilled in martial arts, fire-arms and improvised combat. Tanaka could kill a man with almost anything.

    She stood outside the door for a long, uncomfortable moment, gathering her thoughts. What was she doing? She was the firey sun-princess. Forth-right. Grounded. A tomboy. People's Princess. She wasn't a blushing little daddy's girl. This was a simple visit like any other.

    She knocked on the door, and then felt foolish. Tanaka opened the door for her and entered before anyone could say anything. She was the Sun Princess. She didn't need anyone's permission or acknowledgement to enter a room.

    Zoran Reyes sat on his bed, already dressed, his one good eye fixated on the door. His posture straightened, something she could tell by the creak of his bed as he shifted his weight subtly. He was another she was able to sense almost as if she had a second sight.

    "Your Highness." He said stiffly. "Chief Tanaka. You honour me with your presence."

    "Thank you, Senor Reyes." She said awkwardly, the formality of his greeting setting her back a little. "I- I heard that you suffered grievous injury while in service to our country. As...as daughter of the Sun King, it is my duty to thank you for your service, and to...to present this medal, as a small token of our thanks for your bravery and...your bravery and your...stoicism in the face of tribulation." She said, trying to remember the script she'd prepared. She took a simple, golden medal worked in the likeness of the sun, and approached Zoran.

    Her heart was beating, and she felt her cheeks flush. She wondered how much he could see of her, and she felt oddly vulnerable.

    "Thank you, Your Highness." he said stiffly. She approached, and, taking a deep breath, laid the medal around his neck. As she got closer, she swore she could almost feel his breath, feel his strong, capable hands on her cheek...

    She blinked, and found that she had indeed, performed this important and necessary task. She could feel Tanaka radiating quiet disapproval behind her. She knew she wasn't handling this very well, but she had to finish what she came to do.

    "May you wear your medal with pride. Know that as further thanks for your difficult service, we are prepared to offer early honorable discharge and a substan-"

    "Thank you, but I want to stay." He said quickly and firmly. Though she could not see it, his fist clenched, as he sensed his father's poisonous words coming from the Princess's lips. Her soft, pink lips.

    "Um." She said, thrown off her carefully prepared script. "Why?"

    "I'm not done. I want to continue to serve my country." I want to fly. He did not say.

    "But..." she was truly flustered, and a little irritated now. "But look what happened! Zoran, you were...you were almost killed!" she said, her true emotions breaking through.

    "I know. I'm sorry." he sounded truly regretful, though he was holding back anger. Not at her, but at...everything. His pride, his shame. His father. Himself.

    "But when I'm better, I intend to return to service as an airman." he said stubbornly.

    "Don't be stupid. Zoran, you know theyll never let you." she said. "What makes you think theyll ever let you even near a cockpit ever again?"

    "I...I don't care. I'll find a way." he said stubbornly. "I'm not done."

    Concern gave way to anger. Without even thinking, she stepped forward, and slapped him on his unburned cheek. Somehow she knew which side that was n instinct.

    He growled at that.

    "Did you-- do you even think sometimes?" She said angrily. "You're such a blockhead! You make me so mad-"

    He laughed a little, despite his stinging cheek, which made her only more angry "I'm a blockhead? Not a..." he grinned. "Not a fucking asshole?"

    She reddened at that "You know...you know I'm not supposed to swear, damnit. Don't make fun of me!"

    "I'll take the medal and the retirement if you can call me an asshole right now."

    "Oh grow up, Zoltan! You're supposed to be three years older than me! Stop acting like a child." She stomped her foot, and it was all he could do not to keep laughing. Oh how he had missed this.

    Tanaka gave him a solid death-glare, and Zoltan shrugged back. What was the Eagle Warrior going to do? Beat him up? He was no threat to the Princess, and maybe a little irreverence would do her some good.

    "Relax, Princess. Listen, I'll be out of here in a week or two longer. Think you could...squeeze in another visit? I can meet you in the Veterans Ward downstairs if thats less awkward." He said.

    "Zoltan!" she said with alarm and frustration. "Are you an idiot...? Did you consider why I havent visited you since...since-"

    "Yes. I did. Every day." The hurt and anger in his voice stopped her a little in her tracks. "Every day I wanted to see you. Even an official farce- I mean visit- like this one. I knew you had to wait. But to wait so long? That's not just caution, Tanai." He used her name, and didnt care when Tanaka hissed at his impudence.

    "I...I know." The princess inclined her head. "Im sorry."

    "Its...alright." he replied sadly. "I...I forgive you."

    She hesitated, hovering. For all her bravery and fire and spirit in everything else she did, somehow, here, now, she couldnt close the distance.

    So he did it for her. Tanaka coughed loudly, so he kept it brief. His burned mouth against her pink lips, a soft, brief kiss. Dangerous, but after nearly dying, he felt like he had less to lose.

    She trembled for a moment, and relaxed with a sigh as he broke the kiss. All too brief, for their first in many months. He wasn't even sure if she still liked him, but all doubt was removed.

    "I should have you beheaded, you know." She said playfully.

    "Tanaka looks like he wants to do it even without your orders." Zoltan said rakishly.

    "Just say the word, Princess." he said, his first words since entering the room.

    She giggled at that. Why did she always feel like such a child in Zoltan's presence? Still, she hoped- prayed, really- that she might become a real adult with him, someday.

    Wait...

    "Um...when you were burned...did uh..." She went crimson as sense caught up with her sudden impulse. What kind of question was she trying to ask? And here of all places! Now! to him! She ought to be beheaded.

    He seemed to understand what she was asking. "Im alright." He said, with more confidence than he felt. "I'm half-blind now, so halfway to understanding you better, but thats about it. Everything else works." He chuckled, as he saved her from mortal embarassment.

    She sighed with relief. "Listen...I have to go now. Duty Calls. Some homosexuals were beaten by a crowd, and I'm going to visit them in the next ward. But...I'm glad you're OK. I...no promises, OK? But...If we can.." she sighed. "If..."

    "I understand." He said, and, risking further aggravation from Tanaka, he patted her head lightly. How he wanted to take her into his arms, and feel her warmth, her slight frame and the smell of lavender in her hair...But even a head-pat was incredibly daring, all things considered.

    She seemed to understand, and reciprocate some of the tension he felt. She took his hand from her head and kissed it, softly. "Its unfair on you, I know, but...please wait a little longer, OK?"

    "I have time." he said. "Just...not seven months again, please?"

    She smiled wistfully at him. She didn't dare answer.

    "Tanaka? We have some homosexuals to see."

    "As you wish Princess." He bowed, and waited for her to leave the room. As she did so, he gave Zoltan one last, grudging nod. "You are tough, Burned Man. Among my people, there is no greater trial than the trial by fire."

    With that, he was gone, and Zoltan was alone again. He sighed. A week or more before discharge. Now he had seen her...he couldnt wait to leave this damn place.
     
  5. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    November 28th, 2018
    Prosperitas, Riverbanks District

    Hurricane Diamanda broke over the city with the roar of a mighty lion, and the thunder of his claws raked the sky. Kava and Sokal huddled for shelter under their wooden boat, having dragged it out of the river and thick mud, taking shelter in the back-yard of the Aunt Cass Taberna. They were far from alone, as the desperate and dishevelled of the Riverbanks crammed into huts, homes, anywhere they could.

    All praying the merciless rain would not rise the river. All praying the levees would hold.

    Sokal looked into his sister's eyes, and she back at him. It was intimate, cosy, and a little awkward to be sharing such a close, snug space. They could almost feel the pressure of the storm outside, beating at the wooden canoe that kept their heads and chests dry, though they sat in dirt.

    "Life don't get much more miserable than this." Sokal said with a sardonic smile. "We ought to count our blessings. How many ever really get to see rock bottom like this? Hell, when the storm's over, all sortsa folk will be whinin' about what they lost, but us..."

    "Us, nothing to lose." Kava said back, with forced jollity. She shivered in the cold, wrapping her only shawl thick around her shoulders. Everything she and her brother owned, more or less, was right here, under the canoe with them.

    "Yep. We got it easy. We just flip our home over, and go right back to work on the storm-chased river. We'll be the first to the pickings, youll see." He said, trying to distract himself from the force-10 winds that threatened to blow them both over and to kingdom come. They had some shelter from the Taberna, but all sorts of flimsy shanty buildings were creaking and rattling, plastic and metal alike groaning against the force of the wind.

    "Illapa is beating his war drum fierce tonight." Kava said, invoking the old Storm and War God. "I wonder what the storm looks like from the Great Pyramid?" In truth she didn't really wonder such things, but like Sokal she was trying to pass the time, and not think about their situation.

    "Oh, I bet its something fierce. Sun King himself has to hold on to his golden hat."

    By such small banter they hoped to make the long hours pass. But a distant, terrifying sound, like a thousand tonne wilderbeest dying, broke into their calm. A palpable shift could be felt through the storm.

    "Do you think-?"

    A sixth sense made Sokal and Kava's skin prick. Something was wrong. A sound again, like an impossibly massive beast in agony.

    "The Flood-barrier..."

    "We have to move. now." Kava said, with sudden clarity, an unspoken precognition of calamity seizing her so tightly she could barely breathe. "We have to get- high-"

    The ground beneath them began to shake. A roaring like a million angry insects could be felt, coming closer.

    Somewhere, a storm siren faintly could be heard, its wail feebly cutting through the storm's fury. A crack like lightning, and the rumble of Illapa's war drums, confirmed the storm was only intensifying.

    Bracing themselves, they gripped both sides of their canoe, and raised it together with trembling fingers.

    Immediately, they became aware again of how -wet- the world was. A thin trickle of water now lapped against their toes. The back-yard was flooding. Which meant...

    "The River is rising."

    "Run! One, two, one two!" They awkwardly tried to run, using the awkward heavy canoe as shelter, though wind and water slashed at their legs.

    A crack, and suddenly a wooden shutter hurtled past them, smashing against a weathered adobe wall. Sokal caught glimpses of the darkened world as they half-ran, half-jostled themselves towards the Taberna steps.

    "We can't fit inside with the canoe!"

    "Door's barred anyway. They won't let a bunch of half-drowned river rats in."

    "The Roof?"

    Kava's eyes glistened desperately. Sokal knew in that moment that they did, after all, have something to lose. Making the hard choice, he was determined he would not lose his sister.

    "Drop the Canoe. We have to climb."

    "But-"

    "Do it!" he yelled, suddenly fierce. He didn't want to lose their livelihood either. But it was that or their lives.

    He dropped the canoe, and entered the full fury of the storm. Wind stung his ears and face, tears streaming from his eyes, barely able to see. Water streamed from everything, and the rain soaked him to the bone. His thin clothing was practically shredded already.

    Water was running in thick streams down the overloaded gutters, from the gables. Scrambling over slick, wet corrugated iron, Sokal was glad for once he was barefoot, able to feel his way as he shimmied up on to the roof awkwardly, first from a low outhouse, and then up to the higher terrace. The wind threatened to throw him to the ground again, But he gritted his teeth.

    He turned, and stuck his hand out for Kava to grab.

    He saw then, rushing down the winding, narrow, muddy streets, a wall of river-effluent and churn, flooding the town at waist-height.

    "Grab my hand!" he screamed, and she did so, dropping their canoe and her shawl.

    His sister's cotton dress was so soaked through, he could see her nakedness. But he had no time for embarassment or shame. He simply helped her up, determination filling his wiry body.

    He hauled her and he felt his limbs burn from the effort. He felt the metal roofing slide beneath his scarred and callused feet, felt himself slipping from the roof, even as he levered her up.

    "Hnnnnngh-" He growled, and he felt relief as she slammed onto the awkward space beside him. Thunder split the sky once more, and in the pale after-glow he could see the flimsier shacks starting to move from their foundations, the thin, uneven soil and mud of the Riverbanks slums being churned up by the flash flood.

    "To the roof! Can't rest!" he yelled, struggling to be heard.

    Kava understood, nodding, and they leapt from the outhouse for the terrace, scrabbling for hand-holds, for purchase, anything to get higher.

    The water in the back-yard was rising, and now the storm surge was about to hit. He saw his sister about to turn to look, and he grabbed her.

    "Don't look back. Only up!"

    She nodded, and they began to climb.

    They felt the water slam against the taberna's stout adobe walls, vibrations that shivered them. But the building held. Somewhere he could hear the bleating of goats, the barking of dogs, and other noises. How strange, to hear it through the storm.

    A piece of uneven sheeting slipped by them, so close it almost sliced Sokal's nose off. The roof above was buckling and groaning from the wind and weight of water, but it was still the only safety available.

    The storm surge below churned and gushed, and though not able to see, somehow he knew their little canoe was being carried off, to be dashed against buildings or to follow the flow of the flood to god knows where.

    Finally they made it on to the roof, gasping, wet, still lashed from the sky, but now on somewhat firmer material. They clung to the roof, barely able to look at each other, and felt the pressure of the storm push them down, hard, against the groaning roof.

    With a snap, they felt themselves falling inwards, into the storm-battered Taberna, into someone's over-crowded, dimly-lit room.

    The occupants screamed, as rain and wind now gushed in behind the two bedraggled siblings, but Sokal felt a powerful sense of relief. They were inside. They would survive another day.​
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2018
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  6. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    1st February, 2019
    North Umbra, Aymara-Maraja Disputed Territories
    Firebase Echo

    Within the thick, impenetrable rainforests of Northern central Mazidia, where the sloping plateaus of the northern mountains meet the churning source of the great river that gives its silver to the ocean seven hundred miles to the southeast, lies one of the ever-shrinking enclaves of nominally independent, mostly uncontacted tribal nations.

    Maintaining the border, as much to preserve the rainforest from loggers as to watch for the threat of native raids, are a series of heavily defended firebases, made up of concentric ringed barbed wire fences and a stout, high watch-tower, which maintains radio-contact with one of several airfields further south, ready to call in air-support on any attack that breaks from the thick undergrowth, towards the cleared ground pre-laid with mines.

    Today, the Children of the Sun would make their voice heard once again. Commander Ocelot watched the men of the Dominion military go about their dull, repetitive actions, his binoculars dulled against reflection. Overhead, the sky was heavy and grey, and there was the scent of snow on the air. It was rare, but snow-storms did sometimes roll down from the mountains, into the dense plateau country of North Umbra.

    The swarthy native guerrilla leader passed his binoculars from old and scarred hands to a young, half-naked boy in a loincloth. His face was painted like the predator he took his name from. The boy's face was painted in mud, for he had not taken a totem.

    Boys and old men. Ocelot thought sourly. Once, we were many...now we are so few.

    He checked his watch, waiting for the go-hour, using the insurgent tactics he had been painstakingly taught by communists, long ago. He had led, and lost, half a dozen bands just like this. A lifetime of resistance, with precious little to show for it except scars. He was not of the Aymara or the Maraja, but of a tribe long since swallowed and subsumed into the churn of the toiling masses far further south.

    But even they had, somehow, heard of the Ocelot, and how his claws raked at the great oppressive eagle, who stole everything from the ground, even its very essence.

    I'm done. This will be my last fight. He lied to himself, as he had so many times before. But each time, fate spared him death. And each time, he clawed his way back, retreating ever northwards, assembling new bands, and leading his cause once more into futile, fatal struggles.

    Emerging from a narrow, barely visible hole in the ground, Ocelot's miner confirmed that they had dug their way under the wire. It had been painstaking work over many weeks, labouring in dark, cramped, narrow tunnels, but they had found a way to bypass this firebase's defences.

    They would never know what hit them.

    "Should we not wait for night, or the storm?" asked the boy fearfully. Ocelot laid his gloved hand on the boy's shoulder to steady him.

    "No. We have hit them often, as ghosts and raiders. They will expect that, now. Let them see our fury in our eyes for a change."

    Ocelot turned, and gave the order.

    "We attack! Aymara, Hau! Hau! Hau!"

    With ululating cries and roars of fury, the boys and men who would serve as the feint broke charged, carrying old bolt-actions, bows, and stone spears and clubs.

    hauhauhauhauHAUHAUHAUHUAHAUHA


    Their ragged, bestial cry grew in speed and fury, like the breathy panting of a predator closing on its prey. The loud, mechanical siren of the Dominion men began to wind and howl.

    Ocelot waited, then gave the signal for the infiltrators to slip into the tunnels. They carried short uzis, carbines and the bulk of the groups' firepower. They would most likely do most of the killing.

    The boy was whispering something under his breath. Ocelot squeezed his shoulder tightly. "Courage, little pup. Today you will find your beast." He spoke in their native tongue, though it was not his own. He had learned many languages, and come to accord with many more without words, his deeds preceding before him.

    The chatter of machine-guns, and the brap-brap of AR carbines could be heard now, as the horde came in rage. Half-naked men fell as if their legs had been kicked out from under them, and the thunk-thunk of mortars, and the whistle before they impacted, filled the air with the sound of war.

    To their credit, the natives did not waver before this onslaught, even as brethren fell like maize before the reaping.

    Ocelot watched with tightness in his old chest. Would any of them make it to the wire?

    An allmighty roar split the earth and sky, as preplaced charges detonated on queue, throwing crazy-wrapped wire and tonnes of alluvial soil into the heavens. The pale-faces looked panicked, and their discpline soon collapsed. They had never seen the guerillas use explosives before.

    And now, they were there, in among them, their eyes frozen with hatred, their spears and clubs raised for the killing.

    "Fall back to the citadel! Rally! Rally! Where's our air support-?"

    Ocelot picked up his kalashnikov and backpack, and raced to join his men. The jets from the south would certainly be on their way now. They had to do everything they had come to do, before the death rain could fall.

    A single white flake landed on his nose, and he wiped it away without thinking.

    Ah. the snow was coming now. He grinned ferally. Perhaps they'd have a little more time after all...

    He passed his machete to the boy. "Go. Claim a scalp, and find your manhood."

    The boy, barely old enough to be pubescent, nodded eagerly, and ran to join his comrades, the bloody battle begun in earnest.
     
  7. Mazidia

    Mazidia Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2018
    Messages:
    40
    Location:
    Halls of Montezuma
    Capital:
    Prosperitas
    Nick:
    Vextra
    5th February, 2019
    General Session of the Confederal Dominion Congress
    Prosperitas, Mazidian Capital

    News of the fall of Firebase Echo had spread remarkably quickly, despite its obscurity and absolute remoteness from the rest of the Dominion. Yet in this age of smartphones and global positioning satellites, bloody deeds done in even the darkest of hearts soon find their way to the light.

    Usually even bloody actions like this were left in the care of regional authorities. But the Firebases, forming a sort of internal border against the Unknown Indian Territories of the Aymara-Maraja, were formally the property of the Dominion itself, and were manned by Imperial dominion soldiers, not territorial or regional security forces.

    Indeed, while formally being part of the state of East Umbra, the Unknown Territories were as a whole essentially "terra nullis", both legally and factually, and security and law enforcement was left mostly in the hands of whatever government employees were sent out there to get forgotten about.

    That responsibility evolved to the highest level was regrettably undisputable. Unfortunately, now that that had been established, what remained was the thorny question of what, exactly, to do about it.

    The 691-man Congress was now in the raucous process of debating that very issue. High Speaker Bertrand Laurinerre, a white-haired man of Serenien-Mazidian extraction, watched over the airs with grave calm, slamming his staff of office repeatedly into the hard marble tile.

    "Order! Order! You sir, Order!" He yelled, his voice stentorian and authoritative.

    With slowness and reluctance, the chamber began to settle.

    "The Chair recognises the Honorable Representative, Congressman Senor Xavier Teodoro Bartiez..."

    A fat man in a white suit, a ruddy complexion and a thin moustache got up, and began to speak his piece.

    The congress-hall was modelled on the Tiburan Senate, like all good congress buildings, and acoustics had been finally tuned in the echoing chamber to allow anyone who stood to be heard wherever else in the building you stood.

    Nonetheless, Congressman Bartiez began to shout, pounding his fist on his desk unnecessarily to illustrate his point.

    "Indian incursions? In this day and age? Its outrageous! Complete dereliction of duty! What do we pay taxes for, if the Dominion's army can't even hold a bunch of half-naked savages away from our lands! Murdering loggers and drug-runners is one thing, but an attack on dominion millitary outposts? What is next? Our farms? Our Villas?"

    Laurinerre weathered the man's spittle-flecked tirade with grace. He stood in front of an empty Golden Throne, symbolic of the Sun King's presence. Overhead hung a gold-wrought eagle in flight, the sigil of the empire.

    The Sun King had the privilege to attend any general session of the Congress, of course. But even if he did, these days, his right to speak or act were severely curtailed. So, for the most part, he didn't bother. Governmental power rested, more or less, in the High Speaker's hands.

    "Thank you Congressman Bartiez. The Chair next recognises Honorable Represent-"

    "I wasn't finished!" Bartiez protested, still wheezing.

    "You stopped. You are finished. The Chair Recognises-" he growled.

    Bartiez quickly got the hint, and reluctantly sat back down with ill grace, muttering furiously to himself.

    After several more congressman delivered their ill-concieved polemics, the High Speaker finally let the other person of power, the King's Advisor, Zoltan Reyes, speak his piece.

    "Esteemed representatives, thank you all for meeting on such short notice. On behalf of the Sun King, I assure you, your thoughts and feelings have been heard." The smooth-tongued vizier and corporate oligarch replied.

    "But a solution to the problem- though I stress it is but a minor problem, and hardly a catastrophe as some have been led to believe-" he glanced nonchalantly in Bartiez's direction- "a solution already exists. Gentlemen, last time we spoke you voted to decrease funding for my aerial warfare programme. You also voted to decline my efforts to purchase land in the Great Frontier for development. Gentlemen, the problem of the Indians has existed as long as it has because of their inacessibility and remoteness. I recognise the critical need to preserve our rainforests and sacred mountains, but I also recognise our need to crush these violent savages once and for all. Grant me land and mineral rights, and grant me funding, and I can provide unmanned drones, missiles, and close-combat support planes that can attack the indians in places never before reached."

    He paused, waiting for them to digest all he had said. He was being bold, speaking in a dual capacity as private citizen and as King's Advisor. But they all had their dualities, their pretenses.

    "Why do you need drones and stealth fighters to bomb indians?" asked Congressman Inigues. A sharp one, Reyes noted. A rare, formidable figure in this otherwise bloated body of demagogues and pocket-liners.

    "An excellent question, Congressman Inigues...if the chair will permit?" Laurinerre nodded gruffly. Reyes took the floor to speak directly to his questioner.

    "Congressman Inigues, I had hoped not to raise this for fear of causing undue alarm, especially in general session but...one must consider the broader implications of a -successful, armed- band of indian rebels. That they should wreak havoc to a millitary outpost should be impossible. They might accquire small-arms from the foolish cartels that try to operate there, but explosives? and tactical training? No gentlemen. We can only conclude one of our neighbours may be interfering. A strong, modern air force is vital-"

    The chamber dissolved into uproar. "Neighbours? Enemies!?!" they shouted in a hubbub.

    Inigues did not join them. An oldguard member of the Integrationist Party, Inigues had been a strong, if often lonely voice of opposition in the Congress for forty years, opposing countless efforts since the end of the War with Warre to re-millitarise, refortify or in anyway expand the MI complex within Dominion society.

    Reyes kept his smirk hidden. Such opposition had already been factored into his plans.

    "Order! Order I say!"

    Once order had been re-achieved, Reyes finished his proposal. "Gentlemen, I would be happy to answer further questions outside of general session, but for now I leave you with my proposal to consider. Fund drones. Fund jets. We can quite literally kill two birds, with one stone. I assure you, the money will be well spent."

    He left the centre, and returned to his guest-seat at the side, while the Congress continued its often noisy and exhausting deliberations. It would be some hours before they even voted, and likely more before a decision could be reached.

    Which is why he had already taken the liberty of using his authority as King's Advisor to enact legis tempore pre rata, allowing him to proceed as if the authority was going to be bestowed soon, and thus allocate some of the funding he needed, right now.

    The Dominion system was complicated, bureaucratic, stagnant, full of arcane and stupid laws and by-laws, and easy to manipulate. Generations of men as smart as Reyes had used their wealth and connections to become as powerful as he. But he had a different vision. He was not content to be another in a long lineage of three-generation families, earning billions only for his heirs to squander it.

    He wanted a real legacy. One that would last. Not a library or a college grant or a football team or any of those idiotic vainglorious projects other oligarchs of the nation spent their hard-earned Pacems on. No. He wanted real power.

    And now, finally, a good crisis had come along for him to exploit....
     
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