Far, far from the Confederated Republic of Beautancus... It had been long before the tumult of years recently past when Joe had last visited the country of his parent's birth. Much larger last time too, Polesia had been, though that was a particularly recent development. Had a different name back then too. So recent that it hadn't been this size, officially, when Joe had first put the idea to his nominal superior, Endymion Quincy Walker. The jumped up little hottenthot had immediately referred it to the gate-keeper in Drummond House, Adigne Tayte. She was as smart as they came, regardless of her plumbing, and had the foresight to immediately kick the proposition upstairs to their ultimate superior, her lover, and the most powerful man in the Confederated Republic. The First Citizen and Joe got along quite famously, and it hadn't required anything in the way of further convincing once Adigne had him primed. Orton was one of the most naturally pragmatic men Joe had ever met, which was of course saying something, along with being a cold-blooded (political) operator of unparalleled grit and talent. More than anything, Joe found he liked the man, something he hadn't been able to say since before Duke left the office. Orton still scared him. Souls like that could be poured into men only sparingly, lest the mold be broken, and Joe was beginning to suspect Beautancus had never before seen his like. Fifty years in service to this country - my country - and never have I known a man that seemed so purpose-made to wield the rod and scepter of state, Joe had told his eldest friend and colleague before leaving, which Dr. Rheron Cypreau hadn't seemed at all surprised to hear. On the contrary, he'd admitted to having thought the same for some while. A week or two had passed, in which time the media had played its part in soft-pitching the trip to a public not exactly known for Marxist sympathies. In that time, Joe had been pumped full of whatever science project their "rejuvenation therapy" amounted to - new blood or some such inane nonsense. Though maybe not quite so much nonsense after all, with how spry he felt stepping from the plane and onto Trivod- no, Polesian soil. Joe was sure it was a beautiful country, but having his spent all of his very nearly eight decades of life thinking of himself as Cussian and Beautancus as his home...mainly, he appreciated why his parents had left. "Secretary Doctor Koscialkovski!" Hearing his name spoken aloud in its native manner was always amusing, though not nearly quite to the degree as hearing "Our Stars" tootled out by the color-guarded Polesian band waiting for him to disembark. What a strange and interesting time to be alive and in service to my country. The Polesians had put more into the reception than the Cussian elder statesman had expected, down to the Polesian Premier, Yaakov Zilberfarb, being on hand. They had some appreciation of what this visit might come to mean then, at least. State Service had put together a special profile on Zilberfarb for this tour, flagged as a "true believer," every bit as committed to Marxism-Leninovism as Moravscik himself. Maybe more than, even. That was both a comfort to Joe, and disconcerting, as there were good reasons for why Nativists usually accounted Marxists as Fictionals, and Zilberfarb seemed apt to make a walking, talking example thereof. The Polesian didn't speak Engellish well enough to be comfortable with intellectually sparring in it with the likes of "Dr. K," but it was a small matter anyway. Joe had been raised bilingual, speaking his parents more Deutsch-like (formerly Christian) Yiddish, and was able to get along just fine. It even pleased him to have a bit of practice, though he did find the creep of even more Slavian influence into the language troubling. The Kadikis cast a long shadow over every facet of life here. At least they aren't Catholic, was a mantra Joe found himself repeating more than a few times in the course of his time in Amstov. Though he had not required it, the toll paid by this city and society for failing before the onslaught of Communism was plainly enough seen to provide a perfectly clear lesson on the wages of failure. Or the wrong kind of victory. The reaction and responses to an almost insignificant speech on the adaptability of Nativism had been rather encouraging. People this removed from the Far West mostly only received the caricature of the Cussian belief system through the completely biased and bigoted lens of the Tiburan civilization that gaped between them. They knew nothing of the indefatigable genius of Direct Utilitarianism, or the implication of inoculation against the involuntary servitude that it provided. The notion of growth necessarily requiring struggle had of course also gained significant purchase, providing the Polesian audience with a silver lining to their defeat and subjugation by one of the modern world's greatest powers. "To have taken and survived such mighty blows will breed greater strength than any alive today can imagine," Joe had told them, smiling. The primary difficulty in translation of Nativist ideals stemmed from the uniquely Yiddish condition of Polesian society: their Native folklore actually was the Fiction that other peoples had been tricked into adopting and were called to abjure in pursuit of the primordial liberty their ancestors had (and modern Cussians yet still) enjoyed. Even so, Joe had seen the notions taking root behind furrowed brows and stunned eyes here and there in the crowd, not least among those Kadikis and Crotobaltislavonians doing their best to blend into the crowd. The presence of the latter in that crowd had nicely presaged the arrival of the Free Canton's Foreign Minister, Maximillian Jedreck. His was a face somewhat more familiar than this current crop of Communard Polesians, Joe easily recalled having met him in the course of his last state visit to the region in the late 1980s. Joe remembered being moderately impressed with the Free Canton's man back then too, and was pleased to find him to have improved with age. He's not the only one that can say that, Joe reminded himself. Eighty wasn't at all that far away for Joe now, and no amount of eighteen year old blood being pumped into his all but fossilized veins would forestall the inevitable decline into senility and death awaiting him. Snorting at his amateurish slip into concerned revelry over his own mortality - of course you're going to die old man, that is not a surprise - Joe imagined it was clear to the world that the real point of this departure from the diplomatic status quo was entirely focused on Crotobaltislavonia. That was to the good too, and even partly - if not entirely - correct. Truth told, it would be a miracle if the agenda could be successfully concluded with the discretion required, even for an operator as practiced as the famous Dr. K. Another day, another town, and the last leg of his stay in ancestral Polesia. Zalenograd had never been big enough to deserve the -grad, not now and certainly not when his parents and said their final goodbyes. It was, however, where their parents were buried - and where they had requested a portion of their own ashen mortal remains be scattered. "Returned unto the soil from whence we have come," as demanded of Nativist rite of eulogy. They'd all be spinning in their graves, if there was enough left to jostle, Joe thought as he scattered his parents blended ashes from a hill overlooking their insignificant hometown. They hated Marxism-Leninovism like they were born Cussians...like I do, because I am. There'd be no peace for any of them if they'd lived to see what's become of Trivodnia. It was something of a relief then for Joe to shake Zilberfarb's clammy little hand for the last time, and to finally board the Crotobaltislavonian riverboat that had inspired Joe to this whole demented scheme in the first place. Hebrews weren't exactly the most insufferable kind of Fictionals, they surely weren't trying to extoll the virtues of conversion all the time...but neither were most of those he'd spoken to in this trip just Hebrew anymore. No, Marxism-Leninovism had done its work well and would have to be dealt with before everything was said and done. Before much of anything can be done at all, Joe corrected himself. Jedreck in tow, and both of their most critical aides and security details aside, and with all decorum satisfied, they were at last underway. There would be at least a day or two to go before they would reach the Slava and make their way into Banja Luka, but the route was already well more than famous for the scenery it provided. No small amount of ink had been spilled on the matter of the disparity between the histories of the New and Old Worlds, however fairly and unfairly to either side of the equation. There was history aplenty to be had in Westernesse, before and after the first Engell had set hobnailed boot to Cussian land. The quality of this region's history, both ancient and more recently passed, was a thing altogether different though. There was something truly haunting in the gravity of the skeleton of a riverside holdfast, caught up in the wrath of the passing Kaduygher horde. As the riverboat rounded another bend, their perspective improved to reveal that the fortification had been utterly broken in its capture, and so badly decayed by the passing of nearly half a millennium that it was now impossible to say which lord had once held it, or what crown he had been sworn to. The Chiricahua had been a scourge to all that lived - but the last of their braves had been spitted on a Cussian lance well before the final years of the 19th century. The barbarian horde had never stopped sweeping down off of this steppe to obliterate the softer peoples of the more settled lands, in this part of the world. All for want of a few Cussians at the right time. "Tell me Mr. Jedreck, did the flea-bitten savages that wrought this visit similar ruin on your own homeland in those days?" Joe cast a sidelong glance to the Crotobaltislavonian. Joe, as fully Dr. K now as ever, had called forth a sample from his private stock of Far Western liquors some while before. Cussians were as committed to the idea of whiskey as they were liberty, though some variation was allowed, expected and even enjoyed in regard to both matters. As it was in this case, Joe had selected a bottle of "sipping whiskey," what Cussians called Clarentine, as well as an unlabeled bottle of perfectly clear liquid. "Moonshine, you might have heard that called. From the private still at Banner Elk, the First Citizen's own, and older than both of us combined," Joe explained before pouring a conservative splash for himself. He inclined an empty tumbler in Jedreck's direction, preferring to let the man have some say in picking a poison.