Discussion in 'The World Stage' started by Socialist World Republic, Sep 4, 2012.
Queen’s Indian Defence
Queen’s Indian Defence
The lights never go out in the building of a newspaper. News doesn’t hold for the night, so at least some staff needs to be present at night. Therefore, the people from the tax office didn’t have a problem with entering the building of the Gazetta di Torrenza and frightening up everybody in the building. One of the men stayed with the night porter, and the others went straight to the editors’ office. Meanwhile, all the entrances to the building had been blocked by other officers of the tax office. But not only by them. Also by armed soldiers.
“Buona notte. Giancarlo Contini dell’Uffizio delle imposte. We are here to search the building for charges of tax‑fraud. One of you will take us to the financial administration, one of you will take us to your archives and one of you will stay here,” the man who was in charge of the operation said to the editors in the editors’ office. Then he said to his subordinates: “Signori, sapete i vostri ordini. Li fate.” (Gentlemen, you know your orders. Carry them out.)
One hour later, the complete financial administration had been loaded into the trucks standing outside, as well as the complete archive of the Gazetta di Torrenza. Furthermore, the complete building had been searched. Several other things had been seized as well. The editors protested vehemently when they saw the newspaper’s archive disappear into the trucks, but Contini simply said: “Faccio solamente i miei ordini. Inviate i vostri reclamazioni all’Uffizio delle imposte.” (I’m only following my orders. Send your complaints to the tax office.)
Then all the men left.
The tax office had been informed about this action. But the cars and trucks didn’t go to the tax office. Instead, they went to the building of the Staatsschutz in Torrenza. The people who presented themselves as people from the tax office were in fact soldiers and Staatsschutz agents. All were Eiffellandians, although they all had been selected for this task because of their looks. At first sight, they could all be from Solaren. The Staatsschutz had counted on the surprise effect: The people from the Gazetta di Torrenza would be too frightened to pay attention to details and observe the people invading their building too precisely.
The day before, the garbage of the Gazetta di Torrenza had also been collected by the Staatsschutz, but it had been decided to drop in on that newspaper as well, with a charge for tax fraud as official reason. Now everything was searched. Searched for the pictures of Count Stefano di Perugia supposedly having sex with a man.
“Well, what’s the news?” Claus Schiel asked the man who had introduced himself as Giancarlo Contini earlier that morning.
“That newspaper has collected a lot of stuff through the years. We even found some daguerreotypes from the 1840s. But we found the pictures,” the man said.
“Ëxcellent, Mr. Weitz. Good work,” Schiel said to the man.
“Thank you Mr. Schiel,” Weitz said.
“When are you going to take everything back?” Schiel said.
“Tomorrow I think. We have to go through the financial administration as well,” Weitz said.
“Why that?” Schiel asked.
“Otherwise it would be too obvious that that charge for tax fraud was only an excuse to get our hands on the archive,” Weitz said.
Queen’s Indian Defence
Saturday 9 March 1953
La Quercia is a daycafé and lunchroom in the Via Valfonda, one of the main streets of Tegeata. The café’s name means “The oak tree”, referring to the old oak tree in the garden of the café. The buildings along the Via Valfonda are mainly four to six floor buildings from the 18th and 19th century, with occasionally an older or newer building in‑between. The ground floors mainly consist of shops and lunchrooms like La Quercia. Sometimes there is a reception of a larger office building. Before the war, La Quercia was a popular café among the people working in the neighbourhood. That was different after the war: The number of guests had decreased by a half since then. The owner of the café had to fire his two waitresses and one of his dish washers because of that. Now he and his wife managed the café, and the children had to wash the dishes as soon as they came home after school.
In this part of Solaren, the winters are almost always short. Temperatures generally go up again around mid February, and the terraces are built up when the weather is good. This year it was at the 20th of February when the temperatures went up. Sometimes there were some rainy days, but not today. Today the owner of La Quercia had built up the terrace. And actually he had some guests. People who were doing some shopping in the Via Valfonda. About two hours ago, a black Mercedes with Solaris licence plates stopped behind a dark blue Borgward with Solaris licence plates. The owner of La Quercia knew the owner of the dark blue Borgward. It was Dr. Giovanni Mancini, a barrister who was the owner of a large law office about 10 meters from La Quercia. The employees of that office always lunched at La Quercia.
The owner of the café also recognised the man who drove the Mercedes. It was Count Stefano di Perugia. On the other side of the car, another man stepped out. The owner of La Quercia had never possessed a car. He didn’t have the money to buy even one of those Autobianchis that came out of that new car factory here in the city, let alone such an Eiffellandian luxury car. Some people never had to suffer. That was something to make you jealous.
On the other hand, he had heard some stories from the Carentanian zone that didn’t make him happy, either. Those people deliberately took your property away to give it to what they called “the poor”. And then you yourself ended up poor, but got nothing because you were an exploiter. That not only happened to the real fat cats (like Mancini and Di Perugia), but also to small businessmen like himself. The owner of La Quercia didn’t know what to choose. His life was good under the old regime, but then the EDF and Carentania came. Compared with the pre‑war situation, he was a poor man, although the Carentanians would still consider him a bourgeois exploiter of the working class. He had heard that radio station from Capraria. He had heard enough of it. He preferred Radio Tegeata and Radio del Sud‑est. Also controlled by foreigners, but those foreigners only occupied his country — they didn’t want to take his café away.
There was only one problem he had. Both the Carentanians and the Eiffellandians advocated a way of life that was not really Christian. Those dancehalls said everything. Both the Eiffellandians and the Carentanians did it with everyone, the Eiffellandians even with people of their own gender. Both lived their lives as if there were no God. The Carentanians even said so explicitly. The Eiffellandians went to Mass each Sunday, but what did that mean when they disobeyed God’s will in daily life? With that respect, the Carentanians were honest: They were Godless and said so. The Eiffellandians were Godless as well, but denied that.
When he was honest, the owner of La Quercia preferred social life in the old regime, but without the cruelties. The society the Solaris Catholic Church had created, especially under Pope Urban, was surreal because of its cruelties. God would never have wanted His will to be imposed that way. Maybe in the days of the Old Testament, but the Old Testament had been followed by a New Testament. A crucial part of Christianity is that sinners always have the possibility to repent for their sins, even several times, even if the sin is repeated after the last time the sinner had repented for it. Christianity doesn’t have a limit on the number of times a sinner can repent for the same sin. There is always place for repentance. Even Judas would have been forgiven if he would have repented. But the sinners captured under the old regime never got the chance to repent. That was fundamentally wrong and unchristian. On the other hand, the homosexuals had a free game in this city. That wasn’t God’s Will either.
But everything had become so difficult since the end of the war. There were some extremely violent protests against homosexuals and their pubs and dancehalls (sometimes homosexuals were even killed by violent protesters), and so the army had started protecting the pubs and dancehalls of the homosexuals. Luckily, they were all in the same quarter, so that was easy to the Eiffellandians. The owner of La Quercia was against those pubs. They were against God’s Will, so they had to disappear. But on the other hand, those violent protesters were committing sins to fight sins. That wasn’t the good way, either.
The owner of La Quercia had considered voting the Alleanza della Fede in the upcoming elections, but that party was filled with representants of the old regime. He didn’t want the violence of the old regime to return. The PSL would be a good alternative economicly. The exploitation that occurred under the old regime would be fought (which was Christian), but entrepreneurs would still have the possibility to develop themselves through hard and smart work without having to fear that some idiots label them as “bourgeois exploiters of the working class” and take everything away to give it to some other idiots.
But now this homosexuality issue. The Gazeta di Torrenza published some pictures that Count Stefano di Perugia would be a homosexual, but the Count denies and says that the pictures are false. But how can pictures be false? Some of Mancini’s employees had discussed the matter during lunch once. One of them had told that it would have been possible that a picture of Di Perugia’s face had been glued on the face of one of the men at those pictures. Maybe. The owner of La Quercia understood enough of politics that people would benefit from damaging Di Perugia’s reputation. However, the fact that the PSL did not want to act against homosexuality was ominous, and maybe also an indication of Di Perugia’s homosexuality. Would there be a political party that would advocate God’s Will without the violence of the old regime, and that would also adopt the economic plans of the PSL? The owner of La Quercia would have many problems with voting for Di Perugia if he would be a homosexual and would not repent for his sins. Or leave the PSL.
The Staatsschutz had rented an apartment on the other side of the street, opposite to Dr. Mancini’s office. The apartment was on the 4th floor, and it was permanently manned by a sniper with permanent radio contact with four agents in an apartment neighbouring Dr. Mancini’s office. As always, the sniper was sitting in front of the opened window. He had seen Di Perugia arrive. He had also seen a person on the terrace of La Quercia, who was continuously looking at the door to Dr. Mancini’s office and always directly paying his drinks. Suspicious.
After about two hours, the door to Dr. Mancini’s office opened. Di Perugia and his body guard walked through the door. At that moment, the man at the terrace of La Quercia stood up and ran to Di Perugia. The sniper needed some time to take his gun and point. Therefore, he could not prevent that the man from the terrace fired some shots. At the same moment, a car stopped at the scene with squeaking tyres. The sniper fired some shots and hit the shooter. Both Di Perugia and his body guard laid on the ground. When the sniper saw that the shooter still moved, he shot once more. The car speeded away.
The Staatsschutz agents in the apartment neighbouring Dr. Mancini’s office had heard the shooting, so they ran downstairs. They found Di Perugia lying on the ground, with a wound in his shoulder and his body guard lying on him, dead. The shooter was dead as well.
“Verdammte Scheisse,” one of the agents said angrily. Then he took his walkie‑talkie to call for assistance, while one other agent took care of Di Perugia’s wound and the other agents kept the bystanders away.
Aielli was a small town, 20.000 inhabitants, a fair bit to the north-east of Mazara. During the war, it had seen a fair bit of fighting as Carentanian units encircled Mazara. The only really remarkable site in Aielli had been the barracks of a unit of garrissoned police forces and consequently, Aielli had put up a bit of a fight when mechanized Carentanian forces entered the town. However, by now, that was months ago and the policemen of Pope Urban had been replaced with the new security forces under the authority of the interim government. The barracks in Aielli had been put to use once again, as had the detainment center on the compound. Cells that used to hold political prisoners and those persecuted for their sexuality, their lifestyle or their religion were now used to detain insurgents, Urban-loyalists and the occasional unlucky opportunist, who had bet on the wrong horse when dealing in black market goods.
Captain Antonelli had been in Aielli once before, years ago when he was still an officer for Urbans military. He remembered the small town faintly, but hadn't expected to come back, much less to see a person detained for shooting a homosexual. During Urbans rule, that man would have been praised, rather than arrested. Times had changed. He tried not to think too much about it. As Officer for Pope Urban, he hadn't liked or agreed with all the tasks that had been given to him, but he carried them out nevertheless. Loyal, like a good soldier...until that day the Carentanians came and he knew it was all over. He intended to proceed in this case much like he had back then. Do his job, interrogate the prisoner and let the authorities decide what should happen with him.
His car came to a halt in front of a few shabby red brick-houses. They used to be covered in white plastering, but only parts of it had remained. Decay of this structure had obviously set in long before the war and that wasn't that far fetched to think: much of the public services in Solaren had been chronically underfunded. Surrounding the buildings was a recently reinforced barbed wire fence. A single door allowed entrance and a bored looking guard was positioned in front of it. He saluted Antonelli as he approached, but the Captain dismissed it, instead focusing on the athmosphere. He had been at such places often, back in the days. Part of his duty for Pope Urban was to interrogate prisoners, especially those deemed more importan. Buildings like these could be found all over Solaren and no matter how they looked, they all felt the same. Their oppressing aura, their almost suffocating stench. He hadn't missed it
The halls within the prison complex were feintly lit. Eletric lighting, at least, but only partly operational. Enough to make out the general shape and location of objects within the building, but obscuring the grittier details. That was probably for the best, Antonelli noted to himself as he catched a glimpse of a relatively fresh smear of blood leading from one of the prison doors away, deeper into the construction. They had replaced the most brutal and most loyal amongst Urbans policemen, they had told the rest they work for freedom and democracy now and let them take an oath on that - but some habits are hard to change. The man leading Antonelli down the hallway had noticed him eyeing the bloodstains.
"Used to be the superior for most of the men here. Told them to fight against the Carentanians. Eventually ended up here after the war - the commies got him and suddenly, all the men here have something to say about him and his crimes. They wanted to put him on a trial, but... well. He died in custody." He smiled as he said that. Many of Urbans officers had been equally as brutal to their own men as towards their enemies. They ruled through fear and faith. "Old age, says his death certificate," he added.
"Alright here he is," the policeman said as he stopped in front of a prison door. "Most men here would've let him go again. I told them its not our decision to make. Still... back in the days, he had received an order, not been sent to prison." There was genuine regret in his voice, but Antonelli ignored it. The less thought about the old days, the better, he decided.
The door opened and cowering on a dirty matress in the corner was a surprisingly well-dressed man. He seemed unharmed and, considering where he was, you could probably say he was in a very good condition. The only thing that had bothered him up to now was being locked up and the unsufferable smell within the cell, coming from a steel-bucket in the other corner of the room. It was empty, as far as these buckets were ever empty, but covered in a thick, sticky, brown residue. For the foreign eye, this prison cell would nevertheless have been the most disturbing, most depressing room in the world, as the walls were covered into desperate messages scratched into the surface by despaired prisoners. However, Antonelli knew that the man could consider himself very lucky to have enjoyed his stay without the slightest injury. There was obviously sympathy with the man amongst the ranks.
"Mr. Contadino, please follow me. I'd like to talk to you."
Wordless, he was led to a small office room. A table, two chairs, sufficient lighting, even a window with plants in front of them. It was almost cheerful in there.
"Sit down, have a drink. You were involved in the assassination attempt on di Perugia?"
Contadino was taken aback by the blunt question and was unsure what to reply. He said nothing and stared at Antonelli, not even sitting down on the chair.
"Sit down, please," Antonelli repeated calmly. The man obeyed.
"Now, look. We know you were an assistant of the assassin. Your little stunt failed, because you had not thought about the big Eiffelländer buddies of that faggot. All I want to know is, who of you two had the idea to shoot di Perugia."
"It... wasn't our idea," he stuttered. "We were paid to do it."
"Who paid you," Antonelli asked surprised.
"I don't know, only Beppo spoke with him."
"Beppo is your dead partner?"
There was silence. For a while, neither of them knew what to say. It was Antonelli who first spoke up again, but only to remark: "well, shit." He wasn't sure what to make of this mess, but surely, he could ensure greater loyalty from his men if they knew that the shooter was not someone who acted out of his conscience, to save Solaren from a Sodomite with a good shot at gaining power due to foreign support for him and his party. But rather, that he was a lowly paid goon. Still... who had paid him?
The door opened unexpectedly and a man in a Carentanian army uniform stepped in. He was smoking a cigarette.
"Lieutenant Potočnik, Revolutionary Army Intelligence," he introduced himself. "This is one of the assassins?" The question was clearly directed at Antonelli.
"The driver. They were paid for the assassination attempt by a third party, but only his dead partner actually spoke with them."
"Well, shit," Potočnik repeated Antonellis earlier words without knowing. "You got us really fucked in the ass here, little man," he turned towards Contadino. "Di Perugia? That man was burned. I tell you, burned, and he was taking his entire party down with him. A homosexual would have never been voted into office in Solaren, much less a party supporting a homosexual. But you just had to go right ahead and try and put a bullet into his head. Even worse, you fuck it up. He's going to use that to distract from the fact he likes to have a dick stuffed up his mouth to the balls. I can already hear those fuckers from the PSL: 'He took a bullet for freedom'. What a shit." The Lieutenant threw the remainders of his burned cigarette to the ground, immediately taking another one from his pocket and lighting it up.
"You're intelligence?" Antonelli asked him with curiosity. "Got any clues as to who paid him?"
Potočnik took a drag from his cigarette before replying. He exhaled smoke as he, badmouthed as usual, said: "The shit we know, but you can guess yourself who did that, who would benefit from all this bullshit."
"Or someone within the PSL. Either way, they'll want this little bastards asshole to finger around in it a bit. Treat him well while you still can." Without any goodbye, Potočnik turned around and left, a happy smile on his face that no one in the room could see. Antonelli meanwhile was left behind, wondering about the future of his country.
It was early evening in northern Solaren. At the small fishing dock that faced out at the great lake which separated Solaren from Potenza, a small group of Scipio's Own soldiers sat and chatted quietly. There were about three of them, and their sole role was to make certain no dangerous elements used the dock as a starting point for violence against the Grand Duchy. Every night it was the same - nothing. They could see the small patrol boats of the Potenzan navy, continuing what they had done for decades on end and acting as a coast guard function between the Grand Duchy and Solaris Catholic nation. Tonight, however, something different happened - one of those ships suddenly turned and headed for them. They stared at it a while, uncertain if perhaps this might be a surprise attack, or one of the navy boys up to no good. As the boat drew new, one of the soldiers stepped onto the wooden platform and shouted:
"What are you doing?"
A naval officer simply shouted back, "Duchy business."
"What kind of business?" the soldier asked, still uncertain. As the boat finally reached the platform, the soldier noticed that men on the boat bore not the uniform of the Potenzan navy, but uniform he was altogether unfamiliar with...though they definitely rung a bell.
"What's going on?" the soldier asked as the uniformed men took to the platform and walked about the dock, glancing about as if checking for danger. They said nothing to the three soldiers, who were rather disconcerted that these men seemed well armed themselves - certainly better armed than they were.
"I would ask that you three remain where you are for now," one of the uniformed men said.
"Why?" said the one soldier, "What are you..."
It was then that a cane appeared on the wooden platform. It was followed by a man dressed in a sharp suit. This man the soldiers immediately recognized...
...it was Grand Duke Guido III.
"Oh! Your majesty!" the soldier said, immediately snapping into a nervous salute. The other two soldiers did likewise, one of them nearly dropping his rifle. Suddenly it was clear. The uniformed men were the scorta (personal guard) of the Torriani grand duke.
"At ease," said the duke, returning the salute and smiling, "apologies you weren't warned...this is a bit of a surprise, and secrecy, as you can imagine, is important." Guido turned and saw three vehicles fast approaching. "Ah good, right on time." The soldiers stared in awe as their nation's leader and monarch casually walked over to where the vehicles were parking. Out of one of them came Lieutenant General Battisti, who saluted the grand duke and permitted him first entry back into the vehicle. Soon the scorta and Battisti alike were back inside, and the vehicles took off.
The first stop the Grand Duke of the Grand Duchy of Potenza made was at the military hospital where the wounded from the attack were being kept. Some had been let out because of the minor nature of their wounds, of course, but others were still there, suffering either from severe burn wounds or the damage caused by flying shrapnel and wood. They were just as surprised as the Potenzan medics when the Grand Duke stepped in, casually greeting many of his military personnel before turning to the Solaris civilians. Some were fairly young and felt flattered to meet him, while the older ones appeared more reserved. He spent time with each one, making small chat, asking their names, their professions, how they were doing.
The final person to have a one-on-one with the leader of Potenza was an elderly man, suffering from great wounds and attached to life support machines. Due to the critical nature of his wounds, he was kept separate from the other patients, and was under watch by a medic almost constantly. The only time anyone left his side was now, when Guido asked for private time. The Grand Duke sat down on a stool next to the bed, grinning at the old man and asking:
"Hello there...I'm happy to see you receiving proper medical attention. They have been giving you the proper attention, yes?"
The old man's eyes slowly turned to the grand duke. They were emotionless. His lips parted slightly, and a soft whisper came out. It was only a third audible. Guido raised an eyebrow and leaned forward, saying, "I apologize, I could not hear you sir...what were you saying?"
The man spoke in a slightly louder tone, summoning what strength he could, and now Guido heard clearly:
"...get out of my country..."
Guido turned back to face the Solaris commoner. His face changed. His smile turned more sinister, and as he turned his cane around - handle at the bottom - he replied in a quiet volume that no one but the old man could hear:
"When I'm done with it, I will..."
The old man's eyes turned to fire. His fingers clenched against his fists for a few minutes and then relaxed, more from the lack of strength than from calmed nerves. He said in his hushed tone again:
With no change of emotion on his face, Guido stood up and said in a whisper, "You first..."
The grand duke tugged his cane. The handle had been wrapped under the plug that kept the life support machines running. Out it went. The old man gasped, feeling a change in his body. The contraptions tied to him began to hum and beep a few times before finally going silent. At the initial sounds, several medics came rushing in shouting to one another and trying to stabilize the old man's condition. They realized the machines were off too late. Many of the medics were confused about this situation until one saw the plug had come out.
"It's a pity," Guido said, "I was certain he would make a recovery. We will, however, pay for his funeral."
With that, the grand duke turned and walked out. The medics could say nothing, but everyone knew what was going on in the others' minds. However, they all likewise knew that silence was probably the best answer to this whole dilemma. If any could keep silent.
Queen’s Indian Defence
Hospital of Perugia
Friday 15 March 1953
“You’re extremely well guarded here, Stefano,” Dr. Giovanni Mancini said.
“The tragedy is that it is needed,” the Count di Perugia said. “Once I read an interesting philosophy about mankind. According to that philosophy, there are 13 different types of people. The types you should watch, are the types and 1 and 13, because those types are the leaders types. The types 2 to 12 just follow the leaders. Type 1 is in for the greater good, type 13 only for himself. When type 1 gets the power, the types 2 to 12 will do good things. But when type 13 gets the power, the types 2 to 12 will do bad things. And that can go very far. Homo homini lupus, but only when type 13 is in charge. I hoped that there would be room for a type 1 now that the old regime was gone, but apparently not. Even worse, we got some additional types 13: The Carentanians.” 
Di Perugia paused for a moment. Then he continued.
“It would have been possible for the Carentanians to achieve a good life for the workers in Solaren. The Carentanians would have achieved that goal with me. A Solaren under me would not have been a second Carentania, but it would have been friendly to Carentania. But apparently they are not in for the greater good but for their own egos. Fine. They will see the other, not so cooperative, Conte Di Perugia.”
“Good to hear, Stefano. What I want to discuss has to do with your struggle,” Mancini said. “We have to talk about the libel process. But more importantly, we have to talk about your reputation. A libel lawsuit can last long. Maybe too long. We have enough material to wipe the floor with the Gazetta di Torrenza, but the elections may be over when the judges allow us to do so. And then the only front page we will reach is the one of the Gazetta di Torrenza with a rectification of the story. All other newspapers will mention it in half a column on page 10, but the few people reading it will ask themselves: ‘The count di Perugia? Who is the count di Perugia?’ Nobody will know you by then, and maybe the Carentanians have even taken the country.”
“There you say something,” Di Perugia said. After a minute of thinking, he asked: “What are the alternatives?”
“We publish what we know about those pictures, and we publish it as soon as possible,” Mancini said. “That means, in the upcoming Saturday issue.”
Di Perugia thought about it for a moment. Then he said: “Do it.”
OOC:  This idea is not from myself, but from the Dutch writer Harry Mulisch. I took it out of the book “The discovery of Heaven”.
It was quiet in the room, save for the occasional munching of Nano as Battisti tossed bits of chicken at him.
"Now watch this," he said to Ronco, seated on a couch across the floor of Battisti's office. The lieutenant general tossed the chicken high above the Great Dane's head, seemingly aiming for a spot on the wall behind him. Nano watched the piece of chicken intently, not leaving his eyes off it for a second. As the chicken bounced off the wall, Nano suddenly leaped up a little, snatching it in midair, and chomped on it merrily. "Ha ha! He gets it every time."
"This business with homosexuals," Ronco began, "it's going to get tougher, I imagine."
"Perhaps," Battisti said, "damn fool Eiffellanders have tried to introduce social change too quickly in this god-forsaken country. Wouldn't surprise me if these Party of God dunderheads come after them next. We'll do what we can to make certain there are no examples of 'mob justice,' but otherwise we interrupt the locals in their daily proceedings."
Ronco pursed his lips in a rather concerned gaze, staring at the ground for a while before asking, "I suppose that means we won't interrupt any...executions on those charged with homosexuality."
"No," answered Battisti curtly, "we won't. Homosexuality is not exactly well liked in Potenza, as you know - it wouldn't suit San Salvo well if a liberal government supporting the act popped up on her borders. The politician's opinions, not mine." Another shot of chicken flew across the room, landing on the Great Dane's eager tongue.
"Oh! Incidentally," Battisti suddenly began, "there might arise a rumor that his majesty killed the old man at the hospital - you are, of course, to deny that."
Ronco shot Battisti a confused glance. The corps commander might as well have told Ronco his family had been torn apart by land dolphins - it would have had the same effect.
"What? It isn't true, is it?"
"Probably not," Battisti said, shrugging, "I highly doubt it's true. But that will probably make things tougher. Advise your officers and men to be wary."
"Damn it to hell and back again!" cursed Ronco. "What are those fools in San Salvo doing? I have been trying to keep up good relations with the Solaris, and if I may be so bold as to say I did a moderately good job of it until things got more complicated. Those fools are going to make it all worse."
"That is war, that is politics," replied Battisti rather matter-of-factly. "Remember that, Ronco." He tossed another chicken to Nano. "This is one reason why we've been told not to interfere with too many legal proceedings up here. We need to strongly reaffirm that we're here as helpers, not conquerers."
"At times that becomes hard to discern," said Ronco, perhaps more bluntly than he wanted to say. Battisti did not show any anger at the comment, however - he rarely showed anger, and he wanted his inferior officers to enjoy some freedom in speaking their mind. Instead, the general shot another chunk to his dog and replied:
"Indeed, it does. But as the army song says - the Duke commands and we obey. Our main concern right now are these Party of God hotheads. I understand that your men are feeling overworked in guarding every single Potenzan merchant and reconstruction team down here, but that will be lightened up soon...this rebel group is going to be taken care of soon. What we are waiting on is for them to act again."
"Act again?" Ronco asked. "You want them to kill again?"
"We don't have enough information," Ronco said, "DEIRS* only has so much information they obtained from the attack sight and...witnesses."
The pause at "witnesses" was rather foreboding. Ronco sat quietly, pondering in his head if he should ask further, and finally decided to go ahead, if anything just for peace of mind:
Battisti fed himself with a piece of chicken, sitting there quietly eating before swallowing and finally answering:
"Perhaps. I'm not certain. DEIRS handled it, not me. If you're wondering - I can't say for certain whether torture was involved. I can promise you that none of your own men were involved. What I do know is that when they attack next, they will slip up somehow, and then we'll have them. We've already mobilized the Folgore to prepare for action as soon as possible. Once their headquarters or bases of operations are discovered, that will be their undoing."
The lieutenant general glanced at his watch, then said in a quieter voice, "Hm...it's getting late, you'd better get back to your headquarters. I'll call you tomorrow if there's anything urgent."
Paco, Ronco's major, couldn't help but notice that his superior wasn't in his usual cheerful state as he returned to the vehicle. It was even more telling that he was dead quiet as the two began to travel down the road, back to the Scipio's Own headquarters.
"Something happen, sir?" Paco finally asked.
Ronco sighed, "Yes, someone's planned a nightmare. A real nightmare."
* DEIRS - Department of External Intelligence Gathering and Response, the intelligence wing of the Ministry of Defense
At the small inn, Ferlinghetti could be found resting in a chair, slouching and with both arms dangling over the armrests. He had been that way for thirty minutes, his body finally forcing him to get some of the much deprived sleep. Most of the Mazzio Corporation personnel had left him alone as they went back and forth, preparing for Leopoldo Mazzio's last visit to his company's construction sights across northern Solaren, followed by his return to his headquarters in Turin. The Mazzio Corporation had invested in a railway line that would go from one end of northern Solaren to the other, with three major stations planned along the line. By far, the largest percentage of Scipio's Own soldiers went to protecting these construction sights.
Now, someone tried to awaken the architect from his slumber. Ferlinghetti snapped away, shaking his head as people often do when being forced awake, and was immediately greeted by a familiar red-haired woman.
"We're about to leave," she said with a soft smile, standing up and walking out of the inn. Her swaying hips caught the attention of a few of Mazzio's guards, who appreciated them as soon as she was walking past them, but quickly stood straight again when Mazzio entered the room. The CEO and expected mafia capo didn't care much when people treated his secretary as a sexual object. For most of the men, she was the only Potenzan woman they had seen in a while - Solaris women, especially in this rural country, didn't do much for them. They would have to suffice with a few glances when Mazzio wasn't looking.
"Are you ready?" Mazzio asked, adjusting his shirt collars under his business suit.
"Yes, yes," Ferlinghetti replied, sitting up and fixing his hair, feeling a sleepy daze still resting in his mind. He followed Mazzio out of the inn, followed by the two well dressed guards. Outside there was a small car marked with the Mazzio Corporation logo, along with another small car behind it with similar markings. Two men got into the front of the car while Mazzio, his secretary, and Ferlinghetti got into the lead vehicle. The remaining men poured into the back car - their escort.
"Shouldn't be too long," Mazzio told Ferlinghetti. His vehicle was specially designed so that there were two back seats, each facing other, similar to a limo. Ferlinghetti was sitting facing the direction of the back of the car, while Mazzio and his secretary were facing the architect and the front of the car. As the trip began, going down the dusty and sometimes bumpy (ie., shell holes) road, Ferlinghetti's two travel partners engaged in quiet, whispery conversation about some business matters. Today had been the first time Ferlinghetti had heard the woman speak, and he noticed that her accent suggested Tiburan wasn't her native language. It was strangely musical and unique, and it caused his eyes to lower, feeling his state of being entering slumber yet again...
"Ah!" Mazzio suddenly said. Ferlinghetti shot up and looked around. The CEO grinned at the architect and added, "Nothing too serious. It's the missionaries."
Ferlinghetti turned around and saw two vehicles were now in front of them. They were jeeps, filled with people of various ages. Two little boys, sitting in the back, were facing the car and waving as they laughed. The two thugs in the driver and front passenger seat just laughed, one of them giving a salute.
"Reformed people," Mazzio said, "some of them any way. They aren't too far from where we were. They're probably on the move."
Ferlinghetti turned back, ignoring the discussion between Mazzio and the woman as they returned to their original subject. He just needed to sleep...sleep more...more...sleep...
The ground shook. Ferlinghetti shot up, seeing Mazzio and the secretary staring forward with wide eyes. Behind him, the two thugs were cursing and swearing up a storm. Ferlinghetti didn't move at first - it took a second for his brain to register that whatever that explosion was, it hadn't affected him. He spun around, and up ahead he saw fire and smoke rising up and the first jeep slumped on the side of the road. Suddenly, men in civilian clothes and armed with rifles came out from the nearby hills, going on either side of the second jeep. They let loose a roar of bullets, firing several times. Ferlinghetti watched in horror as the glass windows shattered, blood splattering over what remained. This included where the two boys had been.
"Holy mother of - GET DOWN!" Mazzio grabbed the secretary and shoved her to the floor, throwing himself atop her. Ferlinghetti followed. A split second later the front window was shattered as the men turned against the car. A cry was heard and blood and human tissue shot up against the roof, dripping down on Mazzio's expensive suit and combed hair. Several shots were heard as one of the thugs fired back. Eventually more gunshots were heard as the men from the second vehicle surged forward, shooting at the attackers. As quickly as it had begun, the gunshots began to subside.
The door opened, and a well suited thug appeared, saying in a loud voice, "Mister Mazzio! Are you all right?"
"Yes," said Mazzio, sitting up and looking about. Ferlinghetti stood up as well, and for the first time he saw what had happened. The gunmen had shot out the front window, killing the driver and wounding the second thug, who was gripping his neck and coughing up blood. The fire from the first jeep was still burning, and the blood on the window of the second jeep still fresh. Some of the gunmen lay dead across the road, Mazzio's men now securing the area, looking about for any more possible attackers. Mazzio lifted up his secretary's face by the chin, stroking her cheek, making sure she was all right, and then stepped out.
The architect followed out the other door, walking around and looking about. Most of the gunmen were dead, and there must have been about thirteen in all. One was still alive, clutching his stomach and struggling to crawl away. Mazzio walked casually over to him, glancing down at the man with much contempt.
"Area's secured, Mister Mazzio," a thug said, "shall we try to contact the army?"
"Yes," Mazzio said, taking a few more steps to the wounded gunman. Finally he said in a loud voice, "So you thought you could spit at the Mazzio Corporation?"
The man looked up at Mazzio and spat at his feet, saying in a voice tinged with a Solaris accent, "You go to hell...God will punish you! And all who dare to defile our Solaris people!"
Mazzio held out his hand. A thug immediately knew what this meant: he handed what seemed to Ferlinghetti to be a very, very powerful handgun to Mazzio, who aimed it down at the gunman.
"Go ahead!" the gunman cried out. "Shoot me! Shoot me! You will burn in hell!"
"I won't kill you," Mazzio said, grinning slightly, "no, I'll let the Royal Army have fun with you. However, I need to make certain it's made clear what happens to those who dare to mess with the Mazzio Corporation."
And with that, Mazzio turned the aim of the barrel towards the man's foot. With a single shot, his foot was detached from his leg at the ankle. The man let out a great cry, clutching his leg, the blood pouring out onto the dirty road. Mazzio spun the pistol around in his hand, handing it handle-first to his thug. He turned and saw Ferlinghetti standing nearby with eyes as wide as tea saucers, staring at the horrible spectacle that lay before. With a bigger smile and a casual pat on the shoulder, Mazzio led Ferlinghetti away from the screaming man, saying:
"Sorry you had to witness that...these people only know the language of force."
For the Potenzan officers present, it was almost like being at the Royal Military Academy all over again. A large map of the upper half of Solaren was laid out on the floor, with what appeared to be game pieces laid out in various locations. They in fact signified supposed positions of the Party of God, especially their weapon caches and secret bases. Battisti was standing at the top of the map, looking down and observing the situation at hand. From the..."testimony"...of the prisoners, they had ascertained the locations now identified on the map. Now, the question was what to do with it. It was understood that, on average, the Party of God told their members to only reveal information after twenty-four hours, because by then it would have been changed. That was why...means of interrogation had been employed. It also meant, however, between the information obtained and the time when the information might change, the Potenzan army had only a limited space of time to act.
Plans, however, had already been put in place for the counterattack - the only information needed was the specifics of the locations. It was entitled Operation Judgment, and would consist of the utilization of the Folgore both on the air and the land. The second brigade, still located in Potenza, would be flown in gliders into norther Solaren and detached not far from the location of the Party of God leaders' hideouts. They would land and immediately launch a siege of the area, clearing out any hiding places they came across. At the same time, the first brigade, already present in Solaren, would launch an attack to the south, eventually linking up to the second brigade's location.
Nano walked along and began sniffing the pieces on the map, and Battisti had to shoo him away. Of the Potenzan officers in the room, there was one more important figure there: Fausto Macor, the commander fo the Folgore division. He had just flown in to Solaren to discuss this upcoming attack, and was expected to join the second brigade in their attack. Battisti would oversee the entire attack - indeed, it had been of his planning - but Macor preferred to be with his men when they launched the more dangerous aspect of the operation.
"Get some sleep on your flight back to Potenza," Battisti told Macor matter-of-factly, having just explained most of the plan to him, "you will be busy for quite a while. The minute you get back, you'll nearly be right back on another airplane."
"Not the first time I've been in a glider," Macor said, his hands behind his back as he studied the layout carefully, "awful things, but effective if they're used well. Any way, I don't want to let my boys go in there without me."
"I have the utmost confidence in your men," Battisti said, "I wouldn't have entrusted this to any other division." Suddenly, Battisti was distracted by something in the corner of the room, and he smiled, "Ah, perfect."
A Solaris man had just entered, led by a Potenzan NCO. He was one of the members of the Northern Council - indeed, one of the higher ranking ones, and a known Potenzan-collaborator (though these days, those two statuses were seen as one and the same). He walked forward, eyeing the map, not saying anything. Battisti was the first to speak:
"I understand you had some presence in the resistance against the EDF when they invaded Solaren?"
The Solaris man nodded, "You might say that. I'd like that information not to leave this room."
"I believe my government has already promised you that," Battisti said, "I just need confirmation with what you see here. I know that you and many in the Party of God were friends and brothers in arms at one point."
The Solaris man looked at Battisti seriously, but also with a sense of desperation. His words were low as he spoke, "If I do, can I be promised something?"
"Within reason," Battisti replied.
"I want my family protected," the Solaris man began, "food is growing scarce in the countryside, and my family has owned a farm for a hundred years. We have enough food, but we need it for ourselves. Please, promise me you will not engage in the confiscation of food like the Carentanians did, if it should ever come to that. Leave me be, and make sure others leave me be."
"That sounds reasonable," Battisti said, "please, continue."
A smile came over the Solaris man's face, and he looked down at the map. He walked around, moving spaces slightly, talking like he was revisiting his childhood as he said things like "Right here, I remember we almost forgot where it was when first we left weapons there," and "Oh yes, I saw a cute girl here, pity I had to leave there so quickly." This continued for many minutes, with Nano taking a seat and watching intently, wondering what the humans were doing with what appeared to be lovely toys for him to chew. When the Solaris was done, Battisti nodded and motioned for some of his junior officers:
"Make notes of it. Give a copy to General Macor here. Also, nothing this man said leaves this room, understand?"
This kept the smile on the Solaris man's face, and he glowed a bit as he looked at Battisti. The NCO guided him out. When both had left, Battisti turned to Macor and took out his hand:
"Good luck, Macor. Let's get them."
Macor nodded, taking his superior's hand and shaking it tightly, "Let's kill them all."
000 Hours - Folgore Airbase
It was late at night, at the base of the Folgore outside Treviso. The Potenzan troops were decked in full gear, the planes and the gliders positioned behind them. The propeller aircraft were already running, their crews awaiting the go. There were ultimately twenty gliders tied behind the aircraft, which would be filled with troops of the second brigade, numbering about three hundred altogether. These men were now lined up before the aircraft, and among them was the commander of the division himself - Brigadier General Fausto Macor. Dressed up like any other soldier (but with the appropriate patches of his rank on his lapel), he was standing at the front of the formation. Before the entire formation, however, was the division chaplain, a member of the Reformed Church of Potenza, which many of the division were confessional members of. With the lights of the airbase shining about him and the drone of the propellers nearby, it was at once impressive and yet distracting for him, as he began to pray for the upcoming mission:
"Heavenly Father, watch over these men as they begin to take flight, advancing with all speed towards their foe. Guide their pilots, that they may reach their destination, and protect them in the air, that they may arrive to do their duty. Be with them, Holy God, that they might end bloodshed in a wartorn nation; that they might bring to justice men who know only evil and murder; that they might bring an era of peace to a land that has only known war and tyranny. In Christ's name, we pray these things...amen."
"Amen!" cried out Macor. He turned to his soldiers and grinned, saying with the same vigor he had stated his amen: "All right, let's do this!"
The Folgore gave a war cry, and all began to line up with their units to their assigned gliders. One by one they loaded up into the tight compartments, taking their positions on the benches inside. Each one held about fifteen personnel, and had reinforced floors which could assist the glider in carrying equipment, which meant the men were much more comfortable about the floor not tumbling under them. Macor took his position in the lead glider, the first one that would be towed up.
The airbase ground crew gave the signal. The planes up front began to move. As they did, the rope between them and the gliders tightened, and finally the wooden, engine-less aircraft began to follow in suit. Macor glanced about, noticing some of his men appear nervous, and said, in the hopes of lightening their spirits, "You know, these things always make me nervous...my biggest prayer is not getting to the location, but off the ground." This caused some laughter among those in the interior.
Sure enough, as the propeller planes took off the ground, the gliders followed in suit, aerodynamics taking over. Forty planes altogether were up in the air, going into the dark night, headed south - headed towards northern Solaren, and their objectives.
000 Hours - Battisti's mobile headquarters
The first brigade of the Folgore had already mobilized to their locations, preparing for the final attack, which would commence around midnight. Giorgio Battisti had called the regiment and battalion officers to his mobile headquarters, not too far from the frontline positions. A tent had been set up, but Battisti met most of them on the outside. No lights were present (not even headlights, by Battisti's orders), but enough could be seen from the moonlight and stars above, and most of the men's eyes had adjusted to the night any way. As usual, Nano was nearby, but was chewing and unraveling on a bone that the lieutenant general had given him.
"Gentlemen," Battisti began, standing before his inferiors with his arms behind his back, "as we speak, our brethren back in Potenza have begun to load into their planes and are headed here. They will arrive in about an hour, and begin their attacks against the key positions held by the Party of God in the hills. Your mission will be to fight through and reach them. I need not remind you that these men we are fighting have killed dozens of our brethren - including Potenzan women and children. I want no mercy shown. Follow your commands, follow your directions, and clear out any enemy positions. These men have fought in wars before - they have seen how Eiffellandians fight, how Carentanians fight, and how many more in the world fight...let us show them how Potenzans fight. God save the Royal Army! God save the Grand Duchy! God save the Grand Duke!"
At the mention of the grand duke, the Folgore officers began to raise both arms and begin the traditional Potenzan chant of "Ave! Ave! Ave! Ave!"
0110 Hours - Half a Mile from the LZ
It was close to the drop off point. The gliders would be detached and let loose, and from there they would have to direct themselves to the landing zones. It was an attempt to maintain surprise, and the gliders could definitely carry themselves a good distance through the air, given proper guidance and control. The planes especially had a special flap design which permitted the gliders to land in constricted areas, which would be important in the hills and forests in the countryside. Once the gliders were disconnected, the pilots went to their duties, proceeding towards the planned landing zones. It would be perhaps another ten minutes or so before they were there.
"There," Macor said, pointing out the window at a hill formation he recognized from the planning, "that's where we're headed."
"Get ready gentlemen," the pilots shouted, "hold on!"
The men braced themselves. They knew what was coming. They had trained for a moment like this. They were ready to prove themselves in battle. They were ready to show of what mettle the Folgore were made. And then...
The glider smashed right into the side of the hills, twirling a bit before hitting a tree on the edge of the patch of woods.
"GO! GO! GO!" shouted Macor.
The doors were flung open, and the Folgore poured out. Any fear or trepidation they had felt before was now extinguished as adrenaline kicked in and their training went into action. Macor went with his squad and headed through the woods towards their designated hill. He could see out of the corner of his eye that the other gliders were landing nearby, some way off their expected landing zone but not in a disastrous way.
Gunshots were heard to the north, and lights were seen from the nearby hills as the units were already being engaged. Those were not Potenzan guns being shot, but they were met by the sound of the Folgore's weaponry. Macor motioned with his hands and shouted orders, directing one squad around the hill while he led the one with him towards the location. Within a few seconds they came upon what seemed like the entrance of a man-made cave, where two men wearing civilian clothes were stationed. Macor didn't waste any time: he fired a shot and took down the first man. The second man hid behind the curve of the cave's entrance, shooting at whatever target he perceived in the woods. Macor had his squad maintain suppression fire on the cave entrance while he and a few other Folgore rushed towards the cave entrance. Taking one of his two standard issued grenades, Macor pulled the pin and tossed it into the hole. A second later it exploded, and cries were head. With a wave, Macor directed his men into the cave, the men pouring in.
What greeted them was what seemed like a long tunnel with tables, crates and other containers present. A few men inside stood up and were immediately shot. At the end of the tunnel was a large room, with maps of Solaren and what seemed like captured books regarding the Potenzan military. There was radio equipment nearby, with Tiburan voices screaming that they were under attack from the north, signifying Battisti's attack was underway. It was clear to all men there that this was some kind of command base - and indeed, this was the expected command base for the Party of God.
However, it was empty.
Macor cursed under his breath, as it seemed that the Party of God leaders had escaped. It wasn't too hard to see how they could have: at the other side was an inclined tunnel leading up to the top, to the opposite side of the hill, and freshly disturbed dirt showed that men had gone out that way recently.
"Let's go around," Macor said, not wasting any time as he began to leave the tunnel.
What they greeted on the other side of the hill took them completely by surprise: a squad of Folgore were walking up the other side, a group of Solaris men before them, with their hands up. This was a surprise, because no gliders had been planned there - where did these Folgore come from?
"Caught these men, sir," said the sergente maggiore of the squad, saluting Macor with pride, "found them running towards us when we came out of our glider at the bottom of the hill."
"Indeed," said Macor. He noticed the patches on the men, identifying their unit, and, with a smirk on his face, added: "Weren't you all supposed to land at least fifty yards from here?"
The NCO blushed noticeably, looking a tad bit embarrassed, and could say little else than, "Anyone can make a mistake, sir."
What had unfolded in this attack specifically? The first brigade had begun their attack in full at 0100 hours, some twenty minutes before the airborne attack. Battisti had moved his battalions in a spread out formation, the stronger numbers on the flanks. The Party of God's northern lookouts were overrun quickly, and the other units alerted their commanders that they were under attack. As Battisti's western and eastern flanks pushed through the Party of God's defenses, they began to curve inward, towards their command posts, beginning an encirclement maneuver with the goal of cutting off any retreat. Within twenty minutes, of course, Macor and the elements of the second brigade had begun their attack right at the Party of God's heart. This took the leaders completely by surprise, and most of them - who had already begun to prepare for evacuations before the first brigade arrived - simply chose to flee. The top commanders in the rebel group had been captured, but plenty of the lesser ranking ones had managed to escape. In the aftermath, however, they had left most of their weapon caches, their files, and other materials.
After two hours of fighting, what remained of the Party of God finally fled southward, or wherever they perceived there to be a gap in the Potenzan lines. The ones that attempted to surrender were shot on the spot. Battisti's orders were carried out to the "T".
The sun was rising from the east, bringing bright light across the battlefield. Battisti's command vehicle drove up the rolling hills, past the destroyed gliders that hadn't taken the landing too well. Folgore were already covering the hills, some of them removing the Party of God material from the caves, others preparing dynamite to seal up the caves to prevent future use. The lieutenant general came to a stop at the command tunnel, where Macor was waiting, still in his full gear. Battisti departed his vehicle, followed by Nano, and approached his inferior, who saluted him according to protocol.
"You and you men did your duty," Battisti said, saluting him and then holding out his hand.
Macor shook his superior's hand and replied with a smile, "You expected anything less?"
"I understand you have the rebel leaders?"
Macor nodded, "In the cave, simply awaiting your relief."
Battisti nodded, then said curtly, "Execute them."
Macor raised an eyebrow, "Sir?"
"Execute them on the account of murder," Battisti said, more fully, "we need to cut this group off at the head. When that happens, it will fall apart."
Macor made no change of expression, but made a much slower salute, "If you wish, sir."
That morning, a few more gunshots were heard from the caves. And with that, Operation Judgment came to a close.
It was a strange announcement at the dance hall Cometa. Prince Ludwig, who served his military service in the Navy and whose ship had moored at the harbour of Torrenza, was visiting this dance hall with a couple of officers from his ship. And then the owner of the dance hall announced that the piano player had left during the pause after a telephone call. Ludwig was already known for his skills as a pianist, so his colleague‑officers pushed him to take the stage. “You’re not here for the women anyway,” one of his friends said. Ludwig gave in ... and gave a tremendous performance. The guests were extatic and the band members congratulated him. He bowed for the public and received the applause and the congratulations with an enthousiastic smile. Then, as a last song before the pause, he sang a beautiful slow blues song while accompanying himself on the piano.
During the pause, he went outside for a while. He took his jacket with him, because it was a bit cold.
Nobody at the Cometa knew wat Ludwig was really feeling. Not even his colleague‑officers from his ship. Prince Ludwig was good at many things. One of them was hiding his feelings. Something he often had to do as a gay prince. His own family didn’t mind about his homosexuality, but other royal families did. It was never said explicitly, but Ludwig knew that he was only tolerated at the royal parties because of his ancestry. He sometimes had to undergo sly digs at such parties while knowing that he could not defend himself—he would be blamed for the scandal, not the other person.
His life at secondary school was easy. He was extremely popular, partly because of his ancestry, partly because of what he was. His homosexuality was immediately accepted there, maybe also because of his ancestry, but not only that. Ludwig went to the Königliches Gymnasium, a school mainly filled with children from intellectuals, government officials and owners of large companies. The athmosphere was quite liberal there.
Gays were allowed to serve in the Eiffellandian armed forces. They were put together into the same platoons and companies, or comparable groups in the Navy and Air Force, to avoid gay‑bashing. Ludwig commanded a group of gay sailors as a sea lieutenant. But he had also discovered that the Navy had decided against filling a complete destroyer with gays. And there was that one boatswain who had made crystal clear to Ludwig what he thought about gays. In private, otherwise Ludwig could have brought him before the court‑martial. Luckily, he served on a different ship, but it made Ludwig a bit insecure. This boatswain was so big that Ludwig with his 1.81 meters would fit twice in him. That alone was not enough to make him scared (he was very good at Taekwon‑do, and had already defeated two men of that size), but that combined with the fact that the man was a professional fighter did make him scared. And the fact that the boatswain said that he wasn’t the only one made Ludwig more scared. He made sure that he was never alone at the ship and that his cabin was locked. He also checked whether his sailors were beaten up or experienced any other problems because of their homosexuality, but that didn’t happen.
Max Euler was the only one whom he had told about this boatswain. But Max was not aware of Ludwig’s other reason for feeling sad. That reason was the Talemantine Prince Stefano. During the latter’s stay in Trier, the two Princes fell in love with each other. Something that appeared largely in the yellow press, but remained unknown among the people of Talemantros. The Talemantine Imperial Family knew about it, maybe also some other Talemantine officials, but no other Talemantines. It would have become a scandal if that would become widely known in Talemantros, so the Imperial Family did everything to hide it.
Apart from that, the Talemantine Empress, who was technically an aunt of the Eiffellandian King although both were of the same age, had done some things that made the Eiffellandian King ask himself whether his aunt was still sane. To be precise, he considered his aunt capable of having Ludwig executed if the latter would be caught napping with Stefano. Therefore, he had forbidden Ludwig to visit Stefano in Talemantros. Instead, the guys regularly met outside Talemantros. In Eiffelland, in Danzig, wherever they would not be arrested for making love to each other.
Although Ludwig was convinced that he and Stefano were made for each other, this continuously having to hide for the latter’s mother put a strain on their relationship. And now this war for Zamosk. Ludwig hadn’t heard anything from Stefano since then. Was he at the battle field? Was he still alive? Ludwig was scared as hell that Stefano would die during that war. He thought a lot about that.
He also thought a lot about Stefano’s political ideas. He completely favoured his mother’s policies in Talemantros, no matter how insane they were. As if Stefano did not realise what his mother’s stance on homosexuality was. Ludwig and his father had offered him shelter for the case that he didn’t want to return to Talemantros. Indeed, that would mean treason and breaking all the ties with his family, but why should he remain faithful to a system that wants to force him into a life that he doesn’t want (woman, marriage and all that kind of things)? Ludwig didn’t like it that Stefano didn’t take the offer, but he had an understanding for it. Leaving your family for good and commit treason to the country you are an important representant of is not an easy decision. Maybe Stefano managed to find a way to get out of the grip of his family without having to commit treason. He was intelligent enough for that.
But now Ludwig felt sad. Sad because of that boatswain. Sad because his love life was so complicated. Sad because the love of his life was in a war zone.
“Sei un pianista fantastico, lo sai?” the voice of a girl said. You are a fantastic piano player, you know?
Ludwig turned around. He saw a girl who appeared to be a few years older than himself.
“E hai anche una voce bellissima,” the girl said. And you have a very beautiful voice as well.
“Grazie,” Ludwig said. Thank you.
Ludwig was 1.81 meters tall, had light blonde hair that was cut according to the latest fashion in Eiffelland, sapphire blue eyes and a tendinous, slightly musculous body. He paid a lot of attention to his looks, and was very precise in that. As a result, he got quite a lot of attention from girls, and sometimes also from guys. Meanwhile, he had got used to that, but he had never become arrogant. In fact he never noticed that people considered him beautiful, he only knew that many people considered him beautiful. And also now he didn’t notice that the girl wanted him. But he was a bit annoyed that the girl disturbed him.
“Come ti chiami?” the girl asked. What’s your name?
“Mi chiamo Ludwig,” Ludwig said. My name is Ludwig.
“Ludvighe,” the girl repeated. “Bel nome.” Ludwig (Italian phonetics). Beautiful name.
“Grazie,” Ludwig said. Thank you.
“Sai, Ludvighe, è peccato che non ti ho visto danzare,” the girl said. You know, Ludwig, it is a pity that I didn’t see you dance.
Normally, Ludwig would have joked that musicians don’t dance, but now the only thing he said was: “Perché?” Why?
“Perché?” the girl repeated with a tone in her voice that said: Do you really have to ask? But not with a negative undertone. Then Ludwig understood why the girl was there. Why him, and why that drama now?
“Perché vorrei sapere come danzi,” the girl said cheerfully. Because I would like to know how you dance.
The girl had continuously stepped towards Ludwig, and he had continuously stepped back. Now he suddenly felt a fence in his back. He moved sidewards, but went into the wrong direction. To the corner.
“Peccato, ma sono un danzatore cattivo,” Ludwig said. It’s a pity, but I’m a bad dancer.
The girl kept approaching him. Now he couldn’t escape any more.
“Può darsi, ma sempre vorrei danzare con te. Per favore,” the girl said. Maybe, but I still would like to dance with you. Please.
Now she was so close to Ludwig that she could grab him. He bent backwards.
“Scusa, no,” he said. Sorry, no.
“Ooohh, perché no?” the girl asked.
“Non voglio danzare, OK?” Ludwig said with a sharp tone in his voice. I don’t want to dance, OK?
But then something happened that Ludwig had not expected here, in a country that used to be the most ferocious theocracy that history had ever known. The girl wrapped her arms around his neck and dragged him against her body.
“Hey, che cosa fai?” he said frightened while freeing himself out of the girl’s arms. Hey, what are you doing?
“È la tua prima volta?” the girl giggled. Is it your first time?
It would not be Ludwig’s first time, but it would be his first time with a girl. And that was a first time he definitely did not want to experience.
“Non è male se questo è la tua prima volta. Vieni. Sarà bellissimo,” the girl said. It isn’t bad when this is your first time. Come. It will be fantastic.
“Non voglio questo, OK?” Ludwig said angrily. I don’t want this, OK?
But the girl seemed to not have heard that. She wrapped her arms around Ludwig again and tried to kiss him. Ludwig was flabbergasted. He pressed his lips together to prevent the girl’s tongue from entering his mouth. But then the thought what in Heaven’s name does this girl allow herself came up. That thought together with the disgust of the fact that this girl was pressing herself against him ignited an anger he didn’t know of himself. He freed himself out of the girl’s arms and pushed her away with all the power he had in his arms while screaming with a cracking voice: “Fass mich nicht an!” Don’t touch me!
The girl stumbled a few meters and fell into a puddle. She got up while exclaiming a cascade of swears. Ludwig remained where he was. Normally he would have helped her standing up, but not this time. He was trembling for anger.
When the girl was standing again, she started to scream: “Tu brutto porco puzzanto Eiffellandese. Guarda al mio abito. Completamente ammelmato, a causa di te. Come pensi che lo avrò netto di nuovo?” You ugly stinking Eiffellandian swine. Look at my dress. Completely under the mud, because of you. How do you think I’ll get it clean again?
“Was soll mir dein Kleid interessieren?! Verpiss dich!” Ludwig screamed. His voice kept cracking. Why should I mind your dress?! Piss off!
“Questa volta non sarebbe la tua prima volta, hè? Ma sarebbe la tua prima volta con una ragazza hè? Avrei dovuto sapere migliore. Un tal bellissimo ragazzetto, si nettamente nei suoi vestiti, rimanda una ragazza chi gli offra se stesso sul un vassoio d’argento. Non sei niente che uno sporco sodomito,” the girl screamed to Ludwig. This time would not be your first time, would it? But it would be your first time with a girl, wouldn’t it? I should have known better. Such a beautiful boy, so neatly in his clothes, refuses a girl that presents herself to him on a silverplatter. You’re nothing but a filthy sodomist.
“Es ist mir scheissegal was du von mir denkst. Hau ab, du Schnepfe,” Ludwig screamed, still with a cracking voice. I don’t care at all what you think of me. Get lost, you bitch.
“Èèhh? Ma che cazzo dici?! Non parlo Tedesco!” the girl screamed. Huh? But what on earth are you saying?! I don’t speak German!
At that moment, Ludwig realised that he had switched to German. He simply said with a normal voice: “Ho detto che devi partire.” I told you to go away.
“OK! Partirò! E dirò alle tutte gente nella Cometa che sei un sodomito, tu ragazzetto da zerbinotto! Bastardo!” the girl screamed. OK! I’ll go! And I’ll tell all the people in the Cometa that you are a sodomite, you foppish little boy! Bastard!
She went back into the Cometa while exclaiming another cascade of curses to Ludwig.
Meanwhile, the usual group of protesters had approached the scene, while the guards checked out whether they didn’t do anything nasty. Not that they expected anything. This group kept itself at bay. The only thing it had done up to now was setting up some folding‑chairs and sitting there with protest signs. It was an order to allow that as freedom of speech. Now they were standing at a short distance from Ludwig.
“Ti presento mia sorella,” one of the protesters said to Ludwig. Let me introduce you to my sister.
Ludwig turned himself to the protesters and remained silent.
“Voi soldati Eiffellandesi stuprate tutte le nostre ragazze e poi non possono sposarsi come vergini o vogliono sposarsi un Eiffellandese. E non solamente voi Eiffellandesi, ma anche i Carentani. Non avete alcune ragazze nei vostri propri paesi?” the protester asked. You Eiffellandian soldiers violate the honour of our girls and afterwards they cannot marry as virgins any more or want to marry an Eiffellandian. And not only you Eiffellandians, also the Carentanians. Don’t you have any girls in your own countries?
“Non puoi rimproverare questo a me,” Ludwig said. You can’t blame me for that.
“Perché hai rimandato mia sorella? Non ti piace?” the protester asked. Why did you reject my sister? Don’t you like her?
“Questa è una domanda insidiosa,” Ludwig said. “Se dico che mi dispiace, interpreterai come un insulto. Se dico che mi piace, dirai che voglio stuprarla.” That is a catch question. If I say that I don’t like her, you will consider that an insult. If I say that I like her, you will say that I want to violate her.
The protester started to laugh. Then he said: “Sei intelligente.” You’re intelligent.
“Grazie,” Ludwig said. Thank you.
“Ma perchè hai rimandato mia sorella si duramente? Ha ragione, e sei un sodomito?” the protester asked. But why did you reject my sister in such a harsh way? Is she right, and are you a sodomist?
Ludwig thought for a moment. He could just tell that he had a girlfriend in Eiffelland. That would spare him some problems. But his homosexuality would currently be the talk of the night in the Cometa. Also the protesters would know soon enough. So he decided to tell the truth. But he refused to use the word “sodomito”. He knew that the Talemantines used the word “finocchio” for gay, but he doubted whether the people here would understand that. Instead, he said: “Si, amo un ragazzo.” Yes, I love a guy.
“Coraggioso da riconoscere questo nel questo paese. Ma nunque non so che devo essere felice o adirato. Sei il più cattivo del più cattivo, però, non stupri le nostre ragazze,” the protester said. Courageous to admit that in this country. But now I don’t know whether I should be happy or angry. You’re the worst of the worst, but on the other hand, you don’t violate the honour of our girls.
One of the other protesters said: “Non stupra le nostre ragazze per un motivo falso.” He doesn’t violate the honour of our girls for the wrong reason.
“Vaffan culo. Voi Eiffellandesi conquistate il nostro paese, e dopo mandate i peccatori i più sacrileghi a qui,” a third protester said. Curse you. You Eiffellandians conquer our country, and then you send the most Godless sinners here.
“Tranquilo,” the first protester said while looking at the guards of the Cometa. “Lasciamo questo ragazzo in pace. Venite.” Quiet. We leave this guy alone. Come.
And the protesters returned to where they originally protested.
Suddenly a blast sounded. Ludwig turned around and saw that the front had been blown out of the Cometa. He immediately realised that his mates were still in the building when the bomb exploded. He ran to the building,but stopped running when he heard a strange sound coming from within the building. Then he also heard a voice: “Nooooooooo! Mia sorellaaaaaaaa.”
Ludwig saw the protester running, ran towards him and grabbed him by an arm. “Non ci va! Resta qui!” he screamed. Don’t go there! Stay here!
“Come?! Ma perché?!” The protester screamed. What?! But why?!
At that moment, the Cometa collapsed.
“Perciò,” Ludwig said. Because.
29 June 1953
It was an enormous party in the gay scene in Tegeata. These were the last days in which homosexuality would not be prosecuted by the Conciglio del Centro e Sudest (CCSE). The owners of the bars, dancehalls and other facilities in the gay scene of Tegeata had been informed quite a long time before the news was made public that the CCSE would start to uphold the anti‑homosexuality laws of the old regime, although with less severe punishments. It was decided to collectively leave the quarter. On Monday morning, the whole gay scene of Tegeata would be empty. But now the last stocks of wine, beer and booze had to be drunk away.
Also the 20 year old Marco Gambini and his boyfriend, the 26 year old Eiffellandian Oberleutnant Matthias Weiß, were in Tegeata this weekend. Matthias had managed to get furlough this weekend, and Marco had told his parents that he had to visit a dying friend on the south coast, so that he could not help out in the hotel. His father had agreed to it that he would be gone over the weekend, although the number of bookings in the family hotel had increased for the first time after the start of the war. Some people seemed to have money for a holiday again. It was still a very small increase, but nevertheless. It was the first faint shade of a holiday season in years.
Marco had bought a train ticket to a small city at the south coast, but had got off the train about 100 km from Senigallia. There Matthias had picked him up with a motorcycle. Those vehicles were seen more and more in Southeastern Solaren, mostly made by the Solaris brand Moto Guzzi, that had restarted after the war with at that moment still EDF money and Eiffellandian technique. The Eiffellandian Armed Forces in Solaren had considered buying Moto Guzzis as well to support the Solaris company, but had decided not to do so so that the Solaris would not associate Moto Guzzi with the Eiffellandians. So Matthias drove a motorcycle from the Eiffellandian brand NSU.
And now they were in Tegeata, taking part in the festivities. Everybody was celebrating, but also complaining that the Eiffellandian Armed Forces in Solaren had succumbed to the pressure of the Alleanza della Fede. Also Matthias as an Eiffellandian was reproached for that. He himself didn’t know precisely why that decision had been taken, but he had his own ideas about it. He saw how homosexuality was continuously put on the table by the conservatives in this country, and how the agression against it increased more and more. The decision to let the CCSE enforce anti‑homosexuality laws was an attempt to calm down the conservatives. In any case, it was too early to decriminalise homosexuality in Solaren. The group against that was too strong. And it was also apparent that the occupational forces would have to remain in Solaren for a very long time.
But the whole affair had led to an ironic outcome. In Carentania, homosexuals were sent to what was called rehabilitation centres; in Eiffelland, homosexuality was legal. And now homosexuality was prosecuted against in the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone and tolerated in the Carentanian Occupational Zone. Several gays said to Matthias that they could better flee to the Carentanian Occupational Zone to avoid prosecution. “Do you really think so?” Matthias replied. “The SNC only temporarily lifted the enforcement of the old laws against homosexuality until the new constitution is ready. Given the Carentanian stance to homosexuality, you can be sure that some laws against homosexuality will return. But then with a Carentanian flavour: You won’t go to jail but to a ‘rehabilitation centre’ where they will try to cure your homosexuality.”
“Would that really be possible, making homosexuals straight?” somebody asked.
“Some people think that would be possible, other people think it’s not. I think it’s not. It has been tried by many psychologists, hypnoticists and what not, but up to now all attempts failed. Contrary to what the Carentanians claim, they don’t make homosexuals straight, either. The only thing they do in those ‘rehabilitation centres’, is brainwashing homosexuals and telling them that a good socialist marries and gets children. And of course they give some extra lessons about how important it is to be a good socialist. Ci va omosessuale ... E ci ritorna omosessuale, socialista, arrogante e narcisistico,” Matthias replied.You go in gay ... And you get out gay, socialist, arrogant and narcissistic.
“You’re not so positive about your partner in crime,” one of the people said.
“Well, frankly, we cooperated well in the past, but now they are pushing their own agenda through. Furthermore, they clearly show that killing off your elites has a disadvantage: Nobody is left to teach the Carentanians how to behave,” Weiß said.
“And what makes you think that the Eiffellandians will do better? You already failed with legalising homosexuality,” somebody else said.
“Economicly, we give Solaren a better basis than the Carentanians. We stop the exploitation of common workers but also leave room for entrepreneurs to develop themselves. On the longer term, that pays off more than what the Carentanians do. Look at Southeastern Solaren, “ Matthias replied. Then he described what the Eiffellandians had done there and to what that had led.
30 June 1953
Marco and Matthias had been awakened by the hotel personnel. They had slept in a hotel in the gay scene of Tegeata, and also that hotel would be abandoned on that day. The night before had been eventful. It was not only filled with political discussions, but with much partying as well. Now they made a last walk through the gay scene of Tegeata, and saw how all the bars, dance halls and hotels were emptied by the owners. Solaren was about to turn the clock back: The gays would meet each other secretly again.
Marco looked around at the central place, and then said to Matthias: “The party’s over now ... Verfluchte Scheisse.”
The man who called himself Mario Salerno frightened up from the woman’s voice while drinking a coffee on a terrace in an old quarter of Torrenza that had surprisingly survived the war. The quarter had been built during the 19th century, and the plane‑trees bordering the squares were enormously high. Also those on the little square 50 meters away where he had parked his car. Like in many countries around the Long Sea, plane‑trees are planted on many squares, because they grow fast and get a large deck of leafs to provide cooling shades on the squares.
The man realised that he had been recognised. He sprung up and ran away, ignoring the loud protest of the waiter. Luckily he had not parked his car in front of the café. There would always be a person who would be keen enough to write down the licence plate.
“Badoglio!!!! Sporco assassino!!!!”
Merda!!!! The woman was following him. The man grabbed his gun from his inner pocket, turned around, fired some shots and hit the woman, who fell on the street. Then he ran to his beige Borgward, unlocked the door, got in, started the engine and drove out of the parking spot. He pushed the gas pedal down, drove over the woman, turned the steering wheel when he left the little square that served as parking lot and spurted away with squeeking tyres, making sure that the people who had followed him had to dive away so that they would not pay attention to his licence plates.
The real name of the man was indeed Badoglio. Andrea Badoglio, public prosecutor in Mazara during the old regime, and in that function responsible for the death of many people in Ustica, Pope Urban’s penal colony near the west coast of Solaren. But not only that. He closely cooperated with the local police director, Aldo Siciliano. The latter had a second life as the head of a smugglers organisation that managed to circumvent all the embargoes against Solaren and all the prohibitions of certain goods issued by the Church, as well as setting up heroin and cocaine production facilities and getting those substances out of the country. Badoglio’s role was to keep Sicilano’s smugglers out of jail and to make sure that any evidence against Siciliano or his organisation disappeared before it could lead to a case. Both men financially enjoyed their cooperation.
During the battle of Mazara, Badoglio murdered the barrister Mario Salerno and his family, so that he could use the names of Salerno and his wife and children for himself and his own wife and children. Then they fled Mazara and went to the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone (EOZ), where Badoglio managed to find his old friend Siciliano.
Badoglio had considered to restart Siciliano’s old businesses in the drugs scene on his own behalf, but there were some complications. The most important one was that he had been kept out of Siciliano’s dealings outside Solaren. Therefore, he didn’t have any contacts with people he could sell the drugs to.
Another complication was that the old production facilities were located in the Carentanian Occupational Zone (COZ). Although the collectivisation of the agricultural sector was not official policy, the Carentanians and the SNC had already done some preparatory work in the sense that they had visited each farm to check how many lands it had and what it produced. As a result, the farms producing weed, opium, cocaleaves and everything else that had only the purpose of producing drugs from it had either been seized or been forced to switch to food production.
Apart from that, Badoglio didn’t want to risk being recognised over there. He had fled the COZ to so that he would not be recognised, and before that he had burned each and every picture of himself he could find. Luckily for him, both the judicial palace and the municipal archive were hit by grenades and burned to the ground during the battle of Mazara, so as far as he knew no recent picture of him and his family had survived the war. And no recent picture of the Salerno family, either, because he had made sure that the Salerno house burned to the ground during the battle of Mazara.
And finally, Badoglio considered it possible that the Eiffellandians would survey him, after having defended one of the most important figures in the Solaris drugs production world. Those people had shown quite some naivity with regards to that homosexuality issue, but they weren’t naive at all with regards to organised crime. Despite the country’s liberal laws on quite some things, criminals could end up there in circumstances that didn’t differ much from the prisons in pre‑war Solaren. And Eiffelland’s drug laws were not liberal at all.
Nevertheless, despite the fact that he was surveyed, he had managed to build up a network again.
A village near the border with the COZ
Nine months earlier
“So you want to start the old business again?”
“Yes,” Badoglio said. He was dining with a farmer that had his lands exactly on the right side of the border, i.e. in the EOZ. This farmer had been smart enough to switch to crops before the Eiffellandians and the SNC had visited him, so he wasn’t known for producing opium. This man was an old contact of an old contact of an old contact of Siciliano that was known to Badoglio as well.
The farmer wasn’t happy with Badoglio’s visit. He knew that he could get into enormous trouble when he would be caught for producing resources for drugs. The Eiffellandians were very keen on that. But refusing to work for Badoglio might be no option.
“As far as I know, I am the only farmer of Siciliano’s organisation on this side of the border,” the farmer said. “Your business won’t be very large if I am your only farmer. Furthermore, we farmers are constantly surveyed. The occupiers and the SNC know a bit too well that quite some farms in Solaren produced drugs. To overcome the food shortages in this country, all farms are checked to make sure that they produce food. Only a small number of farms are allowed to produce cannabis, opium and coca leaves for medicinal purposes, and their harvests go directly to the pharmaceutical industries. Maybe I can produce a harvest for you next year, maybe even two years, but at least then I will be caught. And loose my farm, and go to jail for 15 years. And maybe I’ll even be caught before I produce the first harvest.”
So also the farms on this side of the border were surveyed, Badoglio thought.
“But don’t you know any farmers who would be willing to work for me?” Badoglio asked.
“No,” the farmer said. Then his face changed, showing that he was thinking. “Although ... Well, I don’t know any farmers with land who would be willing to produce for you, but I do know a couple of farmers who had lost their lands. They will be willing to produce for you. They don’t have the lands, but they do have the know‑how.”
“But where do I get the lands?” Badoglio said.
“Maybe you can take a remote piece of land that isn’t possessed by anyone?” the farmer suggested. “If there is such land?”
The farmer didn’t realise how good his idea was. Solaren was larger than Eiffelland, but had only half the population of Eiffelland. There was enough arable land in the country that had never been used, because it was far away from infrastructure like roads, electricity, sewers and waterworks. It should be possible to setup farms there without anyone knowing it.
17 November 1953
Staatsschutzhauptkommissar Karstens was baffled. It was 4 hours after the incident on the terrace, but Karstens was still baffled. He was sitting in his office, thinking about the events he had witnessed. He was in charge of the mission, but sometimes he did the field work himself. Also this afternoon. And so he witnessed the incident on the terrace. Why in Heaven’s name did Salerno react in the way he reacted? He must have been seized by panic, otherwise he wouldn’t have killed that woman. The key to the problem was how the woman called Salerno. An assassin. And not Salerno, but Badolio—at least it sounded that way. Why? Was Salerno not his real name? That was a possibility, but only somebody who wanted to hide something would change his identity. What was severe enough in this country for which you would want to hide your real identity? Several things, but they could be grouped into two categories: A prominent role in the old regime (because of which the occupying forces would want to have you), and something that went against morality in this country (which mainly meant sexual behaviour other than man and woman in a marriage).
In any case, Salerno was an extraordinary clever man. He often managed to escape from Karstens’s agents, and from Karstens himself. That would suggest that Salerno had some experience in following people and being followed, and that would point at a prominent role in the old regime. A search for the name “Salerno” in the past had not revealed very much, partly because Mazara was in the Carentanian Occupational Zone now. Salerno claimed to have been a barrister in Mazara, but why would he have been so keen on defending Siciliano, the former head of the police in Southern Solaren? In fact they used to be opponents. And now they were more or less friends. Defending druglords could be profiting in many ways, and maybe some of Siciliano’s businesses were still running with Serrano as middle man between the imprisoned Siciliano and the latter’s organisation. But maybe there was more. Maybe they knew each other from the old days in a different way than as barrister against the police. This was another reason for Karstens to doubt about Salerno’s real identity.
Like quite some people from the region of Northern Eiffelland directly bordering Danmark, Staatsschutzkommissar Lutz Nielsen had a Danish name. But he was an Eiffellandian. His greatgrandfather was a Dane who fell in love with a girl from Northern Eiffelland, converted to Catholicism for her against the will of his parents, married her, and suddenly there was a Nielsen family in Eiffelland.
The Eiffellandian Gymnasia (the highest level of secondary education) put quite a focus on learing foreign languages. After the Abitur (the final exam of the Gymnasium), all Eiffellandian pupils know the basics of Danish, Tyrrhenian and Italian, and are proficient in English and French (although that will change in the coming years, because the roles of French and Italian have been interchanged in a recent school reform). Furthermore, the Eiffellandian Gymnasiasten living in the areas bordering Danmark and Tyrrhenia get some extra classes of respectively Danish and Tyrrhenian. So Nielsen, who went to a Gymnasium in a region bordering Danmark, got some extra classes in Danish. Apart from that, he knew quite a lot about the country to the North of Eiffelland because of his ancestry. During his military service, Nielsen served in the Military Police. There he was noticed when he solved a very complex murder case, so he was asked to join the Staatsschutz. He did, after having absolved all the needed courses cum laude (with distinction).
It would be more logical for the Staatsschutz to send someone like Nielsen to Danmark given the tense situation there, but when he absolved his education, there was no room for him there. And so he went to Solaren to get some experience. He would be sent to Danmark in the beginning of next year though, that was something he already knew.
It was this Staatsschutzkommissar Nielsen who got Karsten’s order to investigate Salerno’s identity. His investigations in the archives of the old regime revealed some locally, regionally and nation-wide important people called “Badolio”, but all of them were either in prison or active in public life again because nothing could be proven against them. But there was one person called “Badoglio” that had disappeared during the battle for Mazara. Nielsen considered it possible that this Badoglio was the man he was looking for. There is not very much difference in the pronunciation of “gli” and “li” in Tiburan, so that non-native speakers of that language have difficulties in hearing the difference between those two sounds. And then it could have easily been possible that the lady killed by Serrano had yelled “Badoglio” and Karstens had understood it as “Badolio”. Furthermore, this Badoglio had been a public prosecutor in Mazara. It could have been very well possible that Siciliano had cooperated with him during the old regime. But why Serrano? Nielsen decided to go to Mazara to investigate some things there.
Prison of the Consiglio del Centro e Sud-est
23 December 1953
Badoglio only had one problem: How to sell his drugs outside Solaren? He knew that Siciliano had contacts with the Loughton gang, but it wasn’t that easy to get into contact with them. He really needed an introduction. And the only introduction he had, was Siciliano, who was 1. bound to a wheelchair, and 2. imprisoned in a prison that was ruled by the Consiglio del Centro e Sud-est (CCSE) and guarded by the Eiffellandians. But Badoglio had a plan. A plan that started well, with an ambulance speeding to the prison. Five minutes later, the ambulance left the prison escorted by four motorcycles and a car, and went to the hospital in an extreme hurrry.
But it would never arrive there. Hours later, it was found burnt-out outside the city, with only the driver and the nurse in it, but without the patient, who was transported to a farm several hundreds of kilometers away from Torrenza. A farm that had been newly built a couple of months ago, and where the first opium harvest had been collected. The escorting soldiers were found on the route between the prison and the military hospital, all dead.
24 December 1953
“Well, Aldo, how did you like my idea?” Badoglio asked after Siciliano arrived at one of the farms Badoglio had grounded.
“Brilliant, and it worked out phantasticly,” Siciliano said. “Nobody saw that I faked that appendicitis. And now I’m out. Great how we fooled those arrogant bastards with their democracy and their constitutional state. But now that I look around here, I have the impression that you’re not only working as a barrister.”
“That’s correct,” Badoglio said. “I’m earning a little extra with some agricultural activities.”
“But what are you growing?” Siciliano asked.
“Opium and cocaine,” Badoglio said.
“Opium and cocaine, you say?” Siciliano said. “You know that you are under surveillance of the Eiffellandians? I give you one or two years, and they’ll know what you are doing.”
“They don’t know anything. This piece of land is so far away from everything that nobody pays attention to it. I can do here whatever I want. And don’t underestimate my skills to get out of my house unnoticed,” Badoglio said.
“Then I only see one problem. Whom are you going to sell your drugs to?” Siciliano asked.
“That’s when you enter the game,” Badoglio said. “I would like to ask you to contact the Loughton gang.”
24 December 1953
In Solaren, Christmas was always celebrated with the family. Most of the times, the hotels were empty at Christmas, and the restaurants were closed on 24, 25 and 26 December, because 26 December was also celebrated as a Christmas Day (Second Christmas Day, like in the Germanic countries). As long as the 20 year old Marco Gambini could remember, the complete Gambini family came to the hotel in Senigallia to celebrate Christmas there; the people that lived too far away to travel home on the same day stayed in the hotel. Also this Christmas. The only thing that had changed, was the size of the christmas dinner. Still much was under distribution. Starvation was a much smaller problem than a year ago, but still there was not enough food for a copious multi-dish Christmas dinner, unless the portions per dish were made smaller. And that was what most Solaris families did. Also the Gambini family.
The last dish of the Christmas dinner had just been finished. First everybody helped out to clean the table and wash the dishes, and then everybody gathered together until the family would go to Church at midnight; Marco, his sisters and his cousins went to the hotel bar, and his parents stayed in the dining room with his aunts, uncles, and people of older generations (even Marco’s great‑grandaunt). One of Marco’s uncles had managed to find some cigars in a shop in Tegeata, where he had travelled to for business earlier in December. Marco disgusted smoking, and that disgust had increased since his relationship with the Eiffellandian Oberleutnant Matthias Weiß, but he couldn’t escape the cigar — “A man who doesn’t smoke is not a man” was still the adagium in Solaren, while Eiffellandian young people generally frowned upon smoking because of the yellow teeth you get from it. Marco was already fearing the disgrace of a gigantic cough attack.
But that didn’t happen. Marco had a large family, and he was one of the oldest of his generation. He had about six male cousins aged 14 to 16 who hadn’t got a cigar but wanted to try one anyway, so Marco was happy to share his cigar with them. In the end, he only smoked about half of the cigar. The cough attack didn’t occur. But Marco also noticed that one of his older cousins, Andrea, looked at him with a bit strange look in his eyes. Why? Andrea’s father, who was the brother of Marco’s father, also had that strange look in his eyes? Why? Did they know something about Matthias?
27 December 1953
The door of the hotel was opened. Andrea’s father came in, with a sad look in his eyes. He went to the reception desk, said that he had an appointment with the owner of the hotel, and was shown into the office of Marco’s father.
“Ciao Francesco,” Marco’s father said. About an hour ago, he had been called by his brother, who had asked if he could come by for something that could not be discussed over the phone. “What happened?”
“It is about Marco, Giuseppe,” Francesco said.
“About Marco?” Giuseppe asked. He was quite surprised. During his whole life, Marco had been a quiet and intelligent guy. He was admitted to the Lyceo as the first of his family, and his teachers lauded him. He absolved the Lyceo with very good notes just before the war broke out. And he would have gone to Tegeata to study medicine if the war would not have broken out. What had happened because of which such an intelligent and quiet boy got into trouble?
“Yes, about Marco,” Francesco said.
“What did he do?” Giuseppe asked.
“One of Andrea’s friends saw him sitting at the back of a motorcycle of an Eiffellandian. Several times to be precise,” Francesco said.
“Of an Eiffellandian?” Giuseppe asked, baffled. He knew that quite a lot of Solaris young people had friends among the Eiffellandian soldiers (something he frowned upon), but those friendships almost always remained limited to meeting each other in the same pubs and partying together. Really close friendships between Solaris and Eiffellandians were rare and a bit strange. Giuseppe realised that he could not completely forbid his children from partying with Eiffellandian soldiers, but he had explicitly forbidden them to get close friendships with Eiffellandians.
“Andrea’s friend phrased it as follows: You won’t find a Solaris with such blonde hair anywhere in the world,” Francesco said.
Giuseppe thought for a few moments. Then he asked: “Do you know where they are going when they are together?”
“Andrea’s friend tried to follow them once, but a 1940 Moto Guzzi against one of those Eiffellandian machines? In any case, they went out of town,” Francesco said.
Giuseppe thought for some moments. He could do two things. He could ask Marco about it and forbid him to see that Eiffellandian again. But maybe it would be better to find out what those two were doing together.
“Francesco, do you know somebody with a more powerful motorcycle than Andrea’s friend has?” Giuseppe asked.
22 November 1953
Nielsen had gone to the Carentanian Occupational Zone as an agent of an Arendaaler import and export firm. Under that cover, he was doing his investigations. Now he went to barrister Falconi in Mazara. As a representant of an import and export firm, he wanted to inform himself about the legal issues with starting a branch of that firm in Mazara. At least, that was the official reason for visiting Falconi. He also wanted to ask the man about Serrano and Badoglio.
Falconi had his office in the same house as where he lived: A large house in the outskirts of Mazara, on one of the main roads. Nielsen drove there and parked his rented EKW near Falconi’s office. Then he went to the door and rang the doorbell of the office. A young woman opened the door and let her into Falconi’s office. After she had brought coffee, she closed the door.
“Well. Mr. Fældinn, “Falconi said, “what can I do for you?”
“You know that I work for an Arendaaler import and export firm. I am here to find out if there is any potential for my company. One part of that job is to find out if there is anything to trade here. The other part is the legal part. And that is why I consult you,” Nielsen said.
Falconi gratted his head. “Now you’re asking me something,” he said. “I can tell you how the situation is at this moment, but I don’t know how things will look like in the future. It will depend on who will get the upper hand. The Alleanza della Fede will probably maintain the status quo, but it might also go back to the corrupt old days. Then you won’t get very far without bribery, especially not as a foreigner. Then there is the Solaris National Congress, the SNC, which is steered by the Carentanians, although they both deny that. At this moment, the SNC governs Solaren, although the Eiffellandians and Potenzans make sure that SNC‑decisions they don’t like are not implemented in the Eiffellandian and Potenzan occupational zones. The SNC is a somewhat strange coalition between radical socialists, postdelegationists and liberals. This coalition would write the new constitution for Solaren, but up to now they have not succeeded in that. According to Carentanian news sources, because the liberals are blocking certain decisions. But despite its liberal faction, I think that the SNC will go for the socialist way, given the many socialist opinions and plans that are announced by the SNC. Another important faction is the CCSE, the Consiglio del Centro e Sud-Est. It has quite a lot of influence, but only in the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone. It is filled with locally prominent people from all over the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone. In many ways, it is as religious as the Alleanza della Fede, but far less corrupt, far less punitive (the Alleanza della Fede still wants to kill homosexuals, the CCSE considers it enough to imprison them), and supporters of freedom of opinion and freedom of speech. Then there is Count Stefano di Perugia with his Partito Soziale Liberale, the PSL. He wants to copy the Eiffellandian economic system, and he also admits that he wants to do so. Many people believe that he is steered by the Eiffellandians, but he denies that, although he makes clear that he is inspired by him. He made a big mistake though, by pleading for the decriminalisation of homosexuality. You shouldn’t do that in this country, and he realised that too late. Furthermore, a conservative newspaper published pictures of him while making love to a man. He prooved that those pictures are false, but it did damage him. Together with a liberal newspaper, La Stampa Libera, this faction is very loud, but does not have many supporters. This party could prevent the Alleanza della Fede and the SNC from getting an absolute majority though, should there be elections in the future. In any case, it is already clear what will happen when the SNC will be in charge. Currently only the socialist companies get the orders from the Carentanians and the SNC, and the farms that were collectivised after accusations of food hoarding against the farmers all got socialist managers. And it was more important that they were socialists than that they had agraric knowledge.”
Much of what Nielsen now heard was not new to him. Everybody in the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone already presumed that the Carentanians and the SNC considered a socialist conviction more important than professional knowledge, and that the nepotism of the Solaris Catholic Church had been interchanged for socialist nepotism. That was apparently the case, or at least this lawyer felt it like that.
“To be very honest,” Falconi continued, “when the SNC gets into power, it is very likely that all international trade of the Solaris will be controlled by the Carentanians. Then it would be better to open a branch in Rijeka. When the Alleanza della Fede gets into power, you will have to bribe quite a lot of people. It will be a lot easier when the PSL gets into power, but I highly doubt if that would happen.”
This would not be good news for an import and export firm, Nielsen thought. Both men continued talking about the actual situation in the Carentanian Occupational Zone. Then Nielsen switched the topic to the real reason why he was here.
“I have another question to you. Originally, I got the advice to go to a barrister called Serrano, but I couldn’t find him here in Mazara. Do you know what happened to him?” he asked.
“Serrano?” Falconi asked. “That’s strange. Serrano is specialised in criminal law, not in commercial law. And he isn’t in Mazara any more, but in Torrenza. He disappeared with his family during the battle for Mazara, and reappeared in Torrenza, where he started a new practice. One of his clients is the former head of police of Southern Solaren, Aldo Siciliano.”
“Strange,” Nielsen said. “My contact really told me that he was specialised in commercial law.”
“To be honest, it is even stranger that Serrano defended Siciliano. Back in the old days, they were more or less enemies. At least professionally. Did you know that Siciliano was also the head of a special department against homosexuals? Serrano defended quite a lot of people accused of homosexuality, and actually won quite some cases. And he was molested several times, undoubtedly by Siciliano’s people, although that was never proven. And now this same Serrano defends Siciliano,” Falconi said.
“Maybe he was assigned to defend him,” Nielsen said. “Anyway, it is a pity that he isn’t here. Business was not the only reason why I wanted to contact him. His sister fled to Arendaal just before the war, and she wanted to know if he is still alive.”
“Sorry, but you’ll have to go to Torrenza for that. Serrano is there now. With or without his family.”
“His family?” Nielsen asked. Oops, this sounded suspect. “Serrano’s sister did not tell about that,” he quickly added.
“Really not?” Falconi asked. “Anyway, Serrano had a wife, a son and a daughter. Hopelfully he managed to get them into Torrenza as well.”
“Indeed,” Nielsen said. “By the way, Serrano won’t have had Siciliano as the prosecutor against him. Just out of curiosity.”
“No, that wasn’t Siciliano,” Falconi said. “That was Badoglio. Wanted by the Carentanians by the way.”
“Why that?” Nielsen asked.
“Simply because the Carentanians want everybody from the old regime. Badoglio was a prosecutor, and quite an important one,” Falconi said. “He disappeared during the battle for Mazara, by the way.”
“Disappeared?” Nielsen asked.
“Yes. He and his family. And his house burned down. Nothing was left of it,” Falconi said.
That was a pity. Nothing could be checked then.
Nielsen and Falconi continued to talk for several minutes, and then Nielsen stood up.
“It was nice talking to you, Mr. Falconi, but I have to go now. One final question. Do you by any chance have a recent picture of Serrano? I ask this, so that it will be easier to recognise him,” Nielsen said.
“I have a picture of him from four years ago. Is that enough?” Falconi asked.
“Yes, that is enough,” Nielsen said.
Falconi showed a picture of some kind of reception. Nielsen wasn’t really surprised to see that the Serrano in the picture was not the same Serrano as the one in Torrenza.
A couple of minutes later, Nielsen left the office. He would return in a few days to get a second print of the photograph in question. Now a photograph of Badoglio, and Nielsen could proove that the Serrano in Torrenza wasn’t the real Serrano but in fact Badoglio.
25 November 1953
The Carentanians had done a thorough job with eliminating the representants of the old regime. All public prosecutors and all judges had been replaced. Even the complete police force had been replaced. In fact it was the SNC that controlled the justice department and the police, more than it did in the Eiffellandian and the Potenzan occupatonal zones. It was not easy to Nielsen to find any people who worked for the justice department during the old regime, especially to find one who was willing to talk about Badoglio. He had collected a list of people who could have known Badoglio and had survived the war, and he had taken pictures of all those people. Now he went to Luigi Scalfaro, a fisherman who worked from the seaport of Mazara. This fisherman was his contact to the Staatsschutz in the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone. Every time he sailed out, he met someone at sea, outside the territorial waters, and exchanged things with him when there was something to exchange. In this case, there was something to exchange: Nielsen’s list and photofilm. One week later, Nielsen would get the information he needed from Scalfaro.
27 November 1953
Nielsen was at Falconi’s office again to get the second print of the picture with Serrano. While he got the envelope, he asked Falconi: “One last question. You told that Serrano had a family. Could you tell me more about his wife and children?”
“Can’t you ask his sister. Mr. Fældinn?” Falconi asked.
“I could do so, but an international phone call isn’t that easy to establish from here, Mr. Falconi,” Nielsen said.
“But why do you want to know?” Falconi asked.
“Just out of curiosity,” Nielsen said.
“You ask quite a lot out of curiosity, Mr. Fældinn,” Falconi said.
“Believe me, it is important to me to know,” Nielsen said. “What if the Serrano currently living in Torrenza is not the real Serrano? I need to verify that. I can’t tell Serrano’s sister that her brother is alive while in fact somebody has taken her brother’s identity.”
“Mr. Fældinn, I have told you quite a lot up to now, and you have asked more than someone would expect. Who are you really, and why do you want to know so much about Serrano?” Falconi asked.
“Believe me, it is an important matter, but I can’t tell you more about it,” Nielsen said.
“Important to the Eiffellandians?” Falconi asked.
“Important to the Solaris,” Nielsen said. “And maybe not only to the Solaris, but then also not only to the Eiffellandians.”
“Aha,” Falconi said. “But what do the Carentanians think? Do they know that you are here? What if they ask questions about you?”
Nielsen thought for a moment. It was obvious that this man wanted to be paid for his information. But Nielsen wanted to prevent that he would be paid twice: Both by Nielsen to prevent him from talking, and by the Carentanians for his information.
“OK. Twenty kg of coal,” Nielsen said.
“Fifty,” Falconi said. “I already gave you quite a lot of information. This is for that information and for everything else I’m going to tell.”
“Deal,” Nielsen said.
And Falconi told everything else he knew about the Serrano family. One week later, Scalfaro’s men would deliver the coal to Falconi. Nielsen was a satisfied man.
4 December 1953
And now Nielsen was an even more satisfied man, after he had received some important information about a man called Boscone from the Staatsschutz headquarters through Scalfaro. This Boscone used to be a public prosecutor in Mazara, like Badoglio. Even better, he was Badoglio’s boss. But after the purge pushed through by the Carentanians, he had lost his job. Now he worked as a private tutor for law students. In any case, this Boscone would be able to tell everything Nielsen needed to know. And he had something nice to force Boscone to talk.
The battle for Mazara had been severe. Very severe. Much of the city still laid in ruins. Nielsen had already discovered that that was also the case for the villas of Serrano and Badoglio. But that was not the case of the villa of Boscone. That villa didn’t have to suffer much of the war. But Boscone didn’t live there any more. Instead, it was inhabited by a high Carentanian official and his staff. Boscone lived in a small apartment in one of the poorer quarters of Mazara. And that was where Nielsen was heading.
Because his rented EKW with licence plates from the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone would have been too conspicuous here, he had chosen to travel to Boscone by public transport. The tramways had not been repaired yet, but there were several buslines in the city, also one that headed for the quarter where Boscone was living with his family. After having left the bus, Nielsen walked for five minutes, and then he reached the apartment block where Boscone was living. He took the stairs to the third floor, and knocked. Boscone opened the door.
“Hey, you’re not one of my students,” he said.
“Correct, Mr. Boscone. I have something important to discuss with you,” Nielsen said.
“Now I don’t have the time. My students will arrive in 10 minutes. Come back in two hours,” Boscone said. He tried to close the door, but Nielsen put his foot between the door and the notch.
“Like I said, Mr. Boscone, I have something important to discuss with you. And it is urgent,” Nielsen said.
“Sir, I don’t know who you are, but you leave the building now, or else I call the police,” Boscone said.
“You want to call the police? Do so. Then I will tell the police some interesting things about your skiing holidays in Nichtstein,” Nielsen said.
“My skiing holidays in Nichtstein? What are you talking about?” Boscone asked.
“I can say that here, or I can say that inside,” Nielsen said.
“Porca miseria,” Boscone said. Then he let Nielsen in. “And now what?” he asked.
Nielsen took an envelope out of his pocket and dragged a couple of pictures out of it. The pictures were taken by the Nichtsteiner secret service a couple of years ago. The first ones showed Boscone on the skiing piste talking to a young blonde skiing teacher. Then there were several pictures of Boscone making love to that young blonde skiing teacher.
“Ma che cazzo sei? Un agente segreto? Di dove? Nigdesteine o Eiffellandia? E perché sei qui?” Boscone asked. What the fuck are you? A secret agent? From where? Nichtstein or Eiffelland? And why are you here?
“Non è importante di dove sono o chi sono. Ho qualche domande a te. Rispondi e partiro,” Nielsen said. It’s not important where I come from or who I am. I have some questions to you. Answer them and I’ll go.
“How do you want me to force them to answer? Homosexuality is not prosecuted against in the Carentanian Occupational Zone. Contrary to the zone that sent you in here. Why should I talk?” Boscone asked.
“Maybe to save your marriage? Or your face towards the other people in this apartment house? And the SNC only temporarily lifted the prosecution against homosexuals. And what about your students?” Nielsen said.
At that moment, somebody knocked at the door. Boscone opened. It was one of his students. “Ah, Torrenzano, welcome. I have to discuss something important with this man first. Please seat yourself in the living room,” he said. Then he led Nielsen to his bedroom out of lack of another suitable room.
“This is a bit of an odd place, but this apartment is so small that I don’t have a separate working room,” he said. “So, what do you want to know?” And Nielsen started to ask questions about Badoglio. Boscone answered all the questions. While both men talked, Bsocone’s other students knocked at the front door as well. Boscone had to let them in, but that was the only interruption.
In the end, Nielsen knew what he had to know. He also got a group picture of a couple of years ago, taken of all the public prosecutors a couple of years ago. The names of the prosecutors were indicated on them, including Badoglio’s name.
21 January 1954
“What? Again that motorcycle,” Matthias Weiß thought while looking in the back view mirror of his motorcycle. He opened the throttle to full speed, and the motorcycle spurted forward. Matthias and Marco had already been followed several times, but the last two times by someone on quite a powerful machine. Luckily Matthias’s motorcycle still outpowered the other one, but nevertheless. And more in general, it was a bit alarming that somebody wanted to follow them. Matthias had always taken into account that his relationship with Marco would be discovered. They had already managed to keep it a secret for almost two years. Two fantastic years. But now it seemed that the fantastic time they had together was about to end.
“Were we followed again?” Marco asked. They had reached their destination: An abandoned farm far away from civilisation.
“Yes,” Matthias said.
“Matthias, I’m scared. What if people discover us? What are we going to do then?” Marco asked.
“I don’t know,” Matthias said. “But maybe there is a way out.”
“How?” Marco asked.
“We could go to Eiffelland,” Matthias said. “Maybe you could even study there. Your German is good enough to follow courses at the university.”
“But then I would really cut all my ties to my past,” Marco said. “Eiffelland is your mother country, but I would be a complete stranger there, despite my language skills.”
“But what kind of future will you have here? Indeed, this is your mother country, but it is also your mother country that forces us to go into hiding. When your countrymen would have their way, we both would be executed, simply because we love each other. We won’t have that problem in Eiffelland,” Matthias said.
“If we live in the bigger cities, that is,” Marco said.
“We’ll make sure that we’ll live in the bigger cities,” Matthias said. “But apart from us, you know who you are and you know what you are. Your countrymen won’t accept you the way you are. You will always have to hide here. What would you do? Marry a woman to satisfy the outside world, and make yourself and her unhappy?”
“Matthias, for you it is easy, but not for me. No matter what I choose, I will always loose. Either my family, or a life in which I don’t have to lie. That is not a choice I can make in a split second. I need time for that. Please give me that,” Marco said.
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OOC: Ach du Scheisse. I'll correct it.
Black nights’ tango
General Modersohn looked through the window of the hotel. What he saw could be described best as an enormous building site. Or better said a rebuilding site, because large parts of the city were still in ruins. Yesterday evening he had flown from Testono to here to visit the Eiffellandian soldiers and civilians working in Testono, as well as talking to representants of the Solaris living in the refugee camps near Testono or in Testono itself, which was possible because some buildings had survived the war and some city quarters had been rebuilt. But today he would meet several local members of the Consiglio del Centro e Sud-Est (CCSE) to discuss current matters, and he would meet Count Stefano di Perugia.
Meanwhile the protests had become less violent, after Modersohn had talked very clearly to the current leader of the Solaris Catholic Church, Cardinal Cortez, a Solaris from Frescanian descent who used to be the second in command of the Solaris Catholic Church and currently led the Church on behalf of Pope Urban IV, who was still in a Nicosian prison. Modersohn had to threat Cortez with the pictures taken during the latter’s trip to Eiffelland in 1947  again. But Modersohn also realised that Cortez was not capable of stopping the Solaris from being unsatisfied with the presence of the occupational forces. The only thing that had changed, was that the religiously motivated protests had become less violent. The hatred remained, especially the hatred towards liberal ideas. Especially that was a clear miscalculation of the Eiffellandians; apparently it was not enough to show that you are a better master than the previous one. And indeed, Count Stefano di Perugia and his PSL had a difficult task. And he had one thing in common with the Eiffellandians: Both were very good in thinking out a concept, but very bad in telling the world that it is a good concept. And neither understood the concept of populism, something that both the Alleanza della Fede and the SNC understood much better.
Modersohn was disturbed in his thoughts by a knock on the door of his room. It was one of his guards, who indicated that Di Perugia had arrived. Modersohn said that he could be sent into his room. Immediately after that, Di Perugia entered the room.
“Good afternoon, Sir, how are you?” Modersohn asked.
“I’m fine, thank you. My son is going to marry in May, so we are quite busy with that. The two are really in love,” Di Perugia said.
“That’s good to hear. I’m very happy for you and your family,” Modersohn said. “But now something else. We need to discuss the future.”
“Indeed,” Di Perugia said. “We never know when the SNC finally agrees on a constitution, and then we have to be ready. Is there any news on that?”
“Not yet,” Modersohn said. “The SNC is still deliberating. And to be honest, I doubt if they will ever agree on it. But we have to be prepared in case they present a radical socialist constitution.”
“What are you going to do then?” Di Perugia asked.
“In that case, I will hold a press conference in which I will state that this new constitution is too radical to just impose upon the Solaris, and that a referendum about the new constitution is needed. The ultimate decision will be to turn the Eiffellandian Occupational Zone into the Democratic Republic of Solaren, based on the constitution I suggested to implement last year, but first we will try everything to prevent that by means of a massive publicity campaign. And for that, we will need you, together with the CCSE,” Modersohn said.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we discuss that together with the CCSE?” Di Perugia asked.
At that moment, somebody knocked at the door. It was Modersohn’s guard again, this time to introduce Cosimo Giannotti, the chairman of the CCSE. Modersohn indicated to let him in, and then introduced Giannotti and Di Perugia to each other. Then all men seated themselves.
“Sir,” Giannotti asked, “there is one thing that you need to get out of the way, and that is that homosexuality issue.”
“Well, I prooved that those pictures from the Gazetta di Torrenza are fake. What else should i do?” Di Perugia asked.
“It’s not only that, it’s also your and your party’s liberal stance on homosexuality in general,” Giannotti said. “Believe me, with those stances, only the people who agree with them wil vote for you. You’ have to do something iwith that.”
“We already did,” Di Perugia said. “We changed the party program into indicating that we will follow the will of the Solaris with respect to that.”
“So no legalisation of homosexuality under you?” Giannotti asked.
“At this moment not, because a majority of the Solaris does not want it,” Di Perugia said.
“I toast on a good cooperation between us,” Giannotti said.
 Please see http://www.europe-game.eu/showthread.php?t=10460&p=306080&viewfull=1#post306080.
"Isn't that a little drastic?"
The slightly bald man, middle-aged, an uninspiring beuraucratic figure named Guiseppe di Testono looked with slight disbelief at his superior. Guiseppe was a state secretary for the interim government, namely in the Ministry of the Interior and he wasn't too sure that the plan of his superior, Interim Minister Carlo Asta, was a smart one.
"I think this entire scenario is too unlikely," he explained himself to the Minister, "and even if Guiliani goes rogue, wouldn't the Carentanians step in immediately?"
Silvio Guiliani, interim gouvernor of the province of Capraria, had grown frustrated over the situation in the SNC and mainland Solaren and had not made any secret of his views. Compared to the mainland, that was torn between unrest, the lockdown of the constitutional assembly due to ideological disagreements and the wrestling for the future alignment of Solaren between Carentania and Eiffelland, Capraria was a decent place to be. Almost peaceful and its population optimistic about the future. Compared to the mainland, it was a socialist and liberal heaven, although, given the unrest, that wasn't saying all too much.
Still, Guiliani had been a very vocal supporter of Socialism in Solaren from the beginning of the war and he had been a loyal supporter of the Solaren National Congress until recently. His personal frustration, but also the comparatively better outlook on Capraria, had driven the man away from the leadership in Torrence and Mazara, into the arms of an independence movement. There was talk of leaving Solaren and finding their own future in Capraria and it was serious.
"Forget the Carentanians, they wouldn't raise a finger. They've got what they want and could live with the status quo and if Solaren splinters into small states, that would be just as well with them, as long as they keep their foothold on this side of the Long Sea."
The minister sighed in frustration, putting aside the stamp with which he had just formalized the orders he was giving.
"I know we need the Carentanians and they have been a decent source of support in the past, but don't forget that they have their own reasons for being here and these are not necessarily the same as our national and popular ones. No, we have to take Guiliani serious and act to keep him in line."
"If he's so bent on independence, won't sending troops to Capraria worsen the situation?"
"I know Guiliani from back in the days," the minister replied slightly irritated at his subordinates insistence. "While you were busy serving Urbans government, we were in exile, preparing for the day this dreaded theocracy would fall. While you lived the same life you live now, we lived in fear of Urbans assassins and killer squadrons. We're still friends and Guiliani will respect what I have to do. He won't have Capraria go at the expense of our friendship..."
"Very well sir, I will order the 3rd. Carabineri to be repositioned from Mazara to Panetelleria. I will find some excuse as to why we are moving a unit of the police force to Capraria."
"Good, good... and Guiseppe. Sorry about my words. It wasn't fair. I know you had your reasons for staying."
"Don't mind it, Sir."
Four Knights Game
"Happy birthday, you old hound."
There was laughter everywhere as guest after guest congratulated Antonelli on his fourthy-fifth birthday, trying to outdo the person before them in witty humour. The mood was jovial, it was a rare moment of pure, unadultered happiness in a Solaren on the brink of civil war.
"Alright, alright, you leeches. Leave him some air to breathe."
His sister intervened, shaking her hand at the guests like she was swapping flies aside. Maria had always been his guardian angel, Antonelli thought as she dragged him aside to sit down with his closest friends and family, leaving the other guests to enjoy the celebration in the main hall of the rural villa.
"It's good to see you. You've been gone too long," Lucas Molino said, an old friend from the times in the army. He had been with Antonelli ever since they both joined the officer school. "How is it up north in Galara? We hear so little from you."
Antonelli moaned as politics creeped back into his daily life. But he couldn't deny his friend the curiosity. Molino was worried, just like the rest of the people he knew.
"It's worse than in the south, believe it or not. A lot of old loyalists have fled there and they are bitter and angry. They blame the defeat on the population and have little respect for the common people. That's why they care not who gets hurt or killed by their terrorism. Fanatics, that's what they are and we have to deal with them daily, while I hear, here in the south, it's only once per week for my colleagues."
"Even that is far too much," Maria spoke up with a hint of cold anger in her voice.
"What's worse is that the Carentanians, the Eiffelländer and the Nichtsteiner, they can never agree on who is responsible. The fanatics they move freely between the occupational zones, placing a bomb in Galara, then fleeing to a village in the Nichtsteiner zone, where they kill someone just to retreat back south. Whenever we are pursuing them, we reach some border we can't cross without filling in paperwork and when we finally managed to inform every responsible authority and get the all-clear signal, the fanatics are long gone."
Molino poured his friend a glass of wine, then spoke softly:
"It's about time we take the future of Solaren back into our own hands. I'm sick and tired of sitting around, waiting for the Carentanians and the Eiffelländer to settle their differences and release Solaren from their constant infighting. A lot of people think that way, Antonio. We need to make ourselves heard, form a faction that fights for the interests of the Solaren people, not their own or those of foreign powers. And to do that, we need you."
Antonelli was slightly bewildered, even though he had, in the past, toyed with the idea.
"Me? The 'arch-traitor of Iscla'? My name would harm any national movement, not embolden it."
"Do you want to know where I was when you surrendered on Iscla," Molino asked rhetorically, immediately answering his own question: "I was leading a unit positioned to defend Mazara. Do you want to know what my first thought was? That the war must be lost. You're a man of honor and of courage. Qualities a criminal regime likes to claim, but it can never impersonate. That you abandoned this regime was inevitable and it was justified. Everyone knows your name, Antonio, this is never a bad thing and more than we can say about anyone else on this table. What this name and face means to the people of Solaren can be changed. You can be a symbol, you can be Solaren impersonated: the fallen colonel for a fallen nation - his rise like phoenix from the ashes symbolic of the rise back to greatness our country has yet to make."
"Hilarious," Antonelli laughed in response. "But not back, as always. I see you're still the poet you've always been at heart, Lucas."
Separate names with a comma.