WA Delegate: The United Republic of Richomp (elected )
Last WA Update:
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Today's World Census Report
The Highest Economic Output in Dauiland
World Census bean-counters crunched the numbers to calculate national Gross Domestic Product. Older nations, with higher populations, were noted to have a distinct advantage.
As a region, Dauiland is ranked 1,225th in the world for Highest Economic Output.
|1.||The Articulate Republic of Rahul Raghuraman||Left-Leaning College State Deluded Tax and Spend Hypocrites||“Forever advancing!”|
|2.||The BLM of Nazbeth||Left-wing Utopia Drugged-Out Hippies||“Black Lives Matter”|
|3.||The HOLIEST HOLY LAND of HOLYDIA||Psychotic Dictatorship Communist Dictatorship||“I am your GOD, Poobah!”|
|4.||The Golden Haven of Liberlitatia||Civil Rights Lovefest Nation-Hating Hippies||“Luckiest nation in the multiverse!”|
|5.||The United Republic of Richomp||Left-Leaning College State Deluded Tax and Spend Hypocrites||“oeconomia ad libertatem ad enviorment”|
|6.||The Free State of Crimtonian Spectre||Civil Rights Lovefest Nation-Hating Hippies||“Live Free or Die”|
|7.||The Sweet Islands of Candy and Chocolate||Democratic Socialists Hell||“Tout est bon avec du sucre!”|
|8.||The Dictatorship of Sheev Palaptine||Iron Fist Consumerists Champions of Commerce||“I am the Senate. It's treason then!”|
|9.||The Factbook Writers of Our Official FB Nation||Inoffensive Centrist Democracy Communists||“Dauiland’s Official Factbook Storage”|
|10.||The Republic of TLU Canon Info||Psychotic Dictatorship Communist Dictatorship||“Lets not go that way”|
- : Embassy cancelled between The empire of common territories and Dauiland.
- : Sovak medasic ceased to exist.
- : Embassy cancelled between Natura and Dauiland.
- : Embassy established between BCHS and Dauiland.
- : The Articulate Republic of Rahul Raghuraman agreed to construct embassies with BCHS.
- : The Holy Empire of Ian Kemble of the region BCHS proposed constructing embassies.
- : Embassy established between The Great Union and Dauiland.
- : The BLM of Nazbeth agreed to construct embassies with The Great Union.
- : Sovak medasic arrived from Osiris.
- : The 4th Royal Confederation of Arkilandic of the region The Great Union proposed constructing embassies.
Dauiland Regional Message Board
Title: The First Councillor
Experience: Brother of Enno Karvis, whose sacrifice vs Kena enabled the DA to turn the war in their favor
Title: The Second Councillor
Experience: Goa Lore’s brother; presumed dead after Tessin sabotaged the train he was on and shot him; not informing Goa of his survival as the CoF needs secrecy for it to survive and because Goa’d want him to return to Megapolis so they can catch up, etc., which Arven can’t do as he prioritizes the ultimate goal above even Goa
Title: The Third Councillor
Experience: Last Kaltam PM; ordered launching of Finality against Odil Rostenstaphen’s revenant army, to which Rostenstaphen responded with an equally deadly counterstrike
Title: The Fourth Councillor
Experience: Sister of Elko Sevanis, who was pressed into service and murdered by the Empire after he led a mutiny by soldiers who refused to fire on civilians
Title: Governor of Josezhey
Experience: Mother of Ofrant Kadhir, who was shot by a gunman in Unidalania's only mass shooting of the 21st century
Title: Aide to the Governor of Josezhey
Experience: <to be revealed>
More MVers exists that the reader does not yet know of.
Once again, his plan was failing.
Of the ten Lesser he had influenced and brought here, to the iron wall, seven had banded together to tell him the barrier was simply impenetrable, in what they thought was a group too large for him to simply kill off.
But no punishment was too harsh, no sacrifice not worth it, no death too high a price for him — he would have all that was beyond the wall. It was his destiny.
Turning his focus to the three remaining Lesser entities, he implanted in their minds the question of what they were going to do next, backed up by the image of the lifeless bodies of their kind roughly piled against the wall several meters away as a reminder of the cost of failure.
One of the Lesser merely picked up a hammer and started repeatedly hitting it against the wall.
Useless fool, he thought, influencing the other two to deal with the annoyance. One complied, but the other, who had been exhibiting indications of leadership over this Lesser group since coming here, remained still.
Again, he tried to sway this one to dispatch the Lesser currently hammering at the wall, but, again, they refused. And then they gave him images. The images said, “Spare their life, and I will tell you how to succeed.”
He drew the Lesser that had complied with his kill-order away from their target, then returned his attention to the leader, inducing them to share with him their new idea. This time, they chose to obey.
They gave him two images. The first was of far outsiders — entities from afar, not like the Lesser he was dealing with; they were coming here, also intending to take that which lay past the wall. The second was of those foreigners succeeding, using their outsider tools and technology to destroy a portion of the wall large enough for two to walk through side-by-side.
He asked through inserted images how they knew this would happen. The Lesser responded with a display of uncertainty that the specific images they had provided would come to happen, but a guarantee that there were many far outsiders, and some would inevitably arrive at the wall, whether intentionally or not.
Satisfied, he gave the Lesser entity one final image. It contained a concept about which he had always known, but which he had only used once before, after a far outsider had helped him: gratitude.
And then he gave an order to the other two: kill your leader, then yourselves.
He had promised the Lesser leader that he would spare the life of the idiotic one, but now, he had the knowledge he needed, and there was no point in letting any of them live.
For he was cruel, and cruelty forbids trust.
As always, the Councilroom was large, low, and dim, lit only by a set of candles — a reminder of past centuries, when setting fire to wick was the innovation of the time. In the room’s core was a rectangular wooden table which held the candles in its center, and around the table were seated the four Councillors, convening for the first time in weeks.
Unlike the previous meeting, there were no extra chairs placed around the table waiting to be occupied by the Governor of Josezhey and her wily assistant. But once again, Harlin Enolin had brought essential information to their attention. One hour before the gathering of the four, he had transmitted to Councillor Arven Lore a copy of an official NIB document, simply entitled “Scinrea Report,” with an equally succinct message from the Modus Vivendi operative: Acquired by Gov. Kadhir from Sec. Gierplun. Detailed events could have vast ramifications.
The Councillors of Four had spent enough time reading the Unidalanian Intelligence report, and now it was time to talk.
“My friends, this is what will inevitably happen when Scinrea is allowed to do whatever she wants,” Gious Sevanis, the Fourth Councillor, began the discussion, her words predictably blunt. “She captured the Unidalanian agent, Bersan Sieders, when her job was simply to neutralize the Trinity Corporation. She continued to deviate from her orders when, for no apparent reason, she revealed to him the existence of the Sanctuary, and—”
“We understand what you’re saying, Gious,” interjected the Second Councillor. “But Scinrea didn’t die because she expressed freedom and did something outside the plan. She died because the figure called ‘the Harbinger’ killed her.”
“And how did the Harbinger find her, Arven? Because she stayed at Trinity to interrogate Sieders,” Gious parried. “If she’d dealt with Conag Lokamir and the rest of Trinity’s leadership and simply left the base as planned, we might be talking to her right now.”
“If the Harbinger could track Scinrea down to the Trinity headquarters, she could track Scinrea down to anywhere,” Arven said coolly. “Whatever the case, though, I think we should put this point aside. When Scinrea became human, she gained the ability to ‘do whatever she wanted,’ as you put it. She was no longer a mere computed intelligence — she was a human one, so her mind no longer unquestioningly accepted our instructions. It became inevitable that she would begin to do things her own way.”
“I must concur with Arven’s judgement,” the First Councillor said, drawing a candle from the center of the table towards its edge to illuminate his face. He wore a grave expression, and directed his words at the Fourth Councillor. “According to you, Gious, in breaking from her task of simply dealing with Lokamir and moving on, Scinrea also broke from her deal with us. Is that correct?”
“That is correct,” Gious said.
“Then may I remind you that the idea of , but Scinrea’s?” Orlind said somberly. “And that because it was Scinrea’s plan, she had the right to execute it however she wished?”
Before Gious could respond, the Third Councillor spoke: “You cannot draw the second conclusion from the first. None of us can refute the fact that Scinrea formulated the plan we instructed her to carry out, but I don’t recall any fact stating that the creator of a plan has the unconditional authority to choose the method with which it is accomplished.”
“Possibly, but—” Orlind tried to rebut.
“We especially shouldn’t have trusted Scinrea as much as we did with accomplishing her objective,” Vick Estamin added anyway, “because of the mental instability she suffered after her transformation from an android into a human.”
When Orlind didn’t attempt again to protest Vick’s rejoinder, Gious elected to do so. “You act as if Scinrea only felt overwhelm when she became human, but that was not at all the truth. Certainly she felt inundated by the new demands and emotions she faced and experienced, but Scinrea also felt anger: anger towards Gene Russell.”
Orlind saw where the First Councillor was going with this. “It was that anger that led to Scinrea plugging Gene Russell and Tessin into the Sanctuary,” he picked up. “According to Sieders’s report, Tessin was abducted by the Harbinger, but Gene Russell is still in the Sanctuary. More importantly, she was in the Sanctuary nearly the whole time Scinrea was human. That gave Scinrea the time she needed — and, if she were still alive, would continue to give her the time she would need — to destroy Tessin’s legacy without any interference from Russell.”
Vick scowled; Orlind barely noticed, as the expression was only a miniscule departure from his usual face. “Don’t be so easily deceived, Councillor,” he said. If voices could have facial expressions, his would be glowering, too. “That was a coincidence, not some masterminded scheme of Scinrea’s.”
“I’m anything but credulous, Vick,” Orlind countered. “It’s at least as likely that it was more than luck, given the terms of our arrangement.”
“Really,” Vick said flatly.
“Really,” Orlind returned, hoping to somehow get through the Third Councillor’s stubbornness. “Shall I remind you exactly what that deal was?”
Vick remained silent, and Orlind took it as a sign of indifference. “We were to help Scinrea in her transition to humanhood and supply her with the resources she needed for her achievement of her objective and, if necessary, her own basic survival,” he decided to explain. “She would carry out that plan — destroying Tessin’s legacy — for two reasons: first, in exchange for our aid, and second, because her newfound humanity caused her to feel animosity towards Gene Russell for making her human, and she felt that erasing all indications of Tessin’s life would cause Russell anguish.”
After a few moments of silence, when Vick knew the other was finished talking, he said, “I know all that, Orlind. There’s obviously something you’re trying to tell me. Just get to the core of your monologue.”
Disregarding the disdain in Vick’s tone, Orlind did so. “Scinrea knew that plugging Russell and Tessin into the Sanctuary made it easier for her to destroy Tessin’s legacy.”
Now knowing the First Councillor’s point, Vick mostly dropped his displeased demeanor. “So you argue that her actions were a consequence of logic, not emotion.”
“Correct,” Orlind said, cautiously satisfied.
Vick started to reply, but this time it was he who was interrupted. “Councillor Orlind Karvis,” Arven Lore said, his tone odd and unreadable. “Councillor Vick Estamin. Councillor Gious Sevanis.”
The three others looked to him to signal their attention. Somehow, they could tell he was going to say something important.
“There’s no other way to say this: I’m disappointed in all of you,” Arven said. “You have been talking about Scinrea as if she had never become a human — no, not even that; she even had a mind when she was an android. But you have been acting as if she were no more intelligent than a machine tool, and you have gone against everything we claim to represent as Councillors. I’m disappointed, and I’m astonished that none of you have realized your hypocrisy. Our ultimate goal, Orlind; Vick; Gious — our ultimate goal is curing death, so shouldn’t you treat Scinrea’s life with some respect? Scinrea wasn’t a device that we could utilize as we pleased. She wasn’t a basic logic program that acted on input based on certain conditions. She was a person, and even before that, an intelligence.”
The Councilroom was quiet for a long moment. Arven could see the other three Councillors, at their own various paces, grow pensive and think about his words, understand the truth behind them, and put together a sincere apology.
Orlind was the first to speak.
“You’re completely right, of course, Arven,” he said quietly. “I spoke and acted poorly and in a manner not befitting the Council of Four. Scinrea was a true person, as alive as we are. I apologize.”
Arven smiled faintly. “Good, Orlind. Thank you,” he said. “Gious? Vick?”
Gious looked back up towards him, and gave an apology as eloquent and clearly honest as Orlind’s. The Fourth Councillor’s statement was acknowledged by Arven, and he looked to Vick. The Kaltamian simply gave a nod, but Arven knew the gesture was as genuine as Orlind and Gious’s spoken apologies.
Arven nodded back in acceptance. “Good,” he said again. “I don’t like to reprimand the three who saved my life.” He meant it; it felt wrong to reprove his friends and allies, even though he knew their wrongness. A reminder of the dangers of letting attachment obstruct one’s better judgement.
“Still, it’s pointless to bicker over what we could have done to help Scinrea stay alive. We know from the NIB report that the Harbinger killed her some time ago, and there’s no reactivating her,” he continued, choosing his words deliberately. “We need to think about what we’re to do now.”
Deciding that he had talked enough, Arven returned the candle illumining his features to the middle of the table, indicating to the rest that he was surrendering the discussion to them.
“Any thoughts?” Vick said gruffly.
“Yes,” Orlind replied after a moment. “As Arven said, Scinrea is dead now. We can’t just recharge her batteries, or even send her to a hospital, before sending her back into the world, but she did almost entirely succeed in her plans. Tessin’s legacy is nearly gone.” He shrugged minutely. “We could form a new plan based on that.”
“What do you mean?” inquired Vick.
“The original reason we wanted to destroy Tessin’s legacy was so that Gene would have nobody to turn to but Scinrea, who would direct her to us.”
“How is that relevant to your idea? Scinrea is gone,” Vick asked, sounding mildly grateful that Orlind had gotten right to the point this time.
“Instead of Gene only helping us as an engineer,” Orlind said slowly, visibly thinking things out as he spoke, “she could also help us as the person who made Scinrea into a human — as a designer of life.”
“That sounds reasonable,” Vick responded, “except for the part where I said that Scinrea is dead. Without her, Russell has no reason to help us. It’s possible she doesn’t know about us at all, since we don’t know if Scinrea told her about our existence.”
“Then we create a reason for her to help,” Orlind said, more confident now that he had educed his proposal. “Gene is currently trapped in the Sanctuary, so why don’t we send someone into it to help her escape?”
“Why don’t we just unplug her?” Arven asked from the darkness.
“Because,” spoke up the Fourth Councillor, “Gene Russell is a person-driven person.” Before Vick had the chance to make a sarcastic remark asking what that could possibly mean, she added: “I was Scinrea’s liaison with the Council. I know from her that there’s incredible realism within the world — and especially the people — of the Sanctuary. If Gene has found and made connections with those people…”
“She’d be angry, not grateful, towards us,” Arven abruptly understood, “for forcing her away from them, and from a satisfying conclusion.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Arven said. “I can understand how easy falsehoods are much more tempting than difficult truths.”
“Then we’re agreed?” Orlind asked.
“I am,” said Arven.
“So am I, naturally,” Gious said.
“Even if I said no, I’d be outnumbered, wouldn’t I?” Vick said, then gave an exaggerated sigh to show that he was being facetious. “I concur,” he said in seriousness.
“Then it’s unanimous,” Gious said. “And I think I know the best person for this mission…”
Yinro Morn had not expected the Council of Four to give him an assignment so soon after his last one, and so he replied to Gious Sevanis with a mix of caution and compliment. “I understand what you want me to do,” he said. “I have one question, though: is the Council’s fundamental strategy for achieving the ultimate goal still the same?”
“What do you know about the strategy?”
“It’s essentially a modification of what the Liberlitatian engineer did with her android, Scinrea. Instead of taking an existing android and replacings its AI with a new human brain, you want to take the mind and build an android body around it.”
“Nothing explicit, but I assume the mind will be a new one that’s been given the memories and personality of the original.”
“Good thinking, Yinro,” Councillor Sevanis said. “You’re right on our overarching approach, and your assumption is also correct. And to answer your question, yes, both of those things will remain the same.”
Yinro nodded, his curiosity satisfied. “Thank you. I’ve received the coordinates you sent, and I’ll depart within the day.”
Gene Russell was irked that Masapolia’s garrison forces had chosen the day she and the covert were in the city to institute a stricter curfew. She knew it was probably because they were there, but still… General Detrane had seemed so arrogant when they had defeated him on the monorail. Why couldn’t he just stay overconfident like a good incompetent Imperial?
“Gene?” came a voice from behind her. She turned around, hoping her illogical and impotent irritation wasn’t showing. She knew — and Pellaton had told her — that their victory two days earlier meant the Empire would focus more attention on them: the Imperials would see them as the threat they were.
It was Morn. “Hello,” she said.
“Hello.” He looked around, then said, “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
Now Gene was curious. Morn hadn’t struck her as a very secretive person. “What is it?”
Morn sat down next to her. “Do you remember trying to explain to Pellaton that you’re from another reality, and that this one is a simulation?”
Gene frowned; her memory of that conversation was distant. “Sort of. It was a long time ago.”
“Well, I’m also from that other reality. I just arrived in this one, and I’ve come to help get you back.” He chose not to mention that Gene’s conversation with Pellaton had occurred shortly after they defeated General Detrane.
“Isn’t that already what you and the others are trying to do?”
“Yes,” Morn said, “but I brought some knowledge that the simulated me didn’t have, including some information about Scinrea.” He mentally braced himself; Gene had been close with Scinrea, and despite the former android’s sudden turn to cruelty, he knew Gene wouldn’t like this news. “Unfortunately, Scinrea has been killed. She was found—”
“Hold on,” Gene interrupted. “Who’s Scinrea?”
The Protector Program had been undertaken in Kaltam in secret ever since PM Tiveron’s election, and its advances in the field of science were unparalleled. Not only did it develop the supermechs that the program was named for, but it also developed the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence — and the most powerful atomic bomb in history. The bomb, codenamed Finality, was created by accident, and was never intended to be used. However, when Emperor Rostenstaphen emerged from hiding with an army twenty times more powerful than anyone could have predicted, newly elected Kaltamian PM Vick Estamin was faced with an impossible decision. The use of Finality on Rostenstaphen’s troops would cause unspeakable carnage and fallout on a scale never seen before — yet the alternative was equally unthinkable. In the end, Estamin decided to use the bomb. But again, he made the crucial mistake of underestimating Rostenstaphen. Only seconds after Estamin ordered the attack, Finality was detected. The nuclear counter-strike, using stockpiled WMDs that Kaltam had no way of knowing Rostenstaphen had, decimated the entire country, causing unspeakable, horrifying destruction. The official count is that every single resident of Kaltam, plus millions of others nearby killed by the fallout, all perished — hundreds of millions in total. Rostenstaphen’s army, too, was decimated, dying off by the millions.
The legacy of this unprecedented nuclear conflict — a smaller-scale, yet still immense reenactment of global Armageddon — defied the principal of mutually assured destruction in the most shocking way possible. The fallout was immense. Kaltam was converted into a nuclear wasteland, now known as the Wastes. The part of Crimtonia hit by Finality was fully contaminated, as well. The Crimtonian area around the Wastes remains lawless and in an anarchic state, known as the Ashes. Somehow, Rostenstaphen managed to survive, and later turned up in an Imperial prison.
Rumors persist, including that Estamin and perhaps a few hundred others managed to survive underground, but all are unconfirmed. What is known is the presence of miles of unmapped, unexplored tunnels beneath the Wastes’ surface. Known as the Wastes Complex, the general consensus among the Dauiland Alliance is that it is far too dangerous to venture into, regardless of what answers it may hold. However, the Alliance has taken extensive measures to prevent the spread and potential escape of dangers such as radioactive fallout, contaminated soil, and mutated plants and animals. These measures have been led by the Wastes’ neighboring nations of Nazbeth, Crimtonian Spectre, Richomp, and Deplandia, and include regular surveillance, the erection of walls, and the implementation of strict control laws. All travel to the Wastes, except as part of tightly regulated surveillance missions, is strictly prohibited.
Finally, he could sense it. No, not it: them. The Far Outsiders.
As the Lesser had promised, they were coming. Coming to him. And as he waited, he hoped for this experience with them to prove as triumphant as the last. The first. The encounter that had let him come here, to the wall: the barrier separating him from the future, from that which he rightly deserved. From that which we would obtain. It was inevitable.
He had never once been beyond the wall, seen that which awaited his arrival; he had never felt it, heard it, touched it, but he knew it was there. He knew, because it belonged to him.
So he hoped that, once again, he would have reason to express gratitude for what the Far Outsiders provided for him, for he hoped that, once again, the Far Outsiders would provide for him destiny.
Goa Lore continued to pace back and forth in front of the floor-to-ceiling window of the Secondary Office of the Administrative President. The room was sparsely appointed, and although it had been constructed in the 2030s, when the Unidalanian capital was severely overpopulated, its minimalist design remained a symbol of power in the still-dense state. An oval desk sat in the center of the room, with ten meters of prized empty space separating it from the imitation-glass and fifteen meters from the walls and door. The Audience Reception Seat of the Administrative President — a title just as unnecessarily elegant and eloquent as that of the office — was unoccupied, with Goa’s guest waiting comfortably in the Space of the Honored Visitor of the Administrative President.
The Space’s hemispherical form-adapting seat had been installed halfway into Sary Hykks’s first term: the first time Goa had ever entered the room. He had immediately noticed that while the AP was given a luxurious half-couch where they could rest and listen, the guest had no more than a simple office chair on which to sit. His staff had explained that the chair was a result of the bureaucracy-trimming projects of Velka Karroe, the Conservative president who had preceded Goa. When asked how a creaky swivel chair was in any way related to government efficiency, his aide had merely shrugged and said, “Maybe so people are less inclined to come here to ask the Administrative President for funds.”
In the following days, Goa had embarked on a tour of all the other offices under his authority that he had not yet visited — he’d unearthed seven before Hykks had recalled him back to Genovapola to attend to more important matters — to root out any other ridiculous remnants of Karroe’s crusade.
“It’s been ten minutes.”
Kentar Gierplun’s voice snapped Goa out of his tangential reverie. “Sorry,” he said, stopping and turning to his friend. “You’ve been waiting here a while, haven’t you?”
“Ten minutes,” the Secretary of Intelligence repeated dryly. “You seem uneasy about the news,” he added, taking on a more serious tone.
“Uneasy?” Goa echoed, slipping into the Audience Reception Seat and finally making eye contact with Kentar. “Why wouldn’t I feel uneasy? Did you read what you sent me?”
“I did, obviously. Twice, in fact. But that just makes me need to know even more badly why you’re behaving like this. I expected you to be overjoyed when you learned that your brother is alive.”
“I would be, if I knew one thing: is Governor Kadhir telling the truth? Because if she’s not — if she tricked you like that, knowing you’d immediately come to me with the news…”
Kentar’s lip twitched. “Kadhir may seem unstable during those campaign rallies of hers, but I have a suspicion that at least some of it is an act. She has always been a very thorough politician, and I doubt she would rely on falsehoods for something so major,” he said, addressing both the governor’s sanity and the reliability of her information at once using the rare mix of a politician’s tact and a soldier’s bluntness that had made him NIB Director.
“She’s an alt-rightist,” Goa said with none of the tact and all of the bluntness.
“Which is why I also made it clear during my meeting with her that she had better be correct,” Kentar assured him. “I reminded her that it’s typically a poor idea to lie to the head of Unidalania’s lie-finding bureau. She nevertheless said Arven’s alive, which means that Arven is alive.”
Goa took this in slowly; his expression stayed impassive, but Kentar could recognize the stress fade from his friend’s mind in favor of resolve and intention.
“Thank you, Kentar,” he said after a few minutes. “I needed to hear that.”
“I know,” Kentar said. “And thank you, too, for allowing me to clear your doubts.”
Goa nodded sagely, followed by a moment of silence too short to put either of them into a studious mood yet long enough to be awkward.
“So what now?” Kentar asked.
“Now,” Goa said with the determination Kentar had identified, “we find Arven.”
“Oh.” The director squirmed slightly in his seat, the folds of the shapeshifting cushion transforming to support him as he moved.
“What is it?”
“It’s just that…” he trailed off indecisively. Should he say this at all? It might cause Goa to fall back into disquietude, and was that something that Kentar, as Goa’s friend, should do?
Yes, he decided. It is something I should do. It is not unkind to speak a truth that has to be known: it is unkind to hide it.
“The thing is,” he said out loud, “if Arven has been alive all this time and has kept his survival a secret… couldn’t there be a good reason for that? What if he can’t afford to tell you he’s alive? What if more lives than his are involved?”
Goa placed his hands on the desk in an intentional emulation of the gesture Kentar himself liked to use to show confidence. “There could be,” he said, “but there are just as many bad reasons we could hypothesize. Maybe someone is holding him prisoner and the fact that he’s alive barely managed to escape into our hands. Maybe he’s trapped and simply doesn’t have the means to contact us.”
“All right,” he accepted. “If there’s no question that we’re going to look for Arven—”
“And find him,” Goa interrupted, his tone passionate and filled with power for the first time since Kentar had arrived. “He’s my brother.”
“—and find him,” Kentar agreed, “then how are we going to do it?”
Goa stood and walked back to the window; Kentar followed. Together, they watched the moving scenery of Dauilan Megapolis as the Administrative President of Unidalania explained how he planned to locate his long-lost brother.
“With all due obsequiousness, Governor,” Harlin Enolin said in clear frustration, “I need to understand why you revealed to Secretary Gierplun that Arven Lore is alive.”
“I don’t think it matters that much, Enolin,” Senzala Kadhir replied casually. “I got the information the Council of Four needed, and Lore and Gierplun would never be able to find them, anyway — especially because they’re both too attached to their duties to go off on some wild hunt for a man who was killed by Tessin himself.”
Like most of their arguments, this one was in Kadhir’s office. Nobody beyond the soundproofed and half-meter-thick walls was able to hear a word of what they were saying. The governor also liked knowing that she could lock Enolin in the room whenever she wanted; Enolin simply knew that Kadhir would never subject herself to that kind of torture.
“Please, Governor. You’re too astute to tell Gierplun something so important to his close friend without it being deliberate. There’s another reason you gave him specific knowledge.”
“I’m sensing you’re hiding a secondary point from me, Enolin,” Kadhir warned, her relaxed tone replaced by the careful and complete focus of a consummate politician. “You know I don’t like it when you do that.”
“I’m not certain you’ll like my ‘secondary point’ much better,” Enolin said.
“And you won’t,” Kadhir retorted, “until you tell me.”
“Fine, then. The reason you handed that specific information over to Gierplun — besides it getting you what you needed — somehow connects to what I’ve known for a long time: you didn’t simply join the Modus Vivendi out of altruistic desire,” Enolin said. “And I am too astute to doubt that fact.”
If Kadhir was surprised by Enolin’s statement, she didn’t show it. “Of course not,” she said as if it were blindingly obvious — which, to anyone who knew Kadhir well, it essentially was. “I joined so that nobody ever again will have to go through what I did when and after Ofrant died.”
Despite the certainty in her words and his modest mistrust of everyone who wasn’t named Harlin Enolin, the governor’s assistant was sure he felt the sincerity in those words. Still, he had to press. “I’m surprised you have such selfless feelings,” he said.
“You shouldn’t be,” Kadhir responded, her voice becoming dangerous. “You still don’t even know half of who I am and what I’m capable of.”
“I may not know everything about you, but I do know that you didn’t agree to work with the Council of Four for that one reason,” Enolin returned, taking a risk in ignoring the change in his superior’s intonation, “however strong it is.”
Kadhir’s tone went deathly quiet, and he was afraid he’d finally gone too far. “It is unwise for you to brush off the murder of my daughter, Harlin Enolin.”
“I agree,” he said, doing the only thing he could. “I’m sorry, Governor Kadhir.”
Kadhir didn’t speak immediately, and when she did, Enolin instantly understood that while she was setting aside what he had just said, he shouldn’t presume that she would do so ever again. “Good, Enolin. You should be. Now, I have a question for you.”
“It’s your right to ask, Governor.”
“Yes, it is, and I expect you to answer,” Kadhir said. “Why are you questioning my reasoning at all, Enolin? Aren’t you happy that I’m on the Modus Vivendi?”
“I’m very happy you decided to join,” Enolin acknowledged, “but my job, both when I’m working for you and for the Council, is information. If the Councillors are to achieve the ultimate goal, they can’t have members of the MV holding secrets from them.”
“I’m surprised, Enolin — I didn’t predict such a flimsy argument from you. The Council of Four is itself one big secret!”
“Please don’t avoid the question. It only makes my job harder. What’s your ulterior motive, Governor? What do you expect to happen besides the goal you already stated?” Enolin demanded. “I know you don’t have only one goal in such a massive endeavor.”
“You’re right,” Kadhir conceded reluctantly, “but it’s mine to keep private. Would you like my asking you to list the causes that propelled you to join the MV? Or what you were up to before showing up at my office twenty-two months ago?”
“That information is irrelevant to the Council and the ultimate goal.”
“Then so is my other reason,” Kadhir said, opening the door behind Enolin with a button on the underside of her desk. “I’ll see you next week.”
“You indeed will,” Enolin said without protest. “I’ve been summoned to the Councilroom for a vital mission, and this debate has delayed me enough. Good day, Governor.”
“Greetings, sir,” said General Grummer Rellig, the commander of Ubiqtor Base.
“Greetings, General; I need only a moment of your time,” replied Kovalin Rynas. “I am about to depart Imperial territory on a private expedition. I expect to return in two weeks. During my absence, you are to follow standing orders and operate under normal protocol.”
“Yes, sir,” Rellig said gruffly. While at times excruciatingly slow and procedural, Rellig was always loyal to his superiors. Until the last remaining embers of the Imperial Civil War had cooled, Rynas needed to keep choosing his actions carefully.
“However, if pleasantries fail, do what makes most sense in the current situation.” Rynas didn’t think Rellig would realize this was a poke at his devotion to formalities and tradition, but he nonetheless enjoyed the slight amusement it gave him.
“Anything else, sir?”
“Intelligence Director’s authority shall be ultimate,” Rynas said, “if it comes to that.”
“Yes, sir. I hope it doesn’t.”
“Neither do I, General. My vehicle is about to leave the secure transmission range and enter the Ashes of Crimtonia. Relay my message to all other high command figures.” He cut the transmission, then rose from the rear cockpit seat and headed into the passenger section of the Long-Range Command Carrier.
His three guides, as he liked to think of them, were talking softly among themselves as Rynas approached; they fell quiet as he entered earshot.
“Prolif Keltor,” he said. “Come with me.”
Keltor made a hand-waving gesture to her companions before following him into the command room of the LRCC. “They won’t talk until I return,” she said after the hatch clamped shut behind them. “No need to listen in on what they’re saying.”
“That’s all right. I know none of you would dare plot against me,” Rynas said as he activated the circular projection table in the middle of the room and set it to communication mode. “I want you to send a transmission to your comrade in the Wastes, Elt Henon, and explain to him the terms of our deal: total cooperation, or death.”
Emperor Rynas, his three guides, and the rest of the small convoy — which, apart from the command carrier, consisted of four ILACs in Q-formation and one Eta Cargo Hauler towing their supplies — arrived at the location the End had specified following three days of travel. They had been forced to travel cautiously and deliberately once within the Wastes; while the nations of the Dauiland Alliance had wisely chosen not to try erecting a wall between the barren wastelands of the Ashes and the radioactive wastelands of the Wastes, there were a relevant number of joint Richompian-Deplandian garrisons stationed throughout the remains of Kaltam.
And now, at last, they were here. “This is very close to where Korinth used to stand,” Rynas remarked as the three members of the End accompanying him were escorted out of their vehicle. The Imperials and their guides were dressed in heavy hazard suits, and Rynas was a bit stunned when he saw Elt Henon walk into view wearing the exact same type of equipment.
“How did you acquire Imperial hazard-protection equipment?” he asked Henon once the Crimtonian was close.
“I stole it from an Alliance base while most of the garrison was asleep,” Henon said immediately. “By the time they were on full alert, I’d already left. They probably weren’t expecting someone to infiltrate their station for an old stolen suit.”
“How lucky we are they made that assumption,” Rynas said. “Now, tell me what you’re doing here. Keltor and the others have no idea.”
“I was searching the Wastes for anything that might help us — the End — in our duty,” Henon said gravely. “The atrocities that were committed by Odil Rostenstaphen weren’t limited to our half of Crimtonia. Nearly everyone in Kaltam was murdered by his nuclear strike, and I wanted to see what they, and what the attack itself, left behind.”
“And then I found this.” Henon pulled out an enlarged communicator with a few extra buttons and a signal-strength meter and handed it over. Rynas’s eyes first scanned the modifications, then went to the meter. Based on the markings, he assumed its purpose was to report the overall strength of transmissions in the area, but when he noticed the indicator was far past 100%, he dismissed that idea.
“What is this?” he asked Henon, pointing at the dial.
“A signal-strength meter,” Henon said, his tone suggesting he’d been waiting for that question. “Entirely functional and properly labeled, Emperor; your eyes don’t mislead you. That overwhelming reading is being broadcast from beneath us.”
Realization dawned on Rynas. “This is why Keltor didn’t know what you were doing,” he said. “The signal from whatever this is blocked out all your transmissions.”
“Ah, Rynas? Emperor Rynas, I mean? Are you sure you want to go down into the Wastes Complex?” Deran asked from behind him, sounding very wary and a little bit frightened. “Especially if that’s where this gigantic energy source is?”
Rynas smiled. “That ‘gigantic energy source’ is exactly why I came here. We shall enter the Wastes Complex and find out what is causing it.”
Deran gave a resigned sigh. “You’re the Emperor.”
Vick Estamin — hero, villain, savior, killer — keyed his personal communicator, hit record, and began to speak. Some part of him was impetrating this; it would not relent, so he needed to do it, even if he did not yet fully understand why.
Hero, villain, savior, killen, he heard from somewhere inside himself. Yes, we are all this, and we are more… and yet we might be nothing. We must not let that happen. The whole of the truth is better than the void of ignorance. Always.
Vick Estamin, Prime Minister of Kaltam, Destroyer of Nations, and Councillor of Four, said:
“The Epvian Crisis was a war fought by Deplandia against Richomp in 2031. Deplandia had laid claim to a portion of the Protectorate of Epvia, and the United Republic was determined to uphold its pledge to defend its ally from all foreign aggression. During the late stages of the war, the Deplandians threatened to invade Kaltam if Richomp did not accept a white peace. In preparation for the Richompian Premier’s inevitable refusal, the Prime Minister of Kaltam, Enker Vendra, constructed a vast subterranean network known as the Kaltam Complex in case the government and large portions of the populace ever needed an absolutely safe hideout.
“No such precautions were needed in the Epvian Crisis, as Deplandia withdrew from the war after the eleven-year-old Unidalanian Federation announced a ban on all Deplandian imports and exports. But the Complex remained; not only has Dauiland always been a very unstable place, but the effort and resources spent to build the network were so massive that Prime Minister Vendra thought it foolish to dismantle it.
“Vendra was proven right at the start of the Second Crimtonian Civil War. When Odil Rostenstaphen positioned his forces dangerously close to Korinth itself, I had no choice but to relocate key members of the government to the Kaltam Complex, including myself.”
Vick Estamin put his head in his hands. “Are you absolutely confident that Odil Rostenstaphen is at the head of this army?” he said quietly.
“I wish I weren’t,” General Ixra Krenet replied, surveying the people she had brought to the meeting. “I want that tyrant dead as much as the rest of us.”
Estamin raised his head, nodding absently. Krenet had been one of the most vocal advocates of aiding Crimtonian Spectre during last year’s Crimtonian Civil War. And despite having been locked away for months beneath Korinth working on the Protector Program, Estamin knew her resolve was as strong as ever.
It wasn’t as if Estamin had been on the front lines of the war, but he, too, knew the threat this revenant army posed. It was five times as large as the Prime Minister had predicted when Krenet began briefing him on the incoming intelligence reports, and it was led by possibly the most reviled man in Dauiland.
“Following the activation of the relocation edict, I nationalized the private robotics study group, Gauntlet Tech, and commissioned them to expand the Complex so it would reach all of Kaltam’s major cities.”
“I do not foresee his army posing much of a threat to our country,” said General Ablik of the Kaltam Home Guard. He turned to Estamin. “I am correct that the Protector Program is still ongoing, right, Prime Minister? If not, my people would very much appreciate its resources for—”
“Of course the program is alive,” Estamin said more curtly than he’d intended, perhaps frustrated that Ablik had spoken so freely. As he permitted himself a deep breath, he turned to watch the intelligence feed streaming into a wall monitor affixed next to the door. “But ‘ongoing’ is quite different from ‘operational.’ The project’s overseer estimates the destroyers won’t be ready for another six months.”
“No matter,” Ablik said, sounding completely unconcerned with the Prime Minister’s correction. “Rostenstaphen does not have the means to take over anything or subjugate anyone.”
As the general finished speaking, Estamin noticed a new headline on the monitor, accompanied by a worrying image. “I hope you’re right,” he said, pointing at the feed, “because the army we saw was just the first wave. There are three more on the way, and they’re headed for Kaltam.”
“And then I made the decision to launch Finality. I do not know if it was right, and I doubt I, or anyone, ever will. All I know is that I thought it was the only choice I had. General Ablik disagreed, arguing that using the bomb could lead to the end of Kaltam. If only he had lived to see Kaltam now, to know how right he was…”
“I must express my doubts, Prime Minister,” said General Ablik, his voice quavering ever so slightly. “Launching an atom bomb could mean the end of Kaltam as we know it.”
“I know,” Estamin said softly. He hoped to allay some of the clearly-distressed general’s worries — and, to be honest, some of his own. “I don’t disagree with you, either, General. If we launch a bomb of that magnitude against our enemies, we aren’t sure how they will respond. But rest assured that the military’s best forces are working on learning Rostenstaphen’s secrets as we speak.”
“One of my other top commanders, General Krenet, was in favor of Finality. She saw the Imperial war as more important, and Rostenstaphen’s resurgence as no more than a desperate last grab for some sort of power.”
When Kena Lebowskii had been freed from prison and let form the Eternal Empire, Estamin had been forced to send most of his army as reinforcements to help Dauilandian forces protect the border. The Dauiland Council’s Chief Councillor had told Estamin that delaying was no worse than defeating Rostenstaphen. The skirmishes against Lebowskii would surely end within a few weeks, Greene had promised, and once she was defeated the Dauilandian armies would eliminate the resurgent Rostenstaphen.
“She ended up subverting my Prime Ministerial authority and using her own resources to find more ways to convince me that Finality must be utilized.”
”I had the Protector perform a scan of Rostenstaphen’s forces,” Krenet said, “and my analysts have found nothing suggesting a counterstrike. I know it’s hard to believe, Prime Minister, that someone who returned from the dead brought nothing more than a horde of troops. But I trust my people, and you should, too. It was you who appointed them, after all.”
“I was faced with too many decisions to make and no time to make them. I did only what I was capable of doing, and all that should be expected of me: what I felt was right. It is… painful to think of those few days, those days in which my life, the lives of tens of millions of people in Kaltam and Crimtonia, and truly the lives of every single person in Dauiland changed. No — changed is the wrong word. My decisions did not merely change life; they destroyed it.
“They destroyed nations.”
Estamin silenced her with a raised hand before she could continue. “It’s an impossible choice,” he said. “Using Finality against Rostenstaphen would be an unprecedented act of destruction. We don’t know its power; launching it could cause unspeakable carnage to more than just Rostenstaphen’s troops.”
“If you keep it back…” Krenet said, apparently satisfied that the Prime Minister changed the topic from her insubordination to his conundrum. She hoped her cautious tone properly masked her relief. “Letting Rostenstaphen continue his advance… I fear that option is just as unthinkable.”
“I know.” Estamin slowly released his breath. “I will speak to your people, Krenet. If I still feel we have no other choice by midnight tomorrow, you shall launch Finality.
“I ended the Second Crimtonian Civil War, and the threat of the most terrible man in Dauiland, but at what cost? What is the value of ending wars if there is nobody left to celebrate the peace? How do you end a war in which everyone always loses? Is it even possible to win a war anymore? And if it is, should you even want to?”
“Yes, I do agree with that,” General Krenet told Prime Minister Estamin as he finished explaining why he had chosen to launch Finality.
“Well put, sir,” said Lemel.
“Prime Minister,” General Ablik asked, “does this mean you have decided to launch the atomic bomb?”
“Yes,” the Prime Minister said solemnly. “It is our only choice. General Krenet and I have already spoken, and she will have Finality in the air—” He glanced at his watch. “—in forty-eight minutes.”
“And one way or another,” Estamin added, “the Second Civil War will end.”
“The war ended, and left me with more questions than I will ever know. It forever changed — destroyed — who I was, and led me to who I am. The war ended, and it is impossible to know who I would be — what Dauiland would be — if I hadn’t used Finality. When it was launched, only I, my general staff, and the most important members of the national government were in the Kaltam Complex. We had not left since the beginning of the war, but I saw no need to introduce the full evacuation measures set up by Vendra.
“After the counterattack — the end, and the beginning, of my life — a provisional government was formed by the underground survivors. But I was not there; I only learned of this much later. I had been living in a section of the Complex that Odil Rostenstaphen’s strike hit very hard. I was close to death, then. I was contemplating what had happened, for I was able to discern what had happened, much as I am doing right now, except that then I did not expect to live much longer.
The dark was engulfing Vick Estamin: the darkness of the unlit Complex caverns, the numbing pain of his injuries, and the murky detachment one feels when they are certain everything is about to end for them. He was ready, even willing, to embrace the darkness, to let it sway him in his final moments of life.
It never did.
“But here I stand. Two unlikely figures found me awaiting quietus, and they turned my despair into resolve. Their masterful work saved my life: my physical life, and my deeper life. I was nearly unreachable in those days, they told me some time later; I responded to every question with a statement of doom. Yet they did save me. Somehow, they broke through the wall of tragedy surrounding my new self, and they brought it out.
“Before I could leave what were now the Wastes of Kaltam, though, I was contacted by someone quite unexpected on the emergency line of my communicator. Rachel Tiveron told me she was hiding elsewhere in the Complex, that she was relieved to hear I had not been taken.
“Taken by what?” asked Vick Estamin.
“The Gauntlet robots,” Rachel Tiveron explained “It seems like they have gone rogue, or maybe their creators have designed them this way all along. But either way, the excavator robots have begun going on a killing spree throughout the Complex. They’re programmed to destroy everyone and everything they can — possibly even their manufacturers.”
“That’s not good,” Vick Estamin understated.
“No — especially because the AI manager of the Protector Program is now using the chaos to isolate and dispatch members of the provisional government, one by one. I have to stop talking,” she concluded. “I can’t let Hector or a Gauntlet Tech robot pick up on this transmission and find me.”
‘Goodbye, Rachel Tiveron,’ Estamin said, suddenly feeling like history was being written all around him while he just sat there in pathetic self-pity and forecasted his own demise.
“I then left the Wastes with Orlind Karvis and Gious Sevanis. I left the Wastes and have never gone back. Years later, when Arven Lore joined us, we formed the Council of Four.”
Vick Estamin concluded the recording with a profound feeling of satisfaction. He stood and headed for the Councilroom to await Harlin Enolin; he had been summoned to meet the Council, and was not one to keep them waiting.
Oh, and Vick Estamin had figured out by now why he had to say all this: the truth. The truth was endangered, becoming rarer by the day, and he needed to do what he could to preserve it, Even if nobody else would ever hear the recording, he would keep it close to him that the memories and truths it contained would never be lost to the insidious grasp of falsehoods and lies.