The Hunt for Auroras

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Lauchenoiria
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The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Nov 24, 2019 12:40 am

Out-of-character notice: Due to circumstances, all mentions of the nation known as Shen and posts pertaining in whole or primarily to that nation are no longer considered canon.

*

Council of Kerlile Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
23rd November 2019 – 10:20pm local time

“Councillors, this is an emergency.”

Councillor Lia Chiu stood in front of a television that had been wheeled into the Council Chamber especially for this occasion. Partly due to tradition, partly funding and partly paranoia about foreign spies meant the Council tended to be rather old-fashioned, and conducted their meetings with the minimum technology necessary in the room. Today, however, they were all staring in horror at the screen.

“I will play the clip again, Councillors,” Chiu said. Everyone but Letitia Greenwood and Electra Georgiou, both still in Shuell, was present. Chiu pressed a button on a remote and stood aside. “Pay close attention.”

A man and a woman appeared on the screen, a familiar pair to many who watched the news… but not in Kerlile. Rather, the pair were Lauchenoirian. They sat, their expressions grim, though to the assembled Councillors they looked almost smug. As if they seemed almost happy to be about to reveal the information they were.

“Good afternoon and welcome to the 10 o’clock news. We bring you breaking news: further documents leaked from the Matriarchy of Kerlile have revealed the approximate number of individuals part of the so-called “Aurora Programme”, an alleged Kerlian sleeper agent programme set up to infiltrate other countries. This is the third release of classified Kerlian documents on the subject, following on from the initial revelation of the programme during the peace talks in Haven, Sanctaria and a further leak on the 30th October 2018,” the woman on the screen began.

“The first series of leaks revealed the existence of the programme, and that former Prime Minister Charissa Clarke was a Kerlian sleeper agent, born Amanda Cartwright in Kerlile. It is widely thought that Councillor Carmen Robinson, a pro-reform member of the Council of Kerlile, was responsible for this set of documents being sent to Lauchenoiria during the war. The second set of documents focused on the organisational structure of the alleged programme, naming the Pierre family as the masterminds behind the programme, and the commanders of it today,” added the man.

“The Matriarchy of Kerlile has repeatedly denied the existence of these sleeper agents, claiming that the “Aurora Programme” was an educational initiative for female orphans, aiming to increase their social mobility. However, this third set of documents suggests that the Programme was set up in 1969, training orphan girls from the age of three to be sleeper agents. They also suggest that approximately 10 of these “Auroras” have been deployed each year since 1980 and are presently living under false identities in a number of nations,” the woman reported.

“The documents list a number of countries as being “targets” of the Kerlian government, where so-called “Auroras” have been sent. They do not, however, specify the number of sent to each country. The countries listed include: Lauchenoiria, Shuell, Laeral, Libertas Omnium Maximus, Eiria, Zamastan, Trive, Essena, Shen, Gardavasque and Anglia-Saxia. A full list of countries mentioned in the documents is available on our website.”

Councillor Chiu paused the TV, and stared around at the Council. They had not moved since the first time she had played the clip, and this was the third time. The Councillors were frozen in a state of shock, staring at what had to be the single largest security leak since the foundation of the Matriarchy. The first two leaks had been horrendous. But this? This was so much more detailed, and so much more dangerous.

“How the hell was this allowed to happen!?” shouted Chiu. There was a pause, like nobody wanted to speak, nobody wanted to attract the attention of the others in a room so filled with rage, horror and fear. Eventually, however, someone shifted, and the Councillors all spun around instantly to face each other and away from the screen.

“Upon my life, this wasn’t me,” Carmen Robinson said, urgently. “After… everything, well, I swear I would never betray the Matriarchy. Well, again.”

“It was not Carmen, I have had her watched,” Pauline Pierre growled. “As much as I would like the excuse to interrogate her, that will not help in this matter. Someone has had access to the Council records. And I do not understand how.”

“The records are very secure, aren’t they?” asked Jennifer Hale. “To access them you have to be present in the records building, and given how dusty it was last time I was there, I don’t think we let many people in there. Even cleaners.”

“They should be secure. This should have been impossible!” Nirmala Patel hissed, her voice becoming more and more high-pitched and panicked. “And the only hacker in the world I would consider to even have a chance is currently in a Lauchenoirian hospital thanks to persons unknown.”

“You don’t think the assassins in Lauchenoiria employed Jessica Cassidy to do this and then killed her – well, tried to – do you?” Rosemary Arnott piped up. “And it wasn’t about the Xiomeran selection at all?”

“No, it was not Jessica Cassidy,” Hale said with certainty.

“How could you know that?” Rosemary asked.

“Well… I trust that no action will be taken against me if I admit this?” Hale asked the room, surveying the looks of the assembled Councillors.

“Oh, good Goddess, you reformists will be the death of us!” exclaimed Nirmala. “Go ahead, Jennifer. What new treasons have you committed beyond getting my mother locked up!?”

“Jessica Cassidy hacked the database on my orders.”

“What!?” several Councillors yelled at once.

“I… well, even we are not allowed to meddle with that database. I wanted… well, in the end it became unnecessary…”

Talk,” hissed Pierre. “Or I will make you.

“I was preparing a false identity for my daughter Amelia so I could smuggle her out of the country to Josephine Alvarez if I had been given a prison sentence by the TRC.”

“Oh… that is less bad than I was expecting,” Lucia Viallamando snorted, clearly slightly amused. The amusement didn’t last long, however, as a grim expression crossed her face once more and she turned to face Chiu. “If it was not Jessica Cassidy, and it was not Councillor Robinson, then who was it?”

“That will need to be determined,” Chiu said. “That is not, however, the most pertinent question we ought to consider at this juncture.”

“I agree, we will need to immediately institute increased security measures. I would humbly propose that we scale back some of these “reforms” until the security of the Matriarchy can be guaranteed,” proposed Pauline Pierre.

“On the contrary, now more than ever we need to show we have abandoned the old ways or we will be open to an invasion with the invading country using the Auroras as a casus belli,” argued Jennifer Hale.

“If they invade us, we all better pray for a miracle,” Natalia Hart interrupted.

“Councillors, we are not here today to debate reform. And it is now clear we do not know who was behind this leak. So, given that we cannot answer that question, we must consider this one,” Councillor Chiu said, her voice carrying around the room and immediately silencing her assembled colleagues.

“What will the patriarchal countries do with this information?”

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Nov 24, 2019 7:48 pm

Unknown location, Lauchenoiria
24th November 2019 – 1am local time

The building had a surprising number of people in it. From the outside, it looked abandoned, like the people working there had all fled during the war. But inside, it was busier than it had been since it was used as a warehouse. Coming down the path outside were two people. One, a man who did not like others to utter his name, pushing a young woman, bald and weak, sitting in a wheelchair.

“I would tell you that you don’t have to be here, Jessica, but we both know I’d be lying,” the man said, staring straight ahead and not looking at the woman.

“You’re right, Gabriel, I have no choice,” the woman hissed, her voice still quiet and sore, but full of fury. “Because God forbid I disobey you. God forbid I don’t jump when you call. God forbid I want my own life. Or even just to survive.”

“Do not use my name, Jessica.”

“Oh, does it bother you? Maybe I’ll stop then. Of course, you never stopped for five minutes to think the last time you gave me an order. You never thought to warn me, to warn us that it could get us killed!”

“You’re an angry little thing, aren’t you?”

“You are lucky my body is weak or I would kill you. And don’t think I wouldn’t.”

“I believe you, Ms. Cassidy. However, I am your superior officer and if you continue to show me that disrespect, or show me it in public…”

“I’m already dying, Mr. Fleming. What more can you do to me? And you wouldn’t have brought me here against my doctor’s wishes if you didn’t need me. So, tell me? What’s so important that it required dragging me out of a hospital in the middle of the night?”

The man, Gabriel Fleming (if that was even his real name), didn’t answer. They arrived at the entrance, and Fleming nodded towards a security guard who let them pass. He took ahold of Jessica’s wheelchair once more, pushing her down the corridor into a room. Inside was an assembly of maybe 30 people. Jessica recognised some of them, but others were complete strangers to her.

Fleming left her next to the others, and went to talk to a woman standing near the front of the room. Jessica knew the woman, they had met once. Jae Chung, who had brought the USB that had revealed Charissa Clarke’s true identity. A valuable addition to the Resistance’s side in the peace talks, and one Jessica would be ever grateful for. She relaxed slightly. If Chung was here, then whatever Fleming was going to say couldn’t be too bad.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Fleming turned to face the gathered people, “you are now part of a taskforce dedicated to identifying, tracking down and eventually capturing Kerlian sleeper agents. We will, at all times and with no exceptions be looking to work under the radar. Bear in mind that these individuals may be highly dangerous. We must track them down before they can do as much damage as that first one, Clarke, managed last year. Any questions?”

The people in the room all glanced around at each other. Aside from Jae Chung, Jessica also saw another couple of hackers she’d worked with before and liked enough (though they weren’t nearly as good as her, of course). She was conflicted. On the one hand, she did not want to work with Fleming again. Nor did she want to do anything dangerous again. Yet… the Kerlians had hurt her. And as she remembered, a rage inside her burned, and suddenly she wanted nothing more than to hunt down Kerlian agents.

“How many people are part of this taskforce?” someone asked.

“The people in this building at the present moment and nobody else,” Fleming answered. “However, I am about to contact my counterparts in Shuell… I believe they have skills that could aid us here. We have information that would be useful to them. After all, Auroras are as much of a threat to them as they are to us.”

“If we end up working with Shuell does that mean we will be… utilising tactics that are not normally utilised in this country?” someone asked.

“Well,” Fleming chuckled. “That is not your department, so don’t let it worry you. The people in this room will be part of the investigative team, led by Ms. Chung here. She will give you your orders. Any further questions?”

“Yes,” Jessica found herself saying. “When do we start?”

Fleming smiled widely at Jessica, the kind of sadistic smile she had only seen before on the face of a Kerlian torturer.

“Immediately.”

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Shuell » Mon Nov 25, 2019 10:04 pm

Department of Internal Security - Office of Employment - Central North District - NOV18

Csanad Surany, one of the many bureaucrats in IntSec with the task of analyzing applications to the department, was currently staring down at form in front of him submitted by an Alina Kaufer. Seeing as that the Department of Internal Security was the main intelligence and security arm of Shuell, they naturally vetted their applicants thoroughly, in order to prevent any chance of infiltration.

The task of checking these records was more repetitive than grueling, to be quite honest. With the day half over, Surany had already been through two dozen or so forms. Background checks were conducted, passports were inspected, and records were pulled for each potential recruit, in order to see if they even qualified for employment - physical tests and training were saved for later.

Satisfied that Kaufer’s passport was authentic, Surany had begun work on checking her background. She had been a 1st lieutenant in the Incorporated States Army, and her superiors had appeared to be quite fond of her, listing their support of her entry into IntSec. She had a degree in Criminal Justice from Sunder University, a fairly prestigious university that many high-ranking officials in the department had graduated from.

“Huh. That’s strange.” Csanad extinguished the cigarette hanging in his mouth in the ashtray on his desk and checked the discrepancy he noticed again. The parents of Alina - a Benjamin and Georgina Kaufer - were missing some records of their own. Acting quickly, he pulled a mobile communicator out of his pocket and dialed the Chief of Security for the district.

“Chief of Security, sir? It seems we have a problem.”

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Department of Internal Security - Office of Employment - Central North District - NOV24


Alina Kaufer walked with practiced false confidence as she entered the IntSec Office of Employment. There were armed guards throughout the building, as expected. She noticed them watching her as she walked, and it made her internally nervous, though she hid it extremely well. To a passer-by, she would seem perfectly calm and collected, almost flawlessly so.

"Good morning, my name is Alina Kaufer. I have an appointment," she said to the receptionist on the desk, giving a professional looking half-smile, conveying politeness without joy.

The receptionist behind the disk, a 30-something year old woman in a conservative outfit, smiled politely at her. "Of course, Ms. Kaufer." She tapped away on the keyboard in front of her, before looking up. "Take the elevator up to floor 5, then go down the hall to your right. Mr. Friedburg will see you shortly."

"Thank you," she nodded politely and made her way to the elevator. While she was ascending, she remained appearing completely calm, not dropping her false composure for a second. On the fifth floor, she exited, and made her way down the corridor, hoping that this was going to go well

The door to a Phillip Friedburg's office was open, with a bronze plaque underneath reading "Sub-Director of Employment." Two armed men stood outside, appearing to be more heavily armed than the other guards throughout the building. "Come inside, Ms. Kaufer," said a middle-aged man in a suit - presumably the Phillip Friedburg that the office belonged to. A stack of papers in a manila folder was beside him.

She entered the room, greeting him with her professional polite smile one more time, ignoring the armed guards for the time being, even though there was a slight feeling of unease in her stomach.

"Good morning, it's a pleasure to meet you," she said.

The two guards in front of the door stepped inside and closed the door behind them. "The pleasure is all mine, Ms. Kaufer. I am pleased to say that your passport and records all checked out. Your certifications exceeded our expectations, as well - General Adler's support of your application means a lot. However, I'd like to ask you a few questions about your parents. Is this okay?" He smiled, though it didn't reach his eyes.

"Of course," she answers, smiling again and managing not to show fear, even though her heart skipped a beat.

"Can you tell me about your parents? What were their jobs?"

"Well, they both passed away when I was sixteen. My mother died of lung cancer, and my father..." she bit her lip, looking momentarily sad, "killed himself from the grief. It was devastating. They did not have important jobs, my mother was a cleaner before she became too sick to work, and my father was, well, a garbage collector. We were... not wealthy growing up."

"I am sorry to hear that." He said, somberly. "However, there is an odd thing one of my staff noticed - there was no obituary for a Benjamin or Georgina Kaufer, and no passports or employment records at all. While records were lost during the regime change, the fact that there is nothing at all about them in the papers during the supposed time of death is quite odd. Do you understand?"

"Well, this is rather embarrassing," she blushed on cue, hoping it would hide the fact her heart began to race. "You see, the thing is, I simply couldn't afford to take out space in the paper to announce the death. There was not very much money at the time, after my mother's hospital treatment and all the funeral costs."

He nodded. "That is a fair excuse. However, there are no records of their parents at all. And between birth and death -" He opened the folder next to him and pulled out a stack of papers stapled together, before showing it to her. "No records of them in that period at all."

Alina Kaufer looked down at the file and her heart sank deep down. She knew she wouldn't get out of this. Still, she had to try.

"If the files weren’t lost, then I imagine my parents were hiding something from me. I do not know how to answer this question."

"Really." He snapped his fingers, and nodded to the guards. "Do it." Quickly, one of them violently clubbed her with the butt of their rifle, which knocked her to the ground. As she was pinned by them, her arms were twisted behind her back and she felt cuffs click around her wrists. Before she could get a word out, a boot to the head sent her into the sweet release of unconsciousness.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:01 am

Department if Internal Security headquarters, Litudinem (Libertas Omnium Maximus)
November 23rd, 2019 - 8:35 PM

The sedan rolled quietly up to the curb in front of the menacing entrance to the Department of Internal Security headquarters. The vehicle's sole passenger exited with little fanfare and made his way up to the grand entrance of the building. He was a tall man who carried himself with the air of someone who utterly despised the ground he was forced to walk on. The angles of the man's gaunt face were accentuated by the moonlight, making him appear like a specter. This illusion was further enforced by the way the passenger's coat hung off him like some demon's robe.

He may as well have been a ghost for that matter. The man, as one of the most powerful individuals in the world, could disappear in a moment and reappear on the other side of the globe. He operated with a nearly limitless budget and almost no oversight. He could kill nearly anyone he wanted to with a sing word and could topple and empire if he so desired. He was a man who's name appeared in the paper at least once a month yet was hardly ever discussed in passing. The man lived in a world of silence and deception, smoke and mirrors, life and death. He was a man who could arrange a meeting with the president on his terms. James Maguire, Director of the Department of Internal Security for Libertas Omnium Maximus, was a shadow.

"Walk with me." Maguire ordered a young woman who met him at the door. Nervously, the woman followed James inside.

"Director, I assume your meeting with the president was constructive?" the young woman inquired as the pair crossed the building's well lit lobby and made for the elevators.

"You assume correctly. We have been green lighted to begin monitoring for candidates. We have 1 anomaly isolated at the moment and will be looking into her in the coming days. Ideally, we will be able to confirm definitively if she is a candidate or not by the end of this week."

This announcement shocked the woman. It was a rare occurrence that President Lucas Brown agreed with Maguire on anything. Brown was nearing the end of his first term and had green lighted only a dozen or so, mostly benign, operations.

In a confused state, the woman responded. "Director, if word of this ever got out it could seriously hurt Brown's chances of re-election. I'm surprised he green lighted it so quickly. I was expecting you to have to work on him quite a while."

Maguire actually smiled at this. The young woman was so naive.

"Megan, if word of half the thing we do here were to ever get out, I would be gone from my position in an instant. Brown knows I won't let word of this slip out because he knows that I can't have it slip out... for my sake. I am very pleased that he has decided to green light our operation but expected as much. This operations is fairly simple and doesn't violate the constitution. Anyway, what information have you gathered?"

Megan Allen, Deputy Director of the DIS, despised Maguire. Megan was no saint but fancied herself as an individual who had morals and truly cared about the well being of her nation. She could justify all the deception and death that came with her position as being a necessary evil, a means of insuring the security of the nation she loved. Megan doubted James could say the same. Never the less, she was shocked to realize that she supported the plan that had been green lighted by the President. "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear." That was the bast way Deputy Director Allen could come to terms with what she was taking part in. With all moral questions aside, she was executing her end of the procedure to perfection.

"Director, as best as can be figured, we have one mole in our organization. I've had my analysts pour over all of the leaked documents and, based on Aurora operating procedure and the structure of the program, we think that there is no more and no less than one mole in this agency. The simple truth is that all Auroras deployed in our nation were probably trained and deployed before the summer of 2018. We are arguably the most powerful security agency in the northern hemisphere so we would be an early target for the Aurora Program. They could have infiltrated us all the way back in the 70s and we would have been just as relevant as we are now. We also figure that no Aurora would be deployed here after 2018 since we would be on high alert for incoming sleeper agents.

Since we have established that the Aurora is probably from before 2018, we can figure that they wouldn't be sent with a partner. Before 2018 it could have revealed the existence of the Aurora Program if two agents were found with the same general mission. Kerlile would have known that if one Aurora's cover was blown we would find the other. Ergo, we only have one agent on our hands."

Maguire did not respond to Allen but instead entered an open elevator and indicated that Megan was not to follow him. As the doors slowly slid shut, Maguire smiled. He enjoyed. antagonizing his inferiors, especially when they made a good point. With a a flourish of his coat flap, James Maguire pulled out a black cell phone and texted the words "one target, pre 2018, wide sweep" to a blank contact. He was so pleased to see project Xerses underway.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Xiomera » Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:13 pm

The Cauhloc
Secretary of Security's office


"We don't know. Yet."

The statement of fact from the Secretary of Security caused a single eyebrow to raise on the face of the woman sitting across from him. Yauhmi, Empress of Xiomera, did not seem impressed with the answer....nor amused by its brevity. "I assume there is more to your report than this?" she said blandly. Tone of voice notwithstanding, it was clear that the answer was expected to be yes.

"Of course, your Majesty," Zalpalatli said, slightly nervous. "We do have a theory. We just haven't confirmed it yet."

With the silence from the other side of the desk growing, Zalpalatli quickly passed a tablet over to the Empress.

"Since the inception of this so-called Aurora Program, it is highly likely that the Kerlians would have found it necessary to keep tabs on its neighbors as a matter of self-preservation. Therefore, it is certain that there will be Auroras present in Xiomera. We just don't know how many, or where. We have made locating them our top priority. ASI and Military Intelligence are both devoting all available manpower and computer power to track down possible leads. We are beginning by checking for any discrepancies or anomalies in birth records, educational and career history. We are focusing on individuals who have risen high in our society; the Kerlians behind this program would have wanted people high up in our ranks either to influence us or control us if needed."

"Good. You will inform me at once of any results," Yauhmi replied.

"Of course, your Majesty. This does, however, raise a delicate question. What do you want us to do with any Auroras we find?" Zalpalatli said with slight hesitation.

The question caused Yauhmi to sit back in the ridiculously uncomfortable chair the Security Secretariat had placed in this office and think for a moment.

The relationship between Xiomera and Kerlile had been nonexistent for most of history. It had been her husband, Topilpopoca, who had made the first overtures to Kerlile. Many of his advisors had questioned that, at the time. The Kerlians were so profoundly distrustful of the outside world that much of the Xiomerans' energy in maintaining the relationship was expended in repeatedly having to prove to the Kerlians that Xiomera could be trusted. Kerlile is a small, poor country. Why are we trying so hard, when there are other countries out there who could be more profitable and less skeptical allies? some fool advisor would ask occasionally, at the beginning of that effort.

Topilpopoca had always shut down such arguments quickly and firmly, by reminding them that being a small, poor country that was not trusted by others was a situation that Xiomerans should be able to relate to all too well. Xiomera was, thankfully, no longer small or poor. But it was, even now, not greatly trusted or liked by many of its neighbors.

Xiomera's wealth and power, however, gave it the ability to be a friend to countries that were struggling and mistreated - a favor no one had ever done for the Xiomerans, it was worth noting. Topilpopoca's predecessor, Xolōtl, had firmly believed in that idea; it had led the Xiomerans to involvement in Bjeorg. Topilpopoca also believed in that mission; that had led him to Kerlile.

Yauhmi was also quite the believer in that mission. Even as difficult as the relationship with Kerlile could sometimes be, she admired the Kerlians, much as her husband had. Xiomera also had a vested interest in maintaining the alliance with Kerlile. That would influence her decision.

"Is there any evidence that these....Auroras would have been established in Xiomera with malicious intent, or that they have done anything maliciously in Xiomera?" the Empress asked. "None, so far...but it is still early in our investigation, your Majesty."

"You will continue to search. But if you find any Auroras....they will be given a choice. They will be allowed to return to Kerlile, or they can continue to live in Xiomera, if they agree to serve the Xiomeran Empire," Yauhmi said.

"But don't these Auroras present a risk to Xiomera?" Zalpalatli said, stunned.

"The Auroras will not pose a threat if we manage the situation correctly. Not threatening them is the best way to start," Yauhmi said calmly.

"And how will the Kerlians take it if some of their Auroras decide to stay in Xiomera? Zalpalatli said with concern.

"The Kerlians may not be entirely pleased. Since they placed these agents on our soil without our permission, however, I do not intend to offer it as a choice to them. Our returning the other Auroras to Kerlile safely, and not taking exception to their presence here in the first place, should be sufficient to address their concerns," Yauhmi replied. "But if need be, I will find other ways to make our Kerlian allies happy. After the deals we have been striking with other countries, they may be feeling a touch neglected by the Empire. I shall have to rectify that. If I must add a little more to mollify them over this Aurora matter....so be it. We can certainly afford it, after all."

"As you say, your Majesty," Zalpalatli said as Yauhmi stood and walked out of his office. Once the Empress had left, the Secretary quickly placed a phone call. "Tōpillnao? Get with Yāotlah'lotl and get moving quickly on this Aurora thing. I have a feeling the Empress will not be pleased if we don't have something concrete for her next time she is in this office."

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Nov 26, 2019 9:56 pm

Secret Room, Basement, Pierre Residence, Grapevale
26th November 2019

“This is a full-on crisis,” snarled Councillor Pauline Pierre. Her second daughter, Eva, stood next to her, arms folded. They were in a basement room full of computers and filing cabinets underneath the Pierre family’s Grapevale mansion. Most of the computers were ageing things, looking like they would take an hour to start up and that they belonged in the age of dial-up internet.

“I actually, for once, agree,” sighed Councillor Jennifer Hale reluctantly. “It gives the world a bad impression of us at a time when we don’t need it, and it puts a lot of people in danger – some of whom haven’t actually done anything yet, if my reading of the files last year was correct.”

“It was,” nodded Councillor Nirmala Patel. “The vast majority of Auroras have not taken any actions beyond passive information gathering. If countries are to begin systematically hunting them down, we will lose that information, and a lot of highly-trained agents. In my personal opinion… we should issue a mass withdrawal order.”

The gathered Councillors, plus Eva Pierre, and two employees of the Kerlian Intelligence Service began to talk over each other, arguing and yelling, until Councillor Chiu brought her hand down on a filing cabinet, making a loud clanging noise.

“Quiet!” she demanded. “We must consider all options in this time of crisis. I fear the response this could bring upon us. I understand that the suggestion is controversial, but we can at least hear Nirmala out.”

“Thank you,” Nirmala replied as the room fell silent. “The Programme is discovered. We cannot change that, much as we may like to. The entire premise of the Aurora Programme is that it was secret. As long as there is any suspicion of it, there will be increased background checks for women applying for the kinds of positions we want our agents to apply for, and it will put them in danger. If they are being actively hunted, they are already in danger, especially since we have yet to discover the source of the leak. Ms. Sasaki, can you please update us on that?”

Kat Sasaki, the sister of Adelina – the Restricted Region interrogator in charge of the group sent to Xiomera – stepped forwards. She was a high-ranking official in the Kerlian Intelligence Service, though nobody was entirely sure what her job entailed.

“We have concluded that it was not hacked, nor was it accessed by any member of the Robinson family. In fact, no documents have been removed from that facility without authorisation since increased surveillance began over a year ago. Whoever leaked these documents already had them in their possession before the signing of the Haven Accords. Which is bad news in terms of tracking them – but good news in that their information is, and will continue to be, outdated.”

“So, it could still be Carmen Robinson, then?” asked Eva Pierre.

“No, she was under surveillance at the time, there is no way she was responsible, either through taking action herself or giving an order,” Kat shook her head. “Yet I would be remiss if I did not mention the possibility that one of her co-conspirators from the initial leak is continuing, perhaps with her approval.”

“No,” Jennifer said, shaking her head. She looked around at the room. Of the subset of Councillors present, she was the only Reformist. Only she, Chiu, Patel and Pierre had attended the meeting. “This is… I shouldn’t say…”

“Out with it,” Chiu groaned, rolling her eyes.

“Carmen spoke with me. She had not intended for the leak to become public…”

“We already know her cover story,” Pauline interrupted. “I did not believe it when she said it, why should I believe it now?”

“Just listen!” Jennifer said irritably. “The USB was meant for me. Under the name Sonja Viratnen. She wanted me to stop Charissa Clarke in order to discredit the Programme. But then when you lot took me prisoner, the Lauchenoirians decided to give it to Laura Moore instead. So, in a way, this is the fault of whoever gave that order.”

“Oh Goddess,” groaned Chiu. “I wondered why Carmen was so dead against that when we voted on it. Everyone else was all for it and she was damn panicked.”

“Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure this explains it,” Jennifer nodded.

“Right. Well…” Pauline trailed off. “I guess what is done, is done. We shall have to move forward with what we have.”

“If this is accurate,” Nirmala piped up, “then you have to concede that this is not entirely the fault of the Robinson family, Pauline.”

“Yes, well, let us not be hasty,” muttered Pauline.

“Okay, let’s review what we know. The first leak was a giant mistake created by internal Council politics and generational rivalries that you lot need to get over,” began Jennifer. “The second and third came from unknown sources, but not from Carmen Robinson. It is possible that someone involved in the first leak is continuing without Robinson’s approval. We also know that several foreign countries have announced that they are going to be hunting down Auroras, and several others have implied it. The question is: where do we go from here?”

“As I was saying,” Nirmala said. “I think our only move at this point is issuing a withdrawal order. The Programme is done.”

“I do not accept that,” Pauline snapped. “We can still salvage this. They will have heard, they will be smart enough to go to ground. They will get through this, they are well trained, and in a decade or so this will be forgotten and we can continue.”

“But what has it got us!?” Nirmala cried. “We activated Clarke and pushed Chaher into a coup in Lauchenoiria… and it ended with my mother in prison, our economy in tatters, rationing that affects even us and, worst, a reformist government! No offence, Jennifer.”

“Only a little taken,” Jennifer chuckled, finding the comment more amusing than anything else. “Look, I understand those arguments, and one might even expect me to agree… but honestly, I think it would be a mistake. I’m still not sure I support the existence of this, but if we contact them all at once it could be traced. It could put them in more danger. We need to be smart about this.”

“I still think we need to continue the programme,” Pauline argued.

“Agreed. We have put too much work in this to give up now,” nodded Eva.

“… you do not get a vote unless your mother and sister both die,” Nirmala said to Eva.

“Charming,” Chiu rolled her eyes. “I am with Jennifer on this one. Phased withdrawal. We give orders to those in the most dangerous places, or places we think may have more information than others. Those in the more dangerous positions. But we cannot make this decision alone. We need a full Council.”

“How can we have a full Council when two of our membership are in Shuell?” asked Pauline.

“They can appoint proxies. Daughters or sisters who remain behind. Or return, if they prefer,” suggested Chiu. “The new law we passed to deal with the TRC allows it.”

“That is true,” mused Pauline. “Very well. Letitia and Electra may appoint proxies. And we will have a full Council.”

“The day after tomorrow,” Chiu said. “All in the chamber. Fully closed session, naturally. A false agenda will be released full of things that we either would never pass, such as some of Jennifer’s bills…”

“Hey!”

“… or things we can pass in sixty seconds, such as the the pardon for Nirmala’s second cousin. We are all agreed on that, right?”

The Councillors nodded.

“Then it is agreed. Full Council, Thursday. Now, I think we can all go home,” Chiu sighed in relief as all the gathered women began to leave the room. Eva and Pauline disappeared into the house proper, and the two intelligence agents got into their dark cars. This left the three other Councillors waiting for their chauffeurs to bring their own cars around.

“Nirmala?” Jennifer said tentatively to Councillor Patel.

“Yes?” she replied.

“I didn’t expect you to take that position. Honestly, I’m pleased. I know we haven’t had the best working relationship, but we’re all in this together.”

“Jennifer…” Nirmala smiled and chuckled. “I do not dislike you, I merely disagree with you. I do not know what will happen at full Council, but I agree. On this, and in this time, all of us are in this together and we cannot let our ideological divides harm our nation.”

“I did not expect to see this,” Chiu laughed. “Nirmala Patel and Jennifer Hale being friendly. Every cloud has a silver lining, I guess. Well, our cars are here.”

The three Councillors got into their cars, being driven back to their own mansions. The full session on Thursday would reveal what was to be done about the Auroras… and it was shaping up to be a vote in which party lines would be meaningless.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:10 pm

(Written with Shuell)

Unknown IntSec Facility, Shuell

Alina Kaufer woke slowly. Her head was pounding, like she’d hit it repeatedly against a wall. She groaned as she woke, and moved to put her hand to her head… only to pull against a restraint on her wrist. Immediately, she froze, her heart beginning to pound. Slowly, carefully, she moved each of her limbs slightly, ascertaining that both her wrists and ankles were restrained.

Only then did she slowly and carefully open her eyes, confirming her fears: she was in a cell. She mentally swore. Closing her eyes again and steadying her breathing. She waited until the memories flooded back to her. She had thought she was going for a job interview, but it had clearly been a trap. Discrepancies in her records had been found. She’d been captured.

Okay, this is not good, she thought. She had very few options. They wouldn’t believe what she said, and they wouldn’t let her go. If she didn’t talk, they would try to force her. She thought she could get through this, as long as she remembered her training. She blamed herself, if she was honest. The first thing they teach Shuell-assigned Auroras is do not get taken alive.

She lay still, not bothering to struggle, as there was no point. She closed her eyes and took deep breaths, running through her interrogation resistance training in her mind and preparing herself for what was to come. The rest of her life would be painful, she was sure. She had failed, and she would suffer for it. But she would not betray her country.

A series of clicking noises emanate from the cell door across from her. A few seconds after they stopped, the metal door slid open with a harsh scraping noise. A man in a dark jumpsuit entered, clad in what appeared to be a kind of riot armor, with a helmet and a mirrored plexiglass visor concealing his face. A belt with multiple pouches was on his waist, and she was able to notice an occupied holster and baton hanging from it.

Approaching her bed, he fished out a key. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he drew a red canister from his belt and sprayed it in her face - she was able to tell it was pepperspray through the pain. Alina coughed and closed her eyes, as she felt her face and throat begin to swell. She began to hyperventilate and feeling of panic shot through her. She heard her shackles unlock and she was roughly pulled out of bed, before she felt a pair of handcuffs close around her wrists.

Through her swollen and puffy eyes, she realized she was being pulled out of her cell by the guard, and tried to get a feel for the layout of the facility she was in. A short while later, the guard stopped and forced her inside of a small room with a plastic table and two chairs on either end. Judging from the one-way mirror on one side of the room, it was quite obvious to tell she was going to be interrogated. She was sat down onto one chair, before the man exited. A few minutes later, a differently dressed nondescript man entered the room and took his seat at the other end of the table. He pulled out a device and fiddled with it, before placing it on the desk. "Are you Alina Kaufer, born on May 6th, 1993?"

"I am," she said, warily.

He nodded. “Why were you detained by Internal Security forces?”

"I..." she hesitated, deciding what to say. "I am unsure."

”What were the circumstances leading up to your arrest?”

"I was... well, I thought I was being invited for a job interview. They found discrepancies in my parents' records that I couldn't explain. And then someone kicked me in the head, so thanks for that," she said sarcastically.

”Noted. How long has your family lived in Shuell?”

"Many generations, I don't know the exact number," she lied.

"What is the name of the oldest known ancestor of your family? Grandparent, great-grandparent, so on.”

"Oh..." she pretended to think for a moment. "Well, my family were rather, um, impoverished so we have a tendency to die young... I don't honestly remember the names of any of my great-grandparents. My father's father was named Luis, though."

"I see. Luis Kaufer? Got any heirlooms?”

"No, they were all sold to pay my mother's medical bills. Like I said, impoverished."

"Mhm.” The man grunted. She got the impression he didn’t believe her. “Why did you decide to be an officer in the IS Army?”

"I wanted to serve my country," she said as if it was obvious. "As all loyal Shuellians should."

"As usual, then. Same applies for IntSec?”

"Of course," she nodded.

”Have you or any of your family members been associated with the Matriarchy of Kerlile or rival powers of Shuell?”

"Not to my knowledge," she said, keeping her face and tone steady even as her heart rate spiked momentarily.

"Are you supportive of Kerlian ideals in any way?"

"I am going to assume you mean the misandry, and not things shared with other nations. In which case no, I am not," the lie came easily, she was well practiced in telling them. But the sentiment behind it, claiming she did not support the Matriarchy... that was much harder for her to do.

He pauses, moving the device closer to her. "Can you recite a sentence for me? 'Kerlile is a failure of a nation and has evil, immoral ideals. The rulers of Kerlile deserve nothing but death.' Quickly, now."

She hesitated, looking down at the device. She considered it for a moment... and made her decision, shrugging and leaning back in her chair.

"I'm not going to do that. You won't let me go anyway."

"Excuse me? Are you not a loyal patriot of Shuell?" He asks. Oddly, his tone of voice was not annoyed - more intrigued.

"What is the purpose of making me insult Kerlile? What does that have to do with my parents' files?" she laughed. "If you believed me, why this exercise, this pointless game? I get the feeling you won't let me go anyway."

"An aurora would hestitate or refuse to insult Kerlile, no? They are fanatics. They would kill hundreds to protect their country. That is why they must be hunted down. By refusing to answer, you are further implicating yourself. We seize and release multiple Shuellian citizens with errors in their papers every day."

"You think I'm an Aurora, those agents I saw on the news?" she raised an eyebrow. She remembered watching that news report. She'd downed half a bottle of vodka to give her an excuse to vomit. "I'm flattered, but I don't think I'm capable of that. I just don't approve of insulting one's enemies. It seems cheap and dishonourable."

"Honor." He puts up air quotes. "Do you not remember the Ehrenkodex all officers are given? Section 8, line 27."

"I do. 'Any and all actions taken in defense or service of the State and Fatherland are inherently honorable.' But how does my insulting a country in an interrogation room fall into that category of action?"

"You know the words after it, no? A true Shuellian patriot does not hesitate or refuse an order by a superior. Being a prisoner, I am your superior. While the outdated morality of higher-ranking officers may have rubbed off on you, you should know that here in IntSec, pragmatism is key."

"'A true Shuellian patriot does not hesitate or refuse a lawful order by a superior' is the correct quote," she replied.

He frowns. "Yes, yes." The questions continue for hours, before a beeping noise is heard from the device. "Thank you for answering our questions, Ms. Kaufer. As your allegiance cannot be confirmed, among other concerns, you will be kept in IntSec custody until further notice."

"How wonderful," she said sarcastically.

He grunts, before hitting a button on his suit. The door slides open, and two guards clad in the same armor as earlier entered the interrogation room. To her relief, there was no pepperspray this time. After being marched to her cell, she was shoved onto the cold metal bed she woke up on, and had her restraints re-attached. The only items in the room were a toilet, lightbulb, and a camera too high up for her to reach. She was shocked out of her internal monologue with the harsh noise of the cell door closing, leaving her utterly alone.

She groaned as she lay there, pulling against her restraints a single time in frustration. She thought over her performance in the interrogation room, trying to think if there had been a way she could have kept up the act more fully without doing as he'd asked. But no, there hadn't been. She hadn't admitted anything, at least, but she was certain there would be no way out. It would only get worse.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Zamastan » Wed Nov 27, 2019 5:25 am

Z.I.S. Headquarters - M. Gaviria Building
Tofino, Zamastan


Kirk Faulkman, the Director of the Zamastanian Intelligence Service, sat stern faced at his desk. Freshly groomed hair, his beard trimmed short, yet thick, and his suit without a wrinkle, Faulkman was reading over reports of the recently leaked "Aurora Programme" on his desktop. The wide floor-to-ceiling window behind him in his office space gave a commanding view of Zian Avenue and the gleaming towers of Tofino across the bay. Moments ago, his assistants and several aides, as well as three intelligence officers, had sat in the thin swivel chairs across from him, updating him on the current revelations coming from across all 400 resident agencies across Zamastan, as well as over 50 legal attachés at Zamastanian embassies and consulates across the globe. His intercom buzzed, but Faulkman did not flinch an eye away from his screen.

"Director Faulkman," the woman's voice said softly over the speaker, "Director Amberson is here at your request."

"Tell him to come in," Kirk responded.

Through the glass doors, a fogged pane wall slid open, and Brett Amberson, Director of National Intelligence, strolled down the long hallway towards Faulkman with an agent in a crisp black suit by his side. The agent pushed the door open and held his gaze at a slight angle to the ceiling as Amberson passed into the office space. The door silently closed behind as he took a seat in the chair across from Faulkman.

"Kirk," Brett said, scorning growls evident in his voice, "how did this happen? How can you-"

"Stop right there, Brett." Kirk fired back. "I wasn't director when the Aurora's started, and I sure as hell am not the only one in the history of this department or your department that was completely oblivious - we've had speculations ever since the Haven Accords that Kerlian operatives could have been operating in Zamastan. At least now we know that our concerns and precautions were right - these people are more than likely here."

Brett scoffed, looking back at the glass walls behind him and the desks of agents and jockeys running back and forth, typing away at their desks, chatting with each other. It looked like business as usual, but they were doing something much more different to anything in the agency's history.

"Have they found anything?" Brett quizzed, looking back at Kirk with his head cocked to the side.

"No, but then again, these Auroras are supposed to be hard to find." Kirk looked back into the wider work area to make sure his agents were still working, and then pressed a button on his keypad. Blinds lowered from hidden compartments in the ceiling and blocked out the sunny reflections from the glass buildings in the skyline behind them, as well as the glass walls. The office darkened so that neither Kirk or Brett could see more than a few feet in front of them. Kirk's desktop lit up as the touchscreen capabilities booted up, projecting a computer screen across the entire surface. Kirk stood up, and with one hand swiped across a notice on the projection, prompting an image to pop up. A woman's portrait, posing in military uniform and a fighter-jet helmet in front of the Zamastanian flag stood in front of the two hard-line directors.

"Who is this?" Brett looked at the woman on the desk screen.

"Her name is Corporal Whitney Seet," Kirk said, touching a red circle next to her face, opening up a personal profile of the Corporal. "She's a 29-year old officer in the Air Force, operating out of Lewis Gayson Air Force Base in Duncan."

"Is she an Aurora?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out. We have agents working on it, but they're classified with sharing any information regarding their mission or delivering any word back to anyone except for me."

"Why do we think she's an Aurora?" Brett quizzed, "Her profile is impressive - a true Zamastanian stateswoman. An ideal soldier, outstanding record. She served in combat during the 2011 Vulkarian Insurgency, and last year she ran sorties over Gladysynthia. Hell, this is some development." Brett looked up at Kirk, eyes wide. "Kirk, why is she a suspect?"

"A trainee at the base gave us a tip. He says that during a training exercise, she seemed off and left the base a few minutes into the practice. That was four days ago, and she hasn't been back to the base."

"Okay, but this report here says that she was granted a leave of absence for a week by the base commanders," Brett responded. "If that's the case, why is she being monitored? It could be a family emergency, soldiers are allowed to rest."

"Except this soldier has no family."

Brett stared at Kirk. "What do you mean she has no family?"

Kirk pressed another red button on the screen. A biological tree chart came up with blank slots. "I mean she has no family - at least not that we know of. In addition, never in her 9 years of service has she ever taken a day away from work. She's so impressive that we're worried that her absence, just happening to correspond with the leak of the "Aurora Programme" report, might be what just gave her away."

"But, no family?"

"Auroras are deep-state agents. They don't always need family."

"A soldier?"

"Someone who works in the highest levels of our government structure. And not just a soldier, Brett," Kirk brought up another section of her profile. "A corporal - with in depth knowledge of this." An image of a fighter jet appeared on the screen. "The Z3."

"But, the Z3 Fighter isn't even operational yet. And if an Aurora was targeting Zamastan, why would they go after military hardware? Why not the government? Or something like the military higher-ups?"

"Brett, for God's sake. The Z3. It isn't operational. But, it's maybe the most advanced military equipment in the world right now. And this woman, Corporal Seet, knows every single detail about it. And as for targeting the structure of our nation - the Z3 not only houses its own information, but it has backup programs of every pieces of military hardware our armed forces has. Our land vehicles, our aircraft carriers, and our stealth bombers."

Brett sat back, stunned. "So, what do we do?"

"We wait to see. If she's an Aurora, then we have to take her."

"And if she's just a regular person?"

Kirk shut off the screen, and summoned the blinds to open. "Then we better hope that she doesn't mind talking to Z.I.S. agents in a dark room. We'll wait it out a little, see what the agents report. Then we'll make a move. One way or another, I want to be cautious."

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Shen » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:04 am

4:45 pm. Central archives, Sharanfo

Tse Tai had look through the stack of files he had ordered from the archives four times over already. Checking them against the local archives. The documents from the hospital. Even school yearbooks. Nothing was adding up. There should have been nothing wrong here. Everything should have checked out.

And yet it was all coming up wrong. This was supposed to be a simple active procedure. Checking central archive files against local archive files as part of the background check process for someone potentially getting promoted to the Imperial committee.

Verifying that Central archive records matched local archive records. But there wasn't any local archive records. There was only Central Records kept digitally in the central archives rather than kept physically at the local ones.

Now it wasn't unheard of to have no local archive records. Things were lost and damaged over the long years. And they were honest mistakes with filing that happens from time to time. But this was different.

Tse had spent the last week digging through other archives to find anything. He had visited the hospital in which the person he was supposed to be looking at claimed to be born. And yet there was nothing.

He had traveled out to the provinces, gone to the primary and secondary school that she'd claim to attend before moving to Singse

And yet there was nothing. No teacher remembered her. No student that was in her supposed graduating class had ever heard of her. And most damningly there wasn't a single photo of her in any of her yearbooks.

It was as if she had just appeared at the age of 14 with paperwork saying she had lived a full life and yet no other evidence to back that claim.

There was no way to explain this away. There was just too much evidence in the form of lack of evidence. Letting out an exhausted sigh, he reached for the phone on his desk, picking it up.

"internal security...i… I think you need to send an agent down to office 2-21. There is something that I need to show you"

The door opened less than a minute after he had set down the phone. A man in those flowing black robes typical of an agent of his branch of the government walk through the door.

The bureaucrats had already laid out the evidence on the table. This wasn't his first time making this call. But he still felt terrible about what happened to the last person
He discovered after going through their paperwork…. The rumors of what had happened to him.

But that guilt was soon replaced by the fear of knowing something even worse would happen to him if he didn't report his findings and he was found out.

The man who looked like he was cloaked in a shadow sat across from the bureaucrat opening up the first manila folder and looking through its contents.

He slowly closed the file and moved to another one. Silently running his fingers over the pieces of paper. Being drawn to what the bureaucrat highlighted and underlined to emphasize its importance.

The bureaucrats watched the agents face slowly changed from an emotionless stony exterior comparable to a statue into one of surprise. Bits of shock and horror coming through his expressions.

He closed the last file and looked up towards the bureaucrats.

The two people stared at each other. Drowning together in an ocean of fear. Seeing one of the feared agents of the Shingzi Ren looking totally shocked was like an anchor for the bureaucrat.

One dragging him down into that ocean of fear even quicker than he would have gone otherwise.

There was a few minutes of inaction between them. As that ocean surrounded them and pushed against them with all the pressure it could muster. Threatening to crack their bones and tear their skin.

The deepest fear either of them had ever felt. A fear that grew even deeper as they looked in each other's eyes.

The agent started to swim up from that ocean of fear first though. He's stood up and grabrd a box, collecting all of the papers and documents within its before closing the lid

"... forget what you saw. Tell no one what transpired today."

The bureaucrats could only give a solemn nod as the agent walked out.

_____________

7:12pm. The black Monastery. Headquarters if the Shingzi Ren, just outside of Singse

Grandmaster Lee folded his hands together over his desk as he closed the manila envelope. Within it was just two pieces of printer paper covered in a short and brief description of what had transpired as well as some attached photos. But in those two pages there was A deadly secret that could shake apart the foundation of the empire. The old Grandmaster didn't even know how to process it. He was Stern and quiet as some of the other ranking members of his order stood around him waiting for him to act decisively. The order was decentralized in most things. Usually lesser directors and agents could have acted on this. But the magnitude of what had just been revealed with something that only The Grandmaster himself could direct the actions of the organization on.

Finally the old man parted his lips. Letting a few words out as he leaned back in his chair and removed his glasses tossing them haphazardly onto the desk

" I have been a fool… and now the core of the Empire is exposed...Sun Yafang the chief engineer of Heaven's Gate... is a woman living under a false identity. "

"... the most important economic asset within the Empire has fallen to the enemy without a single shot being fired…" a voice speaking in a strange and foreign accent spok out.

The Grandmaster turned his attention towards that voice. a slight amount of anger towards the Immigrant agent present in his voice.

" obviously agent Nemo. The question is who does she work for. And what are they after"

"... I think you already know the answer to that Grandmaster" another voice said from the other side of the room. Director Kong.

" this is the eventuality that I have been telling you was going to happen since the Civil War in lauchnoria. The auroras.."

" the Aurora. the Aurora's! " The Grandmaster shouted cutting off the director." Oh trust me I know your opinion on them. You think that little backwards country could ever infiltrate his deeply into the Empire's they did Within lauchnoria...i...i will never allow such...such…"

He slowly started to sputter off. His words becoming less coherent

"... with all due respect Grandmaster...you are wrong...what we know about mrs. Sun is in line with what we know about the Aurora's. And even if we are wrong we can no longer allow her to remain free. We have to take her into custody…"

The Grandmaster nodded weekly and defeated. " ill...ill let you take charge director kong… take this woman into custody. Quietly. Obviously. I will inform the empress…"

" as you wish Grandmaster" the group bow their heads towards the leader of their order. All of them slowly starting to walk out at the old man went to the phone.

"... get me her majesty. I need to tell her something…"

______

12:44 am.

Bolder point city, shen.

Housing bloc AB-2

Floor 29.

Room 4

The calm quiet of the government housing units of Boulder Pointe. Filled entirely with bureaucrats and there family. it was clean. Modern. Professional.

The last place you would expect a solid windowless van to pull up in front of. And another one to head around to the back. No one had ever seen those doors burst open wistfully Arms Tactical police units thrusting forward starting to make their way into the building.

Some getting to the roof and setting up rappelling gear. And others positioning themselves right outside the door.

And sounds of dread in horror filled the entire floor as everyone was woken up with a door being broken down and windows being shattered

And shen federal police yelling

" police raid! Evreyone up now!"


Sun Yafang woke with a start, confused. She'd lived this life so long by now that her old childhood instincts had been weakened, and so when she heard the crash, it took her a second to sit up in bed and glance around her.


As soon as she was looking up a flashlight started to shine in her face

" Get up!" The man yelled at her.

Woko looked into the lights with Terror. Completely speechless yes he did as he was instructed. The screening of her son and her daughter came into the room before the sound of them being forcibly pulled out of their beds also came through the walls

In a split second, she considered her options. She could fight... but her body was weaker than it used to be, and her family was there. She couldn't risk them coming to harm. Running wasn't an option, there was nowhere to go, she was cornered. So, she went with her last remaining option: go quietly and pretend she knew nothing about what was happening.

She stood up slowly, keeping the expression of confusion on her face even though it was far less genuine now than it was a few seconds ago, and stepped close to her husband, acting like she wanted his protection even though the idea rather disgusted her.

The guards moved the family of four into the main room by the door. One of them looked at his phone bruh moment. Making sure everything was correct on the small touch screen. After nodding he put it back in his pocket.

" cuff and bags them all"

As soon as he gave the odor bags were placed on all four of their heads and their hands were cuffed behind them. The federal police began to push them down the hallway and take them to the lobby

The elevator ride was far longer than it normally was. The guns being pointed at their backs and the muffled crying of her daughter and her son echoed in her ear

When they finally got down they heard to new voices but they hadn't heard up in the bedroom

" give us the woman. do what you want with the other three"

" under whose authority? Who the hell are.."

But the police officer suddenly got very quiet. His tone of voice change from commanding to very submissive

" oh...sorry sir"

" you didn't know Sergeant. Just do as I ask"

" yes sir"

She kept quiet, biting her lip and squeezing her eyes shut tighter. There was nothing she could do. The cries of her children hurt her but she had known that was a risk, once. She'd spent so long with things going well that she had almost forgotten the risk existed. But the day she'd wished for years now would never come was here, and there was nothing she could do but keep quiet.

The Aurora found herself thrown into the back of a car landing hard against the floor. Before she could even interact the stinging sensation of her flesh being pierced by a tiny needle stung her body. And then her body suddenly had no feeling at all. Her eyes didn't stay open and she slipped into unconsciousness.

When she awoke an undisclosed amount of time had passed. She was in a chamber. The walls for concrete. She sat on a table that was bolted into the floor. And her hands were firmly secured on to that table with another Bolt. She was wearing the same clothing she had when she had been pulled out in the middle of the night. Sitting there in a cold chair. Alone

She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. She tried to recall her training, from so long ago. She needed to keep her breathing steady, remember her mission and her loyalties. Tell them nothing.

Time continue to pass on words. Alone in that cold dark concrete room. Finally the door opened. The Shadows obscured the figure but walked in. But it was tall whatever it was. And wore a black cloak over it tunic of matching color. It's sat across from her and set down a stack of manila envelopes before pressing a button on the table. A recording symbol lit up.

"... this is Agent 23 J in processing room for. Prisoner 34118." The voice was feminine. Calm and relaxed. Almost bored

A pair of eyes looked at her, barely visible in the shadows.

"... please state your name and citizen ID number for the record"

"My name is Sun Yafang, and my ID number is 23561246," she answered, sounding confused and slightly afraid.

" and you hold what rank within the bureaucracy?"

"Class 4."

The mysterious woman pressed another button on the table. A smoke compartment opened and a lamp rose out of it which instantly illuminated and a lamp rose out of it instantly Illuminating the table as well as blinding for a woman who would spend so many hours in the dark

"... according to my records you are currently the chief engineer at the Heaven's Gate damn... is that correct?"

"That is correct, yes," she said, blinking in the light.

"... your records here are very impressive miss yufang. Scored in the 96th percentile on your civil service exam. Graduated near the top of your class for the Hydraulic Engineering program. An upstanding career in the bureaucracy... my records are correct arnt they?"

"They are correct, yes," she replied, warily.


" interesting..."

The woman pulled out the first manila folder and opened it up. It was a birth certificate. Her birth certificate

" do you recognize this?"

"I do, it's my birth certificate," she said, looking down at the document.

"... so you admit this is your birth certificate? You find nothing wrong about it? The hospital you were born in? Time and date?"

"No, I can see no errors," she said as her heart rate rose a little, her nerves increasing.


"... so can you explain to me why this document stored in the central archives has no twin at the local archives? And there are no records of this birth in the hospital?"

"I..." she paused, thinking. "I have no explanation. Perhaps the records were lost by some incompetent individual?"

"... perhaps. No one's perfect after all"

The woman closed the manila folder and slid it off to the side.

She got another folder out as well as a book underneath it. A class yearbook for a primary school. The one that her documents claimed she attended
She opened up the manila folder and showed her a certificate of graduation with her name on it

"... is this your graduation form from primary school?"


"It is," she nodded.

" it is? Interesting"

She picked up the boom and began flip through the pages

" what was your homeroom? What are some clubs you attended when you were in Primary School? You look like a chess club girl"

"I'm sorry, I don't remember. It was so long ago, and my memories are all mixed up with my memories of my kids' schools..." she trailed off. She shouldn't have mentioned her children, it was only making her nerves worse.

"...your children yes. I wonder what's happening to them " she said sinisterly as she slipped through the books a little more before setting it down and picking up another one.

"... funny. I don't see any mention of you in any of these. And me and my colleagues have been through them quite thoroughly. Can you explain why you're not in any of your primary school or secondary school yearbooks?"

"Ah," she began, though her heart rate was now horribly high, worrying about her children. "The thing is, I had this pathological fear when I was a child about getting my photo taken. I despised it, I thought I was ugly. So I'd always, well, feign sickness on picture day. I kind of got over it when I was a teenager though, after I'd lost a little weight."

"... you do know that that's not a valid excuse and someone would have taken your photo for record-keeping...any shen child knows this... we all miss picture day one Year and have to be chased down by the school staff to make sure it's done before their deadline..."

She closed the envelope and put it off to her side. The table was clear in between them now. She crossed her arms and stare directly into the Aurora's soul

"... you would know that if you grew up here. But there's no documented proof of you even existing until you were 14"

"I..." she trailed off. It was pointless. She couldn't come up with enough excuses. She had been warned not to be caught. She should have fought back when they tried to catch her. "I don't know why that is."

" oh I think you do."

She unfolded her arms and began to stretch across the table

" in fact I have a pretty good idea and I think we're both wasting a lot of time pretending like I haven't figured this out."

She placed her hand on top of the Aurora's

"... why don't you just come clean? You lost the game but that doesn't mean you have to lose everything. Just work with me and we can make sure your children stay safe"

"What are you going to do to them!?" her eyes flashed with fear.

" nothing... so long as you cooperate... all three of your children are being held in processing facilities at the moment. They're scared but unharmed. What happens in this room will help determine what we do with them"


"What do you want from me?" she asked.

"... the truth my dear. The truth will set your family free. I know what you are....Aurora... I've already figured that much out. Now I just need you to tell me everything you know about the program"

She closed her eyes, her breathing shaky. She considered her options. She loved her children, but... she was no traitor.

"I don't know what you are talking about. I can't tell you what I don't know."

"...sun... come on now." She said softly. A week smile come to her face

" just answer a few questions for me and I'll let you see your children ok?"


"What questions?" she asked.

"We will start simple. Are you an Aurora? Born in the matriarchy as a spy to infiltate shen?"


"No," she lied

Before her swim female interrogator could say another word the door slammed open again. A large intimidating man ran in

" you haven't got this feminist freak too talk yet? Are you that incompetent Shi Shi!? Su lan has the one in the other room singing like a canary already"

He angrily grab the hair of the bureaucrat and pulled on it

" tell us what you know you Little Orphan freak Show or I swear to God I will serve you your children for supper!"

" riyu! In The Name Of Heaven calm down!"

" shut up!" He yelled before pulling on her hair harder

LauchenoiriaYesterday at 9:02 AM
Sun Yafang hissed through her teeth at the pain.

"Please let me go," she asked him. "I don't know anything!"

The old woman sells her hair being released but a moment later her head was slammed into the table shattering her nose. Blood slowly starting to slow down

" what are you doing!"

Shi shi put herself in between h
The man and the Prisoner

" back off riyu"

He turned around and wipe the blood from the woman's

" im so sorry..."

Yafang gasped, involuntary tears gathering in her eyes at the pain.

"You didn't have to... shit!" she cried as she bled.

" shh...look if you don't start talking that brutes going to order me out of the room. He outranks me...hes...hes shingzi ren..." she whispered into her ear

" just give me something sun...for you kids"


" she better start talking. Those little brats will probably be at the labor camp by now" riyu said

"Labour camp!?" she gasped. "No..."

She thought about her daughter, who would definitely not do well in a labour camp. And she thought about the pain she was in. Which didn't matter, she was trained to handle worse pain than this. She'd known having children was a risk... and loving them was an even bigger one. She let out a whimper. She would just have to let herself and her family suffer.

"I won't tell you anything."

" well you heared the bitch..."

The man walked outside for a moment


Shi shi looked at her in horror

" oh god... please don't do this. They'll send you to the cube... don't let them do that to you. Come on just tell me something and I promise you can see your children. I can have them helicopter here within 2 hours...do it for them...for family"

"I don't know what the cube is, but I can't," she said, shaking her head slightly, then stopping as it made her feel dizzy after getting her head slammed into the table. "Please don't hurt my children, they have nothing to do with this, but I can't."

"... if you can help me I can't protect them...im so sorry...just...pray to whatver goddess you worship... maybe she can protect them from the hell..."

As she spoke 6 Men In Black cloaks came in the room. They walked over behind her and undid the vines that kept her on the table. And then they began to tear at her pajamas. The woman fekt her clothing torn from her.

And then two of the guards grabbed her arms and they all began to pull her out of the room and take her down a Long Hall

This time she fought back, struggling against them. She kicked out at them and pulled on her arms, snarling and reaching over to try and bite one of the men holding her.


She was slapped in the face for trying to bite one of them. Finally they came to what looks like a solid concrete wall one of the guards best against it and it slowly opened up. The light shined into a 2m by 2M by 2M cubic cell.


Cold air rushed out of it. The only thing inside was a shower head and a drain on the ground. The guards threw her in there till she skidded across the ground

She knocked against the wall and put her hand on it to steady herself, looking up, and shivering in the cold.

The door closed behind her.

She was alone.

Naked

In total darkness

Alone

She curled herself up in a ball in the corner, shivering, and began to cry for her children.

the empireYesterday at 9:31 AM
Riyu waited until he heard the desperate fighting disappear down another corridor.

The huge imposing man let out a sigh of relief before it looking at shi shi

"Femanist freak?" She said as her horrified look Twisted into a sick smile

" did i... over play my part miss"


" a little...still...you did good"


" thsnk you miss... I'm sorry we didn't break her"

" don't worry. She has more training than even I do as an S Class. Breaking her is going to be far more difficult than one interrogation session. Although probably not as difficult as I first thought...."

The taller interrogator and his female Superior walked out of the Chamber

" are we actually keeping the kids in a labor camp miss?"

" does it matter?"

" no... I suppose it does not. Say you hungry Miss?"

" it's almost time for our lunch break. I suppose we could go grab something to eat. What did you have in mind?"


" hmm... how about we try out that new Xiomeran place?"

" that sounds wonderful"

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Laeral
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Laeral » Wed Nov 27, 2019 7:04 pm

9:30, Headquarters of the Bureau of External Affairs
Laeralsford, Laeral

"Hey, Wu?" a voice called through the office door. "Your new partner's here."

"Send them in," Wu said. He set down the file folder he'd been carrying as he paced around his office, and shut his laptop screen. His office was a small one, but it was private- a privilege of his two decades of service. The Bureau of External Affairs, Laeral's intelligence agency, was headquartered in a classical house in central Laeralsford, about two centuries old and without any central heating in the winter. Wu had already started taking a space heater to work.

The office door opened, revealing the broader office space outside, and a slight young woman standing in the doorway. To Wu's eyes, she looked mixed-race, with the slight epicanthic folds showing some Rén ancestor in the close family. She had dark blonde hair and a blithe expression on her face as she took in the cramped office. A small desk, with a laptop. A filing cabinet, and folders lying on the desk, alongside an empty takeout tray with a pair of chopsticks and a few stray grains of rice. There were a few pictures on the walls, and a small shrine with a statuette of some stern-faced Minjian saint wielding a staff or spear.

"I'm Joseph Wu," Wu said, extending a hand for her to shake. "You can call me Wu, or Joseph, just not Joe." He was an older Rén man, maybe in his forties, with a slight beard and a firm stance as he stood.

"A pleasure to meet you," his new partner said. She had a slight rural accent, sounding as if she'd come from a rural province in the southeast. "I'm Espoir Landais."

"Have you been briefed on our assignment?" Wu asked.

"Not quite," Espoir said. "I know something about Auroras..."

"I'll be briefing everyone in a moment," Wu said. "There's more of us- I think six teams of two agents each, and support staff."

"Are you in charge?" Espoir asked. "Of the whole mission, I mean."

Wu shrugged. "I just learned about this an hour ago. It seems the higher-ups don't want much word of this getting out. I'm commander in the field, but my direct supervisor has oversight of the whole operation."

"So...will we be overseeing the other five teams?" Espoir asked.

Wu snorted. "Hell no. I'm a field agent. I don't like to spend any more time in here than I have to. No, I intend for us to be out in the field, tracking leads and chasing down Kerlians." He turned back to one of the folders on his desk. "You're new, aren't you? How many deployments have you been on?"

"None," Espoir said. "This is my first real assignment."

"Do you know why you were assigned to me?" Wu asked. "I was told you had some sort of skill with language?"

"I do," Espoir said. "It'd be easier to show you than to tell you. But I'm good with accents."

"So you can impersonate voices?" Wu asked. "Can you do- I don't know- a Kvaskm accent?"

"This one's from a miner in southeastern Kvask," Espoir said. If Wu had his eyes closed, he wouldn't have believed that the voice was coming from the same woman he'd just been talking to. "And this one's from the southwest, near the border with Lauchenoiria."

"Praise the Divine," Wu said. "That's a talent. Can you do Kerlian?"

"I can do a rural Kerlian farmer, an urban Kerlian woman, or a Grapevale aristocrat's voice," Espoir said. She smiled. "I picked that last one up from watching propaganda broadcasts. I call it the 'Kerlian Councillor'."

Wu nodded, seeing the applications of the skill.

"But I can also hear the differences between people's voices," Espoir said. "Most people can't. But if you know what to listen for, you can tell things about them from the sound of their voice. Like you. It's clear that French isn't your first language. You were born somewhere in western Laeral, clearly. Mandarin was your first language, I can tell from the way you say your word endings. But you hide it pretty well." She furrowed her brow. "If I had to guess, you've been living among predominantly French speakers for the past ten years or so at least. But before then, you were raised in an urban area in western Laeral. Your voice suggests Riverlands, so I'd say somewhere from Gaolan to Hanshui, around that region."

Wu exhaled softly. "I'm from Hanshui," he said. "And I grew up speaking Mandarin. That's really a skill you have, Mademoiselle Landais."

"The trainers think I might be able to identify a Kerlian accent," Espoir said. "Even if an Aurora has been living in Laeral for years, they'll still have spent years as a child in Kerlile. Even if they've tried to suppress it, they'll still have Kerlian tones that I might be able to find."

Wu reached out and shook her hand again, a hearty handshake. "I feel in time we'll be damn glad to have you with us."

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Anglia-Saxia » Wed Nov 27, 2019 10:00 pm

16:25,Headquarters of Military Council
Libnex,Anglia-Saxia [/b]
''Greetings to my fellow councilmembers,I called this reunion to an emergency.'' Says Portwill Lines,the Leader of the Military Council

''...''

''What might be so important to call an reunion now?'' Says Kerren Santes,an member of the council.

''We have an possibility of an Kerlile infiltration in our nation: In our military,in our government and in our inteligence bureau.''

''Oh,I always knew these Kerlians were planning something when they saw our quiet nation have relations with Launchenoria!'',shouts Pierre Nesheme,one of the most militarist member of the Council. ''We can't trust them!''

''This...this is impossible! I can't believe that our nation,which never did anything about Kerlile was infiltrated!'',says Lichen Merrene,an semi-pacifist and imigrant in Anglia-Saxia members of the Military Council.

''But who it might be?'', says Anajava Sancton. ''I say... Me-''

''Quiet,Sancton! It's not the time to make acussations here! We need to band together to save our nation!'' says Portwill Lines.

''My dear Leader,we need to root out this traitor out of here! We can't wait they sabotage our nation!'' says Sancton. ''I suppose that the traitor,the betrayer of our nation is Lichen Merrene! This dirty foreigner come here only for provoking chaos and saboting our military! That's why he's an pacifist!''

''You don't have proof,do you?'' asks Portwill.

''I do,my friend...'' says Sancton.
Anajava Sancton releases an document with the ''Aurora'' profile of Lichen Merrene.

''Impossible! Aurora? What are you talking about? I'm not involved in this! I swear!'' shouts Lichen Merrene.

''Remove the traitor from here!'' screams the Council,conviced of Sancton's documents.

''...'' ''You are making an great injustice here,Portwill...'' says Lichen.

''Traitor,you...'' says Portwill.

Lichen tried flee from the Military Council headquaters,and managed to go away.

''CALL THE COPS! CALL THE POLICE!'' screams Sancton.

''The reunion is finished now. Thanks for your time and for you proof,Sancton. The police will take Lichen,but we are humane. We are not torturing he.''

Democratic Republic Of Eiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Democratic Republic Of Eiria » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:53 pm

(Written with contributions from the Legend Lauchenoira)

EICA Headquarters, Downtown Geminus, 6:37 PM, Yesterday

Minister David Park sat in his desk, glaring at the files piled up as if staring at them will make them disappear. The Aurora Program has everyone in the Agency frantically searching, to both neutralize the Aurora Threat, and to be the first agent to do it. It was causing him a lot of headaches. Practically every agent has come up with an outlandish theory about Auroras, without dignifying them, and sent them to his desk.

Just when he picked up a chunk of papers and started reading, someone burst through the door. Senior Agent Caroline Laurent came in, and quickly closed the door behind her. "Minister Park! You need to see this!". She handed him a flashdrive. He put down his other papers in confusion. "What is it?". She motioned for him to put it into his computer. He sighed, and complied.

After loading, the screen showed security camera footage of a woman scrolling through records. "This is the Immigration Bureau's Restricted Records Room. This woman-". She pointed on the screen. "- Is Marie Ducette, Vice Minister of Immigration. This was taken in Friday Evening". They both watched silently as the woman took a file, used whiteout over part of it, and filled the blanks herself. Park was intrigued, but confused. "I assume she didn't have Permission to do this, so it is Illegal. But why is this relevant for me to see?".
Laurent handed him a piece of paper. "This is a copy of the original paper she edited. The Records for Professor Stephanie Stecott, the Leading Professor in Political Sciences in Eiria. One of the things she edited was country of origin. Take a look".
Park took a look at the document, then turned back to Laurent. "My God". In the box for country of origin, one word was listed: Kerlile

A knock on the door snapped both of them out of their surprise. "I'm busy!". Someone opened the door. Park turned to the door, angry. "I said I'm bu-". Both Park and Laurent did a double take. The woman who entered wore an Eirian Military Uniform, with the five four-sided stars of an Eirian General. But next to her rank, a pin stood out. The two circle symbol of the Guard of the Republic. The woman had long blonde hair, tied in a ponytail, and a long scar along her neck. Park didn't know her real name, but he was one of few to know her Alias. "General Artemis. What a pleasant Surprise". He said, standing. "What may I help you with?".

She spoke with the Light and formal accent common of Eirians. "Minister Park. I was just here to inform you of a lead on the Aurora Investigation, but it appears that Agent Laurent beat me to it. So, I would like to offer the Guard's services to help capture Ducette".

Park was confused. "You mean, she's not in custody?"
Artemis shook her head. "I asked her boss, Minister Reland, to hold off on telling the police in order to not make a scene, and told him we will be apprehending her in an.... unusual manner, and gave him instructions to help. We should be set".

Park sighed. "Well, let's do this then".

Bureau of Immigration, Central Geminus, 9:45, This Morning

Marie Ducette Sat in her office, sipping her coffee and reading the morning Newspaper, specifically the article on Auroras. She had been unhappy to hear of the third leak, it made her nervous. She had a difficult job, and a difficult life, and anything that increased the risk of her ending up in prison was not something she wanted to happen.

A young woman, possibly a new intern, knocked on her door.
"Madame Ducette? Minister Reland called a meeting of the heads of the Bureau".
"Of course," she replied, putting down the newspaper. She was glad to have a distraction from the article and headed to the meeting room quickly, hurrying out of the room faster than necessary. She wondered what the meeting would be, hoping it would be something to take her mind off her fears.

Minister Reland sat at the front of the meeting table. "Well, let's get started, shall we? I called this meeting to address the-". He was interrupted by the door opening, and the New Intern, a but embarrassed, stepping in. "Madame Ducette? You forgot your coffee". She put in down in front of her. "Oh, thank you. I'm sorry, I've been a little distracted today."

The young intern left the meeting room and slipped the empty vial into her pocket. It had been too easy to drug Madame Ducette's coffee. I am Bound to get a commendation for my first mission. She thought. All I need to do is wait.

After the meeting, Ducette stopped at the water fountain, feeling Nauseous. The young intern stood next to her, looking concerned. "Are you alright Madame?". Black spots clouded her vision. "I'm.... I'm fi.....". She collapsed on ten ground. The intern looked shocked, and took out her phone to call an ambulance. A few minutes later, an ambulance arrived and took her away. But the ambulance never arrived at Compassion Hospital. Marie Ducette was in custody, with everyone none the wiser.
Last edited by Democratic Republic Of Eiria on Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Shen
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Shen » Wed Nov 27, 2019 11:58 pm

(Written with lauch)


When Joanna Greenwood received a letter inviting her to tea with the new Empress, she had been afraid. She still had flashbacks to the humiliation she had suffered at the hands of Wu Zhou, and though she felt ashamed, and would never admit it, she had been somewhat relieved when the old woman had passed away. All throughout the journey, she had been nervously going over what she could say to the new Empress, how she could avoid further humiliation without putting herself in danger.

When she arrived at the gate, and the imperial guards began to escort her to the Jade Garden, her nerves increased... only for then to vanish when she saw the garden. It was magnificent, full of beautifully maintained bushes. There were ducks in the pond, and cats dotted around. Her eyes were drawn, however, to the twelve enormous jade statues. The largest of all was the dragon, 35ft tall. The Empress sat in front of the dragon, and when Greenwood saw, her nerves returned slightly.

The woman was dressed in black robes. An outfit of mourning for her deceased mother.

The only splash of color being highlights of ruby red in her crown and outfit.

And her face covered by a black silk Veil.

"... president Greenwood? You got here just on time. I always respected a guest whos punctual"

A servant walked out from behind the Jade Dragon. It's fearsome to fanged vissage looking down on the table.

He sat down a platter on to that table with two cups of tea.

One made exactly how the president liked it even though she had not ordered it

" come. Sit. "

Nervously, she walked forward, taking her seat at the table.

"I am grateful for the invitation, my empress," she said, her voice only shaking a little. "And I was sorry to hear of your mother's passing."

" your condolences are appreciated Madam president. I have been quite busy preparing for her funeral. I'm glad you will be joining us to morn our nations loss"

"Of course I will, my empress," she replied. "I am very grateful for the protection she offered me when I... well, when I had done nothing to deserve it."


" whatever reason my mother had for offering you protection died with her. But rest assured I have no plans to violate Orthodoxy by overturning one of her last decrees"

The empress picked up her own cup of tea and held up her vail for just a second to take a sip before turning her attention back towards the president.

" I heard you've accepted a job teaching at University"

"I have, my empress," she nodded. "I look forward to it. I remember teaching my own daughters about history - the actual version, not what we tell girls in our schools - and I always got joy out of seeing them learn."

She picked up her tea and took a sip. "Mmm, this is exactly how I like it..." she trailed off and then involuntarily glanced behind her as she realised they had probably found out somehow.

" I was hoping my servants got it right" she replied offhandedly as the president could see a small smirk behind her veil.

" it seems like you are well suited to be an educator then. Good. Biaking university is the most prestigious University in the Empire. I myself attended it when I was much younger. "

"I hope I can live up to the expectations placed upon me," she said, sipping her tea again. "My youngest daughter may wish to come and visit at some point, however I have yet to hear from my eldest, though she is in Shuell so I am unsurprised."

" as long as she has a valid passport cheese of course allowed to apply for a entrance Visa like any other citizen. I'm sure there won't be any issue issuing one to her."

The woman took another sip before letting out a sigh " I am a bit distressed there but your other daughter hasn't contacted you. I'm hoping your choice to go into Exile hasn't caused any Rift in your family"

Joanna flinched at the word exile. "I am sure she is just busy at the Olympics. When she is back in Kerlile she will likely get in touch," she said, though she didn't sound confident.


" i hope she does. My own son has a habit of making infrequent contact with me. I understand. He's traveling about the world and he's just spreading his wings. But it can be hard as a mother"

"It can indeed," Joanna agreed, smiling slightly. Her nerves hadn't vanished entirely, but she was feeling considerably more confident than she had been initially.

The empress returned the smile " now that you are an educator...perhaps your Empress can ask a favor of you?"(edited)

Her nerves increased again slightly. "A favour, my empress?" she asked.


" yes... as an educator I'd like you to help to educate me... come let's walk around. I've always preferred to learn while being active"the empress said rising from her chair

Joanna rose also, a mix of curious and nervous.

"...kerille...is a state built on ideology... this is quite a curious concept to me as a shen. After all I am the state. All power in this Empire flows from me...." the two began to walk around the pond in the center of the garden

"... and just as curious as Most states are built on the nation-state model. Built on ethnicity"


"Kerlile is somewhat unique," Joanna agreed. "Although the Lavender Country is currently run using a somewhat similar concept by the LGBT community, if I remember correctly. It is, however, a protectorate of Gardavasque, so not an independent state."


" yes... unfortunately i dont have a former head of State of that protectorate. So I guess we'll have to stick to the example of kerille"

The Empress stopped for a moment as a cat was standing in their way. She looked back at the president has the cat slowly and lazily got up and walked off the warm Stone path it had been napping on

" how would you describe the ideology of the matriarchy? "

"The Kerlian brand of feminism is different from other types. We believe that a central system is needed to guide people towards gender equality in the long term. And I do not just mean legal protection regardless of gender, I mean the complete removal of gender roles. However, men will naturally resist this after spending so long in charge in much of the world. This is not relevant to Shen, of course, but in many of the old monarchies, there were instances of male children inheriting a throne over adult women, such as in the Kingdom of Fleura of old," she began to explain.

"We believe that men must be educated in how to cast off their patriarchal ways, the misogyny ingrained into that gender for centuries, for there to ever be equality. The Matriarchy is not the end goal, but the interim stage. In a few centuries, once men have learned to change their ways, the system of gender segregation and restrictions of the present can be gradually removed to create a state in which full equality will be possible. Of course, because of the outside influence of patriarchal countries around the globe such as Zamastan, for one, it is proving... difficult to get to that stage."

" like shen?" She said with a small chuckle as the cat finally walked away and the two could continue on their orbit of the pond

" i grew up in this country madam president. The throne is open to men and women because it is meant to pass to the most capable and in our history women have shown that sometimes that's them. That same attitude about meritocracy extends to the bureaucracy as well. But you and I both know that that meritocracy doesn't extend to our culture. Family life is divided rigidly between the roles of men and women. We have achieved meritocracy in practice. Not egalitarianism "

She looked away from the president "... I'm not my mother Joanne. I don't take criticism personally...so long as people know when it is there a place to give it"

She looked back towards the president "... interesting you mention a timeline of centuries. It seems the current Administration wishes that timeline to be measured in decades. Maybe even just a few years"(edited)

"Well, I think it is rather public knowledge that the current administration and I disagree on certain matters. In fact, I would go so far as to say that President Arnott," she almost spat the name out, "does not even believe in her own ideology, but rather seeks power and has seen this as a way to achieve it by getting Jennifer Hale, the democrat, and Carmen Robinson, the traitor, on board." She paused. "Sorry, that was inappropriate of me, I allowed my emotions on the matter to get the better of me."

The empress stop them and turn towards the president. Extending her arm and resting it on her shoulder.

" you have nothing to apologize for. Passion towards your beliefs is not a negative in this Empire and will not be punished at my court"

The empress kept her hand on her shoulders face began to walk again. Seeming to conduct her words with her free hand as they made their way across the warm Stone path

" I can't say I disagree with your opinion. When you ran the country there was a certain sense of stability to the region. The current government doesn't exactly Inspire faith. If only there was something that could be done strike out against them and weaken their power and allows sensible government to return to the matriarchy....one that will allow a former president the privilege of living in her own Nation"

Joanna frowned, curious. "I do not see what can be done. The other families will not move against them. We fear greater instability at this time of economic uncertainty thanks to the Haven Accords."


" hmm... certainly we can think of something Madam president? I'm sure you want to return home. And I want stability in the region. Something neither of us can achieve with the current government. Perhaps we can do something that will force them out of power but not affect the internal stability of the nation? Something that will only be known behind the scenes and at the highest levels of power"

"I am... not certain what you mean," Joanna began careful. "And I would be reluctant to work against my own country with the help of a foreign state."

" joanna...president Greenwood... we're working against the power-hungry bastards who have hijacked your feminist Revolution... I can think of No Greater Act of loyalty to your ideology... then helping to take down a government that you said yourself does not support it"(edited)

Joanna remained silent, thinking. On the one hand, she had herself condemned several people to death or torture for treason against the Matriarchy. On the other, the thought of permanent exile...

"How?" she asked eventually.

"... there's really only one way I can think of where we can force the government currently in power out of power, without causing instability that will hurt the citizens... we have to strike at your intelligence Network. The continual failures of security in regards to leaks of Aurora documents has already disgraced the president. With your help we could efficiently act on those leaks... when Aurora's start to go missing or are returned to the matriarchy in Chains..."

The empress looked towards the Jade statue of a rat. The symbol of the shingzi ren

"... if that happened with our agents the first Minister and The Grandmaster would resign in disgrace"(edited)

Joanna's face turned from curious to shocked, to frightened.
"Empress... you are asking me to commit treason."

"...Joanne... I'm asking you to commit treason against a government... out of loyalty to your state and ideology"

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a wrist watch. Placing it in her hand

"... this belonged to my great-grandfather... it was the watch he was looking at when the time finally came to initiate his plan to overthrow the emperor...and save shen."

"I have heard that story from the perspective of the Chiu family. I imagine you would give a rather different version. Empress, I... you must understand that this would be a giant risk. If they ever found out - ever - that I had helped you, then they would not only continue my exile, but my family would

"I suppose I would. "

She reached out and slowly closed Greenwoods hands. Allowing her to tightly grasp the watch of the man who had been en put in the same position she was over a century ago

"I understand. Believe me I do. I know what it's like asking a woman to risk the safety of her family. I don't make this request of you lightly and I can assure you I will repay your favor to me tenfold when this is over. But right now you're the only person who can save kerille. What kind of country will be left to your family if you don't help bring down the reformists?"(edited)

She thought. She had two options. She could commit treason in the hope of saving her country and returning it to its former glory, pray she doesnt get caught and hopefully one day end her exile. Her other option was to refuse the favour, potentially be sent back and imprisoned, only to watch her country fall further into decline. But at least she wouldn't have committed treason. Really, there was no choice: she was naturally selfish, and one of those options was better than the other.

"Okay. I will... I will help you," she said. Goddess save me, she thought.

There was a certain glow that came from the empress as she got her answer. Both of the president's hands were taken

" thank you... together we can do what neither of us could truly do alone. Bring down the reformists. Now why don't I take you to meet The Grandmaster? You can help him formulate a strategy. I will have my servants prepare guest chamber for you here in the Heavenly Palace. I don't want you too far from my side during these trying times. I could use your counsel"

"Of course," she nodded, though she was shaking. "I warn you, even as President I did not know everything. The Programme is the domain of the Pierre family, they are the only ones who knew the full extent of it. For, well, for security purposes."

" I will be thankful for whatever advice you can give me Madam president. Now lets go"

The empress led the way as the two left the Jade Garden and walked towards the golden Tower

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Shuell
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Shuell » Thu Nov 28, 2019 12:24 am

Written with Lauchenoiria.

Shuellian Embassy, Lauchenoiria, 11:00 PM

Jae Chung, dressed in her most unassuming clothes, walked at an average pace along the road. It was late, and dark outside, and the embassy district of Buttercity was fairly empty. When she approached the Shuellian embassy, she turned to the door and entered, walking up to the reception.

"Good evening. I would like to speak with the Ambassador about a... delicate matter. My name is Jae Chung."

The woman sitting at the desk nodded, and pointed to a hallway with a metal detector present it in, next to one of the staff sitting in front of a console. "Right that way, Ms. Chung."

Further down the hallway there was a wooden door with the crest of Shuell carved on it - presumably the Ambassador's office. She knocked on the door after giving brief nods of acknowledgement to the guards on either side of the door. "Come inside, please."

She entered the office, smiling politely and preparing for the conversation.

"Good evening, Ambassador Weidner. My name is Jae Chung. I'm here on behalf of my employer," she began.

Ambassador Weidner was a plain-looking man in his mid 30s, sporting a goatee and well-combed hair. A large flag of Shuell hung behind him, with stacks of paperwork and a computer present on his desk. "Good evening, Ms. Chung. We've heard your name around these parts before."

"I can imagine," she replied. "I will cut to the chase, it is late and I don't want to keep you. I take it you've seen the news regarding the Aurora Programme?"

He paused, before pulling out a cigarette sticking it into his mouth. "We've heard about it, yes. Aren't you the woman who leaked the information about it?" He asked, before he reached into his pocket and pulled out a lighter.

"I delivered a USB stick containing the first set of leaks to Laura Moore, yes," she said, leaning slightly further away from the Ambassador and coughing slightly as he lit his cigarette. "But I would not claim responsibility for it. The source of the most recent leak, however, I don't know."

"Still." He said, taking a drag. "You're connected to the Auroras, whether you like it or not. Why would you approach us, though?"

"As I said," she coughed. "I am here on behalf of my employer. Some of us in Lauchenoiria are no longer willing to sit idly by while Kerlian infiltrators damage our nation. I imagine the idea has proven concerning to Shuell as well. To that end, my direct superior sent me here with a proposition. That we work together to hunt down the Auroras in both our nations. We can provide information, and you can provide the skills in the realm of security your nation is so well-known for."

He stared at her. "While we understand the concern about Auroras, we do have some questions first - is your organization condoned by the Lauchenoirian government? If not, what do you think the consequences would be if your group was revealed?"

"We are technically employees of the Lauchenoirian government. A subsection of the Lauchenoirian Intellgence Service. However, Prime Minister Alvarez has not necessarily condoned this particular activity. She is worried about the election campaign, I think. Last year she spoke differently of the matter, before she was Prime Minister. She wanted me to continue looking into the Auroras. I cannot believe that she would punish us too harshly for dealing with this threat. Her decision to refrain from giving the green light to this operation was purely political."

"Hrm. If we do decide to take up your offer, how would we contact you?"

"On this number," she said, producing a business card, blank except for a phone number, and placing it on the desk. "I hope your government will consider this offer. Auroras are dangerous, and the longer they are allowed to roam free, the riskier it will be."

"Mhm." He nodded. "While I can't confirm anything yet, if my superiors approve of this deal - expect to be contacted soon." Still sitting, he offered his hand.

She took it, shaking his hand and smiling. "Thank you for your consideration. That is all I ask."

"Have a nice night, Ms. Chung." He pocketed the business card."

"Goodnight, Ambassador," she nodded and exited.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Zamastan » Thu Nov 28, 2019 2:33 am

Duncan, Redeemer's Land, Zamastan
8:23 PM

Four Z.I.S. agents, dressed in tactical gear, perched at the top of a small, wooded hill overlooking a three-story military family apartment complex in the suburb of Duncan. Only the moon illuminated the agents, but even then it was near impossible to see them in their black garb. Armed with assault rifles and silencers attached, they had been laying in the bushes for roughly fifteen minutes. Waiting for any sight of their target, they had been sent out directly from Director Faulkman.

A fifth agent was positioned in the parking lot of the complex, waiting inside a rusted and inconspicuous sedan. A sixth was positioned outside the target's room, taking measurements and samples and reading with sophisticated equipment, checking for booby traps. The agents would not be able to enter the apartment room until the suspect was in custody, as according to search-and-seizure rules in Zamastan. A seventh and eighth agent were waiting across the hall inside the building, disguised as a couple living in that portion of the apartment. The family had been moved out early in the morning right after the target had left, and they were working in full cooperation with the agents - they had been told their neighbor was a suspected terrorist. Meanwhile, the target was being tailed from a distance for the entire day, waiting for the time for her to return to the apartment complex.

"Fanta A, this is Rebok." One of the agents, a burly man perched with the strike team on the hill spoke silently into the collective group intercom. He was assigned group command for the mission to arrest the suspect. "Update on target position."

A voice quietly responded, "we're about two minutes out. Target is still on route back to the intercept point. Still trailing, about fifty meters behind. There is a truck in between us but we have tracker status."

"Got it, stand by." Rebok changed focus to the agents inside the building. "Anything to note?"

"Sir, the viscam is grainy in here," the agent, a man named Marc, taking measurements responded. "I can't confirm any booby traps or wires running the floor, but I can't conclude that there aren't any. We may have to wait until the suspect is back, copy?"

"Can't confirm," Rebok stated back, "let me think quickly." Rebok set his coms system and his rifle down, and pulled up a low-light image of the apartment's construction plan and layout. The entrance to the apartment, where the agent was situated outside of, entered into a large living room. If the layout was correct, a kitchen island would be in between the windows which faced the strike team outside and faced parallel to a bedroom and a bathroom. The apartment was shaped like a stubbed "L", but despite the open space, it had plenty of obstacles for hiding weapons or explosives - the main concern of the team.

"Rebok," the quiet voice squeaked over the intercom, "target is thirty seconds from the parking lot. Are we engaging in the parking lot or in the building?"

"Building, if she enters, there are no traps. Just wait till she enters."

"Yessir, target is turning."

Rebok picked up his rifle and retook his position with his fellow agents. "Heads up. She's here."

Corporal Whitney Seet pulled into her apartment parking lot. The yellowish lights of the lot's three lampposts illuminated the parking spaces and resident vehicles in an ugly cigaretted glow. She positioned her car into her usual space, the exact center of the lot, and sat back in her seat. Her head had been pounding for the last several days. She was having a series of panic attacks as she figured her mission was finally in its final stages. Since her activation, she had been waiting for the completion of the Z3 program. Now that it was complete, she just needed to download a final schematic. In the morning, she would be back at the military base. Back to work, a normal soldier working on a not-so-normal program, but with the trust of all of her superiors. Tomorrow would be the day she finally finished her mission and would leak the information and diagnostics of not only the most advanced fighter jet in the world, but the in-depth details of Zamastan's aircraft carriers, next generation tanks, ballistic missiles, nuclear energy programs, and the personal databases of every individual involved in the Z3 Program. The pressure was getting to her, and she longed for mission's completion in the morning.

As she pulled the handle to her car, she stepped out into the warm night air, wincing in mild disgust at the mosquitoes twirling around in the air. She walked to the apartment, turning her head to scan the parking lot as she had done every night since her activation. A car pulled into the lot and parked as she opened the door to the building, and a couple in the car looked like they were laughing together. Whitney smiled. These people had no clue she was different.

Rebok spoke into the intercom aggresively. "Marc, target is walking up the stairs! Get out of the hallway!"

"I'm working on it, Rebok. Garrett, open your door, let me in." Marc stood and tucked his equipment away, just as Garrett, one of the agents in the room across the hall, opened the door. Marc entered and joined the two agents inside, shutting the door right as the suspect reached the step landing.

Whitney heard a door close on her floor. Impulsively, she paused at the top of the step, and looked down the hall. It was probably just the couple across the hall, but wouldn't she have seen them coming into the building, she thought...

Agents Garrett, Marc, and a woman agent who went by the codename Blue, all in tactical gear, pressed themselves to the apartment door, waiting for the sound of the suspect's door to open. The agents were holding their breath.

Whitney stepped quietly to her door, peering cautiously at the floor at neighbors door. She saw shadows intersecting the soft light coming from the crack between the door and the floor.

Garrett whispered below an octave to Blue, "move up, step one. Take point." Blue re-positioned herself, pistol trained at the doorknob.

The shadows on the floor moved. Whitney's brain snapped. She cursed under her breath. She quickly grabbed the door handle and pushed in.

"Go."

Blue pushed the door open into the hallway, raising her pistol in a quick strike towards the suspect.

Whitney's hand was already on her firearm which she grabbed from the top of the coat-rack. Spinning and extending her arm outwards into the hallway, she squeezed down on the trigger. Four shots rang out into the hallway, striking the wall and the door, Whitney watching as the tactical geared men in the opposite room ducked back and swung their rifles and pistols into the air towards her. As they recovered and began to fire back, she sprinted into her apartment, jumping over a thin wire stretching the walls, and ducked behind the kitchen island.

"GO! GO! ENGAGE!" Rebok shouted, as he heard the gunshots muffle themselves from the apartment. The team on the hill opened fire down into the kitchen windows.

The glass behind Whitney exploded inwards, bullets striking across the living room. She tucked herself behind the space of the island in between the window and the wall. She reached inside the cupboard, revealing a semi-auto handgun, and holding her breath.

Agent Marc took two steps into the apartment as the gunfire ceased, gun raised. Peering around the corner, he saw no sight of the target.

"Cover me," he said back to Garrett and Blue, and continued forward.

He stepped down, foot pressing the thin, nearly invisible wire to the floor.

A massive explosion ruptured into the hallway of the apartment complex, and Whitney found her chance. She ducked down and ran across the open space of her living room and into her bedroom. Slamming her heavy door shut, she propped up her mattress against the entrance and jammed a chair under the knob. Focusing her attention to the laptop at her desk, she opened up a tab and inserted a USB drive into the side socket.

"This should do for now, damn it," she whispered to herself. The mission would have to end a day early.

All of the Z3 Program details that she had gotten thus far, over the past year and a half, was about to leak onto the open internet.

"What happened?" Rebok shouted over the intercom. "No visual, everything is smoke. Are you ok?"

Blue, bloodied and head pounding, opened her eyes. She had been thrown back by the blast. She put her hand to her head, and she could feel her intercom button under the warm running fluid that was sticking to her face.

"Two agents down," she said, looking around in the smokey space. The walls of the hallway had been ripped apart, and there was no sign of Garrett or Marc.

"Sending agents in, coming," Rebok responded.

Three agents - two from the strike team on the hill and the one positioned from the parking lot, appeared seconds later on the floor landing, stepping carefully as they closed in on the now chaotically damaged apartment. One tended to Blue as the other two turned the corner in the apartment to see the bedroom door.

"She's in there. Engaging."

"100% complete", the computer screen read. Whitney grunted, and she looked back to the door. Thuds were muffled thanks to the mattress, but she knew some agents were trying to break into the door. It would only be a few moments until they broke through. Whitney walked to the door and stuck her pistol to the wall, firing through the plaster.

"Get back!" The agents ducked down as the plaster of the wall tore apart with each gun shot.

Rebok entered the apartment, head lowered and taking cover behind the kitchen island. "We need her alive, be careful!"

"We need her alive, be careful!" Whitney heard the agents through the wall. That wouldn't be possible. Whitney moved herself over to the desk once again, opening a drawer and reaching in, grasping a wire and pulling up hard. The wire broke a pin of a grenade stack hidden behind the desk, and only a second later...

The wall blew open, blasting the agents back, and causing a partial collapse of the floor. Rebok covered his face, absorbing much of the debris with his arm. After a few moments, he opened his eyes and revealed his face, looking around as he and the other two agents recovered from the floor, looking around and down into the shallow hole caused by the collapsed apartment.

The agents were able to recover the remains of Corporal Whitney Seet and the remains of her computer. Unlike the computer, they would be unable to get information out of Seet.

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Libertas Omnium Maximus
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Thu Nov 28, 2019 6:28 am

Department of Internal Security, Center for Data Analysis, Litudinem
November 27th, 2019 - 1:45 PM

“Your algorithm has turned up 36 potential candidates?! I’m very impressed Jackson”

James Maguire Gabe our praise as often as he gave out Christmas gifts to his staff, which is to say very rarely. As such, it came as a tremendous shock to the two other individuals in the room to see their stone faced director shower an employee with compliments. As could be assumed, the recipient of these compliments, Alex Jackson, was utterly elated.

“I say we move on to phase two of the plan I pitched you yesterday!” Jackson enthusiastically replied. “Deploy the agents tonight even. There is nothing you have to loose! Tomorrow, based on the results of today, we can start bringing in candidates. Then we should be able to identify who your mole is. It’s as easy as that.”

Deputy Director Allen, the final agent present in the room, was incredulous.

“Director, I think you may want to take a step back on this one. Respectfully, the idea and algorithm is a brilliant idea but it is my opinion that it endangers far too many Maximusian lives. Interrogating an Aurora is one thing. What you are doing is finding a needle in a haystack by burning the haystack!”

Maguire looked pointedly at Allen and smiled before quickly replying.

“Deputy Director Allen, We are burning a haystack to find a needle. You are correct. What you are leaving out is the fact that we are saving an entire barn worth of hay by burning this one, to continue using your rather odd analogy.” The director stood up, as if to further accentuate his point, then marched stood from his seat and crossed the small conference room where the meeting was taking place and stoped behind the chair of Jackson. He went on with his statement from that position.

Agent Jackson, you have done well. We will use your plan to locate our mole. I will deploy my agents immediately to begin preparing for the “test” of your plan tonight. I will do this only if you give me your word that this plan is entirely your idea and that, in the event of a catastrophic failure, you will take full blame for any failure. Do you agree to these terms?”

Jackson nervously looked up from his notes to his boss. He looked into the fish-like eyes of the director and knew that, should anything go wrong, James Maguire would place 100% of the blame on his shoulders. Those eyes were simply not the type to lie about such a thing. Never the less, Jackson had already put nearly 20 hours into his plan and coding the computer algorithm, there was no going back now.

“Director, I, Alexander Jackson, eight year employee of the Department of Internal Security and Data Analysis supervisor, do willfully, and with full knowledge of the ramifications of my actions, swear on my life and my sacred honor, that the entirety of the plan I have just described to Director Maguire and Deputy Director Allen is of my own invention and, therefore, entirely my responsibility. I acknowledge that should anything go awry during the planning or execution of my suggested operation, I will be the sole individual held responsible.”

Maguire returned to his chair as Jackson wiped the sweat from his brow. The director looked slightly less disappointed in the world than he usually did, prompting Alexander Jackson to smile a little.

“Run us through the exact details of your plan again.” Allen blurted our, ruining the mood. “I want to get a few things straight.”

Jackson, who had already grown to despise the young deputy director, plastered the fakest smile he could muster before beginning his second round of explanations. Such is my life in this line of work, he mused to himself.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Kvask » Fri Nov 29, 2019 9:14 pm

Noskv, Kvask
29th of November, 2019
1245


The Kvaskm Office of Foreign Intelligence (KOFI) was a mess of papers and bodies for the past few months since the Aurora Programme was revealed. The fear that gripped the communities was legitimized, and finding out who was and wasn’t an Aurora was going to be a nightmare. There’d already been some instances of violence against the small Kerlian communities in West Kvask, near the border, and immigrants were starting to feel uneasy about living in Kvask without a proper police force to protect them. In the Eastern edges of the countries, some of the less-diverse towns and villages were murmuring about closing off their roads to any foreigner.

Back at the KOFI, the director, Rnata Novmenska, was hunched over a large stack of papers, trying to figure out a way out of this mess through going through complaint after complaint against women thought West Kvask. As she looks over the scarce paperwork of a nurse in Hjernek, a knock comes at her door.

Her eyes still glued to the paper, she calls to the door, “Whoever it is, come i-” She can’t finish her sentence as a tall, burly man slams the door open. Startled, Rnata stands up and yells, “What the FUCK?! Who are you!?” The man puts a finger to his lips before closing the door behind him, the wall it slammed into having a dent where the door knob impacted.

With the door giving a weak click, the man begins to speak calmly as he crosses his arms, “My name is not important, but who I represent is.”

Rnata, noticing nothing of note on the man’s clothing, gestures to him, “And that would be?”

The man reaches into his pocket and produces a note and hands it to Rnata, “The Union of Merchants, miss.” Rnata opened the note and read through it as the man continued, “We feel that situation of the Auroras can be solved in a way that doesn’t impact our business relations with the state of Kerlile. Instead of doing as everyone else does and root them out through blunt forced investigation, we can get the information from the badger’s paw.”

Rnata continued to read the note, a look of confusion on her face, “And that would be?”

The man grinned, “We help the Auroras.”

What the man proposed made Rnata stop mid-sentence and look up at him, “Excuse me, what? How do you suppose we get one of the world’s most uptight misandrists that have built a big fuck-off border wall to let us help?!”

The man came closer to Rnata, “We will offer them some specialists trained in… ‘package recovery’... to go to other nations and retrieve them for Kerlile. After we help recover as many Auroras we can from the other nations that have them, we can use the Auroras as a bargaining chip to tell us where ours are. That, and if they don’t agree to our terms, the Union of Merchants will no longer run our operations to Kerlile, depriving their councillors of their precious goods.”

Rnata put the note away and paced for a minute; the Union of Merchants were just a band of smugglers that ran into and out of Kerlile, trading goods with them and making great gains from Kerlile’s misery. “So what’s the catch?”

The man shook his head, “No catch. As much as we’d love to not rock the boat, these Auroras could be a major hazard to the Union’s business operations. That, and we still care about Kvask, no matter how much we engage in ‘extra-market activities’.”

Rnata rubbed her eyes and sighed, “Shit… We’ll never find these Auroras with all of these loose records floating around… Fine, tell your Union Boss that KOFI will sanction this operation and give whatever support is needed; material or otherwise.”

The man nodded and gave a small bow, “Thank you for your generosity, Miss Novmenska.” Rnata was about to ask how he knew her name, but he was already heading out the door by the time she thought of it.

“Those fucking Merchants…”
Written with Lauchenoiria
Hale Residence, Virtus Region, Kerlile
29th of November, 2019
1317


At 1317, a call came ringing to Hale's personal phone seemingly out of nowhere, the number on it being unknown. She picked it up quickly, worried. She got two types of calls on that phone: emergencies, and her wife using her as a backchannel for diplomatic business because she liked teasing.

"Hello, Councillor Hale speaking."

An unfamiliar man's voice was on the other end. It was low-register, had a thick Kvaskm accent, and reeked of smoke even through the phone, "Hello, miss Hale. This is your *mutual friend* from the Union of Merchants. There've been a few developments with our host nations that require... addressing, and you are the best person to talk to, per my many ears in Kerlile."

"How did you get this num... oh never mind," she sighed. There was not enough time to worry about things like that, she got little sleep these nights with Amelia keeping her awake. "What can I do for you?"

"We in the Union know that the Aurora Programme is more than just an initiative for orphans set up by your government. We've even located one, though to be honest, she hasn't been too secretive..." There was a cough at the other end followed by an audible spit, "But this call is not about 'Pavlina'... This call is about how we can help one another regarding the Auroras."

"I... am not sure to whom you are referring, but then I wouldn't know the identity of an Aurora anyway. If they even exist," she added hurriedly. "But if they existed, what would you mean by 'help one another'?"

The man on the other clicked his tongue on his teeth, "We want to help you get your precious Auroras back home in one piece. From everywhere. The Kerlian economy is in the shitter and everything you do is watched by the whole world." There was a pause as, presumably, the figure was taking a drag from a cigarette. He continued as he exhaled, "And frankly, these Auroras are bad for business in Kvask, always getting in the way of shipments and running competitive entities like Pavlina."

"I legitimately don't know who Pavlina is," Hale sighed. She was speaking the truth, only Councillor Pierre knew the identities of all the Auroras. "But your blunt description of our state of affairs is accurate. Things here are not good, and I do worry for... any women connected to Kerlile who may be adversely affected by recent revelations of information. However, I do not see how you can help us."

"Which would you rather have, all of your Auroras in all of the nations of the world being found, detained, and interrogated to find out the inner-workings of the programme, or would you rather some Kvaskm do the dirty work of bringing them back for you?" The man's voice had a bite to it that felt as though he was only going to make it clear once what the offer was.

"Listen... I cannot make an agreement with you on this right now. I need to consult with the rest of the Council. We have a full Council meeting today, I can mention your... proposition then," she suggested.

"You and your damned Council..." The man spoke to another person in a language unfamiliar to Hale before returning to her, "Fine, but be warned. We will know if you try and fuck us. And if you dare try to do anything like that, kiss the smugglers goodbye." His voice did not convey he was giving an empty threat; if anything got back to him, wherever it came from, he would call an end to the black market in Kerlile.

"Duly noted," she said, a note of worry in her voice. There was no response from the other end for a few seconds before a soft click ended the call.

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Lauchenoiria
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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Nov 29, 2019 9:21 pm

Council Chamber, Grapevale, Kerlile
29th November 2019

“Councillors, Madam President, Daughters we are gathered here today to discuss the urgent matter of the Aurora Programme,” Councillor Chiu began, addressing the Councillors or their proxies, and President Arnott. It had been a long time since a full Council session with the President present had taken place. “Following the third leak of documents, some among our number believe that measures should be taken to protect the Auroras over the continuation of the Programme. That debate must take place immediately, given the urgent nature of this matter. Each of you is to give your opinion before discussion continues. Councillor Patel?”

“Thank you,” Nirmala Patel stood. “Councillors, the Aurora Programme is finished. As much as this may disappoint us, without the secrecy it is useless. The only course of action we have, especially knowing that some countries are hunting their Auroras, is to shut down the programme and issue a general evacuation order immediately.”

“I agree,” nodded Carmen Robinson. “We have no other choice. You all know my views on the Programme and many of you likely call them illegitimate. But right now, forget who I am and consider this – Kerlian citizens are in danger. Whatever happened in the past, let us focus on the present, and we must save them.”

“I am sceptical, I must admit, of sending out a general evacuation order,” sighed Lucia Viallamando. “It seems like it is a waste of our resources when we do not yet know how many will be in danger. We should come up with a compromise option.”

“I’m with Lucia. It seems like a waste of resources,” Rosemary Arnott said, then quickly looked at Juliette Greenwood, Letitia’s sister and proxy, as if she didn’t like having the attention on her even for a second.

“I think that we ought to consider the pros and cons here,” Juliette said. “If we issue an evacuation order, then we have a lot of highly trained individuals safe, and able to carry out other missions. But we lose the deep covers they have developed, and we have no proof they are necessarily all in danger.”

“My mother wishes me to vote to scrap the Programme,” Councillor Georgiou’s eldest daughter Myra said. “I do not feel it is my place to comment further since I am only her proxy vote.”

“Fair enough,” Councillor Hart said. “For my part, I think we should continue as is. We have no proof any Auroras aside from Charissa Clarke have been captured, and the Programme is too valuable to our cause to scrap.”

“I am with Natalia,” agreed Councillor Pierre. “The amount of resources we have put into this is huge. Are we really willing to write all of that off because of some Lauchenoirian leaks? Councillors, we are not as cowardly as all that. Our Auroras know the risks, and they know how to protect themselves.”

“Well,” Councillor Hale piped up reluctantly. “I should probably take this opportunity to inform you all of the phone call I received from the Union of Merchants. They have offered to assist in helping Auroras return to Kerlile. And if we refuse their offer… I rather think our supplies of certain goods may stop.”

“Well that’s just fantastic,” sighed Councillor Chiu. “Very well. President Arnott, do you have anything to add?”

“I will abide by the decision of the Council,” said the President.

“Very good,” nodded Chiu. “Well, I think in order to gather where we stand, we shall take a non-binding vote on which of three options we want to take. Raise your hands in turn for one of: continue as is, issue a general evacuation order, or find a third solution. First, raise your hands for continuing as is.”

Only Councillors Hart and Pierre raised their hands.

“Votes for issuing a general evacuation order?” Chiu asked.

Councillors Patel and Robinson raised their hands, along with Myra Georgiou.

“Votes for a third solution?”

Chiu raised her own hand, and was joined by Councillors Viallamando, Arnott and Hale, plus Juliette Greenwood.

“It seems like a third solution is the most popular option. Does anyone have any proposals for how this should take place?”

“Yes, I do,” Councillor Hale said quickly. “We issue a general warning to all Auroras, informing them of the leak if they do not already know, and asking them to remain extra vigilant. We also ask them to get in contact and request evacuation if they suspect they are in danger. Auroras are clever, so I hear. They should know how at-risk they are.”

“That is not a bad suggestion,” conceded Councillor Pierre. “Especially with the Kvask problem," she spat. "I will admit, some are likely in danger. We can let the Kvaskm help with those who request it, despite my loathing of their country. Although, I am guessing they want something in return?”

“The identities of the Kvask-assigned Auroras,” Hale replied. “It is fairly obvious. Also, who is Pavlina? They mentioned her twice on the call.”

Pavlina!? They know of her? Goddess!” Pierre cried, banging her hand on the table.

“… okay, Councillor Pierre. Contain yourself,” instructed Chiu. “Does anyone have objections to Councillor Hale’s proposal?”

There was silence.

“Then can I see votes in favour of the proposal?”

Nine women raised their hands, including Chiu herself. Myra Georgiou did not.

“Votes against?”

Nobody raised their hand.

“Abstentions?”

Myra Georgiou raised her hand.

“Very well," Chiu smiled. "Then it is agreed. A message will be sent to all Auroras warning them of the leak and inviting them to request evacuation if they suspect they are in danger. Councillors Pierre and Hale, work with the Kvaskm on evacuations."

"I do not want to work with them!" Pierre objected. "I despise that country."

"Tough. You are the expert on Auroras and, like it or not, with our budget cuts we need them. We will meet again to discuss this if any further developments take place. Thank you for keeping this session brief, and I hope to see you all at our ball on Saturday evening. Session closed.”

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Xiomera » Sat Nov 30, 2019 4:08 am

Imperial Civil Service
Hall of Examination and Review
Tlālacuetztla


​“Omapācatl? They are ready to speak with you now, madam,” the assistant with the review committee said, popping his head through the doorway.

“Thank you,” the woman he was speaking to responded, standing up with well-honed grace. ​Omapācatl, one of three assistants to the Secretary of Trade, walked to the doorway with clear confidence. Her A’pilne dress flowed around her, draping her thin frame and swirling around her gently as she walked into the conference room. The Review Committee for Staffing to Serve The Secretary of Trade, Imperial Civil Service, read the small nameplate attached next to the door.

As she entered the conference room, ​Omapācatl smiled warmly at the three people seated at the table. All of them were career Civil Service employees, assigned by the new Secretary of Trade to assess the current staff members of that office and see who they would want to keep - and who they would want to replace.

Many staffers would be slightly nervous as they were basically auditioning to keep their jobs. ​Omapācatl, however, had been an assistant to the previous Secretary of Trade, under Emperor Topilpopoca, for ten years. She was well-respected and had even briefly been a candidate to be Secretary herself, before the new Empress had selected someone else. Still, ​Omapācatl was confident that her experience and tenure would allow her to at least continue in her existing role.

“Thank you for coming,” one of the three interviewers said, gesturing ​Omapācatl to her seat. Each of the three interviewers had a folder in front of them; a similar folder sat on the table in front of ​Omapācatl. The lead interviewer gestured to her to pick it up. “We have quite a few questions, so let’s get started. Please turn to the first page in the interview packet.”

​Omapācatl picked up the folder and began turning pages as instructed; the paper had a strange glossy feel to it. As the interview progressed, ​Omapācatl noticed that she was beginning to feel strange. “Could I have some water, please?” she asked.

As one of the three at the table reached over to pour some water into a glass from a nearby pitcher, the feeling of strangeness ​Omapācatl was feeling intensified. Her vision began to blur, wavering. ​Omapācatl tried to say something, but found that she was quite unable to speak. As a heavy feeling settled across her limbs, blackness overcame her vision. She slowly slid from the chair onto the floor.

The lead interviewer calmly walked over to ​Omapācatl and nudged her to make sure she was truly passed out. When there was no response, she pulled a cell phone out of her pocket, pressing a speed dial button. “It’s done,” she said when the other end of the call answered.

The Cauhloc

Several hours later, ​Omapācatl woke up in a daze. Her head still swimming, she tried to sit up. She found herself on a bed, still wearing the outfit she had worn to the interview. Her shoes and jewelry, however, were gone, as was the briefcase she had carried with her.

She looked around the room. It had the appearance of a room at a three-star hotel, but was entirely too quiet. There were also no windows, and the door had no visible handle or knob. While no cameras were visible, ​Omapācatl knew what a Xiomeran VIP detention facility looked like well enough to know they had to be present. Shit, she thought to herself.

Before she could think anything else, the door opened, and three people walked in. Two of them were Shorn Ones, the deadly elite soldiers who answered only to the Empress herself. That alone would have been unsettling to ​Omapācatl. The third one, however, was a sign that she was, indeed, in deep trouble. Her heart sank, but she wasn’t about to let a sign of it show on her face. “What happened to me? Where am I? I was in the middle of an interview and then I passed out....”

“Of course you passed out. That was the idea,” Zalpalatli said with a smile. The Secretary for Security reached into his pocket, pulling out a remote. Aiming it at a “mirror” on the wall, he pressed a button. A high-quality recording of the scene at the interview played; Zalpalatli paused it when ​Omapācatl picked up the folder. “The fibers of the paper were infused with xonequima,” the Secretary said, naming a rare Xiomeran root known as a potent soporific. “Transferred by touch. You could have drank an entire coffee shop’s worth of lattes and still been out like a light.”

“Why have I been detained?” Omapācatl demanded, trying to regain her dignity and control of the situation.

“Oh come now, that can’t really be a question,” Zalpalatli replied, his voice becoming even more amused. “You have undoubtedly heard about this whole Aurora thing our Kerlian friends decided to spring on the entire IDU....including Xiomera. A fact that we certainly weren’t aware of until certain rumors began to spread.”

“Of course I’ve heard of the rumors, but what does that have to do with me...wait now, you can’t possibly believe I am one of these...Auroras,” Omapācatl said, doing her best to appear indignant. “I have been a loyal servant of the Empire in the Civil Service for years, and a loyal citizen my whole life!”

“Indeed. That all appears to be true....at least, as far as the upfront appearance of it goes. However, like layers of paint, when you chip one off, different colors start to appear. It all began when the new Secretary of Trade was chosen, and we had to review all of the existing staffers of that office at the request of the new Secretary.” Zalpalatli tapped the wall next to him, pantomiming the movement of a chisel. “First chip. The background checks under the Empress are a bit more....thorough, now, than they were under Topilpopoca. Given the threats from countries like Zamastan, and the ongoing rumors about this Aurora thing....certain discrepancies began to appear in your record. For example, your records from when you joined the Patriotic Youth Corps, at age 17, indicated that you attended the Telpochcalli Tlālacuetztla #46 at the time. But when we checked the school’s records, they had surprisingly little information.” Zalpalatli raised his finger to stop Omapācatl before she could protest. “In fact, no record could be found of your existence at all, before you entered the Telpochcalli Tlālacuetztla #46. The individuals listed as your parents on the enrollment records cannot be found. In fact, they do not appear to have ever existed in any Xiomeran records anywhere. That’s a bit odd, don’t you think?”

Omapācatl sighed. “It must be a mistake. The records must be in error or lost,” she tried.

Zalpalatli laughed. “Your superiors would be appalled to hear you blame the Civil Service for such an egregious error. Throwing them under the bus, are we?”

Before Omapācatl could speak further, Zalpalatli held up a second finger. “Second chip in the paint. Given the rumors going around, and the very strange matter of you seeming to have disappearing parents and nonexistent history, we did further checking. You may recall that you had a minor surgery in...” the Secretary checked his notes, “....2014, to deal with a pesky appendix. What you certainly would not know is that at that time, a sample of your DNA was retained. One of my predecessor Tepilcayotl’s more paranoid plans, he wanted to compile a database of the genetic code of all Xiomeran citizens to make it easier to link people to crimes. I must say, though he failed in letting this whole Aurora thing infiltrate Xiomera, he was prescient in terms of how useful having a genetic fingerprint of Xiomeran citizens would be in investigations. You’re the first test subject, and I must say it worked splendidly. Testing of your DNA could not find any living relatives here in Xiomera. That simply cannot happen. You are a literal ghost in Xiomeran records before you entered school, all the way back to your alleged birth 36 years ago.”

“Third chip in the paint,” Zalpalatli said, forestalling Omapācatl’s protests once more. “We checked your birth records. You were supposedly born at Olcochitl Hospital on September 14th, 1983 at 4:59 pm. But there were no live female births recorded at Olcochitl Hospital that day....the only female child born that day was stillborn.”

Omapācatl stopped trying to respond. There seemed to be little point.

“Are we past the point of futile denials? That’s good,” Zalpalatli said with another smile. “You see, despite the guards and the nice-but-still-a-cell prison cell and all, we’re not trying to punish you nor do we see you as a threat. In fact, I have an offer personally from the Empress herself. If you admit you are an Aurora, we will allow you to return to Kerlile if you so wish. On the other hand, if you wish to remain here with your husband....” Zalpalatli checked his notes, “....Caatōtlmi, and your three children, you would be free to do so....if you agree to serve the Xiomeran Empire and end your mission here. Xiomera and Kerlile are not enemies, and we have no intention of treating you as one.”

Omapācatl gave a smile of her own. “If this is not punishment, and I am not a threat, why am I in a prison cell?”

Zalpalatli chuckled at that. “Fair question. And it deserves a fair answer. You’re here to ensure Xiomeran security, of course. We have a responsibility to our people to do that. But in truth, we could easily let you out, and even give you a way to leave Xiomera, if you really wanted that. And the Empress might even be inclined to do so. It’s a long way from Xiomera to Kerlile, though. And it involves passing through a lot of countries whose own security forces will see you as a threat, and respond accordingly. So what good does that accomplish? We’d be sending you to your death, quite frankly, and we’d rather not. You’ve served Xiomera well as a fake citizen - we’d like to see you do it as the real deal.”

Omapācatl decided to try again. “I am a Xiomeran citizen, no matter what the records say.”

Zalpalatli didn’t even look angry or frustrated. He looked disappointed, an expression that Omapācatl had not expected to see. “I thought we were past this. But, apparently, we are not. If you insist on sticking to this clearly spurious claim that you are not an Aurora, we will have to keep you here for now. We can’t very well send a Xiomeran citizen to Kerlile, or stick them outside the country, now can we?”

Zalpalatli turned to walk out of the cell. He paused, however, to look back over his shoulder.

“We shall have to prove ourselves as well, apparently. You will not be mistreated in any way, and can remain here while we decide what to do. However, I will simply say this. It’s not possible to make progress without trust. Trust, however, requires honesty. This is true between people - and between countries. Think about that, while you decide what to do.”

The Security Secretary gave a short nod of his head, before walking out to leave Omapācatl alone with her thoughts.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Democratic Republic Of Eiria » Sat Nov 30, 2019 7:55 pm

(Written With Lauchenoira)

[REDACTED], Eiria

The woman stood in the hall of the "Hospital", Stretching in her new doctor scrubs. Anyone who didn't know her reputation would look past her, anyone who did would plead for mercy. She was in her late 50s, but she looked 30, and was in peak physical shape. An agent in uniform, obviously nervous of her, approached her and handed her a manila envelope. "Your new Identity, ma'am". He said, handing her the package. "Thank you. Is everything ready?". She asked, Opening the envelope and putting on her fake doctor badge. "Yes, Ma'am. Your partner is eager to begin". She rolled her eyes. Of course he is. "Could you bring him in here, please?". The agent nodded, relieved, and walked back down the hall. A moment later, a man in matching doctor scrubs joined her in the "Waiting Room". He sat down on the couch and gestured to his outfit. "So? What do you think?". She rolled her eyes. "Better than nothing. And please, don't blow it. Poseidon has been waiting for this opportunity to use the SIR for forever, and even though I haven't seen him angry yet, I don't want to". Just then, their pockets buzzed. "She's awake. It's showtime!" The man said, grinning.

Marie Ducette woke, confused. Her head was spinning like she had been drunk and she was uncertain where she was.
"Hello?" She mumbled.

A woman came into her vision. "Hey. Welcome back. Please calm down, your heart rate is through the roof. You're okay. You're safe".

"Where am I?" She asked, confused and a little panicked.
"South Borean Hospital. You passed out in the Immigration Bureau, and Compassion had a rush of flu patients, so they took you to us. I'm Doctor Wilson, but you can call me Brooklyn".

"I feel hungover... was I drinking?" She asked.
The woman looked up from her notes, confused. "You don't remember? Apparently, you passed out after a meeting, while at work, around ten-thirty. An intern caught you and called 911. Caused a big stall at the Bureau".

"Oh... that is slightly embarrassing," she cringed.

The doctor laughed softly. "No problem, Madame. It wasn't that bad. When you get a few patients per month that have things stuck in awkward places, your definition of Embarrassing gets a little looser".

"I can imagine so. Do you know what happened to me?"

The Doctor turned serious. "We are trying to figure that out. We don't know if it's a condition, or a sickness.... Or something else. We are running tests, and we will let you know if we find something". Two men, one in scrubs and one in a police uniform, entered the room. "Doctor Wilson? We need to discuss something", the man in scrubs asked. She turned back to Marie. "I'll be right back". She left, and went into the next room over. Fortunately, the walls were thin. The man in scrub's voice was muffled, but still legible. "We found a Heavy tranquilizer in her bloodstream. It is an intelligence operative strength drug. I think there is more to her story than her fainting". The other man spoke. "We'll keep her under watch. She could be either dangerous, or in danger". Dr. Wilson replied. "I don't know if she's dangerous, but if she's in danger, do everything you can to protect her. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to do her vitals". The voices disappeared, and Dr. Wilson came back. "Sorry about that. Anyway, let's check your vitals". She busied herself with the monitor.

She remained silent, worrying. She didn't know what has happened. Had someone found her out?
Dr. Wilson took notes on her clipboard. "Are you having any flashes of Pain or headaches?".

"Little bit of a headache. Feels like I'm hungover," she said.

She wrote that down. "We'll get you something for that. I'll be right back". She left, leaving her alone.

She was concerned. She didn't know what was going on, but she knew that if someone had tried to kill her, they might come back. She pondered whether or not she was strong enough to run, and thought she should wait a little longer. But the first opportunity she had, she would be out of here, and would contact her handlers back home for orders.

Dr. Wilson returned with some water and a pill. "Here, take this. It should help. You might want to get some more rest. With luck, you will be better tomorrow".

She looked at it dubiously. How much did she trust these people? She wasn't sure. "What is it?" She asked.

"Some headache medicine. It helps a surprising amount with hangover symptoms".

"Yes, but what precisely is it? I'm quite particular about what I put in my body," she said.

She smiled. "Just a variation of Aspirin. Don't worry, it's not poison or anything. Just aspirin".

"Why would you even mention poison?" She said, half alarmed and half amused.

Dr. Wilson laughed a bit. "I've had a few patients that act like it is poison. Refuse to even consider vaccines, treat disease with "Home-made medicine...". She sighed. "It's a mess. I'm just reassuring you. No need to be alarmed".

"Very well," she shrugged, swallowing the pill. If they were going to kill her, at least her secrets would die with her. What was the worst that could happen?

"Thank you. Also, My Shift Partner, Dr. Carson, and our Chief Biochemist, Dr. Percy, will be here in a few minutes to run some tests. Is that okay?".
"Sure," she said. She was uncertain what was happening, and sceptical, but her best bet at the moment was to play along and wait until she had the opportunity to contact home.

"Sounds good. Would you like the temp for this room turned down a bit? It's a bit warm in here". Dr. Wilson said, adjusting her scrubs and accidentally exposing a long scar on her neck.

"I'm okay," she said. "Forgive me for asking, but how did you get that scar?"
She put down her clipboard. "I was a resistance medic during the civil war. Darrin's forces turned their tanks on the field hospital. I barely made it out alive".

"I... I'm sorry," she said, ashamed. "I shouldn't have asked."

She turned. "Oh, no, don't apologise. Curiosity is natural. Also, Doctor Carson was the only other one of our medic group that survived. We knew the risks. After the war, I got hired here, and I helped him get a job here too. Many people want to forget what happened, in the war, both of us included". She sighed. "Well, that was cheerful. How are you feeling? Have you regained your memory of the day?".

"I'm feeling okay. And yes, I was in a meeting. Funny, I didn't feel unwell before I got there," she frowned.

Dr. Wilson wrote a few things. "Well, at least it's coming back. Now that I think about it, we should wait with those tests for tomorrow. You need rest. I'll leave so you can get some sleep". She hung up her clipboard and walked to the door. "Goodnight, Madame Ducette".

"Goodnight?" She said, confused. This entire situation seemed a little surreal to her. But despite being unconscious for a while she was very tired.

She chuckled. "Yeah, it's 9:50. Goodnight!". She closed the door.

Ducette frowned and lay back on her bed, thinking over what had happened. She was uncertain and a little worried. But she was tired, and she resolved to think of a plan tomorrow.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Laeral » Sun Dec 01, 2019 12:52 am

Written with the assistance of the talented Shen.

Laeralsford
Espoir Lanais's first day partnered with Joseph Wu had gone exactly according to the procedure she'd learned in training. There had been a meeting in a conference room at the BEA's headquarters, where she'd watched with the other dozen-odd BEA agents in the room as Joseph briefed them on information he'd just learned an hour before. 

"If you have confirmation and eyes on an Aurora," Joseph had said, "don't you dare engage them. Call in the Gendarmes, call in the Federal Marshals, but don't try and take them down. We might not get another shot at them."

After the briefing, Wu had passed out sealed assignments to each of the two-agent teams, and they'd dispersed. From there, Wu had gone to discuss something or other with the support staff, and then they'd stepped out together into the sunlight outside the headquarters, and then into the subway to the docks near the river. It was late afternoon, and the gathering evening made Espoir glance around cautiously at the buildings around them. It was a bad area of town, the kind of place that Espoir was most familiar with from gritty urban crime dramas. 

"Stick by me," Wu said. "We're going to a mahjong house, so I can talk with a contact. Don't draw attention to yourself once we go in."

"Are you expecting a fight?" Espoir asked, feeling the pressure of her holstered pistol against her ribcage.

"No, not at all," Wu said. "She's an old friend." Ahead of them, on the street, was a brightly lit building along the riverside, with the words "新運氣" along the top. "Xin Yunqi", or literally 'new luck'. Wu pushed open the doors and walked right in, Espoir following. Inside, the parlor was a hub of activity, with several rowdy games of mahjong going on at once. Elegantly-dressed waiters circulated the room, carrying drinks, while patrons cheered and celebrated in the dim light. Espoir watched Wu move smoothly to the crowd, and then bent over to whisper a few words that Espoir couldn't make out in the bartender's ear. The bartender nodded and went back through an unmarked door. 

They were waiting there at the bar for a few minutes. Espoir felt awkward just standing there with nothing to do, but Wu looked solemn and professional, so she tried to emulate him. The bartender came back out, and ushered them behind the bar and down a back hallway to an ornate red door, with the name Maria Ho marked. The bartender opened the door before slipping away. Inside was an office that resembled a pleasure palace from one of the historical dramas. Red silk lined the walls, all around a completely empty mahogany central desk. Behind it sat a middle-aged Rén woman with a regal bearing, who smiled at Wu as he entered and sat down at the chair on the opposite side of the desk. 

"It's good to see you," Wu said. "So you're calling yourself Maria now?"

"I've been known by many names throughout my life, Wu," she said. "Sometimes I get bored of one, and desire to try on another," the woman in her red silk cheongsam dress, with the intricate design of a spider on its back replied. She sat back in her chair and adjusted her glasses that Wu knew were just for show. "Can I get you something to drink?"

Wu smiled. "Many thanks, but we're both on duty," he said, gesturing to Espoir standing behind him, trying to hide her curiosity at the conversation going on in front of her.

"So am I," she said with a smirk as one of the attending waitresses walked in and set a brown drink in front of her. "Now, as much as I wish you'd come and see me more, darling, you only ever come and visit me for work. Never pleasure!" she said, giving him a fake look of grief betrayed by her teasing smile still in her eyes. 
"I gave up pleasure visits the day I joined the BEA. I think it's a part of the employment contract," Wu said. 

She let out a sigh. "Unfortunately, that's very true about you BEA lot. So I assume that you have some questions for me?"

"I'd like to chat about the Auroras. Kerlile's sleeper agents. I'm looking into them, and I figured a cosmopolitan woman like yourself might have heard something that could be of use." Wu steepled his hands on the table in front of him.

She nodded her head taking a sip from her drink. "Oh, I've heard quite a bit about them. Lots of interesting bits of information on back home on that subject. What would you be interested in knowing?"

"How to find them, for starters," Wu said. "We have our own methods, but I assume our cousins down south have their own means of tracking them down."

She nodded "... of course. And unlike most things I'm sure you're not going to tell me it's highly unethical." The woman removed her glasses and took a sip of the amber-colored drink before steepling her own hands and beginning to talk. "Nothing about these girls exist before they're 14. There might be some paperwork but there's no physical evidence. And the only thing that exists for their parents are birth certificates and death certificates. We already have our eyes on several because of missing gaps in information. Hopefully your...union with the Arrivée, has not taken away your people's gifts for keeping records."

Wu nodded. "We have people looking into the records already, but it's very good to hear a confirmation of this from you. The issue for us is simple scale- it's very time consuming for us to track down all of this evidence. Politics, business, the media, all of those fields need to be searched."

"Oh, I'm fully aware. My own government has taken quite drastic steps to speed up the process. Thankfully we think that only a small number of them infiltrated our country. Anything else I can help you with?"

"Both of us will find our task easier if we know what the Auroras are planning," Wu said. "Some of the analyses I've seen say that their only goal is to send information to Kerlile. But based on some- interesting- case studies I've seen, it's possible that they have active missions. Campaigns of infiltration. The more hysterical analyses I've read were warning about terrorism and assassination." Wu shrugged. "It's a complex situation, of course. But do you have any insight into what the Auroras are planning?"

"From what we know every Aurora's plan is slightly different." She leaned in a little so that his pasty partner, still standing in the corner, couldn't hear. "We captured one who was in a position of prominence at the Heaven's Gate Dam. From that position she could have caused serious damage to our infrastructure. Thankfully we caught her before she got even higher."

Wu exhaled softly. Heaven's Gate was a miracle of infrastructure design, and a project crucial to the entire southern portion of the empire. Maria was understating the situation- damage to the dam would have been catastrophic. "The Aurora can't have maneuvered herself into that position just to leak infrastructure plans. That suggests terrorism, or at least one hell of a bargaining chip in a crisis."

"Our thoughts exactly. From what we can gather the whole organization is run by the Pierre family. We believe that the Aurora program is meant to lay the framework for some kind of global feminist revolution. Having them in high places all over the world would allow them to slowly start to build support for those kind of movements. Or damage the infrastructure of nations that tried to oppose it."

Wu chuckled. "I really shouldn't be laughing, but I heard someone this morning joking that Liu Mei-han is an Aurora. Thinking about this too much will leave you seeing Auroras in every corner." He paused. "We're investigating a variety of leads right now, but nothing quite so damaging as the Heaven's Gate Dam. Politics, maybe. Or the film industry. Positions where they could influence Laeralian popular opinion." The thought came to him unbidden that Auroras in Shen would likely eschew methods to influence popular opinion, seeing as in the end, only the Empress's opinion really counted, but he decided against mentioning his hypothesis aloud.

"Right now we're focusing our attention almost entirely on the bureaucracy," Maria said. "That's the center of our government right there. From positions within the bureaucracy they could influence public opinion. Damage our infrastructure. Even potentially influence the fate of the whole nation. It's a risk my organization can certainly not afford. But don't worry we have taken steps to weaken any potential Aurora influence."

Wu smiled amicably. "I'm certain that your organization will deal with this with your own customary efficiency and skill. And it's good to see that you're taking it seriously."

The smile was returned with a polite nod that she took her hands off the table.

"Our previous Grand Master didn't believe the threat was credible. The Empress asked for his resignation Tuesday. A new Grand Master has been selected to replace him. Do you know anything about Director Hong?"

"I've heard the name," Wu said. "Can't say I know much about him."

"I can't say I know much more than you. He's S-class like me. He served most of his time undercover in various spots throughout the world. And to put it bluntly he's seen some shit... I'm afraid that's all I know about my new boss."

"I know that our Director Ferrand had friendly relations with his predecessor. I hope he'll be able to strike up a good relationship with this Director Hong. My higher ups are very keen on cooperation with the Shingzi Ren."

"Well, I haven't been recalled. And I just received new orders greatly expanding what I'm allowed to do to help in this country. So as long as this Aurora Affair goes on, the Shingzi Ren has your back."

"That's great to hear," Wu said, meaning it wholeheartedly. "Just do try not to do anything that might get you found out. I'd have to have to get you out of a police jail cell."

"Wouldn't that be embarrassing?" She said with a chuckle. "You need anything else while you have my attention, Wu?"

"I don't think so," Wu said. "Thank you very much; I wish I could stop in more often. Make it a pleasure trip one of these years."

"Well, if you ever decide to come for something besides work, I'm sure the house would be very interested in demonstrating its gratitude for the understanding that exists between us." she said, as she stood up and bowed her head.

Wu smiled. "One of these years when there's not another international crisis breathing down my neck." He stood up, and bowed his head in return.

"So never? Oh well. I look forward to the day when you aren't so busy. Until next time."

"Same to you," Wu said. "You know how to reach me if I can do anything for you."

"Of course."

Joseph and Espoir were on the train two hours later (Laeralsford to Althea high-speed rail, direct route, 90 minute travel time, evening departure, second-class passenger compartment, limited baggage allowance) by the time Espoir voiced the suspicion that had been on her mind. 

"Was that woman at the mahjong house a- foreign spy?"

"She's a member of the Shingzi Ren," Wu said. "Shen's intelligence service."

"Does the government know that a Shen spy is operating a mahjong house in Laeralsford?" Espoir asked. "Or is this the kind of friendship that you keep off the books?"

"It's not quite a friendship," Wu said. "More of a professional relationship. We've worked together in the past, and it's worked out well for both of our governments."

"I'm not condemning you," Espoir said. "I'd just like to know if she gets a mention in the write-up for this op."

"No need," Wu said. "I'll mention her in mine. Command knows that I have contacts, and that they can prove useful. I'm fairly certain they're also aware of Maria's identity."

"Did you find that conversation useful?" Espoir asked. 

"Very useful," Wu said. He'd forgotten that she couldn't speak Mandarin, and hadn't picked up on many of the nuances of his conversation with Maria. "I found out a lot of interesting information, and didn't give her many of our secrets in return." He paused. "Here, let me fill you in."

"So what are we looking for in Althea?" Espoir asked, after Wu had finished recounting what he'd heard. 

"It's just a hunch," Wu said, "but if there's an Aurora in Laeral, it'd be someone who has fake birth records, or someone who just doesn't have any records before age 14. Your nation of focus was Kerlile, so I'm sure you know that we have one of the largest Kerlian dissident communities in the world in Althea."

Espoir nodded. "I interned at the Kerlile Human Rights Initiative."

"Did you ever meet Hannah Sinclair?"

Hannah Sinclair was one of the most high-profile Kerlian dissidents abroad. She'd come from a fairly influential Kerlian political family- mother and sisters in the civil service and the military- and had joined the Kerlian Foreign Ministry. As an attache posted at the Kerlian Embassy in Laeral, she'd walked off the embassy grounds over a decade ago, and into the hands of the Laeralian government, becoming a valuable source into Kerlian policy and society. Once her insights had become too outdated to be of significant value, she'd gone independent, writing a well-received book on Kerlian society, and becoming a regular contributor and consultant on issues involving the isolated nation. 

"You don't think Hannah Sinclair is an Aurora, do you?" Espoir said. The look on her face was dawning shock and horror.

"We've been basing our Kerlile policy off her information for the past ten years," Wu said. "I hope not. But we need to take a deep look at the Kerlian expat community. And we need to talk with Sinclair, find out what she knows about the Auroras in Laeral. We'll start with her, and then sweep every Kerlian expat in the city. One of them is bound to be an Aurora. It's an obvious infiltration route." He rummaged through his briefcase, pulling out a thick folder and setting it on the table between them. "These are the files on every Kerlian expat we know of in Althea. Sinclair's is on the top, but I'd like you to look at the other influential ones, too."

"I'll have them memorized," Espoir said. "This is good. I'm glad we have a place we're working from." She paused. "And what will you be doing?"

"Me?" Wu said. "I intend to get some sleep." He grinned. "Privilege of seniority." He folded up his long coat into a rough bundle, and then placed it beside his head as a pillow, before closing his eyes. Espoir stared for a moment, before mentally shrugging and opening the folder. 

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Dec 01, 2019 1:20 am

Unknown Location, Shen
Saturday 30th November

Sun Yafang sat shivering in her concrete cube, curled up in a ball. She was uncertain how much time had passed, the constant darkness, the discomfort and the cold were messing with her perception of it. She supposed that was the idea. She had been trained to cope with horrible situations for a long time, but she had one disadvantage that her teachers back in the Aurora Centre had not factored in. Her love for her children.

Auroras weren’t meant to have children, in general, although it wasn’t strictly forbidden. In some countries, children were expected of women - a fact that Kerlile used to justify targeting those countries, of course. Shen was one such country, and in order to deepen her cover, she had married and become pregnant. Unfortunately for her, she had fallen in love with her husband. She deeply cared for him, in spite of all her training that warned her not to.

Her love for her husband had nothing on her love for her daughter though. She loved all her children, even her sons, but her daughter was special. Yafang had tried to give her daughter the best life she could - the childhood she herself had never had. As a result, her daughter had grown up rather spoiled, as had all her children. And while she was trained to cope with painful and uncomfortable situations for long periods of time, she doubted if her children could.

If Yafang had still been a young woman, when she had first arrived in Shen, idealistic and ferociously loyal to only the Matriarchy, she would have lasted far longer. Yet she wasn’t. She had grown older, and weaker, and her loyalties were now split between her country and her family. And all she could think about in her cube was not the cold, or the hard ground, or the darkness and quiet, or the indignity of having to eat her first meal in captivity off the floor after it was dumped out of a tube. It was her family.

She let out a sob. This had not been the first time she had cried since her capture, of course. She did not weep for herself, though. This had been her job, her risk. She wept for her daughter, who she was terrified for. She did not know for certain if they really had put her children in a labour camp, but she found it all too believable. She thought of how her daughter would cope in such a place. She would not do well.

She couldn’t let this happen. While her time in Shen had not completely stamped out her Kerlian ideology, it had become increasingly subdued. The passion she’d had when she was first deployed had faded somewhat over the years, and the split loyalties with her family made it worse. She now faced a choice. She could only be loyal to one - the Matriarchy, or her family. And she’d made her choice.

“I…” she spoke aloud through her sobs for the first time since she had entered the cube. She paused, uncertain, the sound of her voice strange after her indeterminate time in the dark. “I want to confess to being an agent of the Matriarchy of Kerlile,” she said and then began to sob even more. “Just please, please don’t hurt my family any more.”

When they opened the door to her cell, she had to close her eyes because of the brightness of the light. After so long in the dark - days? A week? She thought it had been about half a week, but she was uncertain - her eyes took a moment to adjust to being able to see anything without a little pain. She felt more relief than she had expected to be outside of the cube.

Well, she thought to herself, wiping the tears from her eyes before they took her out of her cell in order to take her for processing, I am about to betray the Matriarchy. Goddess have mercy on my soul.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Dec 01, 2019 1:46 am

Press Area, Federal Parliament, Lauchenoiria

Maricela Tobin walked with an air of confidence down the corridor towards the press area, pulling her credentials out of her bag as she walked and joining the slight queue waiting to pass through security. It was her first time reporting in the Parliament since the war, though she had been a regular beforehand. She and her husband Carson had been on Aeluria at the outbreak of the war, and had become trapped there, then her employer asked to stay to report on the referendum and the fallout afterwards. Now that the story was drying up, she was back.

The queue was taking longer than usual, evidently the security procedures had been increased since her last visit. She’d needed to go through vetting again to get access, but everything had been in order and she was just looking forward to being around people who didn’t like to bring up the fact they almost starved last year every five seconds (even though nobody on Aeluria was actually close to starvation).

The two men sitting at the desk looked like stereotypical bureaucrat types, in suits and looking rather bored as they checked people’s credentials and waved them through. The real security personnel were standing either side of the entrance, and Maricela smiled politely at one of them as she caught his eye. They were carrying far larger guns than they used to before the war, she noted, though it didn’t bother her. She wasn’t here to do anything illegal.

When it was her turn to step up to the desk, the man on the right gestured her over. He was in his late 30s or early 40s, wearing a rather nice looking suit. She had never seen him before, which was unsurprising given how many people who had worked in the Parliament before the war had moved to the other end of the country after the conflict because of bad memories of being, well, arrested and shot at. She smiled at him and handed him her ID.

“Please can you confirm your name?” he asked her.

“Maricela Tobin, Lauchenoirian Guardian,” she replied.

“Okay, Mrs. Tobin, this all seems to check out. You can go in,” he nodded to the door.

“Of course,” she smiled and entered. The hall was incredibly busy, she had been delayed by a broken down subway train, and so she had to stand at the back near the door. From the position she was standing in, she could hear the two men at the desk talking. She had been the last in the queue, so they now had little to do.

“You know, when we did the initial checks on her, I noticed that her birth certificate says she was born in Catavarre in 1979,” said the man she had spoken to.

“So?” asked the other.

“Well, it’s only the name of that village was changed in 1981 to Catavarre, it was previously Garadoba, but they voted to change the name because there was a scandal about the village’s founder. My grandparents lived there.”

“Huh, they must’ve changed the documents when she was given an official replacement. I mean… look at her list of previous addresses, the original must’ve been lost in one of the moves.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

As the conference started, she was concerned. The man had known far too much about her. She was cursing herself and her superiors, though, for the slip-up in the town name. They should have known it was called something different in the year of her birth. She was quite annoyed, in fact, with them. And the fact that she was going to have to take matters into her own hands to make sure that this did not come back to bite her again.

*

Apartment Block, Buttercity
2am local time

Maricela Tobin had never actually killed anyone. It seemed an oversight, in a way, that her training had not included it. She didn’t know how she would react to knowing she had taken a life. Still, she had caused pain to people before, she was desensitised in other ways. So this needn’t have been too difficult.

She slipped into the apartment easily. She had been cautious when picking the lock, but fortunately for her, the state of the economy had led buildings to fall into a state of disrepair. So the door to the building had been unlocked as the lock was broken, and only the door to his particular apartment needed any work.

Once inside, she crept quietly. He had a family, after all, according to the brief research she had done. She was uncertain if they were home, though. There seemed to have been some kind of argument there, judging by his wife’s social media accounts. Still, she felt it was better to proceed quickly on the limited information she had than wait, lest he pass the information on to more people in the time it took her to do further research.

She crept into what she knew was the master bedroom from the fact that this entire part of town was made of apartments of identical layout. Fortunately, the only figure in the bed was a man lying on his back and snoring. Thankfully he was under his covers. She crept up silently, and pulled out a syringe. She took his arm and injected something into the man, and then quickly put her hand on her gun, in case he woke up before it took effect.

He did not. So, she waited as his breathing changed, and then after a few minutes stopped entirely. She checked his pulse after waiting another few minutes and confirmed that it was nonexistent. He was dead, and she was safe. She left the building the way she came in, and made her way back home, settling down into her bed. She lay awake for an hour or two, contemplating what she had done, but eventually she slept, and dreamed of Kerlile.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Xiomera » Sun Dec 01, 2019 2:00 am

The Cauhloc

(Joint post with Lauchenoiria)

Omapācatl was lying down on her bed in her cell, thinking. She had been doing a lot of that since her capture - after all, there was little else to do. It was quite unlike what she had been trained to expect upon discovery, and she was incredibly relieved that Xiomera and Kerlile now seemed to be allies. She was quite certain it had saved her. Which brought her to a conundrum.

Her mission was to influence the politics of Xiomera in favour of Kerlile. She had not even carried it out, and yet it seemed to have succeeded by virtue of other events happening at the same time. If that was the case, and the two countries were now allies, then was her mission not over? In fact, she really should have contacted her superiors when the alliance started to see if her orders had changed.

So why hadn't she? She had a very strong suspicion. She had been worried that if she had contacted Kerlile, they would have ordered her home since her mission was over. And she did not want to go home. She had the misfortune, as Auroras tended to view it, of enjoying her time on her assignment. And of falling in love, and starting a family who she cared for.

She sighed, eventually. She had memorised every word that Zalpalatli had told her yesterday. She hoped that they had been truthful in full. She was uncertain, and what she was about to do was incredibly risky. Yet, if there was a chance, if there was a hope she could go back to the life she had come to enjoy... she had to take it. She sat up.

"Excuse me? I would like to talk," she called aloud.

The ASI agent who had been guarding the door nodded. "Wait for a moment, please," he said politely, although in truth Omapācatl really had no other option. The agent spoke into his headset in Huenyan.

In a few minutes, a knock sounded at the door. Zalpalatli entered, with the same two Shorn Ones who had accompanied him earlier. "Hello, Omapācatl. I understand you wished to speak with us?" the Secretary asked in a friendly tone.

"I do," she nodded. "I have thought over what you said, and despite my reservations, I have decided to trust you. You must understand, what I am doing this second is highly abnormal, and has the potential to lead to hugely negative repercussions for me in the future. Nevertheless, I wish to confess. I am an agent of the Matriarchy of Kerlile, sent here as part of the Aurora Programme."

Zalpalatli's smile grew wider. Not with the triumph or predatory nature one would have expected from a security type, but with relief. "I thank you for your honesty, Omapācatl. This will make things much easier. Since you have been honest, we will fulfill our promise. You may return to Kerlile if you wish, or remain here and truly begin living your life as a Xiomeran. The choice is now yours to make."

"I do not want to go back to Kerlile," she said, surprised at how easily she'd said it and how truthful the words felt on her mouth. She cringed. "Sorry, I feel rather terrible about that. It feels like a betrayal, but it isn't necessarily. I like living in Xiomera, and we are not enemies. I have a family here, a life. I never had a family in Kerlile, nor much of a childhood. Yet, I have some concerns about this course of action."

"As do we, of course." Zalpalatli sat down at the small table in the tiny "dining room" space of the hotel room-like cell. "But you go first. What concerns do you have?"

"Well, first of all, I fear Kerlian assassins. If I am seen to have betrayed the Matriarchy, they may send another agent after me from the Programme. I know the capabilities of my kind, and I rather fear that I would lose in a one-on-one match with another. I do not know the identities or the number of other agents in this country, so really it could be any woman."

She sighed and looked down at her hands, still sitting on the bed, shifting her position slightly.

"The other thing is... look, I don't want to commit treason if there is any other alternative. Is there any way, any at all that I can, well," she blushed a little, "this sounds stupid but... get in contact with the Matriarchy and inform them of my decision? Try to, well, resign. This was, after all, a job. Perhaps they would allow it."

Zalpalatli's face stiffened slightly at the mention of assassins; after what happened to Topilpopoca, that word always made Security Secretariat personnel cringe. His expression soon assumed a bemused look, however.

"We would have no problem with you reaching out to your contacts in Kerlile to inform them of your decision. You need not worry about anyone trying to harm you, however. Once you decide to remain here, you fall under the protection of the Empress and the Xiomeran Empire. We will be quite....cross if someone decides to try to harm a person that falls under our protection," he said. "I trust that the Matriarchy will understand Xiomera's position on this matter."

Omapācatl sighed in relief. She was very pleased to hear that, and she thought that if she informed them of her decision rather than just vanished, they would be much less likely to send assassins.

"Thank you," she smiled in spite of the situation. "That makes me feel a lot better. Is there anything else you will require of me, should I accept the offer to remain in Xiomera?"

Zalpalatli nodded. "To be honest, we were hoping that you could provide us information that would help us locate any other Auroras that may be in Xiomera, so we can extend the offer to them that you received. With rumors spreading, we are concerned that any Auroras who feel they are in danger may react unexpectedly. That could have dire consequences for everyone. We simply do not know enough about the Aurora program to know where to begin, though. Any information you feel comfortable in providing us would be helpful. That is not a condition of our offer, however."

"I must say, you are showing me more courtesy than I have any right to," she said, slightly taken aback by how well she was being treated. "I do not know the identity of the other Auroras in Xiomera. They make sure of that, for security reasons. They will be very well trained, of course. I don't know the number of them either, though I think I was the second sent here. I cannot be absolutely certain of that. We arrive as teenagers, usually when we are 14."

"That at least gives us a base to work from," Zalpalatli replied. "Are there any aspects of the Aurora program, or how Auroras are trained, that might allow us to identify them? Or anything special or unique about the kinds of missions Auroras are given? We know the goal is usually to achieve significant positions within a society, but that is a very broad area to search."

She hesitated. Despite her feelings on the subject, and her desire to remain in Xiomera, talking openly on this subject still frightened her immensely. She didn't like it. Yet... she decided to help. She had been treated well, if the others would be too, it would benefit them.

"It genuinely varies. Some of us will be ordered to get into positions where we have political influence - those were my orders. Others will be gathering information, infiltrating the military, even businesses in some countries. They could be anywhere. The advice I can give you is that on our documents, our 'parents' would have died by the time we were 16. That should narrow it down. And we would have no other family, except by marriage. Only children orphaned in their teens with no aunts or uncles."

"That will genuinely help us a lot. We thank you for this information. We may have further questions if there is any other help we should need. Also, as you may expect, you may be under surveillance from time to time once you leave here - but this is Xiomera, after all. Everyone is under surveillance here," Zalpalatli said with a chuckle. "You will, at least, not be under any more scrutiny than any other citizen. There is but one more formality."

The Secretary gestured one of the Shorn Ones forward. Expressionlessly, the Shorn One handed Omapācatl a golden talisman with the Xiomeran seal on it.

"As you are, in effect, becoming a true Xiomeran citizen here and now, you must swear your loyalty to the Empress and to the Empire," Zalpalatli said. The loyalty oath was normally required of Xiomeran citizens when they turned 17, in ceremonies performed at the telpochcalli. This was, however, a special circumstance.

"Repeat after me: I, Omapācatl, pledge my loyalty to the Xiomeran Empire, to Empress Yauhmi, and to the Obsidian Throne. I shall serve the Empire and its people, truly and faithfully, for all my days. The price of betraying this pledge shall be my life. I swear this as a child of Huītzilōpōchtli," the Secretary intoned solemnly.

She took a deep breath. There would be no going back from this route. If she proceeded, she would no longer be able to hold any loyalty to Kerlile. She would be switching allegiances, fully and completely. It should have been harder than she found it.

"I, Omapācatl, pledge my loyalty to the Xiomeran Empire, to Empress Yauhmi, and to the Obsidian Throne. I shall serve the Empire and its people, truly and faithfully, for all my days. The price of betraying this pledge shall be my life. I swear this as a child of Huītzilōpōchtli."

Zalpalatli grinned, gesturing to Omapācatl to keep the talisman. "You may have performed a similar ceremony as a child, but now, it has meaning. For both yourself, and for us. Your loyalty and service will be rewarded by the Empire keeping its promises to you, and protecting you as it does all its citizens. You're truly a Xiomeran now, not just acting as one."

The Secretary gestured to the Shorn Ones, who opened the door and stood ready to escort Omapācatl out. "Unless you have any further questions for me....you are free to go. Welcome home."

"I... thank you," she said, oddly touched. The entire situation seemed slightly surreal to her. "Would you like me to report to someone the response I get when I contact Kerlile?" she asked.

"You may report their response to my office. You will be provided a contact method to do so once we finish processing your release here," Zalpalatli said. "Also, if you receive any unusual messages or requests from the Matriarchy once you've reported your decision to them, I do ask that you inform my office immediately. And if you feel you are in any danger, report that to us as well."

"I will do so," she nodded. "Thank you for... thank you for giving me the opportunity to make a real life here."

"You're welcome," Zalpalatli replied. "Just be sure to make the most of the opportunity. Not everyone gets a second chance."

"I understand. And I will, I promise. I will serve Xiomera now, not Kerlile," she said. The words sounded strange in her mouth, not because she was saying them, but because she meant them honestly.

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Re: The Hunt for Auroras

Post by Libertas Omnium Maximus » Sun Dec 01, 2019 7:06 am

22nd Street, Litudinem Residential District
November 27th, 2019 - 6:50 PM

Janet Ashton paused for a moment to assess her situation. The man who she had spotted following her back at 24th street was still tailing her. She figured there was no real reason to panic at this point since the man could easily just be taking the same route home that she was. Never the less, Janet was cautious of this man. There was a certain way he walked and moved that unnerved the young DIS Analyst. Janet diced that her best course of action was to cut through some back allies to see if she could shake her potential tail.

No sooner did she slide into the space behind a fast food joint than she nearly bumped into a massive man. He chuckled menacingly and flexed his muscular shoulders.

“Dearest Little Pretty” he began with a sneer. “I would like the contents of your pocket book please. Every dollar I want in my hand.”

Janet was completely shocked by the turn of events. How had she been so foolish as to abandon her relatively safe position walking down a major boulevard for this secluded alcove. She had been explicitly trained back in Kerlile to assess every location before entering it. She had neglected basic Aurora training and was now going to have to fight her way out, risking her air tight cover.

Janet dropped her purse as it was too light to serve as a valid weapon before roundhouse kicking her assailant in the chest. He grunted before lunging at her feet. Following her basic combat training, Janet elbowed the man in the back of the head before sidestepping his lunge. Confused and in pain, the thug made a last ditch effort to subdue Janet by grabbing onto the lapel of her jacket and yanking it off her. Janet let the coat slip free, taking great care not to loose her balance, before kicking her attacker in the face, taking off one of her shoes, and using it to knock out the would-be mugger.

Pleased with the fact that she was still just as fit as the day she left Kerlile, Janet put her shoes and jacket back on, picked up her purse, and left the alcove quickly. Janet walked home thinking that her secret was still well preserved. She had fought off a mugger, that was all there was to it.

In 35 other spots all around Litudinem, 35 other women were mugged in the exact same manner. They were all chosen by the algorithm created by a certain Alexander Jackson.

———

Department of Internal Security headquarters
November 27th, 2019 - 8:30 PM

“Show me the data!” Maguire exclaimed as he entered the office of Alex Jackson, who had been put in charge of the operation.

Alex, pleased to have his work appreciated, beamed as he booted up a computer monitor and turned it to face his intimidating boss.

“Sir,” Alex began. “6 of the 36 candidates were armed and forced and immediate retreat of our “thugs”. I didn’t want DIS Agents getting shot so if they got a gun pulled on them the agents were told to plead for their life and do everything in their power to avoid being killed. They reported back to me that all 6 women seemed extremely uneasy around their firearms, indicating a lack of skill or proficiency that would be typical of an Aurora agent. We believe that none of the six armed candidates are our mole.”

Alex took a deep breath before flicking on a montage of numerous encounters, all brilliantly staged to be captured by closed circuit cameras. Maguire watched the clips with great interest before pointing to a specific feed and telling Jackson to stop the clips. Jackson obliged before the director continued.

“Look at candidate 22, Janet Ashton. She is far to professional in her style to be an amateur. I’ll bet you she has had professional training, maybe even military or paramilitary. She could be a very fit Maximusian but I think you should put her down for phase two of your project. Her technique could easily have been taught by the Kerlians.”

Jackson nervously jotted down some notes on his clipboard before responding.

“Yes. She was my top pick as well. Susana Collins and Sandra Powell both look like promising candidates as well. They fought of our agents with proficiency. Every other candidate either have over their money immediately or put up no fight and ran away when we gave them the chance. I am nearly certain that your mole is one of the three I listed.”

Director Maguire paused a moment. Things seemed too simple. It was rare that things fell into place so neatly. Jackson had really come through for him. It was looking like an Aurora might be captured very soon. Despite his inner doubts, Maguire happily gave the go ahead for part two of the plan, saying: “Jackson, your Algorithm and operation were undeniable successes. You may proceed with phase two of the overarching plan. Your country thanks you for your commendable efforts.”

At that the director silently exited the small office and left Jackson to prepare. Maguire made for the elevator. He had nothing better to do than to go back to his apartment. The Maguire would be working overtime until this Aurora was caught. As such, the director figured he had earned a quick bit of rest before the events of the next day.

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