Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

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Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Sep 01, 2019 10:39 pm

Tales of Lauchenoiria - Lauchenoirian behind-the-scenes-thread

OOC: The Federation of Lauchenoiria is a democracy in central Hespia which suffered from a devastating civil war in 2018. These tales from present-day Lauchenoiria offer an inside glimpse into the lives of those involved in Lauchenoirian politics and Lauchenoirian affairs. They will give a look into the lives of people such as Prime Minister Josephine Alvarez and President Alex Marwick, along with opposition politicians, and certain individuals whose lives give an insight into what living in Lauchenoiria is like, especially after the war.

Contents:
1. An Uneasy Relationship (1st Sept 2019)
2. Preventing a deal? (8th Sept 2019)
3. What Aelurians Want (11th Sept 2019)
4. The Liberal Life of Students (16th Sept 2019)
5. Hope of Reconciliation (13th Oct 2019)
6. A Future Stolen (29th Oct 2019)
7. Give Something to Get Something (30th Oct 2019)
8. Vegan Milkshake (6th Nov 2019) - jointly written with Xiomera
9. Protests, and an Unexpected Invitation (7th Nov 2019) - written with input from Great Shen
10. Deterioration of Relations (8th Nov 2019) - jointly written with Xiomera
11. Aftermath of a Phone Call (9th Nov 2019)
12. Alvarez's New Direction - Part 1 (11th Nov 2019)
13. Alvarez's New Direction - Part 2 (11th Nov 2019)

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Sep 01, 2019 10:40 pm

An Uneasy Relationship

Fleura House, Residence of the President of Lauchenoiria

“Good evening, Mr. President,” Josephine Alvarez greeted Alex Marwick, somewhat frostily. “So, what will our response be to this earthquake, beyond words?”

“Straight to business, then?” remarked Marwick, though he looked relieved. The two took their seats, and sipped their coffees without looking each other in the eye. They’d had an uneasy relationship since the Bloch affair, when Alvarez had publicly called out Marwick’s decision to proceed with the extradition. Whenever the topics of either Shuell or Sanctaria came up when they were in each other’s presence, the air turned noticeably colder.

“Yes. This is an urgent crisis, after all. So, I was thinking…”

“Are any of the families of the Lauchenoirians doing media appearances?”

“… I’m sorry, what?” blinked Alvarez.

“I’m thinking, we get them to do a speech saying what they want us to do, and then people will likely agree with them cause they’ll get a lot of sympathy, right? Then we can decide what to do.”

“Mr. President, I understand that you were elected on a platform of doing what the public wants, however there are some issues such as the response to natural disasters which need decisions made quickly. You’ve been told this a number of times!”

“You’re angrier with me than usual today,” Marwick commented, taking another sip.

“A reporter came up to me outside church asking for a comment based on a rumour that you were planning to authorise the extradition of the two Xiomeran journalists that we recently charged with attempted arson.”

“Since when did you go to church?”

“What?” sputtered Alvarez. “In what universe is that the relevant part of this conversation? It is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death, I go every year around this time. Do you plan to extradite more dissidents to dictatorships, Mr. President?”

“There’s no plan, we were just investigating the…”

Stop. You realise how unpopular you are right now? Someone managed to get ‘impeachment’ trending in Costeno on social media the day after the Bloch affair. You’re getting us into trouble with our allies. What happened to you? You seemed so reasonable before you were elected, but right now, I will be blunt, Mr. President. You are out of your depth, you need to stay out of this, and in a few months’ time we will quietly repeal that extradition law and pretend none of this happened.”

“He’s not dead, the Shuellians told me…”

“Are you listening to me?” Alvarez demanded.

“You sound like Charissa Clarke, trying to control me like she did MacKenzie. Shuell has helped us, stop hating them just because they’re not a democracy.”

There was a silence, then Alvarez stood up, picking up her coffee cup and walking over to the window. When she spoke, it was quietly and slowly.

“We both suffered during the war. I saw the cuts on your face on those broadcasts, and I know you went through something though I don’t know what. But let me tell you what happened to me.”

“I don’t see how this is relevant,” Marwick snorted, leaning back in his chair.

“I was arrested in my office, only minutes after Chaher’s coup. They kept me in an interrogation room for 48 hours, and then he came by to tell me that either I recognise his government or I go to prison for life. After Sonja, I mean Jennifer, rescued me, it was only so that I would be captured by Kerlians later. Tortured, to force Jennifer to join the Council to get me free. The only reason I am free now is because the Sanctarians forced the Kerlians to let me go. So, yes, maybe I hate dictatorships more than you. I am justified in doing so. I am surprised, given what they did to you, that you don’t share my thoughts.”

“It was a car crash.”

“What?”

“The scars, we were driving through the storm and we hit a tree. Wasn’t the Clarke regime.”

“You…” Alvarez turned to stare at him incredulously, “you let everyone think you’d been beaten up or tortured by the Clarke regime. The entire country believes that. They voted for you on the back of your Resistance broadcasts because you were a fearless warrior for democracy and really you were just a kid whose friend was a bad driver?”

“Hey, I helped! Morale, yeah? The broadcasts gave people hope.”

“People gave their lives for democracy and you capitalised on that for votes. You’re a fraud, Marwick.”

“Yeah, well you only care so much about Bloch cause it upset your friends in Sanctaria who saved you from the big bad Kerlians like your war criminal wife.”

“I…” Josephine Alvarez was not often at a loss for words but she was this time.

“Are we gonna discuss the earthquake or not? We can’t send them money cause we don’t have any so what’s the point?”

“President Marwick, I would like an apology.”

“For what?” Marwick frowned, sipping his coffee.

“If you do not know, then I do not believe you are fit to hold executive office in this country. Mr. President, you are behaving like a spoiled child. You see fit to insult me and my family, to insult our allies, and to insult the laws of this nation. Since you seem unable to have a conversation like an adult, I am going to leave.”

“You’re the one storming off like in a tantrum!” Marwick laughed, the kind of laugh that reminded Alvarez of the bullies in her high school.

“Like a… Mr. President, I have some advice for you. Don’t run for re-election, if you do, you will be revealed for the fraud you are. I will send Thomas to meet with you next week.”

You’re Prime Minister, not Thomas Averforth! You’re meant to meet with me, not your deputy!”

“I am under no obligation.”

“Yes, you are!”

“No, I am not. Read the constitution, Mr. President. Goodbye.”

Alvarez quickly exited, shutting the door behind her and hurrying off down the corridor. She blinked away a couple of tears which were threatening to fall. Talking about the whole situation with the war and Jennifer Hale tended to do that.

She didn’t know what had happened to Marwick. When they’d met during the campaign, he’d seemed like a genuinely nice, if a little naïve guy. Since his election, however, he had become rude and foolish. It was the fastest case of ‘power corrupts’ she had ever had the misfortune of seeing. She hoped – for his sake, as well as the country’s – that he would retire from politics in April.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Sep 08, 2019 2:49 pm

Preventing a deal?

Communist Party HQ, Buttercity
8th September 2019 – morning

Two women sat in the deserted headquarters of the Lauchenoirian Communist Party, a plate of plain biscuits untouched in between them. The small, cramped office was deserted, given it was a Sunday. Paperwork sat in untidy piles on the tops of desks, and a dictatorship-era Lauchenoirian flag was draped over a chair in the corner. One of the women noticed the flag and wrinkled her nose a little.

“I must say, I’m surprised you wanted to speak to me,” Lucie Scott, leader of the Green Party said, glancing around the empty office.

“Nobody is to find out about this,” warned Élia Agramunt, new leader of the Communist Party. “I think we can help each other.”

“In what way? You must realise that my party is fundamentally opposed to yours, given the events of last year. We may share some policies, but, well, to be blunt – we don’t trust you, since the Clarke incident,” Scott said, biting into one of the biscuits. It was just as tasteless as she was expecting.

“I understand you are opposed to this Shuell trade deal that Alvarez is planning. Something about Shuell’s lack of environmental policies, I believe. Naturally, we are too,” Agramunt said, leaning back slightly in her chair. “The Alvarez administration is temporary, but if this deal is made, it will last longer. We cannot let this pass, it would be a disaster. The coalition is fragile, if both our parties work together, we can stop this.”

“On this one issue? Well, I must say I’m not a big fan of this deal. The Bloch incident worried me, but I don’t think it is necessarily the total disaster you make it out to be. Shuell has some environmental policies, although they do solely focus on the oceans. This deal could, if played right, be used to encourage Shuell to improve their policies on the matter. I understand why you might be concerned, but you will have to convince me.”

“You really think you can influence Shuell? I would call that naïve, no offence. They are stronger than us, especially since the war. They will more likely than not be the ones who influence us. Our environmental regulations will get worse, our services will be privatised, and our democracy may well find itself under attack.”

Scott laughed in response to Agramunt’s final comment. She took a sip of water from the reusable bottle she carried around with her.

“I hardly think your party is one to talk about democracy. Look, I sympathise, but from what I’ve heard, the Shuellians are actually going to give us a very fair deal, something which may be difficult to come by given our current, well, situation. I obviously don’t agree with them ideologically, and to be honest we will probably vote against or abstain. But I don’t see the need for a massive effort to turn coalition members.”

“I’m disappointed to hear that,” Agramunt said. “Especially from someone who claims to support our democracy so much. I also am disappointed that you are continuing the narrative that we oppose it. Charissa Clarke was a Kerlian. And Suleman Chaher… he had been a member of, what was it, four parties before ours?”

“That flag in the cornet suggests otherwise,” Scott pointed out.

“Hmm?” Agramunt said, glancing around. “Oh, that. Yeah, we only just got around to clearing out Flynn’s office. That’s going in the rubbish, I promise. I’m quite offended you think I would want something like that here.”

“My apologies, I didn’t mean to offend you. I understand why you dislike the Shuellians so much, and if you can come up with a better reason, I’m willing to listen. I don’t have long though, I’m meeting my sister and my nephews in the park for family games,” Scott said, dusting some crumbs off her trousers and standing up.

“Of course, I don’t want to disrupt your weekend. We can talk more during the week, if you prefer?” Agramunt said, picking up the plate of biscuits and covering it with foil.

“If you have something new to add, sure. Are you not doing anything today? We have family game day every Sunday.”

“My husband is coming by shortly, we’re going to go out for lunch.”

“I hope you enjoy yourself. Try to relax, I don’t think we need to worry about a Shuellian invasion just yet!” Scott laughed, heading for the door.

“I’m sure,” Agramunt said, then sat back down and sighed as Scott exited. She closed her eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. Her party had seen failure after failure recently, and she was afraid her country was going to end up a hyper-capitalist state full of inequality. She feared for the poor communities in Summersea and Annatown, that they would remain at their present standard of living while the rich would get richer.

She stood, picking up her light jacket and walking outside to where her husband, Jon, stood, waiting for her and smiling. A couple of security personnel protecting Agramunt stood at a discrete distance, but the couple ignored them.

“Hello, honey,” he said, with a soft kiss on her lips. “I was thinking we could go to that new Zamastanian restaurant that has opened in the east end. I hear it has a lot of variety.”

“And give more money to the capitalists?” she joked, laughing, taking his hand as they began to walk to the nearest subway station.

“You’re the one who always says there’s no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism,” he pointed out, mocking her a little. “Or would you rather go back to that community meal place from last month?”

“Oh, God no,” she shuddered. There had been a small disagreement with an anarchist the previous month, when the man had realised she was a Communist Party member. It would likely be even worse now given her position. “Zamastanian capitalists it is.”

Jon laughed, and swung their joined arms a little as they walked. She joined in, as they began walking down the stairs into the subway, hiding from the bright sunlight that still shone across Lauchenoiria.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:23 pm

What Aelurians Want

Julena House Press Room, Liaville, Aeluria
11th September 2019 – morning

“First Minister, are you concerned that the central government will object to this legislation?” asked Claire Carter, a Lauchenoirian Guardian journalist.

“No, Claire, I’m not. The Private and Religious Education bill is fully within our remit since the passage of the new Lauchenoirian constitution. No longer can the central government claim it is illegal for private religious schools to operate, and education has been a devolved policy since the end of the dictatorship in 1993. They can object, but they have no legal basis to do so. Raul?” responded Nazario Macías, First Minister of Aeluria

“How would you address the concerns of many that this will take away the choice of children to decide for themselves which religion to follow?” asked Raul Obiols, of broadcaster Lauchenoirian Broadcasting Network, the producers of Breakfast in Buttercity, the show now notoriously interrupted and taken off air by Chaher’s troops following the coup.

“Individuals are, of course, free to choose their religion, and these private schools will be required to follow the normal curriculum and teach pupils about other religions, which will enable them to make an informed choice. But parents should have options too. It should be the right of the parent to choose the best education for their child. Instead, right now, parents are being forced to make difficult choices, with some even being arrested just for wanting what is best for their child. This is a situation which cannot continue, and this bill will be the first step in addressing this. One last question. Marco?”

“What of Lurite parents who cannot afford private fees?” asked Marco Polley of the Liaville Times.

“I imagine schools will put in place scholarship programmes to assist with those who struggle with fees, although unfortunately due to the limitations of the Lauchenoirian constitution in religious matters it is impossible for us to fund such things ourselves. Despite the best efforts of Prime Minister Noguera at the time, concessions had to be made. That’s all, thank you.”

Macías exited the room as a multitude of voices yelling “First Minister” echoed behind him. His Chief of Staff, Alyssa Robinson passed him a coffee as she joined him in walking down the corridor.

“That went well,” he said to her.

“Indeed, it did, far better than some other press conferences I’ve had the misfortune of attending. You’re beginning to win back the trust you lost after the failed referendum. Most people on the island support this bill, you shouldn’t have any trouble with it,” Alyssa said, as they walked.

The corridor in which they travelled was light and airy, the carpet and walls decorated in pastel colours, with various small plants dotted around. The Lurian religion was important to Aelurians, and indoor plants were kept in every room in a Lurite household, to increase the inhabitant’s closeness to nature. Though Macías was not devout, it would not do to have the First Minister of Aeluria living and working somewhere without plants.

“You were at the press conference where Noguera announced rationing, weren’t you? I tell you, all of us in the cabinet were afraid to set foot outside our houses for a few hours after that one, lest we run afoul of a lynch mob,” Macías shook his head.

“That one was probably the most stressful of all, yes. I remember watching the ships surround the island at the start of the blockade. It was a terrible time, and I wasn’t entirely sure if we would survive it. But we did.”

“But we did,” Macías agreed.

“I’m slightly concerned that the environmental protests in Buttercity are going to get out of hand, sir. There are a lot of Aelurians there, and you know how the far-right will target them if there’s any violence. We may need to prepare a response in case anything, well, happens,” Alyssa grimaced apologetically.

“I hope it doesn’t, but prepare something just in case. I wonder if I should make a statement on the Manauia Island matter myself. It strikes me that Xiomera is about to do to them what Lauchenoiria did to us in the 1950s,” Macías shook his head.

“Sir, I would advise against that. It would only serve to anger the Xiomerans, and they could become a crucial ally to Aeluria in the future. They already have a strained relationship with the mainland, they could potentially take our side if any disputes between us and the mainland heat up again,” Alyssa pointed out.

The pair arrived at the First Minister’s office, entering. Macías took his seat and Alyssa stood nearby, next to an oddly shaped tree which twisted and turned in a pot by the desk. The trunk was smooth to the touch, but patterned to look at, and Alyssa knew that when Keitha Noguera had been First Minister, she had liked to stroke the leaves of the tree when she was stressed and didn’t know what to do. It had happened a lot during the war.

“You make a good point,” sighed Macías. “Very well, I will refrain from angering the Xiomerans for the time being. I believe there’s meant to be another protest outside their embassy today, in addition to the big ones?”

“That is correct, yes,” nodded Alyssa.

“I’d like a report on that when it happens. In the meantime, I believe I’ve got another appointment with a parents’ group?”

“You do, sir. Christians, afraid that the increased support for Lurites will lead to religious discrimination. You have the talking points?”

“Religious schooling will be open to Christians and other religions too, it will benefit all on the island, not just Lurites, and could lead to greater understanding and respect for a variety of belief systems,” Macías recited.

“Good, shall I send them in?” Alyssa asked.

“Yes, please do so. No need to stay, I know you have reports to be writing.”

“Very well, sir,” Alyssa said, exiting the room and informing the group of Christian parents waiting outside that they could enter. Once they were settled, she took off down the corridor, humming softly to herself in the sunlight coming in the large windows. Julena House wasn’t a very secure building, she thought, but it was beautiful.

She walked into her own office, and the light level dropped. She breathed a sigh of relief to finally be alone. Her job had become exceedingly stressful since the end of the war. She had thought that the war would be the height of it, but since then she had found herself unable to sleep at night. The promotion hadn’t helped at all, and Macías had been a more demanding boss than Noguera ever was.

Still, she reasoned, at least the smoking had stopped. Throughout the war, it had become impossible to breathe on the island. She was very grateful for the federal law prohibiting tobacco, and that she wasn’t a Kvaskm or Shuellian, or any of the other myriad nations where smoking was common. She sighed, and sat down at her desk, turning one of the screens to a 24-hour news channel and getting to work on her reports.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Sep 16, 2019 11:43 pm

The Liberal Life of Students

Student Union, Usera University, Usera, Yervia, Lauchenoiria
16th September 2019 – evening

“He’s meeting with some member of Alvarez’s staff tomorrow. I wasn’t invited, which I’m kind of annoyed about. I worked really closely with her on the campaign too,” Leonie Bennett said glumly, flopping onto a beanbag.

“Yeah, but you and the others ‘betrayed’ her, didn’t you?” Darya McCauley, Leonie’s roommate said, sitting down next to her. Darya was also in her first year, studying biology, and was originally from Aeluria. She and Leonie had immediately hit it off, sharing a common interest in politics and hatred of the Chaher-Clarke regime.

Leonie rolled her eyes and took a bite of the chocolate bar she was in the process of eating. She savoured the taste of it as their two other friends, Veronica Penners and Zahra Ali, sat down next to them. They were seated in a brightly coloured area of Usera University Union, away from the loud music that plagued the area closer to the main bar.

“We didn’t betray them so much as they betrayed their manifesto,” Zahra pointed out, handing Leonie a glass of water and sitting on a nearby chair. Zahra, a second-year politics student, was on the national committee of the Young Liberals with Leonie, being their secretary. The two had known each other before Leonie had started university.

“You came out in support of protests against her government,” Darya said, taking a sip of her beer. “Roni, what do you think? Did the Young Liberals betray Alvarez?”

“You could have warned her, Leonie,” Veronica said, flopping down on the floor and sitting cross-legged. Veronica was a second-year mathematics & statistics student, and was Zahra’s roommate. “Weren’t you close?”

“You don’t warn people you’re about to betray, Roni,” Darya pointed out.

“Oh, come on! It wasn’t a betrayal!” Leonie exclaimed, drawing some looks from a group of passing drunk people.

“Keep your voice down, you’re not even drinking,” chuckled Veronica.

“I wanted to tell her, but…” Leonie began.

“She was outvoted, and thank goodness. Little Miss Bennett here is far too friendly with those in power. She has two Prime Ministers of Lauchenoiria in her contacts list,” Zahra interrupted, shaking her head.

“Ooh lucky for some, eh?” Darya laughed mockingly, nudging Veronica who had joined her in her amusement. Leonie’s cheeks had turned slightly pink.

“Anyway,” Leonie said loudly, “are we going to go to the Baking Society meeting tomorrow or not?”

“Ooh we definitely should,” Zahra enthused. “I mean, they’re going to be handing out free cakes, and it looks really fun. I heard every week they give free cakes to the people who lost their homes in the war, so you should like it, Leonie.”

“You realise I have other personality traits than just caring about the aftermath of the war?” Leonie laughed. “But yes, that’s partly what attracted me to it.”

“Well, I’m up for giving everything a try,” Veronica said. “Except men of course,” she added, wrinkling her nose.

“Which reminds me, the LGBT society is having a picnic on Friday, are you two going?” Darya asked Leonie and Veronica.

“I definitely am, what about you, Leonie?” Veronica added.

“Yeah, sure, why not? Though I think I left my bi flag at my parents’ house when I was packing.”

“You don’t need flags for a picnic,” Veronica laughed. “I’m just worried my ex will be there. She really, truly hates me.”

“Don’t worry, Leonie will protect you. She can just imagine your ex is a Kerlian,” Darya suggested.

“God no, I don’t want her to kill Cara!” Veronica laughed.

“You people do realise I don’t go around killing Kerlians, right? In fact, for about six months I couldn’t even stand the word ‘Kerlile’ being uttered in my presence,” Leonie pointed out.

“Yeah, but you got over that,” Zahra said. “It was honestly remarkable. You’re really strong, Leonie. I doubt I could have come back to Usera if I’d had your life. And I sure wouldn’t be willing to joke about Kerlians. I’m honestly surprised you chose this university.”

“That’s part of why I did. I can’t let what happened last year rule my life. I definitely wouldn’t suggest to the others doing what I am, but for me, coming here is taking control of it. It’s showing that I am stronger than them, that what they did to me can’t ruin my life. I’m in control, not them.”

“Still, it’s remarkable,” Zahra said.

“I sometimes wish I could speak to Jennifer Hale, you know,” Leonie sighed. “There’s a lot I want to ask her. I even almost handed a letter for her into the Kerlian embassy but… well, I didn’t really want to set foot in the place.”

“Leonie! Zahra!” a voice yelled, and a young man came running down the corridor. “We have a huge problem!”

“Julian, what is it?” Leonie said, alarmed as she jumped to her feet. Her reaction times were still rather fast since the war. Despite all her attempts to claim her trauma had all been handled, the war had still had a lasting effect on her.

“I heard…” Julian Sanderson, Vice President of the Young Liberals, said, gasping for breath, “I heard they…”

“Have some water,” Leonie offered him the glass and he took it gratefully, gulping it down.

“Sorry, I ran here from the train station,” he said, then took another gulp.

“You’re scaring us, Julian,” Zahra said. “Are we being invaded again or something?”

“No, no, sorry… I just came to town a little early, was planning to come tomorrow anyway for the committee meeting, but… Alvarez is planning to kick us all out the Liberal Party.”

Leonie burst into hysterical laughter, leaning against a nearby pillar and gasping for breath through her laughs. Veronica had to help her sit down on a chair and compose herself. When Leonie was finally calm, she looked incredulously up at Julian.

“You scared us for that? Julian, I thought there was a Kerlian invasion, or someone had launched a nuke at us, or that the government had decided to mass arrest the environmental protesters, or something that is an actual crisis. We knew this might happen. You really need to get your priorities straight.”

“You kind of do,” Zahra pointed out. “Seriously, we could have discussed this tomorrow.”

“I’m just gonna go buy another drink,” Darya said, then made a hasty exit. Veronica stayed sitting on a nearby beanbag, watching the three (potentially soon-to-be ex-) Liberals as they began a frantic discussion on what they were going to do about the disaster of being kicked out of a political party.

“It’s important! We can’t just let this happen, we need to get on top of it!” Julian argued.

“Get on top of it how? We agreed principles were more important than politics in our meeting,” Leonie sighed.

“Not all of us agreed with this move, yet all of us are going to end up punished for it!”

“Climate change disproportionately affects poor communities and people of colour,” Zahra pointed out. “Do we only support those communities on paper?”

“This isn’t about climate change, this is about…”

“Seriously, Julian, you only care about your political career!”

The argument continued for about fifteen minutes, after which Julian stormed out of the building in a temper, scattering a crowd of people wearing costumes that made them look like dessert items, one of whom had on a giant birthday badge. The dessert people did not react well to being forced out of the way, but nevertheless, Julian moved too quickly to be stopped.

“I’m glad he’s gone,” Darya, who had returned with drinks for her and Veronica said.

“We all are,” Zahra agreed. “None of us like him, you know.”

“We should get home, if we’re going to have a multiple hour emergency committee meeting tomorrow we will probably have to study tonight,” Leonie pointed out.

“There goes baking society,” Veronica sighed.

The group exited the building, walking in the still-warm darkness of the Lauchenoirian night back to their dorms. Some freshly planted trees along the path that replaced those the Kerlians had destroyed during last year’s occupation of Usera blew in the wind as they walked. The city twinkled in the distance, with one noticeable dark spot to the south west where the buildings had been destroyed last year. At first glance, life in Usera carried on as normal. But underneath the façade, the scars of the civil war remained.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Oct 13, 2019 8:41 pm

Hope of Reconciliation

Prime Minister’s Residence, Lauchenoiria
13th October 2019

“It is important to me that we can reconcile our differences so that the country can move on from the civil war. While the divisions no longer look likely to spill over into violence, they are still there deep down. We speak of economic recovery and democratic recovery, but we need an emotional recovery too.”

Élia Agramunt sat upright at the table in the sunshine, gently holding her cup of coffee, with a polite smile on her face. Opposite her was Prime Minister Josephine Alvarez, who was stirring her own coffee, looking down. The pair sat at an intricately designed garden table on a patio overlooking the fairly modest garden behind the Prime Minister’s residence. Despite the time of year, it was still warm as always in Lauchenoiria, with butterflies passing by and landing on the flowers that decorated the edge of the garden.

“An admirable goal, Ms. Agramunt. I agree with what you said. I do have one question however,” Alvarez responded, looking up at Agramunt’s eyes. “ And I will be blunt. Do you truly believe that, or are you merely doing and saying what will get you votes?”

“That is certainly blunt,” Agramunt said, then surprised Alvarez by letting out a genuine laugh of amusement. “Uncommon for a politician. I can appreciate it, however. You are correct in thinking that this is a way I want to get more votes. But I do also genuinely believe it. Both can be true at the same time.”

“Honesty from a member of your political party? These are changed times indeed,” Alvarez said, taking a sip of her coffee and waiting to see Agramunt’s response.

“Baiting me, Prime Minister? If you wish for me to respond in anger you will be waiting a long time. I believe strongly in my convictions, and I am a democrat at heart, despite what some may believe. Prime Minister, to the outside we will always be enemies, but despite that I do want to work with you on things that will benefit us both.”

Josephine Alvarez paused for a moment, holding her coffee and considering her political rival’s words. When Agramunt had asked for a meeting, and she had decided to accept it, she had not quite known what to expect. She had, however, been fairly certain the meeting would be confrontational and not constructive. She was quite unsure what to make of this turn of events. She stood up and motioned for Agramunt to follow her.

“Do you see these plants?” Alvarez said after they had walked to the other side of the patio, pointing at some flowerpots. “They were from Fleura House, Marwick didn’t want them. President Mackenzie tended them during his brief tenure in office. It was what he did when Clarke wasn’t forcing him to sign documents by putting a gun to his wife’s head. I saw him once, after the war. He was lucid that day, and he took my hands and told me how guilty he felt for his role. These final days of his life have been horrible because of the war. We speak of reconciling people emotionally, but I wonder whether that is even possible after all that happened.”

“That is an understandable position. I know there are some on your side who can never forgive my party, regardless of what happens in the future. And I know there are some on mine who can never forgive yours. It puts both of us in a difficult spot moving forward. But we have to try something – show people that the past is behind us.”

“I will confess, you seem much more pleasant to speak to like this than to debate in Parliament. I learned my bluntness from my wife. I thought it was a result of… well, I guess she learned it from her mother, Councillor Camila Hale,” shrugged Alvarez, slightly sadly. “Things are what they are.”

“Prime Minister…” Agramunt began gently. “I cannot begin to imagine the horror of finding out the woman you loved was not who you thought she was. The events of last year… they were harder on you than most. I am impressed you still want reconciliation. You are a strong and admirable individual, and while I do not agree with your politics, I do respect you.”

“Thank you. I do want to work with you on this. I think it is important, for the future of our country, to prioritise ensuring that people can work together and that the divisions can begin to heal. I will not, however,” Alvarez began to smirk jokingly, “follow your advice on economic policy.”

The two women both laughed, sharing a joke in spite of their differences. Agramunt was thrilled that Alvarez had been so open to working together. The divisions of the war had taken a toll on her both personally and professionally, and she looked forward to a day when things would be different. Alvarez, also, had found Agramunt much more pleasant as an individual than expected. As both women returned to sipping their coffee under the sun and discussing strategies for reconciliation, they both felt real hope for the first time in months.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Oct 29, 2019 4:04 pm

A Future Stolen

Hospital, Usera, Lauchenoiria
29th October 2019

Jessica Cassidy was so weak. She could barely stay awake, drifting in and out of consciousness. In her moments of wakefulness, however, what she had learned had devastated her. They had found radioactive material, that she had likely digested – probably slipped into her drink. She was alive, they had managed to save her… but she would likely be dead of cancer within five years.

When Jessica was awake, she cried. She’d had plans for her life. It was all supposed to be an adventure, she had so much she wanted to see and do. Now? Her future was gone, all her dreams shattered overnight. They didn’t know who was behind the attack, but Jessica had her suspicions. She was angry at the people who had killed her, for that was what they had done – slowly, not immediately, but eventually. Yet anger led to exhaustion, which led back to sleep…

“Jessie?” came a voice one morning, or afternoon, she couldn’t tell. She had been hovering on the edge of sleep, and at first, she hadn’t thought the voice was real. “Oh, my little girl!”

“Mum?” she croaked out, forcing her eyes open to see her parents standing beside her, looks of utter horror on their faces. They had been looking at her like they’d seen a ghost, unable to hide their fear. It was at that moment Jessica gave up hope.

Her parents had stayed for as long as they’d been allowed. They had cried, watching their slowly dying daughter in her bed. Her bright red hair, that she had always been so proud of was gone. Her cheerful spirit, always able to make a joke even in the worst of circumstances had survived a Kerlian prison camp… but it hadn’t survived this. Jessica was exhausted, and broken, and distraught.

*

“If she comes for regular check-ups, we should be able to detect the cancer as it is forming, which will give her a much better chance of survival. Short of a miracle, she only has five years, but we can make sure she survives those five if we are careful about it.”

“How long until she’s up and on her feet?”

“It will be weeks, if not months. She’s incredibly weak, I would not advise moving her from here. In her present state, she won’t be of much use to you.”

“She’s the only one who can help with what we’re planning. I swear to God, when I find out who did this, they will feel as much pain as a man accused of treason in Kerlile.”

The voices were both low, and familiar to Jessica. She was half asleep, waking slowly. She was unable to move or acknowledge she could hear the men, so she just stayed still and listened. The first man was one of the doctors who had been treating her. And the second… she had only ever heard giving orders before.

“Then, if I was them, I should be rather terrified. Have you… have you discovered who was behind the attack yet?”

“We suspect the Kerlians. We think the radioactive material originated from the Matriarchy, though with such a small amount it is providing difficult to get a conclusive answer.”

“Will we be taking action against them?”

“That is surely none of your business, Doctor. But we are trying to keep this under wraps, so don’t expect to see anything in the news. We will be sticking to a certain… diplomatic backchannel that has worked for us with Kerlile before, in recent months. Still, I am going to need Ms. Cassidy ready to work as soon as possible.”

“She is not at present fit to work. If I understand you correctly, you only want her working at a computer and not on her feet, but she is still not well enough for even that. If she is essential to your plans, they will need to be delayed.”

“Until when?”

“I… this is not precise, you must understand, there could still be complications. And you can’t guarantee, given what happened, that she will want to work for you! I don’t know what you had her doing that led to this, but if I was her, I’d want to stay away from the danger.”

“Do not meddle in affairs which do not concern you, Doctor. When will Ms. Cassidy be able to work?”

“My best estimate is, probably, sometime around the 9th November.”

“Then that is when I will be back. Good day, Doctor.”

Jessica heard the sound of a door closing, and then before she had even fully woken up, she drifted back into her fitful sleep, her nightmares only increasing.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Wed Oct 30, 2019 7:29 pm

Give Something to Get Something

Alvarez’s Office, Lauchenoiria/Hale Residence, Kerlile
30th October 2019 - morning

Normally, these days, when Josephine Alvarez had to call her still-legal-wife, she would contact her secretary and get the call forwarded or scheduled. She did not want Jennifer to think there was any hope of reconciliation, because there wasn’t (or, at least, that’s what Josephine told herself). This time, however, she called her directly, as she had done only once before – ironically, exactly a year ago, to the day.

As she dialled, listening to the phone ring, she thought about that other call, the one where she had asked Jennifer for the location of Carmen Robinson. She did not believe then, though she did now, that Hale had been speaking the truth when she had not known her location. But given what had since happened to poor Robinson, Alvarez could understand her past reluctance to divulge her location to even her allies. And regardless, Robinson had not actually been willing to speak with anyone in Lauchenoiria, even after she had resurfaced.

“Yes?” came Hale’s voice after she had picked up the phone. She sounded nervous.

“Jennifer? We need to talk about something. Don’t get your hopes up, this isn’t a personal call, but I didn’t want it on the record,” Alvarez said.

“Oh, Josephine…” Hale sighed in relief. “It’s only you. I was somewhat concerned, the last time I got an unscheduled phone call it was a… well, you don’t need to know about that. It was a false alarm, is all I’ll say.”

“I apologise if I distressed you. Are you somewhere you can speak freely?”

“I’m in Kerlile, Josephine. So, no, but…” there was the sound of clattering and movement, and Hale giving an order to someone, the tone unmistakable but still gentler than other Kerlian Councillors, Alvarez was relieved to hear. “Okay, this is as good as we’re going to get.”

“Okay,” Alvarez said, pausing, then deciding to leap right into it. “Did your government order the assassination of Tacito Fierro and Jessica Cassidy?”

A beat.

Jessica? I knew her during the war, she was part of the Usera operation. She’s dead? No! She was so full of life!” Hale sounded genuinely distraught, Alvarez noted. She could be faking, of course… but Alvarez didn’t think so.

“Jessica Cassidy is alive, she survived the attempt, but Mr. Fierro is dead. He was killed in what appeared to be a car accident, while Cassidy was poisoned with radioactive material which seemed to originate from Kerlile. Was it your government?”

“Oh, thank goodness…” Hale breathed a sigh of relief. “I have no idea who Tacito Fierro is, or why my government would want him dead, or why you would think that. If they did try to kill Cassidy, however, I have heard nothing. And I don’t honestly think they did, there’s been no talk of covert missions along those lines, and in fact… Goddess, why am I telling you this? It’s like I want to end up like Robinson!”

“It’s hardly treason to talk to your wife, Jen.”

“Ohhh you’re good, Josie. Manipulating me like that, shame on you!” Hale said, though she laughed at the same time. “It absolutely is treason and you know fine well. I promise, though, that as far as I know, we didn’t do it. Who was Fierro anyway, why do you think the deaths are connected?”

“Well, you get nothing if you give nothing... I assume this call will stay between us?”

“Of course. My line is secure if yours is.”

“The two were working together on an operation for the Lauchenoirian government. Shortly after the operation commenced it was taken out of commission by this assassin or assassins. While it did not target your government, you may have had an interest.”

“Something about gender? No, your government wouldn’t do anything especially patriarchal.”

“Gee, thanks,” muttered Alvarez.

“All countries but Kerlile are patriarchal countries,” teased Hale. “If it wasn’t that, and you say we had an interest… either something targeting our enemies, or something targeting our friends… oh. Xiomera. It was you!”

“I can neither confirm nor deny that.”

“You don’t need to, now I’ve had the idea, I can see Jessica’s footprint all over it. Oh… congratulations! I didn’t think you had the guts! Really, Josephine, I’m impressed! It was completely foolish, of course, and you’ve gotten yourselves in a real mess, but Josie… oh, this is fantastic!”

“… you needn’t sound so enthusiastic, Jennifer. One person is dead, Jessica is in hospital and will likely die of cancer within 5 years, and it didn’t even work.”

“Sorry, sorry. I can’t say I’m disappointed it didn’t work, Cozamalotl was a better candidate but the breaking of that alliance would have made things here very awkward, and a revolution here would have put me and my daughter in danger.”

“Oh… I didn’t even think of that. Jennifer…” Alvarez hesitated, uncertain what to say.

“You can’t make policy decisions based on me, I do understand, you know. I can promise you though, if someone knows what you’ve done, and the assassinations suggest they do, you have made an enemy of Xiomera.”

“We were already halfway there.”

“Not like this. I can see why you’d suspect us though, especially if Jessica was involved. Since my government, and the hacking community, discovered she had managed to access the Kerlian ID database, she’s been watched. But we never wanted to kill her, if anything they wanted to recruit her!”

“I believe you,” Alvarez said. “But I don’t believe you necessarily know everything. I believe you speak the truth as best as you know it, but we both know Kerlian Councillors do things without asking the permission of the others. Ask around. Find out if anyone in Kerlile was behind the attack. If not… then someone is trying to frame you.”

“Yeah…” Hale said, swallowing. “An unpleasant thought, especially given that Xiomera is our ally. I will find out, and I will contact you. Thank you for, well, the warning. I liked Jessica Cassidy, if it was someone here, I promise I won’t let them off easy.”

“Good,” Alvarez said, then added: “Jennifer… we spoke a year ago, and I wasn’t entirely fair to you then.”

“About Robinson? I remember.”

“You really didn’t know where she was, did you?”

“No, I didn’t. But I understand why you would have thought that. She still won’t speak with your Jae Chung, incidentally. But, should you ever visit Kerlile, I’d be happy to try and arrange a meeting.”

“Visit…?” Alvarez choked on air. “They would have me arrested!”

“No, they wouldn’t. The warrant against you was quietly withdrawn when you became Prime Minister. We are no longer in the business of creating international incidents where we don’t have to. You are free to visit Kerlile if you so choose.”

“That is… well, I can’t tell if I’m relieved or more worried, to be honest. I suppose it would be a way to try and improve our relations…”

“But you’re not sure you want to?”

“I’m not sure it is the right look. Although, given your reforms, perhaps it would look like encouragement…”

“You’re drifting off into politician mode, Josephine. I will let you get on with it.”

“This has been an actually pleasant conversation, Jennifer. I was surprised. Perhaps… perhaps if I do visit – and this cannot happen for at least a year, barring miracles or emergencies – we can sit down and talk. Properly.”

“I… thank you, Josephine. I will ask around, if it was us, I’ll let you know. President Arnott needs my vote, she can’t do to me what she did to Robinson.”

“I hope not. My last visit to your country was unpleasant, I would not wish that on anyone. Goodbye, Jennifer.”

“Goodbye, Josephine.”

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:35 pm

Outside the Xiomeran Embassy, Buttercity, Lauchenoiria
6th November 2019 - late afternoon

The protesters were back. Every week since the 28th August they had been there. It would start at around 3pm, a mix of the students and the more enthusiastic activist types, trickling in with their banners and placards. It would continue to grow, with many more arriving, and only a few leaving, to reach its peak at about 5pm, at which time someone would address the crowd, normally a Xiomeran immigrant, sometimes a Lauchenoirian climate scientist, and the crowd would be gone by 6:30, dispersed back to their homes.

Today was going to be different. The crowd had started to gather early. By the time it hit 3pm, it was as busy as the previous week’s had been at its peak. There was an energy in the crowd, an anger, or a renewed call to action. There were many more Lauchenoirians this time, as well as the usual number of Xiomerans, and the handful of other ethnicities. This time, not every banner related to climate change - it was clear that the anti-Xiomeran activists from this morning’s trial had decided to join today’s demonstration.

It was around 3:30pm when it happened. A group of protesters broke off from the main crowd, slipping past the police who had been standing at the cordon, chatting to each other and not really paying close attention. The group worked fast. They used handcuffs, tubes and glue to attach themselves to each other, and to the building, blocking the entrance - and exit - to the embassy. The police had moved to stop them, but they were too late. Only a minute had passed between their split from the crowd and the stage where the embassy was completely blockaded.

The police stood nearby, bewildered and uncertain what to do. There was no way to move the protesters without specialist equipment. The officer in command mentally swore and got out his radio. In the background, the larger group of protesters were cheering and making noise, someone was playing music and the crowd seemed to have increased greatly in the last 60 seconds, although that may have been the imagination of the panicked police.

By the time the specialist equipment had arrived, it was 5pm, the normal height of the protest. The police had made no effort to break it up. It was far larger than they had anticipated, and they weren’t equipped to handle it. It was three times the size of the previous week’s demonstration, and it was all they could do to form a cordon between the main crowd and the embassy - including, of course, the protesters sitting in their line, handcuffed and singing along to the music their comrades were blasting into the street.

The speeches this week were far less focused on climate change than in previous weeks. And there were many, many more. Speaker after speaker called on the new Empress Yauhmi to reform Xiomera, to halt the Manauia Island development, to institute real democracy. None of the speakers acted like they thought she would have any intention of doing so. They all condemned her, accused her and her late husband of being tyrannical dictators, totalitarian brutes bringing nothing but oppression to their people.

As they spoke, the police continued to cut their locked- and glued-on comrades out one-by-one, only to reattach their own handcuffs when arresting them, and taking them to the waiting police vans. Every time an arrest was made, the speeches were paused so the crowd could cheer for the activist getting arrested, thanking them for their courage in standing up to Xiomera. By the time everyone had been arrested, it was almost 9pm.

After everyone had been arrested, and the speakers had all finished, the crowd dispersed for the most part quickly, heading in droves to either the bus stops or the nearest subway station and crowding the platform. The first train heading in the more popular direction became so crowded that a number of people opted to wait for the second, but after it had departed, the area was calm once more.

What the overworked and exhausted police officers didn’t notice was the group of around 10 climate protesters who had lingered in a late-night cafe down the road, eating vegan pasta dishes, and waiting. They kept their eyes on the embassy, where all the staff had been trapped until late by the blockade.

It was another hour, and some desserts, later by the time they saw the telltale movement in the windows that Ambassador Chēmā was about to exit the building. The activists nodded to each other, and bundled up their stuff, exiting the building, takeaway vegan milkshakes in their hands. It was, after all, still a warm night in the ever-summery Lauchenoiria.

They timed it perfectly, making sure they were walking past the embassy just as the Ambassador came down the steps, flanked by four ASI personnel. One of the activists suddenly veered aside, the lid off her milkshake, and threw it over the ambassador, the sticky substance covering her face and clothing. Behind the activist who had thrown the milkshake stood another, live streaming the affair on his phone. The others let out a jeer and took photographs.

*
(Following section written by Xiomera)

Chēmā, the Xiomeran Ambassador to Lauchenoiria, was tired. Tired of noise, tired of disruptions, tired of being in a country where the government didn't bother to enforce laws and the people acted like hooligans.

The protests which had been happening outside the Xiomeran Embassy had become a drain on the morale, and the patience, of the Xiomerans stationed there. Once a week, a bunch of Lauchenoirians prattling loudly about things that were not their concern, in a far away country they didn't even live in, would show up like clockwork. Their incessant moralizing and shouting and waving of protest signs, week after week after blasted week for over two months, had gotten so annoying that the Xiomeran Embassy secretly had noise-dampening materials installed inside the facilities to make the situation more bearable.

The few Xiomerans, and the even fewer foreigners, who tried to come to the embassy to conduct business were also quite tired - tired of being delayed, and harassed, by the protesters. When the visitors were done shouting at the protesters about it, they came inside and shouted at the embassy staff about it. Asking why something hadn't been done, demanding that the embassy do more to alleviate the problem. The protests of the embassy staff that it was up to the Lauchenoirian authorities to address matters outside the embassy walls fell on deaf ears. The staff at the front desk of the embassy had morbidly begun taken bets on which staff member would snap first and do something in anger after hearing yet another rendition of "what are my damned taxes paying for if you incompetent fools can't even keep an embassy functioning" from some overly pampered and pompous Xiomeran citizen traveling abroad.

The ambassador was tired of her staff suffering, tired of suffering herself. Most of all, she was starting to develop a profound dislike for the country she was supposed to be an ambassador to. They don't even listen to us or take us seriously. Why are we even bothering? Chēmā had thought more than once. She had even sent a recommendation to her superiors in the Secretariat of International Affairs to close the embassy, or at least downgrade it to a consulate, and spend the Secretariat's money in countries more receptive to Xiomera. Secretary Huitzilhuani had rejected the suggestion, and implied in her reply that Chēmā was not trying hard enough to resolve the issues she was complaining about.

This day's protest had lasted much longer than previous ones, and had a much larger crowd. The Xiomeran security personnel stationed at the embassy had found that concerning, and had quietly increased their security posture. Luckily, none of the protesters did anything too stupid. But when the protesters had locked themselves to the gate of the embassy perimeter, the Xiomerans inside the embassy watched in complete amazement. That amazement turned to frustration, and derision, when the Lauchenoirian police stood around without a clue, and then took almost five hours to finally remove the people attached to the gate. Gods and goddesses, what an utterly incompetent country, Chēmā thought in exhaustion as she watched the last of the protesters finally disperse.

An hour or so later, the ambassador prepared to leave the embassy, along with her security personnel. She was supposed to attend a late gathering with a group of Xiomerans and Lauchenoirians who had been trying, without notable success, to launch joint business ventures in the south of the country. The ambassador's car pulled up to the main entrance of the embassy, which had been so unceremoniously blocked by a bunch of buffoons in handcuffs earlier. She was determined to make a point by using that entrance now. As she walked down the steps, flanked by her security personnel, she was thinking about what speech she was going to give at the gathering. She never saw it coming.

Suddenly, a cold splash hit her in the face. As she looked up in shock, she saw a Lauchenoirian woman, an empty cup in her hand. Others stood behind her, laughing and with their phones pointed at the ambassador. As Chēmā looked down, she saw the milkshake, in a noxious neon green color, splattered all over her. She wiped some from her face, to clear her eyes and further assess the situation. She stared down, in shock for a moment. The entire front of her dress was covered in neon green. Her one-of-a-kind, very expensive dress by the elite Xiomeran designer A'pilne. The one she had bought at the equally exclusive shop Xocoē, the last time she had been in Tlālacuetztla. A dress she certainly couldn't replace in Lauchenoiria, because the entire blasted country probably didn't have anything as high-quality or superb as an A'pilne creation.

When the staff of the embassy had been taking bets on who would finally snap first, under the pressure of the protesters, none of them had thought to bet on the ambassador herself.

Slowly, Chēmā raised her head in as regal a stance as someone covered in a vegan milkshake possibly could. In perfectly accented and flawless Spanish, she let the protesters know exactly what she thought of them. "You people have been outside our embassy all day, calling us brutes. Yet this is how you treat visitors to your country, people who are here to try to be friendly to your country? You are the ones who are barbarians, mannerless ruffians," Chēmā snapped in a tone as cold as the milkshake now slowly working its way under her collar.

Chēmā turned to one of the ASI agents next to her, giving a command in Huenyan. The ASI agent responded quickly, pulling a small tube of pepper spray out of his suit pocket. Without a word, he blasted the milkshake-wielding protester full in the face.

The protester hit with the pepper spray began coughing and gasping for breath, wiping futilely at her now swollen eyes. Her fellow protesters, suddenly realizing they were facing four very angry - and armed - Xiomeran agents, quickly grabbed their comrade and ran off down the street.

Chēmā stood and glared after them, her fury translated into a soundless defiance. "Shall we inform the gathering that you will be delayed to change clothes, madam ambassador?" the lead ASI agent asked.

"No. I will go like this. Let this entire ridiculous country see how their people act - and how Xiomerans respond to such abuse. If they think this will break me, they could not be more wrong. The people at this gathering want to know why Xiomera and Lauchenoiria are having such difficulties - well then, let us show them exactly why," Chēmā said.

As the official limousine made its way down the streets of Buttercity, Chēmā stared fiercely out the window. I will probably get fired for this - maybe worse, depending on how the new Empress reacts. But I do not care. At least then, I can finally go home.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:08 pm

(Written with input from Shen)

Embassy district, Buttercity, Lauchenoiria
7th November 2019 – early evening

The embassy district of Buttercity was fast becoming a hotspot for activists, the nearby subway station had become covered in protest stickers and the trains were much more crowded than usual. This week, those who worked in the district found themselves groaning and staring at their phones to avoid the gazes of the activists for the second day in a row. They were not happy – nor were the staff of the embassies the protesters targeted.

Today, Climate Alliance Lauchenoiria were outside the Zamastanian embassy, protesting the opening of a Zamastanian automobile factory in Shen. The protesters intended to continue on to the newly opened Shen embassy later – which they were expecting would be an unpleasant surprise for the new Ambassador. But first, however, they were going to yell at the Zamastanians, much like the Xiomerans yesterday.

Security was far tighter than it had been yesterday, after the handcuffing and milkshake incidents outside the Xiomeran embassy. Protesters were not being allowed to get anywhere near the Zamastanian embassy and the police all looked rather angry at being forced to stand there in large numbers. It deterred a small group of protesters who had been looking to escalate things from doing so – that group slinked home early, disappointed and rather annoyed.

“People are going to ask why we’re protesting electric cars,” one activist said during a speech, “because surely they’re better than their fossil-fuel powered alternative? But these cars will be built with heavy metals – they are most certainly not built in a sustainable fashion. The rich love the idea of electric cars because they think they can save the world without changing their lifestyle, but this is wrong! We need people to stop driving and start taking public transport instead! Pretending nothing needs changing will only allow people to become complacent and resist change more.”

Once they were done with the Zamastanians, the group of Climate Alliance protesters began slowly moving down the streets, chanting and causing people to either glance out the windows of the buildings they passed – or to lower the blinds. Further up the road, someone waiting at a bus stop who looked Xiomeran glanced up, and subsequently crossed the road and hurried away in the other direction. Eventually, the messy mob of activists arrived outside the new, temporary Shen Embassy.

They began to set up their protest, unfurling banners and handing out placards. The police, who were even more unhappy with the change in location, were forming their lines. The protesters had set up, fortunately for them, slightly farther away than usual from the embassy building, clearly somewhat nervous about how the Shen would react – it was, after all, new for them both. They’d had a meeting this morning about increasing their caution after the pepper spray incident.

They had just finished setting up, and no speeches had yet happened, when something incredibly unexpected happened. A window opened in an upper floor of the embassy building, and Ambassador Zhang Xiao leaned out. The protesters fell silent, staring up at the ambassador in disbelief. The leaders of the protest – they claimed they didn’t have any, but some individuals had managed to end up in charge anyway – glanced around the crowd, watching to make sure nobody did anything foolish.

"Hey um... what are you protesting? I heard something about mining..." the Ambassador shouted down at the crowd. They were bewildered. The leaders of the group gathered together in a huddle, whispering. Eventually one of them stepped forward, cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted back.

"Your government continues to mine heavy metals in a completely unsustainable manner. You are destroying the environment, and bringing the whole world closer to a climate catastrophe that will kill millions!"

"I....um...well...look your not wrong per se....its just..." the Ambassador began.

"You, Zamastan and Xiomera must answer for what you are doing to the planet! We are here to make sure you hear our voices and our displeasure!" yelled a random protester, not part of the leadership circle.

"I’m listening, I'm listening. I'm just not exactly sure what you want me to do. I had to do two hours of phone calls just to authorize funding to get a solar panel put on the top of this building."

The huddle of protesters began to discuss their response again, a small argument in hushed tones breaking out over what to say. They had not been expecting dialogue, this was not part of their plan. The police, for their part, were also looking bewildered, asking for orders and looking back between the ambassador and the protesters, slightly afraid but also hopeful that tensions could be diffused.

"A pointless gesture if everything else your government is doing is making things worse!" yelled the man from the leadership group.

"I mean... kind of a pot calling the kettle black? Isn't it sort of a pointless gesture to stand in front of a building and yell at people trying to apply for tourist visas?"

"This is the only way to raise awareness of climate issues,” the man shouted. “We do not have the power to change things single handedly. The governments are the people with the power, the system is the thing that is broken. The individual gestures we can do will make little difference compared to what the Shen government could do."

"Look friend, I am very aware and how much of a threat climate change is. Not a night goes by I don't lose at least a little bit of sleep thinking about what's going to happen when climate change cause droughts hit my homeland...look I'm not going to spend all day screaming out of window. We're about to have dinner and our cook is a proper shen mother, meaning she's easily cooked enough food to feed everyone here. How about you come inside and we can discuss this in the nice cool Embassy building?"

The protesters huddled together one last time. This was an offer they had most certainly not expected. Some were shaking their heads, while others were nodding enthusiastically. After almost five minutes of discussion, about 30% of the protesters broke off and started heading away, some of them looking rather taken aback. The man who had spoken earlier looked back up at the ambassador.

"Some of us have decided to accept the offer."

"Wonderful. The staff will direct you to the cafeteria, just come in the door.”

The police were reluctant at first to allow any of the protesters to pass. Not all of them stayed, even among the group who had not stormed off. Eventually, however, the police were persuaded that it would be safe to let them take up the Ambassador’s offer, and they headed inside. It was rather different, thought the protesters, to how they had been treated by the Xiomerans.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Fri Nov 08, 2019 8:24 pm

(Jointly written with Xiomera)

Sandra Pavía was rather unhappy. She was severely sleep deprived, had been working 18-hour days for the past four, and when she'd managed to sleep, she'd had a nightmare about a Kerlian invasion. It had taken her a couple minutes upon waking to realise it had been a dream.

It was a busy week for her, and almost none of it had been planned. She was in a number of meetings with people about the situation with Anya Bishop in Zamastan, there was the upcoming visit of the President of LOM, not to mention Xiomera's new Empress. To top it off, the Kerlian Ambassador had asked for a late-night meeting, and she didn't know what about. And now, she had to make a phone call to someone she rather wished she wouldn't have to speak to again anytime soon.

She picked up the phone and dialled the Xiomeran Embassy, asking to speak with Ambassador Chēmā, making it quite clear that it was a request she expected to be honoured right away.

At the Xiomeran embassy, a rather bored-sounding assistant tersely acknowledged Pavía's request and placed her on hold. The hold music played. And played. And played. While it was a quite pleasant rendition of current Xiomeran pop music, it probably wasn't entertaining to Pavía.

Eventually, the hold music ended. "Good evening, Minister Pavía. This is Ambassador Chēmā. How can I help you?" the ambassador said calmly, as if nothing was amiss.

"Your security personnel sprayed pepper spray directly in the face of a Lauchenoirian citizen on Lauchenoirian soil yesterday, Ambassador," Pavía spoke sharply. After being kept on hold for so long, she was angry and in no mood for pleasantries. "The individual in question is presently in hospital. There are videos across the internet. What do you have to say about the matter?"

"I was attacked. My security personnel responded. That is really all we have to say in response to this incident," Chēmā said in the same calm tone. "This would not have happened if your security around the embassy had been effective. The Xiomeran Empire takes no responsibility for this matter."

"You may press charges for the... milkshake incident if you wish. However, I have seen the video myself, and aiming at her face was entirely unnecessary," Pavía snapped. She was done with Xiomerans. They were so entitled, with their extradition requests and their hatred of dissent. She almost wished they didn't have an embassy with Xiomera. Then half these problems wouldn't happen.

"What has been unnecessary is the uncontrolled harassment of our embassy staff and personnel by mobs of protesters, and your government's inability or refusal to address that matter. And once that becomes an issue to the point of physical attacks on our personnel - even as trivial as this may seem to you - we frankly are no longer concerned if you find our security measures necessary." Chēmā's voice still had not wavered from its calm tone. "If your security people do their job, this sort of thing does not happen. We do not understand why Lauchenoirians find that so hard to comprehend."

"It is not that..." Pavía began, but then stopped herself, taking a deep breath and calming her tone. "I understand that this... attack... was unacceptable, and that in light of the escalation, we will need to think about increasing our security around the embassy again. However, under the Lauchenoirian constitution, the people have the right to demonstrate on Lauchenoirian soil. I understand this may be inconvenient, but the climate protesters believe - and I am making no comment one way or the other here myself, understand - that the actions of your government on Manauia Island will have global implications, and thus feel they must act. I agree that now it has escalated past solely peaceful protest that we must take action, hence why we arrested those who locked themselves to the gate, and why we will likely arrest the person behind the milkshake incident. But we will not stop the peaceful protesters."

"That is fine, as long as measures are taken by your government to prevent your protesters from attacking or harming our embassy personnel or disrupting our operations, or harassing our visitors. However, we do reserve the right to take necessary non-lethal steps to protect our people, should they be warranted. Nor do we intend to apologize for such actions." Chēmā smiled slightly to herself at that last part.

"Very well. I'm sure our people will continue to insult you on social media for it but I'm sure you're used to that by now," Pavía smirked. "I will remind you, however, that should any of your diplomatic staff cause permanent injury to one of our citizens that they are liable to be expelled from the country."

"Of course. In that case, we shall endeavor not to give any of your more disruptive and disrespectful citizens any permanent injuries," Chēmā said with a small laugh. "Was there anything else you wished to address with the Xiomeran Government, madam?"

"Only that you are welcome to visit and question Tlixō and Xōne while they are in prison here should you require anything from them, now they've been convicted. With supervision, of course," she added.

"There is nothing we would be able to discern from them under your interrogation guidelines, so that would not be productive. You may inform them, however, that the Empress has decided to release their families now that they have been sentenced. Their family members will be released shortly."

Before Pavía could reply, Chēmā spoke again. "And speaking of the Empress....please inform Prime Minister Alvarez that she will be receiving a phone call from her soon. There are matters that the Golden Chamber will wish to address with her."

Pavía had been very pleased when the Ambassador had mentioned the release of Tlixō and Xōne's families. However, at the mention of a phone call from the Empress, her confidence had faltered. She did not know which matters Yauhmi would want to discuss with Alvarez, but she feared it would be nothing good.

"I will inform the Prime Minister, of course. And I am glad to hear about the release of the families. I do hope that things between our two nations can improve, at some point," Pavía finished, though she wasn't entirely sure she meant it.

"That is a hope we all share, to be sure. However, much will depend on what transpires in the future," Chēmā said in a guarded tone. "In any event, if there is nothing else, please do not let me detain you further."

"Of course. I have a meeting with the Kerlian Ambassador to prepare for. Good day, Ambassador," Pavía said, relieved at the thought of getting off the call, though dreading the conversation she was about to need to have with the Prime Minister.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Sun Nov 10, 2019 2:47 am

Alvarez’s office, Buttercity, Lauchenoiria
Immediately after the call with Empress Yauhmi

Josephine Alvarez threw open her office door and began to walk quickly down the corridor. Cristina jumped up and began to follow her.

“Prime Minister, we’ve had reports that…”

“I’m aware. Get Agent Fleming here immediately. And the transport minister. And schedule an appointment with the Shuellian ambassador tomorrow morning. Early.”

“The… Shuellian ambassador?”

“Do it, Cristina,” Alvarez said, walking through a heavy door guarded by security.

“Y… yes ma’am,” Cristina responded, though the Prime Minister had already gone.

On the other side of the door, high ranking officials in the Lauchenoirian military and intelligence services were reading reports and muttering nervously to each other in jargon that Alvarez understood only half of. She came to a halt in front of the room until they had all turned and given her their full attention.

“Prime Minister, we are still trying to determine the cause of the error in the Buttercity traffic grid, and we do not yet have a full damage report. If you wish, we can…”

“Silence. I need you all to hear this. Really, really hear this. For the good of our nation,” Alvarez said, projecting her voice loudly, and making sure she looked at every individual in the room, attracting their attention. “Whatever the reports end up saying… it was a fault. Just an error caused by aging technology. Is that understood?”

There was silence.

“But, Prime Minister…”

“Stop! I am telling you, that to report anything other than this would be a threat to the security and liberty of this nation. Do you want to be responsible for us coming under a far worse attack than anything this could’ve caused? Do you want us to be responsible for losing our independence because we can’t keep the peace in our own nation? I don’t think you do. So, you will do as I tell you. Is that clear?”

“Yes, ma’am,” chorused the room. Alvarez’s tone had left no room for argument.

It was at that moment that a man walked through the door. A man the Prime Minister had never wished to see again. She gestured for him to follow her, and led him back along the corridors to her office, where she shut the door and stared at him. Eventually, he spoke.

“I thought you never wanted to see my face again, Prime Minister.”

“You have this annoying habit of surviving. There were several reports of your death during the war. How unfortunate that they turned out to be false,” Alvarez said, her tone outwardly calm but with a hint of anger lying underneath.

“Prime Minister…”

“You’re done. This proposal of yours… you are the most immoral, disgusting excuse for a human I’ve ever met. And I was married to a Kerlian!,” she snapped, her anger so visible it was almost as if Yauhmi's earlier anger at her had been contagious.

“Ma’am, regardless of your personal disputes with me, I really urge you to consider this proposal. These… people are a great threat to Lauchenoiria.”

“You will resign from your position and then you will emigrate. I do not care where to. But you will not stay in Lauchenoiria. You know, I almost wish we were Xiomerans, then perhaps you would commit ritual suicide for your failure and I could celebrate.”

“Prime Minister...”

“Get out. Jae Chung can continue her investigation but that is all.”

“Ma’am…”

“OUT!”

The man left, and Alvarez exhaled, taking a few deep breaths. When she was sufficiently calm, she opened the door and waved Cristina in.

“Is the meeting with the Shuellian ambassador confirmed for tomorrow?”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”

“Excellent. I want the documents on the trade deal discussions. Nothing was set in stone after the last meeting, but I’d like to review the section on cybersecurity.”

“Of course, ma’am. The files should be in the blue folders, I can fetch them immediately.”

“Cristina… I get the feeling something terrible was averted tonight. We are going to need to change things here. We can’t keep… we can’t keep taking risks we can’t afford. I’m going to need to see my coalition partners early Monday morning. President Marwick too. We… we have to do something about the Climate Alliance.”

“Ma’am?” Christina frowned, confused. Alvarez wasn’t making much sense.

“Sorry, I’m just…” Alvarez sighed, then sat down and put her head in her hands. “I am going to make more mistakes if I try and make decisions when I’m panicking and reacting to what has happened around me. I need to take a break. I’m going to… I’m going to call my sister.”

“That… that sounds like a good idea, Prime Minister,” Cristina said.

“Yeah… go sort those files for me, would you?”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”

Alvarez sat for a moment, then took out her personal phone, scrolling through her contacts. Her fingers brushed against an old number… Sonja. The line would be disconnected by now, it had been so since Suleman Chaher had interfered with the phone network. Still, in that moment Josephine Alvarez wished nothing more than for the ability to turn back time, before the war, before she knew the truth, before… everything.

She took some deep breaths and thought. There was no point in retaliating against Xiomera, in the long run, that would destroy Lauchenoiria. It was over now, the damage was done, and it wasn’t too bad. Agent Fleming had been fired, he couldn’t do any more damage – the affair rumour had been his idea in the first place. The transport minister would deal with the fallout, and their budget (or lack thereof) would make the story of a fault seem perfectly plausible.

Climate Alliance Lauchenoiria could be diverted to other targets, she hoped. With Fleming gone, perhaps the Lauchenoirian Intelligence Service would stop pushing for greater powers to carry out the domestic operation they’d been proposing since her election. And the Shuellians were very keen to sign a trade deal, which would enable Lauchenoiria to get their hands on cybersecurity technology that would make the country (and her) feel much more secure about things. Yes, it would all be fine.

*

Outside, Agent Gabriel Fleming shook his head and smiled to himself, chuckling slightly. No, he had no plans to emigrate and disappear. Josephine Alvarez was a fleeting figure, a temporary Prime Minister who had made so many mistakes he was sure she’d be gone by April. No, he served a greater cause. He served Lauchenoiria. And he would continue to serve Lauchenoiria, whether the Prime Minister liked it or not.

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:42 pm

Alvarez's New Direction - Part 1

Fleura House, President’s Residence, Buttercity, Lauchenoiria
Monday 11th November, 2019 – early morning

“You do realise this is an incredibly strange thing to ask me to do?” said the voice on the phone. “We barely talked until recently, and now you’re asking really quite strange favours, Josephine.”

“Things need to change,” Alvarez responded. She was sitting outside the President’s office, waiting for Marwick to be woken up and come down. She had shown up unannounced requesting an urgent meeting. Then, she had picked up her phone in the waiting area, much to the surprise of Marwick’s secretary, and dialled her ex-wife, Councillor Jennifer Hale of Kerlile. “And to do that, he needs to snap out of it. And as far back as I can find, there is only one person Alex Marwick ever obeyed. Sonja Viratnen, leader of the Lauchenoirian Resistance.”

“But, Josephine… I’m not her any more. You’ve made that perfectly clear. This is all rather irregular, I’m on the ruling council of a foreign country.”

“Well, if you want to play this the Kerlian way, play it the Kerlian way. Tell him that sexist meme is going to have a detrimental effect on Lauchenoiria’s international relations. Just… please do something to scare him straight. As a favour for me?”

“You sound a lot more confident than the last time I saw you,” Jennifer said softly. “I’m glad. You’re finally taking the steps necessary to improve things. You’ve been dealt a bad hand, and a terrible president. But, Josie… I can’t solve this problem for you. You’re going to have to convince Marwick to stop acting like a child yourself. I wish you luck.”

Before Alvarez could respond, Jennifer put down the phone on her. Alvarez sighed in exasperation, shaking her head, but smiling slightly as she did it. Jennifer was right, she couldn’t just call in the ghosts of the past to try and convince their immature president to grow up and get a handle on things. No, she would have to deal with her problems herself, rather on relying on her soon-to-be ex-wife. The paperwork had to come through soon, surely?

It was at that moment that a marginally dishevelled and exhausted looking President Marwick kind of shuffled into the room, looking like he wanted to be back in bed. He grunted in Alvarez’s direction, which she interpreted as a request to follow him into his office. Once they were inside she shut the door behind her and waited as Marwick plonked himself onto his seat and moved slowly around to face her.

“Mr. President, I apologise for the early morning interruption, but we need to talk, and I’m afraid it is rather urgent,” Alvarez began.

“It’s 5:30am. Are we at war or something?” Marwick groaned, yawning.

“No, we are not. But we could have been, so easily. Had things taken a slightly different path, this meeting could have been rather more concerning. You see, Mr. President, we have been foolish. We have been incredibly foolish, ever since we entered office. And that has to change. That is going to change. Allow me to show you some videos,” Alvarez said, then produced a tablet from the bag she had brought with her.

“… what is this even about?” Marwick yawned, but sat up and let Alvarez set up the tablet so the pair of them could watch. Once it was set up, she clicked play.

It’s been ten days, and no sign of Suleman Chaher. Is he alive? Is he dead? Of course, those aren’t the real questions. The real question is: does it even matter? If he’s alive, nothing has changed. And if he’s dead, well, seemingly nothing has changed. So much for the idea that this is all his doing.

Marwick leaned over and pressed pause. He stared at himself on the screen for a moment, and his finger brushed over the scar on his cheek in the recording. He absentmindedly brought his other hand up to his real-life cheek in the present day. He turned to Alvarez.

“One of my old Resistance broadcasts. What of it?”

She did not answer him, instead reaching over and clicking onto the next video in the playlist she had compiled in anticipation of Jennifer rejecting her request for assistance.

Leanna Walker is still nowhere to be seen, and now Laura Moore has vanished even further into the ether. For all we know, the pair are both dead. Is it time to start thinking about the future rather than restoring the past? I think so.

“Alvarez, what are you trying to prove? Showing me clips of stuff I said during the war? You woke me up to reminisce?”

Silently, she played another clip.

There’s two layers to this - what happens on the battlefield, and what happens in the general population. Supporters of Chaher’s coup still exist all across the country, along with the armies of the apathetic. And if we can convince his old supporters they’re on the wrong side? If we can convince those who don’t care to start acting?”

Marwick had leaned back in his chair; he had given up on his protests, and let Alvarez move on to the final video in her playlist.

So, just a message to Clarke: any harm comes to Moore, Noguera or any of the others and we’ll be right here, waiting. We all want peace, but never mistake talking for surrender. We will respect the ceasefire, as long as you do. We all know you’re watching us. Never forget that we’re watching you too.”

Alvarez picked up the tablet, placing it back in her bag, and taking a seat in front of Marwick’s desk, leaning her hands on the table and clasping them, looking him right in the face.

“Mr. President you spent the war preaching action. Making sure people knew what was going on while Chaher’s government tried to hide it. Giving hope to the millions of people living under his regime, and Clarke’s after. You were respected, admired. Yet… have you seen your poll numbers now? What actions have you taken, apart from the wholly unpopular extradition of Peter Bloch? How did you go from the widely admired voice of the Resistance to posting misogynistic memes on social media?”

“I…” Marwick paused, lost for words.

“I know what you did. Maybe that scar was a car crash. But I still believe that back then you did care. And we might have our differences but something is clearly wrong, because this is not a case of power corrupting, at least not entirely. I’ve seen that, and this is different. President Marwick, for the good of the country, please tell me, so we can resolve it: what’s wrong?”

Marwick opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again. He looked around, as if for an escape route, then sighed. He opened a drawer in his desk wordlessly, then took out a photograph, unframed, and slid it over the desk to Alvarez.

“My sister. She moved to Kerlile.”

“Your…” Alvarez glanced down at the photo. It was Marwick, aged about 12, with a girl who appeared about 5 years older than him. They were at an amusement park, next to a rollercoaster, and the girl was holding candyfloss. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“Half-sister, really. My mother’s daughter, from before she met my father. Lizzie lived with her father growing up. She didn’t have very many female role models. She got pregnant when she was sixteen, and her father kicked her out. She came to live with us, with the baby. Left when she was about 20. I didn’t see her for years, she just kind of vanished. I never knew what happened. But… but after I became President, I, well…”

“You became curious, didn’t you?” asked Alvarez softly.

“I asked someone to find out. Didn’t much like the answer.”

“So, she lives in Kerlile now?”

“No. She’s dead. The Kerlians,” he spat out the word, “executed her in 2015. Never could work out on what charge. I will admit, that meme was inappropriate, but the Council make me so angry. I just… why should we have risked Lauchenoirian lives for Peter Bloch? It just seems so pointless. I always thought she’d be out there. What scares me, is that she thought Kerlile was her last option. And in the end, it killed her. We, as a country, failed her. How many others? What can we realistically change? Does what we do here matter?”

“I’m sorry,” Alvarez said. “I truly am. But, Mr. President, what we do here does matter. We can change things, prevent anything similar from happening again.”

“I’ve been childish, I know. It’s like… I heard the news and just couldn’t function as an adult. My rage just… took over. I think, deep down, I wanted to hurt Eddington and Bloch, like I could take the pain away by passing it on. I just can’t help utterly despising the Kerlians. I’ve been… such a fool. I’m not capable of this, I’m sorry. To you, and the country.”

“Mr. President… recognising that is the first step to changing it.”

“So, you agree, I’ve been a fool?” Marwick laughed grimly.

“I won’t deny it. You have indeed. But resigning and throwing the country into more chaos will not help. President Marwick, I have a plan. If you are willing to listen, and try to put it into practice, and to stop being a fool, then, first I’d like you to issue a public apology for the meme. We can… leave the extradition debacle in the past now the law has been changed.”

“Deal.”

“Secondly, I would like you to come to the cabinet meeting in two hours.”

“I’ll be there.”

“Good. We have a lot to discuss. It is time that we stopped just reacting to events going on around us, and took control of our own destiny,” Alvarez said, standing up. “Get another hour’s sleep, Mr. President. It is going to be a busy week.”

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Re: Tales of Lauchenoiria: Behind the Scenes

Post by Lauchenoiria » Tue Nov 12, 2019 12:54 am

Alvarez's New Direction - Part 2

Cabinet Meeting Room, Parliament, Buttercity, Lauchenoiria
11th November 2019 – 7:30am

Josephine Alvarez sat calmly at her place, holding a pen in her clasped hands, and smiling politely at her cabinet ministers as they entered. Each of them reacted in a somewhat startled fashion to see her there before them, glancing at the clock to check they weren’t late. Once they took their seat, they would then look up to notice President Alex Marwick in his seat – which had been empty since August, the President neglecting to ever attend.

Alvarez, while outwardly appearing calm and content, was surveying the mood of each of the ministers. She had been exceptionally pleased when Marwick had shown up dressed smartly, without his usual stupid grin, early and looking like he actually wanted to work. Sandra Pavía looked nervous, and like she hadn’t slept very well, given all her recent worrying about Xiomera. Curtis Dennell, the transport minister, definitely hadn’t slept – and he didn’t even know it had been the Xiomerans.

The others were a mix of curious, tired, impatient and just confused. Samantha Clavell, Minister for Culture and the Arts and the sole Pacifist Party member of the cabinet, was almost falling asleep. She had been at a function yesterday for the re-opening of the Carville Natural History Museum, after the repairs, and had the misfortune to need to catch the sleeper train to be back in the capital on time. Evidently, she hadn’t slept on it.

“Thank you all for coming so early,” Alvarez began once the last member of the cabinet (her deputy, and leader of the Conservative Party Thomas Averforth, who tended to use lateness as a way to irritate her) had arrived. “As I told the media, and any of you who asked, this is not an emergency or a crisis, so please do not worry. Especially you, Sandra, I promise you we aren’t going to war with Xiomera.”

A slight nervous chuckle passed around the room as Pavía blushed. They actually considered that a possibility, didn’t they? thought Alvarez, surprised. The look of relief on the faces of many gathered suggested they had.

“In fact, what I want to discuss today is the positive steps we can take going forward. It is time to draw a line under our time of merely reacting to the things going on around us, and to actually take steps towards changing our country for the better. Yes, it will be difficult – especially given that we are, realistically speaking, only a temporary government given the new elections scheduled for April. But there are things we can do now that don’t include bickering over extraditions and passing laws only to repeal them a couple of months later.”

“I must say, I am glad to hear this,” Averforth replied, pleased. “Of course, I have been saying similar for months, yet nobody seemed to listen. And President Marwick, it is good to see you awake and dressed professionally.”

“Enough of the shade, Averforth,” said Samantha Clavell darkly, then turned to Alvarez. “I agree, we ought to be making positive changes, but I rather think we have a problem: none of us can agree on what changes we want. The Deputy Prime Minister here,” she gestured to Averforth, “wishes to increase military spending while my party is wholly opposed. Yet given that trade deal with Shuell I rather fear my party will be ignored on that matter. Gun control, health policy… we all disagree on pretty much everything other than the matter of the capitalism referendum and the need to increase stability after the war. So how can we have coherent policies?”

“There are plenty disagreements, yes,” conceded Alvarez, “but there are things we can agree on. Take the economy, as an example. All of us here are against a return to communism, although we do come at it from different angles. All of us here wish to better improve relations with other countries – even if we have different motivations. All of us here are committed to making sure that we can heal the divisions caused by the war.”

“Those things do not necessarily mean we can come up with a coherent policy platform – especially since there are contradictions there. If we institute more anti-communist policies it will only serve to heighten the divisions thanks to the communist pushback, for one thing,” pointed out Clavell.

“That is true,” said President Marwick, causing everyone to turn and stare at him in surprise. “Which is why we have to look at what the people actually want. There are things we can do that will please both sides of that divide, without compromising too many of our ideals. Most are agreed that we need to do something about the economy. Austerity measures would be foolish, even if they balanced the budget in the moment, because they would do long-term damage and would lead to resentment, people turning to extremist ideologies and mass protest. I propose a better idea would be to attract foreign investment by altering the tax system to encourage new businesses, both small and large to set up in the country. I would also suggest privatisation and deregulation, but you know how controversial both of those would be.”

The entire cabinet fell silent, staring at the President. Alvarez had a small smile on her face. Eventually, the health minister Renato Rosario raised his hand slightly like a schoolchild.

“Did… did you replace him with some kind of more sensible clone?” he asked of Alvarez.

“What a ridiculous suggestion,” she smiled, chuckling. “To respond to your suggestions, Mr. President, I agree that the matter of corporation tax is something we can tackle. I don’t believe anyone here is greatly opposed to it?”

A couple of people shook their heads. The Conservative ministers seemed especially happy with the proposal, though among the Liberal ministers, their reaction was more muted.

“Any kind of deregulation, particularly environmental, would not be a good idea at this point,” Pavía piped up. “The Climate Alliance protesters are coming out in increasing numbers. Even that traffic control fault was an excuse for them. If we want to keep the peace and strive for stability, I would advise against that.”

“My colleague here is, unfortunately, right,” Averforth sighed. “And the President is correct in saying that privatisation would attract similar protests. However, I think that as long as we are cautious in what industries we choose to privatise, it could boost our budget and the economy, while only attracting a minimal level of objection. We can’t touch the health service without riots, but we could explore some options.”

“See?” Alvarez smiled. “We have ideas, we just needed to be able to come together and explore them. It is time that we stopped hiding away and just waiting for crises and scandals to come to us. We have made mistakes, many mistakes. Yet it is time we moved forward. The extradition debacle is behind us, Peter Bloch is thankfully free and that terrible law is gone. I have reason to believe that, should we choose to halt it here, our dispute with Xiomera may be concluded also. So, here’s what we are going to do. If any of you have a policy proposal you think is workable, bring it to Wednesday’s meeting.”

She picked up the small, neat stack of paperwork in front of her and stood up, as if to move, then glanced back.

“In the meantime, I would just like to say, I’m glad to have you all on board.”

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