A Hard Deadline

  In other nations, the leaders tend to live and work in grand halls of ancient design, or luxurious palaces, or at least a proffesional-looking large office. Yufraan Abd’ildarra, the Mutadiit of Aldaar, the bringer of the Revolution, the Speaker of God, the Grand Orator, lives in a 75 square meter apartment in Mukarras, the capital of their country, Aldaar. Their living room is small and dimly lit, with a few lamps and a scented candle compensating for the lack of sunlight due to the closed curtains. A beige (and very uncomfortable) couch sits against the wall, passed down from Yufraan’s grandmother, and an electric kettle in the joint living room-kitchen situation begins whistling, the boiling water ready to be poured.

  Yufraan themself is not very imposing, with dark bronze skin, short-cut black hair and standing about 170cm tall. They are wearing what they wear almost every day: khaki cargo pants with a plain t-shirt and a military jacket. Their most notable feature is piercing purple eyes, a side effect of intensive regular use of the Peyote; Yufraan’s are a deep violet. They quickly move to take the kettle off and pour four cups of tea, inclduing an herbal mint tea for themself. There is a knock at the door, followed by some muffled conversation, and the door opens. Three more people walk in. The first is Anahid Terzian, an Orcish woman clad in a denim skirt and band shirt. Her skin is a dark green, and she stands about 221cm in height, tall even among orcs. Her long, raven hair curls falls past her shoulders, framing her face. Anahid is a poet, one of the most famous from Aldaar, and recently an actor and politician; she is the advisor for the Amanshii, what some would call the religious caste. The next to enter is Azniv Haviiz, the infamous advisor for the Kauda, the military caste. She is a Vulpine with reddish-brown and white hair, wearing grey slacks and a light blue button-down shirt. Azniv stands about 150cm tall and carries herself with dignity, like any other entreprenuer/investor/diplomat would. Lastly, a man walks in, eyes tinted a light lavender; he is Omar Naciri, a fairly drab man but not unintelligent, the leader of the Jintay, the civil caste. He is not that old in the grand scheme of things but by far the oldest in the room, now pushing his mid-50s. With light but still sunkissed skin, he stands 172cm tall, making his height (like most else about him) perfectly average.

  The four now gathered, the Mutadiit and their three advisors, and the tea handed out (Anahid receives a floral hibiscus tea, Azniv a jasmine tea, and Omar a simple Earl Grey) they begin their meeting, the same one they hold every Thursday due to the Aldaari work week beginning on Friday.
  “How is the opening of foreign affairs going?” Yufraan starts off.
  “We haven’t gotten much international interaction yet,” Azniv replies, “but that’s okay, we weren’t really expecting to. I’m sure we’ll make headlines when we renationalize the oil, and then plenty of people will want to work with us. In addition, our participation in the Sayqidi Festival of Memories is a good step, and I think we can begin reaching out to some other nations on the continent to get the ball rolling.”
  “Who did you have in mind?”
  “Auravas, and maybe New Leganés.”
  “Well, more friends can never hurt. Go ahead and see if we can get our foot in the door. We can give some trade concessions if need be. Is there anything else from the Kauda?”
  “Well, Mutj…” she starts, and grimaces. “There are many hardliners who think our military needs more support.”
  “Go on.”
  "I’m inclined to agree with them. I may not agree with state-sanctioned violence, but we do need somebody to keep us safe, and currently, the ADF is in a sorry state. No manpower, low funding, low morale, and no real purpose or training. There are a few ideas: we could always just expand as much as possible, but a big military isn’t necessarily a good military. And as for purpose, that’s even harder.
  “So what do you propose, Azniv?”
  “A small, elite force, no more than 5,000 in active duty. We can hire some foreign military trainers, import some good arms - or begin making them ourselves, which I would prefer, but it really doesn’t matter right now - and make our people the best. We train them for combat, but also for humanitarian needs: medical, supply escort, search and rescue, et cetera. Then, if need be, we can use them for aid in humanitarian crises globally. Actually, we should probably look at the IF too, if we can. They’re not great, but they’re certainly the biggest global organization.” Yufraan takes a moment to think and mull everything over.
  “Alright. Go ahead with the diplomatic plans, and I’ll think over the military issue.”
  “Thank you, Mutadiit.” Azniv sets down her empty cup, and walks out.

  “Alright, Anahid, you’re up next.”
  “Not much is going on with the Amanshii, Mutj. The hospitals are staffed well enough and the teachers are still reviewing curriculum for the next school year. However, you do have that upcoming trip to the Maktaba in Hasa.”
  “Oh, of course. And, uhhh… when was that again?”
  “Next Thursday. In addition, you have a few other visits, to schools and the like, all here in Mukarras. Saturday, next Tuesday, and next Friday.”
  “Of course, of course. How is the university handling?”
  “Just fine. The technology ordered has arrived recently, and it’s being set up tomorrow.”
  “Everything arrived in good shape?”
  “Is… is there a reason it wouldn’t?” she asks, and Yufraan smiles thinly.
  “No, of course not. You know how the deserts can be rough for transport.”
  “Of course. Have a good day, Mutadiit.” Anahid turns around, tentatively sets her cup down, hesitates, and then walks out the door. Yufraan watches her go, keeping that same thin smile, and whips around to Omar as soon as Anahid has closed the door, her smile vanished.
  “Have the scans come in yet?”
  “Yes,” Omar replies curtly.
  “They’re there.” Yufraan moves to celebrate, but Omar holds up his hand. “But there’s some bad news too.”
  “Shit. What is it?”
  “The minerals are in Sayaduun.” Yufraan’s mouth opens, and stays agape for several moments.
  “You have got to be kidding me.”
  “I’m afraid I’m not, Yuf.” Yufraan pauses, and Omar moves to hand them the report. Yufraan’s lips purse and they take it, starting to flip through.
  “Well, I have to say, this is not ideal. But,” they say, sighing, “I suppose we had to start reuniting the desert eventually. And Sayaduun is a natural place to start; it’s economically viable, borders Mukarras, and Golden Oil’s hold isn’t too strong. We might be able to strike a deal with the rebels there.”
  “How long do you think it will take?”
  “I’m not sure. Probably several months, although it depends on a lot of factors, some of which are beyond our control. Ideally, we can do it by Alnahda, but I’m not sure.” They sigh again. “Anything else from the Jintay, besides the scans?”
  "We’re doing pretty good, but there’s always a way to do better. Golden Oil, of course, banned most of our craftsmen, and many are having trouble getting their businesses started up. If you were to subsidize them, we could begin producing some more consumer goods; jewelry, furniture, textiles, rugs, those sorts of things.
  “The kind of stuff that sells.”
  “Exactly. And hopefully we could get that done before Rajwanii Avaznir, as well. Before the tourists come.”
  “Thank you, Omar.” The two of them embrace breifly, and then Omar sets his cup down beside the other two. As he’s turning to leave, Yufraan says one last thing.
  “We’ve got a lot of goals before Alnahda.” Omar smiles.
  “Well, you were always good with a deadline.” And he walks out the door, leaving Yufraan alone with her thoughts.