Out with the Old?

Velikolepnyy Building, Coyden, Stratarin, 1400 hours, 01.01.18

Iosef Demenok was finally admitted to the Premier’s office. Under the circumstances, this wait was insufferable. This was important, for Rubashkin’s sake!

Cursing under his breath, he threw open the Premier’s door without bothering to knock. “Premier Starikov! There…”

He stopped himself quite suddenly. Hunched over a map on Starikov’s desk, muttering something about “yokels” and “vulpines”, was Minister of Defense Pyotr Dementyev. Beside him, the Premier stood looking over it, adding his own gestures and commentary. The two stopped suddenly and looked up as Demenok burst in. “Is there something that I can help you with, Procurator General?” Starikov asked, voice distinctly icier than usual. Dementyev took several steps back and sat in one of the available seats.

Demenok coughed awkwardly, then sat down in another vacant chair. “Actually, yes, sir. The fifth military installation in northern Stratarin this month has been attacked, with the vast majority of our men stationed there being slaughtered. This string of assaults can hardly be coincidental.”

Dementyev suppressed a grin, though the effort was still painfully noticeable. “We were just discussing that, Demenok. Goodness, your intelligence networks are slow.”

“It’s nothing about my intelligence networks that caused my delay, Minister,” Demenok nigh spat. “It’s everything to do with this… this bureaucra…”

“Careful, Procurator General,” Starikov cut in suddenly, his expression seeming to flash in annoyance.

“…yessir. Of course. sir. Regardless, I wanted to talk with you on coordinating local law enfor…”

“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” the Minister of Defense commented. “Martial law has already been planned in several cities with somewhat prominent military bases. Your law enforcement is not required.” Dementyev had the nerve to chuckle. Chuckle! His own men were being slaughtered, and he chuckled because of some idiotic…

Demenok’s internal ranting ceased when he realized that he would be doing the exact same thing in Dementyev’s shoes. Still, it was extremely aggravating. Extremely.

Clearly, there was nothing to be said to this militarized piece of ocelot excrement. Demenok instead calmed his tone and focused on the Premier.

Sir, with all due respect, the military seems to be unable to protect its own assets out there. Perhaps you should allow law enforcement permission to guard and protect what the army cannot." He glanced at Dementyev, who had started to fidget. Good. “For Stratarin, of course.”

The Premier shook his head. “I have something different in mind for law enforcement, Procurator General. While there is room for improvement in the military’s response,” with this he gave Dementyev a cold glare, causing the minister to look out the window uncomfortably, “I instead need the STP and local law enforcement concentrating on stopping these attacks before they happen, by any means necessary.” His eyes glinted. “I leave the specifics to you.”

It wasn’t the political victory over the old fool Dementyev that Demenok was hoping for, but it was a start. “Of course, sir. I’ll get right on it.”

“Be sure that you do. Dismissed.”

Sharing an icy stare with Dementyev for a moment, Demenok left the room promptly afterward.

Gorod, Stratarin, 1200 hours, 01.03.18

Ah, Gorod. A small rural town, in the north of Stratarin. The place from which several of those terroristic filth captured in the last attack hailed.

It was a shame that all these innocents must pay for the treachery of their neighbours.

Major Vanzin had been assigned a simple task from Procurator General Demenok: to stop any Gorod-based attacks before they begin. A more subtle approach would have been the slow integration of an STP operative into the works of this operation, until finally the operative was in an ideal position to strike. But that could take weeks. Months, even. And Vanzin thought he’d felt a sense of urgency during his last discussion with the esteemed Procurator General

A lieutenant approached him. “Sir, we’ve begun rounding them up. What should we do with them?”

“Kill them all,” Vanzin answered immediately. “Their sacrifice will not be in vain.”

The lieutenant paled. “Sir, is this really…?”

“This is what Demenok would do were he in my position, I’m sure. Now carry out your orders.”

“Y-yes sir.” The lieutenant, whose badge read “Lebedev”, whipped out his walkie talkie and began to talk urgently into it. His voice cracked slightly as he delivered the order.

The sound of gunfire rang through the small town.

“All for Stratarin,” Vanzin grinned slightly.

Zakon i Poryadok, Coyden, Stratarin, 0800 hours, 01.04.18

“You. Killed. An. Entire. Town.”

Each word Demenok spoke was enunciated clearly and separately. His expression betrayed no small amount of anger, and his voice trembled slightly as he spoke.

Vanzin shifted, feeling rather uncomfortable “I… I thought that’s what you would have…”

“That is NOTHING like what I would have done. NOTHING!” The guards standing at the ready seemed surprised, and the major was terrified. Demenok didn’t often raise his tone. “This may be the greatest political DISASTER since Voronin’s gulags!”

“W-what… er, do you…?” Vanzin miraculously managed to regain some of his lost composure. “I-it was a lieutenant of mine who carried it out, sir.”

Demenok’s expression calmed, slightly. “What was his name?”

“Lieutenant Lebedev, sir.” Vanzin replied, voice more confident. Perhaps the Procurator General would place the blame on the unfortunate Lebedev rather than on him. He might actually…

“Guards, take the Major away.”

“Wait, wha…” Vanzin’s arms were seized as he was unceremoniously pulled from the office. “You can’t…!”

“I can, Major Vanzin. And I did. You are relieved of duty.” Demenok’s eyes sparkled briefly with a mix of malice and anger. “And, shortly, your life.” Before any response could be given, Vanzin was dragged out of his sight.

Velikolepnyy Building, Coyden, Stratarin, 1400 hours, 01.04.18

“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Erik Kharzin, the vulpine Minister of Propaganda, stated matter-of-factly.

“An entire town was murdered, for Rubashkin’s sake!” Pyotr Dementyev exclaimed, his voice echoing a false anger, poorly concealing a very real ambition. “And all because of his,” he pointed towards the Procurator General, “incompetence!” Turning to Starikov’s desk, he proclaimed, “Premier Starikov, surely you’ve put up with his idiocy for long enough!”

“Wait!” Demenok protested. “I want to hear what Kharzin has to say.”

“You only want to save your own guilty hide, is what…”

Starikov’s voice rose above Dementyev’s outbursts. “Silence.” Looking to Kharzin, the Premier gestured for him to continue.

Kharzin cleared his throat, then continued. Due to his lean frame, his deep voice surprised Demenok slightly every time he spoke. “You see, Minister, Procurator General, Premier,” he rumbled, “while this revolt seems indeed organized and somewhat well-funded, we still have complete control of Strataric media. If the uprising had any sort of international communication methods, we would certainly have seen it evidenced by support or, hopefully, condemnation of the group from foreign nations. However,” Kharzin paused, “it’s only a matter of time until they have a reliable source of revolutionary media. Thus, we need to make a statement before they have the chance to do so.”

Starikov nodded. “What would you propose, Minister?”

“Quite frankly, blame the rebels. Stir as much negative international sentiment as we possibly can before they have the chance to try and sway it. Claim that… what was the name of the town?”

“Gorod,” Demenok offered.

“Thank you. Claim that Gorod was a bastion of loyalty and the communist spirit in northern Stratarin, and that the rebels couldn’t bear the existence of it so close to their staging grounds.”

Dementyev attempted his best fake smile which, admittedly, wasn’t good. Starikov met the vulpine’s gaze, expressionless. Demenok couldn’t help but show a little relief on his face.

“Excellent solution, Minister,” Starikov broke the momentary silence. “I look forward to the Harbinger’s next issue. There’s another matter that I’d like to discuss with you, privately.” He glanced towards Dementyev and Demenok. “The two of you are dismissed.”

As they exited the office, the Minister of Defense caught Demenok’s arm for a moment. “This isn’t over.”

“I’d be disappointed if it were,” the Procurator General smiled.

Dementyev glared at him for a second, then briskly walked away in disgust.

Ruka Nad Kulak Building, Ivlya, 1000 hours, 01.04.18

Deputy Secretary of Commerce Yegor Hordiyenko coughed. “What you’re proposing, Madame…?”

“Tjessem.” the raven-haired beauty replied quickly. “Yvonne Tjessem.”

“Thank you. Anyway, Madame Tjessem, it’s simply impossible. I cannot recommend a major subsidy of a company to my government, especially one owned by the Prince’s daughter. It reeks of crony capitalism, favoritism, and anti-free market sentiment.”

Tjessem nodded, clearly none too pleased. “While I understand, you have to see my situation. Brave Stratarians are fighting and dying for their freedoms and lives while we speak, and subsidizing the Kondor Arms Corporation will make it much easier to reach an arrangement with the company.”

“Yes, Stratarians are,” the Ivlyan countered. “Odd that you care so much, given that you’re some minor Asendavian official.”

Tjessem rose from her seat in anger. “I care about injustice, Deputy Secretary. I care about liberty. And I care about religion. Those are three things that the current failing regime in Stratarin do not care a turnip’s worth for. Surely you can see that!”

Hordiyenko remained seated, looking up at her. “I can see that the people you support murdered a village.”

“Lies! Do you seriously trust the Coyden Harbinger to be some beacon of truth?”

He hesitated. “I do not. All the same, the government released evide…”

"Tjessem cut him off. “The importance of this fight is more than you or I could possibly imagine, Secretary. If these revolutionaries prevail, it will benefit your government greatly. Especially if the great Principality of Ivlya had something to do with it. Think of it: a religious, free Stratarin, all thanks to Ivlya.”

The Deputy Secretary sighed. “I’ll send your proposal up the food chain.”

“Thank you! Oh, thank you so much!” Almost leaping forward, she planted a kiss on his lips, then turned and quickly left, leaving Hordiyenko quite befuddled. Her much taller bodyguard who stood by the door turned and followed her.

“Was the kiss really necessary, ‘Yvonne’?” he asked, voice ringing with disapproval.

“Oh, hush,” she replied coldly, her impassioned nature clearly having started and ended at the Deputy Secretary’s office. “The point is, our plan just transitioned from improbable to slightly unlikely.”

“Hopefully we have better odds than that.”

“Dear brother, we make our own odds,” she laughed.