True Justice

OOC: June 25 2023. My fourth anniversary of TEP residency. The promised day of democracy in Aivintis since summer of 2020. It is coming. As a note offered for canonicity, this RP assumes Serdemia is a part of Aivintis. That is not technically canon until the completion of the RP, as determined by the cartography team in a help ticket. Instead of an expansion RP, I offer this as proof that Serdemia being Aivintian is important to Aivintian lore. Almost as if I’m gaslighting it into canon. In a few hours, the first post of this RP will be published, as the Earth completes its revolution. Dates for this RP may be confusing, as much of it frames the past as the present. If that confuses you, ignore it. I intend to post two parts a week, ending when the 50th part is posted on the day of reckoning. Do not post here.

A Shot in the Dark

27 September 2021

His Excellency Justice Petre Mardare stalked the dark alleys of the Low District, in the western side of Greater Asluagh, staggering through the lamplit cobbled streets as drunk as can be. He had no guards, having sent away his security detail to avoid being recognized in the poorest and most degenerate part of Asluagh.

He almost felt home - in the dark and the rain, the Low District was nearly indistinguishable from most of Derrim, the slum city of Aivintis. It was a world away, before the army, before the medals, before the Whitcher Coup. Now he was the oldest serving Aivintian Justice apart from His Exalted Excellency Chief Justice Stoker, and still he frequented the gambling dens and bars of the grimiest parts of Aivintis.

Mardare was sure any psychologist could have told him why - he probably could have himself, if he didn’t addle his mind with addictive substances as soon as he left sessions. He considered it a point of pride, actually, that he could offer level-headed insight and assist in duties affecting the entire nation despite his sins, his shortcomings.

There was no doubt in his mind that he needed to stop. He had visited several doctors, he had seen the medical reports himself. He was sick and dying, and the only glimmer of hope for his survival was to get his act together. There was no doubt in his mind that he wouldn’t. He felt like he could, but he didn’t want to. Years of decadence and corruption had left him a hollow shell of a person. He would crumble if he didn’t numb himself every day.

It was his addiction, ironically, that kept him from realising how useless he was to the country. He was a face, a figurehead. He provided the image of a war veteran, of a lower class citizen rising through opportunity and service to the head of the nation. He was a mascot, nothing but a tool of propaganda. It kept certain people from rising against Aivintis, and it kept Stoker from having to tolerate too many opinions in closed chambers.

Others could have taken his place, of course. Mardare didn’t know it, but His Exalted Excellency still kept a file with a list of potential replacements, all conveniently employed in political positions that could still be used as back-up plans should Mardare’s unsavoury habits become public, or should they lead to Mardare’s early demise. The Chief Justice didn’t, however, have any knowledge of Mardare’s terminal circumstances.

No, Mardare cleaned up his messes quite nicely - it was one of the reasons he was kept over any other candidates. His amassed wealth could more than afford key bribes and pay-offs, and when it came down to it Mardare was willing to bloody his hands to keep his brand clean. Without this trait, he would be an embarrassment, likely himself put down by Stoker. It allowed him the freedom he desired for his activities.

However, he was not the smartest man in the world, not by a long shot, and that is how Doris Romanescu had managed to map out his movements and collect substantial proof of his many illegal and degenerate dealings. It was enough to put him out of commission, but her search revealed more - murders, speciesm, anti-Serdemic hate crimes, more. She soon discovered that he had enough skeletons in his closet to fill a graveyard. She’d told Laurentiu, her leader, who’d told someone else, someone who had secretly been setting the movement along its path from the shadows. Someone with grand ambitions.

Even at 56, Doris was far quicker and far stronger than a middle aged man drunk out of his mind. More than that, she was smart. If needed, she could defend herself from Mardare. The movement had originally instructed her only to gather evidence of wrongdoings and use them to blackmail him into feeding them information, money, and influence, but the plans had changed. They didn’t have to know that, though. That was between her, the movement’s leader, and its secret benefactor. They’d be informed her mission had failed. They’d be none the wiser.

She could do it, of course, but was still unsettled by the whole affair. It’s not like she’d drawn the line at murder. Doris knew some people would die eventually. In the heat of combat, if needed, or in self-defence, mainly, yes, but Justice Petre Mardare deserved it. She knew he deserved it. He could always protect himself from being brought to justice in conventional ways. He would need to be put down. Still, taking a life changed people, she knew that even with clean hands. She might have refused if it hadn’t been such a sensitive matter.

As Doris Romanescu followed Petre Mardare down a side street in the Low District, she considered the implications of committing murder, let alone murdering such a high official. She would place herself in grave danger, and her hands would be stained with blood in the years to come. She faltered, and Mardare turned. Before he could call out, or run, she drew her gun and fired three bullets into his chest. The shots echoed in the alley, filling the night with the weight of what she’d done today. She lowered the gun.

Her hands shaking, Doris rushed to the corpse, her gloved hands searching for his wallet and any other valuables. She took them and ran as fast as a 56 year old woman could, into the night, away from the scene of her crime. She slowed as she reached a busy street, and melted into the crowd. No more than two blocks away, the Justice lay, bleeding and lifeless on the ground. He would be found soon. Not soon enough to catch her. Her job was done, and she had gotten away with it. August Byrne would be pleased.

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Unholy Alliance

29 September 2021

“ . . . the body of His Excellency Justice Petre Mardare was found in the Low District last night, shot in an apparent mugging on an alley just blocks away from Dorian Boulevard. According to locals in the area, Mardare frequented the Low District every day, and eyewitness reports place him at five separate bars in the past month. The police have yet to release a statement, but His Exalted Excellency Chief Justice Eduard Stoker has gone on the record stating no knowledge of Mardare’s alcohol addiction, but saying that in the past few months Mardare had grown distant. Chief Justice Stoker denies claims of drugs, prostitution, and gambling, reassuring the people that Petre Mardare was a better man than that, despite his faults. His Exalted Excellency has refused to comment on Mardare’s replacement in the High Court. The coroner’s office will release the Justice’s autopsy report to the police soon, and Aivcast News will report updates as soon as we receive them. In other news, stocks of pharmaceutical company Braxon’s have dropped following the recent shortage of–”

Arthur Frost turned off the feed and sighed. He had not personally dealt with Mardare, but he was aware that the Aivintian Mafia was receiving large sums of money from the Justice in order to cover up a myriad of crimes and scandals. He hated such degeneracy with a passion, but he was never one to lament over good business. He was not sure how the Mafia would make up for the loss of such a high priority customer.

There was no use dwelling on it, Frost knew. The Mafia would recover, and there’d be more money flowing into his pockets before long. In the business, there were always accidents and “accidents” that led to losses of profit. The reason organised crime still survived was due to adaptability. It was how Frost cut short multiple hostile takeovers of his criminal empire, and it was how the Mafia had kicked his rivals out of the city.

What did concern him, however, was who pulled the trigger. His folks wouldn’t touch Mardare, he knew that much. There was no reason to expect new players, either, they would have strategically hit multiple of Frost’s clients, and likely sent some sort of message through the murder of one of his enforcers, or something similar. It could have been a random mugging, but that would have to be some insane coincidence, and the thought didn’t sit right for Frost.

It had to be politically motivated. That was the only answer that made sense to Frost. Two years ago, he wouldn’t have given a shit. However, now, he was a “Trade Councillor” and “Personal Advisor” to the Chief Justice. If someone was targeting the Kritarchy, it could mean something big, something unsettling, something that certainly was his business. He could be a target, given his influence over the economy and his wealth. He wasn’t spooked, necessarily, but concerned, yes. He would have to send someone to investigate - the only question was whether Arthur Frost would send someone or the Alpha would.

For now, however, he was content returning to his apolitical business - his company was currently in the process of hiring SafeSafe Incorporated to provide their services in securing some of their high end merchandise. He had previously employed a different company, one which specialised in armoured trucks and secure storage, but after a class action lawsuit for the prevention of unionisation and mistreatment of workers, their stock had plummeted.

The lawsuit wouldn’t succeed, of course, but bad PR was bad PR. Even with the inevitable countersuit, it wouldn’t be the same. So, Arthur had someone look into replacements, and he was presented with SafeSafe. It was practically a done deal already, but Arthur still had to arrange the budget and finalise the actual legal paperwork of it all. He was comfortable leaving a lot to his companies’ management, but he found pleasure in being closely involved, especially with big moves.

The noise of the printer almost drowned out the sound of the door creaking open, but many of Arthur’s pastimes had caused him to be more perceptive about his surroundings. It was his secretary, their chiming voice as cheerful and blank as always. “Mr Frost, there’s an August Byrne here to see you.”

That made Arthur very curious. Byrne currently served as the Governor of Castenor, a city which was far enough from Asluagh that the arrival of such a figure would be a big deal politically, which means it would have reached him. The fact that it didn’t meant that August Byrne was here without the general public’s knowledge, or even the knowledge of the government. The thought of a clandestine meeting with a major political figure excited him for a number of reasons. He loved being in on the action.

Arthur had worked with Byrne before - the man had been his lawyer in 2001 when multiple corporate whistleblowers had exposed some of Frost’s criminal activities. Luckily, no one had ever made the connection between him and the mob, but such serious crimes held actual weight before the Kritarchy, and Arthur was very grateful to the man for keeping him out of prison.

He hadn’t seen him much since, having taken much more care following the incident, but he had kept a close eye on his career. After his partner Aldulescu was arrested the year after and his other partner Nistor Grigorescu became a Senator, Byrne quit and took a job as a Senior Prosecutor working with the Duke of Castenor. When Whitcher took over the country in 2013, Byrne stayed close to power, working to smooth foreign relations following the coup and soon was awarded the Governorship of Castenor.

He was an important figure, very vocal in political spheres and always willing to speak to foreign journalists and concerned citizens, which made him unique among high officials. Frost knew he had refused to strike a deal with the mafia’s representative a couple months back, but he had no idea what his former lawyer was doing in his building. He realised he hadn’t yet answered, and quickly said, “Let him in.”

August Byrne wore his navy blue suit loosely, and had clearly ditched the tie at some point before entering. Despite this, however, he still looked well-groomed and imposing. Arthur mused that this was a constant for the Governor. He gestured to the open seat before his desk, and the politician sat down, smiling at him. “Hello, Arthur.”

“August, it’s good to see you. Belated congratulations on your appointment to Governor.” Frost kept his voice level, betraying no reaction to the strange circumstances of the visit.

“Thank you, Mr Frost, really. Now, I’d love to say that I am here for a social call, but tragically, I have business to attend to.”

“Business? Do you wish to invest in Seier?”

The man ignored the question. “Have you tuned into Aivcast recently?”

Arthur furrowed his brow. “The tragic mugging of His Excellency?”

Byrne gave a hollow laugh, his voice lowering. “We both know he was unworthy of that title.”

Arthur quietly and subtly put his hand on the gun strapped to the underside of his desk, finally guessing the perpetrator of Mardare’s assassination. “Are you coming to me for the influence required to take his place? Or to continue your crusade? Think carefully about your next answer, August, the goodwill that came from keeping me out of jail only goes so far.”

“I am not here to kill you, Arthur. But neither am I here to become a Justice. Or, well, not yet. You see, my ambitions go much farther than that.”

Frost laughed, but didn’t move his hand off his gun. “Don’t tell me Aldulescu got into your head.” Laurentiu Aldulescu hadn’t been arrested for some petty crime - he had organised a protest against the monarchy that had turned bloody. Even from behind bars, and indeed after he was released, he advocated for the Aivintian Empire to become a full fledged Republic for the first time in history. When Whitcher took power, he had gone into hiding, plotting acts of domestic terrorism against the Kritarchy.

“Aldulescu was – is – an experiment of sorts.”

“Ademar, Byrne, don’t tell me you’re actually in on his crackpot revolution.”

“MY revolution,” the Governor snarled. “And it’s not as doomed as you imply. The days of autocracy are over. The Kritarchy is a disease. It killed the Empire and puppeted its corpse. Stoker and his lot pose as regents because without the legitimacy of the Radu Dynasty they have no ground to stand on. I think they’ve even fooled themselves, but surely you can see how this form of government is unsustainable. We can’t go on with this, and we can’t go back to what we were, either. Forward is the only option. I want your support.”

Arthur leaned forward. “What makes you think I want Aivintis to last?”

August sighed. “Because I’m not a fool. I know how much you depend on Aivintian prosperity. More trade and more economic growth and more wealth in your pocket. Whether it’s your corporate or criminal enterprise.” Hm. Perhaps someone had guessed his involvement in the mob. Frost idly wondered when and how the Governor figured it out.

“Alleged criminal enterprise,” Arthur chimed in with a half smile.

“I do not have all day, Arthur. Do you want to extend the life of a dying government for a negligible term or do you want to sacrifice the oh-so-easily manipulated dictatorship in exchange for your country’s longevity?”

Arthur let go of his gun finally and narrowed his eyes. “What assurance do I have that you won’t turn on me to remove organised crime for good? Or succumb to communist hippy bullshit and ruin my legal businesses? Or both?”

“Just as you depend on prosperity, prosperity depends on you. Seier is a keystone species in the economic ecosystem. Take it away and Aivintis fails. I don’t want that. As for crime . . . I won’t say that you will function with full autonomy forever. But the new regime won’t oppose you for a long time. We’ll have more pressing matters. If that’s not enough, then I’ll kill you and replace you with someone who will listen.”

Frost laughed, unfazed. “I’d like to see you try.” Pursing his lips in thought, he added, “but, as fun as it may be, that won’t be necessary. What do you need from me?”

A wicked smile grew on August Byrne’s face then, and Arthur almost regretted his decision immediately.

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Emergency Session

30 September 2021

“This Emergency Session of the High Court is hereby convened per the request of His Exalted Excellency Eduard Stoker, Acting Regent, Chief Minister, and Chief Justice of Aivintis, regarding the matter of a vacancy in the Justice position.”

The regent in question nodded graciously at the record-keeper when they had finished speaking. His face was calm and composed and his black robe was perfectly fit and tailored, his white dress shirt and black tie perfectly straightened underneath. Stoker was the centre of attention, at the head of the council table. As this was a private session, only Justices Crane, Grigorescu, and Lupu were in attendance, with the final seat for Justice Mardare empty.

Stoker spoke after a short pause. “Petre is dead. We have released a statement, but I can sense public opinion drifting away from us. Addiction aside, we need another champion of the people, someone they can get behind. I have a list of potential replacements, but I am unsure any of them can bring what we want to the table to the extent we need.”

Grigorescu nodded. “Have you considered appointing the Governor of Derrim?”

“Emil? I would prefer someone with no skeletons in their closet,” Stoker sighed.

Justice Crane chimed in, “That’s going to be difficult with the prevalence of the Mafia.”

Grigorescu was quick to reply, “Then we should come down on them. It would be a great PR decision.”

Stoker was shaking his head. “Not an option. Our position is failing, we can’t pick a fight with them, they’d win.”

Crane held up a finger. “What potential replacements did you have in mind, Your Exalted Excellency?” he asked, drawing attention back to an earlier comment Eduard had made.

“Governor Arden Blackburn, Governor August Byrne, Trade Councillor Arthur Frost, Chief Ambassador Varujan Groza, and Chief Ambassador Marceline Barnutiu,” the Regent listed.

Justice Grigorescu replied, “Not Blackburn. Their appointment might cause an internal power struggle over control of our soldiers.” He did not need to explain why. Governor Blackburn had been the Imperial Minister of War before the coup, and their support with the military had been essential to securing the Kritarchy. Their assignment in Marnacia, a city known for its history of rebellion was directly because of this, but if they came back to the capital, Justice Grigorescu’s jurisdiction over the military was in danger.

Stoker nodded. “I was thinking the same. I also don’t think Arthur is the best choice, although his business ties would be a great asset. I understand, Nistor, that your firm represented him in a major criminal case during Emperor Anton’s reign. That could lead to bad publicity. Which leaves Byrne, Groza, or Barnutiu. Justice Lupu, you’ve been quiet so far, what do you think?”

She cleared her throat. “Barnutiu got to her position by being ruthless, not beloved. She is good at playing politics, but too well known for the same. Between Byrne and Groza, I prefer Groza, mainly because of his status among the younger diplomats as a mentor. That could work to our advantage.”

Chief Justice Stoker considered that. “Hm. Byrne is on the rise, though. He’s only governed Castenor for a year and he’s making waves.”

Justice Crane spoke next. “I suggest you wait before making any appointments, Your Exalted Excellency.”

Stoker turned to him in surprise. “How do you mean?”

“Well, the investigation into Petre’s death is ongoing, and with wavering public opinion, it is very possible that certain key figures interpret this as our doing — Petre’s addictions were certainly a liability and if we have a replacement lined up mere days after his death, it may prove counterproductive. I’d suggest mourning and finding his killer, and then making the appointment.”

“I disagree,” Grigorescu cut in. “We need to make a show of strong leadership in the wake of an attack on our highest officials.”

“Strong leadership means justice to Petre’s killer above all other business,” Crane pointed out.

“It means decisive action, not waiting.”

“I think Justice Grigorescu has a point,” Justice Lupu replied. “If we wait to appoint a new Justice, it may appear that we weren’t ready for this, and won’t be ready for similar attacks on the Kritarchy in the future.”

Before Justice Crane could shoot back, Eduard Stoker held up a hand for silence. The chamber complied. Slowly, he said, “I will wait two weeks. We will all attend the funeral, and I want the Asluagh Police Commissioner personally overseeing the investigation. Then, I will announce that Chief Ambassador Groza shall receive a seat on the Court. That is all.”

“This Emergency Session of the High Court is hereby closed by His Exalted Excellency Eduard Stoker, Acting Regent, Chief Minister, and Chief Justice of Aivintis. The High Court shall wait a period of 14 days before appointing Varujan Groza as a Justice of the High Court.” The reporter finished transcribing the final words, and then they left the room. The Justices soon followed.

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A Tainted Conscience

5 October 2021

Arthur Frost tapped his right index finger impatiently, the obsidian ring making a muted clink against his desk. As he waited for his appointment to arrive, he thought back to Justice Mardare’s funeral. So many people talking about his ‘struggle’ with addiction as if it was a thing he was actually fighting. Ademar, the sanctimony of the speeches sickened him. It was as if everyone there was pretending he was a noble man, a beacon of light and justice, rather than a depraved shit with no self-esteem or moral compass. His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden entrance of just the man he was looking for.

“Ah, Chief Ambassador Groza! It’s a pleasure to meet you. Please, sit, and let’s discuss your future.” His voice was quite underwhelming, not at all full of confidence or power, a fact which caught Groza by almost as much surprise as the identity of the man he was meeting.

“Mr Frost. Hm. I wasn’t expecting the richest Aivintian in the world to be the head of the Mafia, but then again, many of the largest companies in the nation are run by criminals of some sort or another.” He spoke smoothly, with practised guile. He remained standing.

“I’d say the nation itself, as well. Take a seat. We have much to discuss.”

Groza narrowed his eyes. “I don’t know if this is entrapment to ruin my political career or a genuine attempt to buy my favour, but I will not do dealings with the Alpha of the Aivintian Mafia.”

“Oh Ademar, how I hate that word. Alpha. I wish I could say it was because of the letter, but in actuality it was because of wolf sociology - I thought it was cool. Ugh. If I knew the . . . less than ideal connotations it would have on the internet, I would have preferred using my real name. It’s not even based in actual science, did you know that? There is no ‘wolf hierarchy’ or anything. It’s just that parents with more children have more of a leadership role in the pack containing those children. A 1947 scientific report just got it wrong. Which would be okay if it wasn’t so damn popular.” Arthur sighed. “It’s not like I could change it now. I’m already infamous by that name, not to mention the hassle of telling everyone and having them change the contacts on their phone.” Tapping his finger again, he gestured to the open chair in front of him with his left hand. “I’m not here to offer a bribe.”

Chief Ambassador Groza, thrown off by the other man’s weird, off-topic speech and then sudden focus, complied. Recovering, he asked, “Why am I here, then?”

“Because in nine days time, our Regent is going to appoint you Justice.”

Groza was shocked. “So soon? I mean I was promoted to Chief Ambassador only two years ago.”

“And in that time, you made yourself invaluable to the horrid regime in which you will find yourself.”

“How do you know this?” the Chief Ambassador demanded.

“I have connections as Arthur Frost and as . . . Ademar give me strength, as the Alpha.”

“Do you think that news is going to make me susceptible to doing your bidding?”

Mr Frost shook his head. “Of course not. I imagine your excitement, confusion, and nervousness only heightens your sense of duty to your country. You may even snitch to the cops, or to someone who actually isn’t on my payroll. Unlikely, I know. No, that was just set dressing. I think that your morals are going to make you susceptible to doing my bidding.”

Groza actually laughed. “What kind of twisted logic is that?”

“Well, the thing is, my bidding aligns with what is generally considered to be the right thing to do.”


“Hear me out. You were chosen because everybody loves you. You’re everybody’s favourite boy scout. Now, that means that you’ll have a lot of support from the public, the diplomatic corps, and even foreign nations. With your quick rise to fame in mind, as well as your reputation for good faith and fair dealings, you’re the perfect choice to make Aivintis look good.”

“Flattery is less effective than favours, Frost,” Groza replied. “I’m a diplomat, remember?”

Frost smiled. “Not my point. My point is that for the same reasons you are a good PR investment, you are a terrible choice for Justice. Whatshisface’s addictions and criminal activities? Not an exception. Justice Crane is a big fan of nepotism and cronyism, as you may know with Ambassador Crane’s position in the International Forum. Grigorescu is a militant who lives for war. Lupu is the only one keeping Aivintis from falling out of favour with the international community, but is willing to say nothing in regards to the governance of the country because she secretly wishes she could be literally anywhere else. Stoker was planning to murder Regent Whitcher before cancer took him, and has already murdered nine high officials for his personal gain. Crane has regular dealings with the Mafia, and Stoker shows consistent bias to my company because he knows I am guilty of the crimes I got away with in 2001 and that he could put me away if he got a whiff of betrayal. Do I need to go on?”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“You don’t. I have no proof. The next High Court Justice, however, will have access to proof aplenty.”

Chief Ambassador Groza laughed again. “The biggest criminal Aivintis has ever known is asking me to take down criminals, that’s rich. Say I play your game, and find proof. These men are untouchable. What do you expect me to do?”

Arthur Frost adopted a wicked smile. “Release it. I want regular leaks of evidence to me which can turn public opinion against the current regime. Target senior officials. Don’t let it be traced back to you in a way that jeopardises your position.”

“To what end? If you want me to do what you ask–”

“You’ll do what I ask. Because as long as you know what I know, you won’t be able to sleep at night without taking action. However, if you absolutely must know, I want you to eventually remove Justice Crane from office. That is all I need.”

“You want an in.”

“No,” Frost answered. “I wouldn’t touch that carcass of a government with a ten foot pole. I’m not the next Justice after you. Or ever. In fact, the person that will replace Crane is a lot more like you than like me. You’ll get along splendidly.”

“What will you do if I take this information to Stoker and have him imprison you?”

“I’ll break out. It’s not sustainable long term, but neither is your position. I love revenge, and I’ll get it. Maybe I’ll retire. I can escape to a country with no extradition treaty with my fortune intact easier than I can get out of this chair. In my defence, I do have a medical condition.”

Arthur Frost extended his right hand for a shake, and Groza studied his ring before offering his own. The crime boss nodded. “Go get ‘em, tiger.”

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Interrogation Room

10 October 2021

Police Commissioner Dimir of the Asluagh Metropolitan Police observed the interrogation of Victor Torje from behind a one-way mirror. Her face betrayed her harsh scepticism. The man in the interrogation room was a scrawny, pathetic man, not at all the hardened killer Dimir would have expected from the man who killed Justice Petre Mardare.

Captain Cernat, the best interrogator in the city, sat across from this rail-thin excuse for a criminal. “Mr Torje, right?” His voice was taunting and arrogant, something that didn’t change when he was outside the interrogation chamber.

“Uh yeah. Victor. Victor Torje, I mean.”

“Where were you on the night of 27th September, 2021?”

Victor Torje sniffed. “I was at home. Hey, can I call my lawyer? I think she should be here for me.”

Captain Cernat shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

“I thought I had a right to a lawyer when under suspicion of a crime, right?”

“That right does not apply during interrogation, only trial. Should you be on trial for something?”


“Mr Torje, where were you on the night of 27th September, 2021?”

“I told you, officer, I was at home.” Victor was getting annoyed.

“Do you have anyone that can testify to that in court?”

“What? No, I live alone.” This wasn’t Victor’s first time in this room. He had been interrogated and imprisoned before. He always broke.

“Mr Torje, where were you on the night of 12th January, 2016?”

“What? Do you know how long ago that was? Why would I remember that?”

Captain Cernat cleared his throat. “That was the day you broke into the home of Dominik Wood and brutally beat him within an inch of his life.”

He stiffened. “I served my time for that.”

“Yes, four years, I recall?”

Victor nodded.

“Mr Torje, where were you on the night of 27th September, 2021?”

“I told you, I was at home.”

“Mr Torje, where were you in the afternoon of 30th October, 2008?”

Victor was not impressed.

“I’ll answer for you, Mr Torje, you were at your friend’s house in the Marcovici District, where you got into a verbal fight with him over a personal grudge. It got heated and you attacked and injured him. When his roommate attempted to pull you away, you drew a pocket knife and cut him across the stomach. You served six years for this crime.”

“Yes. I was troubled, officer, but I’ve been out for two years now. I’m different.”

“Mr Torje, where were you on the night of 27th September, 2021?”

“How many FUCKING times do I have to say I WAS AT HOME!” Commissioner Dimir narrowed her eyes. This was a development.

Cernat didn’t flinch. “Mr Torje, are you addicted to heroin?”

Victor sighed. When he answered, it was clear that his composure was fake. Hatred burned in his eyes. “Yes, officer. I am a recovering addict. I was a victim of the prison system and have been going to rehabilitation clinics and seeing a psychologist.”

“Yes, but that psychologist didn’t stop you from assaulting two people in 2010 and one in 2016?”

“I guess not,” Victor spat. “But I’m better now,” he added in a lighter tone.

“Mr Torje, why did you assault Mr Wood?”

“He owed me money.”

“Just a few hundred dollars, though, correct?” the Captain asked, his voice neutral.


“So over this negligible sum, you still held a grudge which was so intense that it prompted you to break into his house and almost kill him?”

Victor was angry now. “I served my time for that. I demand to see my lawyer. I demand to be told what I’m accused of.”

“Shut the fuck up, you answer my questions and you don’t say anything else. Mr Torje, where were you on the night of 27th September, 2021?”

“I SWEAR TO ADEMAR I WILL KILL YOU!” Silence fell upon the room, and Captain Cernat let a satisfied look wash over his face.

“Mr Torje, we have footage of you on the night of 27th September, 2021, outside an illegal gambling den on Dew Street in the Low District. We have established that you are willing to commit assault and murder over petty differences. We also have a police report, filed by you, from last year saying that Justice Petre Mardare threatened your life. That anger festers quickly, Mr Torje. Petre Mardare was shot and killed the night of 27th September 2021, not far from the drug den which we can place you at. We have a gun with your fingerprints on it.” That part wasn’t true, but Cernat continued, “You can get the death penalty for this, no matter what you say or try. Or you can confess, and get life in prison instead. You’re a smart man, what will it be?”

Police Commissioner Dimir was thrilled that this investigation was finally over.

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Justice Groza

14 October 2021


Seventeen days ago, Justice Petre Mardare was tragically murdered by a troubled addict named Victor Torje. This man eluded capture for almost two weeks before the good people of the Asluagh Metropolitan Police arrested him. Justice Mardare was a kind soul, though he himself struggled with addiction and I admit in the final years of his life I felt like I barely knew him.

I was glad to hear that the murderer of my old friend was brought to justice, just as I was saddened by the fact that Justice Mardare would never get a chance to make things right and overcome his vices. While those that knew him grieve him, those that didn’t should take his lesson to heart, that addiction is not a solution, but a problem, that our laws are in place for good reason, in the name of justice.

Although Justice Mardare’s early days in office were marked with humility and even-handedness, and I’m afraid to admit there were more than one occasions where my passion got the better of me and he was forced to remind me of my place as a servant of the people and a symbol of justice, I have spent some grieving hours wondering if I made a mistake somehow, in appointing him all those years ago.

Yet this is not a eulogy, as mine was delivered during his funeral a week ago. Since it finished, I knew in my heavy heart that there was not much time to grieve before it fell to me to appoint a new Justice. The grief of a statesman is only compounded when the rule of law and order requires him to replace a lost friend. I selfishly put off the task until the arrest and prosecution of Mr Torje, to put my mind at rest, but now I cannot wait any longer.

Mardare was born in poverty and he clawed his way into command on the battlefield and public office on the homefront so he could make a difference in his country. It satisfies me to know that his chosen successor is a fighter much the same. Chief Ambassador Varujan Groza has distinguished himself as a diplomat and as a leader. In each position he has held, he has proven highly effective, and has avoided scandal for ten long years in the public eye.

More than that, Chief Ambassador Groza is a kind and principled citizen. Even in one of the highest positions in the nation, he has kept humble, and is widely regarded by younger ambassadors as a mentor and friend. He has a strong sense of justice, and is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in.

It is for these reasons that the High Court has elected to appoint Varujan Groza to the bench of the High Court. Sworn in today, His Excellency Justice Groza shall serve for life. This news has been conveyed to the allies of the Aivintian Empire. I know Varujan shall do me proud, and I cannot wait for you all to see it happen.

In solidarity and humble servitude,

His Exalted Excellency, Eduard Stoker
Regent of the Aivintian Throne
Chief Minister of the Imperial Cabinet
Chief Justice of the High Court

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2 December 2021

Arthur Frost was busy. He was always busy, really. He found it funny that he had two lives and he dedicated both of them entirely to his work. He had the vague thought of making a calendar entry scheduling him to laugh at this, but his secretary wouldn’t understand the joke. He definitely came off as eccentric, but he wasn’t at the point of virtual insanity just yet, and he didn’t want to ruin his image in their eyes. He quite liked them, more than any of their predecessors.

He had been contacted by August Byrne the day before about their “next move.” The correspondence was vague, mainly because it was done via email, which frustrated Arthur because he liked controlling meetings, and his lack of knowledge placed him at a psychological disadvantage. Psychological disadvantages were not good for business, nor his image. He had to be an imposing presence, filling the room with his power. Control and knowledge went hand in hand, and less of one meant less of the other.

If he was honest with himself, Arthur was uneasy about the whole affair. When he was typically involved in conspiracies (it happened fairly often), he was usually a contracted mercenary or an equal partner. In this, he felt like an asset. He didn’t have a complete vision of Byrne’s plan, and was only contacted when his help was needed. It was frustrating, but not unexpected. In fact, it was somewhat similar to how Byrne handled his defence in court.

He wasn’t going to back out because of it, though, which he secretly thought Byrne knew, and was taking advantage of for the purposes of his plan. Either way, he didn’t care. His wealth and power had reached a point where he was excited for change and intrigue, not to mention Byrne was correct in assuming that he had a vested interest in the continued wellbeing of the country. He wasn’t a patriot, not really, but he did like how his nation had a place for him, legally and illegally speaking. He belonged, and fit snuggly.

He was absent-mindedly typing out an email to a supplier when his secretary announced that August Byrne was here to see him. He instructed them to let him in and they did. Frost’s secretary was a factor many a co-conspirator had expressed concern over, and he had found great pleasure in passive aggressively reminding him that they had spent about five years as the secretary of a major crime boss and he still remained untouchable.

“Mr Frost,” came the greeting. That was strange. The Governor of Castenor never adopted a polite tone in his covert dealings with Arthur. Something was wrong. “I need a favour.” Ah. That’s it.

“Oh? Is my fortune and influence not enough for your . . . cause? I’ve been very generous.” There it was, that control was back in his hands. It felt good. Maybe he could get the other man to actually get on his knees and beg. That would be immensely fun.

“No, that’s not it. I, uh, well. I need you to collude with me in order to weaken organised crime in Castenor.”

“Excuse me?” He wasn’t expecting this, certainly. It caught him off guard, which meant control had shifted once again, and he hated that almost as much as he hated the idea of actually compromising his power for an old friend’s pet project.

Byrne held his hands up in supplication. “Hear me out—“

“How do you expect me to support your operations when mine are crippled? The control the Mafia has is essential to delivering you support. Putting aside my personal wealth, which is the centre to your little game, the mafia’s connections with black market dealers and corrupt government officials could make or break your mission. Not to mention the benefits of having a convenient mob hit or robbery every once in a while that could not be traced to any political movements. Need I remind you that none of that is possible without a steady income stream and busy workforce in all parts of the country?” He folded his hands in mock expectation.

“No, I understand. I do not mean for you to give up everything. I just need a few key arrests and some new statistics that I can work with.”

“Out of the question.”

“You can even manoeuvre some of your least effective and most hated lieutenants there! Come on, it’s two hares with one shot!”


“Listen to me—”

“I agreed to offer my help because I trust you, August. Because I like your passion and I think you may succeed in this fool’s errand. I must admit I actually kind of want you to. I’m rooting for you. You got in my head with your grand talk of a dying giant. I’m happy to help you, really, I am. However, I will not slaughter my grass-fed hormone-free cash cow for your dinner party with autocracy. Even if I do minimise loss, and even if I’m okay with what losses I take, I will look weak. Both the other governors and my main rivals will be emboldened, and that can spell problems for me. Problems for me are problems for you, tamési.”

“I can ensure that it doesn’t happen. Plus, you can be emboldened yourself. With a less varied focus, you can increase the intensity. Not to mention you can kill people that try too hard.”

“I have said yes to everything you’ve asked of me. Take this one no.”

“It’s important, Arthur.”

“What the hell am I supposed to do with that? Follow in blind faith? Never been one for faith, maybe try asking your priest. You haven’t even told me your whole plan! Leaping before you look is how you fall into large pits filled with spikes.”



“Is that what it’ll take? Telling you my plan?”

Arthur made some confused noises.

“Do you want to know or not?”

“Yes. Of course I do. But why now?”

“I will sometimes ask difficult things of you. I need to know that I can rely on you to answer. I can see that not much can convince you of this, and so I’ll tell you. If you speak a single word of what I told you, I will cut off your head. Am I clear?”

“What if the word I speak is ‘the’?”


“You have my word. Haha. See what I did there?”


“Yes. Obviously, I won’t tell anyone anything.”

August sighed. Then he told him everything. The other man listened politely, passively, not interrupting him once. He listened until the end with the gravity his collaborator would have wanted, and then he asked calmly, “Have you seen a psychiatrist lately?”

“It will work. I know it will. I am certain.”



“You know how crazy that is. It would be easier to just do a regular civil war! Old reliable!”

“No it wouldn’t,” Byrne replied. “In the modern day, actual civil wars are impossible to pull off in any country with even a single proactive ally, without allies of your own. The web of defence alliances Aivintis has in place would destroy us, unless we take help from our enemies, and I don’t want this revolution to completely overturn Aivintian foreign policy. Besides, war is messy. It’s the difference between walking and running on a surface with broken glass. At least if you walk, you can manoeuvre in such a way as to not cut your feet. Even if we manage to do it quickly or strategically enough to avoid the bulk of the Kritarchy’s allies, and have the luck needed to defeat the rest, we will have no legitimacy, and we may be vulnerable to counterattacks.”

“Fine, I see your point, but still. This level of specificity? It’s a beautiful plan but it’s a microchip. A grain of sand could undo it.”

“Arthur, do you remember what I said before your trial began?”

“Something along the lines of ‘trust me’. I imagine you’ll tell me the exact wording, and use it as an inspirational message of sorts.”

August sighed. “I said, ‘Your odds are bleak, but I can improve them. If you let me do my job, I estimate a 68% chance of victory.’”

“Right! And I said, ‘Can you improve it by just one percent?’”

The Governor decided to ignore him. “I am telling you now, Arthur, if you let me do my job, we have a 100% chance of victory here.”

“Oh come on.”

“I’m serious. I can ensure everything goes according to plan. I can promise you there will be no grains of sand.”

“Fine. I’ll do as you ask.”

“Thank you.”

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A Matter of War

29 December 2021


Oscar Nordheim: This discussion is one I wish I never needed to begin. [sigh] On the 10th of December, an extremist right wing terrorist group known as the Iron Front, along with nationalists from Helslandr, attacked the town of Litengrunn, which resided next to our border with Helslandr. The terrorists were equipped with fully-automatic assault rifles, incendiary grenades, and chemical explosives. I’ve received estimates that nearly 500, almost all civilians, are now confirmed dead. I’ve already ordered the mobilisation of 80.000 troops, along with the Pledonian Air Force, in order to eradicate these terrorist groups in Helslandr. Along with the nationalists’ insurgency. I will not let the blood of my people go unavenged, nor will I change my mind about the mobilisation. But this is not what I came here to discuss. I humbly request your nations’ support in order to finally end this conflict once and for all. My people cry for retribution. Do I have your support?

Tiberio Imburgia: Most concerning. Our government is willing to consider this tantamount to a declaration of war, and will support UCA intervention in Helslandr.

Alksearian Representative: This terrorist group. Have they caused problems for your nation before? And how much do you know about them? Are they directly linked to the government of Helslandr?

Tiberio Imburgia: [clears throat] Um. There isn’t really a government in Helslandr right now.

Oscar Nordheim: We’ve noticed their presence for the past while, mainly in Helslandr. They aim to unite Vestrava under a single banner, under a single man. From what intel that’s been gathered, that man is Tirlid Kvirkdelen, the ringleader of the nationalist insurgency.

Alksearian Representative: That’s more than enough for me. Alksearia will stand with Pledonia.

Akslav Metanik: [sigh] Well, on the matter of it being a declaration of war, the Durakan government takes the position that the ‘Nationalists’ aren’t a recognisable state-adjacent entity, and can therefore not be considered in waging war. They are insurgents and nothing more.

Tiberio Imburgia: Likewise. This doesn’t merit a declaration of war as much as an authorization of use of force, in my opinion. This is a military intervention intended to stop genocidal terrorist insurgents.

Oscar Nordheim: Thus why I’ve only militarised troops. I have not requested a declaration of war from the Stortinget, nor have any intention of doing so.

Akslav Metanik: Then, since it is an Authorization and not an Obligation, it should be reasonable that not all of us are willing to get our hands dirty in Western Yasteria. I don’t need to tell you that a certain nation’s actions in the region have proven that such efforts can turn sour when states that are not directly involved decide they must direct force against their enemies.

Representative Saewine: It certainly wouldn’t be the first time an intervention to stop genocidal insurgents started without a declaration of war. Speaking of which, this is the second time this year that Tretrid has gotten entangled in this kind of stuff.

Alksearian Representative: Alksearia is close enough to Yasteria to justify helping any and all UCA members in the Yasteria-Arcturia area. It would be stupid for Alksearia to not assist any UCA member in the area.

Tiberio Imburgia: Lapinumbia would be willing to contribute troops, if Pledonia is willing to receive them.

Oscar Nordheim: Any and all support we can get is welcomed.

Representative Saewine: In light of recent events in Novaran politics, we believe it best to keep most of our forces in Tretrid in case any unfortunate incidents in the Bay of Atlantia need responding to, but we’d be willing to send a small force to help. We’re also still cleaning up the mess in Hawa, so a fair amount of RTAF troops are engaged there.

Akslav Metanik: Durakia is, as my government has requested of me to note, not willing to be dragged into further conflict. We have paid in blood for a freer Balistria and Vakarastan, and it is not our business to let more men die on a matter that is not our jurisdiction. You have our endorsement to do as you will, but we are not willing to put men on the ground.

Mr Hodge (AUTH): Aivintis weeps for the innocents needlessly slaughtered by those monsters masquerading as men. Diplomatically speaking, our nation is fully behind Pledonia, and supports this effort entirely. However, our military forces are stretched thin and there is unrest in our home. The so-called People’s Movement for Justice have begun rioting, and one of our Justices has recently been murdered. If we could spare the soldiers, we would not hesitate to offer our Pledonian allies what they need. Unfortunately, we cannot.

Tiberio Imburgia: Out of curiosity, would Durakia be willing to send logistical support or perhaps supplies? There’s many ways to help in a military operation besides sending soldiers to active combat.

Akslav Metanik: That would have to be a matter to discuss with General Kirov, I assume. I’ve not been given the liberty to deviate from what expression my government has allocated. Though, if I am to guess, at the very least, our stockpile is wearing thinner than liked these days.

Oscar Nordheim: If you cannot spare anything, I won’t hold it against you. I know your decision isn’t harboured in ill-will.

Antavo Telan Dovrasta: [sigh] The Kingdom of Tavaris, er, I apologise, I am receiving direction from the Prime Minister in real time as we speak. Tavaris, uh, Tavaris is committed to answering the call in Pledonia and meeting its obligations as a member of the UCA. However due to, ah, various current military engagements, as well as, as well as, contingency plans we have in place for potential, er, I have been directed by Nuvrenon to not explain the exact circumstances, but I trust that anyone who has been keeping up with the news can perhaps imagine why I am about to say what I am about to say. Due to pre-existing concerns regarding Tavari security on the, ah, home front, our response will require the activation of reserve forces. This will take some time. We are planning to activate between 500 and 2.000 members of our Army Reserve based in Elatana. This will take between 30 and 60 days. In the meantime, as ever, Tavari facilities will be made available to all UCA allies for refuelling and other logistical needs as we prepare our response.

Akslav Metanik: I believe in this case, we’re at least fair to see this isn’t a UCA wide matter. Those states which cannot be expected to provide forces will not, and a task force can be created of those nations which are inclined to participate. Surely it is fair to say Tavaris is in no place to focus on matters in Western Yasteria at the moment.

Western Provinces Representative: The Western Provinces cannot offer much, either. We are, erm, rather on high alert for matters on our borders for well, obvious reasons. I suppose we could request Vistari forces if the UCA deems it required.

Johanna Sverdrup: [sigh] As you know, Norgsveltian soldiers already are fighting against the nationalists in this civil war in Helslandr, they have also died fighting when helping PLedonia to protect its border in the 13th of July, when nationalist soldiers spilled over into Pledonia. 100 Norgsveltian soldiers died fighting them. We have tried just giving limited support to forces against those fighting the nationalists, we tried just strengthening Pledonia’s border during this civil war. Yet it’s clear it’s not enough, and with the intel that the nationalists have tried to commit a genocide against the Nekomimi population in Helslandr, it’s clear that we must do a full UCA intervention. Not just because it’s a duty of this alliance to protect our members, but it is a moral duty for those who are suffering under the nationalists. You have Norgsveldet’s full support, I have already discussed with his majesty what we can give in terms of military support. I can assure you, we are ready to send 90.000 more troops at the shortest notice, including a large air support, at least 100 fighters of the Imperial Realms Airforce, and several hundred drones to get rid of this threat once and for all. With coordination with the United Front in Helslandr, which is made up of the royalists and republicans, and the Eyjarian Defence Forces, we can hit them from west and north. If the Western Provinces can request Vistari forces, that would be highly appreciated, though as I’ve heard, some members are limited in what they can send in materiel, and as such we must get help from other allies. Though I want to state this clear for the rest here, even if your nation can not send men or equipment, you have your diplomatic words. This is a UCA issue, and as such this intervention into Helslandr is a UCA intervention, and as such will have the diplomatic backing from all members in the UCA. Is this understood?

Western Provinces Representative: If you’ll please excuse me for a few minutes, I can get someone from Vierbak on the phone.


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Condemned and Censored

31 December 2021


Yesterday, on the 30th of December, the Andoran Union of Journalists in The Constitutional Corric Kingdom of Casilló and Réal condemned the Union of Commonwealth Alliances for its intervention in the Heslandr Civil War. The monarch of this Novaran nation, King Sebastian II, declared the UCA’s intervention in this conflict as “militarist and imperialist interventionism,” a clear and undeniable corruption of the true motives behind the war in Helslandr. This statement notably glosses over these true motives, barely offering half a sentence to discuss the terrorist attack in Pledonia. Since Casilló y Réal refuses to discuss it, Aivintis will discuss it instead.

On the 10th of December, an extremist right wing terrorist group, supported by nationalists from Helslandr, slaughtered nearly 500 innocent civilians with military grade weaponry in the Pledonian town of Litengrunn. Right wing terrorist groups such as this Iron Front are a scourge on the world, a disease that needs to be eradicated. Aivintis believes the death of hundreds cannot go unpunished, cannot go unavenged, cannot go unnoticed. The Union of Commonwealth Alliances agrees. The King of Casilló y Réal disagrees.

His statement that “military deployment is simply to seat the already-Queen Consort of Nilovia at the head of whatever state emerges from the Helslandr Civil War” is uninformed and misleading. In the halls of the UCA, the ambassadors from member states, including Mr. Hodge of Aivintis, resolved to fight against right wing terrorism in Helslandr. No individual in the UCA, no nation, not even Norgsveldet, suggested the UCA take over, or colonise it. No one. Never did it even cross our minds. We were solely focused on bringing justice to the parties responsible for this tragedy. Norgsveldet did not even propose military action in Helslandr, it was the representative from Pledonia themselves. That is the simple truth that Casilló y Réal conveniently ignores.

Aivintis believes it should be the solemn, unassailable duty of every virtuous nation on Urth to oppose right wing extremism and fight terrorism whereever, whenever, and however they can. That the Corric Kingdom would be so brash as to suggest that the UCA are puppets of colonialist Norgsveltian wars is outrageous enough. That it would go so far as to take the side of the terrorists, to take the side of the monsters that massacred nearly 500 innocent civilians unprovoked, to denounce the Union of Commonwealth Alliance for intervening in the name of justice, is detestable.

It is the solemn and unassailable belief of the Aivintian people that there should be no mercy for the savages that butchered these innocents. There should be no hiding from the light, no hiding from the forces of justice. There should be no forgiveness for this evil. The people of Pledonia cry for retribution, and yet the Corric King spits on the memory of the victims of this injustice, condemns the UCA for offering this retribution, and ends diplomatic missions with any nation that dares challenge extremist terrorism. There shall be no forgiveness for this, either.

In response to this reprehensible statement by the King and the subsequent publishing thereof by the Andoran Union of Journalists, the Aivintian government has made the decision to institute full censorship of the Andoran Union of Journalists within Aivintis as long as they continue to support and publish this false propaganda. This action will be reversed only if the Andoran Union of Journalists issues an official apology for the slander of the UCA, and publicly disagrees with or declares full neutrality on the King of Casilló y Réal and his pro-terrorist statement, specifically. This action is made in accordance with the spirit of Emperor Thaddeus I Stuart’s 1912 mandate banning all “destructive and abhorrent ideologies” within Aivintis and the 2013 Executive Order permitting the censorship of any foreign or local media espousing slander of the Aivintian government.

Corric diplomats, or “Commissioners”, from Casilló y Réal will not be turned away to negotiate this position, but the Federal Kritarchy refuses to conduct any other diplomacy with the Kingdom until an official retraction and apology is issued by the King or any future head of state. Aivintis does not take these PR attacks on its nation and allies lightly, and will continue to oppose anti-UCA and anti-Aivintis propaganda whenever it may arise. We stand strong and unthreatened in the face of such deceitful, underhanded publicity stunts.

As a preemptive statement addressing the news article released earlier today by the Andoran Union of Journalists, the government of Aivintis denies these additional false claims that our UCA allies are reacting as if this condemnation is the same as economic sanctions. We are reacting as if this condemnation is a public attack on the principles of our nations and our allies, because it is. We are reacting as if these comments denouncing our fight against terrorism are as repulsive as they are. Foreign news organisations and foreign affairs agencies may contact Chief Ambassador Barnutiu for further clarification.

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Silent Protest

1 January 2022

It was raining. It was almost always raining in Redmondburg. Aivintis itself is a very cloudy, cold country, but Redmondburg had a reputation even within it for gloomy weather. Storms happened far too often for most people’s comfort, and flash flooding was prominent. Summer was the only break they had. Today, however, it was only drizzling. It was a good day to go out, and, in a way, that’s what Luca Serban was doing.

He had joined the People’s Movement for Justice two years ago, when his boyfriend was arrested for “practising journalism without a licence”, after he posted a video of a police officer pushing an old man to the ground on Pigeon. He always knew his country was one of the least free in the world, but hadn’t cared all too much. He always thought things were okay enough, or would sort themselves out. Once it touched him personally, however, he finally understood. He managed to track down someone who knew Laurentiu Aldulescu, and he got into the PMJ.

He wasn’t sure they all trusted him yet, and he hadn’t even met Laurentiu yet, but the members he met seemed to be incredibly kind individuals, expressing sympathy for his anger and encouraging him to investigate the crimes against freedom committed by the Aivintian state. Their attitude was what convinced him what they were doing was right. The silent protest was his idea, partially. He recommended a public event, unaffiliated with the PMJ itself, to gauge public engagement with efforts for change. It was Doris who suggested a silent protest, however, an older lady who wasn’t actually going to be present for it.

He put on a light raincoat, bright red. All the PMJ members would be wearing one. It allowed them to identify each other without drawing too much attention. The tape they’d be wearing across their mouths was black, though, and had been distributed to over a hundred people so far, although more than four hundred expressed interest. They expected a lower turnout than promised, of course. A lot of people struggled with follow-through, especially faced with the reality of standing up to all-powerful tyrants.

He boarded the train from his district on the line that led to Toma Nord Square. The city of Redmondburg was notable for its large open plazas and squares, where cars were prohibited, trees were plentiful, and stores were quaint. Foreign newspapers often praised its pedestrian-friendly design, but it didn’t change the fact that these squares were so close to highways and busy streets that you could never escape the Aivintian automobile epidemic. Toma Nord Square was one of the biggest and busiest, so it was a natural choice.

Toma Nord himself was an Aivintian hero, credited with the implementation of the first constitutional monarchy and parliamentary form of government in Aivintia, an act which would inspire Teronia two decades later, and eventually be the basis for the United Kingdom of Aivintis. It wasn’t far enough, though, and the PMJ demonstration there would make that clear. The people cried for freedom and popular sovereignty. They would not settle for half measures. That was the message they intended to convey. That was the reason Luca signed up for the PMJ.

The train arrived, and the automated voice said to stand clear of the closing doors after Luca stepped out into the station. It was only a short walk to where the demonstrators would be, and he already saw a crowd of fifteen or so people gathered at the centre, near the Toma Nord statue. None were wearing a red coat. He was the first PMJ member to arrive. He said hi to a few, and struck up some conversation, careful not to reveal his involvement in the protest’s organisation. If something happened, no one could be held responsible. That was the plan.

The next PMJ member to arrive was a man by the name of Viorel, whom Luca had never seen before. He mentioned he would be leaving before the protest started, but wanted to wish everyone luck. Something about him looked familiar, but he didn’t say anything. After Stan and Florina arrived, he curtly nodded and then walked towards the train station. There were only a few minutes left by that point, and there were only thirty or so protestors still. Some people started to take notice, but Luca prayed to the Great Architect that they wouldn’t end the protest before it began.

Three more PMJ members arrived with a group of about a dozen people, which heartened Luca. He couldn’t help but feel incredibly optimistic about the whole affair, now. It wasn’t a lot by most standards, but it was a start, and it meant more people wanted change than just the PMJ. It wasn’t just a fringe group of extremists. There were a lot of people interested. As people started putting on the tape, Luca checked the social media app which they used to organise the event, and saw dozens of new notifications about people dropping out and having last minute doubts. Disappointing, but he was sure it didn’t mean they stopped caring about their future. They were just scared. They all were. They had to understand that, together, they had nothing to fear.

He put the black tape over his mouth and picked up a sign. There weren’t many, and he was the only PMJ member holding one, but he was willing to take that risk for his own safety. It read, “STOP SILENCING JOURNALISTS.” A woman a few metres from him held one that said “YOU CANNOT SUPPRESS THE TRUTH.” He didn’t need to read the rest to know what they said. “FREEDOM OF PRESS NOW,” “WE STAND AGAINST TYRANNY,” “NO MORE PROPAGANDA,” and “WE WILL NOT BE MANIPULATED.” He wrote some of them himself. He was quite proud of it. By the time everyone took their places, multiple people had come over to see what was going on, probably expecting a street performance of some sort. Cameras flashed. People muttered.

He pretended it did not kill him when a few protestors tried to quietly slip away. They could not afford to falter, not with the whole city looking at them. This was a statement, crying out to the world. Silently, they were screaming for freedom. For true justice. Together. If they were not together, they would not win. Holding fast to their morals, their convictions, was the only option. He couldn’t bring himself to think of what might happen if their united front wavered.

The first police officer to check on them was a young elf who was clearly new to the force. He looked somewhat confused, as if he didn’t quite know what to do. Also a little embarrassed. Luca’s heart soared. This was amazing luck. It would definitely extend the protest. Then, the young officer spoke into his radio, that puzzled look still present. He didn’t leave. He just stood there. As if he was monitoring the situation.

About ten of them came in total, clad in body armour and armed with riot shields and shotguns. They stopped just by the young elf officer, who scurried away with what looked like shame. Five protestors fled at the mere sight of the police, one of which dropped a sign that had the word “FREEDOM” on it in large letters. One of the cops, probably a sergeant, called out with a megaphone for them to disperse. By then, a huge crowd had formed, and there was even a camera crew. Many people had their phones filming, though. Good. Let the whole world see what happened here today.

Many of the protestors had fled by then, but a core of about 35 people still remained. As little as it was, Luca was glad that it wasn’t just people in red raincoats. That had to mean something. The officers began to slowly approach, holding up their riot shields, but some burst of adrenaline from the fear kept the people in front from fleeing. The officer told them to disperse once more, and then shouted something that Luca couldn’t hear. Then, he heard a hiss and saw white smoke rising from a canister on the ground near him.

Through his tears, he saw the police officers knocking people to the ground with their riot shields, and heard bones cracking. Ten more police officers, wearing gas masks and body armour but no riot shields, had arrived and begun handcuffing people. He ripped the tape off his mouth and screamed for everyone to run, before he felt his head hit the pavement and his arms pulled behind his back with incredible strength.

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Diplomatic Reassignment

17 January 2022


Chief Ambassador Valerica Mircea, Council Chair: This meeting of the Foreign Council is hereby called to order. The first item on the agenda is the behaviour of International Forum Ambassador Crane. The Chair recognizes Narcisa Cuza, member of the Committee on International Policy.

Committeemember Narcisa Cuza: Good day, Councilmembers. The Committee on International Policy would like to request the reassignment of Mr Crane from the International Forum. We believe his aggressive and standoffish behaviour is unbecoming of a representative of the Aivintian Empire, and detracts from the agenda of the Committee on International Policy. I submit for consideration the records of the General Council of the International Forum.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: The Council has reviewed these records in closed chambers. We believe they alone do not constitute justification for reassignment.

Committeemember Cuza: Thank you, Chair. Uh I’d like to assert that the comments made by Mr Crane breach the Council’s standards of conduct. His confrontational attitude has led to complaints from multiple other nations, and betrays a lack of professionalism in his work. Given the importance of the International Forum Ambassadorship, the Committee on International Policy believes there should be no room for leniency in this department.

Chief Ambassador Marceline Barnutiu: Speaking as an expert in the media aspect of this accusation, there have been numerous foreign articles condemning breach of conduct similar to that of Mr Crane, but there have been none specifically citing Crane’s words or actions.

Committeemember Cuza: In response to that, Councilmember, I maintain that it is only a matter of time before Crane’s behaviour becomes a media scandal.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: Given media trends, that may be likely.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Thank you, Chief Ambassador Barnutiu. I believe, Committeemember Cuza, you requested authorisation of witness testimony?

Committeemember Cuza: Yes, Chair.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: The Council hereby authorises Committeemember Cuza to call witnesses to the Council.

Committeemember Cuza: Thank you, Chair. I call Ms Suciu, a Junior Ambassador serving under Mr Crane.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: The Chair recognises Junior Ambassador Suciu.

Ms Suciu: Thank you, Chair. In my professional opinion, Mr Crane’s actions have diminished the credibility and authority of the Aivintian Empire in the International Forum. I have noted seven complaints delivered to his office and three delivered to me personally.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: These complaints have been considered by the Council.

Ms Suciu: I believe the best way to restore Aivintian legitimacy in the International Forum is to dismiss Mr Crane from government office and publicly denounce his behaviour.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: That would only lead to more media attention.

Chief Ambassador Ionatan Vladimiri: Not necessarily. Getting in front of the issue could save us from a scandal, and allow us to control the narrative. We can put our own angle on it, and the public would be content that we dealt with the issue before it damages our public image.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: There is still a chance this story will never break, meaning we take more damage from addressing the issue than from sweeping it under the rug.

Chief Ambassador Vladimiri: I’d rather we control what happens rather than leave it up to chance.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: I recommend my fellow Councilmembers leave debate until after testimony. Thank you, Ms Suciu. Committeemember Cuza?

Commiteemember Cuza: I call Mr Fielding, a Junior Ambassador serving under Mr Crane.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: The Chair recognises Junior Ambassador Fielding.

Mr Fielding: Thank you, Chair. While I believe Mr Crane has breached decorum, and should be reprimanded, it is my professional opinion that we stand the most to benefit by promoting Mr Crane into a position where these standards do not need to be upheld, so that we can replace him with someone more fitting to the position without risking the media attention.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: What is your opinion on the nature of Mr Crane’s behaviour, Mr Fielding?

Mr Fielding: I believe it is unacceptable.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Thank you, Mr Fielding.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: [sigh] I think we get the picture, Chair. I recommend we recognise Mr Crane for his defence.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Very well. The Chair recognises Ambassador Crane.

Mr Crane: Er thank you, Chair. I uh would like to contest Committeemember Cuza’s claim that my behaviour constitutes a violation of our diplomatic uh standards. Our rules of decorum dictate that I maintain the regulations of the International Forum, and I have not once been reprimanded by the Secretary-General or Deputy Secretary-General for breach of conduct. I have accurately portrayed the uh position of the Aivintian Empire within the chambers of the Forum, and have performed my duties without controversy. The Committee on International Policy’s only duty is to craft international policy. As long as their agenda is being fulfilled, they have no right to interfere with the Foreign Council, which is granted full autonomy over Foreign relations via Imperial Order uh 131020, regarding the independence of the Foreign Council from the Senate. I have done everything that has been uh asked of me, and more. I remind the Chair that the Foreign Council answers only to the High Court and Imperial Cabinet regarding matters of uh diplomatic appointments, and is permitted to assign ambassadors as it sees fit. The uh Committee on International Policy has no authority to request the reassignment or dismissal of any ambassador, even the Ambassador to the International Forum.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Thank you for your testimony, Mr Crane. Do you have any witnesses on your behalf?

Mr Crane: No, Chair. I believe no one has a right to interfere with the governing bodies of the Empire, and do not intend to further degrade the principles of our government by pushing my own brand of participatorianism.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Very well. Does Committeemember Cuza have a rebuttal?

Committeemember Cuza: Yes, Chair. I assert that the Committee’s influence in the Foreign Council is not an overreach of our authority or an insult to the Council’s. The Committee ultimately answers to the Council, and not the other way around, but communicating the Committee’s desires regarding matters affecting its duties is important to smoothly maintaining our bureaucracy. There is no attempt at democracy here, I assure you, Councilmembers. Mr Crane is simply deflecting blame so that this Council does not hold him accountable for his actions.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Thank you, Ms Cuza. I will allow the Councilmembers to ask their questions.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: Does the International Policy Committee have a recommendation for a replacement?

Committeemember Cuza: Junior Ambassador Fielding has demonstrated more professionalism than Mr Crane, and has experience in the office from a period wherein Mr Crane was on leave. He has served for ten years as part of Mr Crane’s diplomatic staff, and has a master’s degree in Peace Studies from Lerasi College.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: The same Junior Ambassador Fielding that testified against Mr Crane?

Committeemember Cuza: Yes, ma’am. He has no knowledge of the Committee’s recommendation.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: So you have no idea if he wants the job?

Committeemember Cuza: It is not our place to offer him anything.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: I agree.

Chief Ambassador Sanda Vasile: Has His Excellency Justice Crane been notified of the Committee’s request?

Commiteemember Cuza: No, Councilmember.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: Why not?

Committeemember Cuza: The Committee decided it was up to the Council to consult with His Excellency regarding this issue.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: You mean you didn’t want to anger him.

Committeemember Cuza: I uh—

Her Excellency Justice Maria Lupu: I will inform Justice Crane. Do not let it affect the Council’s final decision.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: Thank you, Your Excellency.

Her Excellency Justice Lupu: Chair?

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Yes, Your Excellency. All witnesses are dismissed. Mr Crane, do not return to Rilanon until the final decision is delivered. Committeemember Cuza, the Committee on International Policy will be informed of our final decision. The Council will now vote in closed session.

Her Excellency Justice Lupu: For the purposes of this vote, I will act as a Councilmember.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Your statement is noted, Your Excellency. First, I believe, we should decide on the terms of the vote.

Chief Ambassador Vladimiri: The Committee only requested reassignment. I think we should go with Mr Fielding’s recommendation of a promotion into the capitol. Then, we can assign Mr Fielding himself as the new Ambassador to the Forum.

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: Maybe we should promote him into the Committee on International Policy.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Heh, I don’t think they could really complain.

Chief Ambassador Vladimiri: Although I do not recommend assigning him there just to get back at the Committee for petitioning us—

Chief Ambassador Barnutiu: Imposing their will on us, more like.

Chief Ambassador Vladimiri: —I do think Mr Crane’s experience lends well to the position.

Chief Ambassador Dragomir Gabor: I wouldn’t mind that.

Chief Ambassador Mircea: Any objections? Alright. I hereby call to a vote of the Foreign Council the matter of promoting Ambassador Jacob Crane into the position of Committeemember of the Committee on International Policy and the promotion of Junior Ambassador Raymond Fielding into the position of Ambassador to the International Forum.

Her Excellency Justice Lupu: The vote is hereby acknowledged as binding.


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The Righteous Hand of God

10 February 2022

The governor’s mansion is a staple of every major city in Aivintis. When Empress Mariana died of cancer, and Chief Minister Whitcher rolled tanks through the streets of the capitol, they were called ducal palaces, but the Dukes were deposed, or moved to areas of governance where their existing connections and influence wouldn’t be a threat to Whitcher, and the Governors appointed in their place didn’t like the word palace, which was associated too much with monarchism, so the governor’s mansion was born.

Smaller cities and towns were often run by the remnants of the Imperial nobility. Minor nobles didn’t pose a threat to Whitcher’s non-monarchical dictatorship, and so were allowed to keep their small estates and few subjects. Often, they retained many of the titles and systems of the monarchy, but in the major cities, which were the centre of the Aivintian economy, Whitcher ensured that all the terms were adequately redefined.

The governor’s mansion in Novoska may have been called such, but looked, for all intents and purposes, unchanged from the days in which Duke Vasilije drove around in his white suit and red convertible, adorned in medals from the Imperial Army. Governor Gavrilo Ristic, for all intents and purposes, was the new Duke. Foregoing a circlet and style did not prevent him from sitting on high in his Baroque palace hoarding his wealth while his people suffered. And where the Duke was kept in check by the Senate, Governor Ristic was not.

In fact, Eduard Stoker did not give a damn about what he did in Novoska. He had more important things to deal with. The People’s Movement for Justice was almost certainly growing in size and power, organised crime was becoming a major issue throughout the country, and Serdemia itself was plagued with a separatist movement. As long as Ristic kept Novoska from resisting Aivintian supremacy, Stoker was willing to grant him more freedom than most Governors.

While this freedom could have been put to good use undoing the damage the Kritarchy had done to its people, it was used instead to exacerbate it. The use of city police constituted, for all practical purposes, a sort of martial law. The Governor imposed strict rules on gatherings for citizens of Serdemic ancestry, minor criminal offences were punished harshly, assets and property were seized on baseless charges, and checkpoints were installed throughout the city. People who protested these changes were labelled either terrorists or mafia enforcers without investigation.

Many of these acts were illegal even under the Kritarchy, but that didn’t matter. All of them were illegal when the Senate still existed, anyway. It didn’t matter if the Kritarchy would have allowed it or not. They didn’t look too closely at Novoska nowadays. Governor Ristic could do what he wanted, when he wanted. It was an acceptable loss of control for the Kritarchy. The people of Novoska didn’t think so. They kept their heads down, because if they didn’t, they’d get fined, arrested, or killed, but staying silent did not mean accepting their circumstances.

Governor Ristic didn’t care if they accepted it or not. As long as the money kept rolling, the people did as they were told, and the Kritarchy didn’t get involved, he was happy. When he first took the job, he tried to do right by the people. He didn’t quite see the shape of things yet. He was lenient, granting his people more freedom than many other cities, but then the Serdemic Independence Group blew up a police car, killing a young officer and injuring his partner, and Ristic realised he wasn’t going to keep power as long as he played nice.

He clamped down on separatism before the governors of Saragrad and Nisava even recognised it was a problem, and when Eduard Stoker turned his watchful gaze to the Serdemic lands, he had already taken great steps to curtail opposition to the Aivintian government. He could have left it at that, but he had gotten too used to the influx of wealth and the lack of oversight. He would take no more chances. Gavrilo Ristic intended to rule for decades yet, and he would do whatever it took to make that happen.

Emilija Ristovski lived in Novoska all her life. She was born during the rule of Anton Radu, but didn’t remember anything of her country before the coronation of Empress Mariana. She always wanted to be a doctor, but when she was fifteen, George Whitcher took power, and immediately began destroying the hard work of a hundred years of constitutional monarchy. She remembered looking out of the windows of her school as armoured trucks rolled through the streets of Novoska.

She was fifteen when she realised that freedom was not promised. She might have been able to move on, forget it, keep her head down, and let her country be corrupted by tyrants, but when she graduated secondary school, she was denied entrance into the University of Serdemia, and Novoska University, and every other college she applied to. She and thousands of others. Funding had been pulled from the Serdemic schools to fund an increase in police, and higher education just wasn’t an option for her anymore. She took a different path.

Governor Ristic was on the phone when he heard a large thump, as if a great weight had dropped to the floor. His office was large, and adorned with dozens of useless decorations - his degrees in political science and urban planning were framed next to wall paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries which were better kept in a museum. From his oval desk, he rarely heard anything from the hallway, which meant that something was probably wrong.

“I’ll have to call you back. I apologise for the inconvenience.” He hung up after he heard the polite reply, then gestured to his personal security guard. “Something’s up in the hallway, go check it out.”

The hulk of a man took barely three steps towards the door when it burst open and he fell to the floor with two new bullet wounds in his head and blood all over his pristine black suit. Governor Ristic tried to lunge for the man’s fallen machine pistol, but a couple silenced warning shots kept him at his desk. He pressed a panic button on the bottom panel of the desk, and tried to keep the intruder talking. She was a young woman, maybe 25, and wore a black, cloth mask over her mouth. She looked him up and down, taking in his tieless grey suit, then raised her pistol to the two cameras in the room and squeezed the trigger with her gloved finger.

They stood in silence for a second, until she pulled down the mask. “Gavrilo Ristic, do you know why I am here?” Her accent matched his own - Serdemic, then. That disgusted him.

“Why’d you have to pull that mask down?” He asked instead of replying. “You could have turned around and left.”

“Answer the fucking question.”

“To kidnap me, ransom me to the highest bidder, I imagine.” He just had to keep her talking.

She raised her gun and shot past his ear, ruining a two-million crown painting behind him. “Answer my fucking questions. I’m not going to sit here while you dance around the truth. I’m not an idiot, Mr Ristic, do not treat me like one.”

“You’re here to kill me.”

“That’s the right answer. Do you know why?”

“I imagine you have some complaints about the way I run things. You and your SIG comrades.”

“I have no affiliation with those monsters. What policies do you think led you here, to this moment, under the barrel of my gun?”

“Maybe you don’t like how I’m maintaining law and order in the city. Maybe one of your seditious friends was arrested.”

“Law and order?” Her voice was tinted with anger. “You murder and kidnap and steal from anyone who so much as looks at you the wrong way. You are a fascist dog.”

“I guess I was right,” he replied.

She nodded, then paused. “Do you know how long it’s been since you pressed the button on the underside of your desk?”

He chose his next words very carefully. He didn’t think she’d accept any more stalling. “A few minutes, maybe.”

“They should have arrived by now.”

He didn’t say anything.

“Do you understand your present situation?”

Quietly, he said, “I do.”

“Good. I am going to kill you now. For all your crimes, for the tyranny and oppression you brought into this world, and the suffering you inflicted on the people that looked to you for guidance.”

“Do you think you’re any better than me?” One last-ditch attempt to throw her off guard.

“Last year, a police superintendent in Nisava was shot in the stomach during a raid on a mafia meeting. It was a big arrest, so he was there personally. His injuries were bad, but they took him to the nearest hospital - Tomic General Hospital. The Serdemic Independence Group found out. You see, they’d been wanting to assassinate a police superintendent for a while, and this was a perfect opportunity. They killed a thirty three year old nurse who was attending the man. She had a three year old son. They snuck in with her identification, planted a bomb under his bed, and detonated it from a distance. He died. He had a wife. Two officers on his security detail were injured as well. I found the man who did it. I followed him home, made him kneel, and shot him twice in the head. He begged for his life. He had a daughter. I killed him anyway.”

“What do you want me to do with that? You want me to commend you for murdering equally across both sides of the conflict?”

“No. I want you to know that nothing you can do can stop me. Nothing anyone can do can stop me. And I want you to know that when I kill someone, they deserve it. Look at all you’ve done. It’s all led to here. It’s all for nothing. Justice will be done. I will ensure it.”

“You think that—”

Two shots sounded. Emilija stepped over the governor’s body and rummaged through the drawers of his desk. She took out a thick manila folder and placed it under her arm. As she left the room, she took one look back at Gavrilo Ristic. His blood was staining a white fur rug on the floor. “Pity.” Then she was gone.

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Revolutionary Ideas

11 February 2022

The meeting room of the People’s Movement for Justice was tense. Laurentiu Aldulescu sat at the head of the table, befitting his position as Movement President. Doris Romanescu sat to his immediate right. Although there were about twenty chairs around the table, there were about thirty people in the meeting, leading some to be forced to stand.

This was the first full meeting of the PMJ in a very long time, and the first time many of its members were meeting each other. One of the newest members, a boy by the name of Luca, if Laurentiu’s memory served him, was looking around with curiosity at the paintings on the wall and the serious expressions of his fellow revolutionaries.

Many PMJ meetings were tense. Tempers flared, and arguments ensued. It was only natural for an organisation meeting consensus on such major issues. How to minimise casualties in a bombing on a military storehouse, which police station to tear gas, where to organise a silent protest. They did important work in securing the future of the country, and without disagreement, their plan wouldn’t work.

This time, however, it was different. Many of the older members, such as Doris, did not trust the newer members. Some were obsessed with the security of the operation over its effectiveness, to ensure that more was done in the long run. Having everyone in one room did not ease that suspicion, that fear. But more than anything, the cause of the tension was a recent meeting between Laurentiu and a representative from the Serdemic Independence Group named Nikola, the details of which were yet unknown to the Movement.

“Thank you everybody for coming. This is an important meeting, and I’m glad you all could make it.” Aldulescu’s voice was powerful and commanding. His charisma was the only reason the rebellious organisation had formed and was a major contributor to its longevity.

“I admit it’s very unusual,” he continued, “for the entirety of our band to be in one place. This has largely been because of security concerns, and we welcome now two new members, Luca and Kiril, who have been relatively isolated to protect our camp as we continued to gauge their loyalty and dedication.” Laurentiu gestured to Luca and Kiril as he spoke.

He paused, letting some members, such as Viorel, smile or wave at the newcomers in encouragement and others, mainly Doris, stare suspiciously. “The subject matter of this meeting, as you may have guessed, is heavily linked to my recent meeting with Nikola Andric, a leader in the Serdemic Independence Group. The SIG is a sister organisation of sorts to us, fighting for freedom from tyranny and self-determination in ethnically Serdemic cities, while we do the same in all other parts of Aivintis. The tale Nikola told me was quite disheartening. The way she tells it, her group is in dire straits. One of their top leaders killed himself to evade capture, police presence continues to climb in response to Governor Ristic’s assassination, and they have experienced resignations out of fear of discovery and internal arguments over their next move.”

Doris scoffed. “So? What do we owe them?” Her old age was more apparent in her voice than her outward appearance.

Laurentiu gave the woman a long-suffering look. “We cannot hope to bring about a better world if we ignore the plight of those who desire it as much as us. They could prove a useful ally, if that’s the angle that you prefer, but we owe them the same as we owe everyone else in this country - freedom. We cannot turn our back on them without going down a road that leads to a new tyranny replacing this one rather than a democracy.”

Florina, a 38 year old member who Laurentiu had found agreeable and moderate, was the next to speak. With a puzzled look, she questioned, “But what can be done?” Before Laurentiu thought up an answer, she continued. “I mean, the best thing for them is to lie low until the danger passes, right?”

“That could be years,” a middle-aged small-businessman named Paul answered. “Aivintis does not baulk at increasing police spending, or at instituting what is basically martial law. They may not stop until the killer is found, and they may not even stop then.”

Some of the other members, especially a couple of the newer ones, began to look nervous as they realised the gravity of the situation in the north, and the ease with which the same could be applied to their movement. Internally, Laurentiu wanted to smack the man for pointing that out. They couldn’t afford doubts. “You’re right, of course. The best thing to do is to fight back. It’s difficult, yes, but still possible to oppose the government while under such scrutiny.”

“Anything we do could just lead to tighter security, especially at this point in time,” Florina pointed out. “I mean a Governor was assassinated yesterday. And not a minor one either.”

“Unless we draw them out from Serdemia,” Luca said. “We spread them thin. They can still fund and supply more police, but they can always do that. If we just bring their attention elsewhere, they may not be as inclined to smother the problem completely. There’s still hope.”

“Yes,” Laurentiu interjected. “That is a distinct possibility. One Nikola and I discussed. I suggested something slightly different, however. We work with them to provide the resources they need for a large-scale operation in the north, then hide them in our safehouses. Then, following their major action, if we scale up our own efforts, the government will be caught off-guard. With luck, we avoid overwhelming force and win another fight for freedom.”

While the others considered this plan, Doris was already nodding. “Ristic’s dead. Why don’t we target a different governor?”

“That will have the opposite effect!” Viorel shouted, having previously stayed silent. “We do that and they have too much ammunition for their propaganda machines. We have to pick our battles wisely.”

“Mr Aldulescu said to do something big. I suggested something big.” Doris seemed to not care what Viorel thought of her.

“It’s one thing to play with fire for the sake of the future, it’s another entirely to burn things down just to see what will happen,” another member, Rayka, said.

“That’s not at all what I’m suggesting,” Doris responded pointedly, her anger seeping through. “I am suggesting a targeted, precise attack. It is strategic. You destroy the leadership, and the enemy cannot win.”

“But you can’t, can you? Destroy the leadership, I mean.” Florina said. Doris turned to her angrily, but she continued anyway. “The bureaucracy, it’s too complicated. And governor, it’s too low level. You kill a governor, they appoint a new one. They probably already have one in line for Ristic. Even if you kill a Justice, they appoint a new one. Whoever killed Mardare should have known that.”

Doris said nothing. Laurentiu watched her carefully, determined not to let the secret of Governor Byrne’s kill order escape the inner circle of Byrne’s private revolution. She knew enough not to give anything away though, just scoffed, as she did when she wanted to end an argument without conceding.

The silence gave room for another voice, Viorel’s, to speak up. “What concerns me is there is another player, maybe two, killing Kritarchy officials. Expertly.”

“I don’t want us to worry about that,” Laurentiu said. “We have enough to deal with, and the enemy of our enemy resembles our friend closely enough to not warrant action.”

“What about a police station?” Stan said, lending his ideas to the conversation for the first time. “We could do a bombing, if we can get in touch with some arms dealers.”

“That will not be a problem,” Laurentiu replied. “Although there would be a high chance of failure.”

“Okay.” Stan scratched his chin. “Embassies wouldn’t be an option, right? Wouldn’t wanna piss off other countries. Stoker’s keeping us to himself for now, let’s not change that. We could try a courthouse. It’d be extremely symbolic.”

“I like that idea,” Florina offered.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bombing,” Laurentiu stated. “If you have other ideas, feel free to share them. We can take a vote on the courthouse idea, otherwise.”

“Maybe an oil rig.” Luca Serban spoke quietly, but firmly. Everyone turned to him. “If we can attack their sources of income, we can do real damage. It’s not as symbolic as a courthouse, but it’s much more effective. We could even do a handful if we want. Money is what fuels this political environment.”

“You’ve only been here for twenty minutes, and you’re already proposing your own plans?” Doris challenged.

“Mrs Romanescu, I would appreciate it if you didn’t accost our members,” Laurentiu warned.

Doris scoffed.

“Mr Serban, I think your idea has value. Attacking the economy is just as important a task in undermining the government. I think, however, for the SIG mission, a courthouse is a better target. In fact, we could maybe even target multiple. When I plan our next moves, I will keep your suggestion in mind.”

“If I may,” Kiril, the other newcomer, added, “I think we should try to focus on getting the support of some major political figures. Some governors, maybe. Getting support from the inside could be beneficial to our operation - for information, access to military equipment, and support if it comes to all-out war.”

When it comes to all out war,” someone muttered. Laurentiu didn’t see who.

“I think we’re thinking too far ahead,” Laurentiu said simply. “Let’s focus on destabilising the government first. Then we can worry about gathering support. All in due time.” They did not need to know that the PMJ was only a piece of the puzzle, anymore than they needed to know he was involved in Mardare’s assassination. Compartmentalisation was key to planning a coup d’etat. Even he didn’t know everything about the plan. “But I admire your forward thinking,” he added, almost as an afterthought.

“Let’s vote on the courthouse plan,” Doris reminded him.

“Yes, quite. All in favour of assisting the Serdemic Independence Group with a coordinated attack on multiple courthouses, hiding them in our safehouses, and taking bolder action immediately following, please raise your hand.” 17 hands. That was a majority. “All against?” 5. He was expecting some abstentions. That was fine. Laurentiu could work with that.

“Very well. I will deliver the good news to Nikola.”

1 Like

Treason Charges

28 February 2022

The cell was cold and dark. Teo Tilea sat in silence, staring at the concrete brick wall. The barred windows above were too high up to see through, but looked over an internal courtyard nonetheless. The towering walls of the prison shielded most of the natural light coming through. The lights in the hallways outside his cell were bright enough, but the small opening at the top of his heavily reinforced cell door let little of that in either. The heater was broken, he thought. Or off. Probably off. It’s more expensive to have it on, and the prisoners don’t deserve heat.

Two months earlier, he had been sitting in his office when heavily armed police officers burst in, throwing him to the ground and nearly breaking his arm to place him in handcuffs. He had asked them what his crime was, but one of them hit him over the head with the butt of a shotgun, and he had awoken in a jail cell. After a day of silence, a police inspector appeared before his cell and told him he was being charged with Treason for aiding and abetting enemies of the Aivintian Empire. He had asked her what she meant by that, but she just repeated herself. So he didn’t ask again.

She went on to interrogate him, asking him about things he had no possible way of knowing - names, addresses, numbers, all things relating to the People’s Movement for Justice and the Serdemic Independence Group. He had no idea about any of it, and told her as such, but she just told him that if he didn’t cooperate, his sentence would be worse. He knew enough to know that the sentence for treason was death, and there was likely nothing she would do to help him. That is, if he did know what she was asking, and if he actually wanted to share it. Thinking back to it, he thought that if he did know, he would not have told her. He knew enough to keep that to himself.

His cell was very standard for an Aivintian prison. Concrete all around. Barren walls, although that was likely intentional here, a special measure for him as a high value prisoner and all. It was a single bed rather than a bunk, but it was the same hard, cheap mattress and scratchy blanket that the average jail bed had. The pillow was old, but fine, he supposed. He could have had it worse. He had, actually, when he had been imprisoned for four years for possession of illicit substances, a much less serious crime. He couldn’t help but think that his criminal record would do him no favours when it came to court.

It was today. Or tomorrow. He wasn’t sure. They’d told him a week ago, but the week that had followed was marked with no activity but sitting, eating, and sleeping. The guards weren’t particularly chatty, and they generally kept him away from the other prisoners. He’d met with his assigned lawyer a couple times. He wasn’t confident they’d keep him from getting convicted. It was clear the police had neglected to choose a qualified candidate, instead picking a lawyer fresh out of law school as his public defender. They didn’t want him to have a fighting chance. They wanted a swift prosecution and a swift execution.

Footsteps in the hallway. Teo closed his eyes and considered praying, but decided it was a waste of energy. He didn’t turn or raise his head when the door swung open with a heavy creak and two guards stepped in, leading his under-qualified lawyer, who still looked surprised they were even here. The guards dragged him to his feet without asking him to stand, and pushed him against the wall to handcuff him once more. Teo grunted in pain, but it seemed to go unregistered.

The walk to the gates of the prison was long, which was expected, but the guards were gentler than he imagined they would be. That was nice. The car ride was short, so he didn’t have much time to come to terms with the coming trial, but he didn’t mind. There were cameras on him when the guards pulled him out of the car. They were rough, and his lawyer had the presence of mind to admonish them for it. They mumbled their apologies and walked Teo into the courthouse. He held his head high and locked eyes with every single person he could as he entered.

The courtroom itself was empty of observers. The judge was in traditional black robes, his gaze stern and, as it would turn out, judgmental. The jury box was empty. He’d known it’d be a bench trial from the moment he was charged. It was tyrannical by some measures, but Teo was grateful for it, if he was honest with himself. A jury’s mind would just be clouded and manipulated, certainly with a lawyer like his. The bench trial was a long shot, of course, Aivintian judges had been taking advantage of the Kritarchy to advance their own political power in a way that certainly compromised their impartiality and sense of justice, but a corrupt and abusive judge was better than an easily-manipulated jury.

“Take a seat, Mr Tilea,” the Judge, whose name the bench indicated was Emilian Cosovei, said.

“Thank you, Your Honour,” Teo replied.

“Your Honour, if it so pleases the court, may I deliver the opening statement on behalf of the people of the Aivintian Empire?” The prosecutor was Ramona Mihalache, and she spoke firmly and directly.

“You may.”

“Your Honour, as employment records confirm, Teo Tilea was the press officer for His Excellency Justice Oliver Crane in the offices of the High Court and Cabinet of the Aivintian Empire. He was entrusted with meeting with His Excellency and his top advisors, His Excellency who, as Your Honour must remember, oversees the Councils of Trade, Immigration, and Health. His Excellency is one of the highest public servants in our great Empire. The position of trust and privilege that Teo Tilea held was not one to be taken lightly, or one to be taken advantage of. And yet, as phone records and electronic mail will show, Mr Tilea shared classified information, illegally, with domestic terrorists and foreign leaders. Without His Excellency’s knowledge or consent. Simply put, the evidence the people will put forth and discuss in the course of this trial will prove, undoubtedly, that Mr Tilea not only betrayed his boss, but betrayed one of our most trusted and beloved leaders, one of the highest officials in our great nation, and by extension, that great nation. Per the Comprehensive Treason Act of 1916 and Imperial Order 130103, Teo Tilea is guilty of Treason, Sedition, and Espionage. The minimum sentence for each is 30 years. Per the 2001 High Court Case Serbanescu vs. The Aivintian Empire, the most reasonable sentence for a combination of Treason and Sedition is capital punishment. The people of the Aivintian Empire request, Your Honour, that Teo Tilea’s sentence—”

The explosion came without warning. A grand fireball engulfed the bench and witness stand, before extending to the seats of the prosecution and defence. Shrapnel was thrown across the room. Immediately, four people died, the Honourable Judge Emilian Cosovei chief among them. By the time the smoke cleared, nine were dead and six were injured. By the next day, only four of those injured parties would survive. The Serdemic Independence Group took credit before the last of the dead were dead.

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21 March 2022

“This Session of the High Court is hereby convened per the request of His Exalted Excellency Eduard Stoker, Acting Regent, Chief Minister, and Chief Justice of Aivintis.”

Stoker nodded his thanks to the record-keeper as they sat down. He scratched the grey stubble on his chin before speaking. “Thank you all for attending.” All of the Justices were present, each sitting upright with poise and confidence.

Chief Justice Stoker looked them each in the eyes and then continued. “Let’s begin with a report from each of you. Justice Grigorescu?”

“Yes, Your Exalted Excellency,” came the response, as Nistor seemed to straighten his back even more, as if it were possible. “The Military Council has authorised the delivery of more equipment to Helslandr for use by the UCA forces there. Apart from that, business remains as usual. We’re on standby for martial law should the rebellions come to that. The Intelligence Council has greenlit an operation to infiltrate the SIG - we currently view them as the most dangerous threat, and the easiest to root out.”

“The PMJ would be next?”

“Yes, Your Exalted Excellency.”

Stoker nodded, deep in thought, then turned to Justice Lupu. “Maria?”

She bristled at his familiar form of address, but stayed quiet on it. “Foreign affairs are well. Our new International Forum Ambassador is doing his job well. Recently, the UCA came under fire and he leaped to their defence. Our embassies have been functioning well, business as usual. I’m thinking we should have a state visit soon, to remind the people just how legitimate we are.”

When Stoker spoke, his voice was tainted with scorn and venom. “I wouldn’t let those fools’ words get to you. They’re a small band of small-minded small people. They have no chance of being anything but a minor inconvenience.”

“I understand, Your Exalted Excellency.”

“Yet a state visit might be a good way to advance our diplomatic agenda. Have a chat with the Council, then. Pick an ally.”

“Yes, Your Exalted Excellency,” Justice Lupu said, and then continued. “Education is strong as well. We recently hosted an essay contest among our high school students. Our workers are sorting through the applications and judging them appropriately, to issue a proper reward. Otherwise, there’s a new textbook we’re considering for the curriculum, to replace an outdated one. Nothing big, nothing interesting.”

“Good,” came the Chief Justice’s response. “Interesting is bad news. We want a stable education system, no disruptions, no issues. Now. Justice Crane?”

“Our Trade Council is overseeing a deal to open a new oil rig. We have an issue with zoning for a manufacturing plant, too. Those are minor events, though, barely worth mentioning.” He paused, as if unsure to bring up the next point of issue, but Stoker nodded at him to continue. “We have a proposal by one of our Councillors to increase internet access in rural areas, but there’s significant opposition due to concerns on whether or not it’s a worthy investment. Rural citizens aren’t very productive or profitable members of society.”

“I agree,” Stoker replied. “We don’t want to waste any more money than necessary. Throw out that proposal. Those people do nothing for us.”

“Yes, Your Exalted Excellency. There’s no news for Immigration. The border is secure. Health is producing a new vaccine for a pesky little epidemic that has sprouted up in the south. We’re monitoring the situation. I don’t expect any difficulties with that.”

Stoker nodded solemnly. “Thank you, Justice Crane. Now, for our newest addition, Justice Groza.”

“I’ve had a bit of a power struggle with the Energy Council Chair, who seemed to be used to having full control over her department, but I sorted her out, Your Exalted Excellency. She shouldn’t be a problem. Transportation is quiet. Nothing new there.”

“Alright. Thank you, Justice Groza.” Chief Justice Stoker seemed pleased with the proceedings. “Thank you all. My own affairs, justice and treasury, have no new issues that require any of your input. However, there was one thing I wanted to discuss with you all. I was interested in publicly honouring August Byrne’s success in fighting crime in his county. The mafia have had a decreased presence to the point of near eradication in Castenor. While officially opposing the mafia is not in our best interest, rewarding successful opposition in isolation could nudge the local leaders towards more action.” Stoker seemed to be looking for no opposition, and none was given.

“I think it’s a great idea, Your Exalted Excellency,” Justice Crane said. Immediate praise from Crane was expected.

Justice Grigorescu pretended to think about it for a moment, and then offered his own support as well. He did agree, but even if he didn’t, he wasn’t a fool. He knew that his continued power was reliant entirely on Chief Justice Stoker’s good graces. Justice Lupu was always last, she made sure of that, so it was Justice Groza’s turn. As one of the first meetings he attended, his response was of note to all in attendance.

“I agree,” Justice Groza said. “I think success in matters of criminal justice is something we definitely need to celebrate. I’d be most interested in quietly contacting the Governor of Derrim to unofficially encourage action.”

Justice Crane shifted uncomfortably at that. Chief Justice Stoker, however, simply nodded. “Thank you for your input. Emil is a good friend, I will speak with them.” He would not. “Justice Lupu, do you have any input?”

“Just agreement. Governor Byrne is a fine politician. I think he’s worth keeping an eye on, Your Exalted Excellency.” As expected. The Justices’ new knowledge of Groza’s lack of knowledge regarding the Derrim Governor’s corruption might cause some minor issues in the future, but Chief Justice Stoker was widely satisfied with their performances. They played their parts well.

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High Speed Chase

31 March 2022

Luca Serban raced through the streets of Redmondburg in his white Lehmann Auto, three police cars in hot pursuit. He was violating curfew, yes, but so were a thousand other people in this part of the city. They were being fined, warned, and in some cases beaten, but he was not on the run because he refused to abide by the local court order implemented earlier that day. Luca was on the run because he had caused it. The security cameras on one of the oil rigs he’d bombed had caught his face. The police had been sent to his apartment, and they had found out rather abruptly that he had not used his entire supply of explosives.

Two of them died immediately, he knew. He stepped over their corpses as he fled, once the smoke cleared. Two others were seriously injured. They might die, they might not. It didn’t matter. From the moment he detonated the explosives, he was public enemy number one. They were always going to find him. No matter where he ran, where he drove, no matter which corner of the country he fled to, he was going to get caught. He wasn’t going to get away. He realised that, now, in the driver’s seat of his car, speeding through the empty roads of his hometown. He figured he might as well do something first.

Luca abruptly swerved with a hard turn into a narrow street, smiling slightly and exhaling with relief at having handled it well. The police vehicles would struggle with it when they caught up, he knew, giving him extra space and time in the chase which he would need if he was to pull this off. He pulled out on the second possible turn, and turned immediately left in order to throw the police off. He could hear a helicopter in the distance, so it was only a matter of time before these tactics proved useless, but for now, he would take all the advantages he could get.

He turned left and then left again a few minutes down. He didn’t know how far away they were; they’d turned off their sirens to disorient him and conceal their movements about an hour prior. The chase had been underway for about twice that time, by his clock, but it all seemed to have passed by in three seconds. Due to his meandering path and the cover of darkness, his complete u-turn had gone unnoticed for now. It would not stay that way for long. He nearly passed by the warehouse when he finally reached it, pulling over at only the last minute. He had to be quick, the police weren’t stupid, the helicopter was closing in, and his car was easily recognisable even if there weren’t bulletholes on the back and right side.

He hurried into the warehouse, fumbling with the key for an extra second that made him mentally kick himself. When the lock was undone, he pushed the door open with a shove that nearly dislocated his shoulder, and rushed in, his eyes darting around for the crate he was looking for. He wasn’t sure how, and he wasn’t one to ask, but Laurentiu had acquired enough crates of plastic explosives to level a city block. They’d used most of it already - the courthouse bombing was just the beginning, they’d sunk three oil rigs and dropped a bridge in the river since then. They had other plans, but Luca was quick to send an electronic message to Laurentiu’s burner phone, and the PMJ would have to lie low after this debacle, but for now, Luca might as well go out with a bang.

He didn’t care if he was to die. That was the worst part about it. He had accepted his demise so quickly. His boyfriend was still rotting in a prison and probably would be for years to come. His friends were all distant even before he started devoting his entire free time to committing crimes punishable by death. He was close to losing his job anyway. The PMJ was all he had, really, and he felt like he had done his duty. He didn’t have anything else. If the police caught him, they’d probably kill him, but even if they captured him alive, he’d be bound for the chair or the needle. Maybe they’d even bring out the noose. It was technically a state-sponsored execution method, still, and Luca found it somewhat poetic. He would be caught and, eventually, he would be killed.

Luca found the crate surprisingly quickly, thankfully, and picked it up without much difficulty. He’d had enough practice moving weapons and explosives in the past month for it to not slow him down too much. He breathed heavily as he speedwalked back to his shot up car, the explosives in hand. He leaned the crate against the car to free up a hand so that he could unlock the passenger side door and place the material gently on the seat. He wiped the sweat beads off his brow, but wasted no time in shutting the door and moving back to the driver’s seat, letting out a breath as he sat down. He didn’t bother with the seatbelt. If he got into a crash, he’d be blown to pieces anyway. He’d left the car running, so all he needed to do was turn the wheel and step on the gas.

The police were closer now, he knew. If he wasn’t careful, they’d be on him before he could enact his plan. He had to be careful. He had to be quick. After taking more evasive manoeuvres, he pulled his car onto the biggest street in the city and headed due east. Despite the curfew, there were still a few cars on the road. They were all headed west, out of the city. It’d be where they’d expect him to go, as well. Out of the city. They knew he couldn’t lay low in the city; they’d lock it down and eventually find him. The natural progression was that he’d be fleeing. They’d be waiting for him, but he would never come. He looked out the window. The helicopter was getting closer, its searchlight scanning every street and alley for a white Lehmann auto. It would find him soon.

Although he was at the maximum speed his car could go, he found himself wishing to go faster. The helicopter was getting closer. He must have passed by dozens and dozens of buildings, but he couldn’t see a single one. All he could see was the helicopter getting closer and the road ahead of him. He didn’t register how much time he had been driving towards the governor’s mansion when the helicopter’s searchlight landed on his car. He didn’t slow down afterwards. He kept going. The governor here was one of the city’s main judges, and her brand of justice was harsh and strict. She might have approved of him self-convicting the death penalty. It would save her from the paperwork. But she would be dissatisfied anyway. She sent people to their deaths, she didn’t like when people took that power away from her, when they sent themselves to their deaths first. It was the only form of resistance Luca still had.

The police vehicles that had been chasing him earlier were not the ones that were on his tail now. They would not catch up until longer after he had accomplished his mission. These cars were from elsewhere in the city, called away from minor domestic disputes and crimes the city didn’t give much of a shit about, to deal with him, or else just pulled from desk duty at the station. There were about five that were close enough to fire upon him, but around ten more at various positions behind them. He wondered why they weren’t shooting at him only for a second before he saw the blockade arrayed before him. Three police cars. Eight officers. All in riot gear. Hammer and anvil. Rock and hard place. So he wouldn’t get to bomb the governor’s mansion after all. She would have to see his final act of defiance from the computer screen, then.

Luca slowed down as his car approached the blockade, allowing the cars to catch up. They didn’t shoot at him. They were just boxing him in. They were glad he was slowing. They thought they’d won. It was clear they intended to bring him in alive. That must have been a special order, directly from on high. Well, she’d remain disappointed. He slowed even more. In the dimness, he prayed that the officers didn’t see the crate, or didn’t wonder what it was. Some of them might have, but they were either too afraid to hinder the capture, or too stupid to think he’d try using it then and there. He’d reached the blockade now, and fully stopped. There were about a dozen cars surrounding him, and more were probably closing in. Overkill. He smiled at that thought. Luca thought back to his boyfriend, and the PMJ. They’d have to go on without him now. They’d manage. He reached over to the passenger’s seat and detonated the explosives.

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Rot Takes Root

9 April 2022

The Honourable Judge Vladimir Obradovic was renowned for being hard on crime. He was infamous for denying appeals based on the smallest misstep, elevating charges for every possible reason at every possible turn, setting exorbitant bails and fines, and admitting questionable evidence at court. Judge Obradovic did not care about guilt or truth or evidence, he cared about arrests and convictions. He was the leader of a growing faction of judges who believed that the country was infected by a cancerous growth and that the only way to cure it is to purge it of crime by any means necessary. Many of these judges were Governors as well, or members of a Committee or Council of the Kritarchy. Many controlled the prosecutors and many controlled the police.

Judge Obradovic had some hand in both, but his true power lay in his influence throughout the country. He was once considered for the position of Justice, but declined, believing that he could do more good as a local judge in Serdemia than as a national leader in the capital. He was perfectly comfortable where he was, with the power he had. Maybe sometime in the future he would aspire to more, but he preferred being a field commander in this crusade of his. The hands-on nature of his assignment was something he valued greatly. Maybe he just liked the power of directly imprisoning the scum he so detested.

Judge Obradovic, however, was not without vice. Of course, he despised all crime including drug crime. In fact, he was one of the driving forces behind the criminalisation of tobacco, nicotine, and marijuana. So, one might call it hypocrisy that he was addicted to painkillers. However, it was not his fault, strictly. He was attacked. It was a piss-poor assassination attempt, in his mind, and he personally oversaw the conviction and execution of the ones responsible, but he was injured. In recovery, it was really a stroke of bad luck that he had gotten addicted to the painkiller he was on. He tried to fight it, but could not, and resigned himself to secretly indulge his sin.

He killed the first person who attempted to blackmail him. A young, ambitious prosecutor by the name of Adam, whose last name The Honourable Judge could not even remember anymore. He shot the man twice in his skull, and buried him a few feet under an existing grave in a cemetery close to the courthouse. The second person who attempted to blackmail him was a representative of a cell of the Serdemic Independence Group, who attempted to coerce the Judge’s support. In response, he pretended to submit, but hunted down the cell and personally ordered the mass execution of its members. Given his crime hadn’t been exposed to the world, it was clear that the unharmed parts of the SIG remained uninformed of his activities, or perhaps just devoid of evidence. He had taken extra steps since, to protect his secrets further.

He was not a fool, he was aware that many other political figures had been corrupted by similar sins. Any number of judges, police officers, council members, and more were caught up in various addictions, criminal activities, and unethical or illegal indulgences. Many were involved with the Mafia. However, he never expected to count himself among their ranks. He himself had prosecuted three corrupt government officials, all mafia affiliates. However, the highest ranking of them was a police lieutenant, which he knew was not the highest the corruption went. He was personally aware that a judge in Derrim was building a case against its governor, as an example. He continued to fight the mafia directly, but he was highly interested in undoing the rot the mafia had inflicted on his country.

So it was he had heeded the warning of a slippery police informant, against his better judgement, who had informed him that a judge in his own city was in the employ of the mafia. There were only five judges in Nisava, so it wasn’t difficult to discover one whose sentencing oscillated between harsh and lenient seemingly arbitrarily. He kicked himself for not paying closer attention to the activities of judges in his own city, although he knew that a simple arbitrary exercise of power on its own would not constitute reasonable enough suspicion for him to confront one who was technically considered his equal.

The Honourable Judge Tavian Gabor did not particularly stand out. He performed his duties, as expected. He did not participate in national politics to the level that Judge Obradovic did. He was ethnic Aivintian, another contrast to Obradovic, although the latter was Serdemic only in blood. He held no zeal for his people, or the ideal of a nation thereof. The SIG called him a traitor to his people. He called them traitors to theirs. In his eyes, there was no greater betrayal than what they had done, voluntarily vilifying themselves in an effort to tear down their own country. In his eyes, it was the SIG that bore the sole responsibility for the government’s oppression of the Serdemic people, and he was simply working to drag them back into the light.

Tavian was not suspicious at The Honourable Judge Obradovic’s visit. They were equals in close proximity. Judges visited each other all the time. To ask for favours or provide them without needing to be asked, or just to talk. The visiting judge was surely a commanding presence, Tavian quickly remembered, holding his head nearly a foot taller than most men. He had to duck slightly to comfortably enter the room, and when his head straightened, it was stern and magnanimous. The nobility was gone, and Obradovic himself had no connections to any highborn line, but he held himself like a Lord. His grey hair and beard framed his weathered face, from which robin’s egg blue eyes studied Tavian. The object of his gaze, whose own eyes were greyer than his dark hair, partially due to artificial colouring, stood to shake hands with his new visitor.

“Leave us,” Obradovic told the guards, who complied instantly without need for repetition from their true employer.

“It is good to see you, Vladimir,” Tavian said.

“Your Honour, I will not taint the respectable institution which we represent with hollow pleasantries. I come with troubling news.” Obradovic insisted on using honorifics and titles, even when unnecessary, and always cloaked his words with flowery language. It bothered Tavian, sometimes.

“Speak freely, Vladimir, I will not be insulted by it.”

“Your Honour, this nation is infected with a disease for which there is no vaccine. It sickens me to see this most putrid rot eating away at the last vestiges of respectability our country is owed. We are the white blood cells, Judge Gabor. We are the antibodies. It is our solemn duty to purge this virus, infected cell by infected cell, until our country is healthy once again. My disappointment at discovering that one of the men whom I treat as an equal is compromising our immune system is immeasurable. You disgust me.” Judge Obradovic famously did not care for deft manoeuvring or trickery in his speech. He spoke his mind clearly.

“Vladimir, I think you may be mistaken. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Please, sit. Explain.”

“I will not,” Judge Obradovic replied.

“I understand you don’t trust me, but remember that I am your equal. You do not seem to think so as of this moment. If you wish to officially make these baseless accusations, then I suggest you go through the proper legal process. I will not allow you to insult me any further. I believe you know the way out.” Tavian’s temper never flared like that.

Vladimir smiled, almost victoriously, though he hadn’t yet won. He reached into the folds of his black robe and withdrew a gun, drawing back the hammer. “In the old days, before the nation first united under our first great King, the Judges of this land would bear swords as tall as a man. They were agents of the monarch’s will, emissaries of the Serdemic Princes who would police towns and adjudicate disputes. When a crime was committed against the crown, they would carry out the sentences they delivered. This is not a sword, but I suppose it will do.”

“You think this melodramatic outburst will actually work?” the other judge demanded. “You think you can get away with this? Murdering a judge in cold blood? You are not above me, Vladimir, although you seem to forget it all too often.”

“In those times,” Judge Obradovic continued, “the Judges who executed these degenerates were acting as representatives of the monarchy, empowered with the full support of the legal system. Our legal system frowns on my actions here today, but I am an agent of a higher authority. My work here today preserves the fabric of our nation.”

“That may justify it in your eyes, but the law will not see it that way. One scream from me and the guards will rush in to detain you. You will be stripped of your office pending sentencing for treason and murder. Besides, I hear you have some fun habits. We are not the only white blood cells at threat, no?”

Vladimir’s eyes narrowed. “Think very carefully about your next words if you value your life.”

“The evidence I have doesn’t need to see the light of day. Turn around and walk away. I get to continue my illegal activities, and you get to continue yours.”

“You underestimate my commitment to this country. I will not let this rot infect our nation any longer.” Judge Obradovic shot Tavian Gabor twice in the chest, and once in the head. The other man fell back into his chair, his face forever contorted in confusion and anger. The guards rushed in, but the judge had already turned the gun on himself and pulled the trigger a fourth time. He collapsed before the guards could lay a hand on him.

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Borrowed Sins

29 April 2022

Chief Justice Stoker sat down across from Governor Byrne. He was a rather large man, underneath his black robe. His eyes were hard and his expression was stern. His voice was sharp when he spoke, not like silk, as they were in most conversations. “August Byrne,” he greeted simply.

“Your Exalted Excellency, I am pleasantly surprised by this visit. I trust you have run into no trouble during your travels?” Byrne’s words were delivered with practised charisma.

“No, I had quite a pleasant trip. I am not settling into any room, though, as I will be returning to the capital upon concluding our chat.” He gave no indication for the purpose of his visit.

“Is there something you require, Your Exalted Excellency? I am more than willing to serve my country,” August replied, pushing the conversation towards the purpose.

“Mr Crane is no longer at my disposal.”

It was beginning to seem like a test. To see what August knew, perhaps. He was no fool. “I’d heard he’d been promoted into the Committee on International Policy. Is he proving difficult to handle?”

“Not Jacob. Oliver.”

“His Excellency? Did something happen?”

“He has been relieved of his duties. Currently, he is shackled and rotting in a dark hole with the most loyal security detail available to me.”

August Byrne feigned surprise and concern, concealing his triumph. “What happened, Your Exalted Excellency?”

“Mr Crane saw fit to make deals with the mafia. He influenced policy to their benefit. His actions are a disgrace to his country. His assets have been seized. I will extract everything he knows, shoot him in the back of the head, and throw his shithead brother out in the cold before that family can cause any more damage. I have Commissioner Dimir on retainer to investigate any leads Mr Crane gives me.”

Practised shock and horror crawled over August’s face. Internally, his mind was a roiling sea of satisfaction. “I— I am disappointed to hear this,” August said, letting his initial reaction fade into professionalism. If he made one wrong step, everything he worked for could collapse at his feet in an instant. He had to be careful. “His E— Mr Crane was someone I had always looked up to. I feel like a fool for it, now.”

“Put that aside, there is no use for it,” Chief Justice Stoker cautioned sharply.

“Yes, you’re right, of course. Thank you, Your Exalted Excellency. If I have the clearance, I’d like to know - what did he do?”

Stoker nodded. “He apparently used his power to very quietly end a number of police investigations and bully various Governors into inaction against the mafia. More than that, the records of every High Court meeting were stolen and leaked to the Alpha. We were tipped off by an Underboss who had managed to piss off the Alpha and wanted to strike a deal with our Justice Council. We investigated, and found evidence of transactions between Mr Crane and various accounts which were involved in bribing police officers in Derrim. A couple judges came forward with evidence of his involvement in limiting criminal justice in Derrim, Redmondburg, and Marnacia. One Governor even testified, privately, of course. Even Justice Groza mentioned that Mr Crane had attempted to win his support for inaction against the mafia. He refused, of course. I should have listened to him. Anyway, the mafia must have gotten wind of it somehow, because he was almost assassinated to keep him quiet. But he’ll talk. That’s not even the worst of it.”


“There’s a leak in the government somewhere. Or multiple. I don’t know. Many council members and even chairs are being exposed for criminal dealings. I would have wished to deal with these matters privately, personally, but, well, these leaks had other plans. The information was posted publicly and the source is untraceable for each one. It’s one crisis after the next.”

“Thank you for trusting me with this, Your Exalted Excellency. I hope your pursuit of justice is successful in both areas of concern.”

His leader nodded. “I appreciate the sentiment, Mr Byrne. However, confiding in you is not quite the reason why I am here.”

“Yes, Your Exalted Excellency?”

“I need your help. The nation is putting on a brave face, but she is crumbling. You have had great success in combating the mafia here in Castenor. You have an impeccable track record of legal and political victories. You are highly trusted and respected. I need a replacement for Crane that will not be a burden. I need someone who can help me bring this country back from the brink of chaos. I need someone who will not disappoint. You, Mr Byrne, have never disappointed.”

“Your Exalted Excellency, are you offering me—” he trailed off. This was real. He wasn’t sure he could say it without breaking his composure. It sold his act even more, though.

“Yes,” Stoker replied, basking in his own importance. “I intend to make you a Justice. Your Deputy Governor will get Castenor, and you will take Mr Crane’s place at my side. You will be placed in charge of Trade, Immigration, and Health. When I require it, you will also cooperate with me on matters of Justice. We will take a stand against the mafia once and for all. Their meddling with my Court is an act of war. A war we will win, make no mistake.”

“Thank you, Your Exalted Excellency. I live to serve my people. If you believe this appointment is best for the country, then accepting your offer is the easiest decision of my life. I look forward to working more closely with you in Greater Asluagh.”

The Regent smirked. “I do as well.” He stood up, his robe flowing freely to the ground. He looked down on the Governor. “Pack your things. Settle your affairs. Then you will leave for the capital.” With that, Eduard Stoker left the room, his movements elegant but powerful.

The moment the door closed, August Byrne’s face broke out into the widest smile he had ever smiled. He was within arm’s reach, now. There was still much more to be done, but soon, everything he had worked for would come to fruition. He laughed with glee. So he wasn’t crazy, after all. His plan was succeeding. It would succeed. He made a mental note to pay a visit to a friend in Frontierwood. It would have to wait. He had work to do.

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Public Appearance

19 May 2022


Ema Stirbei: Hello, Aivintis! I’m Ema Stirbei, and you’re listening to Aivcast Radio! You’re in for a treat today, my fellow Aivintians. Today, Aivcast News has managed to obtain an interview with His Excellency Justice August Byrne, the newest Justice on the High Court. Your Excellency, can you please introduce yourself for our listeners?

His Excellency Justice August Byrne: Yes, Ema, I’d be delighted to. I am August Byrne. I took the oath to become a Justice a little over a month ago. As Ema said, I am the newest Justice on the High Court. Before I was a Justice, I was the Governor of Castenor. Before that, a Senior Prosecutor. I’ve been a public servant for about 20 years now. My background is primarily in law, but I’ve taken on some projects of diplomacy. Currently, I’m in charge of a lot of exciting government bodies. I’m basically the second-highest public authority in all economic matters. I also deal with immigration and border control, but that’s not really a big thing. I also lead and, in fact, chair, our Health Council, coordinating disease response, sanitation, that sort of stuff.

Ema: So, Your Excellency.

His Excellency Justice Byrne: Please, call me August.

Ema: August. How has it been adjusting to your new position?

August: It was extremely daunting at first. As I mentioned before, my previous office was as Governor, and the experience was much different. I had to sit in just so many meetings and the adjustment period was quite a bit. I mean, I would say I’m still adjusting, but I more or less have the hang of it. I’m nervous, I’d like to say. When I was Governor, I had to keep a whole city happy, but now, I’m serving a nation. I can only hope I’m doing right by my country.

Ema: Well, we are our own worst critics, and can sometimes struggle to see our own greatness. But you’re too modest, August. In this one month, you’ve contributed to so much change. The epidemic around Grandys and Marnacia has been fully eradicated, for one.

August: Well I owe that primarily to the great work of our research institutes and government-funded laboratories, which developed a vaccine to this new strain of virus more quickly than ever before, and the tireless efforts of our boots on the ground, the wonderful people delivering these vaccines, enforcing quarantines, and the like. All I did was sign some documents and make some orders. The true heroes are our health workers. Always.

Ema: Your humility knows no bounds, Your Excellency.

August: A politician who does not acknowledge those pillars which support their platform is no public servant at all. As long as I remain a public servant, I will acknowledge those who make my position possible, those who make my work done.

Ema: It is true, though, that you have work that you do personally, no?

August: Ah. Well, as Aivcast News has reported on, I played a small role in the reversal of some of my predecessor’s actions. These actions were recently investigated following Mr Crane’s sickness and death, and found to be mistakes made by an addled mind. Mr Crane is a case study that no one is perfect, but I hope my work shows that Aivintis will always right its course. Yet, Mr Crane wasn’t entirely at fault. He was chosen for a reason. He had recently been working on a deal with some interest groups to increase the duration of copyrights. I believe Mr Crane’s ideals of protecting intellectual property are noble, and so I finalised the deal. Before Mr Crane and I, copyright lasted until the end of a creator’s life plus an additional 30 years. Now, it lasts 80 years beyond death, one of the highest in the world. This is a major change, I understand, but the protection of intellectual property is a major goal of this country’s leadership. As long as I have any say in the matter, it will continue to be such for a very long time.

Ema: Thank you, August. I can tell you’re passionate about this issue.

August: [audibly smiling] Yes, perhaps even a little bit obsessed.

Ema: [laugh] I’m sure it’s alright to be obsessed if it means the betterment of society, August.

August: [chuckle] Hm, perhaps you’re right.

Ema: Now, my next question is less about you, I do apologise.

August: Brilliant, I’m already liking it.

Ema: [laugh] This is what I mean about your modesty, Your Excellency. Now, here’s the question: Do you work much with His Exalted Excellency Chief Justice Stoker?

August: Yes. Chief Justice Stoker does convene sessions of the High Court or Cabinet often, in which case I have provided counsel, but even there I am but one of many who have the ear of our leader, and ultimately, it is his judgement that guides our great nation.

Ema: Would you be willing to talk about the counsel you’ve provided?

August: Of course. I mean, my first answer seems rather apt given the context.

Ema: Oh?

August: The Government Transparency Act was recently passed with my, heh, insistence. Chief Justice Stoker accepted my consultancy on the contents of the act, too, making sure it isn’t abused to divulge state secrets or threaten national security.

Ema: Tell our listeners a bit about the GTA.

August: The Government Transparency Act is somewhat self-described - its purpose is to enable transparency and accountability in the government. The social contract theory dictates that the government is beholden to the people, and this is just an exercise of that theory. The people want to know what their officials are up to, and make sure they’re doing right by the country. In most cases, the GTA will not change much, but it could expose corruption by some bad faith actors in our government, which allows the public and the leaders of this wonderful country to hold these people accountable. We punish those who do evil and celebrate those who do good. Practically, all this means is that the government has to release reports on our actions, mainly through you fine folks here at Aivcast News.

Ema: Sounds like justice is more than just a title to you.

August: [laugh] I like to think so.

Ema: We’ve talked a lot about what you’ve done, but what’s next? What are the major problems you’d like to tackle?

August: Well there is something in the works, but I’m not at liberty to say at this moment. I’m sure that report will be pretty popular. One thing I would talk about has nothing to do with my actual duties, but rather the concerns of the country at large. Something I’m merely an advisor on.

Ema: I’m sure our listeners are interested.

August: Something not receiving much coverage in the media these days is the plight of the Serdemic people. Now, as every Aivintian is taught in school, Emperor Thaddeus banned all destructive and abhorrent ideologies in 1912. Discrimination against minorities, ethnic or otherwise, falls under that category. Yet the Serdemic people are being denied entry into Aivintian universities simply for being Serdemic. Funding for Serdemic majority cities such as Nisava and Novoska has been cut significantly. Education, infrastructure, and even services under my control, social security and healthcare, are suffering for it. This is a form of discrimination. It is illegal under any interpretation of Emperor Thaddeus’s mandate. In my opinion, it is the most pressing issue facing this country that I love. Ensuring that this injustice ends is one of my highest priorities.

Ema: Well I wish you and His Exalted Excellency luck in solving this issue.

August: Thank you very much, Ema.

Ema: That’s all we have today for our exclusive interview with His Excellency Justice August Byrne. His Excellency has been, dare I say, an excellent guest. Thank you, August, for your appearance.

August: Thank you for having me, Ema. It has been a pleasure.

Ema: The pleasure is all mine.

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