The Hohenzollern Empire 5: Holy Phoenix - An Empire of Jerusalem Megacampaign in New World Order

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TheAnguishedOne

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It can be hard maintaining friendships, but it's a blessing when you're able to.
 

GhostRider124

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“To tell you the truth, Gunduz, I don’t know. The excuses are more for myself than you. I tell myself I’m busy with college and stuff. With handling Mom and Dad’s deaths. Dealing with the nobles. Trying to make a name for myself after I was no longer in line to inherit. Being with Franz and raising Joseph. Or maybe because I didn’t want to address the elephant in the room that was your dad.”

Shah Golpari had been diagnosed with cancer a few months before the ceremony, and none of us knew until a couple weeks after. He passed away before the year was done, leaving Gunduz’s brother Hassan to take over. Hassan threw himself completely into his duties as shah, which was so him. He was a huge workaholic, always staying up late to do, as he always told us, what had to be done. Maybe that’s why his hair started graying in his 30s. He died in 2023. Then Gunduz took over because he never even married or had kids—they always said he was married to the job. Now that I think about it, I may have made things worse for Gunduz. She learns her dad has cancer, her brother then takes over as shah and loses himself in his job, and her best friend abandons her. There’s no way to frame that any differently.

“You could’ve at least written to me,” Gunduz said, “Said something. Anything.”

“I know I could have,” Wilhelmina said, “But I didn’t. I didn’t know what to say. I thought it would hurt you. And I know what you’re going to say: not writing hurt you even more. And you’re right. It did.”

Wilhelmina let the music wash over her. A tingle ran up her spine and through her head. She thought she could hear the distant echoes of two girls playing. She grinned nostalgically. “Sometimes, I wish I could go back to those days. The times when everything was happier. When Mom and Dad and Golpari and Hassan were still around. When we were still together. I don’t know why those days ended. I don’t know why I ended them. But the fact is…they’re over. And they’ll never come back. I would like to apologize, but I know you wouldn’t accept it that easily.”

“You’re certainly right about that,” Gunduz said, “So don’t count on it anytime soon.”
I think that's one bad thing with getting older in that you become so caught up in the things going on with your life that you forget about other people (even if it is unintentionally).

“You assumed I was a killjoy,” Gunduz said, “You thought I lost my sense of fun somewhere along the way.”

“I mean, you do give off that vibe,” Wilhelmina said, “Especially in light of what happened to your dad and brother.”

Gunduz nodded. “I have to keep up appearances to the public. I have a reputation to uphold, if you didn’t notice. But…that’s to the public.”
I know many people compline that people like politicians have two different faces. One for public and one for private but I think that is something that we all have. We have different faces for when we are at work/school, with friends, with family, a significant other, and when we are alone. Most of the time we might not even be aware that we have all of these faces.

So…the Shepherds of the Future seriously tried to abduct kids from this school. I should’ve seen that coming.
A part of me wonders if they targeted that school because they knew that Friedrich and Ilyana were there?
 

zenphoenix

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It can be hard maintaining friendships, but it's a blessing when you're able to.
Agreed. It really is difficult.
I think that's one bad thing with getting older in that you become so caught up in the things going on with your life that you forget about other people (even if it is unintentionally).
People drift apart over time. That's just life. It sucks, but that's how it is.
I know many people compline that people like politicians have two different faces. One for public and one for private but I think that is something that we all have. We have different faces for when we are at work/school, with friends, with family, a significant other, and when we are alone. Most of the time we might not even be aware that we have all of these faces.
Which ties a lot in with Persona's (and this arc's I guess) Jungian themes of confronting and coming to terms with your inner self so you can grow as a person.
A part of me wonders if they targeted that school because they knew that Friedrich and Ilyana were there?
No, nobody knows about Friedrich and Ilyana. It was dumb luck they targeted that school.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Knowing Wilhelmina’s track record so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gunduz gets killed by Elias or Josh just as Wihelmina and Gunduz reconnect. Still tho, this was a pretty cute moment between them.

Also, the Shepherds are still active outside of Jerusalem? Would've thought those outside Jerusalem would have all died, get arrested or been expelled when this war started. I see there are still a problem now.

Out of curiosity Zen, do you have plans for the HTE Anniona royal family in Stellaris, cause I've come up with some ideas for Annionaverse characters lately that I would like to share with you in a PM thread along with other ideas for that crossover arc, hope you what I have in mind.
 

zenphoenix

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Knowing Wilhelmina’s track record so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gunduz gets killed by Elias or Josh just as Wihelmina and Gunduz reconnect. Still tho, this was a pretty cute moment between them.

Also, the Shepherds are still active outside of Jerusalem? Would've thought those outside Jerusalem would have all died, get arrested or been expelled when this war started. I see there are still a problem now.

Out of curiosity Zen, do you have plans for the HTE Anniona royal family in Stellaris, cause I've come up with some ideas for Annionaverse characters lately that I would like to share with you in a PM thread along with other ideas for that crossover arc, hope you what I have in mind.
If Gunduz dies, at least she'll go down giving Elias/Josh the most brutal roast of their lives.

The official "Shepherds" organization and its associated branches have been banned outside Jerusalem and most of their members arrested, but there were probably quite a few Shepherds who escaped and went underground as spies for Jerusalem. That's what happened to the Russian Shepherds who tried gassing Olga and Wilhelmina's bunker. In addition, there is no shortage of Jerusalem sympathizers in many nations who could lend a hand to Jerusalem, though that will of course change as the war goes on.

I do have some plans for the HTE Anniona royals, but they're subject to change at the moment since I am very far away from that story both in-universe and in real life. The only thing I've decided on so far is the name of one secondary Annionaverse character who isn't even an Anniona. You can definitely send your ideas in a PM, though.
 

TWR97

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It's good to reconnect with old friends, especially in a time as troubled as the Third Weltkrieg, and to be honest, I'd hope Gunduz makes it to the end tbh, while I know casualties are inevitable, especially if Willhelmina's faction do end up victorious, it'd be nice if it isn't as bittersweet as we'd expect, though I suppose that's gonna be wishful thinking on my part. I reckon only a few of the cast is gonna make it to the other end of the tunnel, and that's assuming it's gonna be their side that emerges victorious.

Oh yeah. speaking of which, I might do an abridged summary of the events of A Symphony of Frost and Flame (both the First and Second Long Night), already got a working draft, gonna have to whack my muse to get it going, but the gist is this: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are the prophesized successors to Azor Ahai. Unlike GRRM, Gregoras abandoned his anti-Tolkien shtick halfway through writing the series with help from the author of Hymn, and he mostly stuck to deconstructing some High Fantasy stuff while letting most happen. The World of Planetos like in our timeline is filled with Eldritch Abominations and powerful deities.

Gonna spoil a bit on how ASOFAF ends, like the show, the Iron Throne is indeed melted however unlike the show, Westeros is divided into several kingdoms again, Dany's actions reestablishes a New Valyrian Empire (thereby fulfilling the true prophecy of the Second Long Night), Jon Snow dies of his wounds after negotiating with the Others in leaving the realms of Men, and in the Pact of Ice and Fire is ultimately fulfilled with the marriage of one of Jon Snow's twins with Daenerys' daughter and heir. Hints of a Third and final Long Night is given during the final epilogue of A Dream of Spring.
 
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zenphoenix

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It's good to reconnect with old friends, especially in a time as troubled as the Third Weltkrieg, and to be honest, I'd hope Gunduz makes it to the end tbh, while I know casualties are inevitable, especially if Willhelmina's faction do end up victorious, it'd be nice if it isn't as bittersweet as we'd expect, though I suppose that's gonna be wishful thinking on my part. I reckon only a few of the cast is gonna make it to the other end of the tunnel, and that's assuming it's gonna be their side that emerges victorious.

Oh yeah. speaking of which, I might do an abridged summary of the events of A Symphony of Frost and Flame (both the First and Second Long Night), already got a working draft, gonna have to whack my muse to get it going, but the gist is this: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are the prophesized successors to Azor Ahai. Unlike GRRM, Gregoras abandoned his anti-Tolkien shtick halfway through writing the series with help from the author of Hymn, and he mostly stuck to deconstructing some High Fantasy stuff while letting most happen. The World of Planetos like in our timeline is filled with Eldritch Abominations and powerful deities.

Gonna spoil a bit on how ASOFAF ends, like the show, the Iron Throne is indeed melted however unlike the show, Westeros is divided into several kingdoms again, Dany's actions reestablishes a New Valyrian Empire (thereby fulfilling the true prophecy of the Second Long Night), Jon Snow dies of his wounds after negotiating with the Others in leaving the realms of Men, and in the Pact of Ice and Fire is ultimately fulfilled with the marriage of one of Jon Snow's twins with Daenerys' daughter and heir. Hints of a Third and final Long Night is given during the final epilogue of A Dream of Spring.
Great ideas for ASOFAF. Can’t wait to see the actual write ups.
 

CaptainAlvious

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It's good to reconnect with old friends, especially in a time as troubled as the Third Weltkrieg, and to be honest, I'd hope Gunduz makes it to the end tbh, while I know casualties are inevitable, especially if Willhelmina's faction do end up victorious, it'd be nice if it isn't as bittersweet as we'd expect, though I suppose that's gonna be wishful thinking on my part. I reckon only a few of the cast is gonna make it to the other end of the tunnel, and that's assuming it's gonna be their side that emerges victorious.

Oh yeah. speaking of which, I might do an abridged summary of the events of A Symphony of Frost and Flame (both the First and Second Long Night), already got a working draft, gonna have to whack my muse to get it going, but the gist is this: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are the prophesized successors to Azor Ahai. Unlike GRRM, Gregoras abandoned his anti-Tolkien shtick halfway through writing the series with help from the author of Hymn, and he mostly stuck to deconstructing some High Fantasy stuff while letting most happen. The World of Planetos like in our timeline is filled with Eldritch Abominations and powerful deities.

Gonna spoil a bit on how ASOFAF ends, like the show, the Iron Throne is indeed melted however unlike the show, Westeros is divided into several kingdoms again, Dany's actions reestablishes a New Valyrian Empire (thereby fulfilling the true prophecy of the Second Long Night), Jon Snow dies of his wounds after negotiating with the Others in leaving the realms of Men, and in the Pact of Ice and Fire is ultimately fulfilled with the marriage of one of Jon Snow's twins with Daenerys' daughter and heir. Hints of a Third and final Long Night is given during the final epilogue of A Dream of Spring.
I second Zen's recent sentiments. These are great ideas, especially the Seven Kingdoms becoming separate at the end (kind of wish that happened in the actual show NGL) can't wait to see your fleshed out summaries.

Seeing how it looks like Dany is still a good guy, I think it would be a good idea if we repurpose and rework her Season 8 arc over to the Hymn protagonist, only with more time for actual build up over the course of the series this time, as while I didn't mind the concept in theory, the execution of that plotline was pretty awful in OTL Season 8. Perhaps the protagonist could slowly fall into a sinocentric style, Yi Ti supremacist mindset and become paranoid of both outsiders and suspected internal enemies due to their experiences with people like Euron Greyjoy , which would lead him to start scheming against Westeros in order to remove any eliminate threats to Yi Ti and establish a hegemony for it. I can imagine how painful it would be for the audience to root for the protagonist only to have him turn into a villain that's essentially a new Bloodstone Emperor, but hopefully it would be done in a way that would be consistent with their character and feel earned.
 
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zenphoenix

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I second Zen's recent sentiments. These are great ideas, especially the Seven Kingdoms becoming separate at the end (kind of wish that happened in the actual show NGL) can't wait to see your fleshed out summaries.

Seeing how it looks like Dany is still a good guy, I think it would be a good idea if we repurpose and rework her Season 8 arc over to the Hymn protagonist, only with more time for actual build up over the course of the series this time, as while I didn't mind the concept in theory, the execution of that plotline was pretty awful in OTL Season 8. Perhaps the protagonist could slowly fall into a sinocentric style, Yi Ti supremacist mindset and become paranoid of both outsiders and suspected internal enemies due to their experiences with people like Euron Greyjoy , which would lead him to start scheming against Westeros in order to remove any eliminate threats to Yi Ti and establish a hegemony for it. I can imagine how painful it would be for the audience to root for the protagonist only to have him turn into a villain that's essentially a new Bloodstone Emperor, but hopefully it would be done in a way that would be consistent with their character and feel earned.
We could then end it with a decisive battle between him and some of our Westerosi characters which would bring full circle the parallels with the Lion of the Night/Long Night. As in his downfall mirrors both how the Bloodstone Emperor was overthrown and how the second Long Night ends in Westeros.
 

zenphoenix

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God’s Will

Basra - January 6

The facility in Basra was much better than whatever improvised lodgings they had in Tsarberg. It had actual buildings with heaters and fresh food, not to mention comfy beds. Theodor actually had a regular bed now, in which he was currently reading a briefing from Berlin. It was about one of Josiah’s new laws, regarding religion in the workplace. Theodor had signed off on the bill, as it wouldn’t cut into his profits, but he couldn’t help but feel a little weird about it. The new law didn’t hurt him, but it barely had any positives at all.

I signed up for this to crush the leftists and restore this nation’s moral center. To bring back Christianity to our society. Crack down on sinfulness and atheist fascist leftism that was plaguing our people. Give our children a better future. Like the rest of them, this bill aims to do all of that. My main issue, though, is we already did it. The leftists are gone and never coming back. This nation has been reorganized along Christian lines, just as Friedrich the Glorious and Saint Wilhelmina intended. Our people are once again devout and faithful—they are upstanding moral paragons, an example the world refuses to acknowledge. And our current system is working just fine. So why are we doing this? I’ll support it, sure, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

A jingle of “Onwards, Christian Crusaders!” played over the intercom. “Attention faithful, the 12:15 shift is about to begin. Please make your way to your designated workspaces. And remember, tardiness is a sin. Idle hands are the Devil’s work.”

I hate that jingle. Couldn’t we have found a better one?

He continued reading his briefing. Eventually, he realized there was nothing in it he hadn’t already known. The words and phrases got fancier and more grandiose, to the point of incorporating Bible verses at certain points, but he figured out that was a way to make sure anybody less knowledgeable who got this far wouldn’t be able to understand. Finally, he tossed the briefing on his desk in frustration.

Josiah, can you please lay off the Bible verses? It’s getting annoying.

He got out of bed and sat at his desk. Pushing the brief aside, he opened his laptop and brought up his code editor. Yesterday, he had been reviewing code for a Panopticon update he would roll out later that week.

Not like anyone other than me’s going to use it though. I don’t need to focus too much on it. As long as it works.

His room’s personal intercom chimed. “Theodor, your next scheduled meeting is in two minutes.”

“Tell Elias I’ll be right there.” Theodor got up and left his room.

Why’d we schedule a meeting at this hour?

He walked down the hallway, leaving the residential area and entering the industrial area. The training facility was only a small portion of the base itself. Finished just a few months ago and built on top of an older Heer base from before, it was designed to be self-sufficient and a hub for both soldiers and their equipment. As it was planned as a headquarters from which a future Persian campaign would be managed, Theodor spared no expense on it. Not only would it house soldiers and officers, but it would also manufacture and repair equipment a reasonable distance from the front, keeping supply lines short. He was now waking through the manufacturing facility.

Before, this weapons factory was a separate factory, used to make gas-guzzling cars. It had now been put to better and cleaner use, and its previous owners would hardly recognize it. And although the new law has only recently come into effect, the final stages of construction had already been slightly altered to comply with the incoming regulations. The ceiling was high, at places looking like it disappeared into darkness; as the lights weren’t fully installed yet—and probably would never be at this rate, since they weren’t necessary and cost too much to install and use—the ceiling looked a bit like the night sky, with random points of light intercepting the darkness. The walls were once plain, but now they had been decorated in beautiful Justinian-style mosaic murals. But these murals didn’t show scenes from the Bible, Justinian’s distinguished reign, or even the old regime’s founding narratives. Instead, they showed angels descending from the heavens, blessing four men: Elias Anhorn, Theodor Tesla, Josiah Burkard, and Philemon Moria. The four men then in turn led their fellow Christians in prayer. What followed were more scenes of prayer, interspersed with modern soldiers waving the flag of the Jerusalem cross and carrying the cross of Christ cutting down hordes of savage heathen barbarians. And ever present in each scene was at least one of the five men, always depicted with a halo around their head and rays radiating outward, rejuvenating the faithful and reducing nonbelievers to ash.

“And the light shines in darkness,” Theodor read, “And the darkness comprehended it not.”

John 1:5. Isn’t it a little tacky? I mean, seriously, I find it a little weird. Not quite sure what it is, but something’s bugging me. Wonder what’s giving me the feeling…oh yeah, they got my face wrong. Also, Elias made himself look bigger than the rest of us.

Assembly lines took up most of the space. These were still primarily manned by humans. He wanted to replace the workers here with machines to save more money, but Elias had convinced him to hold off on that for now. He said he wanted to see the enforcement of the new law here first. As the laborers continued slaving away at the assembly line, they no longer said anything while they dutifully assembled mortar shells, bullets, rifles, and grenades. Occasionally, a hastily assembled shell or grenade exploded in a laborer’s hands, which disappeared in a flash of light, a loud bang, and a shower of blood. Even then, they didn’t scream. They hadn’t screamed in many months, after their rehabilitation. If their wounds weren’t that severe, they simply picked themselves back up and resumed assembling materiel. If their hands had been completely blown off, a Crusader quickly arrived to escort them outside, and then a distant gunshot would be heard. No matter what happened, nobody else batted an eye; they continued their work with barely any slowdown. It was remarkable, really, how they could keep working despite anything they saw or felt. Was it because resistance was useless in such a heavily armed facility? Or because his rehabilitation program was such a success? Or was it because they had long since stopped caring about such things? Did they ever really care to begin with? Or did they truly believe in the cause now? They they genuinely believed they were doing the right thing, for both themselves and the nation?

They’re no different from machines, in a way. The perfect employee. No need for benefits, time off, or even pay. They do everything I ask of them, no questions asked, and the best thing is, they’re happy to do it for free. But at that point, why shouldn’t I just replace them with machines? I’ve seen enough of the enforcement, and I need to save more money!

As the laborers continued their work, Theodor finally saw the new additions brought by the recently passed law. Or rather, he heard it. Surround-sound speakers placed around the factory for maximum coverage began playing sacred Orthodox hymns. From these speakers, holy music once reserved for the continent’s great cathedrals flowed forth, to be heard by all of the faithful in attendance. The music reverberated off the walls and overlapped onto itself over and over again, making sure it reached every ear. Theodor heard a cacophony of bells and choirs, their volume steadily rising to a level where it not only couldn’t not be heard but also couldn’t not be ingrained in one’s mind. He continued watching. A far door opened, and a priest and deacon emerged, just as they did for each shift. They began walking down the lines. The priest swung an incense burner like a giant pendulum while he chanted blessings and benedictions. The deacon poured holy oil on the line itself, making sure to at least anoint the conveyor belt, if not all of the bullets and shells and grenades in front of each laborer.

A few minutes later, Theodor finally arrived in the meeting room, where Elias and a new general awaited him. The general was a large and bulky man, with a rugged face like a mountaineer.

“Ah, Theodor,” Elias said, “I was just talking to General Remmele here about the great work we’ve done on this base.”

The general shook Theodor’s hand, and his voice boomed with a heavy Austrian accent. “General Edmund Remmele. It’s an honor to meet you, Herr Tesla.”

“I heard you were in charge of handling the Bremerhaven uprising,” Theodor said, “Thank you for your service.”

“I was only doing my job,” Edmund said, “My duty is to protect my nation. I don’t intend on shirking from it.”

“An admirable trait,” Theodor said, “We could use many more of you.”

“I’ll gladly serve in any capacity. You need only to ask.”

“Well, that’s why you’re here,” Elias said, “We’d like to put you in charge of the Persian front.”

Edmund’s eyes widened. “Did I hear that correctly? The Persian front?”

“Yes. The front here is stagnant. Persia has been a major thorn in our side since the war began. I know you are experienced handling thorns. After all, you broke Bremerhaven.”

“With all due respect, sir, it wasn’t as much as me marching in and breaking up the rebellion as it was me blockading the whole area and finishing off any stragglers after you dropped the nuke.”

Elias shook his head. “Nevertheless, you contained the situation well. You have done a great service to the empire. We are indebted to have such a brilliant leader on our General Staff. You are an example to our other generals, showing them the strength of a true citizen of God.”

“So you want me to command this front,” Edmund said.

“Yes.”

“Well, I’d be honored, sir.” Edmund saluted.

“I say we drop our chemical weapons on all important front lines in Turkestan and apply pressure on Persia from there.” Theodor was initially going to leave it at that, but then he remembered what happened last time he brought that up. “I must clarify, military targets only.”

“I would agree with that, but our dedicated missiles are currently tied up,” Elias said, “Unfortunately, we can only deploy them on a tactical level.”

Currently tied up? Dare I ask where?

“Uh…I wasn’t informed of this. Where were the missiles sent?”

Elias crossed his arms. “You weren’t at the briefing a couple hours ago? Josiah and Moria voted to fire them at Korea.”

Korea?! That’s on the other side of the world! It’s barely in missile range, and only thanks to Sumatra! And Josiah and Moria were part of this? Why did they not tell me?

“Why Korea?” Theodor asked. “It’s deep in Tianxia territory and on the edge of our force projection.”

“To send a message,” Elias said, “That no heretic or heathen, no matter where they live, will escape the wrath of God. For their crimes against our divine empire, Korea shall be cleansed of its sins.”

“Can’t we just attack a closer nation?” Theodor said. “Somewhere with greater strategic value?”

Edmund slowly backed out of the room. “I think I should go. I have a…briefing to attend. They want me to observe our forces in action at Samarkand, so…”

Neither of them paid attention to his departure.

Lucky him. He gets to escape while I have to deal with Elias.

“Nothing is greater than the moral victory we gain in Korea,” Elias said, “God wants me to punish the Koreans for their sins. They must be shown the light. The righteous will be spared, of course, but the sinners of Korea will be sent to Hell to await eternal damnation. For Proverbs 21:15 says, ‘When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to the evildoers’. We are merely carrying out God’s will. And don’t worry, there are some targets in northeastern China as well. Han won’t know what hit him.”

You know what? I’m going to stop trying.

“Yeah…” Theodor said, nervously nodding. “Anyways, I need to catch some sleep, talk to you in the morning!”

He quickly booked it back to his room, not stopping to catch his breath until he had slammed the door behind him and locked it.

I made a terrible mistake.
 
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GhostRider124

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I think I know were that is. Goes to Google Maps and sees that it is only 10 hr and 47 min's away from Isfahan. :eek:

Finished just a few months ago and built on top of an older Heer base from before, it was designed to be self-sufficient and a hub for both soldiers and their equipment. As it was planned as a headquarters from which a future Persian campaign would be managed,
Hopefully this Persian campaign will go as well as the one that Marcus Licinius Crassus waged against Parthia in 53 BCE.

Lucky him. He gets to escape while I have to deal with Elias.
That is a task that no one should be forced to deal with.

I made a terrible mistake.
To late to do anything about it now Theodor.
 

zenphoenix

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I think I know were that is. Goes to Google Maps and sees that it is only 10 hr and 47 min's away from Isfahan. :eek:
Also, the Roman-Persian border is further east than the real life Iraq-Iran border, so they could easily get a lot closer before launching the actual attack.
Hopefully this Persian campaign will go as well as the one that Marcus Licinius Crassus waged against Parthia in 53 BCE.
Hopefully.
That is a task that no one should be forced to deal with.
Not even Theodor.
To late to do anything about it now Theodor.
He will know the suffering he inflicted on others.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Too bad for Theodor that he's realizing the obvious now that his options for allies all have ample reason for hating him.
 

zenphoenix

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Too bad for Theodor that he's realizing the obvious now that his options for allies all have ample reason for hating him.
As they always inevitably say, "I didn't know the leopards would eat MY face!"
 

TWR97

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There is something terribly horrifying of an Orthodox hymn being played while what is slave labor in all but name is being used to make weapons of mass destruction. I've heard some of these btw, very beautiful and peaceful, so to imagine them playing in this dystopian imagery....yeah, truly a nightmarish sight. And of course Theodor realizes too late that his allies are insane. You reap what you sow. Also that plan Elias has doesn't bode well for me, seems the Regime is finally looking to break the stalemate.
 

zenphoenix

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There is something terribly horrifying of an Orthodox hymn being played while what is slave labor in all but name is being used to make weapons of mass destruction. I've heard some of these btw, very beautiful and peaceful, so to imagine them playing in this dystopian imagery....yeah, truly a nightmarish sight. And of course Theodor realizes too late that his allies are insane. You reap what you sow. Also that plan Elias has doesn't bode well for me, seems the Regime is finally looking to break the stalemate.
Our heroes will have to move faster now.
 

CaptainAlvious

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It wouldn't be Jerusalem if they weren't doing random war crimes on a country that's half a planet away from them. To think Jerusalem once had tourists from Korea too.

Were those workers from the camps? It seems like that since Theodor talks about rehabilitation, but I guess "rehabilitation" goes beyond destroying their original cultural identities in favor of German assimilation if they are like this.

Also chemical weapons being used by a genocidal dictatorship in a war with Iran/Persia, now where have I heard that one before? :eek:

Theodor is a little slow on realizing Elias is insane. I'm surprised Josiah and Moria are still going along with Elias' shenanigans, especially since he clearly see's himself as above the other Committee member if that mural is something to go by (man the Committee was really full of it there). I'm betting they are too scared to do anything else. At least we finally learned Moria’s first name.
 
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zenphoenix

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It wouldn't be Jerusalem if they weren't doing random war crimes on a country that's half a planet away from them. To think Jerusalem once had tourists from Korea too.
You know what they say: friends today, enemies tomorrow. wait what do you mean that's not how it goes
Were those workers from the camps? It seems like that since Theodor talks about rehabilitation, but I guess "rehabilitation" goes beyond destroying their original cultural identities in favor of German assimilation if they are like this.
Internally I considered those workers as actual citizens and not minorities being worked to death in the camps. Those citizens had been so thoroughly brainwashed that they willingly subject themselves to such torture. Which implies the actual slave labor of non-citizens is even worse.
Also chemical weapons being used by a genocidal dictatorship in a war with Iran/Persia, now where have I heard that one before? :eek:
And one side happens to be a theocratic dictatorship too!
Theodor is a little slow on realizing Elias is insane. I'm surprised Josiah and Moria are still going along with Elias' shenanigans, especially since he clearly see's himself as above the other Committee member if that mural is something to go by (man the Committee was really full of it there). I'm betting they are too scared to do anything else. At least we finally learned Moria’s first name.
It's more like Josiah and Moria think Elias can be controlled if they direct him towards vanity projects like fighting Wilhelmina (an irrelevant annoyance to them) instead of actually doing committee work. That way, Josiah and Moria keep Elias busy while they have a blank check to do what they want on the committee.
 

zenphoenix

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For the Mugunghwa

Seoul - January 6

Jeong coughed and sputtered, stumbling blindly through his apartment. Just minutes ago, it was a normal morning in Seoul. Then the usual honking and humming of the morning traffic jam was interrupted by the whizzing of rockets and thudding of explosions both far and near. Then all hell broke loose. A thick purple fog shrouded his surroundings. He could barely see a foot in front of him.

Where did I put the gas mask? I should’ve listened to Ri-Hun last week…

He frantically flailed around the kitchen, trying to find the first-aid kit. Every movement and breath was an explosion of pain, feeling like something between a rash and a burn that gradually ran up and down his limbs and soaked deep inside, reaching all the way to his bones. A steely tinge hung on his tongue, tasting worse than a horribly spoiled meal he forgot to trash. Constant wheezes came from his mouth. He was constantly out of breath, yet inhaling the air only set his throat on fire even more, but he had no choice but to keep breathing.

Where’s the frakking gas mask?!

He rummaged through a cabinet, tossing cans, utensils, plates, cereal boxes, and literally anything in his way out onto the linoleum floor, not paying attention to the clanging and shattering behind him.

Who organized this cabinet? Oh wait, I did. I can just imagine Ri-Hun’s reply: “This is why I keep telling you to organize your stuff!” Well, I didn’t expect this to happen! Then again, nobody ever expects disasters, so…

He finally found the first-aid kit and hurriedly pried it open. Instead were three gas masks, one for each of him, Ri-Hun, and their little boy, Min. He put on the first mask, making sure to secure it well. As soon as it clamped over his head, he sighed with relief. The air inside the mask was already bad and would still be bad, but at least there wouldn’t be more gas coming in. His throat still stung, but it wouldn’t get worse now. The mask also cleared up his vision, keeping the gas out of his watery and bloodshot eyes, so he could now see a little further. He noticed his hands were covered in blood, the flesh on his fingers literally sloughing off like thick slurry in some areas.

Frak, that’s bad, really bad. Ri-Hun and Min! I’ve got to get them out of here!

He ran to Min’s room, where he was sure Ri-Hun was as well. It was the early morning, and Ri-Hun usually helped Min get ready for school at this time. Jeong hoped he was right. But at that moment, he heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from the room. It was Ri-Hun. “GET AWAY FROM ME!”

Jeong burst into the room, adrenaline pumping. “Ri-Hun! Min! I have the masks! Put them—”

Then he noticed what was happening. Ri-Hun had her hands wrapped around Min’s neck. The boy was limp, and his head hung at an unnatural angle.

“It’s okay,” Ri-Hun said, “It’s okay. I killed the Crusader. He had a knife and he was going to gut me, but I remembered my training and got the drop—”

“Ri-Hun, what are you saying?!” Jeong said. “That was Min! You killed him!”

Ri-Hun looked at him funny. “Min? What are you talking about? Wait…who are you?”

“It’s Jeong! Your husband! Jerusalem’s attacking us!”

“AAAAAHHHHHH! CRUSADER! GET AWAY FROM ME!” Ri-Hun lunged at Jeong with a knife. Remembering his own training from conscription, he dodged the strike, quickly disarmed Ri-Hun, and got a gas mask around her face. Ri-Hun continued struggling, and a stray hand struck Jeong in the face, dislodging his mask. The mask shot off into the purple mist, disappearing somewhere in the room.

“Frak!” Jeong dove to the floor, trying to find the mask, but Ri-Hun pounced on him.

“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, CRUSADER! YOU’RE NOT WELCOME IN KOREA!” Ri-Hun pinned him down, immobilizing his arms and legs.

Jeong struggled to break free, but he couldn’t. His limbs had already suffered too much. Most of his arms were now blood red and rotting, and in some places he could even see bone. Pain continued exploding all across his body. He instinctively gasped for breath, only to inhale a large amount of the purple gas, causing his lungs to burn ferociously.

“Ha, take that…” Ri-Hun said, panting heavily. Her words became fewer and slower. “We will never falter…Guarded by…her people…ever may…Korea…stand…”

She collapsed on top of Jeong and stopped breathing, her weight now fully pinning him down. Of course, at that moment, he finally pinpointed where his mask had fallen. It was just under the bed, two feet away. He weakly reached out, but his hand fell just short. His other hand was pinned under Ri-Hun, and he no longer had the strength to push her body off him. His vision started fading, and his limbs gradually grew numb. It was futile. This was it for him.

“I’m…I’m sorry…” he managed to say.


Isfahan - January 7

Updates continued pouring in. A map of Korea had been placed on the table of the war room. Large parts of the country, particularly around Seoul, had been highlighted in red. Every now and then, a general would get off the phone and color in another part of Korea.

“It just keeps getting worse and worse.” Gunduz shook her head in disgust.

“We didn’t include the map of Manchuria,” Shayan said, “There are reports of fatalities over the border too.”

“What are we thinking so far?”

“Agent Orange and a bunch of banned industrial grade pesticides targeting farms and forests. In rural areas, a mix of your typical chlorine and sarin weapons used in conjunction with the so-called ‘Neuspartikoi’ weapon variant—which rapidly corrodes and dissolves human organic matter upon contact—and LSDM.”

Gunudz looked at him. “Mind explaining why the frak we’re talking about hallucinogenics now?”

“Becuase that’s what it is, an enhanced variant of LSD developed by Sentinel in the 80s and 90s, designed to drive people mad with their worst fears and make them susceptible to outside influence, ultimately to kill each other. If their flesh doesn’t melt off their bones first from Neuspartikoi.”

Gunduz picked up her mug of coffee. Shahrokh had made it himself. Its caption read “I’m the Frakking Shahbanu, Deal With It.” Underneath the caption, a cute little chili Gunduz wore sunglasses and flipped the bird. Gunduz had commissioned that from an artist downtown around the time of her coronation, as Shahrokh was terrible at drawing things that weren’t buildings or parks. It was money well spent. She downed the mug’s contents and went to refill it again. “Why am I not surprised the committee would use such a frakking crazy weapon?”

“Because of Scandinavia?” Shayan said.

“How the frak did they even get those warheads to Korea to begin with?”

“We’re thinking through Sumatra.”

Gunduz paced around the war room and picked up a map of Southeast Asia. “Didn’t Higa liberate Sumatra last month? He even took Palembang.”

“A handful of Crusaders continued fighting even after he shattered the Holy Marine’s presence there, and some of them still controlled a long range missile silo. Nobody could locate and neutralize it in time.”

Damnit I thought we were getting somewhere. Higa keeps pulling off miracle after miracle, but at the same time, Jerusalem keeps on winning no matter what. It’s like we’re cursed.

Another general got off the phone. “Ma’am, I have an update.”

“Oh for frak’s sake, please don’t tell me they wiped out Vietnam now.” Why aren’t they hitting an easier target like Persia? Why go all the way out to hit Korea? It’s nowhere near the front. They gain nothing from destroying it. Are they just destroying nations just for destruction’s sake now? Is Jerusalem really digging down into the depths of frakking Tartarus for no reason other than for the hell of it?

“Atoc is withdrawing from the Cuscowilla area. His casualties have reached unacceptable levels, so he’s retreating to his beachhead.”

“And pray tell, what is his idea of unacceptable losses?”

“Fourteen thousand dead or injured.”

Gunduz finished her coffee again and refilled her cup. “That makes sense. I hope he holds his position until reinforcements arrive.” These last two days haven’t gone well at all. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I don’t think I’m going to get any sleep for the next few days. “General Tahmasb, what has the Korean government done so far?”

“Well…not much,” Shayan said, “You see…they blanketed the entire city center in napalm. The palace, chancellery, and legislature were all incinerated. Including the Namdaemun.”

The Namdaemun too? Shahrokh and I visited the ancient gate for our honeymoon. Those frakking monsters think they can just burn it down like another piece of paper?! “Okay, let me rephrase. Is there even a damn government left?!”

“Well, whatever’s left of it—I think one or two minor cabinet officials—surrendered just…” Shayan checked his papers. “Five minutes ago. It means nothing. The committee can’t ship troops into Korea to enforce an occupation, even before Higa smashed their Pacific fleet. They’re just doing this to get out of the war and focus on relief. Though at this point, I don’t think there will be much to relieve.”

“Dare I ask why?”

“Based on current projections by independent observers and NGOs, though this should account for data loss during transmission by satellites due to the enemy’s Operation Keyboard Crusade—”

I hate that name. “Get to the frakking point.”

“We estimate at least 90% of downtown Seoul was completely depopulated.”

Gunduz did a double take. “Come again?”

“90% of downtown. Wiped out.”

We saved the loyalists in the Pacific, but Korea is gone. After this war is over, Korea will still be gone. How many more lives have to be lost before we escape this hell? Is this what Willie’s getting herself into?

---

A helicopter awaited at one of the open air patios of the palace, its rotors already spun up and ready to go. Several people made their final preparations. Samir, Gulichi, Billy, and Ruby were all dressed in new fatigues, bearing the emblems of both the old Heer and the Artesh—two warring armies finally working together after thousands of years of war.

“Wonder what Samarkand’s like,” Billy said, “I’ve never been this far east before.”

“In peacetime, Samarkand is a beautiful city,” Samir said, “The jewel of the Silk Road. A place of culture and learning.”

“Have you been there before?” Ruby asked.

“I was planning to study at Shah Rukh University,” Samir said, “Unfortunately, that never happened.”

Gebhard checked his briefing documents carefully, making sure he had everything he needed. “Gulichi, clarify something. We are going to launch a…cavalry charge here?”

Gulichi looked at the map Gebhard was pointing at. “Yeah.”

“You do know you’re referring to tanks, right? They’re called armor, not cavalry.”

“Eh, same thing. Tanks are fast metal horses, right?”

Gebhard facepalmed. “Here we go again…”

They got onto the helicopter. Thea lifted a large metal box onto the helicopter. Wires and cables stuck out of the cracks, and through the locked cabinet doors, Wilhelmina could see all sorts of computers and other hardware randomly lying around. A symbol had been hastily sketched on the side, a crossed out eye, symbolizing Argeiphontes.

“You ready?” Wilhelmina asked.

Thea nodded. “I’m a little nervous.”

“So am I.”

“Don’t worry, I think you’ll do great.”

“I was about to say the same.” I sure hope so. Maybe the new tracks Alexandra made for me will help out.

Thea got onto the helicopter. Wilhelmina was about to climb in after her, but the door loudly swung open behind her, and Gunduz walked in.

“Hey, Gunduz. You here to see us off?”

Gunduz crossed her arms. “I’m here about Samarkand.”

Wilhelmina sighed. “You want to convince me to not go? Again?”

“Come on, Four-Eyes, you know I want to convince you.”

“And I’m telling you I have to do this.”

Gunduz shook Wilhelmina’s shoulders. “Seoul is frakking gone! They could do the same to Samarkand!”

Wilhelmina shook her head. “If anything, that makes me want to go even more.”

“Willie, think! This is no time to be stubborn. The committee wants you dead. They’ll have the perfect opportunity to kill you”

“Look, Gunduz, I know,” Wilhelmina said, “But I’ve spent the last four years on the run in one way or another, and all that’s done is get everyone I know killed and let the committee run rampant all over the world. I don’t want to keep running, not anymore. I want to prevent more cities from ending up like Seoul. I want to make sure nobody else has to suffer like me. This war’s gone on long enough, and I have to start doing something to end it.”

“You can do it from here.” Gunduz put her hands on Wilhelmina’s shoulders. “You can do it with me.”

“I’m sorry, Gunduz, the only way our whole operation succeeds is with me in Samarkand. My presence will draw even more Crusaders away from Bukhara. The Artesh and its allies will have an easier time retaking it. Think of what it would mean for this front.”

“Willie, think of yourself!” Gunduz shook Wilhelmina’s shoulders. “You think of the dead all the time, but think of the living too! Think of Friedrich and Ilyana! Think of me!” Her nose twitched, and she tried not to cry. “I just got you back this month. I don’t want you to die on me. Like my dad did. Like Hassan did.”

Wow. I didn’t think I would see you cry. You always made such a big deal of not crying as a kid.

Wilhelmina placed on of her own hands on Gunduz’s shoulder, staying calm and steady as Gunduz heaved and wavered. “Don’t get me wrong. I’m doing this for the living as much as I’m doing it for the dead. I’m doing it so Friedrich and Ilyana can grow up in peace. I’m doing it for you as well. So don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

A tear fell from Gunduz’s eye. She was no longer trying to hide it. Soon, she was bawling. “Promise me. Promise me you’ll come back!”

“I promise.” Wilhelmina didn’t hesitate.

Gunduz lightly jabbed Wilhelmina’s shoulder. “Now don’t you go dying on me, or I swear, when I die I’m going to push you off the Chinvat Bridge myself!”

Wilhelmina laughed. “I know it won’t come to that.”

“What makes you say that?”

Wilhelmina shrugged. “Just a feeling.”

She climbed into the helicopter and buckled up. A soldier closed the hatch and made a thumbs-up to the pilot, who began preparations for liftoff. As the rotors spun faster, the wind whipped around Gunduz’s face, throwing her hair in all directions. But she remained rooted in place. She placed a hand on the window. Wilhelmina found the moment strangely familiar. For some reason, she couldn’t help but be reminded of November. Of being pushed into a jet plane while Olga slammed the door behind her. Of pounding on the window begging for Olga to reconsider, before the plane sped down the runway and Olga turned around to face the oncoming Crusader onslaught, fighting with all she had to ensure Wilhelmina escaped. Only this time, Wilhelmina was in Olga’s position, and Gunduz was in hers. Yet Gunduz wasn’t pleading like Wilhelmina once did. She may have disagreed with what Wilhelmina wanted to do, but she still accepted it. Wilhelmina put her hand on the window to match Gunduz’s.

Don’t you worry. I’ll be back.

The helicopter lifted off, and Gunduz stepped back for her own safety. Yet she continued looking up at Wilhelmina for as long as she could, and Wilhelmina looked back until the helicopter turned to the north and flew away, towards Samarkand. Wilhelmina looked around the cabin. The soldiers of the Liberation Legion were checking their guns and talking to each other about various things, like what Samarkand was like before the war. Thea was checking her equipment and running a last minute test.

We’re all ready to go, I hope. I’m feeling nervous, honestly. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, but I couldn’t scare Gunduz more than I already have.

Her mind continued dwelling on Olga’s last stand. She remembered watching Olga disappear into the distance as her plane climbed higher and higher, but as she kept thinking about that, the more she saw Gunduz in Olga’s place and lightning-filled storm clouds in front of her, where Yavdi and the bunker should have been. Wilhelmina took a deep breath.

Calm down, Willie. You can do this. You are not going to end up like Olga.

She looked around her one more time. Then she looked to Enonon, which had been put in a case behind her feet.

This time, it’s going to be different.
 
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TWR97

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And may it be a different one. Or else Elias' madness will truly drag the World down into a hellish nightmare there's no hope of waking up from.