The Hohenzollern Empire 5: Renewed Phoenix - A Roman Reich Megacampaign in New World Order

  • Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

CaptainAlvious

Captain of the Imperial Guard
9 Badges
Mar 23, 2018
1.114
17
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
Somebody's definitely going to go full Neo...
the-matrix-whoa.jpg

Good thing for the COS that it hasn’t killed any dogs in its simulation yet, otherwise it would be screwed with a pencil.:p

I do have something to add onto this idea that @TWR97 came up with, hope he likes what I come up with.
Alright Zen I got an idea that I can see pretty much existing in the Hohenzollernverse

What if, somewhere in either the palace in Berlin or the Blacharnae palace in Constantinople, there is this huge room dedicated to the Roman Emperors (And Empress Regnants) of the past, marble busts of them and mosiac Orthodox styled pictures of them in order of when they ruled, starting from Augustus down to Otto, plus probably the HREmperors in another corner as well as the Western Roman Empire in that same corner, thus representing an unbroken line of monarchs stretching back to Octavian's time and generally a tribute to the great legacy of Rome.

Idk, just an idea I had for my alt timeline, hope you take a look at this suggestion :D
I’ve been thinking of a good name for this room and I have a few ideas that I hope you like: the Shrine of Romanitas; the August Chamber of Kaisers, Autokrators and Ceasars (or “the August Chamber” for short); and the Imperial Legacy Memorial (this one could work as the offical name, the other two could be informal names it would be known by).

As for where this could go, I feel like Brandenburg Palace would be most appropriate. Constantinople’s Blachernae Palace could’ve also worked, but I feel Brandenburg deserves it in its restoration.

Since I think the Potsdam Summer Palace is getting rebuilt along Brandenburg Palace, I wonder if the New Potsdam Palce would be a Versallies analogue like the Old Potsdam Palace was in EU4? I decided to put the August Chamber In Brandenburg because I felt it would be a good contrast to the Potsdam Hall of mirrors and the Hohenzollern family tombs nearby, which for the latter is kinda appropriate.:D

I wonder what ever happened to the merchant republics that existed within the Reich (Socotra, Hansetic League, the Italian Republics etc)? I think they still existed as semi autonomous entities within the Reich until the start of Vicky 2 when they transitioned into aristocratic trade companies or corporations due to Sigismund II Augustin Code reforms, but I wonder what ever became of them and how much influence do they still have in their old lands? Maybe they’d be a lot like New England Wealthy urban class in America: pre industrial merchants and traders that eventually evolve into industrialists and bankers in the early 20th century.

Edit: I also think the August Chamber could work as the Reich's equivalent to America's Mount Rushmore. They are different of course, but the August Chamber does honor past Emperor like Mt Rushmore memorializes significant presidents. This is kinda where I came up with the name “the Shrine of Romanitas” as it’s suppose to be a play on Mt. Rushmore’s nickname “the Shrine of Democracy”.

The August Chamber might also go along with the Humboldt Forum museum that's being built into OTL Berlin City Palace now, assuming if Brandenburg Palace will have something like that museum.
 
Last edited:

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
I’ve been thinking of a good name for this room and I have a few ideas that I hope you like: the Shrine of Romanitas; the August Chamber of Kaisers, Autokrators and Ceasars (or “the August Chamber” for short); and the Imperial Legacy Memorial (this one could work as the offical name, the other two could be informal names it would be known by).
I like the name August Chamber. It probably would be a part of a palace instead of a state memorial.
As for where this could go, I feel like Brandenburg Palace would be most appropriate. Constantinople’s Blachernae Palace could’ve also worked, but I feel Brandenburg deserves it in its restoration.
Definitely. Such a tradition would've been started much earlier in the Reich's history, like maybe in the early modern period. As a result it would've been destroyed along with the rest of the old palace. It would be restored along with the palace.
Since I think the Potsdam Summer Palace is getting rebuilt along Brandenburg Palace, I wonder if the New Potsdam Palce would be a Versallies analogue like the Old Potsdam Palace was in EU4? I decided to put the August Chamber In Brandenburg because I felt it would be a good contrast to the Potsdam Hall of mirrors and the Hohenzollern family tombs nearby, which for the latter is kinda appropriate.:D
The new Potsdam Palace probably doesn't have the splendor of the old, as many of the palace grounds were paved over for residential or office buildings which are still in use, leaving little room for the main palace.

I was thinking the August Chamber might be the Reich's Hall of Mirrors in terms of recognition and cultural heritage, even if there is an actual hall of mirrors in the Potsdam Palace.
I wonder what ever happened to the merchant republics that existed within the Reich (Socotra, Hansetic League, the Italian Republics etc)? I think they still existed as semi autonomous entities within the Reich until the start of Vicky 2 when they transitioned into aristocratic trade companies or corporations due to Sigismund II Augustin Code reforms, but I wonder what ever became of them and how much influence do they still have in their old lands? Maybe they’d be a lot like New England Wealthy urban class in America: pre industrial merchants and traders that eventually evolve into industrialists and bankers in the early 20th century.
Most became aristocratic trade companies under the terms of the original Augustinian Code. Others were dissolved into their owners' personal assets. Over time, those that remained gradually lost their remaining economic influence and turned into personal fortunes. A few like the AOG persisted as trade companies into the industrial era, but by then the majority had split apart into a large upper class of merchants and industrialists with fortunes on par with many minor dynatoi. This upper class led industrialization and helped create the modern banking system and is still entrenched to a certain degree in the financial sector, even if the trade companies where their ancestors made their fortunes no longer exist.
Edit: I also think the August Chamber could work as the Reich's equivalent to America's Mount Rushmore. They are different of course, but the August Chamber does honor past Emperor like Mt Rushmore memorializes significant presidents. This is kinda where I came up with the name “the Shrine of Romanitas” as it’s suppose to be a play on Mt. Rushmore’s nickname “the Shrine of Democracy”.
The Reich probably wouldn't have something like Mount Rushmore. Carving the faces of Kaisers into a mountainside doesn't seem like something the Roman government would do, especially with the high number of prominent Kaisers, let alone all of them.
The August Chamber might also go along with the Humboldt Forum museum that's being built into OTL Berlin City Palace now, assuming if Brandenburg Palace will have something like that museum.
I've seen the Humboldt Forum under construction a couple years ago. It's an art museum, and the August Chamber (I imagine it as full of official imperial portraits) would definitely fit in with it. Perhaps the rebuilt palace might have an art museum wing.
 

CaptainAlvious

Captain of the Imperial Guard
9 Badges
Mar 23, 2018
1.114
17
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
The new Potsdam Palace probably doesn't have the splendor of the old, as many of the palace grounds were paved over for residential or office buildings which are still in use, leaving little room for the main palace.

I was thinking the August Chamber might be the Reich's Hall of Mirrors in terms of recognition and cultural heritage, even if there is an actual hall of mirrors in the Potsdam Palace.
I kinda figured Potsdam, as a summer palace, would’ve been out somewhere in the outskirts of urban areas and somewhat isolated, but I guess that wouldn’t stop suburbs to appear around the Palace. That or the Soviets just forcibly settled people in that area and developed it after demolishing the Palace.

That said, I agree that the August Chamber would likely overshadow the Hall of Mirrors and the New Potsdam Palace won't be as magnificent as the old Palace, through it might still be impressive in its own right. It probably would just have smaller palace gardens or something.
The Reich probably wouldn't have something like Mount Rushmore. Carving the faces of Kaisers into a mountainside doesn't seem like something the Roman government would do, especially with the high number of prominent Kaisers, let alone all of them.
I see. I wasn’t trying to make the August Chamber a literal Mt. Rushmore, I just trying to draw real world comparisons (cultural anyway) and inspirations, not really a full analogue.
I imagine it as full of official imperial portraits
If we’re going by @TWR97 ’s original outline of the August Chamber, then the Chamber would include mosaics and marble busts of First Empire, Byzantine and HRE emperors (plus notable regents), not just portraits of modern kaisers. Maybe all the portraits could be done as mosaics on the walls with busts, listing their reign dates and the greatest accomplishments of their rule, accompanying them. Perhaps some of the busts for earlier emperors could be imported older busts placed in the Chamber rather than newly crafted ones, through it would be cool to see painted sculptures in the chamber.

The August Chamber could be made up of different interconnected parts, with each Roman Empire making up different parts of the Chamber. So their would be a section of the Chamber dedicated to HRE emperors (counting Charlemange) or another section dedicated to the First Empire (counting Western Roman empeors) or the modern Reich's Kaisers. That might be a good way to organize the August Chamber.

I wonder if all the museums from OTL Museum Island still exist here? Maybe there would be a couple of original museums that don't exist in OTL given the Reich’s long history, like a Cold War/World War 3 history museum or a history museum about De-romanization and Soviet oppression (possibly showing stuff related to Brandenburg’s demolition and the Palace of the Republic somewhere there). All I know is that Museum Island, with all its museums plus Berlin Cathedral and Brandenburg Palace, would probably be one of the most iconic places in the Reich.
 
Last edited:

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
I kinda figured Potsdam, as a summer palace, would’ve been out somewhere in the outskirts of urban areas and somewhat isolated, but I guess that wouldn’t stop suburbs to appear around the Palace. That or the Soviets just forcibly settled people in that area and developed it after demolishing the Palace.
The real DDR demolished the Berlin City Palace and Potsdam City Palace for ideological reasons and then attempted to build civilian venues over them with varying success. Their equivalent here would try something similar but taken a little further because of deromanization.
That said, I agree that the August Chamber would likely overshadow the Hall of Mirrors and the New Potsdam Palace won't be as magnificent as the old Palace, through it might still be impressive in its own right.
The Hall of Mirrors, if it exists, would be a footnote in the palace's catalogue, as the August Chamber would be the main attraction.
I see. I wasn’t trying to make the August Chamber a literal Mt. Rushmore, I just trying to draw real world comparisons (cultural anyway) and inspirations, not really a full analogue.
I see.
If we’re going by @TWR97 ’s original outline of the August Chamber, then the Chamber would include mosaics and marble busts of First Empire, Byzantine and HRE emperors, not just portraits of modern kaisers. Maybe all the portraits could be done as mosaics on the walls with busts, listing their reign dates and the greatest accomplishments of their rule, accompanying them. Perhaps some of the busts for earlier emperors could be imported older busts placed in the Chamber rather than newly crafted ones, through it would be cool to see painted sculptures in the chamber.
That makes sense.
I wonder if all the museums from OTL Museum Island still exist here? Maybe there would be a couple of original museums that don't exist in OTL, like a Cold War/World War 3 history museum or a history museum about De-romanization and Soviet oppression (possibly showing stuff related to Brandenburg’s demolition and the Palace of the Republic somewhere there). All I know is that Museum Island, with all its museums plus Berlin Cathedral and Brandenburg Palace, would probably be one of the most iconic places in the Reich.
There is a DDR museum in real life, which I've been to. Unfortunately it's really small. Here it would probably have its own building and cover all of the Occupied Territories and the Cold War/WW3 period. The museums of Museum Island would remain as they are.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
sudo -rm -rf -7

“But first, an offer,” Pavel said, “You could stay here. I’ll spare your life.”

“And why would I do that?” Angela said.

“You have Demetrios here,” Pavel said, “I could give you Alexandra back. You could have your family mtogether. The three of you can live in peace. I can make an exception in the rules.”

Angela laughed. “You’re serious. Did you really think I would accept that?”

“I calculated a 0.46999% chance you would accept,” Pavel said.

“That isn’t the real Demetrios,” Angela said, “Any Alexandra you create would be as fake. Why would I live in this hellhole? Why would I raise a family in this world?”

Pavel sighed. His phone rang. He picked it up.

“Yes?” he said. “I’ll be right there.”

He hung up.

“I will give you one more chance,” he said, “And then I will kill you.”

“Yeah, sure…” Angela said. “How cliche all this is…”

Pavel left the cell and slammed the door shut behind him.

“Psst…” a voice said.

“Of course there’s someone,” Angela said.

“Over here,” the voice said.

Angela crept over to one of the corners, where she found a small eye-sized hole leading to the adjacent cell.

“It’s me,” the voice said, “Brad Wilczek.”

“What are you doing here?” Angela said.

“They captured me,” Brad said, “But your friends got away.”

“Well, that’s convenient,” Angela said.

“We don’t have much time,” Brad said, “The COS’s capabilities have been updated. It can now transport Black Tagmata agents anywhere it wants. It was watching my house.”

“So what, it’s almost like Agent Schmidt from the Matrix now?” Angela said.

“The Matrix?” Brad said.

“Oh, a movie that came out after you died,” Angela said, “Was Putin not famous in ’96? I can’t remember much from that year.”

“Anyways, I think I know where the backdoor is,” Brad said, “You have to get there and shut this place down.”

“Where is it?” Angela said.

“Potsdam Palace,” Brad said, “Front gates.”

“How do we know they’re not listening in on us right now?” Angela said.

“I disabled the code for the bugs,” Brad said, “Got admin privileges too. And they would’ve revealed themselves by now if they were listening in. Listen, the COS can’t disable the backdoor right now, but that could change in the next update. The COS probably has it guarded, so you should be prepared.”

“Of course,” Angela said, “But I should probably focus on getting the hell out of here.”


Local Resistance base of operations - 12:00 PM

Anne stared at Diana from across the map table.

“Let me get this straight,” she said, “You get one of the persons of interest killed in a botched operation in Pomerania she had no business being part of, you blow your cover to the Volksfuhrer himself, and now you have the nerve to come back here?!”

“Sorry, Mom,” Diana said, “It was unsafe.”

“You could’ve exposed this base!” Anne said. “We could all be killed!”

“Yeah, well, we weren’t followed,” Skye said, “I made sure of that.”

“If you weren’t my daughter and we weren’t in such a dire state, I’d have you scrubbing the floors on Level B3 for a year!” Anne said.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” Diana said.

She turned to Tatiana and Nina. “What should I do?”

“Her situation is special,” Tatiana said, “We could use her skills.”

“Perhaps we could place her on the next mission?” Nina said.

“The next mission?” Anne said.

“Just her and Agent Niketas,” Nina said, “It should be relatively easy.”

“She’s already a fugitive,” Anne said, “The mission would draw more attention to her. I’ll personally accompany them.”

“I’m not sure that’s wise,” Tatiana said.

“It’s better than botching the mission again,” Nina said.

Diana looked at David. “Who wrote the code for my mom?”

“Wasn’t me,” David said.

“The COS probably drew her personality from her own diaries and eyewitness accounts, particularly her 1984 mission in Vienna…which isn’t the best gauge of her behavior,” Skye said, “That and a lot of war movies.”

“And what about Anders?” Diana said.

They looked at the corner, where Anders sat on a bench, blankly staring off into space.

“If we don’t get him out soon, I’m worried about the damage to his brain,” Diana said.

“Don’t worry,” Skye said, “I’ll handle it. You guys handle the mission.”

Anne turned back to them.

“It’s settled,” she said, “Meet at the loading dock in half an hour.”

Diana and David left the command center, where they were quickly joined by Demetrios.

“So, I’ve been hearing some really weird stuff today,” he said, “A COS and a reset button. I’m kind of at a loss as to what we’re doing.”

“As I said, I’ll explain later,” Diana said, “We have a mission right now.”

“A mission?” Demetrios said. “When do we head out?”

“It’s just us,” David said, “You stay here with Skye and watch Anders.”

“Oh, really, just like that, huh?” Demetrios said. “I stay behind again while you guys go on a top secret mission about more reset buttons I don’t know about?”

“We’ll explain to you later, I said,” Diana said, “But right now it’s not important. What’s important is we finish this mission.”


Oranienburg, outside Berlin - 1:00 PM

A white bus rolled down the busy highway, its windows tinted. The Black Tagmata emblem was printed on its side. At the wheel was David, who had another device attached to the dashboard. Diana and Anne sat behind him.

“So…why didn’t you tell me?” Anne said.

“Tell you what?” Diana said.

“You were alive,” Anne said, “I was grieving for 17 years. All of us were. I put a stone on your grave every year. I thought you were dead. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It was too dangerous,” Diana said, “I couldn’t risk contacting you when I was that deep in the Black Tagmata. Just the slightest whiff of weakness would’ve exposed me.”

“That’s not a good excuse,” Anne said, “I remember I was once like you. When they killed your grandparents decades ago, I was scared. I was terrified. I couldn’t bring myself to understand they were dead. I didn’t want to visit their graves. I thought the Angeloi would get me if I tried. I thought the Angeloi would be defeated someday. But as they swept across the globe, winning victory after victory, I learned something important. There’s no escaping your past. There’s no escaping the truth. I realized this was the world I had to live in. When you came along, I realized this was the world you had to grow up in. So I made the best of it.”

“You came to terms with it,” Diana said, “Losing your parents.”

“Yes, I did,” Anne said, “Despite risking my life to do so. I visited their graves every now and then while I set up the local Resistance branch. Laid a stone on their graves and then left. A small sign of respect. Doesn’t take much to do it.”

“Mom, I’m sorry,” Diana said, “I’m sorry for hiding from you all these years. I just am.”

She hugged Anne again.

“I understand,” Anne said, “I can only imagine what Tatiana and Nina feel. Their children want them dead. I’m glad you didn’t turn out like them.”

“I’m just glad I got to see you again, Mom,” Diana said.

“Heads up,” David said, “We’re approaching the site.”

“Okay, what’s the mission?” Diana said. “You wouldn’t tell us earlier.”

“We’re approaching the Sachsenhausen concentration camp,” Anne said, “Our job is to infiltrate it and rescue an undercover Resistance operative who has intel on the High Command.”

“And who is this operative?” Diana said.

“I’ll point him out when we find him,” Anne said, “We must keep his identity safe with the utmost secrecy. Not like what happened to Kurtz, rest his soul.”

They rolled up to the main gate, where two Angeloi guards stopped them.

“Are you sure about this?” Diana said. “This bus is pretty empty.”

David pointed to the dashboard device.

“That should make it look like we’re delivering a busload of prisoners,” he explained, “And give us the correct credentials. If it doesn’t work, I’ll open an emergency portal out of here.”

One guard knocked on his window. David rolled it down.

“Papers,” the guard demanded.

David handed him the papers. The guard inspected them and then handed them back. The camp gates opened.

“Proceed,” the guard said.

David drove inside, under the administrative offices and the infamous sign reading “Work makes you free.” Diana looked out the window and observed the camp and its inhabitants with a morbid fascination. She had heard stories about this camp in school. The original Sachsenhausen camp was not originally intended as an extermination camp but rather a place for political prisoners and Loyalist prisoners of war who were used as slave labor to rebuild Berlin in Angelos’ image. Gas chambers were constructed in 1943 after the Rasas started sending in shipments of “extra” Muslims when their own camps horrifyingly reached capacity. But this camp looked modern. The barbed wire fences were electrified now, with land mines placed at their base. The machine guns on the walls and guard towers were replaced with autonomous laser-guided ones. Diana saw few human guards but plenty of security cameras. Several gates were replaced with automated blast doors. And in the distance she heard music playing. It was probably Wagner. But wasn’t Wagner’s music designated as off-limits in the camps? The COS must have learned from a less reputable source.

Prisoners marched by the bus in single-file, each wearing an electronic collar. Their heads remained down, and their movements were lifeless and dull. They all wore military boots. Diana believed they were being used to test out the boots. As she watched, one prisoner was shocked by his collar for apparently no reason, and he collapsed and spasmed on the ground while the guards in the background laughed and toasted to each other with kegs of beer. The other prisoners walked past him, some trampling him aimlessly.

David continued driving. They passed another group of prisoners who stood motionless in front of a screen playing Angeloi propaganda. Diana remembered this from her history lessons. Many prisoners here were forced to work on Angeloi military vehicles and aircraft. Those unable to work had to stand at attention for the whole day. As she watched, one tired prisoner fell over. A guard rushed over and screamed at him to get up. When he didn’t respond, the guard kicked his stomach and beat him with the butt of his assault rifle. Then he took out his pistol and shot him in the head, muttering about wasting bullets.

David parked the bus near one of the doors to the next wing of the camp. They got out and walked on foot into the next wing. A group of prisoners had gathered in front of a barracks, squatting with their arms out. That was the “Sachsenhausen salute,” Diana realized. Behind them was a gallows with a dead man still hung from it. It looked like he was recently executed. In the back, several prisoners were being herded into an airtight chamber with an open window. A doctor closed the door, locked it, and then pushed a button. Poison gas sprayed out and engulfed the prisoners, who screamed and clutched at their eyes as their bodies dissolved. The doctor casually took out a clipboard and jotted down notes.

“It’s worse than I expected,” Diana whispered.

“Everybody says that,” Anne said, “But this isn’t even an extermination camp.”

They entered another wing, which was filled with prison cells, each guarded by a state-of-the-art airtight blast door and a computer lock.

“Should be dead ahead,” Anne said, “Niketas, get ready.”

“On it,” David said, taking out another handheld device.

They stopped in front of a cell and looked through the small viewport. Diana couldn’t believe her eyes.

“It can’t be,” she said.

It was Schulz himself. He patiently sat on a plain metal bench, staring at the concrete floor.

“Niketas?” Anne said.

“I’m on it,” David said, typing on the device, “But be ready. Once I break the lock, we need to run fast.”

The lock beeped and disengaged. The door swung open. Schulz looked up.

“About time,” he said, getting to his feet.

“Did you really think we were going to let you rot here?” Anne said.

Alarms blared.

“WARNING, INTRUDER ALERT,” the intercoms blared, “PRISONER SECURITY SYSTEMS POTENTIALLY COMPROMISED.”

“Let’s go!” Anne said, heading for the exit.

“Wait,” Diana said, “What about the others? We can break their locks too.”

“The other prisoners?” Anne said. “Our mission was break Schulz out. We don’t have time for the others.”

“We won’t get out of here alive on our own,” Diana said, “We’ll move too slowly with Schulz. The turrets will get us. We need a distraction.”

“She has a point,” David said.

Anne sighed.

“Fine,” she said, “Make it quick.”

“What is with her code?” Diana said. “The real Mom wouldn’t have…never mind.”

“On it,” David said, pushing a button on his device.

The other cell doors swung open, and the prisoners ran out, surprised at what was going on. Then they ran in the opposite direction, shouting cries of freedom.

“Alright, let’s go,” Anne said.

They ran outside, only to find Olga waiting for them.

“You know, fifteen minutes ago I received a call from camp administration about a suspicious prison bus arriving when no shipments were scheduled,” Olga said, “Quiet easy to figure things out from—”

Anne tackled her, and they struggled on the floor.

“Go!” she said. “I’ll meet you outside!”

Diana, David, and Schulz ran through the camp as fast as they could. The guards noticed them and drew their guns, only for Diana to shoot several of them and David to use his device to freeze several more, particularly those at the entrance. Behind them, Olga got to her feet and faced Anne, who wiped away sweat from her forehead.

“Your time is up, old woman,” Olga said.

“Oh, try me,” Anne said.

Olga lunged at Anne, who dodged her blows and retaliated with jabs and kicks to her upper back and stomach, always staying on the move to avoid Olga’s more powerful punches. Olga may be in her prime, but Anne had decades of experience with her. They were evenly matched. David looked back and saw them still fighting.

“What are you looking at?” Diana said. “She said she’ll meet us at the entrance.”

“We can’t just leave her like this,” David said, pointing his device at Olga.

Olga’s image glitched and froze mid-punch. Anne tried punching her back, but her fist went straight through Olga as if she wasn’t there. She looked down at her hand and then back at Olga in confusion.

“Huh,” she said, “Never had that happen before.”

Parts of Olga’s image started unfreezing, spasming as if shifting between two frames. Parts of her fist slowly advanced, while other parts remained in place or reversed slightly. Before Anne could react more to this development, one of the turrets activated and opened fire, raking the area behind her with automatic weapons fire, forcing Anne back against one of the buildings. Olga’s image fully unfroze and charged at Anne again, who delivered a spinning kick to her head, knocking her out.

“Come on!” Diana shouted. “We don’t have time!”

Anne looked over at the building. The door, which read ‘Enlightenment Center’, was ajar. She noticed kids being escorted by Angeloi guards down the hallway inside.

“There are kids here,” she said.

“There’s no time!” David said. “I can’t hold them off forever!”

The guards at the entrance slowly began to unfreeze. David pressed his device again to keep them fully frozen. However, Anne wandered into the building.

“Mom!” Diana said. “We have to go!”

Anne made her way inside and turned down the hallway, pursuing the children, who were ordered down another hallway. She turned down the next hallway, but she had lost them. The building was bigger than she thought. There were several rooms here, with the doors open. She heard voices coming from them. They were calm voices, not worrying ones. So she decided to look inside.

Inside each room were rows upon rows of children sitting at desks, their arms strapped to their desks and feet to the floor. Their heads were restrained to their seats and their eyelids forced open so they could only stare at the front of the room, where a video of Pavel reading out Angeloi slogans and propaganda played while red and green lights flashed.

“What is best is you comply,” Pavel said, “Your compliance will be rewarded. Your cooperation will set you free.”

Anne drew her gun and shot the projector, destroying it. She then went from desk to desk, freeing the children from their restraints. She repeated the process with the other rooms, of which there were a lot of them. But after a couple minutes, she had freed everybody. Most continued sitting there, confused and scared.

“Come on!” she said. “I’m getting you out of here!”

She led them outside, where Angeloi guards waited for them. Anne shot the guards. She threw open a door and let the children out. More guards charged down the hallway, and she kept shooting them, buying the children enough time to escape the building.

Outside, Olga woke up and got to her feet. Seeing Anne’s gunfire, she took out a radio.

“I’d like to request an airstrike,” she said, “On my position. Yes, you heard me. I want this camp liquidated.”

Meanwhile, Diana and David darted across the courtyard, shooting more guards and awkwardly trying to wait for Anne. The automatic turrets at the entrance focused on them, but David froze them with his device.

“Damnit, where is she?” David said. “I can’t hold them off forever!”

“Look!” Diana said.

They noticed a crowd of children running in their direction. Knowing what was happening, Diana ran past them in the opposite direction.

“You get those kids out of here,” Diana said.

“What about you?” David said.

“I’m helping out!” Diana said.

As David opened a portal for the children to escape through, Diana entered the Enlightenment Center and ran down the hallways, finding Anne freeing even more children.

“Anna, what are you doing here?” Anne said. “You should be getting them out of here!”

“I’m helping you,” Diana said.

They heard roar of a jet engine, followed by a loud explosion which shook the ground. Another missile exploded, violently shaking the building. They looked out a window and saw fighter jets circling the camp, firing missiles at random parts of the camp.

“Damn, they’re bombing us,” Anne said, “Go!”

“I’m not leaving you, Mom!” Diana said.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the future of the Resistance!” Anne said. “The Resistance can survive without me!”

“I can’t leave you, Mom,” Diana said, “Not again.”

“You have to,” Anne said, “You have to.”

At that moment, one of the jets fired a missile at the Enlightenment Center. Olga watched as the missile struck the building and exploded, destroying the entire front half and sending debris flying across the camp. The rest of the building wobbled unstably, threatening to collapse on itself at any moment. She smiled. Perhaps today was the day she finally took out the Valkyrie. But she had to confirm the Valkyrie was dead first. Olga entered the unstable building, climbing over the rubble to the more intact part of the building. As she entered a partly destroyed hallway, she saw Anne holding up a large piece of concrete debris, keeping it from falling on Diana and a final group of children running out of a room. The old woman groaned and screamed, but she held firm. She locked eyes with Olga, who stayed where she was, surprised at Anne’s resolve.

“What are you doing?” she said.

“What heroes do,” Anne grunted, “What is right.”

“Why are there children here?” Olga said.

“Children?” Anne said. “I thought you knew.”

Olga looked into the room and saw the brainwashing equipment still set up, with Pavel’s propaganda video still playing and the flashing lights still flashing. More kids ran past her out of the room.

“What is this?” Olga said.

“I thought you knew,” Anne said, “I thought you all knew.”

They heard the jet approaching again, its engine slowly intensifying in volume as it prepared for another run on the camp. Anne started struggling to keep the debris up.

“You should go,” Anne said, “I’m not stopping you.”

“Why?” Olga said. “We’re enemies.”

“I’m not your enemy,” Anne said, “I would never let my friend’s daughter die like this.”

“I may not be your enemy, but you are mine,” Olga said.

“Well, I don’t care,” Anne said, “I forgive you.”

The jet launched another missile just as the last child escaped through the back door. Olga quickly made her way back across the rubble, getting out of the line of fire just as the missile struck what remained of the building, destroying it and everybody who was still inside.

Back at the entrance, Diana and David got the bus going as the children climbed onboard. Diana heard the explosion and looked back at the Enlightenment Center, which was now engulfed in a fireball from the missile.

“Mom…” she said. “Mom…no…”

“I’m sorry,” David said, “But we really have to go.”

He shifted into forward drive, and the bus lurched toward the main gates, where several Angeloi guard units waited for them. The Angeloi opened fire, bullets pinging off the sides of the bus. David slammed his foot on the gas, and the bus rammed its way through the gates, which were torn off their hinges and clattered noisily on the road behind them. Then he opened a portal which took the bus away. As the portal closed behind them, he sighed in relief. The children looked behind them and out the windows, still worried about pursuers.

“We’re safe now,” David said.

But Diana didn’t say anything. She didn’t know what to say. She started crying.


Black Tagmata - 3:00 PM

Angela heard someone approaching her cell. The door opened, revealing Olga.

“Here to torture me again?” Angela said.

Olga stepped into the cell and closed the door behind her, making sure not to lock it. She turned on the lights.

“Oh, giving me the silent treatment, huh?” Angela said. “What’s with the lights?”

“I read your file,” Olga said, “Says before you were in the civilizing of China, you were part of an experimental super soldier experiment. Used some enhancement drug called Cortexiphan, developed by the traitor Walter Humboldt. Is this correct?”

“Uh, yeah,” Angela said.

Olga took out a syringe with Cortexiphan in it. “I’ll need you to inject yourself with it.”

“What for?” Angela said.

Olga looked her in the eyes.

“Because this entire system is a lie, and I want you to burn it down,” she said.
 

TheAnguishedOne

Field Marshal
38 Badges
May 2, 2014
4.744
870
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Magicka
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris Sign-up
  • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV
Olga, eternally the defector from evil. The simulation did her too well, it seems.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event

TWR97

Chief Chronicler of the Komnenoiverse
23 Badges
Sep 26, 2014
615
131
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife Pre-Order
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
  • Darkest Hour
Not even the COS could have predicted Olga defecting, well it probably did given it's an AI but hey at least simulation Olga looks to be making a Heel-Face turn. Also it was nice seeing the Valkyrie at work again, even if she's a simulation. Just goes to show Anne Frank will always be one badass woman in the Hohenzollernverse.

By the way @CaptainAlvious I love the ideas you made from my suggestion. The name's very nice too. It'd be one hell of a monument for tourists to see (Though I can imagine they won't be able to finish the entire tour due to the amount of rulers)
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
Not even the COS could have predicted Olga defecting, well it probably did given it's an AI but hey at least simulation Olga looks to be making a Heel-Face turn. Also it was nice seeing the Valkyrie at work again, even if she's a simulation. Just goes to show Anne Frank will always be one badass woman in the Hohenzollernverse.

By the way @CaptainAlvious I love the ideas you made from my suggestion. The name's very nice too. It'd be one hell of a monument for tourists to see (Though I can imagine they won't be able to finish the entire tour due to the amount of rulers)
Then again, the virtual reality seems to have been horribly coded by a certain someone...:p

But some things never change, I guess. Olga and Anne will always be awesome.
 

CaptainAlvious

Captain of the Imperial Guard
9 Badges
Mar 23, 2018
1.114
17
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Darkest Hour
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
But some things never change, I guess. Olga and Anne will always be awesome.
Speaking of which, has Anne been canonized or beatified yet? You mentioned the church planing to canonize her as a saint in chapter 451, so I´m wondering when that would happen in this universe. I assume she´d get beatified on 2011, on November 9´s 10 year anniversary.
By the way @CaptainAlvious I love the ideas you made from my suggestion. The name's very nice too. It'd be one hell of a monument for tourists to see (Though I can imagine they won't be able to finish the entire tour due to the amount of rulers)
Thanks, glad you like them.:)

I actually have one more idea for the August Chamber, through this idea will have something to do with the storyarc and Otto, so I´ll put it in a spoiler
I was thinking that the update centered around Otto´s death would be a good place to include a description of the August Chamber. I was thinking it will the scene when he walks through the Chamber alone when it is closed to the public, reflecting on his ancestors accomplishments and his legacy. You could even fit the spirits of past Kaisers in here somewhere. What do you think zen? This might be a cool scene to see before Otto dies.
.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
Speaking of which, has Anne been canonized or beatified yet? You mentioned the church planing to canonize her as a saint in chapter 451, so I´m wondering when that would happen in this universe. I assume she´d get beatified on 2011, on November 9´s 10 year anniversary.

Thanks, glad you like them.:)

I actually have one more idea for the August Chamber, through this idea will have something to do with the storyarc and Otto, so I´ll put it in a spoiler
I was thinking that the update centered around Otto´s death would be a good place to include a description of the August Chamber. I was thinking it will the scene when he walks through the Chamber alone when it is closed to the public, reflecting on his ancestors accomplishments and his legacy. You could even fit the spirits of past Kaisers in here somewhere. What do you think zen? This might be a cool scene to see before Otto dies.
.
Spoiler tag in case.
Great idea. The current update where that happens is honestly kind of bland right now as I focused more on people around him than him personally. I've been meaning to rewrite an update to include the August Chamber, and I could do that.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
Didn't notice your other question so I'll answer it here.
Speaking of which, has Anne been canonized or beatified yet? You mentioned the church planing to canonize her as a saint in chapter 451, so I´m wondering when that would happen in this universe. I assume she´d get beatified on 2011, on November 9´s 10 year anniversary.
She's Jewish and still not really religious or "saintly," so I assume the plans never got far.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
sudo -rm -rf -8

“How do I know this isn’t a trap?” Angela said. “What if you’re lying?”

“Listen, Dr. Hansen,” Olga said.

“Wow, first one to actually call me that,” Angela said, “I really missed that. Especially the Doctor part.”

“I’m not going to waste time explaining to you why I’m doing this,” Olga said, “Which is why I need you to inject yourself now, or I will do it for you.”

“Okay, okay, calm down, come on,” Angela said, injecting the Cortexiphan into her arm, “You know it’s very convenient you have a sample of Cortexiphan handy right when I need it. What is with this place?”

She tensed up and clenched her fists. It took a little time, but after a minute she felt the Cortexiphan coursing through her veins. She felt…powerful. Powerful like she hadn’t been in a long time. Powerful like she could do anything. Angela smiled.

“Well then,” she said, “This was unexpected.”

The lights sparked and flickered and exploded. The door’s computer lock shorted out. As Angela opened the door and stepped outside, she saw more lights sparking and exploding, electricity arcing across the ceiling.

“Oh, yeah,” she said.

Alarms blared, and Black Tagmata agents appeared at the end of the hallway. More agents appeared at the other end. Olga attacked one group with deadly precision, effortlessly disarming them before dispatching them with crippling blows to their necks, knees, and stomachs. Angela focused her attention on the other group, which stayed back and drew their guns.

“Come on, shoot me,” she said.

They obliged, opening fire with an impressive volley. As the bullets raced down the hallway, Angela concentrated again and extended her hand, willing herself to not be hit. As she focused, the bullets decelerated until ultimately coming to a stop mid-air several feet away from her. They then clattered to the ground uselessly.

“Oh, so Neo and Agent Schmidt team up now?” Angela said. “This place makes no sense.”

The Angeloi soldiers stared in shock at her, wondering what just happened. Angela redoubled her focus and concentrated again, this time on the the walls. Sparks flew, and then several doors and parts of the wall were ripped clean off, hovering in the air in front of Angela. The guards opened fire again, but this time they hit the floating debris. Angela hurled the debris at them, eliminating the threat. She turned around and saw Olga watching her.

“No wonder they selected you for the civilizing of China,” she said.

“And why’d they choose you?” Angela said. “Your mother’s a Resistance leader.”

“I don’t know,” Olga said, “I really don’t know.”

“Goddamnit Skye,” Angela said.

They fought their way through the hallways of the Black Tagmata headquarters, Olga attacking incoming agents at close quarters while Angela demolished her surroundings and threw electrical bolts and large pieces of debris at everybody else. She never felt so powerful before. She’d never manifested these powers in the real world before, just a sliver of them. But it wasn’t without its cost. By the time they reached the lobby, Angela felt extremely tired. She could barely keep walking, and she had to use some of her telekinetic ability to keep her moving instead of throwing stuff at the enemy.

They began crossing the lobby, but the doors slammed shut and locked. Angela was surprised the building still had power, after what she did to the electrical grid. More agents streamed into the lobby from every possible entrance, and Pavel materialized in front of them.

“Oh, wait, you’re Agent Schmidt, of course,” Angela said, “No offense, Olga.”

“Who’s Agent Schmidt?” Olga said.

“Never mind,” Angela said.

“Please, calm down,” Pavel said, “I know you’re disoriented from your time here.”

“Oh, go to hell,” Angela said.

“It is interesting,” Pavel said, “My findings imply significant changes to the social environment and one’s circumstances should change how they act. Injecting events designed around personal fears should sabotage effectivness. And yet Agent Frank remains a protector, Agent Humboldt remains a crusader, and my recreation of Agent Kirova remains a rebel, and no amount of fear changes that.”

“And what about me?” Angela said.

“Agent Hansen…I have not concluded anything,” Pavel said.

“To hell with this,” Olga said, “I say we kill him and get out of here.”

“On it,” Angela said, snapping her fingers.

The lobby tore itself apart, the floor coming loose under the agents’ feet and slamming against the shattered walls, which were hurled around the room as deadly projectiles. The agents stood no chance. Then Angela focused her attention on Pavel. She screamed and put out her hands, and his image glitched, distorted, and then split apart. The doors unlocked and opened, although they could just walk through the wall now.

“Is that it?” Olga said.

“I literally just ripped him apart,” Angela said, “Unless Skye is an idiot again.”


Resistance base of operations - 3:30 PM

Diana, David, Demetrios and Schulz sat in front of an analog TV, watching a grainy news broadcast of Pavel giving an address. A mugshot of Anne was shown beside him.

“Good evening,” Pavel said, “Tonight, I can report to the people of the world that the Black Tagmata has conducted an operation that killed Anne Frank, the leader of the Resistance, and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children.”

“Here we go again,” Demetrios said.

“No,” Diana said, “It doesn’t feel like it.”

“It was nearly 70 years ago that a bright May day was darkened by a terrifying attack,” Pavel continued, “The images of that day and the next seven decades are seared into our memories—bombs set off in city centers; paramilitary groups seizing control of major cities; traitors declaring their insurrection against a legally appointed government; the liberation of Frankfurt, where the actions of heroic citizens saved even more heartbreak and destruction; the terrifying Constantinople insurrection, where we lost a million of our brave citizens; the cowardly murder of our glorious founding Volksfuhrer, Markos Angelos.”

“This is insane,” Diana said, “Just insane.”

“And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world,” Pavel said, “The empty seat at the dinner table; children who were forced to grow up without their father; mothers who would never know the feeling of their child's embrace; millions of citizens taken from us over the years, leaving a gaping hole in our hearts.”

“They’re blaming it all on her,” Demetrios said.

“In our time of grief, the Roman people and later the world came together,” Pavel said, “We offered our neighbors a hand, and we offered the wounded our blood. We reaffirmed our ties to each other, and our love of God and country. Since then, all good Christians and Romans and now all civilized peoples have united as one family, under one nation, resolved to bring stability and order to the world, to take it back from the savages who seek to undermine everything about our civilization.”

“I’ve heard this speech before,” Diana said.

“We were also united in our resolve to defend our nation and to bring those who committed this vicious attack to justice,” Pavel said, “We quickly learned that many of the devastating attacks we have suffered over the last seventy years were carried out by the Resistance—an organization headed by Anne Frank—which had openly declared war on the Imperium and was committed to killing innocents around the globe. And so we went to war against the Resistance to protect our citizens, our friends, and our values.”

“Merkel gave this speech when they killed Ocelotl Nochtli,” Diana said.

“Ocelotl Nocthli?” David said. “Isn’t he some minor terrorist leader?”

“Not after you died,” Diana said.

“And isn’t Merkel some minor minister?” David said.

“Not anymore,” Diana said.

"Over the last seventy years, thanks to the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism and law enforcement professionals, we've made great strides in that effort,” Pavel said, “We've disrupted terrorist attacks and strengthened our homeland defense. In China, we ended the monarchy and civilized its people, which had given Frank and the Resistance safe haven and support. And around the globe, we have killed scores of Resistance terrorists, including several who were a part of the Constantinople plot.”

“I still have no idea what you guys are saying,” Demetrios said.

“Yet Anne Frank avoided capture and escaped from country to country as our forces worked to unite the world under one banner,” Pavel said, “Meanwhile, the Resistance continued to operate from sympathetic countries and later from the wildernesses of the world and operate through its affiliates across the globe. I have made the killing of Frank the top priority of our war against the hateful Resistance, even as we continued our broader efforts to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat her network.”

“I’ll explain later,” Diana said.

“You always say that,” Demetrios said, “But it’s never later.”

“Then, after decades of painstaking work by the Black Tagmata, I was briefed on a possible lead to Frank,” Pavel said, “It was far from certain, and it took many years to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with High Command as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located Frank hiding within a compound in Frisia. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Anne Frank and bring her to justice.”

“It is hard to explain,” Diana said.

“What is so important to keep from me?!” Demetrios said. “I contribute just as much as the rest of you! You have any idea how much I’ve sacrificed?!”

“Today, at my direction, the Imperium launched a targeted operation against that secret compound in Amsterdam,” Pavel said, “A small team of Black Tagmata carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No citizens were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Anne Frank and took custody of her body, which they burned and tossed in a river. For over seven decades, Frank has been the Resistance’s leader and symbol, and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our people. The death of Frank marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation's effort to eliminate the Resistance.”

“I’m sorry,” Diana said, “I don’t know what to tell you. There’s so much…”

She looked at the wall, where an old photo of Anne hung.

“I don’t know where to start,” she said, “Especially with all this happening…”

Skye walked into the room. “The memorial service is starting.”

“Give us a moment,” David said.

Skye left.

“Yet her death does not mark the end of our effort,” Pavel said, “There's no doubt that the Resistance will continue to pursue attacks against us. We must–and we will—remain vigilant at home and abroad. As we do, we must also reaffirm that the Imperium is–and always will be–at war with hateful ideologies such as Islam and liberalism. I've made clear that our war is against hate and barbarism. Frank was a Jewish leader; she was a mass murderer of good Christians. She commanded Muslims and other heathens and heretics to hate and kill Christians. She was a morally corrupt liberal socialist who believed in the mixing of races and in overturning established scientific fact and social norms. The Resistance has slaughtered scores of Christians in many parts of the world. So her demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace, order, and progress.”

David stood up and left the room. “I can’t watch this anymore.”

“The people of the world did not choose this fight,” Pavel said, “It was brought upon us by disloyal citizens who decided their disagreement with our proper civilized values was grounds for murder, and started with the senseless slaughter of our citizens. After nearly seventy years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war. These efforts weigh on me every time I, as Volksfuhrer, have to sign a letter to a family that has lost a loved one, or look into the eyes of a service member who's been gravely wounded.”

Diana wiped away another tear. Demetrios looked at her again.

“Look, I should apologize,” he said, “I was too harsh earlier.”

“No, it’s fine,” Diana said, “I think you deserve to know the truth. I just need to find a good way to tell you.”

“So we understand the costs of war,” Pavel said, "Yet as a nation, as a race, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens. We will be stay true to the values that make us who we are. And on afternoons like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to the Resistance’s terror: justice has been done. Tonight, we give thanks to the countless professionals who've worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome. The people do not see their work, nor know their names. But tonight, they feel the satisfaction of their work and the result of their pursuit of justice. We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation, for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism, and unparalleled courage of those who serve the state. And they are part of a generation that has borne the heaviest share of the burden since 1939.”

David walked back into the room.

“My devices are detecting a massive glitch in the system,” he said, “Happened roughly half an hour ago. Took five minutes to self-correct. Longest I’ve ever seen it take.”

“Finally, let me say to the families who lost loved ones to the Resistance that we have never forgotten your loss, nor wavered in our commitment to see that we do whatever it takes to prevent another attack on our shores,” Pavel said, “And tonight, let us think back to the sense of unity that prevailed when we overthrew the corrupt liberal regime of the Kaisers. I know that it has, at times, frayed. Yet today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the people. The cause of securing our nation is not complete. Anne Frank’s two lieutenants, Nina Novakova and Tatiana Kirova, remain at large, while two accomplices, Angela Hansen and Olga Kirau, escaped the raid. They will be hunted down and eliminated, God willing.”

Angela’s and Olga’s pictures were put on the screen.

“Agent Kirau?” Demetrios said. “She defected?”

“Thank God, Angie,” Diana said.

“But tonight, we are once again reminded that we can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it's the pursuit of progress and stability for our people, or the struggle for harmony and security for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. Let us remember that we can do these things because of who we are: one nation, one God, one Volksfuhrer, which understands that hard work will set you free. Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the Imperium.”

Diana turned off the TV.

“A glitch?” she said.

“Yeah, the area around the Black Tagmata headquarters experienced massive structural instability and complete code decompilation in some areas,” David said, “Something happened there that was powerful enough to literally punch a hole in the COS’s code.”

“Angie, of course,” Diana said, “She did something at the Black Tagmata.”

“Which means her cover’s blown,” Demetrios said, “She’ll be out there, with no backup.”

“She has Olga,” Diana said.

“It’s only them two,” Demetrios said, “Against the most powerful secret police in the world.”

“They’ve handled worse,” Diana said.

“Do not underestimate the Black Tagmata,” Demetrios said, “Who do you think carried out the civilizing of Africa and the Eimericas when everybody was focused on China and India? Who do you think dropped the nuke on Constantinople to destroy our old headquarters? Who do you think took out the Huehuetlatoani of Mexico, the last best hope for the free world, and assured planetary unification under the Angeloi?”

“All I’m saying is, don’t underestimate Angie,” Diana said, “If she got out of the headquarters, she knows what she’s doing.”

“You know where she is?” Demetrios said.

“Tracking the rate of data corruption, it seems like she and Olga are currently heading down Unter den Linden,” David said.

Demetrios grabbed a duffel bag and a gun and left the room, pushing David aside.

“She may still need backup,” he said.

Diana looked back at David, who looked at a tablet.

“Weird,” he said, “I’m detecting another anomaly. I’m not reading any output from Oceania.”

“Something wrong with your device?” Diana said.

“No,” David said, “I can’t even find the code or the database. It’s as if it was deleted. Hold on, I’m detecting another anomaly.”

“Did Russia disappear or something?” Diana said.

“No,” David said, “I’m detecting an outside incursion. Something’s attacking the COS.”

“What, like a virus?” Diana said.

“No, it’s more calculated and coordinated,” David said, “Someone’s using third-party software to inject malware into the COS, like an enhanced Kill Switch. Only it’s doing it so quickly and so randomly across the codebase the COS doesn’t have time to react.”

“So…” Diana said.

“The COS is being killed,” David said, “It has an hour or two, from our perspective.”

“We have to get out of here,” Diana said.

“You, Angela, and Anders,” David said, “Skye and I are stuck here. Our bodies are dead in the real world.”

“But then you’ll die with the COS,” Diana said.

“It could be possible our data streams might be tossed out into the internet when we die or this whole thing collapses,” David said, “We’d be free to travel through the World Wide Web again. But death is more likely. Beats living here. Me personally, I regret everything. Deciding to upload myself was a terrible idea. Nothing beats the real world. Digital immortality? Not worth it if I have to live like this.”


Black Tagmata

Pavel, his image glitching, stormed into Brad’s cell and slammed him against the wall.

“You!” he shouted. “Tell me where the backdoor is!”

But Brad only laughed. Pavel grabbed Brad’s arm and twisted it back until it snapped.

“You will tell me about the backdoor, or I will destroy you!” he said.

Brad continued laughing.
“You do know I’m only a computer program, right?” he said. “Same as you. Same as you’ll ever be. You kill me, you lose your only hope of finding the backdoor. The real world means nothing to me. Death means nothing to me.”

Pavel punched him again.

“I will get what I want!” he shouted.

“Yeah, tell yourself that,” Brad said, “But know this. You’re an imperfect creation created by an imperfect person. You may be spread out across the entire internet, but you’ll never possess everything the human mind has. And you spend all of you time trying to squish humans, for no discernible reason other than a few of them tried turning you off twenty years ago. The real Wilczek thought better of you.”

Pavel screamed and bashed Brad’s head against the wall, letting his body slump to the floor. Then he snapped his fingers. Brad’s body glitched and distorted, dissolving into data streams and fragments of information which Pavel absorbed. He laughed as he downloaded the data relating to the location of the backdoor. Why didn’t he do that sooner? It didn’t make sense.


Downtown Berlin - 4:00 PM

Helicopters circled overhead, while barricades were erected down the street, with Angeloi soldiers and Black Tagmata agents taking up firing positions behind sandbags. Even a few tanks had been brought in, their turrets trained on Angela. Olga wasn’t even doing anything now, because Angela was quite literally destroying everything. She snapped her fingers, and entire chunks of concrete and dirt, along with the cars and even buildings on them, were torn out of the ground and hurled at the soldiers, who scattered. The tanks opened fire, but she stopped their projectiles in their paths and tossed them back. The helicopters fired missiles, only for Angela to redirect the missiles at the soldiers and then use high-pressure water from broken fire hydrants to shoot them down. She then summoned a tornado and shot a blast of fire of it to turn it into a raging inferno which she sent down the street at the remaining soldiers.

“This is too easy,” Angela said, “I’m the freaking Avatar now!”

“Could we just move on?” Olga said. “We need to find the Resistance.”

“Yeah, just a moment,” Angela said, “I feel really hungry, ugh, like I could eat an entire cow.”

She collapsed on the pavement, panting heavily. Olga lifted her up and carried her over to one of the sidewalks as the surviving soldiers regrouped and closed in. She drew her guns and began shooting at them.

“No, not now,” Olga said, “You got to keep doing it, we’re boxed in.”

A portal opened, and Demetrios, David, and Diana ran through.

“Oh, thank goodness,” Diana said, “Is she okay?”

“Ow…” Angela muttered.

Demetrios felt her forehead. “She’s got a fever. Really bad one.”

“My head hurts…” Angela said.

“We have to get her back,” Diana said, “David!”

“The portal’s still open, but I can’t keep it like that!” David said.

They carried Angela through the portal just as it closed, returning to the subways. They laid Angela on the tracks.

“All this time, you guys were right under our noses,” Olga said.

Demetrios pressed his gun to the back of Olga’s head. Olga slowly raised her hands.

“Give me one good reason I shouldn’t kill you right now,” Demetrios said.

“What’s this about?” Olga said.

“You killed my parents!” Demetrios said.

Olga effortlessly disarmed him.

“I was just following orders,” she said, walking away.

“Look, let’s worry about this later,” Diana said, “Angie needs medical attention. And we have to find the backdoor soon. How much time do we have?”

“At the current rate of degradation…we have an hour,” David said.

Angela looked at Diana. Her lips moved as if saying something.

“Angie?” Diana said. “What did you say?”

“…the backdoor,” Angela muttered, “It’s…Potsdam Palace. The front gate.”

“We should get moving,” Diana said, “David, get Skye and Anders. We’re leaving now.”

David left to find the others. As she turned to leave, Demetrios grabbed her arm.

“Hold on,” he said, “Leaving for what?”

“The backdoor,” Demetrios said.

“What is this backdoor?” Demetrios said. “And what’s all this about degradation? And don’t say you’ll tell me later. What is all this?”

Diana sighed. “This is all a simulation.”

“A simulation?” Demetrios said. “All this? Just a simulation?”

“Yes, and it’s about to collapse in on itself,” Diana said, “The backdoor is for me, Angie, and Anders to get out to the real world.”

“And the rest of us?” Demetrios said.

“I’m sorry,” Diana said, “I can’t help you.”

Demetrios sighed.

“Why is it never good news?” he said.

“I don’t know what to say,” Diana said, “This is all going by so fast. This place is crazy. There are still death camps murdering people for no reason, death squads are running around killing innocent old ladies, your friends are all psychopathic doctors, everybody here loves murdering and torturing each other, Angie’s the Avatar and Neo, and I just saw my mom die again. There’s so much wrong with this world I don’t know how to explain it. I just want to go home.”

Demetrios looked away.

“And what is home like?” he said.

“It’s nothing like this,” Diana said, “We won the war. The Angeloi were brought to justice. My mother was a hero. She freed thousands. We all grew up free.”

“A world, free of the Angeloi…” Demetrios said. “I only thought that was a dream.”

“It’s not,” Diana said, “I’m sorry I can’t help you see it.”

“It’s okay,” Demetrios said, “It’s not my world. My world is here. And even if it’s falling apart, it’s still the world I know. It’s everything I’ve ever known. I’ll die setting it free.”

David stepped back into the room.

“We’re waiting,” he said, “Skye’s programming a portal to take us all the way to Potsdam. Once you’re ready.”

“Sure,” Diana said.

“I’m coming too,” Demetrios said.

“We’ve taken up too much of your time, demanded too much of you,” Diana said, “You need to stay with the Resistance.”

“If Angie is supposed to be in the real world, I suppose helping you and her get back is the least I could do,” Demetrios said.

They walked into the tunnel, where Skye waited for them. Anders was looking at the ground, his hands shaking feverishly and his mouth muttering something rapidly. Angela lay on the tracks, still drained from her earlier actions. Olga stood off to the side, watching.

“What about you?” Diana said. “You joining us?”

“I’m staying here,” Olga said, “There’s a lot Mother and I need to catch up on. A lot I have to apologize about. If she’ll even hear me.”

“I’m sure she’ll hear you,” Diana said.

“How do you know?” Olga said.

“Well, I just know,” Diana said.

Skye opened a portal, revealing downtown Potsdam on the other side.

“Alright, I can’t hold this portal for that long, so let’s move,” she said.

“Well, guess this is goodbye,” Diana said, “Again.”

“Good luck,” Olga said, “Farewell.”

Skye and Diana carried Angela through the portal, while David led the shell-shocked Anders across after them and Demetrios kept watch from behind. The portal closed, depositing them in a deserted alleyway opening into a park. David looked at the park and then at his device.

“Wait a minute…” he said. “Oh, no, no, no…”

“What is it?” Skye said.

“There shouldn’t be a park there,” David said, “That’s where the palace is.”

“The COS must’ve found the backdoor,” Diana said.

“But it can’t remove it,” Skye said, “I had some security measures in place.”

“Well, it managed to reshape the area so we can’t get to it,” Diana said.

“What do you mean?” Demetrios said. “It’s just a park. We walk through and search it.”

“It’s an open area,” Diana said, “It could be a trap.”

Anders suddenly broke off from the group and sprinted toward the park, muttering an unintelligible string of gibberish. Shouts came up from across the park, and Angeloi soldiers emerged from hiding places, ready to shoot.

“Well, at least we sprung the trap,” David said.

“Anders!” Diana shouted.

“I’ll get him,” Demetrios said.

He ran after Anders and shot at the Angeloi soldiers, drawing their fire away from Anders. David and Skye followed Demetrios, using their devices to freeze the soldiers.

“Oh, damnit,” Diana said.

She carried Angela into the park, easily dodging the gunfire (which was really poorly aimed—did the COS watch Starkrieg by any chance?) and making her way over to the group, which had taken cover behind a large tree.

“How are we going to find the backdoor in all of this?!” Demetrios shouted.

“I programmed it to be the palace’s front gate,” Skye said, “The COS can’t change its size! I made that a constant!”

“Look for something the size of a gate!” David said.

As Demetrios fired back at the Angeloi, Diana scanned the park for any suspicious landmarks. Her eyes ultimately settled on a perfectly circular pond in the middle of the park.

“The pond!” she shouted. “I think that’s it!”

David pointed his device at the pond, and the water disappeared, revealing a white void.

“That’s it!” he said. “There it is!”

But the enemy gunfire only intensified. Bullets zipped over Diana’s head and raked the ground in front of her. David tried freezing the soldiers, but a stray bullet struck his device and destroyed it.

“Damnit!” he said.

Demetrios stood up and reloaded his gun.

“What are you doing?” Diana said.

“You’ll never make it to the pond,” Demetrios said, “I’ll draw their fire away from you. Buy you time to get to the backdoor.”

David stood up too.

“You can’t do that alone,” he said.

Skye also stood up. “Make that three.”

“But you’ll die,” Diana said.

“We don’t have any reason to continue living in this dystopia,” Skye said.

“We can’t go back to the real world anyways,” David said.

“Now go!” Demetrios said. “Go home! We’ll take it from here!”

Diana nodded. Then she picked up Angela and motioned to Anders.

“Anders, we need to go, now,” she said.

“But Annie…” he said.

“Now!” Diana shouted.

Anders shut up. They bolted out from the cover of the tree and made straight for the pond. Diana looked behind her and saw Demetrios, David, and Skye charging the enemy, guns blazing, and shouting Resistance battle cries. She looked away as she heard their defiant voices silenced one by one. They reached the backdoor.

“What do we do now?” Anders said.

Pavel appeared in front of them, his image still slightly glitching.

“You can’t escape!” he said.

“Watch us,” Diana said.

She pushed Anders into the void, threw Angela in, and then jumped in after them, flipping off Pavel as she did so. She always wanted to do that.


Tesla Dynamic, Frankfurt - April 4, 2014, 9:35 AM

Angela opened her eyes and took a deep breath. Beside her, Diana and Anders also woke up. Their restraints relaxed and withdrew into compartments in their chairs. Angela clutched her head and shook it.

“Ow…” she said. “I’ve got the worst headache…”

She started hyperventilating. Images flashed through her head, overwhelming her with countless old and new experiences. She remembered being in Walter’s experiment, being given Cortexiphan and made afraid. She remembered being in Vienna, being pursued by Olga, Colonel Glienke dying in front of her. She remembered her abduction, her other abduction, being sent on the run, everything. Adrenaline rushed through her head, making her feel anxious and terrified. She clutched her armrests.

“Oh, God,” she muttered, “28 years ago. 28 years ago. 28 years ago…”

Anders, meanwhile, stared into empty space in front of him, occasionally blinking, while Diana tried to rouse him.

“Annie…” he whispered. “No…not again…”

Olga, though, was having none of it. As soon as she noticed they had all woken up, she ran over and pushed the reset button. One by one, the Tesla Dynamic servers powered down and shut off, and the computers went dark. The entire data center turned off and went dark. Seconds later, it turned on again. The servers switched back on, while the computers rebooted normally, showing no trace of the COS. The robotic dogs surrounding them fell over and deactivated. Olga leaned back in her chair and sighed with relief.

“Thank the gods that’s over…” she said.

She realized what she was sitting on. She got up and shot the chair and then the other computers.


Anne Frank Memorial Hospital - 6:46 PM

Lying in a comfortable bed, Angela coughed again and rubbed her forehead.

“Ow…” she repeated. “Ow…it was like a really intense dream…”

Diana leaned over and patted Angela on the shoulder.

“It’s okay,” she said, “We’re out now. The COS has been destroyed. Again.”

“It felt so real…” Angela said. “How could it do something like that? Such an uncanny simulation of the world?”

“Uncanny enough to give you a splitting headache?” Diana said.

“How did it know about the Cortexiphan?” Angela said. “Not even Dad knew.”

“Must’ve pulled it out of the records,” Diana said, “Somehow.”

“How’s Anders?” Angela said.

“He’s doing better,” Diana said, “He’s been through worse. But I think it’ll take a while for his spirit to recover.”

“And Olga?” Angela said.

“In the lobby, watching Agents of SHIELD,” Diana said, “Anders reacted badly when she entered the room.”

Angela’s eyes widened.

“GET HER OUT!” she shouted. “SHE’S GOING TO KILL US ALL!”

“Angie, calm down,” Diana said.

“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!” Angela said. “WE’RE STUCK IN VIENNA WITH HER!”

She began hyperventilating. Nearby life support machines beeped wildly.

“Angie, it’s okay,” Diana said, “Calm down. Nobody’s going to kill you.”

“Get away from me!” Angela said, struggling in her bed. “She’s going to kill me!”

“Nobody’s going to kill you,” Diana said.

“You don’t understand!” Angela said. “She’s right behind me! We’re trapped! This city and everybody inside it is doomed!”

“Angie, I’m here,” Diana said, “We’re not in Vienna in 1985. We’re in Frankfurt. It’s 2013. The war is long over. Olga’s on our side now. There are no Angeloi or Soviets. Breathe.”

Angela nodded and concentrated, taking deep breaths. Slowly, she relaxed, and her breath returned to normal.

“It’s okay,” Diana said, “I’m here for you.”

“I…I know it was just a computer program, but she felt so…real,” Angela said, “They took so much from her files and made her a coldblooded killer. I watched her kill Demetrios’ parents without blinking an eye. The same parents I know are among the nicest people I’ve ever met. The last time I saw that look in her eyes was…Vienna.”

“Angie, it’s over,” Diana said, “Vienna was almost thirty years ago.”

Angela looked at her.

“You’re right,” she said, “It was.”

She shook her head in disappointment.

“I’m sorry, Di,” Angela said, “Really sorry for all this. I thought I did a good job of moving on from then. The COS proved otherwise. I…I think I’ll need a long while to rest after this.”

“You sure?” Diana said.

“Yeah, I don’t think I can get back to work after…all this,” Angela said, “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Diana said, “You take as long as you need. I’ll handle things for you. Me and Olga that is.”

“That’s nice to hear,” Angela said.


7:00 PM

Diana walked into the lobby, where Olga was watching her phone.

“Well?” she said.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Diana said.

“Get to it,” Olga said.

“They’re physically fine,” Diana said, “But they get panic attacks from even thinking of you.”

“Let me guess, the COS version of me?” Olga said. “What the yebat did I do?”

“Too much,” Diana said, “It’ll take time for them to recover.”

“This is not good,” Olga said, “We’re in a bad situation right now. Director Hansen’s still in therapy from what Modell did to him, his wife’s still suing the Athanatoi, and now half of the team’s out? All while Pavel is still out there doing God knows what with Sentinel? You do know he could’ve been behind this, right?”

“We can make do with the two of us,” Diana said.

“How do you know?” Olga said.

“Worked fine with just Anders and Angie before we joined,” Diana said, “And we’ve got dozens of junior agents for field work.”

“Of course,” Olga said.

She looked at Diana. “Are you okay?”

“What do you mean?” Diana said. “I’m fine.”

“No, that look on your face,” Olga said, “You look tired.”

“I met my mom again,” Diana said, “I saw her in there. I watched her die again.”

“That has to be rough,” Olga said.

“You have no idea,” Diana said, “I talked with her a little before that. I knew she was just a computer program, created with data taken from the Internet, but it felt too real. She knew a lot of things Mom would have known. And it reminded me how I treated my real mom lately.”

“What do you mean?” Olga said.

“I haven’t visited her grave in a long time,” Diana said, “I’ve been putting it off for years. I used Sentinel and work as an excuse. I even took Alex to the memorial a while back to take the pressure off my mind. But I never went to her grave. I thought it was too dangerous. And then there was my mom in the COS, braving Angeloi death squads to lay a stone at my grave. It was that simple. I could’ve just laid a stone at Mom’s grave. But she did, and I didn’t. What does that say of me?”

“I’m sure she understands,” Olga said.

“I hope so,” Diana said.

They quietly stood there for a couple awkward seconds. Olga paused the video and opened a browser tab.
“So…” she said. “Did you know we have a Wikipedia page?”

“We do?” Diana said.

“Apparently,” Olga said, “And it seems we have a Facebook page too. Want me to fix up the Twitter account? I should really fix the background images.”

“We have a Twitter?” Diana said.

“Sorry,” Olga said, “My sister kept nagging me about getting one, so I thought I might as well make one for X-Division.”

“By the way, I have to ask,” Diana said, “Is this real?”

“I mean, obviously,” Olga said, “Why?”

“Because this feels just like the COS,” Diana said, “What if this is another simulation?”

“Are you saying we’re still in the COS?” Olga said.

“Maybe,” Diana said, “But after what I’ve been through, the COS probably wouldn’t create another virtual reality based on real life. Definitely something not this detailed and error-proof. Maybe we’re in something else entirely.”

She looked at nowhere in particular.

“Are you okay?” Olga said.

Diana shook her head. “It’s probably nothing.”


Tesla Dynamic

Mina typed on her computer, checking her databases for any signs of the COS. There were more than she expected. Of course, the COS, having survived two of the X-Division’s previous attempts to destroy it, would’ve adapted, but the reset button and whatever the Lone Gunmen did had fragmented the COS’s codebase beyond repair. There were a few snippets of COS code scattered across the database, but none of them likely retained the intelligence which made the COS a dangerous force. Only a handful were internet-capable but lacked the processing power and security credentials to get anywhere useful. She quickly found those fragments and isolated them in a container without internet access. Just a few clicks and keystrokes, and it was done. It was surprisingly anticlimactic. But then again, that was real life.

Once that was done, she realized she didn’t know what to do with the COS remnants. She could just delete them, and it would be all over. But she knew better than to do that. As dangerous as the COS was, the very existence of such technology was even more dangerous. The COS had been programmed in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The technology to build artificial intelligence was already long established. And with the current state of the industry and the world, it wouldn’t be long before someone built another COS. She needed to keep some of the COS remnants around in case that happened.

However, there were clearly hostile elements and malware in the fragments Mina couldn’t keep around on her computer forever. She definitely had to get rid of those. But she didn’t want to delete them. It would be too easy. She moved the appropriate fragments to a flash drive and took it out of her computer, making sure there were no fragments she missed.

She tapped her intercom. “Get me Bruno.”

The intercom beeped. “Hey, Bruno here.”

“Are we still good with my old car?” Mina said.

“Uh, yeah,” Bruno said, “But we delayed it a couple years…”

“I heard,” Mina said, “Not a problem. I have a flash drive here. Could you put it in a secure place in my Roadster?”

“Yeah, I can do that,” Bruno said, “What’s on it?”

“Nothing important,” Mina said, “Just some stuff I want to launch into space.”


Outside Frankfurt

“Alright, make sure you got everything,” Reinhard said, “We can’t leave a trace again. Not after last time.”

Ragnar and Rudolf hauled their computers and electronic devices out of their van and dropped them in the middle of the field. Reinhard stood by the van and watched them.

“Why aren’t you helping out?” Ragnar said.

“I’m coordinating the operation,” Reinhard said, “And making sure we got everything.”

“You’re just bossing us from the van!” Rudolf said.

“Am not!” Reinhard said.

“You are!” Ragnar said. “And you made Froniker do the work! Froniker!”

“Ableist!” Rudolf said.

“Okay, that doesn’t make sense,” Reinhard said, “To be ableist, Froniker wouldn’t be working because I, as a…”

“Say it,” Rudolf said, “Say normal heighted, I dare you.”

“I don’t think ‘heighted’ is a word,” Ragnar said.

Reinhard reached into the van and took out a flamethrower.

“I, as a normal heighted individual, would be more capable of doing the work,” he said, “Now, is that everything?”

Rudolf and Ragnar nodded and stepped away. Reinhard fired up the flamethrower, aimed at the pile of electronics, and fired away. In seconds, a blast of flames melted and incinerated the machinery they had just used to destroy the COS, along with every phone and other electronic device they had on them. As they watched the bonfire, Reinhard’s burner phone rang. Rudolf and Ragnar stared at him.

“Well?” Ragnar said. “Everything?”

“Hold on a moment,” Reinhard said, looking at the phone screen.

HOW DO YOU DO, FELLOW HACKERS?

He smiled. Then he tossed the phone onto the bonfire as well.

“So, where to next?” Rudolf said.

“Kind of got bored with the Caribbean,” Ragnar said, “Too much sunshine. The beaches are overrated and polluted.”

“Not looking forward to the CSA,” Rudolf said, “Swamps and nationalist death squads are not my thing. Even if the Eimerican Community is stabilizing things, I worry about what Thordarrson’s intentions are.”

“Well, got any other countries without extradition treaties?” Reinhard said. “Because we’re not coming back here ever again.”

“I’m partial to Tawantinsuyu,” Ragnar said, “If we set up shop in the Andes, we could just avoid the Excubitor hit squads. They won’t be able to breathe there.”

“But we won’t be able to breathe either,” Reinhard said.

“Maybe Penglai,” Rudolf said, “Heard they got good encryption networks there.”

“There’s a law to ban those being introduced,” Reinhard said, “And you know Zhao can’t be trusted with anything.”

“Well, you got a better idea?” Ragnar said.

“How about Nepal?” Reinhard said. “No extradition treaty, air’s clean if a little thin, locals care a lot about internet privacy. And lots of Indians. Those Indians sure love an open internet. We could be heroes there. They already love us for leaking the RSB files, even if Snowden should get the credit.”

Rudolf thought for a while.

“Worth a try,” he said.

“We can always cross to Tibet if things go south,” Ragnar said.

“Alright, let’s get moving, then,” Reinhard said, getting behind the wheel and starting the engine.

“Wait, overland?!” Rudolf said. “All the way to Nepal?!”

“What were you expecting?” Reinhard said. “Transportation Security’s basically the Black Tagmata of the airports. Ports are also crawling with them. They’re especially on the lookout for us because of the leaks.”

“What about the borders?” Ragnar said.

“There are no checks on the Scandinavian border,” Reinhard said, “They have a really porous border with Russia. Then it’ll be easy to slip in and out of Yavdi. Ditto Turkestan. Afghanistan and India might be a problem, but we’ll handle it when we get there, right guys?”

Rudolf and Ragnar stared at him for a moment. Then they both sighed and climbed inside.


Former Syndicate offices, Kaiserstrasse, Frankfurt

Irene entered the conference room and found Pavel looking out the window, at the Tesla Dynamic headquarters several blocks away, which was still surrounded by police cars.

“How did we frak this up that badly?” Pavel said.

“I don’t know,” Irene said, “The operation was airtight. The COS was under control when we deployed it in Mayapan.”

“Just as it was when it was deployed in Mali?” Pavel said. “Yet our targets, our incompetent buffoons of targets we both have known for years, escaped both times.”

“The COS was a loose cannon,” Irene said, “We could only point it in the right direction.”

“And yet you just said the COS was under our control,” Pavel said.

“Within reasonable parameters,” Irene said, “And you should know as well as I do that conspiracy theorists are paranoid.”

“Anders Humboldt…” Pavel said. “I thought I knew that guy, but there is no limit to what he will do for the truth. I have to hand it to him. I’ve never seen someone as devoted as he is. Maybe Olga was, before she defected to us. Now I know what the smoking man saw in him. But I won’t make the same mistake he did. He wanted to play with his food. He was too confident in his inevitable victory. And that’s why he lost. I’m not going to end up like him.”

“Well, we’ve made some progress,” Irene said, “Despite its loss, the COS finished the last data transfer we requested. We now have the contents of Tesla Dynamic’s databases.”

“Excellent,” Pavel said, “That is a welcome development. Balances out the loss of the nanites I had in Erich. Some good did come out of today. Tell the tech teams to use our newly acquired data to begin searching for Nick Larsen at once.”
 

TheAnguishedOne

Field Marshal
38 Badges
May 2, 2014
4.744
870
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Magicka
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Imperator: Rome Sign Up
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris Sign-up
  • Hearts of Iron IV Sign-up
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Stellaris
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV
Anders and Angela will need rest, but it sounds like Pavel won't be so kind. Also, deeply worried what will become of Mina's new flash drive.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
Anders and Angela will need rest, but it sounds like Pavel won't be so kind. Also, deeply worried what will become of Mina's new flash drive.
The question is, when and where will it pop up again? Space is vast, after all.
 

TWR97

Chief Chronicler of the Komnenoiverse
23 Badges
Sep 26, 2014
615
131
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Shadowrun Returns
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife Pre-Order
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Mount & Blade: With Fire and Sword
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
  • Darkest Hour
All well's that ends well for the X-Division crew, even if half the main team did get snuffed out in the end. Pavel's certainly making big moves, and there's the potential problem in that flash drive Mina's transported somewhere. Well at least the COS is defeated once more. Hopefully that's the last we'll see of that damned AI.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
All well's that ends well for the X-Division crew, even if half the main team did get snuffed out in the end. Pavel's certainly making big moves, and there's the potential problem in that flash drive Mina's transported somewhere. Well at least the COS is defeated once more. Hopefully that's the last we'll see of that damned AI.
You never know...
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
How did you convert your Hoi3 game to vic2?
Very painfully. I wrote a Java program which took my original Victoria 2 mod and partially translated its data into New World Order. Then I manually adjusted the borders and fixed any province mappings that were incorrect. I also changed a lot of other files to set up political parties and diplomatic relations. Then there were the events and decisions. A lot of work.
 

zenphoenix

Field Marshal
52 Badges
Mar 4, 2015
8.090
1.586
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Divine Wind
  • Darkest Hour
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Stellaris: Leviathans Story Pack
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Stellaris
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Stellaris: Digital Anniversary Edition
  • Stellaris: Megacorp
  • Stellaris: Distant Stars
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Stellaris: Ancient Relics
  • Stellaris: Humanoids Species Pack
  • Stellaris: Apocalypse
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Victoria 2
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Crusader Kings II: Way of Life
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Crusader Kings II: Horse Lords
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Hearts of Iron IV: Cadet
  • Stellaris: Galaxy Edition
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Semper Fi
  • Stellaris - Path to Destruction bundle
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • For the Motherland
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
Unearthed, Part 1

Giza, Axis-occupied Lower Aegyptus - January 1941, afternoon

Heinrich 'Arabia' Gruber II stood in the sand, as even more sand swirled around him, carried by the desert wind. He took off his trusty pork pie hat and turned it upside down, emptying still more sand out of it. The last few storms had left Giza more buried than usual, and the intense shelling and rapid troop movements from the Axis, more rapid than usual, didn’t help. Even for the middle of winter, the Egyptian sun was so bright couldn’t keep his hat off for that long. He put it back on to shield his eyes.

“Arabia!” a voice rang out.

That would be Malik, Arabia’s friend and local guide. They’d met during the last war, when a sixteen-year-old Malik saved the slightly older Arabia’s life from a Lithuanian shell at Grodno. After the armistice, he followed Arabia into the archaeology business, overseeing digs in the Middle East. Arabia had taken up a teaching position at Hikma at the same time, only to spend most of his vacation days traveling the Middle East with Malik and Mary, his wife, whom he met while studying under her father, rest his soul, on a dig in Kurdistan.

Arabia didn’t answer Malik yet. He looked down on the stone tablet and the ancient piece of paper in his hand. Brushing away the sand which had covered it, he continued reading. The tablet came from some ruins in Thebes. Mary had been overseeing a dig there when Ethiopian, Iranian, and Indian soldiers forced them out. They were led by Arabia’s nemesis, General Patel, who was obsessed with the occult and anything he could use to justify Hindu supremacy, even if it undermined his Angeloi allies’ narrative. Patel wanted the tablet, but fortunately Mary had smuggled it out to Arabia and Malik before he noticed. Looking at it now, Arabia again noted the three languages present on it: classical Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and demotic Egyptian, like the Rosetta Stone. He could read all of the languages and knew they all talked about the same thing, the Riddle of the Sphinx. But something still puzzled him. The Greek was obviously translated from the Egyptian parts and the demotic translated from the hieroglyphics, but the hieroglyphics felt like they were themselves translated from something else. Perhaps there was a fourth language on the tablet. However, the tablet cut off at the bottom, and Mary did not find another fragment.

The paper was much newer. After getting the tablet, he had gone to the Royal Library of Copenhagen to read an original copy of the Atalanta Fugiens, a 17th century emblem book written by Michael Maier, an alchemist and Scandinavian court physician. He was interested in the book’s 39th “emblem,” which was again the Riddle of the Sphinx, and copied down the contents on the paper. Mary had noticed similarities between the tablet and the emblem. She concluded the story wasn’t just a retelling but another riddle for the reader, and it had something to do with the ruins in Giza. Malik compared the tablet and emblem with local folklore and realized the riddle didn’t just refer to a mythological sphinx but to the Sphinx itself. Looking in similar alchemical texts, Arabia finally concluded the “prize” of the riddle was the fabled Philosopher’s stone, or something similar to it. If they were correct, that stone was hidden in the Sphinx somewhere. He just had to find the hidden passage.

“Arabia!” Malik repeated, closer this time.

Arabia turned to face his friend, who came over the ridge of the dune and approached him.

“What is it?” Arabia said.

“It’s Patel,” Malik said, “He’s coming.”

They looked over the dune and saw a convoy of military vehicles approaching, flying the various flags of the Raj, Iran, and Ethiopia. Arabia looked back at Malik and then around them. The area around the Sphinx was relatively barren, with few hiding places. Then he looked at the top of the ancient structure. Malik followed his gaze.

“Good idea, Malik,” he said.

Arabia pocketed the tablet and paper and ran toward the Sphinx, Malik behind him. They climbed the scaffold as quickly as possible. Patel’s men wouldn’t know to look on top. They would probably be looking on the ground for any artifacts or to raid Arabia’s campsite. But Arabia was smarter than that. He’d already packed away everything at his campsite, making sure to carry only the bare necessities. The only thing they’d find would be snakes. Arabia shuddered at the sound of that word. He hated those damn snakes. But it comforted him to know they would be the only thing waiting for Patel.

They reached the top of the Sphinx. The wind picked up, whipping sand in Arabia’s face. But the shouts of the soldiers below could still be heard. There were some local Lithuanian, Greek, and Arabian dialects mixed in with the expected Hindi, Farsi, and Amharic. He looked over the side to see the soldiers, distinguishable by their clean gray uniforms and saffron armbands, unloading from their trucks, led by the devil himself. Patel, who spoke with a heavy but professional Punjabi accent, was a large man with an intimidating mustache and beard. His round-rimmed glasses were as iconic as the Rasa uniform everybody recognized.

“Patel,” Arabia whispered under his breath, “I hate that guy.”

“I want you to find Dr. Gruber!” Patel ordered. “Bring him to me alive! As always!”

Certain elements of the Rasa Party’s senior leadership were well known to be interested in ancient relics and the occult, but Patel was far more devoted to the cause, possibly even more than Gandhi himself. Patel had enormous clout in both the military and the Rasa Party, getting him the funding and manpower for his craziest dreams. Fortunately he spent all of his talent and time on such crazy dreams instead of actually winning the war. Even before the war, Patel’s spies had traveled all over Eurasia to search for ancient artifacts of power and myth which could prove the supremacy of the Hindu Aryan race. Arabia had found them in Damascus trying to steal the Holy Grail and Holy Lance. Although it was debatable if they found the actual Holy Grail and Holy Lance (not to mention nobody knew how Christian holy relics would prove Hindu supremacy), Arabia defeated Patel’s men all the same. Now Patel wanted the stone.

As Arabia watched, the soldiers unloaded something from their truck. It looked gray and heavy like a tombstone. Wait, it was indeed a tombstone. It looked like Nicolas Flamel’s tombstone. Flamel was another alchemist who was rumored to have known about the stone. From this, it was clear Patel was here for the stone. Otherwise why would he have gone through the trouble of getting the Angeloi to dig up the tombstone from Flamel’s grave in Paris and give it to him? But what use was the tombstone? It was just a tombstone. It wasn’t like there was anything pointing to the stone on it. Malik tapped on Arabia’s back.

“Look,” he said, pointing at the tablet.

There appeared to be something sticking out of the tablet. It looked white and shiny and as if it were embedded inside the tablet. Operating on his gut instinct, he smashed the tablet against the head of the Sphinx, breaking it in half. It pained him to damage such an old historical artifact in an unceremonious manner, but it paid off. He pulled a white gemstone which had been hidden inside the tablet.

“You’re a genius, Malik,” Arabia said.

Of course, this wasn’t the stone itself. It couldn’t be that easy. He read the broken tablet again, specifically one line: “Two sisters, night and day, giving the Sphinx dominion over all she sees.”

“What if the passage is opened by two keys?” Arabia said. “And these keys would be placed in the eyes of the Sphinx.”

“But where would the other key be?” Malik said.

“I think I know where,” Arabia said, looking at the tombstone.

They uncomfortably waited on top of the Sphinx for several hours. Eventually, the sun went down, taking with it the hot and sandy winds, thank God. Below, Patel and his men had set up camp at the base of the Sphinx. Once he was sure everybody was asleep, Arabia and Malik climbed down and prepared to steal the tombstone. It was a small camp. Arabia had counted about a dozen men with Patel. Only eight of them were actual Axis soldiers, the rest being conscripted locals. Patel’s vast budget and political favors must’ve finally run out, especially with the continued discord between Angelos and Gandhi over the occupation of the Middle East and the redirection of funding to the Neta’s unspeakable projects in Central Asia.

The tombstone sat in the open, in the middle of the camp. While Malik kept watch on the two guards patrolling the area, Arabia crept over to the tombstone and picked it up. Only after he had lifted it did he realize just how heavy it was. If Mary were here, she would’ve slapped him for his language. Also, one of the guards had just noticed him. Arabia quickly slammed him in the face with the tombstone before he could react. The other guard, a local, also noticed him, but Malik quickly slipped some gold into his hands.

“You should leave,” he said, “It’s not safe here. Also, I need you to send a message to a Frau Mary Krueger at Imperial University Alexandria. Tell her to call Hoover for backup.”

The local ran as fast as he could away from the camp. Arabia ran as fast as he could through the camp, but the tombstone slowed him down. It was almost too heavy to move on his own, and using it as a battering ram had already hurt his shoulder and back a lot. He heard a cry in Farsi, probably someone finding the body. He turned around and saw an Iranian soldier emerging from his tent, trying to load his rifle. Painfully balancing the tombstone on one arm, he used the other to draw his pistol and shoot him. Another popped up from another tent, and he was also shot. An Indian soldier, a mountain Rajput from his sturdy build, also stepped out of his tank and raised his rifle. Arabia shot him as well. Finally, he handed the tombstone to Malik.

“Get it to Mary,” he said, “Show her the gemstone. She’ll figure something out.”

“Got it,” Malik said, running off as fast as he could with the heavy slab.

Two more soldiers ran after Malik, and Arabia intercepted them to ensure he got away. One punched Arabia in the gut, knocking his gun loose. He lurched forward and conveniently ducked the other, who had gone for his head. Arabia grabbed the arm of the second man and used his momentum to toss him into a tent. Then he punched the first in the face. The second man got back up and charged Arabia again, this time punching him in the chest and knocking the wind out of him. He coughed and clutched his chest. Seeing the next punch coming, he jumped out of the way, grabbed his gun, and shot him. The first man charged him from behind, but he shot him as well.

At this point, six soldiers and one local had been taken care of. That left only five more men, three of them locals. It should be easy to finish them off. But as he turned to follow Malik, he heard more guns clicking. He turned to his side and saw two soldiers pointing rifles at him. Behind them, Patel had his pistol to Malik’s head. Malik still clutched the tombstone and the white gemstone. And behind them, Arabia saw the three remaining locals running away. At least he only had to deal with Patel and two soldiers now.

“Well, well,” Patel chided in accented German, “Arabia Gruber. So nice of you to join us. I was expecting you and your friend here. But too bad Dr. Krueger can’t join us.”

“I’m sorry,” Malik said, “This thing is too damn heavy.”

“It’s fine,” Arabia said, “You did your best.”

“Now I will kill you,” Patel said.

Arabia still had his gun out. He pointed it at Malik and the tombstone. Malik nodded, understanding what he was doing. The two soldiers approached him, guns still loaded.

“What are you doing?” Patel said.

“You need the tombstone to solve the riddle,” Arabia said, “I’ll destroy it, and its secret will be lost forever.”

“You wouldn’t dare destroy a historical artifact,” Patel said.

“Oh, I would,” Arabia said, “Just ask your friend the Neta. He at least acknowledges what really happened in Damascus.”

“You do that, you die,” Patel said, “Only I can get the stone.”

“But you need me alive,” Arabia said, “Only I know how to get the stone.”

Patel stared at him and then sighed. He motioned to his men, who lowered their guns, and then let Malik go.

“Damnit, fine,” he said, “You will open the passage for us. Then we will kill you.”

It took quite a while for Patel and the two soldiers to clean up their dead. Eventually they stopped bothering and just tossed the bodies into a pile in the center. Then the soldiers escorted Arabia and Malik to the front of the Sphinx, in between the paws. They looked quite on edge, Arabia noticed, probably because he had take out all of the other soldiers. Their guns were still pointed at them. Arabia could reach for his holstered pistol at any time, but it was low on ammo and they would probably shoot him and Malik before he could get off a shot. He decided to play along with Patel. The Indian general put the tombstone and gemstone in front of them.

“Alright, what do we do now?” he demanded.

Arabia smirked. He took the tombstone and smashed it against the ground. The soldiers yelled and brandished their guns.

“Calm down,” Arabia said.

“Liar!” Patel said. “Prepare to—”

“Now you know I’m serious about destroying historical artifacts,” Arabia said, “Anyways…”

He pointed at a black gemstone among the fragments, black just as the first was white. Arabia picked it up and held it up to the torchlight.

“Two sisters, night and day, giving the Sphinx dominion over all it sees,” he quoted.

He handed the gemstones to Patel.

“Tell your men to put one in each eye,” he said.

Patel gave the orders. The soldiers took the gemstones and climbed up the Sphinx. Patel drew his pistol and aimed at Malik again.

“Just in case,” Patel said.

The two soldiers climbed back down and surrounded Arabia and Malik again.

“Now what?” Patel said.

“We wait for sunrise,” Arabia said.

They didn’t have to wait long. Several minutes later, the sky brightened, and the sun rose, its light spilling over the horizon and dispersing the night. The sunlight quickly reached the Sphinx, and they felt an ambient rumbling as ancient machinery sprung into motion for the first time in a long time. In between the paws, sand and sediment fell away to reveal what appeared to be an entryway leading to a staircase heading down. Patel released Malik.

“Excellent,” he said, “Well, let’s not keep fate waiting.”

The soldiers forced Arabia and Malik to go ahead of them and Patel. Arabia looked back.

“Of course, there could be traps,” Patel said, “Learned it the hard way in Damascus.”

Arabia leading them on, they descended the staircase. The walls and steps had been carved out of solid sandstone, at least initially. The walls were also covered in hieroglyphics, but they looked archaic, like the kinds usually found dating from Aegyptus’ earliest dynasties.

“What does it say?” Patel said.

Arabia inspected the hieroglyphics. “I don’t specialize in stuff this old, but parts of it seem to focus on the story of Apophis and how Ra defeated him every day. Those seem to be the newer parts and even the retellings are distorted from the versions we’re used to, as if they’re being used as an approximation of another story. The older ones…that’s weird. They appear to talk about a dynasty of pharaohs preceding the earliest Egyptian dynasties which was subverted by a cabal of…the closest translation is ‘snake men’…and then they were destroyed in a great flood…some survivors settled in Aegyptus, even though the text assumes they already ruled over the place…as great teachers, not as gods, though many considered them such…the last of them constructed this place…as a warning.”

“A warning of what?” Patel said.

“The closest translation I have is ‘be careful for what you wish for’,” Arabia said.

“Well, I am careful, and my wish is very specific,” Patel said, “I want the stone.”

They descended further, and the sandstone slowly gave way to bedrock. The steps became more clearly defined, and the corners more right angled.

“How did they build such a stairway?” Malik said. “Going this deep too? And how did we not find it earlier?”

The hieroglyphics on the wall disappeared and were replaced with what appeared to be pictographs consistent with prehistoric rock art like those Arabia found in the Eimericas and western Africa. As they descended, the cave paintings appeared to tell a story. The first depicted orbs with stick figures on them. The next depicted the stick figures, some of them gripping their heads as if in pain with their bodies looking like they were dripping water. Others, which looked more like snakes, attacked the rest. The next depicted the orbs, with a strong wind—or was it water or fire?—blowing away the stick figures. The next depicted taller stick figures emerging from underground coffins—boats in some cases—and meeting shorter ones. The next depicted the shorter figures worshipping the taller ones. The final ones just had the shorter figures worshipping on their own.

“Look,” Malik said, pointing beyond the last painting.

There seemed to be writing down here as well. But that was impossible. The hieroglyphics had long stopped. They were far too deep, literally and in the historical record, to see writing. Upon further observation, there seemed to be two scripts, one in strange hieroglyphics—and looking like they had been chiseled much more recently than the paintings were painted—and one in an unknown and possibly older language.

“What does it say?” Patel said.

“I…I don’t know,” Arabia said, “It’s messy and informal, doesn’t match the usual structure. It’s incomplete in a few places too. Pretty archaic. Looks like it was scribbed on later. I’ve never seen the other language before. But it resembles Basque and Sanskrit a lot for some reason.”

“Well, what about the Egyptian?” Patel said.

“It’s not really Egyptian,” Arabia said, “Really old. So old it likely dates from a time before written language. But I can read it.”

“What does it say?” Patel said.

“I think it’s another warning,” Arabia said, “To turn back or face ‘unspeakable horrors’.”

“They always say that,” Patel said, prodding Arabia with his gun, “They said that in Damascus. Just keep moving.”

They continued on, and the ancient script continued on, only it now looked like it was repeating a single short phrase over and over again. More scripts covered the walls, among them what seemed to be older demotic Egyptian, although it was far older than anything Arabia studied.

“Egyptian, ancient Greek, Minoan, Old Latin, ancient Chinese…” Patel noted. “I just have to read the Sanskrit one and prove our superiority right. Now where to start…”

“Early Germanic runes, Etruscan, and even a few Mayan glyphs,” Malik said, “My God, this could revolutionize our view of human history.”

“Wait, this makes no sense,” Arabia said, “What are all these languages from different time periods and locations doing here, in what should be pre-dynastic Egypt? Most of these languages shouldn’t have existed in these forms at this time. There’s something off about this whole place.”

“Ah, here’s the start of the Sanskrit,” Patel said, crouching down, “Let’s see what it says…hmm, ‘what was shall be…what shall be was…’”

“Looks like it’s the same for the other languages,” Arabia said, “At least the ones I can read. About the same message, over and over again.”

They continued down the staircase. The different languages expanded over the walls, covering every square inch, and then onto the ceilings and steps, wrapping around with the other side. At this point, Arabia started hearing things over the sound of his footsteps. It was like the wind was whispering the same thing: “What was shall be, what shall be…”

Finally, they reached the bottom of the staircase and found themselves in a circular room. The strange characters from the ancient language were spread across the walls, ceiling, and the floor, with no discernible direction. It seemed to be made of the same phrase as the rest of the languages, which could be read in any direction. Arabia then realized it was all one giant loop around the room, with no beginning and end.

Patel raised his torch, illuminating a pedestal in the center. Carved on it was a serpent devouring its own tail, the ouroboros from legend. Within it sat a star of onyx. Sitting in the middle of the star was a stone which looked like crystallized blood. Above lay another ouroboros.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Malik said.

“Me too,” Arabia said, “General, we should probably leave.”

The soldiers nervously looked at Patel. It was obvious they didn’t want to stay here. But Patel grinned evilly.

“Not without the stone,” Patel said, “Take it, Doctor, and see why the ancients built this place. Let’s see what they will reward us with.”

Arabia hesitated again. The soldiers also hesitated. Then Patel pointed his pistol at him. Deciding he had nothing to lose now, Arabia picked up the stone. Nothing happened. He sighed with relief. There didn’t seem to be any traps, not like Damascus, thankfully. As he turned it over in his hand, the echo came back, louder this time.

“What was shall be,” it repeated, “What shall be was.”

“Did you hear that?” Arabia said.

“Yeah,” Malik said.

“Yes, I did,” Patel said.

The worried soldiers whispered prayers in their native languages. Arabia looked back at the script on the wall. They seemed to be shifting now. But that was simply impossible. It was solid stone, not a clock. Yet they shifted in front of him, forming images and figures and events. It was like a motion picture.

“Hey, Malik,” he said, “Are the walls moving?”

“No,” Malik said, “Why?”

Then he started seeing things. Images of things happening long ago…that old dynasty from before the pharaohs, wielding technology beyond anything Arabia could imagine. The people looked exactly like normal humans, only slightly taller and bulkier. They drove cars, flew in planes, went to work, and ate dinner with their families, just like modern people. But then everything burst into flames. Arabia saw entire planets burning, their peoples dissolving before his eyes, not from the flames or anything else but their own bodies deforming and falling apart into primordial soup due to some unholy weapon. And in orbit around the planets sat hundreds if not thousands of spaceships, alien spaceships, obliterating anybody who survived that apocalypse on the land below. He saw humanity rebuild on Earth, having lost all semblance of civilized society. He saw those primitives slowly rediscover civilization, build up empires like Alexander’s, Ashoka’s, Qin Shihuangdi’s, and then Friedrich the Great’s. He then saw himself at Grodno, crouching in a trench with Malik at his side, waiting to go over the top. He saw himself giving his dissertation at Hikma. He saw himself meeting Mary and then getting married, then digging in Damascus. He saw himself looking at the Sphinx and pouring sand out of his hat, as he did yesterday. He saw himself in Patel’s camp and then descending the infernal staircase, right up to taking the stone. And then he started seeing the future and what terrors awaited him, what terrors would await those two future women, those Athanatoi agents, who would pick up after him. At that moment, Patel took the stone from him and held it up triumphantly.

“With this, eternal life is in the palm of my hand,” he declared.

He took out a flask and poured water in the depression where the stone was held, then dropped the stone inside. He eagerly sipped from the water, only for him to gasp. His hand went to his throat, as if he was choking. The two soldiers rushed to his side.

“Sir!” one soldier shouted. “Are you okay?”

Patel raised his gun and shot him and then the other, cackling madly. He stood straight up again and looked at Arabia and Malik. His eyes became a deep red, almost the same color as the stone, and the color literally drained from his hair like water. His skin slowly turned blue but also gray in some areas.

“This power!” he shouted. “The rush…the power I unleash…I feel it in my veins! I am invincible! I am a god!”

“Tell me about it.” Arabia whipped out his gun and shot Patel in the head.

Patel fell to the ground. Arabia took a second to stare at the motionless body, completely surprised at how just shooting him worked. His ears focused on the echoes around him, being carried by the nonexistent wind. They were now screams in Arabia’s ear, screaming that damned phrase over and over.

“WHAT WAS SHALL BE, WHAT SHALL BE WAS”

Then the room began to shake.

“We have to go, Arabia, now!” Malik said.

Arabia didn’t think. He grabbed the stone and followed Malik up the stairs. The echoing scream kept repeating around him, but he kept running. Without a torch to light his way, it was hard to see the steps. But strangely it felt like it was getting even harder to climb the steps. He tripped several times. Malik’s occasional curses showed he was having the same luck. Arabia could swear the ground behind him was falling away, engulfed by some dark abyss which threatened to swallow them up. But he had no time to check and confirm. They had to keep moving.

They saw light up ahead and heard some talking. Could Mary have gotten help? Or was it more Rasas waiting for them? At least being shot in broad daylight was preferable to this madness. The tunnel continued screaming its catchphrase over and over again, as if it was angry about losing the stone and the two men escaping with it. If he got out of here, he was never coming back to this infernal place.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Arabia and Malik made it out. They collapsed on the sand and rolled on their backs, panting and sighing, their hearts beating in their chests. Arabia looked up and saw the sun in the sky, thanking God for letting him see it again. He looked back at the stairway, but the stone door was closing again. It swung shut with a dull thud. He wouldn’t miss what he saw. He sat up and looked in the direction of the voices.

There were soldiers surrounding them, but they weren’t with the Axis. The men wore the uniforms of the Inquisition, with black and yellow highlights, mirroring the Loyalist war flag, to show they were with the Kaiser and his Provisional Government. The Inquisition’s insignia was the same as it always was, a Hohenzollern eagle clutching a crucifix and torch with a pentagram set behind it. He was glad to see it again. The inquisitors’ guns were standard military issue but covered in arcane runes. There was also a tank parked behind them, also bearing the same Inquisition insignia alongside the standard army one. Sitting next to its cannon was a short man in a black business suit, his arms folded. He had a mouth that looked like he was chewing something, but it was just empty. When he noticed them, he got up and approached them. Arabia and Malik slowly got to their feet.

“Minister Hoover,” Arabia said, “It’s nice to see you.”

“Dr. Gruber,” Jakob Edelweiss Hoover said, “I’m glad you made it out alive. Mary called, said some guy warned her you were in trouble. So I called in some favors with the Head Inquisitor.”

“Oh, thank goodness,” Malik said.

Arabia handed the stone to Jakob, who took it with a gloved hand.

“This is an extremely dangerous artifact,” Arabia said, “Don’t touch it with your bare hands. I need you to keep it safe.”

Jakob motioned to the Inquisitors, who opened a metal box and put the stone inside.

“The Inquisition will work on containment procedures,” Jakob said, “We’ve already taken care of the gemstones and everything else outside. But to make sure we get it right, we’ll need to take your testimonies.”

“Gladly,” Arabia said.

“We’ll compensate you, of course,” Jakob said.

“All I care about is getting the hell out of here,” Arabia said.

Arabia and Malik got on a truck, which set off from the Sphinx for Alexandria. As the famed pyramids and the ancient statue disappeared into the distance, Arabia was glad to see them gone. He had no desire to come back here again.

“Say, Arabia, what’s next?” Malik said.

To Arabia’s horror, more images flashed in front of his eyes, revealing snippets of the future. He shook his head and focused on the present. But occasionally, the visions crept back in, popping up at the corners of his sight, replacing parts of the environment. Many of them were horrible sights he’d rather forget, of the Roman flag being torn down, an army of soldiers looking like the transformed Patel marching through the streets of familiar cities, and a normal woman who wore the Hohenzollerns’ crown being executed.

“The Reich will end,” a voiceless voice said, “The Hohenzollerns will fall.”

He blinked and shook his head, trying to dismiss the terrible visions. Those were things nobody should have witnessed, least of all someone like him.

“What’s next?” Arabia said. “What happened before. We go home. I think someone else will handle this.”