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

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

CaptainAlvious

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Ah, I see you made a homage to @dragoon9105 ’s Indiana Jones homage, you even included the worm foreshadowing too.:D
That Interlude Imperial Hearts was fun, nice to see your take on it for the Hohenzollernverse.:)

You mentioned an Israel Schmidt in the 1980s update iirc, would the relation to those movies and this update be like how Catman was loosely inspired by real rumors of a similar vigilante, or would be like how Casablanca or 20k League under the Sea were based off real stories here and the names of people were changed for anonymity purposes? Either way, it would be funny to imagine Arabia surviving the war and living to the 80s to see the Israel Schmidt movies.:p

It was also kinda refreshing to see the Rasas as the antagonists of this update rather than the usual Angeloi, as odd as that sounds. Helps that this comes after the Angeloi-centric virtual reality in the previous arc, makes for good contrast.
 
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TheAnguishedOne

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Ah, that was unexpected but quite fun. Poor Arabia just saw a preview of some lore revelations we'll be getting in Stellaris, I suspect.
 

dragoon9105

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Ouch that doesn't bode well for the future hohenzollernverse, hopefully they dont make the same mistakes, well at least Hoover left the Sphinx intact this time.

The dedication to my original interlude is outstanding, He really is the same Doctor Gruber. Makes me want to update my own to get it up to the same quality, Heck I just might.
 

zenphoenix

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Ah, I see you made a homage to @dragoon9105 ’s Indiana Jones homage, you even included the worm foreshadowing too.:D
That Interlude Imperial Hearts was fun, nice to see your take on it for the Hohenzollernverse.:)
That worm foreshadowing will be VERY important later on. You can probably guess why.;)
You mentioned an Israel Schmidt in the 1980s update iirc, would the relation to those movies and this update be like how Catman was loosely inspired by real rumors of a similar vigilante, or would be like how Casablanca or 20k League under the Sea were based off real stories here and the names of people were changed for anonymity purposes? Either way, it would be funny to imagine Arabia surviving the war and living to the 80s to see the Israel Schmidt movies.:p
I will actually be mentioning Israel Schmidt in the next couple updates, and he and his movies were inspired by Gruber's adventures. But I'm not sure if Arabia would be in a position to watch and enjoy the Israel Schmidt movies after what he's seen here...or maybe he's already watched them.:p
It was also kinda refreshing to see the Rasas as the antagonists of this update rather than the usual Angeloi, as odd as that sounds. Helps that this comes after the Angeloi-centric virtual reality in the previous arc, makes for good contrast.
It's about time I brought back the Rasas as actual villains, as they've been mostly replaced by the Angeloi since the actual war began.
Ah, that was unexpected but quite fun. Poor Arabia just saw a preview of some lore revelations we'll be getting in Stellaris, I suspect.
Some of those revelations will come sooner than you may expect...
Ouch that doesn't bode well for the future hohenzollernverse, hopefully they dont make the same mistakes, well at least Hoover left the Sphinx intact this time.
Some mistakes will be made, and the Hohenzollernverse will slowly go down a path of its own choosing. I'm not saying what those mistakes will be.
The dedication to my original interlude is outstanding, He really is the same Doctor Gruber. Makes me want to update my own to get it up to the same quality, Heck I just might.
Some things stay the same across universes. That is, until the nukes start flying and the Worm shows up.
 

TWR97

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Been a while since we saw the Rasas as the villains (even if it's just for this part), so kudos to you for bringing them back again Zen! Arabia got unlucky there getting visions of the Worm's shenanigans, let's hope the Hohenzollernverse doesn't suffer the same fate. I'm looking forward to the Israel Schmidt update.
 

zenphoenix

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Been a while since we saw the Rasas as the villains (even if it's just for this part), so kudos to you for bringing them back again Zen! Arabia got unlucky there getting visions of the Worm's shenanigans, let's hope the Hohenzollernverse doesn't suffer the same fate. I'm looking forward to the Israel Schmidt update.
Those visions are there for a reason...
 

zenphoenix

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Unearthed, Part 2

Constantinople - May 14, 2014, 8:00 AM

Diana tossed the last plate in the dishwasher and washed her hands. Then she got her car keys and put on her jacket.

“Alex!” she called. “We need to go!”

Alex bolted down the stairs, still stuffing binders and pencil boxes into his backpack.

“I don’t have time!” he said. “I need more time to prepare!”

“The school doesn’t care!” Diana said. “Now pack up and get in the car.”

Alex did as he was told and headed to the garage. She walked over Anders’ study room, where she found him sitting on the couch, eating cereal while reading an old file. Diana noticed Annie’s photo in the file. A picture of Conrad Humboldt lay on the table in front of him.

“Anders,” she said, “We’re heading out now.”

“I need another couple minutes,” Anders said, “To collect myself.”

“Alex’s going to be late,” Diana said, “We won’t make it to the appointment in time.”

Anders didn’t respond. He continued staring at the file, his hands shaking.

“Anders, it’ll be fine,” Diana said, “We’re going to talk about it there.”

Anders looked at the file one more time. Then he put it down and followed Diana out. Alex waited patiently in the backseat of the car. Anders got in the passenger seat, and Diana got behind the wheel and started the engine. She drove out of the garage and down the street, not taking long to reach Alex’s school. She pulled into the parking lot just as the bell rang. She unlocked the door for Alex, who jumped out.

“Now, behave yourself, okay?” she said. “Dad and I need to run some business.”

“Okay, Mom, bye,” Alex said, running inside.

Diana drove back onto the main road and continued until she reached the freeway, which she took for fifteen minutes into downtown. After taking an exit near Mese Street, she quickly arrived at a plain office building and parked in front of it. Diana led Anders inside. Dr. Heitz Werber waited for them in the lobby.

“Agent Frank, Agent Humboldt,” Heitz said, “Thank you for coming in today.”

“Thank you for seeing us,” Diana said, “We really appreciate it.”

She looked at Anders, who was looking at the pictures and degrees on the walls. In addition to his psychology degrees, there were old photos of his patients and practice. Anders focused his attention on an older photo of himself undergoing hypnotic treatments long ago, before the X-Division was set up. Diana remembered he had been to Heitz’s clinic before, to uncover the truth of Annie’s abduction. Maybe it could help ease the pain he suffered on their last mission.


Hansen residence, Athens - 9:00 AM

The doorbell rang. Magda put down her kitchen knife and checked her door camera app. Angela waited outside, carrying a large box.

“Just give me a moment, Angie!” she said.

She went to the foyer and opened the door. Angela walked in and set the box down.

“Morning,” Angela said.

“Morning,” Magda said.

“How’s everything?” Angela said.

“The lawsuit’s stalled,” Magda said, “They dragged the Justice Minister and the Augustinian Court into this. Then they put it on hold because of the shutdown. This is crazy, I tell you, but I’m not giving up just yet.”

Angela sighed and looked Magda in the eyes.

“Oh, you mean your father,” Magda said, “He’s improving.”

Angela opened the box to reveal physical therapy equipment.

“I talked with some friends at St. Eudokimos, who hooked me up with the physical therapy division at Hikma Medical,” she said, “Got my hands on some better stuff to help Dad.”

They carried the equipment to the living room, where Erich lay on the floor, doing pushups.

“Hey, Angie,” he said, “How are you doing?”

“Fine, Dad,” Angela said, “And you?”

“Still can’t run,” Erich said, “Walking fast still burns me out. But my arms move just fine now.”

Angela and Magda set down the equipment next to Erich.

“Dad, I got you some new workout equipment from Hikma,” Angela said, “Should help exercise those muscles.”

“Thanks, Angie,” Erich said, “I appreciate it.”

“I’ll be in the area for the next couple months,” Angela said, “In case you need anything.”

“Don’t you have work?” Magda said.

“I cashed in my vacation days,” Angela said, “Thought it was the best I could do for Dad. I need some time off anyways. Stop worrying about Sentinel or RSB leaks for once.”


X-Division, Constantinople - 10:00 AM

Diana walked into the office and lazily dropped into the seat behind her desk. Olga poked her head up from her laptop.

“Oh, you’re finally here,” she said.

“Yeah, had to drop off Alex at school, then Anders at his appointment,” Diana said, “Been a rough several weeks for all of us.”

“I can imagine,” Olga said, “Angela still gives me that look.”

“Angie’s on vacation,” Diana said, “Said she needed to take care of her dad.”

“How convenient,” Olga said, “She just wants time off after what happened last month.”

There was a knock on the door, and Director Brad Folger entered the office.

“Hey, Brad,” Diana said, “What’s up?”

“What are you two doing here?” Brad said. “Saw you in the lobby.”

“What do you mean?” Olga said. “We’re at work. Unless you want to shut us down again.”

“Didn’t you hear?” Brad said. “They couldn’t pass the budget yesterday.”

“Yeah, it was on the news,” Diana said.

“Which means the government’s shut down,” Brad said.

“And?” Olga said.

“You’re not allowed to work,” Brad said.

“I thought that means we just aren’t paid,” Diana said.

“That too,” Brad said.

“Wait a minute,” Olga said, “If we’re not allowed to work, why are you here?”

“Essential personnel still have to work,” Brad said.

“What, we’re not essential?” Diana said.

Olga glared at Brad.

“Hey, I don’t set the rules,” Brad said, “You got an issue, take it up with the Minister of Justice, who’s currently busy with…that lawsuit your colleague’s mother brought against us. That is, if he wasn’t paralyzed by the shutdown. Now, if I were you, I’d take the day off.”

He walked back out.

“Easy for him to say,” Olga said, “He’s the one running for Reichsrat.”

“How did I miss the shutdown?” Diana said. “Should’ve been all over the news.”

“It was,” Olga said, “Last night.”

“Had a school event and took Anders to therapy,” Diana said, “You?”

“The usual,” Olga said, “Sitting at home, going over old files. By the way, you should really take a look at this.”

She tossed a copy of Die Zeiten at her.

“What’s this?” Diana said.

“That’s the local Baghdad edition,” Olga said, “Take a look at local news, page 5.”

Diana flipped to page 5.

“‘Man survives car crash, then wins 265 million mark jackpot’,” she read, “Okay, this guy got really lucky. Am I supposed to be reading anything into this?”

“Read more,” Olga said.

“‘This follows two weeks after a 74-year-old woman miraculously survived her car plunging off a bridge into the Tigris River and being swept five miles downstream by the current’,” Diana continued reading, “‘And a month after a teenager who went missing in 1991 was found alive and unharmed’.”

“Guess this town’s got some really good luck,” Olga said, “Funny name it’s got, al-Dud. Why don’t we pay them a visit?”

“You think we have a case on our hands?” Diana said.

“Well, if it quacks like a duck…” Olga said.

“When did you learn that idiom?” Diana said.

“We’ve gone over this,” Olga said, “Blame your son.”

“When was the last time you were over?” Diana said.

“Hello?” Olga said. “Last month? Dinner with Theresa?”

“Felt like years ago,” Diana said, “What about Anders?”

“I don’t know, have Anna look after him?” Olga said.

“She’s been very busy lately,” Diana said, “I’ll see what she can do.”

“You’re know, we’re not supposed to do work,” Diana said.

“Technically we can,” Olga said, “We’re just not paid. Then again, we could just take Folger’s advice and go on ‘vacation’. I mean, we’re just visiting, right?”


al-Dud, Nineveh - May 15, 2014, 8:00 AM

As Diana drove down the country road towards the town, Olga reviewed a file they had compiled on the “coincidences.”

“What are your thoughts?” Diana said.

“No crime has actually been committed,” Olga said, “We’re technically on vacation. For one, I don’t know how to involve the police in this.”

“Well, something’s going on here,” Diana said, “Remember, Rico and Linda Modell technically didn’t commit any crimes. Find any additional leads?”

“No, nothing,” Olga said, “There’s nothing linking the incidents. No correlations between the different subjects. Different ages, genders, backgrounds, occupations…it’s as if whatever’s going on happens randomly. Okay, how do we figure in this investigation?”

“I don’t know,” Diana said, “I thought you were in charge of that.”

“Tell you what,” Olga said, “Let’s go to the police station, see what we can find there.”

They drove into town. A sign to their right plainly read “Welcome to al-Dud, population 400.” The Tigris River, or at least a branch of it, flowed by on their left. The road got slightly better paved as the highway gave way to Main Street. Mom-and-pop storefronts, their specialty wares visible through the dusty windows, lined the sidewalks, but Diana saw only a handful of people walking around or shopping. The cars parked at the curb were a little older and more beat up, like their owners had been using them for a long time. Their bumpers were covered in stickers with patriotic slogans and Bible verses. Roman flags hung from every building she saw. There was a church every few blocks, each with a fancy sign bearing yet more Bible verses.

“Hey, pull over here,” Olga said, pointing to a tree stump, “I think this is where Wednesday’s accident happened.”

Diana stopped the car in front of the stump. They got out and approached it. The fallen tree itself long since gone, Diana used her arm to simulate the tree falling across the road, visualizing how the accident happened using the driver’s account to the newspaper and the distribution of branches next to the stump. Then she inspected the skid marks. They started just thirty feet before the stump. Assuming the driver was going at speed limit, he wouldn’t have had time to stop before the tree. But she noticed the skid marks extended past the stump. That would be consistent with the driver’s account. He said even with the brakes on, he slid all the way under the falling tree and stopped on the other side, miraculously untouched. Diana looked up and saw some locals having stopped on the opposite sidewalk, watching them. Meanwhile, Olga took out measuring tape and checked the width of the stump.

“Okay, a tree like this is light enough to fall quickly but heavy enough to stop a car in its tracks,” she noted, “Especially the car listed in the file. No signs of any cutting tools used. There are no shoe impressions or footprints in the area, save for what appears to be…a duck.”

Diana didn’t pay attention. She crouched and picked up a clump of dry dirt.

“Meanwhile, I quit the Athanatoi and plan to move back to Stockholm,” Olga said sarcastically, “You do know I have Scandinavian citizenship too, right?”

“Yeah, your mom had it, so you got it when you were born, you told me,” Diana said, “Hey, smell this.”

Olga smelled the dirt.

“Why do you want me to smell dirt?” she said.

“What does it remind you of?” Diana said.

“I don’t know, dirt?” Olga said.

“God, this brings back a lot of memories,” Diana said, “My brother and I used to play football on the field behind our house. We rode our bikes along the river, as far as we could go, eating bologna sandwiches when we got tired. Mom’s only requirement was to be home by dinner. It was suburban Frankfurt in the ‘70s. We didn’t need to lock our doors. Hell, Mom kept them open in the summers for air conditioning. No wi-fi, no internet, no smartphones.”

“I never took you for a sentimental person,” Olga said, “The kind who’d wax poetic about not having smartphones.”

“I never took you for a phone geek,” Diana said.

“For the record, I just need something to make calls,” Olga said, “Irina’s kids, on the other hand, would lapse into catatonic schizophrenia if they did without Crazy Chickens for two minutes. And not the Himmler’s kind, though they love that as well.”

A pickup truck approached them.

“You know, Anders and I’ve lived in Constantinople for a while now,” Diana said, “Mostly because of work. But if that wasn’t a problem, I’d build a home in the countryside. Live a slower life.”

“Somewhere like this?” Olga said.

“Nah, probably the Rhineland,” Diana said, “Anders’ grandfather had a good idea when he settled there. This place is too hot. Maybe we’ll move in with Anna.”

“Wonder what your brother’s going to call you with an actual Anna in the house,” Olga said.

“Anna 1 and Anna A?” Diana suggested.

“Which one is which?” Olga said.

“Yes,” Diana said.

They laughed. A young constable with a light beard got out of the truck.

“Agents Frank and Kirova?” he said.

Diana nodded. The constable shook their hands.

“Hi, Constable Andreas Theobald,” he said, “I was told you’d be coming. Though I’m not sure why you’d be here. I mean, this isn’t a crime.”

“We’re just interested in what happened here,” Diana said, “We’re not accusing anyone.”

“You know, with what’s going on in Berlin, we thought we’d take a vacation,” Olga said, “The Diet’s screwed up again, as it always does, so we might as well make the best of it.”

“Ah, so you’re interested in the Luck,” Andreas said.

“The…Luck?” Diana said.

“Yeah, not a flashy name,” Andreas said, “This is a small town. Founded after World War II. Only a few hundred people here. The Luck’s happened to all of us at some point.”

“What do you mean?” Olga said.

“Well, it’s usually not newsworthy stuff,” Andreas said, “A lost pet comes back, a kid dreams up the answers to a test, a football team gets hold of the opponent’s game plan, someone is warned of an accident before it happens. It’s been happening since the town was founded.”

“Any strange occurrences happen with these incidents?” Diana said.

“No, not really,” Andreas said, “Depending on what happens, some people dream up what’s going to happen to them the night before.”

“And what about Herr…Safwin?” Olga said, reading the file. “The guy who narrowly avoided being hit by this tree and then won the jackpot?”

“Leo?” Andreas said. “He’s doing fine. A little rattled, but fine.”

“Mind if we question him?” Diana said.

“Yeah, go ahead,” Andreas said.

“Alright, thanks,” Olga said, walking to the car, “We’ll contact you if we need anything else.”

Diana followed her to the car.

“Look, ladies, this town is my home,” Andreas said, “I love it. It’s quiet…peaceful. There’s only been a couple murders in the last seventy years. You can see I don’t even have a gun. So please tell me…is someone in trouble?”

“Not that we know of,” Diana said.

“We’re just interested in the Luck,” Olga said.

Diana pointed at Olga. “She is, at least. I’m just here to make sure she doesn’t get into trouble.”

Olga glared at her. Andreas sighed and shook his head.

“Life goes by slowly in this town,” Andreas said, “The Luck was just our little quirk. We didn’t think much about it. But we’re all familiar with the chaos everywhere else. That’s why this town was founded, by people escaping the war. It was like a miracle we found this spot, actually. We struck oil soon afterward. That was the first time the Luck happened. But the Luck came with a price. The oil money dried up years ago. We don’t interact much with the outside world. Most of us stay here in this town our whole lives, and those who leave never come back. We don’t get many visitors from outside. But here’s the thing…I was sure the Luck would eventually bring more. Someday, the outside world would find us. Someday, they’d learn about the Luck, and it would draw them here. You’re proof of that.”

“Yeah, the rest of the world’s a crazy place,” Diana said, “Believe me, I know. Maybe it’s because we’re not as blessed as you.”

“Well, you ladies be on your way,” Andreas said, “Feel free to call me or my deputy if you need some assistance.”

“Sure thing,” Olga said.


Leo Safwin’s house - 9:30 AM

Leo Safwin, a man in his thirties, looked at Diana and Olga and continued. His wife Aliya, who looked nothing like the philanthropist Diana associated the name with, stood off to the side.

“It…it all happened so fast,” he said, “Tuesday evening, I was just driving home from the oil refinery as usual. A tree fell across the road. Don’t know why it fell. No storm or wind. Maybe it was old. Anyways, I slammed on the brakes, but it was too late. I knew there wasn’t enough distance between me and the tree. But somehow I passed under the tree like it wasn’t about to ruin my day.”

“So even while braking, you managed to clear the tree,” Diana said.

“Don’t know how I did it,” Leo said, “It just happened.”

“It’s a miracle he made it out in one piece, let alone with the car undamaged,” Aliya said.

“Not even a scratch,” Leo said.

“So it’s the Luck, then,” Olga said.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Leo said.

“I’ve always heard my friends say they got the Luck, but it never happened to us,” Aliya said.

“What do you know about the Luck?” Diana said.

“Not much,” Leo said, “It just happens to us.”

“Sometimes people get a dream before it happens,” Aliya said.

“And did you?” Olga said.

“I think so,” Leo said, “I don’t remember much now, but it was basically almost the same as what happened. I was driving down the road, and then I saw the tree.”

“And it fell exactly the same way?” Diana said.

“Only thing different from the real incident was there was a snake in the tree, a large one, coiled around the trunk,” Leo said, “As I approached, the snake raised its head and hissed at me. Then it broke the tree and let it fall. The dream ended.”

“A snake,” Olga said, “A snake felled the tree?”

“That’s what I remember,” Leo said.

“Anything else out of the ordinary?” Diana said.

“Not really,” Leo said, “I just won the lottery after that. Pretty chance encounter. Was filling up gas at the station afterward, then I decided to buy a lottery ticket there on a whim. And what do you know, I won.”

“Well, thank you for your time,” Olga said, handing Leo a business card, “This is our number. If you have anything else you want to share, feel free to call.”


al-Dud Police Station - 10:00 AM

Diana and Olga got out of their car and entered the station, which wasn’t as large as Diana thought it would be. It certainly wasn’t as large as the church across the street, proudly waving not one but two Roman flags. The station’s interior was equally unimpressive. The lobby was just a small reception desk (with nobody sitting behind it) and two folding chairs, with four portraits of old constables adorning the wall. Andreas walked in from a back door.

“Hi, agents,” he said, “Apologize for the state of things. Funding’s not what it used to be. Berlin doesn’t like oil as much as it used to, at least not in this area, despite what Merkel says. I swear that lady doesn’t know what she wants sometimes. Anyways, we don’t have a lab or morgue, but I do have a break room with a coffee machine. Might be a bit cleaner for your planning. Feel free to help yourselves.”

“Oh, thank you,” Diana said.

They walked into the break room, which just consisted of a table, a TV, and a coffee machine with a bag of ground beans and some milk nearby. There was another younger officer waiting for them.

“Oh, this is my deputy, Bernard,” Andreas said, “Bernard Pastor. Not a man of the cloth, contrary to what you might think.”

“Hey,” Bernard said.

“So, in the last hour or so, some folks have been dropping by,” Andreas said, “They’re interested in your little investigation.”

“Well, it’s not an investigation,” Diana said.

“Doesn’t mean they don’t think it is,” Andreas said, “They’re not used to visitors.”

“You could just lock the door,” Olga said.

“Folks know I never lock the door,” Andreas said, “They’d start rumors. Anyways, we should probably give you two some room. Talk to us if you need anything.”

He and Bernard got up and left.

“Alright, what are we thinking?” Diana said.

“Well, still nothing to tie these Luck incidents together,” Olga said, “I’ve checked everybody involved in them. Cross-referenced their backgrounds and occupations. No commonalities.”

“What about the dreams?” Diana said.

“The dreams?” Olga said.

“Herr Safwin mentioned a snake in his dream,” Diana said, “It was the only thing different from the actual incident. What if that’s the common factor?”

“A snake appearing in dreams?” Olga said.

“Yeah, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the only thing that might work,” Diana said, “Check the file for any Luck incidents where the subjects had dreams.”

Olga flipped through her file.

“If only we had Angela and Anders,” she said, “Anders would’ve cracked this wide open in a couple days.”

“Anders…he doubts if he can in this state,” Diana said.

“Nonsense,” Olga said, “He did just fine for the last twenty years.”

“The last five years really did a number on him,” Diana said, “And after what happened recently, he’s really doubting himself. Olga, we’ll do just fine. I’m sure of it.”

Olga finished rereading the file.

“You’re right,” she said, “They all report seeing a snake in their dream, usually causing the incident in question.”

Diana smiled. “What did I tell you?”

“It still doesn’t tell us what’s going on here,” Olga said.

Diana got up and headed to Andreas’ office. Andreas looked up from his computer.

“Yeah?” he said.

“What do you guys think about snakes?” Diana asked.

“Well, that’s a very vague question,” Andreas said.

“Just anything out of the ordinary about snakes here,” Diana said.

“One of our founders hated snakes,” Andreas said, “He absolutely hated them. Childhood trauma or something. Other than that nothing. We don’t get many snakes around here.”

“He sounds familiar,” Diana said, “What would his name be?”


al-Dud History Museum - 11:00 AM

Diana led Olga into the “museum,” which was just two rooms with a few dusty display cases lying around.

“Want to tell me why we’re here?” Olga said.

“I have a hunch the founder is who I think it is,” Diana said.

They entered the second room and were instantly greeted with a statue of Arabia Gruber.

“Meet Heinrich ‘Arabia’ Gruber II,” Diana said, “Archaeologist and part-time Resistance fighter. Mom always read me stories of his adventures during World War II. He inspired Israel Schmidt, you know. One of my favorite adventure movie heroes. Shame he died before he could watch any of them.”

“Yeah, so he inspired a 1980s action-adventure film franchise,” Olga said, “And he happened to found a town. What’s so important about this Gruber guy?”

Diana pointed to the plaque.

“It says here after striking it rich on a Giza expedition in 1941, he and his wife, a fellow archaeologist, used the money after the war to buy land in the Theme of Nineveh, which became al-Dud, Länder of Nineveh,” Diana said, “When asked why, he said he ‘just knew’. He wasn’t surprised to find oil underneath the town.”

“Okay, he’s the first guy to benefit from the Luck,” Olga said.

“What if he’s the cause of the Luck?” Diana said. “What if something he found on one of his expeditions is causing the Luck?”

“So basically the mummy’s curse, but it helps you instead of killing you,” Olga said.

“Precisely,” Diana said, “Gruber died childless and left everything to his wife, Professor Mary Krueger of Hikma University. She was chair of the archaeology department there for decades. When she died—rapid onset cancer manifesting soon after Gruber’s death—she left everything to their close friend, Malik Khan.”

“Malik Khan?” Olga said. “Founder of Khan Gas and Electric? The one powering the entire eastern Mediterranean?”

“Before he was an energy baron, Malik Khan was also an archaeologist,” Diana said, “It says here he served with Gruber in World War I. The three of them split their earnings evenly, which gave him the money he needed to start KGuS. Now, when Khan died, his will specified most of their collection be donated to museums around the Reich, except for some, which are still here in this museum. I doubt Khan would’ve given away whatever was causing the Luck, intentinoally or not, so it should still be here.”

She started inspecting the display cases, while Olga stood back, confused.

“This is just weird,” Olga said.

“Says the woman who wanted to come here in the first place,” Diana said, looking at a case with Arabia’s pork pie hat.

“Says the woman who wanted to come here in the first place,” Olga said.

“Honestly, what else is there to uncover?” Diana said. “So what if this Luck is caused by some Egyptian artifact? Nobody’s harmed, nobody’s committing a crime. We should just let this town stay lucky and we should just stay away from the obvious horror movie tropes.”

“I just want to get to the bottom of this,” Olga said, scrutinizing Arabia’s revolver and the unused bullets next to it, “Cold hard evidence linking the Luck to something here.”

“You know you can’t really prove it, right?” Diana said.

“I know, dreams aren’t good evidence,” Olga said.

“What have we been doing for twenty years, then?” Diana said.

“Are you trying to trap me?” Olga said.

“Maybe,” Diana said.

She stopped in front of a large display case. It contained a dark tablet broken in two pieces and two baseball-sized gemstones, one dark and one light. The tablet appeared to have three languages written on it: ancient Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and demotic Egyptian.

“I think this looks suspicious,” she said.

Olga walked over.

“What’s this?” she said.

Diana looked at the information panel.

“Says here the tablet contains a version of the Riddle of the Sphinx,” she said, “The story about the sphinx who asks passersby a riddle and eats them if they get it wrong. It was found in the ruins of Thebes. One of the gemstones was found inside it, with the other found elsewhere. They are said to be the eyes of the sphinx. Though that’s just a local legend.”

“And how do we know this is related to the Luck?” Olga said.

“It says in Gruber’s diary, he believed this tablet also contained a second riddle, for the reader,” Diana said, “And the prize for solving this riddle was the philosopher’s stone.”

“Like Harry Potter?” Olga said.

Diana looked at Olga. “You know what that is?”

“We’ve gone over this,” Olga said, “Blame my sister.”

“Anyways, this doesn’t tell us much,” Diana said, “Gruber was known to have searched for mystical relics during his career, but he wasn’t obsessed with them. The diary only talks about those relics in the context of General Patel, a high-ranking Rasa officer, who was his nemesis during the war. On the other hand, his diary entries talk about the philosopher’s stone more than any other relic, particularly after the war.”

“You know an awful lot about this Dr. Gruber,” Olga said.

“Mom told me a lot of stories about him,” Diana said, “And this information panel in front of me is really detailed.”

“But it doesn’t tell us enough,” Olga said.

“Exactly,” Diana said, “Which is why I need the diary itself. It could have the proof we’re looking for.”

“You’re looking for,” Olga said, heading for the exit, “I’m going to the motel to relax.”

“What, you don’t want to be a swashbuckling archaeologist who fights Rasas?” Diana said.

“I’m former KGB,” Olga said, “That’s nothing compared to what I’ve done.”

She left the museum. Diana sighed. Then she took out her phone and dialed a number.

“Hey, Constable Theobald,” she said, “Do you know how to contact the Khan estate?”


Crescent Diner - 1:00 PM

Diana sat at the counter, eating a good nacho beef falafel. She hadn’t eaten a good falafel in a long time, but she knew this one took the cake. The beef was just cooked enough, the bread was perfectly crunchy, and the nacho was nacho, of course. There were some things the city just couldn’t beat. Too bad not many people came through here. Otherwise this diner would’ve seen a lot more business. There were only five other patrons in the diner, and two of them looked at her like she was a Jotun.

Andreas sat next to her and handed her an old diary in a plastic bag.

“You’re lucky Ismail Khan was my friend in high school,” he said, “I got the diary on loan until noon tomorrow. Just clean your hands up.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t want Baghdad’s service cut, huh?” Diana said.

“Got to go now,” Andreas said, leaving the diner, "Got to deal with yet another opioid overdose.”

Diana cleaned her hands and handed the waitress twenty marks.

“Keep the change,” she said.

She took out the diary and opened it, revealing Gruber’s quick and messy handwriting. She was so excited to be holding a piece of history. Her mom would’ve been so jealous if she learned Diana now had Gruber’s diary. She herself couldn’t believe she right now was holding something Gruber had held and written in. Reading his diary was like getting a glimpse inside the man’s mind, something no museum or artifact could do. She imagined herself wearing a large hat and some dirty clothes, standing in the middle of a jungle digging up an old abandoned Mayan ruin with Gruber and Krueger not far off, Khan making them a nice snake stew. It obviously would be nothing glamorous like the Israel Schmidt movies, but she still wanted that feeling of adventure and excitement.

Shaking herself out of her daydream, Diana went back to reading the diary. Most of the entries were about meetings with other archaeologists, reflections on his and Mary’s lectures at Hikma, their students’ antics, or stuff they did while not on an expedition. As she drew closer to the war, the snippets of daily life were replaced with more expeditions, with Patel increasingly figuring in them. By the time she reached 1940, where he was talking about his Damascus expedition, Patel featured at least once per entry. The diary skipped over the details, but a body count in a later entry led Diana to believe something went terribly wrong.

Then she reached the Giza expedition a few months later and found entire pages ripped out, some of the stubs charred as if they were burned as well. The remaining entries were little more than scribbles, as if Gruber had been hastily jotting down notes. There was little about the philosopher's stone or the Riddle of the Sphinx in these entries, but Gruber seemed to believe it had something to do with the Sphinx. In one last entry, he wrote he and Khan were about to visit the Sphinx. The next ten pages were ripped out. The next five pages were covered in drawings of snakes eating their own tails, flames engulfing people, a river washing away houses, and General Patel, distinguishable by his glasses, with white hair and red eyes. There was only one entry in the middle of the drawings, parts of it barely legible:

July 13, 194…still coming…everything to keep them away…still there…drawn what I saw…the previous pages…best to burn…Anniona…Mary’s trying her best, but…same damned phrase over and over…shall be, what…getting better…don’t sleep…the end…I can’t stop the end…

Seeing this entry came as a shock to Diana. She’d always saw Gruber as the quintessential Roman hero, one who always knew what to say and always did the right thing. It was almost terrifying to see him broken down like this, ranting in places about nightmares and darkness. What could he have seen in Giza that terrified him so much that he was no longer the brave hero who outsmarted the Rasas?

The next five pages were blank. After that, the entries returned to normal. At least, as normal as they could be. Diana noted some entries which stood out.

February 2, 1950 - I’ve heard that guy Adenauer’s being sworn in for his second term. I don’t watch TV much anymore. Haven’t since the war. But somehow I just knew before I picked up the morning paper. I apologize for not writing since last time. The dreams have gone away, thank God. But I can’t seem to shake what I saw in them. So much death and destruction…did it happen in the past? Or will it happen in the future? Or both? Or neither? I really don’t know. I keep telling myself Patel’s dead, and he has been for nine years, but I kept seeing his face in those dreams, causing the destruction. Those infernal red eyes…it’s like they saw everything I’m doing, have done, and will do. Like I’m seeing right now. Listen, seeing the future and knowing your fate isn’t a blessing and never will be. It’s a curse. It should go without saying. You know when and how you’re going to die and you’re powerless to change that. You realize you don’t have any free will. Everything you will do is already determined. At least that’s what I’m seeing of my future. That’s why I know this nation will not last, no matter what I do.

April 22, 1953 - Maybe I should’ve left the stone where I found it, with Patel’s body. Maybe I should’ve just shot it, let its ancient secrets die with it. But fate is fate, and I was too curious. I had to touch it, and I paid the price. They always come with a price. That’s why I saw all that, saw all those terrible things, like the end of the nation, because I touched it. That’s how I knew to come here, to found this town. Al-Dud…funny name. I don’t know how I came up with it. Just popped into my head one day, and it sounded right. I think it has something to do with worms, but we don’t have many of those here.

September 14, 1959 - I’m glad I gave the stone to Hoover. He knows how to handle weird stuff like it. At least nobody else will suffer like I did, I hope, but that will probably not be the case. Mary’s still trying to convince herself I’m just going insane, and Malik’s distracting himself with oil money. But I’ve been hearing about these ‘lucky incidents’ the townspeople have been having lately. Somebody found their lost cat after it ran into the desert weeks ago. A kid lost during the war turned up last month. And of course Malik found the oil here. Could it be the stone’s doing? No, the stone’s with the Inquisition. It can’t be doing this. I refuse to believe. Because that means something terrible’s coming down the line. I hope I’m not around to see it.

May 2, 1963 - They’re calling it the “Luck” now. We’re all experiencing some luck. A year’s harvest was far bigger than usual, the river floods less violently sometimes, an old man’s cancer goes into remission. Malik secured the Baghdad contract although the competition was fierce, way too fierce. But Mary and I…not much. We’ve been trying for kids for a long time. No, we’re in our sixties now, we’ll never have kids, we gave up long ago. I don’t want to raise them in this world, knowing how it ends. There’s no point. But how is this happening? What’s causing this luck?

August 12, 1966 - Mary’s cancer has gotten worse. It’s like nothing the doctors do can help. They caught it too late. We’ve spent most of our time praying now. But she’s slipping away. She’s already asked me to get our affairs in order. Does the Luck have to happen at my expense?

November 3, 1966 - Mary thinks the Luck may be related to the stone. She’s come around to believing me. But I know for sure the stone isn’t with us. Mary thinks it doesn’t have to be with us though. I handled it myself. What if part of it rubbed off on me? What if I brought that part with me? Do I have to cut off my hand? Wait, how many hands have I shaken since then? Isn’t that just great? Sounds about right with my current state of…luck. Goddamnit.

December 16, 1966 - Fortunately, I don’t need to cut off my hand. Malik’s in town. He cut short the merger meeting with Palestine Energy to visit us. Mary’s condition has gotten worse, but her mind’s as sharp as ever. She wants to get to the bottom of this Luck. So does Malik. He thinks whatever rubbed off the stone was transferred from my hand to something I touched afterward. But I touched a lot of stuff that day. I’m sure it’s somewhere in the collection…

December 24, 1966 - Mary doesn’t have long now. Malik and our families are here. I’m just hoping the Luck pulls through.

December 25, 1966 - Mary woke up today. She no longer feels the pain from the cancer. They’re still running the tests, but it seems it’s gone. Just…gone. Like it was never there to begin with. It’s a miracle. We talked a few minutes ago, just the two of us. “Is the Luck really a bad thing?” she asked me. I don’t know. But why am I searching for its source? To destroy it? No, I just want to find out what’s causing it. “I just want to get to the bottom of this. Cold hard evidence linking the Luck to something here.” At least that’s what I’ve been hearing my dreams. They’re more peaceful than before. I’m watching two women visit the town, interested in the Luck as I am, or was. They get my diary and start reading it. I think I even saw them reading this entry even, like just as I’m writing these words. The dream ends there. I don’t know what to make of it. Will someone continue my work after I’m gone?

January 12, 1974 - The dream from a couple nights ago was longer than usual. It begins as it usually does. After reading the diary, strange stuff starts happening to the town. I see Patel walking down the sidewalk. I call his name. He turns around and glares at me with those infernal red eyes. Then I see some of the townspeople joining him, also with red eyes. I can feel them talking, but their mouths don’t move. They speak in some ancient language I have never even heard before, but it sounds like the weird language I reconstructed from those writings in that infernal chamber. It also sounds distorted, as if they’re hissing it. The same phrase over and over that I understood, even though I don’t know how to speak it and it’s probably been thousands of years since anybody heard it. What was shall be, what shall be was. I look to my side and see the two women there. One of them has dark brown hair. She looks a little like that Valkyrie lady I keep hearing about. She’s wearing my hat, I think. The other is blonde. She looks Russian. They have Athanatoi badges. The dream ends when the townspeople start running at us. I’ve never dreamed that part since them. I have this dreadful feeling…what’s going to happen next?

On the next page, Gruber had hastily scribbled four words, without an accompanying date.

the hohenzollerns will end the reich will fall fate cannot be avoided

That was the last entry in the diary. Diana remembered from the museum Gruber died on January 13, 1974. The circumstances of his death were unclear. The doctors didn’t know what kind of illness had hit him. But Diana couldn’t help but notice the timing of the diary entry. He had written this right before he died. Did he predict them arriving in this town? And if so, what did the rest of that entry mean? She decided she to head back to the motel to share her findings with Olga. Maybe she had something to say about this. Either that or Gruber lost his mind because of what happened in Giza.


Leo Safwin’s house - 5:00 AM

Leo dreamed he was running down Main Street. He panted heavily as his heart beat so loudly he could hear it. Overhead, the sky was covered in purple clouds which somehow radiated light. The street was deserted, and the stores were all closed, their doors locked. Leo could only keep running down the street, even though he didn’t know what he was running from.

He turned a corner down another road and immediately ran into Aliya, who stood motionlessly in the middle of the road, watching him with unblinking eyes. Aliya blinked, and her eyes glowed deep red. She took out a knife and approached him. Leo tried to run, but he was frozen. He screamed as Aliya repeatedly stabbed him, her cold face slowly morphing into that of a violently hissing snake with its fangs bared.

“What was shall be…what shall be was!” Aliya hissed.

Leo shot out of bed and caught his breath. He looked over and saw Aliya not in bed with him. His fear bubbling up again, he ran to the closet and took out his shotgun, which he loaded. He crept down the stairs and saw a red glow coming from the kitchen. He heard a low hissing coming from the kitchen as well. Raising his shotgun, he slowly approached the kitchen. As he entered it, the red glow disappeared and the hissing stopped. He saw a normal-looking Aliya at the counter, cutting some vegetables.

“Oh, you’re up, Leo,” Aliya said, “I thought I’d get up early to prepare—”

Leo shot Aliya in the head. As Aliya slumped to the ground, he ran over to her body and shot her a second time. Then he reloaded and shot her two more times.


6:00 AM

Wilhelm and Raphael materialized on an empty street corner.

“Are you sure this is where you sensed it?” Raphael said.

“I’m positive,” Wilhelm said, “We don’t have time for this.”

“Right,” Raphael said, “Because if we wait, the whole world will explode?”

“Hey, you have more experience in worlds exploding than me,” Wilhelm said.

“First off, it’s Uriel who has experience with that,” Raphael said, “And second, no world is going to explode, more like…universes will suffer.”

“You screwed over this universe many times!” Wilhelm said.

“True,” Raphael said, “In that case, I’ll let you handle this on your own.”

He teleported away.

“You’re kidding me,” Wilhelm said.

He also teleported away.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Good to see the Angels are steeping in to stop the Worm's shenanigans. Something tells me that Diana and Olga might not be fully prepared to deal with the Worm for this round. :eek:

Also, I thought Hoover was a part of the Syndicate/Sentinel conspiracy based off his interactions with the Smoking Man during his own arc, unless that meeting was a case of the Smoking Man being an unreliable narrator. Imagine Sentinel knowing about the Worm and Pavel enhancing his super solider army with Terran abilities.... maybe that's what Arabia saw instead of actual Holy Terran soldiers.:eek:

I must admit, it was kinda sad reading Arabia's journey entries and seeing him sleep into madness, poor guy didn't stand a chance to the Worm.:(
(Probably didn't help that the Worm has a lot of snake imagery associated with it.:p)

I'm half tempted to go into my Worm praising mode, but I feel like that'd only summon a jealous Gaberial like it did last time, so maybe I should'nt... Ah what the hell, WHAT WAS SHALL BE!:p

Anyways, love the lovecraftian vibes in this update, looking forward to the other parts and seeing if X-Division will learn about the Worm's existence or not.
 
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zenphoenix

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Good to see the Angels are steeping in to stop the Worm's shenanigans. Something tells me that Diana and Olga might not be fully prepared to deal with the Worm for this round. :eek:
Yes, "stop"...:eek:
Also, I thought Hoover was a part of the Syndicate/Sentinel conspiracy based off his interactions with the Smoking Man during his own arc, unless that meeting was a case of the Smoking Man being an unreliable narrator. Imagine Sentinel knowing about the Worm and Pavel enhancing his super solider army with Terran abilities.... maybe that's what Arabia saw instead of actual Holy Terran soldiers.:eek:
The smoking man's account of that particular meeting was probably unreliable, but Hoover IS part of the Syndicate/Sentinel conspiracy. I'll talk about him and what he did with the stone in a future arc.
I must admit, it was kinda sad reading Arabia's journey entries and seeing him sleep into madness, poor guy didn't stand a chance to the Worm.:(
(Probably didn't help that the Worm has a lot of snake imagery associated with it.:p)
There was no way he was getting out of that chamber sane. The Worm exists outside of human comprehension, and even a tiny fragment of its power can drive a man like Arabia Gruber insane.
I'm half tempted to go into my Worm praising mode, but I feel like that'd only summon a jealous Gaberial like it did last time, so maybe I should'nt... Ah what the hell, WHAT WAS SHALL BE!:p
you just had to do it didn't you?
Anyways, love the lovecraftian vibes in this update, looking forward to the other parts and seeing if X-Division will learn about the Worm's existence or not.
If they didn't figure it out in this part, they'll figure it out soon enough...also Wilhelm might just provide some exposition.:p
 

TWR97

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Yeah I agree with @CaptainAlvious with this update, the lovecraftian vibes for this chapter are certainly very strong. Shame about Arabia dying due to worm shenanigans though. Also the Angel's stepping up to put a stop to the Worm's shenanigans is a sigh of relief for me.

But I don't think it might be enough to stop the Worm entirely :eek:
 

zenphoenix

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Yeah I agree with @CaptainAlvious with this update, the lovecraftian vibes for this chapter are certainly very strong. Shame about Arabia dying due to worm shenanigans though. Also the Angel's stepping up to put a stop to the Worm's shenanigans is a sigh of relief for me.

But I don't think it might be enough to stop the Worm entirely :eek:
Well, Lovecraftian protagonists almost never get out of their stories with their lives or minds intact.

Yes..."stop"..."entirely"...
 

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Man, Arabia has a tragic ending and Hoover is evil... dang.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Well, Lovecraftian protagonists almost never get out of their stories with their lives or minds intact.
That doesn't bode well for Olga and Diana then, does it.:eek:
you just had to do it didn't you?
Yep.:D

Anyways, embeding that link to that Smoking Man's update actually made me noticed something I missed before. In fact, it made me notice a detail in the Annionaverse crossover that went over my head for awhile.
Elisabeth Alexandra looked up from the book she was reading (Second Chance: A Jacob Colmar Adventure - 15th Anniversary Edition by famous author Raul Blucher) and looked at Otto.
Raul Blucher was the Smoking Man's pen name when he was trying to become a writer in his own arc iirc, so I guess this means that his attempt at having a writing career was more successful in the Annionaverse than it was in the Hohenzollernverse. Guess the Smoking Man has earned a place next to Hitler and Stalin on the long list of characters in this AAR that have had complete career changes across universes and timelines.:p

Also, I noticed mentions of a government shut down throughout this update, I assume that's something that will be elaborated on in Chapter 454 and have ramifications for the Reich in further chapters. Is it an equivalent to the US government shut down between 2018-2019 or will it be something different from that?
 
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zenphoenix

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Man, Arabia has a tragic ending and Hoover is evil... dang.
We'll see what he's been up to in a later arc.
That doesn't bode well for Olga and Diana then, does it.:eek:
You'll see.
Raul Blucher was the Smoking Man's pen name when he was trying to become a writer in his own arc iirc, so I guess this means that his attempt at having a writing career was more successful in the Annionaverse than it was in the Hohenzollernverse. Guess the Smoking Man has earned a place next to Hitler and Stalin on the long list of characters in this AAR that have had complete career changes across universes and timelines.:p
Yep, he actually succeeded in becoming a writer and left the Syndicate, assuming it exists over there as well (which it probably does).
Also, I noticed mentions of a government shut down throughout this update, I assume that's something that will be elaborated on in Chapter 454 and have ramifications for the Reich in further chapters. Is it an equivalent to the US government shut down between 2018-2019 or will it be something different from that?
I wrote this around the time that shutdown was a thing and wanted to sneak in a general reference to it to show the Roman government also has similar issues (which will be a focus of the next story arc). It won't be an exact match for that shutdown. I'll probably mention it in Chapter 454.
 

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Congrats @zenphoenix for getting the Megacampaign of 2019 award. Felt it would be appropriate to congratulate you here, on the thread of the very megacampagin that got nominated. :)
Yep, he actually succeeded in becoming a writer and left the Syndicate, assuming it exists over there as well (which it probably does).
I assume the Syndicate would still be active in the Annionaverse, since I doubt it would be destroyed in the same way it was destroyed in the Hohenzollernverse due to Annie switching places with Anders in the X-Division. Maybe that would be thing that leads to the nuclear war in the Annionaverse. :eek:

I remember we mentioned the Humboldt forum while we were discussing the August Chamber and I was thinking for while that musuemn might be named something else here, until I realized that Kaiser Otto could name it in dedication to Anders and Angela, possibly mention it in a personal conversation with them. I came up with this idea since it would show Otto's gratitude to X-Division, especially for saving him from Rico Model scheme a couple arcs ago. Plus Otto hasn't really had direct interactions with any of the X-Division crew aside from their supporting cast, it would be nice to see him have a chat with them, especially Angela. What do you think of this idea? I don't think its too far fetched since Olga mentioned X-Division getting its own twitter soon, so it could work.
 

zenphoenix

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Congrats @zenphoenix for getting the Megacampaign of 2019 award. Felt it would be appropriate to congratulate you here, on the thread of the very megacampagin that got nominated. :)
Thanks. I'll respond in that thread in a couple days to give people more time to respond.
I assume the Syndicate would still be active in the Annionaverse, since I doubt it would be destroyed in the same way it was destroyed in the Hohenzollernverse due to Annie switching places with Anders in the X-Division. Maybe that would be thing that leads to the nuclear war in the Annionaverse. :eek:
Also bear in mind Annie's X-Division also had to deal with the dimensional tears caused by Walter, and the modern X-Division was founded in the 1980s by Walternate and Tatiana as a result of that (technically the X-Division in the Hohenzollernverse was founded in the 1950s but didn't become significant until Anders showed up, and something like that could have happened in the Annionaverse with Walternate as well). So with Annie's team distracted by a much larger and immediate threat (the collapse of their universe), they may not have had as much time as Anders' team did to go after the Syndicate. Though some of their 1990s missions overlapped with the Hohenzollernverse's X-Division's.

One of my scrapped plans for a one-off update would've had the Annionaverse X-Division fighting their own version of the Syndicate in 2018, with the implication that they were behind the Holy Roman Empire's succession crisis and war, but ultimately failing and accepting their fate as a nuclear missile flattens Konstanstadt. That's been completely scrapped now as it would take away from the Hohenzollernverse X-Division's story and I don't know if I even want to do an Annionaverse Syndicate, let alone what to do with it without making it exactly like the Hohenzollernverse Syndicate.
I remember we mentioned the Humboldt forum while we were discussing the August Chamber and I was thinking for while that musuemn might be named something else here, until I realized that Kaiser Otto could name it in dedication to Anders and Angela, possibly mention it in a personal conversation with them. I came up with this idea since it would show Otto's gratitude to X-Division, especially for saving him from Rico Model scheme a couple arcs ago. Plus Otto hasn't really had direct interactions with any of the X-Division crew aside from their supporting cast, it would be nice to see him have a chat with them, especially Angela. What do you think of this idea? I don't think its too far fetched since Olga mentioned X-Division getting its own twitter soon, so it could work.
I guess I could name it the Hansen-Humboldt Museum, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I even want to do it. I might just stick to the August Chamber alone.

With the story I have so far, I think I can fit something in, probably in the grand finale.

I just realized that I mentioned Facebook and Twitter at the end of that update, although the next story arc will be introducing an original highly popular social network that clearly fills in Facebook's role. Assume those references are for original social networks with different names and not Facebook and Twitter themselves. I should also point out the next arc, which will be a sort of teaser for the next big story arc and introduce some of its major characters, will expand on X-Division expanding into social media as politicians and media outlets of all kinds do the same.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Also bear in mind Annie's X-Division also had to deal with the dimensional tears caused by Walter, and the modern X-Division was founded in the 1980s by Walternate and Tatiana as a result of that (technically the X-Division in the Hohenzollernverse was founded in the 1950s but didn't become significant until Anders showed up, and something like that could have happened in the Annionaverse with Walternate as well). So with Annie's team distracted by a much larger and immediate threat (the collapse of their universe), they may not have had as much time as Anders' team did to go after the Syndicate. Though some of their 1990s missions overlapped with the Hohenzollernverse's X-Division's.

One of my scrapped plans for a one-off update would've had the Annionaverse X-Division fighting their own version of the Syndicate in 2018, with the implication that they were behind the Holy Roman Empire's succession crisis and war, but ultimately failing and accepting their fate as a nuclear missile flattens Konstanstadt. That's been completely scrapped now as it would take away from the Hohenzollernverse X-Division's story and I don't know if I even want to do an Annionaverse Syndicate, let alone what to do with it without making it exactly like the Hohenzollernverse Syndicate.

I guess I could name it the Hansen-Humboldt Museum, but to be honest, I'm not sure if I even want to do it. I might just stick to the August Chamber alone.

With the story I have so far, I think I can fit something in, probably in the grand finale.
Given that Earth doesn’t end up colonized by the Jotun after the war, you could have the Sydincate working with the Worm instead of the Jotun, with their plan being to prepare humanity for the rise of the Terran Empire instead of getting humanity infected by the Jotun’s black oil, safe for syndicate members. Maybe the Jotun/Vanir´s original species in the Annionaverse was wiped out by the Cybrex or something.

Then again, as fun as that interlude sounds, it would be sad to see the Annionaverse X-Division die in the war.:(

Still hope they end up surviving the Rapture, especially now that Wilhelm warned them about it.

It´d be nice to see Angela and Otto talk about Elisabeth Alexandria, considering their relations to her. That´d be a nice way to give them both more closure over her death, even if they already have some.
I just realized that I mentioned Facebook and Twitter at the end of that update, although the next story arc will be introducing an original highly popular social network that clearly fills in Facebook's role. Assume those references are for original social networks with different names and not Facebook and Twitter themselves. I should also point out the next arc, which will be a sort of teaser for the next big story arc and introduce some of its major characters, will expand on X-Division expanding into social media as politicians and media outlets of all kinds do the same.
I also remember the 2000s update mentioning OTL social media sites, just to let you know in case there are other sites you replace with original networks.

I wonder what original social media platforms would exist in TTL? If it isn’t a spoiler, then I’m wondering if we could see a list of Hohenzollernverse social media sites and, if they’re analogues, which platforms they’d replace?

Will any of the X-Division characters be meeting the original character I made for one of your future arcs by any chance? Pretty excited to see how you fleshed him out from the rough drafts of his character I gave you.:)
 
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zenphoenix

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Given that Earth doesn’t end up colonized by the Jotun after the war, you could have the Sydincate working with the Worm instead of the Jotun, with their plan being to prepare humanity for the rise of the Terran Empire instead of getting humanity infected by the Jotun’s black oil, safe for syndicate members. Maybe the Jotun/Vanir´s original species in the Annionaverse was wiped out by the Cybrex or something.
There was still an Anders abduction in much the same way Annie was abducted in the Hohenzollernverse, implying there was still a Jotun conspiracy. But as the Jotun clearly didn't colonize Earth, we can assume they either gave up or were defeated by the Vanir like in the Hohenzollernverse.

I do have plans for the Cybrex but nothing concrete yet. As I said a while ago, I want to use them as the reason why Stellaris galaxies are vastly different despite some civilizations being the same. They are the most recent precursor (unless one of the newer ones changed that) and attacking in a random direction resulted in massive changes to the timeline on a galactic scale, though Earth itself will remain the same because it was insulated from those changes.

Not sure if I want the Syndicate to be involved with the Worm, but that sounds interesting. Though it makes more sense to keep them associated with the Jotun. Maybe there's a Sentinel equivalent involved with the Worm. I definitely do want the Worm to be involved in the last years of pre-Terran Annionaverse humanity, but to say anything more would be spoilers and nothing is set in stone yet.
Then again, as fun as that interlude sounds, it would be sad to see the Annionaverse X-Division die in the war.:(
Yes, it would be really tragic.
Still hope they end up surviving the Rapture, especially now that Wilhelm warned them about it.
Survive the Rapture and then what? They emerge in a destroyed world with all authority gone and everybody who could flee having fled, with no way of following them to Mars. And even if they did get to Mars, what could they do in the early years? Probably better to give them a clean death so they don't need to see how their world falls apart.

There is a reason why Wilhelm appeared in Walternate's office.
It´d be nice to see Angela and Otto talk about Elisabeth Alexandria, considering their relations to her. That´d be a nice way to give them both more closure over her death, even if they already have some.
Diana at least will talk with Otto, but I'll see if I can get an Angela conversation too.
I also remember the 2000s update mentioning OTL social media sites, just to let you know in case there are other sites you replace with original networks.
Right now I'm only focusing on one main social network which will be like a combination of Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Though I could add more if I can just come up with names for them.
I wonder what original social media platforms would exist in TTL? If it isn’t a spoiler, then I’m wondering if we could see a list of Hohenzollernverse social media sites and, if they’re analogues, which platforms they’d replace?
I don't really know. I'll keep a couple like Google and Wikipedia (not a social network but I still mentioned it) for now until I can find names for them.
Will any of the X-Division characters be meeting the original character I made for one of your future arcs by any chance? Pretty excited to see how you fleshed him out from the rough drafts of his character I gave you.:)
Anders at least will meet him early on. However he will not appear in the upcoming arc but will be introduced with the story arc proper. Instead I will introduce one of his co-protagonists.
 

CaptainAlvious

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There was still an Anders abduction in much the same way Annie was abducted in the Hohenzollernverse, implying there was still a Jotun conspiracy. But as the Jotun clearly didn't colonize Earth, we can assume they either gave up or were defeated by the Vanir like in the Hohenzollernverse.

I do have plans for the Cybrex but nothing concrete yet. As I said a while ago, I want to use them as the reason why Stellaris galaxies are vastly different despite some civilizations being the same. They are the most recent precursor (unless one of the newer ones changed that) and attacking in a random direction resulted in massive changes to the timeline on a galactic scale, though Earth itself will remain the same because it was insulated from those changes.

Not sure if I want the Syndicate to be involved with the Worm, but that sounds interesting. Though it makes more sense to keep them associated with the Jotun. Maybe there's a Sentinel equivalent involved with the Worm. I definitely do want the Worm to be involved in the last years of pre-Terran Annionaverse humanity, but to say anything more would be spoilers and nothing is set in stone yet.
That reminds me, what do you think ever happened to all the people the Jotun abducted when there was no organized human society to give them back to? Assuming the Vanir defeat the Jotun like in the Hohenzollernverse, then maybe the abductees would go off and found their own human derivative empires, just like those refugees from the nuclear Rapture/Anniona Conquest of Mars did. As for why they wouldn't show up in Deus Ex Anniona, going off your previous idea of the galaxy being so big that only a certain number of planets and civilizations show up, maybe they weren't significant enough to be noted in the geo (galatic?)-political situation there.

Is the lore for any of the older pre-Cybrex precursors any different? I assume not since their empires are so old that they’d predate any and all timeline divergences in this AAR.

What you’ve just said actually sounds similar to the Worm cult idea I’ve brought up before. Anyways, that idea sounds cool. Makes sense to have the Worm involved in the years leading up to the transition of humanity from the HRE dominated world order to the Holy Terran Empire.
Survive the Rapture and then what? They emerge in a destroyed world with all authority gone and everybody who could flee having fled, with no way of following them to Mars. And even if they did get to Mars, what could they do in the early years? Probably better to give them a clean death so they don't need to see how their world falls apart.

There is a reason why Wilhelm appeared in Walternate's office.
Fair enough, I guess a more bittersweet ending is appropriate for them. Let's hope that they go down in a blaze of glory at least, ideally in an attempt to stop the Worm.

Speaking of authorities fleeing the rapture, didn't you mention Annionaverse India developing universe crossing technology? I think Emperor Claudius explained to Otto in 2011 that the Indians would've been able to access the technology in five years, which would be just before the succession crises that leads to the Rapture.

I'm gonna put this next idea in a spoiler, in case it spoils something you have planed. Better safe than sorry.
Awhile ago, I actually was gonna make a post in the PM chat about the idea of an Indian story-arc about a few Annionaverse socialist Indians fleeing to the Hohenzollernverse and subverting the Hohenzollernverse's India's government with political intrigue, but I thought that it would be too complicated to explain so I dropped it. I understand if this wouldn't work with whatever plot you've got for post Naxalite rebellion Hohenzollernverse India, just thought I'd make an idea that still involve the Anninaverse crossover and add some poltical intrigue into India's plot, to balance out the sci-fi shenanigans.
Diana at least will talk with Otto, but I'll see if I can get an Angela conversation too.
I guess now is as good a time as any to bring up a new head canon I’ve just came up with: since Angela’s Walkman was originally Elisabeth Alexandria’s walkman, I like to think that Anders playing it to break Angela and Otto out of Rico’s control also reminded them of her, hence why it shook them both out of Rico’s spell. So essentially, Otto and Angela’s memories and connections to Elisabeth Alexandria would have been the thing that secured Rico’s demise. Again, this is a personal head canon, so you don't have to make it canon. Just thought I'd share this with you and ask what you think.
Anders at least will meet him early on. However he will not appear in the upcoming arc but will be introduced with the story arc proper. Instead I will introduce one of his co-protagonists.
Good to hear he’ll meet Anders. Looking forward to his introduction.:)

I wonder if Julius Anniona will be showing up anytime soon, given he should be born sometime soon if he hasn't already been born. It'd be interesting to see how he'd be brought up in a humanity not affected by the Rapture or Neo-Feudalism, even if the Annionas are no where near the all powerful family they were in the Annionaverse.

In case answering some of these questions involves giving spoilers, you could always respond to them in the PM chat or a spoiler tag. Hope I'm not going into "Wikto is Tito" territory with these questions and suggestions. :D:oops:
 
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zenphoenix

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That reminds me, what do you think ever happened to all the people the Jotun abducted when there was no organized human society to give them back to? Assuming the Vanir defeat the Jotun like in the Hohenzollernverse, then maybe the abductees would go off and found their own human derivative empires, just like those refugees from the nuclear Rapture/Anniona Conquest of Mars did. As for why they wouldn't show up in Deus Ex Anniona, going off your previous idea of the galaxy being so big that only a certain number of planets and civilizations show up, maybe they weren't significant enough to be noted in the geo (galatic?)-political situation there.
Maybe they did, or maybe they remained in cryogenic stasis as the abductees in the Antarctica ship were.

I will eventually talk about the Hohenzollernverse abductees who weren't returned by the Jotun/Vanir, but those updates will be far in the future (both in-universe and in real life) and are still in the planning stage.
Is the lore for any of the older pre-Cybrex precursors any different? I assume not since their empires are so old that they’d predate any and all timeline divergences in this AAR.
No, I'll respect the canon Stellaris lore because I treat the Cybrex war as the main point of divergence for all Stellaris AARs. I occasionally float around ideas of an older precursor civilization which was one member of the First League, but I don't know what to do with them and end up scrapping those ideas.
What you’ve just said actually sounds similar to the Worm cult idea I’ve brought up before. Anyways, that idea sounds cool. Makes sense to have the Worm involved in the years leading up to the transition of humanity from the HRE dominated world order to the Holy Terran Empire.
It should be clear that the Worm and its followers didn't just appear out of nowhere on Mars...
Fair enough, I guess a more bittersweet ending is appropriate for them. Let's hope that they go down in a blaze of glory at least, ideally in an attempt to stop the Worm.
That would be cool. I might write a flashback update about their last stand in the Stellaris arc.
Speaking of authorities fleeing the rapture, didn't you mention Annionaverse India developing universe crossing technology? I think Emperor Claudius explained to Otto in 2011 that the Indians would've been able to access the technology in five years, which would be just before the succession crises that leads to the Rapture.
I didn't say they developed the universe crossing technology, only that they were on track to developing it in five years. The succession crisis began in 2016 and tensions flared up quickly, so I assume the Indians never had time to perfect it. Or maybe the UN shut down the program after Walternate's X-Division ended Jansen's threat and the gate machine was dismantled. Or perhaps they did perfect the technology...but due to the gate machine being dismantled, they couldn't reach the Hohenzollernverse. I personally would go for the first option.
I'm gonna put this next idea in a spoiler
That would take away from the Hohenzollernverse Indians' arc, as the events that will happen to them in the next few years will be caused by them and them alone.
I guess now is as good a time as any to bring up a new head canon I’ve just came up with: since Angela’s Walkman was originally Elisabeth Alexandria’s walkman, I like to think that Anders playing it to break Angela and Otto out of Rico’s control also reminded them of her, hence why it shook them both out of Rico’s spell. So essentially, Otto and Angela’s memories and connections to Elisabeth Alexandria would have been the thing that secured Rico’s demise. Again, this is a personal head canon, so you don't have to make it canon. Just thought I'd share this with you and ask what you think.
I like it.
Good to hear he’ll meet Anders. Looking forward to his introduction.:)
I think my current plan is he'll meet all of the main four eventually, but I haven't gotten that far into his arc yet. Still writing in the early 2020s.
I wonder if Julius Anniona will be showing up anytime soon, given he should be born sometime soon if he hasn't already been born. It'd be interesting to see how he'd be brought up in a humanity not affected by the Rapture or Neo-Feudalism, even if the Annionas are no where near the all powerful family they were in the Annionaverse.
I never thought of it, but I could include him somewhere, maybe as the manager of Siegfried "Claudius" Anniona's estate. Remind me of his birthdate again? That will affect what I can write of him if I decide to include him.
In case answering some of these questions involves giving spoilers, you could always respond to them in the PM chat or a spoiler tag. Hope I'm not going into "Wikto is Tito" territory with these questions and suggestions. :D:oops:
No, you're fine. I'm always looking for new ideas.