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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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.
I don’t think Dragoon ever gave an exact birthdate for Julius in the Deus Ex Anniona prologue, just that he was a child in the 2020s. I guess he would’ve been born shortly before the Rapture, but other than that I got nothing.
 

zenphoenix

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I don’t think Dragoon ever gave an exact birthdate for Julius in the Deus Ex Anniona prologue, just that he was a child in the 2020s. I guess he would’ve been born shortly before the Rapture, but other than that I got nothing.
That's a good enough for me. I just need a timeframe for when he would be active. He might have been born too late for the next story arc but might be a major player in events afterward, though they won't be as closely tied in a story arc as the next few years.
 

zenphoenix

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Unearthed, Part 3

7:00 AM

Diana and Olga approached the house again. The only things marking the police’s presence was Andreas’ car and yellow tape surrounding the house. She saw flashes coming from the window, probably medical examiners and forensics investigators taking pictures of the crime scene. Andreas walked out the door and waved them over.

“Morning, agents,” he said, “I apologize for dragging you out so early and into this. Especially with what’s going on in Berlin.”

“No, it’s fine, Constable Theobald,” Diana said, “Could you tell us what happened?”

“About two hours ago, Leo Safwin murdered his wife,” Andreas said, “Shot her four times point blank with his shotgun. Bernard has him in custody at the station.”

“Earlier this week, he just avoided a car accident and then won the lottery,” Olga said, “Why would he suddenly want to kill his wife?”

“Beats me,” Andreas said, “I was hoping you could help us out a little. It’s just me and Bernard in this town. You know it’s peaceful here. We’ve only had a couple murders in the last seventy years or so. You see, I still don’t have a gun, but now I might reconsider. So when there are a couple more murders all happening this morning…”

“Wait, there are more murders?” Diana said.

“Yeah, I was about to get to that,” Andreas said, “Somebody started a smallfire at the oil refinery. A woman killed her elderly father.”

His phone rang. He picked it up.

“Yes, Bernard?” he said. “Wait, what? Hold on, I’ll call you back.”

He hung up.

“Apparently a teacher at the elementary school locked her entire class in the kitchen and left the gas on,” Andreas said, "Fortunately other teachers stopped her before anyone was hurt.”

“What’s going on here?” Olga said.

“Yeah, I’m as confused as you are,” Andreas said.

“I think you got this scene under control,” Diana said, “Why don’t we question the suspects?”

As they headed to their cars, none of them noticed Wilhelm and Raphael watching from across the street.


al-Dud Police Station - 9:00 AM

Diana, Olga, and Andreas entered the jail, which was just a few concrete cells guarded with old-fashioned bars. They were all filled.

“We don’t have much crime here,” Andreas said, “Not like Baghdad or the big cities. Usually it’s drugs or alcohol. Never anything like this. We’re overwhelmed.”

Diana and Olga stopped at the first cell, where Leo sat on a bench.

“Leo Safwin,” Diana said, “We just talked yesterday. Mind telling me what happened?”

“I…I did it,” Leo said, “I killed Aliya. Oh my God, I killed her.”

“Do you know why?” Olga said.

“I had this dream,” Leo said, “It was like the kind you get with the Luck, but different. I was running down Main Street and found Aliya. Her eyes were glowing red. Then her head turned into a snake’s and she killed me with a knife. She was repeating something…”

“And what would that be?” Diana said.

“Uh, I think it was…‘what was shall be, what shall be was’,” Leo said, “I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.”

“And then you suddenly had an urge to kill Aliya?” Olga said.

“Basically,” Leo said.

Diana and Olga stepped away.

“Okay, this guy’s off the rails,” Olga said, “He must’ve not been in the right mind. To do this so soon after being so lucky…”

“Listen, Olga,” Diana said, “That phrase he said, I’ve heard it before. Angie said one of the X-Division’s suspects when she was on the other side said it. And uh…more related to this case, I found it in Gruber’s diary as well.”

She took out the diary and flipped it to the relevant entry. “See? Maybe it’s related to the Luck, but it’s gone bad.”

“Okay, so let’s assume that’s what’s happening,” Olga said, “Are we responsible for this? Did we frak something up in coming here and now the Luck’s killing people?”

“I’m not sure,” Diana said, “But I have a feeling what we’re dealing with is supernatural. Gruber also mentioned a Hoover as the guy he gave the philosopher’s stone to. That could be referring to Jakob Edelweiss Hoover, one of the Athanatoi directors and founder of the RSB as wel as a co-founder of the Syndicate.”

“Again, that has no relation to our case,” Olga said.

“He also had a background in the Inquisition before founding the Syndicate,” Diana said.

“You have the Inquisition’s number, by any chance?” Olga said.

“Damnit, Anders never shared his Inquisition friends' number,” Diana said, "Never thought I’d actually need it. I’ll ask him when we get home."

“What is it with you and getting off-track easily lately?” Olga said.

“Sorry,” Diana said.

“Anyways, we’ve got a crime and a case,” Olga said, “You know what that means?”

“We have an investigation,” Diana said.

“Which means work,” Olga said.

“Let’s get started then,” Diana said.

---

Wilhelm waved his right hand over Aliya’s body. Energy emanated from his hand and surrounded her, focusing on the bullet wounds. He tapped Aliya’s forehead with his left hand, and a flood of memories surged through his mind. It was now nighttime, and Aliya was cutting vegetables at the counter. Wilhelm wondered why she was cutting vegetables so late, but he didn’t get much time to think before she looked up and saw Leo approaching.

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

It was then that Wilhelm noticed Leo’s eyes were glowing red, and there was a gun in his hand. He pointed the gun at Aliya, and everything went black. He shook himself back to reality and staggered back, gripping the doorknob to keep his balance. It wasn’t the memory itself that caused the reaction. He’d viewed a lot of similar memories in the past, but nothing had made him feel this sick. He coughed and groaned again. Maybe it was the new vessel. But Gavrilo wasn’t like this at first. He was sure the Friedrichs weren’t like that. He arrived at the conclusion he never wanted. It was responsible.

“Hey, we have a problem,” he said.

Sarah appeared in front of him.

“What happened?” she said.

Wilhelm could only groan. Sarah reached forward to tap his forehead, but Wilhelm stopped her.

“No, don’t,” he said, “It…It’s here.”

“It?” Sarah said. “Impossible.”

“We should really stop using that word,” Wilhelm said.

Sarah reached forward again, and again Wilhelm brushed her hand away.

“Please no,” Wilhelm said, “I don’t want to harm you.”

“Spare me that,” Sarah said, “I did much better at mental fortitude class than you.”

She tapped Wilhelm’s forehead and immediately recoiled, though she recovered quickly.

“Tried to warn you,” Wilhelm said.

“What the frak was that?” Sarah said.

“It’s influence is expanding,” Wilhelm said, “For the first time in…a long time.”

“This is bad,” Sarah said, “Really bad.”

“You see now?” Wilhelm said. “I need backup, but Raphael was uncooperative, as always.”

“Ugh, I’m going to have to talk to him when I get back there,” Sarah said, “Can’t you ask someone else for backup?”

“I have no idea where Uriel is,” Wilhelm said, “He’s always off doing his own stuff.”

“You could always ask the humans,” Sarah said.

“And drag them into this?” Wilhelm said. “We can barely handle It already. Take a look at what’s happening in this town and tell me they can help.”

Sarah opened the door and pointed at Diana and Olga.

“Why not them?” she said.

Wilhelm looked at the agents.

“What are they doing here?” he asked.

“Beats me,” Sarah said, “Probably investigating this incident as well. A second opinion is always appreciated.”

“I don’t know about this,” Wilhelm said.

“We’ve met them before,” Sarah said, “We know what they can do.”

“I’m a little concerned this may be too much for them,” Wilhelm said.

“You’ll need all the help you can get, Wilhelm,” Sarah said, “The alternative is…you know.”

Her words awoke an old memory in him, of a time from centuries ago. He remembered standing in a desert, sand swirling around his boots. He wasn’t wearing that much armor because of the sweltering heat. Instead, he had a purple cloak, billowing behind him in the light breeze. It was held in place by a golden brooch with the Hohenzollern eagle engraved on it. He had no shield. Both hands gripped a beautiful steel sword, with its name engraved in Greek along its blade. Enonon’s blade rippled with an intricate design resembling flowing water.

Wilhelm felt the ground rumble under his feet. Then he heard the vast thundering of footsteps and horse hooves, throwing up dust and sand like a sandstorm. He looked behind him and saw his army advancing. He heard battle cries shouted in different languages. Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, and Greeks…they all fought alongside each other as comrades and as Romans, united around a single cause, his cause.

Arrayed on the other side of the plains was the enemy. It was the army of the caliph, though at this point Wilhelm could hardly call him that anymore. Many of his men looked nervous, as if they didn’t want to fight under him. Even al-Mustansir himself looked like he’d rather be anywhere but on the battlefield. But it was his vizier, Hassan, who looked in command. He towered over his fellow soldiers on his magnificent white horse, which stomped the ground impatiently. Hassan drew his scimitar, and his eyes flashed red.

“What was shall be!” he hissed. “What shall be was!”

He charged across the plains. The nervousness disappeared from his men immediately, and they all followed behind him, bellowing war cries in various Arabic dialects and kicking up sand behind them. Wilhelm’s vessel recoiled in fear, and it took all of Wilhelm’s personal willpower to assure him it was okay.

“Come on, Friedrich,” he said, “You’ve been through much worse before.”

Friedrich’s resolve returned.

“Of course,” he said, “We can’t fail now.”

He turned to the two men next to him. There was his friend, Friedrich von Sigmaringen (as they called him to avoid confusion because his family was also called the Hohenzollerns), and father-in-law, Werner von Habsburg.

“We’ve come a long way, have we?” Friedrich said.

“We have,” Friedrich von Sigmaringen said.

“If only Heinrich were here to join us,” Werner said.

“You know he can’t,” Friedrich said, “He needs to hold the realm together while we and our armies are here. Never know what those Norsemen might do.”

“I hope Ida knows what she’s doing,” Werner said.

“Don’t worry, Friedrich, Sarah will take care of her,” Wilhelm told Friedrich, “What matters now is defeating Hassan.”

Friedrich nodded.

“Your orders, sir?” Werner said.

Enonon shimmered with a whitish blue light, as if in reaction to Hassan’s glowing eyes.

“We charge,” Friedrich said, “Together, we will triumph.”

Werner and Friedrich von Sigmaringen turned to their troops.

“Charge!” they shouted.

The soldiers picked up speed. Friedrich pointed Enonon at the enemy and broke into a sprint.

“For the future of humanity!” he shouted. “For the dawn of a new age! May the saints protect us in battle! Gott mit uns!”

His soldiers shouted their agreement in their own languages. With Wilhelm leading the charge, they picked up speed and quickly closed the distance with the enemy. The two armies clashed in a storm of swords, arrows, and lances, blood spilling onto the sand below. Wilhelm cut down several enemies with Enonon and looked across the battlefield, trying to find Hassan. He saw an ornate turban bobbing above the chaos and slowly cut his way towards it. He dodged an arrow that struck down the man beside him, then evaded the jab of an enemy’s lance, bringing Enonon down on his torso. He slashed and stabbed his way across the battlefield, the wave of enemies barely slowing him down as he gradually approached his turbaned target. He finally reached the man and tackled him, raising Enonon to deliver the finishing blow.

“Wait!” al-Mustansir shouted, dropping his sword and raising his hand. “I surrender!”

Wilhelm hesitated, although Friedrich wanted to keep his guard up.

“I’m not the one you want!” he said. “You want Hassan, right?”

“What do you mean?” Friedrich said.

An enemy ran at him, sword raised, and Wilhelm instinctively stabbed him before aiming Enonon at al-Mustansir again.

“I never wanted this war!” al-Mustansir said. “But Hassan was in control. I…I can deliver him to you, and then I can end this war! I can give you whatever terms you want!”

“How do I know you’re not lying?” Friedrich said.

“I will stay in your custody for as long as necessary!” al-Mustansir said. “I’ll agree to whatever you demand, as long as I survive and I keep my titles. Just get rid of that accursed Hassan!”

Wilhelm and Friedrich thought for a moment.

“I don’t trust him,” Friedrich said, “Could be one of Hassan’s traps. We were just in Beirut, don’t you remember?”

“He’s not lying,” Wilhelm said, “I can sense it.”

“How do we know it’s not Hassan sending him as a mole?” Friedrich said.

“Keep him in our custody for as long as we need,” Wilhelm said, “Then we’ll see if he does what he promises. And if it’s a trap, we kill him.”

“Fine,” Friedrich said, “Let’s see if he knows about Hassan.”

He turned to al-Mustansir.

“We’ll take you up on your offer,” he said, “Where’s Hassan?”

“Over in the left flank, trying to sneak a small force around to attack you from behind,” al-Mustansir explained, “Shouldn’t have gotten far.”

Wilhelm waved several Roman soldiers over.

“This is the caliph,” he said, “He has surrendered to us. Make sure he is taken into custody but treated with dignity as befitting a noble.”

“Understood, my lord,” one soldier said.

They took him away, quickly escaping the battlefield while everyone was too busy fighting and dying to notice.

“Let’s find Hassan then,” Wilhelm said.

Friedrich ran across the battlefield, cutting down more and more enemies with Enonon. The enemies grew more aggressive and ferocious as he continued, not just against him personally but other Romans, who were being cut down and savagely hacked to pieces. By the time he reached the enemy’s left flank, they were attacking so fiercely and inhumanely that Wilhelm swore they were no longer human, like they were being powered up by an unnatural force. Finally, he located Hassan charging the Roman lines, with what looked like a red aura surrounding him and particularly his scimitar. A dozen Roman knights rode toward him, lances at the ready, but Hassan slashed his scimitar through the air, letting off a wave of red energy which distorted the air like it was paper being torn. The knights were thrown off their horses…at least the lucky ones were. The unlucky ones screamed in agony as they too were distorted by the energy. Friedrich did not want to see what horrors were inflicted upon them.

“Hey!” Wilhelm shouted, brandishing Enonon.

Hassan noticed him and turned to face him. He smiled menacingly, his eyes still glowing red.

“Well, well, well,” he said, “Another Roman, here to stop me. I’d like to see you try.”

Wilhelm briefly reverted to his true form, and Friedrich was surrounded in a blinding white angelic light, with ethereal wings spreading behind him and a piercing ringing noise echoing across the battlefield. Angelic energy surged into Enonon, its patterns and engravings glowing pure white. Before the light and ringing could harm his own troops, Wilhelm returned to Friedrich’s form. Hassan’s eyes briefly showed surprise.

“An angel,” he said, “I wasn’t expecting one of you to show up.”

“I am going to end you and your evil!” Wilhelm and Friedrich shouted together.

Friedrich charged Hassan, Enonon at the ready. Hassan spurred his horse and raised his scimitar. When the two met, Hassan swung his scimitar down, but Friedrich parried it with Enonon, and where the two blades met, white and red energy sparked and flashed before violently repelling, throwing both of them back. Hassan was tossed off his horse, while Friedrich kept his footing. Hassan quickly got to his feet and ran at Friedrich. Their swords clashed again, the ringing of steel against steel amplified by the angelic and eldritch energy infused into them. Hassan was an excellent swordsman, with his strength enhanced with It’s power, but Friedrich had Wilhelm and his own skill on his side. The two were thus evenly matched, and for a whole minute, neither of them could break the stalemate and gain the upper hand. Finally, Hassan tried bringing his scimitar down on Friedrich’s shoulder, but Friedrich blocked it with Enonon. The two remained locked in that position for several seconds, struggling to push back against the other.

“You can’t resist,” Hassan hissed, “You know this is futile.”

“I will never give up,” Wilhelm said, channeling angelic energy into Enonon, “I will prevail.”

“You are mistaken, angel,” Hassan said, “We won already, as we always have, and always will. Our victory is assured, if not now, then eventually. No empire you forge will stop that. Eventually we will take over your empire and destroy it, from the inside. You cannot avoid what is destined to happen. Your fate is already written.”

“I can at least try,” Wilhelm said, “Because when we work together as one, when we reach out to each other, we strengthen ourselves and become more than the sum of our parts. We learn from our mistakes and our failures. We grow and adapt. Together, that’s how we win. By the way, do you remember Beirut?”

“Beirut?” Hassan said.

“I failed there,” Wilhelm said, “I will not fail again. I will not, no, cannot let another Beirut happen ever again. YOU WILL PAY FOR BEIRUT!”

Hassan’s red eyes widened as he realized he had forgotten about Wilhelm’s left hand, which had just stabbed a dagger into his chest. Friedrich kicked him back, and the vizier collapsed. Before he had time to recover, Friedrich grabbed the dagger and repeatedly stabbed him in the chest with it.

“DIE!” Wilhelm shouted. “DIE! DIE! DIE!”

“Wilhelm!” Sarah said.

Wilhelm shook himself back to the present and blinked. Sarah looked at him.

“You were in a trance for a while there,” she said, “You okay?”

“Yes,” Wilhelm said, “Just remembering…before.”

“Then you know we have to do everything we can here,” Sarah said.

“Fine,” Wilhelm said, “I’ll ask them.”

---

Diana noticed a man and woman approach her and Olga. The man wore a bowler hat and an old 1930s-style suit, and the woman wore a more modern business shirt and pants.

“Uh, hello, Agents Frank and Kirova, right?” the man said.

“Yes?” Diana said. “What is it?”

“Don’t you recognize me?” the man said. “It’s me. Wilhelm.”

“You look different,” Olga said.

“What happened to you?” Diana said.

“I found a new vessel,” Wilhelm said, “Gavrilo went home. He let me keep the suit.”

“I’m Sarah,” the woman said, “Wilhelm’s…friend.”

“You’re still calling me a friend?” Wilhelm said. “After all these years? After…Ida?”

“You’re still jealous of Kaiser Wolfram?” Sarah said.

“Let’s not bring that up now…” Wilhelm said.

“Hey, you started it,” Sarah said.

“You two, save the lover’s quarrel for later,” Diana said, “You clearly wanted to ask something of us. What is it?”

“As you may have noticed, there have been some strange incidents happening in this town,” Wilhelm said.

“Arabia Gruber brought something back from Giza with him,” Diana said.

“And that something is now getting people killed here,” Olga said.

“It’s more than just deaths,” Sarah said, “What we’re looking at is even worse.”

“Yes, really terrible,” Wilhelm said.

They paused for a moment.

“So…are you guys going to tell us or what?” Olga said.

“Okay, fine,” Wilhelm said, “The future of humanity, if not all of reality, depends on neutralizing that something you speak of.”

“Wait, slow down,” Olga said, “You don’t need to jump to so dramatic that fast.”

“You guys wanted us to tell you, so we did,” Sarah said, “That is what’s going to happen.”

“I suppose I’ve heard crazier stuff,” Diana said, “So…if it’s really that bad…then what the frak are we supposed to do?”

“And isn’t it something for you guys to handle?” Olga said.

“Well…the problem is…it’s really bad, and we need your help,” Wilhelm said.

“We should go outside,” Sarah said, “I can explain more there.”

They left the building.

“Arabia Gruber found something dangerous in Giza,” Sarah said, “Something very old, it ties into and manipulates the very fabric of reality itself.”

“Who made it?” Diana said.

“I wouldn’t call It a who,” Sarah said, “Or a what. Or maybe It’s both. Or none as well. But It is dangerous.”

“Yes, we know everything related to this case is dangerous, get on with it,” Olga said.

“It lives outside of reality, in the emptiness between universes,” Wilhelm said.

“Living outside normal reality?” Olga said. “So like Cthulhu? Never thought I’d end up fighting Cthulhu when I defected from the KGB.”

“You know what that is?” Diana said.

“We’ve gone over this,” Olga said.

“It will use Gruber’s artifact to establish a presence in this reality,” Sarah said.

“And what will It do with that presence?” Diana said.

“Subvert humanity, and then reality itself,” Wilhelm said, “I’ve seen it happen before. I will not let it happen again.”

“Wait…this has happened before?!” Olga said.

“We barely stopped them before,” Sarah said, “We angels are a little overwhelmed right now, so we’ll need your help this time. Thanks a lot, Molotov.”

“We need to find Gruber’s artifact and destroy it,” Wilhelm said, “Then It’s connection with your reality will be severed, for now at least.”

“I’m not even going to question that,” Diana said, “I may have an idea on where it is. It has to be something Gruber touched, so let’s head to the museum.”

“Alright,” Wilhelm said, “I can take us there. Take my hand.”

They all held onto Wilhelm, who concentrated. Nothing happened.

“Are we…supposed to be at the museum now?” Olga said.

“It should’ve worked,” Wilhelm said.

“Maybe you’re out of practice,” Sarah said.

“I literally teleported here,” Wilhelm said.

“Let me try,” Sarah said.

She concentrated as well. But nothing happened.

“Weird,” Sarah said, “Feels like something’s…blocking my power.”

“Then how did Raphael teleport away?” Wilhelm said.

“Maybe the interference wasn’t strong enough at that point,” Sarah said, “And he’s an archangel so things work differently for him.”

“Guess we’re walking then,” Diana said, “Don’t worry, it’s only a few blocks away.”

They started walking down the street.

“So, by subverting reality, what exactly will It do?” Diana said. “I’m curious.”

“You don’t want to know,” Sarah said.

“I don’t want to know a lot of things,” Diana said, “And yet I know them anyways.”

“What is It’s name anyways?” Olga said.

“I don’t know,” Wilhelm said, “It’s even older than us. We just call it It. Some people call it like a worm or snake or something, but those don’t fit It. No name does.”

“It usually begins by inserting anachronisms to the timeline,” Sarah said, “Objects that should not have existed at that time. Buildings and structures that appear one day are are gone the next. People who never existed or did at some point in the timeline, just not at this point. The laws of physics start breaking down.”

“So it twists history and physics around,” Diana said.

“In a way,” Sarah said, “Among other things.”

“What’s the end goal?” Olga said.

“It wants to destroy your civilization and remake it in Its image,” Sarah said, “As It’s tried to do to you before, before we stopped it.”

“What happened the last time you fought It?” Diana said. “When was that?”

“The winter of 1075, in the Syrian desert outside Beirut,” Wilhelm said, “I remember Friedrich was worried about fighting the Abbasid vizier Hassan, even after I helped him forge Enonon specifically to counter It’s influence. I…I understood his concerns. After all, Hassan and his allies had spread throughout the Middle East, using Islam as a cover, and the Pagan Resurgence forced their hand. That was my fault, I admit. We didn’t know if we could finish uniting Europe in time, let alone keep it united.”

“Wait, you were Friedrich the Great?” Diana said.

“I assisted him, centuries ago,” Wilhelm said.

“Amazing,” Diana said, “You were there at the very beginning of the Reich.”

“Is that why you founded the Reich?” Olga said. “To fight Hassan?”

“Is that…that what our nation is?” Diana said. “Just a weapon against It?”

Wilhelm looked at Sarah, who sighed.

“Don’t look at me,” Sarah said, “It was your idea.”

Wilhelm hesitated. Then he solemnly nodded.

“In a way, that was my goal in founding the Reich,” Wilhelm said, “Hassan was a powerful grand vizier who used Caliph al-Mustansir as a puppet to increase the cult’s influence in the Islamic world. Then he would expand the cult out into Europe and Asia. Divided, the people of Europe would not stand a chance, and with Europe and the Islamic world under his control, he could take Asia and then the rest of the world. But if Friedrich and I were to unite most of Europe under one banner, and the Pagan Resurgence formed similar empires, perhaps those empires could stand a chance against the cult.”

“We must be doing really badly if we’ve forgotten about It,” Diana said.

“No, on the contrary, that was exactly what I hoped for,” Wilhelm said, “That we would defeat the cult so thoroughly future generations would not have to worry about it. But after that battle, I realized I was so naive. The cult doesn’t go down easily. It never has, and it never will. They already had the Slavic and Romuva high priests Msciwoj and Ringaudas under their sway—in fact their crusades against me showed as uch—and I soon learned the popes were as well. They killed my friend Heinrich and my son and daughter-in-law.”

“Uh, Olga, don’t you think we should call for backup?” Diana said. “The Inquisition could help us out a lot.”

“We don’t have time for the Inquisition,” Sarah said, “It has gotten worse in recent years. It wasn’t like this the last time we worked with them. It’s like they’re stalling or don’t take this seriously enough. We can’t wait for them. We have to do this ourselves.”

A shot rang out behind them.

“What was that?” Diana said.

“Back at the station,” Sarah said, “Something happened.”

They ran back to the station and found Andreas on the floor, dead. He had been shot point-blank in the head. Deputy Bernard stood over him, his gun still smoking.

“I had to do it,” he said, “I had to. I was supposed to. I already did it. It told me to.”

He started convulsing, his entire body shaking and guttural noises coming from his mouth. Slowly, the color drained from his hair, his skin turned shades of bluish-gray, and his eyes glowed a deep red. Giving off an animalistic hiss, Bernard charged at them, and Diana shot him.

“Oh, no,” Wilhelm said, “It’s starting. It knows we’re onto It.”
 
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TWR97

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Was nice seeing characters like Fredreich the Great again, even if it was just a brief flashback, especially since it's been what? Five years since this megacampaign started? I always thought the Aztecs were influenced by Worm shenanigans. Seems it was always there from the beginning. Things are looking dire for the angels and the X-Division crew, especially since there's no Inquisition to assist them this time.
 

zenphoenix

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Was nice seeing characters like Fredreich the Great again, even if it was just a brief flashback, especially since it's been what? Five years since this megacampaign started? I always thought the Aztecs were influenced by Worm shenanigans. Seems it was always there from the beginning. Things are looking dire for the angels and the X-Division crew, especially since there's no Inquisition to assist them this time.
I was going to do this flashback much later, but I decided it fit better here, and it would be better if I could start working on it now. Also nice to revisit some of my earlier chapters and flesh out its characters and events.

Ocuil Acatl's totally not ripped off from BSG catchphrase definitely gives off Worm vibes...
 

TheAnguishedOne

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That must be hard to hear, that you're home and history were basically just done so that an otherwise unknown threat could be beaten.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Yeah, I agree with @TWR97 here, interesting flashback from Wilhelm there. Shame that the Muslims were manipulated by the Worm there, guess that had something to do with their later persecution of them under Friedrich II and Saint Wilhelmina’s reigns.:(

The thought that Wilhelm and Sarah were actually married at some point through Friedrich and Ida is hilarious to me. Maybe that’s why Ida ended up having affairs with Italian dukes, I guess Sarah just wasn’t too keen on the idea of “friends with benefits.”:p

So, if the Worm exerted influence on the Russian preist hood and Prince Kirill grew up in Russia after Friedrich II’s affair with the Tsaritsa conceived him, does that mean the Worm cult had something to do with Kiril finding out his true parentage and invading the Reich. If so, poor Kiril. At least he broke free of its influence after his death.

Better time than ever to share this, I just found this song parody for the Worm and it’s absolutely perfect, still doesn’t top that one website I shared a link to awhile back. And to think I thought this was the ideal theme for the Worm.:p

Anyways, time to close off this posts with more wise words from the great serpent so I could annoy Gabriel some more.:D

TIME IS SIGHT, GRAVITY IS DESIRE!
 
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zenphoenix

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That must be hard to hear, that you're home and history were basically just done so that an otherwise unknown threat could be beaten.
Diana and Olga seemed to take it pretty well, but I imagine others would react poorly to hearing that the Reich was basically just formed as Wilhelm's personal army to fight an eldritch horror...and probably not even finish it off for good.
Yeah, I agree with @TWR97 here, interesting flashback from Wilhelm there. Shame that the Muslims were manipulated by the Worm there, guess that had something to do with their later persecution of them under Friedrich II and Saint Wilhelmina’s reigns.:(
Wilhelm and Friedrich the Great probably started it out with good intentions, tightening Roman rule in the Middle East to root out any cult remnants. But local administrators, military rulers, and Inquisitors likely started applying their personal agendas and grudges to the orders. When Friedrich the Glorious ascended to the throne, after having lost both his parents to the cult before he could know them, he didn't stop them. Saint Wilhelmina, raised on stories by her father about the cult and then losing him when she came of age, began persecuting in earnest, first out of fear of the cult, then to target anybody who could be recruited to the cult, and then everybody in the general area to be sure. Ironically, as Wilhelm says, the cult by then was already well established in Europe with control of the Catholic Church (likely leading Wilhelmina to carry out the Mending of the Schism) and footholds in the pagan empires (which is why they kept spamming crusades against the Reich).
The thought that Wilhelm and Sarah were actually married at some point through Friedrich and Ida is hilarious to me. Maybe that’s why Ida ended up having affairs with Italian dukes, I guess Sarah just wasn’t too keen on the idea of “friends with benefits.”:p
I'm not a fan of having Sarah direct Ida to have affairs, as that would feel awkward and a violation of Ida's trust in her. Ida probably made the decision to have those affairs herself, and Sarah may have been influenced by that when she married Wolfram centuries later. Her and Friedrich's marriage may not have been as rosy and romantic as future generations were led to believe.

Also I made most of those affairs non-canon, aside from those Wilhelm directly mentioned. It was a mess of game mechanics interfering with the story at that point. It was the main reason I had to specifically disable the seduction focus when Saint Wilhelmina came of age because I absolutely did not want a repeat of that mess for story reasons.
So, if the Worm exerted influence on the Russian preist hood and Prince Kirill grew up in Russia after Friedrich II’s affair with the Tsaritsa conceived him, does that mean the Worm cult had something to do with Kiril finding out his true parentage and invading the Reich. If so, poor Kiril. At least he broke free of its influence after his death.
Perhaps the cult "tipped him off" to his real parentage and spurred him to invade the Reich, hiding their true intentions behind the facade of helping claim the throne for him.
Better time than ever to share this, I just found this song parody for the Worm and it’s absolutely perfect, still doesn’t top that one website I shared a link to awhile back. And to think I thought this was the ideal theme for the Worm.:p
Okay, that sounds amazing. Though I was imagining a song that intentionally sounds wrong and dissonant while not sounding like random noise, which would be more in line with the Worm's premise of being outside of reality.
TIME IS SIGHT, GRAVITY IS DESIRE!
I'M ON YOUR SIDE, IT IS MY ENEMY TOO!
 

CaptainAlvious

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Okay, that sounds amazing. Though I was imagining a song that intentionally sounds wrong and dissonant while not sounding like random noise, which would be more in line with the Worm's premise of being outside of reality.
Just asking for clarification, but are you talking about the song parody I linked or the video I embed? I mostly meant the parody as a joke even though I like it, while the other song would be fitting as a proper theme. The point you made you made about what song would fit does make sense though, goes with the premise of the Worm.

I was also thinking of what songs would specifically fit the Holy Terran Empire as well, even through songs that fit the Worm would technically fit them as well. I was thinking that their theme would have more of a militaristic, dark synth edge to it, like these songs.
I'M ON YOUR SIDE, IT IS MY ENEMY TOO!
Still doesn’t make us friends. Remember all the subverting of reality you did yourself, namely during your fourth wall breaks.:rolleyes:

Besides, I’ll only do Worm memes again after the next update and then I’ll stop. At least, until the next Worm related arc.:D
 

zenphoenix

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Just asking for clarification, but are you talking about the song parody I linked or the video I embed? I mostly meant the parody as a joke even though I like it, while the other song would be fitting as a proper theme. The point you made you made about what song would fit does make sense though, goes with the premise of the Worm.
The song. The website I know is a joke.;)
I was also thinking of what songs would specifically fit the Holy Terran Empire as well, even through songs that fit the Worm would technically fit them as well. I was thinking that their theme would have more of a militaristic, dark synth edge to it, like these songs.
Obviously the intro theme for If the Emperor had Text to Speech.:p

Probably be heavy on metal, brass, and synth with a hint of chaos and disharmony, tying in with the Worm themes.
Still doesn’t make us friends. Remember all the subverting of reality you did yourself, namely during your fourth wall breaks.:rolleyes:
Would you rather I do the fourth wall breaking or IT do the fourth wall breaking? Because I guarantee you, IT WILL BE WORSE.
Besides, I’ll only do Worm memes again after the next update and then I’ll stop. At least, until the next Worm related arc.:D
That might be sooner than you think.;)
 

zenphoenix

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Unearthed, Part 4

10:00 AM

“We need to go,” Wilhelm said, “No time to walk.”

“I have a car,” Diana said.

They got into Diana’s car. Diana put the key in the ignition, but the engine refused to start.

“Damnit,” she said.

Several townspeople emerged from a nearby church, their eyes glowing red.

“We really need to go now,” Olga said.

“What does it look like I’m trying to do?!” Diana said.

The townspeople approached them. Wilhelm snapped his fingers. Some of the townspeople were thrown back by an invisible force, but they got back up and resumed walking.

“Let me try,” Sarah said.

She tapped the ignition, but nothing happened.

“Damn it, not again,” she said.

After another two long seconds of fiddling with the key, the engine finally roared to life, and Diana floored the gas, driving down the street as fast as she could.

“This is crazy,” Olga said, “Just crazy.”

“You wanted to come here in the first place,” Diana said.

“I didn’t expect to be chased by Cthulhu-worshipping zombies!” Olga said. “This was absolutely not in the job description!”

“They’re not zombies,” Sarah said, “They’re puppets. Well, not actual puppets, as they retain free will. But they will defend It above all else, because It loves them, in a way.”

“So much for free will then,” Diana said.

They reached the museum, where they found the security guards and staff all standing in front of the door, their eyes glowing red.

“Oh, come on,” Olga said, “Cthulhu is a jerk.”

“You have no idea,” Sarah said.

Wilhelm rocked back and forth in his chair, his eyes lost in concentration.

“Remember Beirut,” he muttered, “Remember Beirut.”

Before they could even park, the staff and guards swarmed the car. Diana spun the steering wheel to spin the car and shake them away. They got out, and she and Olga drew their guns, shooting as many of them as they could before they closed in again. Diana ducked a punch from a security guard and retaliated with a knee to the gut. The guard didn’t react at all. He instead kicked her in the side, slamming her into a wall and knocking the wind out of her. Olga was only doing slightly better, taking on two guards and a staff member at the same time, but it was clear she was getting tired. She couldn’t block every blow. Wilhelm backed away from the mob, his face still gripped with fear. Sarah, though sighed and took out a dagger. She pricked her hand and used the blood to draw a sigil on the sidewalk.

“Exilium!” she shouted.

There was a flash of white light, and the afflicted townspeople disappeared. Diana got to her feet and clutched her stomach, coughing a couple times. Olga looked around.

“Couldn’t you have done that earlier?” she said.

“I wasn’t sure if it would work,” Sarah said, healing her hand, “So it seems manually cast magic still works. That should give us a few minutes. Wilhelm, calm down, they’re gone.”

Wilhelm composed himself and joined them at the doorway.

“Sorry,” he said, “I…I can’t let another Beirut happen.”

“We know,” Sarah said, “Hopefully we can stop things before they get that bad.”

“Why don’t we use something like Enonon?” Diana said. “It was forged to fight It, didn’t you?”

“We don’t have Enonon,” Wilhelm said, “Not since Friedrich the Great died and Sarah and I went back to Heaven. It’s sitting in Blachernae Palace right now and will be transferred to the August Chamber in Brandenburg Palace once it’s finished. No way we can go to Constantinople, sneak into a heavily guarded museum in the Kaiser’s palace, and get back here in…five minutes. Even if my powers still worked and I could wield it again, because this vessel isn’t a Hohenzollern, I doubt if the enchantments still work after nine centuries. The forging of a new weapon would take way too long too.”

“Without a weapon specifically designed to fight It, this will be a lot harder, but not impossible,” Sarah said, “The only way is to destroy Gruber’s artifact.”

They went inside to Gruber’s room. Diana immediately made her way over to the tablet.

“Okay, I think this should be it,” she said, “How should we—”

She heard the shattering of glass from the other side of the room. She spun around and saw Sarah reaching into a destroyed display case and taking out Gruber’s gun, which she tossed on the ground.

“This is it,” she said, “All of It’s energy is radiating from this gun. Gruber must’ve grabbed it immediately after handling the stone.”

“How do we destroy it?” Diana said.

“Throw it in the sun,” Sarah said.

“The sun,” Olga said.

“Yes, the sun in the sky,” Wilhelm said, “Is it really that hard to grasp?”

“No, but apparently you can’t teleport,” Diana said, “Which means it’s stuck with us.”

“So what do we do?” Olga said.

Sarah drew another sigil on the floor, which glowed weakly.

“Since manually cast magic still works, I’ll cast that spell manually,” she said, “But it’ll take a little bit to charge up, as we’re in less than ideal circumstances.”

“How long will it take?” Diana said.

“A couple minutes,” Sarah said.

“Why?” Wilhelm said.

“Because we have company,” Diana said.

A dozen townspeople stood outside the window, watching them. Their eyes all glowed red.

“Okay, I have to admit, I’m a little creeped out by that,” Olga said.

“I’ve never seen so many people like that together,” Wilhelm said, “This is bad. Really bad.”

“There’s only one way into this room,” Diana said, “They’ll have to get in through the door if they want to get to us.”

“Watch the sigil for me,” Sarah said, “Make sure the spell completes.”

“On it,” Wilhelm said.

They approached the doorway and took up firing positions. Sarah raised her dagger and whispered an incantation. Angelic energy surrounded the dagger, extending its blade with light. For good luck, Diana took Arabia Gruber’s hat out of its destroyed display case and put it on. Olga simply reloaded her gun and aimed at the door.

“Come on,” Olga said, “Come and get me, Cthulhu.”

Right on cue, the door burst open, and several townspeople stormed into the first room. Seeing Diana and Olga, they stormed towards them. Diana and Olga opened fire, taking out the first few townspeople. But more entered the room, stepping over the bodies of the fallen. They continued shooting at the townspeople, but they kept coming. Shouting a battle cry in Enochian, Sarah charged the mob, hacking and slash with her dagger. Each cut left a wound surrounded with glowing angelic energy, and each afflicted townsperson staggered back in great pain, stopped much longer than with Olga and Diana’s bullets.

“How much longer?” Diana said.

The sigil’s light grew a little stronger.

“A little longer!” Wilhelm said.

Diana’s gun ran out of ammunition. She reached into her pocket for another magazine, but she didn’t have any.

“Damnit,” she said.

She noticed Gruber’s gun on the floor. She looked at its display case and saw a clip. Olga looked at her and instantly understood.

“Please don’t tell me,” she said.

“Well, I won’t then,” Diana said, “But you already know. Cover me.”

“No, don’t you dare pull that on me,” Olga said.

“I have no choice,” Diana said.

She rushed for the display case.

“Godsdamnit,” Olga said, “Di! Please! Think of yourself!”

Olga retreated from the doorway, still shooting at the townspeople as they entered the room, all of them focused on Diana. Diana grabbed the clip.

“Think of the rest of humanity!” Diana said.

She ran over to the sigil, diving and rolling to avoid the townspeople’s blows. She reached for the gun.

“No, Di!” Olga said. “Please! I don’t want to lose you too!”

Not listening to Olga’s pleas, Diana gripped the gun and immediately convulsed as It’s energy surged through her, piercing her mind with powerful hallucinations. She saw the history of this town in reverse order, seeing its people’s triumphs and failures, seeing each individual instance of the Luck, from right now to the day it was founded. Slowly, the town shrunk until it was just a car with three people —Gruber, Krueger, and Khan. Gruber stopped the car and got out, surveying the desert.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Mary asked.
“Yes, yes it is,” Gruber said.

Then she flashed back further, seeing Gruber on a dig to the Sphinx, entering a hidden passage, reading the mysterious hieroglyphics and cave paintings and then finding the stone at the bottom. The scenes hurtled further back into the past, rewinding the history of the Reich, through the battle where Friedrich the Great and Hassan crossed blades.

The wind howled across the desert plains, kicking up sand and loose shrubs. The lonely scene was slowly interrupted with the steady thumping of line after line of boots. The soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire, wearing light armor and tunics bearing the imperial eagle insignia that was being raised an ocean away all over Europe, advanced through the wind and sand. Friedrich, the newly appointed King of the Prussian March, held up his hand.

“Hold!” he shouted.

In seconds, the massive army ground to a halt behind him. Friedrich drew Enonon.

“What is it?” asked his father-in-law, Werner von Habsburg, gripping his sword.

“I see them,” Friedrich von Sigmaringen said.

“Get ready,” Friedrich said.

Past the heat-warped air and the swirling sands, another army appeared. It was Caliph al-Mustansir’s army, the one that had opposed Friedrich at every point of his expedition into the Holy Land. But although al-Mustansir rode at the head of the army, he was not in command. In fact, he looked like he didn’t want to fight. It was his vizier, Hassan, who commanded his army’s attention from atop his majestic white horse, which stomped the ground impatiently. Hassan drew his scimitar, which glowed deep red, and his eyes flashed red.

“What was shall be!” he hissed. “What shall be was!”

He charged across the plains. The nervousness disappeared from his men immediately, and they all followed behind him, bellowing war cries in various Arabic dialects and kicking up sand behind them. Friedrich instinctively recoiled in fear, and it took all of Wilhelm’s personal willpower to assure him it was okay.

“Come on, Friedrich,” he said, “You’ve been through much worse before.”

Friedrich’s resolve returned.

“Of course,” he said, “We can’t fail now.”

He swept his purple cloak behind him and tapped his golden eagle brooch for good luck.

“We’ve come a long way, have we?” Friedrich said.

“We have,” Friedrich von Sigmaringen said.

“If only Heinrich were here to join us,” Werner said.

Friedrich remembered the fourth member of their little group, Kaiser Heinrich. He remained at the imperial court in Europe, handling the other nobles and planning more Italian campaigns.

“You know he can’t,” Friedrich said, “He needs to hold the realm together while we and our armies are here. Never know what those Norsemen might do.”

“I hope Ida knows what she’s doing,” Werner said.

Friedrich smiled when he heard his wife’s name. She had always been his bedrock, enabling to do much more than he could’ve done on his own. It was their marriage that had brought him together with Werner and Friedrich von Sigmaringen.

“Don’t worry, Friedrich, Sarah will take care of her,” Wilhelm told Friedrich, “What matters now is defeating Hassan.”

It was true. As long as Sarah was in Nassau with Ida and Heinrich, they were safe.

“Your orders, sir?” Werner said.

Enonon shimmered with a whitish blue light, as if in reaction to Hassan’s glowing eyes. Friedrich raised his sword.

“We charge,” Friedrich said, “Together, we will triumph.”

Werner and Friedrich von Sigmaringen turned to their troops.

“Charge!” they shouted.

The soldiers picked up speed. Friedrich pointed Enonon at the enemy and broke into a sprint.

“For the future of humanity!” he shouted. “For the dawn of a new age! May the saints protect us in battle! Gott mit uns!”

His soldiers shouted their agreement in their own languages. German, Greek, French, Polish, Italian, Arabic…it didn’t matter now what they spoke, because they were all Romans, united under Friedrich’s banner. And they all now charged Hassan and his troops. The two armies clashed in a storm of swords, arrows, and lances, blood staining the sand. Arrows whizzed past Friedrich as he cut down many of the enemy with Enonon. Making sure to keep his guard up, looked across the battlefield to find Hassan. He saw an ornate turban bobbing above the chaos and slowly cut his way towards it. He dodged an arrow that struck down the man beside him, then evaded the jab of an enemy’s lance. He slashed and stabbed his way across the battlefield, the wave of enemies barely slowing him down as he gradually approached his turbaned target. Wilhelm helped cover his blind spots, patching the holes in his guard occasionally with diversions of enemy blows elsewhere. He finally reached the man and tackled him, raising Enonon to deliver the finishing blow.

“Wait!” al-Mustansir shouted, dropping his sword and raising his hand. “I surrender!”

Wilhelm hesitated, although Friedrich wanted to keep his guard up.

“I’m not the one you want!” he said. “You want Hassan, right?”

“What do you mean?” Friedrich said.

An enemy ran at him, sword raised, and Wilhelm instinctively stabbed him before aiming Enonon at al-Mustansir again.

“I never wanted this war!” al-Mustansir said. “But Hassan was in control. I…I can deliver him to you, and then I can end this war! I can give you whatever terms you want!”

“How do I know you’re not lying?” Friedrich said.

“I will stay in your custody for as long as necessary!” al-Mustansir said. “I’ll agree to whatever you demand, as long as I survive and I keep my titles. Just get rid of that accursed Hassan!”

Wilhelm and Friedrich thought for a moment.


“I don’t trust him,” Friedrich said, “Could be one of Hassan’s traps. We were just in Beirut, don’t you remember?”

“He’s not lying,” Wilhelm said, “I can sense it.”

“How do we know it’s not Hassan sending him as a mole?” Friedrich said.

He remembered Beirut.

“Keep him in our custody for as long as we need,” Wilhelm said, “Then we’ll see if he does what he promises. And if it’s a trap, we kill him.”

“Fine,” Friedrich said, “Let’s see if he knows about Hassan.”

He turned to al-Mustansir.

“We’ll take you up on your offer,” he said, “Where’s Hassan?”

“Over in the left flank, trying to sneak a small force around to attack you from behind,” al-Mustansir explained, “Shouldn’t have gotten far.”

Wilhelm waved several Roman soldiers over.

“This is the caliph,” he said, “He has surrendered to us. Make sure he is taken into custody but treated with dignity as befitting a noble.”

“Understood, my lord,” one soldier said.

They took him away, quickly escaping the battlefield while everyone was too busy fighting and dying to notice.

“Let’s find Hassan then,” Wilhelm said.

Friedrich ran across the battlefield, cutting down more and more enemies with Enonon. The enemies grew more aggressive and ferocious as he continued, not just against him personally but other Romans, who were being cut down and savagely hacked to pieces. By the time he reached the enemy’s left flank, they were attacking so fiercely and inhumanely that Friedrich swore they were no longer human, like they were being powered up by a demonic force.

“Huh?” he said, hearing a noise from the sky.

A beam of red energy slammed into the middle of his troops, sending dozens flying. A second sharp wave of energy rippled across the battlefield from Hassan’s direction, slashing through lines of Romans and tearing up the ground below it. Friedrich raised Enonon in a protective stance and managed to keep his balance, continuing on.

“Wilhelm?” he asked.

Wilhelm was silent.

“Hello?” he said. “A little help here?”

No response. Strange. Wilhelm had always been there for him over the last nine years. Why wasn’t he responding? Friedrich advanced through the carnage, past heaps of twisted bodies and flaming shrubs. At the center of the devastation was Hassan on his horse. The evil red aura surrounding him had grown more intense, and his face now looked downright demonic, with snake-like features, white hair, and gray skin, in addition to his red eyes. His scimitar, which pulsated with the same eldritch energy, was embedded in the ground, in the very epicenter of the flaming destruction.

“Wilhelm!” Friedrich said. “Where are you?!”

He heard horses galloping and stepped out of the way just as twelve Roman knights rode past, lances aimed at Hassan.

“We will protect you, Your Highness!” one of them shouted. “For the Empire!”

Hassan reached out, and the scimitar flew into his hand, like it was being thrown in reverse. As the knights approached, he slashed the air around him, the scimitar’s eldritch energy rending the fabric of space itself, with terrible distortions rippling through the air in a wave of chaos, like paper being ripped in half. When it hit the knights, the lucky ones were thrown several feet through the air and slammed into the ground in a crumpled heap. The unlucky ones…Friedrich could not forget their screams. The next thing he knew, he too was on the ground, pain echoing through his body. His cloak was torn and trapped under a dead Roman, so he unclasped it and put away his brooch. Picking up Enonon again, he got to his feet. His vision was a little blurry, but he could just make out waves of Roman soldiers charging at Hassan, only for the mad vizier to rend them with unholy powers concentrated in his cursed scimitar. One by one, the soldiers fell, and rarely in one piece.

“Your Highness!” someone shouted.

Friedrich turned around just in time to see an enemy swordsman bearing down on him. At the last moment, Friedrich von Sigmaringen jumped in the way and parried his blow.

“You have to be more careful, my friend!” he said.

“I’m trying!” Friedrich said.

Werner stabbed an enemy who was right behind Friedrich von Sigmaringen.

“You too!” he said. “Don’t you boys be dying on me!”

“We’re trying!” Friedrich von Sigmaringen said.

“Doesn’t look like it!” Werner said. “Heinrich will not like it if you two died here! And Ida would never forgive me if I let you die, King Friedrich!”

“Sorry,” Friedrich said, “But I have that blasphemous abomination to kill right now!”

“Then get to it!” Werner said.

He and Friedrich von Sigmaringen jumped back into the fray.

“We’ll handle the others!” Friedrich von Sigmaringen said.

Friedrich turned back to Hassan, who was now surrounded by piles of bloodied and warped bodies of those unfortunate to have fallen to his blade. He gripped Enonon tightly. For the first time in nine years, he felt very nervous. The fear ate at his mind, and his limbs shook.

“Ow…” Wilhelm murmured. “What…”

“Wilhelm?” Friedrich said. “What happened to you?”

No response, just some unintelligible murmurs in the angels’ language. Friedrich realized he was on his own, and if he didn’t act now, Hassan could probably wipe out his entire army on his own. As Hassan wiped out another few dozen soldiers, Friedrich approached him.

“Hey!” he shouted, brandishing Enonon.

Hassan noticed him and turned to face him. He smiled menacingly, almost like a snake.

“Well, well, well,” he said, “Another Roman, here to stop me. I’d like to see you try.”

“WILHELM I NEED YOU RIGHT NOW!” Friedrich said.

Angelic energy surrounded Friedrich as Wilhelm temporarily reverted to his true form. A blinding white light emanated from Friedrich, with ethereal wings spreading behind him and a piercing high pitched ringing echoing across the battlefield. Soldiers from both sides stopped fighting and clutched their ears as they heard the painful din. Angelic energy surged down from Friedrich’s arm into Enonon, illuminating its hilt. Its Damascus steel patterns and Greek engravings glowed white. His power expended, Wilhelm’s true form faded, returning Friedrich to normal.

Hassan looked a little surprised.

“An angel,” he said, “I wasn’t expecting one of you to show up.”

“I am going to end you and your evil!” Friedrich shouted.

Friedrich charged Hassan, who spurred his horse and raised his scimitar. The vizier swung his scimitar down, but Friedrich parried it with Enonon, and where their blades met, angelic and eldritch energy sparked and flashed before violently repelling, throwing both of them back. Hassan was tossed off his horse, while Friedrich kept his footing. Hassan quickly got to his feet and ran at Friedrich. Their swords clashed again, the ringing of steel against steel amplified by the angelic and eldritch energy infused into them. Hassan was an excellent swordsman, with his strength enhanced with It’s power, but Friedrich had Wilhelm and his own skill on his side. The two were thus evenly matched, and for a whole minute, neither of them could break the stalemate and gain the upper hand. Hassan tried bringing his scimitar down on Friedrich’s shoulder, but Friedrich blocked it with Enonon. The two remained locked in that position for several seconds, struggling to push back against the other.

“You can’t resist,” Hassan hissed, “You know this is futile.”

“I will never give up,” Friedrich said, channeling angelic energy into Enonon, “I will prevail.”

“You are mistaken, Lothar-Udo Udonen,” Hassan said, “We won already, as we always have, and always will. Our victory is assured, if not now, then eventually. No empire you forge will stop us. Eventually we will take over your empire and destroy it from the inside. You cannot avoid what is destined to happen. Your fate is already written.”

“I can at least try,” Friedrich said, “Because when we work together as one, when we reach out to each other, we strengthen ourselves and become more than the sum of our parts. We learn from our mistakes and our failures. We grow, adapt, and overcome. We forge a new path and a new future, a new beginning for all of us. Together…that’s…how we win!”

He released the energy he had built up in Enonon, creating a shockwave which hit Hassan square in the chest. The vizer was blasted back a few feet but stayed on his foot, briefly levitating with his unholy powers.

“You of all people should know we have plenty of tricks up our sleeves,” Hassan said, “We have lived a thousand generations, won millions of battles, and wiped away countless civilization older and more powerful than yours. You have NO CHANCE OF DEFEATING US!”

He charged at Friedrich with inhuman speed, and even with Wilhelm’s powers, Friedrich barely moved out of the way in time. Hassan’s scimitar grazed Friedrich’s tunic, shattering the golden brooch he had stored there but missing his body. Friedrich barely had more time to distance himself before Hassan released another shockwave of eldritch energy with his left hand, which Friedrich ducked just in time. Hassan had apparently predicted that, because he had moved to slash at Friedrich’s neck right where he expected it to be. Friedrich instinctively raised Enonon to block Hassan’s blow, and the two swords were locked once again. The two energies in their blades rumbled and flickered, repelled by each other with nowhere to go again.

“You are only delaying the inevitable!” Hassan said.

“I forge my own path!” Friedrich responded. “I…WILL…NOT…FAIL…AGAIN! I…DECIDE…MY…OWN…FATE!”

The pent-up energies released in a sudden explosion, shattering Hassan’s scimitar and throwing Enonon out of Friedrich’s hands. The two men were thrown back several feet, Friedrich crashing into a pile of bodies and Hassan into a tree. They got to their feet again, but Friedrich instantly broke into a sprint. Hassan did not have time to react before Friedrich punched him in the face. As Hassan staggered back, Friedrich jumped up and drop kicked the vizier, who fell on his back. He drew a dagger and pressed it to Hassan’s neck. At that moment, he could feel Wilhelm regaining consciousness, and when he noticed Hassan, Friedrich could tell he was angry. The rage overtook him, and the angel took control.

“Tell me, Hassan,” Wilhelm said, “Do you remember Beirut?”

Hassan’s expression remained the same.

“I will not, no, cannot let another Beirut happen ever again,” Wilhelm growled with a fury Friedrich had never seen before, “YOU WILL PAY FOR BEIRUT!”

Friedrich repeatedly stabbed him in the chest, not dwelling on the fact that he was dead and his features had reverted to normal. He, or rather Wilhelm, kept stabbing Hassan’s body.

“DIE!” he shouted. “DIE! DIE! DIE!”

He looked up and realized the fighting had stopped. The armies of both sides stood quietly, watching Wilhelm and Friedrich. Slowly, the caliph’s men threw down their weapons, while the Roman forces raised their weapons in triumph, shouting victory cries. Wilhelm walked over to the destroyed scimitar. While the shards of the blade were inert, red energy still crackled around the hilt. He picked it up and quickly cast a spell. The hilt disappeared, dropped into the sun. Wilhelm looked up at the sun and smiled.

“He’s gone now, brother,” he said, “Constantine…”

“Di!” Olga shouted. “DI! COME BACK!”

Olga’s voice shook Diana out of her vision, but she was dragged further back in time, and now she wondered if these were visions of the past or if she was really being dragged back there. The army of Friedrich the Great retreated back to Europe and dispersed, and Friedrich the Great vanished into the forests of medieval Brandenburg, and then there was no Reich. She was dragged back further and further into the depths of history, as civilizations fell and rose, past the days of Justinian and Theodora, past the Third Century Crisis and reign of Hadrian, past the murder of Julius Caesar, and then past the founding of the city of Rome, until there was no Rome and no empire. But even as humanity returned to its hunter-gathering roots, Diana kept falling back in time, watching as It’s cult remained constant across it. There it was, praying to ancient statues of snakelike deities in dimly lit cave temples and the ruins of even older civilizations. And then even further, as it slaughtered rival tribes and used unspeakable horrors to beat back bands of warriors assembled to destroy them. And then, suddenly, the world erupted in flames and was covered in gleaming skyscrapers, with futuristic spaceships in the skies above. People walked the streets of these cities, going about their business like Diana expected them to. People never changed, whether in the present day or millennia in the past. And yet, despite it all, in many churches and temples around the world, there was still It’s cult, praying to their eldritch god for the destruction of humanity and carrying out horrible deeds to bring about It’s arrival in this reality. And she realized that the cult had always been part of human history, despite thousands of years of attempts to destroy it.

“CAN YOU HEAR ME DI?!” Olga shouted.

The visions reversed course and headed back to the future, though it never felt like they were really changing course. They now focused in on one person…herself. Diana watched her life play out like a very high definition movie, showing Anne watching from the porch while she and her brother played in the fields outside.

“Let’s play rescue the princess!” Tobias said.

“Okay!” Diana said. “I’m the knight!”

“Wait, that’s not how it works, Anna!” Tobias said.

“I’M THE KNIGHT!” Diana repeated.

“FINE!” Tobias said.

She saw herself doing homework while Anne read an Athanatoi file. It was a math assignment from middle school. She remembered being really stumped on problem #142, which required a mathematical proof. She sucked at proofs. She’d rather do raw calculations. What she did like about this assignment was the fact that she could use graph paper to doodle stuff. Only present-day Diana realized her past self was doodling her present-day self wearing Gruber’s hat.

Then she was with Anne at the airport, watching planes take off. She saw herself and Anne in Augustaeon Square for a Siam War protest. Then she saw herself and her mother through Vienna and the war.

Assistant Director Erich Hansen entered the conference room, where several other Deputy and Assistant Directors from all of the Athanatoi’s main branches, both foreign and domestic, had already gathered in front of Director Anne Frank and a large television screen. As soon as Erich took his seat, other agents locked the door behind him, meaning only those with the proper clearance could join their conversation.

“You all probably watched the Kaiser’s speech,” said Anne, “So I’ll skip that.”

She gestured to the television.

“…confirm that President Gorbachev’s plane has been shot down by a Roman missile over the city of Berlin,” read the general speaking on the TV, “Effective immediately, a state of emergency shall be in place, and a State Committee of the State of Emergency shall be formed to manage the country and to effectively maintain the regime of the state of emergency. Vice-President Gennady Yaneyev shall be assuming the duties of president, while I shall assume the office of General Secretary.”

Anne paused the television. “I’m sure you all recognize who that is,” she said.

Displayed on the screen was the face of Valentin Varennikov, the Liberator of the Reichstag, the Terror of Carpathia, and the Butcher of Bohemia. The soldier who had raised the Soviet flag over the Reichstag and who had confronted the Valkyrie in Budapest and Prague was now the most powerful man in the Soviet Commune.

“That is where our new recon satellite comes in,” Erich reported, “We’ve tracked the missile to KL Tempelhof in West Berlin. An unauthorized launch from there was reported at the same time Gorbachev’s plane went down. The facility has since gone dark and has not responded to our calls. I’ve already contacted the Berlin office and told them to prepare a raid on the site.”

“Thank you, AD Hansen,” said Anne, “I will personally oversee the operation.”

“With all due respect, Director,” said Kurt, “You’re too valuable to go into the field again. You’re Athanatoi Director now. We need you here to coordinate the operation, not lead it.”

“Your complaint is noted, Director Kurtz,” said Anne, “This was a difficult decision to make, but I decided I had the most experience dealing with these matters. There is a connection between Gorbachev’s assassination and Varennikov’s coup. I’ve dealt with Varennikov before. It’s my responsibility to take him down for good.”

“You know, I grew up learning about your service in the war,” said Elisabeth Alexandra, “Dad told me stories about your exploits. Taking out the Angeloi, protecting the weak, stopping Project Mjolnir, saving the Reich…you were my hero growing up. And now it’s an honor to finally talk to you, when you’re about to save the Reich again.”

“I’m just doing my job, Your Highness,” said Anne.

When was the last time she had fought like this? Probably back in Siam in 1966, or maybe even back in Malaya in 1949 or Frankfurt in 1942. Most of the time she fought a different enemy. It was the Chaw Thai in Siam, their predecessors’ nationalist friends in Malaya, and the Angeloi back in 1942. But one enemy remained constant over the last forty years: Varennikov. She fought him at the coldest points in the Cold War: Berlin, Cuba, Berlin again, Budapest, Prague, and now Berlin a third time. She would not let him get away again, especially at the coldest point in this twilight struggle.

“It doesn’t look like I can convince you,” said Erich, leaning back in the comfy chair, “I guess I’ll have to bring in someone else, then.”

“Aunt Rita?” said another woman at the entrance.

Rita’s eyes widened. “Diana?” she said.

“I suppose you remember your niece,” said Erich, waving for the woman to join them, “Athanatos Diana Frank, one of your sister’s best agents…and her daughter.”

Diana Frank was in many respects just like her mother, as Erich had found out when she joined. She had joined straight out of college. This she had done against her mother’s wishes, but she was adamant in her desire to serve her country, just like Anne was forty years ago. She even did her hair in the same style that Anne did when she was younger. It helped that she had inherited Anne’s wavy brown hair. It appeared to be a family trait.

Diana hugged her aunt tightly. “Hi aunty,” she said, “It’s so good to see you again.”

“You’ve grown a lot,” said Rita, “You remind me a lot of your mom. And you’ve still got my brilliant smile.”

Diana laughed. “You always say that,” she said.

“Guys,” said Pavel, “Let’s focus on the mission. Agent Frank?”

“Okay,” said Diana, pointing to a map of Vienna, “We have reliable intel that the Director is being held here, near the Kaiserin’s hospital and the UN headquarters. The address is registered to a pharmacy, which may be serving as a front for the KGB and Stasi. Our intel, however, still does not rule out the possibility that the Director is being held in another location. We’ve still got another location on the other side of the UN headquarters under consideration. It may be a decoy for the real location, or the first location might be the decoy.”

“So you want us to monitor both locations,” said Wilhelm.

“Exactly,” said Diana.

As Pavel left the room, Diana caught up with him. “Agent Novak,” she said, “How are the people at Toxicology coming along?”

“They say I’m free of the virus,” said Pavel, “And I might have temporary immunity. They need to run more tests. How’s the vaccine and cure coming along?”

“The people at Bio aren’t making much progress,” said Diana, “They’re stumped by the complexity of the virus. Everything they’ve tried to neutralize it has failed so far. They’ve had to look back at the original Project Gungnir notes to see how the Angeloi developed it.”

“Have you looked at the notes?” said Pavel. “Don’t you have a degree in bioengineering?”

Present-day Diana had almost forgot she bit off way more than she could chew in college.

“I winged my college years,” said Diana, “Mostly it was to appease my mom. She didn’t take my decision to join the Athanatoi lightly. Thought I’d do better as a doctor.”

“My mom feels the same way,” said Pavel, “After your mom brought us over here, she’s put a lot of pressure on me and my sister. The usual ‘you should be glad the Valkyrie saved you from the equalist barbarians’ stuff. I thought I’d be a patriot and anti-equalist another way.”

Both agents laughed.

“Want to get coffee later?” asked Pavel.

“Sorry,” said Diana, “I’m booked for the whole day. Bio needs me.”

“Well, if you ever need coffee, you know where to find me.” Pavel walked off.

Diana headed straight to her small office, where she pulled open a drawer and took out a folder labeled “PROJECT GUNGNIR.” Yes, she had read the Angeloi files. She had the clearance.

She flipped through the folder until she arrived at the correct file. She immediately recognized two names: Robert Bischoff, assistant senior director for Project Mjolnir, and Alfred Hoffman, head of security at Project Mjolnir. Both seemed to have backgrounds in bioengineering in addition to nuclear physics. Bischoff had been mysteriously murdered towards the end of the war, setting back the Roman nuclear program immensely. Hoffman had worked as chief of security at Mjolnir and lead researcher at Gungnir, apparently. The name Alfred Hoffman registered with Diana. Her mother often brought up that name when she wanted to curse or tell Diana a cautionary tale as a kid. Hoffman had killed her mother’s parents and indirectly killed her adopted father. He was responsible for making the Director into the Valkyrie, that feared assassin everybody knew today. And he was apparently the lead researcher at Project Gungnir, working on an incurable and unstoppable disease. It was ironic that a creation of Hoffman’s would be used against the Director. If their fears were correct, her mother might even be infected by XA-1005C.

Diana imagined Hoffman’s portrait winking at her with an evil smile, and she immediately shut the folder and threw it back in the drawer. She tried telling herself that Hoffman was dead. He had tried fleeing the Reich to Tawantinsuyu, where he was executed by the Jinyiwei in 1954. The Director had seen Hoffman’s remains and certified that it was him; Hoffman’s family had certified it was him. But Diana couldn’t get over her childhood fears. Her mother had instilled in her an almost primal fear of that blasted man, a fear that she couldn’t get rid of even today, thirty years after Hoffman’s death.

That was why she didn’t tell anybody she had read the files. They’d find the connection between Project Gungnir, XA-1005C, and her mother. Some might seek to reassign her due to a potential conflict of interest, while others might question her ability to execute her mission in a rational and objective manner. And she herself couldn’t bear to admit that her mother might be in danger from something someone from her childhood created. In a way, her mother was responsible for the existence of XA-1005C, her own possible infection by it, and its threatened use against the population of the Reich.

Shirley walked out to the entrance of the building, where she found Diana Frank, dressed in casual clothes, waiting near the flagpoles.

“You must be the Director’s daughter,” said Shirley, shaking Diana’s hand, “She’s spoken very highly of you.”

“My mother told me many great things about you as well,” said Diana, “She would've loved your speech. That was Wilson’s speech, wasn’t it?”

“With a few alterations, yes,” said Shirley, “He wanted to give the speech himself, but he got sacked before he could. He gave his script to me instead.”

Diana nodded. “You must know I’m not here to talk about that,” she said.

“Of course,” said Shirley, “All of us Romans don’t talk about the topics that we start conversations with, right?”

“It’s about my mother,” said Diana.

“She hasn’t been returning my calls or my letters recently,” said Shirley, “I think your aunt told me she was sick or something?”

“Partially true,” said Diana, “Now, what I’m about to tell you is classified information. Please don’t tell everybody.”

“Got it,” said Shirley, “But what does this have to do with—”

“The KGB’s captured my mother,” said Diana, “And they likely infected her with a strain of a highly contagious and deadly disease developed by the Angeloi. We think they’re holding her somewhere in this city, near this building, along with a stockpile of said disease, which they could possibly release if provoked.”

Shirley stared at the younger woman. “What?!” she said, incredulous.

“I’m not going to repeat myself,” said Diana, “Security risks and all that.”

“No, I heard you loud and clear,” said Shirley, “And I admit it’s quite outlandish, but if that’s the reason your mother hasn’t appeared in public recently…that is really concerning. And to think I was lecturing the world about the dangers of biological weapons while there was one literally on my doorstep…why are you telling me this?”

“I need you to convince the Secretary-General or whoever has the authority that there is no need for the General Assembly to convene again for the rest of the year,” said Diana, “All of the ambassadors and delegates need to go home as soon as possible. We are in the process of locating my mother’s captors and developing countermeasures to this disease, but we must be prepared for the worst-case scenario.”

“You’re asking me to kick all of the ambassadors out of Vienna,” said Shirley, “Do you know what kind of incident that would cause? The world is on the brink of war. Kicking out the UN ambassadors before the session officially ends would no doubt send someone over the edge. And Varennikov is probably someone who is likely to overreact to just about everything.”

“Just come up with an excuse,” said Diana, “Or convince the Secretary-General. If the order comes from him, nobody will think twice. They’ll probably just grumble about the UN abusing its powers or something like that and move on. Please. The Athanatoi can’t risk the ambassadors getting infected if the worst happens.”

Shirley stared at Diana. “Young lady,” she said, “I’d like to give some advice of my own. When you do try to free your mother, please get it right on the first try. If what you’re saying is true, you can’t afford to make any mistakes. One error, and millions will die. So I will try to get the ambassadors out of Vienna until at least next spring, but I can’t guarantee it. You focus on getting your mother out of the KGB’s clutches. Got it? Good.”

She walked away before Diana could respond.

The Athanatoi kicked in the door and without hesitation stormed the pharmacy.

“Athanatoi!” shouted Pavel. “Hands up!”


Most of the “pharmacists” quickly obliged, though one reached for something under his desk. Pavel quickly shot him with a silenced round, and he slumped over. Diana moved from “pharmacist” to “pharmacist,” trying to see if they had anything on them.

“Where are you holding the Director?!” she demanded. “Where is she?!”

None of them would talk. One of them even smirked, as if he knew that nobody would tell.

“Back here!” shouted an Athanatos, pointing to a shelf of medicine. He picked up one box, finding a string attached to it. There was a click, and the shelf swung out, revealing a steel-reinforced bunker door behind it. Steps led down to a basement.

“My God,” said Pavel, “How long have they been here?”

“Hurry up,” came Erich’s voice over the radio, “You’re taking too long. They know you're coming.”

“I’m on it, Director,” said Diana, approaching the steps.

KGB agents appeared at the bottom and pulled out AK-47s. “They’re armed!” Diana shouted.

The KGB opened fire, and the Athanatoi scrambled for cover. Diana and Pavel shot back with their weapons, downing several of them.

“We have to get down there before they release it!” shouted Pavel.

Diana nodded. She took out a grenade and tossed it down the steps. A small explosion followed seconds later. It was a flash grenade, not a regular explosive. It would stun the agents down below long enough for them to secure the location.

Diana and Pavel stood in front of the doorway, guns raised to their shoulders.


“Ready?” Diana asked.

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” said Pavel.

They descended the steps.

Diana and Pavel reached the bottom of the stairs, followed by their fellow agents. They quickly fanned out through the room, handcuffing the stunned KGB agents before they could reach their weapons or release the virus. Pavel found the canisters of XA-1005C and quickly detached them from the device that would release the virus “into the wild.”

“Target 2 is secure,” radioed Pavel, “Compound is secure. All hostiles eliminated.”

“Copy that,” said Erich, “Sending in the hazmat teams now.”

Diana, meanwhile, focused on the large glass panel taking up one whole wall. She walked up to the panel and looked through it, seeing a small room with a TV and some basic amenities. On the floor lay—

“MOM!” she shouted, banging on the window.

But the window was too thick. And Anne was in no shape to hear her, let alone respond. She watched helplessly as her mother writhed on the floor, viciously foaming at her mouth, spasming and lashing out randomly, her hands clutching her head in pain.

“We’ve located the Director,” radioed Diana, “We need immediate medical assistance!”

She then rushed through the large circular hole she had just created over to her mother’s side. Anne by now was spasming too violently for Diana to get close and inject the cure. Diana had to dodge several punches and kicks from her mother and back against the TV.

“Aren’t you guys going to help me?” she asked Pavel and his agents.

They quickly joined her at Anne’s side, grabbing Anne by her limbs and holding her relatively still enough.

“NO!” shouted Anne. “Get your hands away from me!”

Pavel helped grab Anne’s head as Diana prepared the syringe, raising it over Anne’s chest.

“I’m sorry, mom,” Diana said.

She plunged the syringe into Anne’s chest and emptied it.

Anne’s eyes opened, and she gasped for air like a fish out of water. Her headache was gone. Her arms and legs flailed around helplessly, but they were restrained. Her head was held in place as well. She looked around her, seeing four Athanatoi grabbing her limbs. Looking up, she saw Pavel Novak holding her head. Looking to her left, she saw next to an obviously enraged hazmat-wearing Erich Hansen her daughter, Diana Frank, holding an empty syringe in her hand. Diana cried with joy, smiling from cheek to cheek. Never had Anne been so glad to see her daughter there next to her.

“Hi, mom,” said Diana, holding her hand, “Sorry I’m late.”

Diana Frank stared out the window, watching smoke rise from the outer suburbs. Every now and then she felt an explosion and saw a fireball rise from a building in the distance, accompanied by a jet flying away. She looked back to her mother, still sleeping on her bed. She envied her mother for being unconscious through the whole thing. The nurses said there was no sign she was going to emerge from her coma anytime soon. And they couldn’t evacuate her. The Soviets shot down anybody getting close to Vienna.

Somebody knocked on the door. “Come in,” said Diana.

Elisabeth Alexandra walked inside. “How are you doing?” she said.

“Fine,” said Diana.

“Mind if I sit down?” she asked.

“Go ahead,” said Diana.

The princess sat down and looked at Anne. “Your mother’s doing fine, they tell me,” she said.

“And they said your mother’s recovering well,” replied Diana, “How long before she can walk on her own again?”

“A few more weeks,” said Elisabeth Alexandra.

“At least she’s conscious,” said Diana.

“My father sacrificed everything to defend Vienna,” said Horst, “His family fell apart. My mother took me and my siblings and left when things got bad. He sacrificed his life. I know what it is like to have a parent in a warzone. And rest assured I will do everything in my power to ensure your mother and the Kaiserin are evacuated. You and the Crown Princess can get on that convoy and save yourselves.”

“Neither of us will leave without our mothers,” said Diana.

Horst shrugged. “Suit yourself, then,” he said, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a job to do.”

He turned and left, followed by his soldiers.

“What a jerk,” muttered Angela.

The door slammed behind Diana. She sat down next to Anne and put a bag next to her.

“Hi mom,” she said, “You can probably hear me, but you probably won’t understand me. Today’s been a really rough day for all of us. The Princess, her mother, Colonel Glienke…they’re all so busy, so worried. We still can’t get out of the city. But they’re doing everything they can to get us home.”

She looked out the window. Snow had started to fall across Vienna. The fighting in the outer suburbs had largely stopped today. If one ignored the smoke still rising in the distance and the helicopters circling overhead, one might think that Vienna wasn’t at war. A light snow had even begun falling over the city, blotting out the blast craters and burn marks on walls and streets.

“It’s so peaceful today, mom,” she said, “The news talked earlier about soldiers on all sides calling a ceasefire with each other for today. The Romans wanted to celebrate Christmas. The Russians wanted to celebrate Kolyada. The Chinese didn’t want to mess things up. And their officers are going mad. There’s a peaceful rally in Augustaeon going on right now, led by the Ecumenical Patriarch. Remember you took me to a rally there once when I was a kid?”

Diana smiled. “It was so long ago, yet not that long ago. The traffic jams were horrible. You wore that silly hat you always wore, along with the blue dress you always loved to wear. I was just a little girl, smiling because you bought me ice cream.

“The square was packed with people. You put your arm around me. ‘Don’t worry’, you told me, ‘Nobody’s going to hurt you’. I listened to the chants and shouts, read the signs. They wanted nuclear disarmament and an exit from Siam. Give peace a chance! Save our tomorrow! Our children deserve better! And you looked at me and said, ‘This is a free country, Anna. You are free to have an opinion’. It took another few years for you to explain you were an Athanatos. At first you confused me. You took me to that protest, but you ran missions in Siam. The protesters were opposed to what you were doing.

“But then I understood. You had a job to do. And it was their right to protest against your mission, although indirectly. As Athanatoi, we have to know both sides of the story. We have to know the consequences of our actions, both good and bad. We have to know that not everybody agrees with our actions, that it isn’t a simple choice between good and evil. That makes us consider not only the importance of getting things right, but also the importance that we make the right decision. And that might not always be what we were ordered to do.

“But I was a kid in that square. I didn’t know about that. All I knew was that Mom was a hero, was the Valkyrie. And then my ice cream melted and hit a pigeon. You just started laughing…”

Diana cried with laughter. Anne remained silent, her life-support machines steadily beeping.

“Sometimes we have a hard decision to make,” Diana said, “Like right now. Colonel Glienke’s father fought with you during the war. He’s trying to do everything he can to get you home. But he can’t. The enemy’s boxed us in. A snowstorm’s setting in. It looks like we’ll be stuck here for the next week or so. The Princess is worried for her own mother, just like me. But we haven’t given up yet, mom. We won’t give up. We’ll get out of here, one way or another.”

She took out a book. “I brought you a book,” she said, “Diary of a Young Girl. You published this thirty years ago, before I was born. It was one of your favorite books. You always wanted me to read it as a reader, not as your daughter, so I could understand who you are. But I don’t think I understand you enough. The only person who can do that is yourself. I can’t pass judgment on what kind of person you are. Some think you’re a killer, others think you’re a hero. Others see you as the Valkyrie. Others see you as Mom, who led me and Tobias to and from elementary school every day and packed lunches for us, who talked with teachers as a parent concerned for her children’s success, not just as an assassin. You’re a unique individual. All of us would lose a lot if we lose you.”

She flipped to a page she had bookmarked. “There are a lot of passages in here that are more relevant today than ever before,” she said, “I picked out a couple for you. When you were a few years younger than me, you said that ‘There may be an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder. Until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again’. There’s a reason that a woman who came of age during a war, who defined herself in a war, said those words during a war. Humanity is a violent species. We killed each other over land, food, spouses, just about everything. The survivors passed on their genes. It’s survival of the fittest. We’ve always been a warlike species at heart. And our primal instincts are refined even more as our technology makes our wars deadlier and deadlier. There will come a time when we’ll fight a war so deadly that we’ll have to start over again, when we’ll have to purge those instincts.

“But there are other instincts to. Alongside the instinct to compete is the instinct to cooperate. They are not opposites. They’re two sides of the same coin. You need one for the other. While some fought wars, others built up alliances, friendships that lasted lifetimes, friendships that withstood whatever their enemies threw at them. And when the instinct to fight burns itself out in that great war of the future, which we might be fighting right now, there will remain the instinct to rebuild, to work together for a better future.”

She looked at Anne. “Merry Christmas, mom,” she said, “Thank you for everything. Even when we’re confronted with the worst, you still see the best in humanity.”

“Mom, this hospital isn’t safe anymore,” said Diana, “They've attacked the hospital. We have to—”

“Get out of here,” said Horst, appearing at the door, “Of course. They shot up the lobby, but they haven’t reached this floor yet, which would buy us enough time to get out of here and reach the safehouse. I wasn’t expecting you to be conveniently awake, Director, but this just makes everything a lot easier. We have to—”

At that moment, two shots rang out, and Horst clutched his chest in pain. He looked down and saw his uniform stained red, blood soaking around two holes in his stomach. He looked at Anne and Diana. Then he fell over, blood pooling around his body.

Several seconds later, Olga Kirova stepped over Horst’s body and into the doorway, her pistol still smoking. She pointed the gun at Anne.

“I have been waiting for this moment for thirteen years,” said Olga.

“You know, if you’d been preparing for years you could’ve prepared a less cliched monologue,” said Diana in awkwardly phrased Russian.

“Shut up!” said Olga. “Why are you making this so difficult? I am the Firebird!”

“Firebird? Really?” Diana rolled her eyes. “Does everybody need a cool codename nowadays? Back in my mom’s day, she only needed to be called the Valkyrie. And you’re not really helping yourself get out of the clichés. Speaking of which…”

She moved between Olga and Anne. “If you want to get to my mom, you’ll have to get through me first.”

The phone suddenly rang, jolting Diana out of her coffee-assisteed contemplation. Barely stopping herself from spitting out her coffee (Ethiopian coffee was hard to come by these days, and she did not want to buy even more expensive Tawantinsuyuan beans), she reached over and picked up the phone.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Di, is that you?” said Rita, a hint of urgency in her voice.

“What’s going on, auntie?” Diana asked.

“Turn on the TV,” said Rita, “Now.”

“…ooookaaay then…” Diana reached for the remote and turned on the television.

“…Staff into disarray…chaos in the streets…Kaiser silent…” she heard the reporter say. She couldn’t make out what the poor woman was rambling on about, because she was speaking so fast and in such a panicked tone she was barely coherent.

“…just broadcasted on the orders of…” The screen changed, displaying the hammer and sickle insignia of the Soviet Commune, followed by video of General Secretary Valentin Varennikov sitting at his desk.

“I’m sure you know who I am,” said Valentin, “And I’m sure you know what this tape is. If you’re watching this, then I have just ordered all branches of the nuclear triad to go to red alert. I have activated my entire nuclear arsenal and am prepared to fire it at a moment’s notice. This war has gone on for long enough. It is time to bring it to an end. If the capitalists in Constantinople and Nanjing refuse to end it, then I will. I call on the Central Powers and the Tianxia Alliance to immediately and unconditionally withdraw all military forces from the territories of the Soviet Commune, its allies, and its sphere of influence. If my demands aren’t met within the next five hours, I will fire every missile I have. And a special message to Mister Otto Hohenzollern: it would be a shame if you’re only remembered for destroying humanity. The clock’s ticking. Better start issuing those orders, Otto.”

The video ended, and the reporter started panicking again. Diana quickly turned off the TV.

Anne heard the motorcycle pull up to the garage and immediately knew who it was before Diana burst through the door, tossing her helmet on the table.

“Hey, Anna,” she said, putting down the letter, “Didn’t expect you to drop by today. Thought you were supposed to call me before—”

“Sorry, Mom, but I didn’t want to talk in your office,” Diana said, “Or want you to stop me.”

“Stop you from what?” Anne said.

Diana took out a sheet of paper and handed it to her. “I’ve requested a reassignment to the former Occupied Territories,” she said, “I head to Vienna tomorrow morning.”

“What?” Anne said. “You REASSIGNED yourself?”

“What’s wrong with that?” Diana said.

“I didn’t approve this,” Anne said, “We didn’t agree on it.”

“Last I heard, the Director doesn’t need to sign off on transfers,” Diana said, “They’re handled by the Section Chief. Schulz was nice enough to sign off my transfer. It was the least he could do before he’s promoted to Constantinople.”

“I’m not saying this as your Director, Anna,” Anne said, “I’m saying this as your mother. I did not approve this.”

“I’m an adult, Mom,” Diana said, “I can make my own decisions, can’t I?”

“You’re overreacting, Anna,” Anne said, “This is because of Chernobyl, isn’t?”

“Hundreds of thousands died there four months ago, Mom,” Diana said, “And we act and celebrate like nothing’s happened. But somebody’s got to take the blame, and I don’t want it to be you, Mom.”

“You’re clearly overreacting,” Anne said, “Erich tells me you did this after Vienna. Even Alwine tells me you came to her house searching for your soul.”

“Chernobyl’s worse than Vienna,” Diana said, “You should know that, Mom. Somebody let a nuke go off over a population center where Roman troops were stationed, and the radiation’s spread throughout Eastern Europe. Families want to know who’s responsible for killing their loved ones.”

“Anna, we don’t have to talk about it like this,” Anne said.

Diana cleared her throat. “You know what?” she said. “You’re right. I should get back home and start packing.”

She picked up her helmet and walked out the door. Anne ran after her. “Wait!” she said.

“Sorry, Mom,” Diana said, “I really am. But I must atone for what happened there. It’s on me. And better me than you.”

She got on her motorcycle and drove away.

“Can we just move on here, for the love of God?” Johann complained.

“Can you please not?” a woman’s voice said.

Diana Frank walked into the room, a motorcycle helmet under her arm. She hadn’t had time to fix her messy brown hair, which spilled onto her shoulders behind her. Anders stared at her, surprised by her unexpected appearance. Diana smiled back at Anders.

“Sorry I’m late, Constantinople traffic is a mess these days, even with a motorcycle,” she said, “But I caught the last few words. I think Anders is right. Looks like the boy sensed the shooter precognitively. If you rewind the tape you’ll see it.”

“There’s no way,” Johann said, “It’s impossible.”

“Just rewind the damn tape so we can all see for ourselves and get out of here,” Erich said.

Johann rewound the tape to the point where the boy looked behind him. Johann looked at Anders, who looked at Diana, who smiled back to him.

Angela drove over a bridge, crossing the Bosphorus towards the Ostend. She’d reserved a table at a good Neapolitan place. Next to her, Anders sat in the passenger seat, while Diana sat in the back.

“How long have you been back here, Di?” Angela asked.

“I took an assignment in the former Occupied Territories after the war,” Diana said, “Mom had stepped up domestic terrorism concerns. Last time I came back here was ’91. I just got off the plane earlier today and went straight to Headquarters. Asked my brother to drop off my stuff and motorcycle at my apartment in Palation.”

“And they brought you on this because of a terrorism angle?” Angela said.

“No, I, uh, I requested a reassignment,” Diana said, “There were things at home I decided I wanted to get back to.”

Angela noticed Anders and Diana looking at each other in the rearview mirror.

“Alright, 1991,” Angela said, “That’s about when you started work on the X-Division.”

“More or less, yeah,” Anders said, looking at Diana again.

“So, welcome back, Di,” Angela said, “Nice to see you again.”

“Oh, thanks,” Diana said, “It’s so nice to see the city again.”

“I’m right, aren’t I?” Anders said. “You know what I’m talking about. You knew the moment I came in. That’s how you win, isn’t it … how you know what your opponent’s going to do? You get inside his head. You read his thoughts. That’s how you knew that man was going to shoot you … isn’t it?”

“I know what’s on your mind,” Gottfried said, “I know you’re thinking about Diana.”

“Oh?” Anders said.

Angela raised an eyebrow, and Diana gave a half smile.

“She’s thinking about you,” Gottfried said.

Angela snickered again. Diana raised her eyebrows, interested.

“You sure?” Diana said.

Gottfried looked closely at Anders. “He doesn’t want me to say.”

Anders chuckled very uncomfortably. He stood and looked at Angela and Diana.

She saw Gottfried looking out the window.

“What are you doing?” Diana said.

“There’s a man with a gun,” Gottfried said.

She immediately got up and ran to Gottfried, pushing him under the bed.

“Get down,” she said, “Get back, get back.”

“He didn’t come here to kill me,” Gottfried said, “He’s aiming at you.”

“What the—” Diana said.

Before she could finish, a shot rang out, and the window shattered. She fell back.

“Finally,” the demon said, “After over a hundred years, Hell will finally be free again.”

“So you’re saying all Hell will break lose, then, right?” a voice said behind Diana.

The doors swung open again, and white light streamed in, forcing Diana to step back and close her eyes. Even with her eyes closed, she could still see the two women walking inside clearly, the light emanating from them. She could “see” the shadows of wings being cast on the walls and floors behind them. She recognized the first as the Crown Princess and the second as Anne.


“Mom?” she gasped.

Anne looked at her and smiled warmly.

“You know, Anders, in the seven years that we've been working together I have seen some amazing things, but this?” Angela said. “This takes the cake. More than Sentinel. It's... it's going to change the boundaries of science.”

“Wait a minute, not the big frakking spaceship that basically threw out everything we knew about early human history?” Diana said. “Or the literal gods in a random town in Normandy?”

“But he’s invisible,” Angela said.

Diana looked down and saw an empty bottle and small box on the floor. Approaching a doorway, Olga motioned for her to stay back. She charged around the corner and immediately punched Erwin, who had been hiding there. The razor in his hand clattered away. Olga tackled Erwin to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him.

“This is for me!” she said. “And Agent Frank!”

“You ruined everything, you communist!” Erwin shouted. “You made me! You made me do it!”

“Shut up, Lukesh!” Diana said.

“No, you shut up!” Erwin said, his body starting to shimmer.

Diana raised her gun and shot Erwin in the head.

“That’s for me,” she said, “Both of us.”

Olga quickly disarmed Diana and slammed her against the bus, pressing her gun into her back. Diana didn’t resist.

“Who the hell are you?” she demanded.

“It’s me, Diana,” Diana said, “Your name is Olga Kirova. Our parents were friends. We used to play with each other as kids. You tried to kill me in Vienna sixteen years ago. Very long story. We’re Athanatoi. Don’t you remember?”

Olga shook her head.

“Agent Kirova, trust me,” Diana said, “We have to leave. I'll explain it in the car, but we're not safe here.”

Billy Marks advanced toward Olga and Diana, who backed up. But they were quickly running out of room to back up into.

“Run, Diana,” Olga said, “Get out of here.”

“Not without Anders,” Diana said.

Olga nodded.

“We’ll lose,” Olga said.

“We’ll do that together, then,” Diana said, “Like our mothers did.”

Olga nodded again and smiled. “Like we always do.”

“No,” Anne said, “I’m suggesting we fight back.”

“That’s suicide!” a woman said. “They have guns, and what do we have?”

“We have me,” Anne said, “We have the Valkyrie.”

Anne looked out the window. They had now descended below the clouds, and southern Berlin stretched out below her. The plane was on a sharp descent, heading toward what Anne assumed to be the Reichstag. The other passengers chatted nervously about tactics and rummaged through items in the flight attendant areas, hoping to find something they could use as a weapon. Anne checked her gun. It was loaded now.

She sat down in a seat and picked up the satellite phone installed in the chair. She dialed a number on it and waited a couple seconds.

“Hello?” Diana said.

“Hey, Anna,” Anne said, “How are you?”

“Mom?” Diana said. “Where are you? I’ve been trying to call all morning!”

“I’m in a bit of a situation here,” Anne said, “I’m on a flight that’s been hijacked by some Mexican terrorists. They’re talking about crashing this plane, I think into the Reichstag. It’s a suicide mission, Anna.”

“Mein Gott,” Diana said, “Mom, it’s not just you. It’s happening everywhere. Director Hansen says they hit the Twin Towers, the Great Palace, and the Pentagon in Constantinople, Mina says they hit the stock exchange in Frankfurt and Discovery Square in New Berlin, and I’ve just been told they hit UN Island in Vienna as well. Wait, God, the South Tower’s collapsing. It’s collapsing right on TV right now, oh God.”

“Guess I’m not special, then,” Anne said.

“Please tell me you have a plan,” Diana said.

“Of course I do, Anna,” Anne said, “We voted in favor of rushing the hijackers.”

“Mom, what are you doing?” Diana said. “You’re too old to fight. You haven’t been on a field mission since Vienna.”

“It’s better than nothing,” Anne said, “We had to think quickly. The only other option is letting them crash this plane into the ground and killing more civilians. I can’t let that happen.”

“Mom, you’ll die,” Diana said.

“Then I’ll die as the Valkyrie,” Anne said, “Anna, can I tell you one more thing?”

Diana stifled back a sob. “Yes?”

“I'm fine,” Anne said, “I'm totally fine. I just want to tell you how much I love you, Anna.”

“Mom, don’t put down the phone!” Diana shouted.

Anne, though, put it down without hanging up. She got up and walked back over to the crudely armed passengers.

“Are you guys ready?” she said.

They nodded.

“Okay, let’s roll!” she said.

“Who are you?” he said. “Why do you fight back when you will die anyways?”

“My name is Anne Frank,” Anne said, “You know who I am.”

She shot him in the head. As the plane hurtled towards the Tiergarten, the large park and former hunting ground in front of the Reichstag, she looked around at the passengers beside her. She looked past them and saw her parents and Tobias standing in the corner, all smiling at her.

“Mom?” Anne said. “Dad? Tobias?”

“You did well, Anne,” Edith Frank said.

“You made us proud, Anne,” Otto Frank said.

“We’ll see you soon,” Tobias Wagner said.

Flight 93 clipped the Victory Column and slammed into the Tiergarten, the explosion incinerating the park’s trees. There were no survivors.

“Mom?” she said. “Mom?! Answer me!”


There was no response.

“Please tell me you’re okay!” Diana said. “MOM?!”

There was still no response.

With a cry of pure anguish, Diana hurled her phone across the room, where it shattered against the wall.

“You really should get that bike serviced,” Olga said, “Even an exploding Trabant could easily outrun you. And I know how fast an exploding Trabant is. We can’t take on Sentinel like this.”

“For the last time, the bike is fine,” Diana said, “I’ve had it since high school, my mom had it since the 1940s, and I know when it needs to be serviced. And that’s not—AAHH!”

She yelped when she noticed Agent Frank sitting on one of the couches, watching her.

“We have a visitor tonight,” Anders said, “She’s staying for the night.”

Alex looked at Agent Frank, a confused look on his face. He then looked at Diana and back at Agent Frank.

“Mom, there are two of you,” Alex said.

“I know,” Diana said.

“Is she my new mom?” Alex said.

“If you misbehave,” Diana said, lightly poking him on the nose.

“Uh, hi,” Agent Frank said, kneeling and trying to smile, “Hi, Alex.”

Alex hugged her as well. Agent Frank looked confused for several seconds. Then she slowly wrapped her arms around Alex and hugged him back, her rigid expressions smoothening out. In that brief emotional moment, she looked exactly like Diana.

They walked to the kitchen, where Anne stood at the counter, cutting vegetables.

“Hey,” Anne said, “Well, look who's here.”

“Hello, Mother,” Agent Frank said.

“Ah,” Anne said, “That kind of day, huh?”

“That kind of day,” Agent Frank said.

“Want to tell me about it?” Anne said.

Agent Frank turned to Diana, who hung back in the hallway.

“She can tell you better,” Agent Frank said.

Diana waved at Anne.

“Hey,” she said.

“Di!” Olga shouted. “Please! Don’t lose yourself! I can’t lose you! Not like the others! Not like my mom! We need you!”

Those words interrupted her hallucinations, reminding her they weren’t real. With all of her remaining willpower, Diana pushed herself back to reality and shook off her paralysis. She finished loading the revolver and fired. A shot rang out. A townsperson fell, a bullet in the head. Those around him completely stopped and moved away from him, as if repelled from the bullet. She fired again, downing another townsperson. They stepped back again. She continued firing until she had exhausted all of the bullets, driving the surviving townspeople into the first room. Despite no longer having any bullets to shoot, she continued pulling the trigger, her mind completely focused on one task, and one task alone: protecting the room. It was that singular purpose and sheer force of will that kept the hallucinations on the fringes of her conscious mind. The townspeople continued retreating and falling as if still being shot.

Behind her, the sigil finished charging, its lines pulsing a bright white and wisps angelic energy swirling around it in anticipation.

“We’re ready!” Wilhelm said.

“Diana!” Sarah said. “The gun!”

Diana continued air-shooting at the townspeople, unable to stop. Her mind was still too focused on shooting to think other things.

“Pass me the gun!” Wilhelm said. “Now!”

Diana wanted to pass the gun, but she couldn’t. It was like it was glued to her hand. She couldn’t put it down. She tried everything she could to release it, but it remained in her hand, pointed at the townspeople, who stopped retreating and began advancing again.

“Di!” Olga shouted. “Please! Give us the gun! Now!”

Her willpower was slowly eroding too, despite her best efforts. The hallucinations returned in full force. She saw Gruber writhing in bed, having a bad dream. She saw him sitting at his desk, writing in his diary, occasionally looking over his shoulder and making eye contact with her. She saw him facing Patel in that infernal chamber, watching as Patel was transformed by the stone. Patel looked up and stared right at her. Diana looked to her side and saw Gruber standing next to her, in the museum room.

“Let it go,” he said, “You have to.”

“I…I can’t,” Diana said.

“You can,” Arabia said, “I did it. You can do it to.”

Diana concentrated. Arabia turned to face the townspeople. Patel now stood in front of them. He wore a tattered and dusty Rasa military uniform and a cracked and warped pair of glasses. His skin was torn and cut but also blue and gray, and his eyes glowed red like the rest. His image briefly flickered to Hassan’s form before returning to Patel.

“We meet again, Dr. Gruber,” Patel said, “So nice of you to join us.”

“Go to hell, Patel,” Arabia said, “I’m here to put an end to you.”

“You can’t,” Patel said, raising his arms, “You can’t possibly comprehend the power I hold. The power coursing through my blood. The power of eternal life. The power It has granted me.”

“The stone has corrupted you,” Arabia said, “It’s controlling you. It’s perverted you. It’s made you less than human. Made you kill and slaughter.”

“No, Dr. Gruber,” Patel said, briefly flickering into Hassan again, “It’s made me far more human, just as it helped the grand vizier before me. I’ve never felt so alive!”

He charged at Arabia, who also charged. They met at the doorway, their arms locked together, struggling for dominance as Diana continued concentrating, the gun in her arm wavering between Patel and Arabia. She still couldn’t put it down. Arabia was slowly pushed back, his strength failing him. She had to do something quickly.

“Now do you see?” Patel gloated. “Now do you see the power of the gods? You cannot stand against such power! You know how it goes. What was shall be, what shall be was!”

“For all your talk about power, you sure don’t know how to use it correctly,” Diana said, “And who cares about what will be or what was? This is what is!”

She channeled all of her strength into her arm and legs. She turned around, her body feeling like it was moving through molasses, and tossed the gun at the sigil just as Wilhelm slammed his palm on the sigil and it lit up in blue. The gun slowly hurtled through the air, and Patel’s eyes widened as it was engulfed by the sigil. The light intensified, enveloping the entire room. The last thing Diana saw before she blacked out was Arabia turning to smile at her as his image dissolved into nothingness.


Ruins of Thebes - 5:00 PM

“Over here!” a student shouted.

Amina Ngebe got up from the statue she was inspecting and ran over to her student, who was brushing away sand from a tablet buried in the sand.

“What is it?” she said.

“I’m not sure,” the student said, “It’s not made of the same stone as the others. It seems to be a stele with a proclamation on it. Very old, I can tell you. Old Kingdom maybe? It doesn’t make any sense though.”

Amina looked at it closely. The tablet appeared to be broken off at the top, cutting off what appeared to be hieroglyphics, as if it was part of a larger whole. It was covered in a completely different script.

“I have no idea what this is,” the student said, “Never seen this language before.”

“I have,” Amina said, “I know what this is.”

Neither of them noticed the ouroboros circling the unbroken sides, its tail in its mouth.


Mary Krueger Wing, Hikma Medical, Baghdad

Diana woke up in a hospital bed, the monitors beeping steadily next to her. She looked around and saw her arms were a little bandaged. She felt her face but quickly recoiled. There were a lot of bruises and stitched-up cuts on her cheeks. Looking to her side, she saw Olga sitting there, reading The Call of Cthulhu. Wilhelm and Sarah sat on the other side of the room, trying not to look at each other but failing.

“You’re awake, Di,” Olga said.

“Ow…” Diana muttered. “What the frak happened? Where am I?”

“You’re in Hikma Medical,” Olga said, “I called emergency services after…it ended.”

“What did the doctors say?” Diana said.

“Not much, after I helped out a little,” Wilhelm said, “You should continue experiencing a few more hallucinations, but they’ll go away after a little bit, I hope.”

“Once the artifact was eliminated, our powers were restored,” Sarah said.

“Did we do it?” Diana said.

“Yes,” Wilhelm said.

“Don’t sugarcoat it, Wilhelm,” Sarah said, “There were some side effects.”

“What?” Diana said.

“You know everybody who had those red glowing eyes?” Olga said. “They’re all gone.”

“Yeah, we shot them,” Diana said.

“No, I mean literally gone,” Olga said, “There aren’t any bodies left. It’s like they just disappeared into thin air.”

“What’s the media’s story?” Diana said.

“So far, nothing,” Olga said, “Probably some lingering Luck. The outside world’s oblivious. This place’s obscurity helped.”

“What about the rest of the town?” Diana said.

“They’re confused,” Wilhelm said, “They’re grieving. But they’ll rebound. You guys have always rebounded before.”

“What will you two do now?” Diana said. “We’ve solved this crisis.”

“I guess we’ll go back to what we usually do,” Wilhelm said, “Exploring the multiverse. But I have to admit, I’ve been missing this place a lot more lately.”

“So have I,” Sarah said.

“Honestly, things haven’t been as interesting in centuries,” Wilhelm said, “Not since we were building empires and fighting warlords.”

“I do admit I miss those days,” Sarah said, “I have fond memories of Ida’s life.”

They paused for a moment, looking into each other’s eyes. Then Sarah looked away.

“Oh, no, did I just say that?” Sarah said. “We are never going back to Friedrich and Ida. First, they’re dead, and second, we’ve moved on.”

Wilhelm sighed. “Fine…”

“Can you guys take that outside?” Olga said.

“We should probably be heading out anyways,” Wilhelm said, “I got to tell Raphael I’m fine, or else he’ll pull something crazy like ‘borrowing’ Enonon. Speaking of which, I should check if it’s still there. You want to come with me, Sarah?”

“In your dreams,” Sarah said, “My day’s booked.”

“Fine,” Wilhelm said.

He handed Diana a business card.

“That may look like a business card, but you can contact me that way by holding it and thinking of us,” he said, “Please only use it in extreme emergencies. Like if It or It’s cultists rear their ugly not-heads again somewhere. Or if you suffer complications from that stunt of yours.”

“Will do,” Diana said, “Goodbye, for now.”

“Until we meet again,” Wilhelm said.

“Farewell,” Sarah said, “I hope we don’t need to meet again.”

The two angels disappeared.

“So, how are you feeling, Di?” Olga said.

“Fine,” Diana said, “Never better.”

Olga glared at her.

“I can tell you’re lying,” Olga said, “You’re still seeing hallucinations, aren’t you?”

“A few,” Diana said, “Same as the stuff I saw when I grabbed Gruber’s gun. Historical events, my life, Gruber’s life. I saw Gruber in that room fighting Patel.”

“Weird,” Olga said, “I didn’t see any Rasas in the crowd.”

“Maybe it was just another hallucination,” Diana said.

“Well, if that was just the gun, imagine what the actual stone could do,” Olga said, “Do we even know what happened to the stone?”

“Probably with the Inquisition,” Diana said, “I’ll have Anders call up his old friends and look into it. We have to find it, before another incident happens.”

“Oh no,” Olga said, “You’re going to rest for a while.”

“That would mean you’re the only member of X-Division cleared for duty, though,” Diana said.

“I can’t risk it,” Olga said, “Who knows what It did to you? You need your rest.”

“But Wilhelm said they’d go away soon, won’t they?” Diana said.

Olga sighed.

“You really want to keep working, don’t you?” she said. “You’re just like your mother.”

“I have no choice,” Diana said.

“I…I suppose I can’t stop you then,” Olga said, “Just promise me one thing.”

“What is it?” Diana said.

“Promise me you won’t pull something crazy like that again, won’t you?” Olga said. “You have a child to raise. You’re still part of X-Division. We depend on you. We can’t afford to lose you. I…I can’t afford to lose you. Not just as a colleague…but as a friend.”

She started crying.

“I don’t want to lose another friend,” she said, “I don’t want to lose you above all else. It only feels like yesterday that we restored our friendship. We’re like family again. Losing you…reminds me too much of losing my mom…of being in the war. And I really don’t want to…to go back to the war…to lose my mom again. I don’t want to lose anyone. Please, Di. Please promise me that.”

Diana nodded.

“Okay, Olga,” she said, “I promise. I won’t do that again. For you. For all of us.”

Olga stopped crying and looked up.

“Thank you,” she said, “I’m glad our paths crossed once again.”

“Likewise,” Diana said, “Our mothers would’ve wanted that, most of all.”

Olga smiled. She put away her book.
“Glad to hear it,” she said, “Anyways, I’m going to get an early dinner. I’ll be back soon.”

“Sure thing,” Diana said, “Make sure nobody’s eyes are glowing on the way out.”

They both laughed. Olga left the room. Diana relaxed a little and got comfortable. She closed her eyes and tried to get some rest, but almost as soon as she did so, more images flashed through her head. She tried with all of her willpower to push them away, but she was too tired, and the hallucinations took center stage.

A futuristic city burned before her. Flashes of light in the streets told her there was fighting going on, but the skies told a bigger story. Hundreds of pillars of light fell from the heavens, like a meteor shower, but they were too organized and synchronized to be natural. She realized they were orbital dropships.Defenses on the ground opened fire, shooting down several of them, but there were too many. Then a cloud shattered and an entire flaming spaceship hurtled earthward, parts of it breaking off under the immense pressure as it followed the dropships down.

Her perspective changed to the ground level. She recognized the landmarks now. It was Vienna, because of course it was Vienna. There was St. Stephen's Cathedral, its iconic spire destroyed. There was Hofburg Palace, surrounded with blocks of rubble. Then she saw Constantinople. There was Hagia Sophia, with its dome caved in. The statue of Saint Wilhelmina, demolished with great fanfare. There were the Blachernae and Brandenburg palaces burning. More transformed “men,” if she could call them that with their red eyes, white hair and weird head appendages, stood in a main square, watching as a transformed man in a regal-looking powered exoskeleton shot a regular woman wearing the Hohenzollerns’ crown in the back of her head.

Her perspective changed, and she saw what was left of the United Nations headquarters, now an abandoned shell. The flags flying around it, including the Roman and UN flags, lay trampled and tattered on the ground, with a futuristic version of the flag of the other side’s Holy Roman Empire raised instead.

The vision pulled her away. She saw the ruins Constantinople, its people reduced to barbarism. One of the tribal leaders, who strongly resembled Angela, was talking to someone. Diana noticed who she was talking to: a young woman who looked like the executed Kaiserin, Enonon strapped to her side. Then she saw the young woman hovering in the sky, staring down the armored transformed emperor, with Enonon drawn and glowing white. What was next was even more terrifying. She looked down on Earth, but almost all of the land below was engulfed in flames and explosions. She saw the young woman blasted through her chest with a bolt of energy and fall out of the sky, completely lifeless. The light faded from Enonon, and the blade fell out of her hand. And then…then the scene changed back to something more familiar. She saw how she and everyone in X-Division was going to die, and she immediately knew she would not be able to stop fate.

Four words rang through her head, spoken by a voiceless voice. Four words that sounded like more than four words.

“The Reich will end. The Hohenzollerns will fall. The X-Division will fail.”

The vision ended, and Diana drifted off into sleep. She didn’t have any other visions or dreams, not that night, and not afterward.
 
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TWR97

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A sign of unfortunate events that has yet to become a reality. Seems the Worm will be lingering on after this minor setback. Man I'm excited when we get to Stellaris, it's going to be quite a journey when the Worm appears again.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Diana's visions of the future don't bode well for the Hohenzollernverse in Stellaris. Safe to assume the Worm and the Annionas might have the upper hand against the Hohenzollerns....
Not that I'm complaining, praise be to the Worm and the annoyance of Gaberial.:p

I'll extend this olive branch to Gaberial now that I've kept my promise from my last post, no more Worm memes until the next Worm arc, I swear.;):rolleyes:

On the bright, at least it was Grubber's gun that was cursed and not his iconic hat, would've been unfortunate for Diana to have to destroy her childhood icon's hat. :p

I kinda feel bad for the villagers corrupted by the Worm's "love", guess you could say that they were unlucky. ;):(
 

zenphoenix

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A sign of unfortunate events that has yet to become a reality. Seems the Worm will be lingering on after this minor setback. Man I'm excited when we get to Stellaris, it's going to be quite a journey when the Worm appears again.
It's going to be quite a journey to get there, and quite another journey when we're there.
Diana's visions of the future don't bode well for the Hohenzollernverse in Stellaris. Safe to assume the Worm and the Annionas might have the upper hand against the Hohenzollerns....
On the one hand, they have an eldritch god on their side. On the other, we have an old sword. Yeah...:p
Not that I'm complaining, praise be to the Worm and the annoyance of Gaberial.:p
We're doomed.
I'll extend this olive branch to Gaberial now that I've kept my promise from my last post, no more Worm memes until the next Worm arc, I swear.;):rolleyes:
Thanks.
On the bright, at least it was Grubber's gun that was cursed and not his iconic hat, would've been unfortunate for Diana to have to destroy her childhood icon's hat. :p
Yes indeed. Even I couldn't bear to destroy the hat.
I kinda feel bad for the villagers corrupted by the Worm's "love", guess you could say that they were unlucky. ;):(
Father damnit.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Some very interesting flashbacks, I feel like it's been years since we've seen Pavel acting nice. Great seeing some of Diana's best moments too.
 

zenphoenix

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Some very interesting flashbacks, I feel like it's been years since we've seen Pavel acting nice. Great seeing some of Diana's best moments too.
I've almost completely forgot about pre-Syndicate Pavel at this point. It's nice to have a look back at where these characters started as we get closer to the grand finale.
 

zenphoenix

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The Frisian, Part 1

Hill 937 (“Schnitzelberg”), Siam - May 20, 1969, 1200 hours

A grenade hurtled through the air and fell to the ground just a few feet from Martin Georgios. He looked down, but he was too slow to react. Thinking quickly, Erich Hansen tackled him away just as the grenade detonated, the shockwave piercing his ears with a loud ring. He groaned as he hit the ground, the dirt and leaves mixing with his uniform.

“You good?” he said.

Martin nodded. They got to their feet and picked up their rifles. They saw muzzle flashes from Karl’s guns just a few feet up the hill, through the dense trees. Around them, other soldiers of the 101st Airborne took cover behind the trees, occasionally shooting back.

“Damnit,” Martin said, “How long have we been here? A week?”

“Probably more than that,” Erich said, taking a shot at the enemy.

“What are we even doing here?” Martin said.

“Focus on that later,” Erich said, “Right now, focus on taking Karl out.”

“Right,” Martin said.

He took a shot at the enemy, and an enemy shouted as he went down. The other Chaw Thai concentrated their fire on Martin, their bullets zipping over or impacting the dirt around them.

“Goddamnit,” Martin said, “We’re never going to take this stupid frakking hill.”

“Just follow the orders,” Erich said, “Hold our positions. Stall them out.”

“Oh, frak that!” Martin said, taking out some grenades. “Cover me.”

“What the hell are you doing, Martin?” Erich said.

“I’m going to distract them,” Martin said, “You lead your squad up the hill while I draw their fire away from you.”

“You’re going to die,” Erich said.

“I should’ve died at Wat Hunsen, Erich,” Martin said, “I always knew deep down I’d never make it home. At least I’ll get to go out guns blazing, serving God, Kaiser, and country.”

“You’re crazy,” Erich said.

“All of us in ‘am are crazy, in a way,” Martin said, reloading his rifle, “Tell Barbara I’m sorry.”

With a loud cry, Martin rushed the enemy lines, firing as many shots as he could while lobbing his grenades at the first target he saw. Erich heard shouts in Thai as the Chaw Thai scrambled to refocus on him. He ran back to his soldiers, who had dug in a little downhill.

“We move out now,” he said, “Alpha Company, you go around from the east. Beta Company, you charge from the south. Meet at the crest of the hill, then call an airstrike on everything below you. Understood?”

“Yes sir!” the soldiers shouted.

They sprung into action, grabbing their gear and reloading their guns. Alpha Company split off to the east, charging the distracted Chaw Thai positions there. Erich and Beta company ran up the hill, their guns cutting down the Chaw Thai still camped there. In minutes, they had reached the crest. Several more Chaw Thai emerged from a hidden bunker, and Erich made short work of them before lobbing a grenade into the bunker, blowing it up. One soldier set up his radio.

“This is Alpha Company, code 153-Karl-Tango-Victor,” he radioed, “Requesting an airstrike on our position, repeat, target our position.”

By now, the Chaw Thai had realized the deception. Erich heard dozens of battle cries in Thai and saw the grass and bushes rustling as the enemy approached. He and his soldiers took cover behind some rocks and returned fire. Erich continued shooting methodically, systematically pulling the trigger, reloading, pulling the trigger again, changing the clip, aiming, and shooting another Chaw Thai. He wasn’t that scared recruit from three years ago anymore. He knew what he was doing, and he was going to do it.

Minutes later, he heard the roar of jet engines, and the jungle around him exploded, the Chaw Thai unfortunate enough to still be there blanketed in fire and shrapnel. An unnatural silence fell over the hill, punctuated occasionally by distant cries, the noises of animals, the wind rustling through the trees, and the roars of more jet engines. Erich knew he still had work to do. The other battalions would be following them soon enough, and they’d have to beat back any attempts by the Chaw Thai to retake the hill. But Erich wanted to spend the next few minutes getting as much rest as he could. Martin was gone.


Siam Veterans War Memorial, Constantinople - May 20, 2014, 3:00 PM

An honor guard played Taps as two more guards marched past the memorial. The crowd watched as the soldiers stopped at the middle and turned to face the wall of names. They then laid down a folded Roman flag and saluted. A sergeant barked out orders, and seven guards on the side raised their rifles and fired three times, giving out a 21-gun salute. Erich and Magda quietly watched the ceremony take place from off to the side.

“I can’t believe it’s been 45 years,” Erich said, “Feels like yesterday.”

“If only Angie and Bill were here,” Magda said.

“No, it’s fine,” Erich said, “They have their own battles to fight. This one’s mine.”

“What do you mean?” Magda said. “Schnitzelberg is over.”

“I still think about what happened to him every day,” Erich said, “Martin.”

“He died a hero, Erich,” Magda said.

“But what if he didn’t, Sharon?” Erich said. “I never saw the body.”

“Many families don’t get a body,” Magda said, “You know that.”

“I just can’t shake this feeling,” Erich said, “For the last 17 years, since that one case, I got this feeling things might not be as they seem.”

The ceremony ended, and the crowd dispersed. Erich and Magda got up and made their way back to the car. Magda walked a little faster than him, as Erich had to rely on a cane for balance.

“This is ridiculous,” he said, “It’s been almost a year. I’ve spent too long away from work. I hate this stupid cane.”

“Don’t push yourself,” Magda said, “And don’t worry about things.”

“If you’re talking about the lawsuit, you’re making things worse, Sharon,” Erich said, “It’s already national news. When the examination comes around…”

“It’ll be wrapped up by then,” Magda said, “You’ll get your backpay.”

“All I’m concerned about is not causing another media circus,” Erich said, “Modell already caused enough of one.”

They arrived at their car. Magda unlocked the doors and got in. Erich was about to get in the passenger’s seat when he heard someone call his name.

“Erich Hansen?” he heard.

Erich turned around and saw a man around his age walking toward him with a cane. He wore what looked like old fatigues that hadn’t been cleaned in a while. Siam-style dog tags hung around his neck, under his long and untidy beard.

“And who might you be?” Erich said.

“Georgios, Martin, Corporal, 101st Airborne,” Martin said, “Service number 82273. Date of birth December 17, 1949.”

Erich stared at him.

“Martin?” he said.

“Hello, Erich,” Martin said, “Long time no see.”

Erich slowly limped over and gave him a warm hug.

“My God, it’s you,” he said, “It really is you! What are you doing here?”

“Just got home from ‘am,” Martin said.

“Why wasn’t I told?” Erich said. “I thought you were dead.”

“I thought I was too,” Martin said.

“Come on,” Erich said, leading him to his car, “Sharon and I’ll let you stay over. Barbara will be so relieved to see you again.”


Downtown Constantinople - June 2, 2014

Angela drove the Impala through the busy streets of Constantinople as Martin looked in awe at the skyscrapers around them.

“The last time I was here, I was just a boy,” he said, “That was sixty years ago. The tallest building was hardly twenty stories. The rest had been bombed flat. This…isn’t the place I knew as a kid.”

“A lot has changed since then,” Angela said.

“Your dad hasn’t changed one bit,” Martin said, “He’s still the man I knew he was.”

“So how did you know my dad?” Angela said.

“We served together in ‘am,” Martin said, “After a stint in the Scholai Palatinae, I was assigned to the 101st Airborne. We both commanded units there. Fought many battles.”

“Like Schnitzelberg?” Angela said.

Martin tensed up. Then he relaxed again.

“Yes, Schnitzelberg,” he said, “That was a tough battle, if I ever saw one. We called it that because Karl was so tough the generals said they would chew us up like a schnitzel. But we took the hill in the end, and…”

He trailed off, unable to remember anything else.

“It’s okay,” Angela said, “You don’t have to share it with me.”

“Everything after that’s in bits and pieces,” Martin said, “Your old man called in an airstrike on Karl as I asked him to. I was behind him, holding them off as long as I needed for him to get to the top. The bombs fell around me. I was blown off my feet. The strikes took out Karl. The helicopters arrived to take out the wounded, but they forgot about me. As I lay there, surrounded by the flames, I thought I was going to die. Another Roman boy dead in a godforsaken jungle on the other side of the world, taking some nameless hill for a reason he didn’t even know.”

“But you survived,” Angela said.

“It was a miracle,” Martin said, “Some villagers found me a while later, don’t know when but it must’ve been a while. They took me back to their village and helped me recover. I stayed there for a while. How long, I forgot.”

“Forty-five years,” Angela said.

“Time passed quickly there, yet it felt so slow,” Martin said, “In time, I joined them. They welcomed me, considered me one of their own. I helped with chores. I picked up the language. Helped with the harvest. It was a peaceful life. I put down my gun—not that I still had one at that point, I left it on the hill—and picked up a shovel. I could’ve left anytime, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to leave this place. They came to depend on me, as I on them.”

“But you left eventually,” Angela said.

“Not on my own accord, but the world caught up to me,” Martin said, “It always does. There’s only so long you can spend before the world finds you again. It was a group of UN doctors. They stopped in the village on their way to the Laotian mountains to deliver vaccines. It was quite a shock to see my countrymen after so long. I didn’t expect to see Romans. I didn’t expect to speak German or Greek again. I’d almost forgotten what they sounded like, or how to even speak them. After so long, I stopped seeing race. It didn’t really matter. They confirmed my identity and took me home. And here I am.”

“What a wonderful story,” Angela said, “I’m sure your family is happy to have you home again.”

“Barbara is delighted,” Martin said, “It was a little jarring to see my son all grown up. He had even joined the service. Had a son of his own in the service as well.”

“And how did you feel about that?” Angela said.

“If I went home like I was supposed to, he would’ve been a doctor,” Martin said, “Your old man made the right choice supporting your career.”

“Well, my brother’s still serving, and I’ve been working for the Athanatoi for a while now,” Angela said.

“And how do you feel?” Martin said.

“It’s more tiring lately,” Angela said, “Maybe I’m just getting old.”

“You’re still young,” Martin said, “Not like me. I spent my entire life in that village. I had a purpose there. Nothing here feels the same anymore. Things have changed so much at home.”

They stopped in front of an office building. A sign reading “Swords to Ploughshares Initiative” hung over the door. Angela led Martin inside.

“Alright, I contacted some old friends of mine to help you out,” Angela said, “They’re also veterans of the service, so they know what you’ve gone through.”

They entered a lobby, where Kurt Moreau and another man, Gustav Johansen, waited for them. They both wore the button-up camouflage fatigues modern veterans wore. Gustav hadn’t changed much from when Angela last saw him. He was a little taller, with his hairline having receded a little bit. Kurt had grown a light beard.

“Hey, Kurt,” Angela said, shaking their hands, “Gustav. This is Corporal Martin Georgios. He served in Siam with my dad.”

“Corporal Georgios,” Kurt said, shaking Martin’s hand, “On behalf of all of us here, welcome, and thank you.”

“Oh, no problem,” Martin said, “Just a kid from Thessaloniki wanting to make a difference.”

“We all felt that way,” Gustav said.

As Kurt and Martin continued talking, Gustav led Angela aside.

“Is there anything we should know about him?” he said.

“His memories of the war are a little scattered,” Angela said, “Best not to press him on details too much.”

“What happened to that guy?” Gustav said. “We haven’t had any Siam veterans in months. You’re saying he just got home a couple weeks ago?”

“It’s a long story,” Angela said, “I think it was in a recent Die Zeiten. Page 5. It’s probably on their website or something. Search for Theresa Novak’s name. So, how are things going with the place?”

“Oh, we’re doing great,” Gustav said, “My dad finally gave us an endorsement.”

“Your dad?” Angela said. “I thought you two didn’t talk much.”

“That’s the thing,” Gustav said, “Seems he’s more willing to talk these days. We also exceeded our donations targets for last month, thanks to one guy. That politician really likes what we did.”

“Who is he?” Angela said.

“Thierry Baudet,” Gustav said, “Some CMU representative. I met him a couple days ago after he made the donation. Cool guy. Says he wants to bring new blood into government. Wants to help veterans out. There are rumors he’s going to defect and form his own coalition of independents and third parties for the examinations. What about you?”

“Oh, I’m fine, as usual,” Angela said, “It’s been a slow few weeks at the bureau. The shutdown really took its toll on all of us.”

“Yeah, and not to mention that lawsuit, right?” Gustav said. “It’s still ongoing, isn’t it?”

“I think so,” Angela said, “I’m not really involved in my mom’s legal affairs. I’m more focused on my dad’s health.”

Her phone rang.

“I think that’s my cousin,” she said, heading for the door, “He’s probably got a case. Got to go. Take care of him.”

“We will,” Gustav said.


X-Division - July 1, 2014, 9:00 AM

Angela sat at her desk, reading an email from Amina Ngebe. The archaeologist had recently been on an excavation in Thebes, where she found something written in the same language as the ancient human tablets. What was more was it was part of a bigger tablet that had Egyptian and Greek translations. The rest of the tablet was currently owned by the powerful Khan family, but once she finished the negotiations, they should have a way to directly translate the ancient human language without having to rely on the old book they had been using since West Africa. Maybe she'd publish a book with Amina.

Meanwhile, Diana and Olga sat at their desks, both looking bored. Diana was streaming an Israel Schmidt movie while writing something down in a journal, probably that dream journal she had been keeping since her last mission. Olga scrolled through Twitter, trying to see if there were any new RSB leaks, but the Lone Gunmen and their sources were silent, as they had been since the whole COS incident. Her main browser was open to a map of Arabia, although she wasn’t paying attention. A book sat next to her. It was another Lovecraft anthology. She had been on an eldritch horror binge lately. It was quite obvious her sister wasn’t the cause.

Anders leaned back in his chair and tossed another pencil at the ceiling. Everybody immediately snapped to attention and stared at him.

“What?” Anders said. “You didn’t have a problem before, did you?”

“Don’t you remember the new rules?” Angela said. “You can’t throw pencils like that.”

“And what are they going to do about it, huh?” Anders said. “Throw me in a concentration camp for pencil throwers?”

Angela and Diana punched his arms.

“Gah!” Anders said. “Really?”

“Yes, really,” Diana said, “You never know what the future may hold.”

“Both of you?!” Anders said.

“Did we stutter?” Angela said.

“Hey, everybody,” Olga said, looking at her phone, “I think I have something.”

“What is it?” Angela said. “Another case?”

“Sadly, no,” Olga said, “I wish it was.”

“Then what is it?” Anders said.

“It’s this politician, Thierry Baudet,” Olga said, “He says an announcement is coming in…uh, right now.”

They immediately scrambled to their computers and navigated to major news websites. Diana put on IBC News on her phone, while Olga logged into the official X-Division Twitter account and put a link to the tweet.

“This just in,” an IBC reporter announced, “We’re live from Augustaeon Square, where Representative Thierry Baudet is making a highly publicized announcement.”

“Highly publicized?” Olga said. “This tweet just went up…yesterday.”

“And you didn’t notice until now?” Angela said.

“Hey, I was busy with other things,” Olga said, gesturing to the book.

Onscreen, Thierry Baudet stood behind a podium flanked by rows of Roman flags. He wore a plain brown suit and sported a light beard and long brown hair, almost like a pop singer. They had caught him in the middle of his speech.

“…too long, our government has been dominated by a party cartel,” Thierry declared, “A party cartel of three factions—the so-called Christian Meritocrats and Socials and their HF allies, the Social Meritocrats and their SF proxies, and the Free Meritocrats and their KRA puppetmasters. Every chancellor and every Reichstag and Reichsrat majority since the 1830s has belonged to this party cartel.”

“That’s not true,” Diana said, “He forgot the Angeloi and Maximists.”

“Is that relevant?” Anders said.

The crowd applauded and cheered, waving tiny Roman flags.

“It is time for change,” Thierry continued, “It is time for new blood in government, to revitalize a political system which has long since gone stale. It is time for a government and an administration which reflects the wishes and answers the concerns of the modern Roman people, of today’s Roman society. I admit I have been part of the problem for too long by being a member of the Christian Meritocrats since high school. But no longer. Today, I officially repudiate my CMU membership and announce the establishment of a new independent bloc. I call it ‘The Forum’. The Forum is neither a left nor a right party. It crosses ideological lines and welcomes all likeminded individuals. It stands for a repudiation of the party cartel and a return to vibrant political discourse, where everybody’s voices are equally heard, everybody’s beliefs are respected, and our traditions are remembered alongside the innovations of tomorrow, while combating the climate crisis that the party cartel has so far paid only lip service to. Today, I also announce The Forum will be taking part in this year’s examination.”

Diana stopped the video.

“Get a load of this guy,” she said, “Party cartel? What is this, Russia?”

“Hey!” Olga said.

“My bad,” Diana said.

“Well, he’s not wrong,” Olga said, “The same three or four parties have dominated the government for decades.”

“The same parties which gave us Adenauer, Erhard, and Kohl,” Angela said.

“But also Scheel, Wilson, and Schröder,” Anders said.

“What, you’re defending this guy?” Angela said.

“All I’m saying is we shouldn’t write him off immediately,” Anders said, “He might have some good ideas.”

“I have a bad feeling about him though,” Diana said.

“What do you mean?” Anders said. “He’s not doing anything wrong, is he? Can’t hurt to listen to what he might have to say.”

“And we don’t have any cases,” Olga said, “Might as well watch the news.”

“Hey,” Angela said, tapping on her phone, “Someone else is making an announcement. Looks like this guy wants to be chancellor.”

They crowded around Angela.

“Oh, no,” Anders said, “Is that who I think it is?”

“Please don’t tell me it’s who I think it is,” Olga said.

“I really hate that guy,” Angela said.

“Why does he have to be Jewish?” Diana muttered. “He gives us a bad name.”

“Why do they even put this crazy guy on TV?” Anders said. “It’s only going to give him more publicity in the end.”

"When Russia sends its people, they're not sending their best,” Osama bin Laden said, “They're sending people with lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."

---

@J_Master, I finally got around to your suggestion about Thierry Baudet. Hope you like it!
 
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CaptainAlvious

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Honestly, I side with Anders here. After almost two hundred years of the same parties and coalitions running the government, it’s nice to see some new blood emerging, even if they have some questionable ideas.

Also, Osama bin Laden being Jewish and an Trump analogue, I must admit, with all the role switches characters have been given In this AAR, I didn’t see that coming. Welp, guess it’s time to build a new Germanos line and make the Russians pay for it.:p

Speaking of which, what ever happened to the Germanos Line? I assume that it’s been decommissioned ever since the Soviets defeated the Angeloi, but I can see parts of the old line becoming active after the rise of the drug cartels in post WW3 Russia; maybe there would be some politicians who want to see it fully restored to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigrants, kidna like the Mexican border wall in OTL.

Didn’t Trump’s family show up in Anne’s chapters in HOI3, under the family name of Drumpf? I wonder what ever happened to them after the war and what are they doing nowadays. They’re probably not as politically active as OTL if I have to guess.

I just came up with a way to tie in Julius Anniona into the next arc. As usual, I’ll put this idea into a spoiler, just to be safe.
I was thinking that later on in the Religious Right storyarc, Julius could be taken in as a protege of the OC I made and become a active character in that way, in the same vein of Osterhild taking Shirley Tempel as her protege, or Shirley taking the mentor role to Annie Schmidt. If you want, I could invite @dragoon9105 to our PM thread and ask him of what he thinks of this idea, see wether or not he likes including Julius in the storyarc this way and to give him more context about the new storyarc.
Also, I have gone ahead and made a new banner/flag for the Holy Terran Empire, I’ll share it in the PM chat along with a rough sketch. Think I’m starting to get corrupted by the Loop.:eek:
 
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zenphoenix

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Honestly, I side with Anders here. After almost two hundred years of the same parties and coalitions running the government, it’s nice to see some new blood emerging, even if they have some questionable ideas.
Their ideas actually aren't that questionable. Thierry's platform is surprisingly reasonable and focuses a lot on protecting the environment, kind of like the Green Party without mainstream party ties as the actual Greens do.
Also, Osama bin Laden being Jewish and an Trump analogue, I must admit, with all the role switches characters have been given In this AAR, I didn’t see that coming. Welp, guess it’s time to build a new Germanos line and make the Russians pay for it.:p
Kind of makes sense, given bin Laden's actual background. I couldn't resist the irony.:D
Speaking of which, what ever happened to the Germanos Line? I assume that it’s been decommissioned ever since the Soviets defeated the Angeloi, but I can see parts of the old line becoming active after the rise of the drug cartels in post WW3 Russia; maybe there would be some politicians who want to see it fully restored to fight drug trafficking and illegal immigrants, kidna like the Mexican border wall in OTL.
The Germanos line was disbanded after World War I because it was impossible to maintain with the antebellum economy. The Angeloi diverted resources from the old line to build up a loyal army which was destroyed in World War II. Fringe movements invoke the memory of the Germanos line when talking about illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
Didn’t Trump’s family show up in Anne’s chapters in HOI3, under the family name of Drumpf? I wonder what ever happened to them after the war and what are they doing nowadays. They’re probably not as politically active as OTL if I have to guess.
Yep, they still go by Drumpf. They're honest real estate dealers these days. They don't have a lot of money and no political influence, with no desire to go into politics.
I just came up with a way to tie in Julius Anniona into the next arc. As usual, I’ll put this idea into a spoiler, just to be safe.
The way I've written your character so far, I don't think I can fit Julius Anniona in as a protege. He'd also be too young to be involved in that arc, but as I said, once I resolve that story arc, I could bring him in as a recurring character over the next few decades.
Also, I have gone ahead and made a new banner/flag for the Holy Terran Empire, I’ll share it in the PM chat along with a rough sketch. Think I’m starting to get corrupted by the Loop.
sigh
 

TheAnguishedOne

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I'm curious how Martin will factor into things. If nothing else, his presence will do Erich some good.

Oh, I feel we're gonna get some interesting news stories about this Osama fellow...