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

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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Golden Dragon

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It was inevitable that somebody would end up seeing how the other universe was doing, still sad though given all those people there, just, all gone.

Also blackmailing a comedian huh? What a low blow right there.
Well, I think in the AAR that the annioverse is based on the Earth gets wiped out in nuclear war but they head to Mars for Stellaris.
 

zenphoenix

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I love how petty Gertrude and Elias are, to go so far as to blackmail a comedian just to get an apology over a joke.

A whole new element... I'm sure only good things will come of this.
For all their talk about being politically incorrect, they sure hate it when people do it back to them.
I thought our OTL moment during SNL happened way better so this is kind of dirty if you ask me.
Elias can’t take a joke.
Oh yeah, it's scummy. Just also amusing that they go to such lengths for something so minor.
With the Anhorns, everything is overkill. Comedian jokes about you? Blackmail him into becoming a shill. Someone shoots your wife? Freaking murder someone they love just to assert dominance.
It was inevitable that somebody would end up seeing how the other universe was doing, still sad though given all those people there, just, all gone.

Also blackmailing a comedian huh? What a low blow right there.
Yes...definitely gone...
Well, I think in the AAR that the annioverse is based on the Earth gets wiped out in nuclear war but they head to Mars for Stellaris.
That IS the Annionaverse, not a similar universe. Since Dragoon blew everything up there in 2018, everything is blown up here. And there’s no way for our world to know they escaped to Mars, so Mina assumes they’re all dead.
 
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CaptainAlvious

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That IS the Annionaverse, not a similar universe. Since Dragoon blew everything up there in 2018, everything is blown up here. And there’s no way for our world to know they escaped to Mars, so Mina assumes they’re all dead.
Aren't there still people down on Earth there? If I remember Deus Ex Anniona correctly, Julius Anniona did come back to Earth to evacuate half of the survivors there to Mars during his unification wars.

Still, quite unfortunate for Mina to see that. Ironically though, I get the feeling that her destroying that window and all methods of seeing what happened there will make it more likely for bad stuff to happen here. After all, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and that applies to the history of parallel universes.

I take it this Betharium element will show up quite alot in the second half of NWO and Stellaris. I wonder if this will lead to FTL in the future?
 

zenphoenix

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Aren't there still people down on Earth there? If I remember Deus Ex Anniona correctly, Julius Anniona did come back to Earth to evacuate half of the survivors there to Mars during his unification wars.
Yes, but reasonably Mina only saw so much from the window for a minute at most. Not much time to look around and see details on the ground, especially since she’s up high in a skyscraper on her side.
Still, quite unfortunate for Mina to see that. Ironically though, I get the feeling that her destroying that window and all methods of seeing what happened there will make it more likely for bad stuff to happen here. After all, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and that applies to the history of parallel universes.
Perhaps.
I take it this Betharium element will show up quite alot in the second half of NWO and Stellaris. I wonder if this will lead to FTL in the future?
You’ll see.
 

zenphoenix

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I take it this Betharium element will show up quite alot in the second half of NWO and Stellaris. I wonder if this will lead to FTL in the future?
To add to my previous statement...is there anything in Stellaris that sounds like “betharium?” ;)
 

zenphoenix

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Discovery, Part 2

March 3

The optimism from a few days ago was completely gone by this March evening, when all four of them crowded into Alex’s downtown apartment to follow news of their discovery. Apparently not everyone had something nice to say.

“This is why I never go on Dikastirio,” Thea said.

“Rahul was freaking right about the Internet,” Alex said.

“These idiots are really something,” Magnus said.

“Found something especially terrible?” Alex said.

Alexandra did not show any emotion.

“They’re denying me the credit,” she read, “Saying I only got it because I’m a woman.”

“Nonsense!” Magnus said. “You wrote the algorithm.”

“Not according to them,” Alex said, “Magnus wrote 850,000 of the 900,000 lines of code written in the algorithm. And they gave most of the credit to…me.”

“You?” Thea said.

“Yeah, for designing the accelerator,” Alex said, “And the rest to Magnus. Sorry Thea.”

“Well, I’m fine with that,” Alexandra said.

“I’m not,” Alex said.

“What do you mean?” Alexandra said.

“This was all your idea,” Alex said, “You named the element. You brought us together and got us to this point. You deserve the credit.”

“Honestly, line count is nothing compared to the importance of the code,” Magnus said.

“Alexandra did implement the core formulas, which took up fewer lines of code,” Thea said.

“Right,” Alexandra said, “So how do we counter this?”

“I guess we make our own statement,” Alex said.

“Like what?” Magnus said.


March 10

Magnus: “So apparently some (I hope very few) people online are using the fact that I am the primary developer of the software library to launch awful and sexist attacks on my colleague and fianceé Alexandra. Stop. Please. Our papers used three independent imaging software libraries, including one developed by many talented programmers here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While I wrote much of the code for one of these pipelines, Alexandra was a huge contributor to the software, and it would have never worked without her contributions and the work of many others who wrote code, debugged, and figured out how to use the code on challenging data. Also, there are about 68,000 lines in the current software, and I don't care how many of those I personally authored.”

Alex: “I’m thrilled my cousin is getting recognition for her work and that she's inspiring people as an example of women's leadership in STEM. I'm also thrilled she's pointing out this was a team effort including contributions from many junior scientists, including many women. I may have designed the particle accelerator, but it was all of our efforts that made it a reality. Together, we all make each other's work better; the number of commits doesn't tell the full story of who was indispensable. So while I appreciate the congratulations on a result I worked hard on for years, if you are congratulating me because you have a vendetta against Alexandra, please reconsider your priorities.”

Thea: “Otherwise, stick around! We hope to start tweeting more about betharium and other subjects we are passionate about! Including the Olympian Program, Ursula K. Le Guin, Judaism, the newly finished Sagrada Familia cathedral, and Metternich the Musical for me personally. Thanks for following us, and let us know if you have any questions about our research!”

Now gathered in Alexandra’s apartment, the four of them looked over the video they recorded and uploaded.

“You couldn’t have given me more screentime?” Thea said.

“And what about me?” Alexandra said.

“You two already got your own video and TiEfarmo thread,” Alex said, “I felt like what we needed was me and Magnus directly talking to them.”

“Because they were congratulating us, so we had to tell them to stop,” Magnus said, “They wouldn’t listen if it came from you.”

“I honestly am still shocked this happened,” Alexandra said, “What is going on with this country that a simple scientific discovery is twisted into…this?”

“I don’t like where this country is going,” Magnus said.

“My brother owns Dikastirio now,” Thea said, “Why isn’t he doing more to stop this?”

“Maybe he sympathizes with them,” Alex said.

“That is a worrying thought,” Thea said.

There was a knock on the door.

“Were you expecting anyone?” Thea said.

“No?” Alexandra said.

She approached the door.

“I’m not sure about this,” Magnus said, “Maybe one of those trolls decided it wasn’t enough to type out his frustrations.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” Alexandra said.

She checked the security camera and stepped back.

“I told you so,” Magnus said.

Alexandra opened the door.

“Did you hear what I—” Magnus began.

He shut up when he saw Wilhelmina walk in.

“Your Highness?” he said.

“Please, it’s just Wilhelmina,” Wilhelmina said.

“…P-princess Wilhelmina,” Alexandra stammered, “What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Alexandra,” Wilhelmina said, “It’s great to finally meet the daughter of Angela Hansen in person, although under less than ideal circumstances. You look just like your mother. And Thea…I haven’t seen you since you were a kid.”

“Yeah, the RaumX conference in New Cordoba,” Thea asid, “The one Theo dragged me to. All I wanted was to see the Freiheit 7 module.”

“I was more of a fan of the Kronos V, honestly,” Wilhelmina said.

“Wait, you know each other?” Alex said. “Thea, you never told me you knew the princess.”

“When your brother’s a Tesla, you tend to interact with dynatoi and royalty a lot,” Thea said, “Whether you like it or not.”

“And I knew Alexandra through her mother,” Wilhelmina said, “My mom was friends with Angela Hansen back in the day, until…well, you know.”

“So, uh, forgive me for being so blunt, but seriously, why are you here?” Magnus said.

“Well, I didn’t want to send a letter because you could’ve thought it was an anthrax attack, so I came here in person to talk to you about the last few days,” Wilhelmina said, “I know this is way out of the blue, but I couldn’t just stay back and watch. I was very frustrated.”

“Really?” Alexandra said.

“Science knows no borders,” Wilhelmina said, “It’s the same no matter where you are. People should be happy for any scientific discovery. I’m certainly impressed with your work. But these last few days have shown otherwise.”

“Yeah, I can tell,” Alexandra said.

“I never thought I’d be sick of people wanting to congratulate me,” Magnus said.

“Look, all of you, if you’re sick of this, then just don’t care,” Wilhelmina said.

“Kind of hard if it’s all over the Interner 24/7,” Alex said.

“Then just…don’t care,” Wilhelmina said, “Don’t let them get to you. There’s a phrase my mom used to tell me as a kid. ‘Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum’. In German, ’Don’t let the dastards grind you down’.”

“‘Nolite Te Bastardes Carborundorum’,” Alexandra said, “I like that.”

“You really do sound like your mother,” Wilhelmina said.

Alexandra quietly sat down.

“These last few days have been full of surprises, haven’t they?” she said.

“Yeah,” Alex said.

“I certainly didn’t expect this,” Thea said.

“Hey, at least some good came out of it, right?” Magnus said.

“Of course,” Wilhelmina said.

“You’re right, Wilhelmina,” Alexandra said, “I’ll have to keep at it.”

“That’s the spirit,” Wilhelmina said.

She gave Alexandra a business card. “Look, if you ever need someone to talk to, just give me a call whenever.”

“Will do,” Alexandra said.

Wilhelmina smiled. “I’m always here for you.”

“So will I,” Thea said.

“And me,” Alex said.

“We all are,” Magnus said.

Alexandra smiled, knowing her friends had her back.

“Well, I think I should get going,” Wilhelmina said, heading to the door, “Got a busy day ahead of me tomorrow.”

“How are you going to explain all this?” Thea said.

“Officially, I was never here,” Wilhelmina said.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Ah, it's always frustrating when people aren't credited for their work. All the worse here due to the sheer importance of the work being misplaced and for why it's happening.
 

zenphoenix

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Ah, it's always frustrating when people aren't credited for their work. All the worse here due to the sheer importance of the work being misplaced and for why it's happening.
Unfortunately, it's only going to get worse from here.
 

zenphoenix

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The Big Game

Athanatoi Headquarters, Schulz Building, Berlin - April 21, 2029

An Internet video played on the wall-mounted screen.

“Good evening, Roman infidels,” a man wearing traditional Mexican clothes said, “I hope you’ve been enjoying this latest football season, because it will be the last. It’s time for you all to stop worshipping athletes as if they are gods. I am calling on the Diet to cancel the upcoming Uberbowl and shut down the Paris stadium, or else there will be severe consequences. The gods are awake, and we are their sword!”

The video ended. Angelica dutifully closed the video player and switched to a slideshow with details on the Mexicanist cell the Athanatoi had been tracking. Diana turned to Wilhelm Karl, Heinrich, Thierry, Elias, and the other generals and politicians in the room.

“As far as I’m concerned, we need to shut down the stadium in Paris,” she said.

“I agree,” Thierry said, “The terrorists have now directly threatened the event. We can’t put that many innocent people in danger just for a game.”

“We can always reschedule it once we defeat those terrorists,” Heinrich said.

“Are we all in agreement?” Diana asked.

"No," Elias said.

“No,” Wilhelm Karl said.

Everyone looked at Wilhelm Karl.

“What do you think, sir?” Diana said.

“I think it is wise we don’t give in to the demands of terrorists,” Wilhelm Karl said, “Let me lay out the optics of our decision. So we cancel the Uberbowl. We anger millions of Romans who wanted to watch their team get a shot at the trophy. We lose millions of marks in advertising money which would’ve been spent on commercial breaks. And the Mexicanists get everything they want."

"We’d appear to be giving in to their demands, at the cost of our national pride and possibly economic health," Elias said, "If we do this, they win.”

“What do you suggest, then?” Heinrich said.

“We double, no, triple security at the venue,” Wilhelm Karl said, “They know we’re there, but we also know they’re coming now. So let’s lay a trap for them. The Athanatoi has had ample experience thwarting terror plots in the past, hasn’t it?"

"And you, Director Frank, have had many years of experience working to expose Sentinel, don’t you?” Elias said.

“And?” Diana said.

“I think you should personally assemble and lead a task force to supplement the Argus personnel the league has contracted,” Wilhelm Karl said, “We must project strength and unity in the face of an adversary who only wishes to tear us apart and return us to before the Restoration.”

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

“Oh, don’t worry, I’m sure everyone there will be kept safe by the daughter of the Valkyrie,” Wilhelm Karl said, “The woman who took down Sentinel and the mad Frankfurt terrorist. She has a decades-long record of excellence. I have faith she will keep us safe.”

He looked at Diana. “Well?”

Diana hesitated for a moment. Wilhelm Karl’s eyes seemed to pierce into her, breaking down the mental barriers she had thrown up. It reminded her a lot of Elias’ own look. Something about it unnerved her. There was only one other time she felt like this…back with Hoffman. She tried looking ahead for help, but as she had found out over the years, that was unreliable, and she found nothing other than an overwhelming feeling of dread.

“Uh…yes,” she said, her confidence evaporating, “Of course, Your Majesty. I will see to it that the Uberbowl is protected.”

“Are you saying that you will personally take responsibility for the safety of the spectators?” Wilhelm Karl said.

“I…guarantee it,” Diana stammered.

“It is hard to argue with Director Frank’s track record,” Elias said, “If she is confident her agents can protect the arena, then she has my support.”

“And mine too,” Thierry said, “Who else is with me?”

Everyone raised their hands.

“The Uberbowl stays on!” Wilhelm Karl declared.


Paris - May 1

The football stadium had been built in downtown Paris many decades ago as part of the reconstruction effort Adenauer spearheaded in the Wirtschaftswunder. That part of the city had been particularly badly bombed and shelled during World War II, which made it ideal for extensive construction efforts. Here, the architecture and city layout were noticeably more modern than in other parts of the city, more resembling Frankfurt and Constantinople’s Ostend than the actual city center. The football stadium was one such modern project. It was one of the earliest stadiums built after the war, serving as a symbol of Roman resilience and teamwork digging the country out of the ashes. But Diana couldn’t care about the history right now, because she had a job to do. The parking lot was now crowded with police cars and armored Athanatoi rapid response vehicles, while helicopters and drones circled overhead, scanning the nearby streets for any suspicious activities. Inside, Diana watched her agents sweep the still-empty stands, also searching for anything that shouldn’t be there. Angelica approached her.

“Last team reported in,” she said, “We’re all clear, Director.”

“Good,” Diana said, “I hear the lines outside are getting pretty long. We shouldn’t delay the event any more than necessary. Do we have enough agents to cover all points of entry?”

“With the Argus people helping out, we’ve got the skies, every block within a one mile radius, and every single inch of this stadium covered,” Angelica said.

“Thank you, Agent Haus,” Diana said, “I’m glad you’re on the team.”

“As am I,” Angelica said, “I hope I made you proud.”

“Well, we’ll have to get through the day first,” Diana said.

“Of course,” Angelica said.

“Let’s take our seats,” Diana said, “I paid for seats on the upper levels.”

“Isn’t that a violation of our code of ethics?” Angelica said.

“Not if it’s with my own money,” Diana said, “And I cleared it with the Justice Bureau too.”

They went to their seats and sat down. Over the next hour, the fans began streaming in, and soon the stadium was abuzz with chatter and excitement. Angelica took out her phone and opened a sports streaming app.

“What, you don’t want to watch the real deal?” Diana said.

“I like the commentary,” Angelica said.

“The anticipation is palpable as we are just moments away from the opening ceremony,” the commentator said, “Will the Patriots’ ferocity help them repeat as champs, yet again? Or will the underdog Lilies serve up a surprise smack down?”

“You’ve got to love this guy’s commentary,” Angelica said, “His reaction to the Eimerican rowing team’s upset victory at the 2020 Olympics went viral.”

“Well, he’s certainly…something, I can say that,” Diana said.

The opening ceremony came and went, and now it was time to introduce the teams.

“Introducing the challengers,” the loudspeaker echoed, “The Lille Lilies!”

The Lilies emerged from one corner as triumphant traditional French music played. The leading players were draped in blue flags bearing the old French fleur-de-lis, while the others bellowed French mottos. The audience roared with excitement. They must be proud a majority French team had finally reached the championships, after decades of getting close but never making it. Diana couldn’t help but root for the underdogs, as she always did. It wasn’t that long ago she herself was an underdog too.

“And their opponents!” the loudspeaker announced. “The seven-time defending champions, the Thracian Patriots!”

Everybody looked at the other corner, but they initially saw nothing. Then bright pyrotechnics fired off a display of sparks and flames around the entrance, and the team captain tore his way through a flag bearing a Spartan helmet clutching a football. The rest of his team followed behind, aggressively chanting intimidating Greek slogans. Pyrotechnics and fireworks fired off around the edge of the arena, creating a spectacle above befitting of the champions. But the audience wasn’t as receptive to the Patriots, being from the other side of the country. Diana herself didn’t particularly like them, although she did live in Constantinople for a long time. She wasn’t much of a sports fan anyways.

“Boo!” Angelica shouted. “Vive la France! French Lives Matter!”

Apparently Angelica felt the same way. She was a Normandy girl, after all. It hadn’t been that long ago that Diana had never even heard the name France before, and now it was everywhere. The French were really doing well promoting their culture over the last twenty years. After a few theatrics and customary greetings, the two teams took their positions, and a referee walked into the center of the field with a ball. He tossed the ball up and stepped back, and the teams charged at each other.

“The champs and challengers face off at the center, and here we go!” the commentator said.

“Come on, Lilies!” Angelica said. “I bet a hundred marks on you guys! Make France proud!”

Diana noticed the Patriots employed a very aggressive strategy. Tomas Patricia, their star player, was extremely provocative. He rushed towards the Lilies’ Marceau, who pulled back in surprise as Tomas got far too close, sweeping his leg down to take the ball from him. Marceau couldn’t move his leg in time and was sent flying.

“Patricia tries to clean Marceau’s clock by bringing him down to earth,” the commentator said.

“Damn,” Angelica said.

Tomas and the Patriots charged across the field, skillfully passing the ball between them. Every time Marceau or another of the Lilies came close to blocking their path or taking the ball, the Patriots simply passed it to someone else nobody expected. Two minutes later, they scored. Even after possession turned over to the Lilies, the Patriots still retained the advantage. Tomas was looking pretty smug about it too. He began taunting the other side, and Marceau raised his fists in response only to be held back by his teammates. The Lilies did score a few goals, but the Patriots had already amassed a big lead, just fifteen minutes in. Tomas and his teammates formed a line and began playing defensively, intercepting the Lilies’ kicks and passes to take back possession and then push forward. It was a simple but effective plan, made all the more effective by the Patriots’ unpredictable strategy. Sometimes, they would draw the Lilies’ attention to someone else like Tomas while another player swiped the ball. Other times they would tail a player dribbling the ball, but this would only be a distraction for another player to come in from the side and kick it away. Sometimes Tomas would use his signature “back block” to deflect a pass with his back, always calculated to send it right to the waiting feet of the least expected Patriot. By the half hour mark, Marceau was clearly frustrated. His face had been twisted in a scowl, and despite the encouragement of the crowd, he was in a bad mood. Tomas took advantage of it and said something to him, making a rude gesture too. Diana couldn’t hear it, being so far away with thousands of people talking around her, but it clearly got under Marceau’s skin, because he straight up punched Tomas.

“Oh, Marceau gets too worked up and decides it’s time to clean Patricia’s clock in revenge,” the commentator said, “Might this be a foul on both their parts?”

The referee only gave a red card to Marceau for assaulting another player.

“And Patricia gets away with it without as much as a reprimand for unruly conduct,” the commentator said, “A questionable call by the officials.”

“Oh come on!” Angelica said. “He clearly shouldn’t have been taunting.”

“Wouldn’t have guessed you know your way around football,” Diana said.

“Well, I played a little in high school,” Angelica said, “Didn’t go so well.”

Halftime rolled around at the 45-minute mark, and the show began. There were a few high-profile artists performing, including some of Alexandra and Thea’s favorite singers, but Diana kept her attention focused on the crowd. She picked up her walkie-talkie.

“Status report,” she said.

“All clear,” everyone reported in.

Putting down the walkie-talkie, she turned to Angelica.

“What the frak are they up to?” Diana said.

“Yeah,” Angelica said, “This doesn’t fit their MO. They’d likely attack during halftime for maximum casualties, but they’re not.”

Halftime ended, and attendants began dismantling the stage, while the performers said a few words to the audience and reporters and left. Yet there was still no attack. Diana was confused. She tried looking ahead, but as usual, it wasn’t helpful. The game resumed, and she noticed the Patriots were now playing completely differently. Five minutes in, they called a timeout. They used all of their time, about two minutes, to talk about something, although they didn’t look like they were talking much. After coming back, Tomas then baited Marceau into committing a foul, which caused play to be suspended for a little bit. But the clock continued ticking. After the referee made a call and possession was given to the Lilies, about a minute had passed. Ten minutes later, the Patriots called another timeout, which they stalled out again. Seven minutes after that, they tricked the Lilies into committing another foul, taking another minute, and then another one, taking yet another minute. Thirteen minutes after that, they called their last two-minute timeout. And before she knew it, there were only three minutes left before the 90 minute end mark, and the Patriots remained comfortably ahead.

“The Lilies are backed up badly and the Patriots smell blood,” the commentator said, “Not that they need it after all that they’ve done over the last 42 minutes. I don’t know what match the referee’s watching but it’s obviously not this one.”

With a minute left on the clock, the Patriots suddenly shifted back to their overwhelming offensive strategy. Letting out a Greek war cry, they formed a line and ran across the field like an old phalanx charge as seen in the movies, intimidating the Lilies so much they simply fled back to their goal. Marceau stood his ground but could do nothing except let them run past. Tomas, ball at his feet, aimed at the goal and delivered a strong kick. The Lilies’ goalie attempted to deflect the ball, but the ball simply bounced off him and then the goal frame and landed in the goal.

“GOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!” the commentator said. “I’m sorry, it’s a habit of mine.”

The timer hit ninety minutes, and the final buzzer sounded marking the end of the game.

“Anyways,” the commentator said, losing his enthusiasm, “You know the drill. The Patriots win the championships…again…for the…goddamnit…eighth time…in a freaking row. Yay.”

The Patriots waved to the crowd, while Tomas waved his hands and pounded his chest.

“I barely broke a sweat!” he eagerly shouted into a reporter’s microphone, but he was met only with boos.

At that moment, Diana felt a nagging feeling at the back of her head. She felt a sense of rapidly approaching doom. Not her death, of course, that was still in the future, though when exactly felt increasingly nervous for her. No, she knew the terrorists were about to attack.

“Agent Haus,” she said.

“Yes, Director?” Angelica said.

“Get your gun ready and warn the other teams,” Diana said.

“I don’t see anything indicating an attack,” Angelica said.

“Trust me,” Diana said.

She took out her walkie-talkie. “All teams, go on high alert. The Director has a feeling the terrorists are about to strike.”

Diana couldn’t see it, but she knew what was happening around her. She knew there was a man sitting a few seats to the right of her, pulling a bandana over his face and getting a knife ready. She knew there was a woman on the other side of the stadium also putting on a bandana. There was a man reaching into a bucket of popcorn and pulling out a pistol. There were dozens of people loading pistols now. And then she saw a man with a bomb vest. Wait. There was something off about this guy. He didn’t look like the average Mexicanist terrorist. And that logo on his shirt…was that—

Her thoughts were cut short when explosions rippled across the stadium. There were maybe seven of them in total. Shots rang out, and her walkie-talkie crackled.

“We’re under attack! They’re everywhere! How did they—”

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the man with the knife lunging at Angelica.
 

zenphoenix

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TheAnguishedOne

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And of course Diana will be blamed for this disaster happening after being pressured into promising things will be okay.
 

HistoryDude

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Betharium sounds significant.

Also, Diana walked right into a trap. It was obvious... although the increased terrorism is worrying.
 

zenphoenix

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And of course Diana will be blamed for this disaster happening after being pressured into promising things will be okay.
She definitely will.
Betharium sounds significant.

Also, Diana walked right into a trap. It was obvious... although the increased terrorism is worrying.
It was very obviously a trap, but Wilhelm Karl left her no choice but to walk right into it. And guess who’s going to be blamed for this mess?
 

zenphoenix

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And the Winner?

“Look out!” Diana said.

Angelica ducked, and Diana blind-fired, hitting the man in the chest. But at that moment, she realized there was a suicide bomber approaching from behind. The bomb detonated, and Diana instinctively shielded Angelica from the blast. She knew she would be okay and quickly got back on her feet to survey the situation. The audience was now stampeding towards the exits, avoiding the bomb craters, keeping their distance from both Diana and Angelica and the terrorists. Diana grabbed her walkie-talkie.

“Status report!” she said.

“Gamma team reporting in!” the Gamma team leader said. “We’ve taken heavy casualties and I don’t know what happened to the others—”

A shot rang out, and Diana heard only static. With her own ears, she heard more shots ringing out and scanned the stadium, watching as more of her agents fell. The next one would be for her, so she jumped out of the way just as the terrorist behind her fired. She pulled Angelica out of the way of the bullet after that and then blind-fired at both, neutralizing them seconds later.

“We have to move!” she said.

“Okay, what then?” Angelica said.

On the pitch, the sports commentators, including Angelica’s commentator, looked around, confused as to what was going on. Even though it should have been clear what was going on after the bombs went off. The Patriots and Lilies rushed for the exits, but more terrorists, including some in traditional Mexican garb, walked onto the pitch, trapping them.

“Folks, there seems to be a pyrotechnical disturbance in the stands,” Angelica’s commentator nervously said, trying to keep calm, “Security is dropping like flies. There appear to be masked members of the audience carrying guns and bombs.”

He looked behind him and saw a terrorist right there.

“One of them is right behind me, folks,” he said.

The terrorist raised his gun.

“He is pointing his gun at me now and I believe he is about to shoot me,” the commentator said, “God have mercy!”

The terrorist shot him. On the pitch, the other terrorists had completely surrounded both the Patriots and Lilies. The man in charge, wearing an elaborate feathered quetzal headdress, motioned to his henchmen, who opened fire. Marceau and all of the Lilies players were cut down in seconds, followed by every Patriot except Tomas.

“What—what is going on here?!” he demanded.

He tried running, but two of the terrorists grabbed him by the arms and forced him to his knees. The leader approached, raising an obsidian knife.

“Wait, please!” Tomas shouted. “I’ll give you the Uberbowl money, the ring, the trophy, I’ll give you anything, please don’t kill me!”

But without another word, the terrorist leader stabbed Tomas in the chest and began cutting a large circle. Blood pooled at his knees, soaking into the grass and soil. The leader reached inside and ripped out Tomas’ heart, kicking away the athlete’s body. Tomas lifelessly thudded to the ground, blood spurting from his heartless chest onto the field. The leader held up the heart for the cameras to see before tossing it on the ground as well.

Up in the stands, Diana and Angelica hid. The stadium was mostly empty now after a majority of the audience fled, leaving only the terrorists around. They were now patrolling the seats looking for anyone in hiding. This sort of reminded her of some of her old cases. Like her final meeting with Pavel in Nicomedia. Or maybe even her first major mission, Vienna in 1984. Funny how Olga was there at both missions, but on different sides. If only she was here. She could use the Firebird right now.

“What do we do?” Angelica whispered.

“Our priority is getting the remaining civilians out while Argus moves into position,” Diana said, “Taking out the terrorists is our second objective.”

“I believe I have your attention, Roman infidels,” the leader said to the cameras his followers now focused on him.

The camera crews and news stations had probably cut the connection minutes ago, so there was very little chance this would end up on live television.

“So once again, the so-called Patriots are your football champions,” he said, “It seems fitting you celebrate bullies who trample on the spirit of the game, because every day you do the same to the poor people of the Eimericas. Every day, you threaten and abuse proud Nahuas just like the Patriots did to the French Lilies just now. Those men were supposedly the best athletes this country had to offer, and yet it only took a few moments for me to cut them all down, like a farmer cutting wheat and gutting a pig. Let this be a warning to all of you Romans out there. We will strike again, and if any of you stand in my way, you will meet the same fate. Now, to my devout followers, for years us Mexicanists have been forced to hide in the shadows, driven underground by the infidel Thordarsson and his godless Roman backers. But now, we have the power to overthrow this order and establish a new one, back in its proper place under the gods! The time for change is now! The gods are awake, and we are their sword! May we not die, may we not perish!”

He raised his bloody fist into the air. The terrorists around him began walking off the pitch to enter the stands and help with executing the remaining civilians.

“New plan,” Diana said, “We don’t have time. You rescue the civilians.”

“Me?” Angelica said. “But…I’m not that experienced with that…”

“From what I’ve seen, you can do it,” Diana said, looking ahead.

“But I’ve…never done this…” Angelica said.

“Don’t worry,” Diana said, “Just trust in yourself.”

“O…okay,” Angelica said, “What about you?”

“Me?” Diana said. “I’m taking out these terrorists. On my terms.”

“It’s suicide!” Angelica said. “You’ll die.”

“No,” Diana said, “I’m not going to die today.”

Without another word, she emerged from her hiding place and charged down the stairs. The terrorists quickly noticed and moved to intercept her, but she fired first, all of her shots landing and taking them out. She didn’t even stop to aim anymore. She had no time to do so. Blind firing was her only option. The terrorist leader noticed her and turned to leave. Two terrorists stepped forward and aimed rocket launchers. They fired, sending two rocket-propelled grenades hurtling straight at her.

“Oh frak,” she said.

The rockets slammed into the floor in front of her, throwing her back. She slammed into the floor and began tumbling down the now broken stairs. Glancing quickly in the direction she was falling in, she noticed a gaping hole in the stands where the rockets had exploded. Merely a second later, she fell into the hole.

“Aaahhh!” she shouted.

Someone grabbed her arm at the last moment, breaking her fall. The grip was strong yet gentle. It felt familiar in a way. It felt like someone like…

“Olga?” she said.

Angelica pulled her out of the hole, and Diana climbed out, panting and groaning.

“Sorry I’m not Agent Kirova,” Angelica said.

“No, you’re fine,” Diana said.

On the pitch, the leader was still heading for the exit. Diana looked at the stands and then at the approaching terrorists.

“Did you get everyone out?” she asked.

“It was only a minute or two,” Angelica said, “But there weren’t many left. At least on this side of the field. I think I can see some Argus people on the other side.”

“Well they’re a little late!” Diana said.

They ran down to the pitch. The terrorists with the rocket launchers reloaded and prepared to fire again, but Angelica shot them down with her pistol. Another lunged at her from behind with a knife, but Diana shot him. Two more terrorists charged at Diana and quickly got too close for her to aim, so she dropped her gun and switched to her fists. She punched one of them in the face and delivered a spinning kick to the other, but doing so caused pain to flare in her leg. She silently cursed. She was getting old. Grabbing the second terrorist’s knife, she stabbed him in the gut and then slashed the first terrorist’s neck. She turned to see Angelica get hit in the back with the butt of an assault rifle and go down, surrounded by three terrorists who prepared to shoot her. Diana picked up her gun and shot one of them and then the other. The second terrorist broke off from Angelica and charged at her, and Diana stabbed him in the gut with the knife, while Angelica punched the third in the face. The last of the terrorists went down, and Diana surveyed the pitch for the leader. She spotted him in one of the hallways leading to the lockers. Realizing she wouldn’t have any time to pursue him before he disappeared into the maze of lockers and backroom hallways, she raised her gun and blind fired once. The shot missed.

“Frak,” she said, “I’m getting old…”

She fired again and finally hit him in the leg. The man went down. Diana turned to Angelica, who was a little rattled but otherwise okay.

“You alright?” she said.

“I’m fine,” Angelica said, “Thanks, Director. For looking out for me.”

“Don’t mention it, kid,” Diana said, “Though honestly, I feel like I failed a little.”

“How?” Angelica said.

“I played right into the terrorists’ hands,” Diana said, “They knew we were coming, and I couldn’t stop them. And a lot of people died today.”

They walked over to the leader, who desperately tried to crawl away. Angelica pinned him by stepping in front of him, while Diana turned him over and kicked off the headdress. She was shocked to find he wasn’t Nahua at all. He didn’t even look Neurhomanian or anything. He looked European. Of course, she’d heard plenty of stories of non-Nahua heading off to join MSC back in the day, swayed by its slick online propaganda, but this guy felt different.

“Alright, I have a bunch of questions for you,” she said, “Who are you? Why are you doing this? Where and when is the next attack? Who are your backers?”

“May we not die, may we not perish,” the leader said.

It sounded more like he was reading from a script than actually saying the slogan. Diana aimed her gun at the leader’s head.

“I’m going to repeat myself,” she said, “And you are going to answer my questions. Starting with your name. Don’t make up something, because I’ll know.”

“It’s Matteus,” the leader said.

Diana hesitated. “Matteus?”

“Yeah,” Matteus said, breaking down, “I’m from Bern, please, I’ll tell you everything!”

“Okay,” Diana said.

A group of Argus security guards, led by Gustav, entered the room. Diana was surprised to recognize Josh among them. This was the bully Alex had beaten up in middle school. Then again with his record it was very logical he’d end up in this line of work.

“Alright, next up, why are you doing this?” Diana asked.

“I’m doing this because my backers told me to,” Matteus said, “They gave me the participants for the bombers, the weapons, everything I needed. They said I’d be able to get away and I’d be paid for this.”

“So this isn’t terrorism?” Diana said. “Then who are these backers? What do they want? When’s the next attack? Where is it going to take place?”

“My backers…” Matteus said. “They are—”

Josh shot him in the head. Diana looked up at him.

“What the frak did you do?!” she demanded.

Josh casually shrugged. “He was a terrorist. I was only giving him a terrorist’s death.”

“We were about to get something out of him!” Diana said.

“All terrorists deserve to die like that,” Josh said, “He’s a threat to our nation and he should be treated as such.”

“Not before we get any useful information out of him!” Diana said. “I should remind you we are a nation of laws, and he must be held accountable to our laws!”

“The instance he signed up with those terrorists, he lost all of his rights to be held accountable,” Josh said.

“ARGH!” Diana said, kicking a wall. “DAMN YOU!”

Josh said nothing.

“Look, for what it’s worth, I apologize,” Gustav said, “My nephew’s been…problematic in recent weeks. I’ll have to talk with him. And with my superiors about discipline.”

“You better, because he just cost us our best lead on these terrorists,” Diana said.
 
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Golden Dragon

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Honestly, I am tired of Josh's douche shenanigans so if you could like do some ironic death that would be good for my soul.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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While I'm certain there's a legal loophole, I'm also pretty confident Diana ought to be able to level some sort of punishment against Josh for killing a source of information despite the man clearly not being a threat at that moment.

Slight conspiracy theory here, but I feel like Olga's been brought up so much in the past few arcs despite not being present that her return is going to be insane.
 

zenphoenix

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Honestly, I am tired of Josh's douche shenanigans so if you could like do some ironic death that would be good for my soul.
About that...
While I'm certain there's a legal loophole, I'm also pretty confident Diana ought to be able to level some sort of punishment against Josh for killing a source of information despite the man clearly not being a threat at that moment.

Slight conspiracy theory here, but I feel like Olga's been brought up so much in the past few arcs despite not being present that her return is going to be insane.
hmmmmmm
 

CaptainAlvious

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Seems a little sus how Josh killed that guy just as he was ready to spill the beans on whatever conspiracy he was involved in. Regardless, I doubt this incident will be good for Diana’s career, which I suspect might’ve been the point of this whole attack.
 

zenphoenix

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Seems a little sus how Josh killed that guy just as he was ready to spill the beans on whatever conspiracy he was involved in. Regardless, I doubt this incident will be good for Diana’s career, which I suspect might’ve been the point of this whole attack.
The plot thickens...