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zenphoenix

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Some good to get the idea in people's heads from Eva's speech, but I'm seeing some real hope in Wilhelm Karl's investigation. If that blackmail evaporates (considering all we've seen him do to people he didn't have an actual reason to hate), I imagine Elias will be dead before the day is over.
Wilhelm Karl would make Elias' assassinating look like a snowball fight.
Wilhelm better find some thing to break the blackmail as soon as possible, before Elias can drag the Reich towards the gutter mud any further. Still can’t believe I got to the point where I’m rooting for Wilhelm Karl of all people, especially over Elias. Sometimes Zen I wonder if I doomed this universe by creating and brainstorming Elias’ character with you.
laughs
Eva, Vincent and Anders have a right to be concerned about Schmitz and Tesla. It’s kinda hard to have freedom of speech and freedom of press when you have two mega corporations own a monopoly on industries related to these means of communication. And to think we focused on the Kaiser’s absolute power beforehand and ignored this.
Who's saying the Kaiser's absolute power isn't also an issue?
Also, Jung maybe a bit passive and cowardly in all this, but something tells me his warning to Anders will come true eventually.
Idealists never end well.
 

TWR97

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Like with the rest of the readers here, I'm hoping something good happens out of Wilhelm Karl's investigation, outsmarting Elias is gonna be a hell of a gamble.
 

zenphoenix

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Like with the rest of the readers here, I'm hoping something good happens out of Wilhelm Karl's investigation, outsmarting Elias is gonna be a hell of a gamble.
If he can pull it off, the tables will turn and there is a chance he could take back control, like he always wanted. If not...well, let's hope it doesn't come to that.
 

zenphoenix

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The Grand Secretariat

Hangzhou - May 2

“Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the Grand Secretariat of China,” the announcer said.

Elias and Gertrude stood up, as did everyone else in the newly built stadium. On the pitch, the Imperial Chinese Navy Band picked up their instruments and began playing a military march. Elias looked to his right. The door opened, and the Grand Secretariat walked in. Han Xianyu, the newly elected chancellor of China, puffed his chest up and held his chin up high as he strutted down the steps and sat next to Elias.

“Your Highness,” Elias said.

Han shook Elias’ hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Elias Anhorn.”

“Unfortunately His Majesty couldn’t make it,” Elias said, “The situation at home was worsening, so he sent me.”

“A shame,” Han said, “I had put on quite a show just for him. Spared no expense.”

"I hope I will suffice," Elias said.

The band finished playing, and over the next several minutes, two thousand and thirty-two drummers filed onto the pitch and set down large bronze Fou drums. The ceremony began with a laser striking an ancient-style sundial, which reflected the light onto the drums. As the drummers began beating on the drums, the drums’ colors changed, forming giant digits in both Arabic and Chinese numerals, which counted down seconds to the opening ceremony. When the numbers reached zero, fireworks set off from the top of the stadium at a rate of one every second for 35 times. The 2,032 drummers continued playing their drums.

“有朋自遠方來、不亦樂乎?” they sang.

“‘Isn’t it delightful to have friends come from afar?’” Han translated. “From the Analects of Confucius two thousand years ago.”

“Yes, it is delightful indeed,” Elias said.

While the drummers drummed and sang, LED drones in the sky formed five familiar interlocking rings. Other drones, coming together to form figures resemblng apsaras seen in the murals on the Mogao Caves, “lifted” the rings up into the sky.

“Unlike the previous administration, we are proud of our civilization, like you are,” Han said.

Attention then turned to a large group of young children, each wearing local cultural garb, marching into the stadium, carrying the yellow dragon flag of China. They seemed to represent all of the ethnic groups of China, from Uighurs and Siberians to Yi and Zhuang, although the faces Elias could make out on the TV screens all looked very Han Chinese to him. A nine-year-old girl stood up in the emperor’s booth and began singing “Praise the Dragon Flag,” one of the national anthems of China.

“於斯萬年,亞東大帝國!” she sang.

“‘For thousands of years, we have been the greatest empire in Asia’,” Han sang along.

The girl sang the rest of the stanza, but it was clear they didn’t have time for the whole thing. It also appeared like the girl was lip-syncing, though Elias didn’t mind.

“‘Raise our Imperial Dragon Flag proud, and sing our empire's song!’” Han sang the last line.

The children then turned around and marched over to a line of Imperial Chinese Army soldiers, wearing the dress uniforms of the Palace Garrison Honor Guard. They humbly transferred the flag over to the soldiers. Their officer blew a whistle, and the soldiers turned to their right, facing the flag podium. They slowly goose-stepped towards the podium, their legs swinging up high before forcefully stomping the ground in unison. The Imperial Chinese Navy Band picked up its instruments, and soon the sound of trumpets and drums filled the air, joined soon by a 224-member choir. Now they were playing the true national anthem of China, “China Heroically Stands in the Universe.”

“萬萬年!” Han shouted, thrusting out both arms, whenever the anthem reached such a line.

The honor guard reached the podium and raised the flag. Red and yellow fireworks accompanied the flag raising. Once the flag had reached the top of the pole, the honor guard turned around and formed a line facing the emperor. Then they thrust out both arms.

“皇帝萬歲!” they shouted.

“皇帝萬歲!” Han and the rest of the audience replied.

Long live the emperor. May he reign for ten thousand years.

Next came the artistic section of the ceremony. A short film played on the screens, depicting the invention of paper and ending with a rolled-up scroll painting. Next, a giant LED scroll appeared on the pitch, which turned out to be one large screen, on which many ancient ceramics and porcelain creations were displayed. As traditional Chinese music played, dancers approached a large piece of white canvas paper at the center of the pitch, which they painted on as they danced, reminiscent of Chinese calligraphy.

“We aim for a harmonious society, where humanity works together in win-win cooperation for the benefit of all,” Han said.

“Sounds great,” Elias said, “I’m all for it.”

The giant scroll disappeared and was quickly replaced with a fluid array of giant movable type printing blocks rolled in from the sidelines by performers in Zhou Dynasty-era robes, representing the third great Chinese invention: the printing press. The blocks moved around, forming variations of the character 和, or harmony. The performers held up bamboo slips, from which they recited proverbs from the Analects of Confucius.

“‘All men should be brothers within the Four Seas’,” Han said.

“Your predecessor never held to that ideal,” Elias said, “Always treating me and my committee like outlaws and criminals instead of as equal members of the same human civilization. All we wanted was the best for our nation.”

“Right!” Han said. “I want the best for my nation too. And the people have realized that. That’s why they elected me.”

Yeah, that. There was also that media campaign Theodor funded and the Mongol hackers he paid to hack and leak the Fuxingyundong and Minjindang servers. And the third party candidate they’d propped up with several million marks to play spoiler. Han knew it as well. He was just saying all this to claim credit.

The blocks changed into a small version of the Great Wall, which then sprouted peach blossoms, the Chinese symbol for openness.

“My least favorite part, frankly,” Han said, “I don’t particularly like peach blossoms. They’re associated too much with my predecessor.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Elias said, “I can remove the trees that she planted in Constantinople if you don’t like them.”

“I’d really appreciate that, thanks,” Han said.

At the end of the sequence, the tops of the movable type blocks came off to reveal 897 performers, who waved vigorously to the crowds, showing the blocks were not computer controlled and synchronized, but rather the combined efforts of 897 perfectly in-sync performers.

“Wow, I didn’t see that one coming,” Gertrude said.

Nobody paid attention to her.

The next segment saw ancient terracotta soldiers and Chinese opera, followed by a traditional Nanjing opera puppetry performance. Afterward, the floor screen lit up again, becoming a golden desert with a silver line running across it, with caravans of camels crossing between western China and the Middle East. The desert turned blue and became an ocean. The camels became Zheng He's treasure ships, and the sea routes now stretched around the world, from Arabia and East Africa to the coasts of Fusang and Penglai. A performer holding an ancient compass, another great Chinese invention, danced at the center of the screen, their gestures synchronized with the direction of the ships.

“We need to return to the old ways,” Han said, “Once, we were respected all over the world. Men like Zheng He, even if he was a Muslim foreigner, brought the light of civilization to the places he visited. But now we are a complete laughingstock, thanks to my predecessor. We are weak. We turned inward. And the Mongols are at the gates once again, but they’re coming from within now.”

The lights dimmed, and the screen went dark, aside from a small area focused on a piano, where a pianist performed a melody from the Yellow River Cantata. Around him, a sea of rainbow-colored luminescent performers swayed like the waves of the river before arranging themselves in the shape of a dove, while a girl at the center of the formation flew a yellow kite, another Chinese invention. The river performers left the stage, and when the screen lit up again, they had been replaced with 2,032 martial arts masters, who began throwing punches and kicks in unison.

“I hate how shows like The Last Airbender perverted our ancient culture,” Han said, “Do they not know how sacred martial arts are to us? That show makes a mockery of the ancient martial arts of China. Zhao had a good point when he banned such disrespectful content. Especially Legend of Korra with its shameful gay feminist agenda.”

“I can sympathize with that,” Elias said, “A lot of our culture is also being perverted by consumerism and shamelessness. We need to reclaim it for the good of our people.”

“On that we agree,” Han said.

The next sequence saw the screen turn into a starscape. Acrobats hung from the top of the stadium tumbled across the stage, simulating weightlessness, while performers on the ground lit red paper lanterns, which flew up into the sky to the sound of space rockets roaring.

“Honestly, I don’t want to invest that much in space travel,” Han said, “We’ve wasted so much money on that recent publicity stunt on the moon, while we have a lot of issues at home.”

“Same,” Elias said, “Although our princess seems to have other ideas.”

“Her work was done with the previous administration,” Han said, “We’ve withdrawn our support on our end, so now it’s up to you to end it on yours.”

“I have a plan to personally deal with the princess eventually,” Elias said, “Rest assured, she will get what she deserves.”

“That would be nice,” Han said.

After a renowned Chinese singer sang the games’ theme song, the Parade of Nations began. It would take a while, so Elias took the opportunity to start eating his dinner, some fried dumplings. After several long minutes, the athletes all assembled in front of a podium, where the IOC president stood.

“Oh, it’s my turn now,” Han said.

“Welcome, athletes!” the president said. “I would like to thank the Chinese government for their warm reception and effort in planning these games. I sincerely hope you all have fun over the next few months and respect the spirit of the game by rejecting doping and performance enhancement drugs.”

Yeah, well, about that…

“Now, I hand things over to Grand Secretariat Han Xianyu,” the president said.

All eyes turned towards Han, who stood up and manly puffed his chest out again. He picked up a microphone and gruffly cleared his throat.

“I declare, the 35th Olympic Games of Hangzhou…open!” he declared.

Fireworks erupted from the top of the stadium. The Olympic flag was carried in by eight former Chinese athletes, who passed the flag on to the honor guard. The honor guard raised the flag while a multinational chorus of 80 children sang the Olympic anthem in Greek. Minutes later, the Olympic flame entered the stadium after a journey around the world. The torch was relayed around the stadium by seven athletes before being finally passed on to an eighth athlete. The final athlete took off running as usual, but as she continued, she appeared to start flying and running along the walls as the wires she was attached to raised her up towards the Olympic cauldron at the top of the stadium. She stopped at the cauldron and held the torch to its edge, and the cauldron burst into flames with a roar of applause from the audience.

“What a great performance,” Gertrude said.

“What a great performance,” Elias said, a second later.

“I told you we spared no expense,” Han said.

“I see a great future for our two nations ahead of us,” Elias said.

“As do I,” Han said.

They shook hands again, not as two leaders, but as two friends.
 

CaptainAlvious

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Welp, Han has gotten China. The way things are going, it seems the Eimericas will end up as the only sane place on Earth ironically. Let's hope the Hindutuva in India don't get any funny ideas

Sucks to see Tsai get replaced by trash like Han. I wonder if she’ll continue to show up in this arc? I hope Tsai can reclaim the Chancellery before Han can bring China back to the dark days of the military junta.

That bit Elias said about having a plan to deal with Wilhelmina concerns me. I hope she doesn't end up like Georg and Horst, but you know how that line about Idealists go.

Since everyone seems disinterested in space travel, I wonder how it will be possible for humanity to establish their star empire by 2100?

You know, maybe Sentinel was the lesser evil after all. I now kind of understand what Wilhelm and the Smoking Man meant when they said exposing Sentinel could lead to unforeseen consequences.

Also, given Han and Zhao's reasons for hating Avatar and Elias associationg with them (through the Anhorns don't really seem homophobic if you read Gertrude's speeches from the late 2010s/2020s) I imagine things are about to get rough for LGBT people across Eurasia.

I also predict that culture in Eurasia will get a lot less expressive in the future, due to the Commitee and their allies censoring the media and forcing their moral standards down on entertainment.
 

zenphoenix

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Welp, Han has gotten China. The way things are going, it seems the Eimericas will end up as the only sane place on Earth ironically. Let's hope the Hindutuva in India don't get any funny ideas
As long as India's current leadership is in place and Jayasimha doesn't approve of the Hindutvas, India should be fine.
Sucks to see Tsai get replaced by trash like Han. I wonder if she’ll continue to show up in this arc? I hope Tsai can reclaim the Chancellery before Han can bring China back to the dark days of the military junta.
Tsai will continue appearing, and she'll try her best to rein in Han. On the other hand, Han will do all he can to keep her down.
That bit Elias said about having a plan to deal with Wilhelmina concerns me. I hope she doesn't end up like Georg and Horst, but you know how that line about Idealists go.
Nobody is safe.
Since everyone seems disinterested in space travel, I wonder how it will be possible for humanity to establish their star empire by 2100?
Maybe attitudes will change in the coming years. Or we pull a Covenant.:p
You know, maybe Sentinel was the lesser evil after all. I now kind of understand what Wilhelm and the Smoking Man meant when they said exposing Sentinel could lead to unforeseen consequences.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Also, given Han and Zhao's reasons for hating Avatar and Elias associationg with them (through the Anhorns don't really seem homophobic if you read Gertrude's speeches from the late 2010s/2020s) I imagine things are about to get rough for LGBT people across Eurasia.
They may not seem homophobic, but they certainly do associate with or turn a blind eye to homophobes.
I also predict that culture in Eurasia will get a lot less expressive in the future, due to the Commitee and their allies censoring the media and forcing their moral standards down on entertainment.
Like American culture does in real life, Roman culture is the global standard which influences all other major cultures. And since Roman culture is now turning inward and propagandistic, it will have a chilling effect on the rest of global culture.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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While the whole chapter is just unnerving as Elias and Han get along like the best of friends as they're both just awful people, I did get a laugh from Gertrude's comments just being completely ignored.
 

zenphoenix

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While the whole chapter is just unnerving as Elias and Han get along like the best of friends as they're both just awful people, I did get a laugh from Gertrude's comments just being completely ignored.
Gertrude still doesn’t realize all of the misogynistic ideas and policies she supported, both directly and indirectly, are going to affect her as well.
 

TWR97

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Everything changes now that Han is in charge, at least there's a least likely possibility for China and Rome to go to war with each other. That'd be very, VERY bad, for everybody.
 

zenphoenix

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Everything changes now that Han is in charge, at least there's a least likely possibility for China and Rome to go to war with each other. That'd be very, VERY bad, for everybody.
For all of their friendliness, it would be quite easy for Han and Elias to turn on each other...
 

zenphoenix

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Inconveniences

Damascus - May 19

“You’ve reached the Imperial Bank,” the teller on the phone said, “What are you looking for?”

“I’m looking to take out a loan for a new car,” Thea said.

There was silence for a few seconds.

“A loan?” the teller said.

“Yeah,” Thea said, “My old car’s not doing so well, so I thought I’d get a new one.”

“Does your husband know you’re getting a new car?” the teller said.

“I, wait, what?” Thea said. “I…I’m not married. And what does that matter?”

“Uh, ma’am, I’m not sure if you heard, but the new laws say you can’t take out a new loan on your own,” the teller said, “You need your husband, father, brother, or son as a cosigner now.”

“What?” Thea said.

“I’m sorry, ma’am,” the teller said, “That’s the law.”

“Surely there must be some mistake,” Thea said, “What if you don’t have any of those?”

“Hey, I’m just the messenger,” the teller said, “Sorry for the inconvenience. And after the incident with the bank accounts, I’m not sure if you even can take out a loan. Now, is there anything else you were looking for?”


Schulz Building, Berlin - June 24

Clara walked over to Angelica’s desk.

“Hey,” she said.

“What’s up?” Angelica said.

“I…felt like talking,” Clara said, “But if you’re busy then…”

“No, no, it’s fine,” Angelica said, “I haven’t gotten much lately. What do you need?”

Clara held up a pink slip.

“Moria laid you off,” Angelica realized.

“Without even a word as to why,” Clara said, “How and I going to support Sylvia now?”

“Did you ask him why?” Angelica said.

“I’m relatively new and he wanted to cut costs,” Clara said.

“Then why did he hire Michael last week?” Angelica said.

“The only thing he said was Michael had a family to support, so he stays,” Clara said.

“He literally has no experience,” Angelica said.

“Moria ignored that, it seems,” Clara said.

“What are you going to do now?” Angelica said.

“Sylvia and I are planning to go to Oslo,” Clara said, “She has family there. We can’t stay here any longer. It’s not a good environment to raise our son in.”

“I get it,” Angelica said, “Did you get tickets?”

“Every flight’s fully booked until July,” Clara said, “We’re still trying.”

“I hope you get out of here, and soon,” Angelica said.

“And you?” Clara said. “Aren’t you going to leave?”

“Not yet,” Angelica said, “I still have to see this through.”


Wilhelmina’s house - July 3

Wilhelm Karl said:
We, in Our capacity as August Kaiser of the Romans, hereby revoke the following imperial decrees passed by Our illustrious predecessor, RECOGNIZING that they caused more harm than good to Our CHRISTIAN SOCIETY.

- The Princess Wilhelmina Equal Rights Provision (Imperial Decree 2176) of 1982
- The Alan Turing Act on the Opening Up on Marriage (Imperial Decree 4102) of 2001

May these symbols of discrimination and injustice be consigned to their rightful place in history, and a JUST AND STABLE ORDER, free of the reactionary and suppressive ideologies of feminism and LGBT, rise up in their absence.

So it shall be decreed on this third of July in the year of our lord 2032.

Wilhelmina sat quietly on her couch. Bysandros was speaking on the TV, as usual. Seemed he was the only reporter the committee let speak these days. He was talking about the details of the new Nullification Act and how it was probably a good thing. She was no longer listening, after Bysandros harped on about the alleged atrocities of the Equal Rights Provision.

The same Equal Rights Provision that had been decreed on her birthday fifty years ago today.

She looked at an old picture of her family, taken when she was five. There was her mother, wearing the purple sash Wilhelmina wore as often as possible as well as the tiara associated with the Crown Princess. There was her father, wearing a sharp suit. And then there was her as a five year old, wearing a white dress she remembered was very itchy and uncomfortable. She barely understood the purpose of that photoshoot in 1987. She wished she did.

She had grown up learning about the Equal Rights Provision. After all, her grandfather had decreed it on the day she was born and named it after her. The decree always held such an attachment to her. To see it abolished, and on her birthday no less, felt like an insult to her. This year was just getting worse and worse. Tsai no longer visited. She was stuck in her new job; Han had made sure to make it as ironic and humiliating as possible. Jayasimha was tied up dealing with the emboldened Hindutvas. Joseph was away with his own family.

A tear poured down her cheek as she processed all this. All she wanted to do now was lay out all of her grief, to process it. She sat and closed her eyes, imagining the faces of those she loved and lost. She imagined the moments that led up to now, the moments that defined her life. Her parents’ faces disappeared into a swarm of camera flashes from paparazzi taking pictures of a crashed car. The face of Otto signing the Equal Rights Provision, something she had seen on TV many times, disappeared into the face of Wilhelm Karl signing the decree repealing it and tearing up the original to thunderous applause. The memory of her, Tsai, and Jayasimha joking about many things over the years changed to one of just Wilhelmina at an empty table. And then there was the ever present nightmare she still had, after all of her meditation sessions, the one of Franz and Joseph’s deaths.

She felt a gentle hand on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and saw Elisabeth Alexandra sitting next to her.

“You’ve felt many losses, my little wombat,” Elisabeth Alexandra said, “But love takes many forms and changes constantly.”

In her mind, the images disappeared into mist, reforming into the memory of her family.

“Accept that all this pain and grief is in the past,” Elisabeth Alexandra said, “Accept it, without giving power to it. Acknowledge it is a part of you, but don’t deny it or let it control you. And let go. Let the pain flow away.”

Tears of hope poured down Wilhelmina’s cheeks.


August Chamber, Brandenburg Palace

The second “N” in Enonon flashed.


Friedrich the Great International Airport, Berlin - July 5

“Passengers at Friedrich the Great International Airport are required to present valid documentation to authorities,” the PA announcer said, “Please be ready to show…"

Clara had never seen the airport so crowded before. No wonder so many flights had been completely sold out. She was standing in line now, waiting for customs. The security checks had never been so bad before. But she had no choice today. She and her family had to get out of here today.

“Keep moving forward,” A Heimat Security customs agent said to the line, “Stay in line.”

Clara and Sylvia’s three-year-old son Oliver babbled something. Sylvia lifted him up.

“Hey, do you see the doggie over there?” she said, pointing.

“No,” Oliver said.

Clara did see the dog, and it looked very intimidating. Like a bloodhound, only with sharper teeth and a more angry face. Fortunately Oliver didn’t see it, or else they would have trouble putting him to sleep for months.

After several minutes, they reached the customs agent.

“Papers, please,” he said.

Clara handed her and Sylvia’s passports and tickets to the agent. The agent scanned them and looked at their faces.

“How old’s the kid?” he asked.

“Three,” Clara said.

“Child under four years…” the agent said. “That complicates things.”

“What do you mean?” Sylvia said.

“I'm sorry, a whole different set of regulations were just issued this morning,” the agent said, “Regarding passports and traveling children and such. Don’t you just love bureaucracy?”

Oliver struggled in Sylvia’s arms.

“Let’s just go over this quickly,” the agent said, “Who’s the Roman?”

“We both are,” Clara said.

“And you’re heading to Scandinavia?” the agent said.

“Yeah,” Sylvia said, “I have Scandinavian citizenship.”

“Okay,” the agent said, typing on his tablet, “So from what it seems, the boy and his mother can go on, but you need a Scandinavian visa, Clara. You’ll have to go to the embassy in downtown. Please step out of line.”

“Wait, what?” Clara said. “I called the embassy and checked with the Foreign Bureau. They said it was fine as long as we traveled together.”

“That’s for families,” the agent said, “Now move this way.”

“But we ARE a family!” Sylvia said.

“I’m his mother too,” Clara said, “We’re married. Hold on.”

She dug around in her backpack and took out her marriage certificate. The original one, just in case they didn’t accept copies. The agent looked at the certificate.

“Smart to bring this,” he said, “This’ll help, for sure.”

“Now what?” Clara said.

“You just need a border traffic bypass stamp,” the agent said, “Won’t take long. You can catch up with her at the gate.”

“Okay, thanks,” Clara said.

“Proceed,” the agent said.

“Don’t worry,” Clara said, “It won’t be long. I’ll see you at the gate.”

“Okay,” Sylvia said.

She and Oliver continued on, while Clara stayed behind to get the stamp.


Half an hour later

“Next!” the boarding gate ticket agent said.

“Okay, sweetie, this way.” Sylvia and Oliver moved up in line.

“Sylv!” Clara said, running to the gate. “I finally made it!”

“Just in time,” Sylvia said. “We’re boarding now.”

After a few minutes, they reached the ticket agent. Clara noticed another Heimat Security agent, a supervisor from the look of it, standing next to him.

“Are you Clara?” the supervisor said.

“Yes, what’s the matter?” Clara said.

“Are you a Scandinavian citizen?” the supervisor asked.

“No,” Clara said, “But I have my passport—”

“Are you the one who gave birth to the child?” the supervisor asked.

“That would be me,” Sylvia said.

“Was it your egg or an implanted embryo?” the supvervisor said.

“Why is that any of your business?” Clara said.

“Ma'am, this'll go a lot faster if you cooperate,” the supervisor said.

“Clara, please,” Sylvia said.

“Sir, I'm trying to cooperate,” Clara said, “It's just we're going to miss our flight.”

“You should probably just send them on ahead,” the supervisor said.

“Excuse me?” Clara said. “We’re staying together.”

Oliver began fussing again.

“Well, you're certainly not going to Oslo with them today, ma’am,” the supervisor said.

“But I spoke to the agent outside,” Clara said, “We're married. He said it was fine. Here.”

She handed the marriage certificate and stamped passport to the supervisor, who handed it back almost immediately without looking at it.

“This is not valid,” he said.

“It has the stamp!” Clara said.

“No, the document is no longer recognized,” the supervisor said, “You are not married, and your child was born out of wedlock.”

“What?!” Clara said.

“It’s now forbidden,” the supervisor said.

“Forbidden?” Sylvia said. “What do you mean by forbidden.”

“Forbidden by the law,” the supervisor said.

“What law?” Clara said.

The law,” the supervisor said.

“You can't do this!” Clara said.

“Ma’am, sit down,” the supervisor ordered.

“I want to speak to your supervisor, and I need to see a lawyer right now!” Clara said.

“Okay, Karen,” the ticket agent said.

“Final boarding call for Lufthansa 334 to Oslo,” the PA announced.

“Clara, we’re running out of time,” Sylvia said.

“You can’t do this,” Clara said.

“I can arrest you right now for illegal emigration if you dare take one step towards the gate,” the supervisor said.

“I’m an Athanatoi agent!” Clara said. “I’ll bring the matter up with my superiors!”

“You are not, in fact, an Athanatoi agent,” the supervisor said, “As of today.”

“WHAT?!” Clara said.

“It’s the law now,” the supervisor said.

“WHAT THE HELL KIND OF LAW?!” Clara said.

The supervisor smugly looked at Clara. “THE law.”

“So what am I supposed to do?!” Clara said. “Just turn around and go home?”

“Yes,” the supervisor said.

“I did not spend all that money and come all the way here to hear you say no!” Clara said.

“No,” the supervisor said, “You gender traitors won’t censor me any further!”

“Clara, it’s okay,” Sylvia said, “We can just go home.”

“No, Sylv, you go,” Clara said, “I’ll find a way to join you in Scandinavia.”

“You sure?” Sylvia said.

“I promise,” Clara said, “They can’t keep us apart forever.”

Sylvia thought for a moment. A tear ran down her cheek.

“Promise me it won’t be for long,” Sylvia said, “For Oliver’s sake.”

“I promise,” Clara said.

She gave Sylvia a quick kiss.

“I’m sorry things didn’t go the way we planned, Sylv,” Clara said, “But we’ll see each other on the other side, and soon.”

“Of course, Clara,” Sylvia said, “I’ll see you there.”

She and Oliver turned and walked into the gate. Minutes later, the ticket agent closed the door with a resounding thud.
 

TheAnguishedOne

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Well, that was just depressing. At least we had the touching moment for Wilhelmina to balance things a little.
 

zenphoenix

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CaptainAlvious

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Ouch, I knew that things were about to get bad for LGBT people, but poor Clara and Syliva. Something tells me Clara won't be able to reunite with her family. At least its not like Oskar yet. Also, given how heteronormative the Committee seems to be, I'm now worried about what will happen to other LGBT+ groups like Trans, nonbinary and Asexual people in the Reich.:eek:

I bet Wilhelm Karl is really regretting all those homophobic remarks he said about Gay Marriage being legalized in Chapter 451 given what Elias is forcing him to do. Talk about careful what you wish for.

I get the feeling that Elias has worse plans in stores for Wilhelmina, but I take it repealing the Equal Rights Provision was targeted towards her on some level. Also, does this technically mean the Pragmatic Sanction is in force again since that was the law that officially ended it?

This update was pretty dark and depressing overall, as millions of Romans continue to have their rights taken away, but Wilhelmina's moment with her mom was nice. The fact Enonon seems to be connected to her gives me hope that one day she will save the Reich.
 

zenphoenix

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Ouch, I knew that things were about to get bad for LGBT people, but poor Clara and Syliva. Something tells me Clara won't be able to reunite with her family. At least its not like Oskar yet. Also, given how heteronormative the Committee seems to be, I'm now worried about what will happen to other LGBT+ groups like Trans, nonbinary and Asexual people in the Reich.:eek:
yet

Things are only going to get worse from here.
I bet Wilhelm Karl is really regretting all those homophobic remarks he said about Gay Marriage being legalized in Chapter 451 given what Elias is forcing him to do. Talk about careful what you wish for.
You reap what you sow.
I get the feeling that Elias has worse plans in stores for Wilhelmina, but I take it repealing the Equal Rights Provision was targeted towards her on some level. Also, does this technically mean the Pragmatic Sanction is in force again since that was the law that officially ended it?
Yes...and then some...
This update was pretty dark and depressing overall, as millions of Romans continue to have their rights taken away, but Wilhelmina's moment with her mom was nice. The fact Enonon seems to be connected to her gives me hope that one day she will save the Reich.
Her story is only just beginning...
 

zenphoenix

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Yes to the Pragmatic Sanction thing, this nullification act being vaguely directed towards Wilhelmina, or both?

She is a Hohenzollern and you have to deal with it!
While I didn’t have restoring the Pragmatic Sanction in mind when I wrote this, this nullification act effectively brings it back...and then goes even further, as you will see.

Elias, Han, and Zhao: “MARY SUE!”
 

TWR97

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It's all going further downhill and there's no end to the madness in sight. One has to wonder how will the Reich ever recover from this, assuming the so called committee is ever removed from power or ousted by vote. Elias has definitely lost it. The man is an utter lunatic.
 

zenphoenix

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The Law

Schulz Building, Berlin

Kevin walked up to Angelica’s desk.

“Yeah, Kevin?” Angelica said.

“So, uh, Moria called a meeting,” Kevin said.

“I suppose it’s our turn after the other divisions, huh?” Angelica said.

They got up and walked across the floor. Angelica noticed the doors to the outer hallway were flanked with Argus PMCs, as usual.

“Is it just me, or are there more of them here today?” she said.

“No, I see it too,” Kevin said, “What’s with these guys?”

“What happened to our building security?” Angelica said.

“Last I heard, they got bought out by Argus,” Kevin said.

“Explains a lot,” Angelica said, “So what’s this meeting about? Moria’s been having talks with every single division in the building all day. It has to be important.”

“I don’t know,” Kevin said, “But I saw a good number of the people in Cryptography leave the building at lunchtime with all of their stuff.”

“That’s…worrying,” Angelica said.

They reached Moria’s office. The rest of X-Division’s staff had crowded around the door since the office itself was too small for all of them. Moria set down a stool and stood up on it to look down on everyone.

“Agents,” he said, “May I have your attention? Is everyone here?”

The agents murmured a “yes.”

“Okay, good,” Moria said, “Now, in case you haven’t heard, the new Nullification Act requires me to do the following reorganization, and you should all know I feel really sorry about this.”

“Bull-scheiße,” Angelica whispered.

“With that in mind, I’m letting go of all of the women in this division,” Moria said, “Along with the following agents: Binyamin, Selim, Mbuna, and Kevin.”

“What?” Kevin said.

“What?!” Angelica said, along with half of the agents.

“It isn’t my decision, and I didn’t have a choice,” Moria said.

Yeah, because he wanted this to happen anyways.

“We’re being fired?!” Kevin said.

“No, you’re not being fired, so don’t expect any severance pay,” Moria said, “You can’t work here anymore.”

“What?” Angelica said.

“Especially you women,” Moria said, “The new Nullification Act forbids you from working. In any job.”

“ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” the women in the group shouted.

Moria casually shrugged. “Don’t look at me. It’s the law now.”

“What law, Moria?!” Angelica demanded.

“THE LAW,” Moria smugly replied, “Now pack up your things. I expect you to be out of here in half an hour. Any items you leave behind will be designated as government property and sold off in a Shepherds’ Brotherhood auction.”

“This is ridiculous!” Angelica said.

“Time’s a-wasting,” Moria said.


Half an hour later

Angelica had hastily put everything she had in a cardboard box she salvaged from the old X-Division office in the basement. She never thought the storage unit would come in handy, but then again these were unpredictable times. After making sure she had taken her hard drives and all of the data she gathered for her investigation, she headed for the exit. The other agents who had been fired had already lined up there, reluctantly handing their Athanatoi badges to the Argus guards stationed at the door. When it was her turn, Angelica looked at one of the Argus men and was shocked to see it was Josh, who simply smiled back at her with his smug look. Angelica shot a glare at him as she slowly handed her gun and badge to him.

“Your cooperation is appreciated,” Josh said, “Under His eye.”

“Go to hell,” Angelica said, “Don’t think this is over. I will get to the bottom of this.”

“Go ahead and try,” Josh said.


Wilhelmina’s house

There was a knock on Wilhelmina’s door. Her Varangian opened the door for Wilhelm Karl and Francesca.

“Uncle, auntie,” Wilhelmina said, “What a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Trust me, we don’t want to be here,” Francesca said.

“Why?” Wilhelmina said. “Because you can’t stand the sight of your upstart niece?”

“No, not that,” Wilhelm Karl said, “I…I don’t think I can explain right now. And I don’t think you’d accept my explanation, after what I have to say here.”

“And what do you have to say?” Wilhelmina said.

Several more Varangians entered the house.

“In my capacity as Kaiser of the Romans, I hereby strip you of all of your imperial titles,” Wilhelm Karl said, “Henceforth you are removed from the line of succession to the throne, as are all other women in the family. You are barred from using the ‘von’ honorific in any capacity, official or otherwise.”

“These Varangians are here to provide extra security for you,” Francesca said.

“No, I know they're here to make sure I don't leave,” Wilhelmina said, “So is that all?”

“Uh…you’re not that mad?” Wilhelm Karl said.

“I kind of expected this would happen after your latest decree,” Wilhelmina said.

“So what are you going to do now?” Francesca said.

“I might not be a princess now, but I’m still a Hohenzollern,” Wilhelmina said, “So don’t expect me to just shut up.”

Wilhelm Karl looked around nervously. Then he leaned closer and lowered his voice.

“I don’t want you to,” he said.

“What?” Wilhelmina said.

“Please, for all of our sakes, you have to keep speaking out,” Wilhelm Karl pleaded, “Please.”


Damascus

Alex arrived in the Jet Propulsion Lab auditorium. There, the other lab employees had already gathered around Director Rosen.

“Are we all here?” Rosen said. “Okay, let’s begin. I’m sure you heard the news surrounding the new Nullification Act. Unfortunately, it applies to us as well.”

The scientists murmured with concerned tones.

“Frak,” Thea said.

The news that morning had already been bad for her and Alex. Angela and Annie had been fired from their jobs earlier.

“So what’s going to happen?” Magnus said.

“Well…” Rosen said. “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to let the women, gays, and non-Christians go effective immediately.”

“Can’t you do anything about it?” Alexandra said.

“I tried, but my hands are tied,” Rosen said, “They left me no choice.”

“Who?” Thea said.

Rosen looked at the Argus personnel guarding the door.

“Look, I can make it up to the rest of you,” Rosen said, “Promotions, raises, anything.”

The men stayed silent. The offer did sound a little appealing to Alex. Many of the men around him were slowly beginning to nod in agreement. But he couldn’t shake off the feeling that accepting the offer was wrong. No, he couldn’t stay silent.

“Are you trying to buy us off?” he said.

“What?” Rosen said. “No, it’s my way of compensating—”

“You can compensate us by not firing them,” Alex said.

“As I said, I can’t do that,” Rosen said.

“If you can give us their jobs and salaries, you can give them back,” Alex said.

The Argus men stepped forward, hands on their assault rifles.

“You don’t understand!” Rosen said. “I had no choice!”

“You always had a choice,” Alex said, “You just didn’t take it. But I’m taking my choice. If this lab is going to be like this, then I don’t want to work here anymore. I quit.”

“Yeah, so do I,” Magnus said.

Most of the other men voiced their approval.

“So long, Rosen,” Alex said, “If you’re going to fire them, you’ll have to fire us all.”

Rosen sighed.

“I suppose I should, then,” Rosen said, “I think I can still get you all severance. It’s the least I can do.”

“Thank you,” Alex said.

Minutes later, he was at Thea’s desk, helping her pack her things. He reached into a desk drawer and found a thermos-sized mechanical part inside. It was the amphilicite analyzer from their particle accelerator.

“What are you doing?” Alex said.

“I’m not letting them get their hands on our invention,” Thea said, “You know what my brother would do with it, and you know he’s on his way.”

“So you’re stealing the analyzer?” Alex said.

“It won’t work without it,” Thea said, “We can just rebuild it somewhere else. They will not twist our creation into a weapon of war.”

Alex nodded. “Right. Let me help you with that then.”


Tesla Dynamic, Frankfurt

A large crowd had gathered in the lobby of the Tesla Dynamic headquarters, with a protective line of Argus personnel clearing a path for police officers to head to the front door, leading a handcuffed Mina behind them. Theodor waited at the door, looking smug as always.

“How could you, Theodor?!” Mina said. “Pushing all these laws just to punish me? Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!”

“I’ve saved the Reich from falling to equalism,” Theodor said, “And I’ve taken back my company from your incompetence at the same time. Two birds with one stone. You should be thanking me, Mina. I’m going to make this company great again, along with my country.”

“The only thing you’re doing is digging your own grave!” Mina said.

“Funny,” Theodor said, “Because I’m not the one being led away in chains to the custody of her five-year-old great-grandson right now.”

“This isn’t over, Theodor!” Mina said.

“On the contrary, it is,” Theodor said, mockingly waving, “Buh-bye!”

The police pushed Mina out the door, stuffed her into a police car, and drove away. Theodor casually straightened his tie and took the elevator back up to his office. He sat at his desk, where the data core from the other side had been placed, its knowledge waiting to be unlocked. He typed in the usual password, but a red light beeped.
INCORRECT PASSWORD.
ATTEMPTS REMAINING BEFORE FULL DATA WIPE: 1.
KEEP OUT. THIS MEANS YOU, THEODOR.
-Mina
Theodor slammed his fist against his desk. “DAMN YOU!”

His phone rang. He picked it up.

“Yes?” he said.

“We’ve secured the accelerator you specified, sir,” a technician said.

“Good," Theodor said, "Finally some welcome news.”

“Unfortunately, a part seems to be missing,” the technician said.

“What?!” Theodor said. “What part?”

“The amphilicite analyzer,” the technician said.

“Thea,” Theodor said, “Of course you’d do this. No matter, I expected this. Use the replacement analyzer I sent with you.”

“Of course,” the technician said, “One moment.”

Theodor heard the noises of tools whirring for a minute.

“The analyzer is installed,” the technician said.

“Conduct a test run,” Theodor said, “Now.”

“On it,” the technician said.

Theodor heard some beeping and whirring, followed by a loud buzz and alarm.

“What was that?” he said.

“It appears…the accelerator malfunctioned,” the technician said.

“Well, fix it!” Theodor said.

“How?” the technician said. “I installed the analyzer exactly as your schematic described!”

“I don’t care, I want that accelerator up and running!” Theodor said.

“Sir, be patient!” the technician said.

“Maybe you should be less lazy and defeatist if you want to keep your job!” Theodor said.

“Okay, okay!” the technician said.

Theodor waited another minute. Then he heard an explosion, and the call cut off.

“DAMNIT!” he said.

---

Edit: Fixed quote formatting issue.
 
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