NationStates • View topic - The Wretched of the Earth [Closed: Valkia] (2024)

Vespero
Central Barboneia

”Both local and federal authorities continue to pursue leads into the origin of the Brunswick Heikkinen bombing in Vespero. No suspects or groups have been named in the investigation thus far, though it is believed to be related to the ongoing NorthTrans 2 Pipeline protests, one such rally occurring in the city at the same time as the bombing. Both the Vespero Police Department and the Commonwealth National Security Bureau have declined to comment.”

“Joel? Is that you?”

Beside a police blockade marking the end of the cordoned-off area in front of the Brunswick Heikkinen regional headquarters in Vespero, a middle-aged man positively identifiable as a CNSB agent leaned against his car, a cigarette in one hand and his cellphone in the other. He looked up from watching the news broadcast as his name was called, and he smiled as he recognized Special Agent Nicholas Vestergaard of the Pääkaupunki branch approaching, shining back a smile of his own.

“Holy sh*t, they must be really desperate to solve this thing if they sent you up here,” he teased as he was pulled into a tight hug by the tall North Lander, who simply chuckled and shook his head.

“Yeah, f*ck you too, Joel,” Nick replied as he let go of his friend, before giving him a soft punch to the shoulder. “Doesn’t look like they’re holding anything back. How many boots we got here?” he asked as he looked over Joel’s shoulder at the scene.

What had once been a typical, unassuming Barboneian business district street now resembled a warzone. Nearly every window on the Brunswick Heikkinen building’s facade facing the street had been shattered, and the mostly glass and steel front leading into the lobby had been blown inwards. The spot where the van had been parked was now a crater in the concrete, scorch marks radiating out from it, and a number of damaged pipes and underground wiring revealed to the surface. A line of cars was parked opposite the building along the curb, most covered in debris and loose paper like everything else on the street. Dozens of police officers, CNSB agents, and emergency workers were milling around the wreckage, either talking amongst themselves or looking through the rubble.

Joel shrugged. “Well… Basically everyone except the Director from my branch is out here right now, or chasing down leads. We got a squad from Grestin, and one from Keskusta. Talecton sent two. How many did Director Sillanpää send up here?”

“Besides myself… Greta, Jooseppi, and Cascadia.”

Joel cringed slightly. “Varis? Christ, I didn’t think he’d be showing his face outside of the South again ever since the thing with Director Kaupo.”

Nick raised an eyebrow. “That really got around, huh?” Joel smirked slightly, and nodded. “Well, Jooseppi is… Temperamental, but he’s a good agent. Seriously.”

“Uh huh. Whatever you say, Nick.” Joel scratched the side of his scruffy face slightly, before glancing back up at Nick. “Where are they all, anyways?”

“Greta had to find someplace to park. I decided to walk.”

“Sounds like you,” Joel joked. Nick rolled his eyes in response, before spying his retinue approaching the scene from the other end of the street, and appearing to talk to a senior agent.

“I better join them,” Nick said, and Joel nodded.

“Yeah, probably. Hey, let’s try and grab a beer before you leave town, eh? I know a good place with a great view of the Barbonas.”

“I’ll hold you to it,” Nick replied with a smile and a final nod of his head as he left to rejoin his group. As he watched Nick leave, Joel reached into his coat to pull out another cigarette.

“...f*cking nightmare. Complete f*cking nightmare! Thousands, no, hundreds of thousands trying to leave the city all at once. Like, there’s rush hour, and then there’s this sh*t. Oh, the police tried, believe me, but there was no way, no way-”

As Nick approached the group, he recognized the flustered man speaking as Senior Special Agent Valdemar Kirdan of the Vespero branch. He was in his mid forties, short, balding, and from Nick’s memory, fairly incompetent. How he had managed to achieve SSA was a question that often plagued those unfortunate enough to be stuck working beneath him. Beside him were two agents Nick didn’t recognize, a burly, bored looking man with a neatly trimmed red beard, and a thin, nervous looking young woman with brown hair tied into a ponytail. Valdemar was speaking to Greta, Jooseppi, and Cascadia, Greta seeming to listen intently while Jooseppi glowered at the man and Cascadia appearing to stare off in a bit of a daze, which wasn’t too unusual of an expression for her.

“Ah! You must be Agent Vestergaard, yes?” Valdemar asked as he quickly turned to look at Nick and took his hand to shake it forcefully, his own quite clammy. “I was just informing your comrades here of how the investigation has been going, and what has been found so far.” Valdemar cleared his throat, and Jooseppi let out a groan.

“As you can probably guess, it is very likely this was perpetrated by Jezerskilender nationalists. I mean, it’s all there… The Brunswick Heikkinen building, Brunswick Heikkinen being protested at the moment, the protest occurring as a perfect cover… It all makes sense, right? Now, of course, our responsibility is finding who specifically performed the act, and ending this little movement of theirs before it gets even further out of control!” He looked slightly wild-eyed as he glanced at his two subordinates, as well as the Pääkaupunki agents.

“Well… Do we have any leads so far?” Nick asked. Valdemar’s face went flush.

“Uh…”

“The on-site security director was able to recover footage of the van shortly before it detonated,” the bearded man said as he looked at Nick with a nod. “He’s been speaking to the police for a while now. One of his men was killed in the blast.”

“Thank you. Agent…?”

“Skjöldur Cederstrom. A pleasure, Agent Vestergaard.”

Nick nodded back, before glancing at Valdemar, who was dabbing at his sweaty brow with a handkerchief. “This is your city, Agent Kirdan. We’ll follow whatever direction you want us to focus on,” he said, though Valdemar shook his head.

“Ah, well… Skjöldur’s, uh, words are true. Follow up with the security director, see what you four can find out, and we’ll be happy to provide whatever support we can. Right?” He looked over at Skjöldur and the woman, who both nodded, though the woman let out what sounded like a slight whine. “...What, Katri?”

“T-There were the explosives recovered in Mahtava, by Honkala’s team… I was thinking it may be related to t-the bombing here.” The surrounding agents stared at her blankly.

“You didn’t think to bring that up until now?” Valdemar asked with slight irritation.

“I-I thought someone else would have made the connection by now…” Katri replied with a sigh.

“...Well, regardless, my team will see what we can find regarding these recovered explosives, I suppose. See what you can get from the security director, Agent Vestergaard.” Valdemar gestured for his two subordinates to follow as he walked away from the Pääkaupunki agents. Jooseppi cleared his throat.

“...Why is he talking like you’re in charge?” he grumbled. Nick merely turned and smirked.

At the end of the street opposite where Nick arrived, a makeshift memorial had been erected along a cleared off part of the sidewalk. Candles and flowers had been placed around numerous photographs of the deceased, along with notes of grief and other small gifts. A man clad in the uniform of the Extra Territorial Group stood before it, his arms folded, while an officer of the Vespero Police Department stood beside him, speaking in a quiet, reverent tone as he too took in the memorial. As the CNSB agents approached, the officer noticed them and nodded his head, causing the security director to look up. “Good talking to you, Leiv,” he said quietly as he gave the group some privacy.

The security director stepped toward Nick, a hand extended. “Leiv Linderoth. Security Director for the Brunswick Heikkinen Vespero branch.” He had an unassuming and forgettable face so typical of those who work among the offices of Barboneia, though his was currently marred by a deep frown and semi-circles of black rings beneath his eyes, betraying the fact that he has likely not slept in days. Nick took his hand into a firm shake all the same, nodding.

“I’m sorry about your man, Leiv. But I’m hoping you can help us nonetheless.” Leiv blinked, glancing back at the memorial, and at two faces in particular, a smiling young fellow in an ETG uniform, the crimson of his hat and epaulets contrasting well with his bright green eyes, and a young woman in a similar uniform, straw-gold hair tied back into a ponytail. He let out a sigh.

“It was, uh, two actually,” he said quietly, in a slightly strained voice. “Daavid didn’t stand a chance, he… He was walking towards the van when it went off. We had to identify him by his… Teeth. They ended up on the other side of the road.” He shook his head, closing his eyes momentarily. “Jesca, she… The blast sent her right into a support pillar. Head first. Internal bleeding.” He let out a sigh. “It’s… It’s a small thing, but… I’m thankful it was only five people dead. I mean… Death isn’t something anyone should be thankful for, but…” he trailed off, staring blankly at the photos.

“I understand what you meant, Leiv, we don’t need to talk about it anymore,” Nick said, placing a hand on his shoulder and offering him a smile. “Agent Cederstrom tells me your department was able to get footage of the van?” Leiv nodded, motioning for the agents to follow him to a VPD van parked nearby, one of the sliding doors opened to reveal what seemed like a command center of sorts, a number of monitors and computer towers set up within the interior. Leiv climbed up and spun one of the screens around to face the agents, the security footage file already open.

Less than twenty-four hours ago, the street in front of the Brunswick Heikkinen building appeared identical save for the obvious lack of debris or evidence of an explosive having gone off. Pedestrians and motorists crossed the screen, the security camera seemingly positioned just above the lobby entrance offering a wide view of the surrounding area. The time was dated to a little after twelve in the afternoon, and driving slowly up the street was a red and yellow rental van that pulled onto the sidewalk in front of the building, which wasn’t too unusual for vehicles unloading. The hazards flashed on, and a man with a face concealed by a baseball cap and sunglasses, as well as a cheap plastic medical mask, exited, looking around briefly before walking down the street in the direction of the main thoroughfare, seemingly pulling out a phone to speak to someone. The van sat there for approximately two minutes before a young security guard approached it from the direction of the lobby. Just before reaching it, the screen flashed white as the explosives detonated and the camera was destroyed in the blast, cutting to a blue screen with the message No Visual Feed Available.

“Jesus…” Greta mumbled, glancing at Nick, who returned a slightly worried expression.

“So, all we’ve got is the van, it looks like. ‘U-Rent-It’... We’ll have to see which one it came from specifically based off of the license plate. How many are in the city?” Nick asked Leiv.

“Three. But… Who knows, they could’ve switched plates, or the VIN, or… Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter, you guys will figure it out, right?” Leiv replied, rubbing his head slightly, letting out a sigh.

“We will, I assure you. We’ll get to the bottom of this. Thanks, Leiv.” Nick nodded to him, and Leiv turned to stare back at the screens as the agents stepped away from the van. Nick folded his arms, looking between Greta, Jooseppi, and Cascadia. “Alright, looks like we got our work cut out for us. We’ll split up, see what we can find at each location, then reconvene back at the Vespero branch. Sounds good?” Jooseppi and Cascadia nodded, and Greta smiled at her partner. Nick glanced at Jooseppi. “We’ll drop you and Cascadia off at the branch first, hopefully they’ll have a car you guys can borrow.”

Jooseppi grimaced.

East Vespero
Central Barboneia

There was a series of three quick, loud knocks on the front door of a modest two-story home in a quiet suburb in East Vespero. A grey-eyed man opened it and was greeted by the sight of Jooseppi leaning with one arm against the door frame, holding his ID badge forward, while Cascadia stood behind him, her arms folded. Jooseppi’s eyes were narrowed as he looked the man up and down.

“...Hi,” the man said with a light, unphased smile.

“...Hi,” Jooseppi replied, blinking a bit before standing up straight and folding his arms.

There was an awkward silence for a few moments as the men stared at each other.

“...Can I help you?” the grey-eyed man asked, his smile remaining.

“Martin Turunen, right? Manager of the East Vespero U-Rent-It?” Jooseppi asked, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s right. How can I help you?”

“I’m Special Agent Jooseppi Varis. My partner is Special Agent Cascadia Piedmont. We have evidence that one of the rental vehicles from your lot was used in the transport of an improvised explosive device that was detonated in front of the Brunswick Heikkinen building on Saturday. May we come in?”

Martin’s smile dropped very slightly, though it was hard to notice.

“I heard about that. Pretty unfortunate, but I’m not sure why you’d think I was involved.”

“You’re a Jezerskilender, are you not?”

“Is that a crime now?” He seemed to regain his confidence a bit, folding his arms.

“No, it’s not. It’s just… Well, you know. Your community has been protesting Brunswick Heikkinen for a while now due to the pipeline.”

“So I’ve heard.”

Jooseppi cleared his throat, and he was beginning to grow annoyed. “May we come in?”

“I’m guessing I don’t have much of a choice?” Martin smirked.

Jooseppi smiled slightly. “Oh, you have a choice, Mr. Turunen. You can let us in now, we’ll take a quick look around your house, and that’ll be the end of it. Or you can deny us entry, which is well within your rights. In that case, we’ll come back with a warrant to search the premises in a few hours, except it won’t just be my partner and I. We’ll have a Rapid Response Unit accompanying us, who’ll break down your door, handcuff you to the ground with a gun to your back, and ransack the place to find anything that may incriminate you. So, what’ll it be?”

Martin frowned, let out a slight sigh, and stepped aside to let the two agents in. Jooseppi looked around the fairly spartan entryway, noting a neatly organized shoe stand as well as a coat rack from which a Barbone Landing Pioneers ballcap hung. “You live by yourself, Mr. Turunen?” he asked idly as he picked the cap up and examined it. Cascadia stepped past both of them to look around further within the home.

“Yes. Is there a reason why you’re taking an interest in my… Hat?” Martin replied.

“Security footage recovered from the scene of the bombing showed the suspect wearing a cap, but it wasn’t like this one.” Jooseppi hung the hat back up, turning to look at Martin. “Where were you on Saturday?”

“Not at work. We’re closed on the weekends. Maybe someone broke in and stole one of our vans,” Martin suggested with a slight smile.

“...We’ll look into that. But I very much doubt it, Mr. Turunen.”

“Well, whatever you find out, I’d like to know, seeing as it’s my branch we’re talking about.”

The two men stared at each other, before Jooseppi walked into the living room, slowly followed by Martin. Again, it was quite spartan, the furniture mostly out of a Värde catalog, cheap and utilitarian in nature. However, Jooseppi did note that there were a large number of houseplants, both in pots on the ground and on shelves around the room. There was also a framed photograph placed subtly between an orchid and a succulent. Jooseppi moved in closer to examine it.

It appeared to be Martin, seemingly younger at that point, wearing fatigues and clutching an assault rifle, standing on a vast, wintery plain next to a road sign that had seemingly been vandalized by North Landers. “POHJOISET MAAT”, with an arrow pointing left, and ”UUSI GÖTEBORG”, with an arrow pointing right, were both written on the sign, with the lettering for Barboneia having been crossed out with black spray paint, and the word “sh*thole” added in its place. There was also a strange, carving-like illustration that seemed to represent a fox’s head.

“You served in the war, Mr. Turunen?”

“Most men my age did.”

Raivaajakomppania, right?”

Martin stared at Jooseppi for a few moments, before smiling slightly. “You’ve done your research, Agent.”

“Well, it’s sort of my job. So you can imagine my surprise when I read that part in your file, seeing as a fairly powerful explosive was set off, one likely built from Commonwealth munitions, which you would be intimately familiar with. Am I right?”

Martin chuckled a bit. “Please, Agent… I haven’t touched anything of the sort since my time in the Army. I’m just a middle manager for a national rental company. I understand where you’re coming from in thinking I was involved with this bombing nonsense, but do you really think I care so much for, what, a few towns out on the moors being bulldozed to make way for a pipeline that I’d kill people?” He shook his head. “I’m a Jezerskilender, Agent Varis. Of course I’m not happy with current events. But I’d never even consider resorting to terrorism.”

Jooseppi narrowed his eyes, and opened his mouth as though he were going to say something, before Cascadia returned, grumbling. “The house is clean, J. As far as I can tell, ‘least. Looked under his bed and in cabinets and whatever. No weapons, no, like, terror paraphernalia, nothin’.” She threw a glare at Martin, before glancing at Jooseppi. “We still need to follow up on the other branch employees.”

Jooseppi blinked, staring at Cascadia for a moment, before turning back to Martin. “...Thank you for your time, Mr. Turunen. We’ll be in contact if we need any more information from you.” With that, the duo left his house, Jooseppi looking visibly upset as they made their way to a blacked out sedan. Martin watched as they entered the car and drove off, and he let out a sigh of relief. After staring out his living room window for a few more moments, watching as a few scant flurries began to fall to the earth from the quickly darkening sky, he drew the shades closed and sat down on his couch, pulling his phone out and tapping out a number.

“Ivar? It’s Martin. I just had a visit from the Security Bureau.”

Crnavoda
Central Barboneia

“...You’re absolutely positive they didn’t find anything?”

Ivar was astounded by the speed at which the squall moved across the moor. Only an hour ago the sun was peeking through a layer of clouds as he left the mill, having been asked to come in and finish some paperwork left over from the work week. Now, he could barely see a dozen meters in front of him as the snow swirled around his truck, one hand on the steering wheel and the other holding his phone to his ear.

“...The storage locker? …Owned by a cousin? Alright, if you think that’s smart. He’s one of us, right…? Ok.”

As he turned onto his street, he glanced out the window to see Usko Pedersen shoveling his driveway. The man was tightly bundled up, and he raised his head as the truck approached. He gave a wave, and Ivar returned it, briefly letting go of the steering wheel to do so before turning his attention back to the worsening roads.

“I know you wouldn’t say anything, Martin. I’m glad Jorgen told me about you. And as long as they don’t suspect me… I mean, why would they, right? I- The hell?”

Ivar slowed his truck as he noticed the car of Nilse Ikonen, a friend of his son’s, parked in the driveway of his house. It had already accumulated quite a bit of snow, so it must’ve been there for a while.

“...Salonen? Yeah, I think Jalo mentioned it… Look, Martin, I gotta go, alright? Let me know if anything else develops. Otherwise, we’ll talk again on Tuesday, yeah?”

He pulled to a stop in front of his house, parking on the street, and did his best to pull his flannel jacket closer around himself before stepping out into the blizzard. He quickly trudged up to his door, grumbling, and opened it, only to be shocked as Nilse slammed full force into him. He held the boy back a bit, an eyebrow raised.

“Nilse, what on earth are you doing?” he asked in bewilderment, before looking up at the strangers in his home and quickly moving the boy behind him. “...Who are you and what do you want?”

“...Nilse, get out. Drive safely.”

“But the storm-” Nilse blurted out, before being silenced by a glare from Ivar.

“If you wish to remain in the company of my… Guests, then you’re more than welcome to, but I suggest you leave. Now. And not a word of this to Edward. Understand?”

Nilse nodded, as did his companions, and they quickly filed out of the house.

“Dude, I think I left my vape inside…”

“Shut up, Bjart.”

Ivar turned to his wife, and gave her a tight hug. “They didn’t touch you, did they?” he whispered, keeping her close. She shook her head. “Alright. Good.” He sniffed the air, looking towards the kitchen, before glancing back down at her. “Hernekeitto? Why don’t you make something, ah… More appropriate for our North Lander guests’ palates?”

“You still have those venison steaks from your last hunt,” she mumbled, nodding her head. “Sure, Ivar. Sure. But what are you going to-”

“I’ll handle them, Irma, don’t worry. I’ll just… Talk to them.” He gave her a quick kiss, before letting her go, and she quickly moved past the North Landers back to the kitchen. Ivar stared at the assembled group, before gesturing for them to follow him. Built into the wall beneath the staircase leading upstairs was a door with a few post-it notes stuck to it, and Ivar opened it, revealing a second flight of stairs leading to a basem*nt.

As the ensemble came down the steps, a short chain on the ceiling was pulled, flooding the room with fluorescent light and revealing its contents. It was a sturdy-looking basem*nt, surprisingly cozy and dry, a few shelves sat beneath the staircase filled with various canned goods and non-perishables, as well as miscellaneous household items like paper towels, spare batteries, and the like. There was a closed, high, small window that looked outside, though it was presently completely covered in snow, blocking any natural light from coming in, and beneath it was a workbench scattered with a few woodworking tools and a presently unfinished birdhouse. Opposite this area was a second workbench apparently set up for gunsmithing, a reloading press and a few containers of empty cartridges sitting on it, as well as various cleaning supplies and an at the moment disassembled rifle. Above it was an entire wall of firearms, mostly similar rifles, as well as shotguns and pistols. A shelf directly to the right of it held a few boxes of ammunition of all different calibers. In front of the work bench, in the center of the room, was a wide, long table with a map of Central Barboneia rolled out on it. A line had been drawn in marker showing the planned route of the NorthTrans pipeline, with it prominently cutting right through Crnavoda, acknowledged on the map with a small, insignificant dot. Various print outs of Grestin Oil Union and Barboneian Petroleum webpages had been scattered across the table, some reading off official press briefings and social media releases, others showing the official pipeline route released by the companies, as well as pictures of the currently in-construction sections of the pipeline in the Northern Lands.

A red circle had been drawn around Vespero on the map, and a puukko had been stuck through it into the table. SECONDARY had been scrawled onto the map beside it. A semi-automatic pistol lay quite close, and Ivar reached down to grab it, ejecting the magazine in a swift motion and checking it.

“You know, Barboneians aren’t exactly known to offer guests dinner. Weird cultural thing, I guess.” He shrugged, pulling the slide back on the pistol as he inspected it. “Then again, I suppose I’m not much of a Barboneian.” He glanced up at Yukon and her group, narrowing his eyes. “I’m not sure what your plan was, exactly, bringing my wife and my son’s friends into this. But I don’t appreciate it.” He released the slide and quickly inserted the magazine… Before placing the pistol back down, and folding his arms, leaning against the gunsmithing bench.

“What, exactly, do you know about what I want, Captain?”

“Enough.” Yukon replied, a sly smirk drawn across her face as she idly glanced around the room, “It’s not as if these lands are the first ones that the Lake Landers would trample underneath their heels, though, perhaps it’s the first one where they tried to offer coin before razing it to the ground.”

“What I don’t know is, for such a bold declaration of war, why you stayed your hand.” Her eyes came to rest upon Ivar’s own, her grin shifting into a listless, bemused expression, “In that regard, I don’t know what you want—whether you want to bleed the Lake Landers or just have them sit uncomfortably at your table.”

“I want them out of my people’s lands,” Ivar said, shaking his head. “I want them to leave us alone. We’ve lived under them for, what, close to three hundred years? And yet, they almost let us self govern. We policed ourselves, we made wealth for ourselves, but slowly, they forced us in like… Some sort of misguided paternalistic promise of ‘giving us better lives’, as if living for ourselves was such a bad thing. Oh, sure, they’ve tried to buy lands from us before. Private entities, the government itself… But you know what they want now? They want to wipe away whole towns. Erase us.” He gestured vaguely at the map before him, towards the Hassag Moors and eastern Central Barboneia in general.

“A town can’t exist with a pipeline running through it. And they don’t intend for towns to exist where it’ll be. Where does that leave the Jezerskilenders and the Veranprijatelj? Oh, sure, we could move into the towns that are left alone, but however long would that take, to build new homes, to fit in where we’ve never been? Or do we flee to their cities, and expect to make new lives mostly among those who care little for us?”

Ivar rested a hand against his chin, as if in thought. “I suppose I stayed my hand, because… Well…” He shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess… I wanted to show both the Barboneian government and Brunswick Heikkinen that they would have a bit more resistance to their plans than just people shouting into megaphones from the backs of flatbed trucks.” He locked eyes with Yukon. “I don’t think secession is an option. There’s only so many of us, even if we had your support. But a campaign of terror? Something to convince Brunswick and their government lackeys that this whole thing isn’t worth it?” He smiled slightly. “That might be exactly what we need. The bombing would just be the beginning. The other branches across Central Barboneia… The constructions they’re planning in the Wildlands… Hell, their headquarters... The possibilities…”

Ivar closed his eyes briefly, before looking back at her. “...But I’d like to hear what you think, and what you could offer. And… What you would want in return. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m not exactly a Hellquist…” Ivar smirked a bit.

Yukon stared at the man, pausing to take in what was essentially his manifesto, before returning her own smirk and sighing in relief, “I have to say, if you answered with some vague morality like the South Landers do, I would probably have shot you where you stood and be done with it—but I heard what I needed to hear.”

“If you’re willing to bloody your hands, then we are kindred spirits—and I suppose, more relevant to you—the Lake Landers don’t have enough mettle to force the issue if they have to crawl over their own bodies.” She mused, gesturing in some nondescript direction westward, “Afterall, it only took us around a mere dozen winters before they stopped sending proper expeditions into the North Lands, and that was where they could raze and slaughter entire towns while continuing to live in blissful ignorance of their actions—imagine what would happen if we stacked their carcasses higher at home?”

The thought seemed to pique a genuine sense of glee from the woman, holding out a hand idly at one of her companions, who simply handed her a canister which she placed upon Ivar’s bench. Turning it around, the faded words painted on its side became only too prominent—miscellaneous production numbers, and the bolder ‘SMOKE WP’ fashioned above them.

“I think that being inside of the Lake Lands, and with that motivation, you can spill far more blood than we did over all those winters. You could introduce the Lake Landers to something that they hadn’t experienced in the North Lands; the smell of burning flesh, the glow of razed homes, the fear of even closing their eyes at night—dragging them from their peaceful lull into the nightmare that they’ve ignored for so long.” Yukon explained with a firm and decisive resolution, staring deep into Ivar’s eyes, and perhaps, beyond them, “The wars over the North Lands are long over, and I’m afraid I don’t have such noble goals such as driving them from my homeland—I want revenge. I want them to bleed. I want them to understand that it is not their privilege to dictate when we’re finished—it’s mine.”

“I’m offering to turn what collection of militia you have in the hinterlands into a formidable unit—to protect them, to train them, to equip them—in exchange for striking deep into the softest bits of the Lake Lands that we could never have dreamed of.” She continued, tapping the grenade on the bench for emphasis, “When the Lake Landers wake up to the war in the North Lands upon their own shores? When the Lake Landers see that the strategies that served them so well in the North Lands fail? When the Lake Landers see us in the shadows, in the corner of their sight, and every time they close their eyes? That is when I will be satisfied.”

The North Lander took a deep breath, calming herself down, before offering a sly grin, “I’m sorry if our offer is unreasonable, but I don’t think I’m asking for something out of your reach, Ivar.”

Ivar gingerly lifted the grenade from the bench, and looked it over idly. “Commonwealth production?” he mused, before glancing up at Yukon. “So, essentially, it sounds like you’d like the privilege of killing as many Barboneians as you want while you help us get them to leave the Jezerskilender and Veranprijatelj population alone.” He tossed the canister into the air, before easily catching it back in his hand. “Sounds like it’ll be a lot cheaper than paying you,” he said with a smirk.

Ivar leaned forward a bit, and placed the grenade down on the table with the map, next to his pistol. “Other than myself, of course, there aren’t too many of us I’m afraid. There’s Martin Turunen, who’s been pretty essential in organizing the bombing… Jorgen Karvonen, Jalo Beloglazov, Jurian Bokhorst… Er, let me not name everyone individually, uh… Of the people we can trust, some who know about the bombing, some who don’t, but people we’d know would be willing to fight, and give up their lives if it means there’s a chance at keeping our towns free…” He scratched at the side of his face a bit. “...I’d say you’d have a force of about three hundred men. Can you do anything with that?”

He glanced down at the map, and pointed at the large dot representing Mahtava. “Also, I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the other week the Commonwealth National Security Bureau raided the warehouse of an arms dealer who was supplying us with explosives and some arms, as well as pretty much every other criminal group in the country. Now his organization has gone dark. My guess is, cutting loose ends and whoever may’ve squealed, but now the only weapons we have are basically personal arms, like what I’ve got for hunting, and maybe a few dozen rifles from the vets who served in the war, but that’s it. Martin’s got some explosives left, too, but they’re only really good for IEDs from what I’ve seen; Vespero was his doing, by the by.” Ivar smiled.

“But, sorry, I’m rambling a bit. I’m assuming you’ll be able to get all the arms you need… However you need to, I guess.” He shrugged. “How the hell did you manage to get in the country, anyways? They keep the western border pretty tight, especially with all the smuggling that’s been going on, or so I heard.”

“If there’s a lot of smuggling going on, then the border’s not very tight, is it?” Yukon answered in a roundabout way, almost smirking as she answered, “This isn’t the South Lands—everyone has their price, it’s just the question of what and how much. In our case, the western border is expansive, and it’s not as if the Lake Landers can patrol every inch of it. Those that try—especially alone—and isolated in the wilderness? Well… it ended up saving us a bit of a walk until the end, so I can’t complain.”

Her gaze shifted to the map—to Mahtava, Vespero, and Crnavoda—taking in their relative positions, before she glanced back up at Ivar, “Arms won’t be an issue. Hell, considering the effort it took to obtain our stockpile in the first place, something like crossing into the Lake Lands is nothing but a brisk walk in comparison—and three hundred men to hold them? An entire company behind the enemy? I couldn’t ask for a better outcome.”

“That said, we will need to work fast. I was not aware that the Lake Landers were so competent that they’re already tracking down arms dealers—perhaps not competent enough to focus on any particular one—but that does mean it’s only a matter of time until they come around by process of elimination. We were able to track you down—the Lake Landers with vastly more resources cannot be far behind.” Yukon frowned, huffing out a sigh before continuing, “It’s fine. They’ll come in force, but they’ll be cautious after your attack on Vespero, so that gives us time to prepare. The Lake Landers will be expecting a handful of hunters with some surplus explosives—not the equivalent of a North Lands mercenary band.”

The North Lander tapped her finger on the map repeatedly, almost incessantly, as she played out the situation in her head, “If the majority of your people are willing to protect their towns, then we will protect them—at the very least, we can make the Lake Landers severely regret stepping foot in them. For people like Martin, Jorgo, Julian, Jaro, and the others; we can arrange a decent expeditionary force. I am sure that they are far more willing to take the war to the Lake Landers rather than wait for the war to come to them—we can work with that.”

“My men—the White Battalion—can handle anything like Lake Lander soldiers or the long-ears to the east. If anything, we’re already planning on fighting both. All you have to do is keep striking deep in the Lake Lands while they’re preoccupied, and scare off the stragglers who’ll come around eventually.” Her eyes snapped to Ivars, “Well? Do you think your men are capable of that, at least? Becoming guerillas—saboteurs behind enemy lines?”

Ivar nodded along to her words, though he appeared to cringe slightly at her horrible butchering of his friends’ names. Nevertheless, he smiled at her last query, and gave a final nod. “Captain Yukon, with your help, I think we’re going to be able to achieve some great things.” He grabbed the grenade off of the table and held it out to her, as if to fully seal their alliance. “I’ll get word down the grapevine before the week is out. Martin’s already been planning the next strike, and I don’t think a visit by the feds has discouraged him much.” He blinked. “Oh, I told my wife to cook up some venison steaks for you and your men. I’d be happy to actually have you as guests for dinner, if you’d like.”

“We’ll begin carrying out our own preparations as soon as we depart from here. What’s coming is quite a few winters overdue, and our own people are only too eager to begin seeing things through. It will be slower for us, but you should begin to see arms and manpower coming in force within a moon’s time.” Yukon smiled, taking the grenade in hand as a sign of acceptance, before idly shouldering her rifle, “We would be honored to have dinner with you and your wife, Ivar, in the meantime…”

“Afterall, the storm is far from the end—it’s only the beginning.”

NationStates • View topic - The Wretched of the Earth [Closed: Valkia] (2024)

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