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GATE: The Janus Campaign


And the last official omake to date is a little short by SpaceKoKonut

Lessons in Bureaucracy

Gabel Ze Huntel stared at the small mountain of paper on the table in front of him.

“Is something the matter sir?” The soldier-clerk, Sanches, the tag in her uniform provided, asked in what Gabel identified as professional courtesy

“Oh no! Not at all! It’s just-“ Gabel dismissed sheepshily

“Too much paperwork?” Sanches said, raising an eyebrow as she provided the merchant a pencil

“...Well, yes”

Sanches gave a mirthless chuckle “Oh, you haven't seen the last guy who brought blasting powder through. He stayed here for five hours. That reminds me...” She reached under his table

As Gabel began writing, the woman across from him put a half-full clear bottle of what was clearly alcohol on the table. “What is... this for?” The merchant tentatively asked

Sanches took a swig of the sweet smelling liquid “Trust me, doing these-” she pointed to the papers “-in triplicate will grate on any person’s nerves”

The merchant gave a shrug “I share the feeling”

Then I have to go get it approved by my company’s CO, who has to get it approved by his CO on the battalion level. Then, and only then, is it approved. In your case. Otherwise it goes up to Regimental and/or Brigade level for approval, like with that poor blasting powder guy”

Gabel stared at the blonde woman in utter disbelief, he knew Saderan bureaucracy could be bad at the worst of times and if these Otherworlders organized anything like the empire, some of these papers went straight to a Primus or a Praefectus! Just how did they get anything done?!

“Just how do you get-?”

The woman smiled “We just do. If we don’t, it would be a problem of accountability”

Gabel decided that his mind could do without thinking on the minutia of Otherworlder paperwork, for the well-being of his sanity.

That evening the merchant found himself drinking copious amounts of wine on one of the local taverns.
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Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
I'm kind of afraid if I let up I'll let this story fizzle out.

Speaking of stories, I saw your 'Iron Pact' in the edits for TV Tropes Gate page but not added. What's the deal with that?
A stupid rule about not recommending your own fanfics sadly enough. :( I was thinking of working on a TVTropes page but... that didn't really go anywhere.
Chapter 29: Mama Mia! (Here We Go Again!) Part 1


]Chapter 29: Mama Mia! (Here We Go Again!) Part 1

It was morning and the alarm by Taylor’s bedside sounded only briefly before being ruthlessly silenced. Taylor had little doubt as to the finality of the alarm clock’s fate as his eyes focused on Aurelia and the savagely satisfied glare she was giving at the wreckage of her enemy.

“Aurelia?” Taylor spoke as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

“Yes, My Lord?” She could not quite get the touch of satisfaction out of her voice.

There just wasn’t any fighting it and besides, it had been a cheap alarm anyway. “Nicely done.”

“Thank you, My Lord.” The smirk was evident in her voice.

Still, it was time to disassemble the tangle of bodies as everyone started to rouse. At the center of it all, Taylor couldn’t move until enough of the rest of the pile got up. Aurelia was naturally already up. She walked over to the remains of the alarm clock and after giving one last satisfied look, scooped it up and unceremoniously dropped it in the trash. Aenaire now slowly got up, gently waking her son.

“Galador, time to get up now. We have a busy day ahead!”

Her son nodded and came alive as if someone had flipped a switch, much in the same fashion that children greet any anticipated day.

Then Panache stood up. She needed to check the polish on her armor. She had debated between the blue and gold formal dress of the Rose Order or the highly polished ceremonial armor which she had, at last, managed to bring with her. In the end, the armor won out. And Panache was glad for it. The formal dress would be packed anyway, just in case, but so would some more comfortable clothing.

And Nayu…

Honestly, Taylor didn’t remember getting many, if any, words out after Nayu had made her declaration of devotion before Panache had firmly instructed that Aurelia should see to herself and Taylor getting a good shower while she and Nayu went to see Aenaire. Pretty much by the time Taylor caught up with everyone, he was told that Nayu’s presence was acceptable for now. Aurelia nodding in agreement and then the four ladies all acting as if it was no longer a matter.

Nayu stood, straightening herself up and headed to the room next door where she was certain that her mother and grandmother had been listening in. She was glad that everyone was feeling more relaxed around each other now, especially Galador, as it was with her son in mind that Aenaire had consented to Nayu joining the House. If anything happened to Aenaire, she would now hopefully rest assured that Nayu would raise Galador in a stable home.

At any rate, knocking on the adjoining door, Nayu found her mother Indras and Grandmother Kyas trying and failing to look innocent.

“We’ll be more than happy to look after the little one tonight, dear,” Indras purred.

“I’m sure that won’t be necessary but thank you all the same,” Nayu replied drily. “And try to be on your best behavior, mother, grandmother, please?” We’re supposed to meet Taylor’s mothers. I want to make a good impression.”

“Oh, dear!” Kyas smiled. “We’re always on our best behavior!”

“That’s what worries me,” Nayu sighed. “Come on. Let’s get ready…”

Of course, for Itami and the rest of Third Recon, it was back to business as usual. Princess Pina had sent word that she was ready to receive the Japanese Emissary, Koji Sugawara and the American Special Ambassador, William Russell at the Jade Palace and it was time to escort them discreetly to Sadera, where Pina hoped to persuade certain Pro-war Senators to reevaluate their continued support for the war and convince them to open a formal dialogue to negotiate peace with Japan. Third Recon would handle the escort detail as well as the delivery of certain materials to Her Imperial Highness. As they approached Sadera, they would rendezvous with Hamilton and a detail of Pina’s knights, who would escort the diplomats the rest of the way to the Jade Palace.

Seeing the soldiers a bit uncomfortable around him, Ambassador Russell gestured to the case of Manga carefully translated by volunteers at Alnus. “That’s rather unusual reading material, wouldn’t you say, Lieutenant?”

Itami had no interest in the Princess’s fascination with Yaoi. It was an unfortunate effect of her contact with Risa, Itami judged. What she judged as art was well outside his tastes. Well, he was a delivery boy. He didn’t have to read the stuff. But still, a senior diplomat, a foreign diplomat at that had addressed him with a question.

“Those kind of stories are not my thing, sir. I’m afraid it’s something my ex-wife introduced her Imperial Highness to. She calls it art.”

Russell casually picked up one of the books and thumbed through it with a smile as he noticed some of the edits inside. Putting it back down, he looked at Itami with a fatherly smile. “Your eyes look like they’re about to fall out of your head, lieutenant. While I agree it isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I’ve seen much worse things in my day. And art is subjective they say. One man’s trash is another’s masterpiece. And who are we to judge but for ourselves?” He shot Itami an appraising look.

“So, you’re the ‘Hero of Ginza’. And the locals are calling you the ‘Savior of Italica’. So, tell me Mister Itami. Is it that you like going where angels fear to tread or that you just can’t keep out of trouble?”

“Definitely the latter, sir,” Kurokawa remarked as Itami mentally squirmed.

“I’ll say,” Kuribayashi agreed.

“Good,” Russell declared. “I’ve got no use for a man who deliberately goes looking for trouble.”

“What about you and Mister Sugawara?” Kurokawa asked. “Aren’t you basically walking into the ‘Lion’s Den’ as it were? While we trust Her Imperial Highness from personal experience, I think it’s fair to say that not everyone will be so welcoming.”

“Very true, but we’re not looking for trouble. Every step has been meticulously planned out. There’s a detachment of your Special Security forces and a few of our Marines are already in place, waiting for us and there are other security measures in place in the meantime.” They didn’t need to know that Agent Poole, from the Department of State Security, was carrying an emergency beacon in addition to a concealed Heckler & Koch HK45. Also, now having returned from Mount Tybe, Captain Willis and Lieutenant Jansen had their drone, now christened ‘Lil’ Rory’ and carrying a rather risque portrait of the Apostle herself, trailing them, making casual circles at 30,000 feet. They would look for any signs of trouble and if necessary, a payload of Mark 82 mod 7 bombs would create carnage on a hostile column. It was fervently hoped such precautions would prove unnecessary but caution was the watchword for now. In addition,, a special unit from the 101st Airborne was also following them with orders to extract the two diplomats if needed.

“So, what about the rest of you?” Russell asked. “What impression do you people have of this strange world we find ourselves in?”

“Professionally or personally?” Kuribayashi asked, throwing a wicked look at Kurata.

“Either way, sergeant. In Diplomacy, both can be very relevant to understanding the folks you’re dealing with.”

“In that case, Kurata is our resident expert at making good relations with the locals. A couple of them in particular.”

Kurata blushed a little and then yelped as Master Sergeant Nishina congratulated him with a slap on the back.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to look at your back?” Kurokawa asked with motherly concern.

“It’s nothing! Just a little too much sun in Italica.”

“Right,” Shino doubted.

“Anyway, Kurokawa has her own boyfriend now,” Kurata replied. “That Drow, Fen that came back with her from Schwarz Woods.”

“He’s not a Drow, Kurata and I explained to him that I’m simply much too busy to get involved with anyone right now. We’re friends,” she said simply. And it was true, although Fen hoped that given just a little time, she might change her mind.

“Well, I’m not your father and I’m not your General, so your secrets are safe with me,” Russell told them as they settled in, just a bit more relaxed for the rest of the journey.

Meanwhile, back at Alnus, after the mandatory medical checks, Taylor’s party was cleared to cross the Gate to Tokyo. Once more, Yeoman Locke would be accompanying them. Taylor did not expect to need her much but some leave in Tokyo was certainly well deserved for her. Of course, they needed to report to Camp Augustus first. Colonel Mihara had dispatched a van and driver.Taylor mentally thanking her, knowing what a sight their little group would make walking the streets of Tokyo down to the subway. It was enough to handle the shock and astonishment of the five elves in their party without the distraction of others watching them.

By now, while still awestruck by the massive steel and stone buildings all around them, Galador was becoming an experienced hand at riding in horseless carriages. Knowing the rules, he got in and proceeded to help Kyas with her seatbelt.

“Cars go very fast,” he warned her seriously. “You always have to wear seatbelts.”

The Dark Elf Matriarch smiled fondly on him, “Oh! I promise! I will!” The boy was smart and thoughtful, Kyas thought. It would be an honor to claim him and his mother as part of her family.. The boy nodded and then turned to buckle his own as Aenaire watched her son with a touch of pride.Taylor then came and checked that everyone was buckled in. With Aurelia helping Indras and Nayu, everyone was secured and Taylor sat next to Panache for the drive to Camp Augustus.

“The towers rise as high as the trees of Foundation,”Kyas remarked.

“Yes,” Aenaire agreed but frowned slightly. “Though the air smells a bit.”

Taylor frowned, realizing things did smell a little different now but he refrained from comment. He didn’t want to sound like he was either sermonizing or selling anything. Besides, he was hardly anyone’s wiseman.

They reached their destination soon and once waved in by the gate guards, they were ushered into the main hall.

“Welcome home, my son,” Lady Octavia greeted as they entered the hal. Lady Octavia and Taylor embraced as family even as Panache saw and embraced her brother, Tiberius. Panache noted how Taylor’s sister, stood close, almost possessively of Tiberius.

“So I may write our mother and tell her that you have found a worthy bride?” Panache asked as Lucilla practically grinned even as Tiberius blushed.

“Not for a little while yet,” Tiberius explained. “Lucilla still wants to join the Rose Order and train as a knight.first.” His eyes glanced longingly over at Lucilla. “I’ll wait.”

“A wise young man!” The booming voice of Legate Germanicus laughed as he entered the hall, supporting himself on a custom ordered walking stick. While he was in much better shape than he had been, even the miracles of this world had limits and took time.

“Father!” Aurelia exclaimed in delight. The old warrior beamed at seeing his daughter.

“You look well, Aurelia! I have been told of your new task.” He glanced over at Taylor. “It goes well?”

“Yes father! My Lord is a good man who honors me well!”

“Excellent! Have you had the opportunity to see your mother since your return to the Empire?”

“I’m afraid not, father. “My Lord and I were called to help slay an ancient Flame Dragon.” She smiled, retrieving the tooth Taylor had given her. “Proof of our victory, father!” She handed it to her father, who marveled at it.

”I await the telling of the tale at dinner tonight.” He smiled at Taylor. His wife had apparently done well in choosing an heir.

Octavia looked thoughtful. “And the Lady Agrippina, my son?”

“She is at Italica, training in martial arts with Corporal Nakamura.She has decided to acquire information before going to reclaim her home.”

“You will still accompany her there, I trust?”

“Of course and I have not forgotten the need to see to the family’s lands. Aurelia is anxious to see her mother and sisters.”

“Naturally, I think Videlia is going to love you, my son!” Octavia smirked at her husband. “I have found that she has impeccable taste!” She turned to greet the rest of her guests. “Lady Panache! It is a pleasure to see you again!”

Panache smiled and bowed her head. “And you, My Lady. I regret to inform you that even with additional aid,” she said, gesturing to Nayu and her kin. “Even with the combined efforts of Aurelia, Lady Aenaire,” Panache indicated the High Elf, “and myself. We cannot seem to keep My Lord out of trouble.”

“Oh? I shouldn’t wonder. A Flame Dragon! Naturally.” Octavia looked to the fair elf whose son stood fixed to her side. “You must be Aenaire then! It is a pleasure to meet you! And your son!” She smiled at Galador. “It is my honor to welcome you.” Octavia told them and then looked to Nayu. “And Uial! Welcome!”

Kyas bowed her head “We of the Burning Heart are honored to be here. We are indebted to your son for the survival our tribe.”

“There will be time for the tale but I know that my son has a very important matter to attend first. Be on your way, my son! In the meantime, We offer our hospitality to your guests and await your return with anticipation.”

“Shall I accompany you, My Lord?” Aurelia offered.

Taylor paused. He had originally thought to pick his mom up alone but perhaps it would be a good idea if his mom got to meet one or two of them instead of trying to introduce everyone at once. “If you want.”

“I will also join you then, My Lord,” Panache declared.

Taylor nodded, then looked to Aenaire and Nayu. “Why doesn’t everyone else stay here and relax? We won’t be long.” Besides, Aurelia and Panache had at least a small taste of being in a modern city. He really didn’t want to try taking a number of elves to the airport. The trick was to ease everyone into things.

Aenaire smiled, “That sounds like a very good idea.”

Nayu seemed a little less agreeable to the notion. She wanted to see everything and also she desired to stay with Taylor wherever he went but Indras nodded in agreement with Aenaire. “Nayu, you were there. While we await your beloved’s return, we can tell Lady Octavia how we became indebted to her house.”

“O.. Of course,” Nayu acquiesced. Her mother was probably right but she still didn’t like it.

“We’ll be back,” Taylor smiled as he, Panache, and Aurelia headed to check out a minivan.

On the one hand, I’m walking with a Bunny Girl and a literal Knight in Shining Armor… Not exactly discreet. On the other hand, it’s Tokyo. We’ll be fine. Mindful of Murphy, he mentally added, I hope.

The drive from Yokosuka to Narita International Airport took an hour and forty minutes, during which time Taylor was certain that he was being followed, presumably by agents of Japan’s Public Security Agency among others. As he parked the car, he gave a reminder to his Ladies.

“Remember: None of us are allowed weapons here. Leave it all in the car.” Glancing over at Panache, he was glad they were heading for the ‘Arrival’ gates and not departures. Any attempt to detain her and conduct a ‘personal search’ could get very problematic. Once assured that Panache and Aurelia had both put away their weapons, he led them down the long concourse to the United Airlines terminal. They seemed to be getting looks of curiosity more than anything else. Young children seemed fascinated by Aurelia’s long ears and fluffy tail, while older children and teens seemed fascinated by Panache. Those who hadn’t dismissed it as some sort of cosplay at least, although, of the ones who had, a fair number seemed curious about the degree of detail and seamlessness in the two girls’ costumes.

That just meant he had to face his mom.

After waiting about twenty minutes, Taylor spotted his mom: Short with brown eyes and long dark brown hair that hinted at the rumors of Cherokee or Apache in her blood, Her days of being meek ended with her marriage. She well remembered how her husband had told her that he wanted a divorce but since they could not agree, that she was to contest it. He also wanted her to use the same lawyer he had. Instead, she got a better lawyer and countersued. And after being granted the divorce in the countersuit and moving, she became almost like a new person, freer and happier than her son ever remembered.

And very willing to let her opinions be known. She watched anime with her son so to confound her somewhat older daughter, who thought her too stodgy for such things. She took to cleaning and painting apartments for extra cash and she shared stories about her childhood she hadn’t told before.

Ruth Taylor was a rebellion waiting for a cause.

And William Taylor was relieved to see her as much as he dreaded trying to explain how the threads of his life had gotten so tangled.

“Mom!”He called to her and her eyes lit and she beamed as he hugged her tight.

“So what’s this important news you couldn’t tell me on the phone?” She looked at Aurelia and Panache curiously. “You didn’t get drunk, did you? I’m not going through with you the same shit I went through with your brother.”

Luckily, this was in a mildly teasing tone rather than the steel blistering voice she had used on her older son when she informed him that she would not be a servant in her own home.“No mom, I promise. And well, like I said, it’s complicated but I’d like you to meet Lady Panache Fure Kalgi and Aurelia Co Germanicus. And like I said, we’ve got a lot to talk about. So let’s get your bags. What all did you bring?”

His mother pointed to a fair-sized suitcase and a large trunk. “You made this sound as if you wanted me here a while so I packed my clothes and my knick-knacks and the albums….A couple of DVDs and don’t tell anyone but my machete is in the bottom.”


“Just in case.”

“And the albums?”

“Son, when you tell me to come halfway around the world so you can tell me something you can’t explain on the phone and say you hope I can stay a while, then it must be about a relationship.”

“How did you even get this to the airport and on the plane?”

“I didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Now let’s find a dolley and You aren’t driving one of those little mini cars, are you?”

“No, I checked out something bigger.”

“Good.” Soon they found a dolley and loaded the trunk into the minivan. Panache and Aurelia actually loading it in.

As she got in, Taylor’s mom noticed the sword and other weaponry inside.

“What’s all this?”

“That belongs to them,” William indicated Aurelia and Panache, who then reclaimed their weaponry and buckled in. Making sure his mom was set, Taylor started the van and started the drive back to Yokosuka.

Panache broke the ice.

“We have wanted to meet you very much, My Lady,” Panache said with a tone of careful respect. William had told her that his mother was not a big fan of nobility but respect was a trait that would go far with her.

“My lord speaks of you with great love and respect,” Aurelia added.

Ruth looked at them and then her son and raised an eyebrow and shook her head with a smile. “I ain’t never been a lady. As for ‘My lord’, Son, you know I’m only holding to one Lord and last time I checked, you don’t walk on water.”

Panache didn’t miss a beat. “I call you My Lady only in respect. You have raised a wonderful son and the mother of such a man deserves great respect.”

“As for, my lord,” Aurelia said, “William explained the difference between my Lord, who has earned noble respect far more than most born to it, and The Lord Christ. While that is not our way, please believe we mean no disrespect to you or your God.”

Panache nodded agreement. “Also, as for being termed a ‘lord’ in our culture,You see, Aurelia and I are not the only ones who feel that way. The Lady Octavia believed she needed a good, honorable heir to help protect her family. So she, how shall I say it? ‘Borrowed’ your son and declared him her heir.”

“Wait. What? Didn’t she have any kids of her own?” Ruth was puzzled. Her son sighed and answered.

“She has two sons, Antonius and Marcus, but they’re only seven and five years old and her daughter, Lucilla, is fourteen. Also, it seems that her father didn’t think that her husband was ‘noble’ enough so he signed in his will that her heir couldn’t be one of her husband’s children or on her death, his estates pass to the family of his cousin. So yeah… I kind of picked up an extra mother.”

“She and I are going to have to have a talk I see,” she chuckled. “We never discussed a lease agreement.”

Taylor relaxed inside just a little. His mother was making jokes. This was a good sign.

Panache smirked a little. “Shall the rest of us negotiate a ‘lease’, my Lady?”

“Call me Ruth," she replied. “And what do you mean ‘we’?”

Uh oh… Taylor thought. Here it comes.

Panache didn’t hesitate. “In accordance with the different laws, customs, and traditions of our peoples, I, Aurelia, Lady Aenaire of the High Elves, and Nayu of the Uial, all seek your son’s hand in marriage. We would all ask your blessing.”

All of you?”

“Yes, you see, while under the laws of my people, Aurelia, Aenaire, and Nayu cannot legally become his wife, the term ‘concubine’ is not a shameful thing and as long as a husband… Or wife, for that matter… can support them and their children properly, then one may claim any number of ‘companions’ provided the existing spouse consents. And your son has now become very wealthy.”

“How much is very?” Ruth asked trying to get a handle on all this.

Her son sighed. He knew that an obsession with wealth was hardly a thing with his mother but making sure her son did not get too big for his britches was.

“I checked the location of the Octavus lands on a map. Uh… it’s roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.”

His mother’s eyes went wide. “O...kay!” She then looked at Aurelia. “So the five of you seriously intend to live in the same house and all that? Are …. How well does that work? I mean I’m not against anybody’s race but… “

Aurelia smiled. “Quite well, actually My father is Lady Octavia’s husband. There really aren’t many males of our kind so many of us actually prefer human men.”

Ruth quirked her head, studying the Bunny Girl and Panache, both had been polite and neither had tried to put on airs. Panache actually reminded her a bit of herself in some ways and Aurelia was actually quite pretty. “Son…”

“Yes mom?”

“I always used to have a fondness for fresh rabbit back when I was growing up. I never figured you’d develop a taste for the whole rabbit!” She laughed. “So… Son, you mean to tell me, you’re planning to live in a foreign country with more than one wife, some of whom aren’t even human and have kids, right?”

“Yes mom.”

“And they aren’t Christian and you’ll be running a small state?”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“William, your Uncle Bill would have three kinds of fits and probably have a heart attack!” She got a sly look. “Can I tell him???”

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Hmmm? I had not realized that. Let me fix that!

Edit: Fixed! Odd though, I've posted that chapter in four places and that's the only time it has happened.

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
And thank you! How goes it on your end?
Trying to make a geopolitical meeting between allied powers feel engaging is... a bit tough to say the least, especially when you have to make nations from whole cloth out of various species.

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
I trust in your abilities but if you see any way I can help, let me know.
Thanks, that's better than most of the pep talk from anyone other than my parents at any rate... still, despite my Anno addiction, it has been going quite well if slow.


Thanks, that's better than most of the pep talk from anyone other than my parents at any rate... still, despite my Anno addiction, it has been going quite well if slow.
Better slow and good than fast and a mess. Damn... 125k words in and I feel like I've just started and yet probably skimmed too many important details! It is a paradox!

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
Better slow and good than fast and a mess. Damn... 125k words in and I feel like I've just started and yet probably skimmed too many important details! It is a paradox!
I know the feeling, I'm just north of 47,020 words total right now and I feel like I'm missing details out the wazoo. It also doesn't help that I can perfectly picture it in my head and yet can't get it into words... stupid brain, stupid education inadequacies...


I think GATE fics are like overhauling an old muscle car. The potential is there. If you persevere, then you will create something impressive.

Aaron Fox

SB's Minor Junker Descendant and Hunter of Nazis
I think GATE fics are like overhauling an old muscle car. The potential is there. If you persevere, then you will create something impressive.
Now that I've been writing my GATE fic in actual seriousness, I have to wholeheartedly agree. To make a good -or great- GATE fic, you have to overhaul it, and I've seen an overhaul done by my dad, and it is hard, stressful, sweaty work just to get the engine properly overhauled.
Chapter 30: Mama Mia! Part 2


And Print!:

The Janus Campaign

Chapter 30: Mama Mia! (Here We Go Again!) 2

As the drive back to Yokosuka continued, Panache relaxed somewhat. Lady Ruth had a wicked sense of humor and an open mind and she had the feeling that had they met as children together, they would have been sword sisters.

"So," Ruth asked. "How did the two of you meet my son?"

Panache flushed a little at the memory of her first encounter with William Taylor but Aurelia only smiled. "I am a retainer assigned to Lady Octavia by my father, Legate Germanicus. I was assigned to protect my younger sister and brothers. So we were all in Tokyo when Lady Octavia arranged our surrender. My Lord was assigned to help see to our welfare as non-military 'detainees', I believe the term was. When My Lady chose your son as her heir, she commanded that I would receive the honor of protecting her heir. It has not been easy."


Aurelia nodded and retrieved the tooth William had gotten for his mother. "This is a gift for you that your son took from the remains of an ancient Flame Dragon."

Ruth stared at the tooth. "And how big was this thing?" She asked her son.

"Um… Just under three-hundred-feet tall."

"At least you kept him from being eaten. So good job!"

"Thank you, My Lady."

"Ruth," she corrected.

"Thank you, Ruth."

"No. Thank you!" She looked again at Panache. "And how did you meet my son?"

"She had a very compelling pick-up line, mom," Taylor said mildly.


"She pointed her sword at me and said: 'Surrender!' I couldn't exactly turn her down at that point."

"No, I guess not." Ruth grinned approvingly at Panache. "So? You're planning on getting married."

"Yes," Panache answered. "As soon as the Peace is signed, something we all hope will happen soon."

"That's fine. So what kind of ceremony were you going to have?"

"We really hadn't had the chance to talk about it but for our people, a priest or priestess normally presides. I would actually like a fastening." Panache noticed the curious look Ruth gave her. "Silk ribbons representing the threads of life and fate are fastened between the bride and groom."

"Well," Taylor considered. "I might ask Rory to preside if you like?"

"The Apostle?" Panache's eyes widened. "If she would agree, it would be a high honor."

"You mean that one who told off that bitch in the Diet hearings?" Taylor's mom asked.

"That's her mom, she's literally the hatchet woman for their God of Darkness. Apparently, she sees it as her duty to send bad people to meet her boss."

"I like her!" Ruth replied. "Just I want you to remember something."

"Yes, mom?"

"I better not hear anyone vowing to 'Obey'. 'Love' 'Honor' and 'Cherish'? Fine. But if I hear someone promising to 'Love, honor, and obey' then I'm gonna start kicking asses, including both of yours."

"No worries mom, I know better."

"Good," Ruth answered.

"Anyway mom, Panache has agreed to teach me the art of horseback riding and how to hold a sword without hurting myself."

"Is that so? Could she teach me?" Ruth had plenty of experience tending horses growing up in Kentucky. She often wondered what it would be like to be someplace she could just gallop for the sheer joy of it. As for the sword part, well, it had the allure of being dangerous and something people would never expect out of her. Which made it exactly the sort of thing she wanted to do.

The drive continued with amicable discussion all the way back to Yokosuka. It was late in the afternoon by the time they were waved through the gate at Camp Augustus. Outside the main building, Felicia was waiting for them. The cinnamon haired Warrior Bunny bowed.

"Welcome back, my lord. The gate guard informed us you had arrived."

"Thank you, Felicia," He gestured to his mother. "Felicia, this is my mother. Mom, this is Felicia. She's one of Lady Octavia's personal retainers. Is a room ready for my mother? She's had a very long journey."

"Yes, my lord." She turned to Taylor's mother. "I will have your things brought to your room, My Lady but Lady Octavia has requested if you would see her now?"

"Well, alright. I guess."

Felicia nodded and turned to Panache and Aurelia. "Then, if My Lord and Ladies will come with me? Lady Octavia is waiting."

Lady Octavia studied the woman who entered the hall with interest. The Lady Ruth was small in size but very striking, she seemed to prefer a simple but clean look. She did not carry the attitude of someone who felt the need to impress others but at the same time, she would not allow herself to be intimidated. While she might claim to be of common stock, she was most uncommon. Octavia allowed herself a small smile. "Welcome, Lady Ruth," Octavia greeted."I am Octavia." She gestured to an open seat at the table next to her. "Won't you join us? I've been looking forward to meeting you. We have many things to discuss!"

Ruth sized up the other woman: Tall and lean but with arms and hands that spoke of someone used to doing work. She was used to being in charge but didn't strike Ruth as conceited. It was a pleasant subversion of her classically held opinions of 'nobility' as a bunch of pompous, arrogant, and lazy cretins who enjoyed power without either earning or respecting it. But then, Ruth had found that Panache was the daughter of a baron and still Ruth found her an admirably strong person of character and ability. Their shared interest in horses was one of a number of things they could relate on.

Thank you," she said, taking the offered chair. "Of course Ruth is fine. I'm no 'Lady'."

Octavia smirked. "Neither am I but they call me that anyway." She looked up at Felicia. "Please have some food brought in for Lady Ruth and some coffee. Strong and black?" She asked her guest of honor.


"Yes, My Lady," Felicia curtsied as Octavia motioned for Ruth to take the seat next to her.

Lady Octavia gave her husband a mild look and glanced to the door. "Husband," she spoke. "Why don't you and William take a walk before dinner? I will have Aurelia get you when dinner is ready."

The Legate nodded and clapped a hand on William's shoulder. "Now, 'son', you can tell me about how you fought the Flame Dragon... while the womenfolk plot world domination."

"Plot it, sir? I think they've already achieved it."

"All the more reason to accede to their wishes. Trust me, Octavia and your mother, if I am to judge her correctly, will let us know when we are needed, and not a moment sooner."

"I suppose that's true." The two men walked out to the courtyard. Germanicus favoring his right leg just slightly.

"Your world is full of wonders, son. Your healers did amazing work healing my wounds."

"I guess centuries of finding better ways to take bodies apart has given us some incentive to do better at putting them back together."

"I suppose that's true. We never stood a chance, did we?" He asked frowning at the ground.

"No. In other places, you might have had more initial success but even in the undeveloped countries, sooner or later, one of the big powers would have stepped in. Even in the worst armpit hole of a country that no one likes, eventually someone would have stepped in and crushed your army because we couldn't allow anything like The Empire to even think it had a chance of going any further."

"A lot of things are going to change in my world. I'm not sure it will have a place for an old soldier like me." He faced Taylor squarely. "At least my wife has an eye for the future. I trust you will look out for our family."

"To the best of my ability," Taylor promised. "But I wouldn't hang up my sword just yet if I were you, sir. The Empire will still need an army, one that its people have the skills to support and maintain. And that army will need good, professional officers." He paused, recalling a detail intelligence learned after the First Battle at Alnus. "It was Legate Titian who commanded the Empire's forces at First Alnus. We know you put him in command of your reserves at the Gate."

"Yes. He was a good soldier."

"And in some regards, your protege?"

"He served with me from the days when I was a centurion and he was a fresh optio and my second in command. It is fair to say, we learned side by side, the arts of war."

"We estimate he had 35,000 men and lacking support. He still fought with ingenuity and courage. If the main army under Senator Godasen had been under Titian's command, we might not have done so well getting in."

Germanicus pictured Titian in his mind's eye, working his men. Dealing with Godasen. "My friend… a good man lost to foolishness."

"Your army will need to be an army of professionals now more than ever. I think now, it will be inevitable that when they learn of the losses the Empire has taken, others will try to take advantage of the situation. I'd say it's certain the Empire will be at war again, probably soon. And when that time comes, the Empire will need you."

"Perhaps. But forgetting that you are my wife's heir, why would the 'enemy' wish for the Empire to have a viable army?"

"Well, not to fight us, of course, but the Empire controls a huge area of land and millions of people. When countries die, they leave a lot of misery and chaos in the wreckage. What our governments will want after this war is over will be trade and stability. One Empire is a lot easier to deal with than ten thousand warlords struggling for power and control."

"Point taken." Germanicus smiled. "So you and Aurelia actually killed a Flame Dragon?" He asked, changing the subject.

"Well, there were a couple of Apostles involved but one was one our side so I guess it all evens out."

Meanwhile, in the main hall, Lady Octavia ordered libum served as she introduced Ruth to those gathered. She smiled as Ruth studied her plate with curiosity. "Libum is our version of cheesecake. It's quite good with warm honey although I must admit I have developed a fondness for your American cheesecake. I believe William said that you like strawberry cheesecake? I've developed a liking for it myself."'

"Now and again. I indulge a little," Ruth admitted. As she looked around, she was a bit surprised she actually found herself interested in and even enjoying the company around her. She supposed it was because Octavia and her other guests lacked the pretentiousness she always imagined in 'nobility'. She sampled a bite of the libum. "This is pretty good. I'll bet William has never tried it though."

Octavia quirked a smile. "Oh? What makes you say that?"

"He's never been one to try new things. Give him a choice between something familiar and trying something new, he'll always pick the one he's familiar with."

"Actually," Octavia smirked. "I must admit I mousetrapped him into trying it. You've raised him to be very polite, after all, so I had Lucilla serve him libum she made herself. He couldn't stand to disappoint her."

"How did he take it?" Ruth asked.

"Like all small boys when they are confronted with something they really don't want to do," Octavia told her with humor in her tones.

"Sounds about right," Ruth admitted, smiling at the two little boys happily playing under the watchful eye of their sister.

"He just wasn't going to disappoint his sister."

"I wish I could say that was my experience raising him and his brother and sister. Of course, being the youngest child, he simply just didn't fit in their social circles."

"Did you ever consider having any more children?"

Ruth scowled. "My husband decided that three was enough so he got his tubes cut." She made a motion of scissors. Frowning a moment at some of the confused looks she was getting, she paused. Gesturing downward, she considered how to explain. "It's called a vasectomy. Basically, he can still um… run up the flagpole but his little soldiers are going into battle unarmed." She sighed, rephrasing. "He couldn't produce any more heirs." She raised a finger in bitter memory. "And then he called and told MY mother, 'Your daughter can't have kids anymore'."

Several faces flushed in anger that a husband would be that cold. Nayu cast a worried glance to her mother and grandmother, one which did not go unnoticed.

"He's heard that story and he had the same look on his face as most everyone here. I raised him better than to pull shit like that." Ruth told them.

"Have you considered remarrying?" Octavia asked.

"I'm not the kind to go looking at my age. Besides, I'm free. Aside from my children, leaving me was the best thing that man ever did," she said matter-of-factly.

"Maybe you just need a husband who has already been 'broken in'?"

"How broken?" Ruth replied in the same mischievous tone as her host.

After a few minutes of discussion, Nayu turned and asked a question that Panache, Aurelia, and Aenaire were also all curious about. "Did William have many girlfriends?"

"No, only two… one and a half really. The first one was more of a one-way thing. The girl definitely had a fixation. The other one, he really liked but she… made a different choice."

"I can't believe there weren't more girls than that!" Octavia replied. "I've seen some of my own ladies in waiting looking at him."

"Oh! There were a few when he was in high school that were looking his way. He just never noticed. I think he thought the pretty girls wouldn't want anything to do with him so he just never looked." She turned to Panache. "I guess it just goes to show you that sometimes hitting him over the head just might have been the best strategy!"

Octavia laughed and then waved in apology. "I'm sorry, but that sounds so much like Germanicus when he was young. So very serious! And yet shy around women. It helped that Videlia was as interested as I was. She made an excellent accomplice!"

"I'd like to meet her!" Ruth told her.

"We would like that as well," Octavia replied sincerely. "But tell me, although we are most grateful for the results but how is it that a woman like yourself ended up marrying such a child?"

"Well," Ruth considered. "I come from a place called Kentucky. It's a very pretty place but while some people own large horse plantations, my family weren't so rich. My father fought for everything we had and he made a home for my mother and the three of us kids and his younger brother. One of his older half-sisters kicked us out of our home one wintry night when I was two. But we still had a little piece of land left. So as my mother tried to watch her children and pack what she could at the same time, my father took an ax and he and his brother went out to the piece of land they had left and chopped down trees and built a cabin for his family. No matter how hard life tried to knock us down, he kept working hard and if we weren't prosperous, we weren't destitute either.

"But, it turns out I was a pretty good student. Passing my classes with 'flying colors'" She laughed. "I didn't know what that was supposed to even mean until William explained it to me that it meant success worth celebrating, 'with all flags flying and all," she explained.

"Anyway, I was a good enough student that I had a chance to join the Navy and get out of Kentucky. Because I wanted something different for my life. So I enlisted and became a corpswoman. I worked in hospitals, taking care of the things that Doctors and nurses weren't supposed to have to worry about. And that's where I met a fairly handsome man whose family owned a horse breeding farm near Louisville. His family was very rich and he decided I was going to marry him. And then… Then he decided to have one of his Army buddies follow me around, guarding his prize. That's when I understood that I was supposed to be his 'trophy wife'. I would do what he said, look pretty and tolerate whatever he might get into. I decided I wasn't having any of that! He wasn't going to control me. So I found this pretty looking kid from New York and when he got the nerve to ask me out, I let him! He wasn't wealthy or particularly ambitious. As a matter of fact, before he met me, all he wanted to do was finish his enlistment and get back to running the streets. But he was pretty and I thought I could make something of him. I guess I kinda overreached on that," she shrugged. "I have no regrets."

"I feel you truly are like my sister, Ruth," Octavia told her and then noted the time.

"Now! Felicia, Go and collect My Lord and My Heir. Dinner should be ready by now."

"Yes, My Lady." Felicia acknowledged and went to get Germanicus and Taylor.

As Felicia left the hall, Octavia looked at Ruth with a speculative expression which Ruth returned with a curious look of her own.

A couple of minutes later, Felicia returned with her Lords in tow.

"Ah! Our Lord and Our Son have returned!" Octavia announced. "This is very good as Lady Ruth has an announcement." Octavia was failing to hide the smile on her face.

Ruth stood up with a warm smile and stepped around the table with open arms and embraced Germanicus in a hug. "Welcome home dear!"


By coincidence, at this same time, a different sort of family meeting was taking place in the Akusho District of Sadera. The heads of the three remaining Crime families in Akusho were meeting to celebrate the very recent demise of the Bessara family the previous night and to finalize a few matters regarding the disposition of the Bessara Family assets and continued relations with their new partners in the Pacific Allies. Speaking on behalf of the PA was a Captain in the British SAS. Two Gurkha sergeants were providing the visible protection for a man who hardly looked like he needed any protection, save his own abilities and the three surviving family heads understood all too well that other hands were watching, at the ready if anyone was stupid or foolish enough to threaten their new business partners.

"Alright, Captain Harrington," The head of the Gonzori Family began. "We delivered on our word and you quite clearly delivered on yours. The Bessara Family has been dissolved. And with that, we're ready to come to a full understanding with your people."

"Good. We're hoping that our dealings can be mutually beneficial."

"They already have been," 'Growler', Head of the Medusa Family grinned a toothy grin befitting his Feline heritage. "Bessara was dangerous to everybody. If I could have found it in the remains, I' da cut his heart out and fed it to the cubs! We may have had to put up with him but no one's exactly missing him either." The heads of the other families nodded in agreement.

"There is the issue of distributing Bessara's territory and operations." The head of the Paramount Family noted. "Your people took him out. None of us have any quarrel with you taking his territory." He pulled out a map but was stopped by a gesture from Captain Harrington, who pulled out his out map and list. The other Crime Lords were dismayed to see it included assets that even they had been unaware of.

"Aside from making food, clothing, and medicine available, we aren't interested in running Bessara's smuggling operations. If we need something we can't bring in ourselves, we'll contract out to one of you. The only weapons we'll be bringing in will be for our own use. So you can rest assured we won't be selling weapons to your competitors or anyone else. We do have to maintain our edge after all." The other men nodded in understanding. "We'll make our medical services available to anyone in the district including your people. Wealth should be enjoyed in health, wouldn't you agree?" Harrington remarked, then pointed to one particular location on the map of Akusho. "We claim the Bacchanalian and the Venus as ours. The rest of Bessara's gambling houses and brothels are yours." He then pointed to an abandoned warehouse. "This building is ours. After we finish fixing it up, we'll start bringing in Scotch Whiskey, which I know you've had the opportunity to sample, also beer. Guinness, not that shitty Yank beer." He smirked.

"Also, if you are attacked, you can call on our assistance, should you require it." Other than that, you already know our terms: We pay well for good information. If we need to do anything unusual, we'll let you know in as timely a fashion as possible. We won't move on your territories. Respect ours and everyone prospers. Agreed?"

"Agreed," Gonzoria answered with the others nodding.

"In that case," Harrington said, gesturing to an orderly who promptly carried over a bottle of Glenfiddich and presented it to Harrington who showed the others the unbroken seal and then opened it. "Here's to 'good business'."

A short time later, Harrington's lieutenant looked at him curiously. "Yes, Jerry?"

"We're actually going to be running a couple of brothels?"

"Oh, I know how it all looks, Jerry, but even if the Imperial Army doesn't venture into this part of town, some of their men most assuredly do and nothing loosens a man's tongue faster than alcohol and a lovely lady."

"I understand sir but I can only imagine would happen if the Daily Fail got hold of this story, sir."

"With luck, I shall be a general and quite retired before that happens. Sergeant Harkness!" Harrington beckoned to a burly, scarred man dressed in local attire.

"Yes, Captain?"

"Good work on that little assignment. Are you sure you got them all?"

"I've bugged every gambling hall in Akusho, Captain. And every house of ill-repute as well." Unfortunately, the latter task had not been as easy or as enjoyable as one might think since Harkness had to pretend to be drunk and get ejected before anything could develop beyond the requirements of the mission. The gambling houses, on the other hand… Well, there was a reason he'd been chosen for this assignment. "Of course, if the Captain thinks I may have missed a spot or two then I will gladly exert every effort to correct this deficiency."

"No, Sergeant, I'm only surprised you didn't rob the poor fools blind!"

"That would hardly be sporting, sir."

"Yes, well now we can tell Major Nyutabaru and Lieutenant Cruz that they can bring in the rest of their people."

"Yes, sir."

"And Horace?"

"Sir?" Harkness asked.

"You can keep that twenty percent cut of your winnings."

"Sir! I'm deeply hurt you'd say such a thing, sir!"

"Are you saying that you'd never take a fool's money?"

"No, sir. But this was in the line of duty! It'd be downright unpatriotic to take more than fifteen!"
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Finished collecting the base material for The Janus Files: Outtakes

The raw material is over 13K words. Over the next while, in addition to working new chapters, I will be prepping this material for its own release.

Much of this was originally created by Taalismn.

The Janus Files: Outtakes


In celebration of my 49th Birthday, I am releasing the following excerpt from the Janus Files:

The Janus Campaign

The Janus Files 1.

Over the course of the writing of The Janus Campaign, some bits have arisen, mainly produced by my readers, describing incidents which may or may not have happened during the course of the events in this story.. Many of these were provided by @taalismn

We present a collection of these here. Enjoy!

Death By Marriage…

At The Manor of Baron Kalgi

"Daughter, why am I only hearing through Count Palesti that you are engaged? This isn't some peasant, is he? You aren't pledged to some non-human?"

"He's human and he's the adoptive heir of the Octavus line."

"Good! Good! What else can you tell me?"

"Well, he's very proper and chivalrous..." Panache began.

"Yes, yes... " Baron Kalgi waved dismissively.

"He's very intelligent."

Great. I'll bet he's one of those philosophes. Just what I need to ensure strong grandsons. "Don't tell me. He's an artist."

"Not at all, he's an officer."

"Well! That's more like it! Anything else?"

"He can't ride a horse, he couldn't fight with a sword if his life depended on it and He's with the army on Alnus Hill."

"You're trying to kill me aren't you daughter?"

"What was your first clue?"

Drowning in Science!

General Hazama's Office

"We're going to have to test ALL the local physical laws, General."

"Is this important?"

"Could be. Small changes could be significant enough to erode our current position of strength in the long term if we're unaware of them."

"Very well, how many eggheads will be needed to conduct your tests?"

"Well, we're going to need specialists from a number of fields..."

"From what fields?"

"Well, -all- of them to be on the safe side..."

"Holy ####ing eggplants! I can't re-assign troops to cover the numbers I think you're thinking of! What do you need to do?! Build a CERN-style particle accelerator on this side of the Gate?! Transplant Palomar-"

"Well, we WOULD like to get a few satellites into orbit...maybe multi-stage sounding rockets on repurposed SCUD mobile launchers- to start with..."

General Hazama groaned, seeing ANOTHER paperwork front opening up, this one with the scientific community...

What A Girl Needs…

Ginza District, Tokyo

Shino walked up to Itami with Lady Panache in tow. "Squad leader? Panache asked me to help her with some personal things."

Itami speculatively looked past Kuribayashi at Panache. "Oh?"

Shino: "Yes, female items." The close combat specialist emphasized.

Itami's brain sounded an alarm. Ew... Itami puts a hand up. "I don't wanna hear the details. You take care of it! Whatever she needs, I don't need to know about it."

Shino rolled her eyes and then smirked. "Yes, squad leader."

Itami frowned as a thought occurred to him. "Wait! Do any of the others need anything?"

Shino shrugged. "Not that anyone has said."

"Well make sure but be discreet!" Itami told her.

"Yes, squad leader!" Kuribayashi replied. She quickly checked with the other ladies, getting no particular interest from Pina, Hamilton, or Lelei, an arched eyebrow from Rory, and blushing from Tuka and Bozes.

Five minutes later, Shino lead Panache into Wacoal Ginza...

Love In The Age of Gates

Call Center: Alnus

Even in the midst of mankind's first inter-dimensional conflict, love still finds a way. Of course, explaining that love to the folks back home is always a task calculated to test the nerves and will. This is even more true in the age of interspecies romance:

Call to Nagoya, Japan

"Hey mom. I'm calling to let you know that I'm coming home and that I met someone! Yes I'm bring her over. She's really nice and I'm sure you two will get along. Oh and while I have you, how do you feel about cats? Allergic huh... Does she have a cat? No... not really. In a manner of speaking..."

Call to Portland, Oregon

"Hey, mom! Coming home for leave and bringing a special someone! Yes, I did! Dad and Little Sis are going to be home? Great! Tell me, though, has sis ever gotten over her fear of snakes?"

Call to Chicago, Illinois

"Dad, I know you really believe what Father Dempsey sez about Hell and Satan and all that, but I'm hoping you don't take it too literally. Why am I bringing this up? Well, I met somebody over on the other side of the Gate and I'm thinking of bringing her to meet you all...and, well, in her case first impressions can be MIGHTY misleading-"

Inspection Day

On a recent visit to inspect the troops deployed across the Gate, one American General saw the unintended consequences of crossing the local gods as he inspected the men of one particular battalion:

Inspecting General: "Why are all the men in 'A' company wearing sunglasses?"

Battalion CO: "They went into a town and there was an accident. A truck crashed into the temple of the Sun god and wrecked the place. So we got an annoyed Sun god who keeps shining the blinding light of the sun in their eyes."

"Alright, but why are the men in 'B' Company all wearing earpieces?"

"They interrupted a music festival at the temple of Lunaryur. Ever since that, they all keep hearing music that isn't there and it's off-key."

The general nodded. "I see. But Colonel? I don't even see 'C 'company. Where are they?"

"Um... Their CO found out one of his men was sneaking out to visit a brothel. So the Captain ordered his men to close it down. That pissed off the goddess of fertility. They've been useless ever since."

"What did she do?"

"Well, that was ten days ago. You know how they say if it lasts for more than four hours, seek medical attention...?"

Random Encounters

Meteorological Station, Alnus

"Judging from the speed and heading one of our weather balloon radio transmitters took after its line broke...we have to conclude something like a wild dragon ate it," an operator reported to the watch commander.

However, the tech beside him was not so certain. "Air elemental. They might have them here."

"Dragon, unless you produce evidence of air elementals."

The watch commander rubbed his eyes. "...Okay, who thought carrying copies of the D&D monster manual was a GOOD idea?!" He asked and reached for his coffee. Taking a sip, he sighed."So what's the recommendation for dealing with this thing?"

"Ah, let's see...Cast Magic Missile," the first tech answered.

"Great! Any of us have that? No? Then GRENADES! PLENTY OF THEM!"

"Well, we can always try to choke it to death with an MRE." someone muttered.

Dragon Envy

As the days of patrols across the local countryside go by for the troops at Alnus, inevitably, while a few may find excitement, most find a pattern of boredom.

"So that Itami guy's got a Disciple, an elf archer, a human mage, dark elf ranger, and maybe even a human princess...yeah, I heard that one from the security detail on the capitol mission, and awards from a dozen kingdoms...That -Navy- guy's got a human noble woman, a rabbit warrior, an elf home maker, a dark elf ranger, and connections to some high houses in the empire...Just what have I got? Fleas and ticks and snakes. Even Anson's got more action than me, and they STILL haven't figured out how to turn him back from being a dragon!"

"They're not even sure he's a dragon, sir...least not one of the local dragon-types," Corporal Jackson replied.

"He's got a FOLLOWING. It's a pattern. People are picking up TEAMS around here."

"You've still got us, Sarge," Private Rawlings put in.

"...remember what I said about fleas and ticks?"

Scientific Method

Imperial Palace, Sadera


"...okay...who assigned Doctor Banner to the science team? 'Direct orders of Director Fury'?! Agent Coulson, why are you -grinning-?"

Planning For WHAT?

-Plan Z(rev. 437)—Primary Containment, Attack of Undead/Animated Dead(w/ contagious component)

-Case SnowWhite—Attack on Metropolitan Areas by Subterranean-Dwelling Humanoid Sophonts(see attached Biology Profile#78 'Dwarves')

-Plan Minos—Containment of, Hostile Approach of, Herd of Bisonoid Humanoid Sophonts(see attached Biology Profile#88 'Minotaurs')

-Contingency Hamlin-Municipal Response, Mass Area Non-Physical Mental Attack on Children(aka 'Pied Piper Protocols')

-Case Ragnarok—Open Conflict with Non-Terrestrial God-Entities

Field Reports:

(Selected excerpts from the Pacific Alliance JANUS field groups, Special Region)

-Report #234—

Aerial drone survey of NW grid 12-23 following trade path observed three human females making their way on foot 18.2 km west-northwest of POINT WESTPEG, Alliance responsible sector of Special Region. Appearance and behavior suggested distress, observed subjects attempting to move as quickly as possible, but showing no indication of escort in known bandit territory. Nearest patrol (FOX-SEVEN) informed, and airlifted to point 0.8 kms uproad of subjects and proceeded on foot to intercept and investigate.

Contact made, despite initial attempts by subjects to hide upon seeing approaching patrol, and through use of accompanying local translator, subjects identified themselves as escaped slaves taken in recent regional upheaval. Subjects also indicated they had escaped from a bandit encampment some distance away.

Drone survey directed in general direction and discovered indicated encampment matching subjects' description 5.5 km east-northeast of contact point. Thermal imaging estimated 20-30 occupants, at least a half-dozen mounts. Several outriders also observed by wide-pan survey, presumably looking for escaped slaves, or alerted by noise of aerial patrol.

Informed both JANUSCOM and ITALICA regional liaison. Bandit site deemed too far from ITALICA for appropriate response by augmented local forces, decision made to airlift remainder FOX platoon from POINT WHITEHEAD and reserve HOUND platoon from POINT EARL and attempt aerial encirclement of bandit site. Aerial recon by both drone and scout helicopter confirm body of armed men, no signs of official affiliation Saderan military, and several captives matching initial contacts' description. Target subjects showed signs of attempt to disperse upon observation of recon elements, and aerial suppression fire was initiated to contain attempted breakout. FOX platoon landed, with HOUND in overwatch reserve. Encampment captured with no friendly casualties, 18 confirmed bandit KIA, 6 wounded, total of 14 taken prisoner. Liberated 8 additional slaves. Both prisoners and ex-hostages evaced to Alnus, surviving mounts held in place by campsite survey guards until riders can be transported to take custody, or overland transport arranged for them .

-Report #236—

Engineering Report( 'C' Platoon) —Conducted road condition survey N-NE grid 41-17 with regards to feasibility of supporting armored columns. Sighted what were initially thought to be mounted bandits W-NW of position, but now suspect were elements of Saderan Imperial military, judging from observed personal gear on mounts and riders. Estimate 15-20 riders. Ordered personnel to assume aggressive defensive posture, but mounted party did not advance or venture closer than edge of visibility, and broke off contact after several minutes observation.

On return leg to Alnus, Stabsunteroffizier Wagner reported having a ration bar stolen by what he described as a 'faerie'. As no vomiting faeries or faerie corpses were subsequently observed along the roadside by following vehicles, it is presumed the experience was not immediately fatal to the local life.

-Report #245—

Company 'D', 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne— While engaged in searching for fugitives, got involved in straightening out local contretemps about land use and ownership in the absence of the regional village head and several missing local landowners. In spite of local squabble, managed to capture two known bandits taking refuge in the village.

(Attached note: Can we KEEP Corporal Owens? I'm glad he was cleared for restricted field duty, pending any new progress on clearing up his 'condition', but I haven't seen any sign of the 'draconic atavism' or 'transmorphic stress syndrome' some of the base shrinks were worried about. In fact, he's been the model of discipline in the squad. And damn, but he's got a better sense of smell than a bloodhound; he found that one hiding bandit sight unseen just like that! And having a talking dragon up close and personal shuts up most of the local troublemakers with just a stare—though I did have to discipline Corporal Murray for threatening one particularly vocal party with indicating that Corporal Anson would 'smoke him like a winter ham').

-Report #313—

Squad Charlie, 3rd Para, while investigating cave formations of Ridge 17(map grid 48-61) as possible bandit hideouts, discovered bear. Squad Charlie chased by bear. Requesting permission to keep bear.

-Report #409—

Company 'C', 2nd Brigade, USMC. Patrol on Road 18 fifteen kilometers south of Alnus encountered a small caravan of four dozen locals, horse- and carriage-borne. Conversation facilitated by translator indicates the caravan was of pilgrims on way to pay respects to 'the Sacred Hill of Alnus', that they were from the southern provinces of Sadera, and they were unaware of the recent events in the area. Assured them that the presence of the Alliance would not interfere with their safe passage through the area as long as they followed common sense rules, and that they could likely find good lodging at Alnus-Town, especially if they were willing to talk with humintel about their travels. Encounter convened peacefully and patrol resumed.

-Report #519—

Engineering Report( 'A' Platoon) —Assisted local farmers in rebuilding wooden bridge over creek, N-NW grid 54-14. Had opportunity to talk with local headsman. He indicated a number of local mines in the area that had been abandoned, but not played out, if we were interested. However, he warned that the mines were 'haunted', by what, he did not specify, but urged us to be very cautious. I'm taking that as a hint he would like to see the mines reopened, but doesn't have the resources to deal with whatever moved in on his own. On return to base we checked out the sites from a distance and confirmed the presence of the mines and their apparent abandoned state, but did not approach closer without further instructions or permission to 'dungeon crawl'(as Oberstabsgefreiter Gunther put it).

Communications Breakdown

While being transformed into a powerful dragon with the ability of flight and having attracted a retinue of devoted followers may have had its advantages for Corporal Owens, there were some drawbacks as well...

"Okay. Let's try this again."


*"…help me mother…I am slain…."*

Owens looked in dismay at the cellphone impaled on his finger-claw.

"That's the fifth one already. I think we better call it a wash."

Corporal Dorn shrugged as he reached over and pulled the dead personal communications device off Owens' large forepaw and tossed it in the garbage bin atop several other late functional electronics.

"Yep, they just don't make touchscreens with dragon claws in mind. Neither sensitive nor tough enough."

"I don't suppose we could ask for something tougher…?"

"Not much, if any, call for that sort of spec in either the military or the commercial market. It would require a custom job and maybe some original R and D. I'm pretty sure your GI medical insurance doesn't cover it either."

"My GI medical insurance got voided on a LOT of things."

"I feel for you, man."

"That's not how the medical establishment defines me."

"You're breaking new ground for a lot of definitions. They just haven't caught up to you yet."

"It just irks me that I have opposable thumbs that clearly mark me as a tool user, but everything's either too small or too fragile to use."

"You're pretty good writing with a Sharpie."

"Yeah, but it means I have to send personal letters poster-rate. And I can't keep imposing on you guys to take my letters."

" Designate some of your followers as scribes. I'm sure they'd be glad to lend you a hand."

"I tried. The last update I sent home, they sent as a vellum scroll, and made it look like a religious proclamation. 'See ye the words of our Great Holy One-". My sister accused me of either going on an ego trip or becoming an evangelist."

"Then I'd keep looking at the idea of some of those adaptive technology workshops for special needs people. I rather think you qualify at this point, though you're not really handicapped overall."

"I suppose I should be grateful for that."

"Well, hey, there's nobody else I know of who has a blood pressure reading equivalent to aircraft hydraulics, who the AMA still certifies as in perfect health."

"Ah yes, and at least the Army's still covering my meals."

"The discovery that you can and will eat bones, stalks, and CANS does help balance the quantity with the ease of clean-up. And I think some of the KP staff see feeding you as something of a professional challenge."

Lessons From A Far Off World

A few years later, Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

"Alright! Maggots! Get your asses in line! You boys may think the little 'accident' that befell Sergeant Dawson yesterday was funny. You may think he was riding you hard. You certainly think you're pretty clever. Well, the Colonel has decided in his infinite wisdom to assign you a new platoon sergeant. I guarantee you won't be pulling your crap with him. He's pulled successive tours in Sadera and he's seen more sh!t than the lot of you ever will."

Anonymous soldier: "Bring 'im on sweetheart!"

Sergeant Major: "I was hoping you'd say that." Calls on body mic. "Sergeant, time to meet your new platoon."

A thirty-foot long dragon wearing the stripes and double rockers of a First Sergeant, landed in front of the platoon.

Sergeant Major: "Well maggots! Say hello to First Sergeant Owens. Try to stay on his good side..."
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Looks like I made a bit of a slip-up. Readers will note there is no Chapter 21 here... THIS chapter...

Chapter 21: Perspectives of War

"With all due respect, Mister President, the Japanese People must have recompense!" Ambassador Shima declared. "Restitution and reparations for the damage and for the lives of our citizens lost in the Saderan Empire's attack!"

"The American Government is not opposed to Japan seeking compensation in this matter. And we are very aware of the expense of keeping troops on deployment," President Merwin noted."But I have also seen reports that your government was preparing to demand thirty thousand tons of gold in reparations." The President noted the ambassador shift slightly uncomfortable. "Of course, I know better than to trust everything I read at face value. So I'm quite certain that has to have been a mistake. I've done the math. That's about one point two trillion dollars worth of gold! In fact, that's more gold than was mined in the entire history of the world until the twentieth century. Three times the value of reparations Germany was forced to pay under Versailles in 1919! While I am not one to put a monetary value on a human life, there are, of course, simple practical considerations involved here." The President leaned back in his chair.

"Let's assume, Mister Ambassador, that this 'Gate' is a permanent thing. Unless we assume that, then we might be better of withdrawing our people back to our side. But let's assume it is," he continued. "The research team just went in, including the geologists and mineralogists. We have no idea what they'll find: Oil, coal, gold, diamonds, copper… Who knows? Maybe enough oil that the OPEC states start getting nervous. Or maybe just enough that voters in Texas start worrying. Naturally, that's academic since it's not our land." Merwin leaned forward, holding out his hands as if weighing something only he could see. "Our nations have a choice, Mister Shima. We can try to take everything we can in one big grab and run like thieves in the night as it all goes to hell behind us." He held up his left hand, palm up and stared at it. He then raised the right hand in the same manner and smiled.

"Or… We can play the long game. There's an entire world out there. Whatever we do with that world will be our legacy. So do we want to be remembered like Cortez Or do we show we've grown up? Prosperous countries don't attack each other. They trade and get rich." Merwin smiled. The vague stick of posterity and the much more ponderable carrot of prosperity.

Shima found it hard not to be carried up in the President's visions. "May I take it that the American Government has some specific proposals? The Japanese Government cannot make policy on the basis of poetry."

The President's smile widened as he nodded to the Secretary of Commerce, who withdrew a thick, bound document from his case and handed it to the ambassador.

"This analysis was produced by a study group of experts from the State Department, Treasury, Defense, Education, Agriculture, Interior, Energy, and Labor Departments. To be honest, our projections would be much clearer if we actually had hard numbers to plug in but we think you'll find the basic modeling sound."

The Secretary of Agriculture nodded. "The first thing is we need to make some improvements in their farming. A simple switch to a Four-Field System would provide them with a major boost."

"They launch a war of aggression and you wish to reward them?" Ambassador Shima asked in disbelief.

"They've already paid a pretty high butcher's bill," The President noted. "Besides, I don't think it would be out of line for the Empire to pay part of that increase back to Japan as reparations."

"At least once we've made sure their basic sanitation and storage are to an acceptable standard," Agriculture added.

"Agreed," Merwin nodded. "We have a lot to learn but the potential is too great to ignore." If we do this right, He added in his own thoughts. He was certain that whatever resources might be found in Falmart, And who the heck came up with 'Falmart' as a name for a continent anyway? He wondered idly. But whatever resources were found in that world, a world of headaches would accompany the discoveries.

"For what it is worth, I agree, Mister President However, Prime Minister Shinzo's position, while strengthened by the embarrassment of Kohara and the Constitutional Democratic Party, is still delicate. There are many who feel Japan should take a harder position with these Saderans. We are already threatened by China, which in its quest for the acquisition of resources, continues to encroach closer to Japanese territory. The North Koreans routinely threaten our safety simply so they will not be ignored. Our own ability to act in our own best interests is limited in a way that no other national government is and now an unknown nation has invaded our own Capital. Regardless of the enemy losses, Prime Minister Shinzo cannot afford to appear soft on the Empire. While we appreciate the efforts and exertions of our allies, it still remains that it was Japan's soil that was violated and Japan's citizens that were murdered and abducted. There are many who will not easily let that pass. There are others who will use that understandable national outrage to further, shall we say, an aggressive agenda."

It did not help matters that China and Russia both wanted to take this into the United Nations, publicly arguing for 'greater transparency' of the coalition effort and its 'impact on the native peoples' but viewed for a more cynical lens, was merely an effort to get their feet in the door in this new world and play games of their own. So far, the peculiar nature of the situation had helped block these attempts But it was another complication in an already difficult mess.

"We completely understand the delicateness of the Prime Minister's position," Merwin replied. "For now, everyone needs to see how the talks progress and what more we can learn of the Empire and its resources. The summit in Tokyo is in three months," Merwin brought up the meeting of Japan's coalition partners previously scheduled. "This will give us some time to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge and flesh out some of these proposals in greater detail."

"Of course, Mr. President," Shima replied. Internally, he knew this meant Shinzo's ability to maneuver vis a vis the Nationalists would be limited. The Prime Minister was not going to be happy.


Imperial Palace, Sadera

It was not supposed to be like this, Emperor Molt Sol Augustus thought to himself as his advisers discussed the current state of the war. More 'The War', Molt thought grimly. It was a conflict that threatened to reduce the history of the Empire to the insignificance of petty squabbles. Even the Great Arctic War was a minor inconvenience by comparison. At least in that war, Emperor Gaius Sol Maximus was fighting an enemy that, while skilled in battle, still had a vulnerability the Great Maximus had managed to discern and exploit. Of course, Maximus had been pushed to the brink before realizing the pattern and reasoning behind the powerful offensive launched by the Northern Tribes, beseeching the Senate and offering up his own fortune to raise a new army after three armies had been smashed in rapid succession by the enemy, Maximus ordered all the bridges north of the Capital torched and the granaries emptied as his new army adopted what was still called a 'Fabian Strategy', staying between the enemy and the Capital, refusing battle until Maximus lured the enemy into pursuing him through a narrow pass in the Attican Mountains. His army quickly turning on the tired, weary, and frustrated enemy, Maximus smashed them in a rout before leading an even larger army North to finish the war for good. The example of the Arctic War had been a shining tribute to the strength of will of the Empire. Seldom mentioned in the recorded history was that Maximus had bribed one of the Northern War King's vassals to block the pass behind the main army. Even less mentioned and indeed, actively suppressed by Maximus's successors in the following two centuries were the great Emperor's own writings on the war, which would have brought ill comfort to Molt Co Augustus had he ever read them:

The War was forced upon us by an enemy who could only accept two outcomes. The first being victory and the second, total destruction. Victory was, for us a matter of survival, nothing more and nothing less. But now, even in our victory, the Gods curse us. For in being forced to utterly destroy the Northern Tribes, we will, ourselves, be forced onto a path where EVERY war will be an imperative. We will be forced to ever expand until we will ourselves force our own destruction. Had Hothnar only been willing to parlay, this path might have been avoided. I would have given much to avoid the war for which I am praised.

I do not regret winning the war. Losing would have meant the annihilation of the Empire and death or enslavement of its people. I regret having been forced to fight the war.

And I will regret the wars to come that our growing pride will bring upon us.

These writings would one day be discovered by a scribe in the City of Rondel, far too late to be of counsel to Emperor Molt. For now, the words he heard were those of Senator Godasen and his other senior advisers who were as lacking for answers as Molt himself was in dealing with their current enemy.

Currently, Marius Du Callon was speaking. "I must again ask his Majesty to rescind his order calling for the destruction of crops, wells, and bridges between Alnus and the Capital. There is no evidence it is having any effect on the thinking of the enemy. Further, the damage to the morale of our own people is not insignificant."

"The people have always proven willing to bear whatever the cost required for victory," Molt reminded.

"Yes but I believe it is an unnecessary cost that inflicts nothing upon the enemy and slowly bleeds us instead. Apparently," And at this, Marius glanced over at Godasen, "this enemy appears to have a completely different guide to making war. We cannot rely on old methods."

On this, Molt had to concede. Unlike those fierce warriors of two centuries prior, this enemy seemed in no hurry. He turned his gaze to Godasen, inviting him to respond.

The senator, mage, and general seemed now only a shadow of his former self, his crushing defeat at the hands of the other-world barbarians leaving him bereft of his former confidence. "I advise a cautious approach, your Majesty. Their magics are not to be underestimated." He considered, "it is possible that the magic they use draws its power from beyond the Gate. That could explain why they have not pushed their advance."

"Perhaps," Molt replied. "But it still does not tell me how we defeat them. Have you learned anything about their system of magic?"

"Very little, Your Majesty. We know that shield spells had some protective effect but not enough to turn the tide of battle."

"Have you made any inroads in recruiting more mages to support my legions?" The emperor asked.

Godasen stood before his Emperor like a schoolboy attempting to explain to his teacher what happened to his book report. "I've been making every effort! Your Majesty! But I am afraid that the most talented mages are from the schools of Rondel. Most of them view the Empire's concerns as being less important than their own research projects."

"Do they?" Molt growled somewhat frustrated. He wished nothing more than to remind those learned fools that they were not beyond his reach and that to him, their silly little papers were nothing compared with the needs of the Empire. Unfortunately, he reminded himself, they were beyond his reach, at least for now. One enemy at a time. He needed these people, perhaps more than they needed the Empire.

"Keep trying. If the coin of loyalty is not the coin that buys their aid, then find their price. When we are victorious, I am certain it is a price we can squeeze out of our enemies, or our allies if we must. If we lose, they'll not be in a position to demand payment."

"Yes, Your Majesty," Godasen replied a bit nervously.

"Mages! Magic!" Senator Podawan scoffed. "What do wizards know of the courage of men? We dare not wait overly long to strike back at the invaders," the bellicose Senator advised. "Lest the people take 'caution' for timidity and cowardice."

"Unless you propose to attack them single-handedly, we still require an army for that," Marius scorned. "So far we have managed to destroy three armies in this war." He glanced at Godasen. "Unfortunately, none of them have belonged to the enemy."

Molt frowned at the implied rebuke of his own decision to assemble and throw the armies of the vassal states against Alnus. While a ruthless choice, it was necessary to maintain the balance of power between the Empire and its vassals. Still, he did not comment. Instead, he merely continued with the discussion at hand. "How is our new army progressing?"

"Recruitment, especially in the Northern and Western territories, has been quite successful. It is fair to say that the prospect of an invader army in the borders of the Empire has both angered and frightened a great many people," Podawan reported.

"Yes, large numbers of men who have never seen battle and very few experienced soldiers to train them and lead them!" Marius retorted. "We're having to find and call back soldiers who have been retired from active service simply because we don't have enough younger men with experience!" Marius replied. The thought of sending an army of old men and young farm hands into battle against the army that had devastated the Empire's pre-war cadres disgusted him. Unfortunately, he, like his Emperor, lacked an alternative answer to this particular puzzle. However, this was at least one matter on which the logic could be used to at least block Podawan's brand of foolishness.

"I believe this demonstrates that our enemies have at least made one mistake. They are giving us time, the time we need to rebuild an effective army. The more time they allow us, the better our relative position will be." Marius did not truly believe this. Their adversaries had smashed the finest troops in the Empire, some of them at least had been led by the best Commanders in the Imperial Army. This new army could train for years and they would be no equal either to the armies that had been destroyed or the army that opposed them. But if playing at that angle convinced the Emperor to hold back and not give in to Podawan's foolishness, then it would give them time to find some other solution without wasting another hundred-thousand men. If the enemy was content to sit on Alnus Hill, Marius cared nothing for its 'sacredness'. He would let them sit there for eternity rather than prod them into a more aggressive stance.

"Yes," Molt agreed. "They should have moved before now. Let them come to us. We will study and prepare until then." He too hoped the delay would give him time to find a solution to his current troubles. He sighed internally as his mind returned to his earlier lamentation. This campaign was supposed to have been a single grand triumph which would have raised his power to new heights and allowed him to relinquish the throne to Zorzal while leaving him in a position to direct his son from behind it.

Now, instead, he had a mess which highlighted just how spectacularly he had erred in preparing his sons to succeed him. He had spent the early part of his reign cementing his hold on power. This had necessitated removing his oldest son. The handsome, well-spoken Marcus had grown up under the close tutelage of his mother while Molt was busy solidifying his power base. Marcus had seen service on the frontier. It was a distinctly unglamourous posting but had earned him favor with the army.

In the end, Marcus had proven to be the most potentially dangerous threat in the Empire: A viable replacement for Molt. So Molt waited like a spider, ready to ambush the son who had become his rival. The opportunity came during the War with the Warrior Bunnies. Marcus, 'The Soldiers' Prince' stood before the Senate and had sternly rebuked his younger brother, Zorzal's conduct of the Campaign. Marcus denouncing the waste in Imperial lives through Zorzal's blunt force approach to war. Marcus had proposed that he should take an army into the Veldt, where he would march on Tyuule's Capital and lay siege. But then the boy had overplayed his hand. He reminded the Senate that their original mandate to the army had been merely to secure the border against raids from the Warrior Bunnies. He intended to offer Tyuule terms before moving on her Capital: That her people would be allowed to withdraw away from the boundaries of the Empire and settle in the lands to the Northeast. That the Empire would even then guarantee the Bunny Nation if Tyuule accepted his terms.

Thus having both humiliated his brother Zorzal and angering Zorzal's allies in the Guilds and the Senate, Marcus had made himself vulnerable and Molt had him executed for plotting sedition and treason. It was a flimsy set of charges but it was enough. It also sent a clear signal to Zorzal about power and control.

It had also been a huge blunder for Molt, he now realized. He had paid more attention to his younger sons. Zorzal could command power but lacked the subtlety to handle it. Diablo was smart enough but lacked the fire to command power on his own. With Molt's blessing and support, either of them could claim the throne. Without it, neither could ever challenge him. Unfortunately, what he now needed was someone who had both the confidence and vision to act intelligently and decisively without Molt having to guide their moves. What he needed was the son whom he had feared.

Perhaps Marcus could have found a way out of this mess.

Molt dismissed these thoughts. What might have been was of no use to him now. He looked to Marius. "Your concerns are noted, Marius. I will suspend the orders to destroy bridges and other assets. But should the enemy begin to move, I want preparations in place to destroy everything of possible use to them. I will not let them have a single grain of wheat, nor will I grant them any convenience in my lands."


Chapter 31: Cocktail Warfare

Camp Augustus

After nearly causing the respected Legate to have a heart attack, Ruth sat back down next to Octavia, the two women quite satisfied with their mischief. Germanicus, ruefully laughing at how the pair had caught him so completely unprepared. He could only be thankful that Videlia was back home. The last thing he needed was to have three of them working together. He took his seat on his wife's other side, while Taylor took the empty chair between his mother and Panache.

"So, mom? What do you think?"

"I think… I'm going to like it here." She shrugged. "That apartment is a bit boring, after all. Not enough for me to get into. Your brother and I haven't spoken since he stormed out. I haven't seen Claire in years and to hear her say that she didn't consider your brother as her daddy hurt. As much as I think Bryan needs to get himself together, I know how much he loves that girl." Ruth sighed. "And your sister has her hands full with Jonathan and now with Rachel and Casey and now Rebecca too! But she and I just don't seem to be able to meet half-way. I'd love for them to visit but I'm not going to be able to live up there. So that doesn't leave many choices.

"On the other hand, she smiled over at Galador. I've got a new grandson to get to know, two boys I'm just dying to be an Aunt to, And four well-mannered young ladies who want to give me more grandchildren And I've traded up in the sister department. I need something new in my life. So, if it's alright, I'd be happy to stay."

"Ruth," Octavia told her. "We would be delighted to have you with us!"

"What about when they go back through the Gate mom?"

"Son, you've got horses, clean air, fields of grass. Those are things I miss. Not to say I wouldn't mind a couple of solar panels. I like my TV and my DVD player and my coffee maker. But I haven't driven a car since you were fifteen. Washers and Dryers are nice but I've done it by hand. Nothing new to me. And I can be useful again. That's something I need."

Taylor nodded. He knew his mom was right. "Of course, there is one tiny matter…" He hesitated.

"Oh? What's that?"

"They're English." He said the word as if it were poisonous.

"English?" His mother narrowed her eyes. After testy relations with her in-laws, it had been her standing joke about not trusting the English. That her experiences had been with a not truly representative sample of English was beside the point. Several others also queried the word.

"Well, only distantly," Taylor admitted."We already knew that Saderan High Tongue is a form of English. So the upper classes speak a recognizable form of English. It's a good thing too, because Mother's," he indicated Lady Octavia, "library has some answers."

"Oh?" Octavia quirked her head.

"You have Chaucer's 'Book of the Duchess'. But you also have a book written by one John Chaucer:'Imperium' The answers are right there. It's just that One side didn't have the answers, didn't even know we didn't have the answers and on the other side, all the answers but forgot the questions or at least why they even mattered."

Taylor shook his head. "Imperial Year 103, 1396 on our calendar, John Beaumont, Fourth Baron, Beaumont led a force of three thousand men, including nearly one thousand knights plus longbowmen and auxiliaries, including the fifth child of Geoffrey Chaucer, named after the author's friend and patron, John of Gaunt, set out for Nicopolis in Bulgaria but never arrived. As it turns out, the crusade ended in a disaster. The English never arrived but the French couldn't exactly say anything since their knights were the ones that broke the Crusader ranks for a glory charge which caused the battle to fall apart. So despite reports that an English force had gone out, the English denied it ever happened.

"But apparently, it did, and according to 'Imperium' even if it wasn't the battle Beaumont meant to fight, three years later, in Imperial Year 110, The Saderan Empire was split between Cadus Sol Gaius, who had an army supported by the Orc Confederation and Aemilianus Co Senna, backed by the Senate over succession to the Imperial throne. Beaumont had carved out a small territory and threw in with the Senate in exchange for Beaumont's son being adopted by Senna. And with Beaumont came Middle English, Longbows, and one of the symbols of Beaumont's purported patron, the Duke of Lancaster, The Lancastrian Rose."

"What about the original Saderans?" Aurelia asked.

"I'm still working on that. The Legio IX Hispana seems to be a possibility though. It disappears from history sometime in the second century."

"I'm sure you'll figure it out," Ruth chuckled "Well, I suppose that's not too bad. Everybody's got to be from somewhere."

"True," Octavia smirked. But I find the future much more interesting, don't you?" She asked Ruth mildly.

"That's for sure."

"Well then! Welcome to the family!"

Akusho District, Sadera

Mizari looked around the Venus with satisfaction. Ever since the death of Bessara, the place had been closed while the new owners carefully cleaned and repaired every inch of the establishment, Having come with the building in the bargain, Mizari and the other thirty girls had been forbidden from working until the healer said it was alright for them to do so. But still, they and another twenty girls whom Mizari had been instructed to hire had been more than well paid during this time. They were taught new rules for the conduct of their clients and also told that they would only service clients who showed a special token at the door. Three girls had actually not gotten permission from the healer to return to work but instead of being thrown out, they were under the healer's care and assigned to serve drinks instead. It was all very strange.

Although asking questions had never been encouraged by the previous owners, curiosity finally got the better of Mizari, who asked just why her new employers were making so many changes. Lieutenant Theisman explained:

"What we want is to attract clients who are willing to trade a little inconvenience for safety and discretion. And will pay well to get it." What was left unsaid was that the sort of men who could and would pay more for these services were men of a higher grade and station than a fresh-faced miles or an ordinary street hustler. These men would be men with information and secrets to hide.

Officially, of course, seeking out brothels was forbidden among the allied troops. Of course, Theisman mused, our governments certainly never envisioned us going out and actually operating a brothel but here we are. But while the brass might publicly proclaim a 'Zero Tolerance' policy, reality knew better: That, at some point, some men would succumb to temptation and it was best if they were encouraged to go somewhere carefully monitored. So, unofficially it had been allowed to spread through the grapevine that personnel frequenting certain sanctioned establishments would not face censure. Theisman did not expect this to be a concern at the Venus or the Bacchanalian since the only allied personnel in Sadera were the very operatives now running those establishments. Still, it was best to have the rules in place, just in case.

Mizari was simply told that any allied personnel who showed up as clients would have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Everyone would be required to surrender any weapons on entry and Mizari and the other girls were not to take abuse from anyone. While theirs was hardly an ideal profession, the situation for the girls at the Venus was at least better than it had been. Going from a succubus to a courtesan, it was a good deal, Mizari decided.

Estate of Baron Varus Du Cinna

Varus Du Cinna had been a powerful man once. Physically imposing, he had been a skilled warrior with a lust for life and a fondness for wine and women and had parlayed a successful career as a soldier and a number of successful campaigns into becoming a powerful voice in the Senate, backing the expansionist lobby. But now, time and loss had changed the proud veteran. In the years since his last active campaign, his appetites had only grown unchecked. Still, despite the excesses, he had used to care about his appearance. That was before the loss of both his sons and his grandson in the Empire's latest disastrous campaign. One son had commanded the Seventh Legion and had been proud to bring his own son named Varus in his father's honor, with him. No word had ever been heard from them since they crossed the GATE. His other son had commanded the Forty-Second Legion and died attempting to retake 'Sacred Alnus' from the Barbarians. His body had been recovered but Trajus had hardly been recognizable. His body mutilated by the Barbarians' weapons.

His wife had contentedly passed on years earlier but now Varus, the venerable old warrior, sat in his empty house, eating too much and drinking too much and cursing the Emperor for appointing that incompetent bungler Germanicus to command the Expedition, cursing that fool Godasen for wasting his other son and coming back alive without having retaken Alnus, cursing Germanicus loudly, loud enough that the man should still hear him in whatever justly deserved hell he was now in, cursing the Senate for their cowardice, cursing the gods for each and every sin they had committed against him. Right now, he was cursing his serving girl simply because he wanted to.

The servant in question simply bowed her head submissively and refilled his cup. His perpetual glower softened just a little as she gave a small smile and flicked her tail flirtatiously. Not that she wanted this old man to touch her but it did calm his disposition some. In any event, a little more wine and his lordship would probably be passed out for the next few hours, especially with the dwale added in for good measure

This made Baron Cinna's estate a very useful meeting place for Bouro and other important members of the Haryo. In her lord's absence, Vendetta was able to ensure the security and privacy that Bouro's plans required. Unlike Tyuule, Bouro's 'ally' of convenience, Vendetta was no slave. Nor had she been a queen for that matter. What she had been was a mistake, an indiscretion and one that like so many others had been quietly discarded before she could become an embarrassment to the powerful man who had sired her. That had been twenty years ago and she had endured the rough streets and alleys of Akusho while her mother suffered as a discarded plaything, a gentle and refined courtesan and mistress, now reduced to bedding the most base and vile men in the Empire to survive and to keep her daughter fed.

Vendetta was the name she gave herself when she was recruited into one of the local street gangs. If it was unpleasant, it was one way to stay alive in an unpleasant world. She had quickly learned how to handle herself in a fight and no one made the mistake of underestimating her twice. Except for the owner of the dive where her mother worked. It was an open secret how Nerus cheated his girls, at least those who couldn't fight back. He owned the flops where many of them lived and lent money when they were short on the rent or other necessities, ensuring they were caught in a cycle of dependence as they worked ever harder and he continued to cheat them.

Eventually, her mother owed too much. Nerus suggested that if her daughter started working for him, he would 'erase' the slate. But Andromeda had refused. Instead, offering herself to him. It was after a particularly brutal night that Vendetta learned what was happening. She snuck into his room the next night and pressed her dagger to his throat, and warned him never to touch her mother again. A week later, Andromeda was nearly beaten to death by Nerus in retaliation as his initial fear had been overcome by anger and a need to punish them both for that fear. That night, as her mother stayed with one of the few trusted healers in Akusho, Vendetta returned to Nerus' chambers. The next morning, his mutilated body was found face up in his bed. It was at this point that Bouro stepped in. The gang which Vendetta belonged to was one of his recruiting groups and According to Bouro, Vendetta and her mother would be useful to him outside of Akusho.

Bouro explained that he was a half breed like Vendetta and that they represented a 'New Race born upon The New World' That she and her mother could be useful in ensuring the survival of their kind. Not really trusting Bouro but having no real choice, Vendetta agreed to become his agent and soon, she and her mother were moved to a safer place where Andromeda was told to instruct her daughter in the ways of courtly manners and grace. And when Vendetta had learned her lessons to Bouro's satisfaction, he arranged for her to be hired into the Cinna household where she was to ingratiate herself and report on the goings on of the household.

Vendetta played her part to perfection, never letting anyone ever suspect where her loyalties lay. She had actually been working on attracting the attentions of the Baron's grandson. He was a perceptive young man who was rather attractive and well built as a human. It was an unfortunate shame that he had been lost in the disaster of The Expedition, especially worse since the loss of his father and his uncle meant that her current position relied on the survival of one foul old man.

Strangely, Bouro had said that amid this calamity might come an opportunity. And as he and her other 'guests' arrived it seemed that her time was coming.

And when that time came, she planned to settle some accounts long overdue.

Imperial Park, Sadera

Youji Itami was very much relieved to be back to doing something a little closer to his normal skill set than chasing dragons. With the Diplomatic Mission ensconced in the Jade Palace and with the first overtures made to Lord Cicero, it was time to put on a little demonstration to underscore to Cicero and a select group of Senators, whom Pina had named as possible swing votes in the matter of the Senate's willingness to pursue peace, just how out-matched they were. It did not matter how many bodies they conscripted, in the measure of that army's killing power, the Allied Forces were exponentially more powerful in ways the Saderans could never match. Of course, while Itami's squad was there to spell out the military situation to the Senators, the actual diplomacy would be in the hands of Ambassadors Sugawara and Russell and of course, Princess Pina serving as hostess.

Surprisingly, Pina was aided in her efforts by the elder sisters of Countess Myui. With Pina having taken de facto guardianship of Myui, her sisters had both been chastised and somewhat embarrassed by the whole matter. What they had also begun to notice is that in spite of the failed assault on Italica and the damages done and losses sustained there, Italica was prospering in a way no other location in the Empire was faring. With the two older sisters suitably chastened by their husbands after their behavior had nearly sparked a house war between them, they were now both anxious to repair their standing in the eyes of the Third Princess and to partake in the prosperity that Italica was now experiencing. With these goals in mind, both sisters were quite eager to offer Her Imperial Highness any assistance they could, making a not inconsiderable contribution to the fete, providing both staff and helping make the arrangements for the social part of today's festivities.

Among those attending was Sherry Tyueli, daughter of House Tyueli. Her father was a close cousin of the noted Senator, Marquis Casel. But what mattered to Sherry at this moment was the strutting of her cousin Amarula as she showed off the pearls gifted her by the Count of Campari on behalf of his son, a young man of seventeen, one of a very few who managed to distinguish himself amid the disaster of the expedition, rescuing his injured commander who had been wounded while leading his troops back to the Gate amid the chaos of the day..Having survived such a defeat and actually distinguishing himself, the young man had become quite smitten by the graceful young Amarula and with his father's consent, announced his desire to court her in marriage.

So it was that Sherry, all of thirteen and only just shy of her fourteenth birthday, could not quite suppress the envy she felt, being herself ready to find a husband in a country where eligible young men were currently in scant supply. But Sherry saw greater possibilities. She had been introduced to Ambassador Sugawara briefly at a much smaller gathering at Marquis Casel's estate two weeks earlier. The introduction had been perfunctory but Sherry paid close attention to the alien and enigmatic diplomat. He was certainly more refined than the young men she knew. Now Sherry intended to catch the eye of Sugawara. It was only right that if Amarula could find a suitor, then so could she.

"...Be a good girl and you will receive a wonderful gift. I promise!"

Those words from Sugawara were like electricity to Sherry, causing her to blush and feel so much like the child she repeatedly assured herself she was not. It had been such an impetuous act but Sugawara had seen fit to give her his pledge! It was as simple as that.

As Sherry left with her parents, Ambassador Russell strode over to where Sugawara was standing with a mildly amused Princess Pina.

"I'm sure in a few days, that girl will be receiving a set of Japanese pearls that will leave her cousin quite envious!" Pina noted.

"I'd love to have a connection with Marquis Casel."

"I would be very careful to make sure I forged the right sort of connection, Mister Sugawara. A young girl often has expectations and a girl with expectations spurned can be a very dangerous enemy," Russell noted.

"You know a woman's heart well, Mister Russell," Pina chuckled.

"Only more in hindsight than foresight. I find diplomacy infinitely simpler," Russell said in rueful amusement.

"Well, that girl definitely has a crush on you Mister Sugawara." Pina smiled.

"Surely, you jest!" Sugawara replied, genuinely surprised at the notion. Of course, the briefing packets had mentioned that Saderan daughters often married at a younger age than was the accepted norm in modern societies but intellectual knowledge was not the same as emotional knowledge. And in a man, so career driven as himself, Sugawara had developed an emotional blindspot in regards to his own social awareness.

"She's quite serious, Mister Sugawara. Powerful and mysterious are the currents of a young girl's heart," Ambassador Russell noted.

In the meantime, Itami began the demonstration of the Howa Type 64 rifles carried by most JSDF personnel in the Janus Theater. In addition to Cicero and Lord Ducie, six other Senators were in attendance, along with Gaius Fure Scipius, one of Pina's Thorns and the archery instructor for the Rose Order, as were a fire team from Lieutenant Mayer's Marine detachment led by Sergeant Hill and manned by other veterans of the fighting at 'Alamo East'. The marines had suggested some modifications to Itami's plans. First, rather than the empty armor suits recovered after the initial assault on Alnus, The marines arranged for the armor to be strapped onto several pig carcasses. That the bullets would penetrate the armor was not in doubt but adding blood and allowing the Senators to inspect the wounds would further underline their message. Before Itami's men took to the range, Scipius would demonstrate the comparative range and efficiency of the standard Imperial Warbow as a control. A series of targets set at fifty-yard intervals was provided for him and, indeed, in a performance that impressed Sergeant Hill, Scipius was able to hit a target over four hundred yards away and even effectively penetrate targets at three hundred yards and maintaining a rate of six shots a minute over several minutes in a performance definitely worthy of the second best archer in the entire Rose Order.

It was a master's performance and the Senators all understood that as they were allowed to inspect his targets.

Then, the range was cleared and Third Recon's rifles opened up.

Seeing the torn and bleeding carcasses, Cicero and his fellows were aghast, shocked at the level of carnage they witnessed. Cicero's first instinct was to try and convince Itami to sell rifles to Sadera or better yet tell them how to build their own but it quickly became clear that their opponents had no intention of tossing away any advantages they held over the Empire.

Next, One carcass dressed in the armor of a Saderan General was set up behind and to the right of the Senators. After inspecting the damage inflicted by the Japanese rifles, the Senators were invited to watch as Hill radioed Corporal Rice to 'Begin stalking'.

"Roger that."

Sergeant Hill and his men provided each of their guests with a pair of field glasses, showing them how to focus in on one of the distant targets.

"In this exercise, Corporal Rice is out there somewhere. The objective is to spot him before he shoots our target, General Porkus Maximus, standing back over on your right."

Over the next several, tense minutes, the Senators searched until suddenly a shot rang out, striking the target square in the chest, piercing the armor and savaging the tissue behind.

"Good shot Corporal. Stand up."

Standing up roughly eight-hundred yards away, Corporal Rice then took aim and sent six more shots into the target in rapid succession, underscoring that the initial hit had, in fact, been taken by someone unseen, firing from a range far beyond any archer in Falmart.

This was followed by a demonstration of small, portable mortars. The demonstrations had the desired effect as Cicero, Lord Ducie, and the other Senators present understood that a continuation of the War would only bring the Empire to ruin.

Further conversation was interrupted by the approach of uninvited riders. Itami and Hill quickly assembling their people to secure the site and evacuate Cicero and his fellows while Sugawara returned to the Garden Party.

"We have company," Sugawara said as he approached Pina and Ambassador Russell. The two ambassadors blending in with the local nobles and Mister Russell looking for all the world like the patriarch of some great Imperial family.

"Brother!" Pina called as she recognized Prince Zorzal at the head of the riders entering the park.

"You seem disappointed to see me," Zorzal noted as one of his men sniffed the air with a frown.

"Not at all!" Pina answered her brother. "It's just that you never seemed to enjoy gatherings like this. Had I planned a tournament, then surely I would have invited you right off! That is if I could not convince you to participate. But your skills are somewhat wasted amid mere social gossip."

"I suppose you're right," Zorzal chuckled. Apparently, he was the victim of either a prank… And gods knew that Diablo was perfectly capable of pulling something like this simply to enjoy making him run about like a fool. Or he was merely the victim of an old man's paranoia. Well-intentioned but still a bit of a waste on his time.

"Forgive me, your Highness, but what is that smell?" One of Zorzal's men, Vedastus, if Pina recalled correctly, sniffed with disapproval.

"It must be the food," Pina suggested. "Since you came all this way, it would be rude not to offer you food and refreshment." She gestured to where a large powerfully built man with a thick beard was turning a sizeable rack of meat. "Ah! Mister Dessioux! Brother, meet Mister Dessioux, he and Mister Furuta have been in charge of catering this affair for us."

Even as Vedastus continued to sniff with growing consternation, Zorzal having already decided that this errand had been a waste, turned to inspect the various meats. One, in particular, seemed to catch his eye. "It's yellow," He noted.

"Ah! That would be Furuta's Karashi Mustard," Dessioux noted. "I prefer a friendlier blend myself. That Karashi has some serious kick to it but I'll admit you gotta be a real man to handle it."

Zorzal, of course literally bit at the implied challenge. Even as his eyes watered and he fought down the fire, he pointedly glared at his fellows to join him, daring them to flinch in front of him as he declared the Karashi rubbed Ma-Nuga meat to be worthy of his tastes.

Vedastus frowned as he stared at the meat.

"What's the matter, boy?" Dessioux frowned. "There are only two kinds of folk that turn their nose at good barbeque: Food Snobs or Vegetarians. Which one are you?"

Under Prince Zorzal's glare, Vedastus bit into the Ma-Nuga meat, riding down the burning in his throat. He finally slowly, reluctantly nodded his agreement with his Prince's appraisal of the meat. Still…

"This is still not what I was smelling before, sire. A foul smell of sulfur…"

"Ah Then!" Mister Russell spoke up, approaching Pina. "That would be the smell of Firesticks from the land of Zhongguo." He nodded to where a couple of young men were lighting fireworks. The men in question were actually a couple of Marines in local garb. They had been setting off fireworks for the past hour or so to cover the sounds from Itami's makeshift firing range. "I'm told they're supposed to drive off evil spirits."

"Better light a few more. There's still a rather nasty one right in front of us," the voice of the Second Imperial Princess spoke up from behind Pina, its owner giving a disdainful look at Zorzal. Then her expressions changed as she addressed Pina as Princess Livia walked up, cradling her son contentedly.

"Ah! Pina!" Claudia exclaimed. "So sorry to drop in unannounced!" She said conversationally then turned to Zorzal. "Though I am surprised to see you here. What? Did the zoo throw you out? It is a zoo after all, not a hunting preserve."

Zorzal snorted superiorly as Pina watched the interplay between her siblings with visible dismay. "Such an attitude, dear sister. Remember, I will be sitting on the Imperial throne one day. You need to learn to speak with greater care. Especially in front of my nephew. It would do him no favors if he learns to emulate your behavior."

Livia looked up from her son, her voice pitched low and deadly cold. "You may become Emperor one day, Zorzal. But, my son is a king. It is you who should choose his words with greater care in my son's presence."

After an infuriating moment, Zorzal laughed. "I see life away from Sadera has not done anything for your temper, sister." He turned to Pina. "It seems our siblings all conspire to make sport of us. I, however, have no more time for games. I will trouble your cooks for a bit more of that excellent Ma-Nuga meat before I go. I admit it is a breath of fresh air to a palate which has been disappointed as of late. I may have to steal the cook!"

"Of course brother!" Pina nodded in relief and as soon as his mounts had been fully laden with 'take out' as Pina remembered the term Taylor used, Zorzal and his entourage finally left.

Watching them go, Claudia gave them a smirk and a little wave as they departed. Livia merely sighed as she held her son, who was still content to sleep in her arms. But now she looked up and nodded to Claudia, who nodded back and turned to Pina.

"Now that pale imitation of a quarter-wit is gone, shall we discuss what you are really up to, little sister…?"
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