This article, Neo21 - Friendly Fire, is still being written by its owner Lither. They apologise for the inconvenience.
In Which We Are Pro-Logs
It was the darkest hour of night, but one would never tell it from the bright lights surrounding the city. Caracas. The cultural capital of the Upper South American Zone. Only a couple months ago wartime rationing would cover the city in a shroud of nighttime darkness, but as our situation improved so too were electricity rations lessened before being removed altogether.
A fair-haired man in a brown uniform surveyed the area. Impressive, really, how the city had been rebuilt so quickly after the American Empire performed near-absolute nuclear devastation. The workers united could produce miracles. Everything here looked modern, an avant-garde, yet few buildings were left without monuments to the savage barbarity of the invaders, and the heroic resistance of the people who fought against them. Everyone left knew a victim. Everyone left had a reason to fight to the end.
Slowly, purposefully he strode down the city. Clear stress lines spiderwebbed out from his eyes, and his face had a tightness to it that belied his efforts to seem calm. Striding past a notorious sex shop named the "Legitimate Family Restaurant", he reached his goal, a small, filthy pub, named the "Unimaginative Pub Collective". Striding through the dingy doors, he was surprised at how full the pub was.
He flicked his gaze around the room, before settling on a figure slumped over a bottle of Cachaça. White-haired and at least sixty years old, with a face red from alcoholism and eyes only usually going in the same direction, the brown-uniformed man noted he was probably a bit late. Still, he strode over and took an empty seat next to him.
"Rough day ay wot Marshal," he said to the drunken figure seated beside.
"I'm no Marshal" he spat, "They threw me to the wolves to keep their own seats."
The brown-uniformed man's lips tightened further until they whitened, nodding faintly in a jerky manner.
"I too understand what being betrayed by the people you trusted feels like."
"First they tell me to launch the Summer Offensive nearly a year before it could succeed and then when it inevitably fails they crucify me over it."
"Comrade," he said carefully, "The people know what you've done for them. In the barracks, they're still loyal to you. Take a look around, everyone knows someone has to shake up the administration a bit. Sometimes, you must clip a plant to help it grow."
"Are you suggesting..."
"Indeed I am," The brown suited man extended a hand, "I'm Sasha. We have work we must do."
The phone ringing blared Worker Group Leader (Loyalist) Gaspar Abascal painfully from his sleep. In the dingy apartment he'd registered under the name of "Bob Legit", he stumbled around trying to find the damn thing. Not that it could be an easy task. Gaspar was something of a slob. Piles of dirty plates overflowed from the sink, covering much of the kitchen. Filthy clothes lined the floor almost as enthusiastically as empty bottles of whatever was on discount at time in the local bottle-o. The difficulty of finding the phone was only magnified by the absolute pounding hangover that was ravaging his body and threatening to make him chunder at every movement.
Staggering around, he became aware of a loud droning sound, as well as thumping noises and a faint rattling. Perhaps it was merely a monster of a hangover wreaking havoc with his head. Not only that, but upon digging up a still functional alarm clock, he found it clear as mud, 0456. Who in all hell would be calling at four to five in the flaming morning?
Surely nobody sane, that's who. The night was for sleeping off the pre-night drinking. Not for receiving calls from people. Everything important happened from nine until four, when the Upper South Americans expected people to be working. After that it was a mess of drink, public nudity and minor fines for anti-revolutionary public disturbance.
Eventually, after a lot of digging, he came across the phone. Still ringing, thank goodness, whoever was wringing at this hour better have something blasted important to say. And it better not be that Central American meat merchant again with the penile enlargement pills. If it was... There'd be a ravaging.
"Hello," Abascal said, "This is the Legit family home you have called-"
"Comrade!" the voice on the other side cut him off, "Comrade! Can you hear me?"
Now that he thought of it, Abascal could hear a lot louder roaring and rattling from the speaker.
"I can," he calmly responded, "Please remember proper International Worker-"
"I haven't got time for that!" the voice yelled with more than a tinge of desperation, "Comrade, I'm calling from Brasilia, there are tanks everywhere. Soldiers flocking the streets. I... I don't know what's going on, but it looks real nasty beyond the window. Just outside my apartment I saw some sort of firing squad tear apart a couple of people I knew from the Popular Organising Committee. This is beyond the pale. Comrade," and at this point a ting of desperation entered his voice, "I think they're coming for everyone in the bureaucracy, and I don't know who they're going to go after next!"
"Comrade, we have nothing to fear. I'm sure that-" at this point the line blared a sound that suggested an early hangup.
"Comrade?" he uselessly yelled into the dead phone "Comrade, can you hear me!?"
Nothing. All quiet on the Brasilia front.
The came for Abscal an hour later. Tracking his home down, a rifle company unceremoniously kicked down his door, where it fell backwards to a thirty degree angle, balanced on the rubbish. The commander was the last to enter the room, as the soldiers started digging among the piles of filth to see if Abscal was hiding. Sucking in a deep breath - something he immediately regretted in a wave of nausea - he tapped a small radio.
"This is Revolution One," he choked into it, "No signs of the HVT so far, over."
The commander was a tall man, with an impeccable mustache and a hawkish disposition. Fancy, too. Fancy enough to petition his superiors of several occasions to be allowed to wear a suit into the field. Fancy enough that a extravagant cocktail didn't look a touch out of place in his hands. Fancy enough that one secretly suspected one day he'd be stabbed to death with a cocktail umbrella.
He suspected - rightly - that there'd be no luck tonight. They could scour every inch of the apartment, but Abscal was long gone.
Meanwhile, Generalissimo Augusto Felipe stood upon the speaker's platform of the Supreme Worker's Council as the last of the councillors entered under military escort, some soldiers even the guards of the Supreme Worker's Council who had defected almost immediately upon seeing the army in the streets. Some seats would stay empty, most notably all those owned by the HSP whose occupants were either terminated or on the run. To his left, on the ground, stood Sasha Vlahovic, Commander of the International Worker's Union. He gazed around the room, seeing fear and confusion on the eyes of the politicians. Some hadn't even had the chance to change from their pyjamas before they were dragged out. Sasha had been insistent on having all those at least remotely loyal to the revolution present.
Felipe's eyes flicked over to the cameras manned by a few soldiers from the army's propaganda brigades. They gave the go-ahead gesture, and he cleared his throat in preparation. Basic political skills were necessary to get anywhere in any military force, but nothing had ever prepared him for this.
"Comrades," he levelly announced, "Our government has completely failed to protect its people. It has whiled away the ours with petty bickering and power plays while our people suffered and died by the millions, promising us the moon but refusing to deliver. Because of its consistent failings to do its duty, I am dissolving the Supreme Worker's Council and instituting a state of emergency until our most dire situation can be resolved. We thank you in advance for your understanding of our difficult situation, and hope it can be resolved quickly and satisfactorily. Our international friends have a few words to say."
With that short statement he turned and stepped down, as Sasha moved to the platform. Sasha could have sworn he heard Felipe bitterly mutter something about a "word from our sponsor" as he passed. Unlike Felipe, Sasha saw no need to hide his fury as he grasped the platform and leaned towards the microphone. As the artificial lights reflected in his eyes, once could mistake it for flickering flames trapped in his pupils.
"Comrades," he spat into the microphone, "Since the very first scum discovered how to exploit their fraternal kin, there has been war. It is the oldest of all wars, the most devastating of wars, the most merciless of wars, that have left millions, even billions dead for dreaming another world is possible. It has been a war between the oppressors and the oppressed, war between the exploited and the exploiters, war between the rulers and the ruled. Here we have felt its most devastating touch. Few are we who could ever forgive the empire for the holocaust it unleashed upon our people, and yet for every victory we have had against it, for every inch we have clawed back at terrible cost, it has never given up. When they stopped their open warfare, they chose a new warfare, a darker, conspiratorial, insidious warfare aimed at breaking us and grinding us once more beneath their jackboot. Even though we fought tooth and nail from the gates of annihilation to force them to accept a peace, they even now work to achieve with espionage what they could never achieve at the point of the bayonet."
At this he leaned backwards and flung his arms wide as his voice reached a crescendo.
"Look around you! Their slaves have been hard at work subverting our democratic traditions, bogging us down in debate and negativity, but it does not stop there. They infiltrated our bureaucracy, causing stagnation and inefficiency, but it does not stop there. They terrorise our citizens, murder our children, bomb our hospitals, but it does not stop there. They have even infiltrated our liberation armies! I name the arch-traitor, the one who masqueraded as our most steadfast comrade, our most loyal friend, our most selfless leader, I name him as the greatest enemy of the working class to have ever lived! Vamana Uldericks, Emperor of Eurasia, he who spread great promises of worker's democracy only to stamp upon our faces and turn the most progressive international army of the world into his Praetorian Guard."
He slammed his fists into the table, making the microphone jump.
"Know this though. There are still those of us left who remember the promise of a better world. We will fight your bloody designs. We will never let you rest a single day. We will eradicate your spies in our revolutionary republic. As long as one loyal comrade still draws breath, we will fight you, and every other imperial power of the world. We will not stop until the whole world is red and you are dragged out from wherever you hide."
Sasha stepped down from the platform, taking a deep breath to steady himself. The Reformed Spartacist League gave a standing ovation, while less hardline politicians nervously applauded as they wondered where exactly that left them.
"They will speak of this day for a hundred years to come," stated Sasha, a faint amount of exhaustion mixing with awe in his tone, "Everything we have done here will be studied. They will look back at this day and wonder why. They will wonder what we thought, wonder what drove us to it."
Sasha and Felipe were seated on opposite sides of a table in one of many backroom chambers of the Supreme Worker's Council, where ordinarily secret political deals were nutted out. Now it held a list of names of prominent counter-revolutionaries marked for termination by the South American Revolutionary Armed Forces. True to form, Sasha was seated with his back to a corner, where he could stare at the supposedly soundproof door, and every so often producing a hip flask of some unidentifiable spirit to take a swig of.
"They will condemn us," Felipe noted, "To them, we will be the headsmen of the revolution, we who cut the heart out from a vibrant people's democracy."
"That is likely," Sasha accepted, "It is also irrelevant. They can scream curses at our names with a thousand tongues. I don't care. They can damn us all if they must. Everything I do is for them. We will do what we have to do. Every sector has its song, and for too long ours has been a harsh song. A song of pain, of rum, of torment. Misery the likes of which we would never have thought we could experience has been brought to our doorstep. A little more won't be so different."
Worker 1800, Bruce "Farking" Drongo, ruminated inside the dimly lit inside the hangar of the transport plane. Bleeding edge stealth tech melded with our best avionics to build this prototype plane, one that could drop commandos deep into enemy territory. But to test its viability, the PSAR needed the best of the best raiders. That meant IWU. Not to toot our own horn, but we were the best the PSAR had access to. Decades of experience with infiltration war melded us into a force nobody could stop!
Of course, none of the four Workers in the hangar even looked like the IWU, they never did, but this time they got free reign to pick and choose among the finest of the PSAR's armoury. Each of them carried an AW-120 personal defence weapon, wearing the TPCDBP-131, with a parachute. Occasionally, Bruce wondered if they were just guinea pigs for both the armour and the plane, but forced those thoughts out of his head. They were hand-picked by their commanders for this mission. Their comrades wouldn't just throw their lives away, wouldn't they?
"Eighteen hundred," Leading Worker "Turps" 1762 leaned closer from his position on the other side of the hangar to whisper in his refined English accent, "There's a new Emperor, did you hear?"
"Yeah, nah," Bruce replied, "Fair dinkum didn't farking see that blighter coming ay wot Turps?"
"Indeed. They say some new chap named Vamana Uldericks has declared himself Emperor. Married the right person and all, what a dreadful way to decide your Emperor."
At this, Worker "Seppo" 1975 leaned over, and with a pronounced American accent she said,
"Could be worse, could have to elect a new one every three days."
"Pull ya farking head in mate," Bruce shot over, "Cheeky farking larrikin."
At this, the lights turned red as the boarding ramp opened, and the team of four moved to the ramp.
"Everything all right back there, Grunts?" Turps yelled to the back of the plane
Worker 894295, "Grunts", grunted as the indeterminately gendered individual moved towards the ramp.
"Remember," Turps called out above the howling wind, "We knock out the communication tower, we cut all communications for a fifth of their defences. We win today, tomorrow may be the final days of the fascist southern regime!"
As Turps turned towards the open sky and stared at the thick cloudbank, Bruce could swear he heard him mutter "attacking communication towers never ends well".