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Apocalypse Now

Chapter Six: Countdown

By David bar Elias


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Shang-Kun, Chinese Empire
January 3, 2004

In the early part of the 19th century, the Chinese, using ironclads based off of the old Korean Turtle ships, had driven the British from their outposts on the Malaysian Peninsula. By 1825, the city of Shang-Kun, named after the man whom many westerners called China's version of Elizabeth I or Peter the Great, utterly dominated trade in this part of the world, smashing what had once been an equilibrium split between the Dutch and Chinese in favour of China. Built on an island, the city had grown into a titanic metropolis, easily dominated by the Han colonists and their many descendents, although plenty of Malay domestic workers abounded.

Now, in the eyes of the Lord Mayor San Kung, everything was collapsing around his ears, quite literally. Even as the massive guns, which had once only faced outwards to the sea, were moved to face the Malaysian jungle, the skyline of the serene metropolis was grossly deformed, as many buildings were dragged down and moved to the front of the island. The Han civilians had long exited the city for refugee centres on Chinese New Guinea or the North Island of New Zealand. Only the Malaysian workers remained, supervised by the units of the New Model Army, named after the force Shang-Kun had formed to modernize China's military. Below his office, the Mayor watched as two Chinese Red Dragon Supertanks thundered towards what would soon be the front line against the devilish Posleen.

"You were saying?" asked the Lord Mayor, turning back to his visitor. San Kung's office was largely bare of the precious artwork that had once adorned it-it was with his wife and their children on the North Island. He was scheduled to leave there himself....after this business with his unexpected guest had been taken care of.

"What a lovely office you possess," said the figure, a Mr. "Tan We." Tan We was shrouded in a combination of traditional Chinese men's were and what looked like a Malay sarong; such an outfit wasn't that was fairly common among Malays who had assimilated to Chinese lordship through and through. They often changed their names to Chinese sounding ones to further advance in society.

What was unusual about Mr. Tan We was that his entire face was shrouded in what looked more like the death masks that the Shiite terrorists who plagued the Russian Empire would wear. Tan We had claimed that he had an "offer that could not be spit back" for the Lord Mayor, himself an influential figure in devising the schemes for building up the string of Fortress Cities that now dotted the coastline of mainland China.

"I thank you," said San Kung. "Now, let's get right to the point. I know that you have an offer for me. An offer so important that you couldn't tell me directly over the phone. Is it something to do with the Galactics? An investment opportunity?" The Mayor knew plenty of political figures in the Empire who were eagerly taking the opportunity to invest in what had come to be known as "GalTech," a joint Galactic-Terran trading company that was helping to fund the Fleet and the defence of Earth.

But was this really how potential investors were invited in?

"Well, in a way, yes," said Tan We, slowly unveiling the thick silk mask. This caused the Lord Mayor of Shang-Kun to jump back in surprise.

It was a furry face (which greatly resembled a red panda or fox). Black pupils dilated, and the face grinned, showing very sharp looking teeth.

"What do you bloody well want?" belted out the Lord Mayor, using a phrase he had learned from his counterpart from Madras during a meeting back in 2000.

"What you want, honourable San Kung," said the Darhel in unusually clear Mandarin (the Mayor would later learn about the full power of translation devices). "I want an investment opportunity. If you prove to be a wise investment, then the opportunities for you will be boundless."

And for the next several minutes, San Kung listened to the Darhel proposal; he was so engrossed, that he didn't pay attention to the submersible artillery platform (an invention out of the NEU) sinking beneath the sea ... the waves generated fanned out across the ocean, rocking a passing ship crammed with Dutch and German refugees bound for the NEU East Indies.

Simla, India, British Empire
March 23, 2004

Colonel Rav William Birkar of Her Majesty's Indian Armoured Combat Suit Regiment watched solemnly as yet another train overloaded with refugees from the lowlands ended its journey at the Simla Depot. From his vantage point atop a weather beaten cliff to the north of the city, Birkar gazed dispassionately as the train ground to a halt.

The Colonel, a rejuvenated veteran of the Third World War's raids against Chinese bases in Tibet, knew the sorts of people likely to be among the refugees boarding the monorail trains that would take them to the actual SubUrb, buried beneath the Himalayas at an undisclosed location; the ethnic groups most loyal to the House of Hanover-Jats, Sikhs, the descendants of the Ghurkha refugees that had fled their homeland from the Chinese conquests of the 18th century...the wives and children of the soldiers drafted from the subcontinent's plethora of religious and ethnic groups, the bureaucrats and administrators from the various Indian Union governments, and countless others. Colonel Birkar had lost track of the trains that had come and gone bearing refugees. He knew in his heart that no matter how many trains arrived at the depot, countless others would be left behind. In a way, it was a sad reversal of the story of Noah's Ark-the government was trying to save everyone, but it couldn't help but leave millions behind. At least there were the fortified cities-New Delhi, Bombay, Madras, Pondicherry, and the island of Ceylon to keep the Posleen occupied as well.

"More of them?" Asked Captain Montgomery Dirgewaller of the 334th Imperial Rifles, a sub-division of the Indian Armoured Combat Suit Regiment; Dirgewaller's ancestors had come to India from Hanover as employees of the British East India Company in 1883, and he still had an accent that was both guttural and sing-song at the same time.

Colonel Birkar snorted; Dirgewaller made the question four times per day every day without fail....every time another train came in, as a matter of fact. Birkar knew that it was just the brawny blonde former Bombay stock trader's way of easing the tension that had steadily built up since First Contact, and the announcement of the imminent Posleen War.

"Yes," said the Colonel grimly. He then repeated what he always said to Dirgewaller every day. "No changes at all." He gazed down from his vantage point, soon to become the centre of a front-line strewn in unholy carnage, upon the refugees flowing towards the awaiting monorail cars.

Fort Catherine, Uralia SubUrb, Russian Empire
September 2, 2004

Peter V, Czar of the all the Russias, greeted Lord Shalenko as the nobleman bowed before him; virtually all the luxuries of St. Petersburg, stripped from their holding places to save them from the coming storm, glittered down upon the temporary Romanov Throne Room. The Russian nobility were heavily biased to an environment of glacial and glittering beauty; the sparkling in this once barren bleak hole in the ground was almost blinding.

Peter V rose from his throne and bid Lord Alexis Shalenko, a fighting man who was in charge of the defences of his native Sevastopol, to follow him. Both men travelled towards the corridor-lined with the golden busts of the previous rulers of the Russian Empire, looking ahead towards the Czar's study.

Following them at all times were the silent bodyguards of the Royal Family; they were loosely modelled after the Queen's Own Xia, and were built like supertanks....but were surprisingly quick in their reflexes...the Czar knew fully well what they were capable of. In 1998, they had foiled a Muslim dignitary, Lord Massoud of Russian Persia, before the Shia terrorist had managed to stab him with a plastic steak knife. His bodyguards had grabbed him and snapped his neck in two seconds flat.

Czar Peter bid his guards to wait by the door; only a direct order from the Czar or Czarina could get them to follow that order. Both Peter and Shalenko sprawled on luxurious Bokharan-made cushions, and promptly lit up their pipes. Peter turned on a music recorder to the Firebird Suite.

"My old friend," said the Czar, calmly puffing the gilded pipe. "Why do you insist on staying in Sevastopol? There are many generals who can read your plans, after all."

"You know the answer already Peter," said Alexis Shalenko, blowing smoke rings. "Without a cockpit at my command, this is the closest I'll get to my needed adrenaline." Both Peter and Alexis had met at the Air Academy in Kazan, where the scion of the Romanov Dynasty went nowadays for their military training.

"You know we have plenty of women here for that too," said the Czar wryly. Lord Shalenko had been a bad influence on the Crown Prince when it came to women...he was a womanizer and proud of it.

Lord Shalenko laughed heartily at that comment; that brought back plenty of escapades, to say the least.

"Peter, there's adrenaline, and then there's adrenaline," belted out Shalenko. "There are some things that beat flying a Firebird or sleeping with the Commandant's daughter....fighting man-eating space centaurs hand-to-claw is one of those things." Shalenko had undergone rejuvenation, and naturally was spoiling for a fight. For the next hour, Lord Shalenko went over his plans for the defence of Sevastopol. The digital map that he brought with him showed the worst case scenario for a Posleen surge over the Russian steppe. The Czar nodded sadly. His friend was a fighter, and would die that way. This thought came to him as the Firebird Suite reached its crescendo.

After Shalenko finished the presentation, he bid his old friend good-bye. As it turned out, it was the last time that Peter V would see Shalenko ever again.

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