by Max Barry

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by The People's Federation of South Reinkalistan. . 150 reads.

Chapter 4

There was never any choice.

In retrospect, it was probably always going to happen. That didn't shock anyone any less, because at the time it was unheard of. Vanguardism was a dead philosophy, something laughed at and practiced only by fringe groups of lunatics across the world. To learn that they'd seized an entire country - not just any country, Reinkalistan - was a massive shock to the system. It basically reconfigured the entire way we saw ourselves and the world around us. Hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, over one hundred million people, all under the People's Federation -- is it any surprise that everyone flipped? The entire world went into overdrive. The Kayans and Dhoerish joined hands for the first time as they united against the new threat. And they lost. That's what frightened them. In the face of Vanguardism, of the supposedly weak and feeble communist armies, we lost. Sure, the reds didn't take the whole country, but they pushed the Coalition past the northern mountains, into the periphery, and it was very clear they'd emerged ultimately victorious. A continent in their hands.

And so we all found ourselves coping with this new reality. The realisation dawned on us slowly, at first. We'd refuse to acknowledge the truth before us. We asserted that a philosophy as bankrupt as theirs couldn't possibly maintain control over such a large mass. They'd fall into atrophy and decay and cease to be a threat. We were in denial. And so years passed and their economy only grew. Their armed forces only expanded. And then, when the Great War of Askander erupted, it was as if they'd been served half a continent on a silver platter. So we engaged in yet another form of denialism. We kidded ourselves into thinking that our adversaries were friendly. That they weren't looking for world revolution; that they were satisfied with the present extent of their "emancipation". And everyone knows how that went by now.

As always, we turned to war.

But it wasn't a war like the ones people had known before. It was a war - no, a series of wars - fought by proxy in a far off land, east into the continent of Odoheia. It was a land that, while distant from the rest of the world, was nevertheless important in our impromptu battleground. I suppose, when you look at it, both sides were just too scared of losing. Better have some foreign tinpot dictator lose on your behalf, right? And so we struggled in futility plundering foreign lands in order to gain the upper hand. There's no neat divisions between spheres of influence like in Askander, though. It's messy, paint splashed on the canvas in a frenzy, a page torn from a schizophrenic's artbook. We can but weep at that which we have unleashed, man's very constitution sundered beneath the tide of our hubris.

Then we, the cowards, the men who hide in their homes while the unlucky fight for us, reap the rewards of this violence. It's a despicable act to keep the gears of warfare turning, to fund those who build our armaments. Our lives driven by the blood pouring onto our hands, our fantasies the gleeful cries of ignorant pigs, blissfully unaware of what we gorge from our troughs. And yet I cannot help but turn to the madness with weary resignation: what is to be done? To do away with what we have, to dilute ourselves into the very things we sacrifice so much to fight? I suppose it is right to summarise, in the final analysis, that this crazed death cult is probably the only way forward. We'll barrel forward into the apocalypse and laugh in the face of eternity, for this is very much all we can do.

Our fiefs are carved, as chaotically as they are. Our vassals scattered like chess pieces, red or blue, and may the Lord above help those states which reject both.

We began our puppetry with a bang. A fledgling Republic on the continent's northern tip, emergent from the chaos of a civil conflict which had claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands, held its first election amidst deep-rooted instability and military dissatisfaction. This fair land, ALAYI, appeared to be slipping into the grip of a clique too boisterous and independent for us to efficiently command. So we pinioned their democracy and incited a respected General to seize power and begin enacting our mandate. Slicing through the people's will on a continent hundreds of miles away, we established for ourselves a province, beneath our custody and dominion. The free world, expanded. And yet did the masses cry out at this farce? Did they condemn our blatant hypocrisy, our desire for democracy here yet tyranny there? No, they did not. For already Vanguardism was rallying its banner across the continent, expanding in a tide of revolutionary terror. We were cowed into our actions -- it was the lesser evil! Oh, the lesser evil. To keep the executors of a corrupt will faithful, one uses this motif of the foolish and the damned. But it is no less true: every regime we mounted overseas was another buffer in the face of the "revolution". And perhaps it's worth it.

Extract from "THE CONSEQUENCE OF APATHY" by Jean L'oussre (2007)

There is no greater sin than the assertion of neutrality: to say, either, that the present conflict is none of your business, or that both sides are malignant. We fight an existential threat to our way of life. That is not merely "political". You cannot abstract yourself from it. It is a very real part of you, a part of our lives as a civilisation.

I am lucky to be endowed with the right of cowardice -- I hate to say it, but it's true. Many a brave yet stupid man has been conscripted into the seamless horde, processed as a number in the great machine, and sent to go and shoot people or get shot. He'll end up watering the grounds with the tears of a mother one way or another, in freedom's name. For, at the very least, we may vote on who watches the rivers of blood which pour forth. And I? I am one of the men who stands up and watches it all happen, no matter who sits on the throne. A disillusioned civil servant, merely watching from the sidelines and checking the mechanisms which keep the blood and the tears flowing. One of many, tasked with the sacrosanct duty of keeping it all running. Faceless, grey, and replaceable. The behemoth sprawls, and beneath its surge the hopes of millions are smothered; I can but watch, my protests a small flame in a hurricane's midst.

That is the pain: I am both complicit and helpless. I lay a tiny piece of the framework, that which could be laid by another just as easily. I'd might as well be pointing a gun and killing someone myself, yet this makes no difference. Were I to step back, another would take my place and fire the bullet themselves.

Yet, nevertheless, we stand free. For as of recent, we have woven the 89TH PARALLEL into Odoheia's geopolitical fabric, the most decisive border against Vanguardism yet conceived by those who love liberty. The columns barreling down and establishing a contiguous line of NADL soldiers steadfast in their conviction to defend our liberties. That much, I can hope for. I can hope, despite the juntas and the hellish exploitation, that I may still each day wake up free. Crying into the sweet twilight, my family and livelihood behind me, I say let our troops carry their iron will forward! Perhaps we'll never all be free. But we have freedom here, and that's all I can ask for.