by Max Barry

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"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans"

New Manehatten, New Manehatten International Airport
14:38 NMT - 31/3/2389 ALB

"Salam teman!" Octavia shouted as she walked into the airport, a wave of "Salam!" and "Ningsalam!" returned from the guards and civilians. That was a rule of ruling, keep your subjects happy and feel as if they can walk up to you to complain about something. It was better to be loved than to be feared by your subjects after all. Thus was a rule every ruler within the Commonwealth maintained because there was a correlation between being an ass and losing your 'Mandate of not getting sacked by Jason'. And making sure her people at the very least are friendly with her was a necessity in the Medical Regency. With a more overbearing Empire intent on reforming, Octavia had to fit herself in the large hoofshoes left by her great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great great grandmother, as a mare of the people. It didn't help that a monster was walking next to her with a clipboard as if grading her. She tried reading it, but his hornwriting was too much of a Calavarian cuisine to be read.

"Impressive to see a Celestian Mare," Zugzwang said while tapping his clipboard with a pen. His breath smelled of cigarettes or death, and knowing him, probably the latter. His footsteps were erratic, his clothing still dark but this time it was cream rather than grey. If no one had any clue of the stallion, one would note that he looked like a Preventusian detective, more fitting to be looking over a dead body in an alleyway rather than here in a clean airport holding a clipboard with a bunch of formal looking people. "Not many of your predecessors can pull that off."

"No need to flatter me," Octavia said with a huff, moving her mane to her back from the side of her head. The Songkok that was customary to kolonialjenderals was still on her head, but tilting to one edge, seemingly intimating its cousin, the Fez. She was dressed in a light blue uniform, stylish and comfortable. And an eye-catcher to all of her position. Presumably designed by some high fashion designer of the wider Commonwealth, it was surprisingly simple for a mare of her station. "I already have a husband."

"Did Tailspin leave a stick up there? Because you're certainly acting like he has," Zugzwang retorted, getting Octavia's face to turn dark crimson while eliciting a couple of laughs from their entourage. The marriage between Tailspin and Octavia had long since become common knowledge for the denizens of the Commonwealth, and as usual, they were quick to jump for jokes. Ranging from calling Octavia 'Tailspin's little toy', and vice versa, to saying that her name was indicative of how high she screams every night in bed with Tailspin, and to joking that Tail Spinning was her favourite activity. It was an endless whirlpool of high school level jokes. To make it worse, the Royals had hopped onto the bandwagon on social media, along with their cognoscenti friends. Incontinenta Octavia was her nickname among them.

"You're immature,"

"I'm four hundred and eighty six,"

"Still immature," Octavia focused back to the path they were walking. Terminal 3 was printed on the sign they walked pass. Several of ITF Charlie Five 'Factory Fans' were already there, with their slim dark weapons blocking off the general entrance to it. The entourage stopped next to their blockade as the docked plane let out its passengers. Octavia counted the seconds down before spotting a fammilar pegasus walk down the hallway, before spotting her and running over, using his wings as a way to propel more forwards and tackling her to the ground and hugging her. The flash of cameras, from the decent amount of press that arrived to document the event, was blinding, but at the very least Tailspin was in her forelegs. All was right in the world.

"Come on, get up you two. Don't want the internet to have too much material do we?" Zugzwang said, helping the two lovebirds up. The shade of crimson on their faces was noticeable, and most likely, already half way across the Commonwealth at this point. The curse of having a hyperconnected Empire was as so. Tailspin chuckled as they began heading out of the airport, with Octavia nuzzling him by the cheek. It was comforting for him. After surviving a life threatening situation, a little bit of love was what he needed.

"You weren't that worried for me, right?" He asked, as they got into a limo. The interior of it was rather modest for the two, but the small refrigerator with wine in it would challenge that preconception. Tailspin looked at Octavia, she had the signs of a scared little pony who had just been comforted from the monster underneath the bed, and he quietly hugged her as she let out a small whimper. Zugzwang looked at the couple from his position at the front of the limo, and sighed. "Come on driver, let's go."

"Sip boss." The driver replied. The MineLegoEquestrian phrase wasn't lost on Zugzwang as he leaned back onto his seat. He pulled a couple of files from his jacket that MRIS had given to him. Shifting through the files detailed who this mysterious Shadow Emperor was. Jordaan Ausgtin. It detailed that he was a usurper of the original democratic system of Jocospor. As expected, a crisis led to the nation to civil war in which he seized power legally and simply refused to return the power to the senate afterwards. A tad like Julius Ceasar of Rome. But unlike Ceasar, was assassinated in a tub, a tad unlucky. And now apparently, alive after a bunch of medical procedures. A lich in essence, as the necromancers of the intelligence agencies, hissed. Along with a bunch of other ancient figures of the nation, they set to claim legitimacy over the nation - and by extension, the Confederation. Zugzwang personally didn't trust them, the move made no sense. Sure he was winning over their people again, but it wasn't a guarantee that the Heisenians and Borisovians would accept his rule. Because if they wanted to play that card, why all the Shadow Cult shenanigans? Did the emperor want to LARP? Did they want to LARP? Zugzwang wasn't sure. But he didn't like it, ruling needn't deception, but here people doing against it. The beliefs of Christianity had long seeped into his morality, and only half of the Ten Commandments had ingrained themselves after being told off by Jason. And with those beliefs, he was now sneering at the thoughts of the Jocosphite governmental policies.

The soft ringtone of his phone forced him away from his form forming, pulling it out, he sighed as he read the name on it.

M. Atlas

"Salam, F*ck it up and die, Imperialaide Zugzwang at your service,"

"Excellent enunciation," Medical said from the other end. "That's an excellent flow on the classic formula, Zugzwang."

"Thank you, sir, it is high praise to receive," Zugzwang said, switching out of legalese, "Now, onto business, what's the matter?"

"Aww, and I thought we were gonna hold this conversation in legalese, oh well," Medical chuckled. "Anyways, business-wise, I need you to make sure you get Tailspin to working with the establishment, but more unrelenting in criticisms."

"Why so?"

"We know who the person behind the mask is now, tell him to be unrelenting in pointing out flaws, here and there, there and here. Bully them over hypocrisies, backstabbing, and party politics. The Shadow Emperor is not an unknown player anymore. Reform can finally happen in the Confederation without the fear of a cultish emperor doing cultish things. Harmony must be forwarded, even if those Benmiskins don't want it. Which starts with the preservation of the West Heisenian people, get a thousand, a hundred, I don't care if it's a dozen! We cannot let cultural genocide happen upon them." Medical exclaimed. "And if war does end up happening, I want MineLegotiponyian boots on West Heisen as fast as possible, secure as much civilians as possible from the Benmiskins."

"Is this Medical Atlas or the goddamn Ethics Committee?" Zugzwang asked. The Ethics Committee was an organisation formed as an independent institution equal to the Ministries, mainly by the Princess-Governor Celestia and Princess-Governor Cadance as a way to exercise influence and keep the more radical sects of the government in check. Mainly serving as an advisory role, the word of the Ethics Committee wasn't one to trifle with. For various reasons which include the backing of the Immortals of MineLegotia and Equestria.

"Goddamn Chairman Eurn is rubbing off on me," Medical grumbled. "But I expect this to be carried out, I don't trust the Benmiskins to have a shred of rationality within them. Standards for me, none for thee, and all that jazz. Lives are obviously on the goddamn line."

"And why should we care for the preservation of the Heisenians?" Zugzwang asked again, he pulled out a cigarette from his pocket and opened a window as he lighted it. "What have they done for us?"

"Nothing I know, but cultural preservation is one of the few tenants anybody in this Empire can agree on, and preserving the culture of a culture about to wiped is something that future anthropologists and historians would thank us for. Additionally, we're saving lives if we could. Those who have the ability to act is held responsible to act." Medical explained. "I expect this to be carried out to the best of the MineLegotiponyian ability."

"Understood sir," And with that Medical hanged up and Zugzwang sighed again. Tipping his cigarette's waste out of the car before using it again. He looked again back at the married couple at the back of the limo. Separated by a thin layer of glass, Zugzwang could see the two cuddling. Some whimpers and sounds came from the back of the limo, there were some words thrown in there, but he couldn't hear them. Kindred souls thrown into a mess for the advancement of an ideology. Maybe in a different timeline, they needn't be in a situation like this, but at last, God had decided this was where they had to be in this timeline. Vulnerable, small ponies in a harsh world. And protect them Zugzwang must, he had slipped up this time with Tailspin stuck in Vocryae, he would make sure it didn't happen again. By Cadence would he protect these two's love! And maybe get some nephews and nieces in the process too!

He had a security detail to plan.

Read dispatch

Hail the Confederation!

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