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Tales of Valour

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:14 pm
by Questers
A place to post some short stories or vignettes, from any nation.

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:14 pm
by Questers
Vereker's Battery

Bill Vereker, six feet tall and blonde, thirty nine and a Captain in the Yeomanry, rode ahead to the forward position in his Land Rover. Behind him, in dusty green trucks, were towed the six Long Toms of His Battery of the Lucknow Artillery.

The first people he came upon were stragglers, heading to the rear, desperation on their faces. You should go backwards, said their Captain – the Communists have us whipped.

If that is so, I have not heard it, said Bill Vereker. His column passed, and those stragglers whispered to one another: who are they? They are Vereker's Battery. Vereker's Battery? Vereker's Battery of the Lucknow Artillery!

Then they came upon a dressing station, and the cries of the wounded were very desperate. A doctor came out from a tent, clothed in blood, and said: you should go backwards, as we have no room left for men here.

If that is so, then we shall not call upon you, said Bill Vereker. His column passed, and those wounded whispered to one another: who are they? They are Vereker's Battery. Vereker's Battery? Vereker's Battery of the Lucknow Artillery!

Finally, Bill Vereker's Battery arrived at their position, one small grassy knoll, with the wide and fast and green Pahang river ahead of it. There was but one man there, a spotter, with a wide turban, who said to Bill Vereker – Captain, I was waiting for you to guide you here, but now I must go to the rear.

If that is so, said Bill Vereker, then when you get to the rear, tell them that Captain Vereker's Battery of the Lucknow Artillery is at the front. Then he gave his orders, yelling as his lungs would – trucks, to the slope! Shells, forwards! Guns, to the positions! Battery … ! To arms!

And there stood Bill Vereker on a box of shells, binoculars to his thin hazel eyes, and looking out to the river. His aide de camp came to him and looked too, and said Sir! The Communists are many like flies! They have already crossed the river! They mean to whip us!

Bill Vereker lowered his binoculars, and said: And I mean to whip them! And he did call his orders. Battery, depress four! Range, eight thousand! Load phosphorous... And there was the clunk of the breeches closing. Battery … Fire! The ground thundered, and shook, and swept up dust.

The Communists began to fire back with their own guns. First they missed, and then they became closer, and closer. Vereker's aide de camp said Sir, the Communists have us bracketed. You should get down.

But Bill Vereker kept on through his binoculars. The shells rattled around his battery, and two guns were lost. Then they were down to four.

Bill Vereker lowered his binoculars, and said: Their guns are not our object. We must move their infantry! And he did call his orders. Battery, depress six! Range, eight thousand! Load high explosive... And there was the clunk of the breeches closing. Battery … Fire! The ground thundered, and shook, and swept up dust.

Back at Headquarters, were the interchanges never stopped ringing, the General had observed his map. Why, he said, the enemy is about to break through there. Why are my men running?

The Communists have them whipped, his aide said. He had a long face that had the pale colour of defeat.

And what's this flag here, said the General. There's but one unit in their way. Who are they?

That, said his aide. That must be Vereker's Battery...

Vereker's Battery... queried the General. Yes, the aide said. Vereker's Battery of the Lucknow Artillery!

Then rally my Brigade, said the General. Rally them and relieve this Vereker. And tell him that help is on the way.

At the front, Bill Vereker was still at his binoculars. The Communists fired back, and he had lost one more gun. Now there were three guns of his Battery of the Lucknow Artillery...

Bill Vereker lowered his binoculars, and said: We must keep firing until we are killed or they are running! And he did call his orders. Battery, depress eight! Range, eight thousand! Load high explosive... And there was the clunk of the breeches closing. Battery … Fire! The ground thundered, and shook, and swept up dust.

His aide was with him then. Captain Vereker, he cried, Headquarters says they are coming to help us. You may tell the Headquarters, said Bill Vereker, that this Battery shall stay here until it is relieved or it is silenced. And then there was an almighty explosion, and Bill Vereker was thrown to the ground. His aide was soon upon him.

Sir, are you hit?

I am killed, said Bill Vereker. But this Battery of the Lucknow Artillery must hold!

This Battery will hold, said his aide, and then stood and cried, to the one remaining gun:

Load high explosive. Depress . . . Battery … Fire!

Battery … Fire! Battery … Fire! Battery … Fire!

Battery … Fire! Battery … Fire!

Battery … Fire!

It was quiet, that little grassy knoll, when the swarthy Malayan troops climbed upon it, waving the flags of the Law, and found just one man sitting upon a box. Where are the Communists, the relief troops asked. The Communists are whipped, he replied. Where is the Captain of the Battery, they asked. He is killed, he replied. Who were these men, they asked.

We were Vereker's Battery, the one survivor said.

Vereker's Battery, the relief questioned.

Yes, Vereker's Battery, he said. Vereker's Battery of the Lucknow Artillery . . .

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:42 am
by Srf

Dear Mother,

Happy new year! The communists have rung in 2002 with their usual firework display and are busy shelling our district again. They must have gotten a new battery up on the hill the other week, because lately the amount of incoming has been simply withering - although nothing dampens our spirits, we certainly don't go outside as much anymore. My friend and squad-mate Khoomir (a good, honest Congregationalist) has told me that some of the heathens on the red side don't even celebrate new year on January first, instead it comes for them some time in March. Did you ever hear of such a thing?

Someone in the company got hold of a crate of communist beer, which is actually not undrinkable (but of course, is nothing compared to a good Uxmouth Stout), and a bottle each was the limit of our festivities. There's one other Commonwealth chap in my group, a big burly North Point rugby player by the name of Andy, and we spent a few hours reminiscing about life back east. It was nice, talking about things like stouts and pies and roast beef to someone who actually understands the appeal. Not that there's anything wrong with the local lads I'm fighting with, but they are quite alien to a sheltered Haversham boy like me!

I feel like I should apologise again for the way in which I left you the other month. I am a little ashamed of the way I slipped off into the night and I feel terrible about how this would have made you feel. But we both know very well the lengths to which you would go to keep me safe at home!

I am becoming a man, and a man has a duty to fight for what he believes is right. These good, honest, simple people have been under the boot of red tyranny and oppression for far too long, and now they have a chance to seize their freedom and make their own way in this world. I would be a coward and a hypocrite if I did not do my part for the cause.

Under the guns and sandbags and razor wire this country really is a beautiful one. It never goes below fifteen, even now in the dead of winter, and the sea is a glorious bright blue. When this horrible war finally comes to an end Freiburg will be a fantastic place for a young, adventurous man to put down roots and make something of himself. That is what I intend to do with my volunteers allowance, as I am told that even a pound of silver should go a long ways here. We can build a house on the hills over the city, and you can finally escape the awful home island winter and come here too!

You have always called me a dreamer, but this is something I can feel in my bones. In three months I will be eligible for leave, and I will come home for a few weeks to spend Lena's birthday, and we can talk more about the future.

This is getting a little longer than I wanted, so I'll sign off here. I'll be at the front from next week so shan't be able to send any emails, but will try and send something as soon as I'm rotated back to garrison. Don't worry too much about me, God and history are on my side!

All my love,

Thomas Fraser served in the Allied Associated Front "4th Haversham" brigade from 2001 to 2002. He was injured in action in the final battle for Freiburg, after which communist forces retreated from the city. He recovered in Tairendia and currently resides in Freiburg. He is joint president of the Sovereign Rugby Federation.

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:47 pm
by Srf
Qorqalvaqa, 2009

My host Siyrg gently knocks on my bedroom door at exactly 07:00. "Sorry to wake you, Sam (pronounced "Sem" in his thick accented Praetannic). We rise early here!"

I smile, and assure Siyrg that it's really no problem. The gentle thunder of artillery guns has kept me awake for hours.

We transfer to Siyrg's balcony for breakfast, swaddled in thick yak-skin robes to escape the early morning chill. From where Siyrg's home is positioned, in the affluent northwestern districts of Qorqalvqa proper, I can see the thick clouds that hang over the dramatic Qorboq valley being slowly dissolved as the sun creeps over the Amayali mountains.

"It's beautiful" I say. Siyrg agrees, lighting up his first enormous joint of the day. "Even more beautiful" he grins, inhaling a deep drag of potent Amayali cannabis. He offers me a second, but I decline. I tell him I want to stay alert for the day ahead. He laughs. "Our soldiers smoke also. You will not see them flee combat, that is for sure!"

"Are they all Qorboq?" I ask. "I hear that there are some Dumanis involved in the fighting".

Siyrg grins at me. "Sem, there are many stories in our culture. Some are true. Some are a little bit true. Some are not true. Some... Some are sometimes true".

Siyrg's wife interrupts us with a tray laden in foods - for each, a steaming bowl of Gvigkhali - yak butter-broth stew - and a plate of stir-fried vegetables and rice to share between us. Siyrg grabs his stew and throws the first spoonful over the railing - to feed the mountain, he tells me - and starts slurping the remainder loudly. I do the same. It is delicious, and the perfect meal to warm one's bones on this cold mountain.

When we finish the soup, Siyrg relights his joint and grabs a pair of binoculars from where they hang on the wall. "Here, see the battle".

I peer through the binoculars eastward, towards the mouth of the valley. The thunderous guns that kept me awake all night are easily visible, firing constantly at a mountain a few kilometers distant. I can just barely make out the flashes.

"Amayalis in the mountains" Siyrg explains. "They use this mountain to hit the city, so we must remove them".

I get a little worried. "They can hit the city? Here?"

"Oh yes" Siyrg says casually, as he stubs out the end of his joint on the table. Last week they hit a house near here. But as we say, Pohur Tu Pohur(directly translated, what will be will be). The mountain will protect us, if it wants".

He lights a second joint. "Let's eat some rice. And then we can go to the front. I'll drive".

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:34 pm
by Questers
Forlorn Hope

The party, making its way behind the short slope, ducked as a ripple - the shell exploded far enough away, and they were safe. The Colonel, sabre in its sheath bouncing on his thigh, scrambled up the slope, and the party followed.

The Journalist, by his side, looked out over the field. There were hundreds of them - brown skinned Sikhs in turbans and shorts, pressed flat across on the farmland floor, huddling the ground, praying to keep the shells away. And ahead of them, banks and banks of white smoke, drifting and curling from the earth and upward, until they were just wisps against a blue, blue sky.

"Do you see that grain tower over there?" The Colonel passed the binoculars to the Journalist. "Their artillery has our guns under fire. Their spotters must be on that tower. We've got to gain that tower."

The Journalist passed the binoculars back. "What's behind the smoke?"

"A hundred million Songians!" a staff officer shouted, yipping in anticipation.

"The main body of the enemy's Division is surely emplaced in this area," the Colonel said. "We have no artillery, no bombs for our mortars, no tanks, and no air support." He turned then to the Journalist, and gestured out over the land. "This Regiment was my Father's Regiment, and his Grandfather's Regiment too. The men there - they work on the shop floor. Over there, some machinists. And over there, the clerks. And there, there are the lorry drivers. And here, around us now, well, in their real lives - they're bakers." More shells came over. A party of stretcher bearers ran out at breakneck speed.

The Journalist stammered. "Then why do you attack?"

"Because these," the Colonel, said, "are our orders: The Twenty-ninth Sikh Rifles will attack." His voice boomed and caused the sabre to once again bounce on his thigh.

"But - what will happen to New Perth when this battalion is decimated?"

"Oh," the Colonel said, and looked away from the man - "It shan't be as bad as all that." And then he took the radio transceiver from his orderly. "Fix bayonets. Battalion will advance!"

He did not look at the journalist as he walked forwards into the smoke and mist. The journalist looked over the field and saw the men in the low grass stand up and become a sea of soldiery, walking forwards, on and on, until they walked into the smoke, and then there was the noise of battle.

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Tue May 08, 2018 3:49 am
by North Point
24 July 1997

To: The Chief of the Bureau of Ships, North Point Sea Command

Two months ago this ship was part of a screen for a carrier task group operating off the Songian east coast. Our force was attacked by enemy missile boats, frigates, and a single large ekranoplan which was nearly the size of our cruiser. The commanding officer believes that the action which ensued at 0817 and lasted for three hours tested our ship to the utmost of her abilities. The strain and damage placed on our hull, machinery, weaponry, and electronic equipment was far beyond what any peacetime exercise could simulate. At 0818, we maneuvered to make a missile attack and prepared to receive incoming enemy missiles. Our "carpet" radar jammer system defeated several missiles and remained intact despite shock from rapid continuous 6" gunfire. Early in the action we were hit near frame 122 by several five inch rounds from enemy frigates. We observed our own shells hitting this frigate and forcing him to break out of line and retire. We then came under fire by another frigate which our forward guns engaged. We observed no hits by our anti-ship missiles. At this time our "roger victor able" radar detected a large surface contact approaching at high speed. In concert with our destroyers HASTINGS and MACDONOUGH, course was shifted to engage this target. A total of 741 rounds of 6"/47 common and armor piercing projectiles, four RGM-84 anti-ship missiles, 1,050 5"/25 common and AA projectiles, and 10,405 rounds of 20mm were fired without a single casualty due to materiel failure. The toughness of our fire control equipment was much in evidence as the guns were locked in automatic while the vessel maneuvered radically. Despite the loss of the rangefinder in the forward director due to shrapnel, our YC (yoke charlie radar) remained operable. The performance of the ship's engineering plant was excellent despite the age of the ship. Crashbacks and flank orders were answered immediately and our engineering department believes our ship the equal of newer gas turbine ships in the force. The steam plant was operated at full power for the entire engagement. We are proud of our machinery and the hull that carries it and believe this ship to be a perfect example of North Point shipbuilding. We would appreciate if you would relay our compliments to those responsible for designing and building VALPARAISO.

H. L. Edwards
Commanding Officer

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Fri May 11, 2018 5:05 am
by Preston
11 May 1912

My Dearest Father,

I must open with sincere apology for the delay in writing you, for indeed we have been interminably busy the past several weeks. Every day we march, from here to there and from there to elsewhere. If we are not marching we are engaged in some other task; cleaning rifles, shining boots, digging trenches and latrines, moving boxes of this and that on and off of the trucks that supply us. Always we are waiting, for the next order to come, to pack and move forward to confront the enemy. The officers tell us that this is how wars are won, not in the trenches as in Quiberon but by chasing the enemy into the hills and destroying him with his back to the wall. We are winning, they say, we've got them out of supply and on the run and soon we will corner them into a final and glorious battle to end all this unpleasantness and put things back to right.

The men of course are uncertain of this, especially-so the older ones. The officers are young men, fresh from the Academy, who studied war in books, or so says our platoon Sergeant. He disdains them, good-for-nothings he calls them. "All seeking glory, as long as someone else wins it for them." He was in Quiberon during the War, at Bellerive and Chateau-Desourmeux. He doesn't talk much about those battles, but he knows the score and most of the men trust him. The older hands have been though this one season already and tell us young bucks that the important thing is to catch the enemy before the summer rains come, any day now, and turn the roads and trails into rivers of mud and filth. Then, they tell us, we will really be in the height of misery. For now, the heat is tolerable and the conditions fair, for which we ought to be grateful.

They tell us other things too. About the enemy, things which make the skin crawl. Captured men being beheaded, disemboweled and worse. Pits, placed as traps in a road, in which may be spikes lined with filth. To hit one of these cleanly, they say, is a mercy, for otherwise one languishes in sepsis and agony for days until death finally comes. I would dismiss these as stories made up to scare young conscripts like myself, if I had not seen them myself. Just the other day we came upon a lonely Mission upon a crossroads, burnt to the ground, the priests hanged from a tree like so many windchimes, swaying in the breeze as if they had never been people. Occasionally, a head upon a stake, planted along the road. Ours or theirs, a captured soldier or an accused collaborator. The intent is the same. Just the other day 3rd Platoon was attacked along the road to Sinop, and many were killed. By the time we arrived, the enemy had disappeared into the jungle. This, the old-timers say, is how it is here. They fight on their terms, and we chase their shadows.

Today, we are in Sinop, encamping and showing our goodwill. Tomorrow, we will be perhaps elsewhere. The people here are hospitable enough, and a few of them know a few words of Quiberic or Embrean. Those in the platoon who speak Lusitanian are of course happy to translate. It is surreal to think that these smiling people, a few days ago, killed our friends. The old-timers are always on guard when we encamp in towns such as this, and I likewise. The people here are unreadable, and this disconcerts me. Perhaps they seek our protection. Perhaps they mean to kill us. Perhaps it depends on the day, the circumstance in which we meet.

In spite of all this, I close in assurance that I am safe and well and look forward to the day when I shall be home and we shall be happily reunited. Give Mama and Yvette and Carolina my warmest regards, and tell them not to fret so, especially Mama in her delicate condition. I shall hope, if all goes well, to return in time for Yvette's wedding. An older brother, in a soldier's dress uniform, what a grand sight that would be.

Very Sincerely Yours,


L/Cpl Andre Boxler, 19, was killed in action by an ambush attack 3 days after this letter was sent; it arrived, heavily censored, before news of his death could reach his family. This uncensored version was declassified in 1963 in accordance with the Organic Law on Valmirian War Records, and is made available courtesy of the Confederal Archives

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Fri Jul 20, 2018 1:37 pm
by Srf
A Lion Without a Mane – Travels in Motappaland
Published 2017

The jet liner touches down against the rough, potholed tarmac of Boende Ubindi International Airport and bounces once, twice, before settling into its deceleration. A clapping erupts behind me and spreads down the length of the plane – my seatmate, noting my confusion, leans over to me and explains that they are applauding the safe landing. I remember that Motappaland holds the distinction of worst country in the world for airline safety, and thank the Lord that I’m not flying on the domestic Air Motap antiques that are often the victims of poor maintenance.

Ubindi’s arrival terminal is very similar to the rest of Motappaland - that is very hot, very dirty, and filled with people who don’t seem to be doing very much at all. After paying a “fine” to the visa official for having the visa attached to my passport upside down, and rescuing my bags from an army of informal porters who jostled with each other to attempt wrestling them from my hands, I made my way outside where my driver, Alfonse, was waiting for me.

“Good evening sah!” he opened with the stereotypically rich, musical Motappan accent and took my larger bag from me. We made small talk as we crossed the parking lot to his battered 4x4, built in North Point probably at least twenty years ago – and still sporting an early 90s bumper sticker declaring the previous owner “Puerta Blanca Born and Raised”. The passenger door sticks a little and I have to tug it open with some vigour, but the air conditioning does, thankfully, work. “Ready, sah?” Asked Alfonse. I replied with a smiling nod, and reached to buckle myself in. Naturally, the seatbelt was long since lost.

Travelling through Boende is a rather intense experience. Even (or especially) at night, the sheer number of sights, smells and sounds can be overwhelming. At every intersection crowds of colourful umbrellas hide money changers, street-side barbecues and small tables selling mobile phone top-ups, while armies of motorbike taxi drivers lounge in the gaps talking amongst themselves and smoking cannabis. Small, identical shops protected by thick metal shutters sell everything from nappies, to inexplicably sourced fresh bread, to cold cans of soft drink. From every direction a rich medley of music – reggae, afrobeat, even Questarian Jollywood-style Hindi – blares into the street. And of course everywhere one looks there are people, thousands of people, walking along the road dressed in a mix of bright, bold local fabrics and tatty old second-hand Wallasean clothing. Fleets of 4x4s, some new and some very old, charge down the roads veering dangerously close to the massed bodies who always without fail hop across a ditch or press against a parked vehicle for safety. Some enterprising individuals stroll between cars as they wait at stop lights, hawking cashew nuts and pirated CD’s.

Alfonse deposits me at the Hotel Cratois with a promise to pick me up tomorrow morning at 8, leaving immaculately dressed porters to deal with my baggage. Boende’s only 5* establishment, the Hotel is something of an institution and has featured heavily in the city’s turbulent past as the setting for meetings, coups and other dark dealings. If I wish to get my finger on the international pulse of this city, the Cratois will serve as its temple.
The check-in process takes much longer than I felt necessary, with several checks of my documents and reservation performed by an escalating number of supervisors and managers, but eventually I am shown to my room. Whilst clean, it is somewhat basic and dated, and most certainly does not warrant the $400 per night fee (I will take this opportunity to kindly thank the publishers of this series for their generous cash advance). A quick wash of the face grants me enough confidence to head upstairs to the rooftop terrace.
The hotel, at fifteen floors, is the third-tallest building in Boende (behind the TV tower and the Government Complex). It is also built on a hill, leaving the rooftop terrace a pleasant 22 degrees when in an early evening breeze. The terrace itself is quiet with a gentle murmur of conversation, but the constant beeping of vehicles from the street level is inescapable. I instantly order a big local “Tembo” (elephant) beer and survey my fellow guests. A table of obvious NGO workers, a Nachmerian-looking businessman who is almost certainly here for gems, a couple of local businessmen with their mistresses, a Quiberic birdwatcher, and two Dumani PMCs at the bar. I make a mental note to chat with all of them tomorrow evening, after a busy day of exploring Crataea’s biggest village.

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Mon Aug 27, 2018 9:02 am
by Srf
script from a North Point news bulletin about refugees from Sharfland in Questers, aired 2002

*Shot from helicopter window at the ground*

NARRATOR: Even from the air the sprawling, white tented cities surrounding the small and unassuming town of Joharabad in far western Questers are starkly visible. Its inhabitants are fleeing a bloody war waged by their government against its own people.

DINESH: There's at least fourty thousand people in the camp. That's almost the same size as Joharabad itself, and we have hundreds more crossing the border everyday. It is quite a situation as you can see sir"

*Exterior shots of Dinesh walking through the camp and greeting people*

N: Dinesh works as a protection officer for the Quiberon-based NGO World Aid International, which has been assisting refugees from the Sharfland in Questers since 1999. He's eager to show me the dire conditions that the refugees are being forced to endure.

D: You're seeing people who are suffering malnutrition, PTSD, some dangerous diseases such as cholera and tuberculosis. A lot of them have been subjected to some kind of violence, or intimidation by armed groups inside the Sharfland. A lot of them when they first arrived ended up squatting in the cities and some of them actually were attacked by local people. It was quite a situation. Recently a local businessman agreed to lease a big area of his farmland to World Aid to build up the camp, which was really a very good result for us.

*Exterior shots of camp dwellers going about their business*

REPORTER: That was last year, and since then the size of the camp has almost doubled. Down here you can see the lines in the grass where World Aid placed the first batch of tents. Now there's one or sometimes two new tents, each hosting upwards of five people, squeezed in between the original two.

*Close up shot of Baargulin and Dinesh talking*

N: And space isn't the only concern the residents of the camp have raised with World Aid. Mr Baargulin Feruz, head of the Camp Dweller's Association, has been voicing his constituents' concerns to World Aid for months - he says with little result.

B (via interpreter): It's ridiculous. Ask anyone here and they will tell you just the same. We are living with rats bigger than a farm dog. The toilets are stinking and dangerous. The food that arrives is spoiled and full of maggots. We aren't allowed outside of the camp-

D (via interpreter): Now sir that is for your own safety and you know that we have certain conditions imposed on us by the local-

B (via interpreter): Absolute nonsense! If we knew when we arrived we would be locked in here then we may as well have stayed at home and gone to a government detention center.

D (via interpreter): I am very sorry that you feel that way but we have to follow -

*Baargulin begins to walk away, still shouting*

B (via interpreter): These people don't want us here and they're trying to drive us out and everyone here knows it!

*Exterior shots of children smiling and waving at the cameras. Cut to shot of Dinesh being interviewed in his office*

D: Of course it's natural that people are frustrated. They have left everything to come here and yes, we are doing our best to provide them the services they deserve. But for some it's not enough.

R: But as you said, many people here in the camps are already frustrated and there are more coming every day. Is World Aid going to be able to handle all these new arrivals?

D: *pause* we will do everything we can for these people. Funding is always a problem. But... *he pauses again* yes. We have to do what we can.

*Exterior shot of refugees squatting around a campfire while dancers dressed in traditional costumes entertain them. Cuts to exterior shot of Reporter standing in the camp*

R: World Aid is already providing water, sanitation, shelter and food for the inhabitants of this camp, but the need is absolutely overwhelming. With no end to Sharfland's murderous war in sight and hundreds more desperate and hungry refugees arriving every day, the challenges become ever more acute. For Jacksonville Evening News I'm Roger Stetson.

Re: Tales of Valour

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:07 pm
by Srf
Nova Zemlja (Rubber Coast/Obala), March 1921

“Dusan, I don’t know how many times I have to say it. Leave the damned thing alone!”

Dusan flinched from his father’s voice, and dropped the stick he had been using to prod the lazy snake that spent its days coiled beneath a palm tree in the Nikolic family compound’s garden. His father, Vasa, sighed and shook his head before turning back around to gaze out from his balcony. From his compound’s elevated position, perched atop the verdant green hills that separated the colonial capital from the lush and virtually unexplored interior, he observed a storm rolling in from across the sea. Below him, separated from the water only by a narrow strip of white sand, the small but picturesque Zegoran city of Nova Zemlja lay nestled between lower hillocks and small clusters of tropical fauna. From up here, Vasa thought, you could barely even see the native settlements. Up here only the whites were visible, tucked away from the oppressive heat in their low-built whitewashed homes.

A sudden breeze rushed in from over the sea, lifting Vasa’s hair. The storm would arrive soon. He turned his attention to a small room masquerading as a guardhouse, and sharply whistled. Within seconds a skinny brown face had popped out of the guardhouse, eyes wide and locked on Vasa.
“Nemanja!” Vasa called from the balcony. “I need you to do something for me. Take a bicycle down to the warehouse and make sure they have secured the rubber vats properly. I don’t want any washing away in the storm again. Alright?”

“Yes sir, I do it now” Nemanja replied in broken Zegoran, giving a small half-bow to his employer and rushing into the garage to find a bicycle.
Vasa didn’t know why he had bothered, really. He doubted Nemanja had the faintest idea how to secure the rubber vats properly. That was a real problem with the natives, actually. They just couldn’t process anything more complex than opening a door or frying plantains. Certainly they had no appetite for business.

Not that Vasa was racist, of course. Heavens, he had married one of the native ladies after all. Dusan was a mixed child! And he paid his domestic staff a little better than the going rate, just because he had seen how far ten Obalan Liv could get you in this country (not very). He certainly treated them better than was normal among his peers. Alright, so sometimes they stole a bit of food or led around idle at work and needed a swift bamboo to the buttocks. But at the Gentleman’s club in the city he often heard others boasting about how they’d whip the “bad ones” so hard they lost the skin on their backs. Simply awful. If he kept hearing talk like that he might have to send a concerned letter to the governor.

The gate creaked open and Vasa watched Nemanja wobbling from side to side as he tried desperately to control the bike. Somehow, despite the harsh gradient of the hill and the poor condition of the road, he managed to steady himself. Vasa watched him shrinking with distance for a while and then looked back to the horizon. The storm was getting a lot closer.