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Postby Questers » Tue Mar 19, 2019 12:16 am

Fabian and Estelle

Fabian and Estelle live in a middle-market social-housing complex in Erinsburg with their two children, Francis and Eduard. ‘We wanted to name the first boy with the first letter of Fabian’s name,’ Estelle explains. ‘And for some reason, before Eduard came, we thought we were having a girl. I don’t know – we both just felt it so strongly. And we wanted to name the girl with the first letter of my name, so both of our children would have the same initials. Cute, right? But in the end, he came out the other way. So we called him Eduard.’

Fabian is 28 and Estelle is 26. Francis is two years old, and Eduard one. ‘We figured if we had them together, it would make it easier down the line,’ Fabian says. ‘It made sense at the time. We didn’t think about what it would be like right now!’

The couple exaggerate a little. For three percent of their salary, the two boys go to day-care. Fabian is a junior software developer, so he is away for the usual hours – work starts at eight, pronto, and finishes at six, exactly – but since Estelle is a young mother, the law is more careful. She works at a commercial bank ask as a teller, but the law insists that she receive flexitime, so at three in the afternoon she leaves to pick the two lads up from daycare and she makes up the extra time at the weekend, when Fabian has to take over.

It’s obvious that Estelle is Quiberic, from the way she styles her hair and her accent. ‘My grandfather came over just after the great war, as a child. But, we’re still Quiberic citizens. And we still call it Finisterre in my family. It’s just a tradition, I guess.’ The Regener Nationality Law allows Estelle and her family to keep their Quiberic passports. It even allows her younger brother to do his national service in Quiberon instead of Regenmark, an offer which he has taken up. It’s becoming increasingly popular. Do the two boys have Quiberic passports?

‘Yes, and we are going to visit as soon as we have the money. We have family there,’ Estelle says. ‘We’re not close, but it’s important to keep Francis and Eduard in touch with that side.’

Fabian doesn’t disagree, but yawns slightly. He can’t speak Quiberic – his ancestors were Fantasian Flems, and they’ve been here for well over two centuries. ‘If my people ever had a Fantasian passport, I don’t think we have any now.’ The horse has long bolted for that opportunity. Fabian speaks Flemish to the boys, and Estelle Quiberic. In daycare they are spoken to in Varnian, and at school they will learn Varnian and Fantasian. ‘So they’re going to speak four languages,’ Estelle smiles. ‘It’s a truly Finisterre family.’

If anything is truly Finisterre – which is what the Quiberics used to, and still do, call Regenmark – it’s their flat. It’s small by any means; a corridor, leading to a utility room, and two bedrooms on one side, with an adjoining bathroom. The other side has a kitchen and a living room. There’s a tiny balcony which is now used to hang out washing. Inside the corridor is a rifle locker containing Fabian’s service rifle and a hundred rounds of ammunition – the law says he must keep it at home. It’s illegal to uninstall the locker. For this, Fabian and Estelle pay ƒ 900 ($350) per month. When the boys get a bit older, the social housing agency has promised they will upgrade them to a three bedroom flat.

‘We get by,’ Fabian says. ‘We know how to spend and how to save. Estelle is very good with the groceries, and I walk to work outside of winter months. We rarely eat out. It would be too difficult with the kids anyway.’ Their childcare allows them to deposit the kids at the creche during the evening once every six weeks, but they don’t use it to go out. Instead they stay at home with a bottle of wine and watch classic films.

But their biggest expenditure isn’t an occasional steak dinner, or even the rent for their house. It’s health insurance. Their means tested, government-owned insurance premiums cost the family over ƒ2,400 ($940) per month. There’s nothing they can do about it, either. The premiums are mandatory, and there’s not much they can do to reduce the price. It’s actually over half of Fabian’s after-tax salary. Despite the high cost, the quality is good. ‘Regenmark has the best hospitals in the world,’ Fabian says. ‘So, while we pay a lot, we know for sure that our children are in good hands. It’s worth it, but it would be worth it for a lower price.’ Fabian is wrong, but he’s not far off. Regenmark’s hospitals are good. That they represent his highest expenditure isn’t surprising.

Second highest, of course, is tax. From his ƒ6,875 monthly salary, he sees ƒ4,800, a 30% take. What does he think about this?

‘It’s too high.’ Estelle is nodding as well. ‘The rate doesn’t change as I earn more – and I’m looking to become a junior tester in a few years, which isn’t a big salary jump, but when I start moving up into industrial software testing, the pay goes up. It’s a niche subject, that’s why. It’s used in civil defence, airports, et cetera, so it has to be perfect. But for now, of course taxes are too high.’

We run through what he pays for. For every ƒ100 Fabian earns, the government takes ƒ36 (as Erinsburg has a small property tax). Of that ƒ36, more than ƒ8 goes to the armed services. Fabian and Estelle agree this is fine. They don’t think it should be more, but they agree it is fine. Nearly ƒ6 goes to the public insurance system. There are grumblings. ‘We already pay so much in insurance premiums,’ Estelle says, ‘it seems unfair that we are also taxed to pay for them.’

Not an unusual comment. After that, ƒ4.5 goes to social insurance programs. That includes their childcare, but also the cost of looking after disabled people, and providing maternity leave. ‘We’ve benefited a lot from these things,’ Estelle suggests, ‘so it’s fair that we pay back for it. It’s good that people can take care of each other when they need it, and that they can receive that care whenever. Without some of these programs, we wouldn’t be able to make our dreams and ambitions happen. That’s important for us.’ Estelle places a hand on Fabian’s arm.

‘I agree with that,’ adds Fabian. ‘It’s right that the community take care of the people who can’t take care of themselves also. Though… if it could be done for cheaper, that would be better.’

Next, at roughly the same cost, is the education system. Estelle and Fabian have high praise for the education system. ‘It’s not likely we’d send our boys to school abroad, even if we could afford it. The system we have gets you a job that’s suitable to you quickly. It’s fair, and efficient.’ Even Estelle, who is a bank teller, agrees. ‘What I wanted to do after leaving school was have a family. I didn’t want to study anything at the universities or save the world or anything like that. The school gave me the skills needed to get my job and helped me find the right kind of job that would be suitable to starting a family.’

So far, so good.

Civil security takes just under ƒ3 from every ƒ100 Fabian earns. Worth it?

Fabian doesn’t think so. ‘The police are nice if you are worried about walking home at night. There was that time…’

Estelle is prompted. ‘I was walking through a pretty sketchy area. It was scary, honestly. I was much younger, before having children. A cop car came by, just a coincidence, and they drove me home. They’re good for that kind of thing. But if someone broke into our house, they wouldn’t be helpful.’

‘And prisons are a total rip-off. Most of what we pay for civil security goes to prisons.’ Fabian is firm about this, although it isn’t true. The budget for the Border Force and Police is sixteen times the corrections service. ‘They’ve got playstations and they eat salmon and meatballs and stuff every day in there. It’s not fair that they get treated so well, when we are law abiding, tax-paying citizens.’

‘And they get free healthcare. We have to pay so much for ours.’

Fabian puts an arm around Estelle. ‘The country isn’t fair sometimes but there’s not much we can do about it. It is just life.’

Neither are much interested in this conversation. Their views on whether museums should be free, whether Regenmark should have a space mission, and whether the government should be paying to build railway bridges, provide fishermen with satellite trackers, and inspect farms for ecological violations are not coherent, or well-formed. After all there’s very little they can do to change it. Regenmark is not a democracy, and Fabian is not interested in working for the government. That they think taxes are too high but agree that all the major expenditures are justified should be normal in a country where people are educated to become productive citizens, and not investigators, critical thinkers who can call out the state or its policies. Does either Fabian or Estelle read the green paper, the annual plan published by the Regenmark government, approved by the High Court of Justice, and delivered to every house? They are shy to admit it, but not really.

What Fabian really wants is a car. ‘My old man had an F-wagen. Thing lasted thirty years. He gave it to me before I went to military service and I trashed it with a couple of friends. I want to buy that exact model. Then I want to give it to Francis, or Eduard.’ It’s a strange dream, but also the kind of urban ennui that has conquered Regenmark in its developed era. Estelle is more clear with her dream, more general: A house, with a garden. Possible? Not impossible.

Final question. Who will win the Reichesliga this year?

‘Innsburger Flemish!’ Fabian laughs. Estelle hides behind him and puts two fingers behind the back of his head. ‘AS Finisterre - come on you snails!’ she mouths to the cameraman and giggles.
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: Finisterre

Postby Quiberon » Fri Mar 22, 2019 1:24 pm

Amalia Martin is a lawyer from Regenmark. She moved to Quiberon ten years ago with her husband, Adolphe. Adolphe is Quiberois.

How do you like Quiberon?

I like it very much. The weather is a lot better. She laughs. We make a little less than we did in Regenmark, but we pay less to go to the doctor.

Her husband Adolphe agrees. The property taxes are lower too.

Yes that’s true. Amalia turns to her husband. That’s true. There is no property tax in Quiberon. You pay out of your net worth.

It’s a lot safer too. When I was in school we learned how to take cover, in case the Wolos bombed us. I didn’t want my kids growing up with that. In Quiberon I feel a lot safer. The kids have to do national service when they get older, but it’s more normal; building bridges and that kind of thing.

Adolphe says that the difference between Regenmark and Quiberon is very slight.

Yes I agree. In Quiberon you make a little less, but you get more of that old-world Arterus feel. I work in a building that is older than my home town. Amalia laughs. Quiberois people make a big deal of that when they go to Regenmark, I think. They go to Erinsburg to the Restoration monument, for example.

Adolphe says that the Restoration monument has a big plaque with the date it was erected: 1810.

Yeah. They say things like, “Oh that’s old for Regenmark.”

What are Quiberois people like?

They’re alright. They are about as reserved as Regeners. Here, though, everyone is very interested in what you are doing. If you do something wrong, everyone will tell you. There is a word in Flemish called “schijnheilig,” which is like, you think Oswin himself has blessed what you are saying. A lot of Quiberois people have this quality of schijnheilig. I tried to explain it to my husband, but there is no translation for schijnheilig in Quiberois.

Do you know many non-Quiberois in Quiberon?

Well, other Regeners obviously.

There are a few Fantasians and Varnians too. They mostly work in the tech companies. A lot of them don’t bother to learn Quiberois or meet Quiberois people, so they basically live in their own worlds. I’ve met a lot of Flemish Fantasians, but I don’t mix with them that much. Nowadays it’s harder too, because of all the trouble with Fanta.

Adolphe mentions that Fantasians think that they still own Quiberon.

That’s not really my fight, but I agree that they should learn the language.

There’s a Continesian guy who works with me. He’s the only person I know who isn’t Arteran. I think his parents were colonial officials or something. He is overboard Quiberois. He is more Quiberois than Adolphe. He gets along with everyone.

What is it like to work in Quiberon?

One big similarity between Quiberon and Regenmark: everyone lives to work.

What is it like to practice law in Quiberon?

A little easier than back home. Here, all the laws are written down, and if you want to know how a law is supposed to be interpreted, you go back to the High Court decision that enabled it.

In Quiberon, laws are all enabled by the High Court. When the government wants to do something, it asks the High Court whether it can, and the High Court responds with an “instructive decision.”

The initiative in Quiberon is really with the courts. In Regenmark, the courts don’t create law, they just approve the government’s laws for the next year. Because the courts don’t always know a lot about policy, I think they often say yes, even though they might think the government has overstepped. The Quiberois system is a lot less deferential. The Quiberois judges always say that they don’t care about policy, they don’t care about whether the policy makes sense. They just want to know if it conforms to Right. If you understand what they mean by Right, you can interpret almost any law.

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Re: Finisterre

Postby Questers » Fri Mar 22, 2019 2:33 pm

It’s summer in Regenmark, and so Pekka Ante Tiina – Mr Ante, to everyone else – can open his food court to twice its normal size. The floors are concrete, the walls bare brick, and the tables plastic; at night, it’s heated by two large outdoor umbrella heaters. A large poster – it could be a mural, actually - of Heikkinen covers one wall from top to bottom. The word oikeudenmukaisuustulee, justice will come, is splashed over it. This place would be shut down in most of Regenmark for the state of its toilets alone. Nonetheless, the place, known only as Pekka’s, even if the customers call him by his last name, is packed.

Pekka doesn’t pay any taxes at all. Every year, his business reports a loss. The prices are jaw-dropping. Reindeer burger for ƒ1.50? How is it possible?

If you look carefully, the customers are generous with their tips. They get their change, and then hand back most of it, which the cashier slyly puts in a box to the side. If anyone were to investigate this, it would be manifestly obvious what is happening. Is Pekka concerned? Obviously not.

‘They aren’t interested in us,’ he says, matter of factly. ‘Whether we pay our taxes, whether we send our children to school, whatever. They could of course come and shut us all down – all our businesses do this – but they won’t waste the time. The only thing that interests them is whether we have any vapauttajiksi, any liberators, hiding amongst us. Then they come in force.’ Pekka has tried not to say this word too loud, but it hasn’t worked. Ears have been pricked. Men and women, older usually, but sometimes very young, swarm to the table. They have photographs of their sons, some of them so old the men look like boys.

‘Seventeen year,’ one man shouts, waving a photograph. ‘Jail. Jail.’ Others have similar chants. Pekka translates some, but not all. He doesn’t need to, because the story is the same. Some of these liberators, mere children in fact, have been put in jail for a litany of misdemeanours that have included minor offences like urinating on a public statue of a famous Regener war hero to putting a brick through a police car window. They have all been given harsh sentences; ten years at the minimum. They are not sent to ordinary jails. Their families are not allowed to visit and letters are completely censored. By some counts, more than 55,000 Wolohannic Regeners are in these prisons, ominously known as extraordinary detention centres and funded, and administered, not by the Ministry of Public Affairs but by the Cabinet Office itself.

‘The youth’, Pekka tells me, after dispersing the crowd, ‘did not live through the war. They have no memory of when things used to be good, and when they became bad. All they have is passion, and anger. They want to change things, but they aren’t organised. They aren’t smart about it. And they have nothing to lose.’

For ten years in the 80s and 90s, Vapaus ja Vapautuminen, Liberty and Deliverance – or VV for short – ran rampant. Its leader, who went only by the name of Heikkinen, planted bombs in trains, ferries, and planes. His associates used gun and nailbomb to kill 945 people and injure another 3,000 between 1981 and 1994. The security forces killed Heikkinen in 1993 in a shoot-out, but according to Pekka, most Wolohannics in Regenmark believe he’s alive. ‘They say he’s in the mother-country,’ he shrugs. ‘Or, he’s actually alive here, just hiding out somewhere. Somehow the people still have hope. Hope is all we have.’

Pekka has five children. One is in the Confederation, attending university. Another is working for a Dumani company in Crataea. But the others are young, and they live with him. Pekka is worried not about their economic future, but what they might get up to when they come of age. ‘I try to guide them. Tell them not to get in trouble. The problem is the peers. There is manliness and respect now, if you throw a stone through a window or spray a wall. These kids call each other liberators, fighters.’

Pekka nods his head towards a customer in the corner. He doesn’t notice us. ‘That man there is a liberator – a vapauttajiksi. Also, he’s a mobster. I have to pay him every month to operate this place. Also, he’s a local hero, because he’s been in jail. Also, he recruits the children – the ten, eleven, twelve year olds. They end up in organised crime, but they think they are fighting for the cause.’

The man eats silently. Few regard him – it’s not possible to tell if out of fear or respect – but Pekka turns away. ‘I would give him a piece of my mind, but it would be far too dangerous. They shouldn’t be going for the children. I could turn him into the authorities, of course, but I will never do that, because the only people worse than him is the occupation.’

I leave with a free reindeer burger and curry fries. Pekka is happy to give it away. ‘Spoilage,’ he says. It’s another ƒ4 he can claim for his tax loss. I walk to the parking lot and a group of children are playing football. I can’t tell if they’re young men, or kids, because of the darkness, and as I look at them, they appear to move between the categories; their young faces show both the innocence of youth and the stupidity of adolescence. One of them sees me.

He flashes me the sign of Vapaus ja Vapautuminen – a two-finger V shape with his right hand – and laughs.
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[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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