19 April 2009

Diplomacy in two flavours

"Mr President?" came the voice of Chen Chiqui, President Rapp's personal executive assistant. "Minister von Albanees is here to see you."
"Send him in, please."
Antonio von Albanees strode in, clutching a number of documents.
"Kelvin, I have just received a letter from the Reich Duchy of Beerstein. And I would also like you to please sign these two bestowments, for the Order." Antonio seemed rather hurried, a very unusual state for him.
"What is in the letter?"
"The Reich Duke would like to hire our 4th Regiment of cavalry as part of an allied foreign legion he is attempting to raise."
"The 4th? Good, good! Do we have the ships to embark them? Could they catch our troop convoy if they left by Wednesday?" President Rapp was mentally rubbing his hands together, thinking of the income this would produce.
"Kelvin, you farewelled Colonel Finley and the regiment when it left for Darwin, three weeks ago. They're already on the convoy ships, heading for Europe. By now, with favourable winds, they may be putting in at The Cape!"
"Oh, even better! They will be there within a few months, then. Can we send a packet to the convoy, to redirect the regiment to the Duchy?"
"We can. The old pirate, El Trujillo, should be able to catch them. If he doesn't go chasing a few pennies on board another whaler. We really should do something about him, you know!"
"He doesn't attack our ships and has caused no little bother to others, especially the Mormoans, so we'll leave him for now. Get a message, and orders for Fisher's troops, to him, please"
"It's Finley. I will do as you ask. On the other matter..."
"Antonio, those badges cost 1,600 quid each. EACH! Not to mention the 500 acres everyone also gets, when we award one! We are not going to shower them on every head of state in the world, it would bankrupt us!"
"I know, but these two worthy individuals deserve recognition.
Furst Bruno von Ursa, Prince of Saxe-Bearstein, has done the world a great service with his diplomatic messaging service. It has greatly enabled communications between nations. And, to our benefit, has sparked more than one war.
Uber Gruntshuffen, whose current ruler is the Prince Bishop Heinrich XXXII von Wullfenbuttell, has supported the Republic since it began. While not one of the Great Powers, support from these nations has stopped the Republic withering on the vine.
I do urge you to support them. Besides, by raising the awareness of our nation, we also raise the awareness of our troops and their availability for hire. Think of it as some kind of an investment. A 'Future Fund', if you will!"
"Very well Antonio. Pass them here and I will sign." The president signed the Articles of Presentation with a flourish- and a barely suppressed sigh.
"Tell me, Antonio, how is our charming Ambassadress, these days. Quite the intelligent and pretty lady, isn't she?" President Rapp looked up, knowing he would see a little discomfort on Antonio's face. But he was shocked- Antonio was red-faced and trembling! And Antonio in a rage was dangerous.
"I'm so glad you took it 'pon yourself to deal with the lady. Having such an intelligent person necessarily given access to some of more sensitive, er..., governmental branches requires us to be particularly alert in our dealings with her. It would be a most onerous task, Antonio, and I am so glad you have proved equal to it."
"Thank you, Mr President. Now, with your permission, I shall take these Articles, decorations and your orders to Colonel Finley and have them dispatched, immediately. The two new members of the order will of course be considered as founding members, it being only your oversight that stopped them being included in the original bestowments! Good day, Sir!"
President Rapp watched him stalk out.
"That was a mistake!" he thought. Antonio controlled an important bloc in the Caucus. More importantly, he wasn't adverse to calling a man out, no matter what the man's station. He remembered two years ago, when Antonio had run the hapless Nickolai Vitlamovich through, after losing a substantial sum to one of the insurance schemes the man had perpetrated on several leading citizens. Vitlamovich was a leading citizen and son of a former President and member of The Party. That was bad enough, but the way Antonio had twisted his blade as he'd withdrawn it....
Rapp shuddered. He'd not bait his Minister again.


"Lieutenant Rien, please be at ease. And these are your tracker bosses?"
Major Rashid looked at the young officer. He was well turned out, for a militiaman. And had a look of competence. But the Major was more interested in the trackers. They would be invaluable once his squadron of the 2nd Horse stepped up to a proper patrol programme. Leaving O'Connel for this hot, dusty backwater hadn't been popular with the other officers. Nor the men, for that matter. But with both Kingdomer incursions, an occasional brush with the French colonist escorts and a few die-hards from the militia out bushranging, the men wouldn't be bored.

Not to mention all the activity in the new Kingdomer fort opposite Alburburg. What were they up to?
"Yes, Sir. This is Old Billy, our tracker Captain, Dirrigul, Durrigul and Moses. They've been leading parties on the Kingdomer side of the river, trying to find out what all the fuss over there is about."
"And have you found anything, Captain?"
Billy blinked. The Major was talking to him, and calling him Captain!
"Nothin' much we can see, Sir. Them Gunnigong fellas, and them other brown blokes wit' all them feathers, they not likin' us goin' across there, Sir. We had a few times got to run or fight and you said we not to fight them. But Dirrigul he had to fight and we kill two of them brown fellas. An' he got close enough to see them, Sir."
Major Rashid knew that the "brown fellas" were the North American natives the Kingdomers had brought with them. Doughty fighters and trackers, they still seemed a little confused by the change from their homeland to New Holland.
"What did you see, Dirrigul?"
"It a big blue tent, boss, an' they tryin' to start a fire in it! An' it gets big and big, then it catches the fire, boss, and they all run around and try to put it out. Then one of them fellas in the red coats comes runnin' up and starts yellin' and wavin' his arms. That's all we saw when the currawongs come an' nearly get us, boss. But we see them and run off. They chase us, but Wombat an me, we get two of them wit' a spears and we got away, boss!"
"Bown fellas, Sir. We calls them currawongs 'cause they put them feathers in their hair."
"Ah, I see. Very good work, Dirragul. Lt Rien?"
"Good work, but I want you to stop. I can't say why, but all cross border activity is to stop.
However, as of now any Kingdomer found on our side of the border, away from the towns and settlements, is to be taken, preferably alive, and brought to me. And as of today any 'bushranger' who is taken, wearing any part of Republic uniform, will win a reward of 10 Liberties for the troop which catches him.
And your old friend, Lieutenant Gris, I mean former lieutenant, will bring 50 Liberties for the lucky men who bring me his body."

The tight look on the young officer's face showed he knew that his old friend had just been sentenced to death. His trackers would soon spread the word about the reward. And this cavalry major knew it.
"Understood, Sir! Is there anything else?"
"No, Lieutenant. You may.... Wait, I nearly forgot. We can't have a mere lieutenant giving orders to a captain, can we? Even a tracker captain. You are promoted, Captain Rien, and you have been placed on the Reserve Officers List. So you will now be paid as a regular soldier, sir, and are reserve posted to the 3rd Foot.
Rien stood there, not knowing what to say.
"Thank you, Sir."
"Captain, RSM O'Driscoll was very, very impressed with your work. And your regiment is raising two new companies, from the last batch of French colonists. That's why you were promoted. Not for any other reason.
And if I had a friend who needed a , ah..., holiday, I'd tell him that the northern borders are far more relaxed than this one."
Rashid hoped the young officer was listening.
"Thank you, Sir."
Rien and his trackers left. Rashid watched the door close. "Sergeant-Major!" he called.
"Bring in Troopers Shultze and Jenkins and three escorts. I'm in the mood to deal with those two now!"

09 April 2009

The close of the Reception Ball.

The Reception Ball was closing. As was traditional (or will be, once they do it a few times), President Rapp stood up to make a closing speech:

"Thank you for your silence, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my great honour to announce the founding of the Order of the Republic of Neues Sudland. This great chivalric order will have, as its members, only those heads of state who have proven themselves to be friends and allies of our great republic. Those who have contributed to the growth of this new nation. As you can see, the Grand Star of the Order is now on display at the other end of the hall. Those who wish to view it should pass between the red cords, in an orderly fashion. And please, if your are wondering, the guards do have their muskets loaded and have orders to use them, should anyone think of picking up the Grand Star for closer examination.
Appropriately, in honour of this momentous occasion, the first of member of the Order, and the first recipient of the Grand Star, will be King Phillip of the Holy Mormoan Kingdom of New Wales. It is hoped that this award does bring our two countries closer in friendship.

The Articles of Presentation read:

His Royal Highness, King Philip of the Holy Mormoan Kingdom of New Wales.
It is the wish of the people and government of the Republic of Neues Sudland that you be made a Grand Commander of the Order of the Republic of Neues Sudland for your friendship and assistance to the people of the Republic. The Grand Star of the Order is awarded you, so that you may have tangible evidence of the high regard in which the people and government of the Republic hold yourself and your nation.

It is also our great honour to award you a small residence, situated on 500 acres of parkland near the Port of Darwin, that will be available for your use, should you ever wish to visit the Republc.

K Rapp
President of the Republic"
He paused to draw breath.

"The other recipients of this honour, and founding members of the Order, are-

Grand Duke Irwin-Amadeus II of the Grand Duchy of Stollen

Grand Duke Karl of the Grand Duchy of Hetzenburg

Reich Duke Wilhelm of the Duchy of Beerstein,

Louys, Comte de Montecristo,

Freiherr David von Linienblatt of the Freistadt of Tippelbruder,

Mr William Pitt, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

All these worthies will receive an official residence in the Park of the Grand Order, which will be situated to the east of Port Darwin. It is also our pleasure to offer those nations in Europe who are currently at war the use of any single regiment of our army for the nominal sum of one Maria Theresa Thaler. They will also, of course, have to pay the wages and the provisioning of the troops."

Antonio sat rubbing his temples. "IDIOT, IDIOT, IDIOT!" he thought.
"He's forgotten their honorifics, hasn't mentioned why they got the awards and mixed up their order of seniority. Doesn't he read briefing notes?"

The crowd filed past the watching guards, making startled comments about the size and apparent expense of the decoration. Lady Amanda, Ambassador to the Republic, beamed as she was presented with the Article of Presentation and the Grand Star.

"Bloody hell, it's heavy enough to put someone's back out! Who designed this?" she thought to herself.

In a far corner, a clinking bag found its way into the pocket of The Minister for Arts. This jewellery design lark may prove to be profitable.

08 April 2009

I've been on the road a fair bit lately. Which I blame for any over-silliness in this post.


A Star is Born and the Lady is the Ambassador

Grand Star of the Oder of the Republic of Neues Sudland

"It's hideous! Garrotte, you fool, we wanted something dignified, resplendent and evocative of the riches of this great nation! Not a gaudy, oversized piece of costume jewellery that even the girls at Uncle Ho's would be ashamed to wear!"
In his hand President Rapp held the new decoration of the Order of The Republic. It weighed half a pound and was liberally sprinkled with diamonds, sapphires and, at first glance, dandruff.
"Jeez, Kel, I kind of like it." Juliette Buzzards eyes were firmly fixed on the glittering bauble. "Look at it sparkle!"
"Monsieur President, I assure you that this design is neither gaudy nor costume jewellery! It is based on an order granted by ze Sultan Turkique to ze grandfather of Moe Ahmoud, ze gems are real and so is ze gold! It cost 1,600 Liberties to make and will make ze crown-ed 'eads of Europe swoon!" Pierre Garrotte was determined to defend the first artistic thing he'd done in three decades.
"Don't give me that accent, Garrotte. You were born just up the road from me.... SIXTEEN HUNDRED QUID??!! Are you MAD? Do you know how many votes we could buy with that?" Rapps' face had gone an interesting puce colour as understanding of the cost of the star finally dawned.
"You wanted big, you wanted gaudy and you wanted gold, diamonds and bloody expense, cobber! Well, yer bloody well got all of 'em! And my accent ain't.. iz not fake!"
"Kel, settle down, mate." Unusually Red Ned was playing peace maker.
"Look, most of them inbred royal types haven't got the taste yer underwear gets after a month of hard riding, do they? All they'll see is expense, lots of expense. An' it's a big bludger, too. They're like magpies, mate- they'll love it. And we'll get a few orders for the regiments because they're too busy lookin' at the sparkles to worry about what the regiments cost."
"Besides, if we throw in 500 acres from that back 10 thou' near Darwin, they'll be in heaven, Kel. And really, it is pretty...." Juliette looked mesmerised by the decoration.
"Well, it's too late now! We'll give the first one to King Philip. We can present it to his ambassador tomorrow, when she presents her credentials. But who else? And let's keep the list short!"
"One to the Poms, mate, for letting us house the troops on that island." put in Stefan Smith, who had been woken by the President's shouting. "An' we owe one to that Beer Duchy bloke too, for the one he sent you, mate."
"And the Hetzenburgers, Kel. Apparently they're about to commission a woman! In the Artillery! That's unheard of in the Olde World. And don't forget Whatsisname from Montecristo, too. Those dresses he sent me, when we won government, were rooly nice. And I love his flag!"
"Louys, Comte de Monte Christo, Juliette."
"That's the bloke. Rooly nice."
"What about that bloke who came here and set up the government tailors? You know- he runs a Duchy in his spare time, when he ain't designing jocks and socks. Darrel, I think it was?" Larry Fergusonsson was still breathing. And still in the cabinet.
"You mean Freiherr David von Linienblatt, Larry? Of Tippelbruder?" Antonio von Albanees knew that Larry was putting it on, trying to upset him. These cretins, and that abhorrent decoration, were bringing on another migraine. "Without his advice our army would be wearing rags. If they were lucky. You remember, the rags your family used to make?"
"ENOUGH!! Very well, that will be enough!" Rapp was hoping Fergusonsson would actually be silly enough to attack Antonio, but was disappointed. Ever since he dealt with those three footpads ("Or is it feetpad?" wondered the President) when leaving Madame Celeste's House of Divine Discomfort, nobody fancied taking on Antonio. It could be a terminal error.
"Antonio, please draw up suitable Articles of Presentation for the British Prime Minister, Monte Christo, Beerstein, Hetzenburg and Tippelbruder. And of course, our good neighbour, King Philip. Stefan, you can do up the titles to their house blocks."
"Now. we have to finish preparations to receive the Ambassador from the Holy Kingdom. If there's nothing else?"
The members of the cabinet filed out.

"....And so we welcome you to our great nation in friendship, Lady Amanda!"
On queue the battery of guns started their 19 gun salute, the company of the Rostov Militia forming the Guard presented arms and, after three hours of waffle, the President's speech finally ended. Lady Amanda Hugankiss, Ambassador to The Republic of Neues Sudland from The Holy Mormoan Kingdom of New Wales, gracefully rose to give her reply.
"Hurley burley, what a girlie!" muttered Stefan Smith, who had been woken by the guns.
"Mate, there's hour glasses that she makes look shapeless! Gawd, she's gorgeous! An' she owns a brewery!"
Lady Amanda was indeed a most attractive and well proportioned woman. Her hair was shining like silk, she had poise and grace and, when she started to speak, her voice was melodious and yet carried across podium.
Antonio von Albanees sat there, totally transfixed. There was nothing he would not do for this elegant, well cultured and lovely woman. Nothing! "I wonder if she likes to spank?" flitted through his mind.
"I have here a letter from His Majesty, King Phillip, to the people and government of the Republic of Neues Sudland, which I would like to read to you:
To The Honourable President K Rapp
Allow me to introduce Lady Amanda Hugankiss.She is already well known in your Republic as the owner and brewer of fine beers and lagers that are consumed by your free and happy people.Today she presents her credentials as the Representative of The Holy Mormoan Kingdom Of New Wales.It is sincerely hoped she shall be received as such. It is My sincere hope, and that of my Government and People that our two great nations may co-habitat this great island continent in peace and mutual benefit.Of recent concern however has been cross border raids by criminal elements within your nation. I am assured by members of my Government that the persons responsible are brigands and criminal, (and probably sponsored by France). It must be said however that some within my council do suggest that these raids are actually the work of the RNS Army!I will leave it in your capable hands to confront this issue on your side of the border, and I will leave it to the Royal Army to deal with the problem on our side of the border.Lady Hugankiss will present members of a trade delegation to you. Primarily they represent wool and wheat growers.It is hoped that you will find their offers of trade and commerce agreeable.
"I can assure you, Madame Ambassador, that the raids shall not be repeated. We recently hanged several bushrangers who had been responsible. They were deserters from a number of our regiments, who still wore the remains of their old uniforms. Hence the mistaken belief that regiments of the Republic were indeed responsible."
"I'm glad they met the end they deserved, Mr President. I also believe the fact that the Dragon d'Cooma have embarked for Europe will also hep keep matters calm, don't you think?"
Rapp had been waiting for this.
"Indeed, Madame. And your aeronautical device should be able to confirm that they have been replaced by the 2nd Horse, who have now stationed a squadron at Alburburg, specifically so as to make sure that similar criminal acts do not occur again."
Lady Amanda was puzzled. What was an "aeronautical device"? And he didn't seem bothered at all that she knew of the troops heading to Europe. Why?
The guests mingled, barbed compliments were exchanged and the Reception Ball tottered through the night. Few foreign dignitaries ever bothered to make the trip to New Holland. Far fewer bothered to make the trek to Ekaterinsberg. So all the capital's privileged and "respectable" people had used whatever dirty tricks, threats and bribes they could to secure an invitation to the first ever Reception Ball.
The bright and blessed enjoyed the night. The food and drink were both very good and free. Liveried staff wandered through the crowds, keeping glasses full and, more importantly, listening in to what conversations they could. In the ceiling, eyes watched and noted who spoke to whom from the spy holes placed among the ornately painted mouldings. And in corners deals, of both business and personal natures, were struck.
But nobody noticed Antonio, sitting quietly at the head table. His eyes never left the new ambassador. And his jaw clenched every time someone acted in a manner he thought was too familiar. Which was most of the time.

At the docks in Darwin, Colonel O'Neill watched as the last company of men from the 8th Foot slowly climbed the gangway leading up to the deck of their troop ship. They were hours behind schedule and tempers had frayed long ago. He could hear the voices of officers and NCO's among the shouts of the ship's crew. Out on the harbour rode the rest of the ships, bar the one loading the last two companies of the 9th's 2nd Battalion. They'd missed the tide and wouldn't leave harbour now until midday, tomorrow. Still, there's no telling if the convoy from O'Donnell would meet them at Christmas Island or be delayed, either. At least the wet was ending, so they didn't have to fear storms. At least for now.
"All our men are accounted for, Sir. There's no more deserted, so we only lost the 53. The battalion guns are aboard and tied down, too." RSM Wendt was his usual, unflappable self.
"Well done, Lofty. We should be able to make up numbers at The Cape or when we get to Guernsey. I hope I can get a decent couple of horses there."
"You should be able to, Sir. I see Commodore Wong is ready. Will that thing keep up?"
"He says so. It looks like a pearling junk, but apparently it's as fast as these hulks the government is putting us on. And his little surprises on the gun deck will give anyone who tries to interfere with us a nasty belly ache. Let's go aboard!"