The remnants of Warriors of Our Earth (minus those they’d locked in a basement without food and with limited water) crept towards the location their target would soon reach. They were on both sides of where the target would appear. Their lookouts were ahead, waiting to send them a signal on the kids-toy walkie-talkies they’d had to acquire after all their offices and warehouses were raided. They waited. And waited. And finally a crackly mumble on a bright-pink walkie-talkie that had a flower printed on it.

“Let’s go,” Calvin Goode said to his group. He hoped that on the other side of the water, his counterpart to the east would do the same.

They crept forward from the bushes where they hid, dragging some canoes they’d stolen back in Huenya, where they left Suzana and the others locked up. They got into the canoes and began to paddle as the oil tanker Procura Horizon approached them down the Intra-Xiomeran Canal. The Canal Zone authorities patrolling from different countries had not seen them; but they were why Goode had chosen this target. Many, many countries cared what happened in the Canal Zone.

As the oil tanker from Procura Energy came closer, and closer, they came up alongside it, throwing up ropes and beginning to climb aboard. The crew of the tanker finally took notice and sounded the alarm, shouting in French. They managed to knock several of the WOE members back into the water, but hesitation was their downfall with others. The WOE members who managed to get onto the deck quickly pulled out guns and began shooting before the crew could react.

Calvin Goode hid around a corner while his compatriots continued with what had now become a gun battle. He pulled out a bag full of grenades, and looked around for something that looked explosive. He chucked a grenade at a pipe, and BANG!

The resulting explosion was larger than he anticipated, and he was thrown backwards into something metal, hitting his head. His hearing was gone, and the Laeralian tanker was lurching from side to side. Worse, he’d dropped the bag of grenades and they were now rolling around the place. He reached up to feel his head and his hand came back stained in red. He tried to get up, but there was a pain in his leg, and- BANG! BANG!

Two more explosions; he had to get- BANG! BANG! BANG!!!!!!

He screamed as a wave of fire caught up to him. Some of the crew and other WOE members had managed to jump overboard. But not all. Calvin himself would not make it off the tanker. And the final action of Warriors of Our Earth would be by far its bloodiest.

In the city of Cuetlachtli, near the Canal Zone, a Huenyan mailman named Ahuitla as going about his daily deliveries. As he walked past a house at the far end of Yoliyamanicui Street, he heard a muffled thumping coming from the house. Ahuitla found this odd; the house in question was vacant as far as he knew. He walked towards the house cautiously. As he got closer, he could hear voices shouting for help in addition to the thumping sounds. He walked to the door where the sounds were coming from and tried to open it; the door was locked. He kicked the door until it finally slammed open. Three people came pouring out of the basement.

Suzana quickly grabbed Ahuitla by the arm. "Call the police! Something bad is about to happen!" Ahuitla looked at her as if she were a crazy woman, then shrugged. The police, indeed, seemed like the best option to deal with the situation.

When the Cuetlachtli Municipal Police arrived and began questioning Suzana and the others, and discovered they were with WOE, things sped up very quickly. The local cops called the nearest FIS office, and within ten minutes agents arrived to question the activists further. After some questioning, the "something bad" was discovered to be a planned attack on the Canal Zone. The FIS agent-in-charge at Cuetlachtli called to warn Canal Zone authorities, while an urgent message was sent to FIS Headquarters in Ixtenco.

The response time of the Huenyan authorities would later be deemed to have been perfectly reasonable. They were quick - just not quick enough. By the time the agent-in-charge, Zolin, was on the phone with his colleagues in the Canal Zone, Calvin Goode and his compatriots were just beginning to climb aboard the Procura Horizon.


(written with input from Sanctaria)

Sanctarian Embassy, Tlālacuetztla

In the grand lobby of the Sanctarian embassy, Denise Adams found herself waiting. Again. The Xiomerans were half an hour late. She sighed to herself at the tedious games that her counterparts in the Imperial Ministry of State insisted on playing. The Caxcanans may be impressed with you lot, but I’m not. Childish games, she thought to herself as she prepared mentally for the meeting.

Finally, the doors to the lobby swung open and her guests were escorted inside. Toquauhtli, the Minister of State, marched in with the three climate activists Xiomera had detained in tow. Flanking them were several men and women in black suits. They were ostensibly the Minister’s protective detail from Imperial Security, but were probably Imperial Intelligence in truth. Adams allowed herself a cold smile as the group of Xiomerans arrived.

“Good morning, madam ambassador,” Toquauhtli said. “I apologize for the late arrival, but business of the state delayed us.” The expression on the Minister’s face did not match the apologetic nature of his words.

“Not a problem, Minister,” Adams replied smoothly. “I’ve grown rather used to it, since all the clocks and watches in Xiomera always seem to run a bit late. It’s funny, we don’t have that problem in Sanctaria, our timepieces always keep the correct time.”

Toquauhtli’s own smile grew a bit tighter at the jab. It was a clever insult both to the habit of arriving late as an intimidation tactic and at the quality of Xiomeran technology, a sure way to offend any Xiomeran. But it was too subtle for Toquauhtli to call her out on it. Instead, the Minister stepped aside to allow the three activists behind him to step forward. “Our prisoners, as promised.”

Adams looked the Lauchenoirians over. While there were no signs of physical abuse, it was also clear that the Xiomerans had not gone out of their way to be kind or even humane to their detainees. All three of them clearly needed a shower, and looked as if they could also use a long rest in a decent bed. The smile on the ambassador’s face grew colder. “I am sure they will be happy now that they will experience our hospitality, and then return home.” The tone of the ambassador’s voice made it clear what she thought of Xiomeran “hospitality”.

Toquauhtli laughed. “We don’t go out of our way to be hospitable to foreign criminals; we want them to return home and not ever come back once their sentences are done, after all.”

Adams eyed the Minister. “Nevertheless, I am sure there will not be any issue with how you may treat Sanctarian citizens, should they experience a legal issue in your country.”

The Minister smiled without warmth. “I would assume that your citizens would be smart enough not to break our laws, and your government wise enough to advise them to that effect, so that it need never be an issue. In any event, these individuals are your concern now. We look forward to the arrival of the individuals they are being exchanged for.” Toquauhtli made a bow to the ambassador that was only slightly sarcastic in demeanor, before exiting with his entourage. Adams was already turning away, clearly putting the pompous Xiomeran diplomat out of her mind. She quickly issued orders for the three activists to be taken into Sanctarian custody.


8th April

Lauchenoiria was not known for its prowess in covert operations. Although, if a nation is known for its covert operations, that would surely defeat the very purpose. Regardless, sometimes every nation has to have agents sneak around in the shadows to further their own purposes.

Amada Toledano was a problem. They’d managed to arrange an exchange for the other three through their Sanctarian intermediaries, but Novella Islands was still determined to hand her over to the Xiomerans. That, all things considered, couldn’t be allowed to happen. And besides, with the whole Crop Killer ordeal, the Lauchenoirian government was hardly Novella Islands’ biggest fan right now.

Which is why the Lauchenoirian External Intelligence Agency (LEIA) decided to green-light the incredibly dangerous mission to sneak into the Novella Islands’ embassy in Xiomera, and rescue Amada.

The agents of LEIA knew their profession was dangerous. Still, operating in Xiomera was among the least-desired jobs among the agency. Even Kerlile was seen as a better option these days, with their reformists. Plus, this operation had the potential to anger several different nations, given the involvement of an embassy.

Nevertheless, they proceeded. Getting into Xiomera in the first place was extremely difficult, of course, but they managed. Their methods would remain secret; lest the avenues they used be closed off, or used by a mutual enemy. Once they were in Tlālacuetztla, they would have to make it into the embassy: difficult, given the increased security on both sides after the initial incident that made all this necessary.

Conveniently – very conveniently – however, someone had left one of the back entrances used for shipments of goods unlocked. And so, the LEIA agents got inside far more easily than they had expected.

When they found Amada, she was fortunately alone, as the guard on her door had gone off to get yet another fresh bucket for her to throw up into. At this point it was just water, but they hardly wanted that on their floor either. Upon opening the door, she’d jumped up with her eyes wide, afraid it was Xiomerans. Upon learning who they were, she came with them eagerly.

A little too eagerly: one of the agents had to threaten to gag her if she wouldn’t shut up. Still, they made it out of the embassy in one piece. Getting out of Tlālacuetztla was harder, but they managed – though it was tight a couple of times. From there, getting out of Xiomera was, once again, difficult but they did it.

Shortly after the escape from the embassy, one of the Novellan guards noticed that their detainee was missing. He quickly ran to tell Dalton. As the ambassador was hanging up the phone, the breathless guard announced Amada's escape.

"How unfortunate," Dalton replied, seemingly completely unsurprised at this turn of events. A small smile was visible on the corner of his lips as he instructed the guard to search the embassy - knowing that they'd find nothing.

They took her back to Lauchenoiria, of course. Instead of freeing her, though, they sat her down and told her that, after the risks and expense they’d taken to save her from the big scary Xiomerans, she would answer their questions about WOE, fully and in exquisite detail. Only then would she be allowed to go. And she better never do something so stupid again!

(Jointly written with Lauchenoiria)

The Lauchenoirians who delivered the trio to the Sanctarian Embassy were not happy about the whole situation. Gabriel Fleming and his friends were not just criminals. They were not just traitors. They were traitors specifically to the people who had to deliver them to the embassy, knowing that once in Xiomera they’d be free to continue their work. And for a group of foolish climate activists that were no more than a pain in the government’s back!

Still, they did their job, and without breaking any of Lauchenoiria’s laws regarding the treatment of prisoners. Stretched, perhaps. After all, they did fasten the handcuffs a little too tight. And they did grip their arms a little too hard when pulling them in and out of the van they were transported in. Nothing that would hold up in a court of law as mistreatment, however. They were not Kerlians.

After they handed over the trio to the Sanctarians, the Lauchenoirian agents took their van back to where it was meant to be… and headed to the local pub to drown their fears and sorrows. This would not, in the opinion of literally everyone in Lauchenoiria who knew about the exchange, end well.


Captain Richard Heller of the SS Trident watched from the navigation bridge of his vessel as the military plane from the Sanctarian Embassy in Buttercity touched down on the runway of the ship. A similar military plane from Xiomera had landed a number of hours earlier, with the cargo safely deposited in the ship's brig. His directions were that the prisoners being brought on-board from this latest plane were to be accorded the same treatment. Heller had been in the Sanctarian Navy for a long time, but this latest stint in the Promethean Sea was one of the longest tours he remembered being on. 

Still, no matter his weariness, his orders were simple - facilitate the prisoner exchange using the aircraft carrier's cargo plane in an expeditious - and surreptitious - manner. The plane from Lauchenoiria had taxied into its place on the apron, and Heller now watched as the prisoners were led to the brig. The ship's medical staff would check them over, as they had done those from Xiomera - and once darkness fell, the planes would depart the ship and return to the Sanctarian embassies in Xiomera and Lauchenoiria. Heller did not know who the people were. He did not ask. He knew this was an exchange being facilitated by Sanctaria, but not involving Sanctarians. That's all he needed to know.

First at 0400 hours, and then again at 0410, a plane left the apron of the SS Trident. Lauchenoirians were heading home to Lauchenoiria, and Xiomera were about to receive some new mercenaries. Heller, woken by an aide, sent a coded message back to Central Command at the Sanctarian Department of Homeland Security. Postmen are out delivering packages.

The WOE member was hiding up a tree, hugging it in his sleep. Very in-character, an observer would have noted, had any been around. He was exhausted after having to swim to the edge of the Canal as the fire engulfed the tanker they’d attacked. Something had clearly gone wrong, as it wasn’t meant to get so bad so fast. Perhaps the people who sold them the grenades gave them extra-strong ones or something. He didn’t know, he wasn’t an expert in explosives.

What he didn’t realise as he slept, was that he’d scratched one of the wounds he’d gotten in the fight on the rough bark of the tree. And it had begun to bleed again; just a little, but enough for several drops of blood to make it down to the ground below. And that was how they found him.

It was Lauchenoirians who found him; part of the Canal Peacekeeping Force. It was both a blessing and a curse: better than Iskirami or Kerlians; or the Xiomerans from over the border. And a curse, because Lauchenoiria was not happy with the attack. So, the terrorist in the tree was treated adequately according to law… and not one bit better than that.


One of the others had been shot before leaping off the tanker. The bullet only grazed her, and so she managed to make it out of the Canal alive and run off into the woods. But lacking proper medical care, the wound on her arm quickly became infected. She had, to her great fear, ended up on the side of the Canal of Xiomera. In her panic, she hadn’t exactly been able to orient herself.

This meant she feared to seek any kind of medical attention. She cleaned and treated her wound as well as she could, but she didn’t know what she was doing. They found her, in the end. But too late. One more casualty to be added to the list.

A logistical blessing in disguise. That was how Alvarez now preferred to think about the WA's drug resolution. Certainly at first it had seemed a curse. An issue that would place tension on her already-struggling coalition, threatening to pull apart the government given the Liberals’ and Greens’ variant positions.

That was, of course, before they realised that the number of prisoners the WA wanted them to release was an almost exact match for the number of people about to be tried and likely convicted for membership of a prohibited terrorist organisation known as Warriors of Our Earth. It was a fantastic piece of providence that would prevent both the need for a budget increase to prisons and a potential overcrowding scandal.

Clay Moss had also finally been arrested. He continued to post things online encouraging violence, and even cheered on the Canal Zone attack. The risk that he would do something bad began to outweigh the PR disaster that could result from imprisoning someone tortured by Xiomerans. Naturally, of course, he had already gained the attention of enough media that his arrest was met with shock and outrage from his little fan club.

Irene Ramos had cooperated with the police investigation into both the Xiomerans and WOE. She and Savannah Martinez ended up working together to take control of, prevent the destruction of, and hand the police the entirety of, WOE's database. This, of course, led several WOE members to throw things though Savannah's windows, paint SNITCH on her door, and give her number to every spam caller in Hesperida. They forgave Irene somewhat: she had, after all, been tortured.

Amada Toledano was thoroughly questioned after her rescue from the Novellan embassy in Tlalacuetztla, but in a far less violent way than what would have happened had she been handed over to Xiomera. In the end, she was deeply thankful for the rescue - even when it transpired that her attempts to join Warriors meant that she was arrested and sent to prison. Lauchenoirian prisons had a reputation for terrible food; but compared with Xiomeran prisons, they were holiday camps.

Her brother and the other three, once they were returned to Lauchenoiria, were also thoroughly questioned. The other two, the masochist (Toni Oquendo) and the overconfident one (Demetrio Iglesias), ended up joining the numbers of WOE members crowding Lauchenoiria’s prisons. The brother, Damian, in the end was found not guilty by the judge presiding over his trial. He had shown no personal desire to join Warriors. He was, however, urged to be careful by a figure in sunglasses from LDSS: they were not entirely convinced Xiomera would not attempt to take vengeance into their own hands.

All the legitimately non-violent members of Watchdogs accepted the organisation's statement that they were winding down operations. Those who refused to accept it, and continued to call themselves members of WOE, immediately came under suspicion for being Warriors. This led to yet more arrests, including of legitimately non-violent activists. Their lawyers would not, however, be good enough. Association with WOE now ended in one of two ways: cooperate with the police, or end up in prison. Perhaps Lauchenoiria had more in common with Kerlile than it preferred to admit.

All told, at the end of the day, Lauchenoiria moved forwards and charged 4,116 individuals with membership of a proscribed terrorist organisation. It would likely take several months to get through all the trials; but every single one of those people was remanded in custody. There were protests about this, but they grew smaller and smaller as the police began to question protesters about why they supported WOE, and if they too were involved in a terrorist group.

A fear settled over the environmentalist community, even as Alvarez’s government genuinely did not intend to create it. In Usera, everyone in their large activist community knew that the office block that was destroyed had housed WOE’s offices. They did not, however, know who had destroyed it. The rumours varied from Xiomera (true), to Lauchenoirian intelligence, to (naturally) Auroras. It still made them nervous.

The amount of protests per day, on all issues, dropped from an average of nine across the country at the start of March, to a mere 0.7 on average. This was not due to any deliberate policy of the government nor the police; but the activists’ own paranoia. What does it take to save democracy? Many across Lauchenoiria asked themselves that question in 2018, and many more were asking themselves that now, not least in the halls of government. And where is the line? Security versus freedom. The question was older than the concept of a nation-state. It seemed unlikely to be resolved now.

Elfwood Men’s Federal Prison, Melissa Province, Lauchenoiria

Clay Moss was a mix of bemused and outraged that the Lauchenoirian government had actually imprisoned him after the whole Xiomeran affair. Of course, all of his friends were in prison here too, so it wasn’t nearly going to be as bad. There were loads more WOE members in Elfwood Prison; including another pair who’d been in Xiomera, Toni Oquendo and Demetrio Iglesias. Although, somehow, the food was worse.

He was sitting at breakfast loudly complaining about the taste with the pair, and telling overexaggerated stories of his ordeal to anyone who would listen. Toni and Demetrio found it, if not amusing, then reassuring that at least they hadn’t suffered quite as much during their brief time in Xiomeran custody.

Nearby, two other prisoners who were all too familiar with Xiomeran custody found it hard to keep silent. Tlixō and Xōne had been in Lauchenoirian prisons for over three years now, but were originally from Xiomera and had spent their own fair share of time in prisons there. The two former activists sat quietly and listened to Clay spin his tales.

“And it was almost like her eyes glowed red!” he said of Mariya.

“Clay, you said that yesterday,” Toni groaned.

“And the day before,” Demetrio added.

"Xiomeran interrogators do not have demonic eyes. Even that one. Ask me how I know," Xōne finally snapped. Like the Lauchenoirians, he had finally had enough of the stories.

“Oh look, Xiomerans!” Clay said, turning to them. “Did you also post too many WOE memes on social media?”

"No. We tried to set fire to the Xiomeran embassy here years ago, and your government saw fit to toss us in jail for it," Xōne replied with a sigh.

Tlixō nodded. "I doubt anyone in here claims the Lauchenoirian government though, they
tossed us all in here after all."

“Oh hey, we tried to spray-paint an embassy!” Toni replied. “But yeah, Alvarez just keeps doing whatever whoever threatened her last told her to. It’s silly.”

“I heard the Xiomerans offered her free snakes,” Clay said.

“Your demon interrogator must’ve hit you over the head too many times,” Demetrio said to Clay.

"I would not be surprised if Calhualyana did offer Alvarez something though. Either threats, or bribes. Maybe both. Politicians are all alike. They are self-serving swine," Xōne sneered. Tlixō simply rolled his eyes.

“I’d still rather be here than be in prison in Xiomera,” shuddered Demetrio. “Even though this disgusting slop is inedible,” he shoved his breakfast bowl away.

There was a shout on the other side of the room as two men with what appeared to be gang tattoos started yelling at each other in Kvaskm and shoving. All the prison guards rushed towards them. A couple more WOE people joined their table to get further from the fight.

"Believe it or not, we'd rather be back in Xiomera. We left a lot of people behind there. And the opposition to Calhualyana, such as it is, could use some help." Tlixō toyed with his own bowl of food.

“Won’t they just kill you if you go back?” Clay asked with zero tact.

"It depends. I mean, they didn't kill you, after all," Xōne snorted. "Even the Empire usually reserves death for the most dangerous threats. They prefer to keep people alive, as examples. But you know that now."

"They're probably just gonna send spies to kidnap us all so they can torture us," one of the other WOE members said glumly. "Since our government here won't do anything about them just, like, snatching people off our streets."

"If you haven't done anything directly against Xiomera, you probably have nothing to worry about. Imperial Intelligence doesn't have enough spies to kidnap all of you," Xōne replied.

"And what if we did do something to them?" He asked. "Or, well, planned to, at any rate."

"If you just planned to, I wouldn't worry too much. A lot of people want to do things to Calhualyana and her regime, ImpSec isn't going to send agents after all of them. Can you imagine the time and effort involved?" Tlixō said in what was meant to be a calming way.

"Of course, if you actually did do something to the regime, or were close enough to doing something to be a credible threat, you're probably screwed just like us," Xōne laughed. This earned him a glare from Tlixō.

"Do you think they'll want us back?" Toni asked. "For what we did in Tlālacuetztla?"

"For some spray paint? No. Even in Xiomera, vandalism isn't a serious enough offense to bother with if they didn't catch you right then and there," Tlixō chuckled.

"Phew," Demetrio said. "Are you really gonna willingly go back there once you're out?"

"Yes. We have loved ones back there. Also, screw Calhualyana." Xōne had a grin on his face that didn't match the serious tone of his voice.

"To each his own," Demetrio shrugged. "I'm gonna get the hell out of Lauchenoiria, after, personally. This place is falling apart. I bet someone will invade it before 2030, the only question is who."

"Don't be an idiot," Toni rolled his eyes. "You sound like Clay. I know you got a fright in Xiomera, but you gotta get your confidence back, man! This doom and gloom isn't you."

"Even if someone were to invade Lauchenoiria, there are plenty of countries that will help it. It's funny, we actually wish someone would invade Xiomera and get rid of Calhualyana," Tlixō responded. "Then maybe democracy would actually have a chance there."

“What about the demons though?” Clay asked. “The ones possessing her and Mariya.”

Toni and Demetrio sighed in unison, one shaking his head and the other rolling his eyes. They didn’t know if Clay was insisting on this because it made a better story, or if he genuinely believed that Mariya Adema and Calhualyana were possessed by demons. Either way, it was getting old very fast, and in prison there was nowhere to get away from it.

"They aren't possessed by demons," Xōne said dismissively. "You're too smart to believe that. One doesn't have to be possessed by some farcical evil spirit to do evil things. Humans are more than capable of it all on their own."

“But what if that’s even scarier?” Clay said in a small voice, his demeanor shifting.

Tlixō sighed. "All you can do is face them as best you can. And keep going. They count on being so scary that they get you to quit on your own, just give up on everything. You can't do that."

Many of the WOE members were nodding along to this. Not all of them had any experience with Xiomera. But all of them were angry with at least one government; and very few of them intended to allow themselves to be intimidated by their brief imprisonment. It seemed, perhaps, as if Lauchenoiria had not stopped WOE - merely delayed them.

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