Chapter 1: Negotiating A Contract
May 26, 1993
It is easy for improbable things to happen in a fictional narrative. Suspend one's belief for a bit, and faster than light travel becomes a reality. A high end car becomes a time machine, or a ring endows the wearer with magic powers. With a simple side-step of the constraints of reality, whole new stories are possible.
In terms of dealing with the improbable, fiction wins over fact all too often. Then, one day, it is as if reality is twisted into a shape so awkward that it defies common experience. It becomes so fantastical that it has to be fiction, or a least a good comedy. The history of Misera is one of those stories which most modern people consider a joke of cosmic proportions.
It began with the discovery of the continent of Surprise, so named because it was a real surprise when it was discovered in 1492. No one had realized that it was actually a continent, but just a continuation of the islands that were scattered around the Fractured Lands.
Two expeditions, one from Franka and one from Espa, were sent out to map the islands. They had each been tasked by their individual government to claim as many islands as they could. It was a simple mission, find an island, map its coast line, and stick a flag on it. They hit a few islands, mapped them, and stuck a flag on them.
Then, on the northeast coast of Surprise, the Espa expedition learned that the 'island' they discovered wasn't an island. The coast line went on and on. They sailed south following the coast and kept going until they hit ice. They turned back north and continued following the coast line past where they had initially struck it.
Having started a little later, the Franka expedition hit the continent of Surprise along the northwest coast. They followed the coast line west and south. They stuck a lot closer to the coastline than the Espa expedition which was right behind them.
Both expeditions had stuck flags all over Surprise, not just making a claim for a bit of it, but wanting the whole continent. Sometimes the flags were with a hundred miles of each other. Each expedition was unaware of the other. It was a big land, there was a lot of coast, there was a lot of ocean. Ships are small, and it was easy for each to miss seeing the other.
It was when the expeditions returned to Espa and Franka that it became clear what had happened. The two countries had each claimed the same continent over approximately the same period of time, just at different locations. There was only one course of action that made sense. Espa and Franka went to war.
Of course, Itan, Romal, and Engle felt left out, so they mounted expeditions to claim land as well. Itan and Romal concentrated on the southeastern shore of the continent while Engle pushed its claims onto the north getting a small foothold in Llamadda.
The war over Surprise now included the countries of Espa, Franka, Itan, Romal, and Engle. It was a free for all that was being fought in two ways. First, each country tried to establish a naval superiority in the waters around Surprise. Many ships were sunk in the process. Second, each country tried to get as many colonists in place as they could. After all, possession is nine tenths of the law. Of course, that brought into the fray the indigenous people.
Distance and attrition dragged the war out for decades. Surprise wasn't the land of riches that the Fractured Lands had been. Exploration of the continent had been postponed because of the fighting, so no rich deposits of ore had been discovered. The indigenous people were raiding the colonies so even crops were problematic. Espa, Franka, Itan, Romal, and, to a lesser extent, Engle were spiraling into debt. It was debt, more than international good will or definitive victories, that ended the wars over Surprise.
Countries with well defined borders, more or less, emerged from the fracas. Franka ended up with Friga, San Troph, New Franc, and Del Moray. Espa ended up with Imal and Llamadda (which was later taken over by New Franc and then rebelled to become independent). Romal ended up with Walford, Barmud, and part of Teal. Itan ended up with Tobo, part of Teal, and Niella. After a long bitter fight, Itan ended up with all of Teal.
At the end, there was only one disputed region of Surprise left. It was a small strip of land between Del Moray and Ismal. Espa and Franka each claimed that strip of land and they weren't about to let the other have it. It was more a matter of its mine and not yours, rather than the land having some great financial or strategic value. There were minor fights over it that lasted until May of1520.
With both countries exhausted financially, they turned to an outsider to settle the matter once and for all. The person they turned to was none other than the head of the religion that was followed by both countries. The head of the religion was affectionately known as Papa. He was originally from Vatica and each country was convinced that he would be fair in his deliberations. Of course, each country was convinced he would rule in their favor.
Grand parties were held in Vatica with Espa and Franka each trying to outspend each other in currying favor. Lots of money was donated to the church. Lavish balls were held. Nearly every country on the continent of Besland attended, with the exception of Rus, and Nord. The church got richer, a large number of ladies of questionable moral value got richer, and Espa and Franka got even poorer. Someone had to pay for it all.
Papa was not a stupid man. He knew that any decision that he made would not end tensions between Espa and Franka unless it was something exceptionally bold. He puzzled over the problem for weeks, trying to come up with some solution. The longer people waited for his answer, the greater the tension became. After a long night of prayer, he came up with a remarkable solution and called for a great convocation in which he would make his announcement.
In the great Cathedral of Vatica, a crowd of some of the most important people in Besland gathered to hear Papa's announcement. The tensions were running high. Everyone, including ambassadors from around the world, was in attendance. The expectation on everyone's part was that Papa would have divided the contended territory equally between the two countries.
Papa entered the Cathedral in the midst of a stately procession. A long service was held in which thanks to God for providing a guiding hand in this entire mess was given. The crowd shifted impatiently to and fro while the suspense built. Finally, at the end of the service, Papa went to the pulpit.
"I have given this matter lots of thought. Two neighbors are at war over a scrap of land that has no real value. I have spent days praying for inspiration. Then last night, I was given a sign from God."
Everyone rustled wishing he would just get to the point.
"I declare that the contested territory, as a whole, is to be given to the care of one nation."
Everyone leaned forward in anticipation. The representatives of Espa and Franka glared at each other with hands on swords ready to settle the matter right there and then if the judgment went against them.
"That nation is..."
A frustrated moan echoed through the great Cathedral when he paused.
Dramatically, he said, "Sviss."
The representative from Franka shouted, "What!"
The representative from Espa shouted, "What!"
The representative from Sviss shouted, "We don't want it!"
Sviss was a landlocked country that had not participated in any of the land grabs. Not having a port, it wasn't positioned to have a navy, much less become a naval power. That's not to say that it hadn't profited from the great race for land. It had provided loans to countries and collected a significant amount of interest from them over the past century. It was, in fact, one of the richest countries in the world.
No one wanted to make the banker nation mad at them since it had a large army that could, and historically had, forcefully collected debts from nations unwilling to pay them. Other countries had large navies, but that would not protect them from a large land based army. Sviss would march its army directly to the capital, where, at sword point, it would collect the debt. One country that had such an unpleasant experience was Rus, and it had never recovered from it.
Papa had been counting on the reluctance of Franka and Espa to directly confront Sviss. Every one walked away satisfied that the matter had been resolved. Franka and Espa were disappointed, but not exceptionally so. The only one who was unhappy was the ambassador from Sviss. They didn't want any territories. As far as they were concerned, territories like that were nothing but a waste of money. They didn't even bother to name it.
It wasn't until 1607 that anyone of Sviss citizenship stepped foot onto what had been the disputed territory. This particular individual was the great Sviss explorer, Johan Brossart. He had gained a degree of fame by having climbed the great mountain in the center of Dessera. In the midst of the great desert, the mountain rose to a height where it remained snow-capped year round. His journal describing his trip across the desert and to the top of the mountain had become required reading in homes of the educated all across Besland. Handsome and debonair, he was an extremely romantic figure.
He set off, amidst great fanfare, to explore uncharted territory. He sent back long descriptive missives to the King of Sviss who published them in newspapers. His letters were works of art that turned a dull night spent in an Itan hotel waiting for his ship into a grand adventure. It was pure entertainment.
The last that was ever heard of Johan Brossart was a battered torn letter that arrived at the palace of the King of Sviss in late 1608. Amongst the various tears and holes, enough of the letter was readable to know that he had faced diseases, poisonous snakes, dangerous wild animals, and angry natives. The land was inhospitable for anyone of any breeding or culture. The last legible line of the letter stated, "I call this land Misera..." the last bit of the word was lost because of a hole torn in the letter.
The disputed territory now had a name – Misera.
Sviss continued its policy of ignoring Misera. This absence of a real presence in Misera had one long lasting consequence. Indigenous people living in Del Moray and Ismal were under continuous pressure from colonists. They were slowly losing ground to the better armed settlers and well practiced armies. The only path of retreat was to Misera where the armies wouldn't follow them. The few settlers who entered Misera disappeared through misadventure with the locals.
The end of numerous wars among the countries of Beland had another long lasting consequence on Misera. The 1730s and 1740s saw the rise of a new class of people in Besland. These were middle class educated families, primarily merchants, who chaffed under the harness imposed by a nobility that seemed to do nothing to earn the political power they controlled. In a few cases, a family might even be wealthier than the nobles, but they were politically powerless. It was a situation that was inherently unstable.
Across Besland, minor rebellions arose threatening to wrest power away from the nobles. Of course, from the nobles perspective that was not a good thing, and they reacted in the manner that nobles have always reacted. Secret police invaded meeting places, there were midnight arrests of conspirators, and prisons were filled with dissidents. Still, the movement of rebellion grew. Even Sviss, a country filled with conservative bankers, was not immune.
After a rebellion that was nearly successful in removing the King of Sviss was finally put down, the King decided that enough was enough. If these rebels wanted to rule a country, well ... he had a country for them. He had the head of the rebellion brought to the throne room where he proclaimed the man to be the new Governor of Misera. He then had the Governor and his followers thrown into prison carts, taken to a port in Itan, and shipped to Misera. They were just dumped on the shore and left to fend for themselves.
After each rebellion, more rebels were shipped to Misera. From the perspective of those previously shipped to Misera, it was kind of fortunate that new arrivals came with the frequency they did. The indigenous people, now less than affectionately called Misers, were doing a pretty good job of killing the previous set of arrivals. Regardless, towns were established and forts were built. The Misers were pushed to the south where they dug in and fought with a ferocity that kept even the most adventurous out.
Slowly a northern stronghold was established and politics again raised its ugly head. Now rebels were landing in a settled country where they were, once again, the oppressed. There were rebellions. There were masses of people who moved off to form their own city where they could do as they wanted. Of course, they encountered Misers who were less than happy to have their homeland invaded. These were Miser wars, in which settlers and Misers alike were butchered in great numbers. Each time, the Misers were pushed back into smaller and smaller territories.
In May of 1775, a successful rebellion in Misera changed the local Governorship into a dictatorship. The dictator, a gentleman by the name of Bardrick Ganz, sent a letter to the King of Sviss proclaiming Misera a free and independent country. The response was a jovial, "Good riddance and good luck."
It was the kind of irony that could only happen in fiction that the reply was received by Ganz's successor.
Over time, the Misers were pushed back into small enclaves, actually reservations, with little or no rights. They sat there without access to weapons, employment, or any of the advantages of a modern age. The government of Misera was basically in control of everything that occurred on a reservation. It was one source of resentment among the Misers.
The government of Misera underwent a century of churn with one dictator after another ascending to power only to be replaced by the next. The form of government changed almost every decade. That kind of uncertainty in leadership couldn't last. There had to be a stable element of government just to navigate the normal daily affairs of running a country.
What emerged from the chaos was a very dysfunctional form of democracy. There were general elections of representatives to a Senate. It was the Senate that proposed laws. There was a President and his cabinet that were appointed for life. The President had veto power over laws passed by the Senate. Cabinet members, with approval from the President, oversaw the various executive branches of the government that dealt with the day to day business of running the country.
With a long history of assassination, a clear mechanism for promotion to President and to cabinet had been achieved. If a President died, a new President was appointed from the cabinet by the cabinet members. If a cabinet member died, he was replaced by appointment from the Senate with approval of the President. It was all nice, neat, and clean. Lots of people died in the process, although very few of them by natural causes. In time, even assassinations became rare.
By 1993, a very hardcore group of individuals controlled the Presidency and the Cabinet. Any problem within the country was immediately blamed on the Misers. A bank folded, it was the Misers at fault. A ship sank off the coast of Khung, it was the Misers at fault. Each time the Misers were at fault, punitive actions were taken against the Misers.
President Klay was the kind of person who would be perfectly happy having every Miser killed. It was an attitude that he had inherited from his father who had inherited it from his father and so on and so forth. It was an old fashioned view that had survived in the government, only because people who thought like that were the only ones allowed to progress upwards into the government. Some people in the Senate made noises of agreement although they didn't really share that sentiment. However, to make it to the cabinet, and hence have a chance at becoming President, one had to have one's hands dirty in a manner that proved absolute hatred for Misers.
Hating Misers wasn't a sentiment that was shared amongst the majority of the population of Misera. The 'little people' didn't have that much more freedom than the Misers. They could vote for a Senator, but they didn't have much of a choice since there was usually just one candidate. The laws that were passed didn't reflect what the people wanted. They were taxed heavily, and no amount of protest changed a thing.
The Misers represented twenty-two percent of the population of Misera. They couldn't vote. They effectively had no legal rights (any Miser accused of a crime was automatically guilty of the crime). They had no representation in the Senate. They couldn't own property and had to lease their land from the government. In short, they had nothing to lose and lots to gain by rebelling.
So, they rebelled.
The leader of the rebellion was an individual by the name of Dr. Wilfred Tanguma. He was a professor of history in nearby Del Moray, commuting there from his home in Misera until the Misera government placed him under house arrest. His specialty was the history of war and he was a very smart man.
One day, the majority of Misers were located on their reservations. The next day, they weren't. In fact, they weren't anywhere to be found in Misera proper. They had moved to the snow and ice in the southern part of Misera. Nobody, except for a few old kooks lived out there.
The morning everyone disappeared, a dozen newspapers printed a one page declaration of war authored by Dr. Wilfred Tanguma.
As stated previously, he was a very smart man. He didn't talk about inequities to Misers. He talked about inequities to the whole population of Misera. He wrote about the lack of real representation. What choice did a voter have if there was only a single candidate and they didn't even get to select the candidate? He wrote about how the government was controlled by a tight knit cabal who didn't care about the people of Misera. How could anyone care if they did the right thing for the people if their job was guaranteed for life?
He even attacked the government machine that would resist the rebellion. He asked if the police really wanted to uphold repressive laws on their own families and children. He questioned if soldiers were really willing to go to the streets and shoot down their fellow citizens on the orders of man who didn't care that they lived or died.
He made a general call to arms for all citizens of Misera, stating that they should demand fair representation for all of the people and term limits for the cabinet and the president. He didn't specifically mention voting rights for the Misers. He didn't specifically mention representation for Misers. He did mention that the Misers, in empathy for the common men and women of Misera, were on strike until their fellow citizens got their civil rights.
His words lit a powder keg.
The Misers, smiling happily, sat back on the ice and snow and watched.
President Klay said, "I want the civil war ended."
"I know," Pen Ocival said. "Have you tried negotiating?"
"I don't negotiate! I'm the President of Misera. People do what I say."
"What about your army?"
"They are searching for the Misers. They can't find them."
"Ah. What about your police?"
"They are part of the problem."
Pen Ocival said, "So you want us to eliminate your army and your police?"
"No! I want you to end the civil war. It's all because of those damned Misers."
"You do know that two common conditions in any contract we take is the authority to remove anyone standing in our way of completing the contract and that we are authorized to do whatever is required to complete the contract," she said.
"I know that. You're a bunch of cold blooded killers. You'll kill everyone who gets in your way. Well, that's what we need to end this blasted civil war. So how much is it going to cost me?" he asked.
"We have nine hundred Jade Warriors available at the moment. However, I think that three hundred, for five days, should be sufficient. That would be a hundred and fifty million, plus spoils."
"Yes," Pen Ocival answered.
"You really think you can end the civil war in five days?"
"I know we can," Pen Ocival answered.
President Klay asked, "How can you say that with such confidence?"
"We already know where all of the principle architects of the civil war are. We know what they want. It's just a matter of going in and taking care of business. We are very good at taking care of business."
"You have that reputation," President Klay said.
President Klay said, "Any chance you could lower the price a little?"
"Okay. Write up your stupid contract and I'll sign it," President Klay said.
"You are sure."
"I'll get a copy of it to you tomorrow morning."
"Would you like to join me for dinner?" President Klay said.
"No, thank you," Pen Ocival said.
Not used to getting turned down, he asked, "Are you sure?"
"No chance you'll change..."
Pointing a finger at him, Shield Wong said, "If you ask her again, I'll kill you."
"No need to get huffy," President Klay said sitting back.
"Our business is done. I'll bring the contract in the morning," Pen Ocival said.
"Don't bring him with you."
"Fine," Pen Ocival said.
After the meeting the next morning, Pen Ocival stepped out of the government building accompanied by Shield Gerta, Sword Radek, and Sword Hang. She had the signed contract in her briefcase.
"He didn't look too happy to see Shield Gerta or me," Sword Radek said.
"He thought I'd come alone," Pen Ocival said.
"He thought wrong."
"Yes, he did."
"We've got a civil war to end."
Pen Ocival looked around. She spotted a young man sweeping the sidewalk. She walked over to him.
"Hello. My name is Pen Ocival. I'm a Jade Warrior."
"Excuse me?" the young man asked obviously confused.
"I have just signed a contract with President Klay hiring Jade Force to end the civil war."
Still confused, the young man said, "Why are you telling me that?"
"I thought you should know that three hundred Jade Warriors have been hired to end the civil war."
"All I do is sweep the street, Ma'am. I don't know nothing about civil war or Jade things."
"That's all right. I've accomplished what I meant to do," Pen Ocival said in perfect Ganginata, which is what the Misers called their language – the language of the Gangin people.
The young man stared at her while she and her companions walked away.