Magestic
Part 17

Copyright© Geoff Wolak October, 2009 - Rev 2010

Family. Goma, 2018.

Jimmy was happy enough for me to stay in Goma when he set off around the world, and I spent my days working on all things African. The cooperation group parliament, at the Pentagon building, received more of my time and I sent fewer emails; I visited people instead. Shelly's young man visited the mansion when he could, and Lucy enrolled at the University, surprising us. She passed the entrance exam, which didn't surprise us, and got stuck into a degree course on economics and politics half way through a term.

In February, both Ngomo and Abdi ran for President in their respective countries, and both received endorsements from Jimmy. With the other candidates dropping out, the pair were simply named President and got on with it. They would have won anyway, and with good majorities, but an endorsement from Jimmy was gospel around the region.

We attended both inaugurations, then sat the Presidents down and told them what we wanted - and how we wanted it done. Rifles officers took up posts in the new cabinets, and advisers were brought down from Europe to help out. Abdi checked the Somali finances straight away, and executed six people straight away. Ngomo punched a junior minister within a day of taking office, but then officially pardoned himself.

The President of Burundi was an ex-Rifles officer, as were most of the Defence Ministers in Africa these days. The new Presidents of Sierra Leone and Guinea were ex-Rifles, as were those of Malawi and Mozambique. We had the continent sewn up.

As things improved in the States, money came back from shares being sold, and the coffers filled. There was never a danger of us being short of money, but Kimballa was happier to see the money return for an African rainy day. Exports improved slowly, but much of our raw material was still being used internally, or being sold to the Saudis or Chinese as they built their enclaves.

Our international volunteers built their own factory to make electric buses, the ones that never stopped, and more of the oddly shaped buses could be seen on the roads of Africa. One young lad, a brain-trust Congolese lad, then built a sailboat, but I figured they had been invented already. His craft was a square boat, three hulls and five computer controlled sails. On days that were suitable it sailed the great rivers of the Congo, ferrying passengers in quiet efficiency.

Just to be a smart-arse, he programmed the boat to be captain free, and it followed the water's depths and currents. He put one on the lake, and it passed back and forth to Rwanda automatically. Albeit slowly.

I steadily bought dollars off any country other than the America, and used them to pay people in our region, the US Dollar now the official currency of the DRC. Seeing the size of the gold reserves that we now declared, Kenya, Tanzania, Somali and Southern Sudan switched to the US Dollar as their official currency. A dozen smaller countries followed, and Hardon Chase finally achieved his dream. We turned Haiti towards the dollar, that was easy enough, and the Saudis agreed not to consider dropping the dollar, not now.

I advertised in the US papers, and tempted another ten thousand Hawaiians to New Kinshasa, although most were non-ancestral. That then gave me an idea. I ran it past Jimmy and he just shrugged, making a face. I took that as a yes. Contacting the Madagascar Government, I enquired about an isolated area on the northern coast, and would they like to sell a strip to us - the corporation, a strip ten miles wide and five miles deep.

They were happy to sell the land, getting used to the Saudis in the south now, as well as used to the Saudi money. With the deal signed I gave the corporation the details, and told them to fence the land off, build a harbour and marina, and a small town. And quickly!

I then sent the Hawaiian elders in America a note to say that we had coastal land in Madagascar, and that we could settle people there, primarily ancestral Hawaiians. I asked if they could find families willing to help clear the land till it became suitable for further people.

Within a week I had six hundred families willing to give it a go, mostly because it was us, but they had also heard of the success of the Hawaiians in New Kinshasa. I paid their airfare and signed up the families, most living in self-assembly cabins to start with. When they asked what to build, I said 'Anything you like, you design it.' It took a week for other Hawaiians to realise that they could build anything they wanted, and more flocked to the area.

Things were going well around Africa, but al-Qa'eda reared its head in March. Terrorists hijacked a passenger plane in Yemen, the pilot managing to get out a distress call; that call being picked up by the naval base in northern Somalia. Fighters took to the air.

Contact was lost with the pilot, the plane's course, speed and altitude erratic, but seemingly heading towards the naval base itself. Ten miles short of the base the plane was being tracked by the missile systems of no less than twenty ships and a dozen aircraft. The order to shoot it down was given by the base commander, the airliner crashing into the sea with the loss of eighty Yemeni citizens.

It was a disappointment, but also a good reminder of the dangers out there. I went for a walk down to the park, finding crocs sunning themselves and expecting a chicken or two. Staring at small fish being chased by larger fish, I thought about the years ahead, and about 2025.

The next day I tackled the African education problem, the problem of adult education. Anna came over with the Education Ministers of a dozen countries, and we reviewed both adult education - and the teaching of basic English. I offered to try and get more of the new American arrivals teaching English, and would advertise for them. In our region, the thirst that local people had for improving their English was amazing, and we now saw extra colleges being built all over.

I asked Anna to move the educational emphasis away from the villages till such time as the urban areas were satisfied, and arranged teachers for the mine workers hostels. Factories would also now offer classes after work.

In the months after New Year, 2018, Helen became more of a secretary to me than Jimmy, and took on board some of her own projects whilst scrutinising my diary and organising my time. Jimmy spent a lot of time flying around and giving speeches, and Helen and I enjoyed the mansion, many items requested from the old house and flown down. When the "M" Group were in attendance in Goma, poor old Cookie in the UK had little to do.

Family life was good, Liz a pleasure most of the time, her older sisters willingly helping out with the babysitting. Shelly and Mali, and Helen and myself, would often dine out together, Lucy having met a friend of Mali's and hooked up. He was another tall lad, also studying in the university here, and at eighteen was not too old in our eyes.

Lucy's interest in flying waned, as Jimmy had predicted, and she buried her nose in the books. She had caught up the half- term that she had missed, and filled in the gaps in her knowledge very quickly. The only thing she didn't like about the university was the armed guard sat behind her all the time, even in the canteen.

Helen and I enjoyed the party scene, and since Christmas we had been out more than in the past ten years, often coming in late and tipsy. I was putting on weight because of it.

When Jimmy next visited he asked me to assist the Turkish and Jordanian economies, to help save any unrest there ahead of 2025. I sent an oil tanker to Turkey and offered future subsidised oil. That helped, and they were grateful for it, but I also struck a deal with a few European carriers to subsidise their flights to Turkey during the tourist season.

Considering 2025, and being a bit sneaky, I offered to fund two new airports in the east of Turkey, my thinking being that they could be used if necessary in any future conflict. I suggested they be placed near the coast to assist with potential tourism, the Turks delighted. I contacted the same French airport builders and commissioned the company for the expensive projects.

For Jordan I also sent oil tankers, but had to send cheap oil to Israel to stop them from complaining. Trying to be practical, rather than just a donor, I sponsored several housing projects in Jordan, as well as farm projects, and commissioned hotels for the Jordanian Red Sea coast and the Dead Sea coast.

Knowing about Jordan's uranium ore deposits, and the dangers of leaving it in the ground after 2025, I offered to buy regular amounts from the kingdom, the unprocessed ore to be stored at the Somali nuclear plant. When the Israelis complained, I said that I was removing the ore from use by The Brotherhood later on, to which they couldn't argue.

At the end of March, Helen and I returned to the UK, more for a visit than to live, and reclaimed our old house. It felt odd, the house oddly quiet even with Liz running around. We caught up with the gossip around the main house, Keely soon to be a father - in his sixties. My UK office team were still busy, but often produced summaries for Jimmy now. They were based here, in the UK, receiving information from the corporation in Africa, summarising it and sending it down to me in Africa. It seemed inefficient, but I couldn't put my finger on why.

When we had arrived back in the UK, Jimmy had allocated Helen and myself a few projects that were unrelated to Africa, and they held our attention for two weeks. I asked Jimmy about our residency in Africa, but he was happy enough to see me remain there - for now.

I had to stop and consider if he was leaving me there for practical purposes, or to save my marriage, a marriage that didn't feel in any danger of failing. I had to stop and consider if I was doing all I could towards 2025, and not being selfish. The next day I confronted Jimmy, and pressed the issue.

'Paul, your ... future usefulness is not being affected - and won't be affected - by a few years in Africa.'

'But closer to 2025?' I nudged.

'Then things will change for you.'

'So what can I be doing to ... you know, help more?'

'Building up our region is a great help; you're already doing most of what I need.'

'But the other part?'

'Start playing politician more - around the region, and include some of the North African states and the Middle East. Go right through Africa and make sure that all the various nations have the same policing and military agendas. You could start on South Africa, but they're a pain to deal with at the best of times, and they won't play ball with us. I always figured that we'd work around them.'

'Botswana?'

'Ask them nicely to join us; they already have a good society. Oh, Pakistanis here tomorrow, you and Helen in on the meeting. And get yourself some books: global economics, politics since the last war, the UN structures. Read them all at least once.'

I'd been given some homework.

In the morning, the Pakistani President and his delegation arrived, a convoy of limousines with police outriders. Jimmy welcomed them at the front door, leading them into the dinning room, our guests more reserved and businesslike than friendly. They were introduced to the household "M" Group, who then sat off to one side. The Pakistani delegation sat facing us, glances at the panel-like line up of "M" Group representatives.

'Mister President, thank you for agreeing to meet with us, ' Jimmy offered.

'We considered that it might be ... important, having received the invite without detail of the nature of the meeting.'

'It's the most important meeting any of you will ever attend, ' Jimmy told our guests. That got their attention.

'I'm hoping that you're not about to mention an earthquake in Pakistan, ' the President said.

'What you'll face ... is far worse than an earthquake.'

We had their attention; they looked horrified already.

Jimmy continued, 'In the year 2025 there'll be a problem, which leads on to widespread financial problems, a global financial collapse. As a direct result of that financial crash, many countries will see civil unrest, protectionism in trade, the rise of nationalist leaders, and the rise of separatist movements and terror groups.

'The economies of the Middle East will be hit particularly hard, leading to the rise of various terror groups based on existing groupings. One such group will inspire the poor and downtrodden Islamic masses to rise up. Unfortunately, their aim is not so much political as religious, and they'll advocate the abolition of all modern technology. Such as ... electricity, telephones, and especially the use of oil.

'They'll desire a return to simpler times, and will massacre anyone who holds onto such technology, or who doesn't join them. They will - at least they would have, found a willing audience in Afghanistan, which is why our forces are there. Second, they will ... find a willing audience in your tribal regions. Unless the near future is altered, gentlemen, then by 2027 you'll be fighting a full-scale war at a time when your economy is in tatters.

'You will ... lose that war, and anyone with an education will be massacred. That in itself ... should concern you enough. But you're a nuclear state and, as such, those around you - and in the wider world - would not allow your nuclear arsenal to fall into the hands of a terror group. If I was to hazard a guess, then I would say that as soon as you start fighting this group, and start losing ground, that you would be hit with a pre-emptive strike using advanced weapons that I've designed using future technology.'

'A strike ... by The West?' they asked, horrified by the idea.

'A strike ... by a coalition of forces, using advanced weapons. Your nuclear facilities would be destroyed and irradiated so that your nuclear arsenal could not fall into the hands of the terrorists, something that I'm sure you don't want any more than anyone else. Now, gentlemen, I told the Americans about Hawaii, and they didn't really pay attention. If you fail to pay attention, you'll lose everything. You'll lose your country.'

'What exactly are you suggesting that we do about it?' the President loudly asked.

'That you cooperate with us to prepare, obviously, ' Jimmy replied.

'Prepare ... how?'

'First, you must consider that a terrible global financial downturn will strike in 2025. Take whatever measures you can up to that point. And ... re-organise your armed forces to consider the nature of the threat from your tribal areas. Cooperate with us on disarming or killing gunmen in your tribal regions, especially closer to 2025. And cooperate with us and India by looking for cost savings, by reducing the overall spend on your military.

'If you're willing to look effectively at reducing the size of your military - in a treaty with India, then we'll look at financial assistance for you. You'll save money on your military, and you'll gain financially from us.'

'And what would be India's role in 2025?'

'When your tribal Taliban groups start to attack India, India will attack you. You'll have a war on two sides, ' Jimmy explained. 'But India already knows about this problem, and they're not keen to see you diminished since you're an effective buffer for them - so long as you're still an effective functioning government. They'll be happy to see you throw away your soldiers holding the line for a year or so and then - you might say - they'll be happy to see you completely destroyed. Unfortunately for India, they'll be next in line. They know that, so they'll cooperate with you towards a common goal.'

'You're not painting a very good picture for our chances of survival!'

'You don't have a good chance of survival. But I'm giving you the courtesy of this warning, and giving you a way out. I don't think you're smart enough to take it, but the offer is there anyway. As with some of the Hawaiians, you'll sit in your houses till they're destroyed, dying in ignorance.'

'And this ... way out?'

'First, you have to believe my prediction. Second, you have to consider future generations of Pakistanis, and put them ahead of your own careers and popularity. Third, you should do what I say, exactly what I say, and when I say it. If not, I'll supply certain armies with advanced weaponry and you'll be hit hard. You won't see it coming, and you won't be able to defend against my weapons.'

'We're well aware of the attack on Tehran, ' they said, making it a complaint.

'That was a tap on the shoulder, ' Jimmy pointed out. 'If the Iranians succeed in developing a nuclear weapon, I'll end their existence in the blink of an eye.'

Our guests glanced at each other.

'On the way here I was worried about an earthquake, ' the President glumly noted. 'Now I'd swap for the earthquake.'

'You will be hit by a quake, the damage extensive, ' Jimmy added. 'And at an inconvenient moment.'

'The Saudis are worried, very worried, ' the President mentioned. 'And they are nudging us to cooperate with you as well. These Saudi locations in Africa -'

'Enclaves to hold their people when they run like hell from the terror groups. But that's a private matter, so don't mention it to anyone. They ... are listening and preparing.'

'If the Saudis are worried, then so should we be, ' the President thought out loud. 'And if we cooperate ... you can fix the problem?'

'If you do everything I ask, you'll have a fifty-fifty chance. Fail to cooperate, and your chances are nil.'

The President again glanced at the "M" Group panel. 'And can we expect assistance from anyone?'

'You can expect assistance from a great many countries, ' Jimmy told him.

'We'll need time to think, and to discuss this.'

Jimmy took out a sand-timer, placing it on the desk. 'Take a look at the sand. In a few short years, you and your people will be nothing but sand blowing in the wind, just a memory of a nation that once was. Hawaii still has a peak above water, you won't even have that, gentlemen.'

With our shocked visitors gone, Jimmy held a household "M" Group meeting. 'If they don't cooperate, then in January 2026 I'll be asking for an EMP strike followed by a nuclear strike, because what the Pakistani Government doesn't know, is that many of its people will welcome The Brotherhood, and once that process has begun in Pakistan they'll be no stopping it. In Afghanistan, I'll be ordering the massacre of males eighteen to forty in many places.'

'Jesus, ' Keely let out.

'2025 is creeping closer, so don't lose focus, ' Jimmy told them. 'When the battle starts, we'll all be in the fight of our lives.'

Splitting up

Helen and I returned to Goma, and we returned to the business of growing African GDP, a task that seemed far simpler than dealing with global politics.

That following week I watched as Northern Italy tried to break away from the south, as Belgium effectively split into two nations, and as parts of Spain discussed breaking away. The recession was having an effect, the various regions figuring that they could do better by themselves. They couldn't. Jimmy knew that and waded in with harsh comments, helping to sway many voters in referendums.

Mexico started to fall apart thanks to its drug cartels, and Jimmy became involved. Despite America's reservations, we put Rifles on Mexico's border with Guatemala, also in Panama, and in Colombia itself. War had been declared on the drug trade, Rifles style.

The Colombians had been suffering greatly in recent years, and the offer of financial assistance from us was readily accepted. We by-passed a US delegation in Colombia, the US working on their own ideas about how to stem the drug trade.

Colombia had been drilling oil since the Second World War and offered numerous small oilfields, all subject to the odd attack by FARC guerrillas. We had previously done a good job of wiping out much of the FARC leadership in the east, but their members were spread far and wide. We would now give it another go. We put a thousand Rifles on the ground in Colombia, acting as independent units to protect oil fields, and to set traps. Offshore, we placed Russian, Chinese and European naval vessels to help create a picket line.

As soon as the deal with Colombia had been struck, we dispatched by ship a hundred thousand individual household wind turbines, a thousand water turbines - each capable of powering four hundred homes, and fifty thousand solar panels. When the TV news in the region started to show housewives extolling the virtues of free electricity, everyone wanted our toys.

We sent the modified German turbines over, fifty of them, and they were soon providing small towns with free electricity. A Bogotá factory was then selected and taken over, the Colombians shown how to make the efficient household wind turbines for themselves. From Zimbabwe, we exported grain to the coast and across to Colombia in huge ships, thousands of tonnes delivered at subsidised rates.

With the hearts and minds of the people won over, and the government happy enough, Colombian police officers and soldiers moved out of certain areas known for drug growing, and the Rifles moved in. Where the Rifles found either marijuana or coca growing the crops would be destroyed, traps set. Anyone returning to the crops would disappear.

The Guatemalan and Panamanian borders were now sealed tight, and both the people traffickers and drug traffickers were not happy, gunmen sent to the border to attack the Rifles. It was not the best thought out plan, and hundreds of gunmen were duly dispatched to the local cemetery.

The American border unit had never gotten off the drawing board, and we figured we'd work around President Blake. Soon after, at the Mexican/Guatemalan border, a notorious drug gang attacked a police station and killed several officers. Acting independently, a Rifles office offered to assist. Everyone knew who the drug lord was, but getting evidence - and then getting near him, was the problem.

The Mexicans could not see how the Rifles could assist, and refused the assistance. A week later, the local news station was reporting that the drug baron had disappeared, along with fifty of his men. No sign, no trace, prostitutes at the man's villa claiming they fell asleep, and when they woke everyone had gone.

On the opposite coast another drug lord disappeared, a little future technology deployed, a special knockout gas developed by the brain-trust kids, the same gas was being used with great effect in the Colombian hills and mountains. Suspect villas would be targeted, Rifles in respirators simply walking in after an hour and searching around. If they found nothing they moved on, but if they found something interesting they called the federal police, who made televised arrests of confused people just waking up.

Boosted by that success, the Colombians allowed more Rifles in, and we soon had eight thousand men on the ground, having been only permitted to land just four thousand. Hell, they all looked alike.

In Afghanistan, Jimmy gave the order to eradicate all poppies, and to hell with the locals. The Rifles got to work, and the street price of heroin in Europe rocketed. In the States, marijuana was now legal and they grew their own, something else that put pressure on the drug barons of Central America. Jimmy approached Bolivia next, the country ranked number three in the world for cocoa growing after Myanmar in Asia. We offered financial assistance, soldiers, and coal-oil technology - a deal too good to pass up.

As Bolivia received units of Rifles, we entered into talks with the Myanmar regime who, despite maintaining a very large army, seemed powerless to control the nation's drugs trade. CAR already operated oilrigs in two locations off the Myanmar coast, and we enjoyed a limited working relationship with the paranoid regime. We offered wheat and money, and they grudgingly allowed us to invade a small corner of their country.

The locals fiercely defended their coca crops and were cut down in large numbers, the crops destroyed. A chemical was utilised, another invention of the New Kinshasa volunteers, and it would prevent re-seeding. Global drug prices were soon rocketing.

We knew that the drug war was not a war we could ever win, and that the farmers would move across borders and set-up elsewhere, but we did have an effect. Meanwhile, on the Mexican border, the drug lords were killing each other for an increasingly small share of a shrinking drug trade. With revenues falling, the hired gunfighters could not be paid, and sloped off to do other things.

As the months passed I watched remotely, but with keen interest, as we tackled the drugs trade, but I was also watching with less-than-keen interest as various nations tried to split apart. Separatists groups sprung up in many places, claiming and ancestral right to various bits of land in Asia, and fighting broke out.

A few regions were offered limited autonomy, but others just sank into despair and anarchy, their previously lucrative tourist trade ruined. Northern Italy now enjoyed limited powers, the rich northerners wishing to break away from the poor south, not least because of the crime rate in the south. The Ukraine started to split along ethnic lines, Russian speaking or native Ukrainians. Problem was, the Russian Black Sea fleet was still in Sebastopol in the Crimea, the local population mixed. Part of that fleet had found a happy home in Somalia, free fuel supplied by us, but Sebastopol threatened to explode into civil unrest.

Macedonia struggled with its ethnic Albanians, and Hungary and Bulgaria both faced a redrawing of their borders. The Russian Caucuses were still smouldering, and Islamic extremists there continued to set-off bombs on a regular basis. In the Baltic States, Jimmy waded in heavily when ethnic Russians were discriminated against, but also offered resettlement grants if those ethnic Russian speakers wished to go and live in Russia itself. Since job prospects were better in Russia than the Baltic States at the moment, many took up the offer.

At home in Goma - and the mansion was now starting to feel like home, things were great. Shelly and Lucy were close by, albeit studying a great deal of the time, and I never thought I'd be annoyed that my kids studied too much. Liz was growing rapidly and a real handful, her favourite word being 'no'.

Stateside, Brad was doing well, settled into the job, and things were improving on the west coast. In reality, things were bad on the west coast, but less bad than been before. Houses had been cleared of sand in Los Angeles and people were moving back in, thanks more to the volunteers than federal or state workers. Venice Beach was indeed a beach again.

Overall, the US economy was flat, but that was better than where it had been. Stocks were climbing slowly, gold below two thousand dollars an ounce, and people power continued to grow. The Ark expanded right across America, and volunteer groups continued to give their time to renovate derelict houses. There was also a strange reverse migration going on, recent African immigrants returning to Africa for what they now saw as better job prospects, relatives contacting them to asking them to return from America.

I became involved when I read an article about it, and offered free flights and relocation grants back to certain countries, and more than ten thousand took us up on the offer within weeks of the launch of the project. 'Exodus', the American press were calling it, and were also calling it a few choice names as well, since Africa was a pull for jobs, homes and security these days - more so than the States for some Africans. The opposition used it as a big stick with which to beat the nice man in the White House.

I laid on extra planes for the returning children of Africa, the human cargo filmed at the airports, and a wake-up call for the man in the White House. In reality it was good for the States, because homes were being freed up, the social burden on the various states being eased - but it was not seen that way.

Politics

Following Jimmy's advice I had bought a pile of books and set about reading them; economics, world history, politics. And, when stuck, I asked Lucy. Many an evening over a cold beer we would argue about politics and economics, macro and micro.

Also in line with Jimmy's advice, I travelled to the various African capitals more often and made a point of getting involved with local issues. Jordan and Turkey also became regular contacts, and I even visited Saudi Arabia. But I kept getting gentle nudges from Jimmy to improve Jordan's economy, but to do so in secret. I shipped the Jordanian authorities more oil than the Israelis believed I shipped, and more wheat than I declared to Jordan's inquisitive and ever watchful neighbour.

Our UK property company had already built hotels on the Jordanian stretch of Red Sea coast, and I subsidised a certain number flights from Europe to Aqaba. The Jordanian desalination process was going well, their uranium ore extraction increasing, and their farms were expanding. After Jimmy had tapped a particular region of a map for me, I secretly funded the building of almost thirty new apartment blocks in Jordan, many more again in Egypt, on Egypt's northeast coast near Gaza.

The Red Cross, assisting Palestinians in that region of Egypt, received anonymous funds, and less than anonymous grain deliveries from Zimbabwe, plus food from our region. When the news of that leaked I thought, "fuck it", and shipped enough subsidised food to Jordan to make them all fat.

The net effect was that the trickle of Palestinians that left the occupied territories grew. It became more than a trickle because homes and food were available across the borders, safe from Israeli air strikes. The Israelis could see it, and must have been delighted, but they were being oddly quiet about it. I didn't know it at the time, but they had asked Jimmy for a loan, and he was 'considering it.'

When Egypt complained that Palestinians were crossing over in larger numbers as a result of my efforts, I sent the Egyptians themselves food, and a little money towards their Palestinian refugees.

Now that I was actively involved in the region, I read up on the history of the Middle East conflict, but it was not actually a Middle East conflict; it was an Israeli-return conflict. But I couldn't actually find where the country known as Palestine had come from. It seemed that the Romans coined the phrase, but to cover a wider area than just the modern disputed land - occupied by the Israelis at the time. The crusaders used the phrase, but at a time when the land was mostly just frequented by nomads. I determined that the Philistines were more Greek than Arab or Jew, but that the link was weak at best, the Philistines being more accurately located in Lebanon, and never having moved off the coast.

Other than during Roman or British rule, I could not see a time when a nation state called Palestine ever existed; no defended borders, no currency, no separate language. They spent most of their time being occupied by either the Persians or the Ottomans, and could not actually point to a time in history when the area was free of invaders, one of the longest holders of the lands being the pre-Christian era Israelis. After the Israelis, everyone had a go at the land.

I could not find any references to the land ever being an independent state under local rule after the Israeli Diaspora, and started to wonder what the fuss was about. I did, however, like the ancient Roman soldiers slogan for the region, loosely transcribed in "that troublesome toilet of a region". Seems that Roman soldiers avoided postings there. It hadn't changed much in two thousand years, today's peacekeepers not wanting to be there either.

Helen was good with history and politics and would help out when I had a question, and the question of right of ownership was a current hot topic, many countries trying to split apart because their grandfathers had spoken a different language. In Africa, I was proud that English was the norm, and we taught English wherever we could. We were trying to melt the tribes and borders into one, the rest of the world wanting to break itself apart into small regions. The Flemish area of Belgium could be walked across in an afternoon, yet they now exercised limited independence from the French speakers.

In Africa, I had a simple way of dealing with separatists; I'd have them shot and buried. It cut short a long conversation.

India had long suffered Maoists separatists, and I had put pressure on China to disown the guerrillas. It had been a long time since the Chinese had tried to assist the Maoists, and the rebels could be seen carrying weapons they pinched from the Japanese in Burma at the end of the last war. A little nagging persuaded the Indians to allow the Rifles in, and a unit of just two hundred Pathfinders landed in the South East India, close to the Bangladesh border.

Twenty members of the Indian commando unit that we had sponsored and trained tagged along, and would act as local guides. The group's remit was simple: shoot anyone with a rifle in their hands, and the Indian government would deny all involvement. Or they'd blame us!

Our soldiers split into smaller groups and strung out in a line north to south, a giant spider's web. And waited. They didn't have to sit quiet for long, soon noticing rebels walking brazenly along with their dated weapons over their shoulders. Engaging and killing the first half of a Maoist patrol, the Pathfinders allowed the remainder to flee, hoping that they'd report the incident and its location. Additional Pathfinder units moved closer, and a few days later a larger rebel unit approached, almost two hundred men. Less than a dozen escaped with their lives, the remainder buried, or simply dumped into rivers and steams.

That resulted in the ideal scenario for us, a large mobilisation of card-carrying book thumping Maoist rebels. The remaining Pathfinders set traps, and deliberately chose a single hill from which to fight. It gave the impression that it could be surrounded and laid siege to.

The Sunday afternoon Maoists turned up as a rag-bag army, but there were hundreds of them. They surrounded the hill and launched their attack with dated weapons, only a handful surviving. That night, under cover of darkness, the Pathfinders split into two and moved north and south, looking for new trade, and planning on staying a while.

Summer

Jimmy joined us in June, needing a rest from endless travelling. He reviewed the deployments of Rifles around the world with Abdi and Ngomo, and even agreed to place Rifles on the Yemen/Saudi border, satisfying a request from the Saudis.

The Pakistanis had agreed to try and follow our route map, and talks would go ahead with the Indians, the Americans and Saudis present, the Africans hosting the talks. We agreed that the Pakistani Army should not try to enter the tribal regions, and that the combined force in Afghanistan would creep across the border and "disarm fighters". The Pakistanis knew what that meant, so did we; but the Pakistanis also knew that our people did not get seen or caught, and that no evidence would be left behind. But, most of all, they knew that we'd get the blame, not the Pakistani authorities.

That deal had earned the Pakistanis several large oil tankers and huge grain ships, and Big Paul received his coded orders. He also received more men, many of them American, Russian and Chinese, men trained in the combined units near Mawlini in Kenya, and in the Somalia hills.

'We suck the puss out the wound, ' President Ngomo had said about the strategy.

Ngomo had, technically, less power than the Kenyan Prime Minister and cabinet, but everyone knew who was really calling the shoots. And these days, the new President of the cooperation group often had the last word.

Jimmy would spend a lot of time with the volunteers in new Kinshasa when he was around, either reviewing projects or issuing new ones. Locally, we not only had the brain-trust kids to call upon - all four hundred of them, but we had another twelve thousand people behind them.

In Russia, a largely non-political self-help group had been formed, and they sometimes met at the coffee shops. Their aim was to help those Russians that qualified for food vouchers, but they also took onboard research projects for Jimmy. Brad's group was now coast to coast in the States, and he maintained close links with it and its international arms. With a massive army of volunteers, or low paid helpers, a great deal was getting done on the cheap.

The displaced Hawaiians had created their own website, a kind of Friends Re-united, but just for Hawaiians. That kept them in touch with the Hawaiians in our region, their numbers having grown considerably. It also kept them in touch with the new Hawaiian colony in Madagascar, now home to an additional twenty thousand people. A harbour had been built there, plus two marinas, both of which started earning a small amount of money from sailboats docking.

Inland, the Madagascar colony cut down trees and made log cabins, they laid roads, and created small dams for water storage. I sent them German turbines for electricity, plus thousands of the small wind turbines. We had paid for an oil- fired power station, and now shipped down the oil. That power station was wired up to the nearby towns, and cheap electricity was soon being sold to the locals, a surplus produced for the colony itself.

In a chat with a USAF General, I asked if he wanted a base on Madagascar, and dropped a hint that it would create local jobs - for Americans! Oh, and we'd pay for most of it. Since we were building an airport anyway, we could kill two birds with one stone. He sent the idea up the line.

President Blake finally approved the base, since it would cost little and create jobs. It would also allow the USAF to dominate the Mozambique Channel; we had a green light from the nice man in the White House. I contacted the Hawaiians and sold them the idea, since they were not a hundred percent keen on things military.

Northeast of Madagascar, the Chinese had built a deepwater port in southern Sri Lanka, but had been asked by us to extend the port to include a base for naval vessels of many nations, a smaller version of the base in Somalia. With the new port in northern Madagascar, the existing Somali base and the existing facilities on the island of Diego Garcia, the India Ocean was sewn up.

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