World War: Campaign for Eastland
Chapter 9

Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac

Prince Tsang finished repeating what he had learned to General Hang and Premiere Song. The two men were distressed by his news. They could see everyone surrendering too quickly to save Khung from having an overseer. Having an overseer in Khung would give the Jade Empire too much insight into what was going on inside Chen.

Premiere Song asked, “What do we do?”

“I propose that we arrange for a private interview with Sandy Dancing.”

Prince Tsang looked a little confused by that. After all, he was there to arrange to see Pen Sada, not get interviewed by a reporter. He made a gesture requesting an explanation. It was that hands palm upwards with fingers spread and the head turned a little to the side gesture. When they didn’t explain it, he got a little irritated. He didn’t like being in the dark and clearly there was some kind of secret here.

“Call her.”

“I’ll need to go to my office.”

“Go ahead. I’ll talk with Prince Tsang while you’re making the call.”

“Okay,” General Hang said.

Prince Tsang watched the General leave the room. He asked, “What’s with an interview with Sandy Dancing? She’s got to be the most irritating reporter in the world.”

“Let’s just say that she can get in touch with Pen Sada.”

“So that’s her source inside Jade Force. I suspected that she was getting information directly from Jade Force. It’s nice to have that suspicion confirmed.”

“We’re going to have to move quickly on this once we get in touch with Pen Sada. She said that we need at least one country between Khung and a country occupied by the Jade Empire. Is your father prepared to offer reparations?”

Reparations! That was a key thing here. As Pen Sada had explained to Premiere Song, war is a serious matter. It is about the life or death of the state. One does not take that kind of risk without staking everything. The only reason that they wouldn’t take certain territories was because managing them would risk the life of the Empire. The secret of peace is to end a war in a way that doesn’t lead to the next war.

“I have a royal decree stating that I’m to negotiate with the authority of the Khung,” Prince Tsang said. “We can handle reparations so long as they aren’t too high.”

“They are going to be high.”

“I said too high.”

“He trusts you that much on this.”

“I have to live with anything that we agree to with the Jade Empire. I am the Crown Prince.”

“That’s true. How is your father’s health?”

Normally, one might think that question was meant as a barb. Both men knew that it wasn’t, but that it reflected a real interest in the Khung’s health.

“Good. His last checkup showed that he was still cancer free. He worries about it though.”

One of the problems of a monarchy was that the health of the ruler was always an issue. It wasn’t unheard of for the ruler to be too sick to rule and too stubborn to step down. Bad things typically happened as ‘advisers’ start gaming the system. By the same token, it wasn’t unheard of for the crown prince to be too ill to rule and then have the position thrust upon him. Again, bad things happened.

“I’m glad to hear that he’s healthy. I can understand his worry about the cancer coming back.”

“I hope he stays healthy for a long long time.”

He wasn’t saying that to sound like a loving and dutiful son. He was a loving and dutiful son. His family was important to him. He loved his parents and his siblings. He didn’t want to see harm come to any of them.

He also liked his current job too much to want to give it up. He liked being in the know about what was happening in the world outside of Khung. He had inherited an ineffective organization and turned it into a world class intelligence agency.

Finally, there was the Peter Principle. At times he felt that becoming Khung would be his promotion to his level of incompetence. Running a nation was a serious job and not to be taken lightly. The decisions of the Khung influenced the lives of millions of people. History could be a very harsh critic.

“A lot of men in your position wouldn’t share such a hope.”

“I like being the head of intelligence. I’d rather let my brother be Khung and let me keep this job.”

“You sound like General Hang.”

“Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Premiere Song said, “I’d like to hear your take on Jade Force and this whole Jade Empire thing.”

Prince Tsang said, “We were a little slow noticing Jade Force. I mean, we had opened a standard file on them as a mercenary group, but it was mostly newspaper articles. Mercenary groups come and go. Initially, it was assumed that they were just a run of the mill mercenary group. We didn’t dedicate any resources to collect more information on them.

“It wasn’t until they went after the pirates that we started paying all that much attention. When a consortium of countries select a group like Jade Force to perform a politically difficult task, you know that there is something going on. We tried to get agents in a position to see them in action, but we were unsuccessful at that.

“Then there was the Tobo drug war. We were still trying to line up agents to get there and then bam, it was over. That was a wake up call. I mean, Amra had been trying to win it for decades. They do it in basically a day? I knew then that there was more to them than just being your average mercenary group.

“We did get a front row seat with their actions in Palarma. Let me say this, my brother was shocked by the kinds of things they did there. My brother is proud of his special forces teams, but he couldn’t get over the video we got of them fighting. Some of it seemed impossible. They were shooting without aiming, yet killing with nearly every shot. Jump over a fence, charge into the presidential residence, and get past security without having detailed plans of the building and weeks to prepare. That’s not a simple matter.

“Let me just put it this way, we flagged them as the most dangerous fighting force in the world.”

“Why did Khung vote for war? Was it because we did?”

“No. Voting for the war was my recommendation. I figured that it would be best to let the rest of the world deal with them. They are mercenaries and they are very good. Our problem was that Venu was entertaining the idea of hiring them. Can you imagine what would happen to Khung if Venu hired them?”

“That would a very bad thing. We’d have a whole continent run by followers of Jarjan, most of whom are convinced that it is their mission to spread the word of Jarjan to the whole world, by force if necessary.”

“That’s right. Venu hates the fact that we are the only country on the continent of Eastland that isn’t ruled by followers of Jarjan. Some of my sources inside Venu suggested that the only reason they didn’t hire Jade Force was that the price was too high.”

General Hang returned to the office looking very distracted. He sat down without even looking at Premiere Song or Prince Tsang. That was unusual behavior for him, to say the very least.

“What did Sandy Dancing have to say?”

“We won’t be negotiating with Pen Sada.”

Premiere Song was surprised by that bombshell. Normally, he was quite good at hiding his emotions. Not this time. The look on his face was one of pure astonishment.

“Who would we be negotiating with?”

“The Empress of the Jade Empire.”

Prince Tsang said, “I didn’t know that they had an Empress.”

“Neither did I,” General Hang said. “This is something new.”

Premiere Song asked, “Did she give any hint on how we’re to arrange a meeting with this Empress of theirs?”

“Yes. We need to arrange a state visit to Inra for next week. Her international debut will be in Inra.”

Prince Tsang said, “I suppose I need to get on the phone and call Mr. Nayar.”

General Hang said, “I think you and I need to get on an airplane and visit Mr. Nayar.”

Prime Minister Patel asked, “You say that there is a Black Lord of the Jade Empire here to arrange for a state visit involving the Empress of the Jade Empire. I have several problems with that. Since when did the Jade Empire have Black Lords or an Empress?”

Looking a little embarrassed, Mr. Nayar said, “I don’t know.”

He didn’t know anything about Black Lords until one, fully armed and armored, walked into the building housing the Inra Intelligence Service and requested him by name. There’s nothing like having that happen to cause a little excitement among a lot of very paranoid individuals. It’s even worse when the visitor could address everyone she encountered by name without being introduced.

There was no doubt that she was a Jade Warrior. She was wearing armor, black instead of tan, and carried a sword, knife, and rifle. The same icons worn by Jade Warriors were on her armor, in gold instead of black. More importantly, despite an obvious limp, the woman radiated that aura of danger that came so naturally to a Jade Warrior.

“Are you sure this isn’t some kind of joke?”

“When it comes to Jade Force, you know that I don’t joke.”

“I know your feelings about them.”

When the issue of voting for war first arose, Mr. Nayar had stated quite bluntly that voting for it was suicidal. The government would fall within twenty four hours of the measure passing in the IFN. The only reason that President Patel listened to Mr. Nayar was that the man himself was so politically neutral that everyone listened to him. Such a strong statement from someone without a political ax to grind had to be considered very carefully.

Seeing two governments fall within twelve hours of the vote had illustrated just how well Mr. Nayar understood the situation. A wave of relief at the decision to abstain from the vote had washed across every level of government.

“These are some very scary people.”

“I understand that. Like you, I’ve been watching them beat up the whole world,” Prime Minister Patel said softly.

“I fear that in the next few days the coalition is going to realize that it is way out of its depth. The coalition forces are going to make some grand gesture and get slaughtered.”

“Do you really think so?”

“Yes. With this sudden emergence of a ruling body for the Jade Empire, I suspect that it is about to force the IFN to a surrender. To do that, they need to make a statement that the whole world can’t ignore.”

“Why would they choose to come here for their debut?”

“I have to assume that it has something to do with the Jade Academy.”

“So we’re going to host her debut. What does that entail?”

Mr. Sem, Chief of Protocol, said, “I don’t know of a protocol for a state visit by an Empress. There hasn’t been an Empire in centuries. I assume that we’ll have to treat it like a visit from a King or a Queen.”

Mr. Nayar said, “I suggest that you meet with the Black Lord and work out those details with her.”

“I’ll meet with her.”

Troubled by the idea that the Jade Empire would make Inra the site of its debut, Prime Minister Patel asked, “Why did they approach you?”

“I’ve dealt with them in the past. It’s been years, but apparently they keep track of me as much as I keep track of them. Spies spy on spies as much as they spy on governments.”

“So who is their top spy?”

“I don’t know,” Mr. Nayar threw his hands up in the air as he answered.

“I find that a little distressing. In fact, I find it quite disturbing.”

Mr. Nayar said, “Actually, it might be more accurate to say that I don’t think they have one. They aren’t a hierarchical organization. Everything they do is based on skill. Spying requires a lot of different talents based on what is being spied upon and how it is being done. They probably don’t have a top spy.”

There are no secrets in politics, at least from the perspective of political insiders. The secrets best kept from the public are those about the misbehavior of the insiders. Those with power believe they are above any constraints placed upon the poor slob on the street. They aren’t afraid of committing tax evasion, engaging in sexual misdeeds, accepting graft, engaging in blackmail, and even hiring people for murder.

Senator X has sex with boys. Every insider knows that until he’s caught. Then the story becomes we had no idea that he liked having sex with boys. In politics, the watchword of the day is I won’t tell on you if you don’t tell on me. Who is it that they are agreeing not to tell, one might ask. Well, everyone who isn’t a political insider.

The political posturings between nations is another area of secrets that aren’t so secret. Every insider knows every dirty deal. When outsiders learn of it, it’s passed off as an unsubstantiated rumor. If asked directly, the answer is along the lines of I don’t know, I’ll have to find out if we’ve been sending arms to Yuma to put down the rebels there.

The worst kept secrets are military secrets. Did you see the recent cover of Military Aviation Magazine? It has a picture of that top secret fighter jet under development in Chen. The article even has projected performance specifications on it.

That a major percentage of Eastland tribes was surrendering to the Jade Empire rapidly became one of those poorly kept secrets. It was so poorly kept that it appeared on the news before the ink was dry on any of the contracts. The news started as a rumor which was strongly denied. The IFN didn’t want to believe it. The government of Ulamb had no choice except to deny it. The press accepted it. For the moment, it was believed that these surrenders were limited to tribes in Ulamb, although there were rumors...

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