April 29, 2017,
13:02 local time,
Rome, Roman Republic
“You know,” said English Foreign Affairs Minister Jack Kent after getting comfortable in the study of Roman Emperor Erasmus, “no matter how many times I visit the Palace I am always struck in awe. The magnificence and its beauty is almost enough for me to say, ‘England and Rome, let’s bury the hatchet’, because, why would I want to destroy such a thing?”
Erasmus laughed in his chair. “Almost,” he said, “but not quite.”
“I think our countries have far too many issues which prevents us from seeking amicable terms,” said Kent. “I mustn’t hide from that reality.”
“…and yet you’ve come here,” said Erasmus, “not on an official mission but insisting I let you in as my personal guest, of which I only allowed because I believe you are a man of honour. You work in strange ways, Jack.”
“I have to use every tool available in my arsenal,” said Kent, “including appealing to your personal convictions. Surely you understand how the great game works.”
“I’ve been Emperor for hardly a week,” said Erasmus, “but the events of this past month, with Valerius initially refusing to concede the Crown…gave me a crash course.”
“Congratulations on that,” said Kent. “I figure I would at least tell you in person. You are far easier to get along with than Valerius ever was, believe me.”
Erasmus chuckled before leaning forward in his chair, adopting a serious tone.
“Yet something tells me that you’re not here simply for congratulations,” he said.
Kent readjusted himself in his seat, adopting the same serious tone. He didn’t sit forward, but he did clasp his hands in front of him.
“That is because you are about to ruin your legacy before it can even begin,” he said, his strong baritone more poignant in its tone.
Erasmus looked on, intrigued more than upset.
“The invasion of North America,” said Kent. “Don’t do it.”
Erasmus gave his head a shake and then let out an awkward chuckle.
“What invasion of North America?” said Erasmus, feigning ignorance.
“Come on,” said Kent forcefully. “Quit playing around, Your Highness. It’s the worst kept secret in the political world…the Icelandic Army has been mobilizing in Yarmouth all week, tripling in size overnight. Now I know there’s no documentation so I can’t prove any of this in a formal capacity…but anyone with half a brain would know there’s no way the Icelandic Army would get so strong in such a short amount of time without help…which would be your help.”
“So,” said Erasmus, getting agitated. “You’ve come here to figuratively arrest me…prove to your buddies that you got one over ‘those darn Romans’, am I right? Win a few points on the political sphere in England and among your buddies in Virtue too…well, let me ask you- how long will that last? A week is forever in politics, especially in a democracy like ours.”
Kent leaned forward, though his piercing eyes displayed a hint of humanity.
“I’m not here as a politician,” said Kent. “I’m here as a friend.”
“As much respect as I have for you as a person,” said Erasmus, “I’d hardly call you a friend.”
“Be that as it may,” said Kent, “you and I both have an interest in stopping Haylie Modine and her reign of terror in North America. It also hasn’t escaped me that, among the major powers of the world, we are the only two democracies. We have far more in common than you think.”
“So why are you trying to stop me?” said Erasmus. “If you’re my friend, you should support me.”
“Friends stop their friends from doing something that would ruin them,” said Kent, pointedly.
“England has spared no end trying to ruin Rome,” said Erasmus with a smirk.
“Yet I am coming here trying to save you,” said Kent.
Erasmus let out a heavy sigh.
“Let it out Jack,” said Erasmus, “you’re not here to save me…you’re here to save North America for your pals in Virtue. Or maybe for yourself…you need more of a footprint in North America.”
“I could wipe out the Icelandic Army in minutes,” said Kent, leaning back in his chair. “I have Yarmouth surrounded. In fact, my General wanted to do just that…but I overruled them. Why? Because I wanted to appeal to you first, because you decapitating Haylie would only destroy what you seek to maintain.”
“OK,” said Erasmus, “you’re holding me hostage. Say ‘yes’ to you and the Icelandic Army doesn’t get squashed like a bug. I see how this works.”
“No,” said Kent. “I told the Army to stand down no matter what you do. Besides, even you would understand that now that you know of what we can do you can actually prepare for it…you and I both know the only way we could take Yarmouth is by surprise. I don’t have that anymore. You can send your reinforcements from Boston and I don’t have an advantage anymore.”
Erasmus looked Kent straight in the eyes.
“I somehow still don’t believe you,” said Erasmus, “and, quite frankly, I’m not sure I care. I’m going to do what is right…the American Confederacy that Haylie Modine has created is nothing more than a fascist dictatorship wrapped up in liberal platitudes…you and I both know she is a danger to democracy. I have to make a statement…that the Romans care about real liberty, not something that merely sounds like it. If I don’t make a stand, people like her…people within the alt-left…they will be emboldened. Emboldened to take power and destroy everything that we hold dear. It does not matter that they fight for ‘the right things’…when they do it wrong, we all suffer.”
“No,” said Kent. “You’re wrong. The alt-left want you to destroy democracy. They want you to destroy the republic. They want you to attack them so they can rally their troops. The alt-left…they thrive on feeling cornered. They may not want to establish a dictatorship right away…but they have long argued that democracy really only serves the oligarchs and they will justify establishing their autocracy by saying they are ‘returning the power to the people’.”
Kent then leaned forward and spoke pointedly.
“Let me put it as succinctly as I can,” he said. “If you remove Haylie from power, you will be destroying the very thing you claim to protect.”
Erasmus let Kent’s words sink in, but he wasn’t swayed.
In the days after the meeting, the Romans and the Icelanders coordinated their efforts against the American Confederacy, eventually leading to Icelandic troops storming the American Presidio dramatically and arresting Modine on live television. The Icelanders had a relatively easy time establishing their rule in the rest of the Confederacy, as Modine’s ways had left her very unpopular.
Still, despite the English- and many within the Virtue Federation- secretly appreciating the removal of a figure they called “a dangerous revolutionary”, Virtue seized the opportunity to publicly denounce Iceland’s annexation of America (with the Icelanders calling their new territory “Vikingaland”), claiming they “did not respect democracy”. Virtue did little more than talk, and The Romans and Icelanders didn’t bother to engage in the war of words, deciding it was better to establish democratic values in a territory that had largely lost them within the past few years.
It was the dawn of a new era, but the problems were far from over.