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The Age of Maria Theresia


Sarah Tintagyl
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It had been nearly two years since the Austrian Civil War had began and while there had been hope that the guns would finally silence and peace would again reign across the land, such a dream seemed almost impossible. While lackluster festivities were held on the streets of Vienna, talks withing Hofburg Palace began to disintegrate. The Hapsburg Regime would not allow Saenger to hold supreme power over the country and while the majority of the country was Catholic, the thought of Papal Rule immediately turned off Parliamentarian delegates. What the talks had come down to was that neither Maria Magdalena was fit in the people's eyes, nor was Bridgette Saenger, nor the Pope himself. People wanted a strong central state, but as to how this state was to form was another question entirely. Soon the weeks began to change into months and the soldiers on both the Republican and the Royalist sides began to get edgy. A few skirmishes began to occur in the south near Slovenia and along the border with Republican-held Salzburg. It appeared that within days the peace talks would break down and the war would begin once again.

The Pope had served as mediator throughout much of the meeting, but unless Maria and Bridgette could actually agree on terms then a seeming eternal war would follow. Finally, as the sun set on the fifty-first day of negotiations, Bridgette made her way to Maria's quarters with a sign of truce. She pushed her way through the guards with a tin box of strudel and a smile on her face for the first time in a few months. When Maria opened the door to her study, she was thoroughly surprised.

"I was hoping we could end it here and now." Bridgette said as the dim candle lights illuminated her face. "I've brought an offering and maybe both of us could go our separate ways."

Maria eyed her oddly then finally moved away from the door. The Empress' young face already beginning to show the signs of aging and stress. She pointed to a sofa for the Former Chancellor to sit down on and then reclined on a large chair herself. "You've come to argue about terms again?"

"No, Maria, I've come to tell you that I'm giving up."

Maria's eyes opened in shock. "What? Just like this, after everything you've put this country through, that you've put me through? You're just leaving?"

"I want us both to leave. Let's be honest, neither one of us is fit to rule after we've plunged the country into such a terrible period. Both of our regimes after this war would be subject to scrutiny. I just want to cut our losses and give the people back their country before it's too late. I don't trust our neighbors."

Maria chuckled and looked down at her feet. Her entire body ached and her face and eyes hurt from the constant flow of tears. "We both learned quickly not to trust many. Especially Europeans, but I'm sorry Bridgette, we need allies, your isolationist policy just wouldn't work." She sighed and let her hands fall to the sides of the chair. "But I guess I can't argue with you, Austria needs a new breath of air. But not the Vatican, I don't want to see this state reduced to religious fanaticism."

"A Republic then?"

The Empress smiled and shook her head. "You aren't winning that easily, Miss Saenger. I don't believe the fault is with the Monarchy itself, only how the country was governed and that was both our faults. Stability comes from a form of government that is not only reliable, but recognizable."

"So the continuation of the Constitutional Monarchy, but I refuse to let it continue under your rule. If I can't win, neither can you."

"Well Franz and Angelika are both unfit to rule as they're barely around to begin with and do not have the knack for intensive foreign affairs. However, I do have an idea of someone who would make the perfect empress."

"Oh? How do you figure that?"

"She's been trained in the most dangerous court of the world for Europeans and not only has been trained there, but has mastered it..."

Maria and Bridgette both smiled as they picked apart the strudel and toasted to Austria's future.

---

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8W1XNv70mO8"]The Coronation of Maria Theresia[/url]

The violins burst in volume along with organs and choral singers dressed in traditional Austrian and Slovenian robes. St. Stephen's Cathedral was pristine that morning as the youngest Hapsburg, the apple of every Austrian's eye, both Republican and Royalist walked down the aisle towards the altar. Theresia had only received the message that both her sisters and her brother had abdicated the Austrian Throne a few weeks ago when she was still in Beijing. The message was brief, but simply said that if she did not take hold of her destiny as Empress of Austria, the state would likely succumb to the advances of either Athens, Dalmatia, or the Germanic Union. It was then with a heavy heart that she took the message to Jia and sat down with him, telling the Chinese Imperator that she would have to head back to Austria for however long to see the country through to safety and prosperity. The Imperator, while upset to see his wife so far away, Theresia promised him that their marriage bonds would not be broken through distance or politics.

"It will only make China and Austria stronger. The union between us, will be the ever lasting union between our countries." She told him before the plane took off towards Vienna. "East and West in love forever."

Those were the words that were traveling through her head as her feet echoed towards the altar, where the Pope himself held the Crown of the Holy Roman Emperors to be placed upon her head. It was a fair compromise in Bridgette and Maria's minds. A restoration of the Constitution, the continuation of the Monarchy, and an eternal ally in China, away from the prying eyes and influences of Europe. Theresia was also still loved by the population even during the throws of war, if anyone could bring the country together, it was her.

As she knelt down on the red pillow in front of the Pope, the Holy Father smiled and whispered down.

"My Daughter, of all the rulers I have seen in my life time, you by far have the brightest eyes I have ever seen. Do you know what that means?"

Theresia looked up and shook her head slowly. "No Father, I don't."

"It means you have the blessing of hope." He raised his head to the audience and lifted the crown above the Princess' head and smiled. "My Brothers and Sisters of Austria and the World! We are gathered here today to witness the immortal chain of leadership and divine right. This woman before you, Maria Theresia von Hapsburg, is the legal and spiritual successor to her sister's claim and the claim of rule of the Empire of Austria." He turned down and faced the Princess. "Maria Theresia, do you accept the responsibility of leadership, the trials and tribulations, the joys and successes and do you wear to defend the Empire to your dying breath?"

"I do."

"Will you honor Christ Jesus, the Most High and Holy Son of God and protect his Church against the campaigns of those who oppose His Name?"

"I will."

"Will you protect the far off reaches of people throughout the Empire and Commonwealth, in Cascadia and in Ehestadt?"

"I will."

"Then with the power vested in Holy Mother Church and by the People of Austria, I lay this Crown upon your head and place this scepter in your hand." He did so and the Princess would rise an Empress. "Thus I proclaim you, Maria Theresia the Second, Empress of Austria and all her territories! Long Live the Empress!"

The Cathedral boomed in applause as the chant was repeated over and over. "Long Live the Empress! Long Live Maria Theresia! Long Live Austria!"

She turned and smiled facing the crowd, her bright eyes shimmering in the sunlight and her fair hands grasping the relics of her office. Clearing her throat, the Empress would make her first statement for the continuation of her country.

"My People of Austria. For two years we have killed ourselves in a bloody war, a war that I for better or worse was not here to witness. It saddens me that our rulers, Chancellor Saenger and my sister the Former Empress could not agree to their terms sooner and perhaps thousands of Austrian women and men would still be with us today. But that is not the case and we must not live in the past. I come to you now facing a new Austria with a new regime and a new path for destiny. This war has done much, but we have become stronger because of it. The Austrian economy will rebirth stronger than it ever has due to trade with Athens, China, and other neighbors. But I swear to you now, Austria will not become a puppet or an influenced state of any foreign power. Today we embark on creating our own niche in Europe and the World. Today we embark to make Austria the cultural capital of a continent embattled by war. Today we embark to create a haven for all religions and to end persecution across the world. Today, Austria removes itself from a horrid past of treachery and steps into the Modern World.

My people of Austria. I am proud to lead you to Modernity and Prosperity. We shall live long together."

Word was then sent out that night to all nations, Austria's Civil War had ended and the Hapsburgs had returned to the throne. This time, hopefully to stay.

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Jia had been delayed in arriving in Vienna, having planned for visits to Federation troops serving in Europe and then to Ireland. When the plane landed in Vienna he groaned, [i]$%&@, I'm dead.[/i] he thought to himself. Watching the pictures on TV of the roads being closed down for the ceremony and millions lining the streets he groaned.

Landing at Vienna Airport, he rushed to the limousine which would take him to the ceremony. Picking up the phone, he called up Wei:

"I don't see you on TV. Your not making a very good First Lady." Wei said.

"$%&@ off." Jia said jokingly. "Whats the latest."

"We've got movements across the area. I want to take us to defcon 2." Wei said.

"Do it." Jia ordered.

"Sir. I know your going to not like it, but we'll need you at STRATCOM soon." Wei began.

"Yeah." Jia replied irritated biting the bottom of his lip.

"Have a good day sir." Wei said.

Jia hung up the phone sighing, his life was going to get a lot harder. [i]I wonder if I can justify buying another S-1.[/i] he mused half serious. Life was going to be harder for Theresia and Jia, but he knew it was good for Austria.

Pulling up to the Cathedral's back door, Jia entered rushing through some of the back service rooms before entering into the of the Cathedral right as Theresia took the stage. He saw the ceremony beginning in the chapel. Not wanting to draw attention to himself and overshadow his wife, he made his way above the chapel to the balcony with the organ player, looking down.

His eyes briefly surveyed the land scape looking at the reactions of the Austrians in the room, before forming a smile on his face as he looked down at Theresia giving her speech. As it ended his eyes briefly met her giving her a wink, before making his way down to meet her at the end of the ceremony.

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While developments in Asia and Europe had taken up a lot of time they had still found time for the coronation. Ariadne looked out of the window of a modified Airbus A380 that served as the governmental plane of the Eastern Federation, at the urging of the CSS one monarch had to stay behind. She had a feeling Mengsk and Moretti had done this to her on purpose, they knew she hated to visit countries that just fought a civil war opposing the perceived influence of Athens.

“Your Imperial Highness, we are about to land.”

Almost out of nowhere her personal lieutenant had entered her office, the traditional armor of the Imperial Guard had already changed to the more ceremonial outfits.

“Thank you Amalia, please sit. I can use the company”

“Of course, ma’am. Is something bothering you?”

“You’re more familiar with all the briefings, what is your take on Maria Theresia and Austria at large?”

“Well, admittedly our intelligence reports on her are few, the FIA never considered her a likely candidate in the succession. As for Austria at large, while I have faith in the Hapsburgs I’m not sure we can truly trust its subjects, they wanted our blood just as much as they wanted monarchist blood.”

With a small sigh Ariadne nodded at the words. “That’s what I’ve been thinking, A lot needs to be repaired before we can trust Austria. Anyway, are the Deputy Chief and Chief Magistrate ready?”

“They are, ma’am.”

After the Captain announced they were about to land the plane gently landed at Vienna International Airport, Empress Ariadne Notaras, Chief Magistrate Hektor Gabris and the sister of the empress Deputy Chief Magistrate Alexandra Notaras made their way to the cathedral escorted by Imperial Guard and an liaison from the NSC. They were planning to meet up with the ambassador to Austria after the coronation.

After the speech a sigh of relief escaped the mouths of most of the Athenian delegation. “Well that went good” Alexandra said. Ariadne turned to the ambassador. “Romano, could you relay a request to the new Empress up the chain?”

“Of course, ma’am” The ambassador of Italian origin would part ways from the delegation looking for the proper people to inform of such a request.

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After the Ceremony the guests were welcome to mingle through the cathedral or could proceed towards Hofburg Palace for the Coronation Ball. Yet it would appear that for the new regime, only just reaching it's feet there was diplomatic work to be done. Dennis Beich, the newly appointed Ambassador to Athens was immediately alerted that his presence was required. Pushing himself up out of the pew, Beich looked at the Athenian Delegation in front of him. It wasn't a surprise to anyone that relations between Austria and her Southern Neighbor were strained. The Republicans who had opposed Maria Magdalena were adamantly against Athenian presence in Austria, even just a diplomatic presence and the Republicans constituted a large number of the Austrian population. In addition to that, Athens had never been the kindest of allies to the old Austrian Regime and decades of mistrust and slight racism was not going to make this meeting easy. However, Beich had high hopes. Theresia's reign was predicted to bring Austria back to moderation, a good mix between Royalist and Republican agendas and one that was open to diplomatic discussion in Europe and the world.

When Beich arrived to the delegation he did so smiling and bowing to Empress and the Athenian Ambassador. "Your Imperial Highness and Ambassador, Austria sends her appreciation in your presence at the Coronation. I was informed that my audience was expected and I assume it is of a diplomatic issue. I realize that Austria and Athens have not been on the best of terms, but I think what is necessary to open up strong negotiations is a bit of give and take from both of our delegations. For one the prejudice displayed in our respected regimes must come to an end and then we can begin to look at Athens and Austria's respected destinies in not only Europe, but in the World."

He bowed again and gestured to a small study on the side of the cathedral. "Come we can talk in there and perhaps in a bit the Empress can join us. I'm sure there is a lot to discuss." Beich said with a smile and a chuckle. "There is a lot of reconciliation to do."

---

Meanwhile Theresia was thrilled to finally find that Jia had arrived at St. Stephen's. With tensions rising in Asia she had her doubts that he would be able to make the ceremony, especially given that he was technically the Emperor-Consort of Austria, just as she was Imperatrix of the Eastern Federation. As she stepped down from the altar and into the aisle, the Empress jumped happily into his arms, much to the glee of journalists and photographers. The pictures would appear tomorrow in the papers that the ascension of Theresia to the Austrian Throne was the finalization of the alliance between Austria and China. The two nations were tied now, for better or worse, just as an official marriage and many politicians wondered what the next step in such an alliance would be. There was even talk that Austria and China could become one nation, but Theresia denied any such act happening.

But political opinion could wait as she jumped back to solid ground. "I'm honestly amazed that you made it. I was sure the planning came at the worst time, but this is much better than any present I've ever received. On rival with our wedding, dearest. I've even commissioned a Chinese Garden to be built at Hofburg to resemble the Imperial Palace back in Beijing. To add to our list of homes," she said laughing. "I guess now though, we'll be getting back to work huh?" Theresia said looking around at the guests, almost all foreign delegates. "I think this is going to be a lot more work than the office of Imperatrix. But we should get through it perfectly."

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Again the sun was setting on the streets of Antananarivo. In a dimly lit corner of the CEO/Chairman's office in the Hourglass building, cigar smoke spiraled from two points of gently smoldering tobacco, imbuing the air around them with a hazy and aromatic quality.

Marthinus de Witt, seated on a plush maroon couch, smiled at his colleague Da Silva through the dim lamplight. "The Austrians have reached themselves a nice little agreement."

His darker-skinned counterpart nodded in agreement. "Our calculated risk seems to have paid off quite handsomely, and with negligible asset loss. Our operators have more experience, and we've turned a good profit."

"Mm. But I'm unsure if Miss Saenger will be able to come through on her part of the deal."

"How is that?"

"She's kept up to date with the payments to date, but there is still the last month's payment to make, approximately 2.4 million. With Austria at peace and, I presume, her forces disbanded, I am not entirely certain if she will have the means to conclude our contract without any of the funding she received for the war effort."

"And without it our boys and girls will go unpaid, and if that happens, we might lose some of them."

"Indeed. Joaquim, if she is not forthcoming with the money, we must discover if she is able to pay...if not..." De Witt smiled.

"What are you thinking, Marthinus?"

"Depending on how creative our legal department is, we -could- try to sue whichever governmental body succeeded Saenger, or find out where the money was coming from. Try to convince them that it is rightfully ours - which it is, of course, owing to a legal contract..."

Joaquim chuckled. "Don't you think you're going a little too far, Marthinus? Let the legal department think about contingencies and send Miss Saenger a message expressing how grateful we are to get the opportunity to work with her faction."

"Part of my job is to think about contingencies, Joaquim, but you're right; if I look too far ahead, I might not see what's right under my own nose." De Witt snuffed out his cigar and excused himself.

[quote]To: Madame Bridgette Saenger
From: Marthinus de Witt, Hourglass International

Madame Saenger,

I hope this message finds you in good health, and that you are satisfied with the way things have gone in your homeland.

It has been some time since we talked last in Salzburg, and on behalf of Hourglass International, I wish to express my gratitude towards yourself and the former Republican forces in allowing Hourglass operatives to aid in your war effort. We thank you for your business.

As you have requested, at the conclusion of hostilities Hourglass operatives have returned to Arctica. However, there are still some matters to clear up before our contract is considered completed. We require the final month's payment of $400,000 per group, which with six groups amounts to a total of $2.4 million, which can be wired to the usual account. At that point, the contract will be considered completed.

I wish you well in future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Marthinus de Witt
Chief Operating Officer
Hourglass International, Inc.[/quote]

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[quote]
[b]To: Marthinus de Witt
From: Bridgette Saenger
Subject: Future Endeavors
[/b]
[i]Herr de Witt,

I appreciate your well wishes towards my country and while I do not plan to stay in Austria much longer, my hopes are that Empress Theresia will do much more for the country than I or her sister ever could. As to your payment, my estate can match the two million and odd thalers necessary to keep any move of retribution. I know you are a businessman and I respect that, I would never think of double crossing you.

However, I would like to inquire about a few extra things. While I have closed this chapter in my life, a new chapter has opened. The world, as you know is filled with every sort of vile human and moralist who attempt to keep this world dependent on national regimes. Austria and what I foresee as a new global order has many enemies and I would be interested if Hourglass Int. would be interested in joining me in constructing a new presence in the world. One that I believe will make both of us very rich if you would choose to accept. Chaos often pays very large sums and mercenaries are the perfect agents to create such a world. If so, I would be willing to travel to Madagascar and discuss my ideas personally with you.

If not, the money will be wired to your account and we can go our separate ways. But I think you would be interested in hearing what I have to say, Herr de Witt. In a world of stability, of chained allies, and moralists. A little disorder can make us very successful.

Sincerely,

Bridgette Saenger[/i]
[/quote]

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Ariadne simply nodded without revealing any emotions. To the outsider she would seem very cold, especially to a fresh ambassador who hadn't dealt with the court in Athens yet. She and the ambassador walked towards the study

"Well ambassador, most of our treatment towards Austria has historical backing. What I see as the biggest strain on our relations are the radical elements within Austria when the greater Federation has done nothing but help the Austrian people through providing a stable economy, educational programs, arms and of course the Vatican City. You must understand the recent Republican movement seemed rather ungrateful to my people." She sighed as she sat down.

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Jia kissed his wife as she jumped into his arms before hugging her tightly. He felt relieved to see her as opposed to dealing with the constant headlines of global instability.

Releasing her from his embrace a trade mark smirk formed on his face, "I wouldn't miss it for the world. Just a warning though, they make the first couple of months being head of state seem like fun with perks like palaces and private jets before they start dumping the !@#$%* stuff on you!" he joked dryly. "If you see a blond haired Wei clone run the other way."

"Seriously though they couldn't have chosen a better person and we'll make it work. We've both done harder things than this before." he said approvingly. "But yeah..." he said glancing over towards the guests. "Lets meet up after this." he said. "We can make the World can wait for a bit."

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As Beich sat down he nodded in agreement. Theresia had briefed him quickly on Adriane's treatment of Northerners. Personally she found it rather odd, rumors persisted that Germans were treated with a degree of respect even before the Civil War had broken out. But such was life, not every battle was going to be in Austria's favor. Athens would be a work in progress, along with many of the other regimes across the world.

"I understand your feeling, Highness, Austria is a rather complicated nation at it's roots. We are the melting pot of Europe you could say. Germans, Italians, Slovenes, all with different ideologies, ranging from Socialism, Martenicism, Rational Communism, and Royalism. We have Old-Nordlandics that would rather see Visari back in charge and we have a small sect of Tintagylists who still protest any government that talks about the application of war in foreign policy. Austria, is probably not deserving of your goodwill and your gifts, but I believe it shows Athens' dedication to friendship to be here this afternoon.

The problems that surfaced during the Civil War however, were a direct correlation to Athens' good graces. Think, Your Highness, if your nation seemed to be simply held up by Rebel Army or Nordland. The people came to a point where they believed Athens, Germany, and other nations had more control over Austria than the Austrians did. We were a young nation and in all respect, a poor nation. Nationalism and Poverty are never good mixtures, they produce fanatics like Saenger and they destroy friendships as is the case here.

Austria has made bounds towards breaking out of it's poverty and I would say could now at least try and fill the role of a regional power. The problem remains, the nation feels suffocated. Massive powers to every point of the compass rose. At the mercy of Mediterranean trade from both Athens and the Rebel Army. It's a rather hard pill to swallow. That combined with Athens' seeming racism to the Austrian people, the Republicans want to see a nation that doesn't seem as threatening to their stability. I can assure you that the feeling is mutual to other neighboring people. Being included in the German Sphere of Influence did little to help the Royalist Cause.

I suggest, and I apologize for being verbose, that if we want to repair Austro-Athenian relations. Austria must come to realize their place in the world, but Athens must help this happen with a smile and not the apparent racism as seen by your regime, Your Highness. Smiling a bit more, couldn't hurt."

---

"Well Wei should enjoy his evenings in the Palace more, now that I'm going to be here most of the time. But I will try to visit when I can. I think we've become good friends, he and I. I'm sure though that being a Head of State isn't all it's cracked up to be. Bridgette did a number on Austria's alliances and I have family problems to sort through as well." Theresia stopped at thought for a moment. "Come to think of it, I haven't run into Bridgette since I arrived in Vienna two weeks ago. Might be something worth looking into. She tends to get into trouble if she's left alone for too long."

Then she smiled and nodded. "As to making the world wait after this, I fully agree. We can take a stroll through Vienna and see the summer lights."

Edited by Sarah Tintagyl
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"Well, sir Beich. I would be willing to let my prejudices fade if they weren't confirmed every few years. That said, to be just as frank. If Austria feels trapped it is a feeling that it will need to learn to live with, we all have it. The Federation is surrounded by the GNED, Rebel Army and Germany. Likewise Germany is surrounded by us and the Nordics. We are all in awe by the UFE and likewise the UFE will need to consider us. In these days of politics there simply isn't a single force, or a single power. We are all dependent on other states. If that is too much for the Republicans I do fear they need a wake-up call. As for their fears for a threat to stability, it is not Athens or Rome or Berlin that started the Austrian civil war."

Meanwhile the ambassador became nervous and concerned about how the conversation was going.

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[quote]Madame Saenger,

I have to admit that your proposal intrigues me, as it presents an unprecedented opportunity for my company. I am not sure what precisely it entails, however; furthermore, I am not sure it would be quite prudent to discuss details of such a partnership with the encryption code given to the Republicans, as it is uncertain who could be reading.

Given the nature of your proposal, I ask that we refrain from discussing details here. Instead, you may visit our headquarters in Antananarivo when you are ready, or one of our field offices, to discuss this matter further with myself and Senhor Da Silva. Simply inform us of your visit in advance so we can make the necessary arrangements.

Regards,

Marthinus de Witt
Chief Operating Officer
Hourglass International, Inc.[/quote]

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"Easy to be said when you and your people know full well that you are in charge of your destiny. Before the Civil War, many Austrians were not so sure. I don't mean to insult you, Highness, but Athens has always been a relatively rich nation. Probably the most stable nation in Europe to date. Austria has been through various extremes, a technological giant, a backwater nation, and now pushing the envelope of modernity. It isn't easy, not for any of us, and I'm sure we have made scores of enemies along the way. But we have to push on, we don't have another choice."

Beich took a deep breath and placed his hands on the table. "Austria is willing, Your Highness, to do what it can to either reimburse the Athenian government for any loses sustained during the War and try to bring our relations back to the status quo. However, what we will not do is play the aggressor and villain in a war that has left thousands of Austrians dead. Austria has always, viewed your Western Empire with a great deal of respect because we are at least treated as equals and as friends. The Eastern Court however, persists to treat us nothing more than second class people and peasants from a forgotten age. If this is how the Eastern Court will conduct itself, then I am afraid we do not have much to say to each other Your Highness. That said, I believe you are one of the best friends Austria has had, no matter what kind of disdain you may have for the Empress, myself, and our people. You did not intervene in our war, you have remained loyal to a nation that probably does not deserve it.

However, sometimes for a friendship to work, the smaller friend, must know he or she is appreciated. Because what good are educational subsidies, military aid, and so forth, if you feel that the people giving it to you, hate you."

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[b]Austrian Legion, Empress's Own, Overwatch[/b]

The Logistical Coordination of ensuring the entire 1st and 2nd Special Operations Group are well supported for the duration of the coronation ceremony were left to Brigadier Rol M'Bembe to organize. His duties aren't exclusive to those units either, he's further responsible for the logistics of the entire 1st Regimental Combat Team as well. M'Bembe is joined by Brigadier Mustapha who is tasked with Intelligence, General Ian Hardcastle who is in command of the 1st, and Dellion who is in command of the entire coronation event.

"Damn Denard, I ought to poke out his eyeballs and.. and.." mutters Dellion.

"Piss in his bleeding ocular cavities sir?" asks his orderly.

"That'll do, my wife is still furious at not being able to attend the coronation ceremony with me," Dellion grouches.

"Another cup of coffee sir?" the orderly asks.

"Yes, and get me a sitrep on the 1st and 2nd SOGs readiness levels," mutters Dellion.

[b]Vienna[/b]

The Catherdal was given to the 1st Special Operations Group. A platoon inside the catherdral was quietly hidden away in the eaves behind curtains dressed in full battle gear. Armor, tactical vests, rifles, and automatic shotguns were a mere few inches away from the crowd. Each squad was given a designated VIP to usher out of the room by surrounding the person with their armored bodies to protect the VIP from weapons fire or explosions during their evacuation.

An old warehouse down the street is filled with no less than 12 fueled, loaded, and waiting M-113 Armored Personal Carriers. Denard had chosen the older models as they were unassigned and small enough to manuveer the more narrow turns of Vienna's backstreets. Something much more difficult with the larger APCs of the Austrian Army. Not that the M-113s were left untouched.

Heavy remodeling had taken place giving them upgraded armor, weapons, engines, and better seating for the VIPs. The Dignitary Protection Teams that were escorting the Empress, her family, and the various dignitaries were given instructions that in the event of an evacuation they were to follow the heavily armored and armed Legion troops to a waiting APC, board them, and evacuate from the scene. Above the city the quiet whine of engines can be heard from fighter aircraft and heavy cargo planes.

A full section of C-130 aircraft, four total, are in the air and loaded with paratroopers as an aerial quick reserve should things really get sticky. With them is an AWACs aircraft and a back up AWACs on station to the South. The primary AWACs is busy feeding information to a full squadron of Austrian Air Force Fighters who are busy performing a Combat Air Patrol. Further aerial assets are stationed to the South at Legion Base Vienna Minor.

LBVM, a small civilian airfield taken over by the Legion during the recent upheaval, has a flight of twenty four helicopters waiting on stand by. Sixteen cargo helicopters and eight gunships are being fueled and serviced. Their crews are resting in lawn chairs near their ships. Not much farther away are the men of the 1st Regiment, 1st Battalion, 1st Company who were given Aerial Assault duties should it be needed. Back at the Cathedral the surrounding buildings are ready to serve their part if needed as well.

Each building is given a full squad of Legionnaires who quietly enter, quietly speak to the owners with the utmost professionalism, and quietly take up guard duty on the roof and in public access points. Taller buildings are taken over as sniper stations for the remaining troopers of the 1st Special Operations Group. The Vienna International Airport is given similiar treatment as well as the entire 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 2nd Regimental Combat Team are put into similiar roles under the command of Lt. Colonel Duwi Suval.

The Ball presents an entire set of security concerns of its own. The entire 2nd Special Operations Group is tasked with examining the building from the ground up. The SOG troopers carefully work their way from room to room, under beds and sofas, and examine anything that can be moved. Tools are brought in and things that can't be moved are moved. Light fixtures are taken apart and put back together as well. The kitchens are gone over with a fine tooth comb and special guards are put on them with orders to stay out of the way and keep their eyes open.

Concerns of poison being used has prompted Denard to take an extroidanary security measure. Prior to the food being served a certain wayward Legionnaire, Bellanore "The Perpetual Screw Up of the Legion" Sansey, is assigned taste tester duty. Denard has also told him that if he is poisoned by the food that he's free to pump two slugs in the head chef's skull before he keels over. More sophisticated measures are taken as well as the Austrian Police are invited in with their forensics department to run food quality tests, much to Sansey's relief.

Public access to the Ballroom is controlled by a series of check points. Rather than allowing diplomats and such to drive right up to the building, which presents a risk of letting a car bomb close to the building, specialized vehicles are organized to ferry the diplomats from the large communal parking area to the front of the building. Vehicles that have been inspected before hand by Legion EOD teams for bombs and other potential problems. Buildings around the Ballroom are given similiar treatment that the airport and Cathedral are given.

Squads of men from the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regimental Combat Team are moved into place to secure the buildings for the duration of the ball. Buildings with heavily fortified basements are taken over and equipped as temporary fall out shelters. Medics and supplies are station in advanced should it be needed to extract the diplomats and their families to safer conditions, all under the cover of well situated sniper teams from the 2nd Special Operations Group.

The final piece of the pie is the 4th Regimental Combat Team. In the event that things go completely teats up the 4th has orders to sortie from their position at the LBVN and force their way in to the city to secure the VIPs and the Empress. To perform this mission they've been equipped with heavy armored vehicles and tanks. They've been reinforced with dozens of military police detachments for crowd control and keeping things moving.

Personal protection of the visiting dignitaries is left to their national security teams. Coordination and briefings are organized beforehand. Evacuation points and routes are kept under wraps in the event that a member of a foreign security detachment is a mole for some sort of hostile force. Explicit directions are given to these detachments to follow their Legion escorts out of the Ballroom and to a safer location in the event that the evacuation signal is given.

Close protection of the Empress is provided by a picked detachment of the largest, bulkiest, scariest Legionnaires found in the Austrian Legion. Not a single one is under six foot. Several are roughly five foot across the shoulders from their sheer muscular mass. They are stationed at various points in the Ballroom with orders to prevent drunk diplomats from playing butt darts or setting anything on fire. The Empress's personal protection detail is given the duty of protecting the Empress herself with a bit of assistance from Denard and Jamal who are quietly shadowing the Empress from the distance as they watch the people come and go without comment.

None of this is possible without the assistance of the Austrian Police. Legionnaires aren't exactly adept at manning metal detectors and body scanners. Detachements from the Austrian Police are manning the public enterances controlling the flow of people in and out of the building. The bulk of the body scanning is done in the communal parking lot well away from the building with a discrete positioned body scanner, which the guests are funneled through as they are loaded up into the Legion vehicles that will drive them the short distance to the Ballroom. The Austrian Police are under strict orders to deny entrance to anyone not on the guest list. With the security arrangements such as they are anyone not on the guest list are easy enough to sort out. Mustapha earlier coordinated with the Empress's Intelligence Staff to get a list of acceptable persons to allow entrance into the building. Tying this mess together is Dellion at Legion Overwatch.

The units involved have been carefully briefed, given photos of the visiting dignitaries, and physically shown their areas of responsibility. Dedicated local command posts have been erected to control the entire affair with ranking officers given sweeping powers within their zones of responsibility.

Edited by Tidy Bowl Man
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[quote name='Sarah Tintagyl' timestamp='1307840122' post='2729482']
"Easy to be said when you and your people know full well that you are in charge of your destiny. Before the Civil War, many Austrians were not so sure. I don't mean to insult you, Highness, but Athens has always been a relatively rich nation. Probably the most stable nation in Europe to date. Austria has been through various extremes, a technological giant, a backwater nation, and now pushing the envelope of modernity. It isn't easy, not for any of us, and I'm sure we have made scores of enemies along the way. But we have to push on, we don't have another choice."

Beich took a deep breath and placed his hands on the table. "Austria is willing, Your Highness, to do what it can to either reimburse the Athenian government for any loses sustained during the War and try to bring our relations back to the status quo. However, what we will not do is play the aggressor and villain in a war that has left thousands of Austrians dead. Austria has always, viewed your Western Empire with a great deal of respect because we are at least treated as equals and as friends. The Eastern Court however, persists to treat us nothing more than second class people and peasants from a forgotten age. If this is how the Eastern Court will conduct itself, then I am afraid we do not have much to say to each other Your Highness. That said, I believe you are one of the best friends Austria has had, no matter what kind of disdain you may have for the Empress, myself, and our people. You did not intervene in our war, you have remained loyal to a nation that probably does not deserve it.

However, sometimes for a friendship to work, the smaller friend, must know he or she is appreciated. Because what good are educational subsidies, military aid, and so forth, if you feel that the people giving it to you, hate you."
[/quote]

Ariadne nodded. "Well Ambassador, you have passed the test I put all new ambassadors through, the first Austrian one I might add. As such you are invited to court once you arrive in Athens, that said. You raise a very good point however I am not sure about how to do it. The dislike of Austria is strong within the Greek people, it is even burned into the hearts of the Albanians and Slavs due to history dating back even further. So I'm honestly not sure how we can solve this at this level of government"

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"That feeling, Your Highness, if mutual in Austria as well and only in time can we repair the wounds necessary to be strong allies. Will we ever be the greatest of friends? Perhaps, but I can tell you this that many Austrians are just as confused as the Foreign Ministry about who we should turn to now that this Age of Chaos is over. I look forward to visiting Athens and doing what I can to repair our relations. If there is anything else you'd like to add of course before we go our separate ways, I'd be happy to give your condolences to the new Empress."

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"Well I do feel there are a lot of matters to talk about, perhaps some even above your clearance. I will be staying at the embassy with my Chief and Deputy Chief Magistrate for another day. If the Empress could find time to receive me that would be greatly appreciated"

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Jia chuckled, "Yeah, I think once these things blow over, Wei will start dying of boredom." he joked. "As for Bridgette, let me know, I can have some of my people track her if you want." he said. "For the rest of them, I'm sure you can manage them. Be bold early, they'll follow you."

He looked around at the security surrounding them and the dignitaries around the place. The nice thing about Europe before this, was that unlike in the Federation; they still had some degree of normalcy. That would be gone. "So you want to get out of here to take that walk?" he suggested.

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After the ceremony in the cathedral and the dancing at the ball finally began to die down, Theresia found Jia again. He had never been much of a socialite, perhaps a bit of a wallflower that the young Princess was never quite able to crack. But that's what made their relationship work, Jia was down to earth and provided excellent, deep minded conversation on the many walks through Beijing and the Imperial Guards back in China. Which was exactly what Theresia needed now, with the hordes of foreign and domestic dignitaries starting to breathe down her neck. She was after expected to be a better ruler than her sister had been and those were rather large shoes to fill.

Letting Jia take her hand, Theresia let him lead her out of Hofburg Palace's grand ballrooms, past the palatial gardens and out onto the streets heading towards Central Vienna. The city in summer, especially on the coronation of the new Empress, was alive in celebration. Nearly ever tavern and salon was packed with people toasting the new regime, while those who preferred more quiet conversations went outdoors to the cafes that lined the boulevards. Theresia and Jia, still both in their formal wear, did not stick out amidst the other suits and dresses of Viennese high society, who were traveling from opera hall to dance hall in their celebratory gait. Music poured out from the buildings and the lovers who walked the streets laughed gaily and bowed their head deep to the new Empress and the Emperor-Consort.

"One can barely imagine that only a few months ago there was a curfew throughout the entire city. Oh, Jia, you have no idea how happy I am that this war is behind us." She wrapped his arm around her own. "The entire country is alive again and hopefully for a long time after this." The Empress looked up at him and smiled, albeit with a hint of concern. "Though you've been extra quiet this evening. Is something on your mind?"

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Jia had been quieter than usual during the evening. He had a host of conflicting emotions through the ceremony. He was proud of Theresia, he remembered when they first met, she had been much more sheltered from the world, granted the circumstances of their first meeting (being chased by an angry armed mob) would scare anyone, but she had become strong. Strong enough to rule a country. He was proud of her and how far she had come. On the other hand, he was also both sad and worried. Obviously they would have less time for each other now, and if the situation in Asia deteriorated anymore, it was possible it would be a long while before their next meeting. But Austria was also a country which had just gone through civil war, he had often received reports on threats to his own security after the defeat of the RCP, they still came in often enough. How would the Austrians react to their new Empress, especially after the honeymoon? He had faith in security forces, but he was still protective.

"Yeah.. sorry." he said slightly delayed in response. He cracked a smile. "You know, well its just all the BS to deal with. Its funny, a couple weeks ago I was bored out of my mind... professionally of course... now things have dropped one after the other. Oh well... power through always my motto." he said dismissively.

"Vienna is going to come back, it always has. Austria's been through worse than this.

Although there is something I am wondering... Our marriage... its going to come up with people. It was one thing when you were an ambassador, but now your Empress.

Both our nations have plenty of nationalists. Hell we both are. Bridgette rebelled over Austria being too close to Athens, I'm sole head of a much larger Empire than the Western Athenian Emperor was, and with a lot less cultural links and you know how some of the jack asses are like Kang in the UFE. I hate to say we gotta talk shop on our last night together at least for a few weeks, but when do political opportunists show manners?"

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"Bridgette shares an opinion that many Austrians have, it was an opinion I even had for awhile. Whether the greater world community can be trusted. This nation has been through hell and back, Jia. Visari, the the Bavarian Emperors, the first Civil War, Communists, Nordists, and more. It's a wonder that we're still going on, it's a wonder that Maria didn't buckle under such intense pressure that came with forming this state. People like Bridgette come up and they remind us what we're actually doing. No matter what, Austria has to come first in my regime, however..." She stopped their stroll and looked down the illuminated avenues of cobblestone. "...it's going to take a lot of work. It's not often that Europeans and Asians are married to each other as we are, even more rare that we both find ourselves as Heads of State, but there are stranger things. I think the people can learn to appreciate China and I think people can learn to appreciate Athens and Germany and our other neighbors again. It will just take time."

Theresia began walking again as the couple rounded the road into one of the city's parks. The coolness under the dark trees and the soft breeze that blew through the grass helped cool the Empress down from the heat she had generated from the ball. "Do I honestly know if everything is going to be safe?" She said as her heeled echoed on the paved sidewalk running through the garden. "No, I don't. Things could blow up tomorrow and there is nothing I can really do to prevent it. But that is what life is about."

As the approached the central fountain and the relaxing burble of the water climbed into the night sky, Theresia paused and smiled at the image. "Back in Beijing and across China, I've been privy to some of the wisest people on earth. Peasants, people who are happy just simply tilling the land and I realized something that I wasn't much of a Catholic. I wasn't much of anything Western really. Life isn't bitter like the Buddha says, or needing to be ordered like Confucius. Life, Jia, just is. Things happen when they happen and you deal with them then, as best as you possibly can. You can prevent the negative, but you can't prevent all the negative things and the same goes for our countries. Is there dissent? Of course. Can we deal with it? We shall and we will. But there isn't any use to fret about it now. It will be done in time and the less stress will benefit us later." She leaned up and kissed him.

"You let me handle people like Bridgette Saenger. You can even let me handle people like Kang. I'm not a fighter or someone who likes to get her hands dirty, but I know people that do and they can take care of things. We just have to focus on making our countries and the world a better place to live for our people. If that includes Saenger and Kang, then we will get to it. Things will improve as we work on them. They always do."

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[center][img]http://jointforcesjournal.com/images_articles/14.jpg[/img][/center]
[center][b]Bohemian troops returning home[/b][/center]

Kaiser Frederick is pleased with the new changes in Austria. He and the Bohemian people are pleased that the Civil War, which has cost many lives over two years, has finally come to an end. A order has been sent to Field Marshal Von Richthofen, commander of all Bohemian forces in Austria, to return to Bohemia now that peace has been declared. For the next 24 hours Bohemian troops will be flown out of the country, and back to Bohemia. The once 10,000 strong force has been reduced to 8500 with a quarter of their artillery weapons destroyed. But they and the Kaiser believe it was worth the casualties, to secure Austria's safety and independence. On a final note the Kaiser wishes the Empress a long and prosperous rule over her nation.

[i]Long live Austria, Long live the Empress![/i]

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"Life certainly isn't bitter with you." Jia said returning her kiss. "You've made me a better man Theresia. I'll put my faith in you." He paused for a second. "Although you probably shouldn't say the not very Catholic thing to loudly around here."

Jia looked into the fountain, it was peaceful, different from, but not unlike the Zen Gardens of his Empire. One thing he always admired about Europe was the pristine quality to its cities parks, unlike the overcrowded ones of China. "A storm could well be on the horizon Theresia, but you're right. Together we can overcome it, and I dare say we might have some fun doing it." he grinned.

...Plus, if things go too poorly, we can always take over some weak banana republic and retire... Also I do want to know who you know who can kick more ass than I can? I'll have to invade them to defend my rep!" Jia asked his ego slightly wounded.

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"MoG[Corp] recognizes Maria Theresia as the one true ruler of Austria, and we welcome peace amongst our European neighbors, we send a bottle of our finest aged wine, and hope for new relations with the new government."

Edited by Mogar
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Kei Shojitsu had also come to the celebration, but kept quiet for much of the event. He was only here to start official relations with the Austrians, unlike the short meeting back in Beijing. Depending on what went on, things would be..... interesting, to say the least.

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