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Assassination!


spaero2011
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Thirteen Iberian flags fluttered in the slight breeze along the Pont de Monteolivet as President of the Federacion Iberiana Juan Esparrago stepped to the lectern to address the citizenry. The bridge had been specifically cleared of traffic, and security was as tight as any event the President had seen. In fact, security was so tight it caused him to worry slightly, but the feeling wasn't quite clear enough for him to name what it was that concerned him. Nevertheless, today was one of the most momentous days of his career, and there was quite simply nothing which could keep him away from his people.

El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía was the perfect backdrop for this announcement. Its glossy white arcs sweeping up to the famous "split panel" at its peak dominated the view from the bridge, and President Esparrago found inspiration enough in the view across the Pont to step up to the lectern and begin his speech. Hardly glancing at the teleprompters, he spoke simply and sincerely:

"Ladies and gentlemen of the Federacion, and of the world,

"I stand here today as the proudest leader of any nation on the globe. The Federacion has in its short history faced war, nuclear devastation, the kidnapping of its President -- and thankfully my rescue -- and through it all has maintained its faith in the inherent goodness of the human race. We have formed great friendships with nations as far-flung as the Norden Kingdom and the Hanseatic Commonwealth--" Here he was interrupted by applause "-- And we have even formed a close association with the Empire from whose lands we have sprung.

"The keystone of our government and our people has always been strength through honorable peace. Our foreign relations can attest that we are not afraid of war, but we are also not afraid of peace!" Wild applause rose from the crowd, long since tired of the incessant wars Europe had brought to them. "We stand for freedom and human dignity, for the liberty and recognition of the citizen, and not for the power of the ruler! We are a government for and by the people, and while I may bear the title of President, the true leadership of this Federation belongs to you, the Iberian people!"

Sobering slightly, Esparrago continued: "I know, as do we all, that we are among the minority in this case. Leaders around the world, even at our doorsteps, view their peoples as mere resources to be used for the benefit of the autocrats. It is for this reason we must maintain our strength --" Here he gestured to his left, at Defense Minister Dr. Jerome Sanchez, "And our watchfulness. For a government such as our own, any form of intelligence is a foreign concept; we fervently hope that we can take our allies and our enemies at their word. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and we must ready ourselves to watch both friend and foe alike. For our allies, fear not: Our diplomatic corps will rely upon the information you render unto them for our knowledge. For our enemies, however, know this: Several weeks ago, I ordered the formation of a National Intelligence Service. Today, the National Intelligence Service has been recognized in the Articles of Federation, and I stand before you to announce the new post of Minister of National Intelligence, which shall belong in its first instance to this man, Juan Luis de Silva."

At this precise instant, the President dropped to the ground, a red mist hanging where his head had been an instant before. Scarcely had that sight registered in the eyes of the crowd when the crack of a sniper's bullet finally reached street level, and as a starter's pistol releases the runners into controlled flight, so this bullet's sound sent the assembled masses into instant chaotic flight.

As his security detail dragged him down the hallway under cover, Foreign Minister Sir Luis Donado managed to glance back to the parapet at the Defense Minister. Oddly, Sanchez was not being moved by his security detail, but was instead crouching by the President's body, whispering subtly to the newly announced Intelligence Minister. Confused, he tried to turn back, but his head of security refused to allow him to return to that shooting gallery.

---

"Minister Donado, we've received the initial report from the National Police. It appears that the sniper was lying on the roof of El Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe, under one of the decorative ledges, some two hundred seventy meters' distance. The military security we had around the building found an 7.62mm M21 bolt-action sniper rifle tucked under a girder. No word on fingerprints or other evidence yet, though one of Sanchez's men pointed out that the M21 is the issue weapon for Carthaginian snipers."

"Thank you, Roberto. This is... difficult. Juan was a friend. A good friend. And just like that, he's... gone..." He finally looked up, and his aide could see the pain written in his bloodshot eyes and worn, drawn face. "Send a message to Sarah Tintagyl and Ty Eyvindsson. Tell them that Juan Esparrago has been... assassinated. Tell them we believe the order was given in Carthage in response to our opposition to their government. Remind them of our treaties, and tell them we will alert them as we require their assistance." Even in the depths of his sorrow, Donado was immediately aware of what had to be done.

"There is one other issue, sir."

"Yes? What is it?"

"Well, sir, the Supreme Judicial Court sent over a message that, according to their interpretation of the Articles of Federation, there actually isn't a defined line of succession. They have said that if you and Minister Sanchez were to make an executive decision in consensus with each other, they would not contest it, but that we should hold elections as soon as possible to ensure that there is a valid successor to the Presidency."

"We never wrote down a line of succession? Heh, Juan and I must have been more naive than anyone could have thought. Damn it, I don't know what to do! I need to work with Sanchez, but at the same time I can't bring myself to trust him! I can't get past that image of him standing over Juan's body, talking to de Silva. Something's wrong, and I can't put my finger on what it is."

"But Minister, we have evidence which points to Carthage--"

"No, we have evidence that a weapon was used which Carthage also happens to use."

"But you just told Hansa and the Norden Kingdom --"

"I know what I told them. If I'm wrong, then Carthage was the most likely perpetrator. If I'm right, then I've bought myself time to find the truth before he can cover it up. Do you see?"

"Yes, Minister. I'll send those messages out now."

---

"Minister San--"

"No names. This line might be bugged."

"Right. This is SECRETARY. DIPLOMAT knows."

"He knows? How?"

"I don't know, sir. I told him precisely what you told me to say. He isn't certain, but he suspects. He told me to tell Hansa and the Norden Kingdom that it was Carthage, but then he told me he only did that to buy time."

"Buy time? For what?"

"I think he intends to pursue his own investigation, with you as his prime suspect."

"Well, we can't have that, can we? Right, I'll bet he told you to ask Sarah and Ty to hold off. Send the messages, but leave that part off. I want them as bloodthirsty as we can get them. They'll distract him long enough for us to act. I'll make sure more evidence comes to light, something damning in the extreme that points at Carthage."

"Sir, what if he pursues the investigation anyway?"

"Well, I've got POSEIDON and ARES on my side. APOLLO and HERMES are neutral, so far as I can tell, but if one goes to his side, I can ensure that the other falls in line with us. We'll be ready."

"Right. Oh, he's coming. SECRETARY out."

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"And so like I was saying, it is something we need to look into, I don't want the entire country to be bogged down because of medical inferiority. We've done good with the various new hospital complexes, but lets face it gentlemen, people would rather have a Canadian operating on them than a Hanseatic, it would only make sen-" Her door flung open as a shaking aide held a piece of paper in his hands, Sarah and the rest of the Ministry of Health looked over at the intruder and shot him evil stares. Even the Lady Protector seemed a bit annoyed, this had been the fifth irruption to her meeting in two hours. "Is there something I can do for you Flecther?"

"Milady, we have unfortunate, disturbing news from Iberia."

Her eyes widened. "What's wrong?"

He turned away and laid a piece of paper on her desk. Picking up her glass of wine before beginning to read the paper, Sarah's eyes continued to widen as she read down the paper. Her face losing color as the seconds passed. "Assassinated? My God...Juan." She looked up. "Do they know who could have done this?"

"A few sources have been saying it is probably the work of the Carthaginians, after Iberia's protests on their government structure. It would seem that retaliation has been the only way for the Fascists to accomplish anything Milady. They have asked that perhaps we would activate our Defense Pacts with them, due to the heinousness of the event. Considering it would be an attack against their state."

A dim red returned to Sarah's face as it began to grow and her hand began to tremble in anger holding the glass. "And once again the world disappoints everything that I have tried to create." The glass collapsed under the girl's strength and broke inside her hand as the white wine ran down her fingers onto the papers cluttering the desk as the ministers began to draw back from Her Ladyship's rage. "These upstart nations what to make a name for themselves and do not care how the world works, do not care about the order of things, only to upset what precious balance we already have." She pounded her fist against the desk. "Tell the Iberians we will wait for their cue, but if need be will assist in deposing the Carthaginian government to honor our Pact. This is absolutely ridiculous."

The aide bowed and walked back out of the room as the ministers shuffled uncomfortably in their seats. "And our meeting Lady Sarah?"

She only needed to stare back at them for them to get up and leave her to herself in the office. Sarah could already feel the migraine setting in.

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OOC: Yes, it's public within reason. This meeting, for example, is private and for story purposes only. /OOC

The cable from the Atlantian government was routed to the Defense Minister's office. Minister Sanchez, seated at his desk, was pleasantly surprised. "So even non-allied friendly governments are falling in line. Oh, tell SECRETARY to make sure he's the gatekeeper for any information in or out of DIPLOMAT's office. I don't want my colleague getting any information that I didn't approve. More important, I don't want him getting the truth of any of this out to other governments." Standing, he said, "Now, I believe it's time we called a full Cabinet meeting. Gather the Ministers, if you would."

----

The Cabinet Conference Room was especially morose this day. President Esparrago's remains had not yet been prepared to lie in state, but each had been called to Valencia to help in the preparations for a new government. Assembled were the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense, as well as the Ministers of Justice, Education, Energy, Finance, Internal Affairs, and National Intelligence. They had instructed the Chief of National Police and the Force Chiefs of the military to be ready for teleconferences, in case the conversation turned that way, but for now they sat alone in the room. Defense Minister Sanchez began the conversation.

"Gentlemen, we're all hurting. We have lost our leader, but we have to keep this country moving. We've been attacked by Carthage--"

"And what, pray tell, makes you so sure of that?" The Minister of Internal Affairs, never a very imposing presence, suddenly made his voice heard in a direct challenge to Sanchez's authority. Foreign Minister Donado sat back, content to watch and take the measure of his potential opponent, but he was sure that he would have at least one ally if it came to that.

"The rifle used has been definitively traced to the Fascist Carthaginian military, and we've intercepted some communications between their government ministers discussing the assassination. It's clear from the transcripts that they are trying to gauge our reaction before they commit to their next move. Simon, you're the Justice Minister, they've got motive, they had the opportunity, and they had the means. It's an open-and-shut case."

Justice Minister Bolivario was one of the uncommitted Ministers, Donado saw. Pensively, he replied, "I personally would never take this case to court. First, we never actually established who fired that gun. There were no fingerprints, and no other evidence was found at the scene -- not that any of it would have been able to be used, since the military contaminated everything before the National Police could get there. We can't make any conclusions."

"Can't make any conclusions? They launched a first-strike attack -- an act of war -- against the Federacion, and we have to take some sort of action! Surely you can't be serious?" Now Sanchez was overextending, and Donado didn't want him to force a decision before he could get his proof.

Standing, he serenely said, "I think we are all under a great deal of tension right now, and a short break of perhaps thirty minutes might help us all clear our heads." Calling over an aide, he muttered, "Follow Sanchez -- don't let him notice you -- and see who he meets with. Get back to me as soon as you see." Then he turned and said pleasantly, "Esteban, Simon, your offices are a good deal farther than mine; perhaps you would like a drink in my office?"

----

Behind closed doors, he turned to the Ministers of Justice and Internal Affairs and stated plainly, "I didn't call you here by accident. When Juan was shot, I got dragged away by security, but Sanchez and de Silva weren't. In fact, they were standing over his body discussing something, and now that I think about it, it almost seemed like they expected the shot. Esteban, you're the Minister of Internal Affairs, I assume you have transcripts of most of their conversations. Can you go back over their conversations that morning -- no, make it the preceding week -- and see what comes up? I don't have any evidence. Then again, Simon, you said yourself that Sanchez doesn't either. If I'm right -- and I pray to God that I'm not -- he's in his office discussing what he would need to conclusively pin this on Carthage. What would he need to do that?"

"Well, I'm not sure that sort of thin--" A slight tap at the door, followed by the head of Donado's aide, interrupted Minister Bolivario's answer.

"Excuse me, Ministers. Sir, Minister Sanchez is meeting with the Ministers of National Intelligence, Energy and the Force Chiefs of the Army and Navy. Will there be anything else?"

"No, thank you. Now, this is where it gets interesting. If we assume that this entire ordeal has been orchestrated by some entity, who would that entity need to ensure that this gets pinned on Carthage?"

Esteban Carnaghi, eyes fixed on the floor between them, slowly answered: "He would need the Ministers of Defense and National Intelligence and the Force Chiefs of the Army and Navy. If he could get them, he would want the Ministers of Energy, Foreign Affairs... and Internal Affairs. About two weeks ago... No, it can't be true! About two weeks ago, I got a call from Jerome. He wanted to know if I would be seeking another Cabinet post after the next elections. No, that's not right; he was giving the impression that someone higher in rank than me would be leaving the Government. I think..." He trailed off for a second, sheer terror at his own thoughts clearly reflected in his eyes, "I think he was trying to recruit me."

The three sat silently for some minutes. Finally Bolivario broke the silence. "If you're right, we're in serious danger now. We should leave --"

"No, we're safe for now. More corpses would only make it harder for them to maintain their charade. What we need to do now if make sure there isn't a decision made when we go back to that table. As soon as we get clear of this meeting, we need to get a hold of the Chief of National Police and the Force Chiefs of the Air Force and Special Operations and make sure he hasn't turned them too. Simon, I'm going to need you with me for that. Esteban, you can help us best by going to the other Ministers -- Diego over at Education and Jaime at Finance -- and sound them out. If they're even leaning toward Sanchez, tell them nothing else, but if they're closer to us, bring them completely into the fold. We're going to need every resource we can get. Thank God Juan was smart enough to leave me with some spies... Right, it's time to go. Remember, we decide nothing in there. This gets decided between this office and that."

----

The meeting dragged on for another few hours, and though tempers flared a few times, it never quite reached the point where a decision was forced. It soon became clear that Finance and Education knew nothing of any plot, and more dangerously that Sanchez suspected something of his colleague the Foreign Minister. The two sides withdrew to their respective camps, an uneasy truce all that remained to hold the government together.

Edited by spaero2011
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Government of the Iberian Federacion

The Norden Kingdom is saddened by the loss of the great leader Juan Esparrago. We are truly sorry to see this man pass away and offer our sympathies to his family and nation. We have received your reports that the Fascist Carthaginian regime is likely to be the perpetrator of this terrible act and we are outraged. If it is true, they have committed an aggressive act which would indeed implement the MDP our nations have.  Please let us know if you would like to officially activate the MDP, as we are prepared to mobilize our men to come to the aid of an ally.

Our condolences to this tragic loss,

Konungur Ty Eyvindsson
Prime Minister Ísólfur Ármannsson
Security Minister Hans Morgenthau

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OOC: Hey, Spaero. I'll take the liberty of bringing in the Black Hand terrorist group that... heh... irradiated your nation a while back ;) , unless you object to it.

Honorable Sir Luis Donado,

Time is short. While you cannot know my name or place in this whole affair, I urge you to seek shelter. Avoid open areas, and above all, do NOT inform your Defense Minister of ANYTHING involving your location! You will learn in time why, but DO NOT tell him if you are going to any location, and under NO circumstances accept an invitation to join him for a meal or other social meeting. The consequences for doing so will be extreme.

I will contact you at a later date on a secure line. With the encryption protocols on this message, already the file size may attract attention. Lay low until you learn what's really going on!

-Ghost One

(This message will auto-erase in 300 seconds)

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OOC: Terrorists didn't have anything to do with this. This is going to be a civil war eventually, once I get to it, but for now nobody outside the Federacion (Except Cabal, of course) knows that Carthage didn't do it. Heck, even Donado doesn't "know" it. Okay, on to the post before I go to bed. /OOC

It was surprisingly difficult to find a pay phone in Valencia. Having worked with the intelligence agencies before, Foreign Minister Donado knew that all of his phones, even the "secure" lines, were probably tapped and Defense Minister Sanchez was listening at the other end. Finding one, he shoved coins into the slot and dialed a number from a slip of paper he had torn off the pad in his office. As he huddled inside the booth, he glanced furtively up and down the street in the gathering gloom of night. Empty, but there were plenty of shadows to hide enemy agents. Enemy? For the love of God, this man was a close friend up until two days ago! The buzzing on the line gave way to a click and a short, clipped, "Hello?"

"General Guerra? This is Luis."

"Luis? Oh, hello Minist--"

"No names, this line isn't secure. Meet me at the traffic circle on Paseo Caro in fifteen minutes. Goodbye, Hernan."

----

The harbor nearby and the helicopters from the shipyard across the street created enough ambient sound that no listening device could possibly overhear their conversation, and it was a fairly open location, with little in the way of hiding places. Still, Donado's head was on a swivel, trying to look every direction at once, and his ears were straining to hear sounds that weren't there. After what seemed an eternity, he saw the lanky General Guerra, Force Chief of the Special Operations Command, running across the road, thankfully in civilian clothes. "Hernan, good to see you. I'm glad you came alone. You'll forgive the theatrics, but I'm afraid they are indeed necessary."

Waving the apology off, Guerra turned immediately to the heart of the matter. "This is about Esparrago and Sanchez, right? You think there was something going on there?"

"Yes, yes I do," the Minister replied, somewhat surprised by the general's knowledge. "I think -- but I can't prove -- that he ordered the assassination and is trying to pin it on Carthage so he can grab power. I'm taking every precaution because I think he's on to me... and I don't want to be next."

"And you want to make sure he hasn't involved me, in case he decides to start a civil war. What makes you think Minister Sanchez hasn't already contacted me? What makes you think I haven't been ordered to shoot you right now and make it look like a mugging? Your security's pretty weak right now."

"It's better than you think. I left a message with two of my attorneys that I would be meeting with you, and that if I didn't contact them within the hour, to assume I had been killed and to hand the whole story over to as many papers as would print it. We need to hurry if I'm going to make those calls on time. Now, can I trust you?"

Laughing, Guerra nodded. "Well played, Minister, well played. Yes, Sanchez contacted me about a week ago, and again last night, but both times I told him that whatever he was proposing -- he never did specify -- was not my concern, that I was content with my post now, and that I had a training exercise to attend. I'm presently leading a squad of parachutists outside of Madrid on a top-secret training mission, in case anyone asks. Now, what makes you think Sanchez did this?"

"Mostly gut feelings, to be honest. First, it seemed to me like both Sanchez and de Silva were expecting the shot. Neither one got hauled off by their security details -- mine wouldn't even let me walk until I was two floors down -- the rifle is too pristine, and there was nothing actually linking that rifle to Carthage other than the fact that it was one of their issue models. I sent a message to our allies, but I think the message got tampered with, because the replies are much more bloodthirsty than I would have expected. I think I caught my personal assistant reporting to Sanchez, but he hung up before I could hear anything. The other ministers don't think there's enough evidence to blame anyone, but Sanchez, de Silva, and Llaneira at Energy are all in lockstep calling for the bombing to begin in Carthage. It's too convenient, too easy. There's something wrong, and I don't know what to do next." He shrugged his shoulders and waited for Guerra to throw him a lifeline.

"Hm. We're in trouble." The pause almost gave Donado a heart attack, it lasted so long. Finally, the general raised his left hand and let it drop. A blue sedan screeched to the curb, and Guerra yanked open the rear door, telling Donado to get in. "You're going to Madrid to observe the training exercise. You felt it was necessary for your diplomatic efforts to have a good feel for our military capabilities, and I offered you this opportunity. Now, who can we trust in the Cabinet?"

"Right. Bolivario at Justice, Carnagi at Internal Affairs, and Caporaso at Finance are with us, and Reyes at Education is staying out of the whole thing -- Don't blame him, he's retiring in a month anyway. We can't get a hold of Chief Orwell at the National Police, but we don't think he's with them, and we planned to contact General Pereira over at Air Force headquarters as soon as I finished with you. Everyone else is with him."

"That leaves us with very few options. Okay, here's what I think we need to do. You should go into hiding. You'll have to do two things before you do: First, get your lawyers to run that story, but leave out the parts involving Sanchez. Just point out how many holes there are in the official story. Second, send a personal letter to our allies -- I've got secure comms gear at my office in Barcelona -- telling them that this is a setup and not to honor the treaties under any circumstances unless the request comes from you. Now, I'm not a constitutional scholar, but right now I would guess that we don't have a defined executive. That leaves either you or Sanchez as possible successors, or at least legitimate successors. One of you is going to be the leader. Right now Sanchez is in the better position to take power; he's got the majority of the Cabinet and the most important military Force Chiefs. You've got to win hearts and minds or you're SOL. The news story will make sure Sanchez can't get the people on his side, and that leaves it wide open for you. Warning the allies off at least gives us a fighting chance if it comes to civil war. I'll make sure my forces are primed to go. It shouldn't raise too many eyebrows; we're always doing some sort of exercise. We --"

"Hold on a second. You're talking like there's no option other than war. I don't want to see fighting in the streets of Valencia, Hernan."

"Sir, I don't want to either. But look at it from my perspective. The Minister of Defense just ordered the assassination of the President and tried to pin it on a belligerent enemy. He's got our allies looking for blood, he's got the intelligence ministry working for him, and he's got the Army and the Navy under his direct command and willing to serve. He's even got control of our oil and electricity through Llaneira. He's geared up for a civil war, or one hell of a military dictatorship. Probably both, now that I think about it. We've got to start moving, because we're already choking on his exhaust. Sir."

Hanging his head, Donado conceded the point. "I just don't want to see another war."

"I don't want a war, sir. I just want the Federacion to continue. Now, your official story is that you're observing the exercise in Madrid. We're not going there. We're going Barcelona, to my headquarters at Cami del Mar. From there we'll decide whether you need to leave the country or not. Get your allies in the Cabinet on the phone -- you can use my cell, just keep it short -- and tell them to be at their houses in twenty minutes. I'll have my men get them to Barcelona quietly. Sir, I can't stress this enough, we need to move."

"Right, right. Give me the phone."

----

Confidential Message to Hanseatic Commonwealth and Norden Kingdom

The story that President Esparrago was assassinated by agents of the Fascist Carthaginian government is a lie. I can't explain the entirety of events, but know that the only evidence tying this to Carthage is the make and model of the rifle -- no prints, no evidence whatsoever. I am in hiding now for my own safety. Until you hear otherwise, I ask that you NOT -- I repeat, NOT -- activate our defense treaties unless I personally contact you. I am afraid that members of our own government may have been part of the plot. I cannot give you a way to contact me for the present, but please be ready to act if I contact you. Thank you for your support. -- Luis Donado, Foreign Minister, Federacion Iberiana

----

President's Death a Conspiracy?

-- Quoted from the newspaper El Valenciano --

Sources within the government have just this past night raised doubts as to the official story regarding President Esparrago's assassination three days ago. The rifle, which Defense Minister Sanchez and National Intelligence Minister de Silva both maintain is of Carthaginian origin, reportedly has no evidence actually linking it to that nation. The shooter has never been identified or apprehended, and now the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Finance, and Internal Affairs have disappeared. The signs are those of a government in turmoil, and this editor does not see good weather on the horizon for the Federacion.

OOC: Holy $#!& that took me a long time to write. More tomorrow. No terrorists! We don't need terrorists, not now! Maybe after another couple of posts, when the civil war has broken out.

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"How can the rifle be of Carthaginian origin? Carthage has no factories or workshops yet, it is too underdeveloped, they buy their guns from other nations. Surely someone within Iberia had something to gain from this. Carthage has nothing to gain, however."

OOC: We never said it was made in Carthage, just issued to their military. I checked with Cabal before posting that. If that's not what you're implying, then I apologize for correcting you and return you to your regularly scheduled dramaz. /OOC

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OOC: I know it's a double post. Meh. /OOC

"WHERE IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY IS THAT PRICK?!?" roared Defense Minister Sanchez in his office. Apparently, receiving the news that the only people who suspect you just orchestrated the assassination of your own President in a power grab have gone missing along with the head of your Special Operations Command before your second cup of coffee is somewhat unsettling.

"Well, sir, I uh..." The aide was very thankful that his Minister did not have a sidearm readily available. Then again, having to wait for a sidearm to be brought to him might give the raging madman enough time to devise a more painful way to die, so... Gulp.

----

Turning back from the telephone, General Guerra looked mournfully to Foreign Minister Donado. "Luis, it's worse than we thought. With you and the others out of the way, Sanchez has ordered bombing runs on Carthage. The carriers aren't going to be in position for another half-hour or so, but the bombers have already launched and should be in Carthaginian airspace shortly. He got to the Air Force Chief before we could, it seems."

Donado thought for a second, then held up a finger as though to gesture away his own doubts. "Maybe not. Who's the admiral in command of the task group?"

"Let's see... There isn't an overall commanding officer, but Admiral Castillo on the Felipe V and Admiral Reyes on the Isabel command the two battle groups. Why do you ask?"

"Reyes? Juan Reyes?"

"I think that's his name, yes."

"Sanchez has taken the top, but he forgot to take the middle and the bottom. Get the Isabel on the line, now!"

Guerra started to configure the radio, but he was still unsure of this course of action. "I'm not sure this is the best thing to do, calling on an open channel like this."

"It's the only option we have, Hernan."

"But once you get Admiral Reyes on the line, what are you going to do?"

"Juan and I went to university together. If he won't listen to me, the whole deal's up, but if he does, we have an outside chance of nipping this war off at the bud. Is that Reyes? Give it here." Taking the handset, he started, "ISABEL, this is FOXTROT-ALFA, do you copy?"

Static crackled, and after a long pause a rough voice broke through: "FOX-ALFA, this is ISABEL. Luis, is that you? I've got a bit of a situation on my hands, and you're not helping much, over."

"I know, Juan, I know. Listen, you have to get the FELIPE and the bomber commander on the horn and call this lunacy off. MIKE-DELTA has manufactured the whole situation, over."

"MIKE-DELTA? No !@#$? You'd better be right, Luis, or this is both our asses, over."

"Juan, I've never been more serious in my life. You get those birds back on the deck now or we're in it deep, over."

"I hear you, Luis. I'll do what I can, but you owe me, over."

"Believe me, Juan, if you pull this off, you'll never pay for a drink again, over."

"Roger that, Luis. ISABEL, over and out." The channel faded back into static, and the bunker deep underneath Barcelona sank into an uneasy silence as the realization that their fate was no longer in their hands settled in their minds.

----

"SPARTAN LEAD, this is SPARTAN ONE-ONE-SEVEN, I've got a radar contact at one o'clock, looks to be a SAM search radar, over."

"Roger that, -117, copy all. Break. SPARTAN flight, turn to course one-six-five true. Let's keep as much distance between us and that radar, over."

An anonymous voice from somewhere in the bomber flight whined, "Where the hell are ICARUS and FALCON, LEAD? Those Navy pukes were supposed to be flying point for us, over!"

Exasperated, the lead bomber's pilot replied, "Roger that, SPARTAN. File the complaint when we RTB, over." At that instant a voice broke into the conversation, not one of the bomber crews but a separate party.

"SPARTAN flight, this is ISABEL. ICARUS and FALCON won't be coming, repeat, ICARUS and FALCON will not be providing cover. You are ordered to RTB immediately, repeat immediately, over."

"ISABEL, this is SPARTAN LEAD, where did that order come from, over?"

"SPARTAN LEAD, the order came from me. If you want to get your $@! shot down, go right ahead, but realize that you're going to start a shooting war, over."

"ISABEL, they started it when they took down SPARROW, over."

"That wasn't them, SPARTAN. SPARROW was a blue-on-blue, over."

"Friendly fire?!? Where'd you get that brief, over?"

"FOX-ALFA. He says MIKE-DELTA and NOVEMBER-INDIA did the deed, and I gotta say, I believe him, over."

A red warning signal lit up on the control panel. "SPARTAN flight, this is LEAD, break and run, repeat break and run. We've been lit up. Break. ISABEL, we've been lit up, repeat we've been seen. We are RTB, but I don't know how good these Fascists are with their anti-air, over."

"Roger that. We're scrambling a flight from ICARUS to cover your RTB. Godspeed, over and out."

OOC: Cabal, SPARTAN flight consists of six Tu-160 bombers about ten miles from your coast. ICARUS will scramble four F-22 naval variants about twenty minutes out. Feel free to RP any losses you wish. /OOC[/u]

Edited by spaero2011
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