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To Hold Back the River Acheron


Subtleknifewielder
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OOC: This RP is closed to Sarah and myself. Only if you think you have VERY good reason to participate may you ask her for an invite.

IC: Anthony Harlem stood just around the corner from a run-down warehouse, waiting. As he waited, he pinched the bridge of his nose. He'd sworn that the kidnapping would be the last time he'd try hands-on work. Unfortunately, fate saw fit to laugh at him, to throw that vow in his face and give him no choice but to face his problems head-on. If there was a God, or any sort of higher being, that being must think it amusing to try even his patience.

Even while slowly beginning the rise back into power, he still had to keep the country together, which meant dealing with paramilitary forces, criminal gangs, religious fundamentalists, hate groups, and ideological terrorists. Before they could do too much damage.

Finally, he saw what he was waiting for. A group of about two dozen individuals approached the warehouse, and he blended in with them. He'd spent a little time getting to know this group of Judeo/Christian fundamentalists calling themselves the Almighty's Chosen, infiltrating their ranks personally and pretending to be a faithful member. Like all such organizations were here, as he'd crushed any others almost before they'd formed, they were newly formed.

As were the eco-terrorists they planned on meeting.

--------

The Anthony that stood calmly there now, as the meeting started, was changed from the man that had stumbled into Brisbane while on the run. None of the changes were extreme—except that he was no longer exhausted and bloodied from being pursued.

For one, even though he was still not advanced in years, the stress of his kind of life had added a small streak of grey to his hair. For another—he was leaner. He hadn't been really, truly overweight when he'd left Brisbane, but whatever extra fat that had been on his body then had been burned off by the exertions he had to go through to get this far.

--------

Just down the street, a little beyond where he himself had been hiding, three dozen more of the "Chosen" waited. Anthony had told the group's leader that he had a 'bad feeling' about this meeting, and that it was better to be safe than sorry.

--------

Neither group knew who really fired the first shot; that was how he had wanted it. He'd placed Daniel on the roof of the warehouse to act as a sniper, but deliberately miss. Almost instantly, he'd cried 'betrayal' at the shot, and raised his own pistol to fire a shot into the head of the other party's leader.

Predictably enough, a firefight broke out. The reinforcements raced around the corner, easily overwhelming the small force that had been sent out to meet them.

But by this time, bloodlust had built up into the religious zealots, and with cries of "kill the heretics!" and "down with the unrighteous!" they worked themselves into a frenzy to storm the building.

--------

In the middle of the battle for the warehouse, he felt a vibration in his pocket. He ducked as a bullet whizzed by his ear, cursing the ill timing. However, he could not ignore it. That number had only been given to four people—General Davies, Daniel Jackson, his daughter…and Sarah.

As the cell phone vibrated a second time, he ducked into a room he thought empty, only to find it occupied by two startled eco-terrorists. He took advantage of their inaction to blow away the one further from the door, then tossing his now-empty gun at the other defender as a distraction, flicked his wrist to bring the throwing knife into his hand. A second later, the knife was buried in the woman's throat, and she fell with a gurgle as the light of life left her eyes. In the time it took for him to do this, the phone vibrated once more, and was just starting its fourth 'ring' when he withdrew it from his pocket.

Having no time to check the caller ID before it went to voicemail, he flipped it open. "Hello?"

In the background, shouts, cries, and gunshots could still be faintly heard, despite the muffling effect of being on the other side of a door and wall…

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She sat under the veranda of Solidor Manor miserable. The rain was falling heavily by now, filling the tea cups which had been out in the gardens, under the possibility of a bright blue sky. But as the day had waned, the clouds had grown dark, and finally Sarah had to retreat under the shelter of the porch. Her tea party with Anthony ruined and it wasn't because of the rain, or the onset of evening. No, it was because he just hadn't showed up.

Duped...duped was a good word...stood up was another one. It wasn't like Anthony didn't have her number, it wasn't like he couldn't have called and said. 'Sarah, I'm sorry, something came up, I can't make it.' No, it was nothing like that, it was just silence.

Tapping her foot and wringing her fingers, Sarah finally leaned over to the wicker table and picked up her cell phone and dialed his number. It rang...then it rang again....then it rang again..."God damn it Anthony, what could you possibly be doing on a Tuesday ni..."

"Hello?"

"Anthony!" Sarah stood up from the chair. "What in god's name is wrong with you? Couldn't you have at least called? I've been waiting for you, for hours now. I've..." She could hear sounds coming from the background, gun shots particularly. "Anthony..." Her voice immediately changed. "What's wrong? What's going on? Where are you?"

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He winced as she began on an accusatory note. She had every right to be upset...he'd promised to be there, and all thoughts of calling her had been erased from his mind when the leaders of these two groups had decided just yesterday to stage a meeting to see if they could come to an agreement. An agreement he had no intention of letting them make.

"Er...I'm actually in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Melbourne," he answered. "I had a little problem to take care of before it got worse."

He debated how much more he should tell her...but she knew most of his secrets anyway. "A problem in the form of a couple terrorist groups that were thinking of an alliance." The door crashed open, admitting not only the now-clearer sounds of battle, but an ecoterrorist; he had his weapon raised threateningly, and murder in his eyes at the sight of his dead comrades.

Anthony didn't give him a chance, gently setting down the phone and sweeping the man's legs out from under him in a low kick, then a quick blow to his windpipe ensured he would be dead soon. It took all of three seconds.

Anthony slammed the door shut again, muffling the noise once more, then retrieved the phone. "Sorry about the interruption. Now where was I? Oh yeah...obviously, I couldn't let that happen."

He sat on the floor, leaning against the door to prevent any more surprises, and sighed deeply. "I really am sorry about not being there. I sometimes get a little obsessed with work. But as soon as this little situation is cleared up, I promise I'll be there, OK? Shouldn't take me too long."

In fact, the gun battle was dying down. It sounded like it was almost over. "Well, that was faster than I thought. I should be able to get there early in the morning. is that all right?" he asked, suddenly unsure of himself.

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She sat back with her hands shaking at what he was describing, now she was the one that felt bad. There Anthony was, somewhere in Melbourne, protecting the very existence of his country and there she was, demanding an explanation about a stupid tea party with him. How could she be so selfish?

"No...no Anthony, I didn't know. There's...there's really no rush. I'm sorry for bothering you. I feel kind of bad right now." She bit her lower lip in stupidity and embarrassment. "Yeah, just whenever you get around to it, that's fine. I'll be here all week really." She tried to chuckle, after all, with Brisbane still recovering, she really didn't want to go anywhere far. "I'll see you around then." She waited for his good-bye and closed the phone shut.

Getting up from the wicker chair, Sarah walked to the edge of the veranda and looked out on the rain soaked gardens in front of her. For all of the adventures she had been on, she still didn't feel like a real leader. As someone at least who would be remembered. There was Anthony Harlem, along with countless others throughout history how had defended their country from interlopers and not through just words alone. They took action. But she was shielded by a fence of society and well being, which tore her inside and out. And as the rain continued to fall, she continued to wonder what was there for her, and if Anthony was okay.

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"Don't feel too bad. I should have at least called you. I'll see you soon." He almost said 'I love you,' but for some reason he couldn't define, the words stuck in his throat, instead a half-mumbled "Goodbye" emerged from his lips before she ended the call.

He remained leaning back against the door as he returned the phone to his pocket. Banging his head back against the metal didn;t help, only put a sore spot there that was sure to develop a bruise later. Standing, he glared at the most recent corpse, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the leader of this little band.

"Why'd you have to f***ing pick this day to meet? You couldn't put it off two days?" He almost kicked the body in contempt, but that would have been a waste of energy, as the man was already dead and couldn't possibly appreciate the way he vented his anger. Angrily striding out the door, he came face-to-face with one of his fellow "chosen."

In answer to her query, he indicated the room he'd come from, and the three dead bodies in there. "You are sure a warrior worthy of heaven, my brother," the woman replied. Anthony acknowledged the compliment, but didn't reply other than to inform her that one of them was the enemy commander.

--------

"So that about sums up the report, Father." Of course, it wasn't actually his father he was talking to. That was a title. "On another note, I'll be out of town for a few days. I have some family business to take care of."

That was the one thing he could tell the man without arousing any suspicion. If there was one value they still held highly, it was family. "Of course, my son. Take what time you need."

"Thank you, Father," Anthony said, inclining his head in a show of respect before standing and exiting the room.

But before he actually left the building, he left some incriminating documents on the floor of one high-ranking member's room. Forged, but there would beno way for the others to know that, they would cast suspicion on the member's loyalty to the Cause.

--------

He managed to catch about five and a half hours worth of sleep in his apartment. Really, he'd slept before the mission, so it was all he needed.

So he was not tired at all when he finally pulled into Brisbane at 7 in the morning. He found a place to park the car about a mile from the Manor. He wanted to surprise her when he arrived, and arriving in this car would most likely announce his presence to anyone with ears.

He actually enjoyed the brisk walk in the pre-dawn city. It was refreshing and cool this time of day, and he savored every breath. He could have almost forgotten the near destruction of the city if it hadn't been for certain areas that were still marked off-limits as hazard zones.

At his pace, it was barely half an hour before the gates of Sarah's home came in sight, and his spirits, dampened by the reminders of the devastation, lifted. It was like the sight provided a renewed source of vitality to the core of his very being, and he almost raced the last few steps to the gate.

He called out his identity to the guard, waiting for them to confirm it, before being let in. Winking at the person on duty, he asked if his arrival could be kept confidential, explaining that he wanted to surprise the Lady Protector.

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Violent crime was rare in Melbourne, so when reports started coming in of gunfire in one of the less developed districts of the city, police units took a while to respond. Upon reaching the location, all they found were spent shell casings and several corpses. The physical evidence would lead them to military surplus, but that alone would be enough to alert border guards in both Promised Land and New Cymru for any suspscious persons.

---

Joshua Williams was the second Triumvir to visit Brisbane that week. The destruction left by the attacks was still all too obvious, to a man who had lived in the city for a long time before the release to the Hansa. His official car drove him straight to the manor. As the car pulled around to let him out onto the pavement, Williams saw another man enter the Manor, and he thought he recognised him, although he could not remember from where. He put it out of his mind as he vacated the vehicle, waving off his driver, and flicked open his papers for the guard.

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The sun slowly broke over eastern hills covering the sight of the city from Solidor Manor, the brilliant rays of light slowly beamed in from the sky as they pierced the great windows on the Western wing of the Manor. Slowly, one by one, the rooms inside were illuminated with a shining light. Sarah slept peacefully, her head buried in the pillow over her bed as the sun's rays began to seep through the lace curtains covering the window. A bright flash and then the girl began to groan as the light ran through her closed eyes. Sarah sighed as she moved her hands up to the pillow and pulled it tighter over her head, trying to block out the sunlight, but she was already awake. There was no use at this point.

Turning her body over, she looked at the window and squinted her eyes from blinding light coming from outside. Groaning again she undid her covers and crawled out of the bed. Her lace nightgown wrinkled from a night of tossing and turning. Sleep always seemed to be difficult for her. Just recovering from a deathly fever after the attack on Brisbane and the attack itself still weighing heavy on her conscious, it was a miracle that she could even sleep to begin with.

Wiping the fatigue from her eyes Sarah took a robe out of her wardrobe and walked out into the hall leading to the entrance of the Manor. The servants were already out and about. Many new faces since the onset of the attack, though she was happy to see her chief maid, Elizabeth Lang still alive and well. As Sarah walked into the parlor, Elizabeth was waiting for her with a tray of tea and morning fruit.

"Will you be taking breakfast in the parlor or out on the veranda milady?"

"Oh the veranda would be lovely, Elizabeth. Please put it out there."

Minutes later, Sarah sat reclining on her wicker chair looking out into the garden as the sun began to dry the morning dew. She sipped her tea slowly and tried to clear her mind of negative thoughts. But damn it was hard. Her tear ducts had been run dry over the past month and the drama in her life really didn't even come close to ending there. She sighed as she took an apple out of the basket and bit into it, the juice slightly running down her mouth and in the distance, footsteps approaching the door leading out to the garden.

One of the maids perhaps?

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Anthony stopped for few moments before entering the manor building itself, simply to appreciate the beauty of the rising sun. It had been a long time since he'd taken the time to do that. The last time had been before...

He shook his head to derail that line of thought. He'd prefer not thinking about that particular cost of his mistakes.

His mood couldn't be dampened for long, however. As he entered the manor, he gazed around at the luxury that surrounded him, and smiled. Most people who knew him would be shocked to see him smile. But thoughts of Sarah were one of the few things that could make him do that, and his feet felt light as he approached the door to the veranda that looked out into the garden.

His footsteps remained light even as he opened and shut the door and approached Sarah from behind, though he took in her posture, and she seemed somehow...sad. Which he should really have expected. Someone like her took the death of each one of her people personally, and such a burden would weigh heavily on anyone.

Still stepping softly, he laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"You feel responsible for all of it, don't you?" he asked quietly. Though he reallyalready knew the answer, he also knew from experience that sharing a burden out loud with someone you trusted made it that much lighter.

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She turned in surprise when he laid his hand on her shoulder, but seeing it was Anthony, she immediately calmed down and replaced with the same sad look across her face. "I always will. I'll never forgive myself." She sighed and put down the tea cup. "You know I don't understand it Anthony. Am I doing something wrong? Am I failing at something? Visari is dead and that's something to be elated about." She chuckled. "And think, me happy that someone is dead, its unbecoming of my personality. But nevertheless, I wish this could have been prevented somehow."

Sarah saw him look down. The government of Promised Land had been equally saddened that they couldn't have prevented the missile strikes. But she took his hand firmly in her own. "Don't beat yourself up over this Anthony, the one who is responsible for this is dead and Europe is free from the iron grip of the Nords. So I guess at the end of the day, I'm happy with the outcome...just...just with regret. Regret that is never going to leave me. He's beaten me down twice now that the Hansa is still strong, its a miracle. But I wish I was stronger, I really do."

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He offered a sympathetic smile when she said she'd never forgive herself. "Out of all the decisions you could have made, you made what you believed the best possible. And your people knew there would be a risk going into the war, but they supported it anyway, even those who believed they would get no support from the rest of the world."

He sighed, knowing that what he said might comfort her, but would never take away all the guilt she felt.

"I think...that feeling satisfaction, and yes, even the mild regret, at the death of that madman is only human. I'd be more surprised if you didn't feel anything at all at his passing."

He couldn't help it, though, when she mentioned the wish that it could have been prevented. He glanced at his feet and shuffled nervously. If he'd only had a more firm control of his nation, he would never have been couped...and perhaps he could have had the defense systems online that much sooner. Of course, they would never know that for certain, now that the events had already played out. Her reassurances reminded him of that.

But then she said, almost wistfully, "But I wish I was stronger, I really do." At that, he glanced back up sharply, and he put his hand under her chin, lifting it with his finger to ensure she looked him straight in the eye. He spoke firmly, with conviction.

"You are strong enough already. A lesser man or woman might never have taken the course you did in the first place, or would have given up at the first sign of trouble. Some might have taken their own lives in despair. But you, you managed to hold yourself together for your people, when they needed you the most. Never think of yourself as a person of weak will, Sarah. Never."

The hand that held her gaze to his was removed as he sat down next to her, still holding the hand that held onto his.

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She looked at him and smiled, her smile a cross between embarrassment and coy shyness. "Thanks Anthony. I have to keep reminding myself of these things. Its hard sometimes, but I figure you already know that." She looked over at the open doors. "Elizabeth, if you could, bring Mr. Harlem a cup of tea, thank you."

"Yes milady." Was heard from inside the house and moments later, the maid appeared with a smoking cup of tea which she handed off to Anthony and bowed before returning back inside.

Sarah and Anthony just sat silent for awhile, looking out at the sun drying the garden in front of them and listening to the sparrows chirping in the distance. Peace and serenity had finally returned back to the Commonwealth and perhaps this time it would stay, though deep down inside, Sarah doubted it. Turning to him, she stroked his hand with her thumb and sighed. "So what was going on when I called you? What was going on in Melbourne? Cause I heard guns and shouting and stuff so I hope that everything is okay in Promised Land." She looked at him. "Just remember, if there's anything the matter, I'm here to help in anyway possible. The Hansa and I might be battered, but we will never be broken."

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OOC: before I forget, let's not leave Silhouette behind. He does have a legitimate reason to make that post.

IC:

"Thanks Anthony. I have to keep reminding myself of these things. Its hard sometimes, but I figure you already know that."

He simply nodded. He understood that sentiment perfectly. If only he could listen to his own advice all the time. He blinked that thought away when Elizabeth brought him the cup of tea, and smiled to her in thanks.

As they sat there, simply enjoying the serenity of the moment, he closed his eyes, letting the rising sun warm his face. If only there were a way to capture such moments and make them last forever.

He'd almost drifted off again, so relaxed was he, when her question brought him back to full wakefulness. "Oh, I have no doubt you would drop everything to come to my aid. That is what I like best about you--your absolute loyalty to those you care for." He set the cup of tea down so he could reach over with his other hand and cover hers. "But there are some battles you don't need to worry about fighting. Peole often wonder at how stable, how peaceful Promised Land is, how we rarely see internal strife. That stability does not come without the price of contant vigilance. My internal network is second to none, and usually manages to root out terrorist cells and organized crime before they can get a firm foothold--by destroying them from within. The term 'divide and conquer' is not just a simple phrase to me, but a necessary fact of life. And lately, I've been having to do much of the work myself. That was what you overheard."

He withdrew his hands, then held them in front of his face, staring at them curiously as if he wasn't sure what to do with them. "These hands are the hands of an assassin. They have taken untold lives. And not just with weapons. Oftentimes there was no time to draw a weapon." He sighed deeply, regretfully almost. "That is another price that must be payed--the guilt, not of indirectly causing someone's death, but knowing you had the power of life and death over someone you could see closlely, face-to-face, and that you chose death for them."

He closed his eyes and shook his head. "Each time I take a life, it feels like a little piece of my own soul is destroyed along with me. Because I know that even if I could play the scene over again, nothing would be changed. I would do anything to protect my people. I would sell what was left of my soul, my very being, if it would ensure their safety." He buried his face in the hands he had been staring at moments before.

"If I were a praying man, Sarah, I would pray to whatever deity that would be willing to listen to a man like me that you never have to take someone's life with your bare hands. Doing so, I think, is the one thing that might truly shatter you."

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Williams had been told to wait, which he had expected. However, he found himself wanting to catch another glimpse of the mystery man. The identity of whom was on the tip of his tongue, but always just out of reach. He started tapping his feet. He wasn't actually impatient, but looking like you were could be an interesting tactic, especially if the secretary was not specially trained.

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Williams had been told to wait, which he had expected. However, he found himself wanting to catch another glimpse of the mystery man. The identity of whom was on the tip of his tongue, but always just out of reach. He started tapping his feet. He wasn't actually impatient, but looking like you were could be an interesting tactic, especially if the secretary was not specially trained.

The young maid bowed in apology at the New Cymru representative. "My apologies sir, for making you wait here." As the entrance hall let in a small breath of air. "If you will follow my Mr. Williams, Lady Tintagyl and Mr. Harlem are outside on the Veranda. She walked him through the mansion towards the frosted back doors leading to the sun shinning outside. Both Sarah and Anthony turned as they saw a new guest joining them. "Lady Sarah, Mr. Harlem, if I may present Mr. Joshua Williams of New Cymru."

Sarah smiled as she got up from her seat, letting go of Anthony's hand. "Mr. Williams. A pleasure, what brings you here today?"

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Anthony blinked, dropping a neutral expression over his face as he thought furiously. Williams? his naturally suspicious mind went to what had happened in Melbourne, and he wondered if that had something to do with the man's visit. Not likely, as that was an affair for Promised Land and New Cymru to deal with, but it still had to be considered-as this man was one of the few who knew who he really was and might have ad him followed here. More likely it had to do with the continuing re-construction efforts.

He hung back as Sarah let go of his hand and stood to greet her new guest, waiting to see what was said before reacting in any way to the man's presence with anything other than a nod of acknowledgement.

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Even as he took Sarah's hand, he was thinking about Harlem. His response was almost automatic. "My lady, I am simply here to check on the health and well-being of one of my closest friends and allies, and also whether the engineers we sent your way have been useful in the rebuilding efforts, and believe me when I say the pleasure is all mine."

He turned to Harlem, eager to once again speak with such an engaging young mind

"Anthony, so good to see you again. I am very sorry about what happened in your country. I do always wonder why you did not try to contact Michael or Myself. Dare I say it, my government is still very much in the dark over the exact details of the change in government. All we know for sure is that you went missing." Perhaps too late, he turned back to Sarah.

"I trust none of this conversation is being recorded?"

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She looked at him insulted. "I would have hoped that our friendship was beyond that point, that any of you could trust what you speak to me is kept in total confidence. I've done many of the same with both of you, conversations that if leaked, could definitely threaten the idea of safety and security that is kept so powerful in my nation." Sighing she shook her head at both of them. "Both of you need to learn how to relax, not everyone, everywhere is out to get you." But the sigh was soon transformed into a smile as she went back to her chair and offered Joshua a seat.

"However I do have to thank you Joshua, for the aid and the support. Slowly but surely the Hansa is coming out of a dark time and into a period of immense wealth and cooperation with the world. Of course, Australia is still in bad shape as a whole. All three of our countries have gone though extreme changes, most often hostile. So I think to include politics into this conversation. How in Gods name are we suppose to stabilize this continent." She said picking up a cup in her fingers and quietly sipping.

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Harlem shook his head and almost grinned himself when Williams asked if this was being recorded. He glanced down to hide his amusement as Sarah replied with indignation, and when she sat, he returned to the place he'd been sitting--next to her.

"How do we stabilize it? Why, one piece at a time, of course." Anthony let some of his amusement creep into his voice. "And we don't let the setbacks get us down."

Becoming serious once more, he turned to Williams. "There were two reasons I didn't try to contact you. First, your nation was undergoing some turmoil of its own, as was mine. And second? I was incapable of it, as Sarah can attest to. Fleeing pursuit, I arrived quite literally on her doorstep, and then collapsed."

He leaned back in his chair, tapping his fingers on the armrest. "And now that you are assured nothing here is being recorded," he shook his head at the thought, "you don't have to worry about secrets. Everyone here knows my exact relationship to Promised Land's government."

While Williams might wonder at the curious phrasing, he hoped Sarah picked up on the emphasized word. There was one thing that she knew but Williams did not--his true parentage.

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"I am sorry my lady, but I had to ask. It is in no way to do with not trusting you, simply because some people record conversations as a matter of course, and sometimes sensitive material on those recordings can fall into the wrong hands."

As he was about to continue, a shrill beeping came from his pocket. He reached in and pulled out a small cellular, with a large plastic cover over the aerial, doubling the size of the phone. Only four people had this number, and the phone was encoded in any case, so only someone with an identical encoder, and the same codes could listen in. He answered the call with a single curt word, then listened, his face contorting as he tried to comprehend exactly what he was hearing. Finally, he turned to Harlem, holding out the phone.

"Mr Harlem, you may want to hear this."

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Staring curiously at Williams, Anthony reached out and took the phone, trying to find some indication of what, exactly, was going on here. He always hated not knowing what was happening.

Not finding anything to indicate one way or the other, he put the phoneto his ear. "Hello? Who's this?"

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"Michael Gaunter, I'm sure you remember me. You also probably remember an associate of yours by the name of Richard Anderson. Strange thing is, we just picked him up in the desert, inside our borders. I must admit, I didn't expect to be able to speak to you personally, none of us here had any idea what had happened to you, but now we know, I guess."

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Williams and Sarah were witness to one of the few times his emotions took control of him, without his consent. His jaw dropped, and he was unable to speak for a few moments. And even when he did, he stuttered once.

"Please, t-tell me you're not joking. Is he all right?" It was a good thing he was already sitting, as he might have have fallen back in the chair if he had not already been.

Regaining some measure of control, he sat up straight in his seat. He knew that even if Anderson was not yet fine, he was in the best place he could possibly be right now.

Edited by Subtleknifewielder
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"He's going to be fine. Our paramedics are looking after him now. He was also lucky enough to be picked up by Colonel Raglan, although I here they had themselves a little adventure out there anyway. We are going to keep him here for a few days, but you are welcome to visit. Do you remember where we signed that first treaty, where the owner of this phone took a bullet?"

Edited by Silhouette
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