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To Play with Fire


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Quai d'Orsay

Paris, Île-de-France


Stuck behind desks at her cramped office, Lorelei has been buried in a mountain of government financial records for much of the past week. Technically the Japanese-French college graduate is an employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but as a confidante to President Alain Mamère not much of what she does has much to do with the diplomatic services.

Rubbing eye sore from staring at the fine print for far too long, Lorelei found herself gazing lazily at the fountain outside. The pleasant voice of France Info's Agnès Noblesse filled her otherwise blank mind. "In other news, National Assembly Deputies François Ayrault and Jean-François Sauvadet were killed earlier today in a bizarre drive-by shooting incident in the 6th arrondissement. Authorities are currently investigating but commentators are already calling the murders politically motivated..."


Lorelei shivered. In today's hostile political climate, seemingly everyone sees snakes in every place green. The worst part is that she can't convince herself the rumours aren't true. Totally above my paygrade, Lorelei told herself with a fierce shake of head, and willed her attention back on to the task at hand.

"Future Fighter Aircraft Programme - MBDA MICAII Prototype & Testing, $23 million; Snecma M105 Development, $18 million; MBDA ApacheII Project, $21 million..." Lorelei muttered as her finger traced each line of the Ministry of Defence's requested budget for research. "Project Umbrella, $13471 mill- wait what?"

She has already vetted the funding requests the three armed services made to the ministry, in addition to the budget actually approved by the National Assembly. The Ministry's version should have been literally an exact copy - Lorelei knew the legislature's constitutional control of the purse is more or less a formality. And she's rather confident that she couldn't have missed something as big as $13.4 billion.

What could possibly cost $13 billion? Lorelei wondered as she absentmindedly added up all the entries, and sure enough, the total given on the last page apparently didn't include this Project Umbrella. Intrigued, Lorelei proceeded to add up each government agency and ministry's requested budget. The process took a while because she couldn't stop thinking about what colour the umbrella should be, but when she was finally done the results took her breath away. The official figure approved by the National Assembly was exactly $13,471 million more than the sum of the government's requests.

A chilll spiraled up Lorelei's spine. $13 billion don't just get spent by mistake, even by a bureaucratic-choked state like France. "How could anyone not have noticed?"

OOC: this is meant to take place before my IG nation's deletion

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Le 6 New York

Paris, Île-de-France



"Over here, Marie!"

Lorelei waved her friend over. In the brownish, wooden light of the restaurant, Marie's tanned skin formed a sharp contrast with her fair hair. The two former classmates gave each other a warm embrace before sitting down to enjoy a cheap $10 lunch. As the waiter brought them their food, Lorelei and Marie gossiped about the rest of their class, reminisced about their college days as lowly commerce undergrads, and complained about their work.

"Stop complaining, you have it easy!" Marie told Lorelei. They've both emptied their plates, and with nothing in her mouth Lorelei had launched into a rant about doing an accountant's job in the Foreign Ministry. "You don't have a boss hovering your head, ready to fire you in the name of cost cutting."

"Everyone said General Gamelin is a great man!"

"He's a stiff old disciplinarian who should have retired last century, and he thinks it's not worth paying someone to help work out how to pay the army." A young waitress cleared their table then, and brought them desserts, which Marie was eyeing intently with a watering mouth. "We're almost finished, so, what are you after?"

"What?" Lorelei feigned surprise, rather clumsily.

"Oh come on now. If you just wanted food you'd have pizza delivered," Marie asserted knowingly. "You need something from me don't you." It was framed as a question, but the tone suggest anything but.

Sighing, Lorelei gave up. "I've been trying to work it into the conversation. I need to ask you something; what's Project Umbrella?"

"Never heard of it," Marie replied briskly, and scooped up a spoonful of her icecream. A little too fast.

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