Another aspect of this plan is that we will be encouraging newer, less confident players to contribute to our journalistic output. This may mean that the overall standard of journalism isn't as high as it has been back in the mythical golden era of Southern Journal, but it will, I hope, be both an encouragement for newer players and a learning experience which will enable them to develop their skills as writers through practice and feedback. I hope that the region will receive all articles published in this fashion with good grace and will be equally gracious with any feedback they offer. This does not, however, preclude constructive criticism, nor genuine issues with factual errors, etc. which we expect to be reported to us so that they might be corrected.
I hope that, along with the recent reappearance of SPINN and other private journalistic efforts, this represents the beginning of a new era of journalism for the South Pacific - an era when we expect to receive news and opinion on a regular basis and are just as eager to produce it. Of course, only time will tell how successful any endeavour will be, and I am only too aware that similar statements have been made at the start of previous terms in recent years without bearing much subsequent fruit, but I hope you will join me in doing what we can to make this dream a reality, and in wishing the Southern Journal all the best for this term and many insightful articles!!
-Seraph (Erinor), Minister of Regional Affairs.
The start of June saw the opening of the second of the 2020’s thrice-yearly cabinet elections, with an unusually high number of candidates accepting nominations to run. The final tickets saw Nakarisaune and North Prarie facing-off for Prime Minister; Erinor, Penguinpies and Rabbtiz running for Minister of Regional Affairs, Qvait and Qaweritoyu running from Foreign Affairs and FiHami and Imperial Frost Federation running for Military Affairs. The results, announced on the 14th, saw the new cabinet comprising Nakarisaune, Erinor, Qvait and FiHami. See more about the new cabinet later in this issue.
It was also time to elect a new Chair and we saw Rabbitz running against Royaltica for the position. Both were running for Chair for the first time, although, as a relative newcomer running in their first-ever election, Royaltica was at a distinct disadvantage, despite a strong campaign. In the end, Rabbitz received the most approvals from the Assembly and took on the mantle of Chair from 23rd June.
June also saw an uptick in court activity, with several past sentencing cases finally resolved, a new case submission form introduced and a new member added to the judicial bench. Ebonhand, who had only recently returned to the South Pacific after a stint in Balder, took his oath and his seat on the 8th June.
FiHami and Royaltica, continuing planning from the previous term, hosted a successful Summer Festival event on Discord which was well attended. Featuring roleplaying, games and a writing competition (on which more later in this issue), fun was had all round and it made a very promising start to the summer term. FiHami and Royaltica have expressed a desire to do similar short festivals for each season, so watch this space!
Treaty with the East Pacific
Finally, there was even time to squeeze in some new developments in Foreign Affairs, as the Galapagos Accords was formally signed and announced on the 30th June. A unilateral treaty with TEP, the Accords cement our relationship with our fellow feeder beyond the existing multilateral January Accords and thus further express our regions’ commitment to each other.
The race for Minister of Regional Affairs is the exception that proves the rule. This race was never going to involve an overtly defender candidate because that’s not what we look for in MoRA. What we look for in a MoRA is someone who is going to promote and bolster our culture, promote a free press, and provide the resources necessary for the roleplay community to be as strong as possible. All of these things are vital to our long-term health as a region and we had strong competition for the position, which made it one of the liveliest campaigns in a few cycles. While we may not have wanted someone as passionate as a Defender advocate as we did for the other positions, this role is, however, just as important for our leadership in the Defender sphere. No region has ever become a leader in this game without first having a strong culture at home. I am excited to see what Seraph (Erinor) brings to the Ministry as he returns to the corner office where he got his start in government.
When Phoenix (FiHami) declared for Minister of Military Affairs, I was not surprised. Anyone who knows Phoenix knows they are ambitious to serve TSP and they have become a well-known name all around the Defender community. They update like no one else and, while she still searches for that elusive zero-second chase, she is as active as ever with members of the SPSF. If the Assembly was looking for a rising star in the Defender world, they have found it. Between her intimate knowledge of gameplay mechanics and her friendliness to the rest of the Defender community, I have no doubt that Phoenix will be a transformational MoMA. I also have a hunch we won’t be the only ones remembering her name for years to come.
Roavin finally got his wish. Not only is he free to post whatever he likes to the gameplay servers, but he also got his dream Prime Minister. No one is better suited for the task than Nakari (Nakarisaune). She has a proven record of experience and leadership in TSP, while also being a key player in the Defender world. She has been an exceptional Cabinet member and advisor and, having worked with her in FA myself, no one will better represent our government to the public. If we want a dedicated government that will ensure we are leading the world, Nakari is the right person to lead that government. It goes without saying that the PM campaign was exciting and it was great to see every office contested, and I know I am not alone when saying that all the candidates who ran will hold a bright future in this region. When the Assembly made it clear they wanted a defender, however, they got the right one for the job.
It is no secret that Jay (Qvait) and I get along and I had the pleasure to work with him through the transition. The Minister of Foreign Affairs campaign was anything but ordinary but again, the Assembly wanted someone who would guide our diplomacy to be that of a pioneer in the defending community. Jay is already kicking off this work at a breakneck pace and I know I speak for all of us in the MoFA when we say we are excited to work with him. Jay has indicated he will work diligently to cultivate a strong ambassadorial staff, a key to any effort of ours diplomatically. He ought to be proud of what has been accomplished in his first week and the Assembly out to be delighted they have such an exceptional representative of their foreign policy. Make no mistake, I was in a celebratory mood handing off the keys to my former office, as I knew we had such an exceptional person taking over.
This election has given us a strong team to lead us forward. I know each of them will put us on a path towards international leadership with distinction and poise and I look forward in four months to celebrating the fruits of their labors. Until then, let us all rededicate ourselves to the service of our region so we might aid this visionary cabinet in the pursuit of glory for TSP.
Arrogant, much? Perhaps. But I think there’s an argument to be made that if you want Defenderism truly to be part of a region’s culture, without the region being a purely military region, then it might just be those who hold to the ideology whilst not participating in military gameplay at all that will swing the balance. So, let me take a moment of your time to explain why I think that TSP should explore my brand of moralism (and yeah, let's give it a capital M whilst we’re at it) in the steps we take in the future. [Full disclosure: the following contains content lifted from my own comments in the Legislators Lounge in the TSP Discord server.]
Firstly, in what way do I consider myself a Moralist? Well, with regard to the question, ‘are Raiders bad people?’, I would tend to answer ‘no’. I think they might be good people (as much as any of us are), who nonetheless do bad things to native communities with inherent value because they think 'it's just a game'. I also understand the necessity of raiding for defending to exist (although as a non-military type, I'd be pretty unmoved by the end of R/D. It’s not military activity that inspires me to espouse Defenderism, but rather my beliefs in how we should treat communities - more on this in a bit.) I also recognise the variety of raiding activity and don't treat them all equally. You could say that I’m tolerant of some raiding activity, like basic tag raiding, for the purposes of activity.
But, I said that they think it’s just a game. I think it's a collection of communities of varying levels of meaning and attachment masquerading as a game. TSP is a real community. It's made up of people who barely know each other and who may or may not be who they say they are, but... that's true of most modern communities, actually. NS is full of such communities and a lot of people running around doing good and bad things to each other. That a lot of the latter is done in the name of fun and it being a game... is still like a lot of modern communities.
And, to be fair, I tolerate a lot of that in real life, too, but still work to undermine that kind of behaviour when I can. So, I treat Raiders like anybody else, but find it natural to support those who target the specific actions to which I'm opposed. The focus of this New Moralism, then, is not the Raiders themselves, but the natives that we seek to defend.
This is, I hope, is the foundation of a rational, tolerant Moralism. It doesn’t prevent us from working with and accepting Raiders in our community, but it does encourage and embolden us to crack down on those acts of raiding which are harming native communities out there in the vastness of NS. But there’s more to this new Moralism than just our external attitudes - it’s a body of values that should affect our whole community identity.
To instill these values in TSP, as in real life, I want to foster certain attitudes in our community; attitudes which I feel go part and parcel with this kind of New Defender Moralism and with TSP’s existing culture, too. I’m talking about things like encouraging democratic freedoms and self-determination and feeding that into ideas of personal growth and fulfillment; care and concern for the other, empathy and sticking up for the powerless. I’m talking about justice and truth. If TSP is to lead in this New Moralism, then it can do so in a uniquely South Pacifican way where our democratic and community values can be the balm to go alongside the military action, both here and in the regions we help to defend. It should be a Defender’s duty to comfort, protect and uphold the independent and self-determined community - our own and those of others.
Granted this might not be what others choose to get from Defending - for some it will always be about activity first and, in the context of a game, that’s both inevitable and understandable - but within TSP we can work the international dialogue in that direction even as we tie these things together and reinforce them within our own culture. TSP can be a leader in the Defendersphere, but I’m convinced that it has to espouse and spread a new kind of defending to do so and remain authentically the South Pacific. I hope you will join me as members of this community in building this vision for the future.
Interviews with Erinor, FiHami, Qvait and Nakarisaune
Firstly, Erinor, Minister of Regional Affairs:
Firstly, congratulations on your election victory. As you are our new Minister of Regional Affairs, what do you have in mind in terms of small scale events? Also which events will happen this month?
We are currently working on a local summer event which was planned as part of PenguinPies' tenure and which will be announced soon. As for small scale events, I want to create short weekend long events that allow us to spend time with friends in region's we're still getting to know, in association with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They might consist of low-maintenance activities and icebreakers, like light spam games and typical conversation. The details are still to be worked out fully as this is an idea in development and will require input from Foreign Affairs, too.
Do you have any policy on puppet registration, as according to many there are potentially spies in the region?
This hasn't actually been much of a hot topic in the region, nor is it particularly relevant regional affairs. There is, however, no way to ensure that a person is divulging all of their puppets in such a scheme, so I don't think it would be very worthwhile.
To quote your manifesto, you want "to rebuild our journalism", so are you going to promote more private media or recruit more people to regional media?
You can't really make people write for you in a casual hobby environment like this, so, really, I'm going to be encouraging folk to write more, offering article suggestions and providing constructive criticism to help writers improve and gain confidence. If people want to create private media, I'm happy to offer Ministry resources in support, but my primary concern is the output of the ministry itself.
You have said you want to free fellows and that you don't want a slave system any more, so what are your steps to achieve that and how do you plan to free fellows?
Well, firstly, I'm not going to demask people for inactivity. I don't really see the point as it doesn't seem to produce any more activity, but rather constantly shrinks the pool of people you're potentially working with. This will allow fellows to see what's going on in all non-OpSec parts of the Ministry, whether or not they are currently active and will therefore allow them more freedom to choose what they might wish to get involved in. Secondly, I'm going to encourage creativity and ideas from fellows so that they can lead their own projects with Ministry support. I hope to inspire an atmosphere of creative expression which encourages people to share and use their talents for the benefit of our culture.
One of the candidates who ran against you, Rabbitz, had proposed a point system. Will the Ministry do something like that under your leadership?
It's not something I plan to integrate. It sounds like a great idea in many respects and could benefit activity, but I don't want to encourage a competitive atmosphere in the Ministry or add any extra bureaucracy, so it's not really my style. I'm confident Rabbitz will get a chance to put his plans into action in the future, however.
What will be the MoRA's new policy to recruit members?
As I said in my campaign, integration was never something I found very successful in part terms, so I'm not planning to implement any huge schemes for this. I do, however, plan to advertise MoRA in person and encourage fellows to do the same, so that we can welcome new players into the Ministry on a personal level. I also have a few small ideas in how to increase awareness of the Ministry and what it does, like including a mention to our ministries in the telegrams I send when endotarting and in other areas of regional interaction.
PenguinPies' campaign mentioned a town hall system. What do you have in mind for that?
I'd prefer to encourage continuous communication in the ministry in a way that suits the needs and availability of the fellows. If people don't want to speak up, that's fine, although I'll do my best to ensure there are as many non-threatening avenues to be heard via as possible.
What are your plans for RP?
I want to do more events that allow existing RPers to showcase their stuff and to let other players see what a creative and fun thing our RP community has always been. I also want to make sure that the Treasure Island Report is publishing RP articles for the same reason.
You have said that you don't want to force people to be active, but the ministry's reputation also matters, so do you have any policy on ejecting inactive members?
Absolutely not. As I mentioned in a previous answer, I see no benefit to activity in removing people from the Ministry unless they actually don't want to be part of it. I prefer to bring about activity through inspiration and encouragement as well as the example of myself and more active fellows. This way, those who may have been inactive for a long time still have the chance to see an opportunity and jump on it, as well as develop towards projects through their engagement with other fellows.
Now for my last question. There are very many inactive nations, so what will you do to bring them into the mainstream?
The vast majority of nations in the South Pacific are either contended issue answers or puppets and there's no need to badger them into joining the forums or Discord or even the RMB if that's not what they're interested in. The important thing, as far as I'm concerned, is to ensure that all players in the South Pacific have the opportunity to take part in whatever aspects of NationStates' expanded activities most interests them and that they are not denied that activity through the lack of anyone telling them that it exists, as such, promoting the various things that make NS awesome will always be an important part of the Ministry under my leadership.
Erinor clearly has plans for the Ministry and does not plan to be hemmed in by the expectations set by previous Ministers, especially with regard to activity. Will this plan pay off or will this be another luke-warm Summer term?
FiHami, Minister of Military Affairs:
Firstly, congratulations on your election victory.My first question is this: you are the new minister of Military Affairs, so what is the region's new military policy towards The Black Hawks (TBH)?
So, regarding TBH. We are a defender region, and, seeing that TBH is a raider region, we stand on opposite sides. We will continue what we always do, chasing them on their tag runs and preventing them from raiding regions. That won't change.
In regard to the Aurora Alliance with The North Pacific (TNP), its section 2, clause 1 says "The signatories agree not to engage in any military hostilities against one another." As the entirety of NS knows that TNP is always working hand in hand with TBH, is the military going to stop operations liberating regions conquered by TNP?
So, no, TNP isn’t always working hand-in-hand with TBH. They do go on tag raids with TBH members, but they also go on detag runs with us as well. They are an independent military organization and do a little bit of everything.
Now, regarding military ops liberating regions, if the North Pacific Army (NPA) is acting as a piling force with TBH, we are still going to work with the other Defender militaries to liberate the region. That doesn't change. If the NPA is working with TBH on a tag raid, we'll chase them with other military orgs (provided we have the numbers to contest on that particular night.) Though the MoFA would probably be better to ask about more specifics.
Which regions help/aid the South Pacific Special Forces (SPSF) in liberating and defending regions?
Well, it's a massive effort with many at the helm. The Grey Wardens, the Rejected Realms Army, the Union of Democratic States Armed Forces, amongst others.
What is your plan for recruiting people?
So, my plan for recruitment will be to really boost up our military. We do have amazing people in our ranks who deserve recognition for what they do. And to do that, we'll continue to publish reports, talk to our fellow TSPers about the military, and encourage people to join. And we'll have fun doing so in the way TSP does: with llamas and lampshades.
We all know that Foreign Affairs and Military Affairs are closely connected, so how are SPSF's relations with the Europeian Republican Navy (ERN)?
That would prooobably be something more for MoFA, I'm not quite familiar with them yet.
What about inactivity in SPSF? If there are inactive nations in SPSF, will they be forced to be active or ejected?
So, you can't force someone to be active, that's never fun. But, I do plan to be a little bit more strict on having people participate in at least 1 update a month or lose their status as a member of the SPSF.
Osiris is an officially declared Invader region. What is the Military's official stance against them?
"If they raid, we defend." It is our general policy.
What is the SPSF's policy in regards to counter-intelligence?
I don't think I can answer that question. Because I don't know.
What other military reforms do you plan?
Well, overall, I do plan for more cultural engagement within the SPSF, be more prominent in TSP, really just promote more of a healthy "defender culture" in TSP.
My last question to you: what will you do to find spies in the SPSF?
Uh... I reeeaaally doubt that there are raider spies in the SPSF. But if we do find one then the court can have their fun.
FiHami is clearly a strong Defender MoMA with plans for recruiting more soldiers and continuing the SPSF’s excellent reputation. It promises to be an interesting term for our Defender stance.
Qvait, Minister of Foreign Affairs:
Greetings, so what is your plan in regards to small regions?
There's so much I want to say with regards to this question but, for now, I'll just say, ‘stay tuned’.
Well, I feel you have big plans, my next question is what is TSP 's diplomatic stance in regards to Europeia?
That's rather specific. I'll just say that the South Pacific is committed to maintaining a peaceful and friendly relationship with all regions not proscribed by us or vice-versa.
Hmm, so I am now going to look to The North Pacific. We have already signed the "The Aurora Alliance" with them, but TNP is independent, so they raid as well as defend. During raids, they have been known to work with The Black Hawks, so will you request that TNP end relations with TBH or even break ties with TNP?
No, I can unequivocally state that the South Pacific will not be severing our relationship with The North Pacific. Even though The North Pacific occasionally conducts military operations with The Black Hawks, that does not change the longstanding friendship the South Pacific maintains with The North Pacific. We share a special relationship that will continue to exist way beyond my term as Minister.
In your manifesto you have said about a Defender's Bloc in the WA Security Council, many including myself liked the idea, so how will this Bloc function and which regions are the potential members?
I don't want to go into specifics about the bloc at the moment but I intend to invite other defender regions to negotiate an agreement.
With respect to 'The Southern Islander Accords', it's a fact that 10000 islands and TSP can have great relations and be the best alliance NS has ever seen, so what are your plans in this context?
Again, there are things that I don't want to be specific about but I agree that 10000 Islands and the South Pacific have an outstanding relationship.
What will be TSP's diplomatic policy against regions which are officially Raiders?
Our policy will be the same as it has been for a long time. I can just say that you shouldn't expect the South Pacific to be opening embassies with The Black Hawks.
Now, in regards to Embassy Policy, with which regions will TSP form an embassy? I don't mean specific, but with particular tags or ideologies or form of governments and such?
The South Pacific will be quite receptive to the establishment of embassies with other defender regions, but we will also welcome a relationship with emerging regions that may not necessarily have a particular military alignment.
We recently had Pacific-con in which The West Pacific were present, but to date there is no treaty agreement signed between the two regions. Do you have any plans for this?
I was there for the organization of Pacific-Con in my role as Minister of Regional Affairs. Back then, I saw each of my counterparts as equals and treated them as such without consideration of our past relationship with any of the other four Pacifics. During the organizing and throughout the event, I found their government officials to be pleasant and friendly to work with. Even though we may not have a treaty, we can still be friendly with The West Pacific
Well that's the spirit of a Foreign Minister! What are your plans for TRR - we have two treaties with them currently?
Well, The Rejected Realms is quite unique because their delegate and I share a little history with each other from our roleplaying days in the European Union. However, I still don't want to go into detail about my plans.
My last question, In this term which cultural events will happen and will there be anything like Pacific-Con?
I will be working with Seraph, our incoming Minister of Regional Affairs on that one but I don't think we will see an event on the level the same level as Pacific-Con for another year. An event like that, which is organized by regions and not particularly individuals, doesn't happen many times a year. I believe that the South Pacific will settle for smaller events this upcoming term and not grand events like the one we had in May.
So, our Minister of Foreign Affairs is mostly keeping his cards close to his chest, but it’s clear that there should be some interesting developments in our foreign relations in the future.
Nakarisaune, Prime Minister:
What will be the Cabinet's agenda for this term?
The agenda mostly focuses on increasing our role in the defender sphere through increasing diplomatic contacts, boosting our military, and getting more involved with the World Assembly. We have a lot of power as a Game-Created Region, so why not use as much of that as we can? I'm also working on making it easier for people to get involved in the government, with things like making it easier and faster to apply for ministries, making sure the government continually keeps people informed, and easier for on-site members to access TSP government news. Plus, an important part of a Prime Minister's agenda is helping the Ministers achieve their ministry's goals!
What are your plans in regards to media development?
I'd like to see a lot more of our media more heavily promoted and accessible, and I like Seraph(Erinor)'s plans to ensure we have more regular releases.
What are your plans in regards to diplomatic reforms with Qvait?
I think his ideas for a WA bloc are great and we should be getting more involved in those scenes.
What are your plans for the Assembly this term?
I don't really have plans for the Assembly.
With which regions do you want to increase diplomatic contacts?
What is your plan to tackle corruption?
I will be working on increasing transparency and having plenty of people in the cabinet who are promising new leaders to try and bring new blood into leadership.
What are your plans for small regions?
Befriend the regions that are worth befriending, defend the ones that need defending!
My last question, what more do you want to bring on the table than your previous Prime Ministerial term?
I want to keep up with the promises I made better than last time.
Prime Minister Nakarisaune is not revealing a lot at this stage, but it’s clear that she is determined to follow through on her campaign platform. Only time will tell if she’s able to keep those promises or not.
After much deliberation, the winner was declared to be Mzeusia, and below is their winning entry.
It was an exceptionally strong field of entries, but Mzeusia's stood out, in the end, owing to their original use of description. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did -
Erinor, Minister of Regional Affairs and Competition Judge.
A Tale of Two Summers
The pastry shop hadn’t been very busy when Mikos had entered, and half an hour later, business still hadn’t picked up. Fladlovia, the man sitting opposite the Mzeusian nodded and stood, putting on his jacket. The stiff professionalism Mikos had come to expect from this man was laced with the tension of their recent conversation but Mikos stood, extending his hand for a shake. They shook and despite the efforts of the muggy summers day to eviscerate any good spirits, what had been accomplished here had been fruitful.
“After you,” Fladlovia said, gesturing with a freshly gloved hand.
“Thank you, but I think I’ll stay a little. I’ve heard the Rashka is particularly good here and my wife has been wanting something to keep her company while I’m gone.”
There was a brief smile from the man. “Yes, the Rashka are very good.” He nodded, saying “I’ll leave you to it,” before walking out. Mikos watched the man go before turning to the café counter. It didn’t take long before he was walking back to the embassy, a warm pastry swaddled in greaseproof paper tucked under his arm.
The lamp was dim and occasionally flickered, pasting Mikos’s hunched shadow on the drab wallpaper as if attempting to show images from a broken Zoopraxiscope. Mikos sat at a desk, tie lopsided, suit slightly rumpled, pale hands zipping in tandem across a typewriter. The near-unbroken clacking of keys drowned out the solemn chatter beyond the door. His frantic motions came to an abrupt end, and after a glance at his watch, Mikos read over the report. Satisfied, he snatched it from the machine’s grasp with a crisp tear and folded it inside an envelope.
Within a few minutes, it had been delivered to the head of the embassy and would shortly begin the journey to Mzeusian territory. Inside that envelope was a detailed account of the day’s events, including the conversation in the café and its many implications. After handing it over, Mikos took a seat at the desk again. He adjusted the typewriter and placed his fingers on the keys. This time he took longer. Several moments were spent in thought, with many more punctuated by sighs and grinding teeth.
Thank you for your last letter. It’s wonderful to know that the repairs are going well. I can’t wait to be back to you. You must be enjoying the warmer summer. I’m glad the weather’s so good over there because the summers here are nasty things. Far too hot for my taste. Maybe it’s all these buildings trapping the heat in? I am sorry I can’t tell you when I’ll be back. The work at the embassy has only intensified since my last letter, but they tell me I’ll be home before the end of next month. At least that’s something, eh?
I’m constantly thinking of you walking in the woods beside the house. The nearest woods from the embassy is an hour’s drive, and from the hotel it is even longer. Still, when I can get out there, I always end up remembering our own walks. Again, I’m sorry things had to happen this way. Send my regards to the village when Yitnos come,
P.S. I have it on good authority that what I sent you is good. I hope you enjoy.
With all my love,
Mikos mopped his forehead with a handkerchief, pursing his lips and grimacing. Allowing his desires to rule him would be the height of carelessness so he wrote no more. By relaying the wrong information, he could be putting not only his life in danger, but quite possibly the lives of many of his comrades. The Mzeusian intelligence agency hadn’t gotten such a fearsome reputation by employing lackadaisical agents, and his years of training had steeled him to the prospect of telling half-truths and outright lies.
The city outside was a mixture of grey, black and beige. Mikos looked away, gripped the handle of a desk drawer, and pulled. The smooth sound of wood against wood calmed him, and he took out a photo. The photo depicted himself and his wife on a walk. They had gone halfway up one of the mountains, the rest of which could be seen charging ever upward and out of the frame. To the left of the photo, the mountain dropped away, and a forest could be seen, its vibrant green dazzling in the morning light. Out of the shot, the couple’s home slept, its wood fire not yet lit, the knifes and forks
laid out for breakfast.
The trees of the forest were evergreens, so despite the current season, there would be little change on a surface level. On the other hand, the embassy Mikos was cloistered away in was surrounded by the spread-eagled mass of an unchecked, unplanned city. The sun there was still occupied with the business of clawing its way through the clouds. Acting as swiftly as a monarch restored to the throne after a civil war, it had taken hold of the city upon its rise, casting unrelenting heat down every cowering alley, ripping through each windowpane and barrelling into the unairconditioned city. In response, the populace moaned and gritted their teeth, preparing for another sweltering day.
As he shifted on his chair, Mikos frowned, his attention caught by the incessant buzzing of a fly that was perched on the photo frame. With a grimace, he waved the fly away and shut the photo in the drawer.
With his work done for the day, he drove to the hotel. The anguished faces of the hotel staff and guests greeted him as he stepped inside. Mios ignored them all, heading for the elevator and up to his room. All seemed as he had left it, that is to say, clean but bugged. It was to be expected of course. Every embassy staff member had their hotel rooms bugged but nothing could be done. To get rid of the bugs would have only raised suspicion. Instead, meetings were conducted in a secure room in the embassy or at in a local business.
Mikos undressed, the cool air relaxing him as he stood in just a pair of boxers and a string vest. He lay upon the cool covers and exhaled. The Mzeusian festival of Yitnos was just around the corner. His wife would be in attendance no doubt, but Mikos himself would have to miss it. It was one of his favourites, and he had made his wife promise to tell him about it in a letter. Memories of party games, food and drink, prayers and stories were finally allowed to emerge from behind the mask Mikos had constructed for his work. Although his current assignment was a risky one and the most dangerous parts still had yet to come, he pushed that aside, willing the gentle thoughts of warm summers in Mzeusia to take him away.
Six days later, in Mzeusia, Anna peeled off the rubber gloves and dropped them by the door. She wiped her shoes on the mat and looked towards the garden. After an hour, the stinging nettle patch had been thoroughly eradicated and the plants watered. Now, lying by her feet were the broken carcasses of the fallen nettles. She would prepare and boil them into tea later on. For now, a shower was more important.
It was the cool water thundering onto Anna’s back that drowned out the clang of the letter slot opening and closing. Consequently, she only noticed the letter and package many hours after the shower. She read the letter while standing by the door and read it again and again. She moved into the kitchen, set the letter aside and opened the package. The wrapping was thick and the pastry she discovered inside was undamaged. A note was included in the box. Her husband’s handwriting.
Apparently, it’s a local specialty. I thought you might like it. Always thinking of you.
Anna smiled, the memory of Mikos’s face on her mind. She looked at the pastry, sitting amidst the wrapping, fluffy, golden and coated in icing. Despite being on opposite sides of a continent, she smiled, knowing Mikos’s familiar hand had touched the paper the pastry had been wrapped in. She stretched her arm out, fingers brushing the top of the pastry. It felt to her that they were almost touching again. So close, with only a thin paper barrier between them. Her fingers came away with a few flakes of icing stuck to them. As the golden light of a Mzeusian summer evening gazed into the room, tears gathered at the corners of Anna’s eyes before falling.
I’ve just received the letter and pastry. I’m sorry things are so horrid where you are but at least we have a rough date for when you’ll be back! I haven’t tasted the pastry yet, but I will do soon. Sorry, but I’ve already had dinner and couldn’t wait to write back. I hope the work eases off and the weather improves. The weather forecast here says the summer is shaping up to be ideal for hiking in the next week or so. I bet you miss hiking. We can hike every day when you get back.
Al is fine here. I’m sure you’ll be missed at the Yitnos Festival but I’ll pass on your regards to everyone. I’d send a little bit of our summer to you if I could!
Loving you loads,
Several weeks later, Mikos took a seat in the same café. Fladlovia was late, which wasn’t like him, so Mikos watched the street beyond. The heat had refused to disperse, and the pedestrians voices their anger in quiet grumbles, faces screwed up in sweaty discomfort as they passed. A mother dragged her moaning child along the street, a man rushed the other way, a bead of sweat traversing the terrain of his wrinkled temple. Five minutes passed and Fladlovia appeared in the doorway. He removed his hat and stepped into the room, making his way to Mikos’s table, and taking a seat.
“Was there a problem?” Mikos asked.
"That’s good to…”
“Mikos,” Fladlovia said, cutting the Mzeusian off. “Mr Pholitas, my government is getting…anxious. I’m not sure how long I can stave off their suspicion.”
“What are you saying?”
Fladlovia wetted his lips, eyes flicking to the entrance. “I need to be extracted or my cover will...” His look conveyed a fear Mikos had only seen a few times before. Fladlovia continued. “I need to leave the country. How soon can your government do this?”
Mikos was silent for a minute, staring at the broken portable fan he could see over the shoulder of the other man. “I can’t be sure. Maybe within a week.”
Fladlovia nodded. “Well, let’s hope that will be soon enough.”