It is recommended to read the side-story Scornful Steel before reading this scene.
44th of the Postill’s Dew, 2031 D.C.E
Federation of Northern States, Republic of Rhinea — Hotel Reich
Well into the night, Union’s fundraiser and celebration continued with guest speakers, music, and more and more rounds of drinks. In the midst of all this, however, Bertholdt Stein was pulled off to the side by his campaign manager and carefully ushered out of the room. He waved at passersby and told everyone who asked that he would be right back down; but he had an important meeting and had to be prompt and discrete.
Stein took an elevator up to the ninth floor with his campaign manager and personal secretary in tow. From the elevator, there was one room to the left with a young woman standing in front of the door, and she led them inside and followed behind them. She was a rare sight. Messy black air, brown skin, and a round face, soft-featured, dressed in a black pants-suit with a red ascot and a silver pocket-watch chain. She was not very tall, but she was lean, tomboyish, and had tough-looking hands. He couldn’t tell if she was an Ayvartan or from Pelagos, because her dark eyes weren’t quite as angled as an islander’s.
“This way.” She said. Her Nochtish was almost impeccable.
Past the door, the room was modest for the Reich, with one bed, a bathroom, a desk and some chairs. It was fairly small, with room for one modest occupant. It was the sort of room that would be scandalous for these two women to share; though Stein didn’t judge.
“Thank you for joining us, Mr. Stein. Please have a seat. I apologize for the elbow-room.”
Stein sat on the edge of the bed, close to their hostess. His secretary and campaign manager took chairs at his request, while the door-woman stood behind everyone with a reserved expression. He was not someone who made any appearances for his class.
Sitting in one of the desk chairs, turned to face the door, was the woman Stein had come to meet. She was dressed extravagantly compared to her companion. Her silk blazer was patterned sky blue and gold, and her pants a light grey. She had golden hair tied into a conservative ponytail by way of a simple uncolored rubber band, and she wore a pair of thin spectacles perched on her gentle nose. Crystal-blue eyes gently appraised Stein. She was a beautiful woman; Stein thought the boyish suit was meant to dull that radiance.
“I am Alicia Kolt. I am enchanted to meet with all of you.” She reached out a hand and shook with Stein, his campaign manager and secretary. Her white-gloved hand was soft and slender, like the rest of her. She had a strong grip but did not dwell on it nor employ it frivolously. It was as if she was trying to hold their hands like someone held a tool during work. She sat with a perfect posture and spoke in a passionate voice. “I apologize for being scant in my communications, and I’m glad we could find the time to meet here. I want you to know I remain as committed as ever to invest in Union despite the personal difficulties I have encountered. Whether or not you accept my overtures, Mr. Stein.”
“I see no reason to decline them. Are there any?” Stein asked. He knew a little about the daughter of the Kolt family. She was a Kolt like Rescholdt-Kolt, the military-industrial machine behind a lot of Lehner’s military modernization. Formed from a partnership of two companies, Rescholdt Future Technologies and Kolt Engineering, the firm now collectively designed and implemented almost all the ground vehicles in the army.
Whether Alicia had any stake in the company or sway with it, that he did not know.
“Well, my close involvement with labor has come under some scrutiny.” She said.
“Unions are not poison to me.” Stein said. It was one of his slogans and it came out of him as naturally as the next one. “I was part of the biggest union in Nocht: our armed forces.”
Alicia seemed mildly amused by this. Stein thought he heard a groan from the back.
“Yes, but it’s different when your father is a major industrialist.” Alicia said. “And oh, I realize I’ve been very rude to my dear,” she paused for the briefest moment, “friend, and companion.” She gestured graciously to the woman behind them. “Marit Hale, she could be called a pioneering labor activist. She took part in the Pelagic strikes last year.”
Stein looked over his shoulder with a curious expression. “Marit Hale? Aren’t you the girl who stood in front of the tank on Iron Isle? Amazing. Your bravery is commendable.”
Marit adjusted her ascot nervously and averted her gaze. “Activist is a bit much. I really just help Alicia– Ms. Kolt out a little with getting folks moving and organized is all.”
“Hell, if that ain’t activism nothing is.” Stein said. “Don’t sell yourself short.”
Marit did not answer him, and kept staring at the wall, a little red in the face.
Alicia smiled. “Marit is indispensable to me. And after we met, I realized that as someone who shares a name with war profiteers, I couldn’t sit back and quietly inherit that sort of legacy. There’s Iron Isles everywhere, and people like Marit suffering. Your speeches caught my attention, and your recent popularity has given me a lot of hope.”
“I’m taking that Lehner down.” Stein said. There was an edge to his voice. “No question.”
Alicia nodded her head. “Mr. Stein, I hope you will be discrete with this information, but Marit and I helped organize the Plantation Strikes earlier this month. But our organizing efforts are nascent. After Iron Isle, everyone feels a little hopeless. With all that Marit suffered, and what I saw, we couldn’t let this go on, but it felt impossible to have an effect. But even though the fire in Iron Isle was quenched, it led to a loss of production equivalent to an entire Panzer Division, and that gave me hope for stopping this war.”
Stein felt a slight disagreement but he didn’t air it then. As a soldier of this nation, he felt that the best way to stop the war was electorally: by beating Lehner, getting in office, and striking a deal with the weakened Ayvarta that they would surely sign and bring the boys home. He didn’t completely agree with getting their weapons sabotaged. An uncharitable part of him wondered if Alicia and Marit had red in their hands. Had men died without those tanks? Did men starve as a ripple effect of things like the plantation strikes?
He did not say those things because it was not good politics. He was not running on an anti-war platform, he was running on an anti-Lehner platform. But anti-war folks were part of his big tent. Ayvartan citizens of Nocht were part of it. And labor was a huge part of it. Alicia and her vast Kolt coffers could also definitely be part of it. So he kept quiet.
“Marit helped me decide to fight.” Alicia said. Marit seemed to almost melt in the back of the room, so flustered she turned her back entirely on the meeting. “But all I had was more money than sense. The Plantation Strikes were clumsy, and people got hurt, but in the end we managed to get concessions out of the government. All of it helped me realize you need more than money and a willingness to help. You need an organization and acumen. That’s why we’re turning to you. Mr. Stein, if you convince me that you can be everything Achim Lehner is not, you can have everything that we’ve built so far.”
Alicia produced a folder from her desk and handed it to Stein. Inside were documents for a little firm called Horizon Mobilizations, which boasted of sizable accounts, numerous assets, and contacts for union machines in fifteen districts, including all those once involved in the Plantation Strikes, as well as an inventory of other useful contacts like lawyers, journalists, politicians, academicians and a few sympathetic industrialists.
That was more generous than any of his other single donors so far. Stein already had quite a few unions expressing tentative support, and he was sure if he kept saying what they liked to hear they would come into his camp loud and proud on election day. But if what she was saying was true, Alicia, and Marit, had credibility, and hands-on info.
He passed the folder to his campaign manager, who seemed a mixture of skeptical and impressed. Because it was his job to be skeptical, the fact that he was also impressed was a good sign to Stein. He returned the documents to Alicia and shook her hand too.
From behind them, Marit then approached the assembled guests and laid a suitcase down on the desk. She unlocked and opened it, briefly flashing numerous stacks of Mark bills that lined every centimeter of the case’s interior. Stein had barely been able to look at it before Marit turned it away with a cheeky expression, as if teasing them all.
“We can start with that, and then I can cover other expenses as needed.” Alicia said.
“You drive a hard bargain.” Stein laughed.
“How do you feel now, Mr. Stein?”
“I don’t like to decide things overnight, Ms. Kolt, but I would like to meet again, and to have our lawyers chat, and figure out how we can focus our efforts to seize the capitol.”
“Thank you Mr. Stein. If I may be an allowed an unreasonable request, I would like a few minutes of your time alone to speak one on one on a particularly sensitive subject.”
Stein’s campaign manager and secretary gave him a quizzical look. He smiled, amused by the invitation. He had come in with reservations, but Alicia seemed so formidable now that he couldn’t say no. For the kind of money she seemed ready to throw down, a five minute sit-down behind closed doors was nothing. He raised his hand and nodded, indicating his willingness to stay, and eagerness to get his staff out the door.
Once the room was clear of Stein’s entourage, Marit approached and handed Stein another folder, much like the last one. It was innocuous until opened. There were a lot of grainy of photographs, electrophoto copies of documents and schematics, and a few pictures of a tank and several complicated parts. Stein didn’t know what to make of it, and he felt uncomfortable thinking about what it could be and where it came from.
“Miss Kolt, could you explain what I’m looking at? What are your intentions here?”
Alicia smiled with just a little less energy than before. “Mister Stein, many of those documents concern a prototype tank under development at Rescholdt-Kolt, known as the M4PX Sentinel ‘Heavy-E’. Though the tank itself is mostly a normal Sentinel tank of the type my family’s company is now largely responsible for, the engine is notable.”
From the desk, Alicia withdrew an extendable pointer, and she picked through the documents from afar while Stein watched. She stopped on a diagram of the tank, and pointed at the rear, where the engine cover was. There were big grates over the engine, and in the diagram there were heat ripples drawn and marked ‘heavy ray escape’. There was a sleeve of something called Osmium installed in bands around the engine armor, inside and out, and ominously labeled ‘annihilation sphere regression sleeve.’
“It is powered by a fuel cell crafted from a material referred to variously as Quintite, Agarthite and recently Lehnerite. Mister Stein, this material is under heavy research and development by the Lehner administration, and its implications quite frighten me.”
She showed him photographs of the material and its acquisition. There were photos of people with low-pressure hoses, squirting water at cave walls that were then frozen with canisters of something else. Across several photographs he saw the process of cutting into the wall, freezing water around a chunk of stone, extracting the ice-encased ores and then melting it, metal, ice and all, to reveal an almost alien piece of material. It was a chunk of rock, clearly unrefined, but it appeared to be composed of perfect little cubes.
“There have been 18 deaths in the mining, processing and implementation of the experimental Agarthite cells that the government has covered up.” Alicia continued. “Mister Stein, you might inherit command of these processes next year if you win. Agarthite is extremely dangerous. I will support you only if you help me publicize the truth about Agarthite, and support a clear platform that unilaterally condemns its use.”
Stein was about to tell Alicia that he could not in good conscience leak information from the government if he intended to run in this race; he was already facing pressure from Liberty die-hards and extremists who called him a communist and a traitor just for wanting to end the Ayvartan war, or for running against Lehner at all. Lehner would absolutely bury him if he revealed this information. She must have acquired it through her Kolt connections. But just because the government had some leaks did not make it excusable to gather the water and dump it into the town well. This was serious stuff.
Then he turned a page by himself, and nearly jumped out of his seat with fright.
There were pictures of massive holes in the ground and in walls, perfectly smooth; of people with cube-pattern lacerations and wounds; people with strange lumps on their bodies; and corpses that could only barely be called human anymore in shape. Stein almost felt like he was staring at something anathema to reality. It hurt his brain to contemplate the shapes he was trying to perceive, and he turned away from it in pain.
“I don’t understand. Can this be real? How did you come upon this?” Stein said.
Alicia averted her gaze. “We Kolts have our ways, Mister Stein. Consider my proposal.”
Stein wanted dearly to forget he had seen anything about this, but beneath the campaign trail bluster, there really was something in him that wanted to see justice done. He was not entirely the man he sold himself as — nobody was — but he was enough of a man to follow his own convictions from time to time. He wanted to know more. He wanted someone to answer for what he’d seen and what Alicia claimed. Everything was too complicated for that moment on that night, and he was feeling terribly exhausted.
“Miss Kolt, we’ll talk. That’s all I can say right now. I must go.” Stein confessed.
Alicia smiled. “Thank you, Mister Stein. I hope you will come to the right decision.”
Marit Hale approached and took the folder from Stein. He gladly gave it up, as if he were handing her a hot coal. He was relieved to have it off his hands. It was thoroughly vile.
He composed himself quickly, putting everything out of his mind but the meetings ahead.
There was a lot more to do that night still, a few people to convince, speechifying to do.
Stein shook Alicia’s hand, exchanged some final pleasantries, complimented her servant’s sharpness, and trying not to think about ‘Agarthite’, he left the hotel room.
When he was well out of earshot, the two girls sighed gloomily.
“Don’t fret.” Alicia said.
“Ugh. Should we go also?” Marit asked, not letting the room settle too much.
Alicia was also quick to keep the energy going.
“Let’s stay and have a drink together. We have this nice room to all to ourselves. I’ve spent enough time in conferences. Let’s just lie down together for the night.”
“God, finally. I’d love that. I was starting to think I’d have to stare at these people gorging themselves all night and I’d never get to have anything. I’ll call room service.”
“Hey, you sound more excited for the food than me.”
Marit grinned at her. “You’re part of the food.”
And in that way they went about their business.
This would turn out to be a fateful decision for both of them.
Federation of Northern States, Republic of Rhinea — Junzien
The Hotel Reich hadn’t seen such a busy night in months. There was a crowd out front, people filing in and out. There was more street traffic in this blizzard than there had been in the most comfortable nights of the dawning Spring. There was a lot of energy. Everyone was talking about how Stein had come to challenge Lehner in his home town.
Whether they agreed or not, people of all social classes felt a strange excitement about the prospect even in the gloom brought about by the war and its uncertainties.
Niklas Todt watched the people come and go from an alley some distance away.
He stared at the Reich and he felt disgust and betrayal, a loss of something sacred.
All of those people, none of them knew. They thought they were smarter than him, but he read the right papers, listened to the right people. He knew what was really happening, and he felt sick to his stomach thinking about it. All of them thought they were smarter, they did, he knew it; he knew all the things they would say about him. But even a drop-out engineering student was smarter than the rabble. And he knew things damn it!
Years ago he’d turned out for Lehner with his frog pin proudly on his chest, to that very Hotel, the Reich. And it felt like those lights had been made for him. It made him special.
He wore that pin now as he would have a battle flag. There were traitors, conspiracies, foul demonic things happening. There were kids! Kids were involved! It was degeneracy, pure degeneracy, all of it, and he was sick, and he had to do something. Because he knew.
He read the right papers; not the fake ones! He listened to the people who didn’t lie.
It felt heavy against his chest, against his coat. His heart, but something else too.
Todt was angry, but his expression was blank. He steeled himself for what he would do.
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The following scene is purely optional fanservice and it contains graphic sexual content inappropriate for minors.
Federation of Northern States, Republic of Rhinea — Junzien, Eisern
Hot embers crackled in the furnace and by their light two dancing shadows cast upon the wall of the apartment. A bedframe creaked under the weight of the women and their passion. Shirts tore open, brassieres flew across the room. There was giggling, gasping, grasping, and the sound of a sucking kisses on lips, on necks, on breasts and bellies.
Cecilia Foss came out on top. She always seemed to.
“Had enough teasing?”
Ramja smiled as Cecilia’s hands squeezed her breasts tight for an instant. Cecilia kept her nails trimmed but she still felt a bit of a bite on her flesh and she loved it. She breathed out a little moan as her girlfriend released her, scratching against her nipples as she did.
A teasing finger trailed down Ramja’s belly; Cecilia’s other hand reached behind herself.
Ramja’s hands settled on Cecilia’s buttocks.
Cecilia grabbed hold and squeezed them, gently at first and then commandingly.
“Now, now, just relax.”
Cecilia pried Ramja’s fingers off, then took hold of something else; the teasing was over.
Ramja fell back and squirmed, stretching her legs, curling her toes, sucking in her lips with a ravenous pleasure. She was slick with sweat, moist in other places; she was warmed on that frozen night less by the furnace fire and more by the fire raging in her.
Her whole body shuddered as Cecilia touched her, her soft, warm fingers expertly seizing her where she most desired. No nails this time. Cecilia pulled with the smooth print of her fingers and pressed with the length, playing Ramja like an instrument.
In the midst of her ecstasy Ramja’s vision wavered. She smiled through rough breaths.
Atop her, Cecilia sat upright, framed naked in the firelight like a goddess. Golden hair, perfectly red lips that left their mark all over Ramja, pleasant curves. It was like a dream.
Ramja reached clumsily for a handful of her lover’s breasts.
She was pushed back against the bed in response, and she stayed back.
Cecilia dipped her head down; Ramja threw hers back, and arched herself, clawing the bed as she felt her lover’s hungry kiss on her clit. Cecilia squeezed Ramja’s soft thighs, her fingers biting against them for grip while her tongue plunged hungrily between.
“I– I love–!”
Her chest rose and fell in a sharp and irregular rhythm along with her hips. Her speech devolved into short, primal gasps in both languages that she knew. Cecilia laughed gently, briefly pausing in her ministrations. Prodding Ramja where sensitive, she said,
“I love you too.”
Cecilia stared at her lover briefly, and then turned her eyes down once more.
There was no other way she would have described it: Ramja was devoured then.
She reached down to hold her girlfriend’s bobbing head and fierce, scalding gasp left her lips. Cecilia held her legs tight as her lips locked over every fold between and seized her.
Ramja’s body tensed up and in the next instant she melted back into bed.
Her breasts rose and fell with sharp, balmy breaths. She felt a little dizzy.
Cecilia climbed on top of her with a cheeky grin and kissed her.
“How are you feeling?” She said. Breath as hot as a sauna blew over Ramja’s face.
Ramja smiled and wrapped her arms around Cecilia, pulling her close.
“I want to give back.” She said.
Cecilia averted her gaze, looking embarrassed. “You don’t have to.”
“I want to.”
“You sure? You look tired. I’m fine with leaving things this way.”
“You don’t want it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
Cecilia then dropped off to Ramja’s side, laying expectantly on her back.
“It’s just my aesthetic, you know. I’m supposed to be the playboy.”
“Oh, be quiet.”
Though nowhere near as experienced nor as elegant in her movements, Ramja obliged Cecilia’s silent desire to have her girlfriend reciprocate her. It was a desire that, for her own gimmicks, she never communicated except through innuendo, but Ramja got it.
Cecilia was far quieter during sex than Ramja was. She kept a cool face and a placid smile as Ramja’s fingers slipped into her lingerie and toyed with her. She never broke eye contact so long as Ramja was looking, and no matter how feverishly Ramja stroked and kneaded her folds. It was almost like a challenge, but Ramja was unfazed. The way her legs curled, the way her fingers opened and closed against her bedsheets, and how her hips swung, all of it was far subtler than it was for Ramja, but it was there. When Ramja touched her, she felt just the tiniest shudders, the briefest little gasps of her body.
After getting her worked up enough, Ramja’s hand pulled the lingerie right off her.
The first little loss of composure was a tiny, gleeful wince when her thong peeled off.
Ramja kneeled but continued staring up at her lover. Cecilia never broke eye contact.
That was perhaps the hottest part of it for Ramja.
There was such an intensity in her gaze!
Her eyes smoldered even as her skin shuddered and her hips bucked.
She was expectant, and Ramja was eager to deliver.
When Ramja’s lips closed over her clit it provoked just a bit more drama.
There were only so many things that a thrown-back head and a bitten lip could mean.
But even her collapse back onto the bed, her writhing satisfaction, was so elegant.
Ramja felt almost jealous of it. But she craved that look on her face.
Cecilia never said things during sex, but Ramja felt everything she needed to.
She was not as good as Cecilia, but she enjoyed the look on her face when she came.
A mixture of a grin, laughing haughtily, but straining for composure under orgasm.
“Do you take constructive criticism?” Cecilia teased, gasping a little.
“Oh my god, shut up.”
Mutually satisfied, the two lovers curled up together in bed, Ramja on her side and Cecilia at her back, stroking her midsection and kissing her neck. Ramja giggled.
“I know I’m the best girl you’ve had, for a fact.” Ramja said.
Cecilia played dumb. “Huh? Why this all of a sudden?”
“With the way you are, you’re fine if anyone uses you. I bet you barely got any in return.”
Ramja twisted around, grabbing hold of Cecilia’s breasts and kissing her on the lips.
Cecilia gasped a little, surprised, and grumbled.
“There’s just something about you Ayvartans and your ability to expose our weaknesses.”
Ramja burst out laughing. “We’re stubborn, that’s for sure.”