Serenades, chapter 11

Deviation Actions

Literature Text

eleven: i want our children to never see war or hatred
“How goes things in the Equatorial Union?”
“In the Archipelago, the PLA has everything but Selatan. In the Equatorial Union proper, Selinia has parts of the Southern Isles, and most of Gedrosia. The Council will have the whole place by 388, the way things are going. South Qataban’s quite the tough nut to crack. The Exarch is getting bold, and this is a man paranoid enough to use body doubles for public appearances. And I don’t know about you, but I’m sure the first thing I’d do if I ever found myself cut off from the world and in a brutal dictatorship is make some petrol bombs and blow something up before killing myself. For real, I mean. Sticking a pistol in my mouth and blowing out my brains real.”
“So, what about Gajanan?”
“I don’t think even a prolonged civil war can unseat him. There’s a front south of Kedira and north of Gangga Negari now. There’s a dispute between him and an Avantil woman named Haryati. She’s Hindu, still, most of the Avantil in Shurasena are ecstatic. Haryati’s offering Gajanan immunity from prosecution in exchange for his stepping down, but he’s not taking her up on it.”
“Why? The bastard ought to be locked up.”
“Because he’ll be dead by the time the Council actually manage to convict him of anything. He’s old. Rumors are flowing that he’s grooming Pramod to be his successor. A move I’d welcome, after all, as minister of culture, his taqiyya propaganda war against Avanti is why all the Avantil Hindus are firmly with the Council.”

The train reached Mediolanum in the evening. By the time we crossed the river, the sun had already sunk below the horizon, and the lights of the city were coming on. I looked down at the icy water. A snow-covered wooden barge floated on the river amongst panes of ice, corroded and rotting, tied to a post. Everything was so calm, yet desolate.
“It’s so stark,” Ava said.
“This is my first northern winter,” Marciana said.
“Hey, look. You can see Sukra and Budha. Beautiful, huh?”
“Yeah.” I said, languidly. White Budha was just above the horizon, half as bright as its citrine counterpart near the thin waxing crescent of the moon. They looked alone in the cold violet of the sky, and the emptiness made me feel insignificant.
“Shani should be around somewhere. I’m not sure about Brihaspati.”
“Brihaspati’s dim and distant. A nice blue when you look at it through a telescope. I prefer Shani, though. On Shani, it hails diamonds and there’s a storm large enough to engulf Mangal. As for Danaus and Vanessa, they’re barely visible even under better conditions. Don’t even bother with Chrysiridia.”
“They have such pretty names, the minor planets. Ceratinia, Brevioleria, Velamysta. Nica’s a minor planet, isn’t it? A really minor one, not like Danaus. Hm, Cyrenia is one too.”
“There’s a Nikku in South Qataban.”
“But who wants to go there, if they’re even allowed?” Marciana said.
“Would-be revolutionaries?” Ava chimed.
We reached the other side of the river, during the conversation, and were now looking at single-family houses covered in moon-illuminated snow. She kissed my cheek.

Banners that proclaimed “Welcome to Democratic Mediolanum,” and unflattering portraits of National politicians with warnings about demagoguery were hung amongst paintings of the Civil War here. We went upstairs to the main lobby, which had huge glass windows, potted grevillea and cycads, a volumetric imager information booth depicting a mantis-eyed skinny humanoid surrounded by question marks, slightly miscalibrated and given a tripartite aureole of red, blue, and green phantoms of itself, public art installations including carved wood or ceramic masks above the door we arrived in, a fountain with lily pads and a sculpture of fused porcelain faces.
“What else happened during our stint in prison?”
“Total disaster for Labour. I’ll show you. Oh, wait, there aren’t any public Network terminals here that work. It’s nothing like Hindana. Um, when we get to the place we’re staying, ok?”
“Selinia’s blocking it, still?”
“No, people tell me they never worked. I suspect that they just put a hollowed out screen in there to save money.”
“Ava! You’re all right. I heard you were sent to the Spire of Justice.”
“Yeah, I was,” and then she remarked to me “She had even shorter hair when I met her. It’s cute but sometimes I wish she’d keep it long.”
“We wanted to come get you, but you know how things were,” Veridiana said. Her hair was bobbed now, and she had a fuchsia gilet, shirt embroidered with roses and lilacs, long skirt and white macrame belt, and a variety of colorful plastic necklaces and bangles on. “We heard about the meeting with Lepidus.” Mansuetus was with her, with a plastic vial of blue liquid and silver shards hanging from a chain of iron beads, and dressed in a loose-fitting tan wool jacket decorated with three pins; a Knights of the Cross emblem with four saber-wielding arms in a gammadion crossed out, the phrase “freedom to the people” and “Fuck the SWP”, black pants, a red, white, brown, and goldenrod striped scarf, a red silk ascot, horn-rimmed glasses. There were fresh scars on his left cheek and hand.
“What happened, Mansuetus?” Ava asked.
“Someone threw a glass bottle at me when I protested the scorched earth policies in Dakyanus. There was something in it; it burst when it hit the ground. Got some scars on my chest too, and some burn marks on my legs.”
“Gah. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“And, of course, someone told me I had the free speech to denounce a mob, but some idiot magistrate told me that defending my right would come to the injury of my own body. I was wearing a balaclava, and I’m sure that’s illegal too, but I don’t care because I don’t want to risk retribution from anti-socialist paramilitary bastards.”
“We have no fucking rights here.”
“That reminds me. Somebody else must want to see you.”
“How does what I said remind you?”
“You’ll find out when you get there.”
“So, how did you know where we were?”
“Not the newsfeed, they’ve been doing their best to hide that from us, although I don’t know why, I’d think the masses would be more outraged they slapped some bollocks charges on you instead of charging you with everything they could. I was worried when you didn’t call me for a week, so I dug a bit deeper and found out about the trial. I’m sorry it took so long, I had no idea where you were, and I had to wait for Marciana.”

“I see how things are. In Tarentum, they demand you get up. Here, they don’t have the clout they had so they just avoid you.”
“I see that a lot in Nicopolis, especially from people coming here from the, frankly, uncivilized East. They really can’t force a minority to stand if they want to sit down, and they can’t make a big scene about it, either. So they just stand there and resent you for being who you are.”
“It’s making me depressed, that we’ll never be able to get away from this kind of shit.”
“If it makes you feel better, I’ll sit next to you too,” Veridiana said.

The lobby was a depression in the ground around a thick pillar of reinforced concrete, with brown hexagonal tiles and gray concrete walls and gleaming chrome escalators.
“Seems rather brutalist, don’t you think? I like the design, but would it hurt to add a bit of detailing?” Marciana said. We reached the top of the escalator, and from there, I could see that the hexagonal tiles formed an intricate mandala, and a tower was built over the lobby. When I got outside, I saw that stairs led upwards to a door in the tower, and there was the glass tube of an elevator shaft. There was an empty snow-strewn plaza lit by street lamps and the moon. Earlier, people constructed crude snow sculptures.
“Yeah, it probably would. You know, you can always tell when something’s made by the amount of detail and even by the stylings. I guess they could just change the styling, like going back and forth from organic floral motifs to sharp facets and angles without going to no detailing at all after that.”
“It’s more lively in the summer, right?” Marciana asked.

We went to the place where Marciana arranged for us to live. There were two bedrooms and a communal area. It was a bit cramped and only had one window, but it worked.
“This is our home? Or is this temporary?” Ava asked.
“Permanent, as long as we live here.”
“Lucky you.”
“Veridiana’s in the next room over. And I brought your stuff.”
“Oh, thanks,” She picked up her guitar and sat on the bed, strung a few chords together.
Purajana held on to Ava’s leg and refused to let go.
“She’s your kid now?”
“Yeah, I figured that with everything going on in Hindana, she’s better off with me. I was going to have someone there adopt, but I wanted her away from the war.”
“I don’t know. Take it from someone who grew up in Tarentum. What are you planning to do with her?”
“Take her with me.”
“When this is over, and we have a child of our own, I want us to raise her, or him, to not think in terms of ethnic identity,” she said to me. “I want our children to never see war or hatred. It’s unrealistic, I know. But I can hope, can’t I? I’m used to disappointment.” She sighed.

“This is it. Before the election, it was like this. And now, well, I should point out that this is after the Archon gave a stirring speech about Lepidus promising power and glory but delivering nothing but ruin, declared Lepidus’ government illegitimate, and broke off from Selinia in a huff. I guess you don’t need to screw the people out of an election to gain power.”
The screen display showed this:
384 election
Senate (75 members, 25 new)
National - 40
Labour - 45
House of Commons (667 members, 222 new)
National - 305
Labour - 322
Freedom Party - 5
Democratic Socialists - 10
Selinian Workers’ Party - 5
Heritage Front - 19
Movement for Justice and Equality - 1

385 election
Senate (72 members, 5 new)
National - 50
Labour - 15
New Liberal Party - 5
Freedom Party - 2
House of Commons (653 members, 222 new)
National - 376
Labour - 155
New Liberal Party - 45
Freedom Party - 5
Democratic Socialists - 2
Selinian Workers’ Party - 19
Heritage Front - 50
New Dawn Party - 1
Movement for Justice and Equality is classified as a terrorist organization. Report all known members to the local Board of Justice division.

“Marcellian is the new chairman of Labour? Fuck! He’s just going to walk behind Lepidus, reach between his legs, and hold up his testicles.”
“What are you so worried about? We’re not ruled by the Senate anymore. We’re pretty much allowed to have something of our own, as long as we don’t try to start our own army or start diplomatic relations of our own.”
“But, but, but, this is just temporary. What if they decide they want their port and access to the sea back?”
“I don’t know.”
“And what’s this new one?”
“People like Athanasia and Landelinus who left Labour to the moderates and the syndicate capitalists, yet still want to be more mainstream than the Democratic Socialists, I think,” Marciana said.
Ava checked it out. “They support voting rights for foreign ethnic groups. Well, that’s good. And Lamalisse is their chairperson. She was Labour before.”
“Well, this is even worse. Heritage Front has 50 seats in the House of Commons? They think they’re so professional because they call me a chromophile instead of a skinny-loving whore.”
“Fuck me with a moon cactus. Not to mention the people in National that are pretty much like the Heritage Front. The difference between that chunk of National and the Heritage Front is the National Party isn’t trying to pass laws that specifically target non-Selinian residents. Oh, no, they pass laws that target non-Selinians, but make it look like it’s targeting us so-called terrorists.”
“The National members probably joined the Heritage Front once they knew National’s majority status was safe,” Marciana said. “I thought it would be the other way around, the Heritage Front being absorbed into the National Party. Maybe we will see National split back into parties for the socially reactionary xenophobes, the warmongers, and the corporatists.”
“Except for that place that banned lxpop,” I pointed out.
“What a pity.” Marciana said. “I heard the most wonderful song from Lanxang, it was a lot of percussion almost drowned out by guitar noise and feedback with these wonderful flowy vocals on top. It was like floating on an infinite, empty ocean on a distant planet. It was somehow both intimately warm and bitterly cold at the same time.”
“Remind me why the House of Commons exists, please.” Ava said.
“The Senate’s worse,” Marciana responded. “At least the House of Commons isn’t thirty percent of Selinia’s population representing half of the Senate.”
“Is there a breakdown by illustres and spectabiles?” I asked.
“I don’t see why you’d be so concerned about that. There’s not going to be any deadlocked votes and I don’t think they’ll use their veto power on Lepidus. That’s all the special powers they have. They’d get to pick the CEO in the event of a tie if we ever got to directly elect the CEO like we were promised. It’s funny, really, we tell them that it’s fine, we’ll let you have your mandatory nobility and give people seniority back when all these new parties were declared legal, but it won’t matter, so ha.”
“What’s the NDP? They’re not on our side, are they?” Marciana asked.
“I don’t think so. I think they’re like the Heritage Front and have no actual ideology or plan aside from being rabidly anti-socialist, racist, nationalistic, and militaristic while hiding behind an innocuous name, but you know, I’ve been rotting in a cell for the last month. Whomever’s there from Sirmium, that’s a good clue as to what they’re like. But who knows, you know we’re living in strange times when even Viminiacium sends a Heritage Fronter to the House of Commons.”
“Ok, who controls the Board of Judicators?” Marciana asked. “Heritage Front should not be there. And if there’s truly justice, anywhere else.”
“I think Labour still has that. Barely. As long as CEO Lepidus doesn’t declare emergency powers, they’re safe. Most of them were put there by Salomea and, uh, that guy before him, um, Guitmarus. Last National CEO was back in the 360s.”
“Sylvanus? Damn him and his ridiculous personality cult.” Marciana asked. “Not that Guitmarus was any better. He’s more a Marcellian-type. I don’t think the Board of Judicators is going to help us. And if you haven’t noticed, National has an absolute majority. Before, they had to work with the Heritage Front, which caused friction between the pro-business and expansionist wings of National and the social conservatives.”
“Yeah, Sylvanus. One of the worst since the Civil War. A fucking demigod to the Nationals, despite fucking up everything for us, or maybe because of it. The Exarch was the one making my parents miserable when we still lived in the colonies, but he had a hand in it too. Only one of his Judicators is still around, and I was hoping he’d croak while Salomea was still in power. Well, now that we’re here, I think we should find a cafe or something. I’d like to stay around and chat with you guys, but I’m feeling peckish and I’m not willing to have Marciana’s cooking for a second time. Personally, Marciana, I don’t want to know what the fuck you put in that stew. I’d rather have the shit in a can they gave us when we went to Dakyanus. I’ll give you credit for not burning the place down, though.” Marciana laughed in response to Ava’s jab at her.
“Sylvanus was charismatic enough to make his methods look reasonable. That’s why he could get away with what he did. Although some things were still a losing battle to him.”
Ava left, came back with a clean shirt, long-sleeved, close-fitting and black, dark blue jeans.
“Salomea was all right, although her domestic policy left a lot to be desired.”
“She couldn’t do anything too radical without upsetting the moderate wing of Labour It’s not her fault everything is so messed up,” Marciana said. “She did some good things. She nullified the Oriental Education Act. She reduced the requirements for citizenship to one parent rather than two. National freaked out because eventually half-Selinians would be voting and there would be educated half-Selinians in office, but by the time that happens, I think they’ll all be dead.”
“Yes, and she made it retroactive. That’s something she did right,” I said.
“Yes. She allowed anyone to obtain citizenship, but National wanted to make things difficult, and they were saying that Salomea must fail as soon as she was made CEO, that there must be total societal collapse and a second civil war. They wanted an excuse for Lepidus to seize power. You know what? We didn’t get the fucking civil war until Lepidus took over, so tell me who’s fault this was.”
“It’s too bad that even though she was pretty moderate, she was scrutinized heavily because she was the first woman in such a position. I can’t imagine what they’d do with Lucina.”
“Nothing good.”
“Heritage Front is isolationist?” I asked.
“Well, yes, they admit that a war against the East would be disastrous and think that Selinia’s time would be better spent trying to devise a biological weapon to specifically target non-Selinians, and spend most of their own time blaming Salomea, the minorities, Labour, and the socialists for their problems. I thought the last fifty or so years, we’ve made some strides forward, that the days of the Autocracy when we could be jailed for insulting the Imperator were over, that even we could make it, despite everything that’s happened in the colonies, despite Salomea’s inability to change the laws there, and despite Sylvanus’s misrule. But recently, it’s come crashing down, and with Ain Sifna’s secession and Caralis gone and the province, we have very little hope for the future.”
“We’ve never had a majority party in the House of Commons.”
“Does it matter? National was usually unified over the important things and every time they needed a majority, they could always find a few Labour members who agreed wtih them, even on an issue, say, the war, where the Heritage Front might not provide support.”
Marciana put a short-sleeved khaki shirt over her forest-green shirt.
“What do they think of Nevdasht and Bharuka, then?”
“Beats me. I can imagine they don’t want to share the border with a hostile independent nation, although, really, what can a hundred and fifty million people do against six hundred million, when the six hundred million are better armed and better trained?”
“Didn’t they read that story about the mouse? You give the New Dawn Party Nevdasht and Bharuka and soon they’re going to try to take Arachosia and Tassadessa and Mong Mao,” Marciana said, putting a glossy gray parka on.
“I think they want to build a two hundred meter high wall using slave labor to keep people from getting in and out.”

The cafe, the Bongo Hut, was smaller than the restaurant in Tarentum, and dimly lit by stained glass lamps, with wooden floors covered with carpets from the Aredvi, brick walls covered in faux-daguerrotypes and posters in broad strokes, garish black and white, saffron and scarlet. A man from the southern deserts, Shewan, by the sound of it, played a slow, mournful melody on his saxophone. Someone joined in with a guitar, flamenco style blurring and shifting into Romany. We sat in a corner, Ava and I sharing a dinner of grilled salmon with herbs and lemon slices on top, the way she thinks salmon was meant to be made, a side of black olives and green beans.
“The Saints’ Legion is offering their support to our group? Huh? I don’t trust them. They regard me as little more than an animal.”

“Can I ask you something?”
“Has Marciana ever cooked before for you? You’ve been her lifelong friend and I’ve been meaning to ask you that.”
“No, I mean, we were children when we last saw each other. And she comes back and pretty soon, she’s gone again.”
“It tastes like how I’d imagine suffering would taste if it could be given a physical form, but I was tired and hungry and she did her best, I guess. Let’s go outside.”
“I want to talk to you in private. Marciana, here’s all the money I have. It should be enough to cover the meal and a good-sized tip. Oh, hey, that blonde woman has my money.”
By now, it was night, and street lamps and neon signs illuminated the falling snow, coloring it in crimson and lavender and warm yellow.
“She means a lot to you, doesn’t she? As a friend, I mean. Why aren’t you together?” Fog from her breath formed and drifted away when she spoke.
“Because she’s always been my friend. I have a hard time seeing her as a lover.”
“Uh, I don’t understand.”
“Sorry. We parted when we were old enough to have romantic feelings for each other. A couple of years after we parted, I had recurring dreams of her. Sometimes, they were normal, sometimes they bordered on the erotic. For some reason, I always associated her with green. I moved on after that, found other women.”
“Do I remind you of anyone?”
“Not at all.”
“What were they like?”
“The only one that really meant anything, oh, except you, was my first, a saturnine sweet artsy type, Democratic Socialist voter, sort of like Veridiana with some of Cecilia’s whimsy and your fashion sense, lush dark brown hair. Her name is Adelina. We had our plans to run off together to Lauriacum, but it ended in tragedy.”
“Lauriacum, that’s about Marciana, isn’t it?
“Uh, sort of.”
“That’s why it ended, because she thought that you would have an affair with Marciana when you got there? I’m sorry, please, do go on.”
“I met a woman from Hmupura, Mai-ka, and, well, it went on a couple of months, even if she didn’t fit my expectations of Lanxangese culture. I screwed up somewhere, and she left me. I don’t think it was meant to last, anyway. We were bad for each other, but I felt too dependent on her.”
“Did you fuck?” She was as blunt as usual. I smiled. I loved how she still managed to sound winsome and sweet.
“A few times with Adelina, absinthe, fungus-tainted gruit, and laudanum once, once with Mai-ka. I don’t know what else there is to do in Axiopolis besides get completely wasted and fuck. Adelina played a few instruments, but nobody seemed to care. The music scene there was shit anyway. And you?”
“People lust after me. I can usually push them away thinking my gash will bite off their gizmo by saying I’m Kishi, because it never occurs to them that I left before the bombing happened. I had one other man in my life, but it didn’t last very long, and, really, I only wanted him for his money and a chance to escape my life. He fell in love, or rather, in lust, with me because I was exotic. I wasn’t stupid, just desperate. He was one of those types in an Acrital family who thought he could get away with abusing me because I’d just be sent back to the Aredvi if I tried to get him arrested, he added something alcoholic to my pomegranate juice, and I woke up with a headache and spunk all over my face. I figured that there was no amount of wealth that could make something like that worth it, so I told him to ravish the stork instead, that I would be leaving for Ain Sifna. He threatened to instigate a pogrom and I didn’t even bother to take it to court because I’m sure they’d just throw it away because I’m a minority and they’d accuse me of dressing provocatively, and I was already in a load of trouble for trying to hack the elevator door and for jumping over the gate to the station and getting back home through maintenance corridors so I could get my things and say goodbye to everyone. The debauchery and insane fucking excess would eventually kill him anyway. Personally, I hope the gobshite mistook some moonseeds for grapes.”
“Did you ever have sex?”
“If I had any choice, I’d still be a virgin.” A heavy feeling of sorrow washed over me. “Not with that sack of shit, I think even he knew he couldn’t get away with that much. Marciana knows. It was back in Tarentum after that trial, and it was a couple of guards displaying their power. It’s always about power, isn’t it? I was ashamed to tell you, I’m afraid that you’d tell me that nobody would rape a mixed girl if they hate her so much and that I must have done it willingly, I mean, I didn’t struggle, I tried to strangle one of them and bit him, but there were three of them and they were armed. I couldn’t just knee him in the sack. I wasn’t expecting this. Look, I can walk around in cutoffs and a bandeau anywhere on the planet and this wouldn’t happen.”
“It’s not your fault.”
“I’m sorry. I want to leave. My tears will keep me warm. You know, I really do love you.”
“I know.”
“Hey, what’s going on?” Marciana asked. “I paid for our dinner and you never came back in.”
“She wanted to go home or maybe fly away somewhere very far.” The cold air was stinging my flesh.
“She told you, didn’t she?”
“Yeah. Can we go to the subway now? It’s too cold.”
She stifled a giggle, and we went down the stairs to Mechanics’ Street Station.

Marciana showed us around when she got back home. The natatorium was decorated with potted scale plants, palms, and coiled blackwood columns, a glass and curlicued wrought iron domed ceiling, pale blue and teal and violet floor and wall tiles. The pool itself was large and circular, with an attached hot tub.
“This is the pool? It reminds me of home. Kish, not any of that stuff in Selinia. We had a communal natatorium. Well, we had one in Tarentum too, but I went there once, with a pass that I bought with the money people dropped, having to walk because the nearest station was blue. Or green. I can’t remember, not like it really matters, since I wasn’t allowed in either of them. Because we’re not allowed in certain districts like Central or Palatine without the right papers. So much effort put in to keep us out, but it does keep wealthy donors happy. And the water buffalo testicle running the place said I couldn’t get in, you know, ‘cause I’m not fucking pureblooded. So I had to walk back to my apartment, and bought a fucking worthless pass. Mind you, I was twelve and alone. It’s not as bad as Sirmium or some of the places in the East, where I hear you need to have explicit permission from the officials to get into certain parts of the city, and whenever they want to expand, they just tear down the slums and leave everyone homeless. This guy, he was a buffalo testicle who didn’t like me, and unfortunately, he had every right to deny entrance to me for whatever piss-weak reason he wanted.”
“What about in Ain Sifna?”
“Well, there was this one fuck who ran the place on Shanisday who stayed after the city became nominally independent, and a few others who left when that happened who gave me some bullshit excuse to not let me in, but most of the time I was allowed there. It was really up to the manager at the time. Oh, and I had rollerskates too. Actually, that’s true in Tarentum. In the East, I wouldn’t be able to get in if they liked me, because the person who likes me will lose his job and be fined and I’d be arrested. I’ll be back.”

Ava came back in a backless one-piece outfit, an apricot color to match her skin and decorated with prints of pink and turquoise flowers with purple and fuchsia stems and leaves, matching sandals and fingerless gloves.
“You look beautiful.”
“Eh, there’s still bruises and cuts under this. I wouldn’t want to gross you out. You can see my ribs and everything.” I could see patches of sallow ochre and purple on her hips and shoulders and back.
“No wonder it seemed so modest for you. What’s your mass?”
She frowned “Um, maybe forty-eight. Hey, you’re skinny too. You look horrible. You should eat more.”

“You can’t be sunbathing; there’s no sun. Is something wrong, or are you just sitting around waiting for people to admire you?” Veridiana asked Marciana, who was reclining in a chair reading, her sparse outfit sparkling red and purple, a silver ribbon in her hair. Veridiana was in a bandeau and bottom, a patchwork of pink and pale blue rhombus print and pink and black jaguar and pale blue with black star shapes and pink puffy clouds, ruffles and blue bows. She wore flower earrings and a collection of plastic flowers and fern leaves on a headband. Her lower back was tattooed with a a school of fish jumping out of water and transforming into a flock of butterflies. Around her neck was a close-fitting silver chain with chrome hearts hanging from a ring; armlets and bracelets of copper and jade covered her left arm.
“I’m not much of a water person.”
“Do you want an inflatable raft to lie down on?” she asked her.
“I’m fine, reading, avoiding water damage at all costs, making sure Purajana does nothing rash.”
“Hey, Purajana has a friend!” I announced.
“Is that rash?” Veridiana asked me.
“Ah, children. So innocent. I’ll never understand how we can run and laugh and swim and then grow up to be so cruel to one another. I hope they aren’t related to complete fuckups and don’t end up becoming one. Actually, you know what, I hope they are related to some complete Knight of the Cross fuckups, and then turn out like we did.”
“It’s not going to happen,” Veridiana said. “Most of the Knights of the Cross and other culture warrior shitstains hanging around here are from elsewhere in Selinia and didn’t bring their families. I’d rather they stay out of it and get adopted by better people.”
“Hey! I have patrician ancestry and there’s nothing wrong with me. But then again, I wasn’t directly related to any people like that. Ones that are alive, anyway.”
“Yeah, I noticed that on the Heritage Front’s network site.”
She made a sound like ‘gurk.’
“It was some Clairmonte that I didn’t know, though. Not you or Aloysius or Beatrice.” I said.
“How did they lose the title?” Ava continued to talk as she waded shoulder-deep in water.
“I’m pretty sure they pissed someone off and they retorted by making evidence that the family funded insurgents in the colonies or something. I’m not sure if it was other nobles or the government or something like the Northern Archipelago Trading Corporation or some combination of the three. Now we’re gradually losing wealth and have none of the power.”
“See, as much as I hate the corporate heads, they at least worked for their wealth, even if through, ahem, questionable means, instead of being born with silver spoons wedged in their asses.”
“It doesn’t matter to me. Levying taxes on their subjects to line their pockets or exploiting the workers and forcing the masses to become dependent on credit and keeping them in debt, differences mean nothing. They’re all the same, caring for nothing but wealth and power and not letting anything get in their way,” Veridiana said. “Seriously, the Nationals should go take a shit in the sea. Fuck the corporations and fuck the aristocracy.”
“So, do you remember that person’s name?”
“No, sorry,” Ava said, getting out of the water and putting on a floor-length blue skirt with gray spirals, a pink string at the waist tied in a ribbon, her necklaces, the dragon and amber bead amongst a chain of turquoise tori and copper disks, gold chains, red and mauve and violet wooden balls, colorful plastic braided into box knots. I followed.

Veridiana brought us to the Halfmoon Coffeehouse on the waterfront, lit by hanging light bulbs inside, streetlamps and twilight color streaks and the lights of other sectors of Mediolanum across the bay. It was one room, with about twenty tables. She brought a small cake covered in whipped cream and marzipan and slices of jellied fruit slices in green, yellow, red, and blue arranged on the side, clusters of maraschino cherries and rahat, a rim of gelatinous confections shaped like raspberries and blackberries. She was dressed in a billowing skirt, colorful leggings and brightly colored waterproof boots, a black coat with a red, yellow, and blue tricolor pin and a blue and green pin with a red wheel on it, a green and white shirt, and a colorful scarf. On her left eye was a crowned scythe fish in blue and orange face paint; her right eye had a solar corona of lime green.
“My birthday isn’t until the end of summer, you know. And was there a festival today that I missed?”
“I know. It’s to welcome you back. Are you asking about the fish? I just felt like it. There aren’t enough people left in the city for a festival, and it’s so cold anyway.”
“This stuff is good,” I said.
“I know. Better than the snacks I had in Lanna. I’m sure the cute packaging was just there to cover up something toxic. Everything else was good, though.”
“Like me attempting to cook this?”
“Something like that, Marciana, only with less fire.”
“I’ve never done that! So, have you ever been to Yunan?”
“Yeah. Everything is sickeningly cloying saccharine cute there.”

Ava, Veridiana, and I stopped at the art gallery. There was a lone Geralese man dressed in jeans and boots and a flight jacket with his homeland’s flag on it, staring at a display of roiling and shifting green and blue cloud patterns, disturbed with circular ripples from our footfalls. The wooden floor was bathed in dancing light, the polish reflecting the clouds.
“There was a gallery with art from the East, but some Saints Legion paramilitary fucks went in and smashed all the pottery and sculpture and tore the paintings as part of a coordinated attack throughout Selinia and the colonies. This was a month ago, before we became nominally independent. Basically, this gallery is neglected and neglectful. Our benevolent new government has done little to solve these problems. As much as the Selinian leaders ever did. Our group needs more strength. We didn’t all come here from across Selinia so that all the pro-National shitcamels and reactionary culture warriors who can’t handle a bit of nudity in art galleries could walk over us.”
“Yeah. That thing works.”
“Yes, the artist just sent us a new disk and the gallery bought a new screen for the display. I don’t even get why they destroyed it. It’s synchronized to sounds.” Tendrils of viridian and violet danced to our voices. “Once, I tried to do something like this with a clarinet and a volumetric imager taped to it. It was heavy and unwieldly and didn’t work as well as I thought it would. Plus I can’t play the damn thing anyway.”

Canal Street Station was aboveground, wood painted green, peeling, and starting to rot, broken in a few places revealing metal stanchions, below us, ditches and torn apart road and other signs of abandoned construction, apparently being reappropriated as defensive fortifications against the loyalists and their paramilitaries. We had a view of the river from here, and across it, black and slate-gray spires and domes lit with red, yellow, and a few blues, and brick and granite buildings. Sitting down was a Yunanese woman dressed entirely in glossy black, her hair held in a tight ponytail.

“Well, I have another dinner to go to. You’re welcome to come with me. Marciana, too.”
Mediolanum is a syncretion of Boston, the Pacific Northwest, and Paris. Pacific Northwest for the whole Northwest Homeland bullshit and that's the extent of the influence, and I've seen pictures and films in Paris. Don't try to see too much of the real in it. Just think of it as a dream version of those cities.

Viridiana is a Spanish/Mexican film banned from 1961-1977. Who's to blame for that? Fascism! Anyway, I'm going to say this. If my work is banned in any fascist state, say, Christian Exodus' dream of an independent South Carolina or the neo-Nazi's Northwest Migration, or maybe Switzerland, I will view it as the greatest honor anyone can bestow.

Names of the planets are Sanskrit. The inner ring of asteroids and minor planets are butterflies, while the outer ring are moths. Vanessa, the largest, refers to the Red Admiral, and it is hotly debated whether the opera has associations with dwarf planets. There is no Phionella, as phionella is in fact part of a thought experiment involving a bunch of sea slugs that have a gradual increase in the salinity of their water, and not a butterfly.

The Heritage Front was a Canadian neo-Nazi organization. New Dawn is from some shite Neo-Nazi song.

Chromophile - used by some useless folk who deem themselves race realists. You know, that whole pseudo-intellectuality meets racism thing.

South Korea banned Japanese cultural imports since 2000, even if there's very little that's Japanese about J-Pop. Lxpop can be described as a syncretion of dreampop, the music from Arjuna, and trip-hop.

Demigods to the Republicans. Everyone in the US should know who I'm talking about.

Bongo Hut comes from a conversation. I consider this to be one of the best things I've written.

Saturnine sweet, uh, I think that's part of a Smashing Pumpkins song.

There have been many incidents of fascists destroying art.

It has occured to me that this deviation has 65 people with this as as a favorite. This must be a bug, as this is not a Final Fantasy IV meets Harry Potter fanfiction in which the characters are not foxes or leopards or unholy syncretions of a fox, a tiger, and a panda. Also, when I click on [who?], it's blank. And there's one view.
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