Townsend [commander of US forces in Europe] - > Petraeus [Secretary of Defense]
We are expecting an incident with the Yugoslavians at any moment. More incidents near Klagenfurt, Szeged, and Timisoara. All forces on high alert.
Petraeus - > Townsend
Rumsfeld authorizes usage of superhuman strike teams on Yugoslavian bases if Yugoslavians go too far.
Townsend - > Petraeus
What of the Stewards? Are they planning anything?
Petraeus - > Townsend
They want to see us in action before they do anything. Nevertheless they are still in Modling and are likely observing us through other channels.
Townsend - > Petraeus
Understood. Has Rumsfeld said anything about nukes?
Petraeus - > Townsend
Only if necessary. He wants the Stewards to think we're kind. After all they are the ones with cannons in orbit. But don't worry, we are sending some special superhumans to be at your disposal - including the one at Santa Monica.
Annette knew she could teleport almost anywhere else other than the charred ruins of her hometown, but she didn't want to. She was simply overwhelmed, and did not have the mental fortitude to do such a thing again, and would not for a long time.
She wandered the remains of what was once Greater Los Angeles. She could sense that there were new psionic forces arriving on this planet. She felt like she could interact with them, but she chose not to.
It was for days she rambled about the ruin, not talking to anyone, eating whatever little she could find.
She looked back. This was something clearly mundane, not psionic. Accompanying the words was the whir of helicopter rotors.
Accompanied by an armed guard was John Gonzalez, the scientist who had ultimately made the decision to give her these powers.
"Gonzalez," she said as she retained formality (through her own psionic power of course), "what are you doing here?"
"We've been searching for you for some time now. Apparently what you did drained a lot of your own energy and so your psionic emissions were weaker, and we couldn't tell you apart from normal people from infrared and satellite scans. Now, though we found you."
"And for what purpose?"
Gonzalez grimaced. "The President needs you to lead a crack team of superhuman operatives in the main assault against Yugoslavia."
"An assault on Yugoslavia? What?"
"You have a lot of catching up to do," he said.
"What of Bakos and Ormanni and Wheeling?" she asked him about her former compatriots.
"If all goes well you will see them again, after this mission. Rumsfeld has a lot in store for you."
None of this made any sense to Annette. Aliens to whom the US government was beholden? An international force to be sent to other worlds?
And she was to lead them?
She didn't want to. But when she was shown the footage of their landing, she recognized them. When she had received her powers among the visions she had seen was a battle between two great fleets in space, one colored a silvery blue. Those were these Stewards. Who else were they? She didn't know. But they were here, and they could destroy this planet.
So she would lead them.
But first, she was to take down a rogue dictator in Yugoslavia.
As the plane she was taking to Modling touched down, Gonzalez introduced her to a team of superhumans, seven in number. They all wore combat fatigues with white and red accents, with a shoulder patch she recognized as the coat of arms of the District of Columbia.
"I would like to introduce you to the Magnificent Intentions," explained Gonzalez. "A new team being nurtured by the Defense Department. As an attempt to better represent our nation's capital, they are all from the Washington, D.C. area.
Their leader walked forward. She was a blonde woman, just under six feet. "Allison Campbell, otherwise the Taser," she introduced herself, with just a hint of self-absorption.
Annette could sense that this woman was a pampered little girl who simply happened to have superpowers. She reminded her of the annoying white liberals of metropolitan Los Angeles, where she had grown up. This young woman was thoroughly convinced of her own intellectual and moral superiority, she could sense. She nevertheless said nothing.
She sat through the introductions, giving token words after each of them. After Campbell had introduced herself, she conversed only in psionic emissions; they were a bit taken aback but they figured out the point of her actions.
When all was said and done, she turned to Gonzalez. "Since this is done, would it be permissible for me to test my powers? In the air, of course, and no property damage."
"That actually was the intention," remarked Gonzalez. "Go ahead."
She nodded, and looked into the sky. She focused at one particular point, and there she was.
She zipped and zapped over the skies, opening the occasional portal. It worked.
She made one teleport, and was for a moment surprised by a tremendous noise. Her eyes darted to the left and beheld a fighter jet barreling right towards her. However her reflexes were not fast enough, and she collided with the plane.
As she fell, she teleported herself to the ground. She saw the wreckage of the plane tumble down. On one chunk, she saw a roundel, but not the white star of the United States Air Force, nor the white triangle on a red circle of the Austrian air force.
The bunker under the fortress of Belgrade was packed with generals and admirals and air marshals and other such people. Above the fortress was the statue of Pobednik, the Victor, who commemorated Serbia's victory in its wars. Apropos of both past and present situations, it looked towards Austria.
Black George was decidedly not content with their chatter. He merely sat at the head of the table and listened halfheartedly. It had been twenty minutes since the American superwoman had destroyed one of his planes, and the options were to strike or not to strike.
"We need to respond now! We need to take down Modling before the Americans can respond!" blurted out general Milosevic. Black George trusted Milosevic but found him to be rather grandiose at times.
General Karadzic backed Milosevic. "Do it! Listen to Slobodan and get it done! They will pummel us!"
There were a few objectors, like Vojislav Seselj and Mirko Jovic, wanted a more measured response. Black George saw them merely as squabbling fools who hadn't been necessary for about two decades.
There was silence.
"Send in a large wave of bombers to take down Modling and other smaller installations in Tyrol and Styria. That being said, send another group of both aircraft and Enhanced Chetniks to escort me."
"Where are you going?" asked Seselj.
With that he left the room, and took off into flight, as his synthesis as the embodiment of the Serbian nation had given him. He could fly and squash tanks and manipulate objects without touching them; not uncommon powers by themselves, but he was powered by all Serbia. He knew what he could do.
And as he flew to Vienna more flying men and women, and fighter planes, came behind him. They didn't need to protect him; he could take care of American planes by himself. He did so. He smashed the fighters and the bombers and maybe a few transport planes.
He could hear the alarm sirens of Vienna pulsating, warning the people of that shackled nation to flee and let their foreign overlords defend them.
With his landing the gloriette at Schonbrunn Palace shattered, and the earth below him shook.
Annette had never been to Vienna, and as such she needed to be dropped over there. She could not yet find it in the morass of perception she experienced, but she could get vague inklings. She had never been to London, but she had found what had appeared to be the London she had read of.
Still wasn't good enough to get there herself, so here she was onboard this plane. The Magnificent Intentions were behind her. All was silent.
Gonzalez, who was still at Modling, was giving them a briefing. "You see," he stated plainly, "he's powerful. But nothing compared to Vucub-Caquix."
Annette could hear the Magnificent Intentions murmur when he mentioned that. She could sense that they were in awe of her. She payed them no heed.
"He is currently on the grounds of the Schonbrunn Palace. He is currently engaged with an Austrian special forces team of superhumans. You are to provide them backup. Godspeed."
The intercom, from which the pilot spoke, announced that they would be over Schonbrunn Palace soon. The Magnificent Intentions (the ones that couldn't fly, anyway) prepared their parachutes.
The plane's floor opened out onto the air, and below she could see the battle. She pinpointed her location, and in an instant she was there.
Black George threw objects and beams at two Austrian superhumans, one man and one woman. They were clearly exhausted.
"I will give you one chance to surrender," she said without frills to him. "Otherwise you will never see your beloved Serbia again."
He stopped. "Really? I don't know who you are, but I assure you that the patriarch of all Serbs will defeat whatever you pathetic mongrel Americans can throw at me!"
He began monologuing. She opened a portal behind him, and he was sucked in.
Only after that did the parachuting Intentions land.
"That's it?" one asked.
"Yes. I was the one who took down Vucub Caquix, if you were not aware."
"Good show, Annette!" remarked Gonzalez from her transceiver. "That was almost anticlimactic!"
"So is Rumsfeld going to use me to take down third world tinpot dictators now? Is that it?"
"Not necessarily. As I said, you have great things in your future. And I believe you have passed the test."
Much like a lot of Normandy, and indeed a lot of France, Evreux was a bombed out shell of what it once had been. Even after the military had withdrawn, the forces of Cabrakan had taken great care to immolate it, as they methodically had done to a great many places from Lisbon up to Munich. The Stewards had descended and 'liberated' the country, but even they had to admit there was not much left to liberate.
There were very few survivors. They lived in a compound assembled under an old church, and would scamper about the ruins of the city to find what they could to survive.
During the battle over Evreux between the cultists and the Stewards, a flying Steward vessel of some type had been shot down. It careened into the ground near the river Iton and fell cold.
The remaining people had made scouting parties to the vessel, but none had dared touched it. It was thought that perhaps it would wake up and attack should they disturb it.
Even as rumors of reconstruction efforts came to the town France still lay in ruins. The focus was on Yugoslavia and all the nonsense that entailed.
Which is why it was so odd having a fleet of helicopters descend upon Evreux, and then large trucks following them. They were all painted black.
The scouts sent by the locals found that they were all surrounding the downed Steward ship. They were threatened by armed men to keep away.
A day later the trucks and the helicopters and the armed men left Evreux.
Forgottonia, that isolated part of western Illinois that both Washington and Springfield pretended didn't exist, was a rather apt place for eccentric rich people to make their homes. If nobody cared what was going on there, nobody bothered to look too deeply into what was going on.
Even so the limousine with the cross of Charlemagne painted on its hood only attracted so much attention in the town of Mount Sterling. The driver was separated from his single passenger by a privacy screen, which insulated both sides from each other's noise.
"What makes you think I want to rule a bunch of uninhabited rocks?" asked the passenger. "Tell me again why I would pay you idiots to scavenge alien weapons from France, Spain, Guatemala and Mexico to rule depopulated blips in the north Atlantic? The Canaries? The Azores? Madeira? Hell no! I am a king by my birthright, and I need subjects! Saint Helena it is!"
The passenger angrily pressed the 'hang up' button on his mobile phone. He imagined that, before mobile phones, slamming the phone onto the base would have been much more satisfying. Nevertheless he did not have that old-timey luxury.
The limousine pulled into a driveway to an old mansion, isolated from the town center. Well, not that old; the Braithwaite family didn't get its wealth until after World War II.
"Mr. Braithwaite, we have arrived," announced the driver.
Jackson Braithwaite exited the limousine without a word. He checked his pockets.
Phone, keys, wallet, pistol.
The door to the mansion too had the centuries-old cross of Charlemagne mounted on it, in gold. Jackson knocked.
After a few seconds, the door opened, and there stood his father, Edward Braithwaite.
"No, Jackson, I am not giving you any more money for your idiot scheme."
"But father!" pleaded Jackson. "My sweetheart Lindsey wants to be a queen!"
Edward rolled his eyes.
"Father, I am your only child, and if you want to have grandchildren it would be befitting that they be princes and princesses!"
"I did not need to crown your mother royalty to have you," spat Edward.
Jackson barged in, and gestured his hand to the massive painting that adorned the wall. It was a massive family tree, with portraits starting at Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor, and going through the ages down to Edward Braithwaite. Jackson was still incensed he had not yet been added.
"Look at that! You too believe we are of royal line, but you do nothing to justify that! What I am doing is what we are entitled to by our birth! Do you not see it, father? Do you not see what you have kept in your own home for decades?"
"Kings do not come to power by mercenary adventures, which is exactly what you intend. I will have no part in this!"
The door was still open.
"Father, you have the money. Why do you waste your own potential?"
While Jackson ranted and raved, he took out his phone, opened the messenger app, and texted a certain person "799. Door."
"You really have gone mad."
Edward looked his son in the eyes. "I don't know what to say."
"And you won't need to say anything else."
Just as was planned, a bullet zoomed through the door frame and right into the elder Braithwaite's head.
Excerpt from an article from the Brown County Democrat-Message, entitled Edward Braithwaite Found Murdered; Fortune to fall to son Jackson
Renowned weapons magnate Edward Braithwaite has been found dead from a bullet to the head in his mansion on the outskirts of Mount Sterling. His killer is unknown.
Edward was the son of Charles Braithwaite, the famed scientist who, during World War II, had invented Psionic Inhibitors in Winnemucca, Nevada, working with famous names such as Jasper Lefew and, later, Lubomir Rybalkin. Charles later spun off his work to his private company Braithwaite Psionic, which joined the ranks of Lockheed Martin and Boeing as the great defense contractors. He also sold to various Latin American governments and other American allies, and made an absolute fortune doing so.
When Charles died in 1971 the company went to Edward, who diversified the company by manufacturing other psionic-based weapons for world governments. Braithwaite was instrumental in improving psionic inhibition and other psionic technologies for the Vucub Caquix War and the Occupation of the former Soviet Union, which made him even wealthier than his father.
The Braithwaites still remain contentious figures, which many believing that psionic weaponry should not be in the hands of private individuals. Nevertheless, some of the most groundbreaking psionic research occurred under his direction, including the miniaturization of psionic inhibitors such that they could be deployed on trucks and helicopters.
A Braithwaite eccentricity continued with Edward: the belief that they were descendants of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor. Despite this, he was modest about it, and asked that people judge him "like any other man."
The Braithwaite fortune has now fallen to Edward's only child, Jackson, in light that Edward left no will. When contacted by the Democrat-Message, Jackson said that "I will handle the fortune in a way that will make my father proud. I miss him even now."
With the nigh-obliteration of the British government (the remnants were holed up in Inverness), the little Atlantic island of Saint Helena was left to its own devices. With no military base and being far away from any place of military interest the world seemed to have forgotten about this little island.
But Jackson Braithwaite had not.
He was determined to be a king, and he thought that Saint Helena would be an ideal place to commandeer. It had plenty of people (or enough for a kingdom at any rate) and was isolated enough for the United States or any other power to particularly care. They were culturally close enough to an American he could understand them.
Jackson had spent a good deal of his money on what was ultimately a small aircraft carrier, docked in Bahia Blanca, where the government was not inclined to particularly care about the men and women coming in to build a ship. Nor were they concerned with the mercenaries with their trucks and helicopters arriving from other parts of the world.
This was his command ship, the Patrician. It would be used as a docking bay for helicopters and the few small civilian planes converted to fighters or bombers that he had at his disposal.
The money from his father's fortune hired more mercenaries and put the finishing touches on the Patrician, as well as that of his personal aircraft, the VTOL-equipped Pater Europae, emblazoned by the Carolingian Cross. The Pater Europae was equipped with missiles and machine guns and bombs, which could probably decimate the entire island should he so choose.
The day came. The Patrician arrived at Saint Helena and launched its helicopters and small fighters. Over the Castle, where the government of the island sat in its capital of Jamestown, the Pater Europae landed and issued an ultimatum: submit or die.
One member of the Executive Council stood up to him. That member of the Executive Council took several bullets to the face and stood up no more.
The mercenary buggies scoured the island with guns bigger than just about anyone on the island had ever seen. The Patrician docked in the harbor, and the armed men and women ensured compliance in Jamestown.
On the Castle itself Braithewaite proclaimed himself Jackson I, New Emperor of the Romans. He claimed Saint Helena, Ascension Island, and Tristan da Cunha as his new Roman Empire.
However there were some people who were rather unamused with this action. There was still Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island, which was mostly occupied with dealing with fallout at home.
There was also one particular structure on Ascension Island that was of great importance to some people. Not all people, but a good deal of important people. That one structure was tall and metal, and important things went through it.
And it wouldn't have been likely for the likes of Donald Rumsfeld to let a wannabe monarch have control over a GPS tower, would it have?
Jackson Braithwaite had made a serious miscalculation. The British government holed up in Inverness did, in fact, have some fighters and bombers stationed on Ascension Island; they had to support the US in Guatemala somewhere, and it was good to have as backup, even as the Caribbean territories were directly assailed.
Prime Minister Burnham ordered the air forces stationed on Ascension Island to destroy the Pater Europae and Patrician and take down any other forces that resisted.
And so the planes were launched.
In Inverness Prime Minister Burnham and his entourage paid very close attention to the video feed of the Royal Air Force.
This was the grounds for the first major British success after a third of the country was destroyed by Vucub-Caquix. It would also prove to the Stewards that their country still mattered.
The planes approached the island. All was going well.
In the distance they saw an aircraft. It was colored darkly and had the Carolingian Cross on it.
"That's it," said one of the generals. "Braithwaite's personal aircraft, the Pater Europae."
"Then open fire."
"That's the plan."
Of what little they could see from the Pater Europae, it seemed to be deploying guns.
Out from said guns erupted these radiant green beams, shining as they zoomed towards the first fighter.
The fighter was obliterated, and the remains fell into the Atlantic.
One by one the Pater Europae ripped the entire RAF squadron to shreds.
Burnham's mouth was agape, and so were those of the generals.
They would need a lot more to liberate Saint Helena.