Cuchulainn’s Hounds, Part 1: The Rising Of The Moon

September 12th, 1941, Leinster House, Dublin, Eire

The weathered face of the Taoiseach gazed sympathetically at the face of his secretary, who had just gasped in shock at the broadcast from Radio Eireann. He had a feeling that the faces of the nation would be very similar, at least those with radios, and he could hardly blame them. He felt the blow himself, like a hammer to the stomach.

The Holy Father had been murdered. The Vicar of Christ had been shot down like a dog in the City of God by a bunch of heathen monsters in human form, and the priceless relics and treasures of the Vatican thrown about as though they were toys for children. Bad enough that these debauched Drakians had still associated with England for as long as they did, but to do this? It was as though a thousand Droghedas had been unleashed on Rome, a million Cromwells. No, that was hardly fair, he thought; not even the English at their worst would commit such an act of calculated barbarism. However, he was the leader of his nation, and he needed to put his personal feelings (and hatred, he thought) aside, for his nation had finally gained her independence from Britain after hundreds of years of struggle and not a little bloodshed, and pursued her own way in the world at last.

This presented a problem at the moment, unfortunately, and Eamon de Valera sighed. Ireland still had diplomatic relations with the Domination, and the Draka had a consulate in Cork as well as their official embassy here in Dublin. He knew all too well the temper of his people; hadn’t he helped Pearse lead the Easter Rising of ’16? How many times had the Irish risen against the landlords on the slightest of pretexts? This was a disaster in the making, and he had to head it off quickly.

“Brigid, I need you to ring the Archbishop and arrange a meeting as quickly as possible. Then I need you to ring the ministers and gather them together; this is a crisis, and we’re going to need to put an end to it before it catches fire. Hopefully we can douse it in time.” She stood for a moment, staring at him, as though unable to believe anyone could give orders at a time like this, least of all him.

“Brigid? Will you please go?” She nodded dumbly and walked away, still in shock, and de Valera shook his head sadly. He knew she must dislike him enormously right now, but she didn’t understand that he had to do what the people elected him to do. He raised his eyes to the ceiling and crossed himself.

“Lord, take pity on me, Thy servant this day.”

Drakan Embassy, Dublin

“Whut the fik did those idjits think they was DOIN’? Doan’ they know jes’ who the fik it WAS th’ darkies killed? Jes’ who d’you have runnin’ that particular campaign, Citizen, chimps? It sho’ weren’t any properly trained strategos! Thor’s hammer, y’dumb bastard, doan’ y’know anythin’ ‘bout these Christ-suckers? That priest y’popped was th’ chief of th’ whole worl’, an’ we look like shit fer doin’ it!” Diplo-Cohortarch Robert Trevers, Drakan Ambassador in Eire, knocked back a shot of amber-colored liquid from an exquisite cut-glass tumbler as he finished yelling into the elephant-ivory handset. Say whut you will about these here ferals, he thought, they do make some purty things. Needless to say, he was extremely angry with his fellow Draka right now, but the burn of the whisky down his throat helped settle his thoughts. No need to take out his rage on some flunky of the War Directorate, after all, although if he ever got his hands on whomever the serf-lover was who let this get out of hand…the phone chattered nervously at him, and he shook his head for a moment.

“Tetrarch…Vandeberg, was it? Look, I didn’ mean t’ yell like that at ya; it wasn’t yo’ fault. I’ll be filin’ a formal complaint in th’ mornin’, an’ we c’n see ‘bout tryin’ t’ clean up this rat-fik that we seem t’ have landed in. Dunno jes’ what th’ natives are gonna do, though; they doan’ take too kindly t’ this sorta thing. I wish someone had thought t’ mention that t’ whoever was in command.” He hung up the phone after the tetrarch from Logistics had acknowledged, and let out a sigh of mingled frustration and anger.

Dammit, but why now? When he had been sent here, he had almost cried at the injustice of the assignment. Ireland was seen as a joke, a punishment for sins against The Race, a dead end, and he had wondered who he had pissed off or what he had done wrong in his career? He’d been a decent soldier, if undistinguished, in the wars in the Balkans, but he felt that he could best help the Domination abroad among the other nations by working to gather information on them, undermine them, and prepare for the day when the Domination would inevitably absorb them. Only it hadn’t quite worked out that way. Instead, he’d been sent here, where a ray of sun was as rare as a Cape buffalo in a good humor, an autosteamer was a rarity, and the locals almost seemed to enjoy their backward existence! Imagine a country where the priests wielded such influence that the country’s leader had seen to it that the national constitution overtly reflected their teachings, and the locals actually went to church twice on the first day of the week. Trevers could still hardly believe it, and he’d been Ambassador here since 1937. This nation was enough to drive a Citizen to…he looked at the empty tumbler and smiled crookedly. Well, it would explain the national pastime, at least. Trevers then punched a button on his desk.

“Vicki, could you come in heah, please?” He straightened up his clothes, re-knotting his tie and combing his hair as his aide entered. Victoria Swenson was in her twenties, and, unlike her boss, regarded this assignment as a plum; she enjoyed serving in the Security Directorate, and gathering intelligence on a military like the Irish Armed Forces would be a good first step up the ladder. She came to attention in front of Trevers, who chuckled lightly.

“Vicki, in a li’l while, I s’pect we’re gonna hafta explain t’ the Irish jes’ why it was that some of our boys got a li’l carried away an’ killed their Pope, so I want you t’ come up with a good cock-an’-bull story ‘bout how real sorry we are, an’ how we din’t know jes’ who he was, ‘n all that, all right? Otherwise, we’re in fo’ some real shit. The dumbasses in Italy doan’ know their hands from their butts on this’un , so it’s up t’ us. I’m countin’ on you, ‘cause I gotta meet wit’ that slippery de Valera bastard an’ count mah fingers afterwards.”

Swenson looked slightly put off by that last statement, and he supposed he couldn’t blame her; this was her first real assignment outside the Domination, after all, and she’d find that things were a little different than just putting down the occasional bushman uprising. He still blessed his luck that had assigned Vicki here; someone at the Security Directorate knew what the Irish thought like, at least, and sent an appropriate operative. So the Irish officers who had made her the social catch of Dublin’s society hardly knew that beneath the laughing emerald eyes and strawberry-blonde hair was a woman who had ordered the impalement of an entire village in retaliation for the escape of a single serf into the USSR in 1938. Well, so much the better for her mission. Still, he supposed an explanation was in order.

“Vicki, yah gotta understand, this fella’s good. He’s cloaked hisself in robes of purest white, but it’s all an act, ‘cause he’s a survivor, jes’ like all t’ othuh political types. These heah Irish used t’ be bushmen fo’ th’ Brits, an’ they kep’ rebellin’, jes’ like our bushmen kep’ on tryin’, but the Brits wuz weak, an’ ‘stead of hangin’ ‘em all, or impalin’ ‘em, they jes’ hung a few an’ let the res’ go. Well, you know whut that did?”

Swenson smiled like a shark, which looked out of place on such a lovely face, then spoke in a low alto.

“Nits make lice. Mo’ rebellions down th’ years, if I remember raht. Din’t this guy have sumthin’ t’ do with the last’n?”

“Sho’ did. Led it hisself, then rejected th’ agreement that woulda given ‘em what he wanted, purty much. It’s compl’cated, but there wuz a war within a war, an’ he came out th’ loser, then weaseled his way back inta power. Now I gotta meet wit’ ‘im an’ tell ‘im it wuz all a mistake. That’ll be fun...” Trevers shook his head; he really wasn’t looking forward to enduring de Valera’s personality, which reminded him of a dead fish. He’d heard it said about the Irish leader by the American Ambassador that the two men got along famously, but fik-all if he’d seen any signs of it. You’d think with the amount of trade the Domination was bringing in to Ireland, there’d be at least a little warmth in the man!

The work of a diplomat was never done, it seemed. At least things could hardly get any worse.

Streets of Dublin, enroute to Dail Eireann

The bells were already tolling, and that was a bad sign, de Valera thought. He’d ordered the national flags lowered to half-staff as a sign of mourning after a quick consultation with the Archbishop, and word had spread quickly that Pius XII was murdered at the hands of the Draka, and that Rome had been sacked again, only this time much more thoroughly and completely. Apparently, there were sketchy reports that at least some of the Princes of the Church had escaped, or at least that they had not been found, so a new Pontiff would be chosen in record time, and what that meant for the world, de Valera didn’t know, but he suspected it would be interesting, at the very least. As the car raced towards Leinster House, and his address of the Dail, he noticed the small groups of people gathered on the corners. Women, wearing black shawls and veils in their grief and holding their children, who looked around, not understanding just what was going on, but knowing somehow that it was bad; old men, leaning on canes and shaking their heads as tears rolled down their cheeks, crossing themselves as they passed by the churches that already had long lines waiting outside; knots of young men on corners, who were gathered together in surly anger, and who were being discreetly watched by the gardai. De Valera sighed as the car pulled into the parking space assigned to the Taoiseach; those last were going to be the start of any trouble in the streets, but for now, he had to deal with the Dail first.

Leinster House

“And what does the Right Honourable Taoiseach intend to do about this outrage, may I ask?” James Dillon’s voice cut through the air like a knife; the Deputy Leader of Fine Gael was almost as moralistic as de Valera himself, and this time, he had a right to be angry. Ireland had wanted to be left alone after gaining her independence from Britain, even though she had close ties with the United States, and so she had explored economic ties with the rest of the world, including the Domination, but allying herself with no-one. Given the needs of the two countries, inevitably the Draka had become a fair-sized trading partner for Irish exports, especially Waterford crystal and various liquors, which brought in much-needed hard currency. Ironically, it had helped Ireland re-arm and bring its military up to a respectable level using Yankee weaponry and equipment; no British castoffs for Erin, by God, de Valera thought. American surplus was much better, and didn’t bring the taint of the imperial yoke with it. Besides, the Snake weapons were too fancy for Ireland’s climate in any case. He’d better answer Dillon, though; Fine Gael might be small right now, but they could get support quickly, and that could be a public relations disaster for the Government. He rose to respond.

“The Right Honourable Member is quite correct to call this an outrage. That is exactly what it is. An outrage not just against man, not just against civilization, but against God. As this chamber already knows, I have called upon the nation to observe a day of mourning for our Holy Father, may God rest his soul in Heaven, and that Masses be sung for his soul this Sunday, but this cannot be enough.” He gazed around the chamber over the tops of his glasses, where every member was hanging on his words, even those from Fine Gael.

“My fellow colleagues, I see here many faces I recognize from days past when we strove against one another, but we strove in common purpose for what we have today; a free Ireland. This blow strikes at the heart of her soul, and at what it means to be Irish in so many ways. However, it was not an act directed against our people or our nation. Much as it pains me, I cannot bring to the floor a motion that would send our young men into a war against even such a nation as these butchers and vandals.” Murmurs broke out at these words, and black looks began to form on the faces of Opposition leaders. He raised his hand for silence, and continued over the growing hubbub.

“This I can offer you! When you leave here today, tell your constituents to examine their consciences on market day.” He sat down again, and a junior member of Fianna Fail immediately asked for recognition from the Chair. When recognized, the TD began to speak.

“In light of the noble Taoiseach’s words, I move for a boycott of all Drakan goods from this date...”

De Valera smiled slightly, and acknowledged Dillon’s nod with one of his own. Now all he had to do was talk to that insufferable Trevers. He had a feeling Ireland’s stock in the eyes of the world was about to go up in the next week or so.

Government House, Dublin, one hour later

Trevers was not a happy man at the moment. Bad enough that he was being made to wait for the Taoiseach, but he hadn’t liked the looks he’d gotten from the various staffers when he’d entered Government House for his appointment to discuss what was already being called the “Rape of Rome” in the Western news services. What was worse, he was sitting under the glare of what he would normally consider a very attractive wench, and the false smile he had pasted on his face was starting to make his muscles ache. Inside, of course, he was seething with thoughts of just how he would break the bitch for her defiance if they were back on his estates, but, well, they weren’t, dammit. He’d have to settle for the sweet thoughts instead, which added some sincerity to the smile. A buzzer jangled his thoughts, and the bitch spoke up.

“You may go in, sir.”

“Thank you, m’dear.” Trevers rose, snatched up his diamond-tipped cane and top hat, adjusted the ruby earstud, and opened the door.

Eamon de Valera rose from behind his desk and extended his hand with a slight smile, murmuring, “Good afternoon, Robert. I’m very pleased to see you at last. I apologize for the delay, but I had to sign a bill the Dail sent me unexpectedly. Please, won’t you sit down? Would you care for any refreshment? Tea, perhaps?”

Travers’ smile stayed on his face, as he returned the Irish leader’s handshake. Yuh bastard, he thought. He couldn’t stand the stuff, and de Valera knew it. He seemed to go out of his way to irritate the Drakan ambassador in petty ways, but Travers wasn’t going to let that get to him now. Especially not now.

“No, thank yuh, Ned,” and Travers chuckled inwardly as de Valera winced at the familiarity, “I’m doin’ well. I cam’ heah t’ talk ‘bout the…incident that happened yestidday in Italy…in Rome.” De Valera raised his eyebrows at that, and indicated that his visitor should take a seat.

“By all means, Mister Ambassador. I feel it is my duty to warn you, however, that the people of Ireland take this…incident very seriously indeed, especially given its consequences. However, we are a fair people, and therefore I felt I should, in the spirit of goodwill, give all parties their chance to tell their story, especially given the relationship between our two nations.” De Valera resumed his seat as well, and rang a buzzer at his desk. His secretary entered at once.

“Brigid, a pitcher of ice water and two tumblers, and see to it we are not disturbed.”

She nodded smartly, then left quickly. De Valera turned back to Trevers, who was sitting with his hat in his lap.

“You were saying, Mister Ambassador?”

“Well, Prime Ministuh, it’s like this. Yuh know how our military is made up, raht? Two forces, one fo’ Citizens, an’ one fo’ bush-ah, Janissaries?” That was close, Trevers thought, don’t do that again! But de Valera merely nodded, as though the slip had gone unnoticed, and Trevers forged ahead.

“Well, it seems that at Rome, our Janissaries got out o’ hand. Whut c’n yuh expect from ‘em? It’s in they nature, raht? Anyway, they slipped th’ leash, so t’ speak, an’ went berserk, shootin’ an’ hollerin’ an’ grabbin’ ever’thin’ they could lay hand on. Just like animals, really. Even grabbin’ women and havin’ they way wit’ them, never min’ whut the centurions are orderin’. Had t’ hang a bunch jes’ t’ restore order aftawards. In any case, Ministuh, from whut the War Directorate tells me, a Janissary lochos, whut yuh’d call a squad, came upon this heah old man in robes, kneelin’ down, an’ they din’t know whut t’ do, so they called they decurion…the sergeant over, an’ he din’t know whut this fella wuz doin’, so he asks him, shakin’ him, and this ol’ fella jes’ smiles at him. So the decurion, well, he gets angry, an’ shoots him in the back a’ the head. Whutcha gonna do? Fortunes a’ war, right? Yuh’ve been there, Prime Ministuh.”

De Valera could hardly believe his ears. This…thing in human form was telling him that Pius XII had been murdered by his people, and he dared compare it to the struggles of the Irish people for their freedom? A hot surge of anger seemed to sing in his ears, and, just for a moment, he felt as his ancestors must have when they faced their foes across the fields bearing pikes and swords and screaming their war cries. He wanted to leap across the desk and strike this man down for the crimes his people had committed, but he couldn’t. Instead, he forced himself to remain calm.

“So, you’re saying this entire regrettable incident was, in fact, a breakdown in discipline among your forces? Does your government recognize the serious ramifications that this incident poses to its relations with this nation? I value your government’s friendship a great deal, Mister Ambassador, and I believe you know that, but this casts that relationship in serious jeopardy. Already, my government has had to give in to popular pressure to begin economic measures against Drakian firms,” Trevers’ tanned face went white at that, and his fists clenched visibly, “and the bill I had to sign was a law ordering a boycott of Drakan firms unless a full apology for the Rape of Rome was forthcoming within twenty-four hours, full restitution made to the Vatican, and all offenders punished to the full extent of your military laws.” Trevers made an angry noise in his throat, and de Valera spread his hands in a placating gesture.

“Mister Ambassador, there is nothing I can do in this case. Had I not signed the law, my government would have fallen, and you would have faced a coalition of anti-Drakan parties that would have almost certainly declared war. Given that Germany, France, Poland and…let me see…ah, yes, Austria, have already done so as a result of this incident, I doubt the remaining neutral countries would like to see yet another nation join against you. In all honesty, Ambassador, you need all the friends you can get right now, and a boycott of goods does not mean your shipping can’t dock here, or that your Navy can’t visit here. However, you may wish to communicate to your government that the situation here is extremely tense, and I cannot be certain of keeping it under control. Please, for your own safety and that of your staffers, I advise you to remain in your compounds, both here and in Cork, until this blows over.”

Trevers’ lips were compressed into a thin white line. How dare this insolent, pompous arrogant bastard speak to a member of The Race like that? ‘Remain in your compounds’? Fik that! The Draka went anywhere they liked, took what they liked, and crushed anyone who got in their way, and if the Irish government thought they couldn’t keep their own people under control, maybe it was time they were taught a lesson. He rose from his chair and clapped his hat to his head.

“Mistuh Prime Minister.” De Valera rose from his desk and extended his hand; Trevers looked at it, and took it briefly, then turned and marched from the room, bumping into the secretary, who spilled the water over the tray and almost dropped one of the tumblers.

“I’m so sorry, Taoiseach, I didn’t mean-“, but de Valera cut her off as he went to her side.

“It’s all right, Brigid. Mr. Trevers has other things on his mind.” He smiled as he spoke.

September 13th, City of Cork, 12:30 A.M.

Conyngham had a weakness for redheads. When he found out he was assigned as a Diplo-Tetrarch Consul in Ireland, he responded in public as expected, with stoic disappointment, because everyone knew that gloomy island was a cold, wet dead end for careers, but inside he jumped for joy. Not for nothing was the island described in the classic texts as the Blessed Isle, as he’d found out on more than one occasion to his delight. The sheer number of attractive serfs of both sexes here was wonderful, even if they were rather straitlaced about such matters. It was one thing to try to find a female for pleasure, even if you had to be discreet about it, but he chuckled to himself at the fate of his predecessor, who tried looking for a prettybuck. Had THAT been a mistake! If he hadn’t had diplomatic immunity, Ingersoll would have been lucky to escape with his life, let alone his manhood. No, look but don’t touch was definitely the rule when it came to that part of the game here, Conyngham thought as he headed back to the Drakan Consulate.

Tonight, though, was a different matter. She’d been good in bed after a night on the town, and say what you might about the Catholic superstition, it didn’t have any strictures on contraception to interfere with the pleasures of mating. Of course, he hadn’t finished inside her; that wouldn’t have been right. Still, she hadn’t complained with the fee he’d paid her, and they’d both been satisfied with the arrangement. Kathleen, that was her name. Nice name, for a serf bitch. He’d likely visit her again in the week to come, but he wanted to find some others as well, spread the wealth, so to speak. He grinned at that; this was a nice posting, when you thought about it. He had to oversee the Domination shipping coming into Cobh, the second-largest port after Dublin, and the major source of Drakan imports, and so he was responsible for a large part of this nation’s economy. Imagine that! A lowly Diplo-Tetrarch! He chuckled again at the thought; these bushmen had screwed up their country so badly they couldn’t organize whores at a-

The cobblestone came out of nowhere and caught him hard above the kneecap, and he grimaced with pain and grabbed at the leg, looking around even as he did so. Five figures emerged from the storefronts half a block ahead, and he could see they were carrying heavy sticks of some sort in their hands, and hefting cobblestones in the other. All but one, that is, whose left hand was empty of a stone. He immediately dropped into combat awareness mode, and his right hand whipped out the ornate dagger he always carried in his boot top (damn the Diplomatic Directorate and their directive on carrying guns in neutral countries!). He tested the leg; it felt tender, but it would stand the usage. Five ferals against a Draka wasn’t much of a fight; he’d be home in time for a good night’s sleep.

“Well, now, lads, we seem to have caught a Snake, by Jaysus.” That from the one without the stone. Good, he was the leader. Kill him and the rest would scatter. Don’t waste time on idle chatter, just coil and-

FIK! Another stone smacked into him, from the rear! This one hurt, as it caught Conyngham’s arm holding the dagger right at the shoulder joint, and reflexively the dagger flew out of his hand before he could stop it, skittering across the bricks to his left, as Conyngham snuck a quick look back across his shoulder to see three more men with stones and thick sticks in their hands advancing from his right rear. Conyngham reconsidered the situation; eight against one now wasn’t looking as good, especially since they were armed and he wasn’t, and all eight were advancing with what looked like murder in their eyes. By the time he recovered the dagger, they’d be on him, and he might take two or three with him, but he’d be beaten to death before any help could arrive (or would want to arrive, he thought sourly-Draka weren’t very popular right now). No, it was time to retreat, and he knew where; he’d passed an alleyway on his way here, and he could climb the metal fire escapes they had here, then run along the rooftops and climb down another building close to the consulate, and he’d be home. In the morning, he’d file a complaint with the Gardai, and then he could resume his hunt for the fairer sex. All this went through his mind in a fraction of a second, and he whirled and bolted away from the advancing men, back down the way he came.

“After him! Don’t let the filthy Snake get away!” With that, the eight men charged after Conyngham, tucking their sticks close under their bodies and gripping the paving stones tight; there would be revenge tonight, one way or another.

“Keep your eye on him, for the love of Christ! Did you see where he went?” This from the leader, as Conyngham rapidly outstripped the men, being unburdened by their weapons. Still, he wasn’t as lucky as he’d hoped.

“Aye, he turned down there, Seamus!” One of the men pointed down the alleyway, as the men came panting up. Seamus looked down the dark stretch, and saw a shadow jumping up and tugging at the metal ladders that served as fire escapes for the tenements and stores.

“Saints above, if he gets up on the roof, we’ll never get him.” He let out a breath. “Right, we’ll have to chance it. We’ll all toss the stones when we get in range, then half will club him with our sticks, and half hit him like a poker, get me?”, and he used both hands to demonstrate. Suddenly, a metallic skrreee indicated that their target seemed to be getting closer to achieving his getaway. Seamus turned to the entrance of the alley and raised his stick.

“Come on, lads!”, he roared, and the seven others shouted and poured down after him.

September 13th, City of Cork, 7:30 A.M.

Garda O’Reilly could hardly keep his breakfast sausage down. The body barely looked human, which wasn’t the way to start your morning shift; he’d been looking forward to a nice quiet morning beat, but then a street sweeper had noticed the flies gathering in the alleyway and had investigated, since he’d just cleaned it out the day before. O’Reilly certainly couldn’t fault the old man’s sense of civic responsibility, but why did it have to end up in his lap? Good thing his Sergeant was on the way to help out, but he just had an unlucky feeling that this was not going to end well. Some damned Draka, by the look of it, (forgive me, Lord, he whispered mentally), but why was he down here? Whatever the Snakes were or were not, robbery wasn’t high on their list of crimes, but this one had been beaten to death for some reason. Given their…interests, he had his suspicions, by the Snakes couldn’t be that stupid again, could they? He’d let the Sergeant sort this one out; that’s why Leinster House paid them the extra money. As it was, this lad was for the morgue. Still, he’d had company, judging from the bloodstains on the rest of the alleyway; not even Snakes bled that much, so it looked like several people had somehow expressed their displeasure with whatever the naked, battered corpse had been doing. What was worse, he couldn’t seem to get hold of the local Drakan consul to identify the body, curse the luck.

Sergeant Murphy arrived fifteen minutes later to find an equally repulsed and frustrated Garda O’Reilly on the scene of a crime that he’d never encountered before, and thirty seconds later hoped he never did again. The body was definitely Drakan, given the muscular development and the fact that there had been several earrings missing, torn out by the persons who had beaten the man to death. He could tell it was a man from the genitalia stuffed in the corpse’s mouth, although he’d have preferred not to identify the gender in that fashion. Still, it was a quick way to do it. The face was so badly beaten, however, that it would be almost impossible to identify without the help of the consul, and contacting him was the job of the Gardai. Best to see what progress had been made on that front.

“O’Reilly. Any word yet from the Drakan consulate?”

“Well, Sergeant, no one there seems to know where he is. Apparently he went out last night, and he hasn’t been seen since. They seemed a little angry that we even dared to ask, to be honest. Like we were inferring that he was a criminal or something.”

“Did they, now? Well.” Murphy pulled out a pipe and filled it carefully, and lit it, drawing in the fragrant smoke. “Let’s think this through. The Drakan consul is missing since last night. We have a dead Draka here at our feet who was killed sometime last night. Now, I may not have the superior brainpower of the Snakes, but…” O’Reilly grasped the point at once.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God. Should we tell them?” Murphy smiled nastily.

“No, I think the Mayor should be told of our discovery so that he may inform Leinster House; proper procedure, after all. I don’t like to be told we thought the departed was a criminal, in any event. It slanders his good name.” He puffed contentedly on his pipe. No, the Snakes weren’t going to like this one bit, which was fine with Gardai Sergeant Murphy; that’d teach them to make a pass at his teenaged son.

Drakan Embassy, Dublin, two hours later

“The consul wuz WHUT?” Trevers bellowed into the ivory handset, his face purple with rage. He could hardly believe his ears; a full Citizen of the Domination had been killed in the most heinous fashion by a bunch of backwards-ass ferals! From what the local police had released, it sounded like Consul Conyngham might have taken a couple down with him, but none of the local hospitals reported any injuries or deaths, and Trevers snorted mentally at that. As though they would! Bliddy ferals all stick together anyway. No, this was a setup; it had to be. An incident to further embarrass the Domination and humiliate them, just like those damned laws the bastards had passed, boycotting trade and demanding an apology for the actions the Draka took in Rome. What was Ireland going to do about it if the Draka didn’t apologize? Throw potatoes at the Domination? Trevers grinned like a hyena at the thought; thanks to Swenson, he knew the Irish military was no match for a single Citizen mechanized chiliarchy. Their vehicles were outdated at best, and their personal arms were leftovers from the Americans. Oh, they kept them in good order, but the military was far too small to present any real threat to anyone. All it would take was a single landing at Cobh one night, and the country would be taken within a week. This, though, was an outrage, and the Irish must be made to understand that they would have to answer for it. No one went around assaulting members of the Diplomatic Directorate with impunity. He was going to see de Valera again, and damn the consequences.

“Thank yuh, Citizen. I’ll be in touch. Glory t’ th’ Race.”

Leinster House, one hour later

“Siddown, bitch.” Trevers snarled at the secretary who half-rose to stop him as he pushed his way towards de Valera’s office and through the door. His expression was thunderous, his brows knitted together, and de Valera looked up at the unexpected interruption from his desk with a frown as Trevers slammed the door and advanced across the floor until he stood directly in front of the Irish leader’s desk. There was a pregnant pause between the two men, until de Valera spoke first.

“Is there something I may help you with, Mister Ambassador?”

Trevers leaned down and planted both his hands palms-down on the Taoiseach’s desk, and spoke into his face.

“Mistuh Prime Ministuh, I s’pect we both know why I’m heah. Yo’ boys murduhed mah Consul down in Cork, an’ as of now, th’ Security Directorate is takin’ over th’ investigation. Th’ Domination don’ allow its Citizens t’ be butchered like hawgs by jes’ anyone, leas’ of all thos’ it considers its friends. I sugges’ you jes’ step aside an’ let us git t’ work.” His temper was still running high, but he had tempered his words a little from what he had really wanted to say to this man! He looked deep into de Valera’s eyes, searching for the signs of fear or weakness that would mark acquiescence to Trevers’ announcement.

He didn’t find them.

“Mister Ambassador, I regret that you have found the services of the An Garda Siochana lacking, but I can assure you, it is not through lack of effort on their part. They are more than happy to cooperate with your security staff; in fact, they welcome the opportunity. However, the attack occurred on Irish soil, and they are the guardians of the Irish people, and of Ireland herself. As the leader of the Government, I cannot allow the forces of a foreign power to take jurisdiction of a crime committed on our soil. No, sir, the Gardai have jurisdiction, and they will exercise it in this case.” De Valera looked calmly back up at Trevers, who trembled slightly in his building rage. He’d never been talked to like that before, and certainly not by this man. Who was he to talk to a Drakan Citizen like that? What was his country, to stand up to the power of the Domination? The pitiful joke the Irish called a “police force” didn’t even carry guns here! How did they deal with criminals? Drink them to death? Trevers took a deep breath and straightened up.

“Mistuh Prime Ministuh, I’ve been heah long enough t’ know that tryin’ t’ force th’ Directorate on yuh is a bad idea, so I won’ push it, but I will say this, suh. Yuh are a coward an’ a fool fo’ listenin’ to those people in th’ streets, an’ if yuh wuz any part of a man, I’d slap yo’ jaw an’ force yuh t’ resent it. As it is, suh, I’ll jes’ take my leave.” He turned on his heel and left, slamming the door behind him. De Valera’s face remained creased in a frown, and he punched the buzzer on his desk after a minute with more force than usual.

“Brigid, I need you to call the Minister of War, and the Sergeant at Arms for the Dail, and set up an emergency meeting.”

Streets of Dublin, three hours later (1:30 PM)

“EXTRA! EXTRA! Draka Ambassador threatens Taoiseach! De Valera appeals for calm in emergency session of Dail! Gardai placed on high alert!” The Dublin Times was going into printing overdrive, and the stands and newsboys were besieged with customers. Papers were passed around as fast as they were purchased, and more tempers were beginning to rise against the Domination, trading status be damned. Not just in Cork and Dublin, either.

Waterford Docks, 3:30 PM

It’s been said that a dogfight can bring on a battle, given the right circumstances. In this case, an incautious remark sparked a riot.

DTS Archona’s Pride was loading one of Ireland’s most famous exports; Waterford’s namesake crystal, cut into goblets and tumblers and art glass for the homes of Citizens back in the Domination. Rather understated, by Domination tastes, but there were those who liked that sort of look, and it did catch the African sun beautifully. The Irish dockworkers helping to bring the crates to the cranes were unforgivably undisciplined by Citizen standards, but there were rules here, and the Cohortarch in command sighed in disgust. Now, a good, properly-disciplined group of serfs would have had these crates aboard in one-third the time, and they’d have weighed anchor already. Instead, there seemed to be an argument down near where the last group of crates was being loaded aboard into the nets.

James Butler stared at the Snake sailor with his right fist clenched, even as he waved his men back with his left. He had a false smile on his face, and was determined to keep his tone light and try to resolve this dispute peacefully; maybe the Snake didn’t understand what he’d said wrong?

“Would you mind repeating what you just said, laddie?” Which was true; Butler had at least twenty years on the Snake, and a good forty pounds. He might look old and heavy, as opposed to the Snake’s youth and trim physique, but he doubted the Snake had been fighting dirty around Ireland’s docks all his life since the age of fourteen. Hopefully, it wouldn’t come to that. The Snake didn’t seem to want to oblige him, though. He sneered at the stevedore and repeated what had touched off the crowd.

“I said, serf, that if yuh an’ yuhr gang o’ masterless cattle were anythin’ like our boys back home, we’d be done ba now, but yuh ain’t. Yuh lower than cattle. Undisciplined, smelly, an’ prob’ly drunk t’ boot.” The Snake smiled at Butler, as if daring him to take action, and jerked his head up towards his ship, where his crewmates were no doubt watching. The stevedores’ mutters were louder now, and angrier, and observers along the docks were drifting over; some of them had caught the final words, and their faces were turning an ugly shade as well. Butler shook his head sadly. If that’s the way things were going to be, then…

He charged forward, and the Snake’s eyes widened in surprise as this fifty-year old man caught him off guard, sinking a meaty fist deep into his stomach and forcing the breath from his lungs with a whoop! The crowd surged forward, and the Cohortarch screamed a curse on the bridge. There’d be hell to pay for this bliddy fik-up, but he had to make sure none of the natives got on to his ship first, and that meant the machine guns had to come out.

Drakan Embassy, 7:30 PM

“Will someone please explain t’ me whut the FIK that damnfool cap’n thought he wuz’ DOIN’?” Trevers could hardly believe it when the news came from Waterford. Just when he realized what he had done, and was ready to try to make amends with de Valera, this had to happen! He almost wanted to take the easy way out, open his desk drawer and use the automatic hidden in there, but that would be a betrayal of the Draka. Still, there wasn’t going to be any way to control this. The Brits had learned that the hard way. You couldn’t open fire on the Irish and expect them to forgive you after gunning down over a hundred men on the docks; those memories were simply too fresh for them. It didn’t matter that the captain said the Irishman threw the first punch; the Irish would claim the Drakan crewman had said something to start the fight, and it would all boil down to whose word was good here. Trevers knew where that road led, and it wasn’t Archona. Now the capital’s namesake was barely making steam for home after a mob had rushed her despite the weapons fire; it turned out that there were many Irish who still had dreams of a fully united Ireland, and rifle fire had started picking off crewmen on deck, allowing someone to rush up and throw a gasoline bomb through a porthole into the forward cargo compartment. The crates and tarred ropes had added to the flames, and the crew had to abandon the guns to fight the flames, which would have allowed the mob to swarm aboard…if they’d wanted to.

Instead, they chopped her mooring lines and screamed curses at her as she drifted away from the port, calling for a cutting torch to cut her anchor chain. The Cohortarch had solved that problem for them, raising anchor even as his crew fought the flames, trying to get away from a city that had gone mad. Incredibly, the crew had brought the fire under control in less than twenty minutes, which said something for the skill and discipline of the Transportation Directorate, but much of the cargo was ruined, and there were several casualties among the crew from the rifle fire. As he rubbed his temples, Victoria Swenson, his Security Directorate aide, arrived with a note.

“Ambassador. This jes’ arrived from th’ office of th’ Irish Prime Ministuh. It’s marked “Urgent”, suh.” Trevers turned it over in his hands. A plain, ordinary diplomatic note, but it was indeed marked URGENT across the front in red ink. He opened it and began to read.

Mister Ambassador, it began, you are hereby notified that Dail Eireann is scheduled to meet tonight in Emergency Session at 8:00 to consider the state of diplomatic relations between our two nations. As Diplomatic Representative of the Domination of the Draka, you are hereby formally invited to witness these proceedings. I regret matters have been taken from my control by recent events.

Eamon de Valera

Trevers tore the note into pieces.

“That sumBITCH! I knew he wuz behin’ all this! Oh, I’ll get him yet. I’ll have his head fo’ a trophy on mah wall back home befo’ the year is OUT!” This last was shouted at the ceiling, and Vicki Swenson was alarmed for the first time in her association with Trevers. This was bordering on paranoia, and it was unhealthy. He calmed down, and turned to her.

“Vicki, call a cab fo’ me. I’m goin’ to their joke of a gov’ment, and be sure to have the staff pack our bags. I think our time heah is about up.”

Dail Eireann, 9:40

“The motion having been read, and the debate ended, the Question now stands before this Dail. Do we, as a result of the Waterford Massacre, break off diplomatic relations with the Domination of the Draka, and declare the Citizens thereof to be personae non gratae in Eire and her possessions, boycotting all trade with her possessions, combines, corporations, and individuals, known and found to be such? Bear in mind, gentlemen and ladies, the burden we bear here tonight. This is a responsibility we do not shoulder lightly. The Dail will now divide on the Question.”

Trevers left early. He knew the outcome already. De Valera was smiling from his seat on the front bench. He hadn’t planned things this way, truly, but sometimes prayers truly were answered. For once, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would be working together.

Now, to talk with the American Ambassador and ask about that interesting program they were using with the Russians. After all, Ireland had an army, but it needed a bit of help at sea. Giving them basing rights at Cobh might be a nice incentive to start from.

Yes, he could see how things would start looking up. James Dillon of Fine Gael came over and clapped him on the shoulder, interrupting his reverie.

“Well, Dev, you’ve done it. A near-unanimous vote to break ties with the Draka and get them out of here. Well done, even for an old IRA type like yourself.” He threw out his hand, and de Valera smiled slightly and shook it. Dillon looked serious, then.

“Of course, we’re going to have to mobilize, now. This can only mean they’re going to declare war; the Draka don’t take kindly to this sort of thing. I just hope we’re ready for it, but I can tell you we’re behind the Government, Dev. No Opposition this time.”

“I appreciate that, James. I truly do.” Dillon smiled back at him, looked thoughtful for a moment, then burst out into laughter, which echoed around the chamber, causing heads to turn towards the leader of the Government and his rival. A shocked silence fell over the Dail, as de Valera looked affronted at the display. Finally, Dillon recovered himself, and wiped his eyes; he looked around at his fellow TDs, and smiled.

“Don’t you see, ladies and gentlemen? Don’t you understand? Our Taoiseach shouldn’t have been named Eamon at all, but…Padraic!” Comprehension slowly dawned on faces, and smiles started to break out on faces as de Valera turned a bright red, and Dillon indicated their leader.

“He’s driven the Snakes out of Ireland!”


Cuchulainn’s Hounds, Part 2: Garryowen

September 14th, 1941, Leinster House, Dublin, Eire

Normally, government business was not done on Sundays in Eire, but these were no longer normal times. The first act of the newly hostile nation was to see to it that Diplo-Cohortarch Trevers and his staff were escorted from Irish soil as quickly as possible, as well as their fellows in Cork. That meant getting the Snakes out of their compounds under armed escort and to a nominally friendly nation, or at least one that wouldn’t simply kill them out of hand. Eamon de Valera, Taoiseach of the newly-formed Eire Aontaithe government, pinched the bridge of his nose wearily as he considered the Drakan problem. If he handed them over to the Americans, who weren’t yet at war with the Domination, they’d be safe enough, but he doubted that would last; for one thing, the descendants of former slaveowners and the descendants of their conquerors would get along like Kilkenny cats, so to speak, and for another, America had always been a good friend to Ireland, almost a second home when the Bad Times had come. Hadn’t he been born in the United States? He smiled slightly at that; it had saved his life, after all. The Irish Army was equipped with American weapons and equipment; even if it was bought after the war against the Central Powers, it was still in good condition, and the Americans had been generous, as was their nature. No, America was out as a destination.

His face, still creased in a frown, suddenly brightened. Of course. The answer lay right before him, and would be ample payback for his time spent in Kilmainham. After all, the Snakes had once been a colony of Britain as well; why not reunite them? They weren’t at war yet, and he was certain Mr. Churchill would be more than happy to receive Mr. Ambassador Trevers and send him along to Archona in style. His smile grew more sarcastic at the thought of that meeting. Now, to summon the Army commanders and hustle the Drakan Ambassador-former Ambassador-across the Irish Sea at the point of a bayonet, since they seemed to understand that language better than anything else. A shame, really. He’d thought he’d found a Draka who’d actually understood how his country thought, but Trevers had turned out to be just like all the rest-hard, brutal and arrogant. Amazing how similar to the British they-no, it was best to stop thinking in those terms. Not even Britain could have foreseen what her ex-colonists would become, and blaming them for the Snakes, while convenient, wasn’t going to solve any issues his new Government faced. De Valera sighed; he’d better call his ministers for a meeting, since the Army would want action, and Dillon was just the fellow to give it to them. Also, there were the ambassadors to deal with, and that was going to try his patience in at least two examples. Still, he could endure the diplomatic niceties over the Waterloo Massacre, especially when there was going to be such a nice payoff for his country.

Drakan Embassy, Dublin

Trevers looked down at the finely machined automatic pistol in his desk drawer. It had all gone wrong here, in this shithole of a country governed by ignorant ferals who could barely walk without either drinking or thanking their nonexistent God. Thank the Race Swenson had not only packed their personal baggage, but had the foresight to destroy all the classified papers in the safes as well; moreover, she’d set a delayed-fuse incendiary device in all of them, and he smiled mirthlessly as he imagined the fikked-up jokes the ferals called “fire brigades” trying to deal with the devices of the Security Directorate. He doubted very much they’d ever dealt with Composition-Zeta; unfortunately, since it was such a long trip from here to the nearest airstrip, he doubted they’d ever have to more than once. Still, the ferals here would remember the Race, that was for fikkin’ certain. Now, he mulled the thoughts of expiating his sin against the Domination, then shut the drawer…after retrieving the pistol, of course. No use leaving it here for some bliddy feral to pick up-like as not it’d be swapped for a drink within an hour. He holstered the weapon and headed for the door, looking around for the final time. Vicki had thoughtfully left the glass tumbler on his desk, and, without breaking stride, the now ex-Ambassador to Eire from the Dominate of the Draka swept the heavy glass onto the floor ahead of him, crushing through the shards as he strode to the door and flung it open.

Swenson was waiting in the hall with the embassy guard; it was hard to say which looked more lethal, but Trevers decided in favor of his assistant. Drakian regulars were supposed to look lethal, all the better to project the image of the Race, but Swenson was clad in black leathers, her strawberry-blonde hair in a practical style and her green eyes as cold as river-washed gems. He wondered idly what her Irish Army officer escorts would think of her now, or whether or not they would even want to approach within fifty miles of her. Well, the ferals had kicked the dragon, and they were going to find out that all Citizens had both claws and fangs, even the pretty ones. The guard commander was a young Tetrarch (Jansson, he remembered), and his tetrarchy of Citizens (younkers, though) was doing an admirable job of concealing its rage at being unceremoniously removed from this bliddy jerkwater posting. He noticed Swenson saluting, and returned it with a slightly bitter smile.

“Well, it’s a fikkin’ wun’ful day t’ be run outta town, raht, Security-Centurion Swenson? It even appeahs th’ sun has decided t’ come out t’ see us off t’ whereveah these ferals can think of…assumin’ they think a-tall. I do b’lieve I’ll write in m’ final report that they’s no guv’ment heah t’ speak of, jes’ a buncha ferals who cain’t org’nize free bitches n’ bucks in a whorehouse.” He looked around; all the typical Drakan elements had been removed and packed away, and the hall was now just a large, empty hall occupied by thirty-five of the deadliest fighters on the island, by his view. He turned back to Swenson, who was looking coldly angry (but not at me, he thought gratefully).

“I’m guessin’ you wuz able t’ secure th’ requisite numbah of auto-steamers t’ haul away all th’ papers an’ equipment?”

“Yes, suh. Fo’ whuteveah reason, these heah ferals were plenty willin’ t’ let me hire whut few steamers they had. Fact is, they seemed t’ be ovuhjoyed we wuz goin’, but they still kep’ our money.” Her face turned sour at that, but he couldn’t afford to lose her, and they’d all seen what could happen when these particular ferals got angry. He smiled in what he hoped was a calming manner.

“Pax, Swenson. The Race gonna be comin’ back heah one day, an’ I doan’ think th’ ferals’ll like it very much when we do. Maybe you kin break one ‘r two of those ferals who tried t’ take you out t’ dinner?” She didn’t smile, exactly, but he could see his words had helped improve her mood. Good, because what he had to say next was not going to be pleasant.

“Citizens, we all done our duty t’ th’ Race in this backwards shithole, an’ I’m proud to have serv’d wit’ y’all. We got one final duty, an’ that is, we’re goin’ home t’ th’ Dominate. No fik-ups jes’ ‘cause sum ferals think they bottom rail on top fo’ now. We all know bettah, ‘cause we’re th’ Race. Th’ trouble is that we all gotta play by their rules…fo’ now, an’ that means that all of us gotta unload our weapons. All our weapons. ‘Course, if you gots a dagger on yo’ person, then there’s no reason t’ mention that t’ th’ ferals, but it’s mah job t’ see we all get back safe so that we c’n be in on th’ first wave of claimin’ this heah island fo’ the Race.” (An’ puttin’ that bliddy slippery FIK de Valera’s head on mah wall, Trevers added silently) Tetrarch Jansson looked angry for a moment, as did most of his tetrarchy, but obedience was ingrained into the Draka, and they began working the actions on their T-7A rifles, catching the small cartridges and putting the cartridge block back into place on their bandoliers. The machine-gunner looked even angrier, but he wasn’t loaded to begin with, and carrying a loaded machine-gun in the streets right now wasn’t going to get them to the docks. The military escort the ferals were providing would do that.

Speaking of which…

There was a knock at the doors, still closed and barred, and Jansson automatically started towards the noise. Trevers moved towards the door instead, holding up his right hand as he motioned to Swenson with his left. If any ferals were going to try to kill him, they’d be dead before they hit the ground; Security-Centurion Swenson may have unloaded her sidearm, but she was very, very good with her boot-knife. The embassy guard fell in behind him, as he unbarred the doors and swung them open. A feral tetrarch (lieutenant, his mind whispered) stood at the doorway, a piece of parchment in hand. The feral saluted, touching the brim of his odd-colored cap, but Trevers just kept looking at him like the feral he was.

“Ambassador Trevers?” Trevers merely nodded slightly; he’d be fikked if he’d make the ferals’ job any easier.

After an uncomfortable silence, the young feral began to read from the sheet in a clear voice.

“Given that a state of war now exists between the Republic of Eire and the Dominate of the Draka, and given that Diplo-Cohortarch Robert Trevers, Ambassador Plenipotentiary from said Dominate, and his staff, enjoying the benefits of diplomatic immunity do now reside in the Republic of Eire, the Dail Eireann has determined that said representatives be escorted to the Dublin quays, wherein they will be given safe passage, along with their belongings, to a neutral nation. We regret that-“ Trevers cut him off with an impatient wave.

“Neveah min’ all th’ buffaloshit, boy. Yo’ heah to take us down t’ th’ docks, an’ we s’posed t’ follow, jes’ like serfs. I s’pose yo’ orders are t’ search fo’ weapons?” The young lieutenant nodded nervously; it was one thing to read about the horrors the Snakes were perpetrating on the world, but here was one within arms’ reach, looking at him like he wasn’t even there.

“Isn’t gonna happen. We’ll work th’ actions so you c’n see they unloaded, but that’s all we goan do fo’ you. No-one outside th’ Race puts a fing’r on a Citizen. Unnerstan’ me?” Swenson was smiling now, and the guards stood even straighter, if that was possible. The lieutenant (fikkin’ stupid name fo’ a rank, he thought) saluted again, and Trevers noted with satisfaction the sheen of sweat under the cap. As the feral officer marched towards the street, Trevers turned back to Jansson.

“Tetrarch, I wan’ yo’ decurions to put a lochos on each truck, jes’ in case th’ ferals try any mo’ of they tricks. Swenson, you ride wit’ me, an’ we’ll git this bushmen’s carnie aboard ship, wherevah we bound.”

The no-longer-Ambassadorial staff saluted, and moved smoothly to their posts, even as the company of Irish Army soldiers looked on and fingered their weapons nervously. Regardless of the fact that these Snakes were supposedly disarmed, they were still Snakes, and no soldier wanted to see what would happen if the Snake was prodded, even the beautiful young woman in tight leathers at the older Snake’s side. No, best just to get them down to the docks. There was a surprise waiting for them there, with the blessings of the Irish Government.

Leinster House, Dublin

Taoiseach, the ambassadors are here. Shall I show them in?”

“Yes, Brigid, by all means, but individually, if they don’t mind. No doubt they wish to offer their condolences, but one can never tell if other offers might be forthcoming.” With that, Eamonn de Valera stood up and smiled slightly, looking out on the outstretched streets of Dublin. Oh, Waterford had been a tragedy, certainly, but his nation was used to tragedy. What would interest him far more would be what the three men waiting outside had to say about his nation’s actions as a result of what was already known as the “Waterford Massacre”.

The door opened, and he turned around as a stout, slightly chubby man with a full salt-and-pepper beard was ushered into the office by his secretary. She smiled at him as he wiped his forehead, and he returned it; his figure was that of a kindly grandfather, and de Valera mentally grimaced at the idea. Dmitri Gorenko was hardly that, and he knew it. The Soviet Union had not been in good odor with Eire for several years now; even the Free State government had disliked them for their overt atheism and self-destructive teachings, but their support for the Spanish Republicans had been the proverbial straw. Those anarchists had overthrown their legitimate government and started looting the Church, and the sympathy in Ireland had been heavily Nationalist in tone. There hadn’t been any overt intervention, of course, not with Britain taking its pious stand, but still, the feelings had run high, and when the Nationalists had triumphed, a strong feeling of satisfaction had run through the country. Some of the old Republicans here had tried linking the two causes, but he had pointed out that there was no room for the kind of desecration of the Church that the Spanish Republicans were promoting. Still, the Soviet Union had one precious weight in its favor right now.

It knew how to fight the Snakes. Because of this, de Valera was prepared to forgive them their trespasses against the Church, and Ambassador Gorenko had played his cards well. The Soviet Diplomatic Ministry was good at finding men to cover their own crimes in a cloak of “unity against the Drakian menace”, and Gorenko relished his role, even if talking to the man in a social setting was slightly frowned upon. However, it had been yesterday’s events that had really brought out his abilities to seize upon any situation to turn it to his government’s advantage, and he was here to officially admit it.

“Mr. Prime Minister, I am instructed by my government to express the deepest sorrows of the Soviet peoples for the atrocity committed yesterday against the Irish people and the Republic of Ireland by the so-called Dominate of the Draka. This was a deeply felt crime against a neutral nation, and I was immediately instructed to offer whatever resources my mission had available to help in the rescue efforts. Also, I would like to offer my personal condolences to those families who have lost loved ones as a result of this cowardly and brutal attack, and I assure you and your nation that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is ready to give any assistance within our power to a country that now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of humanity against this evil.”

De Valera looked at Gorenko, then smiled and nodded his head, extending his arm as he did so. Gorenko looked momentarily taken aback (got you, a thought ran through de Valera’s mind), then reached over with a smile of his own and enthusiastically shook the Taoiseach’s hand.

“Mister Ambassador, I speak for all of the Irish people when I say that this offer shows the spirit and generosity for which the Russian people,” and he kept his face bland as he oh-so-slightly stressed the qualifier, “are so well-known. Especially at a time when the sacrifices your nation has had to make against the Domination are so great, to step forward and make this offer will, I think, go far in strengthening the ties between our two nations, regardless of any past differences. I am asked by the city council of Waterford to thank your government especially for the offer of the embassy cars and medical staff; although they were unneeded, such a humane and generous gesture,” and again de Valera kept his face bland, “will not go unremembered. Now,” and de Valera switched gears, “you are no doubt aware that, as a result of this massacre, Eire has been forced into war. You may tell your government that, while we cannot emulate the example set by the Russian people, we will do our best to uphold the traditions of our ancestors, and all Ireland looks forward to the day when the Domination is destroyed, and this cursed blight wiped from the earth. After all, all men love freedom, and the Domination…well, we know their views on the subject. We stand united in this cause, Mister Ambassador. Yes, you may tell your government that.”

Gorenko kept the smile on his face through this interminable sermon; of course he’d known that this little nation was going to declare war after the attack. He had friends in their parliament, after all, among other sources. The last thing his government wanted right now, though, was a diplomatic breach with one more of these bourgeois states that happened to be engaging in warfare against the Snakes, and this had been like a…well, Gorenko knew he shouldn’t think this way, being the New Soviet Man, but it had been Fate that had brought this tiny nation into the war; true, they were here because of the death of their Catholic leader, but any excuse to bring in more men who would die so that Soviet Russia could live was welcome.

A small part of him hated that thought.

“I will be pleased to convey your message to my government, Mr. Prime Minister. I only regret that, owing to our own struggles for defense against this evil, we cannot supply you with more in the way of supports.” De Valera waved this off.

“Your nation’s ships are welcome at any time, Ambassador. We will do what we can for you. Now, I hate to cut this interview short, but…” Gorenko chuckled unexpectedly.

“Ah, yes, my colleagues from across the sea. I will bid you a good day, then, and convey your message to my government.” With that, Gorenko bowed (a strangely formal gesture, de Valera though), and walked out of the room. De Valera looked after him for a moment, then pushed the intercom button.

“Brigid? Send in…send in Sir John. He and I have much to talk about, I think.”

The door opened again, and a tall, spare man walked in. This was Sir John Maffey, and he and de Valera had a long and strained relationship. After all, he was the High Commisioner for Ireland, and even if that blackguard Churchill hadn’t sent him himself, de Valera knew that the current spineless British Prime Minister had more than likely acceded to Churchill’s wishes on this matter. After all, Mr. Churchill was the acknowledged “expert” on Irish affairs, even if his expertise consisted mainly in sending in soldiers to shoot them down. Just like the English had done for hundreds of years. Maffey began to speak, and his upper-class accent grated on de Valera’s ears.

“Mister Prime Minister, as the…Representative of His Majesty’s Government to your nation, I have been instructed to offer His Majesty’s and the Government’s condolences to you and the Irish people on this unhappy occasion. Moreover, despite our past differences of opinion, I would like to offer my own, personal condolences as well. I realize that the relationship between our two governments could be described as less than amicable,” and it took all of de Valera’s self-control to keep his face still or a snort from escaping “but, regardless of whatever has passed between our countries, I do feel badly for the victims of this tragedy.”

De Valera considered Sir John for a moment. No doubt the man himself was being sincere, and that was all to the good; even the most wicked sinner could be redeemed. Still, he did represent the government that had been, until 1922, Ireland’s overlord and colonial master, and was one of the few remaining nations that was neutral towards the Domination. Not entirely surprising; the Domination was, after all, a former British colony, and both were imperial in their own right. The only major difference, as far as de Valera could see, was that Britain had been forced, over the centuries, to give up her imperial dreams by two of her biggest former colonies, and that she was not quite as repressive in her rule as the Domination was. He knew, though, that many, many Irish still longed for the whole of Ireland to be united, including the North, and that Britain was still regarded as the primary enemy preventing Irish unification. Admittedly, this sentiment had its place; the Snakes had been driven out of Waterford by concealed rifle fire from parties unknown once the Army and the Gardai showed up. Still, now was not the place to bring that subject up.

That didn’t mean he couldn’t twist the lion’s tail, though.

“Thank you, Sir John. My country and myself appreciate your nation’s thoughts at this tragic time in our history. No doubt such brutality is an affront to all rational countries, and I can only hope that our contribution to the war against the Domination will help in their eventual eradication.” There. A nice, pointed reference to the fact of British neutrality couched in a diplomatic turn of phrase. He continued, “I am all too aware of our history of mutual dislike, and I hope that this will be ended in the coming years.” Though it may take centuries, went unspoken in the room. “In any event, as elected Taoiseach of the new Eireann Aontaithe government, I have an official request from my government to yours.”

Maffey tensed up almost at once, though his smile remained fixed on his face, and he cocked his head slightly. The man facing him had, after all, escaped the justice of the Crown, and had risen through Irish politics to their supreme position; whatever Mr. De Valera was or was not, he was no-one to be taken lightly, especially in the matter of “Official Requests” to the Crown. The very fact that this man would be making one would no doubt stick in the throats of many back at Whitehall, yet he had to keep up the game and hear it out.

“By all means, Mr. Prime minister. I’ll be happy to transmit this to London as soon as we’re finished with this interview.” De Valera smiled, (something thin in that, Maffey thought, and prepared to stand his metaphorical ground) and nodded.

“Excellent. The request is as follows: given the…ah, nature of your Government’s relations with the Domination, and the fact that Eire is now officially in a state of war with that government, we have found ourselves in a bit of trouble regarding the repatriation of Drakian diplomatic personnel to their homeland. We have no wish for our own citizens to attempt this duty, only to have their persons seized, so the Irish Government wishes to request that the Chamberlain Government take official custody of the Drakian diplomatic staff, for repatriation through the channels you possess. This will, I think, go a long way in showing the good faith of the British Government towards Eire, especially in these times.”

Maffey could hardly believe his ears. The Irish wanted His Majesty’s Government to willingly take on a load of Draka? This was a major diplomatic request, to be certain. Oh, his government still had relations with the Dominate, but the two countries were hardly on friendly terms. He supposed that de Valera had a point, but this “request” was going to infuriate London. On the other hand, if he put it in the right terms, he could point out that by doing this, the Anglo-Irish relationship could at least begin to be repaired, and it would have happened when he was High Commissioner. That thought appealed to him more and more, and he finally nodded, albeit not very firmly.

“Very well, Mr. Prime Minister, I will certainly transmit this request to my government today, and I hope to have a response for you by tomorrow at the latest. Again, I would like to say that His Majesty’s Government deplores this action by the so-called Domination, and that your country’s reaction to it is entirely understandable. Personally, I wish you every success.”

“Thank you, Sir John. I would ask that you make some haste in this request, if I may, as we are already in the process of escorting the former embassy personnel to the Dublin docks, and will be putting them aboard a ferry for transport. Naturally, we wish to complete this process as quickly as possible, both for their sake and for ours.”

Maffey fought to keep from choking; the Irish had to be insane to be already marching the Drakan Embassy through the streets of Dublin. There wouldn’t be any remains left to put aboard the ferry, not after the Rape of Rome and the Massacre. De Valera seemed to gauge his reaction, and smiled that thin smile again.

“They’ll arrive safely, Sir John. I can’t imagine they’ll be in good humor, though, when they make the journey. I believe the Draka have very poor sea legs.”

Sir John Maffey nodded, clamping his lips together. This was going to take some more thought; London did not like surprises, and here was one of its worst hobgoblins springing a fait accompli. Still, he’d salvage the situation. It was his duty, after all.

“Well, Prime Minister, if there is nothing else to discuss, I will take my leave. I will make an appointment tomorrow if London has responded.” De Valera nodded, and the British Representative did the same, then turned and walked out, rather stiffly.

I wonder if that was a mistake? Probably not. De Valera, whatever else made up his character, had never forgotten his imprisonment, and he took a quiet satisfaction in dealing with the British Crown in any fashion that could annoy them. Hopefully, his last major appointment would be more convivial.

“Brigid, please send in Mr. Gray.”

With that, the last of the ambassadors came in, from the United States of America. He was clutching a telegram in his hand, and he came to a stop before the Taoiseach. He extended his hand in the brash and forward Yankee manner, and de Valera took it without a hint of reluctance. The United States was where Ireland would turn for help, after all, and, had the circumstances been different, he would have been more than happy to sit down with this man. However, Ireland needed help now, and he was going to have to ask for it. Still, the diplomatic niceties must be observed.

“Mr. Prime Minister, the United States stands shocked at this latest confirmation of the nature of the Drakian people, and offers its deepest sympathies to the Irish nation and people at this terrible time.” Typical Yankee over-the-top wording, but the sentiments were certainly there. “As a nation that is so intimately linked by blood with your own, owing so much to the labors of the Irish men and women who came to help build our nation, while we cannot say that we know the sufferings of your people as a result of this atrocity, we can offer our financial help. Various neighborhoods in my nation have begun collecting relief funds for the families of Waterford so affected by this attack, and I will be happy to present those funds to you as they are sent to me.”

Although he didn’t show it, de Valera was touched by this; Ambassador Gray was correct in noting the ties between the two countries, and this outpouring of support from the emigrant communities was not unwelcome in the slightest. Whatever the Americans were or were not, no-one could accuse them of being ungenerous. The question was, what price would they ask for their generosity? Right now, the entire situation with regard to the United States and the Domination was tense; the President of the United States had wept when he heard the news of Rome’s destruction, and the government was known to have protested vigorously, especially concerning information about American citizens who happened to be in Rome when it fell. De Valera doubted privately whether protests would do anything but confirm what the Snakes thought about the Yanks, but the Americans were not yet technically at war. He had a feeling, though, that the Snakes had no clue what was coming if that slumbering colossus woke up and decided it wanted to go to war. It was well not to be underfoot when it came; better still to be pointing out the giant’s foes. He’d best pull out all the stops when it came to this fellow.

“Mister Ambassador, that offer is a perfect example of the well-known American spirit for doing all it can to help its brother nations when they are afflicted by tragedy, and I express the deepest and warmest feelings for myself and my nation when I say we are honored to accept this generosity at this time. The warm regards the Irish people have always had for their fellows across the sea can only be heightened by this, and I know, personally,” and here de Valera leaned forward, “that many a grateful prayer has been offered for Mr. Roosevelt’s soul in today’s Masses, as well as prayers for the people of your nation.” That they would declare war themselves, mostly, but he omitted that part. He continued, “We had hoped that our steadfast friend would not abandon us in this time of crisis, and I am glad to hear that your government has kept faith with us, as we will with you.” Part of de Valera’s soul rebelled at this sort of extravagant praise, but this was the representative of the most powerful friend Ireland had, and he supposed the man’s ego, which was known to be larger than normal, liked the flattery. Indeed, he could see the smile that lingered in Gray’s eyes, though he kept his face and body diplomatically neutral.

“Indeed, Mr. Prime Minister, and to show that bond, I hope you will allow me a small privilege?” De Valera’s eyebrows rose fractionally at that, and he thought for a moment. What could this be about?

“As long as it does not infringe on the sovereignty of Ireland, I will be pleased to grant it.”

“Thank you, sir. This telegram,” and he waved the flimsy “is from the President of the United States, acting as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He has authorized me to offer Eire full participation in the Lend-Lease program. Further, he has authorized me to offer military advisors from the various United States armed services to offer any assistance with the new equipment that you will be receiving should you choose to participate in the program.” De Valera’s eyebrows rose further at that.

“New equipment, Mr. Ambassador? You will forgive my ignorance, but I was under the impression…” He was cut off by a slight shake of the head from Ambassador Gray.

“My apologies, Mr. Prime Minister. I meant new to your military, of course. The equipment we can offer is, of course, older by our standards, and would be discarded otherwise.” The fiction had to be maintained, after all.

“Ah. Thank you for that clarification.” De Valera rubbed his chin thoughtfully for a moment, then smiled slightly.

“Mr. Ambassador, I would like to bring this proposal before my Cabinet, but I believe I can offer at least the thanks of the nation for the offer. I believe, also, that I know what my government will say, but I cannot accept just yet. However, if you are able to wait for our response, it will come swiftly, I promise you. Any help our nation, which is poor in all resources but spirit, is offered is welcome, though of course that is not official,” and the two men shared a look. The Irish government would fall all over themselves accepting this offer, and the United States had Atlantic bases for use against the Domination. Oh, nothing had been said, but there would have to be a quid pro quo, of course, and the Irish government could fairly easily be persuaded to allow the United States Navy use of the British “treaty ports”, as well as using Shannon airport as a refueling stop at the least. However, it would be worth it for new equipment and up-to-date training for the Irish Army. Still, this was something more properly handled by the government.

“In any event, sir, thank your government and Mister Roosevelt personally from me, and I will send our decision to you as soon as it has been reached.” The two men shook hands, and the ambassador left. As soon as he had gone, de Valera punched his intercom.

“Brigid? Could you please contact the members of the government and ask them to attend an emergency meeting? There is a vital matter to discuss.” He barely heard the acknowledgement, as he steepled his fingers. With American aid and training…yes, the Irish could make their presence felt. They owed that much to the martyr who had fallen in Rome.

Two Hours Later, Government House

“Are we all agreed, then, gentlemen? That the Eire Aontaithe government shall accept this offer from the United States of America in the name of the Irish people, to better prepare our forces to fight the Draka?” Surprisingly, it was not de Valera who was speaking, but James Dillon, who was not only Taniste, but also had a healthy interest in the military and was, as always, fiery in his hatred of the Draka. This would help to channel his energies, de Valera thought, and between his deputy and the Army Minister, he knew that the American aid would be welcomed and integrated as quickly as possible. He looked around the table, and all heads were nodding. Time for the formality.

“So says the government?”

A chorus of “Ayes” answered him. Well, so be it.

“Brigid,” to his ever-present secretary, “will you please take down an official telegram to Mr. David Gray, Ambassador to the Government of Eire from the United States of America, stating the following: ‘We, the Government of Eire, accept the proposal outlined for full participation in your government’s Lend-Lease program, and look forward to working closely with your nation in this venture.’ Ah, James, will you be willing to serve as coordinator for the American material aid and liaison with the Army? I think that will show that we truly are a unity government.” Dillon’s wide smile of agreement showed that he would be happy to accept this role.

“Well, then, gentlemen, unless there is other business, I think we have done very well today.” The others nodded and smiled, but de Valera did not. He had just sentenced many young men to death, but it was the will of God. He took some comfort in that thought.

Dublin docks, simultaneously

Trevers didn’t even look at his captors, who were riding in their trucks with their weapons (obs’lete junk, all of it, he thought with a mental grimace) pointed towards the Drakan convoy, covering the former mission members and their guard, who were bitterly enraged that matters had come to this point. Obviously Jansson had wanted nothing better than to gun the ferals down, but Swenson had talked him out of it; they represented an intelligence mine, and intelligence on a new enemy was often more precious than any rare metal. Even one as backwards as this bunch of ferals. From what he had gathered from Vicki, their army was a shell, with its organization dating back to when they had been a bunch of bushmen taking shots at the Brits. That fik-up of an organization wouldn’t suffice to slow any of the Race’s troops, much less provide any help to the nations currently trying to oppose the inevitable Draka victory. No, best to get back to the Domination and tell them that this was just a pissant backwater that was higher on itself than a Janissary before combat on amphetamines, more of a danger to itself than any other country. Unfortunately, right now, the ferals had the guns. Trevers knew that the usual rule for Citizens was to go down fighting in a bloodbath, but there wasn’t any point. Besides, why here? Better to do it on the Soviet Front or in Italy, facing real enemies.

His thoughts were interrupted as the Irish truck ahead came to a halt, followed by the two on either flank. They had arrived at the docks, and Trevers dismounted to look for the Transportation Syndicate ship he assumed would take his party back to Archona. Instead, he noted with dismay that there was no apparent Domination ship in the harbor at all, and that there was what appeared to be a ferry of some kind, although it had obviously seen better days. With fury blazing in his eyes, he rounded on the young lieutenant.

“Whut th’ FIK is this shit? Where’s our ship home? Doan tell me y’doan know, neither! Jes’ whut the fik is goin’ on, you shit-fer-brain’d li’l rodent?” Trevers’ voice rose to a shout as the rest of the former Drakan embassy dismounted, and the Irish officer, though obviously intimidated, refused to give ground. Instead, he motioned to his men, and the rifles came up to cover the former ambassador.

“Mr. Trevers, I regret that your transportation is not to your satisfaction, but I assure you this was the best possible option available on such short notice. Its only purpose is to bring you across the Irish Sea to Liverpool, where you will be met by members of your own nation who will arrange further transport from Britain to the Domination. I am sorry that the government of Great Britain has not seen fit to supply transport more suited to your status, but I assure you the Irish government had nothing to do with these arrangements.” The young man was speaking levelly, even as this pack of human wolves closed in around him, but he kept his hand near his holster; no telling what these savages would do in their anger.

Trevers managed to keep from snarling and breaking the feral’s windpipe, but it took almost all of his effort. Turning away, he composed his face and looked at the ferry again.

“You ‘spect us t’ get all our possessions ‘board that, hmmm, boy? I reck’n it c’n be done, but not by you ‘r yours. Nope, th’ Draka do they own work, an’ this is no exception. Pl’toon, fall OUT!” His voice rang across Dublin’s cobbles, and passerby stopped to watch; it wasn’t every day that the Army was in town, and they’d never seen foreigners being escorted aboard a boat before. The trucks from the former embassy rumbled up to where the ferry’s gangway was landed on the quay, and the sticks that had been aboard began to unload the bundles and crates from the back. Trevers watched dispassionately with Swenson at his side as the feral officer saw an example of well-drilled Citizen activity. Even as the first packages were being brought aboard, he spoke, apparently to no-one in particular, and enunciated his words very carefully and quietly.

“One day, we’ll be back. Jes’ you remember that, officer. Th’ Race doesn’t like bein’ kicked out, an’ it knows whut t’ do t’ those countries who resist. You think your time under th’ Brits was bad? Let me tell you, you’ve seen nothin’ yet, feral. Your whole island is going t’ be put down if you even fikkin’ breathe about revolt, an’ that’s a fact. You tell your leaders I said that. Tell ‘em they haven’t heard th’ last o’ us.”

The Irish lieutenant was amazed at the sheer hate he could detect in the other man’s voice, and the body language of the attractive young woman at his side told him she shared his sentiments. Even as the loading went on, he felt a surge of national pride welling up from deep inside him. These butchers had the effrontery and tell him that they’d return to put his whole nation to the sword, did they? Well, he had his own thoughts on that matter. He turned to the Snake and saluted, then spoke up.

“Before I take my leave and supervise your activities from a distance, I would remind you of a fact. Your type of lordship has been tried before, and we have survived. My nation has starved, and we have survived. You will find that Ireland will die under your boot, but she will stab you as she dies, and my people will never allow themselves to be enslaved again.” He walked towards his troops, who were standing warily some distance away, then turned back to the two.

“Especially by Snakes.” He continued on, and the Irish soldiery moved back, forming a perimeter. At the quayside, Trevers continued to watch his embassy being loaded aboard, and a thin, grim smile crossed his face.

Shannon Airport, September 22nd, 1941

The arrivals were almost routine by now, as American Air Force C-46s roared in and disgorged their cargoes of men, who were greeted by their counterparts in the Irish Army and whisked away to Army Headquarters in Dublin, where a buildup of the Army from its present strength was being mapped out. The Americans were very, very good at organizing mass callups of citizens for war, having proven that in their own history of conflicts, and this was the largest such Ireland had ever seen. Still, every plane was greeted with a formal salute from the men of the 11th Battalion’s platoons, and the Americans were surprised to see that Ireland was, indeed, a green and pleasant land, just like their fathers and grandfathers had said.

For once, the United States Army had done the right thing; they had combed the appropriate units for men of Irish extraction to send as advisors on all levels, and these men began to fit in well with their counterparts from the beginning. Added to that the fact that many Irishmen from the North and even Britain were coming back, and there would be a good number to draw from for this expansion. In fact, it seemed that Britain couldn’t send them home quickly enough, as their presence technically violated her status as a neutral. “The Return”, as it was already being called, would help build the Irish military into a respectable force, and already the young men of that isle were taking to the news like their forefathers had of old. Better to restrain a horse than prod an ox, the Americans thought with concealed smiles; after all, they shared a temperament with these people. Still, the old World War I “French 75s” had to go, even though they were decent guns in their day; new 105mm howitzers were ordered, as well as standard mortars and even more BARs for the squads to replace their old Lewis guns, soon to be relegated to a training role. More rifles were needed, as were trucks, Jeeps, and all the thousand and one items to make a modern army.

Still, in at least one case, there was a unit almost ready to go; the First Brigade, 1st Division, which the Americans had been told was nicknamed “Thunderbolt”. They liked the name, and when they inspected the brigade, they liked what they saw. All that had to be done to bring the brigade up to fighting strength was replace the artillery and motorize the troops, and the last was done by the simple trick of reassigning all available military trucks to the brigade; there’d be plenty of replacements coming later. Three battalions and their supports, and they could be on their way to the Italian front as quickly as possible. The Irish liked the way their American advisors nee cousins thought, and there was little friction. After all, there were Snakes to kill. Still, the Americans kept coming, every day, and there were jokes about Ireland becoming a state after the war at this rate.

Even now, another C-46 was touching down, and the platoon on guard sighed wearily. However, today was going to be different. Everything was going to change in the next few minutes. As the plane was taxiing towards its assigned spot on the tarmac, a car came racing towards the honor guard with a long wireless antenna whipping and the insignia of their own Signals Company painted on the side. It screeched to a halt, then the doors popped open and a radioman and corporal shouted from the inside.

“C’mon, lads, hurry over! The broadcast has just been interrupted for one from the Vatican!” That elicited a reaction, and the honor guard forgot their duties and clustered around the car even as the plane came to a halt. As the American advisors began to deplane, they saw their supposed escorts clustered around a car; clearly, something was happening. They hurried over as well to find all the Irish waiting quietly.

The following broadcast will be presented in its entirety. Translation will be offered by Signior William Keely of the Trinity College, Dublin. From Aachen, Germany, we bring you His Holiness, Julius III.” The men looked at one another.

“Jaysus, they didn’t waste any time, did they?” one muttered, but he was stilled by reproachful looks from his mates.

Iulius, episcopus, servus servi Domine, ad omnis facilitatis defendis fides Christian, salve et benedictionis apostolicis…” The voice was surprisingly young-sounding, even over the wireless, and the rich Latin syllables rolled onwards.

O favorabilis eteligis Dei, ad tuum scripti noster adversus. Ad Ierusalem et Roma, generis barbarus et ab Dei invidia residium.” The Irish listened with rapt attention, and even the notoriously mouthy Americans cocked their heads forward. Everyone knew that the former Pope had been murdered by the Draka; that was why they were here. Now it seemed the College of Cardinals had chosen a replacement, and he sounded angered, as well he might. The Latin speech continued, reaching an intensity of anger that none of the Catholics there could have imagined emanating from the Holy Father; they had caught words that sounded like “outrage”, “rape”, “pillage”, and “barbarian”. Could this be what it sounded like? The men started to look at one another as the speech approached its finale.

O discipuli Christi, audite verbi! In Nomine Christi, in nomine basilicis Catholicis sacris, serpens delenda est! DEUS VULT!”

There was a pause from the wireless, as if the Holy Father could not believe what he had just proclaimed. One had not been proclaimed in hundreds of years, yet he had done it. This would unify the Catholic world like nothing else, and there would be a reckoning with the Draka that now had the force of faith behind it.

Julius III had proclaimed what would officially be called the Ninth Crusade. His small audience looked at each other for a moment. One of the Americans spoke first.

“Jesus take pity on those Snakes now. We’re going to the wars with the blessing of God.” The others nodded and started to smile as the translator began reading his text.

Their bodies might fall, but their souls were saved.