SC.2023.32 Silk Express Road

"Thank you, Malmei, please bring some tcha, me and my guests have a little time to get acquainted before their transport back to the embassy arrives." SC.2023.39. Han Tsu'Reik, the younger spoke, his manners impeccable, his Kagomine with just a slight trace of an accent.

"How do you know that?" Piersa asked, her slight frame bolstered as much as she could, which, considering the formal uniform she was in, denied her crossing her arms under her breasts, it'd hide the medals.

"..." He just met her gaze, steadily, as if to say: 'I am the minister of information here, I know such things.' But after she kept staring, enough to try even his colossal patience, he demurred.

"The common way for diplomatic guests to be carried over in Old Tsou City is to use human transportation, specifically, palanquins, to show the importance of such guests, and because mounts and vehicles are forbidden from entering the old city. For that, and other reasons, as well, human transportation of messages devolves to the Ministry of Culture. It came to be known as the Silk Express Road, after this ministry was named the ministry of silk, before, it was the Horse Express Road, and could use some animals, in some circumstances." He steepled his fingers together. "Culturally, Kagomei is ahead of us in many ways, but one ways in which I feel we are much more secure, is that we do not entrust so much of our internal communications, to private enterprise..."

Piersa could tell he'd done his homework, her stint as commander of a cormorant aircraft was still classified, according to Kagomine law. "Ah, I'm sure private enterprises can be more or less secure, depending on the enterprise, and depending on the threat they face." Best not to give him anything, he was a minor legend at analysis and inferral, according to her new colleagues at state.

"Ah, but you see, for my ministry, the threat is cultural extinction, the ceasing of what it is, to be Tsou, surely, when facing that threat, no measure can truly be outsized."

She didn't want to dwell on that, it sounded a bit like a writ to do the worse type of excess. "Yet Tsou culture and business flourish, you yourself preside over a renaissance of what it means to be Tsou."

He paused, thinking on what she said. "I don't know if I can call it a renaissance, but I must admit the treaty, and its impact are positive in many ways."

"Minister, tcha is ready."

Piersa waited until she was alone with her local guide and her husband. "What was that about?"

"What do you mean?"

"He sounded like an extremist, trying to bring back the Ancient Tsou, if he had to kill half the Tsou people to do it..."

"An exaggeration, but no, you are right in some ways. The current king regrets the liberalisations that came from us modernizing, and would like nothing but to go back to the absolute power he had under the old constitution. The minister we met today is very much his creature, and his pick of the old guard, even forbidding aircars over the old city, ostensibly for pollution reasons, but the real reason is so he can have his agents carrying every message and every person. His using an old term is only a veneer to give it legitimacy, but the only reason it happened was control."

"And they can't have jade communicators?"

"I hope you didn't bring yours with you?"

"I'm a flag officer of Kagomei's FlyForce, I'm legally required to forfeit my personal devices for the duration of my commission."

"Good, they're routinely seized, and bugged. Even military ones, although, from what I hear, Kagomine military ones are tamper-proof..."

"I checked, they wouldn't work for as long as we're within 20 kloms of the old city, and since that's where the embassy is, I simply won't be issued one."

"Is the embassy in the old city?"

"No, it's just outside the walls of the new city, along the road between old and new. Real estate experts warned us this was likely to become valuable..."

"More likely to be expropriated, it's something that happens surprisingly often in Tsou."

Dentrag was snoring softly.

"I should have warned you, talking politics tires Dentrag quite easily."

Mako tried to hold back her giggles. "I can see that. Some of that is probably jet lag too..."

Piersa tried to hide her own yawn. "Yeah, I should ask for your help..."

"Oh, sure, how can I help?"

"Hmm, I can't get this big lug into bed by myself?"


"That's funny, who'd know I'm here?" She opened the door.

The messenger, in full silk express road livery said, in cultured Tsomi: "I am Zumi, I am messenger for Silk Express Road. I have package for Direbird Piersa Ouranos?"

"Falcon, not Direbird."

"Apologies, please sign here."

Access and availability

Everywhere in Arnd but in Tsou, Jade Communication Networks, functioning over microwave radio in a cell-based network are the standard. In Tsou, specifically, in the areas controlled by the government, and specifically, the areas controlled by The Tsou Ministry of Culture, technological and legal impediments prevent these from working. In the entirety of Old Tsou City, and in the eastern half of New Tsou City, such do not work.

In those areas, in a throwback to practices seen in the last century, the Silk Express Road couriers, an organisation of thousands of low-level clerks, transports all messages.

Soon after the practice was codified into law, large riots broke out in the old city, protesting the changes.

The government's answer was to ban all traffic into the old city, save that on official business, and to enforce this, by requiring all such transport be performed using the human labour of pedestrian carriers, using palanquins and similar human effort devices. Tsou citizens found in the old city without leave could be flogged, Tsou found 'congregating illegally' could be charged with sedition or treason, and executed, sometimes with their families as well. The human rights record of Tsou never recovered, and Kagomei makes token protests every year, their own record not quite so besmirched, even if it's far from perfect.


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