Marie Laurent I
Disclaimer in first chapter.“News of the liberation of Arbil by the forces of the Middle Eastern Council and our own glorious peacekeeping forces was welcomed in Jerusalem, where the Emperor was meeting Sheikh Hamad, the Council’s President. They gave a joint press briefing-”
Dawn - or, rather, as the top of her paper quite formally proclaimed, Estelle Marie Élisabeth Laurent - shut off the radio as she went back to typing her carefully planned paper on the eighteenth century philosophers. It’s a careful balance, living in a dictatorship. To excel without being noticed, to have original thought without in any way criticizing the regime. Marie had to be very careful about this. It was fortunate enough that she’d never really studied Rousseau or Montesquieu as Dawn, otherwise it would be even more difficult to make sure she didn’t tread on any carefully censored grounds. Or, for that matter, on French toes for her unacceptably un-French view of them, or whatever.
Overall, she still thought of herself as Dawn Summers, despite Willow’s exhortation to reinvent herself. She had an idea of what she was doing, but, well, despite it all she was still the same person. Over fifty years of memories, thoughts and dreams, all of them belonging to Dawn Summers, still sat in her head. However, this was slowly changing. All of those memories, while still hers, had a distance to them.
The memories which came instantly to mind, without much thought at all, were those of Marie Laurent. Five years, now, she had lived the life of a French girl. Born and raised in the throes of a revived revolution in the City of Lights. Gaullists and Neomarxists, nationalists and unionists, protests and gunfire, those were her memories. Of course, that couldn’t be entirely put down to being French: a similar, though much less exciting, process had happened across the western world in her second childhood.
Times had definitely changed since the 1990s. And so not for the better. Nevertheless, her newer memories, both real and fake, had a certain level of reality to them, even more so than her adult memories of the same events. Of course, being so involved in the supernatural world and, for that matter, living in the Middle East had essentially isolated her from events in Europe and America.
Dawn broke away from her musings and went back to typing her essay. Rousseau. Montesquieu. The French philosophers of the eighteenth century. That was the key to the class. And the class was the key to her plans.
She had decided to forgo her traditional stomping grounds in the Classics and Demonology entirely, for a decidedly modern and - more or less - human field of study. Both sets of her memories suggested that good change could not come through conflict. Real change in the Middle East had only happened when the parties had finally, fully talked to each other. At the same time, all the Neomarxist revolutionary fervor in the world, all their talk of social change through the barrel of a gun came to naught in the face of other, frankly better trained gunmen.
But to be taken seriously as a voice for change, she had to do what was expected of her. And, modern France, that’s study the philosophers at university. Study the first French Revolution, study the ideas and the elaborations thereon produced in the past three centuries. She had to have all of her papers neatly filed in all the right places, as well as be able to talk in passing about certain topics, to even dream of being able to affect anything. Fortunately for Dawn, the Empire was a liberal country, overall, at least given the authoritarian dictatorship.
She looked out the window, again, looking toward the construction site in what had once been the Place de la Concorde. The Emperor was building a new “People’s Palace” there, a grand and modern skyscraper to house the offices of the Imperial government, and to replace the long lost Palais Bourbon and the other old buildings lost in the strife of the recent revolution.
It wasn’t the prettiest building, but, well, at least they were actually trying to rebuild. The Place had been essentially ruins for the better part of Marie’s lifetime, and it wasn’t going to come back on its own. Building the city up, Dawn thought, was the only real way to build some sort of lasting peace in France. In the words of France’s first emperor, which the schools had forced down her throat, in the end, of the two powers in the world, the sword is always beaten by the spirit.
Dawn looked back to her computer and began typing again. That’s what she was going to do. Try to build peace. A greater peace. She’d spent her entire life as Dawn Summers doing everything she could to fight supernatural evil, but had done almost nothing about the evils of mankind itself. Obviously, her sister’s particular gifts had inclined her to the former. But, as any slayer could easily tell you, fighting evil every night is a hard and thankless task, even when you’re on the research side of things.
Her musings were interrupted as a new news item flashed up on her screen. A tiny Union Jack implied its origin. She ignored it flashing as she continued to write about philosophy. She wanted to build a better world, and the essay was in her way. She would get it out of the way. She needed to stop distracting herself and get back to work. It was, after all, due tomorrow. Life as normal would continue no matter what was happening in England.
She idly wondered when her roommate would get back. Her last class had ended nearly an hour ago, and it wasn’t like her generally to stick around afterward. As long as they weren’t doing yet another inspection of the university. There were always more inspections of the university. Can’t have any dissent building up in the university, and constant inspections wouldn’t lead to any resentment at all, oh, no. The Empire didn’t trust... oh, fuck.
Great job, Dawn, with the jinxing thing.
Air raid alarms were going off. She hadn’t heard one of those in almost three years.“Attention, all citizens. Please enter the nearest shelter. This is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill. We are at terror-alert level six. I repeat, we are at terror-alert level six.”
What the hell?
She shrank her word processor and went to the access the Internet. Within seconds, the tab loaded with the ever-present “dangerous material, temporary censorship imposed” logo. Except, now it was even on the Imperial New Service website. Google. Goldstar. All of them.Fuck
Almost absentmindedly, she clicked the tiny Union Jack news item, which had already loaded onto her computer.
Ah, yes. That would explain it.Attack on Parliament; William V dead.
When would the madness end?