Should deeply planted and long-cultivated toil fall to its opposite in the great race? Many of history’s most illustrious successes, and even more of its noblest attempts, came from those with the disadvantage of moving quickly, impulsively, without forethought. The masses have oft seen this as undesirable, preferring that success be the reward of toil rather than that of rashness. The swampy morass of history is difficult to read on the matter, its arenas bubbling throughout with echoes of the disunifying clash.

The answer has always been there. You have but to grasp it.

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Flanked by the local brass band and banners proudly promoting Republic Days ’13, Commissioner Reynolds stepped up to the microphone on the Republic Park dais.

“Welcome, everyone, to Republic Days 2013!” he cried. “You know, our fair town and county has paid a terrible price for our loyalty to the Union during the Civil War. Harassment by the Home Guard, brother against brother violence, and of course the postwar era when the state capitol deliberately withheld state aid and funding. But as I look at all these smiling faces in front of me, as I recall the success of the last ten Republic Days festivals, and as I consider the strong economic growth of the past decades…I think our forefathers would agree it was all worth it!”

He was met by cheers from the assembled crowd.

“Without further ado, I ask that you turn your attention to the field to your right,” Reynolds continued. “Some of our fine Civil War reenactors have a presentation they’d like you to see.”

Three men in anachronistic blue uniforms from circa 1885 stood on the green clutching trapdoor Springfield 1873 rifles. A further three approached from the direction of the Republic Tree, wearing grey uniforms with kepis and braided sleeves of the sort that the Confederates had never been able to afford for their most elite troops, much less the ramshackle Home Guard.

“We’re looking for Col. Winston,” the lead “Confederate” demanded. “The Confederate Home Guard demands that his men disarm themselves, submit themselves to the rule of Richmond and President Davis, and provide the Confederate Army the conscripted men she is due!”

The lead reenactor, “Winston,” hefted his rifle. “We the people of Crittenden County have resolved to have no part of this wicked conflict,” he intoned. “It has been forced on us by the rich plantation owners to be fought by the poor who own no slaves, like us. We in Crittenden county have declared ourselves the sovereign Republic of Crittenden until such time as the rightful Union authority can be reestablished, and will brook no interference from the so-called Confederates.” His lines, delivered in a clear strong voice, were wildly applauded by the crowd.

The lead “Confederate,” wearing the red-rimmed uniform of an artilleryman despite brandishing a carbine-length musket, sneered. “Strong words from a man married to a negro,” he hissed, carefully pronouncing the latter bowdlerization so the crowd would have no doubt that he hadn’t used the much more offensive term any real Confederate would have. “The Home Guard will take from the so-called Republic of Crittenden by force what is owed it by rights.”

Blank gunfire erupted from both sides; when the black powder smoke cleared, the three “Confederates” were sprawled on the ground.

From the stands, Ms. Hanna Maurer watched the pageantry with rheumy eyes. It was all very well and good, she thought, to see the town so proud of its past.

Pity it was all based on a lie.

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Aged Chief Justice Marshall rose and read from a paper. “In the case of Worcester v. Georgia, the court finds in favor of Worcester by a vote of five yeas, one concurrence, and one nay.”

A murmur ran through the audience; the President would not be pleased with such a ruling. But the loudest complaint came from the front row, where a robed man rose and cried “”John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” He then cast off his robe to reveal President Jackson, resplendent in his old military uniform.

Marshall, 77 years old and ill with bladder stones, rose from the bench. He removed his bifocals, his rheumy eyes narrowing. “Very well,” he said.

At his signal seven of the other eight justices rose in unison; Henry Baldwin remained seated, dissenting now as he had before. “Enforce the decision!” Marshall cried.

Justice McLean, who had concurred with the opinion but for reasons of his own, struck first. He pirouetted over the bench, long robes flowing gracefully, and lunged at the President with a drawn gavel. Jackson ducked backwards, fluidly avoiding the blow; he brought a hand up an instant later and struck the gavel from McLean’s hand. Off-balance, the justice found himself locked in a hold by the President, who then flung him roughly into the galleries where he shattered a bench on landing.

Jackson had used only a single arm to defend himself, the other resting on the hilt of his sword. He extended his arm abd beckoned the other justices tauntingly on.

Infuriated, Marshall banged his gavel; justices Johnson, Duvall, Story, and Thompson attacked as one. The first three vaulted over the bench much like McLean had, while Thompson instead made a 10-yard vertical jump toward the chandelier. With a single hand as before, Jackson swatted Johnson aside, striking him on the throat, sweeping his legs out from under him, and then seizing his judicial robes and flinging him at the others. Duvall dodged the flying, flailing Johnson and swept behind the President, seizing both his arms as Story attempted to pummel him into submission.

President Jackson kicked himself off the floor, planting both boots on Story’s chest and then giving him a mighty kick, which had the dual effect of launching Story through one of the chamber windows and somersaulting the President over Duvall’s back. With that momentum, Jackson was able to blast Duvall through the domed ceiling; there was a distant splash as the Justice landed in the Potomac.

At that moment, Thompson descended from the chandelier. As he picked up speed, he cast open his robes to reveal eight razor-sharp silver gavels clutched between his fingers. Jackson bobbed and weaved as the weapons buried themselves in the chamber floor, but was struck a glancing blow by Thompson when he landed. Jackson quickly regained his balance and somersaulted up to the vistor gallery, where he perched by his bootheels on one of the railings.

Enraged, Thompson produced more gavels and flung them in a whirling metal storm of death. Jackson, finally deigning to use his other hand, unsheathed his sword and swatted each of the hundreds of projectiles aside easily, diverting them back toward their source. The flat of one blade struck Thomspon on the bridge of his nose and he collapsed, unconscious.

President Jackson held out his saber, pointing it at Marshall in a defiant gesture. “Let him enforce it!”

The Chief Justice shot up, not leaping so much as flying, and landed on Jackson’s very blade, balancing easily on the razor edge. From somewhere deep in his robes he unsheathed the golden two-handed Ur-Gavel, richly engraved with eagles, crackling with raw judicial energy. According to legend, it could not be resheathed without establishing constitutional precedent.

The two men regarded each other for a moment, and then the real battle began.

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While there had been a flourishing trade with the outside world at times in the past, the ascension of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603 gradually put an end to that. The Tokugawa shoguns recognized the need for trade and technology but were deeply suspicious of foreigners, and viewed Christianity in particular as a threat to the shogun’s authority. As such, outside trade was gradually curtailed until the Sakoku-rei or “closed-country edict” prohibited Westerners from entering, Japanese from leaving, and Catholics from existing.

A single area, Dejima Island in Nagasaki harbor, remained open to Portuguese and later Dutch traders, who were able to realize astounding profits of 50% or more at the cost of being confined to the small island and bound by a draconian set of procedural rules. But, as with the rest of the world, there were many adventurers from other areas—England, France, Scandinavia—who were unwilling to abide by those restrictions. After all, Japan had developed a taste for eyeglasses, firearms, astrolabes, coffee, chocolate, and other items that could only be obtained overseas.

The remaining Christians in Japan—persecuted, occasionally in open rebellion, and often driven underground—were a particularly lucrative source of income, as they had nowhere else to obtain crucifixes and weapons (and many of the illicit traders fancied themselves defending the faith in addition to making a profit). Their seamanship and swordpoints honed by the constant inter-European naval warfare of the period, these privateers were formidable smugglers.

Naturally, the Tokugawa shogunate was not helpless in the face of such unwanted foreign incursion. To maintain the fiction that Japan was inviolate, and to exercise the immediate death sentence the law proscribed for unauthorized foreigners on Japanese soil, the shogunate employed a network of coastwatchers and spies. Lucrative rewards were quietly offered for those who discreetly informed upon Catholics or those trading illicitly with outsiders, and specially-trained shinobi-no-mono retained by the shogun from the Iga and Kōga clans were dispatched to deal with such incursions.

During the great siege of Hara Castle during the Catholic-led Shimabara Rebellion in 1637-38, for example, European privateers supplied the rebels and engaged in gunnery duels with both Japanese ships and their shinobi-no-mono crews and Dutch vessels hired by the shogun. Though few records ever existed due to the illicit and clandestine nature of the struggle, quieter and small-scale actions would be contested between smugglers and shogunate mercenaries and troops for over a hundred years until the Napoleonic Wars at the turn of the 19th century.

And that, my friends, is how the long-standing enmity between pirates and ninjas came to be.

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Institute 22. Conspiracy wonks go nuts over it, saying that it was the Soviet equivalent of Project Blue Book: an official investigation into UFO sightings. The things I’ve heard from hardened nutcases about it…they seem to think that it’s some hidden archive with all the proof they’ve ever wanted about flying goddamn saucers. As if the Russkies were somehow worse at keeping secrets than Uncle Sam or something.

I’ve been to their archive in Moscow, and I can assure you that it’s not like that at all. UFOs are pretty tangential to the whole thing, the real purpose of which was to watch the skies for advanced or experimental Western spyplanes or drones. With between four and five million troops in the Army alone, that was a lot of eyes. No wonder we had such a hard time getting anything short of a satellite or SR-71 over them.

But for anyone with the fortitude and knowledge of nomenklatura Russian terms, there are a few sightings, no more then 5-10%, that lack official explanations. And there are reams of papers, written by someone with an overactive imagination or too much exposure to officially banned Western pulp sci-fi (or both) about the supposed, potential, or imagine effect of unknown technology on Soviet military hardware. There are also papers declaring the whole thing a waste of time and money.

Just like we did.

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