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Axum Great East Railway

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AXUM-NILE GREAT EAST RAILWAY

 

Headquarters: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

Branch (Line) Offices: Bandar Siyada (Puntland), Asmara (Eritrea), Nairobi (Kenya), Alexandria (Egypt), many smaller offices

 

AXUM-Nile Great East is a railway company operating in East Africa, running through the Nile countries and into Somalia and other coast countries. It carries passengers from Alexandria in the north down into Sudan, Ethiopia, as far south as Kampala and the launch sites in Kenya and Tanzania, with an enormous new station still under construction in Dar Es Salaam. Built by Sino-Japanese finance in the 2010s, it was part of an infrastructure programme dedicated to supporting the launch sites and building the local economy. Along its routes lie dozens of new towns, often dedicated to railway employees and maintenance facilities. Boomtowns and resorts have sprung up all along the line. The ANGE is causing an economic renaissance in parts of the world - notable South Sudan - that haven't seen much development in years.

 

ANGE trains carry both passengers and freight along a wide gauge track. 90% of the railway runs on old fashioned track rather than Maglev rail because of concerns about power; trains mostly rely on enormous hydrogen turbines and generate their own power. The locomotives and carriages are built by an ancient Japanese company whose history in African rail transport dates back to before the 20th century, and the trains themselves have an attractive "1950s space rocket" aesthetic. Freight cars are brought from a variety of Russian and Iranian manufacturing combines and are decidedly less attractive.

 

The ANGE is currently experimenting a nuclear powered long distance locomotive for a central African freight run towards Mali or Senegal, running through the CAR and the other southern desert states. The prototype looks like an Eiffel Tower on it's side and is currently being tested at a facility in Kazakhstan by a Russian development firm. The Addis-Bamako line would require enormous financing, support from the Malian biotech havens and political capital that doesn't yet exist, but would potentially cut the costs of central African resource acquisition dramatically. Uranium mining concerns in Niger and orbital combines looking to hard-land orbital rock in Mauritania are all lobbying to make sure the railway goes through their particular regions of interest.

 

ANGE runs two primary lines south, splitting at Aswan in southern Egypt. One runs directly south to Khartoum and then towards Uganda, before heading towards Kenya and meeting the other line again in Nairobi. The second line heads out towards the horn of Africa, through Somaliland and Puntland towards the major ports there, and then heading south towards Addis Ababa and the South. ANGE are putting a line between Addis and Khartoum in at the moment, it is scheduled to be opened next year.

 

The Puntland line exists to serve the interests of international shipping and capital. It's primary target is not the larger ports on the northern coast of Somalia but the sprawling PMC boomtown of Bandar Siyada, a naval base originally set up in the last days of NATO by the autonomous government of Puntland and a British security firm. Bandar Siyada was the base of operations for the bloody fighting against the pirates from southern Somalia and has since become the primary base for most security firms operating in East Africa. In recent years Puntland has taken a leaf out of Israel's Sharm el Sheikh playbook and attempted to create a tourist trade in the region - the massive corporate barracks are surrounded by hotels, brothels, bars and a number of new artificial beaches, surrounded by a wall of corporate troops. The increasing stability in northern Somalia means that Bandar Siyada's future may lie in tourism rather than anti-piracy, and the ANGE wants to be an integral part of that transition. For now Bandar Siyada is a sprawling wild east free port known for bar brawls, geneered prostitutes from East Asia, and well armed fast boats manned by sunburnt American mercenaries.

 

The ANGE, while run from offices round the corner from Addis Ababa's prestigious Meskel Square, retains a very Chinese character. A large proportion of its employee's belong to increasing African diaspora, and the employee towns along the route are populated by workers from industrial south China, and mainly speak Cantonese. Many of the original workers settled after their contracts ended, and many small businesses serve the community. The Great East restaurant in Addis Ababa serves the best Siu Mei outside of Asia. And the ANGE has been followed into Africa by African Jade Dragon, possibly the single most generically named fast food chain in the world... but their food, an unusual fusion of Somali food and Cantonese rotisserie cooking, is anything but, and it is currently spreading franchise shops across the region. It is the fastest growing restaurant chain in Sudan and will soon surpass it's greatest rivals in Uganda and Tanzania. Established Egyptian rivals are gearing up for a price war which will mean heaven for people who like slightly unhealthy halal chicken products.

 

Cantonese influence is particularly evident in ANGE's substantial security force, which on the surface is one of the most confusingly organised private security outfits in the world. In order to navigate an ocean of different autonomous communities and national bodies, ANGE operates or "affiliates" with over a dozen different companies, some of which they control entirely through family connections. It isn't uncommon for Railway Marshalls to put down on corporate ID at a border and pick up another before crossing. However, the companies are controlled behind the scenes by a centralised C&C outfit which establishes chains of command across the various different organisations. A training cadre consisting mainly of Cantonese PLA veterans and Gulf Arab security service veterans keeps the operation well trained. ANGE troops aren't especially well equipped and they are spread very thin, but they are braced by Bandar Siyada veterans, motivated Somali troops and an unusual amount of cyberware - a lot of aging Bandar Siyada old hands with no-where else to go "retire" into ANGE. This gives them a core of veteran troops and marshalls. It also means that a substantial number of their troops have inherited their addictions and grudges from several decades of mercenary work, and this has created a number of embarrassing security breaches. The running joke about ANGE Security is that it consists of a small number of drug addled elderly Cantonese and Americans running an army of 16 year old Somalis. That's quite enough to take on South Sudani Janjaweed bandits.

 

One thing ANGE is notable is fast response scram jets. Attacks on trains, especially in South Sudan, can be met quickly by super-sonic Russian jets coming out from airbases near Juba. ANGE can only afford a few of the planes - or rather their backers in the resource sector only put up the cash for a couple - and the distances involved are still huge, but a couple of Janjaweed bands have been horribly surprised to meet 30 infantry scrambled into the deep desert in under a half hour, supported by drones and the Ethiopian government's orbiting military spy sat.

 

SOME ANGE THREATS

 

Berbera Triads

 

The Triads arrived in Bandar Siyada with a Chinese PMC, not the railway community. Their operations actually predate the railway. The Red 9x9 Triad is into large scale smuggling through Bandar Siyada (drugs, guns, prostitutes) and the larger commercial port at Berbera (untaxed commercial goods). Taking control of Berbera meant a brutal war with a local Somali outfit supported by Bollywood's all-powerful D Company Islamist drug Mafia. The resulting gang war spiralled out of control for over a year, drawing in Bandar Siyada's "deniable community" and several different PMCs. Red 9x9 would have lost but for some seriously effective negotiations - they might not have been able to outmatch D Company in money or troops but they could make local alliances. Mergers with local gangs and policlubs gave them local hegemony and destroyed D Company's local affiliates. Now Red 9x9 is sometimes referred to as the "African Jade Dragon", particularly by conservative HK triads who find the fusion of Somali and Cantonese outfits as offensive as they do the fusion food from the Berbera based chain.

 

Ogaden - Mukden 2.0

 

Ogaden is a region inside the "L" of Somalia, currently controlled by Ethiopia. They got it as a result of post-colonial treaty wrangling, and the Somali's would have gotten it back in the mid-20c had it not been for those meddling American kids. Now that the northern territories are getting back on their feet and re-establishing control down south, some of the Puntlander military elite would like to turn all those unemployed Mogadishu veterans in some new direction, if only to keep them occupied. The Somali army, supported by Bandar Siyada troops, is made up of veterans, supported by Red 9x9 arms smuggling operations, and led by old veterans with a surprisingly good understanding of modern warfare techniques.

 

The problem is that they need corporate cash, and starting a war that would throw the Bandar Siyada "Dubai 2.0" project into doubt isn't something international finance would much appreciate. What they need is a short war - which they are confident they can win - in which it at least appears the Ethiopians provoked. To this end, Puntland intelligence and a whole host of "deniable assets" are rolling into Ogaden on a mission to cause utter chaos. More alarmingly, they have the support of Egyptian intelligence, who would just love Ethiopia to get caught up in a war that would keep it occupied in the next round of Nile Water Use negotiations.

 

The situation in Ogaden is all the more confusing because it isn't quite obvious which side some of the larger factions - clan mafias, Red 9x9, the orbital corporations - are on. Once shooting started in Ogaden, corporate resource companies started taking advantage of confusion to snipe at each other.

 

At some point ANGE are going to get caught up in this. Egyptian Intelligence has a very simple plan - watch the gang warfare and terrorism spiral out of control, and then bomb an ANGE train carrying Somalis or tourists on the Bandar Siyada/Addis Ababa route. Somalia accuses Ethiopia of complicity or simple inability to maintain control, and rolls in "peacekeepers" supported by the newest robot battle-wagons rolling off the advanced Cairene tank-works.

 

For its part the Ethiopian army has just lost out in a series of political battles with the civilian establishment, and half of their officers are in jail. Their troops in Ogaden are so demoralised that they were struggling to maintain control of the province before the Egyptians got involved. In their general malaise, they might end up reacting to the latest round of Somali provocation with such violence as to render any covert attack on ANGE unnecessary.

 

That said, well, this kind of thing has been going on for a long time. Maybe they'd find their spine again when they see Type 19 Saladin tanks in Somali colours roll over the border. If that happened, those working for the ANGE would find themselves stuck in the middle of a really brutal conflict in which their railheads would be strategic points.

 

Media City Soap Opera

 

Cairo's Media City dominates the Mid East/North Africa market with soaps, game shows, and films. The ANGE tourist trail provides all sorts of stories and inspiration, and the latest hit show to come out of Studio Misr is Khartoum Nights, a free-wheeling family drama about a Egyptian ex-patriates running a restaurant in Sudan, while engaging in the usual Egyptian soap shenanigans (self satisfied men shouting at each other, round faced beauties having affairs with several members of the same family, etc etc). Except it turns out that the leading lady really is having an affair with several members of the same family - the producer's family, in fact - and covering up their electronic trail (they conduct half of their trysts through virtual simsense) is a full time job. All four people involved have hired netrunners to investigate each other as they engage in virtual intercourse over the public wi-fi of ANGE trains running the production team up and down between Khartoum and Aswan on a regular basis.

 

Janjaweed Bandits

 

South Sudan doesn't have much to pay a security force with, and the bandits still ride against the trains. Except all the cash coming in from ANGE means that the police are starting to win in the back country and the surviving bands need some big scores to keep afloat.

 

An ANGE train would be just the ticket. A few marshalls might not be enough - alone - to take on a band of horsemen who just cut the rails ahead of them... Can they hold out till the scram jet arrives?

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Murder on the African Express

 

Mustapha Fathy, the celebrity criminal profiler, is travelling down into Sudan to make a really quite lurid documentary about the psychology of the Janjaweed militiamen during the fighting in the lead-up to the independence of South Sudan. It will almost certainly be a huge hit and make him even more wealthy.

 

His rival, celebrity criminal profiler Ahmed Saleh, is planning to destroy his credibility. To do this, he has been secretly monitoring a group of Edgerunners on the train. He will pick the one who most conforms to Bob Hare's 20 point psychopath checklist and conspire to ensure that that person comes into contact with Fathy. Fathy will naturally be fascinated by this lunatic!

 

Meanwhile, Saleh has hired a very competent Bandar Siyada assassin to carry out a murder on the train, while his pet netrunners plant evidence all over the carriage to implicate the Edgerunner. His plan is simple. He's going to backstab the assassin and reveal him as the murderer, after Fathy has declared the Edgerunner guilty. His presence on the train will create a media circus around the event and when Fathy is proven wrong, he will be discredited!

 

There are a number of issues with this plan.

 

Firstly - the evidence that the runners plant is so detailed that the Sudani police won't believe the assassin actually pulled off the murder, when everything points towards the hapless Edgerunner.

 

Secondly - the assassin, realising he is about to be doublecrossed, will make a break for the Bandar Siyada underworld and disappear.

 

Meanwhile, the Sudani police will arrest the Edgerunner. If they can't pin evidence on him straight away they will imitate the example of the famous psychological profilers and attempt to use a honey trap to trick the Edgerunner into incriminating himself. She will, among other things, claim that she used to be a member of a satanic cult that used to commit human blood sacrifice and can only love a man who has also committed such acts, in an effort to make him confess!

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World Wrestling International comes to Africa

 

The WWI has had a rough time lately. They got sued by Woman's World Enterprises, an international NGO with massive capital backing, and had to change the 'WWE' moniker. They've been undermined by indie hipster lucha libre outfits. Frankly, in recent years the American scene hasn't been looking so attractive.

 

However, there's a place which continues to idolise giant Americans in leotards squatting on each other as much as it did in the 1990s, and that's Egypt. It's on television relentlessly (there are basically two types of TV in Egypt: men in suits talking at the screen for hours, and American wrestling). Now that Somalia's economy is recovering, that craze is moving south. And the WWI means to cash in.

 

WWI has booked an exhibition match at the newly completed Mohamed Siad Barre Memorial Stadium in Mogadishu. Among the stars attending will be Jared "The Mountain" Small, Conan Sinai and Zone.

 

There are a few problems with this.

 

The first is that Egyptian hackers, desperate for gossip, hacked into the WWI's planning department and discovered that Zone is going to make a face-heel turn, to heel. This is unacceptable to two different groups of people:

 

1. MogaMedia, an incredibly skeevy corporation who had been planning on releasing a new line of totally unlicensed "Zone: Hero" personality chips based on his South Central LA ghetto schtick.

 

2. the Mogadishu police department, who fear a riot (they don't understand that its all theater and that the crowd understands that too. This is kinda new to them).

 

MogaMedia's executives have watched too many episodes of Edgerunners of Night City, and assume that some kind of murder or theft will force WWI to change their plans. The police have watched too many episodes of Mullah Jameel gives Moral Instruction and will try to convince the WWI executives to change their plan through legal threats and angry letters. In the process they may spoil the plotline and cause an actual riot.

 

Zone's manager, Suge Michaels, is a bit paranoid. This is good for Edgerunners, because that means they'll get hired to bodyguard and troubleshoot Zone's media blitz in Mogadishu. They'll have to deal with MogaMedia's incompetent freelance assassins, somehow misdirect the police, and deal with lots of fans. Not least the Red 9x9 guys who want backstage passes...

 

Zone, naturally, is a self important prick. So is his girlfriend. So is his dog.

 

========================================

 

D Company - the return!

 

Bollywood's terrifying D Company Islamist drug mafia have been planning their return to the Berbera scene since their defeat at the hands of the Red 9x9 Triad a few years back (see Berbera Triads, above). Thing is, Red 9x9 and their allies control the smuggling routes and the airports. There are a lot of corrupt cops, businessmen and politicians who turned on D Company's allies during the last gang war for Berbera and none of those people want them back and settling scores. So Red 9x9 has carte blanche in their operations: those D Company men who manage to actually get past customs get whacked on their way out of the airport. The burning taxis make great footage for youtube!

 

So D Company have to try something else. They've hired an American public relations firm called Mesaline to bring the city to its knees and get revenge on the traitors.

 

They see the problem like this:

 

Berbera's political establishment is fractious and crazy, right up until it experiences an outside threat - whether that's D Company or the central government in Mogadishu. It has a sophisticated local media establishment, a powerful political party called Kulmiye Nabad, Midnimo iyo horumar (Peace, Unity and Development or PUD, a remnant of the old Somaliland secessionist government) and several people who know a hell of a lot about memetic warfare. What's worse, they're presiding over an economic boom, and...

 

...well, lets put it this way. These people are corrupt as fuck, but not in the city. Berbera's city database accurately tracks the movement of taxpayer money and its going where the PUD claims it is. Their dirty cash is coming from the port smuggling operations.

 

Simple tactics aren't going to work against a well funded, popular media establishment with the backing of lots of amoral gangsters. Simply provoking racial tensions like they did in Fort Worth last year won't last long enough. The PUD establishment has to be discredited.

 

Micky O'Rourke, Boston Irish public relations black magic fuck, is operating out of the Emirates Hotel with a mandate to uncover every affair, STD and breach of Islamic propriety he can find. He's got 20 years of photographing celebrities with drones to draw on (much harder to get a crotch shot when the target's wearing a burka). Meanwhile, Jen McGathy has brought political software with her; she's compiling data. As the PUD reels from the memetic assault, she's going to put it to use.

 

The PUD has a nasty history with the local Islamists; specifically, they've spent most of the last decade paying Cantonese gangsters to murder them and dump the bodies in the Red Sea. Their last political operation in the city is a small anti-corruption political party called Truth and Justice. With McGathy's political expertise and database software, they'll be able to exploit the moral scandals and build a new party base. The database allows TaJ activists to directly canvas voters, adapt their policies to match according to rapidly compiled surveys, and compile enormous lists of potential supporters. It allows them to react enormously fast to evolving scandals. This is new technology in Somalia and the authoritarian PUD isn't ready to deal with it.

 

Mesaline's aims is to break the PUD monopoly in the city, remove their opponents from power and cause enough chaos to get a foothold in the port. If TaJ can win the next set of municipal elections, they'll replace the port authority and airport security bosses. There's no way Red 9x9 can allow that to happen, which will spark a gang war of enormous proportions which D Company can then exploit.

 

Meanwhile, the first scandals have broken. This is where the Edgerunners come in. Everyone is looking to find out who said what to who, or clean up their messes. A lot of former mistresses are going to die, a lot of people are going to be paying for revenge, and a lot of people are going to do all sorts of paranoid things, all of which will work to the Islamist advantage. Mesaline will pay to uncover scandals. Meanwhile, both sides will be hiring freelancers for memetic ops. Berbera hasn't been subjected to the full scale bombardment of subliminal politics, AR canvassing, and generalised meme war that cities with a longer media history have to put up with.

 

Meanwhile, McGathy has set out to misdirect the PUD's memetic specialists (specifically a London-born and trained operative called Abdullahi Askar and his class at the local university). They've spread a rumour that a Bollywood film called ROBOTSPY is loaded with subliminal anti-Chinese messages. This isn't actually true, but Abdullahi Askar has become obsessed with blunting the impact of the film. He's actively trying to undermine the popularity of Bollywood in Berbera, and he plans to do this by creating a new craze for Egyptian light comedy. He'll employ the Edgerunners to make moustaches and leather jackets seem uncool while he should be dealing with the bigger threat.

 

O'Rourke is operating through cut-outs and fixers, and McGathy has no intention of leaving Boston. If O'Rourke is discovered to be complicit he'll probably die within a couple of hours, and there won't be much connection to Mesaline there to find (although a good netrunner will!). However, Mesaline will continue the campaign. Frankly, if the Islamists start to become a real threat to the PUD, they might become desperate enough to hire the runners to fly to Boston and carry out a classic CP2020 corporate murdersplosion against Mesaline's offices in the John Hancock building.

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