The Beginning

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It was late at night on the 16th of November 2034, at the fortified Indonesian Republic Naval Base of Surabaya, when a young Army Lieutenant by the name of Harish Chaniago received one of the first holographic messages sent by the Armed Forces High Command (Mabes TNI) to all District and Theatre Commanders. Among its intended recipients was 38-year old Commodore Alimin Wirawan, head of the Naval Intelligence Division, who had just been promoted to the rank three weeks earlier for his role in dismantling Karlota – a powerful arms syndicate involved in supplying armaments to separatist forces in Sumatra and the various warlord factions in the Eastern Islands. A few minutes later, Alimin and the other senior officers present inside the Base would hear the voice of President and TNI Chief Field-Marshal Agus Mulyono, announcing the end of hostilities and start of an armistice which would take place effective at midnight the next day. The news had also coincided with other positive developments, such as the fall of Dumai and Pekanbaru – the last major separatist strongholds in Sumatra's East Coast – at the hands of Major-General Assegaf, as well as Aceh's return to Republic fold under a deal Alimin himself had helped arranged. For all intents and purposes, the Civil War was about to end, and it seemed the Republic would become whole again.

Finally, the long night was over. For five years the Indonesian Republic had been beset by constant warfare and civil strife, brought about by a breakdown in relations between the central government in Jakarta and the elites of the outlying provinces. The Civil War itself had been the culmination of more than a decade of political polarisation, brought about by the Jakarta gubernatorial elections of 2017, where Islamist groups managed to oust erstwhile Governor Basuki Tjahja Purnama, a Chinese Lutheran, in a highly-politicised blasphemy lawsuit which ended in his imprisonment. For Alimin and the other Tionghoa, Basuki's ousting was the start of a political awakening, where for the first time after decades of oppression under the Suharto regime, many began to participate in nation-building to overcome the identity politics unleashed by the Islamists. In Alimin's case, it had meant joining the Navy (TNI-AL) and its officer corps as one of the few Tionghoa within its ranks. Though serving in an administrative role he was competent enough at his job, being able to rise up the ranks despite instances of ethnic discrimination. His role as an intelligence officer would serve him well in providing protection to vulnerable Tionghoa communities, subject to frequent harassment and pogroms, amidst the chaos and unrest of the Civil War. By the end of the war, most wealthy and upper middle-class families had already fled abroad, while those unable to escape were forced to stay and defend themselves with whatever weapons the Republic could provide.

Early next morning, Alimin went to the nearby Chinese temple to give thanks for the armistice. There he paid homage to the Buddhist Bodhisattva Manjushri (Cn. Wenshu Pusa 文殊菩薩), along with Daoist deities Taishang Laojun (太上老君) and Guan Gong (關公). "For the first time in years," he wrote in his diary, "my mind had never felt this clear in meditation (Cn. Zuochan 坐禪). No untoward thoughts passed me by as I sat amidst the morning silence. With each breath years of burden were lifted from my shoulders. Heaven (Cn. Tian ) and the ancestors seemed to rejoice as well, as soft rains fell over the temple roof – as if to wash away all the strife and misery the war had caused." Having finished his daily meditation, Alimin returned to his Command Centre, where he received a new set of orders from President Mulyono. The first had been to request for his immediate presence in Jakarta. With the mop-up operations against Karlota in the hands of the capable Lieutenant Chaniago, the Commodore decided he would board the next flight to the Republic capital.

News of the armistice spread throughout the Republic as quickly as Alimin's flight, first in Java, then to Sumatra and Borneo, before reaching the Eastern Islands and the Papuas. Most villages and small towns had received the news through their televisions and mobile devices, despite frequent signal blackouts due to the war. From Banda Aceh to Jayapura and in rural areas almost everywhere, men, women, and children – hundreds of million strong – listened to President Mulyono's announcement. Most were overwhelmingly delighted at the news, hoping their lives would return to normal after five years of bloodshed. In areas contested by Republic and warlord forces, combatants from both sides would lay down their weapons, all reacting to this shocking turn of events with trepidation.

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