Pixabay image (FunkyFocus)
The people of Squo are proud of their heritage. Our forefathers defended our mountainous redoubt from all assaults, even from the Silver Horde that vanquished all of our allies during the War of the Hönish Succession. And even after the rise of Srolo Fezzan as a regional power, The Barony of Squo endured thanks to the skillful diplomacy of the 14th Baron. Srolo Fezzan swallowed up our other neighbors through a combination of warfare and strategic dynastic marriages, but Squo survived mostly intact, losing only the Eastern Marches during the years of the great plague.
Some have argued that our Barony is now no more than a client state of Srolo Fezzan, but most scholars see it as more of a symbiotic relationship with Srolo Fezzan benefitting from its 30% ownership of the output of the Barony’s world-famous mines and the Barony benefitting from access to Srolo Fezzan’s industrial and capital markets.
And who can doubt that, without access to Srolo Fezzanian technology, The Barony of Squo might still be a backwater and a historical curiousity rather than a thriving economic powerhouse?
But I fear that we may be losing our edge now that our glorious Baron has cut off the Barony’s internet’s connection to the rest of the world, substituting the closed and tightly restricted intranet known as SquoFreedom, an Orwellian oxymoron if there ever was one. And all because Janischuk, 23rd Baron of Squo was incensed when Matthius Godyashchev posted salacious photographs of his dalliance with the Baroness Maarja.
The shutdown of our internet connection to the rest of the world came without warning. One moment it was working, the next it was dead. And, to the best of my knowledge, completely gone. Not even the dreaded Chief Minister of Internal Security has access to the internet. There are rumors that some citizens have managed to access the internet using VPN’s (but I have no firsthand knowledge of this) and those living very near the border with Srolo Fezzan have utilized unsecured WiFi hotspots in Srolo Fezzan. Janischuk imposed the death penalty for accessing the internet and I’ve seen with my own eyes the bodies hanging by their ankles near the border of those who have defied Janischuk’s Edict of Exclusionary Access. Informers seem to be everywhere, I’ve even heard of parents informing on their children for playing Splinterlands, simply for the large reward from Internal Security.
I fear that SquoFreedom is but the first shot fired in a war to isolate the Barony of Squo from the world at large. For now at least, we can still access radio transmissions from outside our borders, and The Baronial Post has not been shut down even though its editorial board has condemned the Baron’s internet shutoff action. Granted, the Post was very careful to not mention the Baron by name or office, but if the Baron presses the Minister of Internal Security to interpret the Barony’s lèse majesté laws broadly, press freedoms could evaporate quickly.
There is a darkness setting over this proud land. The fear is palpable, even as people continue to go to work, sing and dance during the annual Week of Amusement now being celebrated, and stroll the boulevards of our capital on these fine autumn evenings. I pray that the Baron will come to his senses and reverse the Edict. As much as I loathe to wish for the death of any man, perhaps if agents from the Ministry of External Security manage to find and assassinate Matthius Godyashchev who’s now living somewhere in exile, the Baron may relent. But that may not be enough. Perhaps our society needs a more profound change. If I, a member of a noble family from a long line of staunch royalists, can be contemplating an end to baronial government, surely others have been having similar thoughts.
This was written as an entry to @upmewhale’s Restricted & Unrestricted Internet - Freedom World contest