Rain fell down lightly from the sky over Lisbon. Today was a busy day, the final preparations were made in the RTP Studio in Lisbon. It was the day of the first semi-final of Festival da Canção, the show that would decide what Portugal's song would be for the Eurovision Song Contest. It was supposed to be a happy day, a day of celebration. But it wasn't.
The contestants of the festival were sitting in the green room, but they were all thinking of other things. Not about the contest, or even about Eurovision, but about the current situation in Portugal. The crumbling relations with Spain, the tension, the constant whirring of planes overheard. This wasn't good, and everyone in Portugal knew it. They knew that Portugal was preparing for war. A war with Spain. Spain owed a lot of money to Portugal, and it was growing by the day. The president of Portugal had threatened Spain with war if they didn't pay up soon, and the threats were escalating. Spain just didn't have the money to pay Portugal back. Everyone knew that. And now everyone was talking about a war with Spain. The participants of the festival just hoped that it wouldn't come to that. There had to be another option.
A TV was sitting in the corner of the green room, and on it was yet another news story. Portugal had kicked Spanish diplomats out of the country. Things were getting really really bad. Every day it seemed to get worse.
"Someone turn that off please," Conan sighed, "That's not really what we should be watching right now."
"I'll do it," Matay replied, switching the TV off.
"Well," Ana Cláudia said, sitting up in her chair, "Shutting that TV off doesn't make this stuff go away, you know?"
"We know," Conan said, "But watching it doesn't help either."
That was true. It wasn't like they could do anything about it. Of course none of them wanted a war with Spain, but if the Portuguese government decided that's what would happen, then there was nothing they could do to stop it. They all sat their in silence for a few moments. For now, even the planes overhead couldn't be heard. Maybe things would be okay, maybe things weren't as bad as they seemed...
"How do you think Miki is doing?" Filipe asked suddenly.
"Gee, that's a good question," Matay said, "I don't know, hopefully he's ok."
"Oh yeah," Ana said, looking down at her phone, "He's fine. He's still tweeting to all of us. Last one was just a couple of minutes ago, in fact."
The Spanish Eurovision entrant, Miki Núñez, had been tweeting to the contestants of Festival da Canção, to try and get them to do something, anything, to stop this crisis between Portugal and Spain. They wanted to do something, of course, but there was just nothing they could do. They were just musicians, they had nothing to do with Portugal's government. They couldn't fix this. Suddenly, they were pulled from their thoughts as Salvador Sobral ran into the room. He was Portugal's first and only winner of Eurovision and had been invited as a special guest.
"Guys... guys..." Salvador said.
"Oh, is it starting now?" Conan said, but then he looked up and the look on Salvador's face told them that something was seriously wrong.
"No... no..." Salvador said, "I... I..."
Salvador was shaking, the other contestants walked over, concerned.
"Salvador, are you ok?" Ana said, "What's going on?"
"It's... it's..." Salvador struggled to get the words out, "Festival da Canção is cancelled! We've declared war on Spain! It's terrible! A nuclear bomb just dropped on Madrid!"
"What?" Conan yelled, as Matay flicked the television back on. A camera panned around a ruined Madrid, smoke flew up from destroyed buildings, people were running everywhere in every direction.
The contestants said nothing and stared at the television screen, shocked. They couldn't believe that it had come to this. They couldn't believe that Portugal had dropped a nuclear weapon in Madrid. Suddenly, the image on the television screen changed to one of Portugal's president, sitting on a golden chair, with Portuguese flags surrounding him. He started giving a speech.
"People of Portugal, this is an important announcement. The situation is very grave, but do not be alarmed. Unfortunately, we have been left with no other option but to declare war on Spain."
"There was EVERY other option!" Conan yelled at the television even though he knew the president wouldn't be able to hear him. The speech continued.
"Spain have refused every diplomatic demand, and as such, a state of war exists between us. We have reason to believe that Spain was planning a nuclear attack on us, and so we have struck first, and taken out their nuclear weapons. We will see to it that they surrender in the coming days, if not, we shall strike again. Stay strong, people of Portugal. We shall soon reclaim what is ours."
Suddenly, one of the executives of RTP ran into the room.
"Festival da Canção is ruined!" he said.
"Festival da Canção? Shame on you!" Matay yelled, "The festival will be fine, it's Madrid that's ruined!"
The others looked at the television screen. It was back to panning around Madrid. The death count was being estimated to be at least 1 million. International condemnations of Portugal were mounting and quickly. America were very unhappy that Portugal had attacked Spain. In fact, the whole world was unhappy. They didn't believe Portugal's excuse that Spain had been planning an attack. Especially since Spain's nuclear capablities were nearly non-existent. The international community believed that Portugal's excuse was simply a lie. It seemed that the entire world was united in condemning Portugal. And yet no one in the country had wanted this, except for those few in the government. But even with the majority of Portugal against a war with Spain, no one could have prevented it. Suddenly, Ana's phone beeped again.
"Oh," she looked down, "It's Miki, he sent another tweet."
"What does it say?" Conan asked.
Ana looked down again. It was just random numbers and gibberish.
"It's incomprehensible," Ana said, but then she saw another tweet, "Here, he just sent another one. It's a picture of Spain."
It was a picture of a destroyed Barcelona. Smoke rose up out of the buildings and there was chaos everywhere.
"Another one..." Filipe said, "They dropped another one... why?"
"How could they do this?" Conan yelled, "How could this happen?"
"This has to stop now," Matay said, "We can't change the past, but we have to try and stop this. I'm tired of just sitting here and thinking I can't change anything."
"You're right," Ana said, "Guys, even if we can't make a difference, we have to try. We have to stop this war with Spain before anything else happens. We can't let another nuclear bomb drop. Who's with me?"
"I'm in," Conan said, as the other contestants nodded.
"I'm in too," Salvador said, "We have to stop this. This can't be allowed to go on."
Matay switched the TV off again. Seeing the pictures of Spain after the nuclear attack, seeing the entire world condemning Portugal. That was all just too much right now. But one thing was for sure, the Festival da Canção contestants were going to try and stop this, any way that they could.
"Damn it," Filipe said as the entrants walked out of the RTP studio, "How could this happen? Don't those idiots know how close Portugal is to Spain? An attack like this will surely affect us too."
"That's true," Matay said, "Plus, the whole world will be against us."
"It's happening already," Ana said, looking down at her phone again, "Everyone hates Portugal now... and even worse, there's rumours on here that Portugal is going to drop another nuke on another Spanish city."
"What?" Conan yelled, "We can't allow that! We really can't!"
"Conan's right," Matay said, "But what can we do about it?"
"I'll tell you what," Conan said, "We'll go right to Belém Palace where the president is convince them to stop this war!"
"That's a great idea," Matay said.
"Sounds like a good way to get arrested and not actually change anything," Ana sighed, "But... if you're all going, then I guess I will too."
"Right," Conan said, "We have to at least try something. The world has to know that ordinary Portuguese people do not stand for this!"
Ana looked around at the people in the distance walking around the city center, without a care in the world.
"Looks like they're standing for it," she said.
"How do you know that?" Conan said, "They could be against this just as much as we are, but feel they are powerless to do anything. But we can do something! We can stop this madness ourselves!"
Ana had to hold back a laugh. Conan and Matay really thought they could stop the war with Spain with words alone?
The entrants of the festival continued walking down the road. They RTP Studio was now far in the distance behind them. More people were around now, going about their daily business as usual. Looking around, it felt normal, almost too normal. There was no panic here, not yet anyway.
The international world were all putting out statements condemning Portugal, and America even hinted that they would be prepared to declare war on Portugal if this aggression didn't stop. But the Portuguese government had no intention of stopping their attack, not when they had Spain right where they wanted them, powerless to fight back against the unrelenting Portuguese nuclear weapons. Ready to do anything to make it stop. Portugal's government had given an ultimatum to Spain, hand over control of the entire country to Portugal, or be on the receiving end of yet another attack. But Spain didn't want to accept such a humiliating agreement. The governments of the UK and France sent frantic messages, begging Portugal to stop this madness before it became too late. Portugal didn't respond.
At that moment, Ana looked down on her phone again.
"Guys," she said, "Portugal just got kicked out of the United Nations."
"Damn," Conan said, "I'm not surprised."
"Right," Matay said, "We gotta get to the palace quick. Even if we can't make a difference... we have to try. This can't be allowed to continue."
It was at that moment Dan Riverman spoke up.
"I have a huge truck," Dan said, "It's waiting out in front of the RTP Studio. It was to hold all the equipment for the festival, but now it looks like it's not taking place. So we could all get in it and I'll drive us to the palace."
"Dan, that's perfect!" Conan said, "Alright, who's with us?"
The other entrants nodded, as they all headed back to the RTP Studio. Surely with all of them there they stood a better chance.
"Remember," Conan said, "Festival da Canção has 16 entrants, and there is only one president."
"Yeah," Ana said, "And all his guards."
"Doesn't matter," Conan replied, "I'm not prepared to sit back and watch this. Besides, what is he going to do to us anyway?"
"Um," Ana replied, "We're literally talking about someone who just dropped nuclear weapons on Madrid and Barcelona, but ok."
Conan didn't know how to respond to that, because she was right, but they had already reached the RTP Studio building once again. The truck was waiting outside, just as Dan had said, and it was more than big enough to hold everyone. The entrants and Salvador got into the truck. Dan started the truck and they drove down the busy Lisbon road. There was no turning back now. Whatever happened, good or bad, they were going to try and stop this senseless war, stop this senseless destruction. They only hoped that they weren't too late.
Although the drive itself wasn't that long, for the participants of Festival da Canção it felt like an eternity. Conan was especially worried. What if his plan didn't work? What if he couldn't stop this? He decided to push those thoughts out of his mind for now. He needed to concentrate on the plan. Surely the president of Portugal could see reason? See that this was senseless, that this needless violence brings nothing to no one?
The truck stopped in front of Belém Palace. It was now or never.
"Here we are," Conan said, "Anyone who wants to back out should do so now. I won't blame you. We'd understand."
"I ain't dropping out of this," Matay said, "We gotta stop this nonsense before it's too late!"
"Thanks Matay," Conan said as they got out of the truck. Ana got her phone out once again and began livestreaming to all her followers on Instagram. This way, she figured, the world would see that there were people in Portugal who were standing up to this, just like Conan and Matay had said. The walk towards the palace was a long one, or at least it felt that way. When they got there they noticed that there were no guards outside. The door wasn't even locked.
"No guards," Matay said, "So either the president is very brave or he isn't actually here."
"Oh, he'll be here," Conan said, "He's always in here."
Conan was proven right when they walked into the palace to find the president sitting in a revolving chair.
"Hmm? Who are you?" the president said, spinning around in his chair.
"My name is Conan Osíris and you need to stop this war with Spain right now!"
The president just laughed. This was exactly what Conan had feared, that they wouldn't be able to stop Portugal's war with Spain, that Portugal would continue to use its nuclear weapons without reason.
"No," Salvador said, "It's not funny. Millions have died because of your nuclear attacks on Spain. This is not a joke!"
The president just laughed again. This was pointless. They realised now that they had made a huge mistake coming into the palace. The president would not see reason or sense.
At that moment, Cláudia Pascoal and Isaura walked out of a nearby room.
"Isaura... Cláudia..." Salvador said.
Salvador knew they both worked for the president, but to see them still here, even after all that had happened, was shocking.
"You are all under arrest for trespassing into the presidential palace," Isaura said.
"That's right," Cláudia said, "Come with us to the cells willingly or we shall have to use force."
"Oh come on," Salvador said, "Are you two being serious?"
"Very serious," Isaura said, as guards walked into the room, all pointing guns at the entrants.
"So that's where the guards have been hiding," Matay said, but then he noticed the guns.
"People, please!" Conan said, "Don't! It doesn't have to be this way! There must be a peaceful solution to all this! We are not a violent country, this is not the way..."
"Silence!" Cláudia said, "You will come with us to the cells and you will come with us now."
"No," Salvador said, "I know you. You wouldn't do it. You wouldn't harm us."
"Salvador, don't," Conan said, "Don't."
"You should listen to Conan," Isaura said, "We are under the orders of the president to take trespassers to the cells underneath the palace. Whether or not you agree with our war with Spain is irrelevant."
"How can anyone agree?" Salvador said, "This is ridiculous! Spain posed no threat to Portugal, and yet the president ordered a nuclear weapon to be fired into Madrid! You ordered death upon that city... shame on you!"
The president laughed again.
"Don't you get it?" the president smirked, "Portugal is finally getting what we have always deserved. Power. Recognition."
"International condemnation," Conan added.
"Stop talking!" the president yelled, "Cláudia! Isaura! Guards! Take them to the cells. I have had enough of hearing these people talk."
The entrants were marched into the cells at gunpoint. Conan looked down at the floor. His plan had been a total disaster, and now they were in jail. This wasn't good at all.
The entrants were still sitting in the jail. Conan didn't know what to say. Had this all really been for nothing?
"Well?" Ana said, "How's that for your master plan, Conan? Didn't I say this would happen?"
Conan just looked down at the floor and didn't say anything. There was nothing to say.
"I mean really!" Ana continued, "What did you expect? That you would just say some words to the president and everything could end peacefully? That we could all gather in a circle and sing Kumbaya?"
"Hey, leave him alone," Matay said, "You didn't have to come, ya know?"
"Yeah well, whatever," Ana looked down at her phone. At least one positive thing had came from all this. It seemed that the guards hadn't noticed that she had livestreamed the whole thing, and Ana's video was making waves on the internet. In fact, it had already gone viral in quite a few countries.
It was Salvador whose phone beeped next.
"Oh," Salvador said, "Ana's video is circulating online. My sister has seen it and she's going to try and get us all out of here."
"Well that's good," Conan said, "Thanks Salvador."
"Don't thank me," Salvador laughed, "Thank her when she gets here."
"Oh please," Ana said, "What's she going to do? If all of us couldn't do anything, then she certainly can't."
"Oh, you don't know my sister," Salvador grinned, "I'm sure she can convince Cláudia and Isaura to let us all out of here."
"I sure hope so," Ana replied, but then they were interrupted by a knock on the jail cell. When it opened, Cláudia, Isaura and Salvador's sister Luisa were all standing there.
"You guys are free to go," Cláudia said, "But don't try anything like this again."
"See?" Salvador said, "I told you."
"Getting yourself into trouble I see?" Luisa smiled, "Don't worry, I've sorted everything."
"Well, not quite everything," Matay said, "We are still at war with Spain."
"Of course," Luisa said, "Even I can't solve that."
"Well?" Isaura smiled, "Get out of here, all of you. Before we change our minds!"
"Uh, right," Luisa said, as they all left the palace.
"Alright, so that didn't work," Matay said.
"Sorry," Conan mumbled.
"No, it's ok," Matay said, "At least you tried something. I'm just not sure what we can do at this point."
"Well," Ana said, "Maybe it's not our problem to solve?"
"Maybe not," Luisa said, "But your video is trending on Twitter. Everyone is looking at it. Everyone can see that there are people in Portugal who are against this."
Ana looked down at her phone again.
"What the hell," she said, scrolling through her Twitter feed, "It's trending under the hashtag #FreeConanOsiris. Are you kidding me? That's MY video, not his!"
Luisa and Conan both laughed at that. It felt good to laugh at something after all the tension lately, but still, the question remained. What was going to happen now? Portugal was being condemned by everyone, the European Union had also kicked them out now. Portugal was alone but their government just couldn't see it. All they could see was the 'power' they were getting from dropping weapons on Spain. But if that was truly power, then the entrants of Festival da Canção wanted no part of it.