It was two days later, and the Eurovision entrants were all sitting on a coach driving into Stockholm. Frans was there on the coach with them too, despite not needing to be, since he was already in Sweden when they had all arrived at the airport. He was glad to be on the coach, though. It felt strange seeing so many happy people, since the occupation all he had seen in Sweden was misery and defeat. It was such a weird feeling, but a good one all the same. He wished Sweden could be like this again. He held on to the hope that one day, it would be.
"Who's ready for the first semi final?" Poli Genova shouted and the other entrants cheered.
It was only a few days before the first semi final, and they needed to prepare for the contest. Joe and Jake were throwing paper balls around and there was a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere inside the coach. Outside, however, it was a different story. The streets were dark and grey. Rain poured down on the miserable city. This was no longer the bright and happy Stockholm that the world had once knew.
"Man..." Sandhja sighed, "I was only in Sweden last year, and everything was so different back then. Things sure have changed around here."
"You're right," Poli said, "I'm surprised that the contest is still being held in Sweden, after everything that's happened here."
"I heard that the American... uh... 'occupation' is actually not so bad," Barei said, "And that it's working out ok for everyone."
"Yeah," Poli said, rolling her eyes, "That's just what they want you to think."
"Sorry Barei," Frans said, "But where on earth did you hear that? Some sort of propaganda TV station? Because that's not true at all, this occupation, no, this invasion, has been brutal and-"
Frans was cut off as the coach bumped over a rock. At least, he hoped that had been a rock, and not some sort of discarded weapon lying in the road. The landmines were the worst. Frans had saw them himself in Malmö. No, no, he musn't think of that now.
Some of the Eurovision contestants hadn't been happy at coming to Sweden with everything that had happened. Sweden was unsafe, they saw it on the news every day. The Americans had bought the Spanish media, but were unsuccessful at hiding the truth about the occupation of Sweden in other countries.
The further they drove into the city, the less happy the Eurovision entrants were about all of this. Kaliopi noticed something very strange.
"There's... there's a lot of people living on the streets," Kaliopi said sadly, looking out of the window and onto the streets of Stockholm. People were all over the pavement, with sleeping bags around them. Some of them held placards with Swedish writing on them, some of them had begging bowls.
"It started a few months ago. The Americans wanted some houses," Frans said, "So, they started to kick people out, so that they could take their houses. It was only a few, at first, but the more they got away with it, the more that they did it. Soon, a few became many, and it was happening all the time. The people they kicked out are now living on the streets."
The Eurovision entrants felt sad hearing that, they felt bad about celebrating on the coach while so many people in Sweden lived like this.
"Wow that's... that's really horrible," Jüri said, "Shouldn't... shouldn't we do something about this? For one night all the world's eyes are on us, the Eurovision contestants. We could do something, help the people of Sweden somehow, show the world what is really happening over here."
"How about we boycott Eurovision until the Americans here show the Swedish people some respect!" Jamie-Lee chirped in.
"That's a good idea!" Jüri said, "A really good idea!"
"Yes, that's right," Hovi Star added, "We can't just sit by on the sidelines while Sweden is destroyed from within! We must do something about it! We cannot support the contest while this is happening in this beautiful country! I say that we refuse to participate until we receive guarantees that the Swedish people will be treated better by America!"
"Perfect," Jüri grinned, "Then we'll do it. Our little protest... it's the least we can do."
"No," Frans said, "No no no, don't do this. For god's sake don't do it. If you do you'll regret it, please, I know what they're like, you don't!"
"We're the Eurovision entrants," Jüri grinned, "We can do what we want."
But Frans knew the truth, that they couldn't just do whatever they wanted. This was the new Sweden, and in the new Sweden, there were new rules. Don't go out after dark, don't promote the Swedish language, don't speak out against the American occupation. Frans thought back to the incident at the Stockholm library. A group of university students had wanted to stand up to the occupation government. They played songs in the now banned Swedish language, spoke Swedish and defied orders from the American soldiers stationed outside. And the Americans went in, and shot everyone, leaving no survivors. No warning, nothing. The message from the Americans was clear. Do not go against us.