NationStates Jolt Archive

Battle For Athiesism Island (Atten: Athiesism)

22-01-2007, 18:58
OOC: This is a seperate thread to A Passion PLay but is linked directly to the war.


HMS Galactic- CVF Carrier- Third Fleet

The Galactic had missed the attack by quite a margin, she had in fact been with the task force sent to attack Bigtoa but the reports of massive carnage on multiple decks hit the crew harder than any missile ever could. Morale, while still relatively high, had been dealt a heavy blow on the entire Third Fleet. Spirits were lifted with the prospect of still maintaining a large dominance in on the seas and the news that a large contingent of the new Hanover EW cruisers would be arriving very, very soon. The apex of EW technology stuffed onboard a cruiser would give the Third Fleet a massive tactical advantage against further short or long range missile attacks from any enemy.

A medium sized fleet of around two carriers and nine escorts were bring the Hanover class cruisers down from Stevid, and a single air combat air patrol from the Galactic fly continuous top cover for their cruiser until it rendezvoused with the mother ship. Flight Lieutenant Paul Connelly was the leader of a small wing of three additional pilots that flew sorties together everyday from the Galactic and would be flying his group out to the approaching allied fleet to escort their cruiser the rest of the way before the attack on Bigtoa. Connelly was seen as one of the best pilots the Fleet Air Arm had ever produced and was the proud flier of the Navy’s new carrier based F-36 Kunai interceptor, only at the relatively young age of twenty-three had quite an illustrious career behind and certainly had a better one in front of him. He was tall with very dark brown hair and quite an impressive build for a pilot of his stature. He had began his commission in the FAA has a simple Harrier GR.7 pilot but after two years in the plane he was removed and put in an F-35 after killing twenty enemy pilots in the harrier during the Holy Panooly civil war. He continued to fly to the JSF all the way through to the war between Huzen Hagen and Scandinavian States many a year ago. His career became so impressive that he was the first pilot in Stevid to fly the modified Tornado F3 for carrier operations and the first pilot to fly Stevid’s first carrier based EF-2000 Typhoon. Now more recently, the FAA’s best pilots had been granted the use of the three hundred new F-36 Kunai’s which was what he has been flying since Stevid received them. Already he had six kills to his name in the Kunai after shooting down fleeing planes from nearby airfields after the attack on Kentagi Point Harbour, his little squadron of planes had a total of fifteen kills overall and it was expected to rise as the campaign against the Merkar Republic continued.

Connelly (Call Sign: Blizzard) was sitting on his bunk inside the Galactic reading The Stevidian Times newspaper. He had about an hour before he had to get ready to fly for the inbound fleet with his new cruiser and so spent the time, as he usually did, reading the paper to keep in tune with what was happening at home. Ironically most of the news was related to what he was a part of here. The odd thing cropped up about the news at home but nothing that wasn’t even remotely related the several wars Stevid was fighting. Even the economy page had the war in it with the economy beginning to feel the strain of multiple conflicts, in particular the one involving Kanami and Hanover. Only the sports page had anything to comfort him, born and raised in Sunderland, he liked to see his team win and when he saw that Sunderland had beaten Capitia FC 3-0 in football his spirits rose after they had been dashed to pieces following the attack on the Third Fleet.

He yawned loudly as the bulkhead door opened and two of his three wingmen walked in talking rather loudly, yet friendly. James McLennan and Amanda Heathcote: James was huge, nearly six foot four and amazed everyone on the carrier on how he could actually fit inside a Kunai or any other plane without his head squashing up against the canopy roof. He was a fine wingman and had saved Connelly’s neck a few times in war and for the right reasons, they were the best of friends. Since college they had been together with the same goal to join the Fleet Air Arm. They never accepted to get the same posting or be in the wing together- it was as if fate meant the two of them to be friends forever. Arguments between the two would always be forgotten seconds later and that was rare thing- to see them arguing. James McLennan, or Big Mac/ Mac as he preferred to be called (also his called sign), loved the FAA and loved his colleges almost as much as he loved his wife and country and was truly one of the best wingman a lead pilot could expect to have.

Amanda Heathcote was a fine rarity in the Fleet Air Arm, the forces don’t discourage women from flying for their country although woman aren’t allowed unless they are willing either not to have children or are unable to have them due to safety regulations. The effect of G-forces on the female body can have disastrous effects when it comes to childbearing and birth. Amanda Heathcote (Call sign: Vixen) was one of a few women in the FAA but had something many didn’t have. Even in the well disciplined Royal Navy, a large group of men cuddled up together on a ship are going to be a bit “frustrated”, when a woman is onboard quite as good looking as Amanda there is bound to be trouble or some form of harassment- not this girl. She had respect and charisma no one had ever seen in a woman in the FAA. Perhaps it was her good looks or chest that subdued the men onboard the Galactic to silence and wishful thinking or, just as likely, it was her rank in the military that kept them silent. She too was a Flight Lieutenant like Connelly, but unlike like her flight lead she had developed a taste for those around her. It wasn’t common knowledge on the ship but those who were good friends with Amanda new she liked the flight lead on a level that went above friendship and was doing a good job of keeping it secret- love affairs onboard His Majesty’s Royal shipping was seen as unprofessional and made fighting far more difficult when one’s loved one was in the midst of fighting, thus poor for morale. She knew this as did everyone in the entire navy and so she never comforted him about it and probably never would- perhaps for the better.

The other wingman, William Copperfield (Call Sign: King), was nowhere to be seen.

“Alright?” Connelly said looking up from his paper finally as Amanda and Big Mac sat down on their own bunks, Mac’s lanky legs dangling down playfully in front of Amanda’s face from his bed above hers.

“Yea- Fuck off Mac!” Amanda replied, the irritation evident in her voice to which Mac knew he had crossed the line a tad and withdrew the two pencils that were his legs back to his own bunk. Yeah I suppose so, nothing out of the ordinary happening at the mess hall. You got to stop segregating yourself from the rest of the crew Blizzard- the crew need to see that there are some real heroes on this ship, don’t let me and Lanky here do all the work!”

“We’re not heroes- just professionals, and besides you can’t win a war with four pilots. Nah, I don’t see the point, you only get people staring at you in the mess hall… which reminds me, Mac did you get me my orange?”

“Yeah, here” Mac said tossing it down hard forcing Paul to drop it in a clumsy manner.

“Twat… where’s King?”

“His lordship?” Amanda replied. “Last I heard he was on deck admiring his plane, checking it over ya know? That where I think he is anyway.”

William Copperfield got his nickname, and call sign, because of his rather obscure royal heritage. He doesn’t know himself but he is around twenty-eighth in line to the throne- an heir that could be squandered on the frontline to put it harshly. It used to be a mild insult to him but in defiance he took it as his own call sign and it stuck and rather suited him. One couldn’t deny he was a fantastic pilot either and spent most of his free time admiring and tinkering with his Kunai and usually got an increased performance of 3% out of the engines. A miracle really that he found the time but he was one to be admired and not the plane- traditionally a ladies man at heart and every time the Galactic was in port he would have one or more girls under his arms. However, despite multiple attempts at flattery and numerous other conventions that made so popular with the opposite sex, he hadn’t got into Amanda’s bed. He had suspicions about her liking the flight lead, but like the rest of those in the know- kept it to himself, he knew the rules.

He arrived through the door to the squad’s quarters as Connelly and Big Mac were discussing the football results and Amanda playing with her hair. He nodded to them all and clambered above Connolly to his bed and sighed as he relaxed.

“What! No First Officer Rose Belkin with you! Big Mac exclaimed much to the amusement of Amanda. “You’re early, usually you still playing with the Kunai.”

“Very droll Mac, very droll.” King replied “No I’m finished with her.”

“Which one? The Kunai or the First Officer?” Connelly playfully mocked to which Amanda sniggered again. Copperfield slyly smirked back at her before explaining.

“Both I guess, I’ve had enough of the Kunai today and the CO’s had enough of me to put it bluntly… OH! I remember I had to tell you guys- the cruisers from Stevid are ahead of schedule by about two hours so we’ve gotta get in the air shortly.”

“Right no slacking!” Connolly said rising from his bed grabbing his helmet and other flight gear. “I wanna be in the air in ten minutes. I know you’re tired King but move!”

Just as Connelly ordered they were in the air in ten minutes at fifteen thousand feet in their sleek Kunai’s, racing for the fleet approaching from Stevid containing the cruisers the Third Fleet and her splinter fleets would be receiving. Two would be sent to Splinter Force Bigtoa- the task force preparing to attack the large island and would probably be more and enough to safeguard the fleet from an intermediate attack.

“Form up Vixen and cover my six. You’re lagging.” Connelly ordered from the front of the formation of four F-36s. The fleet was now visible and was quite large and dispersed as thirty Hanover Class Cruisers and their escorting frigates and destroyers along with the accompanying carriers advanced towards the Third Fleet. Connolly checked his radar, it was clear- a relief for two reasons. One, it meant the Defiler Class in Safehaven was correctly filtering out the EW jamming from the Hanover cruisers for them because they were displaying both a friend IF signature and by tuning the planes and the ship to the same frequency; and two, it meant there wasn’t a single bad guy in the skies around them and quite rightly so. If the enemy had any intelligence reports on the Hanover Class then they would rightly fear its capabilities as both an offensive and defensive cruiser. Air-to-ship missiles fired by a single enemy CAP wouldn’t make it near the thirty EW cruisers that were blaring out ECM/ECCM waves so much that the missiles and the enemy’s radar would be nothing but a solid green cloud of distortion.

“Roger Blizzard, taking six. No sign of bandits”

“King here, confirmed negative contact.”

“Big Mac here, Confirmed… negative enemy contact.”

“Good.” Connolly finished. “We’ll do a single flyby and escort the two cruisers and their escorts for the rest of the journey.”

The Kunai formation flew high and loud above the large fleet below before splitting off, banking around and forming up behind the fleet as the first two cruisers and four frigates broke formation and headed directly East for Splinter Fleet Bigtoa.
23-01-2007, 03:45
The uneven lines of sailors reached from one gray wall to the other. The room was nearly packed and not everyone onboard was allowed in due to the lack of space. The ship's cafeteria was the only place large enough to hold Captain's Mast, but even then, a few dozen crewmembers could not find space and had remained on watch. As it was, the crowd of men and women was stumbling around in the dark, packed knee-to-knee in compact, if slightly wavy, lines. The lights gave only a little illumination, which no doubt was ruining the crew's night vision, but the Captain insisted on not running the red lights. She had something special planned.

Amanda had no illusions about her crew. It was an exhausted, undisciplined, generally pitiful fighting machine. As she slowly strode across the front of the room, having only a dozen feet of clearance between the crowd and the wall, she could see what had become of what she had enlisted for- the Merkari "military spirit". The men were unshaven, the women had let their hair grow, and almost every crewmember's uniform was soiled. It was only the officers who took pride in their appearance. Amanda was frustrated that the Navy no longer issued separate uniforms for officer and enlisted- she shared her simple work dungarees with everyone else but she did her best to keep them prim and presentable. Jursai had cropped his hair close to his scalp and even the other officers were clearly making an attempt at good hygiene.

Amanda ended her walk to the center of the room and looked over the crew. The light chatter stopped. Lines magically straightened, heads faced forwards, and some even came to attention. As much as these soldiers despised their captain's ideas, as much as they were confused by the introduction of a military culture alien to their own, their was no question that Captain Smith inspired action simply by her presence. This momentary appearance of power was deceiving, however- when the captain wasn't looking anything could happen. Merkaris were not like they used to be, and the stress and plummeting morale brought on by the war had destroyed any sense of duty. Over the past week the crew of the Pragem had performed so many breaches of military protocol that noone could make a definite list- sloppy torpedo loading procedures that almost claimed a life, ignorance of the Captain's new regulations, failures to report to battle stations, and even a series of orgies in the crew's quarters yesterday.

The chief master-at-arms broke Amanda out of her thoughts. "Mast reports salute!" A quick exchange of salutes between the commander and her crew and Amanda flicked some hair out of her face before she began speaking. "At ease."

"Comrades, tonight the crew of the Merkar Republic Ship Pragem has been summoned to Captain's Mast for a demonstration. The memories of Kentangi are still fresh, yet already we have seen clear demonstrations of the brutality of our enemy. Two weeks ago the Stevidians tore apart the largest seaport in Merkar, killing soldiers in innocents by the tens of thousands. There is no greater insult to national pride than this." Yet these people, the crew, were not Merkaris- they were individuals, and they felt no sense of loss for their country's loss. Amanda's words were not having an effect.

"Over the past week, we've picked up several television news transmissions that were floating around... take a look at what the enemy has been doing, Comrades." Amanda activated the display to show one of the tapes. She had not let the crew view these videos earlier as sights of Stevidian atrocities would most likely lower morale. But there was little left to motivate the crew now. She had viewed these videos of carnage over and over again in her stateroom as it gave her what was, for lack of a better word, a comforting sense of resolve and anger. The pessimistic voice of the news anchors had been edited out, but the rest of the audio remained.

"This is the attack on Kentangi Point, December 21st last year. In other countries they call this part of the year 'Christmas'". The noise of explosions and fire echoed through the previously quiet room, loud enough to make Amanda flinch for an instant. The echoes made the noise indistinct, but a few individual explosions could still be heard clearly. A gaggle of miserabley oil-soaked bodies, living and dead, was floating in a sea of black in front of a burning ship, apparently a carrier with its normally distinctive flat top marred beyond recognition. The smoke from the ship blocked out the sky in the background although the fires illuminated the scene and gave everything an orange tint. The camera shook only occasionally from shockwaves, suggesting that the film had been taken some distance away.

A shriek could be heard, perhaps a jet flying overhead, and then a speck darted down from the top of the screen. It released a greenish cloud which expanded and hovered for a moment over the awed sailors. They had only seconds to live before they were drowned in a tremendous flash of light. The sudden vaccum caused by the fuel air explosive momentarily sucked bodies and chunks of metal skyward and out of the water, as if they were attempting to escape this hell, and then sent them raining back down into the pool of oil. The ones in the center of the blast zone were fortunate; they died instantly. The rest were consumed by fire until they bore no human shape.

It was the sucking noise of the fuel explosive that always disturbed Amanda. She remembered seeing these weapons used before, during manuevers, but she never had a mental picture of what their wartime use would be. She had seen the video too many times to respond too strongly, though, and she turned down the volume to speak in a calm, firm voice. "The Stevidians have violated every law of war and ethics. They delibarately sucked the oxygen out of the lungs of Merkari sailors even as they struggled for survival in the sea- harmless civilians." A lie thrown in for effect- although their uniforms were soaked with oil in the film a close look would confirm that they were probably military.

Returning the volume to an annoyingly loud level, Amanda switched to the next clip. The sounds of war were still present, but much more distant and quieter. "This was taken two days ago during the air attack. Again, a fatally wounded Merkari ship, a destroyer, with its crew in the water and defenseless." Even as she spoke aircraft flew overhead dropping rockets and cannon rounds into the water. Their strafing passes showed the marks of a carefully planned massacre, each plane lining up in the distance to aim its shot and then adjusting its aim as its rounds fell around the sailors- no longer humans, simply targets. Amanda's heart beat faster.

The Pragem had been traveling with a small destroyer group to protect herself. It was humiliating to stay on the defensive but attempting to pentrate the Fleet's defenses now would be suicide; there had to be an opening, somewhere, sometime. The air attack had taken place two days ago. The Pragem surfaced to activate her missile-defense systems and defend the flotilla, but there was little she could do. Amanda remembers standing on the fantail with Jursai after the attack, watching the hopeless sailors be torn apart. The XO insisted on closing to help the survivors, but it was only a half-question, half-wish; "You know we can't expose ourselves, Jursai," was the unsurprising reply.

Another switch of scenes. The explosions and airplanes were no longer heard, replaced by mass cheering. "This is Stevid Capita a day after Kentangi." No more words were necessary; the most striking parts of the victory celebration had been strung together in the tape, with a Stevidian newsman narrating. Throngs of cheering Stevidians in front of a massive viewscreen showing the harbor in flames; a mother enraged at the death of her son, a pilot, during the attack, comforting the crowd that "we will win. There is no other way. The Merkari is a strong opponent and we have respect for them. But they do not have the values of Stevid- courage, willingness to struggle for a goal, and the knowledge of hardship. They have been drawn into this war, they are not ready, and they do not have the stomach to win,"; a parade of impeccably sharp Stevidian soldiers, in full dress uniform, something that Merkaris had no respect for; and, last, the television screen in front of the crowd showing a map of the region with blue-colored Havenic Pact forces swallowing up Athiesism. The tape ended and the screen switched off.

"I suspect many of you previously thought of Stevid as a civilized nation, a well-meaning people forced into war out of necessity. But remember that the enemy is fighting for an empire in a war that began when they attempted to steal the land of the Macabbean Imperium. For us this is a war of survival. I have shown you who the Stevidians are; my crew is left to their own judgement."

She paused for second to evaluate the effect of her diatribe. With the display off the room seemed darker and it was difficult to see. But, whether they noticed or not, the crew had fixed their eyes on the commander and had stopped their fidgeting. It was a sight that Amanda had not seen in a long time- a stone wall of prepared soldiers.

"Comrades, we have not yet fired a torpedo, but we are in a war. Earlier today, Sonar detected hundreds of explosions coming from Third Fleet, lasting for over half an hour; apparently our air force had a good day. It appears that Stevid has taken massive losses in outer-screen escorts and is sending in corvettes from the western approaches to reinforce. They're heading right for us, in other words. We know this because the Pragem went shallow an hour ago and requested orders. Along with the other submarines in the area we have orders to intercept."

Amanda noticed that she still had her hand in her pocket, fingering the display controls, and pulled it out. The lack of a podium annoyed her, but she had spoken well so far and continued with her arms crossed. "The Pragem will own a Stevidian warship any day. Your training has been excellent, your combat reflexes have been honed. All of you are ready for battle, and I expect you to hold yourself to that standard... dismissed."

The officers, lined up to the right of the room, saluted to their captain, as did the crew. Jursai grinned for a moment and repressed it just as quickly. After Amanda returned the salute the crew filed back to their quarters and stations, leaving the hallways empty and giving Amanda time to think as she walked to her stateroom. The red lighting made it easier to walk through the hallway, but it was still dark enough to make her tired. It was Jusai's watch now. Although the ship would be in combat in a matter of hours, perhaps minutes, the captain knew that even human beings could be overworked. Best to catch a least some sleep before battle.

As minds do when they are tired, Amanda's lost focus and began to contemplate. The Stevidians were strong. They had great numbers and massive ships, but they had one critical weakness that gave the individual Merkari the advantage. Amanda had certainly seen their navy at work. It was, by regional standards, the most powerful of them all, and certainly its records of victory and vast sea territory supported this. But the Merkari was unpredictable; there was no way to hold her in. The Stevidians rested peacefully in the north, their massive ships strutting about as if they owned the sea. But it had taken them to long too move; too much fear of acting without a plan was holding them back. They were a strong target, but a target, something to be shot at according to their plan. Perhaps there was something to this disorderly, unshaven Merkari way of war, as Stevid's flaw had just been laid bare.

Captain Smith reached her stateroom and stood in front of the door, broken from her train of thought and trying to remember what to do. She looked left to see a sailor walking through the hall, stepping carefully over the "knee knockers", the high door thresholds that seemed to be made to bash your shins on. Just another unkempt sailor, about to pass by the highest ranking officer on the ship without even giving her a nod. But this time something remarkable happened. He saluted.

= + =

The New Year's Eve attack on the Third Fleet was the epitome of that most hallowed of Merkari military virtues- concenration of force in space and time. The smoke cleared quickly as burning ships went under, and Merkar was quick to see that it was not fighting a God of the sea, after all.

Inevitably, though, concentration resulted in weakness elsewhere. In terms of time, this meant that Merkari Naval Aviation had crippled itself- the key prerequisite of Stevid's invasion of Bigtoa. The reckless expenditure of fuel and ammunition during the attack used up what little air force Merkar had left. Only a few squadrons of elite pilots- meaning those who had survived the longest- could still fly, and they tried as much as possible to avoid contact with the enemy.

The performance of the Mit was not nearly as good as expected, though, despite the devastation it had wrought. Merkari intelligence had only a vauge idea how many ships the enemy had left. If low estimates were accurate, only 100 ships had been sunk. The missile's anti-CIWS evasion patterns were apparently inneffective, and jamming support for the assault was inadequate- the Sira EW helicopters did not perform as expected. Although the damage to the enemy fleet was heavy, out of the 6,000 missiles launched less than 5% found their targets- a mediocre performance.

What was especially frustrating to the Naval Staff was the fact that Stevid could so easily replace its losses. Once ships were detected pulling out from the western approaches the Naval Staff ordered all nearby submarines to stop these corvette and escort groups. Only 20 submarines were in the area, including the Pragem, and all were ordered to sink, or at least delay, the reinforcements headed toward the Third Fleet. They attempted to inflitrate the enemy formation and lay torpedo-deployed mines in its path.

Merkar had a strong commitment to Cyberwar before the war, and taking the offensive to the enemy's computer network was an important part of its doctrine. In this war, though, it took an embarassing delay to get the netwar effort in motion. By January, however, about a thousand network specialists, military and hired civilian, were working to crack open Stevid's computers. There was an indirect landline between the two countries through Guffingford, but Stevid quickly cut this when it realized the threat of infiltration. Attempts to break in through civilian satellites and ground transmitters, though, were more successful. Thousands of attacks were launched, crashing networks here and there, but only two major coups were accomplished. Firstly, Stevid's landbound satellite centers were infiltrated. Direct attempts to control satellites failed, but course-correction software was riddled with errors. It was not known if the hackers made a clean escape, or if the Stevidians would soon repair the programs. Army Intelligence was also hacked and several terrabytes worth of information was stolen. Most importantly, the Naval Staff was able to view tentative plans for the invasion of Bigtoa, convincing them that Stevidian moves toward the island were not a feint.

Splinter Fleet Bigtoa was spotted quickly. The Merkari navy was practicing some EMCON, avoiding use of sensors as much as possible, but the constant Stevidian ECM barrage made their fleet easy to track. A dozen submarines were in the area of the splinter fleet, but it was too well inside the Third Fleet's ASW ring for them to strike effectively. Meanwhile, the "Athasism Fleet", the group formed out of the ships loitering south of Liliputia, sailed the long way around the island and made for the west coast of Bigtoa. The fleet traveled slowly, at only five knots, keeping very close formation and searching for enemy submarines and mines. They followed a roundabout route to the west and arrived on January 2nd.

Most of the fleet- 200 destroyers (the 10,000 ton Erschoffs were closer to cruisers in bulk but weak in armament), 100 Soty-class missile boats, 50 carriers, and over a hundred auxiliaries and minesweepers- stayed west of Bigtoa, covered by terrain from the main enemy fleet but perhaps close to Stevid's western approaches defenses. They were ready to sail east at any time should Stevidian ASW persecute their submarines or should the landings take place. Meanwhile, about 80 Shark -class submarines lay hiding in the shallow waters around Bigtoa, ready to pounce on any force that came close to shore. Another 30 made up the advance guard of the fleet, with some of them patrolling near the battlegroup to locate Stevidian submarines.

On the island of Bigtoa itself the refugee problem had lessened now that people realized there was no place to go. A Stevidian attack could come from any direction, and it was safer to stay in the cities, clusters of towering arcologies that occupied some one-third of the island's real estate. Obstacles and entrenchments were being prepared along the landing sites mentioned in Army Intelligence's stolen plans and soldiers were being shipped in from all over Athiesism to enhance the island's defenses. Only 50,000 troops, 1,000 artillery pieces, 700 APCs and 1,200 tanks were present on the island at the start of January, but those numbers were climbing rapidly. Most of the reinforcements were infantry, with some artillery. Defenses were being stretched thin elsewhere, even on the largest island of Liliputia, to compensate.

Stevid still had not cut Athiesism's southern supply lines, so the citizens of Liliputia had enough supplies to live off of, if not quite comfortably. On Marche Noir, the situation had improved now that three carriers and 50 destroyers had been transferred there to keep supply lines open. The citizens of Bigtoa were recieving just enough food and creature comforts to keep the peace as most civilian shipping was drafted into supplying the island with troops.

In summary, the Merkari navy was conducting a limited offensive at sea as it tried to clear any submarines and aircraft around Bigtoa and Marche Noir. Submarines were a key part of the plan, watchfully guarding Bigtoa against invasion and intercepting Stevidian reinforcements being called in from the western approaches. The defenders of Athiesism anxiously awaited Stevid's response, their fingers never far from the trigger.
24-01-2007, 05:59
There was no line today. Kassem simply walked up to the meal dispenser, grabbed a warm, shrinkrapped tray of food, and found a seat on the ground. It was a primitive method of having lunch, with little between Kassem's food and the myriads of small insects darting about the tent floor, but few others seemed to care. As Qusay laid down his meal on his lap, his squadron mates were satisfied with using stumps or even the bare ground as a table. Qusay had been on "field manuevers" before- what the Navy called spending a few days in a jungle base. This was not a major concern for most of the Merkaris, who almost enjoyed the primitive and hardly hygenic procedure Merkar employed in its jungle camps, but Kassem saw no purpose to the unheeded filth.

The meal dispenser unit had arrived yesterday and it was a hit with everyone. This was the one thing that made this deployment bareable- Qusay had hardly aten anything, let alone a hot meal, but now that the 678th Fighter Squadron was "elite" it had first pick of the copious supplies now streaming into Bigtoa. There were no need for scheduled mealtimes as the machine could pump out seemingly endless meals. It was amazing that this device, hardly larger than a barbecue, could pump out meals so easily while the other bases had to subsist on cold canned rations. Although infinitely less graceful than a fighter jet, its technical wizardry was just as fascinating to a hungry stomach. It was interesting to consider what the Stevidian pilots were doing right now- lounging about in a safe, clean ship, served the best food in the fleet as a matter of course and having no fear that a bomb could land on their tent at any moment.

The meal tent was not exactly quiet, although the few people present did not make a commotion. Noone was in particularly high spirits with the war as it was. Kassem, who had been transferred to a new unit twice now, simply did not fit in. Most of the squadron was either dead or AWOL, with the deficit being made up by yet another batch of fresh (or, this time, mostly combat-experienced) pilots. As a result, noone knew each other, and the poor mood of everyone made it rather pointless to try to start a conversation. Kassem himself had considered fleeing, but the thick jungle made it necessary to find a way out first. The "elite" 678th Squadron was in reality a depressed force of combat-experienced, or rather combat-weary, pilots, waiting for their chance to leave the war or die.

The small opening in the unlighted tent, which was perhaps large enough to fit thirty people, let in a narrow column of light which shifted whenever someone else entered the tent. Kassem swiveled to the right to see his friend, Arbanane, move efficiently through the "door"- the top portion a GR7 Harrier tailfin which had landed somehwere near the base and put on hinges as a trophy. As a door it was rather more of a hindrance than a useful item but some use had to be found for it. Arbanane quickly grabbed his styrofoam tray and walked over to a group of three pilots near the entrance but hesitated, seeing lonely Qusay, and instead headed over to his friend.

"Getting cold out there today. I heard it's s'posed to go below 23 celsius!" Talking about the weather, not the war. Arbanane was always the optimist, which won him friends around the base even among those who normally kept to themselves like Qusay. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was fresh blood, transfered out of another squadron that had seen absolutely no action yet.

"Yes, it's winter here, Arba. The Brit sailors must be sweating gallons, though."

Arba speared a forkfull's worth of beams and thrusted them into his mouth, dribbling bits of sauce onto his pants and chewing without bothering to close his mouth. "I've had a gallon of beans today, it's still the best thing I've tasted. Like it?"

"Mmmf." Qusay delicately partitioned his lumpy eggs as he fiddled for a napkin to wipe his mouth after a sip of milk. The two sat there for a few seconds, Kassem having nothing to say and Arbanane devouring his meal.

"You can stop staring at her, buddy." Seated with the two other pilots near the entrance was some mysteriously beautiful girl that Kassem could not help but eyeing. The one part of Merkari culture Qusay understood was that eye contact was a welcoming- meeting someone's eyes, even if it meant staring at them, meant you wanted to talk. But the anonymous, dark haired, richly tanned girl didn't even notice him. She was a rarity in Merkar- a woman who was both beautiful and made an effort to look presentable.

"You're interested in her, aren't you? Her name is ahh... umm..." Arbanane recalled her name, which Qusay commited to memory and forgot seconds later.

"Yes, Arba, it's been a while since... well, you don't have a problem with that." Qusay had never married and would still be a virgin today if it had not been for one drunken night in Kentangi Point's red-light district. Arba had no such restrictions, though. He tended towards a tarya lifestyle- the Liliputian word for "drifter" which had taken on an entirely knew meaning in the 21st century. It meant simply a man who slept with anyone, male or female, he wanted to, not difficult to do in Merkar's sexually liberal society. Qusay sometimes wondered why he moved to this country.

"What? What? You're worried about some Wrath of G-.... I'm, I'll stop.... I'm sorry."

"No offense taken, Arba. Your people speak what they mean." "Your" people? What country are you fighting for? Arba thought.

He was no doubt embarrased about his slip of words and tried to change the subject. "So this is your second lunch, Kass?"

"The Brits keep sending ASW helos around our subs. I was called up at lunch to chase one away. That's probably, what, the third time I've been in the air? We get no rest. There's always a sortie to fly. If I could just sit down and eat my damn lunch."

"Are you supposed to be eating that?"

"You mean this?"

"Yeah, the pork."

"Trade you for a lump of-"

"BWEEROOO! BWEEROOO!" Yet another air raid siren. Qusay had hopped out of his cockpit to grab his lunch and go, but his discussion with Arba had prevented him from getting back. His was the alert aircraft, and in any scramble he was supposed to be the first in the air.

"Talk later."

= = =

The building tops raced by dazzlingly fast. Slightly more distant, the infinite line of flat jungle darted in and out of view through the straight city blocks, with the motionless sea keeping station in the distance. Barely visible was the green speck of a wingmen, or rather wingwoman, off in the distance. Judging from voice, Kassem was mostly sure this was the Squadron's mystery girl. A mystery to him, anyway. All he could remember was her curious callsign, "Bear".

"Bandit, bandit, southwest bullseye three-one miles." It was the Sira AWACs- "Comet"- hovering behind a city building miles back, bobbing up behind cover occasionally to give a situation report. Splinter Group Bigtoa, as Intelligence called it, was within SAM range. Kassem and Bear were flying close to the ground to avoid being spotted. They were flying just low enough to be covered by the tallest buildings but still had to dodge often to avoid collision.

"Comet, this is Saber, state your contacts."

Kassem pulled into a tight banking circle to avoid hitting buildings while listening to the radio.

"Saber, this is Comet, one contact, small, southwest bullseye 3-1 miles." The ASW helicopters they were supposed to be chasing had already fled, or perhaps never showed up.

"Saber, I'm getting painted by radar... they're going active, looks like Kunais. Two of them. " Perhaps the enemy was not that bright. Their active radar had given away their position instantly. And there were only two of them- Kassem wanted to run away, but his instincts pulled him towards the fight. Get off a few good shots and run the hell away.

"Roger, Bear, I'll lock up the one on the right."
25-01-2007, 18:10
OOC: That extra post took me off guard. If there are any majr irregularities between the posts thaen i'll change them in due course but i think it'll work.


Stevid Capita, Number 65, PM’s Office

“I like the odd joke gentlemen and there are many variants. We can have ridiculously funny ones, droll ones, ones that tickle you slightly and then we have serious one but are still jokes none the less. Gentlemen… you are going to tell me that what you said was nothing more than a joke?”

Prime Minister David Conroy sat with the most important political ministers of the party, the top brass admirals and commanders of all three sects of the armed forces, and both the head of MI6 and MI5 around the office table. The meeting was an emergency one, not quite on such a scale that it was to be top secret but whenever national security was in threat or had been at threat then these meetings would immediately be called. They usually contained bad news to some degree and judging by the look on the faces of those gathered in front of him the PM was out of luck hoping it was a joke.

“I’m afraid not Prime Minister.” The Mead of MI5 spoke up. “We have multiple confirmed reports of break-ins on our military cyber network. We have no real evidence it was anyone in particular but it is safe to assume that it was the work of professional hackers on the side of Merkar Republic. We detected a huge surge of multiple attacks on the military satellite network but the firewalls and anti-hacking devices worked their magic, no initial break in occurred via the military network. However there was a large attack via the civilian network and then they bypassed the firewalls on our end and managed to get some valuable data and wreak some havoc.”

“What did they do exactly?” Conroy replied trying to control the simmering anger that he has felt inside him.

“First were satellites, both military and civilian- mainly navigation and GPS ones but also spy ones. They have tampered with course-corrections that are being repaired now. It is possible we will lose a fair few satellites due to a decaying orbit, repairs can be easy depending on when the last set of codes were inputted. If they were lately then we can just call up what we sent to the satellite and go from there. If codes require being sent then we lost what we were working and will have to redo them faster or hope for the best while we sort the mess out.”

“Anything else I need to know about?”

“Aside from the multiple network crashes including some problems at ST (Stevid Telecommunications) one other thing which I think is most important. It was a tradition hack into the government’s military database and filing system- simply to gain information and prat about with the system. They sole tons of information about our military plans for the near future and we’re talking terabytes here sir. We believe they may know what we are planning with Bigtoa, certainly in the short run and definitely the invasion. I would say the invasion part was obvious but we shot down a large amount of their satellite network.”

“They know what we’re planning?” Admiral Sir Alan West, the First Naval Sea Lord, spat with surprise and a hint of fear which showed as his face turn a light pale. “They know the landing zones? They know the strategies?”

“The have a ‘good idea’ about where we will be landing and so we can expect heavier resistance to which we previously would have anticipated. They won’t know our strategies, those are usually best confirmed on the day but I’m sure it will probably the usual way of sanitising a beach- although it will mean that they will dig in and you’ll have to bring in a lot of armour piercing and ground penetrating shells with the invasion fleet.”

“Speaking of which Prime Minister,” the First Sea Lord interrupted. “I have an update on the Hanover Class shipping reinforcements. After MI5 of course.” Conroy nodded politely and waved to the head of 5 to continue.

“We know it isn’t just some greasy, over the top Star Trek fan with skin problems looking for evidence we do autopsies on aliens- these are real professionals which is way we assume Merkar as the intruder. We are going to ask MI6 to look into our evidence, as in take a look at Bigtoa to see the movement of armour and infantry on the surface. This is proving more difficult than usual since we only have two satellites looking at Bigtoa. We would have more but the course-correction codes were buggered with- things are going slowly, although pictures are coming through from what satellites we have.”

Conroy nodded curtly and turned to the First Sea Lord. “Admiral, the EW cruisers? On course and on time I expect?”

“Yes Prime Minister but with the odd problem, the two on their way to the Bigtoa splinter fleet are doing fine, they have great top cover and ASW cover from the Splinter fleet which, might I add, is making good progress towards Bigtoa- I’ll cover that in a minute. The other cruisers inbound for the Third Fleet are making a slow and methodical approach towards the fleet. ASW helicopters from the Third Fleet have seen a large surge in enemy submarine activity, a few engagements have led to minor victories or stalemates but they are trying to force the reinforcement’s way from the fleet or at least slow them down. The same goes for the Third Fleet that is now being harassed by submarines, this failing at Kentagi is proving costly now as it is slowing down our ability to fight quickly, the Corvettes being brought from unneeded parts of the fleets are sailing around to reach the Western defence wall that was hit hard by the enemy missiles. While they are busy taking positions the enemy has pounced on more than six occasions to attack the corvettes when they are most vulnerable and have sunk or severely damaged fifteen already at a cost of only three or four attack submarines.”

“What about out submarines?”

“A few engagements but no losses to either side, both sides would rather a direct confrontation at this stage. The Royal navy hold a lot of the good cards at the moment sir and the enemy knows it, they are taking the fight to us to boost their own morale and to prolong the inevitable attack. The Third Fleet is gently making its way to attack their own fleet that masses after Kentagi. Once that is removed the fleet can disperse and focus on the logistics of the enemy’s war at sea like convoys and ship building. The submarine threat will be constant throughout but harassing them with ASW helicopters and frigates should be enough to contain them until we can bring our real force to bear. Until then we are going to have to accept these losses we are suffering.”

“Reinforcements from here, is that possible? The campaign against the Merkar Republic must be a success, even if it means taking only two islands, it must succeed.”

“No, well not realistically, a total of fifty ships will be joining the Third Fleet with most of them being the EW cruisers, reinforcements from the home fleets will prove fatal- The Macabees may decide to strike against a weakened foe. To divert ships away from Stevid is a poor choice of tactics, we might even lose Otium Aqua if we pushed forward there.”

“Okay, but this campaign must succeed. The war in Safehaven isn’t looking brilliant right now and so we need to gain something out of this quickly. Battle record is nearly perfect but major victories in the war so far have led to inevitable stalemates. The invasion of Bigtoa must go ahead.”

“Well Prime Minister,” The First Sea Lord said looking down to avoid eye contact. “That is also becoming difficult, enemy submarines are pressing us, tight formations and continuous ASW is all that is preventing us from losing ships. The little beggars are everywhere. We’re sinking a few but not nearly enough to fall into a loose formation. Allied submarines are having little effect at this stage and so far we haven’t received reports of either side losing subs to another submarine. The invasion of Bigtoa will go ahead, we have all the information we need, maps, geography and possible enemy ground reinforcements. They don’t know what tactics we’ll be using but they might have a good idea where we will land, I see this as a good thing. We may lose more men but more of their military will be concentrated in one place. Thermobarics and shelling will prove more effective than usual but I won’t hide the fact that more of our men will die. Total sanitisation is impossible, only plausible.”

There was an awkward silence in the office, things weren’t grim yet but the sluggishness of the battle plan was beginning to show through. Quick victories can work for or against you. They can leave you feeling psyched up and wanting to keep killing or it can leave you flat footed and surprised at such a victory. The win at Kentagi had certainly been a victory that left the Navy flat footed and they had only just began to directly threat Bigtoa with invasion, the splinter fleet was practically ready to attack but the waiting for the EW cruisers had slowed them up even more and the enemy submarines didn’t help matters. They weren’t stupid enough to start an all out assault on the fleets but had enough courage to harass it to such a degree that things were moving along a snails pace. As far as sea offensives went this was very subtle by the Merkar Republic but it was certainly working for them and against the Royal Navy.

Conroy broke the silence, something needed to be said and quickly.
“At least Bigtoa is going ahead… and at least the Third Fleet is moving out to the enemy’s fleet. That’s a start, I’m not over confident of victory in fact I’m not confident at all, this isn’t Kanami we’re facing here- these guys are well and truly formidable even when a devastating blow is struck against them. I have to say I admire their resolve.”

“They have blatantly been using propaganda sir.” The head of MI6 added. “Footage of the attack on Kentagi Point Harbour, attacks on their shipping, they’ll probably throw all that in with a small mixture of lies to make their soldiers feel better about themselves.”

“It works, we use it all the time.” The First Sea Lord retorted. “We refer to the Golden Throne and all their men as barbarians, feudal warriors that are fanatical to the cause. We refer to the whole of Kanami as strange infidels that trespass on the Holy soil of Hanover. Now we have the Merkar Republic, weak beings of simple minds that are unable to defend their own homeland. It works and works well but its all bullshit and they know it! The Macabees isn’t a country of barbarians, look at their tanks, look at their cities- the architecture and passion they put into their work is mind blowing. Kanami, while infidels to Catholicism, aren’t that bad as a people or culture. They have a need to seek protection of others and stand up for the little guy- that is quite humbling at best. Their religion is unique and quite impressive and they love it as much as we love God. The Merkar Republic we have seen via their resolve, them taking the fight to us and not letting a dull hop clog up the threat to their country cloud their vision, they are quite to opposite of weak- weak isn’t in their dictionary. They are a lot like us after the attack on Portsmouth Harbour, we suffer thousands of deaths, the most power fleet in Stevid almost totally wiped out and now we have the grim fact that we were victim to the first nuclear attack of the war. Now look at us, we pulled through and our resolve led us to victory both in Safehaven and against the Merkar Republic. Every nation in this conflict, while enemies with one another, are all truly honourable nations, their blood, their heritage, their national pride is all to be admired. The sad thing is that we have to rid them of this earth, painful as it is to do.”

Conroy smiled faintly at the Sea Lord’s words, never has he spoken so passionately about his country or the enemy’s country in such a way. He rose and dismissed them with the orders to attack Bigtoa within the hour and for the Third Fleet to continue sailing towards the enemy fleet that was still some distance away. The more explicit orders were to prevent the enemy submarines from doing any more irreparable damage to either one of the fleets, while this was a vague order to the Admirals it meant that the menace was to be kept at bay until Bigtoa had been landed on, but taking the fight to the enemy subs was not top of the list just yet- the campaign had to move forward quicker than this and wasting time destroying every last sub would allow more time for the Merkar military to ready for the coming storm from the sea. Containment had to be the option for now regarding the enemy subs, annihilation would come after beachheads were established on the landing zones of Bigtoa.

Royal Navy Bigtoa Splinter Fleet

It had been a relatively short journey but in the grand scheme of things it was really quite slow. ASW helicopters had never been used so much by the Royal Navy, constant active sonars were pounding away and picking up all sorts of contacts that resembled enemy submarines. This constant harassment wasn’t the quiet kind either, both sides had taken losses as RN corvettes that picked up the odd engine problem and were accidentally left behind would be picked up by Merkar submarines and immediately attacked the doomed corvettes, ASW helicopters from the frigates, destroyers, cruisers and carriers took the fight to the submarines if the enemy strayed too close and subsequently bombed or torpedoed several in under and hour estimating that a possible three had been destroyed while the other were either damaged or unscathed. Any ships unable to follow the fleet had to be left behind, the Admiralty was fed up of waiting for the Hanover Class EW cruisers and while the two heading for the splinter fleet would arrive on time, the other twenty odd on their way to the third fleet would not and would be marginally late. Waiting for them was no longer an option and the war had to go head as planned, Stevid had to take the advantage gained at Kentagi but were slow to act- this had to stop… on the spot decisions from now on were required if Stevid was to win this campaign or at least take and hold two islands which was the initial objective.

The Splinter Fleet could be classed as a battle fleet on its own as it was pretty large as far as splinter fleets go. Several fleet carriers and task force carrier held the full FAA brunt and command battleships would lead the attack on the beaches with their huge twenty-two inch cannons and missile armament. The corvettes and ASW destroyers would now go on the offensive against the enemy’s submarine force in the area, constrained to a tight formation for too long had aggravated the top brass commanders and the helmsmen of the huge carriers which had a restricted movement and turning circle. The Corvettes and Destroyers would push outwards and push hard to sweep away any submarines for the invasion to fully begin, this would of course mean that losses were going to start rising but in order for Bigtoa to be invaded sacrifices had to be made. Frigates and Cruisers that carrier ASW aircraft and were design to fight submarines would also join the hunt to secure the immediate area while the other escort ships would form tight AAW formations to prevent the disaster of the Third Fleet reoccurring. Too many ships had been lost to the enemy’s incredible anti-ship missile that produces anti-CIWS countermeasures, only the ILMS and some CIWS cannons managed to shoot them down. Hopeful a raid at that size would occur again any time soon not unless the Royal Navy got their arses into gear and began taking the fight to the enemy instead of vice versa.

The appearance of the two Hanover EW cruisers was a welcome sight, their tight formation and heavy air escort confirming that they were indeed being shadowed by enemy submarines. Three ships were missing as well, two corvette and a single frigate which must have been attacked by either a fool hardy or extremely well captained enemy submarine to fight off three ASW shipping- whether the enemy survived was unknown, all that was known that the EW cruisers were here finally and the fleet air cover was established.

Bigtoa, the island was now clearly visible in the sun and the emerald isle showed, quiet visibly through binoculars, the hive of activity. Since the computer crash in Stevid only three satellites had gotten images through to the NAVSAT and MI6 and well as the war office in the capital city. The geostationary one was now being over used as the other two were no longer in the best positions to look at the enemy’s territory. Armoured units were moving in from the cities and would arrive in a couple of hours, infantry reinforcements were also moving in and even arriving en mass to reinforce the particular beaches where they though the attack would come. It was becoming more and more obvious that the enemy were not going to be so easily broken by the Royal Marines, Army and FAA/AAC, however commanders were confident of an initial victory on the landing zones but were more sceptical of the inland fighting. The landing of armoured vehicles with a wave of troops would be most effective especially when the Blank Lanner 2 medium tank was on the frontline. It had incredible off speeds and was perfect for simply over running enemy lines (both infantry and armour), accompanied by troops and special weapons like mortars, missile launchers and heavy machine guns, the beach would hopefully be over run in less than half an hour maybe forty-five minutes if lucky, and if enemy resistance is crushed accordingly. Iron Cheetahs and the PADSHA variants would form the main bulk of heavy armour behind the first wave and would bulldoze through what couldn’t be immediately destroyed. They would then push forward and engage enemy armour inland with air support.

It sounded good, after the initial bombardment from the sea and the air, the ground units would go in and set up an immediate fire base and then push forward again while the RFA and logistic support off loaded what they needed. Amphibious assault craft would close in and start off loading the light vehicles, tanks and other equipment and soldiers while the firebase would be constructed. The inland battle would be tough however, enemy armour would be ready to counter and push back Stevidian armoured advances all the way back to the firebase and then back to the beach. The landing would be (ironically) the easy bit in the grand scheme of things.

A wing of F-36 Kunai interceptors screeched overhead, the emblem easily recognisable as Blizzards flight group from the HMS Galactic. Hundreds of aircraft (around 186) were in the air now combining mainly of XF-24 Scorpions and escorted by a few Sea Typhoons and Nightwalkers. This time the RAF would be assisting in the attack and the FAA would be doing the hard work this time, the flight groups organised themselves and turned towards the target beach (the southern most part of Bigtoa). The command battle ships had already halted and turned abreast the island in preparation for their huge broadsides that would cut through the tranquil sea breeze. The ASW shipping now set out to kill and push out the boundaries of their fleet’s protective ring and seek and destroyed what submarines they find, a rare slight of over fifty ASW helicopters rushing in similar directions to escort the allied shipping and help destroy the submarines. It didn’t take long for the buoys to drop and flood the area with a massive active sonar boom that lit everything in range up like a pretty Christmas tree. Enemy submarines either fled or stayed to fight and it wasn’t long before six frigates and four corvettes were burning. Explosions in seemly empty water confirmed kills of a submarine and so it continued. It looked, and probably was, very gritty in the ASW part of the invasion. The Navy had no idea of how many submarines there were but the enemy knew exactly how many ships there were in the invasion force and the computer hacking hadn’t helped the Navy’s efforts either.

The Royal Navy took no time in waiting, those days were over- things had to been quickly, deadly and efficiently if this was to proceed on time. Twenty-four command battleships (12x Germanic Class, 6x Wellington Class and 6x Britannic Class) opened fire on the beach with full broadsides of the twenty-two inch ETC guns. The recoil on the ship was visible as they all gently rocked to starboard after the first salvo, heavy cruisers opened up with small cannon fire but was dwarfed by the huge guns onboard the BBCNs. The beach twinkled with explosions and black smoke soon began to rise from the paradise, the salvos continued to thunder away as the battleships kept up the relentless barrage of shock and awe. Killing the enemy was really totally necessary, breaking them would be more satisfactory and what could be more terrifying than a rolling barrage up a beach? The shells impacted well away from whatever the enemy had lined up on the frontline, but it was plain to see the explosions were steadily moving up the beach towards the line of defences. In over five minutes of waiting the shell finally hit the targets in certain area of the beech, some areas were left totally untouched while in others it was quite literally scorched earth.
Fighter-bomber planes were beginning to strike now, IR targeters picking up the heavy armoured units, laser designating them and then anti-tank missiles ploughing into them. Free-fall and guided bombs were dropped almost indiscriminately from the aircraft swooping in low after every confirmed salvo and dropping the payload on anything that looked alive. Denser areas beyond the beach would be worst off from the air attacks, the FAAs and the RAFs favourite ground attack weapon, the thermobaric bomb, was being put to could use again on large pockets of enemy troops. Hardened facilities like pill boxes were targeted by aircraft with the thermobaric bombs and dense terrain was also chosen in case troops were taking cover in those areas. Nightwalkers and Kunai aircraft watched from above as the Scorpions strafed moving targets along the trench systems and defensive line before flying back out to sea towards the carrier for immediate re-arming for after the landings. Enemy AA support had been heavy, very heavy and estimates calculated that plane losses were between twenty and thirty Scorpions- they knew which beaches were being targeted and they knew what sort of attack to be expecting because of the computer hacking- resistance had been particularly stubborn and rather effective. The Ground attack had worked as well but with losses high than anticipated, but speed was absolutely everything at this stage and the landing forces were well on their way.

Blizzard Kunai Fighter Group

The action below was fierce as the four fighters flew in perfect formation over the beach that was being shelled and bombed, they too watched as pilots of the FAA, some they knew others they didn’t, tumble out of the sky as the enemy’s AA defences got to work on the Scorpions with a low escape velocity after the bombing run. There was little Connolly or his wingmen could do to prevent the losses aside from flying low and dumping flares and decoys but the Scorpions had their own and it would be a waste of resources to dump their own, besides they had their orders to patrol the skies for incoming enemy aircraft. They were expected but the recent form and condition of the Merkar Air Force was not high to say the least but they had some fine pilots that could still the FAA some real problem if they were not eliminated or at least subdued in due course.

“AWACS here, fighter groups Blizzard and London are to form and prepare for combat. Enemy bogey craft have been reported entering your sector at a vector of three-six-zero- confirmed. Continue north to intercept the enemy if they continue to attack, numbers are sketchy at best but we believe anything between ten and twenty-five aircraft. Should be enough for both groups to take, make sure they do not under any circumstances attack the Scorpions or Splinter Fleet Bigtoa.”

Blizzard rolled his eyes, he loved flying and loved combat, and he loved dogfights but the usual pilots he was fighting we far less experienced than he. He fought during the first Hanover Conflict against Kanami and gathered he share of kills without a single scare on his part. The attack on Kentagi Point left him with no challenge, picking off fighters on the ground was easy and not a challenge- why should this enemy aircraft be any different to what he a fought so far? The best combat experience he had ever had was in simulated combat dogfights with Big Mac and maybe Amanda. King was pathetic at shooting but was very good at evading. Just once he would like to meet a pilot in combat with all those qualities in one- he wished one would be present in this wave of fighters (more may have been deployed by the Merkar military) and so it would make his day.

“Blizzard here, turning to engage!”

“London Rover here, turning to engage!” the other flight lead responded to the AWACS as well as the eight Kunai interceptors banked around from the combat zone to do what they were built to do- intercept the enemy and engage them.

Blizzard thought over what he would do if the pilot worthy enough to shoot him down, the territory below him would become friendly territory if the assault went well, if not then a prison camp wouldn’t be so bad. But he wanted to win anyone as good as him would be tough to shoot down so that would make him difficult to shoot down too. The arrogance was beginning to creep in, over confidence and a tad of complacency seeping in through his drilled and disciplined mind. He cast it out as best he could, even if the enemy didn’t have an Ace in their formation, a rookie or standard pilot could easily shoot him down with a single missile if he thought himself indestructible or impervious to harm- that would be embarrassing and it was his life on the line too. He didn’t like to brag, that wasn’t his character, but he thought- as did everyone- that he was a superb pilot and the FAA didn’t them to get the edge over the enemy in this war. It wasn’t just technology or man power, it was skill and experience- something the Royal navy was proud to say it had plenty of. But rookies needed combat experience and to feel as if they can reach the stage that they can all themselves an Ace they needed a role model, someone to idolise or want to be, Connolly was one of only a few names in the FAA that rookies aspired to be like. He was proud to be a role model but to waste his life needlessly in combat because of over confidence was not the way to set the standards for the new guys.

“Vixen, Mac, King, form up and head three-six-zero. Arm weapons and prepare for combat.”

“Vixen here, roger lead.”

Splinter Fleet Bigtoa

The bombardment had ceased twenty minutes before the landing craft began their short journey to the Bigtoa beach. The sea was not awfully inviting, dark and murky with the cordite from some of the ships, choppy was another it was too- the command battleships’ huge twenty-two inch guns and cause huge ripples in the sea. Iowa Class’ sixteen inch guns produce large ones so these were really something. The sea elsewhere was relatively calm but the explosion vibrations had caused some real surface disturbance in the water. Not that it mattered to the landing craft that bobbed up and down over the waves quite easily but the huge vehicle transport hovercraft and the smaller hovercraft were finding it difficult in areas to keep up with the forces.

The huge flotilla of landing ships consisting of traditional landing craft, transport hovercraft, heavy goods hovercraft, troop transport helicopters, heavy lift helicopters and helicopter gunships were making their way to the stricken beach- the heavy goods hovercraft and troop hovercraft taking the lead with the landing craft in behind. The Black Lanner 2 Tanks were in the front row with Royal Marines bringing up the rear of the tanks. Heavy weapons mounted on the hovercraft were manned as well, these weapon were anything from mortars to flamethrowers, heavy machineguns to machines firing depleted uranium shells, missile launchers to grenade launchers. Gunships roaring over the top of the plastering the beachhead defences with Iron Cheetahs rolling up behind to mop up any stubborn resistance that refused to die or flee- it would make for a spectacular spectacle in the media and for film makers everywhere no matter the end result. All the mattered at the moment was whether or not the enemy could hold a line strong enough to meet the landing forces, or if their submarines could pull something out of the bag and constrict the splinter fleet to an even tighter and controlled formation.
27-01-2007, 06:21
"Fox one!"

Kassem banked hard to the left to avoid the inevitable return shot. As he turned around, he glanced at his rear-cone radar for a quick look at the enemy. They were still bumbling along to the east, most likely pursuing some deceptive jamming cluster, a squadron of fake planes, that the Sira had created. Regardless, he knew that they would catch on very soon now that a missile was on their tail.

Qusay instinctively felt naked flying above all but the tallest buildings, and plunged lower, flying carefully down a street. He pulled back the throttle and deployed speed brakes to slow down, but he knew that it would make hardly any difference- his wingtips were hardly a stone's throw from the buildings on either side, and it would only take one sneeze for him to die instantly.

"Qusay?" The whispering richness of the voice made Qusay forget he was in combat, for just a moment.

"A- uh- Bear?"

"Stay off the buildings! You're going to kill someone!" The voice was too soft to cause Qusay alarm. Pulling up above the protective blanket of the buildings seemed insane and he could not think of anything to say.

"Uh, negative."

"That's an order, Saber!" Order? Kassem just now realized that that he had no "wingman". His Number Two sucked in one too many tree branches on takeoff and never made it off the ground. "Bear" had simply taken off later and joined him on the intercept. There was no chain of command at all.

"Missile. Missile." What am Ithinking?

Kassem jerked his head over his shoulder to see a speck of smoke fly from a sleek shape. He had no time to identify the objects, nor did he care. All that was on his mind was an urge to put something between him and the specks. Pulling hard right, he skidded around a large dome mounted on a spire and heard an explosion behind him. Relaxing the joystick for a moment to relieve the pressure of the turn, he shoved forward the throttle and heard the afterburner roar to life.

Qusay looked over his wing while turning his craft back around in a wide circle. The dome was giving off some light smoke but pouring a shower of metal down below as if he had spilt a giant teacup. Now he realized why his wingmate wanted to stay above the city- in urban combat, the innocent are always the first to die. The sensous voice came onto the radio again, but his time with a hint of rage.

"Saber! Sa-" Qusay switched the radio off. He could not listen to it while darting his eyes about the deceptively empty sky. A greyish shape sailed into his field of view as if it meant to. The shape was hard to pick out among the dull grey buildings, but its sparrow-like speed caught his eye. He nudged the joystick left while at the same time using a throttle switch to arm dogfight missiles. Just as the shape came across his nose, he pulled the trigger to see his weapon fly into a building.

You idiot! Wait for a lock next time!

Qusay pulled back as hard as he could on the stick, making use of the light bulk he had built up through his workouts. He felt blood drain from his head- a stealthy, peaceful sort of feeling that loosened your hold on consciousness without you even noticing it- and grunted while tightening his neck to prevent the loose flow. He was scanning desperately now, looking for a hint of the enemy, but could find none. He stopped the upward climb when he was just over vertical and looking down on the city.

"Bear! Bear, I've lost 'em! Dammit-" He just then remembered that the had turned off the radio and fumbled to switch it back on. Just as his finger felt the switch, though, his glowing threat reciever stinged his eyes. It had lit up like a firework burst with dozens of red dots. Qusay felt his stomach try to leap out his body. He paused for a second of thought, being overwhelmed by knowledge that he was surrounded and alone. He half-thought, half-panicked, stuck in indecision between fighting and accepting inevitable death.

No. If you are to die, you are to die. If you are to live, you are to live. This is not your time to die. Qusay pulled level and righted his craft, his shaking fingers feeling their way onto the controls.

[[ + ]]

Cherhaven held onto his helmet as he set his foot outside the helicopter. Looking up for a moment, he saw the blades already beginning to slow, now visible as they winked out the sun every rotation. The noise was a surprise after riding so long inside the soundproofed Sira, but it was welcome to be outside again. And, no doubt, Cherhaven was glad to come closer to the battlefield.

The responsibility of being a national leader had weighed heavily on his time. There were hardly any chances to see the enemy in this war so far, with almost all of the fighting taking place with the warriors out of sight of each other over the land and under the waves. But with this new landing at Bigtoa the war had entered a new stage. This was personal. This was the fight for Merkari land and people.

Arba had flown the whole journey to Berkar alone, having been dispersed away from the other war leaders. Arba had tried to stay near the action as much as he could, but in every part of Merkar the Stevidians were either dominant, making travel fatal, or totally impotent. Over Liliputia they had ceased most of their air attacks in preparation for their rather obvious landing at Bigtoa, leaving Cherhaven free to travel to a war meeting. Present would be all the leaders who were most vital to the coming campaign.

The guards parted lazily to let their Commander-in-Chief through. He paused for a minute or more to inspect their weapons. Although he was already late, Arba did not feel particularly rushed. The soldiers seemed pleasant, and, despite their unwashed uniforms, had maintained their weapons well. Cherhaven was tempted to give one of the AR-15Ms a test shot, but looked past the helipad and at the crowded city around him. Patting the soldiers on the back, he stepped through a simple automatic slide-door and down through the warmly-decorated hallway. He noticed that his boots were probably leaving specks of dried mud on the pristine carpet but knew that the owners of the building would not be returning for a while.

It was a short walk to the entrance desk. Inside the large room, lit only by sunlight from the cloudless sky, were five tents set on top of expensive-looking flooring, a few women chatting beside their rifles, hung on a coat hanger, and another soldier manning the control desk. Cherhaven walked over and greeted the man, who seemed rather dry and unresponsive. While talking to him, Arba placed his hand on the desk. The DNA sampler zipped by almost too fast to see as it pulled a thread of tissue from the General's fingernail.

"Identification checks out... where are you going today, sir?"

"The meeting... there's only one today, isn't there?"

"Huh- oh, yeah, you're the Old Man. Room 426." It was a relief to be called something other than Mr. President. At least to the troops, he was not- yet, perhaps- a politician. Cherhaven waited for the rextra to float up to his right eye and activate. For a few seconds it flashed a message- TWO MINUTES LATE. I know that, you piece of shit. Tell me where the meeting is. As if in response, it brought up an arrow that showed him where to turn. Thanking the soldier, Arba headed off for Room 426.

The guidance was easy enough to follow and led Arba on an efficient path to the conference room. He was in no hurry, though. At one corner, he felt something hit lightly against his chest. He stopped to feel inside his shirt pocket, pulling out the bullet. It was still rusty and dirt-covered, having never been washed, but it had been kept that way for a reason. Cherhaven had picked it up off the ground a day after Kentangi, wanting to view the spectacle himself after hearing about the jungle of steel that extended from land onto sea. While viewing the wreckage he noticed a small object sticking out of the ground and picked it up. It was hardly a grand souveneir, a standard 5.56 millimeter round of the type used by Merkar. But the simple, dirty bullet was something that helped Cherhaven feel free from the desk and back on the battlefield.

The rextra was still keeping station over his right eye. Cherhaven was aware of the invisible magnetic hand in the ceiling that held the eyepiece in position. The magnetic panels and sensors knew just when to activate and when to stop. Cherhaven remembers his first visit to one of these new office buildings and the eery newness of the technology, but as a Merkari he knew never to fear machines. He held the bullet over the rextra, toying with it, trying to obstruct the magnetic pulse to see what would happen. The device suddenly fell a few inches but then slowly hovered back up. Were their magnets in the walls and floor, too?

"Arba!" Cherhaven dropped the bullet into his pocket and walked toward the man who had appeared around the corner.

"Vasily, good to see you. Had to reroute the flight, apparently. That's what took so long."

"You're right on time, almost. The room's over here. We're ready to start."

Despite the great size of the building, it was efficiently laid out- much easier to navigate than the government offices the General was used to. The door to the conference was made up of horizontal metal strips that slid apart just enough to let someone through, making it appear as if one was walking through a wall. The conference room itself was not exceptionally large and its decoration was much more straightforward and formal than the hallway's. The walls were polished wood while the floor was made of tiles arranged in neat geometric designs. Above was the one element of office design that had remained constant for over 50 years- white perforated ceiling tiles.

Other than two portraits of some white-collar heroes, there were no decorations. Most of the visual effect came from the wall to the right, which was a window that looked out onto the city. Most likely it was actually a one-way display screen to prevent anyone from looking inside. The rank insignia of those seated around the rectangular table made it clear that most of Merkar's key military leaders were present. Standing in front of the room was Tara Wera, chief of intelligence, wearing nueral-interface cups on her head. When this technology first appeared in Athiesism it had been considered frightening and unsightly, but now a whole fashion industry had evolved to supply stylish interface devices to corporations concerned about their appearance. Cherhaven suspected that the ugly set Tara was wearing was considered by business to be the paragon of corporate fashion.

Arba had made a quiet entrance and most of the commanders had been too distracted by their own conversations to notice him. Arba took a seat, removed his helmet, and relaxed in his chair. Looking out the window he could see most of Berkar, or rather New Berkar as it should be called. Even though the front line was only thirty miles away, there was no sign of fighting visible from here. The Stevidian invasion of Bigtoa, or rather New Bigtoa as it should be called, had made little difference to the city's inhabitants, who were inured to the air raid sirens already. The entire island of "new" Bigtoa was an artificial island created by the mayor of Berkar, a wealthy city located on the northernmost island, "old" Bigtoa. It was probably these confusing names that had forestalled the Stevidian ground invasion for so long. But it had come just an hour ago, an unexpected change of schedule. This is what worried Cherhaven. The enemy was not being cautious anymore. He was sending soldiers to die now, and drawing Merkari blood himself.

"Good evening, Comrades. For those new to their Branch Staff, I'm General Wera, chief of intelligence. We're three minutes behind schedule, but almost everyone is here. General Cherhaven has just arrived, as have Generals U and Hernandez. Everyone's ordered drinks already- we'll have another round in case you'd like to order, Generals." Cherhaven saw something appear on everyone's rextras as a drink selection appeared in front of Arba's right eye. "I'll have a Sam Adams," he said, sounding as if he was speaking to himself.

"Gutilur abahan, Cherhaven-tiga." Right away, War-Chief Cherhaven. The computer had somehow known to respond in perfect Marche Noirian dialect and accent. It replied to the other's orders in turn in what Arba guessed was their respective language; an attractive female voice when talking to males, a deep resonant male when talking to women. Rather than being fascinating, it was an annoying feature. It was ridiculous how such corporate frills could be allowed while the Army did the best with what money it had. This building, Harten Real Estate's corporate headquarters, was among the most advanced information-processing systems in the country. Once Harten's leadership fled the country at the start of the war, the military had rented out their headquarters for use as a command center. Why should we ever give it back?, Cherhaven thought. The communications and data processing abilities of the building were excellent. He merely prayed that no Stevidian pilot would attack this "civilian" structure.

A tile on the wall that Arba had not noticed before slid over to let out a floating tray carrying the drinks. The tray rose a little too high exiting the wall, though, and all the drinks fell backward.

"Please forgive my mistake. I will retrieve your drinks." The computer spoke as a neutral female with a standard American accent. A Naval Aviation commander who apparently had had enough of the computer's "cute" features stood up.

"Whose side are you on, computer?" A few chuckles.

"The opinions of this OMU34 unit are not necessarily approved by Harten Real Estate, its clients, or affiliates, under-"


"-ode, article one-two-point-" The rest of the computer's disclaimer was drowned in laughter even as the drinks tray made its way around the table.

General U grabbed the last cup from the tray and began to sip. Tara resumed speaking. "Alright. Time to begin." Arba's rextra projected a map of the area around Bigtoa littered with military symbols.

"It's a good thing that we were able to assemble this meeting on such short notice. About three hours ago the Stevidians began a major bombardment of the expected beacheads. General Cherhaven knew that a landing was imminent and called this conference immediately. An hour ago the first Marines came ashore and faced what was probably very light resistance. For the past hour we've been receiving radio calls from several units informing us of their surrender. We can assume that most of the forces guarding the beach were completely wiped out, but our artillery has taken up the slack and was able to delay the enemy. We don't have a clear picture yet on what's happening, but judging from loss of radio contact with many delaying positions I'm almost certain that the Stevidians will advance far inland today." The Stevidians were sticking to their plan but they still had achieved suprise by launching their attack much earlier than expected. Arba now realized how much of a fool he had been to underestimate the enemy. The plan was to pull off the beacheads when the landings seemed imminent, letting the Stevidians bash their preparatory fire against deserted positions, but when they launched their attack there were still many soldiers guarding too far forward. These were the the conscripts, who, as Arba suspected, were worthless at this point. Most of the commanders here remember back to the old days when conscription was mandatory for everyone as part of the Caractesh tradition. But after the Civil War, conscription was abolished. Today's youth had grown up undisciplined and without any martial pride. This was why so many of the new officers insisted on strict formality and military tradition, those two values which seemed so un-Athiesist in the past but now were more important than ever. Cherhaven had resisted introducing stricter reforms, but now he knew why so many officers had called for them. The conscript of today did not have the discipline to fight on his own; he needed to be a mindless subordinate like a soldier in any other army, and without any such military tradition Merkar was doomed.

"The 32nd and 6th Infantry Division have already surrendered." 20,000 men lost- in the first hour of the war! "We aren't certain as to the status of the other forward units, but although we outnumber the enemy on paper the Stevidians have made it inland in some places. The only things that have prevented them from moving in unopposed are gathering up our prisoners and our flame artillery." The "flame artillery". At least one part of the plan had worked. Just as the enemy hit the beach, a few division's worth of rocket artillery rounds, patterned after the Russian Buratino system, fell on their heads. The intense napalm fire could be sustained for days by rubber pads laid on the beach. The conscripts failed to cover the beach obstacles by fire, but at least the artillery had covered the obstacles with fire.

"We don't have exact numbers yet, but there has been a lot of Stevidian air activity. Their aircraft have been wrecking our supply lines over the past week, but with the Athasism Fleet in position to provide air defense their attacks have gone down. Also, although the Macabbean response overall has been slow they are honoring their treaty commitment to provide us with logistics. One of their convoys reached south Liliputia three days ago and they are already sending supplies to our forces in new Bigtoa. They've supplied air defense for their ground convoys since we have practically none."

"In the cyberwar arena we made several succesful strikes. About fifty terrabytes of information was stolen from the Stevidian Army's classified files. We also managed to do some damage to their satellite network but with our main space radars destroyed by air attack we have no way of knowing the effect. The good news is that Stevid hasn't responded effectively yet to the attacks. The bad news is that their new Hanover cruisers are locating and jamming all of our transmissions, making it nearly impossible to launch further raids. Which brings us to Admiral Thant- the sea situation?"

A woman stood up. She wore a dungaree uniform, the same as was worn by even the lowest midshipman, with only the three brass bars on her shirt pocket identifying her as anyone of rank. "There's been no fighting on the surface at all. Our submarines seem do be doing well. We've recieved reports of over one hundred enemy ships sunk yesterday... this is probably exaggeration. But ELINT is showing corvettes and light shipping dissapearing. Most of the Stevidian reinforcements reached the main fleet, but they've broken out of their tight formation and are hunting back at us. They have very potent ASW technology. Much better than we expected. We have at least 10 confirmed kills on the ships around Bigtoa, but combat activity is dropping off quickly- either all of our subs are getting sunk or they're withdrawing. I'm sure that it's the latter, unless we lost half of our fleet in an hour." Cherhaven wanted the submarines to stay in fight. They were hardly expendable, but in this war they needed to grind down the Stevidians. If he could trade his whole submarine fleet for a hundred more sunk Stevidian ships, then the enemy escort screen would be crippled and their aircraft carriers would be sitting ducks for attack- the dreadnaughts could be left to strut about. But this was a fantasy. No Merkari submarine captain was bold enough to stay and fight against certain death, and if he ordered them to harass the enemy they would simply ignore orders.

"Arba, I think that our fleet is trading well. If we can keep killing their escort vessels, even if we trade even, we'll have the advantage. Surface forces gain advantage from teamwork; 30 ships will sink 30 subs, but 1 sub will sink 1 ship. We need to keep whittling them down."

"I almost agree with you, Admiral. But if they're fleeing the battle as you say then they would hardly be willing to press the enemy."

"Although I think that they can handle the job, I'll give them orders to withdraw back to the fleet. The fleet stands ready to pounce on any formation that separates from the main enemy group even though it's in a defensive position. Our ships have dispersed to the south and wast of Bigtoa and are surrounded on all sides by narrow passages. If the Stevidians attempt to come through here, they'll have to pass through narrow and shallow waters and a few rows of minefields. Our formation is tight and we've taken some damage from collisions, but the formation control computers seem to be working well. Computer, slide." The display on the rextra changed to show a diagram of the fleet's formation.

"As you can see, most of the carriers have been moved to the outer ring to act as defensive barriers. We have few airplanes to operate from them, so only 8 of them are actually being used for flight operations. The rest have a skeleton crew and are intended to soak up incoming missiles. We also ran a few tests of our MALOVET system yesterday..."

As the admiral rattled off technical details Cherhaven whispered, "Computer, display Malovet information." The most relevant data was displayed before his eye. Several 155mm, 45mm and CIWS rounds had been fired as a diagnostic and 50% of the time the system was dead-on in predicting their trajectory. The MALOVET took radar data about incoming shells, including the huge super-dreadnought rounds used by the Stevidians, and transmitted evasion data to a ship's steering. The trimaran Erschoff destroyers could reach 40 knots, as could the Soya missile boats. 40 knots equaled about 20 meters per second. If a shell took 30 seconds to reach an Erschoff at a distance of 200 kilometers, then the destroyer would have traveled 600 meters by the time the round hit- any slight evasive action or change of speed could throw off the aim. MALOVET took advantage of this, hopefully to a degree that would allow Merkar's ships to dodge bullets. Cherhaven had seen Stevid's devastatingly accurate gunnery during a formal visit. But at distances greater than 20 kilometers, the range that classical naval battles were fought at, you could not reliably hit a moving target. He had no fear of the big guns.

"That's all. General Speer, Army Bigtoa?"

Speer sighed. "There is... there's little good to report." He stood up as the Admiral returned to her seat. "They've advanced inland. Our communications are being disrupted by Stevidian jamming and although most of the II Corps is likely surrendering not all units are informing us of their surrender. Battle is going as we expected. Stevidians have achieved a firm hold on eastern Bigtoa as we withdraw west behind canal at Ribir. Although we would have liked to move more troops into the line, enemy attacked much earlier than we expected and our defense was not yet in place. IV Corps is assembling on Ribir Line as 4th Division prepares for a delaying action."

The 4th Division was Cherhaven's child. Cherhaven was a conscript once, serving in the honorable tradition of Caractesh, the Merkari manhood ritual. Back then, the 4th was called the "4th Infantry Division" by a nation that had not yet found a use for tanks in its dense jungles. Arba remembered how much he had loved the action, loved the comradeship. This was what had convinced him to enlist after his mandatory service was over. He had been in the 4th Division all his life; during his long stay as the unit's commander, he had rebuilt it from the destruction of the Mosk Massacre and transformed it into one of the elite units of the Merkari Army. Things were so much different back then. Now, there was plenty of need for tanks after Merkar's deforestation and urban sprawl combined to clear much, but still not most, of the hardy jungle. And the idea of Caractesh existed only in the hearts of old men like Cherhaven.

He remembered back the day that had defined his experience in the army in the first place. The many helicopters and boats had left Mosk crowded with people attempting to flee the incoming wave of death. As defenders of the city, Arba and his squad had been ordered to stay put and hold back the inevitable Fanatic onslaught. He had yearned to flee with everyone else, everyone who held on to the pylons of a helicopter that would not let them onboard only to be overcome by fatal exhaustion and fall into the sea, satisfied in their attempts to escape. But his squad and its dashing young Lieutenant had convinced them to stay a little longer.

Then he was alone in a basement at Mosk, hearing the screams and gunshots all around him as Athiesists burned. Whether they were burned alive or were burned dead was immaterial as they all realized that they had failed to escape death. Except Cherhaven. Arba had gone many sleepless nights, but none had been so exhausting as this one. The screams and flames never stopped, his squadmates had gone off to fight and die, and Arba sat shaking in a basement lighted only by glow of fire let through the small window. Finally, he felt that he had to do something. His clip had perhaps five bullets left- enough to avenge most of his squad, if his shaking fingers could manage the trigger. He delicately peeked out of a doorway and saw a group of gunmen piling limbs onto a lump of pale sticks. This sight alone frightened him more than any gunman, and he ran as fast as he could back into the basement. The gunmen never came after him. He was again left alone in the basement with only the sound of screams and the glow of fire to accompany him.

General Speer noticed Cherhaven's eyes grow wide and drift toward the window. It was a face of silent pain. Speer had been looking at the General for most of the briefing and paused his speech for a moment when he noticed Arba loose focus. This pause caught everyone's attention, including Arba, who snapped his head towards Speer and resumed a normal expression as if nothing had happened. Speer fumbled for a moment and then resumed his monotous briefing.

General Cherhaven was a man that Speer admired a great deal. There were two types of people in Merkar; the average person, who aspired to gain as much personal wealth and power as possible in a culture of competitive greed, and then there was the politician. While in the rest of the world the word "politician" had a somewhat negative context, in Merkar the leaders were expected to advance the boundless desire for wealth and power of those under them, and so an entirely different breed of people ran the country. In contrast to what was expected from the average Merkari a politician was an essentially selfless person. Thorough scrutiny, including constant surveillance, weighed down on a Merkari leader to ensure that they served in the interests of their State. It was typically neccessary to work overseas in a charity, donate an organ, or volunteer for a inhumane medical experiment to get into office. Even in a nation were "ethical leadership" was such a strong word, to many Merkaris Cherhaven stood out. It was no small issue to hand him emergency power but he was a man that people could trust. As much as Merkaris avowedly hated the concept of a demagogue they had a soft spot for a man who had been decorated in battle and had volunteered his body for an Army nerve gas experiment which he, thankfully, survived. Noone could say it aloud, but Arba was a great man.

Both Speer's thoughts and his briefing came to conclusion. "Thank you for your time, Comrades."
31-01-2007, 15:06
Beachhead “Omega”- South Bigtoa, Several Hours Ago

First to arrive were the largest of the landing craft sticking close to the pre-discussed plan of landing where the beach itself hadn’t been heavily shelled. Craters littered the beaches and the sands were scorched a deep matte black as they smouldered and spewed a light grey smoke. The intense bombardment had been relatively effective and the air strikes along the reinforced line had been perceived as successful as the Scorpions returned to their carriers feeling rather good about themselves. With the beach bombardment over and hopefully some casualties in the more heavily defended areas, the initial beach landing would prove rather successful.

The craft beached themselves and surprisingly light gun fire erupted from the defenders. The forward ramp crashed down and two Black Lanner 2 PADSHA tanks rolled off each one in turn, forty of these medium tanks drove on to the beach and engaged the forces attacking them. They wasted no time in opening fire, targeting hardened structures and visible concentrations of men with their cannon and blasting away until nothing remained. The amount of targets was small, as if the enemy were going to pull back any way but were still in the process of reorganising their forces, perhaps the landings were a surprise to the Merkar military forces on Bigtoa despite the interception war plans via the mass hacking the enemy had launched on the army’s main computer a few days ago. The tanks used their off road speed to their advantage and steamrollered their way into the enemy’s frontline, Royal Marines that were also in the landing craft rushed off and took up positions in craters covering more advances by Stevid’s conventional army. Hovercrafts, both large and small, were advancing too. Their wide assortment of weapons began to plaster the lines they were attacking, Marines disembarked and darted for the structures that were still intact after the bombardment and tank surge and cleared them taking losses to their own number but sanitising the building in minutes. It was going better than well, better than previously simulated on computers or by intelligence gathering, only a few days ago this sudden victory would have left the Stevidian forces reeling in victory giving time for the enemy to regroup, alas for the Merkar soldiers- not this time. Landing craft kept coming, this time containing the bigger toys in the Stevidian arsenal namely the Iron Cheetah PADSHA variant and the non-PADSHA variant. These were the heavy tanks that Stevid had been longing to use for so long and would take up the role of the Army’s main tank force. These were merely the vanguard of the large force of heavy tanks that would be landing, only around one hundred and fifty would be on the initial landings but further tanks including Challenger II, IIa and III’s would make up the bulk of Stevid main force.

All didn’t quite go to plan though, the enemy took up a long range artillery position and fired several salvos into the beach with a large concentration of Royal Marines that were just leaving their defensive positions. The beach erupted in flames as the napalm washed over the beach enveloping men and vehicles. The tanks grew extremely hot but were relatively unaffected but the light vehicles and troops on the beach were sent into disarray as the concentrated fire of artillery continued to rain down on the beach. It only ceased when the ammunition ran out or the order to withdraw came in. Satellite feeds showed large formations of enemy military units further away from the beach that had been recently deployed to the beachhead only a few days ago- the enemy’s plan became apparent as it continually looked more obvious that a counter-attack had been planned. In fact if the invasion had been a day later then the initial invasion would have been halted or even countered, as it was it looked like the allied forces could advance far inland within a couple of hours and take and hold one or two nearby villages.

Sporadic enemy resistance including heavy weapons was expected, they seemed rather undisciplined with little training but when the first Iron Cheetahs ploughed over the makeshift barricades in an open field not far from the beach, the enemy’s resistance showed quite visibly and physically. Several rockets slammed into the solid front armour of the first Iron Cheetah shaking it violently. There was no major damage but the crew was stunned to kingdom come and bailed out of the tank to get some room to recover from the hot interior. The rest of the armoured division crashed through the hedge line and opened up a withering hail of fire all over the field. Twenty minutes later the fields looked like the beaches as crater scared the face of the open terrain as the tanks advanced forward, medium tanks on the flanks and a few scouting ahead and APCs following in behind. OV-22 Ospreys flew overhead and dropped in insertion troops about ten miles ahead of advancing force before heading back to the mother ships, these Royal Marines would report anything hardened or heavily defended to the artillery guns that were being offloaded the LCPs that had closed inshore to drop of the cargo. Whether the Marines would survive the next two days was open speculation but any further advantage to the advancing forces would be welcome.

The fleet sat tight near the island with the LCPs offloading only the necessaries to take Bigtoa but the main thing was to establish a stronghold on the island as quickly as possible- a Firebase. Stevid prided itself on its firebases and had shown huge resilience to all but the most intense fire. Firebase Hanover was set up using aluminium shed and garage roofing as well as destroyed tanks and vehicles to make a base during Kanami’s occupation of the North Hanover Island Dependency. A firebase was established twenty-miles south of San Menendez in Safehaven before it was almost totally wiped out by Mekgui massive rocket artillery, a second and more heavily fortified and well built firebase was later established outside the range of these missiles less than a week later. Overwhelming firepower had proven all too much for Stevidian firebases but the base in Hanover had repelled most of the attacks that Kanami had thrown against it, a firebase here would be crucial for a fallback position and logistical support. A small runway would be vital for OV-130’s (VTOL C-130’s using the technology utilised in the OV-22 Osprey) and other short take-off aircraft and helicopters and could easily be established in a few days and could just as easily be dismantled and moved to another position further inland.

Aside from the large amount of Marine casualties sustained by beachhead defenders and by artillery fire, the initial ground invasion and come off without a single hitch which amazed tacticians that surprise had actually played a role in the attack. A massive surge forwards by ground forces had cover a lot of ground in only a few hours had over run several major enemy positions and two villages had been swept of resistance. The main bulk of the enemy’s armoured and infantry divisions had yet to be encountered but with heavy and medium tanks along with the conventional army being deployed by the LCPs on the beach, a direct confrontation was only a matter days away. The one thing that really had slowed the advance was the mass surrender of enemy troops. Approximately twenty thousand men surrender roughly at the same time within an hour of the landings forcing a large bulk of the conventional army to stop and round up the prisoners. All were taken to the two small villages that were quickly over run but they couldn’t be held there forever so the same decision that was sued during the Hanover conflict was used again. An RFA ship, one of the larger tankers that held food and provisions for invasion effort was designated as a “to be” prison ship and she was order to immediately relinquish her cargo to the ground forces and have her Marines to prepare her for prison ship duties. This effort would take days but at least a decision had been made to quickly remove the prisoners from the capable hands of the army who would be out fighting if it weren’t for the mass surrender. One could only theorise that these men were mainly conscripts, unprofessional soldiers who had only the basic grasp of training unlike the Stevidian Army or Royal Marines. There were some proper soldiers amongst the ranks of POWs who had, according to some of the other captors, refused to surrender until the end, an end which never came. It would have been more beneficial for the army if they had all continued fighting even casualty ratings would have been vastly higher- at least there wouldn’t have been any prisoners at least not in these numbers. The conscripts may have been a ruse for the Athiesism counter-attack plan, the Stevidian forces would have thought that the defenders had been crushed and would have stupidly advanced so far inland that the enemy could then pounce and destroy them. It seemed lucky enough for the Navy and Army that they had attacked a day early for the defenders. It all seemed too good to be true. This was the second major victory of the campaign and it was as if it was too easy to win, at this rate the Merkar Republic would under Stevidian control in a matter of months plus that which the Golden Throne became involved, a prospect the generals of the Stevidian army were not looking forward to. Something stank and the admirals, generals and politicians could all smell it- something fishy- the Merkar Republican forces were surly better than this, as far as wars go this was ranking very high up as far as major victories were concerned in Stevid’s military history books. Merkar were either unwilling or unable to fight or they had something greater planned for the future or they had an ace up their sleeve that would strike a devastating blow against Stevid’s own war effort. However at this stage it didn’t seem likely that thing secretive was being planned, MI6 or MI5 or Stevid’s foreign assets hadn’t found anything worth reporting back along those lines. It just seemed at this point that the military victories were coming far too easily which unnerved some commanders, however if it was a ruse then it becoming costly to the Merkar Republic’s war effort- a couple of weeks will mean Bigtoa’s annexation into the Holy Stevidian Empire and further more attacks into enemy territory.

Splinter Fleet Bigtoa

The HMS Nala a brand new and heavily up-to-date Type-23 Duke Class had already started her first few months of life in a lively way that went above and beyond the call of duty for such a new ship and inexperienced crew. For the billions of people across the world that had been following the Hanover and Southern Island Chain conflict between Stevid and Kanami, she was already a very famous ship- especially in Stevid and Kanami. Her designs were ancient, the Duke Class was a remnant of the old days of Britain’s navy and the old days of the Stevidian navy but her technology was right up there with the super dreadnoughts and the newly conceived Supercapitals. She was armed with CELLDAR receivers, Gothic missiles and ILMS close-in-weapons systems which made her an extremely dangerous frigate. Before the war broke out around Truce Island when Stevid announced the continuation of hostilities with Kanami, the HMS Nala had been conducting geographical surveys around the island and was constantly threatened that failure to remove her presence would result in an attack from the island’s native militia group. The largest ship in the Kanami fleet, their pride and joy- their flagship, was sent in to quell the Nala into submission and act as peaceful reinforcement to the islanders. However, either through arrogance, over confidence or safe in the knowledge of victory, the Nala remained around Truce Island in the face of the huge battleship and even threatened the battleship with destruction if further counter-threats were made by Kanami. The Nala had the missiles to do it and so a stalemate fell on the area until a communist coup d’etat on Truce Island caused a genocide, the reason behind it was that the communist thought that the HMS Nala was an allied ship thus was blamed for the genocide by Kanami and other authorities.

She had had a rough time but every single member of the crew were commended for their actions surrounding the conflict and they were ordered back to Stevid an energised crew that were now fairly experienced enough to handle frontline duties all the time. It didn’t take long for her to gain a permanent commission in the Third Fleet and was now part of the splinter group that was attacking Bigtoa and was now making a move out into open waters to begin the largest ASW war Stevid had ever participated in. over one hundred and ninety four submarines were to be hunted and destroyed and so far it looked like either side would win- but if one had to choose a side most favourite to win and an experience bookie with years of experience behind him would say the Merkar Navy held one more Ace than the Royal navy at this stage. Both sides were loosing assets in the sea but for one submarine the losses for the Royal Navy were between zero and three ships, commonly one- two or three on a bad day. Twenty more submarines had been disposed of in spectacular fashion at the cost of ten corvettes, three destroyers and one cruiser- one of the Navy’s better days in the ASW war but the losses were still unacceptable. Such losses were unsustainable in the long run and so ASW groups were forming tighter and tighter formations and ASW helicopters were up nearly every hour of the day and night constantly searching for prowling subs.

The Nala was part of this radical new action the Navy’s admirals had pushed for and was part of a small group of ASW ships: three frigates (including the Nala) four corvettes and two destroyers. They had been searching for hours and had managed to kill two submarines with no loss to their number and they hoped to build on their kill tally further on in the day. The Captain was in Stevid undergoing trials to see whether he was eligible for promotion to Rear Admiral and the First Officer was also in Stevid undergoing trails for the promotion to become the official Captain of the HMS Nala. Until their return Lieutenant Commander John Angel was in command and had been so for the past four weeks and had done a sterling job already on the ship. He was relaxing on the bridge in the Captain’s chair, he wasn’t off duty but he had been working flat out for nine hours and needed a small rest. A cup of tea in fine white and blue china was his drink that he was sipping slowly while admiring the view of this foreign sea he was in. He loved the sea no matter how boring and empty it can sometimes be, it never ending vastness was the driving force in his naval career. He could’ve been a solider, a pilot, a bloody train driver but none let him experience the sea like the Navy did and it infused him so much that he was now a lieutenant commander pushing for a promotion recommendation to commander.

He sipped his tea again and smile softly to himself. Then it happened, a massive explosion knocked him to the floor along with several other officers and able seamen on the bridge, the chine shattering on the floor spilling the tea all over the place. He looked up dazed and confused and rubbed his head where he had hit it against the bulkhead.

“ What in the name of Our Lord! Crewman David Turner, damage report!” he shouted at the top of his lungs as a nothing explosion made the crew flinch again.

The warfare officer clawed his way back onto his chair and pressed a few buttons on his console that brought up a 3D display on the plasma computer screen. All the undamaged sections of the ship were displayed blue, if there were any damaged section then they would be displayed red and to Turners bemusement, not a single red section was displayed.

“Negative damage to us sir, but i…”

“Belay that Turner… I can see where the explosion hit…” Angel interrupted.

He and almost every member of the crew on the bridge were staring out of the front window of the ship looking out across the water to the rest of the fleet. A huge plume of jet black smoke was piling out of the port side of the ASW cruiser that was with the fleet, another torpedo and another subsequent explosion seconds later erupted out of the cruisers post side aft side lifted her out of the water for a few seconds before crashing back down sending men and equipment flying from the ship. The cruiser, HMS Hannibal, was already doomed as another torpedo smashed into her at amidships and exploding inside resulting in a cataclysmic explosion inside her that tore the ship in twain from bow to stern. She sunk an unrecognisable burning hulk, a shadow of her former glory with no sign of any survivors in the water. Angel shook his head again to clear the remaining dizziness and snapped back into naval discipline.

“All heads to Action Stations! Sonar, drop a buoy and sent the choppers up and get hunting. Coordinate ASW attacks to the helicopter with comms! Helm evasive manoeuvres.”

All responded positively and calmly as the crew on the bridge on elsewhere on the ship went to action stations. The same was happening on the other ships too and it wasn’t long before sonar reported that the buoy reported only a single enemy submarine was attacking the ASW group. The Navy would now admit they had suffered yet another blow- one submarine for one cruiser was not what the admirals wanted, it should be one sub for no casualties. Even allied Royal navy submarines were failing to produce results while killing only five over the past two days, the surface fleet was far more effective at killing the enemy submarines but were far more vulnerable to enemy attack. The ASW helicopters from four ships hunted the submarine down and didn’t waste time in dropping anti-submarine ordnance and declared the sub either destroyed or severely damaged and would have to surface. Either way the sub was out of action at the cost of an expensive cruiser- small comfort.

Blizzard and London Rover FAA Squadrons

The attack was unsurprising, the Defiler Class and the E-3D Sentry AWACS worked in perfect harmony to give one of the most advanced fighters in the Fleet Air Arm the best possible heads-up the fleet could provide, it was the least they could do considering the blow the caused at Kentagi Point. Several bogeys had been detected approaching the two combat wings of F-36 Kunai interceptors on a bearing of 1-8-0 in correlation to the Kunai’s own vectors as they streaked over the cityscape.

A dogfight immediately ensued between the two patrols, the Merkar Republic’s usual national fighter, the Su, up against the FAAs best interceptor even though it was foreign. Connolly jinked to port and starboard around the cramped buildings, a fighter on his six and this was no ordinary fighter pilot that was keeping him in his scopes. This guy was a crack pilot, his movement was fluid and professional and any errors encountered by the enemy pilot were simply course corrections to stop himself ploughing straight into an office block and spraying debris on to the street below. Connolly’s internal warning missile alerts sounded again as another missile was fired at his Kunai, he panicked suddenly as he realised that the buildings around him were all huge office towers and boulevards were far to narrow for him to navigate safely without crashing into one of them. He hit the afterburner, dumped some flares and waited for the missile to gain on him a bit more before pulling up sharply and narrowly avoiding the missile. He sighed relief but remembered the enemy was probably readying to make another attempt at killing him once more.

“Vixen! Cover my arse quickly! I’ve a bandit on my tail and this bitch ain’t no rookie, he’s sticking to me like fucking super glue!” Connolly shouted at his wingman who had shot down another bandit a few miles away. He dumped his British accent with fear seeping into his voice, he realised he had tempted fate back on the HMS Galactic- he had asked our Lord for a challenge in life when in combat and the Almighty had delivered right on time. But he didn’t want to die right now, not ever. He wanted a wife, kids, and a house with a green front lawn in a quiet suburban life, a dog and a tree house out back for the kids to play in. He wanted to live for as long as possible to see life get better than it already was.

“Vixen where in heaven are you?” Connolly shouted again, screw radio silence, at this stage communication was vital and the AWACS was as pathetic at giving commands and relaying orders as new born baby’s were, typical RAF.

He was just about to lose all patience with Vixen and was readying a long list of blinding insults and vulgar words to yell down the communication link when Vixen shot down from above pouncing on the Connolly’s tailing bandit. Vixen let loose with a hail of dual cannon fire at the pursuer and could have sworn that a few bullets riddled a part of the aircraft but at this range it might just be the tracer fire running out of steam rather than the bullets connecting with metal. To say the least it did drive off the bandit that was on Connolly’s tail.

“Sorry Paul, your bandit’s wingman held me up a bit- you still alive sir?”

“Barely, it was really touch and go in the city there- no room to move, that pilot was bloody good though, I didn’t think I was going to make it.”

“Don’t worry, I’m covering you remember!”

“Again I say I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

Amanda sorted over the radio in disgust but Paul knew she was smirking, in fact anything remotely funny he said brought a smirk to her face these days and he wondered whether that was a coincidence or not. He banished it from his thoughts, being plagued with personal issues in the middle of a war was asking for trouble and death would be lingering right around the corner after that. It would all end in tears and so it was best to keep social issues and work as far away as humanly possible.

“Okay, let’s pull out Vixen. I ask Sky Eye (The RAF AWACS) to radio to boys and tell them we’ll see them back on the Galactic later. This zone is a bit hot at the moment, I wasn’t expecting them to be this good. We’ll get ‘em next time lass.”

“Sure thing Lead. Sure thing.”

Bigtoa- Present

The surprising amount of successes the armoured corps and infantry divisions the Navy had landed would have usually held them up with celebrations, however the rapid advance had already overrun two villages and had forced the surrender of thousands of troops. Also a huge area of open terrain had been sanitised and cleared for the LCPs and RFA ships to begin sending in helicopters and heavy goods trucks and diggers to begin the immediate construction of Firebase Bigtoa, over the next week the foothold on Bigtoa and the small island to the south of it would be under total Stevidian control- hopefully if the luck held out.

With supplies right on the doorstep of the advancing troops and high morale, the order was given for the tanks and light infantry to advance deep into Bigtoa to remove any possibility of a massive coordinated counter-attack by the enemy to drive them back to the sea. The enemy had in several areas held the line against the initial wave of tanks while other lines of defence had quite literally collapsed under the strain. While the military commanders of Stevid usually disliked the Blitzkrieg tactic because the advance usually over shoots supply lines, it seemed logical for it to be used in this instance. Remove any opposition over the next twenty to twenty-five miles or so in one massive all out attack and then await for the logistics from the firebase to arrive, from there the siege against the city could be conducted and by this time most of the air defence could be relocated to keeping enemy air attacks or air momentum to a bare minimum. The invasion of Bigtoa had stretched the FAA to an extreme and areas of Liliputia weren’t actually under the FAAs control anymore.

The order the strike deep into enemy territory was given and the frontline of Iron Cheetahs and Black Lanners awaited the bombardment from the Royal Artillery to weaken the already presumed fragile enemy frontline armour and infantry. Tank Commander Scott Colbert was standing through the top hatch of his Iron Cheetah looking through his binoculars at the thick brush of trees and hedges were IR scans from satellites showed the enemy frontline. They were ready to defend their land and expected an attack since the every Stevidian tank was revving its engines up nice and loud for the enemy to hear.

“Roger! Batteries, commence firing!” Scott heard over the radio from the Royal Artillery commander of that specific unit, and sure enough form a couple of miles away the tell tale sounds of artillery guns firing washed over the frontline. In the open terrain in front Scott was were the first salvo of shells from around seventy 115mm Paladins landed and exploded sending great fountains of muck and filth into the sky. Like the naval bombardment of the beachhead this too was a rolling barrage that would gradually crawl its way towards the enemy frontline before reeking havoc when the shells finally landed on top of the enemy. It was purely psychological and it would help the tanks and infantry wipe up what remained of the frontline if it wasn’t well reinforced, they needed to take as little losses as possible because after this were the heavy tanks of the Merkar Republic that Stevid had yet to face and the commanders weren’t really looking forward to it. It was the same tactic the British used in WWII during Operation Market Garden when XXX Corps breached the German frontline.

The shells were coming thick and fast now and Scott took the opportunity to move his huge armoured column of tanks and infantry out in the field..
“Alright then, column advance!” he yelled into his microphone over the thunderous bombardment of 115mm artillery shells, to which the Black Lanners joined in. While the firing from the BL2s was rather indiscriminate it still kept the enemy’s heads down, they fired off a few rounds into the smoke as the artillery bombardment reached the penultimate stage of firing as the shells began to fall on the frontline of the Merkar defenders assisted by the columns own and just as indiscriminate cannon fire.

What the Merkar Republic had lined up at the frontline between the two countries’ forces wasn’t entirely known but it was believed that there was some heavy weapons and armour in there that would cause some predictable damage to the Black lanners and even the Iron Cheetahs- both variants. Scott frowned and looked through his binoculars again and waited to see how the enemy would reply… surrender, retreat or would they stay and fight- at this stage things were looking desperate for the Merkar Republic but morale would be poor at this stage. There response was totally unknown at this point but would reveal itself in the following minutes.
05-02-2007, 16:03
Two days ago

Jumping "back in time" for a bit with the Pragem; I'm just referring to the 3 small ships in the Hanover task force that you said were sunk in your first invasion post.

Amanda could think of little else to tell the man. There had been little to talk about to begin with; Captain Smith, of all people, was no psychologist. The first words that she had heard after waking from her sleep, a nap that was far too brief, had something to do with distant sonar contacts. She then noticed that the Weapons Officer had abandoned his post inside the crowded CIC and Amanda ran off to find him. And here he was, sitting mutely by the side of his bunk. His simple crescent-shaped office desk, one of those ugly plastic office neccesities that had become so popular in Merkar, was littered with the disorganized papers of a man who had worked as hard as he seemed to be capable of but been overwhelmed by his responsibilities. The room's door was open, which gave some light, but it was not enough to read the papers on the desk. The Weapons Officer had been sitting in the dark and in her initial anger the Captain had not bothered to turn on the lights. Now that a firm reprimand seemed to not work she had calmed and tried a less harsh approach.

Captain Smith looked at the man and spoke in a firm, officerly voice. "Lieutenant Shilko, you know your duty to the ship. Whether you want to or not, the Pragem is built to fire torpedoes, and you're going to fire them. Now, explain to me exactly why you are not at your station."

Shilko stroked his grey-streaked mustache for a few minutes. Amanda thought that the scence would look odd for anyone watching; an old man being scorned by his younger woman captain. She knew from her years in the Navy that the best way to motivate a reluctant sailor was to give him a good, loud reprimand, but perhaps that was only in the past as it was not working this time. The Captain was not "that" old; she did not understand at all what the older officers had meant about the "good old days" when military hierarchy was loose yet discipline was tight; what she did know was that there was no shellshock aboard a submarine. Lieutenant Shilko was a mere coward, and as much as she wanted to punch him in the face she knew that it would do nothing now. All the captain had left to do was find out what had broken this man.

When Shilko finally spoke his hand, still stroking his mustache, muffled his speech. "I'm sorry, Ma'am. It's just that... to be honest with you, Commander, I never expected to be in combat." Amanda tried to speak during the Lieutenant's pause, but was cut off. "People don't realize it, Comrade, but you can die at any time. Especially my..."

"This is all about your sister, isn't it?"

Amanda's sharp cynicism hit a weak spot on Shilko. He turned his face away and began rubbing his eyes. "Please, Captain."

"Comrade Lieutenant..." Amanda took a seat on the bed. "The Admiral Bogranin was an old ship. If your sister survived, very well. If not, she's a hero of Merkar." Most likely the latter. The Bogranin had gone down with nearly all hands when it detonated so famously at Kentangi. "The ship fought bravely and everyone onboard did their duty as well as they could. The ship's a battleship. It was obsolete. The Pragem is a fine ship, though, Lieutenant."

Amanda felt stupid. She considered adding that the Pragem's duty was to avenge the deaths at Kentangi but her words were having no effect. At the same time, she wanted to stay, to find something more to say. She was not going to let one of her officers collapse so easily. She knew Shilko's type: some witty and long-serving old man who scored well during drills but let themselves panic under the slightest real pressure. The only solution was discipline. Amanda realized that she was making Shilko too comfortable by sitting on the bed and talking softly and stood up to stare at him for a few seconds. The Lieutenant never met her gaze as his head slumped toward the floor. This was tiring for both of them. The Captain had just woken up and, although she normally needed little sleep, a dreamlike haziness was tempting her to take care of business and then get back into bed.

A loud sonar ping broke the awkward silence, causing Shilko to hiss and cringe violently. Amanda instantly headed out the door and towards the CIC. A light headache was creeping in, but nothing that couldn't be ignored. Just before Amanda reached the CIC she saw Utun standing inside the room.

"Amanda! It's an ASW helo." The captain tried to ignore him, not wanting to fight with him anymore over military etiquette, even as he started heading her way. They met at the doorway and, in front of the entire CIC crew, they were stuck. Amanda's large breasts were jamming skinny Utun against the side of the narrow doorway, and he had to fight to break free. He continued down the hall, keeping his eyes on Amanda at chest-level. There was the cute, elegant kind of beauty you read of in romance novels and then the cruder sort that men really appreciated and that Amanda, despite her hard demeanor and squat face, had in some supply. Not that the captain liked to be stared at there. "Fuck off." Utun snapped his head around but kept walking down the hall.

"Where are you going, Lieutenant?"

"Need to use the head."

"Get back over here!"

The CIC crew went back to what they were doing when the captain entered the room. Jursai was the first to speak.

"Comrade Captain, sonar reports-" Another loud sonar ping. "Sonar reports there is an ASW helicopter in the area. Range about three thousand." Yet another ping, and another. At that range whoever was flying the helicopter must have had some idea that the Pragem was nearby.

"Nav, where are we?"

"About 150 miles northeast of Bigota, Captain."

"Which Bigtoa?"

"The eastern one."

"Lieutenant Utun! Why did you route us way the hell east! Your task was to route us to block the western approaches!"

"Would you like me to explain my reasoning, ma'am?"

"Lieutenat... meet me in the wardroom in ten minutes."

Jursai cleared his throat. "Captain, suggest we act quickly." A sonar ping split his sentence. "Sensors says it's dipping sonar. Standard navy countermeasure for helicopters?" The XO grinned. Amanda responded with a full-toothed smile. "Helm, bearing."

"0-6-7, ma'am."

"Sonar, bearing to contact."


"Helm, right ten degrees rudder to heading 1-5-1, rotations for twenty knots."

The Pragem slowly picked up speed, allowing it to turn quicker and quicker. Using ballast this close to the enemy would give the sub's position away, so once the Pragem faced the sonobouy it used bow planes only to climb to a shallow depth. The captain ordered a course check again to keep the sub focused on the contact. The helicopter was just picking up the Pragem when the sub hit the sonobuoy cable dead-center. Everyone onboard heard the cable scrape against the hull as it snagged on to the left bow plane. Immediately, the captain ordered a sharp dive. The Pragem pitched so sharply that its propellors came above the ocean surface for a few seconds before the ship slid downwards, bringing the helicopter with it. The helicopter pilot realized what was happening and banked sharply to the left. He broke free at the last moment only to fail to recover from the steep bank and splash loudly into the sea.

"Yes! Good work, boys!"

The crew cheered for a few seconds, but Amanda's joy was momentary. What is enemy ASW doing this close to Bigtoa? An invasion fleet, perhaps. Best to surface and investigate to inform the fleet. The Pragem raised its ESM antenna above the water surface and immediately recieved a very strong contact. The sub requested a data-link with the fleet, and seconds later Amanda discovered that a fleet of the enemy EW cruisers was only sixty miles to the north- the weapons database described them as Hanovers. It had been only the skillful quiet running of Jursai during the Captain's rest that had kept the sub from being detected. Going deep again, the sub prepared to fire torpedoes.

"Which tubes are loaded, XO?"

"All are loaded and flooded. Tube One has mines. The rest have standard 533 torpedoes."

It was fortunate that the Pragem had been ready for combat at the moment of battle. Amanda had to remember to thank Jursai later for his foresight. "XO, I think that Weapons will be out for a while. You're filling his spot. Fire tubes two, three and four at the enemy battlegroup."

"Aye, Captain." With that, the executive officer took a seat at the weapons console and attempted to decipher the computer interface. It would not take long- it was a point-and-click unit meant to be simple enough to be used in the heat of combat. The adrenaline rush of the helicopter encounter had brushed away the captain's light sleepiness and she decided to take over the watch once Jursai had fired the torpedoes. As she watched him study arcane screens of text she realized that she was right in trusting the man. Jursai was a crisp and efficient officer. Unlike some members of the crew.

Utun had been ordered to plot a route back to the fleet, the ship's next stop now that its mission had been aborted. He was the only person in the plotting room and he felt relieved to be away from the commander again. He had known that she would be enraged to discover Utun's "navigational error", and at first he had tried to flee to the head. But Amanda had, of course, found out. Utun knew that he had made no error, though. Only an idiot hero would have obeyed the Fleet's orders to pursue the Stevidian reinforcement corvettes. He knew that the corvettes had two likely options: advance slowly and cautiously along a northerly route or charge towards the fleet around Bigtoa at full speed. Knowing the cautious nature of the Stevidians, Utun assumed that they would take the first option and so plotted a route along the second path, intending to avoid them and head for Bigtoa, where the Pragem would be closest to the Athasism Fleet. He had turned out to be correct; the sub had missed the corvette group but wandered into the enemy Hanover fleet. No matter now; Utun would get his tongue-lashing and then they would head back home. One combat tour survived.

[ + ]

Present day

Qusay's Su-35 plummeted toward the ground, spewing smoke and trailing a white stream of leaking fuel. The ground seemed to close faster and faster as if Qusay had been dropped from a thousand feet in the sky and left to impact on some rooftop. But his instincts forced him to pull back on the stick, forcing the aircraft, which seemed to want to die now, to slowly pull back up. Kassem glanced quickly over his shoulder and saw nothing but sky and cityscape- whoever had hit him with a missile had left him for dead. Qusay leveled out in the clear sky and darted his head about but could see no sign of the enemy. He would need this break to assess the damage to his stricken craft.

It was only now that he realized that the fire klaxon was sounding as he had already been overwhelmed by warning lights and noises. It was probably his smoking right engine; he throttled it back and activated the fire retardant. The Sukhoi now sagged to the right with half of its thrust gone and Qusay adjusted the trim tabs to compensate. Rear-cone radar blasted away, some missile racks probably lost, but the plane had held together. Kassem made a mental note to pray for whoever had designed this airplane- the one edge the Sukhoi had over Stevidian fighters was that it was a sturdy beast, able to accept one or two hits from lightweight dogfight missiles. But his luck would not last forever- the sky was thick with enemy, and all he cared about was fleeing home. Almost as an afterthought, he switched on his radio to see if it worked.

"Bear, where are you?" No reply. "Bear!"

"Shit!" The shrill female scream stirred Qusay into action. He banked around as hard as his weakened craft could take, climbing and looking for any sign of the enemy. A flash of light caught his eye and he turned toward it. Silhoutted against the blue sky were two fighters; a greenish shape, no doubt a Sukhoi bearing Merkar's distinctive jungle camoflauge scheme, and a grey fighters pursuing it. The tight-turning dogfight was clearly a battle between aces; his wingmate was being hounded by a professional. Qusay forgot all about heading home and felt an urge to save his lady-in-distress.

He readied his infrared seeker and tried to lock onto one of the Stevidians but they were too close to Bear for him to achieve a clear lock. Some motion caught his eye and he turned his head to identify it; four more enemy fighters, almost close enough to touch, that had been racing down a dark grey alley. These fighters, too, were probably trying to get close enough to the dogfight to get a clear shot. Calmly, Kassem locked one up, fired a missile, and then fired at the next plane. He aquired a third target but no missile left the rails; the missiles on his damaged right wing were not working. He switched to guns and closed for a kill as the first two enemies exploded before they had even spotted Qusay. Kassem slowed to make a gun run but this enemy realized what was happening; he pulled high out of the street and jinked wildly. The Sukhoi handled slugglishly with an engine gone, and instead of pursuing this enemy he went to full afterburner and headed toward his wingmate.

Bear was fighting for her life now as the Stevidian lined up his gunsights. The enemy ace suddenly found himself taking hits from Kassem's powerful 30mm cannon as Qusay turned behind the lead fighter, forcing the ace to break off momentarily and try to find who was attacking him. After a brief pursuit, Kassem recieved devastating cannon hits from a plane that jumped in out of the sun, and he fled west at full afterburner. This was just enough delay for Bear to shove the throttle to its limit and break away to the west; by the time the Stevidian pilots spotted her again a second later their Sidewinders could not reach her. Apparently, they had no interest in giving chase.

"Thanks for the help, Sabre... good shots." The pilot's sexy, baiting tone made Qusay all the more anxious. He wanted to know this woman more.

"See you at base, Bear."

The two planes slid into formation low above the grass, their wingtips gracefully nearing each other as the hills passed underneath.

[ + ]

Despite the damage to his plane Qusay managed to land safely back at the stretch of highway he called home. He taxied his plane to its normal spot, conscious of the trail of fuel being left behind him but wanting to leave the cockpit as soon as possible. Judging from fuel levels, Kassem had just barely made it home. He powered down the engines and watched as a groundcrew man sprayed gallons of fire retardant on the slick path of oil Kassem's plane had left. Qusay sighed, unhooked his helmet, and walked down the ladder.

"Hey!" It was his wingmate. Brimming with expectation, Qusay turned around to get a look at her face.

It was a total surprise. Her oversized build stretched her flightsuit to its limits right up to her thick neck, which mounted a long, sharp-chinned head. Her face was remarkably pale. Although Qusay suspected that she was rather young like most pilots, her skin was crossed with blood vessels here and there which made her look almost forty. Her brown hair was wrapped up into a ponytail which bobbed up and down as she spoke in that deceptively soothing voice. She was certainly not the woman that Qusay had seen in the mess hall.

"Hey. Thanks for the help up there. What's your name?"

Qusay kept a blank expression. "Qusay."

"Wanna grab a drink?"

Qusay smiled politely and began to walk away. "See you later."

"Bear" happily mumbled something as Qusay headed down a narrow path. Once far enough down the path he urinated on a stump to relieve himself of the call of nature that had been building up during his intense flight. He then returned to his aircraft to see a horde of technicians taking it apart. It was a good airplane that Qusay had flown many times before, but in this state it couldn't stand combat any longer. They were probably dissasembling it to find some spare parts.

Kassem walked a hundred or so meters along the base's main path to the mess hall. There were few people anywhere walking around the base, it seemed. Something was going on. He grabbed his meal at the mess, which had gone cold despite the humid heat of the airbase, and ate it as he walked toward the briefing tent to go over his gun tapes with the squadron commander. He wanted to know more about these aces he had seen today.

"Lieutenant Kassem!" A deep, African-accented voice was calling for Qusay.

Qusay looked right to see Major Obasanjo standing in the briefing tent. The Major snapped a sharp salute, which Kassem returned lazily as he brushed cammo netting aside to enter the tent.

"Lieutenant, perhaps you didn't hear. The enlisted and the officers at the base are getting rather restless." Restless? It was a deliberate understatement. Too many pilots were going AWOL or not pursuing their mission orders. Kassem was glad that something was being done. "I've put in place military discipline. Next time you see a superior officer you salute him first, understand?"

"Yes... sir."

"Good. Good. Lieutenant Kassem, I have some good news for you. I've just pulled your gun camera tape and Bear's. Take a look."

The Major pressed a button on a large display, causing it to flash to life. He then took a seat on the short table running perpendicular to the screen. Qusay sat down with him once the film began to roll. The high-resolution camera had captured an intense, swirling dogfight. It was nearly impossible to see what was going on with the planes moving so fast. The camera plane levelled off, then suddenly broke into violent evasive manuevers as cannon rounds whizzed by. Qusay suspected that this was Bear's camera footage as she was being pursued by the two enemy aces. Suddenly, the streams of cannon fire stopped flying overhead and the camera plane banked hard around. Obasanjo picked up the remote control on top of the display and paused the playback just as a Stevidian fighter came into view. He panned the picture onto the Stevidian pilot's helmet and then zoomed in, fine details displaying as the zoom grew closer. Soon, the word CONOLLY could just barely be seen on the pilot's helmet.

"Lieutenant, today you were dogfighting Flight Lieutenant Paul Conolly. Do you know who he is?"

"No idea."

"He's all over the propoganda they've been broadcasting on our nets, Lieutenant! Of course, you probably don't read that crap. Conolly is part of an elite fighter squadron. Blizzard squadron, if I remember correctly. It's possible that the other bandit pursuing your wingman was an ace, also. Either Amanda Heathcote or... Lennon... someone. I try to keep up, Comrade, but I don't know their names. Not that it matters to you. What's important is that you earned two kills today and survived being attacked by a whole squadron of enemy. As for your wingman- your wingmate, actually- she performed well also. Sorry that we couldn't get your wingman in the air. It must have been confusing as hell for two people of equal rank to be in the same flight. But even though Bear didn't get any kills she did show some skill for dodging fire. Either that or the Stevidians were going easy on her. They sent a whole squadron of aircraft after you two, probably because they were chasing one of our fleeing fighter groups but ran into you. But you both survived, and I'm amazed."

Qusay smiled briefly. He now had six kills- actually four, not counting the two SAMs he had downed, which were added on to his kill number for squadron morale reasons. Although Merkar had so far made no attempt to publicize its aces, Qusay suspected that he was the first one- now the highest scoring pilot in Merkar- and that his face would at least appear somewhere on the news. But he knew that it really meant nothing; his four fighter kills were from luck, not amazing piloting. Each enemy that he had shot down had never even seen him coming- two sitting-duck bombers, Scorpions, over Kentangi, and another two clueless Kunais today. But then again, was it luck? Or did Qusay simply have a knack for keeping himself out of trouble? It was all too much to think about after a long sortie that Kassem simply wanted to nap after.

Obasanjo noticed the smile. "Proud of yourself? Ready for some rest?"

Qusay gave an exasperated sigh. "Yeah."

"Not anytime soon. The airbase is being evacuated. We're already hearing artillery fire to the east. At the rate that Stevidians are tearing across our country this base will be overrun in hours. Most of our Su-35s will be towed to the rear while the rest of the base flies in choppers to the MRS Annihalation. Carrier ops from now on. You can check the roster but I think you're scheduled to ride in a helicopter, Lieutenant. They'll have plenty of aircraft on the ship and the Maccabbeans have given us plenty of jet fuel. We can cannibalize other aircraft for spare parts- we have a lot of them sitting on the ground unused- but weapons will still be in short supply. We'll need all the pilots we can, Lieutenant Kassem."

Kassem noted Obasanjo's use of the word "Lieutenant". There would be no more casual chats with the Major now- Qusay could sense that when he said that he wanted to tighten discipline, he meant it, and Kassem would need to remember to salute and let the superior officers go first in line. A change, but not too bad of a change. With half of the squadron already AWOL these tactics were necessary. Plus, they would now be stationed on a ship- there would be no way to run off and escape duty.

Qusay at first thought that he would never get out of this war alive, but since the last battle he had realized just how skilled he was. And more, he realized that his life was in the hands of fate, and that as long as he kept his faith he would have nothing to fear.

"Thank you, sir." Kassem walked off toward the runway as he heard a helicopter spool up.

[ + ]

The trees of Kagos flicked by through the view block. It was all Smilovich had to stare at inside the tank other than the dark interior. The sun was sinking below the horizon quickly on this winter night, which made visibility even shorter than normal. Soon, only the artificial day created by the distant city would prevent the tank from stumbling about in the dark. This reminded Smilovitch to activate the infrared sight on his commander's viewer, which was not as difficult to do as it normally was due to the tank's smooth ride along the road. His display transitioned into the green world of infrared. There was still nothing to see but a curve in the road and jungle to either side, though.

The Broadsword banked around the curve and came out into a clearing. Smilovitch immediately felt naked against the threat of Stevidian air attack, but he knew that a commander's duty was to lead from the front. Regardless of the risk, he had decided to inspect his units in the most vulnerable part of the Brigade's line. The Krashnyy commune of Kagos was one of those few places on Bigtoa with a large ammount of trees. Poor terrain for tanks, but there was very little infantry available. Smilovitch had great confidence in his men regardless- the Fourth Division was the best unit in the Merkari Army, and whether it held this ground or not against the Stevidian hordes the Merkari tankers would surely give the enemy a bloody nose. And that was the Division's mission, after all- delay the enemy as the Ribir Line was prepared.

"I'VE SPOTTED SOME OF OUR GUYS, SIR." Even over the static-ridden intercom, Gunner Ho sounded exhausted from the long trip.





The Broadsword pulled off the road to make a tight ninety-degree turn to the left. Smilovitch grabbed hold of his sight handles and darted his viewer left and right, trying to locate any sign of his soldiers. After a few seconds of searching he saw no real sign of them at all; only a few discolored specks beyond a nearby rise. Could that be a tank?





Smilovitch was sure that he had found his soldiers. They had simply hid themselves well. Preparing to leave the tank, he removed his helmet and intercom. The removal of his helmet alerted him to just how loud the inside of the tank was- the high-pitched chopping sound of the turbine engine was drumming against his ears. He tolerated the noise for a few more seconds as his tank came to a stop, the engine whining to sleep. He popped the hatch release and climbed out into the late evening heat. Amazingly, the tank's air conditioning had been working, but this made the outside heat come as more of a shock.

Twenty yards to the left of Smilovitch was another Broadsword, this one cloaked in fresh-looking brush netting. Both of the Broadswords were sitting in a narrow gulley filled with hip-high brush. As he climbed down from his tank, Smilovitch saw a man standing on the other tank holding a pistol towards the ground. The man's motionless vigil made him appear on edge.

"Put down your gun, Comrade. You'll find Stevidians soon enough."

It was impossible to see the man's facial expression with the lack of light, but judging from his hesitation in climbing off the tank he either felt suspicious or embarrassed. Smilovitch waded through the brush toward the man, and they met in the middle.

"I'm Colonel Anton Smilovitch, soldier. Do you know where your commander is?"

"Sergeant Tif, tank commander. Platoon lead is about 200 meters down the riverbed behind you."

"Well, I must say, you've done a great job of camouflaging your track. Good defensive positioning, also. I'll have to thank your platoon leader for that when I see him. Tell me, what has your unit been doing the past few days?"

"We pulled into position yesterday, sir. Second Platoon took an airstrike casualty-"

"A vehicle or a soldier?"

"We lost a tank. The crew was in shelter at the time but the tank is out. But we're right by a major road so it seems like the air-defense convoys are keeping us safe.”

“Yes. Are you fully stocked with ammunition and fuel?”

“We’ve been receiving convoys through here, sir. Many of them. Occasionally we’ll pull one over and request some supply, they’re happy to give it to us. Only problem is that the Maccabbeans drive the trucks and they don’t speak English. Other than that, we’ve been able to gather a lot of loot, sir.”

“Comrade, your unit’s job is to hold this road. Who’s responsible for this?”

“The company commander, I believe. I’m just following orders, sir. I know there are units in front of us that need those supplies but it’s orders.”

A little unwanted initiative from one of Anton’s subordinates- he suspected that this kind of thing was happening to supply lines all over the front. Not that it mattered now- the conscript forces to the Division’s front would be overrun hours from now, and at least Smilovitch’s brigade would be in better shape.

“Any more problems, Sergeant?”

“Not that I know of. Our track is full on ammunition and fuel and we’re ready to go. If I had to make an estimation myself, sir, we're ready to fight."

The boyish exuberance of the Sergeant's last sentence caught Anton's interest. His night vision was just coming in and he could now just barely make out the Sergeant's features. His red hair and freckled face looked painfully young, perhaps 17, or 19 at most. These were the young men- and young women- that war, in its absurdity, had forced onto the front line, pumped full of excitement for combat that would not survive the first battle. Here in front of Anton was a boy who would do more service to society by studying in his insulated college or home, who, in all likelihood, would soon loose his youthful virginity to the agony of war.



“Comrade… how long ago did you graduate high school?”

“Not yet, commander.”

So these were the “men” that Merkar would send to face the enemy. 17-year-olds shipped off from school onto the battlefield. Most of the army’s conscripts were certainly not as eager as Sergeant Tif as only the most motivated could secure a slot in the Fourth Division. But this was war now, and the Division’s losses from air strikes had to be replaced with green troops. Tif’s platoon was apparently not one of these replacements, but some other parts of the Division were not nearly as sharp as this unit. The 4th had been reinforced to 120% strength after loosing a quarter of its equipment to air strike over the last two weeks.

The Sergeant sensed that the conversation had drifted away from whatever topic it had started with and chanced a question. "Colonel... why didn't you just stay out of the war?"

The soldier had probably heard of Smilovitch before and, predictably, was confused about this man.

"Comrade, my grandfather fought in Checnya. His father had seen service in Afghanistan, and his father faced the Nazis. His father's father died serving the Czar, and down the family line many of my fathers died in 1812. My father started a software company... I could inherit that or I could carry on an older tradition." Anton had begun talking to himself, staring off into the stars that were appearing in the sky and paying little attention to the soldier listening to him. Anton was speaking more to rationalize his decision than to lecture. He had never thought of it as an intelligent decision. Although he had been mobilized from inactive reserve at the start of the war, in reality, with all of his money Anton could have stayed away from the war. There were people who could be bribed and strings that could be pulled. But after a week in the field Smilovitch realized that, whether he had thought right in defending Merkar or not, the lives of the two thousand men and women in his Brigade depended on him now. He had gone far beyond the point of decision; now, the least he would loose from the war were the two million dollars he had invested in Merkari stock that had almost certainly vanished down the drain, but that was only a small part of his portfolio; the most he could loose now was his life or his command. War was much different from running the family software company, if not more difficult. Anton knew that it was only some thin sense of duty and responsibility that kept him going.

Smilovitch felt his mind loose focus. It had been a long ride through the inspection route, and tomorrow would no doubt be a longer day. He did not want to spend any more time here.

“I hope I answered your question, Sergeant. Get some sleep.”

“Good night, sir.”

The two men stumbled through the brush to return to their tanks. As Anton climbed into the hatch he became aware of the staccato bursts of distant artillery.

[ + ]

The island of Bigtoa was a unique part of Merkar’s geography. Created only six years ago as part of a land-gain program meant to find more space for Merkar’s rapidly growing population, Bigtoa was an artificial island- a section of former ocean dammed up and drained of water. Although most of Merkar was either jungle or dense city (there were few really rural or suburban areas), Bigtoa had yet to be thoroughly developed. “Only” 1/3 of the island was consumed by massive arcology complexes. The rest was rolling hills. Due to the youth of the island, combined with pollution, there were not too many jungle areas. Most the east, where the landings took place, was open ground and excellent offensive terrain for the Stevidian army, although the jungle clusters and urban areas could be turned into time-consuming chokepoints by any determined defender.

The Stevidian “beachheads” were actually areas of beachfront urban property leveled by naval gun bombardment. The dam surrounding the island suffered only minor breaches during the invasion that were soon repaired, as both the Merkaris and the invaders having a vested interest in keeping Bigtoa intact. An assault over the dams and dykes surrounding the island would cause flooding, so the Stevidians had little choice but to level some beachfront cityscape, which was built on artificial hills above sea-level, and then clear the wreckage to use the land as their landing site and firebase.

The island of Bigtoa was only 60 kilometers long from east to west. The invaders made good use of their advantage over the conscript divisions in the East and advanced 30 kilometers in the first two days even though their logistics had not yet been properly prepared so soon after the landing. The behind-the-line desant assaults were amazingly effective with Merkari air defense virtually nonexistent at this stage of the war, and many Athiesist units ended up surrendering to small helicopter assault groups. Most of them simply did not want to fight at all. In the few places that they did choose to fight, their training and equipment were enough to make them a serious threat; however, low morale, combined with constant Stevidian air attack, crushed most resistance. By January 4th, the great Stevidian artillery barrages were already thrashing the last line of Merkar’s eastern defenses in Bigtoa. Just ten kilometers west of them were the Merkari defenses along the Ribir line; in between Stevid and the canal at Ribir stood the elite 4th Division, reinforced and ready to fight. The 4th attempted to delay, not decisively halt, the enemy, hoping to give Army Bigtoa just another day or so to prepare its defenses at Ribir. Trading land for casualties seemed like risky business when the 4th had only 10,000 men and its back only ten kilometers from the canal, but it had to be done.

Beyond Ribir was the massive city of Berkar, which was sure to give any attacking army headaches. At the insistence of the civilian population few military units had been stationed in Berkar, but when, not if, the Ribir defenses broke, there would certainly be more troops in the city. The most valuable protection Berkar offered was cover from air attack, which had destroyed 20% of the 15,000-strong Merkari tank force since the start of the war. Although Merkari decoys and camouflage measures were very effective in limiting the damage to their forces, the thousands of bomber sorties Stevid had flown since the start of the war had certainly done damage.

The conscript divisions that Stevid was facing in front of the Merkari 4th Division were infantry-armor mixes. Merkar had a special, and perhaps illogical for a jungle nation, emphasis on armor. The Stevidian artillery barrages were blasting through a smattering of remnant units, about a division in total strength, armed with a hundred or so Broadsword-Tizonia tanks, and heavy weapons, including Nantu LMG machine guns and M6 mortars. The battle-hardened Stevidians would cut through this defense line like butter and make their way to the 4th Division's delaying positions.

The 4th Division was equipped with one piece of Merkari engineering that Stevid had not met in numbers before- the Tizonia-Alpha. Merkaris, with their electronic bent, were typically “disappointed” with the Broadsword-Tizonias shipped to them by the Maccabbees. The turbine-engined Tizonia-Alpha had a host of new features, most importantly damage control sensors, millimeter-wave radar hanging behind the turret bustle, SHOTRA- and ARENA-style missile-defense systems, carbon-particle smoke grenades, a commander’s independent sight, preprogrammed ballistic computer support for the Merkari S2 tungsten carbide Sabot round, and vastly increased datalink capabilities (most of which, however, had been rendered impotent by the loss of Merkar’s satellites). For financial reasons only 1,500 Broadswords had been upgraded to Tizonia-Alpha standard, but these Alphas had been stored in mountain caves until shortly before the invasion of Bigtoa and few had been lost to air attack. The Stevidians had already fought a handful of Alphas but the 4th Division possessed over 200 of them- it was time to see whether this was a valid weapon system or an overcomplicated fluke.

Army Bigtoa, just twenty kilometers from the sea, was receiving artillery support from the Athasism fleet, but still not nearly enough to compensate for Stevid’s overwhelming naval-gun firepower advantage. It could provide valuable SAM cover against all but the lowest-flying targets, however. The fleet had ready its MALOVET system to dodge incoming enemy shells, but the Stevidians had still not attacked decisively. What worried the Merkari sailors was the ease with which Stevid could potentially sink their whole fleet. The 200 destroyers in the fleet were low in ammunition, averaging only five Standard SAMs each. In other words, any air strike of more than 300-400 bombers could totally destroy the Athasism Fleet if it was able to get a clear shot, either by finding some way to have its SSMs fly over land or by overflying Bigtoa (dodging naval SAMs in the process) and launching its SSMs over open sea. The submarine fleet fleeing towards the Fleet would help slightly, though. Each SSGN mounted two anti-missile lasers that could burn through a quarter of an inch of steel a kilometer away. Accuracy was high due to the point-and-shoot aiming required of the targeting computer. However, the lasers took over a minute to recharge after each shot, and many of the systems had burnt out or been corroded since the war began. If worse came to worse, the thick, rounded hulls of the submarines could deflect medium-sized cruise missiles. About a hundred Shark vessels were surfaced and dispersed around the fleet perimeter, ready to open their laser covers at any time.

Total submarine strength had been reduced to 120 from friendly fire and enemy action. The latest Stevidian ASW offensive had kicked off with devastating results, destroying about 40 submarines in a day, and any captain that could tried to flee to the safety of the fleet. However, a few of the boldest captains were ordered to deliberately leave this safety zone and lure in the Stevidian ASW hunters. Waiting for them were about 75 Soya missile boats at each entrance to the Athasism Fleet’s position. As enemy ASW groups closed to within the Seagull SSM’s 160-kilometer range, the missile boats sortied, fired their missiles, and ran back behind concealing terrain at 80 knots, riding high on their hydrofoils. The Seagulls closed to within fourteen kilometers and then released their lightweight torpedoes, which were similar in design to the US Mk-50 Barracuda. These lightweight torpedoes could disable a frigate with a single hit but might need two or three hits to disable a cruiser.

Once more, Merkar was on a passive offensive despite its vulnerable position, and it already feared the threat of a serious enemy naval airstrike that could come at any time.
11-02-2007, 14:50
HMS Galactic

It had been a close call up there for the four pairs of wings of the Blizzard Squadron as well as the other fighter groups they had in the air. No one expected to be jumped by Merkar aces, in fact no one knew that the enemy had any aces of such skill and experience as the one they fought today. Blizzard squadron returned with no losses and six kills overall but had just managed to escape to clutches of the enemy aces jumping out of nowhere and turning the temperature of the battle right up. Connolly landed his plane softly and professionally as he could on the deck of the gently rolling carrier HMS Galactic and pulled up in front of the of the second of the two control islands that made the CVF unique, behind him followed his three wingmen and woman with one seriously beaten up by the battle. He watched the battered plane roll into a park with some effort and saw a red face McLennan snap the canopy open and then smash it back down again. He jump off the plane and kicked the side of the nose very hard while yelling- probably both in anger and now pain.

“Bloody hell!” he explained, the British accent quite pronounced which was a key identifier of Big Mac when he was angry. “First time we’re in a proper fur ball dogfight like that and I not only fail to kill squat but an enemy aces riddles my plane with bullets and turn it into Swiss-fucking-cheese!”

Amanda Heathcote, Vixen, stepped back a pace as she took her helmet off to see this enraged man. She looked Paul who glanced back, cocked his head and merely shrugged at her. She took it as a ‘What do you expect?’ kind of look and walked towards the still furious Big Mac who was busy verbally abusing the deck crew of the carrier- much to their well placed horror.

“Mac calm down. Count yourself lucky you’re still alive okay, those enemy aces were terrific up there…”

“What, you criticising my flying now lass? Because if you are I swear to God himself I’ll…”

Connolly stepped in quickly with a frown on his face. He knew Big Mac was annoyed but the consequences would be dire for all involved if a brawl broke out- on the flight deck no less when some more beleaguered flight groups were returning with fewer planes than they left with. He saddened him and everyone on the ship to see the amount of planes steadily decrease, not only does it mean more great planes and pilots are being lost, but also what use is a carrier without any planes?

“That’s enough Mac! You were lucky, we all were! Land Rover and Joseph groups lost three planes a piece from a previous five- we lost no one, if anyone should be upset it’s their flight leads and not you. Get a hold of yourself and get the discipline back in your system, the war has just started so you’ll have plenty of time to shoot down the unfaithful later on- you need patience above all less mate.”

Big Mac reluctantly nodded and stalked off without apologising to either Connolly, Amanda or the ground crew and didn’t even look at the puzzled King who was busy smiling at his perfect plane before realising his stupidity when he was Big Mac’s wreak. Amanda turned back to Connolly and smiled.

“Aren’t you gonna thank me?”

“For what V?”

“I saved your arse earlier, that Merkar bastard would have done more to you than to Mac if I hadn’t come to the rescue.” She replied gleefully. He liked it when she talked with a foul mouth, not in a sexual way, but she was too upper class for her own good and her tradition British accent, while rather subdued after having spent so much time around mouthy Big Mac, was quite attractive if not funny when foul language was coming out of it. He suppressed a smile as best he could and found the excuse he’d been looking for.

[i]“You wouldn’t have come unless I asked you to. I had to practically tell you where the enemy was coming from, besides I would have handled it without you.” He continued as he started talking towards the control tower island on the deck of the ship with Amanda in hot pursuit. “And you didn’t kill the blighter either! I saw him pull up and save his own wingman with a damaged plane while Joseph Wing struggled to shoot them down.”

“We all make mistakes, anyway you need to keep Mac in check. I don’t like talking behind the guy’s back but he was a bit reckless today.”

Connolly opened his mouth to argue the remark against his best friend but the more he thought about it the more Amanda seemed right about the statement she’d made. His flying was sloppy, his gun accuracy looked terrible when Connolly had gotten a chance to look when his warning alarms stopped buzzing. King’s flying was surprisingly much better than Mac’s today when King was typically the worst flier out of the four of them. He cocked his head slightly at Amanda again and stopped to look at her with a small frown.

“You were paying him an awful lot of attention in that fur ball… is there something I should know about Amanda? You know I don’t like people’s judgment to be clouded and/or distracted by other thoughts.”

She sighed loudly to show she’d taken offence and turned to leave Connolly routed on the spot but he shouted after her- still standing tall where she’d left him.

“And I didn’t mean are you interested in him sexually either- Lieutenant Heathcote.”

The sudden shift to formality and naval discipline shot through her like a bullet, being addressed that way made her stop in her tracks and she stood to attention by the side of the bulkhead while Connolly advanced forward towards her rather casually. He looked at her right in the eye so close they were almost nose-to-nose, he saw his own miniscule reflection in both her beautiful eyes and opened his mouth to reiterate his question.

“Well Lieutenant? Is there anything I should know? Anything at all?”

[i]“No sir. I just didn’t like his attitude during the flying, unprofessional and undisciplined. I just don’t want to see him killed in action over hostile territory, he’s both are friend, more so you than I, but I don’t want to see him die as much as you do- he’s a terrific pilot and pilots are worth more than planes. He needs to be nudged now and again.”

Connolly withdrew from Amanda and her saw her sigh slightly, her pale face was tinted rose from embarrassment of being asked to explain herself or the proximity to which she had gotten to Paul. In either case the white colour returned to her face and he nodded.

“I’ll note that Amanda.” He said switching back to the informalities of speech that she preferred from him. “I concur his behaviour today was irrational and pretty poor by the Navy’s standards but I’m sure it won’t happen again, but if it does then I’ll talk to him- battle or no battle.”

He turned away from her and walked away towards the stairs with a small smile of success. Amanda looked down at her feet for less than a few seconds and snapped her head up and looked at Connolly walking away opened her mouth and took in a sharp intake of breath to ask something of her flight lead.

“Sir!” She accidentally said aloud so that Connolly swivelled around to meet her gaze and flushed cheeks. Her eyes widened with surprise and embarrassment and her eyes fell to the floor to break the eye contact.

“Yes Amanda? What is it?”

She looked up again, obviously something had disappeared from her train of thought because the colour had returned to her cheeks and what confidence she had just had had been dashed by the exclamation she’d made.

“Oh…nothing sir. Sorry.” She said and turned around and headed back out on to the flight deck leaving Connolly to puzzle over what had just happened.


Connolly opened the door into his wing’s dormitory and saw King and Mac were already lying down on their bunks, King was above Connolly’s own one and Big Mac above Amanda’s own vacant bed- the curtains open on all of them so no one was sleeping. He smiled, and walked into the dorm and lay down on his bed with a sigh which made Big Mac look up from reading a large book on mathematics.

“Sorry for my behaviour today Paul.” he said with a genuine tone in his voice. “I won’t happen again- I promise.”

“Your promise means fuck all Mac.” Connolly said with a smile- that was true, Mac was not the person to talk to about being honest about something, this guy would lie to King of Stevid to get something his way. But years of lying to Connolly made him poor and reckless at hiding it that Connolly could see right through him. “Don’t do it in combat though…” Connolly stopped and frowned at the maths book Mac was reading, Connolly looked up inquisitively at Big Mac to which ‘What?!’ was the reply.

Connolly shook his head in bewilderment, basic maths was tough for Big Mac so quantum physics, graphs, algebra and complex triangle equations all in one book was the last thing Connolly expected him to be reading- particularly when there was a war on. He banished it from his thoughts, so long as his wingmen could fly that was fine- hopefully without the hiccups encountered today by all members involved in the fur ball a couple of hours ago. He found a list on his bed side table left there by the other members of the wing who had obviously already read it and hadn’t bothered to inform him of its presence. On it was the list was the six pilots killed in action today by the Merkar aces, there full names, rank and type of plane flown: three Kunai Interceptors and three Lightening IIs (F-35 JSF) lost in the fur ball for only three enemies- none of them Merkar aces. It was a blow but he didn’t know any of the pilots, he felt he should but it would only make the feeling of loss get worse. He’d lost good friends before and the addition of battle brothers would make the list even worse. He discarded the letter just as Amanda walked in- still dressed in her flight suit.

“Evening.” King said dully as she sat down on her bed facing Connolly. She responded with a nod but realised that King was listening to his iPod and had only noticed another body had entered the room and not who it was so was unlikely to respond to the nod.

“Hello again.” Big Mac and Paul both said almost at the same time that it drew a smile to all three of them. Amanda suddenly looked up at the book Mac was reading very attentively and immediately saw it was a full of extremely complex maths. Big Mac scowled at her and Connolly for being so ‘concerned’.

“What? Can’t I brush up on my Maths or what?” to which he continued reading and Connolly rolled his eyes. Amanda frowned right at Connolly with a lopsided smile.

“Oh come on Paul! Surely you know your best friend better than that!” Everyone sat up now and watched Amanda reach into the maths book and grab something out of it so quickly that Big Mac could even protest with abuse let alone physically stop her from taking what ever it was. In seconds she was daggling a smaller book in front of the other three pilots with a smile on all of them but Mac’s.

“Oh Big Mac! Connolly said with a smile. “Maths? I suppose you could do some equations on this particular subject… I don’t know, positioning like that needs some sort of calculation.” he said with a smirk while Big Mac’s face changed to an embarrassed red colour as Amanda dangled the porn magazine in front of every one.

“Come on Mac!” She said chucking it back at him. “A maths book? Wasn’t it obvious enough to everyone?”

Connolly liked this, not only had Mac got a smile on his face but morale was through the roof. The little argument on the flight deck a forgotten memory to all of them and so friends were together again laughing at each other- as it was meant to be. He focused on Amanda just a while longer before leaving for dinner with the rest of them in the mess hall.

Splinter Fleet Bigtoa

Dots on blue radar, and lots of them- the majority being allied shipping but more and more of them were red ones disappearing over the allied ships and sometimes taking the ships with them. Enemy missiles were being used en mass now as the Stevidian ASW groups began taking even greater gung ho expeditions out into hostile seas, now fast attack missile boats were sniping the frigates, destroyers, corvettes and cruisers that were undertaking the ASW missions. Casualties had been initially terrifyingly high but had been cut down once the approximate positions of enemy craft had been located by the Defiler Classes in the Third Fleet and in Safehaven. They were nippy buggers too, submarines firing torpedoes at such fast and mobile craft would be futile and surface missiles would be as effective as a chocolate toaster. Aircraft would be the only truly effective means of taking down the enemy and keeping the ASW shipping alive.

Recently though the ASW war had taken a turn for the best against the Merkar Navy with over forty kills on the score sheet and surface casualties steadily becoming far more reduced but still intolerably high by the Admiralty’s standards- this wasn’t war, it was general slaughter and the ship yards back home were not favourites of such losses. Ships of huge numbers were being pumped out everyday but the gradual increase of naval casualties over the past two years had been shocking and pressing on the ship yards- something had to be done about the constant casualties. The spectacular loss of and ASW helicopter to an over enthusiastic submarine had been a mild shock as it had been dragged underwater by the sub as it dived, deliberately taking the helo with it. But these fast attack boats were driving the Admirals crazy with rage as they dropped torpedoes in the water and disabled several ships in one salvo of missiles leaving it unable to move or fire or both and completely open to attack. Over sixteen ships had been utterly destroyed this way when the prowling submarines picked off the crippled ships before being hunted down by the survivors but it meant one submarine could kill two or three- sometimes four ships in a single sitting and have the possibility of getting away. Already three ASW search and destroy groups had been destroyed by one or two submarines simply because the missiles had damaged the ships to such a degree that defending themselves was impossible. The idea of send one of the Hanover EW cruisers to protect the groups was shunned away since there were only two in the splinter fleet and had to protect that rather than four ships in one group and two in another- a waste of time and resources that could be put to better use in the main splinter fleet.

The carriers Galactic, Wichita and Oakley had been given orders to fly sorties and remove the pests that were annoying the ASW groups who could easily lose the ASW war if things continued as they were. For a nation on the back foot, the Merkar Republic was certainly throwing everything they possibly could at the Royal Navy and it had irritatingly good successfulness at eliminating ships.

Royal Navy Third Fleet

It had been days, quite literally days of patient waiting for the large batch of EW cruisers from Stevid, slow and methodical (if not boring) snail pace advancing towards the enemy fleet of over three hundred ships that had escaped Kentagi Point Harbour’s destruction and formed up to create a large task force. But now the time had finally arrived, after all the patience and the extra addition of troublesome mines that constantly required corvettes to sweep from the path of the huge vessels of the Third Fleet, the Royal Navy was about to confront this seaborne menace of the Merkar Republic. Their morale had probably been on the up since Kentagi because of the recent successes over the Splinter Fleet, now was the time to hit back at the biggest enemy fish in this pond and it would surely be one of the biggest and most organised of any of Stevid’s naval offensives- if not the biggest. The RAF would be playing a key role in this attack with Safehaven providing the airstrips, aircraft, and tankers to complete this mission, the FAA providing the additional punch and protection to the fleet and the Fleet itself providing the big guns and big missiles to strike the biggest of the blows- the FAA and RAF could wipe up the mess afterwards if they really wanted. The goal was not to utterly obliterate the Merkar Navy entirely but to kick its front teeth in so hard that they daren’t oppose the Royal Navy ever again, but judging on the admirable willingness to fight back against the raw power this would prove to be rather difficult and a problem in the near future.

The crews of the ships and aircraft were extremely restless and desperate for some action, action and war they craved and almost gagged for after the long and boring trip down here to take on the enemy. It would no push over, in fact losses were probably over estimated since the enemy’s latest offensive around Bigtoa East (a term the Admirals and politicians had just grasped after the initial confusion). But the ploys and strategies were different this time and relied heavily on the RAFs initial attack although the mission could be completed without them, it would be far much easier with them. The bomber force that attacked the harbour and airports around Kentagi plus several more would raid first the city on Bigtoa and then move on to the juicier target of the enemy naval fleet, assisted by the FAAs long range missiles and the missile frigates and corvettes of the Third Fleet, moderate damage was expected to be achieved. The enemy had place, surprisingly to the Admirals, a lot of their carriers on the outer rig defences of their fleet. Either they had no planes or were there to draw fire was unknown and still had to be taken out one way or another. After the bombing and missile attack the fleet would advance closer to cannon distance and begin pounding away while drawing ever closer, in conjunction with air attacks and exchanges of cannon fire and naval sorties victory would come in about half a day if all went to plan.

Enemy naval codes remained un-deciphered despite the best efforts of the Defiler Class ships in the fleet and their best technology into cracking such codes and so the plans of the enemy were as yet unclear and so the guessing games began into the enemy’s possible strategy. Their missile defences were presumed to be good and their AAW systems fairly top notch but their ability to fight back was questionable, not much was known about their immediate capabilities or their amount of ammunition on their main ships and escorts. Supplies had been known to be on their way to the Merkar Republic from their war time ally Space Union who had sold them supplies. The coded messages between the two had been intercepted and easily decoded by MI6 who immediately informed the Imperial Foreign Office and the Imperial Ministry of Defence- as well as Number 65 of course. The enemy had help and had access to it quicker than Stevid did with Safehaven thus the invasion of Bigtoa and its total occupation was pretty much paramount to the initial start of the Merkar-Stevid Campaign in this war.

The battle would officially commence with the bombing of the major city Berkar and then the bombers would continue on their way and meet up with other bombers and fighter-bombers and escorts on their way to the enemy fleet. Once the ‘usual’ bombing of Berkar was complete, the Third Fleet would begin operations with the FAA and the RAF to soften the enemy fleet up enough to begin a major shelling and missile barrage. Retaliation missile strikes were definite but just how deadly they would be was still open to debate but this major naval offensive would have to begin and begin soon before the tide in the naval conflict turned towards the Merkar Republic. The slow reactions Stevid had made at the beginning of the war were now costing them dear, even though all the Stevidian forces were ‘up the ante’ now, it was still obvious that Stevid hadn’t totally capitalised on their successes at and after Kentagi point.

The Ribir Line

It was sort of surreal on the frontline of Stevid’s armoured offensive into Bigtoa, in fact the amount of self-propelled artillery units lined up on Army’s side was mind blowing- this many units hadn’t been fielded in decades, well at least not two hundred in one sector of engagement. The Stevidian generals were already confident in initial victory before taking the enemy 4th Infantry and Armour Division on in battle but in order to advance forward towards Berkar City and the 4th Division, enemy defensive positions along the Ribir Line had to be ‘removed’ from the war.

Several 155mm cannons crawled forward into position and pivoted on the spot a few minutes later, probably adjusting there angle of trajectory as enemy positions filtered through to the internal computers via the Damocles command and control APC a couple of miles away back at Firebase Bigtoa which was still under the mid-way point of construction. The artillery cannons had to clear a way to the large canal before hitting the defensive lines of the Merkar Republic along the Ribir Line, the capture of the towns and villages by the canal would be excellent in case the divisions fell back or needed quick re-supplying- but it was vitally important that the crumbling defences at the canal were shunned aside while the heavy and medium tanks with their light and heavy infantry units advanced with little hinderment towards the canal and finally onto the 4th enemy Division waiting for an attack. However one thing had to be completed at a time but as swiftly as possible, too many delays by Stevidian tacticians had cost Stevid valuable days of surprise and initiative during the opening phases of the campaign.

With the final adjustments made to their positioning, the artillery guns settled and awaited orders from command over the radio to begin the bombardment of enemy positions. The armoured corps were only three miles away and were ready to move as soon as the shells started falling and would mop up anything still willing to fight, survivors would have to be taken and imprisoned despite the three prison ships filling up rather quickly.

“Roger that FBB (Firebase Bigtoa)! Batteries commence firing!” Yelled a voice on the other end of every radio in the artillery battery, the pronounced British accent of the Major carried down radio without enhancement.

Several opened fire at once and the rest fired at will in different and sporadic sequences but all fired a volley in one go. This was not a rolling barrage either, direct attack on the enemy’s position was required now and not shock and awe tactics. Apparently with all the surrenders going on it seemed the enemy’s morale was crumbling at the seams and the foundations were cracking as well, the rolling barrage was used to decimate morale in hardened or fresh troops so in this case it would be a waste of ammunition trying to frighten already terrified troops. Huge explosions not too far away in the distance drew foundations of earth into the air and scorched the ground black as the soft defences took yet another pounding, except this wasn’t the usual bombardment as the noise of tracks rolling and engines revving in the distance told everyone for miles that could hear over the shelling that the armoured column was advancing yet again.

Black Lanner 2 PADSHA medium tanks took the lead down the flanks on the more difficult terrain and spied the woodland ahead for enemy tanks fleeing the trees in a bid of evasive action from the intense shelling only to run straight into the column of armour rolling at speed towards them. Several tanks appeared out of the woods and were met by a wave of direct cannon fire from the Black Lanner 2’s blow the turrets of four and crippling a further three. Return fire was sporadic and disorderly at first as the enemy shell glanced harmlessly off the Black Lanners, however to need to survive improved their accuracy and three Black Lanners disappeared in a cloud of smoke spilling from the inside. Two more were destroyed or crippled and were left motionless in open ground. More Black Lanners closed on the enemy’s position and the Iron Cheetahs were piling over the hills and washing cannon fire over the enemy tanks as they bulldozered through the enemy’s frontline. Artillery fire continued to smoke out the dug in troops but now they were pouring out of cover to flee the artillery fire only to face the massive armoured column.

This caught the column by a surprise momentarily but soon realised what was happening and the command ordered a halt to advance and ordered the artillery to change trajectory to fire on the edge of the woodland while the Columns Iron Cheetah PADSHA heavy tanks formed a line formation at the front and began blasting away at the enemy tanks and troops. Enemy troops on the ground were like large ants at this range and when the artillery shells began falling all hell broke loose. Fresh green grass and earth suddenly erupted into the air as the shells started to fall on their new estimated position and some scored direct hits on enemy armour cutting through it like a hot knife through butter. The enemy troops weren’t confused and disorientated and even coordinated with the tanks to knock out four Iron Cheetahs by concentrating heavy fire on each one, effectively wasting each. The line of Stevidian tanks joined the killing spree and let loose with a devastating volley of fire from the Iron Cheetahs, the Black Lanners, the Challengers (II, IIa and III). The battle lasted no longer than thirty minutes and when the artillery finally stopped their shelling the earth was nothing but a burned, twisted and warped mass of oil, blood and explosives. The Armoured column formed up back into formation and continued forward on their way, the artillery following in their wake with the big guns and infantry.

Breaking through the frontline was the easy bit, now the fun was really going to begin now that all that stood in the way of the canal and the armoured column was the 4th Infantry and Armour Division of the Merkar Republic Military and they would be no walk over. Allied AWACS and satellite imaging had proved extremely invaluable to the generals and command and control teams in the Damocles command APC at Fire Base Bigtoa, detailed schematics and profiling of enemy positions via spy photos and thermal imaging and IR tagging had meant Stevid forces in the air and on the ground had a detailed map and knowledge on what could be thrown at them in the next couple of hours. A certain tank cropped up on the Stevidian military database and registered as a tank that they had only recently encountered- a Broadsword- Tizonia- Alpha heavy tank. Royal Engineers had been extremely impressed at the internal computer technology and it survival capabilities were pretty incredible and so it had stood up to a lot of initial punishment, the technology wasn’t beyond Stevid’s abilities but it was certainly complex as far as tanks go- but this isn’t what scared the technicians and Royal Engineers or even the Army Generals and tank commanders. After reviewing and inspecting the ruined tank thoroughly they found that most of the technology wasn’t Athiesist but rather Macabeeian which meant they were up against some of the best tanks in the entire world. The tanks supplied by Clan Smoke Jaguar were also some of the best in the world and it would certainly be a clash of the titans when these two models battled each other. What also scared the generals was that these tanks were deployed in numbers, lots of them, around 200-280 of these beasts had been spotted and identified by the Damocles C&C APC. Enemy infantry was also heavy and so the regular Army and Royal Marines would finally see some decent action.

Initial battle plans were sketchy at best but it was assumed by most commanders that the Black Lanner 2’s amazing off-road speed and it ability to fire its cannon accurately at high speed while in difficult terrain would make it particularly valuable on the flanks and pincer movements and bursts down either of the flanks with infantry APCs seemed a highly logical way of assuring victory, but there were other ways of drawing the enemy in (or out) and achieving victory. It was also assumed (how correct this is open to debate) that the enemy’s 4th Division doesn’t have the ability to wage a prolonged fight indefinitely against the Stevidian armoured column and air force and would eventually have to break out or retreat after pressure from the invaders. The 4th Division’s experience and capabilities were yet to be seen and shown to Stevid and so it would be an unwelcome surprise to come yet. It would happen soon though as the Stevidian column continued its rapid advance, hell bent on taking Bigtoa in the name of the Empire.

RAF Strategic Bomber Wing 786- Vulcan

It had been a couple of hours since the wing of nearly eighty of the delta wing Vulcan bombers had taken off from a military airfield in Haven City in Safehaven, they were part of an even larger force of up to a total of two hundred bombers that would join up with another couple of hundred escorts from the RAF and FAA after usual bombing of Berkar City before moving on the strike the enemy naval fleet that the Royal Navy was teaming towards. The Vulcan was an old design, ancient by Stevid’s standards and totally and utterly inferior to other nations but it was still in use because of its physiological effects and ability to get things done in war. Of course they were refitted with the latest avionics money could by for them by the MoD and so they were just as useful and dangerous B2 Spirits and B6a Armbursts at killing things on the ground. 786 Bomber Squadron was a squadron with just Vulcan bombers with just over one hundred and fifteen of them and it was 786 Squadron that was the usual over Berkar city when it cam to bombing it and had so far made a lasting impression on the city. They usually stuck to bombing the outskirts and suburbs where the heaviest concentrations of suspected enemy positions were and the bombing was almost always indiscriminate- as long as lasting damage was done either to the enemy military or the infrastructure of the city it was a successful mission. This time however would be different.

786 Squadron would be sending eighty bombers, more than usual, to bomb Berkar City and then from up with three other bomber squadrons and make a move on the enemy Navy and hit it hard with missiles in conjunction with FAA and RN missile efforts before the major fleet engagement would begin. The other thirty-five bombers in 786 Squadron would be performing a simple and deadly bombing run on the 4th Infantry and Armour Division of the Merkar Republic to try and give the advanced Stevidian armoured Corps a better chance of removing it from play before Merkar’s allies got into gear and responded to the lightening attack on Athiesism.

Further more would be an attack by twenty B6a Armbursts on a new shipment of arms from Space Union to Athiesism- MI6 had intercepted the message to the arms market from the Merkar Republic to Space Union and it was a big order and would be lightly escorted for defence. Bombers alone would cut it and the bombers would be escorted by thirty XF-23 Nightwalkers and the bombers’ air to ground/sea attacks would be supported by XF-24 Scorpions killing off surviving ships and sailors in the water. They were, at the moment, twenty minutes away from striking the convoy of arms with an AWACS trying its best give enemy numbers and positions but tankers carrying the arms were easily identified and the target information was immediately replayed to the B6as and XF-24s. The Scorpions opened fire on the supplying tankers with the long range Gothic II anti-ship missile and then fired forward with the rest of the aircraft to go in hard against the Space Union aerial and sea defenders- how easy this would be would be unknown but the Space Union Air Force had a fierce and well earned reputation on owning particularly dangerous aircraft and had extraordinary pilots to boot too. The Nightwalker would easily be able to stand up to most opposition and hold its ground without being totally overwhelmed and out classed but the SUAF would certainly attack and kill with accuracy not seen by Stevid pilots for many, many years- this was expected and the pilot were also expected to not fully concentrate on the enemy defences but on the tankers transporting the goods to Athiesism and their frontline. Stevid still needed the advantage and this would hopefully continue until Bigtoa had fallen to the Empire.

786 Squadron continued on towards Berkar and were ready to drop their freefall payload on the city before moving on towards the enemy fleet.

Blizzard Squadron

Connolly and his three wingmen formed up in a four plane diamond formation and were also accompanied by Land Rover and Joseph Squadrons who had called up their replacement pilots for this sortie. The Soya missile boats were successfully harassing the surface fleets attempts at winning the ASW war and had taken down one too many surface escorts of Splinter Fleet Bigtoa and the Galactic was one of three carriers ordered to eliminate this annoying threat. It was part of the new ‘up the ante’ phase the Fleet Admirals were going through when every threat that presents itself has to be crushed as swiftly as it came thus improving results on the sea. This was taking its toll on the pilots of Blizzard Squadron who were forcing their exhausted bodies into the air to continue fighting. They could do it but it was a chore to do so every couple of hours, and landing while feeling tired was the worst experience anyone would feel.

“Blizzard here- form up and arm missiles. AWACS and Defiler reports that 30 of these boats are within twenty miles of each other in this sector and have to be ‘removed’. You are to maintain radio silence unless absolutely necessary- Big Mac, King, you guys split off and fire at will. Vixen, cover my six but you may fire at any target at will.”

“Big Mac here, roger lead! Hope you bag a couple but leave some for Vixen.”

The radios clicked off and Connolly did the same thing and switched warning notifications to the plasma screen in front of him so alerts would appear on there as well as audio messages from allies or wingmen. He smiled as Vixen pulled alongside him and the other banked off to starboard and hit the afterburner to close on the enemy boats. He took out his iPod and put in the ear phones, this would like shooting rats in a barrel so he might as well bend the rules a little, and switched it on. He flicked through the songs until he found “Down on Marie” by Little Man Tate” then put the player back is pocket on full volume and hit the afterburner and closed on the little ships that were still harassing the ASW groups and helicopters. His head uncontrollably went into a light nodding as the music blared in his ears just his he engaged the boats with his wingmen, Land Rover and Joseph Squadrons all the while constantly alert from enemy targets in the air or additional hostiles in the waters.
Space Union
13-02-2007, 23:03
Space Union Defense Industries Convoy - 200 miles from Athiesism Coast

Captain Trao leaned over onto the side bars watching the sea crash into his boat and cause it to rock lightly. A couple of days ago it was all sunny and bright yet when the convoy had entered in Athiesism's water, the clouds seemed to come together to form a storm that only god could create in fury. Perhaps this convoy was not meant to see the coastline yet even god's will seemed to not make a difference as the ship continued on to its destination, only 20 miles away from the position they had at the moment.

Only a few weeks ago, the Space Union government, who had not conducted anything of much worth in the War of Golden Succession, contacted the republic of Athiesism to aid them against the invading forces of Stevid. Space Union and Stevid seemed to always be at odds. When Space Union established the Greater Union colony in the "Great Colony Expanse" years back, Stevid and Space Union were near the brink of war as the two armed against each other. Eventually ties went cold when Stevid supported the Havenite invasion of the Golden Throne of Macabees, a Space Union ally. In response, the Space Union military was deployed to the region, though, the army and navy had seen little action. The air force had engaged in a light skirmish against Havenite aircrafts resulting in a victory for them but that was the end of those engagements. Later on, in a joint Mekugi-Union operation, Space Union and the nation of Mekugi, another ally of Space Union, teamed up to bomb the Havenite city of San Mercedez, a stronghold that was completely destroyed by missile launches by Mekugi and a massive bombing raid by the Space Union Air Force.

The San Mercedez attack alone caused a psychological impact to the Stevidian nation, who began to fear the SUAF as a real potential thorn that could get in their ways. But after the bombing, things between the two calmed down until the invasion came. Apparently, the small nation of Athiesism was prize land as it bordered the Golden Throne and was relatively small compared to the juggernaut that was the Stevidian nation. The Stevidians gambled that if they could gain control of the nation, they would have a basing point to stage direct attacks against the Golden Throne, a luxury they had not maintained beforehand. But on arrival of the news, the Space Union government had acted and immediately had Athiesism equipped with Space Union Defense Industries aerial equipment, what the convoy was carrying. The Space Union government was paying for 50% of the cost while they paid the rest.

The order of course was the difficult part. The Stevidians had created a blockade around the nation of Athiesism and trying to get a convoy through could mean the destruction of it. So instead, the nation of Athiesism had voluntarily given 10 destroyers to escort the convoy with. Alongside that, 30 SuB-4 Super Hurricanes laden with air-to-air missiles followed high in the skies, making sure nothing in the air would be able to get them. Four SuE-1 Scanners followed the Super Hurricanes, providing an eye in the sky, capable of picking up any large formations up to 800 kilometers away. Normally, fighters would have been sent to provide air cover but because of the long-ranges, the Space Union Air Force was providing the ultra-long-ranged SuB-4 Super Hurricanes for the use. Indeed, the SuB-4 could carry over 400 medium-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) or anti-missile missiles (AMM) in a maximum payload configuration, a note to its gigantic size that is unmatched by any other bomber in the world.

The convoys moved closer and closer to the coastline yet it was so far off. There lay still 200 miles worth of sea to navigate and cross, any of those 200 miles could spell the doom for the convoy. Even though it had the SuB-4s and AWACS covering it, Trao wasn't all that assured until he set foot on the land. He wasn't exactly sure why he had signed up for the mission other than complete boredom. What other time of year could you actually enter a fortified nation delivering arms with an enemy blockading the nation? If he was going to die, so be it but he still regretted the decision of coming. But what use was it now to maul the idea over and fill your soul with regret and beat yourself up? Die with some pride, not with a battered soul was a motto his father said and he still didn't quite understand, though, through the circumstances it made a bit more sense now.

Even while Trao commanded his convoy, high in the sky in the lead SuE-1 Scanner, Colonel Ision watched the screen with a steady glare, never letting himself glance away. For 40 years he had served in the Space Union Air Force and the one lesson he learned was never look away from a screen, because that's usually when mother luck through the baddies in. It had happened to him two times before but he had sworn after nearly getting his ass raped the last time that when given a job to look at the screen, he wouldn't look away unless he could hear his damn dead mother-in-law screaming from her grave pit 40,000 ft below. Even still, he switched places with the other crew members of the bird to let his eyes recover from the high doses of radiation that were put in his eyes. The human eyes were just not made for looking at a screen for 24 hours straight, or maybe just his.

The weary silence in the bird continued, hoping that nothing would pop up, until a loud beeping began to appear on the AWACS. Immediately Ision called out his other crew members, "GET YOUR ASSES OVER HERE MEN! WE GOT SOME BIRDS INCOMING!"

The crew frantically searched through the data that was streaming onto their screens. Apparently a formation of fifty aircrafts was heading straight at them from the north east direction. There was no authorization for any Athiesism birds and if there had they would have long since contacted them in advance. They could only be Stevidian birds. Ision shouted into his microphone and transmitted the message across the aircraft formation, "Incoming birds, 380, NE". The other crews began to get the tracking information from the four AWACS as they continued to scan the incoming formation. Apparently there were two types of aircrafts, 30 fighters and 20 bombers. The radars looked at the RCS and compared them with a database of aircrafts that were on the market and that the Space Union Air Force had encountered before. Apparently the bombers were Vulcans while the fighters were XF-24 Scorpions. They were definitely Stevidians.

"All birds, get into position to engage on mark."

Ision frantically switched to the screen as he sent the information down south to the convoy with Captain Trao. Hopefully he would be smart enough to provide some air defense from those 10 destroyers the Atheisist had provided, maybe not. But that did not matter, as long as the SuB-4s did there job, they could handle the formation. As the Super Hurricanes received the incoming data, they quickly began to have their onboard computers search for a lock on the incoming targets. The first missiles to be fired would be long-ranged air-to-air missiles designed intently to kill the large bombers. Five of the SuB-4s were completely laden with the SuAIM-801L Lightning Strikes. They had a maximum range of 450 kilometers, so the formation was well in range.

For a couple of moments, the air was silent as neither side could lock on to each other and fire any missiles. Finally the beeps came and locks locked, the doors of the SuB-4s swung open as they began the assault. The five SuB-4s fully loaded with long-ranged missiles fired first with each SuB-4 carrying 205 each but with only one fired its load. 205 SuAIM-801L went screaming out of the payload of the bombers as they went soaring to hit their targets. It took a few minutes as the missiles detached from the weapons racks and fell before igniting their rockets. The SuAIM-801L were aimed directly at hitting the bombers, who were large and unmaneuverable. The -801L had a speed of Mach 6 and could pull up to 25 Gs with its extra-reinforced body, making it incredibly dangerous to the bombers who couldn't evade the barrage of missiles coming at them at that speed. Even the XF-24s were in danger, as there were more than enough missiles to go around and target them. Anything the missiles detected after the primary targets were destroyed, were going to be targeted no matter what.

The rest of the SuB-4s got their missiles ready to intercept any incoming missiles that the Stevidians fired their way. The turrets of each SuB-4 came out of its body equipped with machine guns capable to acting like an airborne CIWS taking out any missiles that somehow, if possible, got through the screen of bombers firing their missiles. Once the bomber formation got closer, they would begin firing their medium-range air-to-air missiles, the SuAIM-801IR which would make whatever's left of the Stevidian formation into some nice light shows for the weary crew of the convoy. That or debris which would fall into the ocean and cause pollution that environmentalist hippies would run and get a field day out of for killing some coral reef that somehow got there overnight.

Meanwhile as the show continued in the sky, Trao pushed and shoved through the mob of people frantically either doing their jobs, trying to put up air defense, or go into fetal position and cry before their deaths came. Trao would scold the latter after this but for now all he wanted to do was save his ass and the rest of the crew, even if they deserved it or not. The destroyers immediately went on stand-by as their commanders used the information to use the ship-borne radars to get some locks on the enemy. The destroyers were equipped with the ultra long-range SM-3 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to deal with the incoming Vulcan bombers. Even though the bomber fleet had fired its missiles away, the incoming air formation had launched some anti-shipping missiles at their way. The SM-3s lit up as loud roars, loud enough to deafen anyone stupid enough to stand next to one, filled the ships and the tubes flew out of their VLS tubes and went skyward, leaving multiple smoke plumes behind. All the SAMs were fired to intercept the incoming missiles, 50 SM-3s in total. They were able to intercept many of the incoming missiles but some of them got through. The destroyers fired their CIWS at the missiles but only took out one.

The missiles slammed into some of the convoys, destroy four completely, heavily damaging three others and causing minor damage to 2 of the destroyers. Trao was lucky that his ship was one of the lucky ones that didn't get hit, though, some tears filled his eyes as he remember that a couple of his friends had just left this world. He bowed his head as one tear rolled down his cheek and his thoughts went to them and the families they left behind. But to him, this was not the end of an engagement, but the beginning of yet another battle ground.

[OOC: Stevid my apologies that my losses may be incorrect but I had to guess how many anti-shipping missiles you fired. I'll revise the losses once I get the numbers, though; they were still pretty heavy based on my guessing.]

Ayadi, Space Union - Chita House

The conference room was filled with shouting and despair as angry members of the cabinet through verbal assaults at each other. Satpul nursed his growing headache as the room looked like it was on the verge of a physical confrontation. News had just arrived of the Space Union Defense Industries (SUDI)'s convoy being attacked by Stevid, essentially civilians being attacked with military escorts. It was unprovoked and unneeded, even if it was carrying military shipments, though, the Stevidians couldn't possibly have known unless somehow the information got leaked. But he wouldn't be able to think about the idea clearly until this "zoo" of a cabinet had quieted down and the entire assembly could begin. It was time for some order.


The shouting of the Federate immediately caused a dead silence as everyone swung to his direction. His face was red from screaming so loud over the crowd. He was known for being a mild-mannered man who rarely shouted at anyone, even during tough times. But when the needs demanded it, he would not shy away from doing it.

"So now are you all paying attention? Good, lets actually have a discussion now and not just a brawl."

Every grudgingly sat down in their seats as they mumbled to themselves about something or cursing another person under their breaths. Satpul eyed the entire room to see if he had their attention before proceeding on with his discussion.

"Gentleman, was this entire fight nessessary? Honestly, are you zoo animals or humans? I expect more from my advisors because if this is the way you want to act don't wear those overly prim suits and instead go to a zoo and be naked for all I care. That's where you all belong."

Some of the members looked like they were getting ready to lash out, though, such a thing could cost them a job so they restrained themselves to cursing in their heads.

"Yes, yes, I know curse at me all you want in your heads. Your pride has been hurt but get over it. We have more important matters at hand. Today, Space Union civilians were attacked by the barbarians that live in Stevid. The damn fool nation attacked CIVILIANS! This is an outrage."

"Sir," spoke Interior Minister Kaul Bakar intensely, "Do not think we are all stupid. We know that you authorized the funneling of funds to buy Athiesism weaponry that was being shipped over there without our consent. Of course the Stevidians attacked them, any sane nation would have. This is illegal and once Chamber finds this out, they will have a field day with us!"

"Mr. Bakar, I understand your anger but I can not inform every person in this world what my intents are and do not accuse your superior of being disloyal of his office. I conducted perfectly within my boundaries. We are at a state of war with the nation of Stevid and therefore I have been authorized with the power to do whatever is needed to have them destroyed and hampered."

"At what expense? Civilians died today! That is not their fault but of your own. We just lost men and did you not even consider this?"

"I did consider this possibility. Those men who boarded that convoy knew exactly what they were up against. The Stevidians shouldn't have known that the convoy was carrying weaponry or of that sort. They must have intercepted one of our messages, it isn't all that unrealistic. We do it all the time with our enemies and hostile nations."

"Then what now? Do we continue this unfruitful war? In all honesty, I do not believe Space Union should even be fighting in this. What benefit to us does the defeat of Stevid have? I can't think of any. Does it expand our empire? No. Does it give us riches? No. Does it secure us strategic positions? No. THEN WHY THE SAMS HELL ARE WE FIGHTING THEM? For the Macabeeans? If so, then I further doubt this war over "friendship""

"Well apparently then, you have forgotten the meaning of friendship. Space Union is at war for its ally. Would you not be rambling right now if our allies did not come to aid in the case of some god forsaken invasion of our homeland? That’s what allies do. I would think you of all people would know this."

"I do know this, but I also know that everyday we put our men at danger. Stevid is incredibly powerful, including their navy. They would turn our navy into fresh meat if they ever attempted to invade Space Union. Is that a chance you wish to take?"

The Defense Minister shot up out of his chair in response, "You think they could mount an invasion of Space Union? They would be destroyed. Our air force would completely dominate anything they would throw at us. Without air superiority, how would they win? We would easily destroy their supply lines, wreak havoc upon their troops, and drive them out to sea where we will eventually destroy them. And if they blockade us? Easy enough, we'll use our gigantic logistic arm of the air force to have food, water, and supplies shipped into Space Union and we'll have our neighboring nations allow trade through their nations to us. We already do. The Stevidians wouldn't be anywhere stupid enough to actually attempt any invasion of Space Union unless they wished to be completely and utterly destroyed. So why bring this up?"

"Akshar has a point. We have no need to worry about any repercussions from this war other than the fact that are men are out there. But our men volunteered for the job and they will do it. Space Unionist have pride in our nation, a nation that is democratic when the rest of the world seems to be sliding into dictatorship and monarchy."

"Thank you Mr. Federate, I wish to now propose that we begin shipping troops out to Athiesism. They have already contacted us and given us clearance to deploy forces over there to begin helping. We would be able to get back at Stevid and at the same time destroy their war machine. If we defeat them in Athiesism, imagine the psychological defeat of such a matter. This could tip the war toward our side's balance even further and facilitate the weakening of the Stevidian Empire. On your orders, we will deploy the 1st and 6th Air Armadas along with 2nd Armored Free."

"Very well, you have my confirmation."

"Thank you sir."

The Federate motioned for everyone to stand up as the room was cleared and the Federate moved to go outside. As he walked away from the conference room, Harman Sidhu, the Foreign Minister, moved up close to him to engage in a conversation,

"Sir, do you believe this is the best path? If this gamble fails, we might give Stevid a needed psychological gain. Imagine how much a moral boost they would get if they gained control of Athiesism. We could be playing into our own demise."

"Well that's the chance that we play in life, is it not? The bigger the risk, the more you are out to lose but at the same time the more you could win. Let god handle the rest and our commanders. I have faith in our military and our beliefs that we can prevail over the Stevidians."

"As you say, Mr. Federate"

[OOC: My apologies to anyone who I incorrectly spelled their name/adjective and please correct.]
26-02-2007, 21:48
As much as he regretted it Kassem had to make do with the translation of the book that he had in hand. From what he had heard and remembered from his youth Qusay knew that his mother tongue was less crude than this. But although Kassem handled Arabic well enough to speak it with fluidity he could hardly handle the written language with such smoothness, having never thoroughly learned it from his illiterate parents. Sometimes Kassem was satisfied with watching the beatiful Arabic lettering dance across the page as he filled in the gaps in his understanding with his own imagination. But he badly needed something that he could read. The ruffled, slightly torn Koran he had purchased off the internet hardly possessed the beautiful quality of the original, ancient script, but at least he could understand the language- Merkari English.

The tallest parts of the city of Berkar could be seen in the distance, although most view of the shore was being blocked by the Annihalation's escorts. The city carved out an artifical day in the night sky, but it was not enough light for Kassem to read by; he bent down to search his cockpit for the flashlight. In spite of light-discipline regulations he pulled the light out from his underseat cargo compartment and shone it on his Koran. Qusay began reading were he had left off. He had been studying Sura XIII for the past day as he settled into the boring shipboard routine. There was precious little for a pilot to on the carrier. The constant scramble sorties of the past few days had been replaced by uneventful patrols and alerts as the Stevidians stayed clear of the fleet's air-defense screen. Occasionally an enemy would tempt these defenses, but only at night. Kassem, considered the best pilot onboard, was given the 0500 watch- the enemy usually sortied against the fleet only at this time of night. Not that they were likely to try anything risky today, though, considering that they had not yet made any attempt to lash out at the Athasism Fleet. Major Obasanjo predicted that the Wing likely wouldn't see combat for another week. To alleviate some of the boredom the MRS Annihalation's captain tried to perform as many drills and inspections as he could, to keep his crew sharp, but this was not enough- Kassem had to find something to do with his sudden surplus of free time. The only intellectual stimulation he could find did not come from his depressed, war-weary squadron mates, but from the only book he had brought with him, his Koran.

If only I could get a few more people to read this, he thought. The Athiesist nation had a lot to learn. It was a wealthy country, far wealthier than any that he had seen before, but it was now held down by a spiritual cavity. They refused to unite themselves together behind any one ideal. There were too many Merkaris acting on their own, without even a real culture to unite them, much less a religion. Perhaps this had doomed them to defeat in this war. Qusay had decided by now that there was no escaping his fate and that he needed to do his duty as a warrior as best he could whether himself or Merkar survived the war or not. But the rest of the squadron, for that matter the whole Merkari military and people, had been overcome by a feeling of hopelessness. It seemed that noone onboard the Annihalation thought that the war could be won, and although they had no way to escape their military duty- for fear of execution- it was obvious that these "soldiers" had no particular desire to fight the enemy. The Koran gave Qusay so much solace at this time because it told him what these atheists needed to do- the Merkari had grown shiftless and had never been reverent or principled, but if Merkar was to survive it would need those two latter qualities.

Qusay flipped to the next page and began reading slowly and carefully. He wanted to extract every bit of worth he could from the ill-formed translation which offered neither the prose or detail of the Arabic text. Besides, there was plenty of time to waste as he sat in the cockpit waiting for a sortie. His eyes read down the page until they came to a halt at an interesting sentence.

Lo! Allah changeth not the condition of a people until they first change what is in their hearts.

Qusay gave a small forlorn smile. How appropriate, he thought. Exactly what I was thinking. Just as he began to ponder the sentence more deeply his radio began to crackle with static. It could only be another mission. Qusay placed his Koran in his pocket as he listened to the transmission.

"Salmon, this is Lamprey, scramble, scramble."

* * *

Almost everything that was left of Merkari naval aviation took off from their carriers and turned east into the rising sun to confront the enemy bomber force. Previously the Stevidians had not challenged the air defense perimeter of the Athasism Fleet, but now at least 80 jammer signatures, beleived from Vulcan bombers, had been detected heading towards either Berkar or the Fleet. This was apparently being timed to coincide with a Stevidian attack on the missile boat flotillas on all sides of the Fleet position. Su-35Ks circled over the fleet waiting for the rest of their squadron to take off. As the morning twilight turned into a red dawn, 50 Sukhois set course for intercept.

Lieutenant Qusay Kassem now controlled a fifth of Merkar's entire air force. His squadron, Salmon, was flying slalom down Berkar's streets as it readied for contact with the enemy. The bombers were now confirmed to be heading straight for the city, a valuable target that Merkar could not afford to leave unprotected. Berkar's incredibly tall arcologies were blocking the Fleet's SAM coverage of the city; only aircraft could deal with the threat.

"This is Eel. We're getting painted by enemy radar... not clear what it is yet."

Major Obasanjo's voice came onto the radio in reply. "Recieved, Eel. Salmon, Tua, and Goldfish, engage burners and enter formation at checkpoint."

Kassem edged the throttle forward until he felt it lock. A second later the engine responded with a low roar as the afterburners came online. He saw the HUD's speed tape race upward and the buildings close faster; to compensate for the added speed and shorter reaction time, Qusay nosed slightly higher to rise above the thicker pylon formations. He was now at five thousand feet, no longer completely covered by the buildings but still hidden by some of the taller ones. Up ahead he could see the checkpoint- a glass superstructure perched on top of a gray arcology, the same type of monotonous gray arcology that lined seemingly every street in Berkar.

"This is Eel, they've locked us up... Nighthawks!"

A shiver went down Kassem's spine. He had yet to meet these Nighthawks, but he had heard plenty of them. The Kunais and Scorpions he had seen were fair players; if it wasn't for the age of the Sukhois electronics it would be an even fight. But the Nighthawks were something that Qusay feared. With their stealth it would be impossible to lock them up on radar until you were already dead; the only way that they could be spotted was by RWR, and Qusay had tired of all the false alarms that his RWR was giving him over the jamming-drenched battlefield and had turned it off. Qusay felt a bead of sweat run down his side.

While he was thinking this Kassem had not noticed the tube structure his aircraft was racing toward. He was one and a half seconds from death before he was stirred from his thoughts. He straight-armed the joystick downward. The hundred pounds of pressure he put on the joystick forced through the breakthrough system, letting his plane bank downward at excessive g-force. He heard the tips of his tailfins crumple on impact with the one-meter-thin transport tube. This impact pulled Kassem's plane out from its dive, and Qusay continued flying straight. Kassem had learned not to panic at these moments, though, and his jarring encounter with death only made him more focused. He would be seeing the enemy again soon; this was no time to worry about minor damage to your airplane.

Qusay banked around past the glass building at the checkpoint. It was a fairly tall structure that could be seen from miles away despite the lack of light in the morning. As he passed by he saw it shudder from his sonic boom. It was only now that he realized he should have ordered his wing to slow down, but it was too late; his wingman caused the building to shake even more as he followed Qusay, and the third aircraft to fly past finally shattered the windows that held together the building. The image of the rising sun reflected by the building's side fell apart as millions of glass fragments made the five thousand feet descent to Berkar's lowest levels. A few clouds of coppery red mixed with the gleaming glass on their way down. Qusay pressed the joystick radio transmit.

"Salmon 1 to squadron... watch for debris."

Qusay pulled up sharply after completing his turn. The rest of the squadron, following in trail, pulled up early to avoid the falling glass. Without needing to be ordered the squadron tried to form up into an uneven line. Qusay throttled down to allow his squadron to catch up. As he climbed above Berkar's skyline he saw the distant bombers, their white bellies illuminated by the rising sun. It was easy to mistake the Vulcans for flying whales; their vast white undersides stood out starkly against the red morning sky. Below, the city abrutly gave way to dense jungle.

Major Obasanjo entered the wing comm net. "Tua One to wing, targets in front of you. Engage and don't waste missiles."

Qusay pressed a joystick button to enter dogfight mode. His infrared seeker automatically aquired a target. Qusay saw a box appear around a bomber in his HUD and pressed the targeting laser to claim his prey; an instant before he did so, though, the word TAKEN appeared in the center of his HUD. He cycled to the next target, fired his laser, and achieved a solid lock. This bomber crew would not be returning home for Brit tea.

A distant fireball caught Qusay's eye. He looked left to see Goldfish squadron already tear through the enemy formation. A bomber had exploded, its pieces falling apart like a smashed Legos house. Goldfish, Tua, and Salmon flights had a clear shot at the 80 enemy bombers; Eel wing, twenty unarmed Su-35s flown by second-rate pilots, had flown high to get the attention of the enemy escorts and lure them away. Eel ejected once the enemy had wasted their long-range missiles on them, giving the rest of the wing a few minutes to play with the bombers.

The sky was now being saturated with falling metal and stricken bombers, but the radio net was quiet- like it was meant to be when the team was focused. Kassem hoped that he would have enough time to escape and layed his gunsight onto the target. He reduced throttle to give his gun platform more stability. The range counted down to no more than two thousand meters before Qusay let free a string of 30mm rounds. He aimed for the target's left engine as best he could and pulled up just before colliding. He snapped his head to the rear to study the target. He just now noticed that the bombers were attempting clumsy evasive manuevers, but it had made little difference. The target was riddled with holes but kept flying. Qusay banked around hard, his body feeling amazingly heavy from the g-force, and was ready to make another pass. But when the target came into view again it was upside-down in an uncontrollable dive, the dim red sky reflecting off the cockpit. The Stevidian roundel on one of the wings was smothered in engine smoke.

A woman pilot came onto the radio. "This is Goldfish one, we're getting kills."

Kassem smiled as he swiveled his head around at his squadron, watching them maul the defenseless bombers. He keyed the radio to report.

"This is salmon, we're tearing them up!"

Qusay lined up a bomber in front of him as he waited for the reply of Obasanjo's wing. He was riddling his target with shells as the Major radioed.

"Tua One to Gold and Salmon. Continue your mission. My flight is going to delay the enemy interceptors."

Kassem aborted his run and pulled above the target. What interceptors? Eel is supposed to handle them. Is Major trying to get himself killed?

"This is Goldfish One... err... Tua, how many interceptors are inbound?"

"All the Stevidian escorts. It doesn't concern you, Gold. Fire off your missiles and cannon and return to base."

Qusay almost blurted his response. "Tua One, we need to get out of here. If you're going to fight them I'll send my squadron to help, otherwise you'll get-"

"Destroy the bombers, Salmon."

"Major! Major Obasanjo, you can't survive thi-"

"You have orders. Good luck, Comrades. I am turning off my radio."

Kassem cringed. A pilot follows his superiors and there was nothing he could do to save the life of his friend now. He would remember the Major as a stern yet approachable man who suddenly decided to die for his comrades even though he expected no afterlife to come out of it- why did he do it? The Major was the one man that he had known all through this confusing war but in the next minute he would be dead. Men don't cry, but that is true only when pain is temporary. He would miss Major for a long time, or at least longer than the others he had known who had been killed by the enemy. There would be time to think about that later. For now, Kassem was occupied with firing off his last burst of cannon before heading home.

Tua Flight was heading straight for the Stevidian fighter group. The leader of these Stevidians was most likely distressed by the fact that 60 of the Vulcans had ended up on the jungle floor before even dropping their payloads but well over a dozen had survived- an impressive force if precision-guided munitions were to be used against strategic targets. But a few of the enemy fighters had broken off to fight him, and he was ready to engage.

It was unusual for the spineless Merkaris to sacrifice themselves so readily for their comrades. He had already wiped out a flight of enemy that hadn't even fired back. Now, Major Obasanjo was barelling toward the Stevidian fighter group and the Stevidians were feeling surprised. It seemed that something had changed about the Merkari- they were not fleeing, but fighting. The Stevidian pilots had noticed this in their last few sorties, and some were almost concerned now that a flight of Merkaris was going out of their way to meet them.

At twenty thousand yards the Nighthawks obtained a radar lock on their enemies and fired. The Merkaris could pick up only a few of the stealth fighters and either fired all of their missiles at a handful of planes or launched their weapons totally unguided. After the volley, both sides broke into evasive manuevers, with the superior Stevidian missiles having a clear advantage. 8 aircraft of the outnumbered Tua flight went down in the long-range exchange. The Stevidians swifly closed to finish off the damaged survivors. It was a lopsided victory- two Stevidians downed and one damaged in exchange for twelve Sukhois.

The first aircraft to take a hit during the brief engagement was Obasanjo's. The Major had flown out in front of his reluctant squadron to coax them into battle. They listened to him, and one of his last sane thoughts was his admiration of his men for their unexpected courage. His aircraft was hit by two AMRAAMs and sent into an uncontrollable spin. Only a thin central section of the aircraft remained and Obasanjo was certain that it would explode in seconds. He ejected as fast as he could despite his aircraft's dangerously high speed and g-force. He was tossed out of the aircraft at an awkward angle, contorting his spine until he lost all use of his body below his neck. His emergency beacon activated a few minutes before he hit the ground but was lost in the battlefield's electromagnetic cacaphony. The paralyzed Obasanjo was left to lay on the jungle floor for four days while maggots and red ants found their uses for the latest carcass. Obasanjo had been a superbly healthy man, but this could only give him more days to live when he couldn't see a reason to. The good health and lack of movement of the paralyzed body meant that it would not soon succumb to dehydration, even in the steamy jungle, although that would have killed Obasanjo quickly. It was only after a scavenger arrived to gnaw what meat was left on his body did he loose consciousness.

* * *

Lieutenant Gichin Yamato watched the Seagulls dissapear over the horizon. He couldn't make out the masts of the enemy ships, but ESM intercept was enough to know where they were. He felt lucky to get this far- now, with the flotilla's missiles expended, they would need to run home.

"Gichin! Ground spotters report enemy aircraft heading for us. The Commander orders air attack drill."

Yamato plucked at his beard. So maybe they would not get out of this so easily. "Helm, pattern Yankee. Execute."

"Got it."

"Brace for manuevering."

Everyone inside the pilot house grabbed onto the nearest handle or pipe. The order was hardly necessary- everyone knew what a swerving 80-knot patrol boat was like. The crew was thrown into the turn as the Soya banked right. The sailors at computer consoles simply held onto their desks, but Yamato had to flatten himself against a wall and hug a portruding pipe. The rest of the flotilla could be seen out the window as they weaved back and forth. One of them seemed to be sliding in front of Yamato's boat, but the helmsman corrected at the last second and veered hard to the left.

The electronic warfare officer spoke up. He was one of the few people onboard who addressed the Captain properly- Yamato was to be called Captain, not his first or last name. "Captain, we're being painted by radar. Stevidian surface search, it's an air radar."

Yamato walked over to the stairway and yelled down it. "GENERAL QUARTERS! BA-" Yamato was thrown back by a sudden evasive turn and fought to regain his balance. He slid back over to the stairwell and grabbed onto the railing tightly. "BAPTISTE AND OBULO, READY MISSILE!"

Gichin backed away from the stairs to make way for his two ensigns. They knew that this could only be an air attack. The two sailors appeared seconds after Yamato's call, dashing up the steps and into the pilot house. Half of Baptiste's chin was covered in shaving cream; Obulo was trying to wipe a food stain off her shirt. Both glanced briefly at Yamato as they ran out the door onto the deck.

Gichin adressed the pilot crew. "Stay here. Stop evasive manuevers, helm." The crew nodded and went back to their computer screens. Yamato followed his ensigns outside. Obulo had broken open a case behind the pilot house and had pulled out a long green tube. She turned on the SA-18V SAM and waited for the green light to appear. The missile was ready.

"Baptiste, get out of the way. Do you see-"

Yamato was scanning the sky as he spoke. He suddenly noticed a white line, like a flat, low cloud, on the horizon. They were getting shot at.

"I see them!"

"Check safety and fire at will!"

Obulo pulled the safety off the trigger and carefully aimed at the cloud. Bits of white foam were leaping onto the deck as the Soya rode high on its hydrofoils. The deck looked unusually high off the sea- with hydrofoils being used, the craft was several feet off the water.

Yamato heard the SA-18 growl with satisfaction as it found a target. The white cloud had broken up into individual missiles. "STAND CLEAR!" Obulo shouted. Gichin's eyes focused on her trigger finger. She yanked hard on the trigger, and... nothing. "Shit!" all three people said at the same time. It should not have come as a suprise- these missiles were old, of Russian design, and had seen a lot of salt water during their time on the boat.

"Toss it overboard! Baptise, get the next one!"

Obulo wanted to lower the tube for just a moment to look down the back end of it. An instant after she could see down the tube the missile ignited, searing off part of her right neck and reducing her right breast to a bloody stump. The missile dented a railing as it darted into the water, and Obulo fell over backwards, frozen in shock. Yamato ran over to see what he could do. It was only when he stood over her did he see flames forming on her clothes; he slapped at them to smother the fire. He reached under her arms and began to drag her into the pilot house. As he went through the door he saw his disheveled XO run up the stairs.

"XO, take care of this." Gichin knew that everyone was looking at him, but ignored it, without even glancing at his XO's face. Yamato simply dropped the body and ran back out to check on Baptiste, who was still standing on the deck staring at the incoming missiles.

"Ensign! Grab the SAM!"

Baptiste turned toward Yamato, wide-eyed.

"What are you doing!"

Baptiste's eyes followed Obulo's trail of blood on the deck. After a few seconds of waiting, Yamato lost his patience and yanked his pistol from his holster. He quickly fired a round at the deck. The 9mm round ricocheted off into the water, but this was enough to get Baptiste's attention. He ran to the crate to grab the last missile and readied it for launch.

Yamato looked left, into the pilot house. Everyone was focused on their work rather than the drama unfolding outside their air-conditioned computer environment. The ECM dish on top of the pilot house began to rotate- the electronics warfare officer was doing his job. Obulo was nowhere in sight, no doubt being patched up below deck. And a deafening screech told him that Baptiste had fired his missile safely even as many of the Soyas had already exploded in the distance. Merkaris were doing their job all around him, and Gichin was merely observing. He wanted to do something. He faced the cloud of darting missles and pulled out his pistol. Yamato followed the drill he had performed so many times over- it didn't matter that he was out of range. Load magazine. Chamber. Aim. Breathe. Fire. Adjust aim. Repeat.
05-03-2007, 20:02
The Defiler Class command cruiser sitting comfortably in the Third Fleet, just before engaging the Merkar Republican Navy, was watching everything that was occurring over the sea where the Royal Air Force were busy engaging the convoy. No one had expected such a large aerial escort for the convoy and especially not the SuB-4 Hurricane which were undoubtedly the Block 10 variant and so a 100% successful strike would no longer be guaranteed and the inevitable had happened, Merkar’s allies had finally responded to their pleas for help and had acted accordingly by confirming Stevid’s worst fears- contested air space. Space Union would be an extremely difficult enemy to win over in the air and so air battles from now on would be extremely fierce and bloody since the SUAF was probably the best air force in the world. While far from invincible, the RAF would now find it terribly difficult to keep the air superiority they already had, the war had taken a sudden step in the wrong direction.
The Defiler Class had immediately informed the AWACS, the Royal Navy, Stevid and her allies and the bomber/fighter-bomber wing that was attacking the convoy of the presence of the SuB-4 Hurricane super bombers.

Rather sportingly of the enemy, although it was more likely to be a logistical move, only one Hurricane fired its anti-air payload at the bomber force but only after the RAF had launched their missiles at the civilian convoy. The Scorpions were had a better chance of surviving with their agile movements, sturdy airframe and crack pilots at evading missiles than their slower and far more vulnerable Vulcan Bombers. Their avionics may have been top notch and up-to-date but the airframe was as constricting on movements today as it was during the cold war and so its huge turning circle would be its down fall. They tried to evade the missiles as best they could by dumping flares, accelerating and “manoeuvring” as best they could and they did manage to avoid being struck by several of the enemy phenomenally fast missiles before the next wave shot them to pieces. Three minutes later not a single bomber was left in the air and several more minutes afterwards there were only two surviving ground based Scorpion fighter-bombers that were making the trudge back home to the Safehaven mainland.

All was not lost for nothing however, two or three important convoy transports carrying parts for some of the units the Merkar Republic ordered from Space Union were hit by the Gothic missiles which were designed for taking out super dreadnoughts and major capital ships and made little work of the cargo vessels that quickly sank beneath the waves. If anything had been achieved this day it was that the war effort was well and truly slanted in Stevid’s favour despite the arrival of a few Space Union aircraft- although a few may soon turn into hundreds.

Number 65 Lowlands Road, Stevid, Cabinet Office

Conroy sat down with the rest of the War Cabinet and heads of the three military branches of Stevid for their daily meeting to discuss the war against any nation at the current time. The Merkar Campaign was of course at the top of the agenda list today.

“Ah-hem… Thank you all for attending again.” Conroy started with a smile. “We will be focussing solely on the Merkar Campaign today since hostilities with Kanami are now practically over seeing as we are inviting them down here within the week. So, the naval front first- Admiral West?”

The First Sea Lord to the Royal Navy opened a folder which listed the major details of the current sea campaign in the west which included logistics, battle reports and other interesting things to do with the sea campaign.

“We are currently engaging some missile patrol boats that have been harassing our surface ASW squadrons. The Fleet Air Arm, I am told, are about to engage them and remove them from combat and we should have the final figures in a couple of hours. On the ASW front it is going better than originally planned now that we are taking fewer losses now than before, if we hadn’t acted sooner then the Navy’s numbers will have been significantly reduced by now. Err… Splinter Fleet Bigtoa has been relieved of its duties as an invasion force and will begin full ASW combat as soon as possible while Royal Fleet Auxiliary Bigtoa is on its way to its next target…which, as we agreed will be kept secret and seeing as this room may not be totally secure I won’t divulge the name of the island- nut you all know it any way yes?”

The room nodded silently. Bigtoa was 82% controlled by Stevidian forces and two firebases had been erected: Firebase Bigtoa (FBB) and Firebase Tripoli (FBT)- FBB being the biggest and most complete with two long runways now in full operation and twenty concrete helipads fully completed. FBT was the forward most firebase and was pretty small and used as a fuel dump and ammo dump and was constantly feeding the frontline troops with essentials. With Bigtoa almost completely under control, the next target had to be spied out and this had already been decided upon but after the mass hacking Stevid has suffered before the Bigtoa landing meant that surprise had only been achieved by a single day and losses would have been far greater if it hadn’t been for the swift action of the Royal Navy. A new target had to be taken with more ease than Bigtoa and for more intact than Bigtoa.

“Air Marshall Hanes?” Conroy said beckoning the Head of the RAF.

“Yes sir. We have perfect control of most of the air around Bigtoa and the Royal Navy, err… Safehaven air force bases have proven exceptionally helpful at launching bombing missions into the Merkar Republic. On the subject of bombing missions, the major cities on Bigtoa are being bombed mainly in the suburbs while military bases like air fields and army bases are taking the brunt of our bombing. In regards to our attack on the Space Union convoy- well it almost totally failed.”

These raised many eyebrows in the room including the Prime Minister’s although they all knew probably why it had failed.

“Enemy super bombers removed all but two of our attack planes from the sky at the cost of only a few kills on the convoy. Not hits were scored, not even a single missile, on the SUAF formation of Hurricane super bombers.”

“Well that confirms it.” Said Conroy. “Space Union has answered her ally’s call. Late, but at least they’ve arrived to help them. This has taken a step in the wrong direction. Action is instantly needed and the FAA and RAF will have to play a key role. Suggestions people?”

Head of the Stevidian Army, General Swiss raised a hand and began speaking.

“I suggest full co-operation between the army and air forces to prevent this foe from presenting itself too much. Space Union has just made a single contribution to this campaign so far but it is bound to get bigger with both air and ground assets making an appearance. I’m sure the navy will be more than able to cope with another foreign navy, or even two foreign navies, if they entered the theatre.”

“What do you propose?”

“Space Union has one of the best bomber forces in the world, probably the best which makes them one hell of an opponent. But planes, like all planes, need a place to land and Space Union’s super bombers don’t exactly need a short runway- these things need monster runways to get in the air and land again. Now they have incredible range which means not many will be based in Merkar but they may need airstrips for emergency landings. Also Space Union’s conventional air force, like their fighters and fighter-bombers, they need air strips, especially in the Merkar Republic if they are going to stand any chance of winning an air war over here. Even with re-fuelling air craft runways are needed for the VC-10’s or their SU equivalent aircraft. Space Union needs air fields and lots of them.”

“Then our mission is simple really.” Said the Chief Air Marshall. “Do what Hitler failed to do to the RAF in World War Two. Eradicate the enemy force by targeting the air fields.”

“Precisely.” Replied General Swiss. “Bomber Command will have fully command over the destruction of enemy air fields while I will help with the co-ordination of the SAS and SBS special forces. If both branches work together then we will have removed the majority of air fields that Space Union can use before the bulk of their air force gets here. It is a long way from the Merkar Republic and Space Union and the SUAF can’t just abandon their commitments to the Macabee/Safehaven frontline. Fresh reserves will be needed to be brought in to assist the Merkar Republican armed forces. Time is on our side.”

“We must remember that this will not kick Space Union out of this campaign. Their super bombers have range as do many of their smaller air craft but the removal of most military and civilian runways, air fields and airports will give us a much needed advantage in the air over Space Union. Neither will this give us victory in the air, we’ll have to fight harder still but the last thing I want is two thousand SUAF fighters and five hundred super bombers trained on our military units in and around Merkar. The removal of major runways will help us win this war, but we have to move fast. Bomber Command and the special forces unit of the army will be in full swing of this but the Navy’s help will be needed. Surgical missile strikes directed by Special Forces should be used as well.”

“Fine cooperation is needed to win this war on the other fronts. This had better work…”

Bigtoa, The Ribir Line and the 4th Division

This was it, the biggest test the Army had faced in the war so far. In face of the long range military might of Mekgui and the aerial ferocity of Space Union, this would be a decisive battle in the Merkar/Stevidian Campaign as the infantry and mechanised units of the landing forces approached the new frontline of the defending Merkar republic forces. The steamroller of the Stevidian Army had brushed aside all opposition with ease so far and had advanced so far inland that it would go down in history as one of the most successful blitzkrieg actions in modern warfare. The supply routes had not been over run and so the advanced had continued forward without worrying about running out of fuel, and two firebases (one of them now of a significantly huge size) were fully operational and functioning. But the 4th Armoured and Infantry Division of the Merkar Republican Army were standing between Stevid and the Ribir River that was strategically important to Stevid’s war efforts and abilities to quickly shuffle in supplies from the sea. The resistance had to be crushed, immediately and swiftly to guarantee the collapse of the Ribir Line.

The attacks came in a simple form with aircraft buzzing above the 4th Division and pounding them from on high, MLRS units several miles East accompanied by conventional self-propelled and towed artillery also began direct pounding of the fortified line which was not quite so densely built up with foliage. The plumes of smoke and muck soared into the air but did little more than act as minor softening up of targets and physiological warfare, the Merkar Forces were heavy entrenched and dug in ready to fight whatever Stevid threw at them. The heavy tanks that they had bought were powerful technologically as well and so this would have to be countered as best as possible both in the air and on the ground. Jammer craft and a Damocles command APC had been drafted in to provide ECM/ECCM support.

The first tanks began rolling forward, the incredibly fast Black Lanner 2 medium tanks with the heavy armoured tanks of the Iron Cheetahs rolling up the middle with more support from the Challengers behind them. Bombardment increased, aerial attack intensified and then the ETC guns of the light, medium and heavy tanks began to silence sections of the 4th Division. As expected, the returning fore was far more disciplined, concentrated and intense in comparison to the past engagements and several Challengers exploded almost instantly as the massive wave of Stevidian tanks washed over the hills and ploughed towards the Ribir Line. Four Black Lanners took several direct hits and equally disappeared in orange and white flames as the 4th Division kept up the resistance. The stubborn Iron Cheetahs rolled faster and faster still towards the Ribir Line, each taking several glancing shots each without hinderment to their advance. Lucky or perfect shots that hit the Iron Cheetahs put them out of action in definitely, shots to the tracks or good shots to the turret with the best armour piercing shells stopped some Cheetahs dead in their tracks.

It seemed that although the 4th Division were providing excellent resistance and gunnery, they would not survive the encounter. The wave of Stevidian tanks was destroying more Merkar armour then the Merkar military were destroying in return. With artillery and air support, the landing forces quickly swept into to Ribir frontline where the 4th Division were placed and the initial carnage was over. Intense resistance was scattered at best and so the conventional infantry men were deployed and order to eliminate enemy troop resistance and light tank attacks. The Royal Marines were not present at this engagement and were busy defending the Firebases but proper Army regiments were on the scene now. Cadia and Sunderland Regiments were the main infantry fighting force and soon the morale of the Stevidian troops and drivers was lifted further still as the friendly sound of marching bagpipes playing the exitlude tune to “Dance of the Swords” sounded throughout the organised ranks of the Stevidian Army.

The battle for the Ribir line was an ongoing one really since enemy resistance hadn’t just crumbled and left. The 4th Division had failed in the goal to stop the Stevidian advance altogether but they had succeed in steaming the already fast paced advance from the beach and would continue to do so for hours. The Blitzkrieg had finally ground to a halt.

Other less intensely defended parts of the Ribir line were taken on by infantry, light tank and gunship support of the 13th Foot Light Infantry Division and the 8th Army Air Corps while the main sister armoured Corps took on the Merkar 4th Division several miles down the front. Four key towns were targeted by the entire invasion force, two just past the Ribir and the 4th Division and two after the river where the main armoured Corps was regrouping to cross. Undoubtedly the Merkar military forces were systematically destroying the key bridges along the river to stop the armoured corps in its tracks on advancing on Berkar City. A noble effort by the Merkar forces that would have to be overcome with the use of a very archaic but rather successful tactic of many historic years past. Royal Engineers were already using VTOL C-5 Galaxy’s and other heavy lift helicopters to bring in the massive amounts of materials needed to construct bridges across vast rivers just in case all the main bridges were destroyed by the enemy.

Firebase Bigtoa

Three star General Jamie Blake Holloway was second in command of the entire landing and invasion operation of Bigtoa and was on the army’s own committee for the whole Stevid/Merkar Campaign, he was a man many had respected for a very, very long time after having served during the Holy Panooly Civil War many years ago which earned him General status after several crushing victories over rebel forces twenty miles south of Volta City. Stories of the battles he directed and won are usually broadcast almost daily on Stevidian history channels and he has many ears in the Stevidian Parliament.
With Firebase Bigtoa nearing total completion, it was fast becoming one of two nerve centres for the entire ground operation in the Merkar Republic (the other nerve centre being the Royal Navy) so whenever a new operation against the enemy was being planned all the major generals would be called to Firebase Bigtoa to begin discussions. Holloway had no idea what this mission was about although he did know it was about the aftermath of the Ribir Line. The enemy 4th Division had been tough but victory had been assured for some time during the battle but the enemy had bought lots of time for themselves and the bridges across the Ribir River were now at threat of being destroyed. It might have something to do with that or it might be about the some what shocking news that a small battalion of nearly two hundred and fifty men were beaten back by only a handful of Merkar soldiers after a disastrous attack on an enemy position in the far North of the Ribir Line.

Holloway nodded to a sergeant who look as if he were nodding but realised he was listening to some music on an iPod or something, he wasn’t a fan of all this modern technology one could just buy in the shops now and so carried walking and entered a half submerged concrete bunker near the centre of the firebase where the meeting would take place. When he entered the large oval office only four people were present, a secretary who would be recording the minute and three other generals of which two he didn’t recognise. He did recognise one who was highly decorated and wore a lapel with five stripes indicating a five star general: this was Five Star General Thomas Guntrip who was the C-in-C of this whole operation. He invited them to sit down and they did so and thus the meeting began.

“Thank you all for attending this, hopefully, short meeting but we need to act fast on the situation that has developed after multiple victories across the Ribir Line.”

“Do you mean the bridges General?” Holloway asked quickly to get the apprehension of his chest finally, he had work to do and he wished he colleagues would be a little more prompt with their speeches.

“Yes Holloway, the bridges across the Ribir River. We have reason to believe that the enemy will systematically destroy each and every key bridge across the entire front. Now, while we can’t prevent this happening across Bigtoa and the Ribir Line, we can prevent it from slowing our main armour and infantry force heading towards Berkar. Our forces are not too far away from the river but are still fighting in plains and villages across the line and we need to wait until most of the resistance has been exterminated before we move on. If the enemy manage to counter-attack while the rest of our invasion force advances then it seriously complicates matters.”

“If we don’t act quickly then we will lose momentum and advantage which will leave the door open for The Macabees or Space Union to become directly and heavily involved.” Said one of the two other generals who Holloway did know or particularly wanted to know.

“Exactly!” Replied Guntrip “That is why we are here now to discuss plans for the next stage of the engagement. I’m sure you three are more than fully aware of the British expedition Operation market Garden that was undertaken during World War 2?” All nodded. “Where Market Garden failed is where we will prevail. We know the enemy’s capabilities, strength and weaknesses in general, we are close to the Ribir River and have major air superiority for the time being, that is until Space Union can bring her full aerial force to bear on the conflict. Market Garden required speed to win the day and while the operation was 90% successful, it didn’t complete its primary mission of liberating the city of Arnhem. I’m not looking to push for Berkar like that, we’d be slaughtered, but the capturing of bridges is vital to the war effort and even if one or two bridges are still intact it will provide enough time for us to move equipment over the river. I’m looking to the 3rd and 17th Airborne Division to accomplish this goal by seizing the small towns by the bridges and holding out by taking the bridges and waiting for the arrival of the armoured corps that will punch through whatever resistance remains and pick up the airborne boys. We have the 3rd Airborne Division in Safehaven while the 17th Airborne Division is base in Southern Rubet Island.”

The generals then continued to confer over the logistics of the whole operation and just how they would go about it. Like Operation Market Garden in the 1940’s it was a dangerous and very ambitious plan which could take massive amounts of casualties if the enemy got wind of the operation or understood exactly what was happening. This time it would be less complicated for the invasion forces to ride on to their targets seeing as they were within tens of the river and the bridges and if all less failed then the Royal Engineers would have to set about making the bridges from scratch, but this would be time consuming and to guarantee the survival of the bridges they needed to be captured and the explosives disarmed. Allies of the Merkar Republic had responded but it would take time for them to become fully involved in the campaign and so Stevid still had time to make one or two major breakthroughs in the enemy’s line before allies responded.

Final plans were completed and it was decided that three major bridges, codenamed Alpha, Gamma and Omega, would need to be captured to ensure the armoured and infantry corps, which had now grown to five hundred thousand men, could across over the Ribir River and continue assaulting enemy formations after that. Air cover from now on would be slightly less since the RAF were now targeting every proper and officially large/medium sized runways and airports to deny Space Union any pit stops when they could fully bring forces to bare against the Stevidian juggernaught. With most of Bomber Command and the RAF’s fighter-bombers concentrating on the airfields of Merkar that were still operational, the armoured corps would have less air cover than before with most coming from carriers that could spare the air craft to fly for the Army and Royal Marines.

The orders were given, the 3rd Airborne Division would fly from South Safehaven for Bridge Gamma, the most important bridge because it was the largest and was able to carry lots of heavy goods vehicles judging from its construction, and the 17th Airborne Division would fly from Rubet Island in Stevid and split up in to Groups A and B and capture both ends of bridges Alpha and Omega and await the Armoured corps to fork their way over the three bridges and be relieved.


Connolly banked his plane round soared over the four kills he had achieved as the hydrofoil missile burned before sinking to their underwater graves. This part of the sea was littered with Soya Class missile boats so no wonder Splinter Fleet Bigtoa’s ASW efforts were becoming a deadly chore, with these nimble things firing at them there practically nothing they could do but sit tight and hope for the best. Connolly fire his cannons at a missile boat positioned perfectly in his crosshairs and let loose spraying the sea and the boats- swiftly turning the thing into Swiss cheese. His HUD displayed a message that flash four times in red Kill Confirmed as the AWACS and Defiler Class command and control units confirmed the kill via radar and IR tracking and tagging.

Connolly smiled as he saw Vixen and Big Mac work together to sink three more in almost as many seconds before forming up with himself and King to watch the show below. HMS Oakley and HMS Wichita had some fine pilots, some were flying in combat for the first time, greens, and they were killing for fun. It was great experience and although most hadn’t seen combat they were still flying and killing like professional aces that had fought in several wars. Their intense training showed in the flying and it made Connolly even more proud to be flying in the Fleet Air Arm.

“Okay that’s enough Blizzard Squadron, assuming you’ve exhausted your missile and shell count, lets head back for the Galactic. Let Oakley and Wichita finish off survivors.”

Blizzard Squadron turned and burned back towards the Galactic. It had been a day of mixed fortunes for the FAA. While the attack on the Soya Class missile boats was a rousing success, the FAA had taken losses during combat. HMS Galactic was fortunate enough to lose only one plane and the pilots had managed to bail before their aircraft plummeted to the sea. HMS Wichita faired a little worse with the loss of four planes to shoulder launched SAMs, however HMS Oakley came out worst with the loss of six aircraft, most of the pilots were green and had limited experience in real combat which had ultimately cost them their lives. A tactical victory but with unanticipated losses and although in the grand scheme of things the loss of a few pilots was not very much, it hurt morale- no matter how high it was.

Morale hadn’t had a good day either. While still incredibly high because of the Army’s successes on the ground, the loss of an entire Vulcan bomber squadron had seriously dented morale of Bomber Command and the Royal Air Force. The escorting planes had been fooled into being drawn away from the bombers to only a few enemy planes while a secondary force of Merkar planes took down most of the bombers. Some managed to drop their payloads and devastate parts of the city while some didn’t even have enough time to push the launch button. Despite the bomber escorts managing to completely decimate the aggressor fighters with an overwhelming victory with numbers and technology, the bombers had been almost totally wiped out and it was a tally that would rank very poorly on Bomber Command’s and the RAF’s list of engagements.
12-03-2007, 20:43
One of the last things Major Obasanjo saw before falling into the jungle was a lone Merkari-marked helicopter. He thought nothing of it other than slight remorse for the unfortunate passengers who would soon be hounded by Nighthawks. He had not recieved a distress signal from it- either the pilot's radio was being jammed or the helicopter crew had consigned themselves to their fate. That same helicopter had been sitting on top of the Harten Real Estate building several minutes ago as General Cherhaven waited inside, cleaning his rifle.

"Yes, Ivan, I'm cleaning my rifle." In most situations like this, Arba's S-3 (operations officer) would come up with some badly-delivered innuendo, but this time he was merely curious.

"I don't have a problem with that, Arba. It's just not something most generals would do."

"Comrade, you know what's expected of a Merkari general. I can't get my division commanders to do it, but I'm going to get out there and see what's happening. And I'm going to be close enough to the front to shoot the enemy, so why not try?"

"Division commanders? I know this isn't the army you grew up with, Arba, but you can't expect that of them. As your intelligence officer, I wouldn't do what you're going to do. Stay in Berkar. The front lines are falling apart and if you try to get to the front and fix it you'll be dead."

"Dead? You're telling someone they're going to die. You'll never be politician, Ivan."

Only Cherhaven chuckled. Ivan's face remained somberly neutral. Ivan had not field-stripped a rifle in some time, and although he had thoroughly learned the action by drill it was instructive for him to watch Arba clean the AR-15M. Cherhaven noticed that his S-3 was still present, watching Arba's hands at work, and turned to him to speak.

"Soldier, don't you have a job to do?"

"You're right. I'll be leaving now, Arba."

Ivan stood up from his seat and slid the door open, letting the loud hammering noise of the fuel pump into the soundproof helicopter. He closed the door behind him, returning the Sira's interior to darkness as it was cut off from the morning light. Cherhaven went back to cleaning his rifle. He had excellent night vision, but he needed it less and less as the light let in by the Sira's windows turned from twilight blue to an early-morning red. The sun was up. They would be taking off soon.

The quiet thrumming of the fuel pump stopped. Arba looked at his watch- they had stopped fueling early, for some reason. The door slid open, and Ivan clambered inside. He was panting slightly.

"Update on the enemy bomber formations."

"They're still inbound?"

"Yes. We were correct, they're sending some to bomb Berkar. This building is going to be rubble in about ten minutes."

"The fleet?"

"None heading for the fleet, although they might change course. The Admiral is scrambling everything but has decided against using SAMs."

"You ordered the fueling hose to be disconnected so we could get out of here?"

"Yes. The bombers will be here in ten minutes, and even if you don't have a full load of fuel we need to get all our helicopters off the ground... it's your call."

"Good initiative, Colonel. Call everyone on the intercom and get them to the bomb shelter. Tell General Speer he's in charge of the building now, understand?"

"Yes... sir."

Arba began to crack his knuckles and went back to reassembling his rifle as if nothing important was happening. Ivan studied the man for a moment, confused at how relaxed he seemed to be, and then climbed off of the helicopter. Cherhaven was too focused on his AR-15 to mind the world around him. A few seconds after Ivan left, though, he realized that he had other things to do. Cleaning his rifle was a relaxing activity for him, but it was for another time. Arba walked through the cockpit entrance. The pilot and copilot were mumbling things to each other as they checked gauges and displays.

"Are you doing checks still?"

The pilot kept scanning a display without turning her head toward Cherhaven. "General, we heard you guys. We have enough fuel to make it to the Ribir, barely. We're skipping the checks and we're ready to take off right now."

"Countermeasures aren't primed, sir." The copilot had turned to face Cherhaven and spoke with a hint of fear.

"Don't worry, Comrade. The Fleet is scrambling interceptors. We should be covered."

The pilot said something while Arba was talking. The copilot turned back to his controls and adjusted a throttle. The engines began to spool. The slow swirl of the rotors slowly picked up to the Sira's distinctive hacking noise. A hand touched Arba's right shoulder, and he turned around towards the cargo compartment. Several officers had got inside, somehow- perhaps Cherhaven had not heard the door slide open. Admiral Smith's hand was on Arba's shoulder.

"Sir, I took everyone I could find and brought them with me."

"You... you're supposed-"

"Take a seat!"

Cherhaven grabbed onto the side of the cockpit entrance as the helicopter lifted off.

"Like I said, you're supposed to be in the bomb shelter."

"I know, sir. I just loaded as many people as I could into the helicopter, on my initiative... it'd be safer..."

"We're going to the front, Admiral! This helicopter isn't any safer than the shelter... well, there's nothing I can do." Arba took a seat at the back of the cockpit as Admiral Smith returned to the passenger compartment. The Sira snaked above the tall buildings of Berkar, avoiding the streets which would tunnel enormous winds and throw the helicopter around in turbulence. Cherhaven was sitting in the electronic warfare officer's seat a far corner of the cockpit. Apparently, this officer had not made it aboard in time. Arba had been ignoring the flashing lights and changing icons on the electronic warfare console until a shrill noise sounded. Arba looked at the display to see a red airplane shape labelled "XF-23" appear on a circular screen. He had hardly an idea of how the console worked, but he understood enough to know that something bad was happening.

"Pilot, it looks like, uh, there's a red thing on this screen." The pilot and copilot glanced at each other for a moment and came to an unspoken understanding. The copilot unstrapped his seatbelt and walked over to the display.

"Trish, it's Nighthawks."


Arba was about to ask what was happening as the copilot returned to his seat, but stopped himself. He knew what was happening. Everyone onboard knew- the Stevidians were coming to kill them all. Arba heard a man start praying in the passenger compartment.

The pilot pulled back on the stick to slow down the helicopter and slid left to position the Sira over a street four thousand feet below. The helicopter lost a ground surface to generate lift from, and it dropped slightly. The pilot reduced throttle more to accelerate the drop, and the Sira plunged deeper into the maze-city of Berkar in an attempt to shield itself from enemy radar. The electronic warfare console screeched again.

"General," the copilot said, "The Stevidians still have lock on us. It's been a pleasure serving under you, sir."

Arba shook his head and walked toward the pilot and copilot. He saw a cordless handset resting between them and picked it up, hoping it was a radio. "Is this radio tuned to Guard frequency?"

"Yes, sir. But we're being jammed."

Cherhaven sighed and put the handset to his ear. He heard a loud, oscillating buzz, but ignored it. He keyed the radio and began to speak.

"This is General Cherhaven, Commander in Chief of Merkar, to any aircraft in the area. We're under attack. There are enemy fighters after this helicopter, all aircraft, you have orders to cover us." Arba's eyes met with the pilot's for a few seconds before the pilot faced the windshield again. She began a slight evasive movement from side-to-side while remaining in a hover. It wouldn't save their lives, but neither would with radio call.

"This is General Cherhaven, all fighters, I'm in a helicopter and we're under attack." The only reply to Cherhaven's tense voice was the loud buzz, again. They would never get through the jamming. Arba held back a sigh and turned toward his seat. In the passenger compartment, several officers, most of whom he knew to be atheists, had joined in prayer. Cherhaven understood what they were trying to do- if they had a chance to save themselves, they would take it, regardless of how low the odds were. Cherhaven's desperate radio request had been a type of prayer- it was a call for help in a hopeless circumstance. Arba sighed and returned to his seat as the helicopter banked back and forth.

Once again, he was the frightened teenager sitting in a basement in Mosk. This would be the last time. He and the dozen people seated behind him would soon be either torn apart or burnt down to the bone, or falling thousands of feet to the ground. The electronic warfare console began to beep angrily. The prayers behind him seemed to grow louder to be heard above the beeps. Some were in English, others in Krashnyy, one in a language that Arba could not recognize. Well, perhaps this was not like Mosk. He would not be alone- a dozen other people would die with him, hoping for an afterlife that would not come.

The beeps changed to one solid tone. Arba heard an aircraft in the distance, and then a terribly loud, very close ripping noise. He instinctively turned toward the passenger compartment to see smoke leaking out of a hole in the wall. A woman screamed. The copilot said something about the left engine in an almost calm voice, and the helicopter began to wobble. The smoke was drifting into the cockpit, stinging Cherhaven's eyes. This is it. I'll be killed by the smoke, by a crash, or by a bullet. Arba closed his eyes and held his breath. It was best to be calm. The prayers in the passenger compartment had grown even louder, to the point of shouting. They had to, in order to be heard above the woman's screams.

"General, General, look!" It couldn't be important. Arba kept his eyes closed and resisted the urge to resume breathing. The pilot spoke again.

"General, one of the Stevidians was shot down... we're getting out of here!" Cherhaven opened his eyes to see the buildings sink below the helicopter. This couldn't be happening; why were the buildings collapsing so quickly? He saw that the smoke had been reduced to a haze, and began breathing. Seconds later, he had enough oxygen circulating to break out of his reverie; the buildings were not sinking, the helicopter was climbing, and a Stevidian Nighthawk was falling out of the sky in front of them. The Sira's turbines built up to full power. The engines on the large, heavy helicopter whirled to a frantic beat as the chopper shot skyward. It pulled clear of the buildings and then nosed down to begin moving forward. The meat-chopping noise of its powerful engines made the helicopter seem reasurringly muscular; it was a tough aircraft that had survived a Stevidian strafing run, and now it was rushing home.

"I don't think we should risk heading to the front with this damage, sir. Should I land with the fleet?"

"Good... very good, pilot." The helicopter was now flying stable. Cherhaven stood up from his seat to walk to the windshield, stepping carefully to avoid falling over due to the helicopter's forward tilt. He grabbed gently onto the pilot's seat and looked to the left. Off in the distance he could see five dots flying in formation. White trails, missiles, were closing with them. The dots broke to evade, but it was no use. All but one of them began to trail smoke; a few exploded spectacularly. Three of them kept flying, turning back around to confront their enemy. They had survived the missile hits and were ready to fight; those had to be rugged Merkari Sukhois. Arba was convinced that they had heard his distress call. He believed that the Merkari pilots were giving their lives without hesitation to give Cherhaven time to escape. He lowered his head and felt his heart sink. Arba knew that there was no good reason for so many people to die in his place. He knew that they trusted him. To Merkar, Cherhaven was the closest thing to an idol that the people had found since President Mirk Singra, and even then Singra was now on Alpha Centauri, leading spaceborne Merkar that seemed so distant, so separate from Athiesism. Cherhaven had never enjoyed it before this point, but he was the new leader. What he saw out the window were stupid soldiers dying for the sake of an idol.

As Arba looked down he could see a river of blood forming around his boots. The helicopter was inclined forward so the blood from the passenger compartment was leaking into the cockpit. The woman's screams had stopped at some point, and now he could hear movement in the passenger bay. Some people may have died. At least one person, the one who had been screaming, was certainly wounded. Their was a conversation occuring in the compartment about bandages and first aid. The uninjured officers were handling the cleanup- Cherhaven did not need or want to see what was happening, and closed his eyes as he returned to his seat. His brief sadness began to recede. There was a reason why those airmen had died. Arba Cherhaven was the most important man in Merkar. He was holding the nation together in a stacked war, and he was doing his best to fight in it. Arba was worth ten other lives. He was worth ten, one hundred, a thousand, anything short of what he was fighting for- the whole nation of Merkar. No more tours of the front. Cherhaven was going to stay alive. He was too important to sacrifice.


"So, how many hours do we have left now?"

Smilovitch straightened his back and began to move forward. He reached in front of him to set his soft drink on a table and stood up.

"Achebe, you know that I can't answer that. If the Stevidians decide to resume the attack in our sector we can only hang around for thirty minutes to hold them off the Ribir. You wanted my honest opinion."

The division commander slid off of the table to walk closer to Smilovitch. "Exactly what I hoped you'd say. As sad as the situation is, I'm happy that everyone know's what's really happening. Especially for your unit." Achebe turned toward the map in the front of the room and slowly walked toward it, trying to take in whatever subtelties of terrain he had not already spotted. "Anton, you're the most important point in our line. Everyone knows that. They know that too." Achebe paused for a moment, but Smilovitch interrupted just before the General could resume speaking.

"So, still no reinforcements?"

"Of course not. The Stevidians are going to throw everything they have at your point. So far you've repelled a light attack, but you've already had to pull back and we're not going to send our main forces to smash into the enemy's spearhead. It's standard doctrine. Live with it."

"I know, sir. I was just asking."

"Good, now let me talk. I came here for a reason." Achebe spread his fingers over the north-central part of a map of Bigtoa hanging on the wall. The map was hopelessly outdated, showing only the Stevidian beachead positions four days ago and the front line back then, but noone bothered to update it. The Merkari army was retreating too fast for anyone to bother.

"Here is you." Achebe gestured toward the half of the 8th Division still holding out east of the Ribir. "To the north of you is 2nd Brigade. On the opposite side of the Ribir is the rest of the 8th Division. I came here to check on your unit, which I've done, because you'll be covering 2nd Brigade's and your own unit's withdrawl across the bridge. The Stevidians have lost momentum, or at least it seems like they have from where I'm standing, and we've had time to prepare the Ribir Line. Your unit is to withdraw to the bridge and keep it secure as what's left of 2nd Brigade gets across. I can trust you, Anton. I heard that you did well two nights ago against the Stevidians."


"Better than 2nd Brigade."

"Comrade, you're not fooling me. It was luck."

"You're being irritated, Colonel. I got the impression that your unit was in good shape. You need to tell me about it."

"We first made contact with the Stevidians on the 4th. It was just their lead company coming at us after they cleared the forces in front of us. We were surprised like you that the conscripts didn't hold out, but we shouldn't have been. The recon battallion made an assault on the Stevidian company. They blunted it, we got a lot of good recon on the enemy, but we took heavy losses. The Stevidian advance came on the 5th, and the recon batallion and the UGS (unmanned ground sensors) spotted the Stevidian main effort as a pincer movement to our southern flank. I withdrew the recon force to the rear and went with 2nd Batallion in the north to strike the flank of the enemy spearhead. 3rd Batallion was already holding the southern flank in the jungle at Kagos. It's a Krashnyy commune, They complained about us stationing troops there, but they couldn't move us."

Anton paused for several seconds. Achebe tried to make him continue. "Right decision, Colonel. What about the battle?"

"Sir, the defense in the north went smoothly. The programmed smokepots worked well. The enemy couldn't see us, and we used our radar in brief bursts to knock them out. I was with them, sir. We totally destroyed the enemy northern flank. In the south, we had pure armor guarding the jungle. The Stevidian infantry infiltrated through the woods and surrounded. I sent a relief force."


Another pause. This one lasted only a second as Achebe grew impatient. "Colonel, tell me the rest of the story."

"General, a lot of my men died that day. That's what happened. Understand? What do you want to know? Kagos was infested with leg infantry and I couldn't break through to them. We set the woods on fire with Tarantula fire, but we couldn't stop them. We lost everyone, okay, sir?"

Achebe knew that it was entirely Anton's fault. The General had recieved some radio calls during the battle before a Stevidian shell destroyed the enciphered communications relay. It had been enough transmissions for Achebe to see what had happened- the old business owner Anton had been overwhelmed. War did not go as he planned. It had not followed his schedule. He had counted on his artillery to stop the enemy infantry, but had been caught totally off-guard when it failed and he was totally unable to improvise. Smilovitch was not a man that could think on his feet, but there was noone to replace him. His executive officer, perhaps, knew the Brigade and could fill the slot. But Achebe felt that it was too late to change any command personnel now. As much as he wanted to reprimand Anton, he wouldn't. The Merkari officer was among the best trained in the world after his or her years of academic training and expensive field exercizes. Even though the same could not be said of the enlisted, the officers were expected to be excellent tactical minds, and Anton's performance against long odds was merely average. It had been Anton's first battle, and if he kept up this performance he would be dead by his second anyway.

"Comrade Smilovitch, I needed to know. I hope that I can trust you with the next mission because you're the only force that we have left. I want you to hold the Yaska Bridge for six hours for your brigade and 2nd Brigade to get across. How you accomplish this is up to you. Coordinate with 2nd Brigade, I'll trust your initiative to make a plan. I have to go now."

The division commander's departure was as blunt as his farewell. He was already headed toward the door by the time he finished his sentence. Achebe opened the door, showing the tall jungle trees outside which blocked sight of the sky. An hour later, Smilovitch was again looking at the sky. The ride through the countryside seemed even bumpier and dustier with the hatch open, but Smilovitch preferred traveling like this for the fresh air. The tactical reason for doing so, of course, was more important. He had a much better view this way, and that made the difference between spotting the enemy first or getting shot first.

"2-1, aircraft, ten plus clicks, 12 o'clock high."

Anton swiveled his body around to the front of the tank. His vision was failing him, and he couldn't see a speck in the wide blue sky. He lifted his binoculars to his eyes and began to scan. Almost immediately, he saw a string of dots trail behind a large aircraft. It made no sense to him at first, but he soon realized what was happening. Paratroopers were landing near the bridge ahead.

Situation, 1800 hrs., Jan 6th 2017

Map (

Only light screening forces were alloted to the Merkari defense in the center. The main resistance in the center came from laser-guided 155mm artillery shells fired from the Athasism Fleet. They were only able to create a harassing level of fire, and the Stevidian airborne troops secured a bridge in the center after light fighting. In the north, the Stevidian advance in the 13th and 8th Light Infantry's sector went smoothly, crossing the Ribir and securing the northern bridge despite fierce resistance. In the south, though, the Stevidian paratroops were only able to establish a small bridgehead, and came under heavy artillery fire which attempted to damage or destroy the bridge they had secured. The Stevidians made almost no progress in the south as the Merkari armor hung back from the Ribir and picked off Stevidians as they forded or crossed the canal.
19-03-2007, 21:39
OOC: A tad rushed in places because coursework and social life really pressuring me now- soz in advance
Bridge Gamma (The Middle One)

The paratrooper drop had achieved all that was required of an air assault in the initial stages and in the case of Bridge Gamma everything went right. Surprise was achieved and the town targeted by the paratroopers were attacked within hours of the drop. A grand total of nearly thirty thousand men at Alpha and Gamma Bridges alone were dropped in and were accompanied by thirty tanks each. The 3rd Airborne Division attacked Gamma Town and Gamma Bridge within four hours of landing and met sporadic pockets of fierce enemy resistance which took time to subdue since an “All Gunz Blazing” attitude was exactly what the generals wished to avoid. Intense collateral damage to any of the towns would seriously weaken their strategic value.

As it was, the towns offered a fair amount of resistance before the infantry/vehicles were destroyed or surrendered. Few buildings were massively damaged but the main target was not the population centre but rather the bridges. It took several hours of fighting, but Gamma Bridge was successfully taken from the Merkar Republic and was placed firmly under Imperial control. The best way to take a bridge is from both ends and the Army’s armoured column attacked the East while the 3rd Airborne Division assaulted the West side and annihilated survivors caught in the middle. It was similar story in the North at Alpha Bridge but the armoured advance there was stemmed several hours later after the bridge was taken. Preliminary reports for both battle sectors put losses at a “Low” for Gamma Bridge but “High” for Alpha Bridge due to a concentration of stubborn enemy forces defending the bridge and town.

The rest of the 17th Airborne Division attack Omega Bridge in the South. Hoping for a swift victory the troops infiltrated the town and took several key positioned buildings over looking Omega Bridge and radioed the armour corps to begin moving towards the bridge. By this time Gamma Bridge had fallen already and Alpha Bridge was looking like it was about to fall into Stevidian hands and so the Stevidian push had to be halted somewhere and it would be at Omega Bridge. The Merkar ground forces counter-attacked the paratroopers and horrid urban warfare broke out. Intense artillery shelling from the Merkar fleet at sea and also ground artillery pounded paratrooper positions while they fought to save themselves. Stevidian helicopter gunship support from the Royal Navy and Army Air Corps were the only assets that kept the paratroopers in the fight and prevented a total defeat and the line was held- barely. Fifteen Thousand paratroopers were dropped in to take Omega Bridge and only five thousand survived the encounter. Stevidian Armour did make it across the bridge for a few hours but most were kept on the occupied side of the river because of enemy armour firing on Omega Bridge. Excellent gunnery from the Merkar gunners enabled over thirty kills in the first opening hours of the advance across the bridge. The paratroopers were unable to attack the tanks because of the urban fighting and so the armoured corps sent only trickles of tanks across the bridge while intense shelling commenced to try and suppress the lethal guns of the Merkar Republic. What tanks did get through were immediately shoved into action again to try and breakout the paratroopers from their beleaguered positions in the town. Three quarters of a mile of Merkar territory fell to the Stevidian advance in the south and the fighting is still ongoing with a steady but somewhat tedious flow of armour crossing the river whenever allied artillery and missile batteries can throw enough firepower at enemy tanks to suppress them long enough for the Stevidian tanks to make it across the bridge.


Firebase Bigtoa-Command GHQ

The invasion force’s general headquarters was situated near the centre of the now huge firebase. It was a half submerged reinforced bunker with a chain link fence around it with only a singe gate in it to permit entry, and that was guarded by two Royal Marines and pillbox with a mounted fifty calibre heavy machinegun. Firebase Bigtoa was now very large and was constantly growing due to the constant stream of supplies and upgradeable facilities the Royal Fleet Auxiliary kept flying in. It now had a sizeable runway just long enough for C5 Galaxies to land and take-off from, seventeen helipads with two refuelling stations at each, a fifty foot reinforced concrete wall with heavy armour plates facing outside the compound that could be easily fitting into slots along the walls in case they needed removing and replacing after damage. The walls had modified ramparts and every fifty metres along the wall was a bunker on the top each with a different mounted weapon inside of it, it could be anything from a machinegun to a mortar, an RPG launcher to and AA gun. Inside the compounds were many barracks and armouries, a marching ground for company inspections, a car/heavy goods vehicle garage, a makeshift tank hanger, small aircraft control tower, a separate compound for electronic warfare and C&C APCs, catering huts and toilet facilities, a large firing range adjacent to the firebase, and scattered rather liberally inside and outside the firebase were AA guns (manned and automated) and mobile SAM sites. Not only that, the Firebase was now fully operational and had a direct communication feed with commanders in Stevid, any AWACS overhead, allied spy and communications satellites and most importantly, the Defiler Class cruisers in the Royal Navy Third Fleet. This firebase was probably the single most powerful fortress in the Merkar Republic- as far as allied commanders were aware of anyway.

Today however was special at Firebase Bigtoa since there was a lot of activity around the hub of the firebase, the GHQ bunker, where several generals were inside with air marshals of the Royal Air Force and rear and fleet admirals of the Royal Navy. They were discussing the next big Move Stevid would be undertaking to win the war in this theatre as quickly as possible.

Gathered around a large table, everyone was seated. There was no real head of the committee in this case and in practise nobody answered to anybody because they were all high ranking officers that greatly respected and admired each others achievements in their careers. Fleet Admiral David H. Wilson cleared his throat loudly to help ease the chattering and murmuring voices of those gathered a round the table. He smile and began to speak.

“Well ladies and gentlemen of His Majesty’s Armed Forces I’m glad you could all make it. Today is our “weekly” gathering when we discuss the next stages of attacks and also discuss how the war on this front is progressing. You’ve all received copies of the agenda and there is one item I know you are all eager to get onto… but all in good time. I think we should start with General Whitely of Army’s infantry airborne elements; General, what news do you have on the two paramilitary divisions we sent in?”

A stocky gentleman of nearly sixty cleared his throat as well and opened a thin file that he had laid on the desk and began to read out his report to everyone gathered.

“Well the paratrooper drop succeeded on all fronts sirs and madams, in the North we have Alpha Bridge, in the centre we have Gamma Bridge and in the South we have Omega Bridge. Err… I’ll give it to you brief people, all bridges have been successfully taken. Some were more difficult to take than others as I’m sure you are all only too aware. Alpha Bridge was the least important of the three but is strategically valuable to the war effort on this front. It has been taken but there has been a high degree of losses on the 17th Airborne Division sent in to take the town and capture the bridge. The army’s other ground infantry division also took major casualties in some areas of the city Tanks losses were not quite so high but we have lost some major armoured units in the North.” He paused and took a sip from a glass of water everyone had been provided prior to the meeting start. “Gamma Bridge was the most important of the three because it can take the most vehicles and weight, it is also strategically placed for a major advance on Berkar City and two was captured with little damage and few casualties. Respect from the population will be more difficult but the main advance will almost certainly via Gamma Bridge so the sight of rolling armoured tanks should quell any resistance.”

He stopped and looked up from his file and his face was drained of colour and the sombre look on his face and the equally sombre tone in his voice told the whole story about Omega Bridge.

“I’m afraid the same cannot be said about Omega Bridge. Group B of the 17th Airborne Division dropped three miles north of the town and Omega Bridge and advanced into the town without hinderment. The forces occupied several key buildings overlooking the bridge and called in the cavalry. Unfortunately the loss of two bridges was unacceptable for the Merkar military and they counter attacked with their own infantry while the first column of our tanks was picked off at distance by their own tanks which, again unfortunately, were not committed to the urban war in the town that was raging between the paratroopers and Merkar Infantry. So far we have got one hundred and four heavy and medium battle tanks across Omega Bridge instead of our target two hundred and fifty. We have only advanced three quarters of a mile and that is only in the town where our tanks and paratroopers are trying to break out and engage enemy armour that have their guns trained on Omega Bridge…err… urban warfare in Omega Town is continuing while we have advance several miles towards Berkar. However me and the other generals gather around this table have formulated a plan to try and relieve the efforts of out airborne boys in the south.”

“Like what?” Said an air marshal bluntly.

“Heavy, medium and light armour along with masses of infantry can begin pouring across Gamma Bridge. We are going to sent a small armoured column with infantry support to attack the Merkar tank division shooting at the bridge from the north while the paras the hundred or so tanks breakout and attack from the south. The outflanking manoeuvre has already succeeded with the fall of Gamma Bridge, now all we have to do is fight for the survival of our paratroopers and tanks.”

“Okay.” Said Wilson seeing that if this guy wouldn’t stop talking then the terrible position the 17th were in could hurt morale even more. “Right then, on to the big topic you were all gathered here for… The advance into Bigtoa shows no signs of letting up at this stage. Tank, artillery and infantry reinforcement have been dropped and are ready to plug gaps in our line if that occurs. We still have thousands of troops and armour ready to be put to good use. Although our momentum is slowing, we can still force the Merkar Republic back all the way to Berkar if we have to. I’d rather not waste units that could be put to better use elsewhere in Merkar. Thus the government has contacted Independent Hitmen about a secondary invasion of the Merkar Republic. Our Bigtoa force does not need relieving and the rest of the Republic is safe for her allies to just walk in so we need to take action. I know the RAF are taking out the air fields to stem Space Union’s abilities to station many of their aircraft here but another front as to be opened if we are to put increased pressure on the Merkar Republic. Remember, full occupation is not necessary here- forcing a surrender will suffice… okay… we are going to hit them hard, harder than Bigtoa and it will be a landing that on a huge scale that will surpass the Bigtoa invasion. We will strike at Marche Noir.”

He waited to see the effect but noticed that many of those gathered had anticipated this. One on hand he was embarrassed that he had made it so blindingly obvious but on the other it was nice to see that the officers were on the ball and were being attentive to what he was saying.

“The government agree that a new front will relieve the Bigtoa front slightly and will add a great deal more pressure on the Merkar government. Marche Noir is strategically important to us and them. Many major cities are located there and the island is also rich with resources so we can assume that most of the industrial heartland of Merkar will be there, although we cannot confirm this. The mainstay of the Third Fleet will remain at Bigtoa to keep the Merkar Navy in check while Splinter Fleet Bigtoa will be redesignated Splinter Fleet Marche Noir. The assault ships, assault carriers and main elements of the RFA will exchange for ships in the Third Fleet with full complements of military units on board and they will head out for Marche Noir at full speed…Now, I’m not going to say that this will be easier than Bigtoa because it most certainly will not be, but Marche Noir is even nearer to Safehaven than Bigtoa and so we will be powerful in the air even if Space Union shows its ugly aerial face on the scene. You all now the drill when an island is being invaded because we’ve done it here and we’ve done it before all this so it will be the same as usual. The only difference is that the Prince of Wales Class Super Dreadnought the HMS King Alistair will accompany the splinter fleet and head up the invasion with long range fire power. Everybody clear on what is to be done?”

Everybody nodded in acknowledgement to the Admiral.

“Inform all of your departments of this and let’s start preparing. Try and keep this under raps as best you can though. The invasion of Bigtoa nearly failed because of a massive computer hack and as a result the invasion had to be brought forward which was easy because Stevid is nearer Bigtoa. That isn’t the case in this instance, if they find out about this we either abandon the plan and hit somewhere else or we go in anyway and lose many fine men and women in the line duty.”
Independent Hitmen
10-04-2007, 10:19
Stevidian Carrier, Stevidian 3rd Fleet

The unfamiliar sight of an IH C-3 Carrier Cargo Aircraft sat on the armoured flight deck of the Stevidian aircraft carrier, the late afternoon sun glinting from the polished housings for the turbojets that drove her through the sky. The crew were completing their post flight walk around of the aircraft having successfully delivered a team of IH Army Marine and Navy personnel to the Stevidian War Fleet.

Those men included two Army and One Marine General’s and a Navy Vice-Admiral who were all here to get an update on the situation from the Stevidian commanders in the field in preparation for the arrival of IH assets in the theatre. The two Army General’s commanded the divisions most likely to be sent in, the recently formed 29th Mechanized Infantry Division and the 78th (Heavy) Infantry Division that had been re-equipped with CSJ designed equipment. The Marine General was the commander of the 5th Marine Division ‘The Fearsome Fifth’ that would be used for any amphibious assaults or in the role of light infantry. The Navy were represented because they would be discussing IH submarine commitments to the region as well as IH escort requirements for the Army convoy if the land forces were deemed necessary for the campaign.

The initial Stevidian moves into this part of the world had worried the IH top brass who considered themselves to already being faced with severe odds in the main war theatres. To include another power in the line up against them seemed to be a bad idea at the time and continued to meet with disapproval throughout the IH chain of command. But what was done was done and very little could be done to change that. IH command planners within Stevid and SafeHaven2 had already been discussing the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in a bid to cover the withdrawal of Havenic Pact forces from SH2 if the situation demanded it, the Macabean usage of such weapons against Portsmouth had effectively put that option on the table for the allied commanders. Such was the extend of the IH lack of confidence in their ability to withstand the expected Golden Throne counterattack that transports were being kept in ports in both SafeHaven2 and Stevid to enable a speedy evacuation of troops from the mainland. IH Air Force units within SH2 all had their fuel tanks full at any given point of the day so that they could make the trip to Stevid at the shortest possible notice. Military confidence was not at an all time low. They knew that if they fought they would fight bravely and take a number of the enemy with them, but with the odds stacked as they were the Hitmen commanders were simply not willing to throw away valuable men and equipment resisting the onslaught. This took special prominence after it became clear that even the SH2 army seemed to not be concerned with taking too much resistance. Some feared it to be in a similar state to the French Army after the Battle of Verdun in 1916, on the brink of collapse. For now the Hitmen would keep their worries to themselves, at least at this level. President Anderson was expected to mention his misgivings about continued involvement within SH2 in the next phone call that he exchanged with Prime Minister Conroy, a twice weekly event for them.

Meanwhile the Generals conversed on the aircraft carrier with its Captain and the other Naval officers as the Stevidian helicopter that would take them to the firebase was prepared on deck. Detailed negotiations of where the Hitmen were needed would follow.

IHS New Jersey, Flagship IH 2nd Fleet

Over the preceding three weeks the majority of the new IH 2nd Fleet had arrived in the water around the Stevidian port of Sunderland. Numbering nearly thirty carriers and over twenty battleships she wasn’t the most powerful force afloat, but wasn’t exactly lacking firepower either. Three New England Class Carriers along with brand new Nicholas Kerensky Carriers and Toryu IIB Battleship’s sailed with the fleet, the latter taking on fuel oil from their tenders as they prepared for the journey south. Those escorts and capital ships that had survived the First Battle of the Otium Aqua were all there, along with newer vessels taken from the Fleet Reserve, Fleet Auxiliary and other groups that were protecting the sea approaches to the homeland.

With their cousins in the IH 9th and 12th Fleets along with the Royal Navy maintaining the power balance in the Otium Aqua, 2nd Fleet was free to sail to assist the Stevidian forces involved in the invasion of the Merkar Republic. Two full Army Divisions with brand new equipment were being transported in some of the fast supply ships that accompanied the BattleFleet, the Army commanders already meeting with their Stevidian counterparts in the field to find out the best place to deploy the two over-strength divisions.

In keeping with new IH Naval Doctrine the 2nd Fleet would advance as a group towards its destination, to the seaward side of the Stevidian 3rd Fleet where it would await its call to arms. But the IH Navy and Army would not be the only branches involved in the forthcoming operations, the IHAF was keen to try out some of its newer munitions including Stevid designed Thermobaric missiles and the latest generation of guided bombs.

IH Air Force Command Bunker, Southern SafeHaven2

On one wall of the bunker was a giant plasma screen with a map of the entire half of the region that the conflict was taking place in. Various symbols and colours denoted the known positions of units, both hostile and friendly, whilst small red question marks all over the sea’s noted the reported positions of enemy submarines who had not yet been prosecuted. Navy P-3 and P-7 ASW aircraft had been flying out of Stevid and SH2 for sometime dropping sonar buoys to complement a sonar system that was gradually being built to provide some coverage for the convoys heading to SH2 and now also to the Merkar Republic to support the allied armies in both places.

Some icons denoted the patrols of those aircraft, whilst others were standing fighter patrols around the coastal ports and the frontlines. Further back, an ever circling icon denoted the squadron of B-6 bombers that were always poised to dart into the Macabees at Mach 6, riding their own sonic-booms, to deposit their cargo of nuclear weapons. It was a direct result of what the Macabees had done to the Stevidian port of Portsmouth during the earlier period of the war, if it happened again then they would also suffer tenfold.

Meanwhile a concentration of long range bombers and fighter-bombers symbolised the aircraft being readied to support the expected IH offensives into the Merkar Republic. Fast B-6’s and stealthy SB-22’s would lead the way to crush air defence in the sectors whilst older B-52HI’s, B-1’s, B-16A Armbursts, B-2 Spirits and F-117 Nighthawks followed to deliver further blows. Overall support would be provided by E-767 AWAC’s aircraft and FB-52’s sporting long range Air-to-Air Missiles to pluck any enemy aircraft from the sky from well beyond visual range.

The date and time for the strike had yet to be determined; in fact many of the pieces were not yet in place to allow it. Ground crew were still being ferried in from the North of the country and whilst there were enough munitions for two strikes there were not enough at the forward air bases for a continuous campaign of the sort envisaged. They needed to strike and strike hard before Space Union could bring their superior technology into play on a massed level. To that end, airfields would be hit with direct penetrator weapons that were designed to wreck runways along with liberal sprinklings of cluster munitions to damage base C&C and support facilities, plus kill some exposed personnel of course.

IHS Stalker II, Vanguard II Class Attack Submarine

“All ahead full.”

All those aboard the Vanguard II Class Attack Submarine felt her increase after the order was given. The single ultraquiet waterjet on the submarine could propel her to 41knots when needed but for now she settled for 36 as she cleared the safe channel ten minutes after diving. Once again she had a full weapons load, 42 torpedoes, 64 AS-1M missiles and 8,000 rounds for the underwater CIWS weapons that she supported for defence. In addition her countermeasures suite was fully operational and equipped, complete with seven SSM’s (Submarine Simulator Modules) that could be ejected and sounded just like a waterjet operating at maximum speed.

The IH submarine service considered itself one of the world’s elite. They didn’t have a huge amount of submarines, only about two thousand in total of which well under half were missile boats, but the crews were trained to perfection and their equipment was top notch, especially the weapons systems, fire control and detection suites. In the past years they had claimed a respectable amount of kills too. Indeed Stalker II had several silhouettes painted on her mast, including a Macabeean SuperDreadnought which had been crippled by a combined strike of submarine launched missiles that she had taken part in.

This patrol would take her south rather than north, towards the Merkar Republic and the ongoing scraps there. The Stevidian’s were having trouble with Merkari Submarines and it was going to be the job of the IH submariners to form a line further out from their own task force to prevent this happening to them. Mainly that work was being conducted by older Seawolf and Los Angeles Class vessels, the Vanguard II’s were being assigned hunting grounds to begin actively searching for and destroying the enemy undersea force.

Five other Vanguards were being deployed on that particular mission, the largest contingent to be sent into the same area of water for quite sometime. It promised to be a target rich environment, with the remnants of the Merkari surface force considered fair game for the silent hunters beneath the ocean, several of the Captain’s were actually going out to find carriers but Stalker II’s hunting area was too far away for them to go after flat tops...she would have to make do with the harder prey, submarines.
12-04-2007, 13:08
HMS Sanguinious- Fleet Flagship

It was all very quiet on the Merkar Front, confrontation with the enemy had died down dramatically over the past week or so however fighting continued to be evermore fearsome on the ground. The paratrooper division and sections of the armoured/infantry invasion column were still partially bogged down in the south of Bigtoa and only half a mile west of the Ribir River. The Merkar military had collapsed time and time again on so many parts of the front that complacency was inevitably seeping into the Stevidian ranks. While the commanders were confident of victory and troops and armoured were now trickling over the besieged bridge, fighting in the city was intense; any major advancing made by either the regular army or paratroops only a couple of hundred yards and even then the Merkar ground forces made them pay for every yard taken from them. The initiative was swinging from side to side which was wreaking havoc with the rest of the advance which now had to slow down to allow the fighting forces in the south to crush the resistance and catch-up with the rest of the column. If the column pushed on and left the south flank to fight it out then there was the possible danger of the flank collapsing, the enemy counter-attacking and cutting in through the exposed south flank. Counter-attacking the counter-attack would of course happen with the reserve forces pushing up from behind the frontline but the time wasted doing it and the men lost in the process was a risk the commanders just wouldn’t take. The Merkar Republic had proved themselves on numerous occasions that they could fight and even win against all possible odds, Stevid needed help to relieve some of the pressure so that the push for the major cities and other population centres could continue as quickly as possible. It was like a miracle from God that Independent Hitmen finally became involved.

One of the task force carriers had received, via a transport plane, a few of the IH top brass military commanders that would oversee their participation in this front. And although Independent Hitmen had openly voiced their concern to the Stevidian government about declaring war an yet another nation, the alliance stood strong and friendships held and so they agreed to help out the Stevidian ground forces who had now almost totally lost momentum- but not necessarily all their steam. The commanders where given a quick briefing of the situation by the Royal Navy Fleet Admirals in the task force before being whisked away to Firebase Bigtoa inland where a full tactical briefing was scheduled to be held where everything would be covered. Most importantly was the agenda that was concerned with IH force deployments, for example where would one division be positioned in Bigtoa and likewise with other. The War Office’s rather premature plans for a secondary invasion of the Merkar homeland wasn’t properly on the drawing boards yet but Independent Hitmen Marines would undoubtedly be called upon to help with the initial landings, other elements of the IH military that they vouched to contribute would probably be sent to various places along the frontline since Stevid commanders seemed content territory already occupied was in safe and defendable hands. One firebase, one supply firebase and another planned firebase was enough to hold most of the occupied Bigtoa, additional foreign forces would still be warmly welcome on the frontline.

Of course one sector in the theatre that Stevid certainly needed help on was the floundering south flank and in the city that the bridge at that point of the river led to. Their no guarantee that it would hold and air support had been admittedly unsuccessful in subduing enemy resistance, additional ground support would hopefully overwhelm the beleaguered Merkar defenders and Independent Hitmen would prove to be the catalyst that would breakdown the Republic’s grip on the city. Nothing was certain yet but with the involvement of Stevid’s ally, the Golden War of Succession in this theatre would hopefully take a turn for the best. The next invasion would take place in very near future and the capital would expectantly be in coalition hands. By that time the Republic’s allies may have fully responded and a ceasefire agreement could be signed and yet more territory would drop into the hands of the Holy Empire, of course shared or split with Independent Hitmen who deserved as much credit for Stevid’s successes in the war as the commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force of Stevid.

But the Royal Navy was delighted when the news that the IH Navy had decided to play a larger role in this sector of sea, namely the arrival of their submarine fleet. Stevid admired IH’s submarine force, probably because due to MoD policies one couldn’t boast about the RN’s submarine force. Officially the Royal navy didn’t have a submarine force since all information on Stevidian submarines was highly classified- one would be a fool to believe that the Royal Navy didn’t possess nuclear or conventional submarines. In fact a nuclear submarine belonging to the Royal Navy was poised to press the button to launch a warhead at the very unstable nation of Feline Catfish that stirred up international concern over their nuclear ambitions and capability that led to the destruction of an international blockade with nuclear weapons. To avoid a nuclear with Feline Catfish, the submarine did not retaliate. Concerning the Kurona incident with foreign submarines a while back, a Stevidian Submarine was rumoured and then later confirmed to of sunk one enemy submarine and damaged two others within Kuronan waters. An ordeal that left Kurona victim to a missile strike from a foreign aggressor; the aggressor submarine in question was damaged by the Royal Navy submarine and forced to service which left the captain of the vessel scrutinised for not finishing the job. This reluctance to use submarines en mass by the Royal Navy had left the task force somewhat vulnerable and despite all the courageous efforts by the surface fleets ASW capabilities, the task force was limited to tight formations and was constantly on Condition Yellow, in fact since the start of the war with the Merkar Republic, no ship has ever stood down (or gone to condition green). Independent Hitmen’s submarine fleet had a fearsome and well earned reputation to be one of the worlds finest and most dangerous, a force the Royal Navy would gladly love to have on its side.

Allied bomber support was also welcomed by RAF Bomber Command would had experienced a devastating blow to their airborne strategic abilities with the destruction of a sizable proportion of the Vulcan Bomber strike group. The ancient designs are kept up-to-date with avionics and propulsion systems and so are extremely expensive to mass produce them- their loss and the loss of the trained crews was a definite body blow to Bomber Command and the Royal Air Force, a blow felt around the country and the Empire. Help from allied foreign bombers was thus duly welcomed by the RAF and heads of staff.

Hopefully it would kick off again with a surge from the southern flank designed to knock out enemy opposition and catch-up with the frontline, the formation of another firebase and welcome support from Independent Hitmen. Merkar was fighting bravely but the odds against them where beginning stack. This was their homeland and they would fight to the bitter end if necessary, no matter how much Stevid and her allies aimed to demoralise the enemy’s fighting force and population there seemed to be this innate national pride and resilience to these foreign invaders, much like the same resilience the British public and military had in the dark times of 1940-42 in the Second World War. Things weren’t looking good but the population certainly weren’t showing it which was becoming a problem for Stevidian commanders. High enemy morale and overwhelm populous support for the war could drive the Merkar military to victory in key battle zones to come. There seemed to be no answer to this natural weapon Merkar possessed, propaganda failed in 1941 and would almost certainly fail here, the only feasible to break the enemy’s spirit was to crush them utterly but this enemy, as the Stevidian commanders knew all too well, would not be in any way easy to crush- if not at all possible.
Independent Hitmen
13-04-2007, 12:34
OOC: I’ve fastforwarded a little bit, or else we will just be doing the journey of the various assets, which I would find slightly boring…if this fits in chronologically better further in the thread then ill just repost!

IHS Stalker II, Vanguard II Class Nuclear Hunter Killer Submarine
Approaching its Patrol Sector, 100miles from the Merkar Republic

“Right XO, time to adopt patrol speed I think. Officer of the Watch, let’s make our speed six knots and lets gently come up to…….eight hundred feet please.”

“Speed six knots, Eight hundred feet Aye Sir”

The Officer of the Watch dutifully repeated his instructions before giving the orders quietly to the two men either side of him who began to perform the actions. The submarine began decelerating and rising slowly, the upward movement killing more of the forward momentum than would usually occur with a simple deceleration.

With the slowing pace of the submarine the towed sonar array, trailed a thousand feet behind Stalker II, began to function near its peak now that the flow noises had abated. The SNS-QV12 had been specifically upgraded with the Vanguard II Class in mind and increased the sensitivity as well as the processing power of the standard unit fitted by the Praetorian shipyards. It was feeding data to the displays in the sonar room, some monitors showing the data with computer interpretation of what it was hearing and other monitors simply showing the raw data for the sonarmen to evaluate themselves, even super computers made mistakes or eliminated crucial data sometimes. No contacts were plotted and that positive information relayed to the Captain and the crew in the attack centre, the fire control party relaxed somewhat from their positions where they had been preparing a snapshot torpedo in case somebody was lurking nearby.

Their latest intelligence reports had highlighted the fact that there were no Stevidian submarines in the area, giving them a theoretical freefire zone. The conflict was well known and so it was assumed that all neutral vessels would be steering well clear and that the only contacts would be unfriendly. IH submarines operated independently of each other on most missions, even on the rare occasion when several worked closely together, such as the strike on the Feathermore, they were effectively operating separate sectors of a box but all working towards the same mission objective. There were too many uncertainties to operating submarines in groups, especially with the latest generation of vessels being so quiet, target acquisition and prosecution was hard enough without wondering if you were hunting one of your friends.

With a gentle turn completed to ensure there was nobody directly behind them in a sensor blind spot, Stalker II circled up towards periscope depth to report her arrival on station to COMSUBCEN via satellite relay. As the flattened out on her ascent the Captain ruffled his graying hair and called for the periscope to be raised, flicking the handles out and conducting a quick 360 scan of the horizon in a seemingly smooth movement. Next came the radio mast that sent a burst encrypted transmission to a satellite in geosynchronous orbit which was then bounced off four others back to PortHaven Naval Base and the submarine service HQ complex. A return message was sent instantaneously.

As the bell announcing a return message sounded the Captain ordered his submarine back down deep, this time to a thousand feet, whilst he moved to the comms room to read the latest dispatch. Meanwhile the XO had the conn and maintained the current heading, taking the submarine towards the centre of her assigned patrol box. Little did he know that her orders had been modified somewhat. Soon Stalker II would be going in for the Merkari Surface Fleet still firing its guns at allied troops.

IHS Traveller, Troop Transport
With the IH 2nd Fleet, 500miles from the Merkar Republic

Somewhat to the surprise of the Army personnel onboard Traveller and the countless other troop transports in the group the merchant sailors who operated the vessels were not intentionally finding big waves in order to inconvenience the men crammed in below decks. After nearly a week at sea in the glorified warehouse of military hardware the men were starting to become used to the rolling of the vessel in the turbulent waves of this part of the globe.

To some it felt like home, improvised hammocks hung from various tanks and armoured fighting vehicles and some even between the barrels of the Self Propelled Artillery guns stored near the ships bow. Despite being equipped with CSJ heavy equipment, most of the troops arms were domestically produced M8 Assault Rifles with a liberal sprinkling of SAW’s and GPMG’s to provide that little bit extra firepower to the Mechanized Infantry. Not that they needed it. As usual the 29th Mechanized Infantry Division was actually an overstrength formation. In addition to the single independent brigade of Challenger IID’s, she sported an extra Regiment of Iron Cheetah’s – giving the division nearly double its supposed tank strength. The Air Brigade also had two extra squadrons, both of helicopter gunships, and there were a pair of extra Artillery Battalions that had been “borrowed” from IH XIX Corps Reserve in Stevid for this particular mission.

Final orders for this division –now of over 30,000men- were still being finalized, but the men had received preliminary briefings on what they could expect. They would be landing on secured beaches and moving their equipment inland to support the Stevidian advance, expected to be on the Southern Flank of the ongoing operation. 29th Mechanized would be moved towards the fighting almost immediately whilst the 78th (Heavy) Infantry Division moved into the position of Army Group Reserve to reinforce the inevitable rupture point on the front and then exploit it. 5th Marines would remain embarked for the time being until the timeframe for the inevitable amphibious operation was completed. Exact details and timings were yet to be decided; it was more a question of the logistics of getting the ships close enough to land in order to transport the troops over by helicopter and also equipment carrying barges and hovercraft.

For now the transports flew under an umbrella of IHN aircraft. The 2nd Fleet carriers were maintaining a CAP of nearly one hundred aircraft, split between radar birds, tankers, ASW aircraft and fully laden fighters. On the decks of the carriers below more fighters sat awaiting their call to arms to defend their vessels, whilst the attack birds were loaded for light strikes against seaborne targets using the AS-2B missile. The nearest elements of the Atheism surface fleet were 750miles away, so there would be plenty of warning if a strike was launched from them or anywhere else. Naval Intelligence predicted that with the destruction of their primary base and almost constant combat since the start of the war many of the Merkar Republic’s vessels would be virtually out of ammunition and consumables in the near future, hopefully leaving them as sitting ducks for aerial attack.

Oblivious to this, the Army personnel onboard the transports continued their daily maintenance procedures on the various pieces of equipment that they operated. Turrets were swiveled, turbine engines turned over and in the case of the combat engineers more specialized equipment was taken into cabins and thoroughly checked. Whilst not as big as Armies from nations of similar size, the IH Army prided itself on the high percentage of its equipment that was available at any one time. Proper maintenance was key to this and just because the men were on a cruise the officers were not allowing them much time to sunbathe on deck.

Whilst the Army maintained their equipment, their colleagues in blue were busy preparing theirs for battle. Onboard the several Toryu Class Battleships that sailed with the fleet the mighty turrets were slowly turning as adjustments were made to the waterproof seals and barrels were elevated as the automated cleaning machines swept them yet again. The battleships, all ten of them, were there primarily for fire support during amphibious landings. Sailing in two columns of five they resembled the battleships of old, smoke billowing from their funnels and flags fluttering from pennants as they awaited battle.

On the carriers it was a different story. They were already a hive of activity with aircraft being launched and recovered at a swift pace on this the third day of their heightened alert status. Tomorrow there would be a maintenance stand-down and then back to high alert as they entered the likely strike range of the enemy
13-04-2007, 21:28
Stevidian Frontline- Bigtoa, Southern Flank, City & Bridge Omega

Several days of fighting had taken its toll on both the Merkar military forces and Stevidian forces in the city, excessive losses on Merkar troops, Stevidian troops and armour meant that both sides where slowly but surely whittling down each other to the point where neither side would be able to fight. Intense street fighting continued with Stevidian troops using urban warfare experience gained in the Holy Panooly Civil War to their advantage; room clearances were usually bloody but successful as this flank of the Stevidian main force tried to break out. The Merkar forces had surprisingly stemmed the advance of Stevidian forces here and were doing an incredible job at halting many of the army’s attempts to breakout of the city.

Omega Bridge was still a death trap and was clearly marks as one due to the smouldering corpses of Stevidian tanks sat in the middle of the bridge where long range enemy tank fire had knocked them out. The RAF and FAA had kept these ‘snipers’ suppressed when new tanks and APCs crossed the bridge to reinforce the troops and armour in the city but had to run the gauntlet which was never safe despite air support. Stevid was gaining a slight advantage though, reinforcements from across the bridge where becoming more regular and since the bridge was under control there was no worry about explosives be placed by the enemy unless Special Forces became involved. What did worry commanders was the amount of punishment the bridge was taking. It was a huge bridge and had been built to last but everyone doubted that the architect took into account that the bridge was to possibly become one of the key bridges in Stevid’s invasion plans. Already struts and cables where beginning to show signs of strain and physical torment and even some parts were already collapsing into the massive river below. Royal Engineers had managed to do their best considering the circumstances and the harassing enemy tanks across the river that had yet to be fully eradicated, using steal poles, make-shift supporting struts, wood and even rope, anything to increase the bridge’s dwindling survivability. It was probably understood that if the enemy could rig the bridge then they would blast away at it and everything on it until it fell into the river.

Still the armoured corps pushed on as hard as possible in the south with renewed enthusiasm as word quickly reached ears that the Independent Hitmen Marines, Armoured Corps and Infantry battalions where getting ever closer to Bigtoa and the Merkar Republic. Four Star General Phillip Keane, one of the C&Cs of the Stevidian invasion who had managed to blag out of attending the meeting with IH generals by going to inspect the troops on the frontline. Officially he was head of directing the war on the Northern Front but decided to lighten the mood in the south by showing that generals don’t just sit behind desk all day giving orders. He was an upbeat character who had risen through the ranks to general all the way down from private- he joined the army at a very young age of fifteen and ten months and was lucky to get in at all. Showing amazing courage and enthusiasm in is work and in the heat of battle, he gain promotion very quickly and so at forty-two he was a very young Four Star General with a wealth of experience.

Keane staggered out of his APC and wiped his brow with a handkerchief, it had been touch and go crossing Omega Bridge and entering the city, the RAF weren’t able to give cover at that time and so the driver had to run the gauntlet using every ruined tank as cover. On par the enemy’s usual form they opened fire scoring a glancing hit on the APC that violently rocked the vehicle but caused no long lasting damage. He pondered for a minute on what would have happened if they had to bail out, the fuss he would have caused by standing in the middle of a besieged bridge with little cover other than the weak hulls of former tanks. He banished the thought and saluted to an officer who approached him.

“Hello William!” He said to the Officer, it always meant excellent report in the army or any branch of the forces if the superior officers learnt the names of their subordinates, even privates to which Keane tried his best to do. “Enjoying hell son?”

“Not particularly sir.” William replied. “But we’re beginning to move out of the square just round that corner sir.” He point out a corner no more than thirty feet away. “We’ve been stuck in there for nearly a day but the reinforcements are finally coming at set times now with relative safety- a mass breakout should be successful very soon but it will come quicker once IH shows up.”

“Yes I hope so- can we enter the square?”

“Aye sir, the frontline is quite literally on the other side of the square though sir.”

Keane’s eyes widened in abject horror, he looked behind him and saw the huge imposing bridge that Stevid had fought long and hard to take and then turn back towards the square and looked beyond it to make out the frontline down a medium sized avenue. It couldn’t have been no more than three quarters of a mile away from the bridge.

“Soldier, are you telling me that is how far you have advanced in nearly two weeks of intense fighting?”

“Only in that direction sir.” William said quickly noticing the general’s displeasure. “We’ve advanced two miles north and northwest into the city, but the western frontier is holding and holding solid sir. We’re up against some extremely resilient troops, they’re crack and one thing that won’t crack is their morale. Besides, you have to realise that we have to clear each and every room in each and every building to make sure there are no more enemies lurking in the ruins.”

“All these buildings are safe?”

“About sixty-eight percent sir. Those figures are calculated by the deaths we have sustained by enemy sniper fire from within are occupied territory on this side of the bridge.”

“Snipers? They continue send recon sniper groups? What are you doing to stop this, soldier?”

The general unhappiness continued to make the officer more and more uncomfortable but seemed to steady himself. He cleared his throat and replied to the general’s question.

“They know the city better than we do- they know it like the back of their atheist, pagan hand sir. We can’t stop them. We have stemmed the flow however, we’ve put crack Kill Teams and Stormtroopers in the sewers and city catacombs and have eliminated the sniper threat there. But they just know the streets better than us, ruined or not and it just gives them extra cover. We’re coping well though, deaths are down twelve percent and we clear rooms in all buildings regularly…but… accidents happen.”

The pair walked across the open square where a ruined Merkar tank lay utterly destroyed and a small fire continued to burn inside, the corpses of the crew where still inside and had long burned away into little more than skeletons.

“Incredible tank sir.” William said. “The Macabees made it for them to fight against us, we’ve been meeting them since D-Day- this particular tank took three direct hits to the turret and one to the main body before blowing to pieces. I think we lost twelve men to it, God’s justice quickly past over the tank and its crew.”

“Did you loot?”

“What we could, yes. Undamaged pieces of armour were sliced off and welded to our own tanks, undamaged wires and drive machinery were also taken. We no supplies from the supply Firebase have been slim because of the bridge and all so we have to make do with what we find.”

“That’s why you’re an officer Will, you use your initiative.”

The pair walked to the other end of the square where a collection of soldiers were standing by their APC enjoying a small drink. Salutes were dismissed by Keane and he told them to relax. He liked to get on friendly and talking terms with the lower ranks who, like Keane had proven, were all capable of rising to his level of military stature- is was good to get the feeling he was an ordinary grunt again. He smiled as he enjoyed the moment which was quickly smashed as a huge artillery explosion ripped the side off a nearby building. Debris and shrapnel rained down on the square and every fell to the floor… all except General Keane.

It was one of those corny military film moments a general who either has had no combat experience or so much experience that he doesn’t flinch when a shell lands only a couple of feet away. But this was real and admiration for their general’s iron will and discipline washed over the officers and privates by the APC. But someone had been hurt, a large splash of blood about neck high had appeared on the side of the APC. Whose it belonged to no one knew until Keane fell to his knees and then collapsed on to his right side. His eyes were glaring and a perfect hole had appeared in his head leading from temple to temple. Horror hit everyone there as they realised what had happened.

“Sniper! Stand to! Stand to!” William yelled.

Another shot sounded and the tell tale echo of a sniper firing rang out around the square as a sergeant fell to the ground, a helmet rolling on the floor with a hole right through the back. Obviously a high calibre sniper rifle was being used. But the sniper hadn’t moved and his approximate position had been established by the five remaining soldiers and William as they hid behind the armoured protection of the APC. Another shell struck another building in the square and debris rain down again, but it wasn’t artillery this time- the shell was smaller calibre altogether because it had only wiped out a quarter of the wall of the building. It had to be a tank shell- then it dawned on William as a Merkar tank followed by around thirty armed men appeared from a street adjacent to the square.

“Shit… they’ve out flanked us…”

Firebase Bigtoa

A large helicopter took off from one of the large helipads in the north of the base, the FAA iconography clearly marked it a Stevidian Royal Navy Chinook, the same Chinook that dropped off some top brass Independent Hitmen commanders for a quick overview meeting on the situation in Bigtoa. They had arrived about twenty minutes ago and the ‘shaking of the hands’ ceremony was probably well underway.

While the posh top brass lot from Stevid and IH continued to mingle in the subterranean command bunker, the regulars and the officers of the RAF and regular Army continued work as normal, the only men and women that had the least physical labour in the Firebase would be those in charge of radar, communications and other technical stuff. In short, those working with the wonder vehicle of the Damocles Command and Control APC would be sitting down typing and talking away in a nice air conditioned tank. This wasn’t strictly true, the APC was simply ventilated but the work was still labouring. The Army’s failure to produce results in the south had meant extra work for the radar and GPS soldiers who were constantly relaying coordinates for artillery batteries, directions for armoured units in the city on top of all the usual communication babble that the firebase received- but today was suddenly about to turn even worse for the workers.

Amidst all the chatter inside the tank, there was one man who was overlooking the live visual satellite feed over Omega City. The frontline had thankfully moved in Stevid’s favour the past few days, even if it was only half a mile, and it was also good to see a steady stream of armour and troops crossing the bridge every three hours when the window of opportunity presented itself. It was interesting for the operator to watch as he coordinated movements on the ground. Then a large silent explosion appeared not for from the bridge- maybe half a mile away from Omega Bridge. It looked like an artillery strike but it seemed so accurately placed (even if it missed and harmlessly smashed into a building) to be friendly fire- it had to be an enemy strike.

“Computer,” The soldier said speaking into the microphone on his headset. “Enhance visual image on Combat Sector Omega, grid oh-oh-six, sub-grid eighteen.”

A series of quiet beeps of acknowledgement from the computer sounded and the picture on his plasma screen zoomed in on the east of the city, it zoomed in again to show that grid where the bridge makes an appearance, then it zoomed in again and gave a large and high definition live image of the square and surrounding streets. A plume of dark dust and smoke rose from a building in the square nearest to the bridge with an entire wall missing after the explosion, the debris littered the square. A single APC was sitting stationary at the end of the square furthest from the beach with six people hunkered down behind the vehicle, a body lay on the other side.

The operator of the computer console leaned in and squinted at the live black and blue image on screen when a flash of light appeared from a building not too far away from the APC and it cowering defenders and part of the building collapsed. But like the soldiers actually there, the operator realised that it wasn’t an artillery shell that time, but rather a tank shell.

“Computer- tactical IR display of Omega sector grids oh-oh-six through oh-oh-ten.”

The computer beeped again and the image changed to a live three dimensional tactical view that was set by default to birds eye view. The frontline of Stevidian forces was holding, if not advancing slowly as blue dots and small triangles. But that was not what made the operator’s eyes widen with terror, what made him do that was the six red triangles representing Merkar tanks and their accompanying fifty red dots of infantry personal that were just entering the square opposite the building that had just been fired upon. The Stevidian line had been out flanked and was desperately vulnerable to an attack from behind with only six men and an APC to prevent it.

The operator swore so loudly that everyone turn to him with looks of disgust as he switched to comms, he made a note of the APCs ID number on the roof via the live satellite image and dialled its frequency.

“Wolverine 0097! Wolverine 0097! Incoming enemy formation from the southwest corner of the square! Respond!... Respond you tits, respond!”

No answer came and he threw away his headphones as he darted out of the APC.

“Everyone coordinate a possible counterattack with our frontline proto- get the RAF in and Army Air Corps in on the double as quickly as possible or that part of the southern frontline will collapse and we’re gonna have to fight harder in that city with we’re to take it- I’ll inform command!”

He said it quickly but everyone understood and immediately put all comms on hold and went about informing the frontline of the worsening position as the Merkar flanking force moved on the APC and threatened to completely encircle that part of the line. The operator flashed his ID to all the MPs in the parade ground and the command bunker before being even considered to meet the generals down below. Almost five minutes later dive round the last corner of the underground corridor and burst into the room where the Stevidian and Independent Hitmen generals were gathered.

“What is the meaning of this outrageous interference!” One general fumed. “And where is your bloody salute soldier!”

He ignored the general completely but stood to attention and began to explain why he had barged in so impolitely.

“Sir I regret to inform you that a small Merkar force in Omega City has outflanked our forces fighting in the north-eastern sector and are threatening to encircle that part of the line. We are currently moving twenty men and four tanks off the more successful northern line of the city to reinforce the threatened sector sir… for you see… the area attacked is less that half a mile from the bridge and there is nothing in between them and the bridge- just debris.”

“Nothing?” An IH general said in disbelief.

“Well not quite, there is an APC with six men with it, but it’s on the wrong side of the square. Technically there is nothing between the Merkar forces and Omega bridge, and I doubt that a lightly armed and armoured APC with six men will stand up to six enemy tanks and around fifty enemy soldiers.”

With that silence fell on the room.

The Square- Omega City- 11:45am

In contrast to the command bunker’s briefing room things started to get very loud in the square as the Merkar flanking force flowed into the square with the tanks leading the way. Three of the soldiers had clambered into the APC and had opened fire with the remote rocket launcher causing nothing but burn marks on the enemy armour. The APC moved towards the centre of the square where a small fountain was located offering some cover, negligible cover but it was better than sitting out in the open. Three of the six advancing enemy tanks fired at the Wolverine APC almost simultaneously turning the Stevidian tank into a blazing coffin. The internal inferno engulfed the tank and killed all inside before reaching the rapid firing gun magazines which inevitably detonated. In seconds the APC was disfigured in an almost unbelievable way as the hull warped outwards as the explosions torn it apart from the inside.

The troops were caught in the open and the enemy troops killed for almost instantly while William and one another private dived for the door frame of a nearby building.
William saw that the private was a radio man judging by the large aerial coming out of his back pack.

“Private get on to GHQ FBB- tell them what is going on down here!”

He nodded and grabbed the phone from his back and dialled for the Damocles. Engaged. He tried again but like before the line was engaged. He swore very loudly and tried again- this time getting through to the command APC.

“Err… this is Wolverine 0097… we’re under attack from the southwest of the city… err… enemy forces have out flanked us and are currently attacking. General Keane is dead…sniper in the buildings… yes I can confirm… his corpse is staring right up at me.”

The dead general was still gazing in their direction, of course dead but the sniper would pick any one off if they tried to close his eyes.

“The APC has also bee destroyed, I count six tanks and between forty and sixty infantry. Reinforcements are required immediately or the bridge will be taken on this side. Res…”

One of the Merkar tanks had a sharp eyed gunner as he had managed to pick out the two soldiers hiding in the doorframe despite their almost perfect camouflage. One round was sent their way and the door way disintegrated almost immediately which killed the two soldiers outright. The gunner, either to make sure or with unquenchable bloodlust, fired another round which hit a key structural point of the building which sent the four storey mass of metal and concrete plummeting to the ground crushing anything and everything beneath it. But such a noise didn’t go unnoticed and the Stevidian frontline less than half a mile from the square, just down the nearest avenue, knew they didn’t have any armour down there or any vehicle with such a large calibre gun. Tank reinforcements from across the Ribir River weren’t due for another two hours, then they suddenly realised what had happened. Immediately four tanks withdrew from the frontline and spun of their axis to form a rear guard to defend the frontline, as did around twenty troops while the rest of the line stood their ground in the avenue and continued fighting.

The RAF would be on the task in minutes and the Army Air Corps likewise but Merkar probably wouldn’t surrender the advantage just by seizing the bridge and wait for the aircraft to bomb them to oblivion which is why the commanders at the front decided not to counter-attack. The enemy would be coming for them one way or another and would gladly use the terrain to their advantage. This would be the line’s last stand against a very intelligent enemy and would certainly be a Friday the 13th to remember and regret… if they survived to tale the tale…
16-04-2007, 20:06
Alpha Bridge, Smilovitch's 3rd Brigade

One week ago

The advance was at least going better than Anton had expected, which wasn't saying much. The Macabbean Marius heavy APCs were doing little more than littering the roadside, as far as Smilovitch could tell. Their 50mm guns were never popular with the crews, their complicated gas-assisted projectile system jamming frequently- probably due to lax maintenace, to be fair, and the shells were so large as to limit rate of fire. Still, the Merkari infantrymen had done their duty. 2nd Brigade had been able to attach a mechanized infantry company to Aton. The soldiers had at least been able to make it close to the outskirts of the town. But with their APCs pulverized by Stevidian ATGMs, they would likely not escape. It was their luck. Only the armor would make it across the bridge.

"'GM, LEFT FRONT!" The gunner had spotted a circle of smoke appear in the distance. It could only be a missile. Smilovitch no longer needed to give the order to fire. The gunner slewed his view towards the smoke and viewed the ground in the pale green of infrared. Half a second later, a thin red line appeared on his sight; the tank's turret sensor was recieving laser signals from that direction. It was another laser-guided ATGM, likely a Javelin; the gunner saw a small green rise in the ground, hoped it was the missile team he was so desperately searching for, and designated it. The tank's fire control took over, tracking the visual image of the small object and handling the entire targeting procedure hands-off. A second before the main gun fired, the gunner saw a tank shell race towards his target; someone else had found the Stevidian launcher first, and the shot from Anton's tank would be redundant. But there was no time to stop the computer from firing, and the tank wasted its last HE shell on a destroyed target.

"OUT OF HE!" the loader informed Smilovitch. He could hardly hear the intercom message above the explosions and gunfire, but it was not important anyway. They were almost there. The hatch was open a few degrees, not enough for Anton to raise his head out of the tank but enough to give a fair enough view of his surroundings. In front of him was a platoon of Broadsword-Tizonias, still three tanks strong, amazingly, after running the gauntlet of enemy paratrooper ATGM. There were even more enemy paras inbound after their drop. They had overwhelmed the bridge's small garrison, probably without any fight at all, and were reportedly calling in an overland advance from the east at the same time. Anton knew that his mission had been to hold the bridge, but there was no time for that. The rest of Second Brigade that had not been able to make it to the bridge in time would be cut off. There was no way to hold this bridge. Anton at least wanted his own soldiers to get across.

Another plume of smoke appeared, this time coming from the urban settlement around the bridge directly ahead. The gunner was watching the flanks and apparently didn't notice the launch. Anton didn't mind; there was nothing they could do about it. The missile raced for the Broadsword platoon in front, impacting the lead tank in seconds. The ARENA defensive projectiles were launched an instant before the missile impacted, but none of them disrupted the missile's flight. The Javelin kept its level course as it flew above the Broadsword. It let off a top-attack charge as it passed over the engine deck, and then flew off like a criminal leaving the scene. The Broadsword was convulsed with explosions as the charges impacted on a fuel tank. The two following tanks weaved around their platoon leader as they fired COAX rounds into a building where the missile had come from.


"NO, SIR."


The gunner knew what had happened and laid the gunsight on the building that was being hit by machine-gun rounds from the other Broadswords. The driver banked around the destroyed tank, which was lying diagonally across the road as if meant to block all traffic. The village was nearing quickly, which would only mean more fighting. Smilovitch sighed. He knew that he might very well be dead five minutes from now, but there was no choice. The Stevidians were pressing him from all sides. The bridge had to be reached.




"ROGER." He was already hosing down every building in sight with machinegun fire.

"DRIVER, LOAD HEAT. TAKE YOUR MACHINEGUN MOUNT." Without replying, the loader unlocked his hatch and moved it ajar, grabbing hold of his 7.62mm machinegun and tensely scanning each building. Smilovitch assumed that the main gun had already been loaded with HEAT.

By the time Anton had finished speaking, the tank had already entered the village. COAX fire was poking holes in buildings on both sides of the roads, but Anton could see no sign of the enemy yet. There was no telling where the Stevidian paras were until they were only meters away; Merkari urban design was notoriously cramped, and Anton could see nothing other than the blocky two-story buildings to either side, the tank in front of him blocking the view, and the top of the tall bridge in front of him and about 200 meters away. The two tanks in front of him peeled off to take a side road. When they drove out of view, Anton could see that they had changed streets to avoid a smoking Broadsword blocking the road in front of them. Smilovitch's driver followed the two tanks.

The Tizonia-Alpha swerved around the corner hard left, and then hard right to get on a new road. The tank was now heading parallel the bridge and still following behind the other two. Anton caught a dark shape on the corner of his eye. He swiveled his .50 cal towards it, saw something unusual, and instinctively fired. The flash and recoil of the gun shocked him for a moment, and he never saw exactly what happened. Anton simply saw a cloud of red appear, then a Stevidian uniform covered in dark liquid lying on the sidewalk. He hadn't even meant to kill anyone.

Rifle fire began to ping off metal. Smilovitch shivered violently for an instant, ducking down instinctively. He hesitated for barely a second, trying to evaluate his decision to duck down into cover. It was not cowardice, he reasoned; merely the well-trained survival instincts of a man who had been shot at too much in the past hour. What am I doing?, he asked himself, and stopped his contemplation to peek out of the hatch. The lead tank was letting off sparks as bullets bounced off its turret. It was suddenly enveloped in a cloud of dust, came to a halt besides its shorn-off track, and then began shooting its COAX as if nothing had happened. The tank just behind it swerved right to avoid a collision and crashed into a house on the side of the narrow road. The house collapsed like a deck of cards, covering both tank's turrets with plaster and concrete fragments, but the still-mobile tank moved through the rubble and around the former leader. The immobilized tank was still firing its guns madly as Anton's Broadsword swerved around it.

Smilovitch's tank cleared a cloud of smoke thrown up by the building's collapse like a dragon emerging from a fog. An instant later, an eager Stevidian antitank gunner fired off a rocket at the turret, knocking Anton backwards. The tank commander sprang back up immediately, only to be sent sideways by a second impact. A sharp but short pain, a pain that reminded Anton of a bee sting, flashed on his temple. It was of no importance to him- he had survived one hit, then another, and he was certain the tank would not survive a third. He raised his eyes above the hatch rim, looking for the shooter. A beautiful sight lay before him- the bridge, less than a block away. On his left was a tall gray building, as monotone as the rest of the town, but taller than the rest and probably made of concrete. To his right was a mass of wood, plaster, and thin metal left over from a house that had been blasted to the ground. He fired at the intact building, his .50 cal tearing large chunks in the solid-looking wall. The one undamaged Broadsword was still travelling in front of Anton, and it began to fire on the building also, the turret swung backwards over the engine deck as the tank ran onto the bridge. Smilovitch was soon clear of the village, riding on top of the tall bridge and with a perfect view of the terrain ahead. The land around the bridge was moslty flat, with occasional rock abutments and rolling hills, but nothing to limit the vision of a person on top of the high bridge. On either side of the Ribir were the tall white canal walls, blocking fire from the opposite bank. Ahead he could see the muzzle flashes of Merkari tanks holding the Ribir's west bank; 1st Brigade had arrived in time to give Smilovitch's force cover. Anton could not see far directly ahead because his view was blocked by the bridge, but there was a turn in the highway that allowed him to see what shape the retreating Merkari forces were in. It was a mess- tanks were moving in ones and twos, with all platoon, let alone company, organization nonexistent. There were a few organized platoons, most of them probably part of the 1st Brigade covering force. But Smilovitch's own 3rd Brigade was scattered, even if, judging from the traffic on the road, most if it seemed to have survived. There was no point in trying to control the battle at this point; everyone was in a mad dash for the west bank of the bridge. But Anton had a good vantage point, and he wanted to at least study the situation.




"ROGER." Anton looked left to see the loader still occupying his machine gun mount, scanning the rear hemisphere of the tank for any threat. Smilovitch took out his binoculars and scanned the retreating Merkari traffic in more detail. It seemed that he had misjudged the damage done to his mechanized infantry; most of the Mariuses had made it to the west bank, even if most of that force had been destroyed quickly by enemy ATGM. Here and there lay a burning or immobile Broadsword, victim of the paratrooper's ATGM barrage, but the 1st Brigade forces seemed to have the situation under control. Their fire was disciplined. They appeared to be hitting positions to the south and north which were already under some kind of mortar fire. Anton surmised that the Stevidian paras were attacking from those directions. They seemed to have had run out of ATGM missiles, and it was perhaps stupid of them to attack from the west bank alone while their armor raced in from the east. But the Stevidian land advance would be here in minutes, and the paras would soon be relieved.

Anton turned to the rear to analyze the land he had just dashed through. It looked like an absurdly short distance from where he was standing, but the run to the bridge had seemed like it had taken hours. Smoke and fire covered each side of the roadway, giving spotty concealment to a handful of Merkari tanks and light vehicles still dashing down the road. At the edge of his cone of vision was the rear of the turret. Anton did not want to stay here long for fear of enemy artillery and snipers. It was time to move; he wiped sweat off of his forhead with his left arm and keyed the intercom.


Something warm ran down Smilovitch's hand. He looked down to see a trail of blood leading from his shoulder to his left hand. Following the trail up to his neck, and then to his face, he felt a small dent in his temple. It was incredible how much blood could come from so small a wound. That "bee sting" Anton had felt on his temple had been more than a nick, but it was nothing more than a flesh wound. Anton looked right to see his loader staring at him in unspoken agreement; he had noticed the wound earlier, but knew that there was no need to say anything.



The tank began rolling forward, again. Bits of metal and concrete that had flown onto the bridge during the battle crunched beneath the Broadsword's tracks. Smilovitch felt the wind slap his face as the tank gained momentum, sprinting down the center of the bridge. It was not entirely safe to stand above the hatch while riding a tank in battle, but it was doubtful that any sniper could hit him at this distance or riding a tank at this speed. Anton felt relaxed, for once. The smell of cordite and smoke had been carried away by the wind, and he was safe, riding away from the battle and heading home. The only sign of battle was the distant sound of gunfire mixed with artillery, something that Smilovitch had heard too much of over the past few days to take notice of. The Stevidian bombers and helicopters had finally arrived on the scene, doing their usual methodical strikes on the feeble Merkari air defenses, but the main air attack had yet to arrive. Anton felt sure that he was safe.

The sound of rocket fire piqued his interest. They were Merkari rockets, the Tarantulas. Perhaps the Stevidian aircraft had missed a few. The Broadsword rolled down the onrap to the bridge, on the Merkari bank now, part of the long convoy of retreating vehicles. An earth-shaking crash woke Anton from his reverie. The sound overwhelmed his ear drums, deafening him as he turned around in horror. He felt the second impact of the Merkari artillery only as a vibration in the ground, as it tore off the tank's left track and pulled the machine to a halt. Smilovitch was thrown sideways, loosing his grip on consciousness as fragments of metal and concrete fell like rain, torn off the bridge and thrown skyward from the rockets.

Present day

Colonel Raia looked over the map table one more time, looking for an answer. She hadn't found any for the past five minutes, and this time was no different. There was little to do at her post other than wait for another desperate report to come in from some ravaged unit that finally managed to break through the Stevidian jamming. The intelligence branch normally had a lot to do in war. But at Colonel Raia's intelligence center for Army Bigtoa, there was precious little to report other than that the Merkari army was falling apart too fast to relay intelligence.

"New reports from II Corps. The front has stabilized in the vicinity of the financial district, although the surrounding area remains contested. I have encrypted comms with them, if you need details." Gennady briskly made his way into the map room, sorting papers as he talked. His pale face and red eyes were those of someone who had spent too long in a dark room in front of a computer screen.

"Thank you, Gennady. Is your watch over yet?"

"A few more minutes."

"Leave early, Gennady. There's nothing to do here." The lieutenant gave a brief, forlorn glance into the computer room, as if not wanting to leave, then sighed and continued on to the hallway beyond the map. Colonel Raia felt glad, for once, knowing that she did not have to sit at a console all day. But she had typing to do, too. She couldn't sit around all day, finding new ways to tell her superiors that the war was lost. She walked into the computer room, beyond the rows of squirming cubicle warriors struggling to find room to stretch while packed beside comrades. Raia took a seat at the second-to-front row in an aisle seat that gave her a little bit more space. She was going to start on the daily intelligence report. This time, she was going to find a weakness in the Stevidian beast and exploit it.

I Corps had been annihalated, fighting to the last man. Why? Every other Merkari unit had simply collapsed under the weight of Stevidian airpower, not to mention their crack armor and infantry forces, and surrendered hours after encirclement. But I Corps had been surrounded for a week, keeping up the fight and maintaining almost 100% casualties. Even now, there was a rumor that six tanks were still running around Bridge Gamma, giving the Stevidians hell. It would not be surprising if this rumor was false. The Merkari government would have made its first real attempt at propoganda in the war. But if true, it would not be surprising either. The Tizonia-Alpha was a capable tank in the right hands. Its hands-off fire control and radar system could shoot down fighter aircraft with tank shells or COAX fire. Its milimeter-wave radar and highly sensitive infrared equipment allowed the tank to hide behind an IR smokescreen and pick off the enemy with impunity. Just six of them could make a formidable force, but in the end these brave six could do nothing more than delay, like the rest of the heroic I Corps. Perhaps it was the example of the remnants of the 4th Division which had convinced them to fight so hard for so long. But in the end it had made little difference. Delaying the Stevidians for days or a week could only prolong their victory.

At the moment, an incredible urban battle was taking place in the "streets" of Berkar. The four thousand foot tall skyscrapers were proving to be excellent defensive positions for the Merkari defenders as they poured in from the sea. Already, a whole Corps- III Corps- had been formed out of units assembling in Berkar right after arriving in Berkar Harbor. By sheer weight of numbers, the over 100,000 men and 2,000 tanks of III Corps was slowing the Stevidian advance. Enemy airstrikes were having marginal effect against the massive city buildings capped with vast solar panels, although many civillians were, inevitably, getting killed. Reports claimed that some Merkari units had taken to filling the streets with water and then charging them with electricity, frying the enemy- and more than a few friendly- infantry. It was truly a brutal battle. But it could only delay. With the entry of Independent Hitmen, Merkar could at best hope for a ceasefire.

The elite Independent Hitmen submarine force was no doubt probing at the Athasism Fleet. So far, only a few contacts had been made, but no confirmed sinkings had been reported. But IH's massive force of 2,000 submarines would soon be bearing down on the fleet, desperately short of oil and locked in shallow waters. The fleet was surrounded by narrow straights on all sides, channeling the enemy seaborne advance, but this only locked the fleet into place. There could be no retreat. The Athasism Fleet was to be swallowed up.

The massive concentration of forces in Bigtoa came at a cost to defenses elsewhere. The northernmost island, "old Bigtoa", was the least defended of all. Merkar had not had nearly enough equipment left over after the initial attacks to assemble all its reserves, which ammounted to every male from 18 to 45 in the nation, a force of over 3 million. "Old Bigtoa" was being guarded by a few thousand reservists, many of them armed with rifles made in high school machine shops. The island had no seaborne defenses at all. The rest of the islands were hardly better off. A second enemy landing was a real threat.

What, then, was Raia to put in her report? In looking for a weakness in the enemy, she had only found his strengths. Perhaps the only option Merkar had was to send its sons and daughters to die, and die in great numbers. And even then, victory was not worth the price. What was the point?
Independent Hitmen
23-04-2007, 11:11
IHS Traveller, Troop Transport
Now sitting at anchor, unloading

Vehicles streamed out of Traveller’s vast hold and onto the pontoon-like bridge that IH Combat Engineers had erected out from the shore. The heavy vehicles made the sections of the structure bob in the water, but the carefully tested and constructed pathway would allow the ships to unload much quicker than they otherwise could.

Air Defence units had come out first, followed by the artillery and first elements of the mechanized infantry that Traveller held. There were many more vessels like her patiently waiting their turn, at one of the four similar structures, to disgorge their lethal cargo of troops, or vital loads of supplies and ammunition. Friendly aircraft traced lazy circles in the sky above as the SAM’s were set up, box launchers of the Grendal’s being erected along with hastily prepared camouflage that was used to cover the launchers and the all important target acquisition and tracking radars.

Some Stevidian forces were watching the unloading procedure along with a few IH officers not directly engaged in it. Two battalions of infantry had already been airlifted in by heavy lift helicopters to provide an immediate covering force, just in case any Merkar forces had miraculously managed to get past the Stevidian front line. Though not heavily armed themselves, they were supported by numerous AH-64D Apache gunships and the smaller OH-58 Kiowa Scout helicopters along with the ever watchful UAV’s. The newer Crookfur designed attack helicopters had yet to reach service with all divisions, but the upgraded Apache would still be troublesome for the opposition.

One of the lead Dire Wolf tanks of the 14th (Independent) Tank Battalion made its way to the end of the pontoon and it was with a sigh of relief that the four man crew watched the tracks touch solid ground for the first time in nearly two weeks. The engine roared as the tank then moved further inland, the crew looking out of their open hatches at the land they had come to liberate. A steady stream of tanks and other fighting vehicles would follow them, forming up into their relative battalions ready for the move towards the front. Meanwhile the divisional artillery, which had been given unloading priority, was moving swiftly towards predetermined firing points from where it would lend assistance to the advancing Stevidian’s until the IH forces came into the line. The 155mm and 105mm tubes and the 205mm rockets had a good range as well as payload capacity and would soon be dealing death to the enemy. Fire-finder radars and UAV detachments accompanied the guns to enable them to effectively counter-battery the enemy artillery to its death. Limited Special Forces activity would also help with that role.

Colonel Jeremy Hakim watched as his forces slowly formed up at the establishing battalion CP. As commander of the only Armoured Cavalry Regiment in the theatre it would be his job to seek out the enemy, fix their reconnaissance units and then destroy them, paving the way for the rest of the divisions advance. Or at least that was their job in open rolling terrain. Unfortunately with the current slow advance in urban fighting, his crack reconnaissance Regiment was essentially useless. The Cavalry Scout versions of the Mist Lynx IFV along with the Dire Wolf tanks would remain towards the rear of the 29th Mechanized Infantry Division’s group to eventually lead their advance when the Merkari line was again broken on a large enough scale to allow a suitable penetration.

Currently the superior maneuverability and firepower of the allied forces was trapped behind a river and then in an urban environment, two features that IH commanders were never too happy to see. Where possible IH doctrine dictated that forces should ignore urban centre’s and simply surround and pound them into submission whilst the main advance continued, unfortunately that doctrine could not be used here. The Merkari Army might have Macabeean armour but if the IHAF could see them they could shoot at them, and if they can shoot at them they can kill them. It wouldn’t matter if the tanks armour was ten times thicker than it was, laser guided bombs and missiles falling from the sky would smash them anyway. The same of course went for the allied vehicles, but then the enemy didn’t have mastery of the sky…at least not at the moment.

IHS Stalker II, Vanguard II Class Nuclear Attack Submarine
Approaching a small Merkari Task Force

Stalker II had been tracking this small Merkari Naval task force for a couple of hours now. They still didn’t have enough information for a classification, but the thrashing of multiple screws and possibly waterjets could not be mistaken for anything else.

Captain Wilkes knew that to launch his missiles now would be virtually useless. The 64 cell VLS launcher took over two minutes to launch its full payload and with the gaps in between firing it was highly likely that shipbourne countermeasures would be particularly effective at this range. Not to mention the fact that there would probably immediately be ASW helicopters crawling all over the launch position, with dipping sonar and sonar buoys they could be very bad news even for a submersible platform as advanced as a Vanguard II.

The best bet would be to close and launch a co-ordinated attack using several torpedoes at a range where the enemy would have negligible ability for manoeuvre and countermeasure as well as counter attack. Using the Spearfish Mk. III torpedoes that constituted the primary armament they needed to be within three miles for the 82knot torpedoes to stand a good chance of destroying the smaller targets. By that time they would have an accurate view of what they were up against, the only thing that bothered the Captain and crew was the lack of Merkari submarines so far. There were known to be several operating in the area but none had been so far detected on the entire voyage, either they weren’t there, or they couldn’t be detected. Both situations were worrying, one for the fleet command and the other for Stalker II.

For now the submarine would approach the enemy slowly, turning from side to side to allow the towed sonar array to gain as much information as possible on their adversaries before they were forced to engage them.

IH XXII Corps Command Post,
Temporary facility near Stevidian primary Firebase

XXII Corps CP had been set up over the past two hours. Heavy lift helicopters had brought in trailers full of communications gear and electronics whilst transports had flown in the staff to assemble and operate them. Until the Corps Security Company was offloaded from its transports the security was being provided by Stevidian MP’s and their IH counterparts, not that it was really needed.

In addition to the trailers there were now several large tents on the site. Each was packed full of radios, maps and people co-ordinating the mass disembarkation that was happening a few miles away. XXII Corps had been formed for this specific purpose, its only divisions were 29th Mech, 78th (Heavy) Infantry and the 5th Marines. There wasn’t even a full complement of Corps assets, only the Armoured Cavalry Regiment and the Combat Engineers were so far attached. It was expected that an Intelligence Company would be flown out soon, along with additional UAV support and some specialist comms gear. Until then the Divisional Staffs would be pooled in order to generate the necessary documentation of the opposition’s strength, along with estimates on combat efficiency and a multitude of other pieces of information that had to be collected and distributed to Regimental Level.

Collecting enemy strength values would be mostly achieved through satellite reconnaissance, however the IH commanders had been warned by the Stevidian’s that the Merkari had an irritating habit of being able to tap into the computer networks used by the military and cause untold amounts of damage as well as steal vital military information. Back in the USIH that wasn’t so much of a problem, there were literally billions of miles of secure military cabling that linked installations across the country, all due to the RWC Black Steel Computer system that had threatened to hack into military communications that were transmitted via satellite. Satellite networks had been physically isolated from the internal IH military network for security reasons, a preventative measure that caused no small amount of inconvenience but did add to security, particularly with (until recently) all major IH bases being within its own borders. Bases in places as remote as Russian Forces, Vizion, Credonia and now Stevid, had to be connected by satellite and so they were the vulnerable links in the chain to any potential Merkari attack. Although finding out that the IH 1st Army was currently involved in live fire exercises with the Russian 422nd Shock Army would be of little use Merkari Intelligence gatherers.

The lead Intelligence Officer was a Colonel from the 5th Marines and he was now standing outside one of the larger tents watching a KH-75 Knighthawk helicopter gracefully land on a makeshift pad some fifty yards away. The awesome wash from the rotors doing no good at all to the tents foundations. The rotors didn’t stop turning as the side door slid open and three men alighted and crouch-ran towards the CP, no sooner had they done so that the helicopter shot back into the sky and made a beeline back towards the coast.

It was the lead figure that wore the two stars of a Major-General and was therefore the Corps Commander. Major General Bruce Jericho had an American sounding name, far too dramatic for its own good he thought, but others loved it. A short man with a dark complexion he stood proud in standard issue DP’s with only a black thigh holster cluttering up the image.

“Is this damn CP operational yet Colonel?”

“That would be a negative Sir. The electronic guys are still setting up our radio masts a mile that way” he pointed in the opposite direction to the Stevidian Firebase “We still aren’t sure on the accuracy of Merkari Electronic Detection suites and would rather not find out with artillery rounds impacting the CP if you don’t mind General. These tents don’t take too kindly to them.”

“Sarcasm...interesting. I take it you’ve never been under fire Colonel.”

“That would be a negative Sir.”

“Right, well until you have been you will not be sarcastic within my earshot again. What’s the ETA on the 29th? I want those boys rolling as soon as humanly possible.”

“Estimate another five hours to get them unloaded. First elements can be moving an hour after that with a drive of about two hours to get near-ish to the front. I expect our Stevidian friends will provide some guides and liaison officers nearer the time. Our current operational thinking is very much the same as when we were back on the boats, 29th will move quickly to push through in the South allowing it and 78th to break out with the Stevidians and push them back. 5th Marines will remain waiting for the second amphibious operation along with the Naval Task Force.”

“Good stuff Colonel. IHAF are going to be established pretty soon and will be supporting the Navy fighters and ground attack aircraft when they do. As it is we have a generous CAP allowance, so lets make sure were are using it. Get the word down to Regimental Commanders that they are to assemble here at 1830hrs today for a quick briefing. Thats all.”

As they had been talking the General had pushed open the canvas flap to one of the tents and simply disappeared behind it after his last words leaving the Colonel to sort out his orders.
Ogdens nutgone flake
23-04-2007, 11:25
You need to read some Ian M Banks. He did a space battle in "Excession" that took a whole chapter, between one robot ship and a fleet of enemys. At the end of the chapter it says "all this happened in .023 of a second!"
26-04-2007, 16:32
Omega Bridge and City

It looked bleak but not in the least bit impossible to survive this daring manoeuvre made by the Merkar tanks and infantry. The line had made a very quick and cobbled together formation that now made it look as if the Stevidians were besieged on all sides. Six Tizonia-Alpha MBTs with around seventy supporting infantry had successfully used their knowledge of the surrounding area to beat the Stevidian flank and engage the rear of the frontline, killing a four star general in the process. As expected, the tanks and infantry did not advance on the bridge but rode slowing north east towards the Stevidian frontline in the city. The bridge, while not even safe for Stevidian tanks to cross despite capturing the bridge would be foolish to assault with a handful of tanks and infantry, however they were a competent force to be reckoned with against the frontline, especially now since it had to be reformed to face this renewed threat from the south.

Orders had been swift and direct from the Damocles command APC to the frontline and reorganisation, while a tad shoddy, was quickly performed into a defensive barrier that would sit and wait for the enemy to come. A counter-attack would leave the frontline vulnerable to an assault while the other tanks and troops engagement the flanking Merkari. Soldiers moved into the buildings further up the road and took up positions overlooking the avenue and up to the square where the Merkar tanks were advancing in column to attack down the street. AT missile launchers, laser designators, and C4 would be the infantry’s toys to use against the hard targets. AT and AP mines had been quickly armed down the street before the tanks caught the soldiers in the open, it would be a holding action and hopefully a hard fought victory against an enemy that didn’t outgun or outnumber them but had successfully outwitted commanders back at GHQ.

Sergeant Major Thomas Dawson was the lead tank commander of the three Iron Cheetah PADSHA tanks lined up in the avenue to hold up against the Merkar counter-advance. The Cheetahs were top notch tanks and were best to hold over the Merkar armour, harder and possibly more powerful tanks would hold the line for longer… and it would have to hold. The next window of opportunity for the RAF to allocate aircraft to this sector was not for another two hours yet and so the fighting in Omega City would have to be all done on the ground- for Stevid anyway. Thomas peered through the vision port in the Iron Cheetah and made a quick scan with his eyes. He saw no movement, no camouflaged troops moving up in front of the tanks, not yet anyway. He looked through his electronic periscope (a little detail the Stevid designs decided to put on the tank to increase the range of visibility the crew had, and he zoomed in on a man at the very top of a nearby building. He was signally in Stevidian military sign language and was indicating that the Merkari were advancing forward.

“Stand to.” He said calmly over the inter comm. link and the external link.

The turret turned and trained the barrel on the street in front of them as did the two other tanks with Thomas’. The tank would drawing ever nearer but probably wouldn’t be rushing in case of an ambush, an ambush that would come until they showed their ugly faces round the corner of the avenue.

“Load HE shell gunner.” He said again calmly, the reply was the sound of the shutter opening and the sound of a shell being shoved into the cannon.

“Shell loaded sir, ready to fire on your orders.”

“Confirmed, standby for attack.”

The idle engine continued and a bead of sweat ran down Thomas’ forehead and fell on his hands, he didn’t notice- his hands were sweaty too. He couldn’t help but feel scared for his own life and the lives of his tank crew. They had served together for years and were overjoyed when their unit was supplied with the new Iron Cheetah PADSHA model, but now he found it difficult to see all of them surviving this. Six enemy tanks and seventy troops were advancing and despite the Iron Cheetah having an incredible survival rating and that the Merkar force would be advancing in column, it certainly wouldn’t be easy to win.

Then they came, a dark urban grey tank rounded the corner, spun on its axis and trundled forward a few metres more before and explosion tore off the front of the right track as it struck a mine- it ground to a halt directly in front of the barrel of Thomas’s gun two hundred metres away. The tank fired its main armament on Thomas’ command, the shot was sure and true and destroyed the Tizonia-Alpha in a single shot. It was a lucky shot but a destroyed tank is a destroyed tank- no matter how it was achieve, at least it was another kill. The supporting troops scattered and the following tanks began to move around their destroyed ally. Troops in the buildings now opened fire with machine gun and rifle fire at the enemy troops below, anti-tank squad fired on the Tizonia-Alpha from above and managed to score another successful kill. Merkari return fire was surprisingly sporadic as shells from the tanks fired widely in panic, one stray shell rocked one of the Iron Cheetahs and stunned the crew but no lasting damage seemed to have been caused. But in seconds their fire became far more concentrated and four shells slammed into the same tank and two Thomas’s astonishment it was still operable.

“Tank 2. Report status.” Thomas called, his voice still utterly calm under the pressure and didn’t break once.

“Machine gunner and loader are both dead. Loader took a very nasty bang on the head…ah shit… err… it’s a real mess. Dunno about the other guy but the captain is unconscious. I’ll try and fire the cannon as best as possible but the rate of fire will be pretty slow.”

“Alright if you insist. Just do your best- lead out.”

The Merkar troops had finally gathered themselves and quickly established the buildings surrounding them were all occupied by Stevidian paratroopers. It wasn’t quite like shooting rats in a barrel, these ones fought back and a few shoulder launched rockets took at three squads in one building. Other units opened up with rifle fire at wherever they thought the paras were shooting from. Using their wrecked tanks for cover, they succeeded it maintaining fire positions without losing too many men. However the three Tizonia corpses that littered the street were beginning to interfere with the firing of the other surviving tanks. They realised they had immobilised one tank and began attacking the other- the lead tank. Two shells rocked Tom’s tank and took one of the track protection plates off thus exposing the un-armoured track links underneath. Return fire was calm and the line seemed to be holding. However in this instance there could be no retreat allowed either surrender or death would be the enemy’s fate today. A round of two shells ploughed into the immobilised tank next to Tom’s, it had suffered too much punishment to withstand one more shell and the other Tizonia dutifully responded to the tank’s inability to die and fire one more shell at the Iron Cheetah- blowing it to pieces leaving virtually nothing left.

The battle continued and the Stevidian forces began to taken advantage of the building cover, grenades were thrown, missiles fired and phosphorous used to kill, maim and force the enemy to break cover. Whenever they broke from cover the unlucky ones would get either a face full of machine gun fire or blown to pieces by an untouched AP mine. Lucky ones found new cover or only lost a single limb. It was utter chaos in the streets as the outflanking forces began to struggle against the Stevidian armour and infantry, the Merkari fought bravely but soon the rear guard of Stevidian infantry and armour (now reduced to one tank) marched on the position. Soldiers made a dash for it up the street towards the square in a bid to escape and were mown down by forces in the buildings, surviving Merkar tank had given up on the remaining Iron Cheetah and began pounding the buildings with cannon and machine gun fire killing tens at a time. A show of hand appeared from the top of the Tizonia-Alpha tank as the Iron Cheetah round one of the burning wrecks with stopped the Stevidian armour in its tracks. The commander and the crew piled out with their hands in the air, this self-sacrifice proved to be a worthy distraction as nearly twenty-Merkar soldiers to the buildings which they had come from.

It was a successful holding action but the fighting had delayed a hopeful push through the city. More tanks and troops were needed and they were hours away yet. A push would not come yet to the Stevidians in the South and so an un-preferred war of attrition would have to make do for the time being.

Alpha Bridge and City

It was a huge surprise counter-offensive by the Merkar Republic in the least expected part of the theatre, Alpha sector was supposed to be almost under control with the Merkar military wrapped around Stevid’s finger but the attack had left the invaders flat-footed, even amazed that the enemy could still find the will to fight. This iron will and discipline was one to be admired, the raw determination the enemy was showing was proving to be a real nuisance that had to be put down like a mad dog.
An assault on the bridge from a single part of Alpha City had bypassed the Stevidian road blockades and smashed through a segment of the defence perimeter sending three platoons and over twenty tanks into retreat back to the bridge while calling back on their radios to the line defending the bridge to prepare a holding action.

The Macabbean armour that Merkar possessed was extremely potent and when used correctly was devastating to the Stevidian armour. The less power Challenger I and Challenger II tanks were not quite up to the job with a kill ratio of two to five. The Challenger III and IIa tanks were slightly better at one for two and the Iron Cheetah PADSHA and non-PADSHA tanks proving their worth again when on the defensive with only a single loss. However the enemy’s tactics were simple and it looked to be an all out blitzkrieg (a tactic traditionally associated with The Macabees which was probably why the Merkar armour was doing so well) towards the bridge and had so far kill twenty-eight men, wounded seventy, severely damaged for tanks and had successfully destroyed seventeen. It certainly didn’t look good on the Stevidian score card and although the Army had popped off several enemy APCs without trouble, the feeble shoulder launched missiles would do nothing but scar the paintwork on the enemy tanks.

Three Iron Cheetahs rounded a street corner and almost simultaneously drove three shells into a single Broadsword-Tizonia tank turning it swiftly into a deformed burning hulk of metal, the twisted innards showed no signs of life. The Broadswords stopped and their turrets turned on a swivel, by the time they had turned another concentrated volley of shell fire wrecked another one before the remaining duo opened fire on the Iron Cheetah detachment and amazingly scored a kill- the occupants frantically trying to escape the burning coffin. Scenes like these were happening all over the place but the garrison of paratroopers defending the military checkpoint at Alpha Bridge had been over run and now several enemy tanks were surging across the bridge; the line was broken but not irreparable and a counter-strike would probably end this madness once and for all. Some enemy tanks had even reached the other side of the bridge while some had been caught in mysterious rocket fire that the Stevidian weren’t entirely sure were either friendly or enemy- in either case a salvo of rockets had wrecked a tank or two in the centre of the bridge.

A single column of reoccupied territory was gained for the Merkar Republic as the shocked Stevidian defenders began the inevitable rally. Paratroopers a top one of the larger buildings a the city side of the bridge erected a huge replica Union Flag of Stevid and started yelling patriotic phrases, chants and songs to the troopers below. Anti-atheist slogans and even racist comment were indiscriminately thrown at the Merkari attackers on top of the bullets, shells, rockets and mortars being thrown around. City fighting continued and fighting in the village on the other side of the intensified further and although the main advance was sure to end most resistance, the fighting would remain to be fierce since the Royal Air Force were beginning to feel the strain on defending the ground troops on the advance, the two Firebases, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the captured airfields in Bigtoa.

Firebase Bigtoa

Another General Staff meeting began in the semi-subterranean command bunker somewhere in the firebase. One or two Independent Hitmen Generals and Majors were present but most had left to over see the development on the IH military post a couple of miles away. But with the invasion in full swing and a solid concrete foothold attained on Bigtoa with not much on the Army’s resources used, a secondary invasion was probably needed to force Merkar out of the war either by forcing them to ask for a ceasefire or assimilating them into the Haven Pact and the Stevidian Empire.

Assimilation would please the King and Country but there had been a time not only a couple of months ago when Prime Minister David Conroy had denied that Stevid was a territory grabbing imperialist thief, the Golden War of Succession was the living embodiment of imperialism within the modern Stevidian Empire. The Imperial conquest of Merkar was preferred but a ceasefire would be negotiated, however it seemed unlikely that Merkar would give up so easily and so quickly. Their determined resolve and iron will to fight showed no signs of letting up and their true grit at fighting against the odds was so impressive that the Army wanted to keep fighting to gain the experience. The calls for a second invasion grew louder still until the meeting finally came.

A four star general, William Holt, had been shipped in to replace the dead one in Omega City and relieve the C&C of Stevidian forces in Bigtoa for a couple of months. He sat down around the oval table with several other high ranking military men from both Stevid and Independent Hitmen. He cleared his throat and began the meeting.

“Thank you all for attending especially our allies who are busy erecting their own CP not far from here. Glad you could all make it.” Holt said, a series of nods and thank yous was the reply he got.

“You all know that our fast push into Bigtoa from the initial landings has been exceptionally successful but the momentum has now vanished and the frontline advance has ground to a halt in places. We knew it would never hold up but we never anticipated that it would last this long. We vastly over estimated possible enemy resistance and we are nearly a month ahead of schedule, we’ve been asked by Parliament to slow down so the Civil Service can catch up with the paperwork.”

“I hope you told them no.” blurted a Major which rose a few smiles.

“Of course and I persuaded them to except the plans for a new invasion of Merkar. We have several proposed landing zones for two different parts of the Republic but since resources are not infinite we can only land on one island which what we will discuss.”

He rose and grabbed a pointing stick and held it over a huge map of the Merkar Republic. Conventional means of getting the point across was sometimes more effective than relying on computers the whole time. He rotated the stick over the Merkar capital city.

“The Republic’s capital city- the key and most valuable political target of this whole campaign and probably the war. Merkar’s allies have been slow to respond and taking the city will give us a huge trump card to use against the Golden Throne. It is possible that the Golden Throne and Merkar could call it quits after that. If not then it will shorten the war significantly, maybe even by a couple of years looking at how slowly the fighting is going in Safehaven… The Island is called Liliputia and is home to the now infamous Kentagi Point Harbour and the capital city. It is slightly larger than Bigtoa but not nearly as heavily defended, the Republic has been committing thousands upon thousands of troops and armoured units to the Bigtoa frontier leaving some sectors vulnerable to attack. The taking of the harbour will allow a safe dry dock for a large majority of the Third Fleet and the capital will be directly threatened… the problem is that this is its only strategic value.”

Holt then waved his stick over the land mass to the North West of the Republic.

“Marche Noir, not favoured by myself but is liked by many other of my fellow commanders. Doesn’t have much political and psychological advantage as Liliputia but does have wealth of economic and tactical advantages. Marche Noir is quite literally rich with raw materials. Geological scans of the surface and underground by our satellites have shown metals, rare minerals, oil and other ores that will prove beneficial to the country and the war effort. Several important cities are in Marche Noir too and the capture of those will have scientific value…err… you’ve all heard the stories coming from the enemy’s lines about extra terrestrials and how the majority of their population left for this new world or something and that this government profited from the technology these aliens left behind.”

Smirks spread across many faces gathered in the room over the lunacy of the Merkari people and the stories they told.

“Smile all you want fellas but true believers in our Lord won’t blindly dismiss the possibility that He is capable of creating life elsewhere in the universe. It is much more logical to believe in extra-terrestrial life than it is in our Lord in Heaven yet we, the masses, loyally follow a religious cause we have no proof on… I trust you all to keep an open mind when listening to the stories because they may well be true… Anyway the technology the “aliens” left behind to help the Merkari advance quickly into the world could prove very helpful to us and I’m sure many Stevidian and Hitmen labs would love to get their hands on that equipment. The one problem with March Noir is that it is a biblically long trek from there to the capital. An advance on Liliputia would have to come from Bigtoa if we invade Marche Noir…so what is it to be ladies and gentlemen? What is it to be- bearing in mind that Independent Hitmen has a crack Marine Division ready to make a hasty seaborne invasion of any target, Stevid can send in the remainder of its heavy units and mechanised infantry in afterwards. No matter your choice, a sea and air attack will have to commence within a week of this decision.”
Independent Hitmen
28-04-2007, 15:51
OOC: I know this is two posts up before Atheieism has had a chance to respond, but I have two exams next week so wont have any time to put this up....its only this one that directly affects you though I believe.

IHS Thunderer, Renown Class SuperCapital
Flagship of the IH “Battleship Squadron”, Part of IHN 9th Fleet

The Questerian designed and built Thunderer was at her maximum sustainable cruise speed heading south. The sun was setting on her right side as the IHN flag fluttered on its pennant high above the vast deck and awesome array of weapons. She was a beautiful sight and was the largest ship ever to serve in the IHN, at least to date, yet she had never fired her guns in anger. To some that showed the huge waste of money that she had been, some estimates put the total cost so far at nearly $5trillion, including crew training and wage. The cost of a single full load of shells and missiles was rumoured to be nearly $4.9billion, excluding maintenance costs. For that money the IHN could have had around twenty brand new carriers and their air groups, but the physical presence and sheer pride that the vessel drew had over-ruled it.

IHN Naval Doctrine focussed around carriers, it always had. The lessons learnt during the Second World War had been well translated through the text books and planning sessions that IHN officers had undertaken over the years. Whilst other navies had been lured into swapping flat-tops for gun barrels the IHN had built up both, albeit recently favouring the battleship slightly. It was widely believed that Project Zeus, a top secret navy research and production project, would produce one of the last SuperCapitals to grace the international stage for some time to come. Already the IHN had issued new contracts to the Gillen Shipping Yards for at least twenty new carriers over the coming two years with PortHaven Shipping Group & Co. receiving another contract for double that, including the production of twelve of the new CVSN-229 classes.
A usurper to her role of largest warship in the fleet didn’t worry the crew of Thunderer. They were mostly busy as the Captain commenced yet another attack drill, this time attempting to replicate air launched missiles attacking the battlegroup. The actual missile data had been synthesised from that collected against the Macabeean missiles in the Battle of the Otium Aqua some time before. IH programmers had quickly created accurate scenarios based upon the missiles known attack characteristics as well as creating programs that recognised the various differences between the different types of missiles the Macabees used.
As the drill ran its course a pair of SeaHawk helicopters approached the vessel from the port side. Onboard were the Captains of the other big gun ships in the group, the Prince of Wales Class SuperDreadnought’s Black Prince and King Henry, the Royal Sovereign Class SuperDreadnought’s David Conroy, Benjamin Peers and Bombard and the senior Captain from the ten battleships that also sailed with the fleet from his command ship, the Element Class Battleship Fire. The Captains of the nine supporting aircraft carriers were having a separate conference onboard the Ocean Class Fleet Carrier Atlantic. The escort for the formation was made up principally from Shade Class Destroyers and Worker Class Frigates for ASW and ASuW with Hunter Class Missile Cruisers performing an AAW function, along with carrying offensive missile armaments.

The Seahawks landed behind the massive Z turret at the rear of the ship, the Captains now faced a ten minute brisk walk to get to the centre of the ship and then down into the heavily armoured core where the conference would take place. One of them looked over the rail towards the nearest vessel, despite her huge size his Royal Sovereign Class SuperDreadnought was still dwarfed by the ship he was currently aboard. He hoped that his new XO was keeping his brand new ship in good order during his prolonged absence.
Onboard the IHS David Conroy the XO was enjoying life as the senior officer currently onboard the ship. With his legs stretched from his leather arm chair his feet rested on the Captain’s chair and he smiled at those also on the bridge with him. They were in position in the centre of a column of battleships, level with Thunderer who took position at the very centre of the group. The David Conroy only had four main gun turrets to the Thunderer’s eight but she was still a powerful force on the oceans waves. The concentration of battleships in the squadron meant that there was the potential to deliver over three hundred shells per salvo, many of which would be 27inch projectiles. The Royal Sovereigns like the David Conroy carried the 27.5inch rifle whilst the Questerian designed ships sported the famous 27.1, both calibres having an array of HE and AP warheads available to them.
Fleet speed of 22knots put the group off of the coast of the Merkar Republic in just under a week; their expressed purpose for being there was obvious to the crew. They would be lending terrific firepower to the ground pounders and sea cadets from the Marines when they tried to land again on another Merkari Island.

Stevidian FireBase Bigtoa

The senior IH General present, Corps Commander Bruce Jericho, paid close attention to the General Holt whilst he made his briefing. Being his superior officer, Jericho was careful to remove his usual sceptical tone that he usually reserved for people lecturing him.

“General Sir, I can put twenty-seven thousand of our best Marines ashore in three hours on the go-date. The boys in blue are bringing in some additional firepower to make their job that bit easier. As for the location of that, it is my opinion that we must strike for the enemy capital. Politically it may kick them out of the war, I believe we have to take that chance to have as few killed in this theatre as possible. We may very well need them elsewhere before too long.”

He motioned to one of his aides to call a chopper for him, he had a feeling that a particularly important decision was about to made that he needed to relay to his command at once.

IH XXII Corps Headquarters

Preparations were going well. The 29th Mechanized Infantry Division was now moving towards the front in Battalion sized taskforces, the entire Division heading towards the Northerly crossing point whilst the leading elements of the 78th Heavy Infantry began heading southwards to lend assistance to the Stevidians there if required.

Corps Communications were functioning and status reports were coming in frequently from the various units. For the third time in its history the 29th Mechanized Division was going to war.

245th Armoured Infantry Regiment (2nd Regiment of the 29th Mech)
Leading IH unit towards the Northern crossing point of the Ribir

3rd/245th was leading the advance with its Iron Cheetah Mk.2 PASHDA tanks and Mist Lynx II IFV’s in column formation. The battalions own flag, in this case a red and yellow fire on a black background, flew from the commanders Mist Lynx. This particular IFV was a command version and so carried only three passengers rather than the normal eight, the extra room generated by the loss of personnel being taken up by communications equipment. The IFV’s sported twin TOW launchers, which had been adapted to accept the Hyn Anti-Tank Missile with its greater penetration values, as well as the 30mm Bushmaster cannons that were lethal to man and machine alike.

It was one of these Mist Lynx II IFV’s that carried Corporal Harmann’s squad of mechanized infantrymen. The eight man squad and its equipment were crammed in the back of the vehicle, like many of the others they had the rear doors open, but the heat was still almost stifling. The crew of the IFV had their hatches open and the top halves of their bodies out taking in the cool breeze that wafted over them as they travelled at a lazy forty miles per hour. The small size of the island meant that they would soon be very close to the front and combat operations.

Corporal Harmann had been to war before, as had three others in his squad. The other four were unseasoned troops but they had all been a member of the Division for at least seven months, meaning that their training was up to scratch and hadn’t been rushed by the War of the Golden Succession as many new recruits had been. It was one of these new recruits that spoke up as the IFV lurched off the road to allow a Stevidian resupply column to blaze past in the other direction.

“Corp, where are we going?”

“To war”

“Well I know that, but where on this little island...”

“Heading for the Northern bridging point over the Ribir River, at the Stevidian codenamed Alpha Bridge. The Merkari have somehow pushed back against the Stevidian’s and we are here to exploit the opportunity to push them out of the Northern Sector once and for all. I guess”

“So we are advancing?”

“Yes you idiot. You remember your training, the Stevidians should allow them in more, then cut off the supply chain and roll up the combat units. You here those things going across the sky, sound like a big ass zip?”

“Yeah, what is it?”

“That is naval gunfire son. Remember those big bitches that were sailing along with us, twenty inch cannon at least I rekon.”

“Christ Corp, they could fire trucks out of those things!”

“Not quite, but its sure as hell a big ass shell. We had a couple of rounds fall short back in the Talaax thing, those were big holes they made and they were only old 16inchers. An ensign I was talking with on the trip over tells me that the big guns on our fire support battleships can hit targets accurately up to 70km away with the right shells and this whole Island aint more than thirty miles wide.”

“So we just let them do their job and go in with bodybags?”

“Not quite....don’t you worry, you’ll get to fire that SAW and throw your nades. In fact you might even get to use your knife as well”

Another seasoned member of the squad looked over at the two of them and grinned.

“Sure as hell gonna get some close combat. A buddy up in Intel told me that from the river on its practically urban sprawl. Fuck knows why the Stevidians chose to come in here rather than up near the Capital.”

“Yeah well fuck ordered us here too, so shut your mouth and follow orders. We are going in and we are gonna win. It don’t matter where, it don’t matter when, the 29th aint lost a battle yet and we aren’t gonna start.” One of the newer, more idealistic, members of the squad said that in between taking bites of a large chocolate bar.

“Course we are. Just don’t get too cocky. Some of us won’t be coming back from this shit hole.”[/i]

It might have been quite nice outside of the IFV, but to the seasoned troops this was just another potential grave. Secretly the Corporal knew that few of his squad would make it back, the dense urban environment was about to receive severe artillery, aerial and seaborne bombardment from the combined IH forces. He suspected that this would just create a better defensive environment for the Merkari, if their tanks didn’t have to move then they wouldn’t break down. The reliability of the complex Macabeean tanks was a common topic for jokes within the 29th, but they had yet to encounter them on the battlefield.

At the front of the convoy was an HMMWV carrying a Stevidian guide who was taking the troops forward through the Stevidian rear area. Numerous supply dumps were passed, all camouflaged, whilst the IH supply chain sought to establish itself the 29th would be forced to scrounge off of the Stevidians. Using the same CSJ equipment would help alleviate some of these potential logistical difficulties that would inevitable crop up from an operation of this size.

1445th Field Artillery Battalion

The thirty Cavalier Self Propelled guns had moved off the road some time previously and sat in a nearby field awaiting target co-ordinates. The small fire finder radar units that accompanied each battery from the Battalion were set up and operating as well, ready to pinpoint any counter battery missions.
Split into five batteries of six guns each the vehicles received their instructions via encrypted data burst transmissions. With a range of 60km for the hybrid shells that they fired the targets were well within range.
One battery fired off a burst Time on Target bombardment at a suspected enemy divisional CP whilst another began firing at co-ordinates transmitted from the Stevidian command. Two batteries just sat passively waiting for any counter-battery fire from the enemy which they would mercilessly hit and the fifth began to actively seek out the enemy guns via UAV reconnaissance.

The Hitmen were here and they wanted to make an immediate impression.

Part of the IH 2nd Fleet,
Twenty Miles from the Coast

Whilst the transport ships had been offloading their cargo’s the combat vessels had changed their dispositions to bring the battleships closer to the coast. The twenty such vessels had their escorts with them, throwing up a protective SAM umbrella that was added to by fighters from the carriers as well as an ASW cordon to stop any adventurous Merkari submarine commander.

Almost as one the twenty-two inch gun barrels onboard each of the two Element Class battleships turned towards land. Inside the turrets there was a flurry of activity, hybrid armour piercing shells were rammed into breeches which were then closed and the liquid propellant injected in behind them. The barrels came to the right azimuth as the onboard computers calculated air density, wind direction, air temperature and a thousand other variables that might affect the shells during flight. With the target co-ordinates being constantly updated from both satellite feeds and UAV drones over the area the computers came up with its predictions before humans could have begun to calculate the simplest variable. On each of the battleships a single gun from the front turret fired, the shell then being tracked through the air by a millimetre band radar on top of the ships mast. Not surprisingly there were some errors, which were quickly calculated out before the new instructions were sent to the remaining barrels.

Twenty seconds after the first shells had been fired the sides of the two battleships were obscured with flames and smoke as the remaining twenty eight barrels fired (fourteen per ship). Even before the smoke had started to clear the reload procedure began, sensors looked for harmful residues and fired a small burst of oxygen through the barrel before the breeches opened. Loading ramps came up to the breech and another 22inch HE shell was rammed into the firing mechanism. The breeches closed and the propellant was again injected in behind the shell. The firing buttons were depressed again and the breeches surged back just under a minute after the first shells had been fired.

Following the two lead battleships came the eighteen Toryu IIB battleships in two columns of nine. Smoke spewed from their funnels, they were still oil fired, as they went through a similar procedure to the Element’s. The columns were spaced so that they went in a zig-zag pattern so no battleship got in the way of the one behind as it fired.

The nine at the front fired first, the target for the combined 81 gun salvo being the urban environment beyond the Ribir. The rear nine swung their sixteen inch rifles to military targets on the other side of the river. Six salvo’s were fired before they had to turn away, they used that time to launch a barrage of AS-2B Anti-Shipping missiles across the island towards the bay. The missiles had co-ordinates to begin searching for targets at, from there they would pick out their unlucky adversaries. The battleships and their escorts launched nearly one and a half thousand deadly missiles towards the enemy fleet.

[OOC: 1152 from the Toryu’s, 80 from the Elements and the remaining two hundred from the Hunter Class Missile Cruisers. Info on my Reference Page, Post #6. They are on the sea-skimming attack profile, but they will follow it across land.]

Meanwhile the carriers had not been idle, hundreds of F-30 Shinden II interceptors were in the air providing air cover for the vessels as well as the ground forces. Meanwhile the IH fighter-bombers, mainly F/A-18F and G’s, were in the air laden with Air-to-Ground munitions, in most cases simple anti-armour missiles and bombs but for a few specialised squadrons Anti-Radar missiles that would be targeting SAM emplacements as they came online or fired at the advancing air armada. More F-30 Shinden II’s flew escort on these aircraft. Whilst the naval guns fired the aircraft used designated safe flight corridors.

Controllers in their E2-CI Hawkeye’s could see the tracks of shells arching through the air as clearly as any inbound missiles or aircraft. IH Naval Airpower was going head to head with the battleship’s guns to see who could do the most damage to the enemy.

[OOC2: About 200 fighters above the fleet, roughly 890 fighter-bombers making the attacks escorted by about 500 fighters. Figure 10 E2-CI’s providing fleet radar coverage with another 15 up to support the mass raid. Tanker wise it would be the full carrier tanker complements up, roughly 50. Oh and the ASW aircraft, that’s roughly 50 too although they will be staying out of trouble hunting subs.]

IHS Stalker II, Vanguard II Class SSN

Stalker II was now closing upon the group detected earlier. It had been determined by the blade counts that were being registered that these were patrol boats, probably those guarding the entrance to the bay where the Merkari Fleet was holed up. Stalker II had her orders which the Captain knew well, he had read and re-read them countless times over the proceeding day.

Along with three other Vanguard II’s they were to close off the enemy escape route from the bay. The arrival of heavy IH battleship support, which would be hitting them from long range, should be enough to encourage the Merkari to make a break into less constricted waters where the huge armour piercing shells would have a lower chance of hitting them. However to do that they would have to travel over four Vanguard II’s and with their computerised firing systems, triple hulls and large weapons load out’s there would be a lot of damage done.
The Macabees
30-04-2007, 02:05
Strategic Overview of the Situation - Imperial Perspective
Almost immediately after the withdrawal of the Kriermada from Otium Aqua Sea there had been plans for a second attempt to open Otium Aqua. This time, however, it would be achieved through not only naval action, but heavy aerial action as well. The operation was scheduled for early February, however, Stevid's unforeseen invasion of Athiesism had complicated matters quite a bit. It was impossible for the Empire to respond to the invasion in late December and early January due to the fact that there were no resources to lend to Athiesism. The Empire's land army was still licking its wounds from the Battle of Ishme-Dagan, where it had lost large portions of its active strength. Consequently, between November and mid-January the ground war on all fronts, except Athiesism, was almost silent with only minor operations by any side in order to set up for the spring offensive season of 2017. Realistically, only by late January could the Empire hope to get large formations on the ground on Athiesism - even then, it was assumed that the Norther Alliance would retain some sort of maritime capabilities to allow these men to land.

Nevertheless, between September 2016 and January 2017 much work had been completed to recuperate the strength lost at Otium Aqua. Most of the ships which had been tied down against the Havenic fleet were now free, given that Safehaven's fleet had largely been terminated at the Siege of Targul Frumos. Furthermore, most of the damages to the fleet which had engaged at Otium Aqua had been repaired, including those on the Feathermore, one of the most powerful ships that still sailed within the Kriermada. The fact there blockading duties had been taken up by minor shipping (mostly patrol boats) and cheap aerial assets allowed the majority of the Kriermada to congregate outside of Macabea harbor in preparation for another foray into Otium Aqua - this time with almost three times the strength!

This didn't mean that the Empire was completely incapable of lending resources to Athiesism. Kriegzimmer continued production for the lend-lease agreement they had signed with Athiesism, and there were crucial Imperial assets which protected the three Imperial harbors which allowed the Empire to land equipment for the Mekari military. These would also allow the Empire to land its own assets in case the situation there became overwhelming to the point where it seemed as if the Merkari military would collapse. But, most of the general staff felt that if they could hold out for two months, they could continue to hold out while the Empire and her allies picked away at Stevid's fleet up north. If Otium Aqua was successfully opened the Stevid would be completely incapable of defending herself at sea, as the rest of her naval assets would be in a situation in which they would find it incredibly difficult to engage the overwhelming amount of threats.

As early as 3 January 2017 Field Marshall Anton Xart (Chart) was given command of an ever growing task force to build a proper land army which could land in Atheisism. This would be based on brand-new recruits and brand-new equipment. The goal was to completely train and build eight brigades between January and March, and then prepare these either for Athiesism or for an audacious plan to land on Stevid's own territory and force the nation out of the war. Three of the eight brigades would be completely armored, while four would be mechanized and the eighth would be a combined special forces/elite unit. Simultaneously, Grand Admiral Albrek Caretian was again given command of the combined fleet - Grand Fleet 'Caretian'. With Safehaven largely humbled, it was now Stevid's turn to receive the majority of the pressure.

Her'atikal Naval Base, Western Athiesism - early January, 2017
Admiral Tener Delatrós hadn't slepped for days. He had been watching Stevid pummel Athiesism's navy, and he couldn't do anything to help. But finally, the series of thirty armored launchers had finally been constructed. Each of these held a single Starbolt surface to surface missile, and there were another thirty Starbolts on storage ready to be put into place one the first thirty had been used. Delatrós was proud to know that Her'atikal was the only naval base on Athiesism to have the ability to fire the Starbolt, although the other two bases would soon too have that ability. Nevertheless, Starbolts required hundreds of thousands of man hours to complete, and so not many could be supplied at a time. Nevertheless, thirty were more than enough to do much damage to any fleet which was targeted.

For the launch Delatrós was sorrounded by three men who belonged to government intelligence, who would not tell him their names, and by some of his sub lieutenants. Looking at the clock on the wall Delatrós was impatient. His men could notice, as they had been working for him for a long time. Minor beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. But no man could blame him for being so anxious.

One of his men, rear admiral Tenac Vidal calmly said, with almost no emotion, "Finally, we are able to strike back." He was right. For two weeks they had not been able to do anything. Now, Stevid would feel the presence of the Empire.

The admiral chuckled and responded, "Yes, although this was not the way I envisioned my war to be fought, I have to admit that I will enjoy this." He spread his legs a bit and placed his hands behind his back, as if he was at ease, and then said, "May God be with us."

One of the intelligence agents behind him cleared his throat and said, "Are the launchers ready?"

Below them, they could see the last of the trucks spread away as they had finished their maintenance on the launching pads. Beforehand hidden armored doors opened with ease, aided by the massive electrical power reserved below. Hydraulic systems raised the missiles so that their warheads poked outside of their launchers. It was truly beautiful, and a testament to the construction abilities of the Empire.

Admiral Delatrós exclaimed, "That is the Starbolt!"

Another agent put his hand on the admiral's shoulder and slowly ordered, "Prepare to fire."

The admiral nodded and pressed a yellow button on the console in front of him. This action seemed to set off a general alarm and warning about impending missile launches. The admiral looked behind him, towards the three agents, and the three men nodded at him. Consequently, he extended his arm and pressed a red button next to the yellow button. It was no more than ten seconds after that there were multiple explosions and smoke covered the launching grounds, while the thirty Starbolt missiles rose into the sky.

The Starbolts were true beauties, which had been designed by the Zeppelin Manufacturers and manufactured by Kriegzimmer. They were over two hundred meters tall a piece, and a had a payload of 48 tonnes. With a range of over two thousand miles they could easily engage Stevidian ships. The thirty missiles had been targeted by means of satellites and had been aimed mostly at Stevidian capital shipping. Although many of the missiles wouldn't survive, an impact of a single missile on any ship could almost always guarantee a sunk ship - 48 tonnes of warhead would do that. Any sunk ship would require Stevid to replace it, and that meant one less ship which would be available to engage the combined Imperial-Mekugian fleet at Otium Aqua.

While the smoke and dust of the launch settled the admiral turned to his sub lieutenants and ordered, "Order that all of our aerial defenses stay on alert. The Stevidians will no likely attempt to get some form of retribution against us. We will be prepared for them. Furthermore, place our six aerial strike squadrons on alert for scramble in case of attack."

The three intelligence agents remained quiet until he had finished and then one stretched out his arm, preparing for a handshake. Then he said, "Congratulations admiral. You have claimed your first kills of this war."

And that is how the Empire became involved with the Stevidian-Athiesism theater ...

Golden Armada, Macabea Harbor
The conglomeration of ships was intense, and never before had a single harbor seen so much firepower. The HES Feathermore was surrounded by another seven Zealous class super dreadnoughts. There were also six Argentine class Galleons, and thirty-six Elusive class Battleships. The air wing was also particularly powerful, with forty-one major aircraft carriers, and no less than eighteen escort carriers. All in all there were around 1,570 ships of all classes and types! This was, by far, the largest fleet ever composed by the Kriermada for a single mission. Furthermore, these would rondevouz with three Epion class super dreadnoughts and their own battle fleets. In was an incredibly display of firepower, and it was far more powerful than the fleet that had originally attempted to open Otium Aqua. Nevertheless, it was still quite an audacious plan of operations.

Over three hundred nuclear strategic bombers and over two thousand escort fighters were on call for preparation for bombing campaigns over Stevid's western island, in attempt to suppress their ability to conduct air raids on the Imperial and Mekugian fleets. The ultimate aim was to create complete air superiority over Otium Aqua, allowing the combined efforts of both nation's navy and bombers to quickly dispose of whatever fleet Stevid and its allies could send to protect their interests in the area.

The fleet soon set sail north, ready to turn east and prepare to pass over allied harbors in Riptide Monzarc. The horizon was almost completely invisible if one looked from a position in back of the large fleet. The combination of fluttering flags and towering superstructures was far too dazzling for the mind, and far more interesting than the horizon. Tens of thousands of citizens had packed the harbor to see the grand fleet sail north, and no one knew in what state it would return. Nevertheless, for one day the power of the Empire had made a tangible presence on the sea.

War Palace, Fedala
Emperor Fedor had come back to the War Palace for the day in order to recap on the happenings of the war. Although he had been told that his wife, Sophie, had been pregnant with a boy for almost four months he had no time to celebrate. Although he was winning his war of succession, there were still many battles to complete before the end. Around him remained some of the most notable figure of the Empire's military staff. Some of the most well known admirals, generals and air marshals. Easily, the top military brains of the world. They had all congregated to speak of the state of affairs of the war. Fedor was dressed in his military uniform, wearing the insignia of Captain General - the highest rank in the military, even above Field Marshall. The rest also donned their white military uniforms, a sign of power in the Empire.

Fedor opened the conversation, "How goes the assembling of the eight brigades?"

One general responded, "It goes well. Anton has written me, telling me that almost one armored brigade has been assembled, and all required equipment received. He has asked me to inform your majesty that his eight brigades will be ready by the time required."

"Good. He understands that his men will be necessary after the end of the Third Battle of Otium Aqua, correct?" The emperor inquired.

"Yes, he does."

Fedor smiled, "Then good. The next order of business, on the same topic." He paused for a moment, to recollect his thoughts, and then asked, "The grand fleet is on its way, I assume."

An admiral responded to this question, "Yes sir. The Mekugian navy will soon meet with the fleet, and together they will open engagement at Otium Aqua."

The emperor nodded and then followed up, "The chances of victory?"

Another admiral responded, "Well sir, we have over three times the strength with our fleet alone and the Stevidians have large portions of their strength tied down elsewhere. It is a reverse to the situation of the First Battle of Otium Aqua."

Fedor raised an eyebrow, "And so... our chances?"

The same admiral who responded first, said, "Our chances are excellent."

"That's good."

For a great deal of the meeting they began to discuss happenings in Ruska and preparations for the continued war against Safehaven. Millions of men would were poised to mop-up the remnants of Safehaven's active army in the north, and then sweep into the country towards the capital - to end this war once and for all. Already, millions of Havenic peoples had died on the battlefield in the cities which had been bombed to rubble by Imperial, Mekugian and Space Union bomber assets. It was a true massacre. About thirty minutes later they turned to the finishing operations in Weigar and Sarcanza - two noble revolutions which had been smashed by superior military power.

It was the first great war meeting since the beginning of the war, and it was to show that things had finally begun to go the way of the Empire. The Golden Throne was no doubt Fedor's, as his father had been imprisoned, and Safehaven was no longer a threat to the capital. Now only remained to settle the war once and for all ...

13th Heavy Bomber Command, unknown location
Sixty lumbering aerial beasts slowly made their way over Zarbia. Ever since the beginning of the war Zarbia had little method to respond to any aerospace violations of the Empire, and technically the two were at war - even if Imperial troops had not made major offensive attempts towards the center of Zarbia. The sixty aircraft were almost invisible to the eye, against the night sky. But they lit up in front of any radar due to their largess. The six turbofans of each engine let out a loud drone of noise, and when the sixty were together it was quite an impressive site. Each bomber could carry 219,310 kilograms of payload - quite an impressive amount. They were each carrying six Legionatus II inter-continental cruise missiles, each of which had a range of ~6,000 kilometers. These would be launched at high altitude and they would slowly climb, and then begin to descend over their targets. Ideally, they would come at such an angle that it would be very inefficient to target them with surface to air missiles.

The sixty bombers did not have to travel very far. Once they had passed Zarbia they only needed to complete a run which extended about two hundred kilometers beyond the coast of the continent. Then, they each fired their six missiles at will and turned around.

The three hundred and sixty missiles were targeted against Stevidian air bases which were within range to harm Imperial naval operations in Otium Aqua.

15th Heavy Bomber Command
These sixty bombers had come from a completely different direction, but their job remained the same. They too had expended their payloads to strike at Stevidian air bases from a very long stand-off distance. And they had left as suddenly as they had appeared. Nevertheless, one out of every six of their missiles was carrying a very special device. These would produce a larger electronic signature on radars, as if there were ten times their number - consequently, they would be noticed first, and anybody who didn't know better would think that there were many more them! It had been a textbook trick.

The Imperial bombing campaign on Stevid had only begun ...

Communiqué to the Merkar Republic
Brothers in arms, we are finally coming to your aid. Fear not, for you soon shall be freed of your troubles. The Empire of the Golden throne has come.
Anchrish States
30-04-2007, 03:06
A black Land Rover drove through sheets of dark Mekugian rain as the traffic floated aimlessly around the car made no sudden lane changes and was polite and courteous to other drivers its cargo however was not so polite, or harmless.

Four Anchrish men wearing gray suits and ties sat in near silence as they drove along in the night squall, all of them were resolute professionals of an undefined nature and they all were quite full after a productive dinner meeting in which they had all agreed quite unanimously that Stevid, or more specifically its hold over Otium Aqua had to end. In their very names they had signed the death warrant for thousands upon thousands of men on both sides and the only comment that came forward after this dubious agreement was 'could you turn the air down please.'

Such was the nature of Mekugian Military affairs, they did not care that the enemy was human, they merely locate a problem and eliminate it. It was this cold business like attitude that had made public opinion in the nation shift away from war, as it was seen as 'too efficient' or 'not entertaining enough' and news reports from the front at Ishme-Dagan had slowly faded off to the nights execution on Channel Doomani... 'those silly Kahanaistanis let then sing to the mulahs now...' they regularly joked.

Sadly such joyful silent car rides are short and the men grumbled to themselves and cursed the weather as they all hustled out of the car and meandered into the small non-descript office building in downtown of the capital of Carina.

Act I-
SUuuuu kai! came the roar as Anchrish sailors all stood on the docks by the thousands, though only one fleet could be supported at this harbor all three fleets were connected via massive jumbo screens showing the large masses of men and equipment standing at attention shouting 'salute!' in Anchrish, while patriotic messages played behind them, this wasn't their port it was on load to them from the Golden Throne but the fleet; having arrived after the second attempt at Otium Aqua had settled in and faced no regular resistance, as such they were rested, fully stocked and polished to a spit shine that raised morale to record numbers.

Once the Jubilation of the crowd had settled, a synchronized 'clack' of boot heels met pavement as the group of several thousand perhaps dozen of thousands of men came to attention in formation before three Fleet admirals their backdrops the superstructure of the massive Epion class Siege Dreadnoughts.

'Good Morning... as you are all aware we have received orders to join our allies in a glorious strike against the oppressors we know too well, we have defeated them on Land, at air and now we will sink every ship that dares question our superiority in this region... it is the break we have hoped for gentlemen... the Questarians have run, the Havenites are broken, it is now that we will hammer the nail in our foes coffin and seal their wretched stink in with them!

Glory be to the Commonwealth! Glory to the Praetor! Glory to the Fire that bore us, and in its flames tempered us!'

There was another shout from the assembled service men and women, similar to Huzzah but with the hokey translation of Anchrish it had become 'HuKai!' the Admiral held up his hand to bring their focus back to him.

'I will keep this brief as there is much work to be done, but our path is clear the stars are with us and you are with us, who then can stand before us? Technology and faith will protect us, our brains, or daring, and our honor will provide us with our glory... Use your skills for the best of the commonwealth and we will surly overcome any obstacle, have faith my brothers and sisters for we will let no obstacle stand in our way.


Another salute was called and the men in perfect parade formation left for their ships in order that looked like so many cards shuffling towards the exits.

[more later but I need to talk with Stevid first.]

Three Full Expeditionary Fleets are assembled Each containing the following:

Surface fleet-
1x Epion Class Seige Dreadnought (SDN)
3x Valiant Class Dreadnoughts (DN)
13x Oberon Class Fleet Carriers (CVN)
23x Rough Point Class Cruisers (CA)
26x Orka Class Escort Carriers (CVEN)
45x Sekei Class Command Destroyers (DDC)
90x Irkai Class Destroyers (DD)
130x Icelia Class ASW (FF)
180x Carson Class AAW (FFG)
50x Kaliber Class Corvettes (FS)

Sub-surface Fleet-
15x Kora Class (SSN)
10x Outreach Class (SSGN)
5x Braach Class (SSBN/SSGN)
06-05-2007, 23:20
The first wave of IH cruise missiles caught the Merkari fleet completely off-guard. The 300 warships of the Athasism fleet were all concentrated within a 20X20 mile area just west of Bigtoa, and had no room to manuever. This was not the problem, however. Low morale and exhaustion had nagged away at the fleet's readiness, and the first few SSMs reached their target completely unmolested. It was only the long gaps between firings of the enemy missiles that saved the Athasism Fleet from serious damage.

The first four missiles impacted one of the missile-decoy carrier derelicts guarding the fleet perimeter. The carrier had no fuel or ammunition to ignite, and remained afloat to soak up more missile impacts. The remaining SSMs fell upon the outer ring of destroyer escorts. The outermost ships fired off their missiles first, as they would likely be the first to sink and they were to expend their ammunition first. Four Erschoff-class destroyers were sunk or mortally wounded, with another 3 damaged.

Admiral Gonzalez of the 7th Carrier Group knew at once what had happened. The much-feared submarine forces of Independent Hitmen had made their way across Otium Aqua, and there was hardly a thing that he could do about it. The lone wolves- the submariners- were the only important fighters now. A group of twelve submarines had been dispatched to scour the sea around the launch site.

* * *

Body odor was already making the CIC uncomfortable. The crew, fascinated by their computer screens, hardly seemed to notice. There was no need for them to pay attention to anything else, not their neighbor's knee only inches away, or the officers moving down the narrow alleyway that anyone of fairly wide build had to struggle to pass through. For Captain Smith, this was not as much of a problem; heads, shoulders, and legs moved clear of her path as the thickly-built commander moved towards Jursai. Nor was the XO's compact build having a problem getting through the crowded aisle.

Amanda brushed a stray hair away from her eye. Jursai instinctively felt for his own hair, which was starting to become overgrown and disheveled. The two officers met in the center of the room in a small clearing between the two forests of computer consoles. Amanda coughed to clear her throat as she pushed her way past Utun, reclining in his seat at the navigation computer.

"Anything to report?"

"We're half an hour away from our destination, Commander. Nothing really significant on sonar right now, but a few minutes ago we had a brief contact with screw noises. Too high frequency to be Merkari, but that's all I can give you. The contact was heading towards the position our patrol boats vacated last week."

"So, you think they're going after the noise decoys?"

"Probably. We can still hear them. But nothing's certain. No torpedo launch noises, no more cruise missile launches. All that we know's that the submarine is IH, and it's heading for the task group."

"Good job, Lieutenant." Amanda wanted to say more. Jursai had been awake far beyond his watch, and the vitality that normally illuminated his face had drained away. The most noticeable thing about his face now was his baggy eyes, their shadows deepened by the dark red light of the CIC.

"Lieutenant, how long have you been awake?"

"I don't know. Hours. I'm fine, Amanda. This is the worst time to sleep."

"Right." The two officers stared blankly at the wall tactical display, as if it would help them find this submarine. In the old days, a captain and her crew merely needed to search the horizon for enemy masts. But submarine warfare was hell for finding the enemy. Amanda heard Jursai mumble something, and turned to face him.

"I said, how's the haircut going?" The XO smiled, while Amanda sighed.

"I've been trying to find time for it. You need one too. We all need one. We all need a break."

"You know, with your hair grown out, you look good, almost."

"Thank you, Lieutenant." Amanda folded her arms and stared blankly at the tactical map, again. She could see Merkar, the ships of the fleet, some Stevidian icons, but... no Indepent Hitmen submarine. Only a few records of unverified contacts. The Pragem was closing quickly with the enemy's predicted location. The hunt would begin soon. Captain Smith pulled her cellphone out of her pocket and dialed the sonar officer. A second's pause as the phone connected to the ship's internal net, three rings, and finally Lieutant Mikal's voice.

"Sonar room."

"This is the Captain. Do you hold any contacts?"

"Sound decoy array to the south, plus the fleet. Screw noises east, surface ships, certainly the Stevidians. Shallow water is hampering our detection, although the array is running-"

"Lieutenant, briefly. Do you hold any undersea contacts?"

"Ah, N-nothing except bioligics, ma'am."

"Didn't you have a contact a few minutes ago?"

"Actually, to go back on your last question, ma'am, we are still holding a constant high-frequency noise, it's..."

Mikal was not a man to make mistakes. He was one of the most technically proficient officers on the ship, but he usually didn't push himself. But judging from his unsteady voice, the Lieutenant was spent. Iminent battle or not, he needed rest.

"Lieutenant Mikal, you're relieved of your watch. Pass it to one of your subordinates and get to your quarters immediately. You are no longer on double shifts."

"Yes, ma'am." Mikal's phone clicked off.

Jursai watched Amanda return her phone to her pocket, and then looked past her to the aisle. Everyone seemed hard at work, except Utun, who was asleep. Probably best not to point that out to the Captain, as she had enough on her mind already. But Jursai couldn't help but comment on the rest of the crew.



"I didn't have any problems with the guys today. Everyone's doing a lot better now. I mean, a week ago, you couldn't have expected them to stay on duty for double shifts. Something's different."

"The discipline is working. They're not screwing each other 24/7, they throw their uniforms in the wash, and they usually salute. They even talk about Merkar." Amanda gestured to the wall display of the islands. She didn't show it, but she knew that this was a terribly ironic comment. Jursai knew, too. Under the sea and cut off from the world, the enlisted and junior officers had no idea that Berkar had just fallen.

After the disaster of the first few days of fighting, Merkar held out longer than any reasonable person would have expected. But the meat-grinder urban fight for Berkar could not be sustained for long. The Merkari army gave up first. What was left of the 200,000 soldiers sent to defend Bigtoa was now in Stevidian prison camps. Jursai's superiors did not lie about the situation. They admitted that the rest of Merkar was pratically defenseless, and other than the small chance that the Macabbeans would finally come to Athiesism's aid, Merkar was already defeated. General Cherhaven would not surrender; like a modern Churchill, but in much more desperate circumstances, he would rather see thousands die in a futile struggle than admit defeat.

Jursai realized that he had closed his eyes, and opened them. Nothing he saw made sense. The unknowing CIC officers were still sitting at their posts like they had been for hours, ignorant of their own stench. Amanda was talking with the weapons officer, having some conversation about torpedoes and submarines. Jursai's thoughts were too heavy to bear. He wordlessly made his way back to his stateroom.

* * *

The smoke of Berkar was still hanging over the mountains outside Athasism. The capital city experienced its first day of cloudy weather in months. It was welcome relief from the sun, and the citizens of Athasism were glad to know that they were not living in Berkar. The Havenic bombers had set the city aflame in a style greater than that of the Mosk Massacre, and the half-million citizens who had no way to escape couldn't help but notice that their homes had been levelled or incinerated. Almost all of them had survived- the lower levels of Berkar were well protected by the 4,000-foot-tall arcologies above them. The Havenic bombing did not accomplish much of military value, nor did it make Merkar more fearful than it already was or boost the morale of Stevidian infantry fighting for the city. It merely facilitated the inevitable Havenic triumph. Army Bigtoa never surrendered on paper; it simply fell apart on Friday, January 13th, 2017, Macabbean callendar.

Overlooking the burning city from the mountains around Athasism City were the technicians readying Merkar's new air force for flight. It had taken frantic efforts to get this far. Thousands of former Air Force personnel had been retrained in just a week after the 7,000 Talon UCAVs made it to Merkar from Space Union. This improvised air force was about to make history, for better or for worse. For the first time ever, a major air offensive would be conducted almost entirely by remote control.

The mountains that housed the Talons had kept them safe from prowling Independent Hitmen bombers. Athiesism's cave complexes also held the nation's vast jewel supply given to it by the Eternals. The Eternals had since abandoned landbound Merkar, which consisted all of those reluctant to join the Eternal's "faith" and set up colonies in Alpha Centauri. Athiesism stored plenty of these valuable space-jewels to fund the nation in times like this; they were kept in reserve, so as not to flood the market. But money alone could not sustain the nation of a mere 10 million, and little help seemed to be on the way. With no advanced space program, spaceborne Merkar did not yet have the technology to help its landbound counterpart directly, and it probably could not do so for at least another five years.

The one thing that brought relief to the General Staff was the entry of Mekugi and the Macabbees into the war. Their vast fleets would not arrive for days, a painfully long time for the nearly defenseless Athiesism islands, but help was on the way. The Havenic Pact merely had to be delayed. Alongside preparation for the air offensive, Merkar was preparing its air and ground defenses. One hundred Space Union-supplied SAM sites stood guard over the Fleet, which neither Stevid nor Independent Hitmen had so far made a decisive move against. Thousands more SAM sites were located throughout the country to complement the overextended Macabbean air defense network.

Merkar had finished mobilizing its reserves, which were not very numerous in a nation that had already conscripted 15% of its population. Macabbean firearms were used when available, but many men and women had to do with "homemade" rifles or nothing at all. With the Merkari fleet cooped up in a defensive perimeter, the remaining islands appeared wide open to Havenic invasion.
27-05-2007, 11:58
OOC: I think this is all regarding Mac's post. I might do another regarding the other two in the future. I'll also post my fleet in due course.


Number 65, War Room, Stevid Capita

The war room had never been so busy, the joint chiefs of military staff, the Prime Ministers, the Defence Minister, two aides from the King himself, civil servants and some of the most prestigious men in the military were present around the table- in the centre of which was a shallow basin where holographic projections were displayed and behind the Prime Minister’s chair was a very large plasma screen tactical board of Stevid and Rubet. The room was dimly lit, a powerful light directly above the table was the only light that improved sight, and the floor glowed dark blood red because of the red lights on the walls and the small neon lights that lined the edge of the room and corridors outside the room. The room had a distinctively sombre aura, a bad vibe that could be almost innately sensed by any human being or even the typical domestic animal. The war had taken a new, surprising and very bad turn for the Empire and the Haven Pact, everything for satellite images to MI6 agents and surveillance in the Golden Throne suggested an attack on the Otium Aqua directly- the sole reason why this meeting had been called.

PM David Conroy cleared his throat to silence the banter that was circling the table’s occupants and all yes focused on him and ears strained to take in every word which he was about to say. It was a grave situation that they had all been briefed on and so attention was paramount.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” He started. “I am sure you are all aware of the Golden Throne’s recent naval activity as well has her ally Mekgui’s own joint naval activity. The target is Otium Aqua. For months now we have been leeching off this oil rich sea, reserves are at their highest ever and imports from the Imperial nation Adaptus Astrates have fallen dramatically. But the sea is not only strategic economically but also strategically- now the last thing you want is a former military man turned political quoting your jobs and insulting your intelligence with the bleeding obvious… so I won’t. What I will do is show you what exactly we seem to be up against. First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West briefed me prior to this meeting, I know everything you do plus other things too… so let’s get started then. Alan, would you?”

The Prime Minister sat down and allowed the Admiral to rise up and walk to the front of the room with a remote control in his hand. He pressed it and the tactical screen on the wall turned on and the huge image of Stevid, Rubet, the Otium Aqua and a small part of the Guffingford East coast glowed a light blue, the sea itself remained dark blue. Missiles came up as small yellow triangles with dashes marking out where they had past over, allied shipping and Imperial shipping came up as green dots with major surface ships as triangles- super capital ships were squares, and finally enemy ships were red. Planes were not displayed yet, only the ships and long range missiles.

“Okay, straight to it then.” West began. “The enemy fleet at the moment is not of direct concern but we should deal with it almost immediately. I’ll get to that part of the talk in a minute- first is these yellow triangles, these are Skyburst missiles. Simply put, these things are real bitches over twenty metres long with 48-tons of explosives inside them.”

He pressed another button and the holographic basin whirred to life displaying a 3D, colour cut-away of the Skyburst missile that rotated before the room’s occupants.

“Thirty of these have been deployed and launched by the Golden Throne and, unfortunately, our home land anti-missile rockets do not have enough time to launch and take them down. The Military Space Station Belkan (MSSB) has successfully tracked the missiles’ trajectories and they are not heading for key structural buildings or areas in Stevid. They are however fanning out to take down some of our larger capital ships in the Royal Navy. This will include some of the larger carriers but will concentrate on the Catholic, Malleus and Sanguinious Classes of Super Dreadnoughts and maybe even our Command Battleships. We have an ace in the hole against these bastards though, the Hanover Electronic Warfare cruiser was designed to protect the fleets from these sorts of attacks. They are well protected themselves and were designed as a frontline defensive ship against tactical missiles, ICBMs and of course anti-shipping missiles like the Sledgehammer series. These will provide as much protection as possible which guarantees the protection of the Questers SDNs we bought and the Sanguinious SDNs which have at least three of these ship defences. The Malleus and Catholic Classes are in danger and do provide the bulk of our SDN force. The loss of a Catholic Class ship is not one of major concern but the loss of life is and every possible measure is being made to enhance survival percentages before the missiles strike. We estimate that several will break through but we are expecting that AA and AMM fire will destroy most of them on top of the EW cruiser’s own counter measures.”

He pressed another button and the holographic image disappeared, the dots and triangles on the board remain.

“Otium Aqua is very well defended. We have two or three allied IH fleets in the sea while w have a possible four to bring to bear but realistically speaking we have the same as IH. The 3rd Fleet is currently seeing combat over at Merkar which puts them almost totally out of the picture. The 5th Fleet is at one quarter fighting strength and will not be used although the ships we lost during the actual nuclear strike have been replaced and the dockyard clean is almost finished too- fleet number replenishment is now ongoing. The 2nd Fleet is back from fighting around the North Hanover Island Chain Dependency after having engaged and destroyed several large elements of the Kanami Navy, the 2nd Fleet has been re-supplied and lost ships have been replaced almost two months ago, this fleet will be added to and will be the frontline fleet against the combined mass of the Mekgui and Golden Throne fleets- the 2nd Fleet has seen more action than the enemy and thus has better experience, a quality which will be relied upon a lot during this part of the war. The 1st Fleet is stationed in the Otium Aqua permanently any way and was acting as the frontline defence of it until the 2nd Fleet arrived home and so will also take part in combat. The 9th Fleet is small, smaller than the 5th Fleet but has strong elements including a Command Battleship Echelon of Germanic Class, Britannic Class, the prototype Imperial Class and two St. Andrew Class BBCN/DN Command Battleships. Whether or not the Imperial Class will see action is open for debate seeing as full testing isn’t completed yet, in fact the final weapons tested proved successful only two days ago. Finally is the 4th Fleet that protects the East coast; it is unlikely that this fleet will participant in action in the Otium Aqua but in case things do turn for the worst and end up with a possible Haven Pact defeat, it will be brought to Increased Readiness alert and thus will be out at sea waiting for the word to fight. I will not commit them to battle because I do not want the Eastern seaboard left undefended and open to foreign bombardment- the Port City Sunderland would also be at risk which is why they will Remain in the Stevidian Sea.”

As he spoke and listed the fleets, the triangles and dots representing them flashed in whatever colour they were. What the Admiral said was all true and the mood seemed to rise slightly, the Royal Navy now had more assets in the Otium Aqua than before and they were lucky that the attack was coming now rather than three months ago. If it had come then, then the 2nd Fleet would be fighting in the Hanover War and then soon after that the Second Hanover War which would had devastating to the Navy’s tactical plans. As it happens the Navy was lucky to escape an attack during that period and managed to get the 2nd Fleet back home and into port. The experience gained in both Hanover Conflicts might prove invaluable now an even more powerful pair of enemies was approaching on the horizon.

“What I said may sound good but the Merkar Republic Campaign, while going exceptionally well, is a drain on resources. We would vastly out number and out gun our enemies if the 3rd Fleet were available, seeing as they are fighting on our turf we can bring as many ships to battle as we need and likewise with aircraft. Their chances of victory are excellent but ours are just as good when you look at statistics and battle records- this battle will not be in the slightest bit easy for them to win. The Merkar front has also drawn heavily on assistance from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, although most of the RFA ships are either back in port or returning to port, they are picking up goods to transport to that theatre- the Otium Aqua will still have a lot of support but it may become touch and go if the conflict becomes overly prolonged- this is something neither side wants, in particular the Golden Throne who are thousands of miles away from home. A prolonged engagement will mean their defeat but also heavy casualties for us. I want a decisive victory, not a logistical one.”

He now pointed at the flashing red dots and triangles that represented Mekgui and The Macabees’ own fleets.

“The enemy dwells here and is approaching steadily. The Golden Throne’s fleet is far, far larger than the one we encountered almost half a year ago and it is coupled with a very large Mekgui fleet. This totals well over one thousand five hundred ships- maybe even over two thousand, numbers can not be fully verified yet but we do have one or two submarines keeping tabs on it at the safest distance possible. Our fleets and IH’s fleets combine provide a force the nearly equals or perhaps even betters the enemy’s, but numbers are almost completely irrelevant- skill, tactical mind, initiative, calm, guts, bravery and a bit of luck is what one needs to win- not a huge number of ships. However they may out number us by a huge margin on the battleship front, The Macabees favours the battleship a lot as do we. However Independent Hitmen favours the aircraft carrier and has hundreds sailing the high seas of Otium Aqua. Air power from the FAA, RAF, IHAF and IHFAA will be crucial on top of our sea power to win this day. The battle of the sea will be hard fought but is far from impossible- it will be truly fought on titanic proportions… weather will not be quite so in our favour this time around. The next couple of weeks in the Otium Aqua are predicted to be high gale force winds, choppy seas and light-to-medium rain. Last time was light-to-medium storms which favoured us because our gunnery is excellent in those types of conditions. The relatively “calm” predictions for the next month means better gunnery for us but also vastly improved gunnery for them so ship losses are expected to be significantly higher… right lets move on to the last piece of bad news.”

He pressed another button on his remote and the flashing dots from all parties were wiped off the board. Replacing them were several large red triangles with dashes behind them leading to enemy airbases, it was live and so they were ever so slowly crawling across the map. Various green squares were flashing in Stevid and Rubet and in the top right hand corner of the screen in big white capital letters was “AIR POWER”.

“The green squares you see are our airbases and those on lease or shared jointly with Independent Hitmen. As you can see there are thousands of them. Don’t let this go to your heads because those triangles approach may well be enemy aircraft and they may well be some distance off yet but they no ordinary aircraft.”

He pressed yet another button on the remote and a large colour holographic model of a very large strategic bomber began rotating in the middle of the table.

“As far as supper bombers are concerned they are not the biggest we have ever encountered but these are still massive beasts. An unconfirmed number are heading for the Otium Aqua, we estimate fewer than one hundred and we are sure they are heading for the fleets in Otium Aqua- will also know they are not singling us out, IH is in big danger here because of the attractiveness of their flat-tops. We will be sending aircraft up to meet them and this includes Bomber Command loading the Armbursts, B1s, B2s, Vulcans and whatnot into the air with as many anti-air long range missiles they can carry. The fleets will not be totally saved but damage will be significantly reduced after a short airborne skirmish. The Fleet Air Arm and air defences would then take over afterwards.”

“Is there any bloody good news?” Asked a general at the far side of the table after inspecting the holo image of the enemy bomber.

“Of course, my esteemed colleague. Sorry if I’ve sounded a bit too apocalyptic for your liking but I’m just giving you the facts… Yes, the good news is that in the Merkar Theatre the Bigtoa capital city of Berkar is well within range of our major artillery pieces and within easy road and off-road access of the Armoured Corps from Gamma Bridge which is where the mainstay of the invasion force is. With IH backing us up on all sectors now we have the advantage to crush Bigtoa. A second invasion plan is finished and waiting for final approvals before being briefed to me and the other Stevidian and Hitmen commanders. However on this front the only good news I can give you is that we have good air cover, reasonable to excellent chances of victory of keeping the sea on top of the possibility that we can launch a conventional ICBM strike on the enemy fleet which is what Missile Command is planning to do. Don’t worry sirs, this battle is far from lost but the wounds sustained from it whether we lose or win will be near terrible. Loss of ships and planes will be frighteningly high on both sides. If we win then another major attack on Otium Aqua by the Golden Throne and Allies will be to the fire and the sea will never again be threatened. If we lose then we will have to call on Adaptus Astrates for more oil when the reserves run low, we will have to remove the 3rd Fleet from Merkar and ignore our obligations in the East and move the 4th Fleet round to try and retake the Otium Aqua. Defeat will be a real inconvenience but will be no means put us out of the fight for Otium Aqua. But whatever happens, Navy’s on both sides will be crippled to a point were naval battles will become few and far between.”

“If we had Guffingford then we could stop the air strike before it arrived. In fact we would have a huge part of Guffingford by now if Merkar wasn’t found to be leasing bases to the Golden Throne. Our Imperial conquest policies have been put on indefinite hold for the time being.”

Several Hours Later- Otium Aqua

The Skyburst had been tracked by satellites almost since lift off but Missile Command had indeed been slow in getting authorisation from the government to use missile countermeasures, by the time the approval came through the enemy missiles were going far too fast near to their targets for an effective ballistic missile launch to succeed. Reliance on the Royal Navy was now at hand and the Navy had on many occasions dealt extremely well against missile threats. But this were quite literally ICBMs and not your standard AS missile, the decks of most Stevidian shipping were thick making them heavy and slower than their counterpart classes in other nations but it meant missile survival was greater- unfortunately this would be the case when 48-tons of TNT would exploding inside the doomed target ship.

The thirty missiles fired had already fanned out towards their targets, all predetermined very accurately as Stevidian and not Independent Hitmen. The first missiles that would fall on the fleets were targeting two Sanguinious Class Super Dreadnoughts in the 1st Fleet. As the missiles began their extremely fast descent, the several or so Hanover Class EW cruiser began to show why they were such a wise investment. The Royal Navy prided itself on its ECM/ECCM capabilities and it was this sort of technology that led to victory against Guffingford in the first sea battle in Otium Aqua. All the main capital ships had extremely complex and powerful EW suites and the Hanover Class was full of them. Several major suites and many more minor ones all working flat out against the enemy missiles. Confusing the ICBMs was initially difficult, almost impossible, The Macabees had present the targets and the missiles were flying on that preset trajectory from the start and since most of the ships were either moving slowly or at anchor there would be no need for a major course correction- only a minor ones. Now even course corrections, no matter how insignificant, were made impossible by a single Hanover Class let alone the combine EW might of the 1st Fleet. Readings came into the Defiler Command Cruiser and the Hanover Cruiser, two missiles did not have a link to their GPS guidance satellite and would miss the SDNs completely but two more would indeed strike it- secondary measures were needed to throw the missile off once and for all.

The Sanguinious Super Dreadnoughts fired chaff and deployed other missile countermeasures short of ILMS fire to fend off the missiles. Three Hanover Class cruiser prepared for combat from the off and one fired two missiles (one for each inbound ICBM), the missiles fired were EMP missiles designed to fly past the target missiles and detonate a high frequency but small radius electromagnetic pulse from the exploding missile. The missile’s explosion itself would do no damage but the EMP charge would fry the circuits, guidance and propulsion boards- generally confuse the missile which could lead to anything from a wild course change to a mid air explosion. Luck was on the fleet’s side as the remaining enemy missiles exploded in spectacular fashion resulting in cheers throughout the bowls of every ship.
Similar happenings were being communicated from all over Otium Aqua but not all were of happy endings. The majority of missiles were shot down and the Hanover EW cruisers had been responsible for all the defence, but the cruisers were not everywhere and some ships did not get the protection they needed. Reports of three Catholic Class SDNs, two Malleus Class SDNs, three Germanic Command Battleships and one St. Andrew Command Battleship/Dreadnought had been hit. All the CBs had been sunk or were in the process with very few survivors; of the three Catholic SDNs hit one was damaged to such a degree that it was unlikely that it would see combat for several months or even a year while the other two had been sunk or were sinking- casualties were moderate; one Malleus Class hit did survive but took substantial damage while the other also limped back to port while evacuating the crew- it was unlikely that she would make it back to port before capsizing. Smoke from some of the more destructive deaths slowly crept up into the sky and could be seen for miles around, even in the traditional poor weather of Otium Aqua the smoke was visible. But the reports of these losses were shadowed slightly by the success of the Hanover Cruiser, without it the Royal Navy would be without most of its capital ships and would be fighting off the Kreigmada with Command Battleships- which was fine but not nearly enough to win the battle.

The fleets of the Royal Navy had their command structure intact for the most part.

RAF Chilyabinsk

Chilyabinsk still bore the signs of the former Communist regime that flattened the country decades ago, the traditional red stars of communism were still on the gates of the guardhouses and checkpoints leading into RAF Chilyabinsk. This place was remote and almost completely barren, it lay six miles from the Stevidian wastelands that cuts through the middle of country and Chilyabinsk was in the dead centre of the country but just missed the wasteland winds. The Uranium Inc. mines littered the wastelands and left three cities and four towns completely abandoned- soulless and ghostly- Chilyabinsk survived this…just.

The fact that this small town with a population of only five hundred on six meant it was perfect for a military base and Bomber Command liked it too, so much that it was granted to them to house their Vulcan B.2a bombers, their B2 Spirits and their B6a Armbursts. This airbase was little short of huge and even had underground hangers with elevators of biblical proportions to lift up to three Vulcan bombers at a time from the gigantic underground hangers to the parking spaces on the surface. Seventy Vulcans, eighty-five Spirits and twenty Armbursts- one hundred seventy-five in all for Bomber Command to play with.

RAF Chilyabinsk was primarily built to serve as Stevid’s airborne nuclear retaliation option. The nuclear missile delivery craft would be housed underground away from harmful radiation and shockwaves on the service and would then be moved to the runway above and take-off to “reply” to the enemy in kind. It was very cold war notion and every day the crews practised in case the day came when Stevid’s main military and command structures were wiped out in a nuclear war and they were one of the few people left capable of attacking back. Now, with the days of nuclear war almost completely gone and the Royal Navy’s delivery system more reliable than the RAF’s, they were used as conventional bombers. The nuclear warheads and missiles remained underground in case they were called upon to deliver a device but the chances of them being called upon to do so ever again was slim.

Red alert klaxons sounded loudly with a voice over seconds later ordering all crews to scramble and then stating that this wasn’t a drill, a sound and speech that once would have chilled the grown men down there to the bone, it would have meant that nuclear strikes of biblical proportions had destroyed almost all of Stevid. This time of course it was different, they were carrying conventional weapons and not nukes- as far as they knew. The crews rushed out of bed, the canteen, the toilet with their trousers half pulled up as they scrambled out of the cubicles and darted down the nuclear bunk style corridors to their craft. The automated machinery was busy loading, to their initial bemusement, very long-range air-to-air missiles. These babes were packed with propellant and TNT and could be launched en mass from hundreds of clicks away like any other self-respecting LAAM. Stevidian bombers had been used countless times to shoot down enemy aircraft when ordinary AA fighters didn’t have the capacity to fire so many missiles. The Vulcan was ideal for this job and so was the Armburst as both had a lot of space to fill with self loading racks of these missiles.

The crews wasted no time and leapt into action immediately, briefing would follow when they were being transporting to the surface in their bombers and additional briefing would happen in flight before engagement.

It took fifteen minutes to get fifty bombers on the surface, not a record but an excellent start and all taxied off and began circling the airbase in giant circuits that took them in and out of the Wastelands. Records started to be broken once the operators got into their stride and in less than an hour all the bombers were in the air and heading out to the Otium Aqua Sea, their mission was simple- meet up with large elements of the RAF, FAA, IHAF and the Hitmen equivalent of the FAA and attack the huge bombers heading for the fleets gathered in Otium Aqua. As GPS and other satellites showed, the enemy bomber formations and mass escorts were closing and closing fast on the fleets in the sea and they were just reaching the last hundred or so miles of Guffingford as they closed in further. The FAA hadn’t scrambled yet as they would easily be outnumbered at this early stage, the RAF on the other hand been order to mass mobilise on the Western frontiers. Rubet Island and the Cadia region (the bit that looks like Wales) were committing almost all their available aircraft, everything from bombers to fighter planes. The XF-26 Hawker, the XF-24 Nightwalker (a plane that had proved to be excellent against some of the most advanced fighters in the world today) and the multi-role plane XF-25 Scorpion armed with as many AA missiles as the thing could carry, were taking off all over those regions. Bombers from the ancient B-52 to the B2 Spirit were taking a slight back seat as they were probably needed for the actual sea battle, this was also why the whole RAF had not been called upon to fight in the skies with the enemy bombers and escorts- air control over ones fleet was essentially and air power was one of the major advantages Stevid had in this sector.

Numbers were actually unknown but only a handful of the impressive B6a Armbursts were taking part in aerial combat but over two hundred Vulcan B2as, sixty-five B2 Spirits, eighty B1b Lancers and twenty B-52s modified for missile firings (sounds almost ridiculous but was certainly a desperate act by the MoD) were in the air and ready to engage the enemy formation. Small craft numbers sent out by the RAF looked very impressive on paper. The XF-26 Hawker fighter jet numbered a total of forty-eight, the Nightwalker numbered the most in nearly two hundred and sixty and the Scorpion numbered a fair bit fewer at eighty-five. All were of course the land abased version of the naval type. Other aircraft were on standby in case things did take a turn for the worst, the F-22a Raptor numbered a hundred and forty, the Tornado F3 number six hundred and eighty but only one hundred would ever be committed as the rest were needed for homeland defence and likewise with the EF-2000, the SU Terminators, the Tornado GR4s, the Harrier GR9s, the F-35s and now ridiculously old F-5 “Freedom Fighters” and F-3 Phantoms (both were commissioned as training aircraft but still had the pylons and control systems from them to be used in offensive actions).

The Fleet Air Arm would only launch as many aircraft as deemed necessary depending on the initial contact between the Golden Throne’s own forces and the RAF. The two would meet only eighty miles from the 1st Fleet and one of the IH fleets in the sea sector. The RAF and international fleet air arms had to fight the Golden Throne on allied terms and not the enemy’s. They may be attacking but it was still Haven Pact territory and was home turf for the Stevidians.

Bigtoa Gamma Sector

The other two bridges were showing signs of minor struggle but it was Gamma Bridge and the nearby city that had been the biggest success with both captured within hours of attack several days ago. Now that Independent Hitmen had arrived in the theatre en mass the main armoured and mechanised infantry invasion column in Gamma Sector could advance towards the Holy Grail of Bigtoa- Berkar City, capital of Bigtoa. Well within range of the navy’s big guns and the FAA and Bomber Command assets now stationed in captured airfields in occupied Bigtoa, the City was waiting to be levelled. Traditional cities of the Merkar Republic were ones of massive skyscrapers that put many in Stevid to shame, these numbered in hundreds and the capital of Merkar would be far bigger than this city that Stevid faced. Its size was truly biblical and looked incredibly modern, it was the Navy, Army and RAF’s job to send it back to the Stone Age.

The Army had been looking forward to this day, Stevid’s army excellent at urban warfare- 24th Foot Mechanised Infantry Division were one of the best in the world for this sort of combat, unfortunately they were in Safehaven but the Corps in Bigtoa was more than capable of taking this city. The artillery set up several miles behind the line but were well within range of the city’s suburbs and wasted no time in using the Damocles to get coordinates for them to fire upon; within minutes the barrage from the Royal Artillery began to pound the buildings and assumed locations of enemy units in the city, the RAF used what spare fighters and bombers they had to strike the city’s outskirts as well targeting fuel stations, pillboxes and enemy strongholds that had been picked out by the satellites in orbit. Airborne units encountered quite stubborn resistance from both surviving Merkar aircraft and AA/SAM units place throughout the city. RAF strategic bombers fared better than their fighter/fighter-bomber counterparts, flying at high level and dropping their freefall munitions, sub munitions and guided bunker buster bombs, they targeted the buildings like skyscrapers, government buildings, airports and other buildings. The infrastructure was deliberately destroyed in the metropolitan area to make retreating units either surrender or struggle to get away to the coastline. The bombing was extremely indiscriminate and civilian casualties were of no concern at this stage, in fact if the civilians had any sense then they would have left weeks ago when Berkar was directly threatened after the Ribir Line collapsed.

The Royal Navy’s Super Dreadnoughts and Command Battleship began pounding away with their cannons, flinging huge shells at the giant buildings causing structural damage at levels probably never before seen by either Stevidian or Merkari troops. The FAA flew defensive sorties over the advancing armoured and infantry columns as the crawled towards the capital city of Bigtoa. Victory here would deny the bottled up enemy fleet a safe harbour in Bigtoa and the Royal Navy and IH Navy could finish the job once and for all- Bigtoa would be captured and simultaneously Liliputia would have been invaded too.

Missile Command, Cadia, Stevid

News that The Macabees were using conventional ICBMs was unnerving to everyone, what was to stop them from launching a strike against the homeland? En mass it could work but would only prompt a full retaliation from both conventional and nuclear units which was probably what both sides wanted to avoid and all parties had the utmost mutual respect for each other’s nuclear delivery capabilities. Stevid knew that the Golden Throne possessed thousands of missiles and had the naval delivery method; The Macabees knew that Stevid had the means to deliver from the air and via ICBMs what was probably frightening to the Golden Throne was that the number of nuclear attack submarines the Royal Navy had was unknown. Their foreign intelligence agencies knew they existed in large numbers but figures were impossible and positions were never really recorded on any computer or on any network hooked up to a military mainframe or the Internet. Stevid could launch a naval nuclear strike at anytime, from anywhere at any magnitude, but each side wanted to avoid nuclear conflict- everybody would lose no matter how badly each side suffered.

The Skyburst missiles had caused a lot of damage and had sent morale spiralling from a huge height, it was still high but the Navy needed a boost o keep weakening spirit up. Missile Command had got permission to fire anti-ballistic missile missiles in defence of the Royal navy but the word had been received too slow- but in time to retaliate. The same Godhammer conventional ICBMs that were used on Kanami during the Second Hanover Conflict were ready to launch. They were special in any great way, they were huge as any ICBM was meant to be and were full of explosives between 20-50 tons depending on the Mark of missile. They weren’t deep penetration missiles either but rather burst missiles that exploded above the targets and rained explosives and molten steel over the target, this made them particularly dangerous to cities and an extreme nuisance to military units that were armoured (Lethal to infantry).

A total of seventy were launched at the joint Golden Throne/Mekgui fleets approaching North Otium Aqua. It was unlikely that all targeted capital ships and carriers would be sunk, in fact extensive damage scored on the super dreadnoughts and heavy battleships would be a gift from the Lord in Heaven. Kills on carriers were probably going to be light but the debris falling from the sky and molten steel, which would undoubtedly solidify in the cold weather, would wreak havoc on the carriers when aircraft were taking off or landing. This was the primary objective, not to destroy the fleet capital ships with ICBM (the Navy were professionals at that, not Missile Command) but to cause enough mayhem and damage to force some ships to disengage or fight with weakened armour, hulls and warped decks. Guffingford had used the same tactic in the first battle of Otium Aqua with specially made naval missiles which had disabled over forty AA destroyers of the 5th Fleet.

This would, in all probability, not deter the enemy fleet and would probably spur them on to attack the Royal Navy to avenge their dead comrades. An advantage that the Royal Navy also hoped for; a gunner swarmed with bloodlust would fire widely, a captain fuelled with hate good give inappropriate orders and suicidal instructions, sister ships would feel the need to avenge fallen family shipping which could lead in their own destruction. This could be a double-edged sword as this sort of bloodlust could inspire feats of heroism that could win the day- but the damage would be done and the professionalism of the Royal Navy would be needed to deliver the killer blow against The Macabees and their delusional allies who, if Stevid and Independent Hitmen won the battle, might start considering whether or not they backed the wrong side in this war.
19-06-2007, 01:58
Mac, if you want, you can include Delatros' response in your next post.

And Stevid, I'm not quite sure what your airforce is doing right now. I assume that they're still harassing my islands, and that you have a strong ASW screen outside your fleet perimeter. If your airforce/naval air arm is basically staying on the ground and doing nothing, ignore this whole post.

The humvee slowed to a halt at the near edge of the parking lot. Tan streaks of mud led downward towards the bottom of the vehicle, which had been soaked in sludge when the driver veered into a ditch. The Stevidian aircraft had flown overhead, ignorant of the humvee's valuable cargo, and the vehicle pulled back on to the road. Cherhaven was not shaken at all by this latest close call. After tonight, the Stevidians would no longer rule Merkari skies.

Two Merkaris left the humvee, slamming the heavy doors behind them. The shorter, darker one walked around the vehicle to the near side. After exchanging a few words with his comrade, he walked closer to two Macabbean soldiers manning an imposing bomb-shelter door. The soldiers snapped to attention; Cherhaven smirked, spoke a few words, and followed the soldiers inside the building. He waved for his subordinate to follow.

Raia's dark, greasy tangle of hair lay inert as she followed Cherhaven through the hallways. The Old Man was somewhat more presentable, and, from what she had heard, these Macabbeans were all about appearances. Besides, Raia was having a hard time keeping her eyes open. It was easier to walk behind someone than in front. Cherhaven's movements were energetic by comparison. This was his big day, he was probably thinking; he had rested for a full six hours last night, and was ready for his first conference with Merkar's ally.

The hallways of the command center were spartan concrete constructions. There was nothing particularly notable about them, or the Macabbean officers that passed through them. After a minute of navigating the hallways, the soldiers guiding Cherhaven stopped in front of a door and gestured for him to go in. One of the Macabbeans opened the door to reveal a surprisingly ornate dining room. A doorless entrance on the left wall led to a kitchen. The walls were not concrete, but clean, white-painted drywall that served as a backdrop for various cabinets and framed military photos. The hardword floors, too, were clean and crisp. The Admiral, an old man wearing an impeccably neat Navy uniform, was sitting at the far end of the table. A young woman was setting the table.

Raia wondered if the Macabbeans had scoured the whole navy just to find the most attractive maid for this occasion. The blond-haired woman glanced at Cherhaven, smiled, then walked off to fetch something from the kitchen. The Macabbean man got up from his seat and walked slowly toward the two Merkaris.

"General Chehaven, good evening!"

"Admiral Delatros, I've been hoping to meet you."

Delatros noticed Cherhaven's muddy boots dragging across the floor, and he unintentionally stared at them as Cherhaven and Delatros walked to meet each other. Cherhaven stook out his hand, and Delatros took his eyes off the boots to shake hands.

"Welcome to Merkar, Comrade. What were you expecting?"

"Ay... Please sit, General."

Raia, Delatros, and Cherhaven found seats at the table. The chairs were soft and slightly reclined, and Raia relaxed so quickly that she thought she was going to fall sleep. Admiral Delatros said something, and Raia opened her eyes to look at him. He had opened a small folder that was lying on the table. He thumbed through the papers, pulling out a few maps of various islands and placing them to the side. The Admiral mumbled something else in a foreign language.

"I don't speak Esperanto, Admiral."

"It's not Esperanto, Arba. And he's taking to the maid."

Cherhaven waited for Delatros to put his papers away, and turned to Raia. "I don't think you've heard of Colonel Raia yet, Admiral. Here she is. Head of Intelligence for Army Bigtoa, until I reassigned her to my staff. She's quite an efficient soldier. An excellent one, in fact, although excuse her appearance, she's a bit tired." The maid walked into the room and laid plates in front of the two Merkaris. On top of the plates were the metal domes that covered food in nice restaurants. "You put a lot of work into this, Admiral. Anyway, Raia may not be the prettiest thing, but that's not a Merkari problem." Raia chuckled. "You guys, though, if we had women like that..." The maid continued laying down the utensils as if nothing was happening.

"General, get serious!"

It was only now that Raia realized that Delatros was exhausted like Cherahven and herself. The Admiral was no longer polite and emotionless; his forhead was rolled into deep wrinkles, showing his disgust. Deep bags pulled at his eyes, half of which were covered with a red web of blood vessels. His pale hands were forming into fists. The Colonel felt a bit guilty about her sloppy poise, but tried not to let it show.

Cherhaven pretended to ignore Delatros' outburst and began fishing through his pocket. He felt a rusty bullet, but that was not what he was looking for. He pulled out a rextra, flipped a switch on it, and gently lofted it into the air with a flick of his wrist, expecting it to float skyward. The small device bounced twice on the table and rolled to a halt. Arba clicked his tongue and turned to Raia.

"What was that?"

"Merkari technology, Mr. Delatros. But I guess no Macabbean has ever seen it, because you guys don't have rextra support. Raia, I think you know more about this thing than me."

The Colonel cracked her knuckles and bent forward, placing her elbows on the table and bringing her weathered hands into view. "In two hours, the Merkari air force is going to take off and clear our airspace of Stevidians. We have over 7,000 Space Union UCAVs, 4,000 of your Valkyrie UAVs, and not much else, and the Havenics outnumber us in the air nearly two to one. However, today we're going to launch as many of these aircraft as we can tonight, and we'll have numerical superiority as long as we can maintain surprise."

Raia cleared her throat. Her hands went back to their position, folded in front of her chin; her fingers brushed some hair from her eye on the way back, revealing more of her greasy, peach-fuzz cheek. "A few aircraft are already airborne to probe the Stevidian response. Some of our S-400 SAMs have been rigged to carry a modified Kh-29 anti-radar missile. The '29s are riding parachutes, ready to head for the Independent Hitmen FB-52s, AWACs, and other high-emission systems if they come into missile range. The Stevidians have so much jamming in the air that homing in on their EM signatures should be no problem. That's the... theory."

A surpressed yawn. "The main effort will come from our Talon UCAVs. Stevid's CELLDAR systems have been very effective so far, but with all the jamming going on their effectiveness has gone down. The UCAVs will be flying extremely slowly and at low altitude. It'll be difficult to pick them out among the seagulls, speeding cars, and so on, especially over the jungle. This should reduce the effectiveness of long-range AAM. The UCAVs are armed with dogfight missiles and will close with enemy patrol and intercept groups. The Valkyrie's anti-tank missiles seem to be fairly accurate against helicopters and slow-moving aircraft, so they've been tasked with clearing the Stevidian ASW forces surrounding our fleet."

"All forces are going to stay clear of the enemy fleet and SAM coverage. The UCAVs are semi-automous and have manual override, they'll fire at anything larger than a seagull not bearing Allied IFF. To further distract the enemy air defenses, we'll be launching about 500 submarine SSMs at Stevidian positions on Bigtoa, using roundabout routes to avoid the major cities. We know from the computer files we've hacked that they likely have some kind of "firebase" on the island. It may be deserted by now, but we think we know where it is from ESM monitoring. This firebase will be the SSM's main target."

"The Stevidians have been harassing our islands for three weeks now. The SAMs have helped, but not enough. If we can take back our airspace, we won't have as much to worry about."

Delatros looked at Raia, then at Arba. The Macabbean thought for a moment, weighing his response. He was near speechless; the Merkaris had once again pulled a card out of their sleeve. Delatros could only think of the simplest reply. "Excellent plan."

"Yes. I'm amazed that we pulled it off ourselves, aren't you? You understand why we didn't tell you earlier, aren't you?"

Raia sighed. "Don't be so proud of it, Cherhaven. It doesn't mean anything."

"What?" You know what I'm talking about, Arba.

Delatros' forhead was once again wrinkled, this time showing his confusion. "General Raia, what exact-"

"She doesn't mean it like that, Admiral. We've talked in private about his."

"About what? What? Why are we still fighting the war? To raise the Stevid death count? What is it about them that makes you want trade our lives for other lives?"

"Colonel, your country. That's why. You're diverting valuable resources away from Stevid, keep fighting!"

"He's right, Raia. The Third Fleet... if that made it to Otium Aqua, our allies wouldn't stand a chance."

"Allies? What? Where are they?"

"Right here, Raia. The Macabbeans. Sitting right over there. Delatros. We'll win the war, take Otium Aqua, Stevid Capita, get our islands back-"

"Bullshit! I know you lost friends, sisters, when they blasted Bigtoa, but so did I, and we ain't gonna help-"

"Colonel, we've talked about this. Not now."


"You're disobeying superiors. Get out. Out now."

Raia felt exhausted again. Her anger was replaced by submission. She was not accomplishing anything.


Raia was getting up from her seat as Arba shouted. Cherhaven, too, calmed. He glanced at Raia in apology, embarrassed by his rage. But then he turned back to Delatros, who remained emotionlessly noncommital. The colonel knew that she was not welcome here. She stood up and walked away, not glancing at Cherhaven at all as she made her way out. Utensils chimed behind her as she closed the door. Raia headed down the hallway to the left, hoping to wander into an exit and get some fresh air.

Cherhaven was the kindest, most easygoing, most reasonable person that Raia ever remembered knowing. This was the first time she had seen him angry in public or in private. What had happened? Will it happen again? And what triggered it? She hoped that it was not something that would stick with Arba for any more than a day.

She should not have made a debate out of it. She knew that nothing would be accomplished. Arba was stressed enough about his duties without needing to be reminded of the cost of the war. She had her opinion, but she couldn't sway him. There's a certain relief in knowing that there's nothing you can do.

Raia felt even better as she stepped outside. The cold, dry air of the Macabbean complex was making her skin chafe, as if it wasn't already dessicated. Macabbeans were not used to the warm, humid air of the jungle at night, yet any native Merkari felt at home in this fresh air. The noises of the animals and insects were too loud for the sound of battle to be heard, but Raia could see random flashes in the sky as the first Stevidian patrols became engaged. A missile carved a line of smoke across the sky. At the end of its sprint, it blasted itself to bits, sending a brightly-burning aircraft on an arc toward the ground. It reminded Raia of something that she had been thinking about. It looked like a falling star.

* * *

Io could almost feel outer space rushing past him on both sides. It was a purely intellectual perception. Shooting through the transport tube at one percent of the speed of light, he couldn't see anything distinctly. The nebulous mass in front of him was the wall of the tube. The sprodaic colorful flashes were strings of other commuters.

In a minute or so, he would arrive on Merkar II, one of the near-nameless mining moons orbiting around Merkar, or Merkar Prime as some foreigners called it. Io was still half a million kilometers from his destination, he estimated. There was even more distance between him and Merkar Prime. Even more distance between him and Athiesism. The distance from Merkar to its moons was no greater than a daily commute, but the space between Earth and Alpha Centauri hadn't been bridged since the Eternals came. Io was not ignorant of what was happening in Athiesism, however. He thought about it, from time to time, but never found anything particularly interesting about the country. It would cease to exist in a matter of weeks, Io believed, and there was nothing that could be done.

There was an old soldier named Cherhaven who insisted that Merkar never give up, but he was speaking for Athiesism, not Merkar. Cherhaven had assumed emergency control of the country- "country", as in a seperate nation from the Merkar Republic. The people of Merkar had no jurisidiction in the matter. They could only watch their Earthbound sister slowly fall apart under the overwhelming Havenic might.

Io's interest piqued. There was something odd about this man. Cherhaven was the prime candidate to lead Merkar. In fact, he was the most dedicated politician in Merkari history. Why did he want to drive the nation into the ground when surrender was such an easy option? There must be something unknown about Cherhaven. Perhaps he was seeking glory, power, or a place in history. That didn't seem to suit him, but Io could see no other reason other than simple irrationality. Perhaps Cherhaven would mark the end of honest government in Athiesism. A schism between space Merkar and Earth Merkar.

Io stopped himself. He was being alarmist; there were few reasons to support that theory. Athiesism would fall to the Havenic Pact, most likely. Its people would still consider themselves part of Merkar, not subjects of Cherhaven, whether the President had honest intentions or not. There would be no split. Cherhaven was a fine man, just somehow misguided. Athiesism was still part of Merkar.

Io's awareness dissipated as his body disintegrated. It expanded over twenty kilometers as it slowed before arrival, forming back into Io again as it emerged at the transit terminal.
22-06-2007, 11:07
OOC: If more detail on my air defence is neeed then just say so and I can slip an edit in at the end of the post


HMS Qatar- Defiler Class Command Ship

The Qatar had replaced its sister ship of the third fleet several days ago when the conflict had reached a point where it seemed it would stop completely. The Qatar was the forth Defiler Class ever built and was already a veteran of the First and Second Hanover Conflicts having proved to be a great asset in tracking any aircraft, ships and ground forces with pin-point accuracy, she seemed ideal for this job if the war ever boiled up again on this front while the three other home fleets engaged The Macabees in the Otium Aqua. Her crew was refreshed a desperate for action to keep them on their toes, for the past eighteen weeks they had been the communications hub for distinctly boring military and civilian sea and air communication broadcasts, now the real war time military stuff would finally take place within her glorious hull once more. The mass collection of radar operators onboard were working shifts that sometimes over ran, many were tired while other “alive” as each and everyone one of them wanted to look as if they were pulling their weight.

One operator, Sub-Lieutenant Peter Kirk, was in control on one of the many radar arrays that was observing inland Bigtoa maybe several miles west of Berka Republic. Not much was happening and the ground attacks had died down exponentially now that Bigtoa was occupied and a secondary invasion plan was well on its way to completion, only the odd combat air patrol shot across his part of Bigtoa every now and again and all he was doing was confirming their position, speed and heading and not much else. Quite frankly he was bored but it was miles more interesting than relaying scheduled flight time changes to some shoddy short-haul flight between Milton and Rubet Island back at Stevid. Things changed slightly though, the mild fuzziness of the blue plasma radar screen he was looking at was annoying him since the RAF were pounding the area with heavy ECM thus protecting their forces and the fleet but it still hurt the radar images, lots of objects appeared on radar flying low and in formation too. The CELLDAR radar never lied, likewise with any GPS or radar system, it would only be confused and CELLDAR had shown a particular resilience to that but never the else the jamming could have something to do with the poor image but Kirk daren’t called the RAF to cease ECM/ECCM activities in case of a massive strike from the enemy. The CELLDAR emitters and transmitters might be defunct in some way and so he tried to correct the problem himself.

He took his eyes from the screen and pulled up a menu on a side screen adjacent to the main radar viewing plasma screen which showed schematics and functions of the radar. He ran a quick five minute diagnostic on the CELLDAR but found nothing out of the ordinary. He frowned and returned his gaze back to the screen and to his surprise found that the combat air patrol had gone from his screen. Continuing his frown he wondered whether they had been shot down or had left his specific area.

“CAP-380 this is HMS Qatar, respond please.” He said flicking a switch and typing in the CAP number. He got no response, he tried again but got no answer- no static or anything.

He swallowed and pressed a button to let communicate with the computer verbally. The yellow triangles that represented unknown small airborne continue on their way over Bigtoa and Kirk was sure that had passed where CAP-380 should be. He feared the worst and selected the sector where the unidentified targets were with the touch screen.

“Computer please identify targets, classify into groups of approximate relative size.” He asked quietly to the CELLDAR computer that began processing the types of animal or contraption the targets could be.

In seconds a three dimensional display on the screen, rotating, showed him nothing more than a common bird. There could have been a huge bird strike that had knocked down the planes but then the several dots would have disappeared from the screen. He got in touch with one of the Damocles Command APCs in the jungle and asked whether they had the same readings as the Qatar had to which they confirmed.

“CAP-380 please respond, this is the HMS Qatar we need confirmation on your position, over.” There was still no response and parts of the huge formation were splitting up now slowly but seemed to be looking for something. Peter didn’t like it, it was just a gut feeling and had no other proof that it was an enemy formation, but there was a rule in the Navy and the whole Stevidian military that if you had a gut feeling then go for it. It could mean the difference between life and death and that was a chance worth taking.

He took and deep breath and flicked a communication switch that allowed him to talk to the whole ship on the loud speakers inside and on the deck of the ship.

“All hands to condition yellow, all hands to condition yellow. UFOs over Bigtoa, attempting to identify. Repeat… all hands to condition yellow.”

The lights within the ship turned a dull yellow and several offices left there posts as others took their places, ship defence systems came online line and immediately radar operators and communications officers began talking immediately bringing every Stevidian in the theatre within earshot of the developing situation. Several operators switched their screens to the same data feed as Kirk’s and concurred it was a strange situation.

Another formation was approaching from a Stevidian airfield as another CAP was making a sweep over the area. CAP-172 was next on the list of patrols to report in after 380, Kirk typed in the CAP number and began addressing the flight lead.

“Good evening sir. We would like you to confirm visual contact with a huge amount of unidentified targets. Hostile or natural will do sir. Thank you.”

There was no reply apart from a double click over the radio in confirmation from the flight lead who was obviously maintaining radio silence. The room went quiet waiting for the reply from the CAP, everybody was listening to the same frequency band and eagerly waited for a declaration of the targets. Several minutes passed and the allied CAP group were practically right on top of the yellow targets and there was still no answer from the CAP.

A crackle, loud and it made several people jump as the leader of the group tuned into the Qatar.

“Permission from RAF to discontinue radar jamming of enemy equipment has been obtained for our radars. We can confirm a huge enemy airborne presence in the area. We are turning to retreat back to base, we are also informing the RAF of the current situation. We would be obliged if you informed Independent Hitmen of this too. Rearrange your CELLDAR detection suites to account for bird sizes that exceed Albatross and you might see plenty more. But they are definitely hostile, Macabees and Space Union aircraft have appear on the hostile database- they are not Havenic craft.”

“Thank you sir.” Peter finished with a solemn look.

It seemed that CAP-380 was dead now and it was unlikely that they had managed to bail out considering they were ambushed. But there was nothing he could do for them now, he could save thousands more now that the enemy had been detected and it seemed the similar detections were present all over the island and now that CELLDAR’s search pattern had been changed, enemy target were lighting up all over the place, it was a massive assault from the air probably aimed at direct damage either to the allies air power or the ground forces. In either case the attack had to be dealt with and an attack on this scale would surely mean high casualties- especially for the Haven Pact.

“All hands to Condition Red, the fleet is now at Condition Red. Targets identified as enemy and will be engaged as such. All hands to Action Stations.”


The attack by the enemy was of great surprise, the Republic had been on the back foot and while a counter-attack was expected, an attack on this scale was certainly not anticipated. Three airfields were already in flames and unable to launch aircraft, aircraft that were trying to launch were caught on open ground and swiftly destroyed by the more capable air-ground aircraft of the enemy formations. Several other air fields were under fierce attack and had multiple runways hit thus extending the launch time of the surviving aircraft by several minutes- several minutes those aircraft didn’t really have. Stevidian command in the air was high and this mass attack was now obviously trying to change that, reinforcements from mainland Stevid was out of a question, firstly Stevid was too far away to respond immediately and secondly because thousands of aircraft had been deployed to counter a huge missile threat against the three fleets in Otium Aqua.

Fire Base Bigtoa (FFB) and the Supply Fire Base Bigtoa (SFFB) were still well defended by either aircraft or SAM sites, especially FFB which was the most heavily defended and fortified position probably in the country. The airfields were still fully operational only had a fraction of the aircraft other airfields had since the Fire Bases usually operated the AWACS and other heavy duty craft for transportation so could do little other than defend themselves and coordinate an aerial defence of Bigtoa.

The Fleet Air Arm would enjoy themselves again once more as they had been perform CAPs over the fleet since the Atheisism Navy had been subdued to a level where it was reluctant to fight and die. Now the FAA would be able to join the RAF in air combat over the island and maybe level the odds slightly, the RAF may have had the slightly more effective XF-25 Hawker in their arsenal on top of the Scorpions and Nightwalkers of the RAF, but the Fleet Air Arm’s own Scorpions and Nightwalkers had made great names for themselves in over four conflicts already. The odds were still slanted towards the enemy but the FAA would certainly keep Stevid well in the fight.

The Royal Navy was given additional help, ironically, y the enemy. Tracking vessel reported hundreds of multiple missile launches from submerged targets and were heading for the inland airfields and not the fleet. The Royal Navy’s ASW war had gone less than satisfactory but now the helicopters and destroyers had found something to shoot at now. The missiles launches were easily traced and the enemy submarines had given their precious hiding places away; wasting no time, the Royal Navy had ASW helicopters pounced on as many as they could before they changed their positions again. Sonar pinging and underwater radar painted the submarines that were slow off the starting block and the Navy gave them hell. Destroyers, ASW frigates and helicopters began a new offensive in the ASW war in an attempt to end the enemy’s very effective submarine warfare campaign.

Even though these aircraft were completely unmanned and sluggish in comparison to the well trained pilot of any air force in the world, they still fired missiles and still killed men and women. A hasty defence was worked up by the RAF at FBB to try and fix a gradually worsening situation. RAF forces in Safehaven had already been contacted, the rather old but reliable F-16C Fighting Falcons operated by the RAF in Safehaven would be sent to aid Bigtoa, nearly 200 would make the flight but would be hours yet. With nearly five airfields out of action already, three of them major, the RAF had effectively lost a third of its fighting force in Bigtoa in little under an hour and a half with another third being attacked. 500 RAF Nightwalkers were still available to fight with a further 120 Hawkers, Scorpion numbers had been severely depleted however seeing as they were placed close to the front- only 70 could be scrounged. The FAA could not bring as many aircraft to bear as the RAF would have hoped since the untimely appearance of a load of Merkar Submarines had proven to be to good a chance for the Navy to ignore. Only 300 Nightwalkers could attend and 200 Scorpions armed with air-to-air missiles all over would participate.

Stevid would not lose complete control over the airspace, at least not the majority so the allied command hoped, but control of the air of Bigtoa would certainly be reduced by an intolerable amount. Stevid would have to work doubly, if not triply, hard to keep the ground forces completely safe. Atheisism seemed to have conceded to the fact the Third Fleet of the Royal Navy was here to stay and there was little force on Earth they could call on to have it removed. Handikill and the Macabees had built a threateningly strong fleet to the North of Otium Aqua and were poised to launch a naval assault on the equally strong fleets of the Haven Pact, it was unlikely they could spare many vessels to move the Third Fleet. Even if they did manage to rustle up that many ships, especially the Golden Throne, then they could not afford to lose in the Otium Aqua or even risk losing 40% of their fleet in Atheisism, their home waters would be stupidity vulnerable and would a perfect opportunity to even invade the Macabees from the sea! It would even be worth removing units out of Bigtoa to make that operation work, but for those circumstances to come around it would take a lot of prayer and luck- certainly not the most likely of circumstances… as would this air battle.

Fire Base Bigtoa

The main Generals and leading military officials heading the campaign for the Holy Empire were once again gathered in the command bunker of the GHQ, three star General Jamie Blake Holloway was chair of the meeting of the main military men gathered around the table that was now showing signs of visible use. The fine oak polishing had now dimmed the desk and now wood colouring had been slapped on it to give the illusion that it was still brand new, but the commanders had more pressing matters at hand than the condition of the huge table they were gathered around.

Admiral Michael Scott who was in command of the Navy’s amphibious force in and around Bigtoa was to be a key person in this meeting, the long anticipated secondary invasion of Atheisism was now inevitable and steps had to be taken to put the tactics into full swing as quickly as possible. Independent Hitmen had contacted Stevid several times with the plans of action to which all of the military branch advisors concurred with- all that remained was to invade.

Holloway opened the meeting with a prayer and then thanked them all for attending, addressed some minor issues to do with logistics before finally addresses the point for why they where all gathered there.

“Gentlemen we are here because, primarily, to defeat the Golden Throne and her allies, but more to the point we are gathered here today to finalise the second invasion of this element of the Merkar Republic. To be more precise, the invasion of Liliputia where the capital city of Atheisism is built.”

“To be frank General this has been a long time coming, why are we only discussing this now sir?” Asked a rather young Major of the Royal Marines.

“I understand that the allied forces have been slow, but I can assure you that this time it is going ahead and we are not going to let this new offensive deter us. You know the game plan already and we hopefully won’t have occupy this God forsaken country, even Knights Templar have lost interest and simply said that these heretics have gone beyond the point of no return and should be banished to hell as quickly as possible. I don’t share that sort of hatred for the enemy but at least we don’t have to worry about watching crucifixions as we advance.”

“So we’ve got the go ahead sir?” Asked Admiral Scott, a man well known for action and he had shown strains of boredom as the Royal Marines had been sitting around Bigtoa just maintaining the peace.

“You do indeed sir have the go ahead. The Royal Marines have very little left to do here and will enjoy new territory to fight and hopefully win over. We also have some worries about the Macabees presence on these islands, in particular their naval bases. Now I and Admiral Scott have discussed what should be done about the largest naval base, now initially we had decided to use the RAF and FAA but events have accelerated our plans somewhat and so the Royal Air Force are not available and the Fleet Air Arm will only be available after these problems in the air are solved (or weathered) and after the secondary is completed. The FAA is needed for both if we are to succeed in this theatre, we don’t have to capture the capital- just but enough pressure on the already strained government to end this madness and surrender; they are belligerent, arrogant, resilient and… well…generally annoying in their acute defending. The more allies of the Golden Throne that fall from their list, the more chance we have of winning this war.
“Gentlemen, make this invasion work and end this war in Atheisism once and for all.”
24-06-2007, 04:31
[Macabea, Joint Armed Forces Command, CIC]

Alquai... Alquai... a synthesized voice echoed through the command center in Macabea as men scrambled around in the darkened room the sound of servers and large computer centers drowning out the small chatter between stations as radio operators constantly stayed in constant contact with dozens of control groups all around the theater.

"Sir Redwood radar arrays have reported a mass of ballistic objects enroute quadrant A5 sir."

A lieutenant frowned and approached the corporals station looking over his shoulder.

"Known designation?"

"The computers still chewing on it sir but all we tell is the RCS and TAT (Targeting and Telemetry) show its large and ballistic, estimations show as similar to Titan II but..." the corporal stopped abruptly.

"What is it corporal"

"...But I dont believe they would go nuclear on us sir, it just doesn't seem like them..."

"Thank you corporal but I don't need your commentary, estimated time of arrival?"

"Twenty minutes sir, give or take"

"Thank you corporal"

[Macabea, Joint Armed Forces Command, Theater Defense Control]

"Gentlemen as you know we have received word that there has been a counter fire to the Macabean missiles, we expected as much and are quite glad of it, for the enemy has just obscured their own eyes from the true threat. At this moment One-hundred and thirty-five Trinity (link ( Super Heavy Anti-Shipping Missiles are awaiting launch clearance for firing..."

"sir Dont you see that as a bit excess--"

The man was cut off brutally by a short laugh "Silence, you do not know the full bounds of this plan. we would not waste all of these missiles on such a pitiful fleet we have ships and aircraft for that job, only eighty or so missiles will be directed at the fleet at this time the others, and the reason we have waited so long... we will strike the serpent where it slithers from its hole..."

[Macabea, Joint Armed Forces Command, Anti-Ballistic Missile Command]

"God-damnit man get that station back online!" a nervous Anchrish man was running about reconnecting Ethernet and DCOI cables from station to station. As the JAFC Anti-Ballistic Missile Command was installed in what used to be a butchers shop in the quaint town they had occasionally run into several malfunctions that non-standard working environment caused, the worst of which was moisture effecting the servers as it dripped down from malfunctioning air conditioning unit.... However all was not lost and once a good link to the main server control was established things began to go like clockwork telemetry was fed to land based system, sent via satellite to ship based systems and everyone began to play together nicely to co-ordinate a reprisal to the Stevidians very thoughtful welcoming present.

"On my mark..." Though a bit over dramatic the man had orchestrated the networking of six hundred some sites, both land and sea based, into a co-ordinated co-operating system of dense, he was thus allowed such eccentricities.


All over the theater on ships on their way to Atheism, to small outposts like Sekei, and Sites on the Zarbian border Mekugian Long Lance Anti-Sattelite missiles fired some three hundred controlled from their own local based and with the oversight of larger theater based resources took to the air for the incoming threat.

[Deinstad, Macabees, Launch Unit 12 (]

"Hold onto your asses folks!"

There was a great rumble that shoot the ground the 12 wheeled vehicle sat on the whole vehicle even with tis massive ground supports shoot like it too was going to take off, fire filled the end of its erect tube and a column of smoke filled the sky above the eighty-five launchers posed to strike the Stevidian fleet with their Lethal cargo. When the flame rose through that column of smoke dust of great magnitudes was kicked up all around the launchers the area around them turning from desert to a instant sandstorm in their wake, the crew merely could hold on and confirm good launches back to their superiors.

[Case in Phallic point, Serpents, and their hole]

The skies over the RAF facility at Chilyabinsk twinkled ever so sightly as metallic hulks of the top too stages of trinity SHASM reflected the light of the only sun in mans current travels. The missiles really thousands of kilometers away released their last stage and curved ever so gently though the upper atmosphere adjusting for a glide path to take them towards the center of the earth, or atleast across it as the last stage built up speed its engine ignited and it rocket towards earth the height and speed amplifying tis greatest asset, kinetics as it head towards the arrangement of airstrips. if this was conventional IBM it was peticularly suicidal one, but no much to their dismay this was closer toa 2 meter diameter naval shell heading in a b-line to rip every last bunker or air strip from its native soil at tremendous speeds.

Sometimes uni-taskers are good things, but some time you can kill man with spork too, complacence of design and purpose can be lethal.
26-06-2007, 16:25
RAF Chilyabinsk

The roar of the last of the Vulcan bombers slowly faded away as the giant camouflaged fuselages in the shape of a massive delta wing V soared away to begin anti-air and anti-missile operations. It was the single largest mass mobilisation of aircraft in the RAF’s history and would probably stay there for years to come. With worsening relations between NATO and the Questerian Commonwealth it meant Stevid might well e rushing once more to the aid of allies when they so asked for it. But the current war was slowly slipping away from Stevid, the Athiesism theatre was looking more an more promising despite some set backs but the Otium Aqua may not be under full Imperial control by the end of the war. Many parts of the sea may be seriously contested or even lost to the Golden Throne, although Stevid would be dominant in that part of the region thanks to the Territorial Army’s invasion of Guffingford and the conquest of her seas, it would be difficult to hold against the Second Empire for a prolonged figure of time. The war in Safehaven was practically lost and even talk of force withdrawals were now dancing around the Cabinet War Rooms like castle jesters.

The jet black Smokey skies of the Stevidian wastelands drifted slightly towards the small town of Chilyabinsk at its gigantic subterranean air force base, the huge semi-active volcano of St. Malleus where the grand cathedral itself stood could be seen from Chilyabinsk even though it was hundreds of miles away. The skies over the base were red and orange as the sun was beginning to set in Stevid and much to the relief of the ground crews who had work solid hours into double figures, it was time to rest and wait for the bombers to come home afterwards. No one anticipated that the enemy would actually take the time, or indeed the effort, to track the bombers from take off. Chilyabinsk wasn’t the most secret base in Stevid but precautions were taken to try and keep it off the enemy’s hit lists, today that wasn’t going to work. No one, not even the paranoid people, who looked up at the sky to see the twinkling light supposed it could be a long range ICBM strike- night was almost upon the country and stars from out there within the void would begin shining down on the planet and Stevid. Nobody second guessed it was an enemy missile strike. At least not until it was too late of course. The ground crews needed rest but the tracking computers never did, Stevid had been on red alert since Guffingford attack civilian oil rigs in the Otium Aqua and so the radar and missile tracking stations were ever vigilant no matter the time of day, the operators were half asleep however. They had managed to put hundreds of heavy, nuclear capable bombers into the air in just a few short hours, they deserved medals for achieving such a feet and thoroughly deserved a rest- nap time came at the wrong time as over sixty Trinity missiles popped up easily on the tracking monitors that immediately sounded a detection alarm, an alarm that three operators slept through for nearly three minutes before jumping to action.

As the shadows of the sparsely scattered buildings above ground at RAF Chilyabinsk were cast by the setting sun and as the tiny town settled now for some late television, the eerie telltale air raid siren sounded. The distinct and terrifying rising and falling tone of the warning siren washed over the town, the base and tens of miles out into the wastelands and further south into the dry landscape before one would reach the more rural areas. The town was small, almost insignificant and air raid shelters were few and far between, in fact the only thing that resembled a proper air raid shelter were the deep underground aircraft hangers of RAF Chilyabinsk which were directly under attack.

Underground, klaxons were sounding loudly, lights flashing red and blast doors to the outside were closed. Men and women rushed as deep as they could as the missiles were only minutes away from impact. Above, small training aircraft like Hawks or smaller prop aircraft were taking off in a desperate bid to escape the coming carnage.

Then it happened, the hopes that the underground hangers designed to hold nuclear aircraft safely in the event of a massive nuclear strike would hold were almost completely banished- these weren’t nuclear missiles but rather projectiles that either exploded on the surface or crashed into the airbase below and exploded there. Huge explosions on the surface tore apart the runways with ease, buildings on the surface like the radar tower and other small hanger buildings stood no chance against the onslaught of the Mach 9-10+ missiles. At such speeds they were also pretty indiscriminate at time with four landing in the town killing almost fifty civilians. Missiles that fell deep caused mayhem as bunkers collapsed in on themselves, crucial supporting struts snapped like tooth picks and hundreds, if not thousands, of tons of rock and earth crashed down into the underground parts of the base killing hundreds and trapping hundreds more. Thirty or so underground bunkers were completely obliterated while the rest were damaged nearly beyond all hope of swift repair. Any bunkers that survived were far too dangerous to go through as the entire structural integrity of the ceiling of rock was under question. Rubble fell from the roof all the time until some bunkers simply gave up and buckled altogether crushing anyone there, suffocating survivors.

The main and back-up generators were destroyed by a lucky strike from one of the Trinity missiles. A direct hit knocked out the generators completely and blacked out the whole station. One engineer started an oil generator on the surface that survived which managed to deliver enough power to keep most of the emergency lights working and some of the electronic doors online- at least until the oil ran out.
The command centre was wasted too, huge supporting girders had toppled down and smashed most of the computers there but there were survivors too. In all, only two hundred or so from four hundred service personnel survived the strike, not counting the pilots that had taken off. Of the two hundred that survived maybe only 30% would escape with their lives as many areas of the base were completely cut off from the service with only emergency ladders to escape with, lifts were either destroyed or offline as too was the internal ventilation system and so air would quickly disappear in the confines of the base below and kill off anymore survivors.

The town couldn’t respond either, a missile had utterly destroyed the only fire station in the tiny town, the same missile had wiped out the medical centre too and the nearest proper hospital was hundreds of miles away. Planes would not be able to transport either dead or alive because the runways had been obliterated. The only possible solution would be to use the giant cathedral of St. Malleus which had underground and above ground medical centres to accommodate this sort of terror. But the dead, wounded and unscathed still had to be transported and no one dared to brave to deadly alien landscape of the Stevidian wastelands.

In short, Chilyabinsk and its subsequent town, was almost completely obliterated and wiped off the map. Explosions were of course recorded and help was almost certainly on the way but unless work to get the airstrip available again to take even only five aircraft and the town repaired was commenced soon, another town would be abandoned and swallowed up by the drifting wastelands of central-north Stevid. Now there were great craters dotted all over Chilyabinsk and while some of the deeper parts of the installation had survived the strike, the “roof” was critically unstable, several craters started to groan as the caves within collapsed- the ground fell tens of metres down on to the installation as it crushed the weakened parts of it killing all who dwelled within.

The bombers too would need some place to land once they returned. Of course in fewer numbers but well over a hundred had taken off and so overcrowding at other airfields was going to be a real possibility. The worst part of all of this was that it was not yet over. Fifty or so Trinity missiles were heading for the fleet and while tracking would be somewhat difficult, the might of Stevidian ground tracking stations and the naval Defiler Class would pick them up. Surviving the attack with as little casualties as possible would also be difficult.

One could only hope that enough of the allied missiles heading towards the Mekugi fleet would get through and cause some intense damage on some of their major carriers and capital ships- one could only hope though as the enemy would have undoubtedly launched their own missile countermeasures against this new threat from the Holy Empire. The war on the Stevidian front was in the balance and so far the first blood had been dealt by the Golden Throne and her allies. The Holy Empire’s goal was the weather the storm as best possible, so far it was but for how long was anyone’s guess. As long as necessary were the orders to the fleets in the Otium Aqua and in this war to date, they had never failed to completely fulfil an order. They weren’t about to stop now.

Otium Aqua

It was huge, three separate Royal Navy fleets and two Independent Hitmen fleets were sailing around this dangerous sea. This sea was beginning to be more trouble than it was worth in the eyes of the general public. Sure fuel prices were so low that it was becoming more expensive to buy light bulbs than petroleum per gallon and the navy, air force (military and commercial) and council services had as much black gold as it needed to keep going, but lives were being lost en mass now and Stevid would be fairly weak at the end of this war. Matters were not helped by the massive enemy fleet just north of Otium Aqua that was once threatening these seas that now rightfully belonged to the Holy Empire.

The missile strike from the Macabees was being dealt with by the air force while Strategic Command launched a counter attack with IRBMs and SRBMs at the Golden Throne and Mekugi fleets as a warm welcoming gift to Imperial waters, one that they would receive but not necessarily enjoy- as was the hope of the entire nation.

The Golden Throne, Allies and the Haven Pact were now looking at the possibility that The Macabees was going to come out of this war the better but also the plans for an invasion of Stevid would be on indefinite hold or even scrapped altogether. The Holy Empire had seriously uncommitted to the Safehaven front and had concentrated on homeland defence, in so doing the Royal Navy was exceptionally powerful and the ground/air forces would be an unwanted nuisance to enemy invaders. The Golden Throne lacked the necessary power in all three branches to take Stevid out and occupy it, the succeeded on the ground almost 100%, they were mildly contested in the air, and their navy certainly was contested though. The Holy Empire of Stevid was a belligerent military superpower that, like so many nations of today, was too much of an obstacle to just remove- a future war may kill the Empire off but both sides would come out with something in this war- even if Stevid only came out with parts of Guffingford and oil.

The Royal Navy First Fleet was the target of these Trinity missiles, 60-75 of these giants would begin to fall on the fleet with predefined targets probably being the major capital ships such as carriers, super dreadnoughts and maybe some of the command battleships like the Germanic, Wellington and St. Andrews Class vessels.
The welcome addition of the Hanover Class cruiser was the apex of ECM, jamming and anti-missile ships, probably the best frigate in the world for countering missile attacks. Admittedly it could not stop everything but just five of these could give an entire battlefleet more than excellent protection against missile attacks, and again admittedly, the Trinity missile was designed to use speed to wipe out its targets and so at Mach 9+, it would be difficult to stop. It had counter measure to prevent being shot down but not anything remotely capable of prevent the ECM attacks it would be facing right now.

As the terrifying sight of these missiles became real on the overloaded screens of the Defiler Class command cruisers, the five Hanover cruisers were alerted and the fleet began evasive manoeuvres. These missiles were going far too fast to make major, sometimes even minor course corrections without spinning miles off course when hitting the sea, turning was the fleet’s great asset at this stage. The Hanover cruisers began the usual pumping of ECM/ECCM signals towards the enemy missiles, already some were showing signs of being affected and course deviations in five or ten became obvious while others continued on unabated. The cruisers didn’t have long now, the fleet concentrated its combined ECM power on the missiles while the Hanover cruisers waited for the enemy missiles to reach the maximum distance necessary for them to be able to launch their EMPMs (Electromagnetic Pulse Missiles). These missiles were developed after the Navy had been inspired by EMP missiles used by Aqua Anu in the first Hanover Conflict but were not the most reliable missiles in the world. Once the reached their targets they detonated releasing a very short range sphere of an electromagnetic pulse disabling any enemy missiles’ guidance system either temporarily or completely. Twenty or so enemy missiles shot of in different directions but would land near to the fleet, stray destroyers, frigates and cruisers would be in danger of being completely removed from this universe if they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The amount of missiles still coming was enough to deal some serious damage to fleet, an en mass of these Trinity missiles would have possibly put a large percentage of the fleet out of action, as it was the survivability of the whole fleet was greater than it was five minutes ago when the missiles were still in the upper atmosphere- now they really were bearing down on the First Fleet. The Hanover classes couldn’t bring every weapon to bear on the enemy missiles that had decoys to confuse kinetic missiles fired at them and at that speed point and shoot kinetic missiles would be pointless, but their speed could be used against them.

The last missiles to be fired were cheep ones but highly effective anti-missile missiles. Upon detonation before reaching the target thousands of large ball bearings are sent flying towards the enemy projectiles in all directions. When used in groups of say ten this is particularly lethal to enemy missiles and at speeds above Mach 9, few would survive after negotiating with ball bearings that size flying towards them.
Several dots disappeared from the radar and huge explosions were seen in the air as some of the AMMs achieved kills. Unfortunately between twenty and thirty missiles survived the barrage, ILMS/CIWS and conventional AMM fire from the fleet began. Point defence guns that could look that high scored few kills, AMM fire only worked when several missiles were fired at the same target at the right times to avoid the decoy launches, two Trinity warheads were destroyed for seventeen AMMs each. Chaff, ECM/ECCM and infrared decoys from most of the capital ships were deployed which confuse little or no Trinity missiles and soon it was too late- their speed so close to sea made it impossible for missiles and bullets to hit them at that speed.

The evasive manoeuvres had been somewhat effective, several carriers survived completely unscathed as just under twenty-three missiles fell on the fleet. Some plummeted into the sea and exploded there, rocking many ships and sending rigorous shockwaves that annoyed many carrier commanders. Some weren’t lucky at all, missiles confused at the beginning began landing on the escorts. Fourteen ships were wiped out completely with all hands as missiles land close or directly on top of the crowded escort fleet. Twenty more escorts of various classes were put indefinitely out of action and were considered destroyed, especially when the bow or stern half’s were completely missing. Two Malleus Class SDNs were struck by multiple missiles, one was left were she was struck, evacuating and then the waiting began for her huge hull to sink beneath the waves. The other was crippled beyond any foreseeable repair and began to limp home where she was probably going to be scrapped. The last of the Catholic Class SDNs was hit- a veteran from the very first Otium Aqua engagement against Guffingford, the HMS Orthodox, was wiped out in a giant flash of light as a single Trinity missile landed on turret C and exploded in the magazine hold thus detonating the shells there. The resulting blast set off the missiles still locked in their VLS cells and the shells in other parts of the ship, fire and steel blast doors were wiped clean off and the ship was able to flash out of existence. Bits of her remained on the surface and some who looked back fast enough would have just seen the tip of her warped prow sink beneath the waves. A brand new Sanguinious Class SDN that was one of the best in the world was struck by a single Trinity at amidships. One of the reactors was damaged, the aircraft hanger was almost completely destroyed along with one hundred and fifty-eight souls. She could still fight and still cause some major problems for the enemy but at serious reduce capability, the loss of her aircraft meant she could no long perform strategic air attacks which made her particularly lethal. The fact that she survived showed just how capable this ship was as a warship.

Four carriers were destroyed or crippled beyond use in the foreseeable future, two of the Conroy Class and two of the Sunderland Class, both very large carriers with large complements of crews and aircraft.

Finally, a Hanover Class cruiser was wiped out of existence in a similar flash of light that destroyed the Orthodox. The HMS Jersey was destroyed by a direct hit from a Trinity missile with all hands on board.

In all the First Fleet had done well to survive so much but the loss of four carriers and three super dreadnoughts had seriously reduced its fighting capability. One SDN had been damaged to such an extent it was not quite up to fighting major gunnery duels (despite the crack gunnery crew). The escort losses had been high too with many anti-air vessels completely wiped off the face of the Earth. It seemed now that the First Fleet would have to take a more defensive role when the Mekugi and Macabees fleets arrive on the scene.

As for punishing the Mekugi missile batteries in occupied Safehaven, Zarbia and parts of the Golden Throne, similar missile strikes would have to be planned, air attacks. While nuclear responses were low on types of attack- it was certainly possible for Stevid to make an example of Mekugi, after all Stevid had already been the victim of a very large nuclear attack in this war that had wiped out almost the entire Royal Navy Fifth Fleet (still not even at 8% its original strength). Enemy missile batteries could easily be found by trance the course of the enemy Trinity missiles- they had done the same with Chilyabinsk’s huge bomber force.

Proposals for such a strike would be quickly debated and acted upon. When it came to long range missile duals Stevid was always at a disadvantage. This was the second time Mekugi had made a mockery of Stevid with their long range missiles, the first was the Stevidian Firebase in Safehaven which had been, to put in simply, victim of a holocaust, an apocalypse. The base was wiped out with only a single survivor, a statistic the Stevid tried to repay in kind but was successfully pushed back. This time a huge retaliation would be called upon to make a clear example of this belligerent country of Mekugi once and for all- in the name of God they did not deserve to live now. In fact Stevid hadn’t inflicted a single casualty on Mekugi throughout the whole war, they had killed thousands if not tens of thousands. Even if it were an overkill strike, Mekugi blood would be split in the name of God and the Empire, no matter what.
Independent Hitmen
27-06-2007, 13:38
OOC: This occurs about a day before the massed UAV air attack I think. Ill respond to that in the next post :)

IHS Barcrofft, Helicopter Assault Carrier
Off the coast of Athieiesm

Barcrofft and twelve other amphibious assault carriers steamed in a box formation four miles from the coast of the main island of Athieiesm. The assault decks were a frenzy of activity, men from the 5th Marine Division were loading themselves and their equipment into numerous assault hovercrafts as they sat idling on the raised decks.

The Marines continued their dutes even as the preparatory bombardment began. The battleships that until the collapse of Berkar had been shelling the city were now in position to soften up the beaches and areas around them. UAV losses ahd gone up considerably, evidently Macabeean SAM’s were coming into play, so the fire was not as well guided as usual. Still it raked the designated landing zones, the battleships being able to use their direct fire five-inch cannons as well as broadsides from their main armaments. Explosions swept the beaches, forming craters on them and also the land behind.

This was the precise reason that the battleships were so loved by the marines. The awesome firepower that was being put down on the beach would certainly daze and defender no matter how experienced and for the new recruits and citizens’ militia expected here, it would drive them near to the breaking point.

With the increasing SAM threat the fleet’s aircraft were staying well back from the coast. There was no point in throwing them at the sites when they would be overrun in a matter of days anyway. A team of technicians from the Army Material Intelligence Section were onboard one of the carriers to ensure that the maximum possible amount of captured technology was taken back intact. Rumours of alien influence on the entire country had several scientists drooling at the prospect of advanced technologies for them to decipher.

But they wouldn’t be able to look at anything if it wasn’t captured intact. For that purpose a special team of Marine Reconnaissance Scouts was on standby to swoop on any intact site that was spotted. Any equipment that was found would be speedily taken back to Berkar for a flight to Stevid where it would be stuied in depth and possibly reverse engineered. Some of the technicians hoping to take part in that were looking over the rail of the vessel as the first of the hovercrafts too to the water and turned towards land.

Assault Hovercraft “Charlie One”

Half a company of Marines and a pair of Shadow Cat IFV’s were crammed into the interior of the hovercraft as it smoothly approached the coast. The gunner on the single 20-mm cannon took aim atr the coast line and began pickling off shots at random locations, the links from the caseless ammunition plinking on the steel deck armour.

With the hovercrafts barely a mile from the beach line the naval fire lifted to targets further inland. This was the sign for the commander of the two platoons in the hovercraft to give the call through his personal radio.

“One Minute. Lock and Load. Safety’s off”

The two squads assigned to the Shadow Cat’s mounted their respective vehicles, the thick armoured doors closing after the heavily armed marines. The rest of the troops would have to wait for their vehicles to come ashore, fighting as heavy infantry in the mean time.

Marine Jerrards was one such trooper. He looked up at the roof of the craft as the ride changed. From his experience with hovercrafts and mock assaults he knew that they were now travelling across a rocky beach rather than the soft sea. The sound of the cannon now came continuously from the gunners hatch, still barely audible above the sounds of the big engines driving the craft forwards and the turbines of the two Shadow Cat’s. Whether the gunner was shooting at targets or just nothing nobody in the bowels knew. The craft slowed noticeably and Jerrards gripped his sniper rifle that little bit tighter and shrugged his shoulders slightly to move the weight of his composite body armour slightly forward.

Without warning the rear ramp dropped and light beamed in. The two Shadow Cats leapt out of the caverns of the hovercraft and down the ramp, turning so that both went off down the left side of the craft whilst the Marines on foot rushed down and took the right side. The loadmasters inside signalled that the craft was clear and the pilot went to maximum reverse throttle as the ramps came up before turning and heading back out to sea with the majority of his comrades.

Meanwhile Jerrards was in a shell crater left by one of the monstrous 20’ projectiles fired by the battleship Fire. He had his rifle shouldered and had popped the rubber covers off of the scope, his spotter next to him was peering through a pair of camouflaged high power binoculars, searching for targets. Their was a crackle of small arms fire from the right but his view was blocked by the smouldering wreckage of somebody’s holiday home, black smoke pouring into the otherwise clear sky. Jerrards allowed his eye to leave the telescopic sight and he looked around.

Dark green camouflaged Marines were moving in groups of eight all over the area, moving quickly from cover to cover as they assessed the situation. Off to the left a machine gun team had hastily set up their .50 calibre weapon which was now shaking on its tripod as it spat rounds at some unseen foe. A group of four Shadow Cat’s were moving quickly inshore as four more covered them from a spread out position, their own 35mm cannon churning out rounds. From Jerrards position it looked like their were few marine casualties, which was puzzling. He had seen Saving Private Ryan and taken part in the exercises where marshals plucked ‘dead’ men out of the squads at random intervals. It seemed like no one was getting hit. Were there any defenders even here? The occasional spark from the armour on the stationary IFV’s would have lead to a yes, but his instinct told him no.

The IH Fleet, In The Otium Aqua

Grey painted ships were all around. Destroyers, cruisers, carriers, dreadnoughts and the multitude of other vessels that formed an IH WarFleet. In a way they had the Macabees to thank for the new fleet formation and organisation, lessons had been learnt from the First Otium Aqua and they were only now being applied to the IH Fleet.

The war hadn’t exactly gone to plan for the IHN so far. They had hoped to aggressively push towards the Macabeean coastline once they had defended the Otium Aqua for the first time, but the enemy’s superiority in weapons range meant that the Admirals had vetoed such an idea before it had even been properly presented to them. So it was the case that along with their friends in the Royal Navy they stood on the defensive. Two IH Fleets, with a third coming, stood with their Stevidian brothers.

Peace overtures were being made, it was unclear whether any such deal would come before the two forces met so it was essential for the remains of the Havenic Pact to get themselves into the most advantageous position possible.
27-06-2007, 21:07
OOC: Sorry it is long but I’ve always wanted to RP agreat nuclear strike as either the attacker or the victim ever since I read the two “Third World War” books by Sir John Hackett (Worth a read I might add). Hope you enjoy, thanks.


Cabinet War Rooms- Stevid Capita

The Cabinet had never assembled here faster, neither had Admiral Sir Alan West of the Royal Navy been so quick from the Imperial Admiralty. There was of course a good reason for this, under the strictest of conditions they were all given the message that Stevid was preparing a possible strategic attack with an IRBM but this time with live nuclear warhead. Such topics were never jested about, not since Stevid used them last when Huzen Hagen and Stevid fired nuclear weapons at Scandinavian States many, many years ago, then the more recent event of the complete devastation of Portsmouth Military Harbour which caused the deaths of several hundred sailors and numerous deaths of civilians. Nuclear attacks were now taken extremely dangerous and drills were almost never performed with the immediate summoning of the Cabinet- this was for real, the Holy Empire was ready to push the button. She had hundreds of nuclear capable submarines floating around out there always ready launch nuclear missiles if so called upon to do so.

The Cabinet was seated and every single one of them looked very nervous but none more so than Prime Minister David Conroy. He was on a video link from Kanami, he was conducting a face-to-face peace/alliance deal with this former enemy and had personally travelled there with his wife to make the agreement. This action taken against Stevid meant he had summoned the cabinet and he would talk to them via video phone link. A strategic board showing the region with Stevid at the centre was next to the screen and could be viewed from Conroy’s end at Kanami, currently glowing blue with no identifying icons shown…yet.

“Okay gentlemen I won’t beat about the bush here. You know why we’re here and I didn’t receive any immediate complaints about this proposed action when I had the message delivered to you fellows so I can assume you concur with the action?” He said quickly.

“One hundred percent behind you sir.” Said the First Sea Lord Sir Alan West. “In fact I’m not sure why we haven’t done it already, you had the country screaming for The Macabees to be turned into radioactive vapour after the Portsmouth Crisis. This has been a long time coming. I believe I speak for everyone here when I say we nuke those sorry arseholes to hell.”

There was a murmur of agreement around the table to which Conroy frowned at, he was sure that they understood what they were saying- it was as if they wanted a full thermonuclear war.

“You realise we’re going to be launching an attack against Mekugi, it just happens to be on Golden Throne soil? I know that it’s only going to be a couple of thousand vaporised souls in comparison to the hundreds of thousands we’ve lost to that country but the population wants blood. With one huge strike we destroy those lethal units of there’s, we show just what we are capable of and we could end the war prematurely which is what we all want… hopefully we can do this with a big enough big to scare the life out of the enemy but not to such a degree that we annoy them enough for them to start a nuclear war. Mutually Assured Destruction is something many nations have to live with- Stevid is one of them and I don’t want the Empire destroyed by science.”

“Well it’s your call sir.” Said the Defence Minister. “Are we to go ahead with this. Shall we launch the missile and hope that it forces the Golden Throne to push forward a ceasefire rather than a full retaliation?”

Conroy sat there and looked down at the table deep in thought back in foreign territory, this was easily the most difficult decision he’d ever had to make in his entire Prime Ministerial history and he wasn’t even in his own country to make it. In fact if the enemy retaliated in full, he’d be out of the country and that would not look good for the population who would say he knew it was coming. A risk he was now willing to take, this war was out of control and the amount of nuclear devices used so far in this war it was wonder why the region hadn’t plunged into chaos.

“Admiral, you know what to do. I think we should wait for the detonation before adjourning. Thank you gentlemen, in case Stevid doesn’t survive this- it’s been a pleasure.”

They bowed respectfully and the Admiral stood and walked with a noticeable shakiness to the red phone in the corner of the room, he pressed a few buttons and got in touch with Admiralty.

“Yes…Get me the Jacen-urgent”

Royal Astute Class SSBN, HMS Jacen, North Macabees

One of only twelve of this class of boat, information that wasn’t known by even top military personnel in Stevid let alone foreign countries, also unknown to the enemy was that it was the only ballistic missile submarine within four hundred square miles of the HMS Jacen. Its position was top secret in Stevid and submarines were almost never discussed to Imperial allies, not even the closest of them- even the hunter killers’ positions were completely secret. This policy had meant Stevid had maintained an extremely formidable force of SSBNs and SSKs numbering hundreds while making sure their survivability was nearly 95% until they gave their position away, today would be case where its position would be given away after the launch but would hopefully be long away before the enemy could react effectively.

On the map the submarine was in the sea North of The Macabees, outside their territorial waters between the cities of Macabee City and Marsa Brurth, South of the Risban Retreat Island. She carried twenty missiles ten of which were the old Trident IV-D missiles with warheads of 40KT, more than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined. The ten other missiles were Vengeance-VIII Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles that carried warheads in the megaton range- five were 1MT, the other five were 2MT. A single Vengeance-VIII 1MT missile was to be launched at the Mekugi mobile missile sites and their surrounding C&C and logistic support. Civilian casualties were already over the limit now and too much life had been lost for Stevid to worry about accidental “collateral damage” now. It was the desert, any small towns or villages wouldn’t be really missed, not by the Empire anyway.

The call from the Admiralty came in and Action Stations was immediately sounded, weapons armed and targeting data sent straight to the launch station. It took seconds for the submarine to be ready for launch, the only thing holding back the launch was the Lieutenant turning the key, flipping the plastic cover and a switch to give him access to THE magic button that had the ability to end the world. The button glowed dark red and all eyes turned to the man who looked up at the Captain, he just gave a meek nod and the Lieutenant’s finger plunged down on the red button.

There was a rumble as the Vengeance-VIII missile left the boat and broke the surface then seconds later a loud rumble was heard as the main thrusters of the missile engaged and rocketed towards the territories of the Golden Throne. The data read out for all the status effects of the missile were feeding into the Jacen as several members of the crew looked for hostile vessel while others watched either the onboard camera of the missile or the strategic map of region that showed a single missile now careering towards the target. Surprise had obviously been achieved, Stevid was not the sort of nation that just fired off nuclear weapons and generally carrier principles behind its nuclear arsenal. Many nations question why Stevid had nuclear weapons simply because of all the principles and morale issues that this pathetic Catholic country had and stood for, a launch like this- cold blood and hatred- was completely out of character and probably not anticipated by the enemy, especially not a single missile from a submarine in the Northern straits of The Macabees. By the time the enemy would realise what was happening it would be too late to mount any effective defence against the missile, even if they did manage to orchestrate a ballistic missile defence in time they would see the missile streaking “harmlessly” out into the desert. Stevid’s choice of target would be questioned, it would become clear that Stevid did not want nuclear war but just to kill enemy soldiers and commanders as well as set an example of Mekugi and show to the Golden Throne just what sort of lengths this particular Empire was willing to go to.

The IRBM continued on its one way journey and split in the inner atmosphere as it should and began a controlled free fall towards the mobile launchers and their support below on enemy territory. The final stages of re-entry commenced and the warhead itself was left, all that remained was for detonation. By now the Mekugi launchers would have been told about their doom and had enough time to send messages to be given to their next of kin, Golden Throne politicians were probably sitting with sweaty palms wondering about the effects and the fact their homeland was about to be victim of such an attack, the public probably were not yet informed and would bare the brunt of the horrifying truth that their home had been the target of an aggressive country some of them had no quarrel with- soon they all had a reason.

It was 1030 in the morning in the desert with the baking heat making and mild winds doing little to dampen the high spirits of the highly successful missile strike the batteries had just performed but word of a nuclear missile strike had sent everyone darting for whatever cover they could find. At 1032 the Vengeance-VIII missile detonated its 1 Megaton warhead approximately 2,600 metres above the doomed missile batteries and company below. Thousandths of a second later the fireball which had temperatures greatly surpassing those of the Sun was thousands of metres in a spherical diameter and the incredible flash that accompanied the fireball was so huge that it could be seen in the Macabee capital city of Fedala itself. Those in nearby towns and villages to ground zero that looked directly at the flash would instantly regret it as they lost their sight permanently, those sensible to shield their eyes suffered temporary blindness. People in Fedala (probably around many parts of the country) would certainly feel the temperature shoot up and in Fedala in particular would feel there skin begin to reject the sudden increase in air temperature. Those nearest to the blast would feel and see their skin literally burning, clothes would stick, paint, rubber and tarmac would bubble and melt, curtains would be set ablaze and metals on cars and buildings would warp into unearthly shapes. Those in small settlement near to the fireball would almost certainly die; those on fire who would jump into water to put themselves out would only be jumping into water boiling at well over 100°C. At the epicentre nothing was left, everything was completely vaporised by the fireball. The missile batteries, the command centre, logistical support, the roads and of course the people where completely obliterated by the fireball leaving nothing but a giant cater in it’s wake.

The blast pressure wave, while destructive caused little damage. In a city it would probably have done more damage than the fireball but out in the desert there was little to destroy. Small towns, villages and settlements that had the unfortunate luck of being within the blast wave radius were crushed like plastic cups under the tracks of a heavy battle tank. Buildings were either crushed completely or had been thrown by the force of the winds and pressure several miles from the foundations leaving the settlements strewn over miles of sand. Towns, villages and cities safely well away from the nuclear explosion felt a huge blast of wind but nothing more, however the huge amounts of sand kicked up by the sheer force of the blast would batter settlements in its path for hours. Titles would be lifted from roofs, cars rocked and even trees and trucks toppled, the wind was that intense.

Casualties would be light and would be anything between two and five thousand, the launch had been an over reaction by Parliament and the Government for the blood of Mekugi lives. But it wasn’t just out of cold blood, no; the arrogance of the Golden Throne and its allies was hurting Stevid’s reputation. The Macabees were throwing their weight around with their allies and thought that they were the big boys in this war and that they could not and would not be defeated. It was true that all hope of the Haven Pact’s goal of remove Fedor from power in The Macabees was out of a question but Havenic victories could not be ignored. Though Stevid and allies were struggling, they did not want to look weak in the face of the enemy and wanted to show that they were still a massive force to contend with, the only way to do that was to show those infidels the raw power that the Holy Empire and its allies possessed- the nuclear option was the only way of adequately expressing this and was done with just a single missile… that’s all it needed. The Golden Throne had nuked Portsmouth Harbour almost to complete oblivion and is still nowhere near repaired to an operational military status, thus it only seemed polite for Stevid to return the favour but without provoking the enemy too much as to initiate mutually assure destruction with nuclear weapons- both countries would lose.

Hopefully the Golden Throne and the Imperial Stevidian Parliament would agree that the war was taking a bad turn and a ceasefire would have to be agreed upon immediately if nuclear weapons from both sides landing on Otium Aqua were to be avoided. The war was nearing an end anyway with the Golden Throne looking the better side in the conflict, with Guffingford now split between the GT and the Stevidian Holy Empire and the Athiesism theatre looking like a resounding Havenic victory- a ceasefire would seem good to all nations. Everyone would have come out with something even though the Haven Pact would technically lose the war.

That’s what the government hoped for anyway. Whether the politicians in the other participating nations agreed or not remained to be seen to the Holy Catholic Empire of Stevid.
The Macabees
27-06-2007, 21:50
Village of Tien'markó, Dienstad
27 February, 2017

[OOC: Fedala is actually several hundred kilometers to the south of Dienstad, in the 'Imperial Province'. Dienstad is in the north and has its capital at Macabea City.]

The blast had come without notice. There had been no time to evacuate the innocent. Tien'markó, just like dozens of other towns dotting the area, had been almost completely destroyed by an unwarranted nuclear strike on Dienstadi soil. A single blast had killed thousands of Mekugian soldiers and almost fifty thousand civilian souls which populated this part of the countryside. Of course, it paled in comparison to what the Havenic barbarians had done to Aurillac, and what the Empire had done back and was still continuing to do. Nevertheless, for a part of the country that had seen almost no war (except a minor missile attack) the strike was unbelievable. February 4th would mark a dark day on the calendar and would ensure that the Empires of Stevid and the Golden Throne would never again befriend each other. By the following day most in the Empire were screaming for bloody vengeance.

Corporal Anton Feder looked upon Tien'Markó with great pity. He had been sent as part of a twenty man team to the village in order to test levels of radioactivity. The entire area would have to be worked upon for many years in order to reduce radioactivity levels to a level in which people could live in, and it would take many days of hard work to make sure that the fallout was not carried to other parts of the country. The total death rate had still not yet been decided upon as there had been cases of many dead of heat stroke and skin related diseases as far as Macabea City. Feder's horrified facial expression was hidden by the thick mask he was wearing, covering his entire head. His biological suit covered the rest of his body. The only air he breathed came through an adjacent air tank which could be replaced or refilled by the supply truck around them. Through his mask he said, so that the rest could hear him, "Fucking barbarians. I don't think anybody survived."

Nobody responded. The fact was that, indeed, all four thousand occupants of the town had been killed. Most of the town had been reduced to rubble, save for some fortunate buildings.

The situation was much the same throughout the rest of the area. There was no official list of towns hit by the blast, or the amount of dead, and there was no list on what had been hit by the fallout. Current estimates of dead, three days after the blast, had been put at around fifty thousand, but this did not include those who had died in Macabea City - there were at least two thousand reported dead there. Of course, this was nothing to compare to the twenty-one million who had died at Aurillac, but the attack was equally as outrageous. Of course, the fact that the Empire had used a nuclear device to blow Portsmouth and its harbor was quietly ignored for convenience. Nevertheless, not even there was the effect as harsh or undesirable - the blast had been under water.

Anton Feder's device beeped constantly, showing the propensity for high radiation in the area. "Fuck," he quietly said under his breath. He then more loudly mentioned, "We're going to need a heavier team here."

One of his colleagues solemnly said back, "If they can spare one, that is. Nobody expected this to happen. We're not even prepared."

Anton Feder shook his head, "I'll go radio in the facts to command."

Many, many days of work would come in order to decontaminate the area enough so that it would not pose a threat to other areas of the Empire. Then there would be months to come after that to decontaminate it further. Nuclear war had come ...

National & International Televsion
27 January, 2017

Fedor I, garbed in his military uniform, sat solemnly behind a wooden desk. His face was filled with the pain he felt for those who had died under his rule. The camera panned into him and he looked into it with his penetrating eyes. Hands clasped, he began to talk almost immediately, his dialog coming in almost monotone.

"Citizens of the Empire I come as a bearer of grave news, although I admit that most of you already know what has happened. Dienstad was hit by a large nuclear bomb three days ago killing many tens of thousands of people. This act of mass murder has only been matched by Aurillac, but I have no reason to remind you of Aurillac and returning the pain it brought. Unfortunately, this new act of treachery has brought back our woes to us. Let death counts be told by those who care - I am not here to force upon you death and destruction. I give my condolence to the families who are suffering the most, and I also give them to all who want them. Let it be known that this act will not go unpunished. The Stevidian people are also watching the televised speech."

He paused for a brief second.

"I call for the immediate cessation of hostilities between Stevid, Independent Hitmen, the Empire and her allies. If Stevid does not agree to an immediate cease-fire on the sea and in Atheism then it will run the risk of thermonuclear war. She has twenty-four hours to call for a cease-fire or we will launch our nuclear capabilities. Every man, woman and child in Stevid will be a victim of death and destruction wrought through our nuclear capabilities. It will be their worst fears come alive. It is no longer a question of conventional armies - it is a question of survival."

With his ultimatum given he switched the focus back to his own peoples.

"Citizens of the Empire I implore you to begin preparations for transport to communal nuclear shelters within your cities, or near your towns and villages. Should nuclear war begin we are fortunate that we are one of the most prepared nations to survive it."

He let that sink in for a minute and then finished with, "Long live the Empire. In God may we place our ultimate trust."
27-06-2007, 23:14
[Macabea, Joint Armed Forces Command, Boardroom]

"They were carried to heaven by Phoenixes!"

"Horse hockey they were incinerated in the blast, them AND their equipment!"

"But there was not race left can you even be sure they were there?"

"Well no, but its not uncommon for such a site of destruction to reveal little especially considering the size of the search are and the force its faced..."

"Gentlemen, the point remains; we are at an impasse. We can with the help of the Commonwealth completely remove their existence of their nation and any allies that see forward to stepping up, or discuss cessation of hostilities as our Allies have decided to do."

"fucking pussies we should take action we have suffered so far almost no casualties the loss--"

There was a short cough across the room from a Political Officer which reigned the mans attention back to earth.

"..Excuse me , the disappearance of Unit 12, all 1300 souls and their classified equipment is justification to resettle the score well enough."

"Do not slander the Golden thronem as such they have been a great aide in this conflict, and without them many more lives would have been lost, besides what more do we have to gain from bashing our head against these defeated armies? They have only created a side theater only because they lack the gumption and intestinal fortitude to face us on the ground."

There were several agreeing nods and jokes back and forth around the assembled cabinet.

"We have won gentlemen, the point merely remains to settle our bills and go home."

From the Office of the Praetor

With the Disappearance of the 1300+ souls of Unit 12, the Armed Democratic Republic seeks peace. Or the blood of those responsible... Preferably both, however we are not unreasonable men and would accept a bloodless resolution to this conflict.

Realize your response will discern your nations continued lifespan.

[Signed in blood]Praetor Jonathan William Keiso
28-06-2007, 11:59
International news companies from literally hundreds of nations that were following this worsening conflict were covering every second of this terrible end. Across the television and computer screens of Stevid were pictures of the gargantuan dark grey mushroom cloud that rose miles into the sky marking ground zero of one of the largest nuclear attacks ever initiated by the Holy Empire, the single missile armed with a one megaton yield bomb caused more casualties than anticipated. “Collateral damage”, that is to say unnecessary loss of civilian life, was unacceptably high. Military analysts had been so furious with the Mekugi and Macabee forces that they never anticipated the massive damage to surrounding towns, they just picked out the enemy launchers and pressed the button with no regard to foreign public safety or well being. The Macabees believed in God in a very different way to the Roman Catholics so the Church, while hurt by the mass loss of life and openly condemned the nuclear attack, was not hurt much by the fact that fifty thousand infidels had perished under the crushing weight and heat of a nuclear blast. Thousands more would die in horrific ways to the radiation as were Stevidians in several parts of Portsmouth Harbour and City. But nuclear warfare was always a last ditch and brought the worst out of everyone.

The news covered it brilliantly and without bias too, even the Stevidian channels took a neutral role by stating that Stevid in fact been attacked with nuclear weapons too and it was a miracle they didn’t retaliate there and then. But this was different, this attack was somewhat indiscriminate, loss of civilian life in this case was not taken into account. The Nuclear attack on Portsmouth was one to wipe out the military naval fleet of the Fifth Fleet and succeeded in almost completely wiping it out. Civilian loss of life was minimal in the grand scheme of things and didn’t even reach of the two thousand mark. But the Stevid attack was different and fifty thousand lives, in contradiction to Joseph Stalin, was no statistic but rather a great tragedy. Pictures of devastated towns and villages, pictures of ground zero, interviews with politicians and shots of people with the most horrific injuries plagued the screens of television throughout the day and would continue so for months.

Stevid had affectively declared full nuclear war and the population of the Holy Empire braced for destruction, missile silos and SSBNs were ready to strike back if so much as a dot appeared streaking out of the Golden Throne’s territory on the strategic map. Anti-ballistic missile batteries were ready too but nothing could stop a mass attack. Stevid and The Macabees were doomed to self-destruction if either one pushed the button, something Golden Throne was itching to do.

So it was with massive relief and probably much to the disgust of the Macabees’ population when Fedor I said that he would not retaliate with his nuclear arsenal as long as the Holy Empire and her allies accepted the unconditional terms of a cease-fire. Exactly what Stevid and her friends wanted, though it did look like surrender, the Macabees could take that ground after what had happened and besides, the ceasefire agreement seemed to favour both sides. Fedor was an extremely wise and intelligent man and new that mutually assured destruction was not a wise option. Admittedly both Stevid and The Macabees were great, powerful and illustrious nations, as to be the countries of Independent Hitmen, Mekugi, Merkar/Athiesism, Space Union, Safehaven and Zarbia. All were powerful in their own way and while Fedor probably would like nothing better than to wipe all of his enemies out into radioactive vapour, there was still an element of respect. The Holy Empire respected the Golden Throne immensely but only because of its raw military might, this massive clash of giants had brought the worst out of everybody- but the war was over.

Almost minutes after Fedor delivered his speech to his people and Stevid, chilling as it was, the Imperial Foreign and Commonwealth Office immediately sent out a pre-drafted message that spoke on behalf of the Haven Pact accepting the terms of a ceasefire, while forcing The Macabees to acknowledge that removal of forces from the Merkar Republican state of Athiesism would take several weeks, but full withdrawal would begin. It stressed as well that military support for Safehaven would be scrapped but as a friend in the war, political and possible financial support would still be given- but militaries, in accordance with the ceasefire would be swiftly withdrawn. The invasion plan by the Empire to initiate the Fourth Stage of Expansion was already under way with huge amounts of territory gain, nothing compared to the Golden Throne advancements.

The Macabees and her allies had won the war. They had made major advances into Safehaven and Zarbia; the Haven Pact’s goals were to topple Fedor from the great Golden Throne and reinstate a puppet that would rule The Macabees in a way that would always benefit the Haven Pact and allies. The furthest they got was the River Styx and then afterwards the war took a downward plunge. The Macabees had secured their dominance on the mainland continent on the ground and in the air, while had proven that her true asset lay in the sea. She with the help of her closest friend Independent Hitmen had held off the Golden Throne from the Otium Aqua and successfully invaded Guffingford’s eastern coastline, Stevid and the entire Empire now had enough oil reserves to last into the next century and beyond. The occupation of Guffingford also meant access to a lot of much needed natural gas, the Stevidian mainland was running dry as were the East seas of Stevid- a new influx of gas was gladly welcomed.
The Golden Throne had proved there military was unquestionably brilliant while Stevid had bravely proved to the world she could fight a military superpower greater than itself and still win in multiple theatres and survive overall. Everybody came out of the war with something.

The downside was the billions of dead, especially those of Aurillac (sp?) and the fifty thousand odd dead innocent civilians in the wake of the February 4th Nuclear Attack on The Golden Throne. The Haven Pact had truly been barbaric in the war- certainly more so than The Macabees, the only excuse one can find is that “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”…