25th of the Aster’s Gloom, 2030 DCE
Adjar Dominance – Battlegroup Ox HQ “Madiha’s House”
Ruined blocks of old buildings flanked the broad thoroughfare up to Madiha’s House.
In some respects this proved advantageous, as it improved the field of view from the higher floors. It was even harder to hide from the kilometers-long sight-line of the FOB, and it made the headquarters an even worthier prize. But Madiha had established herself in one of the forward offices, and she had the window unblocked. She wanted to see out the window, to be reminded of what happened. She wanted this penance, this torture, to gnaw at her until it destroyed her. To her, the stretch of burnt-out buildings, the damaged streets, was a symbol of her failure. She was a failed commander. At times, in her vulnerable state, she even thought of visiting the necessary retribution upon herself for her failure.
It was a frightful idea, and even more frightful how hollow she felt.
Parinita had perhaps noticed, as she had “misplaced” Madiha’s service revolver and always had something better to do than to replace it. It was just as well, since Madiha was not fighting. She was stuck behind the 3rd Defensive Line corps, an impromptu formation that, alongside the 1st, 2nd and 4th Defensive Line Corps, represented the men and women struggling to hold Bada Aso for as long as possible. These defensive lines differed in depth and combat ability. Half the Corps had simple instructions, and the other half had a more complex purpose. They were corps in name only, as none of them had headquarters.
They could not spare the staff for it.
They could not spare a lot of things.
Madiha could only sit and wait for the grim news as Parinita answered the phone.
“We’ve got trouble along the first defensive lines.” Parinita said, pulling the handset slightly off her head and covering the receiver with her hand. She was still on speaker.
“I expected that. Phone call first, and then relay the information.” Madiha replied.
Parinita shrugged comically and pressed the handset against her head again.
When she was done she put it down.
“We’ve got trouble along the first defensive lines.” She said again in a mock sing-song.
Madiha sighed and rubbed her eyes down. “This is not a reasonable time for that.”
“I’m just dealing with things in a healthy way. I find it is better to laugh than to cry.”
“I will do neither.” Madiha said tersely. “So, without charm, what is the situation?”
Parinita shrugged comically again, but sorted herself out fast enough to preempt another complaint. “At around nine the first Nochtish forces breached the city limits. We had nothing out there to intercept them but observers, who called it in and then hauled away as you ordered. Shortly thereafter we received the first reports of fire being exchanged in the Southern district. The enemy forces appear to be approaching along Matumaini in the center, Penance road in the southwest, and the old bridge road in the Umaiha riverside in the southeast. In each place the first defensive line held out as much as it could then folded. The 2nd Defensive Line Corps are in place on Upper Matumaini, Nile Street, and at the old Cathedral of Penance along Penance road. They’re not engaged with the enemy yet.”
“Any estimates of our losses in battle thus far?”
“Not a clue. The 1st Defensive Line Corps was deliberately undermanned so it’s not like we had a lot to lose. None of the other Line Corps are engaged yet.”
“Yes.” Madiha felt another terrible stab of guilt.
It was all going according to her bloody plans so far.
“Nocht appears to have committed three divisions, each with a regiment forward.”
“No matter. We will soon spring the trap. Everyone is aware of this?”
Parinita nodded, but she had a bleaker expression on her face than before. “I reiterated the plan from yesterday’s briefing to them as best as I could. But you know our officer quality is not what it should be; and the quantity is even less so. We are largely depending on a big game of telephone here to relay the plan to common troops. There were already a few episodes of panic along the front from troops who didn’t get the memo straight.”
Madiha knew too well.
She was staring down the elite of Nocht’s troops, and her own army was crippled.
Demilitarization was at first lauded by the Civil Council as a way of empowering the public and pushing socialism to its next stages. Taking power away from traditional military structures. But the ‘arming of the citizenry’ was limited to the keeping of ammunition and weapon dumps and stocks in cities that were carefully guarded, to be distributed “during emergencies.” This was not happening now, largely because Madiha could not find the Spirits-damned depots and she was becoming sure they did not exist.
What Demilitarization entailed in practice was the curtailing of the size and efficacy of the army, due to fear of the old revolutionaries once in charge of it. Many Generals in the Ayvartan army were dismissed; while most deserved a retirement due to their age and inability to adapt to rapid changes in technologies, very few were promoted to take their place. Those that remained were kept away from the troops, as advisers to the bureaucracy.
Ranks above Captain thinned out, and so lower officers were thrust with greater responsibilities, limited contact with superiors, and few opportunities for promotion. Standards were relaxed or in many cases forcibly lowered; organization was up to each individual Battlegroup. Formation sizes were wildly variable as long as the end result was an army with 100,000 soldiers in each territory. Hundreds of thousands of reserve troops were dismissed and hundreds of thousands of capable troops were added to reserve. Overnight, the fabled “Ten Million Men” of the Ayvartan Empire had evaporated.
To speak against Demilitarization was an awkward place, and few did it. Judging the role of a traditional military in a communist nation was a strange exercise. After all, was not the Imperial army largely reactionary and cruel? Madiha herself did not know, at the time, how to feel about it. Her superiors cooperated with the new rules of the law.
Now she felt anger and helplessness, at the result of these laws.
Demilitarization had accomplished its goal: both the vestiges of the imperial army and the ghost of the revolutionary army ceased to exist. In its place, was an unthreatening force that the Civil Council ignored. They created a new responsibility for themselves, and just as quickly relieved themselves of that burden and several others. The Armies could now never threaten the Civil Council, never bargain with them, and never beg of them.
Nobody seemed to care about the Battlegroups. While the KVW raised their own standards, and the Revolutionary Guards in Solstice were untouched, it mattered little.
It came from a time and place where they could not see an enemy attacking them; or perhaps, from a time when they did not want to see it. Madiha was staring down an organized, professional army with a disastrous organization of her own.
Many of her Captains were unaccounted for, heaping even more responsibilities on her Lieutenants. Parinita had told her that most of the Captains had sour relationships with Gowon and carried themselves fairly independently, conducting training on their own and traveling with their personal cadres where they pleased.
Madiha figured the chaos of the invasion, their disdain for the territorial authority, combined with their lingering fear of the KVW’s inspections, must have caused them to lose their nerve and finally vanish from the ranks. Some had probably even defected.
She had over ten divisions, and not a single Colonel or General among them.
She was the highest rank.
In the room with her yesterday there had been two Captains and a gaggle of Lieutenants. She gave the briefing to them as best as she could. She conveyed the plan for the Bada Aso Strategic Defensive Operation, “Hellfire.” From there, those few officers she briefed had the task of effectively controlling the entire army to carry out this plan.
Though Parinita and her staff had done their best to return order to the organization, there was only so much that could be done at this point to combat the idiosyncrasies of Battlegroup Ox’s deployment. This was year’s worth of damage to fix.
Now strategy was done; real-time tactics would have to carry the day from here on.
Madiha stood from her desk, took up the phone and dialed a number.
She waited through the tones and relayed the necessary orders.
“Once the 1st Defensive Line fully dissolves, and the 2nd Defensive Line comes under threat, you are to wait until the enemy is fully committed against the line before launching the flanking counterattack. Ogre heavy tanks are authorized to join the attack then.”
Madiha put down the phone, and sat behind her desk again.
She felt helpless. Everything felt out of her hands now. Whether the counterattack on Matumaini succeeded or failed; whether the city survived; whether her own life proved to be of any worth. None of it was within her power to affect.
“Spirits guide us all.” Parinita said, looking out the window of the office.
They could see none of the fighting. Only ruins.