The Fallen Front (39.2)

42nd of the Aster’s Gloom, 2030 D.C.E

Nocht Federation, Republic of Rhinea — Citadel Nocht, Soundproof Room


BERGER: It is the 42nd of the Aster’s Gloom.

FOSS: God it sounds like a workshop rubberwheel. Is it on?

LEHNER: You better hope so, because I’m not takin’ any notes.

BERGER: It is recording, mein herr.

FOSS: How long can it go for?

BERGER: We have an hour’s worth of spool in the machine.

FOSS: Like that bundle there on the table? Is that a spare?

BERGER: I brought two spools just in case. We have two hours total.

LEHNER: We probably won’t even need one.

WEDDEL: So it’ll pick up our voices, and we can play it back?

FOSS: That’s the idea, yes. We can take notes without taking notes.

LEHNER: Berger is a damn sight better than Mrs. Fress dying in slow motion on a chair.

BERGER: Thank you, mein herr.

FOSS: Don’t encourage him.

WEDDEL: To think a piece of wire can potentially carry my voice forever.

LEHNER: Don’t say anything you don’t want to commit to history, Weddel!

WEDDEL: I’ll try to be responsible with my words.

FOSS: You’d be the only one here.

BERGER: We should introduce ourselves in the recording, otherwise it may be difficult for future listeners to tell apart the differences in our voices and identify us.

FOSS: Fine. I’m Cecilia Foss, presidential computer, secretary, speechwriter, etcetera.

LEHNER: Achim Lehner, President of the Federation of Northern States.

WEDDEL: Field Marshal Walter Weddel, Oberkommando Norden and Des Heeres.

BERGER: And I am Emilia Berger, a communications engineer.

FOSS: The purpose of this meeting is to discuss past and current events in the continent of Ayvarta and to consolidate our information about the southern matter.

LEHNER: Yikes, you’re making it sound like a goddamn thesis.

FOSS: I’m making it sound professional! As it should be!

LEHNER: For my part, I just want to know what the fuck is going on down there.

FOSS: You’re such a brute! First we should establish context.

LEHNER: Yeah, well, sure, okay, whatever. Context away.

FOSS: Ahem. On the 18th of the Gloom, we put into action Generalplan Suden, a strategic campaign to dismantle the political, economic, military and social structures of the Socialist Dominances of Solstice and begin a new paradigm under the former Empress Mary Trueday–

LEHNER: Uh, the term we use is Empress-In-Exile, Cecilia. She’s not former anything.

FOSS: Right. Empress-In-Exile. Anyway. Our objective for this campaign is to end the rogue state of the SDS, thereby bringing needed stability to the region and to the balance of global power as a whole. Not only will the destruction of the SDS open Ayvartan markets and goods to Nocht, and the world at large, as well as eradicate a sweeping social malaise in the world’s south, but the fall of communism will leave scores of saboteurs, anarchists, guerillas and terrorists worldwide without an ally and supplier.

LEHNER: Love it. God I’ll sleep so easy once the Worker’s International collapses. After I’ve put my big grey metal boot on Solstice’s goddamn neck and snapped it they’ll be left crying alone for mommy. They tried to start a fucking factory riot a few days ago!

WEDDEL: Well, I’m not so sure this war alone will take care of that, mister President. Worker’s International is a legal political organization, even if dubious and at odds with–

LEHNER: Weddel don’t ruin my dreams like this, man. Be gentle with me here.

FOSS: Let the man have his fantasies while we return to context. What was the makeup of forces for Suden, Weddel? What did we activate on the 18th of the Gloom?

WEDDEL: Well. I was only involved in planning at an advisory capacity, but if I recall correctly, the Task Forces were codename Stonewall, starting in Cissea with 20 Divisions and codename Lee in Mamlakha with 30 Divisions, for an opening wave of about 550,000 men and several thousand machines. In 15 days, an additional 10 Divisions should have been added to Stonewall. Give or take reinforcements, the plan was for 100 Divisions in the final operation, for a total of 1.2 million men to be deployed by next year.

FOSS: And the strategic objectives for Suden, as originally envisioned?

WEDDEL: Two simultaneous thrusts from Cissea and Mamlakha. Stonewall’s Cissean thrust would have begun in the Adjar dominance, and moved north and east along the upper curve of Ayvarta and into North Solstice. Lee’s Mamlakhan thrust would go through Shaila and Dbagbo, along the lower curve of Ayvarta, mirroring Stonewall. Both thrusts are to meet at Solstice in the middle of the desert, take the city at any cost, and end the war that way.

LEHNER: We also wanted the elves and the orientals to help by attacking from the northwest and northeast, but those plans have been delayed until next month it seems.

FOSS: They said they required thirty days to reorganize themselves for battle, and then however long it takes them to launch the actual attacks according to our plans.

LEHNER: I’d be happy if they just did SOMETHING within the next week or so.

WEDDEL: That seems unlikely at the moment. But they still have plenty of time.

FOSS: Right. On paper, the campaign was to last 180 days at the most, starting in Aster’s Gloom of 2030 and ending definitively by the Lilac’s Bloom of 2031 after seizing Solstice.

LEHNER: Are we even sure taking Solstice would end the war?

WEDDEL: While the Ayvartans possess another powerful industrial fortress in Chayat, Solstice is the rooted center of their communications, command and control, and all of their political and logistical apparatus. Chayat can’t run a centrally-planned economy.

LEHNER: That’s kind of reassuring, but play along here: what the hell happened after? Those first few days were so triumphant, but it’s been doom and gloom the past week.

WEDDEL: Well, that is where it gets tricky, isn’t it? We’ve suffered several setbacks. I’m not in charge of the theater, but I’ve been poring over documents and reports, I’ve gotten a picture of it. Operation Monsoon, the initial border battle and subsequent push into Adjar and Shaila, was successful. We routed scores of Ayvartan forces, including almost a whole Army pocketed in Shaila. We destroyed hundreds of Ayvartan planes on the ground within hours of the invasion, and thousands of Ayvartan tanks were destroyed in ensuing battles within the first two weeks. We thought that would be enough. That was our problem.

FOSS: I still see it as more a failure of intelligence than anything else.

LEHNER: I thought we had plenty of information. We planned this very thoroughly! I checked in at the offices every day, there were always maps and tables strung up!

WEDDEL: Our planning was thorough, but misdirected. Let me give you an example. Operation Monsoon was supposed to destroy the bulk of Ayvartan manpower in Adjar and Shaila within days by forcing a decisive battle near the border and sweeping through every escape route in a rapid, encircling advance. However, Ayvarta’s distributed system of manpower meant that the concentrations at the border were much smaller than anticipated. We knew Ayvarta’s armies were small and geographically unable to support one another. But we didn’t account for how distributed the armies were within their own territories.

LEHNER: There’s a lot going on there. Okay. Let me get this straight. So it wasn’t just that 100,000 troops were stationed far apart in Adjar and Shaila, which is what we put on a map. We didn’t account for where inside Adjar and Shaila those small amounts could be?

WEDDEL: Exactly, Mr. President. In Adjar, the overwhelming bulk of armed opposition was stationed far north of the border, and could not be encircled in the first few days as planned. We wasted precious time driving through every village and town searching for Ayvartan manpower, weapons and supplies long since gone. We cast a net into a dry river.

LEHNER: We assumed they would defend their border with everything they had at their disposal. Or the bulk, at least. I mean, that shit only makes sense, you know? Why the heck would they have Battlegroup Ox manpower in central Adjar, or near Tambwe?

WEDDEL: Their border in Adjar being lightly defended was a blunder on their part, but it ended up defusing our plans entirely. When we gave chase to Ox, it was too late. We had wasted too much time combing through lower Adjar, and they had reconvened north. We ended up overstretched, with only the motor and tank troops able to reach Bada Aso and engage Battlegroup Ox before they got the chance to fully fortify the city.

LEHNER: That’s why the air force got hurled at Bada Aso in such a sloppy fashion?

WEDDEL: Yes, Von Sturm and Kulbert believed that the only way to “catch up” to Bada Aso and make up the manpower differential was a quick bombing campaign.

FOSS: And then Bada Aso happened as it happened.

LEHNER: What exactly happened at Bada Aso? Explain it to me like I’m dumb. We lost twenty thousand men on that last day alone, on the 35th. How does that happen?

WEDDEL: It’s still being investigated. We don’t know. It might have been a secret Ayvartan weapon. If it is, they have not used it since then. Some investigators claim it might have been a natural disaster. But Bada Aso still isn’t very safe to explore. We may never know exactly what happened, unless we secure Ayvartan confessions post-war.

LEHNER: That’s real unsatisfying. I can’t live with that in the back of my head.

WEDDEL: Those are our alternatives.

FOSS: Von Sturm’s incompetence lit a fire under his arse that eradicated our men.

LEHNER: Now there’s something I’m willing to believe.

WEDDEL: Well. We criticize Von Sturm and Kulbert for the conduct of that battle, but I must say, they made the correct call strategically. Look at the damage the Ayvartans did with a few days time to dig in. Imagine if we gave them weeks instead? Rushing to Bada Aso made the most sense. It was the best option out of a slate of very bad options. We had to disrupt the Ayvartans as much as possible to have any chance to seize Bada Aso’s port.

FOSS: I’ve conducted a few interviews that suggest the tactical conduct of that battle was a comedy of errors. I wouldn’t be so quick to praise little Sturm for anything.

WEDDEL: I don’t know anything about that. It could very well have been that way. But talking pure strategy, he made the right call. How is the 1st Vorkampfer reacting now?

FOSS: Morale in what was once the 1st Vorkampfer is at a catastrophic low these days. Thousands of seasoned veterans from Cissea are dead — no amount of reinforcements can replace that. Survivors have no confidence in the unit after the brain drain that’s resulted. And the survivors are not confident in their prospects, and much less in their leadership.

LEHNER: I thought we broke up the Vorkampfer, didn’t we? What’s happened there?

FOSS: We slapped together all the remains into a “13th Panzer Division.”

LEHNER: Jeez. It’s hard to keep all these guys’ numbers straight in my head.

FOSS: Don’t fret; with this wave of reinforcements to Ayvarta we’re deploying the corps headquarters and army commands, so the organization will become simpler after that.

LEHNER: Not simple enough for these migraines.

FOSS: Poor dear. Want a kiss to make it better?

LEHNER: Right now I just want an updated map of this nonsense.

FOSS: Who’s to say you can’t have both? Tee hee.

WEDDEL: Ahem. There is good news in Shaila and Dbagbo, however.

LEHNER: Does it reverse the bad news?

WEDDEL: Not exactly.

LEHNER: Then I don’t care, Weddel! I want to know what’s going wrong so I know who I should start firing to fix it. I brought you here for kindling, not cotton candy.

FOSS: He’s no better at kindling than Braun!

WEDDEL: I’m a strict disciplinarian, but I can’t chastise an army a world away.

LEHNER: Volunteering?

WEDDEL: Goodness, no. No! I much prefer Oberkommando Norden.

FOSS: Really? Sunny beaches, moist air, exotic wildlife, beautiful women–

WEDDEL: Sunburn, disease, monstrosities, and armed communist insurgents.

LEHNER: God. We should’ve just brought Braun in to make us depressed.

WEDDEL: To steer ourselves back: Shaila is fully under our boot, and Dbagbo is next to fall. Our supply lines are stretched, but we are making incredible progress for 26 days of fighting. Supplies and manpower are building up rapidly. Even Von Sturm’s unit has reconstituted enough to complete its movement to the Tambwean border, where Field Marshal Haus will meet it and try to stabilize the situation and continue the attack.

LEHNER: Dietrich is finally off the boat? That’s the one bit of good news I wanted!

FOSS: You’re so excited! Let the records show, the President is excited.

LEHNER: Dietrich is a mean sonofabitch. I’ve seen him snap men over his knees.

WEDDEL: If there’s one man who I believe could do such a thing to an army, it’s him.

LEHNER: So what happens next Weddel? Share some more of this optimism.

WEDDEL: Ha, I thought you wanted bad news?

LEHNER: News of Dietrich taking care of things always turns me around.

WEDDEL: Very well. I believe limited offensives will be carried out next to maintain pressure while the Task Forces consolidate, and the Army commands are set up.

FOSS: Judging by the AG-40 maps, it’s looking like quite a daunting job!

WEDDEL: Right now there are clusters of units separated by a hundred kilometers or twice that in some sectors. They definitely need time and an opportunity to catch up. Supply lines have to be stretched out from the ports up into newly conquered areas and further to the front. Reinforcements have to be moved. It will take time, and whatever is at the front will have to make do until everything can be set in order.

FOSS: I’m sure Dietrich will whip them into shape. It’s practically his hobby.

LEHNER: God I’m gonna sleep so good tonight. Dietrich is gonna fix ALL the problems.

FOSS: Aww, you’re so fond of him, it’s kind of cute– hmm, what’s that noise?

BERGER: Excuse me. It seems like the machine is taking issue.

FOSS: Do these recorders always sound like they’re munching glass?

BERGER: We may have to recalibrate the recorder, it is using wire too fast.

LEHNER: Fine, we’ll reconvene later. What happens to this recording now?

BERGER: We create copies for editing, archival, dissemination if necessary.

LEHNER: Cut out the parts where Cecilia is talking nonsense.

FOSS: Edit it so I’m the president. It would be an improvement on reality.

LEHNER: Hey! Listen here you. I try my best and I work hard.

BERGER: I’ll take requests once the spool is changed.

LEHNER: Atta girl!


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