Rangda — Ocean Road Police Station
“Everyone knows the plan? Good. Dismount and mind your trigger discipline.”
Civilian cars and trucks cleared the thoroughfare as a large convoy took over Ocean Road. There was a collective shiver across the ranks of the civil police squadron stationed outside the ocean road police station as the Rompo trucks lined up across the street. There were twenty trucks in a long line, each packed with ten soldiers and their supplies.
Ramps went down from beneath the tarps fastened over the truck beds, and dozens of men and women piled out of them in hasty but disciplined ranks of their own. They formed their own makeshift firing line ten times the strength of the police line, and much more heavily armed. There were Danava-type light machine Guns, BKV anti-tank rifles and Rasha submachine guns on the soldier’s hands. All of this automatic and semi-automatic firepower was passively opposed by old police-issue bolt-action bundu rifles.
Civilians on the street rushed past the scene as if they had urgent business elsewhere.
From among the soldiers a startling bugle sounded, further shaking up the police forces.
In the middle of the procession, an armored half-track with a 45mm gun turret let down its own metal ramp, and from the back appeared Colonel Nakar, making a most unexpected visit to ocean road. One of her arms hung almost limp at her side, rarely moved as she approached the station, flanked by a pair of well-armed women. On her head was a large peaked cap, and she boasted an intimidating black eyepatch as well.
Those accompanying her knew that she had a bad arm that was causing her much agony, that the eyepatch hid an inflamed and suffering eye and that her hair had been styled to cover bandages, but the police were too busy contending with a full-blown motorized Rifle Company at their doorstep to examine the woman’s physical condition.
“My name is Colonel Madiha Nakar of the 1st Order of Lena, Defenders of Bada Aso, Gold Banner Askari Motorized Rifle Regiment.” She shouted toward the police line. “In violation of civil-military cooperation you are illegally holding a soldier of the Socialist Dominances of Solstice in detainment without lodging a formal compliant and without the presence of a military advisor or commissar. I demand Staff Sergeant Logia Minardo be released into my custody effective immediately, or I shall take extraordinary measures to recover her. In addition I demand the transfer of the two Nochtish Suspected Subversive Persons into military custody as per the terms of the Akjer Intelligence Act of 2025.”
At once, as if by mere coincidence, the rifle troops pulled the bolts on their weapons.
Atop the armored half-track, the 45mm gun scanned across the police line.
“Failure to comply with my demands will be met with the full force of military law!”
Gulab Kajari tightened her unsteady grip on her submachine gun. Standing at the Colonel’s side along with Chadgura and Nikka, she pulled the bolt on her own gun as instructed. She then raised her gaze back to the police line, her weapon held against her chest, at the ready, but with the barrel facing the floor. Her heart pumped viciously. She felt her pulse more acutely than usual, hyper-aware of her own physicality in this nerve-wracking situation.
To every deity she could think of, she prayed she would not have to shoot anyone.
Everyone around her, for all their composure, likely had the same thought.
All of them trusted Colonel Nakar. She had a plan to get everyone out safe.
She prayed the plan worked; that the plan ended up bloodless.
She did not want to have to fight volunteer police. There was not one face in the phalanx that looked to her like a fighter, much less a killer. There were old men and women who were trying to keep active; late teens freshly graduated from the youth league and trying to do their communities a service; adults who just wanted to keep the kids out of trouble or who felt drawn to a novel street job and never thought they would have to pick up a rifle.
Gulab had never even seen the volunteer police fighting or armed. Normally she just saw them walking around in uniforms. They helped get pets out of trees and cleaned up sidewalk trash for goodness’ sakes — they were by no means any kind of tactical force.
She did not want to shoot anyone here! She didn’t want to have to fight civilians!
Particularly because Colonel Nakar had them all load up with training ammunition!
Their counterparts, though the weaker force, had real ammunition to shoot back.
At this range however, even dummy shot would have caused injuries.
Intimidation would be their chief weapon; their only weapon.
Gulab kept her expression an icy neutral, modeling herself after Nikka.
Compared to the civil police, she certainly looked like an aloof, experienced killer.
She marveled at the bravery or boneheadedness of the volunteer police in front of her, who though clearly distressed and outnumbered never broke rank or retreated. They visibly fretted in front of her, shaking in their boots and quivering with their old rifles in their hands. They did not so much as make a peep in protest, perhaps prepared to be blasted to pieces to defend the doorway. Or perhaps they had a plan of their own.
“I demand to speak with an officer immediately about the conduct of this station!”
Colonel Nakar’s words hung in the empty air. Nobody seemed to have the authority to respond. Across the street the unsteady rifle phalanx remained in place in front of the door to the police station, guarding the main entrance. There did not seem to be an officer among them — everyone manning this naked barricade was a simple volunteer.
Facing the silent deadlock, Colonel Nakar raised her open palm into the air.
At once Lt. Munira’s M-Company moved forward step by step until they were about a meter behind Colonel Nakar, who herself was only about a dozen meters from the police.
The Colonel kept her hand in the air and open. A closed fist would mean “shoot.”
It was this sight that nearly broke the police line. Many cowered back closer to the police station, until the phalanx ceased to be a bayonet square and became an amorphous mob. Gulab felt a terrible taste in her mouth, having to scare these men and women like this; but they had left them with no choice but to do so, given their own crooked actions.
Come on, let her go, Gulab silently begged. For a tense moment there was no response.
Colonel Nakar made an exasperated noise. Gulab thought she saw her fingers moving–
Then there was a sign of life; the inscrutable glass doors to the police station opened and disgorged a large group of rifle-armed volunteer police flanking a smaller group of people and escorting them out. Gulab immediately spotted Staff Sergeant Minardo and felt a great sense of relief. She was walking with her hands cuffed behind her back, being handled somewhat roughly by a man in a suit and tie. Directly behind her were two men of a paler complexion, also handcuffed, and a taller, darker-skinned man who was being held by two shorter men. All of them were walked out to the street, unshackled, and promptly pushed past the phalanx. Throwing a last contemptuous look at the man in the suit, who grinned malevolently back at her, Minardo started toward Madiha with the young men in tow.
Everyone watched as she crossed the line of military weapons without incident.
In this fashion the standoff was quite abruptly diffused. M-Company promptly climbed back on their transports. Gulab followed Chadgura and Nikka, behind Colonel Nakar, the Staff Sergeant, the interpreter and their new guests, all packed into the back of the Gbahali armored half-track. They sat on the floor and on benches along the walls of the vehicle. Above them, the 45mm turret returned to its neutral position, and the gunner disarmed the breech.
“Are you unhurt?” Colonel Nakar asked.
“Aside from being manhandled a bit, I’m fine.” Sgt. Minardo replied.
In the reverse of the order that they arrived, the Rompo trucks peeled off from the line and turned around, driving down Ocean Road. Once again the Gbahali was in the center of the procession. Gulab let out a breath she felt she had been holding for an hour now. She was thankful the plan was executed well; but worried that it was needed at all.
“What exactly happened in there?” Colonel Nakar asked.
“I was locked in the interrogation room after refusing access to these two.”
Sgt. Minardo pointed her thumb over her shoulder at the two men.
Both of them had glum, worried faces, and were quietly rubbing their wrists.
“Was that an authority from Rangda?” Colonel Nakar said.
“He was a councilman. He had me locked up after objecting to our secrecy.”
Colonel Nakar pulled up her eyepatch and rubbed her bad eye.
“I take it then that Mansa is trying to put pressure on us.”
“Yes, he must be. Colonel, I believe this was all a provocation.” Sgt. Minardo said.
“Provocation to what? For what purpose?”
“He wanted you to take an aggressive action; he will wipe away the catalyst for that action and make it into a story of your overreach and make some demand of you.”
Colonel Nakar took in a deep breath and exhaled miserably.
“He sent a councilor from Adjar to the headquarters this morning. A woman from my past. She started making absurd demands and ended up bickering with me. He probably knew we have history and that it would help rile me up or make me panic.” She said.
“It could have also been a distraction while he worked to isolate me.” Sgt. Minardo said.
Gulab could not fill in all of the blanks here, but she knew these were dire events.
“Whatever his plan, he got a rise out of me.” Colonel Nakar bowed her head. “All of this is my fault. When I recovered the Plans, I should have taken these two back to the base with me, and you as well. I should not have taken for granted the police’s cooperation. I was too focused on securing the Plans and didn’t think of the possible consequences.”
“Now, now,” Sgt. Minardo said, “you acted in good faith and according to the law.”
“I acted stupidly; I was naive. I should’ve been more careful.” Colonel Nakar said.
“Less trusting? More forceful?” Sgt. Minardo said, looking at her with concern.
Colonel Nakar averted her eyes and stared into the armored wall of the vehicle.
Sgt. Minardo reached into her military coat and withdrew a piece of paper.
“I’m almost positive this is what has emboldened him to act.” She said.
She handed the piece, a bit of newspaper, to the Colonel, who looked it over.
“When it rains, it pours.” Colonel Nakar grumbled, crumpling up the paper.
Gulab only got a glance at the words “8th Division” and wondered what it meant.
Tambwe Dominance, City of Rangda — Council Building
“Ah, good, good!”
Councilman Mansa exclaimed with amusement at the sight of the men coming through his double doors. It had been a good day for the Councilor. His enemies had acted predictably and he had made many new friends. Seated meekly in a corner of the room was one of them, a fascinating young woman from Adjar whose father Mansa had met many times in the simpler days before Akjer. He had insisted Chakrani join him in greeting the officers of his 8th Ram Rifle Division. He had assured her that unlike Nakar, they were disciplined and loyal, and they would do the utmost to help her reclaim the strength of her people.
“Chakrani, these are the men who will help us. You can count on them. They will protect you from that barbarian Nakar. When next you confront her, it will be at our advantage.”
“Yes sir.” She said unenthusiastically. “Thank you sir.”
Though the 8th Division was arriving half tomorrow and half another day, Mansa had the officers flown in to begin setting up the temporary headquarters in the Council building. There were a few familiar faces among their roster, loyal and stern, but one man stood out among them as a new friend. Tall and sleek, with a hooked nose, and brown-blond hair, dressed in the muted green uniform and garrison cap of the Territorial Army.
He was a welcome sight.
Chakrani stared at him skeptically, crossing her arms over her chest.
“In Ayvarta, it is customary for the visitor to introduce themselves first.” Mansa said.
Across the room, the foreign man flashed a friendly grin and tipped his cap at them.
“Ah, truly? In that case: I am Brigadier General Gaul Von Drachen.”