City of Rangda — 8th Division Barracks, Regimental HQ
At first there had been a sense of despair surrounding the capture of Shayma El-Amin by the scarcely-known elven enemies dropping from the sky. The 3rd Battalion was their most powerful combat unit, comprising almost two thirds of their armor strength and heavy combat power. But within moments after receiving and spreading the news, Madiha Nakar dispelled the encroaching fear with a resounding proclamation of her own.
“I will lead the rescue operation. Prepare the Rakshasa for me.”
There was a sense of stunned admiration that followed the Colonel’s orders as they traveled quickly down the chain of command. After all, she had issued them from a wheelchair, while still receiving periodic medical attention to recover from the torture she suffered at the hands of the vile leaders of the traitor city. Soon everyone would realize that Madiha was deadly serious. She stood from her wheelchair and walked, painstakingly, without even her cane, rebuffing the support offered by her secretary, Parinita Maharani.
“Madiha, please, you’ll make it–”
Madiha raised a finger to her own lips, and then to Parinita’s.
Parinita sighed and huffed. “You’re so stubborn!”
But she knew Madiha well enough it seemed, to know to drop the subject.
Walking was difficult, and painful. But the gunshots were healing fast, thanks to Madiha’s innate blessings, and the frayed feeling in her nerves from the drugs was also dissipating.
Every exertion hurt, but the adrenaline rush and tension of the coming fight kept her up.
Making their way down to the depots, everyone assembled in the tanker’s staging area as the engineers brought out the large and impressive Rakshasa Command Tank, newly-painted in the standard green, with a unit number, 34, in white sprayed paint on its side. While they worked on it, the commander and her staff were ushered inside a cleaned-up depot nearby for supplies. There were guns, clothes, and rations for all tankers.
Tanker suits were quickly issued. It was the first time Madiha had seen one up close.
In the privacy of a makeshift changing room, she shed her uniform, and donned the suit.
It was nearly skin-tight on Madiha’s slender, muscular form, and a touch awkward. There were pads on the chest, waist and joints that helped smooth out her form a little, but she still felt a little exposed. Over the suit, she wore a sleeveless jacket with all of her insignia, which did a little to make her feel decent. She straightened out her shoulder-length, slightly messy black hair and donned a radio headset over it, completing the tanker attire.
Stepping outside the changing room, she found Parinita waiting for her dressed in a similar garb. But her secretary’s slightly plumper and curvier form seemed starkly better suited to the design. Her wavy, strawberry hair was tied in a ponytail. She smiled and waved coquettishly upon sighting Madiha, very visibly examining her from head to toe.
“You look so dashing in that! I rescind my protests — you should command more often!”
Madiha shook her head and sighed. “Who designed this? I don’t understand it.”
Parinita twiddled her index fingers and turned beet red.
“Kimani asked me to come up with a spec for a separate tanker uniform that wouldn’t get caught on the instruments and I drew her a spec! It was just a neat little spec, you know! I’d read all about this new plastic technology that the M.A.W group developed and–”
Madiha averted her eyes, turning red in the face herself.
“You two look quite fetching in those!”
Minardo flounced into the room, conspicuously dressed in a very ordinary uniform.
“You’re not coming with us?” Madiha asked.
“Of course not.” Minardo pointed subtly at her own belly.
“Oh. Do you not fit in the tank?” Madiha asked.
Parinita elbowed Madiha in her visibly lean stomach.
Minardo stared at the two of them critically.
“Honestly do the two of you still don’t understand? Spirits defend. I guess it is true that mothers really are alone in the world. If you weren’t so charming otherwise, I’d hate you.”
Madiha and Parinita shrank away from her.
She shrugged, and picked up a headset from the table and donned the piece.
“I’ll provide support from here.” Minardo said.
She sat down behind a mess table upon which a radio unit had been laid.
Plugging herself in, she leaned back on her chair, crossing her arms.
“So, how’s the plan lookin’ at this hour, fearless leader?” Minardo asked.
Madiha did not have to think about her response too much.
“At this point the conditions for a victory, as in retaking the city completely, are slim. We can be sure that this airborne invasion is being supported by a naval thrust — that is the elven art of war. And we cannot hold off such an attack. However, the conditions for an escape are very possible. We just have to link our units back together.” Madiha said.
“An escape, huh? I can’t say I’m opposed. I’m sick to death of this city.” Minardo said.
“It’s so scenic, on the one hand. But then there’s the treason and invasion.” Parinita said.
Madiha chuckled a little. It was a healing bit of laughter. She had desperately needed it.
“Presently I am out of love with Rangda as well. But that’s neither here nor there.”
Madiha wandered over to a table nearby where grenades and pistols and flare guns were laid out for tankers and tank commanders to equip themselves. She examined the items before affixing a few to the pouches and belt over her suit. There were also boxes of dry chickpeas, water canteens, and hardtack, as emergency tanker rations. She took some.
“Parinita, you should take some food as well.”
There was no immediate response. Madiha turned over her shoulder to the mess table.
She found Minardo and Parinita both huddled around the radio all of a sudden.
Parinita waved Madiha closer.
The Colonel ambled over to the table, as ginger on her own wounds as she could be while still hurrying to her secretary’s side. She plugged her headset into the radio.
Broadcasting over every open frequency was a message, from the 8th Division.
“Attention 1st. Regiment of the Kansalite forces! This is the 8th Division’s 2nd Regiment’s Lieutenant Yassir Karak! Rangda’s Council has fallen! We have no reason to oppose you! We offer assistance against the Elven aggressors in return for clemency! Repeat–”
Madiha unplugged her headset from the radio box. Her head filled with possibilities.
Parinita and Minardo looked at her with wide, disbelieving eyes.
At this, Madiha gave an uncharacteristic grin, satisfied with the plan brewing in her mind.
“He sounds like a punctual lad. We shall make use of him.” Madiha said.