This chapter contains violence and death.
45th of the Aster’s Gloom
Socialist Dominances of Solstice — Southern Dbagbo
Guns sounded from the treeline, and flashes pierced the gloom cast by the wood.
From the edge of the forest sailed dozens of shells that soared over the open fields and crashed all along the defensive line. Huddled against the earthworks, infantry of the 3rd Rhino Rifle Division cringed back as columns of earth and shattered wood and splintered stone went up into the air in front of their faces. They hid farther back in their trenches, the defenses stacked three deep, each several dozen meters long in an arrowhead shape.
Several minutes and seemingly a hundred shells later, the tanks began to advance from the forest. M4 Sentinel medium tanks led the charge, over two dozen of them, followed by small concentrations of lighter M5 Rangers and a scant few M3 Hunter assault guns with their distinctive hull-mounted cannons. They rolled over the broad green prairie like a storm of steel, rushing the defenses at full steam. Machine guns blared from the front hulls of the M4s and M5s, fired by the assistant drivers, and every few seconds one or more or the tanks fired a cannon volley, putting shells closer and closer into the interior trenches. Creeping and creeping, the tanks and their ordnance broke the defenders.
Unable to suffer the advance of the enemy, the men in the trenches scrambled out of their positions. As they ran the machine guns never ceased firing, and many were cut down where they stood. Anti-tank guns lay abandoned behind the trenches, having never attempted to fire a shot — the old short-barreled 45mm gun was too ineffective beyond 500 meters to matter in this engagement. Well before the first tracks hit the trench walls, the defenses were deserted, and there lay corpses everywhere, hidden beneath the yellow and red flowers and the dew-licked green grasses that stretched behind the trench line.
A kilometer removed from this carnage, the second defensive line began to break from the sights captured in their binoculars and scopes. Men and women dropped their rifles and tore their uniforms and fled into the woods and hills. Without their commanding officer around to shout at them or shoot them discipline was breaking. Aside from being a kilometer farther than the first line, the second line was not much different. Three columns of trenches, each quite long and deep, fortified with wooden logs and sandbags and rocks and whatever could be sourced in a pinch. Dilapidated old anti-tank guns provided meager support for the defense. Once more, not a shot was fired by them.
Several hundred meters away from this scene, Cadao Chakma did not even attempt to rally the defenders of the second line. Doing such a thing would have compromised her plan, wasted her time, irreparably damaged the winning solution that she had drafted.
As much as she desired to save the infantry, doing so was not her job, for she was not an officer, and in fact should not even have been a combatant. These were desperate times, for a chief warrant officer to be fighting out her own plans. From a wooded hill halfway between the lines and offset farther south, cleverly concealed with netting and fake bush, she watched the lines break and the tanks begin to cross the flower field between the two sets of earthworks. It was on this soft ground that she desired her enemy, and she waited.
It was painful to watch the infantry struggle so much, but she had found the winning solution. Cadao was a solver of problems and she had solved this problem in this way. She hated herself for it, and she felt her heart hurt, but this was the only way, she knew.
All she could do was watch and to pray that her solution was truly the winning one.
“On my signal, all guns will fire until ammunition is exhausted, or the enemy retreats.”
In response, every crew started to load explosive shells and to stack replacements.
There was no need for detailed instructions. Her crews were not trained enough to perform any complicated fire orders. Everything they were going to shoot was pre-sited and pre-calculated. All they had to do was load the “150’s” as they called them, and pull to shoot.
Cadao raised her binoculars to her eyes and followed the tanks on their journey to the second defensive line, which was growing more barren of troops by the passing second.
It happened quickly; a plume of smoke rose suddenly somewhere within the tank formations, burning under a few flowers, its origin point invisible amid the moving mass of armor. One tank, an inconsequential M5 Ranger, stalled. Around it, every other tank continued a dauntless advance. Another tank stopped. Its front sank into the ground. And a third, a valuable M4 this time, stopped abruptly, its hatch thrown open by fire.
One by one the tanks started to stall. Some hit pre-dug pits, others drove too close to the ponds and mud puddles caused by the Dbagdo rain and hidden under the prairie flora, and became mired. Still more struck mines, causing them to de-track. Roughly a quarter of the fifty or sixty tanks in motion became trapped, and caused problems for the bulk of the formation that followed behind them. They slowed and turned in place and started to inch around the stalled tanks, trying to negotiate the obstacle presented by their trapped comrades as well as avoiding the traps that immobilized them in the first place.
As the ranks of the panzer battalion became disorganized, Cadao raised her fist to signal.
Her own treeline lit up as brilliantly as the opposing treeline had before.
Dozens of 152mm shells hurtled out from the wooded hill and directly into the prairie.
Where they struck the earth, great geysers of mud and upturned flowers and chewed-up turf went flying into the air. After the first few volleys the artillery crews scored their first grazes on moving and immobilized tanks. Detonations within a meter or two of a tank caused the tracks of the medium tanks to scatter in every direction, and the sides to collapse inward from the explosive pressure. Light tanks failed to survive even the lightest grazes, and any shell that struck anywhere near them left hundreds of shrapnel holes in their thin armor, and set the engines ablaze, and caused hatches to collapse inward.
There were few direct hits, but each was remarkably brutal. An M4, stricken directly in the neck of its turret, was beheaded, and gunner, loader and commander were sent flying in pieces along with their gun and equipment, leaving behind a hull akin to a squashed can. M5 Lights practically disintegrated when struck, their side walls and half the turrets and chunks of the engine compartment disappearing entirely, leaving behind gaping wounds that billowed thick black smoke and tongues of red fire and no sign of survivors within.
Nobody was counting the volleys, nobody was counting the kills. Cadao watched in silence as barrage after barrage went out. On the wooded hill the crews did nothing but load and shoot as fast as possible, collectively launching hundreds of shells for every minute passed. Maybe a dozen minutes and a thousand shells later the supply was utterly cooked off, hundreds of crates emptied and discarded behind her, and the beautiful prairie was reduced to a cratered hellscape, not a meter of grass or a single flower left amid the sea of craters, amid the chewed-up ground and dozens of burning, mutilated metal coffins.
Not a single tank would make it to the second defensive line. All of the lead formation was crippled or destroyed; Cadao took a moment to finally count, and found 24 tanks of various types destroyed. She spotted at least thirty more tanks, most in states of injury, others perfectly intact, all turning and speeding back over the first trench and into the forest.
She sighed deeply. Despite the loss of her C.O., the cowardice and ill preparedness of the infantry, and the inexperience of her own artillery, she had somehow turned back an overwhelming assault. She had perhaps bought the rear echelon of Battlegroup Rhino a day or two worth of respite to reorganize the line and plug the gap here. Whether they could manage to do so was another matter. Dbagbo was slowly but surely falling.
After sighing, letting out all the bad air, she smiled, not for herself, but for the others.
“Good job! Abandon the guns and let us run east to the HQ. If we are lucky, we may be able to return at night and hitch these guns back with some trucks or horses. Move out!”
Cadao was no leader, she thought. She was just someone who liked to come up with solutions, almost like a hobby, at first. But now everyone seemed to defer to her, and to give her the opportunity to solve the problems she saw. And so without question, without the honor of marking their barrels or even celebrating this victory, the artillery crews abandoned their guns, taking only food and water, and followed her out to the field.
Seeing the state of her troops, Cadao wondered whether any amount of planning could turn around the battered wills of her people — and her own flagging hope as well.
Watching the remnants of the infantry flee, she thought that perhaps her people were too gentle now for this war. Perhaps they could not cope anymore with carnage, after peace.
47th of the Aster’s Gloom
Socialist Dominances of Solstice — Eastern Dbagbo
After being relieved of duty for abandoning her artillery post, and being confined to camp in the far rear echelon, Cadao thought she would at least have some peace and privacy and time for herself in a state of “tent arrest.” However, one odd morning, the military police practically fled from around her tent, and were soon replaced by one surprising guest.
“Chief Warrant Officer Cadao Chakma, your presence is requested at the motor pool.”
Cadao was startled by the messenger suddenly barging into her tent. She was quite a mess; jotting down imaginary mobilization plans for the nation on a little notebook, her honey-brown skin was slick with sweat, and she was dressed in little more than an immodest tanktop and short pants. Her hair was disheveled. She had zipped up her tent, to prevent just such an intrusion, but the intruder had simply ripped it open to deliver the missive.
“Don’t just barge in!”
She threw her standard issue booklet of socialist wisdom at the messenger’s face, and found the stoic-faced most unconcerned by the attack. After being struck between the eyes, hardly even flinching, the messenger backed away, and waited outside instead. Judging by her behavior, she must have been with the KVW. Cadao blinked, and scrambled to dress herself, finding pieces of her uniform here and there, tying her hair into a ponytail, and gathering up her notes and proposals into a satchel to take with her.
Once ready, she stepped outside the tent, and nervously saluted the messenger.
“No hard feelings.” responded the messenger.
Cadao sighed. At least she was being let out of her tent now.
The messenger led her from her prison tent, which was large and cozy and strung up under a decorative tree planted just off the Gulguru train station platform, and onto the platform itself, and past several rows of track to a train that was recently arrived amid the hustle and bustle of the unannounced but practically unavoidable evacuation from Dbagbo.
Cadao certainly had no knowledge of its presence prior to seeing it there, but then again, she had little special knowledge of who came and went since her punishment. The train was armored, and heavily armed, but it dragged behind itself one car that was red and gilded and fancifully decorated, the kind of car that once upon a time brought holiday-makers on a tour through the wonders of Ayvarta. It was to this car that she was led.
Inside the train car, there was practically a tea party set up. On a table with a frilly cloth and rose-pattern embroidery, lay a set of a porcelain tea cups and plates. There were cakes, halva, and what smelled like fresh coffee, and black tea, and funky yak’s milk. Sugary syrup and honey were plentiful. Behind this table, a woman poured herself a cup, and with a hand gesture invited Cadao to sit down and partake of the sweet little spread.
Behind Cadao, the messenger left the car, and walked around the side of the train.
“Hujambo! I am Commissar-General Halani Kuracha. Please sit!”
She gestured once more for Cadao to sit, and so, Cadao sat.
When she heard the word ‘Commissar’ Cadao always thought of a taciturn older man, but before her there was a young, slender woman, brown-skinned, black-haired, with gentle features. Her hair was arranged in a cutesy, charmingly messy pair of twin tails. Her most striking feature was her eyes, each a different color behind a pair of round spectacles. As she busied herself stirring honey into a cup of coffee and yak’s milk, Cadao stared.
“I am stricken by your expression; you have lovely eyes, C.W.O.” Kuracha said.
Cadao, alarmed, sat up straighter, feeling a jolt along her back.
“I suppose so! They’re my mother’s eyes.” She said nervously.
Kuracha tapped her spoon on her cup, dripping off coffee from it.
She pointed the instrument at Cadao with a foxy grin on her face.
“Such a beautiful combination of features. If I could hazard a guess, Kitanese?”
Cadao averted her eyes momentarily, rubbing one hand on the opposite forearm.
“Um, well, I consider myself– just Ayvartan.” Cadao replied, suddenly self-conscious.
“Oh, I know. But you understand where I’m coming from, right? Certainly your blood runs many colors, it must have, to have assembled such a pleasant tapestry of features.”
Cadao blinked and shivered. Was she being flirted with? Was this flirting?
Kuracha had certainly developed an almost lascivious grin. It could be flirting.
Still, Cadao did not have to indulge it, if it was. “My mother was Kitanese. I’m Ayvartan.”
She said this in a voice that was low and reserved, and Kuracha took notice.
“Ah, comrade, you needn’t continue to assert such things. I do not come at this from a position of prejudice. I myself come from the stock of a north solstice desert tribe, the Budii. My people were barbarian raiders in antiquity. Now they farm along the Marduk.”
She waved her hands as if to blow away the anxiety in the air.
“There a lot of those tribes, aren’t there?” Cadao said, trying to make conversation.
She had never seen a tribeswoman quite like Kuracha. But then again there were few Kitanese that looked quite like Cadao did. Circumstances easily overcame one’s blood.
“Hundreds. Some are still out there, living their lives the ancient way.” Kuracha said.
“It’s a harsh life. I prefer the gentle glow of civilization.” Kuracha replied.
Cadao would not ask whether she thought the use of the word civilization implied her people’s ways to be savagery or barbarism still. She was not good at conversations or interrogations and she was starting to buckle under Kuracha’s boisterous presence. Whatever Kuracha’s ideas on cultures and ethnicities, it did not matter right then.
“Um, for what reason was I summoned, Commissar.” Cadao asked.
“Punctual! I like that.” Kuracha said, pointing an index finger at her like a gun.
Cadao started to sweat again. Was this how people flirted? She just did not know!
Kuracha looked her in the eyes, and her voice took on a less casual tone. “I was dispatched here to quickly retrieve you; your presence is wanted in Solstice, as part of a potential new military high command, likely to be approved soon by the Council and the KVW.”
“My presence?” Cadao blinked. “Military High Command?” Her mind started to spiral away, and her heart rushed. She found it hard to process anything. “How? What?”
“Cadao Chakma. You submitted a thesis to officer school for a potential mobilization plan in case of a southern invasion, four years ago.” Kuracha calmly explained, taking a sip of her coffee between sentences. “Your proposal was rejected and you were barred entry. It was completely politically motivated — you arrived, unfortunately, in time for demilitarization to enter the lexicon. But Solstice recognizes your worth now.”
Her worth. She felt her heart swell and her eyes drew wide open.
It was as if a bright light had exploded in the darkened recesses of her mind.
Something warm and satisfying and powerful welled up within her.
They had read her plans, seen the work of her imagination.
And they thought she was right enough to support. She felt herself glowing.
“All of that is true,” Cadao began, her speech excited, quick, “but that plan was for a potential war against a resurgent Mamlakha and Cissea, not against the Nocht Federation! To draft an effective mobilization plan I would need new data, both on us and on them.”
Kuracha grinned. “Excitable now, are we?”
Cadao caught herself, and drew back into her own shell once more.
Kuracha laughed. “You can have anything you want.”
She gestured behind herself and clapped her hands.
Behind her a door opened, and the next car over had one its rear door pulled open too.
Inside Cadao saw a veritable library.
“Copies of records from the Solstice archive.”
Cadao was speechless. It was wall to wall in that massive train car.
“I should get to work.” She said, still stunned by this turn of events.
Kuracha clapped her hands cheerfully. “You should.”
55th of the Aster’s Gloom
Socialist Dominances of Solstice — Solstice City, South Gate
Council had fallen bloodlessly, and Daksha Kansal was elevated to Premier.
After a short confrontation, Cadao managed to hold her own against the Premier well enough to receive her post, and she quickly set about to work. Her people, her gentle, peace-loving Ayvartan people, her farmers, her factory workers; she had, as was her custom, identified their problem, and come up with a solution. It was a dire solution.
Under Kansal, Cadao Chakma was now the civilian head of the armed forces. Battle plans were not her responsibility; as she sat, in a small restaurant just off Solstice’s south gate, her head swam with production numbers, potential efficiencies, procurements, R&D, and other engineering and logistical topics. The Wall outside dwarfed everything around it ten times over, and the gate, too, was massive, and very visible even inside the restaurant, even in an aisle seat. Despite this, she paid it little attention. She had become accustomed to the wall and no longer marveled at it. It was big. There were bigger edifices in the world.
Her people, this war, and the structure of communism.
Those were far bigger than the Walls.
She had turned over these problems and her own solutions in her head, over and over.
Always she attacked her own answers. She had to be completely certain.
There was too much now riding on her decisions.
She thought she would be ready for her new position. But it was one thing to solve small problems. From the heights she had attained, she saw a world an infinitude larger than before, and she was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem before her.
And she was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the solutions.
Everything hung in the balance.
Not only flesh and blood, but now the soul, too.
“Hujambo, here’s your lentils.”
A gentle serving girl with frizzy hair beneath a scarf laid down a bowl of lentils and a spread of flatbreads, and accompaniments like mint yogurt and mango-chili puree. Cadao poured the mango-chili mix into the lentil soup and mixed it up. She did this almost absentmindedly, while looking over a thick folder of documents she had prepared.
“Um, excuse me. You’re with the army, right?”
At her side, the service girl looked at her with meek eyes.
Cadao was in uniform and clearly looking at military-stamped documents.
But she was gentle; she was a part of a gentle people and she was gentle herself.
“Indeed, I am.” She said. She smiled. “Is there anything I can do for you, comrade?”
“Yes. Um. I know this is silly but. Have you heard or served with a lad my age, name of Kambaru Chafulu? He,” she paused for a moment, “He means a lot to me, and I–”
“I’m afraid I haven’t.” Cadao replied.
“Thank you. I am sorry to trouble to you.”
There were tears in the girl’s eyes as she bowed down, and turned swiftly away.
A soft and soft-hearted girl, victim of this war.
There would be more if her answers were not the correct ones.
Cadao sighed deeply.
She returned to work, reading over the same lines, doing the math in her head.
Over and over and over, attacking every line from every angle.
There was a war in her head, and it was this war, and it was its own.
Should those two meet, there would be great success.
And if she could not force them together, reality would crush her gentle people.
It was a deeper voice this time. Cadao looked up.
Appearing at the side of the table was Premier Daksha Kansal. Tall, serious in expression, almost regal, with mixed black and grey hair in a big bun, dark skin and eyes, and a face that was only mildly weathered by age and suffering. She looked mature, but perhaps not entirely her own age. Her uniform was unchanged since becoming Premier. She wore the KVW black, red and gold, without visible honors. Her demeanor, attitude, the way she held her head high and her gaze hard, made it obvious that she was a person of authority.
She was a vibrant character who gave off a fiery aura.
Cadao, at first, buckled completely in her presence. Now, she felt more uncomfortable with her own thoughts than with anything Daksha Kansal could say or do.
“Have a seat, comrade Premier.” Cadao said.
Kansal nodded, and sat opposite her.
Soon, the girl appeared again, her eyes and cheeks clearly marked with dried tears.
“What will you have, comrade?” She asked.
“Hello, Yanna.” Kansal said.
She waved gently. Opposite her, the girl stared for a moment and then gasped.
“You’re the one who helped get me to a doctor, weren’t you?” Yanna said.
Cadao looked between Daksha and the girl with a quizzical expression.
“I only made a few phone calls.” Kansal said.
Yanna bowed deeply.
“I apologize ma’am. My brother should not have asked such a thing of you.”
“He was a child concerned for his family. We should all be so caring toward each other.”
“Thank you ma’am.”
“Don’t thank me. Thank the doctor for your speedy recovery. I will have what Cadao had.”
Yanna bowed again, and skipped and hopped away to the kitchen, giggling.
How quickly the whims of her people turned! Cadao thought, they were truly soft souls.
It hurt her heart, how kind everyone was.
“So, talk to me about this plan of yours.” Kansal said.
“That was why you chose this restaurant?” Cadao asked, smiling.
“No, I just like the food. Tell me about your plan, Cadao.”
Cadao sighed, losing her energy instantly. She had thought it over and over again.
No matter how many times she played out the moves in the chessboard of her mind, no matter what data she read or what facts she tried to plug into the formula for a different result, all she could come up with was the dire series of orders written in the terrible little folder she had laid on the table. She spread it open, and pushed it toward the Premier.
She had sealed the fate of Ayvarta with that move, she thought.
For better or for worse. She didn’t know. Perhaps both. She couldn’t know!
That was the solution and she was committing to it even though it hurt.
That was her custom.
“Premier, to accompany the mobilization plan of troops, it is absolutely necessary we mobilize the civilian sector as well, to the fullest capacity. Right now, we can easily raise 500,000 troops to defend Solstice by the Hazel’s Frost, and one million by early next year. But they will all be equipped with the subpar old weapons of the demilitarization regime.”
“So this is a procurement plan?” Kansal said.
“No. It is something bigger.”
“An ambitious procurement plan?”
“It is a change in our very way of life.”
Kansal raised an eyebrow.
“All I’m seeing in this document are R&D profiles of weapons I already know about, and a lot of mathematics that it is too early, and that I am too hungry, to parse. Please explain.”
Cadao nodded. She took in a deep breath and prepared to deliver the dire news.
“That project is called War Plan ‘V’; it is the fifth War Plan ever drafted by the Socialist Dominances of Solstice, and coincidentally, that five can easily stand for Victory. To achieve victory, I have created a plan that assumes the unconquered half of Ayvarta, with Solstice and its five remaining Dominances of Chunar, Govam, Ayanta, Jomba and Karnata, will operate at a hundred percent of its capacity. Everyone who can work, will work. Every factory, every input, very asset, will produce, for the war. Just for the war.”
Kansal blinked. Whether or not she understood the implications immediately, was unclear. Yanna came by with her food, and set it down on the table, and for a moment there were pleasantries exchanged that interrupted the discussion. Kansal took a few bites, drank some cold, spiced milk, and then turned her gaze back to Cadao again.
“Just for the war?”
“Just for the war.”
“You realize you are in a communist country?”
“To each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”
“Right. You know that, so–”
“Right now, we have a great need of things for a war, ma’am.”
Cadao was straining to continue this discussion. It weighed so heavily on her.
She like a villain; truly, she must have been. She must have been the villain.
Kansal seemed a touch irritated by everything.
“We are already producing at a high capacity. And industry from the south is being evacuated to Chunar and will be running again in a few months.” Kansal said.
Cadao sighed. “Ma’am, if I told you I could turn a toy factory into a gun factory what would you say? Would you really say that the toy factory producing toys, is being efficient here?”
Kansal narrowed her eyes. “I’d wonder what your opinion of our children is.”
It hurt to hear that, truly. It hurt to hear it said in that way. It really cast Cadao as a villain.
She took a deep breath and prepared to lean into villainhood fully.
Cadao shook her head. “If I turn every toy factory into a gun factory in just Solstice, I can equip a Division with Rifles and Grenades every week, and with enough ammunition to fight for a month, at the cost of a few unhappy kids who can learn to play pretend.”
Kansal hesitated to speak again. That was the kind of math that she truly understood.
“What else are you thinking?” Kansal asked. “What else is in War Plan V?”
Her heart was buckling, and her speech started to stir a bit. Cadao spoke quickly.
“Textile factories can make uniforms for infantry, bodysuits for tankers, camouflage nets, ammunition sacks, straps of various kinds that we need; tractor factories can make tanks, including the Hobgoblin. Automobile clubs can be pressed into patriotic service in making and repairing combat craft, including Aircraft like the Garuda II, which we sorely need. Women and men and children can construct earthworks and man air defenses. We could double the Solstice Air Defense Network, and have round the clock gun shifts, in a week.”
“And when the first teenage girl you allowed behind a gun is blown up by a bomber?”
Cadao almost wanted to weep hearing that. Her composure was starting to shake, but she held herself together as best as she could, shaking, and a little weeping, and yet firm.
“We’ll be secure in the knowledge that we have reserves.” Cadao replied.
She hated herself so much; she hated herself for having said that. Hated!
Even Kansal seemed shocked by Cadao’s response.
There was no more holding it back. Cadao was starting to break.
War Plan “V” was the solution and she had to have it approved.
“Ma’am, I understand what I am saying and proposing. The Socialist Dominances of Solstice was founded and built upon the promise that the state serves and protects its people and takes care of their needs first. To fully embroil them in this war, to use them in this way as a resource, to totalize this war into their everyday lives, is to break the great Ayvartan peace that we were enjoying, to break that gentleness we so valued. But ma’am, the state needs the people’s help. We cannot fight the Federation’s forces alone.”
Cadao broke out into tears over her own words. She felt she was becoming a monster.
But there was a problem, and she had the solution. She had the horrible solution and she could not let it go because that was her nature. She had won over this problem now and she had to declare it. No matter what was destroyed in the process. This was the only way.
“Right now we are producing 300 Hobgoblin tanks a month. I can make 1000 in a week, if I can have men and women currently painting sports cars for a dwindling export market, or building surplus wheelchairs, or putting together children’s bicycles; if I can have those people building tanks every day, on a fair schedule, for fair compensation. I can do that.”
“So,” Cadao’s voice started to crack. “So, ma’am, we may cause harm to Ayvarta. But we may save it too. Do you desire to save Ayvarta, even if it is not the exact same after?”
It was perhaps the polar opposite of demilitarization. Everyone had prayed and hoped for a society that could be at peace with the world and free of war. Cadao was proposing to make a society that was steeped in war, and functioned only to prosecute it at its most total, most consuming and brutal, in order to survive. What kind of Ayvarta could survive such a thing, she did not know. That was not the problem right now. She had the solution for the problem that they had. 1000 Hobgoblins a month in two months; after that, tens of thousands if the southern industry could come online in Chunar fast enough. Similar numbers of Garudas and Wyverns in the skies. Qote class aircraft carriers and Megalodon submarines. Millions of Salamander rockets. Untold billions of rifles and grenades.
And, ultimately, an army of several million, whole populations living to fight.
And even greater still a civilian army of billions who lived to support that fight.
Cadao’s horrible, inescapable, haunting vision of total war for the survival of Ayvarta.
“I will think about it.” Kansal said.
Her expression betrayed nothing of what she could be thinking.
She stood, saluted Cadao, and left the scene, stone-faced.
With her superior gone, Cadao finally allowed herself to break down completely.
She screamed, and thrashed, and cried, and nobody around her understood why.
People came up to her and tried to console her. Yanna told her everything would be fine.
All of those gentle souls, who might, in a year, or in two years, see that gentleness gone.
It made Cadao weep and scream all the more. She did not deserve that kindness.
1st of the Hazel’s Frost
Socialist Dominances of Solstice — Solstice City, SIVIRA
Cadao Chakma appeared before Daksha Kansal one cold evening in Solstice.
She had spent the past few days on forced leave, to recuperate from “an illness.”
It was cold and getting colder, so she had some kind of excuse. Shifting weather.
That the desert was starting to become so unbearably cold at night meant winter was here.
Weather wasn’t it however; weather did not bother her.
Not the physical weather. It was more the philosophical weather bothering her.
There was a storm in her heart, pouring rain in her mind.
To think, Kansal had put so much trust in her, and she was already buckling.
What a joke; for a monster, she was very week.
She did not sit. She was not invited to sit, nor would she.
Cadao knew why she was there.
Under her arms, she had brought it. That hated thing, that fateful thing.
Kansal stretched out a hand and beckoned.
“Give it to me. I have decided to disseminate this.” She said.
Cadao nodded grimly. Her eyes almost welled up in tears again.
“Are you afraid, Cadao?”
Cadao was deathly afraid. Of what she was doing, of the role she would play in it.
“Can you continue your work even so?”
“I can. I have medications.”
Kansal nodded. She pushed back her chair.
“Cadao, I believe that the goodness of the Ayvartan people can survive anything. It blossomed even under the brutality of the Empire. We are not perverting it.”
Kansal stood, and she approached Cadao, in time for the young officer to break down.
Her knees grew weak, and she sank into Kansal’s breast.
Kansal took her in her arms and gave her a strong, reassuring embrace.
“We are saving it, Cadao, you are saving it. That you’re crying right now about all of this, despite being such a genius, with such a strong will to set this into motion. You are not excluded from the beauty and nobility of the Ayvartan people. You are the noblest of us.”
Cadao could hardly think anymore.
From under her arms, War Plan “V” spilled into the floor.
She cried and shouted terribly into Kansal’s chest.
This was an evil thing, it was not a good thing, not a communist thing.
It could not be anything but evil and she was doing it. She was the architect.
“Cadao, if it turns out that what we’re doing is evil and monstrous, I will be the monster. History will judge me, and never you. I will protect you. I promise.” Kansal said.
Cadao withdrew from Kansal and looked her in the eyes, shaking.
Kansal smiled a motherly smile and looked her in the eyes too.
“I will be the monster. Never you.”
Moved by this display, Cadao cried once again, the loudest she ever had.
1st of the Hazel’s Frost, 2030 D.C.E.
War Plan “V” is approved. Beginning of War Communism and Ayvartan Total War.