What If

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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:20 am

"Don't you think they're just beastly," Penelope said, inching the marker forwards.

"Oh don't even get me started," her corporal replied. "I met a Quiberonnais in Tairendia once. Absolutely ghastly. The smell of him. I tell you. I wrote to Richard just the other day and told him to have no mercy on the brutes. They really do deserve it, you know."

Penelope adjusted her uniform. She liked the belt, and thought the trousers were quite fetching, but the colour and the fabric - yuck. "Whyever they gave us Questers... who the devil cares about Questers any more? It's not like Smyth were here. Well, maybe if Smyth were here it would be different. But Henry says that Fox is a fine man. A very fine man really. Fine enough for Quiberon, anyway."

She pushed the marker a little further.


Tanks and armoured cars crept up in the dark. Their turrets scanned the wastes ahead. Against the Syndicalists, they knew, their sensors were the eye of Providence. But these Dushmen had sensors of their own.

Colonel Sanders wanted to find his man. Singh. General Grantham Singh. But there was no finding him tonight. He was out there, for sure, somewhere in the dark. A doughty Sikh who would fight with his tanks, and then his rifle, and then his bayonet, and then his Kirpan, and then his nails and his teeth. So Sanders had told his boys. "A Sikh fights likes a Sennishman."

"Parksmaintenancemen, the eyes of your ancestors are upon you, and the pens of a thousand schoolboys yet to come. Do not disgrace your heritage." He didn't say it. It did not need to be said. "Gentleman, the game is afoot." That is what he said.


"I have never had anything but the utmost confidence in the Questerian fighting man!" rumbled Smyth. He did not need to bang his fist on the table.

"Every victory I have won, I have owed to the sturdiness of the Questerian fighting man, the steel of the Praetannic cavalry, and, above all, the blessing of almighty Providence! Providence shines her light upon all my endeavours! She shines her light upon my endeavours now!"

There was nothing for it, he supposed. "I have my Questerian fighting men. I have so many of them, how could I fear defeat? And I have my Praetannic cavalry. Parks' Maintenance - just a regiment? A whole regiment? I have my Praetannic cavalry. I have them! And I have my Questerian fighting men. Providence is with me!"


Lieutenant Biddle was lost. Where was he? His carrier had broken down, which was not in the plan. But it was the will of Providence. All is the will of Providence. A figure in the dark. He grasped for his bayonet.

A scuffle. Lieutenant Biddle was on his back. Who was this man? A Sikh. Lieutenant Biddle attempted to retrieve his bayonet, the man resisted - but surely this was a friend. "Who are you?"

The question was returned. "Parks' Maintenance."

"Why are you here?"

"To die for the Commonwealth."


"Who am I, sir?"

"You are the Protector of the Estates-General," It was a ritual. He did not resent it. She turned to him.

"You have the thanks of the Commonwealth."

"Why, Madam?" It seemed that he truly did not understand.

"Your regiment will be shortly be destroyed in Questers, to show that the Estates-General has not abandoned the Straits' Confederation and the Rajamandala."

"Madam, our regiment will fight, whatever its fate may be, for the glory and honour of the Commonwealth, and will trust always in Providence for its preservation."


Yeoman Randall looked out over the river. Why was he here? He never thought to ask. He should be here, he knew, because his father would have been here, and his grandfather would have been here, if it had fallen to them to be here. One might as well ask why a fly was burrowed so deep in a pile of a shit.

There was movement on the far bank. Nothing, it seemed, for now. But sometime it would be something. Yeoman Randall tightened his grip on the firing column.

"We have only a tenth the men we should, so those men we have must fight ten times as hard," so echoed The Thunderer in his mind. Damn the journalists all to hell.
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
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Re: What If

Postby Dumanum » Wed Aug 22, 2018 4:51 pm

Day Six: Spolia

With a great lurch, the dead Covenanter tank was dragged from its final resting place in that grassy field along the Sange where so many of its brethren had been cut down. All around, the cohort’s support troops were at work fixing tracks, fueling engines, and replenishing ammunition stores whilst troops from the Legion’s support detachment were dragging dead enemy vehicles toward the road. On the road, groups of weary, disheveled looking men in khaki were being loaded onto the backs of trucks.

This particular tank, Hull No. 321 of the Dukesardar of Chandigarh’s Horse, 20th Dragoons, nicknamed “Hell on Treads,” had been perforated a few feet to the right of the mantlet at 1,500 yards by a depleted uranium penetrator. He’d gotten a shot off; it had bounced off the MAD.IV that had subsequently ended him. The crew had taken accurate 14.5 fire as they tried to bail out, judging by the what was left of their steaming bodies.

Septimus Torquatus knew this to be fact, because he’d been the one to call out the tank to his gunner and then pull the trigger on those machine gun bursts. He hadn’t enjoyed that last part, for it easily could have been him and his men, but orders were orders: if an enemy crew couldn’t be taken prisoner immediately they were to be shot. An interpretation of the Consul’s commander’s intent by the Legatus, but a reasonable one by all accounts. They’d all heard the same speech from Marbo, the Consul: “The Frontier Force is the very heart of the enemy’s army. Every one of its soldiers we kill or capture is a trained professional that will be replaced by a green volunteer. Therefore, we must endeavor to kill or capture as many of them as possible. Our objective is not to take and occupy the enemy’s lands and push his troops out of the Nampataland: it is to utterly destroy him militarily.”

Torquatus and his troops were formally part of Turma I, Ala III Machinorum, presently attached to Tactical Cohort XXI-III of Vexillatio III-II, Legio II Augusta: a company of tanks attached to a reinforced battalion of VAM-mounted infantry.

His tank, a MAD.IV Imperator nicknamed “Camilla,” was dug hull down onto a hill overlooking the field up ahead. It was supposed to be a moonlit night, but you wouldn’t know it from the haze that had accumulated. Burning vehicles, flashes from artillery salvos and air strikes lit up the distance. Tactical Cohort XXII-III had relieved them and exploited the gap left by Farmer Brown’s failed attack and pushed into his deep area, supported by a flight of gunships and a battery of 155s. He sat on the roof with his crew-the tall grass was full of biting flies -and ate their bagged rations cold.

The enemy’s counter attack at the crossing had not gone according to plan: an amphibious crossing by the IFVs a bit down the river had been supplemented with a few armored bridging vehicles; a diversion to trick the enemy’s scouts into thinking this was the main thrust with the tanks. It was Dumani practice for the tanks to remain hull down in overwatch or otherwise out of sight while the IFVs secured the forward bank and the bridges were laid. Farmer Brown had just about committed his mobile reserve to containing the attack when he realized the enemy’s tanks were in fact crossing a kilometer to the east and threatening to flank him.

This particular enemy commander was, as the Dumani had come to expect of the Questarians, very aggressive: after leaving a blocking force to keep the infantry in place, he bore down on the main crossing sight as fast as he could in order to swamp the enemy with numbers and engage at close range. By the time he’d gotten there, more than half of the turma’s tanks were already across and in advantageous terrain.

Camilla alone had accounted for 4 destroyed enemy tanks during the engagement: a Covenanter M51, and three M50s including “Hell on Treads.” They’d learned to kill the M51s first; once those were gone, the enemy was virtually helpless beyond close range. And so it had been here.

“What do you suppose they’re dragging those tanks onto the loaders for?”

Torquatus turned to his driver, Piscens, with a smile, “Those? Oh, those are brand new MAD.V tanks, if you haven’t heard.”

Piscens looked puzzled.

“They’ll drag her back to depot, scrape out the old crew, fix whatever’s broken and give her a new paintjob. The Covenanter’s a good tank, no need to let the spoils go to waste.”

His gunner, Villa, snorted, “Sure, just as long as I don’t get stuck in one.”

Torquatus ignored him, “These will go to the reserves most likely. You boys weren’t around for the MAD.IIIs- trust me, you’d rather be in a Covenanter. Maybe- hopefully, they’ll up-gun them all, like Farmer Brown did with the M51s. Then he’ll have to fight his own tanks.”

“Take your word for it, old man.”

Torquatus chuckled. Just like with that crew he’d shot up, he knew it could just as easily be the other way around.

A squat support track towing a trailer full of ammunition bounced along knee deep in the grass toward them. It was their turn- they’d expended 14 main gun rounds in the last engagement, 150 rounds of 14.5 and nearly a thousand rounds of .30.

“Back to work.”

He hopped down into the tall grass- gods damn those flies -and waded towards the track.

“Need 10 sabot, 4 HE, a tin of .30 and a belt of heavy.”

An immunes nodded and relayed the order to the work party, who began hauling shells over to the vehicle and handing them up to the crew.

Torquatus noted the work crew had their carbines slung, rather than stacked off to the side to make their work easier. The foreman had a grenade clipped to his flak- perhaps not the wisest choice for someone who is working with explosive ordnance and fuel on a daily basis.

“What’s with the grenade?”

“Oh this? Didn’t you hear?”

“Hear what?”

The immunes shook his head and frowned,

“I-II got into Farmer Brown’s division area, found some of the missing from the Fourth. They’d been shot in the head at close range.”

Torquatus understood now. It was Yehud Rules out here. An old Twentieth Legion axiom: when going out on patrol, bring an extra grenade. That one’s for you in case it looks like you’ll be taken alive.

“Really? I heard from an explorator they found our guys alive back there,” called Piscens from atop the turret as he manhandled a shell down through the hatch.

The foreman frowned and shook his head, “No, your friend heard wrong. I’ve seen pictures”

“Either way,” Torquatus loudly interjected, “We’re soldiers of the Dumani Republic. You let that happen to you and you bring shame not only to the legion and your own good name, but to your family. We all knew the rule when we signed up- you fall on your sword or set off a frag before you let yourself fall into barbarian hands,” the work had stopped now, as he addressed them all as a decanus is supposed to in a situation like this, “those men forgot that rule and died coward’s deaths for it.”

His eyes bore into each of them, jaw clenched, “Now, back to work!”

“And you, be careful with that fucking grenade!”

He didn’t feel quite so bad about machine gunning helpless tank crews anymore. Although, something Villa had said about the exploratores finding live ones bothered him- could it be…? No. Probably not. Well, wouldn’t put it past the SE to do something like that, but it was almost certainly the wandering thoughts of one who has seen more than a life’s worth of bloodshed in the past six days. Some scout misspoke is all.

Behind him, “Hell on Treads” was being loaded onto a tank transporter for the trip west. Above him, a flight of fighters screamed towards the unseen enemy, laden with precision guided ordnance.

“Decanus! Call from Demeter Six, we’re to be prepared to step off in ten minutes. Farmer Brown appears to be massing for another counter-attack and we’re to be the reserve.”

Torquatus grinned, trance broken. Farmer Brown still had some fight in him, yet. No matter. They would throttle it out of him.

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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Thu Aug 23, 2018 1:07 am

Army of the Committee for Parks' Maintenance - General Sir Inigo Pellew, Arboreal Secretary

The Committee for Parks' Maintenance was founded in 1638 to provide for the Public Good in Haversham by the tasteful cultivation of trees, plants, flowers, &c., for the enjoyment and education of the commonality of the city, and to inspire a love of beauty and of the works of Providence in all.

In 1688 the Committee raised, by public subscription, a regiment of infantry under the name Committee for War and Parks' Maintenance. This regiment formed part, alongside forces of the Eastern Association and other associational and private troops, of the first Army of the Sen which marched out to raise the Siege of Bewford. The Parks' Maintenance Regiment distinguished itself in the first Battle of Bewford, in which Senland forces were repulsed from the city, by marching through the musket and cannon smoke as other regiments wavered, and succeeding in reaching the city walls. There, the regiment strengthened the morale and fighting power of the defenders.

After the siege was lifted two months later, the commander of the Senland troops, Marshal George Fox, selected the Parks' Maintenance Regiment to form the Marshal's Bodyguard. Meanwhile, the Committee had been raising more regiments. The following year, a new mounted regiment was granted to the direct command of Fox, renamed the Life Guard of Horse. Since then, the Life Guards of Foot and Horse have watched night and day in Haversham and abroad over Estates' General property and its commanders and officials. The Life Guard can be seen not only in the Great Metropolis, but also in the Tairendiland Concessions, in the Estates' residencies in Cockaygne and Jesselton, and anywhere else the Estates' General wants to assure a foe of stout resistance to any attack. As her first commander put it, "we work to be the best troops, but we will be truest".

But it has always been the policy of the Committee for Parks' Maintenance that its troops committed to the protection of the most important personages of the Commonwealth should always remain Parksmaintenancemen, and, among them, should be first and foremost fighting men. They have therefore served in every major conflict in which the Estates' General has been involved, and it is said that since the end of the Great War no man has commanded the guard at Lilburne House who has not fired a shot in anger.

When Dumanum invaded the Nampataland in 2018, Estates' Forces in Questers were all but vanished from the frontier: except for the main body of the Life Guard of Horse.

Life Guard Regiment of Horse - Colonel Norman Sanders

HQ company - "Hemlock" Squadron (Col. N. Sanders)

- Tank company - "Thistle" Squadron (Maj. H. Esham)
- Tank company - "Foxglove" Squadron (Maj- T. P. Jones)
- Mechanised infantry company - "Monkshood" Squadron (Maj. L. T. Weevil)
- Reconnaissance company - "Hogweed" Squadron (Maj. S. T. H. Wren)
<leis2> Otoh i am also an antiquarian so im legitimately interested in how purple dye was made in sidon
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Re: What If

Postby Questers » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:33 pm

Day Seven: Here Lies the Pillar of Cloud

- Early morning

The Dukesardar got up. The headache was back. His eye was definitely infected now. There was no time to treat it. The infection gave him a mighty headache and every time he stood up he felt dizzy; so it was bad enough that he got up, but worse that another nearby shell knocked him back to his feet again.

"Sir, you have to come to the rear. You're too close."

The Dukesardar grabbed the aide and hauled himself up by the man's collar. He closed his one bad eye. Now he could see.

Everywhere across the bank of the river, men were running, abandoning piles of weapons and stores and going straight to the rear. Even some of the vehicles which had been brought over on rigs were being left behind.

On the far bank of the river, where the machine gun fire was getting louder, at least a full company of Sikh rifles were trying to use anything they could to ford to the other side. In the middle of the river, khaki bodies webbed up and down with the tide, splashing about here and there. Half his damn Regiment had never learned to swim. And everywhere the shells were landing.

The Dukesardar held the aide by the collar. "We have to keep good military order. Get the rest of the Jawans back here." Then he let the aide go, but it was too late. A shell burst into the water and the man began to run from the bank of the river and the dirty marsh that lined it. The Dukesardar swore, and fell over again, and pulled himself up from the mud. He was coated in it thick now. He doubted anyone would recognise him, even if they tried. He remembered something from his officer training.

In a crisis, rank comes from leadership, not the other way round.

Then he remembered another thing his father had taught him, a long time ago: If you lead, people will follow.

He stumbled up the marsh to an amphibious truck, the crew of which was desperately trying to unclog from the mud. They looked at him once, and then went back to their escape.

"Turn this truck around," the Dukesardar said, and they did not listen. So he said it louder. "Turn this truck around!"

They paused, saw the man covered in mud bellowing at them, and decided he must be serious. The five of them managed to get the truck unstuck. "Have you any rope in here? Good. We're going in the water to pull those chaps out," he said. He looked out over the bank, with the smoke colouring the bright sun, to see more jawans hopping in the river. They didn't stand a chance.

The four other men looked at him blankly. "This is the Imperial Yeomanry," the Dukesardar said, "And you are Yeomen, and your fellow Yeomen are in that river, and they will be killed if we do not help them. So get that truck into the water."

So they did. The Dukesardar stood on the back and cast out the rope, tied it to a hook on the back of the truck, and pulled up five men, drenched and with half the Sange in their stomachs. The truck backed out on to the bank. The Dukesardar told the crew to do it again, and jumped off.

He walked down the bank. The artillery fire had lightened now; perhaps their own guns had gone into action. Or perhaps the enemy was going to try to storm their side of the bank. All around him, jawans crouched in dugouts, or underneath logs, or by small slopes, or with any kind of cover they could, shaking from the strength of the bombardment. The Dukesardar drew his sabre, and mustered all the earthly, manly power he could in his steep lungs. He waved the sword in the air.

"Third Sikhs - to the colours! Get up lads! Up! Get up!"

And up went the Third Sikh Regiment. Junior commissioned officers were found. Long ropes were tossed into the river. Whatever that could float was tossed forwards. The artillery began to pick up again, but the Dukesardar worked and worked and worked. They hauled out ten, then twenty, then thirty, then they became uncountable; a horde of men from the other side of the river. Those who could not walk or stand were sent to the back in jeeps. Marshaling areas were made to put men to havildars and subalterns. The Regiment would fight again.

- Morning

The Major turned to walk up to the command carrier, then turned back. The staff were glaring at him. "I already asked twice. I tried everything."

They kept glaring. "Sir, we can't leave B Company behind. Please Sir. You have to try."

The Major looked back at the command carrier. It was almost a jeep, actually; a little six wheeled jeep of a tank. The Captain of Commandos sitting on the top was staring back at him. In front of them was the long suspension bridge over the Sange; the civilian traffic was long gone, and now there were just khaki uniforms milling around. He sighed and walked up to the carrier.

"Captain, I'm here again."

"What do you want?"

"Can't we just wait another thirty minutes? B Company will be up soon. They just told me on the radio net. They've still got nine machines left. It's a good Company, Sir."

"I told you. We're blowing this bridge in five minutes. Those are my orders. Most of your Regiment has already passed. If that Company Commander's got good sense, he'll try to get his machines across the river further downstream."

"And if they're under fire? We have to stay here to support them!"

"You have your orders, and I have mine. My orders are to blow the bridge in ten minutes, and your orders are to follow my orders," the Captain said.

The Major walked back, keeping his eyes to the floor. The staff went towards him, but he cursed them and walked off to see to the rest of his company. Not a minute later a stream of trucks sped over the bridge, and the soldiers ran to the side of the twin lane road and tried to find out whatever they could.

No. Nobody had seen B Company. It was too late now, the Major knew. The Captain of Commandos was nowhere to be seen, and then the Major saw the commandos guarding the far side of the bridge running over. Someone began shouting to take over. The staff came over and started bugging the Major about B Company, but he didn't listen.

He simply sat, cross legged by the road, just far enough that when the bridge blew up, the heat of the explosion washed over him and warmed his bones. The hard danger had passed, for now. The northern part of the Division was mostly over the river. There would be more fights in the future, the Major understood, but he had survived this one.

- Late morning

The Risaldar-Major sat on top of his turret. Strange faces moved around the outside of the tank, strapping it to the barge. Further along the bank, another tank was being strapped in to another rig. The Risaldar-Major regarded it, but it kept blurring, in and out of reality. He looked down at the murky water, and then at his hand, and then back. Was that real too?

The evening and the morning had come quickly. Perhaps the quickest in the man's life. The Troop had shot up another rear services unit when the Dumani cavalry arrived and chased them away.

Someone on the other tank was playing a guitar.

It was like the Rising. It was like the Rising when the Communists pulled out of Kuala Pahang and there was a Daffadar sitting on a tank, singing:

It was down the jalan one monsoon morn to a city fair rode I.
Their armoured lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by.

Was he singing that? No.

The image was an old one. The old Risaldar-Major had just remembered it and placed it there, on the Sange river, years later. He looked again. There wasn't a guitar. It was a splint.

One of the men on the barge yelled out: Cast off!

And the barge began to chug along the river. It'll only take six minutes, the foreman yelled up, but the Risaldar-Major did not say anything back. He did not even hear. He was trying to think. He was trying to think how many tanks he had lost. Every time he tried to count, his mind began to fog, and he began to think it did not matter.

The barge commander swore. They're saying the dushman's pushing the bank force, Sir, the Risaldar could hear him say. This will be the last crossing. Looks like you got lucky.

They were half way across the river. The Risaldar-Major leaned back, and took in the wide banks. He imagined the Regiment, cut into God knows how many pieces, fighting for its life.

It must be like that across the whole front. When they got to the other side of the river, the tank drove itself off the rig. The barge commander told the Risaldar where to go, and the pair of tanks drove off to a marshaling point where chaos was beginning to slowly form into order. Two tanks became five, from two different Troops, and they were on the road again, to yet another marshal point.

The roads were clear, and empty. The crew took it in turns to drive, and the tanks bounded from point to point, no longer needing to check what was ahead of them. Here and there they passed provost units, tiny figures of infantry strung out over the countryside directing little columns of trucks and tanks. The Risaldar-Major's group, tired and hungry, stopped in a market town.

Nobody came out to meet them. There was nobody to come. The Risaldar-Major paid a lonely shopkeeper in military scrip for meat and vegetables, and the men sat together, around their tanks, cooking, and not talking.

A land rover bounced into the street, a bright red flag waving from its radio mast. The man inside looked out and shouted over. "I say, who are you fellows?"

The Risaldar put his meal down. "Majhagarh Carabineers. Who are you?"

Three tracked carriers came around the corner and moved off into the distance. Further along, as the sun moved off from its highest point, and its rays began to glint and less and less from dull armour and blackened tracks, the Risaldar-Major could make out another column on another road. He could hear the faint buzz of radio activity.

The man in the land rover shouted back. "Parks Maintenance!"

- Early evening

To the Officer Commanding, Osctica Victrix Division,

Dear Sir,

I hope this message finds you in good health and wish your family very well. It is my sincere hope that like myself, you have sons and that they have the great honour to serve in the field alongside you.

It is the the greatest regret that I must now offer the conditional surrender of the men presently under my command, upon the west bank of the river Sange.

I must first inform you that I am prohibited under military law from offering the surrender of the whole squadron. Our battle flags have been carried to the other side of the river so that the squadron may be reconstituted in order to destroy your army and expel your forces from our country. Therefore, I am only able to offer the surrender of the military forces, which include troops from other units, under my very immediate authority.

This formation has fought gallantly for three full days with neither rest nor respite, against overwhelming force. The remainder of its men in the field are wounded and in need of urgent medical care. The surrender of our unit is conditional upon the receipt of immediate medical care for its wounded and that the wounded troops of this unit be treated, by your own medical corps, in accordance with the same level of triage that said corps has established for your own army.

Our surrender is conditional also upon the personal code of honour of the Dumani officer and my own personal code of honour as a senior officer of the Imperial Yeomanry. All unwounded personnel must be allowed to march, without guard and without relinquishing their arms, to any position desired by your military provost, where it shall stay until your army is defeated and compelled to surrender.

It must be apparent to you that honour dictates that I can not surrender this force under anything other than these conditions, and therefore I will continue to fight until I am killed or otherwise are compelled to relinquish this command to another officer.

Yours faithfully,

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL Ambit Jathan Percy Singh



- Late evening

"Dukesardar Bains?"

"Dukesardar Sir," the Dukesardar said, eyes still closed, "is the proper military form of address."

"Yes Sir. My name is Major Beckett, from Frontier Force Headquarters. I'm told this Division is in the clear."

"What Division?"

"This Division, Sir. The Pillar of Cloud."

"There is no more Pillar. There is only Cloud. This Division was destroyed on the west bank of the Sange."

"It is not that bad, Sir. The cavalry took heavy losses, as did your Regiment. But the Eleventh got out alright. And enough of the rear services. This Division could be rebuilt, given time. And you apparently earned such a reputation with the enemy that you were not chased down."

"We got across the river fast enough, that's all. And the Parks Maintenance people arrived just in the nick of time to secure our withdrawal. The Division got out in good order, that's for sure, but it's battered. I'm sure the Jathedar can tell you the exact details of what happened."

"Well, that's just it, Sir. It has just been confirmed. He's dead, Sir."

"My God."

"I'm sure this is a shock to you."

The Dukesardar opened his good eye - he noticed the other would not open - and pulled himself up. He was in a house, he realised. He had fallen asleep, but had no memory of the last four hours. Five hours? Six hours? Where the hell was he?

It wasn't a house. It felt airy. There was good air conditioning, here, so not a peasant's farm house. He tried to get up, and Beckett grabbed him. "Not yet, Sir."

"Let me up." Beckett, probably feeling sorry for him, took him by the arms and hoisted him up. "A window." And they went to the nearest window.

A big courtyard. No, this wasn't a house. Not a small one anyway. What was it? A hospital?

The courtyard was full of trucks. "You people saved the Frontier Force out there. The main body of the Frontier Force has safely withdrawn out of the effective range of most of the enemy's forwards airfields, into easily defensible territory."

They were unloading the trucks. A stores depot?

"Sir, you should sit now. You and your people have been through a lot."

They were unloading bodies. And they were laying them out on the ground, one by one. Corpses. No, they were moving, writhing. Out there, in the dark. The headlights of more trucks flared at the hospital's perimeter.

"What unit are those people from?" The Dukesardar asked.

"They are from your Division Sir."

"I'm the commander of a regiment," the Dukesardar said, and then stopped.

"Sir, I am here to inform you that as of now you are acting Major-General and Officer Commanding of the Division of the Pillar of Cloud."

"Then take me down to see those jawans, damn it."

"Sir, I can't do that. You need to rest. They're going to have to operate on your eye. It's going to have to go, I'm afraid. We'll have to send you back out right after the operation. The Commonwealth needs you still, Sir."
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Wed Aug 29, 2018 4:47 am

"Parks' Maintenance!" Poe grinned. The Risaldar-Major looked more like a corpse than a soldier, hungry, tired, crumpled. He struggled to gather his thoughts. Poe did not wait for them.

"Providence with you!" He banged his stick on the side of the vehicle. The Land Rover's engine roared, and it pounced for the horizon.

Poe was a baker, he still said, though he had been in the service since before the Mutiny. Oh, I've been here and there. Not visited Haversham for a little while. Seen a scrap or two. But my real love is dough.

As he strode off with a grin his brother officers rolled their eyes. "Parks' Maintenance..."


The young Raja's servants and court officials flustered around him. He did not care for these people. Not at all.

A spindly man blew rouge in his face. Another read him a long and pompous statement. He did not listen. Another lent in close and whispered meaningful truths in his ear. To this day, he could not recall what they were.

The transmitter was ready. The microphone was brought up to him.

"Hullo you fellows," said Smyth. "You all remember me. I know you do.

"Don't balls this one up."


Yeoman Randall had his man. A blob of red. Dushman.

"Shoot!" The shot landed true.

"Froths up just like a Syndie," said Yeoman Marshal, the driver. Yeoman Randall did not care for this.

"Poor deluded creatures."

"Poor dead buggers," said Yeoman Marshal.


From the television The Tie That Binds crackled. Close down. But no comforting globe wreathed in the friendly old flag.


Anne. Fox. Wren. A destroyer. An artillery piece.


Penelope's hand shook. She dropped the glass. It shattered, and what was left of the wine stained the carpet. She had not heard from Henry in more than a week.


Lieutenant Biddle wiped the grime from his face. His uniform was gone, and ruined in any case. He had spent the day up to his armpits in filthy river water. And now, on the horizon, he saw the tank company: a pinprick flash, a cannon's boom. The night retreated for a second. And then, on the wrong side of the river, a gentle glow that did not quickly subside.

"The retreat's over," he couldn't stop himself. He slumped down in the mud and wept. In this day he had lived a year. He had expected to live it all, all that was left to him.

The Sikhs glanced over at him. A Sikh sergeant took him by the shoulder and said, "Come now, Sir. There's work left to be done."

The next boat still had to be pulled in. He steadied himself, and kept pulling.
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Re: What If

Postby Dumanum » Thu Aug 30, 2018 6:47 am

Day Seven – Carrion


The past twenty-four hours had seen the Comitatus’ surveillance and targeting efficiency along the Sange increase exponentially as the last of the enemy’s division and regimental EW systems were erased by sustained rocket and air strikes. UAVs operated by explorator units on the ground or the Aeronautica gave Dumani commanders live imagery of the Pillar of Cloud’s maneuvers, and more importantly gave their artillery and airmen ample data to ensure their attacks struck true.

Corpus I Antarterica’s command staff had commandeered a school’s gymnasium at this particular stage of the operation. Folding tables for the maps and laptops had been brought in, comms vehicles situated in the nearby parking lot. Working groups were clustered in different corners of the gym, with the corps commander and his immediate systems stationed at the center. Where banners celebrating the school’s various athletic achievements once hung, crimson banners emblazoned with the Solar Octed now proudly loomed.

A constant low murmur of voices and electronic hum hung over as reports were compiled and passed up and orders dispatched down, and a scent of coffee and stale sweat permeated the air. The gymnasium had high windows, permitting a great deal of natural light in; for some of these men it’d been the first they’d seen in days, having been living in tracked command vehicles over the past week.

“Unacceptable. And what measures has he taken thus far?”

“The roads have been mined ahead of the enemy’s line of retreat; the Legatus requests additional artillery -”

“We’re full up destroying their remaining pockets. Regulus knows this,” Marcus Furius Dio furrowed his brow.

The Dux of Corpus I Antarterica was not amused, for that bastard Semnian Regulus’ second vexillation had been unable to prevent a last-ditch breakthrough in the east. Although they’d been subsequently reinforced and were now threatening to close the hole in short order, the damage was done: enemy forces were trickling out through the gap in the Second Legion’s line and fleeing east. Publius Cassius Regulus, commander of the Second Legion, had the foresight to FASCAM the roads when he realized he wouldn’t be able to prevent the breakout, but that would merely slow them down. His forces were in no position to pursue, nor were those of the First and Nineteenth who, although they continued to advance deeper into the Nampataland with fresh troops, were situated too far south to get there in time. The Fourth were simply on the wrong side of the battlefield to do anything about it, for their part.

It was a last minute setback for an otherwise highly successful operation: a fifth of the enemy’s total strength in the Nampataland had been pocketed by his corps, and the losses suffered by the Second and Fourth Legions were replaceable in the near term. The First and Nineteenth remained fresh, and Corpus II Sidonica under Lucan advanced entirely unimpeded into the Nampataland and were on track to link up with the Sharfic Army in a matter of days. Once that happened, the Frontier Force would be outnumbered by well over two to one, with elements of Signum II Semnica scheduled to begin arriving the following week.

That still didn’t take the sour taste out of Dio’s mouth. Those troops escaping the trap would likely form the nexus of a brand new formation, providing an otherwise green unit with highly experienced and competent officers and NCOs. Little things like that could create unexpected problems in the future- like a cancer, it was best to cut them out as soon as they were discovered to prevent greater damage in the long term.

He had options.

“We can’t give him any more artillery than he already has. Draft a frago- Regulus and his legion will seal the breach and destroy the pockets in his tactical area. We will worry about the escapees.

“Strategic aviation is to be re-tasked: destroying the escapees is now their number one priority. Further, as enemy pockets collapse, I want whatever tactical air was going there diverted to hitting them as well. We have an excellent view of what’s going on and our networks are functional- let’s use it to its fullest extent.

“I want those roads better sealed off- the minefields already in place shall be supplemented with air dropped minefields. We may not be able to pursue them right now but we can certainly slow them down enough to really hurt them, and perhaps contain them entirely,” he began circling spots on the map, “this is where they’ll go. They won’t all take the same road because they’re not idiots- they’ve certainly proved that so far. They’ll have to spread what’s left of their engineers thin to make that happen. We can exploit that.

He scrutinized the map.

“Draft a warning order to Valens and his task force, they will be conducting a blocking operation imminently. They may as well get their load plans started. I know they’ve all be itching for a fight.”

Two full vexillations of heliborne light infantry waited in reserve. If there was ever a time to use them, this was it. They’d be facing some heavy armor, but he knew that they’d be properly equipped to deal with it. Perhaps a few would slip through in the end; it didn’t matter. Today, the carrion birds would feast upon the mutilated remains of the Pillar of Cloud.


Thank you for your kind words and salutations- my family and I are indeed in good health, and I pray the same for you and yours.

I offer my sincerest congratulations for the gallantry and competence displayed by the men under your command, and greatest respects to your late commanding officer- I shall endeavor to see that a panel celebrating his valiant resistance and presumably glorious death at the hands of our forces is carved upon this campaign’s triumphal arch.

It was admittedly with some confusion that I received your communique, for my forces are presently in no position to accept your surrender. I fear that I am far too preoccupied overseeing my legion’s rapid, unimpeded advance that will inevitably rout the remainder of your army. I would suggest that you make any future inquiries in this regard to either Legs. P. Cassius Regulus of the Second Legion or Cn. Antoninus Albus of the Fourth Legion- these fine gentlemen and their legions are, I am told, presently destroying your remaining forces and are in the best position to accept your surrender.

Again, my sincerest congratulations to both you and your men for surviving for this long- our most liberal projections suggested you may have lasted another day and perhaps had an adverse impact upon our operations, but this is still a rather nice accomplishment all things considered. I wish you the best of luck in future endeavors and look forward to destroying your regiment a second time.


Legatus Legionis D. Fabius Valerius



Octavius Laenas breathed a sigh of relief and muttered a quiet prayer of thanksgiving to Iove Caelus as the bomber crawled to a halt on the tarmac. Another successful sortie. Gods only knew when the Pilotcy- or whatever was left of it -would try to fight them for real. Perhaps when Marbo made his move against Smyth’s main force, for they had, after all, retreated within range of bases untouched by the first week’s strikes. Just how much they’d managed to destroy on the ground and in the air the first few days was a matter of dispute, though it was his understanding that a few new aces had been minted.

So long as all that business stayed far away from them. It would not do at all for them to be mixed up with enemy fighters- that could end only one way -and for now it seemed that the Pillar of Cloud had been callously abandoned to its fate by the enemy high command. That was all well and good- Laenas and his crew would live all the longer for it.

“Another successful sortie,” his copilot, Ennius, jabbed his shoulder as he tore his mask off, revealing a genuine shit-eating grin “Forty-thousand pounds of ordnance dumped on Farmer Brown while he tries to runs for shelter in his whore-mother’s gaping maw.”

Laenas smiled back wearily, “That it was, no thanks to your lazy ass.”

Buckles were unclasped, masks and helmets yanked off as the plane taxied. Their electronic warfare officer, Tullius, tried to shout something over din of the down-cycling engines, and dour Modius, the bombardier, simply grunted in response.

The ground crews were waiting, a fresh batch of bombs and truck full of fuel patiently awaiting its turn to be loaded into the starving jet. They’d been told on their final approach to be ready to head back out in short order. For now, they’d stretch their legs and feast on whatever scraps had been brought over to nourish them.

The crewmen threw the latches on the canopy and it slid smoothly out of the way; weather-worn ladderways had been wheeled to the threshold, and for the first time in hours the men stand tall, bones creaking and cracking.

Laenas was the last to clamber down, jealously snatching a proffered water-skin from his crew chief.

“Pleasant flight, sir?”

“So granted by Merciful Iove. I owe him another fattened calf.”

“That we all do. How is it out there?”

Laenas tossed him his helmet as he downed half the skin in a few ravenous gulps. For a few moments he was consumed with this; he truly was exhausted. The past week had been constant, ‘round the clock sorties, and things had only intensified since the morning when word went out that they were throwing everything in to break Farmer Brown’s line of retreat.

Laenas reminisced as he turned toward the lethal, blade-like profile of his mount, painted a cool grey. Like every other piece of equipment- and man- the ubiquitous ‘SPQD’ shown prominently along the fuselage. The wings were fully extended and the bay doors open as ground crew scampered over it; the sight of its razor-sharp nose never failed to instill a sense of pride and power.

“We delivered the ordnance at the required points, Gaius. I merely steered us there. A round trip in which we returned appropriately lighter, nothing much more to speak of.”

He left out the details: the thirty-five thousand pounds of combined effects submunitions they’d unleashed. The subsequent hellstorm that engulfed the highway below. The fighters buzzing like carrion birds around the corpse of the Third Division and the calm, measured directions of the forward air controllers as they pulled swarms of attack aircraft off their gun runs, lest the they be inadvertently clipped by falling bombs. The seemingly infinite spear of smoke that rose like a monolith from an ancient burial ground, impaling the polluted clouds above.

“The biggest burnt offering in generations, I reckon. A fitting sacrifice,” Tullius had remarked in semi-jest as it had initially come into view, nearly a hundred miles off from their target. Laenas hadn’t gratified that with a reply, though certainly some of that ash would be pleasing to the more bloody gods. He understood the Indi had a many armed goddess that could be appeased with human sacrifice, or he’d once seen in a film. Perhaps they’d be able to break them of that barbaric habit one day. For now, however, it would do to honor the gods in the manner to which they are accustomed, even the ones of this savage land.

The crew chief saw he wasn’t in a talking mood and turned back to his men, directing the refueling and rearming of the warbird. Cassia, her name was: a venerable old dame, built in the 80s and rebuilt several times since.

A tap on the shoulder; a tray of beef and noodles in a red sauce was offered and accepted. He slumped down at the foot of the ladder, stretching his legs across the tarmac, and ate off his lap like the rest of his men. Sitting, somewhat out of place, on the upper left corner of the tray was a bottle of pills. He knew what those were, apart from a reminder they’d be going back out.

The ground crews were quick. Wheels up in another ten minutes perhaps- their flight route and target was already memorized and plugged in. Another thirty-five thousand pounds of bombs to drop on Farmer Brown. Laenas looked down the line toward the rest of the squadron: eleven more aircraft just like his in this flight. Gods knew how many more in interceding flights.



There were no major organized surrenders on the part of the enemy along this part of the Sange. That was to be admired: their officers cared not for their own lives and preferred to die fighting rather than surrender the men under their command. There were small trickles: a section or a squad here; an individual man and a few wounded comrades there. A captain and what was left of his staff were taken, but the company under his command had been wiped out virtually to the last man. It didn't matter much, in the end, for most of the killing had been done by the artillery while the men of the Comitatus had maintained their defensive cordons. Now, all to be found on this side of the the river were the broken things that had once constituted a mighty army.

Tactical Cohort XXI-III had been in the thick of the fighting here, breathing down the neck of the enemy’s rear guard. Tiberius Nero, Military Tribune of the Dumani Republic and commanding officer of the cohort, had been told simply to push the enemy into the river. If they surrendered, show mercy; if not, kill them. It didn’t matter. The ones that had escaped were long gone and would be dealt with by someone else; his concern was the destruction of the enemy directly in front of him.

A rumor passed down that the commander of what remained of the Third Division had offered his surrender at the beginning of the day to the Legatus of the First Legion, and in doing so had slighted the honor of the Second and Fourth Legions. That act had sealed the fate of his men, intentionally or not: this was Crataea, after all. Men killed over far lesser things than honor here.

“This used to be a forest, once.”

It certainly wasn’t anymore. A fire had swept through here, probably a consequence of the liberal application of fuel air explosives. Now all that remained were the ashy husks of what were once trees-soft when you stepped on them -felled over onto their sides and coming up perhaps to one’s knee if it were an especially large specimen. The smell of burnt wood was a welcome comfort, though the smells of other, fouler things took much from it. Fields like this extended on for as far as the eye could see here, which wasn’t far though with some of the more serious night vision equipment, such as that found on some of the tracks, one could see clear on through to the river.

Nero had seen fields like this before as a child and young man, in his native Sidonia: large swathes of forest, scorched by fire. This was fertile ground. Nature would reclaim this, eventually. Perhaps one day trees would even grow here again, and a forest might sprout anew. Even the sounds were mostly the same- the cooing nightbirds and the chattering insects. The crackling of burning armor, distant din of artillery, and droning of loudspeakers calling on the remnants of the enemy to surrender, however, seemed much out of place.

“Yes. That would have benefited the enemy, now especially,” he replied.

He saw the world in a spectral green, the image bubbling ever so slightly. He saw fires blazing in the distance; it was likely these that illuminated his picture, the stars were perpetually choked by the smog that rose from the killing ground.

Of to his left, the Legionaries were stacking bodies- in the literal sense of the term. They’d receive honorable rites upon a proper pyre, or so he’d been told. They’d earned that much. The flies were thick in that direction.

Off to his right, desperate, hunched figures huddled together for warmth under the vigilant gaze of their captors. Far fewer than he’d expected. Good for them.

“Second Century reports sweep completed. Twelve enemy slain, six taken alive. Two dead sustained, four wounded. One track knocked out. Awaiting orders.”

“Lucky. Ambush?”

“So I’m told. Farmer Brown got a lucky shot off with a rocket launcher.”

“I’m told these are Praetani, actually. Send word to push patrols north, inform Third to expect friendlies coming from their direction. Perhaps they’ll catch some stragglers unawares.”

“Very good, sir.”


Nero spun around, finding four Legionaries standing at ease before him, a man in khaki on his knees caught by the scruff of his neck. One clutched a bundle of fabric.

“Centurion Florus sends his regards, and this gift. We caught this one trying to swim across the river with it.”

He snapped his night vision goggles out of the way and nodded to his adjutant, who flipped on a red lamp, giving them a measure of illumination. He crouched down to the kneeling prisoner’s level.

The prisoner refused to bow his head, and shot a venomous glare at the tribune.

“Tarleton, Harold. Leftenant. Zero-three-eight-six-nine-five…”

Nero chuckled. The immunes snorted. His adjutant had to stifle a laugh. Leftenant Tarleton of the Life Guard Regiment of Horse lost his composure: however, he looked more offended than afraid.

“Been chatterin’ like that with those words all night, sir. Pullo ‘ere wanted to rip his tongue out.”

“Ah, no need for that. They do this, sometimes- it’s what passes for defiance among their misbegotten kind.”

He nodded to the immunes, who unfurled the bundle.

Even in the imperfect light, he knew this banner to be blood red. Upon it, a tree, and at the bottom, words. He sounded them out, in their native Praetannic,

“Cheh-roost. Pro-vee-denz.”

A look of uncertainty briefly flashed across the prisoner’s features, swallowing the scowl that had previously occupied the space; quickly, he regained his composure. Nero smiled savagely back at the man.

“Paaarcs. MAY-teen-enz.”

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Re: What If

Postby Srf » Thu Aug 30, 2018 9:06 pm

Day six - the long road to nowhere

The Khuuch-Durga1 had been awake all night, which for him was not unusual. He was perched on one of the leading command vehicles, busily sketching the sun coming over the rugged, barren mountains of Pashtostan ahead of him. He was trying to capture the vivid flashes of light that were breaking behind the mountains, where he knew his Dumani allies were washing like a wave against the remnants of the Pillar of Cloud, but he couldn't form the shapes properly. He cursed his horrible pencils and tossed the sketchbook into his map case.

He jumped down to the ground and was intercepted by a waiting adjunct, sharply snapped to attention. The KD lazily returned the salute. "at ease."

"KD Tiengol sir. The village ahead marks the formal boundary of the Federation. I would recommend that you withdraw inside the vehicle for the remainder of our mission".

The Wind Horse division - the Federation's premier fighting formation led by Tiengol, was deep inside the Pashtostan that straddled the Sharfic-Questarian border. The Federal Armed Forces had answered the Dumani call for military assistance, and moved the FGF's First Corps, supported by the WHD and the airbourne 14th Division, into southwestern Questers to secure the underbelly of the Comitatus' advance. Roughly 100,000 of the Sharfland's best trained forces were busy snaking through the narrow, hostile mountain passes of the Pashtostan, supported by Dumani air assets.

On the Sharfic side of the border, locally raised units were tasked with obtaining guarantees of non-interference from the people of this barely governed region - with mixed results. Tiengol's unit, as the tip of the spear, had met minimal resistance thus far save for isolated pockets of partisans who were cleared out of the hills with Dumani rockets. But the situation on the other side of the border - as far as a border existed in this wild, untamed land - would be much harder. Questarian Pashtos were even less civilised than the Sharfics, Tiengol knew, only a few civilizational steps above the apes of the Motappan jungle. Ever hill, every rock, every mud-bricked compound could hold an entire platoon of partisan guerrillas.

Tiengol had fought bandits on the Uirian steppe as a conscript. He had crushed insurgencies in his own country as a junior officer. He had crossed half of Crataea in a long offensive towards Vorga to overthrow his own government. His men considered him a fearsome warrior. But he still swallowed and made a prayer to the Gods as the Wind Horses crossed into the Questarian Pashtostan.

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Re: What If

Postby Praetonia » Fri Aug 31, 2018 12:13 am

Epilogue: After the End

There's the old flag, and a sword upon it. Flat upon the table, and behind it General Pellew. The old mustache, and that kindly wrinkled face. He never thought to see it again.

"Would Lieutenant Tarleton please rise," it said.

Tarleton steadied himself against his own table as he rose. He would not say he was wounded. He smiled.

"Lieutenant Harold Tarleton. You have been called before this Court Martial to answer the accusation of Regimental Colour-Sergeant Taylor, that you did disgrace yourself in the face of the enemy," he went on, "and that in particular you allowed yourself to be taken captive by the Exercitus Dumanae, on account of insufficient fighting spirit."

Tarelton gazed serenely. He had seen the homeland again, the turnpike from the airport, and then the winding cobbled streets of Haversham. He was content. His duty was done.

"How do you answer this accusation?"

"Sir, this is not quite proper," a young, energetic officer next to Tarleton took to his feet. "Sir, you report that Color-Sergeant Taylor accuses Lieutenant Tarleton of a disgrace under the Articles of War of the Committee, but at the time Lieutenant Tarleton is accused of this disgrace he was under the command and therefore bound by the Articles of War of the Estates-General. He cannot be tried for this offence."

Pellew considered for a moment. "You are correct.

"Colour-Sergeant Taylor, do you have any additional accusation to make?"

A man stood in the gallery. Tarleton knew him well. Taylor did not smile. He did not look apologetic. Tarleton did not look offended.

"Yes, Sir. I accuse Lieutenant Tarleton of failing to do his utmost under the second of the Articles of War of the Estates-General."

"Sir, I must protest again," said Tarleton's energetic friend. "This Court Martial is not competent to judge a matter within the jurisdiction of the Estates-General."

There was no doubt in Pellew's eyes, nor a moment's hesitation. "No, Sir. I am familiar with the Articles. This Court Martial is competent. Please consider the sixth Article."

His friend did not protest. He sat. Tarleton grinned serenely, taking in the wood panels of the room. The crest above Pellew's head. The privates and their fixed bayonets who stood to either side of him. Home.

"Lieutenant Harold Tarleton. You are called to answer the accusation of Colour-Sergeant Taylor, that you did not," Pellew quoted exactly from memory, "do your utmost in all things consistent with your orders to destroy the enemies of the Estates-General alien to Law, and yourself adhere to such enemies in no thought or act. The maximum penalty for this offence is death.

"How do you answer this accusation?"

Tarleton swayed a little. "I have never adhered our enemies. I have done all that I can. All that I can."

He smiled again.

Pellew's eyes narrowed. "Sir, were you indeed taken prisoner by the Exercitus Dumanae?"


"Did you offer them your surrender?"

"No, Sir."

"Then how were you taken prisoner?"

"I was pulled from the river Sange by their men."

"Did you resist them?"

"As best I could."

"Let me be more specific: did you intend to kill the first man who laid his hands upon you."

"If I could."

"Did you make this clear to him?"

"As clear as I could, under the circumstances," a few laughs from the gallery, Pellew banged his gavel.

"How, Sir, did you make this clear?"

"I suppose I wriggled a bit," the gallery laughed again. "I didn't want to drop the standard, Sir."

"Did you have your rifle with you?"

"No, sir."

"Then did you have your bayonet?"

"No, sir."

"Why not?"

"They would have impeded my swimming."

"I see," Pellew looked disdainful. "Then did you do your utmost?"

Tarleton did not answer.

"Do you have anything to add to this, Colour-Sergeant Taylor?"

"No, Sir." Taylor sat.

"And you? Do you have anything to add?"

Tarleton grinned inanely. He tried to gather his thoughts. He opened his mouth. But his friend had already jumped to his feet.

"Sir, I am in possession of a letter addressed to this Court Martial. I should like to read it."

Pellew's brow furrowed. "A letter to this Court Martial? How..."

"It was given to me at the Metropolitan Aerodrome. By the pilot of Lieutenant Tarleton's transport. It is marked 'Certainly Urgent'."

"'Certainly Urgent'?"

"The Praetannic is not exact. I beg the forgiveness of the Court Martial," he had already opened the envelope, and begun to read.

"To the Dux of the Praetanii, Tribune Nero makes his salute.

"I am told that on his return the Public Enemy Tarleton will be tried for his many crimes. It is right that he should be tried. He is guilty of the following outrages:

"He has commanded a notorious formation that has killed many Dumanii by cowardly rocketry and gunfire. He has refused many demands to surrender. He has inspired many other Praetanii to fight and kill Dumanii by cowardly methods long after his defeat was clear. He has, despite defeated, refused to surrender, and fled with few men into the river Sange. He has struggled severely with Dumanii legionnaires for the standard of his regiment, which they rightly won in battle. He has occupied many men in subduing him and escorting him to the rear lines. He has refused to cooperate with rightful Dumanii authorities. He has refused to offer information on his accomplices and their activities. He has inspired defiance in other prisoners. He has forced Dumanii authorities to segregate him from other prisoners, consuming useful manpower.

"For his crimes against the Senate and People of Dumanum I demand the death penalty.

"Tribune of the Senate and People of Dumanum,


Pellew took off his glasses, his ancient face strained into an unfamiliar shape, the skin cracked, and he began to laugh.
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Re: What If

Postby Questers » Sun Sep 02, 2018 1:17 am

Day Eight - The Quality of Men


"This is ridiculous. He is a boy."

"Ac-tu-ally," Underhill said, chewing a pencil, "He just looks like a boy. He was fifteen in January. He's old enough to marry."

"So he's old enough to lead the western Commonwealth into a holy war." The other man paced the room quickly. "Oh, that makes total sense, Frank. What's next, Nero's Dog, Chief of the Armies? They can play with bloody fetch together."

"He's no Abdullah, sure. But he will have to do. Besides which, we wrote a speech for him."


"There must be much confusion in the Raj. I know that not much news has reached You, and so dangerous gossip has taken the place of Truth. That time is over. Now is the time to restore Truth to its rightful place. I know that You and I have not had much time to become acquainted with one another. It has been only ten days since my father's murder. There are some of you who say that the country needs a better man. I am here to tell you that I am the man that you have. We are going to have to stand up together. So now I shall tell you the Truth."

The old pikes were blocked up, cars and lorries and Herat's finest tractors sitting to one side. Through those old roads bounced line after line of soldiers, in jeeps, in trucks, in tanks. They filled every road in Herat, far out of touch of the enemy's long-range rockets and jets, heading to the ancient pass at Panchkula. They bore half a thousand banners. On those roads they met many people. Hurry along boys, they said, or, Good luck and send them all to hell. They were farming people in Herat, and they knew war. Where they could, old veterans lined those roads, passing along salutes. One old man, ninety or more, waved his stick at a column of cavalry, armour glistening in the sun, and begged them to let him along with them. The Colonel made the old man stay behind, but took his stick. I'll bring it back to you with a Dumani helmet on it or I'll not bring it back at all, said the Colonel, and the column cheered, a cheer that rippled down from regiment to regiment to regiment.

"The Truth is that seven days ago, we were struck a mighty blow by the land, sea, and air forces of the Dumani Republic. On all fronts the enemy struck us with his complete cunning and strength. Railway positions, bridges, and airstrips as deep as the Ghagara river were destroyed. Many of our aircraft were destroyed on the ground, without being able to reply. The enemy has taken the whole of the Yehud, and his forces threaten the Nampataland. Many of our soldiers, who stood their ground and fought valiantly, have been killed or captured. Our forces are in retreat. The dushman's puppets, their lips smacking with greedy foreign spittle, have occupied Pashtostan. I mean to hide from you nothing when I tell you that the Commonwealth is confronted with catastrophe."

Guns thundered. In groups of ten or twenty they, those who had been left behind, went to ground where they could. The helicopters had come to take the most able away, but they would come no more. The dushman had forced them to abandon what heavy equipment could not get out of the pocket, but the fight was not out yet. They were on home ground now. They had all heard the Dukesardar's last order: whoever has been left behind, we are very sorry that we were not able to get you out. Your job now is to deny the enemy the use of this ground for as long as you can. There has been no order for this Division to surrender, and there will never be an order for this Division to surrender. Anything you hear to the contrary will be a trick by the dushman, so don't listen to it. You have fought like lions and you have done yourselves and your service proud. May Providence deliver you. Thank you and Good Hunting. So as the enemy moved to clean them up, they dug even further into their positions. If the dushman wanted them gone, they'd have to root them out like weeds in a vast garden.

"And I have to tell you that Jathedar-General Grantham Singh was killed in action leading the forces of the law."

The rotor blades stopped. The whipping noise they made died away. Two men, one tall, wearing a Marshal's dress blues, and one less tall in a huge khaki turban. And a quiet picture, with the camp not speaking, and a young Captain, not more than twenty two and not less than twenty seven. And the Battalion so silent you could hear the wind coming through between the tents and the armoured cars. Breaking the silence - Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii - Yaw! The man in the big khaki turban saluting dandily, and drawing a sword - not his sword - and the Captain with the tears running down his eyes. There are going to be cameras soon, Captain, the Marshal said, so compose yourself. It is what your father would have wanted. Take his sword. Smite thine foe. For Providence!

"And I have to tell you also that this Country can expect, at this current hour, no great army or fleet to come to its rescue. That we must do to restore justice we must do ourselves."

Lights, of all colours, flashed in the night. Here and there, a person darted to one side. The last checks were being made. The jets lined up on the long tarmac, the commanding officer standing there taking in the sticky air and waving them all off, and one by one they boomed off into the night, sophisticated bombs with North Point stamps slung underneath their wings. They stuck low to the mountains, hugging the ground as much as they could, until they came out on the other side, in another country, in another dark sky. Then the cobra coiled, and punched. Vorga reeled.

"I have told you the military situation. Now I must also tell that I have placed Marshal Smyth, of whom you must all have heard, in command of our Armies. I have called to daring and dangerous acts the Estates and People of this country, and they have rallied to the colours."

At Smyth's Headquarters, the chieftains of the Commonwealth presented themselves. Princes and Princesses, Dukes and Duchesses, Margraves and Marquesses; Lords, Knights, Magistrates. They appeared by plane or by helicopter or by arduous train, in order to pledge themselves and whatever forces they could muster. And further away, in offices in Kuala Pahang, Jesselton, Landing, and half a dozen other cities, computers beeped and lights flashed and men shouted numbers at screens. Slowly, the lines on the graphs began to fall, the numbers began to drop, and rise, and drop again — can you hear that? The hum of those supercomputers? The shouting of desperate deals? That is the sound of a campaign fund being liquified. That is the sound of things once bought, once laboured for and put away for a rainy day, being sold, turned into gold. For what? That's obvious, isn't it. To make war.

"I do not have any fancy words for you, you who are so used to hardship. I need to say only that when we are tested, and we not only pass but surpass; that when we are faced with calamity, and we not only stare it in the eyes, but overcome it; when we have done all these things, then Providence, will in the right time, deliver us to a momentous victory. Good Night.


"Was it enough?"

Underhill paused. The map splayed out below him told him data, more of it than any one man could count, but he needed to know more than that. He needed to know Truth. And Truth did not live in miles, machines, or minutes. It lived in men, Underhill thought. And data did not tell you the quality of men. Men showed the quality of men. "I don't know. But we have time on our side. And we have our forts."

"We have a vast host coming to us. And so does the dushman."

"This bunker be damned. I haven't breathed anything like real air in eight bloody days," Underhill swore. "I need some fresh air. It's killing me in here. I can't think." But he would not leave. The Provost would not allow him, he knew. It was not safe. He laughed at the idea: just a few hundred miles away, a whole Division had been cut into pieces. What was left of it had either escaped, running and leaving behind its weapons, or was trapped, awaiting certain death at the hands of a merciless opponent. And here, in Nampatabad, it was not safe to leave the underground bunker. Not safe!

"Anyway, it doesn't matter. The campaign funds are being called in as we speak. The Estatists are raising their war banners. So it's not like we can give up now. No-oo." Underhill got up, pacing the map. Quickly grasping the place of every fort, the position of every regiment, the lines of supply illuminated by bright green arrows. Mapping, counting, summarising. The numbers ran through his head, and he stopped them. "No, it doesn't matter. It's all in God's hands now."
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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Re: What If

Postby Questers » Thu Sep 13, 2018 9:35 pm

Day Six - Like Father, Like Son

Makanjil always liked to see plants in the lobby of a lift. It always complemented marble, he thought. The Gorka security guard was very quiet. The carbine clasped to his hip did not move at all, so slow were his movements. Finally, when they had reached the top floor, the Gorka said: "I have a cousin in one of your Regiments, Sir."

"That's good," Makanjil said. "I am sure Providence will protect him."

The Gorka grinned. "Oh, that won't be necessary Sir. He can look after himself."

"Very good. I sincerely hope that your cousin wins a decoration."

The Gorka saluted, and the doors opened. An old Indian met Makanjil. "He isss awaiting, Sssahib."

"Very well. Take me to him."

Makanjil found him in a conference room. He didn't notice him come in.


"Oh, Father. Hullo."

Everyone present stared. "It's time to go. We've got to go and pick up Danny."

Makanjil watched him pick himself up from the chair, under the eyes of the room. So young, but also - old enough, so said the law. Makanjil remembered the day now. The day he was made a Count, the day he swore to the Defender of the Faiths that if enemies alien to the law came to their country, he and his wealth would fight for the Sultan - he and his wealth, and his first born son. That son looked like his mother now. He was old enough to fight, but not old enough to have grown out of the fat around his cheeks.

Makanjil would protect him the best he could.

The boy had stood up now. Makanjil stood in the corner of the room and watched as the men in suits shook his hand one by one. As they left the room, and walked towards the lift, the chai-wallah, a young boy in pantaloons, came running through the corridor. "Joseph-sahib, Joseph-sahib - please take care of yourself. Thank you for being ever so kind to me."

Makanjil watched his son shake the young man's hand and watched him change, in half an instant, from a boy to a man. "I'll look after myself Binjal. Don't worry about me. Make sure that you keep on working hard. I know that if you keep working hard, Mr Lajandan will see you right."

They left.

They stood quietly in the lift.

"Binjal is from a squat," Joseph said. "But he is hard working. He wants to improve himself. I persuaded Mr Lajandan to give him a job."

"We'll go and get Danny, and go straight to the barracks," Makanjil said.

When they reached the bottom floor, Makanjil saluted the Gorka. He wasn't sure why. When he had come, he had not done that. But it was as if everything had changed now. Something in him stirred. Where before he had foreseen great catastrophe, now hope had filled his heart. That's how Providence works in men, he thought. It's got to be summoned, somehow.

As the walked out of the lobby, a receptionist yelled over: "Give them the Dusun steel, Sir!"

At first Makanjil thought it was to meant for himself, yet it was Joseph that replied - but with no words, merely a hand raised in the air and a stern, but buoyant look on his face.

The son is really going to become the father, Makanjil thought.

They met Danny at his house. The large compound backed out onto a cul-de-sac; the eight houses were one and the same. Makanjil knew this block well. He had fought with the master of the estate at Kuala Pahang, and with his two sons at Naugarh. They could drink like hell. Not too bad at fighting, either.

Danny was waiting in his khakis. He was tall, and well built. He made Joseph look like a minnow. The whole family - nearly half a hundred people in this little street - were behind him. His mother at his side. And Makanjil's eldest daughter in her best dress at the door, thirty feet from her husband, as tradition said it should be. Joseph shook Danny's hand.

"How is your father?"

"Oh, alright. Still recovering. Providence Allowing, he'll join us in the field."

"Are you ready, Danny?" Makanjil asked.


"You know this moment would come when you married my daughter. This is the word of the law. You must come with us to the Regiment. However, my daughter is pregnant. If you want to stay at home, I will dismiss you. I will tell everyone that you punched me in the face after doing so. We will harbour no bad will toward you."

The family stood, lined up, beyond the neat grass and the three parked four-by-fours. Even the gardeners had come out. Danny paused.
There was a scream. A little fat lady, not four foot five, came running from the house, apron all stained, and latched onto Danny, yelling and with tears in her eyes. She streamed Tagalog implorements from her mouth. All present stood, silently.

Presently, Danny held her arm, and detached her. "Bibik, you can let go now. I'm not so young. I can take care of myself. I have duty to see to." Now was the moment where he could cry. To face his own mother and to do so - unthinkable. To face the maid he had known since birth and not to do so - unthinkable also.

Makanjil was moved. Not by the emotional power of the scene, but by the understanding that it had likely played out in some way many thousands of times in the country's history. He took the maid's arm.

"Bibik, it is time to let this boy become a man." He turned to face the two men; his son, and his daughter's husband. "Now, we must go."
Continent of Dreams - Official Questers Canon Compendium

[Tue 22:53:29] <colo> holy shit you are the fucking worst guy

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