On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

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Dumanum
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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Dumanum » Mon Aug 05, 2019 10:03 pm

June 28th, 2019

A firm hand shook Remus’ shoulder and he immediately snapped awake.

“Ten minutes, boss.”

Their hide was a simple hole cut into the rocky sand and covered by a tarp. It was large enough for one man to sit up at the bottom with his legs stretched out so he could sleep, whilst the other man stood watch on the firing step. The tarp had been partly removed, leaving the hide open to the sky- it was indeed night time. A moonless night, not particularly convenient for their nods, but that’d be less of an issue for their equipment once the fireworks started.

Mouth dry and sand clinging uncomfortably every exposed bit of skin and hair, he allowed himself a moment to stretch. He looked at his watch.

Nine minutes, forty seconds…thirty nine…thirty eight…

The cold was just beginning to set in as Remus wordlessly slipped from the hide and made his way along the ridge to meet the others, careful not to silhouette himself. Their position was an unassuming ridge of rock and sand running east to west along the mostly featureless Trail of Martyrs, one that gave them something of a vantage point across the great sandy expanse without drawing too much attention to themselves.

So named for the number of men killed trying to cross it over the past three years, the Trail of Martyrs was not so much a specific trail one could follow as much as it was a system for conveying fighters to the Arqfaz Pocket. Depending on how one defined it, the trail spanned some 20,000 to 25,000 square kilometers of desert in eastern Qolestan Province. Save for a few scant villages, it was largely undeveloped. This made patrolling it very difficult for the government and their Varnian patrons, who had to rely on a network of outposts dotting the terrain.

Still, the Enemy was no fool. He had ingenious devices and strategems of all kinds at his disposal, and the fear of one’s convoy exploding without warning from a barrage of drone-fired missiles was ever pervasive. Perhaps 1 in 3 convoys setting out across the desert encountered the enemy, and of those that did the majority suffered either severe or total casualties.

Yet, there was never a shortage of volunteers to take the dangerous journey to Arqfaz. In that besieged town it was said you were guaranteed to see action, and so that was the place newly arrived foreigners always wanted to go. Dumani, Wolos, Yehudis, Sharfs, Vekhs, Motappans, and even a token few Tairendians- all manner of men volunteered to go fight for the Sanfidesti in Arqfaz. Contrary to one would expect from a besieged town, actually supplying the fighters was no trouble at all: the Varnians had a sort of gentleman’s agreement with Dumanum.

Dumanum did not target Varnian transports flying supplies to the equally besieged city of Ahan, and Varnia did not target Dumani transports flying supplies into Arqfaz. The great patrons of the combatants were, ultimately, content with a stalemate. Both sides could save face and be seen to be aiding their allies with minimal risk to their own forces.

Or at least that had been the case up until the past week or so. The Senate had quietly decided they wanted Ahan, and they were willing to commit ground forces to see the city finally retaken from the Sadars. The XX Legion’s priority in Qolestan was to shift from providing training and support to the Sanfidesti to facilitating the city’s capture.

His eyes well-adjusted to the dark, he quickly found the small foot trail that cut through the sparse desert brush and took it to his destination. He managed to stop himself from tripping into the other hide at the center of their circular perimeter. This one was large enough to accommodate four men under cover. Here they’d set up their comms and observation gear.

“Anything good?” Remus whispered as he took a knee beside Lurio, his comms officer.

“Couple of agagae chattering about some rugby match- they sound like PMF. Nothing of substance.” Remus could barely make out the sharp, dark features of his communications officer. Of Quardacian stock, his complexion and bone structure were quite helpful when needing to pass for a local- it was one of the reasons he’d been selected for II·XX Vexillation. “I have a bearing. Two elements, not sure how many men or vehicles.”

“Great, keep on it. I don’t want any surprises.”

The main enemy base in the area, FOB Vikernes, was home to the Sadar Defense Force’s 49th Infantry Battalion. One of the higher quality units of the SDF, the 49th was equipped modern Varnian weapons and had a substantial attachment of advisors. Despite having an immense area to cover with at most 800 men, they’d made the best of their resources and had been reasonably successful in putting a dent in the movement of Sanfidesti personnel and supplies along the Trail of Martyrs.

They were supported in this by a number of so-called Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMFs: independent, pro-government militias given legitimacy by the Sadari Republic and nominally fighting within the SDF command structure.

He looked down at his watch. One minute.

He knew that about fifty kilometers to his east, two other lances from IV Cohort were embedded with a large force of Sanfidesti that had infiltrated the previous night. The first volley from the big guns had likely fired by now, and his brothers would be fixed on their targets ready to call out corrections when the rounds did hit.

“Thirty seconds,” his second, Adauctus, whispered suddenly appearing beside him. The men wordlessly took up positions on the firing step and looked east.

A flash lit up the horizon, followed moments later by a distant boom. Several more followed in rapid succession. The drumming of artillery impacts slowed to a steady beat as their brother XX Legionaries walked in the heavy guns on distant FOB Vikernes, so named for a Varnian sergeant killed fighting the Sanfidesti in 2017. There were Varns on that outpost along with Sadars, and the Varns had good radios. It wouldn’t take them long to begin recalling the FOB’s long range patrols to come defend the base, and to bring every drone and jet in the area down on the attackers.

The barrage continued steadily for nearly a minute before it began to die down; the Sanfidesti would be trying to get through the wire by now.

“Go get the trucks ready. And have Varro get the drone in the air,” he said to Adauctus, who nodded and wordlessly disappeared.

“North. Three gun trucks. SDF regulars. Range, two thousand meters. Headed west, fast,” the man on the scope, Petri, sounded from below.

“Let me see,” Remus replied, taking a seat beside the man behind the periscope. He peered through the scope: the desert appeared as an otherworldly shadow land, rendered in shades of black and white. Three hot spots were moving quickly, a cloud of black dust billowing behind them. They appeared to be Varnian-made 4x4s- the infrared-strobes on the roofs gave them away as 49th Battalion.

They’d taken the bait.

“Lurio, anything?”

“Yep, FOB Vik sent out a distress call to its patrols and they’re responding. Looks like the PMFs are on different frequencies or don’t care, though- the jokers I was listening to before have noticed the explosions but don’t seem to be in a hurry to go help.”

“Understood. Both of you, get that drone in the air gear and ready to move.”

Remus stepped out of the hide in time to see a cloud of dust rising as tarps were pulled and the buggies were dragged from their pits. By the time he stopped shielding his eyes, the men were already at work checking the weapons and stowing gear. There were three total, each with room for three legionaries: militarized racing buggies armed with machine guns and automatic grenade launchers.

He looked back down at his watch. The helos would be passing their sector within an hour; the area needed to be cleared before then. Behind him, the drone snarled to life and shot into the night sky on the bearing Lurio indicated.

The engines of the buggies fired up in unison and the men mounted their vehicles.

“Black Six, this is Black One. I have them. Four technicals moving south, three thousand meters. Currently ascending Ridgeline Septimus on the opposite side,”

Engines revved, guns were racked.

“Black One, Black Six. Acknowledged. Let’s go kill these idiots.”

Zuk
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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:16 pm

June 29th, 2019
Aealo, Kyrenia


Looking out from a colonnaded pavilion, Yousefo could see what seemed like the whole of Kyrenia, from Aealo to Veilos, and across the breadth of the River Hex. Kyrenia was a beautiful, Axackalic country, the sort of place that Antarterans had long ago carved out for themselves, murdering all the Tajuls and Istakhs who had once ranged across most of northwestern Crataea. Down below the enormous Kastrou Kyrenia, a fortress built by the empire more than six centuries ago, he could see the dust being kicked up by a convoy of military trucks, headed west toward the besieged city Shiraz. He took a sip of his glass of Ouzo and avoided puckering his lips.

His council was awaiting his word, so Yousefo turned to them and said, "The Stratos will be here in a matter of days. The moment we have waited for all these years is almost here. When the Stratos arrives in Kyrenia, the Emperor will be joining them. I want our Enosis preparations to be ready by then."

Aikaterina, a Sukarian-born Kyrenian woman and his right-hand in these trying times, said, "We're more than ready. Our whole administration has been modeled after a Despotate. My men and women are prepared to take on the official roles of Archons and Logothetes at a moment's notice. If anything, we should be questioning the cost of changing over all our flags and regalia to purple and gold."

Aikaterina always made Yousefo laugh, and the others noticed it. "Very good," he said, "Not that I didn't trust you. I trust you've resolved that issue in Archania, where the men were unwilling to form a Citizen's Assembly?"

"Yes, well," she said, shifting uncomfortably, "it wasn't exactly clean. They didn't want to form an Assembly in a community where Istakhs would benefit from their work."

She used the old Antarteran term for Northwestern Crataeans, "Istakhs". The Huranese, Sadars, and Tajuls had split from one another more than twenty centuries ago, but the Sukarians and the Kyrenians never let them forget what they were: a people born from the Istakh Empire, which Antarterans destroyed. "You assuaged their fears, I trust?" Yousefo asked politely.

"We had the Istakhs removed, if that's what you're asking," she said with a smirk, "and good riddance to the barbarians, if you ask me. I've been in contact with the empire's Logothons for some time and believe me, they're not too keen on governing ungovernables anymore. Something has changed. I asked the head of the Archanian militia to either enslave or force south any Istakhs they came across, but it hasn't gone smoothly, as you can imagine."

"Smoothe it out before the Stratos rolls through," Yousefo said, taking another swig of Ouzo, "or at least get it out of sight. I don't want the Emperor to see the kind of thing I've been seeing here in Aealo. Dead Istakh in the gutters - really? If I had Excubitors at my disposal I would send out teams to gather and burn them."

One of the militia commanders, a man called Ioannes, said "I have a few men still in the city. If you direct me to where the bodies are concentrated, I can have them roll through with a few dump trucks. What sort of fool of an Istakh is still living in Aealo at this point?"

"Barbarians don't understand the danger they're in," said Yousefo, "but they soon will. Pay them no mind, let them not weigh down your heart of hearts. They are animals, nothing more, pigs to the slaughter. You would not shed a tear for a sacrificial lamb. These men we sacrifice to the Gods of War, a better fate than they could have dreamed of."

"Yes, Honorable Tyrannos," agreed the commander.

Yousefo finished his glass of Ouzo and set it on the table. Here in this colonnaded medieval chamber, where one's words seemed to echo forever, the slightest pin drop would seem as loud as a shout. Now the hard choices were to come. "As you know, word came down from the Megas Disasteros of the Themata just a few days ago. I've kept the contents of those orders to myself until now, lest we have some Republican traitor in our midst. I think now it will have become obvious what's happening. The 36th and 37th Evzones Tourmae have been sent to join the Sadaropolis and Aealo militias in battle, at Shiraz. They should be arriving on the outskirts this afternoon. Now, my preference would have been to wait for the Stratos, but the Megas Disasteros seems to see the Evzones as a nuisance. They'll likely just slow the advance on Urdesh, so we're moving them aside, so to say."

"You'll hear no complaints from me," said Ioannes, "that bunch of Ubaidian slime have better armor than we do. I'd rather send them into the city first, and have my men follow them. We've been hitting Shiraz with rockets for weeks, but the Istakh don't seem to want to budge. The city is ripe for the taking - let the Evzones do it. The sight of them alone will make the Sadars piss their pants, and that's before the flaying and raping starts."

"Best to let the barbarians kill one another," agreed Aikaterina, "Each one that dies ties up some sort of loose end, believe me."

Some of the members of the Enosis Council shifted uncomfortably. Even among Antarterans, it wasn't always easy to bare the slaughter of other human beings. Yousefo and Aikaterina were different. They had both completed the Agoge in Sukaria, and all who completed the Agoge came out the other side different. They had no respect for the lives of non-Antarterans, in the same vein as the Emperor, and that made them valuable. The others, even if they had second thoughts, would go along with it in the end, or risk missing a piece of the pie when Kyrenia became a Despotate. Even these militia commanders were operating under the assumption they would be made Grand Excubitors for their service to the empire.

"Don't get soft on me," said Yousefo sternly, and the commanders and policy wonks all straightened their backs, and blanked their faces. "The rest of your militias should be nearly in position in the south, ready to supplement the Stratos advance when it arrives. You have your marching orders, now don't disappoint me."

Dumanum
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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Dumanum » Wed Sep 04, 2019 6:24 pm

Excerpt from Merjanius' Histories, A.U.C. MMDCCXC
Book XXXVIII - The Affairs of the North


Having reviewed the events unfolding in Irae and the schemes of the false emperor Anaksarxos, we turn now to Sadaria, for in order to reach complete understanding of this history one must first be made intimately familiar with the campaign fought there initially. Calvinus was Proconsul in this place; while this office is normally allotted three legions- at that time, the fifth, seventh, and tenth- he was at the request of the Consuls allotted in addition the first, second, and fourth legions. Having received his instructions from the Consuls, they having received instruction from the Senate to prepare for war with the Sukarians.

Before proceeding further, it is first the duty of the writer of this work to provide for the reader some brief background on Marcus Domitius Calvinus, for he plays no small part in the events with which this work is concerned. While most readers may be well acquainted with these facts independently, given the extensive political and military career of the man, it would be remiss of the writer to avoid their mention in this work as it would result in a historically incomplete tome.

His father, of the same name but commonly called Calvinus the Elder, had been consul with Ultor, notably serving as legate to Claudius Claudus in the later part of the Wolohannic campaign and holding a brief and rather undistinguished Proconsulship in the Motappaland. Marcus Domitius Calvinus the Younger- who we now study in our present work -had been, at this time in his career, twice consul, first with Longus and then with Camillus, and previously served as legate to Corbulo, Probus, and more famously to Amphion in the First Sadaric War where he commanded four legions. He was a frequent political ally of Marbo, who had personally lobbied for Calvinus’ appointment to the northern Pronconsulship where it was believed his intimate familiarity with the country there would be of greatest benefit to the State.

Having relieved Lunaris of the northern Pronconsulship during Marbo and Lucanus’ Consulship, Calvinus had energetically set about preparations to reverse the misfortunes of his predecessor beyond the frontier. It had been during Lunaris’ Proconsulship that the Sadars, with the aid of the Varni, had driven the Dorians from many of the cities in middle and lower Sadaria. While the State was not engaged directly in this war, the defeat of Her allies was none the less a blow Her prestige and security, for its result now left the ultrapomerine province of Magna Siracusa vulnerable to enemy attack.

The Sukarians having withdrawn the greater part of their forces from the frontier, the Senate determined that a military incursion into lower Sadaria would reassert the security and honor of the State. This was, legally, a frontier security operation, and the Senate was thus not required to declare war and therefore not beholden to the Popular Assembly in this action.

The Senate having instructed the Consuls appropriately, and they the Proconsuls, Calvinus’ earlier preparations bore fruit as his legions were well-disposed toward action. Arraying his forces, he addressed them in a suitable manner and made them ready for an immediate assault on the city of Ahan, which held no small importance in the control of that region and the provisioning of campaigning troops deeper into the country.

On the Day Before the Kalends of Quintilis, in the Consulship of Macer and Protus, the legions crossed the frontier into Sadaria.

June 30, 2019
Early morning, II Corps Fire Control


The Master of Guns was a large, balding man with the sort of slight paunch only acceptable in a man his age but with shoulders broad enough that it didn’t make him seem soft. He had, as his men generally described, a sort of grandfatherly manner about him.

He smiled absentmindedly as he scrolled through the document a second time. Satisfactory. His batteries were well-fed enough to get them through the planned fires, and traffic had finally been sorted out to permit their resupply to get them through any unplanned fires that would inevitably follow. That had been no small thing- in the end, the Master of Horse had determined that keeping the guns fed was the main priority for the Ahan sector.

Two full independent artillery vexillations, plus the legionary artillery of the IV Legion and the artillery cohorts of its component vexillations were at his disposal for the next ten hours. He had full control of all of their fires: a hundred and forty-four six inch guns, ninety-six eight inch guns, twenty-four five inch rocket launchers, seventy-two twelve inch rocket launchers, and twenty-four Saxum ballistic missile launchers.

Once his ten hours were up, the vexillational cohorts and legionary artillery would return to their component units’ control. He would still have the big guns, though.

For the moment, he was prevented from enjoying the full use of his guns by a most irritating political concern: the Varnians had been given two full hours to get their personnel and planes out of Ahan International Airport. At precisely 0200, per his own planning, the first shells would be hitting the airport to wipe out whatever was still in there.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t sure there would be much left in the way of targets by then. His electronic warfare systems were telling him all manner of systems were being moved out of the kill zone, no doubt warned by the Varnians of an impending strike by Dumani artillery. Although frustrating, it would certainly not impact accomplishment of the related objective of suppressing their airport and preventing its use by the enemy.

He impatiently tapped his toe, glancing up at the clock on the wall. The fire control center hummed with the sound of dozens of computers and the murmur of the men running them. It stank of sweat and cigarettes, the men having been working for well over twelve hours already getting everything set up and ready for the show.

“Where are we with that location?”

His senior electronic warfare officer, Lentullus, materialized seemingly out of thin air beside him.

“They’re transmitting from the Ahan Continental.”

The Master of Guns nodded turning from the clock toward the large table that covered a substantial portion of the center’s floor. A 10x10 foot professional wargaming table. On it, a scale model of the city of Ahan and its surrounding suburbs recreated with precise detail. A hobby of his, the Master of Guns himself had helped with its assembly in the little spare time he allowed himself. He homed in on the building in question: situated on the northern outskirts of the airport but well away from any obvious military targets, it was sufficiently tall to transmit unobstructed to anywhere in the city but not so tall as to overtly stand out. It made sense.

“You’re sure?”

Lentullus affirmed.

They’d been tracking what they believed to be the SDF 206th Army Corps TOC for the past several days. A high-powered, encrypted transmitter, it was more sophisticated than anything else they’d seen in Ahan. Previously located in what was believed to be a bunker within Ahan International Airport’s boundaries, they’d stopped transmitting not long after the Proconsul tipped off the Varnians.

“OK. Pull the plans if we have them, I want to- oh, perfect. Thanks,” he said, interrupted mid-sentence by an enlisted man pulling the photocopied building plans onto the projector screen.

Whenever the Dumani overrun a city or town, they always make a point of looting the town clerk’s office for every document they can get their hands on. A department within CORE has the responsibility of compiling, sorting, and digitizing all this data in the event Dumani military forces have to return for a second time.

“Anyone read Sadar? No? Ah, well. Let’s see here…”

About thirty years old construction. Concrete and steel. eighty-thousand square feet, give or take. Six stories plus a basement, just one wing. Elevatored. One staircase. Oil-fired boiler located in the basement with a 5,000 gallon bunker tank. A Varn architect either built this one or trained the local that did.

“I want this building turned into a crater as soon as we get permission to shoot. We already have more than enough guns on the airport,” he looked toward his ops officer, who was already motioning at his subordinates, “Pull a cohort of Eights off the airfield and put them on this fire mission. Forward him the building plans. Tell him I want it demolished.”

He glanced back at the clock.

Ten minutes.

“I want the first round hitting that building the second that warning expires.”

Afternoon along Highway 8
XIII Reconnaissance Cohort, I•II Armored Vexillation


The carrier shuddered as it rolled over what was left of the regime unit’s barricade, its stubby cannon tracking back and forth from a squat turret above its angular hull as it searched for targets. Without warning the turret snapped left, barked and belched fire in the direction of a nearby alleyway: a pair of malnourished Sadar infantrymen burst like ripe watermelons, their rocket launcher clanging to the ground next to them.

The vehicle didn’t pause to admire its work, continuing straight down the dusty, trash-strewn stretch of Highway 8 that cut through the middle of the town of Dura. Another, identical tracked vehicle followed, and then another after that, and another: an entire column of armored scout tracks was blasting through the town at full speed.

The sooner they got through this town and out into open country, the more likely they would take the next by surprise and save themselves a great deal of trouble, and the faster they moved the less likely they were to be hit by something that could actually stop them. Moving at speeds up to forty miles per hour, the vehicles engaged targets as they appeared, with those toward the front of the column talking their comrades behind them into the ones they missed; the ones that they hit got a second burst of autocannon or machine gun fire. Years of warfare in Crataea had given the Dumani a healthy suspicion about apparently dead bodies playing possum.

Faustus Iuba checked his watch. They were making good time, so far: the tanks and engineers had breached the trenches at Darab so quickly that the Sadars hadn’t had much time to prepare that village’s defense. That had been almost thirty miles back. The defenders of Dura were even more sluggish, though Iuba suspected that the massive nerve gas attack that preceded them was responsible.

The town rushed by him in a swirling drab, his eyes shielded by a pair of thick goggles and face by a checkered shemagh as dust and debris kicked up. He called out targets to his gunner whilst engaging anyone he saw with his own machine gun. He was vulnerable, exposed up in the commander’s hatch, and his choice to go without his gas mask this soon after a chemical attack may have struck some as a bit crazy. What would have been crazier, he thought, would have been to drive into a built-up area like this buttoned-up.

“Coming up on the outskirts,” he called over the radio, “There should be a gas station about half a mile up. We’ll hold up there and let everyone catch up.”

The buildings became progressively less dense, concrete once again giving way to sand and scrub and the omnipresent two-story mud brick buildings giving way to the occasional palm tree and a more omnipresent nothingness as they burst out the other end of the town into open desert. The pattering of small arms, thumping of cannons, and growling of engines continued to reverberate behind him as the rest of the recon cohort made its way to the town’s exit, but to his front it was utter silence.

He let himself relax a bit. II Cohort would be directly behind them, filling the void they’d left in the town. It would be their job to actually clear it out and make it safe for supply convoys to pass through. He did not envy them that job. Their’s was just a small piece of what was being called Operation Northern Fang: the offensive to seize the city of Ahan from the Sadari Republic. As the major rail junction in Qolestan Province, control of the city was critical for anyone attempting to push deeper inland.

One-Two Vexillation, the equivalent to an armored brigade, was tasked with clearing and controlling Highway 8, a four-lane stretch of paved road running along the Axackal coast from the city of Lilybaeum in the Dumani province of Magna Siracusa up to the strategic port of Nizarq in Qolestan. Until an hour ago, the Sadars had controlled a 75-mile stretch running from the outskirts of the Sanfidesti-controlled village of all the way to the junction in Nizarq where it intersected with Highway 1 Now their area of control had been cut by a third by One-Two’s headlong rush up the road.

“Hey, uh, sir, I got a heat bloom over by that palm grove,” his gunner, Sylla, called over the intercom.

Iuba looked out in the direction of the grove- some three hundred meters up the road, off to the right.

“You know the drill, Sylla. Put a burst in him, see what shakes out.”

The vehicle gently shook and Iuba watched a stream of blue-white tracers arc off into the treeline, sparking off something as they impacted.

“Uh, we got a veh- oh FUCK that’s a ta-“

Sylla didn’t have time to finish his sentence before a fireball belched from the tree line, and a shower of sparks and smoke violently exploded out the front of the their track. For a moment, night turned to day and Iuba found himself all at once blinded with the wind knocked out of him, with a brief sensation of being airborne before coming to an abrupt and violent stop. He stared straight up at the sky, tracers snapping overhead. He tried to move; pain shot through his whole body. That was good, at least he wasn’t paralyzed.

Control lost at fifty miles per hour, the vehicle quickly swerved off the road and tipped over onto its side. At least, that’s what they’d told Iuba when they’d found him laying dazed on the side of the highway a few minutes later. He was lucky, they told him: he’d been blown clear of the vehicle almost immediately and landed in a cluster of dense scrub. Apart from some cuts and bruises, he’d come away unscathed. His driver, Florens, had not been so lucky, as the molten jet from the HEAT round had entered right about where he was sitting and reduced him to a heap of melted flesh. He’d died quickly at least; Sylla had been even less lucky: his legs broken in the crash, the scouts in the passenger compartment had been unable to cut him loose before the ammo started cooking off and the truck caught fire.

The tank in the palm grove had gotten off another round which had gone wide; concentrated bursts of cannon fire from the other trucks had ruined his optics, and a main gun round from one of the tank destroyers finished him off.

He pushed the medics away, insisting he was fine and that they get back on the road right away. His men hauled him to his feet and showed him to a waiting carrier, taking up the commander’s seat in that vehicle.

He checked his watch again.

Ten minutes wasted. Luckily, his XO had taken control and kept them moving. They were well ahead now.

“Hey driver, who’s that down there,” he called over the intercom?”

“Catius, sir.”

“Catius, good to go. Floor it, son, we’re at the rear of the column and we need to be at the front,”

“Roger that, sir.”

He had to duck down into the hatch as his old track’s magazine catastrophically detonated in a massive fireball, sending the turret flying fifty feet into the air. Just another pillar of smoke rising into the desert sky.

Evening in Ahan
III•X Armored Vexillation


Dumani doctrine did not intend for a Vexilational commander to engage enemy troops with his personal weapon, and yet that was just how things were playing out in Three-Ten Vexillation’s sector along Highway 11. Voren had shot three PMFs with his ACOM so far- they’d been so close to his command carrier he hadn’t been able to engage them with his machine gun. The SDF, they were smart enough to melt away. They could be a problem later. The PMFs?

They were today’s problem.

They were resisting far more fiercely than anticipated, attacking in large numbers with Akas, RPGs, and recoilless guns, seemingly trying to overwhelm his tanks and fighting vehicles with massed light infantry. They were fanatical, and in a lot of cases suicidal. SDF tanks had made appearances, mostly Varnian-made Badgers, and he’d even lost a few tracks to some well-executed ambushes, but overall his vexillation had torn out the heart of the city: Highway 11 was open ground, and their gunnery was excellent.

Their attack had been swift enough that the Sadars hadn’t had time to mine the road or rig the interchanges for demolition. A substantial portion of the SDF’s combat power had been front loaded at the villages and fortifications ringing the city’s south, where they were frequently engaged with Sanfidesti forces. While they normally enjoyed a significant advantage in armor and artillery over their adversaries, that was not the case today: Three-Ten’s MAD.IVs and VAMs had destroyed at least thirty armored vehicles on their way into the city for no losses. The enemy had apparently not expected to have to face the sort of threat the Dumani presented.

Voren was with his XV Cohort, which had penetrated twelve miles along the highway directly into Objective Goblin: Ahan Junction, the confluence of Highways 3, 11, and 20 as well as the site of the city’s rail yard. It had fallen, mostly intact, after a fierce four-hour long firefight. Remnants of the defenders were still an issue, as he lacked sufficient infantry to sweep every building and hiding spot.

His remaining two tactical cohorts were strung out along Highway 11, holding the interchanges open so resupply convoys could get through. The highway was a modern, eight-lane paved thoroughfare, its edges typically open dirt fields with the occasional palm grove giving way to two- to three-story commercial and residential buildings. In some areas, the buildings were as close as 50 yards to the highway, whilst in others they could be as far as 100 yards. At Chakhmaq Market, just south of the junction, the buildings had formed a veritable gauntlet Dumani armor was forced to run. Liberal use of thermobarics had widened the path and kept enemy fighters from reoccupying their positions.

Running supplies down the highway was proving challenging: the trucks had to move slow enough for their escorting armor to keep up, and that was making them vulnerable to fire from the surrounding buildings. Their first major resupply had seen over a dozen trucks destroyed by enemy fire. Knowing that fuel would be at a premium, his I Cohort’s tanks were now parked in a defensive ring with their engines turned off. Ammunition was at an even greater premium

Voren crammed the half-melted N R G! Bar in his mouth, devouring it in an instant. This was the first time all day he’d had time to take any sort of chow, an exceptionally rare lull in the fighting.

The hard part of the day was over: they’d overrun their objective and his lines of communication had been rendered unbreakable the moment his cohorts had received their ammunition resupply. Night was falling: once that happened, he’d have a decisive advantage.

“Sir, Yellow Six for you,”

He nodded and tapped his headset. Tribune Arrius of One-Ten Vexillation. They were supposed to have arrived on Objective Goblin over an hour ago so they could push out to the surrounding buildings with their infantry.

“Yellow Six, Red Six. Go ahead.”

“Red Six, you guys are ‘gonna have to sit tight awhile longer. The Sadars managed to blow Objective Harpy.”

Shit.

“We’re standing by for engineers but it’s looking like we’re ‘gonna have to detour around if we want to get to you anytime soon.”

That was problematic. Objective Harpy was the the Qolac Bazaar interchange, some five miles due west of Objective Goblin, which emptied into the dense Hajjar neighborhood. Although One-Ten was an infantry unit, trying to roll directly through that was going to be ugly.

“Roger that, Yellow Six. How long until your engineers are up?”

“Half hour, give or take. Not sure how long it will take them to clear the rubble. Tried to go over with tanks but managed to get one stuck.”

Voren furrowed his brow.

“Go get Prefect Maius,” he said to his runner. “Wait one, Yellow Six.”

Less than a minute later, a sweat-drenched Publius Maius appeared on the ramp of the command track. Blood stained his left arm, where he’d taken a round earlier in the day. He’d gotten it patched up and was back in the fight shortly thereafter, and there he had stayed.

“Sir?”

“How’s your cohort on ammunition?”

“Red,” he said without hesitation, “I give us another two hours before we run black, if they mount another attack like the last one.”

“Two hours,” Voren repeated. “OK, here’s the deal. One-Ten had the interchange at Objective Harpy blown up in their path and they cant get over it. Going around it means driving through Hajjar.”

“And if they’ve blown the interchange, they’ve certainly got that whole area prepped.”

“Exactly.”

“Shit.”

“He’s got engineers coming up in a half hour, they don’t know how long it’ll take to breach.”

Maius understood. “You tell One-Ten that Fifteenth Cohort owns Objective Goblin. They can take their sweet time, we’ll still be here.”

He wasn’t all bluster, Voren knew. If Publius Maius said they’d hold, he genuinely believed it. Voren nodded.

“Roger that. Yellow Six, Red Six. You still there?”

“Still here, Red Six.”

“We’re good to go over here, Yellow Six. We own Objective Goblin. You dig in and take your time blasting through that obstacle if you need to.”

Yellow Six was silent for a moment. ”Roger that, Red Six. See you in a few hours. Out.”

Voren removed his headset, stepping past Maius and out into the rail yard. He looked toward the cluster of shattered buildings before him, and the sun setting behind them.

“Get me legion. I want more ammunition.”

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Skyenet
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Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Skyenet » Wed Sep 04, 2019 9:44 pm

Captain Bolle didn’t know why he was here. Well, that wasn’t entirely true, he knew why he was here, for some versions of “here”. He was in this uniform because his father had been in one, and wasn’t going to have some ‘damn civvie’ for a son. He was in the special forces because, after his degree in engineering and brief stint in his college’s hockey team, he proved to be both intelligent and physically fit. He was in Sadari for many reasons. For one, almost three years ago, some cultists had decided it was a good idea to kill more than 300 commuters and piss off a country that simultaneously had one of the largest militaries in the world, and a proven track record of vengeance as a matter of state policy. Officially, he was here as a matter of national security, protecting Varnian lives and liberties by ensuring that everyone who planned, perpetrated and celebrated the bombings in Evenes were dead, though most college students would probably say it was a matter of securing access to Sadari oil for Varnian corporations. As if they weren’t the same thing.

Why he was in Ahan was a different matter entirely. Spending his days trying to keep Major General Hassan on the straight and narrow was not exactly an effective use of his; both because he wasn’t trained as an advisor, and because his men tried their best to get killed (as much by themselves as the cultist partisans), commit as many atrocities as possible and ensure that southern Sadari would never be pacified, all while costing the Varnian taxpayer enough money that it would be cheaper to just turn every square meter of desert into a smoking crater.

He’d tried to make sense of why Varnia was supporting this foray into Dumanum’s backyard, rather than just sticking with securing the oilfields in the center of the country, the Varnian naval bases and hunting cultists associated with the bombings in the desert, mostly while he was trying to sleep. The truth was that the Sadari government had threatened to stop cooperating if Varnia didn’t support a push deeper into the south of the country, but that wasn’t the kind of thing a captain was told.

Luckily for the Captain in question, it was also something he didn’t really have time to think about in the present. Just after midnight, messages had started ticking into the Varnian headquarters at what was laughably called “Ahan International Airport”. Dumanum had threatened to obliterate the airport at 0200, and offered Varnia a chance to evacuate its personnel and materiel. What might have been mistaken for weakness or gentlemanly sportsmanship from the Dumani, was actually a very sly move. It was obvious that Varnia had no political will to fight a war with Dumanum, and wasn’t going to go to the mat for the Sadars.

Bolle had found out a little over an hour ago, when a Sadar motorcycle courier (The Varnians had quickly discovered the utility of non-electronic means of communications this close to the electronic ears of the Dumanis) arrived at the ordnance bunker, where he had told General Hassan to set up his command post in, on the perimeter of the airport. It was far enough away from the Varnians who were giving him his orders, in the control tower; that he could pretend to be autonomous, but close enough to pull on the leash if things got out of hand. Ordinarily this would have been a great excuse for a drill in breaking down, relocating and setting up the command post in a hurry, but under the circumstances it wasn’t really appropriate to point that out. They had just finished setting up in an old hotel in the business park adjoining the airport. It had been one of three contingencies they had planned for, which should hopefully reduce the chances of the Dumanis finding them.
The captain wasn’t sure what was happening elsewhere, Sadar communications with the Varnians were sketchy; part intentionally, part due to incompetence. He could hazard a guess though: The warning had been called in to the Varnian Institute in Dumanum, a not-embassy embassy in Urbs Dumanus, that was effectively just an intelligence gathering outpost with a few diplomatic staff on hand to pretend it was an embassy. The institute had probably called someone in Evenes, who had called someone in the forested hills north of Evenes, at what was colloquially referred as the “Campus”, to complete the stereotype as Varnian officers as college students with a very large arsenal at their disposal. From there, the word had somehow made it down to the captain. It had probably also made its way to the airbase in Sardis, and to the aircraft carrier Ukuleig, where weapons were being lifted up from magazines to be hung on f…

The captain was stirred from his thoughts by a tap on his shoulder. Another captain, this one with darker skin, and hair, wearing a different uniform was shifting his weight from leg to leg nervously. The Varnian knew why he was nervous, or at least part of it, and it had nothing to do with the impending… something… from the Dumanis. When Bolle had first joined the unit, one of the biggest issues facing the SDF in the south was operational security. Soldiers would use their own phones to coordinate between themselves and with PMF units, they’d fall asleep on guard duty, or go frolicking into villages looking for values to steal, food to eat or company for the night. When one of the assistants on the command post’s staff had been caught on a mobile phone, Bolle had decided to make an example and executed the soldier right then and there. Mysteriously, over the next few days, a large number of cellphones made their way into the trash.

“Well, are you just going to st…” Bolle started barking at the Sadar captain, but was interrupted before he could finish by a folder being shoved into his hand.

“F… from tower,” stammered the Sadar, using the name given to the Varnian post in the airport control tower by the creatively challenged locals.

It was an intelligence report, or part of one, showing the disposition of Dumani forces arrayed against him. His level of disbelief grew stronger as he traced his finger through the list of identified units down the right hand side, as he glimpsed at the accompanying photos on the left. Alongside his disbelief, his fury was growing as well, and the Sadar captain scurried off once he noticed. Some of the satellite photos, in fact most of them, were dated more than a week ago, and this was the first time he’d seen even a hint of them. He knew why of course, the closer you are to people you don’t want to have information, the less likely you are to be given it. And if the Sadars saw this report, they’d run for the hills before the Dumanis even got here.

Bolle of course had no time to contemplate the consequences of his intelligence report, except the most obvious one, which was that the Sadars were going to be evicted from Ahan, with or without Varnian support, because as he began reading the second page, the time struck 0200 and the Ahan Continental was turned from high-rise hotel to smoking crater.

Zuk
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Posts: 20
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:04 pm

Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Wed Sep 11, 2019 1:12 am

Aealo, Kyrenia
July 3rd
8:22 AM


Squadrons of attack helicopters flew overhead, here and there, seemingly as far as the eye could see. The streets had been cleared of civilian vehicles overnight, and now lines of tanks, APCs, self-propelled artillery and more rolled along at a steady clip. Sukarian hoplites waved from the backs of transport trucks at the gathered crowds of Kyrenian civilians. Purple and gold confetti rained from the sky, and the imperial flag, with its striking hydra, flew from every building. When the emperor's motorcade came into view, flanked by APCs at either side, the people cheered. A wave of chants swept across the audience. "Autokrator! Autokrator!" Bulls and goats were sacrificed at street-side shrines, and their blood filled ceremonial troughs. People came by and smeared lines across their foreheads, their chins, and their cheeks. Men in minotaur masks spit fire in the air, entertaining the masses.

Anaksarxos was standing up in the backseat of his open-top car, only protected from would-be assassins by the gods, guts, and his Mandators. Yousefo glanced to his left and to his right at the two guests who had arrived overnight. Mandators had swept the city in the dark, unexpectedly, moving like ghosts. Yousefo could never get far. The three of them, as well as his companion Aikaterina, were standing at the top of the steps just outside the propylon which led to the Acropolis of Aealo. From here, they could see everything. When the emperor's motorcade turned down the road, headed directly for them, one of the Mandators stepped close to Yousefo and said, "You will not presume to make the emperor rise to your level. You will descend to meet him."

Yousefo nodded silently, and began his descent. By the time he was nearing the bottom, the emperor's motorcade was arriving. Spathion guards spread out and secured the area, and two flanked the emperor as he stepped down to the pavement. He was thin and corded, even in his old age energetic in his movements. He wore a simple crimson himation and an olive wreath crown - as stoic as could be expected of the Antarteran Emperor. "Your Divine Imperial Majesty," said Yousefo in greeting. He made the mistake of reaching out as if to shake the emperor's hand, but was ghosted as the emperor began his ascent toward the propylon. Yousefo rushed a bow and then hurried to follow, saying, "We're pleased to have you here, m'lord. I hope you find Kyrenia to your liking. We have gone to great lengths to ready it for you."

"Yes, I can see," said Anaksarxos, "I'm most pleased, Keramano. I've determined that my commanders and I will be using the Kastrou here as our headquarters while we execute the invasion of Sadari. I trust we'll find accommodations awaiting us."

"Of course, lord. And, as was expected, I deployed my militias to attack Shiraz yesterday. The Bradr Tarake had no idea what hit them."

"Has their leadership reached out to you?"

They were reaching the propylon now, and the Mandators from before joined their group as it passed through the monumental gateway, onto the Acropolis grounds. Yousefo now found himself separated from the emperor by two different people, no longer even really in conversation range, which forced him to raise his voice. "Yes, they sent a representative," he explained, "We put him in the Kastrou's under-dungeon."

The emperor stopped and turned to him with a look of consternation. "You imprisoned him?"

"Ah, yes," he stumbled, "Was I not supposed to?"

Anaksarxos thought a moment and then said, "Its fine. Take me to this under-dungeon."

"Take... YOU, m'lord?" he said in disbelief, "Its absolutely filthy down there. Please, I'll have him brought to yo-"

"This will be more effective."

"Very well," Yousefo said, a bit confused. He led them across the Acropolis, to the Aealo Kastrou, sometimes called the "Kastrou Kyrenia". It was a huge, medieval fortress of Antarteran make, probably built to defend against the Qols during the eleventh or twelfth century. Yousefo led them down beneath the underworks, to the jailer's quarters. The jailer, a decrepit old geezer in black robes, led them down further to the dungeon, where dusty, starving prisoners watched them with dying eyes. After a moment, they realized what they were seeing, but could not believe it.

The jailer led the emperor's party to an old oak door, on which he unbolted numerous locks. This led to a spiral staircase in the stonework which they followed downward, to a dark, moist under-dungeon. The howling of some tormented soul could be heard in the distance, but the jailer didn't lead them that way. Instead, he opened a side passage to a torture chamber, where they found a Qarabid prisoner chained to the wall. He looked at them with tired resignation a moment, but then understood what he was seeing. He was shocked, and began to speak in Sadar.

"Quiet," said Anaksarxos, raising his hand, "You'll not speak that barbarian tongue in my presence. Do you understand Ostic?"

"Yes," he said quietly after a moment.

Anaksarxos switched seamlessly to fluent Ostic and said, "Are you hurt?"

"No," he said, glancing from side to side. His limbs had been chained to the wall in an outstretched position, and he could hardly move. "Why have you done this? We fight hard alongside the Antarterans. We have not attacked."

"The attack on Shiraz was not authorized by me," Anaksarxos lied easily, "I've ordered the Kyrenians to stop their assault. I'll have you unchained. Jailer."

The jailer gave Yousefo an uncertain look, but undid the chains nonetheless. The Qarabid representative fell to the damp stone floor, his limbs severely cramped. After a moment he stood back up, rubbing the raw skin around his wrists. "I do not understand," he said.

"The Stratos is here. Do you understand what that means?" asked Anaksarxos.

The Qarabid nodded silently.

"What's your name?"

"Ashar," he said, "I am Ashar."

"Do you have a family, Ashar?"

"Yes," he said.

"Good," the Emperor said, placing a hand on Ashar's shoulder, "I'm going to let you leave here, Ashar. I want you to return to the Spāhbed, and call a meeting. I want to meet him face-to-face."

Ashar looked around at the others, as if this were some ruse. He only found Yousefo's face readily available, just as confused as he was, so that was no help. "The Spāhbed, face-to-face with... you?"

"How would you like to be a Politei, Ashar?" he asked, and already, visions of land of his own in the Deos River Valley were swimming through his mind's eye.

Zuk
Patriotic SMSian
Posts: 20
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2018 5:04 pm

Re: On the Nature of Emperors and Empires

Postby Zuk » Fri Sep 13, 2019 1:18 am

15 miles west of Ray, Sadari
[Bradr Tarake Territory]
July 4th
7:45 PM


Shortly after crossing into brotherhood territory, two nomads on camelback had found him. He was unsure at first what to make of them, until they revealed they were Turatists by making the Sign of the Sun with their hands. "My name is Ashar," he told them flat-out, "My father is the Spāhbed. He will reward you greatly for my safe return."

At first they could not believe it, and he had no hard evidence as proof, only his word, but it was enough. They agreed to follow his directions closely, so they could be led to the Spāhbed's hideout. That had been late yesterday, and now they were nearing their destination. They would have to hurry. They had totally avoided the city Ray, for fear of the worst. It was possible the Anarterans could reach it sooner rather than later. In the distance, explosions cast the horizon aglow in firelight. It wasn't clear who they were hitting - it seemed to be everyone they saw, even the civilians who were fleeing the path of the invasion in large droves.

Just west of the city there was a dilapidated old mining town, home to just a few of their warriors posing as destitute peasants. His father's true hideout was the abandoned mine shaft at the center of town, which had once been a great source of gold. After recognizing Ashar, the watchmen let he and his companions pass. They made their way down the mine shaft, into an old sorting chamber, where men lay on bedrolls here and there, reading books by candlelight, all with great black beards and icy glares for the two strangers. One of his friends, a fighter named Tajud, was eating gruel with some of the men at a rotting old wooden table. When he saw Ashar he said, "He returns after all! We'd thought you dead."

"Not yet," he said as he walked by, showing them the raw skin around his wrists. That will get them to thinking, he thought, I'm Ashar, the man who escaped an Antarteran prison. He hadn't really escaped, but they didn't need to know that. Truth be told, he was still struggling to process what had happened. The Antarteran King was nothing like he was taught to imagine. "The King of the Antarterans is a demon in human form," they always said, "an evil incarnate, sent to sit upon the throne of the world or kill it..." But Anaksarxos had been a kindly old man, like a grandpa, not a monster. He freed him, and let him bathe and eat a great meal, and he apologized profusely for his treatment by the Hegemon of the Enosis Council, the man named Yousefo. Yousefo, it seemed, hadn't known who his father was.

"I want peace between us as badly as you do," Anaksarxos had assured him, "The Stratos is only here to secure Kyrenia. If I can convince my generals that peace between us is tenable going forward by, say, agreeing to a formal deal with your father, then there needs be no more bloodshed."

"What deal do you propose to us?" he'd asked.

"A Turatist state, which exists as client to the Autokratoria," Anaksarxos said, "Not unlike Karumesia, I will expect the Spāhbed to swear vassalage to my throne. In return, Qarabid statehood will remain assured in the face of a great many threats."

In return, citizenship for he, his father, and his family, with grants of land for them all. To Ashar, it sounded like as good a deal as they were ever going to get. It was an end to what seemed like a lifetime of fighting, one where they could all live happily ever after. He could have what he dreamed of - a life for he and his wife and son. He knew it was too good to be true. It had to be. Still, he would keep his promises, even to an Antarteran - that was what made Turatists better than them. He would bring the offer to his father.

The Spāhbed's chamber was near the back of the mine, in a wide open chamber some of the men said was a storage room. Furniture had been broken down and reconstructed down here, complete with rugs and, from somewhere, electricity. His father's room was cooled, and lit with an electric lamp. He was seated at his desk, writing reports for his commanders, when Ashar and the two nomads arrived. He looked up and, shocked, jumped to his feet, saying, "Ashar, you're alive! My son." They embraced, and upon seeing the two nomads he said, "And these two, son, who are they?"

"They found me, wandering south from Kyrenia. If not for them, I may not have gotten here so soon. This is Eteru, and this is Marmuk. They're good men, father, and I promised them you would reward them for their services to me."

"Yes," the Spāhbed said with sudden disdain, "A reward. Used to be a day when men did things for their masters because it was the right and honorable thing to do. I suppose those days are gone."

"A man's got to eat," said one of the nomads, a bit incredulous.

"Here," said the Spāhbed, writing on a scrap of paper, "Take this to my secretary, his name is Irik, he's in one of the adjacent chambers. He'll give you 200 silver pieces, each.

A big smile crossed each of their faces, and they were gone without so much as a goodbye. "Irik will have them executed shortly," the Spāhbed said casually when they were gone, "They're serving their own death marks. Men like that are not to be trusted; either they will do anything for money, even give up our position, or they are Antarteran spies, who you foolishly led here yourself. You said they found you - some coincidence. How did you escape?"

"I... did not," Ashar admitted sheepishly, "I was released, by the King of the Antarterans himself."

Ashar explained Anaksarxos' whole proposal as he understood it, from start to finish, and only when he finished did his father's face seem angry. His upper lip twitched ever so slightly, and he said, "What a fool, you are. You took the words of this monster seriously?"

"He doesn't seem like a monster," Ashar said. The Spāhbed backhanded him across the face, busting his lip open. Ashar, dumbstruck, wiped the blood from his chin with the back of his hand.

"I was a fool to send you as my representative. You aren't ready. You are never to trust Antarterans - never. I will not hear this from you again," he said, "but, we will use this proposed meeting to our advantage. We will reach out, as if accepting, and see what happens next... even now, we must remain vigilant. Ray will surely fall, as well most of our other holdings, if the Stratos is truly invading Sadari. We must be ready for the longer war, now..."


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