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Rhodellia last won the day on September 15

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About Rhodellia

  • Birthday October 1

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  1. Chapter Two - Recon Recap The Native Aurelian Liberation Army (NALA) is fighting to reclaim ancestral Native Aurelian land from Rhodellia. A group of possible NALA insurgents was sighted travelling through the hills of rural Nordwalde Province. The Rhodellian Armed Forces have hastily organised a large-scale operation to find and neutralise it. Sergeant Schäfer and his squad thinks they have found the NALA insurgents in question. Now they just have to see what they're actually up against before they can engage. 2.1 - The Observation Outpost The forested hills of rural Nordwalde Province are quiet. In a bush, roughly one hundred metres to the east of their squad, Private Ludwig Zimmerman and Private Abdul Hamid bin Faisal al-Latif of Fire Team Charlie are manning an observation post. They’ve cloaked themselves in camouflage in the cool shade of a densely forested and vegetated hillside, with wool and mylar blankets on immediate standby; they’ve taken as many precautions as they practically can to thwart detection by binoculars and thermal imaging devices, as per their unit's SOP. Their squad leader entrusted their fire team with monitoring the approach to their squad’s patrol base, ambushing any enemies that might have been trailing them, and observing the valley below (along with other nearby hills) for signs of enemy activity. For the past five hours, a group of suspected Native Aurelian Liberation Army (NALA) insurgents have evaded both the Rhodellian Army and Rhodellian Air Force at every turn. But thanks to two bored teenagers, who just happened to be in the right place, facing the right direction, at the right time, the insurgents' luck might have just run out. The observation post first made visual contact with a squad-sized element of eleven heavily armed dismounts less than ten minutes ago at 1702 hours. Zimmerman saw unusual activity in a treeline near the base of another hill on the opposite side of the valley, roughly 400 metres away from the observation post, at a compass bearing of 110° (roughly East South East) relative to the observation post’s position. He and al-Latif radio'd their squad's HQ, and watch the group with binoculars as they stopped to set up camouflage nets and dig fighting positions into the hillside. By 1715 hours, the pair have already identified and written detailed notes on eleven unique individuals, down to their uniforms, camouflage pattern (TAZ 90), body armour (Soldier Plate Carrier System (SPCSs)), helmets (Integrated Head Protection System), night-vision devices (Ground Panoramic NightVision Goggles (GPNVGs)), weapons systems, and weapon accessories (M150 RCOs). Ten are armed with assault rifles (a mix of M16A4s and M4A1s). Two of them are armed with M3E1 recoilless rifles. Another is armed with an FIM-92J Stinger man-portable air-defense system. The eleventh man is equipped with an M240L general-purpose machine gun. Like most NALA fighters tend to be, these guys are just as well-equipped as the hundreds of dismounted Landwehr (conscript) infantry patrolling the countryside around them, if not more. Zimmerman and al-Latif suspect that this group are the reported NALA insurgents they’re hunting down. The NALA and its allied terrorist cells wear a confusing variety of camouflage patterns. This group in particular is not wearing the Tigerstripe camouflage pattern sported by the local (Rhodellian government-aligned) Nordwalde Tigers militia. They aren’t wearing the Flecktarn patterns employed by the Rhodellian Armed Forces either. They are using TAZ 90 woodland camouflage, a camouflage pattern used by the NALA, some Loyalist militias, and some Rhodellian territorial police forces. However, this group is acting too suspiciously to be friendlies. And nobody contacted the local Nordwalde Provincial Police asking for permission to dig fighting positions in the countryside. But as is always the case when operating in a country where every good law-abiding citizen maintains their own private arsenal of military-grade weapons, one can never be too sure. Having already notified their team leader of this development, the pair are busy monitoring the (possible) enemy through their binoculars. Zimmerman nudges al-Latif with his elbow. “Yo, you think these guys are actually N-A-L-A insurgents? The ones we're looking for?” “Wanna walk on down there and ask them yourself?” “F*ck no, dude. I got this gut feeling. As soon as they see my Flecktarn-wearing ass walking downhill towards them, demanding 'Show me your identification papers, please' like some goddamn Stasi agent, they’ll light me the f*ck up.” “I got that hunch too, yeah.” “But really, though. I sure do f*cking hope they’re NALA.” “Insha'Allah, bro.” al-Latif nods “Okay, so for convenience's sake, let’s just say that they are them. We basically spent the entire day looking for these guys. It's a good thing we found them now, cuz, with how much Command made us overload our packs for this mission, Goodsprings would’ve had us combing these hills for days.” “I can’t wait to smoke these motherf*ckers, man. They got hell to pay for all the crap they’ve put my knees and back through today, making us ruck through all these hills and shit.” “Word, dawg.” “I’m deadass finna hanging their scalps on my front porch.” “How many scalps do you think you’ll get today, dude?” Zimmerman shrugs. “Realistically, bro?” He simulates a firefight between his squad and the (possible) NALA insurgents in his head. “Maybe like… One or two. We only got a month until our contracts are up, but I’d at least like to kill at least one of these f*ckers while we’re still out here, you get me? Just for our troubles.” “Yeah, I get you.” al-Latif nods. “Well, that, and everyone back home will call me a b*tch-ass LARPer if I come back from one year of National Service empty-handed.” “Didn’t you already cut out the scalp of that one NALA mortar observer a few months ago, back when we raided the compound of that illegal IED maker?” “That’s one guy.” Zimmerman holds up one finger. “Just one f*cking guy. By infantry standards, coming home with just one dude’s scalp is basically nothing. I’d still look like a little b*tch for not bringing home more.” “That’s rough, buddy. I'm pretty much on the same boat. I might not scalp people, because I think that’s disrespecting the dignity of the human body and all, but... when my contract ends, I at least don’t want to be the guy on the block with the least confirmed kills. That’d be embarrassing. And I wouldn't even have an excuse either because we're infantry and have seen combat before.” “Yeah, nobody wants to be that guy." Zimmerman shakes his head, smiling. "You’d be the biggest f*ckin’ disgrace, dude. A laughing stock. A motherf*cking pariah.” “Yeah." al-Latif chuckles. "It’d be really embarrassing.” Speaking of records for confirmed kills, Zimmerman suddenly has an idea for the next conversation topic. “So, who on your block holds the record for ‘most confirmed kills’? Think you can beat it in one month?” “I think the record still goes to this boomer who lives two doors down from me. His name’s Griswald. Served as a designated marksman from 94’ to 95’. 3rd Battalion, 5th Rabeswalde Landwehr Light Infantry. Fought in the 5th IBCT with the 2nd Infantry Division during Operation Highwayman.” “What kind of stuff did Griswald do?” al-Latif takes the opportunity to rest his eyes a bit. He points to the targets of their observation in the valley below, digging and camouflaging fighting positions at the edge of a forest. “Pretty much exactly what these probable N-A-L-A insurgents are doing down there.” He continues peering through his binoculars. “He still visits my old primary school every year to get kids hyped up at school assemblies with war stories about the stuff he did during Highwayman. He’s a cool guy. And a wurld-class champion at hide-and-seek.” He rubs the back of his helmet, trying to recall specific details from Griswald's stories. “Basically, he told us about how his battalion infiltrated behind NALA lines to conduct interdiction missions. As retarded as it might sound, they spread out across the woods and hills of their AO to basically fight a protracted guerilla campaign in enemy territory. They ambushed truck convoys, raided supply depots, and did all sorts of other stuff to mess with enemy logistics.” “Sounds like a badass. How many kills did the madlad get?” “With the help of his spotter, Griswald got, uh..." al-Latif pauses to think. "24 confirmed kills in four months. That, and a whole bunch of other probable kills. Unless the NALA decide to bumrush the Nordfluss, no way am I getting 22 more in one month.” “24? Hey, that's pretty good." “Yeah. They could’ve gotten more, but they both got wounded in action. Real badly too.” “Shit, bro. Without the Hardline perk, he was only 1 kill away from a tactical nuke. What happened?” “Basically, The N-A-L-A got tired of his marksman shenanigans. His battalion evidently had night-fighting capabilities, since they did all their missions at night. And so, the N-A-L-A started redirecting NVGs meant for the frontlines so they could equip their rear echelon logistics troops with the means to retaliate. One night, while Griswald was providing overwatch for his company during a raid on a supply depot, a guy with NVGs must’ve spotted him. A mortar strike got called on his position.” “Such is life in The Zone, man.” “Griswald survived, of course. And so did his spotter. Alhamdulillah. But they both took a lot of shrapnel to… pretty much everywhere not covered by their SAPI plates or kevlars. They had to get MEDEVACed by helicopter to a military hospital in Schwarzwald. They spent the rest of his National Service there. At least Griswald and his spotter both eventually got three eagle feathers each for some of the stuff they pulled.” “Landwehr conscripts like us getting three eagle feathers in a single tour? That's pretty f*ckin’ poggers, dude.” Zimmerman nods a few times. His imagination goes into overdrive. “Man, I'd love it if at least one of the people digging in down was at least half the badass motherf*cker Griswald is. I’m telling you, bro, we’d have the duel of the motherf*cking century. People would make movies about us!” “But then Command calls for fire support instead.” al-Latif chuckles. Zimmerman frowns. “Yo, when they’re needed, I love Arty and CAS as much as the next guy, but…” He lowers his voice, not amused in the slightest. “Don’t you even f*cking talk about that right now.” While he and his battle buddy are observing the (possible) NALA position, Zimmerman can’t help but think out loud about all the skill and effort it must have taken for a squad-sized enemy force to penetrate this deep into Rhodellian territory without getting intercepted. NALA-occupied territory and de facto Rhodellian soil are separated by a major river, the Nordfluss, which is 20 miles to the north. This raises a few concerning implications about the heavily-armed gunmen under observation. “You know, if these dudes really are the crazy sons-of-b*tches we’ve been hunting for the whole day, you gotta hand it to 'em...” al-Latif, who is similarly impressed, nods in agreement. “Gotta give credit where credit’s due, bro.” “Imagine crossing one of the most heavily patrolled and monitored borders in the entire f*cking continent and then making it another 30 klicks behind enemy lines on foot…” “Uh huh.” “...all while dodging foot patrols and UAVs for six straight hours.” He nods a few times in approval. “Shit, bro. You gotta admit that’s pretty f*cking ninja.” “Art of the Shinobi, right there, man.” al-Latif nods a few more times. “Think these guys are SOF with full SERE training?” “I’ll admit these guys are pretty f*cking good to have gotten this far, okay, I’m saying that much.” “Dude, you know you can praise them without getting down on your knee pads and sucking them off, right?” “I’m just saying, man, they’re good. Just not that good.” Zimmerman recounts all of the death, destruction, and chaos the Rhodellian News Network has attributed to NALA special operations forces in recent years. “I mean... if they were real NALA SOF operators, we wouldn’t know that they’ve been here until they’ve already blown up another government office, assassinated another Loyalist militia leader, sabotaged another railway construction site, or trained another terrorist cell to do all that shit for them.” “I get your point, dawg. We’re probably up against NALA regulars who just paid attention in Stealth 101. We could probably pull off what these guys did too if we were serious about it.” al-Latif looks up from the woodlands on the other hill to the white-and-grey overcast sky above, trying to spot the silhouettes of Rhodellian Air Force aerial reconnaissance drones “But yeah, are we the luckiest guys in the military or what? Thanks to these clouds and a bunch of trees, all the high-tech stuff we’ve got in the air couldn’t track down these guys... and in the end, all it took to pinpoint these guys was two dudes with a pair of binoculars.” “And pure motherf*cking chance.” Zimmerman nods a few times as he increases the magnification on his binoculars. He tries to more closely observe what tasks individual (possible) NALA insurgents are busying themselves with. They still appear to be digging fighting positions behind their camouflage nets “We just happened to be in the right place at the right f*cking time. Just as our squad stopped over here to re-apply and upgrade our camouflage, these guys stopped to dig up ranger graves. If they just moved on from here, or took a slightly different route, they’d have slipped right past us. And we’d be none the f*cking wiser.” Even with spy planes, spy satellites, and reconnaissance drones, the fog of war still exists. A variety of factors such as cloud coverage, foliage, buildings, shadows, and background IR can interfere with the abilities of airborne and spaceborne assets to gather useful intelligence on terrain and enemy forces. Unfortunately for the Rhodellian military, the Native Aurelian Liberation Army watches the weather forecast. The NALA insurgents picked a convenient time to infiltrate behind Rhodellian lines; the skies across most of the AO were overcast for most of the day, with the clouds in some areas floating low enough to brush the local hilltops. Air Force drones have been circling above the AO for hours, conducting TI scans wherever large-enough gaps in the clouds presented themselves, always to no avail. In the cloudier areas, drone operators wanted to fly below cloud level where the views were clearer, but despite their extensive skills, knowledge, and training, their COs forbade them from doing so. Military drones are extremely expensive equipment, and Rhodellia isn’t rich enough to replace frequent losses. The brass didn’t want to risk losing such valuable assets in collisions with trees, hills, or power lines. At times like this, the wurld is blank until you put boots on the ground. But even then, success isn’t always guaranteed; chance encounters can still happen. al-Latif yawns, and continues the conversation to help keep himself awake. He’s already regretting handing over his last can of Blitz energy drink to Private Jakub Kowalczyk from Fire Team Bravo. “Hey, Zim.” “Yeah?” “What if these guys really are SOF operators, but just got really unlucky? What if they just got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time?” “Then they’d f*ck us in the ass as soon our squad moves to engage them. NALA spec ops are no joke.” “With how much you were drooling over them a minute ago... Oh, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Zimmerman struggles to think up a retort. “Bro, when we get back to Bergenstein, I swear to God... I’m gonna sneak pork in your chow; hijack the mosque’s minaret to blast death metal in the middle of Friday Prayers; and draw an image of the Prophet Muhammad, in the dirt outside, with my own piss, you twat.” al-Latif goes radio-silent, and takes a deep breath. Zimmerman smiles, thinking that something he said finally got to him. But just as Zimmerman’s about to bask in the glow of his victory, al-Latif opens his mouth: he barrages his Dolchic battle buddy with a river of words the man can not comprehend; he monologues an entire paragraph in Arabic at a pace that’d make any rapper hang their hat in shame, without so much as pausing for thought or breath. Zimmerman looks away from his binoculars to stare at al-Latif in confusion. “The f*ck does that all mean?” al-Latif smiles like a child petting a puppy. “By Allah, behave yourself. I will give you a taste of my shoe.” Zimmerman shakes his head, breaking into a smile as he turns back towards the (possible) enemy. Both the boys chuckle. “God damnit...” he struggles to think of how to respond to al-Latif in the wittiest way possible. He gives up less than a minute in, deciding that he should just shut up, take the L, and maintain full focus on the mission. The pair are unable to spot any more individuals than the eleven foot mobiles he and al-Latif originally reported to their team leader. Zimmerman once again increases the magnification on his binoculars in another attempt to figure out what’s going on behind each piece of camouflage netting, of which there are seven. But for some reason, this time around, the cammie nets are completely opaque; the suspected NALA insurgents hung up sheets of some kind behind them, blocking the view for any outside observer. The sheets are likely thermal insulators. He nudges al-Latif with his elbow. “Yo, you seeing this shit?” “Yeah, I’m seeing it too.” “The f*ck are they even doing down there anyway?” “I think they’re just hiding from our UAVs. They’re in a densely wooded area with dense vegetation and dense canopies overhead to break up their heat signatures on FLIR cameras. They might be putting wool-mylar-wool sandwiches under their cammie nets too in case they’re accidentally spotted by a mountain rescue helicopter with airborne optical sectioning. Maybe that’s why they never show up as heat signatures on thermals or black holes among background IR every time our UAVs sweep the AO.” “Think they’re setting up a patrol base?” “Naw, dawg." al-Latif shakes his head. "They’re waaay too close to the main road and the edge of the forest. And because of that, they’re within the direct line of sight of patrols going down the MSR and along the ASR on our hill. They definitely ain’t setting up no patrol base, dude. They gotta be prepping a deliberate point ambush for our LVSRs rolling up and down the MSR. Something like that.” “Yeah, that makes the most sense. Sneaky little bastards, aren’t they?” “The question is, dawg, why would they go through all the effort to infiltrate this deep into our territory? Of all the places they could throw a surprise party for us, why here?” ”My guess? It’s because this place is in the middle of goddamn nowhere. It’s the f*cking boonies out here, bro. We’re miles away from Bergenstein and Schwarzwald. And there's a shitload of old forest to slip away into and hide out in. If a convoy got jumped out here by insurgents, it’d take 30 mikes minimum for a QRF to fly their asses here in helicopters. By the time the QRF arrives to f*ck ‘em up, all the Vics would be up in flames with all their cargo missing. Meanwhile, these guys may as well be sipping f*cking tequilas in San Castellino." Speaking of San Castellino, while he's still observing the (possible) NALA insurgents, Zimmerman goes off on a tangent about a gap year vacation he took to the country with some school friends. “Man, I wish I could go back there. San Castellino has some top-tier hotels and beaches. Shit’s criminally underrated. I swear to God, my buddies and I took so many f*cking photos from our hotel balcony because the view was just that good. It was the shit postcards are made of!” “Show some pictures on your phone when we get back to base. I might consider going with my family.” “You definitely should. Oh yeah, and down at the beach, my buddies and I pissed off a lifeguard by digging foxholes in the sand. Guy was f*cking fuming, saying kids will fall down our holes and hurt themselves and shit. Well it’s their fault for being dumbf*cks raised without basic caution and situational awareness.” “He must’ve never felt the simple pleasure of digging trenches as a kid. Poor guy.” “Mhm. Oh, and if you took a short commute to the less 'touristy' areas, the drugs and hookers are way cheaper there than they are here. I gotta say that the biggest f*cking highlight of the trip was when we got to beat the ever-loving shit out of this gang of crack junkies who tried to mug us at knifepoint, just down the street from this brothel. I'm telling you, man, shit’s pretty f*cking cray the moment you leave the beaches. 10/10 would recommend.” “Yeah...” al-Latif puts down his binoculars. Because of some obstructions behind all of the camouflage nets, he is unable to continue fruitfully monitoring the (possible) NALA insurgents. “You know what, dawg, I actually can’t see whatever they’re doing down there anymore. They've put something behind all their cammie nets and I can't see past them no more. Get Sarge on the net.” “Way ahead of you, dude.” Zimmerman is already working the observation post’s radio, trying to contact their squad leader, Sergeant Alarick Schäfer. Considering the terrain and the possible enemy’s lack of motor transportation, the (possible) NALA insurgents likely wouldn’t be carrying the specialist equipment needed to actually listen into their radio transmissions. But what concerns Zimmerman is that they might still be able detect radio signals and use them to triangulate their observation post’s exact position. As a precaution, the radio is at its lowest power setting so its transmission range only reaches as far away as his squad’s HQ 100 metres to the west, but not the unidentified gunmen 400 metres roughly to the east. “Tempest Three-One, this is OP. How copy?” ‘Tempest Three-One’ is Schäfer’s callsign as squad leader of 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon of Charlie Company, of 3rd Battalion of the 5th Friedrichstadt Landwehr Infantry Regiment. The battalion is currently assigned to the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and is stationed in Camp Bergenstein, Nordwalde. Charlie Company's callsign is the Anglish word 'Tempest'. The company commander said that the word reflected Rhodellian belief in the violence of action, but everyone suspects that he actually picked it because it sounded cool. Schäfer responds a few seconds later. “OP, this is Three-One Actual. Solid copy, over.” “Three-One, this is OP. Standby for SitRep, over.” “Roger, OP. Send traffic.” “Three-One, this is OP. Break...“ Zimmerman takes one last peak through his binoculars “We uh... no longer have a clear visual on the suspected tangos’ size, activity, location, uniforms, or equipment past their cammie nets. They seem to have put up opaque sheets behind and under them. They're likely thermal insulators to counter our UAVs and TI devices. Break. If we crawl closer to recon their positions up-close and view them from a more favourable angle, it might take us two to three hours to safely get there and back, losing us valuable time. Acknowledge?” “Roger, OP. Stay put and Roll back to REDCON-3. I’ll recon their pos up-close with a MUAV, out.” 2.2 - The Dragonfly Meanwhile, back at the squad’s patrol base at the derelict campsite, Schäfer has gathered everyone available for a meeting. He has already radio'd his platoon leader about their possible contact with enemy forces. The other squads in the platoon are moving to new positions to the northeast and southeast. Now, Schäfer just needs to send up more detailed information. He looks to his team leaders and other squad members (who aren’t on watch) joining him around the rotting picnic table he adopted as his HQ. “Well, gents. Looks like they’ve taken precautions against binoculars and thermal imaging.'' He slides a camouflage-painted tablet out of his pocket “We’ll be using the MUAV from this point onwards.” He turns to Private Waltz Fischer from Fire Team Bravo. “Hey, Fischer. Swap with Catawnee at our cordon’s 2 o’clock position. He needs more experience with drone operation.” “On it, sergeant!” Fischer nods before jogging off to fetch his squadmate from Charlie, Private Danuwoa Catawnee. “Thanks, killer.” Schäfer watches Fischer silently vanish into the ratlines his squad cleared through the underbrush, and gets on with unpacking a miniature unmanned reconnaissance drone from his rucksack. When setting up patrol bases like the one Schäfer picked out, it’s SOP for Rhodellian troops to clear all leaves and twigs from the pathways between different locations. This allows them to clandestinely move back and forth across the area without alerting nearby enemies with the snapping sounds dry leaves and twigs tend to make upon being stepped on. When Catawnee returns from the bushes, Schäfer’s already laid out the drone and its tablet on the picnic table. The Sergeant briefs the Private on what they know so far about the suspected enemies on the hillside to their east, how he suspects there may be more enemies in hiding, and what exactly needs to be done to develop the battlefield. “Catawnee.” Schäfer hands the Private the tablet used to control the drone. “You’re up.” Catawnee accepts the task without hesitation. “At long f*cking last. And here I thought my tax money was being wasted!” He removes his rucksack and slaps it on a free space on the picnic table, next to Schäfer's map. “Today’s a special day, Sarge, so I’ll break out the pro controller for this one.” He unzips one of his rucksack's front pockets, retrieves a USB game controller, and begins unwinding its tangled cord. The controller is decorated with stereotypical Native Aurelian-themed overlay skin. Schäfer smiles in amusement. “You madlad. You actually brought your controller with you on patrol?” “F*ckin’ A I did. This thing gives me hella luck so it's worth the extra eight ounces of weight. It’s the same controller I use when I’m tilted or tryharding in Battlefield or Tag Tournament 2.” Catawnee’s team leader and fellow gamer, Corporal William Collins, chips into the conversation with a smile on his face. “How come you still suck then, you salty-ass, button-mashing, cry-baby b*tch-boy?” “Cry some more, you sore f*cking butthurt loser.” “Just don’t f*ck this up like you keep f*cking up your combos, bro.” “With all due respect, f*ck you, Corporal.” The Rhodellian Armed Forces fields a broad variety of unmanned drones in its conflicts against guerillas and peer conventional enemies. This drone in particular is a micro unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicle called the ‘UA-25 Libelle’, or ‘Dragonfly’ in Anglish. Lightweight, quiet, maneuverable, easy-to-use, and small enough to fit in a person’s palm, Rhodellian ground troops use it to enhance their local situational awareness. Most of these drones are also keyboard and controller-friendly to make them more intuitive for gamers. Video gaming is one of the most popular hobbies in Rhodellia alongside shooting, martial arts, working out, airsoft, paintball, camping, and reading; a large percentage of new draftees and volunteers in the Rhodellian Army are avid gamers. Because of this, the Department of Defense saw it as intuitive to ensure that most unmanned aerial and ground vehicles developed for the military have built-in compatibility with mice, QWERTY keyboards, and most popular video game controllers. They even have reconfigurable controls in the tablet’s ‘Option’ menu. So when Rhodellian children watch uncensored footage depicting Rhodellian unmanned combat aerial and ground vehicles graphically and violently terminating enemies of the state on Volkscast (A Rhodellian online video sharing and social media platform), they can point at the screen and say “It’s just like Armed Assault!” or "It's just like Battlefield!", and still be mostly right. For Generation Z-aged gamers like Catawnee, video games have turned ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operator’ and ‘Unmanned Ground Vehicle Operator’ from ‘an MOS for pussies’ to one of the most desirable (and thus competitive) Military Occupational Specialties in the entire Rhodellian military. Catawnee plugs the controller into the tablet’s USB port. Meanwhile, Schäfer jogs and then crawls to the forest edge within a few metres of ASR Blue Lagoon. He switches the drone on, tosses it into the air, and makes his way back to HQ. The drone hovers in place with its rotors as Catawnee makes last-minute checks for any technical issues. He maneuvers his controller's joysticks around, and watches the footage on the tablet change in real time according to his inputs. The drone rotates left and right, goes up and down, and moves back and forth and side to side. All without any noticeable input lag. “Movement controls look good.” He cycles through the different camera modes . “The RGB, Night Vision, and FLIR modes all look good too.” He then turns to Schäfer “Do these things have airborne optical sectioning yet?” “ARDI’s (The Agency for Research, Development, and Innovation) working on it.” Schäfer opts to talk about the Dragonfly’s development while Catawnee refreshes his drone operating skills with practice maneuvers through the forest undergrowth and tree canopies. “Right now they’re in the middle of training the AI to identify soldiers riding in open-top vehicles, soldiers sticking out of tanks’ hatches, soldiers in various combat poses, under cammie nets, in fighting positions, all that shit through thick foliage and tree cover. They’re doing everything they can to expand the dataset to make AOS reliable in warfighting applications. Give ‘em a year or two and we’ll have something perfect for more than just Search & Rescue and bird nest observation.” “A year? I'll be done with National Service by then. Now ain’t that a f*ckin’ shame.” Catawnee sighs. “Oh well...” “So, we good to go?” “I’ll see what I can do, sir.” Catawnee props the drone's tablet against the side of his rucksack, takes a seat, and leans forward in the typical ‘serious gamer mode’ position. He starts flying the Dragonfly south along the ASR, towards the observation post where Zimmerman and al-Latif should still be observing the (possible) enemy position. When he gets there, it’s al-Latif’s turn to look through the binoculars. Zimmerman is lying on his back with both hands on his stomach, recovering from eye fatigue. He hears the Dragonfly’s propellers whirring a few feet above his nose, and opens his eyes. Catawnee raises the drone’s altitude in case Zimmerman instinctively slaps it out of the air. But instead, Zimmerman just flips the bird directly at the drone with both hands. Catawnee laughs as he turns to Schäfer’s map of the AO. He compares it and the marker drawings scribbled on it with what he can see of the local terrain. He flies a short distance forward until he’s directly above ASR Blue Lagoon. The ASR is a paved country lane going north-south along a hillside. It is flanked by a shallow incline and dense forests to the west and a 4-foot-high dry-stone wall to the east. Beyond that wall is a somewhat steep downslope used by local farmers as a grazing area for sheep and alpacas. And beyond that grazing area, at the flat bottom of the valley, is MSR Spirytus. Schäfer breathes a sigh of relief that his squad, which entered the area from the north, stuck to the west half of the ASR to avoid skylining themselves for everyone in the valley below to see. “Thank f*cking God they didn’t see us as we got here.” Catawnee drops the drone’s altitude so that the dry-stone wall obscures it from potential enemy observers on the opposite hill. He moves southwards along the ASR until he reaches a T-Junction (labelled ‘Checkpoint Eight-Bravo’ on the map). Next to that T-Junction is a gate leading into another farm enclosure. From Checkpoint Eight-Bravo, there is a left turn into another country lane heading east towards the MSR. This narrow road is also flanked by 4-foot-high dry-stone walls. Catawnee opts to conceal the drone by flying into the aforementioned farm enclosure and hugging the wall as he approaches the next T-Junction, Checkpoint Eight-Alpha. Checkpoint Eight-Alpha is 300 metres downhill from Checkpoint Eight-Bravo, and is roughly 70 metres southwest of the suspected NALA fighting positions. Corporal Koen Meier, Fire Team Bravo’s team leader, points to the tablet and pitches in an idea. “If we were to approach their fighting positions for an attack, and stealth is no longer possible, I’d advance through this country lane using textbook fire-and-maneuver. Any emplacements looking down the road could be suppressed. Another fire team could suppress the enemy's M3E1s from the ASR. The stone walls should make for decent cover against incoming fire from the rest of the fighting positions to the northeast until we reach Checkpoint Eight-Alpha. Local farmers build these things strong, so they should stand up to sustained 5.56 and 7.62 fire for a good few minutes.” Schäfer nods in agreement. “That sounds like a decent idea to me.” 2.3 - Claymores About a minute later, the drone reaches Checkpoint Eight-Alpha and MSR Spirytus. MSR Spirytus is a single carriageway flanked by paved footpaths and two 1-metre tall hedgerows. Stretching 50 metres beyond the eastern hedgerow is only thick bushes, large ferns, tree stumps, and sparsely distributed young trees. After that, there is an abrupt transition to old forest. The woods covering the hillside are so dense with trees and tall vegetation that it is impossible to see past 45 metres at ground level. Schäfer’s map of the AO also depicts a long ditch dug alongside the western edge of MSR Spirytus, next to the footpath, which Catawnee tries to get a visual on. The drone rotates left. Catawnee points to the screen. “Well, will you look at that.” What he sees warrants a slight change of plans for his squad. The drone spots an insurgent with a large rifle slung on his back. Schäfer immediately identifies the rifle as a HK417A2 - 20″ battle rifle with an ACOG sight mounted on its Picatinny rail. He’s facing away from the drone, kneeling in a 5-foot-deep drainage ditch with steep slopes and a tiny stream running through the bottom. He appears to be busy aiming an M18 Claymore mine down a straight portion of the ditch before camouflaging it with foliage. Catawnee zooms in on the mine. “Yup, that’s definitely a dude setting up a legit f*cking green-painted Claymore mine at our only pieces of cover once we reach the MSR.” Schäfer points at the screen, frowning at the insurgent's rifle. “Gents, double-check your notes. Have we ever seen this guy before?” The team leaders flip through their notepads, comparing the man’s clothing and weapon with the eleven individuals that Zimmerman and al-Latif reported earlier. Corporal Rolt Jung, Fire Team Alpha’s team leader, flips to a brand new page on his notepad. “He’s got the same camo pattern, PPE, and NVGs as all the other guys OP reported… But OP never mentioned a dude with a HK417 or any kind of battle rifle…” he starts scribbling down a new data entry. “No, Schäfer. Neither us nor OP ain’t ever f*ckin’ seen this guy before. He’s a new one.” Meier nods as he jots down the new information. “That brings the total up to… twelve guys, now. Shit, Schäfer, your hunch about there being more of these f*ckers was right. Just how many are infesting this hill?” Collins speaks up as well. “Yeah, Schäfer, I er… think what they’re doing all but confirms that these guys really are NALA or NALA-affiliated insurgents. Beyond reasonable doubt. Can I explain?” “The floor’s all yours, Collins.” “Well, we all know they’re doing some highly illegal shit. Setting up potent explosive devices (and replicas of explosive devices) on, over, below, or this close to a public roadway is illegal. Preparing camouflaged fighting positions on public land where a public roadway is in your direct line of fire is also illegal.” He points to the tablet with his ballpoint pen. “The only time when either activity is permitted is when Rhodellia’s down to DEFCON 3 and below. And right now, we’re at DEFCON 4.” “So what does that say about these guys?” “Any member of a Rhodellian citizen militia would know and abide by those laws. Hell, we even learn them during War Studies in secondary school. And these guys? They don’t give a shit. They’re not local Loyalist militia. They’re not Rhodellian teenagers playing soldier, LARPing, or doing Mil-Sim.” He shakes his head. “Naw, man. Only NALA insurgents and their dumbf*ck allies, who are out to f*ck people up, would pull shit like this.” The rest of the squad present at the table nod in agreement with Collins’ insight. Schäfer congratulates the team leader with a firm pat on the back. “Well-observed, Collins. All that’s left for us to do after we finish conducting recon on this position is to send a proper SALUTE report up to Command. That, and hope we get cleared to engage these bastards.” “Fingers crossed, man. Fingers f*cking crossed.” Schäfer then rests his arm on Catawnee’s shoulder, giving him his next command. While the others were talking, Catawnee was busy scanning the area around Checkpoint Eight-Alpha, peeking over the wall and looking through holes in the western hedge, with the RGB camera. “Catawnee, check the ditches for underpass-type wildlife crossings we can use to clandestinely crawl under the MSR to the other side.” As part of their various environmental initiatives, Rhodellian governments since the 1980s have been committed to habitat conservation. In the countryside, all major roads and even many minor country lanes have since introduced various types of wildlife crossings to reduce the frequency of roadkill incidents. Accidents like deer-vehicle collisions have since become very, very rare. Wildlife underpasses are the most common type of wildlife crossing. By regulation, all of them are, at the very least, big enough for adult humans to comfortably high-crawl through with military-style rucksacks on their backs. This was a deliberate design decision: it is meant to aid Rhodellian militias in waging guerilla warfare against invading armies, by giving them more viable routes to clandestinely move around should their counties turn into battlefields. Schäfer wants to exploit this aspect of Rhodellian civil engineering to his squad’s advantage. Catawnee flies checks the bottom of the hedge for small gaps torn by wild animals leading in and out of the enclosure he's hiding the drone in. A bit further down the hedge, he eventually finds a hole with enough clearance for people to crawl through single-file. He rotates a full 360° to check his surroundings. “Found one.” Slightly further up the drainage ditch, he sees that there’s a large pipe underneath the T-Junction at Checkpoint Eight-Alpha. The pipe suggests that the ditches along the MSR are all connected to each other. Just outside the pipe is a south-facing Claymore mine camouflaged with tall grass. To the right of that Claymore Mine is the large, shadowy entrance and exit of a wildlife underpass. Schäfer reckons that the Claymore-planting NALA insurgent evaded detection by Zimmerman and al-Latif by going through the wildlife underpass and crawling through the drainage ditches. Jung points to the tablet screen. “At the bottom of a valley, leading into a drainage ditch? This is a weird place to put a f*cking underpass. Wouldn’t it be flooded every time it rains?” “I guess it’s better than nothing, Jung.” Catawnee shrugs. “At least animals can cross when it’s dry.” Catawnee crosses under the hedge through the hole he found earlier. Meier points to the tablet screen. “As an alternative route to the country lane. Our squad, or just a single fire team, can approach using that hole in the hedge. We can enter that farm enclosure that hole leads into. Crawl under the farm gate by Checkpoint Eight-Bravo, high-crawl downhill along the wall towards the hedge, low-crawl through the hole in the hedge and up the drainage ditch, and duck into the underpass.” Schäfer nods. “That’s also a good idea.” He then turns to Catawnee again “Alright. Fly into the underpass and see where it leads.” Catawnee does as requested. He follows the Claymore mines’ unusually long electrical firing wires into the underpass. Judging by its length, the underpass leads past the hedgerow on the east side of the MSR, directly to the base of the hill where the NALA insurgents are digging in. The tunnel is big enough to fit three fire teams-worth of crouching adults at once. With no electric lighting, the underpass is dark. A quick scan with the drone’s Night Vision camera reveals that there aren’t any explosive devices rigged inside the underpass. He points to the screen. “You guys remember back in Chemistry class, when we were taught about explosives?” Jung frowns, and takes a deep breath. “Yeah. My class spent hours learning how to make f*cking IEDs in the classroom with real materials but fake ingredients.” “Doesn’t every chemistry class teach you that?” “Yeah, but my science teacher didn’t even detonate a live bomb in the school field just to show us what we’ve been making. He just pointed at the SmartBoard, and played a f*cking Volkcast video of an IED blowing up a NALA troop transport. The lazy motherf*cker. The video was still cool as f*ck, don't get me wrong, but back then it was the biggest boner killer of my f*cking life.” “You poor f*cking soul. My science teacher set up a live demonstration in the school playground, and we got to see first-hand how easily a properly made Explosively Formed Penetrator can punch a hole through an armoured car door.” “You lucky bastard." Jung drops his head and sighs. "Why’d you ask about learning to make explosives in school, anyway?” “Back in Chemistry class, my teacher said that wildlife underpasses were moderately viable places to rig IEDs. Unless you have scouts or engineers thoroughly checking the route beforehand, you could roll over one of these without even realising it. A strong-enough bomb could collapse the road underneath an MBT and get it stuck. Or a strong-enough EFP pointed upwards could punch through the road’s asphalt concrete and then rip through the less well-armoured bottom of an MBT’s hull. It's weird that we can't see anything resembling an IED down here.” Schäfer chips in, nodding as he notes the lack of explosives inside the wildlife underpass. “I guess they couldn’t pack enough explosives with them to set up explosives in here. Either that, or sabotaging Rhodellian infrastructure isn't their agenda here.” “But smoking guys who use Rhodellian infrastructure is.” “Hm?” Catawnee retracts his earlier observation and points to the screen again. On the other side of the underpass, he spots a tripwire, lightly camouflaged with uprooted ferns and tall grass. It doesn't hold up to closer scrutiny, but a panicked soldier under fire and in a rush to counter-attack would probably miss it. Catawnee guesses that it leads to yet another Claymore mine. After a quick search for even more suspicious-looking foliage, the mine itself appears to be camouflaged under a fern directly ahead, and is pointing directly at the underpass. Catawnee looks up at Schäfer, who’s leaning on his shoulder. “Another Claymore mine, Sarge. I mean, it's obvious, but they expect any hostile dismounts ambushed on the MSR to use this underpass to try and flank their position. But what's dangerous about this one is that, if it explodes, it'll kill everyone inside the underpass at the time. Christ, this one's even got a f*cking tripwire." “Yeah, if you think from their perspective, you're right in that this shit’s a no-brainer. But it's still better for us to take this underpass than running in the open across the road and searching for more holes in the eastern hedge. And then getting f*cking shredded because the hedge offers no cover, only concealment. At least there’s more than enough clearance to crawl over the wire and disarm it the normal way. The bushes and ferns should give enough concealment.” Collins enters the conversation again, pointing at the tripwire on the screen. “Shit, dude. These assholes really do not a flying f*ck. They’re using Claymore mines in a victim-activated mode, with tripwires. That’s a violation of the Mine Ban Treaty. And here I thought the N-A-L-A observed that. f*cking pricks! I hope that mine's active, and I hope an animal comes along and trips the wire!” Schäfer shrugs. “Maybe instead of actual NALA insurgents, these war criminals are just a NALA-affiliated terrorist cell.” In the wake of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the Native Aurelian Liberation Army stopped using landmines and victim-activated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Before that, thousands of Rhodellian military, police personnel, and militia alike have lost their lives to car bombs, pressure plate and tripwire-activated IEDs, and purpose-built anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines planted by NALA fighters and affiliated terrorists. Victim-activated explosives used to be some of NALA’s most effective and terror-inducing weapons. However, they regularly killed and wounded more civilians than combatants. Civilian casualties from these weapons is a major reason why most people in Native Aurelian-dominated Nordwalde Province, including many prominent tribal leaders, choose to stay loyal to the Rhodellian government. It’s hard to support the people who keep killing your children with indiscriminate weapons. This especially rings true when the country is already having trouble dealing with older Unexploded Remnants of War (ERW) from past conflicts. So as a general rule, the NALA proper only uses command-activated explosive devices. However, NALA-affiliated militias and terrorist cells in Rhodellian-controlled territory are less inclined to observe the Mine Ban Treaty. So whenever kids are accidentally killed or maimed by IED explosions, NALA leadership readily denies any involvement and deflects the blame at their allies. 2.4 - The Sentry Scäfer then turns to Catawnee again. “Hey, check to see if someone is actively watching over the underpass.“ Catawnee switches to the Dragonfly’s FLIR camera and cautiously maneuvers the drone towards the end of the tunnel, while remaining cloaked within the shadows. He pans the camera up the hillslope and, as expected, there’s a human’s broken-up heat signature sitting inside a bush inside the treeline roughly 55 metres uphill. Catawnee observes the figure through the RGB camera, and zooms in. Upon closer inspection, it’s another armed insurgent facing south, scoped in with an RCO optic mounted on an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The team leaders flip through their notepads again to note down the new threat. Jung starts scrawling into his notepad. “OP never reported anyone with a squad automatic weapon either. And no wonder, too; this guy’s been camouflaged the whole time. This makes thirteen tangos spotted on this hill thus far, the sneaky motherf*ckers.” Schäfer points to the screen again. “Catawnee, we’re taking the risk and going outside. Slice the pie before you fully exit the tunnel, fly into the underbrush, and get a better view of that NALA automatic rifleman.” “Wilco, Sarge.” After Catawnee confirms that no insurgents are to the immediate left or right of the underpass’s exit, he hugs the drone against the left wall and beelines for the undergrowth. The NALA automatic rifleman doesn’t even seem to register the drone flying out of the tunnel in his peripheral vision. He fails to react in any noticeable way; he just continues to stare down his scope at the southern approach from the MSR (where Rhodellian Army vehicles and foot patrols are most likely to appear from). Schäfer is about to criticise the automatic rifleman for tunnel-vision when the man suddenly looks left up the hill, right down at the wildlife underpass, and then back through his scope. Schäfer checks the HUD on the drone operating tablet, seeing that the Dragonfly is at 80% of its 30-minute battery life, meaning six minutes have passed since it was switched on. Schäfer taps the NALA automatic rifleman on the screen. “We’ve got more than enough battery life left. Observe him for five mikes. We’ll record how much time he spends looking into his scope; how often he unscopes and checks his surroundings; and when he does, how long it takes him to look from his 8 o’clock position to his 12 o’clock position.” As Catawnee makes a quick scan of his surroundings and sets the drone to hover in place, Schäfer compares the NALA automatic rifleman’s position with those of the others, or at least those that Schäfer's squad have found thus far. “This automatic rifleman’s about 50 metres south of his squad’s fighting positions. If they’re using a triangular cordon like the ones we use, I suspect there’s a second sentry somewhere around 100 metres to the north, and a third sentry somewhere around 100 metres to the east or northeast. Probably close to or at the hilltop. OP didn’t report anyone acting like a sentry, so this adds another two tangos, bringing our potential total up to fifteen.” Meier also comments on the drone’s surroundings. The forest is indeed as densely vegetated as it looked from the MSR. “This forest is overgrown as f*ck. You can’t see past 40 to 45 metres in these conditions. Nobody must’ve mowed this lawn since the Colonial era.” Upon hearing those relative distances, and quickly scanning the thick forest underbrush around the drone again (both to ensure that no enemies are wandering dangerously close or towards it and to find potential avenues of approach), Catawnee slaps his helmet. “Oh, Goddamnit...” He turns to his fellow Native Aurelian squad member in Alpha, Private Puhihwikwasu'u Geldfeld, who is nicknamed ‘Wickwash’. “Yo, Wickwash. We should’ve brought our f*cking compound bows with us, man!” Wickwash clenches his fist, fighting the urge to punish his lack of foresight with the hardest facepalm mankind would ever feel (a record which, unfortunately, would entail ruining his camouflage face paint). “Yeah, we coulda stealth-killed these fools! Old-school skulking way of war-style. If we knew we’d catch them slipping like this, I’d f*cking gladly have rucked 30 miles with an extra eight pounds on my back. Getting a bow kill in 2021 would’ve been rad as f*ck!” “If only we brought our bows, bro, we could take up sniping positions in the underpass, nock arrows while the sentry’s tunnel-visioned watching the MSR through his scope. And then, we could wait for the sentries to finish a regular radio check, loose two broadhead arrows up through this f*cker’s larynx, upper brain stem, and medulla oblongata... And bup!” He mimics the sound of an arrow striking an archery target while poking into the right side of his neck, pointing towards his brain from an angle that bypasses the protection of a kevlar helmet. “Instant kill or lobotomy, bro, it’s a silent takedown either way.” Wickwash nods his head. “It’d be ninja as f*ck. The rest of his squad don’t even have a direct LOS on his pos either, because there’s so many trees, plants, and shit blocking the sight lines between them.” “Yeah. If we attach bow silencers to our bows, the rest of this motherf*cker’s squad wouldn’t hear a thing from us. Just loose the arrows and drop him when the wind blows through the forest canopy and underbrush layers. Leaves rustling in the wind, the noise made by eleven other dudes digging ranger graves with entrenching tools, and sound absorption by fifty metres of dense forest should mask the sounds of our bows. They’re only, like, 60 to 70 decibels unsilenced. And we’ve both got bowstring silencers that cut down string noise by up to 90 percent. If we brought heavier arrows too, our shots would be even quieter, since less energy would be wasted as sound. They won’t see or hear the bodies hitting the floor. Easy ‘Silent Assassin’ rank.” “Maybe, bro…” Wickwash nods, simulating the hypothetical stealth scenario in his head. “If we’re fast enough, we could even take down a second sentry further up the hill. Or we could crawl close enough to yeet two frag grenades at the enemy squad while they’re still above-ground. The grenades might even roll into their fighting positions too. If we drop prone so our helmets take most of the shrapnel, or duck behind a tree, we can bug out pretty much unharmed. Just the two of us could score like, six to seven casualties on our own before their next radio check. Shit, man.” He wriggles his kevlar helmet. “I’d gladly risk taking shrapnel to my shoulders if it meant f*cking up that many people up at once.” “What could have been…” Catawnee takes a deep breath. “What. Could. Have. f*cking. Been!” While shooting with firearms and live ammunition is by far Rhodellia’s most popular recreational and club activity, archery continues to be a time-honoured tradition. While many of Rhodellia's ethnic minorities and immigrant groups have strong archery traditions, the most famous are those of the country's Native Aurelian tribes. Many state that archery allows them to better-connect with their history, culture, and community as well as learn valuable skills such as clarity of mind, patience, and focus. And thus, archery tends to be one of the top club activities in schools and community centres, roughly on-par with Historical Europan and Argisian Martial Arts (HEAMA) in terms of (registered) regular practitioners. Archers in primary schools, secondary schools, colleges, and universities even compete in their own local and national-level archery tournaments. Out of respect for Rhodellian archery traditions, and unusual for a high-tech conventional military, the Rhodellian Armed Forces still permit its troops to carry their own privately owned bows (and crossbows) into battle. Of course, in an age of machine guns and automatic rifles, nobody regularly does this except as a joke on field ops; wielding a bow, as cool as it would look, is almost never worth the limited effective range, limited ammunition, limited rate of fire, and extra pack weight. But there are some theoretical scenarios where a bow might be convenient. For example, they can be used to stealthily neutralise sentries that are far-enough away from the rest of their unit. Most medium-draw weight compound bows on the Rhodellian civilian market, with no noise-suppressing in-built features or accessories (such as bowstring silencers), shooting common mid-weight 500-grain arrows, produce 60 to 90 decibels of sound. For a brief moment, they can be as quiet as a normal conversation or as loud as a crowded restaurant. But they are still significantly quieter than a suppressed .22-calibre rifle, which typically produces around 120 decibels of sound. The sound of a bow is also more unusual and unexpected to hear on a modern battlefield, so they are less likely to be immediately identified or reported. Some Rhodellian military academy students have submitted academic papers proposing that modern bows and crossbows can be decent (albeit highly situational) stealth weapons for the modern battlefield. However, despite the bow’s theoretical capacity for (relatively) quiet takedowns, the last time any Rhodellian was ever said to have scored a confirmed kill with a self-bow was back in 1940, during the Second Anéantic War. But even the veracity of this event is disputed. As the two disappointed Native Aurelians complain about how they won’t make their ancestors proud and be the first Rhodellians in 81 years to score confirmed kills with self-bows, Private John Adebayo, Alpha’s grenadier, pats them both in their back SAPI plates. “To be fair, it’s normally us in the Rhodellian Army getting jumped by NALA and not the other way round. None of us could’ve expected to get this lucky. Maybe next time, brothers.” he shakes their shoulders “Maybe next time...” Catawnee exhales, as he starts maneuvering the drone towards a slightly more favourable position. “Nah, bro, it’s all good. I’ll be satisfied enough if we get to smoke these pricks with our rifles today.” “Same, brother…” Adebayo nods a few times. “At the very least, you can still low-crawl through the undergrowth, sneak up on the guy, and knife him to death without anyone seeing.” After five minutes of visual observation, the squad observes that the NALA automatic rifleman does indeed have a regular pattern to his actions: a routine that can be exploited. His squad conducts a radio check every five minutes. He spends an average of 60 seconds observing the MSR through his scope, which is his 12 o’clock position at compass bearing 190°, putting the wildlife underpass’s exit at the very edge of his peripheral vision when he is facing directly forward. When he unscopes, he makes a quick 3-second left-to-right scan of his immediate surroundings, starting and finishing at his 7 o’clock position. At the end of this scan, he makes another, longer scan: he looks over his shoulder to his 7 o’clock position, and slowly pans from left-to-right, observing his sector of responsibility until he’s looking at his 5 o’clock position over his right shoulder. He seems to take the time to observe the surrounding foliage, the MSR, and the hillside to the west very closely; it takes an average of 15 seconds for him just to turn from his 7’clock to his 5 o’clock. Collins compares the NALA automatic rifleman’s predictable routine to that of a preprogrammed guard in a stealth game. The others agree. With how they’re considering the human field of vision and figuring out routine movements for well-timed exploitation, Catawnee can’t help but be reminded of a Flash game he used to play on unblocked game sites back in his secondary school’s Computer Lab, back before he was old enough to buy his own games online. “Yo guys, doesn’t all this remind you of a certain Flash game?” Private Robert Powell, Bravo’s grenadier, looks at Schäfer's map as it is being updated in real time. “Yeah, I think I might’ve played the one you’re thinking of one. That’s the, er… F*ck.” He quietly clicks his fingers and points. “That’s the stickman game where you have to observe a teacher's movement patterns, sneak next to a guy, and cheat from his test paper without getting caught in the teacher's LOS, right?” “That’s the one!” “Holy shit, dude, that’s a f*cking throwback!" Powell laughs quietly as fond childhood memories flood his brain. “I think it was called, er… ‘The Classroom’?” “Yup, that’s it.” Catawnee nods. “Shit, bro. Memorising, analysing, and planning according to a guy’s routine search patterns, like in that game... Ain’t that exactly what we’re doing right now?” “F*ckin’ hell, man, imagine actually using skills cultivated through years of slacking off in ICT classes just to dunk on some motherf*ckers in glorious combat.” Powell laughs. “Just like the simulations.” Schäfer uncaps his marker and prepares to jot down even more markings on his map. “Here’s to hoping he doesn’t throw a curveball at us by rotating with other guys in his fireteam. Otherwise his friends will be done digging ranger graves by the time we’re done monitoring all of them for patterns.” He begins marking the rough boundaries for the NALA insurgent rifleman’s sector of responsibility. The finished result warrants a change of plans. “He’s got almost got a direct LOS of the country lane between the Checkpoints Eight-Alpha and Eight-Bravo. We can’t crawl through there without getting spotted.” Meier points to the farm enclosure to south “What about the route that Catawnee took down to the MSR? We can still crawl under the farm gate at Checkpoint Eight-Bravo, enter the farm enclosure, and high-crawl along the wall. Judging from his position, he won't be seeing us with a 4-foot-high wall blocking his sight-line. When we get to the hole in the hedge, after that Claymore-planting insurgent returns to his squad, we can crawl through it while the sentry isn’t looking in our direction. We can time it.” The rest of the squad, including Schäfer, nod in agreement. On an unrelated note, the NALA automatic rifleman seems to be fighting his boredom by bobbing his head and quietly singing Anglish-language alternative rock. By observing his mouth and the beat at which the man’s head is bobbing, Adebayo recognises the song as ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’. The squad smiles in amusement. “Ayo, that’s my f*cking childhood he’s singing, man!” Rolt shakes his head as he scribbles more notes into his notepad. “You know, if you can guarantee that he won’t f*cking stab me to death for being white... I might actually be okay driving my car to the store and back while this guy rides shotgun with his phone. I’d just pass him the AUX cord, and we could do what we usually do whenever we all get Victors to ride in.” Meier chips in. “You mean butcher 2000s throwback songs until the f*cking bulletproof windows break?” Rolt nods with a grin. “F*ckin A’.” He chuckles, shaking head. “Man, shame I gotta ice this dumbass for picking the wrong side.” Catawnee chuckles as he maneuvers the drone up into the tree canopies over the NALA insurgents' heads. “It really do be like that sometimes, man.” “Yo, Catawnee, you ever thought about this, dude? Thanks to shit like globalisation and the internet, we ain’t all that culturally different from these guys. We’re pretty much listening to the same bands; kekking at the same memes; subscribing to the same content creators; playing in the same Aurelian game servers together; and streaming the same anime, or movies, or shows, or whatever, you get what the f*ck I'm saying...” “Yeah, I get you, dude. Go on?” “... If NALA propaganda didn’t make these guys so anal about us, you know, 'occupying' their ancestral land and shit, we could be shooting the shit with them instead of just shooting them. Hell, I've probably shared a CoD lobby with at least one of these guys and told him I f*cked his mom.” Jung shakes his head even more. “This ain’t enough to make me hesitate pulling the trigger on them, but… You gotta admit, this whole f*cking situation, and all the historical, media, and political f*ckery behind it all… It’s all pretty f*cked.” “It is.” Catawnee sighs. “Man, this really makes you wish the N-A-L-A’s shit-for-brains leadership would just take the f*cking L. The thought of killing dudes who might come from the same tribe as me kills me a little inside. Sure, I’ll smoke them before they smoke me, but it still f*cking sucks to think you’ve killed a brother in cold blood. But the dumbasses running NALA ain’t doing the reasonable thing anytime soon.” “You know, I got this online friend I play League with from time to time. He lives north of the Nordfluss, deep in in NALA country. He’s a pretty cool dude who calls out N-A-L-A propaganda for being centuries-old bullshit no rational person should care about in the 21st century. Man, it’d be a real bummer of a coincidence, a cosmic joke even, if he was one of the guys down there digging a foxhole, and I smoked him.” Schäfer pats Rolt on the shoulder. “Well, the sooner we win, the sooner we can mount the heads of the N-A-L-A's leaders on spikes. When that happens, we can maybe, just f*cking maybe, restore some semblance of peace to this God-forsaken corner of Aurelia. And nobody will have to worry about capping their internet buddies over retarded Colonial-era trifles for a few more years... at least until the next time shit hits the fan.” 2.5 - The Combat Engineer Meanwhile, the Dragonfly is sweeping the hillside for hostile activity with its FLIR camera, using the treetops for concealment. Catawnee weaves through the leaves and branches while en-route to better viewing angles. The first thing to catch his attention is the newly-revealed heat signature of an NALA insurgent crouching in a giant fern, in the shade of the hedgerow at the base of the hill, inserting what looks like a cylindrical rod into the hedge and fiddling with it. Catawnee promptly switches to the RGB Camera to see what the insurgent is doing. However, the shade of the hedgerows makes him difficulty to see, so Catawnee switches to the Night-Vision camera instead. The sight is much clearer. Collins leans on Catawnee’s shoulder and points to the insurgent. “Yup. The bastards are setting up even more explosives. That guy down there must be a combat engineer.” He then points to the cylindrical object, which appears to be a large, 16-gauge steel pipe. He then traces his finger down what appear to be wires trailing down from the back of the pipe, into the undergrowth below, presumably further up along the hedge to 25 more pipes, and then presumably up the hill towards the NALA fighting positions. Schäfer squints his eyes at the screen. “Shit. Are those…?” Collins nods, tracing his fingers along the short section of MSR Spirytus that is visible on the tablet’s screen. “Yup. Explosively Formed Penetrators. EFPs. Not only did they bring Claymore mines, they deadass hauled enough IED-making materials to set up what looks to be about two-dozen improvised off-route anti-tank mines along a 100-metre section of the MSR.” Jung squints at the tablet screen, crossing his arms. “Collins, there’s no f*cking way a single squad-sized element of dismounts can carry 25 big-ass steel pipes 30 klicks across hilly terrain on top of all their other gear and supplies. They gotta have stolen those from a nearby construction site, or commandeered a truck. This takes f*cking logistics to pull off.” “If they tried to do that, wouldn’t somebody have heard them getting lit-the-f*ck-up by construction site workers or their security teams? As for the truck, wouldn’t somebody have reported gunshots from a carjacking or at least a car alarm? You don’t get 30 klicks into Rhodellian territory on foot by starting shit with some of the most heavily armed people on the planet.” “Then where the f*ck did they get these pipes from, and how the hell did they transport them all the way out here?” Jung scratches the top of his helmet. “I dunno, man. Maybe one of the locals is a builder, an illegal IED maker, and a NALA sympathiser at the same time? NALA still has no shortage of supporters here in Nordwalde, with it having so many Native Aurelians and all. At least a few of them have still gotta be pissed off at Nativegate.” Schäfer interjects. “Focus on your jobs, gents. Leave the theorising and investigating to the autists over at Intel. What matters to us is how to deal with the threat right in front of us.” Collins and Jung nod their heads. Collins clears his throat and points to one of the large pipes. “Assuming this guy’s average height, he’s using 16-gauge pipes. Depending on the propellant they’re using for their Misznay–Schardin shaped charges, with a 16-inch chamber, the slugs they can launch can penetrate up to 203 millimetres of Rolled Homogeneous Steel. These are probably powerful enough to pierce through the side armour of our APCs, our armoured utility vehicles, and maybe a few of our lighter IFVs. And of course, these can also disable the engine block of passing LVSRs. Easy as.” Schäfer and the squad’s other team leaders nod, noting down what Collins has to say on the IEDs. Schäfers exhales. “So these bastards we’re up against are fielding the type of IEDs that can f*ck up anything short of an MBT? That’s just f*cking great.” “Uh huh.” Collins nods. “Seems f*cking like it, Schäfer. The N-A-L-A may have given up on landmines, but they still love shit that goes ‘boom’. I swear to God, bro, bombs are like f*cking crack cocaine to them.” Jung shakes Schäfer and Collins on their shoulders. “Look on the bright side, guys! Aside from the Claymores, at least they’re not anti-personnel mines!” Throughout the Nordwalde Troubles, the Native Aurelian Liberation Army inflicted most casualties against Rhodellian military forces and police using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). South of the Nordfluss river, in firm Rhodellian-controlled territory, the NALA and its allies fight as guerillas in an asymmetric war. The odds are too stacked against them to regularly fight head-on and win: down South, they lack the heavy weapons, armoured fighting vehicles, artillery support, and air support necessary to ensure fire superiority. If they’re from north of the Nordfluss, then NALA insurgents don’t always have intimate local knowledge of the land either. Even when local Rhodellians do pledge their cooperation, the NALA and its allies seldom have the numbers or logistics to openly hold territory or sustain large-scale combat operations. They never expect to win pitched battles against Rhodellian soldiers, police officers, or Loyalist militia. As soon as they cross south across the river, neutralising a group of NALA insurgents in the field can be as simple as calling the cops. Generally speaking, the best way for NALA insurgents to 'win'is to blend in with the locals, plant a bomb somewhere, hide, wait for a patrol of Rhodellian conscripts to pass by, press the button on the detonator, fire off a few shots, and run away before the survivors call for reinforcements. Schäfer, Jung, Meier, and Collins flip through their notepads to see if they’ve ever written notes down on this IED-preparing insurgent engineer before. They have not. The engineer is wearing the same fatigues, camouflage pattern, plate carrier, and model of NVGs as all the other insurgents. It’s just that, in addition to his M4A1, he also has a M32 Multi-Shot Grenade Launcher. Powell filters a long whistle through his lips, reminiscent of a falling bomb. “Hey, Sarge?” “Got some ‘grenadier expertise’ for us, Powell?” “Yeah.” Powell nods, pointing at the tablet screen. “This motherf*cker’s gotta be one of the first people we need to drop, if not the first. He can drop 3 grenades on our heads per second from up to 400 metres away. If we’re spotted, he can potentially dole out more punishment in the first five seconds than the M240L and two M3E1s combined.” Schäfer nods as he and the squad’s team leaders note that information down. “That’s actually a pretty useful reminder. However, figuring out his exact location when the shooting starts will be a problem. Unless he marches back up the hill and shows us before we the drone starts running low on battery and we have to fly it back, we won’t know exactly which fighting position he’ll be occupying. And he still looks nowhere finished with setting his IEDs. But I'd assume he'd be somewhere around their centre.” 2.6 - Fighting Positions With the combat engineer/grenadier setting up IEDs in the hedgerow accounted for, Catawnee maneuvers the Dragonfly to a spot where it can best observe the original eleven insurgents spotted setting up camouflage nets, hanging thermal insulator blankets, and digging fighting positions. Ten of them are still busy displacing dirt with entrenching tools. The eleventh is scanning the overcast sky through a pair of binoculars, probably to warn his buddies of any incoming UAV sweeps. They are still in the same early stages of digging as they were before OP lost visual contact; their fighting positions are still shallow shell-scrapes that are only deep enough for people to lie prone in. There are eight two-man fighting positions hidden behind eight camouflage nets with blankets tied behind them, blocking all potential observation (whether by binoculars or thermal imaging) from the hill to the West. Most of them are arranged in a staggered line running roughly parallel with the treeline, which in turns runs roughly parallel with MSR Spirytus. This appears to be a precaution against enfilading fire from the flanks. There is roughly 4 metres of space between each individual fighting position. The two southernmost fighting positions are positioned at a 45° angle, giving them ability to both fire at enemy units on the MSR and better-intercept any flanking maneuvers coming from the direction of the wildlife underpass. The NALA insurgents’ M240L general-purpose machine gun is deployed in front of one of the middle fighting positions (fourth from the left). Excess dirt from the shell-scrapes’ excavations is being used to raise ground, compact the Eurth, and make parapets and paradoses. The paradoses on the rears of what are currently shell-scrapes are likely meant to stop enemy grenades from rolling downhill and into the fighting positions once they’re at their full depths. It typically takes an hour for a well-coordinated team to dig a full DFP into flat, favourable soil. Digging into a hillside complicates the process, since more soil needs digging out of the slope. Schäfer estimates that the enemy will complete all stages of digging their ranger graves in two hours. Schäfer and the team leaders spend a short while flipping through their notes on each individual NALA insurgent, confirming that each insurgent was someone either OP or the Dragonfly have already spotted. They cross-reference their fatigues’ camouflage patterns, body armours, and weapon loadouts. These eleven insurgents are indeed the same eleven foot mobiles OP spotted at the start. Once the team leaders are finished with their check-overs, Catawnee switches on the drone’s FLIR camera and does a 360° scan for human heat signatures. He counts the heat signatures of: the original eleven insurgents digging ranger graves, the guy planting claymores in the drainage ditches, the combat engineer, and the automatic rifleman covering the Southern approach. He flies to the north, and finds a second sentry covering the Northern approach. He flies to the southeast up the hill, and discovers a third sentry covering the Eastern approach. Both of these sentries also turn out to be M249 SAW-armed automatic riflemen just like the sentry near the wildlife underpass. Catawnee continues to sweep the surrounding area for even more NALA insurgents, but the Dragonfly can’t seem to detect any more by the time it starts running low on battery. 2.7 - A Job Well-Done “And this brings the total up to… Sixteen NALA insurgents.” Catawnee exhales. “Yeah, I think that’s all of them.” Schäfer thinks so too. He, Jung, Meier, Collins, and their subordinates at the picnic table look at their map of the AO, and all the notes and markings they’ve squeezed into and around their grid square. They've marked the exact location of every Claymore mine, every fighting position, every sentry, and every sentry's probable sector of responsibility. Jung smiles in amusement. “Yo, Schäfer, look at that shit. Your map looks like a gang just tagged it.” Schäfer chuckles. “At the very least I can still read it. What matters is, we’ve got enough information to send a comprehensive report up to Command.” Catawnee looks over his shoulder at Schäfer, pointing to the low battery percentage icon at the top-right of the tablet screen. “Hey, Sarge, the battery’s gonna die in like, 10 to 15 minutes. I’m taking the Dragonfly back to base.” "Go ahead." Schäfer gives Catawnee a hard pat on the back SAPI plate and a firm shake on the shoulder. “Well done on operating the drone, Catawnee. You did real f*cking good today.” “F*ck yeah, Sarge.” Catawnee exchanges fist bumps with Schäfer and the others before initiating the Dragonfly’s clandestine exfiltration back to his squad’s Patrol Base HQ across the valley. While maintaining a reasonable level of noise discipline, Catawnee’s squadmates at the picnic table cheer, clap, compliment, put him headlocks, put him in chokeholds, and shake his helmet when they can't ruffle his hair. The drone returns without issue, with al-Latif and Zimmerman at the observation post reporting no indicators that the enemy ever noticed it. This concludes the squad’s reconnaissance of the NALA position. Schäfer sees it appropriate to wrap things up before writing up his SALUTE report. He reminds his squad, who have gone down to REDCON-2 while reconnaissance was being conducted, that they may be engaging the enemy very, very soon. Schäfer points to his finalised map spread across the picnic table in front of him. The wind starts to pick up, but he keeps the map held down at the sides and corners with random stones he picked off the ground. “Gents, let’s just make sure that everyone’s on the same page on what we know so far. Beyond reasonable doubt, we are up against a section-sized element of sixteen NALA or NALA-affiliated insurgents. Consider them 'Hostile'. The enemy has set up a deliberate point ambush, most likely meant to hit a convoy of logistical vehicles travelling along MSR Spirytus.” On his map, he traces his finger along the 100-metre stretch of MSR Spirytus between Checkpoint Eight-Alpha and Checkpoint Niner-Alpha. “They have turned this 100-metre-long section of the MSR into a killzone with at least two M18 Claymore mines in the parallel drainage ditches and 25 EFPs concealed in the eastern hedgerow.” He then taps the treeline to the east of the MSR. “Beyond the hedgerow on the east side of the MSR, at the base of the hill, is a 50-metre-thick strip of dense bushes and ferns, and shrubbery that can be low-crawled through. After that, there is an abrupt transition to primordial forest. The insurgents’ fighting positions are located along the treeline. They consist of eight two-man FPs, which are currently only as deep as shell-scrapes as of this moment. They are arranged into an 50-metre-long staggered line formation to mitigate enfilading fire from the flanks. There is roughly 4 metres of dispersion between each FP.” He then starts tapping each individual fighting position. “Their M240L machine gun emplacement is deployed at the centre, in front of the fourth FP from their left. Judging from where their recoilless riflemen were digging, their M3E1s will likely be situated in the second FP from the left and the one on their far right. The FPs occupied by their battle rifleman, who might be a designated marksman, and grenade launcher-armed engineer are unknown.” He looks up at the rest of his squad, who are nodding and checking over their notes. “Gents, does anyone here have any questions? Anything we need to go over?” Schäfer’s squadmates around the picnic table look at each other, shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads. Wickwash raises his hand. “The floor’s yours, Wickwash.” Schäfer gestures for him to speak. “Do you think there’s a realistic chance we’ll actually get to kill people today?” Schäfer pauses. “That depends on how charitable Goodsprings is feeling. I plan on starting as soon as we’re done with pre-combat inspections, as per the Rhodellian military's doctrine of mission-type tactics. Hopefully, and I got my fingers crossed for this one, he won’t try to call off our attack as soon as word of our impending assault reaches his ears, just so he can drop a f*cking precision-guided bomb and take all the credit instead. There’s no guarantee he won’t do that. So we just have to hope that he’ll let us do what we’ve literally spent our entire lives training to do.” “I'm finna frag his ass if he makes us cancel. No cap.” “Maybe, if we're fast enough, we can neutralise the enemy before Goodsprings can try to stop us. Anyway, let's go over our game plan…” 2.8 - The Plan Schäfer looks down at his map of the enemy’s positions, and crosses his arms. It’s about time that the squad formulates a proper attack plan. “So, gents, not counting Doc, there’s thirteen of us versus eighteen NALA insurgents. We’re outgunned and slightly outnumbered, but…” He taps on the northern and southern ends of the NALA line of fighting positions. The team leaders step closer. Schäfer continues. “If at least two fire teams can sneak up on either their left or right flank, then it's likely only a portion of their force will be able to engage us at once. We can achieve fire superiority.” Meier nods his head, tracing his finger down the NALA fighting positions in a straight line. “I see what you mean. They’re all roughly at the same altitude as each other and dug in a staggered line. So if we hit one half, the other half will be more hesitant to engage in our direction because of the risk of friendly fire.” Catawnee tries to contribute to the discussion as well. “That, and they can’t see for shit past 40 to 50 metres. If we attack at the edge of their farthest elements’ line of sight, only a few of them will be able to see us and our muzzle flashes at once through the undergrowth. Unless they leave their fighting positions.” Collins also contributes with his own prediction. “If we’re within 50 metres of their positions, they’ll probably hesitate to use their M3E1s and M32 as well. Their recoilless riflemen might be hesitant to waste their precious rockets shooting at bushes we might not even be hiding in, especially when finding a safe place to shoot from might entail exposing themselves by crouching or standing outside of cover. Their grenadier might also be worried about spraying his own buddies with shrapnel. They might instead choose to fight with their M4s, giving us the advantage in firepower.” Schäfer nods as he notes down what everyone’s saying. “Fair points, gents.” He continues scribbling into their notepads. “Meier’s idea of taking the route Catawnee flew with his drone… Starting next to Checkpoint Eight-Bravo, going into the farm enclosure, hugging the wall for concealment, crawling through that hole in the hedge, up the drainage ditch, and through the wildlife underpass for a concentrated attack on their left flank… Is probably our best bet. I’ll take Doc and two fire teams with me down there.” He nods a few times, visualising an attack in his head. “This route’s a risky one, but it does get us to the enemy flank a lot faster than any alternative routes, even if we are high and low-crawling the entire time. About 30 minutes, considering the bottleneck we’ll be facing at the hole in the hedge. However, we should still catch them while they’re still above-ground digging their incomplete FPs. Aside from the trees, they won't have good cover, only the concealment of the undergrowth.” Collins steps forward and points to the drainage ditches by MSR Spirytus. “What about their Claymore mines, Sarge?” “Unlike the one right outside the wildlife underpass, they seem to be command-activated. We should be good so long as we’re not spotted while we’re down there. We’ll send a fire team out first, in buddy pairs. The first guy will pass through the wildlife underpass and disarm the third Claymore at the tunnel exit. The second guy will disarm the two Claymore mines on both sides of the pipe underneath Checkpoint Eight-Alpha. The second battle buddy pair will follow once the Claymores in the drainage ditches are disarmed, and then stand by on either side of the underpass entrance until the third Claymore is disarmed." “And how will we know when it’s safe for the rest of us to go ahead?” “Once all the Claymores are dealt with, the team leader can whisper into his radio. If we happen to encounter any more hidden Claymores or tripwires along the way, we can report it with hand signs or via radio as well, or just disarm them as soon as they're uncovered.” “Sounds good to me.” Collins scribbles into his notepad. Jung nods in agreement, tracing his finger along ASR Blue Lagoon. “I'll volunteer my team to take up overwatch positions along the ASR. Once you give a signal and start your assault on their flank, we’ll fire a few bursts at the FPs containing their MG and their right-flank M3E1. That is, assuming you'll immediately neutralise their left-flank M3E1 when you open up your ambush. Adebayo can also rain fire on the MG emplacement at the centre with his grenade launcher. The higher relative altitude of the ASR should give his grenades enough range to reach it.” Schäfer nods a few times and takes notes. Jung continues. “After we’ve spent maybe... one minute raking their centre and right flank with bullets, we’ll focus on suppressing their four rightmost FPs. That’ll keep at least a few of them pinned down in their FPs instead of fanning out into the woods, and cut down the volume fire coming your way.” Wickwash and Adebayo nod a few times, agreeing with Jung’s proposition. “I’m alright with that, dawg.” “Same, brother.” Nobody else seems to have anything to contribute. So Schäfer uncaps his marker again and draws a few crude arrows on his map. “Alright, gents…” He points to the map. “So, to recap on our entire plan… Me, Doc, and Fire Teams Bravo and Charlie will move up along the Dragonfly's route to the NALA insurgents’ left flank. Up until we reach the hedge at the bottom of the enclosure, we will low-crawl and hug the wall in a single-file Squad Column formation. Meanwhile, Alpha will stay hidden along ASR Blue Lagoon. Wickwash, Wolff, and Adebayo will hide behind the dry-stone wall. Meanwhile, Jung will take up a camouflaged position where he can best observe their southernmost sentry. With his radio and binoculars, he’ll tell us when it’s safe for us to crawl under the hedge and make our way to the underpass. And then join the fighting once I give the command to open fire via radio, or as soon as you see muzzle flashes or hear gunshots. Alpha, is that good with you guys?” Jung, Wickwash, and Adebayo once again confirm their approval. “Jawohl.” “Yeah.” “Cool.” Schäfer then taps the position of the wildlife underpass on the map. “Charlie will be the lynchpin to this whole operation being stealthy. You guys will be tasked with disarming the Claymores in the drainage ditch and at the exit to the underpass tunnel. On top of that, you’ll also be tasked with quietly neutralising their southernmost sentry so we can move into assault positions on their flank. This sentry must be eliminated immediately after they finish conducting a radio check. Collins, I’ll leave assigning the roles to you. Is this gucci with you guys?” Collins and Catawnee confirm their approval. “All’s good. We’ll head on over to the OP and go over this with Zim and al-Latif.” “Mhm.” Schäfer takes a deep breath. Moving his finger roughly fifty metres south of the NALA’s two oblique-angled fighting positions at the end of their left flank. “Once the Claymores and southernmost sentry are dealt with, Me, Bravo, and Charlie will advance through the bushes until we’re about 50 metres south of these two southernmost FPs. Just beyond their visual range. Bravo and I will form a Fire Team Line formation on our left flank, and concentrate all firepower to the front. Charlie will form an Fire Team Echelon formation on our right flank, with the echeloned side facing towards the NALA FPs. Ideally, we’ll all be in a position to attack within five mikes of the southernmost sentry being neutralised." He then traces his finger upwards through the NALA fighting positions. "From there, we will push northwards using fire-and-maneuver, with one fire team moving up at a time while the other provides covering fire. When it's time to strike, I'll radio all team leaders to open fire at the same time. Everyone else, pay attention to your team leaders and follow their lead so our attack can as synchronised as possible. In case the enemy shoots before that, and happens to take me out first, return fire. Alpha can do their thing as soon as the sound of gunshots reaches them a second later, whether ours or the enemy's. We will advance until the enemy is either routed or destroyed. At which point, the most intact team will secure their fighting positions while the other tracks the other survivors and reports their direction of travel on the platoon net. Another squad can move to intercept them." He then taps his finger on the location of the wildlife underpass below the MSR. "While the fighting's going on, Doc will stay in the underpass, where we'll carry anyone who is wounded. to safely treat our wounded. The underpass will also be our rally point. Our rendezvous point should things get FUBARed will be our patrol base here.” Schäfer pauses. “And gents, that will be our attack plan. Are there any questions? Is there anything I need to go over?” Jung, Meier, Collins, and the others around the picnic table look at each other, shrugging their shoulders and shaking their heads. Schäfer nods and clears his throat. “Alright. Team leaders, go fill in the rest of your teams on everything we’ve noted down thus far. Make sure everyone knows what the f*ck they're doing. I’m gonna send a SALUTE report up to our platoon leader. Wickwash, Adebayo, and Powell, swap with Wolff, Kowalczyk, and Fischer for sentry duty so they can be walked through the plan.” With this, Schäfer’s squad occupies themselves with doing whatever needs doing. 2.9 - SALUTE Report Meanwhile, Schäfer himself gets busy contacting his platoon leader. As of their platoon’s previous radio check roughly 40 minutes ago, Platoon HQ and 2nd Squad should be somewhere to the northeast, and 3rd Squad should be somewhere to the southeast. The platoon should be boxing in the NALA insurgents, so there'll always be at least one squad to intercept them no matter which direction they retreat in. Should Schäfer’s attack plan get FUBARed as per Murphy’s Law, he feels reassured that help is nearby. “Tempest Three, Tempest Three, this is Tempest Three-One, how copy?” Schäfer speaks into his personal radio. Tempest Three is the callsign for Schäfer’s platoon leader, Second Lieutenant Gottfried Schmidt. Schmidt responds a few seconds later. “Three-One, this is Three Actual. Solid copy.” “Three Actual. My unit has just finished conducting thorough recon on the NALA-affiliated insurgents and their positions. Standby for SALUTE report, over.” “Three-One, this is Three Actual. Send it.” As per SOP, Schäfer precedes his SALUTE report by reporting his current location. His squad hasn't moved at all from its 8-figure military grid coordinates since it first started occupying the derelict campsite just under an hour ago. “Three Actual, this is Three-One. I am located at the campsite to the west of ASR Blue Lagoon at Grid Bravo Sierra Four-Five-Three-Two Four-Five-Four-Four. Break.” He moves on to reporting how many hostiles his squad have discovered. “Size: Section-sized element of One-Six foot mobiles. Break.” And then, what exactly the hostiles are doing. “Activity: They are digging in facing west, overlooking MSR Spirytus. They are setting up fighting positions with camouflage nets, thermal insulator blankets, a machine gun emplacement, a mortar pit, and claymore mines. Break. They are also setting up what are likely to be Two-Five explosively formed penetrators along a One-Zero-Zero-metre stretch within their killzone, concealed inside the eastern hedgerow, facing the MSR. It looks like a deliberate point ambush. Break.” And then, precisely where the middle of the line of NALA fighting positions is located on an 8-figure Military Grid Reference System. “Location: Five-Five to Six-Zero metres directly east of the MSR segment between Checkpoint Eight-Alpha and Checkpoint Niner-Alpha, along the treeline on the west side of the hill at Grid Bravo Sierra Four-Five-Niner-Five Four-Five-Three-Two. Break.” And then, what specific gear the hostiles are wearing in no uncertain terms, just so friendly forces can immediately identify the enemy as hostiles on sight. “Uniform: Likely NALA-affiliated paramilitaries wearing TAZ-90 woodland camouflage, IHPS helmets, Ground Panoramic Night-Vision Goggles, and SPCS bulletproof vests. Break.” And then, what time they finalised their reconnaissance, since he already reported when his squad's observation outpost first saw the enemy. “Time: One-Eight-Zero-Zero hours. Break.” And then, every single weapons system the enemy was seen carrying, just so friendly forces can more accurately gauge how much firepower they're up against and what tactics the enemy are likely to employ. “Equipment: One HK417, One M32 MSGL, One M240L, One FIM-92J, Two M3E1s, Three M249 SAWs, Four M4A1s, Seven M16A4s. And Two-Five EFPs and at least three M18 Claymore mines." And then finally, to confirm that Schmidt has only noted down accurate, up-to-date information to share up and down the Rhodellian military's chain of command, Schäfer requests for him to repeat every detail of the SALUTE report. "Read back, over.” “Three-One, this is Three Actual. I read back...” Schmidt pauses to audibly flip back to the start of his notes, and proceeds to correctly repeat everything Schäfer just said over the radio. Once Schmidt's finished, the two speak some more. Most of their conversation consists of Schäfer sharing the locations, orientations, and killing zones of individual Claymore mines; the positions and likely occupants of individual fighting positions; and the positions and (in terms of compass bearings) likely sectors of responsibility of sentries. Essentially, Schäfer ensures that Schmidt and the rest of their platoon know everything that is currently known about the enemy. This way, the rest of the platoon is informed enough to formulate their own attack plans should they get involved. Once all that's done, Schäfer informs Schmidt of his attack plan's very basics.. “Roger, Three Actual. The NALA-affiliated insurgents don’t seem to be aware of our presence yet, so uh… I’m taking the initiative. I will conduct a hasty two-point ambush with my squad to destroy the enemy before they can finish developing their defensive fighting positions beyond shell scrapes. Acknowledge?” “Roger, Three-One. But that is a f*ck-tonne of firepower your boys are up against. Be advised, you have multiple options for fire support available to you as safer alternative means of destroying the enemy. Are you sure you want to initiate a firefight? And are you sure you don't need us to rendezvous together and back you up? Over.” “Three Actual, this is Three-One. Affirmative. My squad already has a plan in place, and it'd be best to seize the initiative and optimally exploit this opportunity while it still presents itself. Violence of action is what we're all about. Over.” Schmidt hesitates to speak for a short while, presumably to weigh up the odds of Schäfer's squad avoiding a Pyrrhic victory that'll look bad in the media. Casualties are always a sad and demoralising thing to see. But if Schäfer does have the element of surprise on his side and is able to catch the enemy when they are unprepared, then his odds should be fairly good even with the unfavourable disparity in numbers and firepower “Three-One, this is Three Actual. If you say so. Me, Three-Two, and Three-Three are less than twenty mikes away to your North-East and South-East. We'll form a triangular cordon to intercept any potential retreat towards the North, South, or East, and standby in case you do end up meeting us. Coordinates soon to follow once we're all within position. Break. Just be advised: You are at a significant numerical and firepower disadvantage. If the enemy spots you first and initiates battle, your boys will be torn to shreds. Break. If you lose the initiative and your tactical advantage of surprise, if the violence of action is no longer on your side, bug out of there immediately. Acknowledge?” “Wilco, Three Actual. I’ll proceed with caution. Out.”
  2. Chapter One - S.S.D.D It’s late in the afternoon when Sergeant Alarick Schäfer tells his squad that they’ve reached their next waypoint along ASR Blue Lagoon. They’re located in a small patch of forest somewhere in rural Nordwalde Province; as far as most of this band of average 18 to 20 year-old Rhodellian conscripts is concerned, they’re somewhere south of Camp Bergenstein, north of the provincial capital of Schwarzwald, and west of MSR Spirytus - the main road connecting Bergenstein with the rest of Rhodellian civilisation. Judging from the rotting picnic benches, leaf-littered public toilets, and shuttered ice cream stall, Schäfer determines that this place is indeed the derelict campsite he marked on his map. Although one of his fire teams, Fire Team Alpha, has already scouted out the area, deemed it safe, established an observation post 100 metres from the entrance, and is currently maintaining a triangle-shaped perimeter around it, he makes a few quick sweeps of the area with his thermal weapon sight, and confirms that nobody has slipped past their cordon and is preparing to ambush them. “Rest up while you can on your turns, gents, we’ve got twenty mikes each. We’re Oscar Mike in thirty!” he folds up his map and turns first towards his team leaders “Meier, your team’s on perimeter watch. Be stealthy about it in case the enemy's nearby. Collins, rotate with Meier's team in ten. Jung, with Collins's team in twenty.” and then to the rest of the squad “Maintain your weapons. Have Doc check your feet for blisters and rashes. Reapply any face paint that might’ve worn off due to face-rubbing or sweat. Add some more local vegetation to your helmet bands, helmet cover slits, and combat webbing. And if you still have time after all of that, eat whatever chow's left in your MREs.” The squad breaks their patrol column formation to do whatever they have to do. While maintaining a reasonable level of noise discipline, they complain about the objective, the ROE, the stones that somehow got into their boots, how much they’d rather be back at base sweeping the motorpool, or sleeping through a SHARP training, and how their mission may end up being yet another waste of their valuable time if they - once again - end up not killing anything. The one exception is the automatic rifleman of Fire Team Bravo, who’s asking around to see if anyone has a spare can of energy drink before he goes off to watch his sector of responsibility. Schäfer notifies his platoon leader of his location over the radio before checking over his equipment. He is in the middle of changing the batteries on his rifle's thermal weapon sight when Fire Team Alpha is relieved from sentry duty by Fire Team Bravo. He notices Alpha’s team leader, Corporal Rolt Jung, approaching him. “Schäfer, interrogative...” “Yeah, Jung?” “Why the f*ck are we here?” “Can you expand on that question?” “Okay… Why are the fourteen of us out here in the middle of bumf*ck nowhere, spending our entire afternoon rucking up and down all these steep-ass hills in full gear?” “Well... That’s easy, Jung. Somewhere, in this…” he looks around to see that he is no longer surrounded by the beautiful vistas of Nordwalde’s hills, just a long-disused campsite and the densely packed trees and foliage of an unnamed forest “...beautiful expanse of Rhodellian countryside, a bunch of Native Aurelian Liberation Army assholes are up to no good. Our job and patriotic duty as soldiers of the Rhodellian Army is to hunt them down and f*ck ‘em up for daring to trespass on our territory. Ideally before they do something nasty.” “I know that’s our mission, but I mean... I was asking about the reasons why we’re doing all this shit in the first place. Like, what’s the rationale behind this whole war anyway? Has it ever hit you that this entire thing’s been going on since way before any of us were born?” “Did you fail history class, or is National Service the first time you’ve crawled out from under your rock since the Cambrian period?” “Nah, dude.” Jung chuckles, “It’s just that, I swear to God, my grandpa patrolled through this exact same ASR and stopped in this exact same picnic area while hunting for NALA insurgents back in the Sixties. And maybe his grandpa before that too.” “Well, Jung…” Schäfer rubs his mouth as he tries to think up a satisfactory answer “This land of ours is a diverse and multicultural one. Rhodellia’s only like what, 89,000 square kilometres? Yet, within these tiny borders of ours, for thousands of years, hundreds of different peoples and cultures have been living in and dying over the same patch of dirt. You’ll see evidence of that painted across almost every cave wall in the country. As for us Rhodellians and the f*ckheads in the Native Aurelian Liberation Army... We just happen to be the latest generation of retards bleeding over who gets to call this land rightfully ‘theirs’. And for NALA, who still haven't gotten over colonialism, sharing was never an option.” “So which side do you think is in the right, Schäfer?” “In the opinion of this conscript, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. None of that shit’s worth caring about. Not to me at least.” Schäfer shrugs his shoulders. He turns his head to admire the trees and shrubbery around him. “I live here. I like living here. And I can’t be arsed to move out. If anyone has a problem with that, they can talk to the business end of my rifle.” “So who do you think is in the right anyway?” “Jung, I could write you a whole f*cking essay on the damn thing.” Schäfer removes his helmet to inspect the camouflage paint on its NVG plate “But again, that’d be a pointless-as-f*ck exercise.” Jung shrugs, supposing that Schäfer wants to change the subject. “Alright, I guess…” “Let me ask you a question, Jung.” “Hit me with it.” “Why do you think this country is still called ‘Rhodellia’ and not something more... Native Aurelian-sounding? Why are we still here?” “Just to suffer?” Jung smiles to himself. A few nearby squad members overhear the two and start cracking up, also recognising the reference. Schäfer chuckles, acknowledging that he set himself up for that. “Yeah, that’s one reason Goodsprings has us rucking through the countryside today. But that's not exactly the answer I'm looking for.” “Uh…” Jung pauses to think of an articulate (or at least smart-sounding) answer “Because of the rule of law? Legally speaking, Schäfer, our country must own the rights to these lands.” He sweeps his finger across the forest around him “And a good chunk of the international community agrees with that. By most counts, the Rhodellian government in Friedrichstadt is considered the ‘legitimate government’ who exercises sovereignty over this territory. That, and because the N-A-L-A is a violent-as-f*ck terrorist organisation with one hell of a grudge. I swear to God, bro, those psychos will try to genocide all the white people the moment they step foot in our government offices.” Schäfer nods a few times. “A good answer, Jung. But that’s only part of the story.” He breathes in and out as he tries to collect his thoughts and think of what to say next “In the opinion of this conscript... it’s mostly because we are capable of superior violence, and NALA is not. It doesn’t matter how many articles some self-hating, guilt-tripping, latte-slurping liberal hippie ethnic minority-cocksucker publishes on their blog...” Every nearby squad members squad smiles. Even its two Native Aurelian members are trying to contain their laughter in keeping with noise discipline. Schäfer continues. “Those self-righteous pseudo-intellectual assholes can screech into the void all they want about social justice, native land rights, and how our country’s entire existence is technically an illegal occupation of stolen land. But in the opinion of this conscript, all of that shit’s irrelevant. So long as the Rhodellian government has tanks, fighter jets, and the continued will to fight, it doesn’t matter how much other people b*tch and complain about us being here. We’re not budging off this land. And that’s that.” “Can’t you come up with a better justification than ‘Right of conquest’ or ‘Might makes right’? What’s next, Schäfer? The f*cking ‘discovery doctrine’?” “Maybe.” Schäfer shrugs while readjusting the camo netting and foliage secured by his helmet band “This country is imperialist to the core, and we’re too proud of that to let go.” Jung shrugs as well. He shifts his attention to the squad medic, Corporal John Mark ‘Doc’ Garcia, who’s applying some kind of cream to the foot of someone from Fire Team Charlie. As physically fit as all able-bodied Rhodellians are legally mandated to be under the Spartan Protocol, Jung supposes that not everyone’s an avid hiker. He supposes that near-non-stop marching across several-dozen miles of hilly terrain while hauling over 100 lb of gear is starting to take its toll on some of his squadmates. He looks down at his own combat boots, and wriggles his toes to revive the blood flow to his feet. “Okay… Next question: Why, in his infinite wisdom, is Goodsprings making us do this whole search-and-destroy mission on foot? If I'm going to be illegally occupying rightful Native Aurelian clay, I'd at least like to do it in an armoured vehicle with air conditioning.” Jung frowns, referring to his battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Emory Schreiber. Schreiber’s callsign is ‘Goodsprings’, after the starting location of his favourite video game. “Hm?” “Just for f*cking once, man, I just wish that motherf*cker would give us a mission with non-retarded orders, orders that won’t put us all in unnecessary danger, or at least won't make us expend more effort than needed. I mean, you saw the motorpool back at Bergenstein, right?” “What about it?” “We’ve got a shitload of perfectly good APCs and other armoured utility vehicles back at base. Plenty of helicopters too. Despite that, Command just had us dropped outside the AO and told us to f*cking hoof it the rest of the way. Can’t we cover more ground more quickly if we actually had some transportation?” “I can think of a few reasons.” Schräfer unfolds his map, spreads it across the picnic bench, and beckons Jung to look closer. Schäfer plants his finger on a single carriageway roughly 500 metres to the east of their current position. On Rhodellian military maps of the AO, that specific road is called ‘MSR Spirytus’; it’s a common route for supply trucks delivering supplies up north to Camp Bergenstein from the nearby city of Schwarzwald. “Whatcha got?” Jung leans closer, resting his arm on the picnic bench for support. “Ride in an APC, and our movement will stay restricted to the roads, and our sight will be confined to what we can see from those roads. That, and the enemy can more easily anticipate our movements. They’re more likely to prepare an ambush for convoys driving down a main road than for random dismounted conscript squads chasing animal trails in the surrounding hills. Logistics vehicles are way juicier targets. You get to shoot people AND get piles of neat shit out of it.” “And the helicopters?” Jung looks up at the overcast sky, imagining himself manning a rotary machine gun, spraying streams of 7.62×51mm tracer rounds into the woods below as Ride of the Valkyries blares from the Bluetooth loudspeakers he recently ordered online. He looks ahead to see Schäfer looking up as well, correctly guessing that he’s imagining the same thing. “Well…” Schäfer snaps from his daydream “This whole operation is supposed to be kind of a secret, stealthy one… Only BCT headquarters, Intel, and our battalion knows why we’re really out here. For all the rest of the wurld knows, we're just on a regular training exercise. The enemy might not know that we’re aware of their presence. If they see random Rhodellian Army dismounts like us walking across the hills, they might just think I’m a lost butterbar leading my men while failing at LandNav, and let us pass out of pity. All without suspecting a damn thing.” he then points up at the sky “But if we ride in with helicopters, searchlights, and Wagner playing, that just screams that we’re on to them. And they’ll escape by hiding in one of the local woods where we can't see them with binoculars or thermals. If we’re especially unlucky, they might even shoot us down for shits and giggles. At least that’s Goodspring’s logic.“ “Fair enough.” Jung shrugs. “You know, I get that commissioned officers tend to see things from a radically different perspective than the grunts under their command, but… uh… sometimes, I swear to God, the bars they graduate with at officer school must be prime breeding grounds for dementia-inducing brain parasites.” “I sure f*cking hope they're not.” Schäfer sighs. “I mean, where else would our COs get their advanced retardation from?” “You know, I actually want to enroll in Gottesberg Military Academy after I do my Masters', grab a commission, and make a difference out here.” “When you do, please, for the love of God, don’t be the kind of douchebag who prioritises petty workplace politics and career-climbing over the mission and well-being of the men under his command. The Rhodellian military's already got more than enough of those.” “I’ll try to get my priorities straight.” “Christ… You know, Goodspring’s actually a really good guy in person and all, but what turns a well-meaning Rhodellian into something like that anyway?” “I dunno. Some ‘Sword of Damocles’ shit?” “F*ckin’ Goodsprings, man.” Jung shakes his head. “Alright…” Schäfer pats Jung on the shoulder before removing his rucksack “You can go back to your team now. Tell them what's up. Meanwhile…” he exhales as he unzips a side pocket, retrieves a pack of baby wipes, and starts heading towards the campsite's public toilets “I gotta go take a shit.” “Aight.” Jung nods before rejoining his team. Fire Team Alpha is busy gathering pieces of foliage with their bayonets, using breezes of wind and leaf rustles to mask their sound, when their team leader returns to them. “What it is, hoes?” Jung takes off his helmet and starts comparing the shape and colour of the local plants with those already attached to his uniform. He opts to start swapping them out. Alpha’s automatic rifleman, Private Garrick Wolff, rubs his fatigued eyes with his sleeve. “Hey, Jung.” “Yeah, Wolff?” “We’ve been rucking for like… almost five hours now. Where the f*ck even are those NALA infiltrators we’re supposed to be looking for?” “F*ck if anyone knows, dude.” “With four companies of soldiers patrolling the AO on foot, you’d think at least one squad would’ve run into them by now. The AO ain’t even that big.” “Think about it this way, Wolff: every square meter of ground we cover is one less they could be hiding in.” Wolff shakes his head, feeling even more tired “That’s… still a lot of ground left that our squad needs to cover…” “Then think about it this way, man. Every step we take is one step closer to us kicking the absolute shit of them for making us waste such a fine afternoon.” “I guess...” Wolff shuts his eyes for a brief few moments, stewing in bitterness and rage, imagining all the creative ways he could take revenge on the NALA infiltrators for making him leave his room “Bro, I could be playing Warzone right now… I swear, I’m finna scalping each and every one of them. No cap.” “Good! Use your aggressive feelings, boy.” Jung smiles as he cuts some leaves off a bush he knows is not poisonous “Let the hate flow through you!” “Goddamnit.” Wolff laughs. The thought of scalping fellow human beings brought another question to his mind, this time addressed to one of the two Native Aurelians in the squad. He also happens to be Alpha’s rifleman. “Yo, Wickwash.” ‘Wickwash’ is the nickname for Fire Team A’s rifleman, Private Puhihwikwasu'u Geldfeld. Despite being half-Native Aurelian, he’s proud of his mother’s native heritage but ashamed of his Dolchic surname. When he first introduced himself, he asked his squadmates to use his forename instead; they all respected his wish without question. Problem was, most of them kept mispronouncing it. The squad eventually shortened his name to ‘Wickwash’ after watching him snuff out a row of lit candles with his rifle. “Sup.” Wickwash nods up. “Aside from being half-Dolchic, ironic as that is for you, you’re basically a Native Aurelian in every way, right?” “Nʉmʉnʉʉ.” He corrects Jung. At least in Rhodellia, Native Aurelians prefer to be known by their specific tribal affiliation instead of a generic term. “And f*ckin’ A I am. What about it, you cream-faced, culture-destroying, genocide-happy Dolchic coloniser?” “So I’ve been wondering, bro… When you started your National Service, you signed up to be an infantryman, right?” “Yeah, dude. What does that have to do with me being from one of The Tribes?” “So when you wanted to become a rifleman, you knew full-well that you’d be sent up North to Nordwalde... to help The White Man, er... slaughter your fellow Native Aurelians, lay waste to their cities, and re-colonise your ancestral lands?” “Man, I don’t get why all you white people keep lumping us all together like that.” Wickwash smiles as he inspects his newly re-camouflaged helmet, puts it back on, and examines his head's increasingly certainly-not-human outline in the mirror. “Not every shithead in the N-A-L-A is from my tribe, so it ain’t like I’m specifically out to kill my own people. I just came out here to scalp some motherf*ckers, maybe earn an eagle feather or two, and go home to watch some anime. You feel me?” “Yeah, I feel you, bro.” “And just as we overheard Sarge saying 10 mikes ago: we’ve been smoking each other long before any of your pasty asses first set foot on this continent. Heck, even after Dolchic settlers came along, my ancestors accepted your state-of-the-art muskets, your fancy carbon steels, and your dirty blood money in exchange for scalps claimed from other tribes.” Wickwash nods, grinning. "And damn, were we f*cking good at getting those!" “That’s hardcore.” “Hell yeah it was! And three-hundred years later…” he flourishes his bayonet and taps on the tactical tomahawk on his belt. He shakes his head and smiles in reassurance to his Dolchic squadmate “That time-honoured tradition ain’t dying with me, bro.” Private John Adebayo, Alpha’s grenadier, budges closer to Jung, Wolff, and Wickwash. He’s a second-generation immigrant who has neither Dolchic nor Native Aurelian blood in him. “And it’s all thanks to that tribalistic attitude that The Dolch managed to divide-and-conquer the shit out of your lands. I know how you feel, brother. That aside, don't you guys have any sense of Native Aurelian solidarity?” Wickwash hands Adebayo some spare vegetation, which Adebayo heartily accepts and adds to his combat webbing. “I’m a Rhodellian first. Nʉmʉnʉʉ second. Native Aurelian third.” Wickwash shrugs. “And that brings us to the wonderful f*cking SNAFU we have today...” Adebayo chuckles as he uses a mirror to help gauge the new changes to his equipment’s leafier, grassier, and increasingly inhuman outline. “It really do be like that, dawg.” Seeing the lull in the conversation, Wolff re-inserts himself into it. “So yeah, Wickwash, what anime are you watching at the moment?” “Right now, back at the base?” “Yeah.” “So I’m watching this long-running Rhavan anime called ‘Now I’m here, now I’m gone.’ It’s just been rebooted with a whole new animation studio. So I’m trying to get up to date with the eleven seasons that came before it, so I can compare the original anime with the new one.” “Jesus Christ. Eleven f*cking seasons? Just how many episodes is that?” “Around 270ish episodes, not counting filler episodes or the reboot. I’m binge-watching the original seasons while waiting for the next episode of the reboot to come out. I just finished Episode 172 this morning after chow, and I’m telling you bro…” he smacks his lips “This shit’s A-grade classic material, dude.” Taken aback by the episode count, a long whistle filters through Wolff’s mouth. “What’s the anime about? I only see episode counts like that from long-running Shounen anime.” “Well, allow me to subvert your f*cking expectations, my guy.” Wickwash chuckles as straps his helmet back on. “It’s actually not a Shounen. No power-ups, jutsus, bankais, stands, or anything like that. It’s a drama show with romance and stuff. Like a... live-action soap opera, but animated. We can watch the first episode when we get back to base.” “Damn, bro. From all your talk about doing hardcore shit, like scalping motherf*ckers and keeping their heads as trophies, I’d never have thought you were into that kind of anime.” “Eh, they’re nice to watch once in a while.” Wickwash shrugs “Even for us Rhodellians, there’s gotta more to life than just violence, right?” “Wickwash, my friend… I can not believe that beneath that blood-crazed ice-cold warrior exterior of yours, you’re actually a massive f*cking faggot holy shit!” The whole team bursts into laughter. Wolff continues once it dies down. “So should we start with the earlier seasons first, or do we start with the reboot?” Wickwash pauses in thought before nodding a few times. “Yeah, we can start with the reboot. It basically follows the original story, but with nicer-looking visuals. You can watch the original in your own time.” “Sounds cool to me, bro.” Wolff nods as he opens his mirror, noticing that perspiration has caused some of his face paint to fade. “F*ck, man. I gotta redo my face again. My skin's shinier than f*cking silver.” Having already finished repainting his face, Wickwash tosses a pack of tissues and his own face paint kit to Wolff. While Wolff's busy, Wickwash continues the conversation with Jung and Adebayo. “How about you, Jung? You watching any good anime either?” “Nah, dude.” Jung shakes his head as he finishes redoing his camouflage, and very carefully takes a sip from his canteen to avoid accidentally washing away his new coat of face paint. “I don't have the patience to sit all the way through a single 24-minute episode nowadays, so I just read manga and webcomics whenever I feel like it.” “Like what?” “Well, for starters, there’s this Kirvinian one I’m reading called ‘Like In Those Days’...” Upon hearing Jung mention that last title, Adebayo perks his head up. “Hey, I’ve been reading that one too!” “No shit.” Jung chuckles, “Your patrician taste never fails to impress me, bro.” Adebayo and Jung bump fists and start talking about the newest chapter. “Nice.” Wickwash nods, trying not to get left out of the conversation “So what’s it about?” Adebayo takes it from there, raising his bayonet for a flashy performance. “It’s a story set in a fantasy version of 16th-century Aurelia…” he shuffles backwards, creating a safer distance between himself and his fellow teammates. With the grace of a professional fencer, he thrusts, swings, and flourishes his bayonet in all directions. Some squadmates from Bravo, returning from their watch, quietly cheer on and clap to his knife-play. Adebayo is encouraged by this and continues doing knife tricks with enhanced vigour. “It’s about a guy, named Constantine. He goes around hunting monsters in the woods, getting into sword fights with people, getting caught in political intrigue, and just being an overall cool guy. A guy from Haus Rödel is even one of the guy’s nakama! The art's great, and the action is badass as f*ck, my dude. You gotta see it to believe it!” Adebayo spins his bayonet one last time before sheathing it. Wickwash nods as Adebayo speaks. He imagines his squad ganging up on a dragon with spears, swords, and magic missiles “Damn, bro. That sounds so much cooler than whatever the f*ck we’re doing right now.” “Yeah brother, the whole webcomic’s f*cking awesome.” Adebayo laughs, more eager than ever to get back to base so he can show Wolff the webcomic “Whenever Constantine goes into a forest, he gets to duel spriggans, werewolves, and all kinds of other crazy shit with f*cking swords and magic. That’s badass. Meanwhile, if we go into a forest, we don’t even get to slay wolves or bears. Y’know, because we drove all the local ones extinct. Nah, dude. Instead, we just get blown up by landmines. Or shot.” Wolff’s ears wriggle at the mention of landmines, and interjects. It appears that he just finished re-applying his face paint. “Speaking of landmines, y’know, I grew up near a Red Zone as a kid.” In Rhodellia, a ‘Red Zone’ is an area of land so devastated by past conflicts (usually either the First or Second Anéantic Wars) that they’re no longer safe for human habitation. This is generally because they’re still littered with uncleared landmines and unexploded artillery shells. And so, to protect the populace from the explosive remnants of war (ERW) inside them, Red Zones are either fenced off or marked with warning signs. “Oh shit. Really?” Wickwash gestures to Wolff that he has the whole team’s undivided attention. Wolff nods, pauses to gather his thoughts, and continues. “My family couldn’t go camping in the woods behind my backyard because it’s sealed off behind three thick-ass rows of razor wire. But whenever I did sneak in there, say, because the other boys in the hood wanted to f*ck around in old trenches and ruins, we always, ALWAYS had to watch our step for unmarked unexploded ordnance. Kids still get blown up in there every year! Did you know that, at one point in the First Anéantic War, both Rhodellia and the Grand Alliance fired like a million f*cking shells per day back there, just in that one sector.? Wolff’s teammates are amazed by the figure. “That’s a f*ckload of ordnance, brother.” Adebayo whistles, mimicking the sound of a falling (subsonic) artillery shell. “I wish I could drop that much shit on NALA headquarters.” Wickwash wishes out loud. “How the hell does your Red Zone still have ruins left standing in it?” Jung raises an eyebrow. “The wonders of Rhodellian engineering, I guess.” Wolff shrugs, unsure of the answer himself. His figure about artillery shells was probably just an exaggeration, unless a major battle actually was fought over his hometown. The team imagines just how much industry and logistics it would take for a group of artillery batteries to even sustain that rate of fire. It’s an amusing thought. Wolff continues. “So yeah, back home, we still use discarded shell casings as house decorations. Flowerpots, fence posts, pencil-holders, you name it. And now, on top of unexploded ordnance potentially lying outside of the marked Red Zones, we gotta look out for signs of potential ambushes too. I’m always too busy staying frosty to feel like I’m going on some big adventure like the dudes in fantasy anime, manga, and webcomics. Ain’t no magic up in this b*tch. This sucks major ass, I tell you.” Wickwash shrugs. “As long as we get to make motherf*ckers bleed by the end of the day, whether it be with tomahawks, bayonets, rifles, or magic spells, it’s still all good, right?” “Yeah, I guess so, man.” Jung stands up, brushes the dirt off his knee pads, and looks around him. He pulls up his glove to look at his watch, checking how long it will be until his team is supposed to take over perimeter watch from Fire Team Charlie. It should be about time, but neither Charlie or its team leader, Corporal William Collins, have returned from perimeter watches. “Well, look on the bright side, Wolff.” Jung pulls down his glove “If an unexploded mine gibs any of us before NALA does, at least we’ll get to become cyborgs.” He pats his right arm “Have you seen the Cyberpunk-looking shit the VA’s rolling out nowadays? A Military Police vet in my neighbourhood lost his right arm when NALA raided Camp Kirstein a few years back. According to him, the f*ckers dropped a 155-mike-mike arty shell right on top of his mortar emplacement using a civilian drone.” He taps his right arm again, and swings his hand away while mimicking the sound of an explosion. “Shrapnel severed his arm. And now the VA’s hooked him up with a cybernetic arm with five independent fingers and the capacity to feel. He ain’t exactly shouting ‘Hocus Pocus’ with a wand, but at least he can still say ‘Avada kedavra’ while pulling a trigger. That’s still pretty magical, ain’t it?” “Rhodellian healthcare’s nice and all…” Wolff shrugs “But imagine dedicating years of your life to getting swole... imagine building up the discipline to stick to a strict diet and workout routine, and suffering through extreme lactic acid build-up day after day to grow all this muscle mass in your arms and legs... just to get them replaced.” He pauses. “And once you get past all those ‘initial reaction’ marketing stunt videos that keep showing up on everyone’s Volkscast recommendations… You’ll see that the prosthetics we have commercially available right now aren’t exactly at 'Sci-Fi' levels yet. They’re still nowhere near as good as the biological limbs we’re born with. So losing a limb is still as much of a downer as it’s always been.” “You seem pretty knowledgeable on prostheses.” Jung whistles. “I’m not, but my older brother has one. Two years ago, while he was still doing his National Service, he volunteered to help some combat engineers demine part of the Red Zone back home. Thing is, their demining robot broke down on ‘em. And… You know where I’m going with this?” “Oh f*ck, dude.” “Yup.” Wolff nods “He and the engineers had to go in themselves and do shit the old-fashioned way. My brother missed an unmarked landmine he didn’t catch with his detector. Apparently, the mine was partially unburied by a recent rainstorm. But by some f*cking miracle, my brother survived. He was fine everywhere else, but he lost his entire left leg.” He then taps his thigh to show where his older brother’s stump is. “The mine ripped it clean off." “Jesus…” Adebayo wipes his mouth. Wolff pauses to recall more of his memories regarding the event. “The Red Zone incident made the local headlines. Before we knew it, this prosthetics start-up came knocking on his hospital room door. They asked him if he’d like to take part in a PR stunt. If he agreed, he’d get a fancy new leg out of it. And that's how he got it.” “Was it a bad leg?” “By 2019 standards? Nah, bro. It’s one of those state-of-the-art myoelectric legs that pick up muscle impulses, with electrodes, microprocessors, motors, and shit. It’s definitely a direct upgrade from the usual prostheses most amputees are issued by the RHS or the VA. But it ain’t the cyberpunk techno-wizardry the advertisements hype them up to be. My brother was very happy at first, ecstatic even, but he’s moved past that. I mean, his f*cking leg’s still gone. Poor guy still copes with phantom pains from losing a literal, tangible part of himself that's been with him since birth.” “Damn, man, I’m sorry to hear that.” Jung pats Wolff on the back. “Sorry, bro, if I crushed your transhumanist fantasies.” “Ah well... It's no biggie.” Jung shrugs as he tries to figure out where Charlie is; they’re running slightly late on their rotation. “Maybe we’ll get some really cool developments, like, five years from now, and another five years until they become affordable enough to be widespread. At least our kids will be shooting lasers from their eyes!” “Looking forward to it, man.” Meanwhile, at a close-by picnic bench, the boys in Corporal Koen Meier’s Bravo team are talking about magic and slaying fantasy creatures because they overheard their buddies in Alpha talking about it. Bravo's rifleman, Private Waltz Fischer, has scooped up a long stick from the ground and is switching between a series of longsword guard stances. “You know, I went to Dolchic longsword fencing clubs back in primary school, secondary school, and college…” Fischer boasts at length about his swordsmanship prowess, backing it up with well-rehearsed footwork and a swift Zornhau cut “Hey Kowalski, think I can solo a dragon?” The team’s automatic rifleman, Private Jakub Kowalczyk, shakes his head “Your stupid ass would get eaten in three seconds. Tops.” The team’s grenadier, Private Robert Powell, laughs with Kowalczyk as he inspects his weapons. “I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t.” He taps his rifle’s underbarrel grenade-launcher “If I had magic, I’d cast a spell to turn my 40-mike-mikes into Davy-f*cking-Crocketts. A dragon’s hot shit, alright, but I’d like to see how they’d do against seven tactical nukes-a-minute.” “You’d still f*cking die before shooting your second shot, Powell.” Meier chuckles at the surreal thought of Powell running up to a dragon, screaming like a banshee, and unintentionally blowing everyone at. “You shut your pussy lips, Meier! Kamikaze’ing a dragon with a nuke has still gotta be one of the most hardcore ways for a man to go out! That’s gotta be worth some award, right?” “Yeah, a Darwin Award!” The lads in Bravo laugh until they notice half of Fire Team Charlie jogging behind them, with excited smiles across its member’s faces. Specifically, they see Collins and Charlie’s rifleman, Private Danuwoa Catawnee. “Oh shit! Look who’s finally back from their combat circle-jacks!” Meier calls out to the two. Catawnee politely responds with a wide grin and middle finger. Seeing as Charlie’s automatic rifleman, Private Ludwig Zimmerman, and grenadier, Private Abdul Hamid bin Faisal al-Latif, are both missing, Meier takes this as a very good sign. “Look at ‘em.” Meier slings his rifle “They look like kids wanting to show their parents a cool toy they saw through a f*cking store window.” “Think they found those NALA pricks we’ve spent the past five hours looking for?” Powell checks the status of his face paint in the mirror, one last time, to ensure it properly blends with the local environment and masks the natural shine of the human skin. He seems proud of all the camouflage he's attached to himself throughout the day (without compromising his range of movement, ability to perspire, ability to move quietly, or turning his combat uniform into a full ghillie suit). Fischer crouches next to Powell and checks the ammunition in his magazine. “After all the rucking those shitheads made Goodsprings put us through today? God, I f*cking hope so.” Kowalczyk squats on the grass next to Fischer, eagerly waiting for Schäfer (who just returned from the biological weapon called the campsite’s ‘public toilets’) to announce a pre-combat inspection. “If we actually get some today bro…” he looks up at Fischer and clenches his fist around his squad automatic weapon’s pistol grip. “I swear to God, all of the bullshit we took today would’ve been f*cking worth it.” Meier nods, knocking on the side of his helmet. “Especially if we get eagle feathers for this. They’d look so badass on my helmet band. B*tches love feathers.” They see Collins and Catawnee briefing Schäfer on something urgent. Schäfer absorbs what information he can, and relays it back to his platoon leader over the radio. Once that's done, Schäfer starts jogging between the different fire teams, flanked by Doc, grabbing their attention with kicks, nudges, and creatively verbose threats of grievous bodily harm. “Everyone in the squad who's not busy, form up around this table!” Schäfer beckons the squad to his picnic bench. Jung, Meier, and Collins take out their ballpoint pens and notepads as their sergeant unrolls his map of the AO, and plants his finger on their grid square. Wolff, Kowalczyk, and Catawnee walk off to maintain watch while their team leaders note down the plans for them, and Zimmerman and al-Latif are away monitoring what potentially could be the possible enemy. “Zimmerman and al-Latif have contact on a squad-size element of eleven unidentified foot mobiles setting up cammie nets 500 metres to the east of our pos. They’re at the edge of the forest on the west side of a hill overlooking MSR Spirytus, fifty metres directly east of the T-Junction at Checkpoint Niner at Grid Bravo Sierra Four-Five-Niner-Five Four-Five-Three-Two!” Schäfer shivers, barely able to contain his excitement or maintain a serious, stoic exterior. “Get ready for pre-combat inspections, we're going into REDCON-2! If Goodsprings doesn’t f*ck us in the ass by calling in an airstrike instead, we might actually get to kill some motherf*ckers!” And so they all cheered for war.
  3. I'd like to go with Option 4. It looks like a fun spot to RP in! @Metztlitlaca
  4. If Zaxar's also spawning in the southeast as my immediate neighbour, I'd prefer to narrow my claim to this river here. I'd like for Rhodellia's territory to stretch along the 'temperate climate' sections of this coastline and then up the river valley.
  5. Nation in Eurth: Rhodellia Flag: https://imgur.com/a/lVjIYn3 Capital name: Friedrichstadt Capital location: Coastal and/or Riverside, preferably close to a river delta. Stats Chosen: Population: 10,000,000 (Low - 0 Points) GDP per capita (nominal): 45,000 ESU (Very High - 4 Points) Land area: 90,000 km^2 (Low - 0 Points) Factbook/iiwiki link: iiWiki: https://iiwiki.us/wiki/Rhodellia Newsroom thread (It should give a good idea of my country's culture until a comprehensive iiWiki page is completed): Culture: Primarily a mixture of German, American, English, and Native American cultures. I envision Rhodellia as being a very diverse, multicultural, and creolised country, so people from across a wider variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds tend to feature in my posts. Climate: Temperate History: Partially summarized here: [Insert Dolchlander kingdom here] establishes some distant overseas colonies starting in 1594. Their explorers name the region 'Rödelia' after initially mistaking it for a new, undiscovered continent. Their chosen location happens to already be settled by native peoples, who are already well-aware of colonialism and its consequences. Half of the locals try to destroy the colonists on sight. The other half try to exploit the colonists to their own advantage, but end up being assimilated into the Dolchlander colonies over time. The colonists expand outwards using 'Manifest Destiny' as a casus belli. Their progress is soon checked by larger, developed (and still hostile) native civilisations. They put up better fights than smaller tribes and minor kingdoms, and thus would survive to become Rhodellia's historic long-time rivals. The Dolchlander colonies form the Rhodellian Commonwealth together in 1643 so that they can more easily coordinate defense and the pursuit of common interests. The colonies merge together into the Kingdom of Rhodellia in 1755 in a bid to improve their international standing and attract potential allies. However, the new royal family only played ceremonial roles. The old colonial assemblies and Parliament maintained their authority. Rhodellia and its neighbouring rivals frequently war with one another, primarily over arable land and natural resources. From 1914 to 1921, Rhodellia is repeatedly invaded by its immediate neighbours. It loses. Rhodellia loses a significant chunk of its population during the fighting and is forced to concede large swathes of territories in a traumatically humiliating peace treaty signed in 1922. Rhodellian left-wing populists incite a popular uprising against the 'traitorous' and wildly unpopular government. The Prime Minister is coerced into stepping down and organising a snap election. The new parliament after the 1922 General Election is dominated by a coalition mainly consisting of the Rhodellian Socialist Party, The Social Democrats, and The Communist Party of Rhodellia. By 1938, Rhodellia has recovered enough to start re-annexing some of the old territories it lost in the 1922 treaty. This triggers another major war in 1940. Against all reasonable expectations, Rhodellia does exceedingly well in the early stages of the renewed conflict. However, Rhodellia's momentum stalls as what started out as a war of manouevre gradually shifts into a war of attrition not too dissimilar to the previous war. The war becomes 'completely unwinnable' by 1944, if it was ever winnable in the first place. Rhodellia is forced to sue for an armistice in 1948 because by that point it lacked the manpower, access to natural resources, and industrial output to continue fighting. Its enemies are similarly too battered to see prolonging the conflict as worthwhile. So they accept the peace offer. No territories end up exchanging hands, so Rhodellia remains with its 1922 borders. Rhodellia and its long-time rivals focus on reconstruction and economic growth so that they may continue where they left off at a later date. For various reasons, their elected leaders never get around to escalating their tensions beyond occasional border skirmishes. Rhodellia initiates a campaign to attract highly skilled and well educated foreign immigrants to help rebuild and help repopulate itself faster. Its socialist-led government tries to entice newcomers with promises of workplace democracy, reasonable living and working conditions, fairer compensation for labour, universal healthcare, free higher education, and universal basic income. A team of historians accidentally uncover the true scale of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and cultural erasure of native peoples at the hands of Dolchlander colonial governments between the 16th and 19th centuries. Knowledge of their shocking discoveries proliferates quickly thanks to Rhodellia's freedom of press laws, leading to outraged Rhodellians of native descent forming a major separatist movement. Their common goals are to 'liberate' their native-descended brethren and protect their local cultures from eradication by an increasingly centralised and 'Dochlanderised' Rhodellia. The Rhodellian government tries to crush the separatist insurgencies with superior violence. These early attempts at counter-insurgency go very, very poorly. A few insurgencies succeed in making Rhodellian forces cut their losses and withdraw. This results in further territorial losses as some regions become de facto independent. In the 21st century, Rhodellia is trying to secure its own survival by growing its economy, making more friends on the international stage, and building up soft power. Desired Location: Roughly the same spot in southeastern Aurelia I requested the last time I was here.
  6. OOC: Revised for 2021. News Articles might not be required for graduating from the Academy, but I intend on reusing this thread after the fact.
  7. (Due to a technical issue preventing me from posting in the Academy subforum, this is being temporarily posted here. It should soon be moved to the proper subforum) Hatched from a cannonball, the Kingdom of Rhodellia is a warrior society upscaled to an entire nation-state. It began in 1594 as a number of Dolchlander overseas colonies. Unfortunately for the colonists, most natives already living around their region were already well-aware of the devastation colonialism wrought on other native peoples elsewhere on their continent. And so, half the natives were hostile from the very start. The other half were gradually assimilated into the Dolchlander colonies, either willingly or unwillingly. Desperate to prevent another foreign colonial power from dominating their continent, many native chiefdoms, kingdoms, and empires waged war after war to expel the new colonisers before they could become too entrenched. But the colonists and their native allies held their ground. And for that, their descendants (the future Rhodellian people) would be cursed to fight bitterly and fiercely to stave off extermination for centuries to come. The sheer distance separating Rhodellia from its parent kingdom allowed the former to develop down a radically more liberal path, but it also ensured that they had to fight every battle on their own. This would foster a burning spirit of independence, courage, and camaraderie among the Rhodellian people. But it would also give rise to the hypermilitarised society, hedgehog mentality, and ‘discomfortingly excessive’ martial culture Rhodellia is most notorious for. The nation still continues to fight low-intensity conflicts against native separatist insurgents and sporadic border skirmishes against its neighbours into the present day. As of 2021, Rhodellia is a shadow of its former self. Its ill-fated struggles in two major conflicts in the first half of the 20th century showed that it took far more than just warrior spirit to win a modern war against numerically superior peer militaries. From 1914 to 1921, Rhodellia was invaded and decisively defeated by a coalition of its neighbours in what Rhodellians call ‘The Red Deluge’. The catastrophic peace treaty that followed (The Black Peace) entailed major territorial concessions; the expulsion of all ‘ethnic Dolchlander’ peoples from said territories; and the severance of all political, military, and economic ties to its parent kingdom in Argis. The Black Peace utterly humiliated the nation and deeply demoralised its people. The Rhodellian Crusade (1940-1948) was launched on the grounds of retaking all ‘rightful Rhodellian clay’ that was ‘stolen’ during The Red Deluge and renewing the nation’s shattered pride. But by the end of the brutal conflict, millions lay dead on both sides, no territories exchanged hands, and an inconclusive armistice meant that no scores were officially settled. To add further insult to injury, Rhodellian failures in defeating native separatist insurgencies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries resulted in further territorial losses, demonstrating that superior violence wasn’t always the answer. The battered and bruised Rhodellian people just had to be content that their country, as small as it had become, still existed. Rhodellia’s traumatic experiences in the 20th century along with new social and technological developments have pushed its recent leaders to pursue the more peaceful path of building ‘soft power’, unlike their more warlike predecessors. Diplomatically, Rhodellia has failed to settle a lasting peace with its immediate neighbours (who still very much want the country and its people gone), and is thus turning outwards to the rest of the wurld for friends. It seeks to increase its international standing by lending help to other countries’ projects, participating in humanitarian aid efforts, and lending quality troops to peacekeeping forces. Militarily, Rhodellia is pursuing a purely defensive strategy of maintaining its current de facto borders, conducting COIN operations against Native Rhodellian separatist movements, and protecting population centres close to its borders from artillery and rocket attacks. Economically, Rhodellia seeks to build strong economic ties with other countries, court foreign direct investment (FDI), and expand and further modernise its infrastructure. Rhodellia wants to rebrand itself from a 'hyperviolent army with a state’ to a more welcome presence and worthwhile friend on the international stage. Whatever it takes to survive the century.
  8. [Redacted] Keep carrying on as if Rhodellia never existed.
  9. @Orioni I’ve pretty much already integrated my timeline with @Shffahkia, @Kirvina, and @Fulgistan’s. I’ve conducted trade and received immigrants from all three. Fulgistan and the earlier Yellow Empire played significant roles in influencing Rhodellian technological and cultural development. In exchange, Rhodellian entrepreneurs were probably among the Derthaler industrialists who helped to industrialise the Sultanate of Fulgiyan; the threat of economic colonialism by foreign powers was a major cause for his revolution. We’ve talked about Rhodellian weapons from the Colonial Era and Anéantic Wars being sold en-masse to Fulgistani markets too. Rhodellia’s history is also closely intertwined with Kirvina and Shffahkia’s. Rhodellian troops fought alongside Shffahkia in the Eustachian Wars against Kirvina, and alongside both in the Anéantic Wars. In the Colonial Era, Kirvinska troops proved crucial to winning the First Valley War. They were allowed to settle in the Rhodellian Commonwealth afterwards; their descendants have since grown into the largest ethnic minority in Rhodellia. Aside from that, Rhodellian merchants have conducted trade and other exchanges with them for centuries. Not sure what to do about Faramount. He hasn’t said anything on discord since November. As for analogies with Argentina, I think I can make a Falklands joke somewhere down the line. There’s a big island just to the east, but I’d rather let its history be written by any future players who end up getting placed there. However, I don’t think a big analogy is all that necessary.
  10. I’ll pick Southern Aurelia. The climate's just a rough idea I compressed into a single sentence. The history parts are more fleshed out and important. Feel free to take some liberties when drawing out the map. Cheers mate!
  11. Culture Military Culture “Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori. It is sweet and honorable to die for The Fatherland”, Wilfred Owen (Dulce et Decorum est) Why do young people - in their prime, having not yet lived a full life - enlist in the military? Why do they volunteer to die for the profits of oil conglomerates and the games of amoral politicians? War leads to so many anti-climatic ends, lost futures, and wasted potentials. When you think of the industrialised slaughters of the past century, how could war be anything but a senseless waste of human life? It’s reasonable to say that most countries on Eurth see war as this massive tragedy. Rhodellia isn’t one of them. Rhodellians have made their mark on the world; they’re a forward-thinking people of pioneers and innovators. Yet, despite all the advances they’ve made, Rhodellians still hold an archaic view of war: war is an inevitable fact of life, military service is a patriotic duty, and combat is a thrill coveted by many. They’re not blind to the reality of the battlefield; the issue is that they’re the polar opposite: Rhodellia has waged war in 498 out of the 536 years since the first Derthaler settlers arrived to colonise it. Native Rhodellians had been fighting each other and earlier foreign colonisers for far longer. Most of the land’s history has been one bitter struggle after the other; it never had the chance to appreciate peace in the way many others have. The result is an entire society desensitised to violence, acceptive of militarism, and willing to fight for their goals. In Rhodellian dictionaries, the formal definition of “peace” is merely “the time used to prepare for the next battle”. With all the terrorist attacks, civil wars, interventions, and Derthalen’s recent diplomatic errors, global “peace” is crumbling in the eyes of every Rhodellian; they can hear the countdown timer ticking. Hatched from a cannonball, the Kingdom of Rhodellia is a modern-day warrior society. A strong martial tradition has emerged from its violent past. Rhodellians learn military science, first aid, survival skills, fieldcraft, marksmanship, and martial arts from an early age, all so that they may protect their freedoms and liberties at the “moment of truth”; the line between “civilian” and “threat to any invading army” is illusory at best. This is perpetuated by the Spartan Protocol: a government initiative that seeks to enhance national security by giving citizens the skills and know-how to fight back against foreign invaders, tyrannical governments, and violent non-state actors. It also doubles as a way to prepare citizens for National Service, where they’re then given the expertise to win conventional wars. The Department of Defence, Department of Education, Department of Health, and many other Rhodellian organisations all have a vested interest in maintaining a combat-ready population. The Rhodellian military and civilian worlds are closely intertwined. 90% of the adult population has completed at least 18 months of National Service. Throughout National Service, conscripts are stationed alongside professional volunteers; this includes plenty of career soldiers who have been around for a long time. Conscripts pick up a lot from their more experienced peers; volunteers (who are, more often than not, former conscripts themselves) are generally quite helpful towards conscripts (whenever they aren’t asking them for boxes of grid squares). This leads to plenty of cultural exchange. Conscripts often adopt the values and mannerisms of other personnel before returning into the civilian world. Meanwhile, 8% of the total adult population is comprised of veterans who served at least 4 years in active duty outside of National Service. Rhodellian civilian culture - from slang, to humour, to (hopefully) ironic worship of the Murder Cube - is almost indistinguishable from its military counterpart. Warrior traditions “I am a Soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight.”, George S. Patton Rhodellians take pride in their military history. With the help of their local archive, citizens generally keep good records of their family trees; they know which relative or ancestor fought in what war. Most know their ancestry as far back as the First Anéantic War (1914 - 1919). Some can verifiably trace their ancestry all the way back to 1485. Archives can lead to some surprising revelations. Records reveal that every native-born citizen has at least one relative or ancestor who fought in either (or both) the First or Second Anéantic Wars (1939 - 1948). Many know about ancestors who fought in the Eustachian Wars or the War of the First Grand Alliance (1794 - 1799). Furthermore, every native-born citizen personally knows at least one friend, family member, or relative who is either a veteran or is currently serving in the armed forces. In a sense, everyone comes from a military family with a long lineage of service to Rhodellia. The vast majority of Rhodellians feel that they have a strong military tradition, and - following in the footsteps of their family - are naturally inclined to maintain it. Native Rhodellians Derthaler Knights Reverence for the military “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure”, Thomas Jefferson Victory can not be achieved without sacrifice. Rhodellians know this better than anyone. The very liberties and freedoms they enjoy today were built on a mountain of corpses. Countless war memorials dot the landscape; they serve as testament to the millions of men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice across numerous conflicts. Strangely, the memorials do not grieve the deaths of the fallen, but venerate them, along with all currently living servicemen, servicewomen, and veterans. Memorials inspire children with legends of battlefield heroism and martial valour. They challenge the newest generations of aspiring warriors to surpass their ancestors. They offer guidance on what it means to be a true Rhodellian. It’s blatant glorification. However, Rhodellians consciously choose to embrace it. Citizens credit their safety and prosperity to all warriors who take up arms for the Fatherland. The average Rhodellian has a personal reason to respect the armed forces. Most people also know a friend, family member, or relative who has died in the line of the duty, or paid dearly in some other way. Active duty troops on deployments regularly receive video calls, letters, parcels, and other gifts from the folks back home. Companies regularly donate money to veteran-supporting charities, as do many high-profile celebrities. Schools, colleges, and universities often hold fundraisers. When Rhodellians say “Support The Troops”, they do so with unmatched sincerity and passion. On December 19, 2018, “Thank You” - a charity concert organised by the Rhodellian Veterans’ Association to raise funds for veterans with amputations, mental trauma, and other complications that came as a result of their service to the kingdom - was held in Janbourg’s St. Rommel Stadium. Over 100,000 people physically attended the event. Over 40% of Rhodellian households watched the broadcast on television. The amount of people who viewed paid livestreams numbered well into the millions. People also sent money by donating online, by phone, and by text; the donation website crashed within the first two minutes of donations becoming available. All-in-all, the Rhodellian Veterans’ Association has managed to raise over $118,000,000 for its cause, making it the single most successful charity event in the kingdom’s history. This is seen as a reflection of how much people actually care for the veteran community. Rhodellians revere Wehrmacht personnel, regardless of occupation or specialty. You wouldn’t be underrated for being the crewman scrubbing the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, the cook who prepares hot meals for the troops, the mechanic who keeps the tanks in operable condition, the rear echelon truck driver who delivers supplies on time, the intelligence analyst with his eyes in the sky, the administrator who keeps the war machine running, or the General Staff officer who manages operations. Rhodellian children benefit from mandatory Military Theory classes in school. During National Service (after completing basic training), Rhodellian adults are assigned a military occupational specialty (MOS). Combat roles are few and limited, and are only given to the most motivated and able warriors; they are hotly-contested by recruits. Most conscripts end up in support roles such as logistics, communications, intelligence, and administration. The average Rhodellian is well aware of how modern militaries work; everyone will still recognise your importance and respect you so long as you are honest. Being a combat veteran is just a prestige bonus, since they generally tell the stories that sell the most books and movie tickets. Millions of ordinary, relatable people have signed their names on the dotted line, and swore an oath to protect the Constitution of Rhodellia against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Very few of them have ever seen a battlefield, yet - through specialisation and division of labour - still played an important role in making the Wehrmacht the efficient killing machine it is; they’ve undoubtedly done their part in keeping Rhodellia and its people safe from harm. Video games, books, and cinema Storytelling tradition Fitness “There are hunters and there are victims. By your discipline, you will decide if you are a hunter or a victim”, James Mattis The battlefield is no place for the weak. It takes far more than marksmanship skills to be an effective soldier; it takes strength and endurance too. During basic training, recruits are expected to haul at least 45 kilograms of equipment across miles of tough terrain. On patrol in a combat zone, dismounted Rhodellian infantry will carry no less than 30 kilograms in equipment; that figure can be higher, depending on role and mission. If you can’t pull your own weight, then what use are you? On the other end of the scale, obesity is such a resource drain that - if left unchecked - it can threaten national security. The unfit don’t make for ideal soldiers. The government wants 100% of all new civilian enlistees - whether they be National Service conscripts or volunteers - to already meet the Wehrmacht’s demanding fitness standards before they even begin basic training. The Department of Defence, Department of Education, and Department of Health maintain high fitness standards among the civilian population. A key part of the Spartan Protocol, the Citizen Athlete Initiative (CAI) works to prevent physical weakness, overweightness, and obesity from ever becoming a national security threat. It instils a drive within Rhodellians to maintain healthy nutrition, perform regular exercise, and engage in outdoor activities. This way, nearly all of Rhodellia’s adult populace would be physically prepared for military service should the draft ever be activated again. Nipping bad habits in the bud Deterrence against obesity Gun culture “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”, The 2nd Amendment Rhodellia has such a high rate of gun ownership that Wiki editors often mistake its ‘guns per capita’ statistic for a typo; nobody, not even God himself, truly knows how many firearms there are in civilian possession. The most conservative estimates are upwards of 60 million (as of 2017). The average household in the kingdom has a ‘modest’ arsenal of multiple firearms along with a stockpile of ammunition to feed it; it’s easy to mistake your average Rhodellian household for a diehard clan of doomsday preppers. It comes as no surprise that Rhodellia boasts a thriving gun culture; shooting is the kingdom’s most popular recreational activity, surpassing any other sport by far. It’s the common denominator that unites all citizens, just as it’s supposed to be: the government promotes first-rate weapons handling skills as part of the Spartan Protocol’s Citizen Warrior Initiative (CWI). Contrary to popular belief among hippies, daisy-chaining together and singing ‘Kumbaya’ will not stop an invading army. A rifle behind every blade of grass is scientifically proven to do a far better job. In Rhodellia, it is every citizen’s patriotic duty to learn to shoot from an early age. This, along with the kingdom’s permissive gun laws and mandatory weapons handling classes, are deliberate countermeasures against successful foreign invasion and the installation of a tyrannical government. Therefore, guns are held to be an important symbol of freedom. To take them away, or refuse to wield them, is akin to promoting slavery. Anyone with average intelligence can learn to shoot well. A gun is a gun, not a sword or a fighter jet. The gun obsoleted swords and self-bows for a reason: its comparative ease of use allowed lowly soldiers with only a few weeks of training to easily kill highly-trained warriors that dedicated their entire lives to mastering other weapons. Guns empower the weak to prevail against the strong; guns are the great equalisers of man. Therefore it is perfectly possible for a country’s entire (healthy) adult population to become proficient at shooting. The Kingdom of Rhodellia - with its Spartan Protocol, CWI, and long-standing military tradition - takes pride in having achieved this ideal: when push comes to shove, every Rhodellian is a combat-qualified rifleman. The Department of Defence and Department of Education maintain this status quo. In Rhodellia, practically everyone carries a gun. You can walk through a busy city centre, and there'll be plenty of people casually walking around with an automatic rifle or carbine slung from their soldiers. Same with students, who also regularly to sling their rifles to school. When they're not open carrying a rifle, they're most likely conceal carrying a semi-automatic pistol. Most people tend to go plinking or field shooting with their friends after work or school. Kids and teenagers are often enrolled in after-school shooting clubs and cadet programmes. Rhodellians consider their country to be safe; the concept of carrying a gun for self-defence is more of an afterthought. Recreational McNukes History of Rifles Martial Arts culture “The true spirit of martial strategy requires that you train to be useful at any moment and teach men so that they become useful in everything”, Miyamoto Musashi (The Book of Five Rings) The age of the sword is long gone; the infantry of today fight with grenades, automatic rifles, and machine guns. It’s an accepted fact that no competent enemy would ever let you within stabbing range. With that in mind, is there a point in knowing how to kill someone in over seven hundred ways with just your bare hands? Is it still practical to learn martial arts when you can just whip out a gun and end a fight in an instant? As anachronistic as it sounds, Rhodellia’s Department of Defence, Department of Education, Department of Health, and Department of Culture firmly believe so. The Spartan Protocol’s Citizen Warrior Initiative (CWI) promotes the study and practice of martial arts. Rhodellian students undergo mandatory martial arts class starting from Kindergarten. They mostly focus on Bajonettkampf, but a variety of others are taught to prevent monotony. It’s not the footwork, strikes, grappling, joint locks, throws, pins, and disarming techniques that the government finds useful, but the way martial arts changes one’s character. Martial arts instills: discipline, confidence, situational awareness, controlled aggression, improvisation, adaptability, and efficiency. It’s meant to give people the courage and ability to push the offensive or hold their ground against aggressors. Philosophy, meditation, and philosophy (adopted from Oriental (Yellow Empire) and Thalassan martial arts culture in the 18th century) are also important for instilling composure, stability, self-reflection, and mindfulness. These have proven to be useful traits and abilities for the average citizen to have. Thanks to the Oriental inspirations of Bajonettkampf in the 1790s, the ‘Kung Fu Craze’ of the late 1960s and 70s, and anime, present-day Rhodellian martial arts culture traces plenty of descent from the Orient. Rhodellians have written their own philosophical treatises on martial arts with clear Buddhist and Taoist undertones. They’ve created their own distinct fighting styles, with renowned masters going on to found their own schools and academies. Rhodellians’ martial arts training teaches them to strive towards ideals of physical perfection, mental clarity, and enlightenment. With no “belt system” to be found, (just like in the Orient) martial arts is seen as a lifelong commitment; “mastery” comes from decades of study, practice, and application. Thanks to Rhodellia’s military traditions, this is a commitment most are willing to keep. As of 2019, there are 65,684 certified martial arts schools around the Kingdom of Rhodellia. It’s good to have a population with fighting spirit. Rhodellians recognise that the most practical weapon for self-defence is a concealed carry pistol. However, not every country on Eurth is as free as Rhodellia when it comes to gun laws. They can’t always just pull a trigger and be done with it. What would they do if they were on holiday abroad and some guy tried to mug them with a knife, and they had no gun to kill the mugger with? Fold and hand over their wallets like weaklings, thereby condemning themselves to be the laughing stocks of their home country? As dumb as it sounds, Rhodellians are trained not to comply or run away: should negotiations fail, they’re hardwired to face their problems head-on. They’re raised to say “DON’T TREAD ON ME” before “beating the ever-loving shit” out of their would-be assailant. For this situation, they are taught that “might makes right”. The same rule can apply back home in Rhodellia: if both parties consent, then duels and brawls are also considered perfectly lawful and acceptable ways of settling disagreements. Rhodellians train accordingly; their reputations, and perhaps even their lives, may depend on how well they can fight. The result? The average Rhodellian doesn’t need a gun to be ‘dangerous’. Bajonettkampf “Weapons should be sturdy rather than decorative”, Miyamoto Musashi (The Book of Five Rings) The most famous (and perhaps unorthodox) martial art ever to come out of Rhodellia is Bajonettkampf (Bayonet-fighting). It teaches its practitioners how to kill with bayonets, on instinct, with minimal wasted thought, movement, and effort. They train with bayonets fixed to their rifles or gripped in their palms. They are also trained to disarm or disable bayonet-wielding opponents, even when unarmed themselves; there are plenty of pins, joint locks, grapples, and throws involved. Bajonettkampf also instils many qualities desirable in soldiers, such as discipline, physical aggression, and versatility. It pick-and-mixes moves and techniques from fighting styles across the world (sometimes altering them) to form an efficient, practical martial art tailored for realistic combat scenarios. If better ways of doing stuff are discovered, then changes are made in order for the martial art to keep its integrity and remain relevant. Rather than 'self-defence', Bajonettkampf (or at least its ‘Military’ variants) has the express purpose of making Rhodellian soldiers better at ‘killing the enemy’. It is Rhodellia's answer to Jūkendō. In Rhodellian culture and society, the bayonet is symbolic of egalitarianism and the working class. The Rhodellian Labour Party incorporates a bayonet in its emblem, just like its direct predecessor, the Rhodellian Workers' Party. Bayonets are mostly used as utility tools. In everyday life, they're used as pencil sharpeners, letter openers, and bottle openers, for example. While hiking or camping, they're used for making kindling, splitting firewood, and removing splinters, for example. They've got a wide variety of useful applications; as a result, practically all Rhodellians walk around with a bayonet sheathed somewhere. Psychological warfare Martial arts styles and schools Categories of Bajonettkampf History of Bayonets and Bayonet-fighting Recreation and Sports "War has never been so much fun", Cannon Fodder Recreation and sports in Rhodellia have a distinct, military flavour to them. They can double both as ‘fun pastimes’ and ‘preparation for SHTF scenarios’. This is attributed to Rhodellia’s prevalent military culture, martial traditions, and abundance of guns and ammunition. There’s that, and how Rhodellians are generally jingoistic and desensitised to violence. While sports such as football and basketball are often played, they’re not quite considered ‘national sports’; they haven’t had as much of an impact on Rhodellian culture as rifles and bayonets have. Video games are popular too. Rhodellia even has its own eSports tournaments. However, they’re not really distinctive of Rhodellian culture. Schützenfest Multigun Field shooting Long range shooting Plinking Firefight Panzerfahren Martial arts tournaments S.T.A.L.K.E.R Consumption of Anti-War media Colonel: ‘You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be? Some kind of sick joke?’ Private Joker: ‘I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man… The Jungian thing, sir.’ Stanley Kubrick (Full Metal Jacket) Though strict media censorship laws are enforced during ‘national emergencies’ and times of war, freedom of speech is a protected human right. People are legally allowed to criticise the military and speak out against the government’s policies. However, calling soldiers “murderers” or “baby killers” in an anti-war demonstration will get you crippled by every bystander in a five-mile radius. Rather than separate you from your assailants, Rhodellian police are far more likely to take selfies with them and livestream your near-death experience for likes on social media. This makes it surprising - and oftentimes even confusing - that Rhodellians consume a lot of anti-war media. Plenty of anti-war comics, books, video games, television shows, and films have achieved mainstream popularity in Rhodellia. Many have even cemented themselves into Rhodellian popular culture. For example: Attack helicopter pilots commonly blast “Flight of the Valkyries” from loudspeakers while engaging ground targets. “I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill” is an acceptable interview answer to “Why do you want join the military?” “I’M DOING MY PART” is the traditional reply to every Wehrmacht recruitment advert that gets posted online. “Do you feel like a hero yet?” is a popular joke said after combat personnel score their first kills. “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning” is the most common quote found on coffee mugs “Im Westen nichts Neues” (better known abroad as “All Quiet on the Western Front”) is still a bestselling book almost a century after it was published. “POLICE THAT MOUSTACHE” is common slang for “Get your appearance in order” Nobody - not even the government - has a problem with this. People in other countries do; they see Rhodellians as ‘living contradictions’: Why do Rhodellians consume so much anti-war media when they act so patriotic and militant? Sociologists infer that Rhodellians are actually self-aware when it comes to their military culture. They’re not the one-dimensional warmongers others stereotype them to be; their feelings towards war are more complex than what meets the eye. They know that war isn’t all fun and games; they’ve seen enough gorey footage online and in the news, read enough soldiers’ memoirs in schools, and attended enough military funerals to know that war can be a horrible thing. They know that not every serviceman or servicewoman is a saint. They’re aware that the politics behind their wars aren’t always as moral as the news makes them out to be. It is believed that - deep down - Rhodellians are not too different from their counterparts living in more peaceful countries; they are ordinary people who would rather live in peace, but are forced to take up arms just to ensure their own survival. Yet, why do Rhodellians continue to perpetuate their warlike stereotype? Their education system is highly militarised. Their most popular recreational activities and sports all mimic warfare to varying degrees. Their military is never short of able volunteers, even in the worst of times. Rhodellians know that they’re not living in times of peace. They are only alive and free because of their military traditions and hawkish policies; the only thing standing between Rhodellia and oblivion is a patriot with a gun. And so, they are locked in a vicious cycle of violence. Of course, if you tell them that they're peace-lovers on the inside, at the very least they'll call you a "pussy-ass hippie-communist cocksucker".
  12. What better way to spice up Eurth's underworld than to throw in more mercenaries, hitmen, and S.T.A.L.K.E.Rs? I'm in.
  13. Last First Anéantic War and Red Deluge veteran dies aged 121 Gottfried Huber, 18 February 2019, 10:41 Herr Roswalt von Wagner, the last surviving Rhodellian combat veteran of the First Anéantic War and Red Deluge, passed away on Sunday of natural causes. He was aged 121. Wagner had a long and distinguished military career in service of Rhodellia and its people. It began when he was only 16 years old. He served in the Heer's 13th Jäger Division as a rifleman and then stormtrooper during the First Anéantic War and Red Deluge. He would fight in some of the bloodiest battles of the conflict. Wagner would later serve in the Heer again during the Second Anéantic War and Rhodellian Crusade. This time, he would serve as a tank officer in the 1st Panzer Division. He sped to wherever the fighting was thickest, commanding his tank and leading his comrades with skill and distinction. His grit, courage, and expertise with mechanised manouevre warfare earned him the nickname "The Iron Lancer". Wagner retired from the military in 1948 at the rank of Colonel, aged 50. He earned every military combat award for valour available to Heer personnel over the course of his military career, including 2 Iron Crosses (2nd Class), 2 Iron Crosses (1st Class), and an Order of the Black Eagle. Wagner showed an immense passion for sharing his experiences in both wars. He was a regular guest star at every Memorial Day service since 1922. He frequently visited kindergartens, schools, colleges, and universities to inspire students with riveting stories, share life advice, and pass on knowledge. He guest starred in many television documentaries. He also worked as a military advisor for numerous war films. His most recent film credit was in Stefan Kielberg's Fur Das Vaterland, which was released last year to astounding box office success. It was particularly praised for its historical authenticity, attention to detail, and lack of glorification. Kielberg previously worked with Wagner on multiple other war films set in the 1910s and 1940s, including The Last Knight of Schwarzwald (1976), Last Stand (1994), Fall Rot (1999), and Panzer Ace (2005). In an exclusive interview with RNN, Kielberg recounted that Wagner was a "stellar guy to be around" who "never failed to make the whole crew laugh with the most wildly inappropriate dark jokes you'll ever hear". Kielberg also said that he will miss the long conversations he often had with Wagner on-set about weapons, tactics, and ultra-obscure details commonly left out of school textbooks and 'subpar' military films. "We lost an irreplaceable pillar of knowledge yesterday.", Kielberg lamented. Herr Roswalt Wagner: A Biography Early Life Wagner was born on February 5, 1898, in Janbourg. He was the fourth eldest of nine children. Their parents, Alger and Edda Wagner, were factory workers at the The Rödelian Motor Company. Wagner often recounted having a happy childhood. He shared a close relationship with his parents and all of his siblings. They often went on family trips to the countryside together, where they would go camping, fishing, deer hunting. "I was probably the worst shot in my family." said a laughing Wagner in a 1969 interview with Janbourg Daily "I couldn't help but feel sorry for the deer we hunted. I couldn't fathom ever killing one of the poor things, especially when other members of their herd were around. If some lunatic randomly shot my mum, my dad, or any of my brothers and sisters in front of me, I'd be real bloody distraught at that... putting it lightly. And so I went out of my way to hit anything but the deer." Wagner had a reputation in school for being a bit of a shy and awkward loner, but was nevertheless known to be a decent person. He stuck with a small and exclusive circle of friends. They mostly hanged out at the school library and at after-school martial arts and shooting clubs. Wagner also recalled a period when his relationship with his father was sort of strained. His father returned from serving in the Heer, traumatised by his experiences during the Nordwalde Revolutionary War (1903-1904). Alger was the most decorated man in his unit, being credited with several military honours including the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes. Alger saw no worth in his medals, but Wagner felt inspired by them. "I remember telling my dad that I wanted to be a soldier when I grew up. He got right mad at me. Almost slapped me, he did.", said Wagner in the aforementioned interview. "My dad gave me the longest lecture about the horrors of war. Even though I was only maybe six, seven, or eight years-old at the time, his stories never held back any punches. Back then, I never really understood what it all meant or what he was trying to achieve. It all sounded fun and adventurous to me. I really should have listened closer." He seldom spoke with his father until 1921. Military service in the First Anéantic War Wagner was just entering sixth form college when The Red Deluge (part of the First Anéantic War) began in 1914. When news hit the papers that Rhodellia's traditional enemies were banding together to form a 'Second Grand Alliance' and preparing to invade, Wagner recalled being "just as patriotic as every other bloke. It was such a rush. Everyone from my schoolmates to everyone at my parents' labour union was swept up in the war. Everything my dad told me in 1904 just vanished from my head." Against his father's wishes, Wagner did not even wait to be conscripted. He was among the first people to queue up at his district's local recruitment office. This was in spite of himself being 16 years old - 2 years below the legal age to enlist in the Rhodellian military. He never informed his parents or elder brothers about this even as he left for basic training. He simply disappeared and hoped that his family would be none the wiser. Wagner was assigned to the Heer's 13th Jäger Division. He was started off as a common rifleman but was later retrained as a stormtrooper ahead of the Spring Offensive of 1918. Wagner recounted that the recruitment and medical officers clearly knew that he lied about his age. "The Kingdom was so eager for fresh recruits that they just accepted any bloke old enough to grow facial hair." Wagner was one of 125,000 Rhodellian boys under the age of eighteen who served in the Rhodellian military during the First Anéantic War. The First Anéantic War would see entire towns bombed into oblivion; the fields churned into bloody quagmires; and millions dead on either side. Even with the advent of tanks and aircraft, such was the stalemate of trench warfare that we measured captured land in centimetres. Historians regard it as the first true 'total war' the Kingdom of Rhodellia had ever committed herself to fighting. Wagner's most notable engagements included the Fifth Battle of Black Forest, the Eighth Battle of the Northern Plain, and the Third and Fourth Battles of Gottesthal, and the Second and Third Battles of Wipers. In an interview filmed for The Red Deluge in Colour documentary series (2003-2004), Wagner said that he was initially averse to taking human lives. "Me and my mates are Rhodellians after all. From cradle to grave, we train all our lives to kill other people as efficiently as possible in defense of our homeland. I knew full well that the [Grand] Alliance was invading our homes and trying their damned hardest to kill us all. But even then... just like hunting deer as a boy, I couldn't bring myself to do it back to them. I've heard Grand Alliance soldiers dying out in No Man's Land. I've watched the life fade from their eyes up-close and personal. I've even seen one man's family photo after it fell out of his coat-pocket. They were ordinary blokes just like me. I didn't become as desensitized to violence as everyone else until one day, in 1915, my mate was... charged by an Alliance soldier. My mate's name was Christoffer, by the way. Even though I... I had my sights trained on his attacker whole time, I froze up in the moment of truth. I knew the day that I'd have to end another man's life was coming. But when it actually came, I had no idea what to do. I really, really didn't want to pull the trigger. I kept pointing my rifle at him, but he just... ignored me. He just kept stabbing Christoffer... over and over. I remember Christoffer's eyes staring at me in disbelief as they lost their colour. I remember his screaming fading with each puncture. The thing scarred me for life, it did, but it did toughen me up to reality. I swore I'd never let indecision or weakness cloud my judgement ever again. From that point on, every time I saw or felt someone trying to hurt me or my mates, I'd hear Christoffer calling my name, begging for help like when he died that day, when I failed him." Wagner's fellow soldiers knew him as a quiet but dependable guy. He had a reputation for being eager to help out other people in his company. At several points, he even went as far as to infiltrate No Man's Land to rescue them whenever anyone was trapped or too wounded to crawl back to friendly trenches. However, he started out never talking much about himself. He told no stories about school sweethearts or college banter. He just kept a private stash of letters addressed to his family, but could never bring himself to send any of them home. It would take until 1915 until he really began opening up to his comrades, coinciding with the day he first shot another human being at the Second Battle of Black Forest. Wagner recounted that it was only then that he could bond with the others in his unit as a 'fellow warrior'. Wagner often spoke about his experiences during the Spring Offensive of 1918. "I still get shivers every time I think about it", he said in a 1997 interview with RNN. The Spring Offensive was a massive operation. 1,750,000 troops (including 1,050,000 Rhodellians), over 500 tanks, and over 1,500 aircraft were committed to one last shot to break the stalemate and win the war in a single stroke. Wagner recounted the 13th Jäger Division seeing more action in six months than in the previous four years put together. His company performed reconnaissance, conducted offensive patrols out in No Man’s Land, captured outposts, engaged in firefights, and stormed trenches. Wagner performed his duties with distinction, and is credited with many acts of heroism in the face of the enemy. He always volunteered to be the 'point man', he always found a way to advance, and he always found a way to push the objective. He went above and beyond the call of duty. Driven by patriotic fervour, he refused to let his country and fellow countrymen down. Wagner would earn both the Iron Cross 1st and 2nd classes for evacuating 8 wounded soldiers while under fire in one night during the Eighth Battle of the Northern Plain. He would also be awarded the Order of the Black Eagle for heroic actions during The Fifth Battle of Black Forest, where he single-handedly stormed and captured an entire Grand Alliance trench during a night raid, earning himself the noble title of 'Knight of the Realm'. However, it would take more than just heroism to win a total war fought with logistics and modern technology. As the history books tell us, the Spring Offensive eventually ground to a halt. Its rate of advance proved too fast and too ambitious to be sustainable. Rhodellia suffered too many irreplaceable losses in manpower and equipment in the process. The tide of the war turned against Rhodellia. The Grand Alliance would exploit this weakness and launch its own successful counter-offensive, taking back all of the land the Heer captured since 1914. The war would drag on for another 3 years as Grand Alliance forces pushed deeper and deeper into Rhodellian sovereign territory. On November 11, 1921, the Armistice would take effect. The 'Black Treaty' that was signed the following June brought Rhodellia to her lowest point in history: it resulted in major territorial concessions to neighbouring countries, the demilitarisation of key industrial areas, the entire military downsized to a meager 50,000 men, and worse. Even though Rhodellia didn’t (technically) start the war, the Grand Alliance still dumped full blame and responsibility on the defeated kingdom anyway. Wagner regretted not having fought to the bitter end. Thanks to his government, he felt, all the hardships and sacrifices he and his comrades had endured had all been for nothing. He denounced his government’s signing of the Black Treaty as treachery in its highest form. He was formerly a loud advocate of the “stab-in-the-back” myth (Dolchstoßlegende). He blamed 'civilian politicians' for ending the war 'prematurely'. He blamed them for accepting the outrageous demands of the Black Treaty instead of trying harder to bargain for better terms. He blamed them for launching his beloved homeland into a downward spiral with no foreseeable hope of recovery. Wagner would maintain this stance until the 1960s, even though revisionist historians thoroughly dispelled the myth by the 1950s. Military service in the Interwar Period In spite of her warriors' skill and tenacity, Rhodellia lost the Red Deluge. Much of her territory either declared independence or was conceded to Grand Alliance member states. Millions of Rhodellians left the military feeling dejected and betrayed. Meanwhile, Wagner was just happy to be reunited with his whole family again. His extraordinarily lucky family managed to survive the entire conflict without suffering a single loss. Wagner and his father also managed to reconcile over their remarkably similar wartime experiences. Throughout the summer of 1921, almost immediately after the terms of the Black Treaty hit national news, Rhodellia was racked by a series of protests and armed uprisings. They were spearheaded by a number of prominent left-wing activists and politicians. The threat of radical communists hijacking the government did not sit well with Wagner, who identified as a staunch libertarian at the time. And so his entire family took the train to Gottesberg just to join one of the many 'Freikorps' opposing the 'Red Army' revolutionaries swarming the then-capital city. They fought in several firefights, moving from city block to city block city with rifles, shotguns, submachine guns, bayonets, and hand grenades. At one point, Wagner and his eldest brother, Hans, worked together to smoke out a Red Army hideout with a flamethrower. However, the Red Army had the popular support of the majority of Rhodellian people. Red Army sympathisers took over Rhodellia's train network, and began shipping in socialist and communist paramilitary groups from all over the kingdom. By November 1922, Gottesberg was completely under Red Army control. Wagner and his brothers went into hiding as Prime Minister Ernst von Ritter was coerced into stepping down and calling for a snap election. The new government would be dominated by a hard left-wing coalition mostly consisting of the Rhodellian Socialist Party, The Social Democrats, and the Communist Party of Rhodellia. After this, Wagner and his siblings quietly returned home to Janbourg to continue working for the Rödelian Motor Company. They never publicly admitted to their anti-Communist Freikorps involvement until 1968. Wagner was also active during the Rearmament of the Rhodellian military. Prime Minister Dieter Pfiefer of the Rhodellian Socialist Party won a landslide victory in 1932. He roused the Rhodellian people into voting for him by loudly denouncing the Black Treaty, openly criticising other political parties for 'not doing enough' to disregard the treaty, and making his campaign slogan "Make Rhodellia Great Again." His patriotic rhetoric of restoring Rhodellian pride and reclaiming 'rightful Rhodellian clay' proved extremely effective. After being elected into power, Pfiefer began pursuing an aggressive policy of military Rearmament in defiance of the Black Treaty. Contrary to his accusations against his 'cowardly' predecessors, his predecessors began the process in the 1920s, thinking up all sorts of creative ways to circumvent the treaty. From calling their tanks 'tractors'; to organising, training, and equipping police forces in paramilitary fashion; to starting national youth clubs dedicated to teaching children key military skills; to actively encouraging the citizenry to set up their own extremely well-armed paramilitary groups; they tried a lot of things. Wagner was one many 'tractor' commanders sent abroad to partake in secret training programmes for mechanised warfare. Pfiefer needed highly experienced and accomplished soldiers to lead the newly established Wehrmacht. And so, the government approached First Anéantic War veterans such as Wagner and his brothers. All of them accepted their new roles, roused by burning wills to restore Rhodellia to her former glory. Even Alger approved of it. Wagner rejoined the military at the rank of Major and was put in charge of a tank company. In 1938, Pfiefer appointed Frederick von Müsel (secretly Crown Prince Frederick von Rödel) as his successor. The Rhodellian Socialist Party won the 1938 General Election on the same anti-Black Treaty platform. Frederick showed more open disregard for the Black Treaty. He stopped hiding all the tanks and aircraft in Rhodellia built up over the past decade for everyone to see. Wagner, who had just been promoted to Colonel, was assigned to lead Panzer-Regiment 2 of the newly formed 1st Panzer Division. Wagner participated in 'The Reclamation of Rightful Rhodellian Clay' during the Anschluss and Appeasement. His tank can be spotted in several archive films of Rhodellian troops parading down the main streets of retaken cities. The fact that the entire thing seemed to be working out for Rhodellia lit a fire in his heart of iron: it was going to take a lot more than a piece of paper to reverse almost four hundred years of Rhodellian military tradition. Military service in the Second Anéantic War and Rhodellian Crusade By 1940, Rhodellia’s enemies finally realised that their strategy of Appeasement was not working. Rhodellian tanks, aircraft, and infantry kept disregarding other countries' sovereign borders. The former members of the Grand Alliance faced a brand new episode of 'Dolchlander Imperialism' and set about making hasty preparations and (ineffective) ultimatums ahead of the inevitable war. Rhodellia's enemies from the First Anéantic War and Red Deluge hastily reformed as the 'Third Grand Alliance'. They declared war in 1940 to contain the Rhodellians' advance. In response, Pfiefer declared a 'crusade' against the Grand Alliance. And thus, Rhodellia's main theatre of the Second Anéantic War would be referred to as the 'Rhodellian Crusade'. Similar to the first war, the Grand Alliance intended to bog down Rhodellia in a bloody stalemate. From there, they could hold still and let attrition and resource drain do the rest of the work. They also fully expected the Rhodellians to make a repeat of 1914’s Schlieffen Plan, where the Rhodellians circumvented the Grand Alliance’s main defensive line by invading through a neutral country. The Grand Alliance spent much of the Interwar period upgrading that same defensive line with even more advanced border fortifications to make the Rhodellians more likely to act according to plan. For when that happened, the Grand Alliance would already have a significant permanent force stationed in the aforementioned neutral country. This force would be meant to buy enough time for the rest of the Grand Alliance to mobilise and transport its forces to the frontlines. Unfortunately, the plan fell through in 1939 when said neutral country unexpectedly withdrew from the agreement. This forced the Grand Alliance to spread their forces along another, much wider and less well-fortified stretch of border. In 1940, the Rhodellians invaded the same neutral country as expected. What the Grand Alliance's leadership did not expect was for the Rhodellians to circumvent their entire defensive line yet again. The Wehrmacht infiltrated into Grand Alliance territory by driving its armoured and mechanised divisions through what the Grand Alliance previously thought was an 'impassable' forest. This strategic manoeuvre, the Manstein Plan, enabled the Wehrmacht to flank and encircle Grand Alliance divisions and terrorise their logistics. The Grand Alliance launched desperate counter-offensive after desperate counter-offensive to reverse the situation, only for their hastily-mobilised replacement armies to get flanked, encircled, and enveloped by Rhodellian Panzer, Panzergrenadier, and Motorised divisions. The Spring Offensive of 1918 may have doomed Rhodellia in the First Anéantic War, but it would actually help the kingdom during the Second Anéantic War: it gave the Heer and Luftwaffe the institutional experience to perform textbook combined arms assaults from the start of the war. Within seven weeks, Rhodellian troops were already goose-stepping through the streets of their first enemy capital. Historians would coin the term “blitzkrieg” with this success in mind. The 1st Panzer Division took part in Fall Gelb (Case Yellow) and Fall Rot (Case Red), seeing the destruction and surrender of numerous foes in the opening years of the Rhodellian Crusade. At this point, it was still primarily a war of movement. Wagner relished these years the most. His Panzer-Regiment 2 served in the vanguards of numerous operations. He fought with speed, cunning, and aggression that very few Grand Alliance commanders could match. As per Rhodellian doctrine for officers, Wagner always stayed close to the action where he could closely observe new developments and direct his troops. His men respected him as a paternal figure, trusting his experience and wisdom. Wagner reciprocated this trust, and so his men went out of their way to make him proud in return. His penchant for offensive operations, manouevre, and mechanised warfare earned him the nickname “The Iron Lancer”. His meritorious actions in Fall Gelb and Fall Rot would earn him the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st classes yet again. At this point, everything seemed to be going great. Unfortunately for Rhodellia, the war would start slowing down after 1942. They intended to win the war by 1943 before their manpower and oil reserves began drying up. But the Grand Alliance began putting up better, more organised resistance the deeper the Wehrmacht pushed. It did not help that the Wehrmacht was severely overstretching its supply lines. By 1943, the Grand Alliance’s conscription programmes were fully operational and their industries had fully adapted to the needs of total war. Successive layers of defensive lines were built to bog down Rhodellian advances while they prepared their own counter-offensives. Urban, woodland, and mountain warfare became the order of the day. Wagner - who preferred the fluid “war of manoeuvre” that defined the previous years - was way out of his element. While he was able to improvise, adapt, and overcome like most other Heer officers, Rhodellia was still faltering on the grand strategic level. It sorely lacked the manpower, the oil supply, and the industrial output to match all of its neighbours in the Grand Alliance. Most historians agree that the war became completely unwinnable for Rhodellia by 1944, if it was ever winnable at all. The Grand Alliance would gradually begin pushing the Rhodellians back to their Post-Black Treaty borders. Rather than winning the war, Prime Minister Müsel changed the Wehrmacht's objective to making the Grand Alliance "bleed for every inch of ground." Fighting would persist for another four years, until Müsel 'suspended' the Rhodellian Crusade with the inconclusive Armistice of 1948 - in effect, it would be a glorified ceasefire. The Kingdom of Rhodellia failed to achieve any of the objectives it originally set out to accomplish in 1938. No territories ended up exchanging hands despite millions of people dying on both sides. Nevertheless, many Wehrmacht troops like Wagner took some morbid satisfaction in inflicting disproportionately horrendous death and destruction on the Grand Alliance. Wagner described the end of war as "rather cathartic". As far as soldiers like him were concerned, the fight to 'Make Rhodellia Great Again' was still far from over. Peace is just time to prepare for the next war. Wagner retired from military service soon after the 1948 Armistice. Retirement Wagner continued to live in his home city of Janbourg with his wife, Amelia. They married back in 1924. They raised seven children together. Among them was rock musician Royce 'Roy' Wagner and soap opera actress Isabelle Lacy. Wagner kept his experiences in the Anéantic Wars close to heart. He attended every Memorial Day service since 1922, each time without fail. He regularly met with his comrades from both Anéantic Wars at various Veterans’ Reunions every year, each time without fail. As many Rhodellians will fondly remember, he even gave a heartfelt speech at the 'Thank You' concert for disabled veterans last December. Death and Funeral On February 17 at 1731, Herr Roswalt von Wagner's family called paramedics to their multi-generational home in Janbourg’s suburbs. Wagner cheerfully told the paramedics that he could 'feel' that his time had finally come. He had previously stated on national television, on multiple occasions, that he didn’t had no intent of dying in a hospital bed. His family and the paramedics respected his wish. His grandson and a paramedic helped the wheelchair-bound Wagner to his house's garage. In there, Wagner kept the tank he commanded in the second half of the Rhodellian Crusade, a heavily-customised Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf. H Command variant his crew dubbed 'The Edelweiss'. As all of his crew mates had already passed away long before him, his great grand children crewed the tank as surrogates. Wagner himself occupied the commander's seat. They drove multiple laps around the neighbourhood while the rest of the local community was informed of what was going on. Wagner exchanged military salutes with people as his tank rolled past them on the street. He also began singing every verse of the Panzerlied. At precisely 1811, Wagner passed away a few seconds after reciting the last few lines: “If Death's bullet does find us… and fate calls us away, then our tank will become an honourable iron grave.” Despite his extraordinary age, Wagner’s death came as a shock to Rhodellia. His last major television appearance was the previous December. Such was his passion and energy at the Thank You concert that many Rhodellians on social media were convinced that the super-centenarian still had more than a few good years left in him. People have been hugely supportive towards Wagner’s family as the news made the rounds on social media and national television. King August III and Prime Minister Theodore Michaelis have expressed their condolences on all of their personal social media accounts. Most Rhodellian government buildings and military bases lowered their flags at half-mast. Panzerfahren ace Fredericka Wagner, one of Wagner's great-great grandchildren, posted a tribute video on social media that has since gained over 121,000 likes within 24 hours. Another tribute video made by the Rhodellian Veterans’ Association celebrating his life has gained over 423,000 likes within 24 hours. A state funeral will be arranged for Wagner on February 24 at 1100. The procession will take place in his home city of Janbourg. More information will be updated as soon as it becomes available. 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  14. To: The Agios Basilikon Kounsistorion of the Megas Agios Basileia ton Arhomanion From: King August von Rödel III, Chancellor Theobald Michaelis, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Takoda Wagner of the Kingdom of Rhodellia It is an honour for you to have personally reached out to our humble nation state. Aside from the Yellow Empire, Rhodellians have historically looked up to the Aroman, Adapton, and Tagmatine Empires as guiding lights, helping to set our growth and development in the forward and pioneering direction it did. The kingdom is grateful. As one good turn deserves another, it would be Rhodellia’s pleasure to join Tagmatium and the rest of the Free World in its quest for a brighter tomorrow. As you have proposed, an exchange of embassies is in order. It will be an excellent first step towards a longstanding, mutually-beneficial relationship between our respective nations and peoples. Firstly, there is the matter of location. Foreign embassies are built in Gottesberg’s Capital District, specifically in a suburb called Oststrand. Oststrand is almost entirely dedicated to foreign embassies; it is currently host to many diplomatic missions, including those of: The Grand Duchy of Kirvina, The Worker's Republic of Fulgistan, The Rihan Republic, The Federative Republic of Shffahkia, and The Holy Empire of Derthalen. Within the suburb, there are plenty of reserved plots to choose from. Once your surveyors arrive, they may pick any one plot to construct an embassy in. Elsewhere in Rhodellia (even in major cities) are smaller plots available should you wish to build consulates to supplement the main embassy. The specifics can be negotiated in finer detail at another date. Second, there is the matter of transit. Oststrand is mainly serviced by a dual carriageway (Waldseemüller Road). Several public bus lines run through the area. The nearest train station to Oststrand is Reichstag Station. Like the name implies, it can be found opposite the Reichstag (Parliament) building, on Waldseemüller Road. Reichstag Station services the Gottesberg Underground’s Hindenburg Line, Gottesberg Monorail’s Siegfried Line, multiple tram lines, and plenty of buses. Other local landmarks that can help your embassy staff navigate Capital District include: The National Library, The National Museum, The Rhodellian War Memorial, and Memorial Park. Gottesberg International Airport and Ehrler Airport can be reached either by Gottesberg Underground (via the Bülow Line), Gottesberg Maglev (via the Zeppelin Line), or the Autobahn (via Autobahn 1). Should you choose to build consulates elsewhere in the country, you can reach them via the Autobahn, interstate flights from Ehrler Airport, high-speed railways from Wilhelm II Station and Manstein Park Station, and many other stations that serve buses, low-speed railways, and river ferries. Using the high-speed railway network, personnel, supplies, and equipment can cost-effectively travel from one side of the country to the other in under 12 hours. Even if it was originally developed with national defence in mind, we hope that Rhodellia’s transportation network will serve you well. Thirdly, there is the matter of security. Your diplomats are safe anywhere in Rhodellia. The only exception would be the Nordwalde District, where there is an ongoing peacekeeping operation. However, your diplomats may find Rhodellian culture to be "outlandish". Inform them that they should not be alarmed should they see pedestrians casually walking in the streets while open-carrying military-grade assault rifles, bayonets, or other weapons. The kingdom is not in a state of unrest or civil war. Students normally carry automatic rifles to their schools and youth clubs. Adults often carry weapons to shooting ranges after work. Rest assured; they are trained operators starting from primary school. Most Rhodellians living in urban areas prefer to use public transport or walk to their destinations, so the sheer amount of gun owners present in the country is highly visible. Contrary to what some foreign news outlets might claim to push gun control agendas in their own countries, crime rates in Gottesberg are remarkably low and residents generally feel safe. Should the need to supplement your embassies and consulates’ security detail arise, your staff are free to call upon local law enforcement or hire local private military contractors. Embassy staff can also be issued Provisional Gun Licenses at their request. Overall, Oststrand is a secure, recommended spot for an embassy. Fourthly, there is the matter of Rhodellia’s ambassador to Tagmatium. We have selected politician, industrialist, and ex-Luftwaffe colonel Arend Vogel to represent the kingdom’s interests and policies in your country. Preparations on the Rhodellian side of the embassy exchange are still well underway, hence our delayed response. We in Rhodellia hope that progress on the Tagmatine side will go just as well, if not better. Since her conception in 1871, the Kingdom of Rhodellia has always sought to live by her founding principles of freedom, liberty, and democracy. Rhodellia is committed to spreading those values to the wider world. Though the kingdom may be humanist and secular, it embraces freedom of religion as part of its Bill of Rights and Constitution; Rhodellia is happy to cooperate with any state regardless of what religion or denomination they may affiliate with. Our methods may be different, but we share a common end goal. Between us there is unlimited potential to make a positive change in the world. Let us engage in jolly cooperation, and work hand-in-hand towards a better, more prosperous humanity.
  15. Cheers for the feedback! I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have over the next few days. I'll also give some justifications for stuff, like technological advancements and their chronology. Many native tribes specifically set out to destroy the Colonies very early on. Their warriors attacked hunters, shepherds, and farmers . They also launched raids on settlements. What stopped them from succeeding was that: Natives also had other natives to deal with. Just because a new kid showed up on the block, doesn't mean that everyone will immediately forget their rivalries, unite together, and gang up on him. Plenty of native tribes aligned themselves with the Derthaler. Rather than threats, they saw the Derthaler as an opportunity to rise in power over bigger, more established tribes. This meant that Derthalen's Rhodellian Colonies managed to amass coalitions big enough to counter the more powerful tribes in the local area. This made for an effect deterrent against most genuine threats to the Colonies' existence; attacking a Colony also meant going to war with all of that Colony's allies. The resulting conflict would have likely weakened your tribe enough for a rival to finish it off. Minority tribes could then rule over majority tribes in Derthalen's stead. Alternatively, playing two or more tribes against each other would weaken their influence while bolstering the Colonies'. IRL, "Divide and rule" was used by European colonists to great effect in North, Central, and South America; Africa; and the Indian subcontinent. Derthaler colonists governments consciously practised the same political strategy, knowing that they were (initially) at a severe manpower disadvantage. This above was also the case for larger native civilisations. They had their own balance of power to maintain with other large civilisations. Going to war with the Colonies not only entailed weakening yourself in a war with Derthalen, but also left you in danger of attack or being overtaken by a local rival. The most practical options would have been to ignore or trade with the Derthaler. Derthaler colonists had copious amounts of weapons. Most people armed themselves with axes, spears, and guns; compared to swords and self-bows, these weapons were easier to use with less training. Just like with the European colonisation of North America (according to Blackwater founder Erik Prince), there were mercenaries around as stand-ins for Derthalen's Imperial Army. There were also some knights (nigh-unkillable murder machines when in full plate armour) among the colonists. Furthermore, the Derthaler had the benefit of artillery. They were many decades ahead in military technology. It would have required a massive military operation to wipe out the Colonies. Even then, severe casualties would have been inevitable for the attackers, more than enough to leave them vulnerable to attacks of opportunity. It was not worth attacking the Colonies The primary inspiration for the Battle of the Bottleneck is Japan's Battle of Nagashino (1575), which pitched the combined forces of Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyasu against Takeda Katsuyori. It saw the devastating use of stockades and rotating volleys of gunfire by Oda-Tokugawa arquebusiers against repeated Takeda assaults. In the Battle of the Bottleneck, the New Rhodellian Army's musketeers used a similar tactic against the army of Kimsantinsuyu (OTL Inca Empire). The Derthaler defensive line consisted of multiple layers. Each was filled with a block of pikemen or rank of musketeers, depending on the situation. The first few layers consisted of trenches that Derthaler musketeers could shoot from. Behind them would be more ranks of musketeers standing above-ground, firing over the first few ranks' heads. This arrangement also allowed the New Rhodellian Army's direct-fire artillery to shoot at the enemy as well. The trenches also served other purposes. The colonists knew what cover was and how to use it. Medieval castles had battlements for a reason, so the concept of cover isn't new. Native Rhodellians made effective use of cover in battles against Derthaler colonists from the very first Derthaler-Native conflicts of the 1480s. The colonists were able to pick up the concept very early on, and use it to stand toe-to-toe with native warriors. In the Age of Gunpowder and Military Revolution (as described by historians Michael Roberts and Geoffrey Parker), the "trace italienne" bastion fort replaced the medieval-style castle. Derthaler colonial troops built their own forts in the same style starting from the 16th century, and they would have been smart enough to know how to know how to assault their own fortifications. The best way to get troops within assaulting distance of a bastion fort (without getting mauled by defensive artillery) is to dig parallel and zigzag trenches towards the fortifications. By the 1610s, the concept of using trenches as cover wouldn't have been considered new or groundbreaking. At the Battle of the Bottleneck, the terrain was relatively flat farmland with only a few groves of trees to use for lumber. For cover, they got out shovels and dug trenches. Dug-up soil was used to fill gabions that above-ground musketeers and artillery crews could use as their own cover. The trenches protected the troops from incoming artillery in the battle's opening stage; cannonballs fired from field guns flew in a relatively flat arc, meaning they tended to bounce over trenches. During the skirmishing stage of the battle, Derthaler colonists would have ducked for cover when they saw that an enemy was about to fire a volley, and pop out to return fire while the enemy was reloading. This would minimise damage received while maximising damage dealt in return. In the melee stage of the battle, the trenches still benefited the Derthaler. They served as artificial chokepoints, funnelling numerically-superior enemy troops into better-armed and better-armoured Derthaler pikemen and halberdiers. The confines of the trenches meant that there was no way to manoeuvre around the reach of these weapons; the only option for attacking enemies was to walk into the pointy sticks and get stabbed to death. Enemy troops already exhausted themselves running gauntlets of obstacles and before reaching the Derthaler lines. This made knocking down or hacking through sturdy, deeply-embedded wooden stockades very hard to do, especially with thousands of highly-skilled and coordinated musketeers shooting at you from well within their weapons' effective range. The best way of not getting mowed down was to jump into a trench through an existing breach in the stockades. This created meatgrinders that favoured the Derthaler. The Derthaler colonists were no strangers to concealment either. The enemy commander was confident that his numerical superiority would make up for any technological disparities; he (rightfully) assumed that the Derthaler Colonies had a significantly lower population than Kimsantinsuyu. What he couldn't know, was that the Colonies had the financial, organisational, administrative, and logistical infrastructure to field a larger proportion of their population. Feudal nations that raised armies from their vassals could normally field up to 1.2% of their total population. The Colonies could field approximately 5% of their combined population. The Kimsantinsuyu commander's estimates of Derthalen's military strength could have been up to 4 times smaller than reality. If you think from his perspective, his odds looked pretty good. The Derthaler commander predicted this, and sought to exploit it. The trenches helped to hide the true number of soldiers the New Rhodellian Army brought with it, giving a false impression of weakness. The Kimsantinsuyu commander, his generals, and his scouts lacked telescopes. They could only see a weak Derthaler force compensating for a serious numerical disadvantage with temporary field fortifications. This would have reinforced their idea of an easy victory through overwhelming numbers. They (understandably) underestimated their opposition and acted far less cautiously than they ought to have. And so, the Kimsantinsuyu army essentially went all-in. By the time they realised that they mucked up and got bamboozled, the battle was already lost. The flamethrowers used in the Battle of the Bottleneck were of the Chinese variety. It's stated in Rhodellia's main history factbook that they were originally picked up either from the former Yellow Empire (the Orient). Because the Colonies were still trying to reverse-engineer the weapons and their ammunition as of 1617, it's also stated that the Colonies had issues manufacturing them; it wasn't economical at the time. That's why the New Rhodellian Army only had a handful of experimental flamethrowers available for field-testing. On their own, the few flamethrowers present wouldn't have caused more than a hundred or so casualties before their limited supply of fuel ran out. Their biggest contribution to the battle was the terrifying psychological effect it had on Kimsantinsuyu troops who had never seen someone spit literal fire before; it demoralised them into a large-scale rout. The enemy commander surrendered shortly after. The Commonwealth's decisive victory at the battle would have presented a powerful case for colonial engineers and scientists to continue developing flamethrower technology. The cylindrical containers, bellows, and hoses were easy enough to make. The primary issue facing development was figuring how to economically produce large quantities of flamethrower fuel. The lack of petroleum was problematic. By 1617, colonial farmers in Rhodellia had already encountered small oil wells by accident. However, the Commonwealth wouldn't discover petroleum in any sizeable quantities until the 1860s Oil Rush. Before that, the Rhodellian military mostly depended on small quantities of imported oil originating from what is now the Greater Fulgistan area. Flamethrowers would have seen limited military use until the second half of the 19th century. I can see the Army using them defensively in sieges. They'd have no place in naval warfare in the Age of Sail; they're too much of a fire hazard. The facilities developing and manufacturing flamethrowers and flamethrower fuel would have been state-run. The Agricultural Revolution was a long, gradual process lasting from the 1620s to the late 19th century. Across most of Europe during the Middle Ages, land was either owned by The Church, feudal lords, yeomen, or by the village community. In that last case, it was called "common land" because everyone was free to use it however they please. In the Early Modern Era, that began to change. Church land was starting to be confiscated; this happened in England, with King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries. Feudalism was dying as countries became increasingly centralised. Common land was being fenced off by landowners in a process known as "Enclosure", which allowed them to more efficiently cultivate the land. Enclosure was fiercely resisted by peasants in many areas, as they depended on Common land for grazing and firewood. In the Colonies' case... the colonial branch of the Ecclesiarchy never managed to grow into a large landowner; it never could exert the same power it did back in Derthalen. The colonial nobility mostly lived modest lives, usually owning no more than a humble manor home with a few servants. Colonial assemblies and the Commonwealth government made sure that no nobles were allowed to become overly-powerful through land ownership, thereby becoming a threat to the new society. "Enclosure" was a thing since the very start of Derthaler colonisaton; peasants were not allowed by Derthalen's Imperial law to migrate to the Colonies. Just like during the British colonisation of Australia, there was a lot of "first-come-first-served" land-grabbing involved, with colonists and pioneers rushing to fence off unclaimed (by Derthaler) land before others could beat them to it. By the 1620s, almost all of the arable land in the Colonies was enclosed and under private ownership (though there were exceptions). Around this time, a large "internal market" was growing around Rhodellia. Great Britain had to invest massive amounts of money in roads and canals to facilitate the transit of goods due to the undeveloped state of its road networks in the same period. Meanwhile, the foundations for Rhodellia's road networks were laid as early as the Mid-16th century; the Colonies had their own standardised system of military roads and highways, explicitly stealing the idea from Kimsantinsuyu (Inca roads) and the Aroman Empire (Roman roads). These roads were still maintained by the time of the First Valley War (1616 - 1617). Travelling merchants and the like frequently used them. The Colonies also didn't have to invest loads of money into building new canals either; it already had two major rivers running through them. The Westfluss and Ostfluss connected the Coastal Colonies to the Inland Colonies. Their tributary and distributary rivers offered access to even more inland settlements. It is significantly more cost-efficient to transport goods over long distances via water than it is via road. This greatly benefited the United States of America, which had natural waterways like the Mississippi river network connecting agricultural areas to almost every part of the country. It also helped that each Colony had education laws like the American Pilgrims: the common person was supposed to be literate in order to understand and facilitate their Proto-Alleman Doctrine sect of the Imperial Truth. They had access to schools, apprenticeships, vocational schools, and universities. Ideas like four-course crop rotation, composting, and new windmills could be spread, understood, and applied very quickly. Farmers were very inclined to innovate in order to stay competitive. From the 18th century onwards, the Rhodellian Agricultural Revolution roughly follows the British Agricultural Revolution as far as technology (like seed drills and artificial fertilisers) is concerned, except with more corn and potatoes as staple crops. A lot of Native Rhodellian farming techniques were also adopted by farmers. This includes terraced farming, which was picked up from Kimsantinsuyu (which, to repeat, was based on the RL Inca Empire) after the First Valley War; terraced farming allowed farmers to cultivate hills and highland. Rhodellia's agricultural revolution essentially had a big head start thanks to the local geography, the logistical needs of military campaigns (which often) creating a well-deveoloped infrastructure network, Derthaler culture, and native peoples who already had their own sophisticated means of agriculture. It was arguably in a better position to have an Agricultural Revolution than real-life Britain. I'll be explaining it in better detail in an upcoming Culture factbook, but here's what I have so far: Just like the name implies, Bajonettkampf specialises in the use of bayonets. It's heavily inspired by Krav Maga: it pick-and-mixes moves and techniques from fighting styles across the world to form an efficient, practical martial art for realistic scenarios. Techniques and philosophies rise and fall out of favour depending on a lot of factors; this leads to a constant state of evolution. Within the Kingdom, there are thousands of dojo-like martial arts schools solely dedicated to teaching bayonet-fighting, with hundreds of distinct "schools" or "styles" to choose from. Rhodellia's martial arts culture primarily evolved from its historical cultural exchanges with the Yellow Empire (and its successor states) and the Thalassan continent. It also evolved from historical Derthaler (HEMA) and Native Rhodellian martial arts, which did not die out in the Age of Gunpowder; historical martial arts instructors made sure to write everything down and publish their work, just to carry on their legacies. Rhodellian bayonet-fighting is split into two main categories: "Military" and "Non-Military". The first and original category is "Military" Bajonettkampf. Following the philosophy of real-life Krav Maga, it designed to be extremely efficient: practical in real-world combat scenarios and focused entirely on killing the enemy. Though it has many off-shoots, the government only recognises two official style of Military Bajonettkampf, and both of them are developed and regulated by the Wehrmacht's "Bayonet-fighting Commission". The first style is taught to conscripts when they enter National Service and volunteers when they re-enlist. The second style (which incorporates more advanced techniques that can't be mastered in a matter of months) is taught to special forces operators. The second and most diverse category is "Non-Military" Bajonettkampf. Only a minority of "Non-Military" bayonet-fighting styles are optimised to kill. Most Non-Military styles deliberately miss the entire point of the martial art: their purposes range from self-defence to competition sports. Different fighters have their own preferred ways of doing things, so here you will find a lot of variation in philosophy and technique. All Rhodellian schools from Kindergarten to Secondary are required to teach Bajonettkampf to their students, but exactly how and what they're taught is dependent on the instructors they choose to hire. Students' fighting abilities are examined and graded each year by a panel of judges working for the Department of Defence. This affects a school's overall rating, same as any academic subject. Rhodellian bayonet-fighting would have evolved a lot over time. Before the age of machine guns, Military Bajonettkampf would have been oriented either towards winning skirmishes or clashes between massed infantry formations. In the age of trench warfare, Military Bajonettkampf would have been oriented towards knife-fighting in the tight confines of trenches and bunkers. After the Kung Fu Craze of the 1970s, loads of Non-Military Bajonettkampf schools would cash in the craze by incorporating philosophies and techniques we'd associate with RL East Asian martial arts (particularly those from China and Japan). According to my University lecturers, the real-life Enlightenment began in the early 17th century (during the Scientific Revolution) and ended in 1789 (the start of the French Revolution). The 17th century is when you had philosophers like John Locke, whose ideas of liberty would go on to influence American Revolutionary thinking in the 1770s. According to the "Timeline of major events on Eurth" ... Eurth's Age of Renaissance takes place between 1300 and 1600. Eurth's Age of Political Revolutions takes place between 1750 and 1850. It follows practically the same timeframe as real-life Earth. From this, it can be inferred that Eurth's Age of Enlightenment occurred roughly at the same time as Eurth's. Like most Rhodellians today, Derthaler colonists in Rhodellia followed the ambitious, rational, and scientific-minded Imperial Truth. However, they followed an Alleman Doctrine-esque sect of the Truth that extended the active pursuit of enlightenment to all people. Just like how the ancient Jews had to be literate in order to comprehend the Torah and Judaism, the Derthaler in Rhodellia had to be educated and literate in order to practice their religion. By the time the Colonies were founded in 1483, the Imperial Truth was practically as old as Christianity itself. Rationality, scientific thought, and progress were already deeply-ingrained in Derthaler culture. Native Rhodellians assimilating into the Colonies were gradually converted by the Ecclesiarchy to embody the same ideals. A "Scientific Revolution" like the one Europe had in real life would have been "business as normal" for the colonists, who were already naturally inclined towards innovation and science. Scientific practice would already have been professionalised and institutionalised for a long time. By the 17th century, the Colonies would already have been in a great position to start embracing the Enlightenment. I put the start of Rhodellia's embracement of Enlightenment in the 1700s for a reason. The Enlightenment was born from newer interpretations of Christian theology, which were of course thought up by Christian philosophers. Those ideas would have had to make their way to the Rhodellian Commonwealth, be translated into Derthaler language, and finally undergo a secular rethinking to be compatible with the atheistic Imperial Truth. Overall, this process should have been completed by the 1710s or 1720s. Rebooted Enlightenment ideas of liberty, freedom, and democracy would have resonated very well with colonists. The Enlightenment should have been fully embraced the entire Commonwealth by the 1740s or 1750s, just in time for the designated Age of Political Revolutions. Rhodellia's adopted plug bayonets since 1671. Bayonet fighting had been a significant pillar of its military doctrine since then with the phasing out of pikes. In the 30 years to 1701, Rhodellia would have experienced two major conflicts - The Second Coalition War and the Samosetian Deluge - along with several other minor conflicts to stress-test the plug bayonet in battle, discover the myriad issues plaguing the design, and work out a solution. The Commonwealth has proportionally seen as much fighting as Ancien Régime France in the same period, but has other advantages working in its favour. 1701 is a perfectly reasonable date to introduce the socket bayonet. The Timeline of major events on Eurth dates the Industrial Revolution: 1760-1830: First industrial revolution including textile, steam, iron, mining, gas 1850-1900: Second industrial revolution including steel, chemical, automobile, petroleum, rubber According to this, the start date of Rhodellia's Industrial Revolution is perfectly in line with Eurth's canon. It's mostly a gradual (not instantaneous) process, just like with everyone else. Here, I'm just simplifying/combining the First and Second industrial revolutions into a single era of technological and industrial development. You don't need an extensive, globe-spanning Empire to start industrialising. Your country just needs the incentive, resources, and ability. Just like with European countries and unlike hegemonic China, (as if all the conflicts weren't enough to get the idea across) the Rhodellian Commonwealth was in bitter competition with its neighbours, and therefore had a powerful incentive to innovate as a means of staying ahead (and therefore, surviving). The Agricultural Revolution; the established trade networks with Derthalen, Fulgiyan, and other countries; and Rhodellia's kleptocratic approach to peace treaties with defeated enemies means that Rhodellia should also have sufficient resources. Rhodellia, with its well-developed infrastructure already existing, universal education laws, high literacy rates, and Imperial Truth, should definitely have the ability to start the process. Rhodellia would have industrialised at a gradual but steady rate after the 1770 because - unlike Britain - it did not follow laissez-faire capitalism. The Workers' Revolution in 1770 meant that business practices were regulated, and sometimes subject to government intervention. Companies couldn't get away with slavery, child labour, underpaying their workers, poor safety precautions, and so on. This should have slowed industrialisation to a reasonable rate in-line with the Eurth Timeline. There shouldn't be a problem. Europeans have been using rocket artillery since the 14th century, according to German military engineer Konrad Kyeser's Bellifortis (1405). Derthalen reasonably should have access to rockets, since there's no Africa or India blocking contact with the China-inspired Yellow Empire. Being in contact with the Sultanate of Fulgiyan (a former part of the Yellow Empire) from the mid-17th century onwards should have kept up the development of rocket technology. There's also nothing stopping Rhodellian tinkerers and inventors from doing their own experiments in the context of the Commonwealth's predicament. I'd wager that Rhodellia's in just as good a position as the Indians when it comes to producing rockets for warfare. I can make up a good story for this too.
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