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The Wings of the Dragon: Zharrian Frontier

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Temporary Imperial Legionary Command HQ
Levee Colonial Legionary Frontier Base #2
House Tagnik Zun Deployment

General Yagarith Zun made her way into the temporary command post. She noted an ill suited to office life individual standing rather tensely, as if it were some sort of sentence of shame. Aria looked like she missed being on the front lines, down in the trenches with her legionary, and leading them into combat, rather than being here, within speaking distance of the political officers. She grinned a bit and settled with a lean of left hip to the edge of her desk, allowing a manila folder to be set before her.

Interesting news M'lord Regent.. Of which Aria sighed and told her she didn't have to refer to the status as such as she leaned back within the office chair, fingers at the sides of the folder. Well then cousin, seems we are primed for deployment into the DeCon Zone. She watched as Aria's interest got the better of her and she opened the folder to show some photographs of black and white. It was mostly farmland, jungle and the ruins of townships. Very little was left of the infrastructure following the bio-weapon/atomic warfare of forty years ago.

There was a steel eyed look in those bluish-greys as she gave such photos a hard examination while responding. Notify the Duke of Levee, that we shall begin deployment of our house forces, and that the colonial legionary shall follow behind as we secure the first fifty kilometers of territory. Yagarith nodded, and replied. It will be done. Also, I've taken the liberty of having the closest commanders awaiting authorization. As soon as the Duke of Levee gives the blue code, they will advance upon your orders.

Aria plucked up the field phone and became stiff, as the sound of a voice on the other end gave authorization verbally. She snapped her finger to Yagarith and as setting the phone down with a soft click. Deploy the columns. We are authorized for advancement into the DeCon Frontier.

In the Field
House Tagnik Zun Legionary
Sengar'd isto Tharim Zun
3rd Column

Through the darkness, step by step gaining elevation on a ridge, came the 3rd Column. For the officers and soldiers equipped with GPS units and two-way tactical radios, which gave them access to information, the picture was clear enough. Company B, which calls itself Lancer, was moving south, climbing a ridge that rose more than nine thousand feet above sea level and towered over the ruins of farmlands and townships alike.

Its mission was to search and scout the jungle and or access the mountainous area beyond. It was not alone. In the cold night air that had settled over the valley below, beyond earshot, a pair of attack helicopters was flying in wide circles. Farther out, and higher, fixed-wing attack aircraft were on station. The legionary could call these upon these assets if something beyond the norm was encountered.

But most of the hundred soldiers in the column did not have radios, and though they had attended briefings and participated in rehearsals, they did not know what was happening minute by minute, beyond that they were walking through dense vegetation and up a very steep hill and just about anything could happen in the days ahead. For each of these soldiers, the infantry life was the infantry life, and the universe had shrunk in the darkness to a small space around soaked boots: a shifting sphere of tree trunks and shrubs, mud and jungle and sky, and the sweaty back of the soldier ahead covered in NBC gear which made the experience the usual amount of terrible.

Even here technology snuck in. As a soldiers chest expanded and shrunk in the thinning air, and as quadriceps and calves strained under the weight of a weapon, ammunition, grenades, helmet, NPC suit, water, food, spare batteries, chem-lights, and first-aid kit, each soldier peered through eyepieces suspended from the enclosed helmet. The eyepiece hung in front of the shooting eye, just beyond the lashes; it was the transmitting end of a night-vision device. Night-vision devices do not open up the night wurld to the full richness of sight.

But they illuminate a private keyhole: a narrow cone visible only to the soldier wearing the lens, who is treated to a grainy, dim, two-dimensional black-and-green version of the wurld. In this case, what mattered most in each soldier's green keyhole was the shimmering back of the soldier ahead. One minute that back would be five yards away. The next it would be a few feet off, as the five platoons in the line extended and shrunk like an accordion being dragged through undergrowth, snagging here and stretching, stalling there and bunching, but always moving forward. And higher.

Each soldier silently peered down through that dim green cone, breathing deeply, picking those next footsteps, walking on. The moon had yet to rise, and they knew that when it did, it would be a sliver, which meant that all night the mountain would be so black that when a soldier switched off his night-vision device, he would see nothing except stars overhead through gaps in the trees. The legionary of the 3rd Column were almost all lean, sinewy even, and acclimated to the air. They knew the rhythms of this place. One of the platoons, 2nd Platoon, had been deployed as a scout force ahead of the initial authorization. 

By sunrise the 3rd Column had reached the false peak of the rangelands immediately facing the jungle ruins valley, a knob of dark soil and stone nearly ninety-two hundred feet above sea level. The true peak was perhaps two hundred yards on. The arrival of light had revealed the surroundings, which were little like the Zharr most people, even many Zharrians in the cities, would recognize. This was logging country, and the area was cloaked in old-growth forest. Some of the tree trunks were more than four feet thick, and their branches towered above the soldiers huddling by the boulders. Prata-Khan Edain, commander of the 1st Cohort, called a halt, and one platoon pushed forward to clear the top. The remaining soldiers, took slow inhales upon the food paste tubes within their suits, rested for the work ahead. Once the column crested the peak, the plan was to break into platoon-sized patrol bases and send out smaller groups to search the peak and the many ridges off of it. Clouds drifted overhead, and as the sun climbed, its light remained dim. The temperature held stubbornly in the mid twenties Celsius, so more than a bit uncomfortable, even with the cooling devices in the suits worn.

In the field, Zharr is rich with variable climates and terrain, not an expanse of baked hills, steppes, and ravines. The Central Province, which includes the Valley, passes as Zharr's jungle, a mountainous region of forests and spires. In springtime it is laced with dark rivers and cascading streams. Away from the valleys, many of which are little more than terraced slots between ridges, its terrain is so forbidding that few roads exist. Here Zharrian's would walk ancient trails. High on and in the mountains, those trails were out of sight, sometimes even from aircraft above, which often cannot penetrate the canopy. 

The platoon ahead radioed back. The peak was clear. 3rd Column stood up and began the last climb, and reached the top quickly. Edain and Taika of the 2nd Cohort ordered the remaining column to continue to the mostly flat ridge beyond. A new wurld opened up: the vista of the opposite side. In every direction were small valleys, and within each were smaller canyons, an unexplored swath of terrain, folded in uncountable ways. This was the Haru experience of rural Zharr in a microcosm, a land of seams beyond measure, with each valley and each hamlet below an area where few Haru's, if any, had stepped in years. Armed drones flew silently overhead and forward while the platoons fanned out.

Over the span of days, sometimes hours, a series of infantry cohorts of the Third Column had been assigned to the jungle ruins and immediate valley. They were a highly lethal force, scores of organized and armed legionary, with night-vision devices and precision navigation equipment, watched over by drones and connected by radios to a mortar section, to an artillery battery, to a pair of helicopter gunships, and to fixed-wing attack aircraft on call, minutes away. This was small-unit maneuver and firepower all but perfected. 3rd Column was at this very moment a Haru standard, the archetype of a forward deployed unit backed by intricate layers of firepower and material and medical support.

It was also a wandering dot in a foreign wilderness. The legionary could clear the area around them and yet could also expect to have little lasting influence on this territory. Inevitably it would move on. In hours. To the next point, and the next, and so on until the initial movement of kilometers had been reached, in tandem with every other column of House and Colonial legionary doing the same.


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