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The Lion, the Leopard, the Wolf, and the Bear


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OOC: This will be the main thread for matters related to the Northern Europa front of the Grand War. It will start out with the diplomatic maneuvering and set up posts before getting to the conflict. I had mostly intended this for @Tagmatium Rules and I to collect our posts related to this part of the war, but if any other players have posts related to the coming Northern Europan theater feel free to post or link them. I always think more story posts adds fun. If you do post a story post here, please try your best to follow style conventions here. Putting a chapter name and title like so. In bold: Chapter Number in Roman numerals: Chapter Title.

Moderators: if this thread would better fit in a different sub forum please feel free to move it.

Part One

Chapter I

January 17th, 2022, early afternoon

The Anglians approach the dormant giant in the north of Europa, Volsci, with a proposal.

Chapter II

January 17th, 2022, afternoon

Volscian and Anglian representatives discuss their wurld views.

Chapter III

January 17th, 2022, afternoon

A diminutive diplomat goes out on a limb to commit the two powers to an uneasy alliance.

Chapter IV

January 20th, 2022, afternoon

Concerned about developments in wurld events, Aroman and Gaellician officers begin the tentative process of defrosting tensions between the nations on either side of the Oinops channel.

Chapter V

March 9th, 2022, late afternoon

The premiere of Volsci and his protege have a philosophical conversation.

Chapter VI

March 9th, 2022, evening

The Triumvirate of Volsci convenes and decides on a plan of attack for the war.

Chapter VII

January 20, 2023

As the Volscian invasion looms, various Gaellicians enjoy some final moments of peace for many months, unbeknownst to themselves.

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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Story best enjoyed with this soundtrack.

Chapter I: In the Land of Dragons

January 17th, 2022

Qat Coal Prefecture, 130 KM north of Sora

“Nostrovia!” A chorus of clinking crystal accented a cacophony of roaring coal miners and local politicians. The gathered officials downed their fifth or sixth vodka shot of the afternoon and roared once more in excitement.

Deputy Executive Triumvir Alyeksandr Voremen, his face flushed red, laughed and put his hands up. “Gentlemen, I really must get going now if I am to make it back to Antium.” The room responded to him with jeers and boos, begging him to have at least one more. The Deputy Executive Triumvir made a show of relenting before smiling and holding up his index finger as the number one. The men hooted ecstatically. The vodka was poured out once more, topping up the conical crystal shot glasses of each man.

“To the republic.”

“To the republic!”

The glasses clinked, and the vodka was swallowed.

Nickolai Lebedev stood by the main door to the ornate dining room, catching the eye of his boss. He tapped his watch, signalling that it was time to go. Alyeksandr used his large size and height to burrow through the crowd of diminutive rustics, making sure to shake the hand and laugh at the jokes of the mayor, the mine foreman, and the local magistrate on his way out.

As soon as the Deputy Executive Triumvir and his secretary were in the hallway, he dropped any notion of insobriety.

“How did I do, Nickolai?”

“A masterful job, sir. We can expect to see a large increase and improvement in lignite coal production this coming quarter.” Stuttered the squat secretary.

Two identical and unusually square men, with identical suits, identical haircuts, and identical scowls on their faces, met the men at the end of the hallway. The bodyguards helped the two officials into warm down coats before the four of them exited the gilded town hall into the bracing cold. The local police captain, what appeared to be the entire town’s force of 6 police officers, and 8 Republic Volksarme* waited stolidly and exactly in the town square. Upon the front door opening, the guards marched in two lines to meet the Deputy Executive.

Nickolai watched with amusement as the two lines attempted to out march the other. Dressed in their best and puffing their chests out like peacocks, the guards formed a phalanx around the Deputy Executive Triumvir and his entourage, escorting them a total of 12 feet to an idling SUV. Sadly, the display of local security prowess was missed by most. It was snowing and anyone who cared about Voremen's visit, including journalists, was inside the town hall getting sloshed.

As soon as the two square bodyguards sat in the front seats of the SUV, they were off. Police cars wailed in front and behind the SUV as the motorcade sped up roads of mud and ice, through thick pine forest at over a hundred kilometers an hour. Climbing a slope, Nickolai got an excellent view of the region out his window. The town of Qat sat perched atop a cropping of rock, a part of the base of the Matryaus** mountains. Rolling lignite*** hills merged into the base of the mountains, much like waves crashing into cliffs. The path the motorcade took reminded Nickolai of a scenic drive around a large bay. Qat’s massive pit mine bustled below, the scale of the operation calling into question the small size of the town above.

After a sprint around the ‘bay’ the convoy pulled up to a remote structure buried in trees. It was an old radio surveillance outpost. A rusted tower sat wilted beside the concrete building. The police officers poured out of their cars, running to be seen by Voremen. A volksarme and a police officer both rushed for the chance to open the Deputy Executive’s car door, a game of chicken. The volksarme officer turned away at the last moment, settling for standing valiantly beside the SUV. Voremen gave the winner the highlight of his career by nodding politely while stepping out of the car. He paid no notice to the other police officers and volksarme jostling with each other for the best looking guard positions.

Upon reaching the bunker-like entrance, Alyeksander changed his demeanor, making a show of swaying into the building and speaking too loudly, cutting through most of the usual ceremony.

“Greetings, friends from across the water!”

The Anglians stood to greet him and as he made his way down the line Voremen became aware that the important figures were Anglia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Heston Scribbenforth, and the Anglian ambassador, Abbott Peaceman Sr.

The Anglians had turned the outpost into a conference room the best they could, pulling a long table to the center of the room. A small heating stove crackled in the corner. Voremen and his secretary sat on one side of the table, facing a bank of porthole like windows. The Anglians sat facing the entrance.

Speaking Sabellic, Peaceman Sr. began the meeting as formally as he could. “Mister Deputy Executive, we have brought an exciting opportunity to Volsci today.”

Nickolai made a show of translating Anglish statements into Sabellic. The meeting essentially ran on autopilot with Voremen, playing the drunk, giving purposefully short and undetailed answers. In truth, the Deputy Executive mostly ignored the proceedings, focusing instead on the coalmine out the window closest to him. A towering black dragon devoured the landscape, dredging up dirty brown coal with its bucket wheel and sucking it down its endless tail of conveyor belts. His attention returned when Nickolai asked him a question for the second time.

“They asked for your thoughts on the proposal, sir.”

The color drained from the Deputy Executive Triumvir’s face, and he sat up straight in his chair. Looking down on the Anglians he spoke coldly in their tongue.

“Gentlemen, let us dispense with the facade. You did not travel all this way merely to ask Volsci to invest in uranium mining in Lysia. This is not a matter so important that you need to discuss it with me. Let us be honest. When you insist on meeting with me, you want to reach the Triumvirate quickly. What do you really want?”

The Anglians murmured amongst themselves for a moment. Their clever, subtle approach had been dashed to pieces. Heston Scribbenforth finally responded.

“Sir, you are right that we hoped to broach a subject of higher importance while here. A matter of security.”

Voremen maintained the same expression on his face, waiting for the Anglians to continue.

Nickolai provided some encouragement.

“This is a secure site. All present have been thoroughly vetted by the Secretariat. I assure you it is safe for you to speak.”

“Very well.” Scribbenforth coughed into a handkerchief before continuing. He resembled the average Anglian civil servant. Balding, mustached, bespectacled, and average in height. “There is a new wurld order coming. One which Anglia will be presiding over. A more natural, correct order. One great power can certainly recognize another. Anglia observes a number of shared interests between itself and the Volsci Republic. Our nations both need to reassert authority over land that should rightfully fall under our jurisdiction. There are forces that seek to challenge both our nations’ rightful place in the wurld.”

Nickolai nodded for Scribbenforth to continue.

“With this in mind, let us engage in an intellectual exercise. A geopolitical simulation, if you will. It is a big wurld. Big enough where Anglia could share it… with the right partner.”

Voremen coaxed more out of the Deputy Foreign Minister. He was now intrigued. “And if in this hypothetical, Volsci is that partner, what do we bring to the table?”

Scribbenforth found himself growing in confidence. “Anglia is capable of handling threats abroad, upstarts in the new wurld. Yet there is concern about Europa, the Occident in particular.”

“The Aroman menace.”

“Naturally. I am sure you are aware of a thorn in the side in the region as well. Not a large threat like the ‘Holy’ Empire, but a thorny problem.”

“Volsci is very conscious of the rocks in the middle of the sea. Very… aware of their capabilities and more importantly, their weaknesses.”

“If Volsci wanted to remove those rocks, wanted to take them off of the board, Anglia would lend its support. As for Aromania, they have rightfully earned their place as a great Europan power. They are merely a little confused about their place in the wurld at the moment. If Volsci were to keep them occupied, distract them, Anglia would be grateful.”

“Occupied? Distracted? These are rather gentle ideas for what is in reality a big ask of the Republic’s citizenry.”

Nickolai interjected. “All hypothetically, of course.”

Voremen nodded. He continued cynically, drawing the Anglian's out. “Yes of course. Hypothetically, it would cost resources, human lives.”

Scribbenforth understood what was being asked and provided a crumb. “Anglia would of course be willing to support the maintaining of any territorial gains hard won by the Republic, as long as they were not within Aromania.”

Voremen adopted a neutral expression. “Continuing this intellectual exercise, would the same support apply to Volsci’s rightful domain over its waters?”

“It would.” Scribbenforth frowned while Peaceman Sr. shifted in his chair uncomfortably.

Voremen continued to coax the Anglians into showing their hand. “And most importantly, would there be support for Volsci once again having full domain over the north and all land and resources that reside there?”

The Anglians murmured amongst themselves for a moment before Scribbenforth returned a response.

“Anglia would, but not immediately. In hunting, you must bag the smaller prizes before focusing all efforts on the big game.”

“You are a hunter?”

“I am indeed. The finest sport.”

Voremen nodded.

“As am I.”

He turned to one of his bodyguards and motioned to them. The guard left the room momentarily.

“This is certainly a stimulating intellectual exercise. I will have to be sure to engage in it with Executive Triumvir Berbatiev and others. He enjoys this kind of thing.”

The bodyguard returned with a box of cigars. Florentian cigars. Forbidden but irresistible to a connoisseur. Voremen removed a lighter from his breast pocket and reached across the table to light Scribbenforth’s cigar before lighting his own. The room filled with acidic smoke

***

*Translating literally to militia police. The Volscian version of a gendarme.

**Matryaus is the name I've just coined for this mountain range. I imagine them like Russian nesting dolls or an onion. Composed of a lot of different layers of different types of rock. Hope that's geologically possible.

***Lignite is a type of coal, one of several types mined within Volsci. Also known as brown coal, it is best mined in surface pit mines. The Qat mine uses some of the largest machinery in the wurld to mine lignite, most notably and impressively massive bucket wheel excavators. Here's a cool video on this machinery.

(OOC: @Florentia I made mention of Florentian cigars, which I imagine are banned internationally by most nations. I'm sure there's a whole black-market/underground trade of them. If there are any details you'd like me to add to the mention of them in this post, let me know.

@Seylos Let me know if the date should be adjusted. I decided on 2021 to give lots of time for secret evil preparations. Let me know if I need to move the date forwards or backwards to better square with the Anglian machinations.)

Edited by Gaellicia
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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter II: Hunters

The Same Day,

Qat Coal Prefecture

A much larger convoy tore through the woodlands, now consisting of a mixed Volscian and Anglian company. The police cars continued to wail, warning non-existent civilians to make way.

Heston Scribbenforth held onto the handhold of his seat with such force that his knuckles turned white. He was not used to the speed at which the Volscians liked to run their vehicles, but he did his best to maintain a stiff composure. He was a guest in the Deputy Executive Triumvir’s vehicle, after all. He could not allow for Anglia to be seen as weak to potential new allies.

Alyeksander Voremen, in the seat to Scribbenforth’s right, broke the roar of the rover’s engine.

“You are a hunter, yes? What do you hunt.”

Scribbenforth turned to Voremen, trying not to focus on the blurring pine trees.

“I prefer to hunt birds. Pheasants of course, ducks, but I do particularly love a good grouse shoot. I can count on an invitation to the King’s yearly fox hunt and I’m happy to say that one year I was the lucky rider. I will go hunting for a big buck from time to time also, tricky work indeed.”

Voremen exhaled dismissively, though he smiled politely. Sensing that he was not impressed, Scribbenforth broke out his old reliable hunting story.

“I did, of course, bag a lion once. It is on the wall of my study. Perhaps you may see it if you are ever in Anglia.”

Scribbenforth gave a rare grin, reeling Voremen in.

“It was when I was the deputy ambassador to Abantium, more than ten years ago. I was invited on a safari, well a hunt really. It was one of those traditional local affairs. I found it rather provincial. A savannah antelope hunt. It was too easy if you ask me. Almost unsporting. They are dumb brutes. Our party was heading back to the village when my Land Rider broke down. Mine nor the other vehicle’s radio worked… It was a poorly planned expedition. I volunteered to stay with my vehicle with a guide named Richard Parker and a bodyguard. I expected a rescue tow by sundown.”

Voremen interjected bemusedly.

“But they were not back by sundown?”

Scribbenforth nodded.

“Indeed they were not. As I said, the logistics of the expedition left much to be desired.”

Voremen laughed.

“Why would you do such a foolish thing, then?”

Scribbenforth shrugged.

“I wanted to try my hand at adventuring like lagoupes.”*

*Khristoforos Iagoupes. A famed 19th century Tagmatine hunter. Referenced here.

Voremen let out a genuinely hearty laugh.

“Anyways, to fit more people in the working rover, they’d offloaded one of the antelope carcasses. Along with my own that I’d shot, the place was starting to stink up. Flies started to gather around sunset. The guide had us move the carcasses away from the vehicle, but the stench was still stuck to us. By the time the sun had set, Richard Parker, the guard, and myself had run out of anecdotes, so we were mostly sitting in silence in the dark.”

Scribbenforth allowed for a moment of dramatic silence, watching Alyeksander’s face.

“An unusual question... Have you ever been hunted, Mr. Voremen?”

The Volscian shook his head, not entirely sure of his meaning.

“It is a primal feeling. It is like returning into the body of an ancestor. Traveling back to a more savage age where man acted purely out of a sense of survival… What happens first is that things get dead silent. All the other animals of the Savannah stop their noises. The warthog ceases its snorting. The night bird ceases its twittering. Even the crickets move off to elsewhere. It gets truly dead silent. Now here comes the scary part. The hairs on your arms and the back of your neck stand up straight. You get goosebumps, and the logical part of your brain has no idea why. The lizard brain, the more primal part, does. There is a predator nearby. Something is watching you. Then it was silent no more. We could hear the pride of lions approaching. Their large paws thwacking. Them chuffing. Richard Parker turned on one of those big field flashlights and shone it around before illuminating four pairs of glowing eyes, shining claws and teeth. Three of the beasts got to work on the antelope carcasses that we’d laid out, but one was interested in us. She came right up to the rover. It was fit out for safari you see, there was no door nor even a roof. The three of us stood up in the center of the vehicle, trying to get as far from the creature as we could. None of us thought to pick up the rifle up from off of the hood until we were cowering. The lioness paced around the car, rocking it with her great paws and rubbing her cheeks against its sides.”

Voremen’s eyes widened, completely drawn into the story by this point.

“The bodyguard made a play for the rifle, but the lioness did not like that. She swiped at him with one of her great paws, giving his leg a truly nasty gash. Richard and I had to pull the guard back and give him some improvised first aid, grisly stuff involving some pocket brandy and a ripped up t-shirt. All of this while also trying not to be lion lunch. She found herself bored I think, or perhaps intrigued, and so she got on her hind legs and began to rock our rover. Well, it began to get intolerable, like a ship in rough seas. I had no choice but to make like lagoupes. I dove over the windshield for the rifle. My left hand made contact with the middle of the rifle just as the rover tipped entirely onto its side, tipping the bodyguard and Richard Parker out into the dirt. Well, my attempt at heroics was not entirely well-thought-out. My spectacles came off my face and shattered in the midst of the Land Rider capsizing, so I had the rifle but not the vision to shoot well.”

The Deputy Executive shook his head in disbelief.

“You are embellishing surely?”

The Deputy Foreign Minister shook his head and smiled.

“It is all true. I swear on my honor. So there I was in the dirt. I could hear the bodyguard and the guide to my left somewhere, lying on the ground. The flashlight had been tipped over, spilling over the road, so it wasn’t completely dark. I heard the lioness coming around. I gripped the rifle by feel, loading a round into the chamber. The lioness chuffed, and so I pointed the rifle towards her, or rather the blur. I attempted to fire a round near her to warn her off… but rather my poor vision combined with the dark led to an undesirable result. I clipped her, which made her quite angry rather than scared. She focused her attention on me and snarled. I couldn’t see, but I could feel her eyes burrowing into me. I could hear her claws dig into the dirt for leverage. Sense her muscles tensing up as she readied to annihilate me. I could hear her charge as her blur began to rapidly approach and so I emptied all the rounds left into the beast. I believe I stopped her just before she managed to leap into the air. Richard Parker, now back to his senses, called out to me and rushed over with the flashlight. He helped me up, and we huddled around the unconscious bodyguard. Luckily for us, help arrived soon after. I of course insisted on taking the lioness back with us, even if I couldn’t actually see my prize at the time. That is how I bagged a lion, though it was less of a hunt and more of a struggle of self defense hahaha.”

Voremen joined the Deputy Foreign Minister in laughter, amazed.

“A formidable beast. You are lucky to be alive, sir!”

“Indeed I am. Why do you think I insisted on keeping her for mounting? Not merely as a trophy, but as a reminder of my survival.”

“I have never killed a lion, but I have been on my fair share of big game hunts. By far the most difficult quarry is the bear. We have several species here in Volsci. The common Buranian brown bear, the Kitezhi brown bear, and the polar bear. I have hunted all three types and can assure you that none of them are easily killed.”

“Which would you say is the most dangerous?”

“Many men would say the polar bear, but I would disagree. The Kitezhi bear is the true king in my view. He lives around Lake Kitezh, naturally. Loves fish but will eat anything. What makes him dangerous though is his size coupled with his lack of fear. He stocks up for the winter, so he is fat and happy, and he enters a period of hibernation. But when the spring comes, beware. He has burned off most of his fat, what remains is muscle. He is not strong at first, but he is fierce. He will start with berries, plants, smaller prey. Grow in strength and energy. Until it is nearly impossible to stop him. He will demolish all prey around, destroy any contenders. Remind the forest who is king.”

“I wonder what the outcome might be should the Kitezhi bear meet the lion. A solo king lion, that is, with his mane.”

“I shudder to consider it.”

“It would be a frightful battle, for sure.”

“You have to consider the environment, though. Two great predators like that, they would not fight right away. They would defeat all other lesser predators first, gobble up all the prey before finally turning to each other. Of course, this whole scenario is fanciful. They are both shrewd beasts. They know how to maintain balance in their kingdoms. Doing this prevents a need to fight each other.”

Scribbenforth gazed out the window, watching the pine trees blur bye before uttering a sound involuntarily.

“Oh.”

Nickolai, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, questioned concernedly.

“Are you alright, sir?”

Scribbenforth answered calmly.

“Oh yes. Quite fine. I do believe I caught a glance of a wolf out there.”

Voremen nodded.

“It is certainly possible. They do inhabit this region. Though they have been receding further north in recent years.”

“Do you think they will make a comeback? Return further south?”

The Deputy Executive Triumvir exhaled.

“Doubtful. Wolves are a finicky species. Packs of them have certainly attempted to encroach southwards again. A population still exists around Lake Kitezh as well. To be honest, though, I do not think they will regain their relevance in the ecosystem. They will continue to retreat until they are living up north where man does not want to live in large numbers, or in small isolated pockets.”

“Surprising. I know an individual wolf cannot do a huge amount, but they do live in packs, do they not?”

“That is the heart of the problem, the way I see it. In hunting, they can be an annoyance when they stalk you in their packs, but that is also their weakness. Create disorder in their pack and they all fall apart. Man is stronger than any wolf pack’s ‘alpha.’ They are all betas, lower in the hierarchy when compared to man. That is why we have the dog. The smartest wolves thousands of years ago already realized who the true alpha is. Those that did not evolve are the stubborn, the less intelligent ones.”*

*See OOC.

There was a lull in the conversation. Scribbenforth gazed out the window once again. Then he asked.

“What of the leopard? Have you ever seen one? I know there are rumors of some still being in Burania.”

Voremen shook his head.

“The rumors are surely not true. Perhaps from people who do not spend much time in the wilderness. Regardless, the leopard is long gone from this region. There is a population still in the Occident, but if you ask me it is a captive population. Not much different than what you might find in a zoo. Their numbers are carefully managed or as some would say ‘conserved.’ If an animal cannot stand on its own, then it is only a curiosity in my view. The leopard is certainly a noble creature, but it's time has passed.”

Scribbenforth felt the car decelerating. Out the window, the pine trees began to cease their blurring. The convoy made a left turn, through a set of gates. They had arrived at their destination.

***

(OOC Notes: This chapter is mostly a way to explore the Anglian + Volscian psychology some. I felt it important to establish why they would make this alliance. Expect next chapter to cover more ground diplomatic/government action wise.

Also, please note that the Alpha/Beta wolf pack dynamic is now considered an inaccurate framing of wolf pack behavior. It is now believed that wolf packs are essentially just a family. A mom+dad wolf and their offspring. Very rarely will a pack have a second breeding pair. This flawed information being repeated by Voremen is intentional. This misconception I hope helps to further illuminate the hubris/flawed thinking of our antagonists. For more on wolf pack behavior and myths, check out here.)

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Chapter III: The Zatlise

The Same Day

Marendice Air Base

Marendice air base had seen better days. It had once been an important logistical hub for military transport planes and fighters on ferry journeys across the nation. However, those days were now long gone. Aerial refueling and more efficient jet engines had done away with the need for The base’s main purpose in the present was to serve as a station for rescue and firefighting helicopters in the wilderness. Additionally, it could serve as a landing strip for VIPs from the regional government of Sora who were too important to take the train or drive to Qat. Today was a special day for the base as it was serving as the arrival and departure point for both the Deputy Executive Triumvir and the Anglian delegation.

The mixed convoy of heavy SUVs and police cars rushed into the base and tore across the tarmac, coming to an abrupt stop within a rusty airplane hanger. A volskarme officer elbowed a base soldier in order to open the passenger door for Alyeksander Voremen and Heston Scribbenforth. Voremen’s secretary Nickolai Lebedev stepped beside him. Other officials stepped out of their own vehicles and stretched, preparing for their flights back to Antium and beyond. D•Ex•Tri Voremen turned to Scribbenforth and extended his hand. Jet engines whined outside of the hanger.

“Well your excellency, it has been a pleasure meeting with you. Now I must return to Antium. I am to meet with the Triumvirate tonight.”

Scribbenforth shook Voremen’s hand. His mind raced even as he maintained an outwardly composed appearance.

“I wish you a safe flight. I am on my way back to Godstone, with only a brief layover in Antium.”

“You as well.”

Voremen turned towards the hanger door. Scribbenforth had to think fast. He felt the momentum and the opportunity slipping away. He had to act. He did something very uncharacteristic of himself or most Anglians. He thought on his feet and improvised.

“Deputy Executive, perhaps I may join you on your journey back to Antium. I would be able to answer any questions of the Triumvirate right away so there would not be a need to send questions and answers back and forth across the continent.”

Voremen stopped walking and turned. Secretly, he was rather impressed by the Anglian’s guts.

“Very well.” He turned to one of his two identical bodyguards. “See to it that the Deputy Foreign Ministers bags are loaded.

***

The Jigoyich ISP 151 ‘Zatlise’ had a convoluted history appropriate for a unique aircraft. It was a modification of one of the wurld’s greatest interceptors, the JiG 25 ‘Foxtrot’. The Foxtrot was not a wholly original Volscian design, frankly the majority of the design was stolen and reverse engineered from the very similar joint Iverican and Fulgistani interceptor. In turn most of the Iverican aspect of that project had itself been stolen from Rusic aircraft. Rusic combat aircraft themselves were evolutions of experience gained through license built Jigoyich aircraft. The JiG 15, 17, 19, and 21 had been widely exported across the wurld.

The JiG 25 was a mix of the crude and the state of the art. The Foxtrot’s original engines were massive things initially meant for use on cruise missiles. They were powerful, but they also burned through fuel like nobody’s business and were maintenance hogs. Due to the speed and power put out by the R15s, the Foxtrot had to be able to withstand intense heating. As a result the wingtips were built mostly of heavy nickel steel. It was heavy, but repairs could be an easy weld job even at underequipped air bases. Titanium was lighter but too expensive. To spot and chew through the radar countermeasures of infiltrating bombers, the foxtrot had a truly monstrous radar. All of this added up to a frightening yet highly specialized aircraft. It wouldn’t be winning any dogfights, but with its speed and radar it could start and finish fights before it came to that.

The Zatlise was an idea that should never have made it past the drawing board, let alone gone into production. It started as a drunken dare. Turn a JiG 25 interceptor into a VIP transport. The drunken idea had seen the eyes of just the right touring official. As a result, ten of the beasts had been ordered. More like demanded.

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Heston Scribbenforth looked up at the transport with trepidation. It certainly looked awkward, if not precarious on the tarmac. The plane resembled a JiG 25 with a greater wingspan. Between the two massive jet air intakes, an extended fuselage had been jammed. At the tip was a cockpit with room for two pilots to sit side by side, just barely. Scribbenforth followed Voremen and his secretary up the narrow jet stairs. The interior of the transport was cramped, if not outright claustrophobic. A single row of five seats were arranged single file. A narrow aisle on one side provided access. The D•Ex•Tri made his way to the back. A large man, two seats had been removed in front of the rearmost seat to provide some semblance of legroom. Scribbenforth was not at all tall yet found himself ducked low to avoid the ceiling. At least there were windows, albeit small ones, on both sides of the fuselage.

Scribbenforth settled into his seat. He could almost touch both sides of the fuselage with his elbows. At the front of the aircraft he could see the two pilots, very short men even for pilots, readying the aircraft for flight. The effects of each switch they flipped could be heard and felt as the aircraft shuddered and whined. The two bodyguards stepped into the aircraft, pulling the jet stair door up behind them. The cabin felt even more claustrophobic. Scribbenforth was regretting his decision.

“This is what I get for trying to be bold and go off program.” He thought to himself.

He felt a tap on his shoulder. Nickolai, the secretary, pointed to the ceiling on Scribbenforth’s right. Hung from a hook was a set of headphones with an attached headset mic. Scribbenforth took the headset off the hook and put it on. A springy wire connected from the right ear muff to a jack in the ceiling.

The voice of Voremen spoke in his ears. “Get ready to experience flight like never before. Closest thing to the excitement of man’s first flight you can get.”

“Perhaps I will better appreciate the mundanity of modern air travel after this.”

Scribbenforth heard and felt the massive engines spooling up. The jet taxied at a crawl across the tarmac, finally lining up on the runway. Scribbenforth watched the pilots. Piecing together that they were completing final communications with the air traffic control tower. The whining of the engines steadily increased as Scribbenforth glanced out the window at the rusting hangers. Then he felt his soul leave his body. He was pressed into his seat back as the outside wurld turned into gray white. The roar of the engines was like nothing he’d ever experienced before. The power of them seemingly vibrating his bones and organs. Semi squishy hand holds had been helpfully installed on the underframe of his seat. The Deputy Foreign minister gripped with force greater than he’d ever held anything before. He pressed his eyes closed as tight as he could, aware that somewhere in the midst of his terror that the aircraft was no longer bound to the ground, tearing into the wild blue yonder and laughing in the face of gravity.

***

January 18th, 2022

02:13

The Torunjam Comitum, Antium

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Scribbenforth scribbled on his notes. He was attempting to formulate a game plan and prepared answers for potential questions. The Volscians had been kind enough to provide him with a private office to wait in though the room was most certainly bugged. At least it had a nice view. Heston felt somewhat like a princess locked away in a tower, though he was there due to his own efforts. Below him Antium twinkled in the dark night.

The Torunjam Comitium* was a massive structure. 42 floors. 232 meters tall. Only a small part of a larger complex. The tower was built atop a foundation of centuries of history. It emerged from the old palace, the name for the brick structure that was begun under the Volscian monarch but completed by the Republic after the 1848 revolution. Below that was a star shaped fortress which had outcroppings which were the remnants of much older castles. Below all of this there were surely iron age and prior mound fortifications. A network of tunnels and walkways connected the main complex to surrounding government buildings. The sprawling series of structures atop the commanding heights was the heart of the Volscian government.

*See OOC

Alyeksander Voremen’s entourage had arrived hours ago, while it was still light. Around 27 minutes of cruising time to be precise. Voremen and the Triumvirate had been discussing all night, though Scribbenforth suspected that they were dragging things out by this point as some kind of power play. Scribbenforth had even managed to doze off for a little bit.

Scribbenforth heard a knock at the door before Nickolai and a pair of guards entered the room. “The Triumvirate will see you now, Deputy Foreign Minister.”

The guards carried Heston’s bags as he followed the secretary. Through a series of twisting turning corridors, finally to a central bank of elevators. The party stepped inside and Nickolai turned a key and pressed a button at the bottom. The elevator shot downwards, opening a few moments later somewhere underground. Heston was led down a corridor where two more guards opened a set of large double doors. Inside was a large U shaped table. Directly in the center facing the door were the triumvirate. Executive Triumvir Nadar Berbatiev at the center, Legislative Triumvir Berg Krimson to his right, to his left Judicial Triumvir Vigdis Gudmundson. Various deputies (including Voremen), ministers, and military officials lined the rest of the U. Secretaries sat along the walls of the room. A desk and a chair were arranged at the open end of the U facing the Volscian leadership. Heston sat down gingerly and spread his notes.

“Welcome to Antium Deputy Foreign Minister.” Croaked Berbatiev. “As I understand, you have brought us a proposal.”

“Yes… er affirmative Executive Triumvir. I’m sure Deputy Executive Triumvir Voremen has explained how Anglia views the current state of the wurld. He has likely informed you of our err simulation. Did the Triumvirate come to an answer?”

“Indeed.” Said Krimson.

“We have.” Continued Gudmundson.

“It is a highly intriguing hypothetical and the Triumvirate would like to explore it further.”


OOC: The name for the Volsci government complex is just a placeholder. If anyone has a good idea for what to name it I'd love to hear it.

I'm not entirely satisfied with this chapter. The plot aspects feel a little unfinished. I feel stuck so if you have any ideas for things to add to the Triumvirate + Scribbenforth meeting I'd love to hear them.

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  • 4 months later...

Chapter IV: Manatee's Garden

January 10th, 2022

Selbourne, Seylos

Sirvart Connachta bounced her cap on her knee. The middle-aged Aeratorm Cornal* sat in a wooden booth in the Old Star Tavern, a pub that was, at this point in history, a Selbourne institution. Typically the Cornal would have hung her cap alongside her cloak on the rack beside her booth, but she needed something to stimulate herself. Music sounded softly from a speaker in the corner. The current song was an oldie but a goodie: Manataee's Garden by the Anglian rock band the Beautles. The modest hearth popped, focusing Sirvart's ears on the crackling of the fireplace. The sounds of the fire made her think of the circumstances set in motion just a couple of days prior that had led her here. 

*The Ríogan Aeratorm is the Gaellician Air Force. Cornal would be OF-5 in NATO terms. Equivalent to Colonel.

***

Bricius IV, the Ríog of Gaellicia, was bathed in warm light emitting from a grand fireplace. He was sitting across from Sirvart in the great hall of Drumossie Castle, the ancestral home and seat of Clan Connachta, nested in the Southern Highlands of Gaellicia.

“Zarmuhi*, the wurld is becoming a dangerous place.”

*Meaning cousin in Axaemenid Gaelic. Sirvart and Bricius are not cousins by blood, but they are both members of the clan Connachta. Having the surname of a clan does not necessarily indicate descent from the founders of a clan. Many families, especially mid-tier nobles, changed their family names as surnames became common to indicate their allegiance and membership to a clan. Bricius uses the term 'zarmuhi' here as he and Sirvart are close and grew up as family friends.

Sirvart’s presence had been requested on short notice, and now that the formalities and pleasantries were done with, it was time to find out why she'd been invited, really summoned, to the castle. 

“Is it not always a dangerous place?” She asked. 

“I suppose it is. But now more than ever. If some rulers had their way, we would return to the age of imperium and subjugation. And now said rulers are trying their hardest to make it happen. Gaellicia cannot sit by idly and allow the empires to return. Not only for the good of the wurld but in defense of ourselves.”

Sirvart nodded. 

“And so zarmuhi, for the defense of our country, its people, and for the benefit of the wurld, I need you.” 

Such words said by another would ring false and overly grandiose, but from Bricius, they were sincere. Without thinking, Sirvart answered, “It is my duty to serve.” 

“Sacrifice will be required. You could lose everything. Your career, your reputation. Before I continue, are you willing to accept that?” 

Sirvart responded as if almost insulted. “It is my duty.”

Bricius nodded. “We cannot face Anglia alone. Our armed forces are unprepared, but that is a problem for me to worry about. We will need to form a part of a larger effort to defeat Anglia, including the folks across the Oinops. This will be your task. Do you still have counterparts in the @Seylosian armed forces?”

“I do. I have a couple of friends that I write letters to from time to time.” 

“Excellent. The current military attaché to our embassy in Seylos has had to return home for a ‘family matter’. I am going to appoint you in his place. I need you to make contact with the Tagmatines, feel them out, and if they’re like minded about Anglia you’ll need to begin preparations for our cooperation. How you go about it I leave to you.” 

“How do we know @Tagmatium Ruleseven intends to stand against Anglia?”

“We don’t.” The air was still for a moment. “I’m taking a chance. Here’s hoping Kommodus is at least somewhat like-minded with me.” Bricius’ eyes were dark, made darker by his maroon commando-style sweater. Though tall and fit for his age, he looked small at that moment.  

Sirvart could sense the weight he carried on his shoulders. “So you want me to make overtures to the Tagmatines on a hunch?”

“Precisely.” Bricius stepped to a cabinet opposite the fireplace. 

“And share information in what is arguably a treasonous context?” 

“Aye, Cornal. You have a flight booked for tomorrow at 18:00.” The Ríog affirmed as he prepared two brandys. 

Sirvart shook her head lightly, steeling herself and already mentally planning her packing list. 

Handing Sirvart one of the glasses, he toasted. “Here’s to your success.”

“And to the prescience of your gut.” She smiled bravely as they clinked their glasses and sipped. 

***

The entrance to the pub had a bell that chimed pleasantly each time the door opened, much like the clinking of fine crystal. Connachta was brought back to the present by its ringing. She was tired; she’d arrived in Seylos late last night, managed a few restless hours of sleep, and rose early in the morning for her first day at the embassy. The fatigue of the past days melted away as she spotted her counterpart enter the pub, an officer from the Tagmatine Navy, easily recognized by her tall dome hat.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The different branches of the Tagmatine Armed Forces had different opinions on which of the nations surrounding the Greater Holy Empire represented the biggest threat to the Aroman nation.

The Imperial Army was convinced that the true threat to civilisation lay to the north-west in the shape of Machina @Haruspex or to the south, in the form of Suverina or Qubdi. Or, during the most sleepless nights of the Epistrategaion, even Adaptus. The Tagmatine Army had developed with this in mind, as one of the largest land forces on Eurth. It had the ability to fight its neighbours on a peer-to-peer level and win. Some of that strategy also relied on just plain outnumbering the those opponents and being able to absorb a highwe level of losses than they could before striking back. Another part of it was through equipment developed to emphasise survivability, manoeuvrability and firepower. Although not necessarily all of those at the same time. The end result, combined with the fact that much of the Army had remained loyal during the Civil War of 2005, was that the army had the most money spent on it out of any armed force on Eurth. The Army didn't look across the Kosscow Sea. That was the Navy's domain. Even if either the @Gaellicians, the Deltannians or the Volsci were a real threat, they would break against the Skoutatoi like the waves that broke against the eastern shores of Tagmatium and then be ground beneath the treads of the Katafraktoi. Those nations posed little threat.

The Imperial Navy, on the other hand, had been seduced by the government's spending on its blue water aspects and had had its collective head filled with ideas about becoming one of the great naval powers of Eurth. Its gaze had turned from the home waters of Tagmatium – the Ranke Sea, the Foronian Sea, Oinops Channel and the other surrounding waters – to the rest of Eurth. In fairness, it had worked. To an extent. The Tagmatine Navy could reach across the wurld but its sealift ability was virtually non-existent. Even if one was to ignore the fact that most of the senior officers of the Tagmatine navy were significantly less experienced than their equivalents in navies of the other great powers of Eurth, the Imperial Navy was still in the top tier. The purge of naval officers in the aftermath of the Civil War had meant that a certain sort of officer was promoted, one whose thinking aligned with that of the Holy Imperial Government and its aims. The Kosscow Sea had become neglected, or at least it had fallen to the back of everyone's mind.

And the Imperial Air Force? Well, they were just an adjunct of the army, little more. The loss of the last of the strategic bombers over a decade ago meant that they were able to act in support of terrestrial objectives but not truly dictate how a conflict flowed in and of themselves. They were best at ground attack, screening the borders and delivering awkwardly-sized cargoes more speedily than by road, rail or ship.

However, Trierarkha (Commander) Sekonda Persefone Fyla Kommena would have admitted that she was prejudiced in her opinion of the air force. Well, and of the army, too. And the financial guard and border guard. She was a naval officer and had all of those inherent biases and opinions. The Tagmatine army was the senior service and it was viewed by the navy with jealousy and envy. The air force had syphoned aircraft and resources from navy one hundred years ago and should have been strangled at birth and its remains folded into the fleet air arm. Instead, it had allowed to flourish and keep taking aircraft, equipment and personnel that ought to be part of the navy. She was also a graduate of the modern Tagmatine naval thinking, even if she viewed a lot of it with a pinch of salt. In her mind, the Kosscow Sea as key to the security of the Greater Holy Empire. This was also the view of a small clique that she had become part of during her time in the naval academy at Trapezon. That same clique also saw the fact that the Holy Imperial Government clung to the old Long War treaty that meant that the Six Islands were a demilitarised zone as one of the biggest follies in modern times. They had voluntarily become part of Tagmatium and the old treaties should have been pushed to one side. And the bridges rebuilt that had once been burned.

It seemed that even some of the Gaellicians thought the same thing as well. If not about the Six Islands, then the idea of cooperation between the two erstwhile allies.

This was why she was making her way to the Old Star Tavern in Selbourne on a very unofficial mission on the behalf of the Holy Imperial Government. She felt that she stuck out like a sore thumb as she walked down the streets from the embassy itself to the pub. She wasn't really that out of place. Kommena had recently been attached to the Tagmatine embassy in the @Seylosian capital as a naval attaché. Not the actual attaché, that had become a Heminavarkhos (rear admiral) level assignment, as Seylos and Tagmatium had grown closer diplomatically over the last few years, but on the naval staff of the embassy.

The fact that Seylos was a naval power which cooperated with its allies meant that Tagmatine naval officers weren't a rare sight. This was especially true since the sale of the Despotes-class aircraft carrier to Seylos. The north Adlantic nation had needed technicians and officers used to how it had worked and to train its own personnel. Naval uniforms were almost always black, although the tall domed hat that marked Kommena out as an officer made her stand out in this foreign land. Tagmatine naval officers were often seen going to the Old Star and her presence would not have caused too much of a comment. Sekonda had even been there before a few times, with the last instance several weeks ago. Civilians, tourist or local alike, might not have thought much about Sekonda coming to the pub.

But any of those who made a living watching the comings and goings of foreign officers to the Old Star would have taken note.

There could well be members of the Aroman Intelligence Network watching, too. They would be watching to see if any members of the Tagmatine armed forces made contact with foreign powers. Which was exactly what Sekonda was doing now.

Kommena was aware of the fact – painfully aware – that the relations between Tagmatium and Gaellicia had not been great since the end of the Long War. The Oinops Wars had almost cemented those relations in the minds of most Tagmatines, too. What she was coming to do was pretty much treason. On the other hand, she had been given the go-ahead by her relation, the Kouropalates Fillipos Kommenos. Her family was a cadet branch of that ancient Aroman dynasty and Fillipos was the Old Tyrant's right-hand man. That almost made it an official assignment. Almost. She had not asked whether the occupant of the Leopard Throne knew about this mission. The Trierarkha imagined that she would not receive a proper answer, as there likely needed to be an element of plausible deniability. There had been something unspoken, however, and she didn't really know what it was. She suspected that Kommenos thought that he might be crossing a line that the Old Tyrant would not forgive.

Only time would tell.

The Trierarkha's clique viewed the Gaellicians in positive light, as a natural ally to Tagmatium, despite the Oinops Wars. Many of the others within the Tagmatine navy, or even within the nation itself, had the opposite view. Sekonda had been sent with the idea of contacting the Gaellicians with the idea of providing something of a united front against the Anglians. Otherwise, the Occident seemed to be largely under the sway of Anglia. Even Adaptus was silent. Kommenos had impressed on Sekonda the idea that it would be ideal if the government of the island nation could join the coalition that was forming against Great Anglia. Or, if that was not the case, then at least some sort of neutrality, whereby they would not intervene on the side of the Anglians.

As Kommena opened the door of the pub and a bell rung. Many pairs of eyes looked over at her and it almost stopped her in her tracks. It didn't seem that many of the owners of those eyes thought a Tagmatine naval officer was that interesting and they returned to conversations with colleagues or friends, newspapers, phones or just staring at their drinks. She paused at the door to build her courage and took a brief look around at the occupants of the pub and the pub itself. Many of those there seemed like tourists but the place still had its own locals. The décor was ostentatious in its attempt to look like a “real” pub, with wooden furniture and benches, pictures of ships and smoked glass, although Sekonda would not have been able to tell if it was authentic or not. She herself was in her early thirties and lean, with dark brown hair and eyes. She had always participated in the athletics competitions put forward by the navy, as well as the horse sports and archery that were expected of a Tagmatine aristocrat. As she stepped through the door, she tucked her hat under her arm. Sekonda thought that she spotted her contact but she was aware of the fact that she could not just wander over to that table. Instead, she walked over to the bar. She leant on the old-style, copper-topped bar and caught the eye of one of the staff after a moment.

“Can I get a pint of the... ” She realised she'd not thought about what she wanted and Kommena's eyes flicked along the row of taps along that bar. “Can I get a pint of the Aurelian pale ale? No, the other one. The one with the anteater on it. The thing with the bushy tail and long nose.”

Her Anglish was accented but not incomprehensibly so but the Tagmatine still pointed towards the tap of the beer that she wanted. The bartender nodded and leaned forward to work the pump.

Once the pint had been poured, the bartender plonked it in front of her. She picked it up and turned around her eyes moving across the room to try to search out her contact. To make it seem more of a natural gesture, she took a slight sip from her drink. The hoppy taste wasn't typically one that Tagmatines liked but Kommena preferred it. She had been told that it was brewed the way it was to survive the journey to the colonies Seylos had in Aurelia but she didn't know if that was actually true or not. Kommena's eyes caught on the uniform that she recognised as that of a Gaellician air force khiliarkhes. She shook her head for a moment, slightly amazed that her contact was wearing a proper uniform, until she remembered that she was in her own uniform as well. Perhaps the pair of them ought to have met in civilian clothes, rather than the military uniforms of their own countries. Too late for that now. But, on the other hand, there was less chance of being done for espionage that way.

Sekonda walked across the pub, weaving between groups of tourists and locals. Once she had arrived at the table, she placed her pint on the table and made sure it was placed on a beer mat. The Tagmatine sketched a slight bow towards the Cornal Sirvart Connachta, although she did not expect the Gaellician to rise and return the greeting. Before being invited to do so, the commander moved the chair opposite Connachta out with her hand and sat down. It would have been a gross breach of Tagmatine protocol in her homeland but Kommena was too nervous to wait on the usual actions. There might have been too many people watching.

Cornal Sirvart Connachta.” It was less a question than a statement. “I am Trierarkha Sekonda Persefone Fyla Kommena of the Imperial Navy. I believe we have somethings that we ought to discuss.”

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  • 4 weeks later...

Connachta bowed her head respectfully in response to Kommena, but the younger woman had already taken the initiative before she could offer her counterpart a seat. Direct and to the point, Sirvart could appreciate that. She greeted Kommena in laimiaic. “Greetings Trierarkha. I think we can agree to do away with formalities to keep this meeting to a reasonable time. Sirvart will do nicely.”

The Cornal sipped her beer before opening. “I don’t think it’s controversial to say that our two nations have had a mixed relationship. What was it one of your grand ministers said of us once? Are we the capricious child across the way? I think it’s fair to say that relations in recent years have been worse than ever.”

“Bearing this in mind, it has been impressed upon me that this downward slide needs to be arrested and then reversed. But this is international relations at a macro level, hardly appropriate a discussion for us soldiers. What’s brewing to your west on the other hand… This can’t be allowed to happen. Some would say that nations of the Occident have a moral responsibility to shut down modern-day Europan expansionism.” Connachta watched Kommena’s face, trying to glean her counterpart’s feelings.

The Cornal took another sip of her beer before stating factually in a tone of voice of an opinion. “It would be foolish for Gaellicia to challenge the largest Navy in the wurld alone, but it is within our nation’s capabilities to work in partnership with other nations. Like-minded nations. The man who sent me is willing to back objections up by force, even if the government for the time being is not. My superior is working on bringing the government around, but in the mean time…” Sirvart allowed the silence to sit for a moment. The missing end of the sentence was that the groundwork for military cooperation could be laid. Gaellician-Tagmatine military cooperation, a concept that had seemingly vanished forever when the admirals seized the leopard throne.

Sirvart added a button to her pitch, inviting Kommena to dip her toes in, “Assuming, of course, that Tagmatium feels similarly about Anglia’s grand designs.” 

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Chapter V: Hit Me Baby One More Time

March 9th, 2022

The Torunjam Comitum, Antium, The Executive Triumvir's Office

The office of Nadar Berbatiev, perched atop the citadel tower of the Volscian government complex, was built to intimidate. Centered in the room was the Executive Triumvir’s massive desk, backed by an even larger window which framed the city of Antium below. Rumor said that the furniture that faced the desk was intentionally built undersized, all the better to intimidate visitors who had the misfortune to be invited to the premier's office.

Berbatiev and his protege, Alyeksander Voremen, stood at the window watching the heart of Volsci scurry about busily. Sleek modern trams and pristine roadways transported citizens through blocks of ancient stone buildings. Voremen never sat when invited to his mentor’s office, he knew better. The afternoon rush hour was beginning to pick up. Sipping Florentian whiskey, the two men were mostly silent as they listened to a record of the orchestral piece, the Battle on the Ice. 

The composition told the story of a great battle. One in which the smaller army of the noble Alexandros Kitos managed to defeat a larger Thelarike army through superior tactics and knowledge of terrain. As the piece came to a climax, Berbatiev turned to his protege and queried.

“Alyeksander, why did you choose this piece in particular?” 

“It’s an old favorite. I was named after Prince Alexandros. I used to listen to the piece as a child and run around the house with a cardboard sword, slaying imaginary Thelarike.” 

Berbatiev chuckled. “I’m sure your mother loved that.” 

Voremen’s mouth formed a smirk. “I have a story about that. Perhaps I will share it another time.” 

The song came to an end and a silence followed. Berbatiev moved to the music console and queued up another song, his body emitting a mischievous energy. Voremen cocked an eyebrow as a strong three note piano motif chimed before a youthful voice sounded “Oh baby, baby!” 

“Synthia Fences?” The Deputy Executive Triumvir questioned concernedly. Berbatiev had chosen to play the defining song of modern pop music, ‘Baby One More Time’, by @Galahindan glubal superstar Synthia Fences. 

Berbatiev spun around to face his protegé, grooving to the music. “You do not agree with my music choice?” 

“Is it not… decadent?”

“You have to listen beyond the surface.” Berbatiev cranked the music higher, dancing unskillfully but enthusiastically. 

Taking things too seriously, perhaps seeing it as a test, Voremen concentrated. “It is about love.” He said without confidence. 

“No Alyeksander. Do not think. Feel.” Berbatiev sipped his whiskey and swayed. 

Voremen closed his eyes and felt the beat of the music, channeling his days as a literature student at University. “Loneliness… A need for connection… Love brings pain, but the lack of it brings even greater harm.” 

Berbatiev chuckled. “There’s no one correct answer. What matters is that you are meeting it on its terms. Even heretical works of art can have a universal meaning if you listen closely.” The premiere stopped swaying to the music just as a loud knock sounded. “Come in.”

Three soldiers opened the office doors and entered. If the music could be heard outside the office, the soldiers stony faces didn't betray any recognition or amusement.

The corporal leading the trio saluted the premiere and announced strongly, “Elder Berbatiev, a quorum is nearly assembled.” 

Berbatiev downed the rest of his drink and upon setting his glass down proclaimed, “Then we best meet them. We have preparations to finish.” Berbatiev met his protege's eyes and continued icily, "And then we can remind the wurld of the natural order. Put the fear of god back into the minds of the heretics."

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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Chapter VI: Berbatiev's Gambit

March 9th, 2022

A Senior Government Meeting Room, Undisclosed Location Beneath Antium, Volsci

spacer.pngNicanor Anafakiis waited silently, observing his surroundings. The Executive entourage was running late, likely as a power move. Though the three prongs of the Triumvirate were ostensibly equal, the meeting could not begin without the Executive. If Berg Krimson were the late party, the meeting would no doubt have already begun.

The quorum assembled comprised the recognizable faces of the Republic’s government. They had gathered at a point deep underground in an austere, three-sided, pyramidal room. The three walls all slanted to meet at a single point in the ceiling. A triangle table took up the center of the room, with a sunken middle covered in baize. Each side of the table was exactly equal. At the center of the A side sat the Legislative Triumvir, Berg Krimson. The Judicial Triumvir, Vigdis Gudmondson, commanded the room from her seat in the middle of the B side of the triangle. The C side was, at the moment, empty. As mentioned, the Executive entourage was late. The C side was in front of the entrance to the chamber, a pair of double doors flanked by two soldiers. The most dramatic feature of the room was its lighting. A great white ring light hung from the triangular ceiling, and within its center, hanging from the pyramid’s point of convergence, was a modernist chandelier. Anafakiis’ clouded oval glasses reflected the lighting assembly, obscuring his eyes and, thus, his inner thoughts.

Nicanor liked to think that how a person waited said a lot about them. The Judicial Triumvire, Vigdis Gudmondson, betrayed her annoyance with the Executive’s power games by maintaining perfect steely composure. In contrast, Berg Krimson had fallen for it easily. His insecurity with his place in the triangular power structure showed in the way he nervously tapped his fingers. The traditional armed forces chiefs and the Guardia Respublika* heads lobbed deadly glares at each other over the center of the table. Sitting on the B side, aging clerics did their best to look holy and contemplative. Ministers sat on the A side tried to appear diligent by reviewing notes.

Observing others was Anafakiis’ job. He was the chief Censaumur (assessor) of the Volscian Republic. It was his job to evaluate the plans of the government, as well as to assess the performance of its workers. Failing to meet Nicanor’s standards destined one to a period of ‘reapplication’ at the end of which they would return to government service ever more devoted to the good of the Republic.

At exactly 15 minutes past the intended start of the meeting, Nadar Berbatiev and his entourage entered the chamber and took their seats on the C side of the table. If you were to sit facing the Executive Triumvir’s table, you would experience the sensation of having your only exit blocked by the balding white-haired man with television-sized glasses. Still, despite his physical appearance, the aura he brought with him was ominous and imposing. “By the grace of god, let’s begin.”

A mechanical whir sounded as a map emerged on the sunken center of the table, projected from a bulb in the chandelier. A general wrapped in a dress uniform began to speak and gesture to the map with a wooden pointer stick.

“As is proper, operations will begin in Winter. The goal will be to begin in the third week, in conjunction with a thrust by the Anglian Navy into the Oriental Ocean. The initial assault will focus on the southern portion of the island of Sgiléat and the island of Yaran. The targeted territories will be taken with great speed-”

“—and care, as not to upset Deltannia and, by extension, the EOS.” An official from the diplomatic ministry interrupted the general.

Clearly annoyed, the general nodded before continuing.

“Yes. As I was saying, speed will be of the essence for this first stage. The island of Yaran can be expected to fall within the first week. Sgiléat is to be under our control within the month. As soon as we take ground, we are to begin fortifying it. Depending on the speed of advance in Southern Sgiléat, landings will be made on Vanarambaium to secure the rail link between the two major islands. We can pour in material then and take their capital. The highlands will be… problematic, but if we can take the North where the major port is and the majority of the food, we can cut them off and isolate them. The same goes for the so-called “Pillar of the wurld” Adrarus. We will consolidate our gains in the valuable spaces, and starve out the hard points. A considerable reserve force will be held as well. They will take over occupation duties from the elite troops, freeing the front line units to take the Hexinesa just as the Aromans turn their backs." The general paused for a moment, observing his audience. It was his job to make war palatable to politicians. “To recap: Operations will begin with landings on Sgiléat first. Yaran within a few hours afterwards. These opening landings will be undertaken by the Meraskuvars**, with infrastructure bombing and tactical air support provided by the Air Force.” The general gauged his audience once more before wrapping up and sitting down, “That is the plan from a military position.”

No sooner was the general of the traditional armed forces seated was the general heading the Guardia Respublika standing and addressing the room.

“As for integrating the newly taken territories, we will enact a different strategy for each of the territories. With Yaran, we intend to have a light touch. Many in the population do not want to be ruled by Gelts. We can even expect some Karralluk to welcome our forces and cooperate in the new order. Acting as a force of liberation. The KLA has historically received our support in the past, now we will resume it, just more openly as a partner.”

Poris Sallustiiks, Deputy Legislative Triumvir, questioned the general skeptically.

“And if the islanders are not as welcoming as predicted?”

The general responded confidently without pausing, “We have contingencies in place. But in all likelihood, they should not be necessary. All will be brought in line.” The general of the guard paused for a moment, trying to sound godly. “For the Hexanisa, a quick housecleaning of any independent-minded leadership should do wonders for fostering a cooperative atmosphere among the islanders. We will take any representatives from Aroman captive until the cessation of hostilities. Local leaders will be given the option of cooperation or damnation. The Geltic-occupied territories will be somewhat more troublesome. It will be best to start with the heaviest pressure possible. Gelts can’t be expected to cooperate, so it’s best to do away with any pretenses and start the process as soon as possible.”

Sallustiiks looked around the table and asked his colleagues incredulously, “Are we not making a fatal error here? Are we not on a similar tract to what lead to nearly two decades of stalemate?”***

The guard general, betraying a hint of frustration, chided the Deputy Legislative Triumvir, “Need I remind you trstus**** that that war ended with a victory for the Republic.”

“In name only.” Sallustiiks said icily.

“Blasphemy!” A cleric interjected loudly.

“I don’t see how this war fits into the five-year, ten-year, or even fifteen-year***** plan.” Sallustiiks continued angrily.

“Enough.” Berbatiev brought the room to silence with the firmness of his voice. The Executive Triumvir stood and took command of the room.  “Trusts Sallustiiks is within his rights to voice his concerns. He is correct that this is not part of any of the existing plans. But this is why we have the Triumvirate. Sometimes an opportunity arises where our Senate is not nimble or discreet enough to act on it. This is one of those opportunities. It is not a part of the five-year plan, or the ten-year plan, or the fifteen-year plan; it is true. It serves the ultimate plan, the one in which we as a people are devoted to enacting. It would be a failure in our duty as servants of god and of the people if we were to let this opportunity slip through our fingers.”

“Here here!” A general agreement sounded from around the room.

Now that he had their ears, Berbatiev focused on closing the sale. “It is understandable to have concerns about our history and past efforts against the Occidental heretics, but this time is different. We will have the element of surprise combined with the distraction of the Anglian heretics. We must have faith in our armed forces. Have faith that they will benefit from these favorable conditions and deliver us a victory even greater and more decisive than the great victory of 67 years ago. That is what the armed forces will deliver, right?”

The leaders of both general staffs answer obediently and confidently. “Yes elder.”

“I know my faith is well placed. In fact, I stake my premiership on the success of the operation.” The Executive Triumvir’s television sized glasses amplified his piercing gaze as he silently examined the military officers. His point made, Berbatiev sat down again.  

A strange silence sat in the air before the out-of-his-element Berg Krimson broke it and tried to move things forward.

“Very well said. Very eloquent. I, for one, do not see an issue with this plan. It needs a name though.”

Vigdis Gudmondson, her hand forced despite any misgivings, offered a few terse words. “I submit that we call it the 18-Month Special Operational Plan.”

Krimson smiled heartily and tallied the votes, “A good name. Are we all in favor of enacting the 18-Month Special Operational Plan?”

The result was an unanimous aye. Even from Sallustiiks. Everyone except Nicanor, it was not his job to make decisions, only to assess. He noted the true feelings of many even if they voted in approval. Berg Krimson was clueless and legitimately trusting in the plan. Vigdis Gudmondson clearly had reservations in regards to the international alienation bound to be brought by the plan. Poris Sallustiiks’ hand was forced. Even though he was a principle architect of the war, D•Ex•Tri Voremen was clearly shocked by his mentor’s gambit. It was a risky but savvy play. The Premier had forced the rest of the Republic’s leadership to get on board with his vision in a decisive swoop, but if the military failed to perform, then the consequences for himself would be severe.


*Guardia Respublika, translating to the Republican Guard, is a para-military organization responsible for "guarding the core values of the Volsci Republic." Republican Guard units have great latitude in what operations they may undertake. Unlike the traditional armed forces, which answer to the Executive, the Guardia Respublika answer to the Judicial Triumvir.

**The Meraskuvars (translating to Paramarines) are the feared elite troops of the Republic armed forces. Estimated to number upwards of 40,000, the Meraskuvars compose an elite corps within the Volscian military that typically leads important assaults. The Meraskuvars receive the best equipment at the Republic's disposal and plan operations in ways that utilize speed, mobility, and operational flexibility. 

***Referring to the Long War between Volsci, Tagmatium, and Gaellicia from the 1930s to 1956.

****A form of address in the Republic, translating to student or witness. Citizens of the Republic see themselves as students of god. Volscians may also refer to each other as brother or sister followed by a last name. In government use, the honorific Elder is reserved for the Triumvirs and the heads of departments. In everyday Volscian society, Elder is used for senior members of a community. The use of trstus can be likened to the use of "comrade" in the IRL Soviet Union or "citizen" in post-Revolution France.

*****The Senate of the Volsci Republic drafts and amends a series of central plans in five-year increments to decide major policy directions and economic incentives.

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Chapter VII: On the Eve of War

January 20, 2023

As the Volscian invasion looms, various Gaellicians enjoy some final moments of peace for many months, unbeknownst to themselves.


Gaucan, Adrarus, Gaellicia

To put it mildly, it was not an ideal command. To put it plainly, it was a thankless assignment. Still, Ceannasóir (Commodore) Ruiseart an Gael was determined to do his duty and to do it well. Even if doing his job well for little reward was what his rivals in the service counted on. 

The assignment was to restore Gaucan naval base to operation. The sprawling complex was burrowed into the hard rock on a sheltered bay several kilometers from Tigranevan, the capital and largest city of the island of Adrarus. The ancient Axaemenids called the island the “Pillar of the wurld.” In their interpretation of mythology, the Axaemenids believed that it was on this island that the titan Adlas held up the sky. The strategic importance of the island made the name fitting. Controlling the island gave one a centrally located and near-impenetrable rock from which naval operations could be mounted. Total control of the center of Northern Europa’s seas could not be had without the rock. Gaellicia had held ownership of the island since the 1600s, a military feat accomplished when the nation was still fairly young. Gaellician Marines were infamous for never shutting up about the pillar.

Despite its importance, Gaellicia had not always maintained the island in the best possible condition, particularly the base at Gaucan. The sheltered bay was an ideal anchorage for warships, from ships of the line to the modern Hero Class destroyers. In the 1950s, Gaucan’s current form had taken place. New tunnels and chambers were dug deep in the mountains on the bay, with concrete poured in to reinforce the older tunnels dating to the 1800s. The three docks dug into the rock face were the crown jewel of the 50s improvement project. A port of refuge from air attack was available for frigates, submarines, and missile boats in these docks.

The feat of military engineering had been neglected starting in 2010 and eventually abandoned. It was not cheap to maintain a tunnel complex in a marine climate. The exploits of Anglia had recently led to a reassessment, and it was decided that Gauncal had to be brought back into use. The cash-strapped nation wanted the project to be done quietly, and so it was important for it to be the responsibility of a ceannasóir and not an admiral.

Ruiseart an Gael had found the assignment not just to be the workload of an admiral with the pay of a commodore. It was the workload of three admirals. The ceannasóir not only needed to reactivate the base, he also had to make it suitable for housing the Navatorm command in a time of war. When the base was first unsealed, work crews were greeted with rampant flooding in the lower tunnels and chambers. Such an amount of water naturally led to a significant amount of erosion that now needed to be fought. The wiring necessary for hooking up computers, terminals, and equipment was conspicuously stripped clean. An examination of the base’s ventilation systems revealed the presence of asbestos and PCBs. As he started on the task, an Gael discovered that problems weren’t confined to the base. The hundreds of defenses that honeycombed across the rest of the island also desperately needed care.

There was likely no one in the Navy better suited to meet these challenges however. As an officer from an Army family in naval service, an Gael was used to working hard for his place. A constant need to prove himself combined with a genuine sense of duty had made an Gael into an especially resourceful officer. 

The water was a simple enough problem, even if tedious. Throwing enough sailors with buckets at the issue and snaking some hoses and pumps through the tunnels took care of the flooding quickly enough. The wiring and telecom infrastructure issue was handled with some creative thinking. A contract was signed with Kableville, a sweetheart deal to install cable television in base housing for a low initial price. Sailors and marines got great enjoyment out of the entertainment for about a week until base engineers began to quietly cannibalize the fiberoptic cables and cable boxes. It wasn’t technically illegal under Adryiot law, just highly frowned upon. For the toxic ventilation ducts, an Gael bit the bullet and used most of his limited funds to hire a contractor to remedy the problem. 

Bolstering defenses on the rest of the island mostly required manual labor. Engineering students looking for experience and Boy Scouts proved incredibly willing to work in exchange for resume credit, merit badges, and free food. 

Despite the obstacles, the base was shaping up. At the current pace, it was looking to be fully operational in several months. The command center was more or less working now, though there were bugs. Leaks were still a problem, but structural integrity was no longer a concern. 

It was a bittersweet Friday evening for Ruiseart. The hard part of the project was completed; he knew this meant that soon, a superior was likely to swoop in and take the credit. Still, Ruiseart knew that he was doing good work, though without recognition of his accomplishments, he was likely bound for an early retirement in a few years. He’d probably end up at some project management firm or, worse, as a real estate consultant. The thought made him shudder. 

Ruiseart wore an anorak and no cap as he enjoyed the evening air. This was not a regulation on-duty outfit, but who would reprimand him? It was uncommonly warm for a day in January, making his usual evening walk even more enjoyable than usual. His walk allowed him to gauge the progress of construction topside, but more importantly, it allowed him to get away from the musty underground air. With such an unusually clear day, the ceannasóir could see all the way to Tigranevan across the bay. Even further beyond the city, he saw a pair of Aeratorm jets climbing into the sky. Probably responding to another incursion. Ruiseart probably should’ve been paying more attention to the reports from across the bay. There was a slight uptick in air space incursions lately. That was a problem for the Aeratorm really. If the problem were that serious, there’d be a bulletin issued. 

Ruiseart’s mind went to non-work matters. This posting had been hard on his personal life these past few months. He hadn’t been as good a father, husband, or son as he should have been. Father. Before he could overthink it, he pulled his cell phone out and dialed a number. The sunset was especially beautiful tonight. Burnt orange.  


Government House, Penzance, Gaellicia

“I’d like to remind the honorable gentlemen across the way that the measure is only temporary. The power station is only in operation until the current energy crisis can be resolved. On top of that, though, reactivating the station has significantly reduced the load on the power network and has provided consistent heating for thousands of households. It is nothing short of a victory for good government despite the obstacles. Further, I say it smells of hypocrisy that the gentleman from the opposition criticizes the government on environmental grounds when it was under the previous government that oil gushed into the Ranke, putting us in this energy crisis in the first place.” Douglas an Gael stood for a moment defiantly, taking in the cacophony of raps and cheers before sitting down. 

“Order! I say order!” The speaker shouted like an ineffectual substitute teacher. He whispered with one of his underlings for a moment before relenting. “It would be best to adjourn. We will resume business on Monday.” The rabble of the Dail continued as TDs stood and began to file out of the chamber. 

It was approaching three months of coalition government, and despite the efforts of an Gael and Anselm, a dissatisfied malaise was beginning to set in among the parties. Things weren’t going disastrously, but there were also few victories. The most the current government had to show was the acquisition of heating stoves from Ahrana and the reactivation of the soot-belching Cuarón power plant, the latter of which had just occurred this week and was highly controversial. 

The mass of TDs poured out of the chamber like a school of salmon. Taoiseach Nive Anselm and Foreign Minister Chatan Hakan signaled an Gael as he left the chamber. He ambled over to meet the pair and the three of them discussed next steps. 

Anselm was doing better as Taoiseach than many had been expecting and hoping, still despite being a fast learner, her inexperience made her role as figurehead of the coalition difficult. She carried the hopes of the nation on her bird-like shoulders. Douglas admitted to himself that he wasn’t always the easiest partner. Truthfully he was still getting over the unusual governing arrangement. 

“Right. That’s all for now. I’ll see you all Monday.” Anselm nodded her head politely, though her mind was clearly elsewhere. 

“A good weekend to you both. I’ve got surgery to perform.” Hakan smirked as he backed away. He was returning to Yaran to perform constituency services for the weekend. 

Douglas smiled as the Foreign Minister left. “Good luck to you doctor. I hope the operation goes well.” an Gael regretted Hakan’s absence. Whenever the diplomat was away the coalition felt more like an ill-advised experiment rather than a proper government. The statesman was relieved when an aid approached with a cell phone, giving him a reason to take his leave. His son was calling. Unusual. 


Little Lysia Neighborhood, Beaumaris, Gaellicia

Doirin Kisa held on to the ceiling bar tightly as the MacNamera fire engine roared around an intersection and up a cobbled hill. Kisa felt her bones rattle as the engine roared brashly and bathed it’s surroundings in flashing red. Unlike her fellows on the squad, the young medic always found riding on the truck to be a frightening experience.

The truck screamed to a stop and the four-person squad poured out of the cab and onto the cobblestone square. When Kisa saw their mission she couldn’t help but laugh. A rusty dumpster burned in the center of the square. The @Florentian Demonist church loomed in the background, accented by the orange sunset and the dumpster flames.

The squad made quick work of the fire. The other firefighter spraying the hose, Lieutenant commanding, Doirin helping to handle the hose, and the engineer manning the water pumps.

After the tiny blaze was extinguished, the squad began to pack up. As the medic, Kisa ensured that there were no injured bystanders. With the nation's current financial woes, she found herself serving as a sort of out of her depth primary care provider, answering medical questions of bystanders and very quietly dispensing aspirin and iodine tablets. As she worked her impromptu clinic, she listened as the Lieutenant spoke with witnesses.

Nobody was forthcoming about what started the fire. Nevertheless, the firefighters had their suspicions. A greying Lysian man who smelled faintly of burning cardboard was noticeably curious about the fate of the dumpster.

“So is someone gonna haul that thing away? Clearly it’s a death trap! It’s been there for weeks now. No one knows where it came from and I can’t get ahold of anyone from the city!”

Kisa added to the conversation, trying to soothe the man in her best customer service voice. “We only put out fires and deal with emergencies sir. We’ll call it in as a hazard, but we can’na make any promises on when it will be disposed of.”

The Lieutenant added sternly, “We advise you stay far away from the dumpster though. Even approaching it could be considered tampering with a crime scene. Not to mention stu–” They were interrupted by a squawk from his radio. “Do’na do anything stupid again!” He pointed a finger at the arsonist business owner before the firefighters all piled into the truck and roared off toward another call.

Kisa felt a distinct need for a break as the truck roared through a curve. 


Isolde International Airport, Penzance, Gaellicia

Sirvart Connachta felt as if all eyes were on her. Logically she knew it was all in her head, but that didn't make it feel any better. The worst-case scenario continued to loop in her head.

She imagined her hands growing slick with sweat. Dropping her carry-on. The bag exploding. The classified documents blowing into the air and cascading all over the floor for everyone queued at gate A24 to see.

Connachta felt her hairs stand on end as she saw a pair of suited men with earpieces swimming through the crowded gallery. She considered her escape options. There were no good ones. She was not a spy. This was the end. Then she looked closer and realized they were not interested in her. They were escorting a minister and his aide. Squinting a little longer she thought it might be the foreign minister. She wasn’t entirely sure; she hadn’t been paying particularly close attention to politics at home these past few months.

Sirvart watched as the bodyguards opened the jetway door and ushered the minister aboard the flight bound for Yaran. Ministerial perks. She had to pay extra for early boarding like everybody else. She was jolted by the sound of the PA speakers. She couldn’t understand a word from the muffled system, she didn’t know if anyone ever could. She’d traveled enough to recognize that it was time for her boarding group.

Her visions of disaster did not transpire. Instead, she waited her turn, calmly handed her boarding pass to the gate agent, and boarded her flight for Selbourne. The plane was a refurbished Super Simorgh, shiny in chrome. She was always happy when she got to fly aboard one. Not only were the airliners Gaellician built, they had a classic feel to them. A throwback to the earlier days of air travel.

Connachta felt comforted as the plane rocketed off of the runway and up into the sky. She always felt at home in the sky, a true aviator. The four-engined airliner cut through the night, its chrome finished exterior reflecting the last bits of sunlight. Behind the plane, heavy clouds and fog banks began to roll in on Gaellicia. 


Javan Parish, Yaran, Gaellicia

The soldier, dressed in black, covered in leaves, mud, and crud, focused on regulating his breathing. He watched the farmstead below as the men bullshitted and smoked cigarettes. The soldier liked the feeling, the power of being invisible. His comrade was only a few inches to his right, but an untrained observer wouldn’t have a clue. The soldier was trained. He knew. He also knew where all the patrols in the hills were. He could tell by the crunch on the ground, the scent in the wind, the feel of the air. The soldier liked the feeling, the power of being invisi–

The soldier watched as the teenager before him’s face changed from boredom to shock. How had this little zit face got the drop on him? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Fianóglach didn’t get snuck up on. Fianóglach didn’t get surprised. The soldier cursed himself and his failure. The teenage guard began to unfreeze. Tried to stumble words out in Karak. He was about to scream. The soldier felt like he was watching himself, out of his own body. The glint of his knife as he unsheathed it. One silent fluid motion. A little blood and the teen was dead. His mouth open in a scream without sound.

Damhnaic Gainim started awake in a cold sweat. He was breathing. More like sobbing without tears. He flung off his covers and swung his legs off the bed, placing his bare feet on the cold wood floor. Gainim turned on the lamp on his bedside table and took in his surroundings, grounding himself. He was home. He was safe. It was just a memory. Just a nightmare. He hadn’t had one in a while.

The back of his neck prickled as his ears picked up a sound. What was it? The front door was rattling. Quickly the priest stepped into his slippers and threw his warm house robe on over his long johns. What could it be? A burglar trying to force entry? What could they possibly want to steal from his monklike home? A parishioner with a spiritual emergency? In the middle of the night? Well Mrs. Kangal was probably in her last days? Had her health taken a sudden dive? Was it time to administer last rites?

Gainim exited the cell that served as his sleeping cubby into his wider apartment. The modest room was part study, part dining area, and part kitchen, if you could call it that. Really some cabinets, a sink, and a hot plate. Gainim lived modestly, though he felt that he could probably cut back even more. He eyed the finished wine bottle left on his round table for one.

The priest approached the rattling door. It stopped just as he reached it. He unbolted it immediately, without looking first, and swung it open. No one was there. Just a silent night. He stuck his head out the doorway, looked both ways. Nobody to be seen. It was foggy tonight. Gainim could just make out his church across the yard. Sant Blaise's, a modest structure built of stone. It had a steeple though. Some churches didn’t. Most importantly though, it was his church. The meeting place for his flock, and their place of collective worship.

“Hello?” he croaked.

He was answered by a raspy meow.

“Well well well. Welcome back Priss.”

The striped grey cat emerged from the mist and meowed in response before purring and rubbing against the priest’s leg.

“Couldn’t find anything to eat on your own?”

Another meow before the cat invited herself into the apartment.

“Well we best fix you something.” Gainim bolted the door before walking to the counter and placing the lantern on it. “Got cold again. Shame. It was warm for a winter's day.” He could see his breath as he dug in his cabinets, eventually finding what he was after: a can of tuna. Priss meowed and purred some more, weaving between the priest’s legs in a figure eight. Gainim opened the can and scooped the tuna onto a saucer for the cat, making sure to drain the juices. “Here you go Ms. Priss.” The cat meowed triumphantly before beginning to gobble up the tuna. “Can’t sleep anyways.” Gainim dug through a pile of books before removing a well loved yellow legal pad. He sat at his table and began to scribble on the pad. His sermon for Sunday.

Done with her dinner, Priss meowed as loudly as possible before jumping onto the table. She purred and rubbed her cheeks against Gainim’s pen as he tried to write. “You have suggestions then?” The cat purred even louder as Gainim pet her and scratched behind her ears. 

 

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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  • 1 month later...

Chapter VIII: The Invasion

This chapter is an audio production. Please listen here!

 

Good morning and happy Saturday. This is Orson Towbar with coastal radio in Gaelic. We are serving the communities of Catsuit, Javon, and the northern coast of Yaran. For the choleric broadcast, tune to channel 100. This is the Gaelic broadcast.

Now it's time for the weather report. It's looking to be a foggy day today, a front came in off the Kosscow overnight, we can expect this fog to burn off by about mid-morning, but we'll keep you posted if anything changes. Lucky for those of you on the water today, the actual sea conditions are quite calm, almost like glass, unusually so I would say. Be careful in the fog, of course. Take precautions, but the currents themselves are pretty mild. And we can expect a high of 16 degrees Celsius, unusually warm for a winter's day like this.

Some quick local news. The island of Yaran is experiencing sailor outages all across the island. There's been no statement from er calm as of yet. As soon as we get some more information, we'll let you know. Lucky for your listener, the radio still works in its unaffected.

Now I shall turn you over to the national broadcast RBC National Center in Penzance. It's your favorite weekend News Quiz Show. I'll catch you later folks. Enjoy.

* * *

A Sorry to interrupt folks. But we've got a bit of a developing situation here. We're getting unconfirmed reports around the island, small explosion, something like that. Is something consistent with that. We don't know what the cause of these are. We don't know what they are. And we won't speculate. But we just thought we should let you know. Perhaps stay inside. Await instruction instructions from emergency services. If you have information, if you've seen anything called into the station here at 0238667849 That's 0238667849.

* * *

We got a caller, Justin. Just now it's DOM Higgins. Dom. Hello. You're on the air.

Can you hear me?

Yeah, Dom, I can hear you loud and clear. Go ahead.

I have a problem. And I saw the explosion cloud in the distance. Kind of bummed out about it. It was in the army. I seen one before.

So in your view, it was a car bomb. That how big an explosion, pretty small, right?

Pretty sizable. I didn't see the start of it. But I saw the top pop over a hill.

Right dome. I gotta let you go. Thanks so much for calling in, and stay safe out there. All right, I got Zane up on the line from Casio Zenith dear. What have you seen?

I saw jet go over.

Right. Take a breath dear. Don't rush it. In was this a military craft? I assume not a passenger jet.

Yes, it was not a passenger craft or anything like that. It was really fast and crack and load.

Thank you, Xena. Gotta let you go. Thanks so much for calling in and stay safe out there. And folks, remember, we don't know what we don't know. All right. There's gonna be a lot of information coming in, some of it's going to conflict. Just keep your head zone. All right. And remain calm. Alright, we're not going to speculate.

* * *

Right, folks? It's 856 We finally got our first statement from the emergency services. Let me read it for you word for word. There are several fires along major roadways and the ER comma south of air. The fires are under control. Causes unknown at this time and emergency services are declining to speculate. Citizens are advised to stay off the highway nine and road south towards Coronado. Stay tuned for further instructions. Here around the studio. So far, things seem pretty commonplace. The studio is located in Kossuth we got a nice view of the bay out there. The landline phones are still working too. It's just cellular service that's been…

* * *

I'm sure you all just heard that with your own ears. No radio necessary, but a pair of jets just buzzed us in the town here. You may have heard me speaking to someone as well. I was speaking to our apprentice Maya here. She's from the local college. She's doing great. You're probably gonna hear her on the radio pretty soon. If she keeps it up. She'll have a whole career doing this. My producers just handed me some more information, a news bulletin here. More explosions. It looks like no reports yet on damage or injuries, if there are any. But we'll keep you posted.

* * *

Another caller with new information, calling the captain of the fishing boat Erica on the CB Skipper, you're on air, what are you seeing an aircraft, cargo? And how many are you seeing? Are your order he says so they're heading towards us here in town. We'll keep you posted. As soon as you have more information, folks, we can't say for certain what those those flashes in the sky are related to these other occurrences or not. We're getting a lot of requests to play the national news. They don't currently know any more than us. We're also experiencing some technical difficulties receiving the broadcast from Penzance. As soon as that changes we will patch in the national broadcast a show you folks.

Hang on. I'm seeing something now, you got my binoculars here. I'm looking at what on Eurth is that? I… listener… I don't know what this is. It's some kind of low flying aircraft. It's emerging from the, from the mist, and it's really, it is really moving there. It's got. I don't know what it is. But it's throwing up water. It's not in the water. It's above it. But I really don't know what I'm looking at here. It's sort of gray, squat cargo plane kind of thing. And it's really, it's really moving. It's coming. It's pulling up to the beach. Now it really got there real fast, throwing up sand and pebbles. It's really making real absolute mess. We're getting reports of more of these things up and down the coast, whatever they are. And now from Javon, Mrs. Kangal on the line.

I've just seen soldiers by my window. They are Volscian.

And how do you know that, Mercia, their nationality?

I livedthrough the 1950s I recognize those patches. They are Hawk patches. Exactly what the Volsci always wear.

Thank you, Dear. Please stay inside and stay low stay out. These vehicles are now their front are unhinging like one of those cargo planes. Stay away from the beach stay inside, there's soldiers pouring out running down those ramps. No, these are not government soldiers, not Gaellician I cannot tell you by their uniforms what they are, stay inside, stay in shelter. And now I'm seeing that in armored vehicle of some sort. Emerging from one of these magazine reports now have additional landings further up and down the coast. Garrison troops are apparently exchanging gunfire at the landing vehicles and soldiers. From here looking at Kossuth I can see the soldiers are starting to leave the beach. They're entering the town. Stay inside everyone, please stay away from the windows.

Now you got a message from the emergency services here. Yaran is experiencing an invasion suspected to be soldiers of the Volscian Republic, civilians are advised to seek shelter and to stay out of sight. Do not engage with enemy soldiers. If you counter enemies and soldiers, do as instructed and do not provoke them. If you...

Hang on at the window now we got on a street I'm seeing boys throwing rocks at soldiers on post street looks like do not engage with them, shelter in place if anyone can see those boys. Tell them...

Cuck I'm ashamed God was just fired. That humanity, Yeah! The humanity! I'm sorry, folks. I don't know why we're just hearing this now. But we just got a report and several hours ago, landings are made in southern skillet along the coast. News is just reaching us now. But these landings began there around 6am, it's sounding like.

* * *

I'm trying to get on. Do you hear that? Yeah, we're trying to get on. We're gonna be here real fast. We got some really more trigger happy.

If you're hearing that, folks, we are hearing that noise, folks. That's not gunfire, or anything like that. That's just the invading troops breaking into the studio here, first in their way, in forcing their entry, but don't be alarmed. No gunshots are going off now. It's just them breaking away into the studio.

Well, yeah, it's all right. Just stay calm, remain calm. Your hands up in the air. It'll all be real late.

If you're hearing that they have now entered the studio, it looks like there's three of them, three soldiers. They are indeed wearing the hawk patches on their shoulders. They are, they look, Volscian and remember those from the textbooks from the school books.

You say this.

If you remove that from my back, this remove that gun from my back. I will say if you remove the gun from my back, I say you read it. I will say that if you remove the gun from my pocket under duress, under gunpoint, you say this, remove that. And I will say well, I say you say when I tell you right, folks, I've been handed a statement to read here by the invading troops. I'll be reading it now.

Attention, citizens of the island of Yaran. The Volscian Republic is currently undertaking a special operation to liberate the car lock people from under the thumb of the goal occupiers. This is a message specifically for the gelten for traders from afar. Your reign is over, finally and forever. The car luck will no longer need to struggle for liberation. Despite your status as foreign occupiers, no harm needs to come to you. It will be treated humanely if you cooperate with Republican authorities and follow their instructions. Today is the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in the history of Yaran, and a victory in the ultimate goal of the unification of all of Burania.

Folks, I'm being told to hang up the microphone. I'm Morrison Toolbar. Until next time, whenever that may be.

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter IX: Scramble, scramble, scramble!

January 21st, 2023, Early Morning

24 Radar Group, Eastern Gaellicia

Harold Atkinson had chosen radar control for a reason: it was supposed to be boring. He liked boring. The assignment had lived up to its reputation mostly. A lot of staring at screens, tracking dots. Occasionally, a civilian aircraft got confused or wasn’t transponding correctly. Those were the rare instances where he had to solve a problem.

Until about a year ago. Then hairy situations were a semi-regular occurrence. Starting about a month ago, Harold had found himself sweating nearly every shift.  

The Volscians had gotten in the habit of performing unannounced, large-scale aerial maneuvers regularly. Volscian fighter jets would show on the radar monitors from time to time, but the frequent contacts were heavy bombers. Sometimes, they’d fly in formations, sometimes piecemeal. Their list of vectors seemed always to rotate. Some days, they flew towards Deltannia, sometimes out over the Oriental Ocean, the Gulf of Lanjon, or over the Kosscow Sea. The attention-seeking display was something that the fuel-rich Volsci could afford. Why Volsci wanted to was another matter. The reasons could likely be figured out through thorough analysis, but that was a job for the intel nerds. Atkinson was mostly there to look at blips on a screen.

Harold groaned. Some slow-moving contacts, heading towards Gaellician air space had just been identified. They were bears, aging turboprop-powered bombers, Volsci’s preferred method of incursion into Gaellician airspace, and frequent visitors at this point. Harold sighed and prepared to forward the contacts.


Ashaig Air Base, Eastern Sgialeát 

BWOMP! BWOMP! BWOMP!

A klaxon blared loudly and annoyingly, rousing Amada Tsuko from her fitful slumber. She hopped out of bed and jumped to the pilot ready room. Tsuko glared at the action board. She was not on deck, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep, and it was always good to be aware of the situation. Tsuko grabbed a cold bagel and a morsel of powdered scrambled eggs while blinking sleep from her eyes. 

“Eating the bagel whole, no schmear? Probably wise, you and sharp kitchen utensils don’t mix.” Another pilot ribbed Tsuko.

Her callsign was Tamaba, after the knife brand from @Esonice. A reference to an incident where, as a trainee pilot, Tsuko had sliced her finger cooking in the barracks. The knife wasn’t even Tamaba brand, but Amada was of Esonian ancestry. Before she could retort, the klaxon sounded again. She had to settle for the middle finger. 

BWOMP! BWOMP! BWOMP!

The klaxon again. A quartet of flight officers sprinted to their ready aircraft. Tsuko could hear the caracals awaken and then roar. 

“Victor’s been getting real aggressive lately.” A skinny backseater, callsign Worm, commented to no one in particular. 

“Volsci can try and get hot anytime. But they better lube up and be ready for a couple of missiles up their orifices. They'll find out who the real top is.” Another pilot cut in response. 

Tsuko rolled her eyes. The comment had come from a newer transfer to the squadron, Philip Bethune. Due to his natural good looks and somewhat vain personality, like a model, he had earned the callsign Replika, after the famous @Pojački model aircraft manufacturer. She tried to ignore his masculine bravado, but after about thirty seconds, she couldn’t keep it in anymore. 

“Cowboy shit will get you killed. Fly straight or transfer to harriers if you want to fulfill your death wish.” 

Replika smirked in response. “Only gets you killed if you’re not good enough. And a pebble hopper would be a waste of my considerable talents.”

“I swear if I have to carry you and your unearned overconfidence-”

BWOMP! BWOMP! BWOMP! 

Another quartet of fliers ran to the pair of ready fighters.

“We should probably give the circuit a listen. Maybe something different than usual will happen.” Worm mumbled as he marched over to the wall-mounted radio set.


24 Radar Group

It was turning out to be an interesting morning in the skies over Gaellicia. Three bears and counting were violating Gaellician airspace and so six F28 Caracals were sent up, operating in pairs. The first element had intercepted the first bear and were now escorting it. The other two elements were in the air and closing rapidly.

The operations room had the radio circuit with the interceptors playing in the corner. Harold Atkinson mentally translated the brevity codes and pilot jargon into plainer language.

“Cat 1, Beanstalk, we’re tracking additional unidentified aircraft behind and beneath you.” 

“Beanstalk, Cat 1. Acknowledged. Not seeing anything. 2 will take a look. Our bear friend here isn’t doing much.”

There was a crackling as the communication paused. Atkinson watched on his monitor as one of the interceptors maneuvered to get a read on the suspicious trailing blip. Further East, over Volsci, a large formation of bombers could be seen speeding over the Kosscow sea. PK1111s, Volsci’s premiere supersonic bomber. Atkinson had been watching this formation for several minutes, but so far it hadn’t done anything unusual. Detected on Gaellicia’s over-the-horizon radar, GIRDER. The resolution on the aging pair of arrays wasn’t great, but it was good enough to tell an operator that the bombers were there.   

Then, the gates of hell seemingly opened up. The first interceptor element crackled onto the radio once again. 

“Beanstalk, Cat 1-2. I’m picking up that contact. No visual identification yet. On my scope, it looks like he’s popping up for a quick look before ducking down below radar cover. Hang on, I just picked up another one, flying low. Naughty Vossys, trailing their bear.”

“Beanstalk, Cat 1-1. Awaiting instructions. Hang on, our bear here just took a steep dive.” 

At that moment, two solid dots popped up behind Cat 1. 

“Cat 1-2 here. I’ve got two Breakers coming up.”

“Cat 1-1. Defensive.”

“Cat 1-2. Defensive. Breakers just fired missiles.”

Despite the gravity of what was happening, the pilots kept their voices cool, as all pilots like to present themselves. 

Atkinson turned his eyes to the Eastern portion of the plot and watched in horror as the line of Volscian bombers doubled, like an amoeba splitting. The bombers were launching cruise missiles!


Ashaig Air Base, Eastern Sgialeát 

Fliers roused their comrades in adjoining rooms, and a general sound of emotion filled the ready room. Without orders, the flight officers ensured they had their equipment on and queued for action. Their squadron mates were being attacked up there, and they were all chomping at the bit for the chance to intervene. On the radio circuit, the ground-based air controller could be heard trying in vain to re-establish contact with the first interceptor element. 

“Cat 1, Beanstalk. Status? Cat 1 acknowledge.” 

A senior officer and his entourage suddenly burst into the ready room. Aviagown Captaen* Gilleain "Gills" Garadh: The squadron commanding officer. He grabbed the attention of the room before delivering his orders. 

*Group Captain in Anglish. NATO OF-5.

“Alright, listen up ducks. The Vossys have gone weapons-free. I don’t know if this is war or just a scrap, but we have a whole lot of bandits incoming. I need everything that flies up in the air, so those of you not in caracals will be going up in razorbills. I’ve already issued orders to ground crews. The Tever Ceannasaí (wing commander) here has your aircraft assignments. Report to him and then get airborne. And no, this is not a drill.”

Worm asked with concern, “Sir, what type of aircraft can we expect to face?”

“Everything.” Seeing his officers' consternation, the CO elaborated. “Right now, its looking like incoming JiG 34 Uprocks, as well as JiG 30 Breakers providing fighter cover. We can expect multiple types of bombers to arrive in successive follow-up waves, escorted by Waltzers and Foxtrots.

Most of our aircraft have been fitted out with mixed A/A loadouts to deal with the breadth of the assault. This is what we train for. Now get into the air and fly smart.” 

As if to underscore his point the air raid sirens began to moan.

BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrr! BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrr!

The officers began to queue excitedly. The CO ordered calmly over the milieu before turning towards the exit, “I need Tamaba, Replika, and Motor with me.” 

Perplexed, the three singled out pilots jumped out of line and hustled to catch up to the Aviagown Captaen. A roofless land rider with a Sáirsint* in the driver’s seat was waiting for them outside. The Sáirsint motioned for them to get in. As soon as their butts were on the longitudinal benches in the back, the 4x4 was speeding off through the early morning darkness. 

*Sergeant in Anglish. Equivalent to NATO OR-5.

Tsuko was sat behind the driver, to her right was Bethune. Across from him was the other pilot Motor, and next to him and across from Tsuko was a familiar face. 

Squinting, she asked curiously. “Doc? Is that you?”  

The squadron assistant flight surgeon smiled back. “It’s Yuda* today. I’m going up with you lot.”

*After the short purple zen master in the famous science fantasy franchise.

"They let doctors fly?” Motor asked surprised. The young pilot had transferred to the squadron with Replika.

“He’s special. Pilot Physician program. Though not yet qualified on the F28.” Tamaba briefed. 

“Working on it though.” Yuda added.

Tsuko found it hard to believe. She would have thought everything was a dream, or more like a nightmare, but the painful sting of the wind on her face as the jeep sped through the early morning darkness told her that this was reality. The Sáirsint driving had his steely eyes locked on the road. The only source of light was the jeep’s bright headlights cutting a path through the morning dark. Amada naturally had a high tolerance for uncomfortable motion, but on the ground, with this particular little man at the wheel, racing through the darkness, it was a true test of the stomach. 

“Any clue where we’re going?” Replika prodded the group. 

“I’m in the dark with the rest of you.” Yuda gestured to the shotgun seat right and perpendicular to himself. “AC told me to suit up and get in the car. Did as I was told.”

Riding shotgun, AC Garadh wasn’t listening to the chat in the back. He was busy having a spirited argument over the radio. “No of course I don’t have a mission plan. We’re under attack! Just have four birds ready for me loaded out for A/A!” 

Dr. Yuda continued. “But looking at us here, we’re all qualified F1 pilots.” 

Without warning, the driver cranked a hard right, sliding the pilots in the back seat into each other. Now off of the service road and on the flight line, the driver weaved between other vehicles, red flashlight-wielding ground crew, and pallets of supplies. The jeep screeched left, trying to pass between two hangers before rapidly squealing to a stop. A fighter had begun taxiing, blocking the channel's other side.

The driver turned around in his seat, saluted the pilots, and then, over the moan of the air raid siren, the howls of jet engines, and the growl of the jeep shouted apologetically in his thick burr,

“Sorry about that, ma’am, sirs. Just trying to get you to your destination quick as can. On orders of the AC here. Sáirsint Loy.” Loy placed his arm on the back of the passenger seat beside him, looking out behind the vehicle, past the pilots. “And sorry in advance about this.” Loy cranked the gears in reverse and slammed on the accelerator, honking the horn as he went.

All the while, Garadh continued to grumble in conversation with various unheard counterparts on the radio, unphased by the NCO’s driving. 

Out of the channel, Loy breaked and switched gears again. Tsuko gripped a hand hold tightly as he steered the rover through one of the hangers before abruptly breaking again. A pallet of munitions was being carted across the hanger floor. 

“Are you fecking mad! Do you know how many fecking safety rules you’ve just torched?” One of the ground crew roared at Loy angrily. 

Gesturing to a cart to the left, Loy barked back. “Move this shite out of the fecking way. I’ve got pilots that I need to get up in the air here.” Garadh nodded to the ground crew, supporting his NCO. 

As they waited impatiently for a hole to be made Tsuko tried to figure out where their destination was. “Sáirsint, where are you taking us?” 

A pathway now clear, Loy slammed on the accelerator, nearly flattening a crewman. “Reserve unit ma’am. On the other side of the hill.” The jeep rocketed out of the hanger and across the runway. As they lost sight of the runway from the wooded service road, a pair of caracals roared up into the sky. 

Finally done making moves over the radio, Garadh turned in his seat to face the pilots, “We’re going up in Bánánachs. I know you’re all qualified on them or were at least recently. I’d rather command from a caracal, but I need everything that can fly up in the air as quickly as possible.”

“Got three cats in the barn. It’s a minor miracle that we’re able to get as many airborne as we can with the lack of parts and maintenance gremlins.” Loy chimed in.

“We can’t wait around for the 108th to get its act together. I managed to round up a pair of wizzos for two of you. Replika, you’ll fly without a passenger.” 

In the distance, an explosion cloud emerged over the treeline, briefly lighting up the morning darkness. 

“Feck. That’s a SAM emplacement going up.” Loy muttered. 

The jeep turned right and began to slow. Tsuko could see beams of light peaking through the barren winter trees ahead. She focused on her own breathing, clearing her mind and preparing for battle. Loy skirted the land rider to a stop. 

“Tsuko, Replika, with me.” Garadh ordered. 

As soon as the three of them hopped out of the 4x4, Loy was speeding away. Off to deliver Yuda and Motor to the other waiting fighters.

In contrast to the Caracal squadron, the 108th  squadron laid out aircraft inspired by the @Pojački method: Distributed hardstands that hosted pairs of aircraft. A network of taxiways and roads connected to both a runway and a highway that could be closed off and used for flight operations. 

The hardstand was covered by camo netting, with dim work lights providing the only lighting. Equipment was strewn around, all meant to be packed aboard a few vehicles. Waiting and ready was indeed a pair of F1 Bánánachs. With the only light in the early morning coming from the work lights, the F1s were illuminated dramatically, cast in dark shadows. Their green and black camouflage highlighted their moody contours while the white shark teeth painted on their noses seemed to glow in reflection. At the top of each jet’s tail, a name was painted in grey: Bran or Sceólang. A hunting hound was painted on the tail beneath each name in the same shade of grey. 

“Tsuko, you fly with me. Bethune, you take the further plane.” Garadh ordered. 

The flight officers walked around their aircraft, inspecting and completing checklists with haste. Satisfied, they clambered into their cockpits and completed final checks. The crew chiefs removed the ladders from the sides of the jets before the ground crew in high-vis vests guided them out. The pair of fighters taxied line astern down the roadway, much too slow for the liking of their occupants. Leading in Bran was Replika, and trailing in Sceólang were Tamaba and Gills. Finally, the two aircraft lined up side by side on the runway. Cleared to go, the pair of fighters lit four massive flame diamonds before rapidly slipping off the bounds of the Eurth. The treetops, fields, and moans of the air raid siren were left behind as the aircraft climbed. Three balls of orange grew at various points on the ground below: more SAM batteries being bombed by Volscian fighters.

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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Chapter X: Grouper Ears

January 21st, 2023, early morning

RLC Grúpaire, diesel attack submarine, the Kosscow Sea 

Sonar operator Tomás Mortaugh saw himself standing alone in a black plane, as you might see in a minimalist theater production on Cathures’ riverfront district. In reality, he was at a workstation aboard the Gaellcian submarine S101, RLC Grúpaire (grouper). His station was in the sonar shack, three aft-facing seats and consoles recessed into a cubby at the rear of the submarine's control room, separated from the rest of the room by a curtain.

The end of Mortaugh’s shift was approaching. A disappointment. He loved working the sonar. It could be peaceful, exciting, or even meditative.

The submarine was heading east, patrolling the gap just below the 60th parallel. Standing on his black stage, he saw around the sub. Stage right he saw porpoises keening, way off in the wings he could hear whales. Down stage center, fairies floated gently, singing in icy, crystalline voices and twinkling like stars. The ethereal noises were spots of light in the black plain. It was the Vithravi fishing fleet pinging away in search of piscine bounty. He conferred with the sailor beside him, who clacked on his keyboard to confirm the computer’s classification: trawler.

Mortaugh scratched his neck under the collar of his woolen sweater before retraining his ear, taking in normal ocean sounds. It was a typical patrol route, which until about a year ago, was uneventful. Then, for a reason as yet unknown, the Volscians began to get much more aggressive. They had started driving their attack submarines as far south as Akiiryu, laying claim to the waterways beyond the Kosscow. 

Suddenly, Mortaugh’s ears prickled. A new sound. Something mechanical.

Thwush! Thwush! Thwush! Thwush! Thwush!

A surface vessel. Far away but moving fast.

Mortaugh pressed a button and reported into his headset, “Conn, sonar. New contact bearing 2-4-0. Designating Sierra 7.” Mortaugh clacked away at his console, quickly confirming the classification before adding on, “Classification, Canis 4.” It was a Volscian frigate.

The intercom speaker in the sonar shack squawked, “Sonar, conn aye.”

With his uncovered ear, Mortaugh heard the Captain step onto the bridge. Though a curtain obstructed his view, he could tell by the change in energy in the room, a slight tensioning.

Focusing on his work, he adjusted the ball cursor at his computer station. On his waterfall display, a new trace appeared. With the ball cursor, Mortaugh clicked and dragged a selection square over the contact. Something new was out there making noise. It was very faint, but it was there. Was it an anomaly? A sea creature? Mortaugh focused his ears and gave the sound a listen. 

Konk-clink-konk-clink…

The sonar operator highlighted the trace and, using his keyboard, input some commands into the computer. The computer quickly compared the trace to others within its database. Mortaugh smiled as the computer confirmed what he'd already figured out. His ears were very familiar with this unique mechanical imperfection and the vessel from which it originated.

It was a submarine. Quiet, but not quiet enough to get by the Gaellician Grúpaire.

“Conn, sonar. New contact bearing 2-9-0. Designating Sierra 8. It’s our old friend, Selachus 13.”

The box squawked in response again. “Sonar, conn aye.”

The Selachus class was Volsci’s nuclear attack submarine type. A bone-chilling opponent, even to an experienced crew. The Grúpaire had had multiple run-ins with number 13 over the past year. Its skipper was known for maneuvering aggressively and having an almost supernatural knack for shaking any tailing submarine.

Out of his non-headphoned ear, Mortaugh could hear the Captain and Officer of the Watch conferring. He couldn’t make out details, but it seemed that a message was coming in. 

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spacer.pngAuthor's Note

This chapter makes extensive use of brevity codes as used in real-life aviation. A glossary of terms can be found here, with some terms in context here

I'd like to thank @Gallambria and @Poja for their help in drafting this chapter.

@Poja was especially patient with my many salvos of questions and kind enough to review my writing and provide specific technical notes.


Chapter XI: Hostile, Heavy, High, Fast

January 21st, 2023, Early morning

Gaellicia, Eastern Sgialeát, Skies above Ashaig Airbase

Aviagown Captaen Kennaich "Gills" Garadh, Warcat One-One, 2nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

The young voice of the ground-based air controller crackled over the comms net.

spacer.png“Warcat One, Beanstalk. Deploy to Dugout, angels one six.”

Aviagown Captaen Kennaich “Gills” Garadh felt his guts drop as the pilot, Tamaba, pointed the F1 Bánánach’s nose up and let it sing. The power of the jet’s screeching turbofans vibrated into Gills’ bones as it punched through the clouds. Water droplets streaked across the canopy as the fighter climbed towards 16,000 feet. Straining his neck to look right, Gills could just glimpse Replika keeping pace in his own fighter. 

As the fighters began to level off, Gills appreciated the view for just a moment. At higher altitude, the early morning darkness was beginning to shed. As the four fighters of the flight came together, the hounds on their tails shimmered in the peaking sunlight. Now flying together, the flight banked left to the rally point dictated by the controller on the ground. The point was located slightly east of the airbase, positioning the flight as a guard. 

Gills didn’t need to see his aircrew to feel how they were brimming with nervous energy and excitement. Without instructions or tasking, they would begin to let out that energy in unconstructive ways. 

One of the WSOs nabbed from the 108th, callsign Kewpie, chattered at a million words a minute over the flight’s dedicated UHF frequency. “This is like the first arc in Cyberlectric. The voca-combat club thinks they’ve been rehearsing all semester to face their rivals at Crosstown High but then it turns out they’ve been replaced with Doctor Vasango’s minions so he can trap them in the voca-combat stream indefinitely and force the team to make him music to sell. The Captain is Club Advisor Sawato obviously. I would say I was Kazurito, but honestly I’m probably Yuri. Hey Tamaba, can you play guitar? I know you’re a girl but you’re probably closest. I could see you slicing a guitana.” 

Kewpie was riding with Motor in the fourth jet in the flight. Perhaps feeling the young WSO’s nervousness himself, Motor let his chatterbox tendencies overcome him and lamented, “Great, I’ve got a zoomaboo in my backseat. (1) Unless this air battle turns into a katana fight, I’m toast.”

  Gills, frustrated by the lack of discipline, nixed the energy before it got out of control. “No chatter. Focus. This is the real deal.” 

The voice of the ground-based air controller crackled over the net and provided a task for the junior members of the flight to focus on. Gills took the opportunity to check on his wingman while he still had the time. 

"Two, how you doing over there. Multi-tasking not too much is it?” 

“One, I’m managing, sir. Jet’s playing nice. She and I have history, so I know her quirks.” 

“Just stay close kid and you’ll be alright.”

Not a moment later, the aircraft of the rest of the squadron began to call in with status reports. Periodically, Beanstalk would butt in with new information. Gills scritched on his kneeboard, keeping his picture of the skies current. Minutes burned away like jet fuel as fighters positioned themselves, and Gills’ picture became clearer. (2)

Over the past year, the Volscians had been wearing the Aeratorm down before even firing a shot. Spread thin, the men and women of the Gaelic Air Force had grown ever more exhausted, and thus, complacent. Now, at its most anemic and ill-prepared, the Aeratorm was facing a massive assault. 

The first wave of enemy fighters had already passed over. The second wave were too low for most of Warcat to engage. The third wave, however, was positioned just right.

“Warcat, Beanstalk. Gorilla, bullseye zero two six, two five six miles.” Beanstalk continued with more sightings. “New picture, three group Vic, three-zero deep, eight-five across, lead group Bullseye zero four two, one three eight miles, angels four one, hostile, heavy, high, fast. South trail group, angels four one, hostile, heavy, high, fast. North trail group, angels four one, hostile, heavy, high, fast. Warcats fence in. Weapons TIGHT. Hostiles at angels thr-”

BZZZZRRK!

Gills winced at the harsh hiss of static. He didn’t have time to dwell on the problem. That’s what delegation was for. 

Gills gave instructions to Omeleto, the WSO flying with Yuda. “Three, see if you can reestablish communications with Beanstalk.” 

Shortly after, a report came in from the Executive Officer’s flight. “Warcat Two, bandits, two groups. South group, bullseye zero-five-six, for one-two-eight miles, angels four six, bogeys, four contacts, high, fast. North group, bullseye zero-two-zero, for one-one-niner miles, angels four seven, bogeys, four contacts, high, fast, leaning on Warcat Three.” 

There was an eerie silence after Warcat Two’s report. Both flights Two and Three knew that the Bogey formations were there. They could see each other’s contacts thanks to datalink. The report over the net was both a way to keep the datalinkless F1s appraised of the situation, and a quiet request for orders. With communication to the ground seemingly knocked out, the decision rested with Gills. Quickly he scrawled out some calculations on his kneeboard before pressing the transmit button. 

“Warcats, One, fence in.” Gills paused for half a second to correct his math. “Warcat Two, target south group, bullseye zero-five-six, for one-two-two miles, angels four six, hostiles, four contacts, high, fast. Weapons FREE. Warcat Three, target north group, bullseye zero-two-zero, for one-one-five miles, angels four seven, hostiles, four contacts, high, fast. Weapons FREE.” 

“Two, roger. Targeted south group. Music ON.” 

“Three, roger. Targeted north group. Music ON.” 

Gills vectored his flight to a rally point out over the water, a near equal distance to both Warcats Two and Three. All that was left for Gills at the moment was to keep his picture updated best he could and to wait. He felt a pang of regret from going up in the sky in an F1. His awareness was hampered sitting in the back seat of the aged fighter, his vision of the skies reliant on verbal reports and what his own radar could see. He smirked to himself, as it was fitting for the oldman of the squadron. 

He listened as the enemy fighters were jammed and engaged from afar. The two flights had that situation handled for the time being. He watched on his radar screen as the four Caracals of Warcat Three split into two elements, both turning away from each other and beginning to pick up speed. 

It seemed that everyone was antsy to engage the Volscians. Eager for combat. The hunter’s instinct was manifesting in the aircrew of the squadron. Even with seven aircraft in the process of engaging, the tension was still building, in need of release. Perhaps it wouldn’t entirely dissipate until all felt that they got their crack. Gills couldn’t deny feeling it himself. 


Early Morning

Off the east coast of Sgialeát, Skies above the Kosscow Sea

Lefteanant Paul “Worm” Anvakh - Warcat Three-Three

Paul “Worm” Anvakh resisted the urge to grit his teeth as his pilot, “Caddy,” lit their F28’s afterburners and pushed the aircraft faster. 

Worm scanned his instruments before returning his attention to his radar display. He liked to imagine himself as a DJ, barraging the ears of his audience with never before heard beat combinations. Of course, instead of attacking the human ear with senseless noise, he was overwhelming the sensors of enemy fighters. Instead of an elaborate turntable setup to cut tracks with, he had a small knob to turn.

“Three niner miles.” Worm reported over the cockpit intercom while unsuccessfully suppressing the vibrato in his voice. 

The Volscian fighters were like an angry group of bees, rushing toward the F28s nearly as hard as Caracals were to them. Evidently, their commander did not appreciate having the range of his missiles reduced. 

Caddy and the pilot on his wing nudged their Caracals left, beginning to enter into an outward curve. The lead element of Warcat Three mirrored this maneuver several miles away, out of sight. 

Worm checked on his radar display that all the jets of the flight were keeping time. Their Volscian counterparts continued to fly stubbornly forward, their radar warning receivers no doubt howling at their pilots. The Volscians increased their speed while keeping themselves straight on relative to Warcat Three’s fighters. The Caracals were conducting a classic pincer maneuver, though Worm thought that it looked more like a wine glass from a gods eye view. 

“Three six miles. Gimme Barakuda Caddy.” Worm ordered.

“Roger.” Was the pilot's simple response.

Worm felt the airframe rattle as the Caracals of his element began to shift the turn rightwards, their noses beginning to point back towards the Volscian fighters. The pair of F28s glowed angrily in the early morning light. Worm didn’t have the time to consciously observe any of these details however. He was too busy locking his Barakudas on targets. Two missiles, one for each fighter in his sights. The WSO in the fighter to his mirror would be doing the same.

As confirmation, each backseater called out their targets over the radio.

At thirty miles, the Volscians still kept themselves straight relative to the elements of Warcat Three, determined to eat up as much distance as they could. Unfortunately for them, they were not yet past the reach of the Gaellician fighter’s jammers and so were still unable to acquire a lock.

The Caracals pitched their noses up and pointed towards their targets, seconds to go. 

“Two eight miles.” Worm reported. 

The Caracals were well within firing range for their Barakudas now. Their WSOs continued to hold off pushing the button. A few more excruciating seconds. 

Worm counted off in his head, his finger hovering over the big round yellow cautioned fire button.  

One one thousand.

Two one thousand. 

Three one thousand. 

Four one thousand. 

Two six miles! FIRE!

He jabbed the launch button with a gloved finger. 

“Fox THREE.” He announced over the radio, joined by the other WSOs of the flight. 

He caught a glimpse of the Pojački-designed missile as it dropped away from the Caracal’s left wing glove. The Barakuda was silent for half a second, then lit its rocket motor. It flew level as the Caracal continued to climb. 

One one thousand. 

Two one thous-ZOOM! 

The missile shot up high, overtaking its launching aircraft in a second. Worm checked that his next target was locked and then jabbed the launch button again. 

For once satisfied having to repeat himself, he crowed over the radio again, “Fox THREE!” The chorus of the other WSOs once again backed him up. 

The right Barakuda dropped away, lit itself, leveled out, and then up and away it went. The Caracals eased off their after-burners and began leveling off. Worm looked through the top of his plane’s canopy and let his breath be taken away for a precious second. Four missiles climbed up into the morning sky rapidly. As they got further away, their motors took on the quality of twinkling stars before they were snuffed out suddenly. Their fuel was burned through. 

Now level, Caddy and his wingman nudged left so that their aircraft were both thirty degrees offset from their targets, the max angle they could fly away from the hostiles while still keeping them in sight of their radars. Until the Barakudas went active, the Caracals had to maintain this course. All their crew could do now was observe and wait. 

Warcat Three-One announced on the radio triumphantly as the pair of hostiles closest to his element went evasive. His triumph was tempered, however, as he reported the other pair maintaining course towards Worm’s element. 

“Crazy bastards.” Worm thought.

BOOP!

A digital sound rang in his ear intrusively. “Nails on our one o’clock.” Worm warned Caddy. The Volscians had radar locked them. He transmitted to the rest of the squadron, “Three-three spiked at one.”

Warcat Three-One announced that the remaining pair of fighters were offsetting. A deadly game of chicken had been started. Worm watched his displays intensely as if staring harder would make the missile go active faster. Finally, he received a notification on his HUD.

“Three-Three missiles are pitbull. Going defensive.”

Now free to maneuver, Caddy brought the aircraft right so that any missiles would be on the beam. It was good that he did, as another digital tone, like a landline phone ringing rapidly, soon screamed in his and Worm’s headsets. 

DEEDLEDIDLEDEEDLEDIDLEDEEDLEDIDLEDEEDLEDIDLEDEEDLEDIDLEDEEDLEDEEDLEDIDLEDEEDLE! 

A dreaded symbol lit up on Worm’s dashboard: <M>

Worm bellowed at his pilot over the intercom, “Alamo, three o’clock! Break left!” 

Worm jammed a button, dumping chaff from the F28’s belly as his pilot twisted the aircraft tightly to the left. Reflexively he twisted a dial, setting the aircraft’s electronic countermeasures to the necessary setting. Rapidly, he felt the aircraft bounce and handle a little lighter as Caddy dropped their external fuel tanks into the Kosscow Sea and packed on speed. Worm craned his neck and looked up through the vibrating canopy for the incoming missiles. The digital tone continued to ring at him incessantly, a phone call that could not be ignored. 

Worm braced his right hand against the canopy as he continued to scan for missiles. The RWR cut out for a moment before ringing back with a vengeance. The tones cut out again as Caddy shimmied the aircraft, then returned. Worm let out an expletive as he caught sight of a far-off glint. 

“Four o’clock. Break left!” He called out as he ejected more flares. 

Worm swiveled his head as Caddy brought the aircraft around, the ringing of the RWR never ceasing. He squinted out the left side of the canopy and swore. 

“Missile! Nine o’clock.” A flash of white flung towards them. 

Caddy and Worm didn’t need to say anything else. The backseater released more flares flares as Caddy inverted the aircraft and dove. Upside down, Worm flexed his thighs and kept looking out the canopy. The F28 swirled in a cloud of smoke and light before rushing down towards the deck. The RWR alarm cut out momentarily during the twist before ringing angrily in Worm’s ears again. 

Caddy halted the dive and flipped the F28 right side up again just in time for Worm to glimpse out the right side a flash of white falling limply. The RWR continued to ring, but only indicating from the left. 

Worm relayed what the RWR was indicating, “Nine o’clock.” The WSO strained his head upwards and to the left, where the second missile would be coming from. 

Without a word, Caddy dove the jet lower. Worm focused his attention upwards, watching for the missile. The rapid descent of the aircraft felt as compression in his chest. If he looked forward and below, he would see clouds being pierced, revealing the rapidly approaching Kosscow Sea. The persistent tone stopped abruptly as the fighter leveled off above the water and then roared left and upwards.  

The pair continued to fly defensively, but the warning tone did not return. The second missile was plummeting into the sea, inert. Its energy had been bled off, and its battery had died. The pair continued excruciating defensive flying before double and triple-checking and finally leveling off normally, though still on edge.

Worm reported his and Caddy's survival to the rest of the squadron then returned his attention to his radar display and, as if by magic, nearly instantly pulled up their targets. Though in reality their trick was possible through constant training and practice, it perfectly explained the Aeratorm nickname for WSOs: Wizards. Worm touched his radar display just in time to see the two hostile contacts rapidly plummet and disappear. 

Their flight lead crackled in their ears proudly and commended them, “Good kill Three-Three, good kill.” 


Early Morning

Just off the east coast of Sgialeát, Skies above the Kosscow Sea

Aviagown Captaen Kennaich "Gills" Garadh, Warcat One-One

Gills finished scrawling on his kneeboard and contemplated for a moment. Having split his flight into its two elements, his jets flew in a wide circular pattern over a coastal waypoint, their radar beams scanning their surroundings like beams of light emanating from a lighthouse. Though they could see more of the battle from this station, Garadh was still highly reliant on verbal reports from his subordinates. 

The Volscian guard screen was now temporarily disrupted, with at least one of their fighters downed. The opportunity to make a jab at the bombers was presenting itself, but contact with the ground had still not been reestablished. Was he exceeding his authority entirely? Was the battle already hopelessly lost? Questions to be answered when they were back on the ground. He’d just got his updates; he knew the bombers were there, open and for the taking. 

spacer.png“Warcat Two, One, target lead group, bullseye, zero four one, for one two one miles, angels four, hostile, heavy, high. Warcat Three, target north trail group, bullseye zero two six, for one six seven miles, angels four one, hostile, heavy, high, fast.” 

After a moment’s pause, the hunt began. Both flight leads reported to their squadron leader as they positioned themselves and focused in on the enemy bombers. 

“Warcat Two, targeted lead group, niner contacts.” 

“Three, targeted south trail group, niner contacts.” 

Gills visualized the flights of Caracals igniting their afterburners and once again screaming past the speed of sound, climbing ever upwards over the sea and towards their quarry.

Soon the WSOs from the attacking Caracals began to call out individual bombers as they got closer to their quarry. By now the F28 pilots were likely pointing their noses hard up. It was remarkable how both flights managed to stay so closely timed despite the separation of so many miles. A deadly fruit hardwon through continuous training. This was the mission which Gaellicia had acquired the F28 for. At long last, the aircraft was being tested in a scenario that was never supposed to become reality. 

“Fox three.” The warning that an active missile was being fired was repeated by seven different WSOs in succession as the F28s loosed their Phoenix missiles. 

The pilots would be leveling their aircraft off now, easing up on the throttles, slewing their aircraft left or right thirty degrees, and providing guidance to the AIM 54s until they could go active and guide themselves. 

Suddenly, Omeleto burst onto the net. The young WSO spoke rapidly, but clearly. “Warcat Two, One-Three, pop-up, hostiles, group, BRAA one-two-niner, seven three miles, angels two-seven, three-five-three. Hostiles, six contacts, leaning on you.” The excited WSO took a breath before continuing and addressing the entire squadron. “Warcats push two-two-five point zero-two-five for control.”

Gills switched their fighter’s radio frequency and the voice of Beanstalk returned. The transmission was noisy and strained and Gills thought he heard a twinge of desperation in the controller’s voice. “Warcats, Beanstalk. Do you read? Transmit.” 

“Roger. Copy you four by four.” Gills and the other wizards of the squadron responded quickly but not efficiently, nearly clipping over each other.” 

“Nicely done kid.” Gills commended the backseater over local comms. 

Warcat 2 was still guiding their missiles. Their flight lead had the unenviable decision of whether to keep the formation on their present course in order to target the bombers, or to break off, trashing the missiles in the process, but ensuring the flanking hostiles could not endanger his flight. The Volscians were nearly on his six and about to be within their missiles' 80 km maximum firing range. 

“Warcat Two, Beanstalk, what luck?”  

“Two, six Phoenixes away, still semi-active. No eyes on group at four o’clock. Pressing engagement.” 

“Warcat Five, Beanstalk, snap to Point Eyebolt, angels two-zero, turn your music on. Then target hostiles, group, bullseye one-zero-niner, angels two-seven, for niner-six miles. Hostiles, six contacts, fast, leaning on Warcat Two. Acknowledge”

Warcat Five’s flight lead responded simply but with noticeable glee in his voice. “Beanstalk, Five, read you five by five, roger that.” 

Gills sucked his teeth. The situation was deteriorating quickly. His element was on the downwards leg of their circle pattern, their Bánánach’s facing roughly south. 

“Warcat One-One, Warcat One-Two, Beanstalk, snap three-five-two. Target hostiles, group, BRAA, three-five-two, for six eight miles, angels two-seven, three-five-zero. Hostiles, six contacts, fast, leaning on Warcat Two.” 

Gills acknowledged the order coldly. “One-One, roger that.” Deep within, he felt a knot of dread. 

Tamaba and Replika both steered their fighters to the designated headings and throttled up. Gills strained as the g forces began to act upon him. With their noses pointed upwards, the F1s kicked on their afterburners, shrieking unholy.

Gills pressed the transmit button for his radio and checked with his wingman on the local channel. “Two, One, you alright? Can you handle solo sniping?”

“Yes sir. Everything's reflex.” 

“Roger. I’ll be here with you every step of the way. Stay close and mimic me. Now turn your music on. ” 

Gills watched the six blips on his radar display representing the Volscian fighters, waiting to see how they answered. No doubt their pilots were looking right back at him and noting his pair of fighters’ sudden acceleration and course to intercept. Another blip confirmed it. He called out over the radio that two of the Volscian fighters were breaking off and heading towards his element. 


Notes

1. A 'zoomaboo' is an individual with a strong affinity for Azumic culture, in some instances to the point of obsession. The term is used pejoratively on the internet towards individuals perceived as having a shallow understanding of Azumic culture, and for those that base cultural perceptions off of portrayals found in the Katsuha animation of @Esonice.

2. The total composition of the 2nd Fighter-Interceptor squadron's forces airborne at that moment are as follows: 

 
  • Facing northeast. Callsign: Warcat 1. Aircraft: F1 Bánánach, 4 ship formation. Armament for each fighter:
    • 5 x R.30 Barakuda
    • 4 x R.28 Kobra
    • 1 x ECM pod
  • Commanded by the squadron’s second in command. Facing northeast. Warcat 2. F28 Caracal, 3 ship formation.
    • 2 x AIM-54 Phoenix
    • 4 x R.30 Barakuda
    • 2 x R.28 Kobra.
  • Facing northeast. Warcat 3. F28 Caracal, 4 ship formation.
    • 4 x AIM-54
    • 2 x R.30 Barakuda
    • 2 x R.28 Kobra
  • Warcat 4 and 5 went into the air as Cat 2 and 3. Their callsigns were changed out as hostilities began, as well as to align their names with the rest of the squadron. Both flights had been on QRA when the attacks began.
  • Facing south. Warcat 4. F28 Caracal, 2 ship formation.
    • 2 x R.30 Barakuda
    • 4 x R.28 Kobra 
  • Facing northwest. Warcat 5. F28 Caracal, 2 ship formation.
    • 2 x R.30 Barakuda
    • 4 x R.28 Kobra
  • Warcat 6. Razorbill jet trainer, 7 ship formation.
    • 2 x R.28 Kobra.
Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)

Chapter XII: ELF on a Continental Shelf

January 21st, 2023, Early Morning

24 Radar Group, Eastern Gaellicia

Sáirsint Harold Atkinson

If the past months had been causing Harold Atkinson to be sweating uncomfortably, the past minutes were pushing the man to the brink of a combined aneurysm-heart attack.

Atkinson's control room was nearly frantic with activity. Men and women scrambled about with papers and readouts, stared at computer screens, and constantly updated displays. The picture emerging was severe. The opening shots of a war that Gaellicia had not expected or prepared for had already been fired in the skies to the nation’s East. Some of the salvos were now beginning to fall on the nation’s shores. 

The massive aerial attack was split into two prongs, each in multiple waves. The Southern Prong was an offensive maneuver focused on the demilitarized island of Yaran, while the Western Prong was presumed to be primarily defensive, with attacks centered on the Isle of Sgialeát. The prongs were comprised of two waves each, with the first waves focused on aerial combat and the follow-up waves dedicated to suppressing Gaellician air defenses and engaging ground targets. A massive third wave flew further behind the leading two formations. Composed of bombers and their escorts, this third wave seemed to have targets in both the South and the West, indicated as the bombers began to release cruise missiles at set points. 

The sizeable third wave was the formation that the 2nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was currently engaging. Comprised of F28s, the squadron was seeing success engaging the Volscian forces at long range. The same could not be said for the closer in squadrons. The 108th Fighter Squadron had been slow to rally and get airborne while the 631st and 633rd Strike Fighter Squadrons had had to get from Western Vanarambaion to the Eastern skies. The 1st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was getting airborne, but they would have to sort through the rapidly cluttering skies.

The 11th Fighter Squadron remained held back to the West, nominally in case of a Tagmatine flank attack. Atkinson shook his head at this last decision. Were this attack, for whatever reason, to be a joint one by both Volsci and Tagmatium, the Aeratorm would be unable to hold the skies. 

In individual engagements, Gaellician Bánánachs and Ter’ers could hold against the Volscian Breakers and Uprocks, but overall, they struggled to counter the Volscian attack waves effectively. 

The Bánánachs in particular struggled against the Volsican fighters. The inferior ECM systems of the F1s compared to the Volsican JiGs meant the Bánánachs struggled to acquire radar locks at long range. The disparity meant that Volscian JiG 30s and JiG 34s could engage F1s at generally longer ranges than the F1s could engage them. Bánánach pilots faced the option of putting themselves at a disadvantage by engaging the hostiles at closer ranges, or of bugging out and ceding air to the enemy. Ter’ers meanwhile were overtasked. The Pojački built fighters could not be everywhere at once, creating openings for the Volscians to exploit. 

Exploiting was what the Volscians did best. They had planned the opening of their assault well. The very first targets were communications and control infrastructure, with long-range cruise missile impacts coordinated so that they would hit their targets just as Volscian JiG 34s began their ground strikes. Cruise missiles primarily targeted large infrastructure such as roads, bridges, power lines, and communications hubs. The strike fighters focused on hitting radars, surface-to-air missile installations, and smaller communications infrastructure. 

The Volscians also knew how to pick their targets. Through excellent coordination and use of numbers, they were able to disrupt the flow of information for the Gaellicians. Disrupting communications, even momentarily, did well to sow confusion. The more the Volscians could overwhelm the Gaellician means of control, the more advantaged their ground forces would be as they began to dig their boots into Gaellician beaches. 

Despite all the chaos and floods of information, the staff in radar control had to resist becoming overwhelmed. Atkinson focused on his own job, relaying information from his subordinates to superiors. He didn’t allow his mind to focus on anything other than the task at hand. 

Very gradually, over many precious minutes, the Aeratorm began to get a grip. 

Ground controllers got better at prioritizing engagements. HQ staff got better at filtering information. Ground crew were finally able to scramble a pair of AWACS aircraft. Not as reliant on the ground, the first AWACS aircraft got to work organizing the inner defense. Ter’ers were deployed wide, using their modern ECM systems so that the F1s could engage targets at longer range where they could be competitive. 

The situation was not hopeless. The battle wasn’t composed of static paper formations; it was a fluid event that could turn in an instant.

Nevertheless, the desperate nature of the battle meant that certain hotspots had to be prioritized above others. Inevitably, enemy missiles would leak through in lower priority spots. Targets on the periphery suffered the hardest, including a nasty hit that disabled the Navatorm’s ELF array on Adrarus, the means by which the Navy communicated with submerged submarines.


Simultaneously

RLC Grúpaire, diesel attack submarine, the Kosscow Sea 

Sonar operator Tomás Mortaugh could feel the consternation emanating from the conn behind his back. The message, whatever it was, hadn’t completed. 

Mortaugh gave a start as the curtain to the sonar shack was opened. He tried to refocus on what he was hearing through his headset. He was just in time for the feint sound of something impacting the water. It was possible that it was an aircraft, but there was no way to confirm it. 

Evidently, whatever message had come through was a major piece of information. Mortaugh couldn’t ignore the change in energy in the control room nor the wave of sound that started to pass through the boat. It was a chain of kicks, jabs, and whispers that, originating from amidships, radiated fore and aft. It was a wave of energy that roused and prepared crew members like a switch. By the time it had reached both extremes of the vessel, there was no confusion in any member of her crew, only determination. The wave conveyed two simple instructions: 

“Action stations, quick quiet.”   

He could hear footsteps treading lightly yet purposefully as the Grúpaire’s crew configured the boat into fighting condition. Loose tools and machinery were secured, hatches tightened and thus watertight bulkheads sealed up. The control room filled to the max with all its consoles manned and the 1st Lieutenant taking his place by the captain. Mortaugh gave a slight nod as two more sonar operators, Deachrien and Clodagh, filled the vacant seats to his right. The officer responsible for sonar took his place standing behind the three of them but remaining silent and well clear. 

The three operators, working as a team began tracking everything around the submarine. They were the ears of S101. The boat was a great big animal, without eyes, she was reliant on echolocation to know where to glide, hunt, and hide. In many ways the three sonar operators held her and her crew’s fate in their hands, err or their ears. 

Of particular interest was Sierra 8, the Volscian submarine. The attack submarine was maintaining its current course, but Mortaugh at least had the feeling that it could hear them.

Evidently the captain had a similar uneasy feeling about Sierra 8. She gave her orders and the sub began to dive. Grúpaire began to dip below the thermal layer, the place where the temperature of the water changes from warmer to cool. Getting below the layer would help dampen the boat’s sound. 

Mortaugh listened to the Volscian sub. It’s sound changed due to the thermocline, but remained steady. Mortaugh kept listening. After several moments, the Selauchus sound shifted slightly. It was slowing down, trying to quiet itself. The change couldn’t be explained only by the thermocline or a change in speed though. It was turning to follow them. 

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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