Jump to content

[Academy RP]: Seven Days in August (Poja)

Recommended Posts

Seven Days in August



Thursday, 7th August 1997 | 10:15 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base


Major Petar "Scarecrow" Aleksić sat alone on the runway, strapped into his multimillion-dinar fighter as the aircraft's single, turbofan engine rumbled only a few meters behind him.  Over a kilometer ahead of him, a pair of aircraft had only just lifted off the runway in unison, each one separated by mere meters, already doing over 400 km/h, and accelerating.  For Aleksić, sitting on the runway in a ready-to-go jet, waiting to hear "You are cleared for takeoff", was always the most nerve-racking experience.  Helmet on tight, visor down, aircraft cleared through multiple ground checks both inside and out, at the very cusp of pushing the throttles to their maximum afterburner setting, Aleksić feared only one thing, which was the same thing every pilot feared, the same thing that deflated a pilot's mood quicker than any rejection in any bar, the command to abort and return to his designated aircraft shelter.

There were two types of runway aborts, the kind that was from mechanical, which was painful but not as mood-deflating as being told by some air traffic controller that his mission had been scrubbed, that he'd gone through all of the preflight checks, the startup, the INS (navigation system) alignment, post-startup checks, taxi checks, and the taxiing itself all for nothing.  "Proper planning and practice prevents piss poor performance," he'd be told, as if practicing the checklist steps was any consolation for sitting on the ground while other pilots got to fly their aircraft through high-G turns, loops, and nap-of-the-Eurth navigation, all at high speed, sometimes even at well over Mach 1.  The only consolation was sitting on the runway and hearing "You are cleared for takeoff."  Still, it wouldn't make up for a day's missed flight, for the perfect cloud conditions, or the perfect sunrise or sunset; it never did.

          Looking out of the canopy, Aleksić watched the two aircraft break to the south, their afterburners off, climbing out to their prebriefed altitude and course for their own mission while he eagerly awaited permission to begin his own mission.  This morning he'd drawn the best straw, a two-ship, low-level, high-speed navigation run through the Thunder Canyon, a nearly eighty-kilometer route through a series of valleys cut into the mountains.  It was the most exciting five minutes - give or take - on any training syllabus.  Aleksić had flown it three times before in his twelve years of flying service.  Today would mark number four, so long as his mission remained authorized, and it would only do so as long as the weather forecast remained what had been promised but then, hours late, just before powering up his jet, Aleksić had been informed that the weather was potentially reneging on him.

          "Viper One-One," the call came from the tower, the moment of truth; Aleksić held his breath.  "Good morning, you are cleared for takeoff, unrestricted climb to five thousand, depart heading two-six-five, weather is favorable, winds are two-five-zero at two-five."

          "Viper-One-One, good morning, cleared for takeoff, unrestricted climb to five thousand, depart heading two-six-five, winds are two-five-out at two-five, out."  Aleksić smiled behind his visor and immediately gave a last check of his aircraft.  He'd already checked his flying surfaces but he did it again, just in case, running the control stick in his right hand through all of its extremes.

          "One, you're looking good," replied his wingman, whose job it was to make sure that the flight controls all moved properly.

          "Copy two, interval sixty."

          "Two," his wingman responded over the radio and Aleksić was already moving through his final checklist, each of the eight steps memorized.  The first was the most boring but yet the most crucial, to make sure that the heading on his HSI matched the heading of the runway.  It did, it always did, but still, it had to be checked.  It had to be checked because someone, somewhere, sometime didn't do it and something bad happened; now it was part of every checklist.

          From that moment on, the adrenaline began to flow through his veins as he pushed down on the wheel brakes with his feet and advanced the throttle with his left hand up to 90%.  With a fast but still thorough glance, he looked at his oil pressure, his nozzle position, his engine instruments, and his warning panel.  Oil pressure increased, the nozzle position was closed, the engine was roaring to life, and there were no lights.  His checks complete, Aleksić slammed the throttle to the wall, the nozzle opening wide, the afterburner coming alive, and he released the brakes.

          The fighter jet rocketed forward, rapidly gaining speed.  It was lightly loaded with only two fuel tanks, or bags as they called it, and nothing else.  He was through 100 km/h in seconds and disengaged the nosewheel steering.  Any inputs now would be against his rudder for there was enough airflow across the aircraft's back that the rudder could steer him.  The light plane began to bounce down the runway, perhaps too eager for its own good and Aleksić kept it on centerline with minute inputs onto the rudder pedals as the speed passed 150, then 200, then 250, and finally to 300 km/h where he eased back ever so slightly on the stick.  The aircraft leapt at the chance and was off the ground almost before he'd finished his inputs, the speed still rapidly climbing as he settled at just fifty meters off the deck.  Aleksić reached forward and flipped the landing gear handle and the aircraft's wheels and flaps retracted.  He was still over the runway and the nose settled down as the drag of the wheels went away, the aircraft leveling out, picking up speed even faster through 400, 500, 600, 700, and then through 800 km/h as the runway disappeared beneath him and he looked up above him to make sure his path was clear before yanking back hard on the stick, pushing his aircraft through +8Gs and up into a 45° climb.

          "Viper One-One passing through fifteen hundred up to five thousand," he called out only moments later as the aircraft, still gaining speed, rapidly passed through 1,500 meters of altitude.  With full afterburner still pushing the aircraft upwards, he watched the altitude climb on his HUD until finally, as the aircraft passed through 5,000 meters, he rolled the stick hard to the right, inverting the aircraft before leveling out, coming off afterburner, and taking the aircraft into the turn to the north so he could assume a departure heading of 265°.  Less than a minute had elapsed and his wingman, still sitting on the runway, was going through his own final checks before running up his engine for takeoff, performing an unrestricted climb himself, and then cutting into Aleksić's wider turn so that they could join up a few kilometers from the airbase. 

          Joined up minutes later, Aleksić and his wingman worked their way to the west, riding on smooth air towards Thunder Canyon, the weather continuing to hold out ahead of them.  Thunderstorms were rolling in but they had begun to veer away and break up, as had been predicted, leaving good visibility in the valleys, a requirement for the kind of flying they were going to do.

          Aleksić saw this as "quiet time" when he was just a man with his own thoughts.  The aircraft would be flying on autopilot through its waypoints, everything in the green, no lights, no unusual sounds, no vibrations, nothing out of the ordinary.  A stranger to the ground, Aleksić reveled in this time to think and to reflect about life and there was a lot to think about in these tense, rough times as the country's leader, President Mileta Dapčević was marching Poja towards war with Poja's neighbor.  What had begun, years earlier, as a territorial dispute had never eased and over the past five months, a series of border clashes and incidents had gradually escalated the tensions.  War seemed inevitable with the way Dapčević spoke and day-in and day-out, Aleksić and his fellow pilots wondered if they would climb into their aircraft, not for training sorties but rather for combat sorties.  As gung-ho as they were around the bar, Aleksić's comrades weren't really as eager for combat as the nation's leader portrayed them to be in his many jingoistic speeches.  In fact, in the court of public opinion, no one wanted to go to war other than the fervent nationalists, who always wanted war, with everyone, over everything, no matter how slight.

          Aleksić had never been in combat before, in fact none of his comrades had been.  The last time Pojački aircraft had been involved in combat operations was the Chernarus Conflict, a violent war of secession that saw Chernarus' defeat over two decades ago.  Fighter pilots like Aleksić had flown combat air support missions, risking their lives against a new invention, the shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile, which had seen a number of aircraft shot down following its debut in 1970, two years after the six-year conflict began.  This conflict would be different, especially for Aleksić, whose squadron was tasked primarily with air defense suppression missions.  That meant, he and his fellow pilots would be armed with missiles designed to home in on enemy radar emissions.  The only catch was, for the missiles to work, the radars had to be operating and if the radars were operating that meant so too were their missile systems, which would be targeting Aleksić and his comrades, and these weren't small, shoulder-fired missiles.  These were much bigger missiles that could exceed Mach 3 and reach out to over twenty kilometers.  Equipped with proximity fuses, they didn't even need to hit to destroy a plane.  The threat was very real and Aleksić and his comrades certainly knew it.

          Aleksić joined the Pojački National Air Force in 1984, commissioned as a potporučnik the following year.  He'd been selected for flight training in 1986 and the following year, he was promoted again, this time to poručnik.  Well on his way, he graduated flight school with flying colors, found himself assigned to a unit, and saw another promotion to kapetan in 1989.  This was the same rank as his wingman who was flying a kilometer and a half off of his wing.  Just last year, Aleksić had been promoted to major and reassigned to the 57th Fighter Squadron, newly equipped with the latest version of the nation's premier, multirole jet, the ZuB-17VM Ter'er-C, made by the Zubareva-Bogolyubova Aerospace Corporation.  Nimble, single-engine, the aircraft was built as a high-performance fighter aircraft that could do both air-to-air and air-to-ground sorties.  The "C" version practically made it a new aircraft with a redesigned, glass cockpit, additional countermeasures dispensers, two additional hardpoints on the fuselage, and the ability to carry both radar-guided missiles and self-designate laser-guided bombs.  The plane that Aleksić was flying had only been delivered four months earlier, it was that new.

          Aleksić knew that the improvements would go far if the country was thrust into war but he also knew it wouldn't be enough to make sure everyone came home alive after every mission.  War, the prospect of it, had somehow been so distant to him.  He'd joined the military but yet, he'd never quite reconciled the thought that he would be fighting in a war, rather he saw it as a job that gave him the ultimate thrill, which was all he ever really wanted in life, ever since he was a kid and went to airshows and military parades.  Whenever the fighter jets would pass over, he'd crane his neck up to the sky to see as much as he could for as long as he could before the aircraft were gone from his small field of view.  His mother had told him that his first word had been "avi" which was all he could pronounce of "avion" or plane.  Flying suited him more than anything else did.  A true stranger to the ground, he always felt restricted, weighed down, encumbered whenever he was on the ground.  Even driving as fast as he could in his car wasn't as thrilling as banging his plane through maneuvers or flying nap-of-the-Eurth; nothing could compare and nothing would ever compare.  If it were up to Aleksić, he'd stay a major forever, never lose his flying status, and never have to deal with the politics of running a unit as a commanding or executive officer.  He'd be old, gray, and still flying his jet.

          Aleksić didn't want the pressure of command or the prospect of making a house call to a widow or a mother to say that her husband or son had died, whether in a training accident or from combat.  He just wanted to fly, nothing more and nothing less.  "Quiet time" was soon to be over though as he noticed the distance on the HUD to the next waypoint getting quite low.  "Two, you ready?"

          "Two ready, willing, and able," his wingman answered cheerfully.

          "Fuel state?"


          "Roger, four-point-three.  Rolling in, interval fifteen."

          "Two, confirm, interval fifteen."

          Aleksić looked around inside and then outside of his cockpit to make sure he saw no warnings, no lights, and no traffic nearby.  Ahead and below, the entrance to Thunder Canyon lay waiting, a pair of hills into the first valley.  Dense trees covered the ground, a single-lane road cutting through them, leading the way into Thunder Canyon.  Aleksić eased back on the throttle, rolled the aircraft inverted, and dove for the ground, the aircraft picking up speed until finally, he was moving at nearly 1,000 km/h.  He leveled off at just one hundred meters.  The minimum altitude was seventy-five meters but typically these runs were done near 150 meters to provide adequate clearance from the ground.  Aleksić was going in lower and faster than typically done but everything had been cleared, so long as the weather held, and it was holding.  Storm clouds loomed to the east still somewhat heading his way but he'd be through the canyon before they ever got close.

          With his throttle just below the afterburner detent, he gripped the stick and prepared to fly the canyon the only way any pilot knew how, entirely with their own eyes.  He had his fuel level on his HUD so that he wouldn't need to look down and had programmed the system so that it wouldn't b*tch at him unless he went under one hundred meters.  Into the first turn, the jet roared into the valley, the ground rushing past him as he turned the plane nearly on its side, coming into the valley at +6Gs.  He kept low, watching the treetops rush beneath him along with the road, which paralleled a thin river.  Photographers on the ground would be snapping photos of his plane as it roared past, hoping for a high-G, turning shot so that the aircraft would be showing vapor condensation from the G-forces. 

          The valley opened up and the tree cover went away but the road and the river remained.  Aleksić was focused now, looking at his HUD, looking ahead at the terrain, twisting and turning the fighter with each twist and turn in the canyon.  His right hand held the stick, his left the throttle as he kept his airspeed as close to 1,000 km/h as possible, applying added thrust when he pulled tight turns and backing off when he wasn't.  Within a minute, he was through the first valley and moving into the second, turning hard with the river.  His HUD showed that he'd already pulled +7.4Gs though he knew his plane could pull more but he was restricted to no more than +8Gs because he was carrying the fuel tanks and he wasn't authorized to punch them off unless it was an emergency.  Aleksić would not be having any emergencies this morning.

          As he rolled into his second minute, he passed over a small village, the roar of the aircraft undoubtedly shaking peoples' homes, knocking knickknacks off wall shelves and scaring the family dog.  He hadn't intended to come directly over the village, in fact he had been warned about it - along with every other pilot who ever flew in Thunder Canyon - but because he was carrying the fuel tanks and moving so quickly, he couldn't turn tightly enough to avoid it.  Aleksić shook it off, knowing that the people on the ground would have only a two-second window of complaint, maybe less, and then a minute or two calming their pets or picking up their knickknacks.  To him, they chose to live there and that came with the territory; though, he'd conveniently ignore that the village predated aircraft by several centuries. 

          Another thirty seconds later, he was into his favorite part of the flight, a transition from one canyon to another and in an area where there were no roads, no villages, and very few trees.  He rolled the aircraft right, following the river, then left, then right again, and put the aircraft into a nose-up attitude, pushing the throttles forward to engage the afterburner.  The plane accelerated as it roared up the slope, the river gone, the trees passing by with a blur until he crested the slope and, with a hard roll, flipped the aircraft over, and yanked down on the stick, pulling the plane through +8Gs, as he came down the slope into the next valley as hard as he could.  The plane was supersonic, moving at Mach 1.05, the boom echoing throughout the canyon walls where no one would hear it.  He pulled back on the throttle, picked up the next river, and dropped the plane back down to one hundred meters and snaked through the next turns, slightly to the right, then further to the right, then the left, then right, left, straight, right, hard left, hard right, really pulling the Gs as the plane pulled through the turns. 

          He zipped over the electrical station and picked up the high-tension wires below him, careful to avoid them, lifting his plane up to 150 meters as he pulled through the valley, following the snaking river through the valley until finally, the trees and the river were once again joined by the road.  He followed it, keeping the speed up, roaring through a straightaway as the plane begged to go supersonic, forcing himself to pull back on the throttle to keep it from doing so.  There was another village ahead and he was through minute three and into minute four as he watched the river scream outside of his canopy to the left as he banked hard with it, turning with each twist, pulling hard to the right and then the left, keeping an eye on the high-tension wires that ran through this part of the valley, careful to stay above 150 meters now.  Then a few more twists and finally the lake, where he pulled up to 200 meters, avoiding more wires and passing over a small bridge and then back down to 100 meters as he turned out of the valley and began the home stretch.

          The river widened under him, the hills gone, the road gone, the trees still there.  He kept low over the river, flying with it, twisting with the river now, not the valleys or the road, running out at 1,000 km/h, sweat soaking his flight suit from the G-forces, his excitement levels peeking as he reached the finish line, rolling the aircraft into a barrel roll for no reason other than to do it before he eased back on the stick and brought it back into a climb.  Fifteen seconds later, his wingman exited and joined him for the flight back at 8,000 meters.  They each visually inspected one another's jet, making sure that there was no damage, that no one accidentally clipped anything, checked their fuel, checked their distance, and affirmed they had plenty to make it back to base, despite using a significant chunk of it in the canyon.

          When Aleksić would finally climb out of his jet, he felt exhausted, the byproduct of so many high-G turns and having to hyperfocus throughout the six-minute canyon run.  Yet he wasn't off to bed, rather he was off to debriefing, to fill out paperwork, and most importantly, to get a shower.  His flight was done, a good flight indeed, his best yet, and he knew it would be a while before he got another one through Thunder Canyon.  It was only then that he realized he and his wingman now had the most up-to-date qualifications in low-level, nap-of-the-Eurth penetration flying, which meant only one thing.  If Dapčević brought the country to war, Aleksić and his wingman would be leading the squadron into battle.  They would be at the tip of the spear, the first ones to face the SAMs and the anti-aircraft guns, the first ones to face certain death.

• • • † • • •
Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment
Posted (edited)

• • • † • • •

Friday, 8th August 1997 | 01:13 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

Aleksić was a deep and heavy sleeper, which was how he'd gotten his callsign.  Early on in his military career, he'd been on an especially long, three-day PT exercise and, midway through the second day, with the sun high overhead, they stopped for a two-hour break and Aleksić decided to get in some sleep.  About fifteen minutes after he'd fallen asleep, a bird landed on his shoulder and stayed there for the better part of the next ten minutes, cawing and chirping loud enough that it drew quite an audience.  Aleksić never woke up until someone shook him at the end of the two-hour break.  From there, he garnered the nickname "Scarecrow," and it followed him all throughout flight school and into service.  It was why he'd set the ringer on his bedside phone at the loudest it could go, which gave his smoke detectors a run for their money.

          Aleksić was a deep and heavy sleeper, which was how he'd gotten his callsign.  Early on in his military career, he'd been on an especially long, three-day PT exercise and, midway through the second day, with the sun high overhead, they stopped for a two-hour break and Aleksić decided to get in some sleep.  About fifteen minutes after he'd fallen asleep, a bird landed on his shoulder and stayed there for the better part of the next ten minutes, cawing and chirping loud enough that it drew quite an audience.  Aleksić never woke up until someone shook him at the end of the two-hour break.  From there, he garnered the nickname "Scarecrow," and it followed him all throughout flight school and into service.  It was why he'd set the ringer on his bedside phone at the loudest it could go, which gave his smoke detectors a run for their money.

          When it started ringing just before 01:00, Aleksić's eyes shot open on the first ring and by the third, he had the handset in his hand and was moving towards his head.  Through one opened eye, he glanced at the clock and through the grogginess of barely two hours of sleep, groaned into the phone, "What is it?"

          "Scarecrow man, wake up.  You need to turn on the TV and get down to the squadron right now."

          "What happened?"

          "Just turn on your TV."  The voice at the other end was his closest friend in the squadron, the same man he'd just flown with less than twenty-four hours earlier through Thunder Canyon, Kapetan Zoran "Sunburn" Tadić, who so received the nickname because he was so easily sunburned that everyone joked he could get sunburned by a full moon.  He would have been named "Casper" but it was already taken by someone who was well-known for similar reasons.  Aleksić put the phone down on the bed, threw his legs over the side, and shuffled down the hall to the living room where, through a long yawn, he turned on the television and picked up the other phone.  "You got it on yet?"

          "Yeah, but it's just nothing, it says 'technical difficulties,'" Aleksić began flipping through the channels, each one showing the same thing, "every channel?"

          "Yeah, now get down to the squadron, something's up man.  Something big."

          "Are we at war?"  There was a pause at the other end, a really long pause.  "Dude, are we at war?"

          "I don't think so," Sunburn said, his voice a whisper, "just hurry okay?"  He rang off and Aleksić was left with just the silence of a disconnected line. Now what?  Aleksić thought to himself as he held the handset and finally put it into the cradle and ambled back into the bedroom, just in time to hang up the other handset before the line screamed at him that he'd left the handset off of the hook for too long.  Guess I better get down there, he finally thought to himself after staring at the wall for a good minute or so, his brain and body trying to equalize themselves to the concept of "being awake."  He shuffled off to the bathroom, splashed some cold water on his face, and then slowly changed into clothes.  He was out of the door minutes later and heading towards the airbase a short distance away, not knowing what to expect but not really thinking anything too serious was happening, despite Sunburn's ominous phone call.  For the short drive, he couldn't help but wonder what had gotten into Sunburn and why he was driving to the base in the dead of the night.

          Turning off the main road and onto the approach road to the base, he suddenly realized that there was some merit to Sunburn's hushed and fraught tone.  The first thing that struck him was just how brightly lit the roadway was.  Typically it was lit only by the streetlights that dotted each side of the road but here there were giant floodlights illuminating the last 200 or so meters of the 800-meter-long road.  What also struck him as concerning was the fact that two armored personnel carriers were parked on either side of the road just in front of the gate, their turrets aimed towards the main road, right towards Aleksić.  Instinctively, he slowed down as he approached the halfway point of the road, still continuing ahead, his heart pumping harder than it had been when he was in the canyons in his Ter'er fighter.  Approaching the lit up area, he was suddenly startled into stopping the car when a booming voice over a loudspeaker echoed across the open, quiet road.  "Halt your vehicle!"  Aleksić's car practically skidded to a halt as he stood on the brakes, even though he was only doing 30 km/h.  "Turn off your engine and step out of your vehicle with your hands raised," the loudspeaker echoed again.  Aleksić complied.

          Outside of his vehicle, he stood in front of his car, his wallet in one hand and nothing in the other, squinting against the brightness of the lights as a vehicle approached down the roadway, stopping twenty meters or so in front of him.  Two men got out, each with assault rifles, and approached him.  In the shadow that their vehicle made, Aleksić could make them out as two guards he'd seen before though he didn't know their names.  He knew them to be young, low-ranking enlisted personnel.  They looked visibly nervous, never a good thing for someone with an assault rifle.  One stopped about halfway between the truck and Aleksić and the other just a meter away from Aleksić.  Both of their weapons were raised and pointed at him.

          "Put down your rifles, I am a pilot!"  Aleksić shouted.

          "Why are you here!"  The closer one shouted, "Who are you!"

          "I just told you, I am a pilot, my identification is in my wallet," Aleksić shook his hand with the wallet in it and formed up his voice in the way that any officer spoke to an enlisted subordinate, commanding authority and relying on rank to subdue any apprehension.  "I was told to get here.  I wasn't told that I would be stopped and treated like a common criminal!" The closer guard lowered his rifle and roughly grabbed the wallet, opening it and shining a flashlight at it and then at Aleksić's face.  Aleksić was able to see the man's rank and he was right, he was a razvodnik, the second-lowest rank.  He surmised the rank of the other was the same and why they were out here, and not at least a vodnik NCO was telling, something untoward was definitely happening.  "Shine that light in my face again razvodnik and you'll be pulling latrine duty for a month.  Now give me back my wallet and get out of my way."

          "Sir, we're…"  Aleksić cut him off almost right away.

          "Listen, I don't know what you're doing nor do I care.  I have orders to report to my unit right away and you're in my way.  When my CO asks me why I'm late, it's going to be your face I describe.  Now let me through so I can get to my unit now."

          The guard was visibly confused.  He had his orders but he also had someone much higher in rank, a major no less, commanding him to do otherwise.  He would normally follow his orders but, truth be told, he didn't know what was going on either and there was a major telling him that he had orders to report to his unit immediately.  The base was in a state of emergency and he'd been given orders to prevent anyone from leaving the base, not necessarily from entering it though it had been implied he take diligent notice to anyone entering.  Yet, for this young razvodnik, there could be no questioning authority.  He handed back the wallet and tried to speak again but was lost for words until finally he sharpened up and saluted, "Sir, please get to your unit most promptly.  We will escort you through the gate."

          Aleksić returned the salute, if he hadn't, the razvodnik would have to stand there until he did so, which, though tempting, was a bit too cruel.  "Very well razvodnik.  Maybe I'll forget your face then."  Aleksić turned around and returned to the driver's seat of his car while the two guards returned to their truck, turned it around, and provided escort right through the gate.  Aleksić breathed a heavy sigh of relief and wished he still smoked, his nerves fraying at the ends by the brief but tense encounter.  He passed through the gate with a wave and then shot over to his squadron's barracks, busting through the door like a battering ram.

          "Scarecrow!  You're here!"  Tadić shouted from the hallway as he passed between the rec room and the operations room.  "Glad you got here!  Trouble at the gate?"  He sounded too nonchalant for Aleksić.

          "Trouble?  Are you kidding me!"  Aleksić's practically yelled, "Two f*cking guards with guns in my face, yeah I had trouble!  What the hell is going on here!"

          "Come in inside and keep your voice down."  Tadić waved for Aleksić to follow him into the operations room.  As Aleksić did, he saw almost half of the squadron gathered, including the squadron's commanding officer, Potpukovnik Cem "Fez" Balić.  Balić was Dosniman, the only one in the wing and a practicing Muslim, something that was rare even amongst the Muslim Dosniman population but he was also the most skilled pilot amongst them in dogfighting and so there was nothing but respect for the man, which cut through centuries of seemingly genetic, ethnic hatred amongst the Orthodox Liari and Muslim Dosnimans.  

          Aleksić walked up to his squadron commander who was sitting alone in a corner of the room, the phone right next to him.  "Fez, what's going on here?"

          "Coup," he said plainly, simply, and as if it were as unimportant as a football match or a thunderstorm.  

          "I'm sorry, a coup?"

          "Yeah, here, read this," he handed over a piece of paper.  It was a communique that the squadron had received, a communique that every unit in the Pojački military had received, "Came in about twenty minutes ago, just before all this shit started happening here."

          Aleksić took it and read, The Council of Public Safety has launched a special military operation throughout the Confederacy of Poja.  This military-led intervention is aimed solely and primarily at the political forces in Poja that wish to draw this country into an unneeded, catastrophic war with our neighbors.  The Council of Public Safety is not concerned with civilian or government purges nor is it political in nature.  Our only objective is to remove the corrupt and immoral leaders of this country who will cause hundreds of thousands of casualties to enrich their own political coffers and bank accounts.  Thus, for the safety of every man, woman, and child in Poja, remain in your homes as a curfew is now in effect.  Stay tuned to television and radio.  An announcement will be made in the morning.  To all military units, standby and await further instructions.  Any action contrary to this order will be seen as an attempted mutiny and will be suppressed as treason to the Confederacy of Poja.  Aleksić's complexion turned gray, "What?"

          "What do you think Scarecrow?  Can't you read?"

          "Stupid question."

          "You're damn right it's a stupid question.  Listen, you're confined to base for now until we get orders.  Get comfortable, you're not going home for anything, I can't risk any of you guys getting caught up in anything.  We're on standby.  You'll know more when I know more."

          "All right, got it."  Aleksić went to turn around but Fez cleared his throat subtly enough to get Aleksić to turn back around and face him.

          Fez glanced around to make sure no one was in earshot and in a low voice said, "Listen, I don't know what's going to happen here but if we get orders to get in those planes and start dropping bombs on our own people, I've got to know where you stand."

          Aleksić didn't know how to answer at first.  He knew he had a fifty-fifty chance but he also knew the character of his squadron commander, or at least he hoped he did.  "I didn't sign up to drop bombs on my own people, sir."

          "Neither did I."  Fez nodded and without a further word, dismissed Aleksić who found a spot within the circle of his own squadron mates.  Aleksić could only wonder if Fez had asked that question of everyone present and he had to assume that he had but what Aleksić really wanted to know was how everyone else had answered.  He wanted to know who would be standing by his side, and who wouldn't, and what that could mean.  He knew what happened in coups and he didn't want to suddenly find himself in a prison cell for doing the right thing, even if he wasn't sure what that could be.  He resolved to keep his mouth shut for the time being, lest he talk himself into trouble.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Friday, 8th August 1997 | 04:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Rugi, Confederacy of Poja | Predsjednički Dvori

A little over three hours earlier, before the communiques had been sent out, twelve armored personnel carriers entered the main business and central district of Rugi.  Unusual as it was, the city was especially quiet on this warm, summer evening, and though the APCs drew considerable attention, there weren't nearly enough people around to cause any problems.  Within those vehicles were 110 soldiers, the entirety of a motorized rifle company and the Council of Public Safety's designated operatives to execute the most dangerous part of the coup, the arrest of President Mileta Dapčević.  The Council of Public Safety had chosen the most loyal officers amidst the Pojački National Army and handed them the task of securing not only the capital city but also arresting many high-ranking members of the government, the very people the Council of Public Safety had declared as enemies of the people.  What that looked like, on the streets of Rugi, had more people been awake, was nothing short of terrifying.  

          The twelve APCs heading to secure Dapčević were just a fraction of the military vehicles entering the city on this early, Friday morning.  The rest came in the form of a 16,000-man motorized rifle division and an 14,400-man tank division.  Over 30,000 soldiers were swarming into Rugi from all sides, intent on putting a lockdown on the city, preventing the escape of wanted politicians and seizing the capital of the country so that the Council of Public Safety could execute its coup.  Of course, 30,000 men entering a capital city made a lot of noise and from the outskirts of the city, people came awake at the noise and the racket of armored vehicles, tanks, trucks, and eventually helicopters swarming all around their homes.  By then, the advance force had already arrived at the Predsjednički Dvori, the official residence of the President of the Confederacy of Poja.

          The Predsjednički Dvori, or the Presidential Palace, was a five-hectare plot of land in central Rugi that had been built in the 1900s following the unification of the six kingdoms and the creation of the Confederacy of Poja.  It had the main building, which was the actual Predsjednički Dvori and two other buildings, one that served as a guest house for visiting dignitaries and foreign heads of state and another that served as the executive offices for the executive branch.  There was also a sizeable park on the grounds that was open to public access since it was walled off from the main complex but that park was only open from dawn to dusk and had thusly closed many hours ago.  A very picturesque complex, the Predsjednički Dvori was also protected by no less than three dozen members of the elite, Presidential Guard at any point in time.  It was these men and women who responded to the assault by the Council of Public Safety's soldiers.

          If the rolling armor hadn't awoken the city, the firefight at the Predsjednički Dvori certainly did.  The gunfire vacillated between intense fusillades of automatic and rapid gunfire to periods of single pops here and there as soldiers consolidated their positions and held back the Presidential  Guard.  When the tempo picked up, they were advancing, using the covering fire to push back the Presidential Guard.  It had been a careful dance over the past three hours and despite the sheer volume of gunfire, casualties had been light on both sides in the initial hour of the assault.  By 02:00, all but the Predsjednički Dvori itself had been secured at a cost of three wounded and two dead soldiers and one dead and six wounded amongst the Presidential Guard, yet one-third of the force was dead, wounded, or captured and the soldiers easily advanced further as reinforcements in the form of a second motor rifle company and 110 more soldiers arrived to further secure the perimeter.

          From there, the tempo of gunfire picked up as soldiers assaulted and advanced on the Predsjednički Dvori.  Casualties were initially light again but by 03:00, the number of dead and wounded soldiers tripled and the Presidential Guard was reduced to just eleven men and women who were still combat effective.  They continued to fall back to Dapčević's quarters, taking more casualties until finally, a stalemate settled in the building just fifteen minutes later.  Seven of the Presidential Guard remained and they were dug-in with the President himself.  Surrounded, the President had minimal options but to surrender but he wasn't so quick or willing to do so right away.

          The minutes drag on and the soldiers, holding the grounds and within meters of the President, began to issue ultimatums.  They were under strict orders to capture the President alive, otherwise the situation would have been quickly resolved with a few hand grenades.  By the time it hit 03:30, the putschists leading the coup were growing impatient with the idea of a stalemate and issued an order to get the President to surrender by any means necessary.  At first, stun grenades were thrown into the President's quarters but as soldiers advanced, they met a wall of gunfire and had to fall back almost immediately.  Two soldiers were added to the wounded tally and they were removed from the building to receive medical care while the next tactic was undertaken, the use of riot control grenades.  The unit had been equipped with an abundance of them as they carried a secondary role of riot suppression in times of national emergencies.  It was a bit of irony that was not lost on the unit's officers or personnel as they carried an entire crate of grenades up to the front line.  At first, the soldiers were light handed and threw only two grenades.  Already donning their gas masks, the soldiers watched the white cloud of CS gas build and fill the area.  Yet, it had little effect and the soldiers threw more grenades, eight in all, absolutely filling the entire area with a thick, caustic cloud of CS gas.  

          Surrender finally came at 03:51.  The soldiers remanded Dapčević to custody and detained the surrendering members of the Presidential Guard.  Those who were injured, though they would remain in custody, would be removed for medical care and those who were killed would be brought to the nearest morgue for processing.  The final tally was steep and not what the Council of Public Safety wanted but it was the price for admission and thus, unavoidable.  Yet, with Dapčević in custody, the Council of Public Safety was able to move forward with their plan.  

          Radio and television stations had been seized across the country and telecommunications were being jammed and cut in accordance with the plan, a plan that had been months in the making.  The airports were in the process of being shut down with Rugi International Airport quickly closed by elements of the army.  The citizens of the country would be waking up to a very different country than before they had gone to bed.  Throughout Rugi, tanks and armored vehicles would greet them as they went out to work or on their morning errands.  A curfew would be put into place between 23:00 and 05:00 and anyone caught violating it would be detained.  To finalize the takeover, law enforcement personnel throughout the country were drafted into temporary service of the army, a provision that existed for times of crisis.  

          It was something telling that all of the laws and protocols put into place throughout the ninety-seven years of Poja's existence aimed at protecting the nation during a national emergency, such as a civil war, a revolution, or an invasion were suddenly turned against the government as the Council of Public Safety moved through protocol after protocol, turning the weapons not outwards but rather inwards.  The very measures put into place to protect Poja and its people were suddenly being weaponized against them by the Council of Public Safety and, beginning at 06:00, the putschists had a face.  

          Appearing on television were the heads of every branch of the Pojački National Forces.  The commanding officers of all five branches, along with the highest-ranking military officer in the land, General-armije Tomo Kukoč stood before the camera in their uniforms, ramrod straight, at attention, and addressed the people of Poja.  Kukoč was the leader, and he stated as much, making no attempt to skirt away from the duty he'd appointed himself.  He told the people of Poja to remain calm, to continue their day-to-day activities, to ignore the presence of armored vehicles and armed soldiers in the streets, to continue to obey the laws of Poja, the very laws he and his officers had just broken.  He told them that in the next few days, evidence against President Dapčević would be presented to the public, that many politicians and leaders who swore to protect and serve the Pojački people would be arrested and evidence presented to the public of their complicity to push Poja into an unnecessary war.  

          It was certainly saying something when the nation's military leaders opposed a war, which was their very job.  Kukoč assured the people that he did not intend to seize power nor did he intend to prolong the coup any longer than was necessary, or so he had said.  He stated, it was about capturing the right people and gaining access to troves of unseen but claimed evidence that showed Dapčević and his supporters were pushing the country to war only for the sake of personal profit.  It was a remarkable and somewhat unbelievable charge to make.  Yet, Kukoč did not mince words.  He assured the public he would present it and even went so far as to say, if he were wrong, he would resign and surrender to the country's justice system.  Of course, coup leaders and junta leaders often made such outlandish statements without any follow through and no one in either Poja or the wurld had any reason to believe him.  Yet, there he was, on television and on radio, assuring the people of Poja that the coup was not a power grab but rather to expose the government's corruption and protect the people of Poja.  The Pojački people would hardly know what to think and opinions would be split up, down, left, right, and center as the country woke up to a very different reality, the reality that the military had taken over the country, and through the use of force no less.

• • • † • • •

Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment
Posted (edited)

• • • † • • •

Saturday, 9th August 1997 | 11:20 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

"All right let's get seated and listen up, I don't have a lot but I do have some important announcements so let's get settled down," Balić barked as he came into the ready room and walked up to the front of the room, taking his place behind the podium.  Most of the squadron's pilots had assembled by now and those who were still at large had at least been contacted so their whereabouts were known.  "I know everyone's tired," Balić continued from the podium, "I am too but let's quiet down please," he said, attempting to cut down on the side chatter and grumbling from the weary, stressed pilots of the 57th Fighter Squadron.  As the room came to calm, more people joined from the hallway, those being the squadron's support officers and staff, most of whom had managed to get to the base as well.  "Okay so, first order of business, we are still on standby.  Assessment reads, and I quote, 'The Pojački National Army has effective control over all capital and major cities throughout Poja.  Casualties are minimal and civil disobedience is non-existent.  President Dapčević remains in custody and is undergoing interrogation for his role in treasonous corruption driving Poja to war with its neighbors.  All military units are to remain on standby until specifically told otherwise.  The objectives of the Council of Public Safety do not include harming the civilian populace of Poja.'

          "That's all we have for the statement.  So, you heard it here, nothing new from what we knew twenty-four hours ago.  Now for the good news.  We're organizing two convoys with official blessing and they will have escort to ensure there are no problems with the overzealous gate guards.  I know many of you had issues getting onto base and we're going to resolve that with an escort.  The first convoy is the one you want.  Everyone who's married or does not live alone is excluded from the convoy.  Please make a phone call to your wives, sisters, mothers, brothers, roommates, whoever, I don't care.  Have them pack a suitcase for you with toiletries, clean clothes, and anything else you might need.  It's getting pretty ripe in here so a change of clothes must be stressed.  Some of you need fresh clothes very badly," a chuckle went out through the crowd.  "Those of you who are bachelor's or live alone, you'll go along with the convoy.  Get yourselves packed.  Each stop will be no more than thirty minutes for bachelor's and a quick grab-and-go for everyone else.  Pack for a week.  That's not because I have any information pertaining to our situation but just me thinking forward.  One week, got it?"  Heads nodded.  "All right, second convoy.  We're keeping this one sparse because we're going to gather everyone else who hasn't made it here yet.  I don't want anyone else having rifles in their faces so we're grabbing them so we'll be at one hundred percent by this evening.  It's going to be a long day so drink your coffee and let's get everything organized.  First convoy leaves in forty minutes.  Make your calls quick.  That's it, dismissed."  Everyone who had a phone call to make leapt out of their seat and rushed to the nearest phone, there being more than enough.

          The mad dash, as it was, resembled something of a panic-induced scattering.  The pilots and squadron personnel would naturally have to tell their wives, significant others, and family as little as possible over the phone but they also needed to convey not only the seriousness of the matter but also the quickness to which the tasks needed to be completed.  As Aleksić stood up, not necessarily to make a phone call but just to stretch, Balić looked over at him and nodded with his head to follow him, "Scarecrow, need a minute."  Aleksić, not responding verbally, followed his squadron commander out of the ready room and into the man's officer where Aleksić stood at attention.  Balić shut the door behind him and took a seat behind his desk.  "Keep your voice down but do you feel the same still?  The question I asked you?"

          "I do sir."

          "I'm coming to you because you've been in this service a long time and you're a senior officer in this squadron.  On the whole, the squadron is aligned but some people aren't necessarily of the same opinion.  I need to know that I can count on you to do what's right regardless of any politicking and vote canvassing that might occur."


          "Scarecrow, there may come a moment when someone, not myself, tries to sway people to a different opinion on this coup.  If you're involved, I need to know that I can count on you to stay true to that opinion you expressed to me, that you won't steer anyone in the wrong direction."

          "I'll do my best sir."

          "Might not be enough on this one Scarecrow, listen," Balić put his arms on his desk and leaned forward, lowering his voice a little more, "you might not have expressed any desire to lead a squadron or be anything more than a pilot and I haven't ever pushed you before but there's going to come a day when you're going to be promoted and you have to realize that any promotion means a leadership position, unless you want to fly a desk.  So, what I'm telling you is to reconcile that thought right away because you may be taking one sooner rather than later if these things go south."

          Aleksić searched his mind for the words, "Sir, I don't understand.  Who would I…"  Then it hit him.  The squadron's executive officer, Major Zoran "Stripes" Cerović was, at his heart, a Liari nationalist.  He might have been just okay in the pilot seat but was excellent at paperwork and organization.  What he lacked in flying skills, he more than made up in those administrative skills.  He wasn't particularly boisterous about his opinions, nor did he ever proselytize to the men, but everyone knew where he stood on the issue.  The fact that Balić was a Muslim Dosniman never really sat too well with Cerović but he hadn't really ever expressed his true sentiments in public before but one didn't necessarily need to hear his thoughts to know them.  If the putschists called upon the 57th Fighter Squadron to drop bombs on the people of Poja, Cerović would be the first in line to take off.  "Sir, do you really think I'm the right person for the job?"

          "Yes, for the simple reason that you don't want it.  You aren't going to play politics, inflate anyone's ego, or stand for bullshit.  Thus, you're exactly the right man for the job and anyone can learn how to fill out paperwork or organize a flight schedule."

          "Sir, I'd have to think about this more…"

          Balić cut him off with a laugh, "Scarecrow, you've been voluntold.  Get it?"

          "Yes sir," Aleksić responded, his own voice deflated and dejected.  Leadership wasn't what he wanted but he couldn't argue with Balić, the man ran the squadron and once his mind was made up, he wasn't going to change it for anything.

          "All right, get out of here and get ready for the convoy, you're in charge of it, so you better go organize it.  It's up to you to make sure everyone gets their stuff."  This was more bad news for Aleksić who knew an official order when he saw it.  He didn't really respond except for a shrug and then turned to leave when Balić said, in closing, "Keep your head up Scarecrow, this'll be over and for the better."

          "Yeah, I hope sir.  I'm not looking forward to what happens next."  Balić let him have the final word and Aleksić left, shutting the door in his wake.  Despite not wanting any leadership role, he was thrust right into one and as he returned to the ready room to see men organizing themselves and others making phone calls, he looked towards the podium and sighed before he started stepping towards it.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Saturday, 9th August 1997 | 16:35 hrs [UTC-3]
Kovaševac, Liaria, Confederacy of Poja | 4th Tank Division HQ

President Mileta Dapčević had been surprised to find himself relatively unharmed.  From the moment that he was handcuffed and muscled into the back of an armored personnel carrier, he suspected his time on Eurth was limited.  Being driven ninety kilometers outside of Rugi and to the headquarters of the 4th Tank Division, one of two divisions currently controlling Rugi, Dapčević wondered if he would see the shot coming or if it would be a surprise, a round to the back of the head and nothing more.  He wasn't a religious man and he didn't believe in Heaven or Hell but he did find himself reaching back into his childhood memories, to the days when he was forced to go to church, wishing he could remember any of the prayers that had been recited over, and over, and over again.  

          The ride itself had been uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally.  No one spoke in the back of the vehicle, for the entire ninety kilometers, and the blank, almost expressionless stares of the soldiers behind their balaclavas had been more than a little unsettling.  Dapčević wondered who would pull the trigger, figuring it could be any one of them, assuming that an officer would have one of his subordinates do the dirty work.  He wondered if he would be put against a wall, offered a cigarette, or if he would be told to walk from one end of a corridor to the other, or how the execution would happen in general.  He found himself fixated on it so much that moving one foot in front of the other when they reached their destination was a trying and taxing chore.  It only led to his captors being a little bit rougher as they almost dragged him to the base's detention center and put him into an interrogation room.  

          Dapčević, still handcuffed, paced around the room for a good two hours by himself.  A video camera was set up in one corner and a two-way along one way, the stereotypical interrogation room on crime drama television shows.  When someone finally did enter, they brought a tray with food, water, and removed his handcuffs.  No words were spoken and Dapčević looked cautiously at the food.  He wondered if had been poisoned, if this was how he would die.  He let it rest on the table for hours, still pacing the room, unable to calm his nerves.  He used the toilet in the corner, privacy a luxury this room did not afford, and continued to pace.  Six hours inside of the room, the door unlocked again and a soldier came and removed the tray of food and brought another one.  Once again, no words were spoken.

          This time, Dapčević ate.  He found his throat more parched than he remembered and drained the cup of water in one go before refilling it from the room's sink several more times.  Hours and hours passed.  He didn't know how long he'd been in there, if it was day or night, and he hadn't spoken to anyone.  Friday turned to Saturday and yet he remained in his room.  He rested but only in spurts of five or ten minutes at a time, his body weak and weary.  He judged how long he'd been in the room by the food deliveries.  It gave him some context to understand that he was captive for more than twenty-four hours and then longer as the clock advanced into the late afternoon.  It was only then that Dapčević had his first actual interaction with anyone since his arrest.  

          The door unlocked and Dapčević expected another food delivery.  Instead, two men entered, one with a manila folder marked "Top Secret" and the other an enlisted soldier.  No one wore nametags or rank insignias.  In fact, the man with the folder was the first soldier he'd seen without a balaclava since his arrest.  It really was the first face he'd seen since he'd been dragged out of his personal quarters over thirty-six hours earlier.  The soldier said nothing, only dropped the folder on the table and walked over to the video camera, positioning it so that it would capture the table and both of its occupants.  He turned on the camera, pressed record, and took a seat.  Pushing the other chair out with his foot, he offered, with a hand gesture, for Dapčević to sit down.  When Dapčević did nothing, the soldier spoke in a calm and inviting voice, a friendly voice, a trusting voice.  "Please have a seat Mister President."  The man even used his title, something Dapčević didn't expect.  Seemingly, without willing his body to move, it complied and he was seated.

          "Are you poisoning me?"  Dapčević asked.

          "No, the food and water are perfectly safe.  It may be bland but it is army food Mister President.  You can't expect too much from it.  You understand, right?"  Dapčević nodded.  "Now, as you can tell, we have not tortured you and you have not been handcuffed in this room, correct?"  Dapčević nodded.  "I would like you to verbally answer."


          "And you are not being coerced right now, correct?"

          "Well, you are holding me prisoner."

          "Be that as it may, no one is holding a gun to your head, correct?"


          "Very well, then we can begin.  Tell me, why are you so hard pressed to bring our country to war?  What gain do you see.  It's interesting because our nation's military leaders, the very same people who are charging to devise a plan and a strategy for the attack of our neighbor, have repeatedly warned you not to do this.  It's been unanimous amongst the military leadership and even many of the civilians in the Ministry of Defense that war would not be beneficial to Poja.  Why do you impress upon this nation the desire to go to war?"

          "We've been attacked, it is my duty to protect the people of Poja."

          The interrogator shook his head gently, "I don't think that's the reason.  Yes, there have been attacks, clashes, firefights along the border.  Many of these have been instigated by our own forces, carrying out direct orders from you.  Have you not given those orders?"

          "I would never."

          "Interesting," the interrogator opened the folder, removed the first piece of paper, looked at it, flipped it around, and then handed it to Dapčević.  "Did you not order our military forces to 'antagonize and instigate combat action at multiple border posts' in February of this year?"

          "I don't recall."

          "What you're holding is a transcript from a meeting you attended.  You don't recall those very words?  They are yours."

          "I don't recall."

          "Well then, that's fine," the interrogator took the paper back and removed another one.  "This is from a briefing on 16 March, the day after a firefight near the town of Gosji left four soldiers  and eleven civilians wounded and three soldiers and nine civilians dead.  If you'll notice, roughly halfway down the paper, you were informed that the attack was instigated by our forces and, most important, that they did not come away from the fight with fewer casualties than the enemy.  Sounds like we lost that firefight, doesn't it Mister President?"

          "I don't recall."

          "Well that's going to be a tiring line to hear and quite disappointing, if you ask me.  I'd have thought you were more willing to confess to your crimes.  Do you know that confession is good for the soul, what is the Bible quote?  'The truth will set you free.'  That's okay Mister President, I have some paperwork to complete.  I'll be back in a short while," the interrogator took the paper back and neatly placed it into the folder before standing up and leaving the room.  Dapčević didn't say anything, didn't plead for him to stay, which told the interrogator that he had jumped the gun a little.  Dapčević needed to wait things out a little longer.  With the camera left rolling, Dapčević resumed his pacing.  The interrogator, positioning himself behind the two-way mirror, would wait it out a bit longer.  Time was still on their side and the military was beginning to round up members of the House of Magnates, if just to return them to wurld for an emergency session of the nation's legislature.  The Chancellor's whereabouts remained unknown, as well as many of Dapčević's inner circle but the military was hot on their tails.

• • • † • • •

Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment
Posted (edited)

• • • † • • •

Sunday, 10th August 1997 | 10:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Rugi, Confederacy of Poja | Residence of Dragoljub Vukdragović

The buzz of the doorbell came as a sound of relief to the middle-aged Dragoljub Vukdragović, a high-ranking member of the PDS or the Pojacki Democratic Party.  Yet, despite that, he did not hold any public office nor was he a part of President Dapcevic's cabinet.  Instead, he was employed by the party itself and he garnered quite the salary for it, which was more than enough to pay for his penthouse condominium in downtown Rugi, from which he could see the Predsjednicki Dvori and the legislature where the House of Magnates met.  It was a strategic location for the party official and symbolic of just how high someone could climb within the party system in Poja without ever holding public office.  Granted, people like Vukdragović were a minority, their amassed wealth and power rivaled that of even long-sitting politicians such as mayors or governors who seemed to be eternal.  When Vukdragović spoke, people listened.

          That was precisely why his doorbell was ringing on this Sunday morning.  With his butler attending to the door, Vukdragović emerged from his office, an unlit pipe hanging from his mouth as his guest, a man by the name of Teodor Stijačić, entered the door.  "Teodor, thank you for coming," Vukdragović said from across the room.  "Stevan will see that you're set up, meet me in my office when you're comfortable."  Teodor nodded and found himself holding a cigar and a very expensive brandy moments later as he came through the entranceway into Vukdragović's office.  "Close the door."  Teodor complied and took a seat.  The two men toasted and Vukdragović lit his pipe before offering the lighter to his guest.  "Any trouble getting here?"

          "Not in the least bit," Stijačić answered as he puffed on his cigar to get it started.  "You would think that the military would go to more trouble checking people.  I am a wanted man, I am told, and I can walk the streets rather freely," Stijačić laughed.  His official title was Counselor to the President, which was a fancy way of saying that he was one of the President's primary advisors.  He'd gone to ground right away when he heard of the assault on the Predsjednicki Dvori but had found that it was easier to hide in plain site than it was to hide out elsewhere.  "Of course, I can't stay at my own house, that is under surveillance."

          "Well, I suppose the military can do one thing right, can't they?"  The two men shared a brief chuckle to themselves.  "Well, I'm glad you made it and in one piece, no less.  Let me ask you, as a 'fugitive,' to use the word comically, doesn't it strike you as odd that the military has a most wanted list and yet they are doing only the bare minimum to find people?"

          "It seems lazy surely but it is strategic.  The military is looking to keep the people on their side.  The light hand is why there haven't been any riots or looting or mass demonstrations.  The military isn't inconveniencing the people other than to say 'Stay in your homes from 23:00 to 05:00,' which really only inconveniences the party goers.  As much as they gripe, they're a harmless demographic.  In fact, they're probably going to appreciate how much money they'll save not spending a hundred dinar a night on drinks."

          "So, what if we take that from them?  I've been thinking, it's time to end the calm.  The military is already thinking that this is nothing but a 'cake walk,' as they say.  Look, the television and radio channels have returned, the people simply have a few extra detours to make to get to work, no one's going to raise a stink on their own.  They need a little push."

          "What are you suggesting?  A counter-coup?"  Stijačić's cigar smoke wafted into the air over his head, mixing with the more aromatic smoke of Vukdragović's pipe, creating something of a haze, suspending halfway to the ceiling.  The whisps of smoke danced gently with the light movement of air from the air conditioning system.  

          "Yes," Vukdragović smiled, "precisely.  We need to prod the people to get out onto the street and demonstrate against the military, against the coup.  We need to get the military into a riot control mode.  That is how they lose the PR war and how we can end this.  We turn the people against the military."

          "The strategy is sound.  We just need to rile them up, I'm sure you've already thought it through, yes?"

          "You know me well.  We have members lists with phone numbers.  We get everyone in the party we can to make phone calls to the people and tell them that the coup is a farce.  We tell them that the military is secretly drafting laws that will suspend the constitution, suspend voting, require identification checks at all major buildings, enact checkpoints, and so on and so forth.  We play upon their fears, upon the conspiracies that circulate in times like this.  It won't take long before there are small crowds in front of the tanks and then those crowds will grow bigger as more and more people see them.  The military will be forced to act and it shall become self-feeding.  The more they suppress the crowds, the stronger they will grow.  They will legitimize the protests and the people will quickly forget why they started to protest in the first place and merely protest for the sake of protesting."

          "That would take weeks, months even."

          "The military isn't going anywhere anytime soon.  They're digging in for a long haul.  Do you think they'll find anything?  They don't even know what they're looking for or where to look.  What do you think, Dapcevic is going to spill the beans?  The man's a rock.  He has more to lose than any of us.  By the time the crowds grow, people will forget about everything.  So, we push back our plans, we delay, it's insignificant in the long run.  When push comes to shove, this is now the fight and this is a fight we can't lose."

          "I share your optimism, I do.  But I wonder, will the people take the bait?"  Stijačić tapped off a long piece of ash from his cigar and relit it.  "I just wonder, if they don't take the bait, then what?"

          "There are a lot of phone calls to make Teodor, a lot.  People will be working on it twenty-four-seven, without rest.  If we get a tenth of a percent, we're talking more than a thousand people.  It starts small and goes from there, just like an avalanche.  You can't stop one once it starts rolling.  We have time on our side."

          Quiet filled the room for a few minutes as the men puffed away, thinking.  Stijačić and Vukdragović represented two very powerful and influential men in the PDS.  If anyone was going to throw this plan into motion, it was going to be them.  The logistics of it, on the other hand, were something to work out in more depth and detail and so the men got to it, discussing for hours, over cigars, over alcohol, over food, ruminating on a plan that, when they put into motion, could very well topple the coup.  The only unknown was how the military would react, which was why the two men hoped to engineer their plan in such a way that the military would have no available choices but bad ones.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Sunday, 10th August 1997 | 23:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

In the squadron operations building for the 57th Fighter Squadron, a sense of routine had fallen upon the pilots and the administrative personnel.  Under Balić's guidance, the pilots were split into three sections, divided equally amongst themselves such that one-third was off duty and resting at any given point in time.  Of the other two-thirds, one-third would be on duty, performing various tasks to ensure that the squadron's readiness was maintained at all times.  The remaining men were on standby, absolved from doing the various work tasks that were required but not permitted to go to sleep.  They were largely found in the rec room playing pool, video games, or watching television or movies.  If an order came out, two-thirds of the squadron would be fit for immediate tasking while the remaining third could be awoken, should it be necessary.  For Balić, it was a good way to keep the men busy, their minds off of the crisis unfolding throughout the country, and instill the sense of discipline and routine that was crucial to the military way of life.

          Who was on what shift depended entirely on their latest qualifications.  Those who weren't the most current on their night flying or landings were relegated to sleep during that time and those who were the most current were on standby.  Not unlike his now current qualifications on low-level flying, Aleksić was also very current on his nighttime landings and flying qualifications, having more hours than most of the squadron's other members thanks to his previous squadron, which primarily practiced for nighttime operations.  Aleksić had seen these as opportunities not drawing the short straw but, as he sat on the couch watching television, he couldn't help but wonder if in fact he'd drawn nothing but the short straw for his entire career.

          Midway through this bout of self-deprecation, the program he was watching suddenly cut out and switched to a live scene in downtown Rugi as a reporter and camera crew began to broadcast what looked like a major riot.  "Hush down," Aleksić shouted, instantly quieting the chatter.  Everyone turned their attention to the television as Aleksić raised the volume.  

          "We're reporting live from the city center where a massive crowd of protestors, perhaps in the high hundreds, carrying signs and demonstrating against the coup, have been attacked by military soldiers.  As you can see from behind me, clashes are ongoing between protestors and soldiers.  There have also been reports of similar scenes elsewhere throughout the Confederacy of Poja as demonstrators challenge the military authority and demand the return of President Dapčević to power."  The reporter was located at least a hundred or more meters away from the action and the camera crew was focused on it, the reporter off to the side in what seemed to be a very strategic place that afforded them a very one-sided view and kept them well out of harm's way.

          "Well shit, better go get Fez," Aleksić said and two pilots disappeared out of the room almost as he said it, returning with the squadron commander only moments later.  "You seeing this?"  Balić didn't answer, he just stood behind the couch and watched the television.  Glued to the screen, the men watched as the crowd and the military clashed.  It was a massive melee and hard to tell soldier from protestor, especially at the lateness of the hour and the way the camera was angled.  

          "Anything before this?"

          "No, it just came on Fez, just popped right on," Aleksić answered as he flipped through the channels.  Every local station was showing the riots from seemingly the same angle, as if they were all gathered in the same place.  The pilots, trained to spot anti-aircraft units from high-speed aircraft and mentally calculate the best attack trajectories all picked up on it right away.  The commotion and chatter affirmed that everyone was on the same page.  For the more skeptical amongst them, nothing seemed right, whereas those who were on the opposite end seemed to confirm that what was happening was proof that the coup was not only illegitimate but soon to devolve into what everyone feared would happen, a military takeover of the country.  The topic itself threatened to blow up into a full blown debate between the pilots when the duty phone began to ring, the sound of which silenced each and every one of them as they turned their heads towards the hallway and the ops room.  It could not have been a coincidence…

• • • † • • •

Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment

• • • † • • •

Monday, 11th August 1997 | 08:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Kovaševac, Liaria, Confederacy of Poja | 4th Tank Division HQ

"How are you feeling?"  The soldier asked, his face still covered by a balaclava.  The weary, visibly sleep-deprived President sat in front of him, his movements lethargic, his words slow, as if he were in an advanced state of drunkenness where the body was more tired than anything else.  "Do you think that maybe you can answer some of my questions?"  The video camera recorded from the corner, the single, red light on its body indicating that it was on and recording.  "We've been rather patient with you so far but I have to say that your obstinate attitude towards these charges is rather telling.  Rather than embrace honesty and truth, rather than uphold the duty you swore before the people of Poja, you continue to obfuscate the facts surrounding your corruption and not only your corruption but the extent of corruption throughout your administration and the government of Poja."

          The President looked across at his interrogator, picking up on the impatience and resentment in the man's voice.  "Do you think I created the corruption in this government?  I created nothing."  He answered, perhaps the final crack in his armor.

          "I'm sure it was there long before you ever arrived but I'm sure you did nothing to arrest it; instead, you embraced it, didn't you?"  The President gave a subtle nod, his body weak, exhaustion making him admit to truths he wouldn't admit even in private.  "Tell me about it," the interrogator opened the folder in front of him.  "Have you encouraged a 'pay-to-play' scheme in your administration amongst PDS officials?"  The President nodded.  "Please answer verbally."


          "Which I am sure some, if not most of your predecessors have done, correct?"


          "Good, now we're getting somewhere.  Who was the biggest benefactor of this scheme?"  The President shook his head.  "We know the answer Mister President.  I'd prefer you say it aloud so that when he sees this, he understands the gravity of the evidence against him.  In fact, Mister President, it may come as a surprise, but we have arrested almost everyone in your Cabinet and the administration.  We have party leaders and officials in rooms not unlike this.  Some are brave, I am not ashamed to say that not everyone has decided to tell us the truth but do you understand that those are few and far between?  If there is one thing about politicians it is that they lack the honor and the courage to stand by their schemes and their crimes.  They will always look out for their own necks first.  So, Mister President, why would you protect them?"

          "Teodor Stijačić is the architect."

          "Of course he is," the interrogator chuckled, "do you know what Stijačić has been doing?  Here," he handed over a photograph.  "We took this photo of him entering the residence of Dragoljub Vukdragović yesterday morning.  He's a slick one but he's very easy to follow.  He was there for hours, probably scheming on how to save his own neck.  We don't have any audio of the meeting I am afraid but they certainly looked chummy in Vukdragović's office, drinking, smoking cigars.  You look surprised?"  The President had a look of surprise on his face because he knew how deeply embedded in the schemes these two men were.  He didn't think they would be foolish enough to meet with one another and get caught doing it.  "It's amazing what you can do with a telephoto lens and a high perch, here," the interrogator passed off the next photo.  "I'm guessing they are writing you off Mister President, probably maneuvering the next man into the job.  Maybe your Vice President?  Željko Vasić.  Is he involved?"

          "Vasić?"   The President laughed, a type of hearty but impeded laughter that came in slow waves.  "Vasić couldn't keep his mouth shut about anything.  We wouldn't involve Vasić in a brothel.  He's completely inept."

          "Shame really," the interrogator said, "he's saying a lot about you.  He's just three rooms over," the interrogator pointed behind him.  "I spoke with him before I came in with you.  He's been very cooperative.  I guess he doesn't like the treatment, does he?"

          "Nice bluff," the President laughed, "Vasić isn't in the know on anything.  We wouldn't tell him a thing."

          "That's funny," the interrogator laughed and stood up to stretch.  "You see because there's something about Vasić you neglected to learn.  Vasić's career in the military, as brief as it was, had been in military intelligence.  Turns out, the man makes for an effective eavesdropper.  Actually, personally, I think he's lying too.  I think he just bugged your office instead of eavesdropped on anything but the man says what the man says, you know?"  The interrogator sat back down.  "Tell me about Operation Grey Wolf.  Who's the architect of it?"

          "Me," the President said, with a point of pride, "well, maybe not entirely me," before a moment of humility.  "I was approached last year by a consortium of representatives from a few industries throughout Poja, organizing by my own party's officials, Stijačić and Vukdragović.  Talk about a 'get rich quick scheme.'  We met under the pretense of loosening regulation on hiring practices to solve some of the unemployment issues we've been having but it was all just to orchestrate a war with our neighbor."


          "Money," the President slapped his hand on the table, a moment of strength and defiance as if to emphasize his point.  "Naturally there would have been damage and destruction to repair.  Whatever it cost to repair, we'd siphon off and create a massive war chest for the party as well as those of us involved in the deal.  That's the meat of it."

          "Unfortunate," the interrogator leaned back, "unfortunate that you thought you all needed more money than you already have, and at the expense of the sons of this nation.  You know men would have died?"

          "Yes.  Yes, we did.  We resolved that the war would be short, two or three weeks, at most."

          "What if you couldn't stop it?  What if the war got out of your control.  Or were you so crass as to think that you could script a war?"  The President started laughing.  "I'm glad that's funny to you."  

          "Our neighbor's leadership is involved too.  You ask if we can script a war?  Well," the President leaned forward, "you can when you're writing both parts."  This wasn't something the interrogator expected.  In fact, no one in the military guessed that not only was the crisis engineered but that the other side had been in on it too.


          "Money, the same reason as us, money and power, do you think dictators are motivated by anything other than money and power?  They're even easier to understand and to motivate.  They all the want the same thing, money and power.  The brightest of them are still two-dimensional."  The interrogator leafed through the folder further and passed over several pieces of paper neatly stapled together at the top.  "What's this?"

          "Vukdragović made a phone call afterwards, a phone call that we recorded.  Read it and see what kind of man Vukdragović is.  I'll wait."  

          As the President read, he read what was, in essence, the culmination of Vukdragović's and Stijačić's meeting.  It was the call he made to get the riots organized.  When he was done, the President put the paper down and shook his head.  "Does he think this will work?"

          "He does.  In fact, to some regard, it has had limited success.  Hundreds of protestors clashed with soldiers last night in Rugi.  The clashes have continued into this morning and will probably continue into the afternoon.  The media is reporting that clashes are erupting throughout the country and framing the story in such a way that it presents the soldiers as the sole aggressors.  The interesting part is that what they're reporting is false.  There are no clashes throughout the country, just in Rugi, where your party has its strongest base.  Probably been paid off by Vukdragović and the party to read from a script to rile up the people.  The thing is Mister President, people are going to die.  Because we intercepted this call, we were ready for the protestors.  So when the first ones began to hurl rocks and bottles and set off tear gas amongst themselves to rile up the crowd, to frame the military, we were ready but we're not shooting the people in the street, despite what Vukdragović wants.  And trust me, this is what he wants."

          "Vukdragović is a very powerful man.  People listen to him, more so than anyone else in the party."

          "Should one man have that much power?"  The President shook his head.  "He's going down.  We are going to arrest him in the next two hours. Stijačić's arrest will come shortly thereafter.  Mister President, you will answer for your crimes but so will everyone else.  That much I promise you and you will receive a fair and just trial by this country's judiciary according to the rules and laws set forth in our constitution.  This much I guarantee you."  The interrogator stood up and closed the folder.  He pointed to the transcript, "You can keep that for your own reading leisure.  Might help you fall asleep, unless maybe you care about the people of Poja and want to stop it before it goes too far.  You still have some power left Mister President, maybe you can use it for something good, one last act of good to atone for all of the bad?"  He said nothing further as he removed the video tape from the recorder, turned it off, and just left the dejected and defeated President at the table to ponder his parting words.  He then entered the observation room where General-armije Tomo Kukoč stood.  A man who presented himself in his uniform at all times, according to the rules and regulations of the military, Kukoč stood ramrod straight, his arms behind his back.

          "Good work," he offered to the interrogator as he came into the room and removed his balaclava.  "Good work indeed.  This man is not fit to serve this country.  Nice bit leaving the transcript with him.  We have all of the proof we need."  The interrogator handed over the video tape to the leader of coup and nodded in appreciation.  "One thing I don't understand though, how could they think money was truly worth more than the lives of this nation.  I guess I'll never understand what it means to be this kind of traitor."  Kukoč turned to a man standing next to him and handed him the video tape.  "You know what to do with this, right?"

          "Yes sir."

          "Good, I want these riots squashed and these scumbags caught.  The longer this goes on, the more likely it is some overzealous platoon leader or company commander fires off a real grenade and not tear gas.  I want those reporters in handcuffs too.  Let's find out who told them to say what.  It's obvious they're lying based on a script they were given.  Let's find out who wrote it."

          "Yes sir," the man said as he left.  Few people in the room knew it but this was Pukovniče Josip Kokolja, the head of the military intelligence division for the entirety of the Pojački National Forces.  If there was any man up to the task, it was certainly him.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Monday, 11th August 1997 | 15:25 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

Aleksić once again sat in the cockpit of his jet but this time, he wasn't happy about it.  Two hours earlier, Balić had received orders to get two aircraft airborne for support operations over Rugi against the ongoing riots.  The military wanted these two aircraft to conduct a series of show of force passes over the rioters in an effort to scare them and give them a "moment's pause."  Balić thought the idea was ridiculous.  Show of force passes were typically done over enemy positions to encourage them to surrender amidst the prospect of being blown to smithereens by high-explosive ordnance.  Soldiers understood what a fighter jet armed with guided bombs could do to them but rioting civilians would hardly understand what it meant to have these aircraft buzzing overhead.  They would, in Balić's estimate, take it as provocation by the military, dig in, and fight harder.

          Still, Balić understood the orders and he was at least relieved that those orders strictly called for the jets to be completely unarmed, which meant not even the cannon or self-defense countermeasure systems were to be loaded.  Outside of crashing the aircraft, they would be as harmless as any civilian jetliner was though flying this type of mission, over a crowded city, was far riskier than anything he'd ever done in his time in the service.  He had almost refused the order, citing the risk factor of flying at low-altitude over a congested city but then he realized that the order would just go to another unit and he couldn't attest for the flying skill of whatever unit it went to; thus, he accepted the order and determined that he would fly lead.  Aleksić would be his wingman, a man he could, perhaps, trust more than anyone else in the squadron.

          Balić briefed the squadron on the mission they'd been given, fielded a number of questions, and then announced that Aleksić would be flying off of his wing.  Several men were visibly disappointed that they had not been picked, including Cerović whose feelings on the rioters were more than known by this point.  Every time the television flashed to the riots, Cerović nearly spat at the screen, calling them traitors.  It was why Balić would not pick him, afraid that Cerović would do something stupid and crash the aircraft, killing himself and who knew how many people on the ground.  With Aleksić off his wing, Balić knew that he had someone who would follow his orders without question and it helped that Aleksić's run of Thunder Canyon was the most recent anyone in the squadron had flown the training sortie, save for his wingman.  

          Now sitting on the runway, Aleksić was sure that he'd truly drawn every short stick he possibly could.  Balić, off of his right wing and forward by ten meters, had run through his final checks and Aleksić was doing the same.  They'd been given their takeoff clearance already and Balić was moments away from calling for full power, all he was waiting on was confirmation from Aleksić that he was ready and Aleksić wasn't one to needlessly stall, regardless of the situation.  Resigning himself to the fate of the mission, Aleksić acknowledged that he was ready and less than a minute later, he was a hundred meters off of Balić's left wing and climbing.  As they climbed, he slid out further to a distance of five hundred meters and then a little further to a full kilometer by the time they passed through 5,000 meters on their way up to 10,000 meters.  Clean of ordnance and light, the aircraft had a very favorable thrust-to-weight ratio and climbed magnificently into the afternoon skies over Adjinua.  With only 250 kilometers of distance between the air base and Rugi, it would be a quick flight but, more importantly, a quiet flight.  Neither Balić nor Aleksić had anything to talk about amongst themselves.  Instead, each man was thinking about the gravity of the situation and the mission that had been handed down to them from command.

          Once they were inside of Rugi's airspace, they got in touch with the local air traffic controller and were cleared to descend down to 2,000 meters but limited to just 550 km/h.  They were in controlled airspace and jetliners were taking off and landing at Rugi International just outside of the city.  News helicopters were airborne as well as other military helicopters observing the situation.  It was dangerous airspace, too dangerous for the flying that Balić and Aleksić would be doing.  The two fighters cleared to the west of the city, per ATC instructions, and then were cleared to come back to the center for the first pass.  They would come in at just 250 meters, now limited to just 500 km/h.  At this low, that was fast enough, especially overflying the city though at 250 meters, they were above all but a select few and easily identifiable buildings.  The weather was clear, which was important for the type of visual flying they would be doing.  A stunt like this could not be done safely in anything but VFR conditions.

          "All right Scarecrow, stay on my trail, let's go in with an interval of fifteen.  Stay above two-five-zero meters and below five-zero-zero speed.  Nothing fancy, just a level pass.  Once your past the city center, climb to eight-zero-zero and clear to one-nine-one and we'll form back up on the south."

          "Two, copy."

          "All right, interval fifteen, commencing run now," Balić peeled off and headed to the east, targeting the city center.  Fifteen seconds behind him came Aleksić.  As they passed over the city, the roar of their jet engines shook everything there was to shake.  In the alleyways and narrow streets, the roar echoed and reverberated off of shop and car windows.  It wasn't quite deafening but it was the loudest thing in the city.  With Balić in the lead ahead of him, Aleksić concentrated on flying the plane.  He kept his eyes on the HUD, monitoring his speed and his altitude, flying a path in the rough, turbulent air of Balić's jetwash.  It wasn't difficult flying but it made for a bumpy ride.  When Balić passed over the crowd, he pulled the jet into a climb, pointing his tailpipe right at the gathered crowd.  

          When Aleksić did the same, he couldn't help but wonder if the message was getting through on the ground.  From their distance, the heat of the engines wouldn't do anything to the crowd but the noise certainly would.  In essence, by pointing their tailpipe right at the crowd, they sent all of the roar right into them.  Back in touch with ATC, Balić and Aleksić flew to the south, and reformed.  Then made a second run, coming in at the same altitude and speed, clearing to the east this time.  Then they made additional passes, each time clearing a different direction and reforming.  They would be at it for some time before Balić finally looked at his fuel gauge and declared "Joker fuel," the call that they were done.  Joker was the calculated, minimum fuel state to return to base and land, with the standard reserve margin of ten minutes.

          Aleksić had never been so happy to hear "joker" in his life as he pulled his aircraft into a climb one kilometer off of Balić's wing and headed up to 10,000 meters.  Little did Aleksić know that Balić had actually set his joker setting to much higher than would have been in normal flying circumstances.  Like Aleksić, Balić didn't want to spend too much time over the city, knowing that with every pass, there increased the likelihood of an accident.  Thus, he set his joker minimum to 500 kilograms more than what had been calculated by the squadron's planning officer.  Aleksić, on the other hand, had set his joker level to what the planning officer had calculated but never thought to question Balić or ask for his fuel state  In his mind, if his lead had called Joker that was it, it was time to go home, and go home was just what he wanted.  

          Cruising back, they checked one another for any damage, which was just standard procedure.  Like the flight to Rugi, the flight back was just as quick and just as quiet.  They kept formation with a kilometer of separation, cruising back at 850 km/h and 10,000 meters, descending down to the airbase and landing without any fanfare.  Aleksić, perhaps for the first time in his career, was happy to be on the ground and was confused by the emotion that struck him as he parked and powered down his plane.  He'd never felt this kind of relief before and wondered if it was the start of something in him.  Did the mission kill his joy of flying?  He would wonder about it, replaying the mission over and over in his head, replaying the feeling of relief when his wheels touched the ground.  For Aleksić, it was new territory.

• • • † • • •

Link to comment

• • • † • • •

Tuesday, 12th August 1997 | 02:05 hrs [UTC-3]
Šekoški, Dosnima, Confederacy of Poja | Highway 15

Highway 15 was the main road linking Rugi and the Dosniman capital of Gorlenje.  It was a long and winding road that snaked through the hills and valleys between the two cities, sometimes going for long stretches through what could only be described as nothingness.  Lighting, at night, was poor and only existed around populated areas, thus leaving long stretches of the countryside to the darkness of the night.  On nights like tonight, with a half-moon in the sky and intermittent clouds, the roadway alternated from invisible to a simple outline, impossible to traverse without headlights and especially treacherous in poor weather conditions, which was why there were a multitude of rest stops throughout its length, though most of them were nothing more than parking lots with a few street lights and basic facilities.  However busy the road was during the day, it was a fraction of that at night, leading to a silent stillness that made Highway 15 very peaceful at night, something appreciated by the multitude of villages and small towns along its length.

          Yet tonight wasn't one of those quiet nights.  Two military helicopters, each rather sizeable in nature, were cruising not more than fifty meters off of the roadway in blackout conditions, moving at considerable speed.  The four pilots that flew the aircraft did so with the aid of monocular night vision goggles, which turned everything before them a shade of green that was accentuated by image noise, not unlike someone would find on high-speed film, which was often just described as static.  Yet, despite the static, these pilots could clearly see the roadway and obstacles ahead, spotting the occasional overpass with more than enough time to lift their helicopters up and over them with little risk.  

          Flying for the better part of the past thirty minutes, the helicopters picked up the highway just outside of Rugi and headed north at 250 km/h, flying between fifty and a hundred meters for the entire journey.  The was rough and turbulent with the helicopters truly beating the air in front of them into submission as they cruised ahead, flanking the roadway and one another.  For the pilots of these two helicopters, this type of flying was what they had trained for time and time again for these two helicopters, and their crews, belonged to the Bojna Specijalnog Zrakoplovstva (BSZ), commonly called Jastrebovi or Hawks, a special operations unit within the Pojački National Air Force.  The two, five-man crews on each helicopter belonged to the BSZ while their twenty-eight passengers - between the two helicopters - belonged to a sister unit in the Pojački National Army, the Pukovnija Za Posebne Operacije Vojske (PPOV).  The PPOV were usually referred to simply as Demoni or Demons.  The twenty-eight of them in the two helicopters represented two squads of highly trained, special operations soldiers.

          Their mission tonight was the capture of a high-profile criminal within the Dapčević cabinet who had eluded capture hours earlier, Teodor Stijačić.  How Stijačić had slipped through the fingers of the military was still being evaluated but his trail had been picked up fleeing the city and the PPOV was sent to get him.  What the military knew was that Stijačić was traveling in a two-vehicle convoy with his own private security, likely members of the Presidential Guard who, despite their defeat on the first night of the coup, were still actively protecting members of the cabinet, fulfilling their duties as best as they still could, given the current situation.  While Stijačić was not someone who normally warranted special protect, the unique nature of the situation meant that the Presidential Guard had moved to protect all of the cabinet members and principals.  Stijačić rated as a principal because of his influence and reputation.

          Why he was choosing to hide out in Gorlenje was a mystery to the military, who had only intercepted part of his phone call from a roadside telephone booth just outside of Rugi.  It was how the military knew where he was heading and where he would be, dispatching the PPOV unit on standby in Rugi with strict orders to capture Stijačić and not harm him or any members of the Presidential Guard, unless they were forced to defend themselves.  Even then, Stijačić's capture remained a priority.  The military had not issued any kill orders nor was it being entertained, or so that's what they told everyone.  Of course, few believed them, despite the follow through, which was simply the nature of how coups worked.

          Screaming in low, the two helicopters picked up the convoy of cars after thirty-eight minutes of flying.  The cars, well ahead of them, came up quickly as the helicopters easily overtook them.  Flanking the roadway, the two helicopters slowed down to match the speed of the convoy as they came alongside the vehicles.  Door gunners opened the doors and immediately manned their spotlights and their machine guns.  The helicopters were not equipped with a loudspeaker system so the pilots could not order the vehicles to stop, not that their intentions could have been construed as anything else, given the situation.  Yet the convoy did not slow down, in fact that they sped up, a foolish decision given the top speed of the helicopters.  Meeting the pace, the helicopters sped up and maintained their position.  They flew along this way for two minutes before one of the helicopters accelerated away, traveling several kilometers forward before coming into a hover just a few meters off of the roadway, the spotlight illuminating the roadway and the machine gun aimed at the driver's seat of the approaching lead vehicle.

          This truly meant, "Pull over" but the cars didn't stop and, displaying their professional driving skills, the convoy avoided the helicopter and continued on its way.  The helicopter gave chase and, once again, held pace alongside the vehicle until snipers from the two helicopters, communicating via their own tactical channel amidst the roaring noise of the open door and the helicopter's drivetrain system just over their heads, decided to put a quick end to the chase.  Taking up positions in the doorway with the door gunners operating the lights, each of them took several shots at the speeding vehicles, aiming strictly for the wide engine bays of the vehicles until they saw white smoke begin to puff out from underneath the hoods.  Slowly, the vehicles came to a stop, the drivers trying to press every bit of power from the vehicles' dying engines.  

          Once again, the lead helicopter moved ahead and descended to the highway, only this time, the fourteen men inside of its hull poured out and took up positions on either side of the road, their weapons aimed at the vehicles.  The helicopter took off to go into an orbit pattern, the spotlights focused on the approaching vehicles.  The second helicopter, acting as backup in case there was a runner, maintained an orbit as well, flying slightly higher to avoid the other helicopter.  For the two cars, this was it and they slowed to a crawl, there being no more power left in the now dead engines.  Everyone kept a close eyes on the doors, waiting to see if anyone would get out and try to make a run for it into the nothingness that was around them.

          Stijačić himself wasn't foolish enough to run and he merely remained in the rear of the lead vehicle as it was swarmed by the PPOV soldiers.  Four men swarmed each car with the rest forming a perimeter to catch runners, if anyone decided to ditch.  Stijačić surrendered and though the thought of resisting did cross the minds of the five Presidential Guards that were escorting Stijačić, they all knew it was suicide.  The PPOV had set themselves up in the classic, L ambush formation so that they could pump rounds into each car without worrying about hitting one another.  If any of the Presidential Guards aimed to resist, to come out shooting, he would find that he would be dead before he ever leveled his sights on the PPOV soldiers.  Instead, they surrendered and everyone was taken into custody, the vehicles pushed off of the road by the PPOV soldiers to make sure they weren't an impediment to any traffic.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Tuesday, 12th August 1997 | 14:50 hrs [UTC-3]
Kovaševac, Liaria, Confederacy of Poja | 4th Tank Division HQ

Kukoč felt his body creaking as he lowered himself into the nearest chair.  The coup leader had grown tired and impatient with the lack of progress in arresting the civil disobedience and riots in the streets.  Dapčević's confession had been out there for roughly twenty-four hours, Vukdragović was in custody and though he'd seen Dapčević's confession, he was still stonewalling.  Now with Stijačić in custody, the whole house of cards could fall.  The putschists had identified eight, high-ranking individuals within the government and all eight of them were in custody.  Four of the eight had already confessed to crimes, passing the buck onto Vukdragović and Stijačić, who, for all intents and purposes, appeared to be the masterminds behind what could only be described as an organized and deliberate attempt to push the country into war for profit.  To call these men war profiteers wouldn't do justice to the enormity of their crimes and now Kukoč had just been handed even worse news, which had come in the form of not one but two border incidents.

          The first had happened forty minutes prior to this moment when a border checkpoint endured a fourteen-minute mortar barrage that caused considerable damage, three deaths, and left nine soldiers wounded.  Fire had been returned but it had been ineffective and enemy forces displaced.  Then, not fifteen minutes prior, elements of a tank regiment had moved up to within just five kilometers of the border and occupied multiple hull-down positions, as if the were expecting an invasion force to barrel through that area.  For Kukoč, the choices weren't so good.  He could ignore the incidents and invite more of them as a lack of response would be interpreted as weakness.  Yet, to act, only escalated the already rising tensions.  With the people still rioting in the streets of Rugi and the media still pushing the narrative that this was widespread and in response to measures enacted by the putschists to hinder liberty, Kukoč couldn't signal a surrender just yet.  

          "What kind of options do we have?"  He asked those gathered around him, which happened to be the heads of all of the military's branches, as well as some other key players in the coup.  "I do not want to escalate this into a full-fledged war, that's what we are trying to avoid but men are dead and wounded, damage has been dealt."

          "We can reinforce our border positions with an emphasis on artillery units that can provide effective counterbattery fire in case another checkpoint comes under a mortar attack."

          "All right, that's one," Kukoč answered, "what else do we have?"

          "Constant air patrols in the border region focused on responding against air and ground threats.  I would suggest we keep them no closer than twenty kilometers from the border to ensure that they are well within our airspace."

          "Very good, that's two," Kukoč liked what he was hearing.  The military could take several measured responses that would be highly visible to the enemy in such a way that it would send a very clear message being, "Go ahead, try that again."  The Pojački military had not been well-positioned to respond out of an abundance of caution and unilateral handcuffing designed to signal that war was not in the cards.  The fact that the other side had decided to take advantage only told Kukoč that the plan enacted by Dapčević, Vukdragović, Stijačić, and the others was in its advanced stages of completion.  The other side was continuing to run the plays, even if the putschists had signaled they were forfeiting the game.  All-in-all, it didn't make Kukoč too comfortable.  He didn't want war, none of the putschists did, which was the whole point for the coup and now the other side was doing everything possible to force the putschists' hand so as to force them to commit to combat, thus eroding their entire purpose for the coup.  It was a masterful move that Kukoč was struggling to overcome while, at the same time, keeping the calm at home so that the putschists could step back and hand ruling authority back over to the elected officials of Poja, the ones who hadn't bought into everything that was planned.


• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Tuesday, 12th August 1997 | 21:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

The 57th Fighter Squadron was one of six fighter squadrons that had been tasked with providing a constant aerial presence over the border area.  The orders had come down direct from Kukoč himself that aircraft needed to be in the air at all times with the ability to react at a moment's notice to both air and ground threats, with an emphasis on the latter.  Almost immediately, four aircraft were put into the sky from the 57th and the 63rd Fighter Squadrons out of Vukovica Air Base with the former handling the ground threats and the latter handling the air threats.  Two hours and thirty minutes ago, another four aircraft went into the skies to relieve those already airborne.  For the 57th, this was Cerović and one of the squadron's greener pilots, Poručnik Branko "Frogger" Žegarac.  They had lifted their ZuB-17VM Ter'er-C aircraft into the night skies with a decent combat load that emphasized endurance with two, 1,500-liter drop tanks instead of the lighter 1,000-liter drop tanks that the aircraft typically carried on combat missions.

          In the ops room, Balić and Aleksić were both pulling duty, along with several other pilots and admin personnel.  They were tracking communications and the aircraft positions by constantly updating a tabletop map that had been unfurled for this sole purpose.  Despite the rising tensions between Poja and its neighbor, the air in the ops room was relaxed as the pilots and admin personnel went about the individual tasks assigned to them.  Balić, overseeing everything, walked around the room, studying the maps, then checking the transcripts for communications, and then reviewing the duty roster for the upcoming flights.  He listened to updates from mechanics as they reported on the readiness of the next aircraft and so on and so forth, leading the squadron through delegation, presence, and guidance.

          Aleksić was monitoring the radio, logging everything.  There was no order for radio silence, in fact the putschists wanted the enemy to know that the planes were airborne, that they were ready, and that they were looking across the border.  Airborne early warning provided regular updates on air traffic on the other side of the border and Cerović and Žegarac kept in constant communication with the aircraft from the 63rd, which were armed with lighter loads since they were focused on air-to-air combat.  What this meant was that Cerović and Žegarac were draining fuel faster than their counterparts in the 63rd, thus translating to an extra trip to the tanker, which was orbiting around one hundred kilometers behind the border.  A single tanker was all that was necessary to support the four fighter aircraft.  The four aircraft would take turns with one another going to the tanker with Cerović and Žegarac splitting up along with their counterparts so that, during tanker trips, there were still two aircraft on patrol.  They had already hit the tanker twice and would be making a third trip shortly.  Aleksić was monitoring it, logging the communications. 

          "How we doing up there?"  Balić asked as he made his way over to Aleksić next.

          "Uneventful," was the only way Aleksić could really describe it.

          "I like uneventful.  We have the next round of aircraft prepping and they'll be launching in an hour.  That ought to provide relief.  We're stretching it with four-hour patrols but that's what the planners want."  Typical patrols lasted just two hours but they had been doubled now because of the crisis.  Thanks to the aid of tanker support, the aircraft could easily remain in the skies for four hours but that meant extra wear and tear on the pilots, three trips to the tankers, and that much more maintenance to do when the aircraft landed.  It was why Balić was getting regular updates from the mechanics and technicians who were going over each and every aircraft in the squadron.  

          "So long as it stays uneventful, it's just more stick time for everyone."

          "Hopefully it's over quick.  Keep alert, let's make sure we don't miss anything."

          "Roger," Aleksić said as Balić walked away to check on the map.  The aircraft were flying at high-altitude so that they could use as little fuel as possible and they were flying a racetrack pattern that was 200 kilometers in each direction.  Flying at 600 km/h to conserve fuel, the aircraft were only spending twenty minutes flying in either direction.  

          "Two, what's your fuel state," Cerović's voice echoed over the radio.  

          "Lead, fuel state is two-point-one."

          "Roger, head to the tanker, I'm at three-point-seven."

          "Two, heading to the tanker."

          "Viper 1-2, Assassin 1-1, I'm heading back to the tanker too, fuel state one-point-eight."

          "Roger Assassin 1-1, you have the lead."

          "Assassin 1-1, copy."  The communication was routine and the two ZuB-17s formed up over the skies near the border and began to head to the northeast to the tanker track, following their navigation system, which would take them right to the tanker, which was orbiting at 6,000 meters and doing only 450 km/h.  It would speed up to 500 km/h for the tanking, which gave the ZuB-17s a better angle of attack given the altitude and their weights.  

          Aleksić noted the time in the logbook and checked his watch.  In his head, he did the math.  They would be at the tanker in roughly twelve minutes.  Neither aircraft would be too dangerously low on fuel but for Assassin 1-1, he would definitely be under a thousand kilograms of fuel.  He could still fly for quite some time on that amount but it was definitely low.  Luckily for them, the tanker could refuel two aircraft at once with a pair of probe-and-drogue systems trailing from a pair of pods on the tanker's wings outboard of the number one and four engines.

          Continuing to check his watch, Aleksić noticed that four and then five minutes had passed.  He didn't have any notes to make, he was just trying to make sure he kept time correctly in his head as the two aircraft headed to the tanker.  Five minutes passed to six and then to seven.  The aircraft continued to the northeast, keeping a constant turn so that they could intercept just behind the tanker.  When contact with the tanker had been made and the aircraft were authorized to vector into the precontact position, Aleksić noted the time.  

          To avoid the tanker's jetwash and turbulent wake, they would approach from the sides, sliding in before pushing forward to make contact with the basket.  Once they were done, they would slide back out and return to the patrol area so that the next two aircraft could go refuel.  Everything was routine as the two fighters approached the tanker.  Aleksić noted as much as his pen hovered over the logbook, ready to jot down the time when the two aircraft made contact with the tanker's basket.  They would be connected for a few minutes while the fuel flowed into each aircraft.  They could hold a good amount of fuel and they were pretty low so, this would not be a quick disconnect.

          "Viper 1-1, dirt nine o'clock," Cerović said over the radio and, instantly, everyone in the ops room froze.  "Dirt" was the call for a surface-to-air radar in search mode and the first indication that there was any activity on the other side of the border.  "Spike, two-three-zero, SA-10."  Cerović's voice suddenly took on a tone of panic as he was now indicating that the radar was tracking him, hardly a good sign.  The ops room held its collective breath as the seconds elapsed at three times the speed.  "SAM launch, defensive, SA-10, Viper 1-1," Cerović's voice went to full on panic.  Though no one knew what he was doing in the cockpit, everyone in the ops room knew the procedure in their heads.  He would activate his ECM system, jettison his ordnance, begin dropping chaff, and dive for the deck, hoping to achieve two things.  The first was the most crucial, forcing the missile down into the thicker atmosphere where it would be forced to burn more fuel and thus lose more energy, reducing its range and maneuvering capabilities.  The second was to use terrain masking to get away from the radar that was guiding the missile.  

          "Assassin 1-2, SAM launch, defensive, SA-10," the second plane was now being targeted and he too was diving for the deck, his fuel tanks tumbling in the sky as he lit the burner and dove, dropping chaff and rolling the aircraft hard, keeping the missile constantly turning.  Aleksić's hand was frozen, he found that he couldn't write a thing.  Precious seconds ticked away as the missiles roared towards the two aircraft, more than likely two missiles per aircraft, each moving at close to two kilometers per second.  The missiles would have more than enough energy but the two fighters would be pulling hard, forcing the missiles and their radars to adjust constantly.  

          Everyone was quiet as the labored breathing on the radio came through whenever either pilot keyed their microphones.  At the tanker, the other two aircraft were paralyzed to do anything.  Safe from the SAM system but still low on fuel, they could only listen in horror as their comrades fought for their lives against one of the better and more capable SAM systems in the wurld.  Truth be told though, neither Cerović and Žegarac were equipped with weaponry to defeat the SA-10 site as they were loaded not for suppression of enemy air defense sorties but rather close air support, expecting to be tasked against enemy artillery or armor.

          Seconds ticked away as the two aircraft dove hard and fast, surpassing Mach 1.  Their sonic booms would echo throughout the populated region as they screamed downwards.  Partial relief came moments later when the pilot of Assassin 1-2 announced over the radio, "Assassin 1-2, defeated."  

          "Assassin, Viper, RTB," airborne early warning ordered.  

          It was the smart call, pulling the aircraft out of the area and away from the now active SAM system.  Assassin 1-2 acknowledged the order and turned for home while the radio remained silent for now until, all of a sudden, everyone's stomachs sank, everyone's hearts skipped a beat.  The words no one wanted to hear echoed over the channel, "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday…"

• • • † • • •

Link to comment
Posted (edited)

• • • † • • •


Tuesday, 13th August 1997 | 00:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Kovaševac, Liaria, Confederacy of Poja | 4th Tank Division HQ

Kukoč sat in tense silence as he waited for the phone line to come back to life.  On the other end was Pukovniče Žarko Augustinčić, the commanding officer of the BSZ, who was playing relay with two ground teams scouring the mountainous border region for the whereabouts of Cerović.  Three hours earlier, when Cerović ejected, his seat's survival beacon was picked up right away on 243.0 MHz but air controllers had yet to be able to make radio contact with him.  A rescue mission was launched immediately but the SA-10 site remained active on the other side of the border, locking up and deterring the first rescue attempt and warning off the second as well.  The third attempt, that which was playing out presently, had pressed on, getting into the valleys safely before the SAM site could fire its missiles.  From there, they had snaked through the valleys until they reached the general area of the distress beacon, at which point, the two ground teams disembarked and began to move on foot, using radio direction finding equipment.  Because of the mountainous terrain, the signal strength was only intermittently detected by those ground teams, making the search that much more difficult.

          Joining Kukoč in the conference room was General-armije Vlado Radovan, the head of the Pojački National Air Force.  Radovan had dispatched the BSZ for the rescue attempt and he had been the one to make the call on the two initial aborts.  He had also been the man to give the order to press on the face of the third attempt, gambling that Poja's neighbors weren't going to continue to shoot off their missiles.  The gamble, which obviously worked, meant that Cerović had been on the ground that much longer.  Without radio contact, air controllers couldn't be sure of his physical state and so the BSZ teams moving to locate him were equipped with a plethora of medical supplies in case he was unconscious or immobilized and needed to be carried out by stretcher.  They also had rappelling gear in case he had fallen into a ravine.  For the BSZ, this equipment was usually standard since combat search and rescue (CSAR) was one of their roles.

          In the silence of the room, no one spoke, everyone hoping that Cerović would be found alive and well.  Augustinčić came on the line just to say that the teams were moving on foot but that no contact had been made yet.  Time wore on and Augustinčić continued to provide regular but uneventful updates, that was until they'd finally found the pilot.  "Team One has spotted the pilot, condition unknown."  Augustinčić advised over the phone, his tone guarded and cautious.  It being the dead of night made CSAR that much more difficult.  Continued silence settled over the room until Augustinčić received an update himself.  "Sir, Team One advises that the pilot has no vital signs.  Based on their cursory examination, he is KIA."

          Kukoč's and Radovan's hearts dropped.  "Very well, remove the body for examination.  Have them move to the crash site and secure sensitive data," Kukoč answered, his only thought now on the impact of this shootdown.

          "Roger that sir, will call back when the site has been secured," and the line went dead.  Radovan, the closer of the two to the phone, pressed the speaker button, ending the call and silencing the dial tone. 

          "We have to respond," Radovan said almost immediately thereafter.

          "Yes, we do," Kukoč answered.  "It's not what I want but this cannot go unanswered.  I want a reactionary strike against that SAM battery.  Get planning underway."

          "Yes sir," Radovan wasted no time and picked up the phone, "I need to speak with Potpukovnik Balić of the 57th Fighter Squadron.  Get me him please."


• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Wednesday, 13th August 1997 | 04:30 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

Aleksić reached over with his left hand and moved the throttle to the idle position before reaching down and flipping the JFS, or Jet Fuel Starter, switch.  The turbofan engine of ZuB-17VM Ter'er-C spun to life and he reached down and engaged the parking brake, even though the wheel chocks were still in place.  As the engine's blades spun faster, the engines of three other aircraft spun to life inside of their nearby shelters.  These four aircraft from the 57th Fighter Squadron were just one part of a sizeable strike package being launched as retribution for the death of Cerović.  Of course, because of their unique qualifications, the aircraft of the 57th Fighter Squadron would be leading the strike, tasked with suppressing the SA-10 site before the rest of the package rolled in to destroy it in its entirety.

          Balić and the junior Žegarac occupied the number one and two positions while Aleksić and Tadić occupied the number three and four positions, respectively.  Each duo represented an element within the overall flight, tasked with their own duties.  Balić and Žegarac, the first over the target, would launch their anti-radiation missiles against the radars, four missiles in all.  Anti-radiation missiles weren't always the most reliable, as they required the radar to continue to operate in order to be targeted.  However, the missiles used by the Pojački National Air Force could also be pre-programmed to a specific area and were capable of loitering over the target area with the purpose of attacking a shut down radar when it went active again.  Radar operators would often shut down for a few seconds, causing the incoming missiles to lose lock, and then reactivate their systems.  It reduced their effectiveness but it also kept them alive.  The missiles launched by the ZuB-17s were a nasty sort that countered this radar effectively.  Also, given the fact that the SAM site's location was known, the missiles could be programmed to go right to the area, increasing their effectiveness.

          Aleksić and Tadić, on the other hand, would have a mixed loadout, the former equipped with cluster bombs to blanket over the site while the latter had infrared-guided missiles to target the command vehicle or a shut down radar.  While Aleksić peppered the site with his cluster bombs, Tadić would look through the missile's seeker head and perform a rapid battle damage assessment on the radars, engaging them if he saw that they were not destroyed by the anti-radiation missiles launched by Balić and Žegarac.  Once out of the area, the rest of the package would come in and saturate the area with unguided bombs, and guided bombs and missiles.  The package would be protected by two jamming aircraft, which would focus on preventing any short-range systems from firing on the main strike package.  

          Other elements of the mission were already in place, either airborne or starting up on the ground, ready to take off at an appointed time and make their way to the border.  They would be flying at low-altitude, using the mountainous border terrain to mask their presence until the last minute.  While this would allow them to get close, it would starve them of fuel.  Each aircraft would be loaded heavy with fuel and drop tanks so that they could get to the target area without the need to refuel.  The route back would see aircraft either diverted to nearby airbases or to several tankers for aerial refueling.  For the fighters of the 57th Fighter Squadron, who would be going in first, without jamming cover, they had to sacrifice one fuel tank for a jamming pod, meaning that they could only carry two tanks.  They would be getting low on fuel after the strike, especially if they had to engage in evasive maneuvers, and so a divert field was designated for them roughly halfway between their airbase and the border.  

          The four pilots completed their checks and, on cue, began the taxi out to the runway, one behind the other in their position order.  They would be taking off two at a time and so they lined up accordingly.  Radio silence was to be observed for the mission except for a few designated codewords from airborne command, and so the clearance to takeoff came not from their radio but rather from colored lights in the control tower.  Because timing was of the importance, the four aircraft sat idling on the runway and just short of it for a few minutes before the first takeoff signal came, at which point, Balić and Žegarac ran up their engines and rocketed down the runway, Aleksić and Tadić taxiing onto it just behind them.  They began their takeoff rolls the moment Balić and Žegarac were wheel's up, so that there was a minimal interval between the two elements as they made their way to the southwest, flying at 300 meters, high enough to avoid any obstacles but low enough that the faraway mountains completely masked their incoming presence.  The mission was officially on and it would be the first combat mission for the men of the 57th Fighter Squadron.


• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Wednesday, 13th August 1997 | 05:15 hrs [UTC-3]
Rugi, Confederacy of Poja | Residence of the Vice President of Poja

Vice President Željko Vasić shifted his body over the edge of the bed and reached out to grab the ringing phone, putting on his glasses to see that the time was early, very early.  "Yeah it's Željko," he answered, his voice groggy and his vision double as his eyes focused behind his glasses.  

          "Mister Vice President, it's time," Kukoč said from the other end, "I am calling to inform you that strike aircraft are minutes away from hitting targets in retribution for last night's shootdown."

          "I thought you wanted to avoid war General?"

          "Sir," Kukoč said in response, still respecting the chain of command despite being the de facto leader of the country.  "War is not an option.  This is a limited strike against a target that fired upon Pojački aircraft inside of Pojački airspace.  This is the definition of a retribution strike sir."

          "And what if planes are shot down and more men killed or get captured?  Will there be more retribution?"

          "No sir," Kukoč's voice was steady, firm, like it always was.  "We understand that we are taking risks with this strike but this is a one-time event.  Unless our neighbor continues to violate our sovereignty, there will be no more retribution strikes.  We are not planning or conducting offensive operations."

          "Suppose our neighbor isn't looking to cooperate?"

          "Sir that's where your leadership is needed."

          "My leadership?"  Vasić couldn't believe what he was hearing.  "I am confused by this statement General."

          "Sir, there is a provision in the Treaty of Rugi, as amended following the Chernarussian Conflict, that stipulates a sitting President may be removed from office following a unanimous vote of the nation's seven premiers.  That vote can only be called by the Vice President along with a majority vote from the nation's Constitutional Court, or in the case of an uncooperative Vice President, a two-thirds vote of the Constitutional Court.  Sir, I am asking you to take the evidence we have presented you of the crimes of President Dapčević to the Constitutional Court and the premiers and call for an impeachment of the President."

          "And what if he should be impeached?"

          "Then the President will be remanded to the judicial system of this country and made to answer for his crimes.  You will be sworn into office sir and upon this, the Council of Public Safety will disband.  That much we give you our word."

          "And if the President should not be impeached?"

          "Sir, it is the duty we have designated ourselves to safeguard this nation and remove a corrupt leader from office who is running this nation headfirst into a catastrophic conflict for personal profit.  We will do anything and everything in our power to see to it that President Dapčević is held accountable for his crimes.  However, it would be in the best interests of this nation that it be done legally, without coercion, based on the evidence gathered, based on his own words.  Wouldn't you agree?"

          "I would."

          "I will await your word then, good luck sir." Kukoč cut the call and left Vasić to ponder his words.  It didn't take him long to consider his next step, which was to dial his own chief of staff, a Dosniman by the name of Šejla Jergović.  She'd been on his staff for a while now and would be poised to occupy a very powerful office if Vasić ascended to the presidency.

          Dialing her number, he listened to the ringing phone in silence, wondering where the aircraft were and what would be the result of the airstrikes.  As he did, Jergović answered the phone, her voice as groggy as his own, "Do you know what time it is?"

          "I just spoke with Kukoč.  I need you awake."

          "Give me five minutes," her voice suddenly more alert, "I'll call you back."  She rang off and Vasić got himself out of bed and headed to his office.


• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Aleksić looked out of his canopy to see the ground growing brighter as the sun rose behind him.  He looked down at the clock on the canopy to see that it was now only minutes before sunrise.  They were also minutes from their target.  The plan called for them to snake through the mountains and pop out on the other side of the border whereby they would be poised to engage the SAM site with the sun to their backs, hindering visual and infrared sensors while also making it difficult for people on the ground to see them.  Of course, this would do nothing against radar guidance but it helped eliminate many other threats, allowing them to focus on the ones that really mattered.

          He looked out of the other side of the canopy and saw Tadić following closely to his wing as they kept a tight formation.  They would spread out once they hit the next waypoint.  Until then though, they kept close, speeding over the ground at 800 km/h.  At least three minutes ahead of them were Balić and Žegarac, who had taken a different route designed to give them ample time to fire their missiles and for those missiles to hit before Aleksić and Tadić revealed themselves.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Kukoč looked at the digital map projected onto the wall, put a cigarette into his mouth, and lit it.  "The first aircraft are at their IP," Radovan said, standing next to the map but not blocking it.  

          "Commit," Kukoč responded.

          "Roger, decoys are airborne.  Time on target is ten minutes."  Everyone looked at their watches and a timer displayed on the map.  "Here we go."

          "Godspeed everyone," Kukoč said quietly more to himself than anyone in particular.  "What about the main strike force?"

          "They're on schedule, the main elements in the lead here," Radovan answered as he pointed out their position on the digital map.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Jergović's voice was animated, elevated, excited, "So what happened?"

          "Kukoč just called me and informed me that I should begin impeachment proceedings on Dapčević," Vasić answered, leaving out the part about the airstrikes, recognizing that it was privileged information just for him.  

          "Just like that?"

          "Just like that," Vasić chuckled, "he even explained the requirements in the Treaty of Rugi to begin those proceedings.  We have the evidence we need, I told you about that already, I think it's a slam dunk but we still need a strategy.  No President has ever been impeached before."

          "Hold on, I'm looking this up," Jergović said as she leafed through a pocket copy of the Treaty of Rugi that had been sitting on her bookshelves.  "Vice President can…" She read from the document, "majority vote of the Constitutional Court…override with two-thirds…"  She continued to read aloud.  "The premiers need to be unanimous."


          "The premiers have never been unanimous about anything."

          "This isn't just anything.  We have a taped confession from Dapčević and three other confessions all fingering Vukdragović and Stijačić as masterminds in this entire scheme.  Those two haven't said anything yet but it's only a matter of time, is it not?  Šejla, they were going to take us to war for their own personal profit.  If that isn't high treason than nothing is."

          "You're right," she exhaled, "I need a drink…it's too early for a drink…I need coffee…a lot of coffee…"  She was racing around her home.  "We need to run on this.  What did Kukoč say would happen?"

          "The SJB would just disband."  In the background, Vasić heard the shattering of something, probably a mug or a glass, likely whatever Jergović happened to be holding.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Aleksić pushed the nose over as he crossed over the IP waypoint.  Tadić had already slid back and was following in his wake, dropping back so that there would be a one minute interval between the two aircraft.  Aleksić's heart began to race as he pulled the aircraft through the canyons.  Because he was so heavily loaded, the aircraft itself was limited to just +5.5Gs and furthermore his roll would be limited as well to prevent the plane from maneuvering too hard, which would severely damage the wings.  The fly-by-wire systems in the plane would compensate automatically, protecting the plane from the pilot, a necessary feature, especially in combat situations where the pilot was hyper-focused on the target and the mission instead of the plane's specific limitations.

          Turning and snaking through the canyons at 800 km/h, which was still plenty fast, Aleksić kept his eyes on the HUD and the waypoints that had been placed along the route.  As he crossed one, the navigation system automatically updated to the next and he continued on his route, dropping to barely one hundred meters off of the deck.  In the dawn light, the canyon was bathed in shadows but visibility was more than good enough that Aleksić didn't need night vision goggles.

          Over the radio, everything had been quiet for their entire flight until now one of the first codewords came, this one from airborne early warning, "Dragon push."  It was the signal that the decoys were out and inside of SAM range.  Any radar operators at the SA-10 site would be able to pick up these decoys and assume a sizeable attack force was on its way.  The goal was to get them to activate their radars and begin firing at the decoys.  This would enable Balić's and Žegarac's missiles to home directly on the radars.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"Magnum!"  Came the first radio call, breaking the silence from the fighter jets.  It was followed in rapid succession by a repeat call and then two more identical calls, four in all.  These came from Balić and Žegarac, indicating that their anti-radiation missiles had been fired.  Kukoč looked at his watch and thought to himself Right on time.  

          Radovan leaned forward in his chair, his right hand coming up to cover his mouth, his left cupped around his right elbow.  He stared at the speaker phone in front of him, the one that was relaying communications from the strike packages.  "No turning back now," he commented.

          "They'll get what they deserve," Kukoč answered back, "I just want everyone to make it back.  I don't want to come out of this with more casualties than we went into it."

          "Don't we all."  They couldn't see or hear from where they were but Balić, the moment they fired their missiles, began evasive maneuvers.  They activated their jamming, began to drop chaff, and dove back for the deck, pulling back around and escaping the line of sight from the SA-10 site, which was barely twenty kilometers from them.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"Yes I dropped a f*cking mug," Jergović said over the phone, "I'll clean it up later," the noise of her opening the cupboard for another mug, which was nothing more than an aggravating squeak, came through the telephone line.

          "Just don't step on it then, shards'll be sharp.  Fine so what do we do with the SJB?"  The SJB was just the abbreviation for the Council for Public Safety but it was what they had been called because Savet za Javnu Bezbednost was a bit long-winded.  

          "Arrest them!"

          "No," Vasić answered almost immediately, as if he anticipated the question.  "They'll never go for it.  They see it as a duty they did to the nation, not a criminal act."

          "But it was a criminal act!"

          "It was, which presents a major legal hurdle.  It was treason, plain and simple, but does one treason counteract another treason?"


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Aleksić pushed his throttle up to maximum military power as he pulled back on the stick and went up the final hillside.  In the moments preceding this, he'd flipped his master mode from navigation to air-to-ground, bringing up the CCIP bomb reticle.  On the flight in, he had preset his bomb settings and selected them, ready to drop all four with a single push of the pickle button on his flight stick.  He had his countermeasures modes set, his jamming pod set to standby, ready to be activate with a simple push of a button with his right thumb.  The last thing he'd done was flip his Master ARM switch from safe to arm, which meant that his plane was fully, combat ready.  Coming up and over the hill, he watched his speed accelerate up to 1,100 km/h before cresting the hill, at which point he rolled the aircraft over, pulled down hard to maximize his G meter at +5.5Gs and rolled back to a canopy up attitude.  The aircraft screamed down the hillside and he leveled off at just one hundred meters off of the deck.  

          In the far distance, he saw the SAM site, smoke billowing from where the radars had taken hits from the barrage of missiles.  Between him and the target now was nothing but open terrain, defended by short-range missile and gun systems.  He kept his speed up, screaming towards the site, closing rapidly.  It would be only a minute before he reached the site at his speed and as he closed to half the distance, anti-aircraft guns began to open up on his plane.  Jinking the aircraft hard, he activated his jammer to confuse the tracking radars on the guns, dropping off chaff at the same time as a pre-emptive measure.  On his HUD, the distance to the target counted down quickly and at five kilometers, he lit the burner and pulled the aircraft into a steep climb.  

          He rolled the aircraft over at 1,500 meters and began to drop flares, just in case a shoulder-fired missile was coming his way.  "Three, popping up," he said into the radio, the necessity for radio silence no long necessary.  Straining under the G-forces, breathing heavy, he pulled the aircraft over from its climb and rolled the aircraft inverted to put it back into a dive.  The speed, which had been coming off, started pouring on again as he continued to keep his afterburner engaged.  As he rolled back over so that he was looking at the sky, not the ground, he saw the target in the center of his HUD.  Putting the CCIP reticle right on the target, he held the pickle button and shouted into the radio, "Three, bombs away!"  In rapid succession, all four bombs fell from his aircraft.  He was at 750 meters in altitude, barely high enough for the bombs to be effective.  

          Rolling out from the target, he kept diving to the deck, the afterburner still pushing his aircraft harder, especially now that it was a thousand kilograms lighter.  Back on the deck, he was now at just fifty meters and screaming along at almost 1,000 km/h.  Guns opened up on him again and he continued to jink, releasing chaff and flares to confuse tracking radars and missiles.  In all, his attack run lasted barely twenty-five seconds from pop up to weapons release.  His entire run from the time he came over the mountain to the target was only a minute.

          "Bingo, bingo!"  His aircraft barked at him, a warning that he had hit the minimum fuel point and had to egress from the target area.  He would have enough to get to the divert field with plenty to spare, it was more just an indication where he was from a fuel state, a reminder really that he needed to be done with his attack run and on the way out of enemy airspace, which he was.  He pulled the aircraft hard away from the site and continued at low altitude, dodging anti-aircraft guns.  His weapons had good effect on target, blanketing the SA-10 site with 988 submunitions, peppering the radars and other vehicles in a cloud of fragmentation and explosives.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Radovan listened over the radio as Aleksić's bombs slammed into the target.  "Four, good effect, good effect on target," Tadić answered as he watched the bombs explode around the target from his HUD.  "Break to the south, guns heavy to the east."

          "Three, breaking south," Aleksić answered, his breathing labored, his voice strained.  Without the bombs onboard, he could pull a few more Gs and he was pulling them as he jinked away from the anti-aircraft guns trying to get a piece of him.  

          "SAM launch!  SAM launch!  Drop flares!"  Tadić announced as he saw a SAM lift off from a mobile platform roughly ten kilometers ahead of him.  The missile headed right for Aleksić's plane but Aleksić was dropping flares, jinking, and had his jamming pod activated.  The missile itself failed to track.  "Four, engaging SAM."  Tadić said over the radio, pulling his aircraft in alignment with the site, likely locking it up with the boresight mode of his missiles.  "Four, rifle!"  He shouted not seconds later.

          "That was fast," Radovan said in response, "he got that quick."

          "Our men are performing," Kukoč said, "these are the boys from the 57th, correct?"


          "Revenge," Kukoč broke a smile.

          "Target destroyed!"  Tadić announced triumphantly, "Four off target, going to egress."

          "Three, popping up," Aleksić said, "going to three thousand."  

          "Fuel must be getting low," Radovan offered, "or the flak is too thick.  He'll avoid most of the guns up there."  Kukoč nodded.

          "Sounds like the initial wave was eff…"  Kukoč stopped mid-sentence.

          "Three, defending Six!"  Aleksić's voice was significantly more panicked as he announced that an SA-6 SAM battery had engaged him.  Kukoč held his comment - and his breath - and waited, waited to hear that he wasn't about to have another downed pilot, this time over enemy territory.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"Listen, this legal hurdle is unprecedented," Jergović admitted, "and that means we shouldn't rush to conclusions.  I don't think they should get off without consequences.  They broke the law, committed treason.  What makes their treason any different from Dapčević, from Vukdragović, from Stijačić, from all of the others?  What because they 'saved the nation'?  There are riots in the street."

          "We have to quell those riots," Vasić looked at the clock, sure that the aircraft were over enemy territory, sure that ordnance had been dropped, sure that lives had been lost, hoping that they were solely enemy lives.  He kept it buried, kept it a secret, kept it from the phone call.  "These men have sworn an oath to defend this nation against all threats.  In their minds, they did just that and as the evidence has shown, they are in the right.  Yet the damage to this nation they have caused.  Justice will be served but I do not believe putting them on trial alongside these traitors will do this nation any good."

          "Do you want to make them heroes?"

          "Absolutely not!"


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Aleksić had only just gone into his pop-up when his RWR beeped.  In the millisecond it took for him to look down from his HUD, the beep became constant, lights illuminating all around the module on the console.  There was a missile inbound and the RWR told him precisely what kind, an SA-6, a high-speed, medium-range missile that was highly maneuverable.  "Three, defending Six!"  He shouted into the radio as he looked out of his canopy and saw the smoke trails from not one but two missiles screaming up at him from barely fifteen kilometers away.  The missiles would be on him in seconds.

          He pulled the aircraft inverted, lit the burner, rolled back onto his belly, and in very rapid succession, slammed the countermeasures button so that chaff bundles flew rapidly out of his aircraft.  At the same time, he thumbed the emergency jettison on his throttle, releasing both fuel tanks from his aircraft, thus enabling him the ability to pull as many Gs as necessary.  Diving to the deck, he kept dropping chaff, and pulled hard, pouring on the Gs past +6G and +7G to +8G.  The missiles kept coming though, screaming towards him at over Mach 3.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Radovan and Kukoč continued to hold their beath, Tadić screaming into the radio, "Keep defending!"  The two men looking across the table at one another, listening live as a pilot struggled to evade SAM missiles being launched at him.  It had been real when the first missile was launched but it was over so quickly that neither man could comprehend the impact on the situation.  This was different.  There was time between the launch and the impact s the missiles were coming from much further away.  "Drop the tanks!  Chaff!  Chaff!"  Tadić was shouting, "Break left!  Keep defending!"  Aleksić had gone silent, listening to his wingman who's extra pair of eyes were helping.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"So, if we're not going to make them heroes then what?"

          "I want to make a deal with them.  Something that comes with consequences but doesn't dwell on the matter.  Something that I can present the Constitutional Court and the premiers that puts an immediate end to this."


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"Keep defending," Aleksić heard his wingman shouting over the radio.  He continued to pump out chaff, filling the sky behind him with the reflective metal that confused the missile's homing system.  He pulled hard through the first missile and watch it keep going, incapable of keeping the track on him.  His HUD showed that he'd now pulled +8.2Gs as a maximum, which had been from that very maneuver.  

          The ground rushed up at him and the second missile, with a three-second interval from the first, was still coming.  It was leading him and he watched his out of his canopy as it kept flying downwards, its rocket still burning, smoke trailing behind it.  The missile leveled out near the ground and began to come up at him, already ahead of him, screaming in with plenty of energy.  

          Aleksić watched it turn into him and he pumped off more chaff.  "Chaff low," his plane told him, indicating that he had only twelve bundles of chaff left.  If he couldn't defeat the missile with those twelve, he was in trouble.   His eyes caught the missile turning into him, pulling hard, still tracking him, despite the chaff clouds, despite the jamming, despite the hard maneuvers he was pulling.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"Four, rolling in, SA-6," Tadić said over the radio as he pulled his aircraft back around into the fight.  He had one missile left and spotting the site would be easy with its long smoke trails.  "Four, rifle, SA-6!"  He shouted quickly thereafter, sending his last missile towards the SA-6 radar that had been guiding the missiles towards Aleksić.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"A deal?"

          "A deal."

          "I don't think that's a good idea.  We're going to face a massive inquiry about this entire situation and our actions are going to be under the lens too.  What are we going to tell the judiciary, the people, our voters?  We let these guys go because their treason wasn't as bad as the President's treason?"

          "Voters," Vasić laughed.  "I'm not getting re-elected."


          "I won't be re-elected, not after this.  Voter faith in the PDS will plummet.  It'll be a decade, maybe more before we win another election.  This isn't about saving our skin or protecting the party.  The party's done for after this.  The next election, we're out.  It's about putting an end to this."


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

"Three, defeated!"  Aleksić shouted triumphantly.  He was down at an altitude of just above the treetops, his chaff dispensers empty, his fuel level significantly lower than before.  He came off the afterburner and listened as Tadić called "Rifle" and fired his last missile at the SA-6 radar.  The radar could shut off but it made no difference for this missile, which homed in not on radar emissions but rather infrared.  The radar itself was warm and a juicy target for the missile.

          "Target destroyed!  SA-6!"  Tadić triumphantly shouted moments later as Aleksić pulled his plane into the valley and away from the SAM and gun systems protecting the SA-10 site.  Tadić wasn't far behind him.  They would snake back through the valley and out into friendly airspace before popping back up and climbing to conserve their fuel.  Neither wanted to go to the divert field and estimated that they could make the tanker with enough gas to refuel before heading back to Vukovica.  Before they did this though, the two fighter pilots flew around one another, inspecting their aircraft for damage.  Tadić's plane was unscathed but Aleksić's had taken some hits from fragmentation from the many anti-aircraft rounds fired at him.  Yet, despite this, he had no warning lights and all of his temperatures, pressures, and gauges indicated nothing was wrong.  

          "Lucky man," Tadić said after Aleksić confirmed as such, "let's get out of here."

          "Yeah I've had enough fun for a lifetime," the two laughed and formed up as they climbed.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Radovan and Kukoč let out a massive breath of relief hearing that not only were the missiles defeated but that the site was destroyed and the aircraft were back in friendly airspace.  Neutralizing the site, which hadn't been known by the mission planners going into the operation, meant it would be that much safer for the main strike package.  All-in-all, the initial estimations showed that the four pilots from the 57th Fighter Squadron had not only achieved their objectives but also achieved more, neutralizing all of the radars at the SA-10 site, neutralizing several of the launchers and other vehicles, and taking out two other SAM units in the process, one a deadly point-defense system and one an even deadlier SA-6 system.  Poja's neighbor, not unlike Poja, believed in a layered air defense concept.  Thus it shouldn't have been a surprise that there were these other systems but reconnaissance had missed them and, as such, lessons would be learned.

          Those lessons could be learned another time though.  Radovan and Kukoč were focused on the main strike package, which was minutes away from popping up themselves and coming over the mountains, instead of snaking through the valleys within them.  This would make them much for effective against the targets on the other side and also enable the jamming aircraft to begin jamming from much further away.


• • • • ‡ ‡ ‡ • • • •

Vasić sighed, "Listen, let's focus on the impeachment first.  The SJB will come later, I will think of something.  I want to get them together today; we have to move quickly on this.  I need your help to make this happen."

          Jergović was quiet for a moment, "I'll make some phone calls.  You have all of the evidence?"

          "I have it all, I am ready to present it.  Let's get them all in today, this morning if we can."

          "On it," Jergović said before ringing off, leaving Vasić sitting in his office, pondering his political future.  He was taking Kukoč at his word, that he and the rest of the putschists would stand down, that the coup would end, that legal authority of the country would return, unopposed, to its elected officials.  Whether or not that was a fool's errand remained to be seen but for Vasić, it was the first piece of hope he'd seen yet that could very well end the turmoil in Poja.  He would have been a fool not to take the offering from Kukoč, even if it turned out that he was a fool for trusting the man.

• • • † • • •
Edited by Poja (see edit history)
Link to comment

• • • † • • •

Thursday, 14th August 1997 | 10:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Rugi, Confederacy of Poja | National Palace of Justice

Originally intended to serve as a smaller palace for King Nikola VIII and his heirs, the building that became known as the National Palace of Justice, was a sprawling, magnificent building downtown Rugi that had been built in the Neo-Renaissance style of architecture.  Commissioned in the 1870s and completed in the early 1880s, Nikola's intention with the palace had been to serve as a home for his brother, with whom he had a notoriously strained relationship.  The palace had been seen as a way to exile his brother away from the main palace while still keeping him close enough for Nikola to keep an eye on him.  Following the unification of Poja and the disbandment of the Kingdom of Liaria, Nikola, who became the first Premier of Liaria, handed over the palace to the newly formed government as a gift.  Though his brother attempted to fight the handover in court, he ultimately lost as the property deed had remained with Nikola.

         Shortly thereafter, the palace itself was renovated and reopened as the National Palace of Justice, intending to be the headquarters for all of the federal, judicial systems in the newly formed Confederacy of Poja.  To this day, it remained as such, and it was where Vice President Željko Vasić found himself on this early, Thursday morning.  Vasić had done his best to look presentable but even with a shave, he looked exhausted, the byproduct of his early morning wakeup on Wednesday and the subsequent stress of organizing the session he was about to enter.  When news of the successful military raid broke, Vasić had hoped it would take one thing off of his plate but the opposite had happened.  Poja's neighbor was screaming for blood and making all manner of threats, which was truly remarkable given that they'd killed a Pojački pilot who had been flying in Pojački airspace.  The Council of Public Safety had issued its own statement, denouncing the country, its leadership, its actions, and stated that while Poja did not want war and would not commit to a phony war for profit, it would defend itself.

         Though that seemed to have shut up the boisterous leader next door, Vasić couldn't help but feel himself being roped into a trap by the misgivings of the Dapčević administration.  He had pushed as much aside as possible to focus on preparing for the meeting and on wrangling the audience he needed.  He'd be initially lulled into a false sense of triumph when he found that the fifteen-member Constitutional Court of Poja was more than willing to meet the following day.  Wrangling the premiers, on the other hand, had been difficult.  It took a lot of phone calls and cajoling to get the seven premiers to agree to be present at the morning's session.  He half expected several of them to make excuses the following day but was surprised when he'd been told by each of the premiers' secretaries that they had departed for the session, which was set to begin at 10:00 and would go for as long as was necessary.  It was now 10:00 and Vasić waited to be admitted to the courtroom.

         By his side was Jergović and also Florjan Blažić, widely considered the best constitutional lawyer in the entire country.  Blažić was also unique in that he had no party affiliation, which made him an ideal jurist to press the case for impeachment.  Getting Blažić to agree to be present was as simple as showing him the evidence and arranging a meeting between Blažić and Kukoč where the latter attested that no torture had been used in extracting any of the confessions, save for a little sleep deprivation and some tricks that the interrogators used, tricks and tactics that were perfectly legal under Pojački law.  Blažić, knowing all too well how important it was to extract a confession, considered the evidence admissible based on Kukoč's attestations but for good manner, he made Kukoč sign a legally-binding document affirming that all of the interrogation techniques used had been legal and listed them on the document to remove any ambiguity.  Now armed with that document and the taped confessions, the trio stood when called and entered the courtroom.

         Vasić noted that the premiers were all in attendance as were all fifteen of the judges.  The Constitutional Court of Poja was specially created to rule on matters of constitutionality.  Each region sent two justices and the last was appointed by the President, all serving ten-year terms.  The role of the court was simple, to ensure that federal laws complied with the Treaty of Rugi and other constitutionally accepted doctrine of Poja.  They were also able to strike down unconstitutional laws of the regions but, as a check against the federal government's power, they could force a region to retract said law.  In no situation yet had a region upheld a law that was struck down by the court though laws had been revised and resubmitted, correcting the issues, receiving approval thereafter.  The other power invested in the court was to impeach a sitting, government official.  

         If the President or Vice President of Poja called for an impeachment, he or she would only need a simple majority from the Constitutional Court to proceed to a vote of the premiers.  The premiers needed to be unanimous in their voting, a truly significant endeavor.  If the President or Vice President of Poja did not support impeachment, the court's judges could overrule his or her veto with a two-thirds vote, sending the impeachment vote to the premiers, who still needed to be unanimous.  In the case of the President or Vice President calling for an impeachment of the other, a simple majority was all that was necessary as one party was supportive versus neither.  It was a convoluted process that put as many roadblocks up as possible to ensure that rivals could not institute tit-for-tat impeachments on one another.  Requiring a unanimous vote of the premiers virtually guaranteed that an impeachment wouldn't happen.

         Yet, on thus day, Vasić was confident that history would be made.  He opened the session with an appeal to the judges and the premiers to lay down party loyalties, to ignore personal grievances, and to be as objective as possible.  He attested for the evidence and did not dwell on the situation at had with the coup.  In fact, he had strictly requested of Kukoč that not a single member of the Council of Public Safety be present at the session nor should they even talk about it.  He wanted this to be a purely civilian matter and Kukoč was more than happy to oblige.  Following his opened remarks, Vasić handed the floor to Blažić, whose reputation preceded him.  Truly in his element, Blažić began slowly, preferring not to rush anyone.  He first set out to lay down the conditions for treason and the justifications for impeachment.  It was fairly straightforward - this is what treason means, this is what is grounds for impeachment, are you paying attention?  He addressed the judges and the premiers alike, excluding no one, ensuring that everyone understood the principles he put before them.  He wasn't talking down to them and they weren't stupid but he wanted to make sure everyone was present and everyone was fully comprehending everything.

         From there, he took it further and laid out a narrative that seemed complex at times but followed a very logical path.  Using evidence collected by the military, he presented a timeline of corruption that stretched back before President Dapčević had ever taken his oath of office.  Then he walked forward to the present, showing how at each step of the way, though Dapčević and his cronies had the power to follow the laws, they did not.  Now corruption wasn't exactly unheard of in Poja, on the contrary, corruption was everywhere but this kind of corruption was much different than the local syndicate paying for police protection or tipping off a task force against their rivals.  This was corruption that endangered the very fabric of the nation and its people.  This was corruption that invalidated the very institutions that founded the Confederacy of Poja.  If this corruption were allowed to continue, he explained, then it would mean the inevitable dissolution of Poja followed by economic, sociopolitical, and regional turmoil the likes which had not been seen for three centuries. That message got across quite quickly.

         The session broke for lunch at 12:00 and when it reconvened an hour later, Blažić went on the attack.  He recapped what he had said and played the first confessional tape.  "By the rules and regulations of this country, this man is guilty," he said and then played the next, and the next, and the next, until finally he got to President Dapčević.  He played it and let everyone hear for themselves the words of the man who was willing to kill thousands of Pojački citizens just to enrich his bank accounts.  The moment the tape ended, he looked upon his audience and asked, "Do you have any questions about the evidence that I have presented here today?"  It was 14:21.  No one had any and he turned off the television and said, "Then I implore you to vote with the knowledge that accountability must be had for criminality of this nature.  If we do not hold these men accountable today, I cannot fathom what they will do tomorrow."

         Blažić sat down and the judges looked towards Vasić for closing remarks.  He delivered them with a short speech lasting less than three minutes.  The judges were then asked to vote and the court room was cleared.  At 15:11, everyone returned and the judges revealed their vote.  To even Blažić's surprise, they voted unanimously in favor of impeachment.  All eyes went to the premiers who, without hesitation, concurred.  At 15:19, Vice President Željko Vasić, without fanfare or cameras, was declared President Željko Vasić.  Mileta Dapčević, now former President of Poja, would now be cleared to stand criminal trial, along with his cronies for crimes of high treason against the people and the Confederacy of Poja.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Thursday, 14th August 1997 | 21:35 hrs [UTC-3]
Rugi, Confederacy of Poja | Predsjednicki Dvori

"Sir, they're here," President Vasić heard his secretary say over the intercom.  He'd been President for a little over six hours and, thus far, had done little to nothing except situate himself in his new office.  With the arrival of his "guests," Vasić was about to underage his first Presidential act.  To say that he was a little nervous was to understate the sheer terror and anxiety he felt within himself as he looked at his fingernails and held the handset to his ear.

          "Let them in," he finally said.  Let's get this over with, he thought to himself as he hung up the phone, stood up, and buttoned his suit jacket.  The door at the opposite end of the room opened and into the dimmed lighting entered the heads of the five branches of the Pojački National Forces.  Each man came in wearing his full-dress uniform with all of his medals, ribbons, and badges on display and the five of them lined up in front of Vasić, stood at attention, and saluted.  Vasić had never saluted anyone before and did the best return salute he could muster.  "Gentlemen, have a seat," he offered as he dropped his hand.

          "Sir, we'd prefer to stand," Kukoč answered.  Despite the fact that Kukoč and the others had led a coup against the government, deposing the civilian, elected leadership, they maintained every element of military discipline instilled in them after decades in the service.

          "If that suits you, very well," Vasić answered, standing as well.  "I'm appreciative that you all showed up this evening as requested."

          "Sir, we're not cowards," responded Admiral flote Vasily Shukhov, the leader of the navy and also the only Chernarussian to ever advance to a flag rank, "we're here to face the consequences of our actions."

          Vasić unbuttoned his jacket and took a seat, leaning back and crossing his legs.  He was peeved by what he perceived as a sense of arrogance from not only Shukhov but all five of them.  "Well gentlemen, you certainly made a mess of things.  My predecessor's crimes notwithstanding, I have just inherited a country that is in turmoil.  We have launched military action against our neighbor and vice versa and there are riots in the streets.  Last but not least, the entire institution of the Presidency is at risk and the Treaty of Rugi itself, the very fabric of our nation, is under threat.  So how do I respond to something like this?"  The question was rhetorical.  "And on top of it all, I have to decide what to do with the most experienced military officers in this country.  Regardless of what actions I take, tomorrow our nation will be weaker than it was a week ago and it will take years, perhaps even generations, to rebuild that strength.

          "Well luckily for you gentlemen, I have made my decisions on how to proceed.  I made them before you walked through my door," he stood back up, rebuttoning his jacket, "because had I not, I would be at a loss for words."  Vasić began pacing back and forth in front of the men.  "For starters, I want all of your resignations on my desk tomorrow morning and the reason I am giving you until tomorrow morning will become understood here shortly.  Lucky for you, I see no good prosecuting you for treason against the Treaty of Rugi.  No where does it give the military the authority to launch a coup against the elected, civilian government.  Yet, the crimes you uncovered are such that this is an unprecedented scenario that demands unprecedented solutions.  I will make an example of you and others but only insofar as it benefits this country and no one will benefit with a trial.  Is that understood?"  The men responded in the affirmative.  "Which leads me to the next point on why I say tomorrow morning.

          "You five will resign and you will remand yourselves to a life of anonymity.  I do not want to see your names as contractors or board members for defense companies.  You can leave the country if you like, in fact I may recommend it.  Gentlemen, I do not want to hear your names again unless it is in a history lesson.  I want to move past this event and not have it continuously remind the people of what happened.  Do I make myself clear?"  Once again, the men affirmed.  "Good, which brings me to the next matter.  Any officer or enlisted solider directly involved with the Council of Public Safety will be given two choices.  The first, which is the easiest, is for them to resign as well.  There will be no prosecutions.  If I am not going to seek your prosecutions, I shall not seek theirs.  However, the second choice presented is that they remain with the military but accept a loss of command and a demotion in rank, which is to be their final rank in this service whether they serve for one more day or ten more years.  

          "I want you to convey this message to your subordinates, to anyone who was directly involved with this coup.  As for those soldiers following the orders of their commanders, lest they committed a crime, their records will be wiped of these infractions.  Now gentlemen, is that a fair deal?"

          "Sir, under the circumstances, I believe I speak for all of us when I say that we will accept in accordance with these requirements on one condition," Kukoč answered and then proceeded when Vasić signaled to proceed, "that these conditions be made into a binding legal document that will protect us in the next and future administrations.  We are accepting of our punishment but we do not want our acceptance today to turn into tomorrow's change."

          "Documents are already being drafted.  They set forth my conditions.  I took the liberty of doing this on the hope that you would accept my terms and not wish to fight me.  They will be ready in the morning when your resignations are tendered.  If you wish to have a lawyer present, it will not be discouraged but mark my words gentlemen, this is a take it or leave it situation.  If you do not choose to take it, I will initiate prosecutorial proceedings on the charge of high treason against the nation.  People have died as a result of this coup, think of that and the enormity of your actions this evening and everyday hereafter."  Vasić returned to his desk and sat down.  "Your replacements will come from individuals who were not directly involved in the coup.  I expect to see recommendations along with your resignations and gentlemen, if you wish to take advantage of my generosity, I will not be kind in my treatment.  You're dismissed."  The five of them saluted but this time, Vasić did not return the salute.  He merely nodded and signaled to the door.  Defeated, the five men departed the office.  Before the morning came, the SJB would be disbanded and dozens of officers and enlisted men both separated from the service and demoted in accordance with Vasić's offer.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Thursday, 14th August 1997 | 23:20 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

"All right gentlemen, pull it in, let's sit down and be quiet all right, I have an announcement to make," Balić said as he stood at the podium in the ops room.  It was late but he'd called for the entire squadron to assemble, even those who were supposed to be sleeping.  The pilots, shuffling in and getting into their seats, were restless.  It had been a tiring week and an even more tiring twenty-four hours that began with the death of their executive officer and included a harrowing morning strike against their neighbor.  Anti-aircraft artillery and missiles had been fired at their aircraft and the stress of combat had certainly worn on them.  The six-hour debriefing that following the mission had been extra tiring for everyone and Balić had assigned not one but two men who had not participated in the strike to make continuous pots of coffee to pour into the cups of the pilots attending.

          With everyone settled after a few minutes, Balić pulled out a piece of paper from his pocket.  "This is a statement I received twenty minutes ago and it is from General-armije Vlado Radovan himself.  You're going to want to pay attention.  'In accordance with orders presented by President Željko Vasić at 22:00 hours this evening, the following actions are to take place, effective immediately.  First and foremost, the Council of Public Safety will disband and hand control of the government back to its elected leaders, chiefly President Željko Vasić.  Secondly, all military units operating in accordance with orders from the Council of Public Safety will stand down and withdraw back to their bases immediately.  Thirdly, the leaders of the Pojački National Forces will tender their resignations and surrender authority and control over their respective branches to their successors at 11:59 on the morning of Friday, 15 August, 1997.  Fourthly, all officers and enlisted personnel directly supporting the Council of Public Safety without orders to do so will be required to resign from the military or accept a loss of command and demotion in rank that will be their highest attainable rank moving forward.  Fifthly and lastly, all emergency measures and protocols are hereby canceled.  Signed General-armije Vlado Radovan, Pojački National Air Force.'"  Balić put down the paper and scanned the room.  "Well gentlemen that's it, it's over, we are officially standing down.

          "I'm sure you've all seen the news concerning the indictments against Dapčević and others within the government.  Suffice it to say, these men will be held accountable for their crimes but as for us, we may resume normality.  What this means gentlemen is that I want you all to go home, hug your loved ones, and get some rest.  We report tomorrow at 13:00.  Dismissed."  The pilots didn't just sigh in relief, they celebrated.  There was a collective cheer and applause amongst the men who could finally stand down, go home, and sleep in their own beds.  They were lucky to have all come back from the strikes and patrols safely though Cerović's death certainly weighed on everyone.  The men stood and shuffled out, not wanted to stick around in case Balić changed his mind.

          Within minutes, the squadron's ops building was empty except for Balić and Aleksić, who lingered back, slowing gathering his items and packing them into his bag.  Balić would find him doing this and with a knock on the doorframe, interrupt him.  Aleksić, who'd been a bundle of nerves since the flight, shot around, startled.  "Easy there man," Balić answered, "listen tomorrow we're going to go sit with the shrink."

          "Nah I'm fine."

          "That's an order, requirement for anyone who's been in combat.  I've got to go, Sunburn has to go, and Frogger has to go.  Frogger got two missions 'in combat' if you want to be precise.  Listen, that was hell man.  You had three missiles and anti-aircraft flak on you," Balić entered and leaned against the doorframe.  "There's no shame in admitting that it rattled you.  The sooner you recognize that, the sooner you're back to flying status."


          "We're all grounded until we get a positive evaluation.  Surprise," Balić said with a chuckle.  "It's to encourage you to go talk to the shrink."

          "And if I don't say what he wants?"

          "That's between you two, nothing to do with me.  I would prefer though to have you on my wing in the future.  Your skill in that cockpit was nothing short of amazing Scarecrow.  Your performance was exemplary beyond belief and you'll be decorated for it."  Aleksić nodded, somewhat in surprise.  "And there's a matter of the squadron's executive officer.  I'm putting forward your name for selection in the morning."

          "What if I don't want it."

          "Oh, that wasn't a choice Scarecrow.  Listen, go home, get some rest, and I'll see you at 13:00.  By the way, don't drink, that's an order.  Worst thing for you right now."  

          At that moment, Aleksić slammed down his bag and turned around, his face and ears reddening.  His voice came out louder than the engine of his aircraft, "How the f*ck can you be so f*cking calm about all of this shit?  They f*cking shot at us, they f*cking shot at us and we were lucky to get the f*ck back!  I was lucky to get the f*ck back.  No!  How the f*ck can you be so calm!"

          "Because," Balić answered quickly, recognizing that Aleksić was on the edge of his frayed nerves, "because if I am not calm I am going to explode.  Now listen, what your feeling is normal.  It's normal.  I assure you it's normal.  And Frogger is feeling it and Sunburn is feeling it and I'm feeling it too.  We went into combat.  We're all feeling it.  Calmness is the only thing that's going to get us through what comes next.  So, deep breathes.  Go home and get some rest.  You need it more than any of us and do not drink.  If you drink you'll never climb out of this hole.  You got it?"  He put his hand on Aleksić's shoulder.  "Tomorrow, 13:00, trust me.  We'll get through this.  That much I give you my word."  He held out his hand, "My word…"

• • • † • • •

Link to comment

• • • † • • •

Friday, 15th August 1997 | 12:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Rugi, Confederacy of Poja | Predsjednicki Dvori

Beginning late the prior evening and into the dawn hours, military units throughout Poja had been demobilized and returning back to their bases.  The last units left Rugi shortly before 07:00 hours and, as they did, the rioting masses found that they were without a foe.  Many of the streets were the rioting took place looked like warzones with burned out and damaged shops, overturned and burned out cars, litter and the detritus of melee combat, and a plethora of graffiti.  Opportunists had showed up to the riots midway through the second day and largely kept pushing the rioting along as they took advantage of the lawless conditions.  Military personnel, focusing on containing the rioting, had little time to chase after them and it would be estimated in the months afterwards that the week of rioting in Rugi would cost the city a little over Đ100 million in property damage.

          For President Vasić, the focus for this morning was much less on the ramifications of the rioting and more the unfolding situation with the Pojački National Forces.  Getting regular updates from his Acting Minister of Defense, Josip Relković, Vasić had been kept apprised of not only the withdrawal of troops but the impact of his offer from the prior evening.  The deadline had come and gone and Vasić was awaiting his next update when his phone rang.  His secretary announced that she was connecting Relković, who moments later, came through the phone.  "So, what's the impact?  What are we looking at?"  Vasić asked, wanting the answer fast.

          "Sir, roughly seventy-thirty split between who's staying and who's going.  Overall, this isn't the worst scenario we could have envisioned.  We are working right now on replacements for each branch but we have acting generals in place presently."

          "Seventy-thirty," the President repeated, "could have been worse, I agree.  Any services hit harder than others?"

          "Army is hit the hardest, navy the lightest, as expected sir."  The Pojački National Navy had played zero role in the coup and thus had few officers and enlisted who were even subject to the President's offer.  The army, by contrast, had the most.  It made sense that this was the split between the various branches.

          "Will our ability to respond to a threat be hindered?"

          "No sir and that is where I have good news.  Intelligence shows that our neighbor is done playing this game.  Whether the strike was a bit too much for them or they realize the jig is up sir I cannot ascertain nor can intelligence guess.  However, military units along our border have been steadily withdrawing all morning.  We expect that this crisis will be resolved."

          "When we get a proper representative to Foreign Affairs I will schedule a summit," the President answered, "not that it excuses the bullshit they orchestrated with my predecessor."

          "No sir it doesn't but it wouldn't hurt us to start afresh.  If just because while we can respond to any threat, it would be better to do so under less chaotic conditions."

          "It would, all right give me another update in six hours unless something drastic happens," Vasić hung up the phone for just a moment before making another call to Jergović who was in his office only minutes later and another few minutes of bringing her up to speed on the events of the morning, at which point he put the question to her, "Where do we go from here that let's us move past these unfortunate events and not dwell on them?"

          "Well, Mister President, there are going to be trials and those are going to generate a lot of press.  The business with the military is easy to wipe away, the military isn't one to call press conferences and announce every little thing they do.  The news cycle will be past them in a day or two at most.  The issue are these upcoming trials.  The people will be reminding as those trials become frontpage news.  We're going to see Dapčević and the party's more ardent supporters vocally active during that time.  Despite being of the same party, those supports won't see us as anything other than the enemy.  You're going to be accused of being an opportunists and there will be conspiracy theories tying you into everything in a 'desperate bid for power.'  Our poll numbers aren't going to be great going into the trials and they may just be worse coming out of them."

          "Then I'd like to get working on a solve.  We need to build up our poll numbers as much as possible going into those trials so whatever negative impact it isn't as easily felt."

          "Easier said than done Mister President.  We're going to need a lot of good fortune over the next few months and, on top of it all, some major wins.  A summit with our neighbor has the potential to blow up in our face.  On the one hand, we can use it as a way to show the people that we are tough on aggression but at the same time we need to show that we are actually tough on aggression.  Of course, in the same vein, we don't want to reignite any hostilities.  It's going to be a tight rope to walk across Mister President.  We have some time to figure it out so we'll be working extra diligently there.  As for the rest, we need to hope for some easily solvable situations that we can play up as done so efficiently and intelligently because of the value of your leadership."

          Vasić leaned back in his chair.  "It would be almost easier if the assholes next door started a war and we cleaned their clocks," he laughed to himself, "let's get to work on it.  We need as much help as we can get.  I'm positive there's nothing we can do short of solving a glubal crisis that will get us re-elected but, for the time being, I'd prefer it if we weren't the most despised administration in history."

          "On it," she stood up and walked to the door, folding her notebook as she walked.  Before she opened the door, she turned around and headed back towards the President, who was still at his desk but in the process of standing up, "One thing Mister President," she said, stopping halfway between his desk and the door. 

          "Go ahead."

          "The unanimous decision amongst the judges of the Constitutional Court and the Premiers could in fact play into our fortunes.  At every opportunity we face where someone questions the impeachment, that needs to be repeated.  It may not do much but it will reinforce the message that our nation's leaders believed so strongly that Dapčević was poisonous to our country that they voted unanimously.  That doesn't happen every day.  I'll draft up a memo on it.  We'll get it circulated within the party, though they might not be so cooperative; after all, the party is taking an even bigger slugging than we are right now."

          "And they deserve it," Vasić answered almost emotionlessly.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

Friday, 15th August 1997 | 13:30 hrs [UTC-3]
Vukovica, Adjinua, Confederacy of Poja | Vukovica Air Base

Vukovica Air Base was quieter than it had been in a long time.  Flights were suspended for the next few days as maintenance personnel went over each and every aircraft following their brief spat of operational activity.  Repairs would need to be made, parts changed, components tested, and so on and so forth.  The four aircraft that led the strike against the SA-10 site had all come back needing some parts overhauled, if just from the rough nature of their low-level flying and high-G maneuvers.  When Aleksić had landed his plane and the maintenance crew went over the aircraft, they noted that the maximum G-force that Aleksić had pulled during the mission was +9.5G, which had been shortly after he dumped his tanks and began evading the two SA-6 missiles fired at him.  Because he exceeded +8.0G, extra maintenance checks had to be done to ensure that everything was still in working order.  Even though the plane was rated for up to +10G structurally, there was still a lot of extra checks past +8G for safety's sake.

          For Aleksić, the night had been equal parts rough and rewarding.  He'd gone home as he'd been instructed and found that he took a shower so long that the water ran ice cold.  His nerves, still frayed, had calmed down following the shower enough for him to sleep for about two hours before he woke up in a cold, clammy sweat so severe he found himself changing his sheets and showering again, this time with hot water and for a shorter duration.  He was up and down the rest of the night, sleeping for an hour or two before being awoken.  Because he didn't have to rush to the airbase early, he slept in, finally getting out of bed just before 10:30.  He made himself some coffee, took another shower, and found himself pulling through the main gate of the base around 12:45, being waved on through by the same guards who only days earlier had pointed a rifle barrel in his face.  He did his best to shake off the flashbacks and, for their parts, the gate guards didn't mention it whatsoever, likely experiencing their own mental horrors, wishing to move forward as much as Aleksić and everyone else did.

          Shortly after his arrival, Aleksić had been pulled into Balić's office where the squadron's commanding officer read aloud the preliminary findings from the coroner on Cerović's death.  The ejection, which had been made at high-speed, had resulted in a C2 vertebral fracture, causing near instantaneous death.  This was colloquially called a "Hangman's fracture" and occurred from the wind buffeting his helmet upon ejection.  Radar data indicated that he'd ejected with his aircraft moving at over 1,100 km/h.  The coroner believed that Cerović was dead within seconds of his ejection and certainly was not alive when his body hit the ground, which explained the lack of radio communication.  The beacon, automatically activated by his seat, had been the only indication of his whereabouts.

          The news had come as sobering to Aleksić and Balić intended to inform everyone in the squadron.  The risk was low but it was still a risk in their line of work.  The ejection seat of the Ter'er was one of the best on the market but it only guaranteed that it would get the pilot out of the aircraft and under a canopy.  Anything else was up to a lot of different factors, luck having a lot of input in the equation.  From there, Balić also told Aleksić that the squadron was going to be receiving a number of awards for bravery and heroism.  Cerović would be receiving two medals, the Medal of Valor with a "C" device indicating that it was earned in combat as opposed to non-combat scenarios and the Order of Sacrifice since he was killed in action.  Balić and Žegarac would be receiving the Medal of Valor with a "C" device as well.  Tadić's actions would early him a slightly higher medal, the Silver Star Medal for his extraordinary achievement in combat and quick action in protection of Aleksić.  The Silver Star Medal was the fourth highest medal awarded while the Medal of Valor was only the sixth highest.  Aleksić though, would be awarded the third highest honor, the Gold Star Medal for the gallantry he displayed in combat against the SA-10 site and the subsequent egress from enemy airspace that saw him evade three further SAM missiles.  The ride in helped win him the award too, especially given how expertly he had put his bombs on target in the face of overwhelming firepower.  Aleksić was at a loss for words when he'd been told this by Balić and he didn't know what to say.  To Aleksić, the mission was just a mission, one he'd trained for and performed to how he'd been trained.  He didn't think his actions warranted such a high honor, especially not in the face of the entire strike package that did so much more damage than he had.  Yet, because of his actions, the strike package hadn't been fired upon except by anti-aircraft guns, which had done no damage whatsoever to the high-flying aircraft.  It was Aleksić who had taken the brunt of the enemy's defenses and he'd flown his aircraft out of hostile airspace, even taking damage doing so.

          Such would close a dark chapter in Poja's history.  What would become known as the Seven Days in August had some glimmer of hope.  In the coming weeks, the four pilots would be awarded their medals in a publicly televised ceremony attended by the President himself.   Cerović's weeping widow would be presented the medals for her decreased husband, their small child standing there in his formal attire more confused than anything.  It played well for the President, to honor the grieving widow for her husband's sacrifice and to further put faces to the men who'd bravely defended that man's honor, achieving revenge for his death.

          What history books would make of the Seven Days in August wasn't known at the time in 1997 nor could it be known twenty, fifty, or a hundred years later with the ever evolving nature of historical interpretation.  Regardless, on those days in 1997, the men, women, and children of Poja experienced something unique and unprecedented.  Their country had been beset by a military coup, besieged by riots and protestors, attacked by foreign aggression, and at the end of it all, the institutions had survived, democracy had not eroded, and the Confedeeracy of Poja had stared down the face of danger and it hadn't blinked.

The End

• • • † • • •

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...