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The Tragedy of Chernarus III: Beyond the Acheron

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The Tragedy of Chernarus
Beyond the Acheron

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This thread serves as the third part in the anthology known as The Tragedy of Chernarus and concerns the events of June 2024 and later.  Other threads lay the backstory for not only the Pojački Emergency and the subsequent Chernarussian Conflict but also the establishment and growth of Chernodrinsk both during that conflict and in its aftermath.  

An unrecognized, breakaway state, Chernodrinsk was formally established by refugees escaping the Chernarussian Conflict and has since grown into a mafia state under the control of various criminal syndicates as well as the militant group the Chernarussian Red Star Brigade (Chernorusskaya brigada Krasnoy Zvezdy; CbKZ).  Classified as a terrorist organization by the Pojački government, the CbKZ was born out of the militias of the Chernarussian Conflict and still fight that very conflict demanding Chernarussian independence.  The CbKZ dominates the political landscape of Chernodrinsk but does not have so much power that it can oust the criminal syndicates - nor can it afford to do so.  Long since a nuisance and an irritation to Rugi, the CbKZ have been a focus of many law enforcement and intelligence operations over the years.  The CbKZ have made a number of criminal activities their primary source of income and many hardliners have accused them of "rejecting their roots," which has led to a minor power struggle within the group, bringing us to where we stand today.

This thread will serve as part of my Chernodrinsk expansion.  For the other parts, please visit the links below as they are formed.  This is a story in progress but all will be revealed to completion in the end, weaving a tragic story in Pojački history that goes back to time immemorial and will haunt our children's children's children.

With respect to this thread's title, Beyond the Acheron, imagery is drawn from the famous epic written by Dante, the Divine Comedy, specifically the first and most well-known part, Inferno about Dante's journey through Hell.  The Acheron is one of five rivers of the Underwurld and its purpose does vary by source but for the sake of our purposes here, we are using Dante's version.  Acheron, in Dante's work, forms the border of Hell and metaphorically forms the border between Poja and Chernodrinsk only here, Charon won't be ferrying souls across.  I hope you enjoy.

Understanding that nothing happens in vacuum in a roleplaying community all are invited to take part in this whether it is posting their internal reactions or taking a more active role.  Regardless, I only ask that you message me on our Discord just so we can iron out the specifics.  I am not going to discourage anyone from participating but I can only ask that we adhere to the boundaries of realism and cooperative writing.

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Chapter I

Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 02:00 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernodrinsk, Lygorod | 50 km from Chernodrinsk-Chernarus Border

Ilya Salnikov was an old man in a young man's profession.  Fifty-two, which was more than double the age of the men around him, Ilya had lasted so long thanks to an unhealthy mix of discipline, experience, and luck.  Truth be told, luck was likely overrepresented on the pie chart of reasons why he was still alive and though it might run out one day, would certainly run out one day, that day had yet to come and so long as it was on the distance horizon, he wasn't very concerned with it on a day-to-day basis, leaving those thoughts only for the moments of darkness or drink, where they belonged.  Nothing but business was on his mind now as he walked almost inaudibly through the thin whisps of fog that settled around the area on this chilly, crisp June morning.  

          In the mountainous geography that surrounded Chernarus, the temperature was always about five degrees cooler and even more so over the past week as steady rains brought the temperature down even further into the low teens and brought about late-night fog.  If he'd been a more philosophical man, Ilya would have thought the crisp, cool air and the wispy fog was a foreshadowing on what was to come but he only saw the tactical advantages that lay before him, nothing more and nothing less.  For now, the wispy fog was simply just something he had to walk through to get to his destination, a sizeable but formless building not eight hundred meters in the distance.  Made only slightly visible because of its contrast against the background, it sat in a lot with no lights, bathed in a darkness that only a moonless night could cast.  Metaphors upon metaphors slipped past him in the light breeze, swirling the fog but not his mind.  

          Of course, this wasn't to say that Ilya was a dimensionless being, he was simply too much business and not enough of anything else.  Perhaps that was more of an affliction than it was a benefit but in his line of work, Ilya couldn't afford anything less.  

          When he reached the building, he went through a beat up, unmarked side door and found himself on the inside of a cavernous building that was open floor-to-ceiling, end-to-end.  He stood on a cracked, concrete slab that was strewn with dirt and debris, the detritus of neglect.  Once a 25,000 m² warehouse, it was hardly a sight anymore.  The remnants of its old life still lingered, a broke down forklift, faded lane lines, overhead bay markers, inadequate fluorescent overhead lighting, and of course a small shipping office that was a structural engineer's nightmare.  That office was to his left, empty and abandoned but not reappropriated like the warehouse had been.  

          Ilya let his eyes adjust to the change in lighting, which was in stark contrast to the moonless darkness outside.  Here, the few still operable fluorescent lights cast columns of light against the backdrop of harsh shadows, illuminating some objects and ignoring others.  Those objects happened to be thirty-two military trucks, a mix of cargo trucks and light armored cars, arranged and parked with neat precision in three rows facing what used to be the dock doors for semi-trailers.  Ramps had been built to allow ingress and egress by these vehicles but any inspection of them would reveal shoddy construction and deteriorating stability.  Ilya had personally done that inspection but deemed them "good enough."  They only had to work twice and half of those obligations had been fulfilled when these vehicles entered this building so many days earlier, trickling in at the darkest hours of the night, headlights off, guided by care and patience.  Illya had seen to the arrival of each and every one of these trucks and ensured that they were placed in the appropriate positions before inspecting each and every one of them meticulously.  The success of the operation hinged upon each truck being an exact replica of another one down to the very serial numbers and markings.  

          With his eyes adjusted, Ilya checked his watch and looked out ahead.  Men milled about, quietly talking amongst themselves.  Some noticed his arrival, others did not.  In the former was a man named Kiryl who was half Ilya's age and irritating beyond tolerance after two or three beers.  To keep him occupied, Kiryl had been given the otherwise menial but important task of spray-painting over the few windows in the warehouse with several coats of black paint.  He'd even been tasked to take care of a few skylights.  Though everything looked good, Ilya knew the true test of his work would be tonight and as he saw the man and approached him, he could sense the pride in Kiril for a job well done.

          When it was plain to Kiril that Ilya was heading his way, he snapped to and those around him did the same.  He was within a cluster of eight other men, a complete rifle squad.  He was his squad's deputy squad leader and would have carried the rank of mlađi vodnik or junior sergeant, had he been in a conventional man's military.  Ilya would have been a general-brigadni or a brigadier general.  Such was the vastness between the stations of both men that when Ilya approached the squad, no one dared speak, not even the otherwise ambitious squad leader.  "Kiril," Ilya spoke, looking up at the skylights above, "I believe you've done an otherwise satisfactory job," his native Chernarussian carried with it the accent of someone from the countryside, not unusual for members of this outfit.  

          "Thank you sir," Kiril answered.  Ilya had nothing more to say nor did he wish to dwell alongside Kiril too long for the man had an unusually strong odor of onions and cabbage coming out of his mouth.  Whatever these men had eaten had been something foul and its traces apparently still lingered.  Ilya had no other stops to make, no other men to address, nothing further to review.  Each squad had their own checks and men in charge of them and those men were entrusted to do everything necessary so that those higher up would not need to bother themselves with the minutia and instead focus on things that mattered most of all.

          Ilya worked his way through the vehicles until he came to the frontmost vehicles in the rows.  Each row was neat and orderly, identical to the row beside it and at the very front were two light armored trucks positioned in such a way as to lead the rest out of the building.  It was here that Ilya stopped and found the only man whose station was higher than his.  "We're ready," Ilya said as he stood before the man who was using a redlight flashlight to read a map.

          "Good, that means we're on schedule.  Assemble the men and have a count done.  I'll address them," he said without ever looking up from the map.

          With a nod of assent, Ilya turned around and walked back the way he came, shouting, "Men assemble" on the way.  Without gripe, without chatter, with only the sounds of feet shuffling and conversations ending, the men assembled in lines as Ilya walked past them.  "Squad leaders, count your men!"  Ilya shouted again, his voice echoing in the cavernous warehouse.  Coming to a stop somewhere near the center of everyone, he waited in silence for a minute while squad leaders counted.  "Sound off," Ilya called next and one-by-one, the squad leaders sounded off that each and every man was accounted for and thus, before Ilya, stood 213 men.  He was number 214 and coming up beside him was the last man, the man in charge of this entire operation.  "Men, at ease," Ilya said before taking a step back, at ease himself.

          "Men, I don't believe I need to tell you the gravity of this operation.  I may be leading it but it will be you who execute it.  You have trained, you have trained again, and when you thought you'd had enough training, you trained yet more.  Tonight there will be no training.  Tonight we execute the real thing.  Each and every one of you knows his role, each and every one of you knows the contingencies.  You've memorized them over and over again and for that I couldn't be prouder.  Tonight you will be me proud, you will make yourselves prouder, and you will make Chernodrinsk proudest.  That is all!"  He stood back and rendered a salute and those in front of him, all 213 men, rendered one in return.  "Dismissed!"  With little commotion, the men did as they were told and filed into their vehicles.  The man turned to Ilya and put his hand on Ilya's right shoulder.  "This is going to be historical.  The traitors and the tyrants will feel our wraith like never before."  

          Nothing further was said.  The man walked off, back to his vehicle, back to his map, back to his own thoughts.  Ilya would enter the vehicle next to his.  It would take another ten minutes before everyone was ready, before the vehicles were started and running.  Only then were the lights in the warehouse cut off, casting the interior into darkness.  No one turned on their vehicle's headlights and two bay doors were opened, each one bathed in the glow of a red lamp.  Ilya's vehicle departed second and behind him, row after row, thirty vehicles follow.  The doors were closed and those that remained behind began a methodical sweep for any remnants of the soldiers' presence.  It would take hours before they swept through the entire place, took away the red lamps, and vacated the premise themselves and when they had it was as if no one had ever been there, as if no one had staged a thirty-two vehicle, 215-man fighting force there, as if nothing ever happened.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 04:25 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernodrinsk-Chernarus Border

Ilya looked at his watch.  We're still on schedule he thought to himself as he looked out at the road ahead.  In front of him was the lead vehicle in the entire convoy.  Thus far, the journey from Lygorod had been quiet.  They took backroads that were sparsely traversed even during the daylight hours, let alone at this late - or early depend on how you viewed the clock - of an hour.  We're still on schedule, he thought to himself again, pleased thus far with the uneventfulness of the journey.

          Ilya had handpicked each driver in the convoy, having put them through significant driving tests.  Graduation to the role required that one pass not one but two tests.  The first test was to operate the vehicle of his assignment, at night, in blackout conditions, avoiding a number of obstacles along the way.  The second was to do the same thing but in a five-vehicle convoy so that not only did the drivers have to pass individually but as groups.  If each driver could do this in a group of five vehicles, they could do it in a group of thirty-two vehicles.  Each man that drove was required to be able to see well at night without glasses or contact lenses and to be able to drive with both their natural vision and night vision goggles, a set of which was atop each driver's head, ready for use along the way since the entire journey from Lygorod to the border would be made without headlights or any lights of any kind, lest they get spotted.

          This was just one piece of the plan that Ilya had been instrumental in developing along with a half-dozen others.  For years, they had been planning this as a small group, compartmentalized amongst themselves taking in codes and having secret meetings out of the direct or peripheral vision of anyone not privy to the operation.  Secrecy was the most valued aspect of this entire operation and that they were in the midst of executing it was a testament to their ability to maintain that compartmentalization and the secrecy required.  

          Ilya had fought to keep the execution of the plan as simple as possible.  Complexity in combat lead to men dying and to failure.  This wasn't meant to be a one-way suicide mission and thus the men who were taking part in it needed to be able to execute it properly without worrying about when their "glorious death" was about to be upon them.  Yet, no matter how simple the plan could be, there were several waypoints along the way that could make or break the operation and one of those was fast approaching, the border checkpoint.

          Lygorod had been fifty kilometers from the border but the drive had been closer to seventy with the snaking roadways and unideal route.  They were now approaching five kilometers from the border and this make-or-break moment was upon them.  Behind Ilya's vehicle was another identical vehicle but behind that was a truck with nine men.  Right on cue, that vehicle shot out from its place on the convoy and accelerated past everyone and away into the darkness.  We're right on schedule, Ilya thought to himself once again as the vehicle ripped past, the wind wake blowing right through Ilya's open window, adding to the diesel fumes that were already swirling the vehicle from its position as the number two vehicle.

          The convoy itself drove on for another three kilometers before halting in an otherwise abrupt and surprise manner to anyone looking at it from the sidelines.  In fact, none of these vehicles had visible brake lights, all of them having been taped up to prevent the light from leaking out into the night.  This is why it was so important to train the drivers.  They needed to be able to drive in these conditions without headlights or brake lights, without the moon, without streetlamps, with only their own vision or the aid of night vision goggles.  Furthermore, it was important because the convoy itself needed to be operated in such a precise manner.  The vehicles themselves had to be replicas of vehicles in the Chernarussian Territorial Army but so too did the driving tactics of these men.  They'd memorized the Pojački manuals cover-to-cover and they were carrying them out now, driving the precise way that the manual stated.  Nothing could seem out of place beyond.  Even as large as the convoy itself was, military convoys on the highways wasn't so rare a sight that they would arouse immediate suspicion.  So long as they could pass a basic litmus test, they could carry out their mission.  That was what Ilya pushed for during planning and it was why they were starting off with a high degree of success.

          Having stopped just two kilometers from the border, the convoy waited for several minutes.  In Ilya's vehicle, all was silent except the rumbling of the diesel engine.  His driver had his night vision goggles down and was scanning the area just as the two men in the back were.  Ilya was focused on the radio, listening for the signal to proceed.  He held his breath and waited for what seemed like more than minutes but not quite hours until finally, someone broke squelch three times in rapid succession.  One…Two…Three… he counted in his head.  Ahead of him, the leader's vehicle began to move and so too did his moments later.  The convoy was moving again.

          Two minutes later, the convoy reached the border checkpoint and passed unaccosted through the open gate.  Anyone looking at the concrete shack that made up the border checkpoint would see no lights on, no sign that anyone was there, no indication that it was manned.  That was because it wasn't manned on this night, of all nights, and that wasn't by happenstance.  The organization had seen to it that money passed from one hand to another and the lieutenant in charge of staffing the checkpoint had his men stationed elsewhere on this evening, which was unusual in and of itself but he covered his tracks by simply stating that another unit was on duty for this night and that they had "swapped schedules."  Instead of a four-man team sitting at the checkpoint with assault rifles and manning a general-purpose machine gun, there was no one.  

          That's one, Ilya thought to himself knowing that now they were beyond committed.  There was no turning around anymore.  They were on Pojački soil, more importantly they were on Chernarussian soil.  It was here that headlights were turned on, to drive down Pojački highways without headlights was to arouse a significant amount of suspicion and any highway patrol officer would be well within his right to stop the convoy, which would mean a radio call that a "large military convoy" was being pulled over at a specific spot on a map.  If the right person was listening, the entire operation would be tanked right then and there.  That was why Ilya had checked out each vehicle personally, to see that their headlights were working, that their tires were properly inflated, that the unit insignia was stenciled on correctly, that the flags were in place, that nothing would suggest these vehicles weren't part of the Chernarussian Territorial Army.  If someone looked further then the vehicles, they would find that each and every man was wearing the same uniform as his Chernarussian counterparts, even down to the unit insignia.  This was as far as Ilya had prepared because it was as far as could be practically prepared.  If someone pressed further, they had two choices, they could try to talk their way out of it or they could draw first blood.  The former was preferable to the latter because whenever someone made a traffic stop, there would be a check-in and that check-in would happen long before they reached their destination.  That would put every police officer for miles on the hunt for a "large military convoy," which could not be easily hidden.  Thus, everything had to be perfect.  The vehicles had to be driven accordingly and that meant headlights on and taillights too.  

          When the entire convoy had passed onto Chernarussian soil, they halted yet again.  Two men from each vehicle got out and quickly uncovered the taillights, ripping the tape off and stowing it inside of their vehicles.  It took less than a minute to accomplish and from there, they were back en route, looking like nothing more than a large military convoy driving on the open highway at an otherwise ungodly hour.  It wasn't necessary usual but neither was it unusual.  In and of itself, they wouldn't arouse too many suspicions.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 07:45 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Birogarsk | Birogarsk City Hall

Ilya watched the sunrise from his seat in the vehicle and noted the way the light changed the landscape ahead and around him.  They'd been driving for hours now, snaking their way through southern Chernarus.  For the first hour, they'd seen only a handful of other cars and trucks on the road.  Even tractor trailers, which often moved at night, were sparse in these rural areas though there had been a dozen or so parked alongside the highway in designated areas, their drivers fast asleep.  Ilya, and everyone else for that matter, had been watching out for police vehicles but none had been seen.  Ilya thought that he might have seen one around 05:50 but no flashing lights had materialized and so he put the thought out of his mind.

          After dawn, the traffic did begin to thicken ever so slightly, just enough to be noticeable but not enough to slow them down.  Per convoy regulations, they were already going slow enough, maintaining only 65 km/h on the highways and sticking to the rightmost lanes.  This caused some issues for vehicles entering the highway at the wrong time, forcing them to halt and wait for the convoy to pass.  One inattentive driver even wound up missing his exit as he found out that he could not cut through the convoy to make is exit.  His gesturing and screaming from inside of his vehicle were largely ignored by the drivers of the convoy.  What did he think he would accomplish anyway?  These men had rifles; he had a cup of coffee.  By and large, drivers kept to themselves.  A few honked horns and the soldiers waved, like soldiers do.  "We are normal" was the message they were sending and the message was getting through.

          Close to 07:00, their destination began to materialize ahead of the convoy and signs whipped past saying the distance, BIROGARSK 50 KM.  To the north, it was lit from the side as the sun rose above the horizon and climbed its way into the sky.  The volume of traffic increased the closer they got and they were within the city limits at 07:25, right on schedule.  Minutes later, as they exited the highway and entered the city itself, the convoy split up into three sections.  Ilya watched from his window as vehicles peeled away, five here, five there, the rest staying in tow.  Here we go he thought to himself as they stopped for a red light.

          The first five vehicles to separate made up Echo Platoon.  Thirty-nine men in one light armored car and four trucks bumped along the road adhering to local speed limits and traffic laws.  They kept in formation and turned away from the outer ring road and towards the city center.  Behind them, traveling a similar route would be another thirty-nine men in another five vehicles, Foxtrot Platoon.  That left the other four platoons as the main convoy, heading to a third destination.  

          Echo Platoon was led by a man named Artemiy, a rough man in his mid-thirties with more tattoos than visible skin it seemed.  He smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, and had never lost a brawl.  His men were incredibly loyal to him and he was incredibly loyal to them.  Perhaps the most favored of all of the platoon leaders in the operation, there was a reason his platoon had been given the honor of "kicking things off" and that entirely rested on the man's capabilities and the capabilities of his platoon.  In each and every evaluation, he and his men scored the highest.  There was no disputing it.  Foxtrot Platoon almost always came in second and thus that was why they were operating independently as well but alas, it was Echo's "time to shine," so to speak.

          From his seat in the lead vehicle, Artemiy looked at his rifle between his feet and unhooked his seatbelt.  He picked up the handset for the main radio and broke squelch five times, his unit's signal that they were good to execute.  One break came in return, the affirmation to proceed as planned.  There would be no further communications.  Artemiy put the handset back and saw their target materialize two blocks in front of him.  They stopped for a red light and Artemiy reached to the radio mic affixed to his left shoulder.  Keying up the transmit button, he said only a handful of words but each man listening, which was his entire platoon, knew what those words meant.  "Echo, option one alpha."

          The light turned green and the vehicles moved forward.  A block later, they sped up and sped right through the light as it was turning from yellow to red.  No one on the opposite side of traffic dared to challenge them and moments later, they skidded to a halt in front of their main target, city hall.  Artemiy and the thirty-eight men in his platoon poured out of their vehicles in seconds.  Without orders they split into four groups with Artemiy leading the first group.  With nine men in tow, they blew through the doors of city hall and immediately began to open fire.  Behind him, nine men waited, the squad leader counting in his head to 120 for when he would burst through the doors and begin to attack.  The rest of the men formed up around the vehicles providing full, 360° coverage to protect both the vehicles and the rear of the attacking squads.  Nineteen men would go into city hall and Artemiy wanted all nineteen men to come out and be able to move right into their vehicles and not get bogged down in a gunfight.

          Leading the first squad into city hall, Artemiy and his men fired indiscriminately.  Everyone who fell in their sights would be shot.  Their assault rifles barked rounds one and two at a time, each man maintaining full trigger discipline.  They moved quickly and purposefully as one unit and then as separate units were necessary due to choke points.  They didn't fire from the hip or spray rounds everywhere, instead they fired from the shoulder in controlled shots.  One man carried a large, automatic weapon and he fired in short bursts, his rounds tearing through everything they contacted, whether it be file cabinet, walls, or flesh.  Where they came up to closed doors, they kicked them in and tossed in grenades but they kept moving.  Those in the rear protected those in the front and in seconds, the ten-man unit was in front of the mayor's office.  They burst through, Artemiy laying waste to the mayor's secretary who was frantically trying to find cover.  

          Most in the city hall were still stunned.  The lightning pace of the attack meant that people had little time to think and many froze where they were.  Some dove under desks only to be shot by rounds piercing through the thin metal or wood.  In the mayor's office, his secretary was hardly reacting when she was facing the barrel of an assault rifle.  Artemiy's round caught her in the chest and send her flying backwards onto the floor, dead before she hit the ground.  The men moved forward, slamming through the doors to find the mayor and some of his aides in an early morning meeting.  Artemiy and his men opened fired, raking them with rounds, killing everyone to the last man by which point the second squad of nine men was moving into the building to conduct "mop up operations."  Plainly put, this was a more methodical search of the building to kill anyone left alive.  Wearing gas masks, they threw tear gas around to bring people out of hiding, lobbed grenades into offices and where they expected people might take cover, and they carried cans of gasoline that they dumped onto everything and anything flammable.  Artemiy and his squad joined them and the slaughter continued unabated for five minutes, at which point they'd done as much damage as they needed to do and began to exfil out of the city hall though not before Artemiy and his men tossed matches and lighters into the puddles and pools of gasoline, instantly starting an uncontrollable conflagration that would ultimately burn the building nearly to its foundation hours later.  In their wake, they left twenty-nine men and women dead, including the mayor and his senior staff.  Twenty-one were wounded, some critically, few escaped injury all together.  

          Outside, Artemiy and his men began the second phase of their attack.  Some men got into the vehicles; others walked alongside.  They had a three-kilometer drive to make and they would do so causing absolute pandemonium along the way.  They shot at cars, sending drivers ducking for cover; shot into buildings, shattering windows and ricocheting bullets into bedrooms and kitchens; and, they shot at people in the street.  Their objective was two-fold, the first being to cause as much chaos as possible as to paralyze the city's first responders and the second was to grab hostages.  Artemiy and Echo Platoon would cause a significant number of casualties on their three-kilometer trek and in the process take 165 people hostage, all of them at gunpoint.  At first, they threw them into the trucks and then piled them on top of one another until they ran out of room.  The rest were marched alongside the trucks, cowering at each gunshot.  Those that tried to flee were shot and left to die.  Those who stayed were allowed to live.  Three kilometers later, they reached their secondary objective and, in their wake, more than a hundred people lay dead, dying, or injured.  Dozens of apartments had been shot through, dozens of cars lay stopped in the middle of the road, many with their engines destroyed and steaming, immovable except by tow truck.  Blood stained the pavement for three kilometers and anyone who survived it could only look up from where they'd hid and realize that in the blink of an eye, the wurld before them had transformed from a quiet Wednesday morning, to the pits of Hell.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 07:47 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Birogarsk | Police Headquarters

In much the same way that Echo Platoon struck City Hall, Foxtrot Platoon would strike their own target.  Like Echo Platoon, they moved through the city adhering to all of the local traffic laws and they had a slightly further journey to make though by their own luck, they didn't run into anything but green traffic lights along the way.  Sitting in the back of the second truck but the third vehicle in the convoy, Gleb looked over the seven men of his squad who were seated around him.  "Cold as ice!  Lock it down!"  He shouted to them as he heard over the radio his own platoon leader's execute code.  "All right!"  The truck sped up and he felt it, knew what would come next and braced himself as the vehicle skidded to a halt.  As it did, the rear gate was dropped and out poured his squad.  He was the last to go, ensuring that everyone got off safely and once the driver climbed out, his nine-man squad was complete.  

          They moved quickly, assembling up on the front door of their target, the city's police headquarters and where all of the city's cops were dispatched from morning, day, and night.  They would be in the middle of morning roll call, every cop for an entire shift in one place at one time.   Normally, this would be suicide but owing to a very - until now - safety-oriented policy, policemen weren't allowed to be armed in the station.  In fact, Birogarsk was one of the few cities in the country that had such a rule, largely born out of one too many incidents.  Policemen retrieved their duty weapons from their lockers only when they were setting off for patrol, not before, and when they returned, they were required to deposit them back into the lockers before they proceeded into the station.  Until this morning, it had never been an issue but when the first ten men of Foxtrot Platoon burst through the door and opened fire, the cops found they had no means to defend themselves.  

          Of course, this didn't stop them.  Many ran to get their duty weapons, others picked up whatever was closest to them and charged.  Virtually all of them were in their vests and outside of civilian employees and a few detectives, this might have saved them except that their vests weren't rated for the high-powered rounds out of Foxtrot Platoon's assault rifles and light machine guns.  Those rounds tore through these vests with little effort and cops were felled before any could so much as touch a shooter.

          Like with Echo Platoon, Foxtrot Platoon would attack with two squads.  The other two would remain in cover for them against returning police vehicles, since it was shift change after all, and any potential reinforcement threats.  By this point, the attack on city hall was well underway and reports were flying into emergency line switchboards of gunfire.  Radio calls to the police units on patrol were firing off as well and then came nothing more than a haunting silence after the only dispatcher on duty reported, "Shots fired at HQ…request…"  That was her last transmission.  Her body would be found later, slumped over in her chair, her hand still clutching the ancient microphone, half of her head missing.  

          Gleb and his men moved in right behind the first squad, hefting the gasoline cans that would be used to light the building on fire.  Unlike at city hall though, they waited on thirty seconds, mainly because they were dealing with a significantly more capable enemy than bureaucrats and civilians in city hall.  In fact, it would be second squad that caused the majority of the casualties at the police station, shooting many officers in the backs as they tried to flank the main element.  Wearing a gas mask of his own, Gleb tossed a pair of tear gas grenades shortly after entering and members of his squad tossed a half dozen more.  Then they switched to the fragmentation grenades, throwing them into offices and behind cover, well away from where the main element was.  The attack, not unlike city hall, was fast, very fast, too fast to be countered.  The closest anyone got to the firearms lockers was six meters.  When Gleb stepped over the officer's corpse, he recognized the man and for the hair of a second felt some pity for him.  Months earlier, Gleb had worn a hidden camera and gotten a tour of the police headquarters and it had been this man who'd given it to him.  What a small wurld, he thought to himself in that brief moment of pity before he continued on, signaling to his men to pour the gasoline.  It would take them a little longer than it did at city hall to finish their attack but eight minutes instead of five, while it might seem like an eternity, was not long enough for any significant reinforcements to appear.  Two police vehicles approached, lights and sirens blaring, and both of them were shot up before they got within fifty meters of the headquarters.  The single policeman in each car was killed, the only armed resistance the city's police force could have mustered was no match for the high-powered, 7.62×39mm bullets of a light machine gun banging away at 700 rounds per minute.  After both vehicles had been stopped, a pair of RPGs were fired into them, turning both vehicles into giant fireballs.  City services were paralyzed.  

          Gleb and his men vacated the headquarters leaving thirty-nine officers and eight civilians dead, including the dispatcher, not including the two dead cops in their burning vehicles.  Twenty-one officers and another nine civilians were injured, left to flee the burning building.  In the midst of it all, no one knew that the city's police chief had been killed in his office by the blast of a grenade, his body peppered with enough shrapnel that he died almost immediately.  Along with him, the most senior officers in the city's police force were dead or dying, unable to escape the inferno that the police headquarters became.  Like city hall, the building would burn for hours but firefighters were left helpless, unable to combat the blaze as pistol and rifle rounds from the station's armory cooked off throughout the course of the blaze, each gunshot sending everyone for cover though no one would be killed or injured from the ammunition cookoffs that happened.

          With the station vacated, Gleb and the rest of Foxtrot Platoon began their trek towards the same destination as Echo Platoon so that the entire force would be consolidated at one location, all 215 men in one spot, digging in, holding down a target with as many human shields as possible.  Foxtrot Platoon's job now was to get more.  They loaded up their trucks with some hostages from the immediate area and began the trek, it being five kilometers instead of three.  They would cause more mayhem than Echo Platoon, shoot through more cars, into more apartments, and take 142 hostages of their own, treating them much in the same way.  When the vehicles were full, they were marched alongside and anyone who tried to flee was shot and left to die.  The men made sure not to kill these escapees but rather to led them fall to the ground and bleed out, screaming in agony as a warning to the rest.  When they reached their destination, their hostages were added to a rapidly growing total.

          In the wake of both Echo and Foxtrot Platoon's march, they would leave 149 civilians dead or dying and another 232 injured.  The morning was shaping up to be the bloodiest day in Pojački history, including during the six-year Chernarussian Conflict.  Casualties mounted, chaos reigned, and the city's services were utterly paralyzed.  Cars blocked access for ambulance and fire crews, people cowered everyone, the echoes of gunshots sent everyone for cover, and most of all, no one could reach the city's senior police or political staff.  Phones rang and rang and rang or didn't ring at all.  People asked, "Where is everyone?  Why are they not responding?"  

          Social media was absolutely on fire with thousands of messages coming in every second from the city's population.  From there it spread throughout the internet.  News stations would pick up the story faster than the Pojački government. Birogarsk was home to 67,239 people and on that morning, every single one of them with a social media account who wasn't dead, dying, or injured, was posting in all caps to hide, to take cover, to survive, begging and pleading for rescue, praying to their gods of choice, and wondering where everyone was.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 07:50 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Birogarsk | Birogarsk General Hospital

The first bursts of gunfire almost startled Ilya.  There's no turning back, he thought to himself, not that there would be any turning back once they crossed the border.  The organization couldn't swing another bribe like it had, couldn't keep up the secrecy for too much longer, couldn't hold back the rage that it felt much longer.  The first few pops that rolled through the city streets undoubtedly came from city hall.  The crescendo of chaos grew over the next few minutes as the gunfire from police headquarters joined.  All of these targets were within five kilometers of where Ilya and the main force was going, which was the Birogarsk General Hospital, the city's main hospital, where they hoped to capture at least 300 or 400 hostages.  Combined with whatever Echo and Foxtrot Platoons grabbed, they would have enough human shields to grind the Chernarussian and the Pojački governments to a halt.

          Moving on the hospital, they struck it five minutes after the first gunshots and three minutes after the city's police force came under siege.  Twenty-two vehicles came to a halt around the hospital and out poured 137 men, Ilya included.  They had four, thirty-nine-man platoons that swept through the front doors of the hospital.  Ilya watched as the lead platoon, with the man in charge, went first and then another and another until three had entered the hospital.  Ilya wasn't in charge of seizing the hospital, the commander was.  Instead, he was in charge of ensuring that all of their supplies and ammunition made it into the hospital.  With thirty-nine men under his control, he quickly assigned eighteen of them to unload the trucks and the rest to hold the perimeter.  People poured out of the hospital's many entrances, some running for cover, others running towards the trucks.  Anyone who fled away from them was ignored, no sense wasting bullets but those who fled to them were gunned down as they approached.  

          Ilya never fired a shot, didn't ever pull his rifle from his shoulder.  His job was supervisory and he was fine with it.  He wasn't uncomfortable with slaughtering civilians; in fact, he'd been one of the early proponents of this operation but he felt no particular bloodlust to take part.  He was more focused on the success of the operation as a whole and so he focused on ensuring the trucks were offloaded quickly.  Crate after crate after crate was brought through the front doors of the hospital.  All twenty-two vehicles would be offloaded.  Radios were taken out of them and each one was swept over quickly to ensure there was nothing left behind before Ilya strode through the doors of the hospital.  By that point, the building was largely secure.  For sure, the ground floor was secure and no one else would be escaping.  He didn't know it then but they had just seized a significant number of hostages, 748 in all between 442 patients and 306 employees.  When Echo and Foxtrot Platoons joined them, they would have 1,055 hostages, far more than they could have expected.  They were looking at 300 to 400 with an upper limit of 500.  Now they had a little more than double, which would certainly complicate matters but, to Ilya, that was a problem to solve in the future.

          The men went to work quickly barricading themselves into the hospital and corralling the hostages into a few areas so that they could be more easily watched over by the soldiers.  They were also doing another sweep of the hospital, moving through it again, checking every room and closet, every office and lab, ensuring that no one was hiding and could either escape or attack them when they weren't looking.  "There will be no John McClane's here today," Ilya said, referring to a famous Christmas movie that was popular not only throughout Chernodrinsk and Poja but the entire wurld.  There was truth though, a single man could derail their entire operation if allowed to move through the area unchecked, communicating with law enforcement, causing absolute havoc.  Ilya wouldn't have it, no one would, and so a thorough search was made.  They would continue to search throughout the entire ordeal, manpower not being much of an issue for them.

          Twenty-five minutes after they first arrived at the hospital, when all of their men were present and accounted for and the first group of hostages rounded up, Ilya walked over to the nearest station and looked around at the mess that had been left behind.  It was one of the many nurses station throughout the building but this one in particular was of special value to Ilya and his group for this was the maternity ward.  Dozens of new mothers and their infant babies were now hostages and when it came to hostage negotiations, no one was more valuable than new mothers and infant babies.  

          The man smirked as his eyes drifted over blood-spattered paperwork as he tried not to trip over a dead nurse at his feet, her eyes wide open, shock and horror written on her face to characterize her last moments on Eurth.  "Pity," his voice emotionless and uncaring.  These people weren't people to him, couldn't be people to him.  They were traitors, traitors to the very genetics that made up their bodies, traitors to historical magnificence of Chernarus.  "Pity," he said again, mocking the dead nurse as he picked up a phone and dialed a memorized number.  It rang five times before finally being picked up, "Is this the Pojački Broadcasting Network?"

          "It is," a young girl said, probably an intern, her voice youthful.

          "Do you have a pen?"


          "Please get one."

          "Okay," Ilya could hear rustling in the background, rolled his eyes at this, and yet listened in silence.  "Okay I have it.  Who is this message for?"

          "This message is for the traitors of Chernarus, the filthy swine that inhabit the government," he talked quickly, could hear the girl writing as fast as possible.  "In Birogarsk this morning, thousands of traitors have been executed and ridden from this wurld!"

          "Can you repeat that?  'Biro'?"  The young girl was obviously not thinking, not understanding Ilya's words.  She was just trying to get the message down.

          "I will not repeat myself!"  Ilya roared and then did, "Birogarsk, write it down!  Faster!  Thousands, do you have this?"

          "I do."

          "Thousands more will die if the Pojački government does not grant independence for Chernarus and hand over the illegal Chernarussian government to the people for trial and judgement for their treason!"

          She scribbled as fast as possible and Ilya waited.  "Okay and who is this?"

          "This is the Chernorusskaya brigada Krasnoy Zvezdy!"  The Chernarussian Red Star Brigade, a group designated by the Pojački government as a terrorist group, had just laid siege to Birogarsk, killed hundreds, taken over a thousand hostage, and were now proclaimed to the wurld that they'd done it, that no one was safe anymore, that the entire wurld as everyone knew it had changed in the blink of an eye.  Slamming the phone down, he looked around the empty corridor, at the dead nurse, and then he saw it in her eyes, saw precisely what she had seen in her last moments, as he last breaths came from her body, just before her mind shut down and she passed, disbelief.

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Chapter II
A Shattered Peace


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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 08:23 hrs [UTC-3]
Konfederacija Poja, Rugi, Central District | House of Magnates

"It's all over the news already and we're just stepping into a briefing now," Chancellor Jelena Jurić said into her phone, "yes I'll keep you updated.  Thank you for your time."  She ended the call and put the phone back into her pocket for the short walk down the corridor towards the secret conference room, otherwise known as the "SCIF."  In the basement of the House of Magnates, the room itself was a secure place for the briefing of the most sensitive of classified information, being protected against electronic and other methods of eavesdropping, accessible only by people with special clearance.  As Chancellor of the Konfederacija Poja, Jurić certainly had clearance but she had no special privileges, which meant that before she passed through the entryway, she had to deposit her phone and her smart watch into a signal-blocking bin outside.  A sentry standing guard ran over her with a special wand, looking for any transmitters or electronic devices and then permitted her entry.  Inside was already a dozen people and many more joined into a virtual meeting, their faces on the screens before everyone.

          "All right, my apologies at being late, I was just fielding a call.  Are we all here?"  Chancellor Jurić asked and to her right, a man nodded.  "Okay let's begin with the situation in Birogarsk.  We're clearly late to this event since it's already all over social media and the news.  Who's got information?"

          "That would be me ma'am," answered Dragiša Zorić, the Minister of State Security.  "Early this morning, a force of approximately two hundred individuals, believed to be from the CbKZ, laid siege to the city of Birogarsk.  Now please everyone understand that all information right now is preliminary and thus subject to change.  The attacks began at 07:45 at the city hall where several dozen of these terrorists attacked the city hall and lit it on fire.  Simultaneously, they attacked the city police station with similar results, and one of the city's hospitals.  Terrorists from the city hall and the police station then moved through the streets towards the hospital shooting at civilians, killing and wounding many, taking many others hostage.  They are now holed up in the hospital with hundreds of hostages.

          "Based on this information, we could be looking at up to a thousand killed or wounded between the attacks.  We have been unable to reach the mayor or deputy mayor and they are presumed killed or grievously injured.  The same goes for the senior staff of the city's police force.  Contact was made with one officer who has given us an estimate of just ten on duty, unhurt police officers in the entire city of over sixty thousand.  Rescue personnel are combing through the area around city hall and the police station but so far have been unable to make significant progress due to the sheer number of casualties.  Fire services are on scene at both the city hall and the police station but are unable to work the fire at the police station due to detonating ammunition posing a severe safety hazard.  

          "As we can see from the news and from social media, this attack was highly coordinated and planned and the footage out there shows just how devastating it has been."

          "How can we limit the dissemination of this media?  It's heinous and should not be circulating, victims' families will be seeing what no one wants them to have to see."  All eyes shifted to Chancellor Jurić for what was a very peculiar and unorthodox question.

          "Ma'am, what you ask is not possible.  We would have to shut down the entire internet, television, and radio for this entire country.  Beyond breaking dozens of laws, the task itself is impossible.  We must simply live with the information as it is being shared."  Minister Zorić certainly had the ability to shut down the internet in the entire country but it was not something that could be done easily or without significant consequence, plus it required an executive order from the President, the Chancellor, and the House of Magnates all working in collusion unanimously.

          Premier Iosif Tarasov, visibly uncomfortable with the request, pushed forward slightly in his chair and unmuted himself.  As Premier of Chernarus, he was the governing authority in the region and until a national emergency had been declared, the one responsible for issuing orders and directives.  "Ma'am, our focus right now ought to be on isolating the terrorists at the hospital so that we can limit further attacks around the city as well as providing on-site governing leadership.  I have already put in an emergency order to police forces of nearby towns and cities to send aid to the city and have requested the mayor of Chelyamovsk to be our on-site, acting executive in the city.  Chelyamovsk may only be thirty thousand people but it is the closest large city and time is of the essence."

          "Thank you Premier," Chancellor Jurić answered.  "Are we positive this is CbKZ?"

          "Not yet but I would say we are ninety-nine percent sure given the reporting of the PBN, which stated that an individual claiming to represent the CbKZ called the station to take credit for the attack.  We're working on tracing that call as we speak," Minister Zorić was definitely in the hot seat and could feel the questions starting to come; after all, as Minister of State Security, he and his departments had failed to keep the state secure.

          "How did we not see this coming?"  The questions began and each one that came in rapid succession from both the President and the Chancellor kept him in the hot seat yet he had the same answer each time.  There had been no warnings, no indications, and nothing to suggest that the CbKZ could pull off such a brazen attack.  

          "Whoever within the CbKZ, if they are the culprits, planned this attack, they did so in a compartmentalized manner using only their most trusted associates.  It is unlikely that the individuals who carried out today's attack ever communicated with anyone else or even knew what the plan was until they were either en route or in Birogarsk.  The level of planning and sophistication suggests to us that, if this is the CbKZ, they are not only aware of our level of penetration in the organization but also aware that we may have individuals in high places."

          "What's our plan then?  We can worry about this later in the inquiry."

          "Ma'am," Tarasov spoke, "I have directed police forces in the area to conduct reconnaissance on the hospital area and to report back what the situation is.  In the meantime, as city services work on treating casualties, we have called upon all off-duty personnel to provide support to those services.  Reconnaissance on the hospital does not need a large force and would not benefit from a large force.  Manpower is needed at the crime scenes to ensure evidence is collected properly and that civilians do not impede upon the ability of rescuers to treat casualties.  Police from mutual aid will be directed to provide support for both taskings throughout this morning."  Tarasov himself had been a police officer for fifteen years before he'd been injured on the job chasing a suspect.  The injury was all his own versus being attacked but it still garnered him an early retirement, after which he'd gone into politics, swiftly moving throughout the Chernarussian legislature to become Premier.  This was now his second term in that office.

          "We're facing a nightmare scenario here," President Petrović said from his own office in the Predsjednički Dvori not but a few hundred meters away.  "Birogarsk is under siege by a well-armed, well-trained, and capable terrorist force.  They have hostages and will be releasing demands.  We have to limit the ability of these terrorists to control the situation, harder said than done.  As per our laws, the Chancellor remains the ultimate executive authority at the federal level and the Premier at the region level.  We must ensure that party politics does not hinder this situation.  I am requesting that a state of emergency be issued to the military forces of both the Chernarussian Territorial Forces and the Pojački National Forces.  Birogarsk will not be able to handle this situation with just police forces."

          "I will authorize this Mister President," Tarasov swiftly answered, he'd already done so in fact.  The Chancellor, on the other hand, was a little slower to respond but relented ultimately when the Minister of National Defense explained it would take several hours to put the level of military forces needed and that time could not be wasted with any delay to that decision.  

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 08:45 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Birogarsk | Birogarsk General Hospital

Ten officers were all that Birogarsk had for a police force that, as a whole, numbered almost two hundred.  With off-duty officers being called in and a mutual aid request sent to the entire region, there was help coming but it would take some time to get there, which meant that the most senior officer on duty in the entire city was Vodnik Kirill Shubkin who went by the nickname Sasha and who only had six years on the job.  Sasha had been on his way back to police headquarters for the end of his shift when someone foolishly blew through a red light in front of him.  He might not have chased the suspected otherwise except it was the morning rush hour and pedestrians were beginning to the enter the crosswalk.  Stopping this twenty-nine-year-old who was running late to work had saved his life.

          With little to go off of except their own radios, he gathered his nine officers about five hundred meters away from the hospital, well out of its line of sight, and against the backdrop of screaming and crying civilians - both injured and hysterical - and the sirens of ambulances and other rescue services, he took stock of what he had to work with, which wasn't much.  Of the nine officers, three were just one rank below him with four to eight years of service, four were a level under with between three and five years of service, and the remaining two were rookies, with barely six months on the job and they had eight vehicles between themselves, the rookies riding shotgun with the more senior officers.  Luckily, they all knew the area well enough but unlucky for them, they didn't have much in terms of weaponry.

          "Two shotguns and our pistols, that's all we got," Sasha said as everyone gathered around the hood of his car.  They'd turned off the lights to remove the annoyance.  "We're going to split into two teams, three and three, I want the rookies and you two," he pointed to two of the three seniormost officers, "to hang back in case we get engaged and cannot retreat.  This is a reconnaissance job, we're not looking to get into a firefight, which means no one shoots first I don't even care if one of them is sitting in front of the door picking his nose naked."  Everyone nodded, "We go weapons drawn, no sense getting caught off-guard.  Shotguns stay back, one per rescue team.  We're going to roll up closer and then go on foot.  I'm leading the first team, we'll advance down Fontan to the front while the second team advances down Zhemchug.  We're not getting too close, just need to get sight on the hospital and see the situation.  No one needs to be a hero; we've lost too many men as it is and we're all we got right now.  Questions."

          A few minutes later they were off with their vehicles advancing separately towards the hospital.  They moved without lights and sirens to a point just before the hospital but still well out of its line of sight.  The two rescue teams moved up as well but kept just out of view, engines running, cars in drive, with only the driver holding the brake to keep them from rolling further.  Each rescue team was in a rough spot.  The rookies took the passenger seat, shotgun in hand while the senior officers sat in the driver's seat.  "Your only job if we get called in is to just pour lead towards the shooters, you got it," went the conversation in one car.  Terrified, because everyone was, the rookie only nodded.  "We'll be fine just do what I say," another nod.

          The two teams moved on foot now, weapons drawn.  They watched every direction, kept low, and moved quickly using the buildings for cover until they finally reached a corner.  "Once we pass here, we're in their view and they're in ours.  You got it?  Fingers off the trigger but get ready."  He leaned around the corner with just one eye and looked around.  "I've got multiple trucks, all parked, view is blocked.  We'll use the trucks for cover.  On me."  He moved out, keeping low and moved up to the nearest truck barely ten meters away.  With the trucks between them and the hospital, they moved alongside, checking each one quickly for anyone sleeping but the trucks were empty, which was something of a relief.  They needed to do reconnaissance, not get caught up before they even got there.  Moving up to the frontmost truck, they were roughly fifty meters from the hospital now but still covered by the vehicles.

          Using just hand signals now, Sasha indicated he was going to take a look and he did, peeking out from around the front of the truck.  "I've got the front entrance, multiple terrorists inside no one outside, windows I see plenty of armed sentries, roof nothing yet.  Looks like they have the front door barricaded."  He popped back around into cover.  Behind him, someone was relaying that all over the radio.  A similar report came from the other team.  Keeping in cover, he indicated he was going to look again but this time things were different.

          The gunfire began almost the moment he peeked around the corner of the truck and it came from several open windows higher up on the hospital floors.  "Get back!"  He shouted as he popped back into cover and shielded himself against the hundreds of ricocheting bullets pinging off the trucks and the ground.  "Get back!  Retreat!"  He yelled as the men pulled back, keeping the trucks for cover.  Whoever was shooting at them continued the fire and walked the fire backwards, likely tracking their shadows or their feet underneath the trucks though they did not have a clear shot.  "Rescue teams hold!  Hold!"  Sasha and his men were okay, they weren't pinned down, no one had been hit, and they had good cover, there was no sense introducing another element that would not have the same benefit.

          The rear team did the same, pulling back amidst their own engagement though it was unlikely they were seen with the same level of clarity as Sasha's team as the gunfire did not track them the same way.  Pulling back around the corner, Sasha and his men quickly rested and looked over one another.  By some spate of miracle, no one had been hit, not even by a ricochet.  "I think that's enough," he said as he caught his breath, "back to the staging area, they are probably listening to our comms," no way they were ready for me like that, I doubt anyone saw me that first look."  Back they went, returning to their staging area just a few hundred meters from the hospital, all ten men and their vehicles intact and everyone asking, even if they didn't say it, "Now what do we do?"  Sasha didn't have answers.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 09:30 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernodrinsk | Ozyorsk District

Sergei groaned as he reached out to his end table and silenced his ringing phone, his eyes never opening, his body moving only enough to do this one task.  He let his arm go limp, hanging off the edge of the bed and was able to go back to sleep quickly but that lasted all of two minutes before his phone was ringing again.  This time he opened his eyes to see the time, barely 09:30, which meant he'd only been asleep maybe three to three and a half hours.  He rolled onto his side and grabbed his phone, looked at the caller ID, and answered it, "Hello?"  His voice sounded like he was communicating from the afterlife and not the afterlife with harps and angel wings.  

          "Sergei Usatov," a woman's voice on the other end said.  It wasn't his name.

          "Sorry you have the wrong number."

          "Am I calling three-two-seven, two-two, four-eight?"


          "Then I have the right number Sergei Usatov.  I am calling in response to a survey you filled out…"  Sergei's brain suddenly clicked and in that fraction of a moment, the hazy drunkenness that he still felt suddenly washed out as his body filled with chemicals.  He was listening now, "Concerning your interest in television monitoring has been pulled.  I'm sorry to inform you that based on our responses, you would not make an ideal candidate.  Thank you very much for your participation."

          "Bummer," Sergei said as he tried to decode the message in his head.  "I'll try again next year."

          "I'm afraid that we are ending this program early.  Thank you."  The call ended and Sergei looked down at his phone before swinging his feet over the edge of the bed and onto the floor.  Of all of the messages to receive, this was the direst.  He'd long since been told that if he were to receive any message from a "television survey" that it would constitute a major emergency of a nature so significant that nothing could stop him from uncovering the details, even if it meant his own discovery, which was indeed what the last part meant.  The "ending the program early" meant just that, his days were numbered.

          With significant pain and effort, he leaned forward and grabbed his pants, fishing out the pack of cigarettes before lighting one.  He didn't have to look too far to see what was happening as it was all over the news, all over social media, and thus all over his phone.  "Jesus," he said as he smoked the cigarette and willed himself to stand up and head into the bathroom.  Covered in sweat that had a scent of alcohol to it as his body worked to expel the toxins of several drinks too many, he ran himself a cold shower if just to rinse off more than anything else.  He didn't need to look pretty he just needed to be functional and right now he was barely that, thus of little use to the Konfederacija Poja.  

          Sergei was a double agent, a Liari by birth but a Chernarussian by genetics.  His family had moved from Chernarus to Liaria during the Chernarussian Conflict and Sergei, whose real name was Anatoly Rychenkov, had been picked by the Ministry of State Security for this type of work.  He excelled at it but to do so meant that he had to take the bad with the undesirable and last night he'd gone toe-to-toe with a "good friend" in the CbKZ just to earn another level of trust with the man.  Nothing indicated that the group was going to do anything and Sergei, as he rinsed off, tried to replay the previous night, looking for any indication or hint in the conversation that could allude to Birogarsk.  Nothing was his final conclusion but in truth, he barely remembered much, so potent was the moonshine liquor they were drinking.  He'd stayed in the shower for a little longer if just in some vain hope that his body would stop expelling perspiration and start soaking up the water to rehydrate him and kill the hangover that was already a massive marching band inside of his skull.  His stomach was raw and he felt like he was on the edge of vomiting, knew that he wouldn't be able to eat for some time but thought he might try a cup of coffee, if just to try to take away the rawness that ached within him.

          He knew what he needed to do, without even being told.  He had to get with his contacts within the CbKZ and find out not only what was happening but how the hell it had been pulled off without so much as a peep. Sergei hadn't been apprised of the attack beforehand, he'd never even heard so much as a whisper about it or seen anything to indicate that it was coming.  Had he, he certainly would have alerted his handlers to it.

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Wednesday, 5 June 2024 | 10:10 hrs [UTC-3]
Chernarus, Birogarsk | Birogarsk General Hospital

The scenes in Birogarsk remained chaotic.  There simply weren't enough rescue personnel to deal with the catastrophe and even with the addition of fifty-two off-duty officers, it wasn't enough.  Officers were on the way from other cities and they'd been trickling in but there was still significant coordination to be done.  The ten-man group led by Sasha was still holding near the hospital while the fifty-two were being dispersed around to support the rescue efforts around city hall and the police station as well as en route to the hospital but they could only get so close themselves.  By 10:10, Sasha's force was now bolstered by an eleven-man SWAT team from Chelyamovsk as well as fifteen other officers from Birogarsk, Chelyamovsk, and three nearby towns.  With thirty-six, Sasha's force was essentially the largest concentration of police within the entire city.  It also meant that Sasha wasn't in charge anymore, that fell to Poručnik Stepan Gusarov, a man Sasha knew well and respected enough.

          Gusarov was now the third highest-ranking cop in the city, propelling him way up the list and essentially giving him the role of a kapetan.  He was also now under tremendous pressure to make a move on the hospital, one that Sasha himself did not agree with given his own experience there just over an hour earlier.  Still, he was outranked and Gusarov had the ear of everyone around him, even the rookies.

          "We have a sizeable force now," he said looking at the men around him.  "Reports of almost two hundred in the hospital mean we're not going to break the siege with just us but we cannot let these terrorists dictate the terms.  They need to know that we're not afraid of them and we're not going to let them sit in the hospital with their hostages.  If we can create enough chaos outside that might help those inside.  SWAT is going to lead the way on this and I'll let Štab Vodnik Zhutov tell you what our plan will be."  

          Zhutov, the head of the SWAT team, was no stranger to these situations.  "The front of the hospital on Fontan is inaccessible so our point of entry will be the ambulance entrance on Zhemchug.  We'll advance fast down the road and then reverse through those doors with our armored vehicle, we do it all the time with drug raids.  Once we break through the doors, flash bangs go out, and we move to engage the terrorists inside and free as many hostages as possible before exfil.  Your job will be to cover us for exfil and make sure the hostages aren't shot in the back.  Understood?"  The officers, blinded by their helplessness and desire to do something, largely agreed.  Sasha didn't nor would he and as Zhutov and Gusarov broke up the briefing, he took the lieutenant aside.

          "Sir, this isn't a good plan," he said plainly but in a low enough voice that no one heard him.

          "No shit but it's all we got.  If we don't act now and keep them on their toes, they'll likely believe they are in a fortress and hole up here for days and possibly even longer.  They're trapped in there so we have to treat them like they are."

          "What if they execute the hostages?  They've left hundreds of bodies in their wake coming here."

          "They need them as bargaining chips, especially if we're able to get a few dozen away and get them to doubt their own ability to protect the hospital.  Once we knock through that wall, they now have to guard that point and move everyone off the first floor.  That gives us an advantage to trap them inside and work this before they can get too comfortable.  Now are you onboard vodnik?"

          "Sir."  Sasha said and nothing more, knowing full well how poor of a plan this was.  Minutes later, SWAT was leading a column of police vehicles, lights and sirens off, heading towards the hospital.  Their vehicle was an armored truck, capable of withstanding small arms fire up to and exceeding assault rifles and general-purpose machine guns thanks to its one-and-a-quarter to four-centimeter-thick armor plating.  Used typically in bank robberies and drug busts, one such vehicle had taken hundreds of rounds from three heavily-armed bank robbers with not one round penetrating the hull.  It was the closest thing to a tank that civilian law enforcement had and it had proven invaluable countless times.

          This SWAT team, in particular, was well experienced with bank robberies and drug busts, almost all of which involved heavily-armed criminals but heavily-armed criminals weren't the kind of shooters that were in the hospital.  To say they were outmatched was an understatement that rapidly became apparent.  The vehicle closed on the hospital rapidly, screaming down Zhemchug at nearly one hundred kilometers per hour.  From the hospital, small arms fire lit up the vehicle but, true to its performance in the past, those rounds ricocheted off causing only cosmetic damage to the truck.  Inside, the SWAT members held cool but some had a laugh at the pinging of the rounds, feeling invulnerable in it and their heavy body armor. 

          Behind them, the unarmored police cars were a different story.  While the fire was concentrated on the SWAT vehicle, some was coming their way and the officers were largely ducking as rounds poured into their vehicles.  Almost all of them stopped short and were relieved to see the SWAT vehicle close to its point where it would reverse into the doors.  What came next could only be described as pure terror.  From an upper floor, two men leaned out of separate windows and aimed what could only be described as tubes down at the armored truck.  As it came to a halt and the driver threw it into reverse, those two tubes belched fire.  Rockets streaked away from them and smashed into the roof of the vehicle just as it began to reverse.  The armor plating, which was good against small arms fire, was useless against the high-explosive, anti-tank warheads of the RPG-22 rocket launchers.  Each rocket was capable of penetrating forty centimeters of steel armor, never mind just four centimeters.  The vehicle and its occupants stood no chance as it exploded into a massive fireball that blew the doors off and windows out from the sheer pressure of the explosion.

          Two SWAT members tumbled out of the back, both completely engulfed in flames, getting less than a meter before they collapsed over, dead.  The police vehicles, now getting chewed up, were quickly trapped as two more RPGs streaked down and nailed the last two vehicles in the convoy, killing the two occupants in each car.  Sasha and his men poured out of their vehicles and quickly used them for cover while they attempted to retreat.  A twenty-nine-minute gun battle would ensue leaving the entire eleven-man SWAT team and nine additional officers dead.  Two more would be injured, one of whom was alive only because Sasha dragged him out of the line of fire and covered his body while an RPG detonated nearby.  Bullets came from everywhere and even a response force, sent in to provide rescue, found themselves driven back by the gunfire.  The CbKZ terrorists had trapped the cops and hoped to kill all of them in a funnel of fire and would have succeeded had they not had the forethought to break through the front doors of two buildings on Zhemchug and hide inside for cover while their vehicles burned outside on the street.  It was a disaster, an unmitigated disaster, worse even than Sasha expected.  Until now, no one knew that the CbKZ terrorists had RPGs let alone the ammunition to fire as much as they had.  They didn't know just how much ammunition they'd brought with them but if the engagements of this morning were any indication, they certainly had more ammo than their opponents.

• • • • ‡ ‡ • • • •

OOC: By this point, the entire wurld would probably know some inkling of what was happening here since it'll be all over social media and basically the only thing being covered on Pojački television, especially the Pojački Broadcasting Network.  If people want to post in any government reactions it might be about a week before I get to the next post so please have at it.

• • • † • • •

Edited by Poja (see edit history)
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