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Drowning in the Snow [Closed, Ajax Only]

A staging-point for declarations of war and other major diplomatic events. [In character]
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Scocialist Provinces
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Drowning in the Snow [Closed, Ajax Only]

Postby Scocialist Provinces » Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:19 pm

The muffled rattle of tires had long ago begun chewing into freshly fallen snow, the sound cutting against the singing cold morning air. Colonel Æden tapped at this holster with characteristic steadiness, meeting the beat playing softly out of the truck speakers. Cigar smoke clouded the interior, the faint smell of burnt maple pervading the auburn leather interior. Staring intently out heavily tinted windows, he watched as an array of garishly painted signs looming over market stalls whipped past the vehicle in quick succession. These signs all read in Enyaman, but most folk here in Akutera spoke Skaldanian. It was a simple fact that Æden aimed to capitalize on.

A police cruiser passed on his right, Æden permitting himself a slight grin at seeing the officer inside trying and failing to discern his own vehicle's contents. Æden's gunmen eyed the cruiser nervously a moment before the officer sped off into the distance, uninterested. A close call, one of many. This was a long way from the damp rivers in the Skaldanian heartland that Æden called home. The Enyaman frontier was a harsh place this deep into winter, and the bitter winter smog followed the glacial winds. The bay brought some semblance of regularity in temperature, but little could assuage the bleak nature of it all. He was a stranger here, as unknown to the land as it was to to him, and Æden reveled in the uncertainty.

"I'm surprised he didn't try to pull us over." His driver said, taking the truck for a harsh turn into a nearby alley. "Big black truck, tinted windows, bulletproof tires. If that's not suspicious, I don't what is."

Æden shrugged. "Probably doesn't know what real, military grade tires look like. These things'll absorb a mine going off, let alone a bit small arms fire."

"Still," His driver began to insist. "There's still a few more ways this op can go wrong."

"That's for the brass to worry about, our job is to make sure this information gets across. I'll not have any of your doubt on this." Æden said, the tapping at his pistol flaring with a momentary intensity.

The driver scratched at his scalp. "Understood, Colonel. We're nearly at the marker, so if we're going to call this off, now's the time."

"We've got our orders. Worst comes to worst, we've also got our guns. Turn in."

Their truck dug into the final turn, spraying snow into the bank as it swung around the corner. A gate in the chainlink fence was parted by an motley assortment of thugs barely in time to avoid getting run through underneath the tires. Men practically dove out of the truck's way before it came to an immediate stop in the center of this run-down maintenance yard. Slouched figures began to filter out from between stacks of hubcaps and spare parts, tension and uncertainty in their eyes. The sight brought Æden a devilish smirk. He knocked his knuckles against the nearest window and looked to his men. "Remember, this is a negotiation. I want total intimidation and equivocated restraint from all of you, nothing less. If someone ends up dead, then we've wholly wasted our time."

The doors to the truck opened with a thunderous clacking, Æden's men rising out of the vehicles in precise formation. Standing tall with hands held close to their bodies, their visages were obscured behind towering beards, wildly tattooed scalps and obfuscating sunglasses. Like shadows, their jet black suits managed to stand out against the bright white of the morning snowfall. Before them, skulked the Beardless. A feared organization operating within the city, the Beardless were dangerous people, widely recognized as among the most extreme proponents of the Akuteran independence movement. They were brutish, remorseless killers who operated with an exceptionally violent disposition.

They were precisely the kind of people that Æden needed.

He stepped out of the truck with a gradual and purposeful stride, brushing the back of his cigar along his lips as he stepped through the steely fog. He and his men scanned the pack of Beardless arrayed around them, waiting patiently for one to step forward. Eventually, a scraggly man with twisting ancestral tattoos of his own stepped out from behind the crowd, practically shoving his subordinates aside.

"I went to great lengths to make sure this meeting went smoothly, spooks. Make it worth my while." The scraggly man demanded, the fingers of his prosthetic arm contorting tightly as he flung it about.

Æden recognized the man's profile immediately. It was Erner Othel, the Beardless' nominal leader, and exactly the man Æden had been hoping to talk to.

"Mister Othal." Æden said, striding forward and offering his hand to shake. "My name is Colonel Æden, I come on behalf of Task Force 29. I'll be brief; the Council has decided to throw in our support behind your cause. I'm here to lay out what we have to offer, and our terms."

Othal grabbed Æden's hand with a scowl and shook it firmly before practically throwing it back. "Terms, huh? Demands. Threats. Call them what you like, the boys won't be happy to hear them. I won't be happy to hear them."

"Do you want our support or not?" Æden said.

"Depends on what that support even is, exactly." Othal spat.

Æden nodded. "Money. Manpower. Equipment. Even weapons, if it comes to that."

"It'll come to that." Othal's eyes shone like fire at those words, their intensity burrowing deep in the mind.

"That remains to be seen. But, in the long term, everything we can invest will be invested into bringing you back into the fold." Æden said, holding an upturned palm along the horizon, his smoke caught by the breeze. "But your people are the key to doing this... naturally."

"Hmph." Othal scowled. "Too scared to sacrifice your own in a war, are you?"

"You are our own." Æden said, resting his cigar over his mouth, tasting a breath of it. "But war brings unwanted attenion. The Latins wouldn't spare a heartbeat to start something far bloodier than a natural uprising. You're no stranger to sacrifice, mister Othal."

Looking to his arm, then to Æden's scars, Othal's scowl lifted. "We'll see. Your people had better be worth it." He spun on his heel and motioned to a nearby warehouse looming overhead. "Come, let's hash out your deal."

Æden's wicked grin returned. "Anything to rid you of the Enyaman scourge, my friend."
Last edited by Scocialist Provinces on Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:24 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Postby Enyama » Sun Jan 13, 2019 11:07 pm

Akutera grew increasingly silent as the night's darkness gripped the streets, the dull halogens and oranges of the city's roads and porches unable to get the city any of the proper lighting its old and distinctly un-Enyaman architecture perhaps deserved. People shuffled between storefronts and apartments occasionally, but few dared to stray out for too long. The curfew, though unofficial, was harsh: police cruisers had been known to stop random Skaldanians or Latins on the streets, bestowing improbably large fines on them for petty, nonexistent crimes, such as loitering or littering. Beatings might have been common - but they weren't a common topic of discussion.

Skaldanians here all knew very well what the new status quo had become - one of fear. Since the beginning of the new year, Mayor Onata's police henchmen had more than doubled their patrols, undoubtedly after recieving orders from someone higher up - perhaps even Muratagi himself.

It was in this predicament that Ludin Ovarset's pocket buzzed. It wasn't unusual for the Chief Editor of the city's prime Skaldanian newspaper, The Longboat, to get messages this late at night, often from some anonymous caller or someone else with a tip. This, however, was a call, and Ovarset suspected he knew its origin. The Beardless were calling, for whatever reason - they had information, or they had a threat. It wouldn't be his first tangle with the group - from what he understood, Othal had grown quite fond of his writing. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage here. He answered the phone, delivering a quick "Hello?" into its reciever.

"Come outside." A crackly voice echoed back, before promptly clicking to end the call. A payphone? Not surprising. thought the editor, as he dusted his old brown blazer off and threw it over himself, ready to head outside and parlay with whatever agent the Beardless had sent. With a thumpy echo accompanying every step, Ovarset clambered down his newspaper's stairs and headed outside.

As the door closed behind him with a small jingle, his eyes moved to the dimly-illuminated payphone just across the street. A figure stood rather still there, staring at him, his face obscured by shadow. As Ovarset took a step to his rendezvous, he heard a dim click from behind him.

"Out for a walk, old man? At this time of night?" The voice spoke in a bitingly perfect Enyaman. Ovarset gulped, as he knew his actions needed no explanation to the authorities that had likely discovered him and his links to the underworld. He knew what came next. "Are you here to kill me?" he growled in his smoke-damaged voice. No answer came for a while. The figure in front of the payphone moved to reveal a crumpled corpse - and indeed, the man dead on the ground appeared to be one of the Beardless. "No. We just heard you were feeling suicidal." chuckled the voice.

Everything went black for Ludin Ovarset.

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Postby Scocialist Provinces » Sat Sep 07, 2019 7:50 am

"Listen here, Colonel. My men have been training to your regimen for eight months now. We have enough firepower to take the whole damn city if we wanted. It's only a matter of time before the pigs catch more than a little wind as to our little operation. We need to act." A wild-eyed Orthal found himself shouting at Colonel Æden in his makeshift office over specifics yet again. Surrounded by arms crates and filing cabinets, they did some work to muffle the noise. It had been a little game the Colonel liked to play now and again, yet he found himself tiring of it faster and faster every time. Fortunately for the both of them, an agreement was soon at hand.

"My friend, you misunderstand. Our timetable is coming to fruition." Æden nodded from behind a plume of smoke. "You recall some of the plans you put forward back in summer?"

Orthal raised a withered and scarred old eyebrow. "What, the general uprising or the hostages? Look. I don't have time for this, my people are being dragged out of their homes in the dead of night to get their teeth pulled. It's a miracle none of them have talked yet."

"The hostages. My superiors have officially authorized me to move forward and directly support you in that endeavor."

"You're shitting me. We're actually doing this?"

Æden provided a cynically pleasant smile as he slid a set of folders across the desk. "But of course, they've even ratified the specifics and are flying in some of the extra gear we'll need as we speak. I've been corresponding with Army and Intelligence planners about your own suggestions, and while they're certainly admirable, they don't quite have the staying power we've been hoping for. If you'll permit me, I can show you the revised plans to generate your own little hostage crisis and get something out of it."

Orthal paused, his expression betraying mixed feelings about his plans being recognized yet imposed upon. "Go on."

"While the spirit of your objectives were in the right place, we've felt you've failed to recognize the ambition the resources we've provided afford you. A mere local official is not a worthy target for your efforts." Æden said, flipping through maps and essays relevant to the subject before settling on an orbital photograph of the city center. "The way such an old city as Akutera is built, with but a handful of major roads jutting across the city, we can afford to completely bottleneck or cut off entire segments of the city by applying concentrated force. If you'll recall, both the Akuteran police commissioner and Muratagi's minister of defense will be in New Town for the next week, along with a handful of minor officials. This Sunday, they'll all be in the Moyne-Otomo building for that morning."

"I see where you're going with this." Orthal began to nod in return. "I deploy my men to cut off Muratagi Avenue and the West Bank, patrol the alleys. Nothing gets in and out. Meanwhile, we rush Moyne-Otomo and take the whole meeting hostage, start making demands."

The corners of Æden's smile curled into a wicked grin. "Exactly."

"So what will your people be doing?"

"Funny you should ask." Æden said, turning left to pull the lid off an adjacent crate, revealing a number of tactical mortars. "When I promised support, I meant it. My people will provide mortar fire if things get really dicey, and will be directly accompanying your people into Moyne-Otomo to make sure any security is appropriately... brushed aside. Most importantly, we're waiting for you at the border. Make sure safe passage south is on your list of demands, unless you want to end up on the business end of an Enyaman waterboarding session."

Æden, for the very first time, realized that Orthal was smiling back.

***

The ever-hazing skies of fall gave Engals a shallow notion of dread on that distant evening. The treads of his Mamot gnawed into the first snowfall of the year, an upturned turret pointing to the last light of the day. The Skaldafen-Enyama border was generally a quiet place to be, but that silence betrayed a looming tension that few men could deny. If he were to order a turn off the road and take just a short drive north, his vehicle would be greeted by a flurry of demands to turn around followed by a likely barrage of concentrated heavy munitions. A row of tanks stretched out in front and behind him, the convoy making a good pace eastward across the plateau. Engals, an aging Squadron Sergeant of the 4th Mechanized Brigade's Armoured Battalion, had endured a number of armed conflicts in his past. He had learned how to feel it in the air when things were going to devolve into violence. The way ranking officers addressed the men, aggressive overtures by politicians and diplomats, an escalation in rhetoric across the media and Intelligence's field guys buzzing around the center of any flashpoint like a pack of wasps... The spectre of war was circling overhead.

"I'm still not used to the new autoloaders." Engals' gunner chirped over the radio. "It's like they forget they've gotta fit people in the tank."

Engals shrugged to nobody in particular, and flicked on his headset. "Relax, Corporal. You've got more wiggle room than the poor bastards we're going to be shooting at."

"What makes you so sure we're going to be fighting the Enyamans, anyway?" His gunner asked.

"There's been nothing but trucks full of SNI spooks and wargear burning north across the border for the past year. The SNI doesn't take that kind of interest unless something is about to go very poorly, very quickly." Engals said.

"How do you know that's what they're carrying around in the back of those souped up sedans?" His driver chimed in.

"Take a peek the next time they roll down the window at the checkpoints."

"Sir, with all due respect, I'm always stuck down here and the diver cupola doesn't have that kind of vision."

"Heh, I guess. Still, even without the gear, that many SNI people is never a good sign."

"Still, I'd kill for one of their cars. Those things look sick."

"You'd probably have to." Engals chuckled. "Those things have grenade launchers under the sunroof."

His driver cooed with impatience. "Shit, really? Now I have to get one."

Engals shook his head, briefly recalling his own days as a driver back in the Medr. The convoy slithered south along a fork in the road, the other turn leading to one of the few border crossings this far into the interior. As his own tank tucked in line along the turn, a trio of fighter jets could be seen blistering along the horizon into Enyaman airspace. Prodding their airspace seems to have been a priority of SNA command for the last decade and a bit, and they were showing no signs of slowing down. Initially, Engals paid no mind to what was otherwise a common sight, until a forth jet sped into view. Then a fifth. Soon, the Skaldafen side of the border was buzzing with aircraft, followed soon after with a response from the Enyamans. None of them were dumping munitions, but the formations posturing heavily against one-another. As his vehicle crested one last hill, Engals bore witness to a murky commotion at the next border crossing. His entire convoy began to brake into the ditch as the traffic jam before them came into sight. The border itself was a confused mess with Enyaman and Skaldafen forces arrayed on either side in a frantic dash to cover ground. In the middle of it all, what Engals counted as two of the SNI's specialist trucks barreling through a mist of dirt and the first drops of what would surely become torrential rain.

"Holy shit. Driver right, stop the tank." Engals hurriedly spoke into his headset.

"What's up sir?" His driver inquired, humming to the song of the engine as it withered off on the side of the road.

"I think I just found out why we're deploying right across from Akutera."

***

"Check your safeties. I catch you flipping it once we're in the thick of it, I'll shoot you myself."

Alyx obliged the order, loathe as she was to be listening to one of the SNI's people. Now wasn't the time for doctrinal infighting, she thought. Now was the time for action. Although she'd spent the last year of her life learning to move and shoot with all this gear, the vest managed to feel heavier today than it had ever been before. To admit aloud she was frightened would be a mistake, but being honest with herself was the least she could do. Freedom from Enyama was something she wouldn't hesitate to put her life down for, but her palms and back were already slick with cold sweat. She stared at her boots, collecting her thoughts, tapping an unused magazine idly against the side of her machine gun before slotting it into one of her pouches.

"Alyx, eyes up." The spook continued, singling her out. "You lose focus in there, and you're putting the whole team's lives on the line. You fall behind, we leave you behind. Do you I have to repeat myself?"

"No sir, I'm all here." Alyx said, resolving to not be the one falling behind. "I was born for this."

"Excellent."

Buildings flew over the afternoon sun and past her seat by the window as the engine kicked into higher gear. Their vehicle, packed to the brim with fighters and their gear as it was, still managed to keep a phenomenal pace through the streets as it wove past neighboring traffic. People were frantically attempting to get out of the lane as they burned down the city highway, pedestrians nearly run down on the crosswalks. It wasn't long until the bark of a police siren began to echo from just a few lanes behind them.

"Time to make good on that promise, Alyx." The spook remarked, pointing to Alyx's gun and rolling down her window to give a clear line on the cruiser now hugging the side of their vehicle.

She exhaled. Time to go loud? I guess it's now or never. She hoisted her firearm onto the window sil and took aim. She could see the panic flood the faces of the two officers in the cruiser, giving them no time to react in any meaningful way as she delivered a burst of fire through their windshield. Smeared with blood and glass, the officers slumped onto the dashboard as the vehicle burned out into the sidewalk and through the front of an adjacent building. Pedestrians and drivers alike scattered into the wings, the road ahead parting in an instant, just in time to reveal their objective. The Moyne-Otomo building, an auxiliary government facility of little significance before today, loomed quietly with sun-bleached brickwork overwhelming its more rugged and worn urban surroundings. Their vehicle practically rolled into a halt before unloading the entire team in a hearbeat, then burning off again into the horizon as soon as both Alyx's boots hit the ground.

No turning back.

"Bravo and Delta are already in the building, we're falling behind schedule. You know the layout, get moving!"

Putting thunder into her step, Alyx set off with her team at a full sprint. The efficiency of the attached SNI operatives managed to catch her off guard almost right away. She'd trained under them continuously, but witnessing them loosing a precise barrage of shots while on the move from cover to cover, facing down live munitions going the other way was something else entirely. Muffled shouting and the steely snaps of gunfire echoed and re-echoed through the plastic halls as undergunned police and practically unarmed private security guards began to drop into blood-smeared bodies against the walls. They barely put up a fight, Alex often only having to make them stare down her barrel for force a surrender. It was starting to become a problem, having to lead a baggage train of hostages before they'd even reached the board room. By the time they eventually did manage to round the last corner, Bravo team had already beaten them there.

"Took you long enough! Come on, they're barricaded inside. Chances are they're aware of what's going on by now, bring up the ram. You ready?"

"Ready!"

The pointman slammed the enforcer ram into the center of the door frame, once, twice, then throwing the door open on the third. Both teams flooded into the board room, firing shots into the ceiling and shouting demands. The Police Commissioner attempted to pull a gun on them in the chaos, but was immediately subdued by a well-placed shoulder shot from one of the SNI operatives. At the end of rifle butts and not-so-empty threats, the thirty-some prisoners they'd accrued were quickly rounded into a corner and counted off like cattle. Everyone they had hoped to take hostage and a bit. Their radiomen relayed the status of their success to command, and the SNI issued parting gestures before disappearing into the maintenance wings. From here on out, the Beardless were on their own.

Alyx took a moment to soak it all in. She'd never killed anyone before today, and already she'd shot dead at least two. The distant murmur of mortar shells began to rattle the chandeliers as the sick smell of blood and panic began to swell her senses. Her hands trembled all on their own and she worked in vain to keep her breathing steady. Looking to her comrades, she could see she wasn't the only one. There was comfort in that. A team member soon finished setting up a handheld camera towards a blank section of wall with the Akuteran separatist flag hastily hung against it, glancing around the room for a moment. "Hey, Alyx, we're about to film demands. Markas is shot up too badly, he can't do it. You wanna do the honours?"

"S-sure." She said, primarily from reflex. "I'll do it. Let me see the script."
Last edited by Scocialist Provinces on Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:23 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Postby Enyama » Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:38 pm

Moyne-Otomo Boardroom #2
Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
11:28 AM


Minister of Defense Watanabe Keisho had been sipping coffee at the time of the breach, which had, through force of will or over-enthusiastic shock been thrown partially over his bone-white suit, and partially over the portrait of Muratagi on the wall behind him.

Trembling with adrenaline, Keisho’s unsteady gaze quickly darted around the room, trying to glean in a few moments who and what these gunmen were, though an inkling had already seeded in his mind. As they conversed, and some of the more well-equipped ones disappeared, he found the answers for which he had been looking: Akuteran Skaldanian separatists. Whispers of these very people had occupied the Akuteran local authorities for the last several months, and now, it seemed that they had set their next master plan in motion. Hostage taking? This strategy was almost always an ultimately fruitless endeavor. But, in his mind, it was not his status as a hostage of the separatists that worried him - rather, it was what the local commanders of the Internal Troops would do to the building in their quest to eliminate the threat. Muratagi will be furious about this, wandered his mind, throwing sounds into his head that he was sure many others among the hostages - and perhaps the hostage-takers - were also thinking.

His head stopped buzzing with shock, and, though corralled into a corner, he raised his hand, speaking Enyaman in the hopes that some of these locals would know what he was saying. “Do you know who I am, you fools? Do you really expect this stunt to work? I am the Minister of Defense! You are only going to bring more ruin to your people! And that’s if the Internal Troops outside don’t demolish this whole building, and kill us all anyway!”

He’d hoped he’d made his point, and closed his eyes, anticipating a short, sharp shock to the face from a rifle’s folding stock or some similar sort of punishment. He glanced to the side, as they appeared to be trying to make their formal demands. He involuntarily rolled his eyes at the attempt, his mind too proud to admit that they actually did have a solid chance of pulling this whole charade off, assuming the men outside weren’t particularly trigger happy. And then he heard the building rumble - shells landing outside.

That didn’t strike him as the Internal Troops’ typical MO. What was happening? Had some sort of war been declared?

Outside the Moyne-Otomo Building
Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
11:32 AM


Captain Yuuma Yoshimochi had been among the first Internal Troops officers operating as part of Martial Law detachment to respond to the Monye-Otomo crisis; the militarization of the city had given MRAPs and armored trucks an easy route to the scene, where they’d passed several crippled police cruisers and evidence of a rather hefty firefight - gunfire still echoed around the square, including from inside the building. As Yuuma’s two ASVs had rolled up to the scene, a man in a blue uniform limped towards them, clutching a dark-purple stain on his thigh, which Yuuma could only assume was the hole some intermediate caliber had carefully crafted. He gave the vehicle’s side door a swift kick and got out, clutching his Minimi, before quickly accosting the man who’d strolled up to him.

“What’s happening? We’ve gotten word that some terrorists have entered the building?” he quickly barked out his words - he was a local, from Akutera, and as such his Enyaman sounded ironically twinged with the same Skaldanian inflection that Muratagi had been trying to purge from the nation for almost fifteen years. The man in blue - private security, or something similar - had already garnered momentum typical of a limping man, and immediately impacted the side of the APC, sliding down to a comfortable position thoughtfully provided by gravity. He grunted - clearly, he’d lost a lot of blood.

“Separatists made their move - the Minister of Defense and Police commissioner are in there.”

“And Mayor Onata?”

“No, he had to...reschedule.” the man grimaced in pain; Yuuma looked to a nearby Internal Troops soldier, pointed at him, and gestured him over. “Medic, over here!” he called out, as the soldier he’d called canted his canteen into the dying man’s mouth, giving him a last respite of hydration. Yuuma stood up from the man, and, after radioing in his discovery, glanced up to the 13th floor to see flashes of light.

Image

He aimed his weapon at the room, curiously glancing through his scope, before he realized that those were indeed the hostages. “Everyone, look for movement out at the 13th floor!” He shouted at the men behind him, a group which had now grown to include several heavily-armed policemen. “Looks like they’ve taken the Minister of Defense hostage.” Several soldiers ran up to just past the APC, setting up as best as they could as the trajectory of their weapons all mirrored Yuuma’s. The Captain pressed the small “TRANSMIT” button on his radio once more.

“This is Captain Yuuma, 14th District! Hostage situation in the Monye-Otomo building, repeat, the Minister of Defense has been taken hostage in the Monye-Otomo building! How copy? What’s the MO?”

A voice crackled back - Boss Gojiro, the young commander of the entire Martial Law operation in Akutera, and a fixture of the local Gokudō clan. “Give them an ultimatum. I’m on my way - we cannot afford to lose the Minister of Defense! Everyone else is expendable, how copy?”

Yuuma sighed. There were some days he didn’t enjoy his job; this was turning out to be one of them. The voice crackled again. “I said, how copy, over?!”

“Copy, Boss Gojiro, Yuuma out.” muttered Yuuma into the radio as the sounds of sirens become increasingly loud. On the other side of the square, a truckload of Internal Troops appeared, the Kamagawa truck ramming through a small parked sedan to get into position. Yuuma walked around the ASV, gesturing at the soldiers near the truck. A distant whine slowly turned louder.

BOOM. The first ten-or-so soldiers turned to a pink mist before Yuuma’s eyes, as some sort of frag explosion blew a hole in the square, flipping several cars and sending shrapnel flying through the air - one piece cut a hole right through Yuuma’s red beret. “Fuck!” blurted out the Captain, as he immediately dropped to the ground. “Mortars!” shouted some now-indistinct voice nearby. If the feverish atmosphere of panic caused by all the sirens and yelling and death hadn’t gotten to Yuuma yet, he now felt adequately anxious about his situation. He radioed in, again.

“This is Captain Yuuma - we’re being attacked by -” another impact distracted him - this one had impacted the roof of a nearby apartment building, sending chunks of concrete and stone dust falling on his APC convoy. “Mortars! Repeat! Do not divert all units to the square! We are under artillery fire!”

Is this a war? Have the Skaldanians finally gotten their shit together? Thoughts worth thinking, given the situation. Yuuma and his men quickly backed to the side of a nearby apartment building, breaking through windows to find more safety in a small cafe. Others went back into the ASVs, feeling confident that the vehicle could survive a mortar hit if it was designed to survive an anti-tank mine. This would be a dangerous game of waiting, until the mortars were found. Flutters of helicopter rotors vaguely broke through the Internal Troops’ collective tinnitus - police, SWAT, Internal Troops, maybe even elements of the Army were definitely all on their way to this mess in Akutera.

Asenbura Executive Briefing Room
Karasuna, Karasuna Special Administrative Zone
Federal States of Enyama
12:10 PM


Muratagi Eijiro sat calmly in the Executive Briefing room, listening to a dozen staffers rattle off all sorts of information regarding the ongoing crisis, which had currently endangered the life of one of his closest and oldest friends - the White Dog, Minister of Defense Watanabe Keisho, without which his initial ascent to power would perhaps have never been possible. He knew what the others had told him - that his friend was up in some building, that the terrorists had somehow garnered mortar support, and that the whole bloody Hakutochi Province was under some form of extreme curfew until further notice - civilians seen in the streets would be shot on sight, regardless of ethnicity.

“What are their demands?” he spoke for the first time in minutes, as his assistant and frequent punching bag, Arinori, whispered into his ear that they were about to be relayed, and that he expected some sort of agreement of safe passage to Skaldafen, at the very least. Given the news of mortar fire and rumors of highly trained operatives, there was no doubt in Muratagi’s mind that the Confederation itself had somehow facilitated this event into existence, even if the ragtag hostage takers themselves were just local swine.

“I want the southern border on lockdown, and the military fully deployed. Our fleet near Kalakora must be back ASAP.” he ordered the various instruments of military and political apparatus in the room. “This is a time of conflict, as I have said before. It appears that my words ring increasingly true. I want to speak with our allies regarding the pest down south. If Watanabe’s safety is secured...I do not care what happens to the hostages, though of course I would prefer that we keep from embarrassing ourselves on the international stage - again. Anyone who fails to follow my orders is losing a hand! I want us moving on all suspected political dissidents within a fortnight; our nation must be united. I’ll be giving a speech later today.”

And with a last sip of his tea, Muratagi stood and exited, his mind cluttered with angry and psychotic thoughts for which he had no time - this would be his most definitive test of character. Though he seethed, and wished his enemies dead, he again had to remind himself of patience, as he entered into his private office and lit a cigarette...
Last edited by Enyama on Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Scocialist Provinces » Wed Sep 11, 2019 2:07 pm

It was an ugly business, but it was business none the less. Takeyama paraded the streets of Akutera like he owned them, and in practical terms, he did. Running the wing of the Gokudo brought with it as many luxuries and fantasies as it did dangers and responsibilities, although Takeyama was keen to ignore the latter pair. The city was his, even as the jackals of the Internal Troops tirelessly fought to take it away, and he did with it as he pleased.

That was not to say Takeyama had no masters of his own, and said masters were really putting the pressure on him. Wipe out the Beardless now! They'd shout. Keep pressuring them before it's too late! They'd complain. As if it were that easy! The Beardless slither in the catacombs, they subvert his authority in the clan, they scalp his best men in the night and then they'd all slip into whatever cracks they could find whenever Takeyama tried to tighten the noose. Worse still, it seemed the Beardless had recently found a solution to the lack of supplies that once inhibited their ability to fight back. Nowadays, he and his men were finding stashes of gear so carelessly hidden that it began to imply the Beardless started considering their gear to be expendable.

Something was wrong in Takeyama's city.

But, for the time being, he couldn't be bothered to worry about it. It was Friday! And every Friday, Takeyama went to drink his stress away in his cousin's dingy little hole-in-the-wall of a bar. His favourite women were always there, alongside his favourite drinks and his favourite lieutenants in the clan. The joint had always been far from prestigious, but prestige in Akutera was always about the people who wielded it. People got out of Takeyama's way, if they could help it. As he made his way down the sidewalk, you either walked around or got bowled over for your trouble. Parting the seas, the Latins called it. The thought fancied Takeyama, that even the oceans would step aside before him. The busy evening streets moved out of the way as always, a brisk stride all he needed to get anywhere or do anything. The clouds streaked red across darkening pink skies, the moon idling softly in the distance. Crowded streets began to filter into vacant concrete halls where none but the Gokudo dare tread. Takeyama was nearly at his cousin's, as the sun passed beyond the horizon and the world finally went dark.

Before even stepping through the threshold into the bar, the state of things seemed to shift and come across as incomplete to Takeyama. What was normally a burgeoning establishment of light and revelry against the cold Norumbrian night seemed to have almost been subsumed into the contagiously lifeless ambiance of Akutera. The blinds were shuttered sideways as only a dull amber glow seeped through, no music crackled off the worn old speakers, the muffled cries of tangled lovers rising from the courtyard out back were nowhere to be heard. It didn't feel right, but it might have been an off day, Takeyama wondered. Everyone has off days. Making his way inside, he found the establishment to be as empty as it sounded. The bar itself looked to be unmanned, and the only patrons left were a pair of Skaldanian men nursing a shared bottle of expensive whiskey, the both of them hunched over the table in a booth by the window. Strange didn't begin to describe things, but it could slow down like this during the day sometimes. Undeterred, Takeyama pulled out a stool by the bar after helping himself to a can of beer from the glass fridge.

"Cousin!" He shouted, looking to the curtains that lead to the kitchen. "You realize how dead it is out here? If any of the Clan heads come in here, it's a disgrace to all of us."

No reply.

"I swear, if this is another one of Hayate's poor attempts at humour, I'll kill him myself!"

It was about then that Takeyama realized that his cousin's prized revolver was missing from his mount above the bar, the nails of the mount torn out and bent. That pistol was a prized possession. The sweet oily smells that normally wandered from the pans out back were distant and dry, replaced instead by a sick odour of unrefrigerated pork. And that one sound in the back of his mind-- buzzing?

Something was wrong.

He peered over the bar to find shattered bottles peppered across the floor, the quiet hues of blood smeared across their surfaces in chaotic vibrancy.

Who were the men by the windows, Takeyama asked himself, getting ever closer nature of the situation.

Two Skaldanians.

Clean shaven.

Before Takeyama had a moment to act on his realization, his head was smashed against the bar from a blow to the back of his skull. A pair of hands tore him off the stool before he slammed against back-first into the ground. Reaching for the knife in his shoes in vain, Takeyama found himself entirely restrained by the two Beardless. Wordlessly, they tied his hands down and dragged him by his legs into the kitchen. Even as his cheeks raked against broken glass, blood and then unwashed kitchen tile, Takeyama could see the shelves and stoves of his cousin's beloved workplace had been toppled and shoved into a corner to make room for a haphazard pile of lacerated, swollen bodies. The bodies of people he knew, and the bodies of people he loved.

"Ah, the guest of honour." A deep voice called, the ringing in Takeyama's ears giving away to the rattle of reverberation as it did so. "How long we've waited for your arrival."

Takeyama turned to see a monstrous tower of a man looming above him, dressed immaculately in a black suit, politely motioning towards a well-lit clinical chair. His vision could barely focus on anything, but the straps on the wrists and ankles of the chair let Takeyama know precisely what was going to happen next. The taste of metal flooded into his mouth, and the ambient sting of fresh bruises clouded his mind. The deaths so clearly laid out before him were difficult enough to rationalize on their own, but his consciousness slipped in and out of integrity by the second.

It wasn't long before Takeyama found himself seated and bound to the chair, the clinking and clanging of small tools being washed and place back in a tray being the only thing in his senses. His thoughts coalesced and scattered in turn for what felt like eons, but eventually the sterile white lights burying into his eyes began to take shape.

"Mister Takeyama. I see you've joined us from your rest at last." The voice from earlier mad itself known once more, this time with a clarity that was lost before. A thick, Skaldanian accent shaped it's tones, it's strength and depth practically deafening.

"No hell is deep enough for your people, goat-man." Takeyama spat back, the words coming out with a tooth and a spoonful of blood.

The voice seemed to smile. "Oh believe me, there's plenty of room down there for the both of us."

The condescension was too much for Takeyama. "I could fill the oceans with your children and it wouldn't be enough."

"Well you've got one thing right," The voice said. "No matter what you do, it'll never be enough. Which is why we'll need to have this little chat."

The nerve. Did these people even know who he was? Did they know the magnitude of what they had done? Once Takeyama was out, there would be no vengeance too great. This city would burn. No deed too small, no killing too horrific--

"Specifically, we're going to trade some information." The voice said, caring little for Takeyama's attempts to strain against his restraints. "You tell me something, I'll tell you something. We'll take turns! It'll be fun."

"I'll tell you nothing." Takeyama said. "Nothing! And when I get out, the Beardless will bleed, oh you will bleed! There will be--"

"Fine, fine." The voice said. "If you don't want to go first, then you don't have to go first. I'll start by telling you something. Better yet, I can show you something."

The voice muffled out as if turned away for a moment, the sharp clap of dress shoes wandered away in brevity and then returning in short order. The lights dimmed a tad, revealing a set of mirrors suspended directly above his head, the reflections providing Takeyama with a comprehensive view of his own face. Bruised to shit and swollen profusely, he recoiled at the sight in humiliation. It was then that Takeyama found that the restraints held his head so that he could not look away.

A hair-forested hand with thick silver rings held up plastic jar directly above his right eye. At first, it seemed as if the container held nothing but dried leaves and dirt, but then Takeyama saw the air holes. A jitter of movement inside the jar betrayed the lanky, many-eyed creature inside.

"Mister Takeyama. I promised to show you something. Do you know what a Mutulese burrowing spider does to a human eye?"

Panic took over. "N-no, I don't, who, I don't--"

"In return for this, you're going to have to tell me everything about where the White Dog is going to be during his upcoming visit to the city."

"I'll never--"

"Oh, don't worry. If you're still feeling shy after this, I've got a whole jungle's worth of critters like this in my collection. You'll talk to me eventually."

The lid of the jar was removed in short order, and Takeyama watched his reflection helplessly as the spider began to dig into his iris.

***

The booming of Æden's laughter was enough to match the storming of boots overhead. The city was crawling with Internal Troops, but they were frantically searching for enemies long since departed. Blood was in the water, and much as he would have loved to indulge himself, Æden knew that a timely exit was the best step forward. He and his men had avoided direct detection so far, and speed was the essence of ensuring things remained as such.

"We still have some ammunition left, sir. We could have fired another volley before heading for the tunnels."

Drops of sewer-touched water tapped to the floor all along he catacomb walls, their supple beat drowned out by the myriad calamities of men. Behind their team, they dragged wagon full of mortars whose tubes still smoked with the steam of freshly lit fuzes, a handful of unfired shells rolling and bumping around with its frame as they ran. Hardly the safest way to carry ordinance, but the trivialities of safety had been defenestrated a good while ago. The mad dash ahead was all there was to consider.

"We're cutting it close as it is, "Æden said. "Besides, we still need one or two for this."

Looking to a ragged section of wall to their left, their team came to a stop. It's ancient brickwork clashed with even older sections of wall on either side, the mortar here cracked and roughshod compared to the rest. Slivers of darkness could be seen on the other side, from which softer and fresher air than the stale and damp musk of the catacombs managed sneak in. Tapping his hair-forested knuckles against the old stone, the echo revealed the open space on the other side.

Æden nodded. "Sergeant, set the delayed fuze on a shell and blow this bit open."

"And if it collapses the whole tunnel?"

"Then we were doomed from the start, hurry up."

The man grabbed a pick and a shell from the wagon and hurriedly set up by the weak section of wall. Digging the shell into a worn dip in the ground, Æden could hear him taking a deep inhale before giving the shell a swift blow with the pick and diving into cover.

One. Æden counted. Two. Three. Four. Fiv--

KABOOM.

The blast threw a wave of air, dust and bricks flying through the tunnel. Fragments whizzed by Æden and his men, their meagre cover offering as much protection as was possible. Rubble flooded across the ground and the ceiling practically dropped on top of them. The explosion's echo ran back and forth until the rising tide of dirt smothered it entirely. Chunks of fragmenting stone fell upon their heads along with a heaping of loose gravel and rust. A vile of rancid water began to spray wildly from the piping now burst overhead. But the chaos began to settle, and though the air was thick with the fog of debris, there remained room for men to walk.

Feeling his lungs swell with dust as the air calmed, Æden did his best to initiate a headcount. "Alpha!"

"Bravo!"

"Charlie!"

"D-delta. Delta."

"Epsilon."

"..."

The silence where the next call should've been struck like a knife.

"Anders?" Æden called.

A fit of coughing and flailing limbs erupted from across the hall. A half buried man spun out of the dirt in a breathless gambit to survive.

"I'm alive, sir. Karton too, though he's not looking too good."

"Then we carry him. Can we still move the cart?"

"We could dig it out, but the dirt has it buried."

"No time. There's no way the Enyamans didn't hear that, we need to move."

The team, no longer unlaboured by their equipment, set off down their newfound passage at full speed. Following the Beardless' instructions by memory, Æden led his men through the twists and turns of the increasingly rugged caves one after the other. Meters turned into kilometres, and day turned to afternoon. Gashes and bruises were earned in abundance by slipping on the slime-endowed jagged rock, but such men had already endured far worse. After persevering hours in that hostile and sunless underground expanse, Æden could finally smell the dulcet edges of the outdoors. As they summited the mouth of the cave at long last, the team collectively began to breathe at ease. Their heads emerged from that hole in the ground one by one, climbing outside to be greeted with a pleasant, distant view of Akutera on fire. A serine image of chaos, far away from the damage they'd caused.

"Not going to lie sir, I didn't exactly have confidence in your plan when you refused to disclose the details."

"There was enough of a risk with one of you being captured to begin with." Æden said. "I couldn't also risk this entire maneuver being compromised in addition to that."

"Well, it makes perfect sense in retrospect. Draw in and concentrate the Internal Troops on a fixed point, then shell the daylight out of them before breaking out into the mountains. Those catacombs lead to just about everywhere out here."

"And with the Gokudo out of the picture, we'd have free reign down there." Æden said. "But it's more than that. This is all to get the Beardless into a position where they'd really start to take action against Muratagi. If everything has gone according to plan, they're already on the way to the border, hostages in tow. If their demands are met, once the Beardless with the hostages make the border crossing, the hostages will be released... and all will be well."

"Shouldn't we join them, cross back near point Hannemann?"

Æden shook his head. "Oh no, if we go south, it's guaranteed we'll be found out. No, we're going west, hole up in the wild for a bit. We'll meet up with the rest of our unit at the safehouse by Karasuna and figure out our next move from there."

"If you say so. By the way, remind me what exactly the Beardless are making demands over, anyway."

"Well, it's quite simple, really..."

***

"Akutera and the surrounding provincial region will be demilitarized and both the Internal Troops and the Enyaman Armed Forces will leave the province indefinitely." Alyx shouted into the camera, her body steeled as best she could. "The Akuteran mayoral position will be assumed by an elected member of the Skaldafen National Front, and the regional police will be abolished and replaced by a new force organized by the new mayor. Muratagi will resign, and the new Akuteran government will not be subject to national legislation."

Alyx paused, not for drama but in stress, though the effect was not all that dissimilar.

"These are our demands. If they are not met in fourty-eight hours, the lives of these hostages are forfeit, and the revolution is inevitable."

The blinking red light on the camera faded out and her team set about packing everything up. The hostages were corralled into a claustrophobic mass of people, the barrels of guns doing good work in organizing them. Speaking to the world like that, it wasn't exactly something Alyx had expected to do when she signed up for this operation. It felt good, she wouldn't lie to herself. Resting her voice a moment, she took a scone to just listen to nothing in particular. The mortars were still going, the screams of Internal Troops filtering in through a shattered window down the hall. Sirens and gunfire clashed in the distance, the gunfire steadily taking over. The friendly radio chatter she could catch sounded of victory, the street fighting heavily favoring the insurgents for the time being.

"The audio's polluted pretty badly with the mortars. Really sells the drama, though."

"Doesn't matter. Our guys'll add subtitles if they have to, it was a script after all. Is it uploading?"

"Yeah, we're good. Kape Jriak will be boosting the signal as it were, Muratagi can't suppress this."

"Everything good to go?"

"Yeah. Alyx, are you coming?"

The call of her name bringing her thoughts back to reality, Alyx jumped to her feet, unslung rifle in hand. "Yeah. Let's get the hell out of here."

"Attagirl. You hear her! Let's move people."

Prodding the hostages forward at gunpoint, the team made their way down to the catacombs, passing over the dead and the dying too badly wounded to oppose them. The regular din of mortar fire giving way to a welcome silence as they passed beneath the earth. The hostages slowed them down tremendously, but were as much the key to their survival as they were the greatest risk. The catacombs had always been a place of conflict in Akutera, the Beardless and their allies skirmishing with the Gokudo for control of the key passages over the generations. But the arrival of the SNI had ended the Gokudo's bid for control overnight. Having that room to breathe and maneuver without worrying about running into enforcers was welcome, but that freedom likely ended today. If the Internal Troops weren't using these routes before, they would undoubtedly do so after today.

"Wait." A team member said, raising a fist that everyone should stop. "Hear that?"

Footsteps in the distance. Shouting in clear Enyaman. The Internal Troops had found their way down.

A hostage lept to his feet, seeing his opportunity. "HELP--"

Bang.

Operating on adrenaline alone, Alyx raised her rifle and shot the man squarely in the back of the head. "Stay down, you shits. Resistance is death." The remainder were quick to hit the dirt.

And with that, the Internal officers were then perfectly aware of their position. Human shields it would be.

***

"You're kidding."

"No, M'am. Heider has initiated, what we believe could be a coup in the situation in Enyama. Colonel Æden has taken advantage of a specific window, and we're on the path to achieving an unparalleled geopolitical victory against Presiden Eijiro's regime."

Oraka shook her head, half in disbelief and half in pure begrudged exhaustion. "And if your belief is ill-founded, then you've just put us in the specific situation we've been trying to avoid for the past century."

The council spoke among themselves, the mood in as grim a state as ever. Oraka had just barely gotten them to agree on a direction over the year, and now Intelligence had gone off and invented a hostage crisis on the frontier. Between the repeated crises in the Medr and the constant balancing act that was diplomacy in the south, she was now staring down a potential resource sink to undo her lifetime's work. The SNI had gone on to directly intervene in favour of the Akuteran syndicate against her advice and the international condition of the north was rapidly deteriorating. Should things neglect to go as planned, war was inevitable, one way or another.

"We found an opportunity and we exploited it. Our branch has informed you as quickly as was possible considering the speed at which events were progressing. You have our apologies as to the short notice we are providing, but it's the best we could do."

Rolling her eyes and taking another strained drink of water, Oraka pondered her options. She didn't believe the SNI's excuses for a second and wanted to discharge the entire organization. But she knew overreaction wasn't the right step forward, for the time being. Examples would need to be made in future, but the situation at hand had to be extinguished first. "How many men do we have on Enyaman soil right now?"

"Direct control or including contacts?"

"Direct Control."

"Seventy-three."

"How many of those are at risk of discovery?"

The Intelligence Councillors paused, the question clearly being one they were hoping to avoid. "Fifty-eight."

"Jesus Christ." Oraka exhaled, her displeasure steaming into the room with every breath. "Mobilize the 2nd, 4th and 18th, put the rest on standby. I want the Navy on War Plan 7 and the Marines need to be ready to land anywhere in Enyama by Tuesday. Do it quiet. Make the ministers shut their mouths if they have to, make up excersizes."

"Yes M'am."

"Oh, and one last thing," Oraka said. "Short of a miracle, all the Majors through Colonels on this operation are shitcanned the moment the situation is under control. Do I make myself clear?"

The councillors didn't like to hear that, the murmuring picking up steam in the moment.

"Do I make myself clear?" She asked again.

"Yes M'am."

"Adjourned. I want you all here again oh-five tomorrow morning. Inform the Ministers with specific details, arrest those who leak the data unique to them." Oraka ordered, standing up from her seat at the Council. "I find you using it to remove political targets, you'll spend the rest of your lives on hard labour. Get going."

Damn it. She cursed to herself. Though the SNI had forced her hand, she would not be passive in this matter. She was Navy first and foremost, and the psychopaths running intelligence would never surmount her will. They might have started this mess, but it was going to be persecuted on the Navy's terms. That much, was certain.
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Enyama
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Compulsory Consumerist State

Postby Enyama » Sat Sep 14, 2019 3:30 pm

Outside the Moyne-Otomo Building
Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
12:39 PM


As the mortar fire had continued to pepper the massed Internal Troops clustered around the base of the Moyne-Otomo building, Captain Yuuma had taken cover behind a thick wooden bar at a corner pub roughly across the street; they’d taken a radio from a disabled ASV out in the square and set it up to allow for reconnection with the chain of command. The gunfire had bobbed and weaved for the last twenty minutes like an angry tempest, undoubtedly marking every unprotected eardrum in a hundred meter radius with lifelong tinnitus. The voice of Boss Gojiro occasionally crackled on the radio, giving him quick updates as his men held the line: the Ground Forces were being deployed to assist, the mortars had stopped firing. Now, Boss Gojiro had finally indicated that he was on his way to the Moyne-Otomo plaza.

Yuuma felt his body pang with hesitation and tension; this was the most danger he had experienced in his whole life, and while he was certain that his younger self would have found it thrilling, he was more inclined to sit events like these out, especially given that, unlike most Internal Troops members, who were Gokudo, Gokudo-adjacent, or simply young and trigger-happy upstarts, he was a bonafide family man with a legitimate, pre-Muratagi commission. He thought of his daughter and wife, across the country in probably-peaceful circumstances. A few scattered mortar shells impacted the square, a few shots still rang out, but, in what seemed like a minute or two, everything seemed to quiet down. Just as the members of the Internal Troops (and remaining police) were beginning to stand from their cover and assess the situation, a black BMI Jaguar rushed up to the mass of vehicles from earlier, the doors creaked open as a tall and rather extremely young man in the Internal Troops’ gray uniform stepped out. Boss Gojiro had achieved his position after the murder of his father by Skaldanian criminals (purportedly linked to the Beardless themselves), and though he was barely old enough to grow a beard, he had achieved a reputation for cold ruthlessness which reminded Yuuma of Muratagi himself. Undoubtedly, Boss Gojiro was the new Enyaman archetype, the ideal that the government pushed and which all in the Internal Troops were encouraged to strive towards.

He carted an old BR-055C with him, and as Yuuma stuck his hand out of the broken glass of the pub to wave him over, Gojiro quickly entered into a tactical crouch and took cover behind the bar alongside the rest of the Internal Troops. “Yuuma! Still alive?” he nodded quickly at Yuuma, whose wrinkled face betrayed a different kind of experience than the one which Gojiro claimed to be proficient in: military, as opposed to political. Yuuma nodded. “The hostage-takers have heavy firepower, sir. Have the mortars have been eliminated?”

“No, Captain, they’ve just stopped firing. The hostages aren’t in the building anymore - they’ve escaped through maintenance tunnels! Why didn’t you storm the building!?”

“I had orders not to storm it, Boss!”

“What? From who?”

“From you! You said give an ultimatum, not storm the building.” replied Yuuma with a dash of anger. The day behind him was testing his limits. Gojiro buried his hands in his face and growled in frustration for just a flash, a second of broken character. Clearly, the day was getting to him as well. He stood up, and pointed to Yuuma and his men. Gojiro seemed to be winging it, operating on some sort of thin outline that command had given him.

“Uh...Alright, I’m going to take over this hostage business, and try to track them through the catacombs myself. Yuuma, since you’re among the...oldest,” he paused, watching Yuuma’s frustrated face as he realized that this forthcoming assignment would have partly political motivation. “Take my Jaguar. You will RV at the southwestern canal lock with Tanto Division, EGF, and it’s your job to find and eliminate the mortar carriers. You’ll be faster than them, if they’re on foot carrying heavy gear and you’re in my car.” he cocked his head. “Good luck,” he said, his voice half-charged with spite towards Yuuma’s continued moral superiority, and partly with genuine comradery in wanting this Skaldanian threat eliminated. Yuuma nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said, giving off a quick salute which had an air of dismissal and plausible deniability about it so thick one could cut it with a knife.

Still, Yuuma was partially taken aback by his assignment: his men, especially the ones that happened to be near him when Gojiro had showed up to assign them, clearly weren’t the most experienced men in the city, let alone in the Internal Troops, yet, for some reason, they were to rendezvous with the 7th Special Warfare Brigade? “Tanto”, as it was called (the EGF command structure had a particular fondness for naming teams after weapons), wasn’t the most renowned of the Special Warfare Brigades, but they were among the few that had actually seen active combat in the past decade, only months before in the jungles of Kalakora. Yuuma hoped that their commander would know what he was doing more than he did.

And then, Boss Gojiro stood up and pointed to several men, yelling at them to get ready to enter the building. With the mortars gone, only the sounds of agony, distant helicopters, and sirens remained in the square, the whole ordeal having a thick aura of pain that wouldn’t be hard to miss, especially if the news services planned on showing it for weeks. Boss Gojiro ran up to the wall perpendicular to the lobby of the Monye-Otomo building, seventeen or so Internal Troops behind him. A field commander in action was a rare sight among any more experienced military, but it appeared to Yuuma, as he left towards the Jaguar, that Gojiro had inherited some of his father’s stubbornness - and undoubtedly, some of his anger.

Yuuma entered into the Jaguar with his four men and began to back it up, while Gojiro, far in front of him, pressed forward through the lobby and then left, disappearing into the building. Yuuma wondered what would become of him deep underground...


952 Canal Street
Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
12:52 PM


Image

With a short car ride through increasingly-desolate streets, at most only peppered with a few parked cars or police cruisers speeding in the other direction, Yuuma and his men drove the Jaguar in a vaguely southerwestern direction from the plume of smoke emanating behind them. As a coastal city, Akutera’s canals had often served as a prominent avenue of transportation, but recent measures had rendered them largely drained, relegated to concrete beds often at the same level as the catacombs and used by the Gokudo for street racing, body disposal, or similarly criminal tasks. As their Jaguar turned the corner and nudged an already-failing chain link gate open, some men in tiger-stripe fatigues came into view, bursting out of an old and abandoned maintenance building. The Tanto Brigade. Yuuma pulled the Jaguar up to them and quickly dismounted alongside his other gray-fatigued men.

“Captain Yuuma, 14th District,” he said towards the man in the center of the operators, who had an aura of authority about him typical of the more cocky of the Army’s warriors. He curtly replied. “Captain Kasai. This is Lieutenant Shiraki and Sergeant Okuda,” he gestured to the two men surveying the canal to his right. “Are there only three of you here?” asked Yuuma, partly confused at seeing so few in one single squad - apparently, small squads had become typical of the Army’s organization as of late, though he doubted its practicality.

“Of course, Yuuma. Keep your frequencies in check, yeah?” said Kasai, as he immediately reached into his vest and removed a portable radio, tossing it at Yuuma, who caught it. “I don’t understand why our branch comms aren’t integrated at low levels.” complained the Special Forces captain as he turned around to look at the canal.

“So are we hunting mortars?” he asked, looking at the Tanto men and their car.

“Yeah. Two blocks up there, in the canal, we found a mountain of mortar shells. Whoever was firing them has got to be close. In the catacombs, no doubt, that’s how we think they’ve been moving all their gear around.”

Yuuma nodded, “There’s been a lot of gang-warring going on down in the catacombs. We’d send patrols occasionally, but--”

A distant boom echoed through the canal, though a cloud of smoke to go with it was nowhere to be seen. The Tanto men instinctively readied their weapons in response, before lowering them after realizing the explosion hadn’t been directed at them. Yuuma’s gaze shot around what he could see. “Sounded like a mortar. Somewhere close.”

Kasai looked to Shirake, who readied his AR416’s grenade launcher and fired it at the air, vaguely in the direction of the explosion. Yuuma’s eyebrows raised in confusion. “What are you doing? That’s just going to spook them! We don’t even know exactly where they are-”

“It’s not a grenade, Captain, calm down.” said Kasai, as the Lieutenant crouched next to him pulled a screen from his backpack and pointed a finger diagonally towards the northeast. A small parachute bobbed in the air. The Lieutenant let Yuuma take a look at the screen. “It’s a camera-” realized Yuuma, as Shirake turned knobs on the tablet, the little parachute zooming in on any activity it could. Yuuma looked to his men incredulously. “Those are some fancy toys,”

“HUNTIR, it’s called.” noted Shirake, as he continued to survey the land, through both a real-color and a hazier thermal camera. The parachute descended ever-so-slowly - with every second, the angle the camera had got smaller and smaller. “You have any more of these?” asked Yuuma. Kasai nodded. “Yeah, but I’d prefer not to use them.”

“There!” said Shirake, pointing at what looked like a sinkhole which had opened in the ground. “Some sort of cave-in, eight blocks west of here.”

“Alright, move out,” said Shirake. “Yuuma, looks like it’s hunting season. I hope you’re up for some cave crawling.”




When the joint operation had finally arrived at the cave-in they’d seen twenty minutes later, they initially discovered no overt signs of activity - just rocks, and rubble. But, by chance, one of the Internal Troops kicked a rock, and discovered a cart with a mortar on it inside. “Bingo,” grinned Kasai as he examined the mortar, Yuuma looking over his shoulder with a flashlight.

“They were here, alright. And it looks like they had to sacrifice their ordnance to keep moving.”

“How far do you think they’ve gone, sir?” asked one of Yuuma’s Internal Troopers; Kasai shrugged, looking into the dark, musty hole of ancient catacombs which the explosion had revealed. “Spirits know, depends on how many there are, how fast they’re moving, and where they’re going.” Kasai stood up, looking to Yuuma.

“Listen, Captain. I don’t know if this is your fight anymore,” he paused, sirens and choppers flying above. “If their mortars are here, then we’re back to just a simple manhunt. I don’t know what’s happening out there, but we’ve got it from-”

“We’re coming. Boss Gojiro insisted.”

“Did he? Well, I hope that he knows he’s infringing on Army jurisdiction when he throws around orders like that. So I hope he knows that if he sends you to RV with us, then you’re now under my command. Got it, Captain?”

Yuuma sighed, mulling over the possibility of disobeying his orders briefly while knowing that he could never properly get away with it, especially not in a time of crisis such as now. “Fine,” he conceded to Kasai. “Lead the way.”




An hour or two passed, and Yuuma’s men were beginning to get restless behind Kasai’s army of three. The air was stale, the ground mossy, and an occasional grove of bats stared at the men idly from their upside-down perches as they continued following what they could only hope was the correct way.

“Look,” said Shirake, shining his flashlight on a spot of blood left on a jagged rock: one of the Skaldanians had cut themselves there.

“We’re on the right track,” whispered Kasai. “That looks like it’s been there for half an hour at most. Come on,”

As they continued their trek, their radios fizzed out, the signal no longer carrying through the thick rock. Sergeant Okuda gazed around the catacombs, which had taken on more of a cave-like ambience as they’d progressed. “This must be one of the Smuggler’s tunnels, from when this was a city state,” he muttered, looking around the walls. “Gokudo knew about these tunnels, but I don’t know if they ever used these as much as they used the catacombs inside the city,” explained Yuuma. “Hence the brick wall. I don’t think they know where they’re going, either. But there’s definitely a way outside - I can smell it.”

Sure enough, a hint of dull light soon grew brighter and brighter ahead, and before long, the chatter ceased, and both Yuuma and Kasai heard something just above the ground - muttering, in Skaldanian. Kasai put his hand up in a universal signal of “stop”, and everyone obliged, promptly readying their weapons as they crept up through the darkness, the Skaldanian voices getting louder and louder. As they reached the exit, Yuuma caught a glimpse of a black-clad man, and pushed himself as much as he could to the side of the cave, not wanting to silhouette himself. It had been hours, and the sun had broken through the clouds, shining right onto the entrance to the cave; the contrast must have been enough to mask any but the most overt movements. Kasai gave some more hand signals before he pulled a small cylindrical grenade from his vest. A flashbang. Yuuma raised an eyebrow, barely visible to Kasai, but enough to communicate confusion at the choice of weapons. Kasai mouthed “Let’s try to get at least one alive,” and Yuuma nodded, hoping his men had gotten the message. With a curt nod, Yuuma leaned his Minimi against the cave wall outcropping and Kasai tossed the lit flashbang outside, a tiger to snag his prey.

A second after the explosion, the gunfire began...

Elsewhere in the Catacombs
Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
1:22 PM


Boss Gojiro winced as the hostage slumped on the ground. He peeked around the corner, getting a good look at the hostages and their raggedy handlers. “You have no leverage!” he shouted in a rusty, accented Skaldanian. “This is a fool’s errand!” Gojiro barked. More men pushed up against the wall behind him, eager to start a firefight themselves. He briefly peered at the walls. Of course, he couldn’t help but feel frustrated at his own ignorance of the catacombs - that was supposed to be a Gokudo affair, but he saw now that clearly it should have been made an Internal Affairs matter months ago.

He waited for a response, but one of his more enthusiastic men stepped up and fired a burst from his BR-055 at the group, before Gojiro, out of instinct, sent a round barreling into his own subordinate’s head. “Fool!” he cursed in Enyaman, looking back at the Beardless to see if they’d scurried off. “Wait!” he said in Skaldanian, shouting from around the corner. “Everyone stay calm! Calm down! I am Boss Gojiro, commander of the Internal Troops here in Akutera - do you want a last chance to negotiate, Beardless?”

“There’s a way to make everyone happy here,” he explained as he checked the forward assist on his carbine across the corner. “We just want the Minister. You can keep the rest of your hostages.” He hadn’t a clue if his ploy would work, or if it had even a remote chance of delaying violence, but he also knew his head would be on a spike if he hurt Minister Watanabe, or if he let the Beardless take him to wherever they were going.

Of course, many of the hostages weren’t too enthused about Boss Gojiro’s blatant revelation that almost all of them were expendable; the Police commissioner, already hit in the shoulder, staggered his words, shouting down at Gojiro in Enyaman: “You dog! You petty thief! Are you serious?! We know each other! We’re in this together, asshole!” he promptly found a buttstock imprinted in his face, and he slumped over in a stupor of pain. So much for unity, thought Gojiro, wincing at his friend’s frustration, yet also feeling a sapling of odd coldness towards the man grow inside him.

Asenbura Executive Briefing Room
Karasuna, Karasuna Special Administrative Zone
Federal States of Enyama
3:45 PM


“How did this happen?” Muratagi’s fist impacted the boardroom table as he stared down Grand Marshal Ashikaga Shinzo, the man directly below him in the military chain of command, who ostensibly gave orders to the entire military, sans the Internal Troops. A rather clean-cut man with a face so sharp one could cut butter with it, Ashikaga looked rather miffed at Muratagi’s own petulant behavior, which he had encountered and tolerated many times in the past. This time was different, for a city was on fire and the Minister of Defense, the missing link in the Triumvirate that had held the military and Muratagi’s New Frontier together, was lost somewhere in the wilderness of Hakutochi Province, taken hostage by thugs that perhaps wouldn’t have existed if not for Muratagi’s insistence on oppressing loyal citizens.

Ashikaga sighed. “Your Internal Troops thugs made this happen. I told you this before, and I’ll tell you again - the situation in Akutera was unsustainable. You should have listened to me! You can’t possibly expect to just...wipe away an entire people! They’ve been there longer than we have!”

“That’s a lie!” growled Muratagi, his eyes almost looking ready to pop out of his skull. Ashikaga was one of the few that wasn’t ever intimidated by Muratagi’s almost-psychotic rages; he could tell from day one that Muratagi’s expertise had begun in crime, and not in the military. “The Tsurushiman people are the true progenitors of all Enyama!”

“You can spout that shit on camera, Mr. President, but you can’t spout it at me.” growled Ashikaga; behind him, two armed guards stood tensely still, flanking each side of the door. “I don’t know what kind of power play you’re trying to do here, but you’ve made a mess of a whole region for it, and now I’m the one who’s got to fix it.”

Muratagi seethed, and broke eye contact with Ashikaga, who still stood calmly on the other end of the table. Finally, he cocked his head up, contorting himself like a broken marionette. “Men,” he raised a finger, and pointed it decisively down at the blank wood of the boardroom table. “I want you to...cut off this man’s hands. Marshal Ashikaga,” he sighed, having to take a breather to manage his anger. “You are relieved of…”

“Am I? Do you really expect these men to obey your orders when you’re retching over a desk like a child without candy?” interjected Ashikaga. “I don’t think so, Eijiro. Clearly, you’re in no mood to be professional right now, so I’ll just come back when you are. And I expect an apology. Now, I’m going to fix your stupid hostage mess, even if that means obliterating Watanabe.”

“NO!” growled Muratagi, but Ashikaga had already turned the corner and walked out, Muratagi’s screams echoing through the tall ceilings of the Asenbura. Outside, more guards waited, and as Ashikaga walked out, he noted that the Internal Troops positioned at the base of the stairs were throwing daggers at him with his eyes. He didn’t like seeing the military this unstable on many levels - he needed to fly to Fujikawa quickly, and try to get into contact with those he still respected in the Internal Troops...

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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Scocialist Provinces » Sat Sep 14, 2019 5:32 pm

The fresh wind along the side of those conifer-blanketed mountains whistled up to the sky, the sun having just begun to come off it's peak in the sky. Æden brushed at a grass stain on his otherwise perfectly ironed dress shirt, it's solid white otherwise encompassed by a tactical rig. He had been watching the city as his team stopped a moment to lay slew traps in the brush. Nasty little things, collapsible shoe-sized holes in the ground with their knives rigged to serrate into the leg from above, making any attempt to escape a lengthy affair that strips flesh from bone. The more they struggle, the worse off they'll be. One wrong step and any pursuer would have to stop completely, separate a portion of their group to treat the victim, or leave the victim behind.

"I'll miss that suit jacket." Æden mumbled to himself, looking across the valley to the cave where they'd emerged just a few minutes previous.

"We sacrificed it for a worthy cause!" One of his lieutenants joked. "Seriously, though. I'm still impressed Anders noticed that updraft before we moved on. Where you left that coat, it looks just like a man struggling to move up."

Æden nodded. "Once the traps are done, we'll double back and make off west and properly conceal our tracks from there--"

A sudden flash erupted from the cave, followed soon after by the crystal snap of a grenade going off in the distance.

"Shit, they move fast." Æden said, shooting to his feet. "Scratch that, we're not doubling back, we go west now."

"A flashbang." His Lieutenant noted. "They didn't just light it up, they know what they're doing."

"No time." Æden said, turning to the where his men were dispersing their traps, leaning into the radio on his rig. "You all heard that. Finish up your digs and meet back up with me and Wyne, on the double. From here on out, we're not trying to lead them anywhere, make sure your tracks are as light as you can make them. Alpha out."

In a matter of seconds, the team was back together and on a strong pace beneath the dense brush. They had about 20 kilometers to go before their first pre-planned rest stop, and a straight sprint would be impossible to carry through all the way. Being weighed down by cartons of water required for the journey, their speed wasn't going to be ideal, but having left their coats behind at the mouth of the cave provided marginal relief. The winds picked up as they moved forward, screaming down towards their objective, a small blessing that carried sounds and smells away from their pursuers. Leaping over streams and ravines, their athletic training along the Krakenveil mountains back home paying off in spades. Wildlife sputtered across the trees in their wake, the scattering of foliage the only sign of their presences after the fact.

Æden reveled in the rush, controlling his breathing to achieve an optimal heartrate as he plodded along. The geographical map of the region he'd memorized sped through his mind as he compared details of the terrain with his own recollection. Left along the bobbing ravine, right along the cleft rocks that overhung the large valley that connected the two mountains who's rugged peaks almost like a face. The details lined up perfectly. That was, until they rounded a set of dense woodland, only to encounter a wall of boulders recently walling off their next path.

A landslide. Recent.

"Damnit." Æden said, recalling the map once more. "We don't have the gear to get around this. The nearest detour is a point ten of a click that way. We'll need to double back a bit, maybe-- Wait."

"Sir?"

Aiden held his hand to his ear as to amplify any sounds. "Hear that?"

A distant howl on the wind, blowing in softly from where they'd came. A combination of panicked shrieks and pained sobbing.

"Sounds like they found a slew." Æden chuckled, his men following suit. "Come on. We don't have time."

***

A burst of fire whistled off the floor near the team, fragments of stale brick and lead pasted into the air as a fine mist. The hostages who hadn't already dove to the ground did so in short order, the brief suppression enough to stress them to the ground. Even Watanabe was keen to tucker down now that his own men were shooting at him. A fourth shot went off, though no bullet strayed close this time. Alyx very nearly fired back, but the fire died down quick and calls from a megaphone were quick to make their way.

“There’s a way to make everyone happy here,” the loudspeaker called in broken Skaldanian. "We just want the Minister. You can keep the rest of your hostages."

"We do have too many hostages," Alyx's team leader lamented to her, the thought of complying crossing his mind. "We could offload him and a few here and keep moving."

Alyx's eyes widened in an instant, a critical realization wandering into her mind. "Wait." She asked her team leader holding out an arm in front of him. "Grab the Minister, make sure he can't run. Let's see where this goes."

The team leader blinked twice, grabbing onto Watanabe with a rifle pressed between his shoulderblades. "Alyx, what're you--"

She pushed up to the front of the group, still hiding firmly behind a buttress as cover. "You just want the minister?" She shouted back to whoever was operating the megaphone. "We can talk terms."

The voice on the other end paused, seemingly stuck between the offer being considered and the fact that they were being answered back by the voice of a young woman. The thought gave Alyx a bit of a boost in confidence, seeing as how they were clearly deliberating on the other side. "Well," The megaphone called back, after having considered the situation. "If you hand us over the minister, we might be able to escort you to the border, like your demands are listing."

That was a lie. But it was a lie that revealed a critical truth.

All but one of the hostages were expendable.

Alyx looked to the team leader, and though her face was clad in a bandanna that concealed the majority of her expression, the devilish ear-to-ear grin on her face was clear as day just looking at her eyes. The hostages seemed to have made the same realization, as they were either mustering the courage to make a break for it, or just making prayers into the dirt. The team leader nodded, gagging Watanabe with a bloody rag. "Let them go."

"We're letting Watanabe go, and some extra hostages now. You'll escort us out of the city?" Alyx shouted.

"Yes." The voice called back. "Thank you. This will all be over shortly."

"You heard her." a team member called prodding the hostages onto their feet while another carefully and quietly escorted out of sight. "Hands in the air, walk slowly."

The hostages complied, a ray of hope glistening in their eyes. That hope was blinding of the situation at hand. They slowly and methodically mad their way down the crypt, a state of suspense stabbing each and every one as they wandered the limbo between lines. None dared run, say anything. The Enyamans on the other side waited with baited breath, trying in vain to spot Watanabe among the crumpled mass of people whos faces were obscured by the many arms hoisted in the air. The narrow path was completely clogged with a screen of men.

It was then, obscured from sight with Watanabe in tow and no longer worried about having to herd an unwieldy mess of hostages, that the Beardless made a quiet exit through a quick fork in the catacombs going south. The head start was invaluable, as they ducked an weaved through the tunnels to the checkpoint. From there on out, although the lights and shouting of the Enyaman forces were never far behind, they never managed to get their shots on the team directly. Eventually, the team found themselves passing into an open area filled with their fellow beardless, armed to the teeth and sitting on the same SNI-provided armored trucks that had dropped them off to kick this whole thing off. Loading themselves and the Minister inside, rubber ground against that ancient brickwork as the trucks burst out of the old tram tunnel and back onto the streets of Akutera.

The streets were clear thanks to the state of things, so traffic was hardly an issue. Burning south across the highway, the Enyamans had hardly enough time to figure out what was happening. Occasional encounters with small arms riddled across the vehicles, clapping into the trucks' military-grade armour. One particular encounter with an autocannon proved a close call, its hits nearly buckling through the rear window in Alyx's car.

"We're nearly out," The driver said, grinding his teeth as he spun the vehicle into a hard turn. "Let's hope the spooks held up their end of the bargain."

The route they'd picked was chosen due to the likelihood of roadblocks interfering with movement. Though they'd hoped there wouldn't be any on the alley-heavy maneuver, one patch of road they had to travel had already been covered. The SNI's job was to cause chaos and obliterate any stops that might block the escape route. If the street fighters had gotten the information to the mortars in time, there should've been enough damage done.

And enough damage indeed, had been done. They passed the roadblock with ease, running over the smoldering remains of men and trucks as they burst out of the city and into the mountains.
Last edited by Scocialist Provinces on Sat Sep 14, 2019 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Founded: Jan 10, 2019
Compulsory Consumerist State

Postby Enyama » Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:31 pm

The Catacombs
Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
1:25 PM


"Yes." Called back Boss Gojiro, "Thank you. This will all be over shortly." he growled over the megaphone, looking to his remaining men and signaling for two to creep up slowly. That bitch, he thought, the very idea of negotiating with a Skaldanian woman giving him an uncomfortable tingle down his spine. The two men he’d ordered, some of his most loyal, readied their assault rifles and moved forward cautiously, seeing the wave of raised hands creep slowly towards them. Gojiro remained on the side of the wall, cautiously whispering towards the two that he’d sent up: “Do you see the Minister anywhere?”

After receiving a negative in return, he cursed. A whole mob to cover their escape? he thought, stepping forward as the cloud of hostages slowly went into Internal Troops hands, corralling themselves on the opposite side of the crypt as Gojiro went to them and forcefully pulled up the jaws of the first four or so he saw in suits. As he sat and looked over their faces, most of which stared back at him in disdain, he realized that a critical face was missing.

A sudden impact knocked him back, and he found himself gasping for air on the ground. It had been the Police Commissioner, still clutching a wound on his shoulder; he spat on Gojiro. “You would have left us to die! Well guess what?! They took him and left all of us!”

“Aren’t you all lucky?!” spat out Gojiro, still on the ground.The Internal Troops murmured amongst themselves as they learned that they’d been duped, while their Boss staggered up to his feet. One of the men flanking him grabbed him to help him up, and Gojiro spat out the iron-tasting blood which had invaded his mouth with the Commissioner's fist. Frustrated, he looked around. “Watanabe isn’t here!?” he growled, looking to his men by the hostages for confirmation, and then to the Commissioner. The only light came from flashlights, but it was enough for the two to lock eyes. A devilish idea entered Boss Gojiro’s mind; he looked at the corpse of the man he’d shot on the ground.

“Men,” he stared down the hostages, some of which nervously stared at what was going down. “It looks like the Beardless have killed all the hostages.” Gojiro smirked; the Police Commissioner looked momentarily confused, before an epiphany hit him full in the face. “NO!” he shrieked, but it was too late: Gojiro and several soldiers mimicking him raised their rifles and gunned down the hostages, filling the tunnel with light and screams.

When the smoke had cleared and the blood had split, Gojiro retaliated by spitting on the Police Commissioner's corpse. He saw the soldier next to him trembling; a man barely past being a child, unable to take the brutality of what he’d just seen. Gojiro grabbed him by the shirt, quickly seizing the opportunity to prevent any insubordination. “You see this?! This is real life, son! Those bastards shot all our hostages!” he chuckled briefly, alongside a good portion of his men. Gojiro looked around.

“You’ll all get decorated for trying, if you keep your mouths shut. Got it?”

“Yes sir!” echoed the voices of the Internal Troops. Gojiro nodded. “Let’s get out of here; keep patrols on the streets, but they’re the Army’s problem now.”

A voice crackled in on Gojiro’s radio, and he was quick to answer. “Boss Gojiro, how copy? This is General Tokoyami, indicating orders from Marshal Ashikaga that we’re on high alert. What’s happened to the hostages?”

Gojiro sighed. “Beardless realized we were after the Minister, so they gunned ‘em all down right in front of us. They took him, sir. How copy?”

A brief pause of shock came from the other side; he had no doubt that his men either feared or respected him too much to give up their secrets, and he had no doubt that forensics would be nowhere near these corpses anytime soon, given the state of the city. The radio crackled again, the voice of the General echoing through the crypt. “Roger that. You’re to report to me from now on, Boss Gojiro, but we’re taking over this cleanup and search. Just keep your men on the streets and keep a lookout for the Beardless. Out.” The radio crackled one last time.

7km NE of Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
4:29 PM


As the flashbang flew out and blew up, and the various soldiers streamed out of the cave, they quickly found that there wasn’t as immediate of a threat as they’d expected. “They’re close!” growled Captain Kasai to Captain Yuuma, as they looked back at their men. Kasai kicked over a coat he’d peppered with bullet holes, thinking it to be a man. “And they’re clever,” he paused, reloading his AR416. “Very clever. We’re right on top of them, so come on, let’s go.” he beckoned the rest of the men out of the cave, and pointed just slightly up the hill, down the most likely path that the Skaldanians had likely just recently departed down.

Though initially stepping cautiously, Kasai and the rest of the Tanto men pulled slightly ahead of the Internal Troopers. “You know,” said Lieutenant Shirake as his walk turned into a jog, “You’re the most reputable Internal Trooper I’ve ever me-” his leg caught on something, and he shrieked. Yuuma raised his weapon and dropped to the dirt, expecting gunfire, but none came. His elbow had landed on top of something unusually soft - Yuuma brushed aside some of the pine straw only to discover a pit, loaded with a serrated knife. “Traps! They were expecting us!” he said as he cautiously staggered to his feet. He winced when he saw what was happening - two of his men, alongside Shirake and Captain Kasai, had all gotten themselves caught in a torrent of slew traps. Worse still, Shirake had fallen awkwardly, breaking his leg almost in two as bone now stuck out through his uniform’s leg; it looked to be a particularly nasty break. “Shit!” muttered Yuuma as he cautiously made his way over to where Captain Kasai was stuck in the ground. “Don’t struggle, you’ll get shredded more. Just stay still!” he said towards one of the Internal Troopers who was screaming in agony. Sergeant Okuda, unharmed, stood up himself and looked around. “Captain, this is bad,” he said to Yuuma, looking over to his comrades. “We can’t leave these guys, we don’t have radio contact. What’s the plan?”

Kasai winced as he dug around the trap. “We - ugh - Yuuma, you and Okuda need to go after them. Just see where they’re going. Take my gun and binoculars - you leave your men here and we’ll head back and get help as soon as we can. Expect helo pickup. I’ve got a flare in my bag - that’s what you’re gonna have to use? Understood?”

Yuuma nodded, throwing off his red beret. “Got it.” he said as he stood near Kasai, exchanging his Minimi for the Tanto soldier’s AR416 and grabbing the man’s backpack. He looked to Okuda, who was retrieving Shirake’s grenade-launcher and HUNTIR screen. “Ready, Yuuma? We’ve got to keep in local radio contact while we still can, and if they get back on the line with command, then we’re good to talk directly.”

“Just go, we’ve wasted enough time!” growled the injured Shirake.




After avoiding another set of slew traps and wasting about seven minutes just trying not to step on anything, Yuuma and Okane headed up the first mountain, hoping that they were on a similar track as those who they’d been pursuing.

“Do you know this area, Captain?”

“Not well, I’ve hiked the next valley a couple of times, but that was all decades ago.”

“How’s your cardio?” asked Okane, clearly concerned for the decades-older Captain’s capacity for cross-country running. “Enough to spot these bastards, at least.” he huffed, though he admitted to himself that he’d slipped in endurance since his youth. Okane nodded. “Alright, well, I’m not a native. Where do you think they’re going?”

“The Skaldanian border? I don’t think their plan was to stick around for long, especially if it originally involved mortars.” noted Yuuma. “That would take them through the next valley, and then around these mountains. There’s a lot of public hiking over that way.” he explained.

“Alright, then let’s go.” nodded Okane. Behind them, the wind howled with the occasional siren carried all the way from Akutera, or a scream of agony from one of the men back trying to get their legs out of the trap. The wind had come in such a way that none of the Skaldanian voices were getting to them anymore. After passing the ravine and briefly stopping to peer out across the valley, they continued along the rocks, not knowing whether their direction was true, but knowing that it was likely the intruders would have preferred higher ground to the denser valley. And for a while, it seemed the trail was lost, and the two went back to a brisk walk, instead of the sprint which they’d barely been maintaining.

But then Yuuma saw it, pressed into a log at the edge of a rather dense cold rainforest, typical of the environment by Akutera. An anthill, crawling with ants. Whoever had stepped on it had taken the time to round it out again, but that hadn't stopped the ants from scrambling to restructure the slew of internal structures that the boot had undoubtedly pulverized. “Look, they were here,” noted Yuuma. Okane nodded, and crouched behind a nearby boulder, surveying the nearby land. Okane crouched and nodded, whispering to Yuuma: “Keep your eyes peeled.”

And then Okane broke open the grenade launcher, ejected the spent shell from earlier, and placed another HUNTIR round inside the breech, before locking it again. He angled it towards the crack in the mountains in front of them, almost vertically, and fired, the thump echoing through the forest and disturbing a flock of birds about a hundred feet away from them. They both crouched behind two side-by-side mossy boulders. “They might have seen that,” whispered Okane as he unzipped his tactical bag. “But I can definitely see if they saw it,” he pointed to a very small parachute suspended in the sky. Yuuma nodded in satisfaction at the round. “That is a pretty nifty tool, I’ve got to say, Sergeant.” he hushed. Okane raised a finger to his lips, as if to say “shut it”, and began operating the screen, turning the knobs on it to move the iris of the camera.

The Sergeant nodded, flicking on the FLIR camera and searching momentarily. “Looks like there’s been a - I see them,” he hushed. “Six of them. Lightly armed. Up ahead about...half a click, maybe a bit more. There’s been a landslide by them - they look stuck at it.” whispered Okane, his voice so quiet that one could basically only hear the annoying flicking of his tongue. Yuuma nodded, before gesturing a “what now?” at Okane. Okane looked back and forth, and then suggested an attack, which Yuuma shook his head to. Quickly, Okane skipped across the crag in the rock and, pressed against Yuuma, began whispering. “You wanna serve your nation or not, Captain? We’ve got to keep these guys from reaching the border.”

“I got a family, Sergeant, I’m not playing these cross country games,” noted Yuuma back. Okane held up a finger to pause the conversation and looked at the screen again. “They might have seen our parachute. Let’s stay here.” he said. Yuuma sighed and nodded, pushing himself up against the boulder as Okane peered from the screen to the treeline, and back to the screen. They had no way of knowing how hard they’d spooked those they pursued.

Enyaman Airspace
14km E of Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
4:50 PM


The EAI Fujin hovered in formation with its partner as the pair flew in a Northeast-Easterly direction, towards the access highway which linked Hakutochi Province to Skaldafen. To their left, the port of Akutera glowed brightly in the encroaching afternoon, the red-and-blue shine of police sirens and the plume of smoke from the mortar-induced inferno still present.

Lt. Taketa Mina sat in the Gunner’s seat of her aircraft, the first of the pair, #24, as she purveyed the burning landscape through her heads-up display. They’d been called to loiter earlier in the day, searching for remaining street-fighters. Not long after reflecting on her surprisingly boring assignment (comparative to the amount of chaos around her, at the very least), a voice crackled in the radio. “Kochi 2-1, you are to RV at Grid 29202 with Kochi Leader immediately. We’ve located the hostage.”

She heard her Captain and pilot, Hanamura Makoto, quickly reply to the order. “Affirmative Overwatch, Kochi 2-1 moving to RV. What’s the ROE, over?”

“Look for a convoy of black trucks. Shadow them and wait for fire order but don’t fire unless fired upon until then. Overwatch out.”

“Roger that.”

“You hear that, Mina?” said Makoto from the pilot’s seat, his voice buzzing in the Lieutenant’s ear as the squadron banked to the left and dove to gain speed, heading briskly towards grid 29202, which was incidentally right on the access road to Skaldafen, which their patrol route had been taking them to anyway.

“Yeah, I heard it.”

“Looks like Kochi squadron just became critical to national security.”

“No shit,”

“Think they’re going to let us blow up the Minister of Defense?”

A slight pause from Makoto. “...I don’t know.” he admitted. “I hope that’s not our orders. These Skaldanians are acting slimy, but blowing up our own...that’s slimier.” she commented.

As they neared, two more black shadows broke from the horizon of the sea: EAI Inazuma helicopters, topped with the most recent armor and avionics that Muratagi’s seemingly bottomless defense budget had been able to finance. The pair were Kochi 1-1 and 1-2, or Kochi Leader, and they were captained by Colonel Daigo Kanjiro, the squadron leader. As the four helicopters broke into one four-chopper formation, they headed at a brisk pace down the access highway, radio updates and idle chatter cluttering Mina’s comms on the regular.

“Targets spotted, Bearing 2-9-0.” said her counterpart in Kochi 2-2’s gunner seat, Lt. Hirano. Col. Daigo’s voice bounced across all their helmets. “Confirmed. Remember, do not fire unless fired upon, and shadow them to the border.” he said, and the four dove lower and closer to the road. As she swivelled the autocannon and zoomed in her camera, she could barely make out any human forms inside the trucks through all of their bolted-on armor. “That’s hefty defense. They could have firepower, too.” she commented. “I think we should switch to ATGM if we need to take them out.” she said to Makoto, who concurred. “You’re right. But don’t get too cocky. We could be letting them go.”

“I don’t even know what to hope for, at this point.”

“Just trust the chain of command, and keep an eye on those trucks, Mina. This isn’t a good time for political doubt.”

“Yeah.” she conceded, refocusing her attention back onto the ever-closer trucks as she felt her body bob and weave to the wind and lift of her chopper.
Last edited by Enyama on Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Postby Scocialist Provinces » Sat Sep 14, 2019 9:20 pm

The trucks rumbled against the rugged mountain paths of the Akuteran interior, the old roads growing ever-thinner the further south they pressed on. Their sole remaining hostage, Watanabe, stared down between his legs, slowly getting used to the rifles lodged firmly against his ribs. Alyx, under normal circumstances, would likely have been feeling a tremendous sense of pride by now. After all, her quick thinking and initiative had gotten them this far. Yet, she couldn't help but feel trapped by the situation, perhaps much like the Enyaman seated directly across from her. Their vehicles were tough, armoured enough to survive small arms and a number of heavier weapons. But as the SNI had been careful to warn them, any sustained fire, howitzer-grade fire or high explosive ammunition would still be enough to send them to a fiery, visceral death. The pair of helicopters that had been tailing them for the last twenty minutes were a constant threat. Audibly, there was likely even more hot behind them.

"You won't win, I hope you know that." Watanabe muttered in his native tongue, Alyx only barely able to understand the words.

"Quite the contrary, Minister." Her team leader replied in Enyaman. "As far as we're concerned, every outcome from here on out is a win."

Watanabe looked around at his captors, his gaunt face plastered with stoicism. "How so? Muratagi will not capitulate, you know this. You knew it before you even delivered them."

"Why do you think we put all this work into getting out while we could?" Alyx cut in, her fragmented understanding of the language inhibiting the clarity, though the hostage seemed to grasp her meaning.

"He was never supposed to accept."

The team leader nodded. "I suppose you'd know better than most, but Muratagi is predictable in his responses. Neither of us know what's going on in the world outside these cars, but all of us know precisely what's going to happen next."

Watanabe looked back to the floor, exhaling a long sigh in doing so. "If he accepted, you'd get functional independence. He declines and lets you go, I'm a prisoner in Skaldafen for as long as they please. He declines and tries to kill you, I die too. But no matter what happens, you've rocked the boat."

They passed over another peak, the border coming into their sight on the horizon. The helicopters were drawing dangerously close. Just one missile from that and the whole team was going up in flames. A distinct rumble, one belonging to neither their vehicles, nor the road began to rattle the inside. Leaning over to the window, Alyx could see it clear as day. Jet aircraft, blistering in from the south with the distinct aura of supersonic flight spraying off their noses. They were headed straight for the cars. In that moment, Alyx found that she was resigning herself to a quick death. The jets roared overhead. Alyx closed her eyes.

And nothing happened.

The jets kept going, and as she opened her eyes, Alyx witnessed them buzz past the perusing helicopters close enough to rake their hulls in chaff. Then another set. Soon enough, the sky was crawling in Skaldanian aircraft, rotating in and out of Enyaman airspace with brute disregard for the border. Cheers erupted from the team and Alyx relaxed her posture for the first time in hours. Daylight was departing by the minute and the cavalry had turned up at last. Tanks with the tear roundel crested the ridges opposite them, infantry unloading at the checkpoint proper.

"Those were Skaldafen Army Air SIS.14's, were they not?" Watanabe said. "I take it they had something to do with all this."

"Who's to say?" Alyx chuckled, knowingly tapping her Skaldafen-made rifle.

"Hmph. I see now that Muratagi was wrong about your people." Watanabe said.

"How so?" She asked.

"He likens your people to the goats you keep-- Unintelligent, spirited, but ultimately impotent. Like cattle." Watanabe sighed looking to his wristwatch. "But goats don't outwit men."

Alyx shrugged, a coquettish smile colouring her words. "I don't know about that. I've met some pretty stupid shepherds."

***

"One-Thirty-Six degrees. Can you see it, sir?"

"Looks like an observation device." Æden remarked. "Did any of you look directly at it?"

"No sir."

"Good. Keep it that way." Æden said, wondering what exactly was watching them. "It's The HUNTIR model, perhaps? That would mean that echo was a grenade launcher. Spread out once we get back beneath the brush, but for now, we don't want to let them know that we know."

The presence of that kind of equipment so soon was concerning. If those in pursuit had a solid line of communication to any air power, a concentrated aerial search was only a matter of time. They might not, but it was a risk he wasn't willing to neglect accounting for. More positively, it also meant that the opposition had split up. That presented number of options to deal with the situation moving forward, an ambush or splitting up themselves. Thinking over the next moves while navigating, Æden wondered how well the Beardless were faring. Firefights still littered the streets, though they began to die down. The teams that have the hostages should've been leaving the tunnels right about now, assuming they made it out at all.

As they ducked back beneath protective green canopy of the forest, Æden began laying out his plan on the move. "We're going to keep moving south but at a sharp angle, just to make sure we're still moving west while keeping the illusion up. However, about a click in, I recall that the woodlands should start to get really dense as it starts turns into proper marshland. If we're still being tailed, we'll set up an ambush in there. I believe there's a river crossing we can set up on both sides to catch them in a pincer. Sound good?"

"Yes, sir."

With that, they pressed further into the interior. Here and there, Æden would hear rustling in the distance behind them, yet he kept his men's pace slow in order to save their energy and lure the opposition onto the hook. No planes, drones or helicopters could be seen or heard, something that permitted a degree of wiggle room in their movements. The rock faces and sheer cliffs started to give way to more hilly ground, though the canopy remained as dense as ever. Birds became more frequent sights, and the strife of Akutera had long since faded beyond the horizon. Soon enough, the team found themselves wading through softer, wetter dirt where wider rivers and deeper lakes flanked their passage. A familiar ravine poured into view, and the men stopped for a break.

"Thirty minutes, we'll wait here." Æden ordered. " That should be enough time for our friends to catch up. Anders and I'll stay on this side, the rest of you are crossing. Leave a boot in the mud on that side, don't make it obvious. Should give them something to draw attention. Anders, you're on the MG."

Within the moment, the entire team had found nooks to hide in the undergrowth, arrayed with overlapping lines of sight so any one team member could support the other. And right in the middle, a single, inconspicuously lost boot dug into the mud on the far riverbank. Just past the ten minute mark, far faster than Æden had anticipated, the hurried patter and panting of two men drew ever closer to the river...
Last edited by Scocialist Provinces on Sat Sep 14, 2019 10:13 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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Compulsory Consumerist State

Postby Enyama » Sun Sep 15, 2019 12:45 pm

Enyaman Airspace
17km E of Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
5:14 PM


Kochi 1-1’s radio crackled. “We’ve got radar contact, looks like...fast-movers coming in from the north-east.” The Inazumas had been lucky enough to get high-grade air warning radars installed above their rotors, a luxury the decades-older Fujins in which Mina and Makuto were flying could not afford, yet.

“How many?” echoed Makuto from his pilot’s chair. Mina gripped onto her gunner’s joystick perhaps more tightly than she had before, a sign of the tension ringing through her body. As the pair drew closer to the border, it seemed that the Skaldanians had taken note. Below them, shadowing the trucks, she saw MRAPs of the army and even pickup trucks of the Internal Troops begin to trail behind the two trucks, though she was confident that, for now, Kochi squadron was the heaviest firepower in the area.

The fast movers came into view, and Makuto mumbled something, but she didn’t understand it from the sonic shockwave which hit their chopper in the next moment, wobbling the very air around them. She shouted into her helmet, transmitting to everyone in the squadron: “Skaldanians are buzzing us!”

Another voice came over the channel; “Kochi Squadron, this is General Tokoyami, Akutera Emergency Defense Corps. You are to keep shadowing the trucks; we have Reapers and Me-550s from Karasuna inbound as we speak, and the 2nd Maneuver Corps on the way to reinforce elements in the 112nd Mountain. You’re under my direct command now, Colonel; Captain. Don’t let me down. Tokoyami Out.”

The radio buzzed back with replies. “Looks like it’s gonna be a showdown,” muttered Makuto. Mina glanced up at him, looking through the bulletproof glass divider directly into his visored eye. “This is what we’ve been waiting for, then. Get your war face on, yeah?”

“Yeah, we’re only facing the biggest military in the world, Captain, it’s all gonna be fine! What’s the plan here, get shredded by SAM and MANPADs in the first ten minutes?”

“You know what the war-games predicted for chopper squadrons, Mina…”

“I just hope we’re luckier than that…”

As the border drew nearer, Mina could make out a cloud of Enyaman forces massing along the ridgeline, tanks, infantry, MRAPs - and on the other side of the border, a decidedly bigger mass of dark-green Skaldanian vehicles and reddish blobby uniforms. The Skaldanians had no choppers in the area, yet, but their planes continued to harass both Kochi squadron and play dancing games in the sky with their Enyaman counterparts, which seemed to be buzzing lower.

And then, looking down through her camera, Mina saw the trucks enter the mud of the last stretch of Enyaman ground, crawling across slowly. “Uh, are we just going to let them cross?”

“General, how copy? This is Kochi Leader,” cracked the radio, Colonel Daigo’s voice sounding especially concerned. “They’re on the border, right now. The trucks are really close t-”

The General’s voice crackled in, but after a beep and some interference, another voice came in: Grand Marshal Ashikaga’s: “This is the Grand Marshal, transmitting to all units currently on the border. The rules of engagement stand.”




Down below, Colonel Yukawa Yuji held up a megaphone towards the trucks. “Driver!” he shouted in perfect Skaldanian, “Stop the trucks or we will be forced to disable you!” He pressed the button and beeped the megaphone a couple of times. The man was old and grizzled, wearing an olive drab poncho, as to account for the increasingly darkening sky. He had no idea what the political situation was around this whole mess -and that was what was preventing everyone from acting. Worse still was Marshal Ashikaga’s own silence past “the rules of engagement stand”, a frustrating but understandable order. He looked behind him, the Internal Troops members which had accompanied their elements of the Army through Akutera now looking especially jumpy.

And then he saw it, for a brief moment, an Internal Trooper raised his weapon to fire, but was promptly tackled by a Ground Forces soldier, an incident which soon devolved into a ten-person brawl. From the commander’s seat of his T80125, he looked back at a Ground Forces soldier walking near him. “Break that up, ASAP!” he growled, watching helplessly from his tank as the trucks slowly eased forward into the border.



As the truck entered the border, Watanabe gave the woman a curious look. “You know, you won’t just be pissing off one man in one nation with this move. The Belfrasians will take note; the Belisarians will take note. This will look like an act of aggression to the whole international community. I suppose you’re not a diplomat…” he sighed, checking his watch again. “And to think, poor Emio is still in Jhengtsang somewhere, and I’m bound to be in a grave, or in Skaldafen very soon. Two ministers in half a year, kidnapped by socialists. I can’t tell if I would rather shoot myself…”

22km SE of Akutera, Hakutochi Province
Federal States of Enyama
5:29 PM


As the two men trudged on through the forest, they occasionally checked to see if their radios were picking up any friendly frequencies, to no avail; Yuuma had been lagging behind for the last forty minutes or so, tired both from his age and from the fact that he’d been carrying Captain Kasai’s heavy radio backpack. As they continued on the trail of the Skaldanians, the fired up another HUNTIR round, though found nothing much through the thick canopy but a glimpse of a white-hot leg in FLIR that indicated they were going in the right direction.

As they continued, swarms of fighter jets began to fly overhead in the direction of Karasuna, alongside the occasional distant flutter of an Aigios Stork’s tandem rotors. Clearly, the military had gotten involved in the situation in Akutera proper - or else, something else far more sinister was going down. Yuuma eventually propped himself up against a tree, not five minutes away from crossing the first river. Okane was far more suited to this sort of long-range tailing operation; Yuuma felt out of place, a gray uniform amongst trees, and certainly not the man who should be hunting dangerous operatives through a forest. “Okane,” he wheezed, putting his hands on his knees. “Are you sure tracking them is a good idea? Especially for me? Spirits know how far away from Akutera we are now, and well, fuck, I’m the commander of the 14th District, which means that if, hopefully not, but if Boss Gojiro is dead, I’d be in command of half of the Internal Troops in Akutera. And look what’s going that way!”

Image

Okane sighed in frustration. “Listen, I need some fire support, Captain. I know it’s not ideal, but this is something we call “tactical improvisation”; Captain Kasai told you the same thing in the caves, and you insisted, so don’t go complaining to me when you realize far too late that you’re in way too over your head. There’ll be help soon enough, we just need to keep the trail hot.”

“I’ve got a family, Sergeant!” growled Yuuma in frustration, enough for his frustrated voice to echo through the woods. “So I’m doing what I should have done a while ago.”

Okane looked incredulously at Yuuma as the Captain through the backpack off, dug into it, and pulled out a flare. “Again, the Internal Troops need to step up, and they don’t! Am I going to be on my own here, Yuuma? After fucking twenty-two kilometers?!” Okane had been keeping the common courtesy of whispering, and so his voice hadn’t echoed as Yuuma’s had. Yuuma pulled the string on the small brown tube of the flare, and with a loud pop, a red spark shot far above the canopy and into the darkening sky. Okane looked resigned, not sure if he could do anything more to convince the Captain. Yuuma crossed his arms. “I’m waiting here until one of those jets or one of those choppers makes radio contact with us, and then you can all do this from the air, while I go back to my city.”

Okane shot him a look of death, before trudging off down the hill; seven minutes later, and the clear water of a river jumped into view. Okane cautiously raised his weapon and moved forward, surveying the landscape in front of him as best as he could. Slowly, he walked forward into the river, noting that this part of the river was rather cluttered with rocks and collapsed logs; a perfect place for a crossing. It was likely that the Skaldanians had gone this way…

And then he saw the boot, on the other side of the river. Lodged into the muddy ground. He raised an eyebrow, surveying it from his ten-meter vantage point briefly with his scope. But something seemed off - when had they crossed, and why hadn’t he and Yuuma heard splashing? Was the wind working against them again?

Crack! A torrent of automatic fire erupted from behind him, and Okane felt a searing pain in his left thigh as he realized that he’d been hit from behind. His mind flashed back to Kalakora, where he’d been on the business end of such ambushes not a month ago. Another round splashed in the water next to his head; quickly, he dove behind a log partially trapped in the river, the frigid mountain water soaking him up to his lower chest as the twigs and the log exploded from bullet impacts. And then, from the side of the crossing, more cracks, as sudden fire from what appeared to be pistols weighed down on him from the other side, impacting into the raised riverbank. It was a miracle he wasn’t peppered right now, and he chalked it up to his special forces training.

He was no thought, and all muscle memory, his radio buzzing with something he couldn’t hear as the water around him turned crimson from his leg wound. He saw a brief muzzle flash on his side, a pistol wielder, and he fired a volley of eight-or-so shots in its direction, aiming to kill, though he’d take suppression as well. “Yuuma!” he shrieked in pain. Another round from the machine gun flew at him, grazing his cheek and leaving him gasping for air as he fell backwards into the river. He was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place, though he wished that the log had the structural integrity that most rocks offered. He broke open his now-soaked grenade launcher, and, thinking quickly, reached into his vest to put in a White Phosphorus round. Briefly raising his head over the log, he saw the muzzle flash of automatic fire, and with a thump, shot his grenade towards the machine gun emplacement, trading a booming and burning explosion of white phosphorous for a duet of rounds, one which shot the boonie hat right off of his head, and one which hit his weapon in the scope, showering his face with glass shards, and leading to another instinctual screech of pain as he fell back into the water, almost swallowing some this time.


Yuuma had been sprinting down the hill’s gunfire when he saw the tell-tale star-shaped explosion of white phosphorous erupt in front of him, sending burning sparks of gas into many a tree trunk and filling the whole ravine with an odor of burning carbon which, had it been any drier, could have started a forest fire. Looking down from the hill, he saw Okane’s vague form in the river, stuck between an embankment and a thick log.

Though white phosphorus smoke threatened to cloud up his entire side of the river, he quickly raised Captain Kasai’s rifle and fired a well-placed shot at a pistol-wielder on the other side of the ravine; he soon started receiving fire himself, and unsure of what exactly to do, dove behind a tree, twisting his ankle in the process. “Fuck!” he cried out in pain, quickly checking to see if he’d just broken his leg (and to his relief, he hadn’t). He pressed the button on the radio, “Okane, how copy?!”

No response came, and he tried again, but to no avail. Suddenly, the headset clipped to his backpack chimed up. “This is Hokkyo 3-1, we saw your flare, how copy?” Yuuma laughed incredulously amid the bark of his tree-cover exploding. He didn’t even know if Okane was still alive. “This is Captain Yuuma, requesting immediate assistance. We’re following -” he paused to return some suppressing shots, not bothering to aim around the tree. The smoke had blocked most of the firefight from his view anyway, though shots still rang out towards Okane, apparently. “ - following dangerous insurgents and we need immediate backup, we’ve been ambushed! I’m with - 14th Dist- actually, I’m with Tanto brigade, how copy?”

“Roger that, Captain, we’re following the markers now, ETA five minutes. Good luck.”

And so Yuuma stayed crouched behind the tree, before reaching into his vest and pulling out a purple smoke grenade, which he subsequently rolled down the hill. He had no way of knowing what to do next, how to turn this muck up into a win, or even if Okane was still alive - now that he was in the moment, he felt a pang of remorse at leaving Okane behind earlier, stubborn as he may have been...

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Belfras
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Belfras » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:32 pm

Paegnium Sevso,
Thessalona, Belfras.


If god had devised a way to intrude on what was otherwise a rather peaceful "stay-cation" at home, then Paegnium Sevso would take the hint and get back to work. His wife wasn't happy he took the phone call, but when the work phone only to be rung in emergencies rang, it was either a cold call or an actual emergency. If the Sovereign Princes' own secretaries voice wasn't enough to highlight the scale of the emergency, the helicopter landing in his mansion's grounds was. Aboard the Raptor were members of his own lead intelligence unit and a rather hefty document he had to read through before landing at the palace in Thessalona. Thankfully, the small voice in the back of his mind told him when he saw the look on his wife's face when he boarded the helicopter, things might be too bad for him to go home straight away.

Now here he was. In a suit and tie in the Sovereign Princes' meeting chambers. While the man himself was missing at the moment, a veritable who's who was in attendance. He had met them all individually and twice together like this in his ten years as the Director of the Strategic Intelligence Service. Across from him, and giving him a respectable nod which he returned was Agrippa Ecdicius, the secretary of defence. Flanking Agrippa where the two department heads for the armed forces' joint intelligence division, which usually acts as a subordinate to the SIS. Paegnium's train of thought was brought to a halt when the doors opened and the Sovereign Prince himself walked into the room and headed immediately for the chair at the head of the table. Before anybody could stand he uttered out a quick "Remain seated, let's get to work."

"Your Majesty." Theodosius Lupis, the Consul, spoke up first. "The situation has evolved since the initial briefing earlier today. While our information on the ground is sketchy, we have information from Enyaman military command that the hostage situation reported in the briefing has evolved. The hostage takers have have made off with the Minister of Defence, Watanabe Keisho. The Army itself is actively in pursuit of them at this time. If it pleases Your Majesty, I give way to the Director of the Strategic Intelligence Service, Paegnium Sevso." Nicholaus gave a small nod, and with that Paegnium was shoved into the spotlight.

Shit. Paegnium thought briefly as he stood up, leafing through his document. "Your Majesty. We managed to get a hold of a video recording of one of the hostage takers issuing a list of demands." Paegnium stopped for a moment, as the assistant in the back of the room was bringing up the video on the screen opposite the Sovereign Prince and playing it. "We're still analysing the recording, but what we have so far is - obviously - a military aged female with a lilted Skaldafen accent. We're trying to isolate the accent's locality within Skaldafen to get a better picture of who we're dealing with, but around mid-day the hostage situation was resolved when they escaped with the Minister of Defence in tow. The tactics deployed by these hostage takers, the employment of a Skaldafen female to record the demands, and the confirmed reports of a mortar attack on the Enyaman troops suggest a special forces' skill-set on the side of the hostage takers. We're still gathering our facts, and with the amount of conflicting or nonsensical reports we're getting we're at a point where nothing we can add about real-time reports can be relied on."

"Like what, Director Sevso?" Nicholaus frowned for a moment as he looked through the document.

That put Paegnium on the spot, and he coughed to give himself time to recover. "We have conflicting reports of infighting between the Enyaman forces, and for a while we had a report that Enyaman soldiers opened fire and killed the hostages and the hostage takers. Unreliable reports, your majesty. Our contacts are feeding us what they are getting without filtering it out as we asked them to do."

"Unreliable reports indeed, Director Sevso, but keep up the good work. Now, assuming that this is in fact a Skaldafen-backed plot, let us not say we're not prepared." Nicholaus paused while Paegnium sat back down. "Secretary Ecdicius, if you'd please update us on the military's case for this situation."

With that, the Secretary of Defence stood up. He gave a small nod to Paegnium before speaking. "I'd like to thank Director Sevso for his input into Case October, an armed conflict between Enyama and Skaldafen. Now, your majesty, we at this time have no reason to believe this will happen as the Skaldafen border force may eliminate the hostage takers. But if this becomes an armed conflict, we would require the following to be taken into effect: The northern command of the Air Force, pre-organised for a Skaldafen offensive, will need to be brought to war-time readiness with non-combat assets withdrawn into the two-phase belt to avoid any initial offensive from Skaldafen overrunning their airfields. The second armoured division and the first light division will need to muster immediately in order to enter the first-phase belt should the situation to activate the case arise, and we will need the Navy's ready force to collect the Army's rapid deployment force to transit them to Enyama now ahead of any potential need for the case to activate."

"And these are the pre-activation requirements, Secretary Ecdicius?" Nicholaus queried.

"Yes. It is no easy feat as it will involve thousands of personnel and will be detected by Skaldafen, but their government would have to realise that with everything going on any movements on our part have to have been anticipated. If this ends up being nothing, Your Majesty, I don't think anybody will even think twice."

"Okay. Well, if nobody has anything further?" Nobody spoke. Paegnium wanted to speak up, to say about the unconfirmed reports of the Skaldafen military build up, but hot air in this situation wouldn't help anybody.

"Very well. Secretary Ecdicius, please call assembly of the Second Armoured and First Light divisions and bring the Northern Command of the air force to stand-by but do not proceed to war-time readiness as yet. As for our rapid deployment force, please have them assemble but not to leave port as yet. If this situation is as complicated as has been laid out, let us not make it worse by making any rash movements just now."

Demonym is Belfrasian, currency is Lira

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Scocialist Provinces
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Capitalist Paradise

Postby Scocialist Provinces » Sun Sep 15, 2019 11:03 pm

Engals' old Mamot flew across the plateau as fast as the driver could push it. The Beardless' trucks had nearly crossed the border, but Enyamans we're beginning to swell in the distance. Fortunate then, that they had arrived first. Pulling up to a point where his vehicle could be obscured in the event of incoming fire, he and his crew loomed just past the demarcation. The hold-fire order remained fresh in his mind, but staring down another force was something else entirely.

The Beardless' vehicles appeared to be the very same the SNI had been using to drive north for the past year, much to Engals' complete lack of surprised. They made a solid clip across the gravelly mountain path, with a number of rotors in hot pursuit. Looking closely, he saw the flash of a pair of tank missiles pop off one of the helicopters. His heads up display, likely along with those belonging to the entire formation present flashed with the warning that an ATGM was sailing for them. Panning his head across his own formation, he could see that a few tankers were engaging their autoloaders. His trophy system whizzed to life, one of its many output systems locking onto the incoming set of munitions.

Interestingly, no other helicopter fired anything.

The trucks, seeming to have made the same realization, kicked into a searing speed. The border was so close.

The missiles were gaining.

The border was close.

The missiles were right on their tail.

The tires rumbled across the border, one by one in but a second.

The missiles spun into the ground, mere meters behind them.

It seemed to Engals that whoever was guiding them didn't want to risk hitting something that would've provoked a response. Despite knowing this wasn't over, he released a relieved sigh and leaned deeper into his cupola. Keeping an eye on the Beardless, Engals could see a number of military police flush up to the trucks, pulling a number of insurgents out with a distinct lack of consideration for their personal comforts. A frail old Enyaman was the last to leave, a bag swiftly tightened over his head as the MP's pulled the whole lot behind a screen of infantry and fighting vehicles. Turning back to the north Engals scanned the Enyaman Army for any other incoming fire...

***

The sun setting by the minute, Oraka tapped her pen against the old amber desk with a methodical vexation. The clock hung above ticked along, the formless din of steps quieted from beyond her office. The conference call had been running for nearly an hour now, the general staff steadily bickering among themselves while they waited for the situation in Enyama to progress. No news was good news in a way, but the condition of the border was to remain intact. Ultimately, the next steps were going to be her call, but she needed a clear picture of the stakes, first. For now, the SNA and SNN were on explicit orders to hold fire. There was no telling how the opposition would react, but

"The Belfrasians will deploy. Mark my words, we need to mine the coast to buy time and thin their numbers."

"Minelaying during nominal peacetime, are you insane?"

More bickering. She'd already given the order for submarines to patrol just past the Belfrasian continental shelf, and both of the light carriers in the Makiran were already moving into position to intercept. She'd thought her orders to avoid any hostile action until an official state of war existed were clear enough, but the warhawks were persistent. New orders for Liothidian ships had bolstered their numbers, but the fact of the matter was they were outnumbered at sea. On land, the situation looked marginally more positive, the SNP having drawn up the reserves and were preparing to form a preliminary defensive line along the Vygrok river. It was all precaution, but there was no telling how the Belfrasians might react. The torrential Makiran rain raked the wide glass panes to her left. Oraka muttered to herself, recounting the deployments made over the past 24 hours as she watched the theatre maps swell with units finding their positions. The weather was a good sign, any offensive maneuvers would be at least be slowed for as long as it lasted. But relying on fortune and best cases was going to be a critical mistake.

"We have confirmation that the Beardless insurgents have successfully crossed the border."

"Hopefully we can take him from their custody without incident."

"Might want to hold that thought-- additional information coming in."

"The 2nd Armoured Brigade has reported that the Enyamans have opened fire, though it's not clear to what extent. Consensus seems to be a pair of air-to-ground missiles hit the dirt on our side of the border."

"Casualties?"

"None being reported. Our forces are obeying the hold fire order, though if it turns out there's more fire coming I'm unsure if it'll hold."

"Another report, M'am. Intelligence."

"What do they want now?"

"Authorization to requisition Army air defenses in order engage Enyaman aircraft 3 kilometers west of the flashpoint."

Oraka sat back in her chair, aghast. She'd made herself clear, time and time again: Hold fire unless fired upon. "What the hell could they possibly want that for?"

***

“I’ve got a family, Sergeant!”

The words echoed like music to his ears. Two pursuers remained, and they were having a disagreement. The rest of the conversation was far to feint to make out, but enough had reached Æden to make sense of the circumstances. All that was left was to spring the trap. Once the shouting had died down, silence kicked back in until the thumping of a single pair of boots began to trickle closer and closer. Right down the middle of the path they'd laid, a single Enyaman pushed forward at a cautious pace. Boonie hat, kitted out rifle. Regular army, maybe a specialist. Either way, well below their pay grade. Scanning the forest ahead of him, the Enyaman neglected to ever check behind him as he neared the river. Æden's closed fist would've been a relatively easy spot.

The Enyaman plodded into the water with a purpose, moving nowhere near as quickly as he would've liked. He wanted the kill to be clean, over with and done as soon as possible. But their quarry refused to do anything but dally. When he eventually found the boot the'd left out it had been nearly an eternity of held breath. The man reached down, and Æden shifted his fist to an open palm. The ravine was littered with bullets, but an initial hit on the man's leg proved to be an unfortunate devellopment. He twisted and screamed in pain as he slammed into the water, the knee-deep river turning pistol shots into pellets. To the Enyaman's credit, through the pain and panic, he managed to loose a phospherous round from his underbarrel right into the log Anders was using for cover, spraying over his man in searing smoke and bile. Ill fated was this struggle for the Enyaman in the end, as a handful of Æden's men stepped out of cover and delivered a killing shot from a a slight outcropping above the ravine.

The cracks of fire gave way to a stunned silence, as Æden shot a disappointed gaze across the team. They weren't trained to shoot for a man's legs, they were trained to shoot waist and up. It wasn't a mistake he was going to let them repeat. Anders waved across to indicate his continued survival, hissing through his teeth as he exposed fresh chemical burns to the wind in doing so. The phosphorous continued to spray off the warped roots of his cover, but Anders himself had since rolled out of immediate danger. Contemplating a job well done, Æden ejected his clip to count rounds remaining. One, two, three. Not a lot to work with.

Crack. Another shot barreled down from further up the ravine, Æden finding himself genuinely surprised for the first time in ages. His head ever on a swivel, he spun to the origin as he swung his clip back up the pistol. Another Enyaman, Internal Troops dressed. Visibly older. Æden hastily loosed his last three rounds down on their new assailant, the suppression enough to send the man spiraling back up the hill in a panic.

A coward, Æden thought. Perfect.

Leaping out of his cover, motioning for two of his men to follow in, then for a third to tend to their newfound wounded. Suppress, I'm going in. Æden signed, setting for solid pace just a han full of steps behind the Internal Trooper, matching his steps to conceal the noise. The tropper dove behind a particularily large redwood, and his men proceeded to take turns putting down shots on either side of the tree to simulate a sustained volley of fire. Æden could hear a sudden rush of chatter erupt from the other side of the tree, but the whistle of rounds on either side drowned out any clarity. It wasn't until he was right up against the wood that he could make out the chatter on the other end.

“Roger that, Captain, we’re following the markers now, ETA five minutes. Good luck.”

Shit.

Before Æden could pick an angle to round the tree, a grenade rolled past on his left. Initial panic shifted quickly to relief as a sparking plume of purple smoke erupted from the tube as it rolled harmlessly down the hill. Hazarding a guess, his quarry was facing the same direction he threw that, so Æden rounded the tree from the opposite angle, drawing a length of piano wire from his rig.
Last edited by Scocialist Provinces on Sun Sep 15, 2019 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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