World War: Campaign for Besland
Copyright© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
A country can win every battle, but lose the war. One would think that when that happens, there is also a country that has lost every battle while still winning the war, but that isn’t actually the case. When a losing army pulls out, the victors may celebrate the moment, but the real work has only begun. One has to rebuild what had been destroyed, and there is always destruction.
In the modern context of war, winning and losing is a rather uncertain concept. Has the mission been accomplished? It’s hard to say, because the mission wasn’t ever really known. There was some perceived insult, so we had to kick some ass. When does one decide that enough ass has been kicked? History would lead one to conclude that it’s been kicked enough when the kicker gets tired of kicking.
Wars can be won or lost in the press. Losing is a matter of a lack of confidence in the government leading the war. When the people stop supporting the war effort, the war is lost regardless of the outcomes on the battlefield. It might take years for the leadership of the country to recognize that the war has become hopeless, but that day will come.
Espa and Franka had lost the war in the hearts and minds of their citizens, but the governments had not recognized it. The confidence was gone, the people were asking awkward probing questions and not getting satisfactory answers.
The countries of Besland had fought many wars over the past fifty years, but all of them had been on lands far away from home. War was something that happened over there, not here. War was some kind of odd abstraction for the folks at home and an unpleasant reality for those who fought it. Now that the war had moved to the continent of Besland, that odd abstraction was becoming a cold harsh reality.
What was really sad, was that the Jade Empire wasn’t pursuing a strategy of total warfare. What it was doing, was fighting the war according to the Sviss Treaties. Taking out the infrastructure, and leaving the people impoverished, was classical military doctrine for the countries of Besland. Now that their roads were getting destroyed, their trains not running, and the electricity uncertain, the people of Franka and Espa were getting edgy. What had become a nuisance was becoming a real problem.
In Franka, the turning point was the great fireworks debacle which left most attendees temporarily deaf and quite a few totally deaf. Impassioned speeches - emotionally charged to sway, but light on facts - didn’t translate too well to paper. The spin wasn’t working. Every time something like that happened, everyone was reminded that there was an enemy running around the country that the government was unable to stop.
Incredulous, Colonel Alvarez stared at the rather attractive woman who had been responsible for the latest catastrophe among many. She had red hair styled in a manner that was common among the enlisted women. He wondered who in her heritage had donated the genes for that bright red hair. It certainly wasn’t a genetic trait common among the people of Espa. If she had been a civilian rather than one of the heavy equipment construction specialists, he probably would have tried to date her.
He asked, “Are you seriously telling me that you understood you were supposed to bulldoze the fence that we just put up?”
“Weren’t you on the crew that put up the fence?”
“Then you bulldozed it down.”
“That didn’t strike you as odd?”
“No, Sir. This is the Army, Sir.”
Suppressing a groan, Colonel Alvarez looked at the instructions she had been given. There was just one word missing from it, that word being ‘between.’ She was supposed to level the ground between the fence and the road. The instructions said “to level the ground the fence and the road.”
“You didn’t think to ask for clarification?”
“I follow orders, Sir. They said to level the ground, the fence, and the road so that’s what I did.”
“Get out of here.”
This had been the assignment from hell despite its simplicity. He was creating a forward operating base without having to be under fire. As a military engineer, it couldn’t get much better than that. It was a textbook operation. He was to put up shelters, a mess hall, sanitary buildings, a runway, a defensive barrier, and a command post. The shelters, mess hall, sanitary buildings, and command post were portable buildings that would be air dropped in.
Murphy had to be celebrating! If anything could go wrong, it had. A plane carrying the portable building crashed on the way to the island. Half of the equipment and supplies that had been air dropped in, had landed in the water. A third of the equipment was dead on arrival.
Colonel Alvarez turned to the other man in the room and said, “Issue her a shovel. Don’t even think about letting her near any heavy equipment; and for God’s sake, don’t give her a gun.”
“Get back to work.”
“Why shouldn’t we give her a gun?”
“Because if you tell her not to shoot until she sees the whites of their eyes, she’s liable to interpret it as an order to shoot anyone with eyes.”
The Lieutenant chuckled and then left the room.
Colonel Alvarez said to the closed door, “I wasn’t joking.”
Monday morning, Stephen LeClaire, owner of the LeClaire Agricultural Supply, arrived at work and began processing outstanding orders. It wasn’t until mid-morning that he discovered that 40 tons of Ammonium Nitrate had gone missing. Fully aware of what was happening inside Franka, he went to the telephone to report the theft. He felt like he was going to throw up just at the thought of how much damage that much fertilizer could do.
Hammer Marcin finished attaching the control rod to the accelerator pedal of the garbage truck. It hadn’t been going that well. The bearing on the connecting rod had been defective and required replacing. Fortunately, Hammer Yara had the parts on hand to fix it.
“Try it now,” he shouted.
A second later the pedal moved down.
The pedal returned to the up position.
Hammer Veda, seated in the back of the van, sighed and sprawled back in the seat out of boredom. They had been turning garbage trucks into remote controlled vehicles all weekend. This was the last of the eight trucks to be converted. Hammer Marcin had designed the mechanism. Hammer Yara had made all of the parts. She had written the software that would send the commands from the driver’s seat in the back of the van to the garbage truck. The flaw in their original plan was that no two garbage trucks were the same.
Cart Terrance asked, “How much longer?”
“I don’t know. They still have to connect the steering mechanism.”
“We’re behind schedule.”
“So what? If we don’t get it done in time to send them out tomorrow morning, we’ll send them out the day after tomorrow.”
“I like things to be on schedule.”
“If we had blueprints for these hunks of junk, then it would have been no problem getting everything done on time. We’d have had all of the parts built before you stole the trucks.”
“That’s not my fault.”
“Nobody is blaming anybody. For a Hammer, this is normal. You never know what you’re getting into until you get into it.”
“I’ve still got to learn how to drive that beast from here.”
“Turn the wheel a half turn, clockwise!”
Hammer Veda turned the steering wheel as requested.
“Did you do it?”
“Damn! Turn it back to where it was!”
She turned the steering wheel.
“What now?” she shouted.
“It turned the wheel counter-clockwise.”
Hammer Veda said, “We’re going to be here all night at this rate.”
“I’m going to take a nap if I’m going to have to learn how to drive this thing in the middle of the night.”
“You might as well.”
Francois Menard walked into the office and asked, “Where the hell is my truck?”
“I don’t know. Where did you park it?” Luis Peltier asked.
“I parked it in the same place that I park it every night. It’s not there.”
“It’s got to be there. Maybe you parked it someplace else by accident.”
“I’m telling you, my truck isn’t where I parked it, Friday.”
“Who in the hell would steal a garbage truck?”
“I don’t know, but somebody did.”
“Nobody steals a garbage truck. Just go out and look around. Maybe someone moved it.”
“What’s the matter?”
“We’re getting reports of unusual things having been stolen over the weekend. I think we’re going to get hurt bad.”
“What do you mean by hurt bad?”
“Someone has stolen everything necessary to make a really big bomb.”
“What kinds of things?”
“Fertilizer, diesel fuel, and six hundred pounds of ball bearings.”
“How much Fertilizer?”
“We had a wholesaler call in to tell us that someone stole 40 tons of Ammonium Nitrate.”
“How much diesel fuel?”
“One tanker was stolen at a truck stop while the driver was eating lunch.”
“We’re screwed. They’re not building a big bomb, they’re making forty big bombs. A ton of fertilizer and half ton of diesel fuel will fill up a heavy duty van. That’s enough to take down a twenty story building.
“If you pack those ball bearings in one of the vans, you can kill or injure thousands of people at some special event.”
“Who in the hell has six hundred pounds of ball bearings?
“A roller conveyor manufacturing company.”
“That was a source that never crossed my mind.”
“It someone wants to launch projectiles, all you have to do is order a dump truck full of pea gravel.”
“Metal stands up better and can penetrate things that would shatter gravel.”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking they could blow up next to a propane truck. That would make a hell of a mess.”
“I doubt it. I’d park it beside the line of people getting into or out of a football match. Park it just right, you could get hundreds of people easily.”
“So what else could you get?”
“I don’t know. Maybe an apartment complex ... shopping center during a rush sale ... It’s damned near impossible to judge.
“Sir. We just got report that a trash truck was stolen.”
“How much could one of those hold?”
“That’s hard to say. I think the large ones pick up around ten tons of trash.”
“I’d load four trucks and split the ball bearings across the them. With that, I could take down four sporting event stadiums at the same time.”
“We better tighten up security around the professional sports venues.”
“We’re running out of people to post in places.”
“We’ll pull them off the unlikely targets.”
Hammer Yara looked at the motor in disgust. It was a brand new, fresh out of the box, motor and it didn’t work. The rotor shaft was locked up and wasn’t going to move. It was hard to say what was the problem without taking it apart.
“Can it be fixed?”
“I can fix it, but it could take some time.”
“Can we get another one?”
“Not easily. I’m sure that a Hearth could locate one for us and a Sword could steal it.”
Hearth Deva looked over the part. “I can find one pretty easily. I’ll send a gangin scout or a raider out to pick it up. We’ll have it tomorrow morning.”
“That pushes the attack off to Thursday.”
“We’ll have to adjust the rest of the schedule.”
Yara said, “We should have used garage door openers. You can find them everywhere.”
“It works out to five hundred ball bearings per device. That’s plenty for what we need.”
“We need thirty devices.”
“We have enough materials for thirty one devices.”
“Can we deliver thirty one devices?”
“Not all at once. We’ll deploy them one station at a time over the next three weeks.”
“Has anyone tested this?”
“Yes. Hammer Marcin tested it out. The simplicity of it is amazing.”
“The idea isn’t new. They used it back in the Great War One.”
“It’s an older idea than that. Chen used a variation of it, back 2,000 years ago.”
“Nobody uses it today.”
“That’s because there are better ways of doing it.”
“Are you sure that it’s going to work?”
“The 3,000 gram balloon can lift 200 kilograms. That’s way more than we need.”
“I’m sorry. This just seems so stupid that it can’t possibly work.”
“That’s where the surprise comes into play.”
“We have some technological advantages that they didn’t have.”
“I don’t know. We’re talking about Franka. They aren’t exactly a third rate player in this game.”
“It’s because they aren’t a third rate player that it will work.”
Captain Marin watched with some degree of pleasure as the final load of munitions was being unloaded from the commercial ship anchored a quarter mile offshore. All that remained was for a ship containing fuel to arrive and the forward base would be fully operational.
The stupid idea for them to build a secret base that was given to him by that airhead waitress in the officer’s club was actually working out. This was the last in a chain of three ‘secret bases’ and the one from which they would launch the attack on the Jade Citadel in Misera.
The secret base wasn’t much of a base. It was just a runway, a fuel storage tank, and a munitions store that was staffed with the minimal crew necessary to build the base and to support the bombers that would use the island as a temporary airport. The living quarters were gouges cut in the sand with tarps stretched over them.
Captain Marin asked, “What happened to the security fence that was specified?”
“We had a communications failure in delivering orders. It was accidentally bulldozed down.”
“No matter. The fuel ship will be here in eight hours. Once it unloads, we’ll be operational.”
“Do you know what I like about this plan?”
“This is the kind of thing that Jade Force would do.”
“Actually, this is exactly what they did do in invading Eastland. They used an island as a forward staging area when they were getting ready to invade Ulamb. The fact that they had so many people right off the coast caught everyone by surprise.”
“Will you be returning to the ship or staying here?”
“I’ll be staying here.”
Major LeBlond, formerly Colonel LeBlond until his conversation with President Jubert, stared at the map of the country. There were too many vulnerabilities, not enough resources, and an enemy that was entirely too clever.
“May I have three weeks of leave?”
Colonel Rocher looked over at his good friend Major LeBlond. No one had been more surprised to see him kicked down a rank. Of course, it was just like LeBlond to answer a question honestly even when no one wanted to hear it. People didn’t want to hear the unvarnished truth anymore. They wanted to hear what they wanted to hear and failure to tell them that was a reflection of a lack of competence on the part of the speaker. They both knew that it was easier to apologize for being wrong after the fact than to be correct before the fact.
“Where are you going to go?”