The Rise of Jade Force
Chapter 2: Return to Amra
October 12, 1973
Colonel Wynn stared at the world map that hung on the wall of his new office, which was buried deep inside the Rock. He studied Amra not really thinking about anything specifically. Amra encompassed an area that spanned two major geological plates: The Fractured Lands and the continent of Surprise. The two plates weren’t even that close together, but were linked by a number of islands.
Back when dinosaurs roamed the planet, the Fractured Lands had once been a single landmass. Geological forces had fractured the continent to the point where it now resembled the remains of a dropped plate. There were big chunks of land spread out around an empty center. Like tiny shards from the dropped plate, there were over thirty thousand islands scattered around the large land masses of the original continent.
The continent of Surprise was named that because everyone was shocked that such a large land mass existed that hadn’t been discovered earlier. It was a relatively recent event when the continent was settled by expeditions sent out from Franka, Itan, Espa, and Romal. The Engle descendants in Amra had also swarmed across the ocean to settle the northern part of Surprise.
The northern half of Amra was the southernmost landmass of the Fractured Lands. On the northwest side it shared a border at three points with Mayum. On the northeast side, it shared a border with Helmud at three points. It laid claim to twenty thousand of the islands around it and to the south.
The southern half of Amra was the northern end of the continent of Surprise. This part of Amra had once been known as Llammada, named that by the Espa settlers who initially occupied it. It had seceded from Espa after an extremely bloody and violent revolutionary war. It existed for ten years as an independent country before joining Amra, mostly for the military protection that Amra could provide.
Both the northern and southern halves of Amra were blessed with natural resources and a climate that supported very productive agriculture. Amra quickly became one of the wealthier countries in the world. The Central Sea, the body of water between the northern and southern halves of Amra, gave the country tremendous control over shipping between the continents to the east and west of it. Continuous challenges over control of the Central Sea forced Amra to create and sustain the most powerful military in the world.
Creating a powerful military also sparked technological innovation. Many of the smaller islands off the coast of Amra were worthless in terms of agriculture and mining. They weren’t even of much value as ports for fishing since the huge jagged coastline provided thousands of safe harbors. They became centers of manufacturing and research.
Amra’s position on the political world stage had historically been defensive. It hadn’t meddled in the affairs of other nations since it was focused primarily on protecting dominion over the Central Sea. All of that changed with the First Great War.
The First Great War erupted when the nation of Chen invaded Vatica over a territorial dispute that had festered for more than three hundred years. The reason for the escalation was simple: oil. The disputed territory had it. Chen didn’t have any known oil reserves, Chen wanted the oil and Vatica wasn’t about to let Chen have it.
When the Chen army showed up in the disputed territory, Vatica called upon its allies for help. The first to show up was Utpal from the Ringland continent. Chen called upon the country of Khung, which answered with an invading force in Utpal. One by one, more countries joined in the fray until nearly a third of the world was involved. There were nearly fifty major fronts on which enemies faced each other. The death toll was climbing at an unimaginable rate.
Amra remained out of the war until Chen forces reached Espa. Two thirds of the Amra Navy loaded up with Army and Marine troops and then headed to Espa. The ships unloaded men on a secure beach in Espa and then proceeded to march east. The fresh Amra troops faced battle-weary Chen forces. Energetic, disciplined, and well provisioned, they marched across Espa, through Itan, Romal, and Vatica. As they marched, they picked up the remnant armies of Itan, Romal, and Vatica. The forces divided into two groups, one heading for Chen directly and the second going through Onor to reach Chen.
On the second major theater of war, the majority of countries on the Ringland continent started making headway against the Khung army. When Amra threatened the borders of Chen, Khung pulled a good fraction of its forces to go the aid of Chen. The Amra Navy sank the transport ships before they were able to reach Onor.
While the military losses of life were high, they were nothing compared to the number of civilians who had died. Battles had been fought in cities. Those who were entering the city used artillery to clear out the occupying forces. The problem is that artillery is an indiscriminate killer. Buildings filled with huddled masses collapsed when shelled and people died.
By the time Chen surrendered, it was estimated that civilian casualties were over thirty million. After war comes the rebuilding. Of course, that meant tearing down the structures that had collapsed. It seemed that the recovery of dead bodies was never going to end. Everyone was horrified. The First Sviss Treaty was the result.
Colonel Wynn’s eyes drifted to where Vam was on the map. The war there was not going well for East Vam and, by extension, Amra. There had been a change in government in East Vam. It had been ousted by the populous because of the obvious, almost obscene, corruption. The new government was probably even more corrupt than the old government but it was just less visible. It wasn’t so obvious for the simple reason it hadn’t had time to show itself.
He hadn’t even finished moving into his new office before he was made a member of a team tasked with drafting an exit strategy from the war. It was felt that his intelligence experience inside East Vam would provide critical insights that would allow Amra to withdraw while assuring that the East Vam government lasted more than a year after withdrawal. It was a political face-saving hope that would allow Amra leadership to claim that the Amra had completed its original mission of training East Vam troops to a level where they could successfully resist West Vam.
Governments thrived on face-saving fictions like that.
He knew it was a wasted effort. The problem wasn’t one of the military resisting the West Vam army, it was the current leadership of East Vam who would flee the moment the Amra forces left. The government would fall in a day. The military might be able to fight on but without a government to provide supplies it wouldn’t last long.
This would have a very personal consequence. His friend, Colonel Nguyen, was marked for death by the enemy. Unless he fled the country, he probably wouldn’t survive very long once the government fell.
Disgusted at the morbid direction of his thoughts, he pulled his notebook out of his desk. Scratched across the cover was the title, “The Elf War.” Inside, the contents spelled out the structure and training for a fictional Elf army that was fighting Orcs. It contained his current working notes on an Elfin army. The weird organization of the Elf forces was easily explained as something fictional with no bearing on reality.
In East Vam, Colonel Nguyen was working on a similar notebook. His was titled, “Demon Wars,” which was to become a novel about a war between humans and demons. The contents of his notebook spelled out how to trap a demon and steal his magical powers. Demons figured heavily in Vam mythology.
Colonel Wynn was still arguing with himself as to whether the offensive and defensive elements of the Elfin army were one and the same or should be treated as two different specializations. He understood that there were different kinds of engineering when building to defend and when attacking to defeat.
It dawned on him that he was in the middle of the Rock surrounded by military specialists of all kinds. With his story of writing a novel about elves at war, he could gather a lot of information from some very knowledgeable people without anyone suspecting him of doing anything remotely wrong.
He scribbled, “Sword and Shield,” across the top of the first blank page. Below the title, he wrote Sword and about halfway down the page, he wrote Shield. He figured that he’d get the offensive and defensive responsibilities captured and clear in his mind before talking to others.
His concentration was interrupted by a throat clearing. Looking up, he was shocked to find Admiral Roberts, the head of the withdrawal from East Vam project, standing in the middle of his office. He stood up.
“Sit down. We’re in the Rock. We’d never get anything done if people were jumping up and down every time a superior officer walked past,” Admiral Roberts said.
“Thank you, sir.”
“It’s lunch time. What are you working on that’s got you so engrossed?”
“I’m working on a war novel,” he answered handing the notebook over to the admiral.
It wasn’t a good idea for an individual in intelligence to write a war novel. It was a little too easy for classified information to get leaked. Frowning, the man glanced at the cover. He did a double-take and then laughed.
“Elves? Were you smoking something funny over there in East Vam?”
“No. I guess it is kind of stupid, but I started working on an idea for a fantasy novel while I was over there. There are only four things to do over there – doing drugs, drinking, whoring, and reading. I’m not into drugs, drinking or whoring. From an occupational hazards perspective, those are rather dangerous things for someone in military intelligence to do.
“After eighteen months there, I had read everything we had in the base library. I just figured writing a novel would be a good way to pass a little time.”
“You’re not the first soldier to pick up a pen and start writing a novel to pass the time.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“Yeah. Still ... Elves?”
“Hey, how would you react if I were writing about what’s going on over in East Vam?”
“You’re right. Stick with elves,” the Admiral said. He opened the notebook and read aloud, “Elven society has a number of different castes ... You’ve got a bullet list here ... noble, merchant, military, artist, artisan, labor...”
Looking up from the notebook, he said, “That doesn’t read quite like a story.”
“I’m still putting together the background so that my characters will be consistent throughout the story.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“Maybe one day I can pick your brain about what life would be like for an Elf sailor,” Colonel Wynn said.
“I don’t think so ... Anyway, I came by to talk to you about Colonel Nguyen.”
“What about him?”
“You’re a friend of his, right?”
“I guess you could say that. He was my counterpart in East Vam military intelligence. We also share an interest in military history.”
“Yes. Your lunches together were remarked upon many times.”
Colonel Wynn had known that frequent visits with Colonel Nguyen would generate a lot of interest, most of it of a suspicious nature. That’s why they had chosen to meet in a very public place, but a place with enough privacy that they could still talk about a few sensitive issues, like what would happen in East Vam after the government fled. After the first discussions, they were very circumspect in how they touched upon that idea since a lot of people would think Colonel Nguyen might be planning a coup or something. For example, when talking about training, they’d cover how armies historically trained their warriors while making critical comments about the advantages and disadvantages of each.
The restaurant was a good place to meet for a second reason. Pierre, an old childhood friend of Colonel Nguyen, would warn them if anyone had planted any listening devices in the area of their table. It had happened on more than one occasion. Usually those were days when the talks were exceptionally boring, covering minute details about the style of armor used in the early days of Japa or Kor. He could almost always tell who had been listening in by the glazed eyes on a coworker.
“I hope that wasn’t a problem.”
“Actually, it’s a good thing. We’d like it if you continue to talk with him occasionally to get a better feel for how things are going there. He’d be a good source of information about how capable the East Vam Army is in terms of establishing when we’ve finished our training mission there.”
Colonel Wynn was not surprised by the casual rewrite of what was happening. Finishing the training mission sounded a whole lot better than getting the hell out of there before the Amra military lost all credibility at home. That it was on the verge of losing all credibility was obvious by the protesters lining the roads to the Rock.
He wasn’t surprised by the casual request to exploit a friendship for the purpose of gathering intelligence information. He knew that the admiral would have been surprised if he had objected to the idea. That was just how things were done.
“I’m here, rather than there. It would be kind of tough to get any timely information by exchanging letters. In fact, I doubt he’d say anything of much value in a letter. I’d have to travel over there occasionally just to touch base.”
“We were thinking that you should visit every six weeks or so for a briefing about the situation from Colonel Gray. You and Colonel Nguyen could take an afternoon for one of your famous lunches.”
Colonel Gray was the man who had taken over his responsibilities in East Vam. Following the way things had been done in the past, it would be Colonel Gray traveling to the Rock to brief everyone, just as he had done. Colonel Nguyen would know what was really happening the minute he saw Colonel Wynn show up in East Vam.
Having delivered his message, it was time to change the subject.
“You Army guys ... When are you going to learn that the proper way to say yes is Aye-Aye?”
“You know what they say about old Army dogs.”
“You can’t teach them any new tricks,” Colonel Wynn said.
Handing his notebook back, Admiral Roberts laughed, “Get back to your elves.”
“Aya-Aya, sir ... No ... that’ not right. What was it again? Uh-Uh, sir?”
“Uh-Uh, sir? That’s a good one. There for a minute you sounded like the kid dating my daughter.”
“I’m sure what he said was more like – Uh-Oh, Sir.”
Deciding that he was going to enjoy working with Colonel Wynn, the admiral left the office laughing.
Colonel Wynn said, “Elves. You’ve gotta love ‘em.”
Several hours later, he went to a team meeting to discuss withdrawal from East Vam. The team had been in existence for six months working primarily on the logistics of withdrawal. This was a far more complex task than it might have seemed to most folks.
Leaving wasn’t just a matter of packing up a suitcase and checking out of the hotel. There was a massive amount of equipment, facilities, and people spread all over the country that had to be organized. Equipment had to be shipped back to Amra, destroyed in place, handed over to East Vam, or simply abandoned. Facilities had to be emptied of sensitive materials, shut down, and then handed over to East Vam. Forces had to be drawn down while maintaining operational security and continuing the ongoing mission.
His role on the team was to help establish the timing for the withdrawal. He had read some briefing papers on what work had been accomplished to that point and he was fairly impressed with the depth of planning that had already occurred.
Today would be his first time to meet with the full team. Joining an already established team was not always easy. He wasn’t looking forward to the meeting and walked into the room after taking a deep breath to focus his mind.
The meeting room was typical for meeting rooms in the Rock. It was a plain room with white walls and a sturdy table surrounded by twenty uncomfortable chairs in the center of the room. A picture of the current president was hung on the wall with a flag standing in the corner. There was barely enough space surrounding the table for people to move around without having to climb over chairs.
He wasn’t the first — or the last — person to arrive. Six others had already taken seats. They looked up and studied him when he entered the room. The meeting was classified Top Secret and people wandering in weren’t appreciated. He went over to the others and introduced himself. As other attendees arrived, he took a moment to introduce himself.
The admiral was the last to arrive. Once everyone was seated, Colonel Wynn took one of the available chairs.
Admiral Roberts kicked off the meeting. “I take it everyone has met our newest team member, Colonel Wynn?”
There was a murmur of yeses and head nods.
Putting him on the spot, Admiral Roberts said, “I know that you haven’t had much time to settle in, but have you read the briefing materials?”
“Yes, I have.”
“What do you think of the plan as it stands now?”
Colonel Wynn looked around the room at the people gathered there. They were all watching him, ready to judge him based on his answer. He didn’t know the politics within the team. Was there a vocal minority opposed to what was in the plan? Was there a general consensus? A few of the team members had little smiles on their faces.
The plan was rather simple. There were activities associated with shutting down operations and then activities for troop movement. The activities would run concurrently.
Shutting down operations required protecting classified material and equipment either by transporting it out or destroying it in place. Most of the heavy equipment that incorporated advanced electronics would be destroyed in place with explosives. Papers would be shredded and burned. Lighter things like radios might be transported out, but the majority would be destroyed.
Troop movement was pretty simple. For a period of time there would be a general drawdown of troops over a six month period. They would be transported back to Amra on ships with a rear guard left to ensure security at the ports. Once the majority of troops were gone, the remaining men would make their way to the airport. Most would leave by transport planes while a smaller number of individuals would provide security at the airport. Once the planes were gone, the final few would evacuate on helicopters.
“The briefing materials I was given weren’t very detailed, but in general it looks to me like it will get all of our soldiers home without putting the last few at too great a risk. I didn’t find any obvious flaws. At worst, the timeline was a little ambitious. Six months might seem like a long time, but with as much material as is scattered around in country, I’d think nine months would be a little more appropriate.”
“Are you saying we couldn’t withdraw in six months?” one of the team members asked.
“No. I’m saying that it is more one of appearance to the rest of the world. Six months would look like flight rather than an organized and planned activity.”
Several members of the team smiled. The Admiral said, “We had already come to that conclusion. It’s good to see that you agree with us.”
“The reason you’re here is to put dates on the activities based on the ability of the East Vam military to pick up the slack.”
“Well, you could probably start today.”
That comment set off a lot of excited comments around the table; most comments were incredulous that he would state such a thing. The Admiral was staring at him open mouthed. That was not the answer anyone expected.
Admiral Roberts finally asked, “Please clarify that answer.”
“The fact is that the East Vam military isn’t the problem there. It is us and the East Vam government that’s preventing us from winning the war.”
“Us?” Admiral Roberts exploded wondering if he’d brought a loose cannon on board the team.