The Rise of Jade Force
Chapter 3: Fall of East Vam
March 3, 1975
Amra pulled all of its forces out of East Vam on March 1. Within two days of the last helicopter leaving, the government of East Vam fell. The news had showed frantic crowds at the airport trying to get out of the country on the last few flights. There were pictures of high level government officials fleeing their homes in luxury cars. They were heading for ports where rows of expensive boats were docked waiting to take them to Filop or Yurago.
The entire country was in chaos and West Vam took advantage of it by sending troops across the border. There were a few pockets of resistance. Three divisions of East Vam troops had stayed at their posts. The most stable region was an area along the coast around the town of Port Cam Pu. This was the same port where most of the government officials had yachts parked waiting to take them to safety.
With three of the generals having fled the country, Colonel Nguyen took control of a division of the East Vam army that contained three brigades. He had positioned two brigades to the west, while splitting the last brigade to the east, and north of the port town. Fighting was fierce in the west. The East Vam troops were dug into defensive positions while the West Vam troops had raced ahead of their heavy support elements.
Colonel Nguyen waited for the limousine to pull up to the checkpoint on the road to Port Cam Pu. The driver looked nervous while the family squeezed in the back looked tense. The car, followed by three very large trucks, slowly approached the checkpoint and then stopped.
The rear window rolled down and the man in the rear seat stuck his head out.
Blustering with the kind of tone that only an experienced politician can manage, the man asked, “What’s the problem?”
Colonel Nguyen smiled on seeing who was in the car. It was the Minister of Finance and his family. He had expected the man to come through the checkpoint the previous day. For a while he had been worried that the man had a secondary escape route planned.
“Mr. Tran Pham, I’m glad to see you.”
“Why are you stopping me?”
“I’m giving everyone going through here a warning about what’s happening. We’ve had several reports that several West Vam ships are patrolling offshore and stopping ships leaving port.”
“Are you telling me that the way to Filop is blockaded?”
“It’s not an effective blockade. I’ve got some gunboats in the area. They can escort you out of the port, past the enemy patrols, and towards Filop,” Colonel Nguyen answered.
“Yes. Once you get your stuff aboard, send a man to the flagpole at the marina and let him know that you’re ready to leave. He’ll give your man the details on how to meet up with the escort.”
Mr. Tran Pham looked at Colonel Nguyen with suspicion written on his face.
“What’s it going to cost me?”
Colonel Nguyen thought, “Why am I not surprised that the first thing a corrupt official asks is how much he’s going to have to bribe me?”
Knowing that he was going to have to give a credible answer, he said, “Half a million dollars before you leave port and another half million dollars when you arrive at Filop.”
Now that a price had been suggested, it was time to negotiate. He could probably get the help for half of that amount.
“That’s a lot of money for just an escort.”
“You can try your luck against the West Vam patrol boats.”
“I’ll try my luck,” Mr. Tran Pham said thinking that the Colonel would make a counter offer.
“That’s fine with me. May I ask you a question?”
“Does your yacht have torpedoes?”
“Let me give you some advice. As soon as you see an enemy patrol boat, open fire with whatever weapons you have, and don’t stop firing even after you get into your lifeboats once they sink your ship.”
There was a gasp from inside the car. It seemed that not everyone in the car was that willing to try their luck against the West Vam patrol boats.
“Sink my ship?” Mr. Tran Pham said somewhat shaken.
“It’s a military patrol crewed by men from a country that is at war with us. They’re sinking everything they can, and then killing everyone who lives long enough to get in a lifeboat.”
“On second thought, a million isn’t that high of a price.”
“I don’t want you to feel pressured. You don’t have to decide now.”
“I’d definitely like an escort.”
“That’s fine. Just remember, send a man down to the flagpole when you’re ready to leave. Let my man know and he’ll arrange the escort,” Colonel Nguyen said.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Mr. Tran Pham said.
After an exchange of minor details, the convey drove off. Disgusted, Colonel Nguyen watched them leave. His sources put the contents of the trucks at around forty million in gold, plus twenty million in Amra cash and another fifteen million in priceless artifacts that were stolen from a religious temple.
He muttered, “You’ve got about five more minutes to enjoy your stolen goods, asshole.”
He released a radio from his belt. Holding it up to his mouth, he pressed the button, and said, “There’s a convey coming. One car carrying the family driven by an armed driver. Three trucks. Each truck has an armed driver and an armed man riding shotgun. The last truck has twelve armed men in the back. They’ve got pistols and rifles, nothing heavy.”
He put away his radio thinking that he’d stay at the checkpoint until dark. In the morning, he would move his men west to meet the West Vam forces that were pouring into the country. He needed to keep them out of that part of the country until after all of the government officials had cleared out. There was still a lot of the country’s wealth in transit and he meant to get the majority of it. There was an Orphan Army to feed – and those poor orphans needed a lot of food.
He didn’t need the historical artifacts. He would make sure that they were returned to the people of Vam. They constituted the history of Vam and should stay in Vam. A change in government, even if the new government was attempting to change the culture of the people, was no reason to destroy the past or allow the past to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. At heart, Colonel Nguyen loved his country.
The mood inside the Rock was somber. A lot of people working there had lost friends and relatives in East Vam. Seeing the country fall apart made it seem as if their sacrifice had been wasted. It was disheartening to say the least, but it was made even worse by the press pointing the finger of public opinion at the Ministry of War. Considering that the ministry hadn’t been the most popular division of the government for a long time, it had now hit all time lows.
The normally loud crowd in the cafeteria was muted. The rattle of dishes was louder than the conversations taking place.
Colonel Wynn turned to his lunch companion and said, “Call the medics if I lose consciousness as a result of blood loss.”
“What are you going to do?” Major Walters asked.
“I’m going to have a little chat with Miss Jennifer Walsh.”
“Are you crazy? She’ll eat you alive.”
“I’m not crazy; I’m just a man with a mission.”
Colonel Wynn winked at his lunch companion and rose from his chair. He walked across the cafeteria dining room to the table where Miss Walsh was seated. He pulled out a chair and sat down across from her.
Looking at him like he was something she had scraped from the bottom of her shoe, she said, “I did not invite you to sit at my table.”
“I apologize for that. I came over here to offer you a challenge.”
“You’re probably right. I should have known that you wouldn’t be interested in it. You’re probably not that good of a linguist, anyway,” he said while rising from the chair.
“I’m writing a fantasy book with elves in it, and I need a language for them.”
She stared at him.
“Never mind ... you couldn’t come up with totally artificial language with a whole vocabulary, pronunciation guide, and unique grammar. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
He’d taken two steps away when she said, “Wait.”
He stopped and looked back at her, barely managing to keep from smiling.
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about creating a whole new artificial language for elves. It needs to sound musical, almost lyrical. It needs to be concise while retaining the ability to be extremely descriptive. It also needs to be consistent with the elvish society that I’ve created.”
“There are artificial languages.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not interested in Yamba, Ecrante, or Drummle. I just can’t imagine elves saying something like, ‘Trant coomla e ral.’ That just isn’t right.”
“‘Don’t play with me?’ I didn’t realize you were familiar with Ecrante, Colonel. Why wouldn’t it do?”
“Because elves aren’t human. Their language shouldn’t be human. However, it should be pronounceable by a human, just in case they make a movie of my book.”
“Like you said, it’s a fictional story. It shouldn’t really matter.”
“I can see that you aren’t interested. I won’t bother you anymore.”
“I ... might be interested.”
“Do you really want something unlike any existing language?”
“That would be a challenge.”
“I think so.”
“I’ll need to know more.”
She glanced around the crowded cafeteria. The days when whores were a normal contingent on a ship or followed behind an army servicing soldiers may have ended a hundred years ago but the attitude of the military towards women hadn’t changed that much. She wanted it clear to everyone that she was there to work, not as a plaything for relieving stress.
She added, “I’d rather not talk to you here.”
“I’m having dinner at Le Chateau. You could join me there.”
“I’ll be there,” she said. “Now leave my table.”
When he returned to the table, Major Walters said, “No obvious bleeding wounds. I’m impressed.”
“Don’t be. I just asked her to do something for me,” Colonel Wynn replied.
“I asked her to create a language for my elves.”
“You and your stupid elves. Everyone around here is beginning to wonder if you lost your mind while over in Vam.”
“My stupid elves? Let me propose a hypothetical and see what you come up with,” Colonel Wynn said with a smile.
“A hypothetical, huh?” Major Walters said with a dismissive grin. “Well, a hypothetical never hurt anyone. Give me your best shot.”
“Okay. How would you train elves to do your job?”
“I’d do it like we currently train cadets at the Academy.”
“Our cadets get two or three courses in mission planning if you take into account the two semesters of military history they take. I’m thinking my ‘stupid elves’ would get six full years of classes. I figure the last two years would have real field exercises.”
“Six years at one hour a day, seven days a week, and fifty-two weeks a year.”
“You could cover thousands of historical engagements with that much time.”
“Well, the elven civilization is small, and it couldn’t afford to have a large army. You’d want to train everyone, and let the cream rise to the top. You’d need them to be exceptionally well trained in every aspect of war to be successful.”
“Hmm. That’s a little different. I’d have to think about it.”
“I’ve found that my little fantasy novel has led to hundreds of interesting little thought experiments like that one. It might sound stupid, but I’ve really gotten into the concept of creating an internally consistent fantasy world with its own culture, language, and novel approaches to things that we take for granted,” Colonel Wynn said with a smile.
“Six years of training in mission planning...” Major Walters said, still thinking about the problem.
With a twinkle in his eye, Colonel Wynn watched the major get lost in his thoughts. There was nothing as enticing to an expert than being given a tough problem and then given carte blanche to find a solution. The chance to put together something without politics, legacy issues, and artificial constraints was just too rare for the very best to pass up. All of those little thoughts, insights, concerns, and tricks, gained over the years, could be brought together in one focused and coherent manner.
The two men chatted, with Major Walters still a little distracted, for the remainder of their lunch break. After finishing his meal, Colonel Wynn headed to an after-action briefing session to discuss how the withdrawal mission had gone.
The mood in the meeting room was sullen. Everyone sat quietly waiting for Admiral Roberts to arrive fully expecting to get a royal ass chewing. The press was making a field day out of the fall of the East Vam and too much of the blame was getting placed on the Ministry of War. In fact, listening to the news gave the impression that the Ministry of War was the reason East Vam fell.
Looking like someone had taken a morning constitutional in his bowl of breakfast cereal, Admiral Rogers entered the room. He went to the head of the table and sat down. The man was clearly not happy.
“Good afternoon. According to the press, the Ministry of War is run by a bunch of incompetents. My name, in particular, has been mentioned far too many times. Would anyone like to tell me what in the hell happened, there?”
When no one answered, Colonel Wynn leaned forward and raised a hand.
“Colonel Wynn, if you have something to say, then say it.”
“Aye-aye, Sir,” Colonel Wynn answered.
His use of the proper naval term caught the Admiral by surprise. That only happened when Colonel Wynn had something of significance to say.
“First of all, let me say that you should be talking to the press, instead of sitting in this briefing.”
“The press is flat out wrong. From the perspective of our mission, the Ministry of War was extremely successful. The failure that is unfolding on the news is the result of errors made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
“The government collapsed even as our troops were withdrawing. There wasn’t a high level government official left in Sage when our ships pulled out of the harbor. They had already given up before the military had a chance to show its effectiveness. They looted the treasury, the National Museum, and a dozen historic sites. They grabbed everything they could and ran like rats leaving a sinking ship.
“If I were being interviewed by the press, I would clearly make the point that the Vam government didn’t fall, it fled. There’s a difference. A government that falls, does so while fighting for its very existence. A government that flees could care less about the nation or its people.
“We don’t know what happened to most of the high level government officials. They’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. A handful of lower level government people have surfaced in Filop and Yuraga. My sources there suggest that bribes provided by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs were used to fund their escape.
“If I were being interviewed by the news, I’d make sure to mention that government of East Vam fled, using money provided by the Amran Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I realize that politically that is a rather unpopular position to take, but it might get the press focused on what really happened.
“On the other hand, I’d play up how well the military has performed.
“A military serves at the orders of civilian leadership when a state has a democratically elected government, such as is the case in Amra. When said leadership disappears, the legal authority under which a military organization operates becomes uncertain, and ill-defined. In such a circumstance, a military has three choices: step aside until a new government is put into place, take control of the government in a military coup, or act on its own initiative to defend and protect the country from external enemies.
“Two divisions of the East Vam army appear to have made the first choice. They have disbanded. I would argue that that is a reasonable moral choice for a military leader to make. It is particularly true when he knows that there will be no logistical support, in terms of food and ammunition, to continue the war effort. The general who makes that decision has the best interests of the soldiers in his command in mind.
“Two generals, each in command of a division, are currently arguing over which one of them should be running the country. I would argue that both men are acting in the best interests of the nation of East Vam. Each of them recognizes that the country needs a government to support the rest of the army. Someone has to do it. Their problem is deciding which of the two of them is the best man for the job.
“Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs could resolve the matter by picking one, and acknowledging him as the leader of the country. I’d point that out to a reporter if I were being interviewed by the news.
“There is another silver lining from our perspective.
“Several colonels have stepped up and taken control over three divisions of East Vam troops. They have organized an effective defense of the country. They have managed to keep control of three large areas, despite facing overwhelming forces. They have prevented the West Vam army from reaching Sage. We have reports of several major engagements in which the East Vam forces have emerged victorious. They should be able to hold until they run out of supplies.
“Based on their performance, I would say that the Amran Ministry of War has trained the Vam military to a level capable of resisting the West Vam Army. I would remind the press that such was the stated mission of the Ministry of War.
“A year ago, we recognized that Amra had achieved its mission from a military perspective and we planned for the withdrawal of our troops. We did so with assurances from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the government of East Vam was stable, and would remain in the control of the country, as long as the military was able to prevent a full-out invasion.
“We executed our plan, as cleared by the current administration, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Our troops are on the way home where they should be greeted as the heroes they are.
“It’s just a shame that the former government of East Vam, and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both failed the country of East Vam so miserably.”