World War: Campaign for Surprise
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
Mr. Jacques Descroix was fidgeting nervously in the hallway leading to the room occupied by the press corp who had gathered for the weekly briefing to the press. He was nervous for a good reason. The war against Jade Force was not going well. The fall of San Troph had been a major shock. He hadn’t been able to announce any kind of good news in quite a while. He always paused out here to get a sense for the atmosphere in the other room.
“Welcome back to the temporary headquarters of the IFN, the heart and center of the universe, Sandy.”
“It’s good to be back, Sam.”
Jacques stomach tightened on hearing the unmistakeable voice of Sandy Dancing. He had enjoyed her time spent in San Troph waiting to greet the IFN troops when they arrived. Then she had stumbled into just the right spot to watch Jade Force casually ride up and take out the government of San Troph. Even worse had been her interviews of the ‘man on the street’ where the general reaction to the fall of their government was one of muted confusion. It was hard to say that the government was gone when the same man in charge was still on television talking about running the nation.
What had really burned him was when an entire broadcast had been about the positive reaction to the announcement that any government employee who was caught taking bribes, kickbacks, or even trading favors was going to be charged with treason which carried with it the death penalty. Maybe, now, people could afford to do things without having to pay a fortune to bribe people who should have been helping them.
“You did a great job covering the fall of San Troph,” Sam said.
“I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.”
“I’m sure you were thinking about us when those Jade Force guys rode past on their motorcycles and right into the halls of the San Troph government,” Charles said lightly.
“I did think about you guys. I remember what I was thinking quite clearly.”
“‘Eat your hearts out guys. I just got the story of the century!’” Sandy Dancing answered.
The whole room groaned. It was true and they knew it. And if any of them had gotten the story, they’d have thought and said exactly the same thing.
Charles said, “We’ve all been afraid that your wonderful skills in questioning the Secretary General have gotten rusty with all of that time spent away from here.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“Maybe we can fix that,” Charles said and sent a wink over to Sam.
Mr. Descroix was about to open the door when he heard someone impersonating him say, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, I have a prepared announcement.”
He froze. It never boded well for him when the press rats were riled up like this.
Sandy Dancing said, “Another one of those, huh?”
“Be quiet,” the Mr. Descroix impersonator said.
“We all know what you’re going to say,” Sandy Dancing said.
“If you don’t learn how to behave politely, I’m going to ask that you be banned from these press briefings.”
“Are you attempting to suppress the press?”
The sweetness in her voice shot daggers through Mr. Descroix. He hated that tone of voice when she used it on him. She only used it when she was setting him up for something even worse.
His impersonator said, “No. I’m trying to get you to behave.”
“Do you have a problem with strong assertive women, Mr. Descroix?”
“I only have a problem with you, Ms. Dancing.”
“First you ask me to undress in public. Now you are talking about banishing me from your presence. Are you trying to suppress any unnatural sexual desires you might have concerning me?”
The whole room burst out in laughter. It was funny mostly because the woman saying it was dressed like a conservative female follower of Jarjan. They weren’t quite sure that she was nearly as conservative as her clothes suggested.
One of the reporters asked, “Mr. Descroix, is there any truth to that allegation?”
“Are you sure?” one of the other reporters asked.
“Why would you even ask that question?” the. Descroix impersonator asked.
“We’re reporters. It’s our job to ask probing questions. People expect us to establish what is really going on rather than what the professional spin doctors want us to believe is going on,” another reporter answered.
“I have no unnatural sexual desires involving Ms. Dancing. Are you satisfied?”
“So your desires for me are purely natural?”
“I have no desires for you, natural or unnatural.”
“Then why did you ask me to undress,” Sandy Dancer asked pointedly.
Jacques Descroix had a very thorough mental debate about the wisdom of having a press conference that morning. He tried to think of some excuse to postpone it, but couldn’t come up with one. The press rats were in rare form today.
He opened the door and strode purposely into the room. He glanced around the room, noted that Sam Langthrom from the World News Network had been the individual impersonating him. It shouldn’t have surprised him. Langthrom had always seemed to have a very good understanding how he thought.
Before reaching the podium, he said, “I see that Sandy Dancing has returned.”
“I just can’t keep away,” Sandy Dancing said.
“You could have tried harder,” he said causing a few chuckles around the room.
“I’m sorry to disappoint.”
She batted her eyes at him. That was all of the expression he could see considering the full head garb that she wore the covered her whole face except for her eyes.
Having reached the podium, he placed the small stack of papers on it. Looking down at the carefully crafted announcement, he knew that he’d never get through it with Sandy Dancing in the room. He took a deep breath and said, “I have a short announcement prepared and then I’ll take your questions.”
“We know what you’re going to say,” Sandy Dancing said.
Regretting the words coming out of his mouth even as he said them, he asked, “What am I going to say?”
“You’ve experienced setbacks with the loss of San Troph. That you are going to establish a forward base in Walford. That you will be reinforcing the military of Niella once a base in Walford is established.”
“Any thing else?” Mr. Descroix said.
“That you expect to displace Jade Force from San Troph within six months,” Sandy Dancing said.
Although he shouldn’t have been surprised, Sandy Dancing had nailed every point he had planned to announce. She had gone even further and announced that IFN forces expected to be invading San Troph in the near future. The only thing she had wrong was the time line.
“That’s three months.”
“So that means you already have ships headed to Walford with troops,” Sandy Dancing said lightly while making a note on her ever present pad of paper.
“You know that I can’t comment on operational issues,” Jacques Descroix said despite knowing that he’d already given away too much.
“You did say that you’d displace San Troph in three months. If that is going to happen in three months, then you should have troops just about ready to arrive in Walford. According to a military expert that I interviewed yesterday...” Sandy Dancing said. She flipped a page of her notebook and read, “It will take at least six weeks to set up a camp capable of hosting a force of sufficient size to invade San Troph. It will take at least six more weeks to move the required forces into the camp. It should take another several weeks before those forces would be trained and ready for an assault on San Troph.
“Based on those figures, you should have men arriving in Walford any day now.”
Mr. Descroix said, “Walford is taking care of establishing a base camp for us now.”
Sandy Dancing said, “Thank you. That piece of information will be a nice little addition to my news article.”
Another reporter piped up, “Didn’t you tell us last week that there had been no plans in place involving Walford?”
Mr. Descroix stared at the reporter for a moment before answered, “We had to revise our planning as a result of San Troph.”
Sandy Dancing said, “I don’t want to call you a liar, but it seems to me that pulling together last minute plans like that would have taken more than a couple of days. Isn’t it true that establishing a presence in Walford was a backup plan in case San Troph fell?”
“After the fall of New Franc and the loss of the Chen Second Fleet followed by the fall of Barmud with the loss of equipment and supplies for the Third Infantry Brigade of Romal, it was felt that having a potential secondary site would be appropriate. It wasn’t that it was really a plan, but a contingency.”
“In other words, it was a backup plan,” Sam said.
“We had no real intention of doing that,” Mr. Descroix said while starting to sweat nervously.
Sandy Dancing said, “Okay. We’ll accept that you had no real intention of doing that except in the case that your primary plan went belly up – which it did – and that it wasn’t really a backup plan, just a contingency plan that you didn’t mean to do. Do I have that correctly?”
Rather than answer, Mr. Descroix said, “Are there any questions?”
Sandy Dancing said, “Why wasn’t Niella part of a contingency plan?”
“That was a military decision and I’m not capable of commenting on it,” Mr. Descroix answered starting to sweat.
He wasn’t going to admit that it was felt that Niella had expansionist plans that made what Misera was doing look tame in comparison. Deploying in Niella would have strengthened the government there and created a future problem. Deploying in San Troph had been seen as stopping Jade Force as quickly as possible. Deploying in Walford allowed the fighting to occur in Niella which would have the secondary benefit of blunting its already too large of a military presence on the continent.
Sandy Dancing said, “Do you mean that Niella expansionist tendencies had nothing to do with the decision?”
“Expansionist tendencies?” Mr. Descroix asked as if surprised by the question while still downplaying it.
“Yes. Isn’t it true that Niella has the largest and best trained military in Surprise? And that Walford has regularly voiced concerns about the military exercises just across the border from it?”
Mr. Descroix said, “It’s natural that any country feels nervous when a neighbor engages in military exercises just across the border from them. That doesn’t mean that there is any real threat present.”
Sandy Dancing asked, “Aren’t you worried that Jade Force might decide to take Walford and then attack Niella from three sides?”
“Jade Force only has a couple thousand individuals. Three fronts are too many for that small of a force, particularly when they have to manage five countries that have only recently been invaded.”
Sandy Dancing said, “Aren’t you forgetting that Misera has an Army?”
“Misera has become a rogue nation by harboring an illegal militia of mercenaries. It has also rented out some of its military forces for use by Jade Force, and bears some of the guilt for the war crimes committed in Palarma. We will deal with Misera when the time is right.”
“What if Misera decides to deal with you first?”
Every war has its own tempo. In ancient times, it took armies months to march from one place to another. It takes time for an army to prepare to move even once war has been declared. The larger the army the longer the delay. Assuring that troops are fed, clothed, and sheltered is more important than training the troops. Historically, disease was a greater killer of soldiers than battle. It has often been said that logistics is the most important element of war, and it is no less true in modern times than it was in historical times.
The Third Great War was unfolding at an awkward pace, particularly for the coalition forces. Individual armies of the coalition were ready to move out, but they had no forward position at which to establish a base. It seemed that every time they identified a forward base from which to operate, Jade Force moved in and took it, before they managed to get any troops positioned. When New Frank fell, Jade Force ended up with the Second Fleet of the Chen Navy. When Barmud fell, Jade Force ended up with the equipment and supplies of the Third Infantry Brigade of Romal. Then San Troph fell while coalition forces were debating if they should position their forces there or in Walford.
While the pace of war from the perspective of the coalition seemed brutally slow, the opposite was true for Jade Force. The conquest of six countries in less than a year stressed the ability of Jade Force to remain an effective presence in each country. There were major issues that had to be resolved in the process of integrating each conquered county into the growing Jade Empire.
The expectations of the populace in a country under occupation are all pretty negative. They expect to find enemy troops walking the streets, stopping individuals for searches, and generally having a significant impact on their day to day lives. One expects to find elements of the infrastructure of the country destroyed as part of the fighting necessary to gain control of the country.
In this war, none of those expectations were being met. Most citizens hadn’t even seen a member of the Jade Force. Government services were available before, during, and after the conquest. For all intents and purposes, it was as if nothing had happened other than a minor change of leadership and the addition of a Jade Warrior within the halls of government. That didn’t mean that people weren’t afraid that this was the calm before the storm of oppression that was expected.
That’s not to say that there weren’t some changes and deaths. The Jade Empire did not condone corruption on the part of government employees and punished it with death. It took a little bit of time for that lesson to be learned. For those found guilty, well ... it was a harsh lesson. For those who were used to having to pay bribes for even minor things, it was a relief.