World War: Campaign for Eastland
Copyright© 2018 by Lazlo Zalezac
The Major stopped at the new street stand that sold fresh cut flowers. He had to admit that the stand had a very nice variety of flowers at a very good price. He browsed through the inventory before selecting some roses. He carried the roses over to the woman in the wheel chair.
“How are you doing today?” the woman said smiling up at him.
“I’m great. I’m having a little celebration with the wife.”
“What’s the occasion?”
“It’s our anniversary.”
“That’s wonderful. How long have you been married?”
“Congratulations,” the woman said.
Business was good. She had picked a good location right across the street from the main entrance to the base. Officers stopped by to buy flowers for their wives and the enlisted men stopped by to get flowers for girlfriends.
He went through the process of paying for the flowers. The major walked out whistling happily. She returned to making another bouquet of flowers. Friday nights were always busy.
Sandy Dancing watched another tank roll by her position. For the past four months, she had been watching tanks maneuver around the field playing at fighting. It hadn’t been very interesting the first day and it was definitely not interesting now.
Colonel Vickers said, “That’s the last of them. We’ve completed another successful exercise.”
“What are they preparing for?”
“Fighting the Jade Empire on Eastland.”
It didn’t look like they were preparing for that at all. They were just driving around, shooting their guns, and taking hills with no one on them. It looked like they were playing at being soldiers.
Sandy Dancing said, “So when you are going to fight them?”
“We’re waiting for them to do something. They aren’t doing anything at the moment. When they do something, we’ll jump right on them.”
His words sounded reasonable, but were empty. It was true that the Jade Empire wasn’t doing anything at the moment. She didn’t think that his troops were all that ready to jump right on them if that situation were to suddenly change.
Sandy Dancing said, “You’ve told me that before. I’d like to walk through a hypothetical situation with you for moment. Let’s just say that the Jade Empire made its move today. It seems to me like you aren’t ready to move to engage them.”
“That’s what this training is about.”
“I don’t mean it that way. It’s just that the port is long way from here. You’d have to get your tanks from here to the port. Once you get them there, then you have to load them onto the ship for transport across the sea. I figure that could take a week or so before you’d be moving out of the port.”
“It would take some time.”
With the tanks charging all over the countryside, they’d taken a bit of a beating. They’d brushed up against trees. Some of the guns were showing signs of wear. The tracks were a little loose. Some of the diesel engines were smoking a bit more than usual. Two of the tanks had actually broken down in the middle of the exercise.
“I also noticed that some of your tanks are looking a bit beat up. I’d say about a third of them could use some maintenance about now.”
“That does happen when you train hard.”
“It just strikes me as a little odd that you say you’re ready, but it would take you a week to get in position to actually move out. Even then, a third of equipment needs to be repaired. That doesn’t strike me as being ready.”
“It might look that way, but it’s not that way at all. The equipment may look a little beat up, but it’s military grade equipment and can take a beating. We’re ready.”
It wasn’t just the state of his equipment that cast doubt on what was going on. She’d been in town poking around in places where she probably didn’t belong. She had taken a long unsupervised tour of the port. She had listened to sailors and soldiers talking in the streets. She had visited the library and read some of the recent news stories about what was going on.
“I was in town the other day and noticed something else a little odd.”
“There isn’t a ship waiting to take you guys to Joma. I guess that a ship would have get here before you could get loaded on it. It makes me wonder where it’s coming from and how long it would take it to get here.”
“All of those details are being handled at a pay grade higher than mine,” Colonel Vickers said.
That answer struck her as misleading as hell. He was at the pay grade that should be handling those details. It was time to probe a little deeper.
“You’re a full bird Colonel, aren’t you?”
“Yes. You know that.”
“I was thinking that maybe I misremembered it,” Sandy Dancing said.
Stiffly, he asked, “Why would you say something like that?”
“I just figured that you’d be spending a bit of time getting briefed on what’s going on rather than hanging out here watching tanks drive around and shoot at targets.”
“Until the Jade Empire does something, there’s nothing to get briefed on.”
“My mistake,” Sandy Dancing said.
Cadet Alani shook the stack of papers trying to get them aligned. She tapped the bottom of the stack on the table to straighten them. She then placed the stack of papers in front of General Hang.
She said, “I believe all of these reports are dealing with the same stockpile. If so, then we have another location identified.”
He picked up the stack of papers and started looking through the reports. The first time through he wondered why she had come to that conclusion. During his second pass, he realized there was a very subtle thread tying them all together. He grabbed a sheet of paper and a pen. He started mapping out the information in the reports, tying together people, places, dates, and events. It all hung together.
She placed a sheet of paper that was marked up almost identically to his. He smiled and nodded his head. She was good and she was getting better. It wouldn’t be long before she would be the best he’d ever met.
“I agree with your assessment.”
“So that makes eight locations identified with a high degree of certainty. We’ve still got three that are questionable.”
“I’m sure that Sword Tomas and Sword Miguel will be satisfied taking out three questionable sites even if there is nothing there. When it comes to this kind of evil it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“There’s one more,” Cadet Alani said as pushed a single sheet of paper across the table. In a quiet voice, she said, “This report scares me more than all of the others.”
Just a glance at it was enough to let General Hang know exactly what what was scaring her. He nodded his head in agreement. If what was in it was even half of the truth, then something truly horrible had been created. He picked up the report. His hand trembled just holding it. It was a piece of a lab report on a chemical weapon that General Karga had developed.
“Do you think it is in one of the three questionable sites?”
“No. I think it is here,” she said pointing to a location on the map.
He looked at the map. If his memory was correct, there was nothing there. He asked, “Why there?”
Cadet Alani searched through the stack of papers they had shunted off to the side after deciding that they contained disinformation. She pulled one sheet of paper out and said, “Do you remember this report which said that an Engle firm built a deep bunker at this location?”
“Yes, I do. I looked at that earlier. There’s nothing there.”
“Yes, there is.”
“What? I looked at the aerial pictures taken of the area. There was nothing there.”
“There’s a simple building,” she said. She flipped through a stack of photographs until she found the one that she was looking for. She pulled it out and set it in front of General Hang. “This one.”
“It’s almost in the right location, but it’s not at the right coordinates,” he said.
The report from Engle firm had a very precise location for it. The building was just off of it.
“What if that is the entrance and the actual bunker is where the report said it was?” she asked.
“That’s an interesting question.”
“If that is it, then why is it so well hidden? Why is there so little information about it?”
“They are protecting something very important,” General Hang said.
“I say we add that to the list of sites.”
“I agree. It may be the most important site of them all.”
He spent a minute adding it to the list of sites. Near most of the sites, he was able to say what was stored there. There were nerve agents, blister agents, and choking agents. There were a few sites which stored a number of different things. The reports about what was stored in those sites made a lot of claims. No matter, it was all bad.
All of that paled beside what they suspected of that final site. What they suspected presented a very frightening picture. A chemical weapon that after being released could mutate on long term exposure to water and oxygen from blister agent to nerve agent and then to choking agent. The lab report had given it a name, purify.
“I’ll send this to the Jade Citadel. They must know about it,” Cadet Alani said.
General Hang said, “I never believed that men could do such evil. I fear that even the Jade Empire will fall if even a few drops of this released.”
“We can not fail,” Cadet Alani said in a solemn voice. “No one else is strong enough to face this threat.”
Empress Jana read the paper sent from the Jade Academy. When she got to the final chemical weapon, she felt her stomach drop. If what was in the report was accurate, she had just had a glimpse of pure evil. A shudder of revulsion when through her body. She knew what had to be done. It was time for Jade Force to unleash the hounds of hell.
She headed to the Temple of War. There was something that she needed from there and it was important that she had it before addressing everyone else. What she did there only took a minute. She left and walked towards the confab room. Others saw her, saw the expression on her face, and knew that something important was happening. They followed her.
She reached the confab room where the Council of Black Lords were meeting. They all looked up at her arrival. There was something about her that was different. It was as though she had been transformed. For the first time since becoming the Jade Empress, she looked and moved like an Empress.
She drew a sword from her scabbard and held it up. It wasn’t her regular sword. She held up a sword made of jade. A gasp spread across the room at the sight of it.
In a strong voice that reverberated across the room, she said, “Black Lords. Jade Warriors. I call upon you. Venu must be destroyed. It must be burned to the ground. It must be erased from existence.”
Everyone stared at her. Never had a Jade Warrior ever called upon others to mete out total destruction.
Some one asked, “Did they find the chemical weapon sites?”
“Yes. It is worse than what you can possibly imagine. What Venu has done can not be forgiven. What Venu is doing must be stopped. They must be destroyed or the whole world will burn.”
Within thirty minutes everyone at the Jade Citadel had read the report. Copies had been transmitted to confab rooms across the war front. By the end of an hour every Jade Warrior and Jade Lord had read the report.
Mr. Cee revved the engine of his car. He looked over at Mr. Ess in the car next to his. Mr. Ess was revving his engine and smiling back at him. Hamid was watching the two men unable to believe what he was seeing. Both men turned to look at him.
With a long sigh, Hamid raised a hand and then lowered it. The two cars took off with tires squealing. They shot down the two mile long entrance road to the mall racing neck and neck. At least they had eight lanes to play with.
Hamid went over to his truck and got in. He followed behind them taking his time. When he reached the end of the road, the two men had driven into the parking lot and were making donuts with tires squealing the whole time. There was nothing for them to hit except each other. He had tried to talk them into letting him install light posts to provide lighting for the parking lot, but they had bluntly rejected the suggestion.
He parked in front of the big empty store. He got out and unlocked the front door. He’d wait inside until the two fools finished their fun and games in the parking lot. He went in and was struck again by the size of the building. It was more like a warehouse than a store. He couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to rent it.
Mr. Cee and Mr. Ess walked into the building. They looked around the cavernous room with great big smiles. Hamid went over to them.
“Are you ready for the walk through?”
Mr. Cee said, “No need.”
“We’ve already rented it out,” Mr. Ess said.
Hamid stared at them. He couldn’t believe that someone would rent this building in the middle of nowhere.
“They’ll be here tomorrow to start installing the shelves.”