The Maw Of Hell (10.1)

22nd of the Aster’s Gloom, 2030 D.C.E

Adjar Dominance – City of Bada Aso

Late into the morning the signals technicians crowding the ARG-2 radar trucks in the southern districts found their CRT displays crowded by green blips. They witnessed for the first time an immediate shift from a clear sky on the radar to one choked with objects each occupying their own tiny portion of the indicators, their own eerie wavelengths.

Were the ARG-2 more sophisticated they might have thought it a malfunction.

But it was clear to them that this was far from an error.

They quickly contacted Parambrahma, who in turn alerted everyone in the Battlegroup Command. An ARG-2 couldn’t tell how many planes approached: it could only tell that enough were coming that they drove the instruments into a frenzy.

They had never seen anything like it. It could only have been a real attack.

Madiha had arrived from the rail yard well before the alert.

She took a prescribed barbiturate to control the near panic attack that she had when she arrived, and hid in one of the school rooms on the lowest level for about an hour before returning to the general population. She sat down in the cafeteria, feeling hollow and weak.

About halfway through a bowl of oatmeal and a glass of milk that Parinita had all but forced her to eat, several KVW guards and the staff brought her new reports. Exhausted, with her brains pounding inside her skull and her stomach gurgling as though ready to expel everything she had just eaten, Madiha forced herself to stand straight and look certain.

She covered up her shaking hands as best as she could and authorized a general alert.

She made the calls to the divisions over the army-level long range radio herself.

Her eight divisions in Bada Aso began to take their air raid positions.

Much of their materiel was already hidden as best as it could be from the Luftlotte, and their anti-air batteries were at their positions and ready to fire within minutes.

Amid the chaos Madiha had additional orders for the Battlegroup as a whole.

First she ordered the deployment of an aerial counterattack from the northern Adjar regions. All Anka and the few more modern Garuda in the arsenal would be prepared immediately; pilots were to be briefed thoroughly, and then lift of as soon as possible.

Where possible Garuda should be grouped together into homogenous squadrons to maximize the concentration of strength. Anka would have to do most of the work however.

Having little experience with air power she hoped that the air officers could take care of the deployment, but nobody sounded confident in a speedy reinforcement.

Next she turned her eyes back to the city.

Thankfully she was not making her stand out in the open: a preponderance of radio and telephone equipment allowed her will to easily reach all of her troops, an invaluable advantage that would have been lost anywhere but inside the developed confines of the city. Through the various lines more orders came, reaching each division and many of the lower rung officers directly. Hundreds of anti-air batteries with dozens of guns all over the city prepared to launch a curtain of fire into the skies the instant the enemy appeared.

To support the smaller anti-air batteries Madiha also ordered the 100mm coastal turrets to elevate their barrels and turn around to defend the city. Though primarily meant for naval defense, the 100mm was an All-Purpose Gun with the range and ammunition to defend the air. Several of the guns had been set into huge stationary pillboxes, but at least six new guns had been built on turrets that could be rotated manually with some effort.

Troops garrisoned in the city were the next major consideration.

Too many losses from carelessness now could sway the outcome of the future battle. Madiha ordered any troops stationed near entrances to the Bada Aso underground to hide in the tunnels and sewer system, unless they were specifically in support positions to Anti-Air batteries, in which case they were to remain in the open with their batteries. Those hidden underground would be safer there, and their preservation was necessary. Several divisions were ordered to take shelter with the civilians near their defensive positions.

However a strong presence was still needed in the streets.

She ordered the platoon of mobile-anti-air trucks to ready themselves to respond quickly to concentrations of air power in the area, and for a few foot-mobile machine gun battalions to support them and the air batteries. This was a particularly painful deployment, given the inadequacy of the Khroda heavy machine gun when fighting against air power.

Finally she had one very necessary order which countermanded previous briefings.

“Inform our forces in the Kalu that they are to ignore their air raid posture and remain hidden in their positions unless they are specifically attacked.” Madiha ordered. “If Nocht overflies the Kalu and their air power reports almost nothing there to resist them, we will have a key advantage in the upcoming battle. It is vitally important that the Kalu forces maintain as much stealth as possible. Fight back only if necessary to preserve yourselves.”

Over the long range radio these orders went out to the Kalu, where soldiers had been establishing themselves in the rolling hills and rocky scarp, behind the tors and in wooded gorges near the streams and tributaries of the Umaiha. They used the varied terrains of the hilltops to their advantage. Camouflaged netting hid tanks and trucks and guns across the uneven span. Operations staff in the base appeared to question the wisdom of this advice, but relayed the orders; out in the wilderness the men and women, including the 5th KVW Mechanized Division, simply hid, in prepared positions or as best as they could improvise.

With this order given, the die was cast.

Putting down the phone and radio sets, Madiha knew she could not shuffle around any of the forces that she had ordered from their positions. Everything she did was now set into stone. Should her judgments turn out to be wrong, there was no undoing them.

Parinita took charge of the civilian alert.

At first she sounded the sirens for a minute to get everyone’s attention. They were then silenced and radio broadcasts took their place. Across the city the speaker system instructed the remaining civilian population of around ten thousand to take shelter. Those who were close or those who could make the trek rushed to designated air raid shelters.

For those who could not leave or could not leave behind, a basement offered the most protection, and everyone in the staff hoped that the civilians remembered their drills.

Air raid shelters had been stocked with supplies in the event of an air attack, which would surely prevent citizens from reaching civil canteens or shopping at msanii markets. Emergency rations had been handed out yesterday to civilians in their homes as well, in case they could not make it out in time and needed to sustain themselves for a day or two while sheltered in place. Windows were sticky taped; basements crowded up.

Parinita’s voice calmly repeated the needed instructions, and people moved.

It was an ordered chaos.

Everyone was scared, and everyone was rushed, but all proceeded according to plan.

The ARG-2 had done their jobs waking the Ayvartan community in the face of danger. Now the equipment was temporarily powered down and the precious radar trucks quickly sequestered to secure positions to give them a better chance to survive the coming storm.

First blood would soon be shed on the Battle for Bada Aso.

Everything was set into motion.

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