The Kalu Tank War (16.2)

This story segment contains scenes of violence and death.

28-AG-30: Bada Aso Outskirts – 1st Vorkampfer HQ

As the storm raged over Bada Aso, the roof started leaking in over a dozen places.

People in the Vorkampfer HQ were getting wet. Spirits were down.

It appeared the restaurant building they had picked as their headquarters was not so intact after all. Long rivulets from the ceiling formed puddles on the floor, but the General forbade the staff from becoming distracted. As long as the sensitive equipment was dry and operational, the floor and the tables and people’s heads could stand a little water.

In a corner of the room, atop a long wall-mounted table, six young women worked at the radios on a crucial task. One of them was getting drenched in the shoulder, and a towel had been given to her to cover it. She started to shiver, her hands shaking as she turned the frequency dial. Then a comforting presence, a pair of hands massaging her shoulders.

Her supervisor, another pretty young lady, whispered warmly in her ear.

“It will be over soon, don’t worry.” She said. “Try your best until then, Erika.”

Erika nodded her head, and her grip on the dial steadied a touch.

She pressed her headphones against her ears. Erika’s radio supervisor awaited a report, with a gentle, reassuring smile on her face. Her presence caused every girl at the table to perk up and work energetically. They all loved working for the chief.

“Any contacts?” She asked.

They scanned the unit frequencies. They sent messages. They tried everything they could feasibly do on their end – increasing power to their transmitters, going outside in cloaks to raise the antennae, swapping the antennae for fresh ones, even swapping one of the old radio blocks for a fresh one in reserve. But none of this seemed to change the results.

After another round of standard contact calls, Erika still had no good news.

“Sorry Chief Fruehauf. Same thing as before.”

Her supervisor sighed, and ambled away, demoralized but unable to show it.

Chief Signals Officer Helga Fruehauf had been having a very difficult time of things in Bada Aso. Her troubles would have been ever so slightly lessened had any of the Panzer companies in the Kalu picked up their radios, but if anyone was shouting across those dozens of kilometers, their voice was drowned out by the radio noise.

She hoped it was merely the thunder and rain.

But she knew that it wasn’t – she just could not say what she really thought it was.

“No response from the Kalu unit sir.” She said. She hugged her clipboard to her chest.

General Von Sturm grumbled from a chair in the middle of the room.

“Keep trying. You’ve got the long range radios, we set up your antennae on the roof, we got you your generators; we’ve done everything! If the Panzer Division HQ can’t reach those units then you must be able to!” He said, gradually working himself up to shouting.

Fruehauf sighed internally, but outwardly, she smiled, nodded, and went on her way.

She prided herself on her spirit.

She wanted to make this war a pleasant home for her girls, the radio operators of the 1st Vorkampfer, and for the men that they served. She tried to be courteous, collected, and exuberant. She tried to wear a smile. But General Von Sturm’s temper had taken a turn for the worse during the Matumaini actions, and though he had calmed somewhat, she saw his growing frustration again during the 28th, and she grew tremulous.

General Von Drachen wasn’t around to stick up for her this time, either.

She was alone.

Several important actions would take place this day. On Penance Road they were supervising attacks by Von Sturm’s own 13th Panzergrenadiers Division, as well as the unleashing of what was left of the 6th Grenadier’s Divisional Heavy Artillery in the Buxa Industrial Region. In the Umaiha Riverside, Von Drachen was resuming Azul’s attacks up the eastern parts of the city, hoping to find a way to the central districts from there.

And in the Kalu, the 2nd and 3rd Panzer Divisions blitzed through, moving rapidly past enemy territory to hit their vulnerable rear areas. Once they surrounded the city from the east, the ultimate encirclement and conquest of Bada Aso was inevitable.

Or at least, that was what Freuhauf had read.

She was a signals officer.

In the organization of the Vorkampfer this simply meant she stood in a tent or a room, supervising a half-dozen to a dozen people on radio equipment, while on occasion calling a ciphers battalion to come up with code words and frequency changes, though such things had become perfunctory annoyances. Oberkommando believed the Ayvartans incapable of advanced signals warfare, so her “ciphers battalion” was gradually converted into an additional ordinary signals battalion who worked radios and did ciphers in their spare time.

Everything still came in a ship, and there were priorities to consider, after all.

Penance seemed to be doing ok; Von Sturm didn’t particularly care about Azul.

What was baffling on that ugly afternoon was the absence of contact with the Kalu.

“Call General Anschel again and tell him to tell his staff to stop jerking around and get those tanks on the line, I don’t care what it takes.” General Von Sturm said. He was reclining on a chair near one of the tables in the HQ, with his hands on the nape of his neck.

“Yes sir.” Fruehauf replied. She hovered close to one of her radio girls, lifted one of the headphone receivers from her ear and whispered the orders. She nodded, and dutifully contacted the 2nd Panzer Division. Minutes later, Fruehauf gave a menial report.

“All they get is noise sir. They think it might be rain fade or lightning interference–”

“Not possible. You know that! You know more about radio than I do! You know it’s not rain fade, Fruehauf!” General Von Sturm said, raising his hands into the air in outrage. In the process he nearly fell back to the floor along with his chair, but somehow he managed to salvage it, and righted himself in time. This near-fall seemed to tone him down a touch.

“Yes sir,” Fruehauf began, “but they have no other means of communication with the troops right now. We could try to change all our frequencies and hope our tanks are looking through every channel for contact; but that would probably mean halting the attack for a few hours until we get everyone organized again, and I know that’s not going to happen.”

General Von Sturm steepled his fingers and rested his chin on them.

“What do you think the problem is? You went to school for this crap, you tell me.”

Fruehauf averted her eyes. She could not smile or be peppy, not about this, because she was about to do something fairly heretical in her response to the General.

“Radio jamming, sir.” She replied.

Von Sturm blinked and stared at her. Fruehauf continued.

“This is clearly random noise across the unit frequencies in the Kalu, and that is why we can still communicate with Bada Aso units, and why we can communicate between HQ units. They’re jamming the Kalu panzer unit frequencies so we can’t contact them for command and control. This noise we keep hearing doesn’t sound like I know our radios sound when they are having audio issues. It’s been introduced by Ayvartans.”

“So the Ayvartans introduced nondescript static noise to our unit frequencies?”

“Yes sir.” Fruehauf replied demurely.

“That’s impossible. They would have to know the frequencies for all our units. When the hell would they have learned those, and how the hell?” Von Sturm replied. He looked more amused, as though this was a theory as far-fetched as an invasion of space men.

Fruehauf herself thought it was difficult to believe for another reason.

In order for them to do this, they would have needed high power radio equipment to be deployed in the Kalu itself. For a noise attack to work, the noise equipment had to be more powerful. She supposed they could have fed such equipment via truck-mounted portable gasoline generators, but it seemed like a difficult endeavor for the Ayvartan army they had fought so far. They would have to hide these stations throughout the rough terrain of the Kalu, from both air reconnaissance and the sight of the advancing Panzers.

Then they would have had to spend time capturing frequencies. Once they felt they had the Panzer frequencies, they would have had to jam them sufficiently, and then take advantage of the silence for whatever amount of time it took before the HQs got fed up, blasted halt orders through random frequencies until someone heard, and ordered the institution of frequency changes across the board. It was a very delicate operation that could either pay off strongly for a limited amount of time, or waste days worth of work.

Nocht’s radio discipline was not the best, but this was all a longshot nonetheless.

It required tireless effort, enormous coordination, and an understanding of the enemy’s timetable and psychology. She had read the reports. It made little sense.

Could the Battlegroup Ox depicted in their intelligence analyses do this? Could their commander, Gowon, have had this foresight and shrewdness? Could the Ayvartan army they know about support such a tactic? What was the Oberkommando missing here?

Regardless it was the only thing that made sense to her.

Advanced forms of signals warfare.

“Fruehauf, you have a big imagination. Get back to your radios.” Von Sturm said dismissively. He waved her over to the corner where the radios were posted, and she smiled, nodded, and dutifully took her place beside them. It was best not to question it when the General let you off without incident. Fruehauf purged her worries from her head.

She returned to Erika’s side, stood by her, and promised to change the towel on her shoulder and to get her some time off if she came down with a chill.

It was all she could do at the moment.

Make this bleak place a comforting home.

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