Alea Iacta Est (51.2)

City of Rangda — Council District

Once the shooting died down and Madiha Nakar was far enough removed as a threat to the surroundings, the civil police returned in a new role.

Though they had summoned their union representatives and refused to engage in battle with any unit of the 1st Motor Rifles, including the fugitive commander and police impersonator Madiha Nakar, they had agreed to perform military labor in service of the 8th Division. In front of the Council building, the police gathered to clear the gore from the green and set into place sandbags and ammunition stocks. Police trucks towed anti-tank guns into place, under the supervision of 8th Division Goblin tanks in the process of being turned into sandbag bunker guns.

Uncertain words were exchanged around the Council front green. Nobody knew what the future would hold for them. News from Solstice had been slow to travel, and likewise news from the front seemed eerily hard to come by. Starved of direction, the police stuck with the local government. There was no other force presenting itself as desiring their allegiance.

Even if it meant antagonizing the fearsome Hero of the Border, the police union did what they had the power to do to cooperate on their own terms.

Thus the lawn became crewed primarily by blue uniforms instead of green.

For an hour the police worked in peace until they spotted a liaison car in the distance. Through the work area arrived Aksara Mansa’s open-top staff car followed by the defeated M4D Sentinel with Von Drachen’s head visible over the top hatch. Though the M4D continued to its storage space for refueling, Aksara Mansa and General Gaul Von Drachen left their vehicles and crossed the green, stepping over knee-high sandbags and around barbed wire to access the building. Inside they found a throng of onlookers waiting with their work in their hands and their breaths held.

“Return to your offices! Get back to work!” Aksara commanded.

At once the crowd uneasily dispersed, going back to their documents and calculators and radios. Nobody knew what would happen next and they resented the position they were placed in. They stared at Aksara as they left, some with bitterness in their lips and eyes. There was heavy tension in the halls of the Council Building. Outside the tanks and trucks and the movement of supplies could easily be seen and heard. All of them were being thrown into a battlefield without their consent. Aksara knew this.

“Perhaps we should make haste for the command room, before anyone more forceful decides to delay your timely passage.” Von Drachen said.

Without response, Aksara Mansa started up the steps to the second floor.

He felt like he was walking outside himself, a doppleganger watching his body take action, his commands to it slightly delayed. He had the size, the skin, the face of his father, even the shadow of the man. But he was not his father; he had always been keenly aware of this fact. He knew he lacked the charisma certainly. He also lacked the vision his father had.

His father had been driven by some kind of plan. Aksara Mansa knew only the smallest details. He knew his father wanted an independent Tambwe. He had always wanted an independent Tambwe. His own Tambwe to rule. Even under the Empire he had wanted this. And it was as if a voice from on high had spoken to him and told him with great clarity what had to be done. Aksara always stepped aside and deferred to his father. Anyone who knew the man and felt the immense strength of his resolve did the same.

Confronted with the current situation in Rangda, Aksara Mansa struggled to think of what to do. He had put little hope in Von Drachen’s ability to recover Madiha Nakar; and recovering her was in his eyes a fool’s errand that even if successful would have changed little. He had a city that was slowly being evacuated to bunkers and shelters and schools and hospitals and repopulated with combat units at his father’s command, many of which knew not of the man’s death. Without Arthur Mansa, nobody quite knew what the endgame of ejecting or destroying the 1st Regiment was.

Inside the command room there were five long aisles of men and women seated behind radios and telephone boards, receiving the communications of the entire Battlegroup Ram, from which the 8th Division had been pulled. Since his father’s agreement to cooperate with the foreigners, the front had been quiet. Nocht had stayed their attacks, buying Mansa the time necessary to secure Rangda against Solstice. Perhaps, then, the deal was to turn Rangda over to Nocht, to open the front bloodlessly.

Aksara felt a stab of self-doubt. Why had his father not confided in him?

What had been his plan or even his motivation? What power drove him?

Where had he gone?

“So, what is the situation right now?” Von Drachen asked.

They stopped just outside of the rows of communications equipment.

Aksara gave him a contemptuous glare.

“I have confirmed the death of my father and suspect that it occurred as you say, Cissean.” He said. “Nevertheless, you have failed and thus the situation is at is has been for the past several hours. We are deploying our forces as fast as we can and we suspect the 1st Regiment has aggressive intentions. We can take no action against them yet. We are not ready.”

“Governor, if I might make a bold suggestion?”

At Aksara’s side, Von Drachen flared his hooked nose and shrugged his long arms, a lopsided grin stretching on his face. He looked ridiculous. More like an improvisational comedian than a Brigadier General.

“Go on.” Aksara said with muted disdain.

“Hand me command of the 8th Division. We must assault the 1st Motor Rifles immediately, before they can stage their own attack first.”

“I already told you we are not ready. Have you some miraculous plan?”

Von Drachen continued to smile. “I have a practical plan, and that is all that we need at the moment. You see, I know we can bring our numbers to bear on them if we trap them in the base. While we don’t have the combat power to defeat them in battle outright, we can surround them in a small area and saturate it with firepower once our heavy weapons arrive.”

Aksara snorted. How could this foreigner know that he spoke of the 8th Ram Rifle Division, the most elite of Tambwe’s forces, its officer corps unflinchingly loyal to the Mansa family, its men and women trained in the harsh sun and deep jungle of Tambwe? How could he speak of combat power when he had never met the brave men of the Lion battalion?

“On what basis do you claim we lack the power to defeat them outright?”

“On their abysmal performance against my 13th Panzer Brigade just before their pitiful capture beyond the Ghede River.” Von Drachen casually said.

“If your own men are so strong, use them.” Aksara sharply replied. “I will continue to build up my forces for a decisive battle, as my father wanted.”

Von Drachen crossed his arms and heaved a long sigh in response.

In truth Aksara’s convictions were not so strong. He knew the 8th Division had a dismal disposition, while the 1st Regiment was a cipher. But he had to believe that his father’s overall strategy could work; even if they had failed to remove Madiha Nakar. How important a component could the removal of one woman, from a Regiment of thousands, have been?

He suspected Nakar was not as important as claimed. With enough time to deploy fully he could crush her. Tactics could not contend with numbers.

Once the 8th Division fully deployed he would have four times her troops.

Thus he convinced himself. The 8th Division would stay the course.

It was a decision he made quietly and in a quiet place.

There was little activity in the command room. Officers from the 8th Division commiserated over a map of the city, plotting their fighting positions. Radio operators waited for airwaves and kept their pens and pads ready to take any important notes. Secretaries brought refreshments to the weary personnel. It was a subdued room to stand around in.

Until, in a far corner, one of the radio operators stood suddenly.

She stared across the room and waved toward the governor.

“Sir, we’re receiving a government communique on the teleprinter.”

Aksara Mansa turned sharply around and faced the machine, set against the far wall of the room on the last aisle of communications equipment. Soon as it was acknowledged, the teleprinter began to spit out its encrypted type on a roll of paper. A pair of operators left their radios and withdrew their code books and began to decrypt the message right away.

They were speechless at first. Aksara left Von Drachen’s side.

“Well, what is it?” He cried out to them as he approached.

One of the women cradled the papers grimly as if holding a corpse.

“Sir, there’s– there’s been a change of government in Solstice.”

For a moment the words were lost in the silence of the room.

For much longer, nobody wanted to believe them.

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