by Max Barry

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Unnamed Cottage
Santander, España

Karl Kranz, former minister in the Austrian parliament after the dissolution of the Golden Throne and current operative in the Österreichische Befreiungsfront, approached the cabin which was said to be the meeting spot. The small house was not exactly the most secluded spot possible, it was still in the suburbs of Santander after all, and the woods on the edge of his vision seemed to be more secretive than the building itself. With a plain white siding and the same roof as the closest hundred houses, it was at least not a house which would stand out to any passersby, and its worn look and drawn curtains would dissuade any enterprising young men from peering through the windows. Karl walked around the yard and reached the cottage's back entrance, on a small deck overlooking a smaller yard, and entered through the unlocked door. Hopefully the Almadarians would arrive soon.

A sedan came to a squeaking halt on the freshly-paved asphalt of the road in front of their destination. Against a backdrop of Spanish ash trees, the vehicle rugged look could have passed for a car commercial-- but it had seen better days with its thoroughly dented bumper and chipped paint. Out came Roldán Fontanez and Jaime Zambrano, quickly checking their surroundings and scanning for any possible witnesses before striding up to the rented cottage and opening the front door with their key. If anything, it looked more like a gay thing than a meeting between two dangerous insurgent groups.

Inside, they found not what appeared to be bloodthirsty, bare-chested homicidal maniacs but a far more refined man, sitting cross-legged in wait.

Hanging up his Panama hat at the door, Fontanez slowly withdrew his pistol from within his jacket and placed it, facing away from the Austrian, on a nearby lamp table. He instructed his companion to do the same before sitting down opposite of Kranz.

“My name is Roldán Fontanez-- I speak on behalf of Cavillo and the Valverdian Popular Front. Shall we speak in English?”

"Yes, that would be most convenient," said Kranz, relieved that his minuscule knowledge of the Spanish language would not have to carry him through a diplomatic discussion. "Now, where shall we begin?"

“Let’s begin where our groups’ interests align; what do we have in common? How can our respective groups work toward common goals?”

"Well, naturally, we both want freedom for our people. I think that, despite our geographical distance, our organizations can still work together for our nations' benefit." Kranz stated, "A meeting in the middle, literally and figuratively."

Fontanez raised a hand toward Kranz applaudingly.

“Almadaria— and Austria.” He said emphatically, forcing the long syllables of the latter through his accent. “We both have shackles to break; and hopefully, with our cooperation, we may both see the end to our goals. The VPF needs men and firepower, and the only way to do that is to increase our humble financials and spread awareness. The VPF needs connections and additional cells, particularly in affluent communities. And if your Liberation Front needs rifles manufactured, bombs smuggled, or hideouts, Cavillo is all but happy to provide. If you want surgical, off the books operations, Cavillo will provide. What say you?”

"Yes, well, I hear you've recently based yourselves in the Sahara, yes? I believe that we could aid you in spreading your cause as well as provide you with the necessary armaments to fight for it. The OBF secured most of the former Austrian military stockpile after the Ruban and Italian invasions. In return, we would have the right to train within your Sahara hideouts, far away from prying eyes. We'd also contact your organization for any more unusual operations within Ruban or Italian territory, though the Italian government managed to cut us off from our cells in the Confederazione a while back."

“I believe we should be able to handle los italianos if we keep our operations running smoothly. As for everything else, it seems we’re in agreement. There is one more thing, however-- Cavillo wants more than a verbal agreement, and more than two separate groups. After all, we are men of one thought-- independencía. So why should we remain so insulated from one another? He proposed un intercambio de oficiales: an officer’s exchange, if you will. Have some of our people swap places, ensure loyalty to each other. Cavillo has generously pledged former Sargento de la Ejército Almadariano, Jaime Zambrano, here. Zambrano, once he has finished a job here in Santander you needn’t concern yourselves with, will put his several years of service in the Special Operations Command of the Almadarian Army at your disposal. El jefe would be most gracious if you provided a compañero of equal value to seal the partnership between our groups.”

"I see. As it stands I will have to contact my superiors in the Front for such a development. However, I do agree with your sentiment. I do have someone in particular in mind. One Aurel Krüger, an Austrian-born officer in the former Golden Throne's army who was one of the first generals in the Austrian Republic after the Throne's dissolution. He was infuriated by the Austrian government's decision to submit to the Ruban ultimatum and was one of the refounding members of the OBF, wanting to reclaim the honor that the upper echelons of the Austrian nation lost. I believe his skill and determination would be of great use in your operations across the sea."

“And compañero, we shall be grateful to accept him.” Fontanez checked his watch. “Now, I must bid los amigos of the Valverdian Popular Front farewell. For the transport of your freedom fighters, there is a ship named the Martí that will stop for shore leave in Valencia in a few weeks-- it will be moored a la Terminal Noatum Valencia. They’ll take you Tunis, then into las arenas. Zambrano will rendezvous for an exchange then. For now, we have business in the city. Goodbye.”
===========================================================================================================================
Urbanización la Roca District
Santander, España
01:49 Central European Summer Time

“Are you certain she’s there?”

Absolutamente.”

“Let’s hope you’re right.”

The night revealed very little about the figures-- they stayed away from lamp posts, careful to move only in the peripheral of the building’s limited camera coverage. The figures, moving as a group, advanced single file between a humble two-story apartment building and its neat wooden fence, separating it from the stretch of Spanish suburbs around it.

“This the one?”

“Yes. Get ready, caco.”

“Don’t call me that, maldito pieza de-

“Clear.”

The handle of the back door was struck ajar by the swing of a crowbar, and the door’s exposed lock gave way. The interior of the small apartment was completely darkened-- the power had been cut beforehand. They trekked up the stairway and pushed forth until they reached Room 18:

“Ready?” Came a whisper from one of the figures. Their partners nodded, pulling out a cloth, zip ties, and a baton and a pistol.

The slight clicks of a lockpick released the door from its frame, and the door was softly pushed wide. The silhouettes of the flat were illuminated by the moonlight streaming in through the window-- it was a plain studio apartment and lived in like only an educated middle-class couple could. The lead figure cautiously stepped through the threshold, peeking to his left and right after each carefully-placed step. Rounding a corner to check the kitchenette, his companions close behind, a terrible roar came from the kitchenette: a tall, broad-shouldered figure charged from a shadow with a knife, plunging it towards the lead man.

¡Mierda! ¡Cosiguele! ¡Cosiguele!

Bastardos! ¡Te mataré!

¡Pistola! Shoot him!”

The knife was narrowly deflected from the lead figure’s throat to his shoulder, cutting the jacket before his companions pried the two from their struggle and a pistol was brought to the man’s sternum, emitting a silenced pop of a gunshot before the attacker made a soft groan and staggered back, falling against the counter.

The attacker’s death struggle was followed by a feminine shriek. “¡Tristán!” Another figure, standing in the corner, looked on in horror and anguish. The intruders paused only momentarily at the death of the man-- then quickly set about wrestling with the girl and bringing the cloth to her mouth and nose until she stopped struggling.

Mierda. Mierda-mier-mier-da. You said nothing about--” The cut figure hissed, jabbing their unimpaired arm at the fresh corpse, “--about him!”

“Our sources said she lived here-- nothing else!”

¡Mierda!” The cut one removed his hand from his wound and brought it to the moonlight-- red was streaked across his palm and dripped onto the carpet. Seeing this, he went on. “We need to get out of here. Grab her-- ¡vamos!

The figures left with one more in their midst, wary of the door of the tenant’s opening as they left the way they came, disappearing into the night. Then came the harbor, then the open sea.

Wien, Österreich, Rubinrepublik

After the meeting in the northern Spanish city of Santander, Kranz took it upon himself to move early on the rendezvous point in Valencia, having contacted three higher-up Front leaders - Markus Larenz, Sascha Blau, and Joseph Plank, about the situation. After some deliberation, the agreement about the operative exchange was agreed to, primarily because of the advantage in relocating the Front's bases of operations out of Rubis itself. As foreign investment poured into salvaging the shattered Ruban cities, it would not take long until the government of the Republic could turn its attention towards investigation.

Thanks to the agreement with the VPF, the OBF's forces would be allowed relocation to the Sahara through Tunisia, allowing for covert training and planning to be done far from the prying eyes of European governments. While the lending of General Krüger to the VPF was unfortunate, the training of forces that could be opened up due to the open, near anarchic spaces of the Sahara would soon pay for it themselves. Larenz himself organized for 300 operatives, as well as Kranz, Krüger, and himself to be brought to Tunis through the VPF's ship. As for the rest of the operatives being reassigned, Blau and Plank would source planes and other boats from sponsors to bring operatives into the Sahara, via the same route that the VPF would lead through.

Valencia, Spanien

The ship prepared by the Valverdian Popular Front, la Martí, was not a ship. By most modern standards it would be lucky to be called a boat, even. It was visibly rusted on the outside, and could have convinced even the wisest historian that it was one of Columbus' ships, had it not been made of metal and misnamed for such a role. It looked sorely out of place among the cargo ships docked in the harbor, it was certainly not indiscreet.

Guess I couldn't have expected much, Kranz thought. He knew that the Cavillo of the VPF had been locked in an Alpean, and later Malian, prison for nearly two decades. The organization couldn't have done very well during those times. Regardless, they had agreed to this arrangement, and so the operatives, the General, Larenz, and Kranz loaded onto the boat, just about filling it to reasonable capacity and surprisingly not causing it to collapse in on itself. As la Martí's VPF crew set sail, Kranz wondered if the vessel would be able to make the trip.

Tunis, Tunesien

After an uncomfortably long time on the water, la Martí finally found land in Tunis. The other OBF forces scheduled to relocate would likely arrive soon, and so there was time before the path to the Sahara would start. About four hours after landing in Tunis, the forces arrived, and the VPF guides led the caravan out of Tunis and into the vast Sahara Desert. With several military trucks and buggies, the journey to the designated location only took about a day's worth of travel. The new OBF training grounds was a run down military base, with hangars and airstrips, and was likely built during Golden control over Algeria, now controlled by the largely lawless Saharan 'government'. Regardless, it was in surprisingly good condition, and would serve as a great location to train operatives where the Europeans couldn't see. Larenz and Kranz quickly got to work organizing how the new base would conduct its operations, and General Aurel Krüger was sent, along with most of the VPF guides, back to where the Almadarians had requested. Getting the base in order would be a long and arduous task, but it would certainly be worth the lack of attention, especially so after the stunt that the Front had just pulled. An audible sigh of relief was heard from Kranz as he got to work.

A City Under Attack
---

OOC: I know nothing about how modern (or historical) warfare works, so if you do know, please don’t cringe too much.

Winnipeg, Canada.

The new Interim Committee—formed out of the inability to hold an election—took over the city of Winnipeg after their predecessor committed suicide and escaped from the mess he had created himself. Word was spreading within the city that the British assault was coming, and there was nothing this new committee, already too busy arguing with itself, could do to stop it. Nothing. An air of general panic spread across the city like wildfire, and by mid-day it was already causing desertions from the city’s remaining soldiers.

The Committee would have to realize Wilson’s greatest fear. Having to rely on the Russians for survival. They had helped before, sure, but that was as an ally. As equals. Now, with the army all but disbanded and no longer having a military force capable of challenging the British, the Russian troops would become necessary for survival. A predicament that would almost certainly lead to becoming a Russian puppet after the war, if not only because the nation had no respectable military.

Still, that was for after the war. For now, none of that would matter if the British Army rounded them up and shot them. So they would have to rely on Russian help, survive on it. At least, survive this assault—then they would have some breathing space, some time to rebuild and regroup.

---

Outside of Winnipeg.

“...May you deliver to us victory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

The Lieutenant-General knelt down and spoke a silent prayer. Quickly making the sign of the cross before his chest, he rose and reached to his side. Though he was a Protestant serving his King and God, in matters of war he preferred to trust his pistol over any prayer. He checked over his Glock 17, ensuring it was in working order, and walked to the gathering soldiers. He’d plan over the assault with the subordinate officers, meticulously going over every detail. Sometimes that could save a life—sometimes, it had saved his life.

The Canadians were inferior in numbers and armament, but they had one valuable ally, the Russians. Their troops were holding Winnipeg, and would have the ability to prepare a heavy defence ahead of their assault on the city. In addition, the British were lacking in real armoured equipment, as their mechanized regiments were mostly APCs and light IFVs, not powerful enough to fight against the Russian Main Battle Tanks. With High Command refusing to send more aid due to fears of an escalation, they would need to circumvent the bulk of the Russian army. How was a different question.

The British advantage was in mobility. The lighter infantry and APCs could sweep across the plains without much trouble, and the heavier IFVs provided support when infantry wasn’t enough. But the British IFVs only had a 30mm main cannon, not enough to fight the tanks, and the onboard anti-tank missiles were never something to rely on. Although, in the defence of a city, there was very little place for heavy armoured vehicles that wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre in the tighter bends of the roads—but it was no secret that IFVs were widely used by both sides. If the British had them, so would the Russians.

The impossibility of the situation hit the Lieutenant-General then. How it was so improbable that they would succeed, without further support and heavier armament. Still, the Russian advantage in heavy armoured equipment was not insurmountable—if they were somehow destroyed, the assault could succeed. Destroyed how? By way of an airstrike? Bombardment from the artillery guns? An airstrike wouldn’t work—the planes they had were not fighters nor bombers, but rather supply planes and transports. Neither would a bombardment from their artillery. They simply did not have enough range to safely attack the tanks.

But were the tanks as much of a threat as they seemed? They were attacking a city, not an open plains. The nature of the fighting meant that infantry, not vehicles, would be the main deciding factor. They only needed to ensure that the tanks did not cut them off from outside the city, but wouldn’t need to concern themselves with armoured combat within a built-up area. So the plan was this: Break through the city’s outside defences, and use the advantage of infantry in a city to the greatest. Disable or destroy the Russian armoured equipment and eliminate the Russian and Canadian defenders—then the city would fall. This was the task of two regiments—the rest would skirmish with the Russian reinforcements, delaying their advance.

The meeting concluded, the Lieutenant-General returned to his quarters. To pray, and to mourn.

The sugondes

ooc: bringing this trainwreck back here
-droiden

The sugondes wrote:ooc: bringing this trainwreck back here
-droiden

ooc: sugondes nuts lmao

The Battle of Winnipeg
---

Winnipeg was effectively the last Canadian stronghold in Canada. This was where the Revolution was founded, where its leadership and fighting members were—there were little sporadic patches of resistance fighters further west, but nothing would match Winnipeg. And that made it all the more enticing target for the British troops, specifically the two motorized infantry regiments here to capture the city.

Winnipeg was divided between a Canadian and Russian side out of the lack of coordination between the two, and the complete lack of an actual command structure on the Canadian side. The Interim Committee directed the revolution, but none of them were good commanders—they were politicians, diplomats, entrepreneurs, not generals. The fighting part was left to the few officers that knew what they were doing, but even then, they were more of a scattered militia than an actual army.

That was where the British Army would make their breakthrough. The Canadian side was less defended by personnel and artillery, but more physically fortified—it was after all facing the British front line.

While the remaining regiments split up to skirmish with the Russian reinforcements, the two regiments began their assault on the concrete and barbed wire fence fortifications. There were only a few machine guns; most of the guns on the post had been taken to supply other campaigns and never returned. They weren’t a problem; the real threat was the Russians on the other side of the city.

---

(Canadians 8, Britannia 5)
Captain Smith was the commander of the 147th Motorized, one of the subordinate companies of the 154th Mechanized Regiment. He was looking to a wonderful future back home at London after this operation—he didn’t want to die now with the world in front of him. Pistol drawn, he and his men made their way down the streets of Winnipeg. A few blocks to the right and left, other companies would be doing the same thing.

Then the first sprays of machine-gun fire struck the ground before him, and in response his men fired back. Soon the machine gun nest was nothing but rubble, and they kept pushing on. Three kilometres in was when they started to encounter serious resistance. Another kilometre, and the company was split up between the ever-increasing junctions, four-ways, and roundabouts. Their entire company was now divided into fireteams of a few men each, the captain and his slightly larger team leading the charge.

The Canadians had managed to gather a sizable militia within the city borders. This became more and more apparent as they made progress—the British were ultimately too split up to challenge it. Captain Smith signalled his men to regroup and temporarily retreat—they would not make any more progress here, it would seem. The Canadians had built up too much. But to the British’s credit, neither could the Canadians attack them from outside their fortifications. Though it was a retreat, it was a tactical one, to redirect the approach to another part of the city. The defences couldn’t move, but they could.

The two regiments turned their assault to another section of the city, less fortified but closer to the Russians. This time, without the trenches and wire to delay the troops, the Canadians were quickly overrun, and the two regiments made their incursion into the city.
They were getting dangerously close to the Russian segment, but this was something they’d have to face at one time or another—it was agreed upon that they should use their mobility to the fullest and not give the Russians time to react.

---

(Russia 17, Brit 9)
Captain Smith and his men walked through a smaller, narrower road, looking for Canadian guerrillas and Russian troops. They hadn’t encountered much; this section of the city was populated with empty, abandoned houses as the city’s population moved more and more towards the industrialized centre.

The Russians held superior firepower, and once alerted by the Canadian commander, they began an artillery bombardment on the rough location of the British troops. Captain Smith’s company was spared by the first round, but not the second or third—it was hard to conceal such a large amount of troops in the abandoned outer ring, and with each strike, the Russians grew more precise.

The motorized infantry didn’t carry artillery of their own, either towed or self-propelling. That meant that they couldn’t fight back at all. They had no choice but to split up—exactly what their adversaries wanted, but there was nothing they could do. They were outgunned from the very beginning.

---

The 176th moved West, towards the Russians. They were pushing their luck, sure, but they believed in the IFVs’ greater mobility. They could escape if needed.

They didn’t get too far before meeting their opposition—two regiments of Russian tanks. That was already more than this one regiment could handle.

But the Russian tanks lacked the speed that the lighter IFVs possessed. Though it was hard to destroy the tanks with their 30mm autocannons, disabling them was not so hard. They fired their rounds primarily at the less protected tank treads, and though this slowed the Russian advance, it wasn’t enough. Soon, the Russian tanks pushed through the British IFVs. Outgunned and outmanoeuvred, the 176th had no choice but to retreat towards another side of the city.

---

(Russia 15, Brit -3)
Captain Smith’s company, and the rest of the 154th Mechanized, moved North. They planned to turn behind the Canadian side of the city and at least occupy that part.

With the IFVs leading the charge and the infantry following close behind, they made good progress through the once-prosperous streets of Winnipeg. The Revolution had taken a great toll on the city’s economy, but as soon as the war was over, the city would certainly return to its former glory.

Not too far into their advance, they encountered three Russian tank regiments. The 154th and the 176th had only IFVs, and although some of them had anti-tank missiles, these were main battle tanks with much more armour than these missiles could handle. Still, they’d have to give it a shot.

The missiles failed to penetrate the tank armour as expected; and, unlike the 176th, they had nowhere left to run. The third Russian tank regiment had cut them off, encircling them within the city’s northern sections.

Captain Smith and his company had thirty IFVs, and each fireteam had one to themselves. The battle was not long and drawn out; they were outnumbered by the vastly more well-equipped Russians.

Captain Smith’s IFV broke down partway through the fight. It had been struck by a high-explosive round and the engine had exploded—not a problem for the five soldiers within the vehicle, but it meant they would have to abandon it and its cannon. Captain Smith stepped out of the IFV, and the other soldiers followed suit. Rifles at the ready, they knew they couldn’t do much against the armoured tanks, but they’d fight to the end. No surrender—that was what their honour demanded.

Though Captain Smith and his company fought to the bitter end, other companies were not so honourable. The Russians easily crushed their advance, and company after company surrendered, as the survivors laid down their arms and raised their hands up. The regiment had been completely annihilated, half dead and half taken prisoner.

---

(Russia 5, Brit 3)
News of the 154th Mechanized’s demise had not reached the now-Eastbound 176th. They had managed to relocate towards the poorly defended East, and encountered very little resistance. They were almost out of the city before another two regiments of Russian tanks caught up to them. The Russians couldn’t trap the regiment, as they were very nearly on the outskirts of the city now; but what they could do was inflict as much damage as they could before the regiment left. The 176th didn’t bother with attempting to attack the Russians; they ditched their IFVs and took advantage of the Canadian defences, using them to delay the tanks and make their retreat. Perhaps not the best, but they had successfully avoided the fate of the 154th. Something, perhaps, to be proud of.

The other regiments dispersed around the city reported large amounts of Russian activity. They signalled a retreat, and the British pulled out of Winnipeg completely, returning to their headquarters city of Steinbach.

Lieutenant-General Anderson was furious. A whole two thousand troops had been lost in Winnipeg, and from the recounts of the survivors, there were a great number of Russian tanks ready to pounce on the infantry equipped only with IFVs. He had known, and warned High Command of this, but they had not listened. Perhaps, he thought to himself, this crushing defeat would teach them.

High Command reciprocated this feeling. They sent reinforcements—a whole two tank regiments. Their orders were simple. Destroy the Russian forces, and take Winnipeg. Tensions were rising, and this might well spark a war—but at this point in the conflict, what was a little escalation?

Hamburg, Rubis

Several weeks have passed by since the nuclear attacks on Rubis. Since then a clean up effort has removed a great quantity of fallout from the areas. Only leaving the centre of Hamburg and some parts of Droidenian Holstein with the majority of remaining fallout. With Frankfurt and Bremen mostly free of fallout, reconstruction efforts are underway to rebuild the cities and restore infrastructure. However in Hamburg, reconstruction efforts are limited to the docks on the Elbe, with Salcanceacy constructing several temporary docks to waver in addition supplies, equipment and manpower into Rubis. Some onlookers note how everything from tanks to planes are unloaded, with many of them dressed up in Rubis camouflage and markings. Some wonder if more lies to the relationship between Rubis and Salcanceacy.

Prerov, Zentralreich

For years Czechs have lived as a minority in lands they once flourished in, many towns and cities bear marks left by their original kinsmen, only to be enveloped and overtaken by others. However, some natives cling on to their heritage with bitterness and hatred. Some still fight over countless generations, biding their time until the moment is right and the opportunity has flourished. One opportunity sits on the flatbeds of two trucks entering Prerov, the trucks slowly dredge through the cities traffic before coming to a stop, outside the gates of a dilapidated warehouse. A figure appears on the other side of the gates and starts to open them, the trucks move into the warehouses compound and reverse towards a loading bay.

One of the drivers exits the trucks and walks towards the figure closing the gates, "Traffic was hell all the way here, I trust that Evzen's inside?", the figure locks the gates and turns to face the driver "Yeah he's inside, he's hoping that there was no trouble, picking up the stuff HQ sent down ", "nah everything's in there, ready for next week", "Good, it seems we're set to have a good 'party' next week". In the meantime the trucks are unloaded, wooden crates bearing russian markings are taken inside the warehouse.

Asaurcmi wrote:Hello!

Hi! Want to join the discord? The link's in the WFE entry :)

https://discord.com/invite/pAmPNUpzGv if you don't want to look.

Have fun and enjoy your stay!

New Reitland, Vaktaria

The outer slums of New Reitland were, well, slummy. Major Matthew Williamson had been here often enough, restoring order whenever crime and unsavoury social elements became too much for the police to handle. What he was here to combat was just as unsavoury, just as disorderly, but vastly more dangerous than what he had encountered in these slums before. The Sons of Rendower, or so they called themselves, were armed, violent, and fiercely dedicated. Worse, thought Williamson with some disgust, they had been joined by misguided officers and enlisted men, breaking their oaths to Vaktaria to follow vainly in the worship of that man. That Grand Marshal who defiled his status and title by standing against the homeland.

He stood up from where he had been leaning against his Fighting Vehicle and dropped his cigarette to the ground, grinding it under one heel. It did not do, he thought, walking around to the back of the vehicle where his staff were sleeping in their seats, it did not do to smoke in front of the men. It gave the impression that one was stressed, bad for the morale.

He went about the cabin quickly, shaking his men awake as he sent one out to sound the rising cry. Moments later the bugle rang out in three long notes, and the convoy quickly became a hive of activity as the officers roused their NCOs and men. Soldiers stumbled out of vehicles, stretching and massaging hidden knots out of their muscles, while in each vehicle the kettle was loaded up with rations to be heated.

The Major tore open his rations and dug in with his spork, pulling a wry face at the menu he'd had the bad luck to end up with. God knew what the factories did to those ingredients, but they did not make a savoury porridge. He made small talk with his staff, mostly about the morale of the men, they agreed it wasn't as high as it could be but, all things considered, not too bad.

As the column finished breakfasting, they were expecting to move out for a scouting manoeuvre to understand the size and location of rebel forces, such luxuries were denied to them. At once, a burst of gunfire rang out from a couple hundred metres away, the sentries. Meanwhile, the radio in the Major's vehicle crackled once and gave life to a torrent of sound, a report. The sentries were indeed under attack by rebel forces, mechanised infantry like them.

Within minutes the column was on the move.

The column split into three, the companies and mortar battery sped off the assist the sentries, but Williamson didn't intend to stop them here.

"Get those crates out! Come on move it you God forsaken communists!"

The Lieutenant of the engineer platoon was whipping his troops fiercely as they scrambled to unload the crates. Cracking the lids on the crates, they withdrew from them large flat discs, anti-armour mines. They moved quickly, tearing up the tarmac of the street as gunfire echoed in the distance, the engineers redoubled their efforts, fearing that every second wasted was costing their comrades' lives.

Meanwhile, Major Williamson set down an empty crate in the middle of a public square. He stepped up, looking around the square, a few dozen homes surrounded it, and it was small enough that his voice would easily carry around the square. He withdrew his service pistol from his belt, lifting it with one hand high in the air, he fired two shots in the air. The sound cut the air, and reverberated around the square.

"Loyal Vaktarians, this is the winter of our discontent! Your sovereign rights and freedoms are now under threat from a malevolence that does not bend to the common law. In denial of our rightly elected government, the so-called Emperor of Japan has brought together traitors, vagabonds, and criminals to press his unlawful claim to this land. Those foul undesirables are now advancing on a war footing, to attack this great city. They will not hesitate, nor will they be bound by laws of engagement protecting civilians. The Vaktarian Army is standing guard to defend the rear but you must withdraw to the inner city to avoid the battle to come!"

He expected something, anything to happen, maybe they'd move with one accord to withdraw to Grenadier Square. But, there was no movement around the square, people stepped back from their windows, and Williamson felt their eyes turn away. He knew he had lost them, better to get on with the rest of the plan than waste time on a lost cause, he thought. On the main road the engineer platoon was standing around one of the crates of mines they'd been ordered to lay.

"What the blistering blazes are you doing?" Williamson yelled, anger blossoming at their apparent laziness on this time sensitive operation. The platoon Lieutenant approached him,

"Sir, the mines aren't operational."

A pair of emotions, dread and despair, came across Williamson's face, all those men sent forward into combat for nothing.
"What? How did this happen?"

The Lieutenant led him towards the crate, crouching next to it, he motioned towards a man wearing a Corporal's insignia, who snapped off a salute.

"Here's your problem sir", he pointed with a chisel at one of the mines, where a small cylindrical area seemed to be missing. "The detonators were removed. Looks like some time ago too, this bare metal where they scraped the paint off has already oxidised, it was probably deserters."

"And we don't carry spare detonators?"

The corporal gave him an apologetic look, and Williamson stood straight, muttering obscenities under his breath. He paced for several moments before his radio suddenly crackled to life, he could hear gunshots and yelling, but then a voice came into focus.

"Major!" It was Captain Leroy, commander of the vanguard company. "We're losing our footing here, permission to retreat?" Williamson had already decided to give the order, this position was pointless.

"Yes Captain, retreat to Grenadier Square."

The captain's reply could barely be heard over the gunfire.

Grenadier Square was the headquarters of the Vaktarian Army, a Napoleonic fortification, surrounded on all sides by several hundred metres of clear road. When Williamson arrived there it had already been abandoned by the high command. However, they'd evidently been preparing for a siege, the windows were covered by steel rollers, SAM systems were set up in the courtyard, and the crenellations had been mounted with heavy machine guns. Williamson inspected these defences with a critical eye as he drew up his plans.

Shouldering his rifle, Williamson stared down the road approaching Grenadier Square as his men took up positions along the ramparts, adjusting their sights for range as the rebels lined up their vehicles. There was a tense silence as they waited for the attack to begin, and when it did, there was an almighty crash of gunfire. Williamson threw himself below the ramparts on instinct as a hail of bullets flew over his head, knocking a few of his men to the floor, splattering the contents of their skulls across the courtyard. He motioned for his men to stay down as the rebel IFVs continued to advance, occasionally raking the tops of the ramparts with machine gun fire to suppress Williamson’s men. As Williamson lay on the ramparts, he sidled to the edge, looking down to where the captain of his artillery had set up his six guns behind the steel shutters of the ground-floor windows. He motioned to the captain to prepare to fire, and the guns were quietly loaded, the barrels parallel to the ground. He turned, motioning again, this time to his electronic warfare specialists, they carried just what he needed. They nodded, understanding his meaning, and fixed steel tubes to the barrels of their rifles, still lying prone.

Now less than as kilometre away, the defenders could hear the rebel infantry dismounting their vehicles, resuming their advance, Williamson counted down the time. He motioned to the captain, 900 yards, 800 yards, 700, at 600 he made a decisive chopping motion with his hand, the captain nodded, turning to his battery.

“FIRE!”

At once 6 high explosive shells ripped out of the barrels of their guns, tore through the steel rollers, and rent the frontal armour of six separate IFVs, detonating inside them, killing the men inside and igniting the fuel tank as burning diesel poured over the road.
Williamson rolled to his feet, joined by the EW specialists, who activated the high-powered lasers on their rifles, aiming them towards the remote controlled machine guns on the remaining vehicles, dazzling their operators and rendering them useless.

“At arms!” Williamson cried, and his men jumped up, a wordless cry rising in their throats as they opened fire. In a split second a dozen rebels were thrown to the ground as automatic rifle fire slammed into them. Some defenders took control of the heavy machine guns, halting the advance of the other IFVs, shredding their tracks. A second round of artillery fire destroyed half of the remaining IFVs, and the rebels fled. But it was not so easy. Williamson’s men stopped their automatic fire, employing single shots delivered to the back of the head or the torso of the rebels furthest away, all the while .50 cal rounds rang around them, sending up stone shrapnel from the flagstones of the road to shred the calves of the retreating rebels, or turn their bodies into a fine red mist. Minutes of killing later they could see no more rebels retreating, and as the wind picked up, clearing the smoke, they could see that the attack had been wiped out, slayed to a man. Williamson wiped away a tear, it didn’t do to let the men see you crying.

Williamson was now in a fine predicament, the artillery was in an insecure position now, he couldn’t retain it, unwillingly, he ordered the captain to prepare his pieces for transport, they were now useless in a combat situation. When the second attack came, it was more successful.

Without his artillery, Williamson’s main weapon against the rebels was man-portable rocket launchers, powerful to be sure, but not like artillery. This was made all the more evident as the active protection of the Rebel IFVs came into play, destroying as many of the missiles fired towards them as hit. The occasional vehicle was disabled as the powerful machine guns on the ramparts ripped their treads apart at the joints, but not enough, they were still coming. The Rebel infantry, dismounted from their disabled vehicles was now coming ever closer and returning massed fire at the ramparts, causing Williamson’s men to duck, their advantage was waning, and it would only get worse if the rebels managed to breach the front gate. Already their ability to defend the front gate had been compromised by the half-dozen holes in the front shutters, a necessary evil as they had been now a dangerous liability as points of entry, or of fire, for the rebels.

At this point Williamson surveyed the battlefield, the enemy had sustained heavy losses in this assault, not so bad as the last, that would have required an exemplary effort from his men, but still bad, they would struggle to mount an offensive in the future. However, the situation was deteriorating rapidly, the rebels were now less than a hundred metres away, IFVs moving with the pace of the infantry as fire was traded and cover won. Meanwhile, infantry engineers could be seen moving amongst their fighters, edging closer to the Square ready to breach its defences with all manner of explosives. One of Williamson’s men went down, a luck shot barely clearing the rampart took him in the head, and now the rebels were only 50 metres ahead. He moved quickly, issuing orders to disable the machine guns mounted on the ramparts, remount, and get out of there. Almost an afterthought, he grabbed one of his sergeants, they exchanged a short conversation. He needed a veteran, trustworthy, a capable commander, who wouldn’t waver in the face of danger but knew when to retreat in the face of overwhelming odds. He was pointed to a corporal and his crew, and they were detailed to the rearguard.

As Williamson led his forces back through the commercial district he winced hearing gunfire over the radio as the Corporal and his men did their level best to hold back the tide of rebels, but it was a lost caused and he could hear the Corporal ordering a retreat, though their IFV had been taken down. They would be moving on foot; they would be lucky to survive.

Hours later Williamson sat at the base of the Old City walls, surveying the newest infrastructure that had been established along its length, enough to resist a siege, the past hours had been a brutal bloodbath in the city. His retreat from Grenadier Square had precipitated a poorly planned ambush in the Commercial District that succeed in spite of its Captain’s failure. The rebels had retreated in disarray to Grenadier Square, while the Captain had foolishly redoubled his efforts with an artillery strike on the Square.

Not only were his attacks resisted, he was encircled, and his entire force captured or killed, leaving Williamson shorthanded in the defence of the wall and the road to the senate building. He could see the Rebels from the walls, but they weren’t advancing for some reason, holding their positions.

He could guess what they were up to though, he thought, leaning his head against the ancient stone wall, the port was outside of the city wall, they would now have to survive on whatever rations were left within the inner walls, even if anyone was willing to support them with supplies and materiel, they had no means to deliver them en masse to Vaktaria, at this point it was a matter of time until the senate - until democracy - fell.

With that sobering thought Major Matthew Williamson, a son of Vaktaria, put on his helmet, picked up his rifle, and mounted the barricade for the last time.

Kongur Eirik fingered at the lapel pin on his jacket, depicting the coat of arms of the House of Kjaersgaard, nervously. As the time soon approached to give a speech before what remained of the Folketing, and the Royal Cabinet, he grew ever more nervous. He had been thrust into the position of 'King-in-exile' sixteen years ago, and he was still burning with rage. He had lost his crown, his people, and most tragically, his wife. He would, with trembling fingers, deliver a speech to the men who served his kingdom so loyally which would bring them to arms. It would fuel them with rage.

"Sixteen years ago, we lost. It is painful to admit, I understand, but it is true. Sixteen years ago, Droiden fell away from God, and embraced the bastardization of an arguably noble man. Under the son of my father's adversary, we have been driven from out homes, we have been driven from our families, and we have been driven from our churches. Those who would call me an oppressor cheer and dance in the streets on pain of being gunned down. They work back-breaking hours in the fields, in the factories, and in the workshops under the guise of perpetuating the peace of the revolution. But it is this revolution that is the oppressor. For it has rendered the Droidenian people unable to live under God. It has rendered them unto an elite far worse than what they would call us. This body, the Council of Labour, has held the Droidenian by the neck for far too long, and with Christ as my witness, may the world understand our goal: We must bring about the end of the Syndicalist Government. To do this, we must call for war."

Althior, Government District, Worker's Syndicates of Droiden

The newspapers were furious. Never had the streets of Althior been so filled with the hurried clacking of keyboards as loud and as cacophonous as this. Despite the lack of unison in their typing, each journalist typed the same words: "WORKER'S SYNDICATES UNDER ATTACK!" The news of Kongur Eirik's declaration had filled the Droidenian Worker's Army with rage. Troops already deployed to the Syndicalist/Monarchist border had gotten into skirmishes, meaning that without action, this would escalate. Though, it would likely escalate regardless of intervention. The hatred that Felix Juul felt towards Eirik II Kjaersgaard was mutual. Despite this, there was a sort of mutual precedent that the lives of Droidenians mattered more than a power grab, and despite the desire to spread the Syndicalist cause to what remained of the Monarchy, Felix Juul observed a sort of restraint, and Eirik had done the same. Apparently, this formality had been broken. Juul gave a speech at the People's Assembly that afternoon

"The mite bites at the sleeping bloodhound. This would inevitably come knowing the impatience of the cruel Kongur of the Finns. They wish to dismantle us and return the barbaric Monarchy of old. But the spirit of the Droidenian worker is stronger than that! We have been freed from their grasp for far too long to allow it to return! We must persevere, for the sake of freedom of the working class. The Droidenian people must defend themselves from becoming enslaved oncemore, for the enslavement of the Droidenian Worker results in pain for us all! We cannot falter in our defense of Worker's Freedom!"

And so, after sixteen years of relative peace, war returned to Scandinavia oncemore.

A Side to Pick
---
London.
The fronts were coming to a standstill.
For months, the British and Waffle navies had stood warily, watching each other in the Channel. Caedisia had gone silent with the defeat of its navy, and Castel was similarly inactive after being bombed. The Russians had just defeated the British forces in Winnipeg, and as Lieutenant-General Anderson waited for his reinforcements, there would be no more advances.
In the mean time, there was a new development on the world stage. The Syndicalists and Monarchists of Droiden had gone to war, and there was now an opportunity to pick a side. And the choice was obvious. A Syndicalist faction who would most likely join the Concordat and create another hostile presence in the North Sea, versus a Monarchist Droiden who could be convinced to join the Tripartite Pact or at least stay neutral. It was clear that the Monarchists needed to win—and there was a clear path to ensuring it. Simply claiming some blood ties, which were surely present, would suffice as a cause for intervention.
---
Today was a much more somber day, however. The King personally received the families of the soldiers who died at the Battle of Winnipeg—their conduct had earned them the highest military decoration, the Imperial Cross of Valor. As per historical precedent, the King was to read out the names of each recipient and present them with the Cross; in the case of a deceased recipient who was receiving the award posthumously, it would be presented to their family members.
“…Captain John Smith. I award you the Imperial Cross of Valor for your conduct, bravery, and valor.”
Captain Smith’s family consisted of his wife and son, both of which were present at the ceremony. They walked up to the podium together, and William Lancaster himself presented them the medal that represented the highest military honour in the land. It came with its own benefits—a modest pension, free university tuition for any family members that needed it, and of course the respect of any man in the military.
“…”
---
The public were wary of another expeditionary force being sent off to Droiden after the almost complete failure of the Canadian force. Indeed, so were the members of the Imperial Cabinet—they were concerned about the money, lives, and resources that direct intervention would cost. A resolution, therefore, was to send only limited support, in the form of weapons and military supply. Canada was ultimately more important, as it was necessary to challenge the Russians who had themselves sent troops.
---
Far away in Canada, Lieutenant-General Anderson was receiving his new tank regiments. Two thousand of the nation’s finest, taken from various armoured divisions on standby. They would aid the British armies with the next attack on Winnipeg, helping to reduce the Russian armoured advantage. But High Command had warned, that if there were no special circumstances, there would be no further reinforcements apart from replenishments. As much as escalation was no longer a concern, many still did not want a full-on war.
---
Maybe that was what they were going to get.

The Battle of Pajala

The front lines of the icy front of the Second Droidenian Civil War were nigh-upon unbearable. The Droidenian Worker's Army had set up a sizeable defense at the city of Vittangi, and had repelled a decently large force of Monarchists there with minimal casualties. However, this minimal force was the distraction.

The Monarchists attacked at dawn, dropping into the city, cutting supply lines, and pushing into the square, both aiding citizens and the DWA units who had been injured, yet were still salvageable. However, as the monarchists pressed forward, the resistance from the DWA became more harsh, and the monarchists found themselves being attacked from all sides. Fortunately, they had dug in, and had a good amount of cover to get behind. Air support eventually got to the surrounded monarchist troops, and relieved them. The monarchists pushed deeper into the city, and eventually forced a ceasefire.

With the news of the relative victory in Pajala, the Finnish, nay, Droidenian Kongur saw fit to make an announcement.:

"We have won a great victory in Pajala. Our forces defeated the illegitimate government of Droiden in a surprise attack, catching the reds offguard, and delivering a swift coup-de-grâce to their forces. However, despite their nature as reds, we must remember that these are not foreign invaders, rather, they are our countrymen. As such, any destruction of the property, any purposeful killing of Worker's Syndicates citizens, and any harm to the land of Droiden will be an offense worth a court martialing. Good evening, may God be with you all."

Feodor Romanova-Holstein-Lansov, By the Grace of Rod Czar of all Rus, Sovereign of all Slavs, Defender of the Faith, The Prophet of Rod, Perun on Earth, He Who Straddles the Urals, Patriarch of the line Romanova-Holstein-Lansov, Protector of the Balkans and of Siberia, Khagan of the Cumans, of the Pechenegs, and of the Tartars, King of Poland, of Serbia, and of Ukraine, Prince of Moscow, of Zemlya Petra, of Galicia-Volhynia, of Crimea, of Tsaritsyn, of The Northern Caucasus, of Armenia, of Komi-Khanty-Mansiysk, of the Urals, of Western Siberia, of Saratov, of the Senior Zhuz, of the Middle Zhuz, of the Junior Zhuz, and of Outer Transoxinia, Duke of Kaskia, Sovereign of the Order of Most Wise Justiciars, etc.

To our trusty and well-beloved rulers of the Federation

I look with great displeasure upon the recent assault upon our friend and ally, The Workers' Syndicates of Droiden. I further look upon those nations who wish to intervene in this conflict with some measure of anger, to take advantage of a nation in conflict for the advancement of one's own geopolitical goals is the worst form of disrespect to a nation and its people.

I would remind all nations of the Federation that as a signatory to the Declaration of the Watester Concordat, and under Article 6 of the Terms of Affiliation of the same, 'An attack on [The Workers' Syndicates of Droiden] is held as an attack against the whole institution and its constituents'.
As such it is my duty to inform the nations of this august Federation that the Czardom of Russia Major now considers a state of war to exist between itself and the Kongurrikki Droidenska, mobilisation of forces sufficient to enact ground-based operations against the aggressor will follow swiftly and it is the belief of Our General-Feldmarschal and of Our Nebostraža-Marschal that victory will follow within a reasonable timeframe. We would urge the Kongur of the Kongurrikki Droidenska to immediately engage in peace talks with The Workers' Syndicates of Droiden in which we would gladly mediate if guarantee of a ceasefire could be issued.

We are and shall remain the humble servant of our People of Russia Major.

Rod Save the Czar.

Is it not Obvious?
---
Berlin

It had been quite some time since the Zentralreich had faced an attack from the Slavic Brotherhood. Schulz's mandate over the East has long since expired, though the majority of his policies had remained as precautions against the terrorist group. The dropping of nuclear weapons in Rubis caused panic among both Zentralian citizens and government, as fears of fallout reaching the nation spread widely. Schulz, who had stayed in Berlin after he lost his mandate in order to make sure his voice could always be heard, was noticeably unconcerned with the situation, though it is likely that was because his rule in Dasilber depended not on Berlin.

Schulz had organized an audience with the Kaiser this evening, and he had much to discuss. He knocked with considerable force on the door of the Kaiser's study, and was invited in by a tired voice on the other side.

"What is it now, Schulz?" Wilhelm was clearly exhausted, it was quite late after all.
"Well, Kaiser, I'm sure you've heard about the situation in Droiden. Their old monarchs in Finland have finally decided to put down the syndicalist dogs that confined them there."
"I have, though I'm already sure of what you're about to say. You want us to intervene on behalf of House Kjaersgaard?"
"Of course. This is a perfect opportunity. Not only would we crush the reds across the Baltic, we'd be able to gain a strong and sizeable ally close to home."

Wilhelm mulled over the pros and cons of intervention for a moment. On the one hand, it was clear that the current order in Scandinavia was by no means ideal, the Danish Straits being controlled by a hostile nation was at best a great annoyance and at worst a massive roadblock. On top of that, the Syndicates were viable to call in Concordat support at any time, something even more likely to cause problems. Supporting the Finns meant indebting a powerful nation to the Zentralreich, sure, but it also meant sparking further tensions with our neighbors if things went south. No matter that, though. The choice was clear from the beginning.

"Well, I suppose we can send a few detachments for now."
"Great, I'll let our high command know. You get everything covered on your end."

Schulz left the study, leaving Wilhelm alone to think. The clock on the wall read one o'clock, and it was unfortunately signaling for the morning. Fighting back a yawn, Wilhelm stood and exited the room to retire for the night. He'd need energy for the morning, and at least he could sleep on his decision for now.

Across the Baltic
---
The next morning

The broadcast began, cameras focusing on the Kaiser at a podium in the center of the Imperial Parliament. Being signaled to, he began to speak.

"Citizens of the Zentralreich and leaders of the Federation. The newly reignited war in Scandinavia presents a clear threat to the sovereignty of both the Zentralreich and its former ally currently exiled in Finland. The Kongurrikki Droidenska represents not only the legitimate and illegally ousted government of Droiden, but also the Northern Pillar of the Golden Throne once allied to our people through the Phalanx League. And while the tides of war might have driven us apart in decades past, they will now pull our realms towards each other once again. The Zentralreich hereby announces its support for the Kongurreich of Droiden in the Second Droidenian Civil War."

The broadcast clicks off, and the wheels of the Zentralian government begin to turn. Much preparation is in order for the conflicts to come.

The Eleventh Hour.

1059 Hours, 2021/06/23, West Vaktarian Sea

The many warships of the Emperors fleet sit motionless in the water, calm seas and clear skies gives an almost eerily peaceful atmosphere.
Every Officer already knows what they are about to do, some of the Noncoms suspect so as well.
An ultimatum was sent, received, and ignored by the forces of the Senate.
Retribution is due.

Just 6 hours ago the Senate fleet intercepted the Imperials on their way to New Reitland, Admiral Ross surrendered his forces without a fight and was offered merciful terms.
The execution was carried out an hour later, for the next three hours the remaining officers and seamen pledge a new allegiance for a new age.

Since the new arrivals have been integrated and briefed it has been a waiting game. Waiting to see what will happen, waiting to see what Command have decided to do.

It is exactly 1100 hours when the shot is fired.

May God have mercy on their souls.

Vaktaria and Victory

Proof of Our Solidarity

"Production is up, Felix."

"About damn time."

Felix Juul and Haakon Noregaard sat with each other in the Politburo Droidenska. They viewed their plans for the coming war, and how it would affect the general population.

"What do we do about the rural proletariat? There's rumors that the Monarchist forces are offering them incentives to join up with their ranks."

"Offer them better incentives."

"Simple."

Soon, the Worker's Army began offering the rural Droidenian worker increased rations and bringing more revolutionary paraphernalia. Later that week, Felix Juul made his way out to the city of Lemvig, where he gave a short yet necessary speech.

"I speak not to the worker. I speak not to the individual. I instead speak to the spirit. The spirit that we, revolutionaries, each possess. We have built everything with our hands, we have carried the burden of our nation for sixteen years. The monarchy had before contracted us to toil without meaning beyond retaining their pleasure. Now, we toil freely, and to build up and maintain the land that we love! Unfortunately, comrades, the cruelty of the monarchy is seeking to return! We must resist it. May the revolutionary spirit be with you all, and may we emerge from this conflict stronger and wiser."

Onyx Palace 23:34

The Lord Eternal leaned against his balcony railing outside his office. The bright lights of the Onyx city blanketing the skyline in the glory of Caedisia and her people, the people he swore to protect and to serve....yet he would be seen as a weak and cowardly leader by his people, the scar of most recent naval battle a burden upon his soul. He had to act fast lest rebellion and strife break out, with soilders and one of the royal heirs overseas in Canada. It left options as he would grab a cigar and light it, a letter alongside it that he would hand off later, addressed to Britannias ruler, asking for him to come and speak so the differences between our nations could be worked out, while elements in Canada would bring about as much Chaos as possible with the arms available to them.

At least 1 full company lay at his fingertips already deployed In Canada as trainers for the Canadian rebels a force composing of 300 men trained in guerilla tactics.

The next week would be a stressful one full of late nights as the Lord Eternal tried to write his wrongs.

Nordic Affairs
---
North Sea.

The waters were gleaming with the brightness of the sun. The war in Scandinavia had not touched the North Sea as much as would be expected, and though naval security in the Skagerrak had heightened considerably since the British support for the Monarchist Droidenians had been announced, the North Sea Fleet remained the dominant force in the area. A small detachment of ships had arrived close to the region to survey its defences, and their findings, combined with what limited reconnaissance the Empire was able to conduct, would produce a final recommendation on whether or not to send a military force. In the meantime, an observation was already being made on the area the ships were traveling past right now. The Skagerrak was the only entrance for Britannia into the Baltic Sea, and even into Althior, so it was naturally heavily guarded with both naval and shore-based defences. To make any meaningful progress would mean having to deal with these defences. It was likely that the entire Syndicalist Droidenian Navy that was within the Skagerrak could be simply contained by blocking off the one-way exit to the area, but to be able to push a naval force into the Skagerrak and land troops would require heavier firepower to destroy its defences. Something which was off-limits, for now.
======
The Canadian Offensive
---
Winnipeg.

Lieutenant-General Anderson decided to prepare a second attack. High Command was expecting results, and his tanks had arrived. With twice the numbers and armoured regiments, there was surely nothing that could go wrong. The Canadian side of the city had been depleted of manpower, as organization had mostly broken down since the last assault. While the Interim Committee still maintained a nominal command structure, a large portion of low-ranking officers and even higher-ranking ones had been killed in action or even deserted on the spot. This left many divisions—most of which only existed in name anyways—without commanding officers or the ability to fight.
The Russian side of the city would still be well-defended and well-armed. The British had completely failed to inflict very many casualties on the Russians during the last assault, and it was certainly expected that the Russians within the city would be more prepared for another attack. But the British troops had better arms and more men—surely that made up for whatever disadvantages they still experienced.
======
In Response to the Caedisian Lord Eternal

To the Lord Eternal:
While the invitation to visit your nation is greatly appreciated, it must unfortunately be rejected due to the current state of global affairs. However, we would gladly send a diplomatic representative instead to negotiate the release of the blockade. We thank you in advance for your understanding.

Natalia and Alexandra sat on the balcony of the Governate Palace in Crimea, chatting about the times, Russia Major, and generally things that you’d expect a couple to chat about. Naturally, however, the topic of Natalia’s homeland, Droiden and its civil war had to come up eventually.

"Yeah, my pigheaded uncle is finally getting the nerve to bring about the end of the syndicalists. I’m just a bit upset that he’s taken this long and is doing it this brashly."

"He certainly took his time about it..." Alexandra trailed off, looking down. "You know Feodor won't stand for it?"

"My uncle? Well, it’s certainly a tough situation. With our marriage cementing ties to my family and the Watester Concordat, it’s gotta be a tough call to make."

"Feodor will do what he thinks he must to protect Russia, and if that means fighting your Uncle that won't stop him. I'm worried that... I just don't want it to come between us."

"It couldn’t come between us, Lex. I’m more worried about what could happen if my uncle wins."

Alexandra took her hand, sighing, "I know love, I'm worried too. The antagonisms with the Tripartite just get worse. I just wish your uncle and Juul could come to the table and settle this finally, if there is a way to settle this..."

"In a perfect world, maybe. I knew Fi- I mean, Juul’s father, and if like father, like son applies, Juul is just as brashly idiotic and vastly stupid as his father, and so is my uncle. If only my father were still around..."

"Your father was a good man, a smart man, he wouldn't have let this happen in the first place."

"He would have sat down with Fe- Premier Juul. He would have welcomed him into his household. I'm certain that if it weren't for that... that ape, we would have gotten past this by now."
Natalia sighed heavily

"Have you heard from your Uncle recently?"

"Its... complicated. We've certainly been in correspondence, but we haven't really talked. Like people, y'know? We were never close to be honest."

"I'm sorry love, I wish this was easier. If you want we could go to Finland to see your family, it's been too long since we visited anyway, or they could come here?"

"If we invite Eirik here, it could be a good opportunity to finally try and talk some sense into him. If he were to listen to me, that is. He's dreadfully stubborn. Though, didn't Feodor offer to mediate?"

"He told me that was in the dispatch, if there is any time for it, it's now, before Russian forces engage. It would become impossible for Feodor to mediate if Eirik had lost men or land to Russia."

"Perhaps it would be a good idea to send out an invitation?"

"Maybe, but only if you want to, I don't want you to be stressed and trying to stop a war is pretty stressful."

"I'm nothing if not resilient. I can most certainly manage talking to my uncle, love. And besides, if he doesn't come around now, he'll have to eventually."

"I know you can manage darling, but just because you can doesn't mean you must." Alexandra stood up, offering her hand to Natalia. "Come on, let's write that invitation."

The Vaktarian Reformation

The Oath
Gryphon banners adorn the streets of New Reitland. The battle was won over two weeks ago, repair work is still ongoing but the Palatial district of old town remains all but fully intact thanks to the valiant efforts of His August Majesties Chemical Warfare Corps.
Crowds of onlookers and columns of soldiers are rotated in and out of the old town, by Imperial decree all citizens of the new Empire are to take new oaths of allegiance personally to Emperor Rendower.
Said oaths are reinforced within the newly founded Loyalty Centres which have been opened across the nation boasting state-of-the-art education techniques and facilities; citizens, even in the recently acquired Japanese and Russian territories, are noticeably happier after attending their mandatory appointments.

The Traitors
Of course not everyone is granted the opportunity to serve, the troops, civilians, and senators within the old town that survived the gassing have all been charged with a multitude of crimes and were summarily executed by firing line.
The Imperial Cabinet assures the people that all those executed were merely tools of foreign would-be-oppressors.

The Military
It goes without saying that Vaktarias position is entirely upheld by its military might, with this in mind a new board for Military Reform has been created and has already agreed to sweeping changes.
The Army shall be increased in scope and divided by merit; Vaktarians shall take officers positions as well as form the bulk of special tactics units due to the innate leadership and tact that our people have been blessed with, the Japanese shall make up the bulk of our forces, and they will lead the charge due to their natural warrior instincts and culture of honour, Russians will not be permitted to serve in the forces until their loyalty has been assured, and their positive qualities discovered which as yet has not occurred.

The Navy is to decommission the ageing New Reitland Dreadnought, the Emperor has proclaimed its service at an end and reassured the people that this honoured relic of a bygone war is to be forever immortalised as a museum ship in the capital city.
Construction of a cohort of new Vindictive Class Supercarriers has begun in earnest and are expected to be in service by Christmas thanks to revolutionary breakthroughs in the automation of labour (needless to say, without the use of true AI.) These carriers are almost twice the volume of their Victorious Class predecessors.

The Air force has announced that the experimental VAK-20 aircraft not only exist but have finished trials and are ready to be pushed into service on land and sea once the new carriers are complete.

The Pacific
A number of artificial island fortifications have been manned across the Pacific, these marvels of engineering stand vigilant against any would be trespassers into the newly proclaimed Vaktarian Demilitarised Zone, very few nations are permitted to sail military ships, materials, or personnel through an area which takes up the bulk of the Pacific Ocean.
As always, Emperor Rendower is committed to defending his people by any means necessary.

Vaktaria and Victory

Russia Major wrote:-finally-

Eirik sat at his desk, still rather cross from the bitter cold of the Finnish tundra. He'd never liked it, but it had become something he'd grown used to. Still, he longed for the lovely warmth of the Althior summer, as opposed to the cold of Finland. He typed furiously on his computer, rambling about something to do with the Syndicalists, when a knock at the door came.

"What is it now?" Eirik groaned as he answered the door.

"A letter from Petrograd, Natalia's seal." The messenger handed the letter to Eirik.

"Been a long while, though it comes at such a time... this can't be good."

Eirik sat at his desk and opened the letter:

Dearest Uncle,
I pray to Rod that your Christ protects you in these harsh days. It is unfortunate that we find ourselves at the opposing ends of a conflict between our nations, and my heart aches because of this. Family should never come to blows. But, lest we reach a settlement, I fear that Czar Feodor will mobilize into Finland, and I abhor that reality. As such, I believe that it would be beneficial to meet and discuss this conflict. The Czar has made it known that he is willing to host both you and Premier Juul, to come to a peaceful resolution. However, if you do agree, I request that you arrive with the utmost haste, and that you remain amicable to the Premier.
With the blessings of Rod and the cry of Kjaer,
Your Niece, Natalia, and her wife Alexandra

Eirik looked puzzled for a moment. First she leaves the light of God, then marries a heathen, and now begs me to enter the pagan nation and grovel at the feet of that red bastard?

Later that evening, at dinner with Queen Margaret and the royal family, Eirik brought it up.

"So the heathen wishes you to meet their Czar?" Margaret asked, almost coldly.

"Yes, that's what I got from the letter. And don't call them heathens. They're extended members of the family. Even if they are he- unbelievers, they should still be afforded some respect." Eirik answered.

"Unbelievers or heretics, I won't be stepping foot there anytime soon." Margaret returned to her cut of meat.

"Mother is far too invested in the beliefs of other nations. I'd love to go and see the- I mean, accompany you on a diplomatic venture to try to mend the relations between us and the reds." Annelie, Eirik's daughter proposed.

"You're sure, dear?"

"Of course father. I'll behave, I promise! And besides, the last time we went on a diplomatic visit together was so long ago. You can't judge me on that."

"I suppose I can't. Margaret, I suppose that, since you'd rather remain here, you'll be in charge of the war effort. You know my generals and ministers, yes?"

"Eirik, you've asked me this fifty-six times. Yes, for the love of the saints, I know your generals and ministers. Now finish your dinner."

The Central Command Centre under the Winter Palace was a hive of activity, coordinating both the Canadian Campaign and the new potential campaign in Droiden kept the staff moving, and the activity was only picking up with the Czar's arrival imminent. At more or less the same time every day, the Czar met his military advisors in the Centre to discuss military matters, sometimes in the company of his Kantsler, sometime not. The Chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Forces were sat around a large table in the middle of the room, each with several aides. Feodor entered the room, and the three stood as he approached the table, he shook hands with each of the General-Feldmarschal Vladislav Khilkov who looked suprisingly like he had aged in reverse for the past several years, the General-Admiral Elena Gradisova, and the Nebostraža-Marschal Khigir Mikhailovich, exchanging a few pleasantries with each.

He sat, opening the folder he'd carried in and turning a few pages, he looked to Khilkov.

"I think we'd all appreciate an update on the campaign in Canada, Vladislav."

Khilkov nodded, gesturing to one of his aides who stood up and moved towards a screen on the other side, displaying a map of Canada, the rough position of the known British forces, acquired by satellite and reconnaissance flights, along with the exact position of various Russian divisions and brigades across the country.

"You know Leytenant-General Ruslanovich, our head of Military Intelligence." Khilkov indicated.

"Thank you sir," Ruslanovich pointed to the board, indicating multiple British units moving towards the Canadian front and Winnipeg. "As you can see, the British are reinforcing their army at Winnipeg, clearly intending to move to take the city, this will likely prove a crucial point in the campaign and a defeat at this point would make any further movement through Canada difficult. However, I do have some success to report, our confidential agents, working in concert with agents from the Kingdom of Salcanceacy, have inserted a squadron of multirole fighters, their complement of aircrew, and pilots into an abandoned airbase in Manitoba, reports suggest they will be operational within hours. That's all."
He sat back down next to Khilkov.

"Obviously, your Imperial Majesty, the forces surrounding Winnipeg could stand to be reinforced, our nearest battlegroup is the 13th Motor Rifles who could theoretically move up in support, this would however leave the backline exposed, any enemy units bypassed or infiltrated behind the frontline could present a serious threat if our forces engaged in major combat."

Feodor pondered for a moment, observing the make-up of the 13th Motor Rifles. "We need to leave some forces behind the front to protect our fighters, losing them would squander all of the work that has been put in to get them there, the majority of the 13th should stay behind to guard them. However..." He glanced at an order of battle in his folder, "The 758th and the 801st Battalions should move up to support the 78th while the rest of the brigade stays behind. Any objections?"

A chorus of 'No's and a shaking of heads went around the table, and Feodor nodded grimly as one of Khilkov's aides took down the order so it could be dispatched quickly.

"General-Admiral," Feodor addressed Gradisova. "Anything to report?"

"Not much, the prototype for the Provintsiya class frigate has been delivered and will be put through sea trials over the next few months. My office will keep you updated as the data flows in, we still have a generous quantity of the budget left for do-overs if we find any problems."

Feodor nodded, "Very good. Nebostraža-Marschal, how are the preparations for the Kongur's arrival?"

"Completed, your Imperial Majesty, AWACS will be up that morning over the North, and we'll have interceptors on rotating sorties until the Kongur crosses the border, they'll tail him in."

"Good, Khilkov I'll need you with me when we greet the Kongur, and a body of men..." Feodor looked down at the order of battle again.

"Two companies of the 258th Air Assault?"

"Yes, that'll do."

11:00 hours Onyx palace throne room

The Lord Eternal sat upon his throne the letter from the British in hand having been read mere moments earlier, while understandable it had offended the Lord Eternal and his advisors that the head of Britannia wouldn't attend the discussions himself. With plans already in motion a telegram of acknowledgment would be sent back with the exact times and location for the talks, with a full contingent of bodyguards allowed for both parties. Not that safety was a worry in the first place.

00:01 Winnipeg Caedisian command building

Already preperations were in place from the 300 Caedisian troopers to turn there section of the city into a nightmare of traps, defenses and rough terrain. Machine gun and sniper nests being established throughout, with small teams of 2 being ordered to operate as quick reaction AT squads. The 7th child commanding using runners as a secondary means of communication, in case there radios were being monitored. They would fight there hardest to hold the line where the Canadians failed, at the very least they would hopefully slow there attackers down

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