Peacekeepers, Part 2

Former Imperial Palace, Tyrsis Prime, Central Free Tyrsis
17:00 EPT

The Dannistrian Army was now settled into its main field HQ in the middle of Tyrsis Prime, the capital of Free Tyrsis. The offices were set up in the old imperial palace which until recently housed the Emperor and his entire family. The once ornate yellow brick building now blackened from oil stains and diesel fumes as vehicles from all branches of the Dannistrian Armed Forces based in the area moved in and out. Several sentries stood position around the outer perimeter of the palace.
“So, what is this new General like anyway?” asked one of the soldiers to his colleague.
“He’s an alright guy but certainly nothing like Nakata. Don’t get me wrong, he isn’t a pushover but I don’t think he is quite ready to hold the rank of General yet. The politicians promoted him too early, in my opinion.”
“What about you?” the first soldier asked another colleague, who was sitting at a table reading a newspaper.
“I agree. He’s too green. They should’ve waited a few months at least before sticking him in the deep end. Nakata had the right idea. She too no nonsense and was not afraid to hit back at insurgents regardless of where they were. Nh’gouzii on the other hand is a bit too hesitant. When he does act it is sometimes too late. On the other hand, I commend him for not being a jackass and being a little bit more approachable than Nakata.”
“What about you?” a third soldier was asked.
“All the top brass is the same to me,” he replied curtly, “Nakata, Nh’gouzii, N’outah…they all don’t care about us. We grunts take bullets for them and that is all that happens.”
“Be careful what you say, he might hear you.”

General Nh’gouzii’s office, Imperial Palace, Tyrsis Prime, Central Free Tyrsis

“So, what’s the latest situation?” Nh’gouzii, a lanky man barely in his thirties asked his adjutant. The General’s uniform he wore looked a little too big for him.
“Not good sir. Earlier today an aid convoy was ambushed by insurgents. 2 killed, 4 injured and 12 missing, presumed either dead or kidnapped. And yesterday, an aidworkers camp near Darril-Bensoh was bombarded by modified Katyusha rockets. 6 dead, 20 injured.”

Nh’gouzii sighed.
“Did you find the insurgents responsible?”
“No sir. They made a clean getaway before we could respond. We are currently still searching Highways 1, 3 and 4. No sign as of yet.”
“And my request for reinforcements?”
“Denied sir. The Ministry of Defence said that most troops and reserves are engaged in Bai Lung. They may review the situation tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow…tomorrow…to-freakin’-morrow…” Nh’gouzii hissed, “I’d like to see them try to maintain some stability with decreased manpower…anything else?”
“We received word that a large group of insurgents have taken shelter in a village near the Hah’jar Woodlands. The village is under constant surveillance as of yesterday. It looks like they are still there and they are loading up several modified trucks with Katyusha rocket launchers and ammo.”
“Hmm…I would like to have them attacked, but then there is that village…too many civilians…is there any way we can draw them out?”
“Not at the moment, sir. And even if we did attack them as they left, they would still be too close to the village, if you are hoping to avoid civilian casualties.”
“Damn…tell the recon squad to maintain watch on that area. If they so much as twitch, have them report it immediately.”
“Yes sir.”
“Anything else?”
“Another group of insurgents have been tracked down to a power station. They seem to be using the equipment and machinery there to aid their efforts.”
“Sir, permission to speak freely?”
“May I suggest you attack the group at the power station now? It may be our only chance before they leave again.”
“Can you avoid damage to the power station if we attack?”
“That isn’t a certainty sir. The power station is rather large and supplies power to parts of Port Oakham. But on the other hand we can’t leave the insurgents unopposed.”
“I agree, but I’m worried that cutting power to that city could turn too many civilians against us. Certainly it would be nice to simply barge in and bomb the insurgents to kingdom come, but I want to avoid affecting civilians adversely.”
“Understood sir, but you have to bear in mind that the insurgents are starting to cotton on to this by hiding munitions amongst civilians for example. Please understand that sir.”

Nh’gouzii nodded.
“I’ll think about it. That is all.”
“Understood sir.”
The adjutant left Nh’gouzii to brood over matters. Nh’gouzii sighed and took a swig from a canteen on his desk.
“Maybe I’m not cut out for this, he mumbled to himself, What would you do, Nakata?” he asked to himself.

Vehicle Maintainance Base, Tyrsis Prime, Central Free Tyrsis
21:00 EPT

“…So…what you are saying is that no other pilot has been able to attain the level of sucess Private Forr’sith has in controling the ‘Ne’valu’ prototype?”
The scientist readjusted his glasses and nodded.
“Are you sure about that?”
“Well, I wouldn’t call the other pilots bad. But Private Forr’sith has a level of talent that seems to allow him to pull off several maneuvers with ease other pilots have had trouble with.”
“I see…”
“Is there, by any chance something you are not telling me?” asked the scientist. The disembodied voice on the other end of the speaker phone hesitated.
“No. Nothing. I was just wondering. How is the repair work on the original prototype going?”
“It’s going fine. It will take a few more weeks to finish though.”
“What about the other two prototypes that have been built?”

The scientist looked behind him. A gleaming white angular Armored Core mech with large wing-like structures on the back stood behind him in the maintainance bay. It had “NVP-02” emblazzoned on the sides.
“We have the second one. The third one has been sent to for testing in a different climate.”
“I want that second one up and running. The General wants more tests to ensure that the Ne’valu design is viable for full scale mass production.”
“Not without serious redesigns,” the scientist interrupted, “These are not like tanks. You can’t just roll them off the production line and send them into battle. At least, not without a redesign.”
“OK…what problems have you come up with this time?”
“Some of the electrical and electronic systems are vastily underengineered for the task. Some of the wiring is shoddy and the computers installed here are off-the-shelf units that aren’t well suited. They’ll need to be changed. Testing also shows some of the artificial muscle systems are not holding up under the stress. I have alternative designs using more proven advanced versions of the hydraulics we’ve used in previous AC designs. And as for the cockpit controls. Sheesh. Don’t get me started.”

The voice on the other end of the line sighed.
“OK. Send over the changes and I’ll see if I can persuade the top brass to make them. As for the second prototype, do you think you can continue field testing?”
“You didn’t bring me for my charming personality…” the scientist asnwered sarcastically.
“Good then. Keep me informed.”
“Will do.”

The line clicked off. The scientist readjusted his glasses, looked at the mech and sighed.
“Man, you have been causing me so much trouble. Please just give me some good news for once, M’kay?” he asked the mech. It did not answer.
“Heh. Why am I talking to a machine? I’m going mad,” he mumbled as he turned back to his desk and started typing a report.

The voice crackled, transmitted from one of the Kelssek Forces campsites to Neorvins using some rather glitchy pieces of equipment, through an unusually active ionosphere and interefered with by sunspots to a communications satellite and back down through the messy electromagnetic activity again.

“…well, sir, they most likely are Kelssek citizens is the latest we’re hearing. Ninety-nine percent, but they’re still trying to identify the remains over here.”

Peter Coakson nodded, even knowing that the person on the other side of the phone line wouldn’t be able to see. From his office atop the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he had an excellent view of the sparkling blue water of Kelpton Bay, like a big scoop gouged by the Pacific Ocean. Container ships drifted serenely southwards towards the docks. The country’s relationship with the outside world was the main concern of his Ministry, and if turned out the dead aid workers were in fact from Kelssek, he wondered what effect that might have.

“Well, let’s wait for a definitive identification. If the media ask, speak in possibilities, not probabilities or likelihoods… keep it neutral, in other words. We don’t want the media finding out before the families.”

“Understood. It’ll be hard to stop the soldiers, and even harder for the civillians, to get them not to talk, though.”

“That’s fine, just as long as the news is private before it becomes public, alright?”

“Okay. They say they’ll be able to get an ID in three days’ time. The other aid workers are taking it pretty hard; they all knew each other very well…”

“Just do your best out there. I’m sure at least one of the army doctors down there has psychological training; don’t be afraid to ask for help. I doubt they share much of the resentment of the people on the combat side.”