"The Gathering Storm"
It was the dawn of the Third Century, eleven months since the Independence of Dignania.  The Dignanian Republic was a dream given form.  Its goal, to provide a home where the Dignanian people could live peacefully without interference from other nations.  It's a land torn asunder -- a raging battlefield for Dignanians, Communists, Zartanians, and mercenaries.  Dignanians and foreigners engulfed in nine hundred seventy-one thousand, two hundred fifty square miles of deadly war, all alone in the night.  It can be a dangerous place, but it's Dignania's last best hope for freedom.  This is the story of the Dignanian War.  The year is 300AP.  The name of the place is Dignania.

The Position of Ground Forces on January 1, 300 AP

January 24, 300AP

Controversial Motion Faces KTZ King

IMPERIAL CITY (VINO) - In a very surprising move this afternoon, Ludwig de Marin, a representative to the Eastern Zartanian Royal Stek Assembly from the stek of Corynthea, introduced a motion that would effectively condemn the monarchy for its handling of military affairs last year.

    Assemblyman de Marin, along with six other members from the steks of Subaria, Brytanea, and Dragoonta, put the motion before the Assembly, and opened the floor for limited discussion prior to taking a vote.  The motion is the first in the past 30 years that openly criticizes the administration of the current monarch, and is expected to create a backlash from die-hard supporters of the Crown.  The de Marin Motion, as it's currently being called, was announced just after noon today before a silent and stunned Assembly.  After the motion had been read into the Assembly's record, the chambers erupted in noise; some Assemblymen clapping and cheering while others booed and criticized.

    The de Marin Motion, as drafted, condemns the Crown for "obvious and despicable negligence in the prosecution of military actions" during the past year.  The motion also calls for an immediate withdrawal of military forces from the Dignanian Civil War, a complete audit of the Royal Zartanian Military, and the release of full casualty figures for Eastern Zartanian military personnel in the Dignanian War and confirmation of those figures by the UNV.

    Critics of the motion have called de Marin a "coward and a [CENSORED] traitor!"  Supporters have called him "a hero of the people" for having the courage to "question the establishment and the nobility."

    De Marin, by trade a cooper from the town of Velisika in Corynthea, has been a constant critic of the Kingdom's aristocracy since he was first elected seven years ago.  Over the years, de Marin has remained adamant in his calls for Eastern Zartania to "step out of the past, and into the light and reason of a new era, shedding the ancient trappings of monarchy for the universal acceptability of democracy."  While de Marin's political views have made him extremely popular with citizens in the steks of the former Southern Confederation, he has been less successful with much of the Royal Government and his fellow Assemblymen.

    Lord Darin Jillofv, a representative from the stek of Orkansel, said that de Marin was "a fool for bringing this motion out.  Especially now!  We're closer than ever to winning this war in Dignania, but we can't do it with people like him undermining us!"  Assemblywoman Denise Roushten (Pentagonia) agreed with Jillofv, saying "Ludwig's made a big mistake here.  He's criticizing the military and the king, when he's not even willing to fight in this war!  And he's finagled a way to keep his son out of the army!  That's simply unacceptable."

    De Marin was unavailable to respond to Roushten's accusations about his son.  A spokesperson for the Royal Zartanian Army, however, confirmed that de Marin's oldest son, Jon, who is currently nineteen years old, was not inducted into the military as required by the Royal Military Revision of 1363.  The spokesperson refused to comment on possible reasons for such an apparent oversight.

    According to the procedural rules of the Assembly, the de Marin Motion will be open for debate by the members of the Assembly for the next three days, but only on subjects broached by the original drafters of the motion.  After the debate period, a vote will be taken, with a simple majority vote passing the motion.  If passed, the motion will be referred to the Royal Council of Ministers, who are required by law to consider the motion.  If at least eight of the twelve ministers vote in favor of the motion, it will be presented to the King as a Mandate of the People and the Request for Legal Consideration.

    His Royal Majesty has refused to respond to the news of the motion.  Political analysts fear that this motion may have more far-reaching consequences than the drafters think.  "If the King accepts this motion, it'll be an unprecedented admission of gross negligence on the part of the monarch," said Werner Silinev, a professor of political science at Kikikira University in Westermarc.  "Such an admission would undermine and irreparably damage the monarchy, probably leading to its downfall.  If the king refuses to even consider the motion, he'll be made to look like a cruel, heartless monarch that doesn't care about his people.  It's a tough place he's been put in, and I feel sorry for him."

    "He can't pull his forces out of Dignania, not at this stage," said Mark Porter, a former lieutenant and military analyst for the Army of the Federal Republic of Whitlam.  "With more than 200,000 troops committed to the war, as well as three primary naval task forces, there's too much at stake now.  If Eastern Zartania gathers its forces up and leaves, the MLFLD will fall.  That'll end up placing Eastern Zartania in even greater danger, since the UBD and the MCZ will have firmly established themselves.  It'll be major egg on Eastern Zartania's face, too, since
the world will begin to think that the Zartanian's can't finish a war that's any longer than a couple weeks.  I mean, I've already heard some people saying things like, 'Why haven't they won yet?  It's just a bunch of terrorists.'  But that's not the way these things work.

    "I also can't see any good coming out of forcing the king to release the quote unquote 'true' casualty figures for the Dignanian War.  Yeah, most people in the world agree that it's probably more than the 3,800 that the Zartanians have admitted to.  But can't that wait until after the war is over?  If the true numbers come out now, I'm afraid that might end up forcing Eastern Zartania to abandon its war effort.  And where will that leave the rest of us, with the MCZ and UBD entrenched and on the prowl?"

January 25, 300AP

 Dignanian Military Symposium

DATE:  Sunday, February 6, through Thursday, February 10, 300AP

LOCATION:  Grand Kasama Hotel & Convention Center, Kasama, Dignania

WHAT IS THIS?:  The Dignanian Military Symposium is a cooperative effort between the MLFLD and the KTZ for military and government leaders from around the world to enhance their knowledge of modern combat operations and problems, as well as to expand their thinking horizons to develop solutions to those problems. Guests of the symposium will attend a number of conferences, discussions, and lectures detailing various aspects of the current war in Dignania, and how those aspects can be applied to the modern battlefield.  Conferences will be divided by military branch (i.e. army, navy, air force), though some general conferences will be offered during the course of the symposium.  The purpose of the conference is the sharing of ideas between international military leaders in order to facilitate the better understanding of international conflict in the modern era across Vexillium.  Limited shows and displays of military hardware will be available throughout the week, and a tour of the front lines (along the Pascal River) will also be provided to symposium attendees.  Accomodations and meals will be provided by the MLFLD government and the Royal Zartanian Army Supply Corps.

WHO IS INVITED?:  The MLFLD and the Eastern Zartanian Royal Government have elected to invite certain friendly states to send representatives to the symposium, while opening the general admission to almost every state in Vexillium.

Those states recieving specific invitations are:

Kingdom of Eastern Zartania
Empire of Albion-Merite
Federal Republic of Whitlam
Federal Republic of Neoliliana and Western Gorami
Republic of Ulanova
Kingdom of Altland
Republic of Bowdani
United Kingdom of Caboteniasa
Grand Duchy of Lamb's Cove & The Southern Plantations
The Republic of Eastern Delgamia

Every Country in Vexillium can apply for an invitation except for those listed below:

West Uhlan
Northern Gronk
Lendian Confederacy

    For those countries not named above, you are welcome to apply for a invitation.  Please contact The Dignanian head of state. For those countries already invited please send your RSVP by Feb.1. Your delegation may consist of two representatives from each of your armed forces(Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines), and two civilian government representatives to the conference.

General Matthew Cook
Moderate Loyalist Front for the Liberation of Dignania

January 30, 300 AP


The Best Little Stories from the Dignanian Civil War, Issue # 1

    "This magazine is dedicated to the countless little known stories of courage and humanity that happen each and every day in this war.  Articles will deal with the brave, the strange, the humorous, the absurd, and the ugly.  Here are their stories."

A Moment of Grace

    In the Central Sector of the Ambrosio Line on the morning of December 17, 299, Sergeant first class Neal Pyle assigned to the 30th division of the First Corps went about his duties. He was in charge of a machine gun crew that controlled the approaches to his company's section of trenches.  Just 300 yards away the UBD defensive works loomed dangerously.  The terrain in between the two opposing forces was rocky with small undulating hills.  Shell craters and barred wire produced angry shadows as the sun reached for the early morning sky.  All morning, Sergeant Pyle desperately tried to get warm, unfortunately his luck had been against him.   Winter in the Rokariyn Mountains had arrived early and the cold seeped through his three layers of clothing and straight into his bones.  The ground was hard with frost.  Metal from guns and ammo boxes would rip skin off hands if an unsuspecting soldier forgot to wear his gloves.

     On this particular morning, neither side was interested at shooting each other. It was just too damn cold.  All morning not a single shell dropped or a bullet fired and that was just fine by Sergeant Pyle.  It had been over three months since the MLFLD had stopped the UBD summer offensive.  The trenches Sergeant Pyle walked through now were mere scratches in the ground in early August when the MLFLD had been pushed back to the breaking point.  The UBD had been stopped here with massive loss of life on both sides.  Since then neither side wanted any part of a new offensive.  Both sides were tired.  Sergeant Pyle had lived through those dark days in August and was actually enjoying the break the onset of winter brought to the war, even if it was cold enough to freeze your balls off.

     Around noon the word came down the line that at four o'clock an artillery barrage would commence.  The expressed purpose of the attack was to annoy the UBD and to remind them that the MLFLD was still there.  Of course, the MLFLD soldiers just opposite the trenches to be shelled groaned, because that meant that the UBD would reply in kind.  Besides being cold, the soldiers now could look forward to being shot at as well.

    As zero hour approached, Sgt. Pyle prepared his men for the forth-coming onslaught when he noticed movement about hundred yards from the trenches.  He looked through the trench periscope and to his amazement he saw a small dog caught on some barred wire.  The dog tried to free himself, but the more he wiggled, the more he was stuck. The men in the trenches watched in a morbid fascination as the dog struggled. Their hearts went out to him, but there was nothing anyone could do.  First of all the dog was in the middle of no man's land with enemy guns trained on anything that moved.  Secondly, the planned artillery barrage was less then ten minutes out.  What happened next amazed everyone, even Sgt. Pyle.

     Without rhythm or reason and what Sgt. Pyle would later say divine stupidity.  The Sgt. without a word leaped out of the trenches and in a full sprint, ran for the dog.  For the first few moments, everyone was too stunned to say anything, but they soon recovered.  They yelled for him to come back and prepared to cover him if the UBD fired.  Not only was Sgt. Pyle in full view of the enemy, he was racing against time, the artillery barrage was only minutes away.  He ran over craters, around barred wire, and across minefields, miraculously no injury befell him.  No doubt enemy guns were trained on him every step of the way, but throughout his run the UBD did not fire a single shot.  Just maybe they too were taken in by the plight of the dog.

    With few moments to spare, Sgt. Pyle grabbed the dog and headed back home.  Halfway back, the scheduled barrage screamed over head and smashed into the UBD trenches.  UBD no longer held their fire and opened up on Sgt. Pyle.  He bobbed and weaved through the terrain like a dancer.  Bullets whizzed by.  Shells plummeted from sky.  UBD artillery batteries joined the chorus of fire.  He jumped into a crater, a bare twenty yards from home.  His fellow soldiers tried to cover him, but the shelling became so intense that all they could do was hide and wait.  For the next thirty minutes both sides pounded each other with artillery.  Dirt and smoke covered the landscape and then silence descended over the battlefield.  As the shelling stopped, Sgt. Pyle's friends emerged from their shelters to see if their sergeant had survived.  At first all they saw was smoke.  Suddenly, a shape materialized through the smoke.  The shape became a man and that man became Sgt. Pyle.  He staggered to the MLFLD trenches and was hauled to safety.   As he was mauled by his fellow soldiers, he opened his tunic to reveal a scared little dog.

    When asked why he did it, Sgt. Pyle replied "he (the dog) was the first glimpse of something other then death and war in a long time; a remembrance of another time and place where the simple joy of boy and his dog can overcome the greatest of tragedies."  In a true moment of grace, a man trained to kill decided to risk his life to save the innocent.  Today that dog has a happy home with the Sergeant's son in northern Dignania.

February 3, 300AP

RNS Headline News:

January Military Update


    January saw the combined MLFLD and KTZ continue to re-supply and reorganize their forces in Dignania. With no major operations planned for January because of winter, General Cook put out a standing order in December that frontline troops would be put on a rotating leave schedule during this month.  Each soldier would be given four days off for R&R.  General Cook ordered MLFLD and KTZ supply units to set up designated camps in the rear for soldiers to get a warm shower and fresh clothes.  These camps were to serve a dual purpose.  The first purpose was to give the soldiers a place to recharge without having to pay lodging expenses in the cities.  From the camps, buses would take the cleaned up soldiers into the cities for R&R.

    The other purpose was to have these camps serve as distribution points for re-supply.  With the supply situation finally in good order, MLFLD and KTZ leadership decided that the best way to get the new supplies of uniforms, weapons, rations and other essential equipment to the frontlines was to bring the soldier to the supplies.  The eight camps that were set up for the soldier's R&R would also serve as giant supply centers.  The purpose behind that plan was that for most of the war, supplying the frontlines was haphazard and not very effective.  Not one MLFLD soldier had a standard weapon, uniform or other equipment.  The operation was so shoestring that people used what they could find, but now almost a year into the war, the supply and standardization of military equipment could be achieved.  With homegrown war industries now operating above ninety percent and the continued influx of KTZ aid, it was now possible to do something long dreamed of by the MLFLD High Command, standardize its equipment.

    In December, the MLFLD announced that the overhaul of the logistic command was complete.  The experiment of placing KTZ officers in charge of the MLFLD logistics operation had paid off.  The supply problems became a thing of the past and current stockpiles of essential equipment were at record levels. The question became what is the easiest way to get the equipment to the soldiers.  The answer, bring the soldier to the equipment, thus the idea for the camps was born.  A soldier would come to the camp and would be issued brand new standardized uniform, winter clothing, weapon, etc.  In one month, the MLFLD turned an army with many different weapons into an army with one kind of assault rifle, grenade, uniform, etc.  Not only did this upgrade the capabilities of the soldiers; it made supplying them simpler.  Instead of supplying ammunition for five or six different weapons, logistics now only had to supply one kind of ammunition.

    Besides re-supplying the soldiers, the camps provided an opportunity to do a complete medical check up on each soldier.  Everyone was deloused, given the necessary shots, and visited a dentist.  When January ended, the MLFLD army was well equipped and healthy.  The time would soon come for a MLFLD offensive.

    January also saw the creation of the first armored units in the MLFLD army.  On January 21, General Cook commissioned the 1st armored division under the command of Upper General Charles Wayne.  The division would be a combined arms unit with its own mechanized infantry, artillery, reconnaissance units, and support equipment.  The 1st armored division consists of two brigades of tanks, one brigade of mechanized infantry, one regiment of artillery, and one reconnaissance battalion.  In all, the division would total 250 tanks, 240 IFVs (infantry fighting vehicles), 54 pieces of artillery, and over 2,000 support vehicles.  The artillery regiment would consist of two
battalions of 122mm howitzers (36 guns) and one battalion of 155mm howitzers (18 guns).  The two tank brigades were broken up into 3 battalions of (101) tanks and one battalion of (35) mechanized infantry each.  The mechanized brigade consisted of three battalions of (101) IFVs and one battalion of (35) tanks.   The tanks and IFVs were purchased or leased from foreign countries such as Kingdom of Eastern Zartania, Republic of Whitlam, and Federal Republic of Neoliliana.

    While there was no major attacks or operations along the Ambrosio Line, there was fighting.  Besides the raids, snipers, and other small unit operations, a major artillery duel took place on January 13 in the Western Sector.  At 9:30 in the morning, the UBD opened up with artillery against the MLFLD positions across the Pascal River.  The MLFLD artillery batteries returned fire and for the next ten hours both sides exchanged fire using 155mm and 203mm howitzers.  This was the first concentrated artillery duel since August when the UBD offensive was stopped.  The UBD counterbattery was very effective, but MLFLD artillery spotters reported MLFLD's counterbattery was equally destructive. The shelling stopped around 8:00 in the evening and quiet returned to the front.  MLFLD reported losing seven artillery pieces destroyed and four damaged.  UBD casualties could not be confirmed, but MLFLD estimates that over twenty artillery pieces were either destroyed or damaged.  MLFLD personal causalities included 72 killed or wounded, UBD causalities unknown.

    In all of January, MLFLD reported 632 casualties in their army.  Casualties were a result of a combination of combat, cold, disease, and accidents.  Of that number, 386 soldiers would return to active duty.  The causality list was down from December's number of 867.

Air War:

    MLFLD fighters and bombers flew 2,345 sorties over the battlefield for the month of January.  Their targets included SAM (Surface to air missiles) and AAA (Anti-Air Artillery) batteries, convoys, fortifications, and other targets of opportunity.  MLFLD reported 4 aircraft lost and 6 damaged in the course of operations.  MLFLD claim that they shot down 3 UBD helicopters and one reconnaissance plane.


    News from the country is sketchy and unreliable.  News organizations continue to bar their reporters from entering the country.  Eight reporters are known to have been killed in Novoyoakes since September of 299.  Reports from refugees entering northern Dignania and other countries surrounding Novoyoakes detail a landscape filled with warring parties, rampaging bandits, and chaos.  Novoyoakes' ports and harbors are under control of various fractions and are closed.  MLFLD, in response to the several raids into northern Dignania from Novoyoakes, has placed 41st infantry division along the border to defend against incursions from bandits. When more concrete information is released from Novoyoakes RNS will bring to the Vexillium.

February 6, 300AP

The Best Little Stories from the Dignanian Civil War, Issue # 2

    "This magazine is dedicated to the countless little known stories of courage and humanity that happen each and every day in this war.  Articles will deal with the brave, the strange, the humorous, the absurd, and the ugly.  Here are their stories."

Too Scared to Run

    The night surrounded them, embraced them.  It hid them from the others.  But it also hid the others from them.  It was their friend.  It was their enemy.  And the soldiers of Echelon 27, 18th Regiment Royal Infantry, knew it, and tried to cope with it.  Among them, huddling behind a fallen log blocking the road, was Private E'las Dortmak, just barely 18 years old and now staring death in the face.

    It was May 10, 299, and the UBD offensive was in its fourth day.  The artillery barrage that announced that coming offensive was the most punishing ever experienced by either the veteran MLFLD troops or the newly arrived and still inexperienced Eastern Zartanians.  And the massed infantry assault that followed it left nothing to the imagination.  Across the front, the UBD and MCZ were making deep and steady gains into allied country, and allied forces were on the run, trying to stay ahead of the advancing beast.  And caught up in that general retreat was the 18th Regiment Royal Infantry, with Echelon 27 providing the rear guard.  They were retreating north up Dignanian Route 21 when the advance UBD units finally caught them.

    With enemy gunfire erupting all around them, the 10 remaining soldiers of Echelon 27 found whatever cover they could, and tried to return fire into the surrounding darkness.  From his place behind the log, Private Dortmak could see his comrades in arms, hiding behind their own cover, jumping up every few seconds to fire off a quick burst into the night. The muzzle flashes of the Eastern Zartanian guns lit up Dortmak's friends' faces like staccato lightning bolts in the night.

    Dortmak looked around him, and heard the enemy bullets whizzing overhead.  He was more scared than he ever believed he could be.  He wanted to run.  He wanted to bolt off into the gloom, and run away, far away from the horrible sounds around him.  With the tat-tat-tat-tat-tat of the gun fight ringing in his ears, Dortmak began to sink back against the log that was hiding him, his lower lip quivering.

    He looked to the left.  Private Joshua Klauris shuddered, and fell to the ground motionless.  Klauris was an 18-year-old draftee like Dortmak, with a girlfriend, a dog, and his farmer-parents back home in Orkansel; and he was one of the members of the echelon that had befriended Dortmak when he joined.  Dortmak looked to the right.  Sergeant Fritz Marlemann, Dortmak's squad commander who had taken Dortmak under his wing, and who had a wife and three young children back in the Kingdom, dropped to the ground, half of his head missing from UBD bullets.  Dortmak's heart was seized by an icy hand.  Two of his friends, the people he cared most about in this screwed up country, were dead.  He could hear other friends of his screaming in the dark.  They were killing his friends.  They were taking from him the people that he cared about.  HIS friends.

    At that moment, a decision was made.  Dortmak said afterward that "something just snapped.  I was mad, and I knew something had to be done."  Using the night and the stifling darkness as his friend and cover, Dortmak slipped from behind his log, crawled on his belly to the edge of the road, and rolled into the ditch.  With his G-7 assault rifle held to the ready in front of him with its bayonet affixed, Dortmak began to inch his way through the ditch.  Ahead he saw a dark figure in the ditch.  The figure rose to a knee, aimed, and fired his weapon.  In the brief flash, Dortmak saw that the soldier was not wearing a helmet, which was standard issue and required among the Zartanians.  Dortmak brought his weapon up, his finger on the trigger.  The figure ahead rose again.  Three brief flashes illuminated the ditch, and the figure dropped again.  This time he didn't rise.

    Dortmak, though, paid no attention to the results of his work.  In what amounted to a "battle-trance," he crawled over the UBD soldier, and on down the ditch.  Again, ahead, the flashes of enemy guns.  Dortmak stopped and observed.  Flashes out of the ditch.  Off the road to the left.  Four quick flashes.  Three more flashes just to the right of the first.  Two different guns.  Dortmak nodded to himself, and slithered out of the ditch onto the grass.  With painstakingly slow crawling, he moved off toward the flashes.  Two stacked logs protecting the gunmen.  Dortmak moved a little more to the left, toward a small patch of bushes to the left and behind the two enemy gunmen.  There he lay, gun ready, finger on the trigger.  The first figure behind the logs rose and fired.  Two flashes lit up the bushes, just as the second figure rose, and two more flashes erupted.  The logs remained dark, and lumps behind them did not move.

    More flashes to the left.  One-two-three-four-five.  Five flashes.  Rapid fire.  Off the ground.  Probably standing behind a tree.  There again.  Dortmak turned by the bushes to face the new enemy, and brought his rifle to bear on the previous location of the flashes.  Seconds later, they flashed again.  Dortmak moved his sights slightly left and a hair up.  The flashes erupted again, and Dortmak squeezed the trigger.  A quick scream from that far place, then nothing.

    More flashes, further away.  Two sets.  One-two-three.  One-two-three-four.  Side-by-side.  Too far to shoot from here.  Crawl forward and shoot.  Slowly, Dortmak began moving forward again.  He reached a tree just yards away from the enemy gunmen.  Kneeling beside the tree, hoping to use its size to mask his dark form next to it, Dortmak took aim at the closest figure.  A flash lit up the figure, and two flashes lit up Dortmak.  The figure dropped to the ground.  The second figure turned toward Dortmak, gun raised.  Dortmak squeezed his trigger.  Click.  Magazine empty.  The figure fired off three shots at Dortmak.  A searing pain in his shoulder.  No bullets.  Have to take him.  Dortmak, before his mind could even register the fact, was on his feet and flying toward his adversary.  Just seconds later, he had knocked the rifle from the figure's hands.  As the enemy soldier reached for a holstered pistol, Dortmak plunged his bayonet into the figure. The figure fell to the ground.

    Dortmak stood over his enemy, and listened to the silence around him. The other enemy soldiers had been felled, but what about his own?  He saw several dark figures approach from the road, recognized Lieutenant Derik Hollenera, the echelon's commander, and collapsed to the ground, passed out.  Dortmak was carried off by his comrades as they moved up the road following the rest of the regiment.

    During the short engagement, Private Dortmak, on his own, killed five of the twelve UBD soldiers that had attacked Echelon 27.  The echelon lost four killed and two wounded.  Private Dortmak was awarded the Royal Zartanian Army's Commendation Medal for his heroics during the battle.  Dortmak said of his actions, "I was just too scared to run.  Had to do something.  So I did it."  Private E'las Dortmak was killed two and a half months later on July 26, 299, when Eastern Zartania's 18th Regiment Royal Infantry, along with several other regiments, successfully stormed the UBD fortress atop the mountain known as "The Citadel," ending the UBD-MCZ offensive.

February 6, 300AP (7:05 PM Local Time)

RNS Headline News:

    "This is Theodore Hoeppner for RNS reporting live from Kasama, the capitol of the MLFLD, in Northern Dignania.  I'm standing outside the Grand Kasama Hotel watching government and military officials from around Vexillium arrive for the Dignanian Military Symposium opening dinner.  (The TV camera pans across the front entrance to the hotel.  Large crowds of people surround the entrance as two searchlights, flanking the corners of the hotel, wave back and forward.  KTZ and MLFLD security forces are everywhere.)  Tonight's ceremonies mark the beginning of the weeklong symposium sponsored by both the MLFLD and the KTZ governments.  The agenda of the symposium consists of several days of in-depth conferences; each dealing with an aspect of the on-going Dignanian war.

    Wait; hold on..."(The TV camera pans to the street to reveal another limousine arrive at the hotel.  This one is accompanied by four cars filled with security people.  The security detail positions themselves around the limousine just as the driver opens that rear door.)  "The King of Caboteniasa has just exited his Limousine and is now leading his delegation into the hotel.  The King's arrival marks the twelfth delegation to arrive.  He leads one of the fourteen nations represented here at the Symposium."

Those countries include:
Kingdom of Eastern Zartania
The United Kingdom of Caboteniasa
Republic of Eastern Delgamia
Federal Republic of Neoliliana and Western Gorami
Republic of Bowdani
Democratic State of South Bay
Empire of Albion-Merité
Federal Republic of Whitlam
Lendosan Confederation
Republic of Ordland
Republic of Ulanova
Sylvarist Republic of Begral
United Territories of Fiarria and Nuarmia

    "With over a hundred delegates attending with their staffs, this conference will be considered a huge success for the fledging MLFLD, which is looking to expand its contacts, and the KTZ.  Dinner should begin at eight o'clock with General Cook's speech at nine.   We will try to carry General Cook's speech live later tonight.  Until then, this Theodore Hoeppner, RNS, reporting from Dignania."

February 10, 300AP

The Best Little Stories from the Dignanian Civil War, Issue # 3

    "This magazine is dedicated to the countless little known stories of courage and humanity that happen each and every day in this war.  Articles will deal with the brave, the strange, the humorous, the absurd, and the ugly.  Here are their stories."

One-Eyed Willie

    War brings out the ingenuity in people and Lt. J Peterson was no different.  A son of a watch matcher, Lt. Peterson was drawn to mechanical objects at an early age.  At the age of twelve, he won the young scientist award at school for building a mini-refrigerator the size of a small radio.  When the Dignanian war started, Peterson was abroad at collage, but quickly returned home and joined the MLFLD.  Immediately, his superiors recognized his talents and sent him to work in the new technologies division in Kasama or affectingly dubbed the "Tinker's guild."

    On June 17, 299, during the height of the UBD offensive, Lt. Peterson hit upon an idea of creating a new weapon while watching a horror film about spiders.  He though why not create a small spider like machine that could sneak up on the enemy and either spy or attack them.  Better yet, why not create thousands of them and send them crawling across the front to attack.  Instead of men and women dying, these machines could take the risk. The tiny machines could crawl through wire, craters, and mines without any problem.   These machines could deliver bombs or have a listening device attached.  Their size would be their greatest assist; the enemy could not see them.  With this machine, the soldiers would not have to be sent out on raids to spy on the enemy.  He brought the idea to the attention of his superiors and they gave him the green light.

    Six months later "One-Eyed Willie" (named after the one optical sensor it had) made its debut in the Central Sector.  Around eleven at night, Lt. Peterson and his team set up for a night foray to the enemy's trenches.  They chose a section of trenches closest to the enemy.  Where they set up, the enemy was only 50 some yards away.  The small spider like machine, the size of a shoebox, had a small camera attached with night vision.  From a TV monitor in the forward trenches, Lt. Peterson could see the path the One Eye Willie would take.

    The night was cool with a slight breeze from the west.  Tension filled the air; Lt. Peterson and his team were under pressure to produce a working model.  His previous attempts had failed.  For one reason or another, the earlier models could not cross the broken terrain or for some reason or other Peterson would lose contract of the machine and it would stop dead in its tracks.

    One-Eyed Willie was the tenth model in the line and his superiors were running out of patience.  The little machine was fitted with a listening device and the hope was that once the machine traversed no man's land thus reaching the enemy trenches they would be able to hear something.  If something went wrong and One Eyed Willie could not be salvaged, a small explosive triggered by radio would prevent its capture.

    The little machine began its journey without a problem.  Lt. Peterson, using a small joystick, guided Willie around rocks and through craters.  A half-hour later, Willie approached the UBD first line of trenches.  After Peterson directed the machine to a good position, he turned on the listening device and waited.  For ten agonizing minutes, all they heard was static until a faint sound, barely above a whisper, registered on the speakers.  A few more minutes passed.  Suddenly, two male voices clear as day echoed through the speakers.  Instant joy gripped everyone involved.  In fact everyone was so overjoyed, especially Lt. Peterson, that they forgot about the talking UBD soldiers.  To this day, no one remembers what the UBD soldiers were saying.

    After Peterson guided Willie back to friendly trenches, his team and him returned to Kasama to begin work on a process to mass-produce his new machine.  The question now was whether or not Lt. Peterson could take his prototype and turn it into a useful weapon on a mass scale, however the answer to that question will have to wait another story.

February 16, 300 AP

KTZ Navy Bags Raiders

KASAMA, Dignania (RNS) - The Imperial Zartanian Navy announced today that it has located and destroyed at least four ships that have been raiding Eastern Zartanian commerce for more than eight months.  According to information released at an Imperial Navy press conference late this morning, a task force of Eastern Zartanian warships under the command of Commodore John Sheridan has been hunting the enemy commerce raiders since August.  While the Navy has refused to discuss details of the operations being carried out against the UBD and MCZ raiders, they have said that at least four warships, two destroyers and two frigates, are included in Commodore Sheridan's flotilla.

    Shortly after Eastern Zartania announced its intention to intervene in the Dignanian Civil War on behalf of the MLFLD, the United Brotherhood of Dignania (UBD) and the Movement for a Communist Zartania (MCZ) began raiding Eastern Zartanian merchant ships on the high seas, capturing or sinking them.  Any ship flying an Eastern Zartanian merchant ensign was targeted.  Between the months of May and November of last year, an estimated 48 merchant ships of various types were lost to enemy commerce raiders.  It is believed that at least 30 of those ships were sunk, and the current loss of life is unknown.

    In August, though, the Imperial Navy recalled Sheridan from the Dignanian Theater of Operations where he had commanded the heavy cruiser HMIS Alfacron (HC-3) in the Battle of Ahmaden Bay.  Sheridan was given a temporary promotion to commodore, and placed in charge of a task force with the objective of hunting down the enemy raiders and ending the threat to Eastern Zartanian shipping.

    During the intervening months, Sheridan's task force has been relentlessly pursuing suspected commerce raiders.  To date, four enemy raiders are confirmed located and destroyed.  Two were found operating to the northwest of Dignania, attempting to interdict Eastern Zartanian shipping to the main MLFLD-held port in northern Dignania, Kasama.  Another raider, said to be a converted merchant cruiser with large-caliber deck-mounted guns, was run to ground and sunk in the Cisgronkian Ocean along the main shipping route from Eastern Zartania to the Fiarrian continent.  The final of the confirmed enemy ships was found in the waters of the Polaris Ocean to the west of Noteraland.  It is unclear as yet just what the ship was doing that far north.

    The Imperial Navy has refused to comment on casualties incurred on either side during these operations, but has said that full details will be revealed following the successful completion of naval operations.  Fleet Admiral Indurii, IZN, has said that Commodore Sheridan will continue his operations until all known and suspected enemy raiders have been accounted for and destroyed.

February 22, 300 AP

Character: Oscar Valdez in Montpelier, Dignania

    The liquor was stale, but Oscar Valdez didn't mind.  To his thinking, it was the one thing that he could count on to deliver on what it promised, drunken bliss.  He stared at the half-filled glass in his hand.  He jiggled the glass and watched as the ice cubes cascaded against the sides. While staring at the reddish-brown liquor, he wondered; could this solve his problems? Even before he proposed the question, Valdez knew the answer, but he didn't care. With one swallow, he downed the liquid.  Starting from his mouth, a slow burn migrated down his throat and into his stomach.  It tasted bitter and spicy.  Again he thought, well at least it did what it's suppose to do.  He was about to pour himself another drink when he heard a knock on the door.  He paused hoping the person behind the door would go away.  Unfortunately, the knock returned.  Valdez sighed, then calmly filled the glass to the top.


    The door swiftly opened, a tall skinny man with a light complexion flowed into the office.   The man, no more then twenty, stopped directly in front of Valdez's desk and promptly saluted. "Comrade General, you wanted to be informed when the general officers were assembled.  They await your convenience in the conference room."

    Valdez eyed the baby faced Captain with contempt.  This spoon fed kid had avoided combat by having his father, General Duffy, assign him to army headquarters.  A smirk appeared on Valdez's face as he sipped his drink, privilege and rank wasn't supposed to exist in a communist utopia, but here it stands in front of him, mocking him, reminding him just how much he had failed.  What was even more depressing was that he was powerless to do anything about this kid and the others who roamed these halls.  The captain's father controlled a powerful faction within the government and without their support the government could fall apart, which reminded him of something else that the revolution failed to do, provide unity. Valdez continued to stare at the captain who by this time was nervous and favoring one leg from standing at attention to long.   Valdez smiled at the Captain's nervousness, but did nothing to ease it.  Command did have its perks.

    "Thank you Captain, you may tell the others that I will be with them shortly."  Instantly, the captain's body relaxed and with a prompt salute, he hurried out of the office, closing the door behind him.

    "Back stabbing weasel," whispered Valdez.  With resignation, the leader of the United Brotherhood of Dignania pushed himself up from his desk and straightened his uniform.  He was about to head for the door, when he noticed the bottle sitting on the desk.  The brown liquor beckoned him.  Well maybe one more drink, thought Valdez, besides command did have its perks.

    As he entered the room, a slight smile, unseen by the men sitting around the conference table, manifested on Valdez's face.   Like a cheap prison movie, the closed mini-blinds projected a silhouette of prison bars across the table.  Electric lights produced a harsh white light, which caste a ghoulish pallor on the men's faces.  From Valdez's vantagepoint, the room was thick with smoke from the cigars and cigarettes.  He could see sweat dripping down their uniforms and in a vain attempt to keep cool, they used file folders as fans, but it did no good.  The fouls, thought Valdez, no one had gotten up to turn the heat down because such an action might be interpreted as a sign of weakness.  They would sit there all day in misery rather then show weakness.  Valdez wished some of the men in the room would show that kind of persistence in battle as they practiced here.

    Turning the heat up and closing the blinds were old tricks Valdez learned years ago, but the old ones always worked. There were eight men in the conference room sitting around a large wooden table.  On the left sat Vice President Otho Ferrier, Lt. General Patrick Duffy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Under-Intendent Eric Macewen, and Sub-General Theo Rossabi commander of the First Army.  On the right sat Second Army commander Sub-General Ivan Marchetti, Third Army commander Sub-General Torre Della, Director Peter Weir, and Deputy Commander Lt. General Victor Huizinga.

    His eyes swept the assembled men and fell upon Peter Weir, Director of Ministry of Public Works.  Weir held a handkerchief around his mouth and nose in the vein attempt to keep the smoke out.  His eyes were red and even from six feet away, Valdez could tell that Weir was in pain from his diseased lungs.  The thought of Weir in pain cheered Valdez up.  He had them just where he wanted them.  It was now time to enter the wolf's lair.  Valdez turned from the two way mirror and headed for the door.    When the UBD took Montpelier last year and started to use this building as headquarters, Valdez ordered this adjacent room to the conference room to be built with a two-way mirror so he could look in on people waiting.  Ever since then, he would use this room to spy on people.  The purpose was to keep informed and to get a sense of who was waiting in the room before he exposed himself.  As he reached the door to leave, Valdez recited the motto he had been taught years before, "The key to surviving is never to taken by surprise.  Always keep them guessing and competing against one another.  The more time they spend fighting among the themselves, the less time they have attacking you."

     Another one of these kids pretending to be a soldier announced Valdez to the group.  Valdez was not too drunk to notice that many of the assembled leaders of the revolution reluctantly stood in his presence.  He made his way to the head of the table and took his seat.  The assembled group, in turn, took theirs.  Valdez looked down the table at the eclectic group of warriors.  Some of the men, such as General Della and his good friend Otho Ferrier were true heroes of the revolution and truly believed in dialect, while others were mere opportunistic pigs no better then their enemies to the north.  Personally, Valdez wasn't sure what he believed any more, too much had happened over the last year.  He longed for the days of intellectual debate in that two-story hotel back home.  Those long lost nights filled with discussions about the natural progression of man from slavery to equality and evils of power moguls were pure joy.

    Someone cleared their throat and Valdez instantly awoke from his muse.  He wished they would all disappear so he could close his eyes for a few minutes, but the revolution must continue. Valdez thought, where is that bottle?

    "General Huizinga what is the situation along the front and please don't embellish, the late general Arnold was quite a story teller before the firing squad caught up to him."

Huizinga scowled at the retort.

    The general as deputy commander of the army picked Arnold to head army intelligence.  What soon became clear over the course of spring and summer of last year was that Arnold's talent was not in intelligence, but in drugs.  When the drugs were not interfering, Arnold's intelligence or lack of was devastating.  He never could understand the enemy and failed completely to predict the KTZ's strength and whereabouts.  Valdez remembers the briefing in July when Arnold announced that the MLFLD frontline would break and that the KTZ 2nd division would not be fully deployed in time to become a factor in the fight.  Of course, less then one week later, the 2nd division slammed into the right flank of the UBD armies and unhinged the offensive.  Arnold soon followed his prediction into the ground.  Valdez returned Huizinga's scowl with a smile.  He should know by now that Valdez was never going to let him forget his mistake.

    To avoid Valdez's vicious smile, Huizinga coughed and went for his water.  He took a depth breath to collect himself and then in loud deep voice he spoke.  "Comrade General, the front is stable.  The enemy has made no move against us for over four months.  Our intelligence estimates conclude that the enemy will not be able to launch a major effort against us until July or August.  We believe that they were hurt worse then we thought and...."

    Valdez interrupted, "Execute me Comrade," then paused to let everyone in the room focus on him.  "These intelligence estimates; are they based on fact or fantasy, because I do seem to recall reading a open source report about the MLFLD creating a new Armored division just last month.  Now if they are in such bad straits, then, please tell me where are they finding the men and material to create this division?"

    Huizinga folded his hands over his large belly. "Obviously it is an attempt to trick us into believing they are more powerful then they really are.  My sources tell me that the division is that in name only.  They only have a few pitiful regiments of mismatched equipment; no match for armored troops."

    "Ah, I see," Valdez paused, "And what do you make of this Military Symposium they held beginning of this month?"

With confidence, Huziniga responded, "Simply a desperate attempt to get other nations to either get involved or give money."

    Outwardly, he held a calm demeanor, inwardly, Valdez wanted to climb onto the table and bash Huziniga's head until it exploded like a watermelon, but he must play the game and let other people make his attacks. Valdez turned to General Rossabi; "Comrade what do you think of these developments." General was beaming, ready to pounce on the opportunity.  Valdez closed his eyes, thinking that the general should keep his emotions closer to the vest or he might find himself up against a wall.  Valdez knew Huziniga would take such position because he had his people feed him false information in an effort to knock down his deputy commander before he got too powerful.  He chose General Rossabi to attack him with the information because Valdez knew they shared a personal dislike of each other.

     "That's funny comrade, but according to this report," General Rossabi picked up a stapled report from a stack of them sitting next to him, "The MLFLD armored division is a fully outfitted unit with modern equipment."

"What are you talking about," scowled Huziniga.

    "Oh, don't take my word for it, read."  General Rossabi tossed the report over to Huziniga.  The general immediately picked it up and began reading the contents.  With a grin, Rossabi continued, "I brought several copies for everyone."  Rossabi proceed to hand out reports to everyone in the room.  Valdez took his copy, but didn't open it.  He already knew what it said, because he had his people prepare it.  The information inside dispelled everything General Huziniga had just said.  The MLFLD armored division was not made up of pitiful regiments, but if fact was a powerful unit.  The shock of the report began to register on Huziniga's face as the information hit home.  He looked up from the report.  His features were pinched and his face turned red as he realized he had been had.  Suddenly everyone in the room opened up on him with questions and insults. The hungry vultures smelled blood and they went for the juggler.

Valdez smiled, he had won and the meeting was just beginning.

    The meeting would go on for another two hours.  Like a conductor, Valdez orchestrated the meeting in such a way that most of what he wanted done would get done.  On top of that, Valdez was able to keep his esteemed colleagues busy fighting among themselves rather then attacking him.  By playing off each other, Valdez was able to gain security while having most of his orders followed.  The generals would make sure to accomplish their tasks so to outdo the others.  Of course this was inefficient, but it was the only way to get things done.  Now that the circus was over, the real meeting, the one that made the real decisions in war was about to begin.

    This meeting was only for a select few trusted advisers to Valdez and was held in a small soundproof room, which was constantly checked for listening devices and guarded by loyal soldiers, in Valdez's residence.  Attending the meeting was First Army G-2 Major Kryshinin, a division commander in Second Army, Army quartermaster General Linnaeus, General Della and revolutionary guards chief intelligence officer Colonel Dukhonin, Otho Ferrier and reporter Scott Edwards.  The men took their seats and a bottle was passed around.

    Otho took a sip of his drink and turned to Valdez. "I must say Oscar you were in rare form today.  I could hear Huizinga screaming at his aides all the way to his car after the meeting."

    "Thank you Comrade," Valdez let himself smile, besides he did give a good performance, "the goal is to always keep the enemy off balance whether it's on a battlefield or in a conference room, but we now must put aside such self-congratulations and focus on the matter at hand."  Valdez turned toward Della sitting across the table, "Comrade Della how bad are we really, I can't get a straight answer through all the posturing by those buffoons.  What is your assessment and please be candid."

    "Frankly Comrade General, we are not in a good position.  Both the Second and Third armies incurred loses of 40 to 50 percent during last summer's offensive and still have not recovered.  With the KTZ blockade in full effect, men and material are hard to come by.  Our foreign sources of equipment and money have dried up.  Resources are already stretched very thin and now we have discovered that most of the new equipment is earmarked for the Revolutionary Guards.  General Duffy seems intend in making sure that his command is ready.  When asked about diverting men and material to his army he replies by saying his army should get the equipment because he will be called upon to stop the MLFLD and KTZ when they attack. Now while his reasoning is sound, I personally think another motive is driving his actions.   I believe that he is keeping his army intact so he can move against us when the time is right."

Valdez turned to his right.  "Colonel Dukhonin what do you hear at headquarters?"

    "Comrade general, General Della is correct in his assessment.  My commander is husbanding his supplies and gathering loyal officers and men around him.  Unfortunately, I believe that he has several divisions loyal to him, maybe more.  I think he will wait until the right moment and then strike.  So far they do not suspect me, but for how long that holds I cannot say."

"Do we have control of the armored divisions?"

"Yes sir, our most loyal men are in place and you can count on their support."

    "Good, I want to keep our armor dispersed in the Central Valley among the cities and towns to protect them from air attacks and also have a strong force in between the capital and the Revolutionary Guards in the Rokariyn Mountains.  If we can control the valley, the infantry-dominated guard won't be able to cross the Valley without running into our tanks.  Our armor is our trump card in this game.  They protect us against the MLFLD and disloyal elements of our own army.  The key is to keep control of the armor.  General Linnaeus, I want to make sure our armor gets all the supplies and equipment they need to stay at full readiness, but I don't want the supplies cut off from the Guards.  I want Duffy to continue to think he is in control."

    "Yes general" replied Linnaeus.  Valdez hesitated before continuing. He had been avoiding this decision for some days now, but he could no longer ignore it.  In one quick movement, Valdez stood up from his chair and began pacing back and forth.  The assembled group looked perplexed, but waited for their leader to speak his mind.

    "Comrades, I have read your reports and this decision is not easy to make, but be as it may I have decided that we must pull back from the North side of the Pascal River."
General Della and Otho looked at each other in surprise.  Colonel Dukhonin was not so shocked by the announcement.  He knew all along that this decision would be made.

    "I know this is hard to hear or speak of and goes against all that we fought for, but ever since we lost control of the heights on the Citadel, we have been in a dangerous position.  By keeping our exposed forces north of the river we invite attack and easy access for the MLFLD to cross south.  By retreating from the north side, we increase our defensive capabilities by forcing them to launch a river assault against our entrenched forces in rugged terrain. One of the main problems that I foresee is our enemies knew that we would withdraw south of the Pascal River they would have ammunition by which to attack us. What are your opinions?"

    General Della shifted in his seat and replied, "Sir, I agree with your assessment.  The Third Army is holding the line north of the river, but are in no position to repulse an attack and because of the loses occurred during last year's offensive they would not stand a chance against a concentrated attack from three sides."

"Comrade General may I make a suggestion?"

    By all means, Comrade Major," responded Valdez.  "We are not children that must play games with each other and hide the truth."

    Major Kryshinin continued, "Comrade I believe we can shore up our frontlines and keep Duffy's revolutionary guards busy enough that they can't turn on us."

"Please continue"

    "When we retreat south as you suggested, I put forth that instead of the Second and Third Armies setting up abreast the river, we have Duffy's guards take that responsibility."

    Otho Ferrier shook his head. "He would never allow his army to be trapped like that because then he would not be free move against us."

    "But comrade that is exactly what we need him to do and I have an idea to force him to do it. Comrade General, during your speech in the upcoming independence parade on March 1, you can announce that because of Duffy's loyalty and bravery in the service of the people, his guards should get the honor of defending the line against the aggressors to the north.

Scott Edwards cut in, "Comrade Kryshinin, Duffy would see right through that ploy and find a way to refuse it."

    "That is why we do it in such a public and spontaneous way.  We hype him up as a savior to the cause so much so that if he refused such an honor his power within the government could be contained or even destroyed.  We win if his army is engaged on the front lines and we win if we discredit him enough to force him out. Either way we will have him under control."

"An excellent idea," said General Della.

    Valdez sat pondering the idea. "Comrade major you idea has merit and as a added bonus, if the MLFLD attack, which I believe they will do before the summer is out, we will have Duffy's guards take the brunt of the attack and hopefully get cut down to size." Valdez paused before continuing,  "Additionally, as added insurance, we can place the Second and Third behind the guards.  This gives us added protection against both Duffy and the MLFLD.  I want the move back across the river completed by mid-March."

    Everyone in the room nodded in agreement.  Valdez paused to take a sip of his liquor. "Otho how is the diplomatic front coming and what about the blockade."

    "We are cut off from Vexillium.  The KTZ blockade is bleeding us dry.  Only four ships in the last two months have slipped past the blockade.  With the KTZ navy sinking any ship that enters their exclusion zone, many countries do not want to take the risk.  Diplomatically, our people can not get out to friendly nations and representatives from nations sympathetic to our cause refuse to take the trip here.  Frankly Oscar, no one outside Dignania cares anymore.  Everyone is afraid of upsetting the KTZ and her allies and will not risk a direct confrontation."

  General Della cut in. "What about our raiders, haven't they caused stir in the international community!"

    "At first, people were concerned enough to do something, but over time, the raiders had the opposite effect we intended.  Instead of uniting Vexillium against KTZ's war effort in Dignania, nations equated the raiders to simple terrorists and thus a danger to international commerce on the seas.  Governments looked to their pocket books instead of a people's fight to be free.  They view the raiders as interfering with trade across the oceans and thus have to be destroyed."

    Silence greeted Ferrier's unpleasant report.  No one said a word.  In an effort to divert attention from the terrible news, Edwards spoke up. "Did anyone notice that Super-Intendent Julie Poska wasn't at the meeting, instead, her underling was there."

Everyone perked up and looked toward Edwards.  Even the dull General Linnaeus raised an eyebrow in interest.

    "Well, it turns out that she has a, how do you shall say, hobby."  Valdez only listened with half interest; he already knew about Poska's perversion with animals.

    Valdez redirected the conversation; gossip could wait. "Has any word come from Novoyoakes about Bester and my missing regiments?"

    Everyone in the room looked to each other; waiting to see who would be brave enough to speak first knowing their leader's anger over Bester.  Valdez was still angry over Bester's move into Novoyoakes last summer.  He had not told Valdez about crossing the border and even worse was the several thousands troops Bester took with him.

Otho took the plunge, "Not much, only rumors of some kind of new army out west."

    Dulla joined in, "If Bester hadn't order the regiments diverted away last summer, we would have broken through before the Zartanian army attacked."

    The room quickly became silent.  Valdez stared across the table.  He finished his drink and set the glass back down.  Valdez's face tightens as if he was remembering an old wound.  He spoke in a low voice that was almost a growl. "I want that prick found and brought back here at any cost and find out what is going on what west."

Everyone in the room responded with a resounding "yes sir."

March 1, 300 AP

Character: Xavier March in Montpelier, Dignania

    Sounds of celebration and music reached the ears of Xavier March as he turned the corner.  He immediately frowned upon seeing the thousands of people lining the main boulevard.  Men and women alike waved miniature UBD flags as smartly dressed soldiers marched by.  Disgusted, March pushed his way through the mass of people, while all the time ignoring the insults that greeted his passage.  Even over the den of noise, March could hear the approaching tanks.  He pushed his way passed a heavyset man in a cheap gray suit.  The man turned to say something, but quickly looked away as he glimpsed the dark expression on March's face.

    The dark green tanks roared up the boulevard toward him.  March ignored them; unfortunately, the people in his path did not.  With childlike exuberance, the people danced about screaming as the tanks passed.  March stopped and closed his eyes as the joyful crowd buffeted him.  Willing himself to be calm, March stood still amid the clamorous crowd.  He wanted to pull out his pistol and shoot everyone around him, but March knew that would be stupid and he had not survived a year in UBD controlled territory to be dumb now.  The last tank rolled by on its way to the reviewing stands. As quickly as they assembled, the crowd dissipated allowing March to pass through.  Making sure he was not being followed, he made his way through the crowds of soldiers and on-lookers.  He was confident that if he was stopped and searched they would not find his package.  Of course if they performed a body cavity search, he would be dead.  March pushed aside such thoughts.

    He continued down the boulevard passing several street vendors hawking food and wares celebrating the one-year anniversary of the UBD victory.  Just thinking about the anniversary made his stomach crawl.  March's eyes scanned the crowds looking for anyone paying too much attention to him. After walking four blocks down the main boulevard, he crossed a connecting street toward a three story brick building.  A UBD armored personal carrier guarded the intersection.  A large man sitting on top had his left arm draped across a large machine gun.  Lucky, the man didn't give March a second thought as he passed the vehicle.  The building was in poor condition, as it was not repaired since last year's battle for the capitol.    The top floor was missing and charred.  Plastered on the walls of the building were red and black posters celebrating the UBD victory.  March passed them, controlling his urge to rip them down.  He stopped in front the damaged building and looked across the street.  There it was; just where they told him it would be.  His drop was supposed to be in a small café across the street from the burnt out building, which was the landmark he was told to find.  The crowds started to thin and he saw his chance to cross the busy boulevard. Glancing side to side along the sidewalk March watched for anyone paying attention to him.  When he was sure he was safe he stepped from the curb and calmly walked across the road, avoiding traffic.

     The café was small with one bay window as the source of light.  The faded green paint chipped in several places, had a very unwelcome feel to it.  The café looked deserted.  People walking by didn't even give it a second look as if it was a low class neighbor no one wanted to acknowledge existed.  March smiled, perfect.  He opened the wooden door and calmly entered. A deep musty odor invaded his senses.  The café consisted of a single darkened room with a half dozen tables.  Near the back wall stood a large counter.  Every space available was used for dried meats, cheeses, and various other foods.  There were four people in the Café, including a tall old man behind the counter.  March scanned the room.  The hallway he was looking for was on the back wall of the café.  He walked over to the counter and pretended to look at the menu hanging on the wall.  The old man waited for March to make up his mind.

"I would like a roast beef sandwich with lettuce, Mayo, cheese, and mustard."

"Sorry sir, we don't have roast beef."

March looked annoyed.  "Do you have ham?"


"Then, please can I have a ham sandwich."  The old man nodded his head in agreement and turned to make the sandwich.

"Do you have a bathroom?"

The man continued to make the sandwich.

"In the back"

    March smiled; his contact had given him the correct information about the café.  He walked over to the hallway leading into the back and quickly found the door for the men's bathroom.  It was a small square room with a sink and toilet.  March locked the door, pulled his pants down, and after a few grunts retrieved the item. Without glancing at the plastic capsule, he dropped it into the toilet.  He washed his hands and walked back out.  The sandwich was wrapped and ready to go.  March paid the man.  As he opened the front door, March glanced back and noticed a man rise from a back table and step toward the men's bathroom.  With a slight smile, noticeable only by him, March walked out knowing the information about that the UBD troop movements would make it north.

March 13, 300 AP

Character: John Falco in the countryside of Northern Dignania

    John could not get over the sensation.  The roar of the diesel engine, the clanking of the steel threads over rolling terrain, the report from the105mm high velocity gun charged his juices.  He could not believe that at this moment he was driving a 50-ton tank with enough firepower to flatten everything before him. He felt all-powerful. The adrenaline from such a ride made him heady for combat.

    Suddenly, the tank plowed over a steep embankment and John banged his head against the side electronics. The steel beast was hard to handle at this speed, but after four weeks of maneuvers, John had developed a way to control her.  He imagined himself as a bronco buster.  You have to understand how she worked, every part, down to the nuts and bolts.  In his headphones, John heard Lt. Fellowes screaming at him for not watching where he was going, but before John could register a response, Lt. Fellowes switched gears and ordered John to wheel right and stop.  With a quick jerk of the steering wheel, the tank pivoted right straining the gears.  John depressed the gas while stomping on the brakes.  The tank jerked to a halt and the diesel engine settled down from a roar to an idol.

    For the first time since the exercise started, John noticed how cramped and uncomfortable the driver's compartment was when the hatch was buttoned up.  His vision was limited to the three vision ports, which gave him an incomplete picture of how the battle was proceeding. Sweat poured down his face.  The tanker's helmet, which contained the headphones for communication, itched.  John looked out of the vision ports.  His tank was just below the crest of a shallow ridge.  From this position, the tank was protected against frontal attack from incoming rounds. As he waited for the order to move, John's eagerness for combat died away.  He hated waiting for something to happen.  John felt the safest when the tank was moving.  He had some control then and had a hand direct hand in his survival.

Over the headphones, the Lt. Fellowes bellowed orders to the gunner.

"Target six hundred meters."

The gunner repeated, "confirm six hundred meters."

"Correct to six-fifty; he's running south.  Selecting Sabot."

"Six-fifty; Sabot Loaded."


    The tank shuddered slightly as the smoke-discharging unit attached to the tank sent an imaginary round to the target.  However, instead of a specially designed round created to penetrate armor making the kill, a charged laser did the job.

"Target destroyed"

 "Target four hundred meters just north above the rise moving east," the gunner shouted.

"Confirm target four hundred yards. Select Sabot."  John listened, waiting for the word to move.

"Damn! Turret Left! Turret left! Target fifty meters," the Lieutenant yelled.

    "Full reverse!"  John shifted gears and the tank lurched backward.  Without warning, a loud ringing shattered the normal sounds the tank.  John dropped his head against the steering wheel; he knew what the sound meant.  Fellowes switched to the command link.  Moments later he switched back, "I've just been informed that a telegram has just been sent to our families notifying them of our deaths."

"Number six," John thought, "well, that will go well with the five that have already been sent home."

March 16, 1363 (300 AP)

Character: Erik vun Kahtz, MLFLD Central Command headquarters Northern Dignania.

    The other officers were already gathered around the table when Field Marshal Erik vun Kahtz walked into the room.  He recognized them all immediately Dignanians, every one of them. Members of the MLFLD high command, no doubt. Two of the Dignanian officers looked up at vun Kahtz from their huddle around the table, then casually turned back to their discussion, heads bowed. "Damned insolence," muttered vun Kahtz under his breath. "What you get for letting bloody partisans run a war instead of soldiers." Having arrived in the Dignanian Theater in July of 1362 (299 AP), at the height of the UBD-MCZ summer offensive, vun Kahtz had been an unwilling witness to the failure of MLFLD arms to stop the communist onslaught. For weeks, he had watched helplessly as the yellow UBD and black MCZ arrows on his theater map advanced ever closer to the point of overrunning the north. And every day he had looked at that map, the blue MLFLD markers became fewer and thinner as the allied lines retreated or were overrun and destroyed. If only the enemy knew how close they'd come last summer.

    It was only the natural slowing of the offensive, and vun Kahtz throwing tens of thousands of newly arrived Zartanian troops into the front that had averted disaster for the allies. And now these people, who couldn't even fight their own civil war, had the gall to act with such insolence toward him, who had sacrificed thousands of Eastern Zartanian lives for them and their pitiful country. Vun Kahtz's face-hardened as he walked toward the central table, his lieutenants in tow behind him.

"General Cook," said vun Kahtz, snapping to attention and placing his right arm across his chest in the Zartanian salute to the MLFLD leader.

    Cook raised his head from the discussion around the table, and saw vun Kahtz at attention. A worn smile cracked his serious face. "As you were, Marshal," replied Cook, with a half-hearted salute of his own. "Come gather round the table, and take a look at the map. We've just been tossing around ideas for what to do next." Vun Kahtz approached the table, and shouldered his way in between two Dignanian colonels. The three Eastern Zartanian colonels with him found places around the table as well, though less obtrusively.

    The black officers' uniforms of the Eastern Zartanians contrasted greatly with the drab greens and browns of the Dignanians. The differences were just as marked as the attitudes of the two armies. The officers and soldiers of the Royal Zartanian Army, professionals to the core, were disciplined, thorough, trained, and uniformed. The crisp, black uniforms of the officers, with the old fashioned high collars, and the steel grey battle uniforms of the soldiers told the story of the Eastern Zartanian army. The men who made up the rag-tag MLFLD army were another story completely. Farmers, factory workers, truck drivers, and other laborers just a year ago, they had become makeshift soldiers over the past 13 months of fighting. With no professional army structure in place to guide them, the units had taken on more of a paramilitary or partisan feel to them. The officers of those units felt themselves no different from their troops; they dressed, acted, and fought the same. In-unit and front line discipline were lax, almost beyond belief. There were no uniforms for the soldiers of the MLFLD, nor were there uniform weapons to use. Each man was clothed in homemade pants and tunics dyed a drab green or brown, an imported Eastern Zartanian helmet on his head, and armed with whatever rifle or other weapon he could find. The one thing that the two armies had in common was their determination to win the war at all costs.

    Vun Kahtz peered down at the map laid before him on the table. It was a battle map comprising the Eastern and Central Sectors of the front.  Individual units were clearly marked on the map. Vun Kahtz smiled to himself as he read the writing beneath the marker for his headquarters: "Field Marshal vun Kahtz, commander Eastern Sector." The blue and red markings of the allied troops began on the eastern coast and ran roughly parallel to the north bank of the Pascal River, with a small salient at the height of the mountain known as the Citadel. There the advancing Eastern Zartanians had been unable to dislodge their foe in their previous attacks. On the other side of the river were yellow and black markings, similar to the allied ones, marking known MCZ and UBD units opposing the Dignanians and Eastern Zartanians. The map had the feel, thought vun Kahtz, of a chess game reaching the feared conclusion. Stalemate.

    "Sir, if I may point out, your map needs to be corrected," said vun Kahtz. He pointed to the markings around the Citadel. "This morning the last communist troops withdrew to the south side of the river, and their former positions were occupied by the 12th King's Infantry, and the 23rd and 40th Royal Infantry. The Citadel is in Eastern Zartanian hands now."

    "Well done, Marshal," Cook congratulated vun Kahtz with a pat on the back. "Excellent! It's about time we got rid of those communist bastards. Lieutenant Styles, revise the map, please."

    A Dignanian lieutenant reached over and adjusted the markers on the map to reflect the current positions of the armies around the Citadel. "Now that we have the Citadel," continued Cook, "we can pull the same crap on them that they did to us, huh?"

    "Indeed, sir," replied vun Kahtz. He had already ordered 13th Regiment Royal Artillery to begin establishing their batteries on the crest of the Citadel, and the infantry were digging trenches and consolidating themselves even now.

"What exactly is our situation, General?"

    "As you can see," said Cook pointing to the lines on the map, "we've been able to stop the UBD offensive on all fronts, and we've managed to roll them back to roughly the original lines before the offensive began. Our problem now is what to do. The enemy is heavily entrenched on the other side of the Pascal River. We're stuck on our side. We still haven't completely recovered from the bashing we took over the summer, and we don't know how long it'll take us to recover completely. Some of my officers and government officials thing that we should just concede defeat in the south and open talks with the UBD to end the war now." Vun Kahtz grunted in derision, while Cook continued. "Other officers thing we should launch a counter-offensive in the west which has been quiet for the past several months. Some think we should attack here in the east. And still others think we should just ask you all to blanket the whole southern part of the country with chemical weapons and be done with it all." A lopsided grin showed on Cook's face as he enjoyed the macabre humor of it all.

    "Attack in the east," said vun Kahtz confidently after just a few seconds' pause. "The east. Right here." He tapped his finger on the map.

    Cook peered at the desired location. "The Citadel?" he asked incredulously. "But you just finished seizing that today.  Why do you think we should attack in the east?"

"For the simple reason that that's where the majority of the fighting has been so far," replied vun Kahtz.

    "The UBD's summer offensive was geared toward a two-pronged drive northward. When the western prong was blunted in June, the momentum swung clearly and fully to the east. That means that the majority of enemy casualties have occurred in their units opposite us across the Pascal River. They're weakened here. They're tired, they're weak, and they've been retreating. It's the perfect opportunity."

"What did you have in mind?"  Cook asked cautiously.

    "A river crossing. We'll do it the old fashioned way. The old ways are generally the best. We launch a full-scale artillery bombardment of the enemy positions opposite us two days before the crossing. We'll shell them constantly for two full days, using nearly three full regiments of heavy and field artillery, killing and destroying as much as possible on their side. Then, with suppressing fire laid by the artillery and the infantry, a couple of our engineering regiments will lay a pontoon bridge across the river. With the bridge completed, we'll lift the artillery barrage and push across to the opposite bank with our infantry and mobile infantry. The air force will provide us with ground support to knock out any large enemy units threatening us. Once we get a firm bridgehead established, all we need to do is keep moving across the river and exploit the breach. If it all works right, we can finish the war in a few more weeks."

    Vun Kahtz wrapped up his speech, and looked at the faces around him, smug and happy with himself for his idea. His plan to end the war. General Cook also looked around him. On the Dignanian officers he saw the same worry and apprehension that he felt tugging at his own brain. The Zartanian officers were expressionless. Probably, yet another facet of their training decided Cook.

    "Marshal vun Kahtz, you are aware of course," countered Cook, "that our manpower resources are critically short at this point. We don't have the men or the arms and other resources to mount this kind of operation. On top of that, the snow in the Rokariyn Mountains has been melting, raising the water level in the river. It would be pure madness to try to erect a pontoon bridge in that torrent!"

    "So much the better," snapped vun Kahtz. "If the enemy thinks that we cannot cross, then we must cross. General, I am not asking for the MLFLD to launch this assault. We will make the assault ourselves. All we require is that you be ready to support our breakout once the bridgehead is established. The Eastern Sector is Zartanian; Zartanians will lead the assault. I've already begun placing artillery on the Citadel to try to hit the enemy with enfilading and harassing shelling. All I require is the release of certain Eastern Zartanian units, and the readiness of your people to help exploit our success."

    Cook was taken aback by the abruptness of vun Kahtz's reply, and for a brief moment the shock registered on his face, to the utter satisfaction of Field Marshal vun Kahtz.  The general quickly succeeded in mastering his apprehensions and expressions. He looked to his surrounding officers, asking them the same question with his eyes: should we?  In their eyes he found his answer: if they want to, let them. With a nod of his head, Cook turned back to the Eastern Zartanian field marshal.

    "Field Marshal vun Kahtz," he said formally. "You are hereby authorized to put your plan into execution. Using Eastern Zartanian artillery, you will bombard the enemy positions that are opposite you along the Pascal River for the length of time you deem necessary. You will then use Eastern Zartanian support units attached to your sector to construct implements you need to effect your crossing. You will cross to the south bank of the river, establishing a bridgehead and destroying enemy resistance using Eastern Zartanian troops in your sector. In order to support the breakout of that bridgehead, you will be allotted one MLFLD division from the Central Sector, to be chosen at the discretion of the Central Sector commander. You are authorized to proceed, Field Marshal. Keep me posted."

"Yes, sir," said vun Kahtz with a salute.

    Vun Kahtz called to one of his aides. "Colonel Azvoi, inform the headquarters staff that I want the 20th Artillery and the 11th Field Artillery transferred to the Citadel. Brigadier Harrimun is in charge, and is to place the batteries at his discretion to effect maximum damage to the enemy. The 7th and 8th Royal Engineers are to be transferred to that part of the front, along with all equipment needed for the construction of a pontoon bridge. Have the 28th and 39th Supply Regiments standing by for support, as well as elements of the 2nd Medical Regiment. Then move the 9th and 12th King's Infantry, the 3rd, 10th, and 15th Royal Infantry, and the 17th Mechanized Infantry to the same area to prepare for the assault. Brigadier Mollari is in charge of the assault operations."

    Colonel Azvoi finished scribbling notes on his pad, and looked up with a nod. Vun Kahtz looked at the other Eastern Zartanian officers around the table. They all appeared calm and ready for the coming action. Good, thought vun Kahtz, just like soldiers should be. He turned back to General Cook and saluted one last time.

"The bombardment will begin on the 20th, sir. With your permission, we will take our leave to prepare."

"Go," said Cook, returning the salute, "and good luck."

    "Let's move!" vun Kahtz ordered his officers. He continued talking to them as they moved to the door. "Now, colonel, remember to contact the air force and the navy to see what support we can get from them. And send a full report of this to General vun Orcton back home. He needs to know about it, too..."

    As the door closed behind the retreating forms of the Eastern Zartanian officers, a Dignanian major turned and looked at Cook. "Sir, do you really think they can pull it off?" he asked incredulously. "I don't know," sighed Cook.  "He thinks they can. I guess we'll find out, though. If they can't do it, I don't think anybody can." He shook his head, then turned back to the map, pointing to the Western Sector.

"Colonel Lewis, what do you think about a raid."

March 18, 1364 (300AP)

Character: Erik vun Kahtz, Eastern Sector Headquarters, Northern Dignania

    There was a knock at the door, and Field Marshal Erik vun Kahtz looked up annoyingly from the report he was studying. The commander of the Eastern Zartanian 2nd Division sighed to himself, set the report back on his desk, and pushed his glasses up to the bridge of his nose. He glanced at his watch as he leaned back in his chair.
The sun had risen further above the horizon while he had been reading, vun Kahtz noticed. He absent-mindedly turned off the lamp on his desk, still considering what the day had in store for him. At times like these he often felt his age beginning to tell. There were times when he longed for that small field command back in the infantry thirty years ago. But now, here he was in this forsaken wasteland of a country... a backwater, he corrected himself... fighting a war against terrorists that his country never should have entered, and cooperating with his dirt-farmer "allies." Vun Kahtz grimaced in disgust. A second round of knocking at the door interrupted the field marshal's reveries.

"Yes," snapped vun Kahtz. "Enter!"

    The door to vun Kahtz's office swung wide, and a young man wearing the black uniform and collar markings of a junior lieutenant walked forcefully into the room, stopping just before the desk and saluting briskly. Vun Kahtz eyed the officer disdainfully. Junior Lieutenant Mirov, thought vun Kahtz remembering the officer's name. Couldn't be any more than 19 years old. Still serving his required time in the army. His father had probably paid someone handsomely to make sure that his son was given a commission and a safe place from which to watch the war. Vun Kahtz would make sure that this aspiring young aristocrat learned of war. "As you were," commanded vun Kahtz brusquely. "What do you want, Lieutenant?"

"Sir, the officers you requested have gathered in the briefing room. They await your pleasure."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Were all of them able to make it?"

    "Yes, sir. Brigadier Harrimun was the last. He arrived just minutes ago. Apparently the 20th Artillery experienced some trouble last night trying to move one of its howitzers onto the Citadel."

"Very well, Lieutenant. Tell them that I will be there in ten minutes. What's the news from the front?"

    "Nothing substantial just yet, sir. We have reports of a minor skirmish further east along the Pascal River. The 83rd Infantry was trading rifle fire with UBD units opposite them. There have been some reports from air force and navy pilots over the river of UBD troop movements south of the Citadel, but nothing has been confirmed by M6. Task Force 4 shelled the coast near Ahmaden Bay again last night. Other than that, nothing."

    "And what of the 'Little Captain' and his forces?" asked vun Kahtz with a smile, referring to General Cook and the MLFLD.  At the outbreak of civil war the previous February, Cook had been just a captain in the Dignanian militia. And now that captain was commanding vun Kahtz's "allies" and running the whole damned country!

    "He has moved elements of the 46th Division from the Central Sector to the Eastern Sector to help exploit our coming success this week. We have nothing definite yet, but there are reports that he may be planning an attack in the west sometime within the next two weeks. He has also continued to warn us about the unseasonably warm weather from last week, and the possibility of flash flooding along the river as the snow and ice melts in the Rokariyn Mountains."

    "Puseral," muttered vun Kahtz in his native Rizne. "He doesn't have the stomach for this war. Neither does that mob that he calls an army.  No wonder they can't win if they're always worried about the weather. Let the 'Little Captain' worry about his river. We, however, have a war to fight." Vun Kahtz paused for a moment, then turned back to Mirov. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Go deliver my message to the others."

    Mirov snapped to attention, saluted, and left the room just as briskly as he had entered it. Vun Kahtz watched him leave, shaking his head as the door closed. Great Maker, how was he supposed to win this war, vun Kahtz thought. With allies little more than farmers with guns, led by a militia captain who didn't know a parade ground from a cattle pasture, and with the Royal Army back home sending him these ill-disciplined and spoiled youths for officers, it was amazing to vun Kahtz that he was still alive, much less winning the war.

    Exactly ten minutes later, vun Kahtz entered the headquarters' briefing room.  He was an inspiring figure in his black field marshal's uniform, gold buttons gleaming in the weak sunlight of the Dignanian morning. On his left arm he wore the standard black and red armband of the Eastern Zartanian military, a demonstration of loyalty to the Crown. The black pants of the uniform were offset by the two thin gold stripes running down the seam, indicating vun Kahtz's years of service as an infantryman. The black boots shone as though they had just been bought in Imperial City that very morning. The field marshal's hair was steel grey, with shocks of black scattered throughout to remind onlookers of the vibrant youth he once had possessed. He entered the room head held high, significant, of course, of the former nobility his family had once enjoyed, and which he felt he more than deserved. The other officers in the room jumped to attention has he entered and walked to the front. "Please sit," said vun Kahtz, arranging his reports on the podium set in front of him.

    On the wall behind him was a large, detailed map of the Eastern Sector, which was now completely operated by the Royal Zartanian Army. The MLFLD still controlled the Central and Western Sectors, but vun Kahtz cared very little about that. Seated before him in the room were 24 Eastern Zartanian officers, the people that would lead the troops of his 2nd Division into combat very soon and break the stalemate that the war was threatening to become. Most of the officers wore the same basic black uniform as vun Kahtz, coming from the army, and all of them wore crossed swords on the right breast of their tunic, indicating status as line officers.  Four officers seated in the back of the room wore sparkling white uniforms, the red and black armbands jumping out at all who looked at them. Those were the officers from the Imperial Zartanian Navy that vun Kahtz had asked to attend, and hopefully, one of them would be Lower Admiral Krishnien. The final four officers wore the blue-grey uniforms of the Royal Zartanian Air Force, and they all prominently displayed their golden wings on their tunic breasts indicating that they were all pilots.

    "Ladies and gentlemen," vun Kahtz began, "we are about to undertake a most auspicious operation. In two days we will begin an offensive against the UBD that will effectively break the stalemate of this war, and allow us to achieve the victory that we so deserve. "As I'm sure you all are very aware, we spent the months of May through November blunting and rolling back the UBD's summer offensive. It was a tough job, as you'll remember, and we were forced to take some losses to do it, but we succeeded in pushing the enemy back to his original pre-offensive lines. The past months have been spent trying to regroup our forces and recover from the pounding we took in order to gain the offensive. We'll do just that in two days. The principle offense will be ours, and we'll capitalize on it. It'll take place..." vun Kahtz turned and stabbed at the map behind him with a pointer "...right here: The Citadel. Operation FORESTER."

    Vun Kahtz noticed the low murmur of excitement that ran through the room. The officers seated before him now sat straight up, eyes wider, gazing intently at the map and at him. Some wore smug, satisfied expressions; others questioning looks; and still others appeared apprehensive. Now that he had their attention, vun Kahtz launched into his full-scale briefing. "During the summer offensive, the primary UBD thrust was routed straight through the Eastern Sector here. We all took at least some small part in stopping that attack, so I don't have to remind you just how desperate and vicious that fighting was. You know the kinds of losses we took. We know for a fact that the UBD armies that spearheaded the assault took at least three times as many casualties as we did. In the end, we pushed them back across the Pascal River. Just a few short days ago, the last enemy units were withdrawn across the river from the Citadel. The Citadel has been in Eastern Zartanian hands for several days, and we plan to put that excellent high ground to good use. "Our mission is to effect a crossing of the Pascal River in order to establish a bridgehead on the enemy-controlled bank, which will then be used as a staging area for a breakout into the Central Valley. This will be a solely Zartanian operation. Eastern Zartanian infantry supported by Eastern Zartanian artillery, naval fire, and air support will carry out the assault. No Dignanian units will take part in the assault, although I've been informed that part of the 46th Division has been sent to us from the Central Sector to be used in exploiting the gap that we'll create. This is our opportunity to show the world and our 'allies' what the Eastern Zartanian military is made of. The MLFLD's army is little more than a joke, and a bad one at that. It's up to us to carry this war, and we'll do that starting with this offensive."

     "The basic plan envisions a total of five days for the assault. The first two days will be artillery bombardment, coming mostly from our new positions on the Citadel, to soften up the enemy's defensive positions on the opposite bank. Brigadier Harrimun will command the artillery for this operation. Under cover of darkness, and with the artillery barrage in full swing, engineers will construct a prefabricated pontoon bridge across the river, which the infantry will swiftly cross in order to seize key positions near the bridge while it's still dark. With the coming of dawn, once those positions have been taken, we'll begin pouring the bulk of our forces across the river in order to reinforce our new defensive perimeter and to prepare for the breakout."

    "Brigadier Mollari, commander of the 9th Infantry Group, will command the assault crossing and subsequent build-up phases of FORESTER. We're estimating two days for the buildup, since we'll be bringing up mechanized infantry and armor. Then, on the fifth day, we use an armored spearhead, coupled with naval and air support, to break through the passes in the hills near the river and drive south. Breaking the line will force the enemy to fall back to try to reconsolidate their position elsewhere. Any questions yet?" Vun Kahtz looked out into his audience.

    An army officer raised his hand, then stood to address his question, as Royal Army custom dictated. "Colonel Mark Hander, sir," the officer introduced himself. "Sir, why the choice of the Citadel area as the attack point? Wouldn't a position closer to the shore make for an easier attack route, since it could be more easily supported by naval gunfire?"

    "Good question, Colonel Hander," replied vun Kahtz coolly.  "There are three primary reasons for attacking opposite the Citadel. First, the high ground of the Citadel affords our artillery the perfect position to hit the enemy from, being the highest ground for miles in any direction. Second, the enemy will be thinking like you, Colonel, expecting us to hit where we can be supported by the navy's big guns. So we surprise him elsewhere.  And third, the two UBD armies holding the position opposite the Citadel were the ones that spearheaded the summer offensive. They're weak, drained of manpower, and ripe to be smashed."

    His question answered Hander sat down. Another army officer rose in his place. "Sir, Colonel Max Shaffer, 12th Infantry Group. We've seen reports from some air force pilots of major troop movements going on behind those enemy lines, sir." Two of the air force officers nodded in agreement. "A couple of my snipers have also reported seeing troops on the other side wearing the badges of the Revolutionary Guard. Are we sure that the Guard isn't over there?"

    "And what if they are, Colonel?" vun Kahtz shot back. "Are you or your troops not Zartanian enough to take them? Are you afraid of enemy terrorists who wear special badges? To answer your question, we haven't had any reports of the Guard moving up. Either your man was wrong about what he saw, or maybe it was a member of the Revolutionary Guard there as an advisor of some kind. The point is, Colonel, we are Zartanian. They are terrorists. They're not real soldiers. You don't have anything to worry about. And I'd suggest you tell your man to pay more attention to what he's looking at."

    "I'll tell HER that, sir," said Colonel Shaffer formally. "My point, however, was not that we would be unable to defeat the Revolutionary Guard, but simply to point out that if they have moved into position opposite us, they will be fresh divisions, not the pounded and demoralized ones we expect. The Guard hasn't fought in a single major action yet, so they'll be ready." Vun Kahtz was becoming exasperated, his naturally short temper already reaching the fraying point.

    "Colonel, we will win. It's that simple. We'll attack. You're people will fight and defeat the enemy. This plan will work, and we'll have the war won in a matter of weeks. Don't rock the boat. For the good of your command, Shaffer, don't rock the boat." Shaffer, knowing when he had been dismissed, sunk slowly back into his seat. No others rose to speak. "Good," said vun Kahtz. "Now that that's taken care of, to the details..."

March 18, 300 AP

Character: Michael Garibaldi in northern Novoyoakes

     Zack upset and bored took out his aggression on the tree.  He swung the axe across his body until it impacted against the tree.  The shock of the strike vibrated through his body.  His hand's ached from the blisters and his back protested the long hours of cutting.  With seven trees already down by himself, Zack was determined to make this tree number eight. He was offered the use of a chainsaw, but politely turn it down with a short to the point, "shove it up your ass." Since then, everyone knew to leave Zack alone.  Even the children sensed it was wiser to leave the man alone with his trees.

    "That stupid son of a bitch!" bellowed Zack.  He whined up for another strike and with a grunt, delivered the axe against the tree.  A cracking sound echoed through the forest as the evergreen came closer to tipping over.

    "That damn son of a horror!" screamed Zack as the axe impaled itself against the tree.  He positioned himself to swing again when he heard footsteps behind him.

    From a behind, an amused voice greeted Zack, "technically a son of a bitch and horror mean the same thing."  With his concentration broken, Zack stopped and let the axe-head fall to ground.  He stood there taking deep breaths, but didn't turn around to see who it was, because, without looking, he knew.

    Undaunted, the voice continued, "Garcia says that at this pace you should have the forest cut down by next week."  Only the sounds of breathing greeted the remark.  As a sign of nervousness, the man behind Zack shuffled his feet while he waited for a response.

Zack remarked acidly, "you making babies yet?"

    The man behind Zack sighed. "I don't have to explain myself to you."  With a sudden fury of anger, Zack picked up the axe and swung it hard against the tree.  A roar echoed through the surrounding forest as the mighty tree broke from its hold on the ground and in a wide ark and slammed into the ground.  The sound was reminiscent of a doomed wooden ship smashed against the reefs and shattering into pieces.  As the dust cleared, Zack swung the axe again and imbedded it into the trunk of the departed tree.  He turned from both the man and the just departed tree and started walking down the gentle slope toward.  In mid step, Zack stopped and turned to look at the man. In a sullen voice, "No Michael, you don't have to explain anything to me, you have to explain to the thousands who are dying in Dignania to free our home."

    Zack started down the hill again, but Garibaldi wasn't ready to leave at that.  "Wait one minute, I haven't forgotten about them or the fact that our home is besieged by those devils, but can't you understand that I'm worn out."

    "We are all worn out.  For the last five months, we sat here waiting for you to get you head on straight.  The others are rudderless and wondering why we are still here and now you go get married, which confuses everything."

March 22, 300 AP

RNS Headline News:

Offensive in Dignania

NESTOR: Good morning.  I'm Alexia Nestor, with an RNS newsbreak.  At this hour, Eastern Zartanian forces have launched an offensive in Dignania.  After over a year of active involvement in the Dignanian Civil War supporting militarily, politically, and financially the MLFLD, the Royal Zartanian Army has finally come into its own.  Monday, elements of the Army's 2nd Division began a strike against UBD positions south of the Pascal River in eastern Dignania.  The operational plan was developed by Field Marshal Erik vun Kahtz, who is 2nd Division's commander and currently commander of the Dignanian Eastern Sector.  The plan was put forward last Thursday, according to sources within the military, and was given considerable backing by Grand Admiral High General Yuvan.

    Yuvan pushed the plan with His Royal Majesty, getting the King to officially sanction the offensive move.  A tight timetable was set, beginning the attack just four days after the development of the plan.  Information coming from the combat zone is sketchy at best, with the Royal Army officially remaining silent on the issue.  What RNS does know, however, is that at least four Eastern Zartanian infantry regiments, supported by at least three artillery regiments and unknown others, are attempting to cross the Pascal River to engage the weakened enemy forces on the other side.  The actual river crossing began on Wednesday, and while no confirmation has been received yet, sources tell RNS that our forces are encountering moderate to heavy resistance from the UBD.  Nothing more can be confirmed at this time, as both the Eastern Zartanian and MLFLD militaries and governments are remaining silent on the issue.  RNS will bring you more information on this developing story, as it becomes available.  This concludes this RNS newsbreak.  I'm Alexia Nestor, and thank you for watching the Royal News Service.

March 27, 300 AP

Character: Oscar Valdez traveling to the front lines near the Pascal River.

    The car bounced about as they tried to navigate through the traffic.  Valdez was not looking forward to this meeting.  Just a month ago, his trusted advisors had suggested placing General Duffy's Revolutionary Guard along the Pascal River as a way to contain his ambitions.  The original aim was to tie down Duffy's army so he couldn't turn on them.  It seemed like a great idea at the time.  The surprise announcement at the celebration suggested by Major Kryshinin worked perfectly.  Valdez smiled at that thought, when does anything work perfectly.  At the time, Duffy was shocked and dared not refuse such an "honor" in front of a large crowd.  Valdez remembers the look on his face and the satisfaction he felt knowing Duffy could now be controlled.  Well, now a month later, the plan backfired and Duffy was more dangerous then ever.  Instead of controlling Duffy and his army, the KTZ provided a ready-made victory for him.  How could the Zartanians be so stupid?  Launching a river assault during the height of spring with the snow melting and to top it off, they crossed at only one spot.  With only one point of attack to worry about, General Duffy was able to concentrate his forces.  And now Valdez had to journey up to Congratulate him.  What a humiliation.  That message Duffy sent was outrageous.  Valdez remembered the exact words.  "The victorious Army of the revolution requests the presence of our glorious leader to visit the front and celebrate the victory against the Zartanians."  Duffy was playing the same game he had played on him.  His supporters were making damn sure everyone knew about his victory. The operative words "his victory."

    Valdez peered out of his back window at the trucks moving south out of the mountains.  Many of the trucks had bright red crosses painted on the canvas sides, an indication of a medical transport.  More heroes of the revolution, thought Valdez, more mothers without sons. The road was filled with military traffic.  Equipment and trucks lined the roads heading north. In fact, the route north had been slow all morning.  At first, his aide had bellowed and screamed at drivers to clear the way for their passage, but Valdez quickly told him not to bother; we will get there when we get there.  Besides Valdez was in no hurry. The high rocky embankments surrounding the four-lane freeway made Valdez feel claustrophobic or could it be that he had the feeling that his enemies were closing in on him from all sides.  Either way, Valdez felt sick to his stomach.  He took another drink from his bottle of anti-acid.  Since the beginning of the Zartanian offensive, Valdez was drinking six bottles a day.

    Suddenly, a load roar from the east shook the windows of his car.  Off in the distance, Valdez saw a large missile ascend into the sky in a fiery trail of smoke.  The missile would be looking for some unseen enemy aircraft somewhere further north.

    "Sir another two miles and we will reach General Duffy's headquarters."  Valdez turned from watching the missile to his aide in the front seat of his command car.

"Thank you, Juan."

    The two miles went too quickly in Valdez's opinion.  In no time, his convoy of staff cars and bodyguards arrived at Duffy's headquarters.  Duffy was outside waiting for Valdez's arrival.  He was absolutely beaming with excitement.  The twit is really enjoying this, thought Valdez.  Unfortunately, just shooting him was no longer an option, thanks to the Zartanians.

    Valdez pondered the situation for a moment, then reached for a cigarette.  Calmly, he told himself, do it calmly.  Do not let him see a trace of emotion.  His aide opened the door and Valdez stepped out.

    "Welcome Comrade General." Valdez could tell that General Duffy was in a gloating mood. "I hope your journey was uneventful.  You're just in time to see my final push against the trapped Zartanians."  Valdez turned from Duffy's smiling face to see that several reporters and officials were present.  No doubt here to record his victory.  Valdez turned back to Duffy.  He still had that idiotic grin.

"Please General, lets go to the command bunker."

    Further north, the sounds of the distant battle could be heard.  From the sound, Valdez figured that the fighting was still very heavy. He followed Duffy into the command bunker.  Inside, the place was a buzz with activity.  Men ran back in forth between radios and maps.  Valdez watched as one sergeant put down the phone he was using and walked over to the large situation map on the wall.  He removed a green pin from the map and walked away.

"That general," Duffy indicating the removal of the pin, " is the death of a Zartanian regiment."

    Valdez swallowed his pride. "I congratulate you on your victory, Comrade Duffy."  That was all Valdez was prepared to say.

    Duffy accepted the compliment and as a play to the reporters responded. "It is a great day for the people of Dignania.  Today saw victory against Zartanians, tomorrow victory against all oppressors in Vexillium.  The Revolutionary Guards will led the way to a brighter future for all people home and aboard."  Valdez noticed the reporters scribbling everything Duffy said.  "This victory is only a stepping stone to what is coming.  I, General Duffy will take the torch to free the working people from the tyranny of the capitalists." Valdez had to get Duffy credit; he was theatrical, unfortunately, Valdez understood the underlining message.  Prepare for a fight for the reigns of government.  Valdez felt the walls closing in.  Duffy continued his speech, but now Valdez wasn't listening, he just wanted his bottle of anti-acid.

March 28, 300AP

RNS Headline News: Zartania Offensive in Dignania

NESTOR: Good morning, and welcome to another RNS newsbreak.  I'm Alexia Nestor.  The offensive launched by the Royal Zartanian Army in eastern Dignania last week appears to be experiencing difficulties.  According to sources from within the MLFLD, Eastern Zartanian forces have suffered heavy casualties against UBD forces on the south side of the Pascal River.  No details have been revealed at this time, but it appears as through the unseasonably warm weather in Dignania the past several weeks played a role in the problems, prematurely melting large amounts of snow in the Rokariyn Mountains.  According to MLFLD sources, the Eastern Zartanian forces, commanded by Brigadier Londo Mollari, have been forced to fight for their very lives.  The Royal Zartanian Army has remained strangely silent about the whole issue, and continues to refuse to issue any comments about the war in Dignania.  UBD People's Television, however, has reported that its Revolutionary Guard Division has repulsed a major Eastern Zartanian offensive, reportedly killing several thousand soldiers and forcing them to retreat.  No other information is available yet.  Please keep it tuned here to RNS for all the latest news.  I'm Alexia Nestor, thank you.

March 30, 300 AP

RNS Headline News: Zartanian offensive in Dignania

NESTOR: Good morning again, everyone.  I'm Alexia Nestor, and than you for tuning in to the RNS news break.  The Royal Zartanian Army finally admitted at a press conference yesterday afternoon that their offensive to cross the Pascal River in eastern Dignania has ended, somewhat unsuccessfully.  General Erik vun Orcton spoke yesterday before a crowd of more than twenty reporters, both domestic and foreign-based.  In his presentation, vun Orcton said that the offensive was unable to create the planned breakthrough in the UBD forces.  This failure was attributed to "the changing needs of the Army."  Here's what General vun Orcton had to say yesterday:

[Switch to film footage]

VUN ORCTON: The rumors you've been hearing and reporting lately are true.  Our offensive across the Pascal River has not been as successful as we had planned.  It's also true that we ended up encountering heavier resistance than expected from the UBD.  But that is not what caused us to end the offensive early.  Yes, the UBD fought back stubbornly, but our forces were making headway against them.  During the fight, however, several issues were brought to the attention of the Royal Army, especially certain changing world attitudes toward our Empire and its goals, as well as lingering domestic unrest left over from the failed rebellion last year.  Taking these issues into consideration, the decision was made to scale back the offensive in Dignania, and even to end it early, to facilitate the required reallocation of our available resources to deal with the various issues brought to our attention.  For this reason, we were unable to achieve the promised breakthrough in the enemy lines.

[Cut back to studio]

NESTOR: According to General vun Orcton, the Eastern Zartanian army has not been defeated in the field, and suffered only superficial casualties during the failed offensive.  UBD People's Television, however, continues to report a great victory against "the foreign devils," citing reports from their Revolutionary Guard of thousands of dead Zartanian soldiers piled along the river banks.  General vun Orcton has also said that the Zartanian army will launch another offensive in the future after "other needs have been met and satisfied."  We'll bring you more on this, as the information becomes available.  For the latest in world and national news, keep it tuned here to RNS.  I'm Alexia Nestor, thank you.

RNS Headline News:

News relating to Dignanian war for the month of March

IMPERIAL CITY (VINO) March 9- Following the Royal Council of Ministers meeting Saturday, Minister of Treasury & Commerce Andrew Sydes, while avoiding direct comment, implied that Eastern Zartania's coffers are beginning to thin, due largely to the continued war effort in Dignania, as well as domestic turmoil and peacekeeping "interventions."  With the Eastern Zartanian war effort in Dignania now into its second year, an estimated 90 percent of the country's industries have been shifted to full wartime production, thus severely limiting the amount of domestic goods available to consumers, and lowering the money available to the government for its needs.  Minister Sydes said that, "there is no one solution to this problem, but part of it can be alleviated by lifting some of our trade restrictions."  It is unclear yet just how bad the economic situation is in Eastern Zartania, or how it may effect the consumers and the war effort in Dignania.

CHRIHAN ISLAND, Dignania (RAFN) March 14- The final forty fighters of the MLFLD's fledgling air force have finally been delivered, and are preparing for action.  Dugas Aerospace, Inc., manufacturer of the AF-133 "Devastator" ground attack fighter, fulfilled its contract by delivering the last of the 80 ordered aircraft this past weekend, along with instructors to train MLFLD pilots in the use of the plane.  The AF-133 has seen extensive action in the Dignanian Civil War since its introduction to the MLFLD Air Force last summer, and its propeller-driven design seems to be ideal for the support work it has endured.  The MLFLD Central Command is currently debated the possibility of extending their contract with Dugas Aerospace and ordering more of the highly successful fighter.

WHITE OAK FIELD, Dignania (RNS) March 16- A spokesman for the Royal Zartanian Air Force Wednesday announced that the RZAF has begun testing new designs for various fighter and bomber aircraft to replace existing squadrons and older out-of-date planes.  Emphasizing the vital role of the air force in recent combat operations, Wing Lieutenant Janoi said that the future security of the Kingdom depends on the air force having "top-of-the-line fighters and bombers with which to do the job."  Janoi said that the new aircraft are being designed using the hard lessons that have been learned from fighting in the Dignanian War.  "We've flown a lot of missions here, and we've lost a few good people.  We've had to learn the hard way how to fight a modern aerial war.  And now we're putting those lessons to good use."  The new aircraft will be unveiled to the public later this year after His Royal Majesty gives his final approval for the designs.  They should enter production and front-line service early next year.

IMPERIAL CITY (CNN) March 23- The extremely controversial de Marin Motion has finally entered the Eastern Zartanian Royal Council of Ministers this past weekend, after nearly two months of delay by the motion's opposition came to an end.  The motion, first put before the Royal Stek Assembly in late January, openly criticizes the King and the royal administration for their handling of the Dignanian War, and calls for the immediate withdrawal of Eastern Zartanian military units from the war zone, as well as the release of authentic casualty figures verified by an outside source.  The motion has sparked bitter, sometimes violent, debate in the Stek Assembly since its introduction by Councilman Johan de Marin, with sides splitting almost evenly along class lines, nobles siding with the Crown.  Friday, after nearly two months of effort by opponents to kill the motion with endless debate, a vote was finally called, and the motion passed by a vote of 19 to 13.  The motion has now been sent to the Royal Council of Ministers, who are required by law to at least consider the motion.  It is expected to spark equally volatile debate in the Council, though it is not expected to pass a vote.

April 4, 300 AP

RNS Headline News:

De Marin Motion Defeated in Council

IMPERIAL CITY (VINO) - In a resounding show of support for the Zartanian king, the Imperial Council of Ministers voted today to reject the controversial de Marin Motion.  The de Marin Motion was first introduced into the Royal Stek Assembly late in January, and immediately caused an uproar.  Sponsored by the vehemently anti-noble representative de Marin, the motion singled out King Bruno II as the reason behind the kingdom's apparent failures in the Dignanian War, called for the release of "real" casualty figures from the war, and stopped just short of calling the king incompetent.

    After several weeks of delay by royalist forces in the Assembly, the motion was passed and moved on to the Council, which is required by law to at least consider and debate any motion advanced by the Stek Assembly.  The debate in the Imperial Council, from all reports, was one of mutual recriminations, with both supporters and opponents of the motion lashing out at each other.  The king was not present during the debate, as it was considered inadvisable since the debate centered on his actions as monarch.  As the debate developed, Grand Admiral High General Sir Rudolf Yuvan (K.C.) and Foreign Minister Sir Randall Young (K.K.) quickly took their places as the most vocal supporters of the king.  But the opposition, primarily from the other ministers, remained strong.

    The turning point in the debate was a speech in support of the king given by General Erik vun Orcton, commander of the Royal Zartanian Army.  In his address to the assembled ministers, vun Orcton pointed out what he believed to be a vast conspiracy operating "against the best interests of this government, aimed at none other than our precious King, with the intent of undermining this country."  Vun Orcton explicitly implicated the outlawed Movement for a Communist Zartania as the prime culprit.  He also made clear his "firm belief that His Majesty is not responsible for some of the unthinking actions taken by his administration, as he has been acting in good faith on what he believes to be the supportive and thorough knowledge of his closest advisors."

    While refusing to name names, vun Orcton made it clear to all present that he feels that Grand Admiral High General Yuvan has been attempting to manipulate the king in an effort to gain power.  Vun Orcton stressed that in the current time of war and dissension, "we must all be watchful that our Kingdom, indeed our Empire, is not weakened, is not destroyed, by those inside wishing for power."  He went on to praise Assemblyman de Marin for his "watchdog attitude" and willingness to bring to light "issues that he feels deserve the attention of the country."  In the end, however, vun Orcton said that the de Marin Motion should be voted down in order to preserve the integrity of the monarchy and the efficiency of the empire's fighting forces.

    The following 9-4 vote to defeat the motion was an overwhelming declaration of support for vun Orcton's sentiments and for King Bruno II.  The four dissenting votes were from the Ministries of the Interior, Treasury & Commerce, and Science, and from the Constable of the Assembly.  Following the motion's defeat in the Imperial Council, however, vun Orcton vowed to see to it that de Marin's good intentions "will not go to waste."  Said vun Orcton afterward, "The enemies of the Empire will not go unpunished."

Last updated on April 9, 300.
  ©2000 Matt Cook & Randy Young