The Forsaken Regiment II
Rastho Prime, The Rastho Prime Theatre
Mil'Doth Woods, Mil'Doth Hill
Clone Second Lieutenant Cuddles
The Forsaken Regiment arrived in Jut'Loth four hours after sunset. The massive column of armoured vehicles kicked up clouds of dust behind them as they rolled along the remains of Has'Both Road. Their arrival was confronted by the enormous Jut'Loth fortress, a bunker city carved into the heart of the gigantic Mount Jut'Loth after which the great city was named. Dense forests crept their way up the base of the slopes before ending abruptly a few hundred metres up the incline where they were replaced by solid grey rock reinforced with bastions of concrete and steel.
These defensive positions were now earning the ire of the 177th Division's big guns, which had arrived several hours earlier to begin laying siege to the commandeered stronghold. The darkened sky lit up rhythmically with the lightning of gunfire and the air rumbled with the thundering of artillery as the howitzers attempted to soften up the defences for an infantry assault. Six hours of continuous shelling had only just started to make an impression on the Gel'Durk fortifications. The rock and soil were blasted away easily enough, revealing yet more rock and soil underneath. However, the pillboxes themselves held firmly against the barrage, having been optimised to provide some resistance to starship-grade ordnance.
A prolonged siege was anticipated, but not welcome, and a more or less permanent regimental headquarters had been established near the rear, hidden from Morimpan observation by the dense forest of Mil'Doth Hill. Portable plasteel slabs were connected together and erected into the buildings and structures that comprised the base, offering a much more enduring presence compared to the tents that were used in the previous encampment.
The colonel was nursing a cup of tea when Cuddles entered the newly assembled construct. The junior officer saluted quickly before approaching her superior. "The whole Regiment's here, Ma'am," she reported cheerfully, "The other regiments are almost here as well. It looks like the encirclement's almost complete."
Tsunamoyo nodded. "General Dunameii has ordered us to assume defensive positions," she stated, "He's probably hoping that the Morimpans would attempt a breakout before the encirclement is complete." The Second Lieutenant considered this and decided that it made sense. Suddenly, the chorus of a well-known pop song from Tinamoyo started playing. This was punctuated by the vibrating of Tsunamoyo's computer tablet. The Colonel glanced at her computer screen and stiffened perceptibly. It was from the General. "Colonel Tsunamoyo speaking," she answered quickly, after Cuddles fetched the portable device from its charging port, "Did you need something, Sir?"
"Good evening, Dear," Dunameii greeted. She relaxed a little. The conversation was an informal one. She looked up at her aide, gesturing politely for her to leave. The pink-haired girl smiled in understanding and unobtrusively let herself out. "The Brigadiers and I were discussing our offensive. I was wondering if you would like to weigh in on our plans?" The major general continued.
"Offensive?" She asked tentatively, unconsciously leaning into the desk as she spoke, "I wasn't aware of any offensives. Did I miss a memo or something?"
"You haven't missed anything," Dunameii assured her, "I haven't given any orders yet."
"Oh, alright," a relieved Tsunamoyo responded, raising her teacup to her lips, "So what's the plan?"
"As you know, our current deployment is purely defensive. I was hoping to use our artillery as bait to draw the Morimpans out of the fortress, but now that our entire division is here and our encirclement is complete there is no way they would dare to leave the city. So it's up to us to make the next move." A pregnant pause. "The plan right now is to position the tanks along Has'Both and Dim'Soth Road to support an infantry advance on the flanks. We'll create diversionary attacks along Has'Both Ridge, Mil'Doth Ridge and Dim'Soth Forest to draw their attention away from the offensive."
"Is my regiment going to be on the prongs?" The colonel asked.
"It'll be part of the decoy," the general told her, "Your current position makes it difficult to redeploy to the staging area, so you'll have to make the feint."
Tsunamoyo considered this for some time and sighed. "It almost sounds like a waste of men."
"So that's what you make of it," Dunameii said at length, "Is it the plan that you disagree with or just your part in it?"
The colonel set her cup down and considered the question. "I'm not sure," she replied after a while, "I've neither the experience to say if the plan would or wouldn't work nor any particular love for being on point." Dunameii hummed thoughtfully. "It's probably just being part of the diversion. I feel like I'm losing men without achieving any real, tangible objective. As for the plan itself..." She trailed off, her brows furrowing into a knot, "Hold on. I need to look at the map."
"Take your time."
She quickly pulled up a map of the area on her computer screen and studied it carefully. There were a number of green markers on the chart, detailing the general position of units on the field. Her own were marked in blue and neatly positioned around the edges of Mil'Doth Ridge. ""The ideal plan of attack should combine strength, speed, surprise, concealment, mobility and flexibility,"" she quoted, her words straight out of the textbook.
"You'll be hard pressed to find all those conditions on an actual battlefield," Dunameii informed her.
"Maybe," she agreed, crestfallen, "But if you were able to get all those factors, where would you launch the attack from?"
"I'd come down from the slopes between Mil'Doth Ridge and Has'Both Ridge," the general told her, "The two ridges on either side provide excellent cover and concealment, and if I was the Morimpan general I probably wouldn't expect an attack from that direction. But the problem is that it'll be difficult to funnel troops through and concentrate them in such a dense forest. Moreover, there isn't a way across the river from that position."
Tsunamoyo frowned and leant back in her chair. "My regiment is stationed in the nearby area. We got through relatively quickly. My battalion commanders should know more about the local terrain, given that they've already dug into it. I can call them if you want."
A lengthy silence. "Alright."
"Cuddles!" The door opened and the pink-haired girl poked her head into the room inquisitively. "Get the majors on the line for me. I want to talk to them." The second lieutenant nodded before leaving to organise the group call and Tsunamoyo drained the last of her tea while she waited.
The Morimpans had set up powerful radio interference around Jut'Loth, disrupting the majority of Ellian communications. The signals regiments had been hard at work, attempting to power through the disruption by setting up amplifiers and relay stations throughout the area of operations. Wires had also been laid but were only really useful for stationary formations and unit headquarters. As of now, bandwidth was limited, and all communications had to be approved by the signals corps.
Of course, rank factored in as well. The higher up the chain of command, the higher the priority given to communications. Dunameii would, therefore, be able to cut through the queue while Tsunamoyo would have to wait if the line was already busy if she wanted to contact him. But at the same time, since she outranked anyone who would have direct contact with her subordinates, she too would skip the queue when calling on them.
Cuddles returned a moment later. “A line had been established, Ma'am.” Tsunamoyo waved her acknowledgement and sent a group call through the prepared line. The majors were, for the most part, prompt the answer.
The first to reply was Mugs, a respectable and highly reliable field officer. He was something of a yesman to his superiors and he always sought to appease them, but his command was true and his men followed him. Babe came online next. She was a sometimes arrogant, but often loveable, pink-haired girl who challenged authority in pursuit of truth. Third was Special. A free spirit by nature, he cared little for protocol but demanded excellence from both himself and those around him with a short temper and an iron fist.
Then Ruby answered the call. She was something of a role model among her peers. Strong, intelligent, ambitious and notoriously difficult to impress. Her battalion was always in tiptop shape and is widely considered the best of the Regiment. Lastly came Lioness, a truly inspiring leader and a highly capable tactician. She was the top of her grade when she graduated from the war academies of Tinamoyo, but some fear that her achievements may have gone to her head.
"Ladies. Gentleman. Sorry for disturbing you at such a late hour," Dunameii began, "I'm considering the possibility of planning an offensive in your area. Divisional scouts did a quick survey of the area, but they weren't very thorough. I would like to know more about the local terrain. How many men can I move through Mil'Doth Ridge and at what speed?"
"At most, you can double the number of forces stationed here," Ruby replied. The clones all shared the same voice - through the male and female clones had different voices, of course - and it would have been difficult for them to tell who was talking without their respective icons lighting up on the computer screen as they spoke.
"That's hardly enough to be the main body of the assault," Dunameii conceded, "I think it might be enough to act as a supporting element as opposed to a diversion if there was enough artillery support. But, my scouts tell me that there are no suitable locations to set up any guns."
"Actually, there is," the voice said again, only this time, it was Lioness. "Tanks can be positioned along the ridgeline for direct fire support. Even a single armour regiment would do wonders for the offensive."
"They can get through the jungle?" Dunameii asked, surprised.
"There's room enough," the major confirmed, "I've already deployed the tanks in our regiment in a similar manner."
"How long will it take?" The Ellian quizzed.
"If I start now, they'll be in position by sunrise," Lioness declared.
"A bold claim," the general observed, "I admire your spirit. Very well, Major, you will have your tanks. I want to see them lining the forest when I wake up in the morning."
"They'll be there, Sir," she asserted.
"Very good." His voice rose a little louder, but it also pulled away a little further too. "Bo, tell Brigadier Henokatsu to send one of her regiments down to Mil'Doth Ridge." A few seconds later, his voice had returned to normal, though his tone had softened perceptibly. "Majors, I bid you evening. Rest well. Tomorrow will be a big day." The clones took this as their cue to leave and their avatars disappeared from the group call in rapid succession (incidentally, in the reverse order that they arrived in). Once they had all left, Dunameii turned his attention back to Tsunamoyo. "Are you nervous?"
She hesitated slightly. "I... Yeah..."
"Don't worry," he told her comfortingly, "I'm sure you'll do fine. I'll send another brigade to your area to help you. But that's for you to worry about tomorrow. Right now, you should get some sleep."
"Alright. Goodnight, Uncle Dunameii."
The line was cut. Tsunamoyo rose and yawned, stretching herself as she did so. "Cuddles," she called at length, "I need another cup of tea."
"You're not going to bed?" Her subordinate asked, turning from her desk.
"I can't sleep when my stomach feels like it's trying to digest solid rock," the colonel replied, sitting back down again, "I need something to steady my nerves."
"You know, milk is much better at doing that," Cuddles told her, "Tea keeps just you awake."
"Make that a milk tea then," Tsunamoyo said absentmindedly, opening up the sketchpad on her tablet and loading a detailed drawing of her foster father.
Cuddles, however, disagreed with her request. She tilted her head to one side, her hands on her hips. "What's the point of mixing the two if they neutralise each other? I might as well throw in five sugars at that point. Did you want some tapioca balls too? How about some jelly? Coconut milk is pretty nice too. Ice? What about s-"
"Alright, fine! Get me the bloody milk!"