Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 1
Decision

Act One: Military Plan One

Chapter One: Decision

 

The Summer Palace

Republic of Krakozhia Presidential Residence

Ibklask, Krakozhia

August 25, 2008

 

Marshal Dallutev shifted in his seat as the Politburo members took their seats around the table. Pleasantries were exchanged as they waited for the President to arrive, which she did a few minutes later, along with the Vice President.

 

Irina Adzhitekova was currently the youngest elected head of state at a mere twenty-nine years of age, a veteran of the Great War of the Republic and the Civil War, and formerly the youngest head of state before Queen Rosalinda of Costa Luna ascended the throne at a mere sixteen years. Many political commentators had called her “a dubious choice” by her predecessor, but under her, Krakozhia went through one of the fastest reconstruction periods in history, accomplishing all goals by the summer of 2007, and actually exceeding the living standards the country had before it went through two consecutive wars. Many would still argue that her term was riddled with indecisive ventures, but for the Krakozhians, Adzhitekova was worthy of her title and responsibility.

 

Her dark brown eyes scanned the faces around the table, a habit left over from her days as a fighter pilot. After confirming that every member of the Politburo was present, she said, “I see that our delegation to Rivymiyitevko has returned. Comrade Foreign Secretary, will you kindly open the meeting?”

 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Ofinovic, seated three chairs to the right of the President, cleared his throat and said, “The results of our diplomatic mission to Rivymiyitevko are at best, inconclusive. Our thirty-day mission actually began on a high note, and we were actually thinking that a decision could be reached. And then, in the middle of the twentieth day’s session, a misunderstanding rose between the two parties, and we were forced to start from scratch.” Everyone in the room could feel the quotation marks around the word misunderstanding.

 

“Fortunately, we recovered our tempo on the twenty-second session,” Ofinovic continued. “We went away with the promise of limited access to the tin mines of Gratavsky. But it is the delegation’s opinion that Rivymiyitevko will never return to the Republic, not under the leadership of Konstantin Benin.”

 

The Politburo was silent for a few minutes until it was broken by Aleksandr Mopikyav. “What use could we possibly have for tin?” he asked. As the Minister of General Machine Building, he knew every use of every material in existence, practical or not.

 

“Exactly what I had in mind, Comrade Mopikyav,” replied Ofinovic, “which is why I said that the mission is inconclusive. They know that we have no use for tin, and so they have no real loss to think about. Maybe if a cash-poor country took our place, they would have hesitated. But, no, all that’s left for them to do is give us the deed to the mines.”

 

“Is that the mission’s final assessment, Comrade?” asked Adzhitekova.

 

“Yes, Comrade President. We deliberated upon the matter upon our landing, gave our honest and possibly biased opinions, and even the most emotionally detached person would say that Rivymiyitevko will not return to Krakozhia with open arms.”

 

The President nodded. “So, is an armed invasion the only way possible to reclaim Rivymiyitevko? I want to exhaust all peaceful options before I think about a military offensive.”

 

“With your permission, Comrade President, I would like to speak.” This came from KGB Chairman Timofey Andropov. The President gave a brief nod, and the Chairman went on. “Based upon recent intelligence we have gathered from our personnel on Rivymiyitevko, they do not necessarily reject a return to Krakozhia. According to our best agent, code-named NATIONAL, the people have grown dissatisfied with Benin’s leadership, although most of them do not have the courage to rise up in revolt. Yes, there is organized resistance, but their forces are puny compared to the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement, the island’s main military organ. The leader of the largest resistance group, Mikhail Dopov, has barely five thousand men under his command, and he’s already absorbed most of the other groups at that. If he hadn’t been around, the Rivymiyitevko Resistance would certainly be divided and confused.”

 

“Do you have a point, Comrade Chairman?” asked the President.

 

“We do not have to force the people of Rivymiyitevko to cooperate with us,” Andropov continued, “because, in a sense, they are already doing that. All we need to do is take Benin and the RIM out of the equation, and Rivymiyitevko will readily return to Krakozhia.

 

“What I am trying to say is, the military option is the only option we have left. We can stage an assassination attempt, but it will take three to four weeks to move the required assets into the area, and by the photographs that Comrade Ofinovic and his delegates have provided, it may be too late for that. The RIM has shut down every port and airport on the island, and they allow only Russian relief flights into their airspace, so they can assist in the rescue efforts in Dosservich.” A landslide had struck the small mountain town, killing two and burying dozens of homes under a metric ton of mud.

 

“Yes, we saw it in the local news,” Ofinovic added.

 

“It appears that they have also instilled a curfew starting at eight o’clock in the evening, in which no vehicles are allowed outside except those from the military, no people should be outside except military personnel, and that all lights should be covered except those in select military installations, and even those could only operate for a set amount of time.”

 

Dallutev, who had remained silent throughout the meeting, suddenly blurted out, “Stupid fools. They think we’re going to bomb them.”

 

All attention was brought towards him. Dallutev shifted in his seat once again. He felt like a frog being dissected during a science class.

 

“It seems that the military option is the only one we have left,” said President Adzhitekova. “Comrade Marshal, have you drafted any plans concerning the invasion of Rivymiyitevko?”

 

“As a matter of fact, I do, Comrades,” Dallutev replied. Turning to his aide, he said, “Grisha, hand out the folders for Military Plan One, please.

 

“I must add this as a warning, Comrades,” Dallutev continued as his aide handed over folders with the words MOST SECRET hastily scratched off, meaning that they were declassified files. “This was created by former Defense Minister Borsov during the Nekazanka administration.”

 

Marshal Dallutev waited as the Politburo pored over the contents of Military Plan One. He watched as the looks of curiosity turned to disbelief, to surprise, and then to understanding. Curiously for Dallutev, none of the people that he expected to react did so, and those that did react were the unexpected ones.

 

“Was Borsov a clairvoyant or something?” asked Vice President Fanniya Mejez. “He practically told the story of the Arctic Revolution in his preface!”

 

That wasn’t all true, thought Dallutev. Borsov had actually written Military Plan One for as a contingency plan in case the Republic of Krakozhia disintegrated into its constituent provinces. Back then, it had seemed a very real prospect.

 

“Fanniya is right,” said Admiral Vasily Vasilyevich Domovich, Minister of State, Naval Chief of Staff, and commander of the Krakozhian Navy. “But I don’t see anything about the Cosmodrome here.”

 

“Yes, plans for building the Cosmodrome didn’t exist yet when Borsov drafted the plan,” replied Dallutev, “which is why I handed it over to the best minds in the planning division so they can bring it up to date. Now, if you will kindly turn to the Rivymiyitevko section of the plan.

 

“The Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome, which garrisons twelve Gatutin-A intercontinental ballistic missiles and twenty-four Sunbeam cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, is our first major objective. While it is not possible, we must assume that Benin will not hesitate to use the island’s nuclear capability to lash out at the Republic at the first sign of an invasion. My strategists have recommended a Spetsnaz operation to remove the Cosmodrome from the equation.

 

“The second objective is the island of Yerotsk, off the coast of Karavatsenin. Intelligence estimates from the KGB say that there is only a small garrison of troops guarding the whole island. Again, my strategists have recommended a Spetsnaz operation to retake the island. The open plains on its western side would be a very good place for us to stage our troops.

 

“Now, for the actual invasion of Rivymiyitevko, Lieutenant General Marko Karburets’ Third Army will be best suited for the job. Although the original plan calls for a massive invasion force, I feel that the twelve thousand men and women of the Third Army will be enough. They may not have all of the most advanced weapons and equipment, but the troops are both well-trained and motivated.” Dallutev went on, discussing the various military maneuvers in detail.

 

“Forgive me for asking, Comrade Marshal,” said Adzhitekova when he was finished, “but is this the only battle plan in existence for Rivymiyitevko? Or are there other plans?”

 

“The strategists have analyzed many other plans and even created some of their own, but they have decided that Military Plan One is the only plan that has the best chance of rapidly ‘liberating’ Rivymiyitevko.”

 

The President nodded, and then put the implementation of Military Plan One to a vote. Every voting member of the Politburo said yes.

 

“It is decided, then,” said Adzhitekova. “Comrade Marshal, as of 2045 hours tonight, Military Plan One will be implemented under the name Operation LIBERATORS.”

 

Somewhere in the Yamal Peninsula

That same time

 

The snow was solid enough to walk on without making noise, and for that Gavrina Kumilyova was glad. Stealth was essential to her mission, and had some fresh snow fallen earlier, she would have her footprints to worry about, in addition to the many enemy sentries that were making their rounds in the frozen Russian landscape. She couldn’t wait for this special forces exercise to end so she can finally return to Krakozhia, where the winters were a day at the beach compared to the near-freezing temperature in this place.

 

Kumilyova was hiding behind a bush, watching as enemy sentries passed by her position. They came at regular fifteen-minute intervals, and in her line of business, regularity was death.

 

There. Here comes the sentry that always came before the hour was up, the one ill-equipped for winter duty. He was wearing a red long-sleeved shirt underneath a striped one and khaki cargo pants, with a light armored vest providing his only protection from bullets. It could probably stop a pistol round, but it wouldn’t do much against a rifle round. He had a German UMP-45 machine pistol for a weapon, with three spare magazines attached to his vest alongside two grenades and a handheld radio. He was certainly an ill-equipped soldier, and one that would pay for his mistake.

 

Gavrina took the knife strapped behind her pistol, which had a ring molded into the handle so it could be attached to her rifle to become a bayonet, but she didn’t do that. Instead, she kept hold of it, waiting for the right moment to strike.

 

The sentry didn’t notice anything as he passed by the bush at the side of the road. And then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a white mass rise from the bush, and then he was pinned down on the ground, the ice-cold hilt of a knife pressed to the back of his neck.

 

He was rudely turned around, and a tiny flashlight was shining down on his face. When he saw the face beyond the light, he couldn’t help but laugh. “I should have known it was you,” he muttered.

 

“No, I should have known it was you,” replied Kumilyova.

 

“I deliberately made regular patrols here, to see if the guy posted to this sector would notice,” replied Lev Arigov. “And from experience, I knew only you would notice. Well, maybe Vyacheslav would have noticed, too.”

 

The two walked over to the bush. “Sorry about that,” muttered Gavrina. Arigov had hit the ground a little too hard.

 

“Don’t worry about it, it’s my fault. A little ice and this will be as good as new. Do you happen to have some vodka?”

 

She tossed him a bottle of the clear alcoholic liquid. He never really thought of it as an addiction, but it was part of Army tradition. He sipped the liquor, letting its bitter taste slide down his throat.

 

They were near the coast, and the pounding of the surf on the rocks was clear to their ears. Beyond it was the island of Rivymiyitevko, formerly a Krakozhian province, now a self-ruling state. But Krakozhia refused to recognize its sovereignty, and the other nations couldn’t care less about some island in the Arctic Ocean. They could have sent delegates to the United Nations, but Konstantin Benin was an isolationist, and he was bringing the island down with him.

 

“Look at that,” said Arigov, pointing at the dark dot on the horizon that was the highest point in Rivymiyitevko. “I wonder when the government would finally decide to mount an offensive.”

 

“Do you think we can actually do it?” Kumilyova asked him.

 

Arigov looked at his UMP. He had only recently received the weapon, but he had already developed a liking for it. Although machine pistols were obsolescent on the modern battlefield, there was a Krakozhian saying that anything that could kill was good enough for a real warrior. This was especially true in the Army, where many Second World War-era rifles were still in service.

 

“If we fight just like we did six years before, we can.”

 

A short time later, a UAZ-469 jeep halted near their position, into which Arigov jumped in after giving a brief goodbye to Gavrina. Once again, she was left alone, with only her thoughts to keep her company. She looked at her watch. Only one more hour before everybody was required to return to base. She would have time to think about what they had discussed earlier.

 

Rivymiyitevko sat on the horizon, mocking the Republic of Krakozhia and its citizens. Part of her felt an obligation to the people on that far-flung island that that megalomaniac Konstantin Benin had claimed as his own. She wasn’t old enough to remember the rumors that Benin had owned almost all of the land that became Krakozhia, and was raised on the supposition that since he couldn’t control the country itself, he set his sights on a faraway island and decided to secede.

 

Rivymiyitevko was thirty thousand square kilometers of volcanic rock that popped out of the Kara Sea before there had been intelligent life on Earth. A population of almost three hundred thousand made their living through fishing, limited mining, and some tourism. All of the towns there would seem backward compared to the capital city of Sonolovichyrevko, whose skyline can be rightfully put beside the likes of Manhattan.

 

If not strategically, Rivymiyitevko was important tactically—one-eighth of Krakozhia’s total nuclear deterrent was located there, in the form of the Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome. With a little luck, Benin’s forces hadn’t managed to compromise the launch codes yet, but with money equaling those of the richest people in the world, Benin could already have some of the world’s top hackers under his wing.

 

The island’s inhabited history dated back to the ninth century, when the great but short-lived Krav Empire stretched from what was now Krakozhia to the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. Evidence of Krav culture in the island excavated in 1985 gave substance to Krakozhia’s claims to the island, which was still Soviet territory at the time. The island’s capital had actually begun as a small whaling port until mineral finds attracted many settlers to the island. Three-fourths of the local population was descended from the Krav, and Konstantin Benin could rightfully claim descent from the last Krav emperor, Yaroslav of Rivymiyitevko, a fact that made many faces go red whenever it was brought up.

 

Benin’s revolution was a carefully orchestrated one, and his force of five thousand revolutionaries quickly grew in size thanks to Krakozhian defectors, and they were able to defeat a Krakozhian task force triple their size. In the end, ten thousand troops were either killed, captured, or went missing in action. Most of the provincial government fled the island, but the late Governor Pavel Draktiktev elected to remain behind, taking personal command of the Krakozhian task force before he was executed by Benin himself, ending the Arctic Revolution with a rebel victory.

 

And there was also that traitor Mikhail Amazenkov to think about. To the public, he was always the pacifist, urging former President Anatoly Baychenko to withdraw from Rivymiyitevko and settle the problem legally, but unknown to everyone else, he was working in cooperation with Benin to undermine the Communist regime in Krakozhia. His establishment of a Krakozhian Democratic Republic was supposed to have reunited the two states into a capitalist nation but in the end, the Communists won against the Democrats.

 

But, for Gavrina Kumilyova, if anything was going to happen, it was not an armed invasion of Rivymiyitevko. Despite promises to the contrary, Krakozhia did not look likely to engage in ground war, especially one so far away from home.

 

Onboard the battleship Rivymiyitevko

A few hours later

 

Things were a little different in the Navy. Because only Admiral Domovich and his immediate subordinates knew about Military Plan One, now Operation LIBERATORS, there wasn’t a general call-to-arms yet. Instead, specific immediate-action messages were sent to the ships already deployed to their soon-to-be area of operations.

 

The first vessel to receive said immediate-action message was the battleship Rivymiyitevko. Based on the American Iowa­-class battleships, it was one of the last real battleships in service. The fifth Project 1010-class battleship, it was ninety meters longer that its sister ships because it had a compartment built into it that was built for use by the Krakozhian Spetsnaz. No other Project 1010 battleship had this compartment, and it was activated by the ship’s personnel upon receiving the immediate-action message.

 

Another message reached the Rivymiyitevko after the immediate-action order. Once it was decoded, the communications officer handed it over to the captain. It read:

 

FROM: COMMANDER, NAVY

TO: BATTLESHIP RIVYMIYITEVKO

 

POLITBURO HAS APPROVED OPERATION FARMER FOR IMMEDIATE COMMENCE. BRING FARMERS INTO ANVIL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. THIS IS IN PREPARATION OF OPERATION LIBERATORS. ADMIRAL V. V. DOMOVICH SENDS. ENDS.

 

It was not much, but it gave the captain something to think about. He didn’t know anything about Operation LIBERATORS, but Operation FARMER was the codename for the plan to retake the Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome. There were rumors that Konstantin Benin would not hesitate to use the island’s missiles if ever his regime came under attack, and so, it was one of the targets that had to be either neutralized or captured when Krakozhia finally decided to invade the island. Could it be that LIBERATORS was the operation that everybody had been waiting for? Well, that was one possibility.

 

The captain checked his watch. The message for the Spetsnaz operatives should have reached them by now. For once, he was glad that he was working with the Special Forces. His sister was the widow of the late Governor Draktiktev, and now his ship would be involved in the first strike against Benin. This is for you, Pavel Lavrentiyevich, he thought.

 

Aboard the submarine K-287

That same time

 

The Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome was not the only strategic objective that Krakozhia had in the Kara Sea. There was also the island of Yerotsk. Although normally listed as part of Karavatsenin, the small island actually functioned as an autonomous state, in that it had its own laws but still reported to the mainland. From above, Yerotsk looked like a grossly misshapen monster, with its huge maw surrounding Yerotsk Bay and its bulbous eastern plain connected to the head by a small spit of land.

 

Whatever Krakozhia wanted in Yerotsk, it wasn’t Captain First Rank Gennady Yurievich Poryk’s business, and he was fine with that. But it was the Spetsnaz commander onboard his boat’s business, and was very concerned right now.

 

“How far do you plan to be from the coast?” asked the soldier.

 

“I can get you as close as fifteen meters,” the submariner replied, “but beyond that, it is too shallow for my boat.”

 

“Fifteen meters is good enough, Comrade.”

 

“Is there anything on the coast that could detect us?”

 

“There is a radar outpost not far from where my men will land. It will be our first objective. There are only two men manning that installation, and after we take care of them, we will overwhelm the enemy garrison on the island.”

 

The man sounded confident, thought Poryk, but could he do the job? “Fine. Alert your men. We are nearing the drop-off point.”

 

Poryk’s boat was an old Soviet Hotel-class submarine, long since relabeled the K-279-class. The Soviets’ first efforts to match the ballistic missile submarines of the United States Navy, the Hotels had been embarrassments right from the beginning. After several incidents regarding this class of submarine, the Soviets finally shelved them in the early eighties and sent them to Warsaw Pact ports to rot in secret.

 

Three Hotels were bought by the Krakozhian Navy during January of 1992, and they underwent massive reconstruction programs at the hands of the Dapoteska Machine Building Enterprise, better known as DAPMASH. Because of the degree in which the engineers at DAPMASH rebuilt the Hotels, they were, simply put, not the same ones that had docked into the DAPMASH yards. Poryk’s boat was the third of these modified Hotels, making him commander of one of the oldest warships in service, with forty years of service under its belt.

 

Upon the unprecedented success of these submarines, eight more were built, and more were on the way.  And, if Poryk was right, the nation’s submarine fleet could be expected to grow in size within the next few weeks.

 

“Are there any contacts on the sonar, Comrade?” Poryk asked the sonar supervisor as he stepped into the control center.

 

“No, Comrade Captain, the sonar is clear.”

 

“Surface contacts, Mr. Dostalinsky?”

 

“None, Captain,” replied his executive officer.

 

“Good. Surface the ship.”

 

The boat made a whooshing sound as air rushed into its ballast tanks, expelling the water and making the submarine more buoyant. Although they tried to ascend as slowly as possible, the submarine still made a lot of noise when it broke through the surface. After the sub settled down, the thirty members of the Spetsnaz onboard climbed up to the sail and retrieved their gear, which included suppressed machine pistols and inflatable rubber rafts. As they prepared to cast off, Poryk grabbed the Spetsnaz commander’s hand and said, “Good luck on your adventure, Comrade.”

 

“Thank you, Comrade Poryk. Good luck to you too.”

 

The scene of the rafts leaving his submarine reminded Poryk of the raid on Makin Atoll during the Second World War. Although in many respects a failure, the raid had the effect of showing to the American people that their country could anyone, anywhere, and at any time at will. Perhaps it would have the same effect back home.

 

Somewhere in the Yamal Peninsula

That same time

 

The message for FARMER arrived shortly after the one for the battleship. It went immediately to Captain Mikhail Yevgeniyevich Kutuzov, commander of Team FARMER. He spent ten minutes deciphering the message himself, but once he saw its contents, thought it was worth his time.

 

He alerted his two lieutenants and briefed them on the upcoming mission. After that, they briefed the rest of the team. Ten minutes were spent on both briefings, and half an hour to prepare their gear. Soon after that, the helicopter from the Rivymiyitevko arrived and brought Team FARMER to the ship.

 

Vyacheslav Klimov had always hated helicopters. They moved like some kind of ungainly bird with no wings, and he could never hope to understand how they worked. He remembered his first helicopter ride vividly. They had been flying above Pretoska’s Tovrovskiy Prospect when the helicopter he was riding on was shot down by an Ixanian surface-to-air missile. Vyacheslav was one of only two survivors, and he never heard from the other one again. He suffered a broken back, forcing him to stay in a field hospital for a long time.

 

The helicopter they were traveling on was a Mil Mi-8 “Hip,” and an old one at that, with over twenty thousand flight hours under its belt. Its bulbous cockpit gave the pilots an excellent view of their surroundings, but it could also be deadly, as some pilots found out the hard way during the Siege of Evka. It was also not the best aircraft to fly in adverse weather conditions, which was exactly what was developing outside.

 

The two new members of Team FARMER, the junior corpsman and the specialist, were having trouble keeping their dinner rations down. At least that was one part of his subordinates’ lives that he could still identify with. He had felt the same during his ill-fated first flight.

 

Beside him, Kumilyova was already in one of her signature catnaps. It always amazed Klimov how she could be in a deep sleep one moment, fully awake and alert the next. Vyacheslav was her exact opposite. He could never sleep comfortably even if he forced himself to.

 

Klimov looked at the small circular window near him. They were approaching the battleship that would serve as their only link to the outside world for the next few days. But right now, they would prepare for their upcoming mission there.

 

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