Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 6
Behind Bars

Chapter Six: Behind Bars

 

Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base

October 2, 2008 0932 Rivymiyitevko time (0532 Krakozhian time)

 

The Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base was a simple airfield, with only a single paved runway running the length of the complex. The control tower and administrative facilities were located north of the runway, and the crew quarters and aircraft hangars were south. But it was the group of huts beside the control tower that was an obvious addition because it was a prison camp.

 

The prison camp was erected upon the conclusion of the Arctic Revolution to hold two thousand prisoners of war, members of the Rivymiyitevko Provincial Militia and the Krakozhian Army. There were about two hundred huts inside the complex, with each hut accommodating ten to twenty people inside. There was also a medical shack which served as the prisoners’ hospital, as well as a few recreational huts. All in all, the living conditions inside the camp were better than those in Sonolovichyrevko.

 

The inmates and guards kept a cordial relationship with each other, at least as cordial as their conflicting ideologies would allow. The prisoners were allowed to work in the administration complex, decoding intercepted Krakozhian radio and message traffic, but only under constant supervision. They were also allowed visits to the nearby town of Gratavsky, where rumors were saying resistance leader Mikhail Dopov had based his operations.

 

A man wearing the khaki combat uniform of the Rivymiyitevko Provincial Militia stared at the flight line beyond the fence that separated the prison compound from the rest of the airbase. Thirty MiG-19s had once been there when he was assigned to the base, but now, only nineteen remained, and more could be lost now that—something—was gaining air superiority over Rivymiyitevko. He had flown the MiG-19 before, trained pilots in it, and would have been his aircraft of choice had not newer aircraft like the Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 came along. For him, the Farmer was a clumsy yet reliable aircraft.

 

Aviation Major Vladimir Malenkov, former commander of the now-defunct 995th Air Wing of the Rivymiyitevko Provincial Militia, was a prisoner in his own land. Forced to surrender after the withdrawal of the Krakozhian Army, he still bore a grudge against the country that had left him and his men for dead. He was sufficiently isolated from the outside world that he didn’t know about the two conflicts Krakozhia had gone through a few years before, but he did know that something was agitating the people of Rivymiyitevko, and that made him think: could it really be the Krakozhians? Malenkov didn’t think it was possible, because the commander of the Krakozhian Army was a coward, and to think that he was finally coming back to the island was a huge leap of faith. He had no way of knowing that that man was already dead, abandoned by his people.

 

He watched as twelve MiG-19s landed on the runway. That was seven less MiGs than there were two days ago, which meant that they had gone on another mission against their enemy and lost. The pilots looked glum and sullen, as if they had lost the nerve to fight. It was very different from almost a week before, when those young pilots had been so eager to climb into their planes and kick some Communist butt.

 

Malenkov watched as six Chinese Q-5 fighters took off from the airfield, followed by four Sukhoi Su-7s. He had noticed recent influx of Chinese military hardware into the island during the last year, and he could safely bet that those fighters had once been part of the People's Liberation Army Air Force. He could still see the red star with Chinese lettering on some of the aircraft.

 

Malenkov waved for a man talking to a Rivymiyitevko soldier through the fence. "What did you say to him?" he asked when the man arrived.

 

"STDs were on the rise once again, Comrade Major," replied the man. "I've been giving him some of the pills you told us to make. It's amazing, Major; they do work. How come?"

 

"You wouldn't want to know, Konstantin. By the way, do we have a scheduled excursion today?"

 

"Twelve hundred hours, Major."

 

"Sign me up."

 

Gratavsky, Rivymiyitevko

1200 Rivymiyitevko time (0800 Krakozhian time)

 

Gratavsky was a small mining town located at the foot of the Renechev Hills. Officially listed on the Krakozhian Census in 1990, its mines produced tin, aluminum, silicon, and platinum in minor export quantities. With a population of almost a thousand people, it was the third-smallest town in Rivymiyitevko, behind Sevenivov and Uflaniv.

 

Vladimir Malenkov loaded a crate of fruit into the back of the truck that had brought them here. Looking around, he walked towards a guard and held out a roll of money. "I need food," he said. The guard grunted and took the cash.

 

Malenkov went to a woman selling fruit. "Do you have anything for us today?" he asked.

 

The woman gave him two sheets of paper that had rows of random letters written on them.  "Give these to the men you have working in the RIM's communications. This is the original cipher, and this is what you need to decode the real message. It will come at fifteen hundred hours tomorrow."

 

"Thank you," said Malenkov quietly, pocketing the cipher sheets. Then, in a louder voice, he said, "How much are those oranges?"

 

Rivymiyitevko Cosmodrome

1350 Rivymiyitevko time (0950 Krakozhian time)

 

"I must commend you for successfully screwing up the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement," said Vladislav Deranka. "You have delayed Benin's forces' response to twice the time needed, thereby securing a Krakozhian foothold."

 

"No, Comrade Major," replied Mikhail Kutuzov, "I believe you could have done it without our help. But comrades help each other in their time of need, da?"

 

"Comrade Captain!" The shouts came from the Captain's two lieutenants.

 

"Gavrina Vasilyevna, Vyacheslav Il'ych, slow down, I can't hear myself think. What is it?"

 

"It's an important matter, Comrade Captain," replied Kumilyova, "but we have to talk outside." She cast a wary eye on Deranka. Kutuzov nodded and led the two out to the hallway. "Can we talk now?"

 

Klimov handed him a message form, which the Captain took. "I hope it's not about a withdrawal," he muttered while reading the contents. It was not.

 

FROM: COMMANDER, ARMY

TO: FARMER

 

POLITBURO HAS APPROVED PHASE TWO OF OPERATION FARMER. WATCH FOR COOPERATIVE RIM SOLDIERS. MARSHAL O. S. DALLUTEV SENDS. ENDS.

 

Captain Kutuzov's blood ran cold. Suddenly, all of those hours spent with Deranka played through his mind. He could have shot him easily at any given time, and then Deranka could sic his men onto Kutuzov's team, and Rivymiyitevko would once again have nuclear capability. He could have been pretending to be a disgruntled officer when he was actually close to Benin.

 

But no, there was too much sincerity in Deranka's voice for him to be merely faking it. He told his experiences like someone who had actually experienced it. He could be a very good actor, but Kutuzov was an excellent judge of character, had been since his days as a Krakozhian revolutionary, and he knew what was real and what was merely an act with Deranka, no matter how good an actor the man was.

 

The Captain folded the message form and pocketed it. With a somber face, he looked at his two lieutenants and said, "If I do not come back in the next fifteen minutes, I want you and the team to kill everyone in this facility. Leave no man alive. After that, return to the Krakozhian frontline and await your next mission there." With that done, Kutuzov turned around and returned to the command center, never noticing the looks of disbelief on Kumilyova and Klimov's faces.

 

"Comrade Captain!" Deranka stood up upon the Captain's return. "I take it that you have received good news."

 

"It is not the good news that I would like to hear, but it is better than nothing. My team has been ordered to take Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base in order to improve Krakozhia's air superiority over the island. If we are to fully take control of Rivymiyitevko, we must have control of the skies all over the island, not just the air above our beachhead."

 

Deranka took it all in with the fascination of a young schoolchild. "We would be pleased to help you in your task," he said, "but I sense distrust in you. Please understand, Comrade Captain, that I am doing this for the sake of my land. It has fallen into disrepute under the rule of Konstantin Benin, who has none of the honor in his supposedly royal Krav blood. It is terrible to think that the birthplace of the Krav Empire's last emperor has become nothing in today's world. May the ancestors of Konstantin Benin curse him and his descendants shame him before the gods in eternity."

 

That cinched it for Kutuzov. This was a real man with a real purpose, one who actually invoked the gods of the Krav against Konstantin Benin. Religion was something the Krav held dear, and an invocation in their name was often stronger than man's mortal bond to others.

 

"You will have my full and total cooperation," Deranka told the Captain. "I will assist you in your effort to retake Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base, and if I do this, may my body rot in the soil, with no way for my soul to return to the Well of Life. Now, is there anything you want me to do?"

 

"Yes," replied Kutuzov. "Please excuse me." He went out and told his lieutenants to stand down. After that, he returned to Deranka and said, "Do you have any maps of the airbase?"

 

The major took a laminated map from the commander's console and laid it out on the table. "Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base," he said, "formerly home of the 995th Air Wing of the Rivymiyitevko Provincial Militia, now the First Wing of the Independence Movement. A single runway divides the airbase into northern and southern halves. The planes are located in the hangars due south, while administrative facilities and a prison camp is located at the northern half."

 

Kutuzov looked up. "Nobody said anything about a prison."

 

"I am not surprised that it has remained a secret, but yes, there is a prison camp inside the airbase. There are about two thousand prisoners of war currently interred there. Most are Militia, but some are said to be Army. I have met some of the prisoners myself, and I must say that they are very hopeful that the Krakozhians will come back for them. Some of them are veterans of the Krakozhian Revolution, I believe, and the younger men and women with them couldn't have picked better people to live with.

 

"I have thought of breaking them out myself from time to time, and I believe that I have a working plan. I can have the prisoners running amok upon a signal. While the garrison is distracted, you and your team can go in and, as the Americans say, do your thing."

 

"Can you give me a probable casualty count?"

 

"Ah, that is where my nerve failed me. If the plan is not executed fast enough, the prisoners could be killed in the firefight. I do not know how many weapons they have, but they do have weapons, I can assure you that. The prisoners are the important variable, Comrade Captain. I believe that if your soldiers found two thousand people long thought lost by your country, Krakozhia would support this conflict wholeheartedly."

 

Kutuzov nodded. Rescuing prisoners had little or no strategic value to a military operation, but in terms of emotional value, nothing could lift morale higher than the rescue of a prisoner of war. Krakozhia had always taken care of its people, no matter where or how far. If FARMER accomplished this, morale would increase and the people would know that their country had their collective back.

 

"Those prisoners of war better be ready."

 

Rivymiyitevko Air Force Base

October 3, 2008 1505 Rivymiyitevko time (1105 Krakozhian time)

 

Lieutenant Tanya Numistatova tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for the bulky machine in front of her to intercept Krakozhian message traffic. She had served with the Signal Corps before the Arctic Revolution, which exposed to the different kinds of encryption methods that Krakozhia used. For her, the one-time cipher was probably the most cumbersome of them all. Using randomly generated letters to encode a message, it had to be decoded character by character, making for a very slow and tiresome decryption process.

 

She didn't even volunteer for this job. She did it only because Major Malenkov told her to. She didn't know why she had to bring her own ciphers when there was already a codebook inside this room. But she was trained to never question her orders, and her gut was telling her that something was up.

 

A red light went on and flickered on the machine, while a printer spat out the intercepted message, encrypted and all. Numistatova glanced at the Rivymiyitevko soldier guarding her, who was already asleep. Taking her pencil, she immediately began decoding the message, which took an excruciating ten minutes, even with the help of a cipher wheel. When she was finished, she checked again to make sure that she had it right. And then she checked one more time, because the contents of the message seemed too impossible to be real.

 

HELP IS COMING. CONFUSE THE ENEMY FOR US. MARSHAL O. S. DALLUTEV SENDS.

 

Casting another glance at the dozing guard, Numistatova pocketed the message form and the cipher key, and then she decoded the message using the other cipher key that Malenkov gave her. She pushed a small buzzer on the table, and a movable panel was pulled back to reveal a hole in the wall. She handed over the other message form, which said something about forcing the RIM to surrender, but that wasn't her problem now, was it?

 

After her shift ended, Numistatova made her way towards Malenkov's hut, where she gave him the first message form. "Are you sure you decrypted the message correctly?" the Major asked when he was finished reading.

 

"I am certain, Comrade Major," she replied. "I've checked it three times, and they were all correct."

 

"What about the other message? What did it say?"

 

"Something about urging the RIM to surrender. I bet Sazanin's already laughing his head off right now."

 

"Get the guys together. Tell them there will be a meeting at twenty-one hundred hours in my hut." When Numistatova left, Malenkov was finally free to think about the message. The Krakozhians somehow knew that their communications were compromised, that much was obvious. So probably, all of the messages that Tanya and the others had been decoding for the RIM were those that were supposed to be intercepted. The Krakozhians were a crafty lot, in that they had managed to disguise a message for the prisoners as another one full of nonsense.

 

But what about the help mentioned in the message? It couldn't possibly be the Army itself, because it was said that they still had to make a move for Renechev in order to advance further into the island, if the rebels were to be believed. Maybe it was the Spetsnaz that was coming. He knew a few members of the special forces arm of the Republic of Krakozhia Armed Forces, and he was one of the pilots that flew them during exercises. The organization was worthy of its name, which was taken from the Special Forces of the former Soviet Union.

 

Then there was the part about confusing the enemy. Did they expect them to wreak havoc while under guard? Well, maybe he did blab a little about his plan to one of his contacts with the Rivymiyitevko Resistance. He had thought of it during his first year of imprisonment, when he found out that there was an old evacuation underneath his hut that led to the base's armory. He had snatched a rifle from the armory just for fun that time, but he knew that in order for his plan to succeed, he had to have help. And those were the people he would meet later.

 

2100 Rivymiyitevko time (1700 Krakozhian time)

 

"Impossible!" said Captain Yuri Ashchenko. "What indication do we have that this is a real message from Krakozhia and not just some Rivymiyitevko operation to weed out the die-hards? And who in the world is Marshal Dallutev?" He, like all of the other prisoners in the camp, was unaware of the events that had taken place in Krakozhia.

 

"Whoever he is," replied Malenkov, "he's now the commander-in-chief of the Krakozhian Army."

 

"Let's hope that he's not a pussy like Amazenkov," said Ashchenko. "But what happened to Rotayov? Did the message you gave the RIM say anything?"

 

"Like I said," replied Numistatova, "this Dallutev was asking a General Karburets about urging the RIM to surrender. It was also addressed to an Admiral Domovich and a General Drulyenko."

 

"At least the Fleet Admiral is still around," muttered Ashchenko, unaware that the man he was talking about had already been replaced by his son.

 

"I think we should stick to the plan," said Malenkov. "That way, whether this so-called 'help' of theirs will come or not, we have a chance at striking out at these rebels. If we die, we died at the service of the Republic. Now, Yuri, Tanya, bring back a copy of every message to decode for them starting tomorrow. Be, Mehmet, Konstantin, use the tunnel to get as much weapons and ammunition as you can. The rest of you, get a feel for the soldiers' moods. I feel that we've just become part of something big."

 

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