Liberators
Author: Godfrey Raphael

Chapter 21
The Inner Circle

Chapter Twenty-one: The Inner Circle

 

Markhov Prospect

Sonolovichyrevko, Rivymiyitevko

October 31, 2008 1326 Rivymiyitevko (1126 Krakozhian time)

 

It had been a week since the Second Siege of Sonolovichyrevko had begun, and by that time, the Krakozhians had control of over a third of the city. Although the fight had quickly degenerated into the house-to-house combat, the situation was looking good for the Krakozhians. But for Rivymiyitevko, it was their state that was hanging in the balance.

 

Konstantin Benin had decided that it would be too risky for his inner circle of advisors to meet in the Capitol, as missile strikes began to pound the historic building into pieces starting at the third day of the siege. Benin had decided to meet his inner circle at locations around the city that he would only disclose a few hours before the actual meeting, leaving little time for them to prepare themselves. Unknown to them, however, one of their aides was actually a spy from the Krakozhian KGB who had been passing on Benin's meeting places to the Center, but whenever a Spetsnaz team came to capture the inner circle, they were already too late.

 

Today, the meeting had been delayed. Benin had not yet arrived at the old post office building in Markhov Prospect. Because he was certain that the Krakozhians were spying on him—and they were—he had decided to take a long and winding route from his current bunker to the meet.

 

"Are you sure that this is wise, brother?" asked Ekaterina Domshomidova, who was seated beside Benin in his car. For his own safety, he had decided to drive his private vehicle, but he was turning out to be a slightly reckless driver in dodging the piles of rubble that had littered the streets of Sonolovichyrevko ever since the siege began.

 

"Of course, my dear sister," he replied in his calm, silky smooth voice. "Why, do you think, did I order that many decoy cars to run around in the streets?"

 

"I still feel like I'm being watched."

 

"Get your head in the game, sister. You have an army to manage, and I have my country to lead."

 

"Silver Mercedes coming up on target building," said Lev Arigov. "Two occupants inside."

 

"Copy, One-one-seven," replied Gavrina Kumilyova. "Report when occupants have exited the vehicle."

 

"Roger." Acting on yet another tip from their KGB informant deep inside the inner circle, Arigov had been deployed into Sonolovichyrevko's Red Zone, which was what they called the area of the city still unsecured by the Army and possibly full with RIM soldiers, mainly to make sure that the inner circle had not yet left before the Spetsnaz could grab them. With him to back him up were Maria Atolova and Roman Zhemnev, which he would admit were the only persons that he would trust his life with in such a mission like this. Through binoculars, the three of them watched the Mercedes stop in front of the post office building and its occupants step out.

 

"Farmer, occupants of Mercedes are Rebel Primary and Rebel Secondary," Arigov told Kumilyova. It was the Krakozhian codenames for Benin and Domshomidova, respectively.

 

"Copy that, One-one-seven," she replied. "We're moving in."

 

"Roger that. Okay, guys, weapons ready."

 

"I've always wanted to use this," muttered Zhemnev, chambering a round into his new Chinese QBU-88 sniper rifle. He mounted the weapon on a pile of rubble in front of him, looked through the scope, and made corrections. Behind him, he could hear the turning rotors of a Mil Mi-8 Hip, which then passed over the structure where they were hiding. On the post office building, a sentry looked at the helicopter in curiosity. "Fire when ready," muttered Arigov. Zhemnev corrected his rifle one last time and then pulled the trigger. The sentry who had looked at the Spetsnaz Hip with curiosity fell into a crumpled heap, never to see another chopper again. "Target down," he said. At the same time, the Hip began to hover above the building roof and deposited its load of special troops.

 

"We've been waiting for thirty minutes already," said one of Benin's advisors. "If President Benin is not here within five minutes, I will leave this building!"

 

"You will leave this building?" asked another advisor. "You fool; do you know what the President does to those who desert him?"

 

"Of course I remember, mudak! But if we do not leave this building, we will receive the same fate!"

 

"Oh, shut up, Andrey Igorovich! If you have so much as a brain underneath your toupee—" His retort was cut off by the roar of helicopter engines above them.

 

"What have I been telling you, Yunta Lazarevich?" said Andrey Igorovich. "We've been discovered! You've cost us the chance to leave!"

 

Suddenly, the doors to the conference room opened up and Spetsnaz troopers flooded into the room. "Everybody down!" they shouted.  Those in the room were forced onto the ground and cuffed.

 

"Wait a minute, sister," said Benin. Both of them were on the second floor when they heard the Spetsnaz break into the conference room. "Go back! We've been discovered!"

 

"Govno!" Nevertheless, Domshomidova ran down the stairs, closely followed by Benin. Their plan was to escape back to their bunker and hope that they were not being followed by the Krakozhians. But that plan came to waste when shooters opened up on his car, forcing the two of them to run. As they rounded a corner, Benin reached into his robes, pulled out a portable radio, and said, "Decoys, mobilize!"

 

Upon that signal, a pair of rebels dressed like Benin and Domshomidova burst out of what looked like every building in the Red Zone and began running around in all directions. "This is your brilliant plan, brother?" asked Domshomidova doubtfully.

 

"Trust me, sister. This will work."

 

"They're everywhere!" said the pilot of the Army Air Corps MH-6 Little Bird patrolling the skies of the Red Zone. "How are we supposed to know which ones are the real ones?"

 

"Look for those near to the target building!" replied his copilot.

 

"There's a hundred of them there!"

 

"Then pick one and hope you're right!"

 

"Goddamn it," muttered the pilot. "Let's try that pair on the street. Set up an attack run."

 

"Miniguns activated," said the copilot. "Miniguns spooling up. Miniguns ready."

 

"Fire."

 

The two miniguns on the Little Bird's stubby hardpoints turned and opened fire on the pair running down the road, sending both of them to the ground. The copilot kept her thumb on the FIRE button until the pilot said, "Run complete."

 

"Okay, comrades, set us down near the bodies," said one of the soldiers sitting inside the passenger compartment of the Little Bird. He and his companion jumped out of the helicopter once it set down and examined the bodies. After a few minutes, they returned to the Little Bird with a downcast look on their faces. "We don't have them," he told the pilots.

 

"Damn it."

 

"What did I tell you, sister?" said Benin as he watched the Little Bird take off. "It worked like a charm."

 

"But those people," muttered Domshomidova, tears forming in her eyes.

 

"They were ready to sacrifice their lives for the State," he replied. "They shall be duly recognized."

 

Aboard the submarine K-312

Somewhere in the Kara Sea

November 1, 2008 1659 Rivymiyitevko time (1459 Krakozhian time)

 

Captain Lieutenant Zefia Alekseyevna Brtlanka was an ethnic Krav, and proud of it. She was proud of being able to speak both Kravatsya, the ancient tongue of the Krav people, and Russian fluently. She was proud of knowing every Krav nursery rhyme, myth, fable, and legend, and she was very proud of her lineage, being a descendant of Emperor Turmaryan of the Krav Empire, the richest emperor in Krav history.

 

Although many people think that her name was a Krav variant of Sofia, her name actually came from the archaic Krav word for beauty. And she was beautiful; the perfect example of a Krav woman. She had a mane of shoulder-length blonde hair, lustrous blue-green eyes, and a delicately but curvy frame that hid the strength of an ox, which was only evident in his slightly muscled arms and shoulders. And because she was well-versed in the Krav art of war, she set the standards for the Krav "warrior women."

 

The only thing about the Krav that she was not proud of was Konstantin Benin. It was hard for her to wrap her mind around the fact that the authoritarian and dictatorial Benin was descended from the caring and benevolent Emperor Yaroslav of Rivymiyitevko. But, she had consoled herself by thinking that it was the ways in which they were raised.

 

The K-312 was currently on sonar picket duty, which meant no duty for Zefia, who was the navigator of the sub. She used the unexpected break to relax her back, which was bent from hours spent poring over hydrographic maps of the Sonolovichyrevko Bay basin. When that was done, she took a cup of coffee from the officer's galley and walked to the sonar station, where Anna Poverin and another sonarman had been working round the clock ever since the K-312 went on picket duty. Poverin, who was usually a cheerful and friendly girl, had become very irritable as she became more engrossed in her work, as evident in the gray bags under her eyelids and the empty cups of coffee littering her console.

 

"Want some?" asked Zefia, showing her cup to Anna.

 

"If someone cremated my body after this, I bet they'll be able to make coffee out of my ashes," she replied, refusing the drink.

 

"That's funny, because I just remembered that Emperor Begebard sometimes drank the ashes of his enemies to cure his many ills."

 

Anna shook her head hard. "Please don't tell me any more weird stories about the Krav emperors until my shift is over," she said. "My heart is already palpitating from all that caffeine and tension."

 

"You need to cut yourself some slack," said Zefia. "Also lessen your coffee intake. It could kill you, you know."

 

Anna rubbed her eyes. "I know, I know," she replied. "But I have to help my guys with this stuff! An enemy ship could be passing above us right now, and they wouldn't even know it!"

 

"You're lucky Victory Day isn't around the corner. All the makeup in the world couldn't hide those eyebags!"

 

"Sorry to cut your little heart-to-heart talk short," said Captain Third Rank Ludmilla Kazirov, the K-312's political officer, "but this just came in." She handed a white message form to Anna.

 

"What is it?" asked Zefia. "Share." Anna reluctantly handed over the message form to her. "Oh my—is this real?"

 

"KGB sources say that one of the Oscar-class submarines that Rivymiyitevko bought from Russia, the K-155 Anadyr, is about to make a test run in the Sonolovichyrevko Bay today," said Kazirov, the single red star of a political officer shining on her right breast pocket. "The Russian crew of the Anadyr has been replaced with a Rivymiyitevko crew, so now Command thinks this is the chance to capture, disable, or destroy the Anadyr without setting off a diplomatic misunderstanding. She is expected to be somewhere in our sector, and Captain Genrikh Amenkov of the K-331 is coming over to assist us."

 

As Kazirov left, Zefia turned to Anna and said, "I appreciate the fact that you're trying to keep our boat safe and sound and out of harm's way, but sometimes you have to step back and make room for the others to learn. If you don't let them handle these things under combat conditions, how will they ever learn how to do it?"

 

Anna nodded. "One more hour, Zefia," she said. "One more hour. If I don't get off this chair in one hour, you can shake me out, drag me to the doctor's officer and tranquilize me."

 

Zefia nodded, and then she walked towards the navigator's station, which was actually just a table with a backlight full of acetate maps of the bottom of the Kara Sea. The one currently on the table was the map for the bottom of Sonolovichyrevko Bay, which looked like a massive shelf before dropping to the seafloor. As Zefia removed the cap of a grease pencil, she heard Anna shout, "Conn, sonar, I have a contact on bearing 140, position 15,000 yards from us. It could be a ship departing from Babayev Prospect."

 

"Navigator?" asked Tanya Kalinina, looking at Zefia. She took a ruler and traced a line from their sub's current position to the bearing provided by Anna until it hit land. "I concur," she replied. "The contact's bearing is in line with the Babayev Prospect Port."

 

"Is there any chance of intercepting the contact?"

 

"If they maintain their present course, yes, we can, Captain—wait. I've isolated the contact. It's an Oscar-class submarine running at seventeen knots. Her plant noises match those of the K-155 Anadyr."

 

Tanya looked at Ludmilla, who nodded with a sure look on her face. "All right," she said. "Let's go hunt a submarine."

 

Aboard the K-155 Anadyr

 

The K-155 Anadyr had not seen the water ever since she was brought into a dry dock and hidden from view by the Rivymiyitevko Independence Movement Navy. For her new captain, a big and heavy man named Leontiyev, it was an insult not easily forgivable. Only the promise of a coming mission prevented him from deciding to defect to the Krakozhians, but even then, he was close to crossing the line.

 

"Captain, we are now above the Sonolovichyrevko underwater shelf," said the navigator, a brilliant young man named Penkov.

 

"Thank you, navigator," replied Leontiyev. "How far are we to the target?"

 

"Twenty-one thousand yards, Captain. At our present speed, we will put it in range within three to six minutes."

 

"I think that it is time that we received our target package," said Leontiyev. "Take us to periscope depth, and deploy the communications mast."

 

Aboard the K-331

 

"Captain, sonar, the Anadyr is rising."

 

"It's probably downloading its target package from the Russian RORSAT," replied Captain Genrikh Amenkov. "We do the same with our guided missile frigates. Speaking of frigates, are there any surface ships in the area?"

 

"You won't believe this, Captain," said the sonar supervisor. "Both the Rokossovsky and the Ivan Igorovsky are about to come in range of the Anadyr's missiles."

 

"What?" If only I could tell those ships to get away, thought Amenkov. But to do that, he would have to go to periscope depth to transmit a message, and with the enemy in such proximity, he couldn't do it without being detected. All he could do was hope that he would be able to stop the Anadyr before it could launch its devastating SS-N-19 "Shipwreck" anti-shipping missiles.

 

Aboard the K-312

 

"Captain, I believe that the Anadyr is headed for both the Rokossovsky and the Ivan Igorovsky."

 

"What?" Turning to the fire control officer, Tanya asked, "Do we have a firing solution on the Anadyr?"

 

Aboard the K-155 Anadyr

 

"Captain, it looks like there is another ship beside the Rokossovsky," said the weapons officer. "It looks like an Ivanets-class fleet oiler."

 

Leontiyev tried to remember the general schematics of the Ivanets-class oiler. One of them was capable of carrying five thousand tons of fuel oil, as well as a thousand tons of food and ammunition. If he could sink one of those oilers along with the Rokossovsky, he could deliver a severe, crippling blow to the Krakozhian Navy.

 

"Weapons, load the coordinates of both targets onto our missiles. We will be killing two birds with one stone."

 

Aboard the K-331

 

"Take us behind her," ordered Amenkov. "Sonar, send out a single ping of active sonar!"

 

"Yes, Captain." The sonar supervisor opened the lid on a large gray button on his console and pushed it.

 

The K-155 Anadyr

 

"Captain, I have a single ping of active sonar coming from our baffles!" shouted the Anadyr's sonar supervisor. "It appears to be from a Rubis-class submarine! And—pol'noe dermo! I have a Hotel-class submarine on our starboard!"

 

"We've been trapped!" said Leontiyev.

 

The K-312

 

"Captain, I have a firing solution on the Anadyr!"

 

"Firing point procedures, match bearings and shoot, tubes five and six on the Anadyr!" Tanya ordered.

 

Two KhKh-94 torpedoes went out of torpedo tubes five and six on the K-312 and towards the Anadyr. Somewhere to the left and behind of the Oscar, the K-331 also launched two KhKh-94 torpedoes.

 

The K-155 Anadyr

 

"Captain, torpedoes have been launched!" shouted the sonar supervisor. "The nearest one is at five hundred yards!"

 

"Weapons will impact in five seconds," said the executive officer, who was operating a mechanical stopwatch.

 

Captain Leontiyev knew that he was trapped between a rock and a hard place. To turn to the left or the right would be suicide. The only ways out were up or down. But which way should he go? Finally, he decided to go down.

 

But his hesitation would prove costly.

 

All four torpedoes struck the Anadyr, a few seconds apart from each other. Because of their relatively tiny warheads—only two hundred pounds of conventional explosives each—they were not enough to sink the humongous Oscar, but they did succeed in damaging the missile compartments, rendering them useless. The crew themselves fared little better. Those nearest to the damaged missile compartments were thrown around like rag dolls, and they had to deal with massive flooding of their compartments in addition to the severe concussions, broken ribs, and other severe injuries they sustained during the explosions. The command center also received large shock damage, short-circuiting the computers and the lights and activating the emergency lighting system.

 

"Surface the ship," said Leontiyev, trying to staunch the blood flowing from his nose. "And jettison the missiles!" Slowly, the submarine rose to the surface, and when the Shipwreck missiles were jettisoned from their compartments, the sub rose faster, until it finally broke the surface and rolled around for a few moments before settling down.

 

The K-312

 

"Captain, I hear hull-popping noises from the Anadyr," said Anna. "I think she's going for the surface."

 

"Roger that." Then, speaking on the intercom, Tanya said, "Boarding team, get ready and stand by to board enemy vessel." As she gestured for Natalya and Ludmilla to join her, she told the watch officer, "You have the conn.”

 

The three senior officers of the K-312 took their Uzi submachine guns and Tokarev TT-33 pistols from their respective safes, and then they lined up behind the boarding team. When the diving officer said that they had surfaced, the leader of the boarding team undogged the hatch to the conning tower, bathing them in cold seawater. Despite this, they charged through the torrent and dispersed themselves along the length of the sub. Somewhere to their port, the K-331 had also surfaced, and all of them could see the damage that the KhKh-94 torpedoes had done to the Anadyr. There was no sign of the twenty-four Shipwreck missiles that she had been carrying before she was hit; they were all lying on the bottom of the Kara Sea by now.

 

Leontiyev and his crew had cast off the Anadyr in inflatable rubber rafts, and he had ordered them to row towards the Rokossovsky and the Igorovsky—ironically, the very ships that he was trying to sink before he himself was attacked. Now, when he saw the Krakozhian submarines surface, he quickly had the rafts turn around towards them. They tied the rafts to the submarines to prevent them from drifting off or escaping until more ships arrived.

 

"I think they're saying something to us," said Kazirov. "Zefia, can you understand what they're saying?"

 

Zefia sighed and leaned closer to the Rivymiyitevko submariners. She knew that there were subtle differences between mainland Kravatsya and Rivymiyitevko Kravatsya, but both dialects were clear and understandable to those that really know Kravatsya. And then, through the animated conversations of her shipmates, she could hear something from the Rivymiyitevko sailors.

 

"Namur eseshit Karosha."

 

Namur eseshit Karosha. Zefia had not heard that phrase for a long time. It had been attributed to Warlord Linus of Alanich, who supposedly uttered the quote before facing the superior armies of Kievan Rus' in the Battle of Transylvania in the ninth century. It meant, I will serve my blood and soul to Karosha, and as every Krakozhian knew, their country was called Karosha before it adopted its newer, slightly corrupted name.

 

Zefia remembered her parents telling her that if she were to remember only one thing for her life, it would be that phrase, which they said meant the difference between life and death if ever the time came that the Krav's loyalties were questioned. Luckily for the Krav, they had never had to utter that phrase in living memory.

 

"Namur eseshit Karosha," Zefia repeated. "I will serve my blood and soul to Krakozhia."

 

"What does that mean?" asked Kazirov.

 

"I don't believe it! They want to come back."

 

"They want to come back?" Ludmilla shook her head. "Unfortunately for them, they would have to wait for war's end before they could start calling themselves Krakozhians again."

 

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