Benacia Command/Military Operations
The Boreal Campaign
|Unified Governorates|| Inner Benacia
|Commanders and leaders|
|Waldemar Tarjeisson||Varҳat Ҳazedinov|
(Narrative taken from Inner Benacia article)
The Ś°ecehe Yśehe achieve a string of territorial gains to the west of Bagegeniśort, along a route roughly following the remains of the Minarborian-era road between Sansabury and Lepidopterum. Their successes are assisted by an apparent glut of new weaponry and the periodic destruction of rival hamlets and encampments by sudden explosions, the latter reportedly caused by large projectiles descending from the northeast sky fast enough to impact far ahead of their own sound. In other areas the Ś°ecehe Yśehe engage in an accelerated settlement of outstanding debts with their neighbours, a gesture jarringly at odds with the tight-fisted reputation they had suffered since their tardy tributes to the Dolmen in 1660 and celebrated accordingly. Ś°ecehe Yśehe elders refuse to be drawn on where they obtained their new wealth, or indeed their luck.
Backed by continuing supplies of arms, and following the previous year's actions in those parts of the Western RIB lying north of the 46th parallel, the Ś°ecehe Yśehe begin to exhibit renewed territorial assertiveness in areas between the 155th meridian and the Lepidopteran frontier. Whether this is a result of their contracture by third parties, or a natural consequence of new weaponry allowing them to enforce a level of clan control to which they had long aspired, is unclear - although the uncanny adherence of their operations to the aforegiven grid lines, seemingly regardless of the local topography, does not pass without remark. This new surge of activity, under the general leadership of a charismatic Black Laqi ataman named Varҳat Ҳazedinov, is distinguished by assistance from disaffected Yehudi of the Kust Vakh who survived the Dolmen purges of 1670 and migrated toward the ruined city of Litkov as Shireroth's fleeting control of the area slipped away completely. Haunted by folk memories of the destruction of Nackholm along with more recent episodes of heavy-handed reconnaissance-in-force by the Black Legions, these elements actively collude with Ҳazedinov and the Ś°ecehe Yśehe in a campaign of territorial consolidation focused along the chain of derelict Kasterburgish forts facing Lepidopterum (St. Govert, St. Otto and St. Anna), which serve as command and supply rhizomes for the establishment of a forward line of control along the 155th meridian. The campaign is assisted by an unusual quality of command coordination and signs of an enhanced reconnaissance picture, the latter apparently related to low-level overflights of trouble spots by Buzzard fighter aircraft which occasionally develop into napalm strikes. From the old Kasterburgish forts are emitted infrequent and irregular radar sweeps from ground-based air defence systems, rumoured to be the work of Yehudi Kossars from "up country".
In response to these developments Waldemar Tarjeisson was brought out of retirement to lead the Litkov Expedition with the triple objectives of repelling Black Lach incursions into the Litkov Salient, securing the assets of the Imperial Mission in Kasterburg for the Black Legions, and re-establishing contact with the surviving followers of Adin ben Shmuel, the former leader of a puppet state in Nackholm. Waldemar's request for the support of a legion is refused - with a shortage of available fuel cells cited as the cause. Instead he was instructed to assemble such forces as he could muster and to depart for Litkov by no later than the 1st day of the twelfth month of 1672. A meeting with the Board of the General Staff held on the following day only secured a token release of manpower and equipment in return for the ESB Group agreeing to underwrite costs.
|Date / Time||Place||Summary of Events & Information||Notes & Appendices|
Fall Hengist / Unternehmen Horsa
|Fall Hengist / Unternehmen Horsa|
|Commanders and leaders|
Officially commenced on 05.XIII.1672, Unternehmen Horsa was the activation of a contingency plan (Fall Hengist) that expanded the remit of the Central Banner Group of Benacia Command in Mishalan from protecting the gravimetric driveyards and assembly lines of Red Bear LLC to securing the entirety of the former dominion so as to allow the resumption of production and to prevent the loss of the site to Amokolian forces exploiting the weakness of the Imperial Regency and indifference of Elwynn.
The second phase of Fall Luikur had already seen lines of communication restored between the Mishalan garrison and the main concentration of the Black Legions around Merensk and Lywall, in spite of this the legions, reorganising after securing the Litel-Gloomburg corridor, would only play a supporting role in an operation that was primarily driven by the cooperation of Aerospace Forces and Inspectorate Troops advancing northwards and eastwards from the Bratva Fortress on the Mishalanski-Inner Benacian border.
Previously, during the course of the first year and a half of the Kalirion Fracture, the Mishalan Garrison, comprising of auxiliaries and the Second Aviation Division, had gone over too Benacia Command, securing the majority of the Imperial hardware and facilities in the region as the protocols of the first phase of Fall Luikur had been implemented with severity against those of their former comrades who refused to affirm allegiance to the Raspur Pact or else had otherwise taken too long in their deliberations on which side to join. In spite of this success, the garrison had proven unable to secure the vital gravimetric driveyards and, under continual harassment by partisans in the surrounding countryside, had been obliged to make to with making the Red Bear facilities inoperable before retiring southwards towards the fortified border zone facing onto Inner Benacia where the majority of their depots, emplacements, and forward operating bases, had been concentrated. From these positions they went on to quietly secure a zone of occupation approximately 68,688 square kilometres in area straddling the border and centred upon the minor trading post of Ketekgorod and the considerably more formidable Zitadelle Bratva, a former training encampment of the Konkordskaya Bratva, which had been expanded in the twenty years after the Auspicious Occasion to become a first tier Imperial fortification. From behind this new defensive perimeter, now resupplied by an air-bridge established from Sansabury as well as by "contributions" taken in from the local communities, the garrison had settled down to reorganise, retrain, and wait for the order to resume the offensive.
With only one still under-strength corps - that of the garrison itself - available for immediate use, supported by the aviation allocated to the Central Banner Group, the action would have to be carried out with maximum speed and aggression, with the consequences worked through in the aftermath.
|Date / Time||Place||Summary of Events & Information||Notes & Appendices|
|1672.XIII.05, 08:23||Mishagrad||Representatives of the N&H Cadre in Mishalan gain admittance to the residence of the family of the former Vicereine, and de facto ruler of the region, Aleksandra Volkova. The members of the Volkov family are swiftly informed of the intent of Benacia Command; they have 30 minutes in which to make a submit a request to the Commander-in-Chief for Mishalan's peaceable incorporation into the Unified Governorates of Benacia, on favourable terms. If no suitable answer was given within the allotted span, they alone would be responsible for the fate that befalls the city. The N&H delegation departs at 08:40, having rebuffed pleas, remonstrances, and accusations whilst curtly observing that the clock was ticking. A satellite phone with a sole preprogrammed number was left behind for their use.|
|1672.XIII.05, 08:45||Mishagrad||1st wave of 24 B-49 bombers arrive over the city flying in tight formation, wheeling above the floodplains of the Blue Elwynn. Armed N&H activists surround the Volkov residence.|
|1672.XIII.05, 08:49||Merensk||With barely minutes to spare, the frantic Volkov family uses the satellite phone to signal their complete capitulation. The Political Directorate, fielding the call, laid down the terms for collaboration; in return for subsidy, and the appointment of a member of the Volkov family as governor, the clan is to ensure cooperation of clients in all cities across Mishalan with the implementation of the new order.|
|1672.XIII.05, 08:52||Mishagrad||Obliteration bombing of Mishagrad cancelled.|
|1672.XIII.05, 09:00||Zitadelle Bratva||The Streïkrupp Wallenstein, a double-regiment strength battlegroup comprised of 106 Horjin AFVs supported by Jackalopes and Whirdlebirbs in the scouting role, crossed out of the Black Legions occupied zone, ploughing through some abandoned villages of no consequence before attaining the road eastwards to Mishagrad.|
|1672.XIII.05, 10:45||Mishagrad||Aleksandra Volkova, fortified by a mixture of codeine syrup and amphetamines, is brought to the Benacian Data Network hub and radio broadcasting centre, by a mixed force of family retainers and N&H activists. A radio proclamation declares the government overthrown and the authority of the Imperial Regency in Mishalan ended. A Republic of Mishalan is declared, with Aleksandra as President of the Provisional Government, details of which would be announced separately. Her first act, following a script provided by the Political Directorate, to invite the Black Legions to restore order.|
|1672.XIII.05, 11:20||Mishagrad||N&H activists arrive at the gates of the Palace of the Lieutenancy. The Shirekeep appointed Lieutenant, who had returned to his post after the suppression of the Verionist coup in Shirekeep, had once again decided that discretion was the better part of valour and fled without giving any orders for the direction of resistance against the rising. Bereft of leadership, the Imperial Marshals stacked their arms and were allowed to depart unharmed. The Crypteia detachment however refused to surrender. Encrypted communications traffic, monitored by the Panopticon Bureau dipping into the Benacian Data Network, suggested that the Rapid Response Group was attempting to establish contact with their parent legion.|
|1672.XIII.06, 07:00||Niu Vena||Leaflets, bearing the nationalist Mishalanski flag on one side and a exhortation to support the new "Republic" on the other, are airdropped over Niu Vena by Jackalope gravimetric transporters hovering over the settlement. A couple of instances are reported where leaflet bundles were thrown over the side without being first unfastened. Reprimands, where appropriate, were issued subsequently.|
Unternehmen Verleugnung (Operation "Disavowal") was a vaszvaþnur operation conducted against Demonsfall in the early months of 1673 by a Streïkrupp of the Eastern Banner Group following reports that a group of cultists had raised their banner in the city unopposed. The brief operation concluded successfully with the destruction of Demonsfall by aviation assets based in the Sovereign Confederation and the subsequent assassination of the pretender to the Golden Mango Throne by her own disillusioned followers.
|Date / Time||Place||Summary of Events & Information||Notes & Appendices|
|Merensk||Indication of future events||"They can consider this sufficient warning. We will not tolerate the presence of those who think that our continent is somehow their own personal smorgasbord for dabbling in the occult." – Comments by Frumst Frainan Constantine Loup publicised widely via unregulated media services.|
F-8M Shrike downed by Dandelion SAM, Upland region, 05.XV.1673
|Benacia Command||Inner Benacia|| Kalgachia
|Commanders and leaders|
|Constantine Loup||"Deep Command"|
|Casualties and losses|
Between 01.IX and 03.IX.1673, up to two hundred K°ešḥeble horsemen and machine-gunners were seen approaching the frontier of the Litel governorate, only to be driven back by the ESB-Brunïakis-Afzælt who pursued the raiders deep into the eastern portion of Inner Benacia. The pursuing ESB cuirassiers subsequently ran headlong into an ambush prepared by the Łe 'em Yśehe along the ridge of a narrow defile and were obliged to retire in some disorder, pursued in turn by Lach horsemen southwards all the way to Upper Lywall, where only the intervention of Bandersnatch gravtanks ended the rout. Opinions amongst frontier officers coalesced around a majority view that the incident had been staged by the Red Lach in an attempt to draw forces aligned to the UGB across the border to the pre-prepared killing zone. In spite of this an investigation by the General Inspectorate concluded that the incident had probably been triggered by Cedrist Mishalanski in the service of the ESB interfering with Ketherist pilgrims and traders making their way to the annual fair at a shrine that marked one of the lesser routes of the Way of the Great Replanting. Attributing the incident to religious fervour and predatory inclinations, the investigators recommended moving ESB hired formations away from the frontier until discipline and tactical nous could be improved.
Convinced, at length, that peaceful coexistence with a Laqi led state would not be viable whilst that state remained on the edge of the Central Banner Group area of operations, threatening the political and administrative centres in Lachmeren and the industrial heartlands of southern Mishalan, Loup reluctantly turned his attention back to the problem posed by the unruly tribal confederacies of Inner Benacia.
Preliminary studies for the forthcoming deployment continued to rate the diffuse military groupings of Inner Benacia as being essentially a militia rabble, entirely unsuited to modern warfare and incapable to effective resistance against properly led and equipped mechanised-airmobile force. Only two local forces gave the planning directorate pause: the first, comprised of Modanese deserters who had abandoned the colours when the IBFOR mission had become trapped in Inner Benacia, had established themselves in the densely forested Tee-al country of the eastern portion of the confederacy, south of Ketekgorod; the second, and by far more substantial, threat was posed by the Lach fighters of the so-called Black Brotherhood in the far west along the nominal frontier with the Siyacha Free State. Between these two organised forces there existed scant opposition, save for the motley gangs of clan fighters locked in a spiralling conflict for control of the shell-scarred ruins of the Dolmen at the heart of Stonetree, a hollowed out ruin of a capital for a moribund country that scarcely existed any more except in the imaginings of cartographers and FMF schedule planners.
By rights the Republic of Inner Benacia had signed its own death warrant with the heedless rebellion against Imperial oversight which had first broken out in 1670. As it happened however, the Lach brigand chieftains who had been coerced into sitting on the puppet ruling council installed by Shireroth had, after having met the appointed Imperial representative - a certain Karmen Joonai (Lady Cherokee), formed a not entirely inaccurate impression of the lethargy, delusion, and weakness which had gripped the upper echelons of the Shirerithian ruling class in the wake of the White Plague. Excited to contempt by familiarity the restive chieftains chose an opportune moment in late 1670 in which to strike down Joonai, who had languished in purdah after returning to Stonetree following her failure to secure Inner Benacian accession to the MTO. The assassination certainly appeared to have been carried out covertly, seemingly resulting in a failure of anyone in the Shirerithian garrison, the bureaucracy established by Lady Cherokee, or the Shirerithian ambassadorial staff, raising the alarm until the Inner Benacian ambassador in Shirekeep had been in a position to gain admittance to the Golden Mango Throne and was only prevented from making a present of Joonai's head to the Kaiser at practically the last moment.
Any attack into Inner Benacia would necessarily be conditioned by an awareness of a fourth hostile force working its influence upon the land – namely that of the bioengineered lifeforms that the transhumanists of Minarboria had once recklessly propagated and then introduced into the environment; through laxity at first and later by design through the perverted desire to create biotic defence zones inimical to human life. In such a manner the Minarborians, and the Kalgachi after them sought to utilise such delights as the monstrous Tee-al, the insidious dreadnettle, and the piercing shrapnel-lily to disrupt attacking forces and channelise them into kill-zones prepared by their armed forces and partisans. In spite of the fact that that these “biological” defences served to antagonise already ill-disposed neighbours whilst tying down significant forces obliged to protect the precious and scarce agricultural lands of the Oktavyan plateau against the depredations of Deep-Singer wrought apex predators, the Kalgachi appear to have made no concerted attempt at eradicating the Tee-al menace and instead are seemingly content to remain ensconced in bunker-like settlements emplaced in various mountainsides or at depths safely below that which even the most frenzied of oversized and homicidally inclined cricetid might be expected to ever dig.
Deprived of lairs in the mountains, and turned away from the coastal plains by the hunting packs of gravtanks set by the Black Legions to patrolling the ruins of the Lywall, the Tee-als instead make their burrows in the defenceless and disorganised lands of Inner Benacia, adding to the myriad horrors and miseries heaped upon the dwindling population of the region.
As early as 06.XV.1672 the Planning (D4) and Operations (D5) Directorates of Benacia Command had been instructed by the Board of the General Staff to begin preparing the deployment orders for moving air and ground units into the regions of Gloomburg and Litel, occupied in the preceding year. This, combined with the arrival into the two new Governorates of divisions of Inspectorate Troops tasked with preparing infrastructure and pacifying local communities so as to secure lines of communication, set in motion the beginning of a vast build up of forces along the eastern frontier of Inner Benacia.
These preparations had been derailed by the response of the Board of the General Staff to other emergent threats – the threat posed to Drak-Modan by the expansionist policies of the Guttuli Protectorate and the unexpected arrival of an Amokolian naval task force offshore from the island of Naudia'Diva. Various construction, manufacturing and shipbuilding projects – geared primarily towards establishing the ability of the Black Legions to project influence across the Cosimo Sea – reduced the workforce available to the Central Banner Group for base, fortification, and road construction in Litel. Worse yet was the decision, made on 20.I.1673 to the Southern Banner Group the balance of the air-to-air, surface-to-air, and surface-to-surface missiles allocated to Benacia Command by the Allied Production Matrix. The commanders of the Central Banner Group, IV Corps of the Land Forces, and the Central Tactical Air Force were stunned by the decision – and the result of the announcement was a full hour of argument and altercation, as the commanders remonstrated in vain with the Quartermaster-General. In spite of their best efforts to warn that decision would pass the initiative to insurgent forces in the "Litkov salient" the officers were unable to get Sclavenius to enlarge upon the sense and purpose of the decision.
In spite of losing out on the bidding war for manpower and hardware to their rivals in the Southern Banner Group, the Central Banner Group continued with the build up of forces in Gloomburg and Litel. The commander of IV Corps, Ermanaric Parsamyan, with the blessing of Aodh bi Uaneill, commander of the Central Banner Group, made his headquarters at Gloomburg whilst three legions – those commanded by the legates Woyrsch, Vithimiris, and Barsamian – concentrated their forces in Litel, ostensibly to maintain the lines of communication between Gloomburg and Merensk. This explanation – going against the key doctrinal point that the Black Legions themselves were not to be wasted on garrison duties best left to Inspectorate troops – was an evasion, but one that was ultimately indulged by higher command which had other matters to concern themselves with. Keen to assert their growing control over the Florencia and the Iridian Isles, the Board of the General Staff transferred the Streïkrupp “Kasha”, subsequently reorganised as the Szodanian-Uihmanz (Sovereign's Corps), to the Southern Banner Group. Whilst Uaneill could abide the loss of the special forces operatives, he steadfastly opposed any attempts at stripping away the gravimetric and armoured component of the forces under his command. The Legions had already adopted active hunting tactics, utilising heavy armour and air support, against Tee-al population of Upper Lywall, and now this aggressive method spread to Litel. Multiple sightings of individual Tee-als were recorded as separate incidents, inflating the scale of the problem reported to Merensk by an order of magnitude. Under this pretext the local force commanders were able to continue building up their Schwerpunkte facing towards the eastern regions of Inner Benacia.
On the “western front”, in the Siyacha Free State, the situation was rather different. The scarcely covert patronage afforded by the KDF to the Upland Confederation demonstrated that, in the cause of defending Lepidopterum, it was prepared to take certain risks for an objective it considered strategically essential. Benacia Command, inheriting control of the rather nonsensical frontiers bequeathed to it by the Imperial Republic, was rather less invested in defending the territorial integrity of the oddly jutting salient lodged in between the Batavian Confederation, Lepidopterum, and Inner Benacia. At the same time, whilst in no way committed to defending an arbitrary line on the map, Benacia Command was far from being entirely disinterested in the region. The loss of Nackholm, surrendered to the Batavians in an utterly casual and off-hand way by the former Imperial Government, had deeply rankled the officer corps. The betrayal of the Siyacha Free State, founded on the promise of Imperial support against the return of Voortrekkers to the region, was considered to be a stain upon the collective honour of the military caste. Those Siyacher collaborators, left stateless and homeless after the loss of their Yehudi theocracy to the Batavians, had drifted across the old Imperial frontier and – after finding scant common cause with the Yehudim kossars of Inner Benacia who regarded them as little more than traitors – had settled, despondently, around the abandoned Kasterburger settlement of Litkov.
After briefly considering the evacuation and abandonment of the “Litkov Salient”, Benacia, Command ultimately decided that – in the Siyacher – they had the semblance of an Inner Benacian national community around whom an identity, for such individuals as could be salvaged from the impending destruction of Lachdom, could be wrought, and a political system – steeped in the worship of the highest divinity and reverence for authority – amenable to the world view and immediate political requirements of the General Staff. The exiled Prince, Adin ben Shmuel, and his dwindling band of Volhyrian kossars, were accordingly sought out and approached by the Political Directorate of Benacia Command.
A minimal force, sufficient to turn back Laqi raids and shoot down the occasional migratory Tee-al, was all that was ultimately required. To that end two understrength divisions, totalling scarcely eleven thousand men, were detached from the Lywall Division of the General Inspectorate and dispatched, under the command of the aged by still canny Waldemar Tarjeisson – brother of the martyred Kaiser Dominus – to secure Litkov and keep open lines of communication between that ruined city and the ports of Lower Lywall. So long as that objective was secure the fact that the Black Brotherhood of the Lach had occupied a sliver of land that, by curious chance, followed exactly the course of the border between Lepidopterum and the reconstituted Siyacha Free State, there was scant occasion for concern. Tarjeisson certainly had no intention of smashing his force to pieces by assaulting prepared positions – the existence of which furnished further implicit proof of the extent to which the Upland Confederation was receiving tutelage from third parties – in the absence of any meaningful artillery support. Instead the Litkov and Siyacha divisions prepared their own defensive positions – a forward abatis line of felled trees and earthworks immediately parallel to the Lach defensive positions and a second line of strong points and machine-gun nests in greater depth further west – and sought to wait out in comparative comfort and ease the wait before the storm broke.
The opening move
The decision to attack in winter had been made in the potentially vain hope that the Tee-al menace, which was rated a higher threat than that posed by organised human opposition, would be somewhat mollified by a seasonal inclination towards dormancy. At five in the morning on the fifth day of the fifteenth month in the year 1673, three-hundred and thirty four artillery pieces, supported by two-hundred and fifty-five mortars, began firing against Lach encampments along a 780 km front stretching from the ruins of Novodolorsk to Benacia Hamlet. Laqkozaki brigands, delighting in the false appellation of border guards for their habitual shakedown of travellers, awoken by the clanking and thrumming of gravimetric engines, were gunned down as they emerged from their shelters, running half-naked through drifts of snow and billowing smoke. The Lach who plied their vile trades along the border with the former Shirerithian Imperium reeled under the succession of hammer blows rained down upon them in swift succession. Frantically, the despairing frontier guards repeated urgent appeals over the radio for aid in every language of Inner Benacia – Lach, Yehudi, Tellian, the rest - addressed to every faction in their internecine conflict – the Brothers of the Blood Hand, the Honoured Banners, the People's Shomrim, even the Upland Confederation. The messages continued to be broadcast – in clear – right up until the moment that legionary stormtroopers breached the compound perimeters and rolled sulphur grenades into the radio huts followed by a burst of carbine fire from black shrouded gas-masked figures to silence the gasping wretches dying within.
There would be little that those beyond the threatened frontier could do immediately however, for in the Upland Confederation and around the ruinous city of Stonetree (Bagegeniśort) the long pent up fury of the Black Legions was unloaded on the unfortunates of Inner Benacia by an entire aerial armada comprising a full third of the air assets of every type available to the Central Tactical Air Force. The old Kasterburgish forts of St. Govert, St. Otto and St. Anna, re-purposed as forward operating bases and supply hubs for the Upland Confederation by their 'benefactors' received special attention – three squadrons, comprising seventy-two B-49 bombers in total, were assigned to the task of the reduction of each. Ahead of them flew four squadrons comprised of sixty-four F-8M Shrikes in a schwarm of schwarms. Each fighter being equipped with four of the S-2 missiles of which three in each load out was configured for the ground-attack strike mission. The remaining S-2 of each load-out was configured for the air to air as a contingency against the unlikely prospect of Buzzards rising out of Kalgachia or Kasterburg to contest the Black Legions control of the sky on this day of days. The grimmest task of the morning fell to the sixteen Nereids assigned to dropping sensor probes along the roads and trails leading away from Novodolorsk. All movements subsequently detected, whether foolhardy fighters rushing to the aid of the beleaguered Lach of the frontiers or their more sensible brethren rushing headlong away from the fighting, would attract the attention of a pair of Nereids tasked with raking the columns of despairing humanity with their 35 mm rotary autocannon turrets, creating over subsequent hours a highway of death strewn with wrecked vehicles, the mangled carcasses of draught animals, and the eviscerated corpses of men, women, and children.
Four legions, the 1st, the 2nd, the 3rd, and the 8th, were striking deep into the eastern regions of Inner Benacia, the outer assault axes converging in such a manner as to catch the area between Novodolorsk to Benacia Hamlet in an envelopment whilst the inner assault axes deployed so as to encircle the two ruined settlements. Behind them divisions of inspectorate troops, drawn from the garrisons of Lachmeren and Mishalan, fanned out along the line of march – seeking to close the gaps left by the advancing gravtanks and armoured infantry. Inevitably there were hold ups. Seven hundred-and-sixty support vehicles intermingled with the three-hundred and twenty-four Horjin CV56s competing for priority on the few decent roads to have survived decades of abandonment. Nonetheless, by 15:00 on the day of the attack Hermann bi Salza's 8th Legion, followed by security, area defence, and supply elements of the Lachmeren Division had worked their way around the edge of the ruins of Novodolorsk, and now began their advance into the forested country beyond. To their chagrin and eventual fury they found that the Red Lach defending those woods with tenacity had been bolstered by Modanese deserters, left in the country after the Inner Benacian Revolution, armed with the same Polybolos and Wren machine-guns as they themselves used. Benacia Command had expected those Lach caught within the Kessel to fall back into the former cities and make their stand there where they could be isolated and reduced by bombardment and starvation, instead their haul of captives within the encirclement, beyond those caught in the initial onrush, was pitiful, and they found their enemies awaiting them in prepared positions concealed within the forest canopy.
Nonetheless, the concerted ground and air attacks of the Black Legions had thrown the rear areas of that portion of Inner Benacia ruled by the Red Lach into uproar and confusion. Unless the Brothers of the Blood Hand, the main grouping of the Red Lach, could re-establish contact with the Defence League of Benacia and the People's Shomrim, and call in reinforcements it would only be a matter of time before the attacking legions could batter their way through the main defensive belt. Already, the Bandersnatch gravtanks of the 8th Legion's cuirassier regiment, showing scant regard for defensive earthworks formed of felled trees, sharpened stakes, and steep-sided anti-tank ditches, had levitated above tree-top level and, in a manner reminiscent of the armoured spearheads that had prowled the Jingdaoese defensive perimeter around King's Worth during the War of Lost Brothers, roamed at will over the heads of the Lach cowering beneath the forest canopy. Mindful of the limitations exposed by those same gravtanks operating without infantry support, a few of these Bandersnatches carried, in a hair-raising expedient, infantry machine-gunners harnessed and fastened to the rear dorsal armour plating of the tanks. This would give rise to one surreal moment during the invasion when, on the second day, a squadron of five Bandersnatches on a tree-hopping dawn patrol were “bounced” by a trio of T-2 Saeqehs piloted by Modanese renegades in the pay of the Lach. The luckless legionaries, eight or so riding strapped to the back of each gravtank, were forced to fire back in self-defence as best they could whilst hanging on for dear life, as the Bandersnatches themselves spun about and angled upwards in an attempt to bring the tank's coaxial turreted machine-gun to bear on the attackers.
In response to the emergent aerial onslaught against the Upland Confederation, the usual flight of four Kalgachi C-61 Buzzards assigned to support operations in the area were scrambled from Gravelbottom, only to be hastily recalled once the size of the incoming formation became apparent to the sensor feeds of Kalgachia's air defence command rhizomes. Whilst the occpants of the three old forts were alerted in time to begin a hasty evacuation and dispersal to the surrounding wilds before the bombers' arrival, they were caught on open ground by the advance shwarms of F-8M Shrikes which inflicted heavy damage on kossars, wagons and panicked horses alike. The Uplanders' ruling Ataman, Varҳat Ҳazedinov, narrowly escaped the strike on Fort St. Otto where he had been attending a briefing - nearby he rallied the crew of a fleeing Dandelion SAM unit at carbine point to unload their pack horses, reassemble their equipment and engage the Shrikes as they made repeated attack passes. Supplied with missiles ferried on the shoulders of other kossars from a nearby munitions dump, the crew claimed four kills and three probables before the munitions dump was struck by an incoming S-2 missile, killing or injuring all but two of the launch crew and reducing all further resistance to small arms fire. The surviving air defence troops of other forts, between Dandelion SAMs and Sciarid MANPADS, would go on to claim ten kills and eight probables between them; those lost to obliteration by the subsequent bomber wave were, alas, unable to offer kill estimates of their own. Benacia Command would subsequently acknowledge the loss of seven Shrikes on the first day of operations without specifying the cause of their destruction whilst, quietly, passing notification back to the Allied Production Matrix that a further ten airframes had been judged to be beyond economic repair. No statement was made concerning the fate of the pilots, indicating that a potential search and rescue operation was in the offing.
Ҳazedinov's request on an encrypted radio channel for support by the KDF's long-range Burdock SAMs out of Lepidopterum was, to his horror, denied on the authority of KDF Deep Command itself who advised only that "enemy ground dispositions do not justify engagements from Kalgachi territory at this stage". To this they added the vexing instruction that Ҳazedinov inform friendly forces in the area that such support had been given for the sake of maintaining a pro-Kalgachi disposition, and that an immediate situation report be passed about the post-strike integrity of those defensive lines outside the shattered forts.
Deep Command then contradicted this apparent ambivalence by issuing full combat mobilisation orders to five KDF line divisions (the Fire Division, the 3rd Katarsis, the 4th Jollity, the 6th Bergburg and the 8th Oktavyan), the entire Ludd ballistic missile network and rail-mounted artillery of the Fortress Division and, most spectacularly, the whole of Reserve Army North. The movement of such an immense force in a general southwesterly direction from their home garrisons, to be fully underway within forty-eight hours, required the suspension of civil traffic on all rail routes and major highways in Kalgachia's central and northwestern reaches. Whilst the line divisions crashed out of their underground garrisons in relatively good order as trained and some 294,000 reservists began the slightly clumsier affair of muster and kit issuance in their drill halls, the airmobile Fire Division established a forward presence among the heaps of rubble previously known as forts St. Govert, St. Otto and St. Anna with the objectives of salvaging and dispersing to cover whatever personnel and assets had survived the bombing. In the following wave came the Whirdlebirb squadrons of the line divisions, ferrying forward the latter's thirty-six batteries of modularised Burdock SAM systems and their missiles as underslung loads - the majority of such units destined for heavy camouflage in a non-emitting state to replace the coverage of live units as and where they were destroyed. In woods, coverts and thickets, electronic warfare operators were assigned to erect a multitude of false-elevation spots with natural materials to confound ground-mapping radars, interspersed with clusters of assorted infrared sources, generator ignition coils and other spurious curiosities.