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WAR DIARIES OF A SINNER Chapter 8
Monday, October 30, 2006

Book wasn't born a shepherd, he was born Brian M. Yong, an ex-colonel surprisingly, and unwillingly, brought out of retirement by the Alliance to fight in the Unification War.----Back in action on Three Hills, Yong is given a hard time by the Independents.


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Several months had passed since Yong had been in hospital. The rehab had taken a bit longer than anticipated but by the end of January 2508 he was reporting back for duty. During his incapacitation his regiment had seen some action without him, taken part on some skirmishes along the border, especially on Verbena. Naturally there had been some more losses, also among the officers. Yong was genuinely happy to see several of his junior officers from the operation on Sihnon still alive, among them Captains Richards and Mendes, and telling from their warm greetings when he walked in the staff room the first day they felt similar too. They actually offered Yong to call them by their first names, Ely and Mike, but he kindly rejected the offer, insisting on maintaining some sense of protocol, at least as long as they were still at the base. Other new captains had joined their ranks, including former lieutenant Clarin Dao recently promoted to captain. The young woman was one of the few females in the 37th. She had fought on Sihnon and lost most of her comrades. Underneath her sense of duty to the Alliance was a hardly concealed desire for revenge. There were also two new graduates from the Sihnon War College who had also been put under his command, both very unexperienced. Their attitude towards the Unification War revealed a certain arrogance towards the realities of fighting the Browncoats, either a result of thorough War College indoctrination, or sheer naivety, most likely a mixture of both. Nevertheless, they were quite different in character. Captain Wesley Venner made no secret of his privileged background and his disdain for the common soldier. He seriously believed the Independents could be beaten within a couple of weeks if the right tactics were employed and a maximum of troops deployed, which in reality of course did not exist. The boy had written a paper on it and seemed to think his presence at the front would assure the implementation of his genius plan. The fact that he refused to be bought out of the compulsory active service by his parents showed a level of stupidity on top of arrogance and naivety. The second candidate was more of a mystery. Captain Hu Dangall did not talk much, only rarely shared his views in tactical discussion. On the other hand when he said something it tended to be well-argued and insightful. Despite coming straight from War College, which had never sat comfortably with Yong in general, Dangall actually seemed to be comparatively competent. Apart from the new leadership material, there had also been a turnover in the lower ranks. Those who had been recruits on Sihnon were now the veterans of the regiment so to speak. The war time draft had swept a rather odd assortment of people into the regiment, a lot of them not cut out even for basic training, not to mention combat. The most of them were still kids. Yong and his new and old officers had spent most of the early year training these people up to combat standard, but now they were sweeping into orbit of their new objective, Three Hills.

The air roared outside as they broke atmo. From above the little moon looked actually quite picturesque, clouds circling over lakes dotting the otherwise red-brown surface. This gave Three Hills a kind of checkered look. Too bad it were only saltwater lakes, and the swathes of land inbetween mostly desert and badlands. Well, Yong thought sarcastically, having no other values or vital resources to speak of, Three Hills must have an enormous strategic value.

The troops carriers touched ground in a plain with sparse vegetation, mostly dry grass and bushes. Yong’s 37th Regiment of the Persephone 3rd Airborne Infantry Division swarmed into several directions taking higher positions from which to observe the surrounding area. While they secured the landing area, more transports set down and unloaded more personell and some heavy equipment, especially a large assortment of rollers. No surprise there. Open terrain, mostly sand and rock, was the perfect setting for the manoeuvring of tank divisions. It was every general’s dream, but maybe that had to do with the fact that open, sandy terrain reminded these men so much of their sand table strategizing, and deluded them into believing their plans could be put in practice one to one as long as there was enough sand. By the end of the next the army was delpoyed and ready to move towards the enemy which had retreated to the only larger settlement on Three Hills deserving of a name of its own, Apachin. With far over 100,000 Alliance soldiers having landed they outnumbered the Browncoats almost two to one, so victory was not an “if” but a “when”. Of course that was leaving some factors ot of the equasion, such as the nature of the terrain and the Browncoats familiarity with it, as Yong and his men, and also his superior officers who had planned the operation, were soon to find out.

According to their recon intelligence the Independents had turned Apachin, which lay on a steep cliff on a canyon edge, into a formidable fortress. Formidable concerning their limited resources. They had destroyed all access routes but one which led up in serpentines from the canyon bottom and could be easily defended from above, even by dropping stones if need be. A couple of mortars and anti aircraft artillery had been put in place there to prevent attacks from above. The commanding Alliance general believed that a siege of the town would do the trick so he let his troops encircle the town and start to shell it with artillery. Luckily their newer equipment enabled them to outshoot the Browncoats. On the other hand, the encirclement meant that their troops had to be stretched rather far. Even given their superiority in numbers, Yong thought that put them at a serious disadvantage to surprise attacks. Moreover, the encirlement had to be from all sides and that meant positioning some troops on the other side of the canyon virtually dividing their troops. A major flaw in the planning stages soon manifested itself. The commanding officers, meaning the general and his aides, assumed that all enemy troops had indeed retreated to Apachin but that was not the case. On top of that the locals provided considerable support to the Independents, both materially and tactically. They knew every stone in the area and they knew how to let terrain and weather work for them. The Browncoats’ military expertise combined with that local knowledge proved a major obstacle to success. Whenever duststorms swept the area, which was fairly often, the Independents used the weather’s cover to mount a lightning sortie out of Apachin or attack the Alliance troops from other hideouts behind the Alliance lines. In one instant, which Yong and most other officers could only watch unfolding a small group of Browncoats and locals on horseback and with jeeps lured away a number of rollers and infantry from their positions under the cover of a duststorm. The Alliance troops ended up stuck in a dead end canyon and were then wiped out from above.

The day after this incident Yong got orders to take out one of the guerilla nests a few miles west of Apachin. His regiment was accompanied by two rollers and two armoured vehicles. They passed through a rolling countryside replete with raggedy sandstone formations the wind had cut from the rock. The companies were spread out a little but not too much so they would not overextend. Yong’s eyes scanned the area for signs of an ambush but then gave it up. This whole moon was a partisan’s paradise, so many hills, cliffs, canyons that every Browncoat was spoilt for choice where to lay an ambush. Despite their high level of alert the attack in late afternoon came as a surprise. A small group of Browncoats and local militias, about two dozen, had been hiding behind a dune to Yong’s right flank, all on horseback but with their mounts pressed against the ground with them. All of a sudden they broke cover, galloped a few yards towards them and hurled a shower of grenades at Yong’s men, then broke and fled. The effect of the grenades was devastating, some of them exploding while still falling and shedding their deadly shrapnel on the soldiers. Yong instinctively dived into the ground. He felt his helmet being grazed by a piece of shrapnel. When he stood up he saw about forty of his troops down, either dead or seriously wounded. A couple of soldiers who had stood further away from the blasts were shooting at the fleeing riders. Two of them were gunned down before reaching the safety beyond the ridge but the rest escaped. The rollers however turned into their direction and went after them in pursuit.

Yong quickly went on the com: “Abort puruit. Repeat. Abort pursuit at once.”

He heard a muffled bang and the moaning of steel from the other side, then suddenly screams. Waving the nearest platoons to follow him, he stormed the ridge over which the riders and the rollers had disapperared. The other side was mayhem. The first roller had apparently driven over some kind of explosive device placed in the ground. The second had then fallen into the pit created by the explosion. Bits of the first roller and its crew were spread around the explosion site. Men, screaming in pain and fear, were trying to crawl out of the pit. Two armed boys not in uniform, but obviously militias, rode back to the site of the explosion hurling a firebomb into the pit although the rollers and the soldiers were already burning. Yong raised his rifle, aimed and shot them both. Then he hurried down to the site. At a closer look he saw that the boys he had just shot were sixteen at the most. He was angry, at himself for shooting these kids, but even more angry at them who had forced him to do it. Yong called in the medics of his regiments to see if they could still do something, anything for the roller crews. All they could do for them was give them morphine to ease the pain, but they could not save them. It was starting to get dark so Yong ordered the officers to look for a suitable camp site where they could sit through the night.

---------------------------------------------

Disclaimer: For the events of the war I am loosely orienting myself on the unofficial timeline on the Firflywiki. The ‘Verse is of course Joss Whedon’s. But Book’s alter ego Brian Yong is essentially my creation.

------------------------------------------- Comments are always appreciated.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, November 1, 2006 8:45 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh damn...that was some mighty harsh back and forth the Browncoats brought down! Definitely gives one a healthy respect for guerrilla warfare:(

BEB


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