Friday, March 11, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles: Chapter I - Battle of Baja

Winter 1916, Western Karaq Wastes

Port Baja was one of the three biggest cities of the Badlands, along with it’s neighbour Peace River and, far on the other side of the deserts and mountains, Prince Gable.

It hosted a population of between two and three hundred thousand. Established in TN 740, it was linked to the rest of Terra Nova by the Alpha Maglev and boasted the only equatorial spaceport.

Early settlers had enjoyed the relative ease of digging wells; tapping the vast resources of the MacAllen network of underground rivers. Like many other early colonies on Terra Nova there were vast mineral resources to exploit. Another reason for its relative success as a Badlands city was that its location, built up in one of the twists of the serpentine Pacifica mountains, afforded it clement winds dropping down into the valley which kept daytime temperatures a merciful 10 degrees bellow average for that latitude.

As trade grew so did on Terra Nova between the poles, so did Baja. It was the only major town, then city on the Alpha Maglev between Gardenna in the HA south and Rapid City in the UMF north. When Paxton became a global player in arms, the Baja-PR spur of the Maglev only added to the opportunities.

The space port was a mixed blessing. It both represented an allure of possibilities and the memory of betrayal. After 1455 the port stopped holding the same import. With the departure of the Human Concordat, the port was largely unused. Apart from the sporadic gate ship visit every 10 to 15 cycles, the port no longer served for space travel, turning more to atmospheric flights when the poles weren’t at war and the sand storms permitted. Still, it lent character to the venerable outpost and Bajans were proud of their desert marvel, the jewel of the Badlands. They had none of the class strife of Peace River and kept out of global politics, preferring to mine, trade goods and grow food in their hydroponic farms. More than twenty oasis towers dotted the Baja valley, clustered around the space port and the maglev station. The Trips stadium was designed by the renowned 10th century architect Vonaj Bergoyan and featured on a number of holo-cards of the city. Covered walkways shadowing the narrow streets nestled between oasis towers coupled with the lower than average daytime temperatures meant that one could see people milling about in the core districts at all times of day, even during noon siesta.

It had none of the pomp of the proud Republic or the sensuality of the Mekongese cities. There was no air of mysticism like in Massada or venerable majesty as in the Northern Lights metropolis's. But Baja had a charm and a character and Badlanders who lived there felt in some way as though they has something special.


That feeling of being special morphed into gratitude for being spared when in 1913 great drop-ships streaked through the sky, trails of ionised atmosphere burning tails of woe in their wake. The Western basin fell quickly, unable to compete against the overwhelming swarms of Earthers and their vat-bred monstrosities; the GRELs. The gratitude gave way to survivors guilt as the planet learnt of the speed and violence of the onslaught. Most of the Badlands surrendered quickly before the 400 000 soldiers of the Colonial Expeditionary Force. Those that did not learned a horrible lesson from the example of Mt Kiev as the CEF wiped it our for resisting its hegemony.

By 1914 the southern industrial cores had been severely damaged by orbital bombardment but the ground advance of the CEF had slowed as they met stronger and stronger resistance in the Mekong jungles at the hands of gorilla tactics and in the United Mercantile federation as sacrifice and despair fused into terrible resolve and the northern forces resorted to using tactical nuclear devices on their own soil to slow the onslaught of the CEF. Peace River declared neutrality early in the invasion, unable to field a force of its own to defend the city state and industrial production, it claimed no political part in the war. Bajans were both disgusted by the cowardice and relived by the pragmatism of the decision. With no reason to attack Peace River just yet, the CEF could concentrate on the fevered battles they were waging to the west of the Pacifica mountains and Bajan could continue to count their blessings.

1915 was a long and horrible cycle. Pitched battles were fought for every meter of ground. The north and south had met in secret and formed an alliance to work against their shared threat. An important milestone in the conflict was the moment when the allied forces of the north and the south were able to place interdictor satellites in space which played merry havoc on the CEF resupply ships. In the Badlands, small forces were waging a guerrilla war on the CEF supply lines, forcing the invading force to maintain a rear guard against these resistance fighters. Port Baja was a hive or activity, brokering deals between the North and the South (though less than Westphalia) and acting as a clearing house for weapons and supplies leaking out of Peace River for the Badlands. Every major resistance force has a contact in Baja and the city continued to live on in an awkward form of tranquility as the rest of the planet fought tooth and nail.

The CEF advanced slowed still further until it was forced to reverse its trend and begin to retreat. Short on supplies and fresh troops, now that their orbital transports were cut off, the CEF planned a bold attack to regain the initiative. If they could open up a new front against the poles with fresh troops, they could execute a pincer maneuver or even, using their blitz tactics and hover tanks, make a dash for the capital cities of the alliance themselves. The drop had to accommodate large fast moving ships who would be forced to run the defending satellite gauntlet, the drop also had to be outside the main theatre of operations so West Base was out of the question. There was only one equatorial spaceport.

On 36 Winter 1916, a force of 80 000 fresh CEF troops ran the blockade of satellites in orbit and flash-dropped into Port Baja. The local police did not even bother to put up a fight, the city surrendered immediately under the pressure of Colonel Agrippa`s forces. As the CEF readied forces for their attack on the South, Anders Von Breslau, Field Marshal for the Allied forced saw the threat this posed and how Terra Nova could fall with this one deployment. He ordered the south to send a force as soon as possible to safeguard their exposed border. The Republican Legion Noir answered the call with furious alacrity. Within 7 days the commander of the force, Kenishi Tanaka, has rolled over the advance guard of the CEF force and before three weeks were out, had bottled up the CEF invasion force in Baja. Col Agrippa barely had time to consider a push north when the 2nd Western Armoured division cut off her route. The outlying portions of Port Baja were quickly levelled by heavy fighting. By late Spring the CEF had dug into the core district inside the 4th ring road. They held 20 oasis towers and the space port in the center of the city. Col Agrippa billeted her troopswith civilians, parked her hover-tanks in oasis towers and maintained a heavy shelling on the outer edges of the city to discourage assault while she planned her strategy for breaking out. Her engineers were on the verge of providing her with the ability to convert her orbital landers into vehicles that could shuttle her troops through the atmosphere for short distance, allowing her to hop over the WFP and Republican forces hemming her in. She had only to wait for a break in the sandstorm.

Elements of the Baja resistance were able to convey this information to Tanaka who had no choice but to drive his forces and those of Brigadier Lang Regina`s armoured division into the heart of the densely populated core of the city. The Terra Novan commanders knew the casualties would be appallingly high; but they would be less so than if they had levelled the city, civilian population and all. What followed was the fiercest fighting in all of the war. Troops went from street to street, door to door. Gears met hover-tanks in Baja`s narrow streets. During the summer of 1916, Port Baja lost just under half of its civilian population and the city was laid to ruin. In the end, Agrippa`s force of 80 000 shock troops was annihilated, no unit larger than a platoon escaped the slaughter. But it came at a dreadful price. Amid the ruins of Baja - which has stood for over a millenia - over 100 000 Terra Novans lay dead in the rubble.

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