Monday, August 29, 2011

Koreshi Chronicles – Chapter IV : Escalation

Conflict escalation was a reality of war. Whatever theory you espoused about the casus belli, whatever stance you had on jus ad bellum, one aspect of military theory was incontestable no matter your school of thought: without explicit rules of engagement, escalation devolves into chaos.

Major Stone had already been in his dark sub-basement office for several hours that day when the first reports came in from SecBuro about a major disturbance on the Strip. As more facts trickled in, it became apparent that a match had been struck and a conflagration was about to erupt. There were eight dead bodies at the scene, all members of the Forzi cartel. According to one remaining wounded element of that squad as well as reports from eyewitnesses, they had come to kidnap a middle-aged patron of Rosies coffee shop.

Stone had accesses the local CCTV and now had visual on a three-person extraction team that had intercepted the kidnapers and taken the would-be victim out of the fray. SecBuro analysis on the ground also pointed to at least one sniper supporting the extraction team. Finally, cameras and eyewitness reports indicated one of the kidnapers had been himself abducted and removed from the scene of carnage.

Major Stone sat back in his creaky chair and rubbed his bald head. This was highly unusual. Organised crime like the Forzi didn’t operate in this way and certainly didn’t sanction such actions in Port Arthur lightly. The Forzi again, Stone thought to himself. He had been researching them for the past 72 hours because of trouble earlier in the Caravansery. His analysis had shown that the Forzi had temporarily replaced the Granis as muscle in Badland Caravan Guild operations in Port Arthur. This was new, unusual and unsettling: destabilizing the balance between organised crime syndicates was always volatile. His initial theories about a crime war between those two factions had been disproven, but another source had revealed that the Forzi had entered into a proxy fight with the Kolson clan. The Kolsons were top dogs in Wounded Knee; their reach and ambition was unrivalled, at least until now. He was pondering this when two more pieces of information streamed into his console.

One: The target of the kidnapping had been confirmed as Artoor Vovelle. Major Stone scratched his nose. The idealistic, troublemaking misfit professor was uncomfortably close to GREL extremist factions, but moreover he was the husband of Dr. Henriette Vovelle. Major Stone remembered at least a dozen attempts on her life in the last five cycles, but her husband had always been a bystander. Could this be GREL related, or was this in some way connected to Dr. Henriette Vovelle’s research, Stone wondered.

Two: More fighting had broken out approximately a kilometre south of the Strip. Artoor Vovelle was in protective custody with SecBuro and another Forzi body had been found, but the streets and alleys had been lit up in a fierce firefight. Casualty reports were coming in; several people had been wounded by the collapse of a two-story building in the northern GREL quarter. Thus far none of the parties in this fight had been killed or captured. Or, thought Stone, at least no bodies had been left behind. As a result, the GREL quarter was bubbling with tension and nearing a point of revolt.

District Chief Beria didn’t like it when Stone stuck his nose into SecBuro maters, but if the Major was right, Port Arthur was about to become a testing ground for system theory and escalation was inevitable. Major Stone typed a quick communiqué to SecBuro. Artoor Vovelle understood the theory behind war better than most, but that wasn’t why Major Stone was on his way to SecBuro to interrogate him. In a very real and pragmatic sense, Vovelle was near the heart of this brewing war.

Once at war, the only way to determine proportionality is to understand the stakes. Jus ad bellum is replaced by jus in bellum, and professor Vovelle held the key to understanding whatever was unfolding and, hoped Stone, to end the positive feedback of escalating violence.

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