Aristeia: Colonial War- Hero of Cardine

Many of the the stories for the Colonial War originated as pieces to help me flesh out background and side characters who appear in the trilogy. Most of them don’t get fleshed out all that much in the books, as they partake in the story but its not about them. So I often wrote out a little outline, or occasionally a full short story, to help me to get to know them. This story is about Celris Numba, commanding general of the Union armed forces.

Hero of Cardine

16 Galactic Standard Years before the events of Aristeia: Revolutionary Right

 

Marshall Celris Numba stood outside the meeting hall.  Dressed in his finest military uniform he quietly fumed at being made to wait. A Camari of his status should not wait on provincials.

When the doors to the room finally opened, Numba raised his eyestalks and made as much of his body go rigid as he could manage. His now dark red rubbery skin didn’t have the bright sheen of a younger Camari, and his old body wouldn’t be able to remain rigid for long, but he wanted to make an impression. Afterall, he was here to save these people, they needed to be impressed.

Marching forward with stiff limbs, Numba approached the slightly raised seat of Governor Yinar.  He dipped his eyestalks in salute, the man may be a provincial but he was still a governor. Yinar returned the gesture and then spoke.

“May I present Marshall Numba of the Grand Army of theCamariRepublic.” Yinar said in a booming voice. “He is here at the head of a contingent of our finest soldiers. They have come to help us repel the invadingAlliance.”

Numba turned to acknowledge the rest of the assembled ruling council of Cardine. He tried to hide his disgust with them. They had been unable to fight off theAllianceby themselves so he had been called to clean up their mess.

TheCamariRepublichad succeeded in staying out of the heaviest fighting during this Colonial War between theAllianceand Confederacy. Nominal allies with the Confederacy, Numba had participated in a few battles, but this would be the first to occur on the Republic’s only colony in the sector, Cardine. Even though the Confederacy was now losing the war, he felt a smug sense of satisfaction at the idea of defeating theAlliancewhen the supposedly much more powerful Confederacy had failed.

“Thank you, Governor, for that warm introduction.” Numba began, “It is a great honor to be here.  The Republic takes care of her people and I will use all of my considerable talent to ensure that no moreAlliancesoldiers soil our shores.”

Unfortunately, despite his pledge, his orders were merely to hold theAllianceback from taking any more of the colony. Unknown to most, peace talks were underway between all sides. But he couldn’t share that with the locals.

Before Numba could begin his prepared speech, he had limited it to fifteen minutes, one of the council members stood up, “Marshall, do you honestly believe you can repel theAllianceforces with what little troops you brought?”

“Yes, I do.” Numba answered honestly, suppressing the annoyance he felt at being interrupted.

His answer didn’t seem to instill much confidence in the assembled council members. Numba considered taking the opportunity to begin his prepared speech but decided to improvise. One of the most important tasks of any officer was showing confidence and assuring the civilians of your competence. You didn’t get to become amarshallbecause of your tactical skill. Most of the senior commanders relied on younger officers eager to advance for tactics. Numba had the skills for both.

“The Alliance is over reaching by attacking us here. They may have slapped the Dotran back at Ailleroc but that doesn’t mean every world in this sector is theirs for the taking.  They have yet to face a Camari army in a direct engagement. They have yet to face me.

“This fight will be one you read about in history texts hundreds of years from now. It will mark the turning point for theCamariRepublic. No longer will we be overshadowed by theAllianceand Confederacy. We will become the next super power. By stopping theAllianceinvasion of our home we show them that even though they out number us, and may have more advanced technology, it doesn’t matter. The Camari will still beat them. I will make them realize the error of coming here.”

An enthusiastic clapping began from the council members. For an improvised speech Numba felt pretty good about it. He almost started to believe some of his own rhetoric.

***

Despite the urgency of Numba’s mission, it was several days before he set foot in the forward army command post. Cardine may be a backwater compared to the core worlds of the Republic, but protocols still had to be followed. Governor Yinar led him on a tour of the planets major cultural hotspots and several parties hosted by the biggest and riches people on the planet.

When the tour finally ended, Numba felt relieved. Not because he had any strong desire to get to work, but because it had been a chore feigning politeness all the time. The people here were so proud of such small accomplishments. While he’d never stooped low enough to see one, he felt sure that better performances could have been seen at community theaters anywhere on Camar than any of the big productions that he’d seen here.

But now that his duty as guest to the people of Cardine was behind him, he had to focus on the task at hand; halting theAllianceadvance. His troops had already been deployed, adding to Cardine’s own defenders. Even with protocol, had anything significant happened since his arrival he would have been called to the command center. The fact that he hadn’t made him sure his job here would be a level of simplicity far below his capabilities.

When he arrived at the command bunker, Numba was greeted by an officer who identified himself as Lieutenant Romn Teev, his newly appointed aide de camp. Numba let Teev lead him into the bunker and to the main room. Several other officers filled the expansive room. When he came in, they all stopped and saluted with their eyestalks. He returned the gesture and walked immediately to the main table.

“Lieutenant, give me an overview ofAllianceforces and how our troops are deployed.” Numba said, wanting to see what Teev would do.

Teev’s eyestalks quivered for a second at the order but he steadied them quickly. Moving toward the table, he activated a holographic map. The light lit up his already bright red skin, highlighting his youth.  It made Numba think of is own skin; it had begun the process of darkening more than a decade ago. Before long it would be a deep, dark red, signaling his extreme age.

“We have troops deployed around all the major cities. TheAllianceappears to be ignoring the smaller settlements. Their main force is here, in a valley between two cities. They’ve captured the planetary defense guns located nearby. Our only approach to them is through the valley. As long as they control those guns we can’t get at them from the air.” Teev began.

His voice started out quiet and his pitch wobbled but the longer he spoke the more confident it became, “The Alliance has been staging probing attacks against Dorscha’s defenses. We think they are gearing up for an attack.”

“You said we think they are gearing up for an attack. Tell me, Lieutenant, is that what you think or what your superiors think?” Numba pressed. He needed to see how well Teev responded to uncomfortable questions.

Looking nervous again, Teev did a remarkable job in not casting a look at the higher ranked officers in the room. After only a few seconds hesitation he said, “That was the general consensus of command staff.”

Numba suppressed the urge to smile. A good answer, it was undoubtedly true and did address Numba’s question, but without revealing anything. This boy might make a good leader someday. He pressed further, “And what do you think, Lieutenant?”

Teev’s eyestalks wavered for a second and then went rigid, “My personal assessment is that theAllianceis merely toying with us. If they were going to attack they would have done so by now. They have a strong defensive position and with control of the defense battery can wait out the arrival of more troops.”

Nodding, Numba let himself smile now. So far he was impressed with the young lieutenant. Being named his aide meant someone thought highly of his abilities. Aides were one of the positions that came available to young officers based entirely on merit and not political position. Teev was so far living up to that role.

“I agree.” Numba said. That should mitigate any resentment of the older officers might now direct at Teev for disagreeing with them. It also happened to be true.

Looking more at the map Numba started to think his job would be incredibly easy. If theAlliancewanted to stay in the valley, and his orders were merely to defend the cities, then everyone could get what they wanted by doing nothing.

The more he looked at the map, the clearer an idea of how to attack theAlliance’s position formed. They were protected from the air and a ground battle would be ugly. But for Camari, those weren’t the only options available.

A river ran through the valley on its way to the oceans. At this point in the planet’s seasons it was low and had a relatively slow current. With Camari’s amphibious nature, Numba felt confident he could just walk an entire company in under the river and theAlliancewouldn’t even blink.

The river wouldn’t be an ideal point to unleash a main assault. But a commando team could slip in and retake or disable the gun batteries. Then Numba could launch a combined air and land assault. TheAlliancewould never see it coming.

His orders were merely to hold the line. Numba had never been one to disobey orders. You didn’t get to become amarshallif you were deemed to not be a team player. But then, you didn’t get to become Grand Marshall if you didn’t have some amazing victories under your name.

It would be a political gamble. If something went wrong he might lose his position. He could always find a way to blame someone else. That was the other main use for aides.

He didn’t think anything would go wrong. Short of anAlliancefleet arriving during the battle this plan would work. TheAlliancewould be pushed off Cardine and then the Republic could negotiate an end to hostilities from a position of strength. And Numba would be a hero.

Smiling more, Numba pointed at the map, “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do…”

***

As Numba looked out across the field, a barrage of artillery fire impacted the overhead shield. Flashes of energy cascaded across the previously invisible barrier, lighting the night sky. The light lasted long enough to illuminate the puffs of dirt that appeared in the field as pieces of shrapnel from the explosive shell leaked through the weakened shield.

Beside him, Teev flinched at the sight of the impact. Unlike Numba, Teev’s rubbery red skin was still bright and vibrant. The sight of his young aide flinching made Numba smile. Teev had reason to be concerned, once shrapnel started to get through a shield it would not be long before the protective barrier collapsed all together. But unlike his aid, Numba had seen enough fighting to know that this battle would be over before that happened.

Beyond the shield protecting his command post, his forces were pushing the Alliancemarines back. His 3rd Battalion had already broken through on the left flank and it would not be long before they joined with the troops in the center. From there theAlliance forces would have no choice but to retreat back to the last stronghold, their waiting transport ships.

Numba’s battle plan had gone exactly as he had predicted. The commando team had disabled the gun batteries, allowing him to bring in a massive attack force. TheAlliance, weaker than originally estimated, were crumbling on all sides.

A momentary lull in the sounds of warfare allowed Numba to hear the approach of bootsteps. Turning, he saw Governor Yinar. Undoubtedly here to congratulate him on his stunning victory.

“Ah, Governor, you are just in time. TheAllianceis about to retreat.” Numba said, making no effort to keep the smugness from his voice.

“So I’ve been told. It seems your assessment of theAllianceposition was correct.” Yinar said, an excited tone to his voice.

Numba nodded to himself. Many on Cardine’s ruling council had not believed he could pull off this victory. Though he admitted, had it been anyone else but him in command, their concerns would have been justified. TheAlliance, though in a weak state, were good fighters.

As Numba watched, the barrage against the shield ceased and theAllianceforces turned and began retreating. Monitoring communications from their forward units, Teev said, “We’re getting reports that the first transports are lifting off. The commando team leader wants to know if she should shoot them down.”

Numba considered that possibility for a moment. With control over the planetary guns, it would be a simple matter of shooting down theAlliancetransports as they fled. That would either force the remaining troops to either surrender or fight to the last man. Given the stakes, he fully expected they would surrender.

Capturing several thousandAlliancetroops would certainly be another notch in his list of victories. It would also further improve the Republic bargaining position at the peace talks. But shooting down fleeing transports would undoubtedly spark unnecessary bad blood between the Republic andAlliance.  Besides, even he had his limits for what he would condone to advance his career.

“Tell the commander to let them go. As long as the transports head away from Cardine  and make no aggressive action, they are clear to depart. Also, signal our forward troops. Halt pursuit of the remaining forces. Let them go.” Numba decided.

While the remainingAllianceforces pulled back to their transports, Numba allowed himself a momentary indulgence. His return to Camar would be very sweet. He imagined the parade and Grand Marshall Vulra’s sour face when he was forced to pin a medal on Numba’s uniform. It would be a few years still but eventually he would be able to oust Vulra from that esteemed position.

Teev’s voice shattered his fantasy, “Marshall, I’m getting reports that theAlliancetransports are turning around and heading back for the surface.”

Numba frowned. Why would they do that? Any attempt to return to the surface would make them easy targets for the guns. Without naval support they would be blown away.

Before he could order the guns to fire a barrage to discourage this tactic, Teev said, “I’m receiving a transmission. It’s Grand Marshall Vulra!”

The mention of the supreme commander of the Camari Army shocked Numba. What was Vulra doing on Cardine? When had he arrived?

Putting aside those questions for a moment, Numba ordered Teev to transfer the link to his comm. piece, “Grand Marshall, what an unexpected pleasure. You’ve arrived just in time to witness theAlliance’s retreat.”

“Numba you idiot!” Vulra yelled over the commlink, “Your orders were to contain theAlliancethreat. Not to attack! We reached a peace agreement ten days ago. Your little attack is going to jeopardize that peace.”

The world around Numba went silent. Peace? He knew there had been talks but how had an agreement been reached so quickly? No matter he decided. Any legitimate treaty would take into account the communication delay. The treaty may have been signed days ago but word had only just reached Cardine. They couldn’t be held to it before now.

“What excellent news.” Numba said, ignoring Vulra’s scathing rebuke, “The Alliance just got an advance start on their withdrawal.”

“They aren’t withdrawing.” Vulra said, “Cardine was ceded to the Alliance as part of the treaty.”

Governor Yinar’s eyestalks shot up in surprise. Numba found himself equally baffled. Why had the Republic ceded Cardine after sending him here to defend it? You don’t send your best warrior into a fight and then surrender before he gets started.

Vulra continued speaking, “Order all of your forces to stand down and return to the cities. We’ll be loading all Army personnel and returning to the Republic. The locals are now the Alliance’s problem.”

Beside him, Yinar looked defeated. His world had been handed over to the enemy at a negotiating table. One he had had no say in.

But more importantly, Numba’s victory was being taken away. He had won. He had beaten theAlliance. His future had been secured.

Now Vulra was taking it all away. That had been the plan all along he thought.  Send him here to defend a world that Vulra just gave away. Then it would look like the Republic had ceded Cardine because Numba failed.

No, he thought. That wouldn’t happen. He wouldn’t go home a laughing stock. He would complete his victory. Then the Alliance would be forced to renegotiate.

“Lieutenant Teev, signal our gun batteries. They are to fire on anyAllianceship that attempts to enter the atmosphere.” Numba ordered.

Teev looked shocked at the order but did as instructed. Yinar looked ecstatic.  He bowed his eyestalks to Numba, “Thank you,Marshall. You truly are the hero of Cardine.”

Provincial backwater or not, Numba liked the sound of that. Things would be dicey for him for awhile, defying Vulra like he had. But eventually he could transform Hero of Cardine to Hero of the Republic.

“Sir,” Teev said, his voice quiet, “The gun batteries say they have already been ordered by Grand Marshall Vulra to stand down. They are not acknowledging your order.”

That was it, Numba thought as his limps went limp. His last gamble had failed. To rub the point in, Vulra returned to the commlink, glee evident in his tone, “Disobeying a direct order, Celris? I’m disappointed in you. Your fall would have been much more fun to watch over the long term. But no matter. You are hereby relieved of your command. You are banished from ever returning to Camar. Enjoy your new home.”

The connection ended and Numba felt his world come crashing down. A few moments before he had seen a future with him leading the Republic. Loved by all Camari. Now he would spend the rest of his life on this decrepit slum, living under Alliance authority.

Yinar came forward, adding insult to his words by placing a comforting hand on Numba’s shoulder, “I meant what I said. You are still a hero in the eyes of all Camari on Cardine. You will be well taken care of.”

Hero of Cardine. That title had sounded nice a moment before. Now he saw the mocking truth behind it. As Numba bathed in his own defeat,Alliancetransports appeared in the sky, returning the troops he had just chased away.

 

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