Fifth planet of the Sigma system. Situated in the Ekaterinburg sector of Red Blok space. Mainly agricultural but some kollosium mining.
Captain Guryev was a worried man. His commanding officer, Colonel Vronski, had been behaving strangely. He had been receiving encrypted messages from an unknown source and had asked Guryev to ignore them. Out of a sense of loyalty he had agreed but was beginning to regret it. Vronski was his friend and he was loath to betray him. On the other hand, he was a loyal collectivist and his first duty was to the Revolution. Guryev had asked the security team to keep an eye on his colonel and what had come to light was disturbing.
Vronski had had contact with counter-revolutionary elements on Sigma 5; those wishing to break away from the Red Blok, to become independent. Guryev couldn’t believe that anyone would question the benefits of collectivism let alone want to give them up voluntarily. Wasn’t universal bliss enough? What more could anyone want?
Further, it transpired that Vronski was communicating with people inside the Red Blok military who were conspiring against the leadership. In Guryev’s opinion the military should keep its nose out of politics. It was here to serve the Revolution, not to question it. He had heard such talk amongst the men and had tried to stamp it out but the unrest was still apparent. Worse, some in the Sigma Five garrison were expressing sympathy with the local independence movement. “That’s what came of allowing soldiers to fraternise with civilians,” he thought bitterly. He was only a captain, after all, and had to do as he was told.
As he was walking to his office he was approached by a private in the security team. “Here is a message just received by the Colonel. I thought you should see it too.”
“Thank you soldier.” He looked at the man and could see he was uncomfortable. “You are doing the right thing, comrade. We are all here to protect the Revolution, never forget that.”
“No, comrade captain, I will not. Thank you.”
Guryev read the message. It came from an unknown source off planet saying that “the package will be delivered as arranged.” Very original, thought Guryev, and smiled.
Later that day the Captain was just finishing and getting ready to go to his quarters when he heard signs of activity outside. He opened his door and saw a patrol heading out through a side gate. He followed but was not able to see who was in charge or which squads had been involved. He immediately went to the ops room to check if any patrols had been scheduled. There were none for that day at that time. He spoke to the sergeant on duty. “Who just left, sergeant?”
“The colonel, sir. He said it was a surprise exercise; to keep us all on our toes.”
“Did he say where he was going?”
“Somewhere in sector 5Alpha6, I think.”
“That’s a bit out of the way. Why would he be going there?”
Guryev remembered the message and told the sergeant to alert the most reliable squads.
As his men gathered he was disappointed to see that none of the regulars were available. Of course, they were spread over the area at various outposts and surveillance stations. Well, he would do the best he could and call for reinforcements if necessary. They set off not knowing what to expect. They moved across the landscape methodically for an hour, maybe two, without any contact. Guryev was thinking about giving up when his forward unit reported in.
“We’ve come under fire. There’s a small stand of trees just round that hill. That’s where they’re dug in.”
“OK, let’s see what’s going on.” They moved forward, taking advantage of available cover. The Captain was calling in reinforcements as they went. They stopped when they had a clear view of the situation. There in a clear area surrounded by high ground and sparse woods was a cargo container. The colonel and a squad of troops were guarding it. To the Captain’s front were the woods from where the firing had come and he was in no doubt that other troops would be concealing themselves elsewhere. Then two technicals, carrying troops, could be seen arriving.
Captain Guryev decided to attack even though his reinforcements were arriving in dribs and drabs. The ensuing engagement was inconclusive with first one side, then the other having the advantage. The arrival of a light armoured walker gave Guryev the initial advantage and his men quickly cleared their opponents out and took control of the container. The combined effects of enemy mortar and heavy machine gun fire plus the loss of the walker soon proved too much and Guryev had to withdraw in his turn.
Neither side could take the container without risking significant losses. Guryev was at the mercy of the enemy’s mortar. The enemy would be shot to pieces if they moved from their cover. The Captain decided to pull out and call in artillery to deny the enemy the ground.
Colonel Vronski, for his part, did not want to lose his prize and ordered his men to salvage as much as they could before the artillery fell. To his relief most of the weapons in the container were recovered as well as some uniforms. He could now move his campaign on by advancing towards Tessler, the capital of Sigma Five.