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Sand Springs

Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
City of Tjamuaha, Dune Sea

The dusty city was nothing pretty to look at. There were few paved roads. Electrical polls and their wires weaved through the buildings and alleyways. The occasional car had a difficult time navigating through the rivers of people, bikes and motorbikes on the streets. Street vendors hawked goods and quick, cheap meals and snacks. The sun was hot and people took refuge in open-air cafeterias that had dozens of stalls serving different fare and drinks. At this time of day, mid afternoon, many people took a break from work to sip a milkie, a cool milk and coffee-based drink. You took a couple of ice cubes, a spoonful of NedFoods condensed milk, a spoonful of Nedspresso instant coffee, poured cold water over it and used a frothing device for a few seconds. Voilá, bliss in a cup, as the locals called it.

Bobby Zandman, 32 and of slim build, was sitting on one of the plastic stools lined up at the cheap plywood tables sipping his milkie and checked his watch every two minutes or so. A dark-skinned Nedernesian of Nethian descent, Bobby had been deliberately chosen for this job because he fit in and knew one of the local languages. Basic Nedernesian was spoken by most people in the cities down here, but if you wanted to do real business you needed to speak the local tongues.

He checked his watch again and swore under his breath in Nedernesian 'ongeloofelijke klootzak!'. Just then his phone pinged. It was a WatMan? message, the popular Nedernesian messaging app that had also, like nearly every other Nedernesian brand and product, become wildly successful in the Dune Sea. Businessmen also liked it because of its supposed encryption. Bobby knew that was a good joke back at NSD (Nedernesian Signals Directorate) head office in Vrijpoort.

Palace Hotel. 5 minuutjes op de bar. Je komt alleen.
(Palace Hotel. 5 minutes at the bar. You come alone)
Bobby downed the rest of his drink. His glass was dripping in condensation. It felt good to stand up and let the fan blow air on his sweating back. His billowing short-sleeved button-down shirt and loose-fitting pants typical for the region didn't seem to help him cope much with the weather. At least it wasn't hot AND humid. Then he'd have had to ask for danger pay.

None of the locals paid Bobby any mind as he left the cafeteria and stepped back onto the street. A motorbike gave two short beeps before whizzing past. An old lady tried to get his attention and sell him some strange root. A young man displayed a case of cheap phones from Pohjanmaa and Touzen. Bobby ignored the cacophony as best he could and crossed the street. The Palace Hotel wasn't far.

He decided to take a shortcut through a back alleyway parallel to the main road. This is where the shops had their back entrances. Where goods were delivered and deals were made. It was narrower but less crowded than the road. Canvas and cloth awnings blocked out most of the sun. It was at least 7 degrees cooler back here. Bobby drew in a deep breath and headed up the alleyway. An old woman with missing front teeth and grey hair stood partially in his way and grabbed the fringe of his shirt while smiling. She spoke to him in thickly accented Nedernesian and gestured to a pretty girl, probably 15 years old.

'Dag mooie man! Heb je 'n beetje tijd? Hoe zou een paar minuutjes met deze fijne meisje?'
(Hello handsome man. Do you have a little time? How about a few minutes with this lovely girl?)
Bobby frowned and whisked her hand away from his shirt, but she was persistent and pointed to a teen boy sitting next to the girl.

'Ik geef je een lekkere prijs. Echt goedkoop!'
(I'll give you a good (slang: delicious) price. Really cheap!)
Bobby didn't stop walking but caught the eye of the boy and for the briefest of moments allowed his mind to wander. He stopped himself - not enough time and he's too young anyway. Bobby preferred the brothels in Vrijpoort. Aside from being far cleaner he didn't have to patronise them with a dirty conscious. Strict regulations helped ensure the sex workers were there by choice, safe, healthy and had full social protections. Unlike the poor teen girl and boy in this alleyway who had most definitely been trafficked from a poor village.

Finally he caught sight of the back entrance to the Palace. He handed a kitchen worker a cigarette, which always worked as a cheap bribe to get through most doors in this land. He quickly went through the dish cleaning area and into a corridor. Bobby knew the Palace too well. Most of his assets preferred meeting here. They claimed it was the central location, but Bobby knew it was because he always picked up their tab after they left the bar - fucking freeloaders.

The bar was ornate, almost comically so. Red velvet sofas and deep seats had gold leafed wooden arms and legs. Dark brown polished woods tables had ornate silver coffee and tea sets. Three-storey sandwich towers were adorned with local and Northern delicacies. Fans slowly circulated the warm air. Servers dressed in formal livery took the orders and settled the bills of the local elite. Tjamuaha's business and political elite came here to socialise and do business. For Bobby this kind of place was an informational gold mine. The exact opposite of the street-side cafeteria.

Bobby saw his asset sitting at the bar nursing a Tom Collins. 'Good to see you again, Ace' Bobby addressed him by his codename and lightly slapped the young man's shoulder. Ace gave a little smile and signalled to the barman for another Tom Collins - may as well get another freebie in. Bobby tried not to role his eyes.

'All right, get to it, Ace. I've got things to do, other people to see.'

Ace took out his beat up smartphone and opened up the maps application. He positioned it in a remote area in the west about 200km from the border with Nobatia. Slap bang in the desert, but north of the dune area that gave the country its name. Dry, rocky, just some bush scrub around. Small villages here survived off of nomadic herding for the most part.

Bobby took a closer look at the map and made a mental note of the nearest town's name and the GPS coordinates.

'You're sure it's here?'

Ace nodded and sipped his iced drink.

'But where the hell do they store the stuff? It's barely a village, let alone a town.'

Ace shrugged and continued enjoying his beverage that would normally cost him an hour's wage at the shop he worked at.

Bobby sighed and lent his back against the bar while he looked out at the crowd and the street beyond. He heard the braying of a camel and, sure enough, a camel merchant was leading a small flock down the main road with the help of a boy. This fucking city...

But Bobby didn't have time to think about the intricacies of the Tjamuaha economy. He drew in a deep breath before turning quickly around. With his left hand he grabbed Ace's balls and gave a tight squeeze while with his right hand he pulled the informant's left ear close to his face and hissed:

'I don't have time to fuck around, bru. Tell me where they're stashing it or the gravy train ends here right now, snap je? (get it?'

Ace choked on his drink but didn't let out a scream. He wasn't in much of a bargaining position so gave the man the answer.

'It'll be that grouping of shacks near the trade hall. Yes, those there!'

'Are you sure, Ace?'

'Ja, zeker (sure) bru. 100 per cent!'

Bobby let go of Ace's crotch and gave the back of his head a patronising pat.

'See, that wasn't so hard now, was it? Go fuck off now.' Bobby slid a wad of Nedernesian guilders across the bar to Ace. 'I'll message you when I need more.'

With Ace gone, Bobby ordered a Himyari style coffee, the kind that have thick mud at the bottom and are poured from intricate pots. He put in one sugar cube and sipped the brew before taking out his phone. He opened up an app that appeared to be a gambling game. He put in his pin, fingerprint and then a second pin before he could access the messaging feature.

Mission critical. New intel received on birthday cake bakery. Cannot transmit. I'm coming for a visit. Put on the kettle.
Bobby sent the message and closed the app. He finished his coffee, settled the bill with his government-issued credit card (thank God the Nedernesians introduced modern banking to this hell-hole) and ventured back out onto the street. It was time to go to Sand Springs.
 
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Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
80km southwest of Tjamuaha in the desert

Bobby had been driving for about an hour. His Hartman was covered in dust and had seen better days, but at least the aircon still worked. He had pulled off the main road a few minutes ago. That route had been recently resurfaced all the way between Tjamuaha and Sandhavn, hundreds of kilometres to the south. Nedernesian grants were to thank for that. But now he had to slow down his speed and keep an eye out for potholes and rocks, as well as massive trucks. This road wasn't labeled on any maps.

A large truck coming from the opposite direction was approaching. The road wasn't wide enough for both of them, so Bobby pulled over slowly onto the rocky shoulder and allowed the behemoth dump truck to pass. His Hartman shook as the truck passed and he had to wait for the dust to clear before continuing back onto the road.

Twenty minutes later he saw the blue flashing lights of a checkpoint ahead. It was the Dune Sea Outback Police. Bobby came to a stop and showed his diplomatic passport and NSD ID card. He was quickly waived through.

Another hour of tedious driving and he finally had arrived. Double fencing and a large steel gate blocked the road. A watchtower overlooked the gate and a number of soldiers with automatic rifles were standing around. These weren't Dune Sea guys, though. They were soldiers of the Nedernesian Expeditionary Force. He again showed his document and waited for a soldier to finish inspecting the undercarriage of his car. The gate swung open.

It was a further two kilometres before Bobby could see any buildings. The complex was massive and had a large buffer area of desert. Finally he saw some buildings. It was one large construction site. All different types of buildings were being put up. Bobby parked his Hartman near one of the only completed buildings. A simple rectangular structure.

A slender young woman wearing sunglasses came out to greet him.

'Good to see you Bobby. We've been eager to hear what you've got this time. Let's go in.'

'Hi Miranda. Let's do this quickly, I don't know how time sensitive this intel is.'

They used their ID cards to get through the turnstiles and were soon inside a dark control room. Monitors covered the walls. Some showed maps of the Nedernesian archipelago. Another showed the Dune Sea. Another was zoomed in on Ulster in Strathclyde. Dozens of analysts were busy at their computer stations, many of them wearing headsets. A man was standing in the centre surrounded by a raised counter. He seemed to be in charge of the floor.

Miranda led Bobby into a sound proof glass conference room that overlooked the control centre. Bobby logged into the computer and pulled up the coordinates on the map that he had received earlier that day from his asset in Tjamuaha.

'What the hell is that?' said Miranda.

'It's a tiny village in the middle of nowhere about 200km from the border with Natal. There isn't even a proper road connecting it to anywhere, just a dirt piste. No power connection. When they need electricity they use diesel generators. Apparently it's a seasonal layover point for nomadic herders. There's a small oasis for the camels and a small permanent population who handle some trade in basic goods. But this is where one of the gangs has been stashing guns.'

Bobby pointed to the largest building in the village.

'They smuggle them in from Natal. The border is so porous, all they have to do is wait for nightfall and use some jeeps to traverse the desert away from the official crossing. They then get back onto the road before the sunrises and continue to this village. The guns are kept here and they pay herders to smuggle the guns with their camel herds. They usually send them to Tjamuaha. From there the goods are either sold, or sent down the main road to Sandhavn. It's bringing them millions of guilders a month. The Sandhavn drug gangs are their biggest customer...so far. They'll sell this stuff to anyone who can pay the price, Miranda.'

Miranda nodded her head and tied her blonde hair into a ponytail before she spoke.

'You trust the intel, Bobby? Because if I authorise an airstrike you know the Natalians will pick it up. Not that Camp Hill will necessarily do much - they know about our smuggling problems - but there are voices in Natalia that are getting louder and louder. Not government voices, but people listen to them.'

Bobby didn't hesitate for a second. 'He's never been wrong for the past year, Miranda. It's as reliable as it gets. I don't want to see more guns on the streets, especially in the hands of those filthy drug lords. Sandhavn could be the jewel of the southern Himyari coast if those pieces of shit weren't running half the city.'

Miranda stood up, 'Ok, Bobby. You can stick around and watch this one if you want.' She left the glass room and went to the man standing at the centre of the control centre. They exchanged a few words.

Bobby stood in the back of the room with his arms crossed. Suddenly red lights and ten seconds of an alarm went off in the control centre. A woman's voice came over the intercom system:

Floor on active alert. Armed mission. Repeat, armed mission. All analysts to their stations.
The man in charge of the floor switched on his microphone and began speaking over the intercom once the alarm and flashing lights stopped. The large screen on the main wall was now showing the building in the tiny village Bobby had just shown Miranda. Another large screen had a radar map of the Dune Sea. There were a couple of commercial flights seen nearby Sandhavn airport and a KLM 747 in the northern Dune Sea nearing the border with Azraq. Otherwise the skies above the desert were empty. This was a far cry from the busy skies of Germania and Scania.

The man spoke, 'Mission target: warehouse in nomadic village holding large amounts of smuggled weaponry and ammunition. Flight, who do we already have in the air?'

A man sitting at a station labeled 'FLIGHT' spoke into his headset, which could be heard over the room's intercom, 'Control, we have two Gripen jets currently on a surveillance sortie north of Tjamuaha.'

Control (the man) tapped his screen and a man's voice came over the intercom.

Good afternoon Sand Springs, this is RNSF (Royal Nedernesian Sky Force), Himyar Fleet - please state request.
Control spoke, 'Good afternoon RNSF. We have a priority one target approximately 250km southwest of your airborne sortie. Requesting mission diversion for delivery of airstrike.'

Negative, Sand Springs. That sortie doesn't have enough fuel to reach target and return to base in Sandhavn. Diversion not possible.
Control: 'Understood. Requesting tanker in Sandhavn to meet sortie for aerial refuelling. This is a priority one mission. Executive approval codes are being transmitted now.'

The man's voice from RNSF took a moment to speak again as the codes were sent to Sandhavn.

Receipt confirmed, Sand Springs. Tanker will be airborne in 15 minutes. Diverting Gripen sortie now to meet up with tanker 100km east of target. Expected completion of aerial refuelling in 82 minutes. Target will be in range in 103 minutes.
103 minutes later

With the Gripen multi-role fighter jets now refuelled, Control was put into direct communication with the lead pilot of the two jet sortie.

Miranda had moved to the back of the control centre to stand next to Bobby, 'This would be a lot easier, faster and cheaper with some drones,' Bobby commented quietly to her.

Miranda nodded, 'We have a Globetrotter arriving this week with two fresh drones and have plans to test flight them this month. It'll make this a lot easier. For now, let's watch our boys do what they do best'.

Sand Springs Control, this is Yellow Leader. We are in range of target and locked. Permission to arm?
Control was watching the radar screen and saw the two blips showing the Gripen flying west towards the village.

'Yellow Leader, you have authorisation to arm and fire at will. Flight, get me visual of the sortie.'

Another screen suddenly switched to the view from the camera of one of the Gripen jets. The rocky and dusty desert went as far as the eye could see in all directions. The village was not even visible to the human eye, still many kilometres away, but well within the range of the missiles.

Falcon One, Falcon One launched.
A missile was launched from Yellow Leader's jet and tore off into the distance. Everyone in the control centre looked to the radar map and saw the missile approaching it's target in the village.

A man sat at a station labeled DELIVERY spoke into the intercom, 'Target acquisition in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one...target acquired.'

The video from the jet showed an explosion in the distance.

Control: 'Yellow Leader, perform flyby to assess damage and capture video of target.'

A few minutes later as the two jets flew over the village, video of the target site was shown on the screens.

A woman sat at the station labeled DAMAGE spoke into the intercom, 'Target successfully neutralised. Collateral loss estimated at fewer than two human assets.'

Control: 'Yellow Leader, this ends your mission, Thank you for your cooperation. Command is now returned to RNSF Sandhavn. Good day'
 
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Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
Royal Nedernesia Sky Force Sandhavn Command
Sandhavn Skyport, Sandhavn, The Dune Sea

Six months ago it was little more than a landing strip, capable of landing a 747 Gans, yes, but that put the Sandhavn Skyport to its limits. Nedernesian tourists seeking sun and sand or a safari, businessmen checking in on their factories and other investments and weekly cargo flights were the name of the game. But once the local government asked for assistance against the increasing gang problem, things changed quickly.

The arrival of an RNSF Sky Wing required more infrastructure than a single shoddy terminal building. The runway was resurfaced within a week. A new ATC tower was constructed in a month. A passenger terminal, a proper one, was completed in January. Hangars and a Sky Force complex were built in a separate area. Taxiways were also paved. The single runway was now shared between military and civilian aircraft and it was running smoothly. It was, after all, still a relatively sleepy airport.

The best funded branch of the Nedernesian armed forces, the Sky Force complex served as the de facto headquarters of Nedernesian military command in The Dune Sea. Sky Admiral Mervin de Bruin was leaning over a large glass table that also served as a giant touch screen. It was currently displaying a map of the Dune Sea with locations of Sky Force sorties currently in the air. He was flanked by General Dubois of the Royal Nedernesian Expeditionary Force. A few representatives from Nedernesian Signals Directorate stood back.

de Bruin began their morning briefing, 'Drone testing is going well. We will have them approved for operations this week. I want Sand Springs informed immediately. They have authorisation to use them for non-lethal reconnaissaince for now. We will still use Grifin jets for air strikes for now. I need an update on the Tjamuaha Sky Strip.'

A woman saluted and zoomed in on a region northeast of the central city of Tjamuaha, 'We have finished paving of the Tjamuaha Sky Strip and built several facilities including hangars, refueling etc. Grifin jets will easily be able to land, refuel and receive basic maintenance there from next week. Our Globetrotter transports will also be able to land for supply and troop movements. Tankers will still be based at Sandhavn. We have also begun scouting for potential locations of emergency air strips in the Outback. We have found five locations where dirt airstrips can be prepared in under a week. They would be able to serve Grifins and Globetrotters. The Expeditionary Forces are enroute to all five as we speak to secure the areas and begin necessary construction. These locations will also serve as base camps for our ground forces.'

General Dubois jumped in, 'Speaking of which. Our intel, thanks to our people over at Signals, confirms that many of these gangs are organising and joining forces. The checkpoint assault last weekend north of Tjamuaha was the first recorded event of multiple gangs launching an assault together. One of our mechanised infantry units answered the distress call from the local police forces and was able to chase off the pricks with our APCs. Recruitment from the western villages also is on the rise. We haven't been able to get out there because the roads are so shit. But we are organising multiple units with the proper vehicles to do patrols and they will have locals imbedded with them so that we can speak with the villagers. My fear, however, is that these ragtag groups are consolidating into a more sophisticated unit and they seems to be increasingly well funded thanks to the endless stream of drugs from pretty much all surrounding borders.'

Sky Admiral de Bruin nodded and zoomed the map back out to see the borders of the Dune Sea. 'All right, good. Once the locals vote this month to become a protectorate we will have full powers to do something about these borders. We can secure the main crossings at least. Sealing the borders completely is out of the question. It's just too damn big. What about Outback Police, what's going on with them?'

A junior officer piped in, 'They continue to undergo training from our RCMP (Royal Commonwealth Mounted Police) and have been receiving steady shipments of vehicles and weapons. Kit isn't the issue, it's training. RCMP is sending more officers to speed up these efforts.'

The Sky Admiral nodded, 'Very good. Listen up, people, the locals are key here. We need them on our side and we need to help them secure their country and learn how to police it themselves. We need to provide the heavy lifting, but the goal is to get them to sniff out problems themselves and eventually lead this fight. In the meantime, lets blow these gang fuckers to smithereens.'
 
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Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
Northern Dune Sea
Approximately 200km north of Caroline Amaliestad near the border with Azraq

Caroline Amaliestad was one of the few places in the Dune Sea where Austwegian was still regularly spoken. A community of Pohjanmaans who stayed in the colony after their motherland withdrew almost entirely was mostly involved in the university, the best in the Dune Sea, and many of these whiteys, as the natives referred to them, owned farmland in the surrounding area. Unlike the southern half of the Dune Sea which was sandy and mostly desert, this area had wide open grasslands and some trees. It was where wealthy Nedernesians and other Scanians and Gallo-Germanians came for safari holidays.

The two-lane road linking Caroline Amaliestad to Tjamuaha and finally to Sandhavn had been paved with asphalt only a few months ago. Ever since goods at market seemed to be in greater supply and slightly cheaper. Commerce noticed an uptick. The biggest change were the Nedernesian military convoys that rumbled through the bypass to continue their journey north towards the border with Azraq. That stretch of road was still not paved, but the military vehicles had little trouble traversing the outback road.

These convoys would only stop on the outskirts of town for a couple of hours to refuel, change drivers and rest a bit. They would pass through a checkpoint and carry on. In the cabin of one massive truck, two soldiers were chit chatting to pass the time as their vehicle followed the military SUV in front of them .

'Do you think we will get to see the launch?' asked the young soldier in the left-hand passenger seat.

The driver didn't respond as he slowed the truck and shifted down to second gear as he skilfully manoeuvred around a nasty pothole.

'Well? I want to see this thing go up, don't you?'

The driver gave his younger comrade a quick and annoyed glance, 'Would you shut up for a minute? It's hard enough driving on the right side of the road let alone having to put up with your constant squabble.'

The younger soldier rolled his eyes, 'There's no one else on the road and you're driving in the middle. Chill.'

They carried on in silence while the breeze through the open windows licked away trickling sweat. Nedernesian military trucks didn't have aircon and weren't designed for service in this type of climate.

'Yes, I do think we will see the launch.' The driver said after a fifteen minute silence. 'We aren't scheduled to return to Sandhavn for a couple of days and last I heard the maiden launch is on Monday. Should be quite a sight.'

Some hours later they passed a road crew laying down fresh asphalt, went through two more checkpoints and finally came to the gate for the final inspection.

A Nedernesian soldier handed the driver some papers, 'Loading bay eleven, then park it over by the mechanic hangar.'

The two soldiers got out of the truck after it had been backed in to the loading bay. They watched as the crew began unloading the equipment covered in tarps.

'Quite an operation they've got here.' the driver remarked as he lit up a cigarette, trying to not think about the 0.5% lower interest he earned on his healthcare account because he smoked.

The younger soldier stood upwind to avoid the smoke and as he turned around he stood still and removed his sunglasses to get a better look at what he saw off in the distance. He tapped the driver's arm a couple of times, 'you see that?'

'See what? I swear you haven't shut the fuck up since we picked up this shit at the harbour four days ago and I've got a headache like --' he stopped talking when he turned around and saw it.

A rocket painted white surrounded by the scaffolding of the launch structure pierced the deep blue sky and glinted in the afternoon sun. It looked as tall as some of the skyscrapers back home in Vrijpoort. Their moment of awe was rudely interrupted by the honking of another truck that was readying to back into the next loading bay.

'Move it, soldiers! We've got a schedule to keep!'
 

Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
Somewhere in the outskirts of Sandhavn

Divisie Één, domestic intelligence of Nedernesia, had sent hundreds of staff and operatives to the Dune Sea over the last few months in anticipation of the territory voting to join the Commonwealth as a protectorate. They had been kept busy working together with local police forces, the Nedernesian armed services and the Nedernesian Signals Directorate. Now that the Dune Sea would officially become a protectorate on 1 June of this year, they had also been tasked with building up from scratch a domestic intelligence and security service for the Dune Sea. No easy or cheap undertaking.

Captain Ayub, a tall middle-aged man of Azraqi origin, had so far been enjoying this posting. He had grown up in sunny himyar and moved to Nedernesia when he was a young boy. It felt good to be back on the continent. The perks of having a villa in one of the best gated communities in Sandhavn were also quite nice. The work was hard, however.

The gangs across the desert and grasslands of the north had become more sophisticated and better armed in recent months. They also seemed to be working together, which was counter productive to what Vrijpoort wanted. Ayub had hundreds of local men and women undergoing training so that they could one day soon police and secure themselves as a self-governing protectorate. But for now it was his work that was needed on the ground.

The interrogation room was small and simple. A desk and chair faced the door. Behind the desk was a small window that let in the rays of himyari sun. A chair in front of the desk was occupied by a Nethian man of around 40 years of age. The guard left the room and Ayub lit a cigarette. He offered the Nethian one, who refused.

'Habibi, this time you don't have to wear handcuffs and I'm offering you cigarettes and coffee. Come now, relax. I just want a chat.' Ayub spoke in Shola, a bantu language common in southern and central Dune Sea that Ayub had studied for years at the Security and Intelligence Academy of Foreign Tongues.

The Nethian scowled and pushed the Azraqi coffee away. 'The last time you brought me here you threatened to kill me, but not before making me watch my wife get beaten before my eyes and worse. Then you told me that if I ever crossed you or your people again that you would find me and chop off half my fingers and feed them to my children in their breakfast porridge. Now you bring me in here, offer me coffee and a smoke and pretend everything is fine? You are something else, Ayub.'

Captain Ayub chuckled and smiled. He put up and waived his hands in an innocent gesture, 'Habibi, that was then and this is now. You signed a collaboration agreement and I send you cash every month to send your children to the best school in Sandhavn, your wife got implants in Vrijpoort last year and I heard you moved into one of those new middle-class gated communities up on The Ridge. Not bad for a single stipend from us...or maybe you are supplementing your bank account with something else, ah?' Ayub winked and kept smiling.

The Nethian laughed, 'I give you the information you asked for, nothing more and nothing less. You want drop dates for drugs at the port, I tell you what I know. You want to know where they are recruiting kids in the townships, I tell you. Your stipend goes far here. Plus I have my supermarket business. It's booming.'

Ayub sipped the coffee from the small cup and placed it back on the elegant saucer. 'Habibi, please. Give us some credit. I know how much that house costs, I know how much your wife's new tits cost and I sure as hell know that your supermarket has seen better days. Do you know what else I heard? Tjamuaha says that every time you return to Sandhavn from your club meetings there, a little bit of the cash they send you with goes missing. Quite the rumour, eh?' Ayub raised his eyebrow.

The Nethian moved uncomfortably in his seat, 'Nonsense. Every guilder they send me down here with goes to the people on the list, same as always. Rubbish!'

Ayub nodded his head and waived his hands again in the typical Urodoan gesture, 'Nonsense. Rubbish! That's what I told them. Surely they must be mistaken. My contacts in Tjamuaha must be confusing you with someone else. Perhaps a different informal helper was taking something on the side.'

'That's right, it must be someone else.' The Nethian gave a weak smile and now decided he should sip the coffee offered to him before it got cold.

Captain Ayub smiled and nodded his head further, 'Yes, yes, habibi, that's what I told them. Then they gave me this.' Ayub reached inside a desk drawer and slammed a thick and heavy file on the desk. He opened it and began carelessly sifting through the pages and slips of paper. 'Statements, receipts, signed statements, lists of delivery points and recipients...it's quite the cache here that they gave me.'

The nethian man finished the coffee and squirmed in the seat more.

Ayub's smile quickly turned into an angry scowl, his thick dark eyebrows made his anger very clear. 'You wouldn't want all this information posted around the streets of Sandhavn, would you? That would be a real shame. Everyone would see that you're running money for the gangs. The gangs would see that you're siphoning off their cash each time...that would be quite messy, now wouldn't it?'

'What do you want, Ayub?!' the nethian blurted out nervously.

'Tell me the name of their leader in Tjamuaha! What's his name, who does he meet with. Where do they meet.'

'But Ayub, I just deliver cash for them. I don't know who the new leader of the Conglomerate is!'

'Bullshit, habibi! You were organising their imports last year before we nabbed you and gave you that polite and friendly warning that you reminded me about just now. Tell me his name and you can go back to your two new tits tonight...or you can stay here for a few nights. I'm sure you'll be begging to talk by, oh, I'd say breakfast tomorrow.'

The nethian man winced at the thought of staying in the facility overnight. His mind raced back to the memories of when Divisie Één kept him in the cellar for what felt like months but had only been a week. No daylight, almost no sleep, tasteless food, endless questioning and constant beatings. He reached for the cigarettes on the desk. Captain Ayub smiled and lit a match for the man.

'You see habibi, that wasn't so hard.' Ayub took out a piece of paper and a pen and placed them on the desk.

'Name. Associates. Locations. I'll take care of the rest...oh and take this for your family' Ayub placed a wad of guilders on the desk. The man reached out for it but Ayub placed his hand on the man's hand, 'Don't make me have to bring you in here again.' He released the man's hand who greedily stuffed the cash into his trouser pocket.

'If they find out I told you this they will kill me.'

Ayub waived his hands and smiled while removing his third cigarette from his mouth, 'Don't worry habibi, your secret is safe with us. Just keep doing what you do and leave those thugs to us.'

The man left the interrogation room after Captain Ayub shouted in Nedernesian to the guard to open the door. Ayub examined the handwritten list that the man had provided. He knew it was accurate. Years of doing this type of work practically made him a human lie detector.

'Get me a secure line to Vrijpoort! And tell Sand Springs I have some new phone numbers and emails for them to follow.'
 

Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
15km outside Sandhavn - Radio and television broadcasting station

The dust kicked up on the gravel road leading up to the broadcasting station momentarily blinded the two Outback Police officers who were casually standing guard outside beneath the benevolent shade of a few trees. Before they could get to their radios in the car they were sprayed with bullets from a machine gun mounted onto the back of a pickup. The area wasn't densely populated but the few civilians in the area ran for shelter into the nearest building and alleyways. A few woman shrieked.

'Go, go, go! Inside and kill everyone!' a young Nethian man in his twenties exited his pickup and ordered the rest of the men into the broadcasting station. They kicked in the door and shots could be heard for a few minutes until suddenly there was silence. A handful of men armed with Kadikistani rifles stood guard outside. The leader of the group dropped his cigarette to the dirt and walked into the broadcasting station.

He stepped over the bleeding corpse of a man. Further down the hall were two dead women of around his age. He kicked a lifeless leg out of his way with his boot. Soon he was in the building's control room. His men were there standing over more dead bodies. A single woman sat in a chair before a computer. She was shivering in fear but in too much shock to cry. A man was holding a pistol to her head.

The leader clicked his tongue and the pistol was removed from her face.

'Calm down, my dear. It's all right. I just need you to put this video into your system and broadcast on all available radio frequencies ansd television channels. Very simple, ok?' He handed her a bottle of water and gave her a moment to calm down.

One of the men kept looking nervously at his watch. 'Chief, we probably only have three more minutes before the Neds show up with their shiny cavalry, we need to move it!'

The leader clicked his tongue again in disapproval. 'Shut up, you wimp. We'll be done in a moment.'

The petrified woman was somehow able to muster the strength to do as told and a simple and brief message was broadcast across Sandhavn and much of the southern Dune Sea coast in the Shola bantu language common in much of the country.

*STATIC* People of the Dune Sea. Arise! Generations have suffered under the hands of the far men. They take what is ours. They do not share the bounty and fruits of our land. Enough! We are joining forces across the dunes of the south to the grasslands of the north and say no more! Arise, Dune Sea brothers and sisters! Join us and fight for our land. We are Hames (hah-mes): Himyari Alliance for a Meritocratic and Equitable Society. Together we will overcome invaders and collaborators! The Dune Sea is ours! *STATIC*

The leader of the group made sure the broadcast had been successful and had one of his men upload it onto the video sharing websites even though they knew that Nedernesian Signals Directorate would have it taken down within minutes. Precisely why they had come to this facility.

They heard the sound of a helicopter off in the distance getting closer and sirens from the Outback Police. The Nedernesian Expeditionary Force would be down here like a pack of wolves within seconds. There was little time to spare.

'Ok let's move out!' The leader whistled as the men filed out back to the pickups. 'Thank you for your help, sister' he smiled at the woman who had put out the broadcast before he shot her in the forehead and turned out of the room.

'Chief, they're here!'

An Outback Police pickup rammed into one of their own trucks and officers in ballistic armour began shooting their rifles at the Hames men who were scattering to their pickups and behind any cover they could find. Seconds later a Nedernesian Expeditionary Force IFV appeared around the corner and shot its 30mm cannon at the Hames trucks.

'Leave two trucks and crew here to deal with these traitor scum and the rest of us scatter north into the desert. Rendezvous when its dark if the chopper isn't on you. If we don't see each other, know that we died martyrs for the land! Arise!'

In the chaos of the gunfight a few Hames trucks were able to escape and scatter onto various routes leading further out of the city. The Nedernesian helicopter, going off of the best intel it could get, went in pursuit of just one, leaving the others to disappear into the sea of sand. The two Hames trucks that had been left behind and sacrificed were quickly subdued by the superior firepower, tactics and training of the Nedernesian Expeditionary Forces and the Dune Sea Outback Police, but not without injured and casualties. A medical evac chopper was already en route as were military ambulances. Soldiers began storming the broadcasting building and Outback Police began to cordon off the immediate area, keeping curious locals away until backup could arrive to completely secure the situation.

Sand Springs, hundreds of kilometres away, didn't yet know about the attack, but had seen the online posting of the video as well as the radio and TV broadcast, which they were able to shut down but only by shutting down all radio and television in the entirety of the Dune Sea and not before millions of people had seen and heard it. Seconds later they got the call about the attack. The floor alarm sounded as drones were ordered into the air, relying on the eyes and ears of Sand Springs to find and reach their targets.
 

Vrijpoort

Elder Statesman
Joined
Jul 27, 2018
Messages
451
Location
Berlin, Germany
Capital
Vrijpoort
Nick
Drei
Hoeksbaai Naval Base, Grootland Eiland, Nedernesië

The Dauntless and Interceptor, two Invincible Class destroyers, were hours away from departure. The final checks were being carried out and the sailors were cherishing their last moments with loved ones before their long assignment. The provisions needed for the long journey to the Dune Sea were great. Despite the tightly packed cargo a rendezvous with a supply ship in the South Thaumantic would be required. Typically when sent to the Dune Sea a Nedernesian destroyer would take the quickest route through the Long Sea. Recent geopolitical developments made that look less appealing. Multiple weeks of sailing at near top cruising speeds would be hard on the crew, but once on shore in Sandhavn they would be granted much needed rest and relaxation to recoup while a fresh crew flown in directly from Nedernesia would take over.

The whistle on the Dauntless signalled one hour until departure. All crew were now needed onboard. As the sailors boarded, duffle bags slung over their shoulders, five Pohjanmaan made Gripen fighters flew past in formation and released smoke in the colours of the Nedernesian flag. A final salute. When the fighters cleared, the rumble of the four-engine Globetrotter transport aircraft could be heard before they came into view. They had just departed from Grootland Skybase a few kilometres inland. The sailors looked up in envy. Those flyboys and some of the lucky Admiralty sailors would be in Sandhavn in just a few hours while they had weeks ahead of them on rough southern hemisphere winter seas.

Operation Buyback was by far the largest mobilisation of the Royal Nedernesian Expeditionary Force, probably in its entire history. Never before had so many troops and assets of all three forces been sent so far and for active combat, not some peacekeeping or exercises. Many of the soldiers, including some from the reserves who had been called up, got to meet the Senior Minister the previous evening in the mess hall. She had flown over from Vrijpoort to speak to them, wish them well and remind them why they were going so far from home. It was a private affair, no cameras, no journalists. Her visit wasn't even on her official schedule and wouldn't make it into the papers. Weldaad needed the troops to know that she genuinely cared and wasn't doing it for cheap political points to 'show them off'.

With the last of the Globetrotters and aerial tankers out of sight, the two destroyers gave their final blows of their horns before slowly leaving the docks and moving out of the harbour to sea. The long journey south had begun.
 
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