ISSN (Imperial Submarine- Nuclear)-777, Awangarda (Vanguard) Eastern Implarian, 600 miles southwest of St. George, Freiheit 2200 Makai Time As was tradition in nearly every submarine service on the planet, much of the hull of the Vanguard was choked with tobacco smoke. Combined with the spectral green and red lights of the various monitors lining either side of the CIC, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that only further punctuated the gravity of the mission that the crew of the Sarmatian Empire's premier nuclear submarine had been tasked with. Wiceadmirał Kazimierz Ostrogski glanced down over the shoulder of the Comm-Officer, satisfied with the pace that the Vanguard, and her two sister subs were making their approach of the southwestern coast of the rogue-state of Freiheit. Originally set to patrol the Western Implarian for the next six months, protecting now vital routes to the Imperial enclave of Cenubixazariya- an infant "nation" carved out of the battered hide of Milliyetci Barazi. As far as anyone outside of the Imperial Secretariat of War knew- the entire "troop surge" was still on its way to Barazi, or already there in part. Such was most assuredly not the case- and had not been for two days. Having chewed upon the rather cheap Wazistani cigar for the better part of two hours, Ostrogski discarded it for another, and paced to the next terminal- helmed by another communications officer, this one responsible for monitoring all the pertinent Freiheiter military channels, and all the major civilian channels as well. Thus far it was impossible for the Wolnyniemcy (Free-Germans) to know what was coming for them, and it was debatable that they would be able to determine that even after the fact. When the Imperial Oikawan Embassy in Stary Hrodino had passed off satellite imagery of the Niemcy moving the nuclear weapons that by all rights should have passed into the more than capable hands of the Rus' to silos in their mountainous region, and into heretofore undiscovered sites under their major metropolitan areas. It was a gamble all in all- but one that the Empire- and in truth, the world- could not afford to pass upon, with the threat that "loose nukes" presented to civilization as a whole. Marszałek Rola had ordered every available vessel, including a full Carrier Task-Force and the considerable weight of the Vanguard and her sisters into the Eastern Implarian, and had gone so far as to contact Ostrogski personally. The Imperial Secretary of War had not failed to impress the importance of this mission upon him either. The Vice-Admiral smiled around his new cigar- he supposed that Rola hadn't finally attained that post by virtue of charisma alone. Whatever the case, the Vanguard and her sisters were well within striking range of their targets- half of the silos in the Grau Mountains, and St. George, where every major key point of infrastructure (that was yet still intact) had been carefully targeted and accounted for, in some cases designated for more than one "barrage." Ostrogski had been issued orders for such an operation years ago, when he was still a Kapitan- and he'd studied them closely then, and again now. He had been provided with an extended plan of action for operations in this region of the world again two years prior- though truthfully, that plan had been drafted with Anglyn and Guiana in mind, not Freiheit. Still, they would serve well enough now. Checking his own pocket watch against the various clocks scattered around the CIC, the Imperial Vice-Admiral finally paused to light his cigar. Rolling the roughly rolled tobacco around above his lighter, he found himself paying closer than usual attention to the way the tobacco twisted and warped beneath the heat. There'd be a lot of that going around soon. "All stop." Though he had spoken quietly, seeming more a whisper amidst the various clamor of the CIC (though all of that was human in origin, as the sub itself was more or less silent), nearly every ear within fifteen feet of him had clearly discerned that simple command. Silence and stillness overtook the Vanguard, alone save for her sisters in the depths of the Implarian. "Bring us up to firing depth Mr. Slupski." "Aye aye, Skipper." Though he was most positive that the other submarines in his attack group were doing the same, the Vice-Admiral forced himself to check with his Deck-Officer, perched behind the Electronic Warfare and Countermeasures Suite, just to satisfy the irritating, mocking, child-like voice that had grown to a shriek behind his eyes. Though they'd all been running under a virtual communication's-blackout, it was still possible for each of the subs to keep track of their siblings by virtue of the GPS tracking systems that were included in their EWCS, and which would remain online until just minutes before the missile hatches along the spine of the sub's blew open. Taking the ascent slowly, and carefully, the Vanguard would have plenty of time to react to any sudden developments from the Niemcy, though again, that was as unlikely as the sub "springing a leak all on its own." Ostrogski and men like him had the unique chance to import all that was good in the Sarmatian martial tradition into this new Imperial Culture- whilst completely abandoning the chaff, and such would be accomplished with displays of the utmost professionalism in situations just like this one. "Wladysław, how's the feed from those drones?" Several flights of Reconnaissance Drones had been launched some hours prior, to double-check the pre-calculated firing solutions that the individual subs had been issued by the Imperial War-Marine's Admiralty- and were sure to be more accurate, likely down the ten-thousandths place, than anything the sub's computers would be able to string together. Again though, thorough professionalism would assure the future dominance of the Empire above all else. "Clean and clear Skipper. ETA seven minutes to Primary Targets." "Very good. If anything at all changes- if it looks like a heavy wind is going to compromise those solutions, I want to know, and five minutes before it happens." Stalking back down the other side of the CIC, Ostrogski went over the status of the Vanguard's primary payload- a compliment of ten retrofitted Trójząb-II (Trident II) SLBM's, lacking a conventional package of multiple warheads, they were instead outfitted with a super-dense tungsten core with a delayed reaction HE submunitions packet- creating a submarine launched kinetic impact weapon more than capable of completely compromising the Niemcy's missile silos in the Grau's with a concentrated impact of 130,000 lbs of super-dense metal and high explosives. The remaining six SLBM's were outfitted with more..."unconventional" loads, in case of the need for an overwhelming retaliatory strike at a later point in this campaign. The payloads for the Vanguard's sister subs were identical, and were reckoned capable "of doing the job" in one fell swoop. Ostrogski was so absorbed in his last minute checks that the reported seven minutes slipped by almost unnoticed. With a great rush, the Vanguard had broken through the waves, now 560 miles off the coast of Freiheit. There was an eerie calm, nearly matching that within a funeral parlor, as the crew made their last minute preparations, and a string of last minute transmissions were made between the vessels in the group, which included three attack-sub escorts, alongside the Vanguard's two identical sisters. "Increase speed by four knots on our current bearing for another...minute and a half- and then make ready." Ostrogski consulted his watch again, and inhaled deeply from the cheap cigar he was now again furiously chewing upon. His mind crept back across the Implarian, and across the vast expanse of Tōyō, to Stary Hrodino, where a veritable army of technicians and satellite officers were no doubt engaged in a activity of a similar nature and intensity. That was more of a calculated move than these initial submarine-based attacks, but would likely send an even more resounding message to Freiheit- and the world. Ostrogski didn't know how many ICBM's the Secretariat of War was devoting to this attack, but he didn't doubt that it would be a significant number- enough to convince the Niemcy that they'd embarked upon an entirely foolish path to self-destruction. At last the moment had arrived. Vice-Admiral Ostrogski felt himself, and heard himself giving the orders to "blow" the missile hatches. He heard himself double-checking that the missiles were "hot." And he paused, a great cloud of vanilla-scented tobacco smoke swirling around his leonine head. "Fire on my mark." Those few seconds drew out into an eternity, as the true breadth of what he was accomplishing here today exploded upon his consciousness. How would the men of tomorrow judge him, and his actions in this moment? Surely, he would be remembered well in his beloved homeland...but how many thousands, how many tens of thousands of Niemcy would soon perish in fire, and under the crushing weight of their own buildings? How would they remember Vice-Admiral Kazimierz Ostrogski? And in that instant, the unrepentant "Imperial" smiled, a serene savagery overcoming his soul, as it had so many of his counterparts throughout the history of the Sarmatian people. "...two...one...mark." And the initial volley of 15 penetrator-missiles roared up from all three of the submarines in the Vanguard's attack group- lancing out at Freistadt, St. George and the southern cluster of nuclear missile silos in the Grau Mountains. The tremendous growl of destructive force that washed down the hull of the Vanguard, and up into the feet of the nearly ecstatic Vice-Admiral was beyond description. The sheer might that he had unleashed with a word was the sweetest drug he'd yet tasted, and he rightly couldn't wait for the next opportunity to rain destruction on these uncouth, mute barbarians.