Colonel Boris Nemov was badly injured. He had barely escaped Irkutsk alive. Most of his force had not been so lucky. It had been the best battle the Russians had been in thus far, in terms of losses and causing damage, but it was still a far cry from victory.
They were in Angarsk. It was a town near the border, only slightly farther north of Irkutsk. They were in just as much danger of attack at Angarsk as they had been at Irkutsk. In fact, when Angarsk was attacked, the attack would probably come from the newly occupied city.
Nemov had decided this couldn't go on any longer. It was hardly an original thought; every soldier in the Russian army wanted The Last War to end, for them at least. They had been fighting for longer, and had been being beaten for longer, than any other country on the globe.
The Russians had tried numerous times to work for peace. But the Mongols would accept nothing less than complete surrender of the whole country. The Russians could not accept this.
Nemov thought bitterly about how many thousands of Russians were P.O.W.s in Mongolian camps. More than half of them had surrendered, not been captured. How many more Russians were dead or wounded?
Nemov had developed a plan. It was a crazy, desperate plan, but Russia was going crazy in desperation. He was going now to present it to his superiors.
He entered the building where Lieutenant General Davidovich and Major General Dostboima had set up their headquarters. His right arm was in a sling, but under his left he held a map. He continued to limp along until he reached the conference room. Davidovich and Dostboima were sitting down already, both looking very gloomy.
Dostboima said, "Colonel Nemov."
Davidovich merely nodded at the colonel.
"Zdrast'ye, General Dostboima, General Davidovich," said Nemov, nodding at each in turn, "I'd like to thank you both for giving me some of your time."
"We're willing to spare it for a hero such as yourself," said Dostboima.
"Da, and our time is precious, so could we get on with this," said Davidovich testily.
Boris nodded and unrolled his map onto the table. It was a bit difficult to do with only one arm, but he managed it. It was a map of the border. Nemov pointed at Irkutsk with his good hand.
"I was at Irkutsk," he said, "But you both know that. I was the only one there with a scanner, so I doubt many of my men noticed it, but I did. What I noticed was that all of the Mongolian infantry and cavalry came from the southeast. All the armor came from the southwest.
"It makes me think that they came from two different places, and only just met at Irkutsk. They were both working well individually, but neither the armor nor the infantry seemed to be working in conjunction with one another. I believe that the Mongols have two separate jumping off points for their infantry and their armor.
"I also think I know where it is. I've been looking at the air survey maps where they believe the Mongol troops are coming from. I think the infantry is coming from Sühbaatar."
Nemov pointed at the map. The Mongol city was certainly in a place to be able to send out troops into Russia.
"I think the Mongol troops are being trained and sent out from Sühbaatar. If we take out Sühbaatar we can do some major damage to the Mongolian war machine."
Dostboima looked over Nemov's map.
"We've suspected for a while that that's the place. We don't have any real proof, though," she said.
"How do you propose we attack Sühbaatar, colonel?" Davidovich asked.
"The Orhon Gol River runs right through Sühbaatar, sir. It starts at Lake Baikal. If we could take a force down the river, we could attack Sühbaatar."
"This is really just all speculation, Nemov. We don't know if there's an infantry center at Sühbaatar. We don't know if there's anything at Sühbaatar. The Mongols are scrambling our scanners so that we can't really see much that's across the border. It's just really a huge risk we can’t afford," said Davidovich.
"And sitting here on our asses isn't? We know if we wait the Mongols will eventually get past us, and go on to Moscow. If we don't take some kind of a risk, we're dead anyway. I've got the plans all right here."
Nemov unfurled a second map, of the more immediate vicinity around Sühbaatar. He had arrows pointing out all of his troop movements. It looked...feasible.
"This looks...ochen khorosho, colonel," said Dostboima, mentioning that it looked very good.
“Chto? It's not khorosho, it's insane! It just won’t work!” cried Davidovich, “We can’t just sail into Mongolia. The Mongols will be tracking us. And if they find us, all they have to do is set up artillery on either side of the river and blast the hell out of our navy.”
“They can’t use their scanners, general," Nemov said, "If they find us it will be by mistake. You think that their jamming system is discriminate? It jams their scanners just as much as it does ours. They leveled out the playing field because they know on a level battlefield they’ll always win. But not this time! Not if we make a pre-emptive strike. They won’t think we’re crazy enough to attack the center of their infantry. All we have to do is hit it with all the armor we’ve got and it’s gone.”
"We'll talk to the Baikal fleet," said Dostboima, "See if they can handle the workload you're talking about. We'll also have to clear these plans with the commander of the army. This kind of assault is going to need major confirmation. But we'll do our best, colonel."
"Spasibo, ma'am, sir," he thanked them, "It's all I can ask of you."
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
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