The Hunt for Siregar (Part 2 - The Rebels Convene)

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Chapter II

Siregar and Ibn Jameel convened inside the base commander's quarters at Tiger's Nest, the pro-coup forces' last remaining stronghold.

Also present were a small group of officers. Each of them had had sworn their loyalty to Siregar and the coup, and were handpicked by the Field-Marshal himself to command the various units that had joined him to wage war against the Empire. This was what Siregar had called his Council of the Righteous.

Seated beside Ibn Jameel was Brigadier Davon Kusnanda. A thin and wiry man with a somewhat hawkish appearance, he once served as a commander in Special Forces Command, an elite infantry unit in the Army that specialises in covert operations. In the heyday of his career he and a few other members of the Red Berets – a sobriquet for SFC members, named after their crimson berets – had infiltrated an Israeli command post during the Mid-East War, killing the commander and his staff, thus allowing the Sixth Army's armoured spearheads to launch an attack which succeeded in pushing the Israeli forces away from the Syrian capital of Damascus. During the coup he and his unit were assigned to carry out the assassination of the Emperor and his advisors, failing to do so due to a combined effort by the Marines and the ISB to evacuate the Emperor and his staff from the besieged Imperial Centre.

Next to him sat Colonel Djunaedi, former head of Military Intelligence's foreign division; tasked with monitoring the military development of states which the Empire had deemed as rivals or enemies. In the weeks leading up to the coup, he and his former superior General Abdat had approached several Arab Sheikhs and asked for their support in deposing the Emperor – in exchange for them returning to power as the leaders of their respective countries after the Empire militarily defeated the Arab Gulf states during the Mid-East War.

Though the Empire was swift and thorough in its purge against pro-coup elements in both the Army and the Senate, it had far less success in dealing with the intelligence community to which Djunaedi had belonged, many of whom were capable of hiding their true loyalties. This had allowed him and others to escape when the Empire was closing in on Abdat's spy ring, thereby giving pro-coup forces access to crucial information, which enabled them to fight regime forces on equal terms during the first few months of the insurrection.

Across the table sat Lieutenant-General Luthfi Ahmed Prawiro, former commandant of the Imperial Academy at Semarang in Central Java. He'd also once served as commander of the Imperial Army's Armoured Corps training division. A thick-necked bull of a man, his physical strength belied an intellectual fascination towards the combat psychology of soldiers. Unlike the rest of the council, Prawiro had second thoughts about lending his support to the pro-coup forces; doing so only out of loyalty to his peers, many of whom had Islamist sympathies and supported Siregar's faction within the Army leadership.

Last was General Eko Arief, commander of the infantry units. As the council's oldest member, he was already active when the Republic was still around, fighting the Civil War on the side of the Fascist Alliance against the Republic government. Under the Empire, Arief led his forces in combat against numerous anti-Imperial militia groups, most of them leftist in orientation. When the time came to choose a side in the power struggle between Ali Hakim and Dzhokhar Siregar, the veteran commander chose to support the latter, unable to stomach the future possibility of an Empire led by a non-native, Chinese boy who only rose to power for having been a trusted confidant of the late Emperor Byoma.

These were all hard faces, Ibn Jameel thought. Hard, serious faces.

"Gentlemen," Siregar began. "I've received some information earlier which demands our collective attention."

Ibn Jameel pressed the button on the table as soon as Siregar gave him the signal. The table's holoprojector flashed immediately, and with it a few moving images of Imperial loyalist units engaged in battle with pro-coup forces across Central and West Java.

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