This was the city of her childhood, the young officer knew its streets and buildings by heart. On the newly opened strategic highway she’d overtaken a long line of armour and missiles carriers, moving north in the direction of the ceasefire line, shaking the ground at the slow pace of prehistoric giants. “Someone is on the move,” she thought, “and not lightly armed”.
The austere building of Military Intelligence HQ, in D…, was off the new road, near the reconstructed airport, where, for months, fierce fighting had raged, only fifteen years back, when the enemy’s hordes were shelling the city, days and nights. Sophie Lavinsky was a little girl then, and she remembered the bombing, the dark basement, the fear, her mother’s anger. She also remembers the days, when, finally, the province had been liberated, the celebrations, the overwhelming sense of triumph, and her decision, at seventeen, to commit her life to the defence of her country. As she approached the entrance, and showed her pass to the guards, she thought of her mother, who had taught her the lessons of the Great War, and the sweet taste of victory. She parked her car near the Commanding officer’s building. Near the door a platoon of troopers in combat gear saluted her, she returned the salute with a smile. She climbed the stairs, checking her uniform and cap.
She knocked at the door, under a sign that said: “Colonel Maria Suvorov, 3rd section”. The third section was the German section, charged with intelligence gathering on Alliance troop movements in Germany, and in Eastern countries. A clear authoritative woman’s voice told her to come in. At the door Sophie saluted, a little stiffly, and stood to attention. Colonel Suvorov was walking toward her and shook her hand: “Welcome comrade! Sophie, this is general xxx who is taking part in our our briefing this morning.”
The older man stood up, and smiled. Sophie saw the lines of campaign colours on his uniform jacket: from all parts of the world where the Federation had fought in the past decades… A single golden star medal was pinned to his breast. “Good morning comrade, please sit down. Colonel Suvorov has told me about you, lieutenant Lavinsky, and of your exploits at the last joint forces olympic games.” Sophie blushed.
She had won the gold medal at the pentathlon, no small feat given the level of competition. They sat around a round table. A young NCO brought tea in silver cups. The small office was spartan. On the wall hanged various photographs of soldiers, in majority women. One photograph was of a younger Maria Suvorov, in the Syrian desert.
Colonel Suvorov looked at a note pad in front of her, and then to Sophie, a direct gaze the young woman held. “There is very likely to be a change in… “our friends’s policy,” she said addressing Sophie, and looking from time to time to the general. “Our friends” was pronounced with only a thin veil of irony. “Soon, events on the northern coast cities will force us to intervene. The intervention will be massive, and there will be no cease fire line, this time, until we are deep, deep enough to eliminate any shred of doubt about our resolve, in the minds of their politicians.” She added, after a pause, “of course we will limit the casualties.”
“You should know,” the general said, while Sophie was registering the meaning of the colonel’s words, “that the mission we are about to explain to you, is of the utmost importance to that future campaign. We need, promptly, better intelligence on the population mood in the old territories, and specifically, Berlin. We have agents there, but we need fresh eyes and ears to confirm, and possibly correct, some of the intelligence we have.”
There was another pause, Sophie was listening, knowing better than asking questions at this point. The colonel resumed: “We are sending you to Berlin for a short mission, a snapshot, with two main objectives. One, as the general just said, is to take a view of the spirit of the residents, their state of mind, now, and after the events I have alluded to. We expect a favourable change in popular sentiment after that, but we have to be sure. Two, is to probe the stance, particularly, of the English speaking expatriate community in the city. As you know US neutrality, now that they are virtually out of of the Alliance, is no longer an issue: it’s an incontrovertible fact. Yet we have to know what westerners there think, what their concerns are, how their views of the Federation change, before and after we take action. I should add, for your understanding, that, in due course, there will be a new division of the country…” Colonel Suvorov smiled before adding, “this time not temporary.”
The general asked Sophie: “Do you have any burning question so far, comrade?” Sophie realised a new step was about to be taken in her life. “Only about the timeline for those events, and my move, Sir.” – “You are leaving tomorrow, the rest of today is about providing you with detailed information about where, who and what, and your contacts there. You are fluent in both German and English, as well as French,” the colonel replied, “so, in addition to your well honed skills as an intelligence officer, you are the perfect choice for this mission. Events in the north are already at boiling point, as you know. We expect a serious provocation to take place within two or three months, possibly earlier. Our response will follow swiftly, within a couple hours…”
Viktoria Park II, ©2017 Honoré Dupuis
Photo: The reconstructed Cathedral of Transfiguration of Jesus in Donetsk. Source: Sergiy Klymenko