Saint Petersburg, Russia
Thousands of cheers welcomed General Eduard Ivanovich Totleben as he paraded down the streets, dressed in his extremely ornate and medal clad uniform, as he led hundreds of dragoons down the large boulevard. Thousands imperial flags and banners fluttered in the wind, helping to fuel the nationalism already burning throughout the crowd. As Totleben rode onward, a mixture of awe and pride prevented him from holding back a smile.
Guards soon began to part the crowd as the parade made its way to Palace Square, where a large stage had been set up. After making his way to the stage, Totleben dismounted from his horse, and strode up towards the center, every step as regal as the last. The stage, along with the rest of the ceremony, had been meticulously planned in such a way that it would evoke nationalism. Large banners featuring the imperial crest hung from the walls, which themselves were lined with the royal guard, and a mural in the back revealed Cossacks stampeding through a field as the sun rose.
Totleben took in the large crowd, and then began his much rehearsed speech by holding his fist up and crying out, “Countrymen!”
More cheers followed, and it took the guards several minutes to once again quite down the crowd. Once this was done he continued, “all of you are living throughout the most glorious time in the history of the world! It is now, in your lifetimes, that you will be able to partake in a part of the greatest conquest that the world will ever see!”
Once again, the guards dispatched throughout the square had to work hard to silence the pride filled crowd, as Totleben could only project his voice a certain distance. Once the conditions were quiet enough, Totleben continued, “Just as we have conquered countless other peoples, soon we will plunge into the heart of Europe, into the land of the Hungarians and of the Heathen Turk! Our race shall conquer all, and we shall see victory. These nations, along with their English allies, the most arrogant of nations, will soon be crushed and humiliated before the Russian bear! Together, with our God-graced Czar, we will bask in victory! A unified Russia has never lost a war, and we will never lose a war! Countrymen, prepare for glory!” At that, Totleben rose a sword, and the crowd exploded into cheers. He then exited the stage as another official rose to motivate the crowd.
The Next Day
“And what of India?” asked Major General Gourko.
“I still think it impossible to hold major operations there” insisted Totleben. Those mountains would cost us far too many men.”
At that, Major General Mikhail Skobelev, one of the most revered men in the room, stood up. A brilliant young man, he had been instrumental in the victory at the Siege of Stockholm. And now, he seemed ready to lead his troops on an even more daring mission. “I assure, you, that given enough troops, I can lead us into the land of the Pakistanis and Indians. Once we are past the mountains, the ill defended place will quickly fall.”
“This is crazy” added General Lazarev. “You think that in the highest mountains of the world, we can pull off a successful offensive?”
“Yes” replied Skobelev cooly. “You think that the Indian troops occupy the tops of mountains normally? They will be more unprepared than us. You think Indians are as accustomed to the cold as one who lives throughout the Russian winter?”
“Do you have any plans?” inquired Totleben.
“Yes actually,” replied Skobelev as he took out a folder. “You see, our railroad reaches near India as it is. We could deploy troops to the region very quickly. Scouts in the area tell us of minimal defenses. There are several potential systems of passes that could work.”
“And what of logistics? Is that accounted for, couldn’t you be cut off very easily?”
“We would flush out resistance and have a chain supply convoys. The valleys and villages should sustain the troops, however. As I said, there is a system of passes.”
“As of now” Totleben responded, “and I mean no disrespect when I say this, I disapprove, as I believe many of the other Generals here do.” Many nodded. “However, I believe in you as a General, and propose that we research the subject and meet back in two days. We don’t have much time, but this could be one of the greatest military successes in the history of the world if pulled off. I think it would be beneficial if you prepared more of a report, Skobelev.”
“Thank you General.”
“We will bring the issue up once more in two days.”
And thus, in two days, it was decided that 150,000 men would be deployed under the command of General Skobelev to the Indian front.
Saint Pierre De Chandieu, France
Jacques Merlin could see the small, abandoned farmhouse under the bright light of the moon. To anyone else, excluding the artist, Merlin thought, that building would have been ignored. However, he was not “anyone else”, and so approached it, and tapped on the door three times as instructed. A tall man dressed in a burgundy military uniform opened the door, and said “ahhh….Citizen Merlin. How do you do?”
“As does the revolution,” replied Merlin, reciting the password. At that, the man opened the door and instructed, “your fellows are in the meeting room. You are lucky, Citizen Blanqui hasn’t yet arrived.” Merlin nodded and then proceeded through the soldier filled room to the ladder that led into the basement. In the dim light he made out the other officers of the region, all of whom knew as little about his identity as he did about theirs. It is for the better, he thought. It would prevent any leaks from ruining the whole operation.
He took a seat in the dimly lit room, making out only the shadowy figures and the revolutionary flags hanging from the wall. No one spoke, and they remained in silence for another ten minutes as several more officers arrived. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of anxious waiting, Citizen Musar, who had greeted Merlin at the door, came into the small room and said, “Citizens. I would like to introduce to you, Citizen Louis Auguste Blanqui!”
Everyone clapped as the bearded but proud looking man entered the room, also in the standard burgundy suit of the Armeé Rouge. Blanqui, who had been the mastermind of the revolution in the north, and whose books contained knowledge that an officer required, now stood before the group of several dozen men.
“Citizens. It is my absolute pleasure to be here” began Blanqui, smiling. “Before we start this important but brief meeting, I would like to inform you that the Siege of Langres has ended, and our revolutionary forces have secured the city!”
Everyone once again applauded and cheered, as officers who barely knew each other patted one another on the back. As Merlin cheered, he realized how excellent this news really was. Both the Revolutionary Forces and the Army of the Empire were pouring the majority of their forces towards that town, success of the revolutionary forces there marked a great victory.
“And all of you, soon, will be doing the same thing in Lyon” continued Blanqui. “The time has finally come for us to liberate this city’s inhabitants, and so, in two days, we will attack. You will all receive plans after this meeting, and I urge you, as the leaders of your local revolutionary chapters, to summon your soldiers immediately and review plans. You, my brothers, you are the future! Your hard work and training will finally shine through, as you free the worker from his chains! Long is the night which never sees the day, but I tell you, the day shall come, and it shall be one like no other ever before. For the first time in the history of the world, the workers shall be freed, and you will be their liberators!”
Everyone broke into applause, and Merlin stood up, clapping. Blanqui thanked everyone, shook hands, and left as quickly as he had come. As Merlin filed out, it began to dawn on him that he would be leading a cause like none before. It was no longer him attempting to hold France against Prussians, or any imperial war. He, conversely, would be part of the first war ever that would truly be for the betterment of mankind. As he approached his home village several miles away to the east, thinking of all this, he marveled at the sun, now beginning to rise over the small town.