The First Order - Chapter 1249
1249 The countdown begins
Zhang Xiaoman had been a soldier for over a decade of his life, but his true highest appointment was actually only that of company commander. Although he was later promoted to brigade commander of the 6th Combat Brigade, he always understood why it happened. The higher-ups just wanted to assign someone familiar to Ren Xiaosu.
He carefully counted the duration he stayed as battalion commander and regimental commander. In total, it seemed like he had spent less than half a year in those appointments before he got promoted to the rank of brigade commander.
The expansion of the Northwest Army happened too fast as the number of strongholds under their control increased by several dozen times. As a result, everyone was forced into roles they weren’t ready for. Even the former commander of the Forward Strike Battalion had become the commander of the 3rd Field Division.
Zhou Yinglong had mentioned to Zhang Jinglin on several occasions that he felt overstretched having to step up as a division commander.
But according to Zhang Jinglin, no one was born to be a division commander. You could only learn how when you reached that position.
Of course, such fast-tracked promotions would have some hidden dangers as well. Compared to the Pyro Company’s troops, the Qing Consortium’s troops, and the Wang Consortium’s troops, the Northwest Army lacked foundation. Therefore, there would definitely be some issues when a full-scale war broke out.
However, even though Zhang Jinglin wanted to steadily build on the foundations, this era was not going to wait for them.
What did Zhang Xiaoman used to be like in the Razor Sharp Company?
There were only a total of 180 soldiers who ate and lived together, and all of them were brothers to each other.
When the Razor Sharp Company went into battle, their unit motto was to not abandon or give up on their fellow comrades. Not a single person must be left behind.
Although everyone knew that people would die in wars, no one would go into one intending to die.
It was not only the Razor Sharp Company that had this thinking. Even the Forward Strike Battalion and the 3rd Field Division were the same.
How did the Northwest Army come to be known as those
in the past?
Was it because Fortress 178 was well-equipped with arms? It had only been close to 20 years since they started developing their military industry. Prior to that, everyone was so poor they would worry daily whether the Kingdom of Sorcerers would invade them.
Was it because the commanders of Fortress 178 were particularly outstanding? Zhang Jinglin was only a medic, and some of the commanders from Fortress 178 even rose through the ranks of the fucking chow squad.
It seemed that one didn’t need to be strong to be able to convince the masses in the Northwest. Ren Xiaosu was the only unconventional candidate for the position of fortress commander since Fortress 178 was established.
Zhang Jinglin had admitted on many occasions that he was never the most outstanding commander to lead Fortress 178. Everyone was only willing to let him be the fortress commander because he was fair and benevolent.
Back then, Zhang Jinglin had saved more than a 100 of his comrades’ lives on the battlefield when he was serving as a medic. As long as there was still a breath in them, he would save them and bring them home.
In that battle, Zhang Jinglin’s hands and feet became covered in blisters.
When the other medical personnel came to check on his injuries, they were shocked.
This was all about Zhang Jinglin’s charisma, not his capabilities.
At that time, Fortress 178’s days were very tough, and they only guarded one stronghold. Therefore, every soldier was extremely precious.
If someone from Fortress 178 were to get killed, his comrades would take revenge like crazy. On the battlefield, the only thing on their minds was either they survived together, or they died together.
Only by sticking together could everyone survive in this chaotic world.
Zhang Xiaoman had not truly learned to be a commander yet, and it was not his place to lead the 6th Field Division either. Therefore, he could not accept that P5092 was deciding so calmly on the deaths of his comrades.
Even Ren Xiaosu had mentioned to P5092 before that the Northwest Army and the Pyro Company were different from each other.
But it was precisely because of this that wherever the Northwest Army was based, the more compassionate the region became. The Northwest Army was not a brutal war machine either.
This was an army that believed in protecting their cause.
Therefore, even if Zhang Xiaoman knew that P5092 was doing this for the sake of victory, he still found it very difficult to accept emotionally. But however difficult it might be, he had to obey his orders. Moreover, when he saw P5092’s tears, he understood that this seemingly cold-blooded machine was actually just a normal person with emotions like him.
It was no wonder Ren Xiaosu told P5092 not to overburden himself.
Every time P5092 made a callous decision, it was actually deep torture for him as well.
Zhang Xiaoman looked at P5092 and said,
I was wrong to question you earlier. If you need me to sacrifice myself in this war someday, you can just order me directly.
P5092 remained silent for a moment before saying,
There’s no value in your sacrifice, or I would have sent you to your death early on.
Zhang Xiaoman was left speechless.
A huge defensive line had already been set up 500 kilometers west of Stronghold 144.
The defensive line stretched for hundreds of kilometers, and dozens of defensive support points formed a large net as they waited for the enemy to approach.
Hundreds of thousands of people were busy working here. It was not only the Northwest Army soldiers but also strong young men who supported the construction of the defensive line.
They were carrying out the foundation work here and were either carrying bricks and sandbags or excavating the ground.
Outside a defensive position south of the defensive line, a steam locomotive was approaching quickly.
When the Northwest Army’s garrison troops saw the steam locomotive from afar, they cheered.
It’s Future Commander! That’s Future Commander’s steam locomotive!
When the steam locomotive approached, many of the soldiers who had never seen this colossus before stared curiously at it.
The Northwest Army’s command headquarters was situated behind this defensive position. Therefore, the checkpoints here were relatively stricter. Anyone who wanted to pass through had to undergo electrocution to ensure they were not carrying any nanomachines in their bodies.
Of course, dozens of other defensive positions also implemented the same measures. This was in case the artificial intelligence discovered the location of the command headquarters.
Upon entering the defensive position, the soldiers in charge of electrocuting and inspecting for nanomachines were put in a difficult spot. That was because Xu Man, Qing Zhen, Luo Lan, and Zhou Qi’s statuses were a little special, so everyone did not know if they should perform the electrocution measures on them.
In the end, it was Qing Zhen who voluntarily requested,
Shock us. I’m just a normal person, and I can’t be sure if I’m carrying any nanomachines in me. The three of them are superhumans, but there’s no evidence to suggest they won’t have nanomachines implanted in them either.
After that, Qing Zhen walked into the inspection tent and took off his shirt. He allowed the nurse to apply the conductive gel onto his chest before receiving an electric shock.
When Luo Lan and the others saw that even Qing Zhen had taken the initiative to undergo the inspection, they could only go along with it.
Zhou Qi muttered,
With our statuses, we should be treated as VIPs here in the Northwest. In the end, we have to get electrocuted first. That’ll put us at a disadvantage during the negotiations later.
Qing Zhen took a short while to recover after receiving the electric shock. He said to Zhou Qi,
We’re not here to negotiate. There can only be negotiations if the premise is that both sides have their own interests to protect. But there’s not going to be any of that now. Rather, what we need to do is to ensure the survival of human civilization.
Zhou Qi suddenly asked,
Then even if we emerge victorious in this war, wouldn’t it be the end for the Qing Consortium?
Isn’t it better to do some gardening here in the Northwest?
Qing Zhen said with a smile.
Xu Man and the others were stunned for a moment. Perhaps this was the ending Qing Zhen was after?
During the inspection, no one requested Ren Xiaosu to be put through an electric shock or the like, leading to Zhou Qi asking the security personnel,
Aren’t you gonna shock your future commander too? He might have gotten controlled by the nanomachines as well. Are you all so sure he isn’t affected? These inspection instruments were sent here to the Northwest by our Qing Consortium.
Zhou Qi was only pointing out the truth. The Qing Consortium was the first to discover a way to restrain nanomachines that had been implanted into people’s bodies. While this method could not be deployed on a large scale, it was indeed quite efficient to implement at strategic defensive points. At the very least, it could ensure there were no AI-controlled spies in the base.
At that time, the Qing Consortium had continuously gifted over a hundred sets of equipment to the Northwest, and even the conductive gel sent weighed tons.
Truly, Qing Zhen had indeed laid out the preparations with great care.
The nurse responsible for applying the conductive gel glanced at Zhou Qi and retorted,
The fortress commander said that if Future Commander can get controlled by the AI, we can all just wait to be destroyed. There won’t be any need to put up a resistance anymore. What? You have a problem with our future commander?
Zhou Qi quickly shut up. Even though he was a demigod, he did not dare to voice any opinion regarding Ren Xiaosu.
After all, Zhou Yingxue was also a demigod, yet wasn’t she still obediently serving as Ren Xiaosu’s maidservant?
In the eyes of many people, Zhou Yingxue was a comparison marker. As long as you were not stronger than Zhou Yingxue, you should behave obediently in front of Ren Xiaosu.
However, Ren Xiaosu also took the initiative to take off his shirt and said,
Give me a shock as well. There’s no need for any special treatment.
The nurse’s eyes widened.
Uh… I don’t have enough conductive gel here. Future Commander, wait for a while. I’ll go and get some.
With that, the nurse ran out quickly. Two minutes later, she returned with a new batch of conductive gel. However, there were more than a dozen nurses following her.
It was all a lie when she said she needed to get more conductive gel. Actually, she just wanted to gather her colleagues to gawk at the future commander’s body.
After the electric shock tests finished, Wang Fengyuan was waiting outside the tent.
Everyone, come with me to the HQ. The high-ranking commanders of the Northwest Army are waiting there for the meeting to begin.
When they entered the command center, they saw Zhang Jinglin sitting at the end of a long table. Telephones were on the table, with the lines already connected.
Zhang Jinglin got up and said to Qing Zhen with a smile,
I’m sorry, but the high-ranking commanders of the Northwest Army can’t attend the meeting in person. We can only hold a simple conference call in case the AI finds out about the location of the command center and takes us out. These telephone lines are all secured, and they’re all laid with dedicated lines. The AI shouldn’t be able to eavesdrop.
Qing Zhen nodded.
I understand. In a situation like this, there’s nothing wrong with taking more precautions.
Seeing that Qing Zhen did not mind, Zhang Jinglin said to Ren Xiaosu as he gestured to his left,
Xiaosu, come and sit next to me.
When the high-ranking commanders scattered at their various posts heard that Ren Xiaosu had also arrived, they hurriedly said,
Greetings, Future Commander!
Future Commander, It’s Old Zhou. Zhou Yinglong, do you still remember me?
Is Future Commander in good health?
Future Commander, have you eaten?
Luo Lan and company were at a loss for words. This was such a bootlicking session. They had not expected Ren Xiaosu to be so highly regarded in the Northwest.
Even in Zhang Jinglin’s presence, everyone did not hold back on flattering the future commander openly.
In most organizations, even if the successor had already been confirmed, everyone would still restrain themselves a little in the presence of the current head. Those who took sides in advance would usually not end up doing well.
After all, it was still possible the heir could be replaced.
However, this did not seem to be the case in the Northwest. The atmosphere felt completely different.
Zhang Jinglin coughed twice and said,
Alright, it won’t be too late to flatter him after he takes over from me. Let’s get down to proper business now.
As soon as he finished speaking, someone said in falsetto,
Ah, Fortress Commander is jealous.
There were too many telephones on the table, so no one could tell who made that remark.
Immediately after, everyone burst out laughing.
Qing Zhen suddenly smiled at Luo Lan and said,
I quite like it here.
I think so too,
Luo Lan said with a laugh.
Zhang Jinglin did not get angry either.
Alright, alright, let’s get down to business.
The command center fell silent. All of the combat staff officers consciously made their way out of the command center. This was not a meeting they were qualified to participate in.
Zhang Jinglin said to Ren Xiaosu,
Xiaosu, you must have a lot of doubts on your mind. All of the commanders must also feel the same. Everyone probably doesn’t even know what we can do to win this war. The enemy seems to have already become so powerful it’s difficult to contend against it. With tens of millions of troops, that number will only grow larger after it absorbs the population of the Southwest. Our Northwest Army has only expanded to over 300,000 soldiers, so how are our 300,000 soldiers going to fight against tens of millions of elite enemy troops? I think everyone would be puzzled by that.
Ren Xiaosu nodded.
But we still can’t reveal the final plan yet.
Qing Zhen said calmly,
This plan started a year ago. Although the situation has greatly changed, the plan Commander Zhang and I came up with at that time can still be put to good use.
Ren Xiaosu glanced at Qing Zhen. It was no wonder Zhang Jinglin had asked him to deliver Qing Zhen to the Northwest. So it turned out that the two of them had hatched a secret plan a year ago.
Qing Zhen said,
Everyone, please don’t mind me hiding the details from you. For the past year, I’ve been living in seclusion and restraining my desire to speak with the rest of the world every day just so I can keep this plan a secret. The reason it will be effective is because no one knows about it. From now on, we will have to face a large number of casualties and great grief every day. But this time, we can only win if we fight to survive. I implore everyone here to buy me another nine days. I need Fortress 178 to still be standing strong after these nine days.
Qing Zhen still did not explain what the plan was, but he already made it very clear to the Northwest Army what they had to do.
It was down to the last nine days.
The countdown began now.