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In the northern tribal regions of the Republic of Derbaran, a small town began to stir as the pink light of dawn colored the desert mountaintops in the distance. Bakers and merchants, midwives and school teachers, emerged from their mud brick homes to begin their day. As always, they threw nervous glances at the razor wire and concrete compound of the Derbaran military depot that squatted below a yellow banner just beyond the village. The coexistence was an uncomfortable one; the Derbaran government had little love for the tribal minorities in the area.
Cries of alarm rose from the men stationed at the depot when a column of tanks and trucks crested a rise. They flew green banners, the colors of the National Independence Union, the rebel coalition of minority tribes. But these were not poor peasants with cheap rifles. The Derbaran soldiers scrambled in panic as the NIU tanks rained explosive rounds on the ammo depot, shattering concrete bunkers and crushing soldiers beneath a hail of rubble. NIU trucks disgorged scores of men who peppered the defensive positions with small arms fire.
When it was over, the only sound came from the crackle of flames and the screams of wounded and dying Derbaran soldiers. The villagers slowly emerged from hiding. They gasped when they recognized the man who climbed from the lead tank and stood on the turret to address them. Even in this small village, the televisions in the tea houses and shops had shown his face many times. He was General Ikram Karmali, decorated officer of the Derbaran military and military advisor to the President. The pride of the Derbaran military had become a rebel.