Salon doré, Palais de l’Élysée, Paris, France, 12 July, 18:43 hrs +1 GMT
The President stood in front of the wall sized map. The front lines ran from the Swiss border to the east in a great arc all through Centre and down to the southwest on to the Spanish border. Enemy forces where a scant one hundred and thirty kilometers from the capital. France’s armed forces have traded territory for time.
And time was running out.
Eurocorp was spread thin. In the east German with forces from Norway, Denmark with volunteers from Sweden and Finland held the Alpine line that ran through the old Swiss/Austrian/Italian border. Estimates put the enemy field strength at over one hundred thousand. In the Balkans, the enemy besieged Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade, while the bulk of their forces swept away Macedonian and Albanian resistance. Russian paratroopers held Belgrade against repeated attacks, while the Polish, Check and Russian Federation air forces supplied the beleaguered capitals from the air.
An attack on Greece was expected at any moment.
The Spanish Legion fought side by side with their French counterparts in the region of the Pyrénées-Orientales. The strong presence of allied navies in the western Mediterranean protected their flank, but not without loses to midget submarines, hordes of torpedo attack boats and the occasional dragon strike.
Back in France, French forces were fully committed, along side the forces of the Low Countries. If France fell, they would surely follow. They exacted a heavy price on the enemy. For every dead allied soldier, ten fell on the other side.
Five thousand on one side, fifty thousand on the other.
France did not stand alone, but could it stand for much longer?
Hope lay in the north and east. Thousands civilians trained to become soldiers, factories built armaments and countries from Australia to Brazil promised aid.
Would they arrive in time?
Would they march to liberate France or stomp over acid washed ruins and dunes of ash?
The President put those thoughts aside. He sat on ornate desk, faced the cameras and shuffled a stack of papers. From the outset he set out to calm his fellow citizens. He promised he would tell them the truth, every day, the best way he could. No lies, no jingoism, the unvarnished truth. The opposition labeled him “The Mayor” for acting like a village politician instead of a national leader. But France embraced chats. No embellishments would drive away the dark clouds over their heads or the hunger in their bellies.