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A Quiet Arrival
The Legion's return to CCD territory had been a winding trail that led to its heart, Moscow. It had taken weeks to make the arrangements. Meetings took time to assure that schedules lined up, and that contract and contextual groundwork was completed properly. Luckily, the Legion had experience in such areas from its former incarnation as Legion Premiere. The legal teams were in place, and eager to be gainfully employed once more.

The CCD had proven almost surprisingly cooperative to his intentions, and the Legion's PR department had been put to work arranging the announcement. Rather then travelling straight to Moscow, there were stops arranged along the way. First and foremost was three days at Aubagne, France. Or at least, the former nation of France. A point that was carefully danced around in all official Legion statements, and Jacques speech, during the trip.

The three day visit served two purposes; first and foremost, the official sign-over of Legion artifacts and relics held at in a museum located in the Foreign Legion's traditional headquarters. Banners, historic uniforms and captured arms, and a myriad other pieces of the Legion's long history would be transferred to their new headquarters in Algeria.

The second, and certainly more public reason, for the visit to Aubagne, and a selection of other more important cities across the CCD over a two week period. Civilian survivors of the Battle of Jeddah, those that the Legion had managed to evacuate, were given a chance to meet with a handful of Legionnaire veterans of the battle. Most of those veterans were those too wounded to participate in the final stand.

The meetings were closed to live coverage; while the events did afford the Legion some much needed public image in the CCD, Jacques' actual reason for them were far more private. It allowed the civilian survivors to thank their rescuers, and for the Legionnaires whom were too wounded to continue service in a combat role to find some meaning behind the loss of both their comrades-in-arms and for the wounds that seen them unable to continue to serve.

The Legion's arrival in Moscow had led to no shortage of red tape. The delivery of Jacques' staff car, a black 1941 Citroen Traction, lovingly maintained and bearer of a myriad modern upgrades such to the point the car's only original parts were the body itself. The CCD's laws on armoured vehicles for VIPs were easy enough to work through. As were their laws on firearms. Legionnaires tasked to his security detail had been required to demonstrate a detailed understanding on the CCD's laws, and of course there had to be insurance and background checks.

But among all its various modern age features, A/C and heat were not included. An intentional sacrifice of comfort over function, meant as a sort of reminder to keep the CEO grounded and focused. Late spring in Moscow was only 'unpleasantly chill' for most visitors, but Jacques and his escort were African. Luckily, Legion Premiere had always included a winter dress uniform, which was rarely seen in use. In fact, it had served as little other then one more piece of kit the Legionnaires needed to keep immaculate during their training.

There could be no denying the Legion was a military organization which had returned to rich traditions. Of course, these uniforms were as modernized as the staff car. While traditional in appearance, keeping to the almond-green fabric, blue sash, and white Kepi cap, they were made of modern materials. Slash-resistant cloth, concealed soft-weave body armour. Military grade Landwarriors were standard issue, as were hard-case Wallets.

The officer of his guard, Capitaine Espen Pedersen, along with the Sig Sauer P226 pistol all members of the security detail openly carried, wore a traditional Infantry Sabre. The groups disembarkation from their private jet in Moscow, while covered by local news agencies, while not bound to make any degree of breaking or wide-spread news, would surely feature as a side-bar story on their social media feeds.

There was no waiting officials, no pomp and ceremony. Jacques, dressed in an officers uniform much like Capitaine Pedersen, but lacking in the bars of an officer. In fact, Jacques uniform lacked any markings of rank or title, but still bore myriad patches and medals marking completed training and gained qualifications.

Jacques right hand had been replaced with a prosthetic, one of the reasons for the weeks that had passed before his final departure for the CCD. Surgeries, recovery time, and of course necessary physiotherapy to teach him how to function with the new hand. It was the best Africa could provide, donated by a non-profit organization active in northern and western Africa, but years behind what Jacques could easily have afforded had he wished it.

It was a new hand. Functional, and with it he could wield a pistol once more. He could write, with some difficulty, he could type, albeit slower then before, and perhaps luckily he had never been skilled with musical instruments. And he could salute his men once more, shake hands, drink his tea and hold the saucer properly, read a book and turn the page without putting it down. It was the little things in life, after all.

What had come as some surprise for Jacques, was the legal departments announcement that the CCD government had made the Igumnov House available for the Legion's use during its stay in Moscow. The former home of the French ambassador, the building was only 4kms from the Red Square, situated in the historic Yakimanka District.

The Legion motorcade, three Legion SUVs escorting the black Citroen Traction, all flying the Legion flag and colours, navigated the well rehearsed route from airport to destination, where they were met by a dozen Legion staff whom had arrived a week in advance to prepare the building for its use. Staff had been hired from local agencies, oddly favoring less experienced and, theoretically, qualified personnel for the Legion's relatively light requirements.

A Legion cook (the mother of a Legionnaire in Jacques guard retinue) would serve as master of the kitchen, with local staff to assist. Legion clerks and legal staff would work with local temp workers to form his legal, administrative, and PR departments on the ground for the duration of his stay. Three members of a very respectable private security company had even been hired on to further train and instruct his security detail on CCP procedures, legal requirements, and appropriate close-protection drills.

By mid day, Jacques sat in what would serve as his office, attached to what would surely have been a lavish bedroom suite if the original furniture was still in place. Most of the furnishings from the buildings' time as home of an ambassador were long gone. The building had been re-purposed for a time as a government office during a lengthy renovation project in one of the Kremlin's many administrative buildings, and had while considered a heritage site, it had seen little use since.

As such, much of the furnishings within had been either shipped in advance, or had been purchased second hand or even rented. They were functional, sturdy, and offered little by way of grandeur and expense. The Legion was frugal when it came to frivolous expenses, and Jacques had no practical need for expensive hardwood desks and upholstered throne-like chairs.

His tea, however, was perhaps a bit of an indulgence. He sat alone, for the moment, a copy of War and Peace in hand, in its original Russian (translated thanks to software run on his Landwarriors), and a selection of Russian classical music playing softly in the background. There was no chance of him actually completing the lengthy novel during his relatively brief, and likely quite busy, stint in Moscow, but it was a bit of a habit of his, to at least attempt to embrace some historic culture of a region he visited.

His meetings would likely begin the following day, but the Legion's temporary office was open to any whom wished to visit or were interested in signing on; although in truth, few or none were likely to partake. The Battle of Jeddah, while important to the Legion's history and to those whom had survived it, was but one of many skirmishes that had occurred that bloody night throughout DV, and the public at large tended to have short memories.
One of the locally hired clerks knocked on his office door, and entered a moment later at Jacques' beckoning. He had set the book aside for the moment, the music was paused with a practiced flick of his eyes to the Landwarrior's HUD controls, and he stood to meet the older man half-way across the rather annoyingly expansive office.

"An unusual arrangement, Sir. A one Mr Aurel Jahoda, of AZO Mining has requested a meeting with you. They are, apparently, interesting in making a 'sizable' cash donation to your cause in Sierra Leone, Sir."
The elder clerk carried a freshly printed portfolio on the company and on Mr Jahoda, a senior manager in the company's Moscow office. He found the Legionnaire's preference for printed media rather then electronic 'campy and antiquated', surprising for the man being into his mid-fifties.

Jacques accepted the portfolio with a warm smile, holding it open in his left hand and flipping it open to peruse the cover page of the clerk's report while leading the man towards the desk. "Interesting. And rather sudden. Odd that they waited until we were already in Moscow to make the offer, isn't it?"
His tone was tinted with a hint of sarcasm; both Jacques and the clerk had some idea of just what Mr Jahoda's motivations were.

"Yes, Sir. I would say so. He would appreciate meeting with you in person, tonight as a matter of fact. Very sudden. However, the venue of choice is quite tasteful. Certainly conductive to discussions of finance and humanitarian goals."
He was certain Jacques had already noticed, and likely already used his Landwarriors' search engine to pull up information on the venue of choice.

Jacques smirked and tapped one metal finger against the cover sheet, where it noted just where and when that meeting was requested to take place. "I see. Yes, I'm sure Mr Jahoda is a stalwart example of selfishness and worldly views."

There was a moment of silence as Jacques pondered the situation. He already knew what Mr Jahoda was up to; the man was almost certainly looking for a promotion in the company, and sought to gain that promotion by convincing Jacques to sell mining rights to the company the man worked for. It was, simply put, a callous bribe. Well, perhaps the outcome of the meeting would set a precedence that would save him from future wastes of time while he was in Moscow.

And it had been too long since he had had a night out on the town, he supposed.

"Arrange it. Have the staff car readied, and find two volunteers for this evening's meeting. They can alternate watching the car."
The clerk chuckled and nodded, taking his leave.

Some hours later, Jacques and two Legionnaires climbed into the staff car and departed for Kallisti, House of Burlesque.
Two weeks. Her mind was set despite assuring Jacques she would consider returning to the CCD. Africa might not be safe, but neither did it represent the gilded cage of home - and of the two choices, she preferred her freedom. So it was only chance that drew her to check her personal messages, a minefield dutifully avoided these past few weeks, only to finally discover the flash of urgent ones spanning back weeks. Her heart hung like a stone in her chest, emotion immediately buried deep out of long-ingrained habit. She didn't explain why she'd changed her mind, but after reading those messages she accepted the offer of a flight out of Africa.

The Northbrook retinue met in her at Aubagne (Eleanor despised Moscow, and they had residences in France, so it was more convenient). Natalie didn't recognise the smooth-faced driver who came to collect her like a piece of luggage, not that she had expected to. Eleanor herself was conspicuously absent, perhaps to spare Jacques the sharper side of her tongue - or perhaps simply because the whole transaction was not something she could be seen publicly embroiled in. It mattered little to Natalie. A silent sigh deflated her lungs, but France and its impending familial reunion was merely a stepping stone.

She was unsentimental in her goodbyes. Whatever else had happened, she owed her life to Legion Premiere (not that they hadn't been duly compensated, she imagined). Jacques received a courteous nod, one that extended its gratitude to Jared - for his silence. Her gaze caught a moment longer on Jay, expression still shuttered against whatever thoughts made her linger. She offered a strangely formal handshake, cut by a sly smirk when she knew he'd felt the folded paper in her palm.

Then she slipped into the car, and was gone.
Jay didn't approve of leaving Natalie behind in Sierra Leone while the rest of them jetted off to Moscow. A nervousness filled his gut every time he thought about it, until finally, he resolve to request of Jacques permission to stay behind. He was on the verge of doing it when he was told Natalie changed her mind. Huh. Well. Okay then. He shrugged and left the idea in the dust.

Now, given he'd spent a few years in the Marines before they ungraciously asked him to leave, guess they couldn't take the pressure of having a competent, kickass soldier in their midst, he considered himself a rather well-travelled individual. Sure, most of those travels took place at night, and yeah, they weren't exactly visiting touristy areas. But they counted. He'd seen a thing or two. Killed one or two bad guys. Well, landing in France, or the country formerly known as France, was pretty interesting. For one thing, it was during the day. The place was all shiny and smelled like bread and wine. Classy shit like that. Given that Jay was a fancy new officer now, he had to walk around and actually put some effort into thinking about the history behind Legion Premiere. Best not to think on it too long, though, because that dredged up feelings and all kinds of useless things.

The trip from France to Moscow was far more interesting, though. The CCD was impossible to describe. It was like Russia, but on steroids, so basically Russia, but even Russia-ier... Moscow might as well have been Mars for all the world away from Sierra Leone they went. It was like they walked through a sci-fi movie set 100 years in the future, or maybe Sierra Leone was stuck in the past. Thing was, Jay was so used to it that he felt like a time traveler out of his element.

He gawked. The corn fed Iowa boy fucking gawked. Holograms walked around the airport. Everything was "smart" technology. Everywhere. The fucking urinals told him about his hydration level based off biosensors testing his piss. Then there was the city itself. It was spectacular. The buildings were incredibly designed, some of the architecture seemed to defy the laws of gravity. When they pulled up to the place they were staying, Jay's brows rose in surprise. The building was kind of beautiful. The old architecture was grand and in such contrast to the modern world around them. It felt like they went back in time, somehow. And he instantly relaxed once inside.

Of course, he hadn't been fond of the idea of getting all this way with Natalie only to have her leave again. Hand in one pocket, he fingered the paper she'd given him, making sure it was still there.

Only darkness shows you the light.

Even in the heart of the CCD, the Legion relied heavily on the old way of doing things. One room of the old Ambassadorial abode's large rooms had been turned into a command and control center. Paper maps covered the walls, with others still rolled and neatly filed in, of all things, simple knotted cordage lines hanging from the ceiling. Thumb tacks dotted many of the wall maps, marking all sorts of eldritch things that would make little sense to the uninitiated.

What few Legionnaires Jacques had on hand in Moscow, bolstered by locally sourced civilian staff, often pulled stints in the room in order to keep track of Legion and allied activities in Africa, and was part of the reason why they had not been crippled by the Nigerian-launched hacking attack that had brought down much of the Legion's Algeria-based C2 ability.

Since that failed offensive, the Legion and it's aligned forces had been fast at work incorporating and re-purposing the wealth of military equipment that had been captured. Aided by civilian uprisings and political unrest in the region, they had made major advances into Mali, the Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso.

The majority of both the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso's militaries had been captured during their failed offensive into Liberia, leaving both nations in no shape to actively resist the Legion's advance, nor in protecting their corrupt governments from internal threats. Mali had thrown its lot in late into the Legion's advance into Burkina Faso, and suffered equally heavy losses due to desertion or turn-coats among their own forces.

"Let Colonel Sevinc consolidate his forces in Mali, and to attempt getting in contact with the pro-democracy rebels in Bamako. If they can coordinate their PR efforts and offer a show of unity and mutual support, we should be able to take the city without any further violence. Also, let President-for-Life Rumbidazi know that his own military is no longer supporting any further violence. The Presidential Guard may still be loyal to him, but they are under-strength and short on supplies as it is."
The Colonel was a Liberian commander, among the first to openly oppose his own government even before the Legion had released evidence of the Liberian collusion with Nigeria and employment of foreign mercenaries to destabilize Sierra Leone.

He turned away from the temp-agency secretary that had found herself employed in what had proven to be her most interesting job to date, to one of his Legionnaires who was collating the most recent updates from the Burkina-Faso offensive.

The maps there were of the nation's capital, Ouagadougou, and it's main military base, Camp Général Aboubacar. Over two thirds of the Burkina Faso military and much of their front-line military equipment had been lost during the invasion of Liberia, and what few forces loyal to the government were trapped inside the city limits, where they were executing a grueling street-by-street resistance.

Hundreds of civilians had been confirmed killed already, mostly during the opening days of a popularist uprising against the government, which had been brutally oppressed through the use of chemical weapons and mass executions. When a group of resistance fighters had been suspected of holding up in a series of large housing blocks, the military had set fire to the buildings and proceeded to shoot anyone whom had fled.

After that, Sierra Leonean-led Legion forces had leveled much of the military base, shattering the government-loyalist military. Standing orders were to execute any military officers or government officials that refused to surrender.

Jacques studied the map of the city as the Legionnaire moved various markers, then picked up a data pad to peruse the reports of Legion forces on the ground. Another moment to study the map, then he tapped the map near where the Legion forces were making some headway. "Tell Major Rubletz to halt the advance here. He needs to get eyes-on this area before moving any forces into the slums. It's predominately low ground, and a densely-packed urban area. If they have any chemical weapons left, that would be a fine place to deploy them against his troops."

The Legionnaire nodded and turned to the task quickly enough; he knew better then to second guess Jacques' opinion on such things.

Before Jacques could turn his attention to the next piece of business, one of the temp-workers opened the door to the room, "Mr Danjou? The Kremlin called. Your presence has been requested."

"Well then. Let Ms Naumov know that I will have to reschedule our meeting. The contract request still stands. Her 3D printers and software have proven to be exactly what Dr Harrison wants for his prosthetics project. Get clearance for the motorcade with the CDPS."

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