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No Russian
#1
The King Abdulaziz airport was locked down tighter than a nun's virtue when Nicholas and Reed arrived. It was an obvious show of force. The self-proclaimed Mahdi's announcement had spread across international news like a firestorm - Nicholas himself had already made his opinion known. The fortifications were a dare. If Al-Hasan wanted the Custody out, he'd have to pay the price in blood. Perhaps Brandon should have simply avoided attacking a preacher on the pulpit.

On a night such as that, the Custody forces strengthening the airport's security detail did not take chances. Nicholas's press corps badge only moved him to the front of the line; it didn't spare him being felt up by a sweaty, overweight man who smelled vaguely of cottage cheese. He supposed it wouldn't be a true airport experience without that special feeling like all the showers in the world would never make you clean again.

The press corps followed Brandon wherever he went, if not on exactly the same schedule. Embedded within it as he was, and with Brandon's departure from Mecca, Nicholas had little choice but to follow. Or rather, little choice but to follow or return home and start doing useful things. It was getting harder to justify staying.

Perhaps it was an unconscious desire for one last hurrah before he gave up his freedom in service to something greater. It wouldn't be the first time. Of course, a road trip filled with underage drinking didn't exactly equate to running around inside the greatest threat to free society the world had ever seen. Not on a one-to-one scale, at least. The drinking was legal, now.

Speaking of that, Nicholas was just about to grab a drink at one of the airport's bars - thankfully, the Custody had done something good to Saudi Arabia - when the first explosion rocked the terminal. Then another. And another. He seized the power on instinct. The only proof he had that the thunder outside wasn't mother nature playing tricks was the lack of rain or wind. It took several minutes for the booming to subside. With his suddenly sensitive ears he could easily hear the screams of the hurt and the moans of the dying. And then the shooting started.

The high-pitched, rapid thumping of Custody rifles formed a wall of white noise that drowned out everything else. The defenders were trying to get some breathing room; likely to pull back deeper into the terminal. But it was quickly made clear that the suppressed, modern rifles were heavily outnumbered by older AKs. Their shooting quickly died to single shots, picking out and eliminating individual enemies as entire magazines of surplus ammunition were expended, likely fruitlessly, in their direction. The dull thumping of autocannons soon joined the Custody troops' rifles, but even that was too little, too late.

In the bar, panic reigned. Half the people were diving under tables and the others were part-sprinting part-stumbling out the door. What had been a quiet, relaxing atmosphere just minutes before quickly devolved into chaos once the explosions subsided. The noise of several dozen frantic phone calls almost disguised a particularly unsettling fact: the gunfire was coming from all sides.

Nicholas slammed back the last of his drink, though the power made it useless to quell a heart trying desperately to beat its way from his chest, and stood up. There was a trick he'd been meaning to try, and now seemed the perfect time to do it. With a particular coiling of air, he was able to amplify his voice - essentially like a magical megaphone.

"All of you need to shut up, right now."
The fact that every head in the room turned toward him instantly made him wonder if he'd done too much. He was surprised how calm his voice sounded. Nicholas just hoped nobody wondered why he could talk louder than most could scream. He had their attention.

"Hear that gunfire outside? The Custody is losing. They're going to pull back to someplace defensible, and try to hold out until help arrives."
Nicholas just hoped help actually would show up. If Al-Hasan could bring this kind of force to bear elsewhere, anything the soldiers in the airport did might just be delaying the inevitable. But that wasn't worth thinking about. "If we all sit here crying instead of figuring out where they're going to stand and getting there, then the next time our families see us we'll be hanging from some street lights on the morning news."
So, for once, the Custody was the good guys.

Everyone stood still for a moment, and then one man raised his hand. It was strange that in the most stressful of times, people fell back on grade school manners. Nicholas pointed, and the man spoke, confusion plain on his face and the accent of Scandinavia on his tongue. "Wh-what gunfire?"

At that, Nicholas almost smacked himself. Of course they couldn't hear it. The building was sound proofed, and the bar was closer to the center than the sides. He was only able to pick out what was happening because of the power. Luckily, that awkward moment ended quickly as shouting in Arabic filled the terminal. A moment later, glass skylights shattered as AK rounds were fired into the air. Fuck
, he thought. Where in the hell is Reed?
She could take care of herself. He'd probably find her with the soldiers.

"That gunfire. Any more questions?"
It was strange. The last time he'd been in a situation like this, he was embedded with the Marines. And he'd been terrified. This time, his heart still thudded in his chest louder than the autocannons outside - but he had the power to protect these people. He still hoped to avoid letting them know exactly what kind of power that was.

Edited by Nick Trano, May 15 2014, 09:08 PM.
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#2
PPC: Captain Miko Istivak

"Fall back! I said fall the fuck back!" Captain Miko roared over the persistent scream of war: gunfire and explosion.

The line of Custody forces took steady steps backwards, sheltered from the incoming fire by the remnants of burned tanks his men had formed as a temporary barricade against the oncoming flood of frenzied... He was not sure what to call them. They were not trained soldiers but they had the weapons and co-ordination that marked them above a simple riotous mob. Whatever they were, they had his men outnumbered and out-gunned. Explosions and shrapnel came from every direction. No-one could even begin to estimate the numbers or capabilities. All they had left was a few portable datapads - hardly enough to co-ordinate a defence.

"Captain!" Corporal Tyche called out as the little man scuttled towards him with a datapad lit up like a beacon to draw fire.

"I told you to keep your damn-"

"Captain! I've decrypted Commander Vellas's orders!"

Miko spat a glob of blood and dust onto the ground. "I don't give a fuck, that bastard isn't even here."

"Sir, I really think you should read this. I don't understand some of what he means, but I believe he had a plan to get us out, Sir."

Miko took the datapad with muddy hands and crouched low behind a concrete pillar. He scanned the words with a mounting frustration. What the hell would this matter....

As he reached the end, things fell into place and Miko laughed, coughing up more dust.

"Alright Corporal, prepare yourself." Miko laughed again as the slight man paled. "Just remember you made me."

Miko stood and took a deep breath. "Listen up! Leave the base, it's already lost. Fall back into the airport."

Corporal Tyche's eyes widened. "What? But how-"

"Shut up, Tyche. Fall back!"

Although the order was retreat, Miko grinned like a madman. They had already killed two dozen of his soldiers, he couldn't wait to pay the fuckers back in full.

***

"Captain, the enemy has infiltrated the airport, we are encountering pockets of attackers from all directions."

The woman's face was slick with sweat but the White Knight looked ready to run a marathon.

Miko nodded. Another precaution the bastard had warned them of. Perhaps there was something to it after all. "Understood. How many Knights are still active?"

"Thirty two, Captain."

Miko's frown was fierce. Eighteen dead already. "I want your squads to search the perimeter. Civilian survivors are your priority. Send them to Terminal 6, span as far as you can but do not engage the main body."

The Knight nodded and turned on her heels, the rest following without a word. It was eerie watching them sometimes, it was as if they shared a hive mind, such was their discipline.

"How far to go?" he turned to Tyche.

"We should be approaching the site soon."

Miko led the forward squad down the corridor towards Terminal 6. As it said, the path narrowed significantly as they departed from the open central visitors area.

The corridor gave way to Terminal 6. It was nothing exceptional, but the best that could be had in the situation. Unlike the other terminals, 6 was not a terminal for public use. It was mainly used for cargo and private transfers. Solid concrete walls covered his back instead of the glass windows one would find families waving goodbye from.

Quote:<dl>
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Terminal 6. Cargo Terminal. High Security 'Goods'. Custody Interior used for high profile prisoners. Transfer to Moscow for 'questioning'. Code name Fortress.


"Get those barricades up now! Load the remainder of the APC's!"

It was as good a place as any to stand. Better than most considering. He only hoped the Evac. team arrived soon.




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#3
Reed was standing at a newsstand flipping through magazine app's on her Wallet when the first explosion rattled the souvenir shot glasses on the shelf next to her head. There was a collective gasp of breath that hushed all chatter around her - airports were incessantly noisy - that made the second boom all the more ominous.

She looked down at her Wallet screen. The magazine app on view was a screenshot of interior pages about island fishing expeditions.

Someone bumped into her as they ran by. Reed frowned, flicked at her sleeve, but didn't look up.

Gunfire popped in the distance. She wagered the caliber and type of firearm with herself and swiped to the next page. It was a picture of a woman in a hammock.

Another explosion. This time from the opposite direction as the first two. More gunfire. The pounding of a mob's worth of feet rattled down the terminal, likely to bottle-neck at the gate doors and emergency exits, where people could get out of the building.

Reed swiped to the third page. It was a movie of a riding down the beach on a horse. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine what that would be like, having never actually partaken in that particular activity before. Seemed nice enough.

She closed the app. Everyone in the terminal had long since vacated. Static hovered on the speakers at one of the gates. Someone must have bumped the sound board in their flight. Most importantly, the hall was absolutely still, except for her.

She pulled up the connection to Trano. He was suppose to be at a bar in the adjacent terminal, and.. sure enough, there he was, blinking away on screen inside a TGI-Fridays.

With the place to herself, she strolled to the gate and rummaged around the boarding station. With a small fire extinguisher, and a satisfying crack, she busted open the glass panel of an emergency hatch and retrieved an ax. It looked like something that'd come in handy.

Ax rested on one shoulder, she one-handed tapped out a message to Trano. "Stay there. ETA..," she out the window, gauging the distance between her and the adjacent terminal. Probably two hundred yards? "forty-five seconds." She was a fast sprinter, but it was best to add on the few seconds it'd take to hop out the edge of an open-ended jet bridge.

***

Forty-nine seconds later, Reed strolled up to the TGI Fridays, ax in one hand and a pistol at the ready in the other. The ax had a slick of blood on the blade. A badge with the picture of a man named "Ramon" hung on her jean's pocket.

When she rounded into the bar, the first three people she saw jumped back like she were there to slaughter them all. Reed simply took stock of the situation, and frowned at the civilians' fright.

Of course, Trano was man-in-charge of a ragtag gaggle of travelers, his very own little army of uselessness, but he'd stayed put, at least. She went to stand alongside him. "Good boy. I'll give you a treat, later."

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#4
When Reed walked around the corner, everyone in the room - himself included - flinched. Some more than others. She certainly was a sight: bloodied axe in one hand, pistol in another. Like a character out of some movie. He supposed he shouldn't complain; that sort of thing was kind of a necessity if surviving an Islamic revolution was part of your plan. The collective sigh of relief when they realized that she was clearly not a Muslim could have probably powered a wind turbine for a year.

Everyone in the room was terrified, and he had no doubts that she could detect it. A spy who can't read emotions isn't a very good one. But she was more predator than prey. Nicholas was her mission, these people were not. He doubted she had much in the way of empathy. "Good boy. I'll give you a treat, later," she said - and Nicholas half expected a pat on the head to accompany it. He'd have bristled at that treatment, if only he hadn't both learned that would do him no good and gotten used to various Reed-isms over the past couple months.

So he took the path of least resistance, a flat, "Missed you too."
More's the pity that he couldn't replicate that look of hers. There was more shouting outside, in Arabic. They seemed to be going the other direction, and everyone was away from the doors, so he pulled her aside - a comfortable distance from everybody else. "I know exactly what you're going to say, and no. We're not just leaving these people to be gunned down by a bunch of jihadists."


"Fine," she said flatly, glancing behind them. It was a strange kind of cute - pouting because she couldn't leave people to die. "But if it comes down to you or them, it's going to be you." He blinked at how easy that was. "Have your wizard wand at the ready?" And just barely resisted the urge to make a bad joke at what she said next, although the ghost of a smirk might have given him away.

"Always. Let's just hope I don't have to use it in public - could cause a scandal."
Of course, depending on just how that public use happened, he supposed he might be able to coast on by. Better to never find out, though. As far as he was concerned, it'd be best if people thought Brandon was the antichrist. "I think we should move through the maintenance hallways. There should be an entrance through the kitchen. It won't be hard to figure out where the Custody's holing up from there."
But then again he wasn't the expert in traversing a battlefield - closest he'd gotten was writing propaganda about the experts. "Sound good?"


Every mall had maintenance hallways. Airports, with their shops and restaurants, were similar. Couldn't have food, staff and merchandise delivered through the terminal. It'd hold everything up. All they'd have to do was get into those halls and work their way around until they figured out where the defenders were organizing - just follow the gunfire. And if there were any marauding bands of revolutionaries, at least they couldn't get sneaky.

Reed shrugged. "Good thing one of us found one of these on their way," she pulled Ramon's airport badge from her belt loop. "It's like we have one mind!" She smirked and headed for the bar. "This way."

While he and Reed figured out what to do, everyone else had been chatting nervously among themselves. At least they'd all stayed put, and quietly. "Alright everyone, we're going to head through the maintenance hallways. It'll be safer than trying to go through the main terminal. I need you all to keep quiet and move quickly, alright? The entrance is in the kitchen. My,"
he paused for a fraction of a second, "friend has the key. Follow her."


Aaand, of course.
Someone was smart enough to realize they were listening to a television personality on how to survive a war zone. In literally any other situation Nicholas would have been able to relate. Of course it was a businessman, and he looked pretty well off. Of course. The skin color and the accent gave him away as Indian. "Why the hell should we listen to you? What makes you think they're going to kill us? We're not soldiers! Trying to escape might get us killed faster than sitting here and letting them take us hostage."


And that opened the God damn floodgates. But over the once again shattered peace, Nicholas heard something ten times worse. A band of gunmen was finally headed towards the restaurant, and they sounded pissed. He finally connected dots with the blood on the axe. He was willing to bet there was a dead body or two right in front of the store. "Look, we don't have any time for this."
It took only a couple steps to reach the guy - him shouting all the way - and Nicholas punched him in the face full force. The shock of contact with his pudgy face reverberated up his arm. It hurt a lot more than he expected - he didn't do that often. But the guy was out cold. Wouldn't wake up for at least a minute, and that was all they needed to save his life. He turned back to the morons in the room, standing on train tracks and too busy screeching to hear the bell. They'd all fallen quiet. "Somebody pick him up! We're not leaving anyone here to get killed."
He muttered, almost as an afterthought, "He can sue me later."


The rest of the people fell in line pretty quickly after that. Nicholas flexed his hand and watched them pile into the back, a couple of them dragging the Indian man by his arms. Seriously, did he break a bone or something? It hurt. They didn't have much time before those gunmen came around the corner. "Reed!"
No time at all.

She came through the door in a flash, and none too soon. She jumped the bar and sprinted past. At the edge of the restaurant, she kicked a chair out from a table. It slammed into the knee of a gunman coming around the corner and tangled up in his feet. The ax took out the next one. On the downswing two pops of the pistol dropped the another pair. She skidded into the passageway leading to a women's restroom on the opposite side of the hall just as the rest fell back to a more defensible location. Nicholas let out a low whistle before he caught himself.

That left Nicholas next to the bar, straight across from Reed. Any gunman coming through the door would have to deal with one of them. He prepared himself to do the thing he'd hoped to avoid, drawing the power he had been keeping at a low rumble into hurricane force. He heard a lot more shouting then - a word that sounded like 'kaffer' seeming to be a local favorite. Then gunfire erupted, and bullets ripped through the walls, a couple snapping through the air mere feet from where Nicholas was standing, and he reflexively stumbled back. The only thing was, it wasn't the animalistic bark of a Soviet-era AK-47 or slightly-newer AKM. He'd never expected the sight of a fully armed and armored Custody Knight to be a relief, but when the group of them fanned out to clear the room he was pleasantly surprised.

One pointed his rifle at Reed, and told her to drop her pistol. She shrugged and handed it over. Nicholas doubted the guy realized what she could do, even with just her hands. He'd never have guessed himself. Finally confident they were secure, their sergeant deigned to speak. He pulled off his helmet - interestingly enough, he was middle eastern. "We're here to extract every civilian we can find to the rally point. Do you have any wounded?"


Nicholas shook his head, "No. But we were just about to head into the maintenance hallways. Everybody's terrified, sergeant. They might have ran when they heard the gunfire."
He made to go check, but thought better of it. This wasn't the time to start ordering actual soldiers around - they'd think he was a moron, and they'd be right. "Are you going to go after them?"


There was only a moment's hesitation. "We'll find them."
The sergeant spat in the direction of one of the bodies. "These crazy bastards want to bring Dominance V back to the stone age - and there's a long stint in Jahannam for anyone who would leave people to be taken by them."
He looked Nicholas in the eyes, oblivious to the power he still held just below the surface. "Why didn't you two run?"


Nicholas shrugged, figuring it was unlikely the sergeant would guess magical powers. "Stupidity."
He flexed his hand again - God damn that hurt.


Edited by Nick Trano, May 11 2014, 08:51 PM.
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#5
Reed shrugged and allowed herself to be disarmed. The pistol was appropriately dealt with, but the ax and its sickle of blood, garnered a few strange looks.

She gave the pile of debris in the hallway little mind but to flatly watch a sergeant dismantle similar firepower dropped by the dead. Nicholas held himself well tonight, she thought as she crossed to him. Perhaps she was rubbing off on him?

The Knight moved away, but not before giving Reed a study that lingered a second longer than usual to gauge a potential threat. She recognized the insignia of his Battalion of course, and smirked as he moved away.

"Trano, when we get the chance to break away from these guys, we take it. They can handle them, and I have an idea." She spoke quietly with him, and turned them away in case the Knights had voice recognition in their Land Warriors. She doubted they cared in this kind of situation, but she was careful for many reasons. "It's easier for two to slip past thousands than a company of CCD slugs and a baker's dozen civilians. If I get us there, can your wizard wand take out a power sub-station?"

They fell quiet at the Knight's orders to move out, but she and Trano still managed to pass a few words between the TGI-Fridays and the rally point affectionately known as "the Fortress."


Trano quietly replied, "should be able to. Remember that guy who tried to burn you to a crisp? I can reverse-engineer the... spell. But remember what I said. We don't abandon these people unless we have to."


Reed crossed her heart, hoped to die. "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

It took a matter of minutes to round up the civilians and get moving toward the rally-point. Reed made sure to keep a hand on Trano's sleeve the entire time.

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#6
PPC: Captain Miko Istivak

He had never believed the old saying 'silence was golden'. Silence in the heat of battle meant something was afoot. However, just this once, Miko conceded that silence was indeed golden.

His men had set up a hasty fort - the barricades of some kind of light-weight titanium alloy surrounding the terminal as a six foot wall that rendered most of the terrorists' arms ineffective. After three or four waves of screaming fanatics gunned down, someone had decided it would be better to re-group and plan an assault.

That is what Captain Miko assumed, in any event. He never underestimated his enemy.

Miko was silently proud of his men. The fear in them was palpable, but they were professional to the end, each hand steady on a trigger and prepared for the worst.

Most of the Knights had returned with a few dozen terrified civilians huddled in the farthest corner as they awaited rescue. One group remained at large, long enough for him to ponder a grim fate.

However, he was spared the melancholy thought as a group of civilians backed by the remaining Knights stumbled into the Fortress' perimeter. Two individuals who did not have the glazed eyes of numb terror caught his gaze.

The first a woman with a keen eye and calm, even relaxed posture amidst the death and chaos. The man standing close by was no so composed, but he had a determined set to his jaw that belied some mettle.

And that face...it looked familiar. But where?

Ah, yes. He had been briefed on the Ascendancy's retinue. Certain things began to make sense.

As his men dragged the metal barriers to allow their entrance, Captain Miko stopped the two with a raised hand, his left hand resting on the trigger of his rifle in case the terrorists decided to use the situation to their advantage.

"Mr. Nicolas Trano?"
he asked in a short voice. "Please make your way to the back of the Terminal. I shall have a guard assigned to you immediately. Your safety is a priority, sir."


Nicolas Trano smirked and fixed his glasses. "I think my assistant can protect me well enough."
A quick glance at Reed, "You look short staffed as it is, Captain. I'm not worth it."


Captain Miko suppressed a grimace. Damn journalists and their damn curiosity! "I'm afraid it's an order, sir. Whether you believe so or not, your safety is worth more than all of my men combined. I will not take any risks."
His voice and eyes were flat.

Trano shrugged. "Do what you have to do, then. Thanks for sending those men, they showed up just in time."


Captain Miko gave a short nod. "Thank you, sir. An evacuation team has been sent for, keep your head down and we will make it out of this alive."


Captain Miko stepped clear of the American's path and turned to see how many civilians had been gathered.

"Captain! Enemy sighted!"


Shit. So they had been waiting for an ambush.

"Get everyone inside the barrier!"
he barked. "And get that damn thing shut before we all end up dead!"
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#7
"Men. I must ask something of you."


250 Legion Premiere members, gathered at the Casablanca airport paused in their tasks. Some dug out their Landwarrior goggles and put them on at the beckoning of their brothers in arms, and were met by the grim face of their CEO. They had been busy loading gear and supplies onto a Legion cargo plane, readying for the move to their new Jerusalem barracks in just a few hours.

"Dominance V is aflame with insurection. I dare not fathom how many are already dead, nor how many more will be before this chaos is over."
Word had already begun to spread even as far as Morocco of the horrors that were being commited there, a topic that was in the forefront of the Legionnaires' mind, along-side similar stories coming out of Sierra Leone, where they already had boots on the ground.

"I have been approached by the CCD government with a desperate request. King Abdulaziz airport, west of Mecca. Hundreds of CCD civilians are trapped there, protected by a thin line of CCD soldiers. The Hun is at the gates, as Mr Kipling once wrote, and they won't hold out much longer. We all know what religious fervor can do to a man's heart, what dark acts man will commit when given a 'righteous' excuse."
They had seen it countless times throughout Africa. Religion was so often just an easy excuse to fulfill the dark desires that existed in some men's hearts.

"They have requested I send my men, you men, to save all we can. I have accepted."
The men gathered at the Casablanca airport knew what was coming. For some, a similar battle they had learned about in the Legion came to mind. The Battle of Kolwezi, Zaire, 1978. 500 Legionnaires had paradroped into a city held by thousands of rebel soldiers, holding thousands of Europeans hostage. They had secured the city by morning, with five of their forefathers lain to the earth in the battle. Few had any delusions this battle would fare so well.

"I have contacted our friends in the Moroccan military. Trucks should arrive within the hour. Parachutes, ammunition, medical supplies. Our operation will focus on three primary objectives, three phases to each..."


-----

Five hours later...

A huge swath of the city below was dark, save for raging fires and the flashes of weapons. High above, those were of little consequence to the Legionnaires as they checked each other over one last time. They had all jumped before, but hadn't the extensive training proper paratroopers would.

The men worked in eery silence, although little could be heard over the scream of the engines and the roar of wind through the open cargo-hatch, through which they could view the city below. The plane banked wide and rose into the air, and then the light next to the ramp changed red to green.

Over the roar, barely heard but understood by all, "For all we have and are, for all our children's fate, stand up and take the war. The Hun is at the gate!"
Jacques could see the transport plane as it moved in on the dark airport, knew his men were bracing themselves for a jump, nearly blind, into land they knew nothing of. And he loved them for their loyalty, and hated himself for accepting the job. How many more letters would he be writing by sun's rise?

It was a selfish mentality, one that he chastised himself for even as it welled up within him. How many lives were going to be spared for their sacrifice? Now and in the future? The money they earned here would be used to help rebuild the Legion to it's former glory. The reputation they earned here would secure them future contracts, and would ice the hearts of any who thought to strike where their flag flew.

Legionnaires carrying compact packs strapped to their chests, with assault rifles, mortars, and machineguns strapped or bagged to them, gave each other one last pat on the shoulder before they began their slow advance to the ramp. None hesitated; there was no more time for that now. A few had accepted the chance to stay behind in Casablanca, but others had arrived at the airport to replace those that had balked at the mission tasked them.

Each man tumbled with some familiarity from the open ramp of the cargo plane, their Landwarriors displaying important location markers on the ground far below. A wide field a few hundred meters west of the main terminal was their primary landing zone, far enough away to hopefully go unseen by the rebels seiging the building. Others, fifty in total, were aimed towards the tarmac and dozens of waiting passenger jets; these would be the means of evacuation for the civilians and their CCD defenders, and would form the fire base for the Legion's mortar crews and medics.

The view of the now dark city was a terrifying one, made greater now that they were no longer sheltered from the full horror of it from within their plane; fires raged unchecked, thick columns of smoke choking the sky above Jeddah and the not so distant great city of Mecca. The CCD may have been caught unprepared, but they were going down swinging. It would give the rebels a false sense of accomplishment, and blind them to the horrors that were sure to be turned their way when the might of the CCD was turned towards them. Armed mobs were as nothing to a trained army. They would see their small victories, but in the end, thousands were going to die.

Two hundred Legionnaires drifted to the earth below with varying levels of skill and confidence, but through some miracle they all landed in the target zone. At twenty meters, cords were pulled and heavy packs of gear were dropped from their chests to the ground below. Handles were pulled tight at the last possible moment, so the Legionnaires hit the earth hard but quiet. Some harder then others, as one man swallowed a pain-filled scream before he could give way their arrival, both his legs snapped clean through. One of his brothers in arms reached him in time to watch him die, sharing a moment of understanding and comradery that was rarely seen elsewhere in a man's life.

Parachutes were quickly spooled up and stuffed part-way into their sacks to prevent them from fluttering too blatantly in the night's wind, to avoid unwanted attention. Landwarriors were complemented with NVGs, enough for one in ten men. Weapons were readied, packs full of ammunition and explosives loaded onto their backs. The fallen Legionnaire's tags were collected, his ammo distributed, and then they were ready to move.

Bayonets were drawn from scabbards and fixed to their rifles, a series of metallic clicks and rattles that promised violence. Magazines were eased into their housings, and the actions were cocked and racked, loading rounds into the chambers. Their Landwarriors sprang to life, marking a series of waypoints and points of interest. Doors and entry points on the distant terminal were highlighted. Lowground and points of possible cover on their approach marked.

It was all Jacques could do for his men without access to the CCD satelite feeds. Those were promised him once his feet were on the ground, with one of their Vegas looking over his shoulder. His private jet circled wide high above, waiting for the all-clear from the 50 man team tasked to secure the runways and jets. It irked him to no end to have so many of his men deployed below and not be on the same soil with them.

Moving in eight-man strong sections, they approached the airport at a jog. Gunfire and yells could be heard even from outside, and a crowd of armed men were gathered in the wide paved parking lot just outside the doors to the terminal, preparing to assault the beleagured CCD defenders from another direction, or perhaps to box them in and prevent an attempted break-out.

Without the floodlights of the airport, the men were blind to what was behind them. Their hated of the CCD, and their belief in their God, blinded them to the danger of their actions, blinded them to the prospect that they could loose. Blinded them to 199 Legionnaires, armed to the teeth and with an enemy between themselves and defensless civilians.

Elsewhere, north of the terminal along the tarmac of waiting, abandoned passenger planes, fifty more Legionnaires dropped to the earth. Heavy weapons and crates of ammo coasted in with them, landing scattered around their designated zone, and Legionnaires scrambled to set a perimeter, to gather the ammo crates, to set up their mortars and .50 machineguns, surveying the planes for what they would need, and one section ran the length of a runway, striking and dropping flares to mark the lane for their CEO's plane.

At the terminal, the rebels chanted to their God, calling his name as holy justification for the acts they would commit. Violence filled their hearts, spurred on by their charismatic leader who stood somewhere safe and away from the violence, orchestrating things through force of presence for whatever unimaginable, blasphemous goals he saw as his justification. Fires raged in Holy Mecca, and blood stained the streets, all cast by the hand of those who claimed to be of the one great religion. They sought to purge the holy land of the infidel, by commiting base acts violence in God's name.

Those hearts that so dreamt of the violence they would soon commit were given their fill and more.

Out of the darkness came fellow Muslims, wearing foreign uniforms and carrying gear years behind that of the average CCD soldier. African, American, European, even some hailing from Dominance V, unified in mind and allegiance to the Legion and to their God. The men Jacques had chosen for the contracts in DV were almost universally Muslim, and none looked fondly upon Hasan and his perverted view of their God's will.

The men of the Legion fired a unified barrage into the gathered crowd of armed men, then were amongst them before the survivors could react. Leaping over the dead and wounded, the operators of Légion Première closed into the already scattering mob. Shock and awe were the way of the day; an undisciplined mob of civilians, no matter how well armed and motivated, rarely kept their wits in the midst of true warfare. And when faced by the bayonets and violence of the Legionnaires, their divine fervor was quickly replaced by memories of wives and children and the desire to keep their own lives.

The soldiers of the CCD had died so easily in the beginning because they had been caught unaware, fueling the delusion that the uprising was backed by Divine Intervention. That God, Allah, smiled upon them and desired their actions. The Legionnaires shattered that delusion in seconds. Their rifles batting aside crudely wielded Kalishnikovs with ease, their bayonets opened warm flesh with terrifying efficiency, piercing skin through-and-through, the dying rebels kicked free of the long knives or callously shot again at point blank to clear the Legionnaire's weapons.

Those that sought to flee were laid waste. None could be spared, else they would spread word that help had arrived. Within moments a crowd of hundreds of rebels lay dead and dying. The Legionnaires quickly fell back into place, groups moving north and south to hold the corners of the terminal while others approached the main building, eager to get inside and begin the extraction of those trapped within.

Still, without a Vega to watch over their leader's shoulder, the men moved blind. Without the much needed communication channels, without the satellites and drones. They knew next to nothing of the building beyond those doors, of the situation of the defenders. And the defenders knew nothing of the arrival of the Legionnaires. It was a dangerous situation, rife with opportunity for mistakes.
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#8
Nicholas had let go of the power once he was out of any real danger. There was always this strange sense of loss - all the colors getting a little more washed out, the sounds a little more muted - that followed release, and it left him unsure as to the wisdom of constant seizure. The journey to the 'Fortress' was uneventful, save for a couple firefights. He half-smiled at that; he'd been more than happy to leave that sort of thing behind him. One bullet in his general direction was five too many, and he'd had close calls with more than one: blood oozed from a graze on his forehead, and a pair of holes in his coat caused him to make a mental note to visit a church sometime soon.

At least they made it to safety - if 'safety' was really what you could call a hastily barricaded section of airport terminal. The Custody troops were holed up inside an area that appeared to be primarily for cargo - and as such, solid concrete walls concealed the eyesore from outside eyes. The closest thing to a fortress they'd have under the circumstances, he supposed. Most of the gunfire had died down by that point - and it left Nicholas with the distinct feeling that he was being stalked. Crazy jihadists didn't just stop.

They pulled the barricades apart once they saw the Knights leading Nicholas's little group of civilians. He and Reed stuck with the group, but within seconds of passing through the barricade they were pulled aside by a captain, presumably the man in charge. "Mr. Nicholas Trano?"
He asked in a short voice. The guy was clearly not in the mood for bullshit. Which was fair - being under siege by thousands of religious extremists who'd happily draw and quarter you if they had the chance isn't a great time for stupidity to rear its ugly head. "Please make your way to the back of the Terminal. I shall have a guard assigned to you immediately. Your safety is a priority, sir."


At the man's offer, Nicholas could only give a friendly smile. If he pulled a guard for every member of the press corps, he wouldn't have many people left to defend the wall. "I think my assistant can protect me well enough."
A quick glance at Reed - she'd already managed to convince the Knights to give her back her pistol - confirmed that statement. "You look short staffed as it is, Captain. I'm not worth it."


Captain Miko barely suppressed a grimace. Clearly that was the wrong answer. "I'm afraid it's an order, sir. Whether you believe so or not, your safety is worth more than all of my men combined. I will not take any risks."
His voice and eyes were flat. Made him wonder if he and Reed might be long lost relatives.

Nicholas just shrugged. No point trying to order around the guy who actually knew what he was doing. "Do what you have to do, then. Thanks for sending those men, they showed up just in time."


Captain Miko gave a short nod. "Thank you, sir. An evacuation team has been sent for, keep your head down and we will make it out of this alive."
Sounded more like wishful thinking at this point - he'd really hoped more troops had survived - but the man's confidence was contagious.

Nicholas turned to go towards the back, where the captain had ordered, but didn't make two steps before bullets started pinging on the walls nearby. Apparently the stalking was over, and the bad guys were ready to make another assault. Reed sprung into action in a heartbeat, running to help the men pushing the barricade back in place. Nicholas seized the power, but stayed back. He didn't need to be on the front line to be dangerous, and he didn't want to show that he could even be dangerous unless absolutely necessary. With seizure of power came new awareness - he could hear every bullet's impact, see the tiny bits of lead tumble through the air. Strangely, that sensitivity of the senses didn't carry with it the expected cost - the screams and shots were not deafening.

The Arabs were assaulting in earnest - he heard dozens of AKs firing simultaneously; just one of those rounds costed a dollar in the United States, and they were burning through magazines like a wildfire. Reed and her new friends almost had the barricade closed. She glanced back at him - even when she was the only one in danger, she worked to keep him safe - when a sudden blast rocked the room. Nicholas only barely kept himself from tripping, and only had the time to think a strangled what the fuck
before he cleared his vision. The barricade was in flames - and knocked twenty or thirty feet wide of its intended resting place.

Of the several people knocked to the ground by what he could only assume was an RPG, Reed stumbled to her feet first. Green tracers flickering through the air around her, and the awkward movements and slow reactions made it plain that she was in shock. She looked around - he imagined her wondering how she got there, in the center of a war zone with flaming wreckage all around her. It was with dazed eyes that she saw the face of her killer. A man in tattered traditional clothing raised his antique rifle and screamed a war cry. In another ten heartbeats Reed would be dead - and Nicholas's heart was beating very fast.

Threads of fire formed before Nicholas was even sure what he was doing, and air yanked her aside more roughly than intended. A wave of flames rolled over the gap in the walls, only barely missing the wounded men still laying near the breach. A strong feeling of nausea took him when he saw the results of his casting - it looked like the smoldering remains of an accident at a tomato cannery, and far larger than one body could be the culprit of. It took a moment to collect himself.

So much for secrets
, he thought. More than one soldier looked over in his direction. Oddly, the interest was more short-lived than he expected - but then again, he supposed the angry Arabs trying to kill them all were a bit more pressing of a concern. Before he thought better of it, he picked the smoldering barricade - most of which was metal - and dropped it back in its proper place. Reed was sitting against a wall, far from the battle. He didn't know when he did that.

A momentary fear swelled in his chest before he made out the steady rise and fall of breathing. She was alive, if unconscious. He ran over to check on her anyways. Halfway through his run - more of a mad sprint if anything - the people on both sides regained their wits and started shooting at each other again, but it was clear that the enemy was retreating. He slid to his knees right next to her. Her head lolled to the side at an awkward angle, and he cupped her cheek and steadied it. Her hair tangled in his fingers, silky blackness marred by gritty white dust. She looked oddly tranquil, so unlike her conscious self. His hands were quick after that, checking her over for wounds. There were none to be found aside from a few cuts and bruises. They were lucky.

A few seconds after he finished she started to come to. He didn't realize he'd been holding his breath until he she blinked at him. She regained control of her limbs, and touched the wall. He could tell she wasn't quite there yet, but she was lucid enough to ask, "Why am I sitting against a fucking wall?"

Nicholas laughed in spite of himself. "Because I put you here."
Then his voice turned, maybe a little, to scolding. "You almost died trying to push the barricade back in place!"


She squeezed her eyes shut, if only to listen to what was going on around them. "Well somebody had to get off their ass and get shit done around here." Grimacing, she tried to use Nicholas to stand before thinking better of it. She got back to business surprisingly quickly given her situation. "Brief me."

"You got knocked down by an explosion. I had to cast a spell to save you."
He paused and sighed, glancing around at the surprising number of eyes on them. "Everyone knows.
"

Reed followed his gaze around. "Since you're out of the closet, can you do something useful? And go blow up the power grid now?" She really didn't have any problem with the fact that she came half a second away from an ending.

Nicholas just grimaced. "Sure. Let me just get my rainbow slippers."
He realized what he was doing and stopped - being angry with her didn't make any sense. "I'll do it. Once we get permission from that captain over there who's either about to arrest us or thank me."
Miko was walking that way, remarkably nonchalant for someone who'd just witnessed the death of any current physics model of the universe. The gunfire had died down and been replaced yet again with an eerie silence.

"Finally. You know, you can be a bitch to order around, sometimes." She frowned in concentration and let him help her up. She was still a little wobbly, but Nicholas couldn't blame her. He doubted he'd be standing at all.

Nicholas shrugged. "I think that's one of my better qualities."
Before Reed could respond - and he knew she liked getting the last word - Captain Miko reached them. Nicholas turned to him, letting go of Reed's arm. He was confident she could stand on her own. "So, Captain. I've just disproved everything you know about the world around you. How are you going to react?"
His tone was more like that of a reporter giving an interview than a man who'd just been more terrified than ever before in his life.

The Captain let out a bark of laughter, wiping blood from a split lip. "I don't know what you did, and I don't care, you saved my men, I am grateful."
The man paused and surveyed the disheartened crowd of civilians. "I have something you can do that will help us get out of here. You think you can blow a power grid, Harry Potter?"


Nicholas shared a look with Reed. "Guess great minds think alike, huh."
On two accounts. Then he turned back to the captain. "I think so. I'm not exactly an expert, but get me within eyesight and I can take it out."


"Good,"
Captain Miko said, wasting no time. "Here is the plan..."



Edited by Nick Trano, May 13 2014, 03:58 AM.
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#9
PPC: Captain Miko Istivak

As Miko laid out the basics of the plan, he watched the two Americans with interest.

The woman, Nicolas Trano's 'assistant' seemed far too composed to be just that. Of course, it was not altogether unexpected that such a personality would need a bodyguard but their interaction seemed somewhat odd in a way he could not quite grasp.

Trano himself was another mystery altogether. At a glance, one would see an overly honest bumbling reporter who had found himself neck deep in a situation far beyond his expertise. Yet, Miko was not a Captain of one of the best Custody infantry units without cause. Nicolas Trano had shown surprising determination while under threat. How much this 'magic' had to do with this confidence, Miko did not know, nor did he care. He was a soldier and he had a mission to complete.

"Any questions?"
he asked, glancing at the entrance to the Terminal, more out of habit than any real need. He would be alerted of any incoming assault.

Like a true reporter, Nicolas Trano did have one. "After we get rid of all the generators, what then?"


"You will be in constant communication with my team here. Once you complete the mission, return ASAP. You will be informed of any changes."
He held the man's gaze to gauge his resolve. "There are no guarantees. Plans only go so far, expect the unexpected."


Trano shrugged and met Miko's gaze. "Die here, die there. This whole thing's unexpected isn't it?"
He looked over at Reed, whom they had left a few paces back. "Good luck convincing her to stay here without me, though."


Captain Miko nodded. A good response. His gaze then followed Trano's to his assistant. Miko gave Trano a blood-stained smile. "That is not my task, friend. My orders only concern you, this one is your battle."


Trano smirked. "One I'm going to lose. Alright, I'm ready to go whenever. I'd like to put this country behind me - no offence, Captain."


"None taken. We will all be glad to put this forsaken place behind us. I wish you luck."


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#10
The plan wasn't too complex: Nicholas and four Knights - plus one Reed - would go into the basement and cut off the main power grid. After that, they would move around the maintenance ways eliminating any backup generators. Nicholas assumed that, once the building was bathed in darkness, Custody soldiers with night vision would be able to cut their way out with impunity. Where to, he didn't know, although a couple possibilities were bouncing around his mind.

The most likely was that they were just trying to hold out through the night until reinforcements could arrive. The assaults would die with the light. But something a bit more... daring struck him. What if they were to fly out of there? With sufficient cover, it wouldn't be impossible - but he doubted the thin skin of an air liner could survive a hail of bullets. Somebody would have to stay behind. A lot of somebodies.

Reed was practically tapping her foot in impatience when he finally reached her - even if the conversation with the captain had only been a few minutes. He doubted he could convince her to stay behind, but he figured it was worth a shot. "I'm pretty sure you heard everything. So, are you staying behind?"


"You even have to ask?" Reed looked almost disappointed. "Besides, you'll need me whether you know it or not." She really did seem to forget that she'd just barely survived a rocket blast. And he doubted he could remind her - every woman has a selective memory, but she took the concept to new heights.

Nicholas shook his head. "Worth a try."
While he and Reed were chatting, the Knights who would be accompanying them made their way over. He could tell it was the same sergeant from earlier, although the others were practically interchangeable - faceless masks and near-identical armor tend to do that.

They passed him and Reed a pair of bullet proof vests, and Nicholas was glad for it. He was allergic to bullets, after all. They offered him a rifle, but he refused. The last time he'd been to a range was almost ten years ago now, and he didn't feel like shooting his own foot off. He might have known enough about guns to argue the finer points of the law - but he had no illusions about his own capabilities. Reed was under no such reservations. By the time he finished explaining why he didn't need the rifle, she had one slung on her back, and the vest was loaded with magazines.

The sergeant - Hossayni - pulled off his helmet and gave Nicholas a level look. "Stupidity, huh?"
Apparently Nicholas's explanation from earlier wasn't quite good enough.

Nicholas could only shrug. "Would you have believed me if I said magical powers?"
Then he winced a little. It still sounded silly. "Besides, staying there was stupid."


"Fair enough."
He put his helmet back on his head, with a couple twists and a click to lock it in place. That was the end of that; Nicholas respected the simplicity.

Everything was squared away, so he took one last look around their temporary bastion of safety. Wounded were lined up in the back, being tended to by what few corpsmen the Custody soldiers had left. Bullet holes and blast scorching marred the concrete walls, and the metal barricades were so twisted by the bullets they stopped that they looked more liquid than solid. "I'm ready when you are, sergeant. Lead on."


It turned out there were several hatches in the Fortress's floor - all leading down to the basement. It was an airport, not a castle - ease of access was an order of magnitude more important than defensibility. A pair of them ran along a single underground hallway, and the Knights set up to breach both. Two stacked up on each door, with Nicholas and Reed left to watch.

A non-verbal count from three, and the two pairs mirrored each other exactly, silently yanking open the doors and clearing the space beneath. There was no one there to greet them. One by one they dropped into the passage, crouching to minimize the sound of their impact. Reed went next, catlike, making even less noise than they did.

By the time Nicholas dropped down - a rock to their feather - they were all in cover, and watching down the hallway both ways. The way was mostly dark, with only a few dim light bulbs, spaced far apart. It was the first time he thought that maybe agreeing to the plan was a stupid decision. Not that he had much choice in the matter - if he didn't do it they'd just slowly be whittled down by the rebels - but there's nothing like looking down a dark, underground passageway with religious zealots who want to kill you lurking in wait behind any corner to make you re-evaluate your life choices. The power wouldn't protect him from bullets.

The sergeant raised a hand and did some super top secret Custody sign language - the general gist of which being, 'let's start moving.' So they did exactly that, pausing at each and every door along the way to check for rebels or civilians in hiding. The map of the airport placed the main power grid in roughly the center - only five or six hundred feet away.

It wasn't long before they reached the door - covered with warning signs in several languages. The basement seemed deserted, which either meant that nobody had made it downstairs or there were several dozen people on the other side of that door. The Knights chose to err on the side of caution - as they always did - and stacked up. One on the right side to open the door, with another man next to him. The sergeant on the left, and another standing in the center ready to blow away anyone on the other side. Nicholas and Reed stayed behind, Reed covering the rear.

The sergeant gave the order, and a flashbang grenade was rolled into the room. The startled shouts on the other side were warning enough. Right on the heels of the blinding, deafening blast the man in the center kicked the door in. Shots gouged away whatever remained of the earlier silence - cold, singular and precise from the Knights, frantic and automatic from the terrified men on the other side. There really was no comparison. The men to the sides killed any who were standing diagonal to them, before storming the room on the heels of their point man. It was over in seconds; whoever was directing the attack had been smart enough to post guards, but he just didn't have the right men for the job.

By the time the work was done, bodies lay strewn about various machinery and electrical implements. The smoke rising from a corpse lodged between a pair of steel coils made it clear everything was still in working order. Nicholas made an effort not to look at them. Once the Knights were certain the room was clear, they waved him in. The sergeant didn't take off his helmet, but he spoke. "Well, let's see this thing. Destroy the grid."


Ignoring the stench of blood and shit that had filled the room - Nicholas didn't have the luxury of an environmentally sealed suit - was difficult, so Nicholas turned away and stood in the doorway after nodding to the sergeant. It took a bit longer than usual, but eventually the familiar scorching light of the power took hold. It was kind of like waking a limb long deprived of blood - the return of something integral to your very being that had somehow gone missing without you noticing it.

With the power coursing through his veins, the stench of the room was made far worse. He wanted to be done with it as quickly as possible. Only problem was, everybody was standing in the middle of the room. "Alright, let's get out of the room. I'm not too good with this, and I'd rather not burn any of the good guys to death."
After a moment's hesitation they filed out, and stood behind him in the doorway. He couldn't fault their curiosity.

Spinning strands of fire, and then earth, and then fire - he squeezed them together with all his might. What resulted appeared as a ball of molten, liquid fire. Anything within a few feet was scorched - anything it touched began melting almost instantly. It didn't take long to move it through everything in the room - corpses, generators, wiring - by the end of it the concrete walls were bare, and the floor was covered in rapidly cooling molten metals, with only occasional bits of almost unrecognizable bone remaining.

It didn't take long for the few lights lining the hallway to give out. All the little noises that usually form the background of a large building stopped at once - the little things, like cooling fans in electronics, and the big things, like the building's air conditioning system. It would be getting uncomfortably hot very soon, and Nicholas's miniature forge wasn't helping matters.

Halfway through he'd had to build a wall of air to stop the smoke. Once the room was deconstructed, he set to work figuring out how to dissipate it. He tried compressing it down into a solid with air, but that proved inefficient. Finally, he settled on a gossamer thin filter constructed from strands of air - he pressed the smoke through it and dropped the particles to the floor, a thin, hand-tall pile of dust stretching across the room.

Nicholas could hear muted talking from behind the masks of the Knights - habit likely keeping them from activating their helmet speakers in a combat zone. The sergeant, however, spoke to him. "That has to be the weirdest thing I've seen working this job, and I have seen a lot of weird shit."
He laughed, and clapped Nicholas on the back.

The sight of the burning corpses had left Nicholas a little sick. He wasn't exactly in a laughing mood, even if the power imparted a sort of joy he had never before known. "You're going to see a lot more of it, Sergeant. We still need to get out of here."
The halls were now pitch-black, which only made the Knights' jobs easier. For the mere mortals in the party, however - not so much.


Edited by Nick Trano, May 16 2014, 05:37 PM.
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