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Something To Do
Mecca wasn't exactly a beautiful city, all things considered. There was a certain humor in bulldozing priceless historical sites in order to build five star hotels and McDonalds, he supposed, but it didn't quite qualify as art. Nicholas walked the streets of Mecca barefoot in the two white cloths of the ihram, the traditional clothing of the Hajj. He felt ridiculous, but he figured it was a small price to pay.

Nicholas wasn't sure what suicidal impulse had brought him down to the city's streets. Boredom, most likely. For weeks he'd been cooped up in a hotel room in Moscow, only to be paraded about in front of Brandon's cameras. He looked more like Brandon's bitch than anything, regardless of what scathing articles and live feeds he put out. Was it really any wonder that he was driven to drink?

He frowned. Sobriety.
Now that was interesting. His head rung like a tamborine and his hands shook like he was some kind of addict, but he felt no cravings for liquor. He had something much, much better after all. The first time he'd tried to channel the power sober, it was like being a rodeo cowboy. Even if it was all in his head, he'd felt the absolute certainty that one wrong move would mean the death of himself and those around him. It wasn't like in the movies with some cool hand-wavey things and magic words. You had to grab it and take control, a single slip of the mind more dangerous than tossing bullets in a fire. Not to be melodramatic or anything.

He paused in his walk, taking the chance to drink in that sense of invincibility. Clearing his mind was so much harder without anything to dull it. What took less than ten seconds felt like minutes, as he tossed every emotion and stray thought into a little box. Then he stomped on it for a little while until the magic happened. All at once his senses amplified. He felt every stitch of the white robes, he could smell camel shit three roads away, see the hairline cracks in the foundations of the house he was standing next to... and hear the shouting of ten or twenty pissed off Arabs. If there was one thing in common drinking had in common in magic, it was that it made you feel goddamn invincible. Nicholas decided to see what was going on.

A couple blocks away and he had his answer. A woman stood surrounded by a group of angry men. Her blonde hair was blowing in the wind, and by her clothes he judged her western. A black bullet proof vest with the word "PRESS" standing out in bone white made it obvious what she was. An idiot. She should have at least put on a headscarf with things as they were. Nearby, the guy who was presumably her camera man was taking a vicious beating. It didn't look like things were going to end well for either one, if the stories that had been pouring out of the city since dawn were any indication. The group had decidedly too much rope with them.

Now, how to fix things without getting himself lynched or exposed. "Nicholas Trano: Evil Hell Demon from Hell" wasn't exactly the article he wanted his more conservative constituents reading. Then he remembered: the Legion Premiere's CEO had taken up residence in the same hotel. He was a bit of a dipshit from what Nicholas had seen, but mercenaries were mercenaries. It wasn't like he expected the guy to do an actual mission. He just didn't want to see the woman murdered, and he wasn't confident enough in his abilities to try to save her unless absolutely necessary.

So he made a call.

Hopefully they could send help. CDPS was already dealing with riots in half a dozen places around the city, and he doubted they'd be here any time soon.

Edited by Nick Trano, Feb 16 2014, 10:52 PM.
The rooftop door slammed right on Reed's heels. A sort of suctioning sound closed her in air conditioning, and she flapped her jacket open and closed from her ribcage with relief.

Her ass started buzzing a call, so she slipped the Wallet from the pocket of her pants, and turned it over with a frown. Trano? A bad feeling welled in her gut.

She answered. Trano wore traditional clothing. Reed's ill-feeling turned to frustration. There was yelling in the background.

"Reed, remember Jacques Danjou? CEO of that mercenary group? Find him and tell him he's got a job. I know you probably already have access to my accounts, just pay him whatever he needs to clear these guys up."

He didn't have to turn the camera to show her the scene. She grit her teeth for an entirely different reason. Not only was Trano trying to catch bullets in his mouth like they were beer nuts, but now she had to turn around and find Jacques again after having left on a hella funny parting words.

Trano went on. "I don't think these two are going to last very long, and I'd rather not have to do something I might regret."

Reed's expression flattened. "You've already done something you'll regret."
Damn! She knew he was good for it too. If she didn't clean up this mess, he would. If he intervened, magic or not, he was likely to get his throat slit - or worse - and her mission would be all kinds of fucked.

She quickly went about pinning down his exact location and held it on save to swipe to Jacques. There were about a dozen other things to do too but alerting her handlers was going to have to wait.

"Fine. Sit tight."
She cut the feed, but left up a connecting signal so that he could monitor her's (and presumably Jacques') movements.

The door slammed open and Reed cut through the baking oven of the rooftop air like a knife through butter. There was only one easy way on and off the roof, so unless Jacques was into some daredevil type acrobatics, he was likely to still be up here.

He was in much the same place. It'd only been a couple minutes anyway. She sprinted up alongside, Wallet at the ready and sunglasses back over her eyes.

She called out, "I have a message for you."
She wasn't out of breath at the end of the jog, but her forehead glistened with sweat anyway.

"My boss wants to play Hero, apparently."
She held up her Wallet, showing a still frame of the would-be lynching. "If you have any boys around that can help, he's paying. Besides, might be fun to stretch your legs a bit."
She delivered the news with a smirk, but she was poised on the balls of her feet, ready to run as soon as Jacques gave the word.

Jacques was distracted from his little logic puzzle by some sort of disturbance far below and a few blocks away. The array of pop ups, reference markers, movement trackers and area-of-influence borders vanished and he opted on just zooming in on the source of the shenanigans below.

By the time Reed had burst back onto the roof, Jacques was already pondering what to do about the situation. It certainly wouldn't due to let more violence go unchecked in an already disintegrating city, but equally so he couldn't just go butting his nose into the local constabulary's jurisdiction, even if there was no hope of them showing up on time. So who could he get to foot the bill, and take the heat legally?

And lo did Reed return with exactly what Jacques wanted to hear. He spun and started towards the door, forwarding a brief to his team so many levels below, then sent a bundle of legal files to Reed's Wallet, "Get someone to sign on the dotted line on that contract and insurance package. Six hour 'services exploratoires' package. Once signed, forward a copy to the attached offices, tagged 'Uniform Romeo' for immediate assessment and approval. Once flagged under that heading, actions incurred on the unprocessed request can be retroactively covered."

He hauled the door open and pounded his way down the stairs, just assuming she was hot on his heels. He didn't bother asking which 'boss' she meant. The real one probably wasn't the type to need mercs after all. "Six hour service fee is $20,000. We will be favouring non-violence or limited violence response to bring the situation under control. And will you be accompanying us to the site?"

By the time they reached the elevator, it opened to reveal Cpl Ime holding a non-descript olive drab dufflebag, and one of the hotel staff with a key to over-ride the elevator so it wouldn't stop at any floors but what they pressed. "Sir. Provost Boipelo has his team in the parkade gearing up. Ma'am. Caporal Ime, Mr Danjou's personal assistant."

The Nigerian man offered to shake her hand before accepting Jacques' suit jacket, and the dress shirt that quickly followed it, and folded them over his arm. He had already gotten changed, wearing bulky and out-dated body armour and tan fatigues. Most amusing was the white cap that sat on his head, a white kepi.

Jacques was quite practiced at getting changed in elevators, shrugging out of his expensive work clothes and tugging on fatigues identical to Ime's. The elevator was making it's way to the ground floor rather then the parking garage beneath, but could be made to delay if Reed needed to make a stop along the way.

Reed's assessment that he had 'filled out' over the years was pretty accurate. Well toned, he was no stranger to the gym and was surely not just some pencil-pushing businessman. He shrugged out of his expensive hidden vest and offered it to her in case she wanted something a bit more protective then a tight t-shirt.

By the time the elevator opened up on the ground floor, another of his men was standing there waiting. A sturdy pump-action shotgun hung from a strap over his shoulder, and an equally stout looking extendable baton was hung to his belt. An old olive drab canvas gas mask carrier hung off his other hip. They were the cream of the crop of private security in Africa, but their toys were decades out of date compared to what the CCD had to offer.

He handed Jacques and Ime belts and drop-down holsters which they quickly slung on, then they were strolling across the lavishly appointed lobby as if nothing were amiss. Outside, parked on the curb of the hotel were the Legion's two black SUVs, backed up towards the doors much to the anger of the hotel staff, but the mercenaries didn't seem to be paying them any mind as they loaded shotguns with beanbag rounds and strapping tear-gas canisters to their belts.

"Extraction is the name of the game aujourd'hui, mes gars. Angry crowd. Journalists. In, grab, out. Caporal Ime, you are to T-up with local law enforcement and ambulance. Arrange a rendezvous point."
The team finished gearing up in short order and were piling into the vehicles and away, a seat saved for Reed if she decided to accompany. No screeching tires or madly spinning of steering wheels. Calm, cool, and collected.
If there was nothing worse than dealing with the reports regarding this mess, it was dealing with fucking insurance forms. She shot Jacques a look that begged him to choke her to death instead. It'd put her out of her misery. She forwarded the documents on to Trano, along with a message laid across post-it style. It read: You owe me in stern block lettering.

"Yeah I'll be accompanying you to the site,"
she answered but none too excited that the answer was in the affirmative.

She took stock of this corporal that appeared on the elevator. She shook his hand, noted his accent, age, weight, build, and any and all unique features he possessed. Not only to size him up, but to gauge any and all facets of individuality that would make him an attractive candidate to assist the CEO of the Legion. He seemed capable enough, and Reed joined them on the elevator with barely a notice of the details passing between the two men. However, while Jacques was shirtless, she made no effort at hiding her sizing him up in an entirely different manner - but that wasn't to say she didn't take immediate stock of all the features she'd gauged on Ime as well. By this point, she didn't realize she did it. The habit was a part of her.

When presented with the vest, a bulletproof version of Second Skin, Reed looked at the wad of slick material filling Jacques hand. Then glanced at his face. Then back down. She shrugged and took the gift. Might as well after all... Even if it stank of his sweat.

She shrugged out of her own jacket and offered it to the corporal like it was his job to be the elevator's designated clothes rack. Given that he was a corporal, she was doing him a favor. Call it a promotion. Her own shirt she peeled off afterward and tucked it between her knees for the time being. She was in incredible shape for her age. She was clearly no stranger to the weight room either, but her streamlined torso, waist and shoulders hugged muscle without being too masculine about it. She had absolutely no tattoos, or even so much as a mole anywhere on her skin. Her bra, a creamy white, was similarly neutral. Excluding her brazen wit and killer hot body, she had the look of one able to blend in to any situation.

The vest hugged her skin as soon as she pulled it on like it were made for her. When she returned the shirt, the overlay barely showed any sign of its presence. The corporal offered her jacket back, which she likewise shrugged back on, and by the time they reached ground level, it seemed nothing had happened at all.

They crossed the lobby with a few looks, but Reed was primarily absorbed with gathering details on her Wallet, including any and all signatures returned from Trano. Damn it I am acting like his fucking secretary. Oh well.

The two black SUVs raced down the street, their drivers easily demonstrating a very high degree of training and experience at such things as they wove through the traffic and barreled towards the forming crowd. Hundreds of people had already gathered to watch what was happening, but it seemed most were just bystanders, not interested yet in interfering.

Provost Boipelo glanced over his shoulder at Reed and Jacques, and at a thumbs-up from his boss, the Provost flipped a switch mounted to the dashboard. Mounted to the roof of both vehicles were directional LRAD (long range acoustic device) emitters. The systems were far from cutting edge, but the technology had been in use for decades and proven effective. The models used by the Legion were two or three generations behind, but were still entirely effective for their needs.

The crowd ahead immediately scattered, hands pressed to their ears and driven by an imperative need to get out of the field of effect of the horrible sound that seemed on the verge of blowing their eardrums. The waves swept outwards from right to left (or left to right), a wave that unconsciously urged the afflicted civilians to flee out of the vehicle's path to escape the painful noise.

The SUVs didn't slow down as they both hoped the curb, and the Provost switched the LRADs off as soon as he was confident the crowd would continue parting ahead of them. Soon enough the disturbance that Mr Trano had hired Jacques and his team about came into view and the two SUVs continued speeding towards the group of men and stranded female journalist.

The vehicles suddenly swerved left and right accordingly, the right-bound vehicle popping the E-brake and burning tires as it swung 180 degrees to face the left bound vehicle. Doors were thrown open and the men piled out with startling ease and familiarity. As they dismounted, Provost Boipelo was first to put boots to the ground, and he hoisted a directional-energy weapon. Again, not next-generation technology, it was still tried-and-tested and deemed effective, although the limited range and uncomfortable weight made the crowd-control device less then ideal in most scenarios.

He flipped the on switch without announcing any warnings; this was a situation where they had no time to spare, and needed to shock the crowd into backing off rather then giving them time to react. Fight or flight was a universal instinct, and in civilians it was easy to spark the flight instinct before a mob-mentality was established.

The weapon came with an antenna-like end which was directed at the men assaulting the camera man, and within seconds of it activating two of the men were staggering back and wretching up their lunch, shivering uncontrollably before dropping to their knees.

The rest of the team moved up quickly, two men physically grabbing the female reporter and running her to one of the SUVs and forcing her into a seat, ignoring her screams and complaints and any effort to resist. Others moved to ward off the crown, not firing but clearly ready to start, their shotguns held at the high ready and faces hidden behind balaclavas and face shields.

Jacques stood near the vehicles, letting his men do their jobs without distracting them with making sure he was safe, although he continued to do what he did best; survey the scene, understand the ebb and flow of the crowd, identify possible threats and, most importantly have a plan. He was already plotting alternate ways of reaching the rendezvous point with the ambulance and police that had been contacted earlier.

His men barked orders in Arabic, commanding the crowd to disperse. Corporal Ime stood next to Reed, her personal escort for the moment. While the man was just a administrative clerk, he clearly knew what he was doing with the shotgun in his hands, and had the same level as close-protection training as the rest of the Legion, always keeping his back to her, standing between her and the cover of the SUV, yet ready to move if she chose to.

The Provost held his weapon at the ready, walking it from the two men already on their hands and knees to the next attacking the near-dead cameraman, while two men approached with a collapsible stretcher they had unfolded with a few deft and practiced movements, ready to strap the injured man down and load him into one of the vehicles for extraction.
The documents arrived in his wallet more quickly than Nicholas expected. The message laid across them, however, wasn't a surprise at all. "You owe me." He leaned against a wall to watch the proceedings as he scanned a fingerprint onto each document. You couldn't do them all at once; the tiny differences with each finger press were what made the system work. Otherwise somebody would just have to copy a print once. It took a few minutes for them all to be taken care of; most of the forms were standard. Shit,
he thought, only twenty thousand?
Either the Legion was having a clearance sale or he might just want to buy his own private army.

That done, he swiped a quick message back to Reed alongside the fingerprinted files. "You know, I never did give you permission to access my accounts."
Just because he wasn't surprised didn't mean she was supposed to do it. He wasn't just being petty for the hell of it, was he? Of course not. He'd put all his emotions in that box earlier.

People kept stringing into the square, both spectators and participators. The cameraman was no longer struggling, and some in the knot of men around the reporter were hefting some pretty big rocks. The power still surged through him, sweeter than heaven and hotter than--damn, that's an old song.
He almost chuckled at the thought. Then he looked back at the mob brutally beating a man and preparing to stone a woman, and felt like kind of a jerk.

The roar of the mob had long since lost meaning and faded from notice like the whir of an old air conditioning system. So when those angry roars broke into screeches of fear, the contrast was deafening. SUVs with practically ancient sonic weapons mounted on top were pushing through the crowd, which had swollen into the hundreds. In seconds they were at the center.

A black man wearing a military uniform was first to hop out of the car. He raised a weapon that looked like an old timey laser gun, complete with an oversized antenna sticking out the front. Regardless of its appearance, it was effective. The men beating the cameraman fell to the ground, spewing the contents of their stomachs onto the floor. Nicholas felt a little green himself, watching that.

In less than a minute they had the two unfortunate westerners in relative safety--relative because being surrounded by friendly men with guns was better in the face of an angry mob than not being surrounded by friendly men with guns. Then the shock wore off. The shouts of surprise turned back into roars of rage, and Nicholas got the sinking feeling that the Legion's apparently audacious, brilliant maneuver was turning into an audacious, stupid mistake.

Wait a...
That feeling of dread, he knew it. It was like what rolled off Jon, Dane and Nikolai Brandon when they seized the power--but the weakest he'd ever felt. Like he was stuck in a prison cell with a large man named Tiny. He looked away from the scene rapidly unfolding in the center of the square. If one of these crazies were capable of using magic, things could get very bad very quickly. And not in a Nicholas Trano Pays Mercenaries to Slaughter Innocent Saudis kind of way. He shivered; that wasn't a headline he wanted to see either.

He looked out over the crowd, hoping to pick out the man or woman using it and judge their intentions. Strange, now that he thought about it, everybody he'd seen using the power had been a man. It's not like women would do it differently,
he thought. That would be stupid.

It barely took a few seconds to spot the man. Red and green threads were being tied together into something... well, he wasn't any expert but what the guy was doing didn't look good. It almost looked like he was trying to make a--"Son of a bitch he's making a fireball."
He didn't realize he said those words out loud as the miniature sun--actually, at that distance it was a bit bigger than the sun--streaked through the air.

He only had a few seconds to destroy it before one of the SUVs--and anybody inside of it--was melted like a candy bar left in the sun. The silvery threads would be useless, and you don't fight fire with fire. That left earth, air and water. He was lucky he had instinct to carry him, because without it he wouldn't have figured out what to do until after everyone he cared about was dead.

Before he knew what he was doing, a cyclone of air and water filtered out the flames, winking them out of existence in an instant. Which left him in the unenviable position of being a magical terrorist's target. That position became a bit more unenviable as another fireball quickly arced through the air at him. A couple more were sent with the same result before the bastard realized nothing was happening.

By that point, the crowd realized that even in the holiest of cities, fireballs don't tend to fly at passing infidels. The angry roar once again faded to screams of fear, and people began running from the square. It was turning into a full on stampede, and Nicholas did not envy the ones who fell. Doubly so when weaves of air began thunking into the walls of the building he was standing against, and occasionally into people. He knocked a few away before realizing it wasn't any use; the inaccuracy implied they were shots in the dark.

Rather than give away his exact position, he joined the crowd running from the square. A few dozen frantic steps and his theory was proven correct: the man kept firing at the same place. Now that Nicholas was no longer looking at the threads straight on, it was easy to see exactly where his assailant was standing. It was an old man, with a beard nearly gone white as snow. Bit of a Bin Laden type.

The bastard didn't see it coming when the bludgeon of hardened air smacked into his skull. Nicholas turned back to the SUVs. Reed would probably be cross with him if he didn't show up. He didn't spare a glance for the man who tried to kill him; he'd wake up in a few hours with a hell of a concussion or be trampled by the stampede he created. He wished he could do something to help the rest of them, but anything more than he'd already done would be moronic.

By the time he forced himself through the crowd, the square was empty but for the wounded. Danjou was easy to pick out. Only one who wasn't born and bred African. They must have stayed because of the link with Reed's wallet--it didn't do to leave the man paying you in hostile territory.

"Thanks for showing up when you did,"
his smile sincere. "Best twenty thousand I ever spent."
He could ask them about what must have been their incredibly fancy fireball-stopping automated defense systems later.

Edited by Nick Trano, Mar 3 2014, 09:30 PM.
Ime exited the car first. Reed followed.

Chaos hit her like a slap in the face. And she was powerless to cut the bastard's fucking throat.

Behind dark lenses, she scanned everything from the footing of the ground to the calculated body weights, build and notable features of the nearest ten men. Excluding Ime. The good corporal was already sized up long ago - in an elevator that seemed half a world away from the dark ages they'd apparently found.

Corporal Ime took a position that protectively sandwiched her between the crowd ahead and the vehicle behind. Good for them. Should she have a mind to take someone out, Ime might slow her down a second. Maybe two. He seemed to know how to handle himself.

Jacques was sucked into leadership. Command diverted his focus completely from Reed. To her preference. It gave her time to triangulate Trano's location.

He was quick about it. By the time Reed had Trano's location on her Wallet, grown men were on their hands and knees vomiting their brains out. Ewe, she shook her head and flipped on the sync that put the map to Trano on the interior of her lenses. X marks the spot. Literally.

One hundred meters of angry Saudis separated Reed from the sack of bones that was her current mission. She shot a glance at a seemingly vacant roof-line, and time slowed to a crawl. She had a decision to make. Risk blowing her cover, or risk losing Trano. Somehow, she had to save both.

In a flash she sprinted forward. She heard Corporal Ime's yells behind her, but she was already beyond the initial seawall of the mob. Moments later, a surge of heat soared overhead. Her scalp erupted in rivulets of sweat. She dropped mid-sprint, and barely felt the scrape of stone against her knees. When she rolled out of it, a sphere of fire hurled in place of where her head had been moments before. Ime, hot on her heels, literally and figuratively, saw it too. He leaped aside, dodging its path, and watched in helpless horror as it streaked toward the vehicle behind.

Reed was already on the balls of her feet, and all the more eager to get Trano back under her protection, when the fire dissolved in a hissing rush of anger. The cold look she shot Ime was interrupted by the billowing of a white thobe, and when next he looked, Reed was ten meters gone.

Her feet pounded the ground. She threw her weight against men twice her size, and plowed the road with her momentum. She had one eye on her phone, following the map to the red circle that was her mark.

Then that circle blinked. Reed looked down. Trano was on the move! He--A thud slammed into her. She fell, and twisted enough to land without breaking a wrist. Pain flushed through her hip and leg. Her phone flew from her hand, and was lost under a hundred robed feet. She grunted in frustration, and rolled faceup at the exact moment a foot was about to smash into her face. She threw her forearms forward and blocked her skull from being crushed.

The assailant, a heavily built man young man powered by righteous fury stumbled. She hurled her knee up and struck him in his unbalance. He stumbled off, and Reed, throwing herself to her feet, followed. She finished him off with an elbow to the jaw, and spun as three of his buddies swarmed on her.

The first she thwarted with a heel strike up the nose. With his neck thrown backward, she shoved him into the second. The third roared a string of not very nice words in Arabic, and Reed dug in her heels. But the one that intended to turn her face into a doormat was back, and caught her from behind. Thick arms wrenched hers into a lock that required more attention to break than she could afford at the moment. A fist pounded her stomach and she groaned in pain. Another wrung its way through her hair and pulled her head up in time to be struck across the face. The metallic flicker of blood filled her lip. The bastard had been wearing a heavy ring.

Then the good Corporal was there. While the mob's weapons were brute force and blood-rage, he had actual weapons, and made quick work of taking a baton to her captor's knee. Released, Reed fell from his grip as the whirl of a baton landed against the man's temple. He dropped like a sack of bricks, blood staining his headdress.

She and Ime went back to back as two bodies replaced every one they dropped, until they were completely enclosed. "I'd not turn down back up right now!"
She yelled to Ime over one shoulder. He chuckled.

"I am the backup!"
He replied, and Reed cursed to herself. He pulled his second pistol and thrust it around for her to take. So these French bastards had actual guns? Finally! She checked it briefly. The defensive stance she took forced the wall of people to hesitate charging her.

Ime's skull was thrown against the back of her own. Shock riddled her already tense muscles, and she spun on pure instinct. Ime crumpled, shot between the eyes. The momentum of the bullet must have jerked his head into hers. She had only a heartbeat to steal glances at the roof-line she'd studied before. Her teeth clamped down as she studied the face of the man that needlessly came to her rescue. Fool. That bullet could have been meant for her.

She left him behind for the mob to defile if they wanted. They likely would. Poor bastard. For the moment at least, they were as shocked as she was, and she intended to take full advantage. She elbowed her way out without a second glance behind. Trano was still out there.

By the time she made it to Trano's last known location, he was no where to be found. She jumped up on the edge of a statue to get a better sight over the crowd. And what she saw almost made her throw herself back into the mob. Trano had made it back to Jacques while she'd been dancing the macarena with Ime. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw his body lifted and carried away. What a fucking waste.

Tossing her hands, she hopped down and took her time about rendezvousing with them back at the vehicles. She touched her cheek and lip on the way. Both were tender, and she spit out the wad that welled up behind her teeth.
Jacques' attention seemed to be everywhere at once. Even on ground level, surrounded by an angry crowd and with far too few men to really make a difference should their 'shock and awe' approach fail, he seemed entirely unruffled. In his element. He loved being this close to the action, standing on the line of contact, feeling the way things moved. Battle and war was a living thing in his mind; it could be understood and observed as could any other organism. It had mannerisms and tells, and he got no end of thrill being able to sense them.

His Landwarrior's were crowded with data feeds that never quite seemed to impair his ability to observe his surroundings with his own two eyes. There was a fleeting moment of concern as the crowd didn't scatter as energetically as he had hoped, but that changed when the first fireball arched towards them.

One of his men barked 'Molotov!' and they reacted accordingly, spacing out further. Molotov's were terrifying weapons, in that they were cheap, easy, and effective both for actual damage and psychological warfare. Humans were instinctively afraid of fire, and more so of being on fire.

One glance told Jacques, and probably his men as well, that what was coming towards them was no molotov. It didn't look right. More like a fireball, maybe like you'd see in some fantasy flick. But there was no time to try to think it through; the mind made connections between possible threats and known threats. They didn't know what this was, but they knew what it almost looked like and responded in that fashion. One man spun, grabbing the female reporter from where she sat in the vehicle the ball of fire was arching towards and tried to haul her out of the vehicle before it could strike. There was no chance he could actually do it, but he tried anyway.

Then there was the sudden whirlwind, dust and water, that engulfed the fireball and it puffed out in a cloud of steam and smoke. The Legion men all paused for a split second, their minds racing to understand what had happened, but they all quickly tucked their confusion aside and returned to the task at hand.

Trackers marking the locations of his men relative to himself flashed a brief warning regarding Cpl Ime. The man had darted away from the vehicles and into the crowd. One brief glance told him why; Reed had bolted that way, and Ime had the task of keeping her safe. The clerk didn't even hesitate.

A flick of the eye and Jacques had a display from Ime's Landwarrior camera. A crowd, Reed was in a corner, being attacked. He had never for a moment believed the woman was a reporter's assistant. Now he just had the evidence. No number of hours in self defense classes could teach a person to handle themselves that well when being attacked by a crowd. Reed was some sort of spook.

Ime was no stranger to this sort of thing; every member of the Legion had riot control training. He was in fast and aggressive, baton out. Two more Legion men received waypoints and were moving to enter the crowd to liberate Ime and that damn idiot, Reed. The worrying part was when Ime handed over his sidearm; live rounds were going to make all of this a nightmare.

And a nightmare it became. Ime's vitals flatlined suddenly, his head pitched back and his Landwarriors went dark. Jacques could hear the gunshot from where he was standing, and with it everything changed. The crowd was already in a blind panic, fleeing in every direction from the fireballs, but now someone was firing real bullets. It all spiraled into chaos. People were being trampled and crushed in the crowd, and the Legion men were forced to fall back into a tight circle around the vehicles, the badly injured cameraman strapped into a collapsible hard-frame stretcher set near the base of one of the vehicles.

The Legion men used their shotguns as barriers now, pushing back against the crowd aggressively to keep themselves and their charges from being trampled. Jacques stood on the line with them, throwing the occasional punch or shove to keep things moving, all the while watching the tracker icon of Ime's GPS as it moved further away.

Savages were taking his dead. That would not stand. But there was nothing to be done about it now.

The crowd thinned and abruptly vanished, leaving those that had fallen in the chaos, dead and wounded, behind. "Provost. You will have Mr Ime in Casablanca by the time I return from Dubai. Is that understood?"
His tone was deathly serious, a very rarely seen side of Jacques' personality. He did not appreciate his men being disrespected.

The man that approached them was readily identified as Mr Trano. Their current contract holder. The man who's 'assistant' had gotten one of his men killed by her own stupidity. He forwarded the final images from Cpl Ime's camera to Provost Boipelo, isolating a still image of the shooter. The Provost scowled angrily as he directed the rest of the men in loading the wounded cameraman into one of the vehicles, and others took up a hasty cordon around the vehicles, their shotguns quickly swapped out for SMGs.

"Mr Trano. Incidental expenses will be forwarded to you for final compilation of the fee."
He turned slightly to fix a cold eyed gaze at Reed. There was no hint of the happy-go-lucky businessman there. Just professional anger. She had done something stupid, and it had cost his man his life. She knew he knew she wasn't what she said she was. If she had just asked for assistance tracking down her fucking charge, he could have easily coordinated it. Instead, she ran off like some self-obsessed asshole.

He made sure that Trano couldn't see the look he leveled at Reed, and by the time he turned back to the high-profile reporter, his face had returned to a calm exterior. "Toubib Afolayan. Check the injured. Provost. How many can we seat to the link-up with the ambulances?"

"We can post four men to the runners on each vehicle, Sir. Ihejirika can drive lead, and if you drive rear, we can carry 4 wounded seated, or two and one one the second stretcher."
That would mean four of his men riding on the outside of the vehicles, standing on the runners and holding the roof rack, in danger. But it would also add an extra level of protection to those seated within; small arms fire would have to get through his men's armour and flesh to find their way inside. He nodded curtly; get it done.

Under the squad medic's supervision (Toubib (doctor) Afolayan), three of the most seriously injured people were selected from those laying on the ground near the Legion vehicles and set into the SUVs with the cameraman and female reporter, who was, surprisingly, more concerned about her cameraman then of getting a good scoop.

"Mr Trano. Your assistant is most assuredly good at her job. However, I suggest if you insist on travelling in such dangerous regions of the world, you send her on a few self defense courses. Something to build her personal confidence. She needs to learn how to keep a level head in dangerous situations, or her skatter-brained antics will see more lives cut short."
He played along with her little secret, that she was no reporter's assistant, but he still found a way to chastise the woman for her getting his man killed. A way that, should she argue otherwise, could well be damaging to her disguise with Trano.

"Toubib Afolayan. Forward your triage report."
The squad medic had taken a quick note on observed injuries and the number of dead and wounded still on the street, and Jacques sent that ahead to the appropriate people to assure the police and first responders that they were to link up with.

"Well Mr Trano, I must admit this was not how I had hoped to spend my last day in Mecca. Please mount up. We are meeting police and ambulances a few blocks away, then will return you and your assistant to the hotel. If there's no questions?"
He moved to get into the drivers seat of the second vehicle as his men started herding them all to mount up; they needed to get moving before more trouble could find them.
Reed strolled up behind Trano looking none the worse for wear. She was sweating. The dust smeared across her cheek and brow mottled her face, but the actual soldiers were worse-off. Ime's firearm was hidden away, too. So she kept up Jacques' schemes that she was panicked into running away.

His cold glare did nothing, and slid off like oil on water. The fault for the corporal's death could be laid at her feet according to some interpretations, but even if it were, Reed cared less. Soldiers died, and that one took a bullet doing what he'd signed up to do. Reed never asked him for help. If she wasn't capable on her own, she would have been dead before Jacques was old enough to get his first wood.

She just shrugged when the attention turned her way, and brushed off the judgement pounding her with guilt that would never guilt her into a single sleepless night. It was Trano she cared about. Second on the list of cares was the identity of the person that took a shot at her. A sniper of that quality should have been able to hit Reed between the eyes from an easy thousand meters. They would have had a spotter on team, too. Taking out a worthless corporal was a waste of a bullet, in her opinion, especially when there were officers - and Jacques - in easy sights. The latter stood out like a sore thumb. Trano's headgear probably helped him blend in, but his pale white ass was easy enough to spot by trained eyes. He should have been dead ten minutes before the cavalry even arrived.

So the shot was meant to incite rioting, and send Reed a message at the same time.

Message received.

She stalked to Trano and pulled him aside. She pat him down and checked him out for hidden, shock induced insensitivity to injuries. He was fine, she quickly concluded, and was ready to climb in the getaway vehicles.


The cars pulled up beneath a shaded drive, and from the sides emerged Reed and Trano, and whichever of Jacques men deemed worthy to escort them indoors. She was still smeared with dust and grit, but Reed cut through the lobby without concern for the strange looks they passed. Trano, on the other hand, was almost swarmed by other members of the press, and it took far too long to get to the elevator than she preferred.

She glanced at her watch at one point and counted down the hours until the Ascendancy's arrival. Things were only likely to get worse between now and then.

Seek was watching long before the disturbance began. He was a hunter, after all. His dark skin, graying beard and white robes were his camouflage; the pockmarked ruin of a building his stand. STG got the bait in place, just like they said they would. The stupid bitch and her cameraman had no idea what they were walking into. In a way, Seek was like that journalist at the center of the riot: he just needed that one perfect, dramatic shot. Too bad for her she wasn't American.

He stood roughly ten feet back from the window, in a dark room. No casual observer would see him. After all, a sniper's best defense was concealment. At this distance he didn't need fancy optics; his Lens Warriors enhanced the iron sights nicely. He held an old world war II Mosin Nagant--in remarkably good condition for a century-old relic, sure, but nothing particularly unique in the part of the world that liked to stay a century behind. It'd be easy to dump later on.

The riot was reaching its point of no return when some private military jackasses showed up to play hero. Legion Premiere, apparently. Some low level mercenary outfit fresh from Africa, judging by the men. They cleaned up the people around the reporter nicely, and set up a tight perimeter. It looked for a second like they were going to ruin everything. Then, fireballs started flying through the air.

He suppressed a chuckle. Looked like Hitchins was a complete fucktard, and Andrew wasn't just some one-in-a-trillion fluke. Not that it mattered; put him within two miles of anyone, with a clear line of sight, and Allah and all his angels couldn't save them. A single, well aimed, unexpected bullet was all it took.

And that's just what one unfortunate corporal of the Legion Premiere got, between the eyes. The mob was already dispersing because of the light show, but that didn't mean Seek wasn't going to add to the chaos. He felt nothing when the man fell. Truth be told, he hadn't felt anything about killing in a long time. That would have worried him, once. Before he understood. People had the luxury of petty morality because they had hard men and women ready to do violence on their behalf. In a way, Seek held the only true moral high ground.

Seek ejected the spent casing and lowered the rifle. He wiped a bead of sweat from his brow with the fringe of his ihram. Damn if he wasn't glad his grandparents decided to get out of the desert. He hated the heat. A moment to stretch, and he snatched the brass casing off the table. It was time to move, and his work wasn't done.

His job was simple, at least as simple as could be expected on a subversion op. Cause a few riots, kill a few people, set the stage for third squad's coup de grace later that night. Seek didn't know what was causing it, but he felt something drawing him in the general direction of the mosque where Al-Hasan would be leading the evening prayer. What would his parents think of him now, helping to kill a prophet?

Al-Hasan was sent by Allah himself, Seek was almost certain. He just didn't care.

Edited by Andrew Koehler, Apr 1 2014, 07:32 PM.

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