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The Long Road Forward
Even with the air and sea port reopened, and the seizure of military and government hoarded supplies, they were short on everything but manpower and will. In the past two weeks, they had forced General Katlego to surrender unconditionally, and brought elements of his forces into the fold. Even among the Temne rebels, there were those who simply wanted an end to the conflict, to the decades of hatred.

It only took a matter of days to take back the north-west from the Guinean warlords. After a week of drills, the Legion's newly acquired vehicles, delivered off the Baadi Qasriga along with dozens more F3LIN suits, had established an effective picket to the south-east, heading off any potential further advance by Liberian forces, while F3LIN suited infantry hit the Guinean forces to the north-west.

The Legion's four Type 99 MBTs, crewed by Legionnaire vehicle commanders and rush-trained Sierra Leonean troops, were intimidating enough to keep the Liberians in check. Especially as they seemed to have some sort of internal conflict to deal with. What reports that reached the Legion were sketchy, but seemed to indicate some sort of coordinated resistance in Liberian-held Sierra Leone. Supply convoys and isolated patrols had a tendency of turning up dead.

The four BMPT Terminators led the the assault to the north-east. Designed as a close support platform, the tracked vehicles had little trouble maneuvering through the densely packed Sierra Leonean towns and jungle, and were heavily armoured enough that little in Warlord Shakespear's arsenal could threaten them. Backed up by F3LIN equipped Legionnaires, they tore through the guerrillas with ease, liberating towns and even recovering much of the lost Legion supplies from the ambushed convoy.

Newly formed militia forces, led by elements of the Freetown police and Sierra Leonean military elements, patrolled the interior of the nation, delivering much needed supplies and bringing a sense of security and unity back to the nation, mounted in Patria AMVs flying the national colours. Many of the APCs had survived the civil war.

In only two weeks, the capital had returned to some semblance of normality. No more columns of smoke over the city's skyline. No more echoes of gunfire and turning of blind eyes to what Wallace-Johnson's forces had been doing to their own people.

There was only one thing though that was immediately holding Jacques attention. Of all the progress they had made thus far, in so short a time, there was only one thing that he regretted. Namely, how short on anesthetics they still were.

The loss of his hand had been accepted as best he could; certainly some amount of shock had deadened the pain, and true acceptance of the loss of a limb was a hard thing to establish, to come to grips with. His past two weeks had been awkward; an adjusting period, in which many times he sought to do things that had once been common-place, but suddenly nigh impossible with only one hand. It had, however, led to an air of deliberation in everything he did. The calculated pauses to assess and plot his next move.

How to open a door while carrying something? Sipping tea with his off hand was nigh impossible while he walked. Luckily, he had been training all his life to be ambidextrous with a pistol, but loading magazines, cocking the action, remedying stoppages, all became dreadfully awkward with one hand.

He was rambling, if that was what such thoughts could be called. Chasing headlong down the rabbit hole to try and distract himself from the work being conducted on the other side of a thin grey blanket that blocked his view from the stump of his right arm. He was strapped down, as surgeons worked on the stump. The cauterization had saved his life in the short term, but had led to all sorts of complications.

They had to cut away the burned and scarred flesh, to deal with the cracked and broken bones in the stump of his wrist. He had staved off infection by some small miracle, but what healing had been established had to be undone and set on the right course if he were to ever be fitted with a prosthetic.

And there wasn't enough anesthetic to do more then freeze his arm. Mostly. The surgical team at work beyond that sheet included three people, Americans, that had answered his call to the world. He hadn't expected a world renowned surgeon to have shown up on their doorstep, but the man had given up everything he had back home to go where he was needed. Years of working on the richest people in America had left the man empty inside. Three days in Freetown had seen a miraculous change.

Suddenly, everything that man did had meaning; no more was he wasted on trivial procedures paid for by the rich and powerful. He was saving lives again, testing his skills against his Death himself once more. The classic power-trip of a successful surgeon.

A nurse, also American, leaned around the sheet and looked at him. He met the older woman's gaze with a level stare, doing his best to hide the pain and discomfort of the procedure he could hear, and almost feel, but could not see. "Almost done, sir."


Liberian politicians had released a public declaration of aggression against Sierra Leone. Dozens of Liberian soldiers had been found dead, in what they claimed was a 'humanitarian aid' mission in the south-east of Sierra Leone. They of course denied reports of seizures of industrial equipment, facilities, and depots in the region. Denied reports that they were funding South African mercenaries to destabilize the region.

Africa's north-east was being torn asunder. Al Janyar was spreading almost unchecked. Dozens of once-disparate extremist groups were flocking to their banner, sparking conflicts ever further west and south. Nations weakened by decades of economic and social strife were offering little by way of organized resistance, and where such resistance may have been found, it was bogged down trying to keep tens of thousands of refugees fed and organized.

The first class of Legion recruits to graduate training since the Battle of Jeddah and the civil war in Sierra Leone received their white Kepis and were immediately deployed to work with the Algerian military. Joint training had been agreed upon as one of the terms set by the country to allow the Legion to relocate onto their soil. The first woman to join the Legion was among their numbers, and a dozen more were in the classes behind her.

In Freetown, transport ships and planes arrived daily from around the world, bringing an influx of skilled volunteers and much needed resources. Schools were reopened, if only to serve as day-care centers so their parents could assist in the rebuilding of the city and some return to normalcy. Shops were reopened, refugees that had choked the city's streets were returning to their towns and villages, no longer worried of Guinean rebels or being caught up in the violence of the civil war.

There were desperate short-falls though. Vaccines, especially for Ebola, were in short supply. The government stockpiles hadn't been refreshed in fifteen years, and much of the supply held in the few remaining hospitals simply couldn't meet the demand. Shakespear's forces had purposefully contaminated water supplies, destroyed crops and cattle, and aggressively encouraged the spread of Ebola into Sierra Leone.

A lack of proper education and awareness had led many to believe that the vaccines they had received as children, during the height of the Ebola scare, would last for the rest of their lives. Perhaps even carry on to their children. Cases of Ebola, cholera, dysentery, and malaria to name a few, were beginning to grow in the north-west.

The list of challenges that faced him and his people was daunting. He simply didn't have access to the resources needed to combat it all alone. Support from Algeria had allowed the Legion to stock-pile the humanitarian aid supplies that had begun flooding into Sierra Leone when the fighting had stopped, but Algeria was, economically at least, in a worse situation then Sierra Leone. The Legion was that nation's last desperate effort to stabilizing the nation. And, albeit slowly, it seemed to be working.

What nations that may have given aid to Sierra Leone had been, momentarily at least, alienated by both the civil war and the Legion's seizure of the nation. The African Union existed, but counted barely two dozen nations in its membership, and Liberia was one of them. And of course, Al Janyar was drawing much of the AU's attention.


Only a few hours after his most recent surgery, Jacques sat in his quarters. The Legion had been relocated again, forced to move from the old Moroccan embassy after the fire, and relocated into the government district and adjacent military barracks. Jacques room was, at one time, that of the President of Sierra Leone. Not the actual President's house, but an office and bedroom in the government district.

He sat at the desk, and a dozen holographic screens hung in the air in front of him. Status reports and live feeds from troops in the field, updates on various projects around the city and the country, email chains with foreign powers. Much of the logistics and politics was being handled by Commandant Tuff and the Legion command staff in Algeria, but Jacques made a point of being as up to date on it all as possible.

Most of those were ignored, however. Struggling to write with his left hand, he penned his signature to the next in a series of letters to family and loved ones of the fallen. Each letter, typed...something that grated him deeply, for the impersonal feel of it compared to a properly written letter, but made necessary for his poor penmanship with his left hand...was personalized. Individual accounts of the Legionnaire in question.

Some were to the families of the police officers and first-responders that had given their lives during the liberation of Freetown. And some were to the families of those killed at Masiaka. Those that had any living family left for whom such letters could be addressed.

He set the pen aside, flexing his left hand briefly before taking up a cup of tea and moving his attention to the most recently updated screen. Another report on Liberian troop losses in Sierra Leone. Another request by a foreign power for Jacques to formally acknowledge Liberia's hold on the resource-rich region of Sierra Leone, so the production of rhodium could continue once more. More formal declarations that Jacques and the Legion liquidate its assets to reimburse its former investors.

He sighed quietly and reached to rub his eyes, before remembering that he hadn't the free hand to do the task. His stump was lowered to the desk once more, tea cup set aside. Too much work to be done.
<dt>To Jacques Danjou
CEO Legion Premiere</dt>
<dd> </dd>

Mr. Danjou,

I would like to meet to discuss investing in your company and your efforts to rebuild Sierra Leone and Africa. Unfortunately, business requires me to be in Moscow and I will not be able to meet you in Africa, however, I would be willing to host you and/or an envoy to discuss what I can do to help with your rebuilding efforts.

If you are interested, please let me know when you are available and we will set up a time to meet. I look forward to hearing from you and to building a professional relationship.

Thank you for your time,

Emily Shale
CEO, Shale International

Edited by Emily Shale, Sep 13 2016, 09:28 AM.
The message was forwarded from Commandant Tuff in Algeria, along with a series of other requests, accusations, reports, short-falls, expenditure reports, recruit training progress and more.

The Legion had narrowly avoided having its assets seized in Morocco. Thanks to the Legion's clerks, most of their accounts had been transferred to Algerian banks. Accusations from their old investors, although none had really lost any money, per-say. They had simply lost the opportunity to earn more of it through lucrative Legion Premiere contracts. Few had heeded Jacques advice to simply invest in those companies to whom their existing contracts had been passed on to.

The cost of purchasing and shipping the tons of humanitarian supplies that had been flooding into Sierra Leone over the past two weeks. And the cost of storing many of those supplies for the many long days it had taken to store much of those while waiting to be able to ship them into the country.

Efforts to secure sources of vaccines and medicines to combat the diseases that had begun to run rampant in the country had thus far been difficult at best. Many pharmaceutical companies had stopped producing Ebola vaccines simply due to a lack of profit. Malaria, cholera, without medications and facilities these were beginning to further destabilize the north-western regions of Sierra Leone, recently freed of Guinean warlord control.

And then there were the pirates. Two transport ships had been lost to them already, both in the region of São Tomé and Príncipe, a failed-state island nation off the coast of Gabon, which had become little better then a modern day Port Royale.

Naturally, the pirate lords of São Tomé and Príncipe had long since paid off President Teodoro 'Teodorin' Nguema of Equitorial Guinea, and as such benefit from what protection and legitimacy that nation's navy could provide.

There were few 'civilian navies' in the world. Navies were expensive things, and mercenary companies rarely could employ more than a handful of coastal vessels at best. Civilian companies made their money through transport ships, not fighting ships. Except one.

A brief referral with Commandant Tuff and the two were in agreement. A request was sent for a face-to-face in the near future. He wasn't entirely sure what to make of Mademoiselle Shale's offer, but it was simply too important to pass on. He would never forget the outcome of his last visit to the CCD, but they still received letters from some of those his men had died saving.

A call was sent out to Lieutenant Jared Vanders, Lieutenant Jay Carpenter, and to Mademoiselle Natalie Grey.

The greens and browns of his combat uniform was freshly cleaned and fit to perfect regulation for this summons before Jacques Danjou. Down to the exact inch of pant leg required to be tucked into his boots. Damn he even shined his boots for this that morning. Course, they were dulled by the road in coming over, but that was life in Africa. He had his beret tipped perfectly off the side of his face, too. For looking so french, Jay made that sucker look good. The extra gold bars of new rank on his arm helped too.

He strode before the administrator outside Jacques' office. "Lieutenant Carpenter to see -"
he paused. He wasn't even sure what to call Jacques. He wasn't CEO anymore. But he hadn't exactly proclaimed himself a general either. "Commander Danjou,"
he finally finished, and waited with quiet attention to be allowed inside.

He suddenly wished he'd brought a bottle of water. It was hotter than normal inside.

Only darkness shows you the light.

Jared felt refreshed. Being clean was a big part of that. His uniform was clean and pressed. Shiny new lieutenant bars glittered on his collar. The promotion wasn't unexpected, but such a quick promotion was. He was an officer now.

Things had gotten better and worse in the last couple of weeks. Things seemed stabilized for the most part, but disease was starting to take over. Jared was vaccinated and had little to worry about, but he was the exception. Most of the people in Sierra Leone didn't have the access to vaccinations or medications.

Jay was at the door to the compound and Jared gave him a nod. "Lieutenant Vanders to see the Commander as well."
Jared said echoing Jay's words.

Both men were allowed entrance. "What do you think this is about?"
Jared asked Jay.
Two weeks passed in a deceptively quick flurry.

Laurene had insisted on proper rest, and for once Natalie had listened. No one questioned her presence at the heart of the foyer fire except Ekene, who'd been entirely unforgiving about her disappearance and broken promise but just as fiercely glad to see her back. Rumours circled around the cause of the flames, but puffed away beneath more immediate concerns. Every eye was turned towards the future, not the past.

She'd made a brief visit to Masiaka to lay ghosts to rest, and had sutured grief's wound with steel promises. Ayo had already been reunited with her family, who'd been among the flood of refugees seeking comfort in Freetown walls, but the search for Ekene's relatives was an ongoing endeavour. For now he remained in the Cross's care, and seemed content to shadow the legionnaires when he was able: Jared Vanders in particular. It seemed to give him purpose.

Natalie's time split a dozen duties besides the ones she was given, which merited the lash of Laurene's tongue whenever the two crossed paths. Most of those involved in the horrors of the refinery massacre were being sent home to recover. Fresh bodies flew in daily, and Jacques Danjou's appeal attracted more. She urged Natalie to go home, and Natalie suspected her mother's hand in the care the woman took to drill the point home. She shrugged it off. Olabisi had said much the same thing, but it only dug her heels harder into Africa's soil.

Today word had filtered that Danjou wished to see her. Truth told, she was reluctant to answer the summons, having at least vague suspicions what they might be about. But she went anyway, willing to at least hear him out.

The comfort of snug jeans replaced the patchwork clothing she'd borrowed from the hospital. No indication of injury remained, and in fact she looked well. Her hair swept up off her neck, a few loose tendrils escaped from the knot at the back of her head. Pale eyes absorbed the room, lingering a few moments when they set on Jay. She gave her name to the desk clerk without preamble, and swallowed the faint surprise at finding the two american legionnaires already present. A friendly nod acknowledged Jared, but formality seeped away from the smirk she offered Jay. The stiffness with which he stood itched a desire to tease a response. At least until she noticed the faint sheen of sweat across his brow.

"Promotion doesn't agree with you?"
She tsk'd playfully. "Or perhaps it's just too many late nights."
She knew he'd been punished for abandoning post but it didn't stop her jabbing at the soft spot that had carried her to the hospital. The concern was very real. Disease control was at the forefront of the Cross's concerns right now.
Jay looked behind him when he heard footsteps. Vanders had arrived. Looking like a schmuck in his new bars. Jay grinned. He knew he looked the same. But he'd wait until they were alone before giving him crap about it.

A second set of footsteps followed. So light Jay almost missed the shuffle. Blonde hair and pale eyes greeted him. He blinked, surprised. What was Natalie doing here? She looked better than last time he saw her. Though she could have said the same about him probably. And not just exchanging the hospital garb for jeans that were way to snug, kidding, jeans could never be too tight on her. But there was a brightness in the paleness of her gaze that was dulled with shadows last time he peered into it. Like the difference between a moon hanging behind clouds and one gleaming in a cold winter sky.

The question struck him odd. It was crazy insightful, given his all too conflicted opinions on the promotion and how it was earned - or more rightly - not earned. Inheriting rank was something that came with the territory in combat, but mixed emotions was not something Jay wanted to explore. That led no where good. Nor did he want to explore his allegiance as an officer in an army he almost walked out on after the Refinery. He tolerated far too much blood on his hands than he thought he would. Bars earned in blood was not something to pride one self in. But Natalie's question couldn't be about that. Jay was careful. Respectful, even, of the assignment. He exchanged a look with Vanders just in case the other man had insight he lacked. But Wizard wasn't helpful.

"You keeping tabs on me?"

His shrug turned into a smirk. The other half of her question jabbed at the midnight shift he worked for a week as 'punishment' for running off with a half-million dollar suit.

But now he thought about it, the room was hot. He rubbed the back of his neck, briefly squeezed the muscle and found the cords of tissue tense. And slicked with sweat. Weird.

"Haven't had enough water today is all."

It was incredibly important to keep track of water consumption. He'd slacked on it, too focused on his shoes probably, to remember.

"I'll steal a liter when we are done with whatever Danjou wants."

Only darkness shows you the light.

The clerk staffed to the desk outside Jacques' office was a Sierra Leonean woman, one of many volunteers that had stepped up to start trying to bring order back to their country. The brief hesitation Jay displayed in referring to Jacques was met with an understanding look; she knew him as Mr Danjou, and few others that had come to see him since she had taken the job had seemed to know just what to call the man. Where everyone else in the Legionnaire uniforms had ranks and titles, he seemed to avoid any such label as much as he could.

The three she had been told to expect arrived in short order, and each were met with a nod and an exclamation that he would see them shortly. Even as Jay and Natalie started their little back-and-forth, she was speaking to Mr Danjou, and on his request she stood and opened the door to his office, ushering the three in to see him.

He stood as the three entered, nodding to each with a friendly, if tired, smile. "Gentleman, Mademoiselle Grey."
Seats were offered, although likely the meeting would be short.

"I have decided to travel to Moscow. The Legion's coffers are not bottomless, and while I have no interest in dealing with politicians, we have received an offer from Mademoiselle Emily Shale for investment in the company. Which, I believe, is an awkward idea as there is no company anymore, and I doubt she would wish to fund a 'private army.'"
He shrugged slightly; they were no exactly a profit-turning organization anymore.

"However, there are various industries and companies starting here that should turn a profit if she still wishes to invest in those instead. The good that such an investment would cause for the local economy would help many people here, and in turn alleviate the strain on both the Legion and the Red Cross, I should think."

He paused a moment, as if organizing his thoughts for a moment, "That aside. Pirates have taken two more ships bound for Freetown, with much needed supplies. The Lir Family has a fleet of ships, pirate hunters and merchant-guards. And, apparently, monster hunters now."
He was referring to the news of the giant sea-monster they had claimed to have seen in the Indian Ocean. "I hope to hire them, at the least to help train and equip the Sierra Leonean navy. Four coastal patrol boats will not be able to fend off São Tomé and Príncipe."

"Thirdly, is a need to convince a properly equipped pharmaceutical company to start producing the Ebola vaccine again. Something in which there is little money to be gained on their part. Hence why the world stopped producing it to begin with. Sadly, there is more money in treating the symptoms, as they say."

He was silent a moment, looking to the three before him, "So then. The reason I have gathered you here. Lieutenant Vanders. You shall be part of my security detail. Mademoiselle Grey, I understand that a return to the CCD would likely be somewhat unpalatable for you. But, I fear that should we continue avoiding your mother, it will only lead to a souring of relations between the Legion and the Red Cross. Should you agree to accompany us, I promise that should you wish it, a return to Africa will be available to you. And as for Lieutenant Carpenter, should Mademoiselle Grey agree to come, you would be along to continue your role as liaison between herself as our chosen representative of the Red Cross, and the Legion."

And, of course, for those in his detail, there would be plenty of time to stretch their legs and get away from the stresses that Sierra Leone had brought.
"Someone has to."
She laughed and glanced at him slyly, a frisson of heat to her gaze. "I'd be disappointed to learn you weren't doing the same."
The explanation of water she took at face value and didn't press further. By then the door had opened and they were beckoned inside.

The informality of the antechamber faded once in Jacques' office, and Natalie's expression smoothed featureless as glass. Weariness lined the man's expression, though he smiled through it. Natalie didn't understand him, nor pretended to. Rumour suggested he hadn't even tried to stop them taking his hand. Her blunt gaze rested on the stump a moment before travelling up to his face, and she listened silently for the duration of his speech.

Still thinking about the things Jacques lost without fighting for them.

Her attention sharpened when he addressed her directly, the proposal mostly expected. She could feel her heels digging in, her spine steeling, ready for a useless war. Jacques would not battle her will, she judged: he made an offer, but much as he had not sent her home before the airports closed, she doubted he would force her now.

"I'd think she'd have a larger problem with Legion Premiere's new status as a private army? My mother is concerned with her reputation first and foremost; our "illustrious" family name is not something she would risk. Rest assured she won't cut ties with you or Africa just because I won't return her calls. Whatever she lets you think."

He couldn't convince her that way. No one could. "You're right. There's nothing in the CCD I wish to return to. But I'll consider it if you ask me to. How long are you giving me to decide?"
Somewhere around talk of pirates, Jay rubbed his eyes. The whites must surely have swollen pink for as hot as they felt. His throat was dry, too. No tickle of soreness or anything like that, just dry. Thirsty. He swallowed and tuned back into what Jacques was saying somewhere around Moscow.

He blinked and glanced at Natalie since she was the first to respond. Illustrious family? Suppose that makes sense. Her family, the Greys, whoever they were, hired mercenaries to keep her safe. Jay simply had never thought to wonder anything else about them. They were Custody, that was obvious. And Natalie wasn't too excited by the prospect of returning to the CCD. Did it have something to do with the fire?

His skin prickled, like they suddenly found the a/c and he stood under the vent buck naked and dripping wet. He stopped himself putting a hand to his forehead.

"I'll certainly go. Always wanted to see Moscow."

He wouldn't mind the respite either.

He cleared his throat, frowning, but keeping his thoughts to himself.
Only darkness shows you the light.


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