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Let loose the dogs of war
Medina-Dula, the failed state of Guinea, Shakespear Fabron's compound

The original town of Medina-Dula, some thirty years ago, sat square against the border between Guinea and Sierra Leone. That town had been burned to the ground during the Ebola outbreak of the early 21st century. The Medina-Dula of 2045 had been rebuilt a kilometer back from the border on the other side of the hills and out of sight of the Sierra Leonean military checkpoint that guarded the highway crossing.

The town was owned in all senses of the word by one of dozens of warlords that claimed to control various bits and pieces of the country that had once been Guinea. Shakespear Fabron was one such warlord, and certainly far from the most powerful in the region, but he was young, and youth often came with a dangerous lack of caution.

Hardly into his seventeenth year of life, Shakespear sat with his feet propped up on an old shipping crate stenciled in faded Russian and still sporting a half dozen AK-74s. Weapons so damnably common in the region these six had never even been fired, but served well as a foot rest.

Three girls, triplets, hardly into their teens, sat at his side. Two were giggling in a drugged daze as they played with dolls, but the third lay behind the other two, sickly and breathing shallowly, the faint smell of infection and rot hanging about her; her sisters had weathered the storm, but she was likely going to die of female circumcision. All three wore ill-fitting clothes and their bare arms showed the scars of routine heroin use.

"So the soldiers have left?"
Shakespear sat forward on his chair, a stained and moldering old La-Z-Boy, and fixed his men with an eager expression, a moment of clarity that burned through the drug-fueled haze that usually tainted his expression.

"Fled to their homes, I think. The checkpoint is empty, and the gate ain't even locked boss."
A fourteen year old boy clearly labouring under the weight of the AK with grenade launcher he held in his arms, a rusted metal helmet sitting askew on his head.

Shakespear slapped his hands on his knees and stood, the sudden gesture causing both the girls beside his chair to flinch and shrink in on themselves for a moment before realizing that he wasn't even looking at them, and then both started clapping their hands eagerly; whatever made Shakespear happy made them happy, after all.

"Excellent! Get the trucks."
Shakespear grabbed a silver rod from where it was stabbed into the arm of his chair, wrenching it free to reveal that it was indeed a small spear, and shook it over his head. His name was less inspired by the long-dead British author and more just a stupid play on words. "We're goin' to war boys!"


There were dozens of tiny villages in the north-east regions of Sierra Leone. Predominantly Temne, and so far withdrawn from the larger population centers that the conflict raging across the country was a distant thing. Women, children, and the elderly remained, the men and older boys having left already to join the fighting against their Mende oppressors.

The distant sound of trucks on the road was met with interested, and the villagers quickly started to gather in the streets, eager to see their husbands and brothers and sons returning home for a visit.

The vehicles drew closer, but they realized too late who they carried. The sounds of weapons fire and screams filled the jungle air. Shakespear's 'soldiers' killed indiscriminately. Women and children ran for their homes, to their fields or the tree line. Some escaped, many didn't.

Those that didn't escape or die were raped. Children were taken, homes burned, the elderly mutilated. The town was pillaged, and what couldn't be carried away was burned. Bodies wrapped in garbage bags were pulled from one of the trucks, the men carrying them wearing painters masks and rubber gloves. The bodies were dumped into the town well, rocks tied to them that they would sink into the deep waters and go unseen. Ebola was still a problem in Guinea, and would soon be one again in Sierra Leone.

All along the borders with what was once the country of Guinea, similar stories were beginning to become common place; the Sierra Leonian military had been charged with the duty of securing the country's borders, and had done so through stiffly manned checkpoints and roaming patrols. With the coup, those outposts sat empty, leaving the roads to Guinea wide open.
Freetown, Sierra Leone

"It is done, General."
Colonel Doe hung up a phone and turned to face General Wallace-Johnson. The message had been short and simple; another of the few members of the elected Sierra Leonean parliament that had openly resisted the General's pending take-over of the broken government was dead. Killed by enemy action, as the report and investigation would reveal.

General Wallace-Johnson was a bear of a man, by Sierra Leonean standards. Barrel chested, thick armed. He had raised to his position through a dangerous mix of intimidation and charisma. It helped that he was a competent leader; under his command the border patrols between Sierra Leone and the failed-state of Guinea had proven successful at stopping illegal immigration, poachers, and raids by warlords.

Of course all of that had been undone since the attempted coup. They had lost contact with the last of the border posts that had stayed loyal to their duty and hadn't joined the Temne or run off at the first signs of trouble.

The General nodded in solemn approval; he had ordered done what was necessary. The country was broken, and needed someone to fix it. That someone, of course, was himself. And to fix it, he had to rid his people of cancer that were the Temne. He would ring the life out of every man, woman, and child of that damned breed himself if need be.

"All that is left then is to get this foreign upstart reigned in."
The General frowned at the news feed of the CEO of Legion Premiere speaking of the fighting in Jedah and the situation in Sierra Leone. "When will your men reach that damn Chinese plant they're hold up in?"

"Within the hour, General. But it seems there are reporters there already. The follow Mr Danjou and Ms Grey like ticks. They were already through the last checkpoint before my men could inform me the reporters were moving. Most have kept within the city until now."
The Colonel was not afraid of delivering the unfortunate news to the General; the man wasn't the type to strike down or punish his officers. They were what kept him in power, after all.

The General nodded. It came as little surprise, really. "So be it. This will only strengthen our position as the new government. We will bring these mercenaries into hand. Mr Danjou is a business man playing soldier. He will not be able to turn down my offer. We've lost too many men to General Katlego's traitorous actions. I need those mercenaries on my payroll, Colonel."

The Colonel nodded in agreement, whether he felt it or not. "Of course, Sir. He is a business man. Money is the only thing his sort understands."

The General nodded and glanced at his watch. "Have the Red Cross staff removed with the mercenaries and reporters. Once they are gone, your men are free to do as is needed with the traitors and rats hiding in that camp."

Colonel Doe smiled at that and saluted the General, then turned to leave; he would oversee the situation near Masiaka by radio. "Of course, Sir."
City of Makeni, Sierra Leone

General Katlego stood in the city hall of Makeni. The city had become the seat of power of the Temne faction, and the General and his supporters had spent years of effort quietly preparing the city to serve as their main base of operations should the attack on the capital have failed. Victory in conflict came with bold actions tempered with carefully laid contingencies.

Soldiers in the uniform of the Sierra Leonean military, bustled about to various tasks, bolstered by civil supporters. None wore the flag of Sierra Leone; they were not fighting to save the country, but rather their people. The country of Sierra Leone was a symbol of the oppression the Mende peoples had suffered under the Temne regime. It was time to start anew.

They were already establishing their own television station; through it they could spread the word of their cause, directly to those who would listen and without it being filtered through foreign reporters. And to combat the vile propaganda that the 'government' forces were already spreading. Vile lies of General Katlego's troops killing and looting in south-eastern Sierra Leone, near the Liberian border.

His efforts to gain the support of foreign governments had met mixed reviews. Openly, Liberia and Côte d'Ivoire had both refused to offer any direct support. Unofficially, both countries had offered to sell the Mende weapons and ammunition, most usefully shells for the batteries of artillery the Mende forces had under their control.

"General. The government dogs are still hiding in Freetown. They control the airport, and the deep water port, and if they so chose could secure the border to Liberia. We need to go back on the offensive."
One of the General's underlings, Colonel Rudo was, much like the General, an aggressive man. The days the Mende forces had spent reorganizing and securing territory had felt like a waste of time.

Lieutenant-Colonel Uzoma was responsible for the council that had led to the seemingly slow progress of the Mende forces after the failed attack on Freetown. "I agree that it is time we begin moving again, General. Colonel. But where? And why? The country is falling apart around us, Sirs, and that foreign businessman is winning the public opinion."

The General nodded slightly and turned to look at the maps of Sierra Leone that were attached to a rolling cork board. Flags marked the positions of his men and supporters, coloured yarn strung between thumb tags indicated their zones of control. Other flags indicated government forces, almost entirely seen around Freetown and the airport. Still others were of places attacked by rebels out of Guinea. And of rogue military elements in the south-east.

"We must end General William-Johnson's resistance as soon as we can. Once that old mule is gone, the government will collapse fully and we can turn our attention to securing our borders once more."
The General studied the map a moment, then nodded curtly, and plucked the flag that marked his artillery assets, handing it off to Colonel Rudo. "Do it."

He turned to Lieutenant-Colonel Uzoma next, and tapped a finger on the map near Masiaka, where another flag, denoting the Red Cross refugee camps. "You will oversee that we gain control of this camp. Our people are hiding there, and the enemy will be wanting to make an example of them after what happened in Freetown."

Colonel Rudo nodded curtly and turned to leave; he would gather his command staff and that of the artillery battery. Lieutenant-Colonel Uzoma was not fond of the implications of the Colonel's orders, but his own were far more to his liking. Rescuing Mende civilians would go far towards bolstering their cause and morale.
Legion Premiere Training Center, near Arfoud, Morocco.

Major Claude Solomon was the Commandant of the Legion's recruit training center, a relatively small collection of buildings surrounded by some of the finest training grounds to be found in Africa. A Frenchman by birth, Solomon was much like the company's CEO, an ex-pat whom had rarely set foot in the lands of his birth.

Outside, through the open window (there was no AC outside the mess hall and infirmary) Commandant Solomon could clearly hear the sounds of men in training, and the sounds of heavy equipment at work; new buildings were being thrown up to make space for the recent surge in recruits. The CEO's speech some weeks prior had had the desired result. Averaging eighty or so fresh Legionnaires a year, the facility already housed two hundred men from around the world who had been drawn by the CEO's words.

He stood in the small, simply adorned room that served as his office and read the updated training program he had just received from headquarters in Casablanca, signed off by the CEO himself.

Before that day, the company's training had been focused on small team level tactics, the protection of VIPs or high value facilities. Unarmed convoy movements, broad-sweep understanding of regional laws and customs. The sorts of things important to a world-renowned private security company.

The new training program though...calling it new was perhaps incorrect. Many of the training pams and manuals still bore the insignia and name of the Foreign Legion. Hell, most were still written in French, although modern translation software made that a rather moot issue.

The orders were straight to the point; the old training program was to be ceased immediately. All the recruits in training were to be given a chance to re-assess their contracts before the new program would be implemented, but it was to be stressed the focus of the training had drastically changed. The Legion was not training security contractors anymore.

They were training soldiers.

Legion Premiere HQ, Casablanca, Morocco

Commandant Tuff, the senior Legion staff officer in the absence of the CEO, stood in Jacques' office and quietly rubbed his eyes before setting the next of dozens of contracts the company held throughout Africa. To one side of the room was a half dozen clerks who were already starting the paperwork to arrange the transfer of contracts to other companies, and to arrange travel for Legion staff back to Morocco from wherever they were around Africa.

After the loss of almost two hundred in DV, and the rapidly collapsing situation in Sierra Leone and the CEO's insistence for direct involvement there, the company had begun consolidating its personnel, arranging the closure of ongoing contracts across the continent. Only those deemed tactically important were maintained. Egypt, South Africa, Morocco, and the handful that they held in countries surrounding Sierra Leone. Those contracts, and especially their men on the ground there, were a valuable source of up-to-date information on the political and social climates there.

"Commandant? A legal representative of the Dongling Group is on the line next. A Miss Chin Xun."
One of the clerks forwarded a copy of the contract and the CEO's suggestions for transfer of operations to one of the competitor companies.

Tuff took a sip of water then nodded, one more adopting a proper, square-shouldered stance. A moment later, the screen blinked to life and the corner displayed a tiny image of Commandant Tuff and the room at his back for his own reference. A somewhat plain looking Chinese woman in a simple grey power suit was seated at a dark wood desk, and he nodded to her politely.

"Miss Chin Xun. I am Commandant Lochlan Tuff of Legion Premiere. Vice president, would be a more familiar phrase."
The British man held all the social grace and propriety of a career British soldier; gruff of voice and straight of back, little by way of immediately apparent humour.

The woman nodded slightly, "I am familiar with the term, Commandant Tuff. Your company has always been a point of professional curiousity with the legal staff here at Dongling Group. Your CEO has often proven to be refreshingly honest to work with."

Tuff nodded slightly; it was a common misconception; the man was damnably charismatic, and used his rather boyish looks and roguish public reputation to get the best of stiff-collared legal types in the past. Their contracts were often rather stacked in the Legion's favour, whether the signing company realized it or not. "I must appologize for how short-noticed this meeting has been. And for how short I must cut this conversation, Miss Chin Xun, but I have many more of these discussions to have this evening. I trust that our suggestions for contract exchange are satisfactory?"

The woman nodded understandingly and perused the notes on one of her own displays, "You are certain Umkhonto Securities can achieve this time table? Two weeks seems rather short."

"Umkhonto Securities are of near-peer capabilities to Legion Premiere. We have every confidence they will both be able to achieve so tight a schedule, and that you will see little to no change in the level of security of your assets."
The two hammered out a few final details and a short time later Commandant Tuff stood facing a blank display once more.

"How are the share-holders going to take this, Commandant? Our profits are seriously tanking with the cancellation of so many contracts. The CCD did not pussy-foot around on paying for the CEO's fees for Jeddah, but that money will only go so far."
The clerk glanced at the Commandant as they sorted out the next meeting.

He simply harrumphed quietly. The way things in Sierra Leone were going, the share-holders likely were not to be much of an issue in the near future.

North-western Guinea, outskirts of the city of Gaoual

The Legion Premiere convoy had been on the road for three days already. Once upon a time, the drive from Casablanca to Freetown would have been a solid 48 hours drive with no stops, but the past few decades had not been kind. Global economic collapse, rampant disease, social and religious unrest, all had taken it's toll on much of Africa and left vast regions of once scenic highways abandoned and unkempt.

Of course, bad roads alone weren't enough to dissuade the Legion's relief convoy. The company's entire fleet of Panhards, twenty in total, were evenly spread along a kilometer long convoy of crudely up-armoured transport trucks driven by volunteers. Surplus Moroccan military vehicles had been purchased and repurposed as field ambulances, wreckers (towing and maintenance vehicles), supply trucks, and APCs.

The further south into Guinea they traveled, the worse things seemed to get. Some villages along the highway had been destroyed and never repopulated, leaving ruins standing partly reclaimed by nature from decades prior. The outskirts of Gaoual still told the story of the last Ebola outbreak of the early 21st century; abandoned refugee camps, fenced fields of mass graves still sporting bio-hazard warnings in a half dozen languages.

The city itself still stood, but it too was in ruins. Constant power struggles between warlords and gangs had left areas in ruins. Few regions of Guinea still had access to electricity or running water, and Gaoual was not one of those areas. In the early morning light, lights from fires could still be seen.

"Intel reports that this region is currently held by Samori Ture. Birth name is Felix Goodman. The usual vile piece of shit you'd expect from around here. Renamed himself after some Guinean hero of the 19th century. Resisted the Europeans. Controls most of Boke and Kindia prefectures. Has his fingers in drug and sex trade, piracy, the usual shit. The guy is a full-blown traditionalist to boot. Witch doctors and shamans and all that."
Sergant Jackson was an American. Seated in the back of the second-from-the-front Panhard, he scanned over the company's datasheet on the region they were about to enter.

Provost Boipello sat next to the American man, staring out the narrow armoured window-slit at the dark city ahead. "He is not going to let us pass peacefully, is he?"

"Doubt it. He's powerful enough to take a stab at the convoy. Usual small-arms. Mostly re-purposed civilian vehicles. We will probably take some losses, but should be able to get through. They aren't soldiers. A show of force ought to scare most of the rabble off."

Boipello nodded and the convoy rolled forward. The signal went forward and they picked up speed. The lead most Panhards sported heavy grills with which to push through barricades if need be, and all the vehicles had remote weapon systems instead of man'd roof turrets. No Legionnaires would need stick their heads out of the vehicles unless they were to dismount.

Sergeant Jackson was partly right. 'Samori Ture' did try to take the convoy. And his men were little better then bandits and murderers; a display of force did prove enough to turn them away. And they did loose vehicles. He simply underestimated how much power the man really had. Or more accurately, the man's pet shaman.

Samori Ture was ready for the convoy, and waited in person to see its capture. The guns and RPGs and mines were expected by the Legion convoy, and a known threat they could actively counter. The had dealt with such things in the past. The fireball that engulfed the lead Panhard as it barreled down a debris-choked straightaway was, at first, thought to have been a molotov. The flames washed over the armoured vehicle, catching the rubber of the tires aflame but having little immediate effect otherwise.

And then everything went dark around the lead vehicle, a sudden startling absence of light. The driver and crew of the vehicle were understandably spooked, but attributed it to something having been thrown over the vehicle. One of the men threw open the side door, intent on clearing away the covering if he could, only for the vehicle to be struck by a second ball of flames, this one engulfing the interior of the vehicle as well.

The Pahnard careened off the road into the side of a building, the darkness that had encompassed it vanishing with the burst of flames that had killed the crew, their dying screams briefly choking the convoy's comms.

Sergeant Jackson cursed, Provost Boipello was stunned to silence. They, as most of the leadership in Legion Premiere, had received copies of the after action reports of Jeddah, and of Legionnaire Vander's report. The information had been disseminated among the rank-and-file from there, but no amount of reading or video could really prepare a person for what had happened.

"Sorcier!" was heard repeatedly over the radio, and men manning the RWS systems were madly panning their guns in the direction of the fireballs had come.

Boipello leaned over Jackson's shoulder to see the weapons' display. The weapons fire from the warlords' men increased, rounds pinging dangerously off the hardened sides of the Panhards or the crude armour plates of the supply trucks. Few RPGs had been fired yet, as that risked destroying the valuable cargo.

Another burst of flames struck their vehicle next; the shaman was tasked to destroy the Legion's fighting vehicles. Flames again washed harmlessly across the vehicle, but in so doing it drew Jackson's gun. A young man, face traced in tattoos, dressed in leathers and beads of all things, stood on the roof of a building far towards the end of the street, a clear view from which to pick apart the Legion convoy as it passed. The man raised a tribal talisman and screamed to the heavens, and didn't notice the .50 mounted to the Panhard's roof swivel his way.

Magic was fast, but bullets proved faster.

An hour later a tattered but mostly intact convoy emerged from the southern edge of Gaoual. Three Panhards had been lost, and six other vehicles, but Warlord Samori Ture was going to have a rough year from all his losses in the city. Fast moving and well armed, the convoy had proven too hard for the bandits, used mostly to raiding static targets, to pin down.

Past Gaoual, the convoy stopped and regrouped. Field repairs, tending to wounded, and maintenance on weapons. There would be little rest to be had in the leg of the journey to Freetown.
Legion HQ, Casablanca, Morocco

Commandant Tuff had had little rest in the past few days. No one at the Legion's headquarters had. They had been flooded with applications from around the world. The Commandant was sitting on the third request by the Moroccan authorities to speak to their CEO, Jacques Danjou. Apparently, the Moroccan government was 'nervous' about the Legion's recent activities and changes in their public mandate.

A resurrection of the old traditions, for instance. Many of their new recruits had taken new names, a rebirth of the 'anonymat' of old. New identities, the discarding of ties to one's land of birth. Having a dozens of foreign nationals in their borders, receiving military training that in many aspects outstripped what their own forces received.

Then there were the dealings with known Chinese arms traffickers. Firearms, vehicles, body armour, military grade electronics and the like. Through more legitimate means, the production of uniforms and boots. The first shipments had arrived in Morocco and been transferred to the Legion's training facility after Moroccan customs agents had conveniently turned a blind eye.

The most curious thing that had arrived with that arms shipment were two Chinese soldiers, ones whom had served only a few weeks prior at the Chinese embassy in Sierra Leone, and had received coins from Jacques Danjou. Neither claimed to be officially discharged from the Chinese military, but of course neither had given their birth names either.

Legion Training Center, near Arfoud, Morocco

Major Solomon stood resplendent in his dress uniform, secretly grateful that the day was both overcast and pleasantly towards the low end of the season's average mild temperatures. Before him was the Legion's newest batch of recruits. Fifty men and women seen at the training center in over a decade, stood relatively still, all dressed in respectful civilian clothes.

"Peloton. Attention!"
His tone was sharp, the delivery of the drill command drawn out in a clear-cut precautionary/execution, and the recruits responded fluidly. Each came to a position of attention as befitting the drill movements of their place of previous service, but all were attentetive and responded to the commands despite them being in French. The words were not so foreign, and the situation familiar enough that they could easily logic out their meaning.

"Today begins your training. Today forward, you are no longer South African. Moroccan. American. Chinese. Russian. French. You are no longer citizens of a foreign nation. You are no longer sons. Fathers. Daughters. You are recruits. And some of you shall be Legionnaires."
He glanced with some discomfort at the women; they could be troublesome at times. The Legion did not have separate barracks for women. Their were no private showers or washrooms. There were also decidedly few uniforms stocked for the women, an issue that was being remedied as quickly as possible.

None of the recruits fidgeted or showed hesitation; they had received the required reading before they had signed up. These were the first to have seen the new contracts, and no where in those papers was the name 'Legion Premiere.' No reference to security contracts.

"Recruits. The Legionnaire's Oath of Honour is the backbone of the Legion. It is what sets the standard. It is why you shall love each other as brothers and sisters. Trust the man or woman at your side, no matter their religion or accent or education. You shall sweat to this oath. It shall mandate how you live your life, in service to the Legion and to your new family. It is not to be taken lightly. Failure to uphold the Oath is to fail your family and the Legion. Take this to heart. Do not fail us."

The recruits stiffened their stances, shoulders were squared and heads held high. Each had excelled at the training and discipline requirements of their home nations, and that arrogance easily translated to a sense of arrogance and superiority in their first day at the Legion's training center. None truly understood just what they were getting into.

Major Solomon allowed a ghost of a grin at that surge of arrogance in the recruits, then it was gone again. "Recruits. Repeat after me."

"You are a volunteer serving the Legion with honour and fidelity."

The recruits responded, most in English, some in their native tongues. They would learn in time. English, and French of course. But part of the Legion's strength was the wealth of foreign experience. Languages, cultures, religions. This knowledge was shared among Legionnaires, and made them capable of operating in foreign lands with little trouble.

"Each legionnaire is your brother in arms whatever his nationality, his race or his religion might be. You show him the same close solidarity that links the members of the same family."

"Respect for traditions, devotion to your leaders, discipline and comradeship are your strengths, courage and loyalty your virtues."

"Proud of your status as legionnaire, you display this in your always impeccable uniform, your always dignified but modest behaviour, and your clean living quarters."

"An elite soldier, you train rigorously, you maintain your weapon as your most precious possession, and you take constant care of your physical form."

"The mission is sacred, you carry it out until the end and, if necessary in the field, at the risk of your life."

"In combat, you act without passion and without hate, you respect defeated enemies, and you never abandon your dead, your wounded, or your arms."

The recruits repeated each, their words increasingly haltingly and uncertain. Major Solomon allowed them no time to process, did not break the oaths into more manageable mouthfuls.

There was a long moment of silence, as the Major studied the recruits. The moment stretched to minutes, and as was always the case some of those proudly stiff backs and squared shoulders began to slowly bend and droop; it was natural as they grew distracted, wondering why he was so quiet. All the while Legion sergeants stood behind the recruits, where none could see them. A signal from each, and each of the five sergeants gestured to one recruit each.

"Recruits Kawaguchi. Huang. McKallister. Pasternak. Smith. You recited the oath without flaw. And yes, Recruit Huang, we have Legionnaires who speak Chinese quite fluently. Caporal Polzin shall escort you to the quartermaster, where you shall draw uniforms and proceed to your barracks. The rest of you shall form squads under the Sergeants. By the time they are done with you, you shall know the Oath by heart."

The Sergeants were quick to act. Pace sticks snapped out, slapping against the thighs of recruits too slow to react as they started barking orders in French and English, or a few other native tongues, and the recruits were turned to a very fast paced run away from the parade square. Some cast sour glances at the five recruits that were spared the others' punishment.

Soldiers. They never changed, did they? Major Soloman nodded to Caporal Polzin and the young Moroccan man moved to lead the five recruits away to draw their kit.
Town of Kamakwie, Sierra Leone

Warlord Shakespear's truck rumbled to a halt in the parking lot of Kamakwie Wesleyan Hospital. It was a large town, as far as such things were measured in Sierra Leone. The last census indicated some 20,000 people, and it was host to the esteemed Wesleyan hospital, although much of that reputation was thanks to foreign doctors who volunteered their time and services. Young doctors mostly, new to the trade and seeking the experience that would help them land high paying jobs in richer lands.

Their kind disgusted Warlord Shakespear. Arrogant foreigners, offering false hopes and bringing their ridiculous beliefs. Foreign educations were dangerous things; educated people questioned, dreamed, hoped. That was a dangerous precedent, one that thankfully hadn't seemed to quite take root in Sierra Leone, despite decades of relative prosperity.

Worse, they brought their needles and medicines. The world had sought to help Guinea decades ago during the Ebola outbreaks. Doctors and aid workers, religious missionaries, great works of modern medical science. On most fronts, the virus had been beaten, at least for a time. In the Wests' desire to help, a vaccine had been prepared and sped through the testing process. Hundreds of thousands received the vaccines, and the virus had been beaten for a time. But viruses evolved. And vaccines had side-effects.

In clinical terms, those side effects were Alzheimer, dementia, and the like. Psychotic episodes became increasingly common in the years after the vaccines, and while no studies were done to prove the source of those problems were the early, barely tested Ebola vaccines, but it wasn't a hard stretch of the imagination. But to the people of Guinea, the science of it was quickly lost. Evil spirits, curses, angered gods. A resurgence in the traditional religions, in the practicing of witch doctors and tribal shamans. Of traditional 'medicines.' Of a hatred of 'Western' educations, 'Western' beliefs.

Foreign education was dangerous, so it was up to good people like Warlord Shakespear and his loyal soldiers to encourage a good and proper education. One that taught people to do as he said, to not resist, to give him what he asked. Complacent, respectful. Heads kept low when he passed, no resistance to his reasonable requests. Moving into Sierra Leone had proven a wise idea on his part.

As Warlord Shakespear climbed out of his truck he was quickly surrounded by some two dozen of his men; a handful of adult fighters with groups of young boys and teens mostly struggling under the weight of their rifles. The people of Kamakwie had actually tried to resist Shakespear, the short length of spear he carried under one arm still had a bit of skull and hair stuck about the blade. They may well have succeeded had one of his rivals not attacked the city first. It had been a costly failure for the other Warlord, so much so that in the week that followed most of that group had joined in with Shakespear's crew. The Kamakwie militia hadn't stood a chance, and bodies still littered the streets. The hospital was over flowing with the wounded from the first attack, and had been overlooked by Shakespear and his men in the two days since they had taken the town.

The staff of the hospital had been gathered in the parking lot of the hospital by more of Shakespear's soldiers. They had resisted at first; there were critical patients to be cared for, and always more arriving at the hospital that needed their help. They had learned to agree with Shakespear's demands once a few of those critical patients had been killed. Some of those doctors and nurses' uniforms were still spattered from the spray off their machetes.

As Shakespear approached the corralled hospital staff, five of them stepped forward to meet him. They wore biohazard equipment which still reeked of decontaminates. Young, foreign doctors. The ones that brought their viral, destructive ideas.

The doctors offered pleas and arguments. That their work was important, that they had no interest in his conflict, his war. They were impartial, neutral, there only to help preserve life. Lies, all of them. Their very presence in his lands was an insult, an invasion. Good Sierra Leoneans had been tainted by their very presence, and by their vile drugs. Their 'vaccines.'

Then they begged. They had rich families, important families. They could send money. Supplies. Their taint had spread far, as Sierra Leonean hospital staff stepped forward, begging for mercy. The panic spiked when they saw the smoke rising from the vaccination clinic down the street. Screaming, crying, praying.

Warlord Shakespear dropped the tailgate of his truck, and six of their newest recruits were led over. Boys, the oldest no more then ten, their pupils dilated from drugs, wearing old camouflage tunics that were too big for them, were lead over to stand, wavering and jittery as they waited for their leader's gifts.

Shakespear pulled six machetes from the bed of the truck, and turned to face the boys with an honest smile. Justice would be done, the danger abated before it could soil the youth of Kamakwie. "Conscience is just something that cowards use, meant to keep the strong weak. You are strong. They are weak. They hide behind money and honeyed words, and spread their poisoned thoughts and needles. You are soldiers. You shall keep your children safe from their evil. We shall cleanse our Mother of their taint, and their blood will end the droughts, appease the spirits. You will be heroes, you will be powerful, you will be my family!"
The quote was, loosely, Shakespeare.

The boys took the machetes with some goading by their handlers, and were turned on the now cowering foreign doctors. Some were more eager then others, but eventually six children stood with machetes dripping dark red blood onto the paved parking lot, panting and weeping over the butchered remains of six doctors, their remains held eerily contained within their ruined biohazard suits.

The remaining hospital staff, all African, most Sierra Leonean, wept in horror or shook with barely contained anger. And then they fell silent as one of the worst of the Ebola-infected patients was dragged out to the parking lot by more of Shakespear's men. They wore no protective gear, for they had no fear of the virus. Shakespear's witches ensured their protection from the disease, from the angered spirits that spread it.

From another of Shakespear's trucks came one of his witches. A girl in her late teens. An albino, one arm hacked off at the elbow by her matriarch, long before her own powers were known. Shakespear's father had eaten that arm. And the witch's eye, the empty socket partly open where the stitching had failed to seal it shut as a child. The witch carried a Catholic censer, a hollow gilded metal ball on a length of silver chain. Once, it had carried incense or holy water.

The witch approached the patient, who was strapped to a gurney and barely able to move under his own power. She crossed over to the dying man as Shakespear approached the crowd of hospital staff. "The spirits are angered with your perverse beliefs. You rely on the poisons of the West, poisons which tear at our Mother's body, spoil and rot our children, drive them to the cities. Traditions will save us. Family will bring us together. To save the young, we must purge the tainted. Some of you may yet return to the fold though. The spirits will choose who are worthy."

The dying patient let out a weak, gurgling scream as the witch sunk a knife into the man's belly, then thrust the censer into the bleeding wound. She walked towards the crowd of hospital staff, and began flicking the chain towards them, causing the ball of the censer to whip and spray blood across the crowd. One man, an orderly, turned to flee and was shot on the spot. Others panicked and tried to run at the gunshot, and more shots ripped across the crowd. But some cowered and sat, unmoving as the patient's blood was sprayed across them.

Some wept and begged for forgiveness, promised to be believers of the old ways, a desire for the old traditions, a hatred of all things of 'the West.' That they only worked at the hospital to see the enemy's perversions first hand, to know the enemy, to await the coming of a true prophet. Little did any of them know the blood was clean; the witch had purged it of the virus before even cutting the man open.

The test had worked; the weak had been culled, and those that remained would think it was indeed the spirits that had spared them. They would be tested still; the witch would poison them, some would die, but most would live, thinking that Shakespear had been right all along. And they would be loyal. And their example would convince others without the need of such a bloody display. And the world would fear him.
Kenema, Sierra Leone

The Sierra Leonean military had never been able to develop a positive public image in the decades since the disastrous civil war of the early 21st Century. Between the long-floundering economy (leading to low pay, quality of training, and equipment issues, corruption and discipline issues), and the seemingly blatant subservience and kowtowing by the government to foreign powers and companies, the military had often been seen as untrustworthy at best and a nest of vipers waiting to strike, at worst.

Sadly, it was the later that had proven itself the most true. General Katlego's attempted coup, and the declaration of military rule by General Wallace-Johnson, what little positive ground the military had gained was lost.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ndidi Daugherty had held command of the 17th Rifle Battalion for only a year, and had fought and clawed for every dollar he could get to see his undermanned unit properly equipped and trained. By the standards of the Sierra Leonean military, discipline had been strictly enforced and the battalion's training had been intense. In another African military, the Lieutenant-Colonel would have been seen as an excellent leader, but to either General Wallace-Johnson or Katlego, he had been seen as a threat to their reputations.

Although he had never been able to prove it, it was obvious that the military commanders had been actively sabotaging his efforts, sending him the worst, most untrustworthy soldiers they could find. His equipment was out of date even by African standards, and there had never been enough mechanics or support staff to keep them running. The only two operational trucks in the battalion had been purchased by the Lieutenant-Colonel himself, a move which had put him into debt and led to his wife leaving him.

General Katlego's plan for the coup had been brilliant, and had nearly succeeded in taking the garrison of Kenema out from under him. Sympathisers to the Temne uprising among his troops had almost taken the battalion headquarters that first day. He had lost half of his officers and senior staff, either by enemy action or because they had proven to be the enemy themselves. But when the dust had settled, the 17th Rifle Battalion had remained loyal to himself and their oaths.

Since the uprising, they had taken to the task of safe-guarding the city of Kenema and the outlying communities. Lieutenant-Colonel Daugherty had raised civilian militias, most self armed and led, and had done what he could to keep the violence at bay.

Reports of rogue military units burning villages, of bandits and gangs staking out their own territories and declaring independence, of the Liberian military build-up on the border, and of the continuing violence in the rest of the country meant that Daugherty's command and resources were constantly spread too thin.

Exhaustion and lack of supplies, and worse the lack of pay, had led to a rapidly souring state of discipline among his men. And then the desertions had started. He had had to cease all patrols, as reports had come in of his own men attacking villages their militias. The few attacks that had been reported had had few surviving witnesses; always at night, men in uniforms with the insignia of the 17th Rifle Battalion. Taking the civilian militias by surprise. There were never any prisoners taken, no quarter given.

Rape, kidnapping, blatant destruction of public property and resources. Stores burned, wells destroyed. Communities that had yet to be attacked pressured him for more aid. He had been forced to garrison his own troops in the outlying communities, and hoped that the deserters wouldn't prove so bold as to strike the under-garrisoned city.

A mistake, as it had turned out.

Lieutenant-Colonel Daugherty sat on the steps of his battalion headquarters, located immediately adjacent to the Kemena regional airport, and glared at the three men that stood before him. What little garrison that had remained in the city was likely already dead, and his recall of his men in the outlying communities had never gone out; the radio tower had been one of the first things hit, the wreckage of the tower laying sprawled across the parade square grounds behind the men.

They wore his uniforms, the unit insignia clearly of the 17th, but the men beneath those clothes were strangers to him. Hell, he doubted they were even Sierra Leonean. Even with what pride he had had in his men, what little that remained in his country's military, he had always known they were third-rate at best. These men had far outstripped anything his army was capable of. They were professionals.

Their leader grinned sardonically at Lieutenant-Colonel Daugherty, and glanced down at the dead man at his feet. One of the strangers, the impostors. Daugherty had taken three himself, probably their most grievous causalities of the entire raid on Kenema. "It's too bad, mate. Hell, at least you died with your boots on, aye?"
South African, by his accent.

Daugherty spat at the man's feet, the gesture proving more pathetic then he had hoped as it brought on a surge of wet coughs, blood bubbling from his lips and the two holes in his chest, staining his uniform. He had been wearing a vest of course, but it had done nothing. The Kevlar plates were old, long past their expiration. Likely riddled with micro-fractures and degraded by years of sweat.

The three men laughed, then their leader calmly shot Daugherty in the chest again, pitching the dying man back on the steps. He stared up at the evening sky, the first few stars poking through the thickening clouds of smoke above. An errant thought, of whether his dear ex-wife was staring at those same stars. She was in Freetown, last he had heard, but it had been months since they had spoken.

The three men turned as a jeep pulled up, their voices growing muffled and distant as his vision faded. "That ought to be enough lads. This'll be enough to make 'em look good when they roll in and 'save the day.'"
The group laughed and climbed into the jeep, which then rolled off into the night.
Approx. 25Kms East of Freetown

Major Jengo Abrams stood in the commander's hatch of his command-variant Patria AMV, one of the few in the hands of the Temne forces after the debacle at the airport in the opening day of the uprising. The vehicle sacrificed passenger space for a command-and-control suite; improved radios, computer systems, display screens.

From the hatch, he was able to oversee the deployment of the seven M777s, 155mm Howitzer field guns. Each gun had a five man crew, and the position was surrounded by a hundred armed fighters, mostly Temne supporters under the tutelage of a few dozen soldiers. The rest of the troops that had sided with the Temne uprising were kept busy dissuading the Guinean warlords from advancing further towards the north-eastern regions of Sierra Leone, where the Temne faction was based, or advancing on and securing regions that hadn't sided either way yet, which including some of the impromptu refugee camps the Legion had established.

the general was relying on the terror of the shelling to be enough to bring the government forces to their knees and capitulate, without the need of a more substantial combat presence.

Each of the heavy field artillery pieces had been towed into place by large trucks, each of which were themselves loaded down to the breaking point with ammo for the howitzers. Most were old training rounds; nothing more then concrete slugs without any explosive charges. Cheap and abundant, used mostly to train gunnery crews in their skills and drills, but against a built up city? General Katlego was not a monster, and a city shelled to dust was of no use to anyone. Of course, there were live high-explosive shells, which would be thrown into Freetown occasionally, to assure the people were properly motivated to surrender.

The idea of shelling the capital was not entirely appealing to the Major, but it was a necessary evil. The country was beset on all sides by scavengers, and only a unified government would be able to send them scurrying back into the shadows. And that unity would only be found once the Mende were put in their place, once and for all. They had sold the country piecemeal to foreign powers, and were the reason that Sierra Leone was so weak to begin with.


The Legion convoy had weathered the storm that Guinea had thrown at them. Losses had been blissfully light; they had been forced to abandon two of the transport trucks, although most of their cargo had been redistributed before the vehicles had been blown-in-place (BIP'd) by some of the attached sappers.

Provost Boipello still rode with Sergant Jackson near the front of the convoy, and neither were exactly releived to see the sign that marked the border between the failed-state of Guinea and Sierra Leone. The border guard check point was destroyed, the concrete bunkers charred black and riddled with bullet holes. The signs were equally potmarked, and rotting bodies of two men who may once have been guards were lashed to the sign with rope.

Abandoned vehicles, some decades old, crowded the fields to either side of the road on the Guinean side; the last remnants of refugees fleeing the horrors that had engulfed Guinea in the years after the fallout of the Ebola outbreak.

The village that had cropped up from a 'temporary' refugee camp on the Sierra Leonean side was in ruins; the population had been mostly Guinean of origin, and they had not fared well when the warlords were able to move unopposed into Sierra Leone.

"We'll reach the city of Kambia by nightfall, assuming the bridge is still trafficable."
Sergeant Jackson indicated on the nav display mounted into the Panhard's interior. Their primary route was marked by a blue line, with secondary routes a dull grey. The route they had traveled was far from straight; long stretches of the old highways through Guinea were reclaimed by nature or purposefully destroyed by mortal hands, to prevent enemy warlords from being able to easily raid their neighbours. The road into Sierra Leone would likely prove much the same.

Provost Boipello nodded, studying the two bodies as they rumbled through the ruined checkpoint. On the Sierra Leonean side, the abandoned vehicles were only days old, and many had been wrecked by small arms fire. Likely people in Kambia trying to flee whichever warlord had moved into the region, only to find that the man hadn't left the border crossing unguarded. Bodies, some blackened and charred from the fires that had swept over many of the vehicles, were still evident in their cars and trucks. Others, women especially, were sprawled in the dirt where the monsters had set upon those foolish enough to try surrendering.
Legion HQ, Casablanca, Morocco

Commandant Tuff stood in his office, the blinds drawn over the windows mostly to help keep the sun from blinding the camera he was standing in front of. Screens on the opposite wall showed the Sir, Jacques Danjou in his office in Freetown, and a well known Chinese arms dealer on his ship, somewhere off the coast of Angola, Africa.

The Sir looked tired, if one knew what to look for. He was quick to smile, and had kept the arms dealer appeased with an amusing anecdote. The man was impatient. Time was money, and he wanted to put into port in Freetown rather then Casablanca to deliver the Legion's order. That was the end destination for the weapons and vehicles, after all, and the Moroccan authorities were not going to turn a blind eye to what sat in his hold.

The arms dealer, Zhou Ah Sung, was active throughout Africa, with contacts in many of the more stable countries and customers in the more war-torn regions. He never would have taken a contract with the Legion had the price not been right. After all, most of his customers were the sorts of folks that the Legion was usually hired to keep away from expensive things, and both parties knew it. He was also one of the only arms dealers able to acquire what the Legion had asked for.

Zhou Ah Sung had been pestering HQ for two days, since the man had put around the Horn, crossing from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean. Commandant Tuff had done what he could to appease the man, but he had been bloody persistent about wanting to talk to the CEO. Clearly Zhou Ah Sung wasn't paying close attention to the Legion's recent activities. Jacques was, technically speaking, no longer the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company.

He stood mostly uninvolved in the conversation between the two men; Jacques had brought his A-game, disarming the Chinese man's irritation and impatience, but then suddenly the Sir paused, clearly turning his attention to someone else in the office in distant Sierra Leone.

"I'm sorry, Mr Zhou. I have to cut this short. I would ask that you delay your passing of Sierra Leone by a few hours, as I may be able to have the port opened to allow you to unload in Freetown sometime today."
His tone was professional and polite, even a touch amused. The old Jacques Danjou.

Zhou Ah Sung nodded and was clearly pleased with the news, even if he had been cut off mid-sentence by Jacques. A moment later and the screen holding the arms dealer winked out, and Jacques' image centered on the wall. "Commandant. The Interim-President has just demanded my presence at his headquarters in the parliamentary building. Alone, of course. It is time."

Commandant Tuff nodded slightly, and indicated to his assisting officer just out of view of the screen, "Operation Rien N'Empêche is a go."
Baadi Qasriga, 40kms off the coast of Sierra Leone

The Baadi Qasriga (loosely translating to 'The Wandering Palace' in traditional Somali) was chartered out of the failed-state of Somalia and flew the appropriate flags and registrations of such a ship. Naturally, if one were to dig a bit deeper, they would learn the ship's owners were Chinese. Which of course explained the captain, one Zhou Ah Sung, and would equally learn that the Baadi Qasriga had only been registered for about two years.

Before that, it had been the Born Koobaad (The First Born), also registered out of Somalia. Of course, the link between the Baadi Qasriga and the Born Koobaad were tenuous at best, since the Born Koobaad was reported lost at sea and the owners had received a very tidy insurance claim. Money which was then used to purchase the Baadi Qasriga, of course. Such was the curious life of many cargo ships in the region.

"Cut engines. Full stop."
Zhou Ah Sung was glaring to the north. At 40kms off the coast, he couldn't actually see Africa, but he knew it was there. And knew that there was a perfectly serviceable port, where he could deliver his cargo and avoid the Moroccan authorities that were likely already waiting for him. Putting into port in peaceful, functioning companies was never his idea of a good time. Port fees and taxes aside, the inspections were a hazard to his business.

The ship was old, but in good condition. Amazing really, considering the number of times it had supposedly been lost at sea. The part of the hull proudly sporting the ship's name was getting thick, an errant thought that Zhou Ah Sung shoved aside. He would have to have that sanded down the next time he had the ship renamed. It was getting rather conspicuous.

He glanced irritably at his Wallet, and the message there from the Legion's Casablanca office. An odd one, certainly, considering not a few hours prior he had been all but promised that he was going to be putting into port in Freetown that very day.

One of his senior crew cleared their throat to try and catch Zhou Ah Sung's attention without offense, and he just growled in response before pushing away from the window and moving to leave the cargo ship's bridge. "Get a work party to the hold. Start unpacking the suits."

The ship's hold held a technically legal shipment. Technically in that money had been passed openly between two companies for what sat in the hold. Otherwise illegal, as the things paid for were weapons and military vehicles. Enough for a small army, by Africa's standards at least. They were why he had no interest in trying to put into port in Morocco. No matter how skilled the smuggler, four Type 99 Chinese-manufactured main battle tanks were pretty damn hard to hide.

As were the one hundred crates holding powered armour. The APCs and infantry fighting vehicles, crates of weapons, and the tons of ammunition for all those weapons. There was a war brewing, and Zhou Ah Sung's ship held the tools that would be needed to fight it.

And apparently, those tools were going to be needed before the Baadi Qasriga had even put into port. Commandant Tuff's instructions, while quite specific on the requirement, were rather vague on the delivery.

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