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Plans and Enemies
The up-armoured Legion SUV departed the Legion HQ, housed in the former Moroccan embassy without much fanfare. Legionnaires were slowly making their way throughout the city, many on foot due to a severe lack of working vehicles, but for the moment at least their sudden flurry of movement seemed to go unnoticed by Wallace-Johnson's soldiers.

The ride was quiet; Jacques' escort consisted of only three Legionnaires. Vanders of course, Lesław, and Bartoš. Lesław was Polish, albeit of rather slight build at first glance and with a list of driving qualifications the length of his somewhat gangly arms. Bartoš, Slovakian, sat shotgun to Lesław with a Benelli shotgun across his lap, the barrel pressed to the door at his side, ready to be lifted to the window, or brought to bear through the door once opened. One finger tapped against the trigger guard, while his other hand held a shell ready to be slipped into the breach once the first round was fired.

The two men in the front seats watched the road ahead intensely, with Lesław watching the traffic around them and Bartoš eyeing the crowds and rooftops as they drove towards the Parliamentary buildings that had been re-purposed into Interim President General Wallace-Johnson's command center.

Jacques' attention was split in a dozen directions, through the HUD of his Landwarrior glasses. Live updates of the movement of the various squads throughout Freetown, an update on the relief convoy's progress towards the city. Position of a Chinese merchant freighter that was scant kilometers off the country's territorial waters on it's way to Morocco. Legal demands by slighted former investors were brushed aside, as well as a 'formal request' for Jacques Danjou to present himself to Moroccan police headquarters in Casablanca in regards to suggestions of bribery,fraud, embezzlement, and a list of other white-collared crimes.

They passed through a series of checkpoints manned by Wallace-Johnson's troops and their 'militia.' The usual scum drawn to the opportunity for personal power and gain, for chances to exact revenge on those that they felt had wronged the in some way. Neighbor turned on neighbor, jilted lovers, jealous fools. The crimes committed under the 'leadership' of Wallace-Johnson were myriad and terrible, and would surely go unnoticed by the world at large. It was Africa, after all.

The final checkpoints around the Parliament included a pair of Rooikat Mk2 IFVs, lines of concertina wire dividing the new government's command center and the public at large.

The intel the Legion had gathered had indicated no more then a platoon-strength guard for the Parliament, but the vehicle-flanked final checkpoint was manned by twenty uniformed soldiers and another two dozen militia. There was limited resistance to the Legion vehicle getting through the checkpoint, but the guards were less then subtle in their comportment. They knew who Jacques was and that their General had summoned him.

The vehicle was waved to a stop in front of the Parliamentary building scant moments after the sharp bark of rifle fire. Two men in suits, some of the few remaining members of the elected parliament, waited to meet them. The two men were studiously ignoring a firing squad was busy loading the bodies of five men into the back of a waiting truck. The men were stripped to their underwear, but still wore undershirts identical to those worn as part of the Sierra Leonean military's uniforms.

The Legion SUV came to a stop, and Jacques stared silently out the bullet proof glass at the firing squad and the bodies they were loading into the truck. It took a moment before one of the bodies were carried to the truck and he could get a look at the dead man's face, and he nodded tiredly.

"Legionnaire Vanders. Lesław. Bartoš. Take the vehicle back to HQ. Commandant Tuff will have further orders. Prepare for follow-on tasks."
Jared rode quietly as was his custom before a mission. A finger tapped on his trigger guard more out of impatience than nervousness. Jared was nervous, but he kept it in check focusing on the task at hand. Jared's eyes wandered. He knew things would be in better view if he summoned mana, but he decided to hold that at bay as well, albeit keeping ready as he did.

Jared's land warriors kept him abreast of situations that he was on a need to know basis of, but mostly he relied on himself and his physical senses and intuition. Jared momentarily bristled at the sight of the firing squad, but he reigned in his emotions. Going rogue right now wouldn't be prudent.

A quick look at Leslaw and Bartoš showed a similar disposition. Both men were ready for whatever was going to be thrown at them. Vanders was as well, except for the one thing that did.

Jared's brow furrowed at the order from his Commander. That was very unexpected, and for a moment Jared paused, caught completely off guard. He turned to face his Commander.

Danjou was tired. That much was clear. It married Jared's own tiredness. All of this felt off and Jared wasn't liking the idea of Danjou going into the lion's den alone. Jared met the man's gaze, his jaw set with determination.

"Are you sure about this, sir?"
Jared asked, not usually one to question his orders, but then again, this situation had made him think of doing things he hadn't thought of before.

((sorry about the wait on this))

Edited by Jared Vanders, Dec 26 2015, 07:55 PM.
Jacques took off his Landwarriors, and produced a case into which he placed them, snapping it shut with an audible clack. He studied the waiting politicians a moment before turning to Legionnaire Vanders with a ghost of a smile. "One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. Never run away from anything. Never."
The quote was of Winston Churchill, "Wallace-Johnson seeks to intimidate me. He believes the Legion cannot function without me, as is the common belief of such men. That men fight only out of fear of their king. He believes that you will bow to him should he prove himself my better."

Jacques held the case with his Landwarriors out to Vanders to take, "He is wrong, of course. I need no armed men at my back to face so petty a creature. The first blow to out an entrenched foe is to their morale. The second shall be an iron-clad fist."

He brushed a fleck of dust from the brim of his white Kepi, and smiled to Vanders, Lesław, and Bartoš. "Of course, while I may be a gambler, I am also one that likes to hold all the cards. And I know something he does not."
With that, he winked conspiratorially to the three Legionnaires and stepped out of the vehicle, raising to his full height as he settled the Kepi over his face, then calmly shut the door, leaving the three men within.

He turned to face the pair of suited politicians, their jackets rumpled and poorly fitting, making his own pristine, well fitted uniform and vest all the sharper in comparison. Neither could meet his gaze for more then a few brief moments as they made hasty introductions, offering to lead him to the Interim-President's office.

In comparison, Jacques was charming, inspiring. He declared either man's name before they could finish their own introductions, commented nonchallantly on the weather and seemed to instantly take charge, strolling past the two men and forcing them to hurry after him.

Wallace-Johnson's soldiers in the courtyard found their gaze drawn to him; he spoke boldly, his voice carrying. Each step on the cobbles rang with an audible clop, sharp and precise movements, a seemingly casual pace which saw the two politicians in an awkward half-shuffle to keep pace.

The guards at the door nearly saluted as he barked a 'steady up, lads', but barely caught themselves from actually doing as the foreigner ordered. The hesitation achieved what he had hoped though, as he strolled past them without either remembering to take his pistol, as they had been surely ordered to do. Embarrassed at their instinctive reaction to the command, neither thought to chase after him.

Jacques walked into the building with only the two politicians as escort, but rather then be shown to some waiting room, where he would be summoned at Wallace-Johnson's behest to further display the man's believed power over the Legion, Jacques headed straight for the would-be king's command room. The location of which was judged by the bundles of extension cords running along the floor; the building's electrical wiring was not up to modern code, and no one room's breaker could handle the draw such equipment would require. So instead, they had cables running from other wings of the building, to spread the load on the building's old wiring.

Again two guards stood at the entrance, but seeing Jacques approach with the two politicians in tow, they wrongly assumed he was meant to enter, and one soldier actually opened the door for Jacques to enter, receiving the slight nod of a superior officer casually acknowledging a subordinate. A sort of familiarity between commander and rank-and-file that implied casual professionalism and respect.

Interim-President General Wallace-Johnson stood with some of his trusted officers and politicians, where the large man was berating them for the fiasco at Masiaka, a tirade which was cut short as he realized the targets of his anger were no longer looking at him.

"Who let him in here?!"
Wallace-Johnson was a large man; both in stature and, at least starting to be, in girth. His extravagant uniform sported sweat stains at the collar and pits, exposed as his uniform jacket was unbuttoned, the flaps tucked foolishly-looking into the back of the man's pants to keep the jacket open over his belly.

Jacques' smile vanished between one stride and the next. Gone was the charismatic cover-boy, replaced with a cold stare and martial air rarely seen. The battle of Jeddah was perhaps the last time he had truly dropped the mask. "I am not interested in playing your games. I will not cater to your ego. I will not shy from your threats."

Jacques' tone was sharp, pointed, and Wallace-Johnson was momentarily speechless as the smaller foreigner walked towards him. Then he swelled up, angrily tugging his jacket from his pants and tugging it tight against his shoulders as if to pull the wrinkles and stains free. "Guards! Get in here you damn idiots!"

There was a hint of fear in Wallace-Johnson's tone, as the man realized that Jacques still had his pistol strapped prominently to his leg. The would-be President grabbed one of his junior officers by the sleeve and pulled the younger man ahead of himself, pushing him towards Jacques as the foreigner drew to a stop not ten feet from Wallace-Johnson. "Arrest this man! Disarm him!"

Jacques had gambled that Wallace-Johnson wouldn't have been so easily intimated, and had come in strong and full of bluster; he had hoped to argue with the man in front of his command staff, belittle and undermine the facade he had erected. But he crumpled too fast, damaging enough on it's own, but not quite to the level Jacques had been hoping for.

The door opened, the two guards there stepping into the room in time to see Jacques with his pistol drawn and leveled squarely at Wallace-Johnson's face. He stood in a classic duelist pose, sideways to Wallace-Johnson, arm extended almost casually, his other resting in the small of his back.

There was a long moment of silence in the command room, interrupted only by unanswered radio communications as the staff manning those stations watched, stunned, as Jacques aimed a pistol at their leader's head. Jacques held Wallace-Johnson's gaze; the larger man at first sneered, a thin mask of bravado, that quickly crumbled as he stared in Jacques' eyes. What he saw there shook him deeply, and the sneer soon vanished to widening eyes and paling face.

And then it was over. Jacques casually reversed the grip on his pistol, slapping the weapon into the suddenly raised palms of Wallace-Johnson's chosen meat-shield, the junior officer staring at the old service pistol in momentary confusion.

And then Jacques simply turned his back on Wallace-Johnson, walking towards the two guards, "I will be wanting that back, son. You two had best see me to a cell. He'll order you to beat me. No hard feelings."

The two guards lowered their weapons in confusion, staring in disbelief at Jacques then to their sweating leader, who was still trying to come to grips on the situation, "And as for you, Wallace-Johnson? You should start carrying a sword. There shall come a time, very soon, when you will wish for one at hand, that you may fall upon it and take your own life. Because I much doubt my Legionnaires will give quarter, should you order your men to resist their arrival."
Jared frowned as the door closed and watched as Jacques moved to enter the building. His eyes followed almost predatorily. Lesław and Bartoš sat in the front of the vehicle. Jared still held the land warriors that Jacques had given him.

Jared didn't like this at all. He doubted that General Wallace-Johnson would give any quarter. He also wondered what Jacques had planned. He wasn't a stupid man, but going in alone without a plan would be. Jacques had a plan. Jared was frustrated that he didn't know what it was.

Lesław's voice broke Jared from his thoughts. "Ready to go?"

Jared nodded solemnly at the driver and they took off, heading back to HQ. There they would get further orders.

"What are you planning?"
Jared thought as he checked his equipment.

Edited by Jared Vanders, Feb 9 2016, 11:12 AM.
Legion HQ, Casablanca, Morocco

Commandant Tuft studied the holographic screen which had appeared, obscuring the dozens of open windows that floated around his desk. Muffled by the dark wood-paneled walls of his office, he could hear the barks of orders as the Legion headquarters 'pulled pole', a phrase which meant to break camp. To pack up and leave. To abandon a position. Usually called on contact with, or in sudden advance of contact with, an enemy.

The enemy in their case was the Moroccan government, and the international criminal court which was nipping at his heels for answers and demands of payment of fines and to allow their 'investigators' into the Legion's accounts and financial records. A fine sign of what was important to the 'justice' system, it was their slighted investors that were being protected. No questions had been asked about the supply planes landing in Algeria, convoying equipment and personnel to the long-abandoned Legion barracks in the northern ghost-city of Sidi Bel Abbès.

Sidi Bel Abbès, once known as an agricultural bread-basket region, producing cereals and grains, had faded into obscurity due to unchecked desertification of the region, brought on mostly by poorly managed farming and expansion. Once holding a population of some 200,000 in the late 20th century, the city was home to a scant few thousand squatters. Hence the Legion's ease at purchasing the city and their traditional garrison structures for a scant few million CCD from the Algerian 'government' (a council of warlords pretending to be kings and presidents that had carved most of the country into little more then city-states).

The message that dominated Commandant Tuft's view was short. 'Operation Gauntlet is a go.' A simple message. A disastrous cause. The Commandant sighed and pulled up a program that represented Operation Gauntlet. A simple 'click' of the button that appeared above his desk, and things were sent into motion.

Lungi International Airport, Sierra Leone

Major Curtis Freeman paced nervously in the garrison headquarters, drawing more then a few uncertain glances from his staff. He had agreed to the plan set forward by the could he had refused? CCD dollars went very far in Africa. And would go further still in the aftermath of what his beloved country had become.

Of course the Frenchman's arguments were not without merit. Major Freeman wanted peace, of course. He had joined the military intent on a quiet, simple job without much hardship. They were little more then over-glorified border guards. The country's entire foreign policy had always been simple, at least so far as the military was concerned. Keep refugees and undesirables out. Keep the roads, airport, and sea-ports open for trade. He hadn't even touched a firearm in least not until the attempted coup.

That morning, the Legion would have begun it's plan to take Freetown from Wallace-Johnson. The man was dangerously power hungry, and would use all the paranoia and hatred that was festering in the city to his advantage. Blood would run thick in the streets if the General was allowed to take control. Assuming General Katlego didn't kill him first, of course. And if either of those mad men won, the Major's life would become far more difficult then he desired it to be.

One of his men stood with a freshly printed sheaf of papers, and held them uncertainly towards Major Freeman, "Sir? From Casablanca, Sir."

Major Freeman froze, staring at the papers with barely contained fear. A quick glance around the room then he carefully took the papers from the man and looked at the cover page, which held only two words. Operation Gauntlet.

Half an hour later, a convoy of six open-topped jeeps, carrying a full platoon of 50+ soldiers, were moving away from the airport garrison to the nearby Coast Guard facility near the Tagrin ferry landing. They secured the facility and the three deep-water coastal patrol boats that sat there, rustling the crews out of their barracks at gun point when needed.

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Legionnaires across the city received a mission update as they went about their on-going tasks. Operation Rien N'Empêche had gone off almost without a hitch. Radio and cellular towers had been secured, military checkpoints taken with minimal violence, city infrastructure facilities occupied. Aided by city police and firefighters, and a scattering of sympathetic military members and employee unions, the undermanned Legionnaire presence in Freetown would have had little difficulty occupying the city while Jacques Danjou was meeting with Wallace-Johnson.

By the time Jacques was seen to the make-shift stockade in the city Parliament, easily half the city was under Legion control. Only the heavily defended blocks around the parliament were still held by Wallace-Johnson, and the checkpoints at the city's outer-most edge to the south-east, where the brunt of the General's forces were preparing to begin their march further inland, expecting to take the fight to General Katlego's rebels.

The update most Legionnaires received was well received; the relief column from Casablanca, which had driven through Guinea and most of the war-torn country of Sierra Leone, was hardly an hour from the airport north-east of the city and the ferries there that would see the much needed supplies and manpower delivered into Freetown.

Some, however, received a different message. Legionnaire Carpenter, and the members of his associated squad, received new orders. Operation Gauntlet. A rescue mission, coupled with a much-needed show of force.

They were to make their way, by any means necessary, to the ferry crossing, where Sierra Leonean coast-guard vessels would be waiting to take them to an off-shore transport ship. They would be joined by Legionnaire Vanders.

One hour north-east of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sergeant Jackson and Provost Boipello were once more the second-from-the-front Panhard in the convoy. They had suffered losses in the long drive from Casablanca to Sierra Leone, but they had been miraculously light. The roads in Sierra Leone were in far better shape then what they had been struggling along through the region formerly known as Guinea, and had even managed to keep one step ahead of most of the bandits and rebels pouring across the unguarded Sierra Leone border.

The convoy was spread over 800 meters, rather then the 1,000 they had started at. 17 of 20 Panhards remained in the convoy, and a few of the transport trucks had grown cramped as they stripped what they could from vehicles that had broken down, then crammed their crews into whatever space was available in the rest of the convoy.

Barely an hour from the airport where, according to the plan, they could stop and rest. The last pit-stop had been eight hours prior, when they had sucked the last of the fuel from the tanker trucks and fuel jerries. The gas stations of the last town had been either destroyed or sucked dry before the convoy had arrived, a possibility they had wisely planned for.

Boipello shifted uncomfortably and leaned closer to the slightly cracked window as Sergeant Jackson tugged his second boot off, and peeled the sock off sweat-soured feet. A Pampers brand baby-wipe was then liberally scrubbed against the American's foot, a valiant, if futile, effort to overpower the stench of his feet.

"Sanitation is important, Boipello. A soldier fights on his feet, after all. Have to keep them clean and healthy."
Jackson took a deep breath, as if to demonstrate that the smell wasn't as bad as Boipello and the rest of the vehicle's passengers were making it out to be.

"You cannot smell the odour like we can, Jackson. You should have taken the chance at the last fuel stop to wash your feet in the river like the rest of us."
One of the Legionnaires jokingly made a gagging sound, as if fending off the urge to vomit, which only caused one of their younger Legionnaires to visibly pale and press a hand more tightly to his mouth.

Approx. 25Kms East of Freetown

Major Jengo Abrams walked back towards his command-post vehicle, as his men scrambled through the final checks to ready the seven M-777 howitzers to fire. "Prepare to fire. Opening salvo, 3 HE per gun, followed by seven practice rounds."

A junior officer nodded at the command and barked the orders to the gun crews. Their loading teams began laying out the requested shells for ease of loading.

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