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Operation Rien N'Empêche
The briefing was held in the courtyard of the Legion's headquarters in Sierra Leone. Dozens of Legionnaires had gathered, and were greatly outnumbered by the refugees-turned-aid workers that were still housed in the adjacent buildings the Legion had appropriated to house them all in the first day of the fighting. Most had been moved to more organized camps, and those few that remained were being trained in first aid, administration, cooking, and a myriad of other supporting skills needed to keep the city from floundering under the current atmosphere.

The briefing had was not voluntary. Most of the Legion's surviving soldiers in Freetown were present. What few vehicles at their disposal had been fueled and what little ammunition that had remained in the supply issued out before the briefing had been announced. Word had already begun to spread that Interi-President General Wallace-Johnson had demanded Jacques' presence. There was also rumours of a Legion supply convoy that had driven from Casablanca only a few hours from the city bringing the promise of reinforcements and much needed aid supplies.

Jacques emerged from the main building as Legionnaires were still filing out into the courtyard. The mood was tense and sullen. Memories of the Masiaka refinery and their cowardly withdrawal still fresh in everyone's minds. Most understood that had they fought there it would have meant death in the long run, but that was besides the point. That was the sort of politicking logic that saw most of them abandon their home countries and militaries of previous service. Do what was right, not what was economical.

He was shrugging into the heavy kevlar vest of the old FELIN 2 combat gear, his pistol strapped to his left thigh. Once the vest was strapped down, his white Kepi cap was produced from a pocket and neatly placed atop his head, the white neck cover protecting the back of his head and neck from the sun.

A pair of officers followed him out then jogged forward to join the gathered crowd as Jacques climbed onto the roof of one of the Legion's SUVs, where he waited in silence for a moment as the last stragglers joined the crowd and everyone fell silent.

“Many of you have questions. About Masiaka, about my decisions there. I gave the order to withdraw, to cede the refinery to the government troops. I will not explain that decision. I gave the order. I accept responsibility of the consequences.”
He would take the their blame for that. Having someone to hold the guilt for that decision would save many from placing it upon themselves. The responsibility of leadership was not without it's burdens.

“Now I have a request of you. I do not ask this of you lightly. And know that this is not an order. Should you choose, I shall do all in my power to see you returned to Morocco. Severance pay will be drawn, and you shall be returned to your countries of origin, or to wherever you choose as your next resident country.”
Jacques was unusually serious of tone; he was a gambler by reputation, and was taking a big risk with the offer. The Legionnaires gathered before him had joined a private security company. Good pay, risky employment, but they were not soldiers anymore.

“Legion Premiere is no more. The company has been folded, the private investors are seeking lawsuits over lost profits and stocks. The government of Morocco seeks the closing of our headquarters and the training camp at Arfoud. The Legion stands, and I have made a decision. Commandant Tuff and the senior officers have sided with me in this decision, and we have left any angry politicians in our wake in the past few days.”
He let the implication sink in on those gathered for a moment. He was creating his own personal army, and breaking laws to do it.

The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people. I am tired of being silent. I am tired of appeasing laws set by politicians. I am tired of protecting profit margins, rather then people. And I am tired of governments failing their countries. Wallace-Johnson ordered the slaughter of innocent people under the protection of his soldiers. Orders his soldiers carried out without hesitation. Katlego ordered the slaughter of children, orders his soldiers carried out without hesitation.”
The quote was of Napolean, something that seemed to surprise people whenever they learned it. He had ordered they abandon refugees, and they had hesitated. But they had obeyed out of trust. The deaths of those refugees was the catalyst that had sparked the will to fight back among the people of Freetown. That support was what he needed to take the city as bloodlessly as possible. The support of his Legionnaires was what would see that accomplished.

“Wallace-Johnson has called me to meet him. He expects that I shall bow my head to his rule, and promise you men to train his soldiers, to win him the country, and see the Temne people slaughtered. I have a different plan."
The order was that he go alone, but of course he would have an escort to the parliamentary building that the General had made his headquarters. That escort would include the Legion's ace in the hole, Jared Vanders, should the man choose to involve himself.

"It is folly for a man to pray to the gods for that which he has the power to obtain by himself. I have the support of the city police. The military garrison of the airport. City workers. They are poised to take control of key locations throughout the city, with your support. Wallace-Johnson's soldiers are cowards. They do not deserve the title. An organized resistance will see them surrender in short order, especially once I have cut the head from the snake.”

A signal was given through the HUD of his Landwarriors. Every Legionnaire gathered received a datapacket on their own Landwarriors, or their Wallets, or PDAs. Inside were instructions for those key locations, of whom they would work with in seeing those sites secured. Known patrol routes of Wallace-Johnson's soldiers. The Legion headquarters had been hard at work with the planning of Operation Rien N'Empêche.

“We are working on a very tight time line here, gentlemen. It is time a difference was made. Sierra Leone will be whole again.”
Jared stood poised. The time bomb was detonating soon. The thing was everyone knew it. The briefing itself was mandatory, and soon the shit would hit the fan. The next few days would be crucial.

Questions. Everyone had them. Few would probably be answered at this briefing, but it was clear now why they had left Masiaka. Despite Danjou claiming responsibility, there was still guilt in Jared and more than likely still guilt in others nearby. As Jacques continued to describe the situation, Jared didn't smile or show any other emotion on his face. Truth be told, he wasn't sure what to feel. In some aspects, the decision made sense, in others, it seemed wrong.

All of this information brought to light and more came from the landwarriors as data packets were sent. He would going to the meeting with General Wallace-Johnson. No doubt his magical abilities played into that decision. But Jared, like everyone there, had a decision to make - to stay or leave.

The decision wasn't a light one, but it didn't take long for Jared to make it. General Wallace-Johnson had ordered the killing of civilians. And as Jared compared that to Danjou's decision, the scales were one-sided. Jared didn't like what Jacques had decided, but he could understand the reasoning to an extent - politicking. They had to play the game, but no more.

Jared's decision was made. He wouldn't turn back now. Wallace-Johnson had shown his true colors, and Jared would help to remove the head.
When Jay stepped outside and the sunlight hit his face, he closed his eyes and let the rays settle on his skin. After probably the hardest sleep of his life, which was saying a lot given the kind of training he was used to, there was a brief moment of actual contentment and he needed to bask in the moment just a few seconds longer. Good thing too. It wasn't to last.

Shredder had wandered off by then, but as Jay crossed the courtyard, he kept an eye about for a dart of yellow fur should it go weaving between feet. One of the refugees, strange to think of Olabode as a refugee given he was born in the city, caught his eye and came over. Jay's wave went along with a smile for the guy who'd been coming to check up on the mending of his leg these past few days. Medics and doctors were in short supply, and it was a waste of their time to let one spend precious minutes checking stitches and bruising when an abundance of refugees begging to be trained were around to for that kind of thing.

Olabode had a sharp eye, not only for spotting Jay out of half a dozen other Legionnaires that probably all looked alike to him, but because by the look on his face - a mixture of horror and confusion - he'd noticed Jay's lack of cast, perfectly tucked pant leg, and easy stride.

Jay thought long and hard that morning how he was going to present himself today. Strutting around never felt better. But suddenly mended of a jaw-grinding wound and excruciating surgery was bound to draw a few questions. Well. There was nothing to do about it. He couldn't pretend to limp around. Well maybe he could pretend, but like hell if he was going to keep wearing that cast while doing so.

he greeted the Sierra Leoneon as the man came up. He'd lost contact with the rest of his family in the fighting, but a few pulled strings on part of the Red Cross told him they were huddled down with family and he'd decided to stay and volunteer so others may know his peace.

Olabode's thick accent responded promptly. "Legionnaire Jay. You are walking up right today. How is this?" Jay's smile was lost in a shrug. The guy was always formal despite having twenty years on him.

"Let's call it a miracle and leave it at that."
He figured it'd make no sense, and Olabode wouldn't be satisfied until he'd checked things over himself. "Don't tell the doc though. He won't believe you, or me, and want to come check me out himself. Dumb when there's plenty of people that actually need his help."
Olabode gawked but Jay clapped on him the shoulder and peered over the heads of those around them. "Looks like the CEO's about to get started. Gotta go."

Jay stood with a few other Hellcats for the announcement. Since one of them actually had a cat now, he'd become something of their personal mascot. Or Shredder had at least. Solid greetings all around. Morning and sweat was already dripping down more than one neck. Packed in with other Legionnaires, and the likes of Olabode out of sight, reality was quickly darkening the mood. None of them knew what to expect, but rumors were always in abundance. Some said he'd led the convoy to the refinery knowing they would fail to save lives there. Others suggested he was working with General Wallace-Johnson himself, willing to trade a Legion blind eye for personal gain. Usually money came up with those rumors. Jacques was known for being something of a gambler, reckless with money, sports-cars, women. He wasn't a general. He was their boss. Given the Legion was basically a mercenary army, nobody really cared. The better the Legion's finances and everyone got a raise. But Jay thought there was more to the story. He hoped for more.

Jacques climbed on top of one of the SUV's and the crowds slowly quieted.

He waited for something. Jay felt his eyes graze across him and those alongside. Strange to see eyes, the man was somewhat soulless always hidden behind land warriors. Jay could say the same about himself, given he was always in Legion-issued glasses, but a former Marine knew all about the technology provided by expensive LW's. He only imagined what Jacques saw when he overlaid the view upon the real world. At least Jay's were just for shade.

Whatever he waited for, he found it. And jumped right into hot water. He went to the refinery knowing they would lose that battle. Knowing there wouldn't be a battle at all. Would have been better they hadn't even shown up. What the hell? Why go at all! They didn't even save the damn kids according to Lawrence. Worse, they were all gunned down running for their lives in the woods. Been better to line everyone up on a wall and execute them quickly. Jay felt his jaw clench, and the other hellcats weren't hiding their disgust either. There would be men taking up his offer today. A grunt in a standing army was not what they were recruited into. It wasn't what Jay was recruited into. At least in the states enlistment stood for something. He was a fucking American Marine. What would he be here? Jacques Danjou's soldier? The Legion stands. That damn oath issued in his mind, even the french version he had to memorize. They stand against what?

Jacques spoke of resistance and government. He had a plan to make Sierra Leone whole again. Did Jay even care about Sierra Leone? Really? There was always another tyrant, lord, cartel, whatever ready to step in and stir shit up once the last bad guy was out of the way. Jacques wanted to clear the field in this country, but then what? Set up a joke of a democracy and haul ass to the next field of battle? Or was he going to rule it himself? Africa's very own Nikolai Brandon sweeping country after country under his throne?

Hard eyes met mirrors of those around him. They were all thinking the same thing, but nobody had the balls to step up and say it.

This was probably a really bad idea.

He made his way out of formation and approached the SUV. Carefully. Those officers were wary of unexpected movement around their new .. what? General?

Jay felt the silence stinging the back of his neck like wasps. He just stared up at Jacques, looking into their leader's determined eyes, begging to see a glimmer of what the back of his mind hoped he would find. Just for good measure, Jay pulled his own sunglasses from his face and saluted what he thought was appropriate for the deference in their ranks. Whatever that was.

"You have a plan for Wallace-Johnson. 'The Legion stands'. We didn't stand against anything yesterday."
Jay's voice carried across the courtyard. He was willing to die for a cause when he believed in it. He wanted desperately to put his faith in Jacques. But Jacques admitted his own guilt in yesterday's slaughter. Hard to put faith in a man like that.

Only darkness shows you the light.

Jacques watched as Carpenter approached. The man was without his limp, the cast gone. He had been well briefed on the medical state of the wounded, and Carptenter's wound was such that he should have been limping for months. Baring some sort of miracle, or a mixture of bull-headed stubbornness and excellent pain killers, the only remaining option was Legionnaire Vanders. He had made mention of being able to heal minor wounds in his report.

The man's question was poignant. It was unspoken, but the man's American heritage was evident in his stance, his boldness of statement. He spoke briefly, almost to himself, barely heard by any standing more then a few paces away even in the crushing silence of the embassy courtyard. "Loose the battle. Win the war."
It was a lost battle that would haunt him for years to come. In Jeddah, he had sacrificed soldiers to fight and die for a good cause, but it had never been planned as a suicide mission.

The trip to the refugee camp had been painfully different. The deaths of those refugees was what had won him the support of the Sierra Leonean troops holding the international airport. The support of the city police and myriad other organizations and unions that were even as they spoke preparing to overthrow the city. Had bought the Legion much needed time to fully liquidate it's assets and move them from the reach of world courts and governments.

He was preparing to fight a war on two fronts; General Wallace-Johnson, General Katlego, unaligned rebels supported by the Liberians, and bandits and warlords out of the failed-state of Guinea. They were but one front, and perhaps the easiest to deal with in the long run. Beans and bullets and all that. It was the other war which would prove the most devastating. It was the one fought behind the scenes, through emails and bank ledgers. Lawyers and foreign/domestic criminal investigations.

He had made the decision. He hadn't hesitated; the incident had brought to a head the tensions in Freetown and Sierra Leone as a whole. It had drawn global attention, if only briefly; a rapidly narrowing window he would not let go to waste.

"I, we, cannot save everyone, Legionnaire Carpenter. Much as we might wish otherwise. There are only six hundred of us left, here and in Morocco. Not enough to save everyone. But we cannot let the deaths of those we fail hold us back. We haven't that right. A balance must be struck, to remember those you have failed but ever strive forward. This is what I ask of you Legionnaires."

"Had we fought there, at Masiaka, our brothers here would have been attacked. The volunteers would not have been spared. At best, the Red Cross workers, the foreign ones at least, would have been deported. The relief convoy is well past the point of no-return, and likely would not have survived the trip back through Guinea. And while we may have beaten Wallace-Johnson's soldiers at the refinery, we would have been no match for Katlego's men."

He had been speaking to Carpenter, but loudly enough to be heard by those gathered, but he finally turned his attention back to the group at large, "I hope. Some day, soldiers like us will no longer be needed. That common folk stand up, and the corrupt and dark-hearted are no longer able to take power. That children can go to school, that parents can watch them grow healthy and strong."

Carpenter was right, that it was a rare thing to see Jacques without his trade-mark Landwarriors hiding his eyes. It was often said that the eyes were the mirror to the soul, a belief held in many cultures the world over. For all his reputation for quick smiles and penchant for gambling, his playboy antics for the few tabloids that cared about Africa's 'rich and famous', much of it had been a mask. A strategy to assure investors and secure good contracts for the Legion. A mask that hadn't sat well since the day the previous CEO was killed in Nigeria what felt like a lifetime ago, settling onto him the weight of leadership of the Legion.

The view Carpenter could glimpse belied the charming smiles and easy-going demeanor. Jacques was all too aware of the blood on his hands, blood spilled by his decisions and mistakes. But rather then be dragged down by the sorrow of it all, he pressed forward. For he had no right to succumb to his sorrow. He would weather the storm until he was no longer needed to.

"But until that day, there will be work to do. It will start here, today. Freetown. A name that shall, soon, be true to it's meaning. There are people in this world that need help. Help that no country is willing to give. They site the expenses, the cost. They fear offending trade partners. Excuses I shall no longer entertain. The world will see what happens on the other side of their television sets. It has already begun. Recruits from around the world. A slow trickle, but it is a beginning."
Bull, was the first thought to stab at Jay's mind. Lose the battle win the war? Win enough battles and the war is won.

But their commander addressed the entire crowd for yet another political tirade. He positioned himself beautifully. He took in the doubts swirling like fog among his soldiers. Jays included. There was a moment he listened. Of almost accepting this insane fate Jacques mentioned. Not everyone can be saved? Maybe not, but sitting back and watching war fell bodies like trees for slaughter? That's not the same thing. Could Jay commit to a commander that didn't see the distinction? Or worse, saw, but dismissed?

What was he going to do? Abandon the Legion? Go back to the States? Could go to college. Law school. Be a teacher. A banker? Right. That was a good plan.

Jay fell back, jaw tense but silent. Hard eyes looked around for an anchor, but they found none.

Edited by Jay Carpenter, Sep 13 2015, 12:28 PM.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Thoughts poured through Jared's mind. Danjou was playing the politician. Jared was already committed to what he wanted to do, but doubt was still at the door, knocking persistently. The deed at Masiaka was done and the blood was as much on their hands as it was on the commanders. Jared was beginning to see that now.

Jared shifted uneasily. He had given up a pretty decent life to join the Legion. Danjou may have made a mistake - a bad one. The implications of that mistake could be disastrous.

Questions poured through Jared's mind - Are we terrorists, tyrants? Is Danjou power hungry? Is he genuinely wanting to free these people or does he have other motives? The Leginnaires had been kept in the dark about this plan. Would he keep more secrets or was this an attempt at being straight forward.

Jared admired Jay's courage to speak his mind, but Jared remained silent. There were no words he wanted to speak.
Her eyes burned. The grit of sand from dry winter winds. The sleeplessness of the nights that followed.

Ekene's dreams were plagued with demons reignited by the deaths at the refinery. What comfort was there to offer this further loss? The empty promise of sacrifice for the greater good? That someday the tragedy might mean something? Natalie sat silent vigil while he twitched and cowered in sleep. The deep rhythm of steady breathing surrounded them; colleagues and other refugees, a den of strangers. She wasn't sure what welcome sleep would offer, so waited for exhaustion instead.

By day she longed to be beyond the embassy walls, but leaving required an escort she was loathe to organise for its dependence on the Legion's cooperation. She marked herself distinct from them by refusing to engage beyond formalities, shielding the unfair accusation from her gaze and unwilling to risk meeting the possibility of indoctrinated acceptance in return. Anger warred with the grief and guilt of what she had been party to. Azu's face. The kids she had been teaching for months.

The power that had filled her, ripped away when it might have made a difference, by her own inadequacies.

If someone had offered her an escape, she imagined taking it. A bottle of something strong might have done just as well. Oblivion or solace, either one respite enough to tear herself down and rebuild hard as ice. In the meantime she refortified by shutting everything and everyone out. Burying herself in the rote but necessary work of camp. The light that had always been a comfort taunted her from beyond reach. In moments when her exhausted mind wandered, she recalled the bomb in the hospital. Then even older memories, of Alvis' warnings and blood in an alley.

She pinched the bridge of her nose. Blinked around the burn in her eyes.

The legionnaires had been called to the courtyard. Danjou had nothing to say she wished to hear, so she made herself pointedly scarce. She sensed a reckoning outside; he'd not addressed his men at all since the refinery, nor offered any counter to the rumours that rode in its bloody wake. He'd bind his legionnaires to him now, and she didn't want to witness his justification. She knew the charm of his tongue. She'd fallen for it.

The chore that had occupied her suddenly seemed obscene in its redundancy, and she stood with an abruptness that drew brief glances from those around her as she retreated in search of solitude.

Edited by Natalie Grey, Nov 1 2015, 01:57 PM.
There was one thing that would set Jacques apart from politicians and their ilk the world over. He was good with words, and had spent years learning what to say to appease the contract holders, to keep belligerents at bay, and to minimize the bribes needed to keep the politicians out of the Legion's hair. But unlike politicians, he knew when the time for words was over.

In Freetown, the time for words was over. Either the men would follow, or they would not. They were deeply shaken by what had happened at Masiaka. A fresh massacre to soon on the heels of the Battle of Jedah. They saw only death, disaster, and failure. It was the way of many to see the negative only.

They saw the casualty reports, the bombings, the corruption and concessions. They often seemed blind to whatever good came of even their own work. Soup kitchens, safe havens for refugees, medical care.

Jacques stood silently for a moment longer atop the vehicle, scanning the gathered Legionnaires. They were apprehensive; afraid, uncertain, angry, shamed. Action, not words, was what was needed.

"I go now to see Wallace-Johnson judged. You have your orders. From this day on, I need soldiers. Stand, and follow your orders, or step aside and be returned to your places of birth once we have liberated the airport and port."
He stepped down from the vehicle then, his Landwarriors once more obscuring his eyes from the world.

General Katlego's rebels were as close as Masiaka. Striking distance from General Wallace-Johnson's perimeter around Freetown. The Guinean warlords were carving a bloody swath through the unguarded north-east of the country. And, although he could not prove it, the violence in the south-east was likely the fault of the Libyans.

Peace would be bought through action, not words. Not appeasement, not bribes. The securing of that peace though, would anger politicians across the continent. They would be seen as upstarts, criminals. And those politicians would use words to stop the Legion. Economic sanctions, strongly worded letters, finger waving, cries for justice and trials.

But the time for words was over.

He climbed into the waiting vehicle, joined by a handful of Legionnaires tasked to escorting him to the meeting with Wallace-Johnson. Most would be forced to remain with the vehicles, but, if he were as lucky as some thought, he would be allowed one. His ace in the hole.

Should enough of his men choose to stand, there would be little bloodshed in Freetown. The 'government' soldiers had little true fight in them. They were thugs and brutes, cowards at heart. Faced by the allies Jacques had gathered around Freetown, allies backed by armed and armoured Legionnaires, Wallace-Johnson's men would surrender, given the chance, or run. Few would fight.

And once the airport and docks were opened, relief supplies would begin flowing in. The Legion relief convoy was mere hours away, bringing much needed emergency aid. And, of course, the added Legionnaires and equipment he would need to deal with General Katlego's forces. Miss Grey would have the freedom she so clearly wanted, or at least a greater illusion of freedom. As much as he could provide her, at least.

Edited by Jacques, Oct 28 2015, 09:20 PM.

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