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The Road to Masiaka
Only a few days after the Temne attack on the capital, and things there had grown deceptively quiet. Sierra Leone had never had a large military; a few thousand troops, mostly tasked to border security along their border with the failed state of Guinea. Nearly a third of that military had taken up residence in the capital, bolstered by local militias and Mende volunteers. General Wallace-Johnson had been known for his 'charismatic' impact on his troops even before the failed coup, although to most it was better seen as fear. But fear, as it turned out, was an effective motivator at times.

The situation in the city were quiet. Almost peaceful, if one could ignore the still fresh damage that had been caused by the fighting. The fires were extinguished, but the gutted ruins of apartments and businesses remained. The ruined hospitals and schools, government buildings. Military vehicles patrolling the streets, and curfews in place. It was not a peaceful quiet.

There was a steady flow of refugees into the city, but not nearly as overwhelming as may have been expected. Jacques' suspicions, and the reports of some of his men manning a make-shift refugee camp near the city, were quickly confirmed as a five vehicle convoy departed the Legion's headquarters in the now mostly empty embassy district.

Unusually, Jacques rode in the lead vehicle, leaving Natalie and Legionnaire Carpenter in the middle of the small convoy. The five Legion Premiere Landrovers had little trouble making their way through the trickle of refugees that had been let into the city by the military checkpoints that guarded the highway into the city.

Legionnaire Vanders was given shotgun in the lead vehicle, with Jacques and one other Legionnaire taking the back seats. They were stopped at each of the military check points, and even by one patrol in the city proper, and each time Jacques had dismounted, and spoke in private with the commanding officer. And each time he remounted with less physical cash tucked into a pouch on his load-bearing vest, and a rapidly worsening hope for the outlook of Sierra Leone.

Corruption was rampant in the organized chaos that currently existed. The government had come to a halt. Public services were already suffering due to lack of funding. The military knew full well that under the current situation, they were not being paid. And so bribes were a necessary evil. Many of the men who joined the Sierra Leone military had never done so out of a sense of civic duty. They had done it for easy jobs and a steady pay.

As they passed the layers of checkpoints that guarded Freetown along the highway, the orders that the military were operating under became readily apparent. Seacans or existing buildings had been pressed into service as prison cells, where 'suspicious' individuals were held for processing. Abandoned vehicles were pushed into the ditches on the sides of the highway, their drivers arrested or the vehicles having broken down or simply run out of fuel.

Belongings lay scattered in piles at the checkpoints, where Sierra Leonean soldiers, loyal to General Wallace-Johnson, had 'searched' for contraband or weapons. Of course, any valuables were taken also, especially if the owner couldn't pay a worth-while bribe. The further from the city they drew, the larger the crowds gathered at each checkpoint, until they finally passed the last, at Waterloo.

A commandeered civilian tractor sat idling at one side, and a barricade of wrecked cars and earth had been erected as crude chicanes to block the road. A dozen soldiers were bolstered by dozens more militiamen, little more then common thugs with guns or machetes, enforcing ques as people struggled to be next in line to try their luck at passing into the rumored safety of Freetown.

The Landrovers were put to a harsh test as the Legion convoy was forced to drive off-road after paying their passage at the military checkpoint, but after a half hour of bushwacking through muddy side roads or fields, they were able to return to the relatively flat surface that was the Masiaka-Yonibana Highway.

The highway ran through industrial parks that had popped up in only the past few years, and residential slums that had existed for decades. The facilities were mostly abandoned after the recent violence, and many had been looted. Some sported fire damage, and countless millions of dollars of damage had been caused. Many of the facilities would never be reopened, even if the country were to have returned to normal that very day.

The facility the Legion had pressed into service as a refugee camp was actually located some ten kilometers south west of the large town, hidden away in the dense jungle and accessed by surprisingly well maintained, paved, roads. Some five minutes later they were met by two Legionnaires on quads who rev'd their all-terrain vehicles out of the jungle off the heavy duty road and led the convoy into the facility.

The industrial facility was a state of the art processing plant. Mined oar was shipped in by truck, and a 'low pollution' processing technique turned out refined rhodium and other rare precious metals. A solid concrete fence surrounded the large facility, topped with rows of barbed wire and spaced surveillance cameras. Low towers dotted it's length and corners where security personnel could stand if the cameras failed or the added security was deemed necessary, and only one large automated gate allowed entrance to the facility.

Tall smoke stacks dominated the skyline of the facility, as well as the unknowably complex catwalks and open-framed structures that housed equipment and machinery. Nothing of the facility spoke of it being a good choice for a refugee camp, other then the perimeter wall of course. And the presence of the high-efficiency hydroelectric dam that provided a portion of the facility's operating power requirements. With none of the refinement processing running, it was enough to keep the lights, AC, and water running.

Hundreds of people had been taken in already, many residents of Masiaka or it's outlying communities. Most of the facility's workers had left, and few had bothered to return with their families, had they been lucky enough that they lived near the plant. The flag of the Red Cross flew from a flag pole that had likely once held the Chinese flag, as it had been one of their companies that owned the facility. That still owned it, technically.

The flag of Legion Premiere was sported from a far less prominent post below that of the Red Cross. Of course, calling the place a refugee camp was a stretch of the imagination. Sure, it had Red Cross staff to help aid those who had fled there for protection, but those staff were held there under protective custody more then being of their own free will. Luckily though, none of them were foolish enough to want to be outside the sturdy walls of the processing plant.

They passed the open gate, where a large earth mover sat just off from the gate to be used as an impromptu barricade should there have been cause. The facility had never been intended to house even the hundred or so workers that had been employed there. With the near two hundred refugees living within the walls, the place was crowded but strangely organized.

Crude shelters had been built out of lumber harvested from the surrounding jungle, established in neat, organized rows with space between. Fires were communal, and used for cooking and boiling water; the facility had running water and a kitchen facility, but it was not nearly large enough to handle the number of people that were housed there.

But despite all the hard work of the Red Cross staff rescued from Masiaka, the severe shortage of supplies was readily evident. People were hungry and tired, without enough shelter. Wounds were bound with boiled re-used bandages, and many showed signs of infection and fever was already evident in the tightly packed population.

The Legion convoy entered the facility and the pair of Legionnaires on the quads turned away and resumed their patrol of the surrounding jungle. They occasionally found groups of people still hiding in the jungle, trying to escape the violence that had plagued Masiaka since the coup attempt. And worked to track any Temne rebels in the area.

Some of the Legionnaires present were wounded themselves; black eyes and split lips, bruises. They had extracted the Red Cross workers, but had not done so unscathed, and a few of their number had been beaten by an angry mob of Temne sympathizers before they had managed to escape thanks to their regular training in crowd control techniques. More importantly, thanks to those drills and skills, the Legionnaires and their locally hired guards hadn't resulted to deadly force.

The vehicles were guided to one side of the gate, where there was enough clear space that they would be able to circle and be ready to drive out again when Jacques and Natalie's inspections were complete. That done, everyone finally dismounted.

Some of the Legionnaires were directed towards a few of the perimeter towers; their CEO and a VIP were on the ground, so the added security was deemed necessary. A few others would be tasked to unloading what few supplies they had managed to cart out to the waiting Red Cross staff and Legionnaires; ammo and a pair of Mk14 rifles and a shotgun.

For the Red Cross staff, there were some fresh medical supplies. Not nearly enough to meet their needs, but it was all they could spare for the camp until the airport was reopened and the Legion could start bringing in more supplies. Some food was also unloaded. There would soon be crews on the road driving the dangerous route from Morocco to Sierra Leone in a convoy of transport trucks guarded by Panhards. They would not arrive for ten days at the earliest.

Jacques returned the salute of the ranking officer of the camp, Lt Aaron Kamenashi, a seasoned Moroccan soldier that had joined the Legion only two years prior. "Sir. It is good to see friendly faces. We were visited by some Temne 'soldiers' this morning who were very interested in searching the camp for persons of interest. Cost my watch and wedding ring."
There was little doubt as to how that would have played out had Lt Kamenashi had let them in.

Jacques nodded in understanding and tugged back his sleeve, pulling free a watch he had won in a poker game some years ago the day the previous CEO had died in Nigeria, then took the Moroccan man's hand and slapped the watch in his palm, "My men need watches, Lieutenant. Timings are very important."
He smiled without hesitation; his men had done well, even as isolated as they were.

"Th...thank you, Sir."
He knew not to refuse Jacques' gift. It wasn't simply to replace the man's lost watch. It would likely end up being used as a bribe to help keep violence at bay in the future. He saluted to Jacques again then turned to Natalie next, "Ma'am, your people have set up office in this building over here. Houses the mess and clinic."
Unease rose in Jared once more as he was ordered to head out of Freetown with Danjou in a five vehicle convoy. He sat shotgun in the lead vehicle with Danjou in the back. The first leg of the journey, Jared spent doing some mediation exercises. He kept his eyes open, constantly looking for trouble, but soon he began to feel calmer

Jared took a final deep breath and allowed his eyes to close as he did so. In his mind's eye, he saw Ekene. It became a reminder of why he was here. He hoped for a day when Ekene wouldn't have to be scared and when the kids could play outside without their parents worrying. The thought was a sobering one, and Jared found himself acting his normal self again.

Jared didn't speak much on the trip, although maintaining calm had become difficult at every checkpoint when Danjou paid the bribe. Corruption - things just kept getting worse. Jared kept his cool though - he was a soldier. Danjou seemed to be taking things well enough into stride - he might be planning something. Jared would trust him.

When they arrived at their destination, Jared exited the vehicle, unslinging his FAMAS and opening the door for Jacques and the other Legionnaire, saluting as his commander exited. Jared took his spot on Jacques left as the other took guard on Jacques right, mirroring Jared. He summoned mana, sharpening his senses and kept his eyes moving, scanning for any threats. With other Legionnaires already here, he was sure things would be alright, but it never hurt to be cautious. His soldier sense was in overload anyways. They approached Lt. Kamenashi and he briefed Danjou on the situation. More bribes - his wedding ring!? Jared took another calming breath. After what he told Ekene, he knew he couldn't let fear control his actions.

And then Jacques gave the Lieutenant his watch and once more Jared found himself continuing to admire his commmander. Jacques turned to Ms. Gray and Jared allowed his eyes to cross over her and Jay. Jared gave Jay a nod as Jacques pointed out where Ms. Gray could work. Once more Jared thought of a ticking time bomb. Each second was one second closer to the whole place going to shit.
Legionnaire Vanders had taken well to his current role as Jacques' shadow. He spoke briefly with a few of his men at the facility, and the Red Cross representatives and community elders, walking among the people as much as possible. He was a public image, a charismatic man that was quick to smile and bearing an undeniable confidence that brought at least some fleeting comfort and promise of stability for the people that had taken refuge in the now abandoned plant.

He would kneel or squat to speak with children or the lame and sick, never shying away and seemingly unconcerned of the threat of disease. He, like his men, was up to date on all their vaccinations. While he met with the people in the camp, it would give Natalie a chance to meet with her people and get a firm understanding of the camp's needs. What little supplies they had managed to bring in from Freetown didn't go far, after all.

It was as he was making his way back to the vehicles that Lt Kamenashi came over at a reserved jog; to most, it would seem casual, but the fact that the officer was moving at anything other then a walk was clear evidence of bad news to be delivered. News Jacques was already aware of, as his Landwarriors displayed the communiques that the Lt had just received. He had programs that monitored all the Legion's chatter and automatically flagged things of greatest concern.

The news was two-fold. "Sir. My scouts have spotted a convoy of government trucks coming from Freetown. General Wallace-Johnsons' men, I suspect. There are also two SUVs a half hour ahead of them. Reporters, probably."
The Lt's suspicions were correct of course; Jacques was not surprised by the news. The visit to the facility had been a gamble. Wallace-Johnson needed to curb in the Legion's activities in the country after all; their competence and rapid reaction to the current situation was making the government and the General look bad.

And that was why Jacques had tipped off the press; the timing had been a gamble, but he had needed them to show up before the General's men, but not so soon as to prove to be a pain in his own ass. Reporters were almost universally terrible human beings, after all. But they had their purposes, and they would help set the stage to justify to the public Jacques' next move, should that check-mate indeed prove necessary.

"Legionnaire Vanders. Meet our reporter friends at the gate and see they are given ample space to set up what equipment they need. They will have half an hour to familiarize themselves with the situation here, and then I will grant them an interview."
It would give Jacques a chance to better judge Vanders' sense of judgement. The man was clearly intelligent, but how well was he had being in the public eye? As the Legion's first and foremost magic user, he would have to get used to the idea quickly.
Jared listened as the Lt. gave the Commander some news. Sounded like the press and General Wallace-Johnson were on their way. Jared wondered at that. The timing seemed coincidental, but given Danjou's lack of surprise, he wondered if the man had called the reporters.

Danjou issued an order to him, and Jared was less than enthused about it. He didn't let it show though. He was a soldier. Jared had been learning that Danjou did nothing without a reason. There was a reason why he assigned this to Jared, and Jared would have to trust his judgement.

So with that in mind, he snapped to attention, saluted and said, "Yes, Sir!"

Moving to the entrance, he found the reporters ready. He went to the one that looked to be in charge. He had found a spot that seemed ideal for them to set up, but they were the experts.

"Hello. I'm Legionnaire Vanders. I'm to help you find a place to set up your equipment and am willing to help carry anything if needed. I found a spot over there that I think will suffice."

The man looked where Jared gestured and nodded. "Yes that should work just fine."
The man looked at the stuff they had unloaded for a second and pointed at a box. "If you can carry that, I think we can make this in one trip."

"Of course,"
and with military precision, went to help out.

The man approached him again as they walked over. "So, do we have an itinerary?"
he asked.

Jared looked at him. "Yes. You will have a half an hour to familiarize yourself with the situation, and then Commander Danjou will be available for an interview."

The man nodded his understanding as they arrived and his crew began to set-up. Jared stood back, offering assistance if needed, but kept his thoughts on how he was going to answer the questions they were bound to ask him.
The freedom had bars. She'd agreed to Jacques' terms because she had no choice, and though she both understood the necessity and knew she should be grateful of the care, the restrictions still chafed. She could go to the refugee camp. But she could not stay. It would be too dangerous, a needless risk that would in any case drain resources already worryingly scarce. She'd not argued, nor fought the decision. And yet she knew the good she could do there, given time. The gift hovered at the edges of her senses, the warmth of a promise held silent. But she could hardly offer it to Danjou. He would think her mad. So Natalie bore the frustration without voicing her protest, pale gaze locked upon the passing scenery out the window. And thought.

If she'd wanted her mother's mantle, she need not have travelled all the way to Africa to do it. There were plenty of other ways she might have assisted the Red Cross from the safety and the comfort of the CCD, if she'd so chosen - as her mother had indeed urged for desperately the day she realised Natalie's intentions. As such she didn't desire the responsibility Jacques offered. But like it or not, the prestige of her name was a tool too useful to pass up. Halfway across the world and still the shackles tightened, reminded her that the blood in her veins would not be so easily discarded. Bemoaning it would serve no-one, so she chose only to forge on.

At the camp she left Jacques to dispense the charm, and went obediently in search of her colleagues. They must have realised, by now, that the legion's presence at Masiaka had centred around her; that obscene and abundant wealth had been responsible for the god-like hand sent to pluck her free from the bloody violence, and scooped them up too by virtue of the crosses stitched on their clothes. Days ago she had been one of them, and now she was something else. She felt the division without questing out to search for it. Or maybe elicited it by her own coolness. Either way the reunion was formal.

Natalie was adept at keeping herself apart, anyway, and she saw to her duties with detached efficiency. The camp was in a poor state, lacking too many basic supplies, the plant unfit to house even half its current capacity. Her colleagues, mostly teachers accustom to what passed as peace-time in Sierra Leone, did everything they could to support the sheltering community. Legion Première was a godsend, the foundation upon which anything had been salvaged at all. But she saw the strain. And the fear.

The thorn in her gut did not touch the smoothness of her expression, no matter how it ripped her insides. By the stillness of her reactions and the pale intensity of her stare, she gave the impression she might have been a thousand miles away from the severity of the situation. It was a mask. Masiaka straddled the line between Mende and Temne people, but the majority of its occupants were Temne. As were many of the refugees here. The Red Cross flag flew in prominence over the camp, speaking both sanctuary and neutrality, and yet soldiers pushed for entry. She didn't need to much imagine why. There were not so many legionnaires here that they could stop Mende soldiers eventually forcing their way within if they desired. Her gaze took a glance at Jay's face, carefully calm as she shared that moment of grim certainty. It would be carnage.

The moment she had done everything she could, Natalie took her leave in search of Azu, and found him with the waif and stray children severed from their families in the chaos that had engulfed their homes. Her chest squeezed tight; for a moment she was unsure that she was glad to see him here, trusting to the thin veneer of safety the camp offered. Azubuike was Temne, a prominent and well-liked individual in the town, but the son of a man who'd once been abducted into the life of a child-soldier. And had publicly condemned the cruelty. St. James school had been founded from the ashes.

He stood to greet them, wearied round the edges. Bandages wound his forearms, bruises mottling his dark skin and swelling an eye almost shut. Even then he smiled his earthy smile, like the torments of flesh did not bind his spirit. Word had already spread of their arrival; he was not surprised to see her, only glad. Natalie didn't know whether to envy or despair his tenacity as he opened an arm to pull her into a welcoming embrace, whether she consented to the familiarity or not. As it was, it concealed the moment her expression flickered in reaction to his injuries.

"The legion will do everything it can to protect you,"
she murmured into his shoulder. A paltry recompense for rebel soldiers that had had no business in a school except looking for her. Even Natalie did not have the heart to point out that such protection might not even be enough, at least not with so many young and open ears, but he must have read it in the strain of her expression. Or, more likely, deduced it on his own.

"I trust to God, Natalie,"
he said. She hoped his faith held him in good stead. She did not share it. A dry smirk twisted her lips as she pulled away, but the dull reflection of her eyes put little heart into it.

Rather than linger on it, she turned instead to introduce the two men. "Legionnaire Carpenter. Azubuike Timbo. A teacher at St. James, the school I was working at."
Her gaze paused on Jay's expression, even as Azu moved in to clasp his hand in greeting. Maybe it was cruel to show him the faces dearest to her, the ones who would suffer if Legion Premiere failed to keep this camp safe, a protection already so delicate but hard fought for. She did not think the extra motivation was required; rather it was a glimpse into her own, into an inner world heavily shuttered from those outside it. Cold as she was, she was not bereft of feeling. She'd wished to share this.

Around them the handful of children milled about with solemn curiosity, most Ekene's age or younger still. Natalie refused to pause on the word orphan, but it burned red in the back of her mind. A week ago these children had had the best promise of a generation. Some stared at Jay with wide eyes, a little cautious perhaps but not afraid; the legionnaires had already forged a palpable trust among these people. One child in particular seemed bemused by the stiffness of Jay's leg, shaped oddly beneath his trouser leg as it was.

Ayo was among the faces Natalie recognised, Kofi's small sister. She rested a hand on the child's head, the only care she showed in the smallest of gestures, and even that enough to spark more tears in already puffed red eyes. The girl buried her face in Natalie's thigh.

Ahead, another young one threaded through the makeshift shelters towards them. "Men with cameras!"
he said, breathlessly.
Jacques and Lt Kamenashi vanished into the main administrative building of the facility shortly before the reporters had arrived. Legion men working along side the members of the Red Cross saw to it that the meager supplies were put to best use, while other Legionnaires took their places in the staggered guard towers or checked on their vehicles and gear. A few even managed to get to ground, sleeping in full kit in the relative shade provided by buildings or equipment.

The reporters had their drivers park their vehicles as directed by Legionnaire Vanders, then tasked their people to set up what little equipment they had. Neither were affiliated with any big networks; they were freelance reporters, who would sell their stories to the highest bidders.

An older man, clearly experienced and well used to life in regions such as what Sierra Leone had become, wore a helmet emblazoned with 'Press' on the back, and a bullet proof vest that had clearly seen a long life of use. It gave him an almost trustworthy air; the man had been around, and knew how things were done. Knew the risks, and more importantly, knew how to work both sides in a conflict to get the best story. An American, the man had been working in Africa for decades, although as a freelance reporter, he was not a recognized face on the evening news.

The other reporter was a Sierra Leonean man, a known name on the national news channel. Adisa Jackson refused to be overshadowed by the more experienced American freelance reporter, and as the camera crews worked to set up their gear, the man stepped up to Legionnaire Vanders and offered a hand to shake, "You are American, yes? It is unusual to see someone like yourself in Legion Premiere. What brought you to Africa?"

"I am sorry you must see my country in such a state, but much like these people, I must thank you for all your efforts so far. There is no doubt that you and your comrades have saved countless lives in only a few short days. It was most fortuitous that your company was here in such numbers already, isn't it? I've heard there are a surprising number of Americans and Custody citizens in the Legion these days. A surprising organization, considering ongoing political and social tension between the two countries isn't it? Do you find it challenging to work with former CCD soldiers? What is your opinion on General Wallace-Johnson's recent pressures on the government and rumours of corruption and violence on the part of soldiers under his command? Some feel that the Legion has over-stepped it's bounds regarding the establishment of these camps around the country. How is it a privately owned company's place to take such responsibilities on itself? Where is the profit in tying up so much of the Legion's sadly depleted manpower here in Sierra Leone, especially after the recently and drastic losses suffered in Saudi Arabia?"

Personally, Adisa was thankful for the Legion's presence and activities to date, but as a reporter he had to dig for anything that could be used to spin a good story, or else he wouldn't get paid.


The American reporter left Adisa to the small fries. He had done his research, and even had an idea of who exactly was visiting the make-shift refugee camp that day, something that had not been leaked by Jacques. Jared Wilson scanned the camp as his three man crew set up their equipment, then waved for one man carrying a small, expensive camera with built-in satellite link, usually used for live broadcasts, and made his way towards a scattering group of Red Cross workers.

His goal quickly revealed herself amid a crowd of waifs and orphans, in the company of another of the Legionnaires and Azubuike Timbo, another man with whom Jared wished to interview. The CEO had given him ample time to arm himself with questions, and now it was a matter of ferreting them out.

He approached with a warm smile, making his presence known to the trio. He was a charming man by most opinions, which was part of why he had survived in his chosen line of work for so long. "Mr Timbo. Miss Grey. I am Jared Wilson, freelancer. I was wondering if you might have some time for a few questions about the future of your organization's school in Masiaka?"

Edited by Jacques, Nov 5 2014, 08:00 PM.
Jared maintained an outward calm as the reporter approached him, but inside, he was frustrated. He didn't like dealing with reporters. He seldom had to deal with them while he was with the Roswell Police, but they got the low-down on how to deal with them. Jared shook the man's hand, a native reporter rather than a freelancer. Despite his irritation, Danjou knew the reporters would talk to him. It's what they did. It meant that he had put Vanders here for a reason, whether it was a test or simply that Jacques trusted him, he didn't know.

The next part Jared would have to be careful. The man asked Jared some questions, and Jared analyzed the man as he did. He picked out things like "fortuitous that your company was here" and "how is it a privately owned company's place." At first the man had thanked Jared for his work, and he nodded in recognition of the thanks, and Jared felt the man's gratitude was genuine, however, the wording of his questions showed that he was looking for an underlying motive for the Legion to be here - some secret agenda. It was the kind of thing that sold and it eliminated the "No Comment" answer. No comment pointed to a hidden agenda. Jared would have to answer, and he would have to answer knowing that likely what he said would be twisted and used out of context to make a selling story.

Jared wasn't a politician, but he knew the strategy - redirection. Focus the conversation on your strengths and don't show the weaknesses. It wasn't always easy to do, but it was all Jared had. He would focus on two things - the Legion's cohesiveness as an organization and the humanitarian efforts of the Legion in Sierra Leone.

"All very good questions,"
Jared responded with a smile. "Let's start out with your questions about working in the Legion and the political ties some of it's members may have. The great thing about the Legion Premiere is that it does extend out of those normal boundaries. It's a powerful thing when people put their differences aside and work towards a common goal. I've served with people of several different nations, and it's amazing on how the fact that we are working towards the same thing makes us a cohesive and effective organization."

Jared paused for a moment, allowing the reporter to think for a bit, then continued. "As for our presence here, it really is simple. We saw a country overwhelmed by the chaos that had engulfed it. We saw a way to help, and so we did. What it comes down to is this - there were people getting hurt, and we had a way to help them. When it comes to that, you have to do something. So that's what we did - by assisting directly and indirectly through the Red Cross. We need to think of what is best for the people of Sierra Leone so they can live without fear. Once again, we have a common goal, and because of that, as you mentioned, we have been efficient with those efforts"

Jared was okay with what he said, but he wondered what they would take out of context. He hoped he passed Jacques' test at least. Talking to the press was never something fun.
Laurie flashed her press credentials at the school perimeter. Her intern, Zander, did the same.

"Look alive and keep your eyes open, Z."
He nodded as he shifted his sunglasses from his hair to his nose. Laurie led the way, wallet and recorder at the ready.

The story was Jacques Danjou and Legion Premiere. Yeah, sure, but Laurie paused in the middle of the grounds. There were a dozen other reporters, both nationals and foreigners present. She wanted the story they weren't going to show. The behind the scenes, off the margin of view news.

"Lets do a lap and I'll let my gut decide."

In their wandering, she snapped a few pictures and took a few notes, like how in a tuft of grass she found a box of broken pencils next to a spray of empty cartridges. "They had practically no warning."
The thought drew a grim line across her lips. The brutality wasn't hard to imagine, especially when middle eastern dirt was still fresh on her shoes.

When they returned to the main gate, the Legionnaire that directed them inside the grounds was now himself the object of interviews. Lawrence watched from several steps back with an amused grin on her face. Babysitting the press, he was clearly not pleased with the assignment.

Maybe he had a story. Everyone did, after all.

She tossed out a question. "And what is that common goal, Legionnaire? If Wallace-Johnson isn't going to cut it, who does Danjou have in mind to rule Sierra Leone?"
Eyes turned toward her. That's when she waved her badge, proud to introduce herself. "Lawrence Monday, MondayMargin."
Jared was approached by another reporter. She introduced herself as "Lawrence Monday." The name rang a bell from somewhere - something political. She called him out on his statement. It seemed as if she had caught his redirection and wanted more.

Jared took her offered hand. He may not be a fan of the press, but he was polite regardless. Her first question was easily explained. It made Jared think of Ekene and he couldn't help but hope that he was okay.

"Miss Monday, we hope for a day when the children here can go to school and not worry about getting shot, a day when their parents let them go outside and play with peace of mind, and a day where the people of Sierra Leone can go to bed without wondering whether or not they'll wake up."

He briefly debated telling Ekene's story, but it wasn't his to tell. His answer had been completely sincere though. It was what he wanted to see, and he felt confident enough that Danjou felt the same.

Which brought Jared to her second question - Wallace-Johnson. To be honest, he knew nothing of what Jacques had planned. He could beat around the bush, but he doubted it would work around Monday. "As for your second question Miss Monday, I honestly don't know. Knowing the Commander, I would think he would tell you it's not his decision to make."
She dropped his hand, eyes squinted ever so slightly as she listened to his answer. And what a terrible one it was too. Yet it only made her smile grow coy. "I see now why you were given this job, Legionnaire....?"
She gave him a chance to say his name. "Every organization needs a poster boy as its front. And you are a cute one."
Lawrence's laugh was infectious, inviting as a favorite blanket.

She exchanged looks with her fellow reporters. They seemed unenthusiastic by her insinuation. Well, they can suit themselves and their boring, copy-cat stories. Zander, on the other hand, by the expectant look on his face, knew exactly what she was getting at, and he approved. Then again, as an unpaid intern, it was his job to approve everything Lawrence did. And, this wasn't his first trip to the field either.

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