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Coup D'etat
The political situation in Sierra Leone in recent years had been complicated. With the discover of what could prove to be some of the world's largest deposits of rhodium in the world, rivaling the rich deposits in Russia and the dwindling mines in South Africa, the situation had only grown more complicated.

Desperate to secure a fresh source of the super rare metal outside of the CCD, the United States and China had both been applying greater pressure on the Sierra Leone government, encouraging trade agreements and mining rights that would favour themselves over any other potential bidder. And to ensure it's stranglehold on the market, the CCD had begun flexing it's own influence.

With the discovery of the deposits, there had been a massive economic boom which had seen the construction of modern mines and industrial complexes in the southern portions of the country, populated mostly by the Mende peoples, who also controlled the country's government.

Wealth and jobs flowed into southern Sierra Leone, while the north remained mostly untouched by the increased wealth and opportunity. To appease foreign investors, all major infrastructure improvements had been in the regions of the mines and plants, in the south, and many in the northern half of the country, mostly of the Temne tribes, felt increasingly abandoned and ignored, left to suffer.

Increasing rumors of political corruption and bribery had led to ever-increasing tensions between the north and south halves of the country, and in light of recent elections, seeing the Mende peoples again in a strong majority rule, could prove to be the last straw in a country with a long history of military coups, assassinations, and civil war.


Légion Première held a large number of contracts throughout Sierra Leone. If seeking a private security company to keep your state-of-the-art processing plant safe, you turned to the best. Twenty Legionnaires were tasked to a security contract for the sprawling industrial complex, and they had supplemented their man-power with a fifty-person team hired from the local population.

There was daily training regimes for the auxiliaries, and the platoon level of Sierra Leonean were slow to take to the difficulty and expectations of the Legionnaires.

However, it benefited both the Legion and the locals immensely. Potential recruits for the Legion, as well as a means to increase the cash value of their contract, and of course a direct link to the local community and the rumor mill, while the locals gained jobs and life skills that could lead to future employment, and a sense of involvement and trust towards the heavily armed Legionnaires that routinely escorted convoys of precious goods around their country.

The situation in Sierra Leone had been growing grim in recent weeks; reports were scarce as the Mende government strove to keep things under wraps, but it seemed increasingly evident that there was increasing violence on racial boundaries. Temne youths attacking Mende tribes people.

Lieutenant Afolayan, deployment commander of the Legion task force assigned to the American industrial facility, oversaw the marksman training of ten of the Sierra Leonean citizens that they had hired to bolster their security team.

The ten were next up on the perimeter fence shift, not yet experienced enough to be trusted to convoy escort, but their presence alone was intimidating enough to keep locals from trying to sneak into the compound and causing trouble.

He watched as the ten men hunkered down between the heavy metal riot shields they used for training purposes, locking their shields together awkwardly with much clatter, cursing and complaining before a high pressure hose was turned on them, hitting the shields mostly at their center-most points and walking across their line. The idea of the training was for them to learn how to control their shields and support each other against a surging crowd, to make sure their shield wall didn't buckle or flex. Any opening was a risk to the entire crew.

The ten men were tired and wet, but with only an eight hour fence patrol ahead of them, the training would not be so taxing that they could not do their jobs. Which was good, because they were going to be bloody exhausted by the time Lt Afolayan was done with them for the day.

One of the men slipped in the mud at their feet, and the hose immediately shifted aim to the man's floundering shield. He buckled and fell, pulling down the man next to him. A third turned as if to grab them, and the high pressure jet of water found his feet, knocking him down. In moments the entire line was floundering and shattered, and Lt Afolayan signaled the Legionnaire manning the hose to let up. He was about to call for them to reset when the Legion signaler came running.

Afolayan signaled for one of his Caporal Chef's to take over for him, then moved towards his next task of the day. Four empty dump trucks bound for one of the rhodium depots waited between a Panhard and a black SUV, the only vehicles the Legion had to spare. Afolayan counted his blessings to have even a single Panhard, since other detachment commanders were working with simple pickup trucks and SUVs at best.

Ten of the more experienced auxiliaries waited with five Legionnaires, undergoing their final kit inspections as the civilian truck drivers climbed into their rigs, ready to make the five hour drive to the depot.

A few quick questions to his men to make sure they knew the route to and from the depot, and their actions on should they run into trouble, and the convoy set out.


Two hours into their trip, things went to hell. Local radio stations began making unconfirmed reports of fighting in the capital. An attempted coup d'etat, the president gravely wounded and moved to the main hospital in the capital, Freetown. Temne-sympathizing military units attacking the hospital, which was destroyed in the ensuing battle with the Mende-loyal Presidential Guard. Radio stations started going silent or began declaring the current government illegal and that a Temne-backed interim government would be formed under General Katlego, a well known Temne tribesman and senior member of the Sierra Leonean military.

Others encouraged sympathizers of the Mende tribe to strike back at the traitorous Temne. A few independent reporters were already delivering stories of violence by vigilante groups of either major faction attacking civilians of the other faction.

The convoy passed through a small town on it's way to the depot, and the Legionnaires within stared out the windows of their vehicles grimly. What locals that owned vehicles were loading them up with belongings, likely intent to flee to the capital. They were mostly of Mende ethnicity, and were dangerously close to the mostly Temne northern half of the country.

They continued through, although Lieutenant Afolayan was painfully aware that there were quite a few people in the village without vehicles to see them to safety. But as they reached the north side of the village, his gunner let out a sudden curse and kicked the Lt in the shoulder to draw his attention to the screen mounted on the dash of the Panhard.

Three large military trucks were barreling towards the town loaded with fighting age males in civilian clothes, rocking AK's and RPGs and machetes. Temne tribesmen and soldiers, if he didn't miss his guess.

"Turn us around, now. Center of town, space those trucks ten meters apart, drop the ramps. Get the people in them."
He slapped together a quick report and sent it straight to both the CEO and the management team in charge of the facility they were tasked to guard. He was bringing guests for an extended stay.

The vehicles turned wide, the Panhard relying on it's heavy bumper to plow through the brush that grew on the edges of the jungle road, and minutes later they were coming to an abrupt halt in the village, the auxiliaries and Legionnaires dismounting and rushing to secure the area and ready the trucks.

"You three! On me, now."
Lt Afolayan picked out three village men who were struggling to help people gather food and belongings, and the three only hesitated a moment before moving over to the Legion officer. "Women, children, water, food, onto the trucks now. We are moving you to a secure location. Temne vigilantes will be here in ten minutes, so move fast."

There was, blessedly, no argument and the three men started calling to the villagers to get things organized. "Sapper Aberash. Take the auxilaries, set up a road block then firing positions. The rest of you, over see the loading. Move now."

The sapper snapped to and grabbed hold of the Sierra Leonean auxiliaries, putting them to work moving debris onto the road to hinder the approach of the trucks.

Ten minutes wasn't enough time to get everyone loaded. When the trucks rounded the bend and came into view of the Legionnaires and the small village, Lt Afolayan was standing calmly behind the low barricade, his men still working to see the women and children, and eventually the men, loaded onto the dump trucks.

The three military trucks barreled up to the barricade but stopped short at the last minute, and the men in the back were hooting and hollering in excitement as they dismounted. They came forward as a mob, confident and ready for violence thanks to their superior numbers. Lt Afolayan stood alone against sixty armed men ready to commit terrible violence.

"Who are you? Do wish to die here soldier boy?"
A man wearing the tunic of the Sierra Leonean military, hanging open over a bright pink shirt, and a baseball cap backwards, waved a pistol towards Afolayan threateningly while walking towards the man as if expecting the Legionnaire to simply give way.

The Lieutenant frowned irritably at the man's state of dress. "You and your men will get back into your trucks, and leave the area immediately. In one hour time, the area shall be capitulated to your forces. The civilians are under the care of Légion Première."
He stared boldly at the apparent leader of the gang, entirely unperturbed by the presence of sixty armed and violent men. The crowd behind him were continuing to load onto the trucks under the firm direction of the other Legionnaires, while the auxiliaries were nervously hoisting boxes of food and jugs of water up as well.

The pistol waving man stalked closer, till one foot was planted on the edge of the barricade; a collection of firewood, garbage cans, carts and even a junked car, and leveled the pistol to Afolayan's head, where it wavered drunkenly in the man's grip. "And what are you goin' to do if I say we aren't leaving?"

The Legionnaire officer smiled, a wide white-toothed grin, "My CEO has given me two options to remedy that situation. The first, I can offer a $10,000 CCD wire-transfer to your personal account. The second, my men and I fix bayonets."

As he spoke, the three Legionnaires handed the task over to the men the Lieutenant had first chosen and moved forward, their rifles held at the low ready. Then as one they brought the weapons up and drew their bayonets from their frogs, barring eighteen inches of sharp steel which they calmly mounted to their FAMAS assault riles.

The crowd of men seemed unsettled by how bold the Legionnaire's were. They were of a tribal warfare mindset; the force with the most men won. Always. The force with the fewer men fled or surrendered. Always. When it came to actually fighting, one side usually broke after only a few casualties. Fights were rarely to the death.

The leader's weapon wavered and he glanced at the five Legionnaires and their frightfully long bayonets and bold, confident stares. His gaze moved back to the officer he was threatening, and he slowly pulled his foot off the barricade, "$10,000? CCD yeah? Yeah...yeah that'll work."

"Tell your men to lower their weapons, then give me your account information."
He pulled out his Wallet, and keyed it active, and watched the leader of the Temne tribesmen calmly.

The man watched for a moment, glancing at the armed Legionnaires then to the officer, then waved for his men to lower their weapons. The chance for money was more interesting then murder and rape, for the moment at least; they could always just kill the Legionnaires and the villagers after being paid.

The officer stuffed his pistol back in his pocket, and pulled out a Wallet of his own while his men shuffled and bunched together to whisper and plot their evil intents.

Sapper Aberash sat in the Panhard, watching from the shadowed interior, then hit the horn before pressing a button on a small wireless transmitter he held. Two claymores detonated on the front of the low barricade, a dozen meters left and right of where the officer stood, aimed towards the general area of the rebels.

Hundreds of ball bearings and a wash of explosive pressure hit the gathered crowd of fighters. Dozens were killed, and dozens more died as the fifth Legionnaire stood up in the roof hatch of the Panhard, calmly racked the action on the mounted MK19 automatic grenade launcher, and walked a burst of frag grenades through the survivors.

Aberash's boots hit the earth before the last grenade had detonated, and the three Legionnaires fired a few shots into the group as well, before calmly walking forward to start spearing the wounded with their bayonets. Lt Afolayan simply turned back to the gathered civilians and resumed barking orders; not long later they were all loaded up and rolling back to the plant.

Similar incidents happened near every Légion Première position, much to the chagrin of the companies that actually owned the expensive industrial outposts. But the Légion employed very intelligent lawyers and public relations officers, and their explanations were quite simple and well worded. Good public image meant a lot. These companies were now known for their humanitarian desire to protect non-combatants in a civil war. Sure they'd take a hit in the profit margin, but so long as it was kept short and they were back up and running before the loss of profits made them nervous.
Freetown, Sierra Leone, Légion Première regional office

Capitaine Gordon Antić stood in his small office as he leafed through reports and administrative requests from the various teams he had in the field throughout Sierra Leone. It was all the usual fair until two reports from very different sides of the country caught his eye.

One of the teams stationed at a small airport in northern Sierra Leone had mentioned sounds of gunfire at the local military base, that hadn't seemed to be coming from the weapons ranges. In fact, the officer making the report had mentioned the fire seemed to be originating from the section of the base where the troops barracks was situated.

A second report mentioned that a dozen trucks and APCs had been seen moving into Freetown early that morning, and that the troops that could be seen in the backs of the trucks had been armed; the RPGs they carried actually had anti-pers rounds loaded, rather then travelling empty.

Both incidents had been time stamped, and were within minutes of each other.

He frowned, then pulled up an image of the country. Various markers indicated the location of military bases as well as unit dispositions; the images attached to the reports of the troop movement into Freetown was compared to what the Legion knew of the Sierra Leonean military's deployments. The unit patches he could make out were all from the northern half of the country, a unit made up predominately of Temne tribesmen as he quickly learned.

The base the shooting had been heard from was where a major infantry regiment was based, which was made up of troops gathered from around the country, although again predominately Temne, with maybe a quarter of Mende backgrounds. He pondered for a long moment over what the information could mean.


He snapped up his Wallet from the desk, swiping away all the various pop ups that it was displaying, intending to send warning to his men and the CEO, but it was already too late. An explosion could be heard near the city center through his open window (his office had no air conditioning), and it was quickly followed by the distant snap and pop of weapons fire. One glance out the window confirmed his fear; smoke was beginning to rise from the parliamentary buildings, the seat of the government.

It was a coup.


Within five hours the city was pure chaos. Netland Hospital was on fire; the president had been rushed there for treatment of his injuries sustained in the failed assassination attempt. The ensuing gun fight when Temne-loyal military forces stormed the place had left the building and probably hundreds of bystanders dead.

Mende-loyal military forces were fighting a defensive battle against the better prepared Temne units. Public order had collapsed entirely; the police had been hit hard by platoons of Temne soldiers and rebels that had been sneaking into the city in small groups all night.

The abandonment of the Légion Première office had gone swimmingly. They had had plans in place for situations like this, and had moved quickly as soon as the first explosion had rocked the government district.

They had moved to the Moroccan embassy in quick order, and were admitted quite willingly by the small team of military police that served as the embassy's guards. By the time the hospital had been set aflame, the small embassy had been fortified and the CEO had been brought up to date with what little information Capitaine Antić could offer.

"Your men are not in an enviable position, Capitaine Antić. But there is work to be done."
Jacques spoke with the Capitaine via video call over their Wallets. He was seated in his private jet, flying over the Red Sea and into Egypt, on the homeward leg of his trip to DV.

Capitaine Antić nodded grimly. The sounds of weapons fire could be heard even from within the embassy's thick walls. Ambassador Oluwaseun Stankic, the Moroccan representative to Sierra Leone. She was into her fifties, and was well regarded in the Moroccan government as a no-nonsense woman.

"Mr Danjou, I appreciate your men's presence here at the embassy, but what exactly is it you have in mind here? I strongly doubt the Moroccan government is going to offer you a contract to guard their embassy for them."
She studied the young European man carefully; she was all too aware of him and his company's antics in the past. They got entirely too involved in situations like this for a private security company. But they had a well earned reputation for the quality of their men, so she was almost willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

"Ambassador Stankic. A powerful name, Stankic. Croatian, I believe? Fitting, considering Capitaine Antić's birth place. Means...Stand and Glory, yes? Or perhaps Become Glorious is more accurate. Well, with your cooperation, you are going to become a very well loved woman in Sierra Leone."
He made a gesture at his Wallet, and a series of screens popped up for the Capitaine and Ambassador to view.

Capitaine Antić nodded with grim determination at what he saw, while Ambassador Stankic blanched at what it meant. She glanced at the Capitaine and was horrified at the look of determination on the man's face, then looked to the image of Jacques with a mix of terror and anger. "You would bring death on everyone in this building if you do this!"

"And if I don't, then they will be lucky if they are only killed. So you may as well come aboard with the plan, Ambassador. Take the bold lead, and save lives. Do not simply hide behind your walls and wait for your government to come rescue you."

She shook with a mix of anger and fear, but after a moment's hesitation she finally nodded her assent. "Fine...I will endorse this."


One hour later, near the State Lodge, one of two Presidential abodes in Freetown. The other, Kabasa Lodge, was embroiled in a heated battle between Mende and Temne forces.

A small group of Sierra Leonean soldiers knelt with their hands behind their heads, staring fearfully at the barrels of weapons in the hands of Temne rebels. They had surrendered without a fight, and were about to pay the price of being on the wrong side in an African civil war.

The rebels were not going to be gentle, as a small group, apparently the leaders, came forward with machetes and bottles of rum they had 'liberated' from the bar inside the Lodge, while others dragged the President's family from the building kicking and screaming.

The now dead President Knezevic's wife was in rough shape by the time the rebels dragged her outside, bleeding profusely from a wound to her head where she had been struck with the butt of a rifle, and her two sons and daughter, ranging from 5 to 11 years old, were being dragged by their hair towards another apparent leader and another holding a video camera.

They were to be executed and the recording to be publicly broadcast to demoralize the forces loyal to the government.

The Presidential Guard lowered their gaze in shame, unwilling to watch the President's family be murdered in front of their eyes. They hadn't even bothered to put up a token resistance.

The President's wife was thrown to the ground, while machete wielding rebels lined up behind the kneeling guards. There were not enough machetes for the number of surrendered soldiers, and it would be long and bloody process. Under the barrels of guns though, there was little they could do to turn the tide.

Machetes rose while the children screamed and struggled to get to their barely conscious mother, not fully understanding how dire their situation. Soldiers struggled to keep the kids under control, and those with weapons leveled on the Presidential Guards diverted their attention for a moment to laugh and chirp their struggling comrades.

Ten shots rang out in near perfect unison. Ten rebels dropped dead, and another ten a bare second later as chaos broke loose. Rebels spun and fired blindly at the street, not sure at first where they were being fired on from.

Ten Legionnaires, led by Capitaine Antić were closer then the rebels had thought. Their initial attack had made the odds far more balanced, and the heavily armoured soldiers of Légion Première came out of hiding, firing at will at the scattered rebels.

"Fire at will!"
Capitaine Antić carried a SIG Sauer pistol and stalked towards the rebels closest to the President's family. The pistol barked twice and the rebel with the camera dropped, his t-shirt quickly turning red as his still-beating heart pumped his blood from his body.

The Legionnaire to his left staggered and growled an angry curse as a round from a rebel kalishnikov struck his heavy ballistic plates, but he kept his feet and took another step forwards, firing at the rebels that had let go of the President's children, dropping another.

Machete-wielding rebels charged them in a suicidal rush, and Legionnaires met the with blade rather then bullet. Bayonets fixed, they expertly parried the unpracticed hacks and slashes of the rebels, and skewered their opponents front-to-back with their wickedly long bayonets, before callously kicking the dying men from their weapons and stabbing the again for good measure.

The Presidential Guard rose up to seize their last chance of survival, wrestling with the rebels that had moments before held them at gun point.

Thirty seconds later, and the Lodge was secured. Capitaine Antić rounded up the President's family, and the shamed guards, re-armed now that the rebels had been dispatched. They seized the vehicles the rebels had arrived in, six pick-up trucks, two of which mounted crudely attached .50 cal machine guns, and three up-armoured Légion Première SUVs roared up, into which the President's family were loaded.

Within five minutes, they were loaded and barreling back to the Moroccan embassy.

Edited by Jacques, Apr 27 2014, 08:22 PM.
Jay was sitting shotgun in a black Escalade, the second in their impressive two-car convoy. That made three men per car and six total on their team. All of which could have fit into either of the beefy SUV's, but this way there was twice the chance of someone from Legion Premiere arriving in the city center. Jay would prefer both groups make it in and out with their teeth intact, but he was prepared to do anything to see the assignment through. It was why he volunteered to take rear watch.

The mood in the SUV was normal as ever. Picard, who was driving, and Smitty, monitoring the road behind, his fellow Legionnaires so-nicknamed for Picard's shiny bald head and Smitty's teeth implants, were talking up a recent fútbol (aka: soccer) championship, and Jay could contribute no more to the conversation than to make sure they knew his stance on soccer. He stifled a chuckle at that. Sometimes he desperately missed the Marines.

Despite the seemingly distant thoughts, he was hardly distracted. In fact, he was keeping a sharp eye on his side of the road. Soccer-talk was a big, big reminder that he was far from home, but definitely not the only one. They were cruising at a good speed down what should be a four-lane road with a curb-height cement partition dividing the two sides. Buildings on either side were built at the edge of the pavement with only a narrow dirt path for walking space, which meant people were constantly spilling over on the outer lanes, walking, or in today's case, half-running, to get to where they were going, they kept Jay’s sharp attention at the ready. While, the buildings themselves were single, sometimes two-stories, they were often built with low, flat roofs very easy to stand or lay down upon, though the shingles would be hot as the surface of the sun today. A sniper patient enough to roast on one of these roofs for hours on end would need some serious gear or else be boiled alive. Few palm trees obscured the distance, which made it easy to see smoke rising from pockets at varying distances from the road. The rest of the periphery was filled with walls, parked cars, and abandoned buildings. Strangely, Freetown reminded Jay of Jamaica, but you know, with more guns.

Their convoy slowed as they approached a mess of cars blocking the road. Radio from the lead car came on the speaker, and Picard and Smitty immediately ceased chatter to listen.
"Take alternate route 3Bravo," said the voice of Corporal Contee. The lead Escalade drove over the partition in the road and Jay's SUV followed. Two swift u-turns later, and they were gunning for the most recently passed side-street. Detours were a way of life in this line of work, but Jay noticed Picard and Smitty were quiet as their convoy continued. Side streets meant narrower lanes, and that meant greater possibilities for unexpected interruptions.

Ten minutes later, they were still on route to the city center, zig-zagging their way through side-streets, across dirt-roads, and over enough pot-holes to give a guy a concussion. By the time they emerged onto solid pavement once more, Jay flat-out had to ignore the annoyance throbbing in his skull to keep his senses sharp. One more turn around a traffic circle and everything quickly became more congested, the buildings more substantial, and the pedestrians thicker. They were nearing the denser part of the city, and Jay was perfectly aware that most everyone in sight were young men of fighting age. Many harbored weapons at the sides. He adjusted his sunglasses, frowned, and glanced at Picard.

Another blockade turned their SUV off the main road again. Corporal Contee's voice took over their car, "Alternate route 8Ninja."

They dove down a one-way alley barely wide enough for the SUVs, and Jay grew increasingly attentive of every parked car shoved on the edges of the lane, half in the narrow trenches that served as water-runoff, and only barely out of their way. Although he was thoroughly aware that these Escalades were powerful enough to ram their way through if necessary, everyone preferred a more uneventful ride. Himself included. There was a woman at the end of this trip in need of extraction. Her image, stats, name and information filled his head once more, going over the details he already knew when movement jerked his head to a wire-capped wall adjacent to the lead Escalade. A pair of young men threw rocks at the roof of the vehicle and Jay could practically hear Contee's mumbling french curses in response. The sound of a rock hitting the side of a car sounded eerily like a gunshot doing the same, and none of the men inside would appreciate the noise, but the pair of kids laughed and jumped out of sight quickly.

They sounded the horns at one point to clear the lane of a pack of fighting dogs. They slammed on the brakes when a naked kid ran right in front of them. Smitty announced that a single driver on a motorcycle was approaching from the rear at a high rate of speed. Jay cursed a few happy words for the asshole that slapped his car door with the palm of one hand when the motorbike flew around them. It was a long drive.

At Picard's request for ETA, Jay pulled up a map of their route. It projected across the dashboard at the lower rim of the windshield for the driver to follow in real-time. Not the greatest technology, as the bright sun made the lines and distances difficult to read in the glare, but helpful nonetheless.

They were still five winding kilometers from the hospital.
Edited by Jay Carpenter, Apr 30 2014, 10:59 AM.
Only darkness shows you the light.

St. James' School, Masiaka, Sierra Leone

The compound housing the school was still quiet. Natalie liked the extremities at either end of the day and had never been a particularly restive sleeper; she usually roused when the morning was still grey, and was dressed and out by the time golden fingers of light brightened the sky. This morning, as he was sometimes prone to do, Azubuike Timbo, one of the school's senior teachers, had joined the restlessness of her wanderings. He had an earthy presence, and mostly held an equitable silence she had never minded as company. When he did speak, it was rarely the dull banalities of idle pleasantries.

She nursed a chipped porcelain mug of coffee, empty but for the cool dregs. The day already felt arid, as the season relented towards winter and cooler winds blew in from the Sahara. Not that it made the temperature much more bearable to her; the white shirt bearing the red stitched cross lay open over a grey vest, fluttering a little in the dry breeze. An identity badge hung loose from the belt loops of her trousers, supposedly worth more protection than the gun she sometimes wished she had instead. Not quite the humanitarian thought, but she'd never claimed unselfish reasons for bearing the red cross.

In the pale dawn they'd talked a little of the town and the creep of agitation simmering hotly beneath the surface of civility. This close to the southern border the unrest was palpable; it was one of the reasons the Red Cross had chosen Masiaka to house their education project for girls. Sometimes a reminder of neutrality helped ease the tensions, but Natalie believed they were here to better place themselves for the inevitable conflicts to come. Not a tactful thing to point out, and she didn't, but darkness eventually devoured the conversation anyway; they faded mutually to silence. Azubuike's heavy strides drummed a rhythm that lulled her mood, and she slipped a little in the monotony of the peace.

Until a whimper pierced the normal morning noises.

And then they found the two boys.

Her breath caught in her throat, though her expression remained unnaturally still. The burnt-orange dirt soaked up the blood greedily, where it did not splash sickeningly vibrant over the white wash of the wall where one boy had slumped. His forearms had been slashed under the duress of protection, though it had not stopped a gash to his head deep enough to bare skull. His eyes were rolling crazily to the whites, but he was still breathing. She recognised his slack face; the boy's name was Kofi. His sister Ayo attended the school on a scholarship supported by the Red Cross. They were both Mende.

The other boy was also on the ground, but aside from dust and red spatters his blue uniform was untouched. From the marks in the dirt, he'd fallen awkwardly and then desperately scooted himself back from his schoolmate. He was cradling his left hand, and the heavy wheeze of his breath alternated been viciousness, despair and pain, but he couldn't take his gaze off the massacre. His eyes were wet, black as polished onyx. She could see them shining feverish beneath the peak of his cap.

Anguish choked from Azubuike's throat; he moved reflexively, barreling his body between the two children charged into his care. Nausea rolled in Natalie's stomach; the scarlet soaking the front of Kofi's shirt worried her, but the weapon laying abandoned in the dirt concerned her more: a knife that looked like it belonged in someone's kitchen preparing meat, not in innocent hands carving flesh. She shifted closer.

She held a placating hand out as she approached, bending to place her coffee cup on the floor and lean to close her palm on the knife. It was slippery. Warm. This boy, like most of the townspeople, was Temne; and like most children here she had seen him every day for the last six months; had seen him kicking up red dust as he chased a football with the others, grinning wildly, whooping and shouting; had seen the light furrow in his brow rise to pleasure when something made sense. The childish innocence in those wide eyes was frenetic now, glazed with shock.

Azu had already knelt to check Kofi's pulse, and he was bellowing for aid. Natalie glanced down at the weapon, the only open measure of disbelief she would allow herself. The blood pooled on her fingers, stained into the skin, but she had never been squeamish. Her jaw flexed, and her skin began to fizz like little bursts of electricity along the surface. The metal sting of blood caught in the back of her throat. When she looked up she could see every wet lash lining Ekene's eyes, could hear the barely there whimpers beneath his breath. Ten years old. Gauntness hollowed a little of his cheeks, made wide beacons of his eyes. The peaked cap was too big for his head; when he turned to look at her, it slipped over his eyes.

She wondered whether to be afraid, knew it was wise, but the fist around her heart was not fear.

"I'll take your car to the hospital,"
she said to Azubuike, straightening. The intensity of her gaze never left the bloodied child, who's jagged crouch seemed torn on the edge of fleeing, though he still babied his hand. Natalie's gaze pinned him. Or something else.

"He's not likely to make it to Freetown, Natalie."
Stoic pragmatism wrapped Azu's words, not coldness. Death and violence were engrained to this world; Azubuike's own father had been a child-soldier during the last war, and had found both God and charity in the bloody shards of his past. Azu wrapped a gentle palm around Kofi's face; he had been offering prayer rather than aid.

"And if he stays here, he will die."

"He deserves to die!"
Ekene found his feet; the soft pitch of his voice ill-suited to the vehemence he poured into the words. Shock had receded to an armor of zealous bravery, and if he'd considered running before, now he seemed inclined to blaze defiantly in defense of his actions. He flickered, like the mirage of two boys; one still a child, one twisted to a monster. In his fierce face, she saw the future.

"You sit next to this boy every day, Ekene. You play football together. Eat together. I've heard you, dozens of times since I've been here, call him your best friend. And now he is dying because of you."

"But he--"
The slightest waver held his voice; his hands were already trembling from the blood, but then a grotesque loathing twisted his expression. Bright teeth flashed in a snarl.

She plucked the cap from his head, held it in front of his face. "Your father tells you who to hate?"

There was warning in Azubuike's tone, and he was right; she was a foreigner playing with cultural fire, and one toeing the line of authority the red cross on her shirt even provided. These children would have relatives who had lived through the last civil war, and the fractious peace Sierra Leone had clung to the last fifty years had been unravelling in steady decline since the discovery of Rhodium in the south. She couldn't control the inevitable. It was foolish to try. But her pale gaze was unrelenting.

She dropped the hat on the blood-soaked earth. Men ripped themselves bloody on the barbs of hate. Children deserved better.

"Pick him up, Azubuike."
The thought of losing a battle had never stopped her fighting. The child met her stare for stare. "They'll look at your hand at the hospital. You're coming too, Ekene."


They staunched the blood flow as much as they could, and loaded Kofi into the front seat of the car. He groaned and whimpered, and though he didn't seem to lose consciousness his eyes were so wide, so frightened, that Natalie could barely stand to look at him as she tried to coax him to keep pressure against his front, then shut him in. Azu pressed the keys into her palm but he seemed reluctant to let her go; determination to save Kofi he could understand, if the furrowed resignation in his brow spoke of sorrow, but Ekene? The boy needed no emergency care and should be taken to the Masiaka police station; Azu said as much. Natalie brushed off the detail without care, and he never stopped her slamming the car door.

Her resolution to save Kofi she couldn't wholly explain, not to Azubuike - not to anyone, herself included, but the taste of light on her tongue, the sparks and threads that wrapped about the child's body, shivering like a heartbeat, convinced her it was worth the hour drive. At the very least, she knew she could ease his passing; she had done that before, when force of will alone had not been enough to hold someone from the precipice. He would think her mad if she tried to explain, else touched by a God she did not believe in. Somehow, the latter would be worse.

Ekene she could explain, but the moment Azu cited leaned in the unrolled window and cited a womanly heart among her misplaced motivations, her lips snapped shut and she said nothing. She thought he probably understood what she intended, but he was wrong to call it a weakness; it was not compassion that drove her, not naïve optimism; it was the sheer gall of twisting fate, of tilting it away from the status quo. For the son of a man who had dedicated his life to the rehabilitation and education of children he seemed thoroughly resigned to writing Ekene off. Of course, the blood coating the boy's hands and arms, the bloody ripped mess he had left of another child, marked an irrefutable line for some. Maybe she was deluded for thinking she could make a difference, but every last finger would need to pluck free from the edge before she'd let go.

Masiaka-Yonibana Highway

Ekene stood in the back, one arm draped over the back of Natalie's seat, the other held gingerly to his chest. He hadn't resisted getting in the car, though he'd continued his bravado act, beginning with scooping his hat up from the triumph of its bloody throne. It was currently flung on the backseat, abandoned for everything but symbolism. When she glanced in the mirror she saw a devil over her shoulder, his face twisted into an intense scowl. She wondered how long he could keep that up, with his hand hurting.

"Your bitch sister will be dead by sundown, Kofi."

"You'd bleed the same you know, Ekene, and you’d die just as quickly."
Not words she had ever imagined imparting to a ten-year old child, but she had always treated these children without patronisation. "All our blood runs the same. There's no difference."
Her eyes flicked up to the rearview mirror; he was staring at her blackly, and realisation froze outwards from her chest. Only twenty minutes into the journey, and she almost considered turning the car around. She glanced beyond the reflection of Ekene's head, but saw nothing untoward against the horizon Masiaka had drifted behind. The coldness settling into the pit of her stomach did not abate. Neither did she question the boy. What good would it do? In the end she just pushed the acceleration, and wished the car had been marked with the cross.

The highway stretched endless; it curled off into the distance in either direction, hemmed in by dying grass and the odd palm tree. The engine hum filled the silence, broken only by Kofi's whimpers. Despite Azubuike's accusations of softness, Natalie offered no conversation, no sympathy; nothing. Partly because her concentration was narrowed between the road and the threads of light wrapping about Kofi's bandaged arms and vibrating into his stomach. Ekene showed no concern, but he had finally sat down slumped in his seat. The adrenaline had drained from him by now, and pain had begun to pinch his expression. He rocked a little around his hand, and eventually he spoke.

"It hurts, Natalie."

Netland Hospital, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Kofi was taken almost immediately, leaving Natalie to scribble in the necessary paperwork and watch the boy hurried off to an uncertain fate. He'd drifted out of consciousness by the time they'd woven in and out of Freetown's traffic and pushed through the hospital doors; as he left her sight the ribbons of light about his body coiled and faded, and with it exhaustion dulled her senses. That coffee seemed a long time ago, now.

Blood stood stark against her pale skin, and had dried black in the lose braid over one shoulder. She wiped her fingers against her trousers as she returned to Ekene and sat down next to him to wait. His world had receded to his throbbing hand; thoughts of tribal differences, the poison poured in his ear, the friend he had probably murdered just didn't factor into his narrowed viewpoint any more. He'd begun to cry some time ago.

"Did you do that when you fell?"

His eyes looked up wide, like he'd forgotten she was there. Fear shone where hate had ruled; she could feel him trembling, just a little at first. And then he began to sob, broken gaping things that shook his body, and she began to doubt it was just the pain. No more questions followed, not yet. She put an arm about his shoulder.


It felt like hours rolled by before they were moved from the waiting area to a crammed ward. Natalie watched the traffic of patients with an eye that became increasingly alert. She disliked hospitals anyway, and perhaps it was just ill memories colouring her unsettled mood, but something felt increasingly off. Her gaze followed the expressions of the medical staff. Someone, one of the bedridden patients, fiddled with the frequency on a palm radio. The static curdled in her ears.

Ekene sat on the foldout bed, his legs dangling over the edge. Tears streaked track-marks down his cheeks but he was quiet and hunched over, staring at his bloodied shoes. He hadn't said anything since the sobs had run dry and she hadn't pushed him. She had her suspicions, though. Her conclusions lay hollow and horrific, and it only served to fortify the grim determination with which she surveyed the activity around them. When a nurse who had been headed in their direction was instead pulled away; when his face blanched and he hurried off, she stood.

She gripped the boy by the wrist. "We need to go."

His head shot up, his mouth open in protest. Tears sparked anew in his eyes. Beyond the ward, a scream. The incessant drill of gunfire. As the chaos erupted, Natalie was already dragging Ekene away; he needed no urging now. The corridors spun a labyrinth, jammed with people desperately seeking escape in every direction, and Natalie no longer knew the way out. Ekene screamed when someone jolted into him and his hand bent backwards, doubling over until she was forced to shove him through the nearest door and they both stumbled into a private room. The bed was empty, the shades drawn across the small window. Natalie rested against the door, felt her legs suddenly tremor under her weight. She couldn't afford to stop. If she stopped, they would die.

Ekene had curled up on the floor, hugging his hand, sobbing once more. "We can't stay here, Ekene."
She spoke softly, forcing calm into the words, steeling iron into the beat of her heart desperate to panic. Smoke began to pour under the door jam, wreathing about her feet. Shots still popped in the distance, and muffled behind that a cacophony of shouting and screaming. It’s on fire. Her head began to swim, falling falling falling. She raked a hand through her hair, felt the vice of her control slipping. Fear nipped her heels.

It took a burst of light in her chest to steady herself. There was nothing to blockade the door so she left it to faith as she moved to crouch by Ekene. Sparks flickered from her fingertips as she pulled him up from the floor, cupped his face and forced him to look at her. "We need to get out, and I need you to be brave to do it. No crying, Ekene. If we're separated, I want you to look for the Sierra Leone Red Cross building - it'll be marked by a flag with the cross, like this-"
she plucked at the emblem on her shirt, though he knew well what it looked like. "They will keep you safe. Don't trust the men with guns, not even if you think you should."
Unless he impeded them, or was caught in the cross-fire, it was not his life she feared for, but what they would create of him. She paused for acknowledgement, but his gaze was a black abyss, his lungs beginning to choke on the smoke. She had no idea if she'd gotten through to him, but there was no more time.
Netland Hospital, Freetown, Sierra Leone

The Presidential Guard were never meant to serve as a main-line military unit. They were bodyguards, meant to ward away assassins or crowds, not military forces.

Temne soldiers, those that had been behind the initial coup attempt, had managed to track the president to the hospital within scant hours of the man's arrival. They arrived with military trucks and armoured vehicles; they dismounted by the dozens and forced their way into the hospital, shouting orders and demanding directions to the President.

There was panic and confusion; it reigned throughout the city as word spread quickly of what had happened in the government district. Whispers of civil war had already begun to spread, as did the first glimmers of understanding of how wide it spread. Word of atrocities and executions throughout the country as Temne aligned military forces and bands of vigilantes struck at their Mende counter parts with startling ferocity and efficiency.

Soldiers in uniforms carried an air of authority, even with the Sierra Leone flag torn from their shoulders, and at first the hospital staff was cooperative. Until the Presidential Guard realized the soldiers had arrived.

There was some debate to who fired the first shot, but it happened suddenly, and a well-beloved Temne commander was on the receiving end in the first flurry of bullets. A moment of silence followed as both sides took stock of their situation, then the Temne soldiers struck back in anger. None were safe from their rage.

Weapons fire and screams erupted throughout the hospital. Temne soldiers moved with blind furry through the halls, kicking in doors and shooting any who resisted. Presidential Guard fought desperately to keep the soldiers back long enough for the president, near death and fresh out of emergency surgery, to be evacuated to the roof top, where a helicopter would arrive to carry him away.

The Presidential Guard secured the approach to the emergency rooms for the moment. Well dressed men with Kalashnikov's and pistols were desperately throwing anything the could against a door at a far end of the smoke-choked corridor as Natalie emerged with Ekene.

Doctors and medical staff argued with them, while two other Guards stood nervously at the doors to an emergency room, while another stood facing into the room with a pistol aimed at the doctors within, ordering them to get someone ready to be moved immediately.

The people were already panicked; smoke billowed through the crudely barricaded doors at the end of the hallway, and beyond was the rapidly approaching sounds of gunfire. Temne soldiers were zeroing in on where the wounded president was, it seemed.

And that was just a few scant meters from where Natalie and Ekene had been waiting. The soldiers of the Presidential Guard had been kept out of sight, and forced into the open now that their charge was again in danger.

A hail of bullets tore through the barricaded doors, and one of the Guards dropped limply to the floor. Others blindly fired back in return, expended rounds raining to the floor, unheard over the roar of assault rifles and angry yells.

The response from beyond those doors was immediate and excessive. The fwoosh of an RPG and the doors shook as a rocket propelled grenade punched through the already weakened barriers. It hadn't enough distance to travel to actually arm the grenade, but it found it's home in the back of a doctor who had made the mistake of running through the hallway, abandoning his patients.

The man's body fell hard, and the tail of the RPG sat smoking and dangerously quiet in the ruin of the man's back, drawing the uncomfortable stares of more then a few of the people still lingering in the ward.

The Guards resumed firing down the hallway, and all hell quickly broke loose, as doctors and patients began to flee as best they could, away from the approaching Temne soldiers.

An explosion shook the building, from an explosion in a distant ward. A storage room full of canisters of compressed air or Nitrous Oxide had been struck by an RPG that had actually traveled far enough to arm, and fires raged uncontrolled. The power failed next, plummeting the building into darkness for a few terrifying seconds before the emergency lights flicked on, but their glow was shadowed by the growing clouds of smoke.

Temne soldiers wielding machetes and guns set to killing anyone they crossed, falling upon patients, staff, and Presidential Guard with equal fervor and blood-lust, blinded to the threat of the raging fires by their intense hatred.
Fear glazed Ekene's expression unresponsive. The whites of his eyes were glistening bright, his irises dilated wide and black; he stared right through her. Bloody fingerprints marked where he'd pressed his hands to his face, run through by the track of tears. When she let go of his cheeks he wavered like his legs wouldn't support him, and clawed the fingers of his good hand in her hem of her shirt. Frustration simmered in the place of maternal instinct, and Natalie glanced at the door warily. Her mind ticked the options. She was not going to die here.

The shots in the corridor beyond rang loud, an endless drill punctuated by shouts and screams that crawled ice under her skin, though she feared guns less than the flames.The room's window was jammed on a safety latch, too small for any but Ekene to climb through. Curling strands of light wrapped the frame as she cupped her hands and peered through the stylised privacy-glass, trying to ascertain their placement. The blurred shape of vehicles abandoned at odd angles obscured her view, but she could see what she presumed to be people also. From the muffled noise outside, she could only assume the worst.

As she drew back she considered pushing Ekene out there whether he wanted to leave her or not. A bid for freedom would be better than burning to death, and he was small and quick and agile. But he'd doggedly shadowed her as she crossed the room to the window, fearful of the abandonment. Whatever fierceness he'd possessed but hours ago had run utterly dry, and the shock held him rigid. If she forced him through the gap only for him to freeze once he dropped to the ground, there was precious little she could do to aid him further.

That only left the way they had come. And the terrible noises beyond.

Men were blockading a door at the far end of the corridor when they emerged; her gaze briefly touched the insignias of their uniform, but she was already dragging Ekene away. Her best guess was that Mende and Temne dissatisfaction had finally come to a head; what she didn't understand was why they'd attacked a hospital filled with civilians. Injured, unarmed civilians. She hardened her mind to it; to the whimpers and cries piercing the chaos, among them the distressing pleas of the bedridden. Every voice sounded magnified; the arguing, begging, screaming. It built a cacophony in her head, curling like hooks under her skin, but she didn't know how to deadened the sudden sharpness of her senses.

Ekene's footsteps slowed, and he suddenly resisted the draw of her grip urging him onwards. His black eyes stared at the guns, and he swallowed, but it was the chaos of the wards and patients that lured his attention.

His mouth set into a flat little line, the desperation stark in his face.

A grim smile lifted the outer edges of Natalie's lips, then fell away. She'd intended him to suffer the consequences of what he'd done while his friend bled out on the front seat of the car. Ten years old or not, she'd wanted the horror to bury into his psyche; then to forge something fresh from the ashes. No sin was irredeemable. A poor twist on her manipulation of fate that the very sense of responsibility she had wished to foster cost them valuable seconds now. "We can't do anything for him if we die here,"
she said. The ghost of a lie tasted bitter. Chances were, there was nothing they could do for Kofi at all. "The faster we move, the sooner we can get help for these people."

Bullets rained through the defense; it was failing. Something lodged in the back of a fleeing doctor not three feet ahead of the path they took, and sat curling ominous tendrils of smoke in the corpse. She pulled Ekene on urgently, the grip of her fingers around his wrist blanching her knuckles. A few more feet forward and the walls around them vibrated, like a slumbering beast clawed at the foundations of the building. Then the lights died. Ekene stumbled into the back of her legs. Natalie braced her hand against the wall in the second of pitch darkness, heart shuddering in her chest. "Natalie?"
Ekene's whisper buried into her side as the hum of emergency lighting washed a sick pallor over everything, and shadows hung to the burgeoning horror.

All the machinery had stopped. How many died in that second?

There was a moment of silence. But panic quickly caught up with those who had staunchly held their ground until now, tinged with the desperation of having left it too late to flee. The Temne soldiers had broken through the doors, and they cut people down indiscriminately in the choked haze. She saw the blaze of blood-lust flared in wide eyes. The white snarl of bared teeth.

Smoke curled about blood christened machetes. Bullets dug into quickly dead flesh.

She pushed Ekene behind her; they should be running, praying to whatever god cared to listen. But the carnage lit fury in her chest, and she railed at the impotence of her position. Whatever the unchosen circumstances that had led her here, tethering her to hopelessly noble causes; and whatever cynicism underscored the ethos that ruled her life, you did not abandon those who needed you. She was unarmed. And she knew there was nothing she could do to protect these people. Fear tingled her skin with the urgent need to run, and she warred with the weakness; dared herself to walk through the fire.

Would she die to prove a point?

Ekene shifted behind her. It was when she felt the touch of his small hand that the light began to rage and burn under her skin; she gasped at the sensation, at the power that coursed in unbidden deluge, too much to hope to control as it spun out from her body. She tried to warn the boy to run, but her concentration wouldn't split to the task. Driven by instinct, threads that shone and glimmered snaked out and entwined a glistening web, imprinting their pattern over the terror. Vaguely, she could hear Ekene speaking. He tugged her hand. Something frayed, then snapped.

White light; bright, agonizing. It seared right through her, and her head bashed against the wall at the impact. She crumpled like the strings cut on a puppet, crushing Ekene; then felt her grip on consciousness loosen and desperately fought it. Impossible to tell if she'd blacked out, but when she forced her aching body up their end of the corridor was eerie quiet. She wasn't hurt, didn't think so anyway, apart from the hollow buzzing in her head. The light seemed dimmer, but perhaps only because of the thickening smoke.

Ekene coughed, and she gathered him up, dragged them both to their feet.

Around them, bodies were strewn carelessly as dolls, limbs bent at unnatural angles. Furniture and equipment had spun wildly, like a giant had picked up and shaken the room, but nothing touched within a foot of where Natalie and Ekene had been. At the end of the corridor, the black maw of the ruined doors gaped empty while Temne soldiers took cover from the unexpected explosion.

Amidst the destruction, the grenade still sat harmlessly in its sheathe of flesh. Natalie swallowed back her conclusion as sounds of movement stirred in the debris, then pushed Ekene forward by the shoulder. "Run.
I'll be right behind you."


They spilled into sunlight. Fatigue bound Natalie's limbs, disproportionate to the expenditure, and her head roared a dizzy amount of pain. The streets were swamped, balanced on the edge of chaos and bloated with violence that had yet to fully break, though she doubted the only fighting was in the building behind her. Ekene was ahead of her, and she wove her way after him. A few hands brushed her shoulders - was she hurt? What was happening? But Natalie never paused. "Go home,"
she snapped, the best advice she could offer.

And then she lost him in the crowd. "Ekene?"
Natalie spun, promptly regretting the movement when it swarmed her vision with sparks of light. She was desperate to take a second to sit, catch her breath, calm the throbbing of her skull, but it seemed unwise. The city was teetering. Smoke from the hospital blackened the sky. Many young hands glinted with weapons, waiting for the barest excuse to slip into the madness of hate, and though Natalie had travelled to the city a handful of times, she did not know it. Neither did Ekene. But she'd told him to run, and she'd told him look for the Red Cross building; she hoped that was what he was doing. How could I have lost him?

She stumbled, stopped from falling by a hand gripping the top of her arm, though one knee hit the dirt. A machete hung from the young man's belt, gleaming dully two inches from her face. But clean. Her spine steeled when he pulled her up, blanketing the emotion from her face. She'd be foolish not to feel fear; she'd be even more foolish to show it. Her pale gaze traversed his face; young, black hair shorn close to his scalp. Most probably Temne. Instinct reached internally for the light, but she found nothing. A pang flashed in her head instead, like she'd smashed it against the wall again; the pain rippled against her expression.

He flapped the front of her shirt, flattening out the scarlet cross. The flicker of a smile pulled his lips, but she could not interpret the meaning; she pulled her arm back, intending to disarm the moment peacefully, though her eyes never took a blink from his.
Corporal Contee's orders from the lead car took over theirs. "LW's on and loaded with target's signal. This is as far as we're driving, lads."

Jay slid the old Oakleys on his face. His eyes went straight the top corner. Natalie's dot blinked two blocks to the south. She was still inside the hospital.

The driver of each car was going to stay behind ready to either extract or escape at a moment's notice. That meant Jay and Smitty rolled out of shotgun and the back seat almost in unison. Picard's voice stopped him as he was about to slam the door behind him. Jay turned as Picard nodded. "Legio Patria Nostra.

Jay dipped his head and returned the sentiment far more calmly than Picard expected for the new guy. "Legio Patria Nostra."

On that send off, four men, two from alpha and two from beta, were left to navigate the city blocks between the Escalades and the hospital.

And it was a clusterfuck of people. Those that weren't standing off against one another were running the opposite way. Jay couldn't say he blamed them. The four Legionnaires were like salmon swimming upstream.

The violence within the hospital had largely spilled out into the parking lot and dirt walkways surrounding the building. Stampeding feet had kicked up a cloud of red clay, and Jay was glad the Oakley’s sat close to his face. There was nothing more painful than grains of sand gouging around under your eyelids.

He and Smitty proceeded side by side, keeping an eye out for each other. CPL Contee and his partner led the group, and at the corporal's signal, a raised hand, the foursome broke off sprinting.

They came around the side of the hospital building, which looked more of a size of a Super 8 back in the states than one would expect for a hospital. It was several floors high, at the most. The windows, once tinted and covered by shade slats, were broken bits on the grass that crunched underfoot. Jay wasn't concerned about the noise, or his boots, there was enough gunfire popping up and down the street to drown the sounds of their approach. Besides, stealth wasn’t the name of the game, efficiency was.

At the main entrance, Jay and Smitty rounded to the opposite side for approach, firearms held at the ready. The target's location was two floors up and to the right according to the LW’s. There was a stairwell not far from her that they would make their way toward, and Jay briefly hoped the reason the woman hadn't moved for some minutes was because she was trapped, and not already dead. Smoke was wafting from the windows on either side her known location.

Pressed against the wall, Jay was the first to sight the diagonal across the interior, but rather than plow ahead, he held up his hand. "Hold,"
he spoke into the microphone angled across his cheek. The reason for the halt became apparent a moment later. It was a woman in scrubs. Her scalp was covered by a scrub hat untied on one side and flapping in the swiftness of her flight. She didn't see the men flanking the doors, only the blue sky of freedom that was so close. The reason for her desperation also made itself apparent: a Temne bitch barreling after her. The violence of his bloodlust - and regular lust - was more than obvious to Jay. He’d seen it a million times. He calmly waited for the nurse to clear the path and the man to square himself up. Just another step or two. There.

His forefinger moved half an inch and the man collapsed behind the pair of rounds planted in his chest. The woman screamed as the sound barreled by, unaware that she was being saved rather than targeted. She snapped her head behind her, and her eyes flared white and wide when she realized what happened. She recovered quickly and ran by him.

Jay raised his eyes long enough from his sights to meet her's, though she could see nothing of those sympathetic baby blues behind the lenses of his LW's. He cocked his head to the side, signaling that she keep running, and returned to work. "All clear,"
he motioned, and proceeded indoors. The LW’s adjusted with the change from direct light to shade, and his pupils never missed a beat. Sweat trickled down his temple, and the interior provided no relief to the sweltering temperatures. The air was stifling and still. The four Legionnaires passed over Jay’s kill, barely looking down.

The mission was to get in and get their target out. Since the first part was accomplished, Jay, and the others, focused on the second phase of extraction. That involved traversing upward and down what was likely a bottleneck of firefight upstairs. But every man was at the ready, and they took turns proceeding, covering and clearing the path for the next in the deadly convoy of men. Until they were forced to pause about fifteen meters from the stairwell to assess the situation that led to about six Presidential Guards lying massacred in their path. It was then the building shook around them. All of their LW's flashed warnings, but none of the four men so much as flinched when instinct said to throw oneself to the floor for cover. Although Jay did share a glance with Smitty. They both knew exactly what it was, although neither had a guess as to how an RPG managed to arm itself in such close quarters.

More concerning than the explosion, the target's signal suddenly wavered. While her Wallet was transmitting the signal - the security to follow her was provided in the terms of the Contract to extract her from danger - she must have been near the explosion where the resulting smoke and debris from pulverized drywall disrupted the GPS transmissions.

CPL Contee's orders sounded in Jay's ears. "Proceed to target’s last known location."


What they found was impossible to believe. The corridor was scorched as though painted black by old flames. Bodies were crumpled, dead, twisted and littered with benign objects-turned shrapnel. The remains of what was once a nurse’s station were scattered in a perfect radius as though it was the epicenter of destruction. Everywhere but one small corner, which was perfectly untouched, as though a bowl of steel deflected the combustion everywhere but there.

Jay and Smitty shared another look when they walked by the RPG skewered doctor. Undetonated.

He gestured at the weapon, and asked what they were all thinking, “If that’s still there, what was the explosion?”
He filtered over the possible sources, but none of them made sense.

He put it out of his mind. The target’s location was still off-line as CPL Contee returned from exploring the fiery end of the corridor, pulling his scarf from his nose. “Not here. She must have-- Wait.”
They all fell silent as her location returned to the corners of their LW’s.

“Target’s outside! MOVE.”

Jay was already two paces off when the Corporal barked the orders.


They emerged from the hospital from the same path they took to enter it. The sun sparked his lenses darker, and the lip of his beret provided a sickle of shade from the searing light. Unlike the masses swarming on the dirt roads, flailing about weapons and running in sandals, these four were professional soldiers moving like knives through butter. They were a foursome of desert sand camouflage, adapted for African terrain, combat uniform, armament, and appearance of camo, and moved as such. Men wielding their egos as foolishly as their weapons leaped from their path.

The target blinked in the corner of Jay’s vision. One hundred meters. Fifty meters. Twenty meters. Ten.

And then he saw her. Her gold spun hair, otherwise plastered to the side of her face by sweat, was wet dark on the back of her scalp. Her clothes were scorched with filth, and her expression tight with dogged determination. He knew her immediately as Natalie Grey, from the many minutes he stared at her picture. She was the woman they were sent to extract; a well-connected woman, that despite her political ties, was presently held captive and wrenching her arm free from the grip of a captor. It was hard to tell which side of the native ancestry the man hailed, but Jay’s gut twisted with that familiar sense of animosity nonetheless.

He was not alone in recognition. CPL Contee gave the order and within seconds there were four armed and dangerous Legionnaires surrounding them. Jay did not speak, but he watched like a hawk diving for the mouse in the field. A single flicker of a threat and the man was forefinger’s movement from death.

He wisely relinquished Natalie, and the CPL gave the order to let him escape. They weren’t there to police, only extract.

He, Smitty, Contee and his partner lowered their weapons, but not their situational awareness. They were still surrounded by hostiles on the brink of savagery. The Corporal introduced himself, and offered Natalie a hand.

Jay’s gaze meanwhile scanned the perimeter, surveying everything from the patterns of movement to identifying marks on men's persons. Ten meters away a shoving-match broke out, one that would quickly escalate as surrounding individuals took sides.

“We should move,”
Jay said as movement whisked across the corner of his eye.

A heat needled the back of his leg that immediately buckled his knee. He cringed with the sensation of a cord of tendon snapped up the length of his hamstring.

Smitty yelled and slammed into something behind him. Jay dropped to the other knee, jaw clenched tight.

Edited by Jay Carpenter, May 13 2014, 11:44 AM.
Only darkness shows you the light.

Someone had done their homework. The Temne rebels were aware that while they had seized the upper hand on their home turf, they were also aware how important foreign opinion would be for deeming their future rule legitimate. They needed to look 'the good guys' when they had finished destroying the Mende fools.

Among all the foreigners in Sierra Leone, only one had really stood out for their importance. Mid to low level managers and company men were useful in their own rights, but to the Temne, they were a part of the cancer that had eaten away their country's heritage.

But the daughter of an important CCD family? A rich, important, CCD family? One that had no economic ties to Sierra Leone? She would be an important bartering piece.

Natalie had been lucky at first; only one Temne soldier had found her, and had been scared away by the Legionnaires. Faced by properly trained soldiers, the Temne warrior hadn't the discipline to hold his ground. Their strength and bravery came in numbers; and numbers was what the four Legionnaires now faced.

Eight Temne men, only a handful in the uniform of Sierra Leonean soldiers, were running towards the Legionnaires and Natalie; a few wild shots in their direction,but for the angry or panicked throngs, they hadn't found their mark yet.

Edited by Jacques, May 14 2014, 07:25 AM.
He didn't forcefully resist the deliberate movement of her arm, but he didn't seem in an awful hurry to let her go either. There was a dull consideration in his gaze, unlit by fury or lust, and a new sliver of concern touched against more obvious fears. Only Azubuike had known she'd driven to Netland hospital, and only her colleagues in Masiaka and the senior teachers at St James knew who she was. Such information was not difficult to unearth, of course, but you did have to look. Her muscles tensed. She'd hoped for peaceful resolution, but the prospect withered to dust now; ice froze hardness into her gaze, and she wrenched her arm back. She had no power with which to back up her defiance, but she dared him nonetheless. He seemed to make his decision; his grip tightened, and resolve darkened his face. But then his head cocked to the side, his brows drew low, and he ran.

Natalie displayed no hysteria at being rescued; in fact the smoothness of her expression probably indicated an utter lack of gratitude, though she was grateful. Her shoulders ached to drop, to allow a breath of relief, but her stance remained rigid as she took in the surrounding soldiers, settling on the one who addressed her. Not through fear - she recognised their uniforms enough to know who they were, though she'd never before crossed paths with Legion Premiere - but through suspicion. They were mercenaries. The first question to pierce her thoughts twisted darkly: how much did they pay you?

Little touched her expression, of course; little but the glint of calculation. Though she didn't value what she immediately presumed to be her mother's manipulation, and in fact it needled something fierce, she was practical enough to accept the sentiment when in the centre of a warzone. But duty dug deep claws, and caution tempered the relief of allies in the midst of hell. What exactly had been paid for? She wasn't going to argue, and even if she was, this was not the place. But there was an edge of consideration to her, weighing the measure of her control. She would not be leaving without finding Ekene, for a start.

"It seems you already know who I am, corporal."
Dryness underscored the words, but not hostility. The first flicker of emotion lifted a small smirk at the corner of her lips as she shook the man's hand. Politeness ingrained the motion, but self-reflective wryness provided the amusement. Given the situation. Her hands were rusted with blood.

"We should move."
Seconds after the words left the Legionnaire's lips, he fell. It all moved too quickly for Natalie's eyes to catch the detail; she was feeling increasingly sluggish, and the longer she stood immobile, focused doggedly on the face of the corporal, the more watery her balance felt. Had she hit her head? It was the screaming that finally anchored her; high and keening, as desperate as a wounded animal. Ekene was pinned under the weight of a Legionnaire, his injured hand crushed. One of the others had gathered the blood-soaked blade wrenched from the boy's grip.

"He's a child."
The words were murmured but her intention focused, shivering light through her skin. Her head panged retaliation, but the bloom of light suffused the warning of over-exertion. She moved, despite the sudden clench of the corporal's fingers as she withdrew from the handshake, trying to hold her back. "He's a child."

"Don't trust them, Natalie!"
Ekene shrieked, struggling manically in spite of the pain bulging his bloodshot eyes. He was wild, composed all of edges and malice.

Understanding took a second. The men with guns. She'd told him not to trust them, and apparently the words had soaked into his skin like a mantra. Faced with the crumbling of everything he knew, he clung on to whatever he could. Her brow furrowed, but she could hardly be angry. With anyone but herself, anyway. "I know."
It seemed fruitless to offer clarification now. Her knees hit the dirt beside him, palms splayed either side. A dangerous gleam of thread drifted close to the Legionnaire pinning Ekene to the ground, but she reigned it in. It rattled the edges of her control. "But you can trust me"

Confusion touched what she could see of his expression. Blood slicked the side of his face in the struggle, and tears had leaked from the corners of his eyes. But the effort went out of him, as deflated and dead as if his spirit had fled his body. Fear crawled in the space remaining, and she was half afraid he was going to start sobbing again.

"You can let him go."
She caught the Legionnaire's eyes; or, at least, she stared into the dark visor that covered them. "He's a student at my school. You can let him go."
She imagined the man glanced askance at his superior, but she deigned not to care so long as he did as asked. Released of the weight, Ekene whimpered and barely moved. Natalie noticed clearly for the first time how swollen his hand had become, how tightly laced the insistent agony creased his eyes and lined his young face. She remembered the insight she had gained at the hospital, but she did not have the room for sympathy. Not if they were going to get out of this alive.

"You can cry when we're safe, Ekene."
Her words were hard, but she swept a thumb under his eye, tilted his chin so that he had no choice but to look her. The paleness of her gaze was unsettling, the intensity of it, but her ferocity was softened by her protective nature. "Now get up."

She wasn't so sure she could even push herself to her own feet, but she found the reserves from somewhere. A somewhat wearied gaze turned to seek out what damage, exactly, Ekene had delivered; about the same time she recalled the same man's warning, and the chaos began to erupt around them. Natalie was no soldier; she flinched when the gunfire began to hail in their direction. Ekene bolted himself to her side, warm and slick with Legionnaire blood, but she extricated him, pushed him behind her instead. Unsavoury curses razored the edge of her tongue, but she didn't waste her breath on them. One of the Legionnaires was yelling at her, but she'd already moved forward to their fallen comrade. The attack had come swiftly, but they'd had time to pull him up.

Yet he was still in the dirt.

Her vision was swimming a little, wavering at the edges of its perfect clarity, and she stumbled more than knelt beside him. Her hand braced instinctively on his shoulder, catching her balance before she fell flat on her face. Tendrils rose like vapour from her body the moment her hand landed, unintentional, but it was a familiar sensation: more familiar than the violence that had arced from her in the hospital. She couldn't see much of his face, but the hard set of his jaw grimaced against the pain. Seconds later she understood why; both the pain, and why he hadn't stood.

There was a lot of blood. She was acutely aware of the heat of it on her skin, transferred when Ekene had clung to her. She could still feel him now, crouched down low behind her. The warmth of blood and tears soaked into the back of her shirt, where he buried his head. Men bled out from wounds like this. Such tendons were cut for torture, and she didn't want to know how Ekene had known how to be so precise.

"Some knight in shining armour, huh."
The morbidity of her humour twisted dry, and she glanced a brief smirk into the black, impersonal cover of his lenses before her attention glanced to the chaos, not that she could see much from the ground with the crowds so thick. Threads of light snapped and twisted, drawn by instinct and will. Sometimes that was enough. Sometimes it wasn't. Sweetness tingled her skin like electric, but her head still throbbed like something had knocked loose. "Probably a good idea to get up?"
Jay's palms dug into the dirt, spikes of gravel and glass pinched through his gloves, much as they did through the pants of his good knee. He barely noticed them, though. The remaining leg, the one that would not obey his commands but to snarl writhing defiance every time he attempted to move, was stretched out at an odd angle. The side of his boot barely touched the ground, but even that was too much weight.

He assumed he'd been shot. It wouldn't be the first time, except an errant bullet found a strange mark, one not protected by anti-round armor this time. They felt like bee stings when they peppered the skin, but left behind welts and bruises. This was certainly worse than any previous injury he'd sustained. Certainly, he'd never felt himself incapacitated before.

He dug his fingers stubbornly into the dirt like he might pound out his frustrations with his fists. Natalie rounded on Smitty, but it was not until Contee gave the order that he had some clue as to what happened. A kid lay whimpering in the dirt. A machete, unsheathed, and stained with blood lay beside the kid. Smitty grabbed it as he released the boy.

The realization of what happened only pissed him off more. If he was taken out of the field over a fucking ten-year-old stabbing him in the back of the knee, that little shit better run for the hills because there was a goddamned fucking <del>marine</del> Legionnaire gunning for him.

Around them, the ground spewed bits of dirt as random fire peppered their area. Thoughts of Ekene, Natalie knew him? was replaced with the reminder of his own advice. Contee was barking orders at Pavlov, the other alpha Legionnaire, and Smitty was covering Jay.

Stand. Stand you bastard! He attempted to hobble onto the one leg, but between the equipment laden on his chest and back and the utter uselessness of the other, he was biting his tongue to keep from screaming frustration.

He gave in and sat his ass in the dirt. He grabbed a pouch from his utility vest, most were held by Velcro or adjustable straps, but one doubled as a removable clip-on, and quickly pulled it in one fell motion. He had the strap, a heavy duty mesh, clenched between his teeth while redistributing the contents to other pouches when a hand landed on his shoulder.

Natalie was at his side. Why? Well, it is hard to resist a guy in uniform, after all, but now was hardly the time. If his heart weren't racing like a motherfucking rocket in his chest he'd likely have grinned at her. She was drop dead gorgeous.

He rounded the strap around his thigh and tightened it as small as he could to cut the blood flow. At that same instant, he immediately felt better. Like the tourniquet doubled as a drug that flooded his head and body of an energy he'd never known before. The rational part of his training figured it was the last stages of shock, and he'd collapse dead as soon as they rounded into safety, but at least for now, he felt like varsity pitcher throwing the winning ball at State. Like a fucking hero!

"Yes, ma'am! We Legionnaires do what we can!"
His roar of humor never so much as flinched when she and Smitty hauled his broken ass to his feet. Damn! he felt fantastic! His leg still didn't work, nor could he do anything but hobble on Smitty, but who the fuck cared!

Despite the wash of euphoric relief, as soon as the kid came into his line of sight, he was fully capable of shooting him the most seriously fucked up warning of a stare a warrior like him could conjure, and although uncommonly pushed to do so, Jay could be fucking terrifying when he wanted. That kid wouldn't soon forget what he'd done.

Contee was putting in the call for extraction while Pavlov was covering them as the group shuffled for cover.

Edited by Jay Carpenter, May 16 2014, 09:21 PM.
Only darkness shows you the light.


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