Cut the grass, drive out the snakes

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Cut the grass, drive out the snakes

Postby Srf » Sat Jun 08, 2019 3:49 pm

The office of the Army Intelligence Bureau was a monolithic, imposing structure situated in down-town Vorga, across the street from the ministry of defence to which it purportedly answered. Despite being a new, post-war construction it emanated a low level of sinister energy - locals tended to cross the street rather than walk under its blank façade, and would tell each other in hushed tones that they believed the building to be cursed. Despite it being almost ten at night, a passer-by would see many of the lights on the upper floors still stubbornly switched on, all manner of clerks and analysts working furiously behind identical desks.

A Dumani-imported town car pulled up to the parking lot of the building - recognising the number plate, the guard didn't bother to wait for a formal identification and hurriedly lifted the security barrier so the car could pass. Inside another soldier was waiting to spring into action and open the rear passenger door, snapping sharply to attention when the occupant climbed out.

"General Chulbasan, sir".

The general returned the salute and headed into the elevator, heading straight to the top floor. He took a moment to give himself a once-over in the mirror, adjusting his army fatigues and brushing a few crumbs of hurriedly eaten dinner off of his lined, craggy Crataean face. He was getting older, he thought. And thinner. And he looked tired. Better put on the cap. He stepped out into the corridor and walked into the situation room, ignoring the dozens of men working diligently at their desks on all manner of espionage and headed directly to the URGENT SITUATION section. Four officers were staring deeply into their monitors, and when they tried to jump up to salute him he dismissed them with a wave.

"Good evening boys. I need an update".

"Sir. 50% of Oki Dar detainees have entered Hakara via Freiburg, and another three hundred are expected to arrive within the next three hours. They received weapons from a depot on the Hakaran border".

"And the Taihei?"

"Eighty kilometers from the eastern suburbs of Dashan, and continuing to advance".

"Very good, boys. Keep at it". the General rapped one of the desks twice with his knuckles, and left the room. He walked all the way to the end of the long corridor before stopping at a nondescript metal door surrounded by CCTV cameras and a fingerprint scanner. A small, brushed aluminium sign simply read "Enhanced Operations". Chulbasan pressed his left little finger to the scanner and walked inside.

There were far fewer men in the EO room. Only two, of notably higher rank than those in the situation room, lounged in expensive office chairs talking on phones and tapping at their keyboards. Such was their seniority that they merely raised their eyebrows to Chulbasan as he entered the room.

"Tell me we are still secure, Ogun?" Chulbasan said as he walked to a table in the corner and poured himself a coffee.

Ogun sighed and leafed through a thick pad of notes on his desk. "I haven't heard from our man in the Presidency since I got back from Freiburg, actually. He usually checks in daily. He's very good at that. We have a meeting tomorrow morning, but if he doesn't show then we are blind. Dorzhi, look..." Ogun leaned forward. "If the BSS find out about this..."

"We knew what we were risking" Chulbasan replied. "I will most likely die for this. But I have been sentenced to death for my country many times before. Here I am, still standing."

He turned to the other man. "And you, Mermud? What do you have to report?"

Mermud nodded twice, as if to himself. "Our friends remain loyal. Scattered, but loyal. Their troops are mixed. We are working on a strategy to bring them into line in a worst-case scenario".

"Worst case scenario", Chulbasan repeated. "That would be quite something indeed. Right. I am heading to the Wolohannic embassy now for an event. Ogun, come to me immediately after your meeting with our man tomorrow. Immediately. If you hear something tonight, call me. This is of the utmost importance".

Ogun nodded. "Dorzhi, it will be fine. We are all professionals here".

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Re: Cut the grass, drive out the snakes

Postby Srf » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:32 pm

Ogun looked left and right as he stepped into the underpass running beneath the Avenue of the Federation. An unseasonably heavy June storm had just broken over the city an hour ago, and small pools of water were beginning to overflow from the clogged drains and collecting at the base of the steps. The fluorescent strip lights along the sides of the underpass were gently strobing, the city grid under strain from the torrential rain battering the power lines outside. To Ogun's left a homeless man sat cross-legged, stained coffee cup in front of him, quietly singing to himself and scratching absent-mindedly at the wispy grey beard covering his jaw. No sign of the source yet. Ogun pulled out his phone and scrolled through a news article.

Footsteps echoed on the tiles and Ogun looked up, where a soaking-wet man in a grey suit was walking towards him and retracting his umbrella. Ogun turned to the homeless man, and threw a note his way. "Go now", he said. The homeless man grinned a toothless smile and got up, gathered his belongings and started walking away. Ogun raised a hand in greeting to the suited man. "Tumas, you slippery bastard, you are suddenly difficult to get a hold of!"

Tumas laughed in reply and opened his mouth to snap something back at Ogun, before the passing homeless man suddenly pulled him close and drove a knife into his stomach. Ogun yelled in surprise as the attacker pulled away, ripping the knife free and sending a bright stream of blood splashing across the underpass tiles, and reached for the pistol in his waist holster. An explosion of noise stopped him, and he found himself face down on the floor in blinding pain. His jacket was wet and he realised he had been shot. Fuck. As Ogun groaned and writhed on the floor he became aware of a presence behind him. Rough hands flipped him onto his back, sending a fresh burst of white hot pain searing through his shattered collar bone.

"Good evening colonel Ogun. How was Freiburg? I hear it is lovely this time of year".

The speaker was a well-build man dressed in a tracksuit, with a large pair of reflective aviator sunglasses perched on a hooked nose. His hair was buzzed short in a military fashion, and as he smiled a gold tooth glinted in his mouth. He was flanked by two other men wearing similar attire, in a vain attempt to appear inconspicuous. Ogun recognised him instantly.

"Fuck you Keshan" he spat, propping himself up on his good arm. "Even you BSS fucks aren't bulletproof enough to get away with shooting AIB officers".

"Ha-ha!" Keshan replied, still brandishing a heavy Questarian-built pistol in his hand. "Ogun, you idiot. What are you talking about? Haven't you heard street crime is getting worse in Vorga?" He motioned behind Ogun with his eyes, and Ogun turned to see the grinning tramp digging a wallet and mobile phone out of Tumas' pockets. Ogun turned back to Keshan.

"The police might believe this shit. But we won't. You don't know what you've started".

Keshan laughed again and took a step forward. "Ogun, I feel a bit sorry for you. Here you are, meeting an informer in a deserted underpass to learn more BSS secrets. I expect if I sniffed you I could still get a hint of Oki Dar and Commonwealth stink on your clothes. I haven't started anything. But I am finishing something".

He raised the pistol and shot Ogun again. This time it was through the head.

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Re: Cut the grass, drive out the snakes

Postby Dumanum » Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:38 am

The guard scrutinized the ID card, while his colleague scanned the road behind Lucius, and another pair circled the vehicle with a dog and bomb-sweeping mirror. He'd been commuting to this facility for the better part of six months, and still got nothing more than a "Please present your identification," and "Thank you, sir," from these four.

They were Antarterans, each a head taller than most of the locals and near twice the width- they could be relied upon above all others in this place to lack any local sympathies that could prove compromising -and professional to boot. They did not wear any insignia over their grey shell jackets, though discussions with his colleagues had suggested that all of the security personnel at this facility were contractors. Housed within a recently built but otherwise unassuming walled compound in one Vorga's now defunct light manufacturing districts, far from the monolithic towers that speared out from the city center- they liked putting their facilities in these sort of districts as they typically had quite good linkages with the local highway system -few would have suspected that the Bureau of State Security operated a joint tactical operations center with CORE in such a place.

The guard looked up from scrutinizing the identification card, and stared expressionlessly at Lucius, now scrutinizing him. He'd long given up trying to figure out these men- they might as well be automatons. There was nothing behind those those narrow brown eyes, and while that vacant stare had sent a chill down his spine for the first week or so, he was well over it by now. He looked down- properly looked, not glanced -at the ID for another several moments before returning it to him.

"Thank you, sir. Have a pleasant day."

Lucius nodded and rolled up the window. The steel gate slid open in front of him, permitting his car into the compound. Thirty foot walls surrounded it, enough to conceal what went on within from prying outside eyes. Not that it was particularly necessary in that respect: all it hid was the lower portion of an unassuming 4-story drab-colored office building, and an equally unassuming parking area. It could have been the compound of any one of several dozen developers- perhaps one of the newcomers looking at these outer areas, having gotten to the party too late to glut themselves on the inner city's real estate when it was still cheap.

The lobby did not keep up that charade: the metal detectors, X-ray machine, and gaggle of additional guards with assault rifles dispelled any notion that this was any startup developer's local headquarters. Again, he and his ID card were scrutinized before he was allowed to pass through the metal detector and his briefcase and sidearm were handed back to him.

He was ushered around a corner toward a long hall, at the end of which was an elevator. It was almost a little too on the nose, he'd thought the first day. It no longed fazed him when instead of up, the he felt the elevator begin to descend. Not too deep- perhaps three stories. Deep enough to resist artillery fire, or a truck bomb detonating above. He'd asked about that his first week, and had been told in no uncertain terms that they'd learned the hard way to fortify these more remote outposts so well.

Lucius Philosirus did not work for CORE, but nor did he work for the BSS- he was no spy. He was actually a software engineer by trade, formerly of Rationova, one of their star pupils in fact. That was, until the Occulta Custodia had decided they'd like for him to come work with them. He'd been told in no uncertain terms by his former employers that he should accept the opportunity to serve the State, and that there'd be a job waiting for him when he was done. He'd later learned that the company had an arrangement with the government, as part of their contracts on various SIPON-related software, to provide them with personnel trained on development, maintenance, and operation of the systems. The Occulta Custodia, unlike CORE, did not like to use contractors in these sorts of capacities; instead, they made an offer to the recruit, and, if they accepted, performed their own security screenings and shipped them off to Campus Angimannia for Disciplina Primus.

Their offer had actually been quite a bit less than what he was making at Rationova, but the prospect of earning Citizenship doing the same job he was doing in Ostium was too good to pass up. Those kinds of deals were rare, and not publicly advertised. His parents, naturally, were not thrilled- Citizenship was all well and good, but he was educated (on their dime, they reminded him) and employed in a high-paying position at a gigans, and besides they'd not had a Citizen in the family for two generations. Why would he simply go throw that all away? He could not tell them who it was he'd really be working for or what he'd be doing, and so he'd rattled off the usual civics class rhetoric about his desire to take personal responsibility for the defense of his people, culture, and State. His mother was certain it was really about some girl. His father, on the day he left for Angimannia, had taken him aside and told him that he- and his ancestors -were proud of him.

That had been about a year and a half ago. Now, he found himself striding through the coolly lit work floor toward his office. With thirty foot tall ceilings and over a dozen work cells- a colorful admixture of besuited BSS and CORE personnel- spread over the room in an open layout, and a movie theater sized projector screen at the far side, it felt positively cavernous. He was one of the few personnel with a private office, housed in a mezzanine on the opposite side of the room from the large overlay.

He was the Occulta Custodia's sole employee at this facility: they had by far the most experience in the operational use of SIPON in security operations and its limitations. He reported directly to the facility's director, the illustrious Tribune Gnaeus Didius Aquatus. The Tribune, he had been told, was tough old bastard. That hadn't been Lucius' experience- of the same Quardacian stock as Lucius, he'd been thrilled to learn his new tech guy had grown up in the same municipality as he had. And so, rather than death stares, he'd gotten invitations to dine with the Tribune and his family at their Vorga luxury tower residence.

Today, however, he was definitely giving off a tough old bastard vibe.

"In my office, now," he'd called down from the gantry.

Lucius really had to piss, but he did not want to make an issue of it.

"Things have gone to shit with the AIB and that bastard Chulbassan," he'd said, sounding as if he'd not slept in the past day or so. "I hope you brought a change of clothes, because you'll be here awhile."

He hadn't.

The order of the day was targeted killings and renditions. A list of names had come down from headquarters, with a red or blue checkmark next to their name indicating whether they should be taken alive or killed, and they were to first determine who was in their assigned area of operations (the entire city of Vorga) and then action them, in order of prominence. This, Major Hakakian of the BSS had told him, would be executed concurrently with an assault on AIB headquarters. Their own unit had at their direct disposal its own organic strike team of BSS special operators, as well as tactical teams from the Presidential Guard stationed in various sectors of the city to permit for rapid action.

Excusing himself from the two senior officers, finally took a seat at his desk, logging on and pulling up his tickets. There were several dozen of them already. He still needed to piss. He'd knock out a couple of these and then go relieve himself.

Pulling up the first, he sighed. It was that moron Hafuz again: "Need phone recordered 'Ashur Tursun' of AIB for target, please action at earliest," the ticket read. He'd shown Hafuz how to pull cell data on a target at least half a dozen times.

He had to stop himself from storming down to the floor and having words. No, that could wait: there was actual work to be done right now. He began chattering away at the keyboard to run the search: Three clicks later and he had the data Hafuz (he assumed) wanted. A few more clicks, he had geolocation. A few more, CCTV of the general area. SIPON picked him out of the crowd. Tursun had stepped out of AIB headquarters to grab coffee. This one had a blue checkmark. They'd want the family too, no doubt. He forwarded the info package to Hafuz and CC'd his manager, who was well aware of his problem child, as he ran that search. Fuck it, he really had to piss.

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Re: Cut the grass, drive out the snakes

Postby Srf » Sat Jun 15, 2019 3:20 pm

Tursun put the beer down on the table and waved the waitress over toward him.

"Girl, what's the special?"

"Yak meat stir-fried in chilli sauce" she replied, with typical Sharfic service industry curtness. Tursun nodded and took another swig of beer as she walked off, shouting toward the kitchen.

Outside the dining hall, figures of people dashed up and down the street in another torrential downpour. The rain was hammering against the dining hall's tin roof, doing a most admirable job of drowning out that week's latest pop release wailing from a tinny speaker. Tursun looked left and right at the other diners, sitting on little stools and slurping down bowls of peasant soup.He shouldn't really be here. He had only left the office for a coffee. But who wanted to drink fucking coffee, when he had just been told such grim news. Ogun was dead. Those Dumani lapdogs in the BSS were behind it, for sure. No, he needed a beer. It was going to be a long day.

The girl came back out of the kitchen holding Tursun's soup and set it down in front of him. He looked up to thank her and caught sight of two skinny men in bomber jackets walking into the dining hall. In one motion he pulled a fat metal pistol from his holster, but they were faster. Three shots rang out - two sent Tursun flying off his stool, while the third caught one of the BSS men in his stomach. The survivor walked past his stricken colleague and the screaming waitress to shoot Tursun again as people ran outside, before disappearing himself into the monsoon.


Desperate hammering on the sealed door brought Mermud out of his reprieve, where he had been staring intently at Ogun's empty chair. He stood up and opened the door to the face of a terrified-looking analyst.

"Colonel, it's the BSS! They're here! They've brought everything!"

Mermud blinked. "That's impossible." He ran straight down the hallway and into the break room, which overlooked the street outside. The road was being sealed off by APCs painted in the black-and-grey camouflage of the Presidential Guard, parking across multiple lanes to stop any vehicles getting past. At the foot of the building, more APCs were driving onto the pavement and disgorging dozens of black-clad police commandos.

"This is impossible". Mermud turned around to the analyst, who had followed him into the room. "Where is the General? Where is he?!"

The analyst stammered. "He has been out all day sir. Nobody has heard from him..."

The power went out. Mermud grabbed the analyst by the shoulder.

"Call him now. Tell him to stay away. Use the secure line" Mermud told him, before running into the situation room.

"Everyone! Drop what you are doing and listen to me right now!" he shouted. His voice received instant attention. "The BSS are here. They are preparing to storm the building in force. Burn everything under URGENT SECTION right now. Everything".

Mermud called out the last word as he ran out of the room, down the hall.


Major Hakakian had stayed at ground level while the AIB operation was underway, listening in on his tactical teams as they cleared the building room by room. It had only taken about ten minutes of shooting and flash grenade explosions for the first captives to be dragged out into the rain, rubbing heir eyes or moaning in pain at the dull aches in their ears. Hakakian followed their progress by watching the building's façade, seeing the muzzle flashes lighting up windows higher and higher up the building. In all, the operation took about thirty minutes total before all his troops were accounted for. He walked up to one as he stepped over the shattered glass of the lobby windows, busily removing his combat helmet.

"Any trouble, Keshan?"

Keshan pulled the helmet off of and stared at the ground for a few seconds, breathing heavily, before meeting Hakakian's gaze.

"Not much. A few hold-outs here and there. But they weren't ready for a fight. They didn't even have automatics, most of them". He sniffed, wiped a small river of sweat and dust off his face, and spat on the floor.

Hakakian pushed on. "And Chulbasan?"

"The rat wasn't there. No sign of him". Keshan spat again. "And they burned the Oki Dar files".

"The latter means nothing. The former means everything. Shit, he was supposed to be here". Hakakian stamped on the ground and grimaced. "Why wasn't he here?"

"Ahh" Keshan replied. "I may be able to answer that for you". He gestured at the building's stricken doorway, where two more officers were dragging Mermud's limp body onto the street. "He's still alive, fucking Mermud. He'll know what we need to know".

"Right then" Hakakian put his hand on Keshan's shoulder for a second before walking off. "Get him to the villa. I'm going to brief the Presidency".

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