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934706 No. 934706 ID: 30ada4

It's times like these that make someone ask the big questions; is there a God, for example.

You've never really believed in an omnipotent power, especially not now, as you hang from your hands and feel your ribs crack.

Is there a such thing as good and evil, that's another good one.

Probably not.
No. 934714 ID: 30510e

Greetings fleshing, let us begin.
What is your current situation?
No. 934719 ID: 94e908

You're jarred from your deep thoughts by a particularly vicious uppercut to an already broken rib. The immediate sting of the blow recedes, leaving the throbbing pain of bruised muscle and torn tissue.

You cough and expel a mixture of snot and blood, "Jeez, have you been working out Remy?" Through eyes half-blinded by your own blood, you think you see his jaw clench in anger.

"My name isn't Remy, Chloe," he says through gnashed teeth. It's actually Ramirez, which you know. Besides, your name isn't Chloe. Which he knows.

You roll your eyes as best you can in their bruised sockets, "Yeah yeah, don't be so thin skinned. Oh right, meant to ask: what did I do to deserve getting chained up down here? Not that I don't enjoy these special moments we have together." You say. Remy gives you a look of pure hatred in return. He's disgusted by you. That's why it's so much fun to poke at him.

"There's someone here to talk to you, a representative of the War Court." He smiles wickedly as he says this. Small wonder, almost everyone who attracts the attention of the International War Court ends up with a death sentence, and you know Remy would love to see you executed.

"Did this 'representative' want me beaten before our talk?" You pose the question rehotorically, knowing full well that Remy just likes beating you up.

That sadistic smile widens, "Nah, I just wanted to give you something to remember me by." There they are, his true colors. Behind that stoic soldier facade, Remy only really joined the military hurt people, that's how he gets off. Sick fucking bastard. It's not like you're any better though.

You force a smile past your pain, it's not hard, you've experienced so much by now, "That's sweet of you, Remy, but you didn't have to; there's no way I could forget a face as ugly as yours." By reflex, he touches a hand to the burn scaring on the left side of his face, a feature he is deeply self-conscious of, before his wicked smile deforms into a look of absolute anger. It's just too easy to fuck with this guy.

Remy tenses his body, preparing to deliver another strike, when the door to this cosy little interrogation room flies open, and he turns to face the door with an expression akin to a child caught stealing candy.

But who should lean through the door except Corp. Samson, Remy's close friend. He gives you only a cursory, uninterested glance, before addressing Remy, "Hurry it up dude, the Representative is getting tired of waiting."

Remy looks between you and the Corporal, and you can feel him weighing his options. Finally, his self preservation seem to outweigh his lust to inflict pain, and he releases your hands from the chains that bound them, only to handcuff them behind your back. He then gives you a hard, backhanded slap across the face, "now get the fuck out of here, pice of shit," he hisses, pointing at the door being held open.

You shamble forward and through the door, Samson slamming it behind you. These guys are some of the most fucked up soldiers you've ever met, but they're Marines, so what do you expect.

It's a long, painful walk that the Corporal forces you to make. But eventually you arrive at a door on one of the uppermost levels of the ship. It electronically unlocks when the Corporal nears, and he guides you through into the room beyond.

The first thing you notice is the window opposite the door which spans an entire wall, bright light from the setting sun streams through it, stinging your eyes after so long in the darkness of the brig. Then you notice the room's furnishing, all exotic hardwood and fashionable wallpaper, a long table surrounded by chairs to your left, a presentation screen to your left. This isn't an interrogation chamber, it's a meeting room, the kinda place a buncha' rich, suit wearing business types come to discuss stock holdings.

Speaking of suited busses types, fitting perfectly into that classification is the man sitting at one end of a small table parallel the window and directly ahead of you. He stares at you with a cold, calculating glare and flexes his tented fingers, before shifting that shrewd gaze to the Corporal behind you, "remove her handcuffs and close the door behind you as you leave," he says in a monotone. Samson seems about to protest when the suited man gives a hard stare, silencing the corporal who dutifully removes your cuffs and exits, shutting the door behind him.

The suited man turns back to you, no emotion other than the weariness in his eyes shows across his face. "Take a seat, if you want," he says, indicting the chair across from him. You do so, and recline backwards to rest your feet on the table.

A moment of perfect silence passes, as the suited man stares straight into your eyes, noiselessly taping his fingers together.

At last he speaks, "My name is Maynard Dunmire," he says, "I am a representative of the IWC, International War Court. I have been sent here to question you about a breach of the NATO Rules Of Engagement. I ask that you please answer my questions truthfully to the best of your knowledge misses Lynch." Never once does his tone change, his voice rise. Like talking to a machine.

"The name's Karma. But sure, fire away." You reply.

He leans down and pulls a briefcase from under the desk. He then lays it on the table and clicks it open, searching for some particular document. He seems to find it, as he begins quickly reading over a piece of paper. "What can you tell me about the civilian massacre that occurred three years ago in Afghanistan?" He asks, "You witnessed it, correct?" His voice remains perfectly monotone.

You're completely taken aback by the question, you thought that whole shitstorm of a case had been closed years ago.

You really don't want to remember any of that, in fact you tried for years to forget about it completely. As if that was possible; to forget the screams, the smell. You'll never escape it.

You'll never escape the bodies.

And now it's time to face them again.
No. 934721 ID: 6ce595

Just in case you didn't already know, this quest has previous parts,

No. 934767 ID: d4d69a

First off, mention how your ribs are broken so it will be hard to talk.

It seems like you didn't do anything wrong if you have such bad memories, either you were just a witness or you were just following orders. Either way, tell the truth. The blame will be shifted on either way.
No. 934868 ID: 094652

Explain details but do it fast. Get this over with. If he insists on forcing you to relive the worst parts, make commentary on his sanity.
No. 934980 ID: fde5e7

"Quick question first," you say with a tinge of sardonicism, "Did you even notice that I was beaten black and blue?" You shift a bit in your seat to take pressure of your broken rib.

Dunmire gives a long, resigned sigh, "I'm sorry, 'Karma'," he says, giving you a genuinely sympathetic look. "Yes, I know that the practices here on the Misery are no where near legal. And if I could, I would help you. But I, the IWC, we're powerless. America becomes more and more corrupt, it's actions more desperate and depraved by the hour, but no one can do anything about it for fear of becoming an enemy of the U.S. At this point... All I can do is pretend not to notice," he takes a deep breath and regains some composure, "I'm sorry, I mean it, but I'm just doing my job, and I need you to answer my questions."

You give a mournful nod, "I understand, and I don't blame you," you take a deep breath and brace yourself, "Yes, to answer your question. I witnessed the Massacre."

Dunmire retrieves a small tablet and stylus from his briefcase, and appears poised to jot down notes, "Why were you deployed there in the first place?" He asks.

It was the second Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the top brass were panicking, realizing the gravity of the situation. The move had come swift as lighting, as if overnight 20,000 troops had mobilized. But it wasn't unexpected, either.

Just two months before, the Russian army had mobilized and taken control of Kazakhstan, then Kyrgyzstan, then Tajikistan. One of the fastest campaigns in the country's history. They met with no resistance, shear numbers ensuring that each country surrendered before the fighting had even begun.

Three weeks. That's how long it took for the Russian military to march across its southern neighbors, gaining complete control over them.

And then they attacked Afghanistan.

They gave no time to surrender, anticipating the violent reaction of the Afghan militias they simply charged in full force, killing anyone who so much as looked at a gun. Their victory was total, and it was achieved in less than a week.

The U.S. Was all too aware of what was happening, they'd seen it before, after all; it was the same tactic used by the Soviet bloc to capture countries and add them to their power, a self-feeding steamroller that would continue destroying and consuming until it's control was absolute.

The U.S. Wasn't too keen on the rise of a second Soviet Union, so they decided to take action in the form of clandestine operations. The goal to sabotage the invading force until the structure collapsed.

That's where you came in.

Your team's target was Alesiy Chekov, a colonel leading the infantry regiment stationed in Kabul. Without him the soldiers would be thrown into disarray. At least, that's what your superiors thought. And so they sent your squad to kill him.

"It was the second invasion of Afghanistan, my team was sent into Kabul to collect info on the Russians," you say. It's an innocent lie, makes the story simpler to tell, the paperwork look a little less dirty. After all, that is the story the U.S. Choose to write in the files.

Dunmire takes a note on his tablet, "Who was with you on the team?" He asks next, his eyes searching for details in your features.

Four Delta Operators besides yourself: Niceguy the light machine gunner, Brains the sniper, Crunch the medic, and Iceman the squad leader. You knew them all well, you trusted them. Maybe that trust was poorly founded.

"It was a small team, I forget the other guy's names," you shrug nonchalantly, "Didn't know 'em very well."

Dunmire continues to make notes. "What happened? How did things turn out so messy in Kabul?" He asks.

That is a long story.
No. 934982 ID: 094652

Did it end with an ancient mass-slaughter ritual ironically completed by your attempts to stop it?
No. 934985 ID: 0c0f75

Kome, I love you. No-homo.
No. 935035 ID: d4d69a

You know, this would almost fit.

While you should continue to keep the names to yourself, if they ask for them specifically, give them. Same with the mission details.

So withhold info as much as you want, unless they prod you for it.
No. 935427 ID: e35d75

Wind whips violently against the hull of the V-toll, rattling the fuselage, through the double-walled windows you see angry grey clouds form, and streaks of lightning fork across them.

A boom of thunder shakes the whole aircraft, and Brains, sitting across from you, clenches his teeth. He's never liked flying. Makes sense, he was a Marine; would rather travel by sea. But even if his constitution is lacking in the face of air travel, there's no doubt that he's invaluable on the ground. You've seen him nail a three inch target at 500 meters with that prize M14 of his.

He's much different from the rest of your team, who are all Airborne.

Niceguy's closest to the jump-ramp, eager to be the first to fight, as always. And as always, he's sporting that shit eating grin. It's genuine too. There's a reason he's called Niceguy. The name's a bit ironic though, considering he's the fiercest fighter on the team, strongest as well; that's why he carries the LMG, a big old M60 that his grandfather supposedly used in Vietnam. And just like his grandfather, he joined the U.S. Army as a grunt, good'ol MOS 11B. He's one of the only D-force members to be recruited from standard infantry.

Crunch is sitting where he always sits, furthest seat up, behind the copilot. "Safest seat in the aircraft," he claims. That's how he is, scientific method first and foremost. Guy got a doctorate in medicine before he went into the service, first as an Air Force combat medic, then as a U.S. Army combat medic. And much as we like to joke about it, that medical training he got sure does shine when he's patching up bullet holes with that special Medikit of his. I don't even know what all he carries in that thing, but I've seen him get exhausted soldiers up and running in seconds, bring men back from within an inch of death, and even bring them back from death.

Iceman, he isn't sitting. He's standing. No one actually calls him Iceman, that may be his official callsign, but it's only official. In the field we all call him Lead, because he's a leader, through and through. His real name's Scott Mitchell, and every member of this team admires him. He joined the service as a U.S. Army infantrymen, then he joined the Rangers, then the Green berets, and finally ended up in D-force. He's by far the oldest person on the team, and at 50 years of age, he might seem too old to be doing this job. But you've seen him fight; age has not slowed him down. Nor has it messed with his accuracy, making him a formidable Rifleman.

And that's you too, a Rifleman. Well, Riflewoman technically, but that just doesn't sound nearly as cool. You're by far the youngest member of the team, but certainly not green. In fact, you've got so many successful operations under your belt that the others started calling you Karma. Though you're fairly skilled in many forms of warfare, your specialty is as the team's techie, being the only one here even semi-competent with electronics. Drones, computers, surveillance; you name it.

You trust this team, trust it's skills; that's why you're confident this mission will turn up aces.
No. 935513 ID: 664519


Is that a typo of VTOL (V.ertical T.ake O.ff and L.anding)?
No. 935521 ID: 70d5de

Yes, that's a typo. I have no excuse, I can never forgive myself that slip up.
No. 935524 ID: 672eca

"20 seconds to drop!" Comes the pilot's distorted and staticky voice over comms.

And like clockwork, the whole team stands in line and in order: Lead in front, then Niceguy, you, Brains, and bringing up the rear is Crunch. Everyone performing last minute pre-jump checks.

Then the rear ramp opens slowly, like the maw of a beast, the jump light flashes on, and the pilot's voice is heard one last time, "GO FOR JUMP!"

In a maneuver practiced and preformed a hundred times before, the whole team is out of the aircraft and accelerating downward.

1... 2... 3... 4... In a gut-clenching mixture of fear, exhilaration, and meticulously drilled discipline you count the seconds and watch your altimeter.

Then the designated altitude comes, and you yank hard on your pull-cord.

The chute unfurls and your descent is instantly slowed, momentum jerking your whole body downwards and straining your neck.

You slow to a glide and get a moment to take in the scenery: below you spans a valley, cliff faces bordering either side of the ancient city of Kabul. Several fires burn in the streets, illuminating the wrecked buildings and aftermath of the Russian invasion.

Then you see the rest of your team, only barely making out their black parachutes against the darkness of the night, all of them converging on the rendezvous point in the western end of the city.

Quiet as death, you descend on the city. It's inhabitants none the wiser to your presence, nearly invisible against the virtually black sky. You land, and dispose of your parachute. Then, on silent feet, your team sprints across the ramshackle rooftops, all arriving at the designated burned-out church.

One by one, you all slink into the main hall of the church, quiet nods between yourselves the only acknowledgement of mutual presence.

Lead takes a knee, and gives a curt gesture telling everyone to do the same. "Alright people," he says, his voice cold, professional, and strict, "you all read the brief, but I'm going over it one last time so we're all crystal, pay attention; we are currently in the central western district of Kabul, the closest we could land to the target without risking detection. And that target is colonel Alesiy Chekov. At approximately 22:40 he meets with Captain Mikhail Smirnov at the center of the city, Smirnov is NOT the target; when Chekov leaves the meeting we hit him on his way back to his battalion. That is the only time he is exposed. Under no circumstances can the enemy identify us, this is a deniable op. That's why we're using a captured enemy RPG, a typical weapon of Afghan resistance fighters to take out Smirnov's car. With the thunderstorm, we will not be receiving any satellite or airborne support, visual confirmation only. Any questions?"

No questions. Not from anyone. As always.

With a glance at each and every team member, Lead seems satisfied, and nods, "Good. Let's move."

The night is quiet. The grim calm that follows a battle, as victorious soldiers drink themselves into a stupor, trying to forget the horrors they've seen, the things they've done; and the losers, the ones still alive, mourn the death of family and friends.

But quiet works well enough for your intents. And as you accompany your team across this destroyed city, you can't help but be grateful for the quiet. After all, this is war; and in war, you're either being bored to death, or shot to death. You've lived long enough now to always hope for the former.

Throughout the city, you encounter few Russian soldiers, and what of them you do see are drunken, sleeping, or both. None of them come close to detecting you, a flawless stealth approach so far. And something of a bad omen. Murphy's law likes to strike when you least expect it.

The whole team finally arrives at the ambush point: a half-destroyed schoolhouse overlooking the road. This particular section of road being bottlenecked by two wrecked cars and a barricade, forcing vehicles to move slowly through it. Across from you is an apartment complex which spans the whole block, meaning there are no alleys to turn off on. A perfect place to strike. And it just so happens that Chekov's car is scheduled to pass through this very convenient bottleneck.

The team settles in on the roof of the three-story schoolhouse, and is left with nothing to do but wait. Not very long at that.

...Yet something's bothering you. Some fact that's right in front of you, you just know it. Just gnawing at you.

Something isn't right.
No. 935542 ID: 189b8c

The enemy would be insane to send someone through that deathtrap without either re-clearing it out right before as security, or sending multiple decoys and a beefed up escort force.
No. 935796 ID: 8eaf98

This is too nice of an ambush spot, suggesting a setup. With the benefit of hindsight the apartment might still have civies in it they hear the commotion, ID you, you need no witnesses and so end up needing to 'deal' with them.
No. 936108 ID: ad884b

The feeling of unease only grows. Building until you can't ignore it.

You slink up behind Lead and tap him on the shoulder. "Lead, something's bothering me," you try to remain professional, keep the apprehension from your voice even as your skin prickles.

He glances over his shoulder at you, "What's the problem?" He respects you, he's voiced that respect, but you note a slightly dismissive tone as his attention remains on the clear objective.

"It's this place, the mission... Something isn't right. Something's off, it feels like a trap," you wrinkle your brow and glance around at the dilapidated buildings. That feeling is only getting stronger.

Lead sighs and scans the surroundings with a scowl, "I know, I feel it too. But we have to stay focused, now get back to your position," to make his point, he brings his RPG up to a ready position, poised to strike.

You frown, but still give a solemn nod and make your way back to your post.

Halfway there you stop, the hairs on your neck raise and you hear something.


That's a strange sound, almost like—

There's a boom. Your ears ring, you can't hear. There's a terrible pain in your left arm. You're tilting, falling. The ground is shifting beneath your feet, you're sliding. You feel your body hit the ground, you feel your head jar...

Your ears pop, the ringing slowly recedes, sound crashes back in; burning, shouting, gunfire. Abstract sounds, as if heard underwater.

You open your eyes, and cannot see. Blood, blood is clouding your vision, blood in your eyes. You cannot see. You try to call out, try to shout for help, but no sound escapes. There is no air in your lungs, the wind has been knocked out of you.

You gasp for air and the haze of battle begins to clear, tears fill your eyes and wash out the blood. For the first time you see your surroundings.

You're in a schoolroom. The ceiling has collapsed, and is hanging half-attached to the roof. Cement and rebar lie strewn about the room, there is blood pooling on the floor, you hope it is not your own. There's a fire burning to your left, burning plywood. You look down at your body, and see that your leg is pinned under a large piece of rubble.

Then you see your teammates: Niceguy and Lead firing at unseen enemies through windows on the other side of the room from you. Crunch kneeling over a bloodied from in a corner.

You try to shout for help, but only a feeble sound escapes "Help."

Niceguy hears you, and turns to look. His eyes widen when he sees you. "Karma!" He fires off one last burst from his MG before rushing across the room in a crouch.

He kneels next to you and clenches your hand tight, "I got you!"

You cough, expelling cement powder, "Leg," you groan, clenching your teeth.

He sees the chunk of cement pinning your leg, and gets to work; grabbing it's edge with both hands, he heaves. Even through his uniform you can see the muscles straining. The ruble is lifted a couple inches, enough for you to pull your leg out with difficulty.

Niceguy immediately releases the rubble once you're out from under it, obviously fatigued. Panting, he grabs your shoulder, "Karma, you good?"

"I'm fine," you grunt.

He nods and picks his machine gun back up, rejoining the firefight from the window.

With a groan, you pull yourself up into a sitting position, and look yourself over. Your leg is fine; bruised and sore, maybe a fractured bone, but it's fine. Your torso's all banged up, feels like internal bruising, but again, it's fine. What stops you is your arm. Your left arm.

You have to look at it a couple times to understand what you're seeing. There's a piece of metal about 6 inches long going straight through the forearm, between the bones. It gleams dully in the light of the fire. You hesitantly touch it, and as if some magical spell was broken it immediately starts hurting immensely. Agonizing pain that seems to shoot up the whole arm.

You utter a strangled "fuck" and hold back tears. You're chocking, you feel sick.

You fall backwards and start crawling, away from the pain, towards Crunch.

You're about to call out to him, when you see Brains: he's completely covered in blood, his own. His shirt has been torn away to reveal several deep cuts in his chest, shrapnel wounds; gushing blood. Crunch is doing his best to patch him up. Brains is making a horrible, gagging laughing sound, blood spewing from his mouth. He sees you crawling across the floor and smiles, "The got me, Karma, they got me. Go get 'um, go fucking kill them," he shoves Crunch away violently and brings himself to the floor next to you, his wide, bloodshot eye inches away, "GO FUCKING KILL THEM!" He shouts, his blood spattering your face.

Crunch is quick to pull Brains back up against the wall, and resume his work. But not for long before Lead turns to face the scene, "Leave him, Crunch, he's done. Get to work on Karma."

Crunch gives Lead a look of purest contempt, but still complies. Brains is left to bleed, and Crunch turns to face you, dragging you up against the wall and into a sitting position. "What's the problem?" He asks you in his usual, obtuse tone, sporting his usual, unpleasant expression. Seemingly unfazed by the Marine dying behind him.

You wordlessly raise your left arm, and Crunch just nods solemnly.

He puts on a new pair of medical gloves and fishes for something in his medical kit, retrieving a syringe full of some unknown fluid which he injects right above the shrapnel in your arm. Almost immediately, the pain begins to subside.

Crunch gives a rare sympathetic look, "Clench your teeth."

You open your mouth to protest, but he moves faster. In a second he has grabbed the shrapnel and pulled it out.

The pain, which had been receding before, comes back twofold. Blood gushes from the freshly opened wound and agony beyond imagination wracks your arm. You give an anguished cry, and attempt to control your breathing as Crunch pours styptic into the cut, then bandages it.

"Flex your fingers," he says in a clinical monotone.

You clench your left hand into a fist, and though renewed pain shoots up your arm, all of the fingers comply.

Crunch nods solemnly, and turns to Lead, "Karma's as mobile as she's getting. What's the play Lead?"

Lead presses himself against the wall adjacent one of the windows, bullets pattering against the other side of the wall. He clenches his teeth in anger before addressing Crunch, "We move." He pulls a grenade from his vest, removes the pin, and to your shock, hands it to Brains; "They're going to swarm this place once we're gone, take a couple out for us Brains." His tone is of bitter conviction.

Brains takes the grenade, holding it firmly in his shaking hand, "Understood, Sir."

Lead turns to you and grabs you by your good arm, "On your feet. Move!"

You're hoisted up, and before you know what's happening, you're sprinting through a back door, up a fire-escape, and across rooftops. It's all a haze, a blurred rush, a mad dash. Every one of you running the blade's edge between total determination to survive, and utter hopelessness.

Finally, when your lungs feel ready to burst and your legs buckle beneath you, Lead shoots up a hand in gesture to halt.

You immediately collapse against a wall, breath raged, adrenaline and pain in equal measure egging you on and begging you to stop.

Lead, though, seems to have barely broken a sweat. "Listen," he whispers.

You notice it immediately, one of the worst possible sounds you could hear on the battlefield; total silence. A perfect stillness, like chilled water. And it indeed chills you to the bone. A silence like this always precipitates death.

And sure enough, the macabre staccato of a grenade detonating in the distance breaks the silence.

Brains. Splattered all over a wall like some fucked up Jackson Pollock along with whoever was unlucky enough to be in the same room. He was a pretty good friend of yours, you know. Not like it matters now.

With eyes burning of hatred and cold with fury you stare Lead down. He abandoned Brains, gave him a fucking suicide bomb. And doesn't even have the decency to show a fucking facial expression. Wrath, white hot and uncontrollable boils beneath your skin, and you are suddenly very aware of the weight of your M1911 holsters at your hip. It's loaded. Your hand is poised above it, now caressing the wooden grip.

It would be easy.
No. 936140 ID: 094652

Lead's making the best of a bad situation. Disregard his apparent lack of empathy because he's your best shot at making it out of this alive and finding the reason why four elites were sent into a meat grinder.
No. 936378 ID: 2e0549

Your anger seethes, a rising crescendo like the hiss of a steam kettle, until finally it reaches the boiling point... And dissipates.

You sigh deeply, and with the breath, all the anger leaves your body, replaced with a hollow sadness, and deep disappointment in yourself.

It's not Lead's fault. There was nothing he could've done. It took a lot of strength to do what he did, to remain calm in the face of such a shitstorm. And you almost repaid that strength with a bullet. Yes, you're disappointed in yourself, but more so you're glad you stopped yourself before fucking up irreparably.

And besides, you see it now. That sadness behind Lead's eyes, the way he scans the horizon with hollow repetition. It was hard on him to do that, it was a hard choice. But he chose to keep the living alive, instead of cling to a corpse. You couldn't even begin to thank him for that sacrifice, for being surrogate to the guilt that would have hounded others. So you do the one thing you know he'll understand.

You clasp a hand on Lead's shoulder. He looks to you with questioning, almost hopeful eyes, as if he wants you to chew him out, to verbally beat him. It's easer to bear someone's open anger than quiet contempt.

But words never come. You stare him right in the eye, features set in a soft, mournful expression; a tiny, sad smile that reassures the promise of a tomorrow, and knowing eyes that speak the words you do not possess, telling him that you understand, that you feel his pain.

And just keep staring, neither of you breaking eye contact, until you're standing beside him, staring into the abyss. Until the abyss becomes you, and you the abyss.

This sadness will never leave, either of you. No amount of time will erase it, no amount of drink drown it, no measure of happiness dull it. It will remain, like an eternal wound, because it must remain. Pain is one of few constants in life, to avoid or deny it is to deny humanity, and in so bearing it, in so cherishing the hurt: those who have fallen, those mistakes made, those wounds inflicted; none if it is in vain. For in blood and suffering, we must find life.

And we must remember it.

And so you stare. Into his eyes and straight through his soul, sharing the pain.

Finally, when the hurt is acknowledged, understood; When the sorrow of the moment has been etched upon your heart in silent memorial; you close your eyes, and nod.

Once, slowly. Silent respect paid to the dead, to Brains, to the part of you and Lead which has just died. A goodbye.

And Lead, heaving a shuddering breath, closes his eyes and does the same. Your heads touching gently.

Then it is over. The dead departed and the living yet in danger, you both lean out and give each other adamant looks, steel will, to survive and ensure the team's survival, reflected upon your steely features.

You will not die. You refuse to. And you'll be damned before you give up on this team. Things went south, but you'll make the best of it. The night is darkest before dawn, or some shit like that.

Lead's already plotting your next move, you can see it on his face. And so you wait, prepared to follow orders, and get shit done.
No. 936605 ID: 8eaf98

Maintain situational awareness Otherwise just kinda wait for him to come up with a course of action I guess.
No. 936610 ID: 094652

Yeah this, but check your ammo and inventory.

See if you were given dud gear.
No. 942599 ID: 5025d3

You take a breath, and order your thoughts; most pressing is the urge to check your gear. Taking a knee, you make a mental list as you inspect the items individually. Struck with a pang of paranoia, you double check that each item is fully functional.

You lost your rifle, you don't really remember when through the haze, but it's gone. That leaves your secondary as your only firearm, a custom Matt-black M1911 SOCOM with night sights, holstered at your hip, it's fully functional, has two extra 7-round magazines aside from the one loaded. Then there's your knife, a shaving-sharp Ka-Bar with a plastic handle, sheathed upside-down in front of your left shoulder. A Leatherman multi-tool in a vest pocket. Two fragmentation grenades strapped to your vest. A small medkit, everything intact. Your radio, a broad-band self-encrypting handheld, fully functional, clipped on your back behind your left shoulder. A watch, electronic, upside down on your left wrist. Your cellphone, totally broken. Your body armor, a light ceramic plate-carrier, front and back protection. And lastly, a razorblade duct-taped to the bottom of your watch, which you sincerely hope you'll never have to use.

Everything except the cellphone is functional; there's a few rips in the plate carrier, and some dust fond it's way into the 1911's chamber, but they still function. A small miracle.

Your paranoia somewhat abated, the next matter is location; yours currently being what looks like an abandoned electronics shop, based on the various ancient TV's and decades-old phones on shelves and in display cases. The team splayed about the room, engaged in various self-care or post-battle activities.

So you're in an electronics shop, but where? Instinctively you reach for your phone, only to be reminded that it is just as broken as it was ten seconds ago. It's GPS isn't much use. Someone else has to have a functional device.

Crunch is sitting on top of an old box TV in a corner, staring attentively at at the floor, holding his chin thoughtfully, and swaying gently back and forth. You can't tell if he's deep in thought or having a silent emotional breakdown. Maybe both. Either way, he seems the least busy of your team members, and so you bother him first, "Crunch, where are we?" Your tone is deadpan, almost callous. Normally, you might try to sound supportive or empathetic, but you're far too close to an emotional breakdown yourself to be worried about others right now.

"An electronics store." His answer comes immediately and without emotion. He doesn't bother to stop swaying, or to look at you, he doesn't even blink. And for a moment, you think you might have imagined him speaking at all.

You pinch the bridge of your nose, "Thank you, captain obvious. Astute and helpful as always, the fuck would we do without you?" You hiss sardonically.

"Bleed to death."

You sigh, "Let me see your phone."

Still holding his chin, still not looking at you, still rocking gently, he retrieves his phone with his free hand and extends it to you, slowly.

You grab it somewhat impatiently and start to turn and walk away, but Crunch grabs your forearm, gently, almost pleadingly. When he looks up from the floor his eyes are searching, lost. "Do you blame him?" His voice is soft, tentative, like he doesn't really expect an answer. Or like he doesn't want one.

When the response comes, your tone is soft, "No. No I don't."

Crunch keeps staring, his eyes searching your features for some kind of answer. "Do you think he deserved it?"

Your tone becomes harsh, and your expression hardens, "No one deserves it, that's why this job is so fucking hard." You close your eyes and release a small sigh, "But I think he wanted it, deep down."

A pause, then, wordlessly and never breaking eye contact, Crunch slowly lets go of your arm. So slowly, as if that touch was the only thing between him and the abyss.

His gaze shifts off of you, and down to his hands, which he holds before his face, trembling. "Do no harm." He mutters to himself, so quietly you barely catch it. Then he looks back up at you, "I think we might deserve it, Karma. I think deep down, we all want it."

You don't know what to say to that, so you hold the silence. But even the silence is deafening. Accusing.

You're done with this conversation.

Crunch's device is straightforward: a PDA, some years outdated, but running all the essential modern applications. Among them military GPS software.

You open the program, and are immediately greeted with a "no signal" message.

That doesn't make any sense, you're familiar with this program, you've used it in ass-end spots all over the world; you were told that multiple satellites were orbiting over the AO, connection should be perfect.

Something isn't right.

You check the local signal: no discrepancies. Either the Russians have a magical new jammer up and running, or they're not interfering.

In fact, there are several routers within range, one in particular appears to be the local Communications Hub for the Russians. You could try hacking into it; not only would it allow you to connect to the Internet and find your location, but you might also collect valuable Intel, it is a Communications Hub after all, and this is your area of expertise.

But it would be risky, if they caught on they might trace the hack and find you.

Maybe you should consult Lead. But then again, maybe you shouldn't. This is your area of expertise, not his.
No. 942600 ID: 094652

Tell Lead ASAP. But also put 'sending an SOS to the Russians' on the table. Obviously an international incident will @#$% things up even more, but at this point, you adversary has a higher level than you; either they have the tech / intel / luck to blackout military-grade hardware, or there's a mole in Mission Control. Or worse. Teaming up to uncover a conspiracy earns brownie points for the troops on both sides, so they have incentive to help.
No. 943466 ID: 8eaf98

ask lead why/how GPS might be down and if you should try hacking the russian comms hub to get some functionally back, remember though your phone is dead and you would not be using your hardwear
No. 943962 ID: 1b9dbd

Something's severely fucked, something gnawing at you. Staring you in the face, just beyond view. Like a song who's name you've forgotten, stuck in your head, or a dream that you can't remember, phantoms in the periphery. Something you know, something you should know. But like a handful of sand it always slips between your fingers.

It's fucking bugging you.

You fill Lead in on the tech situation, and he reacts about how you expected; "Are you sure? Sat link should be clean and steady. Are you positive it's not working?"

He never could accept it when Top Brass fucked up, always trying to find some way to explain it off, to make it the fault of somebody below him. He's the first to admit when he's fucked up, and the last to accept he's been fucked over. "Positive. Lead, this is my job. I know when tech's fucked."

He shakes his head in frustration, hissing an angry little growl. "Shit. And what about this Russian Comms Hub?"

"It's a router for all digital and long-distance radio communications in the area. If I tap into it I can use it to access the Internet, and more importantly, piggyback off Russian satellites to triangulate our location. I might also collect valuable information if I listen in on Comms channels. But, if they caught on there's a chance they could manage to trace the hack and find us." You explain it using grand gestures and as few big, techie words as possible. It's not that Lead is unintelligent, it's that his tech skills are stuck in the Gulf War.

Lead gets that look, a dangerous look: his eyes narrow and he seems to gaze off into the distance, his scowl deepening. It's a look that means he's thinking, evaluating, planing: weighing battle ability, the objective, and human lives with a cold, practiced disconnection.

Finally, he looks up from his thoughts with a look somewhere between steely conviction, and the zeal of insanity: "The mission isn't over yet," he says through teeth gritted in determination, "Hack the Comms Hub, quickly. Focuse on finding our location, then Chekov's. Get what you can on Russian troop movements and fighting force, then we move. Chekov is still the target, we find him, and end this."

You grit your teeth right back at him, your eyes fly open with a mixture of rage and disbelief, "Lead, the mission, is, over!" You practically spit. "Brains is KIA, the ambush was a fucking trap; this mission was fucked sideways before it began!" You hiss through your teeth, straining to keep your voice low as it rises with fury, "We need to call exfil and get the fuck out while we still can!"

He scowls deeper, and you see it behind his eyes: his mind focusing in on the objective, the plan cementing itself.

There's no stopping him now, no reasoning with him.

He's crazy! This whole fucking thing is crazy! He's diving headlong into a suicide mission and pulling us down with him, FUCK!

There's nothing I can do! Nothing! He has command authority, that fucking idiot, and the others would follow him before me! I'm powerless! Think, fucking think!

God fucking damnit! This... What a fucking shit show. And my arm is hurting worse than fucking ever!

Fuck. FUCK!
No. 943971 ID: 094652

>WHAT. The mission parameters were @#$%ing clear. Chekov is the target-
"No he isn't. No he @#$%ing isn't. He's the scapegoat. Face it, Lead: this mission was compromised from the start, we were intentionally fed faulty intel by our comms. Do you really think the Brass would be STUPID enough to throw us into this mess when our 'state-of-the-art' comms are jammed? Hell, how long have they been hacked? Enough to send in the mission briefing?"
>... Why risk the reasonable chance that we could kill Chekov?
"The name should have given it away, sir. Chekov's likely an incompetent fop, or possibly a political threat to whichever Russian official's behind this. They want Smirnov promoted and they want him promoted now, that's why our orders were to specifically leave him alone. They probably tipped the terrorists off to our location so we'd be too pissed from combat to think, and if we somehow got wiped, they could just as easily blame the assassination on the terrorists skilled enough to wipe a spec-ops unit. Morton's fork at its finest, sir."
No. 944130 ID: 8eaf98

I don't have anything better to add here.
No. 945318 ID: 89e444

You grit your teeth against the pain in your arm, and again force your thoughts into order. Pushing your anger deep enough that you can think straight.

Something clicks.

That thing that you couldn't place, finally it makes sense. And now that you see it, it's fucking ugly.

Your thoughts, before writhing and swirling like a maelstrom of uncertainty and fear, now are completely still. Deathly stillness.

When words finally come, they are devoid of emotion. Your tone is deadpan and your eyes go cold, "Lead, shut the fuck up and listen to me."

He seems taken aback at first, then irate at your blatant disrespect. But he holds his tongue; even as his eyes blaze with fury. For that much, you have to give him credit.

Emotions boil just behind your eyes, and you struggle to restrain the torrent.

You continue in a deadpan, not a flicker of your turbulent thoughts reflecting on your features. "We've been had. From the very fucking beginning." You turn away as if slapped, seething quietly at the sharp sting of reality. "The Russians played us like a damn fiddle."

Dread. Like an oily darkness it wells up, and threatens to consume you.

Lead finally bursts; "The hell are you talking about?" His eyes narrow with anger, and his lips form a thin line.

You lock eyes with him, your features hardening with pain from your injuries, and anger at your own fucking stupidity. "Chekov is a pawn, we are a pawn. There was never a mission, Lead, think about it; what the hell would killing Chokov actually accomplish? Nothing. Not for the US, at least. But for the Russians, they'd be getting rid of an incompatant Leader. You saw the report, you know how many soldiers he's lost the Russians, how much they want him gone. And replacing him? That's where Smirnov comes in. Why do you think we were told to avoid the meeting place, when we could have taken out two birds with one stone? Because they wanted Smirnov alive, because the Russians planned this whole fucking thing. And if we failed? If we were killed? Then the U.S. loses an elite team of operators, and can't do fuck all about it because that would be admitting to a deniable op.” You scowl. “Morton's fork: damned if you do, damned if you don't."

The anger drains from Lead's face, along with the color. His features flash confusion, then fear, then denial, then indignation. "Not possible. I was given the orders for this mission, in person! A face to face conversation with General Wall! And he told me..." Lead trails off, and genuine fear etches his features.

"He told you there would be no support for this mission, despite how dangerous it is. He told you not to use Comms unless absolutely necessary. And you wanna know why? Because the Comms are fucking useless. Because the whole chain of command is compromised! Because Wall sent us on a God-damned suicide mission just like the Russians told him to. They tricked him, they tricked us; and now you're scared, Lead, scared because the Russians control the whole God-damned Army, and you don't know who you can trust if not the Top Brass.”

You battle that sense of dread, that resignation to doom. Fight it back and crush it beneath the iron will they drilled into you in training. ‘Cause you’re not dead yet, and you’ve got a couple of bullets left before you’ll accept defeat.

Your tone becomes fervent. “But you can trust us, Lead. You can trust your team.”

Lead doesn’t meet your eyes. “But can you trust me?” The way he says it... its not a question.

You’re taken aback. In all the time you’ve known him he’s never acted like this.

It’s too much. And you fucking snap.

You scowl, your eyes harden, and any safety or solace that might have been found in your features disappears. “On your fucking feet.” Your tone is even, measured. But not calm. No, no it couldn’t be called calm.

Lead meets your stare, but does not speak. His eyes are cold.

Your temper flashes. “On... Your… Fucking... Feet!” Your tone becomes harsh, punitive, a barely-restrained shout hissed through grit teeth and punctuated with a violently thrust finger.

Lead’s expression does not change, but he hauls himself to his feet and heaves a forlorn sigh.

By now, both Crunch and Niceguy are watching with morbid interest. Dead expressions telling of how they too have given up. Let them watch.

You grab Lead by the collar of his shirt and slam him against the wall, hot fury showing in your every move. That gets a rise out off him.

For a moment, he’s too shocked to speak, then it seems anger binds his tongue. You press on with a force. “ARE YOU A FUCKING SOLDIER?” You shout. Whispering be damned! You hope the fucking Russians hear you, would save the trouble of finding them yourself.

Lead’s anger is now boiling, you can see it in his eyes, but he doesn’t speak past his gritted teeth.

You slam him against the wall once more. “I SAID. ARE YOU A FUCKING SOLDIER? ANSWER ME!”

He grinds out a “yes” with more malice behind it than you thought was possible. He looks like he’s inclined to kill you himself.

You really couldn’t give a shit.


He silently glares bloody murder.


“No.” His tone loses some of its dangerous edge, sadness overpowering even his rage. Fuck that, you’re even more pissed.

“THEN DO YOUR FUCKING JOB.” You punch him. Hard. Right in the gut. He doubles over and you step away, fury still radiating from every taught, straining muscle in your body. The others are too shocked to react.

He stands up straight, slowly, and adjusts his shirt. His face is unreadable. “I intend to.” His tone carries a new, grim conviction. The lines of his face set with something fiery, but it’s not quite anger.

No, it’s duty.

He turns to a still-stunned Crunch. “What’s everyone’s physical status?” His voice is calculated and clear, like a soldier’s, like a leader’s.

It takes Crunch a moment to process that he is being spoken to. “Eh- K- Karma’s arm is injured, Sir, she should be kept away from heavy fighting.”

Lead scans you over quickly with analytical eyes. “She looks fine to me. Give her a Stim. And Niceguy?”

“A few scrapes, nothing serious.”

“Good enough. Help Karma then get ready to move.” He turns back to you. “Karma, gain access to the Comms Hub and contact this region’s Commanding Officer. Involve as few middle men as possible, give only as much information as is necessary to secure exfiltration.” He leans in to whisper. “And thanks for the pep talk, drill instructor.” His tone is almost humorous, and as he leans away, you catch the tiniest suggestion of a smile playing across his lips.

Something must be terribly, terribly wrong with him. Maybe you punched him harder than you thought.

But despite it all, you catch yourself smiling right back.
No. 945319 ID: 094652

Holy shit, nicely done. Now do the comms thing.
No. 945525 ID: 3ce8ff

You got orders now, and lacking more pressing matters; execute them.
No. 946043 ID: 0a7a46

“No, no I can’t just give you a message. This is fucking important, I need to speak with the General in person- Ow, fuck!” You struggle to make yourself understood between the shitty connection, and Crunch jabbing a needle into your injured arm. The jaded Medic is a great many things, but gentle isn’t one of them.

Thankfully, the Radio Operator you’ve managed to contact is also a great many things, among them mildly stupid and hard of hearing, but also exceedingly patient. Which is more than you can say about yourself. “What? Is it an emergency? The General is very busy, and only has time to talk if it’s urgent.” Says the dim Lance Corporal who’s name you’ve already forgotten.

“Yes it’s a Goddamn emergency! I need to speak with the General immediately. Not whenever you’re done getting the crayons out of your nose!” You half-shout.

The Lance Corporal manages to sound offended without actually saying anything. It’s a very offended silence. “I’ll need you to give me a verification code.”

This is the fourth fucking time he’s asked for that Goddamn code.

“Whiskey alpha zero nine delta tango tango hotel zero zero six three.” You repeat, as clear as possible.

You hear the scratch of a pen on paper, then the screech of a chair and footsteps that fade gradually.

The motherfucker left. That son of a bitch!

It’s a solid three minutes of waiting; Lead, Crunch, and Niceguy all moving around you with purpose, you yourself sitting with a thumb up your ass and a scowl on your face, before Lance Corporal Whoever-the-fuck returns.

There’s a shuffling of feet, a screech of a chair, and again your ears are assaulted by the voice of the Radio-Operator. “Uh, the- Uh, General wants to speak with you.” His voice is halting and fearful, like someone just gave him a good chewing-out.

“Well I want to talk with her. So that just sorts that, fucking doesn’t it?” You say sardonically.

There’s an awkward pause. “I’ll, uh, patch you through.”

“No shit. And here I thought I’d get to listen to your wonderful voice for even longer.” You’re really questioning how much farther this guy can test your patience before you do something stupid. Though you don’t know what exactly that would be.

Thankfully, you’ll never know. The audio from his end cuts out, replaced by the fuzzy whine of radio interference. Slowly, the shadow of a voice forms from the screeching static. It repeats several times before you finally make out the words. “Hello? Hello? Please copy. This is Chief petty officer Yu of the USS Ridgeback, Over.”

“Solid copy. This is Sergeant Chloe Lynch, callsign “Karma”.” You respond, with a renewed sense of hope.

“Copy. I’m putting you through to General Amanda Miller, she wants to speak with you personally.” Says Yu.

A new voice cuts in over the channel, female, commanding, harsh; if it weren’t for the last name you’d half suspect her of being Lead’s wife. “This is General Miller, commander of this region’s US Army combat forces. You are Sergeant Chloe Lynch, technical specialist within Delta Force, correct?”

“Correct, ma’am.”

“Good. Give me a sitrep, and spare no detail. I need to know what the hell is happening out there.”

You hesitate.

You want to trust her, god you want to trust her. But after all the shit that’s happened, paranoia practically goes without saying. Why did she need to speak with you directly? It’s fishy. Not to mention Lead’s instruction to give as little information as possible.

You opt for a modified version of the truth. No lies, but rather a version of the story with numerous omissions, filled in with over-detailed descriptions to prevent it from sounding too short.

You tell of the ambush, how it was like they knew you were going to be there, of your injury (though you play it down), of the firefight; but with Brains’ death, you say only that he was shot, KIA, no mention of Lead’s decision.

You tell of malfunctioning tech, how you couldn’t contact command at first. But you neglect to mention anything about the Russian sabotage, or how you’re speaking to her through a Russian comm network.

You weave a tail tight enough to hold water, and given that Lead, Niceguy, and Crunch all give the same story when questioned (you’ll make sure they do) no one will ever be able to question it.

You finish the report, and General Miller sighs. “Soldier, I’ve got some bad news for you.” Her tone is grim.

You suck in a breath.

“I never gave the order for your mission.” She says it like it should come as some huge surprise.

Wow. Fucking jaw-dropping. Con-fucking-gratulations, Sherlock. Real god-damn helpful. Maybe this would have come as more of a shock if I hadn’t figured it out my damn self. Thanks General. You deserve a medal. Was it before, or after you never gave that order that you realized you hadn’t given the order? Either way, your powers of deduction are simply fucking breathtaking. I’m speechless, which is good because I’ve got a lot of words ready I definitely shouldn’t say to your face. Jesus.

You’re not exactly sure if her long-ass pause is to for effect, or if she’s waiting for you to speak first. You decide to play it safe. “What?” You feign surprise, trying not to let your irritation affect your tone.

The General of melodrama sighs. “I never gave the go-ahead for the mission you’ve been sent on. In fact, until twenty minutes ago, I thought you and your team were still at base. And you’re not the only ones. Dozens of teams have all been deployed on similar missions, all ambushes. Yours is one of only five teams still alive, that we know of.”

That one does actually come as a surprise, you can’t think up a single response to this. All your thoughts screech to a halt as realization sets in.

Dozens. Oh god.

The General continues. “They were all deployed simultaneously, all of them to death traps like yours across Afghanistan. Every base I’ve contacted said they got the orders from me, directly: orders I never sent.” Her voice drops to a severe hiss. “And that means that someone has sabotaged our entire command chain. I’m willing to bet that someone is the Russians. This is why I’m speaking to you directly, Sergeant, I can’t trust the system anymore.”

You rally and from a response. “Ma’am, we need exfil here, the Russians are crawling across this whole city, I doubt we’ll survive the night.”

She sounds exhausted when she speaks. “I know, Sergeant, I know. And that’s exactly why I can’t send exfil. The whole city is just too damn hot right now. A bird would be shot down before it could land.”

“What about extraction by land? The city isn’t that tightly patrolled. Send in a vehicle to the city outskirts, we’ll move to rendezvous.” You press.

“Kabul is situated in a Valley, the only ways in or out by car are guarded.” She quickly shoots your idea down.

And idea strikes you. It’s terrible and stupid but it’s the only one you can think up. “What if we take out their air defense? They have radar that can track aircraft but what if we punch a hole in their surveillance?”

“Just what are you suggesting?” Asks the General, her tone harsh.

“Our team takes out an AA battery and create a dead spot in their surveillance big enough for a stealth VTOL to slip in, pick us up, and extract under the cover of darkness.” You continue, hopeful.

The General is silent, in contemplation. When she finally speaks she sounds extremely apprehensive. “And you think you can pull this off? AA batteries are no joke.”

“Better ideas?” You ask dryly.


“Then we have no choice but to pull this off.” You reply with grim resolve.
No. 946047 ID: 094652

>"I was given the orders for this mission, in person! A face to face conversation with General Wall!"
>"I never gave the order for your mission."
Welp, time for General Miller to ensure General Wall never makes it across the border.

>Fifteen elite squads dead, five teams or less remaining
"Ma'am, requesting permission to screw the Geneva Convention six ways to Sunday and shoot to kill whoever masterminded this slaughter. And then shoot some more. We're not taking any chances against this maniac; if they're willing to kill 20 black ops teams in a single day, they're suicidal."
No. 946604 ID: 0dd51e

“Phooooh...” You sigh.

Logistics are fucking everything.

Timing, numbers, location, info, guesswork; all of it necessary for a functioning plan, all of it pivotal in your team’s survival.

And still you can’t help but feel exhausted by the fifteen-minute conversation you’ve just had with General Miller.

Mentally exhausted, that is. By the way Lead is gesturing to spin-up, you figure physical exhaustion isn’t far behind.

Clap, clap, clap, four pairs of boots sound against the aging stone of Old Town, as the team makes its way through backstreets too small and crowded to accommodate cars. Here the buildings feature more traditional construction, as well as far more occupants.

Before, it was like the entire city was deserted; but now it’s obvious that it’s residents all moved closer to the city center, and away from the unprotected outskirts.

Which isn’t exactly helpful to your team’s movements. Seems like you can’t walk three feet without bumping into a civilian, even in the backstreets. At this point it’s less “Hope no one sees us.” and more “Hope no one recognizes US insignia.” The deniability of the op is fairly fucked at this point but you really couldn’t care, considering it was from the start.

You’re about a half klick away from the AA battery. After your talk with General Miller you finally managed to get a GPS working, and are now navigating towards the objective.

There’s been shockingly little resistance so far, and now you’ve fucking jinxed yourself. But you might think an occupied city would have more, don’t know, occupation?

You’re all moving down a small backstreet, buildings on both sides sport colorful facades and merchant’s stalls crowd the sidewalk; rugs, spices, used clothes, mystery meat and bootleg electronics, myriad wares, all abandoned. The buildings are either boarded up, or shot up. And occasionally some sound will betray human occupants, but an eerie silence prevails. It’s the quiet of fear, the uneasy calm that follows death and destruction. And you really, really don’t like it.

The taping of your boots, the slightest shifting of clothes, a stray cough, hell breathing; all of it sounds painfully loud in the deafening silence.

Then a sudden hand gesture from Lead interrupts your thoughts, and confirms that you fucking jinxed it; he signals for everyone to stop.

Slowly, the deafening silence recedes as a faint sound grows louder. Voices, getting closer, still too quiet to make out the words, but they’re speaking Russian.

You bring your pistol up and strain to keep your breathing under control. Several voices, three or four, some distance up the street, coming from around a bend. Judging by the footsteps they’ll round it in less then a minute, and you’ll be in in the middle of the street like an idiot.

Lead signals for everyone to get low. “Under the stalls, I wanna scope ‘em.” He whispers.

All four operators crawl behind the merchant stalls, hidden from view.

Stress mounts as the voices become more audible, you focus on keeping still and quiet.

A light becomes visible, and soon afterwards the flashlight producing it, and its user.

Four Russian soldiers, clad in light body armor and desert fatigues, bearing AK-12s, chatting about something, some officer they all hate. You really couldn’t care.

They walk at a leisurely pace, chat casually, but you can see the tension in their movements, hear it in their voices: they’re all on edge. Makes sense; it’s war after all. But they’re jumpy, and armed with automatic weapons; that makes them dangerous. You clutch your gun a little tighter.

The soldiers move closer, closer, until they’re right in front of you, feet away, and for a moment you could swear one of the soldiers is looking at you, no, he is looking at you. You tense and prepare to spring from cover, but he stares you straight in the eye, and shakes his head. One of the other soldiers speaks to him, asks him what he’s looking at, he just looks away, “Nothing” he says.

They pass. And just keep on walking, not once looking back. The deafening silence slowly sets back in.

You’re not sure what just happened, but you’re pretty sure you owe that soldier a solid.

Lead’s voice makes you jump, and you’re really glad you had your finger off the trigger. “Clear, everyone up.” He says softly.

Slowly, everyone comes out of hiding. Niceguy’s livid, looks ready to run after those soldiers and gun them down, maybe he blames them for Brains’ death, you don’t. Crunch looks about as shaken as you are. Lead is totally impassive, unreadable expression, not really sure if that’s good or bad; you’ve seen rocks more expressive.

The stone-faced bastard just gives a quick “move out.” And starts walking.

At some point, Lead veered off the street and into the convoluted back alleys that run around and between the buildings; a maze of footpaths, shady back-doors, and garbage. It’s all in a state of terrible disrepair, but whether that happened before the war you couldn’t say.

You don’t see a single person. Maybe because no one’s fool enough to wander the back-alleys of Kabul after dark, especially during a war. No one but your team.

Then, just because the universe loves proving you wrong, Lead throws up a hand and signals the team stop.

You take quick stock of your surroundings: small courtyard, behind what looks like a sketchy speakeasy. It’s open to the air, and rooftops surround you on every side. Your mind races with all the angles ambushes could come from.

Lead slowly inches forward, gun trained on an overflowing dumpster to the side of a small alleyway. The sound of scraping and shallow, ragged breathing comes from behind it.

Lead nears, and the scraping stops. Lead says something quietly in Pashto, you’re not fluent but it sounded like “come out slowly”.

A kid, young boy starved half to death, tears streaming down his eyes, crawls out from behind the dumpster. He keeps saying the same thing over and over again. He’s sobbing pretty hard, so you’re not sure, but it sounds like “Don’t shoot!”.

For a moment, you almost let your guard down, almost. But then you realize the kid is hiding his right hand behind his back. There’s something in it.

Lead says something gently, it’s too soft for you to make out but you guess he’s telling the kid to show his hands.

The kid just keeps crying, saying the same thing over and over again “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” He keeps his hand hidden.

Now he’s started moving closer, shuffling on unsteady feet.

Lead holds out a hand, “Stop!” He commands in Pashto.

The kid’s shaking his head, “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

He’s getting closer.

Everyone aims at the kid.

“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”

“Stop!” Lead is practically shouting.

He’s an arms length away from Lead, his hand comes out from behind.

“DON’T SHOOT!” The kid is screaming.

Lead plants his foot on the Kid’s chest and kicks hard, sending him flying. He levelshis rifle and prepares for retaliation. It never comes.

The kid’s head cracked against the wall, hard. A small trickle of blood streams from his nose. He was screaming on the way down, now he’s silent.

There’s a grenade in his right hand, the pin is gone, his dead fingers are keeping the handle depressed.

No one says a word.

At some point, Lead just starts walking.

Everyone follows.

You... don’t want to think about that right now. You don’t have time to think about it right now.
No. 946645 ID: 094652

>Russian grunt ignored you
He's not getting paid enough to die to black-ops, and you both know it.

>Suicide bombing kid
The worst part is, you'll never know his motive. But at least you were ruthless instead of dead stupid.

That should work as a distraction when it eventually goes off, but place a red flag or something. You do not want that going off in front of concerned citizens, especially if it ensures survival of the scumbags like you but without discipline training.
No. 946716 ID: 3ce8ff

grim as it is there is still a mission to do, what is done is done, dwelling can happen later.
No. 946952 ID: 5fbeef

You were young, then. Still are. In some sense. Don’t feel that way, though. Feel far too old.

It’s heavy, that burden, and you’ll always carry it. But you’re almost glad it’s there, the pain reminds of the loss. Without it, loss is meaningless.

The harder you deny that shit the harder it fucks you up, that doesn’t mean anyone else needs to hear it.

But this guy wants the truth. Unadulterated. He’s pushing you for it. So a truth you’ll give him, your version of it, even if it’s a brutal one.

“So, your team was engaged in a firefight, your sniper was... shot, you received an injury to the arm-” Dunmire begins.

“Wanna see the scar?” You interject, smirking wryly.

“I’ll take your word for it.” He adjusts his glasses and continues. “After the firefight, you contacted command with difficulty, and discovered beyond doubt the mission was an orchestrated failure, and that you were not alone in the deception. You then made a plan to secure extraction and headed to destroy an AA radar, along the way there was an... incident with a child soldier.” He says without looking up from the documents he’s gradually buried the table in.

“Soldier is a strong word.” You reply absentmindedly. You’re currently busy gently massaging your broken ribs, checking every thirty seconds or so to make sure they haven’t miraculously healed. Nope, still busted as fuck. But if you’re being honest, that’s not the first thing on your mind either. It’s less painful to focus on, though.

Dunmire pinches the bridge of his nose and sighs. “This is a humanitarian nightmare. Not to mention the light it frames the US military in.”

You scoff disdainfully. “Story’s not over. And don’t feel too sorry for yourself, now. It might sound bad but living through it is was something else entirely.”

Dunmire looks up at you with weary eyes. “You’re right. Of course. I’m sorry. Sorry to make you relive all this; but I’m just following orders. Even if I’d rather not.”

You smile sarcastically. “Just following orders? Well, so was I.” Your smile fades to a rueful frown. “And it’s not me you should feel sorry for.”
No. 947113 ID: 3ce8ff

more plz i need to know
No. 947154 ID: 094652

You gonna chokehold your interrogator now?
No. 947335 ID: 0341c2

Your mind wanders. And after what you’ve experienced, and your current situation. That’s not good. At all.

You can’t get it out of your head. That kid, lying there, dead. What was he even fighting for? And Lead killed him. You can’t blame your leader, but his face... stone cold. Like he’d just spilled his drink, only slightly inconvenienced.

You wonder if he’s even human.

Then you start asking yourself questions, a terrible idea. You might as well kill yourself now before the answers do.

What are you really fighting for? Killing for? It’s not for America, not for the dream of freedom and liberty, or the illusion. It’s not for the Army, you never really had much respect for its creeds or duty. It’s not even for your friends or family, as if you have much of either in the first place.

When it really comes down to it, you’re just fighting for yourself.

That kills you to realize, just a little bit. That every bloodstain on your soul, every corpse in your past, all of it was just you fending for yourself.

You take a shuddering breath. You feel like you should be crying, or at least feeling guilt, but all you feel is a profound numbness. Somehow, that makes it so much worse.

27 people. You’ve killed 27 people in your life. The first was your battle buddy, tried to rape you in basic. Bashed his face in with your foot, not an open casket funeral to put it simply. You were seventeen then. You felt no remorse.

The rest all just blur together.

The second was a man in Brazil, he was holding a gun, but you’re a better shot. Killed seven in Myanmar, incident you’re still not supposed to talk about. Two in Alaska, you needed the sled dogs and they wanted more money than you had. One in Russia, didn’t mean to, he was all talk and a weak heart.

You struggle to remember the next one, but you must have drunken yourself close enough to death to forget after it happened.

That’s funny. Like salt in a wound. ‘Don’t even care enough to remember you’. Heh he...

Crunch is tapping his fingers against the wall, a slow staccato rhythm that sounds off beat. At first it annoys you, then you find yourself humming along, simply because it’s a sound. Simply because it’s not the silence of death.

“Karma, eyes up.” Lead whispers harshly. As much a reprimand as an order.

Your attention immediately snaps upwards. You give a small ‘I’m not shell-shocked’ nod. It’s only then you realize you’ve been staring at the floor blankly for the last ten minutes.

Lead gives the tiniest of nods back before turning to address the team, who have taken positions all across the abandoned hotel room you’re currently calling a hideout.

“Alright everyone, listen up.” He begins in as loud a tone as anyone would dare given proximity to the enemy. “Just across the street from this hell-hole is the Russian AA battery. It is also the local command center for Russian forces, so security is tight. The plan is to sneak in, find the main generator, and sabotage it. In the case that they have a backup, we’ll find and disable that one as well. For this plan to work, we’re going to need the location of the Generator; Karma, Niceguy, head to the roof and scout it out. Questions?”

No one answers.

“Good.” He glances in your direction, then Niceguy’s. “You two, head out. Use your radio sparingly, they could pick up on it.”

A shared nod with your gunner, and you’re off.

It’s not a very efficient building, the hotel. Only three stories tall, and possessing few rooms considering its size. It’s sprawling expanse is stylized like some sort of palace, meant to attract tourists who don’t know any better. Serves your team well enough.

The roof is hard to access owing to strange architecture, but once on top of it, it proves a good scout post with plenty of cover behind its decorative facade.

You take a kneeling position alongside Niceguy, and both of you get to work scoping out the Russian camp below.

A large area fenced off with razor-wire-topped chainlink. It appears it used to be a collection of small, single story shops and houses. Densely-packed buildings repurposed for military use: barracks, canteen, CO’s office, and there’s the radar... shit, no cables hooked up to it; it’s a self-sufficient model.

As if that was the good news, your eyes stray further into camp and you catch sight of a motor pool.

Heavy armor and APC’s kinda motor pool.

You slump behind cover and massage your eyes with the backs of your hands, cursing as loud as you dare in a violent string of profanity that targets everything from the Russians to your still-throbbing injuries.

Niceguy doesn’t take his eyes off the enemy, but gives a good-natured chuckle. “You sound tired, Karma. How about you send Crunch up and catch a couple minutes shut-eye? No one will blame you for tapping-out a minute.”

“I’ll blame myself. He’s more tired than I am. I’ll rest when we’re out of this sandy wasteland.” There’s no humor in your tone, morbid focus affecting a hard edge. You attempt to turn it around with a joke, “Besides, you really want Crunch to be spotting with you?” It ends up sounding as forced as it is.

Niceguy still gives a breathy laugh, and he’s better at faking than you are. “Point. Still, something’s bothering you, wanna talk about it? No bullshit allowed?”

That gets a genuine chuckle from you. “Not really, but damn if you don’t sound like you mean it. later, promise.”

He smiles, and finally takes his eyes off the camp. “Now, you know I’m gonna hold you to that. Last chance to take it back.” He raises an eyebrow for emphasis.

“I mean it. We’ll have a good ol’ heart to heart, tete-a-tete, touchy-feely talk about feelings once we’re not in immediate danger of being shot. Pinky swear.” You wiggle your little finger.

He eyes you with hyperbolic suspicion and a knowing look. “You better mean it too.”

You probably don’t.

Bigger problems though, just how the hell are you going to deal with the AA radar? Your focus returns to the task at hand, and you get back to scouting.

You look at the camp from every angle, and it seems almost perfectly defended, but finally you find a blindspot where the chainlink fence meets a section of old stucco wall, and dry grass grows along the ground, providing cover and concealment. It’s away from any lights, so concealed in shadow. It’s a great approach. But you need a plan.
No. 947346 ID: 094652

Main strategy is, get in quietly, build multiple exit routes while you're inside, then blow the AA tower with remote charges as best you can and scamper for the nearest exit route that's still active.

You'll need to act fast and knock a few heads (don't just haphazardly kill them, try forcing beer down their throats until they're too drunk to think), but if you cause enough chaos you can get through the rest of the base without firing a shot.
No. 948361 ID: febe12

“Who’s fucking plan was this?” Whispers lead harshly.

You’re not deigning to respond to that. He knows the answer anyway.

And it’s a good plan. He knows it. He’s just bitching.

The reality of four soldiers low crawling through grass to reach a wall which may or may not be heavily guarded on its other side is less then glamorous though.

There are floodlights around the perimeter of the camp, and every forty seconds or so a spotlight sweeps over your head. It’s all you can do to get low and hold still when it does. Then darkness closes back in and it’s a return to the crawl.

Every second that passes might be the second a soldier sees you, every stalk of grass that snaps under your weight might be the snap too loud, every footstep you hear on the other side of that fence might be the footsteps of the one that finally offs you.

It’s not really fun, in short. So maybe Lead’s bitching is justified.

But it’s necessary, and it’s not the worst thing you’ve had to do by any stretch.

It feels like hours before you finally reach the wall, and hours more before the anticipated gap in patrols; so probably like fifteen minutes.

Lead takes one furtive glance around before motioning you and Crunch to move. You put your back up against the wall and hold your hands out, bracing yourself. Crunch does the same. Lead places his foot in your hands and you Step-boost him up to the edge of the wall, which he heaves himself on top of. He then reaches down and grasps your hand, pulling you over the wall as well. Crunch and Niceguy are preforming a similar maneuver.

Over the wall, drop down on the other side, trying to make as little noise as possible. You’re in partial shadow, and it takes your eyes only a moment to adjust.

No soldiers immediately around. Seems you got lucky. The area you’ve entered appears to be storage: several shipping containers sit on a cement patch that seems to have been cleared for this specific purpose, it’s open to the air, no covers. The area is separated from the rest of the camp by yet another layer of fencing and a locked, man-sized gate next to the vehicle-sized gate. Beyond the fence, several temporary buildings -barracks by the look- are set up.

Using the containers as cover, the team advances. It’s smooth. With solid cover and more wits about you, avoiding the spotlight and enemies in general is far easier.

You make short work of the locked gate, Niceguy effortlessly jimmies the flimsy lock with a pry bar. The noise is negligible.

Through the gate. No guards immediately in sight, but the spotlight is coming. Lead gives a single, quick hand gesture, and the team squeezes between the tight-packed buildings. It’s an uncomfortably tight fit, and it’s all you can do to prevent your gear from making noise against the walls. You hear the occasional sound through a wall; some soldier coughing, an errant thud, your nerves are wracked each time and it’s all you can do not to physically jump.

Lead holds up a hand: Stop. Looking around him, you see the issue; nearest cover beyond the barracks is a large truck around twenty feet away. Once there, it’s smooth sailing, the trucks are parked in spaces one after another in front of what looks like the CO’s building, and around the other side of that building is the AA Radar. you’ll be able to crawl under the trucks, then sneak around back. But to get there you’ll have to move across a large, completely open road. Several Russian soldiers around the area. No cover. No chance of making it unseen. Your first thought is to backtrack, but a second idea pops up. It might work if you can stay out of direct light. You roll with it just for the sake of continuing the trend of terrible ideas.

“Lead.” Your whisper could barely even be called that, you almost didn’t hear yourself. But Lead must have heard it as he immediately locks eyes with searing intensity. “How similar do you think our uniforms are to the Russian’s?”

His whisper is only slightly louder, but contains a staggering level of dismissal. “No. Absolutely not. Not similar enough.”

“But at a distance? Low-visibility?”

He pauses for a second, another ‘No’ on the tip of his tongue. But a mental conflict halts his immediate denial. You kinda wish he’d save the thinking for when you weren’t sandwiched between barracks full of death. After a moment, he curses to himself silently, then looks back at the team. “Everyone, listen carefully. When I call it we’re gonna walk calmly, and casually over to those trucks, then drop down and crawl under them. Clear?”

Three heads nod in agreement with their probable demise.

He peeks around each direction, waits what seem an arbitrary two seconds and change, then utters a single, dreadful word: “Go.”

Your heart starts hammering. Lead steps out, casually sauntering forward like he hasn’t a care in the world.

Your feet move of their own volition, your face sets in an impassive stare; you’re stepping out into the light, Crunch is right behind you but feels an eternity away, you stare at one spot on Lead’s back, and focus on it as if nothing else in the world existed.

Then a voice comes from your left, outside of your vision. “Чем ты там занимался?” The voice is calm, slightly suspicious but not accusatory, only mildly interested. For all your nerves care he might as well have been screaming ‘intruder’.

Lead tenses like he’s about to talk, but this guy continues. “А почему так напряжен? Я видел шомполы более расслабленными.” He jokes, and a bit of humor enters his tone.

You turn to face him. You don’t quite know why, and for a second you question if it’s even happening at all. Yep, you’re turning to face the man who holds the lives of your entire team in his hands. He’s leaning against the front of the barracks, smoking a cigarette. His face is calm, but there’s a strange sorrow or resignation behind his eyes.

You speak, without really meaning to. “Просто немного поболтать.” You give a wry smile. “И, может быть, немного алкоголя. Почему, ты хочешь немного?” Joking, sarcastic. And where you mustered the courage for it you’ll never know.

He gives a genuine laugh. “Но позвольте мне быть честным с вами.” Then his voice turns serious, and he leans closer, whispering. “Ты никого не обманешь, American.”

You’ve been had.

Fuck fuck fuck. Adrenaline kicks in and you instinctually reach for the gun at your hip, but are stopped when he puts up his hands in a show of peace and his voice takes on a nervous tone. “Нет, я не хочу драться, я не буду никого предупреждать.” He looks sincere, sounds sincere. Maybe... he really isn’t out to get you. “Я не должен был тебя останавливать. Я не хочу неприятностей. Давай просто ... Этого никогда не было. Я никогда не видел тебя.” He leans back against the wall and continues smoking. His eyes dart nervously yet he’s looking away from you pointedly.

Fuck. Fuck. He says he won’t rat you out, says he doesn’t want trouble. Seems like it might be a common theme among these soldiers. But you’re not sure you can risk leaving him alive, he could just run off to the nearest alarm as soon as your back is turned.

You’ve got your knife, you could end him silently, hide his body between the barracks. You’re fast, no one would see.

But maybe he’s telling the truth, maybe you can just live and let live.

Lead’s eyeing him like a corpse that doesn’t know he’s dead yet.

Niceguy looks around quickly. “C’mon, we need to move.” He whispers.

He’s right, the spotlight is about fifteen seconds away from sweeping over you, and you’re pretty sure the darkness is the only reason a dozen 5.45mm rounds haven’t ripped into your chest.

Fifteen seconds. Three seconds to make a decision, twelve to either kill this guy, stow the corpse and slip away, or just leave him and find some shadows.

You’re moving regardless. Only question is if you’re gonna leave a corpse or a confidant behind.
No. 948364 ID: 094652

Let the guy live. He may have seen you, but he's the only one who has seen you. He won't know exactly where you're going or what you're doing.
No. 948529 ID: 3ce8ff

No need to take more lives than necessary on a fucked mission that shouldn't have happened. If you have a moment to look back and you see him not running or whatever and looking at you give him a little sharp nod of appreciation (if culturally appropriate)

(google translate of the Russian)
>Then a voice comes from your left, outside of your vision. “Чем ты там занимался?” The voice is calm, slightly suspicious but not accusatory, only mildly interested. For all your nerves care he might as well have been screaming ‘intruder’.
What are you doing there?

>Lead tenses like he’s about to talk, but this guy continues. “А почему так напряжен? Я видел шомполы более расслабленными.” He jokes, and a bit of humor enters his tone.
Why so tense? I've seen ramrods more relaxed.

>You speak, without really meaning to. “Просто немного поболтать.” You give a wry smile. “И, может быть, немного алкоголя. Почему, ты хочешь немного?” Joking, sarcastic. And where you mustered the courage for it you’ll never know.
Just a little chat. something about this feels lost by google translate, can't think of a way that sounds natural in english
And maybe some alcohol. Why, do you want some?

>He gives a genuine laugh. “Но позвольте мне быть честным с вами.” Then his voice turns serious, and he leans closer, whispering. “Ты никого не обманешь, American.”
But, let me be honest with you,
you are not fooling anyone, American.

>Fuck fuck fuck. Adrenaline kicks in and you instinctually reach for the gun at your hip, but are stopped when he puts up his hands in a show of peace and his voice takes on a nervous tone. “Нет, я не хочу драться, я не буду никого предупреждать.” He looks sincere, sounds sincere. Maybe... he really isn’t out to get you. “Я не должен был тебя останавливать. Я не хочу неприятностей. Давай просто ... Этого никогда не было. Я никогда не видел тебя.” He leans back against the wall and continues smoking. His eyes dart nervously yet he’s looking away from you pointedly.
No, I do not wish to fight, I will not warn anyone.
I shouldn't have stopped you. I do not want trouble. Let's just... This never happened. I have never seen you.
No. 949040 ID: f4b1df

Seconds hesitation, hand falters. You don’t want to kill him, but then again, sometimes spilt blood is unavoidable.

No, not this time. He lives.

Too late either way, searchlight’s almost on you.

Heart’s still hammering. Lead taps you on the shoulder. “Let’s go.”

You give him one last look before slipping away. And out of the corner of your eye, you catch a tiny glimmer of something playing across his features, but it fades and you turn away, and just like that, a spark of respect between two soldiers flashes.

Maybe you’ll never know what was going through that soldier’s head. And maybe in that moment you had bigger problems.

Asphalt bites into your elbows, and your left arm stings like a bitch under the strain.

The reality of four soldiers low-crawling under trucks to avoid enemy soldiers is less then glamorous, but you’ve done this job long enough to know that it’s never glamorous.

Ten minutes and two bloody elbows later, you’re under the last truck in the lineup, and so close to the objective a strange sense of hope is blooming.

Then you seen the AA Radar, and the punchline to the sick fucking joke that is this infiltration kills your hope thoroughly.

Russians, thirty at least, all gathered in front of the CO’s building: some are patrolling, several have overwatch positions on the rooftops, group of several behind sandbags. They’re all guarding something, and it only takes a minute to figure out what; a large canvas tent, perhaps fifteen-by-thirty feet, stands erected in front of the CO’s building, buttoned up tight, a center of attention for all the guards. You have no idea what’s inside, but they cared enough to station a whole fucking platoon to guard it.

That’d be none of your fucking business, except they’re all in full view of the AA Radar. All you can do is pray no one spots you under the truck.

Shit. God really does hate me. You think to yourself. Suddenly, the nickname Karma has a whole new level of irony.

“What’a we do, Lead?” Whispers Niceguy.

Lead is silent. He takes a deep breath, thinking. He turns to you, “Karma, contact General Miller. Ask her... Ask for standing orders.”

Not good.

Twenty seconds and you’ve got her on a secure line over the radio. Whispering, just hoping no one can hear. “General, we have positive eyes-on mission objective. Heavily guarded. Frontal assault is suicide, stealth sabotage non-viable. Please advise.”

There’s a long silence over the line. “How well guarded?” Miller’s question has a strange tone to it, like she already knows the answer.

“At least thirty surrounding the objective, more nearby, and they have access to heavy armor.”

You hear a muffled “Damn it” over the line, then silence. A minute or so later, there’s shuffling, and Miller comes back over the line at full volume. “Still with me Karma?”


“Good. New objective, get away from the Russian camp, once clear, radio in. I’m sending in support to destroy the AA Radar. Questions?” The way she asked that, she obviously doesn’t want to answer any questions.

“......No, ma’am.”

“Good. And Karma? Haul ass. Either get far away, or underground before you call in. Over and out.” The line returns to blank static.


None of that, none of that, bodes well.
But... there’s no real choice here.

You relay it all to Lead, including the part about “ Support” whatever the fuck that means. You’re used to the mushroom treatment, long used to it, but it still pisses you off.

Lead doesn’t look happy either, then again, he never does. And who could blame him? Mission was fucked sideways, now it’s fucked sideways and ass backwards. Christ, at a certain point it sounds easier to just surrender to the Russians.

“Easy”, though, has never been your forte. Because “Easy” is for scrubs, the Air Force, and Operators who take the bullet express to retirement.

Fitting none of the criteria, you suppose easy just isn’t in the cards.
No. 949052 ID: 3ce8ff

Time to go I guess.
It would be nice if there was a safe way to let only Russian coolguy know that he should probably vacate the area too, but we are already stretching risk by haveing not directly killed him (still the right choice)
War is hell.
No. 949055 ID: 094652

Leave a few messages for the smarter mooks, like "desert or die".

Go underground. It's not nearly safe, but you need to move under cover.
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