GSO: The First Mission

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"Hey now I didn't cut the blue wire instead of the red one, I cut the green one by accident that time, there's a difference" Jason joked as he put his rifle away.

"Don't worry though I haven't had a mishap with an explosive device since, well that was the last bomb I worked with but still don't count on all my bombs not working just stay at a safe distance just to be on the safe side." Jason added half serious and half jokingly.

Steven tried to ignore the chatter of the others as he stepped up to the firing line. He couldn't deny feeling a bit intimidated by their shooting prowess, but still felt he had to do what he could to show he wouldn't be total dead weight.

Loading his gun re raised the pistol to a firing stance and aimed down the barrel at the target that seemed really far away suddenly. After two seconds he carefully let out his breath and squeezed the trigger. The gun fired and the shot hit the target though a fair bit to the left side, hardly a solid hit.

Steven fired again, this time he could tell that he had missed even from down the field. Taking another second to adjust his aim he fired off another shot, this time rewarded with a hit at center mass.

Now getting used to the gun he continued to fire until the clip ran dry. Examining the target he could clearly see that though a few of the shots were misses most of them had struck the target though with not too much concentration. Satisfactory is Steven's opinion.

With that done he joined the others, nodding to them in greeting. "My name is Steven Holst." He introduced himself. His voice was deep and smooth with just a touch of an eastern European accent.

Jim, who had been drifting around the place eyeing both the nearby area and his new squadmates shooting, approached Steven.

"How's it goin'? Jim Maynard, machinegunner." He said to him fairly quietly.

The ex-US Marine looked around at his fellow squadmembers, among them a dead eye sniper, a wise cracking demoman who also appeared to be a great shot, a man of a so far unknown specialisation who showed some finesse in his shooting with a pistol and the man so far identified as Hunter, who was chatting up the final squad member, a young woman.
Jim took note of his squadmates reactions to her. It made him feel slightly uneasy knowing there would be a female in the squad. Male operators, in his experience, tended to do stupid or irrational things while they were around in the field, and whilst in his eyes they could indeed be a great addition to a team, women in a squad could also sometimes impair the judgement and actions of the men. Jim hoped that this wouldn't happen, but couldn't help but wonder to himself nervously based on Hunter's actions thus far, before he turned back to Steven.

"I noticed your uh...stellar marksmanship by the way. You don't look like much of a soldier, no offense. Are you a driver or something?" He asked.

While the thought had crossed his mind, Jim didn't feel like shooting at the moment, and instead wished to learn more of his future 'coworkers' based on more than their aim.

Deciding to join Jim and Steven's conversation, Tom approached them.
"Good to meet you two lads, I'm Tom, Fenton, close quarters specialist." He introduced in his typically English accent, with more than a hint of cockney in it.

"You know, for a gunner, you don't seem to be too interested in giving the old firing range a whirl." Tom said questioningly to Jim.

Steven smirked a bit at Jim's comment though the smile didn't last for long. "You flatter me." He responded in his normal flat bass, "But you are correct; pilot, driver, other things. I am more comfortable behind a wheel then a gun. Still, you can count on me."

Steven didn't know much about the other team members, but they were likely to have a mercenary streak considering their occupation and he did not want to seem disposable or a liability to them. "I used to think I was a decent shot. Clearly the bar is higher here." He admitted.

"Hey we having a meet and greet over here" Jason said joining the conversation between Jim, Steven, and Tom.

"hhmmm, now that I think about it I haven't formally introduced myself, we should fix that. My name is Jason, Jason Kahlil but you guys can just call me by my callsign 'Echo' and if you haven't figured it out yet I'm the demolitions expert, it's nice to meet you guys" Jason said with his trademark smile.

walking over to the group William introduced himself

"William Cravens, They call me Scar for obvious reason."

He said pointing to his face

"Sniper extrodinair, if its far away and needs to diee, I'm your man. I'm a dead eye in more than one sence of the phrase."

he said pointing to his eye patch

Deciding to join the fun, James approached the group. "Hey all; as some of you know my name is James, call sign 'Hunter', CQC expert, shotgun nut, and pistol marksman." Drawing his revolver, he started to spin it and practice quick draws, mostly because he was bored. "Hey Stevie," he said finally. "If you want, at some point I could give you a few handgun pointers...if you're interested."

"Good to see you all, quite the team thats been assembled here." Jim said to the group before looking to Tom.

"Well I don't exactly see the point in shooting at the moment if I won't hit much. Support gunners aren't known for superior aiming skills.
Besides, I'd rather get to know the people who I'll eventually be shooting other people alongside."

Steven considered James' offer for a moment before he responded. "Well that is a kind offer, but I think I need to work on my shooting rather then flashy tricks." Though his response was a bit of a joke his voice kept it's normal level tone.

He stopped though for a moment to consider what Kahlil had said. Personally Steven couldn't tell that he was a demolition expert, but for all he knew the others could. He decided to keep that to himself though.

You keep us from dying in the air, and I'll buy you a steak after every mission."

he said slapping steven on the back

"Hey I'll add to that deal, I'll buy you a beer for every mission that we don't die because of your driving or flying skills." Jason added trying to sweeten the deal hoping that by doing that he increased his chances of not dying on a mission.

"Oh, and if you would like any training on shooting, I can help you I may lack the fancy tricks that Hunter has but I make up for it in accuracy." Jason said trying to help out a comrade.

"So what do I get for pulling a bullet out of your gut?" Caitlyn interjected cheerfully, trying her best to be friendly to the explosives expert. She knew there was nothing wrong with him, and the accident that got him discharged was a colossal stroke of bad luck, and otherwise an honest mistake, but she couldn't help but think back to her parents' features, mangled as they were after the car bombing. She blinked and snapped herself out of her internal revue, maintaining her facial expression as she made her way across the small distance between them.

"Ah, go fuck yourself Jason" James said, "I'll have you know I was in the top five for pistol marksman scores, for six years straight, before I got kicked outta the army. I only do the flair and quick draws because I find'em fun." Then breaking into a grin he sighed, "How 'bout we get this show on the road and go meet the Colonel, 'cuz I could really use a drink."

"You get a nice pat on the back, no fine I'll buy you a beer too every time your healing doesn't kill me." Jason said hoping to stay on the good side of the medic.

"Calm down hunter, how about we leave it at were both good at our respective skills and leave it at that. Besides I'd rather not get into a shooting contest with you and risk losing, that would be a major blow to my ego and I can't afford another blow to my ego." Jason joked trying to avoid a contest with James.

Steven seemed to consider the others offers for a moment. "Well then. Seems like I'll be eating pretty well during my stay here." He thought for a moment more, "Though I do wonder at how good the steaks might be out here in a castle."

Moving on to a different thought he looked at the sole lady of the group. "Well no disrespect to your skills, but I hope they won't be necessary too much and then you wouldn't get much at all. Hmm?"

"well when were not on a mission and the hunting is as good here as the German says it is then well all ne eating good. I can cook a mean dear steak."

Falk silently watched as the new team got to know each other. Suddenly, the six men and the single woman were still talking about steaks, a small light on the control panel next to the stairs began to flash. The German turned around and picked up the phone belonging to it without losing a word. Just as silently and with a an expressionless face he listened to what the person on the other end of the phone had to say, only ending the conversation with a short and hard "Good" before hanging up. Then he turned back to the people in the room.

"We're ready to go to the briefing room now."

He didn't wait for any response before he went up the stairs, nor did he turn to see if everyone was following while he lead through the corridors of the castle. This walk ended in front of a big double door, made of milk glass like all the others. Above the door there sat another security camera watching the new arrivals. Falk seemed to nod toward it and the halves of the door slid open without a sound.

"The briefing and control room, the nerve centre of all out operations.", he introduced, walking through the door and then stepping to the side so that the others could follow him.

The room they were in now wasn't big, but with all the equipment in it and the additional people in it now, there was still enough place to move around without problems. The door the team used to enter was one of two, with an identical one on the opposite wall. A third wall was taken in by a row of desks with modern computers and monitors for other high-tech equipment on them. The last wall was completely white, offering a lot of projection surface for the projectors hanging under the ceiling. In the middle of the room there was a big table which looked like any other conference table. Actually, though, it was yet another screen with a touch surface that just showed a matt black image. Around the table, a few modern-looking swivel chairs were positioned.

From these chairs now rose six people, two women and four men, and lined up in front of the team. The ageing man in the middle took a few steps forward and greeted everyone with a handshake.

"Ms. Welsh, Mr. Novak, Mr. Kahlil, Mr. Cravens. Mr. Fenton, Mr. Maynard and Mr. Holst. I welcome you in the Special Operations Division. I am Calvin Orson, leader and founder of GSO. My people call me the Colonel, but we don't have military ranks around here. My allies and some of my enemies sometimes call me the Griffin."

The Colonel stepped back again, so that everyone could have a good look at him. He wore black trousers and a blue shirt with the company logo embroidered on his chest over his heart. Once he had been a soldier like so many others in the room, but years without seeing any action had made his body a bit soft. The waistband of his trousers stretched a little bit around his plump middle, his chin had once been angular and edged, but was now on the best way to a double chin and his head was crowned by a quickly receding grey hairline. Nevertheless, Colonel Orson was still an imposing figure and had an air of authority and experience around him as he looked at the men and woman in front of him with his steel-grey eyes.

"This is the place were Griffin Security Operations began by the work of my hands and it is still my realm, independent from most of the rest of the company. We take care of the complicated jobs, those jobs our clients don't want to read about in the news. And we always perform them to their fullest satisfaction. This is why we need the best."

He looked at them again, as if he wanted to see if he really had the best.

"Now let me introduce you to the staff under my command."

The Colonel began with a red-headed woman to his right. She wore simple black clothes and a few years younger than most of the team.

"Irina Malkova. Ex-GRU. As you may have guessed for a former Russian military intelligence operative, she is our intelligence officer. Also, she's my second-in-command. Don't be fooled by her looks, she is one of the best, it was a hell of a lot of work to get her here. She speaks seven languages fluently and I'm told she know hundred ways to kill a man. Also, she bites, so don't even think about starting anything with her."

The Colonel laughed about his own joke, but Irina Malkova only smiled mysteriously and greeted everyone with a nod.

"Next up, we have the man you will work with directly soon. Sven Johansson was the team leader in the last team and he will fill this position in the new time until his contract ends."

Johansson was a blonde giant with long, shaggy hair and a full beard. His voice was loud and gruff:

"I look forward to working with you. In the field you will call me Viking."

"Yes,", the Colonel continued, "and to my left we have the man we all hope we'll never need, our very own Doc. Dr. Robert Wilson. He can perform life saving operations in the operation room here in the castle and he will be able to offer assistance to the team medic in the field via radio. Also, he has a specialised psychological training."

Dr. Wilson shook his head modestly. "I promise you, if you should ever need my help, I will do my very best."

The young man next to the Doc didn't even wait to be introduced. He wore a baseball cap and had something boyish about him, an impression which was in no way diminished by the brown stubble he desperately tried to grow.

"I'm Joel Silberman, the resident techie and hacker extraordinaire, even though nobody around here seems to like that word."

"Yeah", the Colonel just stated and then nodded towards the second woman who stood a bit apart from the rest of the staff. She wore a grey lady's suit and had her blonde hair pinned up in a bun.

"This lovely lady is Anabelle Duval. She takes care of our finances and heads the legal department of Griffin Security Operations. So, one could say she is my greatest opponent. But Belle and I usually get along just fine, don't we, mon chéri ?"

Instead of an answer the woman just shot him a bitter look. But the Colonel didn't seem to care and just went on.

"And last, but of course not least, we have Peter Falk. You already met him. He's responsible for these facilities and their security, takes care of the equipment, fills the armoury and will lead your training. Around here we jokingly like to call him the janitor, but he had quite an impressive career himself before he had a little accident."

"Kommando Spezial Kräfte and the French Foreign Legion.", the German stated.

"That's usually all he will tell you: Old war stories. But he still knows a few tricks he can show you if you get him to. Also, he's an old friend of mine and a kind of advisor."

The introductions were complete and the Colonel looked along the lines of his new recruits again. He nodded slowly.

"Good, good. Now, you can look around a little bit, but then I would like you to take your seats so that we can begin with the briefing."

He pointed at the swivel chairs around the table, where his staff, minus himself and Peter Falk, already took their seats.

"This is a...... diverse group you have here colonel, but you seem to have a sense of humor and you have won my respect." Jason stated. Then Jason remembered that he said he would shake the colonel's hand when he met him and determined to stay good on that. "Hello colonel you must already know me but I'm Jason Kahlil and I'm the Demo expert and I'd like to shake your hand for putting together such an awesome group" Jason said while going in for the hand shake with his trade mark smile on.

James settled into a seat, and surveyed the command staff. They all seemed like a pretty competent group, and from the bits and pieces of information he'd been able to dig up, which wasn't much, they had a hell of a reputation. Watching Jason move to shake the Colonel's hand, he chuckled to himself. There's always somebody who has gotta try and brown nose the boss.

Suddenly a thought struck him, and a big smile crept across his face. "Ms. Malkova" he said, nodding to her, "I was wondering if I could get a sparring match with you at some point. I've always wanted to fight somebody who's trained in Systema. I'll try not to lose too badly."

Tom silently took his seat. He felt no words to the leader were necessary from him, and besides; Jason seemed to already be conversing with the Colonel.
He was quite impressed with all the less military staff the Griffin himself had, and was happy to have a man like Viking on his side.
He reached over the table and shook Sven's hand.
"Tom, Tom Fenton, but my callsign's Brutus. Good to meet you Viking, you seem like a man who knows his way around a hand-to-hand skirmish, am I right?" He introduced, smiling respectfully at the fellow soldier.

The smile on the Colonel's face broadened as he looked at the much younger man in front of him. When Jason had finished, he couldn't but let a little chuckle erupt from deep within his chest. But it wasn't meant demeaning. Laughter lines were visible around his eyes. It was much more of a fatherly way to look at the young recruit who had come forward so quickly. The warmth in those normally cold grey eyes in this moment was telling of how he felt about his soldiers.

"Thank you, Jason. I hope you'll be just as awesome as the rest of the group." Still chuckling, the Colonel took Jason's hand and shook, even a little bit longer than usual. For the whole time he looked deep into his eyes. Suddenly he was very serious again. "Just make sure that none of my boys dies because of some damn IED in some rotten corner of the world."

Irina Malkova showed much less warmth for her conversation partner. For a second, she just looked at James amused, cocking her head as if she was evaluating him, already looking for weak spots.

"Don't mistake me for some Spetsnaz soldier." She spoke without any hint of a Russian accent. "But you wouldn't be the first man I'd send to the mat. I'm fast and I'm dangerous."

The look and the smile that followed her statement gave it a good bit of ambiguosity.

Tom's hand seemed to disappear in Sven's paw. The giant shook his hand with such force that he would have crushed the bones of a weaker man. When he finally let go, he nodded slowly. With one hand he stroke his enormous beard while talking.

"Twenty years of boxing, training with knives and axes and a little bit of Krav Maga. But cleaving heads open was more the thing of my ancestors. I prefer to have a good rifle and a building full of bad guys to take out."

Caitlyn smiled as James was shot down once more, but couldn't help but feel a little concerned that he had some kind of plan. Not that it would work, Malkova seemed like nothing got past her. Still smiling a little, she walked quietly and stood next to Dr. Wilson, looking on at the unfolding events. "So where did you train, doctor?" she asked, curious as to how much experience he had in the field. It was probably much more than what she had, so the expertise would likely be very useful at some point along the lines, especially if things went belly up.

"Harvard Medical School. I'm no soldier like most of these, I'm a doctor. A specialist for trauma and neuro surgery to be exact. With a small master's degree in psychology. From there I learned and worked in hospitals all around the world."

Dr. Wilson seemed to realise that he came dangerously close to boasting with his achievements. He really had made himself quite a name in his field for a man who had just crossed the forty. But that name wasn't in very good memory for some people. He quickly assumed his usual modest stance again, letting his head hang a little bit lower.

"GSO picked me up a few years ago when I was in a kind of financial drought. But enough about me, from what I've heard you are quite a capable medic yourself. I don't think you will need much help in the field and maybe you could even help me if I'm needed here."

"Mr. Orso quite a place you have here, no offence intended but where can a guy get some grub, I havent eaten anything in 12 hours."

James shook his head, losing his ever present smile. "I was also wondering Ms. Malkova what other languages you speak. I ask because I want to improve my Farsi, and you seem like the person to ask." Looking pointedly at Caitlyn he went on, "despite what some of my co-workers might think, I was not trying to get into your pants. I would genuinely like a chance to spar if you feel like it." The smile returned to the corner of his mouth. "Besides, you look like you'd be fast. I like fast opponents they make it interesting."

"Ah, of course, Mr. Cravens. You all have to be very hungry. A small snack should suffice for now, dinner will be ready for you after the briefing."

The Colonel let up on Jason Kahlil and gave a signal to Peter Falk. Falk only nodded shortly, turned around on the spot and left the room. A few minutes later, he returned, balancing one tablet in each hand. One was full of sandwiches with all kinds of different toppings, on the there one there were two carafes of water and enough glasses for everyone attending. He placed the tablets on a small side table and stepped back without taking anything for himself.

The look of Irina's ice-blue eyes was still unrelentingly directed at James, but now she also slowly raised one brow. She looked like the cat who liked to play with her victim before she ate it.

"I never spoke about anything else than sparring. So yes, maybe we will find the time for me to beat you."

There was no hint of a joke or irony in her voice. She just was self-confident like that. But the other part of his request seemed to interest her much more.

"Salam. Shoma chotor hastid? I haven't needed my Farsi in quiet some time, but it should still be enough. Apart from Farsi, I'm fluent in Russian, English, French, Polish, German and Arabic and know a few scraps of Chinese, Japanese and Finish. Oh and I guess my Italian and Spanish should be good enough to ask for the way and order food."

Unlike the others Steven couldn't find anyone that he particularly felt like conversing with. Instead he simply took one of the offered sandwiches and took a seat waiting for the briefing to begin. The questions that he did have seemed rather unimportant in the face of a mission.

But the sandwich was quite good.

"Man khoobam, mamnoon" James replied reaching for a sandwich and some water, "Va shoma?" He took a drink and sat back, watching her eye him with a predatory look. That's not good he thought. The last woman to look at me like that when discussing sparring kicked my ass...hard. Oh well too late now.
"That's almost the extent of my 'conversational' Farsi" James went on. "Most is the usual sorta stuff soldiers use, you know commands and profanity." Turning his attention to the Colonel he said. "So boss man, now that you have all us high end shooters and such here, what's the job?"

"Khoob." Irina replied, leaving it open if she was talking about her own condition or James's language skills.

In the meantime, with everything and everyone ready, Colonel Orson finally took his seat, too. As the leader of the operation, his place was at the head of the table. He needed a few seconds to position himself comfortably in his armchair before he spoke.

"Now, that's exactly the right question, Mr. Novak."

He pressed a button hidden in the black table and suddenly a small user interface appeared on it in front of him. A few more movements of his fingers and the projector under the ceiling came to a humming life. The wall behind the Colonel was now no longer white, but showed the picture of a man with Slavic features. He had black hair with grey strands and a tidily trimmed full beard, but the piercing look of his eyes gave his whole face a cruel expression.

"Does the name Slajan Dragokovic ring a bell for any of you?" The Colonel looked into the round, but didn't really wait for an answer. "Maybe you have heard the name in the news sometimes, though they don't really like to report about him. He's president of Morunia, a small country in the remains of the Eastern bloc that is of no real interest for anybody except for a few pipelines that go straight through it."

"Actually," Irina interjected, "he's a corrupt bastard of whom the OSCE strongly suspects that he rigged the last few elections in Morunia, but that's none of our business. Morunia right now stands one step short of a civil war. There is a group of pro-Russian rebels that have taken over control of most of the north of the country and who want to bring down Dragokovic. Dragokovic on the other hand can't risk actively fighting them himself, lest he'll soon have a fully blown war with Russian involvement. While his own forces are bound, he is still financially backed by the EU, which means he can pay people like us. This is where you come into play."

I rapid succession, the projector had shown a map of all of Morunia and the areas under control by the different factions while Irian was talking. Now the Colonel took over again.

"First and foremost, this will be a recon mission. You have the allowance to use deadly force when needed, but President Dragokovic doesn't want this to turn into an international incident, so cautiousness will be in demand. You will take the plane to the Morunian capital and from there a helicopter north. Your destination is a small village of a strategic value, because it is close to an intersection of two major roads. The village seems to have fallen into rebel hands. Your task there will be to assess the rebel forces on site and to report whether these two men are in the village."

The projector now showed the pictures of two men in paramilitary get-up. One had short blonde hair and distinctive sharp facial features. The other man was missing his left arm and had a terrible scar from his left ear to the corner of his mouth, barely hidden under his brown beard.

"Victor Alexandrow and Anton Zakov, two of the rebels' main military leaders. Any questions for now?"

After watching the presentation intently, Tom raised a hand, a barely visible smirk appearing on his mouth.
"We have to kill those bastards, right?" He asked.

James put on his blank 'operator' face as Col. Orson began the briefing. As the Colonel talked, he mentally went through anything he'd heard about Dragokovic, but the Colonel was right the press stayed away from this one.

After refilling his glass, he let back again staring into the 'eyes' of their client. Something was bugging him, but he couldn't quite put a finger on it. Oh well, as Sergeant Abernathy used to say in training, "If you get a chance to ask questions, speak up now or no bitching later." "So...what are the chances of this Dragokovic, or one of his 'friends' trying to fuck us once we're in country?"

"I'm sure not many people would shed tears for those two and Dragokovic certainly would be happy to see them dead, but it's not that easy. I'll get to it in a second."

The Colonel took James's question, instead of speaking on, then he began to nod slowly.

"Not quite. Dragokovic has paid us for this job because he wants it done and we are known for getting jobs like this done. He can't risk losing the trust of his business partners as he is more or less dependent on private military contractors. But you're getting close to the heart of the problem: If anything goes wrong, he will put all the blame on us and deny ever having made business with us." He said nothing for a moment to give everyone time to think about the implications of this. "This is where killing Alexandrow and Zakov gets interesting again. The President hasn't hired us to do it officially and if we kill them and it is in any way traceable back to us or him, we've got a problem. On the other hand, I'm sure he'd be willing to pay a little extra if it isn't traceable."

Steven stayed quiet and attentive as the briefing commenced. He wasn't too surprised that the members were looking to up the body count. While extra money always got Steven's attention he was more interested in getting the job done.

"But the main objective is to account for the rebels numbers, leaders, and weapon capabilities, right?" He clarified.

"Exactly." The Colonel nodded at Steven's remark. "Killing Alexandrow and Zakov is strictly a secondary objective, only to be attempted when a good chance presents itself and only after consulting us here in HQ. We don't want to be the ones starting a war over there. Is that understood? Good, then I'd like to get on with the planning."

He navigated the touch screen interface in front of him with a few more movements of his hand and soon both the projector as well as the table showed a satellite image which was quickly overlaid with coloured transparent symbols. "Irina will take it from here."

"The name of this place is Banicze. It lies at about 420 metres above sea level, as you can see, in a small valley with forest in the west and mostly fields in the east. The village was home to a population of about 200, most of them should either have left the area by now or have joined the rebel forces. Most of the structures you can see on the map are agricultural buildings, with a few residential houses and shops around the town square. The street that goes through the village leads to one of the most important passes in the northern region of Morunia."

Irina stood up and used a laser pointer to show the different features and areas of the valley.

"Our team will enter the area from the west. A few kilometres south-west there's another valley, in which a good pilot", she looked at Steven for that sentence, "should be able to land unnoticed. You then will make your way from there through the forest. There's an unpaved road that leads through the forest, but I would advise against using it, as it is most likely under enemy surveillance. From the edge of the woods you will have to find a way to assess the situation in the village."

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