The following quest is a work of fiction. Any and all similarities to characters, groups or entities in real life are purely coincidental.2025.The world is engulfed by a series of interconnected conflicts spanning across the entire globe, motivated over petty and trivial reasons. Tensions between the Western and Eastern superpowers reach new heights previously unseen after the end of the Cold War, as they shift their focus of foreign policy from military interventionism to isolationism for self-preservation, resulting in numerous states to undergo numerous disorders like civil unrests, political infighting and corporate interventionism that constantly threaten the stability of the globe. And yet, amid the chaos, fear, and death, an individual has found it fit to use these conflicts to further her own agendas. That individual, is Mathilde Hansa.You are Kate Marsh, a former Green Berets operator turned CIA analyst obsessed with chasing down Mathilde Hansa, an arms dealer that you have linked multiple transactions to individuals considered highly dangerous by your government. After participating in an operation in Ukraine that went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of your teammates and the loss of your right eye, you were visited in your hospital room by a man named 'Caseman', who planned your mission, for an invitation to a highly-secretive black operations unit whose purpose is to hunt down Mathilde Hansa and put an end to her network's operations for good.---READ THE FIRST ARC "GRAY ZONE" HERE: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2023/5687015/
https://voca.ro/1br7mYvpcUcj---"MV ALBATROSS" - SUB-ANTARCTIC INDIAN OCEAN700 NAUTICAL MILES FROM PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICANight had fallen, like black ink permeating across the sky. Somewhere, in this sea of nowhere, Mathilde stands at the bow of a ship gazing at the night sky, enchanted by the flickering glimpses of the stars above as she listens to the waves crash while sensing the cold air of the ocean breeze past her. Standing only a few centimeters behind her were her closest subordinates: Rafe, Velina and Noel, her most trusted staff. Other passengers of Albatross have also gathered around on the deck of the ship, the front row seats to witness the dawn of a new age."Mission Control to White Swan, acknowledge, over." A voice addresses Mathilde over the headset that she wore, pulling her out from the trance she had been in."White Swan to Mission Control," She replies, lowering her gaze to the sea level. "I read you loud and clear.""Launch status check procedure is complete, we're ready to move on to the ignition sequence.""Proceed to ignition sequence, Control. Let those engines burn.""Copy that, White Swan. Initiating engine ignition sequence in t-minus 15 seconds."With the launch announced openly through the ship's PA systems, a countdown has started. From fifteen through eleven, an object a mile away in front of the ship faintly illuminates its surroundings. The object in the distance is the LP Voyager, a floating spacecraft launch platform converted from a mobile oil rig. Raising a pair of binoculars up to her eye, Mathilde sees the rocket standing tall atop the Voyager, bearing the words "Instar Communications."From the count of ten to five, the engines of the rocket began its ignition, and in four to one, a cloud of steam was emitted from the very bottom of the rocket that nearly covered the entire oil rig. Once the countdown hits zero, Mission Control declares over the radio for the rocket to lift off. The engines then fire, resulting in the massive and bright flames that were exhausted through the rocket's thrusters to propel it up to the sky and make its ascension for space as it lights up the night like a second sun.
Even from far away, the effects of the launch were felt by the passengers of Albatross. The once calm and tranquil waters of the sea was disturbed by the sheer force generated from the rocket, resulting in powerful waves that sent the vessel shaking. The cold breeze of the Indian Ocean that blew past the passengers that stood on the deck of Albatross became a hot, violent wind brushing past them, transformed by the heat of the accelerated gasses discharged from the exhausts of the rocket into the atmosphere.The passengers then broke into cheer and applause at the success of the launch, while Mathilde and the cohorts closest to her remained silent, staring fixedly at the rocket as it kept on climbing higher and higher that it became nothing but a speck of dust to the naked eye, and the shining flames discharged from it only blended with the stars of the night sky."This is what you've always desired for, isn't it, little brother?" Mathilde whispers to herself, firmly grasping the bronze locket that hangs from around her neck. "If only you were here to see it."[...]
Chapter 4 - THE NAME OF THE GAMEMURPHY'S LAW - AMSTERDAM"Gisteravond detecteerden Amerikaanse waarschuwingssatellieten een lancering vanuit de Zuid-Afrikaanse wateren van de Indische Oceaan, waardoor velen dachten dat dit een voortzetting was van het Vela-incident uit 1979.""Volgens de woordvoerder van het Witte Huis op een persconferentie vanmorgen lijkt deze gebeurtenis echter verband te houden met "Instar Communications", een Zwitsers Zuid-Afrikaans bedrijf dat actief samenwerkt met de regering om het ruimtevaartprogramma van het land verder te ontwikkelen.""Desalniettemin blijft Washington woedend op Pretoria omdat het heeft nagelaten om de ruimtevaartcapaciteiten van het land bekend te maken aan de wereldgemeenschap en omdat het verwarring heeft gezaaid tijdens de oplopende spanningen tussen de Verenigde Staten en Rusland, die we sinds het einde van de Koude Oorlog niet meer hebben gezien."You shift your look away from television on the corner of the bar down to the table of which your arms currently rest on. Between your hands was a half-empty cold pint of Guinness dry stout, a staple of many Irish pubs such as the one you're currently sitting in. Seated on the left side of the table was Caseman, who is delving into his first meal of the day - which consisted of five strips of bacon, three sausages, a fried egg, a scoop of baked beans and a soda bread that is cut in half, all served in a single plate, with a glass of milk for his drink. Curiously, there is a cup of steaming hot coffee on the opposite end of your side of the table left unattended."What is all that about?"As Caseman was about to raise his fork that had skewered a piece of sausage, he frozes in place upon hearing your question. His eyebrows perked up. "Uh, what is?" "The news.""Oh, it's Instar Communications, some space company based in South Africa." He clarifies, before continuing on with his breakfast, taking a bite of it between every sentence that he finishes. "They launched a rocket last night. Washington was spooked because their early warning systems went off about a missile launch in the Indian Ocean, and the NRO tracked its location to a mobile spaceport sitting near Prince Edward Island."You let off a scoff, baffled by the idea. "Since when did South Africa had a functional space program? Much less a spaceport at the sea?""Beats me. Our guess is only recently. We didn't expect them to have the capability to launch a rocket like that yet, though that's probably because Instar Communications is actually owned by a conglomerate based in Switzerland, which would explain how they had the resources to do that."
"I see.. so what are we doing here for? You're not setting me up on a date are you?""No, but I do have someone I want to introduce you to." He sets down the fork and the table knife on the plate, before wiping away any leftover residue of the meal around his mouth with a sheet of facial tissue paper. "How is your 'eye' by the way?">["It hurts when I think a little too hard, I guess. Like the worst headache I've ever had."]>["Sometimes I feel like I can see out of it, even though I don't."]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5732599>>["Sometimes I feel like I can see out of it, even though I don't."]
>>5732599>["Sometimes I feel like I can see out of it, even though I don't."]
You run your fingers across the right half your face, feeling the adhesive eyepad that had been applied over your right eye—or what remained of it, rubbing over your fingertips. "There are times when I feel like I can see through it, even though I don't. It's.. really fucking weird I guess.""Maybe you're having a case of phantom vision.""Phantom vision?" Finding the term amusing, you chuckled to yourself as you lifted the rim of the pint glass up to your lips and sipped on your Guinness before putting it back down on the table. "It sounds badass, but what does that mean?""When someone undergoes an amputation of a limb and makes recovery, they are typically left with a lingering painful sensation in body parts they no longer possess anymore, and that could last for varying amounts of time. For some patients, they'll have it for about a year- or forever, while others will have it for only a minute, a hour or a whole month. They call it 'phantom pain'. What you're currently having is something similar, which is the 'phantom eye syndrome', or 'phantom vision' as I like to call it.">["And should I take your diagnosis at face value?"]>["I never knew you were a doctor."]>[WRITE-IN]
//That concludes the first day of Arc 2. Have a good night everyone!
>>5732734>["And should I take your diagnosis at face value?"]>>5732741It's good to be back.
>>5732734>>["I never knew you were a doctor."]
>>5732910//The feeling is mutual, friend!
Rolled 1 (1d2)//Gonna roll for a bit.>1. ["And should I take your diagnosis at face value?"]>2. ["I never knew you were a doctor."]
"And should I take your diagnosis at face value?" You smugly replied."Oh dear lord, of course not, Marsh! I may have earned a doctorate degree but that's for political science! God forbid I'm told to hold a scalpel." Caseman raises his glass and gulps the contents of it, leaving a thin streak of milk above his lips. The man looked like a manchild."Well you certainly do have a flair for political engineering.""You're telling me?" He snickers, setting down the now-empty glass on the greasy plate. His face then lights up when he hears the bell on the entrance door of the pub chime. You turned around in the direction of where the door was and saw a tall man in a gray shirt with a pair of sunglasses tucked on its collar and a pair of blue jeans, holding a satchel bag on his side, walk up to your table."Sorry, I had to take the scenic route." The man spoke, before taking a seat on the side of where the coffee cup was and putting the satchel bag underneath the table. He looked old; perhaps even older than Caseman by a year or two. When guessing his age, you put him somewhere in the early-mid 50s. The man sported a military buzz cut and his hair had completely grayed. He spoke in a thick British accent, possibly a Scouser."At least you made it." Caseman laughs. "Let me introduce you to the newest recruit of the task force, Captain. This is Kate-""First Lieutenant Kate Marsh." The 'Captain' interjects, shifting his attention towards you. "Yes, I know a thing or two about you. Former Army Special Forces, 1st Group from 2010-2018. Nearly graduated from West Point as a valedictorian but a wanker robbed you of that title last second by a narrow margin. You had two tours in Afghanistan as a logistics officer before taking on the Special Forces Q-Course just shortly after you were promoted to First Lieutenant. You were one of, if not the first female successful Green Beret in the history of the entire organization, but for political and security considerations, SOCOM withheld that achievement from the public. "The 'Captain' takes a sip of the black coffee laid on the table in front of him and places it back on the little plate softly. "You were then given rein over ODA 135 as an executive officer with deployments in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The latter of which.. landed you in some pretty hot water, am I correct?" >["I don't remember asking you to remind me of that.."]>["What do you know about what happened in Syria!?"]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5733376>>["I don't remember asking you to remind me of that.."]
>>5733376>["I don't remember asking you to remind me of that.."]
>>5733376>>["What do you know about what happened in Syria!?"]
Rolled 1 (1d2)//Wew. Let's do a little roll again.>1. ["I don't remember asking you to remind me of that.."]>2. ["What do you know about what happened in Syria!?"]
The way the 'Captain' remarked about your final deployment in Syria was deeply insulting. You wanted to slam your hands against the table and throw a tantrum in a public setting, and maybe drag his British semi-centenarian ass out of the building. However, before you were able to say something real stupid that you will definitely regret down the line, you kept calm and had your bearings set straight with just a deep breath."Hey, Captain!" Caseman yells, "I told you not to-""I don't remember asking you to remind me of that." You replied coolly, interjecting Caseman's sentence.After a short pause, you see the edges of the Captain's lips curling upwards before he breaks into a contained laughter upon hearing your comeback. You have a feeling that he might get his kicks out of teasing people this way. "I'm really sorry, Lieutenant. This was just a test." He then turns over to Caseman and utters to him, "See, Case? The girl knows how to take words like a champ. I told you to trust in the process." To which Caseman simply groaned in response."Please forgive my friend here, Marsh. He just likes to make strong first impressions. " Caseman says to you, "This is Captain Gareth Winslow of the SIS' E Squadron, former SAS. He is the team leader of your task force.""Nice to meet you, Leftenant Marsh." Winslow extends his arm over to you, offering his hand for a shake. "Believe me when I say this, but you come highly recommended.">[ACCEPT - "Yeah, I wouldn't doubt that."]>[DECLINE - "After what you just pulled?"]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5734091>>[ACCEPT - "Yeah, I wouldn't doubt that."]
>>5734091>[ACCEPT - "Yeah, I wouldn't doubt that."]
//Today's post will come a little later, sorry for the delay. Sit tight, friends.
"I can see that. It's nice to meet you too, Captain." You sarcastically replied and seized Winslow's rough hand, shaking it perhaps a little too aggressively while maintaining a firm grip, causing the old man to grimace quietly as you feigned an insincere smile before letting go. In turn, Winslow only flashes a wide, friendly grin at you.Caseman nods approvingly at the interaction, seemingly unaware of the lingering animosity you still harbored at Winslow. "Now that we've gotten that over with, let's get down to the brass tacks." He then pivots his view over to him. "Captain, show her the files."Pulling up the satchel from the floor up to his lap, Winslow unseals the bag and starts running through its contents, of which the bag was filled to the brim with nothing but manila folders with tabs sticking out. While watching him rummage through the bag, you notice his lips were muttering something. However, the word "Sanctuary" was the only thing that you were able to make out of."Ah, there we go." Winslow pulls out the folders, and there are three of them."These are the intelligence we have on Mathilde and her inner circle. I want you to study them." The first one he handed over to you was labeled "WHITE SWAN." The second, "ZEALOUS FIEND." The last, but actually not least, was "OLD WARHORSE." The latter of which made him wince just looking at it, which leads you to believe that Winslow may actually know whoever is in this file, perhaps down to a personal level. Now that the files had exchanged hands, there was this odd feeling nagging at your back.You subsequently spaced out, wracking your brain to the limit trying to figure out what it was as you blankly stared into the stack of folders that you were holding when you realized that these weren't all of them. There should be one more. The 'accountant'; the man who shot you in the eye. You remember Mathilde saying his name, but you had forgotten what it was..When you had faded back in, you see Caseman worryingly gazing at you with a worried look in his face, asking if you were okay.>[MENTION - "There should be one more."]>[DO NOT MENTION - "Sorry, I just spaced out."]
//Sorry for the wait. Had been busy with some work and helping my friends set up a Discord server.
>>5735287>[MENTION - "There should be one more."]
>>5735287>>[MENTION - "There should be one more."]
"This is not all of them.. There should be one more in her inner circle. An accountant.""And do you have any leads to his identity, Lieutenant? A name, perhaps?""A name? I don't have it." You nervously answered the Captain's question, aware that your recollection of events didn't hold that much of a weight. But still, you went ahead with it anyway. "I heard Mathilde saying it but.. I don't remember it very well. All I know about him was that you would know from his appearance that he was absolutely a civilian. He was only there to oversee the NLAWs transaction and didn't carry a gun. When a firefight broke out between Mathilde's men and the Russians, he just kind of disappeared into the background. But I'm definitely sure Mathilde trusts this 'accountant' just like with the woman with a machine gun that chased us in Dnipro."Winslow and Caseman traded worried looks, giving you the impression that they more than likely know the identity of this elusive accountant, before they both nodded and turned their gaze over to you together."I'm sorry, Marsh, but that is not much information to go off of. However, we may have a more than likely suspect as to who this accountant is that you are referring to." Caseman beckons at Winslow who starts running through the files within the satchel again. "In the meantime, why don't you take a look at those files first, hm?">[LOOK AT 'WHITE SWAN']>[LOOK AT 'ZEALOUS FIEND']>[LOOK AT 'OLD WARHORSE']
>>5736000>>[LOOK AT 'WHITE SWAN']Interesting...
>>5736000>>[LOOK AT 'OLD WARHORSE']
>>5736000>>[LOOK AT 'WHITE SWAN']
You glanced around your surroundings first before taking a look at the contents of the folder. Inside was a dossier colored in gray and white with an awkwardly-shot photograph of Mathilde attached. Some sections of the dossier were inked out like her country of origin, preventing you from having the full picture of her identity. Nevertheless, a single read through the biographic section of the dossier was enough to give you more insight as to what kind of person Mathilde really was. Even more so than during your time chasing her leads back in Langley.>["Well, isn't this a sob story for the ages?"]>["It would be nice if these weren't all inked up though."]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5736576>["Well, isn't this a sob story for the ages?"]
>>5736576>>["Well, isn't this a sob story for the ages?"]
>>5736576>["It would be nice if these weren't all inked up though."]
//I'll be briefly pausing this quest as I'm going to be away for a day or two. Will still be checking up on the thread obviously for any questions or feedback, and I'll still be working on the dossiers for Mathilde's inner circle (yes, I've only started working on that recently) but I won't be posting here for a bit.Also I've noticed that we haven't had the same traffic as the first thread but that's okay, knowing you guys stuck around is enough to motivate me to keep on going. You all truly have my thanks. I'll see you around, friends!And yes. There'll be big things planned later down this arc. Stay tuned.
>>5737023We'll be waiting for you, and thank you for running!>Also I've noticed that we haven't had the same traffic as the first thread but that's okay, knowing you guys stuck around is enough to motivate me to keep on going. You all truly have my thanks. I'll see you around, friends!That's an excellent view to have, especially since most QMs have a pretty doomer perspective after the first posting boom. I've noticed that most threads tend to have less interaction starting on the second thread, and then it picks back up with higher traffic on and off.
>>5737023Don't get discouraged, that's pretty normal. Power through it and you should usually see an uptick again.
>>5737043>>5737902//Thanks for the kind words, friends! I've just returned from my brief absence and I'll be posting today's post in several hours. Sit tight!
"Heh, talk about a sob story for the ages. And she's only 19 years old.." You let off a sigh, partly feeling offended by the fact that you had been outsmarted by a young adult. "I really don't know what to make of that. What about her little brother? It's mentioned here in the file.""Mathilde's little brother died years before Mathilde went into public in 2022. He'll not be a prominent character in this play." Winslow responds."Well fuck, that's.. grim." You closed Mathilde's file and slid the folder back to Winslow, before picking up the other two unread folders. "What about these guys?"You opened the two folders side by side and began reading the dossiers contained inside. Each dossier was about ex-special operations personnel from Russia and UK respectively, who happen to be under Mathilde’s employment."Hmm.. There seems to be some overlap with these two. They went missing in Syria just after a mission went wrong, and resurfaced in 2022 in Greece and Sudan. Other than being in Syria and affiliated with Mathilde, were they related to each other?"No, we believe Zealous Fiend and Old Warhorse were recruited by Mathilde through separate, isolated events.” Caseman explains, “Right now, Zealous Fiend is responsible for coordinating security operations while serving as Mathilde's personal bodyguard as SVR paramilitary personnel have gone through personal protection courses as a requirement. Meanwhile, Old Warhorse is in charge of handling and leading tactical operations of her network."You closed the two folders and slid them forward. "Caseman said you guys had been running an operation against Mathilde for about two years now, so tell me something..">["How did Mathilde get her hands on an entire battalion of goons?"]>["Where did Mathilde's people get their gear from?"]>["How did Mathilde's network possess hardware like NLAWs for her to sell?"]
//And we're back!
>>5739338>["How did Mathilde get her hands on an entire battalion of goons?"]I'm guessing they didn't just fall from the sky.
>>5739338>>["Where did Mathilde's people get their gear from?"]
Rolled 1 (1d2)//Rolling it is then!>1. ["How did Mathilde get her hands on an entire battalion of goons?"]>2. ["Where did Mathilde's people get their gear from?"]
"How did Mathilde get her hands on a battalion-sized group of highly-trained goons? I really was only expecting a handful of bodyguards in Ukraine, but what we saw over there was a highly-sophisticated force with manpower enough to probably retake Bakhmut and Mariupol in a single day.""Mathilde recruits her personnel from active or recently inactive conflict zones such as Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, West Africa and Eastern Europe.""Uhh.." You were slightly dazed by the vague answer Caseman gave you. "But the guys we came across and fought weren't the typical hajis or peasant army. These guys behaved like highly-trained-and-disciplined special forces personnel, with the gear and the skills to back it up.""That's because her troops have one thing in common: many of them are of elite fighting force backgrounds. Captain Winslow here has encountered many kinds of individuals under Mathilde’s employment. From former Afghan Commandos and Iraqi Special Operations Forces to ex-French foreign legionnaires and South African military contractors. With that much wisdom under her subordinates' belt, Mathilde could use them as advisors to recruit an entire brigade of the most inept Nigerien militia force there is in the world and turn them into yet another one of her special missions-capable personnel overnight."Your eyebrows furrowed. "Overnight?""I mean it's a bit of a hyperbole but you get the point, Marsh.">["Do we have any idea where Mathilde's facilities are being hosted?"]>["What about the hardware she is selling?"]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5740179>["Do we have any idea where Mathilde's facilities are being hosted?"]
>>5740179>>["Do we have any idea where Mathilde's facilities are being hosted?"]
"Do we have any idea where Mathilde's facilities are being hosted? With so many resources pooled up, she'd have to have a training camp somewhere.""We don't have an exact fix on Mathilde's facility locations, but our broad estimates gave us one country in particular of where her network is possibly headquartered: China.""And how would a gunrunning network set up in China get their hands on NLAWs for sale in Ukraine? Because Caseman briefed me that the heist in the Zamość airbase was a bait and it never occurred in the first place.”"That’s a good question, Lieutenant. Since late 2023, my team has been noticing a very startling trend of Mathilde selling factory-new Western weapons to armed groups NATO would consider undesirable. Before then, what she would usually sell would be Russian anti-tank weapons, Chinese small arms and Iranian drones, the crap you could easily purchase from the black market. But now insurgent and paramilitary groups along the Coup Belt, Balkans and the Middle East have been spotted rocking Javelin missiles, Switchblade drones and other kinds of hardware NATO wouldn't want to see be in their hands.""What allowed this to happen?""A few months after we had our mole infiltrate Mathilde's network, he gave us intelligence on a cargo ship bound for the Port of Shanghai. A Marine VBSS team was then mobilized and boarded the vessel halfway through the Pacific Ocean. When they carried out a search, they found a shipping container filled to the brim with stockpiles of Stinger and Javelin missiles. They also came across another container, this time it was filled to the brim with Switchblade 600 drones. The only way this could happen is only if there is an insider within the military industrial complex who may have been leaking them to Mathilde. Perhaps it's someone who actually owns one of the companies involved in the industry to begin with. Once these weapons reach China, they will either go to two destinations: Belarus for sales in Eastern Europe and the Balkan Peninsula, or Iran for the Middle East.”
"And now she’s expanding her market with South America, beginning with Colombia. Fucking hell.. first, it was the Ukrainian intelligence, and now she’s got friends in the military industrial complex?” You bitterly chuckled to yourself. “Just can’t fucking win here.”"This is why we're keeping our operation close to our chest. Marsh. We can't trust everyone, nor anyone for that matter. Mathilde's influence spreads like a disease; something we don't even realize we've been afflicted with until it's too late."“Anyway, I think we’re getting sidetracked with this conversation.” Winslow pulls out a white ‘card’ from the satchel and hands it over to you. “Is this the suspect you were looking for?”You took the ‘card’ and flipped the other face around, revealing a photograph of a man in his early 20s with a frown that seems to be fixed permanently on his face. It’s him, alright.>[“That’s him.”]>[“So who is he?”]>[“What’s with the frown?”]>[WRITE-IN]
//Color-coded for easy reading since I got way too distracted writing the dialogue and now I couldn't be arsed to write the character's actions, sorry friends..
>>5740618>[“What’s with the frown?”]
>>5740618>[“So who is he?”]
Rolled 2 (1d2)//Rolling again!>1. ["So who is he?"]>2. ["What's with the frown?"]
"What's with the frown on his face?"“It happens when you get dragged off your office clerk job for HUMINT work. His name is Noel Kurihara, but we liked to call him "the kid”. He is- well, was our mole in the network's inner circle. He went off-the-grid five days before your operation in Ukraine. Between that time, we've had assets that were monitoring the network's activities around the world getting dropped like flies left and right. Valuable assets. I suppose Mathilde wasn't happy to discover one of her most trusted aides was a spy but it doesn't matter now. As far as we're concerned, the man is dead.""No, he isn't," You slowly shook your head as you returned the photograph, "He was the accountant in Dnipro. I remember his face vividly."Caseman looked at Winslow, concerned, before turning his view back to you. "Are you sure of this, Marsh? You're not misremembering anything?”"Case, he walked up to me with a gun in his hand and aimed at me for a good minute before shooting me in the face. Of course I remember it." You asserted your claim. "It's him, I had a good look on his face before he put lead in my eye socket. Now, are we done here or what?"The two men seated before you sighed in unison and stared at each other."Well shit.. that's just great. At any rate, the lady's right. We really should start getting to work. Besides, I don't like keeping the boys waiting." Winslow hurriedly finishes his cup of coffee."Where is the team at?""If they're not dicking around in the red light district, they're probably still at the jet. I'll call them up, see what they're up to.""Alrighty. Marsh, you're going with Captain Winslow. He'll take you to the Schiphol airport and introduce you to the task force. Oh, and uh, did you get any range time back in Moldova?">[YES - "For a few hours or so, every weekend."]>[NO - "The last time I had a gun in my hands was back in Ukraine."]
>>5742167>>[NO - "The last time I had a gun in my hands was back in Ukraine."]
>>5742167>[NO - "The last time I had a gun in my hands was back in Ukraine."]
>>5742167>[YES - "For a few hours or so, every weekend."]
"Last time I held a gun was three months ago, Case. Before that was 2018..""And to think I paid a subscription for a shooting range in Chisinau.. Ah well, no matter. Captain, I trust you'll get her up to speed on the basics to shake off her rust?""I wouldn't sweat about it, boss. I can arrange some close quarters force-on-force drills for her once we're up in the air and off-country.""That'd be great." Caseman's seat let off a screech as he pushed it back and stood up while putting on his coat. "Alright, you two can go off without me. I'll pay the check." He says, before walking away from the table to the publican behind the counter with a wallet in his hand.You and Winslow rose up from your seats as well and tidied up your things before walking out of the pub. Once you had exited the building, you were greeted by the colorful view of the bustling canals of Amsterdam. Churches, shops and street vendors fill the landscape. Crowds of pedestrians march on the promenades of the city while cyclists skip past the on-foot traffic. On the waters of the canal were boats filled with tourists, cruising through the waterways under the guidance of their local experts.Right in front of the pub was a gray car parallel parked in front of the waterway of the canal. Winslow takes a smart key from his pocket and presses a button on the display screen, resulting in the vehicle's lights to flicker for a second. "Get inside the car and wait for me there, Lieutenant. I need a minute with Caseman."You affirmingly tilted your head to the side, not saying anything to the man, and walked away from the entrance of the pub and approached the parked car across the promenade. The vehicle was a BMW 5 G30, an executive sedan that began sales in 2017 up to 2023, when it was later replaced by the G60 series. When you hopped inside the front passenger seat, which was located to the left side of the driver's seat, the car's engines had already started.You felt out the interior of the sedan in admiration and fiddled about with the vehicle's panels when a jingle startlingly came through the car's stereo, freezing you on the spot. You took a good glance at the screen of the automotive head unit and read the text displayed: "INCOMING CALL - ASH".“Oh, what the hell.. It’s just somebody calling..” You muttered to yourself. Nevertheless, you feel somewhat inclined to answer it, even though you’re aware that call isn’t intended for you.>[ANSWER CALL]>[IGNORE CALL]
//No post for today bros.. I'm dead as hell.. x_x
>>5743919The QM curse strikes again.
>>5743921//I'll be back real quick, friend. I promise.
[...]Shortly after watching you stroll off to the car, Winslow withdraws a hinge-lid pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes from his jacket and removes one before placing the dog-end between his lips as he lights up the front end of the cigarette with a matchstick. The Captain then takes a deep puff of his cigarette while pocketing his items and sees Caseman about to walk out from the doorway of the pub."Oi, can I have a moment?" He hollers at Caseman, who had just walked out the door of the pub and passed by him."Is there anything else you need, Captain?" Caseman says, walking up to him with his hands in the pockets of his coat."Not really, just your opinion." After exhaling the smoke from his lungs, Winslow discards the cigarette on the floor and proceeds to stomp the ember out. “So, Marsh. The lady from that op in Syria.. You reckon she's telling the truth about Noel?""She IS telling the truth, I know that much, Captain. How else would our support assets suddenly go offline in over a few days? It's that I just don't want to believe it; that our best covert asset out there in the field just turned his back on us, but Marsh has nothing to gain by lying about him.""Mhm, the team's going to get pissy when they learn about this.""It's why I would prefer you keep this to the three of us for now."“Right. Will you ever tell her about what happened to her little brother?""It might be best if we don't. We need to keep her focused. Marsh is, after all, a rabid dog that I've invested way too much time trying to tame. Distractions will just undo all my efforts, and I can't afford her getting sidetracked during missions. Oh, and before I forget.." Caseman reaches into the depths of his coat's pocket and withdraws a small wooden box before passing it over to Winslow. "..I want you to give this to her. It's a welcome gift.""A rabid dog huh.." Winslow scoffs, finding the term oddly appropriate when applied to you. "Alright, will do. I'll see you once we're airborne."
[...]"Fuck it, I'm going for it." You lifted your hand up to the screen and pressed your fingertip against the displayed green "ANSWER" button, picking up the call. What came through the speakers was the voice of a man, possibly in his mid-twenties with a thick British accent similar to Winslow's."Chieftain, it's Ash. The team is done shopping. We're wheels up and en route back to the airport."You remained silent, unaware of how to respond to this 'Ash' person. Maybe picking up that call was a bad idea to begin with, you start to think. But then, just as you were contemplating on hanging up that call, you hear someone familiar on the other end of that call being spoken to."Chief? Can you hear me? Respond. Hey Castle, are we getting any interference here?""That's a neg. Signal's good, Ash."Castle.. he's on the team? This information was news to you, as you hadn't been informed of this prior. Suddenly, you hear the door of the driver seat open and see Winslow embarking into the vehicle. He notices the head unit is displaying an on-going call on the screen, and turns over to you with a blank look on his face and a flat stare in his eyes."Seriously, Lieutenant? I leave you alone for a minute and you're already up to something?">["Sorry, I pressed the wrong button."]>["I thought it was meant for me."]>[INQUIRE - "You never told me Castle was in this team."]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5745284>>[INQUIRE - "You never told me Castle was in this team."]
>>5745284>[INQUIRE - "You never told me Castle was in this team."]
>>5745284>>["I thought it was meant for me."]
"You never told me Castle is on this team.""Holy shit, is that a woman? Hey boss, since when did you score-""Shut it, Ash. We are cargo-secure and inbound for air. I want you to have the PJ ready for take-off when we're there." Winslow immediately taps a red button on the screen as he finishes his sentence, concluding the call before clearing his throat to clear up the awkward atmosphere. "Ahem, why, is that a bad thing?""No, not really. Just after what happened.. I don't know. I guess I expected him to walk away from all of this.""You're not the only one in this alone, Lieutenant. We've all had history with Mathilde one way or another, and that includes you now too. Castle wants revenge for his unit, I say let him have it. At the end of the day, we could always use the extra manpower to carry this one out." Winslow shoves the smart keyfob into a slot near the steering wheel, located under the ‘START/STOP ENGINE’ button. "Although, truth be told, the reason why I didn't tell you is because I planned to keep it a secret, a surprise if you will. You see, the events that transpired in Dnipro hit Castle really hard. He's been the aloof one of the team ever since he joined us. The kid barely reached out and talked to us save for the bare minimum. He works in the safehouse as far away from the rest of us as possible and sleeps in his own little corner. I thought maybe if I'd bring you in, he'd open himself up a lot more. You're the one who stuck with him until the end after all.">[“Was that the reason why you even accepted me into the team at all?”]>[“This feels wrong, I feel like a toy being gifted to a kid to cheer him up.”]>[WRITE-IN]
//Where is everyone.. ;(
>>5746521>>[“This feels wrong, I feel like a toy being gifted to a kid to cheer him up.”]>>5746931It's weekend
>>5746948/qst/ is usually slower during weekends.
>>5746968//I just hope everyone's having a good day today.
>>5746521>[“This feels wrong, I feel like a toy being gifted to a kid to cheer him up.”]
>>5746521>[“Was that the reason why you even accepted me into the team at all?”]
"This feels wrong, Captain. I feel like I'm a toy being gifted to a kid to make him happy for some reason.""Believe me Lieutenant, that's not the reason why I brought you in. It'd be a waste of talent coming from the Yanks' first woman special forces soldier." Winslow pulls the seat belt around him and fastens it, to which you follow suit, before he presses the sole of his shoe against the brake pedal and pushes the engine start button to properly start the vehicle. "Oh and, you don't have to refer to me by rank. You can just call me Winslow, or "Chieftain", since that's what people mostly call me by. Anyway, our friends are already on the move. Let's get going, shall we?""Sure.. Winslow." You responded with a nod, prompting Winslow to shift the transmission stick into the first gear before stepping on the acceleration pedal with a gentle pressure exerted to his foot. He slowly drove the car from the promenade where it had taken a parallel parking spot into the main street of the city."Caseman told me you came down here with only a few hours of sleep on the plane down to Amsterdam, so I recommend you to get some shut-eye while you can. You can't fight terrorists with only three hours of sleep and two cups of coffee, Lieutenant.""Sure, you can. I've done it before." You retorted his suggestion with sarcasm."Not without it affecting your combat readiness. Besides, you're not in Syria anymore and it's going to be a lengthy drive. So just kick back and enjoy the ride.""Fine, if you so insist." You slid your hand into the side of your seat in search of an adjustment lever and discovered a set of buttons instead. Pressing on one of the buttons resulted in the backrest to automatically recline a few degrees to the back. You rested your body against the seat and turned to face the left, looking away from Winslow's direction. Perhaps he was right in telling you to get some rest, as in only a few seconds, you feel your weight sinking into your backrest and your eyelid too heavy to keep it open.Noticing you were on your way to fade out, Winslow flicks on the radio system of the vehicle to play some music, but was considerate enough to keep the volume down. He then peers over to you who had just fallen asleep before shifting his sight back to the road.“Rest well , Lieutenant.”---https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j5LmyNNsrE---[TO BE CONTINUED]
//Gonna take a break from writing tomorrow. Chapter 5 hopefully the day after. Take care, friends.
>>5747743See you soon
Seven years ago, Syria. In the faraway distance, the sun is sinking toward the horizon, bordered by the broad arch of a twilight sky that separates the sun's afterglow from the cold darkness of the coming night. Buzzing of rotors fly overhead, lines of armored transports systematically enter from and leave through the gates like clockwork, and gunfire regularly blares out from the corner of the base somewhere.Standing in an open field of sand and military hardware, you held a thin piece of paper in one hand, and a half-lit cigarette in the other. In front of you was a man facing the same direction as you, denying you from seeing his face. Atop of his head, smoke danced upwards before vanishing into the air."Major, I don't get it. I don't get this at all. Command is booting me off the force for the death of an enemy combatant?""An unarmed enemy combatant - of which you saw to that, Lieutenant." The 'Major' replies, his speech sounded stern and rough, yet oddly sympathetic. "Luckily for you, the SOC's top brass—in their infinite wisdom—have seen it prudent to not press any charges against you. There will be no investigation committee, you will not be court-martialed and the news of this incident will not reach the public eye, but you will be granted a general discharge and quietly leave service. From the way things look, it seems they don't want this ordeal to tarnish the good name of the illustrious Green Berets like it did with our Navy counterpart.""But why? That kid killed Coleman!" You furiously raised your voice at the man, to which he turned his back around to the side, spitting the cigarette that had been in lips and crossed his hands behind his back in response. His facial features remain obscured by the gradually enveloping dark of the evening."Lieutenant! You need to realize the odds are stacked against you in this matter. The common consensus among SOCOM is that you executed a ten year-old child in cold-blood, at your own discretion. The Marines that participated in that mission along with some of our friends in the unit that we have served with and fought with side by side from the very beginning, they are all against you now. Letting you go is the best outcome you could have." The 'Major' looks away, gazing at the fading sun. "Trust me, I don't like this decision as much as you do, because I value you as a team member and a friend, but you brought this upon us - upon yourself. From here on out, Lieutenant, you're on your own. You will have to decide what happens to you by yourself."You begrudgingly chuckled to yourself. "This is just a nightmare, isn't it sir?""No. This is your reality, Marsh. Anything else is just a dream."[...]
Chapter 5 - RETURN TO THE FOLD---https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyLtOeT-5vY---Slowly prying your eyes wide open, you find yourself awakened to the tune of the music playing from the radio while staring out of your seat's window, where there were nothing but fields of greenery that stretched out for miles, indicating you were now in the outskirts of Amsterdam. Turning over to the side, you see Winslow driving the vehicle while smoking a cigarette; his windows lowered open to let out the smoke that he had exhaled. Nevertheless, there was a strong smell of tobacco within the car, coupled with the unpleasant sound of wind blowing past the vehicle as it sped up the highway, which you find very irritating.He then catches a glimpse of you staring at him. "We're still about fifteen minutes out, Lieutenant. Go back to sleep," The man says before discarding his cigarette into the highway street and rolling his window up.>["I don't want to. It felt miserable."]>["I'm trying, but it reeks of tobacco in here."]>[WRITE-IN]
//Aaaaand we're back!
>>5749517>>["I don't want to. It felt miserable."]
>>5749517>["I'm trying, but it reeks of tobacco in here."]
Rolled 2 (1d2)>>5749572//Rolling!>1.["I don't want to. It felt miserable."]>2. ["I'm trying, but it reeks of tobacco in here."]
"I'm trying, but it reeks of tobacco in here. Could have smoked anywhere but in the car.""It's my car, Lieutenant.. for now. It's a rental. I have to make full use of it to get my money's worth.""But I thought this 'task force' had millions of funding from the CIA's black budget?""We do, but Caseman's very picky about how we use our budget for menial things, like rented cars. I paid this one out of my wallet just to save the team from the hassle. On an unrelated note, how you carried yourself back in that pub was very impressive. I expected no less from a woman with such finesse like you, Lieutenant. Frankly I find your history in the Army Special Forces to be very impressive. An executive officer for an entire ODA.. you can't easily find that anywhere else. Caseman was right to suggest you to me.""Please, I don't need you to patronize me." You shifted your gaze away from Winslow to the windshield in front of you and rolled your eyes, so fed up of having to listen more about your time in the Army."I'm sorry you feel that way, but it's the truth. I've read plenty of after action reports Caseman gave to me about the missions of which you were involved in. Not a single one of them was a botched op until your very last one. You should take more pride in your work, Lieutenant.""Okay, that's enough! I don't want to hear more about it. Enough about me, it's time for you to explain things now...">[INQUIRE: TASK FORCE - "Tell me more about this task force."]>[INQUIRE: MATHILDE'S INNER CIRCLE - "Tell me more about Mathilde's friends."]>[INQUIRE: BRITISH INVOLVEMENT - "Why is the MI6 getting involved in CIA's affairs?"]
>>5750229>>[INQUIRE: MATHILDE'S INNER CIRCLE - "Tell me more about Mathilde's friends."]
>>5750229>[INQUIRE: MATHILDE'S INNER CIRCLE - "Tell me more about Mathilde's friends."]
>>5750229>>[INQUIRE: TASK FORCE - "Tell me more about this task force."]
>>5750229>[INQUIRE: TASK FORCE - "Tell me more about this task force."]
"Tell me more about Mathilde's friends.""Her friends? That's very broad, Lieutenant. Need something more specific than that.""Let's start with this "Noel" person then. Why would he turn?""Hmm, God knows. Maybe he fell for Mathilde's charms—she's just that kind of girl. Although in hindsight, there were telltale signs that he was about to turn. He had conflicted thoughts about the tasks he had been given, but we talked him out of it and just assumed it was his naivete, attributed to his past of only being an office clerk and all that. Lesson learned: don't recruit civilians for a high-stakes op like this.""But you didn't recruit him without a reason right?""Of course not. As a matter of fact, Noel was very capable at his job, and he was the right person to fill that 'mundane office secretary' spot in Mathilde's inner circle. He gave us a lot of sensitive intelligence, many of which were actionable, and he was the closest we've ever been to capturing Mathilde. But in the end, all that effort was rendered moot when he turned on us.""What about "Velina"?" "A real enigma, that one." Winslow chuckled. "We haven't gotten the slightest damn clue about her. All that we know about her other than her recorded activities is that she's very 'close' to Mathilde, and I'm not talking about her job as her bodyguard.""Oh god, you dirty old man.." You muttered quietly. "And "Rafe", did you know him personally? I saw you look at his file like it meant something to you. Let me guess, he's an acquaintance?""No, he was a close friend." Winslow replies, the tone in his voice shifting seamlessly from being slightly sarcastic to becoming dry and humorless. "We used to serve in the same Squadron back in our SAS days; he was my unit's XO just like you. I don't think it'd be wild for me to say.. he was my protege. He was a good lad, very dedicated to his job and his loyalties lie with the Regiment most of all. He was someone you could always depend on in the thick of things. Just two years after I was recruited by the SIS, I recommended Rafe for a spot in E Squadron since it was about time he moved up in the world. Then out of nowhere, he disappeared, then surfaced years later in Africa with the Swan. I'd be lying if I said I'm not doing this without him in mind. I have questions of my own I need him to answer to.""So, it's personal then..""Like I said before, Lieutenant. We've all had history with White Swan one way or another.”
"So, this task force you've got me in.. care to elaborate more about it?""What's there left to explain? We're a darker-than-black operations direct action unit created in response to the emergence of Mathilde Hansa and her network's activities. This means our existence and activities go entirely unrecorded by our agencies; that being the CIA and the SIS, which grants us a great deal of room and flexibility for us to operate. The only people we answer to right now is Caseman and the Director of the CIA, who remains the only person aware of our existence outside the wire.""Yeah okay.. that's nothing new from what Caseman told me. Do we have a name yet though?""A name? That's a negative. But our team members came up with some good suggestions. Maybe we can have you pick it out at the welcoming party. You're our guest of honor after all.">["Can't wait."]>["I think that'd be too much pressure. I'll pass."]>[INQUIRE: BRITISH INVOLVEMENT]>[WRITE-IN]
>>5751035>[INQUIRE: BRITISH INVOLVEMENT]
>>5751035>>[INQUIRE: BRITISH INVOLVEMENT]
//Slept in a little bit hard today. Update will come later once I get all my chores done.
>>5751772No worries boss.
"Since when did MI6 start getting involved in CIA's affairs?""Oh, you yanks never cease to amaze." Winslow retorts condescendingly. "What, did you think the world revolves around you? Mathilde Hansa is as much of a headache to the SIS as she is to the CIA. Her network represents an existential threat that not only endangers the integrity of our governments, but also our very way of living. Her arms deals have directly resulted in the balance of power being shifted in many regions, in ways we find unsavoury. If we simply allow her to operate in the open unchecked, the implications could be catastrophic. She has been a real thorn on our side, Lieutenant. It would only make sense that we cooperate closely to pluck it out.""I guess someone really wants this team to be international.""No kidding, Lieutenant. We had officers from the BND and Mossad working with us in the field at one point. You can blame ‘C’ for that.”"C?" You peered at Winslow with a confused look in your face. Who the hell calls themselves by a single letter, you think."The Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, he goes by "C" in the office. It's a tradition." A chortle escapes from him, amused. "What, you've never watched a James Bond movie before in your life?""Of course I have, Mr. ‘His Majesty's Secret Service’," You wittingly quipped, "but I never had the time or energy to care about things like that.""Well you're not missing out on much, trust me. Anyway, it was "C" who proposed the idea of creating a task force three years ago, and he provided the material and personnel support to make it happen. Caseman on the other hand funnels the funds and points us in the direction we need to shoot. It's a parasitic relationship if you ask me, but Caseman's good at his job. They don't call him the "Master Handler" within the walls of Langley for nothing.">["And what happened to those officers?"]>["Master Handler? That sounds wrong."]>["This sounds really big for an op that is supposedly 'kept close to the chest'."]>[WRITE-IN]
//Sorry for the super late post, friends. It's been nothing but bad news on top of bad news for the last couple of days. No excuses though, I'll try to improve my schedule starting tomorrow.
>>5752647>["And what happened to those officers?"]
>>5752647>["Master Handler? That sounds wrong."]
>>5752647>>["And what happened to those officers?"]
>>5752647>["This sounds really big for an op that is supposedly 'kept close to the chest'."]
AN ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING THE FUTURE OF THIS QUESTDue to some very unfortunate, personal circumstances that I will not disclose, VENGEANCE BURNS RED will be placed on hiatus indefinitely. VBR will not be retired, nor do I plan to retire it anytime soon and I will return once things get sorted in my end but until then, expect no posts to follow after this message. I hope you all find this understandable but if not, then I sympathize with how you feel as this quest is a brainchild of mine, and I definitely do not wish it to end this way.For correspondence and updates, you may add me on Discord by sending a request to "riverrunsblue", my account.Thank you for your time. Have a good day.
>>5755352Aw man, that's sad to hear. Anyway I hope you get things sorted out on your end and wish you the best of luck.