2010-01-28: FB: FREEDOM ISN'T FREE



Date Set: May 19, 2009



Nine Months Ago…


Al-Basrah, Iraq

Liquor stores, bars, anything of the like is few and far between in Al Basrah. The only place to find a good drink is within compounds devoted to the service of the American occupying forces. One would be hard pressed to find an actual native of the land in such a place. It is an affront to God to pollute one's body in such a manner, which is why most of the palaces of sin have been demolished and their owners shot, burned, or stoned. Even though the southern province had declared liquor legal once again in 2003, it was rumored that only students and foreign citizens imbibed in the toxic substance.

In a corner, alone, sits a young'ish looking black haired person. The tanned skin makes him or her practically indistinguishable from one of the natural citizens of the country. It is only when she lifts her face to signal for another that Cody Baker can be seen clearly. Dark circles under her eyes indicate a few nights of little to no sleep. The little pile of glasses on her table, some overturned, some just knocked over, might give a person cause to believe that she has had just a few too many.

The situation here is depressing as hell to start with, and liquor only helps or makes the issue worse. It's a tossup, and one Daniel lost on tails. He enters the dive with a couple of fellow Blackwater guards, and while off duty, the group is still wearing kevlar. Being infidels, they may as well have targets painted on their backs. That, and the massacre of guards in Fallujah has yet to fade. More tragedy just keeps coming in a war torn land where they're either loathed or treated as saviors. Together, they make their way towards the corner. Capable or no, terrible things can happen to a lone female.

Lifting her head toward the uninvited guests, Cody just gives them all a bleary eyed look. Then she focuses on Daniel and narrows her eyes. "Are you t-trying to kill me? Get aw — away from my table." She looks as though she's about to lose whatever lunch she had. But her voice is eerily calm, almost creepily so. The few patrons in the bar have already turned to look at the mercenaries and the table that they have made their way to. As a few of them look toward the woman, she tilts her head downward, once again becoming relatively indistinguishable from the other regulars. In a low voice, she grumbles a single sentence. "One of you can stay. Then rest of you go to the bar."

"I think you're doing that well enough on your own," Daniel says in a smooth yet quiet tone. He takes the initiative to settle into the chair across from Cody, thus signifying to the others that he'll stay put. The other two do back off and go to the bar, positioning themselves where they can remain on alert. Having already removed his helmet upon entering, Daniel sets it on the table as he surveys the emptied glasses. "We're not going to kill you. We're just looking for a little downtime."

Grabbing one of the full glasses from the table, Cody lifts it to her lips and flicks her wrist. Downing the contents in one very foul swoop. Shuddering violently and shaking her head to rid herself of the demonically foul taste, she looks up at Daniel. "You just don't get it, do you?" The strong liquid seems to have given her just a little more coherence, at least verbally. "Being seen with your kind, that gets people targeted and shot. Give me one of your power bars, if you have one. I'm hungry and I can't find enough shit to eat around this god forsaken hole."

Daniel rummages through one of his packs, and pulls out a power bar, tossing it across to Cody. "I get it, I understand perfectly." He eyes the glasses on the table as if he'd dearly love to partake, but knows he can't or shouldn't. "It's always a risk out here. Keep your head down alone, try not to attract attention, or keep together in a group." So that he has something to drink that's not foul and the equivalent of drinking gasoline, he pulls out his canteen, taking several sips of water. "Want to talk about it?" The question is general, yet pointed. Seeing all those glasses means something must not be right.

"You remember, don't you?"


November 17, 2006, 5 foreign civilians were kidnapped the day before. Civilian contractors, most of them working in some sort of security business. Daniel's business. "They could be anywhere, they could have been taken across one of the deserts and into another country. How the hell am I supposed to find them?" The blonde woman throws down the stack of files as two of the black clad troopers move forward, glaring at her. "Down boys, you don't want to mess with a real pro. Trust me." Her contact had pointed her to this office, to these people. All in the effort to help them find one of their own.


"Of course I remember, you're not the only one who's going to be haunted."


Of course Daniel is glaring down at the blonde woman. More of his comrades have been kidnapped, and there's going to be Hell to pay. He damn well doesn't want to see their bodies torched, dragged and hung from a bridge as well. Damn Jihadi terrorists, they follow no conventional rules of war. "You know these types of bastards. They're going to gloat about what they've done, and then we'll have them," he manages to say between clenched teeth. Beyond that, there's been little to go on.

"The reason why you guys are walking targets and ripe for the picking is because you don't think like them. You shouldn't be here. None of you should. You want to win? The only way to win is to either turn this entire region to glass or convert." The blond woman has been here for a little too long. Fighting for a side that has no chance, not unless they learn to be their enemy. That's her job. Flipping open the first file, she glances at it for not even a half a second before she goes onto the next file. "Have they contacted you at all?"

"I prefer turning it into one giant litter box, but maybe that's just me," Daniel says with no end of bitterness to his tone. "Now drop the better than thou attitude, so we can all get along as we're on the same side. We're all retired military and police force here." It's not like they're a bunch of rifle totin', NRA members who are out to kick a few towel heads back to the time of Mohammad. "And no, we haven't been contacted at all. It's a matter of time before the recognized authorities are contacted and the intel gets to us."

A small smirk appears on the face of the blonde as she shakes her head and flips through a few more of the files. "Well it's a good sign that you haven't been contacted yet. It means they're still traveling and not settled. Once you gets your ransom demands and videos, that's when the clock starts ticking." Cody procures a chocolate bar from her pocket. The wrapper crinkles as she tears it open and begins to chew on the end. Looking up at Daniel for a moment, she motions him to sit down. "What can you tell me about these men? How are they going to act? Like you, scared, or will they bow?"

"Yeah, tell us something we don't know," Daniel says, reigning in his emotions. At the invitation from Cody, he eases into the chair, just a bit stiffly. The C-leg he's been sporting is in need of some maintenance, but there's no time at the moment. "It takes a rare individual to hide their breaking point. I'm hoping these men can tough it out for as long as it takes. I've got faith that they won't talk, but they may not have much choice in playing along with the demands. If that's what's necessary to give themselves time.. they'll do it."

"Nothing's going to give them time… What's your name?" Cody looks up and extends the hand that's not holding the chocolate bar. "I'm Baker." Nothing more, nothing less, just the one name. After he either accepts or declines the shake, she takes her hand back and rubs it off against her pantleg. "Like I said, nothing they do is going to give them more or less time unless they actually repent and become one of them. Even then, it's only a five percent chance that they'll be spared the wrath of the almighty." The woman stares at him, her blue eyes boring little pinholes into his, almost as if she's trying to get inside his head. "You've got it tough over here, merc, you think you've got an important job here… but there's nothing you can do. These people are killing themselves for God. You can't beat that."

Daniel extends his hand and shakes the offered one, "Taylor." He too gives his last name, since that's what Cody offered. "I appreciate the pessimism, Baker, but these bastards have an agenda, and they'll give our men time to see that fulfilled… Lady, you ain't telling me shit I don't already know. I was here in Desert Storm, came over again after 9/11." That last bit? He switches to Farsi to relay to Cody. "<There's always something we can do. Even against people who think their God commands them to kill others in His name.>"

Switching as easily to the foreign language as her tablemate, Cody just gives him a smirk. "<You don't get it. They're not just killing others, they're killing themselves too. Dying for God is the key to Heaven over here.>" Then it's back to English so the ones who don't understand anything of what she says but Allah can get their fears put to rest. "Listen… I'll do my best, I really will. But I need more than what's in these ridiculous files. I need to know what they did outside of work. What towns they traveled to, did they ever go to any slums, protests, hell … a picnic. Where they were caught doesn't matter."

"<I know that too. You keep saying I don't get it, and I do. I'm just not as ready to give up as you seem to be. Now can we stop the pissing contest and get down to business?>" Daniel eases back in his seat, switching back to English as well now that they're getting to the heart of the matter. "You've got our cooperation." He holds out a hand behind him, and one of the guards obliges the gesture by placing files in Daniel's hand. The files are then handed to Cody. "Here." That's the nice thing about working for a contractor, they aren't held by the same ridiculous red tape that comes with working for the Federal government.

Two Months Later

It almost felt like Cody had scoured the entire country looking for the five men. In that time two videos had been released showing the men in less than healthy states, but at least alive. The investigations into their private time had led to a small village in the west, from there another village further into the mountains. A few tours as a Sherpa, some well placed bribes, and a hike through the mountains later and Cody finally had something to report. Which is what led to this…

With her back against a rock, Cody nods and points two fingers to her eyes, signalling to one of the black clad men that she was going to do some scouting. Silently, she slides around the rock and moves behind some camo netted chests. Weapons… American weapons… Likely taken from one of the many contractors that had taken up the security business in the lost war.

Daniel acknowledges Cody's signal with one of his own. He and his group are ready to proceed. As ready as anyone can be in these parts. All of them are armed to the teeth, prepared to back up Baker's team and offer their full support. This is a joint operation here, and hopefully all parties aim to make this a successful one.

Daniel and his team remain under cover and behind the shelter of rocks in this god forsaken terrain. At the signal however, they proceed forward with caution to the netted chests.

Getting a little closer to one of the guards, Cody slowly pulls a knife from her boot and reaches up to cover his mouth and grip him by the nose. With one forceful wrench of her arm, she pulls the man's head to the side and shoves the knife up at the base of his skull. It only takes a few seconds before the limp body is dropped to the ground and the woman is taking up her victim's machine gun. One down. Many more to go.

While she's still in view, the woman waves Daniel and his team forward. It's at least another few feet of ground that they've gained.

Guns make things a little less up close and personal, but they do draw attention. Like Cody, the representatives in black follow suit. Knives drawn, Daniel and his men are ready to dispatch anyone else they can sneak up on. Which they do, without delay. They may be hired, independent security, but they all are highly trained, and with military backgrounds. They know what they are doing as much as Cody does. More bodies hit the ground and are dragged to the side.

By the time Daniel's team dispatches the rest of the men, Cody's team follows behind them, keeping a look out. They position themselves between crates, guns drawn, and the whites of their eyes showing more than just a little fear. They're decidedly not professional, just some ex-Jihaadis that have seen the light and decided to switch sides. But they work. They're trained, and most importantly… they blend in.

It's all according to plan that once the outer guards have been eliminated that the men that Cody had brought with her patrol the outside, taking up the positions of the fallen. Cody looks straight at Daniel once they've reached the mouth and raises her gun. It's time for action.

Having wiped his knife clean on the clothes of a fallen guard, it's back in its sheath. Quickly the knife is replaced by the assault rifle Daniel had slung over his shoulder. So far, so good, here's to hoping that the luck holds out. As best as it can. The former Army captain is prepared with a backup gun, additional clips, perhaps even a couple of hand grenades.

The mouth of the cave is where things get just a little sticky. Spotting the small box at the base of the door, she raises her fist and then points downward. It's the crude beginnings of a small security system, one of those little door chimes. With one high step, she passes over it and then snakes close to the wall. The natural formation of the cave has been enhanced with digging, either by hand or with a machine. Around the corner, the vast expanse is dimly lit, nearly impossible to see everyone moving about.

The security system home starter kit is duly noted, and Daniel passes the message back to those following with him. They too stick to the walls, mainly to keep their backs covered. There's also less chance of stepping on a cleverly concealed IED this way. All senses are on high alert as the group makes their way into the cave.

Ducking around the corner, Cody crouches as she strafes along the side of the wall into the large main room. Waving one of her gloved hands quickly, she ducks behind some more crates filled with rocket launchers, machine guns, grenades, and food. The food catches her eye and she almost reaches for some of it, but it's not the time. With the momentary pause over, she waves Daniel next to her. "I don't see them… we can either take out everyone in here or keep moving toward the back and hope there's another room." She whispers quickly. Her voice is so quiet it barely crosses the gap between them.

Daniel gives Cody a sharp glance. No pillaging. Food later. The sharp glance doesn't last for long as the woman is already thinking better. Quietly and quickly, he moves in close to her and whispers, "If we keep moving without securing this area, we run the risk of being trapped." He for one, is not about to risk that, or grow complacent.

Placing the machine gun on the ground, she produces an M84 Cheetah from a holster strapped to her leg and fits it with a black metal silencer. Brushing some of the hair out of her eyes, she begins a count of the enemy and their positions. "Fourteen…" she whispers to the man at her side. "…I can probably get five before any alarm is sounded. Just make sure you guys are ready to take out the other nine." Then she takes aim and fires two bullets into a man across the room. thwip thwip. And another. thwip thwip. The pattern is repeated only two more times before someone starts to yell and their enemy begins firing blindly into the cavern, looking for a nemesis they can't see.

Forgoing the assault rifle for the moment, leaving it slung over his shoulder, Daniel withdraws a smaller gun, one with a silencer. Others in the group follow suit, firing off shots meant to kill. Leaving this sort of scum wounded is never a good idea, can't turn your back on any of them. In quick succession, the fourteen are down and with minimal fuss.

After the dirty deed is done, Cody looks up around the 'ceiling' and the curve of the walls. "There's got to be cameras somewhere. Let's move. Quickly." She's still speaking rather quietly and at the same time, grabbing a power bar from her pocket. She rips into the bar ravenously, dropping the wrapper on the ground. It's neither the time or the place, but in her mind, better not to be revealed by a ferociously growling stomach.

Following Cody, Daniel kicks the wrapper aside so as to better conceal it. Just in case. The presence of cameras crossed his mind too. For all the backwards mentality of these people, they are ahead of the curve in many ways. Keeping his eyes peeled, he follows the woman deeper into the cave.

The blazing heat of the yellow and orange explosion from the back of the cave nearly knocks Cody off her feet. With half the bar in her mouth she begins firing blindly into the flames just as a military truck roars through, nearly mowing them down. "GOD DAMNIT!!!" she screams in fury, rushing the vehicle and jumping out of the way just in time to see it blast out of the cavern. The canvas is on fire, the holes in it revealing four ragged men chained to the inside.

The force of the blast is enough to knock Daniel back as well, seeing as he was closer to Cody. The other black ops lose their footing as well. Cody's not alone in opening fire on the truck. Daniel's verbal response to the situation is full of very unflattering and severe adjectives and suggestions as to the upbringing of the kidnappers. There is even a reference or two to pork. Swinging his assault rifle around, he fires off several shots at the truck. It's too fast and far ahead to make a stab at the driver, so he goes for the tires as best as he can aim.

Unfortunately, with or without the shreds of tire left ont eh back, the truck goes careening out of the cave. Leaving the rest of the men to chase after it, Cody goes into the back of the cave to find the origin of the explosion.

Upon finding what she was looking for, the woman just sinks to her knees on the hot dirt floor. Chained to a metal chair is the remains of a man, presumably one of the prisoners. "Son of a…" Closing her eyes, she rubs her forehead with the heel of her hand.


"It never gets any easier you know… finding them like that. But I got some of them, didn't I?" Cody says, lifting another one of the glasses to her lips and taking a large swig of the amber liquid.

Daniel leans forward in his seat, staring hard at Cody. "No. It never gets easier." He rests his arms on the tabletop and eyes the woman carefully now. "Think it might be time to go home?" He doesn't ask in a patronizing manner, it's in all seriousness. Cody's behavior isn't something he's foreign with, it happens to everyone. You break, you shutdown..

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