Chapter 11:

The Preparations Part 1

The Young Knight of the Desert

Brotherhood of Freedom Cell Headquarters, Eurasian Tsardom. July 28, 2030; 0900 hours (Tehran Time)

“For two days, we’ve tested the weapons you’ve been given, which we will use in two days,” Ghasem said to the recruits, all of whom were carrying their Sayf assault rifles. “I would have asked for more days to further that training, especially with the lesson for today and tomorrow, but that is a luxury we cannot afford at this moment. For today and tomorrow, you are to learn how to conduct close-quarters combat.

“Because Bushehr is a city, you must know how to fight in close-quarters. Your enemy can come in at any corner as a result. Therefore, this lesson will use the entire village. The mercenaries will personally be serving as the opponents in this exercise. They will be using Eurasian uniforms taken from yesterday, so this exercise also serves to make sure you remember how a Eurasian soldier looks like in battle. Knowing them from oppression is one thing, but in combat, it’s another.

“As to how this will lesson functions, I will call upon you one by one. Defeat all opponents in this exercise but you must scour the entire village to find these opponents. Do not waste your ammunition in this lesson and if you’re hit, return here at once.”

“Lastly, each of you only has ten minutes to accomplish this. Is that understood?” Ghasem asked. “That will be all so prepare yourselves as I will call upon you one by one.”

“Yes, Sergeant!” the recruits shouted.

For Ghasem, the choosing began. At first, he looked left and right, then he moved his upper body forward to see the recruits in the rear. There, he also looked left and right. He repeated this until he stopped at Leila Alam.

“Junior Volunteer Alam, you’re up,” Ghasem ordered.

“Yes, Sergeant,” Leila replied as she stepped from the back and in front of Ghasem.

Approaching the village, Leila moved her Sayf’s selector switch from S to 3. Slowly, she continued advancing in the village. At first, she moved her body left then right, but as she continued further, she even moved her body to the rear.

Finding no one behind her, Leila continued moving. However, as she continued further, she saw a “Eurasian soldier” appear. Immediately, she pulled the trigger of her rifle. Three practice rounds filled the “Eurasian“ as a result.

Leila continued forward, walking past the “Eurasian” she shot. Seeing the house she knew where the truck known for carrying Walgears was kept, Leila went to that house, but as she got closer, another “Eurasian” appeared.

The “Eurasian” fired “his” Sayf. Leila managed to evade and after getting away from the practice round fired at her, she fired back. After that, she moved forward to the house beside her.

Finding no one, Leila left for the rest of the houses in the destroyed village. However, she knew she didn’t have much, so she ran to the houses she had yet to examine.

Returning to the road in the middle of the village where she came from, Leila went in the direction opposite where she had come from as that led to houses she had yet to search. Advancing further, but this time slowly, Leila heard a footstep, but she continued forward. As she pressed on, Leila was right to suspect someone behind her as she heard two footsteps and as she turned, she saw another “Eurasian”. Immediately, she fired and the practice rounds hit the “Eurasian”.

Again, Leila sped up her search. Finding nothing, Leila rushed to the last batch of houses that she had yet to search.

Reaching the last houses near the shooting range, Leila panted because of how much energy she used in running up to the house. After using a valuable minute in collecting some more energy, Leila continued. Finding herself at a crossroads, Leila reluctantly chose left. As she neared a house, someone charged at her.

Hearing nothing yet feeling the rush of what was to happen, Leila quickly dodged her attacker, another “Eurasian”. She immediately pulled the trigger, hitting the “Eurasian” at point blank range.

“You have sixty seconds!” Ghasem shouted from a distance, yet Leila managed to hear it.

As a result, she ran away from the “Eurasian” she shot to continue searching the houses she had yet to go to. Finding nothing, Leila turned back to the houses near where she started.

“You have thirty seconds left!” Ghasem loudly reminded as he saw Leila rushing back to him and the other recruits.

Frantically, Leila continued searching the houses that stood between her and Ghasem. Because time was against her, her search was short and after looking at the last house, Leila rejoined Ghasem with what little energy she had left.

“Impressive,” Ghasem said. “You finished in five hundred fifty-eight seconds. And the fact you haven’t been shot at all means you must have pretty quick to respond.”

“Thank you…. Sergeant… ” Leila replied.

“Too bad you’re a girl. I apologize for that myself, but if you were a man, I could have used you a long time ago in the Revolutionary Guards. In any case, sit down and wait for everyone else to finish.”

“M… Mersi… ” Leila desperately replied before landing on her buttocks.


0945 hours

“With a few exceptions, that was terrible!” Ghasem shouted at the recruits, most of whom have paint across their respective bodies, with the exceptions of Leila, Mahan Kadivar, and Manuchehr Farahmand. “Most of you messed up that the targets felt safer than you!”

Ghasem turned to Bijan Javadi. “You!” the former screamed with the latter shrieking like a girl. “You let one Eurasian soldier shoot you before you even aimed! If this were a real fight, I ought to shoot you myself to save the Eurasians the trouble!”

“And you,” Ghasem said as he lowered his volume upon turning to Kamran Ghorbani. “You wasted your entire magazine.”

“Most of you will redo this lesson until you’ve hit every opponent you encounter without getting it in ten minutes,” Ghasem ordered. “Except for Sergeant Farahmand and Junior Volunteers Alam and Kadivar. You three can rest but come back here in one hour.”

“Yes, Sergeant!” Leila, Kadivar, and Farahmand replied in unison.


Outskirts of Kansai City, State of Japan. 1417 hours (Japan Standard Time)

At Akira Ishiguro’s countryside residence, Tatev Mirzoyan practiced her firing. This time, she stood more firmly as she fired the P220 she chose to use on her first day studying how to fire guns under Ishiguro, who was watching with a smile on his face.

The kid’s improved since yesterday, Ishiguro remarked in his mind. I guess it was worth taking money from that slob Crawley.

Tatev then finished her P220’s magazine. “Re-” Ishiguro almost shouted until he saw Tatev reload her pistol quickly. Impressive, Ishiguro thought. Her reloading speed increased as well. She really must have someone she wishes to help.

At this point, what else can I do? Tatev pondered as she continued firing. Mr. Ganji’s still in Iran and I doubt he knows that the OVR infiltrated the FIA.


0634 hours

“Thank God,” “Maria Clara” said as she was talking to Tatev, who was in her jogging attire yet she had yet to leave the Iron Dutchman through the laptop of the latter. “Listen to me, someone in the Middle Eastern League’s FIA told the Eurasian Tsardom’s OVR that the former hired Iron Dutchman Services. Mr. Vos, Dr. Hamilton, Miss Wattana, and Mr. Ganji are in danger.”

“Wait, Mr. Vos and those with him are in danger!?” Tatev asked.

“They could be. We were told of this from our source in the FIA. We’re planning on warning the FIA about this.”

“But what about delivering Solbein?”

“We’re still coordinating with NUN forces in Japan on that. We hope that meeting with the FIA will help Mr. Vos and the others. Personally, I’d say pray for the safety of Mr. Vos, Dr. Hamilton, Miss Wattana, and Mr. Ganji.”

“T… Thank you.”


Outskirts of Kansai City. 1430 hours

“That’s enough!” Ishiguro shouted, making Tatev stop reminiscing. “You finished your second magazine.”

“I… did?” Tatev asked before seeing the many holes she made at her target. “I’m so sorry!”

“Thinking about that person?”

“I… guess… ”

“Take a break for five minutes then come to the table for cleaning up the pistol.”

“Got it.”


Brotherhood of Freedom Cell Headquarters, Eurasian Tsardom. 2158 hours (Tehran Time)

That night, Sunan Wattana saw Leila Alam climbing up the latter that led to the surface. “Stop that,” Wattana ordered.

Leila stopped climbing, and instead she faced Wattana. However, she remained on the ladder.

“If you stopped, that means you understand me. Now please get down from there and follow me back to your room.”

Leila gave no answer. “Don’t make me force you down.” Leila still gave no answer. “Okay, that’s it!”

Wattana marched toward the ladder. Leila remained where she was, unafraid of Wattana. The former grabbed the latter by her left hand.

“Now get down!” Wattana shouted.

It was now a tug of war, albeit with Leila’s body and left arm as the rope. Leila, using her right arm, struggled to remain on the ladder, but Wattana, being a trained nak muay, had the stronger grip.

Eventually, Wattana won, but Leila fell on top of her. However, Wattana wasn’t able to move, as she saw that Leila’s lips touched hers. She then pushed Leila away and got up.

“Y… You planned this… didn’t you?” Wattana asked with suspicion in her tone.

“Y… Yes… ” Leila answered in English.

“Why? You… can’t possibly be in love with m-”

Leila nodded.

“But why me?”

“She can answer that question later.”

Both Leila and Wattana turned to find Tarou Ganji watching them. “How long have you been standing there?” Wattana asked with embarrassment in her tone.

“In between ‘Now get down’ and ‘But why me’,” Tarou answered. “Follow me. The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the chances of the both of you being in trouble, to put it mildly, will be slim.”


2210 hours

Vahid Farahani heard a knock on his door. Opening it, he found Tarou with Wattana and Leila.

“What’s going on here?” Farahani asked.

“These two caused some trouble, and I’d prefer it that we sort it out now,” Tarou answered.

“Fine. Please come inside.”

Tarou, Wattana, and Leila got into Farahani’s room. The latter closed the door behind the former three then stood before them.

“What’s this about?”

“I caught these two kissing.”

Farahani saw that Wattana and Leila lowered their heads in shame. “I can assume that this is your way of saying yes?”

“Baleh,” Leila replied.

“Who started it?” Farahani asked Tarou.

“Let me explain,” Wattana answered. “I caught Alam trying to go up to the village. Truth be told, I caught her doing this before but with Ghasem’s help, it wasn’t as bad as it was now. When I caught Alam attempting to do it again tonight, I tried to stop her by force, but when I did, our lips ended up touching each other.”

“Now I’d like to hear it from you, Junior Volunteer Alam,” Farahani said as he turned to Leila.

Leila explained herself, but in Farsi. Only Farahani and Tarou understood what she was saying.

“What’s she saying?” Wattana whispered to Tarou.

“I’ll answer that,” Farahani said as he turned to Wattana after listening to Leila. “She kissed you because you were the first person to find her alone that night.”

“Me?” Wattana incredulously asked.

“She admitted that she’s never felt this way until she joined the Brotherhood.”

“Okay, but… ” Wattana continued until she turned to Leila. “Alam, I assume this is the first time you kissed a girl before?”

Leila answered, but in Farsi. “No,” Farahani answered for Leila in English. “It happened back in that orphanage in Emad Deh. She and another girl in the same orphanage accidentally kissed once and did it again but one of them was caught. The day after that, that girl was physically punished for that and Miss Alam wasn’t because she wasn’t identified easily that night. That girl killed herself and, out of guilt for causing to do such a thing, Miss Alam left a letter and fled not only the orphanage but Emad Deh.”

“I’m… so sorry,” Wattana replied to Leila.

“Now as to what I think,” Farahani announced, with his intention of being a commanding officer in this debacle clear. “I think I will let it go.”

“Why?” Tarou asked.

“Because I have no intention of punishing people for their sexual orientation. Like I said before, I think differently than most cell commanders in the Brotherhood. Maybe in other cells Miss Alam wouldn’t be so lucky, but for me, I don’t care about that. Now, should I punish the both of you?”

Wattana and Leila bowed their heads again. To Tarou and Farahani, this was their way of preparing for the consequences of what they did.

“I do have something,” Farahani said. “Miss Alam, it’s one thing to be in love with women, but you’ve never tried being in love with a man?”

Leila shook her head. Tarou and Wattana widened their eyes with Farahani nodding, as if he understood, yet it wasn’t easy to determine one’s thoughts from a nod.

“I see. Mind if I test that?”

“With all due respect, Commander, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Tarou said.

“It’s up to Miss Alam at this point,” Farahani replied as he faced Tarou. “If she doesn’t want to, I will not force her.”

Farahani resumed facing Leila. “How about it, Miss Alam?”

Leila replied in Farsi. “She said she’s scared to do it,” Tarou said to Wattana.

“I see… ” Farahani added before he turned away from Leila.

Farahani crossed the room with everyone else inside realizing he found it difficult to decide how to resolve the issue without acting like a commanding officer.

“If I don’t do something, I would be seen as the type of commander that would let subordinates do as they please and that will harm our ability to fight as a proper unit in the long run. However, I do not have any idea on how to deal with someone who came up with a plot just because he or she came to terms with his or her sexuality.”

Farahani turned to Tarou. “Ganji, what do you think?”

“Can’t we consult Sergeant Madani and Lieutenant Saman on this?” Tarou asked.

“First of all, Saman’s surname is Dabri, remember that,” Farahani replied. “Second, I’d rather not wake them up at this time. Therefore, I decided to let Junior Volunteers Wattana and Alam go with a warning.”

“Are you sure about this?” Wattana asked.

“I see no problem with having a lesbian subordinate. Now, I do ask that the both of you return to respective bedrooms for tonight. Tomorrow night, if you wish to go further, come back here. You two are dismissed.”

Both Leila and Wattana left the room. Tarou, however, was confused as to why Farahani didn’t dismiss him.

“You’re wondering why I didn’t dismiss you, right,” Farahani said to Tarou.

“I assume you have a reason,” Tarou replied.

“I do. This reminded me of what you said to the General in Bandar Abbas. Why did you say such a thing?”

“I honestly don’t know why. Maybe I’ve been reading history a lot due to Maria and that I feel that if a country was to revive itself, it mustn’t be tied to the past.”

“And why do you think that?”

“The Japan I currently operate at is not the Japan of the 20th century. World War III taught it that it couldn’t idolize a past that involved murdering innocents. Iran offered a lot of things due to its past, but not everything from the past must be idolized.”

“I see. Now you’re dismissed.”

“Thank you, Commander.”


Langley, State of Virginia; United States of America. 1308 hours (Eastern Standard Time)

“And you think contacting the FIA is worth it to save those Iron Dutchman members?” a male voice asked Alberto Pérez over a computer in the office of the latter at the headquarters of the FIS.

“I believe so, Mr. Secretary-General,” Pérez replied. “We can’t sacrifice them because they’ve become vital in figuring out why Maria Hoshikawa is targeted and why the Gatekeepers had a facility in Sakhalin Island.”

“And how do you propose we approach the Middle Eastern League on this matter? They’ll apply plausible deniability on this.”

“I assure you, Mr. Secretary-General, they’ll consider our offer because if they don’t, it will be seen as an embarrassment that they armed Iranian rebels against the Eurasians.”

“Just tell me what you need?”

“I need the contact we have with Iron Dutchman Services, ‘Maria Clara’, to go to Kuwait City and negotiate with the League’s intelligence community about hunting down the OVR’s infiltrator. In addition, we may need to approach them for help.”

Them? You mean-”

“That’s right, Mr. Secretary-General, the Nomads.”

“Anything else you need?”

“Nothing else, sir,” Pérez answered before briefly looking away. “I hope.”

“As I said three months ago, you have the green light to act on this. All I can say at this point is good luck.”


Brotherhood of Freedom Cell Headquarters, Eurasian Tsardom. July 29, 2030; 1310 hours (Tehran Time)

The mercenaries, along with Ghasem Madani, Saman Dabri, and Yusuf al-Saqqaf, gathered in Farahani’s room. Tarou Ganji closed the door.

“So what’s this about?” Wouter Vos asked.

“Before I get to that, how goes the training?” Farahani asked.

“Unlike yesterday, the recruits improved,” Ghasem answered.

“Alright. Last night, Senior Volunteer Ganji told me that Junior Volunteers Wattana and Alam kissed.”

“And you’re only telling us this now?” Saman asked.

“Senior Volunteer Ganji and I sorted it out.”

“But still-” Ghasem said only for Farahani to stop him silently.

“It was an accident. I’m only saying this now because after today, there’s no going back.”

“Fair enough with me,” Vos said.

“You don’t sound surprised by this,” Farahani said to Vos.

“She’s done it with both men and women.”

“She’s bi?” al-Saqqaf incredulously asked.

“I can confirm that,” Sunan Wattana answered. “Though one time, I slept with a-”

“That’s enough,” Vos interjected before facing Farahani. “Anything else?”

“Not really,” Farahani answered. “You’re all dismissed.”


1600 hours

The recruits gathered at the shooting range. In addition, the three Walgears currently possessed by Farahani’s cell, comprising an SH-6 and the two EG01s given to Farahani’s cell by al-Saqqaf, were ready to be used but were kneeling. Tarou then appeared before the recruits.

“After today, you will have your first taste of combat,” Tarou proclaimed. “I know only two of you volunteered to pilot these Walgears, but for those who didn’t, you must watch carefully as to how a real battle will play out.

“Two days ago, we seized this Walgear from a Eurasian pilot whom I killed,” Tarou said as he pointed at the SH-6. “I am going to pilot that Walgear to test if you truly are ready for real combat.

“Now, you must remember that this Walgear, when I captured it, had live ammunition with it, so I will use it. For Junior Volunteers Alam and Bijan Javadi, your objective is to hit me anywhere. You’ll only fail if I hit you, but I promise not to strike directly at your cockpit. Lastly, you’ll fail this final lesson if you evade too much because the ammo the Eurasian Walgear’s carrying will be needed for tomorrow.

“Junior Volunteer Alam, you’re up.”

“Yes, Senior Volunteer Ganji,” Leila Alam replied.

Leila then rushed to one of the two EG01s while Tarou also rushed to the SH-6. After turning on their respective Walgears, Leila and Tarou made them stand up.

“Junior Volunteer Alam, we’ll start off by leaving the vicinity of the village,” Tarou said over the communicator of Leila’s EG01. “Once we’re far enough, we begin the mock battle.”

“Roger that,” Leila replied.

“I’ll go first but we need to switch our Walgears to ‘Wheels’ and prepare them to move.”


Leila found a button that had the word “Wheels” in it. She pressed it and remembering her training, she then positioned her right leg onto the left foot pedal. Leila then pressed her right foot unto the pedal and moved a lever on the right side of the control panel that was currently adjacent to the letter “P” onto the letter “D”. She then pressed a button found on top of a lever on the left side of the control panel and moved the lever downward.

“Is your gear lever at D?” Tarou asked.

“It is,” Leila answered.

“Then I’m going first. Follow me on my go.”

“Roger that”.

Tarou then made his SH-6 moved first. In her EG01’s cockpit, Leila positioned her left hand onto a wheel found at the center of the control above the buttons. She then used her right hand to move the gear lever onto the letter “N”.

“Now you’re clear to move,” Tarou instructed over the communicator.

Without saying a word, Leila slowly removed her right foot out of the left foot pedal and into the right foot pedal and her hands onto the wheel in the control panel. As a result, the EG01 moved. After five seconds, Leila increased the pressure of her right foot onto the right foot pedal, increasing the Walgear’s speed.

Through the screen of the EG01’s control panel, Leila saw a glimpse of Tarou’s EG01. However, as the Walgear became larger on the screen, which showed that Leila neared Tarou, the former saw that the latter aimed its rifle at her.

As a result, Leila moved the wheel she held with both hands to the left, making the EG01 go left. A split-second later, Tarou fired his SH-6’s rifle, yet Leila evaded it.

Impressive, Tarou thought as he saw, through the screen of his SH-6’s control screen, Leila turning away from him.

Leila turned twice before facing Tarou’s SH-6 again. This time, she fired as she pressed a button found on top of a lever to her right. This led to the EG01 firing a cannon found on its right torso.

However, Tarou saw the shot and evaded it. This began an exchange of shots that seemingly never ended, as neither Tarou nor Leila would hit each other.

She learned well in two days, Tarou thought again. She knows that I know if I’m hit, it’s over.

I can see that Senior Volunteer Ganji has seen many battles while using a Walgear, Leila thought. I must do something to make him let his guard down.

After firing at each other to no avail while chasing each other in a full circle, Leila moved her EG01 back with Tarou making his SH-6 fire. However, Leila evaded not only the shot but fired at that instant, hitting the SH-6 at the right arm that held the rifle.

Leila then stopped the SH-6. “Nicely done, Junior Volunteer Alam,” Tarou said over the EG01’s communicator.

“Mersi, Senior Volunteer Ganji,” Leila replied.

“Now we must return to the village. It’s Junior Volunteer Bijan Javadi.”

“Roger that.”

Both Tarou and Leila returned to the village. The other recruits came out from various locations, surprising the former two. Tarou and Leila then made their respective Walgears kneel and got out of the cockpits.

“Excellent hiding spots,” Tarou remarked to the recruits before turning to Bijan Javadi. “Junior Volunteer Bijan Javadi, you’re next.”

“Roger that.”


Nouakchott, Democratic Republic of Mauritania. 1558 hours (Mauritania Time)

Alicia Caguiat had finished going through customs at Noakchott-Oumtounsy International Airport. Arriving at the exit, she found a thirty-year-old man wearing a white short-sleeved button-up shirt, a brown leather belt holding up a pair of black trousers, and black-colored leather shoes carrying a white-colored sign with “Alicia Caguiat” written in black. He had short black hair, tanned light skin, a medium build with muscles, and eyes covered by black-colored sunglasses.

“Welcome, Miss Caguiat,” said the man. “I’m Oliver Ryan.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ryan,” Caguiat replied. “I assume you know why I’m here?”

“Yes and we’ll have to continue inside the car and some more at the Station.”

Both Caguiat and Ryan boarded the car the latter brought with him. After he started it up, the car left Noakchott-Oumtounsy International Airport.

“Miss Caguiat, I’ve already contacted the Nomads per the Director’s orders,” Ryan said as he drove.

“Thank you,” Caguiat replied as she was seated beside Ryan.

“Now, have the Middle Eastern League been contacted about this?”

“Yes. I’m to tell them about a plan the Director came up with.”

“That’s good. Like coming to school without your pants on.”

Caguiat laughed at the joke. “Now then, I assume transport has been prepared to take me to the Nomad’s enclave?”

“It has.”


Outskirts of Nouakchott. 1637 hours

Both Ryan and Caguiat reached a walled compound in the outskirts of Nouakchott. After parking the car, the former two reached the front door. Ryan knocked, and a hole found in the right door of the gate opened. An eye looked at Ryan and Caguiat through a hole in the door.

“Is that her?” a male voice, presumably the one looking from the other end of the hole, asked he looked at Caguiat.

“It is,” Ryan answered.

The gate opened. Both Caguiat and Ryan proceeded inside and the latter was as the compound looked like a normal house, despite the way they were let in.

“Welcome to the Station,” Ryan said. “We’ll discuss how you’ll reach the Nomads with the Station Chief.”

“Thanks,” Caguiat replied. “To the public, what is this place?”

“Just a simple lodge for college students.”


“We’re here,” Ryan said as he and Caguiat stopped before a door with a plate beside it. The plate read “Peter Knowles”.

Ryan then knocked at the door. “Who is it?” a male voice asked from the other side of the door.

“It’s Ryan, sir,” Ryan replied. “I brought Miss Caguiat with me.”

“Come in.”

Opening the door, Ryan and Caguiat found the office’s occupant, Peter Knowles, at his desk. Fifty-three years old, Knowles was a man with dark skin, black hair in a shape-up, and dark brown eyes. Ryan then closed the door behind him and Caguait.

“So you’re Miss Caguiat?” Knowles asked.

“I am, sir,” Caguiat replied.

“And I’m to assist in delivering you to the Nomads?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And remind me why I’m to do this for you?”

“Are you familiar with Iron Dutchman Services?”

“The mercenaries who caused trouble in Suriname three months ago?”

“The same. The FIS hired them to guard a vital asset in Japan and having heard about a job offer the Middle Eastern League was handing out to any mercenary groups, Iron Dutchman Services accepted the job offer with our blessing. Now, they’re in trouble because their real client, the League’s FIA, has someone giving out intel to a OVR agent in Kuwait City.”

“So I’m to help clean up your mess?”

“As much as I hate to admit it, yes. We only allowed those mercenaries to take the job hoping we could curry favor with the League in the distant future.”

“I see… Very well, I’ll contact Colonel Xiang to arrange for transport. For now, you’ll have to make yourself at home because it’s too dangerous to go out here in Noakchott and I doubt you have enough money to rent a hotel room.”

“Thank you, sir.”


General-Leytenant – “Lieutenant-General” in Russian. As for why “General” in Russian is the same as it is in English, here’s the Cyrillic: генера́л. At the least, it’s pronounced “Gi-ne-rahl”.

Mayor – “Major” in Russian. Don’t believe me? Here’s the Cyrillic: майо́р.

General-Mayor – Russian for “Major-General”. Cyrillic: генера́л-майо́р