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"Fucking inbred half-witted barbarian natives!" Gerhardt shouted as he threw his now emptied wine-glass at the door.

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The defeat had been mostly been a defeat of the mind and morale. The council had been repelled, and although their material and manpower losses were relativly small(CTC and survivor losses almost matched their own), it was a morale-boost for the enemy that Gerhardt really could do without.

Compound 14, Gerhardt's base of operations, was feeling less comfortable by the minute. His progress report was already overdue, and the flashing icon on the com device at Gerhardt's desk filled him with a sense of dread.

"They want to see you, Gerhardt. You know what's coming."

God damn it. If only he could be happily oblivious about what was in store for him.

There was a painful reminder from the loudspeakers. "Commander Gerhardt to the coms center. Commander Gerhardt to the coms center."

With heavy steps Gerhardt walked down towards the coms center. Again. It would be a welcome relief if he wouldnt dread coming here.

Gerhardt took his position at the com center and pressed the button on the console infront of him. A blurry and distorted version of a surprisingly calm Adelhart appeared. Again.

"Ah, finally. We've been trying to reach you for some time now, Gerhardt. You havent sent us the latest progress report, its overdue with four days." Adelhart spoke through garbled audio.

"Yes, my apologies councillor. I am not too efficent with filing paperwork. And there has been...complications. I can fill you in verbally now if you wish though." Gerhardt replied, hoping to get a chance to soften the coming blow.

"That will not be necessary. One of your more loyal people saw fit to send us a separate report earlier today. It explained the situation perfectly. To say that the councillor's are dissapointed in your failures would be an...understatement.".

Adelhart's sudden icy cold tone rattled Gerhardt to his core. He knew what the man was capable of. Suddenly this was no longer about arguing to keep his job, it was about fighting to stay alive.

"I...I am sorry. But there were complications, councillor. Complications I could not forsee. The CTC was there in force, they had marshalled their resources faster then we expected, and they even had a tungusk-"

"EXCUSES?! YOU'RE MAKING EXCUSES?!"

Adelhart's cold demenour suddenly flared into a wild rage that caught Gerhardt by complete surprise.

"But..I.."

"I WILL NOT HAVE IT!" Adelhart stood up, the old man visually infuriated. "YOU KNOW VERY WELL THAT WE DONT MAKE EXCUSES. YOU KNOW WHAT WE STAND FOR. YOU AGREED ON IT, YOU SIGNED ON IT, YOU SWORE ON IT."

Gerhardt stood frozen in place. After a few seconds Adelhart seemed to regain his demeanor and his tone was lowered. But he was still clearly upset.

"I am very dissapointed. How long have I known you, Gerhardt? 30 years? I have never seen you make excuses. And you know damned well that we let our own actions speak for themselves. If we make mistakes, we own up to it, we repair it, we move on. You made a mistake during Operation Osprey, you underestimated the enemy, it cost you valuable lives and materials. And what do you do?

You not only fail to repair your mistake in Operation Grinder, but you repeat the same damned mistake! It is simply unforgivable!"

Gerhardt gulped. This was bad. Really bad. He had to say something.

"I understand, sir. I have made some serious mistakes. But I believe the situation can still be salvaged. We still have a lot of resources available to us here in the Russian cell. We can still fight. And if I could get Jekyll deployment approval we-"

"No. It is too late for any more chances. We're still considering Jekyll deployment. It is not an easy descicion to make. Last time we used that we ended up loosing many of our own men in the progress containing it. It's a weapon of mass destruction and not one that should be released lightly. As for you, your position as commander of Site 14 is hereby terminated. You're "fired", Gerhardt."

Gerhardt closed his eyes. That was a potential death-sentence right there. Think think...submission. Maybe...maybe submission truly is preferably to extinction.

"I understand. I do not...question your judgement. I have failed you, it is only fair that you replace me with someone more competent."

Every part of Gerhardt's excessivly strong ego protested with every word that he had to force out of his mouth. Grovelling at the councillor's feet to save his life. Pathetic.

"But I ask that I can continue to serve, sir. I have already proven my worth to you through my intellect and my research, sir. I can still be of use to you."

Adelhart seemed exhuasted as he slumped back in the comfortable-looking chair behind him.

"We know. Some of the councillors, in particular Cesil, wanted you dead for this. But you still had a degree of support, especielly due to your considerable scientific work. I vouched for you, Gerhardt. I managed to get three other councillors to do the same. The chairman agreed. We will not terminate your "membership" for your failures. But it is clear that you lack military command skills. Skills that are vital for someone in your position. So you are hereby demoted to the local science division at the Russian cell."

Gerhardt let out a big sigh of relief. That wasnt so...bad. Could be worse. Live to fight another day.

"...and we're transferring command of site 14 and the Russian Cell to Amanda Greyson. When she arrives tomorrow, you are to greet her as your new superior."

...and just like that, the moment of relief was gone.

"AMANDA?! THE ICEWITCH?! Please no-" Gerhardt shut up as he realized his reaction was not just in his mind.

Adelhart's cold demeanour returned.

"I realize you dont like her, and that she doesnt like you. I dont care. Be grateful that you're still alive. You work with her unless you want to end up a test subject for your scientist colleagues in Siberia. Am I being perfectly clear?"

"...yes sir."

"Good. Then we're done here. She should be at your base tomorrow, along with reinforcements from the eastern european cell. Once you've organised up, regrouped and briefed her, resume operations. And this area better not give us any more trouble. We have bigger problems elsewhere then this damnable backwater corner of the planet."

Gerhardt sighed deeply as the image of Adelhardt faded away at the coms center. "Out of the frying pan and into the fucking fire."

((Will be adding something about Gerhardt's meeting with Amanda later. ))

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Fantastic.

Excited to find out about this Amanda character

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This was amazing!

Can't wait to see how Amanda is!

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The howling wind from the storm embraced Gerhardt's body as if it was trying to squeeze the warmth from it.

Fucking weather, it shouldnt be this cold here. Its the Caucasus, not friggin Siberian wastes.

He was standing exposed only with his leatherjacket providing any shelter in the surprisingly cold and strong wind at the base airfield, looking at the Ka-60 helicopter landing just a few meters away from him.

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The extra wind whipped his face and the elderly man grunted with displeasure. "Lets just get this over with." he muttered to the man next to him. The man nodded and walked over to the Ka-60 helicopter and opened one of the side passanger doors.

A woman in her early fourties stepped outside, having the same black leatherjacket Gerhardt had. She immidiatly cast a glance at her surroundings and, much to Gerhardt's dismay, she didnt seem pleased with her first view of site 14.

Amanda Greyson. Oh yes, Gerhardt knew this woman well. Too well.

She always displayed that revoltingly annoying "smug and superior" attitude , hidden under a carefully concealed mask of military discipline.

Amanda stepped forward and nodded at Gerhardt.

"Dr. Gerhardt, its been a while".

She presented that smug smile but as protocol and etiquette dictated, also presented her hand. Gerhardt shook it reluctantly.

"Indeed." Gerhardt added an unaudible "Thank god for that.", additionally dampened by the storm.

Follow me, Commander Greyson. I'll give you the tour, and get you up to speed."

Amanda nodded and followed Gerhardt.

"I got a good look of it from the air. It looked...disorganized. But I suppose that's why I am here."

Gerhardt gritted his teeth. One of the people he loathed the most, now here to critize his work, after everything he had done right. Apparantly a few minor mistakes was enough to suffer these kind of punishments. Something to note for the future. Perhaps he could still turn the tables. Perhaps this situation could still be salv-

"So, keeping me up to speed? Yes?"

Gerhardt's daydreaming was interrupted by Amanda's question, asked with that sneery arrogant attitude that Gerhardt had come to expect.

"Yes, of course. Well, the base is well stocked in supplies. We recently had a supply ship come across the green sea and give us fresh delivaries. We have suffered minor losses in manpower and land-based vehicles. The only notable losses are littlebird helicopters and pilots."

Gerhardt stopped infront of the main bunker entrance of Site 14. He handed his keycard to Amanda. "And this one's all yours now, commander. Comes with all the appropriate clearances, of course."

Amanda nodded, swiped the card in the card reader and walked inside the complex. Gerhardt welcomed the wave of warmth that met them inside the bunker.

They followed the main corridor, bustling with activity from council personel, until they reached the main elevator. Amanda again swiped her card in the card reader and the elevator opened with a "ping". They both stepped inside, alone. Gerhardt tapped the Level 4 button and the elevator started moving slowly.

"Its quite the mess you've created here, Gabriel. And it isnt the first time Adelhart's sent me in to clean it up."

Gerhardt just stayed quiet. He knew Amanda. He knew she didnt like him, and she knew he didnt like her. They had this whole rivalry going ever since they both joined. She excelled in military matters, his field was science. And now, she truly had him by the balls.

"But dont worry. We'll sort it out. You've screwed up, but at least you havent taken any notable losses yet. Except the littlebirds. Obviously not a very sound strategy, sending in a few of those to attack those "barbaric natives". Even barbarians can have big guns, you know."

"Well, you should know, those filthy savages have help. The UEF and the CTC-"

"...should never have been a threat in the first place. The UEF are so outnumbered by us that you should've just focused on taking out that destroyer. And then, problem solved. And the CTC? They probably wouldnt have gotten involved. But you had to go blow up that convoy at Prud. You just had to."

"That wasnt my fault. I told them to fire at targets of opportunity. How was I suppose to know that-"

Amanda grinned and wiggled her finger.

"ah ah ah, remember what Adelhart said about excuses."

"Hmpf."

Amanda's demeanour changed from smugness and was replaced by a face that could only be described as rock-hard serious.

"Look. Somewhere in your head, burrowed under your ego, even you must realize that you've screwed up here. You dont like that I was sent here, and frankly im not too overly fond of it either. I had a comfortable thing going in Europe, especielly after we crushed those survivor enclaves in Poland. So we're gonna sort out this mess and we're going to do so without any more hiccups. I dont much prefer being sent to this remote backwater cesspit of the world, and I'd rather be done with it as quickly as possible."

"Mhm. Im sure you loathe the chance to squash me under your heels."

Proper protocol and etiquette seemed to have been blown away. Maybe it was the elevator, no security cameras in here.

"Give it a rest, Gabriel. This is bigger then our petty rivalries. Look at the bigger picture, what we're trying to accomplish. We're having some real problems in North America, so we need to conserve assets. And that means locking down these little flashpoints that are emerging so we can send the reinforcements where they're necessary.

Gerhardt frowned.

"This are that bad over in NA?"

"I wouldnt say bad, but definetly not as good as the councillors had hoped. Its not a cause for real concern, yet. But you know how they operate: When in doubt, have backups and reinforcements. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That is why we need to be careful of how we invest the resources we have at our disposal. They're not easy, or quick, to replace."

Gerhardt nodded slowly.

"Well, I'll cooperate as has been requested of me. Tell me what you need of me."

"Well first give me the tour of the entire base. I then need a full written detailed report of both Operation Osprey Takedown, Operation Grinder and as well as the smaller incursions and patrols you've made. Then I need intelligence reports. Who can we lean on for information in South Zagoria? Known willing colleberators? Intel on CTC and UEF? Then I need the fill list of available vehicles and manpower. Finally, I need a written briefing on the progress of the new poison gas you've been developing.

And I need this done before the end of the day."

Gerhardt blinked as the elevator finally stopped, its doors opening. Level 4 was a long way down.

"End of the day? But its late afternoon now!"

"Well then I guess you better get to it. The more time we give our enemy to recover and prepare, the harder this will be. And you want this little crisis solved as much as I do, dont you?"

"Yes, of course."

Amanda smiled her cold smile, a facial expression Gerhardt had a feeling he had to get used to.

"Alright then. Lead the way, "Gabs". As I understood it, Site 14 is quite big. And we have much to do."

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Interesting the second part!

I expect Council will surely be tougher next time.

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