Chapter 2 : Harsh Reality
"Text" = Character speaking English
"(Text)" = Character speaking their native or another foreign language
14th March 2018
Istanbul, Republic of Turkey
0445 Hours (UTC+3)
Thunder roared over the skies of Istanbul once again as the rain poured even harder on the megacity. In it's various apartment complexes, people slept, did night work, night studying for their school exams. Of course there were the people that weren't doing these kinds of things. Some people patrolled the streets, policemen and women. Some were up on nightwatch, the soldiers or the gendarmes. The intelligence agencies, silently contuining the war in the shadows that kept going nonstop. And, for this particular night, terrorists.
The White Masks had come to be known in Turkey and other Turkic Council nations at first as an "American Problem". But in 2016, it became a threat on home soil. Izmir, the "Pearl of the Aegean" as it was nicknamed, had seen an attack that could was more fatal than any attack before. 310 people had perished in the attack, nearly a thousand more wounded. Today, the White Masks would yet again regret attacking their nation. As the rain continued it's downpour, six operators from the Internal Intelligence Organisation's Special Intervention Directorate (The counterpart to the US FBI HRT), moved from a side street towards a small four floor apartment, where it was confirmed by the IIO's Security Directorate that a potential "leader" White Mask had moved to, after arriving to the country with a fake passport.
"(Borealis 12-1 to Borealis Actual, we're moving interior.)"
The operators opened the door to the hallway of the apartment, keys provided by a resident that had called it in after seeing the potential leader. The lights had been cut, a "permenant maintenance" was what the district mayoralty said to the residents of the entire streets. The operators lowered their NVGs and continued towards the stairs, the shield bearer taking point as the team rallied up behind him. Behind him was the leader of the team, who motioned her team to move up the stairs.
"(12-1, Togan's are moving to confirm target. Wait one.)"
"(Acknowledged Actual, we're waiting.)"
Four STM Togan drones, operated from the close by police van used as a control station , approached the apartment and started circling it to confirm the target. The drones were small and with the heavy rain, they were very hard to spot. The drones circles and peeked through the windows of the flat where the terrorists were located in. The IIO-SID operators waited outside patiently, checking their NVGs, weapons and equipments for one last time. The drones ended their search within five minutes before withdrawing back to the control van.
"(Actual to 12-1, target confirmed. White shirt, beige pants.)"
"(12-1 copies. We're moving in now.)"
One of the operators holstered his rifle and hoisted up the battering ram he was carrying. He moved forward as the operators flicked off their safeties and prepared for the confontration. The operator swung and hit the door where the door handle on the other side would be located. With a lucky swing, the door was opened on the first hit, startling the terrorists inside before the operators stormed in.
"İç İstihbarat! Yat yere! Yat! Yat! Yat! Yat!" The female team leader shouted as she and the shield bearer entered inside.
One of the terrorists thought it wise to suddenly raise his M1911 pistol at the operators. But was quickly dispatched by the team leaders SAR-56 rifle. It showed the other terrorists, already caught with their pants down, that the IIO was not playing around. The other operators quickly entered inside and started frisking the terrorists for weapons as the team leader frisked the main target, before tying his hands with plasticuffs.
"(12-1 to Actual. Target under custody. One hostile down, requesting police and paramedic units to the area.)"
"(Actual copies. Cordon units moving to area now. Keep the residents of the apartment in check until then. Actual out.)"
Three operators of the team started to move the terrorists out of the flat as the team leader and the other two operators started checking around for evidence. It seemed to them that they hit the jackpot. Hard drives, disks, computers. It seeemed this cell was preparing for something.
"(This looks like a gold mine Horizon.)"
"(Then pack them up genius. We're not here to chat. Threat level is rised to 4.)" Horizon, the team leader, said to the shield bearer.
"(Alright. Alright. Just trying to lighten the mood a little.)"
"(No time to lighten up Basher.)" Horizon told the man as she opened up the laptop that was left on sleep mode.
Basher nodded. There was a time for jokes, this wasn't one. Horizon knelt down as she opened the laptop and look it through. After İzmir, they couldn't wait for the intel to be processed and analised before being sent to them. That was one of the reasons they hadn't been able to apprehend that attack two years ago. There were two tabs left open. Google Chrome and Notepad. Horizon checked the Notepad first. It showed multiple cities. Some of them had the word "wired" in brackets next to them. Kazan, Russia. Frankfurt, Germany. Istanbul, Turkey. Chicago, United States. Saint Helier, Bailiwick of Jersey.
"(I have multiple money wires here. There is one in Istanbul. Actual, this is 12-1. We need Financial Crimes on the scene as well, multiple money wires. One of them is in Istanbul. Over.)"
"(Acknowledged 12-1. We're contacting the GDS now.)"
Horizon then clicked on the Google Chrome tab. Multiple tabs were on it. Three stood out. One for airline flights from Istanbul to Tehran, which raised concern as Iran had experienced a coup-de-etat just two weeks ago. One for housing on rent, indicating that these terrorists were getting ready to move. One for GMail. Horizon clicked on the tab and saw an active conversation. The last message was just four minutes ago, just as the IIO-SID operators waited for confirmation of target. She read the last part that was sent from the other side, which simple read : "Ready."
"(12-1 to Actual. I have something here.)"
"(I have multiple tabs on an open laptop. Conversation between this computer and another one. Timetables for Tehran-Istanbul flights. And one website for houses on rent. Sir, you know that I don't like to speculate but we may need to raise the Threat Level to 5.)" Horizon said.
Threat Level 5 meant that a terror attack was certainly immenent or it had already happened. It meant a state of emergency and the Army or Gendarme deploying to the streets. Horizon had seen this level nearly be activated many times due to some speculations and had always spoke against them. Now that she herself was suggesting this, her words weighed down on everyone. One of the most cautious IIO-SID operators, had just said that.
"(12-1. Are you absolutely certain?)"
"(Yes Chief... I am looking at information that... oh, enough with the fucking puzzle words. If we are to believe this intel, an attack is imminent!)" She abruptly said.
"(12-1. We're going to need confirmation for that.)"
"(This was the exact same thing that allowed Izmir to happen Actual. We need to act. Now.)"
"(12-1, I understand. We both know what had happened. But we cannot act-... Standby.)"
Silence quickly fell upon the operators, who looked at each other. Knowing damn well that bad news were on the way. Multiple scenarios flicked to life in her head. Suicide bomber? Hostage situation? Terrorists seizing a building? And many more. She looked at Basher, the shield bearer likely making up scenarios in his mind as well. She checked her rifle, making sure it was in good shape. And then, the radio beeped back to life.
"(12-1... Return to base and re-gear. Repeat. Return to base and re-gear. Over.)"
"(Actual, what happened?)" Horizon asked, hoping for the best and readying up for the worst.
"(Atatürk Airport. You need to re-gear. Now.)"
"(...Copy that.)" Horizon responded, her voice nearly a whisper. She was shook as she realised what was happening.
Too little too late.
Tripoli, State of Libya
Turkic Council Tri-Branch Misrata Military Base
0910 Hours (UTC+2)
5 Hours. It had been nearly five hours. No one knew what was actually going on. The media had went haywire with speculations. Embedded onto the minds of everyone was Atatürk Airport, covered in chemical gas. Helicopters flying over the area. Army and Gendarme CBRN units moving in to assist Police CBRN units. Civilians being brought out of the chemical doused airport and rushed to the nearby hospitals.
"(The General Security Director of Istanbul has just made an official statement, saying that the airport has been cleared of terrorists. But there is still gas all over- We better get out of the way.)"
The reporter away from the road as two Nurol Ejder Yalçın MRAPs of the PÖH passed by them. Heading towards the airport, at least two kilometers away. The reporters were far off from the effected area. Judging by the fact that they had zero protective gear on.
"(The Security Director has stated that six terrorists have been captured alive. Where they were taken has not been disclosed by the Director due to security reasons. President Almila Erk and members of the National Security Council have gathered in an emergency meeting. President Erk has cancelled her trip to Germany, France and the UK. We will continue... reporting on developments.)"
The reported seemed like he was about to break down. Batu sighed. It was not normal for any ordinary citizen to see death and destruction happen so close to them. Selin thought similarly. Both of them had walked the fine line between the other side and this side. But of course, they weren't "okay". No one inside the room at the moment was okay. For an attack this big to happen right under their noses was a gut punch. Some operators looked ready to just punch the wall. Some barely managed to contain their anger and sadness.
"Dikkat!" Tuna shouted as he saw Major Dalkıran and Lieutenant Colonel Akaydın enter the room.
The operators stood up to attention. LtCol Akaydın motioned them to be at ease.
"(Hunter Team, Tracker Team, Pounder Team. The other teams are to report to Major Miralay.)" Major Dalkıran said.
The other operators exchanged nods with the members of the three teams before leaving. The last operator to exit closed the door behind him. After that Major Dalkıran sighed. This was too much.
"(You are to tell no one of this. But there is a high possibility and some evidence pointing to a possibility that this attack was conducted by some part of the Iranian government and the White Masks. Evidence is still being recovered but we have the KGYS footage recovered by IIO-SID operators that had boots on the ground at the time. And helmet cam footage.)" Major Dalkıran said before placing his laptop, that he was holding, on the table and connecting it to the projector.
The Major logged onto the GenKur Digi-Hub and clicked on the file that contained the recordings of the attack. He forwarded it to the time where IIO-SID operators first encountered the hostiles. He then pressed the play button. The video showing IIO-SID, JÖAK/JÖPER and PÖH operators, donning MOPP suits, moving through the terminal. The area was covered in gas. Little to no visibility.
One could only imagine how they felt.
Istanbul, Republic of Turkey
Istanbul Atatürk International Airport
0530 Hours (UTC+3)
Horizon took another deep breath as she and her team walked along the terminal. Bodies were everywhere. If not for the modern airport architecture, this sight could have been confused with something straight out of the World Wars. But it was not and Horizon along with her team had a job to do.
"(10-1 to 12-1, we're moving into the VIP lounge now. Over.)"
"(12-1 copies. Anyone alive?)"
"(...Some. Medical crews are coming in to get them out now. 10-5 is staying with the civvies until they arrive.)"
"(Acknowledged. See you at check-in. 12-1, over and out.)"
"(All Borealis callsigns, GDS Attack Helicopter callsigns Hitter 1-2 and 1-1 have entered the area. Patching them to comms net.)"
After a brief silence as the operators continued trudging forward and three fast beeps confirming that the helicopter pilots and gunners were now in the communication channel with them. If one squinted hard enough to see through the gas, the two T-129F2 ATAK helicopters, painted in the black police livery, were flying along the terminal with them. Keeping a fair distance so as not to crash into the building or into each other.
"(Borealis 12-1, this is Hitter 1-1. Confirm radio check, over.)"
"(You are readable 1-1.)"
"(Copy that. Awaiting tasking.)"
"(We're going to need a scout ahead. We still don't know if the terrorists have taken hostages or where they have camped. Tried sending in drones but they got shot by roaming terrorists.)"
"(Roger that. 1-2, take up scout task. We'll stay here and cover them.)"
Horizon motioned her team to start increasing their pace as one of the T-129F2s flew on to the other side of the terminal, scanning the area with it's thermals and 20mm gatling gun.
"(Borealis 12-1, this is Hitter 1-2. Eyes on two dozen footmobiles. Gates 102 to 110. They have no hostages, over.)"
"(Acknowledged, we'll handle them.)" Horizon responded.
She then motioned Basher and her heavy gunner to take point. Basher and the heavy gunner, armed with a KCR-762 and MFR-76 respectively, could put down overwhelming firepower with ease. Horizon was going to take full advantage of that. Basher and her heavy gunner, Lifter, turned the corner and trained their thermal scopes on the nearest targest. Basher turned to Horizon and nodded.
"(Open fire.)" She ordered.
Lifter and Basher wasted no time, pressing their triggers and sending a volley of 7.62x51 at the terrorists. Killing both. Then another two. And another. Basher ran out and reloaded his rifle as Lifter continued putting down fire. The terrorists were unable to locate or return fire to the operators, the poor visibility and the enemies lack of thermal vision gear helped the IIO-SID operators considerably. As the last terrorist fell to the ground with two holes on his chest, Lifter and Basher reloaded their weapons. Basher nodded at Horizon before taking point. Horizon and the rest of the team turned the corner and followed suit, forming an arrow formation.
The gatling gun of Hitter 1-1 suddenly sprang to life, firing at something below the terminal the operators were on.
"(12-1, we're engaging hostiles below the terminal. Repeat, below terminal.)"
"(Copy.)" Horizon quickly responded, before motioning her shotgunner "Dawn" to take point.
"(Who could do such a thing?)" Dawn said.
"(I have a lot of guesses Senior Officer.)" Horizon told her.
"(No punishment can match the scale of this crime chief.)" Dawn muttered.
Unfortunately, that was how the justice system worked. No matter how stomach churning the crime was, the punishment would never match it.
"(We're coming up on the security room.)"
"(Copy. Basher, you and Dawn secure the camera footage. Rest of us will continue clearing the area.)" Horizon ordered.
The two operators broke off from the team as they advanced forwards. Gunfire echoed through the terminal. Sounded like JÖAK/JÖPER and PÖH teams had entered into the tray. Horizon hoped and prayed that they were able to at least save someone.
"(12-1, this is Actual. Direct orders from the Undersecretary. Everyone you capture alive, they will head to Section 4 and then 0.)"
"(Copy that Actual.)"
Old habits died hard. Section 4 and 0 were not forgiving of terrorists. The team continued onwards, into the VIP lounge. Lifter, quickly peeked inside but moved to cover as he was met with gunfire. He turned to Horizon and gestured to her that there were four terrorists. The team leader prepared a flashbang and pulled the pin. Throwing it inside after waiting for a second. The grenade exploded, and the two operators entered. Five shots were fired and the terrorists fell limp. Only one was left alive, his tear on his equipment finishing the job of the operators. Horizon gestured her team to continue their sweep, as she knelt down by one of the terrorists to examine their equipment. The rifle brough the most attention to her. It looked like a M4 Carbine at first glance. She picked it up and examined it. It was heavily modified, which indicated it was likely a copied design or home modified. Setting the rifle down, she got back up and raised her rifle. Moving to rejoin her team.
This whole thing was just starting, she thought. Just as in İzmir. And Bartlett before.
Tripoli, State of Libya
Turkic Council Tri-Branch Misrata Military Base
0940 Hours (UTC+2)
"(That rifle is a Fajr 224. Iranian copy of the M4.)" Major Ergüder said, gaining the full attention of the operators who were fixated on the video.
"(What?!)" A member of Pounder Team exclaimed.
"(Has Tehran gone mad?)" Melisa questioned.
"(Does Tehran even know of it?)" Batu asked.
"(And if they do, who allowed it?)" Selin asked.
Silence fell. Selin and Batu had just asked the two real questions that needed answers. The two angles. Did Tehran, or a faction of upper echelons, sponsored a terrorist attack that matched 9/11 in terms of destruction and death? Or was someone making it look like Tehran did it? The recent coup would point at the first option. But then again, history was great at making surprises. Splinter faction, IRGC, VAJA, the White Masks smuggling Iranian weapons from Iraq. Limitless options. Limitless events.
"(That's why you are being sent to Middle East Command. Iranian Army movements have increased suspiciously across the Iraqi border. Could just be the new Iranian government's show of force. To intimidate anyone thinking of intervening.)" LtCol Akaydın said.
"(Iraq?)" Batu asked.
"(Syria. You'll operate out of there into Iraq. Golden Division is the only unit that knows.)" Akaydın answered.
Golden Division. ISOF. One of the few units of the Iraqi Army the Turkic Militaries trusted. During the last decade, it was likely the only unit that kept away from the influence of Iran. One could blame the government in Ankara, which did allow it to happen, to counter and destroy ISIS at the time. But as Charles De Gaulle had said : "Countries don't have friends, they have interests.". It applied to the situation back then, as to why Ankara and Turkestan allowed Tehran to tighten it's grip on Baghdad.
"(You'll have access to our air base in Basra, in case you need to lay low inside of the country. The commanders of units stationed there and the commander of the base has been notified...)" Major Ergüder trailed off for a moment.
The officer thought of what could happen, if their assumptions were wrong and they struck the wrong place or country. In any case, people would die. The harsh reality of their work. Risks, scales, red tape, politics, bureaucracy, governments... The list went on.
Selin brough the officer back to harsh reality. He turned to his operators to continue.
"(No mistakes. What we do now triggers war on a nation or a war on terror. It's up to us to determine what it is. I know you all are above the mess that is believing in some bullshit dogmas. But, I will warn you in any case. Do not send us made up bullshit just because you don't like who is at the top in Tehran. That's not our concern as of now. Tehran can have anyone it wants. We don't care. Our concern is to find just exactly who killed thousands of our own. And punish them accordingly.)" Major Ergüder reminded, making the operators feel the weight of his words.
"(You're dismissed. Gather your equipment and be ready to leave within the hour.)"
The operators got up and started leaving the room. The team leaders and 2iC gave brief look to the Major and Lieutenant Colonel. Assuring them the thing the Major warned them about would not happen under their watch. Batu and Selin were the last to leave. Giving the officers a nod before closing the door behind them.
"(So we don't show them the conversation.)" Akaydın said.
"(We need more solid evidence than that. You know that. The order is direct from the President. Thank God she is one of us and not some damned gung-ho fool.)" Major Ergüder said.
President Almila Erk. 20 year politician and 10 year Gendarme NCO before that. She carried her military experience onwards to the Presidential Complex. Which was a relief for all men and women in uniform. An assurance that they were not going to enter their version of a "Forever War".
"(You're right. Let's let her worry about that choice. Let us worry how we will find the evidence.)"
"(Of course. I'll ready link with MerKom.)"
With their worries pushed aside the way, for now, the two officers got back to their work.
**********, Republic of Turkey
A very audible crack. Another. And another. It wouldn't stop. This was the third of the many terrorists that had been transported to the NIO-IIO Black Site, simply known as "Section 0". It was known among the security instituions as a terrorists nightmare. A lot of non-lethal and psychological torture tactics were utilized. First the captives were given a through and through beating until bones broke. A trip to a military hospital later, they were brought back and placed in solitary confinement for at least a month. Practically a form of White Torture, where the detainee was in a white soundproof room with white clothes, white shoes, eating only white rice from a white plate. Being only brought out to go to the toilet. The site was a topic of debate on the political scene after it's existance was confirmed in 2009 but it was an extremely useful asset, not something that could be let go of easily.
An IIO interrogator struck the terrorist again with his baton, his female colleague from the NIO following him right after. The terrorist they were beating down was one of the younger ones they had arrested. Barely in his early to mid 20s. The interrogators stopped when they finally heard a crack and another loud howl of pain from the kid. They had broken his left leg, some of his ribs and now his right arm.
"(Open the door!)" The IIO interrogator shouted to the guards outside.
The locks were opened one by one. Revealing two men armed with MPT-55K carbines and two doctors in their robes, pushing a stretcher inside. The two guards helped the doctors hoist the terrorist up on the stretcher. As they were preparing to leave, the NIO interrogator stopped them.
"Tell me, who is the most senior person that is here? Answer correctly and I'll make life easier for you." The woman said to the battered terrorist.
It was a part of the tactic. Psychologically, the kid was exhausted beyond his limits. His mind would likely tell him the logical way was to answer the question correctly. If he wasn't brainwashed beyond the point of no return by the White Masks. The young terrorist thought for a moment, debating in his head. He had two clear options. One was to remain loyal to the Masks cause and likely go through constant agony whilst the Turks got what they wanted from one of his comrades anyways. Or, to lessen his agony, give them what they wanted. He took a shaky and painful, due to the broken ribs, breath in.
"Kirk. It's Kirk. Greying hair. Has a scar on his left leg." The young terrorist answered.
"Good. (Get him a regular cell when his hospital visit is finished.)" The NIO interrogator ordered one of the guards.
The guard nodded as the doctors wheeled the terrorist out of the holding cell, for transportation to the nearest military hospital. Then it was back to here.
"(Round up the prisoners, we have a keyman.)" The IIO interrogator said into his radio.
The cycle continued.
Well, this took some time to write and I apoligize for the wait. In any case, I hope you all enjoy. Have a good day/night! Solozzo out!