The first days of the Third Chechen War were unexpectedly quiet. Aside from the irregular artillery or rocket bombardment of the belligerents, life in the Caucasus Mountains had actually become more peaceful than previous years. The Transcaucasian Army—formerly known as the Chechen Provisional Armed Forces—kept well inside the territory they controlled, while the Russian and Krakozhian Armies, nibbled at the edges of the Transcaucasians' territory.

That all changed when the Transcaucasians invaded neighboring Ingushetia. The surprised defenders withdrew to their capital Vladikavkaz and set up defensive lines. Augmented by the Krakozhians, the Ingushetians held back the Transcaucasians for a whole week before the latter broke through the former's lines and conquered the state. After this morale-boosting victory, the Transcaucasians became bold enough to expand their borders even more, launching attacks on North and South Ossetia and Dagestan. This time, the Russians and Krakozhians knew enough about their enemies' tactics to effectively delay and sometimes even push back the Transcaucasian offensive.

But the political leaders of both countries wanted the "Transcaucasian problem" to end. Dissatisfaction in some actively deployed units was high, and both doubted whether they still had the momentum to continue the war without turning it into a stalemate. And so it was decided that a small force of Spetsnaz troops from both countries would be inserted deep into Transcaucasian territory and tasked to the removal of Zimyat Kodudov from the Transcaucasian government, dead or alive.

Carter Mason and Rosie Fiore were part of that task force.

Either the Transcaucasians were very confident that nothing could ever penetrate their defenses, or they simply thought that the Russians and Krakozhians wouldn't make a move on their leader, though Carter as the choppers carrying the task force went deep into Chechen territory. A wall of steel greeted their small force as soon as they entered Chechen airspace, but after many near misses from anti-aircraft fire and surface-to-air missiles, they finally made it through to the practically undefended interior. Sure, the air defenses around Groznyy itself could probably stop a nuclear warhead, but once through that, there was nothing to protect the city itself.

"One minute, comrades," said the pilot on the intercom. The troopers inside the lead Hind clipped their harnesses to the rappel cables, which were already secured to the deck through eyeholes on the floor, and stuck out their rears in preparation for the coming jump. In that position, Carter could see that they were flying just above the tops of some buildings, and that they were fast approaching the Capitol.

"Go! Go! Go!" shouted the pilot. The troopers jumped out of the Hind, and in one quick motion unclipped their harnesses to the rappels and took hold of their weapons. As the flotilla departed the area, she saw movement out of the corner of her eye, and turning around, she spotted a rebel talking to something that looked like a radio. Carter immediately sent three rounds into his head. The man fell without a sound, with only the clatter of the fallen AK and the radio breaking the silence.

There goes our stealth, she thought. She tapped the shoulder of her second-in-command and, using hand gestures, ordered him to cut the power to the building. As she and the other troopers formed up in front of an emergency stairwell, the second-in-command reached into a power distributor and ripped out the cables. Carter kicked the door in and went down the stairs, followed by the Spetsnaz troopers.

The sudden darkness had thrown the rebel guards into chaos, and those lucky enough to have flashlights used them for what it was worth. But the troopers didn't need flashlights, for they had night vision equipment. They cut through the confused defenders quickly, leaving nobody alive. Both groups finally arrived at the door to the former office of the governor—now being used by Transcaucasian President Kodudov—and formed two groups at opposite sides of the door. Carter nodded at Lev, who nodded back before placing a square breaching charge at the door. As soon as he secured it to the door, he stepped back, and a moment later, the breaching charge exploded, and the task force troopers charged into the office, guns blazing. Five seconds later, no rebels were alive inside that room.

Lev walked towards the desk in the room and felt for the pulse of one of the bodies. There was none. He stood up, drew his hand across his throat, and said, "EMIR is dead."

EMIR was the codename for Zimyat Kodudov.