The Kurage Crisis had been bad. Omar had commanded garrison units flung into full-blown warfare against veteran strike teams from across the human sphere. Casualties were heavy, losses were constant. And yet... They held. They were bloodied and bruised but they held. And that was enough, Nasirdin Datka had kept to his promises. Soldiers with their careers crippled by politics or indiscretion gained a second chance, officers found themselves being promoted again, and soon enough they found themselves off of Dawn. It had been a solid term of service since then, but this new position, Novyy Bangkok, well... He wasn't a fan. They were too well armed for 'peacekeeping patrols'. You didn't need a corsair warship for that, you didn't need a Ramah Taskforce detachment for that. You didn't need the mercenaries for that. And you definitely didn't need the damned consultant. * VV had a nose for military crises. They'd served with a lot of outfits in some way or another, done a lot of political analysis, intelligence analysis, military analysis for half a dozen mercenary corporations. And everything they'd learned told them that Bangkok was gonna blow. Maybe it was the increased, militarized investment. Maybe it was the declarations from the Hachib. Maybe it was just their own vested economic interest in new content for War Talk, but something was in the midst of happening here. It'd been hard to get someone to take it seriously, and they were pretty surprised when the Hachib ended up approaching him. Some spy passed one of their presentations to someone in the Haqq chain of command, and now they had the position they wanted with the people they really, really didn't. But now that they were en-route, the imminent crises didn't even have his attention. He was trying to figure out what the hell was up with the journo. * Ahmed Miles was not a conspiracy theorist. He had to insist on that. The Walder case was huge. Maybe not on the level of the Human Sphere, but thousands of earth-bound Americans had been caught up in the scandal. Corporate malfeasance, abandoned environmental scrubbing, a horrorshow of neglect ignored for years because it happened to a third-world has been on the homeworld rather than anywhere important or rich. And he'd broken it, got Walder himself in front of a Concillium court. And then the moron of a prosecutor fumbled the case and Walder walked free. But that wasn't a conspiracy. That was the system failing its most vulnerable and that happened on a daily basis. No, the conspiracy was what happened on Walder's way to the spaceport. The comprehensive ambush that had isolated his O-12 guard, resulted in half a dozen casualties, and Walder's disappearance. Other reporters said it was an attack by American terrorists. By mercenaries hired to avenge a fallen nation. Maybe even Walder's own business associates, keen on disposing of their man now that he was bad press. But he'd gotten some of the damaged footage. He'd seen the professional, anonymous killers that had ripped through an O-12 guard detail like it was nothing. He'd seen their uniforms and... business suits, black as night, silhouetted against their cover before the static of their jammers kicked in. The savagery of their precision and calm, snap reactions as their picked apart their targets sent a frigid chill down his spine. He knew, knew, that there was something larger at work here. Because his research had found that it wasn't an isolated incident. That there were more of these attacks, and a pattern to them. And he had traced that pattern to Novyy Bangkok.