Chapter 3 

Mercer rubbed his sore eyes as he came to the small windowless room. 

What the hell was that? What the fuck happened? 

It was not unlike most of the military rooms he’d slept in throughout his years in the navy, except this was even more sterile. Single mattress, small desk and chair, private bathroom. There was a small counter with a sink and one of those tiny pod coffee machines, and that was about it. 

His memory started to come back like the rising sun slowly in the distance. 

A woman’s voice, sharp pain, eyes blurry, questions, questions, drifting in and out of consciousness. Another test? Fuck me, I wonder if I passed, hope so. I need a damn aspirin. 

The room speaker crackled to life. 

“Welcome to C Cell Nomad, I’ve heard a lot about you.”, the same woman’s voice said over the small grey speaker box near the door’s ceiling. 

“I’m Chimera program director, Emily Stone. Apologies for the theatrics, but we had to be absolutely certain about you. The Russians have been very good at recruiting human assets during the last decade. All this Trump-Biden nonsense has people disillusioned with America. Everyone wants to be the next Snowden, I guess. These days, trust and loyalty are too fluid and have to be checked routinely, we’ve found.”

Mercer, and most in his line of work, knew about the CIA’s long history of testing certain drugs, but this was his first encounter. 

Stone went on to explain, through the speaker box, that toxin was a new experimental espionage pharmacology developed by Merck. A truth serum that also opened up neural pathways similar to the psilocybin contained in mushrooms. 

“We needed to ensure that you and the others adhered to the directive’s rule forbidding outside contact. Think of it as a final safety valve to ensure no agent has been compromised. The psychological team has also identified your consort match, her callsign is Valkyrie. Please be ready by 1100 for your briefing. Any questions you can ask me in person.”

He heard a scratchy noise in the speaker then it cut out. 

Mercer looked up at the red numbered digital clock and it showed the time 1034. 

Still time for a quick shower.

As Mercer stood, the remnants of the toxin still lingered like morning fog, the anticipation of meeting Director Stone for the briefing pulsed through him with an intensity that bordered on electric. The previous ordeals, he would soon realize, were merely preludes to the symphony of shadows and danger he was about to enter.

Twenty-six minutes later, he was escorted to the briefing room, and as he entered, Stone’s presence filled the room with an aura of authority before she said anything. 

Another black room, small metal chairs, speaker on the wall. Stone motioned for him to sit. 

“Nomad,” she began, locking eyes with Mercer in a gaze that seemed to pierce his very soul. ” Before we discuss your primary mission, you must understand that your training has only just begun. The next 12 months will be the most challenging and transformative of your life.”

Mercer’s mind raced. 

More training? What depths of espionage and combat were yet to be explored that he hadn’t already been trained?

“Your regimen is customized to your existing skill sets and will include advanced courses in improvised assassination techniques, where creativity meets lethality. You’ll learn to make a weapon out of anything, to turn the mundane into the deadly,” Stone explained, her voice steady, betraying no hint of the gravity such skills implied.

She continued, “Disguise and acting will become second nature to you. You’ll learn to disappear in plain sight, becoming anyone, anywhere. The art of deception is as crucial as the art of combat.”

Mercer could feel the weight of it all. The skills Stone described were beyond the scope of any conventional warfare training he had experienced. They were the tools of ghosts, operatives who existed outside the boundaries of normalcy.

“And weapons,” Stone added, “you’ll master an arsenal not just from today but tomorrow. Experimental firearms, deadly poisons, cutting-edge surveillance tech, and more. But most importantly, you will be one of the first to train in a revolutionary AI-based fighting technique.”

Mercer’s interest was piqued at the mention of AI. The integration of technology and warfare was not new, but what Stone described sounded like the frontier of combat evolution.

“This technique,” Stone elaborated, “manipulates the human body and nervous system to predict and counter adversarial moves with unprecedented precision. It’s like nothing you’ve encountered. Developed in partnership with Silicon Valley‘s finest, it represents the future of close-quarter combat. You will move and fight with an efficiency and foresight that borders on precognitive.”

The briefing took Mercer through a whirlwind of emotions, from anticipation to awe, and finally, he thought of his daughter Olivia and felt a sense of purpose in the hopes of making the world a safer place for his daughter.  He knew the path ahead was daunting, yet the promise of becoming something more, something beyond the limits of his Special Ops training, ignited a fire within him.

“Before we proceed further,” Stone interjected, capturing Mercer’s undivided attention, “you must understand one of the core principles of C Cell is that we operate in hunter-killer pairs. Each operative is meticulously psychologically profiled and matched with a partner whose skills and temperament complement their own. This synergistic pairing amplifies the effectiveness of each operative, creating a duo far more potent than the sum of its parts.”

Mercer absorbed this revelation, the notion of being part of a duo both intriguing and unsettling. He’d worked with women before and didn’t have a problem with it, but never in an operational setting like this.

“Your match,” Stone continued, her voice imbued with a note of respect, “is Valkyrie. She is not just your partner but your counterpart, selected through rigorous analysis to ensure compatibility on every conceivable level.”

Mercer’s interest peaked. Valkyrie—her call sign alone evoked images of fierce warriors from the annals of myth, a harbinger of what was to come.

“Valkyrie’s skill set is as unique as her call sign suggests. She was a former CIA analyst turned case officer and a master of psychological operations; she possesses an uncanny ability to manipulate the emotional and mental states of her targets, especially men. Her linguistic skills are unparalleled, and she is a true Polyglot, capable of navigating the complexities of regional dialects with ease. This makes her an invaluable asset in operations requiring a deep understanding of cultural nuances and psychological warfare.”

The briefing room felt smaller, the air charged with a newfound gravity as Stone laid bare the essence of their C Cell partnership. 

“Remember, Nomad,” Stone concluded, her tone softening ever so slightly, “this training is not just about honing your skills but reshaping your mind. You will learn to think like the mythical Chimera—fluid, unpredictable, and always ten steps ahead. Your partner, Valkyrie, will undergo a similar regimen but tailored to her unique skills. 

Together, you will be very effective.

“Question.” Mercer interrupted. “Yes?” Stone replied with a raised eyebrow. 

“Chain of Command? How many other teams are there?”

“We’re a flat organization. You report directly to me through your team handler and support group. You’ll work closely with them during your training from now on. There are other teams, and surely you’ll work with them in the future, but for now, that’s all you need to know.” Stone said with finality. 


“Now, your initial playground is the belt of North Africa. Together, you and Valkyrie will leverage your combined skills to infiltrate, influence, and intercept threats invisible to conventional intelligence.”

There was a soft knock at the door. 

“Yes, we’re ready,” said Stone. 

The door opened, and Valkyrie stepped into the room. And her eyes locked with Mercer’s. He caught himself biting the inside of his cheek, a nervous habit he’d had since high school. 

The metallic taste of his own blood swirled in his mouth. 

She extended her warm, soft hand, and as he took it, they both felt an electric charge. They introduced themselves, and Mercer felt the unspoken pact that was forged. 

14 Months Later, Benghazi, Libya

The underground lab was massive, at least three stories Ethan guessed.

Mercer thought he must look like an alien from an 80s SciFi movie in the bulky yellow colored hazardous materials suit. He tilted the flashlight ahead in the darkness, it was pitch black.  He could hear his own shallow breathing through the compressed air regulator fitted to the suit.

“Nomad checking in, so far it’s quiet, too quiet.”

“Copy, still loud and clear, eyes on target.” Valkyrie said releasing the push-to-talk button on her high powered L3 multi-purpose radio.

He started walking and his steps got sticky like sidewalk gum stuck to a tennis shoe on a hot day. First it was one foot and then both. Mercer shined the light down and he saw the decomposing human remains.

Delta Force leftovers from that Sarin ambush. 

Then he saw something out of place.

Can’t be. Yes, it is.

Small blood stamped shoe prints going around the room, behind the shelves, and then back up the stairs.

Hiding from what?

Note: SOFREP is working with a well-known Hollywood producer to turn this story into a feature film, and there’s more to come. As a SOFREP reader, you are in a unique position to help us develop this by adding your comments. So please load your magazines and go hot on the firing line in the comments below. The series will continue weekly with your feedback. 

In case you missed muster, Chapters 1 and 2 can be found below.

The CIA’s Top Secret Chimera Program or “C Cell” to Its Paramilitary Operatives