Kent Collier’s mastery of Arabic was a testament to his rigorous training at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, affectionately known within military circles as “DLI.” That period in California wasn’t just about language learning; it became a cherished chapter in his life, particularly for Rachel, who deemed it one of their favorite duty stations. Indeed, the Navy had a knack for selecting prime locations for their bases—a stark contrast to some of the less desirable Army postings, as they’d joke, referencing a “Trump map” for the definition of a “shit hole town.”

Life seemed to flash before Kent’s eyes in a series of vivid, almost cinematic snapshots—a cruel juxtaposition of past happiness against the present horror. Childhood taunts, the thrill of a home run, the sweet victory of state championships, that first awkward kiss with Holly, the passion with Amelia, the pride of West Point and Ranger School, the adrenaline of Delta selection, the strategic capture of Saddam in Iraq. Then, the softer memories: a blind date with Rachel, their wedding, Rachel’s pregnancy glow.

But those memories were violently interrupted. Ambush. Sarin gas. His team, Rachel, their unborn child—all threatened by an unseen, insidious enemy.

The darkness seemed to swallow him whole, an endless void that mirrored the depths of despair. His team, his family, his very essence seemed to slip away into an abyss.

Meanwhile, back at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) at the US Forward Operating Base in Agadez, Niger, the atmosphere was charged with urgency and frustration.

“Give me a fucking update, Sergeant! Where’s my feed?” General Rosa’s voice, roughened by years of cigar smoking, filled the makeshift command center.

“Sir, after the explosion, we lost all communication. The Predator’s overhead, but there’s nothing. No movement, nothing,” came the anxious reply.

The General’s demand for answers about his Delta team was met with grim faces. The lack of communication from Kent, known for his exceptional skills, spelled trouble.

General Rosa, a figure molded in the fires of Vietnam mentorship and hardened by tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the unpronounceable corners of Africa, was the epitome of a battle-worn” Break glass in case of conflict” commander. He had no personal attachments, just an unwavering dedication to the Army. He was a relic of a different era, a warrior in a time that seemed to both need and reject his kind.

“What in God’s name happened to Collier?” he pondered, sending in the Ranger Quick Reaction Force (QRF) with explicit instructions to bring their chemical warfare expert. “We can’t afford more casualties,” he stated, the weight of command heavy in his voice.

Time seemed to crawl until the awaited call came.

“Zeus, this is Apollo, over.”

“Proceed, Apollo.”

“I pass; Rome is lost. Medusa, over.”

The confirmation was a gut punch to everyone in the dim, buzzing tent. The prowords echoed a grim reality: the Delta team was decimated by Sarin gas, leaving the area too hazardous for recovery of bodies.

Kent Collier and his comrades, heroes who had faced countless dangers head-on, would not be coming home.

Their final resting place would be the very ground they fell on, a stark, undignified mass grave. It was a brutal testament to the unforgiving nature of their profession, a grim reminder of the sacrifices demanded by the shadow war they waged. 

General Rosa, a man of steel forged in countless battles, felt the gravity of this moment deep in his marrow. The act of leaving warriors in an unmarked grave without the closure of a proper farewell was antithetical to the very ethos of the military brotherhood. 

This moment, dark and harrowing, would be etched in their memories, a haunting reminder of the cost of freedom and the unsung heroes who pay its price.

As Rosa prepared another cigar, a symbolic gesture of defiance in the face of defeat, orders were given to pull the Ranger team back. 

CIA Paramilitary Training Center, Undisclosed Location, West Virginia. 

Ethan Mercer’s journey through the SEAL Teams spanned over a dozen years, culminating in a medical retirement he could have contested. But the truth was, he was drained. The relentless cycle of deployment after deployment had taken its toll, and he seized the opportunity to step back.

At the Command, things had spiraled to such an extent that they were experimenting with injecting mood-altering drugs directly into the SEALs’ brain stems, aiming to keep them calm at family dinners, preventing emotional eruptions. 

Mercer found himself questioning the very essence of their missions. “What the hell are we doing anymore? Do any of these deployments even make sense? Are we making any real difference?”

Senior Chief Mercer was known for his relentless pursuit of perfection, walking a fine line that any psychologist might classify between a functional sociopath and someone with Asperger’s syndrome sprinkled with OCD. This unique blend of traits had made him an exceptional operator across foster homes and the Navy. Mercer’s reputation preceded him; he was the operator everyone wanted on their team, notorious for always completing the mission and consistently emerging victorious.

His career boasted four tours with SEAL Team 3, eight with DEVGRU’s Gold Squadron in locales you won’t find in any travel guide, and four tours with the clandestine Black Squadron. In the shadows, Ethan excelled with hunter-killer teams across North Africa and Yemen.

Ethan was at a crossroads, ready for a change.

He and Tracey’s paths crossed on “Hinge,” where her resilience to his quirks sparked something real. His profile was a no-frills declaration of who he was: an American patriot, obsessively clean, awkwardly social yet dependable.

Tracey’s response to his honesty, “Wow, first honest man on Hinge!” marked the beginning of something special.

She became his anchor, especially as they welcomed their daughter Olivia, who became a beacon of hope in the demanding world of post-9/11 special operations.

With Olivia’s arrival and the toll of his service weighing on him, Mercer opted for medical retirement. The truth was that many Special Ops veterans could qualify for medical retirement, given the physical and mental rigors they endured.

For Mercer, Olivia was more than just a joy; she was his lifeline, his reason to forego a darker path. Her love was unlike anything he had ever experienced.

Then Chimera came for him, a blend of hope and despair neatly encapsulated. 

The loss of Olivia was a turning point, a painful catalyst that hardened his resolve to make the world safer for the next generation.

Strap into your ski boots, Mercer. There’s more to be done. 

Suddenly, a call to action: “Contact right!” The voice of his Chimera cell teammate cut through the air.

Mercer knew they had to move fast.

With a swift maneuver, he veered the Honda Civic hard to the right, directly into the enemy’s line of fire, catching them off guard. As they scrambled, Mercer and his teammate made their move.

“Now!” Mercer commanded.

Together, they exited the wrecked vehicle and shot the fleeing terrorists in the back. They fell dead and motionless. 

A calm yet authoritative female voice crackled through his earpiece, “Mission Complete.”

He knew this marked the end of what had been the most intense and transformative experience of his life. Passing the final test to join the CIA’s elusive C Cell program was more than proving his physical and tactical skills; it was about mastering the art of invisibility, becoming a ghost among shadows.

As the Yemeni bearded face mask and skin sleeves hit the ground, a wave of gritty determination washed over Mercer, now only known by his call sign, Nomad. His heart pounded against his ribcage, the aftermath of the adrenaline still coursing through his veins. Striding towards the debrief, Nomad’s thoughts were a whirlwind. What did they mean by “real training”? How much deeper into the world of espionage and covert operations was he about to plunge?

Those thoughts were abruptly halted the moment he stepped into the debrief room. The air felt charged, the dim lighting casting long shadows, creating an atmosphere thick with anticipation. Gone were the familiar faces of instructors and fellow operatives. In their stead stood a lone figure, almost blending into the shadows, save for the glint of a badge that seemed eerily familiar.

“Nomad,” the shadowed figure’s voice cut through the silence, a blend of acknowledgment and an undefined threat. “Welcome to where the real work begins.”

Before Mercer could react, darkness engulfed the room as the lights flickered out. When they snapped back to life, the figure had vanished, leaving behind an envelope emblazoned with the CIA seal and Chimera cell symbol that promised a journey into uncharted territory.

Reaching for the envelope, a sudden sting in his side stopped him cold—a dart, source unknown, lodged in his flesh. The room spun wildly as the toxin took effect, and Nomad’s knees buckled beneath him. The last thing he saw before succumbing to the darkness was the envelope, a silent harbinger of the trials and tribulations that lay ahead.

What was the true nature of C Cell, and more importantly, where did his loyalties truly lie now? The answers seemed just out of reach, obscured by the very government he had sworn to serve.

In case you missed muster, Chapter 1 is here. 

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

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 situation 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.