Order of Freelance Mages

The Order of Freelance Mages (OFM) — commonly known as OFM in the TSAB Navy, The Order by unit members, Order of Freelance Mages to general TSAB services, and Contractor Group O by the TSAB HQ — is a Special Operations Force (SOF) and an integral element of the Secial Operations & Private Contractor Command (SOPCC) of the Time Space Administration Bureau (TSAB).

The OFM's primary tasks are investigation and assassination of corrupt TSAB personnel, and covert intervention operations into Non-Administered worlds, although it is an extremely versatile group capable of assuming many missions, including, but not limited to, hostage rescue, counter-terrorism, raiding operations, and elimination of covert enemy forces. The OFM conducts missions similar to those attributed to the Erusian Army Spetsnaz (специального назначения / spetsialnogo naznacheniya) and Navy Special Warfare Group Alpha (Spetsgruppa Alfa/ NAVSPECWARGRU-ALPHA).

Background
The Order was started by Colonel Erick von Long in MC 062. A veteran of the Erusian War of Subjugation, von Long created the Order with the aim of covert national interventions into Non-Administered Worlds. After witnessing the explosive end to the Erusian War, where the leaders of Sotoa nuked the planet with a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, the Order was quietly created to prevent another Sotoa from happening: this aim would be achieved by conducting covert missions into Non-Administered Worlds and acting to prevent the possibility of genocide or planetary self-destruction. As much as possible, von Long made sure that the Order's personnel were trained by the best of the surviving Erusian special forces operators from the Army, Marines and Navy; currently the Order currently conducts its training in-house, the result of 20 years of institutional experience.

The Order is considered a highly effective elite unit, and enjoys the support of the TSAB Navy and SOPCC. It maintains a small base complex on Mid-Childa near SOPCC HQ, but primarily operates from the special operations ship Aus'ruf.

Overview
The TSAB's official position on the Order is that it is a group of contract mages from Erusia, who are assigned to peacekeeping, disaster relief and miscellaneous duties. As a result, the Order's reputation amongst frontline TSAB units is low and almost non-existent. The Order relies on stealth and secrecy and its cover to continue functioning; having a well-known reputation would interfere with the infiltration missions the Order conducts.

The Order is granted a great deal of flexibility and autonomy with mission planning; target selection will be done by command authority (Lt. General O'Neill, though the Order has undertaken missions on behalf of the TSAB Navy and Enforcers), but the implementation of the mission is completely under the Order's jurisdiction.

Unlike frontline TSAB units, the Order employs mass-based weapons in direct violation of the ban on conventional weaponry. This is done in order to blend in one Non-Administered Worlds, where the effects of magical discharges can be seen and observed, if not outright understood, and because Order mages operate under deep cover while on missions, and there are many situations where being without a firearm places the operator in a dangerous and disadvantageous situation (particularly around gun-happy cultures.) Conventional shell-firing weapons are easier to explain away, and much simpler to discard and covered up to the Non-Administered World and TSAB (especially if weapons are procured on-site). Furthermore, because of its black nature, the Order operates without official TSAB approval, and must therefore limit magic usage as much as possible, hiding itself from both normal humans and the TSAB, leaving little trace of its presence and disguising what little remains there are as being done by local parties. Lastly, as the Order keeps magic usage to the barest possible minimum, with little magical residue it is easier for plausible deniablity to be maintained.

Weaponry:
Counter to TSAB policy and doctrine, the Order employs banned conventional mass-based weaponry; this is due to the reasons outlined above. As almost all Order mages hail from Erusia, the Order's standard issue firearms are those of the Erusian military; however, Order mages have been known to use weapons local to their area of operations when appropriate (Operation VC-1153).

The Order's standard weapons include, but are not limited to:

- MA5C Individual Combat Weapon System: Known to all except REMFs as the Assault Rifle, this is the standard infantry firearm of the Order. Accurate, easy to shoot and use, rugged and tough, shrugging off sand, mud, snow and sludge, it is fondly held by those who use it. The OFM use 40-round magazines in place of the Erusian standard 32-round magazines. Chambered for 7.62mm, the Assault Rifle packs a lot of stopping power into a tough package, with an integrated computerised 1.5x reflex sight, compass and ammo counter. The foregrip can mount a flashlight, underslung shotgun, or a 40mm grenade launcher. Add-on laser designators can be attached to the side of the barrel, but are typically placed in the flashlight mount.

"With this weapon, you feel like god's own anti-son-of-a-blam!-machine."

- M90 Shotgun: the OFM's shotgun, typically carried when a breaching tool is required. It holds 12 8-gauge shells and can fire buckshot, armor-piercing sabot, breaching or high explosive shells. Often employed in urban combat situations and when the intimidation factor of a shotgun is needed; while not as well-used as the Assault Rifle, the OFM's shotguns saw much service in MC 083. While capable of providing heavy firepower at close range, shotguns are useless at long range, and are considered to be specialist weapons.

"I believe that the sound of racking the pump of a shotgun is universally recognized as ‘kiss your ass goodbye’."

- BR55HB SR Battle Rifle: The BR55HB SR is a bullpup rifle that fires the 9.5x40mm X-HP-SAP round. It fires from a 36 round magazine which fits flush in the receiver. The receiver is built directly into the underside of the butt of the gun and is located behind the grip. The BR55 uses a 9.5mm Semi Armor Piercing High Explosive round, giving it larger stopping power than that of the MA5C, and fires in single-fire and 3-round burst, and is typically equipped with a 2x ACOG scope (other scopes can be attached as per mission requirements). It is used typically in the designated marksman role. It has high power, good range, and a decent rate of fire, and is a favored weapon of the Air Wing and Delta Platoon. However, it is not as easy to handle in close quarters as the MA5C, which is why the Assault Platoon generally prefers the MA5C in CQB situations.

“The MA5C’s weakness is that it isn’t as accurate at range, which is why we use the BR55. On the other hand, there’s something…righteous about the sound of an AR on full auto. The BR doesn’t have that. Still, you can reach out and touch someone with it.”

- M7/Caseless Submachine Gun: Also known as the M7 SMG, and one of the favored weapons of the Air Wing. The Caseless SMG fires 5mm caseless rounds, leaving no shell casings, making it a useful weapon on black operations. The 60-round magazine, almost twice that of the Assault Rifle, also means that a disciplined user will reload less often compared to a shooter using an MA5C. Lastly, the M7 can be converted to the M7SD: essentially an M7 with a longer barrel and integral supressor to reduce noise levels. Supressed M7SDs are the weapons of choice for nighttime silent ops and for blitz raids, as Ivanovich learned from his experiences in Operation Trebuchet and the fighting in North Point. However, the SMG has high recoil and a high rate of fire, which means that fire discipline is a must when using the SMG; shooters are trained to use controlled bursts instead of full auto. Furthermore the 5mm cartridge is relatively weak and lacks the stopping power of the 7.62mm used in the Assault rifle and the 9.5mm used by the Battle Rifle.

“The recoil isn’t bad but the M7 itself is relatively light. Not unpleasant to shoot, but a little tricky to control—it’s all about controlling the impulse.”

- M6D/G Personal Defense Weapon System: Either a large pistol or a really small rifle (the Erusian Army used a carbine variant of this pistol), the M6 series are the standard issue pistols of the OFM. The M6D sports a 2x scope and Semi Armor Pierching High Explosive ammo, allowing it to do a real number on unshielded organic targets. The M6G model is the same, but replaces the scope with an optional laser aiming sight. Both weapons use 12-round magazines and are used as last-ditch backup weapons. Optional 8-round magazines are used when lighter loads are required. A tried and tested weapon, though some OFM personnel choose to replace the M6 with an M7 instead as their secondary weapon, as the folded M7 is of similar dimensions to the M6 and carries more ammo.

“The M6G is either the Erusia’s biggest pistol or Erusia’s smallest rifle—I’m not quite sure which.”

- M1911A1: The Holy Pistol of the Just and the Righteous, built by Saint John Moses Browning according to the plans he received from God on top of the Mountain. This venerable pistol, the design of which is over 100 years old, is chambered for .45ACP, a union which is a Holy Union, blessed by The Lord, for verily while smaller calibers might expandeth, the .45 shall never shrinketh. A good balance of stopping power, recoil, weight, the 1911 and the .45ACP are considered to be among the best pistol and ammo designs ever created by Earth. This is the standard issue pistol of the Air Wing; each Air Wing mage will have her own customized 1911-style pistol. The decisions to use this pistol was made in light of the fact that the Air Wing mages felt that 12.7mm was overkill on human targets and needed a lighter pistol with good stopping power and less recoil.

"You can have my heart. But there is no way in hell I'm letting you touch my 1911."

-M274 GPMG: The general purpose machinegun of the OFM, this weapon fires belt-fed 7.62mm ammo from a drum. It comes in fixed, portable, Pelican-mounted and Squad Assault variants. The fixed, portable and Pelican versions feature armor plating that protects the operator from enemy fire; the fixed version is placed on a fixed stand, while the portable version is placed on a foldable tripod for easy installation. The Pelican version has an secondary 25mm grenade launcher added on and is mounted in the Pelican's loading bay as a door gun, providing suppression fire for disembarking troops. The Squad Assault Variant (M247E) removes the tripod for barrel-mounted folding bipod legs, has no plate armor, and features lightened parts and a shorter barrel for easier use as an infantry weapon. The M247E uses 100-round belt-fed box magazines.

“It’s a bitch to carry and lug around, that’s for sure. Then you squeeze the trigger and it cuts through mike foxtrots like a knife through butter and makes all that pain worth it.”

-SRS99C Sniper rifle: the sniper rifle platform of choice for the Order, firing 14.5mm Armor piercing discarding sabot rounds. Highly powerful and accurate, these sniper rifles are a nightmare in the hands of a trained sniper. The only drawbacks are the large flash created when firing and the smoke trails that can be used to track the sniper.

"You get hit with one of these, you're dead before you know it. Especially if it's the Sergeant Major or the Master Chief shooting you."

M41 Rocket Launcher: Capable of being loaded with HEAT and SAM rockets, this is one of the Order's most prized fire-support weapons. Heavy and difficult to master, and aiming can be a little hard. On the other hand, the blast radius is pretty big. And the fireballs are very gratifying.

"It's a rocket launcher, what more do you want to know? Point, shoot, and watch the pretty fireballs."

M7057 Defoliant Projector: An area denial weapon, rarely used by the Order. It's just not that practical for combat, since it's bulky and heavy, it shoots fire in front of you so you can’t walk forward, and it overheats after 3 seconds. On the other hand, it IS a flamethrower…

"I'd love to use one of these, but the Sergeant Major keeps hogging them. Hell if I'm gonna confront him with him carrying one of these though."

Organisation
The smallest group in the Order’s Assault Company is a squad, consisting of 5-6 members. Two squads form a platoon, and each is expected to maintain proficiency in a number of skills: HALO/HAHO, airmobile, entry, sniping, urban warfare, desert warfare, and so on. While each member is expected to find a specialty, he is also expected to maintain a high level of proficiency in the standard infantry/special forces skills. Each squad typically has three riflemen, one grenadier, one medic, and one sniper/designated marksman, although each man is crosstrained and can take up any role if necessary. This whole principle can be summed up in two words: Diversified Specialization. Each platoon consists of 2 squads of 6 men, and 3 platoons (Alpha, Bravo, Delta) form the Assault Company.

The Air Wing consists of 3 Flights of 8 members, each flight being sub-divided into 2 4-man elements. The Air Wing focuses on countering enemy aerial mages and close air support missions, acting in a similar manner to helicopter gunships and ground attack aircraft: precision strikes from the air, coordinated by ground-based forward controllers. When on the ground, the Air Wing personnel specialize in scouting, recon and stealth ops. All Air Wing personnel are also trained to pilot conventional aircraft and fighters.

The total size of the Order’s support staff is unknown, but estimated to be in excess of 100 people. This number includes the headquarters staff, intelligence gathering and analysis section, mechanics, Pelican dropship crews, infirmary personnel and armory personnel. All OFM support staff are trained as light infantry and form a reserve force that can be issued with body armor and rifles in emergencies.

For the most part a small unit, the Order has recently undergone an expansion; it is estimated that the Order’s current strength in terms of mages, as of MC0083 is 61: 36 in the Assault Company, 24 in the Air Wing, and the CO. During the Jail Scaglietti Incident the Order's total of mages were 21: Col. von Long, 10 Assault Platoon mages and 10 Air Wing mages.

Recruitment and Training
Recruitment into the OFM is usually done in secret, as with everything else the Order does: potential recruits do not even realize they are under scrutiny to see if they can be recruited. Recruits are usually taken from TSAB or Erusian Gardai units, and with few exceptions, are predominantly Erusian. The recruitment board, consisting of the CO, Command Sergeant Major, and senior officers will meet and evaluate each candidate. Contrary to expectations, the Order does not place importance on the recruit’s mage rank but on the mage’s potential and willingness to learn and be a team player. Records are scrutinized – sorties, kills, and so forth. Footage from recorders is then observed to see the mage’s potential. Rank – military and magical – is unimportant; the Order wants to see talent and skill, not just the best spells that can be mustered.

The next stage is a psychological profiling: the Order looks for people who are quite strong mentally, able to take the stresses and strains of black ops work. After this comes the most important step: the recruit must know how to keep a secret. Only recruits who are discreet and capable of keeping their mouths shut will be approached; Colonel von Long is crafty and has many contacts and ways for finding out things.

Finally, if the recruit is deemed acceptable, they receive a visit from Colonel von Long with an invitation to join the Order. Should the recruit refuse the invitation, both will part ways and never see each other. Should the recruit accept, he or she is then placed through Selection; after passing the tough Selection course, the recruit then undergoes several long months of training with conventional weaponry, tactics, and OFM skills. Once training is complete, the recruit is assigned to his or her platoon or flight; the placement of the recruit will be decided by the ground-level officers and senior unit NCOs.

With few exceptions, the Order is comprised almost entirely of people from Erusia. This is for several reasons: first, the Erusian spirit of freedom and justice, best summed up in the phrases “Better to die free than to live enslaved” and “Die for something instead of living for nothing.” Secondly, the Erusian security force, the Gardai, have over the years quickly become very good at counter-insurgency, CQB and intelligence-gathering, as a result of being on the frontlines of a guerilla war, first against the Erusian Resistance and then against subsequent splinter cells formed after the Resistance surrendered. Third, being slightly over twenty years removed from conventional firearms, Erusians are more open to the idea of using guns than mages from other TSAB-administered planets.

The OFM has occasionally participated in joint exercises with SOPCC units commanded by Lt. General Jack O’Neill. When in their exercises, they appear as “Contractor Group O, but we like to call ourselves Order of Freelance Mages.”

Known & Suspected Operations
- Assasination of TSAB Lt. General Jim Lansing on Administered World in MC 066

- Capture of former TSAB Intelligence Lt. Colonel Vincenza Blueno on Non-Administered World 101 in MC 071

- Liberation of Non-Administered World 121 (Belzac) from mutinous TSAB Navy and Enforcer personnel and destruction of rogue XV-class warship Exeter in MC 72

In addition to the above, there are unconfirmed reports of a joint mission with Rogue Squadron and several joint missions with the TSAB Enforcers.

Notable OFM members

  • Colonel Erick von Long: Founder and Commanding Officer of the Order, first Erusian mage recruited into the TSAB.
  • Glen Schattenmann: Air Wing Commander and OFM Executive Officer
  • Franz Jaeger: Assault Company Commander & Alpha Platoon Leader
  • Emili Nailo: Air Wing XO. Together with Shario Fenio, with assistance from Aurion Dauer, developed and tested prototype Type-G3A Ghost Armor and later developed and tested definitive Type-G3C Ghost Armor. First non-Erusian to be recruited into the Order.
  • Sergeant Major Avery J. Ivanovich: Command Sergeant Major; former Erusian Marine Corps Scout Sniper & Recon Marine, known as “Mage Hunter of North Point” for skill in sniping TSAB mages during battle of North Point. Also known as "Invincible Green Style." Former Bravo Squad leader.
  • Master Chief John-117: Bravo Platoon Leader, rescued as a teen from illegal bio-engineering lab, enlisted in the TSAB Navy, sole enlisted platoon leader in the TSAB.

Metafictional
The OFM was inspired by a mix of both realworld and fictional special forces units; the Air Wing's role was inspired by the Little Birds of the US Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, while much of the Order's training and style came from a mixture of Delta Force and the US Navy SEALs. Fictional influences include Halo's Office of Naval Intelligence and the Orbital Drop Shock Trooper Marines - the Assault Platoon's Barrier Jacket is a visual expy of the Halo 3 ODST bodysuit.

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