Time and time again, situations arise that have threatened the peace and security of Vaifen. The mettle and resolve of the nation’s security forces has been put to the test in each and every one of these incidents. Some of these situations have been solved through precise clandestine operations, of which the people of Vaifen will never know about.

These operations have been carried out by different groups in the past, most of the time, their names have been redacted, and all corresponding files outright buried, but among all of them there has not been a more emblematic group than Silent Echo, Vaifen’s finest covert operations group.

Silent Echo, a contradictory yet befitting name, was a group built from the ground up by one of the Nation’s most renowned soldiers, Colonel Michael Traxler. Precise, swift, effective, deadly, Silent Echo was the concealed blade that carried out the nation’s most important clandestine operations for roughly a decade, protecting the nation’s security and interests from the shadows.

The people of Vaifen have carried on with their lives, oblivious of the sacrifices that many soldiers and agents have taken to keep and uphold peace. Certainly so, there have been times when ethical and moral boundaries have been overstepped when engaging in these clandestine operations, and Silent Echo was not exempt from it — but in spite of that, the general populace has much to owe to these groups, and to Silent Echo most specially.

Each mission, each operation, clandestine or not, is a tale of its own regardless of its nature. Many have thankfully ended in a resounding success. Some, however, have ended in failure, and others have ended in abject tragedy.

The tale of the fall of Silent Echo is none other but that of Vaifen’s worst intelligence failure in its modern history: Operation Warm Daylight.

Only a few living beings know about Warm Daylight, and now, seven years after the incident, the story has been buried beneath the vaults and servers of Vaifen’s most classified archives.

It all began on ██████████, when reports of insurgent activity in the forests of Jera attributed to the █████████ group caught the attention of Vaifen’s Intelligence Center. Reports of that nature were not in itself unusual, especially during that time. After a gruesome three-year campaign, the insurgent group █████████ was on its death throes, and the time to finally excise that threat from the face of Vaifen once and for all was at hand.

Silent Echo was dispatched to deal with the situation, as it demanded no less than the most elite unit in the nation. Colonel Traxler rallied his team, at the time, comprised of seven fine soldiers: ███████████, ███████████████, ████████████████, ██████████████, ██████████, ███████████, and Commander Erron Leitner. An eighth member, ██████████████ served as Silent Echo’s operator.

The intel was solid and the plan was carefully laid out: Infiltrate the camp at the dead of night, sweep the place up, and return to the city of Ternion by sunrise. Hence the operation was given the name of “Warm Daylight.”

All specific details of the operation were as classified as they could be. A high degree of operative independence and secrecy was one of the prerogatives of Silent Echo — giving enough plausible deniability to relevant higher ups should anything ever go wrong, or should they ever step out of line.

The Silent Echo team arrived at the outskirts of the region of Jera at ████ hours, and rapidly set up camp shortly afterwards. According to Commander Leitner’s testimony, everything had gone by the book until then. The team infiltrated the hidden █████████ camp with zero problems, and everything seemed to unfold just as planned.

However, what transpired afterwards, was not the clean sweep operation that was planned, but rather, a massacre.

The Silent Echo team had been unwilling led to a trap. █████████’s camp was not the final ditch refugee of the remnants of an insurgent group — the enemy forces therein were much higher and far better armed than all preliminary reports suggested. The facility itself was carefully remodeled to become the tomb of Silent Echo, down to the last minute detail.

It would’ve seemed like █████████ acted as if they knew exactly how Silent Echo would react, think, and adapt to their newfound conundrum — as if everything that happened during that night was preordained to unfold in an exact specific way, and meant to end in one fatal outcome: the death of all of Silent Echo.

Silent Echo had no way out, but the Nation’s best and finest ops group would not go out without a fight. Even though they were vastly outnumbered, Silent Echo was able to hold their ground and even reach a standstill — however, no matter how hard they tried, the team was taken down one by one, until only Colonel Traxler and Erron Leitner were the last two men alive.

According to Commander Leitner’s debrief, Traxler formulated a last ditch effort on the spot — a final sacrifice, not without giving his subordinate one last order: “Live!”

Commander Leitner has stated on numerous occasions that those were the last words the Colonel told him before pushing him out of harm’s way, as the facility burned and crumbled, leaving Erron with a broken arm, but alive nonetheless — and with enough time to flee from what would’ve otherwise been his tomb.

Colonel Michael Traxler burned along with the entirety of the facility.

All Erron Leitner could do was to run and observe the final explosion of the facility’s large fuel canisters and explosives as the sun rose on the horizon, embracing the nation with its warm daylight.

In their final hour, Silent Echo had turned the tide and achieved their mission’s objective, but at a great cost.

A forest fire ensued. You can conceal and redact an operation to the point that you can vanish it completely from any record, but you cannot hide a forest fire of that magnitude. What Vaifen’s Intelligence Center did instead was to present a narrative and create context so as to obfuscate the truth of that night.

Following the aftermath of such a disastrous mission, an extensive investigation was carried out. No one wanted to take the fall for it, and accusative fingers were pointed far and wide across all directions.

Some blamed the catastrophe on Silent Echo’s operator, ██████████████, accusing him of treason. They theorized that he may have leaked enough information to the insurgent group that led to the preparation of such a carefully laid out trap. ██████████████ took his own life shortly afterwards. Whether this was an action stemmed out of genuine guilt or the wrongful accusations pushed him to the edge is something that perhaps may never be known.

Others chose to blame Commander Leitner instead, but the young man stoically defended himself, and there is not a single piece of evidence to accuse him of having betrayed his team. Erron Leitner was ascended to the rank of Commander and honorably discharged.

Erron went on to recover, but everyone knows there are wounds that never fully heal — and all one can do is hope that the nightmares aren’t too real.

The events of Operation Warm Daylight, buried as they’ve been, serve as a grim reminder that Vaifen’s intelligence and military apparatus is not infallible, even if many chose to look the other way instead.

General James Exley, the new Director Vaifen’s Intelligence Center, is one of the few that know of Warm Daylight, and he often looked back at both that tragic night and Silent Echo as a whole when structuring and creating the proposal for the Gestalt unit.

Traxler saw unbound potential in Erron Leitner, one of the reasons he was recruited at such a young age. But beyond the raw proficiency and unshakable loyalty.

Silent Echo’s moral and ethical quandaries were cause of concern for many during the first years of its existence, and those are examples General Exley does not with to repeat with Gestalt. He and Traxler never saw eye to eye, and they had many differences in the past, not just with regards to ethics and methods of engagement, but it would be remiss to let all of the good aspects Silent Echo to fade away, which is why Exley chose Erron Leitner to be the prime candidate to lead his proposed Gestalt Unit.

Sword of Vaifen is a work in progress. Things are not set in stone and can be subject to change.

Every image, logo, and any other graphics that you see here are placeholders, none of them are final.

2024, by Christian Kaleb Caruzo.