|Expose on Kiril Angelov Pt.2|
|Date||January 6, 2038|
|Internal Series||◀ Angelov Expose, #2 ▶|
January 6th, 2038:
By: Petar Batchev
Once the decision was made and my mind set, I realized there would be excessive ground work necessary to seeing it through. Given Kiril Angelov's propensity for long winded, boisterous speeches, one imagines his cronies would be easy to find. I naively assumed I could walk into any seedy bar in Borovets and discover a number of his henchmen bellowing about the state of the nation while spilling rakia all over themselves. I may have been a little biased in my assumptions.
The reality of their organization was much more insidious. Kiril Angelov may be many things, but a fool is not one of them. He understands, or at least appears to have a grasp on the notion, that his worldviews are not exactly fashionable with the general populous of Bulgaria and the world at large. He knows that his Homeless Mercenaries can't go around recruiting every Tomas, Dimitar, and Zahari who cross their path. The men he collects must be found capable, bondable, and most of all malleable. Name-dropping "Homeless Mercenaries" in a dingy tavern full of questionable characters won't get you too far, it seems, unless you're looking to be laughed at or beaten up.
(Of course, they don't call themselves the "Homeless Mercenaries," either. That name came with the global mocking that occurred when the Consortium began to take notice of their infractions. To Bulgarians even remotely in the know, Kiril's group was originally called "the Restless Lions," so coined by the rampant lion tattoo found on the forearms of members sloppy enough to get themselves arrested by Bulgarian authorities.)
I found that there are two routes to becoming one of the Homeless Mercenaries. The first is to be an acclaimed fighter pilot with the guts to stare down a Sukhoi Su-30 and not back down. Seeing as I knew as much about flying as I did about underwater basket weaving, I opted for the second route. Aside from pilots, Kiril always needed "men in boots" as it were, and like any Bulgarian attending school during the Resource Wars, military instruction had been a part of my basic education. I had never excelled much in the physical training, but I knew my way around the standard assault rifles and side arms of the Bulgarian army. Well enough, I hoped, to give me a starting familiarity.
As with so much in the world, it isn't what you know but who you know. A great deal of Kiril's disciples have been with him from the beginning - following him out of the Resource Wars and into social exile in this "new Bulgaria." Word of mouth is passed by men of similar ilk, and recruits are vouched for usually by fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, or old military contacts from the "good old days." With my humble journalistic background, and scholastic social circle, I was lacking in both credibility and contacts to make my way onto the Lions' radar. If I was going to be able to infiltrate their ranks in any meaningful way I could not do so as Petar Batchev. And so, Branislav Doritsch was born.
Branislav's first order of business was to find out whose opinions Kiril respected most, and who would make a good reference for a man looking to join the ranks of the Lions. When the Bulgarian military was officially disbanded, soldiers looking for similar work had only a couple of options. One being the mercenary groups like Kiril's, scattered across our various borders. If these men wanted to remain part of a legitimate military organization, however, there was only one place in Southern Europe for them to do so.
The Republic of New Hellen was the only country close to Bulgaria still operating a genuine militia. The Greeks arguably suffered more than anyone else after the Resource Wars. Internal political turmoil had split the country in two, and polarized factions in a critical way. Ideas became dangerous, and the militia was formed to protect New Hellens from each other. A large number of Kiril's former comrades had joined their ranks, and though I didn't have any names, by sheer virtue of my nationality, I imagined I could find them there without much searching.
With my newly forged documents (considerably easier to acquire than actual skill), I made my way to the Republic, and presented myself to the militia as an eager student.
My instructor and mentor for the next four months was a man named Anton Nankov (whom I privately called Hilarion, meaning joyful and happy - of which he was neither). His method of instruction in combat was simple: beat a man down long enough and eventually he'll either grow a pair, or give up. For eight weeks straight I was black and blue from head to toe, but I endured. I think I even shocked myself with my resolve. But after the first few beatings, something began to grow in me that I had never expected as a cautious young schoolboy - a real, honest backbone.
There is a very unique form of pride that swells inside you when you take hit after hit and keep getting up. You begin to get a sense that what happens to your body doesn't matter nearly as much as what happens to your mind. A man can be broken in more ways than one, and that was what I began to learn under Hilarion's tutelage.
I also got a sense of camaraderie. You never really know a man until you spar with him, so it could be said that I never knew anyone as well as I came to know the other recruits in my company. Branislav Doritsch, with his boastful demeanour and outspoken views, wasn't the most popular newcomer to the barracks, but he was making friends. And I started to see why Kiril Angelov was so passionate about his "Brotherhood of War." The social backstabbing and double-cross, that had run rampant in my experience of the academic and corporate worlds, were nowhere to be found in the New Hellen militia. Every man for himself was an antiquated notion. We all had each other's backs, and trust was implicit.
Hilarion didn't speak much, but I absorbed what he did say - which made a lot more sense to me than Kiril's twisted notions of national pride. To Hilarion, combat had been a way of life. It wasn't about violence, or inflicting harm, or fear. It wasn't about gaining power, or ego trips. This was simply the lens with which he had learned to view the world. He appreciated that he and those who came to him were a dying breed, and that the world was changing for the better. But in his own words, "You can't train a lion to be a pussy cat - so why bother trying?"
I took Hilarion's wisdom, and filtered it through the lens of my new persona as Branislav Doritsch - headstrong Bulgarian national. After my days spent training, I would spend my nights writing articles and posting them online. My new persona had a blog, and a growing reputation. If I couldn't come to the Homeless Mercenaries, I would make them come to me. Though I never mentioned my writing to Hilarion, I was overly vocal in stating my views to the men throughout the barracks.
If any of Kiril's old friends were hiding in the New Hellen militia, they were being extraordinarily quiet about it. And the more I toted my new-found nationalism on my sleeve, the more respect I seemed to lose among the recruits. And with Hilarion. One day, after almost coming to blows with another recruit when a political debate got a little too heated, he pulled me aside to speak to me in private.
"I have seen your mindset before..." he told me through his perpetual frown. It often felt like his face had been scarred that way. "...this kind of macho, elitist bravado." (There may have been ruder words in there.) "We exist to perform a service to our nation, not the other way around. Fall in line or get the hell out of my company!"
I may have been pushing my new persona too far. I knew I couldn't risk being turned out of the militia before I could make a name for myself with one of Kiril's contacts. I tried to contain my opinions somewhat, without compromising the success of my mission, but it was too late. Only a few days after my encounter with Hilarion, one of my loyal brethren drew his attention to my not-so-secret blog. He then made good on his word, and flung me out on my ass.
I returned to Bulgaria, certain that I had just wasted four months of my life torturing my body for nothing. I had made no contacts, obtained no useful references, and only succeeded in giving Branislav Doritsch a reputation for being an inflammatory, loud-mouth, first-rate jackass. Or so I has assumed.
Back to square one. I set up shop in Borovets, and went back to coughing "Homeless Mercenaries" under my breath in taverns. I had only been back a week when Branislav received an email from an untraceable, anonymous source. "We have obtained your name in reference from one of our operatives. If the sovereignty and honor of Bulgaria are of prime concern to you, please respond to this email promptly. You will be sent a time and location for a meeting." There was no opening or closing salutation.
I met with Viktor Zlatko, lead recruiter for the Restless Lions, exactly how I imagined I would - in a dark corner of a questionable bar, in the seedy part of Borovets, over a bottle of cheap rakia. In our meeting I learned that I had made an important contact in New Hellen after all. It was Hilarion himself, though he masked his accent well. He had apparently once served with Kiril Angelov and Viktor Zlatko in the once-proud Bulgarian Air Force. Clearly their ideologies had driven them apart, and I'm to this day baffled as to why Hilarion would have referred me to them at all. But Branislav had made an impression, it seems. I was in.