Hey folks, sorry for not posting lately. I’m still slowly grinding away on the new Deckard novel. For some updates and behind the scenes information on the Deckard series please check out the following podcast where JT Patten and I discuss the books at length.
Recently this issue has come up due to the recent shooting of four Marines and one sailor at a recruitment station in Chattanooga, Tennessee. While most Americans are oblivious to this fact, one of the best places a terrorist could go to stir up shit is on a military post. It seems completely counter-intuitive, like a bank robber trying to knock off a NRA convention, but the reality is that our troops are almost completely disarmed on military bases in the United States. Yes, Military Police carry their side arms while on duty (usually) and soldiers in charge of guarding an ammo point will probably have a rifle or pistol with one magazine of ammunition. Otherwise, unless a soldier is out on a shooting range conducting marksmanship training, he is not carrying a loaded firearm.
Another great place to target our soldiers isn’t just on American military bases, but also on overseas Forward Operating Bases in active combat zones! In Afghanistan and Iraq (oh hell you are going to love this) it is mandatory for soldiers to carry a weapon…but also mandatory that their weapon be unloaded! Not even a magazine in the mag well! They have to have their paperweight rifle or pistol with a spare magazine in a pocket or inside one of those cutesey magazine carriers you get at the PX and strap to your buttstock.
Now any good Special Forces soldier just cranks a round into the chamber of his Glock and rolls with it under his shirt, flashes it to the dweeb at the chow hall who has to check to make sure you have an unloaded weapon, and then goes about his business. Nobody briefed Charlie on the regs last time I checked. But Big Green doesn’t have that option. Johnny Jihad can waltz into a chow hall and mow down dozens of soldiers while our poorly trained troops look like a bunch of naked people while wearing roller skates locked in a room with the lights turned off as they try to jam magazines into their weapons.
I think this policy of being forced to carry an unloaded weapon is as stupid as you do, but believe or not the reflective belt Sergeant Majors of the world have their reasons. Our young men and women have more negligent discharges than a Fayetteville military dependent has kids. Hate to break it to all the Dicks and Sallys out there but the average soldier isn’t exactly some highly trained combat killing machine. Maybe they got a few weeks of Basic Rifle Marksmanship in basic training and after that it is a crap shoot.
This is what you have to think about when we have the discussion as to whether or not service people should be armed in garrison, including recruitment centers. I feel very comfortable is saying that we would lose more soldiers to negligent discharges than we would to lone wolf Jihadists like the Ft. Hood shooter and this ass clown in Chattanooga. The stories of NDs go on and on. Joes accidentally blasting through a half belt of SAW ammo on the way to the chow hall in Bagram, another Joe having a ND with a LAW rocket launcher on a base, I even saw a young Ranger ND a M240B machine gun on the back of a C17 airplane…thankfully only with blanks in that case.
So what is the solution? It isn’t to treat the jihadist threat or workplace violence as a episodic problem which needs a “fix” but to look at a holistic solution to improving our military. That solution is to actually train our soldiers, all of our soldiers, into the effective combat killing machines that Americans wish they were. That means classes in marksmanship in garrison, that means getting them out to the range once a week to shoot live rounds, that means carrying their weapon with them wherever they go. At the end of the day, it means cultivating a more mature military force. I saw this with my own eyes when I got to hang out with Swiss soldiers.
In Switzerland it is perfectly normal for a reservist to have a fully automatic SIG 550 in the trunk of their car. No one bats an eye at a Swiss soldier on the train with his rifle. The numbers of NDs or other incidents they have with soldiers and their weapons in Switzerland are extremely low. When participating in a Swiss training exercise, I carried a 550 as well. Going to a restaurant to eat on the way to training, the manager was perfectly happy to lock our rifles and rucksacks in the closet while we ate. It’s just a different culture, and one that I greatly admire.
Maybe one day our soldiers will get the training they deserve, America will abandon any silly notion of a gunless culture, and our country will also get the highly trained professional military that it deserves.
A man can dream anyway.
Old uncle Joe teased his fishing line one more time, watching it dance in the hole he had cut through the ice. Holding the fishing pole between his knees as he sat on a folding chair, Joe reached down and palmed a mason jar. His fingers spun off the top and he took a swig of the half empty jar as moonshine sloshed around at the bottom. It burned all the way down, filling the fisherman with warmth.
Squinting his eyes in the darkness, he tried to focus. Maybe it was the moonshine playing tricks on him, but he thought he heard something out on the ice. Well, never mind. He screwed the cap back on the moonshine and sat it back down. Exhaling a cloud of vapor into the cold air, Joe wondered if he would ever get a bite.
Suddenly the ice split and cracked in front of him, nearly tipping over his chair. Joe looked up with wide eyes as a two hundred foot behemoth crashed through the ice, sandwiching him between the black ship and the shore. Old uncle Joe rubbed a gloved hand over his stubble. There were not any ice breakers due in on Tuesday night.
Was this Tuesday night?
Come to think of it, Joe wasn’t sure if it was even a weeknight.
Joe reached for the moonshine.
A metal hatch slammed open at the top of the ship. Dark figures spilled out into the Alaskan night, armed to the teeth. Several of them looked over at Joe as they slid down the side of their ship. They looked at him with green eyes. Joe took a swig of moonshine, gulping it down and giving the alien visitors a wave.
They didn’t return his greeting, but instead dashed up the shore.
Suddenly, the fishing pole was nearly tore from between his knees.
Joe reached for the pole with both hands, forgetting that he was holding the mason jar. As he grasped the fishing rod, his jar of moonshine shattered on the ice.
“Awww fuck,” Joe complained.
Then he reached for one of the singles of Jack Daniels that he kept in his parka pocket for such emergency situations.
* * *
“That’s it, that’s them!”
Will smiled as he watched the flat screen monitor. The Global Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicle was orbiting over Barrow, Alaska. The sensor suite onboard the drone was being manipulated by a technician sitting in a trailer next to the pilot in Nevada. The cameras zoomed in on the long black ship that had just broken through the ice and docked alongside the coast. The fisherman who had been pinned right between the ship and the shore appeared on the screen to be completely unfazed. Was he a spotter or just a drunk?
“Where is Deckard?” Gary asked.
“Ten minutes out,” Craig answered.
On the screen, little figures ran around like ants towards a warehouse on the far eastern side of Barrow, on the outskirts of the town.
“Who owns that damn warehouse?” Will asked.
“Huh,” Craig said as he looked as his computer screen. “It seems that we do. It is a old warehouse left over from World War Two. Right now it is being leased to a company called Arctic Consulting Group. I’ll pull up their information.”
“It will turn out to be a front group. They’ve obviously pre-staged a lot of logistical support for this operation. They have been running Advanced Force Operations right under our noses in anticipation for this. Burying caches, buying off officials, setting booby traps, leaving behind fuel depots, and god knows what else.”
“I’m pushing this imagery to Deckard now,” Gary said. “He should get there just in time to crash the party.”
Will took a deep breath.
He sure hoped so, because right now none of them had a very impressive track record.
* * *
Mercenaries were throwing on their combat gear, sliding down the stairs, and opening and slamming doors as they made a mad dash to get ready. Deckard snapped his plate carrier on, threw his parka over it, than shrugged into his chest rig, snapping it closed behind his jacket. He finally had a solid fix on the enemy’s location and wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to get the drop on them.
The town of Barrow was stretched out across the Alaskan coast running from east to west. One of the oil rig workers had spent a significant amount of time there and reported that the roads were well made and were kept plowed to clear the snow and ice off during the winter months. Once again, nothing beats some local knowledge. With this in mind, Deckard knew he had the opportunity to launch a two pronged attack.
Stepping outside into the cold, Deckard slung his AK over his back, and climbed down a ladder to the barge platform. The ice crashed around the Carrickfergus’ twin pontoon hull, smashing its way towards the shore.
The Samruk mercenaries had five of their Iveco assault trucks up and running. All of them had to have their batteries charged up or replaced. It was a good thing they had at least brought extra tires, fluids, batteries, and recovery items to keep the trucks in the semi-shit state that they were in.
“One minute out,” Otter reported over the radio.
“One minute!” Deckard yelled.
The mercenaries began undoing the ratchet straps that secured the assault trucks to the deck. Fedorchenko’s platoon was going to hit the ground with Deckard for their amphibious landing. The rest of the men would stay on the ship for the coordinated assault.
Otter lowered the barge down to water level. The ramp began to lower and the golden lights of Barrow sparkled like giant diamonds in the night. The mercenaries loaded on the trucks and began racking rounds into their machine guns. Aghassi jumped on the back of Deckard’s truck and nodded to him. He was usually Samruk’s human intelligence gatherer, but there wasn’t much human intelligence to be had out in the arctic waste.
Their recce section was also useless when their target was constantly on the move and there was no way to infiltrate the six-man team. The mortar section was also in need of a viagra, as they were used as regular Infantry because they had a hard time pinning down the enemy location. Everything was different up here, even the enemy. Deckard knew they had been up against the ropes this entire time but tonight he planned on evening the score.
The ramp came down on the shore, just ten meters away from the first road. The assault trucks roared off the ship in four wheel drive, then creeped across the snow and over a hump at the edge of the road. The five vehicles were lining up in their order of movement as the Carrickfergus was already backing out and smashing its way through the ice, heading further down the coast line.
“Update?” Deckard asked.
“Global hawk sees about a dozen personnel on the ground. They are still refueling the ship.”
“Roger, we’re moving.”
Sitting in the passenger seat, Deckard looked at the Kazakh driver and pointed down the road. The five vehicles started down the road, heading east. The town of Barrow was kind of spooky at night. All of the residents had wisely escaped the cold and remained indoors. The houses were oblong and rectangular, painted yellow, purple, green, and blue, all lifted three feet or so on stilts above the ground to avoid the permafrost. The buildings flashed by as the driver took them down the main road. In seconds they were passed the town and driving by the salt lagoons.
It was warm inside the heated cabin of their truck, everything quiet outside, but Deckard knew that was about to change.
The idea was to hit the warehouse and ship at the same time, coming at the enemy by land and sea. That would split their attention, making the enemy think for a few seconds as to what direction they wanted to counter-attack in. That kept Samruk International inside their decision making cycle, and would give them the precious few seconds they needed to get the drop of them once and for all.
“Contact! Contact!” Otter yelled over the radio.
Through the windshield, Deckard saw yellow flashes blink a few hundred meters to their front.
“Go, go! Step on it!”
The driver floored the accelerator, and in seconds the PKM gunner in the turret above them was blazing away. They were in the middle of a war zone, ten things happening simultaneously. As the truck slid across the ice to the stop in front of the warehouse, Deckard flung open the door and jumped out.
A long hose stretched out from the warehouse and ran all the way to the coast and to the knife shaped vessel sitting in the ice. Several figures on top of the ship were firing RPGs at the Carrickfergus as it closed the distance. Muzzle blasts from their ship answered in return.
A handful of blackclad figures were caught out in the open near the warehouse. With the assault trucks pulling in between them and their ship, they were cut off. Deckard’s hood blew off his head as he pulled the stock of his Kalashnikov into his shoulder. One of them had turned and was running towards the warehouse, hoping to find some cover and concealment. Deckard denied him this, pumping a two round burst into his back, then walking his rounds up his back, neck, and into the back of his head in a technique called a failure drill.
After firing center mass, the shooter walked his rounds up to the head and kept firing until the enemy failed. The grape popped at the top as Deckard walked his rounds up and the blackclad figure spilled across the ice, his Israeli-made bullpup rifle sliding in front of him.
Another of the enemy’s number pivoted, turning around and popping off a few rounds in Deckard’s direction. The PKM gunner on his truck cut him down with a burst that folded him in the middle like an accordion. The other machine gunners on the assault trucks turned their guns on the enemy ship, aggressively firing long bursts from side to side that chopped through the RPG armed enemy firing on the Carrickfergus.
Turning back towards the warehouse, Deckard saw at least a half dozen more of them disappear inside. He was already running towards the warehouse, smelling blood in the water as the Samruk mercenaries joined in the chase. As they ran towards the door, one, then two of the mercenaries collapsed to the ground. Deckard hadn’t even heard the enemy gunfire.
“No frags!” he yelled. The explosion could set off whatever fuel source they had concealed inside. He was willing to risk a flash bang though, and nodded to Fedorchenko as he yanked one off his kit and pulled the pin.
Lobbing the nine-banger through the door, it went off again and again, the distraction device serving it’s purpose. Deckard stepped through the door as the banger was still popping off, his rifle sweeping through the darkness, hungry for targets. As the other mercenaries flowed through behind him, he picked up something in his periphery vision. Shifting his hips, and bending on one knee, he turned towards the threat.
Then something flashed and Deckard’s entire world went upside down. His vision was spinning inside his brain, his arms and legs feeling detached from his body. Stumbling forward, he thought he heard gunfire but couldn’t tell. His brain had somehow been disengaged from reality and now all he knew was that the world was coming up to meet him fast.
He landed on the hard concrete floor with a thud, barely able to get his arms out in front of him before he fell.
Two rifle shots cracked into his back, and then Deckard was still.
* * *
The SCOPE think tank sat with their mouths ajar as Global Hawk captured the carnage outside Barrow, Alaska. The enemy ship was pulling out of port, tearing away from the hose refilling their fuel tanks, spilling gas across the ice. RPG gunners were still firing at the Carrickfergus as it stormed towards them.
The warehouse was quickly surrounded by the five assault trucks before little figures dashed across the screen and chased some of the enemy inside. Machine gunners on shore and on the Carrickfergus were making quick work of the RPG gunners on the enemy ship, their bodies spilling over the side onto the ice.
Leaving both their dead and their living behind, the enemy ship plowed through the ice, making way for the open water beyond. The Carrickfergus was in pursuit, or was, until the bad guys steered their ship into a channel previously cut by an ice breaker heading into or out of Barrow. Once inside the channel, the boat lifted up out of the water, moving like a speed boat away from Barrow as quickly as possible.
The think tank listened to the radio chatter as the mercenaries yelled at each other in three or four different languages. At times the voices were washed out by gunfire.
“Objective secure,” someone finally announced. “Starting Sensitive Site Exploitation.”
Gary leaned over and pressed a button on the comms panel that linked them to the Carrickfergus.
“I want full bio-metrics on the enemy bodies as quickly as possible,” the think tank leader said.
“Right, let me put out the fire on the deck of my ship if you don’t mind,” the Carrickfergus captain guffawed.
A minute later, the bio-metics readings from the bodies started coming into the SCOPE. Pictures of faces, iris scans, and finger prints could all be taken by the Samruk mercenaries with a handheld device manufactured by Crossmatch. The data would than be streamed to the Carrickfergus and then uploaded via satellite to JSOC servers.
The four men were tense as the data began loading onto the flatscreen mounted to the wall in front of them. Craig swallowed. Will interlaced his fingers in front of him as he sat forward in his chair.
The first face to show up on the screen was Asian.
“We’re running it through our databases now,” Will said. “We’ll see if we can get a match on ID.”
The second face looked Arab, definitely middle eastern.
Craig looked over at Will.
The third face was Caucasian.
The data continued to flow in as the Samruk mercenaries took biometrics of each of the bodies. Two more pictures of Asians came in, then another with a face so caved in by gunshots that it was hard to tell his ethnicity. Then there was another white guy and another Middle Eastern.
Will stood up and walked around the table.
“Chinese,” he said, pointing to the Asians displayed on the screen.
His finger drifted over to the Middle Easterners.
“Holy shit,” Craig said as he held his head in his hands.
Will pointed to the Caucasians.
“You were right,” Gary said, almost under his breath.
“These are the players in the game.”
Craig shot up in his chair.
“What the hell,” he said. “The database got a match on one of them.”
Will turned around, seeing a new picture of a white guy with his eyes closed. The JSOC database did get a hit, he was one of theirs.
“Army? CIA?” Gary said almost as a curse.
Scrolling down the screen they saw his name.
* * *
“Put that down you fucking idiot!”
One of the Kazakhs had mistaken Deckard for one of the dead enemy and was in the process of capturing his bio-metric data when Kurt Jager stopped him.
“What the hell is going on?” Deckard said as he looked up from the computer screen.
Off in the distance, the ocean was glowing orange.
“I thought it was the northern lights at first,” Otter said. “But that is a different kind of light. We’re not far off the coast of Alaska now, and those are the offshore oil fields.”
Engineers and scientists had demonstrated that the Alaskan arctic contained 40 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil and in the neighborhood 210 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. America’s long term energy plan to become less reliant on the often unstable Middle East only helped speed up the process of drilling in the arctic off the coast of Alaska.
Companies like Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell, Gazprom, and their own employer, Xyphon, had developed crash programs to build off shore oil rigs all over the arctic, a region reputed to hold up to a quarter of the world’s fossil fuels. While Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves amounted to about 260 billion barrels of oil, the Arctic may have as much as 580 billion barrels and like the Middle East, the arctic was now ripe for conflict.
“They did this because of us,” Deckard said.
“Just like Saddam set the oil refineries ablaze to try to delay the coalition advance during the Gulf War, the enemy blew up at least one of the oil rigs to try to prevent our pursuit.”
“We’re on their tail then.”
“Probably closer than we suspected and they are out of options. Get us around the fires, we’re going into the North East passage.”
The radio bolted above the helm suddenly chirped.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is the surviving crew of Hillhorn platform! Mayday, mayday, may-”
“Shit,” Deckard said. “I’m going to wake up the boys and get Otter up here. Then we’re going to find out where the hell Global hawk is and hunt these bastards down.”
Squirrel looked into the looming flames, his eyes filled with uncertainty.
* * *
Jeff Dombrowski was the junior driller on the Hillhorn gas and oil platform, or at least he had been until an hour ago. Huddled under the plastic tent that protected them inside the octagonal inflatable life raft, he stared across at Alan, the assistant rig manager, Roger, the senior toolpusher, and John, their rig maintenance supervisor.
The wind had shifted, and now the four men watched helplessly as their life raft was pushed back towards the sea of fire. The Hillhorn and the Fitzpatrick platforms had both exploded at the same time, something that wasn’t supposed to be possible outside of sabotage. As far as any of them knew, they were the only survivors.
A wave lapped over the side of the raft, cold ocean water seeping inside and as it dripped from the tarp roof. Roger was staring into space, somewhere else, anywhere but here.
“Mayday, mayday, mayday,” John cried into the handheld emergency radio.
A burst of static emitted from the radio.
“Roger, Hillhorn,” a scratchy voice said on the other end. “This is the Carrickfergus. Give us a grid.”
Jeff nearly jumped out of the raft as he grabbed the GPS.
“It’s not working,” he said as he played with the settings.
“Satellites have been acting weird for a couple days,” John said. “We have a hell of a big Roman candle out there to act as a beacon though. I’ll try to guide them in.”
Jeff unzipped and tossed open the plastic covering. The sea slapped against the side of the raft, spilling more water inside which sloshed around and gathered around their feet.
John poked his head outside.
“Carrickfergus,” he said into the radio. “GPS is a no-go. What is your current heading?”
* * *
The exhausted survivors of the Hillhorn blast were pulled onboard the Carrickfergus nearly an hour later. Their beards were soaked and frozen, their eyebrows drooped. Each of them was walking around like a zombie, not even aware of the strange ethnicities of the crew members who pulled them onto the ship.
“Hey,” a tall American with a chiseled jaw said. Jeff looked up at him.
“I’m Pat. The boss wants us to get you in some warm clothes and then he wants to see you four on the bridge.”
Looking up, fluttering in the wind and glowing orange as the oil rigs burned in front of them, was the jolly roger flying above the ship. Looking back down, he then noticed the pistol and spare magazines that Pat had strapped to his belt under his open parka.
The four survivors followed after Pat as he led them inside. They could already feel the Carrickfergus shifting under their feet, turning around the fields of fire. The Hillhorn crew members blinked in disbelief. There were machine guns, rifles, hand grenades, open metal cans of ammunition, and porn mags laying all over the place. Men wearing snow camouflage who looked to be of a dozen different nationalities were prepping their gear, looking like they were ready to launch World War Three.
Pat took them down a flight of metal steps to a changing room in front of the showers where they had some space. Another camo clad man stepped in behind them, said something in Russian, then dropped a box at their feet. After looking inside, they didn’t need Pat to tell them what to do. The crewmen stripped off their soaked clothes and then tore into the box of brand new thermal underwear, pants, and jackets.
“What is it you guys do exactly?” John ventured.
Pat leaned to the side with one hand propped against the wall, the other at his hip.
“Mergers and acquisitions mostly.”
“Oh, fuck yeah. C’mon, grab some towels to finish drying off and we can go get this meeting over with. Then we can get you some chow.”
Back up into the bay, they then climbed another set of stairs that was vertical to the point of being a ladder, then up into the bridge. It was pretty easy to identify the ship’s captain behind the helm with his big bushy beard and coffee cup in one hand. The younger guy working the sea charts was obviously the first mate. A third guy who wore a Patagonia pullover looked up from his laptop with bloodshot eyes.
Walking around the desk, he sized up the four oil rig workers up.
“We owe you big time man,” Jeff thanked him.
“Don’t mention it. I’m Deckard.”
He shook all of their hands but the boss didn’t look happy. As he lit up a cigarette, Jeff noticed the scars on his knuckles. He’d worked around the oil industry to know that this guy had been in a few brawls.
“If you don’t mind me asking,” John said. “What exactly is it that you guys do?”
“We’re mercs,” Deckard said without missing a beat. “We kill cunts.”
“Let me put it to you this way. If some jag off dictator takes over a country somewhere, they call in the 82nd Airborne or the Marines. If some douche bag hijacks a nuclear weapon they call in SEAL Team Six or Delta Force. But if some x-factor comes out of left field in a blur, steals a super weapon that can end the world, and then takes off in a super-secret high tech stealth boat, then they call me and my boys.”
“I’m afraid so,” Deckard said as he frowned and looked out the window. “Every fucking time.”
The four survivors looked at each other wondering if they had just entered the twilight zone.
“You lost a lot of men on those rigs,” Deckard said, his voice detached from the human toll of the disaster.
“I think we’re the only ones left,” Jeff said.
“I’m sorry, this is my fault.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m chasing someone who doesn’t want to be found. They ordered this strike against your oil platforms to delay us.”
“I just found out myself. Ballistic missiles launched from civilian container ships traveling along the Northwest sea passage. Russian authorities are moving in now, but the ships are flagged in Liberia and the crews probably had no idea what they were carrying. Knowing the MO of the guys I’m after, the cargo containers onboard were probably fully automated and received an electronic go-code from afar.”
John shook his head. None of it made sense.
“Look, you guys must know this area and I could use your help.”
Deckard walked over to the first mate who was looking over the sea charts.
“The vessel we are looking for is about a two hundred footer. We think they’ve been leaking a lot of fuel and probably haven’t been able to make a lot of repairs while underway. If they had to make a quick stop to refuel and try to patch up their hull, where do you think they would go?”
“Only one place to go.”
Everyone turned to look at Roger who had spoken for the first time.
“Where?” Deckard asked.
“Barrow, Alaska,” he answered. “The northern most city in America.”
“Which way are we going?”
“Dammit we can’t go that way!”
“It’s blocked, it’s blocked!”
“Go back the way we came!”
“We ain’t going back that way, the ice just cracked again.”
“What is on our right flank? I can’t see shit!”
Deckard could hear the panic raising in their voices as his men radioed back and forth, desperately trying to find a way off the ice floe. They had spent two hours weaving across the ice, dodging fresh breaks as the ice island continued tearing itself apart. Every time they thought they had found an opening, they would run right into another lead, twenty foot openings with sloshing sea water at the bottom.
“That’s it,” Deckard finally ordered over the radio. “Put them in a file. Dag, get us the fuck out of here now.”
“Roger that,” the the former Norwegian FSK commando replied. “On it.”
The Samruk mercenaries broke formation and began moving in a single file line, sacrificing security for speed. The ice was coming apart under their feet and if they didn’t rendezvous with the Carrickfergus soon they would drown, freeze, or be left squatting on a car sized piece of ice floating towards Siberia like a lost polar bear.
Dag led them over a chest high pressure ridge, then hand railed alongside a fresh lead, driving them deeper and deeper into the darkness of night. The men were frantic, eyes darting around the ice, looking for ghosts that weren’t there. One of the newer guys even let off a burst of Kalashnikov fire at an imaginary enemy before Chuck Rocheniore blasted him in the face with a clenched fist.
Deckard was losing control of his element, and shit was getting more gangster by the second.
“Otter, flip on the IR strobe for thirty seconds.”
The strobe light mounted on the Carrickfergus would blink on and off in the infrared spectrum, visible to those wearing night vision goggles but invisible to the naked eye. Asking for thirty seconds of strobe light wasn’t because Deckard was worried about the enemy spotting their ship. At this point he could care less, but the batteries in their PVS-14 night vision monocles would freeze after much longer than that.
“That’s it, I got them,” Dag confirmed over the radio. “Five hundred meters due East.”
The radio batteries would freeze as well, but they now made sure that they wore their inter-team radios under thermals layers of clothing beneath their parkas.
“Get us there.”
After another fifteen minutes of stumbling around the ice, they could see the silhouette of their ship, docked alongside the ice. Fedorchenko spread his men out in a half moon formation to pull security while the other platoon scaled the cargo net and climbed up the hull of the ship. Once they were onboard, the other platoon collapsed down and climbed onboard as well.
Deckard was the last off the ice. Slinging his rifle, he grabbed onto the net with one hand and looked over his shoulder.
All he saw was darkness.
All he heard was the howling of the wind.
The enemy was out there. Somewhere.
Deckard swung around and stuck his foot onto one of the rungs of the net, then climbed up hand over hand, promising himself that he was going to find them.
Then he was going to kill every single one of them.
* * *
Flinging open the door to the bridge, Deckard dumped his kit on the ground and slammed his rifle down on a shelf.
Deckard interrupted the ship’s captain before he even had the chance to ask.
“East. Just head East.”
Opening his laptop, Deckard punched in the number for the JSOC guys in Tampa. He needed a word. The VTC opened and he was looking at the usual four-man cast of characters.
“Deckard, what happened?” Gary asked. “Did you get them?”
“Prevented them from transferring the weapon. It was a submarine, not an airplane but they got away.”
“What? How the hell did that happen?”
“We need to talk. You level with me right now about what I’m up against or I’m assaulting my way to Tampa to skull fuck the four of you once I’m done up here.”
“Whoa, hey, what are you talking about?”
“What. The. Fuck. Am. I. Hunting.”
“We told you, we’re still trying to fit the puzzle pieces together. We don’t know who this is.”
“Beyond that. Whatever the fuck it is they stole, it isn’t nuclear.”
“The Urals compound they hit is a nuclear research facility.”
“Bullshit,” Deckard said as he slammed his fist on the table. “Whatever that thing is, they activated it just as we were moving in for the kill. It shook the ice beneath our feet. The next thing I know the ice floe was coming apart right under us and my men were getting sucked into the ocean. They made the entire ice floe destabilize so that they could get the device back to their ship and escape.”
Everyone in Tampa was silent.
“What the fuck am I up against here? I want a answer and I want it right fucking now.”
Will cleared his throat.
“There have been stories, rumors really, coming out of Russia since the Soviet years.”
“Rumors of what?”
“An entirely new generation of weapons. Directed energy systems, psy-tronics, stuff that can even steer weather patterns. Sometimes defectors or recruited assets would pass on whispers about this kind of stuff.”
“Consider the rumors confirmed. They’ve been holding an ace up their sleeve.”
“None of it makes sense. We’ve had scientific review boards come up with classified findings. None of the math adds up.”
“We know that it is possible for man-made earth quakes to be induced. It has been done accidentally in India and China by building massive reservoirs on top of fault lines. Some scientists have theorized that nuclear testing is also responsible for increased earthquake activity, but there isn’t much proof of that,” Will said.
“What about actual weaponization?”
“Well, even the scientists more open the this idea only believed that it was possible to tickle seismic activity were there is already great tectonic pressures, basically inducing an earthquake that is already going to happen at some point, maybe making it a little stronger.”
“There are already frictions on an ice floe, we know that because of the leads and pressure ridges present, but that is nothing like the tectonic forces of the earth’s plates.”
“No, it isn’t,” Will agreed. “Which means the Russians may be much farther along with the weaponization process than any of us had suspected. SCOPE employs a number of scientists as consultants that we will have to call in to work on this.”
“We are in the shit right now. How is it possible for something like this to work?”
“If I was to speculate,” Will said. “I would guess it utilizes electro-magnetic energy. Nikola Tesla claimed to have nearly shook a building to the ground with a device he build based upon what he termed telegeodynamics. From there, we are getting into conspiracy theory territory.”
“An area of expertise for you isn’t it Will,” Craig said as he turned to face his co-worker.”
“Mine too,” Deckard added. “I’ve seen too many black helicopters to discount it. Especially when it is right in front of my eyes.”
“Where does this leave us?” Gary asked.
“We are heading east. With the Bering Strait cut off, they won’t be double backing right into Russia’s Northern Fleet.”
“The North East passage then?”
“That’s their only way out of this, through Canada and into the Atlantic. That submarine took direct hits and won’t be resurfacing anytime soon, if ever. What is the status of the Global Hawk UAVs?”
“We have one platform flying up from Montana right now. It will have to refuel in Fairbanks. ETA is almost twenty four hours.”
“I’m going to pursue. We can’t wait for you guys to get your shit together.”
“Deckard, we need-”
Slamming his laptop shut, Deckard grabbed his rifle and threw the door open on his way off of the bridge.
* * *
Opening his eyes, Deckard was immediately awake.
Despite only sleeping for five hours, he felt like he had just woken up after hibernating over the winter. When you are so exhausted that you start droning, even a little bit of sleep can make an amazing difference when it comes to recharging your brain.
Tossing a woodland camouflage poncho liner off, he rolled out of his cot and pulled on a layer of thermal clothing before walking through the ship. Most of the men were still asleep, a few others lay awake watching movies on portable DVD players or laptops. A few Xbox One and PlayStation Four consoles hummed in the darkness as the guys bunked in that particular area had fallen asleep watching movies or paused the screen in the middle of a Call of Duty deathmatch.
Stepping up the steep metal steps, Deckard climbed up to the bridge. Otter’s second mate, a younger sailor in his late twenties named Squirrel, was on watch.
“Not much on our end, we are on course heading towards the North East passage as you instructed. Back home, half of Los Angeles lost it’s power grid and ISIS set off a couple car bombs in Paris,” Squirrel answered.
“Someone keeping the pressure on us.”
Sitting behind a desk, Deckard opened his laptop.
* * *
The Blade Master pulled back on the crossbow’s string. Most warriors couldn’t draw back the bow on this particular weapon, but with a flex of his shoulders, he was able to set the string in the weapon. Inserting a poison tipped quarrel, he looked for his query.
The humidity of the jungle was thick in the air, enveloping him in a haze that the tangles of vines over his head eventually disappeared into. Somewhere, through the mist, was a Drakkenborn. Ducking under a fallen tree, the Blade Master stayed as stealthy as possible, stepping into a stream. The decaying machines of war lay scattered throughout the jungle, like the one in front of him. Powered by steam, they had been used in the third Aqualonian War, the technology that gave them life, long since lost. Now they were just remnants of the past.
Moving around the arms of the broken mechanical cyclops, the Blade Master noticed movement in the distance.
The Drakkenborn was stalking something, not realizing that he himself was the prey. As he inched closer, the mist parted, revealing the half breed spawn of a human and a dragon, made possible by the dark machinations of sorcerers and warlocks. He was as tall as he was wide, wearing a golden tunic with heavy metal armor on his shoulders and chest.
Holding a lance above his head, the Drakkenborn prepared to launch his weapons at a giant spider creeping up a tree.
Leveling the crossbow to his shoulder and taking aim, the Blade Master fired first. Depressing the lever on his crossbow, the quarrel shot through the air and speared the Drakkenborn in the neck. He recoiled as the poisoned dart struck its mark. Turning to face the unexpected threat, he cast a bolt of lighting.
The Blade Master strafed to his left, narrowly avoiding the flash of electricity. Now the Drakkenborn came crashing through the brush, his sword drawn.
“Get the hell out of there,” a voice sounded in the Blade Master’s ear. It was his Dark Elf mentor, communicating to him by an enchanted gemstone that he wore around his neck. The Dark Elf wore an identical one which had been magically bound together with his own.
Executing an about face, the Blade Master ran towards the shard. If he could make it in time, the poison would do the rest. Slinging the crossbow over his shoulder helped him run faster, and he was going to need all the help he could get.
Dodging around the overgrown war machine, the Blade Master cringed as another bolt of lighting hit a tree just in front of him, setting it ablaze with fire. The ferns were waist high, leaving an obvious trail in his wake, not that any was necessary. The Drakkenborn was nearly on top of him. The Blade Master climbed on top of one of the war machines and slide down the opposite side.
His enemy was still in pursuit, cursing at him in some foreign language.
The shard was right in front of him in an open clearing, glowing with ancient magic. The Blade Master sprinted towards it. Half way across the clearing, a dagger stuck into his back. The Drakkenborn had depleted his reserve of magicka, but was not out of the fight. Another throwing dagger sunk into his shoulder.
Without looking back, the Blade Master dived into the shard.
The world blinked and he rolled into a dusty dirt road. A village full of small houses with thatch roofs was laid out in front of him. His hand went to his katana and drew it from its sheath. A dead body fell out of the shard at his feet. The Drakkenborn had succumbed to the poisoned quarrel.
“Not bad, but you got lucky,” the gemstone around his neck glowed with each word.
“Luck is one of my skills.”
The Blade Master sheathed his sword and yanked the two throwing daggers out of his back.
“That remains to be seen. I’ll be more interested to see how you deal with the next target.”
“Where is he?”
“Head west through the village.”
The Blade Master crouched down next to the corpse of the Drakkenborn and got some mad loot off of the body. Walking through the village, piglets and baby goats parted as he walked between them. Pollen floated through the air as the towns people worked at the mill and merchants sold their wares from stales alongside the road.
“Dwarven armor for sale!”
“Magicka elixir +10 mana!”
The hustle was unreal, even in such a small village.
“Hey,” a tinkerer said as he approached the Blade Master. Half of his teeth were made of wood and he carried a heavy load on his back with pots and pans strung into his pack. “Want to watch Kim Kardashian suck a cock?”
“God dammit,” the Blade Master cursed. “Get the fuck away from me!”
Climbing over a wooden stake fence, he walked through someone’s farm and then out into the countryside. Lazy white clouds floated through the sky. Cows were not supposed to have horns and farms were not supposed to have jackalopes, but they were here in spades.
The Blade Master slid down an embankment and disappeared into the forest.
“I’m going to love seeing how you will pull this one off.”
He spun, the Katana materializing in his hand.
The Dark Elf threw his hands up in front of him.
“Hey, take it easy.”
“You take it easy.”
“You are going to love this. The next one is a barbarian. Maxed out legacy status. Level 150.”
“How am I supposed to pull that off?”
“Luck is one of your skills.”
“Listen, it’s working,” the Dark Elf said through cracked lips. “A lot of people are looking for the new Blade Master who has burst upon the scene on the PvP sever. You are getting attention, and that is exactly what we want.”
“And here I was thinking I was just helping you guys level up your RPG character.”
“You are making fast progress, not to worry. You have already killed seven of their people. If you take down this barbarian you are going to be on their radar in a big way.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?”
“Time will tell, but your unorthodox methods are working in your favor. Still, about this barbarian…”
“Just show me where he is.”
The Blade Master did. Climbing up a steep cliff, the duo crossed a rickety rope bridge over a gushing white water river a hundred feet beneath them. On the other side was a clearing. Another shard floated in the air, glowing white light.
“Where are we going now?” the Blade Master asked.
“You’ll see,” the Dark Elf replied as he disappeared into the light. The Blade Master followed and found himself in a wind swept tundra. He squinted as wet white flakes of snow stung his eyes.
“Icedale? I really don’t need any more of this shit in my life.”
“I thought it might be growing on you,” the Dark elf said, once again taking the lead.
“My balls still haven’t emerged from hibernation.”
“What the hell do you need those for?”
“You have no idea.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry I asked.”
I few minutes of walking and they found the player character they were looking for. He was of the barbarian class, nearly seven feet tall and wearing heavy bear furs that were tied around his body. Swinging a massive broad sword, the barbarian split open a griffon’s skull, painting the snow crimson.
“One of the legends of Infinity Blade,” the Dark Elf said. “King Krag.”
“So what’s the plan hot shot?”
The Blade Master scoured the terrain.
“Hmm. Wait here.”
The Dark Elf watched the Blade Master go into stealth mode and keep a distance from the non-player character monsters. Icedale was an expansion pack for Infinity Blade and had only been released a few months prior for the most high level players in the game, allowing them to advance to level 150. His protege wouldn’t last long tangling with the Ice Giants and Frost Spiders, not to mention King Krag.
Advancing towards a cave opening he had spotted, the Dark Elf could see King Krag cast a spell, surrounding himself with blue light as the healing potion took effect. Then he charged at one of the Ice Giants. Behind Krag, the Blade Master slid down a snowy slope and disappeared into the opening of a cave.
“What in the hell is that guy doing?”
King Krag continued to swing his broad sword, blocking the Ice Giant’s club with his shield and then slashing again until finally, the giant collapsed with a thud. In the meantime, a mammoth had stormed across the tundra and joined the fray, engaging Krag with his tusks.
Minutes went by with Krag turning the tundra into a bloody killing ground of dead NPCs until the Blade Master suddenly burst out of the cave, running straight towards Krag who was now fighting it out with another Ice Giant. Right on his tail, a long line of ghouls, ghosts, and Orc Lords chased the Blade Master.
“The dungeon train,” the Dark Elf said to himself. “Son of a bitch.”
The Blade Master bumped right into Krag as he parried an attack from the giant, then cast a potion of invisibility on himself and disappeared. The entire dungeon train then crashed right into Krag. He was surrounded by a dozen high level NPCs and was quickly taking a beating. He cast another healing potion on himself, but there was no way he was fighting his way out of this one.
“That should do it,” the Blade Master said, reappearing at the Dark Elf’s side as the potion wore off. Krag was hacking and slashing furiously. The Ice Giant was down but Krag was getting pounded by dark magicka from the ghouls and Orc Lord war hammers.
“But you need to get credit for the kill. It won’t count if he gets slain by NPCs.”
The Blade Master drew his crossbow and loaded it with an explosive quarrel.
“You sneaky bastard.”
He hefted the cross bow to his shoulder and sighted in on King Krag as he was knocked down to his knees. Staggering back up, he was now covered in his own blood.
“Wait for it.”
The two watched as Krag’s HP points were diminished. The Blade Master waited until the final moment, then let the quarrel fly. It struck Krag right between the shoulder blades and exploded in a brilliant phosphorus flash. Krag fell face first into the snow, dead.
“Let’s get out of here before he respawns and comes looking for us,” the Dark Elf suggested.
The Blade Master was silent.
“Hey? You hear me?”
He just stood there, not saying a word.
“Hello? What the hell is going on?”
“Keep the drone near the ship,” Deckard told Cody as he prepared to launch his toy airplane. Thankfully, he had more than one. “I don’t want it getting brought down by electronic counter-measures or otherwise being spotted by the enemy.”
Cody hurled the drone off the deck of the ship and into the air. Using his tablet to control the drone, it spiraled over the Carrickfergus as it gained altitude. Night had set in and everyone knew that the coming movement was going to be perilous in the dark but on the other hand it would limit the enemy’s visibility as well. It was safe to assume that an opponent this sophisticated would have access to night vision and thermals but just like Samruk, the arctic would severely limit their battery life.
“Okay, I’ve got something,” Cody announced. “Thermal signatures on the other side of the ice floe.”
“How far out?”
“Hard to say, a couple miles I would guess.”
“Okay, get me your best guess at a distance as well as a direction. We’ll initiate the movement. Keep the drone up, then bring it back to refuel, and send it back up when we are ready to make contact with the enemy.”
Deckard turned to prepare the movement across the ice.
“Hey,” Cody said, stopping him. “I heard you are playing Dungeons and Dragons in your free time or something?”
“D&D is great man. I have some 12-sided dice and a dungeon master guide at my work station if you ever want-”
“Hey, fuck you dude. That is work related shit.”
“No, I am a big fan. My character has gone into legendary status.”
“Go fuck yourself Cody, I have shit to do.”
“Fine. Fuck you then.”
* * *
One by one the mercenaries scurried down a cargo net that had been hung from the side of the ship. They slipped down and landed on the ice floe before moving out and establishing a security perimeter. No one was more cautious about the landing than Deckard. He still didn’t feet quite right after his accidental swim in the arctic sea. Getting crushed between the Carrickfergus and the ice floe seemed like a better fate than going for another dunk in the water.
With the two platoons deployed out on the ice, the more experienced men in arctic and winter operations took the lead to guide the others through the darkness. Ice floes were dangerous to begin with, even more so at night when you could run into a lead, a opening or crack in the ice, at any time. Also present would be pressure ridges. While leads happened where the ice was pulled apart, pressure ridges were created where the ice had been pushed together. Aside from that, new leads could appear as the ice cracked and new fissures were created as the ice came apart.
Deckard chambered a round into the chamber of his Kalashnikov, the others quickly following suit. They were going into combat in the most inhospitable environment on earth, and this time they were all looking for some payback after a string of embarrassing defeats.
There was one thing that scared every former Special Operations soldier more than death and that was failure. They had lost men and with everything happening back in the world it was clear that the stakes didn’t get any higher. Once again, Deckard and Samruk International found themselves shadow boxing an elusive enemy.
Fanning out in a series squad sized wedge shaped formations, the mercenaries crept forward, their boots crunching through the snow. It was really the sound of the arctic, or lack of sound, that really drove home how far away they were from everything. Other than the wind in their ears and the snow under their feet, there was absolutely nothing. In the dark, they were isolated, each man looking back and forth every few steps to make sure he wasn’t isolated and alone.
The formation moved north east towards the enemy position. From what little Cody had been able to surmise from the drone’s imagery, the enemy had docked their boat alongside the 5-foot thick ice floe and looked to be offloading personnel and equipment. In a quick planning session, Deckard and the others gave it a high probability that the enemy would be flying out the nuclear weapon on a aircraft with ski wheels for landing on the ice. They would do it tonight, under the cover of darkness. Deckard had to make sure that didn’t happen.
A clenched fist was held up by Jacob, who was leading the movement, which was than passed down the line by the other mercenaries. They were taking a tactical pause, something developing up ahead. Jacob cut a hard right and led them around a lead that they had almost walked right into in the darkness. The movement wasn’t especially strenuous since they were on an almost nearly horizontal plane with little snow, but nerve-wracking none the less.
Half way through the movement, someone broke squelch over the radio net.
“Six, there is a new thermal signature.” It was Cody. “Looks like an engine block.”
“Can you tell what it is?”
“I can’t see shit. I’m barely keeping this thing in the air with all the wind!”
One day they were going to have to water board Cody until he learned proper radio procedures.
The mercenaries continued through the night, crossing over several pressure ridges, one of them almost six feet tall. As they got closer to where the enemy had docked, Deckard gritted his teeth. If they had more radar mounted machine guns operational, they would quickly come under fire. His only hope was that the wind and snow interfered with those systems if they had them.
Then a high pitched whine sounded in the distance. It sounded like a massive lawnmower closing in on them as the buzzing sound got louder.
“Get down!” Jacob barked over the radio as he threw himself down on his belly. The mercenaries dove to the ground as a hovercraft emerged out of the darkness and sped right passed the formation, seemingly unaware of their presence, as it bounced by on its rubber skirt. Deckard reached into his jacket and pulled out a small Insight SU-232 thermal sight which he wore around his neck by a lanyard to keep it warm against his chest.
Pressing the rubber protector around the lens against his eye, the thermal sight activated. The black and white image showed the white-hot displayed engine block in the rear of the vehicle. It looked to be a fairly small hovercraft, maybe a two seater with a storage compartment in the back.
“That’s it,” Deckard said to himself. “They are transporting the nuke to a suitable place for an aircraft to land.”
“Exactly what I was thinking,” Kurt Jager said as he crawled up alongside Deckard.
“Otter,” Deckard said as he keyed his radio. “Make sure the snowmobile teams are ready. The enemy had the device loaded in a hovercraft. We might need an intercept.”
“You got it boss.”
The Samruk mercenaries waited for another few minutes to make sure the coast was clear and that another hovercraft hadn’t been off loaded from the enemy vessel, or that others were not following behind on foot. Finally, Jacob gave the all clear as they moved out in the direct of the hovercraft. Under the moonlit sky, they had visibility of about fifty meters, but the hovercraft had quickly outpaced them. Cody provided updates to help guide them in once it appeared the hovercraft had stopped in a large open patch of ice.
It took another twenty minutes of walking before they made it to where the hovercraft sat idle. The men shook out into an assault line and crawled forward. Unfortunately, they were not lucky enough to have a pressure ridge to use as cover. They were sitting ducks out in the open. At least for now, they would have fire superiority. Just to be sure, they detailed one squad to turn around and pull security to make sure they didn’t get any unpleasant surprises.
The hovercraft sat in the open, waiting.
Sergeant Major Korgan was policing the line as he crawled from position to position, making sure that everyone knew to hold fire until the airplane had landed and was within range of effective fire. Taking out the hovercraft and capturing the device that was almost certainly on board would be a coup, but taking down the enemy aircraft would ensure that none of the enemy could be evacuated along with it, essentially stranding them in the arctic.
From there, Deckard would be happy to let the U.S. Navy sail around and blow their ship out of the water at America’s leisure while he and his men took a vacation to Fiji.
The men worked their fingers inside their gloves, trying to keep them warm. They had on enough cold weather gear for the time being, but they would freeze if they were exposed to the elements for too long. The irony was that they ran the risk of overheating under their parkas during the movement, but then froze half to death if they were stationary for too long.
The cold was starting to make Deckard sleepy, a dangerous situation that could quickly lead to hyperthermia if he actually passed out on the ice. He was grateful when the door on the hovercraft flew open and one of the passengers jumped out onto the ice. Deckard looked at him through the thermal sight, noticing an Israeli bullpup rifle slung over his back. He didn’t believe for a moment that they were up against Israelis but they had sold those guns all over the world, making them a much more deniable weapon for black operations.
He realized that this was the first time that they had actually gotten eyes on the enemy. Thus far all they had done was fight robotic proxy forces. Deckard scrutinized the image in his thermal sight as their mysterious foe walked around the hovercraft, wondering who he was and what he was thinking. Was he about to deploy some flares to guide in the aircraft?
The mercenaries nearly jumped out of their skin as they heard a massive fissure crack in the ice. A new lead opening under their position could kill them in seconds. The ice continued cracking, the sound reverberating across the empty ice. Then, a few hundred meters from the hovercraft, Deckard saw something rising up out of the ice. Huge blocks of ice slipped and fell off the black form emerging out of the ocean beneath their feet. A black tower pushed right through the ice floe and rose into the air.
With the tower growing taller and taller, the ice in front of it and behind it was propelled upwards a well as it cracked down the middle around the shape underneath it. The ice undulated and flexed outwards like a wave as the tower sank back down into the water for a few seconds. Then it was propelled back upwards, smashing against the ice again and forming a hill on either side of the tower before coming to a stop.
“Fuck me,” Deckard said, exhaling a white cloud as his breath froze in the air.
They were evacuating the nuclear weapon by submarine.
Sheets of ice were pushed off the top of the submarine mast and Deckard could make out several forms moving around up top through his thermal sight. He was trying to zoom in and get a better look when the batteries froze and the screen blinked out.
Meanwhile, the hovercraft pilot jumped back inside the craft and powered it up. Skidding across the ice, the craft powered its way closer to the submarine, coming to a stop alongside where it was bulging out of the ice floe.
Deckard reached down and keyed his radio again.
“On my mark, give me a mad minute. Unload everything you’ve got of them. Only put 7.62 on the hovercraft or we risk covering ourselves in radioactive material.”
Fedorchenko and Shatayeva radioed back to confirm the order.
The driver was back outside of the hovercraft and opening the bay doors in the rear. It was going down now. If they got away, the next thing any of them knew that nuclear bomb would be creating a mushroom cloud over New York City or Washington DC.
Resting his elbows in the snow, he tucked the stock of his Kalashnikov into the pocket of his shoulder. Looking down the iron sights, he took aim at the rear of the hovercraft. The creeping feeling of impending doom was once again sneaking up on him. Deckard had seen enough combat to know that he had to act now, not let himself be paralyzed by fear of what could be.
Deckard milked the trigger until the stock recoiled back into his shoulder.
Then the whole world exploded, turning into a game of Star Wars as red and green tracer fire created a storm down range from the mercenaries. Bullets sparked against the hovercraft and the submarine. Their remaining Carl Gustav and a half dozen RPG rocket launchers shook the ice as they blasted the submarine. A few shots went wide, but more than a couple scored direct hits, creating brilliant yellow flashes that briefly illuminated the ice floe around them.
Muzzle flashes continued to light up the darkness, looking like dozens of strobe lights at a night club as they peppered the enemy with automatic fire. Deckard’s radio started blowing up with flurry of traffic that he wasn’t able to keep up with over all of the shooting, garbled transmissions as squad leaders attempted to give orders over the cacophony of machine gun fire.
“Cease fire! Cease fire!” he yelled.
After a few more sputters of gunfire, the Samruk mercenaries managed to ratchet it down. They lay in the prone, watching for signs of life. The submarine mast was now a smoking tower. Getting his thermals back up for a few seconds after having it under his parka, Deckard could make out several gaping holes in the submarine where Anti-Tank rounds blasted it.
“Six,” Cody said over the radio. You’ve got a lot of movement back at their ship. It looks like they are prepping a couple more vehicles.”
“Launch the snowmobiles to intercept.”
They watched and listened for signs of life in the kill zone but nothing moved.
The mercenaries loaded fresh magazines into their rifles and new belts into their machine guns before getting to their feet. They re-arranged themselves into a tighter assault line and began stalking forward across the ice floe. A loud groan could be heard over the sound of the wind in their ears, the submarine scraping against the ice as it slowly began sinking.
“Six, this is Frogman,” Rocheniore said over the radio. “We are en route to intercept the enemy snowmobile team.”
“Roger, Deckard confirmed. We’re counting on you to cover our six.”
Scanning for targets, none of the Kazakh, American, and European mercs saw anything moving. They were a couple hundred meters away from the hovercraft and the submarine, which was still sinking, when they noticed the ice beneath their feet vibrating.
“Another lead opening in the ice?” Fedorchenko said from Deckard’s side.
The ice was now visibly vibrating, bouncing around the snow on the surface. Several of the mercenaries slipped and had to be helped back up to their feet. They stumbled along, heading towards the hovercraft.
Then the ice snapped open, flashing like bolt of lighting right in front of their eyes. The chasm opened, the ice tilting, and sending the mercenaries falling to their knees or flat on their face. The crack continued to grow, racing up between the submarine, the hovercraft, and the Samruk troopers.
Deckard’s mouth hung open as the ice tilted backwards, sending them slipping away from the direction of the submarine. They skidded across the floe, and without any ice axes to help them gain purchase, they were at nature’s mercy. They each slid about half the length of a football field and then finally, Deckard’s stomach turned upside down. The sheet of ice was now pitching forward. An object in motion, stayed in motion. They were about to slip right off the side and into the crack, into the dark waters below.
“Brace yourself with something!” he yelled.
Down on his knees, Deckard slid towards the ice valley in front of them. As the floe tilted down, he could see the churning arctic water. No one would be able to pull him out this time. Letting his AK-103 hang by its sling, Deckard slapped at his chest rig, his hand closing around the handle of his knife. Yanking from the klydex sheath, he twisted to face the ice, and slammed the black fixed blade knife into the ice.
The knife successfully stopped his collision course with death. One of the Kazakhs was not so fortunate. As he careened across the ice, Deckard reached out and grabbed him by the sleeve, holding on to his hard point in the ice with one hand. It felt like he shoulder was about to pull out of its socket, but he had held on to his team mate.
Deckard and the young Kazakh watched in horror as several of their friends were too close to the chasm and unable to find something to break their trajectory forward. Two Samruk mercenaries slipped right off the side, their howls disappearing into the night. Another formed claws with his hands as he tried to dig into the ice, but to no avail as he was unable to scramble away from the edge. He too disappeared into the water.
The sheet of ice they were on was leveling out, but there was now a huge lead in the ice between them and the enemy. Echoes could be heard all around them as the ice floe cracked again and again. The entire island sized sheet of ice was breaking up.
“What the fuck is this shit,” Deckard grunted.
It was no coincidence that the ice floe started breaking up just as they got the drop on the enemy. Reaching down, Deckard pulled his knife out of the ice and slid it back into its sheath. It was a Company Knife, made for commandos, mercs, and black helicopter types by Newt Livesay. Reaching down, he helped the Kazakh trooper to his feet.
“Six, we’re not going to be able to intercept. The ice is cracking up all around us. What the hell is going on?” Rocheniore radioed him.
“Good question. Get back to the Carrickfergus.”
Just then, two black snowmobiles powered over a pressure ridge in the distance. From across the chasm, Deckard watched them tear through the snow and pull up alongside the destroyed hovercraft. They got off snowmobiles and began unloading something out of the back. Deckard pressed the thermal sight up against his eye.
Four men in black balaclavas unloaded a large plastic case that looked to be about the size of a refrigerator. They held onto the carry handles at the side of the case and set it down on a sled attached to the back of one of the snowmobiles. Meanwhile, the submarine had completely slipped back beneath the ice, its status unknown, but it couldn’t be good.
“On my tracer fire,” Deckard ordered.
Leveling his AK-103, he sent a stream of red tracer rounds at the snowmobiles on the other side of the ice floe. The Samruk mercenaries joined in, cutting loose on the enemy one more time. The balaclava clad men were already on their snowmobiles, vanishing into the dark.
Deckard’s jaw tensed as he lowered the smoking barrel of his Kalashnikov.
Everything about this was wrong.