The Carrickfergus reversed its engines, churning up a froth of freezing water as the icebreaker ship inched up to the coast line. The deck was already lowered down to sea level and the ramp dropped down to the beach. Eight Iveco assault trucks rolled off the ship in four wheel drive and sped up the beach, scattering a trio of walruses. The creatures wiggled off like giant fat inchworms and slipped into the ocean.
Two snowmobiles rolled off the ship behind the trucks and took off on their own infiltration route. The sniper section had to get into place prior to the assault force, both to provide eyes on the objective as well as to provide precision fire once the shooting began.
The arctic twlight bathed the surrounding snowy landscape in hues a blue, only interuppted by the crags of rocks poking up through the surface like the scaly back of a lizard. This time of year the arctic circle got about 14 hours of daylight followed by 14 hours of night.
Deckard stood on the back of one of the assault trucks watching the others struggle on the snow and ice, slipping and sliding, before they reached an unimproved road a hundred meters from the shore. The Samruk assault vehicles were built on a Iveco LMV chassis but from there had they been modified to the company’s specifications. Behind the armored compartment where the driver and passenger sat was a gun ring, a rotating turret where a PKM machine gunner was located. In the back of the truck were eight seats facing back to back, four on each side. There were also swing arms that mounted two additional PKM machine guns for the assaulters to use in transit.
Despite winterizing the engines and buying all-terrain tires for the assault trucks, it was evident that they simply were not designed for arctic conditions. They had to make do with what they had. It may have worked like a charm when they were in Burma, but the assaulters would be freezing in the back as they were exposed to the elements. Once they were on the road, it wasn’t long before everyone started tucking their turtle head into their shell, pulling up hoods and drawing them tight.
“We’re enroute,” Deckard said clicking his hand mic and talking over the command net on his radio. “See you at the exfil point.”
“Have fun,” Otter radioed back from the helm.
The Carrickfergus shoved off and began turning around as the assault trucks moved towards their objective. Deckard hunkered down in his seat with the other mercenaries. He wiggled his toes and fingers, trying to keep them warm. The arctic itself was their biggest obstical, not the enemy forces. If they were all frozen half to death by the time they got to the pirate village they would be useless.
The trucks were still slipping on the ice and it was only a few minutes before one slid right off the road and into a snow drift.
Sergeant Major Kogan began barking orders over the assault net and another vehicle pulled up alongside the one that was trapped in the snow. Mercenaries leapt off the back of the two trucks and quickly began unrolling tow cables that were tied to the front and rear bumpers of each truck. They secured one cable from the front of the disabled vehicle to the other and quickly towed it out of the snow. The entire drill had been rehearsed hundreds of times. The training paid off and they were back on the road in a few minutes.
Then it happened again. This time it was Deckard’s truck. The driver lost control and the vehicle began sliding sideways on the ice. All four tires were over a large patch of ice and couldn’t find any traction as they spun out until the smell of burning rubber wafted through the air.
“Stop, stop,” Deckard yelled at the driver.
Jumping off the truck, he immediately slipped and busted his ass, his AK clanking on the ice under him. The other mercenaries were holding on to the side of the truck as they slipped around, trying to free the tow cable. Eventually they got it attached to the next vehicle which towed them off the ice. Then the towing vehicle got stuck and had to be towed out itself.
Chuck Rochenoir shook his head as the truck’s wheels spun on the ice.
“At this rate we might as well just daisy chain every vehicle together with tow cables.”
Deckard keyed his radio.
“Shooter-One, this is Six.” He said radioing Nikita who led their sniper team.
“This is Shooter-One.”
“I think this is going to take a while.”
“We should have eyes on in five mikes.”
Deckard looked at the horizon as the last hints of sunlight disappeared. The wind howled across the road, carrying gusts of snow with it.
* * *
The Samruk International assault element arrived three hours late. The batteries in two of the trucks had actually died due to the freezing conditions and had to be towed the rest of the way. The remaining vehicles switched from running on gasoline to electric, making their final approach nearly silent. Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of the arctic wasn’t the long periods of darkness or the desolate landscape, but how quiet it was. There wasn’t much human presence to be found on the tundra.
On bright side for the sniper element was that with the extra time on their hands, they were able to build a proper sniper hide. At this point they were willing to do anything to keep moving and keep warm. The snowmobiles were stashed a few hundred meters back under white camouflage nets. From there the four snipers split up into two teams to cover different angles of the objective.
Nikita shivered next to his sniper partner as he tried to pull his watch cap down further on his head. Finding a small ridge at the outskirts of the village, Nikita and his Kazakh sniper partner had tunneled through the top layer of snow, hollowing out a small belly hide. Then they had carefully poked two small holes through the layer of snow facing the village, giving them a loophole to shoot through.
Nikita’s radio crackled in the earpiece he wore.
“GPS says we are a few minutes out,” Deckard reported.
“Minimal movement here. One guard on the roof of building three and a few people passing between building three and two.”
During the planning sessions, each building in the village had been designated with a number. Like everyone else on this mission, Nikita wore a clear plastic sleeve on his wrist showing an overhead map of the village with the corresponding numbers over each structure.
“Correction,” Nikita transmitted back to Deckard as he watched through the 10x Night Force scope on his HK417 rifle. “Another guard just came up on the roof.”
The two guards stood on top of the only three story building in the village, which had once been used to house oil workers during the Soviet era. Now it was abandoned to the Russian mafia. They ran a refueling station a half kilometer away at the coast where passing ships would fill up. They also charged exorborant “taxes” which had only become more costly as the oil instrustry began drilling in the arctic. The Russians lit up their cigarettes but said few words to eachother. They were trying to stay warm as well.
Nikita ranged them at three hundred meters away and checked the windage and elevation settings on his scope again. The harsh environmental conditions even impacted the trajectory of a sniper’s bullet. Nikita was lucky to have been able to re-zero his HK 417 out behind their compound once they had arrived in the arctic. In warmer climates, a bullet would travel faster but the freezing cold air in the arctic was denser, meaning that his rounds would travel slower and drop faster.
At three hundred meters it would only throw his shot off about an inch, but the effect would only become more exageratted when he had to fire at targets which were further out.
“We’re in position,” Deckard announched over the radio. “Shooter-One, do you see that dead guy standing up on the roof puffing on a cigarette?”
“Kill him and the other dead guy standing next to him. We’ll initiate on you.”
“Copy,” Nikita said as he settled into position. “Ready?”
“Da,” Aslan, his sniper partner responded.
Nikita lined the crosshairs of his reticle on the guard as he stubbed out his cigarette. Slowly exhaling, the sniper squeezed the trigger. The supressed shot still let out a crack. Aslan was a fraction of a second behind him, their shots almost sounding as one.
Nikita watched through his scope and saw the guard crumple and fall as the his shot impacted his chest. The second guard also disappeared from view.
It was on.
* * *
Nikita’s team dropping the guards on the roof signalled the assault.
Sixty four Samruk mercenaries advanced across the snow, their PenCott camouflage almost unneccsary due to the pitch black night sky. The snow slowed the advance somewhat, but each team member wore assault snow shoes. They were small plastic snow shoes that allowed greater mobility and gave them some much needed extra traction where the snow grew deep. The attack angle had been chosen delibrately so that they were assaulting down a slight decline in the terrain, also speeding up their movement as mercenaries closed on the pirate village.
Hearing the muffled crack of gunshots, several more Russian mobsters emerged from building three. Even through the PVS-14 night vision goggles he wore, Deckard could see that they were wearing thick winter parkas and carrying AK-47 rifles.
The second sniper team made short work of them. The first shot took one of the Russians down immediately. The second shot left the sniper’s target limping, but then he to keeled over and expired on the frozen ground.
Deckard could now see the steam from his breath fogging up the PVS-14 night vision tube. He wiped it off with a finger as they closed within twenty five meters of the nearest structure. Most of them were just old wooden shanties, and not expected to be occupied. It was only building three that had any electricity as seen by the lights in the windows.
As they reached the first wooden building, a five man assault element entered the open door and cleared it. Now they could hear shouts from Russian voices in the distance. The enemy knew that something was going down.
When the first of the Russian pirates stepped out of building three, the base of fire opened up. PKM machine guns roared with a cyclic rate of fire. Belts of 7.62×54 ammunition were ate up by the guns that had been dismounted from the assault trucks and laid down where they could overwatch the objective area. Green tracers streaked through the night like something out of a Star Wars movie, keeping the enemy fixed inside the building while the assaulters cleared their way through the village.
Flashbangs were tossed into the other wooden buildings as the Samruk mercenaries entered and cleared the structures. Deckard jumped in the stack and gave the last man lined up outside the door a squeeze on the shoulder letting him know they were ready. The six men flowed inside the building, their AK muzzles sweeping for targets. Empty.
Back outside, muzzle flashes were coming from inside building three, the automatic fire sending shards of glass glittering to the ground as seen through the green tint of Samruk’s night vision goggles.
A two man team from the Anti-Tank section loaded up a 84mm High Explosive Dual Purpose round into their Carl Gustav recoiless rifle. The blast interuppted the flow of the entire firefight, shaking the ground under Deckard’s feet. The shot rocketed into a window where muzzle flashes had been spotted and detonated inside with enough force to shake the foundations of the building.
The sniper teams were engaging tragets of opportunity, but by now the sounds of their gunshots were drowned out by all of the other shooting in the village.
“Hit building three,” Fedorchenko ordered his men over the radio. “Get in there!”
Deckard reached down and clicked his mic. As commander it was his job to hold his guys back when they got too aggressive. He had to make sure he set the conditions for success before his men blindly charged into something that they didn’t know how to get out of.
“Negative,” he said, stopping their assault. “Wait a second. Have AT prep the target for another minute.”
The Gustav gunner went to work, hosing down the building with five more rounds, the blasts echoeing through the night. Yellow explosions flashed from inside the building when the rounds made it through a window.
“Winchester on rounds boss,” the AT section leader reported. He was a 1st Ranger Battalion veteran named Marty and had trained his Kazakh Goose gunner damn well.
“Hit it,” Deckard ordered.
The assaulters sprinted from building five over to building three and immediately charged through the door. Within seconds over thirty assaulters had made it through the breach. They had been trained to conduct free-flow Close Quarter Battle, a method of room clearing that emphasised speed without fixating on team integrity as they moved from room to room.
“Objectives secured,” Fedorchenko radioed in over the assault net. “Back clearing now.”
“Shooter-One,” Deckard called to Nikita. “Collapse down to our position.”
Deckard walked into building three, finding expended shell casings all over the floor. As he walked from room to room he counted twenty bodies. They had been living in makeshift conditions, sleeping on cots with space heaters and lots of blankets. These guys were just the Russian mob’s foot soldiers. Petty enforcers who pulled Sheriff of Noddingham shit on passing commercial vessels.
The job was done.
There was no need to search through pockets and look for documents that could provide intelligence value. They had been assigned to wipe this target off that map and that is exactly what they did. Russian law enforcement would move in once morning rolled around and take credit for the operation. Yet, he saw that one member of the team couldn’t help himself.
“What do you got there?” Deckard asked Aghassi as he was walking out with a black trash bag loaded down with something.
“Found a few laptops.”
“Because you never know?”
“Because you never know.”
Aghassi was one of the best in the business when it came to tactical and targeting intelligence. He had previously served in JSOC’s ultra-secrative Intelligence Support Activity, conducting operations all over the world that would boggle the minds of most people.
“Have Cody look at it when we get back to the ship and let me know if there is anything interesting on the hard drives,” Deckard said referring to the hacker that Samruk kept employed.
“I will,” Aghassi said before disappearing out into the night.
The assault element than began a controlled withdrawal off the objective and moving back to the assault trucks, leaving nothing behind except dead bodies and expended brass.
Deckard followed closely behind. He cursed as high night vision goggles blinked off. Trying to turn the on switch back and forth, the PVS-14s refused to turn back on. The AA batteries it ran off of had frozen in the cold. He made a note for the after action review, they would have to keep spare sets of batteries inside pockets near their skin to keep them warm, so they would always be ready to swap them out.
As he walked Deckard realized that he hadn’t fired a single shot during the entire mission. Maybe he was finally taking Pat’s advice and becoming a leader instead of just another trigger puller. It felt like things were finally coming together, but in his experience, that was usually when he got the rug pulled out from under his feet.
The Special Operations veteran let out a sigh as the trucks came into view. It was going to be a long ride back to the Carrickfergus.