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.