The unholy screech of the Osa’s missile racing skyward to rip Drakon down was all Akula could focus on. Only on unconscious instinct did he roll out of the line of fire and back to cover. Both NLD fighters had shot into the asphalt by his head, missing his helmet by sheer luck of recoil. But their overconfidence in his prone position was soon outdone. One man was rocked back to the ground by a center mass shot from Grizli’s flesh-shredder. Undeterred, the second jihadist took his last shot, hitting the Bear in the armored vest and staggering the larger man back.
In that split-second Akula returned the favor. His three-round burst blasted the shooter’s collarbone and neck meat free, crumbling the Bear’s attacker into the dirt. Now able to stand, the team lead pulled the Ukraininan out of the open. Hissing in bruised rage, Grizli gave a nod that he was all right.
Nosorog and Volk formed up on the pair quickly, weapons out to secure the area. Even with the surge of adrenaline and bloodlust, he could see resignation in their faces now. Without the An-74, they had no way out of Al Jufra. Whatever advantages they had in training and tactics could be overwhelmed by sheer numbers and any number of unaccountable factors.
“Would be nice if we could just sink one of those blyad cruise missiles into that truck and be done with it!” Nosorog shouted, pointing his weapon at the Osa. The mobile launcher was surrounded by cheering extremists now, emboldened by their kill to push forward against the foreign team.
Ripping the handset from his belt, Akula tuned first to the weapons control crew on the missile destroyer that had opened the operation. Secrecy does a dead man no good! “Shutnik, this is Akula! Passcode: Gusarskiy! Standby for emergency targeting!”
It took a second for the officer-of-the-watch to verify the Shark’s transmission, both of authenticity and intent. After that eternal second, filled with tracer fire still screaming into the sky and enraged Arabic howling, the Moskva hailed back.
“Stand by, Akula…confirmed, all authorized chambers depleted.” Came the cool answer, which perplexed the team lead into a rage. Looking out of cover, the Shark counted only seven raging blazes in his field of view.
“SEVEN FUCKING MISSILES?! You carry twice that many! Where the fuck is the rest of the plan?!” Akula screamed into the radio.
“All other chambers directed by Khmeimim for Syrian operations.” responded the warship, hesitant, almost apologetic, in its response.
Blindly and unthinking, Akula raised the handset to smash it into the concrete at his boots. But just before the throw, the welcome sound of rotor blades cutting into the night’s cacophony melted away a bit of his fury. “Tell Kontrol to choke on their chush!”the Shark screamed back at the Moskva. Then with a furious re-keying of the radio’s tuning and cypher, Akula called out again. “Drakon! Status!”
“Still flying, Shark…shrapnel hit on port control surfaces, she’s fighting me bad!” Her voice betrayed just how hard the helicopter ace was having to wrangle her own machine.
“Stay airborne, we’ll get you a shot at that mongrel der’mo!” Akula acknowledged. It was then he noticed that one of the slain militants had dropped an old Vampir rocket-propelled grenade launcher. With his foot, he kicked up the shoulder strap and flung the tube to Nosorog, who caught it expertly.
If anyone would know if it’s workable… Akula thought, giving the Checehn the respect of history over his own fury. Not waiting for orders, the Rhino gave the weapon a once-over and nodded. It looked intact and armed. But would it fire?
Peeking out of their defended position, the Shark could see the turreted missile launcher rotating its fangs around to track Drakon for another shot. But that mere moment was all it took for three more rounds to dig into the cement by his head from skillful shooters now coming their direction. Now reduced in number, but feeling their own rush of success, the extremists moved more cautiously, more calculated. At least one of them was always firing at them to keep the predators pinned. But there wasn’t a clear shot on the Osa from their current spot, so Akula knew the team had to move.
“Kleshnya!” He called out, and the four men moved seamlessly as pairs out of cover. The two behemoths of Nosorog and Grizli swept forward like a human wall of rage. Heavy rifle rounds ripped into any wall or ledge in their path. At least one scream was choked out by the gargle of blood, where another howled in agony from the separation of shoulder from spine.
Akula pressed forward from the other side, using his larger size to give Volk whatever cover he could. The Wolf took his shot precisely and patiently, in contrast to the Bear’s tidal wave of lead. Few of the extremist fighters wore body armor and even fewer sported helmets. Quickly, several empty bomber ramps and abandoned vehicles were coated in crimson and gray matter.
The move separated the pairs farther and farther as they moved, stopping only to breathe, reload, and count how many heads still moved in their path. Several meters away, Akula could see Nosorog brace his back to a tall barricade and raise his fist. The quartet held their ground and took defensive positions. Akula knew the Rhino only stopped the charge because he had an angle to shoot the Vampir, so now he needed a precious few seconds to launch it.
A few hundred yards ahead of them, the Osa lurched forward on its six wheels, launcher rotating for a better shot at something in the darkness. Perhaps it was an evasive maneuver, or maybe it was for a better shot at their air support, Akula couldn’t see. But the move took the launcher vehicle out of the Shark’s line of sight.
“Forward!” the team lead ordered, and the quartet flowed forward from their paired cover like a unified wave, rounding the last in the line of Tu-22 parking enclaves so they could re-group as a unified quartet once more. Again, enemy rounds tore sections out of high walls and whizzed by their helmets. Now exposed, Akula then took the team left, towards an old maintenance hovel. Even in fast motion, Volk’s return shots were paced and measured to pick off any insurgent who dared turn to face them. Grizli covered either side in their sprint so Nosorog could gauge when he had the best shot.
For just a moment, Akula swore his radio crackled in his ear for a moment. But that distraction was quickly put aside when the Chechen shouted “Hold!” On instinct, everyone dropped to a knee to cover the Rhino in all directions as the behemoth popped open the Vampir’s rocket tube. The team lead followed the Rhino’s gaze through a blown-out section of a crumbled building where the Osa had stopped. Its missile tubes were already lowering for another shot at something, which Akula dreaded was the wounded Drakon. In that split second, the team lead also noticed that the Osa’s main radar lattice wasn’t spinning as he’d seen on proper Russian vehicles. Must be tracking Drakon by visuals alone, no wonder it has to move so much! “Drakon, kiss the sands, we have the shot!” he shouted into his handset.
Sure enough, the Osa’s missile racks continued to rotate down toward the horizon. Recalling his own exercise with proper Russian Osa units, Akula knew that the six-wheeled beast couldn’t move if it was lining up a visual shot. Shoot, Chechen…shoot!
“Strel’ba!” Rhino shouted, and clicked the Vampir’s pistol-like trigger. None of the team waited for the explosives expert to finish his thought before covering their ears and averting their eyes from the rocket’s ignition. Even the massive Chechen’s body rocked backwards from the sheer force of the 105mm explosive round screeching out of its tube.
For a few tenths of a second, Akula’s heart stopped beating as the rocket raced towards the Osa. Nosorog’s shot had been at the center-mass of the chassis. Yet all it would take was one bent stabilizing fin to send the rocket into the sand or uselessly into the night sky. No doubt you’ve taken this shot before, Nosorog…are your eyes as keen now when the target doesn’t sport the Red Star?
The flash of detonation proved the team lead’s doubts to be unnecessary, as the Rhino’s rocket hit the Osa between its front wheels and the passenger’s window. The armor-piercing 105mm explosive, with no armor to defeat, ripped the front third of the missile launcher’s chassis away from the rest. For the briefest of moments Akula thought he heard a human squeal of fiery pain emerge from the carnage, but then there was only the roar of fire eating steel and fluids alike.
“Fuck yes! Yesh’ der’mo, dvornyaga!” Grizli was the first to holler, before Akula slapped Nosorog on the shoulder. Snorting his acceptance of the praise, the Chechen tossed the expended launch tube aside. Together, the quartet moved to a now-emptied quarters building that the Su-25s had hit on their initial sweep. With no sounds of movement or ambush awaiting them, Akula radioed again, “Airspace threat eliminated. Drakon, you’re clear to RTB or land. Vorobey: chute count!”
The Su-25 pilot was first to respond. “Confirmed four additional chutes on western edge of runway, will support Drakon’s evac from airspace.”
“Don’t expect vodka and panties when we get back, mudak!” Drakon cursed back, voice still strained to limits Akula had never heard before. Did she take part of that missile shot herself?
“Akula, this is Pauk: shut up and stand by for sit-rep!” intruded an additional channel, much to the surprise of the men gathered around Akula.
The third voice on the channel almost made the Shark smile. “Copy that, Spider. Report in!”
“Landing was shit, but we’re accounted for. Primary bunker in sight, awaiting order to move on it. Count twenty fighters, two tractor-trailers and two possible ‘55 tanks inside. Der’mo, confirm T-55, it’s moving out to engage!”
The mood to smile was crushed under the grimace of fact. Even attacking from two separate angles, Akula couldn’t guarantee what was left of his men would be enough to secure the target location and hold it until whenever Rashadi’s promised reinforcements arrived.
So instead, we don’t try and hold it… “Vorobey: weapons check!”
“Down to 250s now, Shark. Will prosecute enemy armor before we RTB.” Sparrow replied. It wasn’t so much what the team lead had been asking, but Pauk needed the cover. And if two attack jests were going to bring down a 3-meter thick bunker, they needed more than old fre-fall bombs.
“Confirmed, fall back to Haven after sweep and re-arm. Spider, move on target when clear and don;t let anything move!”
The thunder of a distant explosion rumbled both in the Shark’s ears as well as digitally over the handset. He could hear one of Pauk’s men give a grateful ‘whoop’ of excitement as their air cover pounded the incoming tank into flaming bits of archaic metal. “Da, now get your ass over here before those trucks try to run!” Pauk jeered before the channel closed.
“Two hours without air support…blyad…” Grizli growled, squeezing off a short burst towards a distant fleeing militant.
Akula wanted to snap at the Bear to silence the criticism, but he knew the Ukranian was right. From memory, the target bunker was about 3km away from where they stood now, and that was assuming the predatory pack just sprinted across open sand and didn’t get massacred.
“Then I suggest we take something faster than legs.“ Volk chimed in, gesturing to the northwest at the rolling thunder of armored wheels on asphalt. At its top speed, an approaching patchwork-made armored personnel carrier that was once a Soviet-era BRDM-2 came bouncing across the sands. They grow bold without the threat from above…
Gesturing to the building now at their side, Akula had his team take cover before any of the incoming extremists had a clear shot at them. Yet much to his surprise, the clanking beast did not slow or stop as it approached. Instead, the carrier followed the long taxiway until it connected to Al Jufra’s main runway. Then kept going straight south at what Akula could only assume was a panicked retreat.
“They’re running!” Nosorog also concluded. Akula nodded curtly, though the Shark was grumbling internally. If they get to Hun or further away, who knows what they’ll bring back! Even if this was a sign of a break in the fighting, they still had to get to Pauk’s team across open desert.
“Well fuck that, I guess…” Grizli grumbled, rising a few inches to peek around their precious protection.
“Then tighten your bootstraps, cossack, and cover our asses!” Nosorog decreed, standing without thinking.
A strong hand quickly grabbed the back of the Chechen’s armor vest and pulled him back down. Snorting in anger, the Rhino came face to face with the Shark. Blinded by adrenaline, Nosorog shoved Akula back and began to raise his AK-74. Chunks of cement and metal framework were suddenly sheared away by a well-aimed .50cal round that would have claimed Nosorg’s skull as well, which Akula made clear with only a gesture. The Chechen’s face grew blood-red, but his rifle lowered to a guard position, and the Rhino went back to a kneel.
Sending a dozen rounds towards their attacker in response, Grizli simply laughed at the moment. “And here I thought you were a smart rebel! Pay attention to pre-mission brief next time, you’d see these filth liking their sniper practice on those buildings!”
Mirthlessly, Akula tapped Volk to move forward. Peering around, the Wolf needed only a moment to see the sniper’s silhouette against the flames still clawing skyward.”Good perch, he’d pick us off from there.”
Akula peered around the side of their wall once again, trying to gauge distance. Again, he feverishly wished Drakon were operational. Then a small spark of hope flashed in his mind. “Rhino, did you pack a Pop-Feniks?”
The realization bloomed across the Chechen’s enraged grimace, pulling the blood back from his cheeks. With a nod, their mastero of explosives pulled a small drone from the top of his pack, popping the seal on the control handset. The small UAV Rhino had packed was much smaller than the one they’d taken previously, simply a tiny helicopter with a camera mounted in its nose. Without instructions, the Chechen tossed the device to Volk, who dug the tip of his fang in and popped the optical device out before tossing the drone back. In that time, Nosorog had taken a small blot of FOX-9 and shoved a primitive impact detonator into it. Delicately, the Rhino squeezed the explosive into the open hole and wired it, then held his improvised weapon up with pride.
With a nod, Akula green-lit the impromptu plan. Nosorog tossed Volk a small controller and pointed to the sniper’s position. With the best eyes and steadiest hands of the pack, the Wolf pointed the small infrared sensor at their opponent. Once the handset calculated where the bomb would fly itself to, a small light on the back of the drone flickered on and its small propeller whizzed to life. In an instant, the tiny bomb was gone. Ascending maybe a hundred meters in the air, Akula quickly lost sight of it. Only when a small ‘pop’ of flame erupted from the top of the hanger, flinging a melting rifle still gripped by flaming limbs, did the Shark motion for the team to move.
“Is that what you make in your free time?” Grizli queried as they sprinted forward to their next spot of cover.
“I call it Tigr, useful for clearing high watchers or spying on rooftop vents.” the Chechen responded with pride in his own creation.
The Ukrainian laughed. “Or watch beautiful kiska sunbathe on high towers! This, I approve of!”
Nosorog didn’t dignify the Bear with an answer as they finished their first kilometer of running and shooting. Stopping at the wrecked motorpool area, Akula took out his radio again. Pauk, status!”
“Made it to bunker, but we lost Skorpion. Lots of Koreans in here! Got them pinned by vault entrance. You coming or what?!” Rattled off the Spider in rapid chatter.
“Dealing with stragglers now, hold tight!” the Shark answered. With a gesture, he ordered a munitions check from his quartet. Akula could feel that his rifle was lighter, and he remedied that with a fresh magazine from his pack. Grizli took the longest to reload, his PKP’s ammo box weighing as much as some teenagers.
Once all weapons were readied, Akula made one last check of the dead sands in front of them. There was still wild howling in the fiery night, and the clacking of gunfire echoing as distant thunder he knew they had to race towards.
“Vpered!” The Shark ordered, and the quarter began the dire sprint ahead into the open. Nosorog and Volk alternated their sweeps left and right while Grizli covered the rear every dozen steps. The only landmark between the motorpool and the target hanger was a small bungalow with the airfield’s IFF beacon, which had been ravaged by age and dilapidation. Akula stopped the team only briefly to breathe and scan the area.
It was then he noticed the stench, akin to that unholy aura of pain that ebbed from Solomon’s lair, but far worse. Signaling to Grizli to check, Akula watched the Ukrainian move to an intact door. Only for the Bear to immediately turn away with a pale face, which confirmed the Shark’s fear. So this is where they keep their prisoners…
Taking a knee, the team lead took out a folded map of the airbase from his thigh pocket. Quickly noting the coordinates and the landmark of the broken dome, Akula checked his watch. Vorobey should be landing now, if not starting to re-fuel…ninety minutes to go. Whatever was in that pit would have to wait until their mission was done. And if you’re down there, Sova, I pray whatever’s left of you is already dead…
Part 14 of the ongoing Libya Campaign for Akula and company, and one that never seems to work out in their favor. But private little wars don’t care about the human cost so long as the operational goal is reached in the end. Will Shark save Owl from the horrors the befell them? Or is Wildlife down yet another member?
I hope you all enjoy.