They drove east-southeast into the rising sun, the highway long since vacated by traffic thanks to warfare and poverty. Any poor herder they passed averted their eyes and technical rickshaws driving past ignored them, despite the 100km/hr speed Akula kept their dilapidated ride at. All the while, their cargo had not ceased screaming more Korean at them, which the team ignored. In a bold move, the man did try to maneuver his arm out between the seats around an hour into the drive, to be met by Grizli’s elbow pinning it down to the rear seat none too softly.
“Come Comrade, he only wants a feel,” Akula chided.
The Ukrainina laughed a booming chuckle “Then he can beg to see my cock just like his wife will!”
At ten kilometers out, Akula pulled off the main road. After Grizli pulled the half-naked Koren screaming out of the trunk, each man came around to reclaim their Kontrol-provided phones from the glovebox, all of which had been turned off. After which, the last man out pulled out the Beidou navigation tablet from its stand on the dashboard. Volk handed it to Nosorog so the massive Serb could snap it in half in his grip.
Meanwhile, Akula pulled a piece of timber and a strand of rope from the floorboard. Once his team confirmed all gear accounted for, he tied the steering wheel to the seat and set the wood to the accelerator so that the pedal was smashed down. Swiftly, he set the car back in gear and watched it launch itself into the flat emptiness of the desert rocks and sand, where it would either run out of gas or plow into a natural barrier. One more piece of trash in a shitpile country, the team lead groused as the wreck sped away.
There were two good reasons for stopping here, and Akula made sure his team understood them well, in case some fortunate streetrat took him down. The first was operational, as their orders were to conceal as much of their movement as possible. It was the same reason no man carried a phone, radio or transmitter of any sort on their person when engaged in a mission. “Damn Americans watch everything, even as they choke on their own gluttony…” Pasha had once told him, to which Akula had only shrugged. It wasn’t his place to think about such things, only to lead his men.
The second was their own safety, as every team assigned to base defense was to shoot any approaching vehicle that came from the road. Akula’s team had been on this rotation three nights previous and some dumbfuck of a merchant came across their location trying to sneak away from his wife. Volk’s shots had been accurate and silent, and what was left of man and machine was now being crushed in the Mediterranean’s tides.
Once the car had taken off in its kamikaze, the men began their run back to ‘Haven’, which was little more than concrete boxes and cheap aluminum domes built around a long-abandoned runway. The airfield itself had once been a spot for tourists to go spend their hard-earned dinars to hop into a helicopter and take a majestic flight around the Libyan coastline, no doubt drinking in the awe of the Mediterranian.
Naturally, because it was a strip of asphalt long enough to serve as an airfield, the Americans and their Western allies had spent a billion dollars bombing it out of existence in 2011. In the ensuing vacuum of power, no one but the desert vermin had given a shit about it, or on it, because no one wanted to devote anything to rebuilding the nation, especially not the Arab League that had begged for the bombing campaign. Since the end of the West’s campaign, their little plot of land had been fought over a dozen times until one side of the Libyan struggle called for a Security Solution.
The 10km run itself would be an arduous one for most, with the shifting sand and the warming morning, not to mention the risk of some venomous vermin trying to take a swipe at them. But Akula’s men had done little else but train in their doldrums before the mission, and no man grunted complaint or displayed weakness, lest their call-sign be changed to ‘Kiska’. Even Grizli, hauling an incensed and indecent senior Korean that still shouted at them betrayed no signs of strain as he carried the extra burden like a lumberjack would haul a freshly-cut tree.
At less than a kilometer into the run, Akula’s fist snapped up from his side, and his team froze in place. Rifles immediately went up and scanned their four horizons for the sound, a rumble among the wind. At first, it was just the echo of a distant roar, but it was moving, and with haste. After a moment, Volk was the first to pick up on the deep ‘thum-thum-thum’ of rotor blades cutting into the still morning. “Chopper!”
Each man dove belly to ground, weapons toward the approaching intruder. The Korean was smart enough to take note of the opportunity and try to stand for a sprint away from them, but Grizli’s amusement was professionally buried under training. As soon as their passenger stood to sprint away, the Ukranian grabbed the man near the achilles tendon and twisted, popping the ankle joint out of the socket and dropping the senior man screaming into the sand.
Akula cursed both the shouting and their prone position in the middle of a flat stretch, but it was the sole defense they had against an overhead attacker in this terrain. As long as they were still, even the bulky vests and rifles could blend into the sand and be missed by a human eye not careful enough to be looking for them.
That anger quickly turned towards confusion as the droning rotors grew closer still. If they’re looking for us, we’d be dead a dozen times already…Akula thought. Quickly, the team leader pulled his goggles from his side and to his eyes, which gave him the familiar greeting of an ancient serpent splashed on the tail of a Mi-28/HAVOC ground attack helicopter. Seeing that Drakon was their pursuer pleased Akula, though her flying towards them at maybe five meters off the sand stilled his heart. What’s that crazy bitch doing?
Drakon gave no signs that she’d seen them, or cared that they were there as she passed right over them at over 250 kph, spraying them all with cutting sand and noise loud enough to even silence their unfortunate cargo. Such haste concerned Akula, and his team quickly scrambled to their feet to continue the run home. Not a minute later, Akula could make out the concealed fire-bunkers where one of their comrades would be watching them through a rifle’s scope. As procedure demanded, Akula brought his team to a fast walk and pulled a reflective tag from under his armored vest, turning it to catch the light as to reflect a blue shimmer to the guardpost. Had something gone wrong, and Akula was being coerced in any way to sabotage his teammates, he would have shown the other side and given an orange reflection. Upon which, the sniper would immediately kill him and all those next to him.
Their entry into the base was muted by the deafening whine of the helicopter’s engine powering down, though he needed no words to instruct him. Every team member entered one at a time, surrendering their rifles and any remaining explosives, keeping only their sidearms and Volk’s knife. No one dared try to take that again after one poor new recruit lost his thumb all the way to the wrist.
Upon seeing Grizli carrying the Korean, however, their inspector froze and shouted over his shoulder “Silverback! We’ve got a problem…”
Unlike his powerful name, Silverback was as portly as he was tall, a privilege earned by service dating back to Afghanistan and Bosnia of which he still reminisced. Much to the nuisance and boredom of all who heard his blathering. “What the fuck is this, Akula?”
The team leader gestured to a metal chair, which Grizli happily dropped his passenger on. With a snap of Silverback’s fingers, the checkpoint inspector ran over and handcuffed the unwanted guest to the seat, while the half-naked Korean still wheezed insults at them. “We found him at the target location” the team lead began, “He was…engaging in foreign relations.”
A point Grizli expanded upon with a laughing pelvic thrust, though neither the senior man nor the elder hostage found it amusing. Turning a scolding finger back to Akula, Silverback countered “Why not just kill him?”
“Not part of the mission,” Akula replied simply, deciding at the moment to also hold his tongue on the laptop they had recovered which was in the bag on his back. Pasha deserves first crack at such a present.
Silverback glared at his subordinate, then gave a defeated sigh. “Well, did you at least get anything useful from him?”
“Just his Dear Leader pins from his rather fine shirt!” Grizli bellowed in laughter, though this time even Nosorog cracked a microscopic modicum of a grin.
Silverback nodded, and Akula could see that they were both thinking along the same lines. You wouldn’t be finding just any Korean making deals with extremists and filth. He wanted the uranium.
“Should I have my men begin the interrogation?” Akula asked, wondering just who on his squad would even be the most capable of doing so.
“No, give him to Solomon, he’ll figure this mess out.” Silverback ordered, and Akula suppressed a ‘hiss’. Knowing that Solomon was here made the team lead uneasy, as the ex-Spetsnaz Siberian was nowhere near as subtle in his tactics as Akula was. But it also spoke to the fee that their hiring agent was coughing up fto compensate Wildfire.
For just a moment, Akula let a feeling close to pity enter his mind as one of the other guards pulled the Korean out of the chair and through the checkpoint, but he crushed that sensation under facts. You should have prayed the Americans found you with a drone bomb instead…
Silverback gave a ‘huff’ of disappointment before asking Akula “Any more surprises?” The rotund man glared at Grizli “No other hostages you decided to rescue?”
“Nyet” was all Akula replied with, which seemed to appease his superior.
“Then file your report with Kontrol.” Silverback waved dismissively.
“No new mission?” Nosorog asked, annoyed.
“Not yet, but expect one when Solomon finishes his work.” Silverback replied, turning away from the group and starting his return waddle to their command shack. With that, Akula turned back to his men, frustration clear on his brow. “Eat and get rest, it’s all we can do for now. We drill before first light tomorrow.”
Looking up from his personal blade, normal sheen still matted with the previous nights’ blood, Volk nodded and sheathed the weapon, turning towards the mess tent. Akula had little doubt that the quietest of his team would have succeeded in his interrogation, so to be shut down so quickly would cloud the wolf’s mind until he had something else to focus on.
Grizli stretched, slapping the sting from his leg and shaking his head. “My favorite time of day; more stitches.” Yet he said it with a smile, and Akula knew why. For the deployed medic was a pretty little ballerina from Pskov that had caught the Bear’s eye. And with such thin walls and open air, the whole encampment now knew how loud she could moan.
Akula just shook his head as the Ukranian happily strode off to the nurse’s dome, when he noticed that Nosorog had stayed behind and was glaring. “Silverback was right, you know. Should’ve just shot that Korean.”
The Shark glared back, despite the Chechen’s impressive height advantage. “And this is why you answer to me, zhopa.” Akula extended the full knife-hand towards the cement box where their surprise passenger was taken. “Those backwards juche-fuckers don’t send people anywhere without expecting return on investment. We figure that out, we get more work.”
“Now we waste more time here in this wasteland, waiting for the West to blow us up, too. Sure, that’s worth it, worked great for Elistanzhi.” the Rhino growled back before turning away from Akula and beginning a fast march to the outdoor weight racks, kicking every single chair and table out of his path.
Watching his fuming comrade for as long as he could, Akula didn’t unclench his fist until the Chechen was out of sight. He knew full well that kind of anger, as deep and hot as it was, was going to get them killed at some point. Honestly, if some of those plates fell on that bastard’s neck, I wonder if anyone would hear or care…
Unlike Nosorog, the team lead has spent the Chechen Wars at sea, breaking ice flows in Murmansk and diving through sub-zero waters to harass encroaching Western interlopers. Bin Jawad was the farthest south he’d ever been, and Akula was not a warm-water predator, but in this moment, his muscles ached to conquer waves and push back the tides. “Instead, I get to manage a blood-raging giant with a knack for explosives. Trakhni menya.”
Now angry himself, Akula shook the thought from his mind and headed towards the opposite end of the encampment, where the main satellite communication van was parked. If there was one person who could get his head right after dealing with Norsorog, it was Pasha.
Part two of what may force itself to be this year’s go at NaNoWriMo, much to my surprise. The more I write them, the more I enjoy them!
I hope you all enjoy