As expected from Silverback’s dismissive tone when they’d returned, the rest of the day and following night were uneventful. After a hearty meal and a long workout regimen to exhaust every fiber of his body, Akula had drifted off to a dreamless sleep reading over some of the latest global press covering the ongoing disaster that was Libya. As he’d expected, removing all the propaganda, bullshit and otherwise bravado revealed that neither side of the ongoing war was really making any headway on their own. For as hard as either side of fanatics, mercenaries, and other belligerents clawed for every grain of sand, the larger war between the New Libya Dawn and the Libyan Unity Army had ground to a halt. In doing so, the nearby city of Mintaqat Wadi Harawah had been utterly demolished down to blood and rubble. While this likely meant continued employment for the contract, it also meant continued deployment away from the ice, snow, and warmth that was his Pasha.
That one night of hard-earned rest became two, then three, and then four. Each passing night patterned in the same routine of readiness training, study of the current reports coming from Kontrol, and waiting impatiently to hear from Pasha again, even for a moment. Not since his team all arrived in the national garbage heap that was Libya did they remain idle and un-tasked that long. Being the sole source of close-air support, Drakon flew daily, of which she relentlessly teased Akula before each takeoff. Pauk’s team left and returned twice in that time. Even Sova and his miscreants have had assignments before us! Aklua glowered on the third empty night, sure to catch Trup in a death glare so the man would pick up his pace to the mission.
But for the entirety of that time, no one had come up from the pit where Solomon and Navuk kept their Korean subject. Even in the stillest moments of the infinite Mediterranean night, no sounds or movement came from there. Akula had never seen the pair take that long on a prisoner, a fact that made even Nosorog shudder at the thought.
When his alarm went off at 0200 on that fourth night, he felt the ache of latency both in his body and in his soul. So the reprieve of readiness training, ever-monotonous, was a welcome one once he re-laced his boots and donned a clean camouflage getup. Being a team lead, Akula has graced with the small benefit of having a bunk room to himself, which was little more than a wide closet inside a sloppy repaired administrative building. It was just big enough to sleep and read, which reminded the Shark just enough of his time on the destroyer Admiral Levchenko far away in the northern ice.
Even the cool desert night was a pale comparison to home as he stepped out under the dim glow of a doorway light. As expected, the first sounds to greet him in the stillness was the haunting echo of the breeze across the dunes, and the exuberant moaning of a small medic in the clutches of Grizli. Akula simply shook his head at that, knowing that once he started his nightly rifle drill, the Bear would soon arrive. “Professionalism breeds pleasure!” the Ukrainian had once told him.
Somewhat less expected was that Nosorog was already armed and inspecting some of the smaller demolition charges they’d been allocated.
“Expecting trouble?” Akula asked, standing at the opposite end of the work table.
“Always. Hardware could fail, commands could change…” Nosorog glanced up at Akula briefly, before snapping a detonating pin into its mechanism, “Mission could drop without warning.”
“Patience, zhopa. Work comes when it comes, and that’s the work we survive.” the team lead reminded his Chechen subordinate.
“Sukin syn, we could end this all in less than two weeks if you’d just give my plan to Silverback and Kontrol!”
Akula scoffed at that, just as he had the first time the Chechen had laid out this plan. Too many moving parts, too many complications, and not enough bullets from just our contract alone…sure, we might get to Benghazi, maybe even find the center of this new perversion of a caliphate and all the sick bastards trying to lead it. But then what? Get butchered as we try and kill them? Or get beheaded when we get caught trying to even get close?
“You have no way to know it would work, tormozit.” Akula reprimanded his teammate. “We miss even one imam or coordinator, we fail and the fight drags on. This isn’t Zhani-Vedeno, Rhino! We don’t have the numbers or the hardware.”
This time, the larger explosives expert stood, fists clenched white and face crimson, “Because YOU hold us back for these small, bullshit raids! You’ve been coddled shoveling icy shits like a braindead kozel while I lived through the bombings and the tank shells of my homeland! Give my plan to Kontrol, and they will approve it, I know!”
By now, Nosorog was screaming at Akula. The shorter man shifted his weight onto his back foot, ready to catch the Chechen when the larger man lunged.
He didn’t get the chance, as three rounds from a Saiga-12 automatic shotgun rang out into the air. Turning to look, the pants-less beast of a Bear was stomping toward them, perhaps even more enraged than the Rhino. “Shut the fuck up, pizda! Some of us actually like living and fucking, you should try it sometime!”
The Chechen didn’t back down, instead turning to the Ukrainian and shouting, “You’d get both if you could fire that like you shoot your wad, bolshevik!”
Then with a seeming moment of realization, Nosorog turned back to Akula “Or is that the point?! We’re just here to whore-monger and get killed! Is that why you suck Silverback’s dick every chance you get?!”
With simply a glancing look between the two, Akula and Grizli decided enough was enough. And when the half-exposed Bear chambered another round in his weapon, the Chechen turned away from Akula, which was the opening the team lead needed. Using his smaller frame and the element of momentary surprise, Akula caught Nosorog in a choke and pulled the larger man down to a painful backwards lean.
What the team lead didn’t fully appreciate, however, was just how much stronger the Rhino was, as the Chechen veteran grabbed Akula by the back of the skull and pulled him up over Nosorog’s own head, sending the Russian slamming down into the cement pad in one swift move. Akula hit the ground in one solid ‘thud’, sending stars through his vision and knocking any air out of his chest.
Suddenly, Nosorog wailed in agony and staggered, stumbling over Akula’s dazed heap before collapsing into a writhing pile of rage. Craning his head to look, Akula saw Volk, looking impassively angry and clutching his rifle stock-forward. The Wolf had hit Nosorog so hard, the weapon’s support had actually caved in slightly, now carrying the indent of the Rhino’s skull.
Not to be out-done by his smaller teammate, Grizli slung his shotgun across his shoulders and brought a heel down onto the groin of the downed assailant, sending Nosorog’s pained wail up several octaves and sending the Rhino rolling away in a feeble attempt at covering himself.
“Don’t try growing balls unless you can use them, mongrel.” Grizli growled, shaking his head as he started his trek to the communal shower hut, and pants.
Akula picked himself up from the pad, still shaking his brain back into place. Volk extended his team lead a supportive arm, which the Shark gladly took. “Half expected you to use your fangs on him.” A point he punctuated by nodding at the favorite knife the Wolf had at his side.
Volk shrugged, “Too much paperwork.” And as the Wolf turned to head for the chow hall, he glanced back at the Rhino. “Besides, he may be right in the end. Decapitating these snakes is about the only thing they understand, since it’s their language.”
Akula gave the Wolf an understanding nod, but he didn’t like the agreeing thought Volk had just given. Still, his team had imploded enough for one night, so the team leader didn’t press the issue for now. Instead, Akula went to Nosorog and extended the same hand to help him up. “Like it or not, we’re the same contract, same team. As long as we’re in this shitbox, you follow my lead.”
Nosorog simply glared up at the Shark, ignoring the offer of support and shakily standing under his own power. “And when this is over, then what? You have me arrested? Or just shoot me when I’m not looking?”
The Russian shook his head. “Nyet, my contract says to keep you all alive, so that’s what I do. When this is over, if you want to settle this, then we will. I’ll meet you in downtown Kalinovskaya, or the shores of the White Sea, and we’ll decide things then.”
Whether he was convinced or not, Nosorog’s face betrayed no indication. The larger man glowered down at Akula for a very uncomfortable moment, then turned his back to his team lead. “I have checkouts to complete.”
“Be sure to get that strike checked. Now that Grizli is done, our medical support should have plenty of time on her hands.”
Nosorog grunted a reply, adding some string of curses under his breath, and headed back over to his inspection table. Akula personally made for the weight racks, the unexpected surge of adrenaline and anger needed an outlet, and few were his options in the dim hours of the morning. “Come on, Pasha…give us something.”
Part 4(!) of my now-main ongoing project. There’s just something about these four that’s really grappling with my imagination right now. And now that’s I’ve built them a planned 3-act structure, let’s see how they go about breaking it against my will.
I hope you all enjoy.