Despite the excitement of the morning, the rest of the day’s training and readiness changed little. Pauk’s quartet had loaded up and departed westward before the sun rose, the Spider telling the Shark that they’d been summoned to ensnare someone else for Solomon and Navuk to break. Drakon still raced into the sky soon after, another new co-pilot under her thumb.
The first change for the day was when Sova’s team hastily assembled. Silverback wouldn’t pull Haven’s defense rotation for a mission…not unless there’s no one else! Watching the second team form up to head south, deeper into the desert, confirmed to Akula that his team was either out of favor with the blubburous ape, or that they’d been blacklisted all together.
Fuming at the very idea, Akula stormed towards Silverback’s personal office. From a distance, he could see the larger man pacing back and forth, arms animated and jiggling before those meaty hands slammed down on his desk and he gestured angrily at the teleconference monitor. After a moment, apparently not getting the answer he liked, Silverback simply acknowledged whatever he was told and shut the call off, before reaching into his desk and pulling up the half-drained bottle of the Motherland’s finest distilled jet fuel. Siphoning a long drink, the Shark could see the anger bubble away as integrity and inhibitions also washed away, conjuring to Akula the many disgusting possibilities of what their contract overseer did in his spare time.
It was then that the ape noticed Akula on the other side of the door, and Silverback’s face re-ignited in crimson. The fuming manager pointed to the seat in front of him and the Shark entered the cage but did not sit, equally ready for the blood in the water.
“Did you honestly think I wouldn’t hear about this? That your team went behind my back and sent unsolicited intelligence to Kontrol on an uncleared device you just carried into our camp?! I wish it would have just detonated and ended our headaches all at once!” Silverback screamed in his deep, but shaky, droning baritone.
Akula clenched his fists behind his back to keep his tone level and neutral for the moment. “The buyer wouldn’t be carrying a laptop in his native Korean and have it rigged to explode in his own pocket. Think about it, fat-ass! The deal had been done and the goods ready to move! Why blow up what you just paid for?!”
A retort that clearly hit a sensitive note, as Silverback’s cheek drained slightly of their fire in a long beat of silence. “The only reason you’re not on a prison boat to fucking Siberia right now is because you were right. Kontrol has not only approved your team for a higher contract rate, but has assigned you to hunt this lead down and find where it ends.”
Spinning his monitor around to show a map of Libya, Silverback pointed toward a collection of colored ellipses much farther west than Bin Jawad. The symbols all converged in a point in downtown Sirte, with the majority of points collected around a single city block.
“Kontrol was able to associate that laptop to a sat-phone and an end user. They think it’s whoever organized the buy overall.”
Akula studied the overlaid map and collected signals carefully, tracing the main roads and smaller access alleyways with his eyes. The way Silverback phrased the mission told him that this was another North Korean member or team. “They didn’t bug out when they didn’t get their purchase?”
“That implies free thought, something those skunks don’t have much of at the lower levels.” the bulbous ape dismissed with a nonchalant wave. “Probably had to contact the home office to arrange transportation.”
Don’t think their home office approves of their agents fucking the wives and daughters of the sellers as payment either…Akula growled internally. “I thought the contract wasn’t set up for prisoners. Do we just kill them?”
Silverback gave Akula a look like the former sailor had grown a second head. “You’ll do nothing of the sort. You’re to find their contact within the New Libya Dawn and find out where and how they got the uranium in the first place. Pauk’s team will trail the Koreans when they leave and identify how they came in-country.”
Akula gave his boss a similarly puzzled look. “Just trail?”
Silverback gave the Shark a hard glare. “Thanks to your stunt, the Koreans are off the table. Someone higher up made sure of that, so no. Our work is here, so we work here. Don’t forget your place again, or it’ll be a slow sail home in a cold cell.”
Akula chose to ignore the snide suggestion of impending failure. “Has Kontrol already sent over the profile?”
“Da, should be waiting for you now. Don’t expect to enjoy the same cake-walk you had in Bin Jawad. At least in the hills of Afghanistan, those mujaheddin filth had the element of terrain on their side.”
How hard is it to have your head that far up your own ass? “I’ll prep my team for immediate travel.” Akula confirmed, before Silverback held up his hand. “One last thing. I’m told your resident Chechen threatened to kill you and your team.”
“Not exactly.” Akula admitted, which was partly true. “Nosorog has a more… direct suggestion of contract resolution. We’ve settled the matter.”
The gelatinous overseer gave him an unconvincing ‘hmph’. “You’re not contracted to die because of friendly fire, and I’ll not have that skirt-chasing moron in a position of leadership on my operation!” Silverback decreed.
“Good to hear you’re so concerned for my future, Comrade Sovietski.” Akula punctuated, turning on his heel and leaving the ape to flush from chili to cardinal red. Now, the sailor walked with purpose to the comms van, as there was work to do. This should make that debil Rhino happy, he can go blow up something else that needs it.
His trek to the sealed comms truck didn’t go unnoticed, as Grizli spotted him. “I know that walk, Shark. There’s blood in the water.”
“Da, Pasha came through with something on your friend in the pit, so now we have work to do. Find Volk and Nosorog, and get them to the map room.”
The Bear practically whooped in excitement as he burst ahead in a sprint to go locate the remainder of the team. This time, when Akula approached the door to the comms cabin, the junior guard stopped him to confirm the day’s passcode and counter-code. Akula took brief note of the sentry, who still sported his para-jumpers wings on his vest. “VDV service?”
“106th Guards Airborne, sailor. You ever jump?”
“Only under the ice, was never a fan of heights like that.” Akula admitted before stepping into the freezing cold of the cabin. As promised, awaiting in his email for his classified password, were several maps, photos, call logs, reports, and the Spook Schedule, which was most sensitive of all.
Unlike the rest of the mission details, the Spook Schedule was so sensitive it could not be printed. Within it was the predicted schedule of everyone and every device that Wildlife knew about which would be tracking Akula’s mission. From the spy satellite thousands of miles above snooping on their phones to the American recon drone that was already making circles within the Mediterranean. There was no way that their operation would be completely concealed, that much was stated in their contract with the hiring client. But the Libyan Unity Army didn’t care, so long as the Security Services provided tipped the scales of the civil war in their favor.
Per procedure, Akula printed only one copy of each piece of needed intelligence, then replied to the email with one word: “Ponyal”. Upon sending that response to Kontrol, the email in his possession vanished, never to be seen again. The stack of paper he now gathered for his team was an impressive size, matched only by the arsenal arrayed around the robed man that Kontrol had identified as their target.
“Abdullah Saleh al-Nujood.” Akula stated to himself, looking into the iron eyes of the man who would oppose them. The photo betrayed their target’s resolve, the clear result of multiple battles and the ever-present shadow of death that came in the extremist life. You would welcome meeting your God so easily, yet fight tooth and nail against the invitation. Quite the hypocrisy, sand-rat.
Akula then studied the map of Sirte, and the city blocks where the Saleh was hunkered down. Like the safe-house in Bin Jawad, the alleyways were narrow, and the block was as far off the main highway as it could get. But unlike their previous mission, this target clearly intended to stay there, with cameras wired into each corner, a private satellite receiver atop the roof, and a 4×4 truck armed with a ZPU-2 twin-barreled anti-aircraft gun half-concealed in the courtyard. Drakon would cut off my balls personally if I let that thing touch her…
That thought struck a note, which he filed away for later once they had confirmed their readiness. With both Pauk and Sova already in the field, Wildlife’s sole air support was now task-saturated, which typically wasn’t done. And now his team had been summoned for a far-reaching mission. “Whatever’s happening is happening quick, let’s just hope this is worth the risk.”
His mind deep in the stack of papers under his arm, Akula stepped out of the truck and almost squarely into the cold, lanky stature of a quiet man in his path. When his eyes shot up and his mouth opened to yell, his voice was nowhere to be found as Akula was looking up at the sunken, dark eyes of Solomon.
“Apologies, operative. Today’s work has been most informative, so I must make full report.” Solomon said, with a deep, soul-crushing voice that didn’t match the body that carried it.
“Didn’t think you ever came into the daytime, vampir.” the Shark prodded.
“Only because I do my best work where no one else can see.” the interrogator chuckled, which did not set well with Akula at all.
“Oh, before I forget, my thanks for bringing us something unique. Navuk hadn’t practiced his Korean in some time, I think he enjoyed the refresher.” Solomon almost smiled as he praised the Shark, which was the first time Akula had ever seen those thin lips contort into that shape. Probably a first for any human…
With no more words to offer, the Shark stepped aside to let Solomon speak with the guard. Looking back as the taller man entered the truck, Akula swore the poor sentry was about to drop dead himself.
It took a solid run back up the runway to the briefing patio to get the blood back to the proper color in Akula’s face. Thankfully, none of his team were focused on the man carrying to them the day’s mission, they were focused on the information itself. Swiftly, the team lead covered the table in documents, with each member picking up what they found interesting to study for the next hour.
“I think this little pridurok fancies himself a soldier.” Grizli chuckled, which was a sign to Akula that the Ukrainian beast respected what they were walking into.
“These cameras look like they all feed into a junction box on top the building, probably sharing a cable box with that dish. Once we cut that, they’ll be alerted.” Volk added, pointing to the well-lit intersection at the building’s northwest corner. Unlike many of the other haphazard rectangles of brick and cement that made up downtown Sirte, this particular four-story safe-house carried the benefit of a gated courtyard to separate it from its neighbors, so simply scaling the roof between structures was not an option.
“Agreed,” Akula started. “Rhino, you and Bear pack a Pop-Feniks. Split into pairs and cover east-west. We’ll hit it from above and see who comes out to look.”
Nosorg, still nursing bloodshot eyes and a galvanized scowl, nodded in acceptance of his role and partner. Now there was work, and work meant money, which the Chechen would not turn down.
“How many inside?” the Wolf asked, flipping through the call logs between their target and a number coming back to the captured Korean.
“No more than ten expected inside the main house, but expect the entire block to engage us once the shooting starts.” Akula promised.
“And where will Drakon park that fine ass of hers?” Grizli wondered, tracing the outline of the building with his massive palm.
“Not sure, both Pauk and Sova are out, so air cover isn’t guaranteed this time.” the team lead stated flatly, receiving only minimal recoil from the Wolf.
“Not to worry, little shchenok. I’m sure our fine angel in the sky won’t let anyone shoot you in the tail!” the Bear chortled in amusement, though Volk didn’t smile.
“Alive or dead?” Nosorog finally added to the conversation.
“Depends on what we find inside. The main objective is to find out how he or the NLD got their hands on that uranium, so we can cut off the source. Saleh will tell us with words or data.”
“Data doesn’t try to play with my cock from the backseat, so let’s hope he wants to meet Allah today.” Grizli nodded, dropping his smile.
“Has Yenot secured a new vehicle? That’s a long walk otherwise.” Volk asked, idly playing with his favorite fang in his palm.
“Da, he found us a nice covered 4×4 we’ll use for insertion and escape.” Akula clarified, pointing to an intersection almost 300m away which gave them cover in three directions from wild gunfire. “We stage here, complete blackout like last time. Then sweep in and silence any fighters between us and al-Nujood.”
“Spooks? Maybe the Yankees will take care of it for us.” Nosorog grumbled, which actually made Grizli chuckle. “He jests! There’s something in there besides upryamstvo!”
The Shark almost chuckled at that, if not for the memory of the larger Chechen chucking him into the cement. “One RQ-4 high-flyer will be tracking up and down the shoreline, one Reaper drone over the target area. Nothing unusual for the season, but Kontrol didn’t pass us the Reaper’s kill list.”
In so few words, Akula set the stage for another nighttime operation, hedging his bet that the cameras covering their target were only built for visual-light and nothing else. All they needed were the few precious seconds to steer the palm-sized explosive drone into the wiring box on the roof to eliminate that threat, as well as pull a few of the patrolling guards out of line.
“Think he’s a backdoor man, or will he engage?” Grizli held up their target’s photo, which was now sporting cut-out eyes thanks to Volk.
He had to think about that one, lingering on the first impression the man’s picture had given him. After a moment, Akula replied. “Gut feeling says he’ll fight and die in that box. Even if he’s told to run and hide by the NLD, he won’t listen. At least not immediately. Should give us the chance to bring him down.”
The team lead then pointed to Nosorog, then to the technical truck spotted in the provided photographs. “Once the building is dark, this is next. Even if it’s not loaded, they don’t need any more guns on the block. Rhino, you and I will pack additional explosives for this.”
With that, Akula stood to his full height. “Anything further?” he primed his team, from which there were no more questions. “Otlichno, then get chow and rest, we move out at 1800-zulu.”
Part 5 of the ongoing work Akula and his fire team have been contracted for. This may be the middle part of the 1st arc/Contract, it could be close to the end. I’m honestly eagerly waiting to see what this team tells me they get into next!
I hope you all enjoy.