It took almost twelve hours to re-plan, re-target, and otherwise un-fuck the coming mission among the newly formed cabal of soldiers and pilots. Akula had made sure Silverback was drug out of the room and sent to a recovery bed, which took both Grizli and Nosorog to accomplish. Once the blubberous ape had reimagined consciousness, he’d stormed over the meeting room in a rage. It took only a unified glare from the Shark, the Spider, and the Dragon to send Silverback to his office to scream at Kontrol, which Akula assumed was still going on even now.
In a positive vein, the mission coordinator and targeting team on the Moskva had been amicable to the change. In fact, they’d been expecting it. The senior targeting officer had pointed out to them over radio that, “Blowing up empty buildings doesn’t work for NATO, so get us a bearing on the real problem!”, which told the sailor all he needed on what the warship had been passed by its own command.
The packets of printouts provided promptly by Silverback’s aide on Akula’s demand had laid out much of their problems very clearly. First and foremost was the reasoning for the mission deadline, as Silverback had been resolute in why the strike had to take place so soon. Solomon provided that key piece of intelligence with a transcript of one of many ‘sessions’ Ri had endured deep in the interrogator’s pit. The Korean was precise in pointing out that a private cargo transport, flagged in the neutral colors of Ethiopia would arrive to acquire the secured nuclear materials. From there, it would fly through Syria, Afghanistan, and China before the Kim regime got their hands on millions of dollars worth of raw materials so graciously given by the NLD. Knowing that, they all agreed that letting the cargo airliner arrive would constitute a failure of their mission. That information would be passed along to the main Russian garrison stationed in Syria, with their recommendation to force it to land and arrest the crew.
Though stacks of pictures taken both from satellites, bribed human sources, and stolen social media, they’d figured out that the L-39 and G-2 just that had come forward to Al Jufra were indeed armed and had even flown since their arrival. This was in part thanks to the North Korean team Ri and Kim had brought along, who did more than just work to refurbish the larger Tu-22s. How long would it be until they dared to come further east and find Haven? Unlike the tank-mauling Su-25s Kontrol had allocated them, even the basic training jets could pose an issue through panicked tastics and a lucky shot. Despite Rasahdi’s continued protests this his proxy forces in the LUA could use the resources, the military minds agreed that none of those jets would fly again.
And then they found an Osa, which sent Drakon on a tirade of swears worthy of Tolstoy. Even in the corner of one satellite image, the outline of the mobile surface-to-air missile system was unmistakable. But it wasn’t its existence or capability that gave Akula the same icy concern as his flying partner, it was that the Osa then vanished in all other images. Other, more primitive anti-air weapons such as other ZPU-2 trucks had taken planned, defendable positions around key areas, which told them there was at least one smart person on that airbase. Yet the Osa seemingly vanished into the sands and shadows, leaving no tracks or radar emissions. Through almost five years of imagery and signal collection, it had only been seen the one time. Through all their intelligence and reporting, credible or not, Libya had not seen an active Osa unit since NATO destroyed the national government. Was it destroyed somewhere? Does it even function? Or does it wait in one of these many buildings like the viper?
The Spook Schedule gave them no comfort either. It contained not only the expected increase in American and NATO activity that would watch them work, but a second page of complications. As Akula had feared, the approaching Moskva and its partner submarine was attracting increased attention from the US Navy, the Hellenic Navy patrols Greece kept around Crete, and even the Israelis. All of which would be watching the Motherland’s finest, and by extension, Wildlife’s newfound surge in activity. Even if it was understood among all those in this planning gaggle to keep as much of this to themselves as possible, none of them were so diluted to think that theirs was a secret mission anymore.
Looking at all the facts, the timelines, and the resistance they knew about, it was decided that Wildlife’s assault required surgical precision and flawless timing. When it was finished, and everyone who would take part agreed on it, Akula nodded his own satisfaction in their overhaul. So meticulous was their timing that the missiles would herald their arrival immediately into Al Jufra. Confusion and chaos would be their armor, and no warning would be given to anything that raised a weapon at them. With such rapid response required, the gathering had agreed that Drakon and the other pilots were to be airborne already, ready to finish off whatever the Navy left weakened, with special focus given to the still-unlocated Osa. In those same moments, Akula’s team, Pauk, and whoever else they could fit into the newly-arrived An-74 would parachute in in separate clusters to secure key parts of the airbase.
Hammering out those details took another six hours, whatever food could be whipped up quickie, and a lot of shouting. After much drawing, erasing, and vulgarly vibrant venom, the fighter pilots and Drakon agreed on their air corridors so they didn’t interfere with the air drop or get shot down by cruise missiles. After which, most everyone in the planning huddle was drained or frayed. But without Silverback’s commanding beltline, there had not been an agreement as to whose shoulders this entire burden would fall on. Perhaps he’d reached beyond exhaustion when he said it, or the rest of his peers were also too tired to argue, but when Akula ordered them to break for rest and smaller team briefs, it became clear to the Shark who was calling the shots on this operation. On my head will rest their caskets, in my hands I cradle their blood…blyad, Pasha’s never going to believe this…
Akula was the last to depart the meeting room in the bungalow. A caved in hallway that had been partly-cleared gave him a visual to Silverback’s personal teleconference center on the destroyed terminal where he could see the outline of the gargantuan overseer hunched over his desk. An empty bottle of smuggled-in swill stood next to him, a mostly-empty bottle next to that. For a second, the Shark almost praised the ape’s ability to acquire and hide so much alcohol, as well as ration himself. But that respect was broken by the soreness he still felt in his knuckles and the disgust of almost being fed to disaster a second time.
“You can’t repeat the mistakes of Afghanistan and expect to survive, Silverback…how much samogan will it take to get that through to you?” Akula muttered to no one before heading outside. Though the oppressively hot sun had risen to beat down on the icy-acclimated sailor, the sounds around him kept his temperature cooled. The sizzle of soldering and wiring as Nosorog prepared a new rig of breaching charges. The paced, precise, and patient shots Volk took on the pistol range to better his aim. The sounds of a petite flower writhing in pleasure as Grizli thanked her for helping his recovery along. For just a moment, the Shark let his mind settle on the normalcy around him, how these were the sounds that coccouned him now.
But that blanket contained no water. Gone was the soft rush of water lapping against stone on the moonlight night. The stream of the calming Pechora River could not reach him here, not could the tempered roar of Barents Sea. He could not take up his father’s axe and bring down a mighty snow pine to heat his home, now emptied, for Pasha’s work all but demanded a small apartment rental in Moscow. It was as if the sands he stood on reached up to slap him, reminding him that he didn’t belong, that there was too much to do now.
With the gains in the hourglass draining back into the Libyan wastes around them, Akula headed back for the comms truck. Glancing at his watch, and converting the time zones in his mind, the Shark swore to himself She’s off-shift by now…one hour, that’s all it took. May Andre let you sleep well, babchoka.
Still, he penned and sent a short email to her, for when next she was at work. By the time she read jt, the predators would be preparing to draw blood like they never had before in this contract.
He hadn’t fully appreciated just how long he’d been awake until he rose from the computer terminal again, and the rush of exhaustion washed over him like a brutal wave. Grimacing, Akula shook the feeling from his eyes. A shark that stops swimming, even for a moment, will drown. There was still a lot left to do, such as walking his team through weeks of mission prep and questions in a few short hours.
Part 12 of the Libya contract, and the building blocks for the big operation align. So many variables, but too many risks not to move forward. And when a predator is forced to hunt in a very dangerous and unpredictable situation, rarely do things go smoothly…
I hope you all enjoy.