Few were the things in life Akula truly despised. He’d never understood or cared for the corrupting indulgence of social media, and the sailor detested the taste of wasabi, as there were much better ways to prepare a fresh fish. The Russian team lead didn’t even loathe the Chechen on his team, as Akula could understand a small part of the greater history Nosorog had lived. Would I be so amicable if I followed a German or a Frenchman? Or even worse, some arrogant prick from Washington or Ottawa?
Among all such things he found irritating, stressful, and otherwise vomit-inducing, jumping out of an aircraft was one of them. No matter how many times he’d done it in exercises or previous missions, no matter the fact that he’d only suffered one poor landing with minor injuries, Akula still gripped his seat hard enough to turn his knuckles ghastly white.
Next to him sat one of Pauk’s men, whom he’d met earlier on guard duty. The taller paratrooper wore a wide grin and was serenely reclined in the uncomfortably small webbed seat. Of course, one doesn’t earn the call sign Pelican without a lot of airdrops…
On the Shark’s other shoulder and closest to the An-74’s rear hatch, was Grizli. The Ukrainian’s eyes were laser-focused on the muzzle of his new box-fed PKP Pecheneg machine gun, though the hulk of a man still wore a grimacing smile. Gone was the jovial, almost poetically charismatic Bear. The man next to the Shark meant to exact revenge for his face on whatever came in front of him.
Across from them, Nosorog watched the rear door with furious anticipation, equally ready to destroy man or machine. Despite the extremely cramped troop compartment, the Rhino refused to surrender any of his explosives, which Akula didn’t argue with. If all else fails, we’ll blow than dammed uranium vault closed ourselves and fuck the consequences…
While the Chechen kept any sort of nausea from his face through clenched rage, Volk had already puked when the transport pushed into its rapid ascent to paradrop altitude of six thousand meters. Pauk and most of the other troops on board gave the Wolf a thorough teasing, despite however much the pup glared at them.
Departing Haven had so far gone flawlessly beyond that, with Drakon and the Su-25s launching first, right on the second they’d determined for mission start. Like many of their missions before, they’d waited until late into the night to begin, gambling that many of the NLD jihadists would be heading to their bunks for the night, including the pilots of the attack jets ahead of them.
Everything had to be calculated down to the ‘tick’ of their wristwatches, from the moment the missiles flew from the sea to the moment that hatch would open and Akula would fling himself into the infinite sky. There was no communication now, no chatter between the naval forces and the following airstrike, as an orbiting American RQ-4 drone was already sucking in every stray bit of intelligence it could in the Mediterranean. Akula and Pauk had made sure at least one of their team carried an encrypted radio for the ground mission, but these were to remain offline until their boots hit the sand. If even one missile came in late or fell a few meters off its target, it could easily incinerate them all.
Part of the Shark was thankful there was no window so far back on his flying container, so he couldn’t stare out into the blackness like a child waiting for St Nicholas. But if Al Jufra isn’t on fire by the time we reach it, all this was for nothing…
The timer on his watch hit zero and rang out, the mark of time that meant the first cruise missiles should be raining down on the airfield now. In response, the An-74 lurched as its nose pointed downward, sending his stomach right up into his mouth. Inside the compartment, a siren blared to life, and alert lights changed from red to yellow. Simultaneously, everyone stood and latched their parachutes to the rail above them.
“Approaching drop point one now! Kill one for us!” the transport’s pilot announced over the intercom before the rear catch cranked open in the darkness. Even with his back to the flames below, Akula could see the ravaging orange glow bleeding into the night sky. Above them, banking around to fire their own wing-mounted rockets, the Su-25s tore into whatever defenses weren’t already ablaze.
The interior light flicked over to green, beckoning Grizli and Nosorog to step forward in a two-step sprint out of the aircraft. As soon as they cleared the ramp, the pull-strings on their parachutes went taut and opened their chutes a mere one-thousand feet above the burning sands. Without hesitation, Akula and Volk followed, keeping their rifles scanning the ground below them as much as possible in the gentle night winds. The Shark could hear the ‘clack-clack-clack’ing of rifle fire in all directions, and the ravenous rumble of Drakon’s rotorblades as the Mi-28 ripped into a scattering line of startled jihadists. Then came the howl of the Su-25s ascending from their initial attack run to line up the next.
The An-74 kept its wings level as it raced across the airfield to deliver Pauk and his team to their drop point across the airfield, almost vanishing in the pitch-black smoke clawing into the sky. As he’d been trained on in his younger days, Akula hit the sand as softly as his boots could manage and unsnapped the chest latch to drop his parachute away. Dropping into an open patch of earth between the main runway and a parking apron was a huge gamble on his part, but the Shark had reasoned that no one would be patrolling an empty strip of asphalt in the middle of the night. Pair that when the sudden, murderous chaos of sea-launched missiles, Akula had played the safe, but correct call, and had put his team only a hundred meters from the idle Tu-22 bombers.
Once the four predators were all parachute-free, they began their rapid sprint to cover. Quickly, they were greeted by shouting in Korean and Arabic, as well as rifle rounds whizzing past them. Peeking out from around the corner of a bomber’s parking embankment, Akula confirmed that both sides had taken up weapons and were shooting at them. It was all the justification he needed, tapping Volk on the shoulder and pointing the Bear and Rhino to swoop around to the other side. No sooner did the two larger men begin their flanking run did the Wolf claim his first kill of the night.
Stepping out to take his own shots, the team lead caught a flash of motion only for a split-second as another sae-launched missile came screaming in, ripping into a fortified building half a kilometer away, catching their opponents in a moment of shock. The Shark took the initiative and dropped one of the Koreans with three rounds to the side, Volk claiming two more NLD fighters that tried to run into cover under a dilapidated airframe. That difference in reaction and more controlled reaction of the Korean forces spoke volumes on their military training and devotion to their mission. Better to die here than disappoint the Dear Leader…Stalin would’ve approved, too.
The sudden ‘thoonk’ of a handheld grenade launcher firing at them made Akula react on instinct, pulling himself and Volk out of the line of fire and behind solid cement. The explosive round slammed into the wall on the other side, and he could feel the detonation rattle the massive barrier. Then came part of a surprised shout and the roar of Grizli’s drum-fed machine gun, which cared not whether it tore into flesh or metal. Torn between being fired at from both sides, those who could still run raced under the still aircraft and out the rear of the opposing parking embankment.
With both sides now secure behind cover, it should have been a stalemate until someone pushed forward to get slaughtered. For this reason, Akula ensured every team lead carried a flare gun on their shoulder, which the Shark now took out and fired into the air. Not a second later, Drakon spun her fangs around and blasted the parking row with dozens of anti-armor cannon rounds. Akula could practically see the crimson mist of what was left spraying into the air against the flames across the airfield. The Bear snarled out a laugh as he ran from his position to cover the next parking apron, savaging a half-concealed Korean who was trying to hide behind the nose gear of a Tu-22.
Nosorog followed quickly behind, as the bomber Grizli took cover behind was one of the ones being restored. Quickly, the Chechen took a roll of FOX-9 explosive and ran to the rear landing gear. Climbing up the support legs, he smashed the sticky side of the patch to the belly of the bomber and clicked on its timer. Now the Rhino led the sprint away as both larger men ran back to Akula. A mere few seconds later, the legacy aircraft detonated in a massive fireball, sending its tailfin a hundred meters into the air and cracking the concrete walls surrounding it. Any nearby defender that had been running their way was washed over in flames or now writhing on the ground in pain from the searing flash or burst eardrums.
For a brief moment, Akula let their initial successes sink in as he motioned for his men to continue down the parking strip in staggered formation. As a fluid unit of action, they never moved more than ten steps before the rear guard cleared their flanks, making sure none would ambush them. The element of surprise had been with them, as well as satisfactory targeting from his Navy brethren. Drakon had been as savage as she was accurate in her close air-support, and the new Su-25s were creating all kinds of welcome havoc as they made another swooping pass on the far side of Al Jufra. Thanks to all the flames and occasional spats of tracer fire still reaching up into the night sky, the mission lead could even see the An-74 beginning its second pass to drop off the Spider and his newly-crafted team. Now all we need is Pauk to secure the…
The thunderous ‘thoom’ of a nearby missile firing jolted them in shock. Their momentary hesitation was greeted by the sheet white trail of rocket exhaust screaming up into the sky. Within the same second of sheer terror, Akula watched the ground launched missile slam into the An-74 in the center of its nose. Most of the transport’s frame collapsed into itself, equal parts fireball and ripping metal. The wings of the An-74 pushed inward on themselves without the support of the fuselage and sent the entire burning hulk screeching down into the sand.
“OSA!” Akula shouted, and directed his men toward the source of the shot. Above them, the two Su-25s lit the sky with their countermeasure flares in the confusion and banked hard away to get out of range. The Shark could hear Drakon’s engine go to full power as well, but her Mi-28 was much closer and lower to the fight.
“Get out of there! Get out!” Akula yelled as they ran forward in a dead sprint. The source of the launch came from a previously-abandoned pilot outstation, where the Osa had been waiting in secret, covered on all sides by a flimsy metal shack until it had been time to fire. Now exposed, the six-wheeled launcher rocked forward to reposition itself. Several jihadists moved with the vehicle like a shield of human ferocity, expertly keeping their eyes out in all directions. In their haste, Akula had run his team out into the open for a few brief seconds, giving the rear two NLD fighters ample time to shoot. Throwing himself to the cement taxiway, the Shark sprayed return fire, forcing both defenders to move back. It was all the time Volk needed to drop one of them and send the second running backward.
It was also all the time the mobile missile launcher needed to acquire Drakon in its sights and fire again.
Part 13 of the very messy, highly dangerous, and overall super fun time that is the Libyan contact. We’re nearing the planned end of this section of the story, but the mess that Akula and company are in is only knee-deep for now. How will they fare when it’s up to their necks? We shall soon see, as what I had planned and what my pen is telling me now are far different things.
I hope you all enjoy.