Authors: Jack Murphy
Oddly enough, what really shifted commercial maritime
traffic up into the Arctic was ISIS. Once the jihadis had launched
terrorist operations around the Suez Canal, sinking several ships,
the insurance premiums for ships traveling through the canal
skyrocketed. A few months before, terrorists had detonated a SMVIED—a
suicide merchant vessel improvised explosive device, an entire
commercial ship packed with explosives—in the canal. Churning
through the Arctic was cheaper in more ways than one.
result was a push of maritime traffic between Europe, Asia, Africa,
and Australia up into the Arctic in order to avoid the turbulent
Looking through the window to the deck below, Deckard could
already see the mercenaries throwing the tarps off their vehicles and
mounting PKM machine guns in swing-arm mounts.
Otter snorted. “I'll get you there by EENT,” he said,
referring to end of evening nautical twilight.
He could have just said at dusk, but the U.S. Navy has a way of
Deckard ran the numbers in his head.
“It's almost too good to be true.”
* * *
Seventy Special Forces commandos assembled at the tarmac, kitted
up for war.
A C-17 waited for them in the distance, bathed in the
airfield's blue lights. The turbine engines hummed as the pilots went
through their pre-flight check list as quickly as possible.
“Gather around,” Major Thomas shouted. “We'll do
this right here.”
The C/1/10 CIF commander had gotten the orders just an hour
before, but the Commanders In-extremis Force was designed for
no-notice deployments. The Green Berets belonged to a specialized
direct-action company within 10
Special Forces Group.
While Special Forces soldiers specialized in training foreign troops
and conducting unconventional warfare, the CIF's sole purpose was
“You've probably figured out by now that our mission, training
the Croatian counterterrorism unit, is on hold until further notice.
The latest reports out of Nairobi indicate the U.S. embassy is under
siege. At least half of the compound is now in enemy hands. Intel is
shit, but what else is new? No one knows if it is al-Shabaab,
al-Hijra, or someone new to the game. The Kenyan government has
already cleared the way for us to drive straight to the embassy
grounds after we hit the ground. We'll clear the exterior of the
embassy and secure the area. Flight time is seven hours, and the boys
from Bragg should be just an hour behind us.”
The MultiCam-clad Special Forces soldiers understood the
mission immediately. They had trained for it countless times, but had
never gotten the call.
Once they secured the perimeter of the embassy, Delta Force would
breach the buildings and conduct the hostage rescue mission.
“Size, strength, and disposition of enemy forces?” one
of the cell leaders asked.
“We're expecting close to a hundred crows,” the major said,
using their internal code word for enemy combatants. “Expect them
to be armed with AK-47s, RPGs, and PKMs. Remember that the bad guys
in this AO have a history of using suicide vests. The IED threat is
assessed as high. Diplomatic Security Services and the contractors
pulling static security were quickly overwhelmed, so that should tell
you something. CNN is reporting small arms fire and several
“CNN is reporting?” one of the weapons sergeants
“You know the deal,” the CIF commander replied. “We're
going in blind to act as the eyes and ears for the main effort.”
The major looked down at his watch.
“We're wheels-up in fifteen. You know what to do.”
The CIF team members turned around and jogged over to the
aircraft. Their plate carriers bounced slightly with each step.
Getting closer, they pulled on their Peltor headsets and snapped
OpsCore helmets over their heads. They had already received their
basic load of ammunition and explosives. The gun trucks were tied
down inside the plane with ratchet straps, ready to roll off the ramp
the second they hit the ground in Africa.
As the CIF team sat down in the red fabric seats lining the inner
fuselage of the C-17, Major Thomas went over to the loadie. The
flight crew member wore a khaki flight suit and helmet with a long,
black wire linking his headset to the aircraft's comms system.
“We're up!” the commander yelled over the whining engines.
The loadie nodded and clicked on his mic, saying a few words to
the pilots. The flight crew then walked down the ramp and began
flipping up the two flaps that reached down from the ramp to the
Major Thomas took an empty seat next to the rear of the aircraft
and buckled himself in. His executive officer was sitting next to him
and immediately started asking more questions about the mission.
“Hey, what the fuck?” the the loadie yelled, his voice
drowned out by the engines.
A black-clad man suddenly scrambled up the ramp of the aircraft
and into the interior.
Major Thomas looked up at the interloper with a frown. He held
something in his hand.
* * *
The president looked away from the screen as a half dozen Secret
Service agents burst into the war room and slammed the door shut
“We have a situation, Mr. President,” one of them announced.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Sir,” one of his aides said, trying to get his attention.
“Perimeter breach,” one of the agents said.
“Sir!” the aide screamed. “We need your authorization!”
The president swung around angrily to face the aide.
“Sir, F16s are on station.”
The president looked up at the black-and-white image displayed on
the screen at the end of the room. It showed a tractor trailer
stopped in the middle of a highway. White thermal images surrounded
the truck and a bright glow came from the rear doors. Apparently,
someone was trying to burn their way inside with a blowtorch.
“Do it,” the president ordered. “Now someone tell me why we
are on lockdown.”
An officer sitting at the other end of the table, wearing a blue
Air Force dress uniform, picked up a phone and relayed the
“The situation is still developing, Mr. President,” one of
the Secret Service men said. “We were told that someone breached
the White House.”
“Another fence jumper? Are you fucking kidding me?”
The president had deep lines around the corners of his eyes and a
lot more gray hair than when he had taken office seven years prior.
An administration plagued with scandals and an indecisive Congress
could do that to any president.
Another phone rang, and the president's aide picked it up.
“The suspect has already been apprehended, sir, but we
can't take any chances.”
“This is the third time this month,” the president
complained. “What the hell is the problem with—”
All eyes in the room suddenly shot back toward the screen. The
tractor trailer disappeared in a massive gray cloud. The 2,000-pound
Joint Direct Attack Munition vaporized the truck, and everyone except
the Secret Service agents knew that 10 good men had been vaporized
with it. It was all part of the protocol, but that didn't make it any
“It will be reported as an eighteen-car pile-up in the news
tomorrow,” a Department of Homeland Security representative said,
breaking the silence. “We'll say a chemical spill was involved to
explain the clean-up crews.”
“Jesus,” the president said under his breath.
“The truth is that this section of Highway 70 will be unusable
for decades. The JDAM will have spread radioactive material for
several kilometers. Destroying it like this creates an even bigger
radioactive mess than an actual detonation,” the DHS rep said
“We just got hit in Croatia,” an Army general said as he
slammed down his phone. “The entire CIF team got taken out on an
airfield in Zagreb.”
“We don't know yet.”
The aide sitting next to the president set down his phone softly.
“Mr. President, a situation is developing in the Arctic.”
“I don't think we have time for that right now.”
“I agree,” the aide said, leaning on his chair closer to the
president. “Sir, it is now very clear.”
“What’s that?” the president asked, his eyes still fixated
on the smoking hole in the middle of Highway 70.
“Someone just declared war on America.”
“We don't know.”
The Carrickfergus reversed its engines, churning up a
froth of freezing water as the icebreaker ship inched up to the
coastline. The deck was already lowered down to sea level and the
ramp dropped down to the beach. Eight Iveco assault trucks rolled off
the ship in four-wheel drive and sped up the beach, scattering a trio
of walruses. The creatures wiggled off like giant, obese inchworms
and slipped into the ocean.
Two snowmobiles rolled off the ship behind the trucks and took
off on their own infiltration route. The sniper section had to get
into place prior to the assault force, both to provide eyes on the
objective as well as to conduct precision fire once the shooting
Twilight bathed the surrounding snowy landscape in hues of blue,
only interrupted by crags of rocks poking up through the surface like
the scaly back of a lizard. This time of year the Arctic Circle got
about 12 hours of daylight followed by 12 hours of night.
Deckard stood on the back of one of the assault trucks, watching
the others struggle on the snow and ice, slipping and sliding, before
they reached an unimproved road a hundred meters from the shore. The
Samruk assault vehicles were built on Iveco LMV chassis, but from
there had been modified to the company's specifications. Behind the
armored compartment where the driver and passenger sat was a gun
ring, a rotating turret where a PKM machine gunner was located. In
the back of the truck were eight seats facing back to back, four on
each side. There were also swing arms that mounted two additional PKM
machine guns for the assaulters to use in transit.
Despite winterizing the engines and buying all-terrain tires for
the assault trucks, it was evident that the vehicles simply were not
designed for arctic conditions.
They had to make do with what
they had. It may have worked like a charm when they were in Burma,
but the assaulters would be freezing in the back as they were exposed
to the elements. Once they were on the road, it wasn't long before
everyone started tucking their turtle head into their shell, pulling
up hoods and drawing them tight.
“We're en route,” Deckard said, clicking his hand mic and
talking over the command net on his radio. “See you at the exfil
“Have fun,” Otter radioed back from the helm.
The Carrickfergus shoved off and began turning around as the
assault trucks moved toward their objective. Deckard hunkered down in
his seat with the other mercenaries. He wiggled his toes and fingers,
trying to keep them warm. The Arctic itself was their biggest
obstacle, not the enemy forces. If they were all frozen half to death
by the time they got to the pirates, they would be useless.
The trucks were still slipping on the ice, and it was only a few
minutes before one slid right off the road and into a snowdrift.
Sergeant Major Korgan began barking orders over the
assault net, and another vehicle pulled up alongside the one trapped
in the snow. Mercenaries leapt off the back of the two trucks and
quickly began unrolling tow cables that were tied to the front and
rear bumpers of each truck. They secured one cable from the front of
the disabled vehicle to the other and quickly towed it out of the
snow. The entire drill had been rehearsed hundreds of times. The
training paid off, and they were back on the road in a few minutes.
Then it happened again. This time it was Deckard’s truck. The
driver lost control and the vehicle began sliding sideways on the
ice. All four tires rested on a large patch of ice and couldn't find
any traction. They spun out until the smell of burning rubber wafted
through the air.
“Stop, stop,” Deckard yelled at the driver.
Jumping off the truck, he immediately slipped and busted his ass,
his AK clanking on the ice under him. The other mercenaries were
holding on to the side of the truck as they slipped around, trying to
free the tow cable. Eventually they got it attached to the next
vehicle, which towed them off the ice. Then the towing vehicle got
stuck and had to be towed out itself.
Chuck Rochenoire shook his head as the truck's wheels spun on the
“At this rate we might as well just daisy chain every vehicle
together with tow cables.”
Deckard keyed his radio. “Shooter-One, this is Six,” he said,
radioing Nikita, who led their sniper team.
“This is Shooter-One.”
“I think this is going to take a while.”
“We should have eyes on in five mikes.”
Deckard looked at the horizon as the last hints of sunlight
disappeared. The wind howled across the road, carrying gusts of snow
* * *
The Samruk International assault element arrived three
hours late. The batteries in two of the trucks had actually died due
to the freezing conditions, and the vehicles had to be towed the rest
of the way. The remaining vehicles switched from running on gasoline
to electric, making their final approach nearly silent. Perhaps the
most disconcerting aspect of the Arctic wasn't the long periods of
darkness or the desolate landscape, but how quiet it was. There
wasn't much human presence to be found on the tundra.