Gray Matter Splatter (A Deckard Novel Book 4) (6 page)

BOOK: Gray Matter Splatter (A Deckard Novel Book 4)
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Gary swallowed.

“What?” Craig asked, seeing the frown on Gary's face.

“Next to nothing.”

* * *

A castle sat atop a mountain, over which dark storm clouds
gathered. The villagers at the base of the mountain knew better than
to approach the castle; the reckless few who had tried in the past
were never seen or heard from again. It was just as rare to see
anyone emerge from the castle and travel down the treacherous path to
the village. When they did, they passed through the village without a
word spoken. Once, those dwelling inside had been adventurers, but
today they lurked inside the dark corridors of the castle, conjuring
the dark spells of necromancy.

Inside one such corridor, a single torch lit the way, casting
long shadows against the cyclopean walls. The massive stones used to
build the structure looked like they had been melted together. Such
architecture was only possible for something old, something ancient,
as such knowledge had long since been lost.

In one of the adjoining chambers, a council of three met to
discuss a matter.

“The talisman has been stolen,” an old mage reported. He wore
long black robes, his face framed by a hood that left little to be
noticed aside from his burning black eyes.

“But it is not yet in our hands,” the necromancer standing
next to him said.

“We are close,” the third man, a druid of the Tuatha order,
said.

The old mage reached toward the pedestal in the center of the
room and pulled a heavy bear fur from it. The portal revealed a map
with sparkling stars at various important locations.

“The plan progresses as expected,” the mage stated. “The
king and his men have grown vain, his kingdom ripe for the taking.”

“It will do little good if the talisman cannot be extracted,”
the necromancer said as he rubbed a small leather bag tied around his
neck.

“The kingdom is in a panic,” the mage said to alleviate the
necromancer's concerns. “They lack organization and structure. They
are a new kingdom. An immature one.”

“Others have tried,” the druid said as his eyes narrowed.

“Now is not the time for doubt,” the mage said as he pointed
to one of the stars that was slowly moving across the portal. “Even
now, our dark lords carry the talisman back to us.”

“The time grows near,” the necromancer confirmed with a
smile.

“Yes,” the mage said as he looked up at the portal with fire
in his eyes. “And when it is done, we will be crowned the kings of
a new world.”

Chapter 4

Russian Arctic

“They want you to go after them.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means the Russians are desperate,” Eliot said over the
satellite phone. “They are scrambling more ships from the Northern
Fleet, but they will never get there in time.”

“How is this supposed to work?” Deckard asked.

“You intercept the enemy vessel—”

“Assuming there is a vessel.”

“And they pay the company in oil, so it is all legit. Just like
that job you didn't just do for us. Deckard, they are talking about
opening up the entire Pechora oil field to us. That is worth hundreds
of billions of dollars—”

“Assuming the check clears.”

“This is huge. Everyone at Xyphon is very excited, but frankly
they need me to sell you on the idea. Suffice to say we will cut you
in for a percentage. Three percent of hundreds of billions of dollars
is a lot of money.”

“Enough to keep my company running indefinitely.”

“You're a hell of a soldier, Deckard, but unless you acquire
some serious business acumen in the next year, you are going to need
a steady stream of revenue.”

Deckard was silent for a moment. Everyone on the bridge of the
Carrickfergus was looking at him.

“Any idea how I'm supposed to track them down?”

“One lead. Our crew on the Orion gas and oil platform spotted a
ship passing them an hour ago. Heading east. No AIS and the radar
signature was so small that it looked like an iceberg on their
displays. That ain't normal. They never would have spotted it if we
didn't have so much illumination tonight.”

“Get me an estimate on the heading. If we can get into the
general vicinity by daybreak, we might be able to follow their wake.”

“So you’re in?”

“They burned our compound to the ground. I would like to know
who it is that wants me dead.”

“Keep me up to date.”

“I will,” Deckard said. “And Eliot?”

“Yeah?”

“I want paper.”

“You’ll have a contract sent to you within the hour stating
that if Xyphon is granted oil rights to Pechora, you will receive
three percent of our net profit.”

“We’ll see,” Deckard said, hanging up.

Kurt, Chuck, Frank, Pat, and Otter stood looking at him.

“What you are waiting for? Turn this ship around and make way
for the Orion platform.”

“You got it, boss,” Otter said as he began working the helm.

“Here we go again,” Frank said.

“You think I made the wrong call?”

“No,” Pat interrupted. “Someone just declared war on both
Russia and America. They are seconds away from starting World War
Three, and whoever they are, they are out there,” Pat pointed out
into the darkness.

“Besides,” Chuck said, “a brother has to eat.”

* * *

Tampa, Florida

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Joshua said, the exasperation
dripping in his voice.

“They are the only ones we’ve got up there,” Gary stated.

“You keep using that word—
we
—but he isn't really one
of ours,” Joshua countered.

“He’s a freelancer,” Craig chimed in with nothing of any
relevance. “A loose cannon.”

“I acknowledge that there are aspects that make
this...problematic,” Gary said. “But beggars can't be choosers.
For decades we neglected our capabilities in the Arctic. The Coast
Guard only has three icebreaker ships. One is in the process of being
decommissioned and the other two are in dry docks being overhauled to
extend their lifespan a few years.”

“This guy is a fucking mercenary for Christ’s sake,” Craig
said. “You can't trust him.”

“We talked to an officer Grant with Central Intelligence,”
Gary said. “He said they had a fairly good working relationship for
a time.”

In the corner of the room, Will’s chair screeched across the
white linoleum floor as he stood up. He had been huddled over a JWICS
computer terminal for hours. The Joint Worldwide Intelligence
Communications System was how some of America’s most classified
information was shared within the intelligence community.

“I like him,” Will announced.

“Takes one to know one, huh, Will?” Craig said sarcastically.
“Disavowed and disgraced.”

“The president just took us to DEFCON 2 in case you haven't
been keeping score,” Will said. “That's the problem with
bureaucrats, you are afraid to get your hands dirty. Well, today, we
are going to do just that.”

“Oh my god,” Joshua said. “We’re all going to jail.”

“You don't have to trust him,” Will said. “You don't even
have to like him, but this is the guy who can get the job done, and
there isn’t a single other person we can call on.”

“You understand your colleague’s concerns though,” Gary
added. “He brings substantial baggage.”

“Read his file,” Will said. “Special operations, Ground
Branch, Omega. This guy is one of ours. If the ring-knockers hadn’t
pissed him off he would probably still be one of ours. Instead, he
took his show on the road, and by all accounts this guy has more
kills than cancer.”

“That's what we’re afraid of,” Gary said as he leaned back
in his swivel chair.

“Don't concern yourself. It's the Arctic; it isn’t like there
is much up there for him to destroy, anyway.”

Craig rubbed his forehead.

“This is illegal as fuck,” Joshua said in a last-ditch
effort.

“It doesn't have to be.”

“How?” Gary asked.

“Letters of marque.”

“What the hell is that?”

Will tapped a cigarette out of his pack and popped it between his
lips.

“You can’t smoke here,” Craig whined.

“Go fuck yourself,” Will said as he lit it up. “So here is
the deal: Back in the days of Sir Francis Drake and Captain Kidd,
letters of marque were issued by the king to commission and authorize
privateers to attack enemy vessels. They were government-sanctioned
pirates.”

“I hate to break it to you, but we had this little incident in
1776, and ever since we haven’t had a king,” Gary said, swatting
at cigarette smoke.

“But there is a historical precedent. President Madison
authorized letters of marque during the Second Barbary War off the
coast of Libya.”

“That has got to be the most obscure legal justification I’ve
ever heard,” Craig said.

“Are you kidding me?” Will asked as he exhaled another cloud
of smoke. “We break the law all the time in JSOC, we just do it
legally by exploiting loopholes and bypassing the intent of the law.
If anything, this is on far more solid legal ground. Letters of
marque are constitutional.”

“Who has the authorization to grant a letter of marque?”
Gary asked.

Will arched his eyebrows.

“Shit.”

“Run it up the flagpole,” Will said, turning back to his
terminal. “A lot has changed tonight. They will sign it.”

The men sitting around the table let out a collective sigh. Will
just chuckled as he scrolled through files on JWICS.

* * *

At daybreak, Otter spotted clouds of black smoke billowing in the
distance. It was becoming an all-too-familiar sight. After making
contact with Xyphon’s oil platform, they determined a rough heading
that took them straight to Kotelny Island.

Deckard stood next to Otter on the bridge, kitted up
except for his heavy snow-camo parka that he held in one hand. Xyphon
and the Russian government had been in touch via a cut out that
Deckard probably didn’t even want to know about. The Russian
military lost communications with their base on the island during the
night. When aircraft were scrambled, one of the MIG fighter jets was
shot down. Now they were requesting that Samruk scope the situation
out prior to Russian forces making an amphibious landing later that
day.

All the boys were jocked up down below. They were going to
execute a forced entry to the island, eliminate any enemies they
encountered, attempt to rescue any remaining Russian soldiers, and
report back to Xyphon with their status. If the base had been
compromised, the enemy might attempt to utilize the airstrip that the
Russian military had recently upgraded. Kotelny was a strategic base
during the Soviet era, but had been shut down at the end of the Cold
War. It was only with the opening of Arctic transit lines that the
Russians renewed their focus on the region, seeking to assert their
sovereignty and fossil fuel rights.

As the Carrickfergus neared the island, they could see
burning vehicles. They were Russian GAZ 3351s, treaded personnel
carriers made specifically for traveling across the Arctic’s snow
and ice.

“Somebody pushed their shit in all right,” Otter said, taking
a sip of spiked coffee as if it were just another day at the office.

Deckard stepped out of the bridge and climbed down a
ladder onto the barge deck. His men stood assembled and waiting. This
time they were not even going to dick around with the trucks.
Bringing them had been a huge mistake in the first place, one he
chalked up to his lack of experience in the Arctic. These weren’t
counterterrorism raids in Baghdad, and he should have adapted to his
environment better.

The Carrickfergus cracked through the sheets of ice as they
closed in on the island. The Samruk mercenaries almost looked robotic
in their Arctic gear. In addition to their snow camouflage and heavy
parkas, they each wore tinted SnoCross goggles, which also included a
nose protector. Without them, they would suffer from both frostbite
and snow blindness. Under that, they each wore a No-Fog breath
deflector that would help keep them warm, but more importantly, would
prevent their goggles from fogging up. That was one of those little
details that, if overlooked, could get you killed in a firefight.

“Listen up!” Deckard yelled as he strode into the middle of
the group. “First Platoon, you have the airfield. Second Platoon,
you have the barracks a few kilometers east. Afterwards, we will
consolidate and sweep up anything else we missed.”

The orders were brief to say the least, but he had faith
in his platoon sergeants. They were just making this shit up on the
fly, anyway.

As the Carrickfergus approached the icy coast, the ramp
lowered and the mercenaries flowed off the ship, already wearing
their assault snowshoes. Fedorchenko took his platoon toward the
airfield while Shatayeva took his platoon to the barracks. Deckard
shadowed Fedorchenko while Sergeant Major Korgan trailed after
Shatayeva, the senior men present to help provide command and
control.

The only thing the mercenaries heard was the whistle of
wind in their ears and the crunch of snow under their boots. The
columns of black smoke rising into the dreary gray sky warned them
that, despite the alien desolation and emptiness of the Arctic,
something was very wrong on Kotelny Island.

“We have bodies,” Korgan reported over the command
net. “Someone tore them to ribbons. Looks like large-caliber rounds
were used.”

“I'm seeing them,” Deckard replied as he walked past the
remains of a Russian soldier. He had been wearing a heavy jacket with
a fur-lined hood. His entire body was scorched black up to his neck
and was nearly cut in half at his midsection.

Fedorchenko’s men moved out in a wedge-shaped formation,
spreading out and keeping a good distance between each mercenary so
they couldn't be wiped out by a single grenade, IED, or burst of
machine gun fire. Deckard trailed along behind them, his head
swiveling back and forth but not seeing any enemy threats. After a
few more minutes of treading through the snow, Fedorchenko ordered
his men on line with each other to conduct a sweep of the airfield.

BOOK: Gray Matter Splatter (A Deckard Novel Book 4)
5.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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