Authors: Jack Murphy
“A stealth ship?”
“It almost certainly has characteristics to reduce its radar
cross section. The wake we detected was faint as well, meaning there
are probably measures to reduce that, too. Whoever these guys are,
they are trying very hard to stay hidden, and that makes them very
interesting to us. We need you to close the distance and keep the
pressure on them, otherwise they might have time to offload the
device to a waiting airplane or submarine. Zoom in on that picture
and take a closer look at the wake.”
Deckard clicked the magnifying glass icon and enlarged the image.
The ship’s wake was hard to spot at first, but it was definitely
“You can make out a stern wave and the turbulent wake leaving a
trail behind wherever the vessel is off to,” the man in black
continued. “I crunched the numbers. By measuring distances where
the transverse and divergent waves intersect with the Kelvin
envelope, I was able to get you a new heading for the suspect vessel.
This heading also backtracks to Kotelny Island.”
“What am I up against?
“My best assessment is that it is a semi-submersible craft,
which would explain why we can’t find a radar cross section on it.
The good news is that this means the ship is moving at relatively
slow speeds, meaning you’ve got a shot at catching up with it.”
“The bad news?”
“It probably lowers its draft by filling internal ballast tanks
along the sides of its hull. It would also be able to evacuate those
tanks quickly and then take off at much higher speeds. It’s going
to be hard to spot, even visually, but once you do and begin pursuit,
you will have your hands full.”
“You’re an old sea dog, aren’t you?”
The man in black chuckled.
“That was a long time ago.”
“You could say that I specialize in quiet weapons for silent
“You can call me Will, by the way.”
“Who are they?”
Will was about to say something until Craig, the guy with the
reading glasses, interrupted.
“We don't know who they are, Deckard. That’s what has
everyone here so scared. Russia has come under attack, America got
hit hard last night, and we are seeing some really weird movements in
Ukraine, Syria, and the South China Sea in recent hours. Right now it
would be extremely speculative to point a finger at one actor or
another because none of this is making sense,” Craig finished.
“We’ll be in touch the moment we know more.”
“I would appreciate that,” Deckard said, his words left
hanging in the air.
Will looked back at him.
“You remember the Moscow apartment complex bombing in 1999?”
“It kicked off the second war in Chechnya.”
“It’s not a secret that the bombing was a false flag
conducted by the Russian FSB intelligence service.”
“What are you saying? That the Russians stole their own nuclear
“I’m saying that all of the villains in Gotham City are
teaming up on us.”
“As I said, we’ll contact you when we have something solid,”
Craig cut in again.
The VTC went dark, and Deckard was again sitting on the bridge
with only Otter to keep him company. The ship captain whistled as he
began steering them on a new heading that had just been sent to them.
“Damn, son,” the ship captain said as he took a swig of
spiked coffee. “That’s some black helicopter shit right there.”
Deckard climbed down the metal stairwell from the bridge
and down into the passenger compartment of the ship. He stood in the
middle of his men’s living and work space, the mercenaries stepping
around him in the cramped ship’s quarters.
His vision was
still transfixed by the piece of paper he held in his hand. They had
received it by email and Deckard had printed off a couple of copies.
In his hand he held a letter of marque signed by the
president, authorizing him to attack enemy vessels at his own
discretion. With the flick of a pen, the Carrickfergus had been made
into a pirate ship, and Deckard the pirate captain. Some of the
mercenaries looked at him strangely as they passed by. No one could
recall seeing their boss with such a big smile on his face.
Snapping out of it, Deckard stepped over Mk48 machine guns and
around winter parkas and trousers drying from improvised
clotheslines. He was looking for the computer hacker he kept on
Samruk International’s payroll when he stumbled across Chuck
Rochenoire’s hootch. He and Nate, the new guy who had served with
Marine Corps special operations, were sitting on top of MRE boxes
while drinking a couple Miller High Life beers.
“You want one, Deck?” Rochenoire asked. “It's the fuckin’
champagne of beers.”
Deckard stepped forward, looking at the giant black flag that
Chuck had strung up on the wall. The skull and crossbones were
something Marines and SEALs could always appreciate.
“Something wrong?” Nate asked.
“Far from it,” Deckard answered.
He handed Chuck the letter bearing the letterhead of the Oval
Office. Chuck and Nate crowded around the piece of paper, trying to
make sense of it.
“This can’t be what I think it is,” Nate said.
For once, Chuck was at a loss for words.
“Let’s start flying the Jolly Roger and make it official,”
Deckard said with a grin.
* * *
Deckard found Cody hunched over a desk, finger-fucking some
electronic gadget. At the end of the passenger compartment, Cody had
set up a small work station. The desk was covered with wires,
batteries, rechargers, thumb drives, and other odds and ends. He was
perhaps the only non-combat personnel in the company, but he had a
magic touch with electronics. From computer network operations to
jury-rigging satellite dishes or isolating obscure radio frequency
spectrums, Cody had an exceptional talent.
Not that it didn’t come without its drawbacks.
“What do you want?” Cody asked after briefly looking up at
Deckard. Then he muttered under his breath, “Fucking pussy.”
Cody was in a unique position, as he had both Asperger’s
syndrome and apparently an undiagnosed form of Tourette syndrome on
top of it.
“Get anything off those laptops?” Deckard asked, noticing the
laptop computers Aghassi had taken off the Russian mafia target they
“Not much, just social media shit that can be used to link them
back to the rest of the Russian mob. But we already knew that.”
“The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is what happened
Cody didn’t look up and continued to mess around with the Pwn
Pad in his hands. It was a Nexus 7 tablet that had been specially
built for penetration testing of electronic networks.
“Tanks got hacked. What else you wanna know?” Cody asked.
“How hard is it to do something like that?”
“Very difficult. Just like our Predator drones. The signals
being transmitted between the drone and the operator are unencrypted,
otherwise the encryption would lead to such a lag time that it would
be like trying to have a firefight with a 56k AOL dial-up
“But intercepting signals doesn’t allow you to take
control of the drone?”
“No. FUCK. To do that you have hack the actual hardware on the
drone and that is encrypted.”
“Who could do something like that?”
“Military-grade encryption? Not me. Not anyone I would know.
Governments only, I guess.”
“So we’re talking about a major power player? A country that
has a massive electronic warfare infrastructure like China?”
“DICK. FACE. Yes. No. Or just a Russian military insider who
sold his secrets to someone. I don’t know.”
“You are not filling with me confidence right now, Cody.”
“Why the fuck would I want to do that?” Cody snorted. “We’re
all going to die up in this frozen shithole you brought us to.”
“Well, that’s nice to know,” Deckard said as he looked up
at the ceiling. “Anything else you can actually do to help me
before we stumble into oblivion?”
“Take this,” Cody turned around and tossed Deckard the Pwn
Pad. “Turn it on next time you come in contact with these guys. It
might suck up some interesting signals we can use.”
Deckard looked down at the tablet and pursed his lips.
“OK, Cody,” Deckard said as he turned to walk away. “OK.”
* * *
Deckard found his cot in the middle of the mercenary maelstrom
and sat down. It was his ship and his merry band of pirates, but even
he could get lost in the chaos. Having soldiers live right on top of
each other in cramped quarters made for an interesting combination of
fistfights and grab ass. These were no professional sailors either;
they were blow-the-door-down, kill everyone inside, and be home by
beer-thirty ground pounders. The few former SEALs and Marines may
have been used to it, but most of the men adapted to the maritime
lifestyle with great reluctance.
But none of them complained just as long as Deckard’s checks
cleared. For now, anyway.
The former special operations soldier picked up his AK-103 rifle,
depressed the nub at the end of the carrier spring, and detached the
dust cover. He then popped out the spring and pulled out the bolt
carrier. Using a rag and some oil, he did a few minutes of weapons
They were quickly learning how to put a weapon into operation
effectively in the Arctic. More and more of the mercenaries were
rolling out with just iron sights, as the batteries in optical sights
froze after 15 minutes. Deckard applied a very light coat of oil
prior to reassembling his rifle. Any more, and he risked having the
oil freeze and gum up the cycle of operation when he pulled the
trigger, leading to malfunctions.
Next, he moved on to his Glock 19, the standard-issue sidearm in
Samruk International. He had given up his much-loved Kimber 1911. As
much as he loved God's gun, Deckard knew that 1911s were high
maintenance tack drivers only carried by Luddites, iconoclasts, and
connoisseurs. At the end of the day, the Glock 19 was more reliable,
and reliability was something they desperately needed in the Arctic.
It took three minutes to disassemble the pistol, wipe it down, and
put it back together again.
Deckard slid the Glock into the Raven Concealment holster on his
hip and headed back up to the bridge. Otter had actually let Kurt
Jager take the helm while the ship’s captain was looking over sea
charts and plotting a course.
“Where do you think the enemy is heading?” Deckard asked him.
“Well,” Otter said as he frowned and blew out his cheeks.
“Based on the wake analysis we were given, it looks like they are
heading toward the De Long Strait.”
“Will we overtake them prior to getting there?”
“I have no idea. It depends on their speed relative to ours,
and right now we have no idea how many knots they are moving at. We
should have a better idea in five hours, when the next satellite in
polar orbit goes overhead. If it is able to pick up the stealth
ship’s wake again, we could be able to calculate speeds.”
“How long until we reach the strait if we continue at our max
“At twenty-five knots we will get there in just a little over
“Feels like we’re fighting a war in slow motion.”
“We're not hitting time-sensitive targets in some urban
sprawl,” Kurt reminded Deckard. “Even with the northeast passage
opening up, there is still very little infrastructure in the Arctic.”
“Maybe that won’t be the case in another twenty years, after
the oil companies try to suck every bit of energy reserves out of the
Arctic,” Otter confirmed. “But for now, we are faced with the
tyranny of distance and the austerity of the environment.”
“I guess the good news is that the enemy is as well,” Deckard
“Their choice of vessel would make one believe that they chose
stealth over speed, counting on the assumption they would not be
“But we’ve already got their heading.”
“And we’re probably gaining on them as we speak,” Otter
said with a rare smile.
Deckard ran his finger over the chart, tracing the projected
route of the Carrickfergus, wondering what the next day would bring.
Craig rubbed his bloodshot eyes. Joshua had his head down on the
table, taking a nap. Gary had stepped outside to call his wife and
tell her that he wouldn’t be coming home any time soon. SCOPE was a
think tank, not an operations center that worked in shifts. Everyone
was exhausted and needed a break while the Carrickfergus was in
transit and they waited for the satellite window to open up again
over northern Russia.
The JSOC think tank was dead tired. Most of them, anyway.
Will paced back and forth, his heels clicking on the floor. His
lips were moving, the words coming out of his mouth barely
decipherable even if someone had been listening. The only words that
were really recognizable were the ones consisting of four letters.
After years of warning the intelligence community, everything he’d
said was coming true. It wasn’t something he took pride in, but now
no one could doubt that his assessment had merit. Or at least they
wouldn't be able to much longer.
Suddenly, Will stopped dead in his tracks.
“I’ve got it!” he shouted.
“Got what?” Craig said with a yawn.
Joshua continued to snore.
“Something we can do instead of sitting around with our thumbs
up our asses.”
“Well, I could go rub one out I guess—”
“Yeah,” Will said under his breath. “Or you could go dust
your old lady’s pussy off.”
“What did you say?”
“Sorry, just mumbling to myself.”
“We need to take a serious look at getting inside the enemy’s