The year is 2008, and the place is Earth, a world where subtle politics uneasily ease next to global armies with armaments and vehicles that exist for solely one purpose; war. While international treaties, understandings, and conventions govern these legions of mass destruction, primal instincts of carnal voraciousness urge to take yoke over these militaries; while it does not appear so, the armies of Earth are on a mirror-fine knife to wage catastrophic global warfare. Thus, it is in this scenario that the United Kingdom loses a nuclear warhead to Russian rebels; 22nd SAS Regiment “Bravo Team” is dispatched to Chechnyan territory in western Russia to retrieve or neutralize the warhead before it can fall into Chenyan hands. However, there is an unfolding catastrophe merely waiting to bloom during the course of this covert operation; as Bravo Team eliminates a Chechnyan convoy and retrieves the warhead, things go wrong. While the SAS operators, including Cpl. Randall Lyons, escape back across Russian borders to Georgia...the nuke goes off. The situation rapidly escalates as the British and Russian armies prepare for inevitable bloodshed; Russia denounces the British for handing nuclear weapons to anti-government Chechnyan rebels, placing it in the league of Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea in its dissemination of nuclear arms. Meanwhile, the British blames the nuclear detonation on Russia, an unauthorized arms test on Russian soil, and rallies for the support of the United States and NATO. As global situations begin to warm to the machines of war, a US Army Special Forces (“Green Beret”) team in Russia under the command of SSgt. Dieter Murray, originally intended for foreign training of Spetsnaz Russian special-forces soldiers, uncovers a most horrifying truth in Russia that will change everything...
It was, for all intents and purposes, a conscientiously objecting road. It was, by the simplest definition, a flat, three-lane strip of loamy dirt embedded with pebbles of hewn gravel and the occasional lace of tundra moss. To either side of this even, shallow depression were two swells of earth to either side, thus defining the road as a depression, and then the tundra’s variegated wheat and tall grass lining each swell, carpeting the tundra land that ran for thousands of kilometers apart from the road. The road is indeed a sentient being of sorts, and could feel the armored vehicles rumbling upon it several kilometers south of the point of interest. The road could feel emotion, and thus feel a sting of sorrow and even a bitter sense of misgivings for its betrayal, for it knew that those approaching vehicles were about to be vindicated upon. The road’s responsibility was to ferry men and women and their mechanicals safely across it, yet, for this particular convoy, the road had failed.
Deployment + 04:21:52 (Lance Corporal Lyons Mission Clock) \ Aboard C-130 Hercules Bravo-Tango From Incirlik Air Base, Over Russian Airspace
“Status check. You all know the drill!” Staff Sergeant Woodbury shouted above the roar of the plane’s engines, quickly replacing the breather to his face. “Don’t open your chute until we’re at eleven hundred feet! Do you hear me?” Rather than the verbose response one might expect from a United States military unit, the British SAS squad nodded, keeping their oxygen breathers on. It was required to breathe pure oxygen for at least half an hour in order to flush all the nitrogen out of their bodies. No one wanted to get the bends halfway down and be unable to open their chute.
“I still don’t get it. I’m not even a designated marksman. Why doesn’t the fucking new guy use this bulky thing? I’d prefer an A-W fifty to this Russian piece of junk,” a Lance Corporal complained.
“You’re going to be ten meters out, and have five shots. If you miss, you might as well opt out now.” Retorted Lance Corporal Lyons, the designated marksman and FNG, hefting his SVD Dragunov sniper rifle.
“And we’re using Russian weps because you know the U-N will be all over this. We can’t leave point two one eight casings behind. We want them to think either a Russian Spetsnaz squad or another rogue element eliminated the convoy. Otherwise, we’d be using American M fours and British AW fifties,” the Staff Sergeant explained with a wink.
“One ‘till drop. Strap in, boys,” crackled over the speakers, just audible over the screaming wind as the two side doors slid open. Everyone was buckled in tight as the cabin violently decompressed, adjusting to the frigid air outside.
“Alright, line ‘em up,” Sergeant Lovejoy called out, taking his position across from Woodbury at the side of the drop door. The line wasn’t really necessary, since there were only two people in each. Lyons was in Lovejoy’s line. “See you at dirt,” he reassured. “Green light for HALO! Green light for-” The green light flashed, and Lyons was already out the door, the air tearing at his body, the C-130 already a yonder memory lost in pearlescent, turbulent clouds.
D + 4:35:24 (Lance Corporal Lyons Mission Clock) \ Chechnya, Russia, Russian Tundra, Summer
Lyons flared his chute a few meters above the ground, dropping and rolling as his feet touched down. “Report!” his radio insisted.
“I’ve got four legs and a head. I’m clear.” One by one, the other four SAS operatives reported in. Everyone was good. Lyons started to take a step, but collapsed to the ground. His right ankle was sprained, and it wouldn’t support his weight. “Dammit,” he silently cursed to himself. He pulled out his first aid kit and scrambled about for a stick to use as a splint. He wrapped the makeshift splint in gauze and taped it off. He tested his foot. It still hurt like hell, but he’d manage. He pulled out a pain killer, and then wrapped the first aid kit back up and put it in his meager rucksack. He would pop the pain killer, but he needed to be sharp for this mission. But then again, the pain might distract him. He dry-mouthed the pill and then looked around for some landmarks. Earlier, they had viewed satellite images of the entire area, and had agreed to meet by a particularly large rock outcrop that was just a few klicks east of the target. He started what would turn into a twelve-minute jog.
D + 4:48:07 (Lance Corporal Lyons Mission Clock) \ Chechen Tundra, Grid Kilo Two-Three
The six squad members had joined up at the designated meeting place, a large rock that just stuck up out of the light conifer forest. Silently, they donned ghillie suits and checked their weapons for any malfunction that might ruin their perfectly planned op. Lyons checked his Dragunov SVD, unscrewing the barrel and sighting through it to make sure there weren’t any obstacles, then pulling out a fine cleaning rod and scrubbing the inside of the 620 millimeter barrel to ensure there was no dust. Not that it really mattered. Russian weapons like the SVD were built to last. A person could drop one in the ocean and retrieve it the next day, or swim through a swamp with it tethered to their back, or bury it in sand and then dig it up later, and it would still operate. However, out of habit, Lyons cleaned the weapon anyway. His shots needed to be perfect. Reliability was one thing, perfection another. All around him, the rest of his squad were wiping and inspecting VSS tactical automatic sniper rifles, made especially for the Spetsnaz, all but two, one who was similarly cleaning the barrel of his VSSK silenced .50 caliber anti-material rifle and the other was inspecting the fin-stabilized PG-29V HEAT grenade to ensure that it would fly true.
“Bravo Team, this is Vandelay Ops. Do you copy? Over.” Only Woodbury reacted to the radio chatter. The rest ignored it, continuing the pre-op inspection.
“We copy. Over,” he responded.
“Satellite confirms convoy is en route. E-T-A forty minutes to designated kill zone. Kill zone is a free fire zone. Confirm. Over.”
“Confirmed. We’ll lay out the welcome rug. Over and out.” The six commandos, having finished inspecting every bit of equipment to make sure that it was all in working order and properly lashed down so that nothing made a sound as the moved, oriented and began stealthily making their way towards the kill zone. It took them ten minutes to get there, and another five to set up the ambush. They would be positioned in a wheat field off to the east of the road. Their ghillie suits, which had stuck out in the conifers, blended perfectly with the Russian wheat.
“Alright, boys, E-T-A is twenty minutes. The Chechen rebels will be in visible range any minute now. I want silence from you lot. Staff Sergeant Woodbury will announce the convoy, and then it’s hand signals only from there on out,” Lovejoy ordered on Woodbury’s behalf. Woodbury was engrossed in his binoculars, which he had sooted prior to the mission so that they wouldn’t gleam the sun and give away his position, and were thus very difficult to see through. The commandos hunkered down, weapons ready.
“Contacts. I count five vehicles. Open-air U-A-Z four sixty-nine with a light machine gun mounted, followed by a B-M-P one I-F-V, followed by a G-A-Z sixty-six four by four truck, followed by a B-T-R fifty A-P-C, followed by another open-air U-A-Z. Estimated E-T-A is fifteen minutes.” Woodbury ducked back down after making the lightning fast report. Civilians would have been overwhelmed by the sheer volume and detail, but these were SAS commandos, and they all took it in easily. Lyons sighted down the PSO-1 optical scope on his Dragunov where he estimated his first shot would be. Minutes ticked by on Lyons’s mission clock. Soon, the low rumble of two jeeps, a tank, a truck, and an armored personnel carrier could be heard up the road. It didn’t take long before the first UAZ-469 rolled through Lyons’s crosshairs. Modified chromaffin cells in his adrenal cortex did not relent, releasing catecholaminergic epinephrine and norepinephrine, ordering all his muscles to stand guard, to lock rigid, his heart continuing its pulsing throbs in preparation for the worst. Lyons began to tap his finger on the trigger to ease his nerve, but stopped immediately, realizing that he might accidentally set off his rifle. Firing now would be death for them all, because they didn’t have the fire power to trade shots with that BMP-1. It would tear them apart before they could say ‘parley’. Lyons slowly melded into a merciless mire of sound and color, of pastel tones set to the beating drums of war that sounded within his crest.
Next, the BMP-1 passed through Lyons’s crosshairs, followed by the truck, their target, and then the APC. He was jarred from his reverie by the sound of a crash as the lead jeep fell into a cleverly disguised trench the SAS commandos had dug across the road from one end of the depression to the other. It was about two feet deep and at least four across.
“Прокляните это! Получите тот джип из там!” someone shouted in Russian. Lyons knew enough Russia to pick up the words ‘damn’, ‘jeep’, and ‘out’.
“Пойдите помогают им! Спешите! Спешите!” another of the Chechen rebels shouted. Lyons understood ‘help’ and ‘hurry’. The rest of the convoy slid to a stop across the gravelly path. Lyons was starting to wonder if he had incorrectly estimated his target’s position when the rear jeep slid into his crosshair, stopping with his bead right on the gunner’s head. Lyons zoomed in and, estimating his distance to be about fifteen feet, elevated the scope several millimeters above the head. Realizing his mistake immediately, Lyons dropped the crosshair to within a few hairs’ breaths of the head. He had forgotten that the Russian scope was in metric, not imperial. Fifteen feet and fifteen meters would make a world of difference. Adjusting to the five, which was a millimeter below the intersecting perpendicular the line of carrot marks that formed his crosshairs, Lyons prepared to take the shot. He practiced the motion between the gunner and the driver a few times until he was satisfied he could do it in under a second without thinking. The squad radio clicked twice and Lyons slipped back into the reverie of a sniper.
He was vaguely aware as Lovejoy stood onto one knee, still almost completely obscured by the tall wheat, and fired his RPG-29, the PG-29V grenade sliding perfectly out of the tube, fins erecting, and flying on a straight course with the BMP-1. The Chechens, too busy with the jeep, hardly heard the muffled whump as the grenade’s rocket boost fired inside the tube, spraying flames behind Lovejoy and incinerating a small patch of wheat, nor the shump as the projectile lazily streaked down into the depression, leaving a light smoke trail, and collided with the seam that connected the BMP-1’s main gun with its chassis, one of the weakest points of any heavily armored tank. The grenade penetrated the armor easily, exploding inside and killing the crew instantly. The high explosive round bloomed outward as the gases expanded. The flames licked up into the ammo cache. The resulting explosion sent a shock wave that bent some of the wheat and knocked a few Chechens over. They all turned to look at the flame blankly, completely taken aback by the sudden explosion. Lyons was also vaguely aware as the Lance Corporal with the VSSK began pumping round after round into the BTR-50, the .50 caliber rounds easily puncturing the light armor and tearing apart any who had remained inside. That was what Lyons had been waiting for, the distinct muffled crack of a suppressed VSSK sniper rifle.
At that, he opened fire with his SVD, killing first the gunner and then the driver. Not even bothering to watch either shot, which Lyons already knew would be kills, Lyons zoomed back a bit and scanned the rest of the area. At about that time, the other three commandos opened fire with their silenced automatic VSS sniper rifles, laying down a exactingly direct crossfire of special nine millimeter subsonic rounds. Before Lyons could pull off another shot, all visible contacts were down.
“Vandelay Ops, this is Bravo-Six. Over,” Woodbury whispered into his mic.
“This is Vandelay Ops. Go ahead. Over.”
“Five vehicles neutralized. Nine visible Chechens neutralized. Confirm, over.”
“Repeat? There should be ten Chechens. Over.”
“Roger, Vandelay Ops. I’m pretty sure I heard screams when we put those fifties through that A-P-C. The tenth is probably dead inside. Requesting satellite thermal confirmation. Over.”
“Satellite confirms ten warm bodies in or around the convoy. Nothing moving. Permission to proceed granted. Over and out.” Woodbury nodded and made a few hand gestures to his squad. He wasn’t going to take any chances, whether satellites confirmed ten enemy casualties or not. Lyons slung his SVD, removing a PP-2000 Russian submachine gun from a small holster. The thing was an amazing piece of craftsmanship, being about the size of a compact pistol with an elongated rectangular clip protruding from the back. Lyons still preferred British, American, and even German weapons, but he had to hand it to the Russians: they were damn good weapons smiths.
The squad carefully and silently crept up to the now dead convoy, three still sporting their VSS sniper rifles and the other three a mix of a Russian pistol and two Russian submachine guns. The squad spread out, each checking a body by kicking it roughly. None of the corpses responded with so much as a groan. They were dead. Lyons moved on to the BTR-50. The driver side window was shattered, and the windshield was splattered with blood. It was apparent that the Lance Corporal had gotten cocky and spent one of his five .50 caliber rounds blowing the driver’s brains out. Of course, the round has also blown much of the man’s upper torso apart, leaving no trace of his head.
“Bravo-Four,” Woodbury spoke quietly over the radio, “clear that B-T-R. I don’t want any surprises. Bravo-Three, check the B-M-P’s wreckage. Bravo-One, go make sure the crew of the forward jeep are definitely K-I-A. Bravo-Two, you’re with Bravo-Five and me on retrieval duty. Head for the truck.” Lyons silently cursed his luck. Of course the FNG would be the only one with a significant chance of getting shot. Why did he have to clear the APC? Distracted by his thoughts, Lyons stepped on a particularly sharp rock. While the rock didn’t cut his boot, it sent pain shooting up his sprained ankle. He clenched his teeth, angry with himself for being so careless. Still not keen on the prospect of clearing a vehicle that possibly had hostiles, Lyons instead took the time to listen in on Woodbury, Lovejoy, and the unlucky Lance Corporal.
“Vandelay Ops. This is Bravo Team. Do you copy? Over.”
“Go ahead, Bravo Team. We copy ten by ten. Over.”
“All enemies have been neutralized. We are retrieving the package. Over and out.” Lyons looked over as the Lance Corporal parted the tarp draped over the GAZ-66’s bed.
“Fuck! There’s no nuke!” he shouted.
“Stow it! What do you see?” Woodbury snapped acrimoniously. “Guns and ammo. Nothing big enough to be a nuke,” Bravo-Two responded.
“Move over,” Lovejoy ordered, roughly shoving the Lance Corporal aside so that he and Woodbury could completely remove the tarp. Sure enough, all that they could see were ammo drums and belts for RPDs, clips for AK-47s, and an assortment of weapons.
“Vandelay, we have a problem. Over.”
“What sort of problem? Over.”
“The package is not in the fucking truck.”
“Not in the truck? NRO confirms that satellites picked up the Chechens loading the package in at O eight hundred this morning. It is in the truck. Over and out.” Lovejoy practically leapt onto the flatbed as he searched for anything. Clips and belts and drums were thrown hither and yon as he madly tore the bed apart looking for the nuke.
“Nothing,” Lovejoy said tersely. He looked up and noticed Lyons staring at him. “Is the A-P-C clear, Bravo-Four?” he called out angrily.
“No, sir! Clearing now, sir!” Lyons responded smartly, hoping to avoid the angry Sergeant’s full wrath.
That’s when he heard the voice. At first, he couldn’t make out the low whisper, but soon, it was audible enough for him to pick out words.
“Британские коммандос САС убили наших мужчин, и они ищут транспортные средства. Детонатор не работает. Я вооружил...” he heard. He recognized ‘SAS’ immediately, and knew there was trouble. He thrust the door open. On the other side was a Chechen with a radio in one hand and a Vepr 12 semiautomatic shotgun in the other. His entire right leg was missing, likely from one of the .50 caliber rounds, and there was a pool of blood on the ground. Roughly shoved under a bench on which rebel was sitting was a duffle bag. The rebel was surprised at the intruder, and the moment was brief. Before he could utter a single word or even aim his shotgun, Lyons had opened fire with his submachine gun. First he sprayed the body, and then he sprayed the radio transmitter.
“Shots fired! Shots fired! Bravo-Four! Status?” Lyons heard Woodbury call.
“Enemy contact neutralized. I think I’ve located the package too. Be advised. Enemies may be en route. There’s a radio in here.”
“Shit! Bravo-Five, get into that A-P-C and retrieve the package. Bravo-Four, why didn’t you clear the A-P-C earlier?”
“Sorry, sir. I was distracted. It’s my fault.”
“Damn right it’s your fucking fault! But we’ll leave this bit out of the final report. Bravo Team, form up at the A-P-C.” The five commandos formed up just outside of the BTR-50 as Lovejoy brought the duffle bag out, setting it gingerly on the ground. “Vandelay Ops. This is Bravo Team. Package secure. Over.” “Confirm, package secure. Over.”
“Confirm that it is a Red Snow missile warhead Lot Number Eight-Seven-Seven-Two-Five. Over.” Lovejoy shot a sideways glance at Woodbury.
“Sir, we have a serious problem.”
“Vandelay, please hold. There might be a slight issue. Over.”
“What kind of issue? Over.” Again, Woodbury looked at Lovejoy, waiting for an answer.
“Sir. I can’t be sure, but I think the package is armed,” Lovejoy stuttered, with the barest signs of stress showing underneath his voice.
“What the fuck?”
“Repeat. What kind of issue? Over.”
“A shitload of fuck. Over.”
“Bravo Team, you need to tell us what the problem is. A ‘shitload of fuck’ doesn’t help us. Over.” Lovejoy nodded gravely to Woodbury.
“Vandelay Ops, be advised, the bomb is armed. Countdown reads eight minutes forty-two seconds and counting. Over.”
“What!? That’s impossible! There shouldn’t be any accessory mechanisms!”
“Well, the Chechens attached one. Countdown reads eight minutes seven seconds and counting. How do we proceed, Vandelay? Over.” There was an uncomfortable pause.
“Er…Bravo Team, proceed to extract on the double. Over.”
“What do we do with the package? Over.”
“Leave it. Over.”
“Leave it? Do I copy correctly? Over.” The sound of the microphone being fumbled around sounded over the radio, followed by a deeper voice.
“This is Lieutenant General Dale Reynolds of the United States Army.”
“Sir, you shouldn’t identify yourself over the radio,” the Vandelay operative from before quietly complained.
“Fuck off! As I was saying, I am a Lieutenant General, and I am ordering you to drop the ‘package’ and get the hell out of dodge. Do I make myself clear? Over.”
“Yes, sir! Right away, sir! Over and out!” He practically bellowed the last words; Woodbury seemed a bit shaken by the presence of an American general. He hadn’t known the Americans were so heavily involved in this op. He turned to Lovejoy. “Bravo-Five, drop the nuke. Bravo-Four, go clear the rear four sixty-nine of bodies. Bravo-Two, go help him. Bravo-One and Bravo-Three, cover them. We have possible inbound vectors.” Woodbury turned back to Lovejoy, who had a death grip on the nuke.
“Drop it, sir?” he stuttered. Without saying a word, Woodbury wrenched it out of his hands and tossed it up into the wheat field above and to the right.
“Bravo-Five, you’re driving!” Woodbury and Lovejoy jogged over to the jeep.
“Bravo-Six, this is going to be a tight fit,” Bravo-Two complained. As much as he was right, Woodbury just gave him a glare.
“Make it happen!” he practically shouted.
“Bravo Team. Inbound convoy. Satellite just picked them up. Ten vehicles. All I-F-Vs. E-T-A is thirty minutes. Get out of there now! Over and out.” Bravo-Five jumped into the driver seat. Bravo-Six took the passenger seat with Bravo-Four in the middle. Bravo-One and Bravo-Two squeezed into the rear storage, their legs draping over the edge. Bravo-Three manned the machine gun.
“Get us out of here now, Bravo-Five!” Woodbury shouted at Lovejoy. “NOW!”
“Sir, we dug the trench across the entire path. There’s no way around!”
“Going the other way is not an option! Find a way over that pass. That’s an order!” Without a word, Lovejoy stepped on the gas, veering around the BTR-50 and speeding towards the trench. Everyone else grabbed hold of whatever was available, bracing for impact. At the last moment, Lovejoy spun the wheel, sending the UAZ-469 up across the depression incline and around the trench. The UAZ jackknifed, and Lovejoy quickly spun the wheel the other way and drove back down the incline and onto the road. It was no longer conscientiously objecting; it had a new vehicle to ferry to safety.