General Fiction posted September 22, 2022 Chapters: -1- 


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chapter one

A chapter in the book Rogachevo, Siberia

Rogachevo, Siberia

by giraffmang

The author has placed a warning on this post for language.

 
 
Chapter One.
 

Parkman awoke to a sea of white. It rippled around him in low swirling flurries. The frigid air stole the breath from his inhaling lungs. Something tugged at his shoulders. He fought to clear his head as he started to slide backwards.

“Shit.” His voice almost lost in the bellowing wind.

His backward journey quickened when the wind increased. His vision cleared, and he looked down, searching. Plumes of snow rose into the air around him as he tried to dig his feet and hands into the powdery ground to no avail. He fumbled a hand onto his chest, his touch marred by the padded glove. “Where is it?”

Finally, he felt the hardness of the metal clasp. Curling his fingers around it he gave a sharp jerk, and the tightness around his shoulders slackened. He wriggled his arms free of the harness as the parachute billowed up away from him and his momentum ground to a halt.

Panting, he lay back in the snow, but his head never met the ground. Cold air buffeted the base of his scalp. Taking great care, he rolled to his left, snow crunching beneath him. He stared down the frozen cliff face to the churning sea below. “Bloody hell.”

He inched away from the cliff edge, digging his hands and feet into the drifts. He was about to stand when a black combat boot thumped down beside his head. A hand grasped the webbing on his snowsuit, and he was yanked to his feet by a giant of a man.

“You really need to work on your landing, Parkman.” The voice more a growl than well-articulated speech.

“Yeah, next time,” Parkman replied.

“If you live that long.” The man released his grip, turned, and strode off. “Oh, your weapons are,” he waggled a finger at a shiny black object near the drag marks, “over there. Try not to lose them again, son.”

Parkman retrieved his P-90, shook the snow from the muzzle and slung it over his shoulder. He checked the desert eagle strapped to his thigh for good measure before hurrying to catch up with his five colleagues.

Ploughing through the snowdrifts by foot proved hard going. The Siberian Island of Novaya Zemlya was as inhospitable as terrain comes. The team walked single file along the coastline of the northern island. After a couple of hours, Harcastle, the nominal leader of this amalgamated outfit, and the giant who’d helped Parkman to his feet earlier, knelt by the precipice of the cliff overlooking the Matochkin Strait. The southern island lay over the stretch of water and held their destination – the former soviet Cold War base of Rogachevo.

Harcastle raised his glint-resistive binoculars and scanned the far coastline. “Looks clear, men.”

Parkman hovered by the rear of the group, checking, and rechecking his equipment. He rolled his neck and shoulders trying to shrug off the stiffness of his parachuting debacle.

Harcastle stood and indicated to their right. “There should be a bridge spanning the strait that way. Failing that, I’m open to suggestions.”

The other four soldiers in the group, O’Driscoll, Cooper, Taylor, and Trask,  glanced at one another as if unsure whether Harcastle was actually asking for input or not.

“Move out,” Harcastle instructed. “Cooper, take point. Trask, bring up the rear.”

Cooper and Trask moved into position without a word, crunching snow the only sound.

“Hold up. I think I hear some--” Trask’s voice cut off as something hit him hard and fast.

Parkman spun around, P-90 raised in readiness. “What the fuck was--?”

“Bear!” yelled Harcastle as he let loose a volley of gunfire at the hulking white mass.

Parkman, second from the rear, rolled to his left away from the charging beast as it thundered past. He righted himself and drew a bead on the polar bear which headed for the rest of the team. He pulled the trigger, unloading half a clip into the hind quarters of the animal. It fell with a dull whoomph.

Taylor made a move to backtrack toward Trask, but a firm hand on his shoulder halted him.

Harcastle’s deep voice cut through the silence. “There’s probably more. Best keep moving.”

Taylor protested. “But… Trask?”

“We’re all expendable, son. Trask knows that. If you wanna risk it, be my guest, but I ain’t hanging about.”

Harcastle removed his hand from Taylor’s shoulder, turned and headed off. O’Driscoll, Cooper, and Parkman followed suit after a brief pause.

Taylor hesitated. “Trask… Trask…?”

No answer came.

“Fuck it!” Taylor hustled to catch up with the remaining team members.

~

Harcastle held up a clenched fist. Everyone stopped. Dropping to a prone position, he edged forward. Thirty feet in front of him, a single guard sat, smoking, by the entry to the narrow rope bridge. “Fucking amateurs.”

He snaked his way through the powdery snow until he was within a few feet, his white gear masking his presence. He rose to a crouched position, withdrew his knife from its resting place in his boot and charged at the unsuspecting guard.

The guard had no chance to move before Harcastle reached him. Clamping a huge hand down on the man’s hand, he slashed the knife across the man’s throat before pushing him over the edge to the crashing waters below. He signalled for the rest of the team to join him whilst he withdrew his binoculars and scanned the far side of the bridge.

O’Driscoll, Taylor, Cooper, and Parkman huddled on haunches a few feet behind Harcastle, awaiting instructions.

“Okay, troops. Bridge is intact and secure this end. Bad news is there are two sentries far side. One at the bridge exit, one on the ridge. What do ya think, O’Driscoll?”

O’Driscoll crouched his way over to Harcastle, unslinging the rifle case from his back when he came to a halt. He slid out the AI L115A1 sniper rifle he’d purloined from a dead SAS guy a few years back. He liked the feel of it better than the American models. The irony wasn’t lost on the Irishman.

He lay flat on the ground and dug in the tripod for a solid grip. He moved the rifle by fractions between the two targets. A smile creased his face. “I got this.”

Harcastle watched the top of the ridge as O’Driscoll took his first shot. The guard’s head disintegrated before his eyes. Without blinking, Harcastle swung down to the bridge guard, but O’Driscoll’s second shot was faster. “Nice job, Sean.”

O’Driscoll rehoused the rifle in its case and returned it to its resting place on his back.

Harcastle turned and pointed at Cooper. “On point.”

Cooper took a tentative step onto the bridge, testing it before committing his full weight. He shrugged and took a couple of steps. “Game on.” He walked at a slow and steady pace, P-90 held in both hands, scanning ahead to the far side and the swaying bridge in front of him. The bridge groaned as the others made their way across.

Parkman brought up the rear. With his back to the bridge he surveyed the landscape to their rear. Squinting into the wind, he thought he saw a movement in the distance, but couldn’t pinpoint it. With slow and steady movements, he backed onto the bridge. A gust of wind caught the bridge causing him to slip to one knee. A roar split the air.

“Oh shit.” Parkman scurried backwards farther onto the narrow walkway as thundering crunching permeated the air. A huge paw swiped through the air he’d occupied only moments before. He scrambled to his feet, turned, and sprinted over the bridge. “Fucking run!”

One of the polar bears behind him charged at the bridge, howling, and snarling as it crashed into the wooden struts. Parkman heard the splintering moments before the bridge slipped away from under his feet.

                                                                                                                #

Parkman dropped the P-90, which tumbled into the raging waters below and tried to grasp anything he could. His outstretched fingertips brushed off the retreating wooden slats. His cheek stung as something whipped across it.

The ropes.

He flailed an arm at the rapidly retreating rope and clamped his hand around the rough cord. It ripped through his hand taking a layer of skin with it. Ignoring the pain he tightened his grip and secured a solid purchase on it. With the wind buffeting his face, Parkman squinted at the approaching cliff face. Fuck. This is going to hurt.

He did his best to rotate sideways and hit the surface with the narrowest part of his body, but not enough. The air rushed from his lungs as he hit hard. He lost his grip and once again, Parkman fell.

~

Harcastle and O’Driscoll watched on as Cooper reached out a hand toward a scrambling Taylor to help him off the collapsing bridge. Taylor grasped the outstretched hand and Cooper heaved him to safety. Taylor collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily.

Harcastle cast a glance in his direction. “Take five.” He paused a beat before adding, “I guess Parkman’s lives ran out.”

The other three men exchanged furtive glances behind Harcastle’s back. Taylor spoke up, “We’re all expendable, right?”

Harcastle glanced over his shoulder at the others. “Even me… O’Driscoll, get up on that ridge where the sentry was and see what we’ll be facing down on the base.”

O’Driscoll gave a single nod of his head and trudged through the snow in the direction Harcastle had indicated. The deep snow made the climb difficult, but he took measured steps and a steady pace. On cresting the ridge, he lay prone and crawled forward to the far edge. He deftly set up his rifle again and scanned the area below, noting building and vehicle positions.

O’Driscoll lingered, searching for signs of movement or occupation, but all he saw was snow and dark shadow. Not a single rebel in sight.

He wriggled back through the channel he’d made on his way over and slid down the slope to his waiting colleagues.

“I don’t get it. There’s no one there,” he informed Harcastle. “Maybe the Intel was bad… or we’re too late.”

“No. There must be some other reason.” Harcastle scratched the stubble on his chin. “Nothing’s changed. We’re to secure the base and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Taylor, on point.”

Taylor shouldered his way past Harcastle and made his way up the slope, followed closely by Cooper. Harcastle laid a hand on O’Driscoll’s arm as he walked past.

“You sure there were no signs of life.”

O’Driscoll shook his head. “Not a soul.”

~

The four-man squad crouched on top of the ridge, surveying the base below.

“This is fuckin’ weird!” Cooper lowered his binoculars.

“I don’t like this.” Harcastle frowned. “Two sentries out front, but no one on the perimeter here.”

A guttural howl ripped through the night.

“What the hell was that?” Taylor averted his gaze in the direction of the sound.

“Probably reindeer,” Harcastle replied.

“Reindeer?” Taylor turned to Harcastle.

“Didn’t you read the mission notes? They roam here.”

“Yeah, them and the fuckin’ bears.”

O’Driscoll slapped Taylor on the back. “All in the briefing, lad.”

“Right, men, enough of this shit. We’ll make our way down slowly and head for the first of those three outbuildings. Sweep through each in turn then we’ll converge on the hangar which will take us into the main building. Stay low and stay close.”

~

Harcastle and Taylor formed up to the left of the third outbuilding’s door with O’Driscoll and Cooper to the right.

“Same again,” ordered Harcastle as he eased open the door and they slipped inside.

The place was a mess. Equipment and tools littered the floor and benches. Wind whistled in through a cracked window as they picked their way through the debris.

“What happened here?” Cooper muttered.

O’Driscoll peered out a window. “Nothing good.” He disconnected the scope from his rifle and scanned the wide area between them and the hangar. “We’re clear.”

Harcastle edged the door open, and they proceeded to the hangar doors. Harcastle pressed an ear to the door, but all he could hear was the gusting wind. He grasped the handle and pulled.

The stench hit Taylor as he peeled inside. He raised an arm to cover his nose and mouth. His eyes watered, blurring his vision. Harcastle closed the door behind them. Using his scarf as a filter, he moved farther into the room and unhooked a flashlight from his belt.

Taylor puked. Illuminated in the narrow beam, chunks of flesh lay strewn about awash in a sea of red...




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