Narvick, Norway. Port towns always have a warehouse district. Every warehouse district will have a warehouse, or warehouse space at least, for rent. Monster Hunter International (Scandinavian Division) currently occupied one slightly run down, non-climate controlled warehouse. Instead of crates of fish or goods, the warehouse stored military hardware and various tents the Monster Hunters set up inside the building to provide planning and preparation areas for the upcoming mission.
Even as far north as Narvick is, the target was further into the frozen white hell of the Arctic.
“Didn’t Odin kill all the Frost Giants?” Victor asked absentmindedly as he polished the blade of his basket hilt broadsword.
“Well, yeah.” Jon answered, pulling the handle on the reloading press, seating the .510 caliber lathe turned brass silver tipped bullet into place and sealing it with a roll crimp. “But it’s not like he killed all Frost Giants for all time, did you watch that Thor movie that explained the different dimensions connected by the Yggdrasil? There’s an entire dimension of Frost Giants.”
“Well, that’s certainly convenient for the Frost Giants.” Victor mused, testing the edge of the blade. “Less convenient for us is that Odin doesn’t happen to be around to ask how in Valhalla he happened to rid Midgaard of Frost Giants.”
“That part is pretty simple, kill ’em all and destroy the gate” Jon responded, seating another custom bullet.
“Thanks jackass.” Victor grinned, “But Murphy’s Musings for Mercenaries says, ‘Clausewitz was right, friction is that bastard concept which makes the simple things hard’. After all, Odin had a whole arsenal of magic weaponry, an eight legged flying trans-dimensional horse, and a bunch of sons with a company of heroes of fight alongside him, and he still lost an eye.”
“Hence the reason we set up an LLC for defense contracting and movie making. Your friend at the State Department was most helpful with the paperwork by the way.” Jon replied, repeating the cycle of handle up, bullet in, handle down, next round. “It turns out you can really do anything you want, anywhere in Europe as long as the paperwork is in order.”
“We may not have Slepnir” Jon continued his work, “But we’ve rented CV90s for the movie ‘Arctic Invasion: Frost Giant Revenge’ and they come with a 40mm Bofors cannon, which remains completely functional because they assume we don’t have any ammunition to run through the things.”
“And do we have ammunition to run through the things?” Victor asked, sheathing the broadsword and inserting loaded 50 BMG rounds into the links needed for the M2 machine guns.
“Oh yeah.” Jon grinned. “I had to call back to base in Alabama, but we are getting a triple combat load for the three vehicles.” dropping his tone, Jon muttered, “some assembly required…”
Victor froze, loaded round halfway into the link. “Some assembly required? Dear Brother of mine, pray tell by Beelzebub’s brazen bottom what ‘some assembly required’ entails.”
Jon lowered the handle once again. “Same thing we are doing right now with the 50 ammo, gonna have to do with the 40mm.”
Victor sighed, “Jon, even you don’t have a press big enough to handle that.”
Jon smiled, “Brother, you wound me to the quick, got a custom job locally sourced. Compound leverage, custom seating and crimping dies straight from a buddy of mine in the fab shop at ATK.” Jon passed the loaded round to Victor. “You’ve got nothing to worry about, all the projectiles are API, only five years past the pull date due to powder degradation, so we shouldn’t have a problem with duds.”
“And where are you going to get the powder for three triple combat loads for 40mm?” Victor asked, his voice dripping in sarcasm.
“I tried Sweden first, top notch powders with a top notch price tag. Same goes for Finland. Finally got lucky with the Belgians. It’s a ball powder, and I really had to tweak Quickload to come up with some data, but it should work.” Jon smiled, until he noticed the work Victor had done creating the linked ammo.
“Dude, not cool, I said one silver tip to one Raufoss round, tracer after every sixth!” Jon chastized. “Since we don’t know what works on Frost Giants a mix is better and the numerology of three silver, three Raufoss, and one tracer makes seven.”
“Damn, sorry bro.” Victor replied, and began correcting his mistake.
The two worked in silence for a few minutes until Victor spoke up. “Why are we filming again?”
Jon sighed. “A few reasons. One, we need a reason to have all the hardware we have. Two, we can sell the footage when we are done and get paid twice. Seriously, even ‘Sharknado’ made enough money that it has like seven films now.”
“Oh yeah, that was Ron’s crew out in California that filmed all the action sequences for that piece of crap.” Victor smiled. “I can’t believe someone released it.”
“I can’t believe that Ron sold enough footage for ‘Sharknado 2’ and ‘Sharknado 3’” Jon answered, “The deep ones only teamed up with that djinn the one time. He must have had more cameramen than shooters handling that mess.”
Victor laughed. “Nah, he just put a ‘GoPro’ hero cam on everyone on his team. Melvin spliced it all together into the crap that got sold.”
“Are you telling me that Hollywood got trolled?” Jon snorted.
A tall athletic redhead walked into the impromptu arms room and shook the snow off her hat and scarf.
“Shipment arrives in six hours. Last of big boxes, cameras, and snowmobiles.” Nadya smiled as her scarf and hat were folded neatly on an ammo box. She filled a styrofoam cup with three hour old coffee, burnt from having been on the heater the entire time.
“Once those snowmobiles arrive get them over to the garage to get fitted with the hard saddles and do some test runs around the area with the trailers attached.” Jon directed, doing his very best to not look at the curves of Nadya’s legs under the skin tight thermal suit she wore. “I want the drivers and gunners to test their com links under real world conditions and then run through gunnery tables 1 through 5 under day and night conditions.”
“Da.” Nadya replied, sipping the burnt coffee delicately. “We should be ready tomorrow this time, the crews have been practicing chair drills and simulator for days now. They grow tired of talking while stationary.”
The simulator was a cobbled together system of X-box game systems, one with a first person shooter where the goal was to be a gunner in the back of a pickup truck linked to the other game system where the other player was the driver of the pickup truck. Not exactly a perfect simulator for snowmobiles pulling gun platforms built on trailers on skis, but perfect solutions cost both time and money.
“Ok then, lets stick to the time schedule.” Victor replied, also doing his best to not notice that Nadya’s thermal suit covered her body but concealed nothing.
The following morning the plan was rehearsed over the map. Snowmobile teams in an outer scout formation with two CV90s in the center. The support snowcat vehicle would hold the camera crew and communications support personnel. Operational command would lie with Victor in a CV90 with Jon in the other CV90 as second in command, third CV90 in reserve with Nadya.
“So bottom line is we don’t know what the heck will kill a Frost Giant” Victor opened up his inspirational speech with the least inspiring bit of information as a matter of habit. “But to make up for that every team has at least a Ma Deuce and a Carls Gustoff. Flame Throwers will be available in the CV90s and Snowcat. We assume that fire and explosives are the safest bets for monster associated with cold, but we’ve added silver tip 50 cal to the machine gun ammo you have. Your ammo is alternating silver tip and Raufoss with a tracer every seventh shot. The CG ammo is HE and Illumination. We don’t expect there to be any thermal difference between a Frost Giant and the ambient temperature so thermals will be reduced in effectiveness out here for target acquisition.”
“Team breakdown as follows. Victor and Alex in one CV90 team one, Braunislav and Peter snowmobile team one. Hans and I in a CV90 Team Two, Olaf and Juri snowmobile Team Two. Snowcat with Rebecca Team 3, CV9 with Charlene, Nadya and Greg Team 3.
“Do we have any ISR assets?” Olaf inquired without raising his hand.
“Actually, yes, although the range and time on station is limited to assisting the scouts.” Jon spoke up. “We have two hex-copter UAVs, affectionately nicknamed Huginn and Muninn. The base control stations will be in the Snowcat and in the team 3’s CV90, and we’ll try to have one in the air at all times when stationary, but since the only vehicle with a person to spare when underway is team 3, we can only fly one when moving.”
“I have overall mission control. Jon is second in command.” Victor finished up. “If we both go down Nadya will assume mission control with the whoever is left choosing their own chain of command for tactical engagements.
“How do we deal with the gate” Juri asked, his Russian accent thick.
“Well, I guess it is time to let Nadya explain her part in all this.” Victor sighed.
Nadya stood up, walked sensuously to the center of the room, and shimmered. Then Nadya was no longer a pale skinned, red headed Nordic beauty. Nadya was now a silver haired, ebony skinned, blood red eyed Schwarzelff with a ragged scar across her right cheek. The curves were evidently real, but now the thermal suit looked much more like tanned lizard hide battle armor than anything else.
Everyone but Jon and Victor immediately reached for their sidearm.
“Hold it.” Jon spoke up, just as Juri and Charlene reached the low ready. “Nadya, which is what we will continue to call her since her real name is fracking difficult to pronounce, is not the enemy here. Let her speak her peace.”
“I am a deep scout, watching the goings on in Jodenheim.” Nadya smiled, “You would say ‘LRRS’ or covert operative I think. I came through the gate to Midgaard from Jodenheim and will take you back to where I came out, far north of here. I can destroy the gate.”
Juri and Olaf reholstered and took a seat. No more joking, no more nervousness. Everyone focused. Peter sometimes had to translate the plan into Russian for Braunislav to clarify, but that was the only thing slowing down the rehearsal.
They set out that night for the long trek north. The Hunters playing the camera crew got good footage of the tracked vehicles emerging from the warehouse followed by the snowmobiles being hauled on a flatbed as they drove north. Outside the city where the road would take them no further everyone topped off their fuel tanks form jerry cans and said goodbye to the flatbed.
Travel in a tactical formation slowed their movement as they expected contact at any time. When the forests opened up they transitioned from bounding over watch to traveling over watch and picked up speed.
Two days into the journey they encountered a smaller Frost Giant, possibly 8 meters tall. The combined fire from the scouts on snowmobiles fixed the monster in place until a CV90 finished it with 40mm HE rounds to the chest. The Giants bled something that looked like blue window cleaner, and their corpses turned into masses of ice.
“I’m glad we have the cameras to get this on tape.” Jon said over the radio common channel, “Getting paid would be hard with ice as your only evidence.”
The next encounter was two Frost Giants, 9 and 10 meters respectively. The meeting engagement turned into a deliberate withdrawal to position the monsters for the CV90s to engage.
“Is it just me? Or are they getting bigger?” Victor asked Nadya when they stopped for an 8 hour rest period.
“They will get bigger the closer we get to the gate.” Nadya replied, heating beef soup over the C4 fire she’d lit on an exposed rock. “The gate is like a woman giving birth, the birth canal takes time to grow, so only the smaller can go first, and the larger come later as it is stretched by the energy of those who have passed before.”
“That is a disturbing analogy” Jon replied from inside his mummy sack. “Wake me up in four hours”
“Sure thing.” Victor replied.
The expedition found the gate on day five. The Frost Giant encounters had become more frequent, with more participants. Instead of three rounds killing one, it took five to seven for a 15 meter Giant. The Carl Gustoff illumination rounds didn’t do much in terms of hurting a Giant, but when one stuck into the chest of a giant it made for an excellent beacon for the CV90s to lock on with the thermal sights.
The gate was three legs, a triangle not spaced correctly making a pyramid that was missing something just out of eyesight. Massive, it looked like a 4th dimensional object had been forced against its will into the third dimension across a vast snowfield in northern Norway. Out of the corner of his eye Jon could have sworn it had five legs, or maybe four, but then he looked at it directly, he only saw three.
“It will take three hours, thirty three minutes to destroy the gate” Nadya said. “I need you to hold them off until then.” She unpacked her rucksack and pulled out a thick book, five stones, seven candles, and various bottles.
“So we are down to 40% ammo, against against an unknown number of the biggest, baddest Giants we have yet to face, and have to stick in one place which negates our mobility advantage” Olaf said over the common link.
“Which is why they pay us the big bucks.” Victor replied. “Scout teams, push out to screen. Jon, get both Ravens in the air, snowcat and CV90 with Nadya, you take left flank support, I’ll take right. Everyone report back with GPS location before Jon and I position the CV90s. Charlene, start the clock.”
A choras of “Roger” and “Da, comrade” came back over the air. Victor positioned the CV90s back to back with Nadya in the middle, performing whatever ritual magic she had to do to end the invasion.
“Pack of three, heading in towards my location.” Olaf announced over the radio.
“Ok, try cutting their knees out with the Ma Deuce” Jon ordered, “I’ll be at your position in 90 seconds.”
Juri swiveled the M2 around in the pintle mount and aimed at the knees of the first Giant, the dark night sky lit an eerie green from the northern lights which mixed with the sickly blue of the gate magic to create a winter scene straight from Dante’s Inferno. Olaf calmly picked up the Carl Gustoff and loaded an HE round. “In three, two, one.” Olaf counted down.
The heavy percussion of 50 BMG being sent down range while a CG rocket blasted into the air opened up the cacaphony of combat to the far north. “There is no hiding now” thought Jon as he brought his CV90 into position.
“Can we get closer?” He asked his driver.
“Sure.” Hans replied. “I can drive this baby right up its ass if you want.’
“I was thinking 600 meters.” Jon answered.
“No problem” Hans gunned the engine and the CV90 raced past Olaf and Juri.
“Ok, close enough.” Jon ordered. He switched over to the gunners station and began carefully aiming the Kongsberg remote weapons station to align the big 40mm cannon. The first Giant advacing began sucking in the cold arctic air to prep its freezing breath weapon or ability on the Hunters. The cold air compressed with some type of magic and began to glow in their head, making the Giants resemble a large, frozen, glowing eyed cyclops.
Jon touched the trigger for single fire, and the 40mm HE round entered the Giant’s mouth, and unleashed the fury of the compressed magic along with the chemical explosion from the shell. The lead Giant fell, dead.
“And we didn’t think of this before?” Hans muttered into the crew intercom.
“Back off, back off BACK OFF!!” Jon yelled into the intercom. Hans responded instantly by ramming the transmission into reverse. Twin beams of super-cooled magic sliced through the area where the CV90 just occupied. Jon traversed the turret quickly and laid another giant low with a head shot to the mouth.
“Back off.” Jon ordered. Hans complied. The third Giant fell to the same tactic.
“Guidons guidons guidons.” Jon spoke over the common channel. “The bigger ones have a magic breath or beam attack, but if you can land an explosive shell in their pie hole before it discharges it is one shot, one kill. 40 mil will do it for sure, CG HE round should as well. Fire and move, you don’t want to get hit with a supercooled breath weapon.”
Victor broke in. “Super cooled breath weapon? Like an anti-plasma weapon? Or an entropic beam weapon?”
“Whatever floats your boat Vic.” Jon replied with a grunt as he scanned the horizon for more Frost Giants.
“I vote entropic beam weapon.” Peter spoke in a thick Russian accent. “Is scientifically more correct than anti-plasma. Braunislav agrees.”
“Entropic beam weapon it is.” Victor replied. “Can’t argue with a Slovakian physicist without vodka, and we’re all out of vodka.”
“I think Rebecca has a bottle of aquavit in the Snowcat.” Jon responded over the common channel.
“Nyet, nyet, is not same” Braunislav muttered. “Wodka is only social lubrication for proper science.”
Nadya’s magic did something, and a brilliant golden light filled everything but their eyes for a second, along with a deep resonant bell tone they couldn’t hear, but knew it happened.
“The first lock is in place.” Nadya spoke carefully to hide her fatigue. “Four more to go.”
The previously calm, cold, dry conditions changed. Not a gradual, storm clouds on the horizon change, but more of a hey, you managed to piss off mother nature change. Conditions became blizzard and visibility went into the toilet, less than 200 meters to see a white giant in white conditions being lit by a nauseous mix of blue/green light.
“All units fall back until into a tight perimeter. Load up the HE rounds in the CGs, one out the hatch at all times, one on the gun at all times, rotate as needed to keep from getting frostbite.” Victor ordered. “I want everyone to have visual identification to their left and right.”
“This movie, I have seen before.” Juri spoke calmly into the microphone. “Is set in nineteenth century, no? Roarke’s Drift? Zulu? I do not remember title clearly, but very exciting to be in a tight defense against overwhelming numbers.”
On a side channel Jon quipped to Victor, “At least he didn’t bring up the Alamo.”
Olaf felt something deep in his gut. A rhythmic “thoom” that was too low in frequency for the ear to hear, but strong enough to feel in his bones. The “thoom” got louder with each beat.
“Something wickedly big this way comes.” Olaf spoke, furiously looking into the blizzard. In the distance he counted five, no ten, glowing orbs that could only be the heads of Frost Giants as they prepared their magic to attack.
Nadya’s magic let out another silent explosion of color and light, like silent french horns and blazing blue strobe lights that no one could see or hear, but experienced anyways.
Victor opened up with the big Bofors cannon, three shot bursts into each glowing orb only now beginning to be part of a giant silhouette. Jon wanted to re-position his CV90 to provide additional support, but maintained his sector.
“Jon, at least five more on our side” Juri spoke calmly into the microphone as he loaded an illum round into the CG. Instead of shooting at the incoming giants he shot high over their heads, the illumination now back-lighting them against the blizzard. More silhouettes, at least double, didn’t have the distinctive glow of magic.
“Oof da” Olaf muttered, swinging the Ma Deuce into position to fire at the nearest orb. It took five bursts, but the giant fell, cold lighting crackling across its head on the way down. Juri reloaded the CG and fired an HE round into the next closest. Juri moved the snowmobile out of the way just as three intersecting entropy beams hit there previous position.
Hans slammed the CV90 into drive and advanced towards the crowd of giants, the stabilized aiming cameras ensuring the Bofors cannon put a round into each head, or three into the chests of the Giants not gathering magic.
It was then that a snowball the size of a Volkswagon smashed into the ground in front of the CV90.
“BACK OFF! BACK OFF! BACK OFF!” Jon screamed as Hans immediately complied, the tracks on the armored vehicle ripping deep divots into the frozen snow and dirt. Jon kept firing until the feed was empty, and then thanked the genius designers who figured out how to reload the cannon without exposing himself to the elements.
“Forward, forward forward” Jon screamed, operating the Bofors as fast as he could while Hans plowed forward towards the enemy. “Ok zig zag a bit, then head back into formation” Jon pulled the trigger and the Bofors ran dry.
“Stop, drop ramp!” Jon ordered and Hans complied. The loaded CG had an HE round in it, with three more ready. Jon carefully checked his backblast area 90 degrees from the orientation of the vehicle then let off the first round. One dead Frost Giant. Reload. Miss. Reload. Dead Frost Giant. Running back inside Jon screamed, “Raise Ramp and GO!”
Hans complied, and Jon worked to reload the Bofors. “We are down to our last 90 rounds Hans.”
“I have an idea.” Hans spoke calmly. “What if we used some of those snowballs they tossed our way as fighting positions?”
“Guidons guidons guidons” Jon put out. “Break formation, use the the Frost Giant snowballs as fighting positions for a deliberate defense. Go as far forward as you can, be prepared to fight back in and out as needed.”
Hans started laughing.
“What’s so funny Hans?” Jon asked over the private intercom.
“I told you I could drive this thing right up it’s ass!” Hans croaked out between tears, “And we’ve already reached the balls!”
Nadya’s magic let out a screeching wail of silence, like the howling of a tornado through a pan dimensional trailer park mixed in with flashes of non-existent lighting. Victor smelled basil cured pancetta and thought he tasted Pabst Blue Ribbon, sort of.
“Time hack, 40 minutes” Charlene said calmly over the radio.
“Spiders” Greg said over the radio. “Coming from the gate.”
“Left flank, get under cover now! Gonna get your back scratched!” Victor ordered. “Right flank, reserve, deal with the spiders, try to use the Ma Deuce!”
“You heard the man Juri, you and Olaf go to ground.” Jon ordered. “Hans, get us hull down between those two snowballs if you can.”
The spiders came out of the gate slowly at first, easily mowed down by the heavy machine gun fire. The numbers kept growing, and soon they came out faster than the M2s could deal with it.
“Flame Throwers!” Victor ordered. Greg and Rebecca pushed the packs on and opened up with long streams of burning death towards the Great Dane sized arachnids. Victor turned his Kongsberg turret around just in time to kill two smaller giants, 11 and 13 meters respectively, who were approaching in the confusion.
Nadya’s magic “FOOM” was heard by everyone. Like an air/gasoline explosion it sucked the oxygen from the area for a second. Then an otherworldly scream, like nails on a blackboard combined with the ravings of a madwoman bent on revenge in a foreign language not meant for human ears came out of the silence, deafening everyone for a moment. Then the sound of snow falling resumed.
“Time hack!” Nadya yelled into her mike.
“15 minutes” Charlene replied.
“Victor.” Nadya spoke softly, “It is time.”
Victor passed the gunner position off, and gathered his broadsword. Each step towards Nadya weighed heavily on him. He knew what he must do. He knew he didn’t want to do it. Duty is heavier than a mountain. Rebeca and Greg poured on the flame into the gate, stopping the advance of spiders.
“When I drop the stone, you must strike” Nadya spoke, her microphone turned off, her words only for Victor to hear. Her deep blood red eyes, shaped like delicate almonds, reminded Victor that different is just another type of beauty.
On the perimeter an M2 lit up, and a CG rocket flew out into the hazy darkness. A flamethrower melted the giant ice spiders who burned with a cold blue flame. On the left flank Jon let off a stream of shots from the Bofors. Victor stopped counting how many Frost Giants had fallen, and only watched Nadya perform magic.
She cut each foream and bled dark crimson blood onto the frozen ground, she closed her eyes and chanted, raising a stone high to the sky. The world stood still. The sounds of battle faded to silence as Victor watched her hands open and the stone began to fall, pulled down by the irresistible force of gravity.
Victor swung his broadsword, passed down through the ages, reforged into a new blade by his father using steel from a captured Japanese Officers sword that had also broken in half. The brass for the hilt melted down from 30-06 and 8×57 shells combed from the beaches and cliffs of Normandy. The leather in the handle from the neck leather of Cape Buffalo that hunted men in the bushveldt of South Africa. With his weapon holding all the magic of violent human history its maker could find, Victor struck.
The tip of the swords flew true, slicing through Nadya’s left eye, taking from her half the light of the world.
The stone hit the ground.
The explosion of the gate disintegrating, cutting off the magic flow from Jodenheim caused the few remaining ice spiders and Frost Giants to stop where they were and crumble in place.
“I’m so sorry.” Victor whispered.
Nadya smiled at him, blood streaking down the left side of her face, tears down the right. “There is no victory without sacrifice. Even Odin had to give an eye.”
Epilogue: It took barely a day to get back and meet up with the flatbed truck. Nadya fashioned a makeshift eye patch which gave her a decidedly rakish aura, pirate queen slash dark sorceress. Victor and Jon still did there best to not notice her curves, although they tried less hard when in her blind spot.
Rebecca uploaded all the video footage to Melvin’s FTP server, and Melvin edited the video footage into plausible action sequences and began the actual production of “Arctic Invasion: Frost Giants Revenge.” Unfortunately the resulting plot once the writers finished production even SyFy refused to give it any air time but it eventually made enough money as a “direct to video” production to cover the production costs involved. The Sharknado trilogy got better reviews on rottentomatoes.com, a fact that Ron reminded Victor every team leader teleconference.
The Norwegian government refused to pay by the Frost Giant, and instead settled on a flat rate for extermination and gate elimination, and quietly transferred three CV90 fighting vehicles to Arctic Exterminators LLC, a video production company.