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猎杀“红十月”号(chapter 18)

2006-07-07 19:24



  The Red October

  Ryan again found himself atop the sail thanks to Ramius, who said that he had earned it. In return for the favor, Jack had helped the captain up the ladder to the bridge station. Mancuso was with them. There was now an American crew below in the control room, and the engine room complement had been supplemented so that there was something approaching a normal steaming watch. The leak in the radio room had not been fully contained, but it was above the waterline. The compartment had been pumped out, and the October's list had eased to fifteen degrees. She was still down by the bow, which was partially compensated for when the intact ballast tanks were blown dry. The crumpled bow gave the submarine a decidedly asymmetrical wake, barely visible in the moonless, cloud-laden sky. The Dallas and the Pogy were still submerged, somewhere aft, sniffing for additional interference as they neared Capes Henry and Charles.

  Somewhere farther aft an LNG (liquified natural gas) carrier was approaching the passage, which the coast guard had closed to all normal traffic in order to allow the floating bomb to travel without interference all the way to the LNG terminal at Cove Point, Maryland - or so the story went. Ryan wondered how the navy had persuaded the ship's skipper to fake engine trouble or somehow delay his arrival. They were six hours late. The navy must have been nervous as all hell until they had finally surfaced forty minutes earlier and been spotted immediately by a circling Orion.

  The red and green buoy lights winked at them, dancing on the chop. Forward he could see the lights of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but there were no moving automobile lights. The CIA had probably staged a messy wreck to shut it down, maybe a tractor-trailer or two full of eggs or gasoline. Something creative.

  “You've never been to America before,” Ryan said, just to make conversation.

  “No, never to a Western country. Cuba once, many years ago.”

  Ryan looked north and south. He figured they were inside the capes now. “Well, welcome home, Captain Ramius. Speaking for myself, sir, I'm damned glad you're here.”

  “And happier that you are here,” Ramius observed.

  Ryan laughed out loud. “You can bet your ass on that. Thanks again for letting me up here.”

  “You have earned it, Ryan.”

  “The name's Jack, sir.”

  “Short for John, is it?” Ramius asked. “John is the same as Ivan, no?”

  “Yes, sir, I believe it is.” Ryan didn't understand why Ramius' face broke into a smile.

  “Tug approaching.” Mancuso pointed.

  The American captain had superb eyesight. Ryan didn't see the boat through his binoculars for another minute. It was a shadow, darker than the night, perhaps a mile away.

  “Sceptre, this is tug Paducah. Do you read? Over.”

  Mancuso took the docking radio from his pocket. “Paducah this is Sceptre. Good morning, sir.” He was speaking in an English accent.

  “Please form up on me, Captain, and follow us in.”

  “Jolly good, Paducah. Will do. Out.”

  HMS Sceptre was the name of an English attack submarine. She must be somewhere remote, Ryan thought, patrolling the Falklands or some other faraway location so that her arrival at Norfolk would be just another routine occurrence, not unusual and difficult to disprove. Evidently they were thinking about some agent's being suspicious of a strange sub's arrival.

  The tug approached to within a few hundred yards, then turned to lead them in at five knots. A single red tuck light showed.

  “I hope we don't run into any civilian traffic,” Mancuso said.

  “But you said the harbor entrance was closed,” Ramius said.

  “Might be some guy in a little sailboat out there. The public has free passage through the yard to the Dismal Swamp Canal, and they're damned near invisible on radar. They slip through all the time.”

  “This is crazy.”

  “It's a free country, Captain,” Ryan said softly. “It will take you some time to understand what free really means. The word is often misused, but in time you will see just how wise your decision was.”

  “Do you live here, Captain Mancuso?” Ramius asked.

  “Yes, my squadron is based in Norfolk. My home is in Virginia Beach, down that way. I probably won't get there anytime soon. They're going to send us right back out. Only thing they can do. So, I miss another Christmas at home. Part of the job.”

  “You have a family?”

  “Yes, Captain. A wife and two sons. Michael, eight, and Dominic, four. They're used to having daddy away.”

  “And you, Ryan?”

  “Boy and a girl. Guess I will be home for Christmas. Sorry, Commander. You see, for a while there I had my doubts. After things get settled down some I'd like to get this whole bunch together for something special.”

  “Big dinner bill,” Mancuso chuckled.

  “I'll charge it to the CIA.”

  “And what will the CIA do with us?” Ramius asked.

  “As I told you, Captain, a year from now you will be living your own lives, wherever you wish to live, doing whatever you wish to do.”

  “Just so?”

  “Just so. We take pride in our hospitality, sir, and if I ever get transferred back from London, you and your men are welcome in my home at any time.”

  “Tug's turning to port.” Mancuso pointed. The conversation was taking too maudlin a turn for him.

  “Give the order, Captain,” Ramius said. It was, after all, Mancuso's harbor.

  “Left five degrees rudder,” Mancuso said'into the microphone.

  “Left five degrees rudder, aye,” the helmsman responded. “Sir, my rudder is left five degrees.”

  “Very well.”

  The Paducah turned into the main channel, past the Saratoga, which was sitting under a massive crane, and headed towards a mile-long line of piers in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The channel was totally empty, just the October and the tug. Ryan wondered if the Paducah had a normal complement of enlisted men or a crew made entirely of admirals. He would not have given odds either way.

  Norfolk, Virginia

  Twenty minutes later they were at their destination. The Eight-Ten Dock was a new dry dock built to service the Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarines, a huge concrete box over eight hundred feet long, larger than it had to be, covered with a steel roof so that spy satellites could not see if it were occupied or not. It was in the maximum security section of the base, and one had to pass several security barriers of armed guards - marines, not the usual civilian guards - to get near the dock, much less into it.

  “All stop,” Mancuso ordered.

  “All stop, aye.”

  The Red October had been slowing for several minutes, and it was another two hundred yards before she came to a complete halt. The Paducah curved around to starboard to push her bow round. Both captains would have preferred to power their own way in, but the damaged bow made maneuvering tricky. The diesel-powered tug took five minutes to line the bow up properly, headed directly into the water-filled box. Ramius gave the engine command himself, the last for this submarine. She eased forward through the black water, passing slowly under the wide roof. Mancuso ordered his men topside to handle the lines tossed them by a handful of sailors on the rim of the dock, and the submarine came to a halt exactly in its center. Already the gate they had passed through was closing, and a canvas cover the size of a clipper's mainsail was being drawn across it. Only when cover was securely in place were the overhead lights switched on. Suddenly a group of thirty or so officers began screaming like fans at a ballgame. The only thing left out was the band.

  “Finished with the engines,” Ramius said in Russian to the crew in the maneuvering room, then switched to English with a trace of sadness in his voice. “So. We are here.”

  The overhead traveling crane moved down toward them and stopped to pick up the brow, which it brought around and laid carefully on the missile deck forward of the sail. The brow was hardly in place when a pair of officers with gold braid nearly to their elbows walked - ran - across it. Ryan recognized the one in front. It was Dan Foster.

  The chief of naval operations saluted the quarterdeck as he got to the edge of the gangway, then looked up at the sail. “Request permission to come aboard, sir.”

  “Permission is - ”

  “Granted,” Mancuso prompted.

  “Permission is granted,” Ramius said loudly.

  Foster jumped aboard and hurried up the exterior ladder on the sail. It wasn't easy, since the ship still had a sizable list to port. Foster was puffing as he reached the control station.

  “Captain Ramius, I'm Dan Foster.” Mancuso helped the CNO over the bridge coaming. The control station was suddenly crowded. The American admiral and the Russian captain shook hands, then Foster shook Mancuso's. Jack came last.

  “Looks like the uniform needs a little work, Ryan. So does the face.”

  “Yeah, well, we ran into some trouble.”

  “So I see. What happened?”

  Ryan didn't wait for the explanation. He went below without excusing himself. It wasn't his fraternity. In the control room the men were standing around exchanging grins, but they were quiet, as if they feared the magic of the moment would evaporate all too quickly. For Ryan it already had. He looked for the deck hatch and climbed up through it, taking with him everything he'd brought aboard. He walked up the gangway against traffic. No one seemed to notice him. Two hospital corpsmen were carrying a stretcher, and Ryan decided to wait on the dock for Williams to be brought out. The British officer had missed everything, having only been fully conscious for the past three hours. As Ryan waited he smoked his last Russian cigarette. The stretcher, with Williams tied onto it, was manhandled out. Noyes and the medical corpsmen from the subs tagged along.

  “How are you feeling?” Ryan walked alongside the stretcher toward the ambulance.

  “Alive,” Williams said, looking pale and thin. “And you?”

  “What I feel under my feet is solid concrete. Thank God for that!”

  “And what he's going to feel is a hospital bed. Nice meeting you, Ryan,” the doctor said briskly. “Let's move it, people.” The corpsmen loaded the stretcher into an ambulance parked just inside the oversized doors. A minute later it was gone.

  “You Commander Ryan, sir?” a marine sergeant asked after saluting.

  Ryan returned the salute. “Yes.”

  “I have a car waiting for you, sir. Will you follow me, please?”

  “Lead on, Sergeant.”

  The car was a gray navy Chevy that took him directly to the Norfolk Naval Air Station. Here Ryan boarded a helicopter. By now he was too tired to care if it were a sleigh with reindeer attached. During the thirty-five-minute trip to Andrews Air Force Base Ryan sat alone in the back, staring into space. He was met by another car at the base and driven straight to Langley.

  CIA Headquarters

  It was four in the morning when Ryan finally entered Greer's office. The admiral was there, along with Moore and Ritter.

  The admiral handed him something to drink. Not coffee, Wild Turkey bourbon whiskey. All three senior executives took his hand.

  “Sit down, boy,” Moore said.

  “Damned well done.” Greer smiled.

  “Thank you.” Ryan took a long pull on the drink. “Now what?”

  “Now we debrief you,” Greer answered.

  “No, sir. Now I fly the hell home.”

  Greer's eyes twinkled as he pulled a folder from a coat pocket and tossed it in Ryan's lap. “You're booked out of Dulles at 7:05 A.M. First flight to London. And you really should wash up, change your clothes, and collect your Skiing Barbie.”

  Ryan tossed the rest of the drink off. The sudden slug of whiskey made his eyes water, but he was able to refrain from coughing,

  “Looks like that uniform got some hard use,” Ritter observed.

  “So did the rest of me.” Jack reached inside the jacket and pulled out the automatic pistol. “This got some use, too.”

  “The GRU agent? He wasn't taken off with the rest of the crew?” Moore asked.

  “You knew about him? You knew and you didn't get word to me, for Christ's sake!”

  “Settle down, son,” Moore said. “We missed connections by half an hour. Bad luck, but you made it. That's what counts.”

  Ryan was too tired to scream, too tired to do much of anything. Greer took out a tape recorder and a yellow pad full of questions.

  “Williams, the British officer, is in a bad way,” Ryan said, two hours later. “The doc says he'll make it, though. The sub isn't going anywhere. Bow's all crunched in, and there's a pretty nice hole where the torpedo got us. They were right about the Typhoon, Admiral, the Russians built that baby strong, thank God. You know, there may be people left alive on that Alfa……”

  “Too bad,” Moore said.

  Ryan nodded slowly. “I figured that. I don't know that I like it, sir, leaving men to die like that.”

  “Nor do we,” Judge Moore said, “nor do we, but if we were to rescue someone from her, well, then everything we've - everything you've been through would be for nothing. Would you want that?”

  “It's a chance in a thousand anyway,” Greer said.

  “I don't know,” Ryan said, finishing off his third drink and feeling it. He had expected Moore to be uninterested in checking the Alfa for signs of life. Greer had surprised him. So, the old seaman had been corrupted by this affair - or just by being at the CIA - into forgetting the seaman's code. And what did this say about Ryan? “I just don't know.”

  “It's a war, Jack,” Ritter said, more kindly than usual, “a real war. You did well, boy.”

  “In a war you do well to come home alive,” Ryan stood, “and that, gentlemen, is what I plan to do, right now.”

  “Your things are in the head.” Greer checked his watch. “You have time to shave if you want.”

  “Oh, almost forgot.” Ryan reached inside his collar to pull out the key. He handed it to Greer. “Doesn't look like much, does it? You can kill fifty million people with that. 'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings! Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'” Ryan headed for the washroom, knowing he had to be drunk to quote Shelley.

  They watched him disappear. Greer switched off the tape machine, looking at the key in his hand. “Still want to take him to see the president?”

  “No, not a good idea,” Moore said. “Boy's half smashed, not that I blame him a bit. Get him on the plane, James. We'll send a team to London tomorrow or the next day to finish the debriefing.”

  “Good.” Greer looked into his empty glass. “Kind of early in the day for this, isn't it?”

  Moore finished off his third. “I suppose. But then it's been a fairly good day, and the sun's not even up yet. Let's go, Bob. We have an operation of sorts to run.”

  Norfolk Naval Shipyard

  Mancuso and his men boarded the Paducah before dawn and were ferried back to the Dallas. The 688-class attack submarine sailed immediately and was back underwater before the sun rose. The Pogy, which had never entered port, would complete her deployment without her corpsman aboard. Both submarines had orders to stay out thirty more days, during which their crewmen would be encouraged to forget everything they had seen, heard, or wondered about.

  The Red October sat alone with the dry dock draining around her, guarded by twenty armed marines. This was not unusual in the Eight-Ten Dock. Already a select group of engineers and technicians was inspecting her. The first items taken off were her cipher books and machines. They would be in National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade before noon.

  Ramius, his officers, and their personal gear were taken by bus to the same airfield Ryan had used. An hour later they were in a CIA safe house in the rolling hills south of Charlottesville, Virginia. They went immediately to bed except for two men, who stayed awake watching cable television, already amazed at what they saw of life in the United States.

  Dulles International Airport

  Ryan missed the dawn. He boarded a TWA 747 that left Dulles on time, at 7:05 A.M. The sky was overcast, and when the aircraft burst through the cloud layer into sunlight, Ryan did something he had never done before. For the first time in his life, Jack Ryan fell asleep on an airplane.

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