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猎杀“红十月”号(chapter 17)

2006-07-07 19:23

  THE SEVENTEENTH DAY

  SUNDAY, 19 DECEMBER

  The Red October

  “Eight more hours,” Ryan whispered to himself. That's what they had told him. An eight-hour run to Norfolk. He was back at the rudder diving-plane controls by his own request. Operating them was the only thing he knew how to do, and he had to do something. The October was still badly shorthanded. Nearly all of the Americans were helping out in the reactor and engine spaces aft. Only Mancuso, Ramius, and himself were in control. Bugayev, with the help of Jones, was monitoring the sonar equipment a few feet away, and the medical people were still worrying over Williams in sick bay. The cook was shuttling back and forth with sandwiches and coffee, which Ryan found disappointing, probably because he had been spoiled by Greer's.

  Ramius was half sitting on the rail that surrounded the periscope pedestal. The leg wound was not bleeding, but it had to be hurting more than the man admitted since he was letting Mancuso check the instruments and handle the navigation.

  “Rudder amidships,” Mancuso ordered.

  “Midships,” Ryan turned the wheel back to the right to center it, checking his rudder angle indicator. “Rudder is amidships, steady on course one-two-zero.”

  Mancuso frowned at his chart, nervous at being forced to pilot the massive submarine in so cavalier a manner. “You have to be careful around here. The sandbar keeps building up from the southerly littoral drift, and they have to dredge it every few months. The storms this area's been having can't have helped much.” Mancuso went back to look through the periscope.

  “I am told this is a dangerous area,” Ramius said.

  “The graveyard of the Atlantic,” Mancuso confirmed. “A lot of ships have died along the Outer Banks. Weather and current conditions are bad enough. The Germans are supposed to have had a hell of a time here during the war. Your charts don't show it, but there's hundreds of wrecks spotted on the bottom.” He went back to the chart table. “Anyway, we give this place a nice wide berth, and we don't turn north till about here.” He traced a line on the chart.

  “These are your waters,” Ramius agreed.

  They were in a loose three-boat formation. The Dallas was leading them out to sea, the Pogy was trailing. All three boats were traveling flooded-down, their decks nearly awash, with no one on their bridge stations. All visual navigation was being done by periscope. No radar sets were operating. None of the three boats was making any electronic noise. Ryan glanced casually at the chart table. They were beyond the inlet proper, but the chart was marked with sandbars for several more miles.

  Nor were they using the Red October's caterpillar drive system. It had turned out to be almost exactly what Skip Tyler had predicted. There were two sets of tunnel impellers, a pair about a third of the way back from the bow and three more just aft of midships. Mancuso and his engineers had examined the plans with great interest, then commented at length on the quality of the caterpillar design.

  For his part, Ramius had not wanted to believe that he had been detected so early on. Mancuso had ultimately produced Jones with his personal map to show the October's estimated course off Iceland. Though a few miles off the ship's log, it was too close to have been a coincidence.

  “Your sonar must be better than we expected,” Ramius grumbled a few feet from Ryan's control station.

  “It is pretty good,” Mancuso allowed. “Better yet, there's Jonesy - he's the best sonarman I've ever had.”

  “So young, and so smart.”

  “We get a lot of them that way,” Mancuso smiled. “Never as many as we'd like, of course, but our kids are all volunteers. They know what they're getting into. We're picky about who we take, and then we train the hell out of 'em.”

  “Conn, sonar.” It was Jones' voice. “Dallas is diving, sir.”

  “Very well.” Mancuso lit a cigarette as he went to the intercom phone. He punched the button for engineering. “Tell Mannion we need him forward. We'll be diving in a few minutes. Yeah.” He hung up and went back to the chart.

  “You have them for more than three years, then?” Ramius asked.

  “Oh, yeah. Hell, otherwise we'd be letting them go right after they're fully trained, right?”

  Why couldn't the Soviet Navy get and retain people like this? Ramius thought. He knew the answer all too well. The Americans fed their men decently, gave them a proper mess room, paid them decently, gave them trust - all the things he had fought twenty years for.

  “You need me to work the vents?” Mannion said, coming in.

  “Yeah, Pat, we'll dive in another two or three minutes.”

  Mannion gave the chart a quick look on his way to the vent manifold.

  Ramius hobbled to the chart. “They tell us that your officers are chosen from the bourgeois classes to control ordinary sailors from the working class.”

  Mannion ran his hands over the vent controls. There sure were enough of them. He'd spent two hours the previous day figuring the complex system out. “That's true, sir. Our officers do come from the ruling class. Just look at me,” he said deadpan. Mannion's skin was about the color of coffee grounds, his accent pure South Bronx.

  “But you are a black man,” Ramius objected, missing the jibe.

  “Sure, we're a real ethnic boat.” Mancuso looked through the periscope again. “A Guinea skipper, a black navigator, and a crazy sonarman.”

  “I heard that, sir!” Jones called out rather than use the intercom speaker. “Gertrude message from Dallas. Everything looks okay. They're waiting for us. Last gertrude message for a while.”

  “Conn, aye. We're clear, finally. We can dive whenever you wish, Captain Ramius,” Mancuso said.

  “Comrade Mannion, vent the ballast tanks,” Ramius said. The October had never actually surfaced and was still rigged , for dive.

  “Aye aye, sir.” The lieutenant turned the topmost rank of master switches on the hydraulic controls.

  Ryan winced. The sound made him think of a million toilets being flushed at once.

  “Five degrees down on the planes, Ryan,” Ramius said.

  “Five degrees down, aye.” Ryan pushed forward on the yoke. “Planes five degrees down.”

  “She's slow going down,” Mannion observed, watching the handpainted depth-gauge replacement. “So durn big.”

  “Yeah,” Mancuso said. The needle passed twenty meters.

  “Planes to zero,” Ramius said.

  “Planes to zero angle, aye.” Ryan pulled back on the control. It took thirty seconds for the submarine to settle. She seemed very slow to respond to the controls. Ryan had thought that submarines were as responsive as aircraft.

  “Make her a little light, Pat. Enough that it takes a degree of down to hold her level,” Mancuso said.

  “Uh-huh.” Mannion frowned, checking the depth gauge. The ballast tanks were now fully flooded, and the balancing act would have to be done with the much smaller trim tanks. It took him five minutes to get the balance exactly right.

  “Sorry, gentlemen. I'm afraid she's too big to dial in quick,” he said, embarrassed with himself.

  Ramius was impressed but too annoyed to show it. He had expected the American captain to take longer than this to do it himself. Trimming a strange sub so expertly on his first try……

  “Okay, now we can come around north,” Mancuso said. They were two miles past the last charted bar. “Recommend new course zero-zero-eight, Captain.”

  “Ryan, rudder left ten degrees,” Ramius ordered. “Come to zero-zero-eight.”

  “Okay, rudder left ten degrees,” Ryan responded, keeping one eye on the rudder indicator, the other on the gyro compass repeater. “Come to oh-oh-eight.”

  “Caution, Ryan. He turns slowly, but once turning you must use much backward - ”

  “Opposite,” Mancuso corrected politely.

  “Yes, opposite rudder to stop him on proper course.”

  “Right.”

  “Captain, do you have rudder problems?” Mancuso asked. “From tracking you it seemed that your turning circle was rather large.”

  “With the caterpillar it is. The flow from the tunnels strikes the rudder very hard, and it flutters if you use too much rudder. On our first sea trials, we had damage from this. It comes from - how do you say - the come-together of the two caterpillar tunnels.”

  “Does this affect operations with the propellers?” Mannion asked.

  “No, only with the caterpillar.”

  Mancuso didn't like that. It didn't really matter. The plan was a simple, direct one. The three boats would make a straight dash to Norfolk. The two American attack boats would leapfrog forward at thirty knots to sniff out the areas ahead while the October plodded along at a constant twenty.

  Ryan began to ease his rudder as the bow came around. He waited too long. Despite five degrees of right rudder, the bow swung right past the intended course, and the gyro repeater clicked accusingly on every third degree until it stopped at zero-zero-one. It took another two minutes to get back on the proper course.

  “Sorry about that. Steady on zero-zero-eight,” he finally reported.

  Ramius was forgiving. “You learn fast, Ryan. Perhaps one day you will be a true sailor.”

  “No thanks! The one thing I've learned on this trip is that you guys earn every nickel you get.”

  “Don't like subs?” Mannion chuckled.

  “No place to jog.”

  “True. Unless you still need me, Captain, I'm ready to go aft. The engine room's awful shorthanded,” Mannion said.

  Ramius nodded. Was he from the ruling class? the captain wondered.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  Tupolev was heading back west. The fleet order had instructed everyone but his Alfa and one other to return home at twenty knots. Tupolev was to move west for two and half hours. Now he was on a reciprocal heading at five knots, about the top speed the Alfa could travel without making much noise. The idea was that his sub would be lost in the shuffle. So, an Ohio was heading for Norfolk - or Charleston more probably. In any case, Tupolev would circle quietly and observe. The Red October was destroyed. That much he knew from the ops order. Tupolev shook his head. How could Marko have done such a thing? Whatever the answer, he had paid for his treason with his life.

  The Pentagon

  “I'd feel better if we had some more air cover,” Admiral Foster said, leaning against the wall.

  “Agreed, sir, but we can't be so obvious, can we?” General Harris asked.

  A pair of P-3Bs was now sweeping the track from Hatteras to the Virginia Capes as though on a routine training mission. Most of the other Orions were far out at sea. The Soviet fleet was already four hundred miles offshore. The three surface groups had rejoined and were now ringed by their submarines. The Kennedy, America, and Nimitz were five hundred miles to their east, and the New Jersey was dropping back. The Russians would be watched all the way home. The carrier battle groups would be following them all the way to Iceland, keeping a discreet distance and maintaining air groups at the fringe of their radar coverage continuously, just to let them know that the United States still cared. Aircraft based in Iceland would track them the rest of the way home.

  HMS Invincible was now out of operation and about halfway home. American attack subs were returning to normal patrol patterns, and all Soviet subs were reported to be off the coast, though this data was sketchy. They were traveling in loose packs and the noise generated made tracking difficult for the patrolling Orions, which were short of sonobuoys. Still and all, the operation was about over, the J-3 judged.

  “You heading for Norfolk, Admiral?” Harris asked.

  “Thought I might get together with CINCLANT, a post-action conference, you understand,” Foster said.

  “Aye aye, sir,” Harris said.

  The New Jersey

  She was traveling at twelve knots, with a destroyer fueling on either beam. Commodore Eaton was in the flag plot. It was all over and nothing had happened, thank God. The Soviets were now a hundred miles ahead, within Tomahawk range but well beyond everything else. All in all, he was satisfied. His force had operated successfully with the Tarawa, which was now headed south to Mayport, Florida. He hoped they'd be able to do this again soon. It had been a long time since a flag officer on a battleship had had a carrier respond to his command. They had kept the Kirov force under continuous surveillance. If there had been a battle, Eaton was convinced that they'd have handled Ivan. More importantly, he was certain that Ivan knew it. All they awaited now was the order to return to Norfolk. It would be nice to be back home for Christmas. He figured his men had earned it. Many of the battleship's men were oldtimers, and nearly everyone had a family.

  The Red October

  Ping. Jones noted the time on his pad and called out, “Captain, just got a ping from Pogy.”

  The Pogy was now ten miles ahead of the October and Dallas. The idea was that after she got ahead and listened for ten minutes, a single ping from her active sonar would signal that the ten miles to the Pogy and the twenty or more miles beyond her were clear. The Pogy would drift slowly to confirm this, and a mile to the October's east the Dallas went to full speed to leapfrog ten miles beyond the other attack sub.

  Jones was experimenting with the Russian sonar. The active gear, he'd found, was not too bad. The passive systems he didn't want to think about. When the Red October had been lying still in Pamlico Sound, he'd been unable to track in on the American subs. They had also been still, with their reactors only turning generators, but they had been no more than a mile away. He was disappointed that he'd not been able to locate them.

  The officer with him, Bugayev, was a friendly enough guy. At first he'd been a little standoffish - as if he were a lord and I were a serf, Jones thought - until he'd seen how the skipper treated him. This surprised Jones. From what little he knew of Communism, he had expected everyone to be fairly equal. Well, he decided, that's what I get from reading Das Kapital in a freshman poli-sci course. It made a lot more sense to look at what Communism built. Garbage, mostly. The enlisted men didn't even have their own mess room. Wasn't that some crap! Eating your meals in your bunk rooms!

  Jones had taken an hour - when he was supposed to be sleeping - to explore the submarine. Mr. Mannion had joined him. They started in the bunkroom. The individual footlockers didn't lock - probably so that officers could rifle through them. Jones and Mannion did just that. There was nothing of interest. Even the sailor porn was junk. The poses were just plain dumb, and the women - well, Jones had grown up in California. Garbage. It was not at all hard for him to understand why the Russians wanted to defect.

  The missile had been interesting. He and Mannion opened an inspection hatch to examine the inside of the missile. Not too shabby, they thought. There was a little too much loose wiring, but that probably made testing easier. The missile seemed awfully big. So, he thought, that's what the bastards have been aiming at us. He wondered if the navy would hold onto a few. If it was ever necessary to flip some at old Ivan, might as well include a couple of his own. Dumb idea, Jonesy, he said to himself. He didn't ever want those goddamned things to fly. One thing was for sure: everything on this bucket would be stripped off, tested, taken apart, tested again - and he was the navy's number one expert on Russian sonar. Maybe he'd be present during the analysis…… It might be worth staying in the navy a few extra months for.

  Jones lit a cigarette. “Want one of mine, Mr. Bugayev?” He held his pack out to the electronics officer.

  “Thank you, Jones. You were in university?” The lieutenant took the American cigarette that he'd wanted but been too proud to ask for. It was dawning on him slowly that this enlisted man was his technical equal. Though not a qualified watch officer, Jones could operate and maintain sonar gear as well as anyone he'd known.

  “Yes, sir.” It never hurt to call officers sir, Jones knew. Especially the dumb ones. “California Institute of Technology. Five semesters completed. A average. I didn't finish.”

  “Why did you leave?”

  Jones smiled. “Well, sir, you gotta understand that Cal Tech is, well, kinda a funny place. I played a little trick on one of my professors. He was working with strobe lights for highspeed photography, and I rigged a little switch to work the room lights off the strobe. Unfortunately there was a short in the switch, and it started this little electrical fire.” Which had burned out a lab, destroying three months of data and fifteen thousand dollars of equipment. “That broke the rules.”

  “What did you study?”

  “I was headin' for a degree in electrical engineering, with a strong minor in cybernetics. Three semesters to go. I'll get it, then my masters, then my doctorate, and then I'll go back to work for the navy as a civilian.”

  “Why are you a sonar operator?” Bugayev sat down. He had never spoken like this with an enlisted man.

  “Hell, sir, it's fun! When something's going on - you know, a war game, tracking another sub, like that - I am the skipper. All the captain does is react to the data I give him.”

  “And you like your commander?”

  “Sure thing! He's the best I've had - I've had three. My skipper's a good guy. You do your job okay, and he doesn't hassle you. You got something to say to him, and he listens.”

  “You say you will go back to college. How do you pay for it? They tell us that only the ruling class sons go to university.”

  “That's crap, sir. In California if you're smart enough to go, you go. In my case, I've been saving my money - you don't spend much on a sub, right? - and the navy pitches in, too. I got enough to see me all the way through my masters. What's your degree in?”

  “I attended a higher naval school. Like your Annapolis. I would like to get a proper degree in electronics,” Bugayev said, voicing his own dream.

  “No sweat. I can help you out. If you're good enough for Cal Tech, I can tell you who to talk to. You'd like California. That is the place to live.”

  “And I wish to work on a real computer,” Bugayev went on, wishful.

  Jones laughed quietly. “So, buy yourself one.”

  “Buy a computer?”

  “Sure, we got a couple of little ones, Apples, on Dallas. Cost you about, oh, two thousand for a nice system. That's a lot less than what a car goes for.”

  “A computer for two thousand dollars?” Bugayev went from wishful to suspicious, certain that Jones was leading him on.

  “Or less. For three grand you can get a really nice rig. Hell, you tell Apple who you are, and they'll probably give it to you for free, or the navy will. If you don't want an Apple, there's the Commodore, TRS-80, Atari. All kinds. Depends on what you want to use it for. Look, just one company, Apple, has sold over a million of 'em. They're little, sure, but they're real computers.”

  “I have never heard of this - Apple?”

  “Yeah, Apple. Two guys started the company back when I was in junior high. Since then they've sold a million or so, like I said - and they are some kinda rich! I don't have one myself - no room on a sub - but my brother has his own computer, an IBM-PC. You still don't believe me, do you?”

  “A working man with his own computer? It is hard to believe.” He stabbed out the cigarette. American tobacco was a little bland, he thought.

  “Well, sir, then you can ask somebody else. Like I said, Dallas has a couple of Apples, just for the crew to use. There's other stuff for fire control, navigation, and sonar, of course. We use the Apples for games - you'll love computer games, for sure. You've never had fun till you've tried Choplifter - and other things, education programs, stuff like that. Honest, Mr. Bugayev, you can walk into most any shopping center and find a place to buy a computer. You'll see.”

  “How do you use a computer with your sonar?”

  “That would take a while to explain, sir, and I'd probably have to get permission from the skipper.” Jones reminded himself that this guy was still the enemy, sort of.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  The Alfa drifted slowly at the edge of the continental shelf, about fifty miles southeast of Norfolk. Tupolev ordered the reactor plant chopped back to about five percent of total output, enough to operate the electrical systems and little else. It also made his submarine almost totally quiet. Orders were passed by word of mouth. The Konovalov was on a strict silent ship routine. Even ordinary cooking was forbidden. Cooking meant moving metal pots on metal grates. Until further notice, the crew was on a diet of cheese sandwiches. They spoke in whispers when they spoke at all. Anyone who made noise would attract the attention of the captain, and everyone aboard knew what that meant.

  SOSUS Control

  Quentin was reviewing data sent by digital link from the two Orions. A crippled missile boat, the USS Georgia, was heading into Norfolk after a partial turbine failure, escorted by a pair of attack boats. They had been keeping her out, the admiral had said, because of all the Russian activity on the coast, and the idea now was to get her in, fixed, and out as quickly as possible. The Georgia carried twenty-four Trident missiles, a noteworthy fraction of the country's total deterrent force. Repairing her would be a high priority item now that the Russians were gone. It was safe to bring her in, but they wanted the Orions first to check and see if any Soviet submarines had lingered behind in the general confusion.

  A P-3B was cruising at nine hundred feet about fifty miles southeast of Norfolk. The FLIR showed nothing, no heat signature on the surface, and the MAD gear detected no measurable disturbance in the earth's magnetic field, though one aircraft's flight path took her within a hundred yards of the Alfa's position. The Konovalov's hull was made of non-magnetic titanium. A sonobuoy dropped seven miles to the south of her position also failed to pick up the sound of her reactor plant. Data was being transmitted continuously to Norfolk, where Quentin's operations staff entered it into his computer. The problem was, not all of the Soviet subs had been accounted for.

  Well, the commander thought, that figures. Some of the boats had taken the opportunity to creep away from their charted loci. There was the odd chance, he had reported, that one or two strays were still out there, but there was no evidence of this. He wondered what CINCLANT had working. Certainly he had seemed awfully pleased with something, almost euphoric. The operation against the Soviet fleet had been handled pretty well, what he'd seen of it, and there was that dead Alfa out there. How long until the Glomar Explorer came out of mothballs to go and get that? He wondered if he'd get a chance to look the wreck over. What an opportunity!

  Nobody was taking the current operation all that seriously. It made sense. If the Georgia were indeed coming in with a sick engine she'd be coming slow, and a slow Ohio made about as much noise as a virgin whale, determined to retain her status. And if CINCLANTFLT were all that concerned about it, he would not have detailed the delousing operation to a pair of P-3s piloted by reservists. Quentin lifted the phone and dialed CINCLANTFLT Operations to tell them again that there was no indication of hostile activity.

  The Red October

  Ryan checked his watch. It had been five hours already. A long time to sit in one chair, and from a quick glance at the chart it appeared that the eight-hour estimate had been optimistic - or he'd misunderstood them. The Red October was tracing up the shelf line and would soon begin to angle west for the Virginia Capes. Maybe it would take another four hours. It couldn't be too soon. Ramius and Mancuso looked pretty tired. Everybody was tired. Probably the engine room people most of all - no, the cook. He was ferrying coffee and sandwiches to everyone. The Russians seemed especially hungry.

  The Dallas/The Pogy

  The Dallas passed the Pogy at thirty-two knots, leapfrogging again, with the October a few miles aft. Lieutenant Commander Wally Chambers, who had the conn, did not like being blind on the speed run of thirty-five minutes despite word from the Pogy that everything was clear.

  The Pogy noted her passage and turned to allow her lateral array to track on the Red October.

  “Noisy enough at twenty knots,” the Pogy's sonar chief said to his companions. “Dallas doesn't make that much at thirty.”

  The V. K. Konovalov

  “Some noise to the south,” the michman said.

  “What, exactly?” Tupolev had been hovering at the door for hours, making life unpleasant for the sonarmen.

  “Too soon to say, Comrade Captain. Bearing is not changing, however. It is heading this way.”

  Tupolev went back to the control room. He ordered power reduced further in the reactor systems. He considered killing the plant entirely, but reactors took time to start up and there was no telling yet how distant the contact might be. The captain smoked three cigarettes before going back to sonar. It would not do at all to make the michman nervous. The man was his best operator.

  “One propeller, Comrade Captain, an American, probably a Los Angeles, doing thirty-five knots. Bearing has changed only two degrees in fifteen minutes. He will pass close aboard, and - wait…… His engines have stopped.” The forty-year-old warrant officer pressed the headphones against his ears. He could hear the cavitation sounds diminish, then stop entirely as the contact faded away to nothing. “He has stopped to listen, Comrade Captain.”

  Tupolev smiled. “He will not hear us, Comrade. Racing and stopping. Can you hear anything else? Might he be escorting something?”

  The michman listened to the headphones again and made some adjustments on his panel. “Perhaps…… there is a good deal of surface noise, Comrade, and I - wait. There seems to be some noise. Our last target bearing was one-seven-one, and this new noise is …… one-seven-five. Very faint, Comrade Captain - a ping, a single ping on active sonar.”

  “So.” Tupolev leaned against the bulkhead. “Good work, Comrade. Now we must be patient.”

  The Dallas

  Chief Laval pronounced the area clear. The BQQ-5's sensitive receptors revealed nothing, even after the SAPS system had been used. Chambers maneuvered the bow around so that the single ping would go out to the Pogy, which in turn fired off her own ping to the Red October to make sure the signal was received. It was clear for another ten miles. The Pogy moved out at thirty knots, followed by the U.S. Navy's newest boomer.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  “Two more submarines. One single screw, the other twin screw, I think. Still faint. The single-screw submarine is turning much more rapidly. Do the Americans have twin-screw submarines, Comrade Captain?”

  “Yes, I believe so.” Tupolev wondered about this. The difference in signature characteristics was not all that pronounced. They'd see in any case. The Konovalov was creeping along at two knots, one hundred fifty meters beneath the surface. Whatever was coming seemed to be coming right for them. Well, he'd teach the imperialists something after all.

  The Red October

  “Can anybody spell me at the wheel?” Ryan asked.

  “Need a stretch?” Mancuso asked, coming over.

  “Yeah. I could stand a trip to the head, too. The coffee's about to bust my kidneys.”

  “I relieve you, sir.” The American captain moved into Ryan's seat. Jack headed aft to the nearest head. Two minutes later he was feeling much better. Back in the control room, he did some knee bends to get circulation back in his legs, then looked briefly at the chart. It seemed strange, almost sinister, to see the U.S. coast marked in Russian.

  “Thank you, Commander.”

  “Sure.” Mancuso stood.

  “It is certain that you are no sailor, Ryan.” Ramius had been watching him without a word.

  “I have never claimed to be one, Captain,” Ryan said agreeably. “How long to Norfolk?”

  “Oh, another four hours, tops,” Mancuso said. “The idea's to arrive after dark. They have something to get us in unseen, but I don't know what.”

  “We left the sound in daylight. What if somebody saw us then?” Ryan asked.

  “I didn't see anything, but if anybody was there, all he'd have seen was three sub conning towers with no numbers on them.” They had left in daylight to take advantage of a “window” in Soviet satellite coverage.

  Ryan lit another cigarette. His wife would give him hell for this, but he was tense from being on the submarine. Sitting at the helmsman's station left him with nothing to do but stare at the handful of instruments. The sub was easier to hold level than he had expected, and the only radical turn he had attempted showed how eager the sub was to change course in any direction. Thirty-some-thousand tons of steel, he thought - no wonder.

  The Pogy/The Red October

  The Pogy stormed past the Dallas at thirty knots and continued for twenty minutes, stopping eleven miles beyond her - and three miles from the Konovalov, whose crew was scarcely breathing now. The Fogy's sonar, though lacking the new BC-10/SAPS signal-processing system, was otherwise state of the art, but it was impossible to hear something that made no noise at all, and the Konovalov was silent.

  The Red October passed the Dallas at 1500 hours after receiving the latest all-clear signal. Her crew was tired and looking forward to arriving at Norfolk two hours after sundown. Ryan wondered how quickly he could fly back to London. He was afraid that the CIA would want to debrief him at length. Mancuso and the crewmen of the Dallas wondered if they'd get to see their families. They weren't counting on it.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  “Whatever it is, it is big, very big, I think. His course will take him within five kilometers of us.”

  “An Ohio, as Moscow said,” Tupolev commented.

  “It sounds like a twin-screw submarine, Comrade Captain,” the michman said.

  “The Ohio has one propeller. You know that.”

  “Yes, Comrade. In any case, he will be with us in twenty minutes. The other attack submarine is moving at thirty-plus knots. If the pattern holds, he will proceed fifteen kilometers beyond us.”

  “And the other American?”

  “A few kilometers seaward, drifting slowly, like us. I do not have an exact range. I could raise him on active sonar, but that - ”

  “I am aware of the consequences,” Tupolev snapped. He went back to the control room.

  “Tell the engineers to be ready to answer bells. All men at battle stations?”

  “Yes, Comrade Captain,” the starpom replied. “We have an excellent firing solution on the American hunter sub - the one moving, that is. The way he runs at full speed makes it easy for us. The other we can localize in seconds.”

  “Good, for a change,” Tupolev smiled. “You see what we can do when circumstances favor us?”

  “And what shall we do?”

  “When the big one passes us, we will close and ream his asshole. They have played their games. Now we shall play ours. Have the engineers increase power. We will need full power shortly.”

  “It will make noise, Comrade,” the starpom cautioned.

  “True, but we have no choice. Ten percent power. The Ohio cannot possibly hear that, and perhaps the near hunter sub won't either.”

  The Pogy

  “Where did that come from?” The sonar chief made some adjustments on his board. “Conn, sonar, I got a contact, bearing two-three-zero.”

  “Conn, aye,” Commander Wood answered at once. “Can you classify?”

  “No, sir. It just came up. Reactor plant and steam noises, real faint, sir. I can't quite read the plant signature……” He flipped the gain controls to maximum. “Not one of ours. Skipper, I think maybe we got us an Alfa here.”

  “Oh, great! Signal Dallas right now!”

  The chief tried, but the Dallas, running at thirty-two knots, missed the five rapid pings. The Red October was now eight miles away.

  The Red October

  Jones' eyes suddenly screwed shut. “Mr. Bugayev, tell the skipper I just heard a couple of pings.”

  “Couple?”

  “More 'n one, but I didn't get a count.”

  The Pogy

  Commander Wood made his decision. The idea had been to send the sonar signals on a highly directional, low-power basis so as to minimize the chance of revealing his own position. But the Dallas hadn't picked that up.

  “Max power, Chief. Hit Dallas with everything.” “Aye aye.” The chief flipped his power controls to full. It took several seconds until the system was ready to send a hundred-kilowatt blast of energy. Ping ping ping ping ping!

  The Dallas

  “Wow!” Chief Laval exclaimed. “Conn, sonar, danger signal from Pogy!”

  “All stop!” Chambers ordered. “Quiet ship.”

  “All stop.” Lieutenant Goodman relayed the orders a second later. Aft, the reactor watch reduced steam demand, increasing the temperature in the reactor. This allowed neutrons to escape out of the pile, rapidly slowing the fission reaction.

  “When speed gets to four knots, go to one-third speed,” Chambers told the officer of the deck as he went aft to the sonar room. “Frenchie, I need data in a hurry.”

  “Still going too fast, sir,” Laval said.

  The Red October

  “Captain Ramius, I think we should slow down,” Mancuso said judiciously.

  “The signal was not repeated,” Ramius disagreed. The second directional signal had missed them, and the Dallas had not relayed the danger signal yet because she was still traveling too fast to locate the October and pass it along.

  The Pogy

  “Okay, sir, Dallas has killed power.”

  Wood chewed on his lower lip. “All right, let's find the bastard. Yankee search, Chief, max power.” He went back to control. “Man battle stations.” An alarm went off two seconds later. The Pogy had already been at increased readiness, and within forty seconds all stations were manned, with the executive officer, Lieutenant Commander Tom Reynolds, as fire control coordinator. His team of officers and technicians were waiting for data to feed into the Mark 117 fire control computer.

  The sonar dome in the Pogy's bow was blasting sound energy into the water. Fifteen seconds after it started the first return signal appeared on Chief Palmer's screen.

  “Conn, sonar, we have a positive contact, bearing two-three-four, range six thousand yards. Classify probable Alfa class from his plant signature,” Palmer said.

  “Get me a solution!” Wood said urgently.

  “Aye.” Reynolds watched the data input as another team of officers was making a paper and pencil plot on the chart table. Computer or not, there had to be a backup. The data paraded across the screen. The Pogy's four torpedo tubes contained a pair of Harpoon antiship missiles and two Mark 48 torpedoes. Only the torpedoes were useful at the moment. The Mark 48 was the most powerful torpedo in the inventory; wire-guided - and able to home in with its own active sonar - it ran at over fifty knots and carried a half-ton warhead. “Skipper, we got a solution for both fish. Running time four minutes, thirty-five seconds.”

  “Sonar, secure pinging,” Wood said.

  “Aye aye. Pinging secured, sir.” Palmer killed power to the active systems. “Target elevation-depression angle is near zero, sir. He's about at our depth.”

  “Very well, sonar. Keep on him.” Wood now had his target's position. Further pinging would only give it a better idea of his own.

  The Dallas

  “Pogy was pinging something. They got a return, bearing one-nine-one, about,” Chief Laval said. “There's another sub out there. I don't know what. I can read some plant and steam noises, but not enough for a signature.”

  The Pogy

  “The boomer's still movin', sir,” Chief Palmer reported.

  “Skipper,” Reynolds looked up from the paper tracks, “her course takes her between us and the target.”

  “Terrific. All ahead one-third, left twenty degrees rudder.” Wood moved to the sonar room while his orders were carried out. “Chief, power up and stand by to ping the boomer hard.”

  “Aye aye, sir.” Palmer worked his controls. “Ready, sir.”

  “Hit him straight on. I don't want him to miss this time.”

  Wood watched the heading indicator on the sonar plot swing. The Pogy was turning rapidly, but not rapidly enough to suit him. The Red October - only he and Reynolds knew that she was Russian, though the crew was speculating like mad - was coming in too fast.

  “Ready, sir.”

  “Hit it.”

  Palmer punched the impulse control.

  Ping ping ping ping ping!

  The Red October

  “Skipper,” Jones yelled. “Danger signal!”

  Mancuso jumped to the annunciator without waiting for Ramius to react. He twisted the dial to All Stop. When this was done he looked at Ramius. “Sorry, sir.”

  “All right.” Ramius scowled at the chart. The phone buzzed a moment later. He took it and spoke in Russian for several seconds before hanging up. “I told them that we have a problem but we do not know what it is.”

  “True enough.” Mancuso joined Ramius at the chart. Engine noises were diminishing, though not quickly enough to suit the American. The October was quiet for a Russian sub, but this was still too noisy for him.

  “See if your sonarman can locate anything,” Ramius suggested.

  “Right.” Mancuso took a few steps aft. “Jonesy, find what's out there.”

  “Aye, Skipper,- but it won't be easy on this gear.” He already had the sensor arrays working in the direction of the two escorting attack subs. Jones adjusted the fit of his headphones and started working on the amplifier controls. No signal processors, no SAPS, and the transducers weren't worth a damn! But this wasn't the time to get excited. The Soviet systems had to be manipulated electromechanically, unlike the computer-controlled ones he was used to. Slowly and carefully, he altered the directional receptor gangs in the sonar dome forward, his right hand twirling a cigarette pack, his eyes shut tight. He didn't notice Bugayev sitting next to him, listening to the same input.

  The Dallas

  “What do we know, Chief?” Chambers asked.

  “I got a bearing and nothing else. Fogy's got him all dialed in, but our friend powered back his engine right after he got lashed, and he faded out on me. Pogy got a big return off him. He's probably pretty close, sir.”

  Chambers had only moved up to his executive officer's posting four months earlier. He was a bright, experienced officer and a likely candidate for his own command, but he was only thirty-three years old and had only been back in submarines for those four months. The year and a half prior to that he'd been a reactor instructor in Idaho. The gruffness that was part of his job as Mancuso's principal on-board disciplinarian also shielded more insecurity than he would have cared to admit. Now his career was on the line. He knew exactly how important this mission was. His future would ride on the decisions he was about to make.

  “Can you localize with one ping?”

  The sonar chief considered this for a second. “Not enough for a shooting solution, but it'll give us something.”

  “One ping, do it.”

  “Aye.” Laval worked on his board briefly, triggering the active elements.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  Tupolev winced. He had acted too soon. He should have waited until they were past - but then if he had waited that long, he would have had to move, and now he had all three of them hovering nearby, almost still.

  The four submarines were moving only fast enough for depth control. The Russian Alfa was pointed southeast, and all four were arrayed in a roughly trapezoidal fashion, open end seaward. The Pogy and the Dallas were to the north of the Konovalov, the Red October was southeast of her.

  The Red October

  “Somebody just pinged her,” Jones said quietly. “Bearing is roughly northwest, but she isn't making enough noise for us to read her. Sir, if I had to make a bet, I'd say she was pretty close.”

  “How do you know that?” Mancuso asked.

  “I heard the pulse direct - just one ping to get a range, I think. It was from a BQQ-5. Then we heard the echo off the target. The math works out a couple of different ways, but smart money is he's between us and our guys, and a little west. I know it's shaky, sir, but it's the best we got.”

  “Range ten kilometers, perhaps less,” Bugayev commented.

  “That's kinda shaky, too, but it's as good a starting place as any. Not a whole lot of data. Sorry, Skipper. Best we can do,” Jones said.

  Mancuso nodded and returned to control.

  “What gives?” Ryan asked. The plane controls were pushed all the way forward to maintain depth. He had not grasped the significance of what was going on.

  “There's a hostile submarine out there.”

  “What information do we have?” Ramius asked.

  “Not much. There's a contact northwest, range unknown, but probably not very far. I know for sure it's not one of ours. Norfolk said this area was cleared. That leaves one possibility. We drift?”

  “We drift,” Ramius echoed, lifting the phone. He spoke a few orders.

  The October's engines were providing the power to move the submarine at a fraction over two knots, barely enough to maintain steerage way and not enough to maintain depth. With her slight positive buoyancy, the October was drifting upward a few feet per minute despite the plane setting.

  The Dallas

  “Let's move back south. I don't like the idea of having that Alfa closer to our friend than we are. Come right to one-eight-five, two-thirds,” Chambers said finally.

  “Aye aye,” Goodman said. “Helm, right fifteen degrees rudder, come to new course one-eight-five. All ahead two thirds.”

  “Right fifteen degrees rudder, aye.” The helmsman turned the wheel. “Sir, my rudder is right fifteen degrees, coming to new course one-eight-five.”

  The Dallas' four torpedo tubes were loaded with three Mark 48s and a decoy, an expensive MOSS (mobile submarine simulator)。 One of her torpedoes was targeted on the Alfa, but the firing solution was vague. The “fish” would have to do some of the tracking by itself. The Fogy's two torpedoes were almost perfectly dialed in.

  The problem was that neither boat had authority to shoot. Both attack submarines were operating under the normal rules of engagement. They could fire in self-defense only and defend the Red October only by bluff and guile. The question was whether the Alfa knew what the Red October was.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  “Steer for the Ohio,” Tupolev ordered. “Bring speed to three knots. We must be patient, comrades. Now that the Americans know where we are they will not ping us again. We will move from our place quietly.”

  The Konovalov's bronze propeller turned more quickly. By shutting down some nonessential electrical systems, the engineers were able to increase speed without increasing reactor output.

  The Pogy

  On the Pogy, the nearest attack boat, the contact faded, degrading the directional bearing somewhat. Commander Wood debated whether or not to get another bearing with active sonar but decided against it. If he used active sonar his position would be like that of a policeman looking for a burglar in a dark building with a flashlight. Sonar pings could well tell his target more than they told him. Using passive sonar was the normal routine in such a case.

  Chief Palmer reported the passage of the Dallas down their port side. Both Wood and Chambers decided not to use their underwater telephones to communicate. They could not afford to make any noise now.

  The Red October

  They had been creeping along for a half hour now. Ryan was chain-smoking at his station, and his palms were sweating as he struggled to maintain his composure. This was not the sort of combat he had been trained for, being trapped inside a steel pipe, unable to see or hear anything. He knew that there was a Soviet submarine out there, and he knew what her orders were. If her captain realized who they were - then what? The two captains, he thought, were amazingly cool.

  “Can your submarines protect us?” Ramius asked.

  “Shoot at a Russian sub?” Mancuso shook his head. “Only if he shoots first - at them. Under the normal rules, we don't count.”

  “What?” Ryan was stunned.

  “You want to start a war?” Mancuso smiled, as though he found this situation amusing. “That's what happens when warships from two countries start exchanging shots. We have to smart our way out of this.”

  “Be calm, Ryan,” Ramius said. “This is our usual game. The hunter submarine tries to find us, and we try not to be found. Tell me, Captain Mancuso, at what range did you hear us off Iceland?”

  “I haven't examined your chart closely, Captain,” Mancuso mused. “Maybe twenty miles, thirty or so kilometers.”

  “And then we were traveling at thirteen knots - noise increases faster than speed. I think we can move east, slowly, without being detected. We use the caterpillar, move at six knots. As you know, Soviet sonar is not so efficient as American. Do you agree, Captain?”

  Mancuso nodded. “She's your boat, sir. May I suggest northeast? That ought to put us behind our attack boats inside an hour, maybe less.”

  “Yes.” Ramius hobbled over to the control board to open the tunnel hatches, then went back to the phone. He gave the necessary orders. In a minute the caterpillar motors were engaged and speed was increasing slowly.

  “Rudder right ten, Ryan,” Ramius said. “And ease the plane controls.”

  “Rudder right ten, sir, easing the planes, sir.” Ryan carried the orders out, glad that they were doing something.

  “Your course is zero-four-zero, Ryan,” Mancuso said from the chart table.

  “Zero-four-zero, coming right through three-five-zero.” From the helmsman's seat he could hear the water swishing down the portside tunnel. Every minute or so there was an odd rumble that lasted three or four seconds. The speed gauge in front of him passed through four knots.

  “You are frightened, Ryan?” Ramius chuckled.

  Jack swore to himself. His voice had wavered. “I'm a little tired, too.”

  “I know it is difficult for you. You do well for a new man with no training. We will be late to Norfolk, but we shall get there, you will see. Have you been on a missile boat, Mancuso?”

  “Oh, sure. Relax, Ryan. This is what boomers do. Somebody comes lookin' for us, we just disappear.” The American commander looked up from the chart. He had set coins at the estimated positions of the three other subs. He considered marking it up more but decided not to. There were some very interesting notations on this coastal chart - like programmed missile-firing positions. Fleet intelligence would go ape over this sort of information.

  The Red October was moving northeast at six knots now. The Konovalov was coming southeast at three. The Pogy was heading south at two, and the Dallas south at fifteen. All four submarines were now within a six-mile-diameter circle, all converging on about the same point.

  The V. K. Konovalov

  Tupolev was enjoying himself. For whatever reason, the Americans had chosen to play a conservative game that he had not expected. The smart thing, he thought, would have been for one of the attack boats to close in and harrass him, allowing the missile sub to pass clear with the other escort. Well, at sea nothing was ever quite the same twice. He sipped at a cup of tea as he selected a sandwich.

  His sonar michman noted an odd sound in his sonar set. It only lasted a few seconds, then was gone. Some far-off seismic rumble, he thought at first.

  The Red October

  They had risen because of the Red October's positive trim, and now Ryan had five degrees of down-angle on the diving planes to get back down to a hundred meters. He heard the captains discussing the absence of a thermocline. Mancuso explained that it was not unusual for th

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