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猎杀“红十月”号(chapter 15)

2006-07-07 19:22

  THE FIFTEENTH DAY

  FRIDAY, 17 DECEMBER

  Ocracoke Inlet

  There was no moon. The three-ship procession entered the inlet at five knots, just after midnight to take advantage of the extra-high spring tide. The Pogy led the formation since she had the shallowest draft, and the Dallas trailed the Red October. The coast guard stations on either side of the inlet were occupied by naval officers who had relieved the “coasties.”

  Ryan had been allowed atop the sail, a humanitarian gesture from Ramius that he much appreciated. After eighteen hours inside the Red October Jack had felt confined, and it was good to see the world - even if it was nothing but dark empty space. The Pogy showed only a dim red light that disappeared if it was looked at for more than a few seconds. He could see the water's feathery wisps of foam and the stars playing hide-and-seek through the clouds. The west wind was a harsh twenty knots coming off the water.

  Borodin was giving terse, monosyllabic orders as he conned the submarine up a channel that had to be dredged every few months despite the enormous jetty which had been built to the north. The ride was an easy one, the two or three feet of chop not mattering a whit to the missile sub's 30,000-ton bulk. Ryan was thankful for this. The black water calmed, and when they entered sheltered waters a Zodiac-type rubber boat zoomed towards them.

  “Ahoy Red October!” a voice called in the darkness. Ryan could barely make out the gray lozenge shape of the Zodiac. It was ahead of a tiny patch of foam formed by the sputtering outboard motor.

  “May I answer, Captain Borodin?” Ryan asked, getting a nod. “This is Ryan. We have two casualties aboard. One's in bad shape. We need a doctor and a surgical team right away! Do you understand?”

  “Two casualties, and you need a doc, right.” Ryan thought he saw a man holding something to his face, and thought he heard the faint crackle of a radio. It was hard to tell in the wind. “Okay. We'll have a doc flown down right away, October. Dallas and Pogy both have medical corpsmen aboard. You want 'em?”

  “Damn straight!” Ryan replied at once.

  “Okay. Follow Pogy two more miles and stand by.” The Zodiac sped forward, reversed course, and disappeared in the darkness.

  “Thank God for that,” Ryan breathed.

  “You are be - believer?” Borodin asked.

  “Yeah, sure.” Ryan should not have been surprised by the question. “Hell, you gotta believe in something.”

  “And why is that, Commander Ryan?” Borodin was examining the Pogy through oversized night glasses.

  Ryan wondered how to answer. “Well, because if you don't, what's the point of life? That would mean Sartre and Camus and all those characters were right - all is chaos, life has no meaning. I refuse to believe that. If you want a better answer, I know a couple priests who'd be glad to talk to you.”

  Borodin did not respond. He spoke an order into the bridge microphone, and they altered course a few degrees to starboard.

  The Dallas

  A half mile aft, Mancuso was holding a light-amplifying night scope to his eyes. Mannion was at his shoulder, struggling to see.

  “Jesus Christ,” Mancuso whispered.

  “You got that one right, Skipper,” Mannion said, shivering in his jacket. “I'm not sure I believe it either. Here comes the Zodiac.” Mannion handed his commander the portable radio used for docking.

  “Do you read?”

  “This is Mancuso.”

  “When our friend stops, I want you to transfer ten men to her, including your corpsman. They report two casualties who need medical attention. Pick good men, Commander, they'll need help running the boat - just make damned sure they're men who don't talk.”

  “Acknowledged. Ten men including the medic. Out.” Mancuso watched the raft speed off to the Pogy. “Want to come along, Pat?”

  “Bet your ass, uh, sir. You planning to go?” Mannion asked.

  Mancuso was judicious. “I think Chambers is up to handling Dallas for a day or so, don't you?”

  On shore, a naval officer was on the phone to Norfolk. The coast guard station was crowded, almost entirely with officers. A fiberglass box sat next to the phone so that they could communicate with CINCLANT in secrecy. They had been here only two hours and would soon leave. Nothing could appear out of the ordinary. Outside, an admiral and a pair of captains watched the dark shapes through starlight scopes. They were as solemn as men in a church.

  Cherry Point, North Carolina

  Commander Ed Noyes was resting in the doctor's lounge of the naval hospital at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina. A qualified flight surgeon, he had the duty for the next three nights so that he'd have four days off over Christmas. It had been a quiet night. This was about to change.

  “Doc?”

  Noyes looked up to see a marine captain in MP livery. The doctor knew him. Military police delivered a lot of accident cases. He set down his New England Journal of Medicine.

  “Hi, Jerry. Something coming in?”

  “Doc, I got orders to tell you to pack everything you need for emergency surgery. You got two minutes, then I take you to the airfield.”

  “What for? What kind of surgery?” Noyes stood.

  “They didn't say, sir, just that you fly out somewhere, alone. The orders come from topside, that's all I know.”

  “Damn it, Jerry, I have to know what sort of surgery it is so I know what to take!”

  “So take everything, sir. I gotta get you to the chopper.”

  Noyes swore and went into the trauma receiving room. Two more marines were waiting there. He handed them four sterile sets, prepackaged instrument trays. He wondered if he'd need some drugs and decided to grab an armful, along with two units of plasma. The captain helped him on with his coat, and they moved out the door to a waiting jeep. Five minutes later they pulled up to a Sea Stallion whose engines were already screaming.

  “What gives?” Noyes asked the colonel of intelligence inside, wondering where the crew chief was.

  “We're heading out over the sound,” the colonel explained. “We have to let you down on a sub that has some casualties aboard. There's a pair of corpsmen to assist you, and that's all I know, okay?” It had to be okay. There was no choice in the matter.

  The Stallion lifted off at once. Noyes had flown in them often enough. He had two hundred hours piloting helicopters, another three hundred in fixed-wing aircraft. Noyes was the kind of doctor who'd discovered too late that flying was as attractive a calling as medicine. He went up at every opportunity, often giving pilots special medical care for their dependents to get backseat time in an F-4 Phantom. The Sea Stallion, he noted, was not cruising. It was running flat out.

  Pamlico Sound

  The Pogy came to a halt about the time the helicopter left Cherry Point. The October altered course to starboard again and halted even with her to the north. The Dallas followed suit. A minute after that the Zodiac reappeared at the Dallas' side, then approached the Red October slowly, almost wallowing with her cargo of men.

  “Ahoy Red October!”

  This time Borodin answered. He had an accent but his English was understandable. “Identify.”

  “This is Bart Mancuso, commanding officer of USS Dallas. I have our ship's medical representative aboard and some other men. Request permission to come aboard, sir.”

  Ryan saw the starpom grimace. For the first time Borodin really had to face up to what was happening, and he would have been less than human to accept it without some kind of struggle.

  “Permission is - yes.”

  The Zodiac edged right up to the curve of the hull. A man leaped aboard with a line to secure the raft. Ten men clambered off, one breaking away to climb up the submarine's sail.

  “Captain? I'm Bart Mancuso. I understand you have some hurt men aboard.”

  “Yes,” Borodin nodded, “the captain and a British officer, both shot.”

  “Shot?” Mancuso was surprised.

  “Worry about that later,” Ryan said sharply. “Let's get your doc working on them, okay?”

  “Sure, where's the hatch?”

  Borodin spoke into the bridge mike, and a few seconds later a circle of light appeared on deck at the foot of the sail.

  “We haven't got a physician, we have an independent duty corpsman. He's pretty good, and Fogy's man will be here in another couple minutes. Who are you, by the way?”

  “He is a spy,” Borodin said with palpable irony.

  “Jack Ryan.”

  “And you, sir?”

  “Captain Second Rank Vasily Borodin. I am - first officer, yes? Come over into the station, Commander. Please excuse me, we are all very tired.”

  “You're not the only ones.” There wasn't that much room. Mancuso perched himself on the coaming. “Captain, I want you to know we had a bastard of a time tracking you. You are to be complimented for your professional skill.”

  The compliment did not elicit the anticipated response from Borodin. “You were able to track us. How?”

  “I brought him along, you can meet him.”

  “And what are we to do?”

  “Orders from shore are to wait for the doc to arrive and dive. Then we sit tight until we get orders to move. Maybe a day, maybe two. I think we could all use the rest. After that, we get you to a nice safe place, and I will personally buy you the best damned Italian dinner you ever had.” Mancuso grinned. “You get Italian food in Russia?”

  “No, and if you are accustomed to good food, you may find Krazny Oktyabr not to your liking.”

  “Maybe I can fix that. How many men aboard?”

  'Twelve. Ten Soviet, the Englishman, and the spy.“ Borodin glanced at Ryan with a thin smile.

  “Okay.” Mancuso reached into his coat and came out with a radio. 'This is Mancuso.“

  “We're here, Skipper,” Chambers replied.

  “Get some food together for our friends. Six meals for twenty-five men. Send a cook over with it. Wally, I want to show these men some good chow. Got it?”

  “Aye aye, Skipper. Out.”

  “I got some good cooks, Captain. Shame this wasn't last week. We had lasagna, just like momma used to make. All that was missing was the Chianti.”

  “They have vodka,” Ryan observed.

  “Only for spies,” Borodin said. Two hours after the shootout Ryan had had the shakes badly, and Borodin had sent him a drink from the medical stores. “We are told that your submarine men are greatly pampered.”

  “Maybe so,” Mancuso nodded. “But we stay out sixty or seventy days at a time. That's hard enough, don't you think?”

  “How about we go below?” Ryan suggested. Everyone agreed. It was getting cold.

  Borodin, Ryan and Mancuso went below to find the Americans on one side of the control room and the Soviets on the other, just like before. The American captain broke the ice.

  “Captain Borodin, this is the man who found you. Come here, Jonesy.”

  “It wasn't very easy, sir,” Jones said. “Can I get to work?

  Can I see your sonar room?“

  “Bugayev.” Borodin waved the ship's electronics officer over. The captain-lieutenant led the sonarman aft.

  Jones took one look at the equipment and muttered, “Kludge.” The face plates all had louvers on them to let out the heat. God, did they use vacuum tubes? Jones wondered. He pulled a screwdriver from his pocket to find out.

  “You speak English, sir?”

  “Yes, a little.”

  “Can I see the circuit diagrams for these, please?”

  Bugayev blinked. No enlisted man, and only one of his michmanyy, had ever asked for it. Then he took the binder of schematics from its shelf on the forward bulkhead.

  Jones matched the code number of the set he was checking with the right section of the binder. Unfolding the diagram, he noted with relief that ohms were ohms, all over the world. He began tracing his finger along the page, then pulled the cover panel off to look inside the set.

  “Kludge, megakludge to the max!” Jones was shocked enough to lapse into Valspeak.

  “Excuse me, what is this 'kludge'?”

  “Oh, pardon me, sir. That's an expression we use in the navy. I don't know how to say it in Russian. Sorry.” Jones stifled a grin as he went back to the schematic. “Sir, this one here's a low-powered high-frequency set, right? You use this for mines and stuff?”

  It was Bugayev's turn to be shocked. “You have been trained in Soviet equipment?”

  “No, sir, but I've sure heard a lot of it.” Wasn't this obvious? Jones wondered. “Sir, this is a high-frequency set, but it doesn't draw a lot of power. What else is it good for? A low-power FM set you use for mines, for work under ice, and for docking, right?”

  “Correct.”

  “You have a gertrude, sir?”

  “Gertrude?”

  “Underwater telephone, sir, for talking to other subs.” Didn't this guy know anything?

  “Ah, yes, but it is located in control, and it is broken.”

  “Uh-huh.” Jones looked over the diagram again. “I think I can rig a modulator on this baby, then, and make it into a gertrude for you. Might be useful. You think your skipper would want that, sir?”

  “I will ask.” He expected Jones to stay put, but the young sonarman was right behind him when he went to control. Bugayev explained the suggestion to Borodin while Jones talked to Mancuso.

  “They got a little FM set that looks just like the old gertrudes in sonar school. We have a spare modulator in stores, and I can probably rig it up in thirty minutes, no sweat,” the sonarman said.

  “Captain Borodin, do you agree?” Mancuso asked.

  Borodin felt as if he were being pushed too fast, even though the suggestion made perfectly good sense. “Yes, have your man do it.”

  “Skipper, how long we gonna be here?” Jones asked.

  “A day or two, why?”

  “Sir, this boat looks kinda thin on creature comforts, you know? How 'bout I grab a TV and a tape machine? Give 'em something to look at, you know, sort of give 'em a quick look at the USA?”

  Mancuso laughed. They wanted to learn everything they could about this boat, but they had plenty of time for that, and Jones' idea looked like a good way to ease the tension. On the other hand, he didn't want to incite a mutiny on his own sub. “Okay, take the one from the wardroom.”

  “Right, Skipper.”

  The Zodiac delivered the Pogy's corpsman a few minutes later, and Jones took the boat back to the Dallas. Gradually the officers were beginning to engage in conversation. Two Russians were trying to talk to Mannion and were looking at his hair. They had never met a black man before.

  “Captain Borodin, I have orders to take something out of the control room that will identify - I mean, something that comes from this boat.” Mancuso pointed. “Can I take that depth gauge? I can have one of my men rig a substitute.” The gauge, he saw, had a number.

  “For what reason?”

  “Beats me, but those are my orders.”

  “Yes,” Borodin replied.

  Mancuso ordered one of his chiefs to perform the job. The chief pulled a crescent wrench from his pocket and removed the nut holding the needle and dial in place.

  “This is a little bigger than ours, Skipper, but not by much. I think we have a spare. I can flip it backwards and scribe in the markings, okay?”

  Mancuso handed his radio over. “Call it in and have Jonesy bring the spare back with him.”

  “Aye, Cap'n.” The chief put the needle back in place after setting the dial on the deck.

  The Sea Stallion did not attempt to land, though the pilot was tempted. The deck was almost large enough to try. As it was, the helicopter hovered a few feet over the missile deck, and the doctor leaped into the arms of two seamen. His supplies were tossed down a moment later. The colonel remained in the back of the chopper and slid the door shut. The bird turned slowly to move back southwest, its massive rotor raising spray from the waters of Pamlico Sound.

  “Was that what I think it was?” the pilot asked over the intercom.

  “Wasn't it backwards? I thought missile subs had the missiles aft of the sail. Those were in front of the sail, weren't they? I mean, wasn't that the rudder sticking up behind the sail?” the copilot responded quizzically.

  “It was a Russian sub!” the pilot said.

  “What?” It was too late to see, they were already two miles away. “Those were our guys on the deck. They weren't Russians.”

  “Son of a bitch!” the major swore wonderingly. And he couldn't say a thing. The colonel of division intelligence had been damned specific about that: “You don't see nothin', you don't hear nothin', you don't think nothin', and you goddamned well don't ever say nothin'.”

  “I'm Doctor Noyes,” the commander said to Mancuso in the control room. He had never been on a submarine before, and when he looked around he saw a compartment full of instruments all in a foreign language. “What ship is this?”

  “Krazny Oktyabr,” Borodin said, coming over. In the centerpiece of his cap there was a gleaming red star.

  “What the hell is going on here?” Noyes demanded.

  “Doc,” Ryan took him by the arm, “you have two patients aft. Why not let's worry about them?”

  Noyes followed him aft to sick bay. “What's going on here?” he persisted more quietly.

  “The Russians just lost a submarine,” Ryan explained, “and now she belongs to us. And if you tell anybody - ”

  “I read you, but I don't believe you.”

  “You don't have to believe me. What kind of cutter are you?”

  “Thoracic.”

  “Good,” Ryan turned into sick bay, “you have a gunshot wound victim who needs you bad.”

  Williams was lying naked on the table. A sailor came in with an armful of medical supplies and set them on Petrov's desk. The October's medical locker had a supply of frozen plasma, and the two corpsmen already had two units running into the lieutenant. A chest tube was in, draining into a vacuum bottle.

  “We got a nine-millimeter in this man's chest,” one of the corpsmen said after introducing himself and his partner. “He's had a chest tube in the last ten hours, they tell me. The head looks worse than it is. Right pupil is a little blown, but no big deal. The chest is bad, sir. You'd better take a listen.”

  “Vitals?” Noyes fished in his bag for a stethoscope.

  “Heart is 110 and thready. Blood pressure's eighty over forty.”

  Noyes moved his stethoscope around Williams' chest, frowning. “Heart's in the wrong place. We have a left tension pneumothorax. There must be a quart of fluid in there, and it sounds like he's heading for congestive failure.” Noyes turned to Ryan. “You get out of here. I've got a chest to crack.”

  “Take care of him, Doc. He's a good man.”

  “Aren't they all,” Noyes observed, stripping off his jacket. “Let's get scrubbed, people.”

  Ryan wondered if a prayer would help. Noyes looked and talked like a surgeon. Ryan hoped he was. He went aft to the captain's cabin, where Ramius was sleeping with the drugs he'd been given. The leg had stopped bleeding, and evidently one of the corpsmen had checked on it. Noyes could work on him next. Ryan went forward.

  Borodin felt he had lost control and didn't like it, though it was something of a relief. Two weeks of constant tension plus the nerve-wrenching change in plans had shaken the officer more than he would have believed. The situation now was unpleasant - the Americans were trying to be kind, but they were so damned overpowering! At least the Red October's officers were not in danger.

  Twenty minutes later the Zodiac was back again. Two sailors went topside to unload a few hundred pounds of frozen food, then helped Jones with his electronic gear. It took several minutes to get everything squared away, and the seamen who took the food forward came back shaken after finding two stiff bodies and a third frozen solid. There had not been time to move the two recent casualties.

  “Got everything, Skipper,” Jones reported. He handed the depth gauge dial to the chief.

  “What is all of this?” Borodin asked.

  “Captain, I got the modulator to make the gertrude.” Jones held up a small box. “This other stuff is a little color TV, a video cassette recorder, and some movie tapes. The skipper thought you gentlemen might want something to relax with, to get to know us a little, you know?”

  “Movies?” Borodin shook his head. “Cinema movies?”

  “Sure,” Mancuso chuckled. “What did you bring, Jonesy?”

  “Well, sir, I got E.T., Star Wars, Big Jake, and Hondo.” Clearly Jones wanted to be careful what parts of America he introduced the Russians to.

  “My apologies, Captain. My crewman has limited taste in movies.”

  At the moment Borodin would have settled for The Battleship Potemkin. The fatigue was really hitting him hard.

  The cook bustled aft with an armload of groceries. “I'll have coffee in a few minutes, sir,” he said to Borodin on his way to the galley.

  “I would like something to eat. None of us has eaten in a day,” Borodin said.

  “Food!” Mancuso called aft.

  “Aye, Skipper. Let me figure this galley out.”

  Mannion checked his watch. “Twenty minutes, sir.”

  “We have everything we need aboard?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Jones bypassed the pulse control on the sonar amplifier and wired in the modulator. It was even easier than he'd expected. He had taken a radio microphone from the Dallas along with everything else and now connected it to the sonar set before powering the system up. He had to wait for the set to warm up. Jones hadn't seen this many tubes since he'd gone out on TV repair jobs with his father, and that had been a long time ago.

  “Dallas, this is Jonesy, do you copy?”

  “Aye.” The reply was scratchy, like a taxicab radio.

  “Thanks. Out.” He switched off. “It works. That was pretty easy, wasn't it?”

  Enlisted man, hell! And not even trained on Soviet equipment! the October's electronics officer thought. It never occurred to him that this piece of equipment was a near copy of an obsolete American FM system. “How long have you been a sonarman?”

  “Three and a half years, sir. Since I dropped out of college.”

  “You learn all this in three years?” the officer asked sharply.

  Jones shrugged. “What's the big deal, sir? I've been foolin' with radios and stuff since I was a kid. You mind if I play some music, sir?”

  Jones had decided to be especially nice. He had only one tape of a Russian composer, the Nutcracker Suite, and had brought that along with four Bachs. Jones liked to hear music while he prayed over circuit diagrams. The young sonarman was in Hog Heaven. All the Russian sets he had listened to for three years - now he had their schematics, their hardware, and the time to figure them all out. Bugayev continued to watch in amazement as Jones' fingers did their ballet through the manual pages to the music of Tchaikovsky.

  “Time to dive, sir,” Mannion said in control.

  “Very well. With your permission, Captain Borodin, I will assist with the vents. All hatches and openings are…… shut.” The diving board used the same light-array system as American boats, Mancuso noticed.

  Mancuso took stock of the situation one last time. Butler and his four most senior petty officers were already tending to the nuclear tea kettle aft. The situation looked pretty good, considering. The only thing that could really go badly wrong would be for the October's officers to change their minds. The Dallas would be keeping the missile sub under constant sonar observation. If she moved, the Dallas had a ten-knot speed advantage with which to block the channel.

  “The way I see it, Captain, we are rigged for dive,” Mancuso said.

  Borodin nodded and sounded the diving alarm. It was a buzzer, just like on American boats. Mancuso, Mannion, and the Russian officer worked the complex vent controls. The Red October began her slow descent. In five minutes she was resting on the bottom, with seventy feet of water over the top of her sail.

  The White House

  Pelt was on the phone to the Soviet embassy at three in the morning. “Alex, this is Jeffrey Pelt.”

  “How are you, Dr. Pelt? I must offer my thanks and that of the Soviet people for your action to save our sailor. I was informed a few minutes ago that he is now conscious, and that he is expected to recover fully.”

  “Yes, I just learned that myself. What's his name, by the way?” Pelt wondered if he had awakened Arbatov. It didn't sound like it.

  “Andre Katyskin, a cook petty officer from Leningrad.”

  “Good, Alex, I am informed that USS Pigeon has rescued nearly the entire crew of another Soviet submarine off the Carolinas. Her name, evidently, was Red October. That's the good news, Alex. The bad news is that the vessel exploded and sank before we could get them all off. Most of the officers, and two of our officers, were lost.”

  “When was this?”

  “Very early yesterday morning. Sorry about the delay, but Pigeon had trouble with the radio, as a result of the underwater explosion, they say. You know how that sort of thing can happen.”

  “Indeed.” Pelt had to admire the response, not a trace of irony. “Where are they now?”

  “The Pigeon is sailing to Charleston, South Carolina. We'll have your crewmen flown directly to Washington from there.”

  “And this submarine exploded? You are sure?”

  “Yeah, one of the crewmen said they had a major reactor accident. It was just good luck that Pigeon was there. She was heading to the Virginia coast to look at the other one you lost. I think your navy needs a little work, Alex,” Pelt observed.

  “I will pass that along to Moscow, Doctor,” Arbatov responded dryly. “Can you tell us where this happened?”

  “I can do better than that. We have a ship taking a deep-diving research sub down to look for the wreckage. If you want, you can have your navy fly a man to Norfolk, and we'll fly him out to check it for you. Fair enough?”

  “You say you lost two officers?” Arbatov played for time, surprised at the offer.

  “Yes, both rescue people. We did get a hundred men off, Alex,” Pelt said defensively. “That's something.”

  “Indeed it is, Dr. Pelt. I must cable Moscow for instructions. I will be back to you. You are at your office?”

  “Correct. Bye, Alex.” He hung up and looked at the president. “Do I pass, boss?”

  “Work a little bit on the sincerity, Jeff.” The president was sprawled in a leather chair, a robe over his pajamas. “They'll bite?”

  “They'll bite. They sure as hell want to confirm the destruction of the sub. Question is, can we fool 'em?”

  “Foster seems to think so. It sounds plausible enough.”

  “Hmph. Well, we have her, don't we?” Pelt observed.

  “Yep, I guess that story about the GRU agent was wrong, or else they kicked him off with everybody else. I want to see that Captain Ramius. Jeez! Pulling a reactor scare, no wonder he got everybody off the ship!”

  The Pentagon

  Skip Tyler was in the CNO's office trying to relax in a chair. The coast guard station on the inlet had had a low-light television, the tape from which had been flown by helicopter to Cherry Point and from there by Phantom jet fighter to Andrews. Now it was in the hands of a courier whose automobile was just pulling up at the Pentagon's main entrance.

  “I have a package to hand deliver to Admiral Foster,” an ensign announced a few minutes later. Foster's flag secretary pointed him to the door.

  “Good morning, sir! This is for you, sir.” The ensign handed Foster the wrapped cassette.

  “Thank you. Dismissed.”

  Foster inserted the cassette in the tape player atop his office television. The set was already on, and the picture appeared in several seconds.

  Tyler was standing beside the CNO as it focused. “Yep.”

  “Yep,” Foster agreed.

  The picture was lousy - no other word for it. The low-light television system did not give a very sharp picture since it amplified all of the ambient light equally. This tended to wash out many details. But what they saw was enough: a very large missile submarine whose sail was much farther aft than the sails on anything a Western country made. She dwarfed the Dallas and Pogy. They watched the screen without a word for the next fifteen minutes. Except for the wobbly camera, the picture was about as lively as a test pattern.

  “Well,” Foster said as the tape ended, “we got us a Russian boomer.”

  “How 'bout that?” Tyler grinned.

  “Skip, you were up for command of Los Angeles, right?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “We owe you for this, Commander, we owe you a lot. I did some checking the other day. An officer injured in the line of duty does not necessarily have to retire unless he is demonstrably unfit for duty. An accident while returning from working on your boat is line of duty, I think, and we've had a few ship commanders who were short a leg. I'll go to the president myself on this, son. It will mean a year's work getting back in the groove, but if you still want your command, by God, I'll get it for you.”

  Tyler sat down for that. It would mean being fitted for a new leg, something he'd been considering for months, and a few weeks getting used to it. Then a year - a good year - relearning everything he needed to know before he could go to sea…… He shook his head. “Thank you, Admiral. You don't know what that means to me - but, no. I'm past that now. I have a different life, and different responsibilities now, and I'd just be taking someone else's slot. Tell you what, you let me get a look at that boomer, and we're even.”

  “That I can guarantee.” Foster had hoped he'd respond that way, had been nearly sure of it. It was too bad, though. Tyler, he thought, would have been a good candidate for his own flag except for the leg. Well, nobody ever said the world was fair.

  “You guys seem to have things under control,” Ryan observed. “Does anybody mind if I flake out somewhere?”

  “Flake out?” Borodin asked.

  “Sleep.”

  “Ah, take Dr. Petrov's cabin, across from the medical office.”

  On his way aft Ryan looked in Borodin's cabin and found the vodka bottle that had been liberated. It didn't have much taste, but it was smooth enough. Petrov's bunk was not very wide or very soft. Ryan was past caring. He took a long swallow and lay down in his uniform, which was already so greasy and dirty as to be beyond hope. He was asleep in five minutes.

  The Sea Cliff

  The air-purifier system was not working properly, Lieutenant Sven Johnsen thought. If his sinus cold had lasted a few more days he might not have noticed. The Sea Cliff was just passing ten thousand feet, and they couldn't tinker with the system until they surfaced. It was not dangerous - the environmental control systems had as many built-in redundancies as the Space Shuttle - just a nuisance.

  “I've never been so deep,” Captain Igor Kaganovich said conversationally. Getting him here had been complicated. It had required a Helix helicopter from the Kiev to the Tarawa, then a U.S. Navy Sea King to Norfolk. Another helicopter had taken him to the USS Austin, which was heading for 33N 75W at twenty knots. The Austin was a landing ship dock, a large vessel whose aft end was a covered well. She was usually used for landing craft, but today she carried the Sea Cliff, a three-man submarine mat had been flown down from Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

  “Does take some getting used to,” Johnsen agreed, “but when you get down to it, five hundred feet, ten thousand feet, doesn't make much difference. A hull fracture would kill you just as fast, just down here there'd be less residue for the next boat to try and recover.”

  “Keep thinking those happy thoughts, sir,” Machinist's Mate First Class Jesse Overton said. “Still clear on sonar?”

  “Right, Jess.” Johnsen had been working with the machinist's mate for two years. The Sea Cliff was their baby, a small, rugged research submarine used mainly for oceanographic tasks, including the emplacement or repair of SOSUS sensors. On the three-man sub there was little place for bridge discipline. Overton was not well educated or very articulate - at least not politely articulate. His skill at maneuvering the minisub was unsurpassed, however, and Johnsen was just as happy to leave that job to him. It was the lieutenant's task to manage the mission at hand.

  “Air system needs some work,” Johnsen observed.

  “Yeah, the filters are about due for replacement. I was going to do that next week. Coulda' done it this morning, but I figured the backup control wiring was more important.”

  “Guess I have to go along with you on that. Handling okay?”

  “Like a virgin.” Overton's smile was reflected in the thick Lexan view port in front of the control seat. The Sea Cliff's awkward design made her clumsy to maneuver. It was as though she knew what she wanted to do, just not quite how she wanted to do it. “How wide's the target area?”

  “Pretty wide. Pigeon says after the explosion the pieces spread from hell to breakfast.”

  “I believe it. Three miles down, and a current to spread it around.”

  “The boat's name is Red October, Captain? A Victor-class attack submarine, you said?”

  “That is your name for the class,” Kaganovich said.

  “What do you call them?” Johnsen asked. He got no reply. What was the big deal? he wondered. What did the name of the class matter to anybody?

  “Switching on locater sonar.” Johnsen activated several systems, and the Sea Cliff pulsed with the sound of the high-frequency sonar mounted on her belly. “There's the bottom.” The yellow screen showed bottom contours in white.

  “Anything sticking up, sir?” Overton asked.

  “Not today, Jess.”

  A year before they had been operating a few miles from this spot and nearly been impaled on a Liberty ship, sunk around 1942 by a German U-boat. The hulk had been sitting up at an angle, propped up by a massive boulder. That near collision would surely have been fatal, and it had taught both men caution.

  “Okay, I'm starting to get some hard returns. Directly ahead, spread out like a fan. Another five hundred feet to the bottom.”

  “Right.”

  “Hmph. There's one big piece, 'bout thirty feet long, maybe nine or ten across, eleven o'clock, three hundred yards. We'll go for that one first.”

  “Coming left, lights coming on now.”

  A half-dozen high-intensity floodlights came on, at once surrounding the submersible in a globe of light. It did not penetrate more than ten yards in the water, which ate up the light energy.

  “There's the bottom, just where you said, Mr. Johnsen,” Overton said. He halted the powered descent and checked for buoyancy. Almost exactly neutral, good. “This current's going to be tough on battery power.”

  “How strong is it?”

  “Knot an' a half, maybe more like two, depending on bottom contours. Same as last year. I figure we can maneuver an hour, hour an' a half, tops.”

  Johnsen agreed. Oceanographers were still puzzling over this deep current, which seemed to change direction from time to time in no particular pattern. Odd. There were a lot of odd things in the ocean. That's why Johnsen got his oceanography degree, to figure some of the buggers out. It sure beat working for a living. Being three miles down wasn't work, not to John-sen.

  “I see somethin', a flash off the bottom right in front of us. Want I should grab it?”

  “If you can.”

  They couldn't see it yet on any of the Sea Cliff's three TV monitors, which looked straight ahead, forty-five degrees left and right of the bow.

  “Okay.” Overton put his right hand on the waldo control. This was what he was really best at.

  “Can you see what it is?” Johnsen asked, fiddling with the TV.

  “Some kinda instrument. Can you kill the number one flood, sir? It's dozzlin' me.”

  “Wait one.” Johnsen leaned forward to kill the proper switch. The number one floodlight provided illumination for the bow camera, which went immediately blank.

  “Okay, baby, now let's just hold steady……” The machinist's mate's left hand worked the directional propeller controls; his right was poised in the waldo glove. Now he was the only one who could see the target. Overton's reflection was grinning at itself. His right hand moved rapidly.

  “Gotcha!” he said. The waldo took the depth-gauge dial a diver had magnetically affixed to the Sea Cliff's bow prior to setting out from the Austin's dock bay. “You can hit the light again, sir.”

  Johnsen flicked it on, and Overton maneuvered his catch in front of the bow camera. “Can you see what it is?”

  “Looks like a depth gauge. Not one of ours, though,” Johnsen observed. “Can you make it out, Captain?”

  “Da,” Kaganovich said at once. He let out a long breath, trying to sound unhappy. “It is one of ours. I cannot read the number, but it is Soviet.”

  “Put it in the basket, Jess,” Johnsen said.

  “Right.” He maneuvered the waldo, placing the dial in a basket welded on the bow, then getting the manipulator arm back to its rest position. “Getting some silt. Let's pick up a little.”

  As the Sea Cliff got too close to the bottom the wash from her propellers stirred up the fine alluvial silt. Overton increased power to get back to a twenty-foot height.

  “That's better. See what the current is doin', Mr. Johnsen? Good two knots. Gonna cut our bottom time.” The current was wafting the cloud to port, rather quickly. “Where's the big target?”

  “Dead ahead, hundred yards. Let's make sure we see what that is.”

  “Right. Going forward…… There's something, looks like a butcher knife. We want it?”

  “No, let's keep going.”

  “Okay, range?”

  “Sixty yards. Ought to be seeing it soon.”

  The two officers saw it on TV the same time Overton did. Just a spectral image at first, it faded like an afterimage in one's eye. Then it came back.

  Overton was the first to react. “Damn!”

  It was more than thirty feet long and appeared perfectly round. They approached from its rear and saw the main circle and within it four smaller cones that stuck out a foot or so.

  “That's a missile, Skipper, a whole fuckin' Russkie nuclear missile!”

  “Hold position, Jess.”

  “Aye aye.” He backed off on the power controls.

  “You said she was a Victor,” Johnsen said to the Soviet.

  “I was mistaken.” Kaganovich's mouth twitched.

  “Let's take a closer look, Jess.''

  The Sea Cliff moved forward, up the side of the rocket body. The Cyrillic lettering was unmistakable, though they were too far off to make out the serial numbers. There was a new treasure for Davey Jones, an SS-N-20 Seahawk, with its eight five-hundred-kiloton MIRVs.

  Kaganovich was careful to note the markings on the missile body. He'd been briefed on the Seahawk immediately before flying from the Kiev. As an intelligence officer, he ordinarily knew more about American weapons than their Soviet counterparts.

  How convenient, he thought. The Americans had allowed him to ride in one of their most advanced research vessels whose internal arrangements he had already memorized, and they had accomplished his mission for him. The Red October was dead. All he had to do was get that information to Admiral Stralbo on the Kirov and the fleet could leave the American coast. Let them come to the Norwegian Sea to play their nasty games! See who would win them up there!

  “Position check, Jess. Mark the sucker.”

  “Aye.” Overton pressed a button to deploy a sonar transponder that would respond only to a coded American sonar signal. This would guide them back to the missile. They would return later with their heavy-lift rig to put a line on the missile and haul it to the surface.

  “That is the property of the Soviet Union,” Kaganovich pointed out. “It is in - under international waters. It belongs to my country.”

  “Then you can fuckin' come and get it!” snapped the American seaman. He must be an officer in disguise, Kaganovich thought. “Beg pardon, Mr. Johnsen.”

  “We'll be back for it,” Johnsen said.

  “You'll never lift it. It is too heavy,” Kaganovich objected.

  “I suppose you're right.” Johnsen smiled.

  Kaganovich allowed the Americans their small victory. It could have been worse. Much worse. “Shall we continue to search for more wreckage?”

  “No, I think we'll go back up,” Johnsen decided.

  “But your orders - ”

  “My orders, Captain Kaganovich, were to search for the remains of a Victor-class attack submarine. We found the grave of a boomer. You lied to us, Captain, and our courtesy to you ends at this point. You got what you wanted, I guess. Later we'll be back for what we want.” Johnsen reached up and pulled the release handle for the iron ballast. The metal slab dropped free. This gave the Sea Cliff a thousand pounds of positive buoyancy. There was no way to stay down now, even if they wanted to.

  “Home, Jess.”

  “Aye aye, Skipper.”

  The ride back to the surface was a silent one.

  The USS Austin

  An hour later, Kaganovich climbed to the Austin's bridge and requested permission to send a message to the Kirov. This had been agreed upon beforehand, else the Austin's commanding officer would have refused. Word on the dead sub's identity had spread fast. The Soviet officer broadcast a series of code words, accompanied by the serial number from the depth-gauge dial. These were acknowledged at once.

  Overton and Johnsen watched the Russian board the helicopter, carrying the depth-gauge dial.

  “I didn't like him much, Mr. Johnsen. Keptin Kaganobitch. The name sounds like a terminal studder. We snookered him, didn't we?”

  “Remind me never to play cards with you, Jess.”

  The Red October

  Ryan woke up after six hours to music that seemed dreamily familiar. He lay in his bunk for a minute trying to place it, then slipped his feet into his shoes and went forward to the wardroom.

  It was E.T. Ryan arrived just in time to see the credits scrolling up the thirteen-inch TV set sitting on the forward end of the wardroom table. Most of the Russian officers and three Americans had been watching it. The Russians were all dabbing their eyes. Jack got a cup of coffee and sat at the end of the table.

  “You liked it?”

  “It was magnificent!” Borodin proclaimed.

  Lieutenant Mannion chuckled. “Second time we ran it.”

  One of the Russians started speaking rapidly in his native language. Borodin translated for him. “He asks if all American children act with such - Bugayev, svobodno?”

  “Free,” Bugayev translated, incorrectly but close enough.

  Ryan laughed. “I never did, but the movie was set in California - people out there are a little crazy. The truth is, no, kids don't act like that - at least I've never seen it, and I have two. At the same time, we do raise our kids to be a lot more independent than Soviet parents do.”

  Borodin translated, and then gave the Russian response. “So, all American children are not such hooligans?”

  “Some are. America is not perfect, gentlemen. We make lots of mistakes.” Ryan had decided to tell the truth insofar as he could.

  Borodin translated again. The reactions around the table were a little dubious.

  “I have told them this movie is a child's story and should not be taken too seriously. This is so?”

  “Yes, sir,” Mancuso, who had just come in, said. “It's a kid's story, but I've seen it five times. Welcome back, Ryan.”

  “Thank you, Commander. I take it you have things under control.”

  “Yep. I guess we all needed the chance to unwind. I'll have to write Jonesy another commendation letter. This really was a good idea.” He waved at the television. “We have lots of time to be serious.”

  Noyes came in. “How's Williams?” Ryan asked.

  “He'll make it.” Noyes filled his cup. “I had him open for three and a half hours. The head wound was superficial - bloody as hell, but head wounds are like that. The chest was a close one, though. The bullet missed the pericardium by a whisker. Captain Borodin, who gave that man first aid?”

  The starpom pointed to a lieutenant. “He does not speak English.”

  “Tell him that Williams owes him his life. Putting that chest tube in was the difference. He would have died without it.”

  “You're sure he'll make it?” Ryan persisted.

  “Of course he'll make it, Ryan. That's what I do for a living. He'll be a sick boy for a while, and I'd feel better if we had him in a real hospital, but everything's under control.”

  “And Captain Ramius?” Borodin asked.

  “No problem. He's still sleeping. I took my time sewing it up. Ask him where he got his first aid training.”

  Borodin did. “He said he likes to read medical books.”

  “How old is he?”

  “Twenty-four.”

  “Tell him if he ever wants to study medicine, I'll tell him how to get started. If he knows how to do the right thing at the right time, he might just be good enough to do it for a living.”

  The young officer was pleased by this comment and asked how much money a doctor could make in America.

  “I'm in the service, so I don't make very much. Forty-eight thousand a year, counting flight pay. I could do a lot better on the outside.”

  “In the Soviet Union,” Borodin pointed out, “doctors are paid about the same as factory workers.”

  “Maybe that explains why your docs are no good,” Noyes observed.

  “When will the captain be able to resume command?” Borodin asked.

  “I'm going to keep him down all day,” Noyes said. “I don't want him to start bleeding again. He can start moving around tomorrow. Carefully. I don't want him on that leg too much. He'll be fine, gentlemen. A little weak from the blood loss, but he'll recover fully.” Noyes made his pronouncements as though he were quoting physical laws.

  “We thank you, Doctor,” Borodin said.

  Noyes shrugged. “It's what they pay me for. Now can I ask a question? What the hell is going on here?”

  Borodin laughed, translating the question for his comrades. “We will all become American citizens.”

  “And you're bringing a sub along with you, eh? Son of a gun. For a while there I thought this was some sort of - I don't know, something. This is quite a story. Guess I can't tell it to anybody, though.”

  “Correct, Doctor.” Ryan smiled.

  'Too bad,“ Noyes muttered as he headed back to sick bay.

  Moscow

  “So, Comrade Admiral, you report success to us?” Narmonov asked.

  “Yes, Comrade General Secretary,” Gorshkov nodded, surveying the conference table in the underground command center. All of the inner circle were here, along with the military chiefs and the head of the KGB. “Admiral Stralbo's fleet intelligence officer, Captain Kaganovich, was permitted by the Americans to view the wreckage from aboard one of their deep-submergence research vessels. The craft recovered a fragment of wreckage, a depth-gauge dial. These objects are numbered, and the number was immediately relayed to Moscow. It was positively from Red October. Kaganovich also inspected a missile blasted loose from the submarine. It was definitely a Sea-hawk. Red October is dead. Our mission is accomplished.”

  “By chance, Comrade Admiral, not by design,” Mikhail Alexandrov pointed out. “Your fleet failed in its mission to locate and destroy the submarine. I think Comrade Gerasimov has some information for us.”

  Nikolay Gerasimov was the new KGB chief. He had already given his report to the political members of this group and was eager to release it to these strutting peacocks in uniform. He wanted to see their reactions. The KGB had scores to settle with these men. Gerasimov summarized the report he had from agent Cassius.

  “Impossible!” Gorshkov snapped.

  “Perhaps,” Gerasimov conceded politely. “There is a strong probability that this is a very clever piece of disinformation. It is now being investigated by our agents in the field. There are, however, some interesting details which support this hypothesis. Permit me

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