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猎杀“红十月”号(chapter 12)

2006-07-07 19:20

  THE TWELETH DAY

  TUESDAY, 14 DECEMBER

  The Dallas

  “Crazy Ivan.'” Jones shouted loudly enough to be heard in the attack center. “Turning to starboard!”

  “Skipper!” Thompson repeated the warning.

  “All stop!” Mancuso ordered quickly. “Rig ship for ultra-quiet!”

  A thousand yards ahead of the Dallas, her contact had just begun a radical turn to the right. She had been doing so about every two hours since they had regained contact, though not regularly enough for the Dallas to settle into a comfortable pattern. Whoever is driving that boomer knows his business, Mancuso thought. The Soviet missile submarine was making a complete circle so her bow-mounted sonar could check for anyone hiding in her baffles.

  Countering this maneuver was more than just tricky - it was dangerous, especially the way Mancuso did it. When the Red October changed course, her stern, like those of all ships, moved in the direction opposite the turn. She was a steel barrier directly in the Dallas'1 path for as long as it took her to move through the first part of the turn, and the 7,000-ton attack submarine took a lot of space to stop.

  The exact number of collisions that had occurred between Soviet and American submarines was a closely guarded secret; that there had been such collisions was not. One characteristically Russian tactic for forcing Americans to keep their distance was a stylized turn called the Crazy Ivan in the U.S. Navy.

  The first few hours they had trailed this contact, Mancuso had been careful to keep his distance. He had learned that the submarine was not turning quickly. She was, rather, maneuvering in a leisurely manner, and seemed to ascend fifty to eighty feet as she turned, banking almost like an aircraft. He suspected that the Russian skipper was not using his full maneuverability - an intelligent thing for a captain to do, keeping some of his performance in reserve as a surprise. These facts allowed the Dallas to trail very closely indeed and gave Mancuso a chance to chop his speed and drift forward so that he barely avoided the Russian's stern. He was getting good at it - a little too good, his officers were whispering. The last time they had not missed the Russian's screws by more than a hundred fifty yards. The contact's large turning circle was taking her completely around the Dallas as the latter sniffed at her prey's trail.

  Avoiding collision was the most dangerous part of the maneuver, but not the only part. The Dallas also had to remain invisible to her quarry's passive sonar systems. For her to do so the engineers had to cut power in their S6G reactor to a tiny fraction of its total output. Fortunately the reactor was able to run on such low power without the use of a coolant pump, since coolant could be transferred by normal convection circulation. In addition, a strict silent ship routine was enforced. No activity on the Dallas that might generate noise was permitted, and the crew took it seriously enough that even ordinary conversations in the mess were muted.

  “Speed coming down,” Lieutenant Goodman reported. Mancuso decided that the Dallas would not be part of a ramming this time and went aft to sonar.

  “Target is still turning right,” Jones reported quietly. “Ought to be clear now. Distance to the stern, maybe two hundred yards, maybe a shade less…… Yeah, we're clear now, bearing is changing more rapidly. Speed and engine noises are constant. A slow turn to the right.” Jones caught the captain out of the corner of his eye and turned to hazard an observation. “Skipper, this guy is real confident in himself. I mean, real confident.”

  “Explain,” Mancuso said, figuring he knew the answer.

  “Cap'n, he's not chopping speed the way we do, and we turn a lot sharper than this. It's almost like - like he's doing this out of habit, y'know? Like he's in a hurry to get somewhere, and really doesn't think anybody can track - wait…… Yeah, okay, he's just about reversed course now, bearing off the starboard bow, say half a mile…… Still doing the slow turn. He'll go right around us again. Sir, if he knows anybody's back here, he's playing it awful cool. What do you think, Frenchie?”

  Chief Sonarman Laval shook his head. “He don't know we're here.” The chief didn't want to say anything else. He thought Mancuso's close tailing was reckless. The man had balls, playing with a 688 like this, but one little screw-up and he'd find himself with a pail and shovel, on the beach.

  “Passing down the starboard side. No pinging.” Jones took out his calculator and punched in some numbers. “Sir, this angular turn rate at this speed makes the range about a thousand yards. You suppose his funny drive system goofs up his rudders any?”

  “Maybe.” Mancuso took a spare set of phones and plugged them in to listen.

  The noise was the same. A swish, and every forty or fifty seconds an odd, low-frequency rumble. This close they could also hear the gurgling and throbbing of the reactor pump. There was a sharp sound, maybe a cook moving a pan on a metal grate. No silent ship drill on this boat. Mancuso smiled to himself. It was like being a cat burglar, hanging this close to an enemy submarine - no, not an enemy, not exactly - hearing everything. In better acoustical conditions they could have heard conversations. Not well enough to understand them, of course, but as if they were at a dinner party listening to the gabble of a dozen couples at once.

  “Passing aft and still circling. His turning radius must be a good thousand yards,” Mancuso observed.

  “Yes, Cap'n, about that,” Jones agreed.

  “He just can't be using all his rudder, and you're right, Jonesy, he is very damned casual about this. Hmph, the Russians are all supposed to be paranoid - not this boy.” So much the better, Mancuso thought.

  If he were going to hear the Dallas it would be now, with the bow-mounted sonar pointed almost directly at them. Mancuso took off his headphones to listen to his boat. The Dallas was a tomb. The words Crazy Ivan had been passed, and within seconds his crew had responded. How do you reward a whole crew? Mancuso wondered. He knew he worked them hard, sometimes too hard - but damn! Did they deliver!

  “Port beam,” Jones said. “Exactly abeam now, speed unchanged, traveling a little straighter, maybe, distance about eleven hundred, I think.” The sonarman took a handkerchief from his back pocket and used it to wipe his hands.

  There's tension all right, but you'd never know it listening to the kid, the captain thought. Everyone in his crew was acting like a professional.

  “He's passed us. On the port bow, and I think the turn has stopped. Betcha he's settled back down on one-nine-zero.” Jones looked up with a grin. “We did it again, Skipper.”

  “Okay. Good work, you men.” Mancuso went back to the attack center. Everyone was waiting expectantly. The Dallas was dead in the water, drifting slowly downward with her slight negative trim.

  “Let's get the engines turned back on. Build her up slowly to thirteen knots.” A few seconds later an almost imperceptible noise began as the reactor plant increased power. A moment after that the speed gauge twitched upward. The Dallas was moving again.

  “Attention, this is the captain speaking,” Mancuso said into the sound-powered communications system. The electrically powered speakers were turned off, and his word would be relayed by watchstanders in all compartments. “They circled us again without picking us up. Well done, everybody. We can all breathe again.” He placed the handset back in its holder. “Mr. Goodman, let's get back on her tail.”

  “Aye, Skipper. Left five degrees rudder, helm.”

  “Left five degrees' rudder, aye.” The helmsman acknowledged the order, turning his wheel as he did so. Ten minutes later the Dallas was back astern of her contact.

  A constant fire control solution was set up on the attack director. The Mark 48 torpedoes would barely have sufficient distance to arm themselves before striking the target in twenty-nine seconds.

  Ministry of Defense, Moscow

  “And how are you feeling, Misha?”

  Mikhail Semyonovich Filitov looked up from a large pile of documents. He looked flushed and feverish still. Dmitri Ustinov, the defense minister, worried about his old friend. He should have stayed in the hospital another few days as the doctors had advised. But Misha had never been one to take advice, only orders.

  “I feel good, Dmitri. Any time you walk out of a hospital you feel good - even if you are dead,” Filitov smiled.

  “You still look sick,” Ustinov observed.

  “Ah! At our age you always look sick. A drink, Comrade Defense Minister?” Filitov hoisted a bottle of Stolychnaya vodka from a desk drawer.

  “You drink too much, my friend,” Ustinov chided.

  “I do not drink enough. A bit more antifreeze and I would not have caught cold last week.” He poured two tumblers half full and held one out to his guest. “Here, Dmitri, it is cold outside.”

  Both men tipped their glasses, took a gulp of the clear liquid, and expelled their breath with an explosive pah.

  “I feel better already.” Filitov's laugh was hoarse. 'Tell me, what became of that Lithuanian renegade?“

  “We're not sure,” Ustinov said.

  “Still? Can you tell me now what his letter said?”

  Ustinov took another swallow before explaining. When he finished the story Filitov was leaning forward at his desk, shocked.

  “Mother of God! And he has still not been found? How many heads?”

  “Admiral Korov is dead. He was arrested by the KGB, of course, and died of a brain hemorrhage soon thereafter.”

  “A nine-millimeter hemorrhage, I trust,” Filitov observed coldly. “How many times have I said it? What goddamned use is a navy? Can we use it against the Chinese? Or the NATO armies that threaten us - no! How many rubles does it cost to build and fuel those pretty barges for Gorshkov, and what do we get for it - nothing! Now he loses one submarine and the whole fucking fleet cannot find it. It is a good thing that Stalin is not alive.”

  Ustinov agreed. He was old enough to remember what happened then to anyone who reported results short of total success. “In any case, Padorin may have saved his skin. There is one extra element of control on the submarine.”

  “Padorin!” Filitov took another gulp of his drink. “That eunuch! I've only met him, what, three times. A cold fish, even for a commissar. He never laughs, even when he drinks. Some Russian he is. Why is it, Dmitri, that Gorshkov keeps so many old farts like that around?”

  Ustinov smiled into his drink. “The same reason I do, Misha.” Both men laughed.

  “So, how will Comrade Padorin save our secrets and keep his skin? Invent a time machine?”

  Ustinov explained to his old friend. There weren't many men whom the defense minister could speak to and feel comfortable with. Filitov drew the pension of a full colonel of tanks and still wore the uniform proudly. He had faced combat for the first time on the fourth day of the Great Patriotic War, as the Fascist invaders were driving east. Lieutenant Filitov had met them southeast of Brest Litovsk with a troop of T-34/76 tanks. A good officer, he had survived his first encounter with Guderian's panzers, retreated in good order, and fought a constant mobile action for days before being caught in the great encirclement at Minsk. He had fought his way out of that trap, and later another at Vyasma, and had commanded a battalion spearheading Zhukov's counterblow from the suburbs of Moscow. In 1942 Filitov had taken part in the disastrous counter-offensive toward Kharkov but again escaped, this time on foot, leading the battered remains of regiment from that dreadful cauldron on the Dnieper River. With another regiment later that year he had led the drive that shattered the Italian Army on the flank of Stalingrad and encircled the Germans. He'd been wounded twice in that campaign. Filitov had acquired the reputation of a commander who was both good and lucky. That luck had run out at Kursk, where he had battled the troopers of SS division Das Reich. Leading his men into a furious tank battle, Filitov and his vehicle had run straight into an ambush of eighty-eight-millimeter guns. That he had survived at all was a miracle. His chest still bore the scars from the burning tank, and his right arm was next to useless. This was enough to retire a charging tactical commander who had won the old star of the Hero of the Soviet Union no less than three times, and a dozen other decorations.

  After months of being shuttled from one hospital to another, he had become a representative of the Red Army in the armament factories that had been moved to the Urals east of Moscow. The drive that made him a premiere combat soldier would come to serve the State even better behind the lines. A born organizer, Filitov learned to run roughshod over factory bosses to streamline production, and he cajoled design engineers to make the small but often crucial changes in their products that would save crews and win battles.

  It was in these factories that Filitov and Ustinov first met, the scarred combat veteran and the gruff apparatchik detailed by Stalin to produce enough tools to drive the hated invaders back. After a few clashes, the young Ustinov came to recognize that Filitov was totally fearless and would not be bullied on a question involving quality control or fighting efficiency. In the midst of one disagreement, Filitov had practically dragged Ustinov into the turret of a tank and taken it through a combat training course to make his point. Ustinov was the sort who only had to be shown something once, and they soon became fast friends. He could not fail to admire the courage of a soldier who could say no to the people's commissar of armaments. By mid-1944 Filitov was a permanent part of his staff, a special inspector - in short, a hatchet man. When there was a problem at a factory, Filitov saw that it was settled, quickly. The three gold stars and the crippling injuries were usually enough to persuade the factory bosses to mend their ways - and if not, Misha had the booming voice and vocabulary to make a sergeant major wince.

  Never a high Party official, Filitov gave his boss valuable input from people in the field. He still worked closely with the tank design and production teams, often taking a prototype or randomly chosen production model through a test course with a team of picked veterans to see for himself how well things worked. Crippled arm or not, it was said that Filitov was among the best gunners in the Soviet Union. And he was a humble man. In 1965 Ustinov thought to surprise his friend with general's stars and was somewhat angered by Filitov's reaction - he had not earned them on the field of battle, and that was the only way a man could earn stars. A rather impolitic remark, as Ustinov wore the uniform of a marshal of the Soviet Union, earned for his Party work and industrial management, it nevertheless demonstrated that Filitov was a true New Soviet Man, proud of what he was and mindful of his limitations.

  It is unfortunate, Ustinov thought, that Misha has been so unlucky otherwise. He had been married to a lovely woman, Elena Filitov, who had been a minor dancer with the Kirov when the youthful officer had met her. Ustinov remembered her with a trace of envy; she had been the perfect soldier's wife. She had given the State two fine sons. Both were now dead. The elder had died in 1956, still a boy, an officer cadet sent to Hungary because of his political reliability and killed by counterrevolutionaries before his seventeenth birthday. He was a soldier who had taken a soldier's chance. But the younger had been killed in a training accident, blown to pieces by a faulty breech mechanism in a brand-new T-55 tank in 1959. That had been a disgrace. And Elena had died soon thereafter, of grief more than anything else. Too bad.

  Filitov had not changed all that much. He drank too much, like many soldiers, but he was a quiet drunk. In 1961 or so, Ustinov remembered, he had taken to cross-country skiing. It made him healthier and tired him out, which was probably what he really wanted, along with the solitude. He was still a fine listener. When Ustinov had a new idea to float before the Politburo, he usually tried it out on Filitov first to get his reaction. Not a sophisticated man, Filitov was an uncommonly shrewd one who had a soldier's instinct for finding weaknesses and exploiting strengths. His value as a liaison officer was unsurpassed. Few men living had three gold stars won on the field of battle. That got him attention, and it still made officers far his senior listen to him.

  “So, Dmitri Fedorovich, do you think this would work? Can one man destroy a submarine?” Filitov asked. “You know rockets, I don't.”

  “Certainly. It's merely a question of mathematics. There is enough energy in a rocket to melt the submarine.”

  “And what of our man?” Filitov asked. Always the combat soldier, he would be the type to worry about a brave man alone in enemy territory.

  “We will do our best, of course, but there is not much hope.”

  “He must be rescued, Dmitri! Must! You forget, young men like that have a value beyond their deeds, they are not mere machines who perform their duties. They are symbols for our other young officers, and alive they are worth a hundred new tanks or ships. Combat is like that, Comrade. We have forgotten this - and look what has happened in Afghanistan!”

  “You are correct, my friend, but - only a few hundred kilometers from the American coast, if that much?”

  “Gorshkov talks so much about what his navy can do, let him do this!” Filitov poured another glass. “One more, I think.”

  “You are not going skiing again, Misha.” Ustinov noted that he often fortified himself before driving his car to the woods east of Moscow. “I will not permit it.”

  “Not today, Dmitri, I promise - though I think it would do me good. Today I will go to the banya to take steam and sweat the rest of the poisons from this old carcass. Will you join me?”

  “I have to work late.”

  “The banya is good for you,” Filitov persisted. It was a waste of time, and both knew it. Ustinov was a member of the “nobility” and would not mingle in the public steam baths. Misha had no such pretentions.

  The Dallas

  Exactly twenty-four hours after reacquiring the Red October, Mancuso called a conference of his senior officers in the wardroom. Things had settled down somewhat. Mancuso had even managed to squeeze in a couple of four-hour naps and was feeling vaguely human again. They now had time to build an accurate sonar picture of the quarry, and the computer was refining a signature classification that would be out to the other fleet attack boats in a matter of weeks. From trailing they had a very accurate model of the propulsion system's noise characteristics, and from the bihourly circling they had also built a picture of the boat's size and power plant specifications.

  The executive officer, Wally Chambers, twirled a pencil in his fingers like a baton. “Jonesy's right. It's the same power plant that the Oscars and Typhoons have. They've quieted it down, but the gross signature characteristics are virtually identical. Question is, what's it turning? It sounds like the propellers are ducted somehow, or shrouded. A directional prop with a collar around it, maybe, or some sort of tunnel drive. Didn't we try that once?”

  “Long time ago,” Lieutenant Butler, the engineering officer, said. “I heard a story about it while I was at Arco. It didn't work out, but I don't remember why. Whatever it is, it's really knocked down on the propulsion noises. That rumble though …… It's some sort of harmonic all right - but a harmonic of what? You know, except for that we'd never have picked it up in the first place.”

  “Maybe,” Mancuso said. “Jonesy says that the signal processors have tended to filter this noise out, almost as though the Soviets know what SAPS does and have tailored a system to beat it. But that's hard to believe.” There was general agreement on this point. Everyone knew the principles on which SAPS operated, but there were probably not fifty men in the country who could really explain the nuts and bolts details.

  “We're agreed she's a boomer?” Mancuso asked.

  Butler nodded. “No way you could fit that power plant into an attack hull. More important, she acts like a boomer.”

  “Could be an Oscar,” Chambers suggested.

  “No. Why send an Oscar this far south? Oscar's an antiship platform. Uh-uh, this guy's driving a boomer. He ran the route at the speed he's running now - and that's acting like a missile boat,” Lieutenant Mannion noted. “What are they up to with all this other activity? That's the real question. Maybe trying to sneak up on our coast - just to see if they can do it. It's been done before, and all this other activity makes for a hell of a diversion.”

  They all considered that. The trick had been tried before by both sides. Most recently, in 1978, a Soviet Yankee-class missile sub had closed to the edge of the continental shelf off the coast of New England. The evident objective had been to see if the United States could detect it or not. The navy had succeeded, and then the question had been whether or not to react and let the Soviets know.

  “Well, I think we can leave the grand strategy to the folks on the beach. Let's phone this one in. Lieutenant Mannion, tell the OOD to get us to periscope depth in twenty minutes. We'll try to slip away and back without his noticing.” Mancuso frowned. This was never easy.

  A half an hour later the Dallas radioed her message.

  Z140925ZDEC

  TOP SECRET THEO

  FR: USS DALLAS

  TO: COMSUBLANT

  INFO: CINCLANTFLT

  A. USS DALLAS Z090414ZDEC

  1. ANOMALOUS CONTACT REACQUIRED 0538Z 13DEC. CURRENT POSITION LAT 42° 35' LONG 49° 12'. COURSE 194 SPEED 13 DEPTH 600. HAVE TRACKED 24 HOURS WITHOUT COUNTERDETECTION. CONTACT EVALUATED AS REDFLEET SSBN GROSS SIZE, ENGINE CHARACTERISTICS INDICATIVE TYPHOON CLASS. HOWEVER CONTACT USING NEW DRIVE SYSTEM NOT REPEAT NOT PROPELLERS. HAVE ESTABLISHED DETAILED SIGNATURE PROFILE.

  2. RETURNING TO TRACKING OPERATIONS. REQUEST ADDITIONAL OPAREA ASSIGNMENTS. AWAIT REPLY 1030Z.

  COMSUBLANT Operations

  “Bingo!” Gallery said to himself. He walked back to his office, careful to close the door before lifting the scrambled line to Washington.

  “Sam, this is Vince. Listen up: Dallas reports she is tracking a Russian boomer with a new kind of quiet drive system, about six hundred miles southwest of the Grand Banks, course one-nine-four, speed thirteen knots.”

  “All right! That's Mancuso?” Dodge said.

  “Bartolomeo Vito Mancuso, my favorite Guinea,” Gallery confirmed. Getting him this command had not been easy because of his age. Gallery had gone the distance for him. “I told you the kid was good, Sam.”

  “Jesus, you see how close they are to the Kiev group?” Dodge was looking at his tactical display.

  “They are cutting it close,” Gallery agreed. “Invincible's not too far away, though, and I have Pogy out there, too. We moved her off the shelf when we called Scamp back in. I figure Dallas will need help. The question is how obvious do we want to be.”

  “Not very. Look, Vince, I have to talk to Dan Foster about this.”

  “Okay. I have to reply to Dallas in, hell, in fifty-five minutes. You know the score. He has to break contact to reach us, then sneak back. Hustle, Sam.”

  “Right, Vince.” Dodge switched buttons on his phone. “This is Admiral Dodge. I need to talk to Admiral Foster right now.”

  The Pentagon

  “Ouch. Between Kiev and Kirov. Nice.” Lieutenant General Harris took a marker from his pocket to represent the Red October. It was a sub-shaped piece of wood with a Jolly Roger attached. Harris had an odd sense of humor. “The president says we can try and keep her?” he asked.

  “If we can get her to the place we want at the time we want,” General Hilton said. “Can Dallas signal her?”

  “Good trick, General.” Foster shook his head. “First things first. Let's get Pogy and Invincible there for starters, then we figure out how to warn him. From this course track, Christ, he's heading right for Norfolk. You believe the balls on this guy? If worse comes to worse, we can always try to escort him in.”

  “Then we'd have to give the boat back,” Admiral Dodge objected.

  “We have to have a fall-back position, Sam. If we can't warn him off, we can try and run a bunch of ships through with him to keep Ivan from shooting.”

  “The law of the sea is your bailiwick, not mine,” General Barnes, the air force chief of staff, commented. “But from where I sit doing that could be called anything from piracy to an overt act of war. Isn't this exercise complicated enough already?”

  “Good point, General,” Foster said.

  “Gentlemen, I think we need time to consider this. Okay, we still have time, but right now let's tell Dallas to sit tight and track the bugger,” Harris said. “And report any changes in course or speed. I figure we have about fifteen minutes to do that. Next we can get Pogy and Invincible staked out on their path.”

  “Right, Eddie.” Hilton turned to Admiral Foster. “If you agree, let's do that right now.”

  “Send the message, Sam,” Foster ordered.

  “Aye aye.” Dodge went to the phone and ordered Admiral Gallery to send the reply.

  Z141030ZDEC

  TOP SECRET

  FR: COMSUBLANT

  TO: USS DALLAS

  A. USS DALLAS Z140925ZDEC

  1. CONTINUE TRACKING. REPORT ANY CHANGES IN COURSE OR SPEED. HELP ON THE WAY.

  2. ELF TRANSMISSION “G” DESIGNATES FLASH OPS DIRECTIVE READY FOR YOU.

  3. YOUR OPAREA UNRESTRICTED BRAVO ZULU DALLAS KEEP IT UP. VADM GALLERY SENDS.

  “Okay, let's look at this,” Harris said. “What the Russians are up to never has figured, has it?”

  “What do you mean, Eddie?” Hilton asked.

  “Their force composition for one thing. Half these surface platforms are antiair and antisurface, not primary ASW assets. And why bring Kirov along at all? Granted she makes a nice force flag, but they could do the same thing with Kiev.”

  “We talked about that already,” Foster observed. “They ran down the list of what they had that could travel this far at a high speed of advance and took everything that would steam. Same with the subs they sent, half of them are antisurface SSGNs with limited utility against submarines. The reason, Eddie, is that Gorshkov wants every platform here he can get. A half-capable ship is better than nothing. Even one of the old Echoes might get lucky, and Sergey is probably hitting the knees every night praying for luck.”

  “Even so, they've split their surface groups into three forces, each with antiair and antisurface elements, and they're kind of thin on ASW hulls. Nor have they sent their ASW aircraft to stage out of Cuba. Now that is curious,” Harris pointed out.

  “It would blow their cover story. You don't look for a dead sub with aircraft - well, they might, but if they started using a wing of Bears out of Cuba, the president would go ape,” Foster said. “We'd harass them so much they'd never accomplish anything. For us this would be a technical operation, but they factor politics into everything they do.”

  “Fine, but that still doesn't explain it. What ASW ships and choppers they do have are pinging away like mad. You might look for a dead sub that way, but October ain't dead, is she?”

  “I don't understand, Eddie,” Hilton said.

  “How would you look for a stray sub, given these circumstances?” Harris asked Foster.

  “Not like this,” Foster said after a moment. “Using surface, active sonar would warn the boat off long before they could get a hard contact. Boomers are fat on passive sonar. She'd hear them coming and skedaddle out of the way. You're right, Eddie. It's a sham.”

  “So what the hell are their surface ships up to?” Barnes asked, puzzled.

  “Soviet naval doctrine is to use surface ships to support submarine operations,” Harris explained. “Gorshkov is a decent tactical theoretician, and occasionally a very innovative gent.

  He said years ago that for submarines to operate effectively they have to have outside help, air or surface assets in direct or proximate support. They can't use air this far from home without staging out of Cuba, and at best finding a boat in open ocean that doesn't want to be found would be a difficult assignment.

  “On the other hand, they know where she's heading, a limited number of discrete areas, and those are staked out with fifty-eight submarines. The purpose of the surface forces, therefore, is not to participate in the hunt itself - though if they got lucky, they wouldn't mind. The purpose of the surface forces is to keep us from interfering with their submarines. They can do that by staking out the areas we're likely to be with their surface assets and watching what we're doing.” Harris paused for a moment. “That's smart. We have to cover them, right? And since they're on a 'rescue' mission, we have to do more or less what they're doing, so we ping away also, and they can use our own ASW expertise against us for their own purposes. We play right into their hands.”

  “Why?” Barnes asked again.

  “We're committed to helping in the search. If we find their boat, they're close enough to find out, acquire, localize, and shoot - and what can we do about it? Not a thing.

  “Like I said, they figure to locate and shoot with their submarines. A surface acquisition would be pure luck, and you don't plan for luck. So, the primary objective of the surface fleet is to ride shotgun for, and draw our forces away from, their subs. Secondarily they can act as beaters, driving the game to the shooters - and again, since we're pinging, we're helping them. We're providing an additional stalking horse.” Harris shook his head in grudging admiration. “Not too shabby, is it? If Red October hears them coming, she runs a little harder for whatever port the skipper wants, right into a nice, tight trap. Dan, what are the chances they can bag her coming into Norfolk, say?”

  Foster looked down at the chart. Russian submarines were staked out on every port from Maine to Florida. “They have more subs than we have ports. Now we know that this guy can be picked up, and there's only so much area to cover off each port, even outside the territorial limit…… You're right, Eddie.

  They have too good a chance of making the kill. Our surface groups are too far away to do anything about it. Our subs don't know what's happening, we have orders not to tell them, and even if we could, how could they interfere? Fire at the Russian subs before they could shoot - and start a war?“ Foster let out a long breath. ”We gotta warn him off.“

  “How?” Hilton asked.

  “Sonar, a gertrude message maybe,” Harris suggested.

  Admiral Dodge shook his head. “You can hear that through the hull. If we continue to assume that only the officers are in on this, well, the crew might figure out what's happening, and there's no predicting the consequences. Think we can use Nimitz and America to force them off the coast? They'll be close enough to enter the operation soon. Damn! I don't want this guy to get this close, then get blown away right off our coast.”

  “Not a chance,” Harris said. “Ever since the raid on Kirov they've been acting too docile. That's pretty cute, too. I bet they had that figured out. They know that having so many of their ships operating off our coast is bound to provoke us, so they make the first move, we up the ante, and they just plain fold - so now if we keep leaning on them, we're the bad guys. They're just doing a rescue operation, not threatening anybody. The Post reported this morning that we have a Russian survivor in the Norfolk naval hospital. Anyway, the good news is that they've miscalculated October's speed. These two groups will pass her left and right, and with their seven-knot speed advantage they'll just pass her by.”

  “Disregard the surface groups entirely?” Maxwell asked.

  “No,” Hilton said, “that tells them we are no longer buying the cover story. They'd wonder why - and we still have to cover their surface groups. They're a threat whether they're acting like honest merchants or not.”

  “What we can do is pretend to release Invincible. With Nimitz and America ready to enter the game, we can send her home. As they pass October we can use that to our advantage. We put Invincible to seaward of their surface groups as though she's heading home and interpose her on October's course. We still have to figure out a way to communicate with her, though. I can see how to get the assets in place, but that hurdle remains, gentlemen. For the moment, are we agreed to position Invincible and Pogy for the intercept?”

  The Invincible

  “How far is she from us?” Ryan asked.

  “Two hundred miles. We can be there in ten hours.” Captain Hunter marked the position on the chart. “USS Pogy is coming east, and she ought to be able to rendezvous with Dallas an hour or so after we do. This will put us about a hundred miles east of this surface group when October arrives. Bloody hell, Kiev and Kirov are a hundred miles east and west of her.”

  “You suppose her captain knows it?” Ryan looked at the chart, measuring the distances with his eyes.

  “Unlikely. He's deep, and their passive sonars are not as good as ours. Sea conditions are against it also. A twenty-knot surface wind can play havoc with sonar, even that deep.”

  “We have to warn him off.” Admiral White looked at the ops dispatch. '“Without using acoustical devices.'”

  “How the hell do you do that? You can't reach down that far with a radio,” Ryan noted. “Even I know that. My God, this guy's come four thousand miles, and he's going to get killed within sight of his objective.”

  “How to communicate with a submarine?”

  Commander Barclay straightened up. “Gentlemen, we are not trying to communicate with a submarine, we are trying to communicate with a man.”

  “What are you thinking?” Hunter asked.

  “What do we know about Marko Ramius?” Barclay's eyes narrowed.

  “He's a cowboy, typical submarine commander, thinks he can walk on water,” Captain Carstairs said.

  “Who spent most of his time in attack submarines,” Barclay added. “Marko's bet his life that he could sneak into an American port undetected by anyone. We have to shake that confidence to warn him off.”

  “We have to talk to him first,” Ryan said sharply.

  “And so we shall,” Barclay smiled, the thought now fully formed in his mind. “He's a former attack submarine commander. He'll still be thinking about how to attack his enemies, and how does a sub commander do that?”

  “Well?” Ryan demanded.

  Barclay's answer was the obvious one. They discussed his idea for another hour, then Ryan transmitted it to Washington for approval. A rapid exchange of technical information followed. The Invincible would have to make the rendezvous in daylight, and there was not time for that. The operation was set back twelve hours. The Pogy joined formation with the Invincible, standing as sonar sentry twenty miles to her east. An hour before midnight, the ELF transmitter in northern Michigan transmitted a message: “G.” Twenty minutes later, the Dallas approached the surface to get her orders.

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