John R. Monteith
Lieutenant Commander Reza Jazani gulped tea and burned his tongue. He pressed the porcelain cup into its holder and inhaled to cool his mouth. “Damn it.”
His executive officer, a small-framed lieutenant in his late twenties, glanced up from a computer console. “Sir?”
Jazani waved him off. “I was talking to myself.”
Reflecting upon the waning and uneventful three-week patrol within the cramped confines of
Seated forward of the
Unaware the cetaceans were within acoustic range of his submarine, Jazani was surprised. “You’re sure?”
The young sonar technician looked at his commander while pointing at his headphones. “The dolphins just sent out a detection alert. I can’t tell you if it’s accurate or not, but there’s no mistaking that they’ve reported finding something.”
Jazani’s kept his hopes low, like those of outmaneuvering an American
“I’m waiting for the next command, sir. It should come any moment now. Not yet. Okay, still waiting.”
Remembering the thin sonar technician’s talkativeness, Jazani raised his palm. “Just tell me when it comes.”
Seconds later, the sailor glanced at his commander. “The mothership just sent the order for the dolphins to investigate. They also order all capable ships to relay the order. We’re the closest to the dolphins, sir. We need to relay it.”
“Very well, then. Relay the order.”
The thin technician nodded. “I’m relaying the order to the dolphins to investigate their reported submerged contact, sir.” He pressed a button that sent a sequence of recorded cetacean calls through
Curious, Jazani slid his headset’s muffs over his ears. The echoing undersea sounds mimicked nature to his ignorant human hearing but carried an unnatural interspecies message to a militarized dolphin duo. Then he heard rapid clicks as a response.
The talkative technician bounced his voice off his console. “They’ve acknowledged the order, sir.”
“That was hard to tell. You’re sure that was the acknowledgement?”
“That was them, sir. It’s easy to miss if you’re not trained, but all the waterfront sonar staff got training on it last month.”
“Understood.” Jazani eyed the other sonar technician who sat forward of his executive officer. The quieter of the young sonar duo nodded his agreement of the dolphins’ confirmation.
The talkative sailor seemed to enjoy proving his knowledge. “Per protocol, the dolphins will swim to the unidentified contact and photograph it from thirty meters away. After that, they’ll surface and broadcast the images along with their location. Their transmissions are limited in range since they need to keep high resolution, which is why we need ships nearby to receive them, but they actually use satellite data for—”
Jazani raised his voice. “Thank you. That’s good to know, but I assume we need to raise an antenna to listen?”
“That’s right, sir.”
“Very well, then.” The
“I’m bringing us to periscope depth, sir.”
As Jazani sipped his cooling tea, he teased himself with the dolphins’ newfound contact being a
The executive officer’s tone was businesslike. “I’m raising the radio mast, sir.”
Jazani heard humming hydraulics lifting the antenna.
After the hum subsided, the
Disciplined, Jazani kept his eyes — his submarine’s best asset for avoiding heavy oil tankers in the busy strait — on the sunlit water. “Can you make out the images yet?” Lacking a response, he risked two seconds to glance towards the curiosity on the room’s opposite side. “What is that?”
Remaining seated, the short executive officer extended a tablet to his commander’s lap showing the mammals’ gift. “You have to see for yourself, sir. I’ll watch the periscope for you.”
Accepting the tablet, Jazani glared at an impossibility. It was a submarine, but its framed dimensions suggested that his tiny
“But it is, sir. Unmistakable.”
“I’ll watch the periscope feed, XO. You turn us around. Maintain depth, but get us away from that abomination.” Jazani reached for his console’s handles to brace himself as the deck rolled. “Get this image to the mothership… Belay that. Get this image to the mothership and to staff headquarters with our best targeting solution.”
“What message should I include with it, sir, if any?”
“Tell them, the rumors of the Americans using undersea robots in our home waters is confirmed. Tell them, any nightmares we’ve had of such robots being armed have just come true.”
Standing over seated shoulders, Commander Andrew Causey glared at the lines forming on a sound display. “Five blades?”
Beside him, his sonar supervisor pressed a single muff against his ear, listened to sounds from the sea, and nodded. “RPMs correlate to a speed of three knots.”
“You got anything I can use for range? Wave front curvature? Hole-in-ocean from background noise? Triangulation with the bow or conformal arrays?”
The short man with dark eyes and a tight, brown, regulation mustache shook his head. “We’ve only got it on the towed array, sir. If you want to try for a range, a broadside turn would help.”
Causey contemplated the request but denied it in favor of letting his submarine’s velocity alter the position relative to the target over time. If he remained patient, his vessel would handle the geometric dance in silence. “I’ll drive true bearing to resolve the range.”
“Got it, sir.” The short supervisor brushed his commander’s stomach while tapping one of his technicians on the shoulder. “Sorry, captain.”
Consistent with his intense and quiet demeanor, Causey remained silent about being bumped. Tight confines required the sacrifice of personal space, and he considered pleasantries and other trivial words wasteful.
After chatting with his sailor, the supervisor reestablished himself next to his commander. “The target’s drifting down the array, sir. Do you want to turn to resolve ambiguity?”
Drawing a plot in his mind, Causey envisioned two imaginary lines from the cable of hydrophones trailing his vessel, the
“Sir? Do you want—”
“I heard you. I’m deciding.” The
“To the northwest, aye, sir.” The supervisor huddled over four sailors to tighten their attention in their commander’s decreed direction.
With an average build and a softness of physique, the executive officer stank of mediocrity. He’d graduated in the middle of his class in every institution ranging from the United States Naval Academy, Naval Nuclear Power School, and his Prospective Executive Officer Course. Competent, but risk-averse, he lacked a spark, and his speech came with a taciturn reluctance. “By procedure, we should turn to verify the ambiguity, sir.”
Causey choked back chastising thoughts about ...