Читать онлайн "Hunter Killer: The War with China - The Battle for the Central Pacific"

Автор David Poyer

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... The Marianas. Hawaii. Still believe it? That we can win this thing?”

Dan tried to fight his Academy reflexes, in terms of coming to attention, but didn’t do all that well. “Yes, sir. If we can scrape our shit together.”

Still speaking to the screen, like the Dark Queen to her magic mirror, Niles rumbled, “There are those who don’t. Who think we’re finished, as a country.”

Dan coughed into a fist. “The Germans thought that about us, twice. The Japanese. And the Russians. Zhang’s just the latest to make that mistake.”

Silence, as if his answer were being weighed. Then Niles said reluctantly. “I hope you’re right. How’s your ship?”

Savo’s getting a new bow. Also, the ALIS software upgrade. Sonar’s degraded—”

“Rearm?”

“A hard point. We get excuses, but no rounds. There’s adequate gun ammo, but very few missile reloads.”

“I’m working that. Who did you leave in charge?”

“My exec. Cheryl Staurulakis.”

“She good?”

“Good as they come.”

“Combat proven?”

“Yes, sir. I put her in for the Bronze Star. And maybe we could discuss the other decorations I put in for, for my people—”

“Later, okay? Maybe we’ll leave her there. How’s the wife… Blair? Did she win her election?”

“Not sure yet, sir.”

“Not sure? What’s that mean?”

“They’re in a recount, sir. Less than two hundred votes difference.”

“Well, if she loses, could be for the best.” Niles turned away from the screen, and Dan blinked with shock at a ravaged visage. Reddened, swollen lids above sleepless eyes. Vein-shot, puffy cheeks.

Maybe we’ll leave her there… could be for the best. He contemplated both equivocal statements as Niles lumbered to a side table, bent over a notebook, and began typing, the huge fingers darting with incongruous delicacy.

Equivocation wasn’t Niles’s style. But Dan Lenson wouldn’t be here if the new CNO didn’t have something in mind. Most likely, something he wouldn’t like.

Niles cleared his throat. “I’ve been getting unpleasant questions about you from a certain European country. And from Congress.”

Congress… he knew who was behind that. “Yes, sir. May I address any of them?”

“Yeah, you may. First, about your hasty retreat after a Chinese sub sank your tanker in the East China Sea.”

“True, sir. I left the torpedo danger area after GNS Stuttgart was attacked. You can tell Berlin we were the only ballistic-missile-defense-capable unit left in theater. I withdrew to protect that asset. I left USS Mitscher to prosecute the datum and rescue survivors.”

“I see. What about your unauthorized attack on the invasion force as it crossed the Taiwan Strait?”

Dan took a deeper breath. “I kept Fleet and PaCom informed as the situation developed, to the extent compromised communications permitted. I requested guidance, but received none. I judged that if we degraded the invasion fleet, it might be enough to let the ROC kick the mainlanders off the beach. As it turned out, we sank most of their heavy armor.”

“Actually, we think now one of our subs got those transports. But it’s murky.” Niles shrugged. “Let’s say half credit. Finally, about your killing a Joint Missile Program scientist.”

“Dr. Noblos was NCIS’s prime suspect in a series of sexual assaults, rape, and attempted murder aboard Savo Island. He stole a pistol and hijacked a boat. He was headed for Chinese-held territory. He knew everything about our missile defenses. My choices were to let him go, or blow him out of the water.”

“And as usual, you took the extreme solution.”

Dan clenched his fists. “With all due respect, sir, that’s uncalled for.”

Niles sagged into a chair like a collapsing warehouse. He blinked at the bulkhead. “Maybe so… I also know about your yanking Min Jun Jung back by the scruff of the neck when he was trying to pull off a new Charge of the Light Brigade. You probably saved us the Korean Fleet there.”

A tap on the door. “Yeah,” Niles barked. A commander stuck her head in, looking apprehensive. She tilted her wrist to display a watch. “Coming,” Niles rasped. To Dan, “I’m still making my mind up about you.” He got up like a Wellsian Martian heaving himself out of the pit. “Meanwhile, why don’t you tag along to this. You’re the only one here who’s actually fought these people. Maybe you can contribute something useful for a change.”

* * *

This room was larger than the one he’d met Niles in. The briefer had a familiar tanned, too-handsome face. Jack Byrne, now in a gray suit and tie instead of the trop khaki or blues of a Naval Intelligence captain. They exchanged lifted eyebrows, but there was no time for more. Too many stars were settling into the front row, looking tense, impatient. Looking angry.

Byrne opened. “Admiral, Generals, CNO: a quick overview, leading to discussion of a limited set of immediate options,” he said into a sudden eerie quiet. “Most of you know this, but we have to start from the same page. Our security position in the Pacific lies in ruins. Our job is to stabilize the situation.

“Premier Zhang Zurong has threatened the continental U.S. with a secretly amassed arsenal of over a thousand nuclear warheads. His position: Beijing is now a superpower. Washington must acknowledge that by withdrawing from the Asian Rim. There are reports of food shortages in mainland China, but also of savage repression. In Hong Kong a hundred thousand people have been imprisoned or deported to the interior, and many shot in the streets. On land, massive armies are invading Vietnam, India, Mongolia, and north Burma. All, quote, to ‘restore China’s historic borders.’”

A four-star admiral leaned to confer with Niles. Dan recognized the twisted, almost deformed face of Justin “Jim” Yangerhans, the commander in chief, Pacific. The viceroy for half the globe. In charge, now, of fighting the most populous country, and the largest economy, on earth.

Which was whipping the United States soundly on every front.

Byrnes said, “Zhang’s consolidating his hold on western Taiwan. Six divisions there now, nearly half a million troops total. He’s imprisoned thousands in makeshift camps. This morning mainland troops blew up Chiang Kai-shek’s tomb. But some loyal forces are still holding out in the mountains.”

“For how long?” an Army general whispered.

Byrne continued. “The Philippines has neutralized itself, acknowledging Chinese hegemony and renouncing all claims in the China Sea. Japan’s called its navy home, and is mulling the proffered cease-fire. India, Vietnam, Australia, and South Korea are still aligned with us. Indonesia may be coming in. They can add little in the way of forces, but — location, location, location. Canada and Britain are cheering us, but from the sidelines.

“We’re still fighting. The Koreans and the U.S. Second Division are holding, but isolated and reduced to in-place logistics.” Byrne looked at Dan. “The South Korean Navy, led by Admiral Min Jun Jung, retreated shoulder to shoulder with the United States Navy, after a daring raid into the strait led by Captain Daniel V. Lenson. Who is with us here today.” Men and women craned to look in Dan’s direction. “They plan to fight on alongside us, and someday soon, return.”

Byrne lifted a finger, and a wall screen lit. A heavyset Asian in a military uniform and black plastic-rimmed glasses stared out at them. “Captain Lenson, I believe you know this man.”

Dan stared into Zhang Zurong’s expressionless, chilling gaze. The sensation was like pressing his eyeballs against cold, polished steel.

He’d met the smooth-faced, pudgy Zhang decades before, in a Chinatown restaurant, at what had seemed at the time like a family party. But “Uncle Xinhu” had turned out to be a senior colonel in the Second Department, China’s equivalent of Defense Intelligence. Dan had turned over fake Tomahawk schematics in Operation Snapdragon. But by the time the FBI had showed up on Zhang’s doorstep, he’d decamped for his homeland. Leaving a dead girl on a towpath in Georgetown… an innocent, idealistic woman Dan had loved.

He dragged himself back to the present as Byrne said, “Zhang’s executed his rivals and consolidated his position as both Party general secretary and state president. He now holds all leading titles in the state.

“On the diplomatic front, he proposes peace on the basis of ‘union and demilitarization’ of the two Chinas and the two Koreas. He offers to return Okinawa to Japan. But in exchange, all remaining U.S. bases in Japanese territory must be vacated, and alliance ties dissolved.

“He also warns that anyone who offers America basing rights is the enemy of what he calls the ‘Associated’ or ‘United’ Powers — China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Laos, and ‘Miandan,’ their puppet state in northern Myanmar.

“Finally, Russia has announced major aircraft and ordnance sales to China.” Byrne paused. “Any questions?”

One of the generals lifted a hand. “Energy supplies?”

Byrne flicked slides and briefed on stockpiles, consumption, and imports. “Seaborne imports are essentially zero, but roughly two hundred thousand tons a day of oil and liquefied natural gas are flowing in via a pipeline across Xinjiang from Pakistan.”

“Can we cut that?”

Yangerhans twisted in his chair to say over one shoulder, “It’s deep in Chinese territory, and well protected… but it’s a possible target.”

Dan felt reluctant to speak up, but finally did. “We have weak points too. Iran’s threatened to close Hormuz before. If they do—?”

Byrne said, “CentCom has plans again