Arctic Gambit

Larry Bond

Arctic Gambit

AUTHOR’S NOTE

It takes some time to total up the number of projects that Chris Carlson and I have worked on together. Even if you only count the ones that we actually finished, it’s an impressive sum, spread out over thirty-plus years.

I will freely admit that the idea for this story came from Chris. I didn’t even think the Status-6 torpedo was real until he showed me the information online — including the November 2015 photo “leaked” by the Russians. And it takes a creative (and dark) mind to make that nightmare weapon even more frightening.

One would think that after creating so many stories together, the process of writing would become routine, but each book has been different. Not only do we try to do better each time, but the structure of each plot can drive who takes on each role. Real-world circumstance can also impact who does what when, but our ability to jointly cope with such speed bumps is one reason we’ve been able to do this so long.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Americans

Hardy, Lowell, The President

Patterson, Dr. Joanna, The First Lady

Hyland, William, National Security Advisor

Peakes, Raymond, Director of National Intelligence

Richfield, Henry (Hank), Secretary of Defense

Lloyd, Andrew, Secretary of State

Gravani, Clifford, Secretary of the Navy

Schiller, Frank, GEN, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Hughes, Bernard, ADM, Chief of Naval Operations

Sanders, Mike, RADM, Deputy CNO for Information Warfare

Chatham, Russ, CDR, CNO Intelligence Staff

Dorr, Robert, CAPT, CO SUBRON 12

Gabriel, Bradley, CDR, Assigned to Deputy CNO for Submarine Warfare

Forest, Mark, LCDR, Assigned to Deputy CNO for Submarine Warfare

Bartek, Representative Steve, D-WI, Member of House Armed Services Committee

Emmers, Senator Tom, R-KY, Member of Senate Armed Services Committee

Hendricks, George, National Security Council Analyst

Sellers, Dwight, White House Chief of Staff

McDowell, Evangeline, President’s Personal Secretary

Brady, Melinda, Joanna Patterson’s personal secretary

Perry, Dr. James, Tensor lead analyst, Central Intelligence Agency

Cavanaugh, Dr. Daniel, Army explosives expert

Berg, Jane, Lenny Berg’s wife

Berg, Ethan, The Bergs’ oldest son

Sheridan, Chad, USS Shippingport (ARDM 4) dry dock supervisor

Ulrich, Dr. Mark, Expert from Council on Nuclear Weapons

Submarine Development Squadron FIVE

Mitchell, Jerry, CAPT, Commanding Officer, DEVRON 5

Gustason, Dylan, CDR, Chief Staff Officer DEVRON 5

Matthews, Skip, LS2, DEVRON 5 staff, Logistics Specialist

Wheatly, Myron, LCDR, Maintenance Officer, DEVRON 5 staff

Mitchell, Dr. Emily, Mrs. DEVRON 5

Mitchell, Charlotte (Carly), Kid, DEVRON 5

USS Jimmy Carter

Weiss, Louis, CDR, Commanding Officer

Segerson, Joshua, LCDR, Executive Officer

Gibson, Paul, ITCM, Chief of the Boat (senior enlisted man aboard)

Malkoff, Kurt, LCDR, Navigator

Norris, Tom, LCDR, Chief Engineer

Hilario, Hector, LT, Main Propulsion Assistant (MPA)

Owens, Kathy (Kat), LT, Weapons Officer

Ford, Benjamin (Thing 1), LT, UUV Officer

Lawson, Steven (Thing 2), LTJG, Assistant Weapons Officer (AWEPs)

DiMauro, Philip (Mario), LTJG, Sonar Officer (Sonar)

Truitt, James, ENS, Chem/RADCON Assistant (CRA)

Alvarez, Miguel STS2, UUV Sensor Operator

Frederick, Lionel STS1, UUV Sensor Operator

Russians

Fedorin, Ivan Olegovich, President of the Russian Federation

Trusov, Aleksandr Aleksandrovich, GEN, Minister of Defense

Gorokhov, Nikolai Vasil’evich, VADM, Commander, Drakon Project

Apalkov, Sergei Ivanovich, CAPT 1st Rank, Construction leader

Kalinin, Boris Igorovich, CAPT 1st Rank, Chief of Staff to Admiral Gorokhov

Chekhov, Dmitry Mikhailovich, CAPT 3rd Rank, Meteorologist

Komeyev, Vladimir Olegovich, ADM, Commander-in-Chief, Russian Navy

Balakin, Viktor Yanovich, VADM, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Russian Navy

Lavrov, Vasiliy Vasil’evich, CAPT 1st Rank, Senior intelligence officer

Drugov, Pavel Antonovich, CAPT 1st Rank, Chief of Staff to Admiral Komeyev

Zhabin, LT, Sever acoustic array detachment officer-in-charge

Mirsky, Stepan, CAPT-LT, Ka-27M helicopter commander

PROLOGUE

The darkness slowly diminished as the periscope head approached the surface. Fuzzy, indistinct blobs drifted lazily across a dim gray background. By the time they came into focus, the periscope had raced past, emerging from the water, pointed upward into the overcast skies above the Arctic Ocean. A large ice floe was briefly lifted by the periscope head before being pushed aside by the momentum of the unseen submarine below. The subtle shock from the collision was transmitted down the periscope’s barrel, causing the eyepiece to shudder unpleasantly on the operator’s face. A low growl escaped his lips as he announced, “Scope’s clear.”

“You okay, Skipper?” asked the executive officer. He’d seen the periscope shake and knew his captain had been thumped… again.

“Yes, XO,” grumbled the commanding officer, “but I’m developing a severe dislike for ice.” Rotating the periscope to the correct bearing, he paused to shift the optics to high power and focused the image. “Alright, XO, there’s Master Two. Are you getting this?”

“Yes, sir, we’re recording.” The executive officer stared at the video display as the large icebreaker lowered a huge cylindrical object into the water. Whistling quietly he said, “That’s one honkin’ big sewer tube, Skipper. Could that be some sort of structural support member?”

The captain shook his head. “I haven’t a clue, XO. But that’s the second one we’ve seen being unloaded. Whatever it is, it’s obviously a critical component to whatever the Russians are building on the seabed.” Both men continued to watch in silence until the object disappeared below the water.

“Lowering number one scope,” announced the captain as he slapped up the handles and rotated the overhead hydraulic control ring. Reaching over to the intercom, he toggled the mike switch. “Sonar, Conn. Any sign of our friend?”

The speaker crackled with the response. “Conn, Sonar. Negative. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of Sierra eight. The ice noise to the east is particularly bad. Contact was last held on a bearing of one zero eight.”

“Sonar, Conn, aye.”

Pausing to consider his next move, the captain ordered the officer of the deck to get the boat back down to one hundred fifty feet and head northeast. Stepping down from the periscope stand, the CO motioned for his executive officer to join him at the navigation plot.

“Still concerned about that Akula?”

The captain nodded sharply. “Absolutely! The only thing worse than having a detected Akula wandering about is an undetected one hiding in the acoustic underbrush, waiting to pounce at the worst possible moment. Been there, done that, and I don’t want to do it again!”

Taking a deep breath, he pointed to their current position on the chart, then traced a line with his finger. “Let’s reposition to the northeast and see if we can’t get a better vantage point to watch the next unloading evolution. Say… about here.”

The XO leaned over to get a better look. His face became uneasy. Grabbing a set of dividers, he measured the distance to Bolshevik Island and ran an arc that nearly touched his captain’s finger. “That’s cutting it awfully close to the twelve-mile limit, sir.”

“Agreed, but we’re still a half mile outside and I don’t intend to linger. We reach this spot, we’ll take a few observations, and if nothing is happening we’ll head north toward the pack ice. Is the SATCOM buoy ready?”

“Yes, sir,” replied the XO. “Everything but the last video has been uploaded, and they’re doing that right now. The video segment is a short one.”

“Excellent! We’ll launch it once we’re clear of the damn ice chunks—” The captain didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence; the loud beeping of the WLR-9 acoustic intercept receiver cut off his words.

“Conn, Sonar. High frequency active sonar, close aboard, bearing one six five. We hold nothing on that… Oh, God! TORPEDO IN THE WATER, BEARING ONE SIX FOUR! WEAPON IS RANGE GATING!”

The commanding officer leapt toward the periscope stand. “Captain has the conn! Helm, left full rudder! All ahead flank, cavitate! Launch countermeasures!”

The submarine’s heading swung northward, its speed building at a painfully slow rate. Looking at the WLR-9 display, the captain realized the incoming weapon was on a steady bearing — right toward them. “Helm, steady on course zero two zero! XO, launch another set of countermeasures and get the SATCOM buoy away!”

“Sir, the ice…”

“To hell with the ice! Launch the damn buoy!”

For a brief moment the captain thought one of the countermeasures had broken the torpedo’s lock on his boat. But the weapon’s electronic confusion lasted but a moment and it swerved back toward the American submarine. Another pair of countermeasures was lau ...

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