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The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower steamed eastward at thirty knots through the predawn darkness. Ireland lay a thousand miles off her bow, a Russian fleet only two hundred.
The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Gabriel Harroll, was a small, fiery man of Norwegian stock. An urgent call awakened him. He threw on his uniform, and hurried to the CDC, the Combat Direction Center, Eisenhower’s state-of-the-art war room. It was located in the galley deck, under the flight deck.
Arriving at CDC, Harroll demanded, "Mr. Olson, what’s going on?"
"It sounds like they’re under attack, sir," answered Commander John Olson, the Tactical Action Officer. "I don’t think it’s an exercise."
The lights flickered. A few of the many consoles in the room went down too. Operators and officers muttered four-letter words, as they restarted their equipment. The last thing Harroll needed now was power problems. He then heard something he had hoped to never hear.
"Captain! Probable nuclear event!" announced an operator at a console on the far side of the room. "Due east of us!"
"I want confirmation!" Harroll’s voice was stressed, but never panicked.
Another radio operator responded.
"Hawkeye One confirms a nuclear event fifty miles east of the Russian fleet!" The lights flickered again.
Harroll waited in breathless anticipation.
"Sir," said the radio operator, "another nuke confirmed, forty miles from them this time!"
"Who the hell’s out there?" demanded Harroll. No one could answer him. "Get me a voice line to CINC-Atlantic. Flash priority."
"The satellite link is down, sir."
"Get it up! I’m not cruising into a nuclear war without warning the Pentagon."