Cold Choices

Cold Choices

by Larry Bond

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Following the events Jerry Mitchell encountered in Dangerous Ground, the pilot-turned-submarine officer is now a department head, the navigator, aboard USS Seawolf. Now on a mission deep in the Barents Sea, north of Russia, Seawolf explores the sea floor, part of a sophisticated reconnaissance plan that will watch the Russian navy as it trains for battle. Although well outside Russia's territorial waters, Seawolf is ambushed by Russia's newest submarine, Severodvinsk. Although it doesn't fire any weapons, its aggressive new captain, Alexi Petrov, harasses the intruder with dangerously fast, insanely close passes by the American boat.

The two subs collide, with the Russian boat crippled and trapped on the bottom. Only Seawolf knows where she is, and the rest of the Russian fleet is too angry to listen. Mitchell and his shipmates have to keep their own damaged boat afloat, figure out a way to make the Russians listen, and keep the trapped Russian submariners alive until they can be saved - if that is even possible.

This edition of the book is the deluxe, tall rack mass market paperback.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765358462
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 03/02/2010
Series: Jerry Mitchell Series , #2
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 590
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 7.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Larry Bond is the author of several bestselling military thrillers, including Crash Dive, Dangerous Ground, Red Phoenix and the Larry Bond's First Team and Larry Bond's Red Dragon Rising series. He was a naval officer for six years, serving four on a destroyer and two on shore duty in the Washington DC area. He's also worked as a warfare analyst and antisubmarine technology expert, and he now writes and designs computer games, including Harpoon and Command at Sea. He makes his home in Springfield, Virginia.

Read an Excerpt

Cold Choices

By Larry Bond

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2009 Larry Bond and Chris Carlson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-8338-9



7 September 2008 Pier 8, New London Submarine Base

"Petty Officer Gibson, front and center," barked Jerry as he and the communications officer, Lieutenant Chandler, stood in front of the operations department, assembled in Seawolf's navigation equipment room. Seawolf was one of the biggest attack submarines in the U.S. Navy, but the ops department was just barely able to squeeze everyone in.

When Jerry called out his name, Gibson stepped up smartly and took the clipboard. IT2 Paul Gibson had been aboard the boat longer than Jerry. He was a little on the pudgy side, a common problem on subs where great food and few opportunities for exercise left their mark. He was twenty-seven, with a wife and a one-year-old son. He took position in front of the assembled sailors and began reading the plan of the day.

"Our underway is now in eight days. Supply chits have to be turned in by tomorrow if Mr. Constantino is supposed to fill them ..."

Jerry already knew what the PoD said, and Gibson had everything under control. As he stood, half-listening, Jerry looked over the operations department — his department. That still sounded strange, even after six months on board. Ops department was eighteen men, including Jerry and Lieutenant Chandler.

As the commo, Chandler was in charge of six "information systems technicians," or "ITs," although most of the crew still called them radiomen. And he was responsible for all the boat's communications equipment and encryption gear.

And as operations officer, Jerry was responsible for everyone in the department, including Chandler. Jerry was also Seawolf's navigator, in direct charge of the four quartermasters and six electronics technicians who ran the boat's navigation systems.

His sailors were neatly lined up in three groups, wearing clean working uniforms. Civilians would be impressed by their military bearing and discipline. But Jerry knew he faced a band of rugged individualists who worked together only by choice. And while they worked together well, that didn't come automatically, or even easily.

"Family day is Saturday, with a cookout at the ball field. We're still looking for some people to help with the kids' games, so contact MM2 Stone if you're interested. The ship's ombudsman and the family support network still need email addresses ..."

Jerry's mind wandered to his own personal "to do" list. However, since he was navigator, operations officer, and senior watch officer, technically it was "lists." Oh. And he was one of three qualified divers on board.

As he mentally went down his tally, he looked down at his watch to check the time. No sweat, he still had fifteen minutes before his meeting with Lieutenant Commander Shimko, the executive officer. He had to go over the voyage plan — again. The crew wouldn't be briefed about their destination until they were under way, but Jerry not only knew where they were going, he had planned out their entire trip in detail.

It was to Seawolf's benefit that the XO was a detail freak, but it didn't make Jerry's life any easier. He was pretty sure he'd dreamed about the north Barents Sea again last night. He'd been cold when he woke up.

Gibson finished reading the PoD and looked expectantly at Jerry. Sensing his cue, Mitchell stepped forward and asked, "Do the chiefs or leading petty officers have anything further to add?" All four men responded in the negative.

"All right, then. Turn to and commence ship's work. Dismissed." As the members of the department queued up to exit through the narrow door into the control room, Jerry saw QM1 Peters waiting for his turn, and caught the quartermaster's eye. He pointed to his watch and then held up five fingers. Peters nodded, understanding. The ship's leading quartermaster would be at the briefing with the XO as well.

Jerry waited patiently to exit the nav equipment space and quickly headed aft to his stateroom. Even though the wardroom was on the same deck, and near his quarters, he'd have to hurry a little if he wanted to be punctual. To save time, he'd already organized the materials he needed to bring the night before, but as he approached his stateroom he saw Lieutenant Chandler waiting with a sheaf of papers in his hand and an earnest expression on his face. "Jerry, here are the last of our school requests, but I need to ask you a few questions ..."

Jerry cut him off as he stepped into his stateroom. "Sorry, Matt. I'm wearing my navigator hat right now. I've got a voyage planning review in the wardroom with the XO." He dialed his safe and began removing his notes.

"I know, but this will only take a moment, and I have to turn them in this morning," the comms officer pleaded.

"It'll be morning for some time yet, and I do not want to keep the XO waiting." Closing the safe should have added a note of finality to Jerry's statement.

Chandler wouldn't give up. "I'll just turn them in as is. They're probably fine."

"Not without me seeing them first," Jerry insisted. That was standard procedure for any paperwork going up the chain of command. And Chandler knew better. When the commo smiled and started to offer Jerry the documents, Jerry repeated, "After the meeting. Find me then," he said firmly, letting some irritation show. Jerry didn't like mind games. Chandler seemed to think it was the only way to get things done.

Hurrying the few steps to the wardroom, Jerry entered and found QM1 Peters already inside, laying out the charts. Jerry checked them over one last time, carefully comparing them to his own notes. Only after everything appeared in order did he allow himself to get a cup of coffee.

ETC Hudson and Lieutenant Commander Shimko appeared in the door as Jerry was pouring. He offered a cup to the XO, who gratefully accepted one. Peters also had some, but Hudson declined.

Marcus Shimko was second-generation American, born to Andrei and Natalia six years after they'd emigrated from what was then the Soviet Union and now Belarus. He was short, about Jerry's height, but stocky where Jerry was slim. Shimko had already lost a lot of his hair, but what was left was sandy and cut very short. He was all business, an exceptional organizer and a detail hound — the perfect executive officer.

Jerry teased Hudson about "not stooping to drink wardroom coffee" but kept one eye on the XO. When the executive officer sat down, ship's business took over. Jerry picked up his notes while Hudson double-checked the wardroom door, making sure it was locked.

With his laser pointer, Jerry highlighted individual sections of the entire mission on the nautical chart taped to the table. The bright blue and yellow chart was overlaid with black lines showing Seawolf's plotted course, and red TOP SECRET labels rubber-stamped on each corner.

"Our projected track takes us out of the Block Island Sound, east, and then northeast. I've recommended passing to the west of Iceland, using the Denmark Strait. Once past Iceland, we follow the east coast of Greenland, using shallow water and biologics wherever possible to mask our approach. Assuming an on-time departure on the fifteenth and a speed of advance of sixteen knots, we should arrive at Point Alpha at 1200 Zulu time on the twenty-third." Jerry pointed to the first of a series of x's on the chart.

He'd rehearsed the speech several times, and gotten it off smoothly. Shimko just nodded, inviting Jerry to continue. So far, so good.

"I've marked the known Russian exercise areas and traffic lanes on the chart. They've used these same areas for six years, and there's no indication that they plan to change them. We have two areas to survey, and a total of eighteen sorties with the three UUVs. Based on what little information we have about this part of the Barents, I've chosen sites within each area with potentially good bottom topography and reasonable acoustic conditions, but also a safe route in and out during the survey."

Shimko and Hudson studied the chart closely. Jerry and Peters, having laid out the courses and knowing them by heart, stayed out of the way to give the XO and chief some room.

"How long for each survey?" Shimko asked.

"I'm planning on forty-five hours. The UUVs have a fifty-hour operational endurance with a ten-hour emergency reserve. That gives us about a twenty-five-percent safety margin."

"How many UUVs will we have out at any one time?"

"Technically, XO, there are times during the mission, for about an hour, when all three UUVs will be out. One will be deployed surveying sites, while a second unit is launched and the third waits to be recovered."

"During which Seawolf is tied to one area."

"Yessir. We're only constrained in our ability to maneuver when we're launching or recovering a UUV, which takes no more than half an hour. Once that's done we can maneuver freely, we just have to stay relatively close to the rendezvous point so the UUV can find us again ..."

"Never mind," Shimko interrupted. "The critical issue is being committed to one spot while a UUV is deployed. What if we have to abort a rendezvous to evade a transiting vessel?"

Jerry had an answer. "Sea ice will be starting to form in the area by the time we arrive, so there is little risk of running into fishing traffic or even other merchant ships. The only likely problem would be from Russian warships or submarines, and according to the intel weenies, their training cycle is largely over for the year. There may be some small-scale operations before the ports freeze up, but they just concluded a major exercise period. Our mission plan is to get in, do the surveys, and then get out before they start any last-minute training evolutions."

Shimko was not deflected. "If we have to bug out, we need a plan to rendezvous with the UUV somewhere else." He pointed to an exercise area, outlined in blue and neatly labeled "R-Two."

"Overall, you've got a good approach route into the area, and the route leading from one survey site to the next is along a good path. You also have an emergency recovery location for each site, but it's too close to the site itself. I want two alternate rendezvous locations for each survey site, well away from the box."

"Yessir," Jerry responded. "For unmanned vehicles, they are pretty smart. If a survey is interrupted, we can give it a new location and tell it to loiter there until we arrive."

"That's fine, but I don't want you hunting all over the chart for a spot when the air is filled with flying excrement. I want it already picked and plotted in calmer times." Jerry nodded his understanding.

Shimko pushed his point. "This is the Russian Navy's playground, even if it is international waters. They're normally touchy about visitors, but since they lost Gepard, they've reached new heights of paranoia — even for Slavs.

"You know, they blame us for Gepard's loss." Shimko gave Jerry a look that seemed much longer and more intense than a simple glance. Jerry's last boat, Memphis, had been very involved with the Russian sub's demise, but the entire event had been classified, sealed, and was withheld even from the rest of the submarine service. Jerry tried to look innocent.

"We can't assume they won't change their routine," Shimko continued. "Maybe they'll patrol in the thickening sea ice for a longer period than we think. The hulls on their surface ships are ice-strengthened." He shrugged, then ordered, "Also, find and plot more than one exit route from each site, and make sure the routes lead to areas with lots of maneuvering room."

"Yessir." Jerry acknowledged the order and checked to make sure that Peters was taking notes.

"Now walk me through it," Shimko ordered, and Jerry began with Seawolf's careful entrance to the Barents Sea. Framed as it was by the Russian coast to the south and Novaya Zemlya on the east, it was easy to understand why the Russians considered it home waters, the same way Americans might view the Gulf of Mexico.

Seawolf would cross the gap from Greenland to Svalbard, under broken sea ice and hopefully bad weather. Svalbard was a cluster of islands under Norwegian control. It usually hugged the southern edge of the North Pole's permanent ice cap. The sub would pass south of the islands, then turn southeast to conceal her approach as much as possible.

Once in the Barents Sea, Seawolf would slow, creeping into areas used by the Russians for fleet training and exercises. These were no more than rectangular shapes drawn on a Russian chart, but they were used by the Russian Navy to manage their at-sea training during the Arctic summer.

The U.S. didn't have those charts, of course. Careful observation of Russian exercises by satellites and submarines and other methods had given U.S. intelligence a pretty good idea of where they were.

American and other Western submarines had prowled those waters for years, watching the Russian Fleet practice their craft, recording signals, sometimes even recovering expended weapons. The Russians watched for outsiders, sometimes finding them, often not. Although the training areas were in international waters and thus theoretically open to anyone, the Russians could make eavesdroppers feel very unwelcome.

Lately Russian antisurveillance measures had become so stringent that it was not only difficult to get close enough to gather any useful intelligence, it had become downright hazardous to anyone making the attempt. And with a shrinking submarine fleet, the U.S. Navy was experiencing difficulties providing comprehensive coverage during the exercise cycle.

So it was time for a new plan. The U.S. would plant acoustic recording devices on the seabed to monitor Russian activity. The information could be recovered later by another submarine when the area was quiet. These sensors would gather some of the raw intelligence data that a submarine would normally be tasked to collect. There would be other Western assets that would still be watching, but their observations would be from a safe distance.

Obviously, secrecy was paramount. If the Russians discovered the sensors' existence, they could be easily destroyed or recovered. Besides the embarrassment, and loss of valuable intelligence, the devices used some very sophisticated technology — not the sort the U.S. wanted to share.

Jerry showed the XO how Seawolf would approach each survey site and launch a UUV, an automated underwater robot, to check out the bottom topography and to measure the ambient acoustic conditions. Several sites would be examined in each exercise area. The collected data would be used by the bright boys back home to compute the exact sensor locations, which would be planted later.

After examining every yard of their planned path, the XO quizzed Jerry about GPS satellite coverage, deviation from standard sonar conditions, marine life in the area, and the effects of the aurora borealis on communications. Jerry's ready answers pleased Shimko, but earned him a crack about "smartass know-it-all."

"Make those changes I mentioned and we'll brief the Skipper tomorrow at nineteen hundred."

"Aye, aye, XO," Jerry replied. Shimko finished, "That's all, then."

Jerry turned to help his chief gather up the maps and notes, but Shimko called him aside.

"How's the watch bill coming?" the XO asked.

"It's done," Jerry answered, "I'll have a smooth copy on your desk this afternoon."

"Fine." Having watched Jerry mentally shift gears, Shimko hit him with the real question. "Who's taking her out?" he asked, in a voice slightly softer than normal conversation.

As senior watch officer, Jerry not only made up the underway watch bill, he managed the junior officers' training. Conning Seawolf when she got under way was an important learning opportunity for a junior member of the wardroom.

"Hayes," Jerry replied followed by a short pause, "and Palmer. With your permission, sir."

Shimko frowned. "Palmer," he repeated, working through the idea and not enjoying the implications. "After the hash he made of his last underway, why should I give him another chance?"

Jerry hoped the question was rhetorical. "Because he can't qualify without it," he replied earnestly. "Because he learns from his mistakes."

"And if he flubs, it's too late to replace him," Shimko replied acidly. "Seawolf is not just a training aid, and I'm not inclined to risk the boat as we leave for an important mission."


Excerpted from Cold Choices by Larry Bond. Copyright © 2009 Larry Bond and Chris Carlson. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Cold Choices 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Technothriller_Fan More than 1 year ago
Basically, a story of two nuclear submarine captains playing chicken, at least on is. The results are what one would expect. The remainder of the story deals with the rescue attempt to save one of the subs, on the bottom in the Barrents Sea in an area Russia thinks of as its back yard. I am awarding 4.5 stars because I though there was too much extraneous dialogue in relation to the action. Political conflict between Russia and the U.S. and internal politics provides a major part of the story. While bureaucrats maneuver for advantage, the crew of one of the subs faces a slow death, while the crew of the other realizes the conflict is over and now it is their moral obligation to assist mariners in trouble. A good, technically sound, well thought out story, but not a page turning thriller. Too much political maneuvering and interplay between support characters. The reader will learn a lot about life on a nuclear submarine, and how the crew relates. I found this very interesting. The character "Jerry" is both a minor character and the omnipotent observer. Jerry didn't work for me. Based upon my limited knowledge of submarines, author appears to knows his subject. I look for technical errors or technical fantasy and judge a novel accordingly. On page 62 the young ensign, "taking the boat out" says, "Captain, the ship is on course . . . all ahead flank, making two four knots. The ship is rigged to dive." The periscope is up. Now, I don't know if you would dive a submarine at flank speed unless you were under attack, but I do know what would happen to the periscope if you did. Error number one, or so I though. On the following page, a senior officer whispered, "We nee to slow down . . . It won't do to bend the periscope ... ." After crossing out "error number one," I decided that the author knew what he was doing, and had plotted the scene well. When I completed the book, there was no error number one on my note sheet, a rare occurrence. I recommend this novel for readers who are interested in the navy (Russian an U.S.), and who enjoy a well plotted submarine disaster story.
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repb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Definitely a thriller! Enough agonizing twists and turns to make you wonder if the expected conclusion was really going to occur. Author obviously well versed on the subject of submarines and the naval military. Only fault was, in my opinion, an over excessive use of facts and procedures that slowed me down. A great read nevertheless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although the storyline was a bit predictable, it held my interest.
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MCPO-Ski-USN-Ret More than 1 year ago
The book was well written. It was almost like reading three books. It also goes to show what can be done when people put there differences aside and work together for a common cause. There is a lot of background on the two boats that are in play and it tends to slow the book down in the beginning but once they are underway, it gets exciting, like most books by Larry Bond. The last third of the book would be great for a book club, especially one that normally reads military fiction. Political Science majors might enjoy discussing the last third of the book as to whether or not it should happen.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book. The author did an outstanding job in his research and details in order to write this book. One of the best research jobs I have seen. I would like to see this book made into a movie. I was sorry when I finished reading this book, it was that good. I found the ending a little abrupt, only because I would have liked to have seen the Russian ship commander Pavlov take responsibility for the collision, in front of an inquiry board.
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CC_Reader More than 1 year ago
I loved this book
jaki82 More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read in a long time, and I read a LOT. Loved the psychology of it, and very suspenseful.
j-dog74 More than 1 year ago
Long and doesnt catch ya...
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good back ground infomaion on navel conflixs
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Jermster More than 1 year ago
Larry Bond hit the nail on the head again. This is one of those books that's hard to put down. I thought it was an easy read, good storie line and well written.