After the United States suffers a devastating nuclear attack, and facing food shortages, power outages, cyber and AI assaults, and a wrecked economy, Admiral Dan Lenson leads an allied force assigned to turn the tide of war in the Pacific, using precisely targeted missiles and high-tech weapons systems.
But as the campaign begins, the entire Allied military and defense network is compromisedeven controlledby Jade Emperor, a powerful Chinese artificial intelligence system that seems to anticipate and counter every move. While Dan strives to salvage the battle plan, his wife Blair helps coordinate strategy in Washington, DC, Marine sergeant Hector Ramos fights in an invasion of Taiwan, and Navy SEAL master chief Teddy Oberg begins a desperate journey into central China on a mission that may be the only way to save the United States from destruction and defeat.
Thrilling, filled with near-future technology, and deeply grounded in the human cost of war, David Poyer's Deep War is a brilliant novel by an acknowledged master of military fiction.
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The East China Sea
On fire. Her ship was on fire.
The commanding officer leaned over the splinter shield, peering aft through the exhalation-fogged plastic of her gas mask.
Dead in the water, the cruiser was slowly pivoting. The wind was turning her stern to the enemy coast. The choking black smoke blowing forward erased sight, but deep within it glowed the ominous amber of fuel-fed flame.
Commander Cheryl Staurulakis, USN, was slight and blond. One arm hung in a makeshift sling contrived from an olive-drab-and-black shemagh and tucked into blue shipboard coveralls. She wore heavy black flight deck boots and a Kevlar helmet stenciled CO. Her hands were streaked with blood.
USS Savo Island drifted alone on a deserted sea. The whole starboard side was aflame, from the waterline up to the bridge level. Oblong holes perforated the steel Cheryl leaned on, as if from a load of square buckshot. Beside her on the bridge wing, the lookout muttered, "Jesus, save us." He scanned the horizon with binoculars. "Jesus ... Jesus. Save us."
She lifted her head. Above them, a cerulean sky. A blazing dawn, with the sun a thumb's width above a flashing sea of molten brass. She shaded her eyes to examine lilac-glowing contrails. Truly beautiful ... Truly terrifying.
If only Eddie could still be up there. But according to last night's message, he was dead. Shot down in his fighter, defending the retreating task force.
She squeezed her eyes shut. Can't think about him. Can't mourn. Not now.
If those lavender tracings were another salvo of supersonics on their way, her ship was finished, and her crew as well.
* * *
THE war had begun two years before. China had intervened in a battle between Pakistan and India. When the U.S. imposed a blockade, the People's Empire knocked out communications and reconnaissance satellites.
Then Senior General and Chairman Zhang Zurong hammered Taiwan and Okinawa with missiles and invaded. When a U.S. carrier battle group sailed, he destroyed it with a thermonuclear warhead, killing ten thousand servicemen and -women.
Backed by Beijing, North Korea invaded the South while Japan and the Philippines stood aside. Battles still raged in India and Vietnam, but the Chinese had seemed to be winning them all.
Until Operation Recoil. Secretly assembled after months of retreat, the first Allied strike against the Chinese homeland was intended to break up the second phase of Zhang's strategic offensive, outward toward Guam and Midway.
Task Force 76's flagship had led the attack on the Ningbo base complex. Savo's mission: Clear the way for the carrier strike. Then, after covering the main body's retreat, withdraw to rearm and re-supply.
Only it hadn't worked out that way. With enemy fighters headed for the carriers, the admiral had ordered Cheryl to "squawk flattop": imitate the higher-value unit, to draw the strike to the cruiser.
Four warheads had connected. Two hit high, wrecking the upper helo hangar, the Army-manned Stinger launcher, one of the radar-controlled 20 mm's, the after stack and intakes, and half the ship's thirty-eight antennas, including both after phased arrays. Another exploded at the main deck level. The last had punched through the hull, detonating in an engine space.
Now USS Savo Island rolled helplessly, magazines empty, a hundred miles east of Shanghai.
* * *
THE phone talker at Staurulakis's elbow buzzed like a dying cicada through his mask's speaking diaphragm. "I can't make out a fucking word you're saying," Cheryl snapped, pushing past him into the pilothouse. She dogged the door and stripped off her mask, sucking air freighted with fuel smoke and the nitrate bitterness of explosive. As the men and women on watch stared, she tried to steady her voice. "Keep calm, and say it all again."
The young talker gulped. "Doc Grissett reports fifteen wounded and three dead in sick bay, and more on their way down. Corpsmen are triaging —"
And the rest of her crew, the other three hundred and fifty-some, were going to die too, if she didn't think of something fast. "Very well. What's DC Central got?"
The officer of the deck said, "Damage Control reports. Four-foot hole at the waterline, frame 220. Major blast and fire damage in Number One Main Engine Room and Aux 1. Multiple superstructure and main deck penetrations. Fires from there to the boat deck and quarterdeck. Blast damage. Frag damage. No hose teams in sight."
She coughed into a bloody fist. "Ask the master chief, where the hell —"
"Central reports, lost firemain. No point exposing hose teams till they regain pressure. Preparing to counterflood, to fight the list."
"Belay the counterflooding. Hear me? Every ton we take on makes us less stable. We have spaces open to the sea." Stepping to the 21MC, she snapped the lever before biting her lip. "Shit!"
"No power, Skipper," the officer of the deck said. "If you want Main Control, they reported major fires, both engine control panels tripped off, all engines off-line. Number One switchboard's gone. Number One gas turbine generator is wrecked. And the emergency switchboard's out."
Major fires, yet all her fire pumps were electrically driven. "We need Number Three GTG on the line. It's all the way aft, so it should be undamaged, right?" She asked the young woman at the helm console, "Can you cycle the rudder? Try it again."
"No rudder response, ma'am."
The officer of the deck said, "Main Control says they won't be able to answer bells until they get a generator restarted. And they can't do that until the switchboard's circumvented."
Cheryl bit back a curse. Without power, a ship couldn't communicate, navigate, or fight. Was there really nothing she could do?
* * *
SHE'D been in CIC with Admiral Lenson the night before, when the task force emptied its magazines. Blazing light had blanked the deck cameras. Flaming stars lifted, steadied, and dwindled, transmuted into digital displays as Savo's powerful radars tracked them to their targets. They'd hit radar sites, missile sites, communication and command nodes, antiaircraft batteries, and airfields.
Over two hundred attack aircraft had followed, from Nimitz, Vinson, Reagan, Truman, and Stennis, accompanied by combat and jamming drones. The heaviest punch the Navy had thrown since World War II. After the swarm and the fighters, the attack squadrons had unloaded, obliterating oil refineries, power stations, container piers, munitions dumps, bridges, handling cranes, and any ships that had thought being in port kept them safe.
Arriving after a seven-hour flight from Alaska, Air Force bombers had brought fifteen more minutes of unadulterated inferno. And an hour after that, a final wave of Tomahawks decimated firefighters, police, medical personnel, repair crews, and anyone else who exited a shelter, dazed and concussed, thinking the attack was over.
By this morning, the Shanghai/Ningbo complex should no longer be able to support a renewed offensive. But that didn't mean they couldn't muster forces to sweep up cripples. And there could be submarines out here too.
She kept trying not to think about the grisly fate of USS Indianapolis.
* * *
THE heavy little radio clipped to her web belt, the Hydra, clicked on. "Skipper? Comm-o." It was Dave Branscombe, Savo's communications officer.
"Bad news. Red Hawk doesn't answer up."
The ship's helicopter, which had left the deck half an hour before with several wounded and the admiral aboard. "Emergency channels?"
"No joy. Just a weak signal from McClung on 2182 kilohertz distress."
"Pass them our Mayday and location. Ask them to stand by us."
"Already done, ma'am. They're forwarding request to task force commander, but say he's not answering up."
"What about standing by us? Helping us fight these fires?"
"They're retiring with the main body, ma'am. I don't know how much longer we can maintain comms."
Cheryl scratched the itchy place between her fingers, then gritted her teeth. She was scratching them bloody. "Ask McClung to query USS Hampton Roads. That's where Lenson was headed. If he didn't reach it ..."
But she didn't finish that sentence. If he hadn't, and they'd lost comms with the helo, she could only assume the worst. That he'd crashed, or been shot down. And that now she and Savo Island, left behind, were truly on their own.
The Hydra crackled again, and simultaneously the talker began a report from Damage Control. Chief McMottie, Commander Danenhower, and Lieutenant Jiminiz were working to get the generator and switchboard back in operation. The casualty-recovery teams reported wounded and bodies clear of the main deck. She issued terse orders, then ducked to peer out to starboard. She tensed as she caught sight of the lookout pointing out something on the horizon to the machine gunner. But the gunner shook his head; apparently it was nothing. Yet.
Okay, if no one was coming to help ...
At her questioning glance, the quartermaster chief unrolled a chart. Securing it atop a table with masking tape, he outlined their options. Cheryl paced off distances with dividers, then stood over the chart, shoulders hunched, staring down.
Taiwan lay far to the south. Korea, divided still but with its south now occupied by China as a "protectorate of the People's Empire," was nearly as far north. Savo's only avenue of escape lay to the east, where a scatter of small islands stuttered down from Japan. The Ryukyus were Chinese-occupied too, but carrier strikes on the way in had closed their runways. At least, for a few more hours.
She clicked the Hydra again. "Main Control, CO: Commander Danenhower down there?"
"Bart, what's going on? I have to make decisions."
"Just about to report: halon and CO2 dumps have quenched the fire in Main 1 and Aux 1."
"Good. Excellent. Any progress on regaining power?"
"We've routed casualty power. Getting ready to try to start Number Three GTG locally. Once we localize the grounding issue on the engine control panel, we'll switch the start loads to alternate power. Then try to spin up whichever engine looks best. Just hope we have enough HP air."
Ticos had no "emergency" generators, just main generators. With all three offline, the ship was dark until one could be restarted with high-pressure air stored in heavy steel flasks, since bleed air wasn't available unless the propulsion turbines were running. She clicked an acknowledgment and returned to studying the chart. "Lay me the shortest route through," she told the chief.
Back on the open wing, she eyed the plume of black smoke streaming away downwind. The enemy had proven resourceful at deploying fragile, datalinked UAVs to surveil large areas of ocean. Nor could a sub miss that smoke with even the briefest periscope exposure.
She still had a few torpedoes left, a few rounds for the guns, but until they had power back the ship was helpless. They might be able to fight off a sampan with the machine guns, but that was about it.
So all she could do was wait. And stare up at the sky. She closed her eyes, her lips moving silently. Eddie, if you're there ... if you're anywhere you can hear me ...
But she didn't expect an answer.
* * *
FIFTEEN of the longest minutes of her life later, a clunk sounded from the helm console. A muffled whine of motors and fans powering up chorused from around the bridge, and the 21MC comm consoles went pop. Pilot lights lit. The wipers cycled noisily on the windshields, scraping at the dry glass, until the boatswain went to turn them off. The helmswoman spun the wheel left, then right. "Regained helm control, port synchro, port pumps," she reported. "No course given."
Chief Van Gogh, at the chart table: "One-zero-five degrees will take us between Akuseki-shima and Ko-lakara-jima. Distance, a hundred and forty nautical miles."
Cheryl frowned. "Depth between the islands?"
"Two thousand feet."
The 21MC said, "Engine Room reports: ready to answer bells, limiting speed four knots."
Not good, but better than zero. She nodded to the officer of the deck. "Make it so."
After a last look around, she went to the door that led down. Started to reach for it but winced; her arm; the greenwood fracture was starting to really hurt.
Her head swam; she leaned against the bulkhead. No sleep for the last two days, during the approach phase and then the battle. The corpsman had offered morphine, but she couldn't lose alertness.
Gritting her teeth, she shoved herself vertical again, and made for the ladder down.
* * *
TWO decks down, in the Combat Information Center, some of the displays had lit again. Otherwise the space was dark, and hotter than usual. The ventilators were still off, and an eye-watering smoke-stench lingered. Only a few consoles were occupied. Most of the technical ratings had tailed on to firefighting parties, or helped drag wounded out of danger. She halted at the command desk, which faced four large-screen displays ranged against a black bulkhead.
"We have the SPY back," Matt Mills told her. Tall, blond, and good-looking, but not just a pretty face. He was her best tactical action officer, charged with fighting the ship when she herself couldn't be in the command seat. "The forward transmitter, anyway. Degraded, but we have an air picture."
The SPY-1 was a high-powered phased-array radar that functioned in both the antiair and the antiballistic missile modes. Unfortunately, with the aft transmitters destroyed, they were blind in two quadrants. She leaned over Mills, cradling her broken arm, and swept her gaze across the East China Sea. Small contacts skittered here and there over the base they'd just struck. Helicopters, she guessed, evacuating wounded and moving in repair and command teams from other bases.
"No fast movers yet," Mills murmured.
"Nothing yet. We hit 'em hard."
More callouts blossomed as the computers linked with those of the main body, far ahead. Eighty miles away, and scooting east at flank speed. She picked out the other cruiser, and wondered again where Lenson was. She tried the Navy Red phone. The light lit, the circuit synced, but no one responded. No surprise. Both sides had jammed and spoofed each other's communications, even replicating individual voices with digitized imitations, to the point that no one trusted anything but face-to-face speech now.
Mills rattled the keyboard. "Where we headed, Skipper? What's our plan here?"
"We're on our own, Lieutenant. At the moment we're in creep mode. Get-home speed. If we can sneak out the back gate, we might be able to limp back to Guam."
"At four knots, that's ... two weeks?"
"I'm hoping we'll do better." Cheryl ran her gaze over the other displays, computer status, radio call signs, weapons loadouts. Her magazines were nearly empty.
"What's the intent, Commander?" said a deep voice behind her.
She turned. "Captain Enzweiler."
Enzweiler was Lenson's chief of staff, or deputy. As a four-stripe captain, he outranked her. Somehow that didn't console her. He didn't know her ship the way Lenson had. In fact, she wished he'd stayed wherever the hell he'd been until now. "Uh, Captain, good to see you. As you know, we took four hits. We're fighting major casualties and flooding. Our helo, with the admiral and the Korean liaison aboard, is missing." She fought for breath, but having to make a report, that oh so standard naval procedure, seemed to steady her. "Main space fire's out. Casualty power's restored, as is Number 1B gas turbine motor, giving us a minimal maneuvering capability. We have Aegis back and are datalinked with the main body."
Enzweiler looked disturbed. "I tried to go with him. He said it would be better to take the most seriously wounded."
"I understand, sir."
"So I may be in charge of the task force."
"With all due respect, Captain, my reading would be that the admiral's departure relieves you of that responsibility. Our comms are still basically nonexistent, and the task force is withdrawing without us." She looked away, anxious to get back to what mattered. "We need to concentrate on staying afloat and getting home. Sir."
He sighed. "You're probably right. What about high-side chat? Can I report?"
"Sir, chat's been cyber-compromised. We got a Mayday off via McClung, but there's no response on satcomm voice or Navy Red. We're on our own. I intend to head for the Okinawa Strait and try for Guam."
Enzweiler nodded. "Sounds reasonable. For now. I'll put the staff at your disposal. What can I do?"
"Well, sir, if I could keep Commander Danenhower on the engineering casualties, that would really help. And if you could — yeah, actually, if you could bird-dog exactly what happened to the admiral, that would be great. I've been concentrating on the ship, but —"(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Deep War"
Copyright © 2018 David Poyer.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents
I. I Am Here,
1. The East China Sea,
2. In the Karakoram Mountains,
3. Cast Away,
4. The Pentagon,
5. Camp Pendleton, California,
6. Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, Hawaii,
II. Farther Than That I Cannot Go,
8. San Diego, California,
10. Eastern Maryland,
11. USS The Sage BrothersHonolulu,
12. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,
III. My Ship Has No Rudder,
13. The Karakoram Mountains,
14. USS Rafael Peralta, DDG-115 The South China Sea,
15. The Western Pacific,
16. Long Beach, California,
17. Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology,
18. In the Tien Shan Mountains,
IV. The Remotest Regions of Death,
19. Laguna Beach, California,
20. Central Intelligence Agency, Langley, Virginia,
21. The Taklimakan Desert,
23. Cam Ranh, Vietnam,
Previous Books by David Poyer,
About the Author,